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.

 

 

 

Secular Pro-Life Same Old Scare Tactics

If I were to tell you that a purportedly secular anti-abortion group was engaging in the very same fear mongering and harassment of abortion providers that the largely Christian dominated pro-life groups do; would you be surprised? The True Pooka’s final report on Secular Pro-Life’s tactics is posted.

In addition to the other tactics Pooka documented, the group is promoting a campaign against abortion providers in the guise of concern for the safety of women. According to Pooka, in addition to making stuff up about the safety of abortion to women…

The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).

I know there are people reading this who are not at all surprised by the sliminess. I hope that they haven’t also grown, so calloused by this group and other anti-abortion groups’ relentless assault on the right to choose whether a person gives birth, that these tactics are working.

However, I don’t think this group’s presence at atheist conferences, a group that misrepresents both science and the truth, can be totally explained by its relentless tactics wearing people down.

How did it get past the smell detector?

The group’s members have the appearance of fresh faced kids. Ex-Christians like myself or people with well meaning anti-abortion friends may be mistaking what they are doing with the mistakes we made as Christians. In my Christian past, I have actually given diapers and my daughter’s bassinet to a Christian pregnancy counseling center in hopes of helping women, who wanted to give birth and keep the child.

Looking back on it now, I was misguided. These groups main function is to guilt women with ultrasounds of their fetuses. I remember the tour, and the center’s pride that they had received an ultrasound.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Secular Pro-Life website directs people with crisis pregnancies to Christian counseling centers? This is the picture posted on their resources page…

The group’s defines its secular mission thusly…

Secularism. SPL seeks to increase the inclusiveness of the overall pro-life movement by creating space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secularists.

I don’t think directing the atheists, agnostics, etc. to a Christian pregnancy center agrees with their purported mission to create a safe space for them. Particularly if they survived spiritual abuse.

This group is not simply misguided. A former member of theirs glibly showed all of us including children in the audience a video of abortions during a debate with Matt Dillahunty. She most definitely had the fresh faced, well meaning look down, even when she showed us the video without batting an eye. She also argued that abortion should be criminalized and prosecuted as murder. Matt’s recent debate with an SPL member showed the same callous lack of regard for women. The Christian debater argued that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to abort a pregnancy that would cripple her.

I don’t ever remember being that inhumane and judgmental at the height of my Christian years, and there is difference between some misguided person that you know or the pro-lifer you may have been and SPL.

As of this moment,  Pooka and I plan on seeing them at The American Atheists Convention in Salt Lake City this weekend. We hope the information we provided helps people to make informed decisions. I can’t help picturing a Reed Warbler unwittingly nurturing an imposter Cuckoo chick.

 

What really matters…The So-Called Secular Arguments Against Choice

It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve AhlquistOphelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo.  Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.

Sure Shannon.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.

I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.

Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.

There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.

So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.

In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.

That poster could just as easily be posted because the Bible tells me so...

That poster could just as easily be captioned because the Bible tells me so…

I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.

I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.

In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.

And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.

This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week.  How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.

Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.

I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.

Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.

[notice] If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.[/notice]

 

 

Say it ain’t so Bill Nye! Bill Nye debates Ken Ham.

So Ken Ham won’t debate Aron Ra and PZ Myers because… reasons!

He complained that the debate invitation was rude, but look how rude he was to Bill Nye…

“Bill Nye still doesn’t understand the difference between historical science and observational science — so he may be known as ‘Bill Nye the science guy’ — but he doesn’t understand science correctly,” Ken Ham wrote on Facebook. “[Bill Maher and Nye] don’t want the truth — they continue to ‘suppress the truth’ as the Bible states in Romans 1 about such people in rebellion against God.”

And incidentally he was rude to me too. But he will debate Bill Nye on his own turf the Creation Museum. What is Bill Nye thinking? Ham will have his own built in cheering section gasping at totally plausible stuff that Nye says about evolution and applauding dubious crap like this…

Ham added, “I hope to show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.”

How does he still say this stuff with a straight face given the amount of evidence for evolution people keep showing him? For the people, who already want to believe in the Genesis account, his pseudoscience will sound totally plausible given that they can’t discern pseudoscience from real science.

So that is Ham’s game plan.

Give Nye some credit though, at least he agreed to a debate topic that is narrow and focused enough, so that Ham doesn’t spend the whole time riffing on how nasty atheists like Hitler are, or other emotional appeals that aren’t evidenced. That is a common creationist debate diversionary tactic if you watched the Dembski/Hitchens debate, Dembski dropped the whole Intelligent Design facade and basically talked about evangelizing Jesus and how good it made him feel. The debate question is focused on science so it should be child’s play for Nye…

“Is creation a viable model of origins?”

I know a lot of people are thinking that why should Nye give Ham this honor? Especially because of galling stuff that Ham will do with the publicity like this

… Dr. [Georgia] Purdom stated to the Christian Post, [an evolution-creation debate] “could be held at a public university, using an impartial moderator. I would think that someone as polished and charismatic as Mr. Nye would relish the opportunity to debate a creationist. In addition, since Nye will soon be hosting a new science program, I would think he would like to see the publicity generated by his participation in a major public debate.”

So he projects his reasoning for seeking publicity for his new “science” program. Reprehensible! You know already he will be lying to children and adults, and undermining science education based on what he does at the Creation Museum.

creation-museum

You know little Johnny those razor sharp teeth were just used for cracking open coconuts! If man hadn’t sinned God wouldn’t have punished the dinosaurs and all the other animals with suffering and death too.

[notice]And Ham is already dragging on Nye’s lab coat-tails. This is a quote from a site aimed at young Christians called “Relevant”(I know) titled “Bill Nye VS. Ken Ham: Welcome to the Thunderdome”…

“It’ll be a battle for the ages, as the two noted brainiacs take on the question: “Is Creation a viable model of origins?”.

Do they have a snort out loud emoticon? [/notice]

Personally, I gotta see if me and Aron can make this debate out of mostly morbid curiosity. Also, someone has to cheer for Nye, right?

Asian Cultural Sensitivity 101: Why is Katy Perry’s “Geisha” performance considered racist?

I know no one asked me to weigh in on this, but what the heck. I am the resident East Eurasian here. Seriously though my social media is awash in East Asian outrage and also cultural insensitivity over Perry’s performance yesterday at the AMAs dressed in modified,sexy geisha apparel.

perry geisha

It is a Kimono mixed with a Chinese Cheongsam, so manages to neatly appropriate 2 different cultures.

There are a number of comments on the story that ask why is this performance racist and/or offensive?

Like these:

Oh I see, she shouldn’t sexualize geishas who were “Just entertainers”? Wrong. Geishas hairstyles were designed to sexually entice and attract men to spend time with them, who do these twits think WOMEN were entertaining in Japan during this era? Other women?? They were appealing and “forbidden fruit”. Not to mention that a young geishas virginity was sold to the highest bidder in a tradition called “mizuage”. Nope. No sexuality there.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnCLgIh4

They should just stop and not try to explain someone else’s culture to them when they barely understand it themselves. At least this person has been to Japan, but they still don’t get it…

I agree. I have been to Japan, and I thought it was beautiful. I think a lot of western people don’t get the folklore, and mysticism, and traditions that Japanese hold dear. Most of them don’t even know about the many festivals in Japan , like “The Cherry Blossom”, or Tsukimi.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEEOptU

At least this person claims to have a Japanese step-mom, so they must get it right?

I agree. Being offended by everything and making uninformed, false accusations about people is classless and a waist of time. I find it ironic that this is considered “racist”. My stepmother is Japanese and she’s laughing as she reads the posts that call Perry out for racism. “I thought it was beautiful and artistic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s cultural take on things.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEkifH3

Nope. It’s the old “I have a/an (insert ethnic relationship here)”, so therefore it can’t be racist as if you can adopt authority by proxy.

Hannah at afternoonsnoozebutton has already done a pretty good job of breaking down what people found offensive about the performance. If you are really interested in why people find it offensive, read her thorough explanation there. Here are her 5 key points that she nailed…

1. Katy Perry’s “geisha” performance tonight was culturally appropriative.

2. There is a long history of mistreatment and ill-will towards Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

3. Western culture “otherizes” Asians by assigning all Asians certain characteristics.

4. Asian women in particular are fetishized. This sexualization of Asian women causes increased sexual violence against Asian-American women.

5. Racism against Asians is often swept under the rug because of the model minority myth, and that won’t change until we start to address racist acts head-on.

Point 4 is particularly powerful as she supports here…

This fetishization has been empirically proven to hurt Asian women. 41-61% of Asian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the highest rate for any ethnic group. Between 5,000-8,000 Asian women are trafficked into the US each year for sex slavery, also the largest amount for any ethnic group.

This is one more perspective on it from Jeff Yang on The Wall Street Journal Blog

The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, “unconditional” worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.

So basically Perry’s performance appropriates Japanese culture in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The Asian submissive, hypersexual stereotype is particularly damaging to Asian women. I’ve been involved with people, who I didn’t understand at the time had no interest in me other than an Asian fetish. No interest at all in my intellect or talents. No human woman neatly fits into a stereotype, and this stereotype is demeaning and dehumanizing.

What bothers me is how unquestioned these stereotypes are and how uncritically they are accepted. Otherwise enlightened friends post stories like this one about Korean beauty contestants that supposedly had plastic surgery and looked freakishly alike from Jezebel to social media. To date there is no retraction that the photos were photoshopped to intensify the similarity. The stereotype that Asians are weird in this case obsessed with looking white is uncritically accepted.

And if you think the stereotypes of Asian women are bad, Asian men are stereotyped as sexually unattractive, dorks in American culture. Despite kick ass examples of Asian male masculinity like Bruce Lee, the stereotype of the Asian male as a lesser male persists.

Bruce Lee JudgingThe stereotype such as perpetuated in movies like Sixteen Candles have been so damaging that Asian men are thought of as undateable by women of other ethnicities. long duck dong

 

Asian men’s supposed lack of virility is still comedy fodder today. In this Guardian article which manages to combine all three negative stereotypes: Asians are weird, Asian men as unattractive dorks, and includes a former Asian prostitute as sex expert to boot. The story is about how the Japanese are having less sex based on falling marriage rates, which is a trend here too as Salon points out.

In fact this story became comedy fodder for Bill Maher, he facetiously used the story to propose posters to encourage the Japanese to have sex. Among the punchlines were the same old tired tropes like… “He’s Japanese it’s not like it’s gonna hurt.” In the same breath he bemoans progressive causes like overpopulation, yet there is the same old stab at Asian males’ dignity, that has gone on ever since American colonialism. Many in his audience don’t take a minute while they’re laughing at the expense of the Japanese to question the stereotypes.

The more things change the more things stay the same. I grew up not feeling proud of my Asian heritage. Years of having my hair pulled as a kid, being mistaken for the Japanese exchange student, having people ask where I am from and the doubtful looks when I say I am American add up. I am raising my daughter to be proud of her Asian ancestry. She even wants to start a Japanese appreciation club at her school. Japanese culture is becoming more acknowledged and popular here.

But there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation and reinforcing stereotypes. The comments on this story have been more offensive than the performance itself. They reveal how little these commenters actually question how the media portrays East Asians in this case. For all the declaring about wanting to know why people find this offensive; the comments show and unwillingness to listen to the reason why. Most offensive is in place of listening these commenters seek to tell East Asians in this case what their experiences are and how they should feel about them.  As for Ms. Perry herself if you are still wondering if she has some of the same unquestioned cultural insensitivity there is this quote about how she feels about the Japanese…

 “I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,”

I hope that this helps people to understand why Asians are tired of being portrayed in American media in the same predictable and stereotypical ways.

 

[important]Much of the ideas in this article were discussed first in The Secular Asian Community facebook discussion group. If you are looking for secular Asian support or to support secular Asians, they are a great group. We are putting something together for the next FtBCon, so watch out for that. [/important]

Tips on Evangelizing Evolution from Aron Ra

Ray Comfort noticed that a lot of atheists visited his Facebook page, and it occurred to him that he could train other Christians to witness to the “unsaved”.

“The average Christian can’t stand on a soapbox at a university and preach, but he or she can now engage the unsaved and have their comment read by multiple people, all from the comfort of their own home. It means that a stay-at-home mom can reach out to the lost during a break from the kids. It means that those who are busy at work can reach the unsaved during their lunch breaks.”

Here are a few nuggets from his page to tempt atheists to believe…

That which is considered by those who are anti-God to be hateful threats of torture, are loving warnings of justice.

He isn’t so much threatening you with eternal torture; he is simply lovingly warning you about justice. And just for fun another nugget…

Your casket isn’t the end. Think outside the box

So far, I am not convinced.  May be other atheists just groan when they hear about Ray Comfort’s antics because they are passe. Have you ever groaned when he gets a nonbeliever on the street, and they can’t answer him especially when it is well known science?

Like Ryan the agnostic in this video…

Comfort starts off with the question, “Why do you believe in evolution.”  Ryan flounders a bit about logic and finally adds that there is a similarity between chimp and human DNA.  Comfort comes back with no that is actually evidence for a common designer, who used DNA to create life. Let’s be fair to Ryan, he is on the spot and Comfort is interrupting and shouting at him.  Ryan still fumbles the ball though.

Let’s ask Aron…

This unsupported hypothetical magical designer put into our DNA genetic markers, dysfunctional genes, ERVs, sequential mutations indicating our ancestry with other apes and confirming our classification as primates?!

 May be you are at a level where that is low hanging fruit for you too. Perhaps, you’ve run across a person who has been taken in by more advanced pseudoscience.

For a lot of evolution supporters there can be different reasons why you can’t answer pseudoscience swiftly and adeptly.  You may know it sounds wrong but you can’t articulate why. Sort of like how I grew up around the Vietnamese language, but I speak barely any of it.  So if someone jokingly makes fun of an Asian accent; they have a chance of getting a laugh.  I can’t joke like that because it sounds wrong to me, because I’ve heard a genuine Asian accent. It just doesn’t sound right, but I can’t articulate why it is incorrect. Similarly, evolution supporters often want to defend evolution against annoying pseudoscience especially from family members and authorities, but can’t articulate why the pseudoscience isn’t correct science.

When it comes to evolution, we all have different starting points.  Growing up in the South, I was almost completely ignorant of my own biological origins, when I met Aron in the Crevo forum of Christian Forums. I still have complete noob posts that embarrass me to this day.  The point is everybody is at different levels, which is something you have to bear in mind when you try to convince people about evolution.

Anyways, Aron often gets emails from people, who are really interested in how to answer a question about evolution that is stumping them from a believer.  Obviously, he can’t come in and debate everyone, and in a lot of cases the person is better off doing their own research because they will learn better what to say to people.

However this weekend, he has graciously in his own surly way agreed to give tips to people to help them be better defenders of anti-faith. You can post questions here on his blog or join us in a Google Hangout this Sunday at 12:00 PM. Event location: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cmgcc50rv9t5ae884sv3eh6286k

It will be my second podcast of the n0nes.

Send us your google hangout information to [email protected] if you would like to join in the discussion.

 

 

Finding courage to keep the darkness of ignorance at bay Part I

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.

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.

While there may be places on Earth that equal the darkness of Mordor of Middle Earth in terms of the very real evil of ignorance more than Texas this year; that won’t be from a lack of effort on the part of the Texas Legislature. Secularists here are already beleaguered trying to stamp out the encroachments on the separation of church and state and the religious-based war on women and science.

The amount of ignorance that sees the light of day all over the country’s state legislatures is a bit daunting. The real trolls are becoming quite bold. They have been sighted organizing even in overwhelmingly progressive states like Oregon.

New MexicoHouse Bill 206 was introduced by Republican lawmaker Cathrynn Brown.  The bill would make rape victims and the doctors, who help them obtain an abortion, felons for tampering with evidence.

Arizona: Rebecca Watson notes that Arizona Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell, and Steve Smith were each a bit hasty in including the phrase “So help me God” in a mandatory oath recited by graduating high school students. I disagree a bit with Watson over whether the bill as is can be characterized as simply stupid.  As a teacher, I have seen these types of pledges turn into litmus tests to ferret out non-christians  Rep Thorpe will be giving it a second look for revisions perhaps at the suggestion of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

The last bit of news from Arizona is a bit encouraging that shining the light of reason on figurative trolls like the Arizona Tea Party reps will stop them dead in their tracks.

"Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!"

“Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!”

 

On that note, I have a bit of encouragement for those of you who posted your opposition to the “Merry Christmas” bill on Texas Senator Dwayne Bohac Facebook page. The bill would allow religious symbols such as mangers scenes and menorahs to be displayed in public schools by religious minded school authorities.  Before some of you posted on his wall in defense of the minority religious views that would be crowded out by the Christian majority in this state; Bohac was getting unopposed comments like these…

Thank you for standing up for our freedom and our children’s rights to talk about Jesus publicly. If more politicians would stand for what is right the way you have, our country would not be in a mess the way that it is right now. Thank you for your heart for God and for this country

Now that excellent comments like this one are also posted…

Fiona Albini Jallings I feel sorry for my relatives and friends in Texas. We’re not Christians, and it sounds like you’ll be forcing them to participate in religious events that aren’t part of their own tradition or religion. It doesn’t matter if you have the majority, you’ll still be trampling on others’ right to free expression of religion by forcing them to express yours. Please rethink this bill.

This bill all of a sudden may not sound as much like a great idea as previously thought by this representative. In fact, it may not make it out of committee to see daylight on the house floor. However, in a more sobering bit of news there are two initiatives founded in religious ignorance that have stronger support that have already been taking a grievous toll on public education and women’s health and reproductive rights.

In order to do these two important pieces of legislation justice, I have decided to put them in a second post.  Also, if you have been wondering about my metaphorical references to The Hobbit, if you indulge me a bit further I will wrap that up in the conclusion of Part II.

In the meantime I appreciate your comments on Part I, and if you are so inclined you can follow me on Twitter.  Perhaps, it will improve my writing’s succinctness to work within a word limit.

 

The Foundational Oft-Repeated Fallacies of Sexism Deniers

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.

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.

9/11 Truthers, Moon Landing Deniers,  Holocaust Deniers, Evolution Deniers, Creationism… It seems controversial ideas are polarizing and can generate extreme views.  Some ideas like the fact that the Earth is spheroid can even generate full-blown conspiracy theories. In fact, there once was a history teacher at my high school that was a flat-earther. This happened during the late 1980’s well after the moon landings. Any picture of the Earth in science and history textbooks pictured it as spheroid. In opposition to stubborn facts, this teacher resolutely decided to spout the same canards to every nail in the coffin that the Earth was flat.  For example he would say that maps were flat, and that proved the Earth was flat.  What about globes you ask?  Government conspiracy!

discworld

[important]

There will at any given moment in time be at least one discussion ongoing about some aspect of the Discworld considered as a physical object. What does it look like? Where did it come from? Does it rotate? What do constellations look like for the people living on it? Where are the continents located? Is there a map of Ankh-Morpork [There is now] ? What are the names of the Elephants [Berilia, Tubul, Great T'Phon and Jerakeen, just in case anyone'd forgotten] ? Is Great A’Tuin male or female? That sort of thing.

Summarising these discussions is useless: nobody ever agrees on anything, anyway, and besides: half the fun is in the discussion itself — who cares if these issues ever get properly ‘resolved’. From The Annotated Pratchett

If only we could discuss our differences with that little animosity. Granted this is a more important difference of opinion, but still. [/important]

Freethinkers are more often than not skeptical thinkers.  Skepticism is a point of pride to the point that we have robust skeptical organizations like the James Randi Educational Foundation.  Who can ever forget when James Randi owned faith healer, televangelist Peter Popoff on national TV?  It was one of the most awesome pieces of pwnage of religious charlatanism most skeptics have ever seen.  Randi managed to record Popoff receiving personal information in an earpiece about the poor ,sick people who were his marks.  He used that info to defraud them that god had revealed to him things he couldn’t possibly know.

[notice]Peter Popoff debunked by James Randi Video[/notice]

 Despite a very public unmasking of this charlatan, who preyed on sick people for money; he still broadcasts to millions of people today. That fact sickens skeptics…

about the villainy of Peter Popoff

But we know from debating creationists and their ilk just how strong cognitive bias is.

Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism

A decent skeptic will take no personal pride that he/she knows better than credulous people in the grip of cognitive bias.  The very best skeptics frequently examine their own thinking for cognitive biases and attempt to disabuse others of harmful biases.

None of this is news to skeptics.  Which is why the quality of the discussion of harassment within the skeptical community is all the more disheartening.  Before Rebecca Watson ever stepped into that fateful elevator, harassment of women at conferences was already a topic of concern.  Yet any discussion of harassment policies to address these concerns gets bogged down in “Elevatorgate” even though Watson herself never characterized what happened as harassment, which is the First Oft-repeated Fallacy of Sexism Deniers

I have collected a number of comments from Thunderf00t’s recent YouTube video “Why “Feminism”(sic) is poisoning atheism”.  The discussion has some pretty good,freshly minted examples of the canards that most people familiar with this discussion have already heard many times. But this first comment is in response to a Slate article Rebecca Watson wrote…

FOFSD #1 -Feminists -especially Rebecca Watson need to get over Elevatorgate

ou812

How does a polite invitation to coffee equate to the “objectification of women as sex objects”? Even assuming he was interested in sex, Elevator Guy did exactly what feminists have been asking for: he took no for an answer. Get over it, Rebecca.

and…

yutt

It is amazing that no matter how many times she tells the elevator story, she never comes across as the victim she thinks she is. A male was interested in her and wanted to have sex. How horrible!

I guess some people can’t emotionally escape Puritanism no matter how far they think they’ve run intellectually.

From Slate “It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too” by Rebecca Watson.

But again, I don’t need to. There’s enough evidence floating around the internet. For instance, “Some guy HIT ON ME! He asked me to come back to his room. WHAT A SEXIST!!” <–That’s not total bullshit? I don’t even need to bring up half of it. The vid does a good job of it and I’m shocked that you, who’s “sooo intelligent” didn’t catch what I was implying. Also, I didn’t expect special treatment. You’re an idiot. I love how your description of it is senseless.

And lol, you’re pretty angry. “XD”

Above comment from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 1 by Thunderf00t

Ironically the widespread fallacy that Watson misunderstood this incident as harassment is a misunderstanding. She simply felt uncomfortable about being asked to someone’s hotel room for coffee by a stranger in an elevator.  To make matters worse this one incident is used as an example to make the spectrum of harassment at conferences look inconsequential. Discussion of harassment in the skeptical community is often derailed to recount this incident in laborious detail.

FOFSD #2 -Rebecca Watson/Skepchick is a silly, misandric(sic), “feminist” who owes allegiance to a Hitler-like Supremacist!

Too bad. The Skepchick lady isn’t a feminist, she’s a misandric professional victim. Feminism was about equality, never about “women’s supremacy”.

and this one got 29 thumbs up votes…

Just want to put it out there…

Before all this nonsense? I was a feminist. I really was – I was a 110% feminist and all for women’s rights.

Thanks to Skepchick and her drama, I am no longer feminist, and I’m actually a little embarrassed that I ever was.

Above comments from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 1 by Thunderf00t

These are spot light fallacies.  Even if Watson’s personal ideology was to put men in concentration camps, (which it isn’t) she isn’t an archetypal feminist.  You’d be hard pressed to pick one person that embodied everything that feminism is in the flesh.  Ideas like feminism should be judged on merit not on whether you dislike the person espousing them.

FOFSD #3(managed to combine more than one FOFSD in one comment) this has nothing to do with atheism. Everyone needs to grow up, and the semi-related and equally dismissive accusations that the discussion is attention-whoring and DRAMA!

What has ANY of this got to do with Atheism? Just because people of the opposite sex come into contact with each other, one or two might have sexist tendencies (regardless of your genitalia) and that automatically means it’s their common interests fault?

Fuck me I hate people… Grow the FUCK up people, build a bridge, get the fuck over it and stop generalising, stop making massive leaps to make your own ridiculous conclusions to push some stupid PC agenda! You are wasting AIR….

EonRifft                21 hours ago             

Oh, wait, they think the internet is unimportant and youtube comments have no worth but they censor them and even refuse to let things be rated? Now I am no vulcan grandmaster, but this does not sound especially logical to me.

Conferences need to dump these placating standards they call anti-harassment rules as it just damages the atheist community in order to protect people from non-existent things.

These people need to be ignored as they are just attention whores bent on hijacking atheism.

Above comments from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 1 by Thunderf00t

These are a combination of fallacies that dismiss the discussion of harassment policies at the outset as being unworthy, and unrelated to the atheist community. As if there is a true atheist, that only discusses dictionary atheism.  The irony is missed here by the commenters because they are in effect restricting what is discussed by the atheist community. There is also the implication that people that discuss harassment are immature, and merely looking for attention and don’t have a substantive case.

FOFSD #4 -There is no Patriarchy.

No, Patriarchy theory says that society is built and run by men expressly FOR the needs, wants and desires of men, expressly at the COST of the needs, wants and desires of women. Even though evidence that contradicts that is very often censored, and it flies in the face of male and female psychology. Patriarchy theory most definitely suggests a deep misogyny permeating society at it’s core, and that is just complete bollocks.

in response to this comment that was actually down voted…

You’re thinking of misogyny, not patriarchy. Perhaps if you bothered to learn what these terms actually mean, you wouldn’t be making confused arguments.

Above comments from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 1 by Thunderf00t

It is the ubiquitous Straw Man fallacy. The commenter ignores the actual argument and substitutes with a position that is distorted, misrepresented caricature that is easier to defeat. Yes the “Patriarchy theory” that this commenter describes doesn’t exist to the extent the person describes it to.  Patriarchy is an idea that is hotly contested by sexism deniers.  It really isn’t that controversial.  We live in a male dominated society led by males for the most part. Men and women are commonly socialized differently according to traditional and often religious beliefs.

FOFSD #5 -“Feminazis” are angry, crazy “cunts”,who can’t get “fucked” and need to GTFO because FREE SPEECH!

symnzXx                1 day ago             

HOLD THE FUCK ON.. 7:33 your freedom of speech “ends the second that someone who hears that speech is affected”?? what the fuck are you talking about you crazy cunt? the reason we even have something in writing saying essentially “NOBODY SHOULD BE ABLE TO STOP YOU FROM SAYING THINGS” is almost specifically to protect things that are unpopular or may offend people. these bitches are out of line in the worst fucking way.. shit has to stop  (21 Thumbs ups!)

Pluto Nash                1 day ago             

The only reason feminists are so angry is because they are all hideous and no one wants to fuck them.

Jshect                1 day ago             

Oh my gosh, pause the video at 4:27 and read the whole harrassment policy. If you showed that to someone and didn’t tell them what event it was for they would think it was a meeting of sex crazed, delinquint, ex-convicts not a free thought rally. I don’t think the words free thought conference and sexualized environmnet quite belong in the same paragraph. This isn’t a XXX porn convention. This is a meeting of mostly highly educated civilized people. Femanazi go away!!

Above comments from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 1 by Thunderf00t

These comments address the people who bring up harassment policies or feminism with ridicule rather than a counter argument. The commenters haven’t done their homework on harassment issues, and dismiss the person making the argument instead.

The fallacies I have listed are in no way a complete list of all of the fallacious reasoning that is used to deny that sexism or harassment occurs in the skeptical community or the discussion of harassment policies.  I am sure other veterans of this argument can come up with other easily identifiable fallacies that prevent the actual topic from being discussed meaningfully in a lot of our community’s forums. To the credit of most of our community’s organizers, they have adopted reasonable harassment policies and codes of conduct.  A few of the points in these have sparked disagreement, because most skeptics thrive on questioning things.  Disagreement is not the problem in and of itself except if there is fallacious reasoning or tactics at the heart of it.

The same fallacies have been parroted in this argument so many times that parodies or Poes are starting to enter the discussions. Trigger warnings for offensive language apply…

Bardlettt                5 hours ago             

LOL whatever, mangina. You’re just trying to limit my free speech against these whores like Rebecca Watson because you’re pussy whipped! Get out of our atheism, bitch!

and…

Bardlettt                6 hours ago             

Yeah, I agree TF! All these nigger and kike whores trying to turn our conferences into their liberal bullshit orgies. WE NEED TO SPEAK OUT AND STOP THEM! Fake jewelry? Is that really in an official conference harassment policy? We must demonstrate before these fucking stupid, non secular sluts take over our atheism! GO TF!

Above comments from YouTube “Why “Feminism” is poisoning the skeptical community”. Part 2 by Thunderf00t

Even though these comments are anonymous YouTube users for the most part, these sentiments have been echoed by others in other forums.  I have left out fallacious comments from known skeptics and atheists on purpose, so as to not get bogged down in personal bickering.  So that no one assumes that these are not representative of the discussion of Thunderf00t’s video, many of the comments chosen have been thumbed up at least 20 times.  Also, this is the top comment the very hour that I am posting this…

John E 5 hours ago

The only females (or males) who can’t cope with the grab-ass and flirty games that go on amongst men and women, and deal with it in a sensible proportionate manner, are children. Seriously, why is this shit a massive issue in America? In my home country, and my current country of residence, nobody gives a fuck, because there’s nothing to give a fuck about. From an outside view it just looks pathetic, and I understand TF’s frustration.

Can you spot several easily identifiable logical fallacies?
For anyone reading this, who disagrees that sexism is still an issue for some in our communities or even that simply harassment policies are wrong, I want to leave you with a challenge.  I recently challenged a friend who is a prominent atheist in the discussion with this as well.  Do you really want to be arguing for the status quo of boys will be boys or people should be thicker skinned to sexist comments, or any other of the dodges we have been taught to ignore sexism? As atheism grows we are becoming more diverse, and these conflicts will arise where traditionally held ideas come in to contact with progressive ideas.My position on harassment policies has evolved over time through discussion. Even though I have personally never been harassed at a conference, why should I be laissez faire or dismiss other people’s genuine feeling of discomfort or genuine abuse? Why should you? And one final thought just like progress in science is most often not achieved by defending the status quo, why be a roadblock to progress?

No saved recording of the Bob Dutko debate

In my debate with Bob Dutko, he criticized me for not debating the existence of God -which was my choice of topics from the selection he gave.  I wish we had been able to talk about that, but instead he wasted most of that hour burning and re-building his strawman of my position while ignoring every correction.   There is a heckuva lot that should have been said, and I guess I was naive in imagining that there could have been any serious discussion of that topic on the level I wanted.

It has been my experience that whenever creationists claim to have evidence supporting their position, they invariably don’t, and the absolute best they can do is to complain about imagined inconsistencies in REAL science.  Apart from citations of misquoted abstracts, misunderstood and misrepresented, all they can do is jump to fallacious assertions or fraudulent forgeries.  Beyond that, they’ve got nothing, and I’m sure that will be the case with Dutko too.

For example, I challenged him to produce evidence indicating his otherwise unwarranted assumptions.  He said he had that, but what he failed to produce it.  Instead he gave a number of citations which he said would reveal unfossilized hadrosaur bones in one case, and another was a cache of swords allegedly bearing a precisely detailed perfectly flawless rendering of a sauropod dinosaur.   I don’t remember the other claims he made at that time.  Nor did I copy them down then.  My intention was to pull the recording and review the articles he cited.  But I just got confirmation that there will be no link to any archived recording of my debate with Bob Dutko.  So how do we hold these people accountable?

I already know for certain there were never any unfossilized hadrosaur bones, and I said so at that time, but I don’t remember the paper he named that he said would support him.  I never heard the bit about the flawless sauropod renderings on swords either.  What oriface did he extract that from?

One that I was already immediately familiar with was the pigosaurus in the Cambodian temple at Angkor Wat Cambodia.

You will notice that this highly ornate column has decorative petal patterns adorning practically everything, including the animal in the central circle.  As you look more closely, you will have to notice that the animal in question is definitely a mammal.  Some think it might be a cow or a rhino, but personally I think it’s supposed to be a pig.  Whatever it is, it apparently has either horns like a cow or the ears of a pig, and the sort of diminished dangling tail one would expect to find on any modern animal with hooves.

However Bob Dutko insists that this is stegosaurus.  Dispite the fact that a stegosaur would have a tiny head and a long tail with a double row of spikes on it, and disproportionately long back legs with long clawed toes, and this doesn’t match any part of that body plan    This is obviously a modern ungulate mammal super-imposed onto the same petal pattern as everything else in this temple.  Apparently Dutko can’t tell dinosaurs apart from barnyard animals, yet he accused me of ‘fooling myself’ when I can’t fool myself into believe this is something it doesn’t resemble and isn’t what it obviously is.

If all his arguments and all his evidence is really this weak, then it’s no wonder he won’t keep an archive of his shows and has no way to accept correction on any point.  His need to believe far outweighs any desire to understand.