Barbarism in Poland

Pedophiles are wretched people who abuse the helpless, and they get no sympathy from me. However, they are still people — sick people, damaged people, often abused people, sometimes psychopathic people. They have to be treated with due process and concern — we want to end the behavior, not the individual. So now Poland has passed a law requiring mandatory chemical castration for pedophiles. That’s a frightening prospect, not just because it’s a punishment that can and will be abused — who judged Alan Turing but the state? — and the attitudes behind it are even worse.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said late last year he wanted obligatory castration for pedophiles, whom he branded ‘degenerates’. Tusk said he did not believe “one can use the term ‘human’ for such individuals, such creatures.”

Not human? Wow. Forget castration, let’s just have summary executions. Perhaps we’ll soon see pedophile meat on sale in Polish markets? Wouldn’t want them to go to waste, after all!

Despite the temptation to go organic, though, I don’t think we want to have free-range pedophiles. Instead, we’ll have to go with battery ‘philes, raised in the cells of the local monasteries and churches. And if you find that offensive, I suggest you direct your complaints to the Polish government officials who have just branded a small portion of their citizenry as inhuman.

My Fargo visit makes the local news!

It’s a fine story, taken from the press conference I gave on Thursday, except for two things.

The comments are a mix of the sane and the deranged. Fargo has some interesting people living up there—a lot of smart, sensible, rational people, and some some very noisy lunatics. It’s strange how the lunatics rarely show up for any of my talks, however, but they always have the most vivid opinions of them.

The other problem is the end. The writer just had to do the usual thing of looking for a dissenting voice and giving them the unquestioned last word.

The Rev. Jeff Sandgren, pastor at Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, said Thursday that he doesn’t think science and religion need to be at odds.

He tells the story of an astronomy course he took in college and his introduction to the professor who taught it.

“Here comes this well-known physics professor and the guy is carrying two books, one was this great big astronomy book and the next one was the Bible,” Sandgren recalled.

“Mind you,” Sandgren added, “this is a guy who has been working for NASA, he’s a brilliant physicist and he says: ‘I have two books in my hand, this one tells us how – and he holds up the astronomy book – and this book tells us who.’

“For me,” Sandgren said, “that’s always been the dialectic I’ve lived with.”

OK, fine. He’s always lived with insipid opinions. He’s a pastor, I’m unsurprised.

But tell me…what, exactly, does that Bible contribute to students’ understanding of astronomy, huh? It may say “who”, but so does the Bhagavad Gita, so do the Eddas, so do the local Anishinabe myths, so does Dr Seuss (it’s Cindy Lou Who, in case you forgot). Being a ‘guy who worked for NASA’ does not confer infallibility or even a smidgen of authority in a discussion of the identity of invisible intelligent vapor wafting about outside the universe. Let’s hear some of the arguments, rather than waving about holy books and second-hand physics degrees, please.

I’m also feeling a bit cranky about the asymmetry of the situation. You won’t catch me striding boldly into my classes with a biology textbook in one hand and The God Delusion in the other, triumphantly announcing to the students that one book explains biology, and the other is the philosophy of atheism they should follow — that would be inappropriate, a distraction from the subject students were there to learn, and an unprofessional violation of my responsibilities as an instructor.

Yet here’s this guy proudly recounting tales from his college days when a bible-thumping bozo would come into a science class and preach Christian superstition. No wonder he’s a benighted peddler of hoary dogmas now, instead of an astronomer — he got screwed over in his education, and he’s not even aware of it.

Way to go, Charlotte — get out there and boogie down!

The Charlotte Pop Fest ’09 is going on right now — it’s a music festival that also raises money for charities. You should go. The recipient of the profits this year will be the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

What, you say? They’re raising money to promote secular science? In North Carolina?

Yes, they are. And the organizer, James Deem, says he is doing it to raise awareness for science and science education. I blow kisses his way — what a great idea.

Unfortunately, there are problems. Sponsors have pulled out, meaning that they had to cut some bands from the schedule, and of course, some members of the public are unhappy. You knew that was coming.

Thorne stressed that the bands are there to play music, not give out a message about atheism or anything else.

Pop Festival attendee Debbie Aintrazi of Mint Hill hopes they don’t.

“If they start going around saying, ‘no, you shouldn’t believe in this, you shouldn’t believe in that’– that’s when I [get upset],” she said. “I don’t believe in not believing.”

Wait, what did she say? I’m going to have to let the idea of not believing in not believing curdle in my brain for a bit, because it’s kind of indigestible right now.

While Ms Aintrazi is working on believing everything she hears, though, those of you near Charlotte should support this event — a swarm of enthusiastic atheists descending on the festival might convince them that supporting us and science is a good idea.

(via the Impolitic)

I get email

This is a lovely example of offended sensibilities that was sent to the University of Minnesota alumni association, as well as several other administration people and myself. I don’t think the author realizes it, but this is the kind of hate mail that makes me very happy.

Dear Alumni Association,

Due to the protest of the museum in August of 2009, I will no longer be contributing donations to the University. Actions have consequences — even free speech actions. I believe that tax payers of Minnesota have a interest in not having our professors at the public universities contributing publically to the coarsing of American discourse — and behaving silly (see the picture of the riding dinosaur)

I will also be telling my co-workers and friends to no longer contribute — especially those who went to Morris. I have attached a few links detailing the protest.

Thanks,
Bill Frische

This is PZ Meyers Blog
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/08/expelled_from_the_creation_mus.php

This is a more balanced report:
http://www.examiner.com/x-9090-NY-Atheism–Skepticism-Examiner~y2009m8d9-Atheists-expelled-from-Creation-Museum
(note that at the end of this piece it does say they were mocking the museum in the museum — which is why the museum says it asked one of them to leave, although I like the bucking bronco of the profession on the dinosaur, maybe that’s not really him, i don’t know for sure)

Here is the museums report:
http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/aroundtheworld/2009/08/11/can-university-of-minnesota-professors-research-be-trusted/

Of course actions have consequences, and I am very pleased to see that my actions have led to a tiny diminution of the possible monetary influence of prating creationist dunderheads on university policy. I also think that people who attended our university and graduated with such a poor grasp of grammar and spelling might not be the best representatives for our mission, anyway.

Hey! Did someone beat me to this poll?

OK, who got to this poll before me? The answers are all going the way I want them to, and that’s just unnatural.

A new survey says a quarter of all Americans will claim to have “no religion” within 20 years. How do you view the boom in Americans without a religious affiliation?

71.57% It’s a good thing
20.3% It’s a troubling trend
8.12% It doesn’t matter

Well, I guess you can all go over there and nudge them up a little further.

Still talking

Jebus, they can’t shut me up. Just got back from the afternoon discussion, which went on for two hours. It was great fun. Of course…

My opening remarks were about being assertive atheists who challenge conventions and do things like desecrating crackers…

…and a priest, complete with clerical collar, was right there in a good seat smack in the middle of the auditorium.

He looked a bit peevish, but didn’t say very much. A few of the other Catholics around him expressed how offended they were, which was fine. They could have taken more time to state their case, if they wanted.

Good times. You should have been there.

Remember, tonight, 6:00, Fargo Theatre…it’s your last chance to get a piece of me. It’s small and it looks like a big crowd might turn out, but if you want to give me a piece of your mind, I’ll be available just outside the theater around 9:30 for a bit. The price for telling me how wicked I am is one beer.