Someone advertising his ignorance of how science works

A couple weeks ago, I got a few emails from someone betting me $10.000.00 that I couldn’t prove evolution before a hand-picked Superior court judge.  I said that I could actually.  However there was a catch.  I had to put up $10,000.00 of my own money, and risk that to bypass -and ignore- the peer review process, in order to have evolution proven to a single person rather than a consensus of experts.  This guy wants an environment where I am at the most disadvantaged, in that evidence cannot be presented. Thus the strength of a confident sales pitch in a single informal courtroom can override many decades of academic data gathered by the global scientific community, and be potentially overturned in the media based on the opinion of a layman already biased against science with religious conviction -according to the conditions of the game.

Now this guy, Dr Joseph Mastropaolo is in the news making his absurd challenge, and he even admits that the venue and the rules of the bet are designed such that [he thinks] evidence would be rendered inadmissible.

It seems like this guy doesn’t understand how science works with regard to evidence in peer review, but more likely he does understand that.  He knows that can’t work in his favor, but he holds the opinion that conviction and appearances matter more than accuracy or accountability.  Where sensational publicity matter more than testable experiments.  In other words, he’s a typically dishonest creationist.

Should I give them a Bigfoot sighting?

a poster from last year’s traveling show

I’m trying to talk myself out of going to the Bigfoot Believers conference today, (Saturday).  It would be such a waste of time and money.  Plus imagine the sort of granola required to make up that audience.  But morbid curiosity and my desire to be an asshole to gullabelievers are beckoning.  I couldn’t help but destroy the Q&A by dissing their beloved wookie monster.  It also bugs me that they could have an event that silly in the Forth Worth Convention Center of all places.  I didn’t think we had that many tin foil haberdasheries in this part of the country.  I really shouldn’t go, and I’m not going to go because I won’t pay $35.00 for general admission to make fun of these people. But as one who was once mistaken for Sasquatch by so many witnesses that it resulted in a newspaper article on the ‘sightings’, it would be a shame that people have come all this way and they won’t get to meet any of the sources of the sightings they’re so excited about. Of all the places I’ve been invited to speak, I think I should be at this one. Because honestly I once believed in Bigfoot too -until I realized I was him.

Maybe I’ll stop by the flying saucer festival in Roswell on my way to TAM this summer instead.

Michael Nugent on choosing not to make a jerk of yourself.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Nugent suggests 8 choices that he thinks may help move the secular community beyond the rifts that have developed. I blame Rebecca Watson! You know she will inevitably be blamed anyways, so now that that is out of the way. (joking, of course)  I do attempt to do everything he has listed when I discuss controversial topics anyways.  It is important to me to try to not come off like a jerk.  I realize there are personalities especially online that that is their shtick   It is also important to realize that sometimes outrage and anger are appropriate responses to communication that is based on hate like racism, sexism, homophobia, class-ism, bigotry, etc. Outrage and anger at hate shouldn’t be confused with being a jerk.

Right now, for example I am outraged at the Vatican’s choice of yet another homophobic, sexist bigot, who got where he is by collaborating with the then brutal, fascist government in Argentina. How can it be any different when the Pope made a misogynist comment than when some in our community make hateful comments towards women?

He was named after Pope Francis for his purported championing of the poor agonist the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

He was named after St. Francis for his purported championing of the poor against the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

 

I can say with blunt honesty that this man is evil, and it isn’t the same as “insulting or mocking someone who disagrees with us.” The outrage in the case of the Pope is deserved.  Nor would I phrase it charitably as our President has in light of the amount of injustice the Vatican metes out worldwide.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” Obama said in a statement from the White House. “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God.”

 

There is no charitable way to interpret Obama’s endorsement of Pope Francis I. He is either gullible in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Vatican has become rich off the poor and most vulnerable among us, and lacks the compassion to stop demonizing condom use in AIDS wracked countries; or he is dishonestly pandering to the religious.  The official Catholic stance forbidding contraception contributes to the cycle of poverty especially in third world countries.

In some ways, suggesting a charitable in lieu of an accurate interpretation of a comment like Obama’s has the effect of shushing well earned criticism. It is the difference between being a jerk and being justifiably angry.

Nugent’s suggestions are already being used in the comments to point out the mote in someone else’s eye rather than removing the log in their own eye first.  I remember as a Christian the weird glee, that some would take in judging fellow Christians’ “fruits”, while being blind to their own glaring character flaws.  Someone rightfully pointed out that his suggestion can only be self-adopted; the only person anyone can realistically control is themselves.

Here are Nugent’s suggestions, which again I think for the most part commendable, and I have no problem adopting as I have already chosen to use them before.

The first five choices are general

1. We can choose to robustly debate our disagreements about ideas, while not personally insulting or mocking people who disagree with us.

2. We can choose to want to de-escalate, rather than escalate, the hostility and hurt that has been one outcome of how we have addressed some disagreements.

3. We can choose to accept that, just as we know that others are mistaken about our motivations, we may also be mistaken about their motivations.

4. We can choose to charitably interpret ambiguous statements, or ask the person to clarify them, rather than unilaterally attacking the worst interpretation.

5. We can choose to give people the space to reconsider previously stated beliefs, and to either clarify or easily disown off-the-cuff statements.

The next three choices relate to specific issues

6. We can choose to actively tackle the problems of sexism and harassment in our communities, regardless of the scale of those problems.

7. We can choose to robustly debate disagreements about aspects of feminism, without labeling people based on our interpretation of their motivation.

8. We can choose to unilaterally retract any statements that we personally have made that, in retrospect, we now believe were wrong or unhelpful.

 

What’s in a name?

This weekend, I went to NAPCON, the 2nd annual convention of the National Atheist Party.  While there, I mentioned that the party should change their name to the American Secular Party.  Most of those attendance seemed receptive to that idea, but not everyone.  The most resistance came from Justin Light, the representative from California.  Initially we intended have a formal debate of this topic right there at the South San Francisco Convention Center, but we ran out of time.  So we decided to do it informally, at the after party.

Should the National Atheist Party change their name?

While I am proud to be associated with the National Atheist Party, that name is in conflict with our core value as atheists.  Because we are among the greatest defenders of the separation of church and state, we know that perspectives on religion should not be politicized.  Atheism should no more be equated with a political party than the Christian party or the Muslim party.  None of us can speak for all of us, and as a collective, we really don’t have much in common.  Politically we’re all over the place.  But most of us share a perspective with secular citizens who are not without religious beliefs, but who keep their positions on religion separate from their politics.  That is how it should be.

 

I have heard many atheists express discomfort at having the words, ‘atheist + party’ stuck so close together.  However some secular Christians have ignored that label and joined our party anyway –despite the implied exclusion- simply because they share our secular values.  Thus it seems to me that to continue calling this an atheist party is both inaccurate and hypocritical.

 

I suggest that we should be a genuinely secular party, THE Secular party.  I believe that naming ourselves thus will give us more influence on both sides of the ‘aisle’ -as it were.  Those with or without faith can be comfortable in sharing in the idea that policies of state should be humanist regardless of religion.  I believe the Secular party will not only draw disillusioned Democrats and repulsed Republicans, but we will also likely garner members currently with the Green party, because we who are already involved in this party are environmentally-conscious and progressive.

Currently the National Atheist Party acronym is N.A.P., which gives the image that we’re all inactive or asleep.  From what I’ve seen this hardly the case.  Ken Loukinen, national director of American Atheists says that if we were to call ourselves the American Secular Party, the acronym would be A.S.P.  He then suggested that our symbol should be an asp, a snake, and preferably one associated with an apple. :-)

Bouncing around the weekend

Since PZ posted about his hiking trip, I guess I’ll share my trip too.  At the last minute, my wife found that she was able to join me in California.  This required that she take a different flight on another airline, one that changed planes in Las Vegas.  That meant that I had to change my flight so that I route through Vegas too, which meant that I had to have a two day layover at the Luxor hotel.  I’m not sure how my wife makes these logical deductions, but I try not to argue.

My dad lead one of the construction teams that built the Luxor, that giant black pyramid on the strip.  He was the one who engineered those unique elevators, called ‘inclinators’ that go up diagonally, following the exterior angle.  This will be the first time I’ve ever been in them.

On Friday, we continue on to San Francisco, arriving early enough to go shopping in Chinatown.  My wife is Eurasian, half Vietnamese, and she couldn’t come with me the last time I was there.  I think she needs another silk robe with a dragon on it.

On Saturday morning, we’ll meet everyone for NAPCON at the South San Francisco Convention Center.  Then on Sunday, we fly back to mundanity again.

The National Atheist Party political convention

The National Atheist Party first approached me at the Reason Rally, asking if I would represent them in some way.  Originally their convention was supposed to be in Boston just shortly before the presidential election.  That would have been great -speaking at a political rally in New England when the political environment was at its most charged.  However that event had been relocated to the other side of the continent and rescheduled for this weekend.

Over the last several months, I’ve heard some discussion over the idea of having an ‘atheist’ political party.  Strangely the NAP has actually attracted some Christians who are frustrated with how the Religious Right took over the Republican party, and how the Democratic party panders to God in their political platform -regardless of the majority vote on that decision.  So there has been some discussion about changing the name, and that will doubtless come up at this event too.

So this Saturday, March 9th, (at 9:00am!) I will be at the South San Francisco Convention center for NAPcon2013.  I’ll be happy to see some friends again, Jamila Bey, Jessica Ahlquist, Shelly Segal.  Richard Carrier gets to show me up again.  There’s also this Dusty Smith character whom I’ve never met yet.  This may be his first public appearance.