Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ball State President's Statement on Intelligent Design

President Jo Ann Gora declared Intelligent Design is not a science and does not belong in a science classroom.  She said it belongs in social science or humanities courses, but only if it is presented in the context of other 'theories' of similar ilk.

You can read the entire statement at Jerry Coyne's blog or the local newspaper.  Additional information about Hedin's course is vaguely hinted, but apparently he's been "cooperative" in working with the higher-ups on the issue.

The local student paper covered the story more briefly, and quotes FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel.

This is great news, assuming she really means it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Homeschoolers and Quiverfull Families

This week's Washington Post has an article about a young man who has struggled to rectify the deficiencies in his homeschooling education:

Josh Powell wanted to go to school so badly that he pleaded with local officials to let him enroll. He didn’t know exactly what students were learning at Buckingham County High School, in rural central Virginia, but he had the sense that he was missing something fundamental.

By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems.
The local school system wouldn't go against his parents' wishes when he decided he wanted to enroll in public school.  He left his family, and with the help of a friend was able to attend community college.  From there, he enrolled in Georgetown University -- no small feat for a community college transfer student.  (Not to mention, it's a Catholic university, which has to rankle his Pentecostal parenst!)

Now he's trying to help his eleven younger siblings get a real  education.  His parents may have meant well, but they have no credentials for teaching any subject other than farming and homemaking, and teaching all grade levels at once will inevitably result in what happened to this family -- the competing interests of all the children resulted in none of having their needs met.

As you read through the article you realize there's an essential issue being ignored: the rights of the children to have a say in their education (not to mention their right to have an education).  This boy should have been able to enroll in school, and so should his siblings if they wish.

So ... how could that happen?  The article talks about education standards, but I think this is an issue of child neglect.  If a child is enrolled in public school and never shows up, the parent will be investigated by Child Protective Services.  Where is CPS when children are forced into these incompetent family schools?

Both the older and the younger children need protection from these delusional parents.  When there are twelve children in a family, if there are only two actual adults in the home, the oldest kids' needs will be put to the side as they are forced to help out with the younger ones.  And the younger ones who get this help, are they better off?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Depends on the older kid who gets assigned to them.

The article doesn't mention the Quiverfull movement but this family sure smells like a Quiverfull family.  They are a fundmentalist family with an excessive number of children, and they homeschool.  The mother refused to comment and let her husband do the talking for the article.  That's because her role is that of a brood mare, not an actual human being with thoughts and ideas.  The only good side of the quiverfull movement is that it's creating a whole generation of children who will grow up learning how totally insane and destructive their religion is. ... assuming their mother isn't the next Andrea Yates.

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 27 Links

Dogs' memories are as good as human's. Their "declarative memory" is, anyway.

Federal judge blocks unconstitutional North Dakota abortion bill.

Hijab tourism pisses off women who are forced to wear it, or choose to, or whatever.  Sheesh.  How could learning what life is like for other people first-hand be a bad thing?

I can't wait to hear how authentic rednecks feel about this example of gun tourism.

Wanted: Young Creation "Scientists"  Apparently recruiting believers to science is as difficult as getting scientists to be liars for Jesus.

Scientist fights back against climate deniers who accuse him of fudging the data.

Rush Limbaugh is now a right-wing welfare bum.  He & Sean Hannity take payola to talk up conservative organizations.

Mormons are ending door-to-door missionary practice.  ... in part because people answer the door with firearms!

Here's a contest winner for ya:  Smallest Penis in Brooklyn! (photos tastefully edited)

Mind-raped by the Christian right!  An alcoholism program is a lure for a fundy cult.

North Dakota anti-abortion nutters put creepy fetus dolls into candy bags for children at parade!

The North Pole has melted.  Here it is, frame by pitiful frame.  (Snopes is currently trying to verify it)

The Atlantic goes after Food Nazis.  (found via Weird Things)

Video of the Week:  The Young Turks (TYT) ask "Is the Internet Destroying the Mormonism?"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 20 Link Roundup

Zoom from theoretical subatomic particles to the observable universe at this cool site.

Lewis Black tells Rick Perry, Don't Fuck with New York!

The Atheism sub-reddit of Reddit got booted off the main page.

I wonder if Paula Deen has seen this parody of her portrayed by a black woman.  It's hilarious.

The ACLU sent Frankfort, KY a letter threatening a lawsuit if they permitted Gideon Bibles to be distributed in schools.   A religious "freedom" organization counter-lettered.

In Pakistan, 717 people were killed in religious violence last year.  (This doesn't count people killed in drone strikes ordered by Americans who think God blesses the country)  Most were Shia muslims.

The most controversial topics on Wikipedia, i.e. the 'edit wars' are about religion.  

England's supreme court is pondering whether Scientology wedding ceremonies are "religious."

Video of the Week: Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial
After all the coverage of the Zimmerman trial, this video is a welcome change:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Real Reason why Zimmerman Shouldn't have Followed Martin

In all the hubbub over the Zimmerman/Martin case, one fact stands out to me, and I found some confirmation of it in the New York Times:

There is less violent crime when it is raining. (at least fewer murders in New York)

Bad guys are just like the rest of us.  Actually until they do something bad, they are the rest of us!  They don't like rain, cold, or snow.  Just like us, they would rather be inside watching television on a rainy night than walking around outdoors.  Just like us, they'll postpone an errand if the weather sucks.  We just go to the Seven-Eleven for different errands.

Of course, it's possible Trayvon Martin really was scoping out the neighborhood to plan his next burglary... and it's possible that his jones for sweets was so strong he decided to walk to the store in the rain.  If Zimmerman had been rational and well-trained, he'd have known better than to worry about the kid being up to something.  His only assumption would be that the kid doesn't have a car, which may be unusual but it's not criminal.

As for what happened after Zimmerman made his decision to follow Martin, I'm not upset with the jury because juries match up evidence to their jury instructions.  If there's no match, they are required to make a finding of not guilty.  In the United Kingdom, the jury would say "not proved," which I prefer.  In the sequence of events, there would have to be a line crossed from "stupid" to "illegal" for a guilty verdict.  I listened to quite a bit of the trial, and I can understand the jury not being sure beyond a reasonable doubt about that.  If you follow someone and they turn around and punch you in the nose, you had it coming in a moral sense but not necessarily according to the law.  Sometimes the law and our sense of morality don't match up.  (When it comes to Wall Street it's more like all the time)

What I am upset with are irrational reactions to this whole incident and trial.  One of my Facebook friends demanded the rest of us defriend her if we weren't outraged.  My feelings about it aren't really that strong because I'm a grown-up and I understand that sometimes things don't go the way I'd want or expect.  I also don't expect my friends to agree with me 100% of the time.  Heck, I don't agree with me 100% of the time!  I have mixed feelings about this situation as I do with many others.  If I couldn't handle a friend who sometimes disagreed with me I'd have no friends.

My krav maga instructors often reminded us that just because someone doesn't show you a weapon doesn't mean they don't have one.  Martin probably thought that Zimmerman was unarmed.  Zimmerman didn't know whether Martin was armed.  Likewise, the fact that Zimmerman ignored the 911 dispatcher's advice is irrelevant because being a dumbass is not illegal.  Following someone is almost always legal, even though it's creepy.  Following someone because you don't like their look or their race is also not illegal, and it's extremely disturbing.  Being a dumbass will get you a punch in the nose or worse, but it's not illegal.  Another main teaching point of krav maga: don't start a fight, but if someone starts one with you, be sure you are the one who finishes it.  That's not an official stance of KM but that's the basic idea.  Our drills started with someone putting their hands on you or threatening you with a weapon.  Until then, your life is not in danger, and you most likely still have the Nike option.  Neither person took the Nike option in this case.

And a final point I learned in krav maga:  never go to ground if you can help it.  Very very bad things happen once things go to ground and you are much less likely to go home alive.  If you are on the bottom and someone is on top of you, you are in very very deep trouble.  Unlike Zimmerman, I learned a few wrestling moves to get the bad guy off of you.  Even if you know what you're doing, and you know your teacher or classmate won't kill you, and they are not doing something super crazy, it's very very difficult to do but it's possible.

In the law, if you start a fight and you end the fight, you're guilty.  If someone else starts the fight and you end the fight, you're not guilty because of self-defense.  If you start a fight and you're a bad fighter, then you shoot the other person, you're a dumbass and a murderer.  If you piss someone off and they start the fight but then you shoot them, you're a dumbass but not guilty.  The jury's decision was about the end of the chain of events, not the beginning.  If I had a gun and I'd gotten myself into a fight that went to ground and the other person was a better fighter, I'd use that gun even if it meant going to prison.  Once the situation went bad for Zimmerman, he did what anybody, black or white, who had a gun would do.

So like a plane crash, the killing of Trayvon Martin was due to multiple mistakes, miscalculations, and misinformation.  It should never have happened, not because he was unarmed, but because it was raining.  The first tragic mistake was of not crediting bad guys for having the good sense to get out of the rain.  Zimmerman shouldn't have suspected him; he should have offered him a ride or at least asked him if he was okay.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pope Francis' Facebook Share

I hope this is from a fake account.  I don't really like the pope but he's surrounded by some of the best art in history and this is what he shares?  Someone please tell me he has better taste than this!

...and what's with the flaming heart?  I don't get that symbolism at all.  I can understand a bleeding heart bleeding blood that turns to water for wildlife but a flaming fauxhawk?  WTF?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Creation "Evidence" Expo next weekend

Oh Indiana, you do not disappoint.  I tried to explain to my friends and family just how hick this place is but it just defies description sometimes.

Next weekend the local Baptist church that happens to run a Christian school (the area's main one) is hosting a Creation Evidence Expo.  Evidence?  Really?  And this isn't their first one.  I'm starting to get an understanding of the ignorant responses in the local paper to the Ball State ID course.

The description says it all:  "True science supports the biblical account of Creation. Returning to GBC is Dr. Jay Wile who holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Rochester. He’ll detail the evidence, give his testimony of salvation, and relate his evolution-to-Creation journey."
They've invited a whackjob "physicist" and supposedly his "salvation" is relevant to the discussion of creationism.  This guest is Jay Wile, a YEC who writes and self-publishes creationist textbooks.  What the blurb doesn't say is that he doesn't have a university job, or a real job in science at all.  His entire career is devoted to crackpot pseudoscience.   On his site, he unabashedly posts his pathetic c.v.   His only teaching experience at the university level was... guess where?  Ball State University.  Yes, children, it does appear that Ball State is indeed the place to go if you have a Ph.D. and no respect for actual science.  On the other hand, he only lasted three years, then he went on to greener pastures as a computer techie.  Smells like tenure denial to me.

There is a pamphlet/flyer titled 10 questions to ask your biology teacher.  I'd like to riff on it and put out a list of 10 Questions to Ask Your Creationism teacher, then pass it out to attendees at this seminar lie-fest.


p.s. He weighed in on the Hedin case, too, claiming to have taught "many years" at Ball State.  uhhh no, he taught for three years.  Three are not many.

July 15 Links

If you try to claim a religious exemption from paying taxes, it won't work.

It's true!  If you pee on the 3rd rail you will be electrocuted.  I heard this when I lived in New York but I always thought it was an urban legend.  Nope, it's true!  (Mythbusters was wrong on this one)

Where can you get good science news nowadays?  The Rolling Stone, of course.  They report on the City of Miami's impending inundation.

Planned Noah's Ark full-sized replica short on cash.   Awwwww  Makes you wonder how Noah was able to afford it.

Actress Leah Remini is leaving the "Church" of Scientology.  It doesn't sound like they've made things easy for her.

ID proponent Gonzalez promises not to infuse his astronomy courses with intelligent design.

Video of the week: Dusty Smith's "Black Christians = Uncle Toms" video took a lot of heat around youtube, Facebook, and wherever people can vent. This sentiment has been the source of some conversions to Islam, so I don't know why this video was such a big deal. Decide for yourself:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pathways to Atheism

Atheists are a diverse bunch.  We really only agree on one thing, which is agreement on a non-thing.  In every other way we won't necessarily agree.  Likewise, we come to our non-position from many directions.  Social pressure to believe in the prevailing religion is so strong that for most of us deconversion is a gradual and personal process.

Family ties:  some of us had the good fortune to grow up in freethinking homes.  As religion is ubiquitous in society (currently), this is the best way, because children will have the option to convert if they want but won't feel they'll go to hell if they do.

Skepticism:  this was my pathway.  After developing critical thinking towards New Age nonsense, I realized the religion of my childhood was no more believable than homeopathy or alien abduction stories.  Some people are just naturally more skeptical, and I think I was as a child but social pressure to believe was so intense I went along with it.  I just didn't think too hard about the blood of Christ or the hallucinations in the Bible.

Reading the Bible:  The more you know the Bible and the more you know about it, the more you see its problems.  This is why churches have "Bible Study" and selected brief readings during services: if you read it without "guidance" you would reject it.  This is also why so many pastors have become atheists.

Seeking:  Before I discovered skeptical thinking, I was a "seeker."  I investigated the world's religions, and read some of their holy books.  The only one that appealed to me was the Tao Te Ching, which is not very supernatural or personal.  I had also taken two Anthropology courses in college, which put the culture I live in into perspective. I've known others who have looked into other religions, too.  I suppose some seekers settle on one religion as being "true" but the conclusion I came to is that they're all based on folk tales.

Meeting an atheist:  If you've never known an open atheist, it may not even seem like a viable option for you.  Even worse, churches teach falsehoods about atheists (aside from the Hell-threat).  At the time I fully embraced non-embracing of religion, I had only met two "out" atheists in my entire life, and I was about 28 at the time!  I'd known a few wishy-washy deists and some befuddled agnostics, but only two people had told me they just didn't believe in any god.  Meeting one atheist could be all it takes to self-identify when you realize your disbelief is not so unique.

Science (?):  I wonder how many scientists become atheists after starting their careers.  Richard Dawkins deconverted long before he chose his career path.  I'm not familiar with enough others to know if this is common.  It would certainly be difficult to reconcile astronomy or evolution with the stories of the Bible, but there are many scientists who are believers.  The power of rationalization keeps many believers in the pews.

Here are some ways we typically don't become atheists:

Anger toward God:  If a Christian's prayers are not answered, or something unexpected happens, they may feel some anger toward God, but self-blame is so hard-wired into the theology that the typical Christian turns that anger towards themselves.  They will decide they didn't pray for the right things, or that they are too ignorant to know what's best.  They soothe themselves with trite consolations:  "In the end, it's God's will."  "He needed another angel in Heaven."  "One door closes, and then another opens."  If you don't believe in any god, it's impossible to become angry with one.

Bitterness:  We aren't bitter about life, though we are sometimes bitter and angry about being fooled by religion.  People who have been in cults may feel they were robbed of life experiences during that time, and who could blame them?  But that won't turn someone against God.  People who are angry with one religion or bitter about the way they were treated by their church will find another religion, denomination, or parish if they feel put-out but still believe.

Disillusionment with church leaders:   The Catholic church's pedophilia problem is just one of many problems endemic to a group of people with virtually unlimited power over another group of people.  Mega-church leaders and televangelists have been caught with their pants down in sex scandals, too.  I have known a lot of Christians who are forgiving toward these "fallen" leaders, or at least rationalize their behavior as being individual weaknesses rather than an indictment of belief.  One Catholic friend converted to the Greek Orthodox church after the pedophilia charges came out.  Hypocrisy is something the believer can live with.  The only thing they can't live without is belief in a deity.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Defacing the Gideon Bible

I was on vacation last week, and during some spare time I decided to deface the motel room's Gideon Bible.  I have done this a few times, but this time I consulted The Evil Bible for passages about genocide and slavery.  If I were a better artist, I'd have added some cartoons.

July 6 Links

Ball State hires Guillermo Gonzalez, notorious Intelligent Design "scientist."  Great going, Ball state!

TedMed talk:  could sugar cause insulin-resistance, not obesity?  A scientists is betting his career on a question that challenges conventional medical wisdom.  I love scientists!

Another TedMed talk:  Are zombie doctors taking over America?  Rather utopian goals to fix primary care, but worth a watch.

Cult leader gets life for killing boy he thought was gay & woman who couldn't conceive.

Got rain? This may be why. Jesus & Jesus do the Rain Dance: