Posts Tagged ‘morality’
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 10, 2011
Every now and then there is a controversy which rips through the skeptical community, because – whether we like to admit it or not – skeptics are humans, too. As such, we are subject to the same limitations & failings as are all people, and this latest frackus has certainly put that on display.
Apparently, prominent skeptic and defender of science Prof. Lawrence Krauss – a man whom I have admired for many years – has, how shall I put this, rather stupidly inserted not only his foot but the majority of his leg pretty firmly into his mouth. He did this by coming out and at least giving the impression that he is publicly defending a known & convicted pedophile – oooh, ick.
I’m not going to spend a huge amount of time writing on this topic, and I’m certainly not going to get into the whole issue of underage sex, prostitution, pedophilia, and that related morass. I choose to leave it to the reader to check out the Skepchick link on the matter (as well as the rather colorful comment section in which Krauss defends his remarks and others respond) and come to their own conclusions. Suffice it to say, I think Krauss is on the losing side on this one, and rightly so.
What I’d like to speak to is something more general and, in my opinion, far more important that what I’ll call the Lawrence Krauss Fiasco has illustrated: even prominent skeptics & scientists are capable of making horrendously stupid mistakes, especially where emotions (such as one’s allegiance to a close friend) are involved. In this, they are every bit as human as you and me.
I like the way in which the question was put on this post to the JREF Forum:
One reason I find this so disturbing is because it seems so obvious to the rest of us that Krauss is relying on nothing more than gut feelings right now, yet he’s 100% sure that this is enough to support his personal opinion. In other words, a well-known and well-respected skeptic is acting like a complete woomeister, it’s been pointed out to him repeatedly, yet he’s refusing to acknowledge it. Does this mean that any one of us could be subject to the same embarrassing lapse in judgement?
My response… in a word: yes.
We are all subject to cognitive dissonance, in one form or another. I’m sure we can all relate to experiences in our lives where, upon looking back on them, our cognitive dissonance and lack of skepticism & critical thinking was obvious. Thankfully, though, I’m guessing that most of us don’t take it to the extreme or do so as publicly as Prof. Krauss has done in this case.
This is why having a community of critical & skeptical thinkers is so important – it gives us the capability to hold each other to a higher standard. By doing so we root out loose, sloppy, and – sometimes – downright repulsive argumentation & reasoning. By not putting all of our intellectual eggs in one basket and engaging in demagoguery via some kind of twisted hero worship, we as a community can sit back & objectively examine the reasoning & opinions of our leaders. And, as in the Lawrence Krauss Fiasco, we have seen that it can be a very useful method of calling out even our most prominent skeptics when they are dead, flat wrong.
And, for the record, the day the skeptical community ceases to engage in this necessary & vital form of self-reflection & criticism, then that’s the day I call it quits. But that day isn’t anywhere close, from what I can see
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: abuse, billionaire, child, cognitive dissonance, critical thinking, girls, Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss, morality, pedophile, pedophilia, prostitutes, prostitution, rape, sex, sexual, skepticism, slave girls, trafficking, under age | 10 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 20, 2011
A hilarious photo is making the rounds on the Internet, and I thought it was worth a bit of analysis. It is a photograph of a man’s arm, tattooed with the Biblical verse from Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one does with a woman. It is an abomination.” Here it is…
No doubt, this guy was expressing his disapproval of homosexuality – in fact, it seems he may have been involved in a hate crime, hence the photograph and media coverage. I’m also guessing, given the emphasis on the Bible, that this fellow’s also a fundamentalist Christian, someone who claims that they get their morality from a “literal” reading of the Bible.
Here’s the funny part: in the very same book of the Bible quoted by this guy, there is a verse which expressly forbids tattooing. It’s in Leviticus 19:28: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.“
Wow, you can’t make this stuff up
While hilarious, I think this points out something crucial in the mindset of most people who refer to themselves as Biblical “literalists”: they are, essentially, hypocrites. You see, most Christians who claim that mantle for themselves are just posturing, though they may sincerely believe it, because what they want is to have their particular interpretation of the Bible to take precidence above all others (including those of many other Christians). They are interpreting the Bible, just like anyone else, yet they refuse to accept that’s what they are doing.
In closing, as a way of sticking my thumb into the collective eye of these so-called Biblical “literalists”, I would like to reference the now-infamous “Letter to Dr. Laura” on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible…
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Posted in humor, religion | Tagged: abomination, Bible, bisexual, Christ, Christian, conservative, Doctor Laura, Dr Laura, fag, faggot, fundamentalist, gay, GLBT, God, hate crime, homo, homosexual, homosexuality, Jesus, lesbian, Leviticus, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 19:28, literalist, morality, morals, religion, skeptic, Skeptic's Annotated Bible, tattoo | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 4, 2011
Okay, for some weird reason, I’m on a religion kick this evening, so I’m going to be publishing three (count ‘em: THREE) blog posts that are pretty much explicitly about religion. The first one has to do with a really good article I read on the Slacktivist blog (?) about the United States Constitution. These days you’ll hear all manner of nonsense coming from various members of the religious right – you know, the in-your-face, fundamentalist Bible-thumping types who think that everyone in the country should cater to their particular whackadoodle interpretation of Christianity… because they say it’s in the Constitution.
Except, according to Slacktivist, it’s NOT in the Constitution; and I know that is correct, because I’ve checked it for myself. If you read through the entire U.S. Constitution – which I have done, TWICE – you will not find one single mention of God, the Ten Commandments, Jesus, Christianity, or the Bible. Nothing, zilch, nada! (You hear that, Glenn Beck?) If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself!
So… that kind of makes it hard to argue that our laws should be based upon the various nutball interpretations of Christianity coming from some loons in the religious right; you know, seeing as how the Constitution is the very basis for all of U.S. law – duh!
In any case, I mentioned the really good Slacktivist article previously, so I should probably point out some of my favorite excerpts…
… What I’m most interested in watching for during this stunt, however, is to see if any of the more theocratically minded members of Congress notice what the Constitution does not say. Unlike these pious politicians, the Constitution never mentions God. At all.
The intellectual ancestors of the evangelical religious right once regarded this as the most glaring and dangerous supposed flaw in America’s governing document. But the godlessness of the U.S. Constitution was not an oversight, it was a matter of deliberate design — a principled choice for which the framers fought passionately. …
The bottom line is that when our Constitution was being hammered out way back in the late 18th century, there was a fundamental philosophical battle between the secularists and the ancestors of the religious right; the secularists won that fight – hence our Godless Constitution…
… But what is most valuable to me in this unfailingly interesting book is the collection of voices from the opponents of America’s “Godless Constitution.” I had read most of the other side of this argument — the side that won the argument because it was right. But I hadn’t previously read the vehement objections of the losing side.
The viewpoint of that side is echoed today in the voices of the evangelical right calling for religious hegemony. Then, as now, the argument was that such hegemony was necessary to provide social order and a basis for morality without which the nation would be ungovernable. Then, as now, the advocates of a sectarian Constitution believed that only sectarian religion could provide a basis for such morality. And only their own sectarian religion at that.
So for the sectarian opponents of the Godless Constitution, then as now, the stakes were enormously high. The Constitution proposed by the framers in 1789, they said, was a form of national suicide. That Godless document — with its separation of church and state, its disregard for the overarching sovereignty of God, its absolute prohibition against religious tests for public office and against the establishment or privileging of any official sect — would bring rapid calamity and doom. Their warnings of the consequences of such a Constitution were dire, apocalyptic and unambiguous. If the Constitution did not establish an official sectarian Christian religion, they believed, then Christians would find themselves subjugated to some other established sect. …
But I think the most interesting part is the analysis of historical accounts whereby the extreme religionists who wanted to “Christianize” the Constitution made all manner of goofy claims about how the country would fall into ruin for dissing God so blatantly
… The Anti-Federalists, and especially those who argued for a sectarian Constitution with religious tests and established religion, were wrong. Demonstrably wrong. More than 200 years later, the Constitution still stands as the guiding document of a free and democratic nation and none of the calamities and apocalyptic consequences that they prophesied have come to pass. “If X, then Y,” they said, without reservation or qualification. If the godless Constitution is ratified, then America will break apart into ungovernable anarchy, or it will be subjected to the tyranny of Jews or pagans or some other established official religion. That is what will happen, they said, what will certainly and inevitably happen.
And it did not happen. They were wrong. They were proven wrong. And their heirs, the hegemonic evangelicals of the religious right, are just as wrong today.
Yup, the end did not come for the United States upon ratifying our Godless Constitution, much to the chagrin of those religious doomsayers who insisted that God’s wrath would surely rain down upon us. Of course, there are those who keep on claiming that “any day now”, God’s gonna smack us good – more on that in my next post.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: America, atheism, Bible, Christian, Christianity, church, Constitution, freedom, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, Godless, Jesus, laws, liberty, morality, politics, religion, secular, separation of church and state, state, Ten Commandments, U.S., United States | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 15, 2010
We’ve all heard of Wikipedia, which tends to be a pretty decent source of info – at least most of the time – because it can point a reader to a lot of good primary sources of information. It seems that some time ago, ultra-conservative religious fundamentalist nutbag Andrew Schlafly decided that Wikipedia had a “liberal bias” and started his own wiki called Conservapedia which has a very obvious conservative, right-wing bias.
In a post that is almost so crazy so as to be indistinguishable from parody – a phenomenon known as Poe’s Law – Andrew Schlafly has put an article up on Conservapedia claiming, no kidding, that Einstein’s theory of relativity is a sham & just part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. This recent article from Talking Points Memo Muckraker outlines the stupidity and down-the-rabbit-hole thinking from Schlafly…
Conservapedia: E=mc2 Is A Liberal Conspiracy
Andrew Schlafly and Albert Einstein. One of these is a scientist who revolutionized physics in the 20th century, and the other is a religious fundamentalist douchebag who wants to rewrite history & ignore science in order to fit everything into his twisted little worldview (guess which is which).
To many conservatives, almost everything is a secret liberal plot: from fluoride in the water to medicare reimbursements for end-of-life planning with your doctor to efforts to teach evolution in schools. But Conservapedia founder and Eagle Forum University instructor Andy Schlafly — Phyllis Schlafly’s son — has found one more liberal plot: the theory of relativity.
If you’re behind on your physics, the Theory of Relativity was Albert Einstein’s formulation in the early 20th century that gave rise to the famous theorum that E=mc2, otherwise stated as energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light. Why does Andy Schlafly hate the theory of relativity? We’re pretty sure it’s because he’s decided it doesn’t square with the Bible.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in conspiracy theories, physics denial/woo, politics | Tagged: Andrew Schlafly, Bible, Conservapedia, conservative, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theory, E = mc2, Einstein, liberal, moral relatvisim, morality, physics, relativism, relativity, relativity theory, Schlafly, theory of relativity, Wikipedia | 5 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 1, 2010
I just watched a fascinating video presentation by Sam Harris titled “Science Can Answer Moral Questions” which he gave at the TED Talks this past February. One of the key questions it addresses is the notion that science & morality (and hence, religion) must, by definition, occupy different spheres of influence. While I don’t agree with Harris on everything, I certainly think he makes a very compelling argument in this presentation, and I encourage you to watch it.
Hat tip to Phil at Skeptic Money for directing me to this video!
Posted in philosophy | Tagged: atheism, atheist, belief, civilization, culture, ethics, evil, facts, God, good, morality, morals, objectivity, philosophy, relativism, religion, Sam Harris, science, scientific method, society, TED, TED Talk, values | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 14, 2010
I’m taking a bit of a departure from my usual routine to state something which should be patently obvious to anyone with even a shred of common, human decency: Pat Robertson is an asshole. Actually, to say as much would be an insult to assholes, but I cannot think of any other way to put it.
Of course, I’m referring to his recent comments regarding how the people of Haiti somehow deserved the earthquake which has killed & maimed so many because it is a punishment from God for Haitian slaves practicing voodoo (and swearing “a pact with the devil”) hundreds of years ago when they revolted against the French. But don’t take it from me, take it from the Big Asshole himself…
Wow… I… am… speechless… well, not quite. But these comments are truly shocking in their insensitivity, immorality, and intellectual vacuity. They are insensitive for obvious reasons. I contend that they are immoral because Robertson is using this tragedy to push his own narrow, fundamentalist version of Christianity – while neglecting the fact that roughly 85% of the population of Haiti is Catholic! Of course, some jerks like Robertson will rationalize the argument by saying something like “Catholics aren’t real Christians” (which is a version of the No True Scotsman logical fallacy) while conveniently ignoring the fact that Catholics (with the exception of Eastern Orthodox Christians) were the only Christians for about 1500 years of history! Arrgh!
**Aside: not that it should matter what the victims’ religious, or lack thereof, beliefs are; basic human decency should sway us to help them in their hour of need.
The comments are intellectually vacuous because they display the logical extension of a worldview rooted in superstition instead of science, reason, and rationality. In Robertson’s worldview, there is absolute good and absolute evil (personified in his versions of God and Satan), and he creates a false dichotomy of a pure black-and-white world where those who share his beliefs are on the side of good (God) while those who disagree with him are on the side of evil (Satan) – recall how he made similar comments right after 9/11 about how the U.S. “deserved” to be attacked. Of course, his ignores the reality of how the world is rarely so simplistic, and there are complexities & shades of gray that pop up in many aspects of life.
Another aspect of Robertson’s commentary is disturbing: it views the world through the lens of supernatural forces beyond the understanding of humanity. There isn’t a natural world which can be examined and understood through a reasoned analysis of natural causes (i.e. the scientific method); rather, the world is governed by good and evil spirits. It’s all about God & angels versus Satan & demons – a view which, more than anything, propagates fear, ignorance, division, and humanity’s most negative tribal tendencies.
Alas, now that I’ve vented my spleen about Robertson’s stupidity, I shall cease cursing the darkness by lighting a candle (to use Carl Sagan’s analogy)… perhaps the best way to deal with assholes like Pat Robertson is to stay rooted in the real, natural world and actually deal with problems using reason & rationality as opposed to moaning about ghosts, goblins, fairies, and other vestiges of superstitious nonsense. In other words, we are empowered and can actually do something because we realize that we live in the real world and can change it for the better – we are not slaves to supernatural powers beyond our control and/or comprehension.
If you want to help the people of Haiti (and I sincerely hope you do), a good start is to consider making an immediate cash donation to a reputable international relief agency, such as the Red Cross.
Go forth and light candles.
Posted in philosophy | Tagged: 9/11, Christianity, Devil, disaster, earthquake, evil, fundamentalist, God, good, Haiti, logic, morality, Pat Robertson, quake, reason, Red Cross, religion, Satan, science, skepticism, supernatural, superstition, voodoo | 19 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 20, 2009
Whew! I had a hard time keeping a lid on this one
I’m part of a coalition of folks who have been working to bring this billboard to downtown Chicago…
Godless Billboard Appears in the Chicago Loop
“Are you good without God? Millions are.”
These words are part of a coordinated multi-organizational advertising campaign designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god. It fits into a nationwide effort that has now come to the Chicago area. The prominent ad appears on a downtown billboard at LaSalle Boulevard and Grand Avenue and can be read by those traveling north who will see it on their left. Placed by the Chicago Coalition of Reason, with funding from the United Coalition of Reason, the billboard features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over.
“The point of our national billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States,” explained Fred Edwords, head of the United Coalition of Reason. “Nontheists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community out there for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. So we hope this will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone.”
Reaching out to nontheists isn’t the only goal of the campaign. “We want people to know they can be good without belief in a god,” said Hemant Mehta, coordinator of the Chicago Coalition of Reason. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about us. But we humanists, agnostics and atheists are as normal as anyone else. We’re your friends, neighbors and family members. We care about our communities and are true to our values.”
The Chicago billboard officially launches Chicago CoR. It is also timed to coordinate with the launch of a new book called “Good Without God” by Greg Epstein, which is being released by William Morrow. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is giving talks and holding a book signing the afternoon of October 26 at the Interfaith Youth Core Biannual Conference, Center for Civic Engagement, at Northwestern University in Evanston. The next day he will speak at the University of Chicago Hillel lunch at 12:00 Noon. At 5:30 PM that evening he will speak at the Harvard Club of Chicago. From 8:00 to 10:00 PM he will lead a discussion at the University of Chicago Chaplains Office, Divinity School.
The billboard is one of many that have appeared around the country this year. Billboards and transit system ads funded by the United Coalition of Reason have gone up in places as far flung as Charleston, South Carolina; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Morgantown, West Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Subway ads will appear next week in New York City and a billboard will go up in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In a month, more are slated for California and elsewhere.
Of course, this advertising campaign is an excellent example of fighting a common logical fallacy (called a false dichotomy) posed by far too many ultra-religious believers: that without a belief in the supernatural or a god, one cannot be a good person. One can be “good without god”, but I should also point out to my fellow atheists & skeptics that just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they also cannot be a good person. I know plenty of good people, both religious & non-religious, and I don’t think that painting with a wide brush by labeling one side or the other as morally inferior is conducive to critical thinking when dealing with such issues.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, billboard, Chicago Coalition of Reason, Chicago CoR, faith, God, good without God, humanist, morality, non-theist, nontheist, religion, secular, secularist, skeptic, theist, United Coalition of Reason, United CoR | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 4, 2009
Those of you who have followed the evolution-creationism battles for the last few years will recognize the name and infamy of William Dembski. Dembski is one of the top talking heads for the Discovery Institute, the intelligent design “think-tank” which rose to prominence in the 1990s, and he is guilty of pretty much every logical fallacy & dishonest debating tactic in the book in his promotion of ID-creationism.
But now, Dembski has decided to branch out from telling lies about evolutionary science, because apparently after the Discovery Institute’s embarrassing smackdown at the Dover trial in 2005, the creationist movement has decided to take their anti-scientific agenda into other areas, such as environmental science. For details, see the following article on the Southern Baptist Conference’s website where Dembski recently outlined this broader attack on science.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, global warming denial | Tagged: anti science, atheism, Christianity, climate change, conspiracy theory, creationism, deniers, Discovery Institute, Dover trial, evil, evolution, fundamentalist, global warming, God, good, ID, intelligent design, materialism, morality, religion, SBC, science, scientific, Southern Baptist Conference, Wedge document, Wedge Strategy, William Dembski | 11 Comments »