Demons. It’s all demons.

Let us emulate the godly believers. We know what is right, and anything that deviates from it is…mental illness. But we might want to remember that sometimes the shoe is on the other foot.

Some people believe that atheism causes insanity.

But what about the variety of mental illness from which Richard Dawkins suffers? You see, that is the flip-side of the coin which belongs to the man on the corner who believes he is Napoleon. Dawkins may not believe he is a conquering French general, but he believes something just as preposterous. He believes that he himself does not exist. As illogical as that sounds, this is the ground which atheism is forced to defend. The worldview which insists we cannot believe (or know) anything aside from our senses is just as mentally ill as the worldview which insists that we cannot believe our senses.

Or that faith is an essential component of a mentally sound human being.

…the evidence today implies that atheism is a form of mental illness. And this is because science is showing that the human mind is hard-wired for faith: we have, as a species, evolved to believe, which is one crucial reason why believers are happier – religious people have all their faculties intact, they are fully functioning humans.

Therefore, being an atheist – lacking the vital faculty of faith – should be seen as an affliction, and a tragic deficiency: something akin to blindness. Which makes Richard Dawkins the intellectual equivalent of an amputee, furiously waving his stumps in the air, boasting that he has no hands.

Or that the root cause of what we call mental illness is an absence of god.

All Depression is caused primarily by a lack of contentment. For the Christian, depression is a lack of obedience to the command "be content with what you have". It is not accepting your current condition, whether good or bad. It is a lack of faith that God loves you. It is a lack of hope of the glories and riches of heaven awaiting. For the non-Christian, depression is a lack of faith in a creator. It is a rejecting of Jesus for faith in Darwin. Darwin said we have no purpose, design, meaning other than random chance processes. Jesus can cure the depression of the atheist because their life has meaning and eternal purpose.

That source charmingly tells us exactly what mental illness is.

The Bible clearly teaches that people suffer both physically and emotionally as a result of sinful choices. The world labels this suffering as a mental illness, but the Bible labels this suffering as the consequences of a sinful standard of morality. Mental illness is sinful conduct.

A lot of atheists seem to think that same thing: that violations of conventional mores, or doing acts that harm people, are prima facie proof of mental illness. There must be something organically wrong with their brains to cause them to engage in behaviors we don’t like. They pray? They must be crazy, that doesn’t work. At the same time, the other side is saying, “They don’t pray? They must be crazy, god must be served.” If we’re going to define mental illness as something someone judges to be bad behavior, then every single human being on the planet is crazy.

Mental illnesses are real. We can identify chemical imbalances in the brain; if you’re depressed, drugs like TCAs, MAOIs, SSRIs, and SNRIs can be effective in making people healthier. Schizophrenia is real and debilitating; there are also antipsychotic drugs that reduce the symptoms. Obsessive-compulsive disorders are real; they can be treated with certain antidepressants, but also behavioral therapy also seems to be effective in reducing the problems. We actually do have fairly concrete indicators of genuine illnesses that affect the functioning of the brain.

However, it is not helpful to categorize bad ideas as similar. Elliot Rodger was a disturbed individual, but it was not because he had a disease — it was because he had been shaped by his narrow little world to regard a host of malignant ideas as perfectly normal. Almost all Europeans and Americans once believed that black people were inferior, and used that belief to justify everything from excluding them from educational opportunities to kidnapping and slavery. Were they all insane? Or did they just have a set of false, untested beliefs that they blithely propagated from generation to generation?

One would think that atheists, at least, would be able to recognize the power of ideas to shape how people think. We live in a world where the majority give credulous credence to religious nonsense, and I think most of us recognize that it’s not a symptom of a brain disease, but of the power of socialization, indoctrination, repetition, and widespread unquestioning acceptance. If you’re willing to see that a religious idea can have such potency that people will kill and die and suffer for it, why are you unwilling to see that there are other ideologies that can misdirect minds in lethal directions? That bad stories can persuade healthy, normal people to do stupid, evil things?

I’d also like to remind my fellow atheists of another way people think.

When a 700 Club viewer asked host Pat Robertson today if she should give up proselytizing to her atheist coworker and “let her perish,” Robertson speculated that the colleague might be possessed by demons or a survivor of rape.

If the way you are using the phrase “mentally ill”, with no evidence of genuine organic illness, can be replaced freely by the word “demon-possessed” without changing the sense, then you are engaging in the same magical thinking, using a phrase with no explanatory power. You’re just using the modern materialistically correct wording to express the same old sentiment, inventing a concrete causal agent with no evidence that it actually exists. That’s something else atheists need to be aware of: the seductive power of teleological or simplistically causal thinking to the human mind.

I always like to know who’s been bought

A correspondent asked me an interesting and difficult question about the sponsorship of science. I’ve been talking a bit lately about the allosaur affair at the Creation “Museum”, which can be summarized this way:

Michael Peroutka, an odious neo-Confederate nut, donates a valuable allosaur fossil to the Creation “Museum”.

Now the tricky part. What’s the difference in principle between that statement and this next one?

David Koch, an odious destroyer of the environment and climate change denialist, donates $35 million for a Smithsonian dinosaur hall redesign.

That’s a good question, and it brought me up short. The problem with these sorts of questions is that it’s really easy to slip into post hoc rationalizations — I like the Smithsonian, I don’t like the Creation “Museum”, so it’s a trap to start justifying why I like one and not the other, rather than thinking about the actual principle of the question. Would I just be arguing that the good institution is justified in doing whatever it can to get funding for its worthy goals, while the bad institution must be condemned for doing whatever it can to get funding for its unworthy goals?

I’m off the hook in one regard: I’m on record complaining about Koch’s contribution to an earlier exhibit, the Hall of Human Origins. His donation was used to describe the role of climate change in human evolution, making the case that it is a good thing, because we wouldn’t be here without the pressures of shifting climate. It was a subtle emphasis, but it’s still an example of the pressure of millions of dollars being used to gently bend the science in a particular direction.

But it’s only a gentle distortion. Otherwise, Koch seems to have had virtually no influence on the scientific opinions of the Smithsonian. Check them out; the Smithsonian explains the history of climate change, it sponsors Bill Nye explaining climate change, Smithsonian scientists are studying climate change, they have articles explaining how climate change is already affecting people’s lives, and they provide lesson plans for educating about climate change. It’s safe to say that we know on what side of this issue the Smithsonian stands, and it’s on the opposite side of Koch.

It’s a tricky thing, this business of funding science. Ideally, it would be done on merit only, by an independent source, like the NSF or NIH (or, as independent as they possibly can be), with no restrictions on how the money is used — a pot of money is made available, disbursed by knowledgable committees of scientists, and there are no hidden catches to restrict how it’s spent. We know that’s an ideal — government funding agencies are subject to fads, too, and politicians are constantly trying to tinker, with earmarks and prohibitions — but it’s as good as we’ve got. If private donors are involved, the same rules apply: they should give because they value the science, which is a search for the truth, and not because they intend to meddle to get the answers they want. In that sense, the Smithsonian did OK…although there are troubling signs that maybe they accepted some recommendations for Koch.

By the same argument, though, there’s nothing wrong with Peroutka handing over a precious fossil to the Creation “Museum”. It’s stupid and a waste of a good specimen, `but otherwise, philanthropists do get to decide what to do with their own money, and Answers in Genesis can accept it in good conscience.

However, there is another issue. The Smithsonian is committed to doing good science, so they continue to loudly and strongly argue for the scientific consensus, that global climate change is a serious problem, and they do so despite the fact that an extremely wealthy donor disagrees completely with them. I imagine that if a donor tried to insist that his money comes with strings attached and must be used to propagandize for counterfactual claims, the institution would have enough integrity to flatly refuse.

I’d expect the same from the Creation “Museum”. They’ve got a neo-Confederate racist sugar daddy: do they have enough integrity to repudiate his views, even at the expense of antagonizing him? The evidence so far says no. There is a difference between accepting a free donation, and being bought. I’d like to see Ken Ham come clean on his views on the Confederacy, the continued legacy of discrimination and racism, and how much of Peroutka’s paid shill he is. If they are in agreement, that’s fine — just own it, and let us know what kind of people run Answers in Genesis.

Not that we don’t already know they are a gang of loons, but there are quite a few other issues where we could possibly agree…or more likely, disagree.

Getting paid to speak is not free speech

I have to completely agree with Adam Weinstein’s defense of protesting commencement speakers. There is altogether too much apathy on campus, and when students stir themselves to complain about what rat-buggering overpaid scumbag is getting a big pot of money to lecture them before they’re allowed to leave the university, I’m happy for them. It’s about time. And that’s true even if the speaker is someone I agree with. It would be true even if it were me — I’m always overjoyed to see protesters at my talks.

…being denied a chance to speak at a graduation ceremony is not an infringement on your free speech. Free speech might entail an invitation to speak to a voluntary audience and then have alternative viewpoints offered by other speakers, and then perhaps engage in a dialogue over those ideas. This is not how commencement speeches work. If a commencement address is free speech, then so is a seven-hour harangue by Fidel Castro to Cuban citizens who are too scared to get up and leave the auditorium to pee.

A commencement address is the opposite of free. It is paid speech. Paid speech that, just like the honorary degree that accompanies it, associates the recipient with the granting institution as if by royal decree. It’s entirely legitimate for faculty and students, who are already associated with the institution by their works and their merits, to dispute whether an honoree is also worthy of that association.

Lest you doubt that all of the power is in the hands of the speakers and not the listeners, consider how much they make to deliver a shitty speech:

Commencement fees range from a couple of thousand dollars to over $100,000. Katie Couric received an astonishing $110,000 to deliver the commencement address at the University of Oklahoma in 2006. Rudy Giuliani, a year earlier, charged $75,000 to speak at High Point University. Giuliani reputedly now gets about $100,000 plus a private jet for a speech. In 2007 Senator John Edwards received $55,000 for a speech at the University of California at Davis. The rates have probably increased significantly with inflation in recent years.

Really, is bringing in Katie Couric to cheerfully chirp a bunch of happy platitudes really worth 5 figures? The article talks quite a bit about Condoleezza Rice who backed down from an opportunity to speak at Rutgers after the students spoke out in horror. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Instead of being honored, the gang of malicious liars from the Bush years ought to be in jail.

How can an Allosaurus be racist?

It can’t, but its owner can be. Ken Ham has been mugging for the media quite a bit lately: he’s got a little coup, in that he’s acquired a fossil allosaur — a real, and valuable, scientific specimen — for his crappy little Creation “Museum”. He claims it’s evidence for a young earth, because it is supposedly only 4500 years old, if you ignore the actual evidence for its age.

But here’s something I didn’t know. Daniel Phelps did a little digging, and excavated the history of the donor. He’s not a nice guy. He’s one of those racist traitors who worships the Confederacy.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

May 22, 2014

CREATION MUSEUM TO UNVEIL DINOSAUR FOSSIL FROM ORGANIZATION WHOSE LEADER IS AFFILIATED WITH HATE GROUP

The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is about to unveil a dinosaur fossil donated by an organization whose leader is affiliated with a hate group.

In October 2013 the Creation Museum, operated by Answers in Genesis, announced the receipt of a partial Allosaurus skeleton and skull from the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation. The foundation’s leader Michael Peroutka until recently was also a board member of the League of the South, a white supremacist, Neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (See the web links at the end of this press release for documentation.)

The Creation Museum will be unveiling the specimen this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. The Creation Museum expresses thanks to Michael Peroutka and the Peroutka Foundation on their website (http://creationmuseum.org/whats-here/exhibits/allosaur/):

"One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Michael Peroutka, one of the board members of the Foundation, says that this fossil is a testimony to the creative power of God and also lends evidence to the truth of a worldwide catastrophic flooding of the earth about 4,500 years ago as described in the Bible. In order to ensure that the display of the fossil represented this teaching, the Peroutka Foundation donated the fossil to the Creation Museum."

Kentucky geologist and President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society Daniel Phelps is calling for Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum to disavow the hate group, and to donate the fossil to a real natural history museum so that scientific research can be performed on the specimen. 

Phelps said, "The Creation Museum could use this opportunity to take a stand against a racist, Neo-Confederate, hate group by refusing to take possession of the Allosaurus fossil or by donating it to a real natural history museum so the specimen could be placed in the public trust, especially in the light of AIG’s anti-racist position."

Possible museums that could properly curate and research the specimen, according to Phelps, include the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the American Museum of Natural History (New York), the Field Museum (Chicago), Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Museum of Western Colorado.

Phelps also points out that the Creation Museum will be incapable of doing scientific research on the specimen.  All employees of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are obligated to sign an oath of Biblical literalism before employment.  This oath (found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith)

includes statements that make scientific research on the specimen impossible since all conclusions are known before any possible research is undertaken. The Creation Museum’s Statement of Faith even includes this dogmatic statement: 

"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record."

Answers in Genesis has an in house publication that mimics a scientific journal named Answers Research Journal, but that publication requires author’s conclusions to match AIG’s statement of faith. The following quote from the publication’s instructions to authors illustrates this point:

"The editor-in-chief will not be afraid to reject a paper if it does not properly satisfy the above criteria or it conflicts with the best interests of AiG as judged by its biblical stand and goals outlined in its statement of faith."

(Page 9) http://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/arj/instructions-to-authors.pdf

Phelps stated, "Oaths based on religious doctrine are not how modern science is accomplished. The Creation Museum has decided, without doing research, that the dinosaur fossil is evidence of Noah’s Flood which they believe occurred in approximately 2350 BC." 

Phelps continues, "Since the Creation Museum doesn’t do scientific research, all the Creation Museum really has done is obtain a nice display trophy. Real museums do research.  The Creation Museum has asserted the specimen to be evidence of Noah’s Flood without any actual research and will not consider other explanations for theological reasons."


Here is more information on Michael Peroutka and his connections to The League of the South:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/23/1286860/-RINO-Says-His-Dino-Proves-Noah-s-Flood-Wha-Wha-What

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2013/06/michael-peroutka-appointed-to-the-league-of-the-south-board-of-directors/

YouTube video of Peroutka joining League of the South board:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vze4fPPkgxY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Michael Peroutka “proud to be a member” of The League of the South:

http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=80#__utma=149406063.1866893309.1398790110.1398790110.1398790110.1&__utmb=149406063.1.10.1398790110&__utmc=149406063&__utmx=-&__utmz=149406063.1398790110.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%22michael%20peroutka%22&__utmv=-&__utmk=192255274

The Southern Poverty Law Center names The League of the South a Neo-Confederate hate group here:

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/league-of-the-south

The Southern Poverty Law Center writes of connections between Peroutka and The League of the South here:
http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2013/09/18/american-heritage-group-pushes-radical-theocratic-class-on-constitution/

People For the American Way articles on Peroutka’s activities:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/people/michael-peroutka?page=1

Michael Peroutka decries Union victory in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg:

http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=270

Michael Peroutka’s listing in the Encyclopedia of American Loons can be found here:
http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2014/05/1022-michael-peroutka.html

I think Dan is a bit optimistic if he thinks Ham will be swayed at all by the association with racist traitors. I suspect he’s sympathetic, actually, since they tend to be fanatical Christians, too.

At least some people are having the conversation

It’s under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, and it’s largely women doing the talking. Laci Green is also explaining the importance of this issue.

When she was describing all the ways our culture shapes how men are supposed to regard women, I suddenly recalled all those times playing video games when women would join the group, and the orders would ring out: “make me a sandwich.” A joke. But think about what that joke says about our expectations of women’s roles. There’s a long stretch from “make me a sandwich” to gunning down random strangers because women wouldn’t have sex with you, but they’re both on the same continuum.


By the way, this should settle all those claims that he was mentally ill and Aspergers: a comment from a friend of the Elliot family.

Astaire said Elliot had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s but the family suspected he was on the spectrum, and had been in therapy for years. He said he knew of no other mental illnesses, but Elliot truly had no friends, as he said in his videos and writings.

Well, that explains everything

An expert on a news program has figured out why Rodger killed all those people.

He was gay. Also schizophrenic.

She never met him, but she’s a psychologist on Fox News. That’s enough for a diagnosis, right?

Otherwise, the consensus I’m seeing all over the place is that we don’t need more gun control, other than adding more psychological screening to the process of buying a gun. Huh. What kind of screening would catch an Elliot Rodger, but wouldn’t also cause every Tea Bagger and gonzo flying a Confederate flag from his pickup truck to be similarly prohibited from purchasing any ol’ gun they want?

What I saw on the Rodger video was a well-dressed, wealthy young man who was lucid and speaking hatred in clear language, and who was perfectly in control. If he were getting a few questions to determine if he could buy a gun, I don’t see any reason to think he wouldn’t be able to choke back the hate long enough to be approved.

For that matter, hating women or any other group probably won’t be among the criteria for denying someone a gun — imagine, a restriction that would prevent a Republican from buying a firearm!


Let’s be clear about something: I am not agreeing with this irresponsible psychologist. My point is that Elliot Rodger was as sane as your average Republican. You will not solve gun violence by locking up everyone who ever had psychological counseling.

He was also not gay. Full stop. It’s ridiculous to even bring it up.

He did not kill people because he was frustrated about not getting sex. We’ve all been there: I went through adolescence, when my hormones were sizzling at their peak, and I managed to survive years of ‘involuntary celibacy’ without so much as punching anyone. And I was a homely shy nerd who didn’t own a BMW (I had to pick up my dates in my dad’s station wagon.)

The insanity defense, the gay nonsense, and the toxic blue balls excuse are simply not valid explanations for what happened.

The real culprit in all of this is a culture of thriving misogyny, in which women are dehumanized and regarded as grudging dispensers of sex candy, who must be punished if they don’t do their job of servicing men. Elliot Rodger was a spoiled, entitled kid who had his brain poisoned with this attitude. First he learned that women are disposable, then he learned that they were evil for not having sex with him, and then he rationally put together two delusions and acted on them.

And it’s not just MRAs and PUAs that spread that poison. Every politician and media blowhard who bargains away women’s rights, who dismisses efforts to correct economic inequities, or patronizingly decides that they must manage women’s lives for them, is polluting the atmosphere further.


Yet another explanation.

Even more strangely, the proudly racist Steve Sailer – a hero to Heartiste and others in the “alt-right” wing of the manosphere – has declared that Rodger wasn’t motivated by misogyny but rather by “anti-Blondism,” and that his targeting of “ blonde sluts” in a popular sorority house was “an extremely intentional racial hate crime.” Never mind that the half-Asian Rodger idolized blonde women as superior (even as he hated them) and that his comments online are littered with rather crude, rather traditional racism against people who weren’t white.

Somehow, I’m not surprised that the scientific racists share many common causes with misogynists.

There is a lesson for women in this

I’ve been reading about the shocking dismissal of Jill Abramson, executive editor at the New York Times. It says so much about what is going wrong here: if there is any paper that personifies journalism in the US, it’s the NY Times, and at the same time we’ve been witnessing the decay in journalism as an institution, we can see the rot blooming all over the flagship. I’m not a media insider by any means, but when you see the deck sagging and one of the masts falling off, even us outsiders can see something is seriously amiss.

One of the problems is simple corporate sexism.

There are two intertwining narratives of Abramson’s downfall, and both probably have some truth to them. The story that’s gotten the most attention, of course, is about sexism. “Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs,” Ken Auletta reported in The New Yorker. “’She confronted the top brass,’ one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy,’ a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.”

She got paid less than Bill Keller? Ethically challenged, insensitive, entitled Bill Keller? Say it ain’t so. And then she dared to actually point out this problem to the corporate executives? How dare she.

I don’t think that if a man did exactly the same thing, that his pay was not equivalent to that of his predecessor, that he’d get called “pushy”. That would be a case of pointing out an unfairness, whereas women are supposed to simply accept an unfairness. She was clearly a bad woman.

She broke the clubhouse rules. She never became that mythical female boss who is assertive but not aggressive, nurturing but not mothering, not so strong that it bothers the men, but never weak like a woman.

The top quote mentions that there were two factors contributing to her firing. One was sexism. The other was independence and ethics. She was for ‘em, clearly something that put her at odds with NYT management, the newspaper that allowed Judith Miller to work until she retired.

But if Abramson’s demise is about gender, it’s also about newsroom values—and here, the implications are almost as troubling. At NYMag.com, Gabriel Sherman describes how she clashed with Thompson over native advertising or ads designed to look like editorial content. He writes about how she resisted Thompson’s push for a greater emphasis on online video, and about how she enraged him by sending a journalist to investigate his role in the unfolding Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal at the BBC, which he led before going to the Times. In all of these conflicts, she was right, and in two of them, she was defending fundamental journalist principles.

Mark Thompson is the NYT’s CEO, formerly of the BBC, where he was in charge when a documentary on Jimmy Savile, long in preparation, was squelched as just too embarrassing for management (hey, who knew the BBC and the Catholic Church would have something in common?). He’s keeping his job. The woman who thought it was newsworthy to investigate a cover up is fired.

So clearly, the lesson from this story is that if you are a woman in journalism, you must be submissive and you must abandon any sense of what is right. I guess working while female at the NYT is a bit like having a role in Fifty Shades of Gray.

Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

I thought it was simple plagiarism, but it turned out to be so much worse. Commenter A. Noyd discovered that anti-creationist arguments posted here were being regularly parroted elsewhere, on a site called debate.org, without attribution. Jon Milne was in a debate with a creationist named Iredia, and he was getting handy rebuttals straight from me and various other regular commenters here, including Nerd of Redhead, Amphiox, a_ray_in_dilbert_space, and David Marjanović, which he’d simply copy and paste straight from here into comments there, under his name.

That’s disgraceful. I was shocked to hear of it: we often accuse creationists of this game, of simply pasting together quotes without understanding them, and here was someone acting as a debater for evolution doing the same thing. It was patent plagiarism, and ethically wrong.

But then it turned into something else altogether, something even more contemptible. From his confession, it turns out that he’d been doing something truly dishonest. He had a second account here. When a creationist gave him an argument on another site, he would copy it, word for word, come over to Pharyngula, pose as a creationist (“biasevolution”), and paste it into a comment, to trigger a response from us.

He was plagiarizing creationists.

He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

He was simply shuttling arguments from one site to another, providing no creative input of his own other than to carefully remove any evidence of the origin of arguments. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to look really clever. But all I know is that his every argument on debate.org is now tainted, and he’s managed to discredit a lot of people with seriously damaging behavior that reflects poorly on the science side of these arguments.

He has been banned, along with his “biasevolution” creationist sockpuppet. And I’m really pissed off.


Aaargh. Stephanie tells me he’s been doing this for a good long while.

He’s been plagiarizing for a couple of years, too. His email address brings up a short-lived LJ account where he bragged about bringing the “epic smackdown” on a creationist.

His material? Lifted from Rational Wiki.

And the Iron Chariots Wiki.

And Rational Wiki again.

Yeah? This is my angry Viking face.

angryviking

Pay attention

“I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.”