Excerpts from the Texas GOP platform

I am bewildered at the shameless idiocy contained in the dominant political body in my state.  You can read the whole thing here, but here are some choice examples:

 

Principles:  “The laws of nature and nature’s God” as our Founding Fathers believed.

Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.

Free Speech for the Clergy – We urge amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to allow a religious organization to address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status. We call for repeal of requirements that religious organizations send the government any personal information about their contributors.

Filibuster – We support return to the traditional Filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

HONORING THE SYMBOLS OF OUR AMERICAN HERITAGE

Religious Symbols – We oppose any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols. Pledge of Allegiance – We support adoption of the Pledge Protection Act. We also urge that the National Motto “In God We Trust” and National Anthem be protected from legislative and judicial attack.

STRENGTHENING FAMILIES, PROTECTING LIFE AND PROMOTING HEALTH

CELEBRATING TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE
Family and Defense of Marriage ― We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman, which is the foundational unit of a healthy society, and we oppose the assault on marriage by judicial activists. We call on the President and Congress to take immediate action to defend the sanctity of marriage.

Enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act ― We support the enforcement of the State and Federal Defense of Marriage Act by state and federal officials respectively, and oppose creation, recognition and benefits for partnerships outside of marriage that are being provided by some political subdivisions.

Family Values ― We support the affirmation of traditional Judeo-Christian family values and oppose the continued assault on those values.

Supporting Motherhood ― We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.

Homosexuality ― We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

Pornography ― We encourage the enforcement of laws regarding all forms of pornography, because pornography is detrimental to the fabric of society.

Right To Life – All innocent human life must be respected and safeguarded from fertilization to natural death;
[unless you commit a crime in this state, right Mr. Governor?]

Morning After Pill – We oppose sale and use of the dangerous “Morning After Pill.”

EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN

Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.

Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
[There’s a fucking surprise.]

Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
[Yes, they really came right out and said that!]

Sex Education – We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.
[That’s why Texas leads the nation in REPEAT teen pregnancies!]

U.S. Department of Education – Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished.

Judeo-Christian Nation – As America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice.

Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties – We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. We urge the Legislature to increase the ability of faith-based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations.

Equality of All Citizens – We deplore all discrimination. We also deplore forced sensitivity training and urge repeal of any mandate requiring it. We urge immediate repeal of the Hate Crimes Law. Until the Hate Crimes Law is totally repealed, we urge the Legislature to immediately remove the education curriculum mandate and the sexual orientation category in said Law.

Child Abuse – We recognize the family as a sovereign authority over which the state has no right to intervene, unless a parent or legal guardian has committed criminal abuse. Child abusers should be severely prosecuted. We oppose actions of social agencies to classify traditional methods of discipline, including corporal punishment, as child abuse. As a condition of funding, publicly funded agencies are to report all instances of abuse.

Unborn Victims of Violence – We believe a person who injures or kills an unborn child should be subject to criminal and civil litigation.

Dear reader, where did all these complete nut-jobs come from?  The 1930s?  How did they take over?  Why aren’t more Texas residents voicing their outrage?  Is it just guys like me and Matt?  We more voices of reason, and we need to be LOUDER.

Here, untie my Gordian knot…

Guest contribution by Aron’s wife.

Last week, I had the unfortunate experience of watching yet another would be apologist rope well- meaning atheists including into attempting to unravel his twisted reasoning.  Aron invited this young man, who was very much impressed with Eric Hovind and his ilk, to an online discussion basically hoping he could reason with him.  The young man was coached into using a Presuppositional apologetic.  I know… the discussion took a frustrating, predictable path for those of us who follow these sort of debates.   Yet we still follow them in hopes of spotting that rare occasion when an indoctrinated person realizes they are wrong.

Still, I often wonder during these interventions why rational people often get entangled in this ponderous and tedious argument. It usually starts with a loaded question like asking how a person knows what truth is or how they know what they experience is real.  What happens a lot of the times is a rationalist attempts to answer as truthfully as possible, that it is impossible to know for certain what is real. Then the apologist smugly chimes in pointing out they admitted to not knowing anything is real.  Ironically, all loaded questions are worded in ways by the questioner that limit their opponents to answers that are presupposed by the questioner.  Presuppositionalism is the ultimate loaded question!

The apologist’s answer is that the truth is revealed to them by God.  Frustrated by the mental gymnastics of tortured reasoning, a lot of rationalists don’t notice that their opponent has side-stepped the burden of proof with dishonest, fallacious tactics. They have become entangled in the ponderous knot they were trying to unravel.  Don’t believe me?

Here’s a quote from an article on the Answers in Genesis website titled “What Is’ Presuppositional’ Apologetics?

When explaining their beliefs, Christians often feel they must first prove the Bible or prove the existence of God. This approach reveals that they do not yet understand the Bible’s approach, known as presuppositional apologetics.

Presuppositions are simply beliefs that everyone has that affect how they think, view the world, interpret evidence, and read the Bible. Apologetics is a reasoned defense of beliefs. So presuppositional apologetics is a reasoned defense of Christian beliefs based on recognizing our presuppositions.

So basically, they consider this a “reasoned defense” of a belief in God without the need to first prove their God’s existence.  The irrationality on their parts is to be expected, but how often they escape the burden of proof in a debate this way is frustrating. This young man was no different.

Briefly after the discussion, I was able to Skype with him .   I asked him if he was asserting that humans are incapable of reasoning without a divine revelation. Immediately, his handler piped in to answer for him. Aron pressed him to answer the question himself.  I added to the question if it was impossible for me as a nonbeliever to reason that two plus two equals four.  The discomfort was plain to see on his face as he haltingly answered that the universe has laws.

“Yes!”, I told him, ” evolution has laws too!”  His handler quickly cut me off with, “Evolution is a lie!’

As an educator, I hate to see people turn their critical thinking off, and allow someone else to think for them.  It’s not just this one young man, who is being duped.  As PZ  Myers reported, despite all the knowledge that has been amassed by scientists about evolution, the Louisiana government is giving serious consideration to curricula that claims among other things that evolution has been disproved.  It is institutionalized ignorance, and a completely reprehensible neglect of the responsibility that comes with authority.

Anyways, back to the Gordian knot.  If you remember your mythology, there was this huge knot that nobody could unravel.  Alexander the Great rides into town, and looks at the knot.  He then gets off his horse and slices right through the knot, and gives the gawking onlookers both ends of it.  In the process he cemented his greatness as an out-of-the-box thinker with what was later called “The Alexandrian Solution”.  I would like to see a hero great enough to slice through rather than attempt to laboriously untie the Gordian Knot of the Presuppositionalist Apologetic.   Perhaps, I may just sit in on the next discussion with my husband and this young man to see if his Gordian knot is not too ponderous to slice through.

The Dawkins Foundation, Call to Action

I first met former state senator, Sean Faircloth last October, at a private party on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, during the Texas Freethought Convention in Houston.  He and I had a long conversation over being immersed in a domineering religious society and the many ways that adversely affects our personal lives and family ties, especially in this state.  We hit it off very well.  Like so many people I’ve met in the secular movement, we became fast friends immediately.  When I saw him again most recently at a humanist conference in New Orleans, he emerged from the crowd in the lobby to greet me with a huge bro-hug.  We’ve probably only seen each other four or five times over the last year, but that’s the sort of camaraderie I find common in the secular movement.

Now I don’t have money or clout or communications networks like so many of the prominent people I’m lucky enough to associate with, but when Todd Stiefel, Matthew Chapman, or James Randi ask me to help out however I can, I’m happy to.  Sean is now the director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and he asked if I could help get the news out on new efforts by the US branch of that foundation simply by promoting his video outlining these ideas.

You got it, man.  It’s the least I can do.  What are friends for?
Now slide over a couple Franklins.

 

 

 

It’s alright to be wrong

I freely admit that I have no idea what it is to believe something on faith.  Everything I used to believe about God, ghosts, psionics, ectoplasm, extraterrestrial encounters, or cryptozoology -was presented to me as a factual account which was said to have been verified according to whatever pseudoscience documentary I was foolish enough to believe as a child.  The problem is that I wasn’t satisfied with simply believing what I was told; I wanted to understand more about it.  Of course you don’t have to research these things very deeply before “understanding” them means not being able to believe them anymore.  I have never believed anything that wasn’t positively indicated -even if the reasons sometimes turned out to be faulty or fraudulent.  I can’t be compelled to believe something if there is nothing to compel me, and I don’t understand pretending to know things that I logically can’t know or understand.  That said, it seems to me that beliefs based on faith require a desire to pretend, and to encourage the desired delusion by association with those who are similarly deluded.  Another factor is of course to avoid inquiry or analysis.  Ultimately it seems that such believers won’t permit any condition wherein they can be proven wrong.

Several years ago, I remember proposing a thought experiment which involved a hypothetical form of eventual technology capable of detecting and confirming the properties of God.  Surprisingly the believers in that discussion were outraged at the very idea that anything they believed might ever be objectively verified.  They complained that every aspect of God must always lie outside the reach of science, and must always require faith instead.  Their reason seemed to be that if anything could be proven about God, then that also meant that what some people believed about him might be disproved.  Beliefs based on faith must never be falsifiable.  It is as though everyone has a right to believe whatever they want, and that no one should ever be told that anything they believe is wrong.  We’re supposed to respect everyone’s beliefs -even when they’re baseless, biased, bigoted pseudoscience nonsense.

A couple years ago, I challenged a church congregation on the point that something could not be ‘truth’ if it was not ‘true’.  For them it didn’t matter that tonight’s speaker from Answers-in-Genesis was lying to them for the last couple hours.  Regardless whether I could show that his claims of fact were false or not, they were determined to believe him anyway.  I couldn’t get these guys to accept that it was ever possible to prove anything if they didn’t want to admit it.  Thus one would never have to confess to believing a lie.  The example I used was, “are there chairs in this room?”  The answer I got was in the form of citations from David Hume, and the rejection of my question as requiring a “totalizing statement”, whatever that is.  The dementia rampant in that room gave me the impression that I had wandered into an asylum.

A couple days ago, I had a two hour discussion with a brain-washed minion of Ray Comfort’s.  We argued for an hour-and-a-half over whether or not it was ever possible to prove anything objectively.  The boy I was trying to reach was unfortunately acting as the puppet of a presuppositionalist, who’s intent seemed to be to render reality itself indistinguishable from the delusion that he needed to believe.   He and I may never have another conversation.  Many times, believers have confessed to me that they don’t care what the truth is; they wanna believe what they wanna believe, even if they already know that it’s indefensible unsupported unwarranted assertions told to them by known and convicted frauds seeking undeserved tithe.

Over the last six or seven months, I have been involved in an online debate with a young-earth creationist talk radio show host.  Let’s call him Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible church.  This guy has a website dedicated to the claim that science has confirmed the discovery of “undecomposed dinosaur blood and other extant original biological material”, proving that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.  He presented to me several peer-reviewed journals examining large well-insulated fossils which included enigmatic microscopic tissues that were found to be ‘soft’ after being demineralized in an acid bath.  Some of these articles said they could have actual proteins, but that they might also be no more than their chemical break-down products.  One of these articles confirmed the existence of heme, (an iron-based compound) but not actual blood.  There was not one article which confirmed the existence of any “original biological material” that was “extant” or that hadn’t been decomposed.  I and a panel of reviewers explained this to him several times over the last few months, but he simply will not accept it.  He won’t correct any of his claims, and I just don’t understand that.  A common definition of sanity is the ability to reason and to be reasoned with, and these people don’t fit that definition.  I know how hard it is to explain something to someone who’s salary depends on his not understanding it, but then I also know a few honest pastors involved in the clergy project.  So it is still possible to be honest even then.

I can understand not wanting to find out that something I believed was wrong.  I don’t like the indignity of admitting that I have been duped.  I don’t like the taste of humble pie.  I don’t like having to post erratas or recant a position I once defended passionately.  But I have done all of these things again and again in my life, because my position is NOT based on faith; I want to be seen as a reasonable and an honest person.  That means that accuracy and accountability matter more than whatever I would rather believe.  Also I have never grown or improved so much as when I discovered -and discarded- some point of prejudice or ignorance that I never noticed or knew I had before.  So it doesn’t matter what I want to believe if it includes errors needing correction.  Consequently I would rather suffer the humiliation of being proven wrong than to forever be wrong and never know it.

Potholer54 on the Magic Sandwich Show

Every two weeks, I usually join D.P.R.Jones, Thunderf00t, and C0nc0rdance on BlogTV for the Magic Sandwich Show.  Over the last year, we have had such guests as Lone Frank, Andy Thompson, Zack Kopplin, Eugenie Scott, Barbara Forrest, Sean Faircloth, Myriam Namaze, P.Z. Myers, Matt Dillahunty, James Randi, and Richard Dawkins.   This week we’re excited to announce that we have fellow YouTuber, Potholer54.

This is a big deal to us because he just doesn’t do this sort of thing.  He has never been interviewed on anyone’s show, nor has he ever attended any public function where his YouTube persona might be recognized.  But we have been following his skeptical education example since before we began making videos.  His ‘ target=”_blank”>Made Easy‘ series was like a template for Thunderf00t’s ‘Why We Laugh at Creationists‘ or my own series on the Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism.  Some of his series has even been target=”_blank”>re-edited for use in public school classrooms.

We’re so excited to have Potholer54 on our show with us that we are willing to move the show to the wrong hour on the wrong day just to accommodate his Australian schedule.  It’s a live call-in show, so that is significant.  Normally our show runs on Sundays from 2:00pm central time until everyone leaves to watch Dillahunty’s show on the Atheist Experience.  This weekend however Potholer would like to be on at 10:00am his time.  That means we will be on Saturday night at 7:00pm Texas time, when I’m sure no one has anything better to do than to join our chat room.  What else can ya do?  Waste all your money trying to talk to girls?

The Role of Faith in Society

Just a couple days after I got back from the Global Atheist Convention in Australia, I had to give a speech at Eastern Illinois University.  My plane was delayed, and my driver was pulled over for speeding from Champagne to Charleston.  So I arrived more than a half hour late to a crowded lecture room.  There was no time to set up my own recording equipment.  I didn’t even plug my laptop in.  I ran off the battery and it shut off just a minute or so after into the QnA, which is included in this video.

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A week later, at the Freethought Festival in Madison Wisconsin, Matt Dillahunty said on-stage, “I love me some student groups, but you guys and your time tables…”, complaining that it took so long to get recorded data from them.  I can now attest to that too -as I just received the raw video yesterday from a talk that happened two months ago.  No worries.  It’s all good.  There is also an edited glitch in the video where I think a small outburst was deleted.  The talk was sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance, but the college gave extra-credit to any student who attended.  So I found myself addressing a largely Christian crowd.  This was also my most anti-Christian speech.  It seems that several of the kids in attendance were -to their credit- normally very tolerant Christians, who may not have known what they were in for.  There was a moment of mild protest from the normally quiet audience at one point.

I should also apologize that I had to be lame and simply read the speech out.  That is not my usual practice, but I wrote it on two of the 13 planes I was on that month, and had no time for better preparation.  Thankfully that didn’t seem to bother anyone in the live audience.

Veteran vlogger, but a blogging noob

OK, old guys and technology, right?  Anyway, I’ll just jump in and get started with my first post.

I’ve had an amazing year so far.  In the last 12 months, I’ve been to Ireland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida, Washington DC, Maryland, New Zealand, Australia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, California (twice) and even Arkansas, to say nothing of the events going on here in Texas.  I’ve been to a lot of skeptic/humanist/secular/atheist conferences, and have consequently fallen a couple months behind in my personal messages.  I spent most of my weekend trying to get half-way caught up.  Otherwise it’s been great fun.  I had to turn down a trip to Germany due to conflicting family commitments, and I’m mad about that, but I have some cool things coming on the horizon too, which I will of course post about in good time.  Now I have this blog and I’m trying to figure out how I have time to squeeze in one more of these type pursuits.  Isn’t that a great thing to complain about?  It’s a helluva lot better than sitting on the sofa wondering what’s on TV, right?  I haven’t turned on a television since I discovered the internet.  That’s when I started posting to Talk.Origins with other internet nerds like P.Z. Myers.  Since then, every year keeps getting better.  Now I feel like I’m actually doing something helpful, and I am proud to be associated with people of such high integrity.  Thank you everyone, but especially Matt, Laura, DPR, and Thunder.  I am sincerely glad just to know you guys.   Now let’s see how productive I can be in the coming year.

My wife also wants to become more active in this sphere.  She is a science teacher, and a good writer who is already a regular contributor to one of our major metro papers, and she has a lot of good points to make.  Now if I could only get my kids to be more active, right?

Anyway, being systematic, let me announce the next date on my roster.  On the national mall, I target=”_blank”>encountered a couple of Christian kids who were protesting the Reason Rally.  These boys were deeply deceived victims of Ray Comfort and the Hovind family of frauds.  One of them, it seems, had no education in logic or science or any aspect of demonstrable reality, or even theology, and had apparently never had his delusion challenged before either.  So I target=”_blank”>convinced him to assist me in an experiment.  I’m going to try a new approach in an attempt to reason with someone who has been conditioned to be unreasonable after lifelong indoctrination.  That will be our second session which will probably take place next week.  First he says he wants to ask me a series of questions.  Doubtless they won’t be sincere inquiries.  I predict they’ll be the usual non-sequitors we always hear asked by those who hope their questions cannot be answered, as if lacking an answer might justify assumptions that would of course still be unwarranted regardless what the answer is.  That part of our conversation will happen this Thursday, June 21st at 6:30pm Central time on my BlogTV channel.  At that time, we will schedule the next session.  I will also present him with a half dozen or so questions for him to mull over in the interim.  Then in our second session, we’ll get more into my interrogation and analysis of his position.  My goal is to show him -and have him acknowledge- that Cameron & Comfort, Ham and the Hovinds have never told him anything he could actually show to be true about either evolution or their religious beliefs, but that they have all lied to him almost constantly.  That will be an important first step.  What I hope will happen after that is that over the next six months or so, his mind will awaken, much like King Theodan’s did after Saruman was drawn out of him.  It could happen.