Lunatics on campus

The UMTC Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists has been busy. They recently had an event to mock homeopathy, and it has been written up in the campus newspaper. Unfortunately, they’ve smoked out the local kooks: the comments on the article are embarrassing. Look at this:

I am a whole hearted aficionado of homeopathy, discovered in the late 1700s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann. In the 1800s and early 1900s, homeopathy was widely practiced in the United States. There were many practitioners, medical schools, conventions all over the USA. It is such a successful method of treatment, doctors had a hard time making a living, and so eventually the American Medical Association succeeded in quashing it. It took me many years of trying to figure it out on my own before I finally came across a book by Dr. Don Hamilton about using homeopathy to treat illness in cats and dogs which helped me begin to understand how to choose the right homeopathic drugs and cure illnesses. It strikes me as silly that skeptics get so enraged by a medical art that so many doctors have spent their lives working on and that has so many documented successes. Glad to hear the University of Minnesota is helping patients discover true healing.

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense. I’m just going to let xkcd handle it.

There are also a couple of letters from our wretched Center for Spirituality and Healing in there. Strangely, they disavow any support for homeopathy. I don’t understand how I can then take a quick look at the CSH faculty and find that at least three — Jacob Mirman, Paula Jelinek, and Karen Lawson are homeopaths. Weird. It’s almost like lying is easy for quacks.

Feel free to leave comments on the MN Daily site. Our students, faculty, and staff clearly need some remedial instruction.


One other event is coming up, a debate. Aaargh. Between Dan Barker (Yay!) and …Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, the wacky deluded Muslim fanatic, on “Is Atheism or Islam more rational?” It’s taking place in Smith Hall, room 100, on Thursday, 3 November at 8:00.

I have a feeling it’s going to be ghastly. I may have to go, just to watch the foolishness explode. Also to catch any more silly claims about Islamic embryology.

Poll: Should lesbians take over the world?

A lesbian in a San Diego high school got elected homecoming king by her fellow students, along with her girlfriend being elected homecoming queen. Seems like a natural and reasonable choice to me…but of course the local angry bigot crowd not only gets to turn it into an online poll, but is skewing the votes towards their bigotry. It seems fitting that a decision that was made democratically by the more egalitarian students affected by it is being flailed at by people to whom it doesn’t matter, so let’s join in!

Do you think a woman should be crowned Homecoming King?

Yes, why not? 37%
No, that’s crazy. 56%
I’m not sure. 7%

By the way, if you don’t like the choice of homecoming king, then don’t go to the dance.

I don’t even remember who the king and queen were at my high school homecoming dance. I do remember that it was my very first date with my eventual wife-to-be, so they could have elected a shaved bigfoot to the position, and I wouldn’t have cared — Mary was radiant, and as far as I can recall, there wasn’t even anyone else there.

Why I am an atheist – Dave

Because a bar mitzvah’s timing coincides with, what was at least for me, the age I began to think.

Born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1968 to a fairly liberal Jewish family I accepted God’s reality, not out of fear like many, but because my parents gave me no reason not to trust them. I attended a Jewish school and learned all the nice parts of the Torah.

At my ten year mark, my recently divorced mother took me to live in Liverpool, England where she’s found love in a new husband. This is when she started getting more serious about her faith. I attended a new Jewish school and regular services at an orthodox synagogue. Jewish studies, like math, and yes, even biology was more tiresome than anything else; I was more interested in playing with Lego and Action Man.

For my twelfth birthday I got a year’s worth of bar mitzvah lessons. I had to go over to a local rabbi’s kitchen once a week to practice singing the Torah passage that I’d be reciting a year later when I officially became a man. Months go by and I see some of my friends go through their ceremonies. I’m paying more attention than ever before because I’m nervous. I’m not looking forward to having to perform in front of a crowd, and I hadn’t discovered the courage found in booze yet. I began noticing that the congregation wasn’t filled with worshippers, but rather with braggarts, opportunists and xenophobes disguised as worshippers. The women on the separate, upper balcony were always wearing new outfits with matching hats and purses and very few of them paid any attention to the service. The men, between seemingly sincere head bobbing prayerful moments talked about their businesses, their cars, and how awful those damn ‘Muslims’, ‘Christians’ or whoever the villains of the day in the Jewish press were. I notice also that the boys who were turning thirteen before me weren’t changing. They weren’t becoming more mature, more responsible?

Meanwhile, every Wednesday, over at the rabbi’s house I sat and read and re-read the same passage with him over and over while his well meaning wife fussed over me with stale biscuits and weak, cold tea. It was during these sessions that I began to actually think about all this, to look up at the empty sky and ask questions.

How would reading a passage I hardly understood transform me into a man?

Who was this God that I’d been told so much about, and why did he no longer perform these miracles he was so famous for?

How are the people that hang out at the synagogue on Saturdays better than anyone else?

That was the clincher.

So I’m told not to trust the kids that moved down the street because they’re Arabs, or not to speak to those kids on the other side of the beach when I was on vacation because they’re Germans.

Apparently I belong to the ‘chosen people.’

It made no sense.

It took just a few weeks of internal turmoil before I accepted that my parents and all who came before were basically well meaning but deluded and poisoned.
I kept my new found atheism mostly to myself at first, only casually bringing up the conversation with friends to test the waters. I came out to my mother in my late teens and got pretty much the same reaction that my gay friends got from their parents. “It’s s phase, you’ll get over it.”

I didn’t become militant about it until I left high school, but that was when I’d landed in Texas for University so it felt a lot like pissing up-wind but that was ok, the girls loved my accent. For most of my 20s and part of my 30s I’ve felt that the opportunity for a global awakening and a better society through the unshackling of the religious mind via the spread of scepticism leading to atheism was too fleeting to ponder as there just weren’t enough people making an impact. Until recently I had little hope.

Now I’m ever so grateful because along came the internet, yourself, the four horsemen and this growing movement. I’m not expecting Americans or Afghans to tear down all their churches or mosques quite yet, but I have hope. I’m connecting with friends from high school who tell me they’ve recently dropped their Judaism. These would be the people who thought I was just being rebellious as a teenager.

Thanks you for being part of something great PZ, please keep chipping away at the bastards.


Dave
Canada

Oh … and ok, I admit, I think biology is pretty fucking cool after all.

People who believe in heaven are idiots

I love everything about this video. It’s a debate between a gang of godbotherers and, apparently, one sensible woman on British TV. First, the Christian minister announces that heaven is absolutely real, and that he believes every aborted child automatically goes straight to heaven (how does he know this? I guarantee you that he could not say). Then the smart woman points out that we should be all in favor of abortion, then, to which he replies indignantly that she’s trivializing a very serious issue…I think that claim was too late, since he’d already done that by inventing a simplistic solution, heaven, and declaring that he knew the entrance requirements.

And then the ordure strikes the rotating blades, and she explains that she doesn’t believe in things on faith because she’s “not an idiot”. My favorite part: listen to the gasps of horror from the believers after she says that. It’s beautiful. Yes, you ninnies, you’ve been insulted…accurately!

I also like how one pompous dufus then demonstrates that she had characterized them correctly by arguing that she believes in faith because she uses money, which isn’t real. I suppose he won’t mind giving me all of his imaginary money in exchange for my imaginary soul, then?

The one thing I don’t like is the aftermath. She has been the recipient of some very nasty invective since, declaring that she’s going to hell, that she needs to be “gang reaped”…it’s bizarre and at this point totally unsurprising that the standard illiterate response to an uppity woman is to propose raping her.

Why I am an atheist – Sara Mallory

I grew up in a nominally Christian home. My parents took us to a United church for a few years when I was very young. Every Sunday we were expected to put money in an envelope as a donation. I like to think that my parents stopped going to church because of the constant requirement for donations. After we stopped attending church we never really discussed religion. I never questioned it, I never knew there were other religions, and I never knew atheism was an option. I live in Canada and we don’t wear our religion on our sleeves for the most part, so I was never exposed to anything outside of that early childhood experience in church. I went to a Catholic highschool, mainly because it was close to my house and the uniform made dressing on a daily basis easy for me. I always felt silly attending the monthly masses and saying the lord’s prayer. It was like wearing an uncomfortable pair of pants. I felt awkward and ridiculous.

Enter the internet. This was back in the day when blogs were scarce and websites were hosted on geocities. It was through the internet that I discovered paganism. I thought this was the coolest religion ever. Everything about it appealed to me, the connection with nature, the “magic”, and all of the accessories. I bought lots of books (which I still own if anyone wants to buy them off me!), printed off lots of spells from websites, and bought various knickknacks. But yet again I felt awkward and ridiculous performing the various rites. I was so disappointed, I tried and tried for years to make it all work. I thought believing in something was the default position. Everyone (or so I thought) believed in something. Why couldn’t I?

Enter the internet yet again. Surprisingly I still believed that something was wrong with me up until quite recently. In my late 20s I joined a website called Ravelry. This website is mainly about knitting, but has forums for pretty much every topic. It was on this website that first encountered truly scary religious people. I was shocked at what some people believed. How could people be so hateful? But it was also through this website that I met the people that debated with these scary religious people, and it was through them that I discovered the Atheist and Agnostic Crafters group. For the first time in my life I discovered that it was OK to not be religious. You can imagine the relief I felt to discover I wasn’t abnormal.

So, for me, it was never about the science. I’ve always loved science and it never occurred to me that religion and science were related in anyway. It was simply discovering that it is OK to not be religious, and then take the next step from there to Atheism. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I have gained an even greater fascination and appreciation of how wonderful the universe is.

Sara Mallory
Canada

The blindness of some scientists

Jen McCreight had a wake-up call. She wrote a draft of an NSF application that required a personal statement, she wrote about the poor attitude towards evolution she experienced in college, and sent it off to some local people for review. They criticized it, which is not a problem — a good shredding over is always helpful — but the reasons they objected were deplorable.

Some of my reviewers, including a professor, insisted that I was “dogmatic,” and “wanted people to believe in evolution just because that’s what you happen to believe in.” That rejecting evolution isn’t a “terrible” attitude. That I shouldn’t be “shocked” that some biology majors don’t believe in evolution, because not everyone has to be like me. That wanting to help people learn about evolution means I thought they were stupid.

That I came off as, I quote, “Dawkins-esque.”

It was not a “destroy all Christians” essay. It didn’t declare creationists stupid. It described a real problem and Jen’s motivation for addressing it. The problem we often find in the higher levels of academe is that there are people who refuse to recognize anti-evolution as a real problem. It doesn’t affect them — I can assure you that within the community of scientists creationism is not ever a problem. The little dweebs show up at meetings and are ignored or laughed at over beer, and that’s about it.

You can pretend, then, that it’s not a real concern as long as you never step outside the smart, rigorous environment of your colleagues, and don’t even bother to look at the activities of the students on your campus. You can do that, too; it’s even rewarded. Successful scientists are focused and disciplined and single-mindedly connected to their professional activities. The student outreach pastor on campus can be giving weekly showings of Kent Hovind videos, the local community can be hounding the high school science teacher to stop teaching evolution, and the governor of your state can be running for president while declaring evolution is a lie, and you can still get your work done. That is, until the day all your students reject the stuff that you teach (which, for many research faculty, doesn’t matter anyway), all the prospective graduate students from America are stealth creationists (no matter, you’re only taking on European and Chinese students now), and the president makes your research unfundable at the NIH (ouch, finally something that hurts!). This hasn’t happened yet, though, so let’s not worry about it.

Jen wasn’t dogmatic. She was aware. And sane.

It’s dismaying that some of her reviewers seemed to think evolution was just her quirky personal belief, rather than the only viable theory built on evidence that biology has to work with … and that students who reject it aren’t competent to advance science.