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Jul 30 2014

Botanical Wednesday: Maybe I should visit this place

Next week, I think I will!

Jul 30 2014

More legal fun and games from Kent Hovind!

Kent Hovind wants the property he forfeited in his criminal conviction back! He has filed a lis pendens on the property that was seized. I am not a lawyer, and had to look it up, but apparently it’s an intent to make a legal claim on some real estate. I guess you’re not supposed to do that with properties forfeited to the government in a legal process, and which are under an injunction. But the law won’t step ol’ Kent!

So the court has fired back with a threat to hold him in contempt.

Kent E. Hovind is required to appear before the Court at 8:00 a.m., on September 8, 2014, to show cause why he should not be held in criminal contempt of Court, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 401(3) and Fed. R. Crim. P. 42(a). This will be a jury trial and will be held in Courtroom 5, United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, located on One North Palafox Street, Pensacola, Florida 32502.

He has an option to get a court-appointed defense lawyer. I hope he doesn’t, and instead relies on the advice of his wacky right-wing conspiracy theorist buddies, because the shenanigans are always so entertaining. Anyone remember subornation of false muster?

Jul 30 2014

Now look who’s picking a fight with Dawkins

simpleconcept

(via Ophelia)


Facepalm time.

It is utterly deplorable that there are people, including in our atheist community, who suffer rape threats because of things they have said. And it is also deplorable that there are many people in the same atheist community who are literally afraid to think and speak freely, afraid to raise even hypothetical questions such as those I have mentioned in this article. They are afraid – and I promise you I am not exaggerating – of witch-hunts: hunts for latter day blasphemers by latter day Inquisitions and latter day incarnations of Orwell’s Thought Police.

Richard Dawkins

Being burnt at the stake or being sent to Room 101 is bad, but being criticized on Twitter is worse, I guess. Where the fuck are these witch-hunts, other than in the mind of every person whose misogynistic behavior is rebuked?

Jul 30 2014

Inhofe is wasting our time

Minnesota’s Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar, recently introduced a resolution in the senate that simply stated a clear fact that congress tries to avoid: that climate change is real. James Inhofe (Republican doofus from Oklahoma) got up to insist that he sees nothing, nothing, and that he had a petition from 9,000 cranks that there’s nothing to worry about.

Then Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island rose up to slap him down.

People like Inhofe are a catastrophe for progress and reasonable action on important issues. Could you Oklahomans please stop electing these idiots? We’re getting rid of Bachmann up here in Minnesota, I think it’s only fair that you sacrifice a wingnut, too.

Jul 30 2014

Another thumbs up for AtheistTV!

Ken Ham hates it! He’s actually pretty clueless.

The new channel brags of having “superstition-free programming,” which implies that religion is just silly superstition but atheism is rational and logical. However, laws of logic and rationality only makes sense if God, who is logical, created them and made us in His image so that we can understand them! Laws of logic shouldn’t exist in a completely random materialistic universe that the atheists believe in —and yet they do!

But god is illogical. There is no reason to believe in any deity, let alone the bizarre one Ken Ham worships, who is little more than a tribal warlord writ large, promoting archaic ideas like blood sacrifice.

If logic can only arise from a logical intelligence, where did Ken Ham’s putatively logical god come from?

It is incredible that atheists spend so much time, effort, and money arguing against Someone that they don’t even believe exists! Where are all their books, websites, and magazines that argue against the mythical Easter Bunny? This is because they do know God exists but they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

No, I don’t believe god exists. I do believe religion exists. When militant EasterBunneyists start running for political office to promote their beliefs, I’ll argue against them more.

And why do atheists care so much about proclaiming their message? Atheism offers no hope and is ultimately a totally purposeless religion. If you die, that’s all there is, so why do atheists push so hard to preach their message of hopelessness? Why does it matter to them what anyone believes? It’s because they have the knowledge of God stamped on their hearts but are living in rebellion against their Creator (Romans 1:18; 3:10, 24–25).

Weird. No. I don’t believe in gods. One trivial, basic fact about atheism…and Ken Ham gets it wrong. Also, our message is that it’s a fool’s game to live for an imaginary life after you’re dead. Life’s beautiful, live for it now.

But here’s the part of Ham’s tirade I find particularly funny.

Sadly, this new TV channel is not just targeting adults with a hopeless message of godlessness, but they are also trying to indoctrinate children into an atheistic worldview. Isn’t it bad enough that humanistic thinking has lead to over 55 million deaths of aborted children in the U.S. alone, and now the atheistic humanists want to continue their attacks to poison and destroy the minds children who have survived the abortion holocaust. You see, we live in a world that is fiercely battling for the hearts and minds of our kids. And yet, it is a world where those who teach their kids the truth of God’s Word are accused of child abuse!

Unforgivable! They’re teaching children!

But here’s his very next paragraph:

But Scripture commands believers to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), so we need to boldly stand on the authority of God’s Word and teach our children that the Bible’s history—and message of salvation—can be trusted. I encourage you to take advantage of our “Kids Free in 2014” program at the Creation Museum—bring as many kids as you can to hear the message that the Bible can be trusted, there is a God, and He died for them.

There is a god, and he’s dead! Oh, wait, he’s not. He was just restin’ for a bit. You have to catch ‘em young to convince people to believe that kind of nonsense.

Jul 29 2014

AtheistTV gets a thumbs up

I was home for a late lunch, so I flipped on the Roku and installed the AtheistTV channel. It was easy, but then you Roku owners know that part already.

The channel is well organized into various categories, but right now content is a little thin — the comedy category, for instance, contains one video, and the movie category…well, there are a few entries there, but it’s a stretch to call them ‘movies’. I guess atheists are a bit light on providing entertainment.

But I consider the sparse content on the day of the launch to be a good thing. My dread was that they’d take a shortcut to filling up the channel by importing youtube videos wholesale, and then it would be an exercise in wading through garbage to find the gems. That’s not the case at all — they’ve exercised restraint and quality control.

So what you’ll find there is a lot of material relevant to American Atheists: recordings of talks at the last few national conferences and the Reason Rally, and AA’s official talk show, the Atheist Viewpoint. There’s a lot of stuff transferred from the RDF. The Atheist Community of Austin is featured with a collection of videos from the Atheist Experience. When I say it’s thin, I’m talking relatively, compared to a movie channel — you could still veg out for many weeks nonstop trying to watch everything on it. It’s still important that they are being selective about putting up videos with thoughtful commentary about atheism.

It also looks ready for expansion, and I’m sure even more will be added. It’s a good strategy for introducing the content of the conferences to a wider audience, and that’s a natural procedure for generating new material.

Some suggestions I’d make: it really is American Atheist-centered, understandably, but it would be nice to see partnering with CFI or American Humanists or British Humanists, for instance, to fold in some of their content. It would also be cool to adopt more science content — HHMI, for example, has lots of free science videos that aren’t at all explicitly atheistic but would fit in well with a theme of scientific naturalism (whether they’d be willing to have them shown on an atheist channel is an open question). Not just science, but also history and philosophy categories would be a nice addition.

Check it out. I think it’s going to be useful. If you have a Roku, it’s definitely worth getting the channel (it’s free, so I’m not saying much there), but it’s also yet another reason to get a Roku if you don’t have one.

Jul 29 2014

Why why why?

I really like Richard Dawkins, personally and professionally, although a lot of readers here get indignant at that. But that’s why it hurts to see him say obnoxious things on Twitter, like rating different kinds of rape and pedophilia. He doesn’t understand why that’s objectionable; has he ever heard of Todd Akin (maybe not — he is an obscure American politician who made up a lot of nonsense about “legitimate rape” and got flambéed for it)? This is like walking straight into a firepit that has consumed many far-right wingnuts (which Dawkins is not) before him, and thinking he’ll come out unsinged.

Amanda Marcotte does an excellent job of explaining why his remarks were objectionable. That feminists think a patronizing pat on the ass deserves a lesser punishment than rape is simply not an issue; we don’t need condescending explanations of basic logic to understand the concept. The problem is people who don’t understand that logic at all, and think there’s a sharp cliff, an all-or-nothing pattern, so that rape gets you put in jail, while date rape gets you a high-five in the locker room. And those people aren’t feminists.

If you want to make a difference in social attitudes, you can say “Date rape is bad”…full stop. You don’t go on and say that some other form of rape is worse, because that’s all the date-rapers see: “Richard Dawkins says I’m not as bad as a rapist”. The first part is ignored.

Better still: I believe in a proportional response to a crime, and therefore someone who commits date rape should not go unpunished.


Maybe this will get through to him.

Jul 29 2014

Note to self: Avoid scheduling layovers in Arizona

What the hell is wrong with that state? No public place is safe.

A brain scientist was arrested on suspicion of pointing a rifle toward a woman and her 17-year-old daughter inside a busy Phoenix airport terminal, police said Monday. Peter Steinmetz, 54, who works for the Barrow Neurological Institute, removed the AR-15 assault rifle from over his shoulder in a Starbucks at Sky Harbor International Airport on Friday and pointed it in the direction of the women, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said in a statement. Arizona law permits the carrying of semi-automatic weapons in public areas, including the non-secure zones of airports.

One of the pointless things about security theater is that we now have these amazing pileups of people at security checkpoints — if someone wants to kill a lot of people all at once, do it at the security line on a busy morning at the airport. And the Phoenix airport allows people to stroll in with assault rifles, no problem? If I were a terrorist, my eyes would light up at the news of such a ripe opportunity.

Although, this is Arizona…I’m sure any brown people who walked in with an assault rifle would be immediately confronted, since white people never commit terrorist acts.

And why does that guy (who is living proof that you don’t need to be a genius to earn a doctorate) need an assault rifle at an airport Starbucks? I know the coffee is overpriced and burnt, but there are better ways to respond.

Jul 29 2014

Something is wrong with SIWOTI!

Deja vu, man, deja vu. Someone else has a hate site that obsesses over their blog.

The people who run and participate in this site are largely disgruntled former commenters, some of whom left on their own after I disappointed them in some way, and some of whom were banned after violating the commenting policy. There are, increasingly, participants at the site who have never even engaged at Shakesville, but just find some satisfaction in participating in a space dedicated to the explicit purpose of destroying this community.

They explicitly want to chase me out of my space, offline, and want me to have no opportunities to make a living doing what I’ve done for the last ten years of my life. They want this community to cease to exist because they don’t like me and the commenting policy, and don’t care what destroying it would mean for the people to whom this community means something.

That’s from Melissa at Shakesville. We’ve seen exactly the same thing here at Freethoughtblogs, and over the years, I’ve had multiple badly-done Pharyngula hate-sites pop up and fade away. It’s bizarre. The trigger for all the hatred is usually the injustice of getting banned, and I just don’t get it. I’ve been there myself.

Many years ago, before I started up this blog, I’d been active debating creationists on various forums. I’d post replies and rebuttals to stupid creationist claims, and more than once, I was asked to leave or banned because I was “disrespectful” or “rude” or “making people angry”. You won’t believe what I did next:

I left.

I didn’t try to sneak back, either. I’ve always used the same pseudonym, pzmyers, on all of my logins.

These creatonists are people who are emphatically wrong and persist in endorsing idiocy, definitely triggering all of my SIWOTI symptoms, but they’ve got their place and if the owners of the forum say they don’t want me using their services, I stop using them. It’s really not that hard.

But for some reason, some people get extremely bitter about being told to go away. They are outraged that you deny them the privilege of participating on your wonderful blog. They start making sockpuppets and probing at the filters to see if they get around the ban. Remember that obnoxious Australian guy who’d create a new sock every night and get on to leave a pile of insults while I was sleeping? That went on for weeks. Remember Reap Paden, who currently holds the record for the number of pseudonyms he ran through (well over 40 before I lost track), and yet was instantly recognizable to everyone, thanks to his godawfully bad writing? There are many more you don’t know about who don’t puzzle out what I’m filtering on, and keep pounding out comments that get instantly shunted off to the spam queue. There’s one guy who comes by every week or two to make a test comment, in the hopes that the blockade will have magically lifted…and he’s been doing this for two years.

Others scurry off and set up anti sites, like the Shakesville haters. It’s a good way to leech off the popularity of someone else: provide a watering hole for all the people with a grudge against the site you despise, and gather like-minded people to sit and fume and whine and moan. And best of all from my perspective, they obsess so much that they become fanatical readers of everything I do, even more dedicated readers than the busiest of our regular commenters.*

But I don’t have it as bad as some. Shakesville is a singular site with a much more restrictive commenting policy than I have here, so she bears the brunt of the nuisances. Here, at least, we’ve spread the hate load: Ashley gets the racists, the rest of us get the same old banned-on-Pharyngula crowd, but now they’re having to strain to find a blog on FtB that they haven’t been banned from…and you’ll see that, too, when a new blog is opened up here, the same names that were long kicked outta here show up in the comments to whine at length. It really is like a tick infestation.

Another factor is that for some reason these parasites really hate the idea that a blog might stand up for a cause. Ophelia is getting comments from Phil Giordana (yeah, another long-gone Pharyngula reject) who is flinging the insult du jour, “Social Justice Warrior.” Ophelia asked him why he was against social justice, and this was his answer:

I never threatened anyone online, never attacked peoples’ appearance, apologized to you for using what you consider “gendered slur”, yet I’m still banned from your blog. You fuckwit! (that one’s fine, OB said so).

Boggling, ain’t it? This is a guy who does nothing with his time online other than to rant with fellow obnoxious people about how he was banned and how awful FtB is, and to whine on Facebook about how much he despises “social justice warriors” because he was banned from several sites.

There was a comment on Ophelia’s site from thetalkingstove that I thought was fairly insightful about the situation.

I fully admit this is just speculation, but I suspect that the whining about being banned from forums shines a light on a lot of the motivation certain people have for being in the skeptical movement (such as it is). For them, it’s not about changing the world for the better; they’ve simply found something that enables them to feel superior to other people – easy targets like creationists and alternative medicine – and that makes them feel good, that their opinion and intellectual prowess are special.

Then when they encounter people who aren’t impressed by their amazing logic skillz, it hurts. It shakes that image of themselves as being stupendously rational and intellectually superior, and they can’t let that go.

Shorter version: a lot of people are in the skeptical movement because they’re arrogant arseholes.

That rings true, especially since these people tend not to be very good at that logic part — witness Giordana’s reply to Ophelia. They’re not very clever, they don’t care about anyone else, and they want to join the Smart Kids Club just because it boosts their ego, and when they’re rejected, they lash out.

I have a suggestion for them, though. Join MENSA. They’ll take anyone.


*Ironic footnote. They also like to complain nastily about regular commenters who are here every day…without calling attention to the fact that they here every day, screencapping and copy-pasting and writing angry rebuttals to every nitpicking detail.

Jul 28 2014

What’s wrong with rainbow families?

A woman went to a fertility clinic for artificial insemination, and discovered a surprising stipulation. She’s white, so they’ll only allow her access to sperm from white men.

Dr. Calvin Greene, the clinic’s administrative director, confirmed the private facility will not treat couples or singles who insist on using donors of a different ethnicity. The policy has been in place since the clinic opened in the 1980s.

“I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants,” he said. “That’s her prerogative, but that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”

A statement on the clinic’s website reads: “it is the practice of the Regional Fertility Program not to permit the use of a sperm donor that would result in a future child appearing racially different than the recipient or the recipient’s partner.”

“Rainbow families”? Does Canada have miscegenation laws, because this is the same thing.

Maybe there was a typo in the doctor’s statement. Perhaps these rules were formulated in the 1880s.

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