A Day with Dr. Austin Dacey

 Ajoy Roy 

Published on May 03, 2009

Austin Dacey: Philosopher and writer

It has been a great pleasure meeting Dr. Austin Dacey, currently the executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, New York, and even more pleasant exchanging views and ideas on free thinking, liberalism, cultural consciousness, religious fundamentalism, science, philosophy and religion. I nearly spent whole day on February 27 with him including attending a seminar where Dr. Dacey was the keynote speaker on an important topic, “Call for global unity of Secular Humanists to resist fundamentalism”. The Seminar, organized by “Forum for Secular Bangladesh” (the English equivalent of the organization known as ‘Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Kamiti’ in Bangla), was held at 3-30 p.m. at the Bangladesh Institute of Law and Legal Affairs on February 27 at Dhamondi, Dhaka. 

I had some acquaintance with Dr. Austin Dacey through some of his writings in different websites, and I knew little bit of his organization Centre for Inquiry, which is fighting for establishing secularism and humanism based on freethinking, rationalism, pluralism and civil liberty. His CFI is, as far as I know, devoted to the principle of freethinking and free inquiry in all fields of human life and activities without any bias or prejudice, and committed to scientific outlook and scientific method based on reasons, facts to acquiring new knowledge and information. The organization is also committed to uphold ‘humanist ethical values and principles’ and above all championing the cause of humanism and humanity. CFI is a staunch upholder of humanism when it says,

 “We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.

The organization was founded by Dr. Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, State University of New York, Buffalo, & President of International Academy of Humanism twenty five years back. The CFI through its worldwide network propagating those ideas –  those of us cherish rational thinking, science, and secular values by writings, publishing articles, holding seminars and organizing debates and discussions, exchange of views etc.  

Dr. Dacey came to Dhaka after a visit of Hyderabad in India where a school of Free Inquiry was setup and Dr. Dacey was a distinguished guest of honour on the invitation of Mr. Shariar Kabir, a human rights activist and acting president of Forum for Secular Bangladesh for a 3-day visit starting from February 26 evening, the day he arrived at Dhaka. On the morning of February 27, Sharair Kabir rang me saying, ‘Sir, Dr Dacey arrived yesterday night, and is very eager to meet you. Could you come to Muktiyuddha Jadughar at 11-30 a.m.’ I accordingly leaving aside all my works rushed to the place to receive him. He, escorted by Shariar, came to the Museum at about 12 noon. As time was short we immediately start talking, having lunch at Sharirar’s residence and continue our exchanging ideas and views on topics as detailed above. I learnt much of activities of CFI, International Academy of Humanism and Council for Secular Humanism. I also apprised him of activities of Mukto-mona and its various projects so far undertaken, Platform for Education Movement and its activities, and activities of other human rights organizations including ‘Forum for Secular Bangladesh, and South Asian Association for Combating Fundamentalism and Communalism’ with both of which I am associated.  

Apart from Dr. Austin Dacey BILIA director Mr. Waliur Rahman, Dr. Hamida Hosain, Justice KM Subhan and myself, also addressed the seminar- that was presided over by Professor Kabir Choudhury. All the speakers agreed that the human rights conditions especially with reference to minorities and women are at its lowest web. Fundamentalism and communalism are at its apex- that spread violence in the name of Islam. The secularism in Bangladesh is threatened of extinction at the hand of the Mullahs and Islamic terrorists. These terrorists are out to establish Laws of Allah by violent method in our state system. I in my deliberation pointed out that issue at the present Bangladesh context is question of extinction of secular humanism and secular democratic values from the soil of Bangladesh, so the singular contradiction is the coming fight between Secularists vs. Fundamentalists. And I urge for unity of all secular forces not only within the country but for unity with Secularist humanists globally- through a net work- for which Dr. Dacey gave a call for world wide unity of Secular Humanists through some kind of global net work and mutually collaborating scheme and plan.


A brief introduction of Dr. Austin Dacey 

Dr. Austin Dacey completed his formal education when he obtained Ph.D in Applied Ethics and social philosophy in 2002 from Bowling Green State University. The topics of his research was “How to talk about religion in politics.” 

One of his known book is The case for humanism: An introduction.  

Dr. Dacey is at present Executive director of Center for Inquiry, New York. He is the Associate Editor of Free Inquiry and Executive Editor of Philo: A journal of philosophy. He is a Campus lecturer and debater since the year 2000.  

Some of his leading articles published in many journals included:  

  • Reading Madison in Teharan, Free Inquiry (June-July 2005)
  • Is Science making us more ignorant, Skeptical Inqirer (November-Decmber 2004)
  • Why should be a naturalist ?, Philo (Fall-winter 2004)
  • Upgrading Humanity, Belifinet.com (3 June 2004)
  • Atheism is not a civil rights issue, Free Inquiry (February-March 2004)
  • Humanism goes to school, Free Inquiry (Fall 2001)
  • Mind, morality, and evolution : An interview with Steven Pinker, Free Inquiry (Spring 2000)

And many others.


Austin Dacey Speaks on Secularism, Atheism etc for half an hour 

Dr. Dacey talked over half an hour mainly dealing with problems of secularism, atheism, and humanism in general in the context of religion-based societies like in Bangladesh and other Muslim Countries. He called for freethinking and free inquiry among the youths for which the secularists in the respective countries must work relentlessly. Even in western countries, which are believed to be more or less liberal if not truly secular – the secular humanists are facing challenges from the religious dogmatists. He urges for scientific outlook, scientific inquiry and scientific studies. We have to understand the scientific discoveries in the context of all our activities. Some portion of his time he spent dealing with human conscience. In a truly secular state it is the state’s foremost duty to protect the rights of all citizens irrespective their faiths. 

After the lecture, Austin also took part in a free discussion with many of the listeners attending the seminar including a distinguished journalist of a local daily. We then ended our discussion with a cup of tea for each one of us.  

It is a pleasant experience talking freely with a western trained, enriched with western ideas and thoughts, secular humanist and a free thinker. The day will remain evergreen in my memory. I beg to leave of him at 7 p.m. wishing him a happy return back to USA.  

Ajoy Roy
March 11, 2006

Prof. Ajoy K. Roy, is a reputed scientist and human rights activist from Bangladesh.