Questionable Motives

March 30, 2014

Why should religion be kept out of healthcare?

facepalmBecause it has nothing to do with providing best practices healthcare and everything to do with promoting its theology! And the problem becomes obvious when authority for healthcare decisions must pass through religious leadership that determines – based on theology and not medicine – if best practices ALIGNS with its dogma.

This is Crazytown.

Welcome to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a town of about 35,000 people who have one hospital called the Jane Phillips Medical Center. That hospital is part of Ascension Health, a large Catholic health care consortium.

Yeah, so what?

Well, in order to do their jobs, local obstetricians and gynecologists need to maintain privileges there.

Okay.

In order to maintain privileges, a doctor must meet the hospital’s POLICIES.

Sounds reasonable, right, because healthcare policies should be informed by best practices, right?

Wrong.

Catholic hospitals determine their polices based on Catholic doctrine first and foremost. Medical ethics are subject to this doctrine.

Are you beginning to grasp how concern about an incompatibility between religious belief and science-based treatment might arise?

Stick with me here.

What happens when Catholic doctrine stands contrary to some science-based medical service like… let’s say… oh, I don’t know… there are so many to choose from… birth control. Let’s return to Bartlesville/Crazytown and find out together, shall we?

Here is where the rubber of medical service providers meets the road of Catholic doctrine: local OB-GYN doctors who wish to maintain privileges at the one hospital can no longer prescribe birth control for birth control because it’s contrary to Catholic doctrine.

a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control. – See more at: http://examiner-enterprise.com/news/local-news/reports-jpmc-doctors-no-longer-allowed-prescribe-birth-control#sthash.O7ZbfxWK.dpuf

Who determines what healthcare services best fits the needs of patients and on what grounds: medical practitioners with advanced medical training or a group of celibate men in dresses and funny hats who pretend they can turn wine into blood and crackers into flesh by mumbling some Latin?

You are not surprised to find out that the authority – the right and god-sanctioned ethical authority – just so happens to be the group of celibate men… who require no medical expertise whatsoever who are on the basis of their religious authority better able to determine what constitutes the right medical services to provide. The specific patient’s welfare isn’t worth shit; maintaining the Church’s ethical standards are paramount, and local OB-GYNs are turned into their accomplices.

And some people are so militant, so strident, so hateful as to suggest that this hierarchy is intolerable in the public domain where there really is compelling evidence that religious belief when imposed on others is fundamentally incompatible with exercising individual autonomy to hold evidence-based science, its products, and its medical practitioners in higher esteem than religious shepherds s leading flocks of willing religious sheep. We are to vilify those who complain about this religious interference in the public domain to be superior to those who are educated and highly trained people in certain practices. After all, they must immoral because that’s what religious leadership tells us so it must be true. This is equivalent to plumbers and their expertise subject to oversight by those who think pipes can be cleared of problems caused by evil spirits through exorcism. If you have a plumbing problem, this kind of authority suddenly  becomes your concern when the plumber you must hire is obligated to not fix it for religious reasons.

The ongoing incompatibility between faith-based and science-adduced practices is so obvious, so ludicrous, so ethically screwed up, that its a mystery anyone with two neurons to rub together might think this hierarchy for determining services is in any way reasonable. It’s not; the truly delusional inmates are running the asylum… or, in this case, the hospital and its medical services.

August 16, 2011

What do you mean our eyes don’t see?

This very short video shows why our brains, and not our eyes, see.

Our brains are also very good at tricking us. When we experience something, we try to make sense of it. What fills in the details is our brain – based on what aligns with our expectations and prior beliefs. These beliefs may or may not be based on what’s true in reality. That’s why it is so very important that we understand and appreciate that our attributions (to what we assign cause for the effect we have just experienced) may be wrong. Once we understand and accept that our attributions can be and often are wrong, we realize the importance of independent verification. This is where the method of science plays such an important role in determining reality and why we can’t arbitrarily suspend laws of nature to suit a particular faith-based belief without understanding at some level that we’re cheating. Our attributions for experiences we may not understand are not an authority for our faith-based beliefs if we are not willing to first submit them to independent verification and respect the results. When we protect our attributions from being subject to the arbiter of reality, we are allowing closing our minds to what is true (if we think it will go against what we believe to be true) and substituting belief in its place. Whatever conclusions we draw from this dishonest method to protect our beliefs has to be an untrustworthy guide to what is true in reality.

So when someone proposes some faith-based belief to be true on the merit that the person experiences something but is unwilling to submit those same beliefs to the arbitration of reality, they are not seeking what is true at all. They are really asking you to grant to them a special exemption of what is true in reality on behalf of their belief. If you agree to respect their beliefs, you are complicit in the cover-up of reality in the name of faith. This makes you an accomplice in religion’s role to respecting what’s believed to be true over and above what’s true in fact.

This is why religion and science can never be friends. The contrasting methods of inquiry cannot be complimentary ways of knowing. Because respect for what’s true in reality is subverted by the process of faith in beliefs the two must remain in conflict and contrary to their very core.

March 13, 2011

Why is suffering a fatal flaw for belief in a benevolent creator?

Most of us know of Epicurus’ succinct summation evil causes belief in a benevolent god:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

The slippery term in this paradox for believers is ‘evil’. I think we can reveal the same fatal paradox without the metaphysical baggage that accompanies such a term by replacing it with the word ‘suffering’. I am certainly not the first to do so and I think it tears away the comforting veil of ignorance that infuses belief in a benevolent god when we look at how the world actually and factually operates.

Life and death on this planet has come about as we know it by the process of evolution, a system Lord Tennyson accurately describes as “red in tooth and claw.” Suffering by sentient beings is simply part and parcel of this mindless, unguided, undirected, indifferent biological mechanism. This is a problem for those who would prefer to believe in a benevolent creator. As blogger and ex Anglican priest, Eric MacDonald so eloquently describes the problem evolution creates for the believer this way:

If this is a consciously designed process (evolution by design as held by many notable people such as Francis Collins and those allied to the same notion endorsed by the rc church and many other denominations), as Christians must maintain — for, from the Christian point of view, god’s first priority is the creation of human beings and their redemption — then all the suffering is an intentional part of god’s purposes. And this is simply intolerable. It cannot stand a moment’s moral reflection, and certainly the doctrine of double effect won’t change the mind of a reasonable person on this matter, for you cannot not intend suffering if you create by means of natural selection.

From an academically and scientifically honest standpoint, evolution is fact that is fatal to the argument that a creator god is benevolent.

So what’s a believer in a benevolent creator to do? In England, an imam with the audacity to suggest evolution is compatible with islam if the Koran is interpreted just so, one must apologize and retract such a statement if one wishes to avoid being killed as an apostate. In the US, one must contend with repeated attempts by the religiously misguided to keep creationism from being inserted into the science classroom, spending untold millions  of taxpayer dollars to continue this separation intact. The latest attack against science is in Tennessee. The one is Kentucky has just died… for this session. The one is Texas is still going strong as it works its way towards approved legislation. Florida tries every year and this one is no different. Louisiana has already passed it’s anti-evolution bill as if this will magically improve the state’s dismal showing in student science knowledge. And so on, and so on, and so on, even after creationism has been soundly defeated in every federal court case brought against its insertion into the public school science curriculum. (The latest was in Dover in 2005.) Religious beliefs about a creator – no matter under what recent title it tries on for public acceptance – have no scientific credibility nor validity. This is not a preference or belief by people who would prefer this not to be so: it’s a fact… and a fact that far too many religious people seem unable and unwilling to grasp. When such facts are contrary to what is believed to be true by those who respect faith-based beliefs, then obviously the facts must be wrong! There’s nothing like a legislative act to set the facts on the path to redemption.

Good grief.

The world, however – and  no matter where we look at it – continues to offer up the brutal fact that creationism is not only a fairytale but that its supposed benevolence is identical in all meaningful ways to that of a delusion. For example, the latest and devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and China and  Japan is accompanied by undeniable indiscriminate death and much human suffering.  Tsunamis add their additional effects. Plate tectonics and the accompanying geological and hydrological effects are just as mindless, unguided, undirected, and indifferent a physical mechanism as biological evolution is and the resulting human suffering just as obvious. The physical evidence for mindless cause and effect of these mechanisms is overwhelming. Where is the evidence for benevolence versus the suffering these mechanisms cause?

No where.

Let us now turn to the pious who feel some level of compassion and empathy for the suffering of their fellow creatures in the wake of these disasters. A.C. Grayling offers us this glimpse into the reasoning that is avoided by those who decide to offer up their prayers to some benevolent creator for these distant folk suffering from calamity. Following the same reasoning of Epicurus’s paradox, he wonders about why anyone would show fealty to such an obvious metaphysical monster some think of as a benevolent creator:

For if he is not competent to stop an earthquake or save its victims, he is definitely not competent to create a world. And if he is powerful enough to do both, but created a dangerous world that inflicts violent and agonizing sufferings arbitrarily on sentient creatures, then he is vile. Either way, what are people thinking who believe in such a being, and who go to church to praise and worship it? How, in the face of events which human kindness and concern registers as tragic and in need of help – help which human beings proceed to give to their fellows: no angels appear from the sky to do it – can they believe such an incoherent fiction as the idea of a deity? This is a perennial puzzle.

Indeed it is.

This desire by the pious to believe in a literal Santa Claus-ian benevolent creator is not just foolishly childish and comforting as only a delusion can be; it is a faith-based belief that incessantly gives god-sanctioned motivation to those who directly attack both evidence-based fact as apostasy and intellectually honest reason as some kind of evil plot to undermine god. That some continue to insist that we can accommodate religion and science – allow respect for what some believe is true as well for what IS true – is foolhardy as well as intentionally dishonest. It is foolhardy because it interferes with folk who think there is a legitimate choice to be made between accepting what is factually true and faith-based beliefs as some kind of equivalent source for knowledge in spite of no evidence for this to be the case (and much evidence in stark contrast to this case), and dishonest because for these same folk it reduces  what is true to be conditional on some collection of faith-based beliefs they have chosen to accept as true first. Yet faith-based beliefs add nothing honest to our understanding of the world nor any true appreciation for the dependent role we suffer for our lives on it and much disinformation and misrepresentation of how the world actually is and how it actually works and how we actually cause effects in it.

March 1, 2011

What’s so special about my special way of knowing?

From the Atheist Ethicist:

 

I have a special way of knowing things.

This special way of knowing is not subject to proof of any kind. These facts exist outside of any realm touched by reason or demonstration. I simply know them. God must have planted the knowledge of these things into my head directly. Since God would not deceive me, I trust these facts beyond all reason. I can trust God because this is one of the unquestionable facts that God has placed in my head.

These facts that I know that are beyond all reason are moral facts. They are facts about who I may kill, who I may maim, who I may imprison, and who I may enslave. They are facts about what I may do to women, what I may do to homosexuals, and what I may do to those who do not believe.

When I come to kill or maim or imprison or enslave you, do not ask me to justify my actions. My actions are self-justified. They come from my special way of knowing that is beyond inquiry – beyond reason.

If you deny that I have this special way of knowing, if you deny that I may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave those that I know I may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave, then you are insulting my beliefs – and that is something I will not tolerate. I do not have to tolerate your insults because my special way of knowing tells me that I do not have to tolerate your insults.

Do not question how I treat women, because in doing so you insult my beliefs.

Do not question my attitude towards or treatment of homosexuals, because that is also an insult to my beliefs.

Do not question my distrust of those who do not believe as I do, because by their mere existence they insult my beliefs.

Do not question me in any way, because to question me is to insult me.

In case you have not figured it out, my special way of knowing also tells me who you may kill, maim, imprison, or enslave. It tells me what you may wear, who you may be alone with, what you may say, and who you may have sex with. If you disobey any of these rules that my special way of knowing gives me, then you have insulted me and my beliefs.

Of course, my special way of knowing tells me what you may say with respect to questioning the facts that I know beyond all reason through my special way of knowing. You should be clear on that matter by now. I will expect you to comply and I will respond in a way that my special way if knowing tells me is appropriate if you do not.

Everything above this point is satire. But, I hold that it represents a very common way of thinking – and a very dangerous way of thinking. While not everybody thinks this way (obviously) we clearly have a lot of people who are far too close to this way of thinking – even if they do not put it exactly this way.

November 18, 2010

Do your beliefs about global warming make you a champion of ignorance?

Okay, so it’s no surprise that I am a big fan of methodological naturalism and its epistemology. We call it the method of science. It’s trustworthy, practical, and yields knowledge that works. It’s what drives our technologies. Without knowledge, I don’t think we can understand, and without understanding I don’t think we can make good decisions. When we substitute belief for understanding, faith for knowledge, we are setting ourselves up to embrace ignorance and implement our questionable motives. Such motives are a disservice to others and intellectually dishonest. Hence, the name of the blog.
The latest and perhaps the most avoidable travesty of implementing policies based on such questionable motives has to do with a global problem that continues to be shuffled to the back of the room, the bottom of the agenda, behind other concerns. And that’s the issue of global warming and its effects on climate change within the halls of power… particularly in the US. This issue is an avid example of just how insidious and detrimental faith-based beliefs extended into the public domain can be, and how catastrophic might be the effects derived from such willful and malicious ignorance.
Not content to merely misunderstand and misrepresent why methodological naturalism yields knowledge that leads to understanding, which in turn empowers responsible and informed decisions, certain economic concerns and political forces have united to attack a vital source of our knowledge: the very workforce who toils on our collective behalf creating our knowledge:
For the past two decades, the United States has been officially committed to avoiding “dangerous” climate change. One Administration after another—Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama—has reaffirmed this commitment, even as they all have failed to live up to it. House Republicans and their Tea Party allies reject even the idea of concern. Not content merely to ignore the science, they have decided to go after the scientists. Before the election, congressional Republicans had talked of eliminating the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Why, after all, have a panel on energy independence and global warming if you don’t believe in either? Now James Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, who is likely to become the select committee’s chairman, is arguing that it should be preserved. His rationale? The panel provides an ideal platform for harassing the Environmental Protection Agency, which, in the absence of legislative action, is the only body with the power to regulate carbon emissions. At least one group of scientists is organizing a “rapid-response team” to counter climate misinformation, but, since the misinformation is now coming from the very people charged with solving the problem, that task seems a peculiarly thankless one. (Source)
It’s one thing to personally decide not to believe in gravity or germs. I will call you self-deluded if you choose to do so and suggest some honest self-testing to reveal why such a charge is fully justified. Step out a tenth story window or take a good whiff of ebola and let’s see where the evidence leads you. I’ll wait here. The choice, of course, is to submit your beliefs to personal verification and live with the personal consequences. That’s fine. I’m okay with that. More power to you for being honest enough to find out for yourself. That’s science in action.
But it’s another matter entirely for people wrapped up in the false certainties of the their faith-based beliefs to extend their delusions based on wishful and magical thinking into the public domain and subject the rest of us to the inevitable results of their chosen ignorance. Nothing good will come of it. Nothing good CAN come from it: the epistemology of faith-based beliefs is too biased to be of practical use beyond one’s self and more importantly, there is no way to know if one’s beliefs are wrong except in regards to facts. And either we’re back to science and back to relying on the methodology that empowers it or we delude ourselves to think our beliefs are equivalent because we prefer to view them this way.
The science that empowers so much evidence to be collected that yields knowledge that global warming is real, it’s a growing concern, it’s a problem that will continue to impose climatic changes at an increased rate, is as solid as any other scientific inquiry by tens of thousands of scientists around the world over decades that have produced available peer reviewed research. The science is ongoing yet for about three decades or more there has been a growing general consensus that today’s global warming is a man-made problem subject to man-made solutions… if we act sooner rather than later. We can be reasonably certain that all this science about climate change and its causes and influences has been carried out in a responsible manner and that the general conclusions reached are as valid as any other in the sciences. We know there is always quibbling about specifics in all scientific endeavors  and climate research will have its fair share. We will have some personalities we like, some we don’t, and that these kinds of discrepancies are not at all unusual for any human undertaking involving tens of thousands of people. But none of this disqualifies the science and the body of knowledge climate science has produced.
What we cannot do is simply choose to think that our personal beliefs are an equivalent and legitimate basis for coming to a different conclusion. Our beliefs are not equivalent. Our personal knowledge is not equivalent to the scientific consensus. Our cherry-picking of facts and points that favour only our contrary belief preferences without accounting for all those that do not support us is intellectually dishonest. Whether we wish to or not, we must respect the method of inquiry that yields knowledge – which we implicitly trust with our very lives in other areas like medicine and transportation and communication – in this matter of climate science if we wish to avoid the charge of hypocrisy. No matter how grudgingly we face the scientific consensus about global warming, we must respect its general conclusions  and if we wish to be responsible citizens within our various communities, we must begin to address our culpability to its root causes before we can address how we can begin to mitigate our effects on climate change through global warming.
I don’t for a minute think that we alone drive climate change or that global warming is solely the result of carbon emissions. But I respect the method of science enough to take heed when the consensus tells us that human activity is a major factor in these rapid environmental changes. Whether I want to believe it or not is not my call if I wish to continue to respect the method of science that informs the rest of my life. The results of climatic scientific research are what they are, and the science has built up a body of knowledge about the matter that I can understand. So can you. And we need to act on this understanding in a productive and positive way rather than allow the most ignorant and delusional among us to be voted into public office to then abuse the state’s public power to attack those who tell us something we believe we don’t need to hear.
If you support those who put all of us at such risk by such abusing the power of the state to undermine and attack and discredit by foul means those who produce knowledge, then I question your motives to present yourself as an intellectually honest person and someone worth listening to. As far as I can tell, if you support those who go after people whose job it is to create knowledge in the name of your beliefs, you are a danger to me, my family, my community, my nation, and my planet. You are a champion of ignorance. And that’s not something to be proud of.

July 19, 2010

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.

May 20, 2010

Trouble in (before) paradise?

  • Of the 1,050 pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • 89% of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • 81% of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). 
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • 75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. (This and the previous statistic raises an interesting reflection on what Family Values look like to those in the ministry – tildeb.)
  • 26% of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
  • 23% of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
  • Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)

From the article Statistics on Pastors over at the Schaeffer Institute.

These stats line up nicely with Daniel Dennett’s latest work about preachers who are not believers (pdf here). And their numbers are growing . What is striking in this compilation of stats is that more than half would leave if they could. Three quarters are fighting depression and nine in ten can’t cope with the challenge of ministry. But why? If religious belief added some measurable quality of life and comfort as we have been led to believe, then these numbers should be strikingly different by those who champion it. But as I have long suspected, the show-and-tell of religion are quite different: we see the show of happy and well-adjusted people who pretend religious belief is a marvelous way to live – even a necessary element to living morally well – but underneath that facade we find a very different story.

May 4, 2010

What do you predict will happen?

Filed under: belief,brain,Cause and Effect,Faith,Neuroscience,Religion — tildeb @ 3:38 pm

Let’s do some predicting of our own. What do you think happens to our brains when we fall under the influence of charismatic individuals like faith healers?

From New Scientist:

To identify the brain processes underlying the influence of charismatic individuals, Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues turned to Pentecostal Christians, who believe that some people have divinely inspired powers of healing, wisdom and prophecy.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Schjødt and his colleagues scanned the brains of 20 Pentecostalists and 20 non-believers while playing them recorded prayers. The volunteers were told that six of the prayers were read by a non-Christian, six by an ordinary Christian and six by a healer. In fact, all were read by ordinary Christians.

Oh, that’s good. So what do you think the findings might be? Intriguing, isn’t it?

Let’s see:

Only in the devout volunteers did the brain activity monitored by the researchers change in response to the prayers. Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and scepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsq023).

Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.

Are we surprised the brain effect is based on the subject’s preconceived notions? Only if you are a believer in supernatural agencies, I suspect.

But if preconceived notions of authority and trustworthiness are indeed what causes the effect in the brain, then studies of a similar effect of other people in authority and trustworthiness should yield the same results. Does the study’s author take this into consideration?

It’s not clear whether the results extend beyond religious leaders, but Schjødt speculates that brain regions may be deactivated in a similar way in response to doctors, parents and politicians.

So we wait and wonder…

April 20, 2010

Why is attribution to link cause with effect so important to determining what’s true?

I would have thought this question was pretty easy to answer but I have come across many religious believers who have serious difficulty understanding why. For example, I am told repeatedly (and I presume honestly) with great assurance that testimonials and revelation lead to a transformative experience that itself is strong evidence that god (or some ‘outside’ agency) exists and intervenes in meaningful ways in our world. When we unpack the meaning of this claim, we find that the link is very tenuous between having an experience and attributing some outside supernatural agency to what caused it.

I have found that believers in supernatural agencies are quite willing to attribute to these supernatural agencies to whatever cause is currently unknown, misunderstood, or poorly informed – what many call the god of the gaps, referring to assigning god to whatever gaps we have in our knowledge. But it goes much further than that, I think.

From demonic possession to the building of the pyramids, from the ghostly squeak in the floorboards in the dead of night to the influence of the stars on our fate, far too many people attribute these things or events or imaginings to a single, easy, completely unjustified source: it was oogity boogity! (Fill in whatever name to some supernatural agency you may wish here)

So what’s the harm, right? If people want to believe oogity boogity links cause to effect, who cares? People have a right to believe in whatever they want, so the excuse goes. And I agree… as long as this belief stays within the private domain where it belongs. People are allowed to delude themselves and pretend that their attributions to supernatural agencies are as valid an explanation as any repeatable, testable, measurable, falsifiable and reliable explanation that clearly links cause to effect by means of a consistent mechanism, one that works here as well as there today and tomorrow. But when that supernatural explanation is inserted into the public domain and people support the insertion because they happen to agree with the attribution rather than causal truth value, then we are opening the door to lunacy.

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media (brought to us by Yahoo News). Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader. “A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance. Why? Because calamities threaten us,” Sedighi said. Referring to the violence that followed last June’s disputed presidential election, he said, “The political earthquake that occurred was a reaction to some of the actions (that took place). And now, if a natural earthquake hits Tehran, no one will be able to confront such a calamity but God’s power, only God’s power. … So let’s not disappoint God.”

Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsooli said prayers and pleas for forgiveness were the best “formulas to repel earthquakes. We cannot invent a system that prevents earthquakes, but God has created this system and that is to avoid sins, to pray, to seek forgiveness, pay alms and self-sacrifice,” Mahsooli said.

When we allow attribution between a cause and effect to have no natural mechanism to measure its truth value but, instead, allow for whatever supernatural explanation people want to be inserted in its place, we are setting the stage for exactly this kind of lunacy. There is no known way to link dress to tectonic activities, so the attribution to god is as good as one that attributes the link to the nefarious deeds of intergalactic mushrooms.

So next time a politician tells you that he or she will support some oogity boogity to be inserted into public policy, take issue with it. Don’t allow your private preferences for assigning a favoured supernatural attribution to sway you; religious or not, your civic duty to all your neighbours is to keep all oogity boogity out of public policy altogether.

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