I just read On Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me, and bam, just like that, I was compelled to go buy one of her books. I think that means she might be a witch.
Dec 10 2013
Dec 10 2013
Gregory Paul says that Nelson Mandela was an atheist. I’ve looked around a bit, and I can’t find any confirmation of that — I wouldn’t be surprised, but at best I find that he was a committed secularist who avoided coming out clearly about religion. Can anyone confirm? I don’t like it when dead people are immediately brought into the fold of a religion when they can’t deny it, so I’m not keen on atheists doing likewise.
Back in the last decade there was a cable talk show titled Faith Under Fire. Hosted by a right wing Christian, it featured theists and atheists in direct conflict over assorted matters. In one segment a theist challenged a leader of an atheist organization to name a single atheist who had become a great moral leader. To my annoyance the had-not-thought-about-that-one-before atheist was stumped.
A leading example, of course, is Andrei Sakharov. The wholly ungodly leftist physicist started out as the father of the Soviet H-bomb, but became so fed up with dictatorial communism – Khrushchev’s insistence on detonating a colossal 50 megaton thermonuclear device for no practical reason being a factor – that he became the leading dissident against the system, fighting for progressive democracy at considerable expense to himself.
And the other great moral atheist leader of the 20th century was Nelson Mandela. He too was an nontheist of the left (as most are, in the US 3/4s of the nonreligious are progressives, the rest Randian libertarians.)
Now that last bit is interesting. If you’ve been wondering how big the atheist rift is, and are a little tired of vague claims that those jerks are a minority, it at least pins a specific number on them: 25%. Which isn’t small.
The claim is a little overstated, though. They aren’t necessarily Randian libertarians. The basis of that 25% comes from the Pew poll of the “nones”, which found that about a quarter of them were politically conservative.
I looked through the whole thing; no sign that they actually assessed the details of political alignment closely enough to recognize libertarians. But yeah, 25% does sound like a reasonable estimate of the fraction of jerks infesting the atheist movement.
Dec 10 2013
They liked the Dawkins/Krauss road trip movie, ‘The Unbelievers’. It’s getting a one week long showing in New York? That’s all? I wonder how long we’ll get it in Morris. (Not really. There’s no way it would play here.)
I suppose I’ve got to wait for it to come out on Netflix.
Dec 10 2013
Bill O’Reilly, as he always does this time of year, was ramping up this War on Christmas nonsense again. He’s peeved at the new billboard display from American Atheists in Times Square.
American Atheists launched a major billboard display on Tuesday that declares Christmas is better without the Christ. The huge 40′x40′ digital billboard is located in Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. Using motion graphics, the billboard proclaims, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “NOBODY” appears. The display then says “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas” and offers a series of cheery words: family, friends, charity, food, snow, and more. The commercial ends with a jovial “Happy Holidays!” from American Atheists and displays the organization’s website, atheists.org.“This season is a great time of year for a hundred reasons—none of them having to do with religion,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “This year, start a new tradition: Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated. Instead, spend more time with your family and friends—or volunteer. There are better uses of your time and money.”
Ed Brayton jokes that O’Reilly should have invited him on to talk about it — he would have engaged in some merciless needling that would have annoyed the old windbag. It would have been nice, but no, no way was that going to happen; it would have been even better if David Silverman had been invited on…not only more appropriate, but Silverman is good at standing his ground and punching back. But no. O’Reilly brought on…
He was awful. Well, from my perspective he was awful — O’Reilly seemed to think he was just wonderful, since Stedman was largely agreeing with him. O’Reilly showed part of the billboard, the bit where is it says “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody,” and then cut away to O’Reilly asking Stedman what he thought about it. He replied that they were “not contributing to the destigmatization of atheists,” and later he said that he completely agreed, and he wanted “to see more of yes of atheism than the no of atheism.”
I can guess exactly how Silverman would have responded: by pointing out that the primary message of the billboard was the importance of this season as a family holiday, which certainly is the “yes of atheism”. Stedman either didn’t do his homework or was more interested in ingratiating himself with a far right blustering jerk, and decided instead to see if the snow tires on the bus could bounce over a few atheists.
O’Reilly was pulling his usual schtick, claiming that atheists are bitter, that they sue schools if they have the temerity to let a kid sing a Christmas carol, and whining that Macy’s department store brought in a Santa Claus and didn’t announce that it was Christmas. Why can’t those atheists just leave Christmas alone, he begged.
Most of these claims of atheists hating Christmas are lies, and the criticisms groups like the FFRF levy against schools and other state institutions aren’t that kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray or sing hymns if they want, but that these schools cannot selectively privilege only the Christian religion. Stedman was totally ineffective.
Further, when O’Reilly says “What I’m seeing here is an amazing amount of anger from atheists” and “I don’t really know what they are angry about”, when the angry ranter here is O’Reilly and the atheists aren’t expressing any anger at all, Stedman feebly goes along with it and agrees with the stupid host. I guess he’s hoping for a repeat invitation.
If Stedman and the Harvard Humanists want to put up a friendly, cheerful, unchallenging milquetoast sign, they are welcome to do so, and I won’t have a problem with it. I do have a big problem when a representative of the Harvard Humanists goes on the air to deny the righteous, forthright words of a less weasely organization, and when they are so ineffectual that they can’t even raise a word of rebuttal against the BS Bill O’Reilly lays on so thickly — familiar, tired BS that anyone going on the show ought to be prepared to slap down. It’s not as if he ambushed Stedman with a weird new claim.
Stedman is too feeble, and maybe Ed Brayton would be a touch too acerbic. If they can’t get Silverman to go on, may I recommend Rob Boston, instead? He wouldn’t let the bogosity fly by with a smile and a laugh. Anyone but Stedman.
I think I want these kids to handle O’Reilly.
Dec 10 2013
It’s all about kicking the freeloaders to the curb. O’Reilly only gives money to charities that hand the cash over directly to kids (what?), and Stossel demonstrates that panhandlers are all freeloaders because kind people would even give him money, a sure sign of moral bankruptcy.
The good news is that John Stossel was so gleeful at getting $11 by sitting on a street corner, waving a cup, that he’s going to grow a beard to match his mustache, give up the journamalism he has been practicing, and squat on the street for his tax free income until he dies. It’s a big win for him: there’s more dignity in that than working for Fox News.
Dec 10 2013
Can you handle another slice of life? Here’s a story about a woman trying to report a sexual assault. Just from that description, you know it’s going to be full of triggers, so consider yourself warned.
It’s too bad it doesn’t name the city where this happens, because there’s a certain police department that really needs its staff better trained.
Dec 10 2013
It’s true that science publishing has some serious problems — can you access the latest results from federally funded research? Do you think Science and Nature are really the best science journals in the world? — so it’s good that some people are taking the lead in changing their approaches and developing alternative publishing models.
Leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a "tyranny" that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.
Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.
Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.
Easy for Schekman to do. He’s got a Nobel, I don’t think he has to worry about getting and maintaining a position, or even getting published where ever he wants anymore. Cutting out the “luxury” (I think they prefer to be called “prestige”) journals doesn’t discomfit him in the slightest.
Schekman is scathing in his assessment of the popular big name journals. But at least he’s also trying to do something to correct the situation: he is promoting a new open-access journal, eLife, of which he is the editor.
I took a look. It was a bit off-putting at first: Schekman’s face is plastered in the middle of the page, and there’s a link up top to “Follow Randy’s Nobel Journey”, and I thought…uh-oh, are we going to replace “luxury” journals with vanity journals? But then I browsed the several hundred currently published articles, and they’re not bad, at least if you’re interested in cell and molecular biology (oh, hey, I am!).
Looks like I’m adding another journal to the list I regularly check.
Dec 09 2013
Dec 09 2013
Secular Humanists want to abort the Christ child so they can snort drugs and have gay sex on its corpse!
I think we’re all tired of the War on Christmas. The atheists have won; it’s officially a secular, federal holiday, the capitalists promote it as a consumerist orgy of mass consumption, most people see it as a nice time of year to get together with friends and family, and this Jesus guy, as always, is superfluous. But like the Japanese soldiers occasionally found holed up on remote Pacific islands, there’s Bill O’Reilly, dug in and flailing. Apparently, we have some grand plan to destroy Christmas so we can win entitlements and get gay married and have lots of abortions.
Give it up, O’Reilly. You’re just sounding increasingly deranged. War’s over.
I quite like this sentiment:
But of course, Bill O’Reilly would see that as oppressive and atheistic, because it doesn’t elevate his “Judeo-Christian” values to an exalted position.
Just to spite O’Reilly, this year I’m going to have two Christmases, one with the youngest daughter and middle son in Boulder, and another with the oldest son in St Cloud. Nyah.