Questionable Motives

July 30, 2010

Why is agnosticism cowardly atheism?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 10:37 am

Ron Rosenbaum tells us in this Slate article why his infantile Templeton-funded “radical skepticism” kind of agnosticism is so new and improved. It is neither. It is an intellectual embarrassment.

New Agnosticism (versus New Atheism, of course) as a practical matter is nothing more and nothing less than cowardly atheism but with a healthy dose of accomodationism built right in. What a surprise such a wobbly foundation would be acceptable to the Templeton Foundation that spends gobs of money attempting to marry science and religion in spite of objections from both families. That’s who funded Ron’s latest jaunt to Cambridge to experience this revelation regarding the evils of atheism.

Radical skepticism. Let’s see.

Does anyone really insist that as far as Zeus’ existence is concerned, we can’t really say? How radical.

Does anyone stand firm and proclaim that it is reasonable to take the attitude that we don’t know if a pink elephant will drop out of the sky and land on our cars during the afternoon commute? Skepticism in action, I say.

Is “I don’t know” really the honest answer to all assertions about what is not known? Let’s stay radically skeptical, people.

Are mushrooms really intergalactic spies sent here to keep tabs on the expansion of flax? Umm… I’m skeptical?

Is “I don’t know” the higher value answer upon which to base our daily decisions? Yeah, very skepti-cological, dude… like, totally rad, man.

Is this the kind of agnosticism that will in Ron’s words “take on the New Atheists”?

Yeah, good luck with that Ron.

But as long as Templeton continues to pay for writing like yours to subsidize the spread such nonsense, why not continue to spout this intellectual garbage? Although it pays your rent, doesn’t judging atheism in such a way fly in the face of exactly that you champion: you admit that you just don’t know?

So I suggest you sit in front of whatever writing tool you favour and follow your own position for the rest of your life pondering not whether you should or shouldn’t write anything that contains an opinion but that you admit that, deep down, you just don’t really know anything about anything and therefore cannot possibly take any position at all. Now that would really show these New Atheists what’s what from your  unicorn and butterfly and rainbow mystic world of New Agnosticism.

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July 22, 2010

What’s wrong with a little ironing between between mothers and daughters?

Filed under: abuse,belief,Catholic Church,misogyny,Religion — tildeb @ 8:56 pm

This atrocity is a failure of sex education and I think arguably a result of too much Catholic influence. But it’s not the boys who pay the price; it’s the girls. Isn’t always the girls? Funny how that seems to almost always be the case… not that religion in general and catholicism in particular are partly misogynistic. They are wholly so.

Isn’t the science classroom the birthplace of atheism?

Filed under: Critical Reasoning,God,Science — tildeb @ 8:28 pm

Umm, no. I came across this interesting article that I think addresses the question very well. A physics teacher tells us about his job and how he handles questions about god in his science classroom and think it has a very important message, with some added boldface by me:

Despite appearances to the contrary, science in schools is not just about teaching facts and figures, it is about teaching the way in which humans have arrived at answers to questions ranging from how life reproduces itself to how the stars shine. Science lessons should equip students with critical thinking skills, the most important of which is to ask for evidence for claims about “truth“. If we’ve succeeded in teaching these skills, it’s inevitable that some of our religious students will ask “what is the proof for the existence of a god?” and it’s inevitable that some of these students will not be happy with the stock religious answers to this question.

If my colleagues and I do our jobs properly, our students should go away with a story about the history of life and the universe that is far richer, far grander and far more detailed than that presented in any religious text. More importantly, they should go away with an understanding of how and why this story has been written. (A) proper science education should equip young people to arrive at their own decisions about what to believe, and ensure that if they do conclude there is a god, it is a god who doesn’t stop them from fully appreciating the truth and beauty of scientific knowledge.

I heartily endorse this approach.

July 21, 2010

What’s wrong with building a mosque near Ground Zero?

Filed under: Cordoba House,Islam,Religion — tildeb @ 10:27 am

The American Muslim site assures us that the purpose of the Cordoba House is to promote integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture by providing a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, can learn about art and culture.  The center is described to be guided by the Islamic values of compassion, generosity, and respect for all. It is due to be opened on September 11, 2011.

It is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero, so what’s the problem?

The same author assures us that the only possible problem with the building of Cordoba House must be baseless islamaphobia and irrational fear driving criticism about the project. As Americans, the author contends, concerned about the future of our nation and concerned about our values, we have to vehemently oppose these critics. The choice is presented as an issue of fears versus values.  We can stand with our values or we can stand with our fears.

The irony makes one’s head spin. Let’s take a moment and try to understand what’s really going on here and see where our values truly lie.

First of all, why the Spanish name? What does Cordoba represent?

Well, according to Answering Islam, the first Cordoba mosque was built in that Spanish city in the aftermath of the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain. This Islamic “Conquista” was followed by the killings of men, and the enslavement of women, many of whom were carried away to the Arab lands to work as servants and concubines for their Muslim masters.  For both Arabs and Muslims, the history of their conquests remains as a symbol of their past glory, and power. That such a name was selected hardly indicates an example of community cohesion, nor does it imply anything to do with compassion, generosity, and respect for all. It represents religious conquest.

The location of Cordoba House – 600 feet from Ground Zero – is similar in effect to the Japanese erecting a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbour or the Germans opening a cultural center outside the gates of Auschwitz. These sites mean something important in and of themselves as sites of sanctity, and by maintaining that sanctity we honour and remember the victims whose deaths consecrated that ground. Opening such a center directly contradicts this sanctity: of all the place NOT to build a center for islam, Ground Zero surely ranks very highly. Building Cordoba House as close as possible to the site of this islamic inspired atrocity shows a singular lack of cultural sensitivity on behalf of its supporters and is insulting and offensive to those who lost people to this islamic inspired mass murder. This building of Cordoba House is many things, but as example of showing compassionate respect for the families of victims is not one of them.

The opening date is clearly chosen to focus on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. From afar, it would seem that from the ashes of the World Trade Towers rises an islamic building ten years to the day, a sign of islam’s eventual victory over the infidels. This becomes a potent symbol that emboldens the enemies of America while it has the added benefit that promotes the cause of that righteous holy war: islam.

No matter how often we are told that islam is the religion of peace, we must keep in mind that islam means submission to god according to the rules of the quaran. There is no peace, no respect, no compassion for anything or anyone other that those who agree to share this truth. Look to 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, Bali, the response to the Danish cartoons, Fort Hood, Mumbai, Times Square, and the endless blood spilled every day in its name and understand that what islam actually brings is not peace but the sword of conquest under the banner of religion. But don’t take my word for it: read the quaran for yourself and read the haddiths that explain the correct interpretation. This is a religion of conquest that upholds values antithetical to those afforded to individuals in the West under secular governments, hence the body bags for women called burkas we are told by religious appeasers to be a sign of healthy individual freedom of expression by those who wear it and by tolerating its use  in the West we show respect for their equality of gender.

Although many western imams will cherry pick a few phrases from the quaran that seem to be about peace and respect and generosity and social cohesion and integration and tolerance seemingly in tune with human rights and the dignity of personhood, the barbarism of this Iron age religion continues to be played out throughout the world with the hanging of gays in Tehran, the stoning of women accused of adultery, acid attacks on girls going to school, daily suicide bomb attacks to kill civilians, and so on. These human rights abuses are as much a part of islam in action as a nice and shiny new cultural center funded by muslims in New York City. What’s wrong with building Cordoba House is that we show tolerance of both when we choose to think ourselves sophisticated and tolerant to support the one.

July 20, 2010

What’s not compatible?

Filed under: Jesus and Mo,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 8:11 pm

July 19, 2010

What is the Irish amendment to the Declaration on Religion in Public Life?

Filed under: Atheism,Religion — tildeb @ 6:48 pm

I think this is much better than the original and longer Copenhagen one posted earlier. This version is based on feedback on the original from various sources. It is written more concisely, clarifies some ambiguous phrases, and categorises the points into groups. Like the original, it is a starting point for discussion and not an unalterable set of principles.

Declaration on Religion in Public Life

We support this amended version of the Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life. We invite other people and groups to also support it.

Personal Freedoms

  • Freedom of conscience, religion and belief are unlimited. Freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • All people should be free to participate equally in public life, and should be treated equally before the law and in the democratic process.
  • Freedom of expression should be limited only as prescribed in international law. All blasphemy laws should be repealed.

Secular Democracy

  • Society should be based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Public policy should be formed by applying reason to evidence.
  • Government should be secular. The state should be strictly neutral in matters of religion, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • Religions should have no special financial consideration in public life, such as tax-free status for religious activities, or grants to promote religion or run faith schools.

Secular Education

  • State education should be secular. Children should be taught about the diversity of religious beliefs in an objective manner, with no faith formation in school hours.
  • Children should be educated in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge. Science should be taught free from religious interference.

One Law For All

  • There should be one law for all, democratically decided and evenly enforced, with no jurisdiction for religious courts to settle civil matters or family disputes.
  • The law should not criminalize private conduct that respects the rights of others because the doctrine of any religion deems such conduct to be immoral.
  • Employers or social service providers with religious beliefs should not be allowed to discriminate on any grounds not essential to the job in question.

Who said science and woo are not compatible?

Filed under: belief,Science,woo — tildeb @ 3:06 pm

What is all this about digital drugs and I-dosing?

Filed under: Entertainment,I-dosing,Media,Science — tildeb @ 10:04 am

The latest parental fluttering about the pernicious influence of the internet comes to us from Oklahoma’s Channel 9 about how i-dosing is the new ‘gateway drug’ and it’s turning some teens into stoners. (The video can be accessed from the site’s side menu.) The effects of street drugs are always a significant concern so how is it that wave files downloaded from the internet can alter brain function that leads to doing street drugs? Well, it turns out… they don’t. Are we surprised?

From Doctor Steve Novella at Neurologica:

According to the report, teenagers are listening to tracks containing binuaral beats, which alter brain waves and can create a high. There is one piece of information that is conspicuously missing from the (news) report, however. Binaural beats are complete pseudoscience – they don’t work, they don’t affect brain function. You cannot get high from listening to noise.

Thanks, Doctor Steve. Someday, maybe newscasters themselves will take a moment and insist that stories about to be aired actually meet some basic requirement to be true. It might help already overburdened parents from having to deal with more unnecessary stupidity.

Does technology rewire our brains?

Filed under: Cause and Effect,Neurology,Neuroscience,Technology — tildeb @ 9:38 am

An interesting video from the BBC. Tip to misunderstoodranter.

Is this your child? Was this you?

Filed under: child abuse,Children,Christianity,Religion — tildeb @ 9:35 am

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