November 25, 2008


At some point in the comments on the previous post, Fred said, "I don't see why you bother." He meant by that statement, why do I bother with these posts about skepticism, about critical thinking, about atheism? The irony in the question is that Fred is a perfect example of why I bother.

Here we have Fred, not uneducated, clearly intelligent, worldly and experienced, a self-professed agnostic verging on atheist, a believer in evolution, and yet... And yet, there he is in the comments section of my blog, repeating every anti-science talking point in the Answers In Genesis debunk-the-Darwinists playbook. Now, I'm pretty sure Fred doesn't even know who Answers In Genesis is, but he knows how to parrot all of their dishonest arguments. I mean, we could start a drinking game here. Take a drink of your beer every time Fred repeats another AIG anti-science canard. Hey, here's the "evolution is just a theory" angle ::slurp:: Oh, look, it's the "where are the transitional fossils" rebuttal ::gulp:: Whoops, did he just say, "belief in evolution requires faith?" ::guzzle:: Whoa, we've been playing for, what, thirty seconds? I'm already tipsy. I hope he doesn't bring up the 'crocoduck.' Rules say I gotta down a whole bottle in one go for that one.

Fred is an illustration of just how successful the propaganda machine of the evangelical Christian right is in America. They have been able to reach right into his psyche and supplant any kind of science knowledge Fred may have once had with their own mis-information. And he isn't even the slightest bit aware of what is wrong with the points he has been raising here. Why, in his most recent comment to date, he says that evolution "isn't the most solid theory science has going." Yet, all he'd have to do is read the link I suggested in my very first reply to him to find that statement is inaacurate. Evolution, as a scientific "theory," is more solidly supported by concrete evidence than any other scientific theory in existence. We are more sure of evolution than we are of how gravity works. But the religious right would have him deny that truth, in favour of their own 'truth.' They would have us all deny any evidence that seems to contradict their slap-dash collection of 3000 year-old folk tales.

And they're winning. Fred is the evidence of that. They are slowly, but surely chipping away at the foundations of right and reason the founding fathers of the United States used as the basis for their vision of a new country. They are creating a nation of Freds; a nation of people who just don't care; a nation of people who think science is something that never touches their lives.

Why do I bother? Why don't you bother? I cannot understand why every single person with a basic understanding of science isn't standing up in the public square and calling out The Discovery Institute, and Answers In Genesis, and all their ilk for the liars and deceivers they are.

Come on, point and laugh. It's what they deserve.

November 18, 2008

Secularists, Humanists and Atheists, oh my!

Fred (an excellent writer - check out his stuff) wrote a post about his impression that God - well, religion - well, specifically the Christian religion - is under attack in America.

I am not the most religious of men. I don't remember the last time I was in a place of worship, other than as a tourist or a wedding guest. But I recognize that religion is under attack in this country. And, it's not all religion, just Christianity. Because, I don't believe for a minute that the same sort of message would be allowed on Metro buses and trains about Allah. (link)

Yeah, you know I couldn't resist.

I posted a couple of comments on that entry, but my most recent reply became quite involved, so, as is my wont, I turned it into a blog post of my own. Also, I like commas.

You should pop over there to catch up on the conversation so far, then come on back here and read my response.

Here's what I wrote:


Dear Fred,
As I said in my most recent comment on your blog entry about religion, your views on atheism, secularism, and science are somewhat misguided. Don't feel bad. You are being lied to every day by the religious right about what the secularist message actually is. They lie about what the US constitution really says, and they lie about the history of your nation. They lie, bald-faced and unashamed, because it is the only effective tool they have in the fight to protect their "Truth." Funny, that.

Below, I have selected several points you made in your last comment to me, and attempted to explain where your understanding of the topic is erroneous.

1) "The percentage of people who regularly attend church, the people who ARE battling the atheist, is only a little more than 25%. The rest don't care enough one way or the other to even notice unless there's something in the news about religion."

-Wrong. In a February, 2007 Gallup poll , 53% percent of respondents said they would not vote for a "generally well qualified" presidential candidate if that candidate were an atheist. So, significantly more than just 25% of religious people are discriminatory towards non-believers. Over half of the population of the United States believes that a lack of belief in God should disqualify someone from holding high public office. No other minority group is reviled as strongly in America as atheists. The moderates are as intolerant as the fundies.

2) Evolution is an atheistic view.

-Wrong. Evolution is a scientific view. It does not claim that God does not exist. It simply demonstrates that there are perfectly rational and natural ways to explain our existence. God might be out there, or not, but whether he is, or isn't, is impossible to determine by looking at our world. There is nothing in our observable reality for which, "God diddit," is the only possible explanation. Science does not preclude the explanation, "God diddit," but it does not find any evidence to support it either. Science is agnostic on the topic of God.

3) "...atheists [are] fighting to keep creationsm from being taught."

-Wrong. Atheists are not fighting to keep creationism out of the classroom. Secularists are fighting to keep creationism out of the science classroom. To you, the disctinction may be a fine one, but it is a very important one. Creationism, or Intelligent Design if you like, does not use science, or the scientific method as a basis for investigation of the world. The Discovery Institute standing up and saying, "it is so science," doesn't make it so. In order to be science, they have to do science. They don't. Reading the Bible and saying, "there, that's how it is," is not science. If creationists want to teach their views in a comparative religion, or philosophy course, I have no problem with that. But teaching it in the science classroom is like teaching kids flower arranging in auto shop class - just plain wrong.

4) "But the attacks aren't aimed at those vague psychological teachings, they are aimed at the church."

-Wrong. Putting aside the topic of whether or not the word 'attack' is appropriate here, the problem is that those "vague psychological teachings" aren't telling people that they are the be-all and end-all of reality. Freud's ideas are pretty much dismissed today, but he is still taught as a historical reference to the science. But every psych student alive will tell you that, "sometimes a stairway is just a stairway." Psychology is taught as a theoretical science. Religion is taught as the only one truth. You cannot compare the two. No scientist will tell you you're going to burn in a lake of fire for all eternity if you disagree with him.

5) "While they concentrate on keeping their children out of church, they don't see them heading for the mosque."

-Wrong. That's just silly, and the fact you make that statement at all shows how poorly you understand the secular movement. I don't fear the church, or the mosque. I am raising my son to think for himself. If he tells me one day he wants to attend a church, I won't stop him. And the reason we aren't focussing on the Moslem (or any other) religion goes to our goals, which are not destruction of the church. They are freedom for all, not just freedom for all who agree with me. As I said in an earlier comment, black people don't want to kill all whiteys - they just want all the same rights and freedoms as we enjoy. And gay people don't want to tear apart all existing heterosexual marriages - they just want to be able to enjoy the same legal protections we already have. Atheists have no interest in making all religion go away. We just want equal treatment for all - including Moslems, and every other religion. The reason we don't "pick on" other religions is because the other religions don't exercise undue political power in our society the way the Christian church does.

Of course, if you feel that black people should still be on the plantation, and that gays deserve to be stoned to death, and that women exist solely for the gratification of men, then you won't understand any of these arguments anyway.

November 12, 2008

Dear Gabe,

You don't know me. We've never met. I'm just a guy your mother occasionally finds to be mildly amusing.

I'm also a Canadian, so I'm somewhat removed from your situation. Aside from the different attitudes towards the military in our two countries, I also think the decision your government made to send you and your fellows into Iraq was a poor one. Or at least made for the wrong reasons.

That, however does not reflect on you in any way. You are a man who answered his country's call when he perceived it was needed. You stood up and said, "yes, put me in harm's way for the benefit of all my friends, family, neighbours and countrymen." For that I have nothing but the utmost respect for you, and the brothers-in-arms with whom you have spent the last two years.

I am also a father; not of a whole brood of Oompahs, like your parents, but of a fourteen year-old boy - much like one of your younger brothers - much like you were, yourself, not too many years ago. As such, I have understood your Mother's complex feelings over your enlistment and deployment. I have read along in her blog, feeling her fear for, feeling her helplessness about, and feeling her emmense pride in her son. I cannot imagine what I would feel if my son announced he was joining the military. Were it to come to pass, I can only hope to handle it with the grace your Mother has displayed during a time when her worst fears were never very far from the surface of her mind.

With your current tour of duty over, I share your Mother's joy at your return home, and relief that you are out of harm's way - at least for a while. Welcome home, Gabe. Well done, and welcome home. Have a beer for me. Heck, have two - it'll be like having one Canadian beer.


Paul Little

(cross posted in Letters to Gabe)

November 08, 2008

OK, so I was wrong

Yes, I said it. I was wrong. I must say that I have rarely ever been so pleased to have been wrong. I am somewhat encouraged that all is not necessarily lost for the USA. There are some grown-ups living down there after all. Well done, America.

November 06, 2008

Oh, my!

This is very interesting:

Who can tell me exactly what is going on here?

November 01, 2008

Thursday, Friday and Saturday

T: The Majesty of Rock (or How To Know When You've Been Up Too Long)*

Thursday night, while I was reading "my blogs," I came across a fun post at BigHeathenMike's place. Mike featured a YouTube video from the Barenaked Ladies Bathroom Sessions. I'd never heard of them before - the 'Bathroom Sessions,' not The Barenaked Ladies - so I clicked through to explore a bit. (They're basically just some home video recordings of acoustic renderings of Barenaked Ladies songs recorded by Ed Robertson and Stephen Page in Ed's bathroom - no, don't think about that too much; nothing good can come of it.)

Anyway, you know how, on YouTube, they have all those links to "related videos" down the side? And, you know how you can sometimes click on a few of those links, jumping from one "related" video to another "related" video, and eventually end up somewhere almost completely inexplicable? Yeah... Well... Sometime around one o'clock I found myself watching this:

So, as a point of information: when you find yourself, in the wee hours of the morning, watching a stop-motion animated YouTube video called 'Lego Spinal Tap,' it's time to say to yourself, "go to bed, idiot!"

Just a small piece of advice from me to you.


F: Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight (or It's All Fun Until Some Zombie's Eye Falls Out)**

Friday night we left the boy home to hand out Halloween candy, while we went out to the curling club. We dressed up for the holiday as the losing team on ice number 6. It's bad enough losing a game, but we had to suffer the indignity of being beaten by a woman in a four foot tall, rainbow coloured, Cat-in-the-Hat tophat, a bright orange, oversized cardigan, and spiderweb patterned, silk boxer shorts. Not that I mind losing to Karen. She's a fine curler, and I'm getting used to being beaten by her, but you'd think she could do it with a little bit more, I don't know, style, or something.


S: [Listen To The] Flower People (or How to make your voice heard in a participatory democracy)***

I'm really looking forward to Tuesday. Actually, I'm really looking forward to the day after Tuesday, when we can all stop talking about the American Election, and just get on with our lives. Seriously, does the whole world come to a stop to watch the outcome of an election in any other country in the entire world? (Just in case you were unsure of the answer to that question, it's, "no.")

But listen, all you American readers out there. Do me a favour. Vote. It's important. Go out and vote. I voted in our election, you vote in yours. Not being an American myself, I'm not going to presume to tell you who I think you should vote for. I'm just saying, "vote." Even if you're going to vote for the guy I don't want to see in office, still, vote. I mean it.

That's all.

* No Viagra was harmed during the writing of this post.

** Several commas were abused during the writing of this post

*** Stretching a theme too far was criminally perpetrated during the writing of this post. This one does not go to eleven.