Archive for August, 2013


I am a nerd. I love Symphony of Science. That is all.

(Pity Stephen Hawking didn’t make it into the video though)

The irony of the statement “Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior” is not lost on me.  Every religion tries to claim morality for themselves. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard or read “how can you be moral without god”…

So here it is. Read the paper by Christine Ma-Kellams and Jim Blascovich here:

Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior published in the Plos One journal.

Abstract: Background

Previous work has noted that science stands as an ideological force insofar as the answers it offers to a variety of fundamental questions and concerns; as such, those who pursue scientific inquiry have been shown to be concerned with the moral and social ramifications of their scientific endeavors. No studies to date have directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.

Abstract: Conclusions/Significance

These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science

Scientific American wrote an article about the study here:

Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior

Public opinion towards science has made headlines over the past several years for a variety of reasons — mostly negative. High profile cases of academic dishonesty and disputes over funding have left many questioning the integrity and societal value of basic science, while accusations of politically motivated research fly from left and right. There is little doubt that science is value-laden. Allegiances to theories and ideologies can skew the kinds of hypotheses tested and the methods used to test them. These, however, are errors in the application of the method, not the method itself. In other words, it’s possible that public opinion towards science more generally might be relatively unaffected by the misdeeds and biases of individual scientists. In fact, given the undeniable benefits scientific progress yielded, associations with the process of scientific inquiry may be quite positive.

Science bitches! Not only does it work, it makes you want to be a better person too.

Quote for the day.

All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.
— Edgar Allan Poe

Is there a more succinct way of putting that?

If prayer actually works...

If prayer actually works… why don’t they?

Tell me, why the fuck they don’t? Why? Let me tell you. Because prayer doesn’t fucking work. That’s why.

That is all.

I found a link on Google+ to an article titled:

Chief Rabbi: atheism has failed. Only religion can defeat the new barbarians

I read a comment on the article before reading the article and my opinion is that the comment was perhaps more insightful than the article itself. The Spectator feature was written by Jonathan Sacks who is – I believe – Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Sounds important. And of course it goes without saying that I don’t believe that any kind religion is going to defeat anything, ‘the new barbarians’ especially.

The article itself is, while reasonably well written, definitely heavily coloured by religion tinted glasses. To be fair, some passages are pretty good but on the whole I feel it falls far short from reflecting reality. It did get me thinking though, since a couple of the points the (presumably) good Rabbi makes about atheism and secularism rings true to me. Some of his other points seem to indicate that he’s managed to form an opinion on ‘new atheism’ and ‘new atheists’ without actually having read any Harris or Dennett to name a couple. My intension was to write about atheism but I feel compelled to at least make an attempt to temper the Rabbi’s article with a little reality and reason.

The article can be found at: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8932301/atheism-has-failed-only-religion-can-fight-the-barbarians/

Early in Mr. Sacks’ piece he states, speaking of modern “serious atheists”:

Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?

Clearly, that was not one of the better passages. Perhaps the fact that he doesn’t participate in atheist and secular discussion is the reason he’s unaware of the godawful amount of debate between atheists and Christians around objective morality. It might be the same reason he’s unaware about Harris’ writing and debates on free will. Maybe he just doesn’t know about Alain de Botton’s writing and lectures and proposals around secular rituals, narratives and shared practices…

…because religion has social, cultural and political consequences, and you cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.

Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality. No more ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power.

I’m guessing I need not point out that it’s again not one of the good passages. Christian morality? I get the feeling the man’s head is located very close or indeed in the immediate vicinity of his rear end, to put it nicely. Christianity – and its cousin Islam – along with its lauded morality is responsible for a tragic amount of death, suffering and horror. I’d like to point out that ‘love your neighbour’ only goes as far as a Christian’s literal neighbour who more than likely is also a Christian. A generalisation perhaps but close enough I think. If Christians were to actually pay attention to the ‘morality’ they are taught and claim to follow – and this is just a guess – the divorce rate would be somewhat lower than it is now among other things. Contrary to the Rabbi’s statements and a majority of American’s opinions, Christian morality is not what holds Western civilisation together, it is secular laws and secular justice, hard-fought and won against non-secular opposition every step of the way.

 Lose the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life and there will be nothing to contain the evil men do when given the chance and the provocation.

Somehow the Jewish Rabbi manages to forget the Catholic church’s lack of opposition if not necessarily outright support of one Mr. Adolf Hitler. He seems to forget the soldiers in the SS, at the time of executing what is possibly the worst thing humanity has ever done, wore belt buckles claiming “Got mit uns”. Good Christians soldiers one might say.

But if asked where we get our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists start to stammer

Unless one could call the following quote from Richard Dawkins stammering, that previous statement is probably also wrong:

I think I want a morality that is thought-out, reasoned, argued, discussed—based upon, almost say—intelligent design. Can we not design our society which has the sort of morality, the sort of society we want to live in?

The article goes on to make a vast number of unsubstantiated claims, factual errors and delivers some pretty biased opinion but I’ve digressed terribly.

The first point he makes that I find interesting is:

In one respect the new atheists are right. The threat to western freedom in the 21st century is not from fascism or communism but from a religious fundamentalism combining hatred of the other, the pursuit of power and contempt for human rights. But the idea that this can be defeated by individualism and relativism is naive almost beyond belief.

Another is:

Humanity has been here before.

These were two great civilisations on the brink of decline. Having lost their faith, they were no match for what Bertrand Russell calls ‘nations less civilised than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion’. The barbarians win. They always do.

A third is:

But Durant’s point is the challenge of our time. I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other.

Keeping those three points in mind, the comment that I read and liked is:

Bertrand Russell is right, unfortunately.  Religion is tribalism and may the most cohesive tribe win.  Atheism is the way of the individual to escape the mental prison of the tribe.  But even if you live among idiots, you do not have to be one.  John 15:19.

The comment makes a startlingly good point in my opinion. Religion is tribalism. Atheism is… nothing except a lack of belief in a deity no matter how much some people want atheism to be more. I used to subscribe to that way of thinking but I’ve been painfully disabused of that notion by a particular conglomeration of so-called atheists and skeptics. No, atheism is not a uniting anything; it is nothing more than a lack of belief in a deity. Religion is tribalism. And the most cohesive tribe wins. Atheism is – besides for being an acceptance of reality – a way for the individual to escape the mental prison of the tribe. It has most definitely been my experience and that of a great many other atheists that atheists are highly individualistic. It has been said more than once that organising atheists is like herding cats. Atheism+ and the mixing of extreme and delusional feminism with atheism and the schism it has caused in the loose online community of atheists being a prime example of how the ‘atheist movement’ is far from cohesive and exhibits a number of the least productive aspects of a religion.

The biggest threat to Western freedom in the 21st century comes from religious fundamentalism. Not just from Islam but mostly from Islam in my opinion. Not the religion itself but the views it breeds in its adherents, particularly in the fundamentalists: contempt for human rights, contempt for freedom, a warped and barbaric sense of justice and xenophobia.

I don’t necessarily agree that a ‘loss of faith’ is what caused the demise of any nation let alone a great one but I use the word necessarily since I do believe that a loss of social cohesion might be a contributing – or more – factor. If in reality a ‘loss of faith’ translates to a loss of social cohesion – and I can’t say for sure either way – then that comment might not be far off the mark. What I do agree with is that a socially cohesive barbarian horde is more powerful and more likely to succeed than a civilised, highly individualistic society that lacks cohesion.

Atheism alone is not something that is ever going create social cohesion. I was once hopeful for that but reality has dispassionately proved otherwise. The third passage that I highlighted that reads “I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other” is not entirely wrong either in my opinion. Make no mistake, I would love to be proved wrong. Nothing would make me happier but so far I haven’t seen any secular ethic that comes even close to inspiring and maintaining the kind of tribalistic social cohesion found in every religion. I find that both disturbing and disheartening.

Western culture will inevitably become more secular. The prevalence of science, our reliance on technology and the free access to knowledge that technology gives us ensures a path towards a secular society. The inherent qualities of fundamentalist Islam and Christianity that precludes integration, that in most cases actively fights against integration, modern scientific knowledge and modern morals and justice is secular society’s biggest threat.

We must find secular social cohesion or run the risk of being overrun by the barbarians.


Before anybody even tries to make the absolute horse shit claim of ‘Islamophobia’ let me be candid. I do not fear all Muslims most especially not irrationally. Let me help you out:

pho·bi·a: Noun: An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something

You do not get to claim my opinion of Islam is a ‘phobia’ while we know and have seen the actions and results of people who actually believe what they say they believe and those beliefs include lovely and peaceful things like: God promises to “cast terror into the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth; strike, then, their necks!” (Koran 8.12). God instructs his Muslim followers to kill unbelievers, to capture them, to ambush them (Koran 9.5). Everything contributes to advancing the holy goal: “Strike terror into God’s enemies, and your enemies”

Who are you to say that fundamentalist Muslims do not actually believe these things? Their actions cannot be denied.

Sharia law is disturbing take on barbaric justice, the treatment of women in Islamic countries is detestable and Islamic abuse of basic human rights is unconscionable and unacceptable.

Any fear inspired by Islam is well founded. Something else I’d love to be proven wrong on but I’m not holding my breath.

To quote one of my favourite people, Sam Harris:

“I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one.”

And it’s as simple as that. Science has a better answer than religion for every question ever asked. The opposite has never happened. I find that fascinating since there are four billion people on the planet that claim to have a direct line to the almighty creator of the universe who has all knowledge. I know so many Christians who have ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ that I could start my own mega-church, were I that way inclined. And yet somehow science progresses every day of every week steadily making our lives better; making our lives longer, making us more healthy, helping amputees, curing diseases, exploring other planets, expanding our knowledge of everything from subatomic particles to galaxy superclusters.

Creationism? Religion? World wide floods, 600 year old men building wooden boats to save ten million species of animal, talking snakes, witch burning and human sacrifice. It’s laughable.

Science. It works, bitches.

The question is a serious one. I would love for a Christian – Catholic preferably – to explain to me what precisely their god is good for.

What’s your god good for anyway?

Make a list. All the things god might be good for. I can imagine what a number of things in that list might be.

I started considering this after I saw something on TV last night, which started a train of thought. Let me get to the point. I would like to understand what Christians do in their heads to make what is clearly an untenable, indefensible situation acceptable and defensible.

The situation I am referring to is the abject apathy from the deity which Christians label as ‘all loving’ and ‘all good’ and ‘all powerful’. I realise that any given number of Christians will come up with a similar number of apologies on behalf of their deity, to justify the disturbing lack of action on its part but even unreasonable people have to draw the line at some point.

What I can’t wrap my head around is how, on god’s green earth, does anybody justify the abject apathy from their deity when it comes to the rape and abuse – on an absolutely epic scale – committed by priests in the Catholic church against children.

People might not appreciate what I mean by ‘an absolutely epic scale’ so let me clarify that phrase for you. What I mean by ‘epic scale’ is this:

The report stated there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years) of clergy sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002:

  • Around 81% of these victims were male.
  • Female victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests tended to be younger than the males. Data analyzed by John Jay researchers, shows that the number and proportion of sexual misconduct directed at girls under 8 years old was higher than that experienced by boys the same age.
  • 22.6% were age 10 or younger, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27% were between the ages to 15 to 17 years.
  • A substantial number (almost 2000) of very young children were victimized by priests during this time period.
  • 9,281 victim surveys had information about an investigation. In 6,696 (72%) cases, an investigation of the allegation was carried out. Of these, 4,570 (80%) were substantiated; 1,028 (18%) were unsubstantiated; 83 (1.5%) were found to be false. In 56 cases, priests were reported to deny the allegations.
  • More than 10 percent of these allegations were characterized as not substantiated because diocese or order could not determine whether the alleged abuse actually took place.
  • For approximately 20 percent of the allegations, the priest was deceased or inactive at the time of the receipt of the allegation and typically no investigation was conducted in these circumstances.
  • In 38.4% of allegations, the abuse is alleged to have occurred within a single year, in 21.8% the alleged abuse lasted more than a year but less than 2 years, in 28% between 2 and 4 years, in 10.2% between 5 and 9 years and, in under 1%, 10 or more years.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases)

Consider that for a minute.  Then thousand victims. All younger than 18 years old. In 52 years. By only Catholic priests and in America alone. The Catholic church has been around for nigh on two thousand years and we know pretty damn well that for a thousand of those years – we call them the dark ages – some pretty heinous things were done in the name of that particular religion.

But wait, there’s more:

The Associated Press estimated the settlements of sex abuse cases from 1950 to 2007 totaled more than $2 billion. BishopAccountability puts the figure at more than $3 billion in 2012.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases)

The Catholic church has, in the United States of America alone paid three billion dollars in settlements in 57 years for child abuse committed by its priests.

Let me sum up the problem that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around. You’re a Christian, a Catholic perhaps. You say things like ‘god is good’, ‘god is great’, ‘god is love’, ‘god is all powerful’ and ‘all things are possible in god’ while every second day of every year a priest in the service of that god is literally raping a different child in America. Let me put that another way. In 52 years there have been – according to one report – 10,667 different victims. Reported victims. That’s not counting all the possible victims, of which I’m sure there are many more. If each victim was molested by a priest just twice – and to be blunt, a significant percentage of victim suffered over many years – it means that every day of every year and twice on weekends for the last 50 years a child was molested by a representative of the almighty creator of the universe in America alone. While this god watches. And does nothing.

Can you even begin to appreciate the scale of the horror? Could you sit idle and do nothing as little children beg you for help, to be saved from abuse, molestation, anal rape, every day of every week of every year for decades and decades? Could you even have a response of pure apathy?

So I ask Christians, if your god cannot – or will not – stop the rampant abuse and rape of innocent children on a truly gigantic scale in his own organisation, what precisely is that god good for?

To paraphrase a cogent meme:

If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That is the difference between me and your god.

Religion is like Internet Explorer...

Religion is like Internet Explorer…

Ha. Speaks to my inner geek.

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I’m dyin’ here, people. It’s like people trust me or something.

So I’ve been given this rather…explosive…information. It’s a direct report of unethical behavior by a big name in the skeptical community (yeah, like that hasn’t been happening a lot lately), and it’s straight from the victim’s mouth. And it’s bad. Really bad.

He’s torn up about it. It’s been a few years, so no law agency is going to do anything about it now; He reported it to an organization at the time, and it was dismissed. Swept under the rug. Ignored. I can imagine his sense of futility. He’s also afraid that the person who assaulted him before could try to hurt him again.

But at the same time, he doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, so he’d like to get the word out there. So he hands the information to me. Oh, thanks.

Now I’ve been sitting here trying to resolve my dilemma — to reveal it or not — and goddamn it, what’s dominating my head isn’t the consequences, but the question of what is the right thing to do. Do I stand up for the one who has no recourse, no way out, no other option to help others, or do I shelter the powerful big name guy from an accusation I can’t personally vouch for, except to say that I know the author, and that he’s not trying to acquire notoriety (he wants his name kept out of it)?

I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, I can do no other. I will again emphasize, though, that I have no personal, direct evidence that the event occurred as described; all I can say is that the author is known to me, and he has also been vouched for by one other person I trust. The author is not threatening his putative assailant with any action, but is solely concerned that other men be aware of her behavior. The only reason he has given me this information is that he has no other way to act.

With that, I cast this grenade away from me…

At a conference, Ms. Watson coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me. I can’t give more details than that, as it would reveal my identity, and I am very scared that she will come after me in some way. But I wanted to share this story in case it helps anyone else ward off a similar situation from happening. I reached out to one organization that was involved in the event at which I was raped, and they refused to take my concerns seriously. Ever since, I’ve heard stories about her doing things (5 different people have directly told me they did the same to them) and wanted to just say something and warn people, and I didn’t know how. I hope this protects someone.

Boom.


Further corroboration: a witness has come forward. This person has asked to remain anonymous too, but I will say they’re someone who doesn’t particularly like me — so no accusations of fannishness, OK?

The anonymous man who wrote to you is known to me, and in fact I was in his presence immediately after said incident (he was extremely distraught), and when he told the management of the conference (some time later).


People are still writing into me with their personal stories. This one isn’t so awful, but it’s mainly illustrative of her tactics…there’s nothing here that would form the basis of any kind of serious complaint, but most importantly, I think, it tells you exactly what kind of behavior to watch out for with her.

Rebecca Watson was the guest of honor at an skeptics event I attended in Summer 2010; I was on the Board of the group who hosted it. It’s a very short story: I got my book signed, then at the post-speech party, Watson chatted with me at great length while refilling my wine glass repeatedly. I lost count of how many drinks I had. She was flirting with me and I am non-confrontational and unwilling to be rude, so I just laughed it off. She made sure my wine glass stayed full.

And that’s the entirety of my story: Rebecca Watson helped get me drunker than I normally get, and was a bit flirty. I can’t recall the details because I was intoxicated. I don’t remember how I left, but I am told that a friend took me away from the situation and home from the party. Note, I’d never gotten drunk at any atheist event before; I was humiliated by having gotten so drunk and even more ashamed that my friends had to cart me off before anything happened to me.

But I had a bad taste in my mouth about Watson’s flirtatiousness, because I’m married, and I thought she was kind of a pig. I didn’t even keep her signed book, I didn’t want it near me.

Over the years as rumors have flown about atheist men warning each other about a lecherous author/speaker, I thought of all the authors and speakers I had met during my time as an atheist activist, and I guessed that Watson was the one being warned against.

Now there are tweets and blogs about her sexually inappropriate behavior as well as her fondness for getting boys drunk, so I feel quite less alone. I don’t think she realizes he is doing anything wrong. Women who behave inappropriately sexually never think they are doing anything wrong.

I have mixed feelings about your grenade-dropping. I have heard arguments both for and against what you did. Whether or not I agree with it, I just want to say that the accusations against Watson match up with my personal experience with her, insofar as she seemed hellbent on helping me get drunk, and was very flirty with me. Take it for what you will. I believe the accusers.


And now, for some advice:

This post should never have been written, whether it’s true or not. Nor should the one that it was copied from.

And…

Edit:

And for the skeptic Cedric:

Edit 2:

I’ve basically ignored the ‘atheist community’ on the internet for a year now. Why? Because of the flaming idiocy that is Atheism+, professional victimhood, the crappy flavour of feminism being pushed and other unnecessary bullshit and drama. I stopped following a bunch of blogs, I’ve ignored YouTube channels, I cut myself off from that asshattery and everything was fine.

Then yesterday – at least, I became aware of it yesterday – PZ Myers took it upon himself to accuse Michael Shermer of rape on behalf of an unnamed – alleged – victim.

I have two thoughts on this:

  1. If the women was raped, why did she not go to the police to report the crime? If PZ Myers thought the claim credible, why did he not go to the police to report the crime?
  2. PZ Myers and Atheism+ are essentially attention whores; that is why nobody went to the police to report the crime and instead plastered it on the internet.

Well played PZ Myers. Your traffic generation marketing campaign is working. I’ve managed to ignore the disgusting fuckwittery in the atheist community quite effectively until now but you sort of can’t miss public rape accusations now can you?

I find myself hoping Michael Shermer is exonerated completely and PZ Myers is sued – and loses – for slander. And that fucks me off even more since I don’t know if Michael Shermer is guilty or not and because of the actions of PZ Myers I now essentially have an uninformed view simply because of his self serving dumfuckery.

You people disgust me.

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