Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes I get showed up . . . religious folks stick to their guns

One of the flip things I say about the relative levels of real faith attributed even by believers between science and religion goes thus: "When you get sick, you might pray, but you go to a doctor for the cure." Well, apparently, not everyone does. This family let their little girl die because rather than taking her to the doctor the decided to let her wallow for about a month in agony as diabetic ketoacidosis with such fun symptoms as stomach pain, muscle wasting and air hunger. Instead of going to the hospital or contacting the family doctor, they instead decided to pray and when that didn't work they prayed a little more. And their their daughter died.

If they'd taken to the hospital? Not a problem. Diabetic ketoacidosis responds very well to treatment and almost all patients make a full recovery.

Which does mean I'm wrong now and then. At least some people will just pray to Jesus instead of see a doctor . . . but what will happen is treatable conditions became fatal. They apparently still have faith that their god will raise their daughter from the dead.

What I find most fascinating is that the case has merely been referred to the DA's office. In any rational society, when parents pray while their child dies a slow wasting death would obviously be a sign of the most grotesque form of child abuse. They have other children, too. I mean, if an atheist did nothing while their child wasted away from this terrible illness when all they had to do was take the kid down to the hospital - I mean, this was not a quick death, either, but a slow, lingering one where the kid's last days would have been agonizing, the whole sweaty sheets gasping and clutching at the bed business, for days - I don't imagine for a moment that anyone would doubt it's child abuse and that the parents would not only be arrested but their other children taken away from them. But religious folks? Hey, they can murder their little girl, but because they believe in magic sky fairies there's a good chance they'll get off scot-free. Because religious child abuse is the norm in America, and much of the rest of the world. Religions are allowed to consistently abuse their children, because they they are treated differently than any other organization on earth. They're special. And because of that murderers are now walking free, immediately threatening at least two other children.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hypocrisy with intelligent design proponents?! NO WAY, right? RIGHT? There's no way they'd lie . . .

For several months I've known that Ben Stein, a hack of an actor, has decided to get into the intelligent design craze by making a movie, Expelled, which purports that biology is keeping intelligent design out of biology. Well, duh. And astrology is kept out of astrophysics but why is it no one has a problem with that? ID isn't science, so, duh, ID proponents are being kept out of science. Part of what science does, when it works, is separate the crazy nut jobs from scientists. When ID does something scientific, folks will change their mind. I mean, OK, you people think that some designer introduced genetic changes into terrestial life - prove how, when and/or where and then you'll be taken seriously. Until they, just continuing to assert that a designer exists is going to be thought of as religious whitewashing of evolution, something that's been going on for a hundred and fifty years! So, duh, intelligent design is being kept out of science by scientists.

Beyond the inane concept of the movie, itself, is the tricks they thought they had to pull to get scientists to talk to them. On his blog, PZ Myers explains how they tricked him. One of the producers of Expelled contacted him under false pretenses, asking to do an interview for a totally different movie.

I just love it that people think that intelligent design isn't a total chimera invented by religious people to give specious credibility to their corrupt and decadent archaic worldview.

But wait, there's more! This NY Times article says that several scientists were contacted under exactly the same false pretenses, including Richard Dawkins and Eugenie Scott.

According to the NYT interview, Ben Stein said that there were no false pretenses and "no one asked what the movie was about." Of course they didn't! They'd already been told what the movie was about, it's just that they were lied to.

I love this stuff. Just the pure chutzpah of it. The absolute contempt not only for the truth, but the subtext that the truth just isn't important. I mean, if I was Ben Stein and I'd just learned that my producers had lied in order to get people to agree to be interviewed for this movie, I'd be sorry. I'd be mortified. Instead, he's, like, "Oh, they never asked." Fuck you. They didn't ask because your producer told them. What a mealy mouthed little twerp!

But, hey, I guess when you so clearly have nothing resembling the facts on your side you've got to do something else. Just the level of contempt for the truth and trickery is astonishing to me, even after all these years of it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Attack on the Idea of Religious Diversity

Given the link between belief and action, it is clear that we can no more tolerate a diversity of religious beliefs than a diversity of beliefs about epidemiology and basic hygiene. There are still a number of cultures in which the germ theory of disease has yet to put in an appearance, where people suffer from a debilitating ignorance on most matters relevant to their physical health. Do we “tolerate” these beliefs? Not if they put our own health in jeopardy.

Even apparently innocuous beliefs, when unjustified, can lead to intolerable consequences. Many Muslims, for instance, are convinced that God takes an active interest in women’s clothing. While it may seem harmless enough, the amount of suffering that this incredible idea has caused is astonishing. The rioting in Nigeria over the 2002 Miss World Pageant claimed over two hundred lives; innocent men and women were butchered with machetes or burned alive simply to keep that troubled place free of women in bikinis. Earlier in the year, the religious police in Mecca prevented paramedics and firefighters from rescuing scores of teenage girls trapped in a burning building. Why? Because the girls were not wearing the traditional head covering that Koranic law requires. Fourteen girls died in the fire; fifty were injured. Should the Muslims really be free to believe that the Creator of the universe is concerned about hemlines?

Sam Harris
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

I think this is a very interesting point. ;)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Democracy in the Democratic Party?

I don't want to become yet another person who does nothing but chatter on on their blog about politics. How many people have to give their disorganized, grabasitic opinions about politics on the Internet? Geeze, I know it's the right of every American to bitch and moan about our government . . . but the madness must end somewhere. Well, apparently, not with me.

Because, well, I just found out that the Democratic Party doesn't believe that all Americans should get to vote in their primaries. What happened, it appears, is Michigan and Florida decided to move up their primaries and the Democratic Party didn't like that - so they stripped the states of their primary candidates!

Even barring such issues as the Democratic Party's superdelegates . . . how can anyone think that this "election" is democratic (in the small-d sense) when they are discluding almost ten percent of the US population. How can this Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama thing have even a shred of legitimacy when ten percent of the US population is barred from voting in it! And how can this be even vaguely legal?

And the controversy right now, how I learned about this, isn't that people are outraged that tens of millions of Americans have been disenfranchised - but that there's a furor over whether it's right for those votes to be counted (or re-cast, even) because of the closeness of the Clinton-Obama struggle! I have found no articles (maybe they exist - if you know where they do, send them to me!) condemning the anti-democratic nature of excluding 10% of the American population from part of the process whereby voters determine who the next President will be. That ten percent of voters are denied their franchise seems irrelevant to newspapers.

I believe this is allowed to happen because people do not see the political parties as being, well, part of the government. I think much damage is done to the American political process because, while obviously being part of the government, they claim to be separate from it. Even now, many people reading this are going, "Well, they aren't part of the government! Political parties aren't part of the government."

I think that this is a naive position to hold. You have two groups to which virtually every politician in America are beholden. Each of these groups receives between tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars from the US government every year (depending on what kind of elections are taking place). The government uses its own polling facilities to take their votes. How, after all of this, after the massive and direct influence they have over virtually every politician in America, the amount of money that they take in from the public treasury, and way that their entire apparatus is supported by public infrastructure, can they not be considered part of the government? But I think that's what people think - that the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of people by the Democratic Party in Florida and Michigan is some sort of procedural thing, a simple party matter. I think it is a sign of the extent to which Americans don't give a damn about meaningful democracy.

So, well, I'll say it because it's true. Given the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan, I do not believe any person who takes democracy seriously can believe that the Democratic presidential primaries have even a shred of legitimacy. I think that there should be a national - no, international outcry against the theft of millions of American's right to vote. I think it is astonishing, and a testament to the weakness of American democratic institutions, that this is allowed to happen.

Tony Blair, Professions of Faith and JP Morgan

Tony Blair is to teach "faith" at Yale University. During the time when he was the prime minister of one of the world's most powerful countries, he mostly kept a lit on his religious faith - but, now? Well, he's getting all sorts of appointments. He is, apparently, starting something called the "Faith Foundation". What is it? Who knows. The only Faith Foundation I could find was started six or seven years ago to help the "abused and neglected". Tony might want to know that the name is taken.

I, myself, am deeply creeped out that for the long years of his ministership of Great Britian he hid his faith. I mean, I . . . am pretty strongly of the opinion that's the sort of thing that people need to know. I know it was an open secret, but the fact he intentionally hid his religious faith while starting wars against primarily Muslim nations, as well as Britain's internal legislation that affected the millions of non-Chrisitans in Britain, is deeply disturbing. (It also, of course, is the personal link between Blair and Bush.)

But that's not the reason I'm making this post. This is. In the BBC article, there is this lovely quote, "Mr Blair's other appointments have included as a Middle East envoy and an adviser to investment bank JP Morgan."

A religious teaching job at Yale, starting a religious foundation, okay, these are of a piece. Envoy to the Middle East . . . well, now we're getting into a little sketchy territory. I mean, an envoy to a place where many of them regard him as a war criminal? It seems a bit foolish to me, but not incompatible with the other things, right? But then, y'know, working at a huge investment bank.

I mean, just . . . just . . . wow. How do these guys do it? This verbal devotion to religious faith and then working for JP fucking Morgan? "Oh, I devote my life to Jesus Christ . . . and reposssing people's houses." Which, due to the housing crash here in America, is precisely what JP Morgan is doing at an unprecedented rate.

It absolutely boggles my mind how they can regard themselves as Christians and how other Christians can regard them as Christians when their acts are so utterly at variance with their professed faith.