Sunday, 30 December 2007

Santa Supports Middlesbrough, Apparently and Other Stories

Birmingham City 3-0 Middlesbrough, 26th December 2007
Downing OG
Forssell
McSheffery(pen)

This match was a pretty decent performance from Blues. We started off well in the first half and looked threatening from setpieces and general play, We were prepared to attack them and Boro didn't get much of a look-in in the first half. The first goal came from a free kick at the side of the 18-yard box after a blatant foul by Arca(for which he was booked). FRom the cross, Downing ened up putting through his own net. Forssell had another good chance where he pulled a shot out of a tricky situation and then scored from a chance couple of minutes later; we went in at half-time 2-0 up.
As expected, Boro came out and did better in the second half. The defense played well as we managed to keep them at bay so they did not create too many chances. Taylor made 2 great saves, one from a long range shot, the other from a header and generally put in a good performance. In the last minute, we won--and scored--a penalty.
We deserved the win on this occasion, even if 3-0 was a bit harsh on Boro taking into account their decent second half performance.
Incase you hadn't figured it out, there was a guy dressed as Santa in the Boro end. We obliged with chants of "Santa, Santa whats the score?"

Birmingham City 1-1 Fulham, 29th December 2007

And then it all goes a bit wrong. We come out agianst Fulham uin the first half, playing exactly the same side, and we play badly. We could barely get hold of the ball and when we did we gave it away too cheaply. Unsurprisingly then, Fulham got a goal early on in the match through a corner which Bocanegra stuck in the net. Fulham aren't even any good away, usually, they haven't won away in a long time, I think over a year.
The second half was a little better and we got the equaliser due to a great pass from Muamba setting up Larsson for an admittedly slightly jammy finish. Why can't we pass like that the rest of the time? Nafti, the half time sub for Johnson, came really close with a shot from long range. We started off the second half well but as the game went on we faded and the game swung a bit more towards Fulham who had a few runs etc at goal though our defenders often intercepted or Taylor made the save. In the end the game petered out into a 1-1 draw.
We didn't deserve to win this game and if anything Fulham were the better side. We need to pass the ball better, hold on to it more, and stop lumping it up every time we get it. We really needed the 3 points from this game, because our next 3 games are Man U away, Arsenal away and Chelsea at home, which are pretty much guaranteed to be 3 straight losses.

Friday, 21 December 2007

The Anti-Smoking Brigade

Okay, first of all I'd like to say that I don't smoke, I never have, and I'm not interested in taking up the habit. That out of the way, I'd like to go on to discuss some of the ideas of the very "anti-smoking" people.

In context: I recently downloaded the audio of the "Four Horsemen" discussion between Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris. This debate was actually set in Christopher Hitchens' house. Because Hitchens smokes, there was a lot of comments on the thread about smoking if rather off topic. There were a few people on this thread arguing that Hitch shouldn't be smoking in this video.
This was a completely over the top reaction. As I already said, this debate took place at Hitch's own house. I think the man is entitled to a quiet smoke in his own house. And the other people agreed to be there; if they didn't want to expose themselves to Hitch's smoke they could have just left.
One person on the thread even went as far to say that it should be banned, and even said that smokers should effectively be shamed and shunned until they give it up. In my opinion, people have the rights to their own bodies and thus the right to smoke cigs if they want to. I know that passive smoking happens(and you can make a good case for smoking not occurring around children) but if you're a rational adult you choose to be in the company of a smoker, especially in these days where smoking is banned in places like bars, restaurants etc.* Yes, I know one often inhales a little bit of passive smoke from walking by a smoker, but I really doubt that that little exposure is going to give you cancer. It seems many people are very "if i get exposed to the tineist bit, it's going to fuck me up!" Okay, it isn't going to do you much good, but you probably get exposed to more crap from exhaust engines than from that much fag smoke.

Complaint over for now. I'll definatly have more to say about the Four Horsemen debate as soon as I get a good piece done.

* As I've said in other blog entries, I'm British, and the smoking ban in public places came into forse on the 1st July 2007.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Daily Mail and/or Express Bingo

THis is a Bingo chart to see how "mailesque" your Mail is today. (for the benefit of any readers from countries other than the UK, the Daily Mail is a right-wing paper that is constantly bitching about immigrants).

From left to right:
Row 1
Dead white woman corner
Destruction of Christian Values
Evils of smoking pot - even better if pot can be blamed for some horrible crime in some way
"And YOU'RE paying for it!" - the slogan of the Mail eg. "Gay Muslim Minority rapes children - and you're paying for it!"
Scare story eg Maddie McCann - basically this is any case where a innocent, cute white girl goes missing and that is constantly reported on by the media

Row 2
Video Games are evil - again, best if they can be blamed for a murder
Soft on crime
Free Shit - The Mail always has some DVD free with it
Taxes are too high
Jingoism

Row 3
Terrorists - particularly if they complain along the lines of "We let em into our country and how do they repay us?" type rant
Immigrants steal our jobs
Diana, Princess of Wales - some reason the Mail has a HUGE obsession with Diana, she's been dead 10 years, get over it.
Teens: binge drinking, ASBO teens etc, basically any "teens are evil" shtick, best if accompanied with a "Back in MY day..." rant.
Weather Scare

Row 4
Health Scare or NHS Mistake - eg. "Could eating too much fruit give you cancer" or anything like that.
Pic of good looking woman with cleavage(on the front cover) - more the domain of the Express, though the Mail does it on occasion.
Labour Are Evil
Evils of birth control and/or abortion - eg. recently there's been a "the pill allowed for teens!" sacre story
Gypsies

Row 5
Immigrants scrounge on welfare - yes this contradicts "immigrats here to steal our jobs!!" but the Mail does both
Health tips
PC Culture
Muslims are evil
Losing our freedoms.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

It's Just Like Living In Kentucky

A group in Britain is trying to get planning permission to build a creationist theme park bulit in Lancashire. http://richarddawkins.net/article,2029,Creationists-plan-British-theme-park,Observer-UK.

A few samples:

"Peter Jones, one of the Lancashire theme park's trustees, said the emphasis would be on multimedia rather than the costume re-enactments of famous biblical scenes favoured at Holy Land. 'It will be a halfway house for youngsters,' Jones said. 'Today all they do is binge drink. We will be able to offer them an alternative.' "

Excuse me? I'm still technically a teenager at 19 but I don't binge drink at all. And how is creationism an alternative to binge drinking? How is religion for that matter?

"The trust also says it plans to apply for government grants and European funding to help it realise its dream of turning the television studio into 'an international leader in promoting family-oriented Christian programmes'."

"Family-orientated" in this sentence being translated as patriarchal homophobic crap, most likely.

"'The church in this country is in crisis and many church leaders living in Australia, America and Canada have openly proclaimed that God has left the church in England,' the trust states on its website."

There's not much religion left in the UK? Well, brilliant! If there's not much religion why build this themepark here. If we're that EVILushynist, there obviously isn't a market for this thing.

"'Evolution has falsely become the foundation of our society and we need the television studio to advocate Genesis across this land in order to remove this falsehood, which presently is destroying the church foundation.'"

Evolution is not the foundation of society. I mean, many people couldn't really give that much of a toss about evolution and science. This makes it sound like we're all a load of evilushyn worshippers or something.

" 'Wigan council slammed the door in our faces. You mention the C [Christian] word, and people don't want to know,' Jones said."

Good on Wigan for trying to prevent these idiots from spreading their lies. It's not the "Christian" bit, it's the "we want to promote unscientific ideas as fact" that's the problem.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Truth For Youth Dissection: The Truth About Evolution

This comic is just full of misinformation and lies, so here comes the rebuttal. This one is more a rebuttal of the misinformation rather than a jokey one, BTW, though if I think of any jokes I'll put them in.
All images copyright 2004 Tim Todd Ministries. http://www.thetruthforyouth.com/standard/main.htm - click on "evolution".

"Man evolved from apes" -- okay this isn't true and is a common misconception of evolution. Humans and modern-day apes had a recent(evolutionarily speaking) common ancestor. Think of it like branching from a tree. There was a particular ancestor whose lineage split into 2 parts, one becoming the modern day man and one becoming modern-day apes(although of course this would involve extra divisions between species). I'll get onto the "racist evolutionists" in the next panel.
Okay, evolution does not teach that whites are more evolved than black people. Evolution is effectively the Red Queen phenomena -- it has to keep running to remain in the same place. Good example of this is the "arms race" between a predator and prey: prey gets faster, so does the predators etc with nobody actually "winning". Evolution actually teaches that nothing is "more evolved" than anything else, because evolution is all about adaptation to a particular environment: an amoeba is adapted well to its environment, so is a tiger. Neither is "better" than the other in any objective sense. So even if, say black people are slightly differently adapted then white people(which is of course true because black people need darker skin for the hotter climate) it doesn't mean either is objectively better. And as this kid points out: even if evolution was racist it wouldn't make it untrue.


I must confess that I'm not particularly well versed in the fossil history, but even if these things are hoaxes it 1) wouldn't disprove evolution as there is thousands and thousands of fossils as well as other evidence and 2) if it was a proven hoax it would not be in a museum(not unless for historical interest clearly stated that it was later discovered to be fake).

Since when is Homo erectus an "ordinary man"? It's a completely different species from Homo sapiens.


"Created by mere chance" Natural selection is NOT CHANCE. Mutation is random with respects to the benefits to the organism, but natural selection is actually the opposite of chance: the best organisms surviving to breed while others die is a perfectly ordered, non-random system even though there is no teleology to it. Besides "I can't see how evolution could have created these wonderful flowers" is an argument for personal incredulity. I might say that, well, I can't see how Quantum Mechanics works so it must be invalid. Not an argument.
"Why can't I look at the flowers and see a designer behind them". Short answer: There's no evidence for one. Long answer: any creator complicated enough to design the universe must be far more complicated than the universe is. At some point some sort of Darwinian process must have been in action--otherwise we merely end up asking "who created God?" and thus it extends back into an infinite regress of gods. Thus, the only way to explain complexity is its origin from non-complexity. To postulate God as the origin of the process is to postulate a skyhook--ie an impossible means of suspension.


"They weren't there to see it all" Well, neither were you. This "logic" could be applied to just about anything, for example: "I wasn't there to see the Spanish Inquisition, thus it never happened", "I wasn't there to see the Gunpowder plot unfold so that never happened either."

"Just because a lot of people..." Like fundies!! "Goddidit!" "Homosexuality is an abomination" etc - repeating them over and over again doesn't make them true.


Now he goes on about how much he's studied it, even though he's all "EXPERTS ARE WRONG!!" just above. Hmm...

Carbon dating: Hmm, well I don't really know a lot about this, but 1) there is other dating methods, 2) carbon dating only dates relatively recent phenomena, not in the "millions of years" range to my knowledge.

"Much of which contradicts other evidence" How can evidence "contradict" other evidence?!!

"and theories" well, yes new evidence is supposed to contradict theories, that's one of the ways we make progress in science. Then the theories are either modified or discarded, depending.

"trees crossection" well, earthquakes and other natural disasters mess up the layering.


Look, even if the layers didn't take millions of years to to form, it doesn't mean the earth isn't millions of years old. I'm kind of getting a very non-sequiturish feel out of the top two panels "trees intersected evolutionary layers, thus Noah's flood happened!" Er, no.

"Science isn't the ultimate source of truth! Book written by ignorant goatherders is!"

Yes, science changes when new evidence is given, that's one of the strengths of science: it's not dogmatic. I am aware of some philosophical problems with science, such as the problem of induction, inductivism v falsificationism, etc. Somehow I don't think this guy is intelligent enough to be talking about this here, though.

"not through human argument" Then stop using it.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics makes sense is not an argument against evolution. Yes, as a general trend entropy increases in a closed system but earth is not a closed system, and it is perfectly possible to have a temporal temporary bucking of the second law of thermodynamics trend, so long as entropy is increasing in the universe as a whole closed system.

Is a bacterium more complex than a bicycle? Well, to get a bicycle, you must first must have a bicycle maker, which is far more complicated than a bacterium. Thus in that sense, bicycles are more complicated than bacterium.



They're not teaching creationism in school because there's no evidence for it.

"religious belief of atheism" I'll put it in a way you fundies can understand: Atheism. Is. A. Religion. In. The. Same. Way. Abstinence. Is. A. Sex. Position.
And fundies don't let their preconceptions obscure the evidence?

Okay, counterpoint. I used to believe that gender roles were determined by society and weren't inherently genetic. Then, I read about the evidence for this claim and realised that it wasn't true, because it was not backed up by science. Preconceptions don't mean the evidence can't change your preconceptions.


"exact same evidence, opposite conclusion" Well, it depends on what is meant by "opposite" in this context. And also, one person may be looking at the evidence wrongly though a completely blinkered perspective. Doesn't per se mean all conclusions from the same evidence are valid, and even if there are 2 competing theories that both fit the evidence there are ways to distinguish between them and decide which one is more likely to be true until new evidence comes in eg "Which theory is less ad hoc?"

"It's hard to be truly objective" Well, okay, that may be true, especially if one holds dogmatically to particular tenets. But that doesn't mean "anything goes". That doesn't mean no rational enquiry.

Last panel is the typical "wow, how do I convert to this wonderful fact-denying fundamentalism" so I won't be dealing with it.

In conclusion, I was not convinced by this tract that evolution is untrue. I mean, as a evolutionist, and thus a racist as described in panel 2, what made them think I'd be convinced by a darkie?

PS. If anyone knows a lot about carbon dating and other ways of measuring the age of the earth, please comment and inform me :).

I joined the Atheist blogroll

Finally got around to joining the atheist blogroll. If you're not already a member look into joining it here: http://mojoey.blogspot.com/2006/09/join-mojoeys-atheist-blogroll.html.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Some Thoughts on Punishment and Crime

Introduction

Generally, there are four reasons why one might to set up a justice system and punish criminals for their crimes:
I) Retribution: basically the concept of punishment because one deserves it.
II) Deterrence: The threat of punishment prevents crime from being committed.
III) Protection of society: prevent the criminal from reoffending by locking him/her up or using capital punishment.
IV) Reform: Prevent the criminal from reoffending by reforming his/her behaviour and reintegrating them into normal society.

Risk and Reward

I think an important bearing on how to justify the justice system is the concept of risk and benefit. Your two main options to prevent reoffense at their most basic are locking people up for life, or reforming them and reintegrating them into society(I'm leaving capital punishment out of the debate atm). The main advantage of locking people up for life is that there is no chance for them to commit the same crime again(presuming they don't escape). The main disadvantages are that it is probably more expensive and some people might actually regret their actions and want to become law abiding members of society, but are not given the opportunity. The main advantages of reform are that it can rehabilitate the criminal and they can contribute to society, and it is probably less expensive. The main disadvantage is that it is possible to fake a reformation, get out, and commit the same crime over again.
In weighing up these risks one has got to consider the damage done by the crime itself. Although reform is good thing, there is a problem if its success rate is low and/or it is difficult to tell which criminals have reformed. However, with a crime like say shoplifting, it is acceptable to attempt reform and then release the criminals even if it is difficult to tell which criminals have reformed. This is because although shoplifting is a bad thing, the damage it does to people's lives is negligible. It is a tolerable risk that they will commit the crime again.
However, for violent crimes, particularly rape, murder, torture and child abuse, I would argue that the risk is not acceptable. If there is even a tiny chance that a criminal will commit the same crime again in this instance, he or she should be kept in jail for life. This is because these kinds of crimes are devastating to human life and human happiness. This is one reason I suggest life sentences without parole for these kinds of criminals.

Crime and Psychopathy

Success of reform is vital when taking it into account as a justification. If the success of reform is always 0% or its benefits are negligible it cannot be used as a justification.
This is partly why I believe that reform cannot always be considered important. For instance, many of the most violent criminals are psychopathic. Psychopathy is a condition in which one has an in-group containing only oneself and does not care about other human beings. One trait of the psychopath is that he/she cannot feel remorse, guilt or empathy. In my humble opinion there is no point trying to reform this kind of criminal. Why? Because reform has to start with convincing the criminal that what they did was wrong. If a criminal does not believe what they have done is wrong, they will just reoffend when let out of prison. Of course, psychopaths cannot or do not feel this remorse and guilt because they only care about themselves and as far as we know, there is no way to make them feel what they cannot.
Of course, psychopaths are often highly intelligent individual who could completely and convincingly pretend to reform without any moral remorse.
These arguments add to the weight of the ones above to suggest a harsh punishment for violent criminals.
(Admittedly not all individuals who commit a violent act are psychopathic, but in these most horrifying of cases, they mostly are. Even if they aren't, they have shown themself capable of committing these horrible acts when normal people would have been restrained by guilt or empathy.)

Deterrence and Human Nature

Human nature is not always a moral or wonderful thing. There are natural feelings we all(well mostly) have, moral or not. Unfortunately, elements of that human nature involve violence. If violence is a part of human nature, we need deterrents based on this.
It may seem counter intuitive to insist on harsh deterrents based on nature. We are often used to the idea of lesser punishments based on things that "aren't our fault" so to speak. (Many people try to exonerate others by appealing to the traumas etc in their childhood or whatever, although whatever you do you can't escape determinism.) But of course in this instance it should be the opposite: if something comes naturally to us, we need a threat of harsher punishment in order to abstain from doing it.

Reform and Deterrence as Joint Justifications

Even with crimes where there is a tolerable risk of reoffense, we need a deterrent to prevent the crime from happening in the first place, as well as reform system. As far as I can think of, the best system would be based partly on both these options for dealing with petty crimes. For the first offense, a limited sentence should be brought in, alongside a reform program. The criminals that are reformed are fine; but for the criminals that reoffend there should be a escalating system of deterrence, say the prison sentence for the second offense is double of that of the first offense, etc. This will make sure, not only that many criminals are reformed, but that even for criminals we cannot reform that they will eventually reach a deterrence level high enough for them to stop committing the crime.

For example, say for most want-to-be criminals a 3 month sentence for crime Y is a large enough deterrent, so that is put into practise. However, person X is an exception who only a sentence of 1 year or higher is enough to deter them. If we attempt to reform them after the first offense and it fails, next time they commit the same offense there will be a punishment of 6 months. The criminal X is now at a level where he/she is deterred, because a further crime would put them in prison for a year which is at a high enough level to be a deterrent.

Reform and Human Nature

Ideas on reform also need to take into account human nature. We cannot expect magical changes in somebody's fundamental psychological makeup, and to hope for it is wishful thinking and dangerous nonsense(see the psychopathy thing above, for instance.) However, facets of somebody's human nature may be able to be channelled into other activities more beneficial than crime.
Here is an example based on evolutionary psychology:
Men in general, complete for status. This is observed when we see people buying the latest phones and other gadgets to keep up with the Jones'. This is because, evolutionarily, a man at the top of the status heap would get more women and thus father more children than other men. A 17-year-old may compete for status by shoplifting so he can own the latest things. It may be possible to reform this criminal by channelling the evolutionary desire into a more productive hobby like sport.
Although this is oversimplified I think it demonstrates the ideas behind what would be good reform. It is more realistic than actually changing human nature and thus more likely to be effective.

Conclusion

Overall, the more violent and damaging the crime is, the more protection of society becomes important, and for the most violent crimes it outweighs the benefits of potential reform. Deterrence is required to help control our human nature, and good reform will work to channel it.

NB: I did not use retribution as a reason for a few reasons. Firstly, it is not a particularly moral justification and only satisfies our base desires, rather than being productive. It is also harder to justify than the other three on philosophical determinism.

NB2 - Capital Punishment: From a purely retributionist standpoint, I would say that capital punishment isn't harsh enough. capital punishment is however, the most effective way of protecting society(if they were locked up they could still technically escape.) Many people also think that it is a powerful deterrent but I personally disagree as I believe that death is the end of all sensation(as a materialist) and many criminals are religious(eg. Paul Hill wanted to be killed so he could get to heaven--no real deterrent there.) As a deterrent it is easier to argue that capital punishment isn't harsh enough, as torture would be more effective if unethical.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Secular Humanist Utopia?! SECULAR HUMANIST UTOPIA?!

Last Sunday, Richard Dawkins featured on a BBC programme called "Have Your Say". They had many callers phone in, mostly to disagree with Professor Dawkins. Anyway, one of the people they had on air was this guy called Father Jonathan Morris, and he was talking somewhat about the Pope's encyclical about atheism among other things. I'd just like to address some of the things that he happened to argue in this recording.

He firstly says that religion does not have a monopoly on fanaticism, which is a fair statement; there is/has been fanaticism in the name of certain political movements, most famously Nazism and Communism. However, he then compares fanaticism in the name of religion to fanaticism in the name of atheism, which is just stupid. Why? Because I don't think there exists such a thing as fanaticism in the name of atheism.
The only thing necessary to be an atheist is a lack of belief in God. I cannot see how this belief inspires a fanatical approach. There is no other tenets, there is no dogma, there is no doctrine.

Admittedly, many atheists believe that the world would be a better place without religion. But does this belief (of a better world without religion) stem directly from atheism itself? I can kind of see how they would use the logic, however the problem is that premiss 2 cannot be derived from atheism.

(1) Atheism is true and thus religions are false.
(2) The world is better off without false beliefs.
(3)Thus the world is better off without religion.

This also does not seem to tie in with what many atheists actually believe about religion. For instance, many atheists believe the world would be a better place without religion because they have seen the damage religion can do to people's lives, either first-hand or through the news media. This does not stem from atheism, but experience.

I also doubt if every atheist would agree with premise 2, at least not in several situations. For example, a good false belief might be "this medicine will stop me feeling ill" when in fact it is a placebo.

Even if most atheists believe the world is better without religion, that is not fanatical not unless it involves things like destroying religious buildings and killing religious people.

Of course, there is a much easier way to get to fanaticism through either religion or other totalitarian authority. For example:

(1) God says I should kill gay people in the Bible(Lev. 20.13)
(2) God is an unquestionable authority.
(3) Thus I should kill gay people.
These assumptions all stem from the religious dogma --god is right, you should obey god.

Onto Hitler and Stalin. As Professor Dawkins points out in the recording, both of these men did evil in the name of political ideology rather than any religious(or non-religious) belief. But anyway, this was the bit where he really annoyed me, he called the aim of Hitler and Stalin a "utopia of secular humanism." At least that's what I think I heard on the tape, because I could barely believe that he would say something THAT stupid! Oh please, Mr. Morris, tell me where it says in secular humanism to kill gay people a la Hitler, if I knew that was in it I would never have signed up!

He talks about the evils in the name of religion as if he's going "Oh, well that's not my kind of religion" and "they got the Bible wrong because Jesus doesn't condone violence" etc. Eternal Hell anybody? Sigh. *Directs Mr. Morris to the Old Testament, while she's at it*.

[warning:rant] A few other notes on the encyclical. Mostly just one, where he says that the Pope Ratpoison IV is extending a hand to atheists to help stop fanaticism both religious and atheistic? Oh, it's extending a hand now is it Mr. Rat-needs-his-balls-put-through-a-meat-grinder-zinger is it? What happened to "Homosexuality is tendency towards moral evil"? You know me, I'm about as straight as your average San Francisco Pride parade, are you sure the Pope wants to touch me, he might get teh gay disease? Oh wait, the gay disease is the AIDS, which so many Catholics have by this point due to his doctrines he's bound to have caught it anyway. The Catholic Church trying to stop fanaticism is so fucking ironic, the Catholic Church practically is fanaticism with its holier-than-thou, ban-abortion, chain-women-to-the-kitchen-sink, if-you-say-celibate-queer-we-might-just-let-you-live attitude. [/rant]

Yes, I'm aware this started off rather intelligent and degenerated into adhoms at the Catholics, but they just tick me off so much. Possibly even more that the Baptist types, merely cos the Catholic Church has way more influence in Britain than the fundie Baptists.

In short: This Mr. Morris is an idiot, and he talks way too damn loud.

NB: get recording @ http://richarddawkins.net/article,1983,Richard-Dawkins-on-Have-Your-Say,BBC

Sunday, 9 December 2007

A Game Moral Enough For Fundies!

I(ndependent)F(undamentalist)B(aptist)opoly! IFBopoly is a game where you go around the squares and buy up all the "immoral" places like the ACLU, gay bars and Walmart so you can bulldose them and make them into houses of the Lord! Amen!


Start Path To Godliness!
£400 - Local Gay Bar
£2,000 - Utility Company That Panders to The Gay Community
£500 - The Shrine to Cthulhu
£900 - Satanic Record Companies(1)
£1,200 - Porn Producers
£1,000 - Alcohol Companies
Lose a Turn...But Not Your Soul!
£1,400 - Walmart
£1,500 - Hollywood Cinema(2)
£1,700 - Violent Video Games Producers
£1,800 - Librul "Christian" Churches
£1,900 - Schools that don't teach Creationism
£2,000 - The Carbon Trust
Time For Prayer(Free Space)
£2,100 - EVILushyn Supporters(3)
£2,300 - Harry Potter's Publishers(4)
£2,500 - Wizards Of The Coast Company(D&D)
£2,600 - Abortion Clinic
£2,700 - Feminist Activists HQ
£2,800 - Gay Rights Activists HQ(5)
£2,900 - The Catholic "Harlot"
£3,100 - Islam
£3,200 - The LIEberal Media
£3,600 - The A(nti) C(hristian) L(ibrul) U(nion).
£2,000 - Planned Parenthood
£4,000 - The DEMONcrat Party

Here are the Good News cards and the Bad News ones. Enjoy --and watch out for Satan!

NB: I got the software to do this from a make-your-own-opoly disc I got for Christmas one year.

Pic Sources
(1) I scanned this pic in
(2) Pic from here NB: It's from the film "Transamerica" which fundies would no doubt consider immoral, as the two main characters are a transsexual woman and a gay prostitute.
(3) I got the picture from someone's av on richarddawkins.net Robert Maynard I believe. I thought it was pretty cool.
(4) pic from here
(5) pic from here

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Replies to the God Delusion


Tottenham Hotspur 2:3 Birmingham City

This game was certainly tense! I wasn't expecting to win aganst Spurs away so I'm very pleased with the result. We managed to go ahead in the first half through a McSheffery penalty after he was tacked in the box. The first half was nervy because Spurs had plenty of freekicks and corners which they put to decent use. We were holding on a little bit, but we got to half time.

The introduction to the second half was very disappointing, as we conceded twice - Robbie keane with a penalty and then with another goal. Berbatov just after this missed a chance and hit the post--if they'd have scored at that point we probably would've lost the game. Fortunatly, Cameron Jerome managed to equalise with a great shot, although the Spurs defense were poor. Robbie Keane went on to be sent off, although he didn't deserve to be, and the desision had an important effect on the game. We managed to dominate the last 10-15 minutes of play and although Forssell missed a shot after a great cross from sub Kapo, Larsson fired in an absolutely brilliant goal to win us the game.

Overall, this was a good first game for the new manager although the passing could be better and we needed to get Jerome into the game a bit more.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Stranger At The Gate

I didn't write this, it's a book review by my mother(from a Christian perspective.) I decided to post it up because 1) I love the book that this is a review of; 2) it makes some valid points.

Book Review by Kay Allen
‘Stranger at the Gate’ by Mel White. ISBN: 0-671-88407-7
Can be obtained from http://www.soulforce.org/

‘Who is my neighbour?’

An expert in the law once asked Jesus this question. The reason he asked it was that he had understood what Jesus meant him to do, and he knew the law alright, but he was hoping that there might be some limit on the kind of person he was being asked to love.

‘Who is my neighbour?’

The question is equally relevant to us today, and we might still have the same reservations as the original enquirer: What if my neighbour is not easy to love? What if I don’t understand my neighbour? What if my neighbour is not like me?

It is not so long ago that black people in America were denied their civil rights; they were considered inferior to their white neighbours until Martin Luther King introduced his special blend of peaceful activism, and the injustice of that situation was rectified. Before that, black people were not allowed to worship in churches with their white brothers and sisters. The religious right, spearheaded by Jerry Falwell, were firm in their white supremacy stance.
However, Falwell was challenged by the black man who shone his shoes every day, who remarked that he so enjoyed the religious broadcasts that the preacher put out, that he would love to be able to hear them in person for himself. At that point Falwell was convicted of his error and black people were allowed to join his church.

From today’s enlightened standpoint, it seems incredible that we could have considered anyone to be inferior to us and fair game for prejudice because of their skin colour! How illogical and ridiculous it would all seem, if not for the fact that hate crimes and prejudice destroyed the lives of so many innocent black people. There are still incidences of racism today, but enlightened people would not allow or condone it, and laws are in place to ensure that those who will not change their attitudes can at least be made to change their behaviour.

Falwell and the religious right thus learnt to accept black people, who had been set apart from others by the colour of their skin, something which they had been born with, could not change, and which did not make them any less valuable than white people. To quote Christopher Hitchens in ‘God is Not Great’: ‘One of the great emancipating results of genomics is to show that all ‘racial’ and colour differences are recent, superficial and misleading.’

Unfortunately, this new-found tolerance did not extend to another group of people similarly disadvantaged within society. These people were homosexual. Rather than promote tolerance, the religious right in America did all they could to promote intolerance and hatred of homosexuals, and even used this stance to generate funds for their campaigns.
Convinced that homosexuality was a sin, based on six biblical verses ambiguously translated, Falwell and his ilk whipped up a fever of anti-gay feeling, and as a result hate crimes and suicide claimed the lives of many gay people. ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner’ became a cop out via which prejudice could be fostered without question. Hatred of the sin without hatred of the sinner is in fact not possible in the case of homosexuality because the inborn sexual orientation of a person is integral to (whilst not comprising the whole) of their personality. You would thus be rejecting part of who they are by rejecting their sexuality. Like skin colour, sexual orientation is encoded into who we are.

Who is my neighbour?

In essence this is the question posed by Mel White’s book, ‘Stranger at the Gate’. As Christians we are asked to show love to other people without discrimination. In his story of the Good Samaritan, in his meeting with the woman at the well, in his healing of lepers, Jesus himself issued a challenge to his followers in word and action to demonstrate the love of God to others – all others.

Martin Luther King taught the world that people of other races are our neighbours. Mel White’s book should teach us that gays and lesbians can also be our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this respect, for many, it will be a challenging read.

Brought up in 1950s California by strict Evangelical parents and grandparents, Mel was encouraged from an early age to witness to his school friends. Winning others to Christ was for him a personal responsibility, and he was terrified that he was responsible for the eternal souls of those who failed to convert to Christianity. Thus much of his early life was spent in guilt and fear; only in retrospect was he able to realise that as long as he had ‘sown the seed’ the spiritual growth of another was the work of God.

However, Mel had another compelling reason to witness so enthusiastically. Not only did he feel burdened towards others, he was desperately trying to earn his own salvation. Early in his life, Mel realised that he was different, but at the time he did not have a word for what he felt. In fact, he came slowly to the realisation that he was homosexual. His autobiography is the story of Mel’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, and the torture he endured as he tried to overcome what he had been taught was a sin incompatible with the Christian faith. If only he believed strongly enough and fought hard enough he would be healed.

It is testament to Mel’s faith in God that although occasionally he felt that God had abandoned him, and more than once he contemplated suicide, Mel never considered an alternative route – to abandon Christianity as incompatible with his sexual orientation.

Who is my neighbour?

Like other Christian Fundamentalists, Mel was initially convinced that homosexuality was a sin – a case of sexual preference rather than sexual orientation. In fact, in America, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until 1973 – the implication being that it was something unnatural that could be ‘cured’.

Consider this – would you subject the neighbour whom you are encouraged to love to electric shock therapy, isolation therapy and other types of aversion therapy? All this and more Mel willingly submitted to in a valiant effort to subdue his natural inclinations. Would Mel, a kind and gentle man, have wanted anyone else to endure such torture? No, but he subjected himself to these ‘cures’ in the vain hope that he could change. He allowed himself to be mistreated in ways that he would never have inflicted on his neighbour because he could not love himself.

Ironically, Mel was employed during this time by Jerry Falwell and others of the religious right as a ‘ghost writer’ and film maker. Even Liberal Christians have always believed that homosexuality is wrong, and this general acceptance fostered a climate in which the religious right could promote intolerance as there was an underlying agreement with their beliefs, if not with the various reparative therapies they espoused. The political atmosphere at the time was not conducive to a challenge to the homophobic obsessions of the religious right.

Even today, extremist groups like Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptists base most of their preaching around their hatred of homosexuals, to the point where they stand with placards proclaiming God’s hatred of America at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. Their twisted reasoning is that God hates homosexuality and thus punishes Americans by killing their troops, since there is a certain amount of tolerance to homosexuality in the United States.

Who is my neighbour?

I wonder if we would have stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr Martin Luther King in his fight for Equal Rights for black people? It was when speaking with Dr King that Mel experienced a revelation that Christianity was not only about saving souls, but about making life better for those marginalised here and now. Later Mel would attribute his desire to be an activist to that meeting. Throughout the book he writes of meetings with various people who wrought changes in his life, and I think we can all relate to such meetings in our own lives.

I wonder if we have the courage to stand shoulder to shoulder with gays and lesbians today in order to demonstrate a belief that they too should have equal rights? I believe that God gave us a brain and that we should use it to examine our own thoughts and feelings in order to challenge prejudice and intolerance within ourselves. Do we have that courage? And once we have challenged ourselves, can we go on and challenge others?

Who is my neighbour?

Jesus gave us an example of speaking out for the oppressed in the parable of the unjust judge (sometimes called the parable of the persistent widow). A widow has been wronged and appeals to an uncaring judge for justice in the matter.

Let us be clear here that although the parable is often used to encourage persistence in prayer, the judge does not represent God. We are told that he fears not God or man and does not really seem to care about right and wrong at all. It is not because of any sense of pity or justice that he gives in to the widow’s request; rather he is just fed up with her! If the judge is meant to reflect God in any way it is as a direct contrast. The judge is a symbol of corrupt power.

However, in the widow, who represents the poor and marginalised, we see a reflection of God. She is the one who peacefully (if irritatingly!) persists in her protest against the injustice done to her. She is both a symbol of God’s justice and the ‘voice of the poor’. The power of what is right eventually wins through. The widow, though apparently helpless, obtains the justice that is the will of God through her constant plea. Her victory is perhaps a minor one, but if we all stood up for what we believed to be right, intolerance and injustice would eventually cease. We are not told that the judge changes his opinion in any away on the matter brought to him, and indeed we cannot change attitudes in every circumstance – that is why we have laws pertaining to tolerance and equality.

In this story the Bible itself has given us a perfect model for Martin Luther King’s peaceful protest and resistance to injustice. For the above explanation I am indebted to Reg Bott, Curate of Saint Faith and St Lawrence Church, Harborne, who spoke on this theme on 21st October 2007.

The book of James also tells us that faith without works is useless.

Who is my neighbour?

It was many years before Mel White was able to accept his homosexuality. He was in fact married with children, trying desperately to overcome his sexual orientation. However, it was with great regret towards his wife and family that he came to realise that he could not experience true partnership with a woman. Eventually came the realisation that his sexuality, far from being a disorder, could be viewed as a God-given source of joy.

Part of the change in Mel’s vision occurred because scientific explanations of homosexuality now indicate that rather than being a wayward choice that can be tamed by prayer or will, homosexuality is possibly genetic and certainly intrinsic to the nature of a person. Mel postulates that just as our understanding of creation has been informed by Darwin’s theory of evolution, so our ideas about homosexuality should be informed and advanced by psychological and scientific knowledge.

In addition, his study in translation of the six Biblical verses generally cited as forbidding homosexuality, led Mel to conclude that other interpretations are possible, given the cultural context of their origin.

Final acceptance of self, and the conviction that he could not live a lie, meant that Mel saw no alternative but to ‘come out’ and live his life honestly and productively as a gay Christian. Integrity was not without cost, as the work Mel was engaged in with the religious right came to an end, as did many of his Christian friendships. Although his marriage also ended, his friendship with his wife Lyla, an extraordinarily understanding partner and friend, did not come to a close. His children also were able to accept and love their father unreservedly.

Thankfully, Mel was able to continue his lifelong call to Christian ministry within a gay and lesbian church which provided him with new employment and livelihood. Thinking back to the meeting with Martin Luther King, Mel also felt called to become a peaceful activist for the equal rights cause.

Mel White really interprets his own story so well that there is not much more I can do than to urge you to read his book and allow yourself to be challenged prayerfully by it.
Who is my neighbour?

Your neighbour is the stranger at the gate. How will you respond?

Kay Allen

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

One probably very blasphemous cartoon

As a response to this story, Muhammad Teddy teacher arrested which states:

"A British schoolteacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of insulting Islam's Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, said she made an "innocent mistake" by letting the six and seven-year-olds choose the name.

Ms Gibbons was arrested after several parents made complaints.

The BBC has learned the charge could lead to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine. "

I drew this cartoon:

Friday, 16 November 2007

Two Things That Poison Everything

There are two worldviews that I believe are in general bad for humanity. Obviously, one of those things is "religion" as you could probably tell from the allusion to Christopher Hitchens' book God Is Not Great. But there is another worldview that permeates through society and that is a very bad thing: this view is called "postmodernism".

These two viewpoints are in many ways opposites. religion --or at least fundamentalist religion-- states that we already know the absolute truth. Postmodernism states that there is in fact, no truth at all, and that all "truths" are equally valid, inc. moral truth. Religion induces by its nature disdain for those infidels that will burn in hell, whereas postmodernism is a misguided attempt to include everyone. Fundamentalist religion is the rallying cry of the relatively uneducated right; postmodernism that of the academic left(of course, I generalise).

Why do people embrace postmodernism? It probably stems from the liberal belief that all people should be seen as equals. Unfortunately embracing all cultures as equal means that one cannot embrace all people as equal(by definition)--for example a society where women are treated awfully(eg, Saudi Arabia) is equal to a modern democracy where they have equal rights. (This argument would apply even if the misogynistic cultures were fictitious.) Of course, this is a big problem because it prevents people distinguishing between moral action and immoral action, and it encourages people not to criticise bad culture. It also promotes the idea that if something is cultural it's somehow sacred.

Postmodernists also often criticise Western culture. Of course, there are flaws in Western culture, but for a pomo to criticise it is hypocritical(if all culture is equal that includes the West.) They often talk favourably of more tribal cultures, even though to be frank they are much more immoral than Western culture in many ways. For example, in the Jivaro tribe up to 60% of the males die in warfare; it is about 40% for the Yanamamo. For Britain and Europe 20C it's about 2 percent, and that includes WWI and WWII!*

As for more general truth, well, let's face it, science works. Yes, I am perfectly aware of things like the problem of induction, but philosophical problems with science do not suddenly make all truth equal. I mean, even if there is no way we can get at absolute truth, that doesn't mean that absolute truth doesn't exist, and scientific evidence suggests that there is truth, eg gravity hasn't been proven wrong yet. And some "truths"(in the pomo sense) are backed up by evidence, and some are not. If truth was relative, why isn't there some evidence for every hypothesis?(Okay, you might want to say that we might not be able to always get at that truth. But science seems highly successful as demonstrating at least some "truths"(eg gravity) and not others...why would the scientific method only work for one type of "truth" and not others?)

Even pomos do accept science, even if they don't want to admit it. Pomos don't jump out of a window because the belief that they may fly like superman is not equal to the belief that they will go splat. Pomos don't attend a shamanic healing because the belief that shamanic healing works in not equal to the belief that scientific medicine(generally) works. Etcetera.

I believe religion and pomo to be both views that are too extreme: religion's claim that we know all the (important) truth is too strong, but pomo's claim that there is no truth is far too strongly in the opposite direction. In truth, our position is more in the middle. We know a lot, and we don't know a lot, also. I'm aware that all the truths we have now may turn out to be wrong, but this does not, of course, validate postmodernism.

* Statistics from Pinker, S. The Blank Slate, Penguin Books 2002, p. 57 (it's a bar graph, thus readings may not be 100% accurate).

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The New Muslim Automobile

This is based on this thread and comments: http://richarddawkins.net/article,1872,Malaysia-firms-Muslim-car-plan,BBC



NB: Perfectly aware that this doesn't represent all Muslims and is based on stereotyping, though stereotypes that are pretty much true for a lot of Muslims in the Middle East...Did it anyway.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Do People Have The Right To Their Own Culture?

Many people would answer this question with a "yes". Of course people have the right to their own culture. But I'm not so sure. There are two reasons:

1) Their culture is ignorant;
2) Their culture is immoral.


First, ignorance. This applies mostly to indigious/tribal cultures. For example, many of them die of diseases that are easily curable in the modern world. Should we let them die when we can easily solve the problem with a vaccination or some medicine?
Secondly, immorality. Places like Iran are full of human rights abuses such as oppression of women and execution of homosexuals. Can we let them perpatrate this injustice merely because it is done in the name of their particular cultural beliefs? Why should these people suffer because they were born in the wrong country? One could even be so bold to call our unwillingness to help these people a form of racism: you were born in a bad country, get used to it.
I know that there are many people who think that all cultures are equal ie cultural relativism, the rallying cry of the pomos. But for me this simply isn't true. There are things we recognise as inherently bad. So why do people do them, the reply goes. Perhaps because of ethnocentrism--people in your in-group are fine; people in your out group are just another thing to be exploited.
So if people don't have a right to do these things, how do we stop them? It's difficult. Is dialogue possible? Who knows. War? Probably be more of a disaster than Iraq. I don't really know what the answers are, to be honest.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Sky Sports Letters Crisis

Last season on Sky Sports, there always used to be three letters representing any team that was on the telly in the top score box, for example something like AST 1 - POR 2. This was pretty good, as it was easy to tell at a glance what teams are playing. However, this season, it's been rationed down to two. The problem with this is many teams have the same initials. eg.
* BC could be Birmingham City or Bristol City; or
* SU Could be Scunthorpe, Sunderland, or even Southampton.

Often, now, I sit there for five minutes trying to figure out what teams are playing if I'm just flicking or whatever. This is highly irritating. Sky: bring back the extra letter. It was so much easier that way.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Computer's been a bit broken

My computer has been a bit crap recently, to say the least. It only appears to be working in fits and starts. I am working on some articles to post, but I don't know when I'll be able to get them up.

Friday, 12 October 2007

I'm not an artist, but...

...I drew a little cartoon for you people. Here it is:

This Just In: Diana wore a nice dress to a party 12 years ago(rant on the "news"paper Daily Mail)

Okay, what is it with the British obsession with Princess Diana? I mean, 10 years later and there's still bloody headlines about her in the Daily Mail and Daily Express, at least once a week. Yes, I appreciate that Diana did some good in the world, but seriously? Who gives a shit about what dress she wore to a party some years ago or whatever? I mean, at least with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton there might be a new story(though I really don't care about what they are up to, either.) Sigh. Guess I don't understand the mentalilty of the average Daily Mail reader. I'm so depressed. I mean, I wanted to know all about how immigrants were destroying the country and about how gay gypsies were ruining it all--and Britain(YOUR TAXES!!!) is paying for it. Gotta love right-wing scaremongerers. Though yesterday my mother bought the Mail and there was actually a sensible article (about snake oil scammers) in it! I was shocked.

Here's a taste of what was in it yesterday(admittedly this is a cherrypick):
  • How much nicer JK Rowling looks than 7 years ago, yep, that's news. Guess they ran out of Diana stuff to print;
  • Madeleine;
  • The Godly David Cameron(conservative candidate) commenting on how Gordon Brown was a sellout by copying Tory inheritance tax policy, and how this is a good thing because there's no longer a "tax on aspiration" and "allows good Britons to keep their hard earned money"(which is reasonable to some extent, I'm not really far left or anything, but for fuck's sake there's got to be taxes on something...)
  • Conflicting advice over whether pregnant women can have a drink; title kinda implies scientists dunno what they're on about;
  • Diana;
  • Muslim terrorist;
  • Immigrants - this time Polish people.
  • An article about some apparently evil librul academic who slags off everyone.

Of course, at the moment, the story that is running constantly is the Madeleine disappearance. Over and over and over. Sigh. I mean, yes, it is depressing that a girl has disappeared, but 1) it's been overreported on even when there's no developments; 2) lots of other abductions have occured without much mention in the media(oh, but those were immigrants going missing, right?!) Apparently they also ran a creationist article too, recently(it was on Richarddawkins.net at some point, I think).

There is also, always, some CD or DVD free with the Mail, every week. Like Learn Italian in a week or Diana commemorative DVD. Maybe if it's a good one it's the only reason to buy it?

In short: avoid the Daily Mail.

More on The Gop Logo

Sums up what the GOP members have been up to recently, at least.
(Yes. Yes, I know. It's an insult to the rainbow flag.)

Monday, 8 October 2007

Lost In Translation?

Recently, the good ol' GOP unveiled their new logo...

http://www.gopconvention2008.com/media/logo/logo_600.jpg




Hilarity ensues on liberal blogs after this, of course. Top 10 Conservative Idiots points out that although this logo has some rather amusing connotations, it was perhaps better than "the Vitter" or "the Craig".

Me? I reckon they made a mistake. I think the message was supposed to read Minneapolis Bathroom Stall, rather than Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Kind of like this(edited version of "the Craig" from above link):


Easy to get those two mixed up, isn't it?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Richard Cohen's book Coming Out Straight

Richard Cohen has a book called Coming out Straight about his methods of therapy. On his website, there is an excerpt from this book on what causes homosexaulity. So I'm going to look at the factors, and see how many fit:

HEREDITY

Inherited Wounds: Okay, this idea is just plain kooky. It seems to be the idea that we inherit problems from our ancestors. Being as I don't believe we do, I don't think this idea applies.

TEMPRAMENT

Hypersensitive: I don't think that this one applies, either.

High-Maintenance: Nope.

Artistic Nature: Kind of. I write music and lyrics and am imaginative though I struggle to put stories into words. I'm not particularly good at drawing either, though I like to doodle and design things.

Gender Nonconforming Behaviours: Some when I was younger, although I also played with stereotypically "girly" toys too. Never been very sporty, though.

HETERO EMOTIONAL WOUNDS

Apparently this means being too close to the opposite sex parent. Because apparently, a parent being too loving or nurturing exists. Thus, I don't reckon this applies.

HOMO EMOTIONAL WOUNDS

I don't have these. At all. I think Richard Cohen was just making shit up.

SIBLING WOUNDS/FAMILY DYNAMICS

Put-downs and name calling: Okay, I admit I have suffered from these, but let's be honest, what person hasn't?

BODY IMAGE WOUNDS

Admittedly, I did get a bit teased because I didn't have breasts and everyone else did. I also happen to be really skinny, apparently that can make you gay.

SEXUAL ABUSE

Nope.

SOCIAL OR PEER WOUNDS

Okay I have had some of these things happen, but I think everybody has suffered from name-calling somewhat as a child.

CULTURAL WOUNDS

Apparently, learning that homosexaulity is a normal natural behaviour constitutes "cultural wounds". News to me. I dunno, I'd have thought learining homosexaulity is evil, demonic, unnatural, and caused by poor parenting is more damaging to someone. Apparently, pornography can corrupt someone's mind. Look, obviously it is inappropriate for children, but I don't think it is going to make most children mentally disturbed.(I've never watched any porn, btw, so this one doesn't apply.)

OTHER FACTORS

Divorce: Parents still happily married, so no.

Intrauterine experiences: The idea that things can be remembered in the womb is sheer hocus pocus bunkum.

Adoption: Nope.

Religion: Well, yes, I rejected my parents religious beliefs, but not because I rejected my parents.

Also, masturbation apparently is done by a gay person to try and fix their supposed brokenness. I dunno, I just thought people masturbated because it was fun ;).

According to Mr. Cohen, pretty much anyone could be gay. I mean, name calling leads to homosexuality? In other words, either the whole planet is gay, or Ricahrd Cohen's ideas are just wrong. It's your choice folks!

BTW link: http://www.gaytostraight.org/cos-chapter2.htm

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Why do people become Religious Fundamentalists?

Recently, I've been thinking about why people might go from relatively uncommitted religious believers or atheists to hardline religious fundamentalists. Here are a few ideas:

  • Some sort of personal revelation could make someone a more devout religious believer.
  • People who come to fundmentalism may be uncertain about their lives and accepting some sort of certainty may make them come to fundamentalism, becuase it makes them feel that everything is already explained and they don't need to worry so much about their personal lives.
  • Some people who come to fundamentalist religion may have some sort of addiction that fundamentalism, essentially, replaces.
  • Some people are incredibly reckless and struggle with handling resposibility, and cannot deal with life without a strong set of rules which fundamentalism provides.

Obviously, these ideas don't represent all fundamentalists. Most fundamentalists are so because of upbringing. This list probably doesn't represent all people who came to fundamentalism late in life, either, just some ideas as to why people might.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

PFOX Lies(Lies From The Religious Right? Say It Ain't So!)

Recently, PFOX[Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays] have recently claimed that they were attacked by some gay activists at an Arlington County Fair, and one of their claims was that a gay activist hit one of their "ex-gay" people. Fair enough that they should be upset about it, right?
...Well, actually, no, because the incident never happened! It was a complete fabrication. The police didn't remember such an incident(despite the fact PFOX said they removed a gay man from the premises), and the organisers said that the only thing that happened was a few raised voices between an "ex-gay" and a female fairgoer.
These lies from PFOX have been spread around on many Religious Right websites eg. CitizenLink. So, what's the odds the Right will recall this story, and apologise to their readers and the gay community?
...about as likely as someone in these "Ex-gay" ministries going totally straight is my guess.

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/09/05/741
http://www.truthwinsout.org/news/truth-wins-out-calls-for-the-resignation-of-pfox-executive-director-regina-griggs-after-group-fabricates-hate-crime/
http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2007/09/arlington-fair-officials-eyewitness-contradict-pfox-claims-of-assault/

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Tinky Winky Goes Ex-Gay; Supports Religious Right's Agenda

Famous gay icon Tinky Winky has renounced his former "gay lifestyle" and thrown away his handbag, according to prominent anti-gay activists. "Tinky Winky has abandoned his abominable lifestyle," said a spokesman for Focus on the Family. "He has come to repentance and finally come to the side of God."

Tinky Winky himself was asked to comment on the issue. "Ever since the death of Reverend Falwell, I have been wondering about the truth of his comments about me. I did not like to think as myself as an awful influence on children, but after thinking about the issue, I realised that Rev. Jerry was right all along. As soon as I realised, I went to the nearest church and repented. I'm sure Jerry is smiling upon my change of heart in heaven."

Gay activists have criticised the move. One spokesperson for a pro-gay group commented, "Let's be honest here, Tinky Winky is about as straight as John Paulk in a gay bar or Senator Larry Craig in a men's toilet."

Tinky Winky will now be available to speak at ex-gay events across the nation under the slogan "How One Teletubby Threw His Handbag Away." Gay activists have approached Spongebob Squarepants as a replacement speaker for gay events.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Homosexual Agenda

Our favourite factmine, Conservapedia(which really is very liberal...with its bullshit ;)) identifies 6 things proponents of the "Homosexual Agenda" supposedly do.


http://www.conservapedia.com/Homosexual_agenda

1. "Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible."


Yep, I'm gay. Did you get that the first time?! I'm GAY. Maybe I should put it in pretty colours. I am a L-E-S-B-I-A-N. And i talk about how gay I am all the time. Me and my queer friends just sit there talking about our latest motorbikes and how many sports matches we've watched recently.

Seriously though, I think I've had at least one blog post where I haven't mentioned my sexual orientation. I can't be that obsessed with it can I?

2. "Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers."

Perhaps that's because a lot of gays are victims, idiot.

3. "Give homosexual protectors a just cause."


"Homosexual protectors"?

4. "Make gays look good."


I don't want to make all gays unquestionably look good. Some gays are assholes. But some gays are also great people, and most features of gays don't have anything to do with their "gayness" anyway.

5. "Make the victimizers look bad."


I don't need to make them look bad, they do a good enough job of that by themselves. Though admittedly I do join in with mockery and fact correction. They actually refer to themselves as "victimisers". Love it.

6. "Get funds from corporate America."

Well, that would be nice.

Here's our evil, Satanic aims...

"censoring biblical condemnations of homosexuality"

Actually, no. You're wrong. Say what you want about gays. I don't want to censor you.

"establishing affirmative action for homosexuals"

If it is nesarcary, fine. If it's not, not.

"expand hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation"

Well, yes. But you can disagree with homosexuality without wanting to kill "them thar queers".

"ending the military's and Boy Scout's restrictions on homosexuality"

Again, yeah. Why shouldn't gays serve in the military? It's a waste of time and money attempting to discharge gay soldiers, for a start. I bet Conservapedia is all up its own ass about "supporting the troops" but obviously this means support our heterosexual troops.

"promote homosexuality in schools"

Define "promote homosexuality".

"in places like Massachusetts and California — where the gay lobby is the strongest — it starts as early as pre-school. They tell seven- or eight-year-old boys — "If you only like boys, there's a chance you may be homosexual." Or — "If you only like girls, maybe you are lesbian." Well, at that age, all members of the opposite sex "have cooties.""

Pre-school and 7/8 year olds aren't really the same thing, now are they?

"You're planting a seed that can totally mess up the normal development process later, when at 12 or 14, kids enter the age of sexual confusion and discovering the opposite sex."

Oh no! some gay kid might actually accept themselves as normal now! What a tragedy![/sarcasm]

"promote science that legitimizes homosexuality, such as claims of a never-identified gay gene"

Most gay activists, if they did comment on this, would say something like "Well, we don't know for sure what causes homosexuality, but the evidence suggests that thee may be some biological factors involved." It's the fundies who bring up the dumbass argument of "they can change, thus they don't need rights". Gay activists don't argue from the premise that "it's genetic, thus it's good" because we're(on the whole) not as stupid as fundies.

"force businesses to accommodate their lifestyle "

What the hell does this mean? If it means "get rid of discrimination in the workplace" than I totally agree.

"Suing an online dating website for discrimination"

Look, that might be an aside, but it's not part of the main agenda. Get with the program.

"getting more rights in prison"

If you mean "getting the same rights as straights" here, then yeah.

Friday, 31 August 2007

"Ex-Gay" Fundamentalist Comic

Just discovered The "Truth" For Youth comics that promote Biblical Fundamentalism. One of these comics was a dumb "ex-gay" promoting one, where some guy claims to have "left homosexuality"(whatever that means) 30 years ago. It has strawman gays, as per usual. When I saw this, I just couldn't resist making a parody of it. (Probably any of them are asking to be mocked--they look about as smart(and as realistic) as Jack T. Chick's comics.)
My advice is read the original first. The plot in my version's kinda similar, I just messed with the wording to make it more realistic ;). Click the links to open them bigger. All original images copyright of course.

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/xgaycomicpanel1parody.jpg


http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/exgayparodypanel2.jpg

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/exgaycomicpanel3.jpg

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/EXGAYPARODY4.jpg

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/exgaycomic5.jpg

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee218/queerfreethinker/xgaycomicafaparody.jpg

Enjoy! PS. apologies that the text size is so shitty. Blame the original writers.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

I Went Cruising In D.C. And All I Picked Up Was This Lousy Republican Senator!

Okay, update on the Republican scene: Sen. Craig been caught up to not very "family-values" activities, looking for gay sex in bathroom stalls.

I guess what I really want to know is: just how many of the Republican Party are secretly in the Log Cabin, so to speak?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Dawkins' God by Alister McGrath: A Critical Look

This essay is a critical look at the ideas of Alister McGrath, who argues against some of Richard Dawkins' ideas. I will deal with the arguments that he uses agaisnt RD.

Chapter Two: The Blind Watchmaker

McGrath portrays Dawkins' ideas as being:
--Darwinism is necassarily atheistic
--Darwinism is the only way to explain the world because as God and other explanations(like Lamarckism) fail as explanatory principles. [Dawkins' reasoning goes along these lines: It either came about by "creation" or it came about by some form of "evolution". The mind first view(the creator) explains nothing, because it leaves us with the bigger problem of who created the craetor. Thus, we end up in an infinite regress of gods if we do not postulate some way of getting complexity from non-complexity, hence evolution.(see Dennett 1995;Dawkins 2006)]


McGrath has three objections to Dawkins' positions:
1. The Scientific method is incapable of proving or disproving God's existence. Science only deals with naturalistic explanations. If we are to answer the question of whether God exists, we cannot decide by science.
2. Just because God need not be invoked in the explanatory process of evolution doesn't mean he doesn't exist.
3. The "God as watchmaker" idea is an outdated view of God's creation and not typical of the Christian tradition.


Objection One
Dawkins would agree that one cannot prove/disprove the existence of God. But that does not mean that we cannot say anything about God by using science. If one wanted to be philosophical, one could argue that "we can't prove anything", or that we haven't proved any of our scientific theories correct, only that they are not false based on the evidence. As I argued in my article "Propositions and The Existence of God" the God Hypothesis makes predictions about reality, and thus can be tested using science. Withdrawing it form rational enquiry effectively makes God a meaningless idea. Thus, science can comment on the supernatural.
McGrath cites an example where 2 theores in science are equal, and we don't know which one is correct, but people decide which one is right. Firstly, they don't dogmatically assert which one is right, and the evidence will eventually be king when it comes in. Secondly, scientifically, theism and athiesm are not on the same footing; atheism is more parsimonious. It fits with more facts(eg. problem of evil, callousness of the universe, etc) and is less ad hoc than theism. If one is an atheist, a lot of facts are already explained.
Also, what other grounds are there to decide other than science? Personal experience? But we know people's personal experiences can contradict science. People can appear to percieve ESP or spirits even though there's no evidence those things are real.

Objection Two
If we don't need to invoke God as an explanatory principle for anything, and we have no evidence for his existence, it's pretty likely he doesn't exist. It is again, more parsimonius to postuate atheism.

Objection Three
I think that Mr McGrath has failed to note the millions of Christians who do believe in a creator who craeted the world instantaneously in 6 days. Besides, The Blind Watchmaker book is about evolution, at least for the most part. Most bits have very little to do with god(eg. his chapter on Steve Jay Gould's punctuated equilibria.)

Chapter Three: Proof And Faith

--Dawkins defines faith as belief without evidence.
--McGrath doesn't agree with this definition, and says that faith is based on the evidence, and cites and metions Christian Theologians to make his points.


The problem with this is that if faith was based on evidence, it would be called knowledge! McGrath doesn't even try to argue that belief in God is based on evidence. I mean, this is the point where you would expect the typical theistic arguments to come out, eg. Argument from Design or Anthropic Coinicidences, Dembski's Information Theory, Moral Arguments, Arguement from Beauty etc etc. And he makes none of these! I was a little surprised at that, because he has made the assertion that belief in God is based on evidence, without attempting to present any evidence.
Another problem with his arguments is that he does what he accuses Dawkins of doing in Chapter 2: picking a group unreperaentaive of Christians. Christian Theologians, in general, only speak to intelligent, well educated, moderate[in Biblical interpretation] Christians. They do not encompass the views of eg. your average Bible Belt fundamentalist.

--God could have designed the universe to be self sustaining.

I'll just hand over to the master Sam Harris on this point: "The fact that a bowdlerized evangelical Christianity can still be rendered compatible with science (because of the gaps in science and the elasticity of religious thinking) does not mean that there are scientific reasons for being an evangelical Christian."

--God doesn't need to be explained as he could just be a brute fact.

Occam's Razor. If God supposedly just exists, why can't the universe/multiverse/matter/energy just exist?

--Dawkins' atheism is overconfident and too brashly concluded, and he is too ferocious in promoting atheism.

So it isn't reasonable to believe that God doesn't exist becaus ethere's no evidence for it? Dawkins would change his mind if you gave him evidence(unlike a lot of believers.) And as for Dawkins promoting atheism, that's just the pot telling the kettle it's black. Yes, Dawkins promotes atheism as a rational worldview. But it often seems like if any atheist says "I don't believe in your delusions." they are a "militant atheist", which is just rubbish.

--RD doesn't know anything about Christian theology, so he shouldn't talk about it so rashly and openly.

Christian theology is not the same thing as the God Question. One can have read quite a lot on the existence of God and know jack all about Christian theology and its history(ie. Me.)

--radical theory change in science, one day the scientific ideas we believe to be true may turn out not to be so.

True. But variation, selection, reproduction = evolution.

--Dawkins is wrong to call religion a source of human misery. Athough religious people do evil, they also do good.
--Science has been used to research bombs and other ethically dubious things. Dawkins would say this is an abuse of science, so why can't evils commited in religion's name be abuses of religion?


Is it immoral to know how to manufacture a bomb? Technically, if you gave me the right equipment and chemicals, I could make TNT. It's immoral to drop a bomb(in most circumstances at least) but that's a different question.
Evils commited in the name of religion aren't abuses in the name of religion, because most of them are imbedded in the tenets of religion. eg. Islam says it is for the glory of Allah to kill unbelievers. How can it be an abuse of religion to follow this command? Jesus says you can cure people by exorcising demons. How can it be an abuse of religion to do this? Judaism says its just dandy to mutilate your kid's genitals. How is it an abuse of religion to do this? Immorality has nothing to do with the tenets of science, which is/should be (ethical as in not involving human rights abuses)research.

--"Stalin was an atheist"

Yeh, so? The Communists had dogma of their own.

Chaper Four: Cultural Darwinism

--Memetics is the theory of a cultural replicator that ispassed on by imitation.
--McGrath has some objectiosn to the theory of memetics:
1. There is nor reason to assume that cultural evolution is Darwinian, or that evolution has anything to do with culture. There is telelogy in memetics and some of it is Lamarckian.
2. There is no direct evidence for the existence of memes
3. the analogy between the meme and the gene is flawed
4. The meme is not needed as an explanatory hypothesis.


Objection One
There are some reasons to suggest a memetic view of culture. Blackmore's The Meme Machine has some interesting information on memetics, and some suggestions as to why it is a useful concept. It does explain some things not accounted for on other views, like a purely sociobiological one.(eg why do we have big brains? Why do we do so many things our genes "dislike" eg. Birth Control? Why is it so hard for us to stop thinking? Why do we talk constantly? etc)
Admittedly there is some telelogy in cultural evolution. But is this really any different from human breeders selecting the features that they like in an animal and breeding for it, ie "artificial selection"? Artifical selection doesn't invalidate evolution.
As for the Lamarckian charge, yes some cultural evolution could be described as Lamarckian or "copy-the-product". But this doesn't really matter, because the real idea behind the meme is that of a replicator. How that replicator does it is not relevant to whether memetics is valid.

Objection Two
Admittedly we don't know how memes are stored in the brain. But Darwin never knew how heredity worked, as he never read the works of Mendel. We someday may know where memes are stored. The evidence is not in on this one.
Besides, cultural replication by imitation exists. Thus memes exist.

Objection Three
There is no real problem of a false analogy. The idea is the idea of a replicator. It does not have to be a replicator analogous to the gene in every single way. In fact, everything else could be different. Provided memes are replicators, the analogy is fair.

Objection Four
As I mentioned above, Blackmore's book has some interseting work on how memetics explains things better than rival theories appear to.

Also, at one point, McGrath suggests that atheism and theism are both memes and thus both equally valid. This isn't nesacarily true. Athesim nor theism have to be memes. Memes are spread by imitation. I did not become an atheist by imitating other atheists, thus my athiesm is not a meme. The same could occur for theism. Religion is a meme, but "theism" merely most likely is. Of course, them both being memes doesn't put them both on the same footing. "The Earth is billions of years old" and "The Earth is 6,000 years old" are both memes that are obviously not equally valid.

Chapter Five: Science And Religion

--RD says Religion is a medieval and uninspiring way of looking at the universe, wheras science is a wonderful way of looking at everything.
--McGrath disagrees because he believs that religion can inspire awe and reverence of nature and creation.


This criteria is fairly subjective. Being as it is mainly aesthetics, it is down somewhat to opinion what a view inspires. I do agree with Dawkins somewhat on this point, because "because God" is not an inspiring answer to anything at all, wheras science is an interesting journey of discovery about the universe we live in. I don't believe I have grounds to say that my aesthetic opinion is "right" or better than anybody else's however.

I'm done with this. This does not critique every position put forward in Dawkins' God, just the main points. There were some things about this book that irritated me:
--It has some comments I would consider unnecassary that lowered the tone eg "Now perhaps Dawkins is too busy writing books agaisnt religion to allow him time to read works of religion."(pg.99) merely beacuse Dawkins isn't particularly well versed in the history of theology. I thought this comment was uncomfortably snarky. [yes, I know the "New Atheists" make snarky remarks, but they are usually aimed at people who deserve it and they are actually funny ;)] Also, he constantly uses words like "polemical", "rhetoric" to describe some of Dawkins' work. I just found it annoying, because Dawkins' work isn't rhetoric.
--A lot of his comments are hypocritical. He goes on about evidence based reasoning, and how great he thinks it is, but presents no evidence for God's Existence. He also says how Dawkins' arguments lead only to agnosticism. Fine, if you think that, but then why are you a Christian Theist? It's perhaps a reasonable comment for an agnostic to make, but he's a thesit.

I read this stuff so you don't have to, folks. :)

Works Referenced/mentioned:
McGrath, Alister. Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and The Meaning Of Life, Blackwell Publishing 2005.(obviously!)
Blackmore, Susan. The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press 1999.
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion, Bantam Press 2006.
Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker, Penguin Press 1986.
Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Penguin Press 1995.

Sam Harris quotation comes from this address: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060815_sam_harris_language_ignorance/

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Rights Of Children, Or Why Christian Science Is Immoral

Christian Science is a strange sect of Christianity that foregoes all medical intervention, relying instead on faith to cure illnesses. Many children have been harmed by this, as parents have refused to give their children treatment, and this has often led to death or disability. CHILD, Inc., a charity to combat this element of Christian Science(and other neglect), has examples on its website of harms done by the religion.

Obviously, attempting to heal your children with "faith healing" is wrong. For a start, there is no evidence to suggest that faith healing works at a level better than chance or placebo effect. One would think if it was effective we would use it is medicine, for a start.
Secondly, the people are responsible for their children. They are their guardians, and are supposed to do what is in their child's best interests. Obviously, this would be taking them to hospital when required.
Thirdly, the child is not rational enough to decide what its religious beliefs are. Forcing a religious belief on a child by making that decision for them is wrong.

If an adult decides to snub medicine in favour of faith, that's their decision. It may be an idiotic decision, but it is up to them. But people should never do these kinds of things to their children. It truly is one of the worst sins of omission.

A Plea For Support

Hello, and FSM Bless you loyal readers of the Passionate Skeptic. I have recently decided that I am going to spread the wonderful Atheist Word among the uneducated in places like Texas and the Vatican. This will involve passing out athest tracts and preaching the wonderful Theory of Evolution. For this, I am going to need your continued support. I, and the New Atheists, would greatly appreciate it if you could send all that you can afford to support our wonderful cause.

Much love,

The Passionate Skeptic.

(Did it work?)

Monday, 20 August 2007

Richard Cohen's "Alfie's Home"

Richard Cohen is an ex-gay leader, and he has some very strange ideas, to say the least. He believes that homosexuality can be cured by smashing stuff with tennis rackets and "remembering" suppressed childhood abuse. Well, one time, this guy wrote a book...a book for children.

http://dormitem.com/blog/193 <--are the rather creepy pictures. It is illustrated as if for very young children, people around the age of 5 or so. But the themes are totally, totally inappropriate. It discusses child molestation, ex-gay therapy and even contains the word "faggot." Definitely NOT suitable for any child. What sort of 5-year old thinks about their sexual orientation anyway?

[originally saw this linked on Box Turtle Bulletin--hat tip]

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The "Homosexual Agenda" Isn't Destroying Anything...Except For The Republican Party!

[Note: A little late doing this, but still...]

Seriously, what is it with closeted Republicans? I mean, Bob Allen and then this case, Reps are outdoing everyone else at hypocrisy. (Again.) I mean, maybe people were beginning to forget about Haggard... Not to mention the non-homosexuality related scandals recently(David Vitter).

I suggest that the poor old GOP has been infiltrated by the "Homosexual Agenda" operation. These men who have recently fallen off the GOP perch are some of the infiltrators. It was all a plan to make the GOP look bad. Maybe. :)

Friday, 17 August 2007

The Authoritarians

I stumbled across this online book entitled The Authoritarians the other day. I read it, and found to be a very interesting read. Here's where to find it if you haven't already seen it. It discusses some very interested research on the group known as Right Wing Authoritarians(high RWAs) and why they think the way that they do. High RWAs are likely to be submissive to traditional authority(eg government, churches), and want everyone to live in the same way that they do. These people are politically conservative in the United States.
These people are very likely to have poor reasoning faculties, discard reasoning if they agree with the conclusion, discard ulterior motive if they agree with the conclusion, have double standards, be hypocritical, hold contradictory beliefs without realising it, be self-righteous, blame the victim rather than authority, be aggressive to out groups especially if an authority they trust says they should be eliminated, and be more fearful than average.
High RWAs are very likely to be religious fundamentalists so if you're interested in insight into the fundamentalist mindset this is definitely worth a look.

It also contains information on the Social Dominance Scale, which defines how much power people want to have(often just for the sake of power). Although there is often not much crossover between high RWAs and high social dominance(as most high RWAs want to be led, not lead) there is a crossover of about 5-10%. People high on the social dominance scale manipulate people, have very few scruples, will break the law if they think they can get away with it, lack empathy and are prejudiced and bigoted.
People who score highly on both scales are the most bigoted of all and they actually believe their own rhetoric. A lot of these people appear to be in the Republican party.

That's an incredibly brief summary of the kinds of things discussed in The Authoritarians. Studies on these people are discussed in detail within, as well as more examples and explanations of their behaviour. If it sounds like something you'd be interested in, take a look!