Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Secular Fundamentalists: There is no such thing...

"One of the methods used by the religious to marginalize atheists and our increasing visibility is to accuse us of becoming that which we originally opposed, or in other words, just like them. It's even better if they have the convenience of one experience with these so-called "secular fundamentalists" from which they can draw unfounded conclusions as to the validity of this argument and, ultimately, the character of all those who have no belief in gods, goddesses, or other mythical creatures.
This is the route taken by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the November issue of The American Conservative. His article, entitled "Secular Fundamentalists: Can atheists form a movement around shared disbelief", uses this year's Atheist Alliance International convention as fodder for his clumsy attempt to represent atheism as a new phenomenon comprised of the dogmatically anti-religious."

Kelly O'Connor, Rational Response Squad, 2007-11-15
She goes on to dissect the guy completely. It's a textbook example of antisecular propaganda and slander, and she deals with him pretty nicely! Or maybe not so nice.

The abuse of Muslim women shames us all

"Just look at some current stories. Great Western Trains reports a disproportionately high number of suicides by Asian women. Hannana Siddiqui from a women's support group, Southall Black Sisters, blames 'abusive practices within Asian families'.
Next, we read that women are receiving 'virginity repair' operations on the NHS. One doctor, who pioneered hymen reconstruction operations in the Middle East, says demand in Britain is now insatiable because 'in some cultures, they like to see that the woman will bleed on the wedding night'.
There should be no dilemma; it's not racist to defend Asian women who need help, particularly if one acknowledges the vast majority of Muslim men are, no doubt, respectful of women. The racists are those who say that where genital mutilation, hymen-repair surgery, bullying, suicide and even stoning do occur, they are none of our business - because Asian women are 'different'. They aren't; they are fellow humans, fellow Brits."
Jasper Gerard, The Observer, November 18, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tory drops contentious religious schools issue

"TORONTO - The contentious issue of funding religious schools that many believe cost the Progressive Conservatives the Oct. 10 election was declared "dead as a doornail" Wednesday after party Leader John Tory abandoned the policy and suggested he will stay on to fight the 2011 election.


"When they ultimately indicate as decisively as they did that they reject the point that I put forward . . . then you have to respect their will. This is an issue where people have rendered their verdict. They have said 'No."'
That was what many caucus members wanted to hear after what some felt was a disastrous and poorly run election campaign. Tory now has the "unanimous" support of his caucus going forward to the 2011 election, members said.
"It's dead as a door nail," said party veteran Norm Sterling, adding he is happy with the shift in policy. "The people have spoken and we've listened."

Across Canada, 24. October 2007

The Exploitation of Antony Flew

"Have you heard the shocking news? The world's most notorious atheist has converted!
No, it's not Richard Dawkins.
Or Sam Harris.
Or Christopher Hitchens.
Or Dan Barker.
Or Michael Newdow.
Or Julia Sweeney.
No, this world-famous, notorious atheist convert is the philosopher Antony Flew.


Mark Oppenheimer of the Times went to Reading to interview Flew. Oppenheimer found that he was polite and agreeable, but suffering from serious memory gaps. Flew could not define terms like "abiogenesis" and was unfamiliar with the arguments advanced in the book. He freely admitted, and Varghese confirmed, that Varghese wrote all the original content of the book ["There is a God"]. Flew was simply persuaded to sign his name to it after it had been written for him."
Dayligth Atheism, Nov 6, 2007
I insert a small excerpt of a long piece by Richard Carrier:
"I'm well known for my correspondence with Flew on the matter of his conversion from weak atheism to strong Deism, and anyone who wants the full story about that can read my article on the subject (which has numerous subsequent updates appended to it): Antony Flew Considers God...Sort Of (2004). Now, after reading "Flew's" new book, I was appalled at how badly argued it was, and how obviously it was not written in his style or idiom, but in that of contemporary Christian apologetics (like someone attempting a poor imitation of the style and approach of a Lee Strobel or Gary Habermas). Moreover, from crucial omissions (and distortions of history) it was clear the author could not have been Flew. Unless Flew had gone completely insane."

New study shows right/wrong distinctions in infants

"Babies as young as 6 to 10 months old showed crucial social judging skills before they could talk, according to a study by researchers at Yale University's Infant Cognition Center published in Thursday's journal Nature.
The infants watched a googly eyed wooden toy trying to climb roller-coaster hills and then another googly eyed toy come by and either help it over the mountain or push it backward. They then were presented with the toys to see which they would play with.
Nearly every baby picked the helpful toy over the bad one.
The babies also chose neutral toys -- ones that didn't help or hinder -- over the naughty ones. And the babies chose the helping toys over the neutral ones...
The choice of nice over naughty follows a school of thought that humans have some innate social abilities, not just those learned from their parents.
"We know that they're very, very social beings from very, very early on," Hamlin said.
A study last year out of Germany showed that babies as young as 18 months old overwhelmingly helped out when they could, such as by picking up toys that researchers dropped."

CNN.com, November 21, 2007
Found via The Atheist Experience that also has some comments about the study.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Law of Evolution

"This is the central argument of evolution deniers: Evolution is an unproven "theory." For science-savvy people, this is an incredibly annoying ploy. While it's true that scientists refer to evolution as a theory, in science the word theory means an explanation of how the world works that has stood up to repeated, rigorous testing. It's hardly a term of disparagement.
But for most people, theory means a haphazard guess you've pulled out of your, uh, hat. It's an insult, really, a glib way to dismiss a point of view: "Ah, well, that's just your theory." Scientists use theory in one specific way, the public another — and opponents of evolution have expertly exploited this disconnect.


What does she suggest? For truly solid-gold, well-established science, let's stop using the word theory entirely. Instead, let's revive much more venerable language and refer to such knowledge as "law." As with Newton's law of gravity, people intuitively understand that a law is a rule that holds true and must be obeyed. The word law conveys precisely the same sense of authority with the public as theory does with scientists, but without the linguistic baggage."

Clive Thompson, Wired.com 10.23.07
Can't believe this hasn't been done already.

The latest “ex-gay” ruse: Junk science at its worst

"Focus on the Family’s Melissa Fryrear chirped about the “high . . . percentage of reported change.” But look at the numbers reported in the study:
33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)
29 reported no change
8 reported change in the “undesired direction”
3 were unsure how to describe their experience
25 dropped out of the study.

Add up those numbers: 33 + 29 + 8 + 3 + 25 = 98 (72 men and 26 women). A study claiming such global conclusions was based on a subject pool -- selected from Exodus clients -- of fewer than 100 people. The “high percentage” Ms. Fryrear chirped about is less than the combined percentage of those reporting “no change” and those who were “gayer” than when they entered the project."

Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D., Online Journal, Oct 1, 2007
Talk about gay science! Brought to you by the same morons that gave you "creation science".
He posted lots of nice references, so take a look. I found this one amusing:
“When I appeared with Chambers on the Faith Under Fire TV show, he insisted that millions and millions of people have found freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ. I questioned him, ‘Millions and millions?!? Do you have data to back this up.’ He proceeded to tell me about a five-year study they started with 100 people. I asked, ‘What happened to millions of millions?’”

Peterson Toscano's A Musing, March 02, 2006

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sam harris in the Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Issue

"The most shocking thing I’ve learned is how the criticisms I made of religious moderates in The End of Faith has been born out. Religious moderates shelter religious extremists with their demands that faith itself be placed beyond criticism. They keep us hostage to traditions where books like the Bible and the Quran are treated like magic books, immune from criticism in ways that ordinary books like The Iliad or The Odyssey aren’t. By endorsing this Balkanization of the world into separate religious camps, they make it difficult to acknowledge how much evil is being done in the name of religion.
I receive the most astonishing mail from atheist scientists who claim not to believe in anything themselves, but who are outraged that I dare to criticize other people’s religious faith. They go to the mat in defense of people’s religious superstitions and their right to believe them. What they’re saying is, “I don’t need our religious psychosis, but all these poor stupid people do.” It’s a condescending, politically correct form of elitism."
Sam Harris, Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Issue, November 15. 2007
This can't be repeated often enough.

Sam Harris: Frequently Asked Questions about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust

For security reasons, I cannot give specific information about the arrangements that have been made for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but I can say that the average security costs for people with similar security profiles can be in excess of two million dollars per year. Needless to say, very few writers sell enough books to cover such an extraordinary expense (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not among them).
This might seem like an outrageous sum to spend so that one woman can safely stand at a university lectern and speak about the power of reason and the rights of little girls—and it is an outrageous sum and an outrageous circumstance. It is, of course, galling that a mere advocate of human rights and basic rationality should require special protection in the United States. But this is simply a fact of life in a world where freedom of speech and conscience falls ever more under the shadow of Muslim fanaticism. In my opinion, there is no one making a more heroic effort to change this fact than Ayaan Hirsi Ali."
Samharris.org, 21. November 2007
Please pass this link around!
I'm up to my neck in unread books, but I reckon now is a good time to buy Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Update: Allright, I ordered Infidel the book (as a gift) and as CDs for myself. That will cut down on my reading time and she gets more cash. :)

Artists too frightened to tackle radical Islam

"Britain’s contemporary artists are fĂȘted around the world for their willingness to shock but fear is preventing them from tackling Islamic fundamentalism. [...]
“I’ve censored myself,” [Grayson] Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”
Across Europe there is growing evidence that freedom of expression has been curtailed by fear of religious fundamentalism. Robert Redeker, a French philosophy teacher, is in hiding after calling the Koran a “book of extraordinary violence” in Le Figaro in 2006; Spanish villages near Valencia have abandoned a centuries-old tradition of burning effigies of Muhammad to mark the reconquest of Spain, against the Moors; and an opera house in Berlin banned a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo because it depicted the beheading of Muhammad (as well as Jesus and other spiritual leaders)."
The Times, November 19, 2007