Can’t call it ‘Islamophobia’ anymore

I should thank this speaker, Fahah Ullah Queresh for explaining that we needn’t worry about offending moderate Muslims – because there aren’t any; they all self-identify as unreasonable homophobic misogynists endorsing excessively morbidly violent reactions to what they say are ‘offenses’, but which don’t even count as crimes in civilized society.

It’s also important to remember that since this kind of atrocious medieval barbarism is a chosen position, rather than an ethnicity, and can be adopted or discarded regardless of one’s cultural background, then such generalization cannot be considered racism either.

I reserve that there might be Shiites or other Muslims who disagree with this sort of backward evil malevolence, and I invite them to step forward. But until otherwise indicated, I can thank this speaker for this demonstration showing that Sunni Muslims at least really can be generalized in a way that can no longer be called ‘Islamophobia’. Because we’re not actually generalizing them; they’re all that bad, by their own admission – as if embracing such inhuman injustice were something to be proud of.

If you’re Muslim, and you think you can counter the damage done by Queresh here, talk to me; show me how you could do that. Otherwise you’ll have to live with this image.

Likewise if this is yet another twisted parody that I foolishly took seriously, someone please show me the joke. Because this isn’t funny.

Scott Lane on the Ra-Men

The summary of tonight’s podcast is that Scott Lane has a son in a Louisiana elementary school -“-where the state government fosters creationism and religious proselytization in schools.  One of the test questions asked [something along the lines of] “Isn’t it wonderful what the ______ has done?”  Lane’s son couldn’t have guessed that the answer might be ‘Lord’ -because he’s a Thai Buddhist. The teacher saw fit to criticize the child for that, telling him and the whole class that his religion was silly and stupid. The faculty in the office were no better, suggesting that Lane enroll his kids in a different school if they refuse to convert their religion.

https://plus.google.com/b/101347975184866858916/events/cq3ond20pc4meo65ier742n70a0

On this date, once upon a time…

I would just like to point out that 52 years ago, on October 15th 1962, my existence was documented in a small Arizona hospital that was later converted into a jail. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president of what was then the most scientifically advanced country – in world that still had not been to the moon. At the same time, interracial marriage was illegal.

We walked though airport security with our shoes on, and we didn’t need passports to cross any continental border. Children left home on their bicycles without helmets or knee pads, nor any means of tracking or communication, on the orders that they return home by dusk.

A brand-new Corvette only cost about $4k and only had about 300 horsepower. Gasoline was $0.35 per gallon. The minimum wage was $1.15 per hour, and they spent it watching the first movie about James Bond, or on records by Ray Charles, the Drifters, or the Four Seasons. TV only had a black & white screen that was 19” at most, but it had the Ed Sullivan Show, the Dick Van Dyke Show, the Andy Griffith Show, and the Twilight Zone.

MIT and IBM had just invented the first disk storage system and the first video game –for a computer the size of a small car, but with far less processing power than an average cell phone today.

That round screen is showing the dot-pixel game, SpaceWar!

There was one more species of tiger and one more species of dolphin than we have today, and the global population was twice what it was when my grandmother was born, but still less than half of what it is today.

Think about that for a moment.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy

I’m doing a movie review AFTER everyone else has seen the damned thing.  Can you believe, I couldn’t get anyone in my family to go see Lucy with me?  I finally saw it on my own alone at a dollar movie.

Why wouldn’t anyone see it with me?  Because it wasn’t remotely real.  We seem to have a double-standard when it comes to fantasy films vs science fiction. We saw Frozen and Maleficent as a family and we enjoyed both of those.  Fantasy doesn’t have to be plausible.  Science Fiction however does, and is therefore subject to severe scrutiny.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy, but I have to say I enjoyed bits of that movie.  If you have to stare at one woman for an hour-and-a-half, Scarlett Johansson is a pretty good choice. If you liked the way she whupped ass in the Avengers, you’ll like her in this too.  If you liked all that reality bending of the Matrix, this film could be a sequel to that.

No Kung Fu though.  Pity.  This film could have gotten away with a LOT of Kung Fu.

OK, I liked that it didn’t impose religious beliefs. It didn’t even acknowledge them!  I also liked that it showed elements of evolution and cosmology as eye-candy, because we experience “awe and wonder” -no matter what Oprah says.  But the movie got a lot of the stated facts annoyingly wrong.  Life didn’t begin one billion years ago. It was at least 3.8 Billion years ago.  Animals weren’t only around for millions of years, but for HUNDREDS of millions of years.  I even winced when Morgan Freeman (who I think should know better) said that humans were at the “top” of the “evolutionary chain”. Ouch!

For those of you not in the know: evolution isn’t a chain or a ladder, and there is no ‘top’ either.

Then Freeman’s character describes his scientific theory as an untested hypothesis, which sounds to me an awful lot like conjecture.  Scientific theories are not hypotheses!  They’re not guesses, educated or otherwise.  Aaaaggggg!  I hate having to re-explain that all the time!

Hey Hollywood, would it kill ya to have a science adviser when you’re making Sci-Fi?

Worst of all, of course is the premise of the film.  Lucy, (Scarlett Johansson’s character) is accidentally overdosed with a mystery drug called CPH4.  For some reason, movie producers never seem to know anything about the periodic table. (Remember Unobtanium in the movie, Avatar?)  Combining one Carbon and one Phosphorus atom with four Hydrogens isn’t that complex or mysterious.  In real life, it’s a metabolic enzyme called 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase, and it doesn’t have the properties the movie gives it.  The director insists he made up the name of the drug -to hide the real name of a real chemical which is naturally produced “in tiny quantities” about the 6th week of pregnancy.  He wants to keep the name of the real drug secret, because it might do what the drug did in the movie.  However biologists discussing this online say that chemical isn’t what the director says it is.

Anyway, because the director thinks the properties of this mystery molecule can’t be known, then maybe they could really cause the outrageous development of her activated intellect. We can’t prove that wouldn’t happen, right? So we take advantage of the ignorance of the audience so that anything sounds plausible.

The back story isn’t the real issue though.  The problem is the premise, the old (and erroneous) adage that “the average human only uses 10% of their brain capacity, so imagine what we could do if we tap 100%?”

When questioned about this, the director said: “It’s totally not true. Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true!”

Thus Science Fiction becomes Science Fantasy.

In the movie, a gargantuan dose of this drug is accidentally released into Lucy’s system, and she begins to access more and more of her brain’s total efficiency.  As she does, she acquires new powers; not just of perception or cognizance, but of psionics. She can visualize the fabric of the universe as if reality were an illusion constructed by the computers from the Matrix. And like that other movie, Lucy develops all the seemingly miraculous powers of Neo. She can even turn back time –manually. Consequently she becomes a sort of deity, complete with all the powers of Spock, the X-Men, and ET combined.  All of that is not even on speaking terms with reality.  But that’s still not my primary complaint.  As I said, my issue is the premise of this film.

I always knew there was something wrong with that old saying. We only use 10% of our brains? That can’t be right. It didn’t make any sense, either from a material nor a theistic perspective, unless brains are just really inefficient. Everyone seemed to believe that when I was in school, everyone. And no one could tell where that claim first came from.

So I’m sitting in my 2nd level college course of biology for science majors, and the lecture is on the brain. The basal portions regulate glands and bodily functions, process sensory input, enable motor control, and so on, but all our wisdom, intelligence, and personalities emerge from the ‘thinking’ part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, or ‘grey matter’. So we use our entire brain. There is no portion of it which has no known and necessary function.

Then the lecture mentioned that intelligence can be correlated with the number of neurons, and that our neurons represent only 10% of all the cells in the human brain, as if we only use 10% of our brain cells for ‘thinking’. Once I heard that, I thought, “THAT’s where that came from!”

Not that anyone cares, because of course people would rather believe that if you unlock the mysteries of your own imagination, then you can wield telekinetic powers. Faith promises much the same thing.

My schedule at the moment

I just confirmed my flights for the Unholy Trinity Down Under.  I tried to arrange an overnight stop in Los Angeles, but that would have cost another $800.00.  So when I board Quantas in DFW, I won’t get off that plane until two days later, once I’m on the other side of the world.  That will put me in Auckland New Zealand on March 9th.  I intend to stay there a couple days before I head to Australia.  I’m speaking in Sydney on March 14th, in Brisbane on March 18th, Melbourne on March 21st, and Perth on March 23rd.  There are more details of course, but we’ll announce those later on.

After that, I’ll be in Hawaii March 29th and 30th, because my daughter is stationed at the Naval base there.  Then I will take another direct flight from there all the way back to DFW.  I would have liked to stop off in San Francisco for a while on the way back, but once again, it would have driven the costs beyond my allowance.

This trip is being jointly-funded by the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Humanist Society of Western Australia.  They let me arrange my own flights, but I have to keep it under budget.

I was only on a dozen planes in 2014. This one trip alone would have been at least that many, if I could have broken up the trip a bit.  Who wants to sit on an airplane for 24 hours or more in one shot?  Especially when we’re flying WITH the rotation of the earth, because that takes even longer.

BTW, would any of you flat earth believers like to explain why it is that flying west to east is so much faster than flying east to west?  The last time I made this trip, Tuesday April 11th 2012 didn’t exist in my life. I jumped straight from the 10th to the 12th. But the flight back had me on a 48 hour Monday. I’d love to hear how the flat-earthers explain that. They’re still out there, ya know. They’re still posting on YouTube.

Colorado students could teach their school board a thing or two about history

Students from seven suburban Denver high schools walked out yesterday to protest changes to history curriculum proposed by the majority conservative Jefferson County school board. We aren’t just seeing known culture warriors like the Texas Board of Education attempting to promote American Exceptionalism at the expense of accurate history.

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

So, the comments to the effect of, “Meh, why doesn’t Texas just secede?” These comments are missing the point on several levels.

What is so refreshing about this demonstration is that these students have been taught the history of civil disobedience so well that they are standing up to bigoted authorities.  Their teachers also staged a sick out that shut down two schools.  The problem isn’t that they don’t understand politics as usual. They don’t shrug their shoulders in response to injustice; they do something about it.

Why don't the authorities get this?

Why don’t the authorities get this?

Here are some of the social media parodying some of what the adults in authority would like students to learn about the good ole U.S.A.

Jen Caltrider@caltrider  "This woman is really, really happy. " #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

Jen Caltrider@caltrider
“This woman is really, really happy. ” #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

If you know history, the protesters of the Civil Rights era would have said, “Right on!” Only this school board doesn’t want you to read about that, because it would destroy the American Exceptionalism myth they want to sell to kids.

If only Rosa Parks followed orders & sat where she was supposed to, Bengazi never would have happened#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory#copolitics

 

Texas Textbook hearing Tuesday Sept 15th in Austin

This hearing tomorrow, (Tuesday 2014/09/16) is a general hearing about the social studies textbooks that are up for adoption. Right now, there is a window where publishers can make changes to books prior to the final adoption/rejection that happens at the November SBOE meeting. For this hearing, it’s best as a strategy to first try to get changes made by publishers.
Even mainstream publishers have included changes which present a right-wing conservative Christian bias and even promote 19th century southern white racism.  Much of it qualifies as propaganda. They not only promote Christianity and denigrate other religions, but they also portray certain stories in the Bible as if they were actual historic events.  Read this article in the Washington Post for details.
Some of these changes in the textbooks also treat climate change as ‘questionable’.  Yes, the Social Studies textbooks are now tools of climate science denial.  You can read about that in the National Journal.
Depending on what gets corrected or does not, the secondary push later is for adoption/rejection of publications. No, the board cannot just start the whole process over. They’ve been working on this process for for almost 2 years. So they would never abandon the total effort because they will not believe it warrants that.
If you’re able to testify with us tomorrow, bear all of this in mind.  You’ll only have two minutes to make your case.

Rewriting Texas history books to instill American (Judeo-Christian) Exceptionalism

When I first started studying for the Texas Social Studies Textbook hearings last week to testify with Aron on Tuesday, I expected to find the most egregious historical misrepresentations by non-mainstream publishers like Worldview Software. And of course they didn’t fail to disappoint. Here is a quote from a Texas Freedom Network briefing to give you the flavor of the worldview  they are promoting…

“The spread of international terrorism is an
outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western
political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Is that a fact? Are Islamic fundamentalists the only terrorists? Just in case you aren’t sure whether this publisher is being incidentally bigoted, their worldview on the origin of the inhabitants of Africa is straight out of 19th Century racist theories. I quote from here on out from the Washington Post‘s article on the hearing.

WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s

The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”

 Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”

“Hamitic” pseudo-scientific theories of the origins of Africans originated in the 19th century’s attempt to explain  white supremacist assumptions. They believed that Northern Africans like Egyptians originated from the Biblical story of Noah’s cursed son Ham. They thought that the “Negroid” race as they called it was incapable of building civilizations such as Egypt. They sought to misappropriate their accomplishments to “Caucasoids” such as themselves.

As a teacher, I know that non-mainstream publishers don’t normally make their way into classrooms. No matter how much a crank publisher matches the ideas the right wing ideologues on the State Board of Education want to promote. So at first I wasn’t as worried.

Now that I have reviewed more of what is being published, it is worse than I thought. I am genuinely surprised and disappointed. Even mainstream publishers already on the bookshelves in many Texas classrooms are submitting new texts for adoption that revise history in such a way to emphasize Judeo-Christian influence over the Enlightenment secular ideals that our government is founded on.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government
Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a
covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of
agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”

Let me get this straight our government is based on the covenant god gave to Moses in The Torah? The one most American’s break when they have pork ribs at Chili’s or shellfish at Red Lobster? We’re all going to Hell then for breaking the covenant  kiddos!

But wait there is more, I feel like a sadist for the face-palming that results from reading quotes from proposed history books in 2014!  Just a little break here to make you feel better.

You can still register to testify until Monday at 5:ooPM.  Instructions on how to testify and register are at the bottom of this briefing.

Join Texas Freedom Networks “Just Educate!” campaign to reform the Texas Board of Education.

Sign TFN’s petition for accurate textbooks.

Vote for reality based education in the school board. Voter’s Guide

Are you ready for more totally serious inanity from our national publishers?

This publisher goes even further than Biblical times with revising out the Enlightenment…

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice

Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”

Cuz yeah Protestant settlers like the Puritans were all about the “freedom to worship as one chooses”. As long as you agreed with them, and conformed to their ideas of how to worship. If you were a Quaker though, not so much! Quakers were banished, branded, and had their ears cropped.

But what about separation of church and state you say? According to this national publisher…

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

Fixed your wagon didn’t they?

If you think it can’t get more ridiculous, I have barely scratched the surface of what these textbooks are counterfeiting as history. Read the entire Washington Post article if you have a high pain threshold.

 

 

 

Dan Arel’s support is much appreciated. (Thanks for everyone’s support)

Since Aron launched his Patreon, he has been overwhelmed by the by all of the support he has gotten. The support has given him more time for new projects. These are a few of the new things he has been up to in the last 2 months. Like Dan Arel wrote, he has already put 4 podcasts together with his co-host Mark Nebo. This is the latest one with Deb Biennan and Vic Gettman, volunteer Humanist celebrants acting as chaplains at an American Air Force base. They talked about being persistent in providing support for Humanist airmen in the face of the opposition they get on base. The next episode will be live from Apostacon on Sept. 19th. There is an Evening of Scientific Inquiry with Neils Degrasse Tyson during the event also. Hope to see you there in costume! People think Aron is wearing one even when he doesn’t dress up.

Aron has also made  a new series called Living Science Videos with my help.  The mission is to provide teachers and students an introduction to biology based on the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards are opposed by Intelligent Design Creationist Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute. In a nutshell, their opposition is based on the standards including evolution and climate change. (so accurate science basically) Aron and I are often asked about alternative science curriculum for home schoolers, as it is currently dominated by propaganda mills like The Discovery Institute.

Science advocates often focus on textbook wars and standards adoptions, and these are worthy battles to keep pseudoscience out of classrooms. However, as a teacher, I know a good science teacher doesn’t just use a textbook. In fact, Texas skipped their obligation in 2010 to update textbooks, and is only now starting to update outdated books. Most of the books, I’ve been issued still had Pluto as a planet.  That is why we are producing science educational supplements, to aid teachers and students, who want accurate science and promote science literacy. The last video we made was about how hypotheses are formed and what a scientific theory is.  It answers the question that a lot of people ask, “How do we know?”

He is also finally able to go testify at a textbook hearing even if it is during the weekday now that he is a full time activist.  According to the Texas Freedom Network…

There are numerous issues spread across the dozens of social studies textbooks submitted by publishers this year. These include problems with the way religions are portrayed; endorsement of anti-government, Tea-Party ideology; denigration of affirmative action — to name just a few.

This is the link to find out more about the hearing on Sept 16th. Other projects are in the works, and we’ll update you when they bear fruit.

Duck Cage

I guess this is the star of Duck Dynasty. I don’t know; I’ve never seen the show. Anyway he says that atheists will be converted to end-times Christians if we watch the remake of ‘Left Behind’ starring Nicholas Cage.  Can it believe it took this for me to finally lose the last of my respect for Nicholas Cage?  To see him as the joke that everyone else has already seen for years?

I would say that this comment from the Duck Dynasty guy would have cost me my faith in humanity too -except that he is also the producer of this film, and we know how important money is when compared to anything else.