Questionable Motives

November 30, 2009

New Theism: crybabies

First there was this cringe-worthy article here by the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, Greg Craven, which concluded with this keen half-truth: I am not quite clear why our modern crop of atheists hates Christians, as opposed to ignoring or even politely dismissing them, but they very clearly do. There is nothing clever, witty or funny about hate. .

It is true that there is certainly nothing clever, witty, or funny about hate. But criticizing religion is not hate; it is a necessary counter-balance to the unwanted and illegitimate intrusion of religious belief into the public domain. When religions attempt to influence policy policy, then it’s time to play religious whack-a-mole. It is a criticism that needs to be heard.

So let’s look at the ‘hate-filled’ response to Craven’s wretched piece:

Facing a new attack with an international audience playing close attention, religions have as little rational argument in their favour as ever. There was a time when they could deal with dissent through more draconian measures: the kind that can still be practiced in, say, Saudi Arabia. Having lost the power of the gun in the West, apologists of religion have a new weapon: being offended.

Rather than confronting (say) Dawkins’ arguments with counter-arguments, people like Craven, and many others like him, instead cry out: why are you picking on us? All we want is for you to respect our beliefs. And so, the crybaby theists hide behind the demand for respect, which sounds reasonable enough. The more shameless – and their ranks are represented in many religions, such as Muslims, Christians and Jews – complain that when someone criticises their religious faith, the people who belong to that religion are being subjected to abuse.

From the article here.

The bottom line is that such special pleading is a way for theists to avoid answering their critics. The cry that religious beliefs are not being treated respectfully often demonstrates incredible arrogance and hypocrisy. The solution is not for atheists to shut their gobs; the solution is for theists to get their favoured superstitions out of the public domain keep their religious beliefs private.

November 26, 2009

More evidence that if morality comes from God, religion is good at blocking it out.

Count ’em: four arch-bishops covered up and colluded with perverts to protect immorality.

The commission found that three archbishops of Dublin — John Charles McQuaid (1940-72), Dermot Ryan (1972-84) and Kevin McNamara (1985-87) — did not tell police about clerical abuse cases, instead opting to avoid public scandals by shuttling offenders from parish to parish.

It was not until 1995, seven years into his reign, that then archbishop Connell allowed police to see church files on 17 clerical abuse cases. The documents were kept in a secret, locked vault in the archbishop’s Dublin residence.

Full article is here.

What jolly good fellows, these arch-bishops, looking out to keep the stream open for the toddlers and youngsters to be fed to a bunch of pedophiles and child rapists. It takes a special kind of belief to do so much horrendous wrong against innocents, but the Catholic church seems particularly able to maintain a sustained attack against, what just about any atheist knows to be, common morality, namely, to look out for and do whatever is necessary to protect children from abuse.  But not these arch-bishops; the welfare of Mother Church to avoid scandal is more important to these dress-wearing, supposedly celibate, guys than the welfare of children within its congregations.

How any moral person can continue to support this thoroughly discredited institution and look up rather than down to it on its moral track record is indeed a mystery of biblical proportions. It requires faith to replace such stark evidence to the contrary, and willful moral blindness to maintain such faith in spite of such very real pain and suffering caused by the people in positions of authority within this institution. Yet people do maintain faith in the institution, do continue to grant wisdom to these same people in positions of authority within it, and do continue to support the institution that does continue to cause harm and suffering throughout the world.

And everyone is supposed to be tolerant of that misguided, misplaced, misapplied allegiance because it falls under the name of religion. In fact, we are supposed to respect that allegiance and, to add insult to injury, continue to assume in spite of all evidence to the contrary that morality itself can be found through its doors. But how can any self-respecting person with an ounce if intellectual integrity actually go along with this bullshit? Something is wrong in the thinking pattern of the RC supporter and this thinking deserves our collective criticism, ridicule, disdain, and intolerance to any meddling by any of its agents of this institution on questions of morality within the public domain.

Faciltated American Thanksgiving

Filed under: Entertainment,Humour — tildeb @ 5:34 pm











Thanks to MacLeod Cartoons

IPCC Summary for Policy Makers for Copenhagen

Filed under: 1,Global Warming,Politics,Science — tildeb @ 2:47 pm

Human and Natural Drivers of Climate Change

Changes in the atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases and aerosols, in solar radiation and in land surface properties alter the energy balance of the climate system. These changes are expressed in terms of radiative forcing,2 which is used to compare how a range of human and natural factors drive warming or cooling influences on global climate. Since the TAR (Third Assessment Review), new observations and related modelling of greenhouse gases, solar activity, land surface properties and some aspects of aerosols have led to improvements in the quantitative estimates of radiative forcing.

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.12 This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.

Read the entire fourth report here.

Social Thuggery

Filed under: Criticism,Culture,Psychology,Society — tildeb @ 1:56 pm

By Amy Alkon published in LA Times here:

Unbelievably, Root demanded the apology she eventually got from the airline (shame, shame, Southwest) and hit it up for the cost of diapers and the portable crib she says she had to buy for the overnight stay. Even more unbelievably, there’s still no word of any apology from Root to the other passengers.

There is a notion, reflected in numerous blog comments about the incident, that other passengers should “just deal” and “give a kid a break.” This notion is wrong. Parents like Root and others who selfishly force the rest of us to pay the cost of their choices in life aren’t just bothering us; they’re stealing from us. Most people don’t see it this way, because what they’re stealing isn’t a thing we can grab on to, like a wallet. They’re stealing our attention, our time and our peace of mind.

More and more, we’re all victims of these many small muggings every day. Our perp doesn’t wear a ski mask or carry a gun; he wears Dockers and shouts into his iPhone in the line behind us at Starbucks, streaming his dull life into our brains, never considering for a moment whether our attention belongs to him. These little acts of social thuggery are inconsequential in and of themselves, but they add up — wearing away at our patience and good nature and making our daily lives feel like one big wrestling smackdown.

Southwest sent the right message in yanking Root and her screaming boy off the plane. Unfortunately, it lacked the corporate courage to stand its ground, probably fearing a public relations nightmare from the Mommy Mafia. Yet, almost every day, I encounter parents who need to get the same message Root initially did. Trust me — should I long to hear screaming children, I’ll zip right past my favorite coffeehouse and go read my morning paper at Chuck E. Cheese.

I know, I know — because I am not a parent I cannot possibly understand how hard it is to keep a child from acting out. Actually, that probably has more to do with the way I was raised — by parents I describe as loving fascists. As a child, I was convinced that I could flap my arms and fly, but the idea that I could ever be loud in a public place that wasn’t a playground simply did not exist for me.

I hear claims that some children are prone to tantrums no matter how exquisitely they are parented. If this describes your child, there’s a solution, and it isn’t plopping him in a crowded metal tube with hundreds of people who can’t escape his screams except by throwing themselves to their deaths at 30,000 feet.

Granted, there sometimes are extenuating circumstances, reasons parents and their little hell-raiser simply must take a plane. Well, actually, there are two: dire family emergency (Granny’s actually dying, not just dying to see the little tyke) and the need for a lifesaving operation for the wee screamer. In all other cases, if there’s any chance a child is still in the feral stage, pop Granny on a flight or gas up the old minivan. It really does come down to this: Your right to bring your screaming child on a plane ends where the rest of our ears begin.

November 25, 2009

What’s wrong with a bit of religious belief enforced by the state?

Filed under: belief,civil rights,Law,Superstition,Witchcraft — tildeb @ 2:27 pm

Ali Sibat is not even a Saudi national. The Lebanese citizen was only visiting Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage when he was arrested in Medina last year.

A court in the city condemned him as a witch on November 9.

“Saudi courts are sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The crime of witchcraft is being used against all sorts of behavior, with the cruel threat of state sanctioned executions.”

In another case the religious police are said to have arrested for “sorcery” and “charlatanry” an Asian man accusing him of using supernatural powers to solve marital disputes and induce others to fall in love.

Read the rest of the article here.

What is the difference between superstitious nonsense and religious belief? As far as I can tell, nothing. But let’s keep the State out of enforcing, protecting, and promoting such nonsense.

Using the law of the State to enforce the Church’s moral code of conduct. It’s illegal in the US, Bishop Tobin!

Filed under: abortion,Catholic Church,civil rights,Law,Media,Morality,Religion — tildeb @ 2:12 pm

From Crooks and Liars:

In a breathtakingly tight argument, Chris Matthews corners Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., from receiving Holy Communion due to his views on abortion.

Because here’s the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Church’s abortion position: If it’s really and truly murder, you’re talking about prosecuting mothers, sisters, lovers and friends for having them. Tweety is quite aggressive with the bishop, demanding to know exactly what legal penalties he thinks should be legislated.

I mean, we won’t even touch the concept of one religion imposing its moral position on everyone else. We don’t have to. Because if you’re saying abortion is murder, you may not create a separate class of penalties under the law. You can’t argue that women “didn’t know what they were doing.” You can’t say they were “confused” or “coerced” if there’s no evidence they were, anymore than you can say that about any other murder for hire. Either she paid someone to murder her child – or she didn’t.

So she has to be tried for murder. The churches can’t have it both ways. They can’t advise forgiveness and legal exemption for one specific class of murders.

And there’s no way the majority of Americans would ever support sending their relatives, neighbors and friends to prison for it.

See the video of the entire interview here.

Coma patient conscious for 23 years or a case of really bad reporting?

Filed under: Health care,Medicine,Skepticim — tildeb @ 1:42 pm

This is a wonderful story for the media. But to this neurologist, and I would think to any critically-thinking journalist, some questions come to mind. The biggest problem with this case as presented is that the finger-typing of Mr. Houben looks suspiciously like facilitated communication (FC is the technique of holding a patient’s hand to “help” them communicate by pointing to letters on a board.)

Unfortunately, FC was promoted prior to proper scientific validation. When it was studied in properly controlled blinded trials it turned out the the facilitator, and not the client, was doing all the communicating. FC is nothing but a well-meaning delusion. But it is also a dangerous one – FC testimony has led to the false conviction of adults accused of abuse.

My best guess is that Dr. Laureys is correct about the preserved cortical activity, but he is simply not familiar with the phenomenon of FC (he did not sound familiar on the interview) and has been deceived by it.  If this is so, then the FC is an unfortunate distraction from this case (and getting disproportionate attention from the media). It is also, in my opinion, a further abuse of this patient. Mr. Houben, if he is truly conscious, has now been deprived once again of his ability to communicate – usurped by a facilitator, who will be communicating in his name (and even writing a book, we are told). Never underestimate the ability for pseudoscience to make a bad situation worse.

Here is a new video in which Houben clearly has his eyes closed while the “facilitator” is typing furiously. This is completely impossible. (Hat tip to Orac for the link – he has also discussed the case.)

Read the entire article from Science-Based medicine here.

November 23, 2009

An article on autism that gets it right

Filed under: CAM,Criticism,Media,Medicine,Science — tildeb @ 2:34 pm

Laboratory tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted. And though some parents fervently believe their children have benefited, the Tribune found a trail of disappointing results from the few clinical trials to evaluate the treatments objectively.

Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of families with children with autism try alternative treatments, which insurance does not usually cover. Doctors, many linked to the influential group Defeat Autism Now!, promote the therapies online, in books and at conferences

From: Autism treatments: risky alternative therapies have little basis in science

Alternative therapies amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children, investigation finds

When you’re done, a commentary on this article can be read over at Neurologica.

Also, (T)he myth that vaccines cause autism has led to ideas. Dangerous ideas, and not because they “challenge” medical orthodoxy. These ideas are dangerous because they have direct consequences for children with autism. These consequences take the form of subjecting children to unscientific treatments that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst, sometimes even life-threatening. Read the rest of this commentary over at Science-Based Medicine.

Which argument for belief in god do you ascribe to?

What has happened is that Cass Seltzer has become an intellectual celebrity. He’s become famous for his abstract ideas. And not just any old abstract ideas, but atheist abstract ideas, which makes him, according to some of the latest polls, a spokesperson for the most distrusted minority in America, the one that most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

This is a fact. Studies have found that a large proportion of Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays, and Communists, as “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists, the researchers reported, seem to be playing the pariah role once assigned to Catholics, Jews, and Communists, seen as harboring alien and subversive values, or, more likely, as having no inner values at all, and therefore likely to be criminals, rapists and wild-eyed drug addicts.

“As if,” as Cass often finds himself saying into microphones, “the only reason to live morally is out of fear of getting caught and being spanked by the heavenly father.”

But is there a heavenly father? Billions believe so. But are these beliefs justified? Let’s find out.

There are many arguments for believing in god.  Here, 36 of the most popular and long-lasting ones are dismantled and discredited. Scroll down the article to begin reading the most common ones.

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