Friday, September 16, 2011

And… we’ve reached a new level of crazy.

Michele Bachman has gone Anti-vax.

Yep, she went there.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/professors-offer-more-10-000-proof-bachmann-story-132647843.html

Seriously, if she wanted to adopt a left wing cause, why not one like health care reform or ending war? Why the nutty one? Because she needs to adopt as many causes that represent stupidity and death?

Excepting Jon Huntsman, all the Republican candidates seem to be anti-evolution and anti-climate science. Now Michele “Pray the Gay Away” Bachmann has upped the ante and gone anti-vaccination. This woman has a very real possibility of being the next president of the United States. Anybody with half a mind or more should be quaking in their boots. If elected, she could push this agenda through with help of the crazy Tea Party douchebags being elected by nutjobs like the ones who shouted during Ron Paul’s debate.

Kill the poor! Kill the poor! Kill the poor!

Honestly, John McCain is starting to look pretty fucking good right now. I’d take Nixon back over these people.

A president like these people could turn the United States into a laughing stock (more than it already is), but not a very funny one. These are people that if given their way would turn the United States into a backwards Theocracy (like Iran), but it would be a backwards Theocracy with the world’s most powerful military and largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. 

Think about that. This is not a game. Putting these people in to positions of authority (like they already are) has real consequences and affects real lives. Are we so in love with the dark ages that we want to recreate them?

Once again our choices seem to be between scary shit like this and Barack “Give the Republicans What They Want And Call It Compromise” Obama. The world may not end in 2012, but I’ve got a bad feeling about 2013.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Skepticon IV

I recently registered for Skepticon IV. I’m not going in an official capacity, FYI, just attending. It would be great to be a speaker, but that would require a certain percentage of the community actually knowing who the fuck I am first.

I love the fact that it’s occurring in Springfield Missouri, right smack in the heart of Jesus Central. It’s also nice that it’s within easy driving distance from here.

I’ve never attended any Atheist/Skeptical conventions before. In fact, the only large scale convention I’ve ever attended was DevConnections four years ago. Luckily, this one is a lot more affordable than DevCon (free vs. $3k or so). It runs November 19th and 20th. I was hoping to make it on Friday the 18th, because PZ Meyers is planning on taking a group down to the Creation Museum just for fun. Going to the Creation Museum with PZ Meyers and posting some photos of the ensuing insanity here sounds like more fun than I’ve had in years, but it looks unlikely I’ll make it on Friday at the moment.*sigh*

I recommend going if you can make it. It looks like it will be a load of fun. I’ve made several Atheist/Skeptic friends in recent months through local meetup groups, and many of them are going. I’ve personally met Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus, and he’ll be speaking there this year.

Here’s a list of this year’s speakers: http://skepticon.org/speakers.php.  The list grows year by year, and it’s exciting to see something like this catching on.

If you go, I hope to see you there. Be sure to comment on this post and maybe we can meet up while we’re there. If you need someone to room with, I’m not your guy. Already got plans ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Screwy Logic

I just ran across this article from beliefnet on the “insanity” of Mayor Bloomberg and his decision to not have a prayer at the 9/11 memorial service.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/09/no-thanks-to-god-or-first-responders-at-mayors-secular-911-ceremonies.php

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks to focus on the victims and their families — not on God or the heroes who rushed into the burning towers to save as many as they could.

Let’s forget that there are more than just Christians in the United States. Let’s forget that the first amendment of the constitution establishes a separation of church and state making it inappropriate for an elected official to engage in a religious activity as part of his duties as an elected official. Let’s forget Congress’s blatant refusal to help the “heroes who rushed into the burning towers” when they needed our help, not our thanks.

The statement here is we should be thankful to God. For what? For helping the heroes of 9/11 save over 20,000 lives? So I should be so condescending and arrogant as to say that they could not have done that themselves, that they required intervention from a supernatural deity to accomplish what they did? No. I will not do that. They were heroes, they put their own lives at risk. They ran into the buildings everyone else was running out of. And many of them were still there when the buildings collapsed. Many did not come back. I will not dishonor them that way.

So what else should we thank God for in regards to 9/11? The 3,000 victims? Surely not. The author, despite his irrational convictions about the supernatural, could not possibly be that insane.

Perhaps what he is trying to say is that God was present and helping out on 9/11. Nobody saw him, of course, but why not. 

So,  why  didn’t  God  stop  the  planes?

Perhaps the almighty supernatural creator of everything helped save lives that day. Why did he allow 3,000 others to die? Why did he not prevent the disaster in the first place? Surely that would have been trivial for him. The firefighters and rescue personnel on the ground could not have stopped the planes from hitting the building so they did everything else they could to save as many lives as they could. But God could have stopped the planes, couldn’t he?

So what answers might a theist give in response to this?

1) God works in mysterious ways/We cannot know God’s purpose/etc.

I hate this one. It’s probably the most common response of all, too. It’s a cop out. It’s a way of saying (and rationalizing) “Something bad happened and God did not stop it, so he must have had some greater purpose in mind that I just don’t understand.” Replace “God” with “Zeus” and the sentence means just as much. Muslims worship the same God, the God of Abraham, and on that day certain Muslims were rejoicing because God had struck a blow against the evil west.

2) God allowed it to happen to bring people back to God. There was a resurgence of religion in the intervening years.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Replace God with a man’s name and see if the sentence still sounds great. “George allowed 3,000 people to die in flames and horrible crushing death so that people all over the world would worship him and proclaim his glory.”  George sounds like a sick bastard to me. A god that allows thousands of people to die a horrible death so that I might love him? Pass.

3) God works subtly. He could not work overtly because we must have faith.

The “God can’t tip his hand” argument. If he stopped the planes in midair and placed them gently on the ground, we would have definitive proof that he exists, and we are required to love God without proof. This one never made sense to me. If it has to be my decision to “love God” of my own free will, what does that have to do with being given proof that he exists? I have no more proof that Yahweh exists than I do of Zeus. Who do I pick? Do I convert to all religions just to be safe? They all have equal validity.

This is the kind of warped logic we use to attack each other politically these days. We are in grave danger of becoming a Theocracy. Every day we behave more and more like the Christians of the 14th century, or like the Muslims of today. 9/11 was not about God except to the Muslim terrorists. Whether you believe in a God or not, he wasn’t there that day.

Imagine No Religion

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/2011

Ten years ago today the unthinkable happened. The TV has been filled with footage from 9/11 today, much of it I’ve never seen before. It’s a wound in the collective psyche of America that’s healing, but not yet healed.

9/11 meant different things to different people, but most of us can agree that it was a wake up call to the capacity for evil.

But whose evil? It’s easy to point to 9/11 and say that Muslims are violent and Islam is an evil religion, but in actuality Islam is in a state now that Christianity was in only a few centuries ago. The difference being that the violence perpetrated by the followers of Islam have 21st century weaponry.

I won’t pretend that the world would be a perfect place without religion, but it would be a better place. 9/11 was proof positive of the evil that can be perpetrated by those that can manipulate through religion. The most obvious examples come from Islamic terrorists, but we are not all immune to this. Listening to Pat Robertson can easily show you that we’re not that different on this side of the pond. A leader of the free world like Michele Bachmann would make us little different from Iran.

For me, 9/11 was a wake up call to the evil that can be perpetrated in the name of religion. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that it’s just Islam though. We are mere footsteps from being the mirror image of the Middle East.

We must step back from the brink. We must not become evil to fight evil. We must be clear on what evil we fight. We must remember who we are as Americans. We must remember what America is about. It’s not God, it’s not Guns, It’s freedom. We are not a Christian nation, we are a nation of the free. We must stop sacrificing our freedom to our fear. We must call for our freedoms to be restored.

Ten years later, we must begin to heal. We must become what we were. We must stop the pointless bickering. We must stop allowing the clowns in Washington to play us like fools.

Each and every one of us must decide who we are. We must determine this absent of propaganda and religion. Once you have decided who you are, you can decide if you really agree with what is being fed to you. When I did this, I didn’t. Who I am is so different from who I was before 9/11, but I’m a better person. I’m finally true to who I am.

You can be too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Atheism vs. Religion Explained

Religion: “I believe in Life after Death”

Atheism: “I believe in Life before Death”

Any questions?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Here we go again…

North is South, Up is Down, Science is Anti-Science and believing in woo is smart.

Austin Casey, Columnist, wrote a scathing attack on “liberals” and Jon Huntsman, because he understands the science of Creationism in a way that mere scientists could never hope to. Huntsman, in a pathetic attempt to appear “intellectual” to “liberals” accepts the obviously wrong “interpretation” called evolution. [end snark]

Yes, that’s right. Dawkins just got skuled in science by a relatively unknown right wing pundit columnist.

Seriously, it hurts my head. It’s been a while since I’ve done a line by line thrashing of right wing bullshit. Let’s get started.

http://www.lsureveille.com/opinion/to-the-point-believing-in-evolution-doesn-t-make-you-scientific-1.2618065#.TmCHn6xwfBw.email

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has been losing in the polls, so his solution is to distance himself from the other candidates by portraying himself as the rational candidate.

Obviously it couldn’t be that he actually bothered to learn something about the science of evolutionary theory. It’s just a political ploy for sure [end snark]. Personally, I do find the thought of a Mormon who accepts the scientific consensus that evolution is true to be a bit intriguing, but I’m not complaining about the only Republican candidate who appears to not mix his religion with his science. Or his politics apparently.

After hearing fellow candidate Rick Perry's doubts on evolution, Huntsman jumped at the chance to attack Perry, gain attention and make himself appear smart and scientific to the media and liberals.

Or he just called Perry out for being yet another wingnut douchbag that’s all too common in the Republican party now (e.g. Michele Bachman). The official Republican playbook is "Reject scientific consensus and play to fundamentalist religion, oppose the separation of church and state, and defend the top 1% by convincing the bottom 99% that you’re acting in their best interests.” Personally, I find Huntsman refreshing. I find it more likely he’s dead last because he spouts rationality instead of bullshit. He’s a Republican. If he’s being sane for political gain, he’s playing to the wrong crowd.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Huntsman warned that having anti-evolution views made Perry and the Republican Party people who "shun science."

No idea if he actually said that or not, but they do “shun science” as a general rule these days. Spend a little time learning about the science of climate change and bear in mind where the Republican party almost unanimously falls on the issue. The only alternative offered in contrast to the theory of evolution is creationism, which is backed by the overwhelming evidence which consists of approximately a page and a half from the book of Genesis, written approximately 3000 years ago.

Like most liberals, Huntsman thinks if he uses the words "science" and "evolution" in the same sentence he'll be called an intellectual.

No, he’ll need to do more than that to be considered “intellectual”, but he is in serious danger of being called “rational”.

But nothing Huntsman has said demonstrates he actually knows what science is. Science is fundamentally a search for the truth about the universe, and Perry's acknowledgement of the holes in evolution theory manifests a much better understanding of science than Huntsman's faith in scientists.

Now it gets fun. We’re being schooled in “what science is” by a creationist. There are no holes in the theory of evolution. There may be a few missing facts, but you don’t fill in the holes with “God did it”. In science, you fill in the holes by looking for more evidence. Accepting logical fallacies and demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge on the subject of evolutionary theory is a “much better understanding of science” in the same way that knowing nothing about any foreign countries gives you a much better understanding of foreign policy.

Nevertheless, a growing number of noteworthy scientists have rejected evolution and are noted creationists, such as Ramond Damadian, the inventor of the MRI machine; John Baumgardner, a physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and non-Christian scientists like Michael Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box," and the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper.

There’s no dissention in the scientific community about evolution. But let’s humor him here.

Ramond Damadian: BS in mathematics, and an M.D. He was a medical doctor, not a biologist. He was, apparently, a fundamentalist Christian and a Creationist. That doesn’t diminish his contribution to medical science, but it does not make him an authority on evolution.

John Baumgardner: (from wikipedia) John R. Baumgardner is a geophysicist, young Earth creationist, intelligent design supporter and Christian fundamentalist. Again, not a biologist, and hardly impartial. You’d think a geophysicist would know better though.

Michael Behe, our non-Christian turns out to be Roman Catholic. And a biochemist. And a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute.  His main focus seems to be on the faulty argument of "irreducible complexity”.

Karl Popper. I’m not even looking this one up. By his own admission he’s a philosopher. No, wait, I am. Oh, he is indeed a philosopher of science: the science of economics.

We’ve hardly produced a list of detractors with credibility on the subject, but even if we had, it doesn’t matter. The scientific community is very nearly unified in their acceptance of the evidence confirming the theory of evolution. Very few theories achieve this level of acceptance. The only other theory I can think of that has this level of acceptance is the theory of gravity. I suppose it’s possible that a supreme being is actually holding us all down to the ground, but…

Believers in evolution cling to the theory like babies to their moms, but most are so scared of hearing a different interpretation of evidence they refuse to listen to any skepticism. They speak of evolution as a fact, when, in reality, science never produces facts — only results we can interpret.

This is where arguments like this start to burn me. Spouting woo is not skepticism. “Evolution is just a belief and only as valid as any other belief”, as though it’s some kind of religion. “God did it” is not a scientific theory, and skepticism is not putting your hands over your ears and shouting “LALALALALALA”. Skepticism is the process of approaching a given claim and looking for evidence that confirms it or disproves it. In fact the first thing you do in science when you have a hypothesis is try to prove it wrong. Saying “you don’t know X so evolution is wrong and God did it” is not skepticism. That would be the opposite of skepticism. A review of the evidence shows that the theory of evolution has mountains of evidence ranging from the dispersion of fossils in the geologic record to DNA. Creationism has a page and a half in an ancient holy book and a lot of logical fallacies. Skeptics have looked at the evidence and found that the theory of evolution makes it’s case and “alternative views” do not. Evolution IS a fact. Find me a rabbit in the pre-Cambrian and we can talk otherwise.

To put into perspective why evolution will never be considered a fact no matter how hard liberals and Huntsman want it to be, consider walking into a room and seeing a lit candle with matches next to it. It seems as though someone lit the candle with the matches, but it is impossible to be sure how the candle was lit because you weren't there when it was.

He intentionally shies away from saying “the scientific community”. It’s liberals and Jon Huntsman that “wants evolution to be true”. That liberals tend to believe evolution to be true is a correlation, not a causal relationship. If you don’t have a religious reason for denouncing science, you probably don’t have any reason at all for denouncing science. Liberals tend to be less religious than conservatives.

Now the candle analogy is interesting, and might be pertinent if there were no evidence whatsoever for evolution. Had we never found a fossil, had we never dug into the earth’s crust, had we never developed any kind of dating methods, then this might hold water. The analogy is “we’re here, we don’t know how we got here, so let’s make something up and call it science”. The evidence for evolution makes that analogy more or less worthless, but it does apply to another “theory” of how we came to be.

This is the classic Ken Ham “Were you there?” argument. It’s designed to be combative and is not conducive to constructive dialogue. It implies that if you weren’t there you can’t know for sure therefore you’re wrong, which ironically falsifies all religion by the same logic. Followers of Ken Ham would be well advised to abandon that question as an ideological tool and try a different question: “How do you know?” It’s a much better question which opens dialogue and could, potentially, lead to someone actually learning something.

The most telling sign Huntsman has no idea what science is comes from his assertion that "we need to stick to the facts" in reference to evolution.

What’s science got to do with facts, right? The scientific methods is about sticking to the facts, and and the theory of evolution is a great example of exactly that. Perhaps Huntsman knows this.

Scientific observations are classified into three categories: hypotheses, theories or laws. Hypotheses are the weakest interpretations of evidence, while theories garner more support. Laws are said to be the strongest explanations, but even they aren't facts.

Well, no. This is a hierarchy that doesn’t exist. A hypothesis is the equivalent of a scientific “guess”, which forms the basis of further experiments, but it must be testable. A hypothesis is more or less worthless until it’s been tested. At a certain point, a hypothesis that survives testing will become a theory (more or less). Theories have certain properties: they must predict future results or discoveries, and they must be falsifiable. “God did it” (that’s creationism in a nutshell, by the way) is not falsifiable or testable at all, which makes it not even a hypothesis. Scientific theories that have as much evidence backing them as evolution does are the equivalent of facts in science. in much the same way that 0.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999(etc.) is mathematically equivalent to 1. You can argue all day that it’s not, and that there’s holes in that argument, but you just sound stupid when you do and it proves you don’t know that much about math.

We are all familiar with the law of gravity, but we can't claim it's a fact. And yet evolutionists defend their theory like there's no tomorrow.

I’m afraid gravity is a fact. If you don’t believe me, feel free to float off in to space. “Evolutionists” defend the theory of evolution because it’s a fact. Scientific literacy is important to maintaining our status in the world, which has already suffered a lot of damage. You can tell me that 0.9(repeating) isn’t 1 all day, and I might defend that it is, or I might just call you a moron and save myself some time. Your belief has no bearing on scientific facts.

Moreover, the theory of evolution comes from one interpretation of available evidence. Contrary to Huntsman's claim, the Republican Party is proving more scientific because of its legitimate recognition of the gaps in evolution.

*sigh*. Belief without evidence is not science. It’s faith, otherwise known as religion. Accepting logical fallacies as truth is not science. Debating stupid is kind of pointless. Creationism is not an interpretation of the available evidence, it’s a denial of the available evidence. Intelligent design, is a denial of the available evidence as well.

To point out one weakness, evolution relies on the assumption that beneficial genetic information has been repeatedly added to genomes throughout the history of the universe. But not even Richard Dawkins, a leading evolutionary biologist from Oxford University, could name a single mutation that has added beneficial information.

Yes he has. 10 minutes with google. I did, however, find the same claim about Dawkins on several other sites, including islamicvideo.org (snicker). And that video has also been well debunked as clever editing.

Evolution is, at it’s heart, really quite simple and elegant. Any mutation that helps a creature to reproduce is beneficial and tends to become part of the gene pool in a given subset of the species by nature of reproduction. Those that do not help or hinder tend to get weeded out. It’s more like a several billion year game of Yahtzee than “God playing dice”.

On the other hand, it’s also possible we all got shot out the ass of a giant blob of spaghetti. We could teach that too, I suppose. I mean, I wasn’t there, so I can’t know for sure, right?

Evolution has so many gaps that refusing to search for new explanations of the evidence available to us would be completely unscientific, but Huntsman insists skeptics "run from science."

Here again, we’re confusing what skepticism is. Skeptics don’t “run from science”. Skeptics don’t just deny things they don’t want to be true. Skeptics examine evidence. Scientists, by the very nature of what they do (science), are skeptics. Rick Perry is not a skeptic, and neither is the author. The author is what’s known as a “pundit”. There’s a difference. I’m not going to google it for you.

The Republican Party doesn't need a candidate like Jon Huntsman, who has no clue what science is and refuses to accept that alternative explanations to evolution are plausible. It needs candidates like Perry who would allow the freedom for true scientific inquiry.

Oh, I think the Republican Party very much needs a candidate like Jon Huntsman to avoid becoming a complete joke. Once upon a time the Republican party stood for something other than religious blathering, anti-science, oppression of homosexuals and tax breaks for the wealthy. It wasn’t all that long ago. Things began to change with Reagan, but the TV generation has trouble remembering last week, let alone thirty years ago. Republicans need to take their party back from the iron grip the religious right has on it and try to make the party “Grand” again. GFL with that.

I’m not sure I entirely trust Jon Huntsman. To be honest I find it unlikely that any Republican candidate could have gotten elected to anything in the current political climate without spewing some kind of nonsense to somebody. I haven’t heard any BS from him yet, though. I do however, take issue with Glenn Beck wannabes trashing him for actually saying something sane. Sanity doesn’t seem to be appreciated on the right lately, and they’ll attack their own for it. It’s a disturbing and unfortunately common trend in politics now. Ideological purity is not a virtue to be coveted, folks. It’s more likely a symptom of leanings towards fascist thought. Diversity is good.

But at the same time, let’s be clear on what science is, what it is not, and stop these games of calling evolution a religion and calling religion science. If you want to believe the earth is 6000 years old and was created by a mystical invisible father figure, that’s your right but don’t call it science, call it what it is: religion. Don’t teach it in public schools, teach it in church where it belongs. And don’t attack your own for making your party look less insane.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Things Like This Give Me Hope For The Future Of Humanity

This: http://www.lifebeforethedinosaurs.com/

I just stumbled across this via a link from Pharyngula. I perused the site a little bit, and found it to be what seems to be an exceptional blog dedicated to cataloging life in the pre-Cambrian era. Then I noticed the section “About Me”.

The author is seven. SEVEN! He’s seven years old and obviously knows more about life in the pre-Cambrian era than I do. Certainly more than Ken Ham, Ann Coulter, Ray Comfort, or any of those other bozos do (but that’s not really saying much).

I’m adding this blog to my reader list. I’m going to enjoy sitting back and reading a blog from an intelligent child who writes about scientific fact, rather than blathering on all day about idiots who oppose science, or even worse, blogs by the idiots who oppose science. I would suggest you add it too.

Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Ann Coulter, and myself all put to shame by a seven year old. That’s beyond awesome.