Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Watching the Republicans Choose Their Issues

It's funny to see the GOP fret and argue about which issues they should drop in order to have a 'bigger tent'. I've not had much respect for the Republican party for a long time, but I will say - if the GOP keeps insisting that conservatives need to drop some issues in order to start winning again, the ones saying so may not like the issues that end up being dropped.

For my part, I'd sooner capitulate on economic principles than on certain social ones, like abortion. If they simply mean that pro-life advocates should stop focusing on rape exceptions, I'd have to agree. Even people like myself who believe that life begins at conception need to be willing to take what we can get, not hold out waiting for the all-or-nothing approach.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Romney Loss, and Lessons Therein

Romney was, in the end, a nice guy. In personal terms, he actually seemed like a great guy. Rather the ideal conservative by many metrics - an upstanding family guy. He started a business, he made jobs. Yes, his social politics were rather liberal - he was a Mass. guy. He was a very positive fellow, moderate and upbeat in tone. I like him, now.

But he lost. And from here, it seems that part of the reason he lost is because he never really went negative. Really, there's more to it than that - there's also the shifting demographics of the country, etc. But in a terrible economy, on the heels of a foreign policy disaster, by a president who's been exposed as not having much to him, he couldn't manage a win - after being savaged as a tremendous extremist and a horrible human being, for months on end, by his opposition. And so he concedes the race, urging the country to get over its partisan divisions and work together.

That's naive of him. It was the weak spot of his campaign to try and be the guy who rose about the negative politics, and I wonder if the GOP will eventually learn that lesson. In the meantime, America continues its march towards the European model which should have been exposed as an unsustainable goal and a bad idea the moment troubles started in Greece, to say nothing of elsewhere on the continent. In the end, I doubt - unless he was (in Vox Day's words) performing the Mormon equivalent of taqiya - Romney would have stopped this. I suspect he could have slowed it, and maybe Ryan would have offered a chance at stopping it in the future.

If there's any silver lining to this, it's a pretty tarnished silver. The idea that many of the people who are so in favor of these economic and social policies may still be alive when the full cost of them comes to be experienced. See, I strive to uphold Christian ideals, which means - trash talk aside - I can't actually wish ill on people. But I have to admit, there's a part of me that imagines the day coming when the disastrous effects of these policies whip around to inflict serious harm on the lives of the very people now advocating for these policies. You know, that irony when the guy who angsted about universal health care goes to use it, and is denied it because he's judged as not being important enough, or the money simply isn't there, and there's not a charity to turn to. It's a bad thought, it's an unChristian thought, but it's there, and damned if it doesn't sound like a grimly amusing scenario.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Christian Left? Are You Sure You Know What You're Doing?

I checked Victor Reppert's latest postings, and found a very brief link to a site touting the Christian Left.

Look, I don't doubt there can be Christian liberals, in a sense. I think they're gravely mistaken, but I could easily see a Christian believing that there's a government duty to provide for the poor, and further that this duty should manifest in socialist policies. Victor himself is, as near as I can tell, a Christian like that - I'm sure it's more complicated than that for him, but it'd be along those lines. And he seems to reach those positions from a sincere Christian faith, which I can respect.

But the Christian Left site? If I were Victor, I'd be profoundly worried at its existence.

Let's go down the list on the main page alone and see what problems there are to point out.

A Political Puzzle

Here's a political puzzle for you to figure out.

How do you address, as a socially conservative christian, a 40% birth rate to unwed mothers? 

Now, keep these factors in mind.

* They're unwed mothers, so they didn't have an abortion. And a socially conservative Christian is going to have to regard that as praiseworthy, even if in a 'basic human dignity' sense. "You didn't murder your unborn child. Well done!"

* Not only is the praise there, but any criticism will be immediately taken - even by many pro-life Christians - as encouraging abortion. After all, if women are going to be stigmatized for giving birth to their conceived-out-of-wedlock children, that's all the more encouragement to procure an abortion, right?

So, how does the socially conservative christian handle this issue?

Keep in mind, I realize it's entirely consistent to be against abortion, yet also critical of unwed mothers (and, of course, the guys who got them pregnant). But in a practical sense - in terms of being socially effective - this seems like a fiendishly difficult problem. The sense I get is that most Christians have coped with it by completely dropping any negative reaction to a girl getting pregnant outside of marriage Even the socially conservative Christians will fall back to 'we have to be compassionate, this girl's life is going to be tough enough as is, let he who is without sin cast the first stone!' in large part. (Of course, it's a different story for the male half of these equations.)

It's a puzzle.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sophisticated Theism versus Primitive Theism

There's a popular sentiment among the internet communities I now and then skulk about in - the idea that atheists, particularly the Cult of Gnu, are absolutely incompetent when it comes to arguing against sophisticated forms of theism. Particularly classical theism, though not necessarily limited to that. It's a sentiment I share. Really, I consider it every bit as intellectually dishonest to argue against strawman conceptions of theism as I do to see people argue against strawman conceptions of evolutionary theory.

That's a common defense, of course. "Okay, we're arguing against strawmen... but this is what a lot of people believe!" Well, okay. And a lot of people who believe in evolution - even 'defenders' of the theory - have really horrible conceptions of evolutionary theory. Replying, "That's different - evolutionary biologists have the proper view! They just have a layman or amateur understanding at best!" just sets you up for a response of, "And philosophers/priests have the proper understanding of these arguments for theism. The average believer has just a layman or amateur understanding."

Now, I accept these things. I also think it's important - of dire importance - for people to be educated about the fundamentals of metaphysical discourse along with the more sophisticated theistic views and arguments. Even understanding as little as the importance of metaphysics, the distinction between science and philosophy, etc, is extraordinarily damaging to the modern aggressive secular/atheist bend.

But as I've said in the past, more and more, I think what's needed in addition to that is a defense of a far more crude (for lack of a better word) theism. The basic beliefs view of Alvin Plantinga. The instinctual construing of not just nature, but evolution itself, as an iteration of design that proceeds from a mind. The instinctive, basic teleological understanding with which people tend to view the world. Or even the basic trust placed in priests, rabbis, or theologians generally.

Defending and advocating sophisticated theism is one thing, and again, it's important. But there's no need for us to treat a more basic theism as somehow unjustified, and basic theists as intellectual lepers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hi There, Kilo Papa!

Man, you always try to post a comment, and you are always weeded out. At least you're a regular visitor.

Either way, so long as you keep on visiting, perhaps you can answer a question for me.

Is this you?

After all - non-religious. Vegan (well, ex-vegan). Kilo Papa is quite an unusual, specific name, and you were certainly the kilo papa on

So, can you please verify if, in fact, this is you?

Thanks ever so much for your reply.

EDIT: Looks like this may have gone private. Yay for caches - so the question remains.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Giving Theism the Stalin Treatment

What's missing from this list?

Here we have New Scientist talking about straight-up metaphysics. What is reality?

Is it numbers?

Is it all in our head/solipsism?

Is it consciousness?

Is it nothing?

Is it a computer we're being simulated on?

Is it matter?

Is it laws?

A lot of pretty wacky ideas, even by metaphysical standards, are given air time. One popular, age-old, well-defended answer is missing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize - Thank You, Embryonic Stem Cell Opponents!

Now, here's a funny thing.

Did you guys hear about the latest Nobel Peace Prize awards? If not, here's a link.

Some relevant quotes:

Two scientists from different generations won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for the groundbreaking discovery that cells in the body can be reprogrammed to become completely different kinds, potentially opening the door to growing customized tissues for treatments.

Basically, their work paved the way to making the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the ethical questions the embryonic cells pose.
So hey, great news, right? The work of these guys can in principle completely obviate the need for, uh... killing infants and harvesting their flesh for precious resources. Kind of a big deal.

But here's where it gets interesting.

Yamanaka deserves extra credit for overcoming fierce objections to the creation of embryos for research, reviving the field, said Julian Savulescu, director of Oxford University's Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
"Yamanaka has taken people's ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all," Savulescu said. "He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics."
He does indeed. And hey, it's nice to see A) a Nobel being given for this, and B) for it being noted that his Nobel, in part, is being delivered because it runs around the very ethical problems that were being presented.

But keep this in mind. Originally, opponents to embryonic stem cell research were accused of 'getting in the way of science' and holding back cures. Instead, it looks like their opposition led to research that not only circumvents the ethical objections, but was Nobel worthy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Curse Your Fake Religious Beliefs!

I feel like I should start a running archive of every comic strip that's like this, complete with overanalysis of what's going on.

Let's see.

* Stilted, sterile sounding analysis of an issue? Check.
* Extremely vague description of what's disapproved of? Check.
* Misunderstood Bible quote? Double check, since that's apparently the punchline. (Bonus round: "Thou shalt not judge", being used to judge others? Check.)

But the weirdest part is "those who use religion to mask and make right their intolerances"? Aside from the giveaway ("Let's see, how do I talk about gay issues, yet NOT talk about gay issues? Wait, I know, this is subtle..!"), the idea is just odd. Apparently the charge is that no one actually thinks anal fisting is immoral or something to be frowned upon from a religious point of view. Nope, that's just the cover story people are using. They dislike it for reasons that have nothing to do with religion!

I'd question the guy's sincerity, but at this point I think it's truly the case that many people have trouble fathoming how any sexual activity, short of rape and the like, can be immoral or wrong or a sin. The idea of sex having any sacredness to it, or end beyond pleasure first and foremost, is not rejected - it does not register at all.

I'm actually waiting for the day a woman accuses a man of anally raping her, and for people to get really worked up because she made it sound as if the anal part of the rape was particularly vile, as if she was judging that some sex acts are less pure than others. Eventually, even rape will have the alternate definition of 'being made love to against one's will'.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Todd Akin, Good Luck

So, by now the Todd Akin bit is old news.

The rehash is hardly necessary, but here it is: Akin's running for the senate. It turns out he thought that in cases of 'legitimate rape', women's bodies tend to activate some kind of biological self-defense mechanism that drastically reduces the odds of a pregnancy. Of course, there's really no mainstream science supporting this. The media pounces on it, overnight Akin's candidacy is ruled a complete disaster, and the calls come in - including from the GOP - that this guy must resign. For the good of the party, he must resign. For the sake of retaking the Senate, he must resign.

And my thoughts at the time were: yeah, this guy must resign. Replace him with anyone else. Not for the good of the party (screw the GOP), but at least for the lesser goal of reining in the exceptionally bad and increasingly hostile acts of the Democrats. I wasn't screaming that this guy was a complete moron, but I damn sure thought that he had a duty to resign based on what he said. It was too big of a gaffe, too blatant, too much of an uproar caused. In fact I even rolled over onto Ilion's blog (we don't get along) to call him out on what I thought was a pretty bad defense of Akin. I stand by the argument that what Akin said was stupid, certainly for someone in his position.

But I don't think I can stand by my previous view that the guy had a duty to resign. I erred on that front. He said something stupid, he should have known better, but what really should have happened is I - and anyone else who really is concerned about fighting a cultural war - should have stood up for him. I should have said, he said something stupid - and so fucking what? He apologized, his lesson is learned, and it's not nearly a resignation-worthy offense. Why in the world am I acting otherwise?

Well, because I'm being told - there's that constant political drumbeat - that this is a disaster, that the seat is lost, that the GOP was on track to take the senate until this happened, that the only way to take the senate away from the Democrats is to make Akin fall on his sword, and he's NOT falling on his sword, so damnit, he can go to hell, the traitor. Of course, was this really the drumbeat from conservatives? From many voices, sure. Many otherwise typical conservative voices. And also, moderate voices. And liberal voices.

Now, in retrospect, I find myself wondering about that. And I inch towards the conclusion that I've been suckered.

What did Akin do that was so terrible? Again, he said something stupid - and, upon finding he was wrong, he apologized. We're in the thick of campaign season, with plenty of politicians getting things just plain wrong. Demonstrably wrong. Wrong and they don't even apologize. Yet the calls for resignation don't show up. Now, someone can make the argument that Akin's gaffe is particularly foul - it's a double-shot of "biology ignorance" and a charge of "implying that sometimes rape is wrongly claimed". (The second one requires seriously suspect parsing of his words to at all rise to the level of offense.)

I'm still considering this whole affair, trying to figure it out. There's a problem here, but I haven't got it totally in my sights yet. Maybe it's that the reaction to Akin's stupid comment was ridiculously out of proportion. Maybe it's that the reaction had the out of proportion effect it did not just on people in general, but on me - and I'm normally pretty good about plodding along with this crap and not getting taken so easily. I'll think about it.

But since (even though I didn't get into it on this blog) I recall being on board with the 'Akin should resign' gang, and now I find myself wondering if I was right - I have to pull back and say to the guy, good luck with his campaign. Maybe I'll figure out just what went wrong here sometime.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Behold, the Lion of Atheism, John Loftus

So, I hit Randal Rauser's blog recently. I honestly, truly enjoy reading Rauser's thoughts. He's like a young Victor Reppert - liberal, but a sincere Christian, and while he's far more aggressive, he's a guy I can have a conversation with. I appreciate that. I respect it. Good conversations to be had there, even when I disagree with him.

Which is why I was upset when I heard he was co-writing a book with Loftus. You know, what with Loftus being a complete hack and a charlatan.

I decided to tell Randal exactly what I thought of his team-up with Loftus. The funny thing is, I said that Loftus was a poor writer, a mediocre thinker, utterly unprofessional and rather unimpressive. But that's all I said: honest, direct opinion of his relevant "talents", and nothing more. Stinging stuff, I grant you. Pity it's true.

And you can tell it's true because Loftus himself showed up. And wow, way to prove my points. Screaming demands that I be banned because I'm a troll (I've had long conversations with Randal and others on his site, I think I've been polite, and to his credit Randal defended me - and keep in mind, Randal's got some stakes going on since John's his co-author, which makes his act more impressive than normal), accusing me of telling lies about him. I say, alright John - what lies? Link 'em up, let's see these lies I've been telling, because according to my recollection I've either told the truth, or I've given my frank opinion.

John responded by screaming expletives at me, refusing to back up his allegations, and apparently bolting.

It's over now. I withdrew from the thread, and - unless John makes that 'lies' allegation again - I won't be returning to that particular one. But I think it's emblematic of why I have such a particularly low view of Loftus. It's not that he's an atheist. It's that he's such an obvious hack - a mediocrity in all ways - yet he's constantly billing himself as some kind of juggernaut, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It's like watching a bad dancer. If you see some guy on the dance floor and he's just doing a terrible job of dancing, will you make fun of him? Not unless you're a jerk. I mean, the guy is trying, right? Let him have his moment, it's none of your business. But if you see that same guy later on boasting about how he's such a great dancer, and how these OTHER GUYS (who, as a matter of fact, are vastly better than him) suck so bad... that's when it's time to hit the guy with reality. "No, you're actually quite a terrible dancer. You have no rhythm. Your clothes look ugly. You're as graceful as an alcoholic in a bounce house. So stop talking yourself up."

That's why, when Loftus' name comes up, I'm frank. It's not just because he's an incompetent atheist apologist - that's not special at all. It's his penchant for insulting his betters (even fellow atheists!), his 'clearly trying to mask an inferiority complex' boasting, mixed with his utter lack of talent. There's just something so wrong about a hack acting like he's hot shit that keeps me from being able to stay quiet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reposted from Unequally Yoked

Was skulking around Libresco's site, doing my bit. I got into the Natural Law Theory conversation too late, but I wanted to reproduce part of a post I made there in response to a question by one of the commenters.

Yvain asked the following:
3. If a gay person is not planning to have heterosexual sex and children and procreation anyway, then assuming they practice sufficiently safe sex and aren’t going to get AIDS or anything, what exactly is the harm of him doing his not-children-having while having gay sex as opposed to while having no sex? It’s still the same amount of procreation either way.
Instead of answering this directly, I’m going to try and answer with a video, and lob some followup questions. For those of you a bit put off by explicit sexual talk, uh… you probably should skip the rest of my comment, and certainly the video. For those of you willing, have a look at the video because the rest of my comment is going to rely on it to frame the conversation.
To Yvain, and anyone else who cares to answer (pro- or anti-natural law), I ask a simple question.
Can Doug Thomas’ sexual desires rightly be called disordered?
Would it be morally right for friends and family of Doug Thomas to discourage, if only intellectually, his sexual desires, or counsel him to get over or change them?
I’m doing this for clarification to continue discussing this from a Natural Law perspective, and because I think this is the elephant in the room that both sides in this thread are dancing around. Yvain has asked “What’s the harm?” — to answer that, I have to ask Yvain and others if what Doug Thomas is engaging in can be viewed as harm, in and of itself. Or maybe, “damage”. Is there something wrong with Doug? Can we say Doug is “damaged” based on his activity and his preferences?
See, the Natural Law theorist is going to say, yes, there’s something wrong with Doug. His desires are disordered. His activity is ‘damage’. It’s not that what he’s doing ‘will lead to some damage’ – it IS damage. That’s a major disconnect between the two sides here, since opponents of Natural Law thinking seem to be waiting for NT proponents to start arguing ‘what damage will be caused by such and such sexual activity’, as if the problem with anal sex is that maybe it will lead to disaster later.
So again, I ask: is there something wrong with Doug? And keep in mind, we can get into far, far darker examples (guro, misogynist fantasies, etc) with Doug, while maintaining what I believe are the important core features that make the example relevant (the self-will, the lack of obvious and immediate harm to others, etc.) But I think the video retains the essentials in a relaxed enough way, for now. Plus I’m a John C. Reilly fan.

Headline Dishonesty

Let's examine this headline.

Something funny happened here. Something really, really funny. But you wouldn't notice it by reading the article.

Let's have a good look at the timeline.

We have an "openly lesbian" lawmaker - the first openly lesbian lawmaker - getting elected in Texas. Apparently, before that, she was bisexual.

Now, she's pansexual. The article bills this as "going even further".

You know what I call it? "Yet another lesbian discovered she actually quite likes men at times."

Now that is headline worthy, but Huffington Post doesn't touch that one with a ten foot pole. Hell, they don't even ask her, "So uh... are you sure this time? I mean, your sexual orientation has switched several times now in adulthood. Can we expect this one to last, or..?"

Nope. She just switched sexuality, and got lauded for it. No one bats an eye.

If I were the reporter on duty, I'd have asked her, "So, did Exodus International help you with this change?"

Paul Ryan Contra Rand, Pro... Distributivism?

So says this site, anyway.

Didn't expect to see someone friendly to Distributivism on the ticket this year. Hell, I may actually vote for this pair now.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chik-fil-a Story Blackout Alleged

So the claim goes.

And if it's true, well, it's just one more piece of evidence about what's really changing minds in these debates. Arguments? Rational thought? Please.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Gay Issue

Recently I had the pleasure of having a back and forth discussion with cl over at the extremely well-titled The Warfare Is Mental. I owe him (even though he's released me from the responsibility) a secular argument against gay marriage, but for now, I want to respond to a question that came up.

Why the focus on gay marriage? Hell, why the focus on "homosexuality" whatsoever? There's an abundance of sin in the world, an abundance of hypocrisy, all kinds of worthy topics. Why does this particular issue draw so much attention? Why does it seem like this is one of THE trigger issues for Christians (maybe alongside abortion, which comparatively seems a lot more worthy of attention in terms of gravity)?

Cl speculates, to whatever degree, that bigotry is the cause. He qualifies this, he opposes gay marriage while at the same time being up in the air politically (Correct me, cl, if I misrepresent you here - you said Winteryknight's post flipped you on this, but I don't know how far that runs), he says he understands that a certain amount of backlash is involved, but he still thinks there's some bigotry in play. I imagine this is hard to quantify.

So, this post is dedicated to explaining why the issue fascinates me.

On we go.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oh Dear God This is Awesome

That's it. No other comment. Just... go.

L O freaking L.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Amusing Point About Agnostics

Mike Gene made me think about this, so I can't really claim full inspiration on this one.

Here's the Richard Dawkins 7 Point Theistic/Atheistic Certainty scale:

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
  5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

Dawkins famously ranks himself as a 6.9. Because they're all such free thinkers, the typical Cultist of Gnu ranks themselves at 6.9-7.

Now, here's something I find interesting. Mike Gene, a theist, places himself at 2.5. I'd probably place myself at 2, arguably 1.5. No surprises here.

But where would agnostics be?

Now, I know Dawkins will call himself an agnostic if you corner him. But, by his own scale, he's a de facto atheist. An agnostic could fit comfortably between 3-5, with 4 being as close to the classic agnostic view as one can get. As Mike Gene said, there's less distance between himself and an agnostic than there is between Dawkins - and, I would add, most of the Cultists of Gnu - and an agnostic.

I find this interesting, because one CoG move is to try and claim agnostics - and really, the entirety of the irreligious spectrum - as atheists. But Dawkins' own scale shows how problematic that move is. The CoG is, going by internet self-reporting, about as far away from agnosticism as is possible to get by this scale.

A minor, but amusing thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Problem with Capitalism and Christianity...

...can pretty much be summed up by pointing this out: abortion, pornography, prostitution, gluttony, avarice, and more are all things that, considering the free market in and of itself, are either goods, commodities or things that it may be economically wise to promote.

I'm not saying you can't be a Christian capitalist. I have strong sympathies in that direction. But if you don't recognize the status of those goods/services/perspectives in the raw free market, and if you don't try to figure out what the proper response is to that, there's a good chance you're engaged in some cognitive dissonance.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Media Doesn't Get Religion

You guys probably notice one thing I hammer on repeatedly is language. Context and communication are major interests of mine, particularly as they relate to topics of the Christian faith, and politics generally.

So I want to call attention to a site I'm adding to my blog list: Get Religion. Their main focus is on how the media at large covers religious topics - what language they use, what research they engage in, what they include, what they exclude. If you are at all interested in watching how the media covers religion, and great analysis on what they got wrong or right, check these guys out. It's a fascinating project, and should get vastly more attention than it currently does.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Freethought Blogs As Unintentionally Ironic As You'd Expect

Oh, PZ. Never stop being what you are: a freaking caricature of the worst aspects of militant atheism.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meanwhile in Russia

Anti-Putin Punk Rockers threaten to go on a hunger strike. Because if there's one thing Russian statists are afraid of, it's the prospect of people they dislike dying in their prisons.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How Christians Got Outmaneuvered on Gay Issues

I'll keep it brief.

* They treated "gay" as an identity and a cohesive group, instead of treating the subject as human beings who engaged in particular acts, or had certain proclivities. The moment same-sex attraction and sexual activity was no longer about action and instead was about actual existence - the moment it was no longer about "sodomy" but "gay people" - they set themselves up to be easily portrayed as persecuting a helpless group, rather than disapproving of particular behavior.

* They succumbed to using the language of the people who opposed them, forgetting that language determines sound bites, and sound bites determines how a lot of people think. "Opposing gay rights" is like "opposing women's rights" - even if the right in question is abortion, it sounds bad, and it cements the idea that what they're opposing is, in fact, a right. It also feeds into point one, where again the focus is on the people and not the acts. This is one reason why the pro-life cause has actually had some success - they refused to be "anti-choice", and when the opposition talks about "reproductive rights", the pro-life side talks about "abortion" and "murder in the womb".

* Working off 2, they shied away from explaining what they were actually opposing, possibly because of worries about language - allowing the opposition to be the ones to define what they were opposing. Oppose "homosexuality", and you're painted as (once again) picking on a group of people for having urges they had no choice in having - and yet, that's exactly what Christians allowed themselves to be painted as. Why? Because they treat the actual topic - sex and sexual activity - as off-limits, whether due to politeness or embarrassment. Which, in turn, allows their opposition to state things in the most dressed up ways without complaint. LGBSA groups defend "the right for two people, of any gender, to love each other". They never defend "fucking someone in the ass as sacred and pure". This is, even now, rather tough to defend.

* Working off 3, they blanket-condemned homosexual relationships without pointing out that, if you remove the sexual aspects, there's little to anything left to condemn. This is probably the most controversial part for any traditionalist Christian (and I am one myself) to accept in this post, and is no doubt in need of more clarification than I care to give at this point. But I stand by it. Remove the sexual aspects from a 'gay couple', and what are you left with? Pretty much, very close friends.

There's more to this, but these are the key points which bug the piss out of me. The language in particular, and I grind my teeth whenever I see a conservative Christian saying he "opposes gay rights". I know what he's saying, but he doesn't understand how it sounds, and what effect that has on his argument.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We're turning Japanese

Well, the SCOTUS announcement has come down, much to everyone's amusement. (Well, many people's amusement, anyway.) To me, what was really important about the ruling wasn't even the ruling itself - it was the way it was treated by just about all sides.

I'll make this short. In America, whether something is constitutional is no longer a major concern. Definitely not among the average person, and arguably not among statesmen, representatives or "intellectuals" - on either side of the political fence. The number of people who were concerned with the constitutionality of Obamacare were, and remain, minimal. The only thing that mattered to them is whether they'd get what they want or not. You can see that in the retracted DNC Tweet of - what was it? "TAKE THAT, MOTHERFUCKERS"?

There's talk in the conservative blogosophere that this was the day the Republic ended, since the SCOTUS arguably handed the federal government the ability to make citizens buy whatever products the government wishes, 'for their own and the common good'. But really, the fact is this decision did little more than highlight the current state of the nation - it didn't put us in that state. Pointing out that something is unconstitutional now carries as much weight in conversation as pointing out that it's a sin. For most people the reaction is, "No it's not. I disagree." and consider that decisive. And chances are they don't even necessarily believe your reasoning is wrong - they just don't like it, don't care to hear it, and will quote whoever agrees with them and consider that to settle the matter. If, in the rare instance they'll follow an argument and realize that given the definitions they agreed to they're wrong on the matter (no, it actually IS unconstitutional), that's not a cue for them to consider changing their mind. It's a cue to change their definitions.

I don't bring this up to complain - the world is the way it is. I bring it up because it illustrates the myth of dialogue and cooperation. There's some talk that Roberts voted the way he did to "show that the court is impartial rather than politically divided" (as if this is achieved by voting with one political bloc of another), but I think the very idea that this showed the 'impartiality of the courts' is hilarious. No one believes that - not liberals, not conservatives, not even moderates. The idea of the court as being charged with some duty to be faithful to the Constitution is an open, if pious, myth. It's just another manifestation of state power to be controlled or crushed as necessary.

Now, I think, once upon a time, people (or at least people who mattered) believed these things in great enough numbers the maintain these institutions. I also think that time has passed, just as the idea of a "loyal opposition" is now something you can only say sarcastically when it comes to politics. Out in public, we pretend otherwise - talk about the importance of bipartisan votes and 'reaching across the aisle' - but more and more, this is just turning into a veneer on our language. Culturally, we're turning Japanese - we don't, and in a way can't, publicly say what we mean, because there are certain cultural mores and standards in place. So we use the special terms and phrases, complete with their own honorifics, that on paper says one thing, but which everyone knows says something very different, but which for some reason we can't actually be blunt about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leah Libresco fallout

Anyone enjoying the sight of this as much as me? The Cult of Gnu couldn't be doing a battle job of making themselves look like a gaggle of lunatics if they tried.

All that's needed is for PZ Myers or Dawkins to swoop in with some kind of weird, sexually degrading comment to put her down. You know they're just holding themselves back. Barely.

I think the icing on the cake would have to be if Leah offhandedly mentioned Myers' recent attempt at describing his atheist 'objective morality' as one of the last straws for her. "It was horrible, it was idiotic, and it happens to represent most of the atheist sentiment on this topic."

Ah well. Kudos to Ms Libresco, says this biased Catholic. I'll actually be posting something more about her soon that has nothing to do with her conversion.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What religion is Obama?

Good question, isn't it? Gallup thought so too.

Did you know that many Americans can't name Obama's religion? Tsk, tsk. You Americans. Let's see what silly answers you give.

34% of you say Christian. Good boys and girls - you get a cookie.
11% of you say muslim. Bad boys and girls. Too much Fox News for you. No cookie.
8% of you say non/no religion. Let's... not talk about this right now.

44% of you say you have no idea. Tsk - Christian, ladies and gentlemen, Christian. No cookie.

And how do we know he's a Christian? Gallup to the rescue.

Obama is a Christian and has labeled himself as such as in his writings and interviews, and while living in Chicago he attended the Trinity United Church of Christ. Since moving into the White House, Obama has attended several different Christian churches.

Well. Glad we cleared that up. He said he's a Christian, he attended Church for a bit. Of course, he stopped going regularly once he became president, but he's gone now and then - usually with cameras in tow. Strangely, right around the times that Christianity has been subject to question.

Let me turn off the monotonous sarcasm and say this: there's something wrong with Gallup stating definitely that Obama is a Christian, on the grounds that "Well, he said he is, and also he's gone into a church here and there". Never, not once, is it suggested that maybe a politician would misrepresent his religious beliefs to curry favor. In fact, the very idea that one's religion or stated religion would have an impact on, say... election chances, is utterly glossed over.

It's as simple as, nope, he's Christian, he said he was, nothing to see here, you're all wrong. Saying Obama is Christian is "correct", period, end of story. Does He believe God created the world? Does He believe in the resurrection? Does He adhere to, say... the apostles' creed? Tut tut, what does that have to do with anything? He said he's Christian. End of story.

This is the sort of bias that flies under almost every radar - the little things.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eradicating the Lion's Share of Atheist Morality Arguments a single pass.

"A standard for morality that reduces to "Don't do Bad Thing X, otherwise people will do X to you, and you won't like it." instead reduces further: "Don't get caught doing Bad Thing X, or lacking that, make sure people can't retaliate.""

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pretty Sure This Isn't an Atheist

Checked out this entry on the Discovery Institute's site. It's by James Barham, a non-Christian "Darwin Doubter". He's a good writer, and most of what he says really seems to be more in line with Thomist style thought than Intelligent Design.

However, this stood out to me.

I'm ashamed to report that I remained a militant village-atheist for many years. It was only in my thirties that I began to read seriously in the philosophy of religion, and to understand the complexities of theological questions. Today, I have come to recognize the cogency of the inference from the contingency of the world to a necessary being. But in saying that, I am, at best, affirming "the God of the philosophers," as Pascal famously put it. I still cannot see my way to believing in "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Nevertheless, I find myself in greater personal sympathy with many religious believers than with most atheists.
While I can sympathize with him, I have to say... if he believes in the God of the philosophers, an atheist he is not. Maybe he's miscommunicating himself here - say, thinking that there is a necessary being, a non-material being, but nevertheless not God. But if he's affirming the God of the philosophers, no, he's not an atheist. He's just some strange manner of theist. (Strange meaning compared to most of the population.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yet another case of bad compromise...

Ever notice how the pattern of 'compromise' in cases like these always involves the Church or traditionalist institution giving up some ground, and the liberals gaining some?

I suppose here you can say, "But the diocese stood up, right? They said no officials from the organization could speak, and that the Church's views were to be respected, right?" Yes, that's what they said. But what they said didn't line up with what they did.

The award should not have been presented there. Or better yet, a real compromise should have been reached - the award should have been presented in conjunction with a statement of the full Catholic teaching regarding same-sex attraction, and the difference between accepting people who are different and endorsing the choices they make, or the identities they take on.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gay Anti-Bullying Speaker Promotes Bullying of Christians

Tolerance has never been the goal. As Mark Shea now and then says, LGBSA and like organizations do not want tolerance. What they want is praise - and they want anyone who would ever criticize their acts to be bullied, shamed, shunned, fired from their jobs, or worse. This video shows some of this in action - along with the great hypocrisy of an anti-bullying speaker bullying others and encouraging them to do the same. Naturally, everyone who disagrees with him is automatically considered a bully in his mind.

And this just helps to highlight why "dialogue" is something I don't regard as valuable. People always forget that what makes dialogue possible is shared values - and even then, there has to be enough shared values present to foster mutual respect and understanding. With many people, particularly nowadays, dialogue is not possible. There's not enough common ground.

That doesn't mean conversation or debate isn't possible. It just means that there's no actual dialogue or interaction had, or even desired.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Cult of Gnu Advances

Given a questionable definition of "Advance", anyway. More below.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Men's Organizations of the Past

Want to feel nostalgic sometime, for an era you may not have even been born into? Go and pick up some 30, 40, or 50 year old guidebooks or pamphlets for the all-men organizations of the time. Read through their guidelines, and find yourself grinning at the standards they held. They're not perfect, of course. You will now and then run into guidelines that are racial, etc. But otherwise you'll see standards like "being of fine moral character", "someone his community can rely on" - generally upholding this ideal of being moral, faithful, hard-working, and committed to improving and maintaining life in his community. I think many - hell, maybe most - people would laugh at the very idea nowadays. Must be some of that progress I've heard so much about.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Orthodox Easter!

For any orthodox who may stumble here!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

 Christos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Alert! Derbyshire Being Derbyshire Again!

I won't link the piece, only because I'm feeling pretty lazy right now - and earlier, Takimag was going down under the weight of traffic. Anyone hard at work linking this to the Cult of Gnu? Not that Derb's clearly part of that as far as I know, but hey.

I've read a few responses. I'm waiting for someone to try a point by point takedown on Derb's article, specifying where the racism was, and what he got factually wrong. If no one steps on and does this (at least, no one at the appropriate major/minor media outlets), I'm going to be a little worried.

So far the closest anyone has come in my brief glance over responses was a blog entry over at First Things. Said blogger denounced what they saw as Derb's denial of human exceptionalism (not sure what the grounds were at this moment), and some weird claim that there are no races. They lost me at the last one. Yes, yes, I know some scientist claims to have taken genetic samples from a wide variety of races and argued that in terms of genetic diversity there's more difference between various people living in africa than an african and a non-african in the US. But no, if you say 'there are no races' you either have to qualify your point so ridiculously that it becomes non-applicable in the Derb conversation, or you're bullshitting, or you're delusional. And the fact is, you can argue that all of the differences between supposed 'races' come down to environmental and cultural factors, and you still haven't blunted Derb's attack at all. And that's the point, isn't it?

So I'm waiting to see if anyone steps up and takes a scalpel to his article. If no one does and the response consists entirely of "Derb is a racist, he said racist things, for SHAME", then it's going to start to look like an Emperor's Clothes situation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bullshit from the Media

Altering Zimmerman's 911 call to make him sound racist was an accident!


Totally unintentional. They were shocked - shocked! - when this show went live. It was an honest mistake. Oh, they fired him by the way. But they can't say who it was. And no one there will say who it was.

That would be the act of a journalist, after all.

Edit: I'm being too brief with this. Not doing the subject justice.

Look, it wasn't an accident. No one should believe it was an accident. It has all the makings of a very intentional muckraking act, happening at the absolute height of tension in the case. But, here's the funny thing.

What reporter is going to investigate this case?

Maybe a blogger will try to suss out the name of who was fired, but that's going to be the real extent of the investigation. NBC told everyone 'it was a mistake, this was handled' and... that's that.

Do you think it would end there if a similar 'gaffe' happened with, say... a politician? "Oh, a staffer did something like this. I won't say who. He was fired though. This was all an accident."? Particularly a Republican politician.

There's more that could be said here, but for now, I just want to cap it off with that. "They said it was an accident, it's utterly non-believable, but that's where it will end in all likelihood."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Culture War: Grassroots-level Mentalities

So, apparently some of the more conservative groups in the culture war recently had a letter writing game to Electronic Arts, complaining about the homosexual "romance" options in the Mass Effect series. Not sure if any of you guys are gamers, but Mass Effect is a pretty huge game, so in a way I commend this attention to a normally ignored part of culture from the conservative/Christian end of things. I haven't looked at a single one of their arguments or moves on this subject, so I don't endorse them - I just am glad they're, apparently, paying attention.

Anyway, that's not why I'm writing this. Instead I want to call some attention to the reaction from a pretty popular (and frankly, normally pretty good) game review/news site. European, I believe. Rock Paper Shotgun.

Have a look at the article. Really, have a long, hard look at it. For fun, check the comments too. It's a sight to behold.

I'm not going to take out the scalpel on this one, or go through some line by line, or - God spare me - comment by comment examination of the acts and errors. There's plenty of targets there, front and center being the '1950s' line and equating homosexual acts with being black. But that's not the point here.

The point is this: just look at it. Look at that glorious, mindless fury. That - not to be too ironic about it - hate. The intolerance. But worst of all, the lack of thought behind it all. There is no reasoning there, because reasoning on this topic is terrifying for these people. So, they don't reason. They just act out. They scream, or the internet equivalent of it. They show their OUTRAGE.

Reasoning, however? That's right out.

Look at it, because it's yet more evidence - and this point, this blog may actually have a theme - of a point I'm trying to make. The culture war is not won on arguments exclusively, or even largely, because quite a number of people inoculate themselves against anything within the neighborhood of reasoning - either wholly, or on a topic by topic basis. You will not get through the "HATE HATE HATE HATE" mental shield John Walker and company have put up if you try to discuss this with them. If they sense you disagree with them - certainly if this conversation is public, seen by their friends and family - the conversation will very likely be on two different wavelengths.

There's a way to get through to these people. But rational discourse? Good, reasonable arguments? All I can say is, have a good look at the article. See what you're up against. You're going to have to explore other options.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the Care, Maintenance and Feeding of Sluts

Here's a joke, for all you lovers of humor out there.

Q: What do you call a whore with a PhD in chemistry, an Olympic gold medal for the long-distance jump, and who was just elected as the president of the Unites States of America?
A: A whore.

Don't get it? Well, click to read on.

Bullshit from a Cardinal

Cardinal Schönborn said that he had initially intended to uphold the priest’s decision--but then, he said, “I ask myself in these situations: How did Jesus act? He first saw the human being.” Calling his decision “a decision for human beings,” the cardinal recounted that he invited Stangl and his partner to lunch and understood “why the community had given him the most votes, because he is really impressive.” “This man is at the right place,” the cardinal said of Stangl.
From here. Did the cardinal, at any point, happen to tell him "You know, sodomy is sinful. I sure hope you're not engaging in that."? Was that something Christ was known for? Turning a blind eye to open, defiant sin? Yes, cardinal, Christ would see the human. Why, he may even allow the man to serve on the council - AFTER the man repented of his sin. Christ wouldn't have ignored that sin. And He certainly wouldn't have preened about how holy and pure His actions were, as the cardinal so implied.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Adam Carolla on Media Bias

He makes a powerful point about the Tyler Clementi affair. Basically with a focus on the misreporting, the current legal state of the accused, etc.

Carolla pawns the entire thing off as 'media bias' and the need to sensationalize things, but I think he's missing some more proper targets. Absolutely there was a media bias and muckraking angle with the story, but it was built up in part by the LGBT groups themselves. There was a conscious decision to make Clementi a martyr, and for that to happen, Dharun Ravi had to be a villain. Not just "an asshole", but a full-fledged villain - some angry, hateful homophobe who was trying his best to mentally assault Clementi and drive him to suicide, subconsciously if not consciously.

As Mark Shea now and then suggests, homosexual acts are downright sacramental. It's not enough to tolerate - it has to be praised and fetishized. Carolla talks about how, in the future, if a real tragedy takes place, the misreporting in this case will make people less likely to believe it. That's possibly true. But the real hope is that people get the idea that anything they do or say which can be viewed as disapproval of a homosexual act may in turn ruin their life. What in any other situation would be viewed as the behavior of a jerk - even a momentary jerk - may well be trumped up into full-fledged evidence of monsterdom. Quite a number of people would love for that threat to be perpetually hanging in the air.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

David Albert on Krauss' Latest Book

He's not a fan.

You have to deal with a possible pay wall to get at it, but here's a taste of what Albert serves up, re: Krauss. With emphasis added.

He complains that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe,” and that “now, I am told by religious critics that I cannot refer to empty space as ‘nothing,’ but rather as a ‘quantum vacuum,’ to distinguish it from the philosopher’s or theologian’s idealized ‘nothing,’ ” and he does a good deal of railing about “the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy.” But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right. Who cares what we would or would not have made a peep about a hundred years ago? We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now.

Topped off with Albert mentioning that Krauss' entire approach to the conversation - and really, the Cultists of Gnu's move in its entirety - is petty and wrong-headed. In the New York Times.

It's been a pleasant weekend.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Driving the Point into the Ground

Recently I've been on a communication kick, and my best example has been the Westboro Baptist Church. I've pointed out that, for all their supposed 'anti-gay' rhetoric, their rhetoric usefulness is to those who disagree with their stated beliefs. They are used - and my suspicion is, willingly - as pawns for people who want to associate certain beliefs (rejecting gay marriage, etc) with assholes and idiots.

Here's some more evidence.

An atheist rally, and who do they make sure to invite explicitly? The WBC. While, incidentally, reacting with anger to the presence of actual Christians, who are (mistakenly, in my opinion) there to offer them dialogue and to reason with them.

Why are atheists inviting the WBC to their hatefest?

Because. WBC. Is. Useful. To. Them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

LGBT Tag on Wikipedia - What?

Here's something to ponder.

Why does Wikipedia have a specific "LGBT" tag? Of course, that's "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender". This is the name of a modern political group/movement - some loose alliance of a diverse collection of people. It's weird and inappropriate to apply this tag to freaking Sappho of Greece, as if she were a proud member of what's largely a 20th century socio-political grouping.

Gay men and lesbian women are not identical. Even where their inclinations are concerned, there are different motivating factors, and likely different physiology in play. Bisexuals? Don't get me started - they're the red-headed stepchild of the entire movement, at least next to the "transgendered". And "transgendered", while it has its own problems, is utterly unlike homosexuality or bisexuality as offered - it's a state of physical impairment requiring corrective surgery, and that's only if you don't consider it to be more properly considered a mental impairment.

This tag should not be in use on the wikipedia. But I will say this - once again, you can admire the group for the sheer ferocity they have. These guys will plant a flag anywhere they can. Learn from their group, even while you try to reason with them individually.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More on the cultural aspect

Here's Pat Buchanan discussing the culture war in some aspects. In particular, this part stands out.

And if you can set limits on what journalists write and broadcasters say, you can shape what people think and believe.

What's key is that the limitations can shape people's thoughts and beliefs. Not, necessarily, arguments. Most people who support gay marriage couldn't defend their support intellectually if their life depended on it, beyond droning some bumper-sticker slogans. (Frankly, many people who oppose it are in a similar boat.) More than that, if the cultural winds started to change, I'm willing to bet a good number of those who support it would stop due to that change in climate alone.

Public piety is exactly that - public. For show. Just as you have 'nominal Christians' - Christians in name, even Christians in some practice, but for whom ultimately a kind of watered-down and non-reflective faith at best obtains - you have nominal leftists. People who choose their words carefully, who will say the right things if probed and even vote the right way, but who are ultimately are pretty blase about the whole thing. If in the next five years gay marriage were portrayed in popular culture as a joke or morally offensive, these are the people who would react by changing their minds to reflect the new mood, not by standing their ground and defending their ideals. Because they have fewer than most think, and fewer than even they think.

Which isn't to say that there aren't determined leftists out there, just as there are determined Christians.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Communication Issue

See, I keep trying to figure out how best to express the communication issue, because it's extremely important. The problem is trying to distill communication down to nifty, boxed rules just rarely seems to work. But maybe I can illustrate what I'm talking about better.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Other Side of Rush

As I mentioned in the comments - while I think Rush ultimately apologized over nothing, I do think he made a misstep in joking about this girl being a slut or a prostitute. Not that I think it was wrong for him to call her that on any principle (complaining that you need the government's help to force companies to cover your 1k+ annual contraception bill because you simply get bent over that much makes that fair game), but because of the reaction it will get. You can make the same point without going for language that will cause many people, women in particular, to just tune out and switch into "defend the poor girl" mode.

The problem with this move is some people think there's a kind of nobility to being the loudest, most obnoxious asshole on the block, and that being anything less than maximally insulting is some kind of cowardice. Bill Maher would be a fair example of a guy who will just straight up call someone a cunt with minimal provocation or justification. It's no coincidence he's also a fair example of someone who gets tuned out and shunned by many people because of his behavior. He preaches to a particular choir - he doesn't gain new ground.

The point is that communication matters. It is a skill, not a stance, and saying what you think is the truth in the bluntest way possible is not a substitute for figuring out the best way to present your thoughts - at least, if your goal is to actually turn back cultural forces and make gains. And that does mean, to a certain degree, you have to figure out the way some people are going to react emotionally and instinctively to your words and plan accordingly. With Rush, I think he could have simply made a whole lot of play out of the bare facts of "exactly what are you doing if your contraception bill runs 1k annually?" Ask if she realizes a condom isn't necessary for each individual finger on the guy's hand. Ask if guys are double bagging it when they nail her. Have a blast with it, by all means.

And work in the reasoning too. Maybe, just maybe, this isn't a problem for the government. Point out what someone's annual cigarette bill is, then ask - does this high tab add up to an argument for government subsidized cigarettes? No, it doesn't.

Of course, I know I say this as an anonymous schmuck on the internet. Rush is the one making millions with his radio show, he doesn't really need my advice, thank you. But the advice goes far beyond Rush. The fast way of saying it is that if you prioritize being obnoxious and pissing people off (even with "THE TRUTH!!!!") over figuring out the best way to make your point without sacrificing it, you're part of the problem when it comes to lost ground in a culture war.

Wait, maybe I should have said that more subtly.

Anyway, next time I'll point out yet another pitfall with this kind of thinking: the people who are so concerned with being nice and delicate that they shut up when they should speak, and speak when they should shun.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rush Apologized Over Nothing

I'm not a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. I don't dislike him or anything - I'm just on the apathetic side.

But he shouldn't have apologized over the contraception question. He should have doubled down and said, "She's blowing 1000 a year on contraception in her own words. She wants the government to pay for it. I'd like to know just how many condoms she's running through each year on top of her pill - and since she's demanding the government get involved to pay for it, it's not so clear that her sex life is sacred and private."

His misstep was going for the name-calling. But damn, what an opportunity missed. She's spending 1000/annual on contraception? Ask. Her. Why.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Muslim Beats Up Obnoxious Atheist - So?

Making the rounds lately is the news that an atheist in a Zombie Mohammed costume got smacked around by an upset muslim. There are a variety of reactions to it so far, ranging mostly from "This is a violation of First Amendment rights!" to "This is just showing the further islamicization of American law!"

Allow me to add my own reaction to the mix.




There. Got that out of my system. More below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dawkins Smacked Again - Slavery Links

Hot on the heels of his fumbling Darwin's book, Dawkins gets outed as having slave-owning ancestors.

Not much to be worked up over, normally, though considering this is Dawkins and the sort of crap he regularly stoops to to gain headlines, why not enjoy the fun?

I enjoyed the quip about how maybe Dawkins has a slave-owning gene he inherited. Of course, Dawkins also fired back that he had anglican clergy in his family tree, so perhaps he could be accused of having a genetic predisposition to piety as well?

Which makes me wonder... well, why not? No one would suggest that a gene makes one more likely to be a Christian in particular, but general religiosity - particularly, the traits the Cult of Gnu loves to associate with religiosity? Why not? After all, Dennett suggested that Marxism was either a religion or, at least, a proto-religion. Certainly Cult of Gnu atheism can qualify in principle, if we're going to work with that entire line of reasoning.

Either way, apparently some journalists have decided to soften Dawkins up prior to the Big Atheist Ho-Down next month. It's a change of pace.

Edit: And now Dawkins' little weaselly "I'm an agnostic technically so I can avoid saying I make positive claims" move bites him in the ass, with the big headline being 'WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS ATHEIST SAYS HE CAN'T RULE OUT THAT GOD EXISTS'. Now, as Vox said, Dawkins is being semi-consistent here - this whole '6 out of 7 certainty' schtick isn't new to Dawkins. On the flipside, that doesn't prevent me from getting a grin out of Dawkins flailing around on this. Especially given his past antics and his general approach to these questions.

If you're going to play the soundbite and mockery game, don't cry foul when once in a great while the same game is played on yourself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'll Take "Most Important Books Ever" for 250, Alex!

Hey, do any of you guys know what book that Darwin guy wrote? The popular one, I think he wrote it after he spent years walking his pet beagle. On the Origin of... Origin of...


Can't think of it.

Man, I want to know this, I hear it's important. We just got done celebrating the bastard's everything on Sunday.

Wait, who's that jackass with the hair? Smarmy, british accent, acts like he knows everything? Sorry, that's not narrowing it down, ha ha. Uh... he used to be a biologist, gave that up to write books and... Dawkins! Dawkins, that's the guy. I bet he'd know.

Here, someone asked him this recently. Lemme read the transcript.

Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of The Origin Of Species, I’m sure you could tell me that.
Dawkins: Yes I could.
Fraser: Go on then.
Dawkins: On the Origin of Species…Uh…With, oh, God, On the Origin of Species. There is a sub-title with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Nevermind. Guess it ain't an important book after all.

("On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." actually. Flubbed it, struggled, and then missed the natural selection part? The part Dawkins himself never shuts up about, arch selectionist that he is? And doing so right after he cockily assures the interviewer that of COURSE he'd know the title? The main point of all this is that Dawkins is the perfect representative for the Cult of Gnu.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Is An Atheist's Rights Violated in the Case of Mandatory Prayer?

Let's imagine a ridiculous situation - suddenly, some town somewhere makes it mandatory that each class day begin with a communal prayer. All students must recite this prayer. For fun, let's make it Catholic - the Hail Mary.

Would the protestants have reason to be upset? Sure they would, since (at least for most protestants - maybe there are some exceptions) a prayer asking Mary to pray for us would violate their beliefs.

Muslims? Absolutely, for similar reasons.

Atheists? The instinctual response, I think, is 'absolutely' - along the same lines as the muslim or the protestant. But I don't think this works at all. In fact, at least insofar as we're considering the atheist as an atheist, the answer seems to be 'not at all'. If the atheist is going to have reason to complain, it's not going to be owing to being an atheist.

After all, atheism is pretty thin on belief content. If we play the game where atheism is the mere lack of a belief, then clearly 'lack of a belief' isn't going to motivate one to be offended by or unwilling to partake in a prayer. At worst, it's some kind of busywork.

Let's go with the stronger, and more accurate definition of atheism: belief that God does not exist. Okay, that's sturdier. But it still doesn't help. So they believe God doesn't exist - that isn't enough to make reciting a prayer noxious or offensive. Pointless, perhaps. Or maybe not. It could even be something they enjoy. Maybe they'll find the idea conveyed in the prayer beautiful even if they don't think it's "doing anything" or reaching anyone.

But the atheist, as an atheist, doesn't seem to have reason to complain. Maybe not even legal standing.

Now, that's not to say you couldn't come up with an atheist who would argue, properly, that the prayer is offensive to them. Say, they have a belief that prayers are stupid or... etc, etc, and that belief is being violated. But it seems to me it would actually have to be a lot more developed than merely "I'm an atheist!" or even "I'm a naturalist!" What would be necessary is an appeal to some kind of belief system they subscribe to - or, I suppose, something merely emotional. "I don't like praying, and that's that!"

I don't have some major aim or goal with pointing this out. It's interesting to note the situation, which I think can be parleyed further - an atheist as an atheist wouldn't necessarily have a problem even with a full-blown theocracy. In principle, they may even be in favor of one. Actually, I'd love to see an atheist complainant defending their complaint in a court of law. It's easy to picture the muslim appealing to their religious beliefs, the protestant appealing to his religious beliefs. The atheist? I could just picture the lawyer inquiring as to just what religious beliefs of theirs were being offended. What the violation of conscience was in the case of an atheist compelled to pray. I'm sure they could give one, but seeing it justified in that context would just have some potential for fun.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Obama Waging War on Catholics Specifically & Religion Generally

Here is a link to the US Council of Bishops, where you can fill out a letter urging your senators and congressmen to help stop our idiot president's assault on religious freedom.

This isn't just a Catholic thing. This is a calculated attempt to secularize - not pluralize, but secularize - as much of the country as possible. All religious belief is to be checked and walled up in the name of the secular state, in Obama's world.

Caring for the poor and sick is being redefined as a strictly secular activity.
Running a business is being redefined as a strictly secular activity (see my recent post on Capitalism to see why this is not the case.)
Living a public life is being redefined as a strictly secular activity.

I don't care if you disagree with the Church's stance on abortion or contraception. The rights of believers to live according to their beliefs - to live PUBLIC LIVES and perform public roles according to their beliefs - is long-standing and reasonable. Fight them on this. Sign the petition. Do not let us become a nation where religious belief is actively suppressed more than it already is.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Komen Foundation's Abortion Cancer Makes Comeback

Well, they backed off and are now right on back to giving their funds to Planned Parenthood.

And I'm right on back to not giving them a damn penny. If any good has come of this, it's that the event drew attention to the foundation throwing money PP's way. They won't be throwing mine - I'll avoid those pink ribbons like the plague.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Komen Foundation Cures Itself of Abortion Cancer

Those pink ribbons are freaking everywhere. Let's say that right away. I can't go into the grocery store without seeing a tremendous number of them

I was unaware that the Komen foundation had any ties to the baby choppers, but it seems that that association is now at an end. Good for them. I'll drop some of my extremely meager finances on them to support their decision.

Naturally, this is leading to some amusing freakouts among abortion sanctifiers - complete with full-on attacks against the Komen foundation. Attack one being 'this is all political' (So what if it is?), attack two being 'the foundation's founders are tied to the Republicans anyway'.  Because, I don't know. Apparently the plan is 'if people know that the charity for fighting breast cancer is headed up by Republicans, people will... associate Republicans with fighting breast cancer!'? And of course, you have people talking about how now they're 'going to think twice' before donating to Komen's foundation. Because that's the price of their donation - silent or active endorsement of the Blood Sacrifice.

What's interesting is that it's not like this is a change in the core mission of the foundation. They just are distancing themselves from the chop shops, which they weren't supposed to be about to begin with - this was about breast cancer first and foremost, supposedly. I suppose the followup comment is, "Or was it?" The accusation is that the Komen Foundation's decision is all about politics. But man, the maneuvering from the Planned Parenthood association and their lackeys sends off the vibes that this was all about politics from the start for them. It's not the politics they dislike - it's the wrong politics.

Here's hoping the Komen group stays the course on this one. With effort, it's only going to be the first of many organizations telling PP to take a hike.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jerry Coyne Knows About Horny Fruit Flies & Little Else

Pardon my bluntness lately.

Jerry Coyne had this to say recently regarding necessary beings:

No theologian in the world is going to convince me that it’s impossible for God to fail to exist because he’s a “necessary being.” Science has shown that he’s not “necessary” for anything we know about the universe.
Now, he's being raked over the coals for this one, at least outside of cultist circles. Even atheists cringed a little, since it's a stellar example of Coyne shooting his mouth off and clearly not knowing what he's talking about. The short version of the reply to Coyne, given here by Bill Valicella, focuses on the man not seeming to understand what a 'necessary being' even is, and therefore why turning to science to answer the question is wrongheaded.

As usual, I think Coyne is getting off light. Primarily because this is a prime case of Coyne displaying not only an utter lack of comprehension of theology, philosophy and religion (which doesn't keep him from spouting off on the things as a wannabe authority on a regular basis), but of abusing science. Back to the problem with the scientism charge, which Valicella lobs at Coyne: there's this oft-repeated claim that guys like Coyne just love science and hold it in too high esteem, but their signature move is to says "science shows" things that science doesn't, and in some cases in principle cannot, show. The fact that guys like this won't shut up about how much they love science does not make them lovers of science, anymore than their penchant for screaming about reason doesn't make them either reasonable, or lovers of reason. If it did, you could accuse many Young Earth Creationists of scientism on the grounds that a number of them insist science is on their side, coupled with a praise for (in their views, accurate) science.

But I think the most insulting thing about Coyne's outbursts as of late is the gall. I can appreciate that the man is employed as a scientist as his day job. I'll even go ahead and assume that his particular specialty has some actual useful applications. But the fact is, his knowledge is exceedingly narrow. So sayeth the wikipedia: His concentration is speciation and ecological and evolutionary genetics, particularly as they involve the fruit fly, Drosophila.

Look, I'm a theistic evolutionist myself. I can appreciate the knowledge and the research and blah blah blah. But the fact is, whatever has come of it, Coyne's specialty is in getting fruit flies to have sex and then sussing out what the results mean. Say what you will about the importance of this data, appreciate the knowledge of speciation and banal evolutionary processes that can be gained from it as much as you like. The fact of the matter is, it's a pretty narrow specialty. Does anyone really think Coyne has gleaned particular insight on God's existence or non-existence as a result of keeping data on whether fruit flies will screw each other if they have slightly different colored eyes? Is he in a position to say "science has shown God is/is not necessary" with any more authority than a grand-prize winner on The Price is Right?

This unwarranted respect for opinions of scientists - in either direction, mind you - when it comes to questions far outside of their specialty is something people really have to get over. In fact, instead of asking to give his opinion on controversial philosophical topics, the next question USA Today should let Coyne answer is "What do you do, how much are you paid, is your salary funded by the government, and can your research justify your salary in terms of utility or potential utility? Will it lead to more effective medical treatments or better technology in general?"

To be fair, I'm not sure his answer to that question will be any better than his thoughts on necessary beings.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Woman's Right to Choose

Do you ever find it weird that abortion is phrased that way so often?

"A woman's right to choose."

Alright. Choose what? Why is the word 'abortion' sawed off from the very statement that's so often cited in support of it?

"I support a woman's right to choose!"

I no longer allow this phrase to pass on by. It's pretty fucking insulting, really. Can you imagine cutesy, civil language like this being used by a slaveowner? "I support a plantation owner's right to choose." We'd be disgusted, because we'd know what was going on - a word game. Trying to draw attention away from the actual fact of the matter, as if it could be ignored. As if the "choosing" part was the thing people were against. Some people don't want humans to make choices! How dare they. Oh wait, the choice is 'enslaving another human and using them as cattle'? Oooh, that's more difficult to be enraged about.

Now and then, it's matched by its cousin, "reproductive rights and reproductive health". I saw someone using the name Anne Rice - possibly the gal herself - use this one over at a blog today. More minced words.

No, Anne. What you support is the right for a woman to hire a hitman to go up into her womb, slice her baby into ribbons, and suck out the remains with a vacuum. Or perhaps kill the baby with a chemical solution. A variety of methods, in exchange for money. The fact that the culture which defends this, devotes tremendous time to not even bluntly saying what they do, says a lot about said culture.

Anyway, the point of this post is to discourage giving in to language like this. Talking abortion with someone? Be blunt. Don't allow "A woman's right to choose" to be the words used. Demand to know - choose what? Make sure that just what's being defended is explained and defined in start terms. Keep reminding people. Don't let them slide off into the world of evasion and distraction that comes with vague reference to 'reproductive rights' and 'a woman's right to choose'.

Language is key.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Giving Romney His Due

Since I just knocked Romney, I should mention one thing in his favor.

He's given considerable amounts - around 15% - of his income to charity.

Considering this comes hot on the heels of my arguing that Christian capitalists should be particularly mindful not only of how they spend their own wealth, but how they encourage others to spend theirs, it'd be low of me not to highlight this point in Romney's favor. He's also given millions to his church if I remember right, and while I think the mormons are wrong, I will admire him for being a candidate who apparently really is connected to his faith.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gingrich Versus the Media!

Ahh, Gingrich. I question your scruples, even your record, but I can't question your style.

How can I not have a little more respect for the man after a move like that? Look at the grace he delivered that blow with. It's like he somehow managed to distill several decades of pent up conservative anger at the media and unleash it all, then and there, right when he was supposed to go down in flames.

Not that I think much of him otherwise. There's a vague "well, at least he's not Obama" thing going on. And I admit, his ability to articulate conservative principles is valuable - and part of me would love to see him go against Obama in debate. But at the end of the day I know better than to expect all that much out of him, or any of the Republicans. About the only candidate who seems trustworthy is Ron Paul - he's a lot of things, and consistent happens to be one of them.

Still, I find myself liking Newt more and more as the Republicans continue to tear him down. "He'll never win the general election!" I hear. And you know, that seemed persuasive to me... until I remembered this is what these idiots said about McCain. Remember McCain? 2008? How he was moderate and a friend of the media and was the perfect candidate to go up against Obama? He's got the experience! He's not viewed as extreme!

And. He. Got. Creamed.

I don't see Romney doing all that much better. His credentials are screwy, he's not an articulate speaker, and I don't even know what his positions are anymore - my only hope comes from his apparently being a loyal mormon translating into social conservatism. But that's kind of a reach, isn't it? I'm not a big fan of supporting a guy, hoping his liberal image is all a ****ing canard.

I guess we'll see. But so far, Newt's at least given everyone one hell of an interesting moment on stage, and that's something.