Questionable Motives

September 29, 2011

What is the fundamental error we make of religious scripture?

Presuming it’s true.

Once this fundamental error is made, there is a cascade effect that greatly impairs one’s cognitive ability to make later corrections for it; instead of simply correcting the original error in the face of mounting contrary evidence to its veracity, we see otherwise rational people perform amazing feats of mental gymnastics to accommodate its fundamental irrationality.

One of the most common ways for the believers to maintain the presumption of scriptural truth in the face of a contrary reality is to alter the language we use to describe that reality, and then shift blame for the obvious scriptural failure unto reality itself as some kind of dirty and obnoxious pollutant. This is where denial of reality finds sustenance in the religious community and offers aid and comfort to anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-rational proponents.

Surely such deluded and intellectually dishonest people as reality deniers must be at the fringes of society, wouldn’t you think?

Apparently not.

Consider the legal wisdom delivered by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during his recent lecture at Duquesne University Law School, a catholic university in Pittsburgh:

“The Rule of Law is second only to the Rule of Love. The here and now is less important than the hereafter.”

Now think about that for moment.

His priority as a Supreme Court Justice is not about the rule of law in the here and now but about love leading to something he calls the “hereafter”. This is religio-speak for obeying the authority of scripture first and foremost. This blind obedience to the vagaries of biblical scripture to outline appropriate religious behaviour is what Scalia calls love, and its purpose is to exchange the legal respect owed to the individual here and now to some earned eternal bliss… the fulfillment of a nebulous contract to be fulfilled by god after that individual’s death.

That’s an insane contract in any other connotation: for example, how big a fool must you be to seriously accept the contract to pay me all your money throughout your life on the promise that I will pay you back a thousandfold after you’re dead.  It’s an insane presumption based as it is on no evidence outside of its religious connotations that it might be true. Yet for anyone inside its religious connotations such a presumption is fine for a catholic Supreme Court Justice, no matter how nutty, how batty, how foolish, how flipping crazy exactly the same thinking is without the religious connotation. For many, it’s peachy that we waive the requirement for rationality in and respect for the here and now in the name of respecting religious gullibility and delusion about the hereafter.

It seems to come as a shock to some people that making allowance for the religiously deluded might actually carry some small cost when it comes to following and implementing scripture. But is it really such a small price to pay?

Surely that insanity, that irrationality, stops when it comes to practicing and implementing actual individual legal equality, doesn’t it? Well…

Scalia again:

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent upon diversity in all other aspects of life, seems bent on eliminating diversity of moral judgment – particularly moral judgment based on religious views. I hope this place will not yield – as some Catholic institutions have – to this politically correct insistence upon suppression of moral judgment, to this distorted view of what diversity in America means.”

What is he talking about? He’s bitching about the requirement that student clubs that receive university support and backing must be open to all students, even gays. Exercising this legal equality on behalf of all students who pay the same tuition and fees, who attend the same classes as everyone else, who meet the same academic expectations as all, suddenly becomes – in the confused mind of Supreme Court Justice Scalia – the distorted suppression of a religiously acceptable yet bigoted moral judgement.

This catholic moral judgement is not understood to be just another example of religiously inspired bigotry; after all, it comes from scripture, which is presumed to be true. That means that correct moral behaviour is considered by the religiously minded like Scalia to be bigotry in action. And that causes him not the slightest intellectual discomfort. In his mind befuddled and addled by catholicism all other considerations – like legal equality – must first fit this faith-based model on what is moral under scriptural authority, and if that means abusing the language to do so – by presuming that a bigoted moral judgement is sanctioned by god through the authority of scripture – then legal equality must be an imposition indeed.

The blame for this imposition – this insistence on legal equality by the secular state – is flung back at reality, claiming that legal equality of diverse people is actually a distorted view under catholicism, clashing as it does with the presumption of scriptural authority that allows a special exemption for religious bigotry under the intentional misnomer of moral judgement. It’s as if to say it isn’t up to me as a Supreme Court Justice to judge legal inequality when it is upheld by the religiously deluded; my hands are tied by the religious view that god has judged this inequality to be right and proper on moral grounds. Bigotry becomes moral and is then brought forth from the wastelands of scripture into the confusing world of real people in real time where what should be a cut and dry legal issue of equality  becomes a confused religious issue about permissive legal bigotry sanctioned on theological moral grounds.

And Scalia is okay with this contorted pretzel of rationalizations in the service of maintaining the supremacy his religious presumptions even in his high public office. The fact that such a dimwit and badly confused idiot as Scalia could be selected and then promoted to the highest secular court in the land is damning evidence of just how in need of repair and support is the wall of separation between church and state… if you care about legal equality, of course.

And on that issue I shouldn’t presume…

September 28, 2011

What ever happened to Baby Joseph, ‘saved’ by the Priests for Life stormtroopers from the evil clutches of Canadian health care?

Back on March 22 of this year, I posted about why Priests for Life are theological thugs, fanatical religious stormtroopers who prey on the hopes of others to aid and abet and revel in the unnecessary suffering of others in the name of  honouring their god. Their latest victim was Baby Joseph Maracchli who, in October of 2010 at 10 months of age developed a brain fever and became vegetative just like another previous child of the Maracchlis. The family wanted a tracheotomy performed so that they could take the baby home to die but the hospital disagreed on compassionate medical grounds:

Eight physicians at LSHC were unanimously of the opinion that Joseph had no hope of recovery, and there was no possible treatment that could reverse his condition. They quite rightly pointed out what was obvious that he would never get out of bed nor interact meaningfully with his environment. As responsible and caring medical professionals, the doctors sought a second opinion from colleagues in Toronto. The director of the critical care unit for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto (a world class facility and recognized leader for pediatric medical care) there agreed that further treatment was futile. Joseph’s doctors therefore proposed removing the tube that was assisting his breathing. If he could breathe unaided, he would go home to be cared for by his parents. If not, he would be given medication to ensure that he did not suffer, and allowed to die. A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Canadian hospital, ordering the life support removed.

This is when the Priest for Life entered and through their efforts helped make this sad story into a fundraising campaign, where they spent a considerable amount of donated money to fly the baby to St. Louis and have the tracheotomy. From their warped point of view, the priests were ‘saviors’ of the baby, vilifying the baby’s Canadian health care team in the process. The baby was released at the end of April and went home to Windsor Ontario.

Today, the Windsor Star reports:

Br. Paul O’Donnell, Major Superior at Franciscan Brothers of Peace, posted a message posted early Wednesday reported Baby Joseph had died.

“It is with great sadness that I report to you the passing of our dear Baby Joseph Maraachli. He passed away peacefully at home with his parents and family at his side. Praise God he had seven precious months with his family to be surrounded by love and was not put to death at the hands of doctors. May Joseph rest in the loving arms of his Heavenly Father surrounded by all the angels.”

Back in March, I pointed out that:

What is not reported very widely is that the couple’s first child who suffered from the same condition did receive a tracheotomy, at the parents insistence, and died a horrific death at home. That child suffered from infection, followed by pneumonia and eventually choked to death… it just took six months of additional suffering for this to happen. The physicians were rightly concerned on behalf of the quality of life of their patient to do as the family asked.

This time it took only five additional months for the baby to die after our priestly heroes intervened. They’re slipping as they get older, I guess, but any additional unnecessary suffering is a real feather in their theological caps.

September 27, 2011

Why is the US a fading power in the world?

Filed under: Christianity,Education,Religion — tildeb @ 9:48 am

Well, let’s ponder that deeply, parents. Let’s focus for a moment on what family values in public education looks like in action, shall we? Here’s how kids in a South Carolina public school spent part of their day… where the school administration obviously cares nothing about respecting the Establishment clause because it interferes with using the public domain to push private faith-based beliefs. In the meantime, let’s wonder what half a billion Chinese students and a half billion Indian students were doing in the equivalent school time?

The fact that so many parents sat there quietly and were okay with this evangelical production performed at their public school  shows why the the US cannot help but be a fading power in the new world knowledge economy: the widespread belief that ignorance coupled with stupidity promoted as piousness equals a ‘good’ education.

(h/t friendlyatheist)

September 26, 2011

Why is it okay to say “I don’t know?”

Filed under: Argument,faith-based beliefs,Knowledge,reality — tildeb @ 8:43 pm

Faith-based beliefs are extraordinarily common but their popularity is not a vote in its favour. From religions to pseudosciences, superstitions to conspiracy theories, faith-based beliefs feed their roots. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can control our gullibility, our ignorance, and hesitate long enough to stop ourselves from taking that final step into believing assumption and assertions to be equivalent to trustworthy knowledge. When we come across something interesting and/or intriguing and have no answer to explain the effects we find, we have an opportunity to be intellectually honest and admit that we don’t know. As Steve Novella points out, in a post about a coroner taking that dishonest step into gullibility and reporting that an unknown fire was actually spontaneous human combustion, all of us are vulnerable of doing the same unless we make the effort to exercise critical thinking:

It’s therefore a good opportunity to teach critical thinking skills. People’s brains are clogged with myths and false information, spread by rumor and the media, and accepted due to a lack of having the proper critical thinking filters in place. It’s disappointing, however, when people who should know better, or whose job it is to know better, fall for such myths.

But he has a warning, too, that:

Knowing a lot of information about a complex subject area does not necessarily also grant critical thinking skills – knowledge of logic, heuristics, and mechanisms of self-deception. This is why scientists fall prey to magicians or con-artists, and sometimes even deceive themselves and take their careers down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience.

He suggests that all of us keep firmly in mind that:

For any frequent phenomenon there will be a certain number (a residue) of cases that defy explanation, just by chance alone, because there are quirky, unique, or highly unlikely circumstances. Very unlikely things happen all the time, given enough opportunity. It is therefore not only the argument from ignorance, but utter folly to conclude that such cases have a paranormal or fantastical explanation, rather than they are just unusual but still mundane cases.

And that is something we need to take to heart: that when we use these unknown effects to support our trust in some faith-based belief of supernatural cause, we have left behind our critical thinking and stepped fully into out own willingness to be gullible. Once we decide to accept some supernatural agent of causation to explain some natural effect, we have cancelled the natural universe to be our arbiter and substituted out belief in its place. This is the common recipe – the identical thread of bad thinking, a broken epistemology – for protecting the faith-based beliefs too many of us cherish that fuel religions to pseudosciences, superstitions to conspiracy theories as well as defend those beliefs from legitimate and honest inquiry based on evidence found in reality, in the natural universe. In all cases of faith-based beliefs presented as true in reality, the believer has taken one step too many away from critical thinking and honest inquiry that should result in an “I don’t know” and makes an illegal substitution (to borrow a sports term) of some untrustworthy belief to masquerade as a ‘different kind’ of knowledge… indistinguishable in all ways from delusion and ignorance. It really is okay for each of us to admit that sometime “I don’t know” is the best answer we have. And that’s the starting position all of us have shared. That’s the statement that begins honest inquiry and that’s the only answer to the unknown that starves the root of ignorance that nourishes faith-based beliefs. Unlike faith-based beliefs that clouds our vision into what is true in reality with our own imagined beliefs, “I don’t know” prepares the intellect for learning trustworthy knowledge about the universe we inhabit.

September 24, 2011

How can this kind of dedicated faith-based attack on Enlightenment values be accommodated?

It can’t.

This attack on the secular foundation of liberal democracies has to be fought in the public domain by anyone and everyone who thinks all of us have the same rights and freedoms to believe or not believe as each of us sees fit. No one is more at risk by this kind of fundamentalist evangelical advance into the political domain than those believers who value their religious freedom.Don’t be swayed by the notion that the state will favour the same one you do; what is lost is your freedom to choose otherwise and that’s not an insignificant right to sacrifice in the name of christian piety.

There is no middle ground in this battle.

(h/t sensuouscurmudgeon)

When are words worth more than a thousand pictures?

Filed under: public domain,Public policy,Religion — tildeb @ 3:34 pm

September 23, 2011

Why is there still confusion between what’s personal and professional?

Over at Wintery Knight, I came across a post about doctors being forced to act “like atheists.” Heaven forbid, of course. Naturally, I wanted to find out what this terrible imposition might be so I read the post about a doctor dispensing theological advice and commented. As night follows day, so too does moderation and deletion of my thoughtful comments occur by another cowardly intellectually bankrupt religious blogger (not that I’m biased). What are these delicate people – and I’ve come across many – so afraid of with a comment critical of their conclusions? That the sky will fall? It can’t be because of loss of audience: the hit counters reveal that the controversial comments I make increases the number of visitors, increases the number of pages viewed on the site, lengthens the time people spend there, and increases the number of comments made about the topic. I take the time and make the effort to comment because I think bloggers willing to espouse an opinion that interests me should be treated to mine… especially if it is contrary because the reasons will be (or, at least, should be) interesting to consider even if they are found inadequate or insufficient to change anyone’s mind. It seems a fair exchange in the public square. But editing and deleting my comments undermines any possibility for an exchange to occur, turning the site into a love-in of groupthink rather than promoting honest discussion about controversial opinions.

But honesty is always the preferred casualty when confronting faith-based beliefs with criticism because maintaining faith-based beliefs is contrary to maintaining intellectual honesty that has to account for the criticism. The honest answer to some faith-based belief is, “I don’t know,” rather than an assumption of the truth of the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But this kind of honesty directly undermines the the legitimacy of any claim to some divine authority if it can be legitimately questioned and that’s why criticism and doubt are seen by so many religious bloggers to be ‘attacks against’ rather than ‘inquiries into’ faith-based claims. Because of this, faith of the religious kind naturally evolves into a garrison mentality because it is built on something that is need of constant shoring up of whatever cherry-picked defenses can be used. Consistency and accountability are dislocated from faith and this is necessary for the faith to survive. That is why at its root religious faith-based beliefs have no capability to be engage in honest dialogue by its supporters when it comes to inquiring into the faith-based beliefs of individuals; the beliefs can only be maintained by a willingness to first be intellectually dishonest, to reject the honest “I don’t know” and substitute the dishonest faith claim as if it were likely true, likely probably, likely correct, likely accurate… without any substantive reasons based in reality to tip the balance to that likely possibility. This is the intellectual dishonesty in practice.

To change gears for a moment (but I shall return to the entrenched loyalty to intellectual dishonesty by faith-based believers), let me now turn to issues of personal expressions carried out in professional settings and why this is a confused problem that isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Like I explained in my comment to Wintery Knight, let’s take a moment to consider police officer Bob empowered to enforce the law. Do any of us really want Officer Bob to use the professional powers of his office to promote his personal beliefs? I don’t think so; I think it is entirely reasonable to expect Officer Bob to act professionally while discharging his duties and obligations to enforce the law. While acting as that professional he will be subject to the code of conduct and ethical requirements demanded by that profession… and we should expect no less. But if Officer Bob decides to step beyond this line established by his professional obligations  and under which he is empowered to discharge his duties while acting in his professional capacities then he is open to professional censure. This is not unreasonable for Officer Bob any more than it is for a pharmacist or fire fighter or judge or soldier or doctor or teacher or any other profession who oversteps their professional boundaries into the private.

When a judge decides to use the court bench to favour personal beliefs (like the new appointee to Chief Justice of South Africa’s Supreme Court, who has a long and misogynistic history of doing just that) that are contrary to one’s professional obligations of impartiality (justice through the courts is supposed to be blind), then professional censure is only proper. When a teacher enters into a personal relationship with a student, then the professional boundary has been crossed and censure is only proper. When a doctor uses his professional standing to promote theological treatment (or non treatment for theological rather than medical reasons) at that medical office or hospital or clinic, then censure is only proper. It is the crossing of the line between what is professional while acting in that professional capacity and what is personal in a personal setting that should be acted upon. That is where the infraction has taken place and is need of professional censure.

I have found that many people become rather confused about what is being censured and seem to have great difficulty understanding that the personal aspect itself is not (necessarily) at issue. Quite often the personal aspect that has motivated the crossing of the line is religious, so the issue of non professional behaviour becomes distorted into a faux criticism of some personal religious behaviour… as if the stand alone behaviour under censure was about religion. This causes a lot of unnecessary confusion about what the problem actually is: crossing the professional/personal line and why that crossing requires professional censure when done in a professional setting; instead we have opinions like those expressed in Wintery Knight that mistakenly confuses the issue to be one of religious expression under attack by the secular state.That’s why I commented, to clarify this issue.

Now we return to the inherent intellectual dishonesty of supporting faith-based beliefs: because my comment was deleted there as well as at sites of other religious defenders who seem hell-bent on pretending their faith is under attack from the godless whenever religious behaviour is censured, I think they are misrepresenting the issue intentionally. Someone pushes the delete button. The issue of non professional behaviour in a professional setting is intentionally and dishonestly presented by these button pushers as the state arbitrarily trying to censure the religious… as if government agents are attempting to turn professionals into – gasp! – atheists. This is not only dishonest and intentionally so but downright ludicrous in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And defending this garrison mentality over religious expression takes away from this issue that is causing so much confusion elsewhere.

Government is far too often brimming with those willing and able to abuse their public offices to promote tolerance and respect and accommodation for religious behaviour in secular settings, and are rewarded with political gain for their supposed sensitivity and politically correctness for doing so.  Many in government and its bureaucracy are also are quite confused about this issue; they not only start inserting allowances for accommodating personal preferences in professional settings that are professionally inappropriate, but attempt to legislate this confusion into quasi-judicial kangaroo courts under the banner of human rights commissions and tribunals to enforce it and financially punish anyone daring to criticize this state-sponsored abuse publicly.

But governments are not alone in this abuse: professional oversight bodies themselves confuse where the professional obligations end and the personal expression begins, insisting that certain professionals must live under its codes of conduct and ethics all the time… even into their private lives and hold an individual’s professional recognition hostage to this end.

As you can see, the confusion is endemic and it is not clarified when religious defenders attempt to co-opt what is an important issue desperate for public exposure, debate, and change to be corralled into serving only in religion’s defense. The removal of this confusion is in defense of all, for all, by all.

September 21, 2011

Will the ICC hold the Pope and other Vatican officials to account for its child-raping ways?

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) hopes so, which is why they filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court of the Hague with more than 20,000 pages of supporting documentation.  SNAP’s president, Barbara Blaine, writes in this article:

By the Vatican’s own account, “only” about 1.5-5% of Catholic clergy have been involved in sexual violence against children. With a reported 410,593 priests worldwide as of 2009, that means the number of offending priests would range from 6,158 to 20,529. Considering that many offenders have multiple victims, the number of children at risk is likely in the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands.

We believe the thousands of pages of evidence we filed this week will substantiate our allegations that an operation has been put in place not only to hide the widespread sexual violence by priests in all parts of the world, but also to obstruct investigation, remove suspects out of criminal jurisdictions and do everything possible to silence victims, discredit whistleblowers, intimidate witnesses, stonewall prosecutors and keep a tighter lid than ever on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. The result of this systematic effort is that, despite a flood of well-publicised cases, many thousands of children remain vulnerable to abuse.

While many pedophile priests have been suspended in recent years, few have been criminally charged and even fewer defrocked. Worse, no one who ignored, concealed or enabled these predators has suffered any consequences. At the head of this hierarchy of denial and secrecy is the pope, who has served as an enabler of these men. We believe the Vatican must face investigation to determine whether these incidences have been knowingly concealed and clergymen deliberately protected when their crimes have come to light.

Justice deferred is justice denied. How else can we hold a multinational, politically independent criminal organization to account if not through an international criminal court?

It’s time to hold those in power, those agents and officers and officials who staff the Holy See, accountable for their criminal activities. It’s time to put their Chief Executive Officer Ratzinger (aka Pope Palpatine) on trial and expose the Catholic Church for what it is: an institution of abuse, misogyny, and sexual perversion with the entrenched  moral values of a serial rapist.

September 20, 2011

What is the role of science (and supporters of science) in politics and how is the media failing us?

Filed under: accommodation,Politics,Science — tildeb @ 9:49 am

There is all kinds of stupid being peddled in political debates masquerading as scientific debate. From Rick Santorum’s idiocy to Sarah Palin’s creeping creationism, from Perry’s prayer day to Bachman’s anti- stem cell ignorance,  science is under attack by Republican ignoramuses who represent leadership for great swaths of truly ignorant people – people who believe that a good dose of faith-based belief has equal footing with knowledge, supported by the confused who think accommodating the two incompatible methods of inquiry somehow promotes respect for science. That’s delusional.

Paul Nurse, who shared the Nobel prize for medicine in 2001, is president of the Royal Society and past president of Rockefeller University, New York, wades into the fray with this article warning us of this anti-science agenda by politicians. He writes,

One problem is treating scientific discussion as if it were political debate. When some politicians try to sway public opinion, they employ the tricks of the debating chamber: cherry-picking data, ignoring the consensus opinions of experts, adept use of a sneer or a misplaced comparison, reliance on the power of rhetoric rather than argument. They can often get away with this because the media rely too much on confrontational debate in place of reasoned discussion. It is essential, in public issues, to separate science from politics and ideology. Get the science right first, then discuss the political implications.

We need to emphasise why the scientific process is such a reliable generator of knowledgewith its respect for evidence, for scepticism, for consistency of approach, for the constant testing of ideas. Everyone should know and understand why the processes that lead to astronomy are more reliable than those that lead to astrology. We need to be vigilant about what is being said in the public arena. We need to be vigilant about what politicians are publicising about science and take them on when necessary. At elections, scientists should ensure that science is on the agenda and nonsense is exposed. If that nonsense is extreme enough then the response should be very public.

His conclusion is a rather sobering and important counter point to those people – scientists and non scientists alike – in the accommodationst (NOMA) camp:

It is time to reject political movements that reject science and take us back into the dark rather than forward into a more enlightened future.

I don’t think Nurse goes nearly far enough to simply reject the political movements that support ignorance in the name of faith-based beliefs; I think we need sustained criticism for anyone who pretends that there is some way to accommodate science and contrary faith-based beliefs in whatever form and wherever they appear. We need to hammer home the point that supporting those who refuse to respect the methodology of science on behalf of some faith-based belief does not attract scientific allies. It undermines respect for the method of science itself and has the effect of mitigating its contrary conclusions in the service of ignorance.

Accommodationism, plain and simple, IS anti-science.

September 14, 2011

Who are stupid and ignorant people?

Filed under: creationism,Dawkins,Evolution — tildeb @ 4:52 pm

Those who deny evolution, of course!

I was just thinking of such people over at Eternity Matters where I was  concerned enough to craft a comment about a truly awful analogy that suggested an Oreo cookie slipped into a beaker of water represents equivalent evidence for the intentional design of everything by the Big Oogity Boogity Himself.  Understand that, as is usual on blogs where the admin is promoting a religiously inspired anti-evolutionary faith-based fairytale, my commentary is almost always moderated, usually left in moderation, published but edited, and quite often deleted if the argument is too well written … presumably because its just unwanted noise to the love-in of the harmoniously deluded reality deniers.

In this interview between Jeremy Paxman and children’s author Richard Dawkins (The Magic of Reality), Paxman asks if he really cares that there are stupid people around (after referencing 40% of Americans who believe the bible to be a literal and historical account). Dawkins says he does care, that he is concerned that children are being misled by stupid and ignorant people, because he thinks children deserve to learn what’s true and wonderful about the world into which they have been borne. No guff, eh? Furthermore, he says it’s a “crying shame” if children are denied that opportunity by stupid and ignorant adults as Paxman describes them. So why am I still thinking of Neil, the blog host, over at Eternity Matters? Hmmm…

Have a listen:

(h/t WEIT)

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