Wednesday, February 24, 2010

open letter to The Deleter (also emailed to him)

Professor Dendy,

I wonder if you would answer a very specific question in public and allow me and anyone else to reply to your response (again in public and with the usual caveat that no profanity or insult is used).  You, naturally, could reply to anyone else's comments.  Hey, sounds like a blog!  It could be your blog or mine.  Well, not yours obviously because  you spend more time deleting comments than you do writing ones of your own.  Ah, but you know what? I'll take your word that on this issue you will not delete any posts.  Or we can do it on my blog.  Or someone else's of your choosing.  What do you think?

I have a caveat of my own: every part of this exchange should be public and never willingly deleted.  We'd both agree to that and trust each other's word.

My question is perfectly simple.  It might lead to other questions and discussions, but that's my point.  I want to begin a proper, intellectual debate.  The entirety of any debate, short-lived or long, will appear on my site without censorship, abridgement or adulteration, although I might comment (and so can you!).  You can decide whether to put it on your site...unless your site is the place we decide to do this.  You'd agree to not delete or censor things relating to  this specific stuff on your blog if you agreed to this.

If you like, I'll tell you what my question is before you decide whether to accept.  But if you read the question and decide to debate me about it, we'll agree to some basic stuff and our discussions about this will be part of what becomes available to the public.

What do you say?  Do you have something to hide?  If you don't like this challenge or the benign conditions I've suggested, why not suggest others?

Will I ever hear back from you, Professor Dendy?


My guess is that I won't hear back from him.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

living hatefully

"And just as there is no such thing as a gay Christian or an atheist Christian there is no such thing as a gay Republican or atheist Republican."
                                                                            -- Dendy, non-professor and known imbecile

One. True. Scotsman.

poor professor dendy

The aforementioned *ahem* professor has turned off commenting on his blog.  So let's see: he decided to wage an idiotic war against the most popular science site in the world, said all manner of bewilderingly stupid things, then was amazed when people didn't agree.  Of course, it's not the disagreement he has a problem with.  He expects people to disagree with him, because it feeds his sense of Christian persecution.  That's why he says such barkingly ridiculous things in the first place.  He pictures himself as the voice of reason by divine right, feels that he's held to a different standard to the rest of us because of this, and believes himself to be the only one speaking the truth in a world gone politically correct.

I suspect what he objects to is people making him think.  No, that's not quite true: I doubt anyone's managed that.  In order, however, to answer the points people have raised, Professor Dendy would have to step outside the confines of his dogma and think for a moment.  This he will not do.

Turning off commenting is a disgraceful move for someone calling himself a science professor.  It is the exact opposite of scientific discourse.  He seems to know it's wrong because he has condescendingly supplied an email address and vowed to publish one email (he doesn't say whether it's one a week or a month or just one in total) on his own terms.  We won't know whether he's altered the email or just plain made it up and we won't see any responses to Dendy's 'analysis'.  All will be safely within his control, he can ignore the comments that might distressingly make him re-evaluate his dogmatic views, and he can appear as a kindly sage, handing wise advice down across the ages.  This is what Professor Dendy calls "the best part".

I suppose all this is a slight imporovement on his previous tactic of simply deleting comments he didn't like, since at least his cards are now firmly on the table: Professor Dendy will not tolderate his veiws being criticised.  How very professorial.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It turns out that there are more things in heaven and earth

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
                         --  Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

This is (usually mis-) quoted very often by pseudo-scientists and the religious equally often.  They seem to think that it makes a point but as so often they haven't really thought it through.  Let's examine it.
  1. The phrase isn't a general one about philosophy (which is reasonably taken to include science).  It's about a specific instance.  The skeptical Horatio has encountered a ghost.  He finds it "wondrous strange" to encounter a ghost, as well he might, him being a skeptic.  Hamlet points out that it's not all that strange because look, here we are, actually looking at a ghost - look, there it is, over there.  As I read it, Hamlet is saying that what he and Horatio learned as boys didn't prepare them to expect ghosts.  Hamlet had nevertheless already accepted the reality of the ghost and when Horatio barges into Hamlet's conversation with it and finds the whole thing a bit odd, Hamlet says that it's not as strange as all that because we've just seen it happen.  This is rather different from the religious and pseduoscience claim that shakespeare was saying...well....what?  Let's examine that.
  2. This was a line in a PLAY.  Why would anyone pick on this bit of dialog as opposed to any other?  What spurious authority about science could anyone glean from quoting Shakespeare?
Ah, let's leave it at that. I had several other points but this is surely enough to make the religious and pseudoscientific question why they use this phrase.  Isn't it?  Well....isn't it?   

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI condemns child abuse by priests

Condemns?  He seems to think of them as kids who won't get off his lawn:

For centuries, the Catholic Church has shown its commitment to loving and respecting children and ensuring their basic human rights are respected, Benedict told members of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family.
"Unfortunately in some cases, some of its members - acting in contrast to this commitment - have violated these rights, a behaviour that the church hasn't, and won't ever stop deploring and condemning," he said on Monday.
And yet we know what Ratzinger did.  He wrote the policy stipulating that the Catholic church should hide stories of abuse and protect the beasts who committed it.

He's a monster who doesn't care that children were - and for all I know still are - systematically abused.

In the wake of the reports, Benedict summoned all of Ireland's bishops to the Vatican for an extraordinary meeting February 15-16.
He plans to release a letter to Ireland's 4 million Catholics afterward.
That should certainly comfort all those people who were relentlessly and systematically buggered against their will.  It's like finding out that the toys father christmas has been giving to the other children of the world is actually your stuff.  And that he's been buggering everyone young enough to keep quiet.  And telling them that nobody will ever get a present from santa again unless you do what he says.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

sad and bewildering news

Dj Grothe has recently left The Center for Inquiry to become president of the JREF.  That isn't the bad news.  I've always found Grothe to be entertaining and open-minded.  He's presented views that often differ from his own fairly but without punch-pulling.  I wish him well at the JREF and hope he makes his presence felt more than Phil Plait did.  Phil is great, but didn't really stamp his authority on the JREF.  He was excellent at TAM London though.

Anyway, that's not the bad news.  The bad news is one of his replacements.  There are three of them: Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, and Robert Price.  I'm afraid I haven't heard of Stollznow and know little about Price, but I'm all too familiar with Mooney and I'm more than surprised at this choice.

Mooney is an accomodationist.  He believes that all atheists need to adopt a single strategy (which happens to be his) when they talk about religion.  Specifically, atheists should be respectful of the religious.  Which means they should shut up. 

He believes this because of a cockamamie idea that playing nice with theists will smoosh us all together in a loving compromise that will somehow benefit science (he doesn't say why).  But if we atheists tell the truth about religion, we'll alienate moderate advocates of religion that would otherwise agree with us on things like teaching evolution.  Mooney has decided - with no evidence or worthwhile argument - that all atheists should be nice about religion to save science and that people who aren't nice should shut up.

This is a deplorable attitude.  Something is either true, or it isn't.  Got either exists, or he doesn't.  As humans, we get to decide what we want to believe, but that has no bearing on what is actually true.  The only way we know what's true is to examine it critically.  Accepting things we know to be both untrue and harmful in order to make it slightly easier to teach evolution in American schools - or for any other politically expedient reason - is too high a price to pay.

But this argument has been doing the rounds for quite a while.  I won't re-hash it here, but I'll link to a few blogs that say it better than I, in no particular order:

Mooney plainly thinks that atheists should shut up and get back in their box.  Could there possibly be an attitude further from the spirit of open enquiry?

Well don't come then

> Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to "natural law" as he
> confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.

I honestly don't know why this barbarian is being allowed in the country in the first place.  If someone like Mugabe wanted to visit, there'd be an outcry.  I don't think it's too controversial to say that Ratzinger is responsible for at least as much suffering, albeit nowhere near so directly, and yet nobody seems to bat an eyelid at his swanning over here to tell everyone what to do. 

> In a letter addressed to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the pope praised Britain's "firm
> commitment to equality of opportunity for all".
> However, he criticised UK legislation for creating "limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in
> accordance with their beliefs". It is thought his comments relate to laws that came in last year preventing
> adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples and also Harriet Harman's equality bill, currently
> going through parliament.

As deluded as this old monster is, I'm sure he realises that this is a contradiction.  Religious groups are trying to actively restrict the freedoms of others.  This includes the freedom of homosexuals to adopt children, of women to participate in the politics of religions with billions of devotees, of teachers to tell children about evolution and of atheists to criticise religion.  You cannot have a firm commitment to equality if religious sensibilities are allowed to trump others.

> They [Catholic Bishops in England and Wales] told him sexual orientation legislation that came into effect
> on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law
> making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs.

Look at the language there.  IT *forced* THEM.  No, no it didn't.  They forced themselves in a fit of pique.  The action is utterly revealing because it means that whatever reason they have for running these agencies, welfare of the children is not a priority for them.  They are perfectly aware that the numbers say children are perfectly fine with gay parents.  You don't have to agree with with homosexuality to allow homosexuals to adopt children and if that adoption in the best interest of the child, it is simply monstrous to refuse on the grounds of sexuality. What they're interested in is putting children into catholic families and making more catholics. Attitudes like this make that absolutely clear. 

> In his letter the pope said: "The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to
> impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In
> some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded
> and by which it is guaranteed."

Nobody is being prevented from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.  If you're not allowed to discriminate against homosexuals in adoption agencies, don't run adoption agencies.  There's nothing in your religion that mandates it.  Besides, of course, they don't mean 'religious groups' they mean catholics.  They'd be the first to scream blue fucking murder if people wanted to practice Voodoo or Satanism without sanction.

> The pope urged the bishops to make their voices heard and to defend the faith, saying Christian teaching
> did not undermine or restrict the freedom of others.

It certainly restricts the freedom of women.  In almost every case, women are treated like possessions at worst or second class citizens at best.  Even in the wishy-washy Church of England that I grew up in, women can be priests....but they can't be Bishops.  That is, management positions in the church are not open to half the population.  It's worse in Catholicism, where women can't be priests at all.

The claimed lack of restrictions of freedom certainly does not exist through want of trying.  They'd make homosexuality illegal if they could.  They'd ban abortion.  They'd ban other religions.  They'd ban atheism.  They'd ban contraception, even in areas suffering from massive overpopulation and widespread AIDS.  They'd drag us kicking and screaming back into the dark ages where science that disagrees with scripture (that is almost all of it) is also banned.  In fact, it would be worse than that because - as the Catholic church has never failed to demonstrate - dogma is largely at the whim of the encumbant Pope and has little or nothing to do with scripture in very many cases.  Look at Limbo, for example or Mary's assumption into heaven or the bizarre gaudy array of saints and highly specific categories of angels.  I don't remember where in Christian scripture this is all specified.  What would there be to prevent these insane old men decreeing whatever they like to be doctrine?

The only reason religion doesn't impose more restrictions on freedom in Britain is because it hasn't been allowed to.  And that's exactly what the Pope is trying to rectify in this visit.
It is absolutely outrageous that a head of state should try to leverage religion in an attempt to interfere with the internal politics of an (effectively) secular state.