Some organizations get it

Atheist Alliance International carried out a census, and discovered that their members 73% men…and most remarkably, they thought that was a problem! So instead of making excuses about how this was simply the natural order of things, they’ve released a report with recommendations for improving the gender balance.

< Atheist Alliance International has released a report on Gender Imbalance in the atheist community, its sources, and its possible responses and solutions.

Gender imbalance in the atheist / humanist community has been noted for many years, including in AAI’s own Atheist Census project. AAI has determined this gender imbalance to be a problem in our community, rooted in centuries-old patriarchal systems and promoted and defended by many of the world’s religions.

In today’s modernist world with recognized human rights for women as outlined in the UN’s Convention on Women’s Rights, AAI believes that gender imbalance, both in our own communities as well as in the general populace, is an important issue for atheists to embrace and work to overcome as part of our responsibility to our humanity.

The report has been added to AAI’s Position Statements webpage and can be read there.

I just read it — it’s short, just 9 pages — and I can tell that a few people are going to be furious. Yay!

Atheism is what we do believe

I read this good essay from the American Humanists. I agree with it, but I have some problems with it. I can do that; I have one foot in the atheist camp, and the other in the humanist camp.

Atheism is what we don’t believe; humanism is what we do believe.

Humanists are cultural progressives. When you make decisions based on rationality and scientific research, with an added dose of empathy, the effective answers to the issues of our day are the progressive answers. Science-based sex education is proven to be more effective than abstinence-based sex education. A strong middle class is best for a stable, resilient economy. Health care for all extends quality of life and strengthens economies. The civil rights of all must be protected because the only justification for seeing women and racial minority groups as inferior comes from bronze-age holy books and other outdated ideas. People who support progressive ideals most often do so because they see positive results and understand cause and effect.

While atheists and humanists reject the existence of any gods for lack of evidence, atheism and humanism are not synonymous. Most atheists and humanists are good people, but atheism in and of itself is not supported by an ethical system to guide behavior. Not all those who don’t believe in a god have fully moved past societal prejudices and old programming—and not all have cultivated empathy in a way that engenders compassion for others and builds a sense of egalitarianism.

Here’s my problem: the characterization of atheists is false.

[Read more…]

Sunday punditry

When I was a boy, Saturday morning cartoons were a thing. There were no cartoon channels, no every day any day any time access to cartoons, but instead they were all packed into the early morning hours one day a week, on Saturday, when our parents were sleeping in and grateful for distractions that would give them an extra hour or two of rest. So we’d scamper out of bed, fetch ourselves a bowl of sugar-frosted chocolate sugar bombs, and lounge about glassy-eyed watching cats and ducks explode. We weren’t totally vapid, though, we contemplated important questions. Like, why is this ancient Bugs Bunny cartoon so much better animated and funnier than this more recent dreck? Or, this cartoon about a toy seems to have segued into a commercial for the toy in the cartoon…what are boundaries? How do we define the edges of meaning in our existence?

But those days are no more. Now the cartoons have moved to Sunday morning as we get a parade of political pundits, rich old white guys, who sit around and babble about polls and suck up to other rich white guys who have polls done about them. The questions are still the same. I thought the old Hanna-Barbera crap was cheap, badly written, and tiresome, but these guys make them look like Tex Avery. I still wonder where the boundaries are: if rich white guys argue about whether a candidates polls will go up or down if they adopt policy X, is that the same as actually discussing policy X? Is declaring a candidate electable or unelectable identical to discussing the viability of their ideas?

[Read more…]

Saturday is a work day

No more disruptions. I’m going to go sit in solitary and finish this article I’m supposed to write (hey, Simon, it’ll be done by this afternoon!) and then I have to get the answer keys for all the homework I assigned in genetics done and posted.

So go away, internet, and stop bothering me.

I’m gonna call this “Nyesplaining”

Bill Nye apparently thinks that philosophy is that meandering babble you do when you’re stoned out of your mind. It’s rather impressive, actually, that he can sit there giving advice about philosophy to a philosophy student and get everything about philosophy completely wrong.

Transcript – Mike: Hey Bill. Mike here. I’m a philosophy major in college right now and I’m looking for your opinion on a subject. Some of the scientists like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have brushed it off as a meaningless topic. I’m just wondering about your thoughts on the subject.

Bill Nye: Mike, Mike. This is a great question. I’m not sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins, two guys I’m very well acquainted with have declared philosophy as irrelevant and blowing it off in you term. I think that they’re just concerned that it doesn’t always give an answer that’s surprising. It doesn’t always lead you someplace that is inconsistent with common sense. And it gets back – it often, often gets back to this question. What is the nature of consciousness? Can we know that we know? Are we aware that we are aware? Are we not aware that we are aware? Is reality real or is reality not real and we are all living on a ping pong ball as part of a giant interplanetary ping pong game and we cannot sense it. These are interesting questions. But the idea that reality is not real or what you sense and feel is not authentic is something I’m very skeptical of. I mean I think that your senses, the reality that you interact with with light, heat, sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing, absolutely hearing. These are real things.

And to make a philosophical argument that they may not be real because you can’t prove – like for example you can’t prove that the sun will come up tomorrow. Not really, right. You can’t prove it until it happens. But I’m pretty confident it will happen. That’s part of my reality. The sun will come up tomorrow. And so philosophy is important for a while but it’s also I get were Neil and Richard might be coming from but where you start arguing in a circle where I think therefore I am. What if you don’t think about it? Do you not exist anymore? You probably still exist even if you’re not thinking about existence. And so, you know, this gets into the old thing if you drop a hammer on your foot is it real or is it just your imagination? You can run that test, you know, a couple of times and I hope you come to agree that it’s probably real. It’s a cool question. It’s important I think for a lot of people to be aware of philosophy but just keep in mind if you’re spending all this money on college this also may be where Neil and Richard are coming from. A philosophy degree may not lead you to on a career path. It might but it may not. And keep in mind humans made up philosophy too. Humans discovered or invented the process of science. Humans invented language. Humans invented philosophy. So keep that in mind that when you go to seek an absolute truth you’re a human seeking the truth. So there’s going to be limits. But there’s also going to be things beyond which it doesn’t matter. Drop a hammer on your foot and see if you don’t notice it.

Some advice to engineers: when you’re asked about something totally outside your field, in a discipline you’ve never studied and have only misconceptions about, the correct answer is to say “I don’t know.”

Actually, that’s pretty good advice for all of us.

I knew it wouldn’t take long. A philosopher responds.

I play a little Minecraft now and then


It’s perfect for me: got a little downtime, sure, I’ll go dig a tunnel for 20 minutes, or build a fort, or whatever, and playing on a public server is even better, because if I don’t have the time or skill to assault an end fortress, someone else does and I can trade for the useful loot. Fun and casual and creative are exactly what I want in a game.

I am mentioning this because Mojang is releasing their special, long-in-the-coming 1.9 update on Monday, and the server I play on, Sitosis, is going to spawn a brand new, empty, untouched world shortly thereafter, and they’re asking all their former users to check back in (new users are also welcome). There’ll be a rush to stake out new territories in exotic biomes next week!

One hint: you probably don’t want to settle anywhere near me. Apparently, I have a reputation for defending my territory by breeding so many cows and chickens and pigs — for my genetics experiments, don’t you know — that only the best computers can cope with their owners approaching the milling mobs in my base. I also tend to be a bit lax about lighting things up to thwart evil spawn, so my place might be crawling with undead and creepers and giant spiders. The way I like it.

You missed nothing in last night’s Republican debate

Here’s a sample. It’s unintelligible madness as these guys yell at each other, and meanwhile, off in his own private world Ben Carson talks about the fruit salad of life.

You know, I also hear a lot of nonsense on the Democratic side, about how this candidate or that candidate can’t win against one or the other of these bozos. I don’t care. You can’t say that yet. The serious discussions can’t even begin until the Republican clowns stop with the slapstick and settle down, and then the Democrats can get serious about how to defeat them, and in a pragmatic sense, either of the two Democratic contenders ought to be able to clobber the Republican circus.

“Ought to” does not mean “will.” Democrats have a grand history of screwing up, and Republicans have their catalog of dirty tricks — gerrymandering and voter suppression, to name a few — to claw their way to the top. But we can’t begin to address these problems until the field has been winnowed.