Big Wooden Box gets snazzy video treatment

I was asked by Paulogia to say a few words about Answers in Genesis’s news story about my visit to the Big Wooden Box* in Kentucky. I think I said more than a few, because it turned into a half-hour complaint which he then made entertaining by turning me into a cartoon, and by adding lots of videos made by others of the interior of the Big Wooden Box. You should watch it.


*They really hate it when you call it the Big Wooden Box rather than Noah’s Ark. So guess what I’m going to call it from now on?

Which speech do you choose to defend, and which do you choose to shut down?

This is a fantastically good video by ContraPoints on free speech. It’s basically a dissection of what “free speech” actually means, showing how absurd the free speech absolutists are, and how appreciating the complexity of the issue is mangled by the right wing into claims that “the left hates free speech!”

The left doesn’t hate free speech. We kinda hate the cartoon version of free speech touted by right-wingers, but as ContraPoints explains, we do understand the concept very well, and probably better than they do: it protects the right of the speaker to express a controversial position as well as of the audience to hear it, and it’s actually strengthens defensible positions by exercising their defense. Minority positions need special protection because they are marginal, we have a duty to protect them from the tyranny of the majority.

ContraPoints agrees with all that. So do I. But we also recognize that a cacophony of loudly shouted views is not practical, and that giving everyone bullhorns does not protect anyone’s right to be heard. It’s a difficult balancing act. You need moderation for free speech to work. There are inherent contradictions and incompatibilities that make it impossible to be truly neutral on speech.

For example, social norms can have a silencing effect. The right-wingers are fond of complaining that calling them “racist” or “misogynist” hurts them terribly, is unfair and unkind, etc., etc., etc. But then what about expressions of racism and misogyny on the internet? Don’t you have to agree that those must also have a silencing effect?

Well, the reply goes, that’s just the hurly-burly nature of the internet. Just deal with it. You can’t change it (translation: we don’t want to change that part of it, we just want to change the part that lets you call us racists). It says a lot about these free speech absolutists in whose speech they rush to defend and promote and who they tell to take the abuse and get over it. Somehow, saying that “it is the nature of universities to promote more tolerant exploration of ideas than the shit-raging of Milo Yiannopoulos” is not accepted as an excuse by these same people.

We see a great deal of hypocrisy on this matter from the right. This video skewers Christopher Hitchens rather effectively, I think, and is maybe a little too generous to Dave Rubin, who is one of the louder proponents of alt-right bullshit while cloaking himself under the mantle of rationalism and free speech. Somehow that rationalism always expresses itself in cheerleading for racism and misogyny, but hey, that’s the hurly-burly nature of the internet.

I can think of other examples of this double standard, too: Bill Maher comes to mind. Sam Harris. Another recent instance is Carl Benjamin, proud defender of liberty, who gets called a “garbage human” by Anita Sarkeesian and is so crushed by an insult that he immediately whips around and petitions a conference to kick her off a panel. FREEDOM! Freedom for me, just not for you.

An even more cogent example: this video was temporarily taken down by a flood of complaints to YouTube by those same people who are so vocal about their inviolable right to express themselves however they want (or possibly by Hitchens idolators, who infest both atheism and YouTube, oblivious to the contradiction in that). I guess they just wanted to prove ContraPoints‘ point.

A bad Xian movie that I missed?

Mike Huckabee has been sued for illegally robocalling to plug his movie. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s a venal little spammer, but I guess he was also an ineffective spammer, because this was the first I even heard of his movie. I had to look it up. It was called Last Ounce of Courage, and you’ll never guess what it’s about.

Well, maybe you can. Imagine the most hackneyed plot of every Christian movie ever (you got it: Christians are persecuted!), and then imagine the most trivial, non-existent slight to Christianity ever (I bet you already guessed the War on Christmas), and then put them together. You got it! It takes the last ounce of courage for these feeble Christians to say the words “Merry Christmas” in the face of all these ferocious atheists who deny them that right.

Apparently, it tanked hard. I guess I’ll have to watch it in order to make fun of it once it comes to Netflix (I ain’t paying for it, that’s for sure.)

Ataturk is spinning in his grave

Or he would be, if he weren’t an inanimate corpse that had ceased to be. Erdogan is continuing his corruption of Turkish culture, opposing both secularism and — the usual target — the teaching of evolution.

Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Well, gosh, if we remove everything that is complicated from education, you’ll just end up with simple adults. Simple adults who get everything wrong.

I’m just waiting now for our president to treat this as an inspiration.

The destructive narrowing of internet atheism

Hussein Kesvani writes about how internet atheism sucks. As an internet atheist, I have to agree.

To understand where online atheism is at the moment, you only need to do a quick search on YouTube – the platform that acts as a gateway for most people entering the internet atheist community. Some of the most popular viral videos include “How Feminism Destroyed ‘New Atheism'” by ThunderF00t; “Rape, Feminism, and The Amazing Atheist” by “The Amazing Atheist”, TJ Kirk; and various videos of Milo Yiannopoulos talking about atheism on college campuses.

Spend some time looking at this stuff and you’ll find there are few videos critiquing religion intellectually, or offering support to new atheists. Instead, the videos that seem to resonate most are those that use atheism as a smokescreen to comment on the horrors of female body positivity, of sex dolls “triggering” feminists and, of course, those hooked on British tabloid articles claiming the impending overthrowing of Western civilisation by invading Muslims. It’s the kind of thing you might see your Britain First-following uncle post on Facebook, before calling for all halal butchers to be closed because “they fund ISIS”.

There are of course some youtube atheists who do provide the intellectual critiques they want; try Aron Ra, or Seth Andrews, or The Atheist Experience, or…oh god, I just searched youtube for atheism to remind myself of all the great channels out there, and just got a long horrible list of just the worst people. It really is drowning in hateful noise.

It’s also oppressive noise. One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side — this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’ve got an intellectual focus it is a huge distraction to have to slap down the horde of rotten atheists in addition to the hordes of rotten theists — but it does mean that there isn’t a lot of vocal opposition to the corruption of youtube atheism. It also doesn’t help that when someone like Steve Shives does directly attack the regressive atheists, he gets a ton of demented alt-right squirrels throwing 90 minute long raging monologues by talking kangaroos or suits of armor or chattering cow skulls.

The thing is that we need to do more than just declare how stupid believers are while shackling atheism to the likes of anti-feminism, racism, alt-right imperialism, and libertarian economic bullshit. We have to remember that our audience is more than our fellow smug unbelievers happily slapping each others’ backs at how clever we are. We have to also provide an intellectual and social home to people who are searching for answers.

“The majority of ex-Muslims leave Islam because they have issues to do with theology. There is a fear of being cast out by your community, but the process of leaving Islam is basically the same as anyone leaving a religion. Yet, the online atheist community – whose spokespeople are apparently white straight guys – make these videos talking about Muslim barbarians raping white women, or imposing sharia law on schools and cinemas. They don’t realise that they’re implicitly talking about our families, friends, the people we still care about.”

Those people, and people like them. Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism? Or that women atheists find it pleasant to be told to go make a sandwich? We’re doomed if the only people favored by atheists are arrogant white dudes. Like me.

Support the International Humanists and Ethical Union

The IHEU is launching a fundraising campaign to help humanists at risk around the world.

Over the last 5 years, the IHEU has led the way in providing advocacy and support for humanists at risk around the world.

The IHEU is at the forefront of identifying and raising awareness of a disturbing new trend:

— growing violence and discrimination targeted at non-religious individuals and groups around the world.

We want to continue highlighting and campaigning on this topic and defending individual humanists at risk. And we need your help.

They’ve been working to end blasphemy laws, which are used to selectively oppress humanists, and they’ve been assisting threatened individuals in relocating. This is a very good group, and they deserve all of your support.

Conversation with an ex-creationist

I’ve never been a believer, so who am I to say how to convince others to leave their faith? Tonight at 7pm Central, I’ll have a conversation with Glenn D., a former true believer who even donated money to Answers in Genesis, but has now seen the Light. Let’s find out what it took.

If you have questions you’d like me to ask, feel free to leave them here; he’s also commented here before so maybe he’ll answer you directly.

I have irked Ken Ham

I had no idea. Every few days to a week, Answers in Genesis puts out a youtube video called “Answers News”. It’s terrible. I watched all of this one.

They go through news stories and moan and groan about those dang secularists. There was a polyamorous marriage in Colombia — slippery slope! Gay marriage will lead to pedophilia. Rights are a Christian invention, you can’t talk about rights without accepting their version of Christianity. Canada just legislated gender theory into law — Georgia Purdom can be imprisoned if she doesn’t accept someone’s preferred pronouns, because it’s against her religion. There were brief snipes at various science papers, largely consisting of laughing at the idea that a fossil can be 50,000 years old, or 99 million years old.

One thing I learned, because I’d never listened to him before, is that Bodie Hodge is pretty damned thick. He kept interjecting explanations into the discussion: did you know that polyamorous is from a word meaning “many” and a French word for love? You gotta understand what the word “liberal” means: liberal means you’re taking liberties with things. It was nonstop dumbsplaining.

But mainly I listened because they spent about 5 minutes at the beginning talking about me. An atheist visited the Ark Park, shock horror, and he mocked everything. Ken has all my tweets printed out, and he was disgusted. How dare I say there wasn’t much information in the big wooden box? That seems to be what miffed them most. From the timing of my tweets, he calculated that I only spent an hour and 15 minutes in there, so I must have been racing through everything — why, when he personally takes groups through and explains everything, it takes about 2 hours to do the tour.

It sure felt like it was a lot longer than that — there was a lot of time spent slowly wending through ridiculously prolonged tours of empty boxes. But sure, I’ll believe it was objectively an hour and a quarter. I didn’t have to run to do that time though. It was more like a slow stroll, stopping at each room and display, and taking pictures. So once again, Ken Ham confirms my impression of the paucity of material in there.

He complains that I said the parking lot was ten times larger than it needed to be — it’s only twice as large, he said. No, that’s not true. I got there late in the morning, and got a parking spot right near the shuttle bus pick up, and sure drove a long way through empty spaces to get there.

About the weathered look of the outside of the ark — he says they intended it that way. OK. I guess grey is an attractive color.

Then Ken went searching through my blog for ways to psychoanalyze me. All atheists hate god, you know, and that can be traced back to some traumatic event that made them angry at god, so he singles out this post, Odious Christianity, in which I say that my father and my sister have died. A-ha! That must have made me hate god! But he completely misses the point of the post: it was that everyone suffers pain and loss in their life, but it takes a a Christian to turn that around and blame the victim. This is what enraged me: not god, not my grief, but that Ken Ham blames that pain on “sin”.

News items sometimes cite the major causes of death in humans as various diseases are discussed–but ultimately there’s only one cause–sin!

Yeah, everyone who has ever died, who has ever been in pain, deserved it. But don’t worry! All you have to do is believe in his hateful cult and you might die horribly for your sins, but you’ll be forgiven in your afterlife.

By the way, one problem with Ham’s diagnosis of my trauma is that I never believed in god, and became a self-aware atheist in my teens, long before those losses I mentioned.

Oh, well. One other thing I’ve now discovered is that there is actually a news panel show that is more stupid than Fox and Friends.

The Ark Encounter: Wood, plus animal noises

I visited Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter today, and my title says it all: it’s a big wooden box full of more fake wooden boxes, with recorded animal noises playing constantly to make it seem like there’s something more. A hollow cacophony. Maybe if you’re a church-goer, you’re used to that, but I’m not. I tweeted a bunch of stuff as I went along, and I’ll post that below with a litte more commentary below.

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