Whassup with the show…

Okay, so as I understand it, here’s how things are as of tonight.

Today’s show was the last to be recorded out of the Access studios, for at least the summer months of June-August. Exactly when in August, or after August, they will reopen, I haven’t heard. I know they’re spending a month renovating and upgrading. Then there will be another month devoted to training up producers on the new equipment.

Next weekend will be a weekend off for us, so no show on Ustream or otherwise. The following Sunday, June 14, which is the next one I’m scheduled to do, will be attempted out of Matt’s place. We’ll try to do video, which will all depend on how much the various hardware and software we have decide they like each other. It will also require Matt to sponge down his walls and hide the inflatable tapir, which we keep bugging him about, but you know bachelors and housekeeping.

It’s possible it could be an audio-only show, which would mean AETV will basically be another NPR for the time being. But if we can do video, we will.

We may or may not be able to take calls, so I’ve been warned to be prepared. Lovely. As we won’t have a strict 90-minute time slot either, the show may be longer or shorter.

In other words, expect us to be working through lots of DIY-centric teething pains as we strive to keep bringing you AETV all by our little selves. Personally, I just can’t imagine anything going wrong….

Toodles, Mac!

From a TFN email alert:

Senate Sends Message to State Board of Education: No More Culture Wars

Moments ago, the Texas Senate voted to reject Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. The 19-11 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is releasing the following statement:

“Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

Thanks to all of you who made calls and wrote letters about this important nomination. The Senate clearly heard your demands for responsible, common-sense leadership on the state board.

Regardless of the governor’s selection for the next chair of the board, our work is not done. With your support, TFN will continue leading the charge for sound education standards, ideology-free textbooks and the best interests of Texas school children.

Whew.

Now watch. Perry will get his revenge and appoint Cynthia Dunbar now.

Bang bang shoot shoot!

One state senator I suspect will not be voting today against Don McLeroy is my own, Republican Jeff Wentworth. And it’s not simply because he’s Republican, but because he’s so far to the right that he’s actually sponsored a bill here in Texas no one but the NRA wants: SB 1164, which would allow people to carry concealed handguns into buildings on college campuses.

I’m no reactionary anti-gun lefty (no, really, I’m not, so this isn’t going to be the equivalent to those arguments you hear from right-wingers railing against sex and porn by starting “I’m no prude, but…” who then go on to illustrate in detail how big a prude they really are). But anyone sensible ought to see the flaw in Wentworth’s logic. He begins by cynically exploiting fears of another Virginia Tech massacre, where hapless students were “picked off like sitting ducks” because the law left them defenseless. In the Hollywood fantasies of Wentworth, such massacres would be stopped dead in their tracks by courageous, armed law-abiding heroes ready to leap into action like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, busting caps and saving lives.

Setting aside obvious objections to this scenario — like the extreme rarity of such shootings overall, and the presumed readiness of regular people to respond to such a crisis with the cool head of a trained police officer or Navy SEAL simply because they took a 10-hour gun safety course — you’ll notice that Wentworth immediately kneecaps his own fantasy by assuring skeptics that, for one thing, the proposed law would only apply to those legally able to own guns in Texas in the first place: people over 21. So there’s no need to worry about hordes of hormonally distressed 18 and 19 year olds walking around campus packing. It’ll just be the older and wiser seniors, grad students, and staff, all of whom can be counted on for rational level-headedness every time.

So we should support the law because, we’re told, it’ll save lives, and we shouldn’t worry about its possible negatives, because most people on a college campus wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it anyway.

Bwuh? So, excuse me, how will lives be saved here? I mean, what’s to stop our hypothetical armed psycho from simply wandering into a large class packed with freshmen and sophomores, led by a professor who has chosen not to exercise her concealed carry rights (which will be most of them), and opening up? If the nearest legally-packing senior is up on the third floor, or, say, six buildings away, how many lives will be lost in the time it takes him to sprint to the scene and do his Keanu bit?

And what of other concerns that seem not to have occurred to Wentworth at all? Like, what if a legally armed senior has his registered piece stowed in his backpack? And then he ducks out of class to go to the bathroom? And in that time, his backpack is stolen?

And as anyone who’s ever been to college knows, no one in campus dorms ever gets drunk…

It’s one thing to want to find ways to protect people from those in our society who would harm us. We all want that. But in a perfect world, while we could easily prevent all crimes simply by passing law after law to head the bad guys off at the pass every time, the truth is we don’t live in that world. If college students in Texas didn’t need the passage of a concealed carry law after Charles Whitman’s rampage (and yes, I know that sportsmen with their hunting rifles helped hold Whitman at bay during all that, but that was still after he’d mowed down a number of innocents), then what exactly has changed since 1966? Other than the NRA’s lobbying power and hold over the GOP?

TAM7: Matt yes, Martin no

This year, it will be Matt Dillahunty representing Austin at the Amaz!ng Meeting 7 in Las Vegas in July.

As someone who’s been doing the belt-tightening thing during the economic slump, I’m sad to be missing it this year. Unless AXP fans rally and throw cash at me to get there. (Though that’s not a hint at all! he insisted, inserting a big smiley emoticon.) So if you’re lucky to go, do pull Matt aside and say hi, and he may condescend to grunt desultorily in your general direction. He may discuss the trip on the show when he returns, but I asked him if he planned to liveblog the conference the other day, and he gave me this look like, “What, are you fucking stupid?” So I guess that’d be a no. Anyway, better luck for me next year, I guess.

In related news, the JREF have announced the very first UK TAM, in October, and it’s already sold out. Damn!

More email fun: “Look at all the trees!” edition

From:
“liam humphrey” [x[email protected]]
To:
[email protected]

Hello Atheist Experience,

I am sending an email to ask you a question about God’s existence.

How, when you look out the window in the morning, can you not say that God doesn’t exist?

There must be a bigger force that has created all this beauty. It can’t be a coincidence, and science is unable to create such magic.
Science is a conspiracy theory. It is a ;lie by people who are in denial about Christianity.

I would also like to complain about Matt Dillahunty’s techniques when confronting us. I find him rude and irrational.

Thank You

You’re welcome.

And anyway, we do say that God doesn’t exist when we look out the window in the morning (as well as other times). So what this dope is complaining about, I have no idea.


Addendum: So okay, it was a Poe. Still, remember what Poe’s Law states: you can’t tell. And we’ve gotten real emails just this wacky. So, nice one.

Could Thursday be D-Day for McLeroy?

Texas’ official State Embarrassment Don McLeroy will find out tomorrow, hints the TFN, whether or not his appointment as chair of the universally derided State Board of Education will stand or fall. The Democrats claim to have all the votes they need to block his approval, but one should never underestimate the underhanded dealings and shenanigans of far-right Christian ideologues in Texas.

McLeroy has to go. This should be a no-brainer. But there are plenty of people in this state with no brains actively bucking for him. Why, apart from the fact he’s subjected the state to nationwide ridicule and overtly based his policymaking on his far-right religious ideals, has he been such a disaster heading up the SBOE? Well, you see, chairing the SBOE isn’t exactly the kind of place where one expects showboating political ideologues to make waves. It ought to be a non-partisan, administrative position focused on doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of education for the state’s schoolchildren, full stop, whatever this or that lobbying group with an agenda demands. Those inclined to defend Mac by saying “The Texas Freedom Network is a lobbying group too!” should extricate their craniums from their rectums long enough to note that had right-wing Christians on the SBOE not actively engaged such groups as the Discovery Institute in formulating state science education policies, the TFN could well have stayed home.

Apart from the coordinated gang-rape of science education that Mac has led at the Board, he has…

  • …also injected extremist right-wing ideology into social studies curricula, by appointing outright cranks to review panels to judge social studies standards. Among these are Christian Reconstructionist quote fabricator David Barton of Wallbuilders, whose agenda is promoting the theocratic “Christian Nation” myth; Bill Ames, a “textbook reviewer” for ultra-right harpy Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum; Peter Marshall, a four-alarm wackaloon of the Fred Phelps school, who has described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for teh gayz, and demanding Christian parents pull their kids out of public school; and sexist creationist clod Allen Quist. Yeah, that’s the kind of review panel Texas education needs: a bunch of lying education haters.
  • …summarily rejected a set of recommendations, put together by experts and educators over a three-year period, for English and language arts standards, in favor of an 11th-hour quickie set of standards drafted in one night by Mac’s fellow ideologues, and rushed into a vote without adequate time for review.

Hopefully, our senators will do the right thing and, in one very small way (after all, Mac won’t be removed from the SBOE if his chairmanship is not approved, he just won’t be chair), we will begin to turn the tide and push back against the despicable, mortifying, and contemptible ignorance and arrogance that has poisoned not only education in Texas, but the reputation of the state as a whole.

The Bible’s greatest hits: Genesis edition

The Atheist Experience episode #606 will be about the Bible’s impact on our culture, focusing on the book of Genesis. Dust off that Bible and follow along. We’ll talk about

  • how just-so stories have been used to blame and repress minority groups,
  • how the in-group uses the stories to align with power and justified thuggery,
  • how the breeding log of Genesis provides convenient hooks for derivative religions, and
  • how so many aspects of the goofy episodes in Genesis still remain with us while the really embarrassing ones are forgotten.

In future episodes, we’ll look at the greatest hits from some other parts of the Bible.

Christian radio hypes gold. A lot.

I’ve been listening to Christian radio lately, and I’m hearing a LOT of commercial programs hyping investments in gold. Now, I’m not really up on current prices of precious metals. I did do a show where I mentioned Liberty Dollars, which I consider to be a massive ripoff.

I’m generally interested in scams and ripoffs, and my skepticism sensor get triggered loudly when I hear a program (1) on Christian radio (2) involving pushy marketing hype, that (3) pushes an investment that is perfect for EVERYONE, and (4) predicts financial doom for anyone who does not participate.

This last bit, as I have probably said before, is a hallmark of both sneaky advertising and religion. It short-circuits your ability to think rationally about an idea on its merits, instead cutting straight to emotions and panicking you by making you think that you’ll be tortured forever (or whatever) if you dare to even ask questions about the concept.

So in this case, what’s at stake is the total meltdown of all world markets, where stocks will be worthless and a dollar in the bank will be about as valuable as a Russian ruble. Only precious metals can save you from a fate of scraping food out of dumpsters for your children. Very, very soon now.

Look. I don’t have a problem with gold as an investment. It is indeed the case that as the economy gets worse, the value of gold rises with respect to the dollar; as, indeed, will your pounds, francs, lira, and yen. If the dollar is doing badly, it makes sense to own something that is not a dollar. Simple as that.

Unlike most stock indices, the value of gold has actually increased pretty significantly since the year 2000. With hindsight, it’s been a good recent investment.

But watch out, because after a commodity rises in value is not the best time to buy. There was a stock bubble, then a housing bubble, and the fact that gold is not rising doesn’t mean that gold is going to do well forever. I’m not saying it’s a scam, but the hype currently surrounding gold does set my spidey-sense tingling like crazy. When lots of voices start loudly pitching something, it usually means there’s money to be made — not by you, but from you. They’ve probably latched on to a pretty good gig in convincing people to shell out their money for something much more expensive than it’s worth.

Anyway, the question is, why Christian radio? Is it just because there are so many gullible people there who are already conditioned to respond to threats of impending doom?

“Stop bashing my religion”

Fairly often, we get e-mails complaining about how we are only out to bash Christianity and will we please just stop. Usually, the author will have a glowing impression of their religion and its impact on the world and we are just misinformed.

We do beat up on Christianity. I know I do. I think it’s a good thing to make people aware of the harm that misplaced faith can cause, both in the abstract and the concrete. Christianity provides many examples. The fact that most Christians are unaware of the harm that their religion is cause is compounds the problem. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not a valid excuse.

Most of the problems we point out about Christianity apply to other religions, as well. But perhaps I am being somehow unfair to Christianity. I try to be open to criticism myself so that I’m not perceived as a hypocrite and so I’m not closed to opportunities to learn and grow.

My first response is usually, “Can you give me an example where I/we have unfairly criticized your religion?” This usually gets me no response. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are making a lame attempt to silence the critics of their cherished belief system. If you can’t provide evidence for a claim, then why should anyone take the claim seriously?

One thing I’m “guilty” of is pointing at a subgroup of Christianity such as the religious right, the fundamentalists, or the evangelicals, and implying that these groups represent the whole. Under most circumstances, this sort of generalization would be inappropriate. I do feel it is appropriate for Christianity. Christians claim that their god is the author of the one true absolute morality. They claim that their god is omniscient and created all of humanity, including Christians themselves. They claim to be able to talk with that god via prayer and that the god can guide those with faith. They claim that their god is the same as Jesus who they strive to emulated and follow. They claim that the “Holy Ghost” is the same as their god and that it dwells within believers. How is it then, that there is can be any Christian subgroup that is doing something embarrassing to Christianity? The simple answer is that one or more of these claims are false. I try to get the complainer to identify which of these assumptions is incorrect. I have yet to get a response.

Perhaps a believer can claim that they alone have the true religion™ and that everyone else is a poser. Such a claim would need to be justified, but it’s easy to demonstrate that most believers don’t think that way. Overall, Christians value tolerance of other religious beliefs, especially those of other Christian sects. This tolerance grew out of centuries of killing each-other in holy wars because none of the warring parties had any solid evidence for their beliefs. The lack of an objective reality underlying their belief systems explains the large number of competing sects of the various religions of the world.

Tolerance can be insidious, however. You often hear, “Thou shalt not judge…” especially when somebody is trying to soft peddle some heinous act to which they are a party. I view this attitude as an agreement among thugs. It means, “You don’t draw attention to how I’m screwing people over, and I won’t draw attention to how you’re screwing people over.” Practically speaking, it’s a free pass for the thugs to screw people over, which is exactly what Christianity does so well. “You don’t hold me accountable for my rape of children and I won’t hold you accountable for your obsession with trying to end the world via meddling in the Middle East.” “Let’s get together in the spirit of ecumenicism and trash the next guy.” Usually the next guy is a non-believer.

My attitude is that believers should be held responsible for the harm done based on those beliefs. We’re doing our part by pointing out the systematic problems caused by religious belief. Those who just complain about our message obviously want to evade that responsibility. Perhaps I should take heart that these people are motivated to somehow reduce their discomfort. With a little guidance, they might be encouraged to take responsibility for their religion or leave it. Either way is fine with me.

The world McLeroy wants

A recent report reveals what those of us who value science education and its benefits to society have long since feared: American students’ comprehension of the biosciences can be summed up in two words, epic fail.

Middle and high school students across the country are generally falling behind in life sciences, and the nation is at risk of producing a dearth of qualified workers for the fast-growing bioscience industry, according to a report released Monday.

Students are showing less interest in taking life sciences and science courses, and high schools are doing a poor job of preparing students for college-level science, says the report, funded and researched by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Biotechnology Institute.

The deficiencies will hurt the country’s competitiveness with the rest of the world in the knowledge-based economy, the report concludes.

What the news article doesn’t mention is that ever-expanding elephant in the room. There’s a reason this is happening, and it isn’t just that students would rather spend time with their 360s and PS3s. The interest in science education is waning because of a powerful and orchestrated right-wing Christian anti-science movement, which has seen its most appalling and flagrant expression in the Texas State Board of Education under Don McLeroy, who thinks experts are bad guys he needs to “stand up” to. Yes, well, I’m sure when you reach those pearly gates, Don, St. Peter will hand you your harp and halo and say, “Well fought, brave soldier.” At least, I’m sure that’s how the scene plays out in Mac’s rapturous fantasies.

But as the report makes plain, the effort to protect religion via the outright demolition of education is having a disastrous effect, not merely on the minds of students (there’s nothing worse you can do to a mind than rob it of the very will to learn, but the fundies, naturally, would disagree), but on the nation’s economic future.

The biosciences are going to be one of the most important growth industries this century. And with the Christian War on Education in full swing, you can rest assured, that growth won’t be happening here. We’ve long since been on the downward slide towards becoming an intellectual third world country. Now it seems we run the risk of becoming one across the board.

Texans, feel free to bring the findings of this report up when contacting your state senator with your opposition to McLeroy’s appointment. I plan to. It may be a futile effort at this point, but the truth is always worth fighting for. The fact the fundies fear it so much is all the incentive you should need to keep fighting for it.