Israeli gynaecological conference: no women speakers allowed

Orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel have been quietly handed a victory by Benjamin Netanyahu, where they exclude woman doctors from a conference about a topic that decidedly should not be male domain except by virtue of patriarchy: gynaecology. The conference will discuss the care and medical treatment of issues pertaining to women’s reproductive organs but not a single woman will be presenting.

The conference on “Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha [Jewish law]” is being held by the Puah Institute this Wednesday in Jerusalem. It will include such topics as “ovary implants,” “how to choose a suitable contraceptive pill” and “intimacy during rocket attacks,” in which there are many qualified female professionals, but none will be permitted to speak, at least not from the podium.

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How strawman arguments and shitty authors undermine #atheism

I haven’t read anything by Anthony DeStefano aside from his anti-atheist screeds on various news journals like USA Today, but I have no doubt merely by looking through the title list that he is a man of deep conviction in that which he cannot see. He’s written a book for children called Little Star, all about how the baby Jesus is very tiny but is our Lord. He’s written a book for grown-up children about how awesome a place Heaven is. And he’s written a book about all those things you can’t see but that the Bible assures you are really really real. And since you know other people believe it, they must really really REALLY be real.

So today we have a Serious Author writing a Serious Article in a Serious Journal about how atheists are superstitious “Materialists” who are simply incapable of comprehending that the parts of this natural world that we haven’t figured out yet are actually impossible to decipher, because God wants it that way.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.

What nonsense.

We’re off to a running start.
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My Formspring brings all the hits to the blog

Seriously, a disproportionate number of blog hits are going to an old post wherein I syndicated from my Formspring account a bunch of random Formspring questions. It’s not particularly interesting, or informative, or even remotely deep. But it’s got almost four times as many hits as the next most read post, due to its high placement on Google for the search terms used in its title.

And since I’m a total blog-hits-whore, I might as well try to duplicate my past success!

If you want to ask me an anonymous question via Formspring, there’s a box on the left column for just that purpose.

Would you rather be really hot or really cold?
As in, hypothermia or hyperthermia? Or just having the temperature gauge a few degrees on either side of “room temperature”? Because when really cold, I can put on layers. And when really hot I can take them off. I suppose it’s a matter of scale. But I’d probably rather be hypothermic than hyperthermic if forced to choose how to nearly die.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
My short list is Dirk Manly, Brock Samson, or Penis Largehuge.

What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
“*grumble grumble* coffee. Wait, first, need to pee.”

What the the thing you regret saying the most, what has come out of your mouth that you wish you could take back?
Saying “I’d do anything for you” to someone that, in retrospect, didn’t deserve it.

when was yr first love? :)
I was 16. The girl I fell for was a compulsive liar. Not a very happy end. First loves never work out quite right.

people, people facing laptops (or screen if it matters), who is the prettiest woman in the world?
Every woman I’ve met is pretty in some way or another. Physical attractiveness isn’t everything. (Well, okay, there have been some women with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but I’m trying to be optimistic here.)

If you could eat one kind of vegetable, what would it be? Pretend that the color of the vegetable tastes like a corresponding body fluid (red = blood, yellow = urine, green = fungus or something)
First, you’d be dangerously nutritionally deficient if you only ate one kind of vegetable, and second, you’re trying to turn me off of that vegetable after saying it’s the only thing I can eat. I call shenanigans.

What is your favourite season?
Fall, when it’s still warm out but the leaves start to turn.

Favorite movies in horror, scifi, comedy, drama, indie, and overall?
Horror: Army of Darkness. I don’t go in for anything gorier than that.
Post-answer amendment: also, Shaun of the Dead doesn’t really count as horror, but it is fantastic.
Sci-Fi: Firefly/Serenity. If you limit me only to movies, it’s difficult to just say Serenity, but I’ll stand by that.
Comedy: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Pure AWESOMESAUCE.
Drama: Casablanca.
Indie: Don’t watch them often enough. Last good one I saw was Diary of a Nymphomaniac. Though, Run Lola Run was really good.
Overall: The Princess Bride. It’s got it all! :D

The last thing I do before I go to bed at night is __________________.
Brush my teeth. Well, technically, immediately after that I get undressed, and immediately after that I pull the covers back so I can get in bed.

“Reality is worth defending, it’s worth getting angry about.” My FB ‘religion’ is now something I grabbed from a comment on ‘friendlyatheist’. “Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a personal relationship with reality”
I love this quote. The next time someone calls their religion a relationship, I’m so using it. Great find!

If you’re opinions are always so great, why doesn’t everyone agree with you?
Because then I’d be the founder of some sort of dogmatic religion, and then my opinions would be inherently worth less. Seriously, what kind of passive-aggressive bullshit is this? I don’t want everyone agreeing with me! I’m sure I’m wrong about stuff, I just want people to bring proof when they say so.

are your parents atheists too?
No, my parents were both religious. I believe my mother was raised Baptist in her hometown, and my father Catholic in his, which if you weren’t aware are both splinters of Christianity. My mother moved to live with my father in another province, and I was brought up Catholic in my hometown, which was 95% Catholic. My father is still pretty religious, and I only told him that I’m an atheist last year. My mother broke contact with us when she divorced my father and left to live in the States with some guy she knew from the internet, and I’ve been ignoring her attempts to restore contact since, so I don’t know what she is any more, as far as religion is concerned.

then what triggers you to be an atheist?
I believe the evidence is insufficient for any specific god(s) that people have postulated. Atheism is pretty much just the fallback position — if you can’t prove your god exists, and if the evidence contradicts your specific god, then why believe in any god at all?

I do still have mental traps wherein the concept of god that I’m talking about, is often the monotheistic Abrahamic god of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Because that’s the framework I was brought up in, that’s, to me, the most easily disprovable god. I am agnostic about gods like pantheism or panentheism, mostly because no evidence is presented either for or against, but I default to “why worship such a being” when presented with no evidence for. I’m atheist about specific gods, like Yahweh the Abrahamic god, because certain things have to be true for such a god to exist that just plain aren’t true.

Religion as a mental parasite

Look at this picture for a moment — click to enlarge. Kinda stomach-churning, huh? Looks a lot like an alien chest-burster in fact. It’s a rare isopod discovered off the Jersey coast that eats, then replaces, the tongue of a fish. Interestingly, outside the eating of the tongue, the fish doesn’t suffer terribly much in the way of ill effects from this disgusting, horrific, and horribly effective parasitic behaviour. Also interestingly, neither do people whose reason has been eaten and replaced by religious faith.

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More Sunday Atheist Readings

Linking posts are like cruise control for good-blogging-habits. Why write your own blog when you can point to others? Though an atheist-centric linking post on Sunday morning seems strangely fitting, does it not? I guess, that depends on what your particular religion’s holy day happens to be. I mean, the Abrahamic religions can’t even decide on Saturday or Sunday between them, and they all have the same root.

PZ has a letter from a student describing “balance” in his biology classroom — having never been taught at all about evolution despite promises to eventually balance out his learnings, but having had a long, illustration-rich lecture in creationism, he graduated without the merest inkling what evolution was. That’s a good way to win converts for the other side, theists. FYI.

The month of Ramadan is upon us, having started yesterday, and Mike Haubrich had a disturbing episode at work wherein, despite being himself admonished to keep his atheist books at home, someone went out and got a DQ cake for a Muslim celebrating Ramadan. This imbalance in avoiding religion at the workplace resulted in our compatriot foregoing DQ cake, and I know exactly what kind of sacrifice that is.

Here’s a nice cheat sheet in case you want to compare and contrast Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Scientology. Don’t get caught taking this into your Comparative Religion classes though, you might get zero on the test for cheating, which is a sin in academia as dire as plagiarism.

The Teapot Atheist has an unhealthy habit: collecting theist propaganda. Go check it out. He even has as his crown jewel, the Atlas of Creation by Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar).

In case you wonder why people consider evangelical Christianity to be both scary and irritating simultaneously, here’s an excellent example. Julie over at Rational Behavior posted someone’s Left Behind letter, for just in case they get bodily Raptured up to heaven. For those two of you that don’t know, the Rapture doctrine is the invention of John Nelson Darby circa 1830 CE, wherein several Bible passages are reinterpreted to mean that on Judgement Day (which will happen whenever God gets around to it), the holy rollers down here on Earth will get beamed up physically to Heaven, leaving food uneaten, babies un-tended-to, and airplanes unpiloted and doomed to crash. How inspiring! And the letter at Julie’s is just plain off the wall wacky, with Zdenny-level conspiracy theories and technobabble (what the fuck is this BlueBeam craziness?).

Since consigning Zdenny to the moderation bucket, it’s been incredibly peaceful around here. It’s a shame it took borderline censorship to achieve that peace. But it’s okay, for those of you still looking for people to put him in his place, he’s hanging out over at Relatively Unrelated, getting eviscerated by the indefatiguable Dan J, repeatedly and with precious little remorse. It is truly a thing of beauty, watching Dan at work.

Here’s a few more quick links in case the above hasn’t yet whetted your appetite:

Mormonism for Dummies — I’d never wear underpants like those. Ever. Not even after being posthumously baptised into Mormonism.
Proof the 10 Commandments are not the basis of US law — only three out of ten are constitutional and enforceable
A Christian analysis of Atheism — make no mistake, this is not nearly as fair as the last such sermon I put up on my last linking post.
A Feint and a Ruse: a story of betrayal and naïveté on the part of a science booster who honestly thought his theist friends would come to his defense.
10 Myths and 10 Truths about Atheism, by Sam Harris, from 2006. Worth bookmarking and spamming to your misinformed friends / commenters.
Look out evildoers, here comes Bibleman! Lamest superhero on the block.

My headache

I’ve sat on this for a while, as I’ve had quite a bit on my plate lately, and I don’t want to go out of my way to give Zdenny a bigger stage than he already has. Yet, I link to him because he quote-mined me here to make a larger point about science as dogma and Christ as science (no, seriously). He’s definitely right about one thing — this line of argumentation gives me a headache, one for which only a good long rant can serve as ibuprofen. Especially since they’re the ones who consistently conflate atheism with scientific naturalism.

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“Conversion is like cultural AIDS”

I’m going to post a video, and hope certain elements that have frequented this blog as of late will see their reflection in it. That is, if they watch it at all.

I don’t think the guy who said this (at about 24:45) had any idea as to the provenance of what he said, when he said it. The statement applies to all religions, not just Christianity. It applies to Hinduism, it applies to Judaism (Hasidic or otherwise), and it applies to Islam, all in equal measure. Sadly, it doesn’t apply to any kind of faith in the scientific method, as the scientific method produces nuanced, evidence-based results, and can change on the fly if the evidence makes it, as opposed to religion which digs in its heels every time something provable contradicts it.

Video and more ranting below the fold.
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