Saying you should abort is as wrong as saying you may not abort

Oy, Richard Dawkins and Twitter again.

InYourFaceNewYorker ‏@InYourFaceNYer
@RichardDawkins @AidanMcCourt I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

I’m fully in agreement with Dawkins that abortion is not an unethical choice. The woman can choose whether to keep a child or not, and it is perfectly reasonable, and even responsible, for her to include any information about genetic disorders in making her decision. However, singling out children with Down Syndrome is seriously problematic — it is not immoral to have a child with Downs. It is immoral to insist that a fetus with Down Syndrome should be aborted.

I recommend reading any of Michael Bérubé’s stories about having a child with Down Syndrome — he doesn’t have any regrets at all. Or you could read about how Bérubé schooled Peter Singer, and Singer did the right thing and changed his mind. He also wrote a book on the subject, reviewed in the NY Times.

We should not judge a person’s humanity by the number of chromosomes they have, or how intelligent they are, or by how close their appearance fits a particular standard.

Fox News models Islamophobia for us

Just watch the escalation in this video: these Fox News people are rightly angry about the murder of a journalist by ISIS, and I entirely agree that that is a movement of destructive barbarians. ISIS is a huge problem, and something needs to be done about them (don’t ask me what…I don’t know), but at the same time, they’re symptomatic of the wreckage our adventures in the Middle East have been left behind. But the discussion evolves from outrage at specific actions by a political/religious movement, to a broad brush hatred of Islam, to an argument that the only way to deal with it is to kill them all.

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FtBCon postponed

A few of our organizers had collisions with their schedule, so we’re putting off FtBCon for a few months. I’m partly at fault, so blame me — I just got back from the UK, had a week to get everything together, and then looked at my calendar and saw that the date was scheduled right on top of our field experience for incoming biology students. Yeah, I was going to somehow manage an online conference requiring a couple of days of connectivity while shepherding a horde of first year college students around Lake Itasca.

A few others had similar problems with the timing — the end of August turns out to be very awkward for many of us, with academics and students facing other transitions — but I’ll let you all say it’s entirely my fault.

We do have a great lineup in readiness, and it will be even better given a few more months to develop, so none of this is a problem with the speakers, but is entirely due to the distractions that depleted our collection of available organizers.

Why cops have a bad reputation

It’s this: while demanding empathy for the dangerous job of a policeman in an editorial in the Washington Post, a cop explains what he gets to do, with a complete lack of empathy for the citizen’s position.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

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Islamists have brain leeches!

Susan Blackmore always lectures entertainingly — really, if you get a chance to hear her, you should — so I can guess how surprised she was when students claimed offense and walked out on her talk. They were religiously indoctrinated, and simply shut down their brains when the word “evolution” came up, and when she started presenting rational and secular explanations for the existence of religion, just forget it — there were a lot of students who thought you could only quote the Bible and Koran with unstinting reverence, accepting their divine claims at face value.

It is sad to see young people with such closed minds.

But one comment jumped out at me — it was so familiar.

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Answers in Genesis would rather you didn’t talk about this

They’ve been awarded an $18 million tax break. AiG will, as usual, declare that they weren’t actually given any money directly, but instead got a deal with the state that says they won’t have to pay as much. Because, as we all know, having to pay less of your revenues to cover the costs of infrastructure and maintenance and subsidized transport — you know, like all those roads two thirds of the country will be driving on to get to their over-priced carnie show — isn’t actually a benefit. It’s just what a god-fearing Kentucky ought to do.

But that’s not what they’d like you to avoid bringing up. No, it’s that in their state-subsidized operation, which makes them subject to state and federal hiring laws, they have a peculiar hiring requirement: they demand that all employees swear to abide by their statement of faith. That statement requires that all employees believe:

The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God.

Oops. They just violated a few equal opportunity laws.

They also insist that:

All human life is sacred and begins at conception (defined as the moment of fertilization). The unborn child is a living human being, created in the image of God, and must be respected and protected both before and after birth. The abortion of an unborn child or the active taking of human life through euthanasia constitutes a violation of the sanctity of human life, and is a crime against God and man.

And of course there are a whole lot of religious requirements that only fit Christians. And not just any Christian: a very narrow, very specific version of Christianity that’s going to include only fundamentalist Protestants with a literalist interpretation of the Bible.

So there will be no Jews, gay men, lesbians, transgender men or women (or even individuals with gender dysphoria), Muslims, pro-choice citizens, Seventh Day Adventists, Scientologists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Buddhists, agnostics, pantheists, feminists, Sikhs, Quakers, or atheists employed at the Creation “Museum”. Also no honest physicists, geologists, or biologists. Karen Armstrong couldn’t get a job there, and neither could Neil deGrasse Tyson or Ken Miller. Me, either…and here I was pinin’ for an opportunity to move to the lovely Cincinnati area and get a prestigious job helping the public learn about science. Hecky darn.

But they don’t want anyone to talk about that. They’re going to nominally claim to follow state and federal guidelines, while somehow, magically, without any discrimination on their part, all the employees working as grounds crew, security, advertising, zip line guides, or accountants will just happen to all be conservative heterosexual attendees of Ken Ham’s favorite local churches.

And that may be a fair description of their applicant pool, since they’re clearly setting up a hostile work environment for anyone who doesn’t conform.