Happy Blasphemy Day! Up your god’s arse! (a repost)

Oh god damn it, today’s Blasphemy Day. I was already just reposting stuff today, so here’s one more.

Today is International Blasphemy Day. Atheists everywhere are insulting your invisible deity, whomever he or she might (not) be, in protest of the stripping of rights, in certain countries, to publicly and vocally disbelieve in anything that someone might find offensive. These countries include Canada, in a limited fashion thankfully, but the fact that Canada — one of the most progressive and modern countries in the world — has a blasphemy law is unreal.

Let’s make this perfectly clear. Blasphemy is anything up to and including publicly doubting the existence of a supposedly omnipotent, wrathful and jealous deity. The merest fact that such a deity would be well capable of punishing doubters (and in every religion’s foundational texts, does so!), obviates the need for a blasphemy law as not only redundant, but usurping your deity’s divine right to exact vengeance for slights against him.

And we’re not protesting just because it’s a ludicrous and gross violation of human rights. We’re also protesting because some people have been attacked, or had to go into hiding, because they once drew a picture of a prophet who may or may not actually care about drawings.

Interestingly, in Canada, there’s a proviso that, according to Wikipedia, ‘is not an offence against this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever on any religious subject.’ That, coupled with the fact that atheists are demonstrably better informed about religions than the religious, means only that I have to avoid swearing when debating religion in public in order to have a decent defense against a charge of blasphemy.

Fuck that shit, though. As far as I’m concerned, gratuitous swearing is good enough for television, so it’s good enough for me. There is not a shred of fucking evidence for the deity your dumb ass has postulated, and the burden of proof is on you motherfuckers. Anyone that thinks I should be put in jail for writing that sentence can go fuck themselves.

Two boats tethered together on a lake (a repost)

The following is a repost from 07/10/2009 on Accomodationism vs New Atheism. Given how well it worked for Stephanie Zvan and Greta Christina as first posts, maybe I should have led with this one. Or maybe I should write something new. I’m sure I have more to say about the nonsense that is the “New Atheist” label, and how “accomodationism” is really just rubbing everyone the wrong way with their crankiness that not everyone’s using their exact tactics of mollycoddling with one hand and slapping with the other.

I’m going to extend Greg Laden’s metaphor proclaiming (rightly, in my opinion) that the so-called “New Atheists” and the so-called “accommodationists” are in the same boat and bickering about what amounts to be the 1% difference between their philosophies. But first I’m going to set the stage for this rant, and I’m also going to do what a number of people in this Internet High Dudgeon have done — define all my terms (favorably to my argument, naturally).

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Reminder: James Randi at St. Mary’s in Halifax today, 6PM

Today’s super-busy what with preparations to see The Amazing Randi in person, so I’ll repost two things from my archives — this is one of them.

I need to see this. I’ll have to get off work early to make this visit, but this might be my last chance to see the man that took out Uri Geller in person. James Randi’s doing a tour of Canada, and his ultimate destination is St. Mary’s University in Halifax.

Randi will be speaking on human psychology and the ease with which it can be manipulated to convince people to believe in psychics, UFOs, ghosts, and other paranormal and pseudo-scientific claims.

This unique and provocative lecture is not only educational but also highly entertaining. It appeals to persons of all educational and social backgrounds and provides a rational perspective on the seemingly paranormal and otherwise unexplained happenings in our day-to-day life. Randi illustrates just how easily many scientists (who should really know better) can become blind to the fact that they are not proficient at detecting fraud, often managing to fool themselves when the prize is sufficiently attractive. And he puts up a million-dollar award as bait!

Admission paid upon entry

$5 for CFI members

$15 for non-members

There’s a special reception for CFI members, too. One of these days I’m going to have to spring for a membership.

A galaxy made of dark matter?

Is this blob of hydrogen actually spinning, thus betraying all the dark matter in the vicinity, distending nearby NGC 4254? Scientists say maybe.

Skeptics of the dark-matter interpretation argue that VIRGOHI21 is simply a tidal tail of the nearby galaxy NGC 4254.

The observations, made with the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, show that the hydrogen gas in VIRGOHI 21 appears to be rotating, suggesting a dark galaxy with over ten billion times the mass of the Sun. Only one percent of this mass has been detected as neutral hydrogen – the rest appears to be dark matter.

The results may also solve a long-standing puzzle about nearby galaxy NGC 4254 -a lopsided object, with one spiral arm much larger than the rest. This is usually caused by the influence of a companion galaxy, but none could be found until now – the team thinks VIRGOHI 21 is the culprit.

The more important mystery: what impact will this have on astrology? An astrologer suggests none, because astrology isn’t usable to make predictions. It’s all about “synchrony”, which means coincidental correlations, which can’t possibly rise to the level of statistical significance. Hey, that’s not me talking, that’s Ed Kohout, Serious Astrologer™.

Please confuse the children of Family Values parents

It’s so easy to get them all mixed up when their parents tell them that gays are evil and sinful and that only little boys want to play baseball and only girls should wear pink. All you have to do is show them that these things their parents are telling them aren’t true.

The Toronto District School Board has actually done something to redeem itself in my eyes. A difficult proposition considering I just found out they’re offering degrees in baloney. They recently proposed a set of improvements for public school curricula that would teach children that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people exist, and that it’s not nice to call them names or try to hurt them. Who’d have thought this would be such a confusing proposition?
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Exorcism: what’s the harm?

Oh, no harm, no harm at all.

A 13-year-old girl suffocated after she was strapped down and doused with water by her father and a monk who were trying to expel an “evil spirit”, according to Japanese police and media reports.
[…]
“They allegedly strapped the victim to a chair with belts and doused her face with water,” he said.

She was confirmed dead early the next day when her mother called an ambulance after the girl fell unconscious.

“The cause of death is suffocation,” the police official said.

News reports said the two men poured water over her as an “exorcism” with the father holding the girl down while the monk chanted sutras.

Reports said the girl’s parents had turned to the monk after the youngster had suffered several years of mental and physical ill health that doctors had not been able to resolve.

It doesn’t matter what religion you adhere to. The belief that sick people aren’t sick but are actually possessed by demons, evil spirits, et cetera, is empirically harmful. So why aren’t these religious services stopped before they happen? Surely they’re not happening in a vacuum — surely someone must discuss with someone else what the techniques used to purge the victim of evil spirits will be. Why did nobody suggest to this monk that this act is far more likely to purge this little girl of her, you know, LIFE?

You can get a degree in baloney

FtB reader Adam Shelton alerted me to some excellent opportunities for continuing education being offered by the Toronto District School Board.

Everything You Want to Know About Ghosts but Afraid to Ask – 46559
Think your house is haunted? Felt a cold shiver? Find out how to clean and protect your house, work, cottage, and body from unwanted spirits. Learn how to identify what’s real and when it’s just your imagination. Get your questions answered by professional rescue medium Dawn Trewin. Fun exercises, learning hand outs, and more! (optional fee $25)

So much more below the fold. [Read more…]

Tories’ steamroller government targets Canadian autonomy from US law

Back on Talk Like a Pirate Day, our friend sinned34 posted the following, which ought to give any Canuck pause, all pirate talk aside.

Seems th’ Cons in power here been schemin’ wit’ the Prez o’ them United States to allow the Queen’s navy to cross the border soutwards, in return for allowin’ the longish arm o’ the Amerikin law to reach up in ta Canada, unner the guise o’ chasin’ down terrists an’ protectin’ the public from varyin’ forms o’piracy. He s’posedly be doin’ this inna hopes of convincin’ that Republikin lap dog Obama to open up th’ border to more trade. But the way the Yanks been tossin’ their freedoms and due process overboard to the sharks be makin’ me fear they be exportin’ even more of the US-type prison system up northwards.

To translate that for those of you who don’t speak Piratese (for shame!), Harper plans on allowing cross-border police raids. Ostensibly it’ll allow our police and/or RCMP to cross the border to the States, but given the levels of crime between our particular jurisdictions, all we’ll likely end up with is the States raiding us. So much for our more liberal laws — between this and the omnibus legislation looking to turn Canada’s copyright laws into DMCA Mk. II, they’ll all be forfeit shortly. Sinned continues:

Stephen Harper has been working to introduce minimum sentencing rules and increase the penalties for drug offenses, especially targeting cannabis, and he’s building more prisons, so one can expect that he’s planning more legislation to fill those prisons. However, due to the general Canadian acceptance of cannabis use (a 2009 Angus Reid poll had 53% of Canadians agreeing with the statement, “The use of marijuana should be legalized”), it might cost him politically if he were to pursue a drug war with too much zeal.

If the Conservatives can’t convince Canadians to embrace the war on drugs, the next best thing would be to almost literally import the American war on drugs into the Great White North. The ability of American drug enforcement to enter Canada while investigating drug crime is the simplest way to bring US drug law across the border.

He’s absolutely right in this assessment. The last set of laws that were passed to combat terrorism was used primarily for domestic cannabis cases. We’re not talking about those evil drug dealers whose money supposedly funds terrorists, either — the international drug cartels that have gained their power through the very demonization of their product. We’re talking about the local asshole growing a few plants in his basement and getting thrown in jail for a long time for possession with intent to sell.

The War on Some Drugs has, traditionally, not been about the drugs themselves at all. It has, as near as I can figure, been an effort to turn jails into a moneymaking scheme. When people call for legalization and taxation, I can’t help but chuckle. See, there is far too much money in turning an entire class of citizens into criminals in a culture with for-profit prisons; in driving a market for a specific, popular and generally harmless* recreational pharmaceutical, that happens to grow like a weed, underground. Prohibition on alcohol was too much for the system to handle, and the shock of it turned just about everyone into a criminal, in such a way that the “war on drugs” was not just a figure of speech but an actual, violent war between organized crime and police. Too many innocents were caught in the crossfire. Prohibition of marijuana seems to be a “just right” amount of war, generating enough “criminals” to warrant megajails and the likes.

This is the culture Harper evidently wants to import to Canada. This is how he shuffles the war on some drugs into Canada by the side door. Once Canada becomes a fiefdom to the States’ drug laws, we’re at the top of the slippery slope, and if anything called for a slippery slope argument, this is it. We’re about to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the war on drugs whether Canada cares about cannabis use or not.

And worse, even the FBI admits this war was never meant to be won.

* There is a large cohort study suggesting that cannabis increases risk of psychosis. I’m not going to dismiss this study outright, but it involves self-reporting, and does not control for previous family history of psychosis, each of which is a large enough flaw that I’d like to see independent verification.

The death spiral is steeper than we thought

Nicked from Pharyngula. The IPCC was wrong in being too conservative. I’d take this moment to point out that the denialists are empirically wrong on yet another point, but I’m too busy despairing.

The interconnectedness of all things is amazing, but daunting. We have so much responsibility vested in us by nature, by making it to the top of the food chain, and we’re probably the most irresponsible species on the planet. Either we grow up right now, or we die as a species and take much of the rest of the planet with us.

Are all astrologers fated by the stars to be douches?

Ed Kohout is one of THOSE kinds of trolls. The ones you know are just trolling from the get-go, but that you just have to feed anyway, just to see what levels of douchery they can realize. In my repost of “How does One Prove Astrology? By Starting Over”, our new friend Ed has taken it upon himself to go on several Gish gallops, spouting so much effluence and demi-truths at such a rate that no single human being could possibly keep up without giving up their job, their personal lives, and ridding themselves of the monkey-on-their-backs that some people call “sleeping”.

Ed has an irritating habit of, rather than merely blockquoting someone and referring to their names, instead including demeaning or degrading verbs in place of “said”. For instance, people “bleat”, “wail”, or “scramble for cover” every time they refuse to accede to his rhetorical demands. I will do likewise in each instance where I blockquote him. I will endeavor to pick the most appropriate verb for each quote (and reserve the right to verb some nouns). Sorry if it gets repetitive.

He’s ended his latest tirade with a demand that I show him one single astrology book that refers to gravity as being the source of astrology’s purported effects. To wit, Ed douched:

As for the perennial straw-man featuring gravity, Jupiter, babies and obstetricians, please cite the astrological claim that the gravity of planets determines the astrological effect.

I want a real citation of a real book, some text somewhere that makes this claim. Surely you know right where to go.

I will not partake in this thread any further until you do so.

Which is why I will reply! I’d never do anything to alienate my new friend Ed!
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