Your Sunday reading, the 52nd Carnival of the Godless, is posted at Skeptic Rant.
Rodney Dangerfield said “I don’t get no respect”. Religions demand respect and they usually get it, but they don’t deserve it.
It is time to reverse the prevailing notion that religious commitment is intrinsically deserving of respect, and that it should be handled with kid gloves and protected by custom and in some cases law against criticism and ridicule.
It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. [Snip].
On the contrary: to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason - to believe something by faith - is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so.
It is time to demand of believers that they take their personal choices and preferences in these non-rational and too often dangerous matters into the private sphere, like their sexual proclivities. Everyone is free to believe what they want, providing they do not bother (or coerce, or kill) others; but no-one is entitled to claim privileges merely on the grounds that they are votaries of one or another of the world's many religions.
And as this last point implies, it is time to demand and apply a right for the rest of us to non-interference by religious persons and organisations - a right to be free of proselytisation and the efforts of self-selected minority groups to impose their own choice of morality and practice on those who do not share their outlook.
Read the comments to the Guardian article – overwhelmingly favorable. Richard Dawkins seems to have started something.
There was a great letter in today’s Economist magazine (subscription needed). Replying to the lame argument that Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union were atheist states, and so atheism has as much bad stuff to answer for as religion, someone called Mark Eaton from Vancouver replied:
The Marqués de Tamarón used an old and easily refuted argument in his attempt to defend religious faith against atheism by pointing to the godless regimes of communism and National Socialism (Letters, October 7th). He should have considered that Stalin's regime (like that of China under Mao) was based on a personality cult, and that Nazism was underpinned by a warped Nordic mythology and ideology centred on an Aryan master race. These cultish, quasi-religious qualities have little in common with atheism. Atheists believe that rationality and critical thinking serve humanity better than blind faith and religious dogma. The regimes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao did not come into being in order to defend atheism. And the horrors of communism and Nazism occurred not because these societies applied too much reason and critical thinking, rather because they did not apply enough.
No really. It’s going to happen for 17 hours starting approximately 10:17 am on October 17th (that’s today):
We have a rare Cosmic event occurring on October 17th and 18th that will give us a jump-start in manifesting the things we would like to cocreate in our own lives and on this planet. There is going to be an ultraviolet pulse beam from higher dimensions than we have previously been able to experience crossing the path of Earth.
We will be held in the embrace of this highly charged ultraviolet beam of Light for approximately 17 hours. The energy emanating from this beam resonates with Humanity's 5th-Dimensional Solar Heart Chakras.
The Beings of Light are revealing that during this 17-hour period the ultraviolet pulse beam will have the effect of amplifying our thoughts and emotions ONE MILLIONFOLD. This will be the case regardless of what our thoughts and emotions are expressing. Needless to say, it is imperative for all of us to be Peace Commanding Presences during this auspicious time.
Not sure I’ve got 17 hours to spare to sit around and absorb an ultraviolet pulse beam – even one from a higher dimension. Still, if it’ll amplify my thoughts one millionfold (excuse me, ONE MILLIONFOLD), it might be worth a try. I guess half an hour would increase my thoughts 29,000 fold – still significant. Anyway, I thought I should give you all a heads-up. You might want to consider extra sunscreen before you leave home.
Hey, if any Aussies are reading this – it’s already happened for you. Perhaps you could post a comment to let us know what to expect. It should take you a millionth of the time it normally takes.
Update Oct 21, 2006
Funny, I didn’t notice anything. Last Tuesday I emailed Patricia Diane Cota-Robles, the author of the “cosmic event” prediction:
To: Patricia Diane Cota-Robles:
It is now just after 5:10 p.m. on October 17th, seven hours into the ultraviolet pulse beam, and after its "peak time", according to your website. However, I have not noticed any amplification of my thoughts and emotions as I was expecting, nor have any of my friends. Can you suggest why this would be? Did I get the date or time wrong?
Yours in confusion and disappointment,
No reply. And the prediction of this supposed “cosmic event” is still up on the website. Clearly correcting false predictions is not taking place a million times faster than normal. I’ll let you know if she replies, although there’s nothing to stop anyone else from clicking the email link and asking their own questions.
Update November 11, 2006
The website has been updated to show “what should we expect now?”, which starts:
Last week the Earth was bathed with a colossal influx of 5th-Dimensional Ultraviolet Light. This shaft of Light interpenetrated every electron of precious Life energy for approximately 17 hours.
That’s right – she states this ultraviolet pulse beam from higher dimensions, that no one noticed, really happened. Talk about delusional. The rest is essentially 1800 words of drivel of the “if you felt nothing it was your fault” and or “if you felt nothing you will in the future” kind. You can read it if you want, but I really don’t recommend it.
I realize “Chopra Woo” is redundant. Still, Orac today coined the phrase Choprawoo, and I think this meme needs spreading.
He’s at it again. In January I wrote “It seems Deepak Chopra has an endless supply of meaningless drivel to churn out when anyone gives him a forum”. He proved me right again a week ago with some drivel about genes that PZ took to pieces. This week he continues with more things about genes he doesn’t understand. Fortunately Orac took this one apart for us.
October 17, 2006 – Edited to add:
More Choprawoo – today the ignorant one posted part three of his drivel about genes. Orac fisked that load too.
On Saturday, Orac wrote The Discovery Institute [DI] drops a bomb of an argument. Apparently the DI’s Casey Luskin thinks the seismologists working to determine if North Korea really did set off a nuclear device are making a design inference just like IDists do:
But difficulties in detecting intelligent causation in seismic energy don't prevent scientists from trying to detect, or reject design. When they do verify a nuclear explosion, they have made a design inference.
It’s the same tired old argument that ID proponents have applied to archeology, SETI and other sciences. For example, archeologists routinely find artifacts that they pronounce as being designed – arrowheads and other tools, for example. Likewise, SETI scientists are scanning the skies for signals that they hope to determine come from extra-terrestrial intelligence. The argument goes that if archeology, SETI etc are science, then ID must also be science, because they’re all doing the same thing – identifying design.
Superficially this may seem compelling, but when you examine what these scientists are doing compared with what IDists do, you realize the DI is wrong – the way scientists go about things is entirely different. Below I identify three basic differences.
The first obvious difference is that the seismologists checking on North Korea know something about the designers - they know they are human. Consequently they also know the designers' motive was to create a nuclear device. Knowing what the designers were trying to do means the seismologists knew what to look for.
The same argument applies to archeologists - they are looking for evidence of human design. When they find remains of an ancient human encampment, knowing something about how humans behave they can determine that a flint is most likely a tool. They use their knowledge of the designers, and the context of where they found the articles, to determine what the objects are.
IDists don't have an equivalent knowledge about their designer or its motives to be able to make a similar determination. The ID process is actually the exact reverse of the scientific one – IDists first claim to determine design, and from this supposed determination they infer something about the designer. As William Dembski writes (all quotes with my bold):
…intelligent design does not presume to identify the purposes of a designer. Intelligent design focuses not on the designer’s purposes (the thing signified) but on the artifacts resulting from a designer’s purposes (the sign). What a designer intends or purposes is, to be sure, an interesting question, and one may be able to infer something about a designer’s purposes from the designed objects that a designer produces. Nevertheless, the purposes of a designer lie outside the scope of intelligent design. As a scientific research program, intelligent design investigates the effects of intelligence and not intelligence as such.
Archeologists and the seismologists referred to above are looking for evidence of human design, based on their knowledge of what those humans would be trying to do. IDists claim to identify unspecified non-human design where they see something they just think is designed. The difference between science and ID couldn’t be clearer.
Of course, that explanation doesn’t apply to SETI – they are not looking for humans. But even so, it’s not so different – SETI are still looking for intelligence that lives in the same universe and obeys the same laws of physics that we do. That means we do know something about the putative ET and can make assumptions and predictions about how they would try to communicate with us. For example, we know that:
… the microwave band contains a naturally-produced emission line, a narrow-band "broadcast", at 1,420 MHz due to interstellar hydrogen. Every radio astronomer (including extraterrestrial ones) will know about this hydrogen emission. It may serve as a universal "marker" on the radio dial. Consequently, it makes sense to use nearby frequencies for interstellar "hailing" signals.
SETI use these assumptions to predict where to look for ET signals. IDists have no such assumption to guide their search.
Secondly, unlike ID which looks for complexity, SETI is looking for artificiality:
In fact, the signals actually sought by today’s SETI searches are not complex, as the ID advocates assume. [,,,] A SETI radio signal of the type we could actually find would be a persistent, narrow-band whistle. Such a simple phenomenon appears to lack just about any degree of structure, although if it originates on a planet, we should see periodic Doppler effects as the world bearing the transmitter rotates and orbits.
… the credibility of the evidence is not predicated on its complexity. If SETI were to announce that we’re not alone because it had detected a signal, it would be on the basis of artificiality. An endless, sinusoidal signal – adead simple tone – is not complex; it’s artificial. Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes. In addition, and unlike other radio emissions produced by the cosmos, such a signal is devoid of the appendages and inefficiencies nature always seems to add – for example, DNA’s junk and redundancy.
IDists are looking for complexity, because they think complexity must have been designed. SETI are looking for an artificial signal – a simple tone that does not appear in nature – because they know what an artificial signal looks like.
The ultimate reason why ID is not science, is what they do with the information. With ID, determining design is the whole purpose of the endeavor. Intelligent Design is inferred. Check. Done. Finished. Determining design is the be-all and end-all of the operation. Of course, if the (nudge nudge wink wink) “designer” is supernatural, then there’s nothing further you could learn anyway, right?
With science, determining design is the beginning of the process. If SETI do make contact, all efforts would immediately be diverted to learning something about the intelligence, finding where it came from, learning something about the source planet, translating the message, ultimately making contact if possible.
When archeologists find tools left by early man, that is the start of the study. The purpose is then to learn more about early humans – where they lived, how they fed themselves, what tools they used, how long they lived etc.
And with the seismologists checking out North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, a test positive for radiation resulted in specific actions – sanctions. And, no doubt, more monitoring.
With all these real sciences, determining intelligent design is the start of the process – it’s the confirmation there is more to study. The difference between this and ID, where determination of design is the end of the process, couldn’t be starker. The totally empty, vacuous and useless nature of ID, compared with the endeavors of science, is what is most striking about this comparison with science that the IDists want to make
A lawyer in Germany is offering to help people abducted by aliens to get government compensation. Of course, the US is the world headquarters for litigation, but perhaps American lawyers know they won’t get anything out of the US government. In Germany the state is more generous in paying out money to victims:
"These people could appeal for therapies or cures," he said.
Lorek, 41, is pinning his hopes for success on a German law which grants kidnap victims the right to state compensation.
When the lawyer was asked if he was worried people would laugh at him for such a ridiculous stunt, he apparently said:
"Nobody has laughed about it up until now."
Well, consider yourself laughed at now.
If you had read my review of Susan Clancy’s work or my report of Clancy’s interview, you would know that most alien abductions are likely the results of sleep paralysis, rather than an actual alien abduction. Aha – I think I see how US lawyers could get in on this. The makers of Ambien should expect a class action lawsuit any day now.
From Hit and Run I learned of the cartoon on the right – an entry in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust cartoon contest. This was the contest to see who could produce a cartoon questioning the Holocaust (actually, most of them were just straight anti-Semitic), that was supposed to “get back” at the west for the Muhammad cartoons. (Remember the rioting in the streets demanding these “holocaust” cartoons be removed? Me neither.) Anyway, the above cartoon didn’t make the finals, but it wasn’t sent back either.
Funny thing – if you invert the cartoon (below), you get an image of Ahmadinejad. I await the protests, demands for an apology, demands to remove the cartoon, demands…. (etc etc).
How DARE you make fun of me making fun of the Jews?
Deepak Chopra was peddling more of his drivel in the Huffington Post last week. The basic gist is that since scientists don’t know all there is to know about DNA and genetics, we should be “using our own mind and body as healing agents”. Fortunately PZ Myers at Pharyngula debunks Chopra’s ignorance paragraph by paragraph. For example, there is this, in response to Chopra’s implication that the benefits of gene therapy have been oversold:
OK, this is another worthwhile point—there has been a lot of hype, and the ease of translating basic research into applied therapies has been oversold. Again, this is material that could make for an interesting paper.
Instead, though, what we get is the maunderings of a third-rate mind with no understanding of even decades-old ideas. Instead of revealing any working knowledge of biological thought, Chopra gives us a list of questions about the gene that he is wondering about, and also claiming that no one else understands, and babbling foolishly. Some of these would be good questions coming from a student who seriously wanted to learn, but coming from an M.D. who routinely pontificates on how your body works, and stated with such a stunning certainty that because he doesn't know, no one else does either, this is an infuriating list.
More specific rebuttals to Chopra’s errors at the link.
Richard Dawkins’ site says what I wish I had written:
While the rest of the world has been wrestling with the current situation in the Middle East, North Korea setting off more nuclear bombs, and the frightening effects of Global Warming, the Vatican has been concerned with one of the great issues of humanity: whether or not Limbo exists.
It is amazing any of us can sleep at night when the fate of millions of souls hangs in the balance.
I couldn’t have expressed better than that, the utter irrelevance and vacuousness of religion. And how does this proposed change gel with the Pope’s supposed infallibility? Have popes been wrong all these centuries when they said Limbo exists (were they fallible? Surely not), or has God just decided this week to do away with it? And how do they know? With Galileo’s claim that the Earth orbits the Sun, there was at least scientific evidence that eventually even the church couldn't ignore. But how will they decide if limbo exists or not? As Ophelia puts it:
Okay - you've got your Vatican commission of theologians, thirty of them, and they have been 'examining' limbo. They've been what? What does that mean? How have they been examining limbo? They've been looking at it through a telescope? Through a microscope? Both at once? Both in alternation? Fifteen theologians on the tele and fifteen on the micro, and they combine their findings? Or they X-ray it? Run it through an MRI scan? Shave off bits of it for radio-carbon dating? Or is it that they sit limbo down and ask it a lot of questions? Or do they give it a written exam, with two hours to complete it and proctors walking up and down to prevent cheating? Or what?
Well, apparently none of those, since the pope is going to abolish the concept itself, which would seem to hint that there's nothing physical or material to examine. But then what? What does it mean for theologians to examine limbo? To talk about it, apparently, and decide whether they feel like believing in it or not.
And there you have, in a nutshell, the difference between science and religion. In science, the evidence is there for all to see, examine and find any faults that exist. Contrary evidence means your theory has to change. In religion, knowledge is revealed by authority figures, based on what they decide to make up that day. Theists who claim that trust in the scientific method is the same as their faith in made-up nonsense such as Limbo (its existence or otherwise), need to explain how the infallible Pope (or his “commission of theologians”) arrives at decisions such as this.
Still, at least the church is considering a change. It took them nearly 400 years to admit that Galileo was right, remember? Maybe in another 400 years – condoms?
You can come out now – this place doesn’t exist!
I turned on CBS News last night and was treated to the idiot on the right saying this:
I'm saddened and shaken by the shooting at an Amish school today, and last week’s school murders.
When my son Dan was murdered on the sidewalk at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, I hoped that would be the last school shooting. Since that day, I’ve tried to answer the question, "Why did this happen?"
This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.
We teach there are no absolutes, no right or wrong. And I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including by abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children.
This was followed by some supportive words from Katie Couric. I remind you this was all on primetime network news. Turns out this is CBS’ “free speech” segment where they are apparently going to allow any random moron with a viewpoint a soapbox.
I won’t go into the ways Rohrbough’s comments are wrong. OK, I’ll list a couple. Evolution doesn’t necessarily say the strong kill the weak – it often favors cooperation in groups, especially groups of primates. More to the point, Rohrbough gives not one shred of evidence that any of these killings were due to teaching evolution, or “expelling God from the school”. In fact, the killer in the Amish school reportedly:
wrote in suicide notes that he was mad at God for how his baby, Elise, died…
Sounds like he had too much God, not too little.
Still, I can sympathize with a guy whose son had been killed in a similar incident. I can’t sympathize with the network morons who decided it would be a good idea to have a daily soapbox section on a national news network. Of course Rohrbough should be allowed free speech to express his ideas, no matter how dumb. But that means he can write a blog, write letters to the paper, stand on the street corner with a bullhorn if he so chooses; it doesn’t mean he gets a section on a national news network where his nonsense is presented as fact, with no one calling him on it. The news networks are already “presenting both sides” of issues where one side is clearly wrong, on the basis of “fairness”. In this section they’ve abrogated all pretence of journalism. And I would say this no matter what the views being expressed. CBS should cancel this segment if they want to retain any credibility.