Questionable Motives

May 15, 2013

Why can’t theists and New Atheists have a meaningful dialogue?

Filed under: dialogue,faith-based beliefs,New Atheists,regulation,Religion — tildeb @ 10:33 pm

religious confusionIn a nutshell, because theists alone try to moderate it.

I like to comment on other sites, like the give and take of a truncated argument where different people become involved and the original post can be explored in detail. This can be rewarding not just for the participants but for the host who can sometimes gather more hits to a site as they follow along. But sometimes I grow weary of  writing comments to start this kind of thread that end up going into moderation never to be seen again. Most religious sites are notorious for their moderation of comments, where the most outlandish and rude commentary is allowed when in support of the web site author but strangled when it becomes critical supposedly because of ‘militant’ tone!

I commented over at Just Thomism in response to a post about why the claim that ‘science destroys creation myths‘ did not matter to right religious creationist beliefs… a post that expressed the notion that myth shouldn’t be mistaken for being anything other than myth, and so any criticism of a creation myth shown to be false by scientific inquiry is not needed and in no way reduces the truth value of creationist claims.  Knowing full well that catholicism requires belief in a literal and historical Adam and Eve for them to have a literal and historical fall to own original sin and then pass it along to the rest of humanity that literally and historically descends from them, I commented how relieved I was that this notion could now be cast aside and that the redemption paid for by a literal and historical Jesus could now be seen as a literal and historical blood sacrifice for a metaphorical sin revealed in a creation myth.

I know, for example, that Pope Pius XII stated (with italics and bold added by me) : “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

Yes, it’s not apparent how reconciliation can occur when science examines reality and adduces that the tenet is factually wrong.


I also know, for example, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390)

Note the word ‘parents’ as in plural – male and female together. It’s important because it’s factually wrong.

So if scientific inquiry reveals, as it has done using genetics, that we do not share a common founding couple, then surely this raises a irreconcilable problem of an incorrect central tenet of the christian faith as it pertains to the need for a literal and historical redemption for a literal and historical Fall. I pointed this out and – Lo and behold! – out came the deluge of sophisticated theology in action!

I was the problem. My lack of understanding sophisticated theology was the problem. Atheism was the problem. New Atheism was the problem. The form of my argument was the problem. My tone was the problem. My faith in the religion of science was the problem, and so on.


Nowhere in this deluge was the criticism ever focused on the actual problem I had raised: that there really was an irreconcilable difference between reality and the faith claim. Several people tried (and I think utterly failed) to find a middle ground between reality and faith by changing the meaning of words and applying metaphysical nebulous terminology to obfuscate defining that a problem actually existed. No dice. There really is an irreconcilable problem that requires the tenet to be changed if what’s true in reality actually matters. But to most believers – and this group of sophisticated theologians relying on the the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and his right arguments specifically – it will never be the tenets of their faith that requires change because they already know The Truth and just have to get everyone else to squint at it the same way by hook or by crook.

As if this theological assault wasn’t enough to send someone concerned with knowledge and respect for reality running from the room that turned out to be padded for the safety of its patients, I find out that one of the inmates – Crude – has posted on his own site a skewed version of just how nasty a person I am In Which The Asshole Makes A Reappearance. I commented in as nasty a tone as he had maligned me and it wasn’t moderated! The Lord works in mysterious ways! But then Crude got to work and lied again. This time, however, I wasn’t allowed to have my rebuttal published, nor any other comments about different posts. No talking allowed, you see, by order of the administrator who wishes to malign.

Imagine the irony when I see this next post by Crude: Is Dialogue With An Atheist Possible? He argues it may be possible with agnostics and atheists (of the weak-kneed variety more concerned with tolerant tone than truthful content) but not with those nasty and brutish people who identify with ‘cult of Gnu atheists’. Yes, the Gnus cannot be reasoned with and so any productive – aka, willing to be respectful of woo – dialogue isn’t possible. What’s possible, of course, is to call them all kinds of nasty names, lie about them, and then ban them from commenting about their unfair treatment!

Anyway, I spent time and effort to make a meaningful comment on this post but, of course, it wasn’t allowed. So I figured, hey, why not post it here if for no other reason than I want to see it on a blog! And I can do that because I understand and appreciate that legitimate criticism is the very heart of any meaningful dialogue. So, here it is:

Crude writes But what makes an atheist a Gnu is, fundamentally, a commitment to the view that not only is theism or Catholicism or (etc) wrong, but that it is a view not worth taking seriously to begin with.

And why is this? Simple. Because supporters of theism don’t respect reality enough to allow it to arbitrate their faith-based beliefs. But this doesn’t stop these supporters from presenting their faith-based beliefs as if they were equivalent to knowledge adduced from reality. This is intellectual fraud and not worth ‘taking seriously’.

 Supporting faith respects a contrary and conflicting stance by respecting what is merely assumed, merely asserted, to be true, to be knowledge, because it is  believed to be true and treats this belief as if it is equivalent to knowledge adduced from the reality we share. But it’s not because it cannot be demonstrated to be so. In addition, in order to maintain this confidence in the belief claims, supporters of the belief will not allow reality to arbitrate them independently; instead, faith – defined as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – is deemed to be the higher virtue than respecting reality’s adjudication of these claims.

 When a believer approaches honest dialogue between those who respect what’s true and knowable about reality based on this arbitration by reality and those who do not allow it any such role (but presume their faith-based beliefs are still equivalent to arbitrated knowledge adduced by reality’s evidence) there can be no meaningful dialogue because there is no meaningful middle ground. If there were a middle ground between what reality tells us is true about it and faith-based claims that would willingly submit to the same arbitration, then we the means to find a common ground. But it is theists – by rejecting reality as the independent arbitrator to faith claims – who have already rejected this means by which we can have a constructive and meaningful exchange of knowledge-based ideas. Theists exercise dishonesty by then blaming others rather than themselves for misunderstanding and misconstruing the knowledge value of their claims based on faith, but when we ask for evidence of this knowledge, guess what we find? Nothing! Faith-based beliefs alone contribute nothing to independently verifiable knowledge (justified true beliefs), produce no practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere in reality. Sure, they produce assertions and assumptions masked by nebulous terminology if the theists are sophisticated enough to try to obfuscate this fact, but that’s it.

 So what is there to talk about?

 Well, the New Atheists talk about confronting religious privilege in the public domain and why this privilege is both unwarranted and unjustified, and for this audacity, are vilified. Just look at the kind of religious terms Crude uses to try to smear New Atheists. And we see these religious smears all the time. (This is a clue…) New Atheists are commonly called ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ and ‘angry’ and all manner of typical putdowns but they are also called ‘cultists’ and ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘evangelicals’ and ‘religious extremists’ and so on . This is the ‘dialogue’ that we have in play, and one that never treats the criticisms of New Atheists straight up and seriously by using reality successfully to arbitrate faith-based claims and  produce knowledge. Pointing out that there is no shared epistemology – no reliable and consistent method independent of faith – to connect faith-based claims to the adjudication of an independent reality means there is no common ground on which to discuss meaningful differences between those who respect reality’s role to arbitrate claims made about it and those who demand a special exemption for their faith-based claims… but want everyone to go along with accepting the charade that these claims are equivalent to knowledge… but another <i>kind</i> of knowledge.

 Not going to happen. Not ever. Not on our watch.

Although supporters of religious privilege effortlessly use reality-based knowledge all the time in their regular lives, when it comes to the public treatment of their faith-based claims, those who continue to respect reality and hold these beliefs in the same contempt believers themselves use elsewhere, are suddenly the bad guys, the ones who should be written off, the ones in need of… wait for it… blogging administration and comment approval! Why? Because such bloggers as Crude are more concerned with protecting their faith-based claims from legitimate criticism than dealing with it in a mature and intellectually open and honest respectful manner. And that’s why we cannot have any meaningful dialogue and why theists themselves – and not New Atheists – do not allow their faith claims to be taken seriously.

There. That feels better.

March 26, 2010

What is a Conscience Clause and why is it unconscionable?

A Conscience Clause is a clause in law or code of professional conduct that permits pharmacists, physicians, and other providers of health care not to provide certain medical services for reasons of religion or conscience. Those who choose not to provide services may not be disciplined or discriminated against. The provision is most frequently enacted in connection with issues relating to reproduction, such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception, (hence the term provider conscience is used) but may include any phase of patient care.

From the BBC comes an example of just how such a conscience clause can affect health care, with a tip to Misunderstoodranter who provided the link:

Pharmacists across the UK, for example, have been told they can continue to refuse to prescribe items that may clash with their religious beliefs. A revised code of conduct from the new industry regulator will allow staff to opt out of providing items such as the morning-after pill and contraception. But they may in future have to give customers details of alternative shops. The National Secular Society wanted the General Pharmaceutical Council to scrap the so-called conscience clause.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is to take over the regulation of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and the registration of pharmacy premises from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society later this year. Under its new code, pharmacists with strong religious principles will still be able to continue to refuse to sell or prescribe products if they feel that doing so would contradict their beliefs. But the GPhC says pharmacists who refuse services could be obliged to tell patients where they can access them and it plans to consult more widely on the issue.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said he was disappointed by the code.

“This was a perfect opportunity to severely restrict the exercise of this supposed conscience clause which has caused a great deal of embarrassment and inconvenience to people recently. “It seems incredible that pharmacists can arbitrarily tell people that they won’t serve them with medication that has been prescribed by a doctor.” The issue was highlighted recently by a woman denied the pill by a Sheffield chemist. She was told to return to the shop the following day when another staff member would be on duty.

To help us see what is so unconscionable about this clause, imagine a police officer arriving at a domestic dispute but, rather than intervene and enforce the law, decides to arbitrarily  respect his conscionable religious beliefs about the respective roles of  ‘allowable’ conduct of husband and wife. What might be the problem here?

Imagine if operating room staff decided to respect conscionable adherence to proper religious clothing ahead of professional sterilization procedures. What might be the problem here?

Imagine a teacher in a language class insisting that all those of an opposite gender had to leave the room to suit one student’s religious sensibilities that agrees with the teacher’s. What might be the problem here?

When we allow professions to suspend and subvert their professional codes of conduct in place of and out of a misguided respect for personal religious beliefs held by individual practitioners, we are prostituting the profession. We undermine the ethical framework that describes the role each member of the profession is to uphold and allow religious belief to take its place out some misguided and unjustified sense of tolerance and reasonable accommodation. This subversion is unconscionable.

If someone decides that personal religious beliefs rather than professional standards should be the measure of conduct while acting as a representative of that profession, then the confused individual must either voluntarily resign or be stripped of professional status. One cannot have it both ways: if one wishes to act only as an individual with various beliefs and preferences, then that’s fine. Act as an individual by being an individual. But if one wishes to act as a representative of a profession, then one must be willing to put aside the personal while acting as a professional of that profession.

For example, it doesn’t matter what laws an individual may think deserves more respect than others: when acting as a police officer, one acts as a representative of the law and not a representative of the individual with preferences. The higher allegiance a police officer must have to be an ethical professional is not a greater respect for his or her individual preferences and beliefs but to the professional code of conduct under which he or she acts as a police officer. If one wishes to act as a representative of the profession of pharmacists, then one must put aside one’s personal preferences and beliefs and act according to the professional code of conduct of a health care provider.

When professional codes of conduct are perverted, abused, and manipulated to protect individuals exercising their personal preferences while acting as a representative of various professions, then each professional body that goes along with this abuse under a Conscience Clause has subverted its very reason for being.

In the same way, if enforcing the law is dependent on each individual police officer determining which laws he or she will enforce according to some personal preference, then we have subverted law enforcement. If we allow dispensing prescribed medication to be dependent on each individual pharmacist determining which drugs he or she will dispense according to some personal preference, then we have subverted health care. And to subvert what it means to be a professional – to act as a representative of that profession with recognized rights and privileges based on guidelines and rules and areas of specialized knowledge and expertise – to suit the unjustified religious beliefs of certain individuals within professional bodies does not serve either the interests of the profession as a whole or the public trust in that profession… it undermines our confidence in both the profession and the professional.

I think that to support this willing sacrifice of what it means to be a professional by professional bodies of oversight on the alter of religious belief under the fictitious banner of tolerance and accommodation is unconscionable stupidity and ethical capitulation.

January 24, 2010

What does CAM ‘freedom of choice’ look like as an autism supplement?

Filed under: Autism,Bad Science,belief,CAM,Medicine,regulation,Science — tildeb @ 3:45 pm

It looks like OSR#1, a drug that was developed as an industrial chelator – a compound that binds heavy metals to clean them from soil or industrial spills. It is now being marketed as a “supplement”  with claims that it is an antioxidant. But it is being used by parents in the autism community as a chelator, to treat presumed mercury toxicity as a cause of autism (a disproven hypothesis).

There is another terrific article from the Chicago Tribune revealing how the alternative supplement industry can avoid regulation and safety scrutinies and bring to market drugs and compounds relying on the desperation of parents of children with autism to buy their products without having to first prove safety and efficacy.

Steve Novella over at Neurologica points out why the current belief that CAM is a matter of consumer choice is not only false but dangerously so. He points out quite rightly that the policies now in place under the false misnomer of ‘freedom of choice’ for CAM products and practices actually means an absence of responsible guidelines for safety and efficacy:

So in essence the regulations that we have now allow for a company to take an industrial chemical, market it as a “supplement” with trumped up antioxidant claims (the latest buzz word), and yet the market for the drug is children with a serious illness, and the effect of the drug is a powerful pharmacological effect (chelation) that is normally only done under a doctor’s supervision because of the inherent risks. This is all done without providing any evidence for safety or efficacy.

This is a scandal.

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