Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza: Going out with a whine

So, Dinesh's current iteration of his blog is going the way of the dodo. So, of course, he needs to make sure to leave a fond fairwell to the commenters he ignores:
I have enjoyed doing this blog and I want to thank my readers--yes, even the Dineshophobic atheists--for checking in and posting comments. (Sometimes I wonder if some of you atheists who post several times a day have regular jobs.)
"Dineshophobic"? I'm not sure that "-phobic" is the right suffix to describe people who suffer from an addiction to shredding your posts to pieces everytime you open your jaw and let the inane crap spew forth. Though it is nice that you could manage to suggest that atheists are afraid of you, while also suggesting that they are specifically persecuting you, while still remaining as smug as ever. A hat-trick.

Oh, and people who use the internet can't possibly have jobs. Right? The two are like, mutually exclusive...

It's been fun, Dinesh. But somehow, I don't think that the human stain that is yourself will be removed from the intertoobs anytime soon. And, for that, the rest of mankind weeps.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Win


Not sure exactly what I think of the tacit comparison of Jesus and Barack Obama, but it does do a good job of showing how ridiculous the criticism leveled against Obama, or tossed out by the GOP in general, truly is. Edward Current...I salute you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

KKKristian LOVE!

I am speechless. I guess it is okay, because he is a secret Muslim, though. Right?

Sigh...why do I even bother?

Dinesh is circling the drain with the impending end to AOL News Blogs, so, amazingly, his desperate attempts to stretch the facts to support his positions are becoming even more sloppy than usual! I didn't believe it was even possible. Don't believe me? Behold!
Consider the proposition that all life forms--including
all humans--are made from DNA. Hume would say this is not a "law." Rather, it is
an observation based on common experience and testing. The reason we cannot
speak of a "law" is that we haven't checked every human and every life form that
has ever existed to ensure that every one is made of DNA.

Yes. Science is based on inductive reasoning along with deductive reasoning. We need induction so that we do NOT need to do such ridiculous as testing every human being for DNA, testing every sample of graphite for carbon atoms, and testing the gravity on every square inch of the planet. The proof for scientific laws fulfill the requirements of the particular subset of philosophy and logic that comprise the scientific method, and allow us to get a reasonable perception of reality, without reliance on tautology alone.


Hume's point is not to deny the practical utility of these conclusions, but
to deny that we know something as a law just because we have measured it
many, many times. As Hume writes in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, from the proposition "I have found that such an object has
always been attended with such an effect," it is impossible to derive the
conclusion, "I forsee that other objects which are in appearance similar,
will be attended with similar effects". Logically, Hume notes, this is a non-sequitur.
Yes, it is a non-sequitur. And yet, that is why the laws that science presents are not certainties, but only incredibly favorable probabilities. They are willing to admit that there is a remote chance that any given law may be wrong. But, even when dealing with laws that are only have a 99.999% chance of accuracy, the assumption of consistency that Hume denounces is one that is not only necessary for scientific advance, but one necessary for basic human function. If we were willing to hold that reality does not adhere to a specific pattern, or is inconsistent to a degree beyond our ability to measure, perceive, or compensate for, we forfeit ourselves to a world that is akin to conceding that we are mere brains in vats, hopelessly interacting with a world that cannot be controlled by us, or even properly perceived. The world is a glorified illusion, beyond our ability to understand at any scale. And thus we must just give up and admit knowledge only in the realm of the hypothetical and mathematics, where the unreality cannot creep in.

The problem is: skepticism of this type isn't practical. Science is. So, in short, the argument is not "I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar, will be attended with similar effects" but rather "I posit that other objects which are in appearance and objective measurement similar, will be attended with similar effects with a relatively high frequency, because we must make an assumption of the consistent behavior of identical objects with identical properties under identical conditions due to its consistency with what we collectively have observed for time untold, but also because we cannot make any progress at all if we do not draw that conclusion at some point in time."
So, strawman equals lose. So is trying to use Hume's refuation of the logical consistency of inductive reasoning as an attempt to dismiss the scientific method (which is based upon evidentiary reasoning and practical knowledge, rather than the semantic games and syllogisms of debate and philosophy).

How do we know that on a distant star, light travels at the same speed as
it does here? In truth, we do not know.


You have a point. Sort of. The problem is that there is no known reason why light would or could travel at a speed faster than the speed of light. It doesn't mean that it undeniably cannot, with a 100% certitude, but it does mean that it cannot based upon our knowledge of things that exist in the universe and the speed that light travels under ideal conditions. But, you see, there would have to be something that would cause such a change. Something that science could discover, measure, and learn about in time. Even the inconsistencies in reality as we know it are found to be described by something further down, that is itself relatively uniform.
From this we can conclude that: scientific laws are not really "laws" but merely generalizations based on previous tries.

He really is dumb. He didn't even need to go through this haphazard, tired attempt to bring doubt upon reality itself to make this point. The definition of scientific law is "a statement that describes a stable dependency between an independent variable and a dependent variable." Also, for comparison to similar concept, (which applies to this perhaps more accurately than that definition), is a mathematical law, which is "a general principle or rule that is assumed or that has been proven to hold between expressions." If the entire point of your article was just to prove that scientific laws aren't hardset rules that magically and infallibly define reality, you've wasted your time. They are admittedly only incredibly refined educated guesses, with a lot of data to back it up. They don't declare themselves as anything but.
Once we recognize this we see why miracles are entirely within the realm of
scientific possibility.

And yet we either do not see them occur, or they happen within the confines of those generalized laws you bemoan as potentially inaccurate. Hell of a God.
Since we cannot name a single empirical scientific law that is in principle
inviolable, we cannot rule out deviations from these so-called laws.

Wait a minute...why would it matter if they were "inviolable"? Whether they were always right or not, a miracle is supposedly caused by God, and could happen whether or not the laws of nature were set up against it. Omnipotence, dammit!!
I'm simply saying that the idea that these things cannot happen is based
on an ignorance of what science shows and doesn't show.

What I find particularly hilarious is that by invoking Hume in an attempt to say that science is inaccurate due to the potential for nature itself to be completely chaotic, inconsistent, and unpredictable, you've actually argued that miracles, violations of the laws of nature mustered by a divine agency, are themselves just accidental byproducts of an anarchic universe. Miracles have been proven as possible by you, but only because you've argued that they occur as random, mindless hiccups in the observed continuity of existence, inherent in the nature of reality itself. Miracles can happen to you because it is part of a potential natural process, instead of being the clearly supernatural, divinely guided temporary violation of an otherwise consistent world. What a waste of time!
Hume, generally regarded as an exploder of metaphysics, was also an exploder of
the pretensions of scientific knowledge.

As was anyone who ever mustered an argument that amounts to "how do you know that purple won't be green five minutes from now?". Or anyone who adamantly argued that we cannot know anything about the world around us with certainty. These are idle arguments at best, and the notions must be discarded in order for us to function. As such, they are largely impractical, and irrelevant to the real world, outside of the realm of purest philosophy. Also: "exploder"? Seriously?
science is incapable of "verifying" truth; it can merely "falsify" hypotheses
and thus (we hope) draw us a little closer to truth.

OMG! Dinesh said something factual. And it is near the end of his article, so there is a chance he won't pervert it to mean something different!
The biblical notion that "we see through a glass darkly" turns out not to be
theological hocus-pocus but a clear-eyed summary of the human situation.

No. It's theological hocus-pocus. You're just trying to interpret it to be something profound, and prophetic because it comes from your holy book. To me, it is an intentionally vague metaphor that could mean any variety of things from your interpretation of "humans have a limited perspective", to "humans are looking into a dark [sinful, unknown] world", to "humans are pessimistic". Factor in that this is one quotation from a book compiled entirely out of random maxims, allegories, metaphors, etc. varying from low to high levels of relevance/accuracy, all available to be interpretted or ignored at whim. The fact that you have one popular verse, composed of 6 words, that kinda-sorta pertains to reality as we know it...hardly significant.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Poor, defenseless youtube comments

On a Youtube video of Kent Hovind engaged in a ridiculous squabble with an unknown grad student, some poor schmoe decided to leave some inane comment that I thought deserved more attention that I could give within the comment format youtube provides (not to mention that I prefer to avoid potentially high-traffic flame wars). So, I will instead savage the comment within the comfort of my own blog. The commenter's name is AhmadJohnson0930, in case it matters to the bloodthirsty masses.
4:10 where did the designer come from? God didn't come from anywhere he always existed and he always will exist. He's eternal.
This is the common apologetic response to the question pertaining to how "God" is assumed to be a logical escape from the infinite regress of causation. It is the alleged answer to why the "creator" does not need to be "created": he doesn't need to be caused, created, designed, etc. He just always was. Existence itself, for whatever reason, is not permitted to have this same eternal, causeless status in a theist's argument. But wait...we delve deeper into bullshit...
It has been scientifically proven that "Something" always existed because we exist.
I do not know what kind of science he is going on about, but I don't recall hearing about anyone firmly establishing the evidential basis for saying that "'Something' always existed." It is more of the realm of philosophy where such claims would be made, but in science, the full verdict on origins is still unclear.
That something is God.
For a non-dogmatic, functionally useless definition of "God", I'm sure it could be. Otherwise, you just took a hell of a leap, just like the millions to have used this argument before you.
Listen we are mortal human beings trying to understand an infinite God. Its impossible to completely understand Him.
And thus, AhmadJohnson unloaded his revolver into his good friend, Theology. It is also funny how it is only hard to "understand" God when someone is criticizing the religious conception of him. When it comes to the positive claims made by religious doctrine pertaining to his nature, who cares about the limits of human comprehension, right? God is perfectly comprehendable, down to the smallest detail, as long as you are not one of them naysayers...
its like trying to fit the ocean in an 8 oz glass. Im going to finish with this we don't even know 1% of all there is to know in the universe.
Sure. Whatever. We don't know everything about the universe. We can't map the furthest galaxies from us, we don't know how to walk into an atom, we can't make biological life out of graphite and a splash of bog water, and we don't know how many angels can dance on the head of the pin. But, all in all, we collectively know a hell of a lot about the things directly pertinent to ourselves. The fact that we don't know have absolute knowledge of everything in the universe doesn't have any bearing on the existence of God. Unless you are suggesting that God is actually a physical being in outer space, in which case...well...I don't really know.
So in that other 99% God exists.
Wow. I was right. So there we have it: God is an alien.
All hail Xenu.

Worst. Graffiti. EVER.

Apparently, being an atheist in public is a grave offense to Christians, so...the good and merry folk of the world's bestest religion have no choice but to Jesusify their signs!

You can almost feel the "love" of the band of vandalizing manchildren who did this. The "love" of people who just can't stand to sit idly by without their delusion of choice being touted about as the best thing since sliced bread.

Oh, and, the "Obama half-breed muslin" sign...don't even get me started. I am just glad that the person who made that sign had the decency to wear their idiocy on their sleeve, so I don't have to rant about how their quasi-racism and Islamaphobia is completely irrelevant in regards to Obama. But the brain damage remains...

PZ Myers: The Man, The Legend.

The Scienceblogs compel me...
  • PZ Myers naturally selects freshmen as his breakfast.
  • PZ Myers stabbed the Eucharist so hard, that even the Holy Ghost was impaled in the process. And there was much rejoicing.
  • PZ Myers can annihilate trolls before they even come into being, and can post on his blog at the speed of light. It is even said that he can blog at such a speed as to consume the entire internet in the process, while blogging about things that have yet to occur.
  • When PZ Myers evacuates his bowels, a creationist is born, which he will immediately afterwards eviscerate and display as a trophy to the awestruck villagers.
  • When told what the "PZ" in PZ Myers stands for, the minds of the innocent were invariably shattered by the mere mention of those unbridled syllables, not meant for mortal ears.
  • PZ Myers the man is merely an illusion. The true PZ Myers existed 17,000,000 years as a hyperintelligent reptilian pygmie who wiped himself out of the fossil record in order to not confuse the mortals, and subsequently formed the Illuminati. In its following millenia of dormancy, he projects the image of the man who we call PZ, who appears as a fellow human in order to lull us into a false sense of security.
  • PZ Myers eats babies. Fact.
  • PZ Myers once enterred an arm wrestling contest with Chuck Norris. PZ may have lost his arm that day, but Chuck Norris learned that he simply is no match for tentacles...
  • PZ Myers can force creationists to evolve into monkeys upon hearing his voice. Unfortunately, some creationists are beyond even his powers, and are merely banished into void via the power of sheer argumentation.
  • PZ Myers once had a knife fight with Mohammed. I won't spoil the outcome, but let's just say there is a reason why Muslims don't want you to depict their prophet's face...
  • PZ Myers can breathe water, drink air, and make stones so large that even God can't lift them. PZ Myers, however, can also lift them.
  • PZ Myers can use "PYGMIES + DWARVES" and not have it be a non-sequitur.
  • PZ Myers can use his cyberpistol on Catholics, but he can use cybernukes on creationists. On everyone else, he just prefers machine guns.
  • PZ Myers is 12 stories tall, and made of radiation.
  • PZ Myers is the baby daddy. EVERY baby daddy. [Sexual selection at work]
  • PZ Myers's power level can go over 9,000. In addition, he is the original founder of 53 separate schools of martial arts, 32 of which are only taught to the strongest 10 people in the world, who are subsequently shot after learning of the school, because the secrets are that dangerous.
  • If a young nubile Christian child so much as touches on of PZ's shirts, they will either instantly become atheists or explode on the spot.
  • PZ Myers takes ass and kicks names.
  • And, finally, PZ Myers is....BATMAN.
I'm glad I could be of service.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Religion in a nutshell

  • Olympianism-"There are dozens of super-powered ghost-humans on top of a mountain that like to have sex with humans and mess with us regularly. Also: I am right."
  • Asgardianism-"There are dozens of super-powered ghost-humans on top of a giant tree that like to see us kill each other. Also: I am right."
  • Pharaonicism-"There are dozens of super-powered ghost-humans across the horizon that want us to pack for our afterlives, and the pharaoh is appointed by them. Also: I am right."
  • Zoroastrianism-"A super-powered ghost-human and his brigade of lesser ghost-humans is at war with his super-powered evil-ghost-human counterpart. Also: I am right."
  • Judaism-"A super-powered ghost-human made clones of himself and oversees them to make sure that eat the right foods, have sex the proper way, and read his autobiography over and over again. Also: I am right."
  • Protestantism-As above, except: "he doesn't care about food anymore, he came into the real world as an avatar of himself in order to die, come back to life, and teleport away. And also, if you don't believe any of this, he will burn you out of love. Also: I am right."
  • Catholicism-As above, except: "and the avatar's mother is magical too, and crackers are serious business. Also: I am right."
  • Pentecostalism-As Protestantism, except "I CAN SPEAK TONGUES AND CAST OUT DEMONS!!1!! Also: I am right."
  • Mormonism- As Protestantism, except "it all happened in Detroit, we can marry as many women as we want, and we know this because a carnie told us so. Also: I am right."
  • Hinduism-"A super-powered ghost appears in the forms of thousands of different super-powered ghost humans and we all come back to life as animals if we were bad. Also: I am right."
  • Buddhism-"As Hinduism, except there is no super-powered ghosts and you must attain real ultimate power through solving riddles and being incredibly aloof. Also: I am right."
  • Animism/Shintoism-"Every physical object, animal, location, and natural occurrence has a super-powered ghost human associated with it. Also: I am right."
  • Paganism/Pantheism-"All of nature/existence is a part of a super-powered ghost human. A part of the super-powered ghost human is in every part of nature. Also: I am right."
  • Lovecraftianism-"Super-powered aliens are responsible for our existence, and yet either don't care about us or are actively hostile towards us. Be very afraid. Also: I am right [snicker]"
  • Pastafarianism-"A super-powered pasta dish created all of existence, thwarts all attempts at scientific measurement for the lulz, has a pirate fetish, and will reward believers with a beer volcano and stripper factory. Also: I am right [snicker]"
  • IPUism-"An unseeable ghost unicorn is pink. Also: I am right [snicker]"
  • Scientology-"All bad feelings are caused by alien ghosts attached to us, and in order to learn the trade secrets and be free of them you must pay thousands of dollars. We know this because a science fiction author said so. Also: I am right."
  • Deism- [beware: many of the above will pretend that this is their position] "A super-powered ghost human created reality and then went off to do some things. As such, he can't be proven or disproven. Also: I am right."
  • "Agnosticism"- [reads any one of the above entries] "Ehhh...I'd give it a 50/50 chance. Also: I am right."
  • Atheism- [reads any number of the above entries] "WTF!!? Also: I am right."
  • "Militant" atheism- [reads any one of the above entries] "No. You're wrong. Suck it. Also: I am right"
  • Liberal theism- [reads any one of the above entries] "Well, I may not believe all of it, but it sounds nice and I think it does a lot of good, so I think I will call myself a _______, anyway. And I will make sure to wag my finger at anyone who insults the religion that I nominally consider myself a part of. Also: I am right."
  • Soft apathism-[doesn't read all above entries] "I don't care."
  • Hard apathism-[reads all above entries] "I still don't care."
  • Fundamentalism-[doesn't read any of the above entries] "I AM RIGHT!"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"No One Sees God"? Bracing for Apologetic Barrage...

Dinesh. Dinesh. Dinesh. Dinesh. I just can't quit you. I can consider myself glad that AOL will be giving you and the entire Newsblogs the boot fairly soon. They'll be forcing me to kick a very addictive habit: kicking you.


One of Novak's especially attractive qualities is his ability to find common ground with his opponents. Here he begins by conceding to the atheist that "we are all in the same darkness." No one-not even Moses or Abraham-has set his eyes on God.
Profoundly retarded. Merely not "seeing" God is one thing: having absolutely no senses informing you of his presence at all is another. The "same darkness" suggests not just visual blindness to God, but a universal lack of sensual awareness of him. Bringing up Moses and Abraham, who God supposedly spoke to shows just how irrelevant lack of seeing God is for him to make his presence known, and further emphases the fact that he doesn't do it in real life.
Novak rejects the certitudes of both the religious fundamentalist and the
militant atheist.

Then Novak is 50% correct. Either he is using a strange definition of "certitude", has an especially stricter definition of "militant" than the one that is regularly tossed about, or is actually comparing a group numbering a few hundred thousand to a group numbering in the low hundreds.

"the dark and windswept open spaces between unbelief and belief."

LOLWUT? Taking Golden Mean agnosticism to a new level...

For Novak, life raises bigger questions than the ones answered, and answerable,
by science.

Good for him. Science isn't claiming a monopoly on definining human experience and existence. Just don't try to pretend that your own introspection, subjective experiences, questions, and answers are at all reflective upon an objective reality that has any relevance to anyone aside from yourself and doesn't touch through the realm of science in the process.

Ultimately we want to know not merely how things work but also: why are we here?
What is our purpose? What is our final destiny?

Yes. The constant "what is the meaning of life" question. Once again, answer it with whatever you want because we aren't going to get an objective and universally applicable one anytime soon. And, once again, do not try to pretend that your answer is anything more than an emotionally charged guess. Because that is what is. Hell, that is what the very questions themselves are.

Novak credits religion with addressing the largest moral questions, not only
"what is it good to do?" but also "what is it good to be?" and "what is it good
to love?"

[raised eyebrow] Yes...religion does answer those questions. Poorly. With little elbow room or reasoning, and a few annoying inconsistencies. And what the hell does that last question even mean? [At first I assumed that it was talking about what concepts or ideals to "love", but I am wondering if it just a nice little euphemism for "have sexxx with".

Even so, Novak finds it puzzling that these atheists make so little effort to understand how God is experienced by the believer.

I guess it is a good question. I guess because it is hard to get into people heads, to determine which people are lying, which are hallucinating, which are dreaming, which are just mistaking strong feelings and desires for metaphysical experience with genuine metaphysical experience, and which ones actually experienced God as more than just "faith". As for the significance of experiencing God as being synonymous with the effects of merely having faith, well...a study into that would be interesting but assuredly complex. In short, it is probably avoided because it is just too damn subjective.

"For a believer...It does not take a prolonged thought experiment to imagine
oneself an unbeliever."

Laughable. If Novak is seriously trying to suggest that believers have some sort of insight that unbelievers do not into one another's respective manner of thinking, he should consider:

  1. Most unbelievers were once believers.
  2. Unbelievers live in a culture saturated with religious belief, and must interact with believers on a standard basis.
  3. Unbelievers are rare, and their justifications and mindsets are not as consistent due to being defined by a LACK of conformity to a norm, rather than conformity to another standard.
  4. The justifications and mindsets behind disbelief are often misrepresented in part due to 3.
  5. Many believers do not know how one could not believe in their religion of choice (hence, why they decided to a member of it!).
atheists like Hitchens seem to have no empathetic understanding whatsoever of
genuine religious conviction. They have no sense of what belief must be like
from within.

Truf. It is sometimes hard to tell, especially since "genuine religious conviction" tends to vary in nature and magnitude from person to person, making particular strains more or less understandable. Except, since we are human, we know what it is like to be confident that we are right. We know what is like to want to be important. To want knowledge of a "big pattern behind it all". To feel like there is something beyond what we know and to long for that unknown reality. To believe and be happy that we have something we can be sure about in our lives. These are all fundamental parts of human existence. We know what it feels like, since we do have beliefs ourselves on other matters. But, you see, whenever the facts and our beliefs just don't line up, we try to change our beliefs instead of the facts. And when a belief is just irrelevant, we stop trying to hold it as truth.

In short: we have a fairly good guess about what religious convictions feel like. I cannot say that believers know what uncompartmentalized skepticism feels like, though. Does that mean that we win?

Novak's point is that this shortcoming makes them poor analysts of religion.

Oh, finally! I can get a good bitch slap on Dinesh now. I'll type this nice and slow for you, D.D.:

WHAT. THE. HELL. DOES. BELIEF. ITSELF. HAVE. TO. DO. WITH. RELIGIOUS. INSTITUTIONS. AND. DOCTRINES?

How does the subjective experience of belief itself, and how warm and cuddly utter certainty makes you have any bearing on the existence of God, the accuracy of Biblical documents, the morality of the church's former activity, or even on the significance of belief itself? It quite simply doesn't. This is an incredibly misguided distraction.

When we read Macbeth, for instance, we have to be able to plunge into
Shakespeare's world, ghosts and all. No understanding of Macbeth is possible if
we begin with rude dismissal, "Of course the whole premise is complete
nonsense."

And much lulz were had this day. For Dinesh D'Souza just compared the Bible to a work of fiction in order to score points. Okay, I'll just make this easy for you and tell you why this is dumb: Macbeth isn't claiming to be an accurate portrayal of reality, religion is. Rude dismissal of unreal premises is appropriate for something that claims to be real. I hope that cleared things up. Oh, but just in case that hurt your feelings, or made you want to whine, most of us have thoroughly explored your religion and many others before fully abandoning them. So, you can rest your empty little head, D.D.

It is also a matter of giving an account of why such a tiny minority of people
in our culture have embraced vocal atheism. If atheism is so obviously
convincing, Novak asks, why are so few people drawn to it?

I am going to go with:

  1. Unwillingness to define themselves as non-Christian despite what their actual beliefs are, in the name of tradition.
  2. General lack of interest or knowledge in regards to religion.
  3. The stigma of the atheist label and the appeal of "moderate religion" and "middle-ground" agnosticism.
  4. And just a dash of "people are stupid".
Paine understood that such concepts as the dignity of man and human rights
depended on man's special place in God's creation.

Except, you know, for the fact that they were original secular Greek ideas, and were implied tenets of functional society far before them. I mean, hell, "favor humans over non-humans" and "treat people fairly" are what "dignity" and "rights" amount to. I am not sure how many early societies would survive without such precepts. What's pathetic is how badly your God-loving societies were able to pervert those little concepts, though, to accomodate slaves, torture, and subjugation of women. Hilarious.

Hitchens seems blissfully unaware of a whole tradition of scholarship, from
Tocqueville to Jurgen Habermas, that identifies Christianity as the essential
foundation of some of the West's most cherished institutions and values.

Ahh, yes. The "West". I would certainly hope that it had some influence on some portions of the hemisphere of our planet were it has existed almost exclusively as a dominant religion for almost a full two millenia. I would also certainly hope that some of them were positive. But, unfortunately, I have yet to be shown an institution and value given to the West by Christianity that wasn't itself derived from an early source, or that didn't develop in the "East" without Christian influence. Hell, if the above two were examples, half of the ones you take credit for didn't even come from you. Just taking credit for common sense, reason, and empathy, as usual...

Habermas shows that the very idea of toleration is a gift that religious thought
has bequeathed to modern secular society.

But, doesn't "toleration" also go hand-in-hand as a byproduct of equality? Which is an essentially secular idea?

are secular people willing to acknowledge that toleration is always a two-way
street? In other words, if religious people are expected to be tolerant of
unbelievers, shouldn't secular people learn to be tolerant of their fellow
citizens who are believers

WTF!!!? Yes. Of course. DEPENDING ON YOUR DEFINITION OF TOLERANCE! If mere critique of religious ideas is intolerance, and you must tolerate the non-religious and thus not critique their ideas about religion, not only have ensured stagnation and ruled out any possible discussion on the issue, but you also outlawed evangelism by implication! There are limits to tolerance, especially when you are asking about tolerating an unsupported opinion. I am in support of it in reasonable amounts. But, unfortunately, the call for tolerance is often an ignorant front for trying to get immunity to criticism. That is not only moronic, but also incredibly low.

If Habermas and Novak are right, the public square should not be viewed as the
property of secular citizens. Rather, it is the common ground on which believers
and non-believers communicate with each other.

No. The public square should be both. The domain of secular citizens whose religions are put temporarily aside when taking on an authoritative role, but can still be picked up and displayed when a varying stance appears and engages you in discussion pertinent to it.

It makes no sense to exclude religious convictions from the public sphere if
secular convictions are granted full access.

Yes it does, if those convictions suggest that the government agrees with that particular conviction on merit of the belief holder's position of authority. But, I see that you are intentionally wording this as vaguely as possible so that you ALMOST make sense, by implying that "public sphere" means any public space, and trying to play off the word "secular" to make it sound like it is somehow giving atheists a leg up in that context.

An uncritical "separation of church and state" must give way to a shared domain
in which all citizens have the right to express their heartfelt convictions.

They can and do! As long as they aren't a goddamn representative of a government agency at the time, they can say whatever they want about religious matters. It is amazing how you can try to sound right, and yet cram so much fail between the fancy words you rub together.

Oh, and for those who weren't paying attention, this article went "those atheists just don't understand our faith" to "Christianity gave us some good stuff" to "tolerance, therefore get secularism outta here!". No one ever accused Dinesh of making sense.

Red Motherf#@%ing Alert, People!

Some playwright I've never heard of is now a conservative! Everybody panic!
Score one for the Republicans!

This is actually rather pathetic. This guy, David Mamet, has decided to merely define himself as a conservative now (he pretty much has been for a time now, just "closeted", if you will), because he associates conservatism with a pessimistic view of mankind and liberalism with an optimistic one. It is a chestnut that I am seeing more and more frequently, and, as a staunch pessimist and a liberal, I am left perplexed at the very notion.

Mamet explains one of his plays that demonstrates this dynamic by saying:

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it's at home, a
disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or
tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president
in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way
for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable
abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those
of government intervention

Yeah. This is what gets me: what exactly about liberal and conservative political stances suggest that they are "tragic" or "perfectionist" views? The only thing that seems to be pessimistic in a conservative's view is that the government can mess things up (I believe that most non-politicians will concede this point, with a little too much passion), and in regards to admitting criminal and violent natures of human beings (which, of course, the government must be used to quash...). And, by assuming that these ideas are strictly conservative ones, and that liberals must therefore think that government makes everything better, and that humans do not have criminal or violent natures (we do, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to find ways to overcome them), suddenly we are foolishly optimistic utopians. Honestly, if thinking that trying to make improvements in society and human nature is better than letting people gradually strangle each other to death in the name of the status quo is a "perfectionist" view, I will wear the title with pride. No matter how grim I think the odds are, and how poorly I think of the idiotic populace in general. No matter how much I think that people are only motivated by selfish drives as much as any conservative, but still think that a fair, modern economy can't be driven by that alone. Optimist, ahoy.
As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is
corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at
heart

I assume that, now, he accepts that government is the best thing EVAR (except in regards to the economy...), that business has our best interests at heart, and will never exploit workers or customers in an unregulated market,and that people don't have any conscience at all. Just pure selfishness and evil.

Sigh...anyway, Darth D'Souza is doing much proverbial wanking over this conversion.
Also the left is now defined by shrieking demagogues like Michael Moore, while
intelligent people are keeping their distance or moving out of this menagerie

Ahahahaha. Weak. And the right is defined by George W. Bush. We still win. This is why you don't define half of the country by ONE. DAMN. PERSON.
The folks at the Daily Kos website feigned indifference: "Who really cares?" But
until this time Mamet was regarded as a virtual demigod of American high
culture. Now we can expect the accolades to stop.

Blah, blah, blah. Liberal media. Blah, blah, blah, "I know this is irrelevant, they acknowledge that it is irrelevant, but that is just PREJUDICE"
When Bobby echoes the old liberal nostrum, "Nothing's black and white," he
receives this crushing response: "Nothing's black and white? What about a
panda?"

[Stabs panda]. What was that? An incredibly weak, overly literal interpretation of a metaphoric reference to relativism and complexity of situations? I couldn't hear it over the bleeding...
While Mamet disclaimed any political motives, you only had to see the play to
recognize that it was about the feminist witch-hunt. Basically a female student
(somewhat reminiscent of a young Hillary Clinton at Wellesley) makes false
allegations of sexual harassment against a well-meaning but incautious liberal
professor. In the name of the sisterhood, she destroys the poor man's
career.

I'll admit that this may happen. But, that hardly serves as a reason to toss out feminism as a whole, or even sexual harassment claims because legitimate cases do happen. And I'll make a play about a gay Satanic liberal professor groping Christian teens to prove it. Hypothetical situations count as proof, right?
Mamet also expressed unabashed love for America, which is something that
left-wing Democrats only express at their presidential conventions when it is
time to put on a performance for the American people who are watching.
I apologize that this isn't our theme song. I apologize that it is for you. I apologize that David Mamet thinks that it is reflective of a "tragic" worldview. And I apologize that you think that any of this is important.
"I no longer need to believe the drivel that is spoken around me," Mamet said.
"I feel lighter already." To which I can only say: welcome home, David Mamet.

There is no possible expression for me to use that properly indicates the correct combination and magnitude of hilarity, irony, and mild disgust that I feel right now. LOL!!!!1!!1 does not suffice.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"What's So Great About Blaming The Democrats For September 11th?"

[Note: The post title is basically a spoiler happy alternate title for book D'Souza's book "The Enemy at Home." Which (gasp) he shamelessly plugs by reiterating! ]

This little blog post by Dinesh is a frantic, grasping attempt to try to justify his opinion that exposure to liberal Western media and values is what caused those terrorists to get so angry at us a few years back. He uses the book "Who Speaks for Islam?" to lend credence to this idea of his, although, the ultimate conclusion of the book is that our foreign policy and perceived disrespect of their religion is the key reason for anger, rather than perceived immorality. But the facts have never stopped Dinesh before....

In the seven years since 9/11, we have been subjected to all kinds of ignorant pontification--much of it from the left, but some also from the right--on "why they hate us."
Quoted for irony.
Esposito and Mogahed argue that traditional Muslims, who make up the bulk of Muslims in every Muslim country, strongly identify with the Western principles of rule of law, self-government, and religious toleration. In fact, their main critique of America is that, as they see it, America backs secular dictators in the Muslim world who deny to Muslims the rights that are taken for granted by Americans.
Yes. Their main critique of America has to do with foreign policy. You see that clearly in this book. You are acknowledging it in this very paragraph. And yet...
They reject the shamelessness and frequent depravity of American popular culture. They reject the type of feminism that relinquishes the home in favor of careers. They are resolutely anti-abortion. They consider homosexual marriage to be an abomination.
Oh noes! They are arch-conservative prudes on top of that! Obviously, this must mean one, and only one thing: they hate us for our freedoms!!!1!!1!
But when conservative and religious Europeans and Americans are polled, it turns out that the percentage of people who are fine with homosexuality is about the same as that of the traditional Muslims.

Yes. This is true. Dinesh will be engaging in "push under the rug" mode in three...two....

First, that the values of the cultural left are an important source in alienating Muslims worldwide. Second, that Muslims don't reject modernity or the West: rather, they embrace what may be termed "1950s America" while rejecting the libertine values of the 1960s. Third, America can build alliances with traditional Muslims by showing them the face of traditional America, so that they see that Hollywood values aren't necessarily American values. Finally, left-wing groups like International Planned Parenthod and Amnesty International should stop pushing feminism, gay marriage and libertine values in the Muslim world.

Holy f@#%$&*@$#burger! What a change! The entire article up to this point was basically "here are some facts and conclusions. Neat, I know. But, look away for a minute, because this is what is really going on". I sincerely do not know why Dinesh thinks that the "values of the cultural left", which are basically equal rights for gays, women, and people of all races and religions should be so offensive as to be the only reason that Muslims are pissed off. You'd think, you know, the violence thing would be a bigger factor. Especially when the book you are citing to support your own reaches that conclusion. I also cannot begin to fathom how we could abandon those values, I do not know why we would want to do so just to appease some people who are willing to kill us over being free and equal, and I cannot believe that Dinesh is making an appeal to "the good ol' days" as the assumed perspective of over one billion people (who are hopefully not as naive.)
And I seriously doubt that we are pushing for gay marriage in Islamic countries. "Feminism" maybe. Gay marriage...well...they have other problems to address before that (you know...like not executing people for being gay...).
Also: "Parenthod"?

Pundits like Chalmers Johnson love to say that American intervention in Iraq and
elsewhere has produced a "blowback" of terrorism from the House of Islam. Wrong!
It is in Iraq that America is allowing an elected Muslim government to rule
according to Muslim interests and Muslim values. Iraq is the only country in the
Middle East where the Muslim population actually chose its own rulers. Iraq is
not the problem. Rather, it is the values of the cultural left, and the cultural
imperialism that seeks to impose those values on reluctant Muslims, that is the
real source of Muslim rage, and the best recruiting tool of the radical Muslims
And now I can conclude, after months of reading Dinesh's articles and suspecting it all along, that Dinesh D'Souza is a certifiable moron. Either his head so far up his own ass that he is currently engaged in a boxing match with his own brain, or he is just functionally braindead, and merely types messages on his computer when a precisely applied electric shock causes him to spasm and slam his face on the keybard. He just doesn't have any idea how we noble Americans went about giving that democracy to those appreciative Iraqi Muslims, does he? Doesn't think that terrorists could possibly be perturbed by our toppling governments on false pretenses and insisting that we impose a new one on them? Everyone in Iraq and the entire world is hunky-dory because we gave them a nice, sparkly democratic government, built on the corpses of over 100,000 civilians. Hell of a world you live in, Dinesh.
Here's just one tiny bit of advice: it doesn't matter if you can decide who your leaders are, if there is nothing to lead or if the leadership is crappy. We are making strides, but their democracy is still fledgling, and I doubt that everyone is of the impression that it is the best thing since sliced bread yet. It is disgusting that you are trying to blame terrorism on short-skirts and gay rights. It is even more disgusting that you do so in such an underhanded, yet gleefully confident fashion.
The idea that anyone refers to you as an intellectual, a scholar, or as anything but the right-wing tabloid writer you really are amuses me greatly. I honestly hope that people will wake up and smell the bullshit real soon. Until then, I offer a toast to the arrival of your latest truckload of fail.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I don't believe in God

I decided to try to put down succinctly the reasons for why I don't believe in god(s), just because my justifications have been constantly developing over years, though the nonbelief has remained the same.
  1. Subjectivity of evidence- The only evidence that is offered for the existence of a deity is that of either seeing design in the universe (necessitating, for some reason, their particular flavor of creator god) or of having "experienced" God. The fact that people of all religions claim to experience their particular deities, or have visions consistent with their religion's cosmology, is not a very good indication of truth. Especially considering the rarity of such experiences, and the fact that they could be more reasonably explained as credulous hallucinations or even willful deceit. Without hard, verifiable, objective evidence consistent with a particular view of the divine, I am left unconvinced, but not immovable.
  2. Inconsistency with reality- There are quite a few religions that offer a perspective on existence that simply contradicts known facts, and the rules of logic. Specifically, the Christian God is internally inconsistent if you accept that he allows free will, is omniscient, and omnipotent. And the religion is externally inconsistent if you accept that he is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and acknowledge that there is injustice and suffering in the world which is NOT necessarily alieviated in their view of the afterlife. In addition, the Bible is also externally inconsistent with reality, in that God does not interact with people in the explicity manner portrayed in it. These contradictions, both internal and external, are actually a very minor consideration, but one worth making.
  3. The unknowable nature of the supernatural- We are natural beings, in a natural world, confined to natural senses and only able to observe natural phenomenon. Supernatural beings and phenomenon are simply beyond the scope of our observations and are unknowable (being, by definition, beyond the natural). As such, we can never have objective evidence of a truly supernatural entity and, in our experience (reflected in point number 2) we have no reason to believe that such an entity has any influence on our existence that is distinguishable from regularly occuring natural phenomenon. As such, any claims pertaining to specifics of the supernatural are impossible to verify.
  4. Speculative traits and vague principles- This is not a reason for disbelieving in a god, in of itself. It is a reason to cast doubt on any of the imagined forms they are claimed to take. When people attempt to prove that a god must exist, they tend to make arguments regarding first causes, moral law-givers, etc. The problem with this relates to point 3. Essentially, these "proofs" of God's existence merely attempt to verify a single aspect that he represents (a creative force, a personification of the human conscience, etc.) and try to show that the represented aspect is a necessity by reducing God to a single principle of reality. From there, by claiming that such a God must exist, they equivocate and suggest that the God of theology, with a variety of unverified traits, desires, and with a supernatural cosmology to attend to, is that God which must exist. This conflation of a single natural principle and a complex, multifaceted intelligent force with specific needs and wants does not cast doubt on God's existence, in of itself. But it does illustrate that the proofs for his existence are generally flawed, and fail to even indicate that something supernatural must exist, despite intentionally mislabeling unknowns "God".
  5. Religiocentricity- Quite simply, considering the points in 3, and 4, and knowing of all the other religions in the world, it is easy to realize that any given religion is a glorified guess about an essentially unknown and unverifiable aspect of existence. From that perspective, it is hard to accept the dogma pertaining to the speculative deity of that religion's choice, to say nothing about their description about what that deity MUST be like. As such, even if were to concede that a supernatural "god" or something like it were 100% likely to exist, it would be pointless to lump yourself into any given religion, because there are almost infinite possibilities as to the nature of the god(s) in question. It is from there that religion becomes a pointless identification, and it is clear that is focused on a purposefully arbitrary claim.

Well, that's that. One could say that this is actually more consistent with deism than atheism, though. But, since I think that "god" is an arbitrary label, and that it is inappropriate to apply that label to a non-sentient and motiveless creative force or principle, and I also am unconvinced that anything supernatural exists at all, I think "atheism" is a more appropriate description.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Of Protest and Bigotry

Okay...Wafergate is resurging a bit lately, thanks to Dinesh. And, we have a nice little comment which sympathizes with the crux of D'Souza's argument, as well as dragging up the rotten corpse of an argument that has been worn thin over the course of the past 2 months or so. Behold:

"Destroying a cracker is not bigotry."
Neither is burning a couple of
pieces of wood shaped like a 't'.
However, cross burning (which is to be
distinguished *in terms of what it signifies* from burning two pieces of wood
shaped like a 't') is at least evidence of bigotry.
Destroying a cracker
isn't bigotry.
However, Eucharist desecration (which is to be distinguished
*in terms of what it signifies* from destroying a cracker) is at least evidence
of bigotry.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of sentiment, I don't know where to begin. But, here goes.
1. There is a history violence behind a burning cross. There is no such comparable history for host desecration (except, on the Catholic side of the fence...).
2. Burning a cross is not evidence of bigotry in contexts in which it is not intended to be a threat, or directed at anyone (i.e. it is accidental). Eucharist desecration is not considered to be a threat in of itself, in any context.
3. Even getting beyond the symbols, there is a greater history of violence directed towards African Americans in general, independent of cross-burning, relative to that directed at Catholics (some, but not much recently) for the sole reason of their bearing those respective traits.
4. Related to points 1-3 is the fact that the cross burning is offensive because it is a tacit threat, whereas Eucharist desecration is only offensive because Catholics believe it hurts God (or something) and are not personally affected or threatened by it.
5. There is a difference between bigotry (mindless hatred of another group) and criticism. Questioning the worth of symbols, rituals, and ideas, without threatening the group who holds them as relevant is criticism. Calling people out for their own actions and unfounded beliefs is criticism. Dismissing, hating or threatening individuals for being the group that holds them as relevant is bigotry.
6. It could hardly be considered significant bigotry (i.e. indicative of oppression or persecution) when the people that are being protested are of a larger presence (in both influence and population) than the person or group criticizing them.
7. Similarly, it could hardly be considered bigotry against a specific group (i.e. anti-Catholic bigotry) when the person or group offering the critique would do the same to any group with similar actions and ideas. This is clearly the case here (see the involvement of the Koran in the ordeal for details).
8. And, it could hardly be considered bigotry at all if the use of the offensive symbol is done as a protest to a fierce overreaction to a relatively young and naive man's accidental incorrect usage of it, and the protest does nothing to suggest any form of hatred or a precursor to violent activity.

It is very convenient how much context these people are able to strip from both the symbols they want to compare the Eucharist to, and from the actual events of the desecration as well. Honestly, though...how could I be surprised?

Free Will and Omniscience.

Apparently, wikipedia was kind enough to compile a variety of responses that supposedly are attempts to resolve the contradiction of "free will" and absolute foreknowledge on the part of a creator. They've conveniently lined them all up to shot down.


God can know in advance what I will do, because free will is to be
understood only as freedom from coercion, and anything further
is an illusion.


Hmmmm. Doesn't mesh. Free will is not just freedom from "coercion" in the form of outside intervention but also the ability to make choices free from constraints and causations beyond one's control. Since God knew what events would happen beforehand, from your birth to your death, to every factor set in place from biology to environment that would influence you in a pre-known fashion, you could hardly call that freedom from "coercion" because God isn't doing directly.

God can know in advance what I will do, even though free will in the fullest
sense of the phrase does exist. God somehow has a "middle knowledge" -
that is, knowledge of how free agents will act in any given circumstances.
The problem with middle knowledge is this: it is knowledge of every single possible outcome without knowledge of which one is actually going to happen. Obviously an omniscient deity should have knowledge of every possibility, but, unfortunately, omniscience is worthless if it doesn't even give you an inkling about which occurrence is more probable than others. By giving him knowledge of every feasible option, but no way of discerning the nearly certain from the nearly impossible, it makes that knowledge absolutely worthless.

God can know all possibilities. The same way a master chess player is able to anticipate not only one scenario but several and prepare the moves in response to each scenario, God is able to figure all consequences from what I will do next
moment, since my options are multiple but still limited.

Same problem as middle knowledge. Knowing the possibilities without awareness of which one is going to occur or which one is most likely is essentially worthless, and, given that God would know a nearly infinite number of possible courses of action for billions upon billions over the years, without having some foreknowledge of the actions taken, God would be completely unaware of the future beyond a few days.

God chooses to foreknow and foreordain (and, therefore, predetermine) some things,
but not others. This allows a free moral choice on the part of man for those
things that God choose not to foreordain. It accomplishes this by attributing to
God the ability for Him, Himself, to be a free moral agent with the ability to
choose what He will, and will not, foreknow, assuming God exists in linear time
(or at least an analogue thereof) where "foreknowledge" is a meaningful concept.
Rather arbitrary. Positing selective omniscience, which, somehow, gives us a small amount of free will in regards to "moral" action creates a few problems . If moral actions include the choice between whether to engage in warfare and violence, or whether to rape someone, I don't know how it is possible for God to have a blindspot in regard to that particular decision, yet still have foreknowledge about the potential victim's life. Unless God only "foreknows" predestined events that occur on a global level, but even then, if it has to do with national politics, or collective human activity rather than individual, then God's omniscience is limited to an absurd degree. But, I assume it makes it so that praying actually makes sense...

It is not possible for God to know the result of a free human choice. Omniscience should therefore be interpreted to mean "knowledge of everything that can be known". God can know what someone will do, but only by predetermining it; thus, he chooses the extent of human freedom by choosing what (if anything) to know in this way.
If God cannot know the results of human choice, then he is completely blind in regards to all human activity, society, and warfare, unless he managed to rob that particular individual of his free will. And, the funny thing about positing that he CAN rob us of our free will at a whim that you cannot say with certainty whether a given person is acting freely or not! We could be given as little or as much free will as he desires, and we would never be able to tell the difference (note: this is pretty much the objective verdict of free will in regards to supernatural influence).

God stands outside time, and therefore can know everything free agents do, since He does not know these facts "in advance", he knows them before they are even conceived and long after the actions have occurred. The free agent's future actions therefore remain contingent to himself and others in linear time but are logically necessary to God on account of His infallibly accurate all-encompassing view. This was the solution offered by Thomas Aquinas.[4]

This doesn't help. Existing "outside of time" would mean that he would be aware of past, present, and future with even more certainty than if he were to exist in linear time along with us. By existing outside of time, he can see past, present, and future events and actions all set out before him, with no regards as to what point the current timeline is located. The future has already occurred in such a position. Unless, of course, being beyond time is supposed to mean that God doesn't interfere which means, once again, we get to the problem with the first argument. If it is supposed to mean that he can see an infinite series of possible timelines, we go back to the problem with the second argument.
Instead of producing a parallel model in God's own infallible mind of the
future contingent actions of a free agent (thus suppressing the agent's free
will), God encodes his knowledge of the agent's actions in the original action
itself.
Hrrmmm. Crap. I can't even understand what this means. I'm not sure if this is supposed to mean that God regains knowledge that he once had of an agent's action after the agents have already acted, or that he is always aware of the next action they will make, and only that action. Or if the agent's themselves have God's knowledge of their own future actions. All I know, is it sounds like another "can't predict human social, military, or moral activity past the course of one day" things

God passively seeing the infinite future in no way alters it, anymore than us reading a history book influences the past by simply observing it
retrospectively. However, He might choose (or not) to read any chapter or the
ending, or open the book at any page.

This is the most ridiculous of them all, because it intentionally ignores the fact that God set everything involved in that infinte future into motion while knowing every detail of it. On top of that, he had the power to make it whatever he wanted, and the power to change it at a whim as well. This analogy only works if God was not an omnipotent creator in addition to being omniscient.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated that man does have limited free
will; he can decide whether or not to surrender to the will of Krishna.
Otherwise, all material happenings and their implications are inconceivably
predestined. This concept being subject to challenge in customary affairs, it is
then also somewhat ridiculed as a philosophy.

So, this is another one of those free will blindspots, except, the blind spot is incredibly small. Now, here is the problem again: if their is an omniscient deity, who knows and predetermined everything save one specific form of choice, he cannot be aware of any consequences arising from that choice either. If their life is affected, in any way, by the acceptance of Krishna, the omniscient one cannot know about this without effectively being aware of whether it happened. A guy accepts Krishna and saves three thousand people over the course of 40 years due to his belief system, and the all-knowing god cannot be aware of that fact without compromising free will. A guy accepts Krishna, and is told that he should go around killing and eating people to appease him, and winds up ending 60 lives and makes many in the general populace lose faith in humanity, detach from their former religion, and eventually begin civil war with the unfazed maintainers of the status quo. And yet God cannot be aware of any of those facts either, lest he be tacitly aware of the mass-murderer's acceptance.

This brings me to my conclusion: free will and an omniscient Creator just don't mesh. You need to take away one of those (free will, omniscience, or creator) in order for them to make sense together. Even then, it is iffy. Every attempt was either a bizarre attempt to work around omniscience, or to hide parts of the puzzle under the table to make the pieces look like they fit together. They just don't.

Happy 9/11 day, everyone!

I know, bad taste. Honestly, I have to confess, I was not perturbed by the 9/11 attacks when they happened, so I obviously still do not give much of a damn about them today. As far as I can see it, we are fairly fortunate that such an event is rare enough for us to be alarmed in the first place. This comes from a deeply pessimistic perspective, however, so I don't expect anyone else to agree. But, I feel that we are lucky enough to spend most of our time killing ourselves and one another, rather than suffering from external hostility. So, like a certain radical black preacher of a certain Democratic presidential candidate, I couldn't help but the see the attacks as an inevitability, and a little bit karmic (chickens come to roost, all that).

Obviously, I feel bad for the families of the victims. I laud the men and women who tried their hardest to save those lost in the ruin. And I wish that it hadn't happened. Yet, I do not feel bad for fully grown people whose naive sense of security were shattered. I do not appreciate that the attack sparked mindless patriotism in a climate of fear. And I do not pity this country for having lost 4,000 men on that day, when we have sacrificed that same number fighting a war that only occurred because of the mindless patriotism and blind thirst for vengeance that followed one single attack on us, while claiming the lives of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. We have lost any claims to sympathy for these attacks, and it disgusts me that they are still brought up in an attempt to stoke the flames of nationalism. The flames which have driven us to become all the more worthy of the attacks that we were responding to.

The victims should be mourned, their families remembered. But, the blood on our hands for letting our own fear and anger get the better of us should not be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wafergate: Aftermath

Bill Donahue is still crying over PZ Myers desecrating a communion in protest to the treatment of Webster Cook, wafer smuggler. And, about a month and half after the fact, it is even more hilarious.

When I spoke to a reporter from Providence about a play that mocked the
Eucharist, I unloaded. Fortunately, he listened to me explain the source of my
anger. “Because this is the fourth incident this summer of someone playing fast
and loose with the Eucharist,” I told him.

I believe that I hear the sound of the world's violin playing. Poor wittle Bill, those meanies are making him cwy.

The first incident occurred when Washington Post religion editor Sally
Quinn decided she would show how much she cared about the late Tim Russert by
doing something she hated to do—receive Communion; Quinn is not Catholic.

Boo-friggety-hoo. The idea that you have to be "Catholic" in order to take Communion seems kind of arbitrary, doesn't it? Oh wait...I am talking about transubstantiation. Some bizarre and arbitrary criteria for participation is far from the most ludicrous aspect I assume...

The second incident was worse: a brazen student from the University of Central
Florida walked out of Mass with the Eucharist to protest some innocuous school
policy.

1. He ran out after someone tried to strong-arm him into eating it.

2. That "innocuous school policy" was an unconstitutional financial support, by a state school, of a religious organization. It is only "innocuous" to you, because it helps out Catholics.

The third was obscene: University of Minnesota Professor Paul Z. Myers
desecrated a consecrated Host to protest my criticism of the Florida student.

It wasn't just about you (though you helped put things into motion). It was all the good Catholics who sent death threats to Mr.Cook that spurred him into action. And the death threats directed at him afterwards pushed him over the edge into actually going through with it. Which he performed rather tastefully, all and all.

So when the reporter called to ask why I was unhappy with some woman who decided to mock the Eucharist in a play, he touched a raw nerve.

Cue violin again.

For fifteen years I have been president of the Catholic League, and never have I
seen such a series of assaults on the Eucharist. What’s going on?

One was an accident. The Webster Cook thing was also an accident (debatably). And Myers was reacting to incident 2. So, I think that you are overreacting [gasp].

And what accounts for the total failure of the University of Minnesota to hold
Myers accountable?

Here's my guess: because he didn't do anything wrong legally, and what he did was not done in the role of a professor at the university, but as a citizen, so...free speech...

What’s going on is that militant atheism is all the rage....Hatred of religion
in general, and Christianity in particular. The bulls-eye, of course, is Roman
Catholicism. I’ll give them this much: At least the religion bashers are smart
enough to know who’s on top.

Please. We are hardly "militant", you could hardly call what we have "hatred", and the only reason why we pick on Christianity so much is because it is the world's largest religion, and it is also the one that is adhered to by 80% of our neighbors.

As for your remarks about Catholicism, aside from having the longest history, and being the largest individual Christian institution, atheists could care less about your Church. You're an easy target, and many in mainstream Christianity (hell, even in some Catholic churches) don't even believe that you are a Christian denomination. You receive friendly fire from not only other denominations, but from your own disaffected members. Your Church and traditions are just ripe for satire, even after being plucked and pulped so many times before. You're not a bulls-eye, nor the top. You are a formerly influential corner that currently contributes very much to the population of shooters, and could be broken off and be completely disregarded by the rest of Christendom.

What these authors do is embolden their base. To be specific, they energize
atheists to be more in-your-face about their convictions, the result of which is
an agenda to attack Catholicism.

More or less correct until you get to "whaaa, why are the evil atheists picking on the cafolixx!" part. Again, we do not care about Catholicism any more than other Christian denominations that are comparably intrusive and abusive.

The sick climate that these zealots have created could not have succeeded
without a little help from their friends.In the case of Myers, that means the
administrators at the University. They had several options available to them,
and they passed on every one of them. Predictably, they hid behind academic
freedom, claiming they were impotent to do anything about Myers’ off-campus
behavior.

What did you honestly expect? You can't punish a person for being mean to ideas. Especially when he has not doing so as a representative of his place of employment.

Does anyone believe that the University of Minnesota would do absolutely nothing
about a white professor who packed them in at a local comedy club on weekends
doing his racist rendition of “Little Black Sambo”?

I would honestly hope that "being a racist" isn't a fireable offense if it doesn't extend into his role as teacher or his grading methods. Also, I find it rather hilarious to liken a harsh critique of unfounded ideas to racism. You tend to rant a lot about anti-Catholic bigotry, Bill. It is funny. Anti-Catholic sentiment does exist. It is just nowhere near as bad, currently or historically, as racism. Criticizing your beliefs isn't bigotry, though. Especially when it is coming from atheists (because we give the same kind of criticism to EVERY religion's unfounded beliefs). You should really look to your fellow Christians for that. You know, the ones who don't think that you are Christian, call you Mary-worshippers, and will go on and on about how you don't worship Jesus correctly and are going to Hell for it. Those people. Not the people who are protesting against a bunch of overreacting death-threat lobbers who happen to be Catholic.

Would the very same administrators plead helplessness about a professor who
spoke to community groups off-campus about the mythology of the Holocaust?

Holocaust Envy, huh? You really are trying to stretch here, aren't you? Honestly, once again, as long as Holocaust-denier bizarro-Myers was not using his role as professor to further such an argument, it would, ideally, be ignored.

Lest anyone not be convinced, need I remind you that Larry Summers was driven
out of his job as president of Harvard University for remarks that radical
feminists found objectionable.

And that was an overreaction. Just like your's in this situation. But, slight distinction: Summers' statement was made within his role at the University, not on a personal blog.

It cannot go unsaid that Summers’ comments were made off-campus.

At an academic conference. It is not like he was just talking with his buddies over a cup of coffee.

Moreover, when Summers spoke, it was made explicitly clear that he was not
speaking as president, but as an academic.

Well...sucks for him, then.

Academic freedom was instituted to protect contrarian professors from being
hounded out of the academy for challenging the conventional wisdom on a
particular academic subject.

There you go. Now your on the right page.

It was not instituted to protect hate speech.

Fecking moron. That didn't take long. How is "the Catholic Church has done bad things in the past, Catholics are overreacting to the Cook fiasco, and a human life is worth more than tradition ", verifiably true statements that do not reflect any hatred for individuals on the mere basis of their being Catholic, hate speech? You are chasing phantoms of something that never was, Donahue. Calling out a religious institution is not hate speech. Nor is bringing up the past deeds of that institution. Nor is bringing up the behavior of a small section of those people and responding to it. Nor is nabbing something with a price of $.02 which is handed out freely and throwing it away as your response.

Myers is free to say whatever he wants about his specialty, which is zebrafish,
but he has no moral right to assault the sensibilities of any religious group.

Myers is an American citizen first, biology professor second. The responsibilities of the second should never deprive him of the rights of the first, especially when not in the role of professor. And, considering what tiny things count as an "assault" of your "sensibilities", I am going to call bullshit. You have no right to that level of protection from opposing ideas.

At the very least, the president should have convened an assembly, with members
of the press invited, to unequivocally condemn what Myers did. Even if what
Myers did was outside the purview of the president’s authority, there was
nothing stopping him from holding such a forum.

That's just franky bizarre. Do you really think that the president of the University really wanted to drag PZ, and the entire school through the mud, just to appease the few angry cafolixx like yourself who even cared? Do you even think that this obscure thought even occurred to the president, assuming that he himself even gave a damn about it? Grasping at straws...

Over the summer, Myers’ personnel file ballooned: everything that happened
regarding this issue is in it. Which means that he’d better be careful about
bringing his religious bigotry to bear in the classroom.

The only "religious bigotry" I am aware of is in between folks who, you know, are PART OF A RELIGION THEMSELVES! Myers doesn't get a hard-on for dishing out the hurtie to Catholics, all right? That is very specific, peculiar fetish that only religious nuts have a particular enjoyment of.

If just one Catholic student complains that he is being treated unfairly because
of his religion, Myers will have to answer.

I doubt it. I doubt that Myers teaches classes that are small and intimate enough for him to be aware of a student's religion, let alone be able to discriminate against them for it.

Because of the hate-filled milieu that Myers and his ilk have created, all
kinds of copy-cats have come forth. Some have put videos of themselves up on the
Internet. They all go after me big time, and that is as it should be. They know
who the enemy is, and for that I am eternally grateful.

And thus Bill ends his tale of woe and whining, and cries for vengeance, with a brief allusion to his persecution complex and his wish to self-flagellate himself until he can finally get his Viagra to kick in. And we are, understandably, left perturbed and exasperated.

Coveting thy neighbor's credibility

Inspired by the coining of the term "Fatwa Envy" (below) by PZ Myers during the Wafergate affair, I have concocted a few labels in a similar vein in order to have a fast and easy summary of some of the more common thoughts that plague a religious believer's mind, and drive their perspectives of reality. Please, do not take any of them too seriously....

Koran Envy (Also, Jihad/Fatwah Envy or Theocracy Envy): A term that I originally picked up on PZ Myers' blog, Pharyngula [i.e. this one is not of my invention]. The desire to have enough authority to violently harrass or even bring about legal reprecussions for anyone who disputes the veracity of their religion, mocks it, or damages any functionally worthless artifacts relevant to the faith. Often reveals itself through a longing for blasphemy laws to prevent their religion from being questioned, or simply through pining for vigilante or mob justice against similar actions. Strangely, it can occur in people who have Martyr Envy as well.

Idealistic Masochism (Related to Persecution and Martyr Complexes): A desire to die, suffer, or be treated unfairly due to one's religious faith. A peculiarly common occurrence in Christianity, due to its fixation on the martyrdom of Jesus and the original Christians who were tormented and killed for their beliefs, with many Christians imagining themselves in a similar situation, either due to a tacit wish to feel more important due to being afflicted with similar trials, or due to a wish to perceive conditions that fulfill prophecies pertaining to such treatment. They perceive themselves as suffering in order to lend credibility (in their own mind) to their beliefs. Sometimes indistinguishable from standard masochism.

History Book Envy/Science Envy/Logic/Fact Envy: Describes the general belief (or the desire to declare) that one's religion is accurrate due to having some exclusive rights to a claim of intellectual authority or consistency. The most common form in Christians is the claim that the Bible's historical accuracy lends credence to the entirety of its doctrine. It is also common for both Muslims and Christians to claim that their particular holy texts offer insight into scientific observations that were not formally made until much later in time, and that this makes their metaphysical claims true. A mildly unrelated form is to claim a monopoly on the process of reason entirely (mostly due to the works of people of their faith in the realm of philosophy and science, or due to a presuppositionalist argument pertaining to their deity/ies, pertinent to Order Envy). In general, whether or not the claim of historical, scientific, or logical superiority relative to other religions happens to be true, it still does not indicate that the metaphysical claims are true by mere circumstance of being stated amidst otherwise factual statements. The person who tries to make it seem otherwise is most likely unsatisfied with blind faith and wants to add a veneer of legitimacy to an otherwise unjustified and unjustifiable belief.

Spontaneous Deism(Also, Pantheism Envy, Nomadic NOMA, or Selective Nonspecificity): Desire to affiliate with a particular religious viewpoint, to accept most or all of its doctrine, but to selectively discard (or temporarily ignore) properties of that deity that make it too anthropomorphic, or that would make the existence of such an entity inconsistent with our everyday experiences. It is a very precisely directed will to make the deity of choice a non-interventionist and to make it less strict and specific in aspects that you either disagree with or that contradict other aspects. Spontaneous Deism, according to its name, is only brought about in circumstances where beliefs and doctrine are brought under scrutiny, and the extent to which the deity's properties are discarded is limited when outside of an argument about said deity.

Just worldview fallacy (Also, Christian nationeers, Monopoly on law, or Hell-blindness): (supplemented by its namesake, "just world fallacy") A wish to claim that your deity or your religion has had a significant positive influence over civilized law in its current form, over positive human emotions, over certain moral behaviors or concepts, or just a wish to claim that the cosmology put forth by your religion is good, fair, and reflects positively on the deity that is declared to be responsible for it. It is only called the "just worldview fallacy" when these claims are not true, or are exaggerated. Most blatant when claiming responsibility for laws that predated your religion, for moral concepts that either predated the religion or are contradicted by it, and for cosmologies that are clearly unfair and cruel.

Desperate definition-seeking: (Also Order Envy, Proof through subjective meaning, or Urge for Creation Monopoly): The perception that your particular religion is the only one with a possibly valid explanation for existence, for a natural order, or for why humans exist. Interestingly, this one does not often result from a desire to be better than other religions and their explanations, but rather from a complete ignorance of other explanations. Rather than defining itself in contrast to other religious explanations, it contrasts itself to non-religious explanations. Often, it is also ignorant of those as well. Order Envy always exists as long as they believe that they have an explanation for origins.

Hedonist Envy (Also Hypocrite's restraint): A desire to indulge in behavior of a violent, sexual, or just plain antisocial manner, and using religious doctrine as a method of restraining yourself. Often manifests as a rabid condemnation of people who do indulge in the desired activities, while simultaneously people who do not follow your religious doctrine, under presumptions that they are unrestrained and have similar urges. When normal instead of abnormal behavior is restricted by religious doctrine, abnormal behavior that is or is not explicitly forbidden as well may manifest, and feeds into the level of condemnation and generalized hatred of other people.

Holocaust Envy (A special form of Idealistic Masochism; also called Pogrom Envy, Slavery Envy, Racism Envy, etc. based on incidence): A wish that you were a member of a group that had a history of being discriminated against, persecuted, and killed, solely on merits of being in that group. This comes with the qualifier (which usually appears as the explicit manifestation of the underlying urge) that you are granted a level of respect and tolerance on merits of that history beyond that of normal groups. Often manifests when trying to ask why such groups do not suffer from harsh criticisms that are applied to your own.

Exclusive Wisdom (Also Enlightment Envy or Zenvy): Belief that your religion offers special knowledge and insight into the world that others cannot offer. Often extends into a wish to claim moral, or "spiritual" superiority on merits of such insights or merely being a member of that religion. Often only relevant if one can only attain this wisdom by merits of being a member of the religion, and not through a specific process that is independent of acceptance of other doctrine.

That'll do for now...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Voting: The S & M way

(Inspired by the idea of PUMA, and by people wondering why African Americans are so disproportionately Democrats...)

It is a remarkable problem that has become increasingly obvious over the last few years. Closeted gay politicians pass anti-gay legislation. Post-equal rights women speak publicly about the evils of feminism. Pundits from a minority group rant about how we should do away with the overcompensatory measures of affirmative action. And those in bottom quintile for yearly salary speak out against welfare and "socialism". These are a vast and varied group of people who, for whatever reason, fight valiantly on behalf of a group that is against their own best interests. They are the Stockholm Republicans.

They may see it as a noble sacrifice, or they may simply focus on aspects of neo-conservative policy that doesn't pertain to stripping them of their rights. But, for whatever reason, they find themselves supporting the people who hate them and want to limit their existence as much as possible. They are racial minorities who ally themselves with racists (e.g. D'Souza). They are women who are willing to sacrifice their rights to choice (in regards to womb and work) in the name of tradition (e.g. Schafly). They are non-Christians supporting the claim that they live in a Christian country and that the legislature should feel free to impose fundamentalist views on the general populace. They are gays who support the party that is bastion of hope for homophobes across the country. Their motives are unknown, but, whether or not they are consciously aware of the fact that they are adamantly supporting their own oppression, or if they merely see it as a necessary evil in favoring an otherwise agreeable platform (from their perspective) is up for debate on a case by case basis.

Nevertheless, I think it safe to assume that they have a masochistic streak (especially in light of seeing how well Republicans do on the economic and military fronts, and not just the social one). Whether they should be pitied as victims of two-party circumstance, hailed as martyrs for an indeterminate cause, or hauled off to a mental facility, their existence is a striking blow to our political system. Under circumstances without such a group, the Republicans couldn't afford to remain as the "rich Christian white straight male's party" and let the Democratic party be the "everybody else's party". They would lose every election. But, the group of Stockholm Republicans (be they "followers of the status-quo", those who hear the party platform and say"one out of five ain't bad", or the "optimistic ear-pluggers") effectively innoculate the party from such a threat, and assure that they never have to abandon their lack of concern about society beyond the original core "panderees".

I have my fingers crossed that they are too small of a fringe to matter in this election (where the past administration should have thoroughly dismissed any illusions of conservative fiscal responsibility, moral superiority, and military expertise). But, then again, you will be surprised how many people are willing to take up the brutal four more years of the self-flagellation they know, than the black, inexperienced secret Muslim that they don't.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Palin, pregnancy, and PUMA

Point one: McCain deciding to choose Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate was bold, risky, brilliant, but probably an incredible sacrifice. By choosing Palin, he can now claim a historic ticket just like Obama, and gain some leverage with jilted Hillary supporters who were leaning towards the Republican side and now may be willing to make that leap. And, with Palin having a big, wholesome family and being strongly religious, she can help to give a little more balance to McCain, who is still mistrusted by evangelicals for speaking out against them in his maverick days (though they aren't as skeptical of him as they should be, predictably). Of course, this comes at the risk of being too transparent of a ploy to get women voters on to the Republican side, chasing them away, while simultaneously chasing away the "barefoot and pregnant" brand of misogynists on the far right. At the same time, she may seem to be immune to being challenged for inexperience due to Obama having the same problem, her presence effectively makes it so that challenging Obama's inexperience is a moot point now. The tickets are balanced both in regards to experience and their historical nature.

Point two: Palin's daughter is pregnant apparently. And there is much conflict amongst the Democrats (surprise) about whether or not this issue should be addressed. I am a big supporter of not bringing up the sex lives of candidates, or about bringing up the candidates' families at all. We are not electing their family, after all. But, I am conflicted on this, since I am in favor of mentioning something that illustrates failures in a candidate's policies or outright hypocrisy. I am not sure if it applies here, but there is a definitely a double standard. I do think that unless we have a relevant reason for dragging the issue into the public eye further, that we should do as Obama suggests and take the high road. Most arguments I have heard for why Palin's views could be relevant to her daughter's teenage pregnancy have to do with assuming that abstinence only education was at fault and the fact that she applauded her daughter for making a choice (keeping the child) that she wishes to deprive others from making. Other than that, which are kind of weak as it is, there is really no good reason to bring it up and we should leave it alone.

Point three: Former Hillary supporters (alluded to in point one) who are willing to either forfeit votes or vote for McCain to spite Obama seem to be rather vocal on the net. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are any more relevant to the electoral process overall than the equally net-frenzied Ron Paul supporters of yestermonth, but they still seem to have a lot of presence. Some seem to be dwelling on some perceived misogyny in some of the remarks made in media coverage (the only one I can think of us is the idiotic manner that they covered her crying spell after winning one of the early primaries, but I am sure there were other instances, as there usually is). Or they may be reacting to particularly abrasive Obama supporters online (I know, someone said something rude and inconsiderate online!) or in real life. [Side note: they are also dismissed as some form of cultist if they are not able to give a good reason for why they are voting for Obama. Just FYI.] Others seem to still just be peeved about Hillary not being allowed to get votes from the two states that were discounted at the very beginning of the primary season, according to rules that were agreed to beforehand. And still more just plain don't like Obama (claiming that he is sexist, though I am not sure why, to be honest).
I honestly don't know whether these people are actually sincere Democrats, or just cross-overs who are crossing back now that Hillary has fallen out. But still, the ones that claim to be pissed off Democrats seem to be put into a state where they think it is detestable that people would expect them to vote for Obama instead of Hillary now that he was won the nomination, due to the fact that he is the one who shares the most in common with their former "messiah" (turnabout is fair play, no?). They deplore the idea of "party unity" because they argue that it is commanding them to vote a certain way, feel as if they are victimized due to Hillary losing, etc. etc.
I sincerely hope that there are not many of these people. This is a very important election, and we do not need to have the Democrats lose once again, and due to a bunch of disgruntled voters who are willing to vote for someone they disagree with on almost every issue out of pure spite. I send out a prayer that this will not occur. As an atheist....that should serve as a testament to my desperation.