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.

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.

Irrational Rowlett – again

This video is from last April.

Last year, we had a bit of a confrontation with the city of Rowlett Texas, and the invocation that was illegal then, and for which they will not be held accountable. Now things have changed, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, and you’re about to read a demonstration of that.

Randy Word, one of my activist friends, has just relayed the following message:

The city of Rowlett has rejected our request for a local atheist resident to give an invocation at a city council meeting. They are now hiding behind Liberty Institute, a far right Christian pro bono legal entity, that defends religion sponsored by the government. This rejection flies in the face of the Greece NY vs Galloway Supreme Court decision last May that legalized sectarian prayer to open government meetings as long as there is no discrimination regarding who gets to give the invocation. Greece NY has allowed non-Christians to give the invocation including an atheist.

Metroplex Atheists and Metroplex Atheists Rowlett are calling for a protest at the city hall on 9/16 at 7PM which is 30min before the council meeting officially begins. The intent of the protest is to bring attention to the discrimination mentioned above and not the fact that the meetings are opened with an invocation. Resident Rowlett atheists will then speak to the council during the citizens input portion of the meeting.
We are inviting all atheists and anyone else who is against this type of discrimination to join us in this protest. We will have some signs but strongly recommend that you bring you own. Here are some ideas but if you make your own we recommend that you stay “on message” as described above. Please come to the next Metroplex Atheists bus mtg and help us make signs for the protest.

Rowlett – For Christians Only
Stop the Discrimination Now
Rowlett – Only Christians Allowed
Stop the Christian Bullying
Treat Your Citizens Equally
Stop the Hypocrisy
Your Policy is Anti-American
You Have Now Proven Your Discrimination, Exclusionism and Bias
Stop Hiding Behind the Liberty Institute
Greece NY Allowed an Atheist Invocation – Why Won’t You?
Stop Violating Your Own Invocation Policy
Rowlett – Non Christians Beware!

Another thing that someone could note in a public comment is that the Council has violated its own invocation policy in order to get speakers in the past. In 2012, Pastor Shane Pruitt of Connection Community Church gave the invocation five times (Jan 17, Apr 3, May 1, Nov 6, and Dec 4), in violation of the Council’s policy (see policy, page 5, #8). Additionally, for the Council meeting on June 7, 2011, the invocation was led by Senior Associate Pastor Clay Womack, First United Methodist Church of Garland. Though the First United Methodist Church may have “an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett, Texas,” the Pastor from Garland does not represent the local congregation. His inclusion therefore violated the policy (see policy, page 4, #4b). It also seems that the Council ends up giving the invocation itself more often than not. If the Council is this hard-pressed to fill its invocation schedule, perhaps that is an argument for being more inclusive.

Page 4 – 4b b The Congregations List shall be compiled by referencing the listing for churches congregations or other religious assemblies in the annual Yellow Pages phone books published for the City of Rowlett Texas research from the Internet and consultation with local chambers of commerce All religious Congregations with an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett Texas are eligible to be included in the Congregations List and any such Congregation can confirm its inclusion by specific written request to the Secretary Page 5 – 8 The Secretary shall make every reasonable effort to ensure that a variety of eligible invocation speakers are scheduled for the Council meetings In any event no invocation speaker shall be scheduled to offer a prayer at consecutive meetings of the Council or at more than three 3 Council meetings in any calendar year

Thanks

Ra-Men – Being progressive

I’m doing a new podcast. Mark Nebo of BeSecular co-hosts the show, and he acts as producer as well.  He wanted a title that had my name in it.  My sense of humor came up with the Ra-Men.

I want to do something different. Anybody can bitch about any situation and every solution anyone ever proposes. But just to be progressive, I want to talk to people who are not only proposing solutions instead, but who are actually implementing them; Even if we don’t yet know that it won’t work, so long as there is still reason to believe that it *might* work. Think politics, economics, technology, environmental issues, social issues, civil rights abuses, reforms or responses to oppression, opposition to certain legislation, moral obligations for the sake of humanity or the spotted owl, the advancement of science, education, or the distribution of drinking water, etc. Whatever. Any suggestions? Who do you see trying to do something to fix things that might actually make a difference?

How Perry ran Texas

If you don’t live in Texas, then you’ve no idea what we’re up against here, but a good introduction to that is this list of

Top 10 Things Texas Governor Rick Perry Doesn’t Want You to Know About Him.

Curiously, this list does not include some of the things Texans most often criticize him for.  For example, last year, he forced through legislation effectively rendering abortions impossible for the majority of women in this state. This brought a riotous crowd of over a thousand protesters in the halls of the capitol.  Previously, In 2011, he cut billions of dollars from the budget for education, thus firing thousands of teachers.  This brought over 10,000 protesters, and my wife and I were among them.  His principle opposition  in both of these instances was State Senator Wendy Davis.

On the day Perry signed his anti-abortion bill, he also signed the execution orders of a woman who was his 500th victim on death row.  The article mentions how Perry allowed a man to be executed who was already exonerated, but it doesn’t mention how Perry had executed more than twice as many prisoners than the next most lethal state.   The article also doesn’t mention how he shot a coyote while jogging, because he jogs with a Ruger .380 strapped to his arm!

Governor Perry also promoted his presidential campaign on his his hatred of homosexuals -as well as his issues against women’s rights and anything that might be of help to the poor.  But he hasn’t just attacked them, he’s also against the environment.  Perry appointees stored toxic waste dangerously close to a communal aquifer which provides drinking water for seven states,  Perry himself is also famous for his unwitting admission that he takes bribes, a fact that was already well-established by documentation.  That is apparently why he deregulated chemical plants that wouldn’t pass federal inspection, and then two of them exploded in suburban neighborhoods.  This is the man who thought that the most appropriate way to deal with record drought was to hold a prayer rally!  That rally failed by the way.  What a surprise.  Yet this article doesn’t mention that either.

This article should also mention that Rick Perry repeatedly positioned unqualified young-earth creationists on the state’s board of education specifically to undermine education in science, health, and social studies.  Thus our SBoE has repeatedly embarrassed the state on an international scale.  Perry also famously bragged that Texas teaches creationism in our public schools, and there are several public schools that do -under the guise of ‘religious studies’, which teach the Bible as literal fact.

So the next time someone asks why I wear high boots like Han Solo, this is why; because we’re in deep shit here.

un-biotic

Isn’t this an amazing image?

Looks like a living horror to me!

I saw this on Twitter, and had to talk about it.  I am impressed that this can be an electron photograph. It has color and shadow. How?  I wouldn’t have thought that possible. But most amazing is what it is, a T4 bacteriophage, a virus which infects E.coli.  Why is that impressive? Well, look at it!  Before this alien lander touched down on this cell, it was a virion, a completely static entity, an inert device in the “off” position.  Once the legs contact the ‘active sites’, it logically activates, just like a space probe; it ‘switched on’. What it does then is insidious.

The way it drills into the cell, so mechanical, so cold.  Just like a robotic probe, a mere machine.  The thing is, these things are not alive.  They’re genetic, they reproduce, they evolve, and they can even be killed, -yet they do not qualify as living organisms.  They’re so very close to that, and they certainly look the part.  Many even have DNA.  But they can’t achieve homeostasis.  They can’t maintain an internal chemical balance, and that is what defines an organism as living. This thing however, this alien invader -is a supra-complex macromolecular nanite mite, existing right at the edge of being ‘alive’.

I don’t know; I just find some concepts fascinating.  Had to share.

Apostacon!

I will be hosting a workshop at Apostacon. This will be the first one I’ve ever done. So helpful suggestions will be appreciated.
I will present a series of faith-based woo arguments and explain the philosophy or fallacy behind them.  We will share the arguments we’ve heard, these Points Refuted A Thousand Times, and compare them to my template to reveal a weakness in their armor. Why do they think theirs is a convincing argument for God/scripture/aliens, whatever?  What’s going on in their minds when they hear our side? We’ll look at their motivation and the strategies in play, and see how to turn it around. How do you reach the religious? How do you reason with one who rejects reason? It’s not always impossible, but there is a trick to it.
We often have arguments on the internet knowing that we’ll never change that one’s mind, but that we might convince the people on the fence.  However sometimes we really want to reach THAT person.  They might be more than just an anonymous internet handle.  They might be someone we know, someone in our circle of family or friends.  This conversation may be inevitable, and we’re either going to butt heads, or we’re going to communicate.  How do you get THAT one to understand enough of your position to at least respect it and get passed it?

This is not intended as a course to de-convert, though that will work on some people. There are categories of believers which will be effected differently, and we’ll talk about that too.

Apostacon is a Pastafarian conference in Omaha Nebraska, September 19th – 21st.  Last year’s event was well-organized and a good time for all. This year’s keynote speaker is Lawrence Krauss!  But there is also another associated event with Neil deGrasse Tyson!  The host of the new Cosmos will present ‘an evening of scientific inquiry’ in the same venue that Friday night.

Tickets for both events are on-sale today, June 16th, and should be purchased before the end of July.  Be sure to register for early-bird pricing to Apostacon using my speaker code, ARA1443.

Feuerstein’s folly

I never heard of Joshua Feuerstein before a couple weeks ago, when the BBC asked my opinion of his viral video. I contributed my bit to their trending News Magazine, but the video below only used a few seconds of that 30 minute interview.

Before they posted this video, I got an email apologizing that something had happened to their recording, such that much of the audio was muffled.  I don’t think I should make another video about this, but I do want to post the missing bits of what I told the BBC.

Feuerstein opens his video repeating the 11th foundational falsehood of creationism, saying that evolution has never been observed.  Even mAcroevolution has been directly observed and documented dozens of times, both in the lab, and in naturally-controlled conditions in the field.

He then moves to the 15th foundational falsehood of creationism, saying that evolution is ‘just’ a theory, like atomic theory, the germ theory of disease, relativity, or the theory of gravity. A ‘theory’ is a body of verifiable facts, testable hypotheses, and natural laws within a given field of study. That field of study *is* the theory. Creationism has no theory, because they have no hypotheses, or natural laws. There’s no body of knowledge there, because there is no part of creationism that anyone can actually show to be true -the way we can with evolution.

Then he jumps onto the 6th FFoC, where ‘evolution’ somehow has to account for the origin of life, the universe, and everything. Actually evolution is only a theory of biodiversity and is limited to population genetics.

Then he evokes the power of will -as if that had anything to do with any aspect of evolution; as if that wasn’t a facet of his own religion instead, wherein Jesus says that anyone who has faith can will mountains to leap into the sea. “Mind over matter” is an aspect of religious faith, not facts like the study of evolution is.

Then he moves onto the 7th FFoC, arguing that evolution is an ‘accident’.  In that he misquotes thermodynamics, showing that he doesn’t know any more about that than he doesn’t know about anything else.  He has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

Laughably, he even evokes Bill O’Reilly’s most embarrassing gaff, “Tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication; you can’t explain that”. It was that line of idiocy with David Silverman on the show that sparked Silverman’s WTF meme.

Then he moves onto Fred Hoyle’s ‘tornado in the junkyard’ fallacy, only he changed the Boeng 747 to a red Lamborghini.

Finally, he wants to believe something that has already been disproved in a court of law a decade ago, and he wants that taught in school anyway, and he wants to expose his ignorance of that loudly and proudly.

I don’t know how he could possibly be sincere.  How could anyone still be that grossly misinformed once they’re immersed in this discussion?  Whenever someone is THAT dumb, they’re likely to be poe. But this guy appears to be making a living at it, and is getting famous with it, and that is another reason to doubt that he would ever concede any of his many mistakes here. Accuracy and accountability simply do not matter to professional creationists.  But I’m least happy that WIldwood Claire awarded him the title of ‘dim bulb of the week’.