Questionable Motives

October 31, 2009

God is very concerned with your apparel

Filed under: Law,Religion — tildeb @ 9:23 pm

tsunami evacI have it on the best authority – someone who actually speaks for God – that tight pants and trousers offend God. Maybe He can’t remember what He supposedly put under there, and maybe takes offense if a reminder is made public, but seriously folks, don’t get angry about the new rule: it’s even gender neutral, for crying out loud! How modern, liberal, and secular is that? Besides, maybe these people at the northern tip of Indonesia justifiably feel the need to work a little harder doing whatever they can to keep God’s wrath in the form of natural disasters at bay for a while. Can’t say I blame them.

“What’s prohibited are tight trousers and jeans. If there are parties who disagree, don’t be angry with me. Be angry with God as I’m only carrying out a religious obligation.”

Still don’t believe me? Then read the article here.

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Three silly religious beliefs held by non-silly people

Atheist fishMany of the beliefs held by religious moderates — smart people who respect science and the separation of church and state — are as untenable as the dogma of fundamentalists.

I like this opinion piece a lot… mostly because I come across the same silly beliefs repeatedly and I offer the same general responses. She just says it better. Enjoy the article here.

Abstinence Only sex-ed: Why let facts get in the way of perfectly sound beliefs?

Filed under: Biology,Criticism,Culture,Education,Medicine,Politics,Science — tildeb @ 8:46 pm

sex edWhat is the future of abstinence-only sex ed now that the Obama administration is cutting the funding? Many believe it is a worthwhile program. But is it worth another 1.5 billion dollars? Consider:

By 1999, one study estimated a third of American students were receiving an abstinence-only education. But as funding grew, so did a body of research showing that abstinence didn’t change the sexual behaviors of students; pregnancy and STD rates did not go down, the age of initial sexual activity did not go up. “Each evaluation came along … and each showed it didn’t work,” says Santelli. The articles appeared in peer-reviewed journals, many in the Journal of Adolescent Health, and in government-commissioned reviews. In 2007, a federally funded study of four abstinence programs found its students no more likely to abstain than those in a comprehensive program. At the same time, comprehensive programs that discuss contraceptives and their use received better, although by no means perfect, marks. Researcher Doug Kirby’s 2008 review of 48 studies of comprehensive curriculums found that two-thirds either reduced frequency of sex or number of sexual partners.

So should funding continue? The Senate Finance Committee voted to do so, 12–11, last month. Now it must go before the entire congress.

Why is it that those people who so readily support standardized testing as if it meaningfully determines teacher and curriculum effectiveness in education are the first ones to ignore standardized results that conflict with cherished beliefs?

Entire article here.

October 30, 2009

Liberals cannibalizing liberalism for islamic support

Filed under: civil rights,Human Rights,Islam,Law,Politics,Religion — tildeb @ 1:31 am

Derek Pasquill was a UK Muslim BrotherhoodForeign and Commonwealth Office man to his core. Today, the FCO views him as the most devastating whistleblower in its recent history. Between August 2005 and January 2006, he leaked 40 bundles of documents. As his affidavit to the employment tribunal (The FCO refuses to prosecute him for divulging secrets, which he readily and proudly admits, to avoid the public spectacle so he is suing for wrongful dismissal.) dryly remarks, “The documents that I disclosed showed that the FCO and other UK government departments were continuing to work with and assist organisations that promote extreme Islamist politics. My concern was that this policy would have the effect of legitimising and supporting groups with extreme Islamist politics and that such an effect was entirely contradictory to FCO and UK government policy of attempting to prevent the radicalisation of young British Muslims. Furthermore, I believe that the FCO and other government departments pursue a policy of portraying these organisations as mainstream and moderate.”

Pasquill’s revelations had no impact on a wider liberal society. It did not want to see how hypocritical it had become or to survey the damage it had wrought. The achievement of political Islam in Britain has been to suborn the liberal Left and cut off the most promising escape route for dissidents in the process. An abused woman, a young man fighting religious authoritarianism, an Iranian exile seeking to gain support for the campaign against the Archbishop of Canterbury’s and Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of Sharia law or a British Bangladeshi trying to bring the Islamist criminals who massacred civilians in the war of independence to justice, would once have looked left for succour. If they do so now, they will find that progressives take their cue from the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, rather than the best of the liberal Left’s traditions, and dismiss Muslims who fight for values they profess to hold as being at best irrelevances and at worst stool-pigeons for imperialism.

Like ivy on a wall, the liberal establishment still creeps towards the reactionary forces that despise it, entwining itself with its enemies and leaving its friends to wilt in the dark.

Read the entire disturbing article here.

October 29, 2009

Mind/body Dualism – a belief with repercusions

Filed under: Biology,Culture,Education,Philosophy,Science — tildeb @ 2:17 pm

DualismA short video (3:38)  here that discusses the biological basis of supernaturalism how this belief, through mind/body dualism has a ripple effect in our world view.

Climate War

Filed under: Criticism,Global Warming,Media — tildeb @ 1:41 pm

global warmingFirst, there was the book Superfreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner that offered in part what looked like some interesting ideas about reducing global warming. The Wall Street Journal then wrote this piece in support, which concluded that

Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it fed man’s neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence. It’s just the same with global warming, which is what makes the clear-eyed analysis in “SuperFreakonomics” so timely and important.

Columnist Paul Krugman raises a good point about the book in his short review, that a Clever snark like this can get you a long way in career terms — but the trick is knowing when to stop. It’s one thing to do this on relatively inconsequential media or cultural issues. But if you’re going to get into issues that are both important and the subject of serious study, like the fate of the planet, you’d better be very careful not to stray over the line between being counter-intuitive and being just plain, unforgivably wrong.

So who is right, or more importantly, unforgivably wrong?

To help you sort out the information, Real Climate offers what seems to me to be a thorough review here, ending with:

To conclude, the reasons why Levitt and Dubner like geo-engineering so much are based on a misreading of the science, a misrepresentation of proposed solutions, and truly bizarre interpretations of how environmental problems have been dealt with in the past. These are, in the end, much worse errors than their careless misquotes and over-eagerness to shock highlighted by the other critiques. Geo-engineering is neither cheap, nor a fix, and the reasons why it is very likely to be a bad idea are ethical and legal, much more than its still-uncertain scientific merits.

October 28, 2009

US resists (sort of) UN religious anti-defamation resolution

Filed under: civil rights,Criticism,Human Rights,Law,Media,Religion — tildeb @ 7:56 pm

UN IslamMichael Posner, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor whose office prepares the religious freedom report, said the resolution “goes too far.”

“The notion that a religion can be defamed and that any comments that are negative about that religion can constitute a violation of human rights to us violates the core principle of free speech,” he said.

“The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faith will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions,” Hillary Clinton said. “These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse.”

Hey, maybe someone’s listening to critics of the joint US-Egypt resolution. But are we safe yet?

“There are limits to free expression and there are certainly concerns about people targeting individuals because of their religious belief or their race or their ethnicity,” he said.

What those limits are exactly remains to be seen as does what constitutes an appropriate response to those who go beyond them. Read the article here and stay tuned.

What passes for science in homeopathy

Filed under: Biology,CAM,Criticism,Education,Medicine,Science — tildeb @ 2:32 pm

CAMFrom the blog Science-Based Medicine comes this charming smack-down of another branch of woo growing out of complimentary and alternative ‘medicine’ (CAM): behavioural optometry.  Ever heard of it? Neither had I. But if this is what passes for a practicing doctor from this ‘discipline’ then we’re better off in our ignorance.

Steve Novella writes:

Charlene Werner is getting a lot of attention she probably did not anticipate or desire. She is the star of a YouTube video in which she explains the scientific basis of homeopathy. Before you watch it, make sure you are sitting down, relax, and brace yourself for an onslaught of profound scientific illiteracy combined with stunning arrogance. For those with more delicate constitutions I will give you the quick summary:

Einstein taught us that energy equals matter and light, but because matter can be condensed down to a very small space if you remove all the empty space between the elementary particles (I am paraphrasing to make her statements minimally coherent), we can mostly ignore matter. Therefore energy is light, and we are all made of energy – not matter (or at least so little matter, you can ignore it). Stephen Hawking then came up with string theory, which tells us that all matter (which we can ignore) is made of vibrating strings. Therefore we are made of vibrating energy. All diseases are therefore caused by unhealthy vibrational states, and all disease can be treated by returning the body to a previous healthy vibrational state. This can be done with homeopathy, which extracts the vibrational energy out of stuff and places it in a small pill that can be used at any time.


Designed ignorance in the Muslim world

Islam and evolutionIt’s hard to say exactly how much support the theory of evolution enjoys in the world’s Muslim countries, but it’s definitely not very much. In one 2006 study by American political scientists, people in 34 industrial nations were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the idea that human beings evolved from earlier life forms. Turkey, the only Muslim country in the survey, showed the lowest levels of support – barely a quarter of Turks said they agreed. By comparison, at least 80 percent of those surveyed in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and France agreed. (The United States ranked second lowest, after Turkey, at 40 percent.) Turkey is widely seen as the most culturally liberal Muslim nation, and on attitudes about evolution, other polling has borne this out: A recent study of religious attitudes found that only 16 percent of Indonesians, 14 percent of Pakistanis, and 8 percent of Egyptians believed in evolution. Read the entire article here.

October 27, 2009

Honour Killings: Just a few bad apples? Hardly.

Filed under: civil rights,Criticism,Culture,Education,Human Rights,Religion — tildeb @ 5:21 pm

Human rights watchSupport groups are springing up. The Henna Foundation is based in Cardiff and Jasvinder Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage and made a new life for herself, set up a charity called Karma Nirvana in Derby after her sister Robina killed herself to escape the misery of her loveless marriage.

When it opened its helpline in April 2008, Karma Nirvana received 4,000 calls in the first year and is now taking 300 calls a month from people under threat of honour-based violence, often linked to forced marriage.

After the government’s forced marriage unit was set up in April last year, it received 5,000 calls and rescued 400 victims in the first six months.

“It’s rare for [one person] to take unilateral action, it’s all done in consultation and there is logistical support and collusion in the extended community,” said Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell of the Metropolitan police. “It’s not uncommon to have bounty hunters out hunting down young people who have left forced marriages or fled from a family where they are at risk.

Diana Nammi, who runs the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in London, said, “Those who are lagging behind now are the religious leaders. They may pay lip service to change but they have networks and contacts and they are not trying to change anything. Sharia courts are letting Muslim women down and I am sorry to say that the British government is turning a blind eye to these courts. We have civil laws that cover every individual; none of these religious courts provide the same rights and protections for women.”

Are we surprised? Read the entire article here.

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