While we're at it ...

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 15, 2010 23:06 in politics , religion

Well, if I'm going to post on a controversial topic, I might as well go all-out. So, why would it bother anyone who-marries-who? Really? Does it affect you, somehow? In other words, what's wrong with gay marriage?

For a while I thought that perhaps civil unions would be good enough. But really, I wasn't satisfied with it unless the civil unions were exactly as good as a marriage in all but name. But, in that case, it *is* a marraige, and you're just calling it something different. And who was I to get all worked up and deny something to anyone based over semantics? It's plain silly.

I don't really care what another person is doing in their love life. So far as I'm concerned, polygamy/polyandry/polyamory is fair game, too. It was for thousands of years, anyway, so you can't even make a historical argument against it. If marraige really needed a definition, I'd define it as a civil/legal union between >1 consenting adults.

Yes, that rules out bestiality. Don't bring it up.

Fun point: if you're straight, a gay person of your own sex removes competition from the pool. There are now two fewer people going after the opposite sex! And you have that tiny bitty fraction better chance. (Yes, I realize things don't work like this. I still think it's a funny idea.)

I suppose I'm in the camp of "live and let live". If we don't, how are we any different than Islamic fundamentalists? (Hint: I don't think any brand theistic fundamentalism is different from any other, including Islamic)

Repeat after me: HCR does NOT fund abortion

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 15, 2010 19:53 in politics , religion , news , medicine

There is talk on the news (well, at least making headlines in Google News) about the bill funding abortion. Well, it doesn't. It is on page 2072 of the Senate bill. To quote PoliticsDaily,

But does the Senate reform bill finance abortion insurance coverage? The answer is no, and it is there in the bill, on page 2072: "If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage...the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services." As Slate's Timothy Noah put it, "That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions."

But lets run with it for a moment. Assume it does fund abortion. So what? Objection to public funding for abortion runs along the lines of "I don't like it, I disagree, therefore I should not have to pay for it. It kills people". That's like saying "I object to Karl Rove. I disagree with him vehemently. He is responsible for the death of troops and civilians in the Middle East. Therefore, I refuse to pay taxes, since they fund services he uses." Neither argument really makes sense.

I don't really want to get into the abortion debate. All it does is lead to flame wars. I happen to feel that identical twins wreck about 90% of the arguments against abortion as a single argument, and being pro-choice detracts nothing from the other argument, merely leaves an option open to whoever wants it. Sigh.

Secular Reasoning

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 27, 2010 16:51 in General , religion

Just a quick entry. I realize I missed the TT again (even though I have the animal picked out for this past week and next week!) so next week will be another double-feature. However, I wanted to address the New York Times opinion article "Are There Secular Reasons?".

The premise of the article is that, following an argument from a Harvard law professor, there are no inherently secular reasons to perform an action, because, "there is no way, says Smith, to look at it and answer normative questions, questions like 'what are we supposed to do?' and 'at the behest of who or what are we to do it?'". Now, there are a few problems with this statement, essentially the premise of the article, which render the entire point, well, moot.

First, the question posed by Smith assumes that there is or should be an overarching, inherent, mandated, or otherwise external "reason" for everything, when in fact there is no reason to assume such a thing for anything. You are not "supposed" to do anything, nor must it be at something's behest. The only reason to assume you are "supposed" to do something is if you assume there is a pre-defined goal or end point which is validated for external or unassailable reasons.

Yes, that was a verbose way of saying "he's assuming a deity or deities exist and operating based on that assumption". OK, but let's say that you want a goal to exist. Is there a secular goal you can define that could serve what the theo-heads assume one requires for being "good"? (I neglect here the obvious argument that analyses that assumption) Well, yes. A secular worldview acknowledges that, basically, what you have is all you have, or, in other words, live life for life. A corallary to this is since your life today is all you or anyone will ever get, the kindest, most humanitarian thing to do is simply to try to maximize quality of life for this and future generations.

Basically, secular humanism.

I do wish theo-heads would stop being so fixated on shoving their deities on everyone.

Religion in the Classroom and the Slippery Slope

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 14, 2010 15:33 in evolution , religion , anti-science , misc science , public science , creationists

Reading an article like the New York Times' recent one on textbooks and religion in the US has the magical ability to just make me so angry. The article itself is mostly neutral, but it brings up Don McLeroy, a dentist in Texas who has remarkable influence over science and history taught to children for the large majority of states. A history-denying activist moron er, "Young Earth Creationist" of the activist stripe, he has said

"Everything that had a beginning we can say had a cause," he tells his class of fourth-graders at Grace Bible Church. "And now science definitely says that the universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had to have a cause. And that cause is God."

Citation: Statesman.com

OK, normally, this would just be infuriating as he'd be a nutter on a school board that approves books for a state. But, seeing as Texas is the second largest textbook market in the US, and California is broke, it means this man essentially shapes the education of the rest of the country. To quote the Times,

And James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M's college of education and a longtime player in the state's textbook process, told me flatly, "Texas governs 46 or 47 states."

As (admittedly) excessively vitriolic PZ Myers and other "strong" "New Atheists" can be, this is the sort of thing that makes me feel their position has merit. Evolution is not under controversy in any way in the scientific or educational community. Filth like McLeroy or David Barton are liars. The "Discovery Institute" are religious shills operating under an agenda to drive science out of the public arena and move to a religious educational system via the "Wedge Document".

Stories like this should inspire activism in freethinkers. Stories like this make it hard to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement in deference to the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (which, incidentally, I find highly problematic besides; a highly flawed concept with arguments similar to those Dawkins makes) — because if you give an inch, fools like Don McLeroy will try to take a mile.

Atheism, Protheism, Theism, and Debate

Posted by tigerhawkvok on December 07, 2009 21:22 in General , religion

So, today when hitting up the blogs (in-between bouts of productivity), I ran across this post on SkepChick (amusing fact: guys write for skepchick too).

The nuts-and-bolts:

Honestly, I'm extremely bored with the god/no god debate. I don't care. Really, I don't care. Believe whatever you want about god(s)(ess)(es). It doesn't matter. Sure, I think it's all a bit silly, and I don't buy into it, but I know plenty of really smart people who do. And I know a few really smart skeptics who do... a couple who are even *gasp* Christians!

Unless you're using your religion to spread evil -- like killing your daughter for talking to the guy you didn't choose as her husband or trying to pass blatantly bigoted laws denying groups of people their basic rights, or trying to teach my kid that dinosaurs were here just a few thousand years ago and that The Flintstones are based on a true story -- really, just thinking that there might be a deity isn't an intellectual crime in my mind.

Religion isn't above scrutiny, but I don't think it's necessary to mock the religious and spew hatred at them for merely believing.

Michael Shermer just wrote a whiny article on not beating up the believers, but I really loved Brian Thompson's article over at Amateur Scientist, and highly recommend you read it after answering today's quest

What's your take on the atheists vs religious "war"? Do you think we should be more tolerant? Do you think we should be less tolerant? Does it matter?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

While in principle I agree, I feel that factually this is not a tenable position. The fact of the matter is that religion influences politicians, and thus directly impacts everyone's life. Whether you're atheist, pagan, wicca, asgardian, jewish — what have you — you have the right to not by tyrranized into the view of a Christian majority. If the majority was any other religion, then the minorities would still retain the right to avoid tyranny by the majority. It is insane that religious viewpoints can dictate rights in any manner. Pick your favorite debate here.

I'll even define a term: "protheists". This is an evangelical theist, someone that beyond mere "belief", tries to assert that belief onto others by evangelism, policy, etc.

The fact of the matter is that atheists (and, for that matter, theists) should speak out against religion in the public sphere. After all, think of last year's nativity scene in Washington. Would a theist prefer Zeus, FSM, and Isis represented alongside their nativity? Or skip out on it altogether?

It's a simple matter of equality. And while religion pervades our government, it's unobtainable, virtually by definition. So we should continue to debate, loudly, against religious-induced ignorance. Here's a good benchmark: see when there's not a frenzy in the media when a president *doesn't* mention their deity-of-choice (ie, the Abrahamic god). Till that day happens, there's too much religion in our politics.

However, casual faith? People who may or may not go to church/synagogue/what have you? Eh. That's generally not harmful. I think it's counterproductive, and bothers me from an efficiency standpoint, but I know plenty of people like that and I give it a resounding "meh". It's about as relevant as people who hunt-and-peck with single fingers staring at a keyboard. A pretty glaring waste of time in my opinion, but doesn't hurt anyone. (In my opinion, it's already a weak form of atheism with cultural overtones, but that's a different post).

Wrongheaded Creationists 4: Hitler was an "Evolutionist" (Not)

Posted by tigerhawkvok on November 25, 2009 14:24 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

This comes up so often, it needs a token response. Creationists (mostly) assert that Hitler was an atheist who used evolution to promote extermination of Jews. This is blatantly and verifiably incorrect.

First, so what? Even if he understood evolution and accepted it (he didn't), the fact he liked to drink beer doesn't make all beer-drinkers in favor of eugenics, anti-semetic, and dictatorial.

As to the point itself, here's a rebuttal, courtesy of Hitler himself, yanked from a comment over at Pharyngula:

In Mein Kampf, Hitler asserted the fixity of species, that god made man, that man existed "from the beginning" and did not descend from apes, that man was made in the image of god and was expelled from the garden of Eden, and that Jesus was his inspiration.
His words:

The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. i, ch. xi

For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x

From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today. - Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Tabletalk

Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol ii, ch. i

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them. - Adolf Hitler, speech, April 12 1922, published in My New Order

Hitler was a creo.

Yes, Hitler was a strong Christian and unabashed creationist. This does not equate creationists to Hitler, however. They're pretty foolhardy and willingly blinded all on their own accord, with no ties to Hitler's filth necessary.

Wrongheaded Creationists 3: Gaps, gaps, gaps

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 13, 2009 23:56 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

First, due diligence, as this entry in the series is brought to you by Bill O'Reilly:

Oh, Bill. Dare I count the ways you are flawed in your arguments?

  • A gap in scientific data should be explained as either "insufficient evidence" or a scientific conjecture. To quote Dawkins, "It's a most of extraordinary piece of warped logic to say because science can't fill in a particular gap you're going throw in your lot with Christianity." If it should be filled-in with myths, why not the Cthulhu mythos, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Greek Pantheon, Egyptian Pantheon, Norse Pantheon, or druidic theism instead of Christian mythos?
  • You fail Godwin's Law.
  • You realize you spoke more than your interviewee, right?
  • You realize Jesus probably looked more like a middle eastern guy, right?
  • Your theology fails the self-sacrificing pacifist test when you look at religious wars on the behalf of Christianity, and the opulence of the Vatican.
  • Saying there are more X than Y therefore what X believes is true is a fallacy.

I think when I return to SD I might create a powerpoint slideshow to showcase these "alternate viewpoints", and include a few (ie, soup, clay-assisted, RNA-world) scientific hypotheses thrown in for fun. Take it from universe creation to first autoreplicable form.

To drive the point home: gaps in scientific understanding, no matter your level of scientific understanding, should never be replaced with psuedoscience or mythology in its place

Here's a nice YouTube clip that's not quite related, but discusses the spread of misinformation by the Discovery Institute

Wrongheaded Creationists 2: Castrating Darwin?

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 23, 2009 12:40 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

From your local department of wingnuttery, you get to see the latest attempts of hardline theo-nuts to distort science and push their blindingly incorrect view of evolution on the populace. What do you do when a text is completely and freely available?

Well, you do the only thing you can do. You publish your own version, edited to roughly half-length by a ministry and with a 50-page prelude explaining how evolution is wrong and it's never been proven.

Hang on, didn't I already address this? Well, don't take my word for it, see for yourself:

The Facebook group and the richarddawkins.net page suggest amassing then donating, but the recent info that about half of the content has been killed off, I propose that yes, you amass all those wrteched copies — then go and purchase a cheap first edition and donate it to a library or school.

Utter, shameless propaganda by distributing altered copies of a text. If their argument was convincing, you'd imagine they could leave the text intact!

How to get your High School T-Shirt in the News

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 01, 2009 04:06 in evolution , religion , news , anti-science

It's 3AM, I should be going to bed, and I give my feeds one last look over ... and run into this travesty. In a nutshell? T-shirts are recalled from a high school in Sedalia, Missouri. Why?

Get ready for this. Because they had the stereotyped progression of man iconography.

The offending shirt

Well, it is a pretty wretched image. It goes well with the theme of the band concert (being a band shirt for a concert about the evolution of brass music from the 1960s to the modern day, and called "Brass Evolutions") as a well-recognized image, but that image is bad science. It implies that evolution is a linear process of improvement with no offshoots, and implying that our species is at some sort of pinnacle. I mean, it's a school, so maybe they want better science on their shirt?

Oh, wouldn't that be great. The real answer is, of course, that it offends fundamentalist Christian parents. To quote:

The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Summers said he was surprised when he received a direct complaint after the parade.

While the shirts don't directly violate the district's dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.

"I made the decision to have the band members turn the shirts in after several concerned parents brought the shirts to my attention," Pollitt said.

Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.
From The SedaliaDemocrat.com.

You're not being religion neutral. You're favoring one particular brand of delusion by denying testable, prediction-generating, bloated in evidence FACT. You know, unless you're actually being consistent and following the brilliant parody of Steven Novella, and actually banning, say, shirts depicting the landing of Apollo 11 since it conflicts with the belief system of Krishnas. And banning iconography of music (goodby sheet music!) since some literalist interpretations of the Koran prohibit that.

Oh wait. You won't.

Sounds like Sedalia needs its own Bobby Henderson, and a good lawsuit.

A quick aside ...

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 02, 2009 02:19 in General , religion

Does anyone else realize the incredible, mind-blowing stupid living in the statement:

Russel's teapot "is a flawed analogy since nobody actually believes such nonsense"? [source]

Yes, no one believes "in such nonsense". That's the point. Saying that, you're dismissing it for the reason its used. "Why are you using that ice to cool off your drinks? Ice is cold."

Really, people hurt my brain.