Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Abridging Faith, Is That Such a Thing? Plus Arguing with Non-existent Abuse?

Sorry I have been a bit busy with other activities and haven't been posting.  Sometimes real life gets in the way of entertainment, and I do so find the whole anti-science arguments from creationists of various stripes truly entertaining.

While I haven't been posting, I have been trying to keep up on events, like little kennie ham 'abridging' his Statement of Faith and Kentucky's Governor inventing cases of child abuser to lash out at teachers who were striking:

Little kennie is changing his Statement of Faith because they can't seem to find enough workers to fill the vacancies at his various ministries.  He mentioned it here:

"We hope you’ll consider joining our team! We are a Christian organization, so we do require you to sign a statement of faith regarding your adherence to the fundamentals of the Christian faith—one for seasonal workers and a more detailed statement of faith for higher job positions." (little kennie's blog post)
He further explains it in the Facebook video:
“We are a Christian organization, and as a Christian organization, we employ people who are Christians. We actually, for the seasonals, we actually have a more abridged Statement of Faith, the fundamentals of Christianity, not our detailed one for all of our full-time managers and others. So for seasonals, I know there’s a lot of young people who still aren’t necessarily mature in all their thinking in lots of areas, but if they can sign the tenets of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, they can… work here.” (little kennie Facebook post, about the 5:45 mark)

I have to ask . . . an 'Abridged Statement of Faith'?  What exactly is that?  You know for someone claiming the Bible is the source of all knowledge and a self-described Biblical Literalist, how does one 'abridge' ones faith?

What little kennie should do is stop discriminating against people who don't share his narrow view of the world and then we might be surprised how many people apply to work there.  The number one criteria should be the ability to perform a job, not whether or not you go to the same church.  I have yet to understand how believing in kennie's strain of pseudo-Christianity would improve my ability to write computer code, or a plumber's ability to maintain plumbing.

As for the other Kentucky debacle, Governor Matt Bevin (R) said on Friday that he knew kids were hurt by the teachers’ supposed selfishness:
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin told reporters outside the Capitol. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
I don't know about you, but when I use the word 'guarantee' I am not waxing poetic.  Today he recanted . . . well . . . he sorta recanted:
I don't think he regrets what he said for one second, he was just looking to bash teachers for doing things like wanting to improve education in Kentucky with improved funding and repair the damage done to the teacher's retirement system which is underfunded by something like 66%.  

No, he really didn't recant, the only regret he has is the criticism he's been getting over his comments.  If you wonder why I pay any attention to Bevin, remember that he was the one who decided to let little kennie continue his religious discrimination -- after kennie originally said his for-profit corporation would comply with State and Federal Hiring laws.  Yea, that guy!  He's also the guy who let kim davis get away with breaking the law.

While I might have taken a break, you can see I haven't been completely out of the loop.  I'll try and post a bit more because some of these things are just so incredibly entertaining . . . to me.  I feel for the people of Kentucky.  Between Bevin and little kennie, those folks are going to paying for their decisions for years to come.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Another Meaningless Name Change

It was pointed out to me by a Commentor (Thanks again Matthew) that the Discovery Institute pseudo-blog has changed it's name.  It was called "Evolution News and Views (ENV).  Of course, I usually referred to it as "Evolution 'news' and Views (E'n'V)" because news was not it's forte.  It was always bringing you their [the DI's] view on nearly any topic.  Oh, they might reference other pieces of information -- including someone else's actual science -- but the purpose of E'n'V was never to educate, but show you the Intelligent Design (ID) perspective.

So, they would sometimes point out some actual science and then spin their ID magic on it and lo-and behold one of two things usually happened.  Either the real science could be spun in such a way as to appear to support ID or they declared that the real science must be wrong because of ID.  Of course, they never bothered to support either contention with anything resembling evidence or scientific experimentation, it was all rhetoric*.

One other point, I also normally referred to it as a pseudo-blog because they never, ever let people comment on it.  For all their talk about 'free speech', letting people comment would probably show more of the weaknesses in their arguments than identify any actual strengths -- but then strengths and weaknesses aren't their forte either (pun intended).  To my knowledge, they never even tried to moderate comments, which is how many other sites control views they do not like.  To date, I have only removed comments that were abusive (once) or sales marketing (three). All other comments are still there.  Funny, I've had more authors remove their own comments than anything I have done.

Back to the topic at hand, the DI pseudo-blog changed it's name.  It's now called "Evolution News and Science Today (ENST)".  I took a quick look through the postings for this month and it really doesn't look like anything has changed.  Sarah Chaffee is talking about a subject she doesn't seem to know anything about -- free speech, pseudo-historian Richard Weikart is busy trying to re-write history, and little davely 'klingy' klinghoffer is bragging that this pseudo-blog is now available in Spanish.  -- which I thought was almost interesting because their new intelligent design center is in Brazil, and their official language in Portuguese.  Nope, nothing new and still no commenting allowed.

Which means the new name is even more misleading than the old one.  I mean not only was it not presenting news, now they are hiding their views under the label of 'science'.  Does anyone actually believe actual science will be coming out from the DI, let alone published in their pseudo-blog?  But then, like their other avenues of publication, be it books, articles, or posts, there is no standard for supporting their 'work'.  Which means E'ns'T will continue in the less-than-proud traditions of E'n'V and give us things to laugh at rather than actually enlighten us!

*rhetoric: language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.

Friday, March 2, 2018

When One Idea Doesn't Work, Change the Name and Do It Again

Ever bother to read the label on your shampoo bottle?  If it's like mine it's pretty simple:

  • Lather
  • Rinse
  • Repeat
It seems the Discovery Institute is trying something similar, only in their case it more:
  • Fail
  • Change the Name
  • Repeat
A few examples:
  • First off, I can't blame this on just the DI, but look at Intelligent Design.  It was originally known as Creationism.  When efforts to keep it in the science classroom failed, Creationists changed the name to "Creation Science" and kept on pushing.  When that one failed, they changed the name to "Intelligent Design".  So far that one isn't making much headway either, so expect a name change in the near future.
  • How about Intelligent Design Journals?  
    • The first was the  Origins & Design (ISSN 0748- 9919), produced by the Access Research Network which ceased publishing in 1999.  
    • The next was from a DI homeboy, WIld Bill Dembski (who is no longer one of their members).  He founded the  International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design which published Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design (ISSN 1555-5089) which hasn't been heard form since 2005.
    • The on-line Journal of Evolutionary Informatics (no ISSN) was sponsored by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, a project of Dembski and Robert Marks, which became defunct before managing to publish a single issue.  
    • The current one is called Bio-Complexity (ISSN 2151- 7444), and it's put out by the DI's pet lab 'The Biologics Institute', a lab that is funded by and has a public contact point at the DI itself.
  • So my latest example: Clubs
    • Do you remember the Discovery Institute's IDEA clubs?  This was the brainchild of the former DI publicist little casey luskin and a few others dating back to 1999.  You might remember casey as the guy with both a law degree and a biology degree who was relegated to handing out pamphlets during the Dover trail.  Well, casey was heading up this idea [pun intended] for building student-based clubs as high schools and colleges all over the country.  Here is the link from the DI's site, and here's a screenshot in case they finally notice it's still up and decide to take it down:

Even though the pages are still up, it's been pretty dead since 2008.  In fact:
In December 2008, biologist Allen MacNeill stated, on the basis of analysis of the webpages of the national organization and local chapters, that it appeared that the organization is moribund.(The "Intelligent Design" Movement on College and University Campuses is Dead)
So, another dead idea.  So in true DI tradition, let's change the name and try again.  This time they are called: "Science and Culture Network (SCN)".  Currently they have two chapters Houston and Colorado:
They not only share the moniker of 'SCN' but they also have something else in common.  I circled it in red, it reads: 
"This program has no upcoming events"
SO they have opened two chapters of this new club, but nothing is going on.  It does make you wonder.  I mean court cases caused the name change, failure to produce science killed the journals, and nothing happening might have been the reason the IDEA clubs died off. Are they repeating themselves again?
I do have to point out one more 'little' thing.  While they also hold meetings, look at where Houston holds their's: 
"We meet monthly in various churches across the greater Houston area on a rotating basis. "
Yes, we meet monthly in various churches . . . and yet what is the mantra of the DI?  How they are a scientific organization and not a religious one?  Is there anyone who actually believes that who isn't on the DI payroll or a member of one of their 'chapters'? Colorado doesn't have anything more specific other than they plan to hold meetings, but no location.
But do you see the tactics, or in the case 'strategy' might be a better word.  When one method fails, change the name and try to same routine over again.  As they say "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", only in these cases 'sweet' might not be the smell these things give off.  Think about it, if Intelligent Design was such a worthwhile endeavor, then aren't there be IDEA clubs all over the place?  Wouldn't there be multiple ID journals instead of one after another going defunct?  I mean how many scientific journals are there?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  And Creationists certainly wouldn't have had to keep changing the name if there was any actual merit to their claims, would they?  And by 'merit' I am talking scientific merit -- you know things supported by actual evidence.
You guys and gals might try real science instead of pseudo-science next time.  If that fails you might really give that some thought, instead of simply repackaging it and having a go again.  What's that definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  You really should think about that while you are at it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Ark Park . . . Disney It Ain't!

Nothing surprising, little kennie ham is 'restructuring' his ticket prices, well that's not totally true.  He's raising the Adult prices, lower the Kids prices, and eliminating Group Discounts.  I am sure the net plan is to see a bump in revenue overall.  After all, what business lowers prices to make less money.

My guess is the group discounts weren't bringing in many groups, so eliminating them probably doesn't affect much.  If they were a cash cow, he would probably be keeping them to entice more groups visits.  But since kids rarely travel alone, you know every child is accompanied by at least one adult, that change should be more profitable, and we know kennie is all about profit.

But what cracked me up is little kennie comparing his ministries to Disney World:

It's not just a dollars comparison, here is a quote:
"Many of our visitors have told me that the quality of our Christian-themed attractions exceeds what they’ve experienced at the Disney parks, Universal Studios, and the Smithsonian museums."
I would like to see what context of the word 'quality' his 'Many visitors' were using.  If they were talking about entertainment quality, I doubt there is a valid qualitative or quantitative comparison with anything other than another religious ministry.  If they are talking about a construction quality as in how well little kennie's exhibit creators did against Disney and others, he might have a point.  He did spend lots of money to make sure the quality of the construction isn't as cheesy as say a roadside attraction in Roswell:
Little kennie's mock-ups are well done.  If that's the quality he's talking about, he might have a point.  Of course if you are talking any other quality, he tends to fall short.  With kennie, the cheesiness isn't in the construction, but in the message.  It's not a Biblical message, but the Bible according to little kennie ham, two very different things.

Here is another quote:
"Disney’s parks and AiG’s attractions are, in a sense, competing for a family’s time for vacation, offering the best possible quality in all they and we doHowever, you can spend many hours waiting in long lines for short rides at amusement parksAt our Ark and museum, however, you can easily spend a full day or two at each location, experiencing edu-tainment all day and rarely standing in a long line."
While there is probably competition for the same vacation budget, in the terms and money and time, does little kennie really think his ministries offer the same quality as an entertainment location as Disney, Universal, or even the Smithsonian?  His only criteria seems to be 'standing in line'.  Well based on that, maybe -- if that is one of the things people base their vacations on being in lines.  But do you really use that when comparing vacation options?

No, the lack of 'standing in line' tells me two things.  First of all, the massive crowds kennie kept predicting have not materialized.  Therefore there is no reason to wait in a line because no one is queuing up.  The second thing is why do people stand in line anyway?  They anticipate something worthwhile for their small investment in time.  So what that tells me is that little kennie's exhibits aren't worth that sort of investment.

Let's compare with the Smithsonian for a moment, since kennie uses one of his selling points as 'edu-tainment'.  You remember when he tried to explain that his ministries were more educational than entertainment.  He tried that argument a couple of years back.  We discussed it here: The 'Ark Park' is not an Educational Institution! Nor is its purpose Recreational or Historical!.  Little kennie tried to claim his ministries fit an educational, recreational, or historical purpose in order to justify public schools paying for trips to the ark park.  So something like the Smithsonian, which it's wealth of educational and historical information, comparable to kennie's ministries?  Unlike kennie's Creation pseudo-museum and his ark park, the Smithsonian has a mission statement:
“For the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” (Smithsonian Institution Mission Statement)
Does anyone really belief that is similar in any way to kennie's mission statement?  Here, you compare them, here is kennie's:
  • We proclaim the absolute truth and authority of the Bible with boldness.
  • We relate the relevance of a literal Genesis to the church and the world today with creativity.
  • We obey God’s call to deliver the message of the gospel, individually and collectively.
Little kennie even stated his real reason for building his pseudo-museum and ark park:
"Our real motive for building the Creation Museum, and now the Ark, can be summed up in these verses:
  • Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. (Matthew 28:19)
  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)
  • Contend earnestly for the faith. (Jude 3)
  • Do business till I come. (Luke 19:13)"
It makes it hard to see much of any comparison with kennie and his ministries with any non-religious organization, be it in the entertainment industry or educational.  For further comparison, look at Disney theme park mission statement:
"We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere." (Disney Theme Park mission Statement)
Does it succeed?  Well I have been to Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida with my daughters and granddaughter on multiple occasions -- the answer is an unequivocal "Yes!"  To quote my granddaughter, who had no idea we were going and was asleep in the back seat as we drove up to the entrance.  We shook her awake and she exclaimed "Best Day Ever!" before we even got in the park.

Now, if you doubt that kennie is building ministries and not theme parks, he said it himself:
"Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
So what's the purpose in raising . . . oh, I mean re-structuring  . . . ticket prices?  Why else . . . to make more money!  No one with a working brain is going to see an honest comparison between his ministries and Disney, or any other theme park.  But kennie doesn't really care, as long as they spend more money!  If they think they are getting Disney, maybe they will spend more.

So let's do a little comparing of our own, when Disney World opened in 1971 a single day ticket was $3.50, which is the equivalent of $21.68 today.  Little kennie opened his ark park last year with ticket prices at $40 for an adult.  So his tickets started at nearly double what Disney started at when you count for inflation.  Granted Disney's price for one park for one day has topped $100 today (although you can find deals for $59), Disney has added and updated a great many attractions over the years.

Of course multi-day and annual passes have a different price structure, but in a realistic comparison just based on prices, little kennie comes up short no matter how you want to look at it.  I mean, how many days do you need to go through his ark park?  I visited his Creation pseudo-museum and it didn't take very long.  And it wasn't a just walk through, you were in a line what went through in a structured way to tell the story little kennie wanted to tell in the way kennie wanted to tell it.  Your pace was the pace of the line, not your own.  My guess it would have taken even less time, remember I described it as more a carnival ride than a museum visit.

So, my advice to any one planning a vacation.  If you are looking for recreational, historical, or educational vacation, little kennie's ministries are not the way to go.  If you are looking for a religious experience, I would recommend the tour of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  But if you are looking for a small laugh at the expense of your children -- tell them you are going to a place 'just like Disney' and end up at little kennie's version.  Just wait until you see the look on their faces when the truth dawns on them.

True, you won't have to wait in any lines, and that's all that's important, right?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Visiting Old Friends Can Bring New Insight

This post might start out looking like an aside, but I will tie it into the blog topics.  Just thought a little background might help place it in context.

We [my entire family] love to read!  You would realize that if you ever visited my home and saw the 4 overstuffed bookcases in our dining room (my wife's office), the three others (also overstuffed) in my basement, and the three (not quite overstuffed) in my basement office.  If you wander through the house you will see books tucked and piled up in all sorts of places.  No, we aren't one pile away from an episode of Hoarders . . . well everywhere except my office.  In addition to the several thousand actual books, My daughter and I several hundred e-books from Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and generic sources between us.  Needless to say my family certainly loves reading.

One of my friends finds it strange that I not only like reading, but re-reading.  He is an avid reader as well, but uses the local library much, much more than any bookstore.  He finds it hard to believe that I re-read books, especially fiction.

To me, re-reading a book is like visiting an old friend.  For example, I have read 'The Lord of the Rings' so many times I had to replace my original paperback copies with hardbacks and I think I am getting close to replacing those due several decades of wear and tear.  They were the only books that accompanied me on my one-year assignment to the Republic of Korea (of course, I came home with a suitcase full of new friends).  I love re-reading books.

Yes, this is leading up to something related to the main topics of this blog.

Recently, I re-read 'Friday' by Robert Heinlein.  It's a classic originally published in the early 1980's.  What I enjoy about visiting old friends is that I frequently see something I hadn't seen before or see something in a very different light than when I last read it.  The reason is simple, I am not the same person I was in 1982 when I first read Friday.  I'm also not the same person at any point in the past when I re-read the book.  Here is a quote from a very brief point in the book, a small part of a conversation between two characters:

" “. . .Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named…but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
“Pfui, I should have forced you to dig it out for yourself; then you would know it. This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength.” " (Friday: Robert A. Heinlein, 1982)
At the time I simply took this as nothing more than a plot device.  One of those things presented by the author as a foregone conclusion that moves the story along.  I really didn't give it much thought.  Even in the years since and the multiple times I re-read the book, this passage didn't strike me as significant.  It's been several years and the other evening I picked it up and this passage struck me!  Look at the things going on today!  Tell me it doesn't ring with you as well?

Personal rudeness has become the norm.  People who aren't part of your group are ignored or looked down upon.  People are often inconsiderate about major and minor matters.  For example, I do not believe there is a war on Christmas!  When someone wishes me a Happy Hanukkah or a Merry Kwanzaa, I simply take it in the spirit it was intended and thank them.  I have been watching more and more people go ballistic over a simple Merry Christmas.  Or the server who called everyone "Honey!" out of decades of habit -- nearly got struck in a restaurant when a patron objected in an almost violent manner.  These are such minor things, but too many people expand them into reasons to be insulted and even fight.

Then they like to band together with other like-minded people, using those others to reinforce their own prejudices.  It's not just the conservatives, although they do come to mind pretty easily.  But many other groups are doing the exact same thing.  

As I've said before, when it comes to religion I do believe you have the right to believe what you wish, but I expect the same courtesy for my beliefs -- or lack of them.  I feel that way in many things.  If you want to hang a Confederate Flag out your window, be my guest, but not only do you not have to right to demand I hang one out of my window, if I hang a different flag I expect you to not whine about it.  That's freedom to me!

But we don't have that freedom today.  People take exception of anything and everything that doesn't align with their own belief set and expect the rest of the people around them to not only accept their beliefs, but adopt them.  And when they don't, out come the lawyers sniffing blood.  What happen to mannerly disagreements or acceptance of our differences?  

That's why the passage from 'Friday' hit me so hard today.  I was struck by what's been happening politically today.  Not just here in the US with a certain hamster-haired serial liar and misogynist, but with every day people around the world.  The divisiveness between nearly every group, the intolerance of any viewpoint other than their own, and the absolute certainty in the righteousness of that viewpoint has become the norm rather than the exception.

To often they cling to those beliefs, convincing themselves that their belief set is the only thing saving them from an uncertain future.  But . . . are we a sick or dying culture?  Of course, you have to think about just what is American culture?

To examine this, here is the last part of a speech by a character in the HBO show 'The Newsroom'.  I'll link to the video at the end of this post.  But I want you to look at this first:
"We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore." (Will McAvoy, The Newsroom)
Listed in that speech are many of the things we have often self-identified as the things that make us Americans, I underlined a few.  But do they still hold true?  I hate to look at it like this, but the reality is we don't live up to those ideals any more.  Instead of celebrating our diversity and the strength and perspective it brought us, now we fracture America on those, and many other, lines.  We huddle together within those differences and build an illusion that by clinging to those differences we are the stronger.  The challenges of the past could not, would not, be met by today's Americans.  I think the question is not meeting the challenges of the of the past, but can we really meet the challenges of the future?

Not heading down the road we appear to be on.  Every time we denigrate other Americans, or any other people, we go further along the road that our past selves would have not taken.  Did we make mistakes in the past, most certainly.  But we were on the way to resolving many of those.  Not instantly, but as we recognized them, we were trying to addressing them.  But today labels are used to further divide us and prevent any forward motion on real issues.  The labels become the issue.  Every time I hear a conservative cry 'snowflake' it further drives a wedge between people and instead of dealing with the issues that have caused division, we tend to slap a label on it and try and ignore it.  "The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one." You can't solve a issue by just labeling it.

We are certainly no longer the culture we once were, the culture we like to convince ourselves we still are -- but we are not.  As a whole we have lost sight of the ideals that started this country.  Partisanship has become the norm, cooperation and acceptance is the exception rather than the rule.  That needs to change!

I repeat -- That Needs To Change!

Here is the whole of what has been often described as the best 3 minutes on television:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Do Theists Think Inflicting Their Beliefs on Others is a Right?

These two 'parents' are suing to prevent their child from getting the hormones and therapy prescribed because of gender dysphoria.  Their reasoning: it violates their religious beliefs.  "Parents Sue to Stop Trans Son from Having Hormone Therapy for Religious Reasons".  Of course they make no mention as to if it violates their child's belief set!  Since they are resorting to a lawsuit  they obviously do not have custody, I guess telling your child he should kill himself isn't a good example of proper parenting in Ohio.  Here's a couple of quotes from the Friendly Atheist blog post:

"They also told their son he should kill himself because he’s “going to hell anyway,” which tells you everything you need to know about why they don’t deserve custody."
"Medical experts testified that the father's ongoing refusal to call the child by his chosen name and the parents' rejection of the teen's gender identity have triggered suicidal feelings."
We discussed something related a few post back ("A Disrespectful Christian Fundraiser!") about the importance of one's support group, and usually parents are a large part of that support group, especially for their children. But there are too many times when the 'support' part of the group goes off the rails and the impact can be terrible.  The child is currently in the legal custody of the county and living with maternal grandparents, who apparently are willing to violate their daughter and son-in-law's deeply held religious beliefs.  Good for them!

I have a couple of issues with this whole story.  First off, what lawyer took this case?  I guess one of those religion-before humanity types, like the ones who defended the Dover School Board.  But seriously, I have to wonder how many lawyers did the parents talk too before finding one that advised them a lawsuit was the best course of action.

Secondly, why does the parents religion give the right to load up more emotional abuse on a child?  You know I have seen parents disown their children.  I've seen and heard of young girls kicked out of their homes for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, children kicked out for falling in love with a someone outside the religion or race of the parents.  I disagree with such decisions, but a lawsuit after you have already lost custody?  That's like pouring salt on an open wound!

I feel for the child, but I have little sympathy for the parents.  You know for all the lip service about the wonderful things religious groups like to claim about themselves, their willingness to inflict their belief set on other people often is at odds with their public image.  I am all for Religious Freedom, but real religious freedom.  I have no issue with you believing something I disagree with, but religious freedom doesn't give you the right to tell me I have to conform to your beliefs!

I've said it before, children can't smoke, drink, drive, or vote until they reach what's called the 'legal age'.  They shouldn't be exposed to religion until a similar age!  That way they can make an informed decision!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congratulations to Wikipedia, 'winner' of the Discovery Institute 'Censor of the Year' -- while not doing any actual censoring!

Last month I was discussing the upcoming awards season, which includes the Discovery Institute's (DI) "Censor of the Year" award.  It's awarded annually on Darwin's birthday.  One of the things previous 'winners' have had in common is that they don't actual censor anything, they simply say or do things the DI disagrees with.  I gave three predictions.

The first was that the DI would give the award to themselves.  I based that on the simple fact that while there is no evidence of actual censorship of Intelligent Design, the DI does self-censor themselves and then claim they do so because of all the censorship they use as an excuse to avoid doing any real scientific work.  Of course, since there is no real censorship, I wasn't sure they would give the award to themselves because they might have to admit that their whole censorship argument was nothing more than a lie, so they would pick on someone else.

My second suggestion is an example of real censorship, and my nominee would have been the current Administration. Who was is that It banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” A certain hamster-haired serial lying misogynist control freak, that's who! His Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, reprimanded the Joshua Tree National Park’s superintendent for tweeting about climate change. Trump is also trying to censor a free press. These are prime examples of censorship.  But since the DI was not Trump's target, I didn't think they would pick him.

My final prediction was Wikipedia, and I said:

"But we know the DI will stick to their guns and pick on someone, or something, that didn't actually censor them, just did something that annoyed them.  My guess would be Wikipedia.  I think Wikipedia has been a nominee before (2015 almost certainly for "Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!"), and this past year they [Wikipedia] annoyed the DI by dropping a Wikipedia bio for one of their senior fellows ("Does Losing a Wikipedia Page Ruin a Career?"), which they keep whining about pretty constantly.  Which is why I believe Wikipedia will win this year."
And. guess what? They made their announcement and Wikipedia has 'won':  "Happy Darwin Day! Our 2018 Censor of the Year Is Wikipedia".  Yes, another instance of a censorship award for not having done any censorship.  Here is their 'rationale':
  1. They don't like how Intelligent Design is represented in Wikipedia, and Wikipedia keeps busting them in their efforts to self-edit the page.
  2. They disagree that one of their own fellows isn't notable enough to rate a Wikipedia page -- even though most of their fellows do not have a page.
  3. When all else fails, call it 'fake news'.  Gee, how come whenever a conservative group -- and you don't get that much more conservative than the DI ministry -- calls something 'fake news' is always turns out to be true?
Nothing here is an actual example of censorship.  Wikipedia's description of ID is accurate, and also agrees with court cases involving ID.  Of course the DI doesn't like it, since Wikipedia calls out ID to be the pseudo-science that it really is.  All of their efforts to edit it has run smack dab into the editing policies of Wikipedia.  While Britannica Online doesn't call it pseudo-science, it does explain how it is built upon an argument for design for the existence of God.  Why isn't the DI complaining about that?

While removing one less-than-notable pseudo-scientist's Wikipedia entry might seem like censorship, it's more accurate to say that it was in line with the encyclopedia's policies.  If it was actual censirship then none of the ID proponents would have Wikipedia pages!   Bechly [the guy whose page was deep-sixed] isn't notable enough to have a page on Britannica Online either:
Yet, the DI doesn't seem to be whining about that.  Could it be because anyone can create a Wikipedia page, whereas Britannica has different policies when adding subject pages?  Of course both encyclopedias have inclusion standards, the difference is that Wikipedia's are applied after the subject page is created, and Britannica's are done prior to the creation.  So that means Bechly does not meet the criteria of either encyclopedia for being 'notable'.

And, then finally, hop on the 'fake news' bandwagon and complain about something that is true by claiming it's 'fake news'.  Tell me, has anyone found anything that certain hamster-haired serial liar misogynist control freak claimed to be 'fake news' to actually be fake?  Yea, neither have I.

So there you have it, another censorship award to a group that doesn't actual do any censoring.  I congratulate Wikipedia on being a thorn in the side of the DI!  I hope one day I will have done something to annoy the DI enough that I may be a nominee for such an 'honor'!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Where Does It End?

In many ways I look forward to the future.  One of the things I most look forward too is watching one of these 'religious protection laws' eventually bite some theist right where it hurts the most.

For example, we are all familiar with the case of the Colorado baker who refused to do a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his religion for legal protection.  We are also familiar with the Kentucky clerk who refused same-sex couples marriage licenses also citing her religion.  These are just a couple of examples to make my point.

As a result, a number of states have enacted, or are working on enacting laws that protect people who use their religion to discriminate.  They are referred to as 'shields laws".  While the lawmakers repeatedly claim the laws cannot be used for discrimination, the reality is they certainly can be, and are!  There is nothing written in the law when there is a conflict between a religious belief and a civil right -- the way those laws are worded, the religious belief taking precedence.

Here is what I think will eventually happen.  Sooner or later someone is going to use those religious belief to discriminate against other theists.  For example, if I were the owner of the building the Colorado bakery was in, I would cancel their lease.  Or if I were a clerk in the department of motor vehicles, I would refuse to grant a drivers license renewal for that Kentucky clerk.  In each case I would cite my deeply held beliefs that their religious beliefs were interfering with my belief set!

Imagine the hue and cry!  I would thoroughly enjoy watching it!  Imagine if a bank called a mortgage due immediately on one of these theists who use their belief set to discriminate?  Or a restaurant refused service for the Colorado baker and his family?  They would immediately start whining about the whole imaginary 'war on Christians', yet if there are laws protecting religious-based discrimination, the law would not be on the theists side.  Yes, I know you might claim not all belief sets are religious beliefs, but imagine trying to defend that in court.

Back in the mid-to-late 80's two young airmen assigned to Nellis AFB refused to salute the flag or to salute and obey the orders of female officers (The Spokesman-Review) claiming a religious objection.  They were held responsible for their actions and placed in confinement (military jail).

Imagine the difficulties in aligning military requirements and responsibilities with the religious beliefs of all of the members, the hundreds if not thousands of different belief sets.  The military reasoning is simple, your religious beliefs take a step back when it comes to military requirements.  Think about it, refusing to obey an officer due to their gender, or refusing to fulfill duty requirements on whichever holy day your religion mandates?  Military discipline cannot take a back seat.

Where does it end?  Where are the lines to be drawn protecting civil rights, including religious freedoms?  The current laws in work are designed to elevate discrimination through belief set and make it legal.  There is a problem with that.  I am pretty sure that if you line up all the religious belief sets and all the civil rights, you will find that more than likely all the civil rights we have can be negated by one of more of the list of religions.

I know where I believe it should end.  Religious-based discrimination should never be legal and those religious protection laws need to either be dropped -- or at least placed behind other statutes dealing with discrimination.  Civil rights should always come before religious rights, similar to how the military places their requirements ahead of those religious beliefs.

Here is one last example, religious child-care facilities that do not have to adhere to the laws preventing child abuse.  Check out: "Whipped, hit and locked in closets: Life inside some religious day cares".  See what the lack of protection can do to children in religious day care facilities?  Those places should be required to comply with ALL laws and regulations for non-religious day care before putting their religious spin on things.  But no, too many places place their religious beliefs ahead of protecting children!  And now they want to do the same thing for laws against discrimination.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Disrespectful Christian Fundraiser!

A drum that various Christians refuse to put down happened in 2008. A young man committed suicide. That's a tragedy, without a doubt. What a grieving father did was blame his son's reading of Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion" for his son's death. Christian speakers have brought this up immediately and it's been a recurring theme.

 Of course the father (a Fundamentalist Pastor) is looking for someone to blame. The more objective press reported a number of things, like the suicide rate for returning Iraqi veterans, of which the young man was one -- and also chidren who are on the receiving end of negative feedback from parents -- of which the young man may have been one (based on comments from some of his friends).  In other words, there were a number of factors that could have been a player in this tragedy, but groups like the Discovery Institute like to use this story to raise funds.

It was mentioned again this this past week: "Christian Speaker Claims The God Delusion Drove Former Believer to Suicide".  While the original tragedy was in 2008, in January of 2010 it was reported that The God Delusion had sold over 2 million copies.  In 2014 it 3 million.  If this book is so incredibly dangerous as to cause suicide, where are they?  Selling another million copies over 4 years should have seen an jump in suicides by true believers -- yet that didn't happen.

That's not a flippant statement, even though it may sound like one.  I'm serious.  The problem isn't this book, the problem is much closer to home!  According to many reports Jesse Kilgore was a conservative Christian raised by a retired military chaplain who was also a fundamentalist minister.  Jesse recently began to question his faith -- well before reading Dawkins' book.  Is it possible that Jesse, described as a sensitive young man, was struggling with his faith and that played a part in his decision?  Of course it's possible!  But in reality, we really have no idea of the cause for Jesse to commit suicide.  If his family and friends knew about his crisis of faith, how did they react and what did they do for him -- if anything?  Pointing at one specific book isn't helping the matter.

But that doesn't stop the DI and other Christian speakers from bring up his name over and over again and using it to raise funds.  What's needed here is not to give them more money, but find ways to help anyone suffering to the point of considering suicide!

I don't care if they are returning veteran, an LGBT person who is struggling with their identify, or a young Christian trying to reconcile his faith.  The problem isn't with a single book, the problem is these people need places to go for help!  When they feel they have no place to go, suicide is too often their last resort.

Now the question about Jesse isn't what impact a single book may have had on him, but why didn't he have someplace to go for help?  That's the key!  How did those who knew he may have been struggling with his faith react when they realized it?  Did they offer help or disdain?  Who did he rely on and did he go there for help?

A young lady I knew committed suicide in the mid-1980's.  I didn't know her well, she had been a student of mine for one class and I didn't even know her first name -- in the military it was rank and last name in those classes.  I happened to run into her just a few days before she took her own life.  Just brief "Hello!" sort of meeting that happens regularly with folks.  When I heard the circumstances I always wonder what I didn't see that could have done something, anything!  I'll never be able to answer those questions, but I also have to ask what about the people that were closer to her, the ones in her daily life?  What did they see, or miss seeing?  How did they feel?  We often look at the people around us as a sort of support group.  Where was her's and where was Jesse's?

That is a much more important question to ask!  It's not a question that gets asked by the DI or this particular Christian speaker because it's not a question that gets donations.  It's easier to use this tragedy to frighten people into adding to the coffers of some televangelist or ministry than use the money to create services that might have helped Jesse.

Pointing to one book isn't any help for Jesse or people like him.  But, apparently, it's a good fundraiser!  

Seven Tenets of One Religion v. the Ten Commandments

I found this incredibly interesting, and it will probably infuriate some.  There is a religious group that doesn't use a version of the 10 Commandments, but instead have these 7 things they call their Seven Fundamental Tenets.  Talk a look:

  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word
I have had issues with the 10 Commandments.  For example the list is different is separate books of the Bible and the first couple usually deal with the deity and things like murder are much further down the list.  But these tenets look much more reasonable.

Obviously these would never pass muster in a Christian church.  I mean Respecting other people's freedoms, Conform beliefs to our best scientific understanding, acting with compassion . . . these things seem more an anathema to Christians than anything else.  I mean can you imagine an Evangelical Christian suggesting "One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone." while telling women at the same time their body isn't their own!

So whose tenets are they?  Take a look: 7 Fundamental Tenets.  See, I told you it would piss some people off.  Of course Christians would dismiss it out of hand if they knew the source before looking at the tenets themselves.  I like this list, regardless of source.  In some ways it reminds me of Asimov's Three laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

I would reword them slightly, but I think they could easily be better guiding principles than the 10 Commandments.  Think about it:
  1. Don't hurt other people or, through inaction, allow others to be hurt.
  2. Obey the Law except where obeying the Law would cause others to be hurt.
  3. Protect yourself, however not to the point where you have to disobey the law or hurt other people.
You know, even those few 10 Commandments I agree with could easily fit within these three Laws, or those 7 Tenets -- all without invoking the need to project a deity into the process.

Certainly bears thinking, doesn't it?