A wasted debunking

Via Ed Brayton’s blog last Halloween, we have this story of Raelians attempting to debunk the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

In this study we tested the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation by DNA analysis. Results showed unequivocally that the rituals performed by the priests during the Eucharist sacrament have no detectable effect on the substance of altar bread at the DNA level.

Very amusing, but pointless. The reason the doctrine is called “transubstantiation” instead of “transformation” is because when Catholics say “transubstantiation” they mean something very different from transformation. And it all goes back to Aristotle.

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When I use a dictionary, it means exactly what I choose it to mean

Apparently dictionary atheism means that, if you’re an atheist, you should just shut up about abuses committed against atheists, because atheism is exclusively about “not believing in gods.” The words “decency” and “respect” don’t appear anywhere in the dictionary definition, and therefore atheism is not about atheists treating each other decently and respectfully. As an atheist, you’re allowed to say that you don’t believe in gods, and that’s it.

Unless, of course, you want to complain about the people who are speaking up about abuses against atheists. Then it’s a different story. Complaining about other atheists is perfectly acceptable, regardless of what the dictionary definition of atheism is, as long as the atheists you’re complaining about are reporting genuine problems. Somehow, magically, the dictionary definition of atheism only rules out legitimate complaints of abuse. It can do that, somehow.

And we think that believers are the ones who get their authority from magical books.

God’s justice: Giving the ACLU exactly what they want

There’s an amusing story on BizPac Review entitled “God’s justice: Jesus painting gets sweet neon revenge on ACLU.” The “revenge” in this case, consists of removing an overtly religious painting from a public school, and putting it on private property—just where the ACLU says it belongs.

An Ohio couple who got angry when their neighboring high school was forced last year to remove a religious painting that had hung for more four decades decided to take matters into their own hands.

The couple acquired the painting, which depicts Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” in a field with lambs and the first words of the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my Shepherd”) and placed it in a highly visible position in a yard that can be seen from the school.

Ah, sweet revenge. God should take equal revenge on all the Ten Commandments monuments and nativity scenes believers are trying to force onto the government. That’ll show the old ACLU!

Truth-seekers and god-slayers

PZ Myers is annoyed by the fact that, when it comes core, fundamental, human values, many atheists are as bad as believers, if not outright worse. In the eyes of some, “atheism” means only “lack of god-belief,” which means atheism cannot imply anything more than that, which means that atheism implies some kind of amoral anarchy, above and beyond mere unbelief. So which is it? Does atheism imply nothing more than absence of belief, or does it imply that “they’re right and you’re wrong?” You can’t have it both ways.

In truth, atheism absolutely does have implications beyond mere absence of belief in supernatural father figures. A world without gods to take responsibility for everything is a world where we ourselves are responsible. Atheism implies that we have work to do, morally, socially, and scientifically. And maybe that’s the reason why some unbelievers would rather not acknowledge anything more than just the absence of gods. But I suspect it goes deeper than that. I think what we’re seeing today is the emergence of two broadly-defined tribes within atheism, two different types of atheists, whom I designate as truth-seekers and god-slayers.

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This is more than just harassment (trigger warning: rape)

Rarely have I read any article that so enrages me as this:

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

I am angry at the injustice being suffered by this woman and by others like her. Read it all. It’s words we need to hear. We are failing, and failing badly.

But I think the writer got one thing wrong. She believes that this behavior is motivated by some kind of jealousy over how much attention women get online, and believes that the goal is to silence women. I don’t think that’s it at all. Oh this might be true for some of the trolls, but those guys are a mere nuisance, and their behavior cannot account for the kind of abuse inflicted on Kathy Sierra and others like her. The real problem here is a much smaller group of “trolls” whose goal is to get away with the virtual, online equivalent of rape. These are not geeks defending some kind of boys-only turf. These are perverts acting out rape fantasies with real victims and real harm. Women who make significant contributions are targets, not because the trolls resent the attention they get, but because the online rapist gets a bigger kick out of attacking an influential and well-known woman than attacking a more anonymous female. The goal is not to defend anything. It’s to attack and destroy the woman. For “kicks.”

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Who belongs to whom?

One recent story that keeps popping up in my news feeds is how various police and intelligence authorities are complaining about the security in the iPhone 6 being too tough for them to crack. I’m not sure how much of that is real, but it does suggest a couple observations we might make.

First, if it’s true that the iPhone 6 is the first device that’s not open for the police to read whenever they want, then that means all previous devices have been more or less open to government search and seizure at their discretion. A court order might be nice, but as we’ve seen again and again, the government routinely dispenses with such formalities when they become inconvenient.

The second and more important observation is that there’s been a fundamental shift in the foundations of our democratic republic. The government is no longer owned by the people. The people are now owned by the government, at least in the government’s opinion.

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That’s a hell of an argument

The Christian News Network has caught Bill Nye the Science Guy deliberately and even flagrantly indulging in reasonable thought and rejecting pious fallacies.

In the latest issue of a widely-circulated science magazine, Bill Nye ‘the Science Guy’ defiantly defends his evolutionary beliefs and says that even if he ends up ‘going to Hell,’ it still won’t prove that the earth is young.

Imagine that. You know what else would not be proved if Bill Nye was condemned to Hell by a vengeful God? Lots of things: that the earth was flat, that the sun orbits around the moon, that Jesus was a marmot with an addiction to penny loafers, lots of things. You can threaten people with horrible suffering and/or death unless they believe what you tell them, but that has nothing at all to do with whether or not the things you say are true.

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Everyone knows God is a myth—sorta

PZ Myers has a few words to say about Christians like Kevin Sorbo who blithely insist that all atheists secretly believe in God.

So when these loons make all this effort to tell me what I really believe, I wonder how they’d respond if I declared that they were all secretly atheists themselves, that in their hearts they were positive that this god they declaim never was, that Jesus was a deluded fanatic, that prayer is a complete waste of time. It’s a rather dishonest argument, don’t you think? I’m right, but everyone who disagrees is lying about their true opinion, therefore my support is unanimous?

He’s right, that would indeed be a dishonest argument. There’s one fascinating difference though. There’s a bright, clear line between the things an imaginary person can be given credit for, and the things you must be a real person to do. And with few exceptions, every believer knows where that line is, and knows that God will never cross it in real life. He can cross the line in stories and legends and hearsay, of course, but never in real life. In fact, Christians will be offended if you dare to suggest that He should. They will never admit, even to themselves, that they know God is a mythical being. But that line is always there, and they’re very protective about keeping God inside it.

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Don’t argue, babe, it’s SCIENCE!

You know, my wife and I have been married for over 30 years now, and I’ve been trying to explain proper marital roles to her, and she never listens. But now she’ll have to, because I’ve got this.

Years of doing chores around the house, including ironing, dishwashing, vacuuming and dusting, could turn heterosexual men gay, according to the results of a study headed by Dr. Kareem Ongyz, Turkey’s most famous sexologist from the University of Istanbul’s psychology department.

See? He’s a Dr, and he does studies. Checkmate, feminists and gay rights activists!

[Update: no, it’s a spoof. Still funny tho, just slightly less ironic.]

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The Slippery Slope

Just by the way, I’ve heard a number of people wondering melodramatically where it will all end, as in “If we let gay people get married, what next?” Is gay rights some kind of slippery slope leading down into who knows what?

Well, it just might be, and if you’re wondering where all this will lead to, I’ll tell you where it will all end. Taken to their logical conclusions, gay rights and marriage equality will ultimately lead us to two realizations. One, there’s nothing inherently corrupt or harmful in sexual pleasure and satisfaction in and of themselves. And two, as long as two people aren’t harming anyone (see Point #1), it’s none of our business. If we start down the slippery slope of not meddling in other people’s business and not harassing them over the harmless ways in which they live their lives, then ultimately we can look forward to landing ourselves at the “bottom of the pit,” in a land of personal liberty, dignity, and fulfillment.

If anyone finds such things horrifying and unbearable, they may now begin to cultivate their angst.