The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust revisionism’

Holocaust Denial in the Vatican?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 5, 2009

Sometimes I feel like it’s two steps forward and one step back for the advance of science, reason, and critical thinking. Case in point, it seems as if the specter of the Dark Ages could be rearing its ugly head in the Vatican.

Now, I’m not going to go on a rant about religion or my many criticisms of various Vatican policies, but what has happened recently certainly bears mentioning. Pope Benedict XVI recently decided to lift the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson from the Catholic Church. Bishop Williamson is an ultra-traditionalist in the Catholic faith, and he was excommunicated from the Church in 1988 by Pope John Paul II because he had been ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

bishop williamson

So what? Well, it seems that Bishop Williamson is a Holocaust denier – a rather repulsive breed of pseudohistorian & conspiracy theorist who believes that the Holocaust never happened or, at the very least, was drastically over-exaggerated.

Just weeks ago, Bishop Williamson stated in a broadcast on Swedish television some of the following claims…

[That the historical evidence was] hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers.

… I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers.

… Anti-Semitism can only be bad if it is against the truth. But if something is true, it cant be bad. I am not interested in the word anti-Semitism.

Here’s the entire interview:

Bishop Williamson’s claims are complete garbage. This is because there are mountains of evidence which confirm the reality of the Holocaust – in fact, there’s so much evidence that the United States has an entire public museum dedicated to preserving the historical evidence of the Holocaust! It’s called the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and it resides in Washington DC, and I’ve toured it and seen this evidence for myself.

But that evidence doesn’t matter to deniers like Bishop Williamson – rather than look at the whole body of evidence placed before them, they tend to cherry-pick the data (taking what they like and discarding/ignoring everything else) for evidence they think might preserve their racist worldview. And even if that evidence doesn’t support their claims, they’ll spin it as if it does. This is precisely the same kind of thinking employed by all manner of conspiracy theorists & pseudoscientists in that, no matter what evidence is presented, the denier’s conclusion that the Holocaust wasn’t real or was drastically overblown is completely non-falsifiable.

Understandably, once this news hit, there was a huge public protest over this move on the part of Pope Benedict XVI. Critics from the Jewish community strongly condemned the move, and there was substantial criticism from within the Vatican itself as well. Yesterday, the controversy hit a fever pitch when Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany (where Holocaust denial is a crime) blasted the Pope for his rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson.

Initially, the Vatican defended the Pope against Merkel’s criticism, but thankfully just today the Vatican has publicly stated that in order for Bishop Williamson to be rehabilitated into the Catholic Church he must recant his views on Holocaust denial.

So it looks as if, for now, more reasonable heads have prevailed over at the Vatican – at least on this issue. However, the mere fact that Pope Benedict XVI even attempted this move in the first place is a bit unsettling to me. I worry that defenders of science & reason may have to cast a wary and watchful eye on Rome for some time to come.

Posted in Holocaust denial | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Ben Stein – Not Expelled, Just Flunked

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 4, 2009

Note: Read up on my recent post, Creationism is Evolving Again, for the full context of this entry.

Well, today I have good news. It seems that would-be “defender of truth & freedom” Ben Stein has received a rather public smackdown. For those of you who may not recall, Ben Stein – in addition to making Clear Eyes eye-drops and the phrase “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” famous – was the poster child for the disastrously-received creationist propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

expelled ben stein

When promoting the film last year, in addition to spewing the usual creationist nonsense such as insisting that “Darwinism” was responsible for Nazism & the Holocaust and alluding to an “Darwinist” conspiracy to rid academia of “people who just want to ask questions”, Stein reached new lows during an interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). In this interview, Stein stated, unequivocally…

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

…Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

You can see the entire exchange in the TBN interview in the first part of this online video, Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 24)

Well, it seems that Stein was asked to give the 2009 commencement address at the University of Vermont (UVM). Apparently, when word got out that Stein was to deliver this speech at UVM, where he tried to promote Expelled last spring, there were plenty of people who got upset about it. Think about it: here was a man who had promoted a film which blatantly misrepresented both the scientific & academic communities in the promotion of a pseudoscientific & pseudohistorical agenda giving the commencement address at a major university? Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

Long story short, there was an organized campaign, by people inside and outside of the university, to express displeasure with the choice of an anti-science nut like Stein to deliver such a high-profile speech. Much of the negative feedback the university received is outlined at this transcript of an interview with UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel. Eventually, after such a public outcry, Stein voluntarily withdrew from giving the commencement speech, and he stated so publicly.

From the press-release outlining Stein’s withdrawal from the speech…

I am writing to inform you that Ben Stein, a renowned economist and public personality, has informed me of his decision to withdraw from our Commencement ceremonies in May.

… Mr. Stein has also expressed opinions on subjects unrelated to economics, most notably with respect to evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust. Those views are highly controversial, to say the least. Following the announcement of Mr. Stein as Commencement speaker, profound concerns have been expressed to me by persons both internal and external to the University about his selection. Once I apprised Mr. Stein of these communications, he immediately and most graciously declined our Commencement invitation.

Now, what’s really interesting about this whole affair is the creationist reaction to Stein’s voluntarily withdrawing from speaking at UVM. True to form, those consummate whiners at the mega-creationist “think” tank called the Discovery Institute have decided to spin this whole situation as another example of the supposed dogma promoted by Darwinists. They further maintain that because Stein voluntarily withdrew that it is evidence for a vast conspiracy to prevent open & honest criticism of evolutionary science. If these IDiots keep spinning in their tin-foil hats any faster, they’re going to achieve liftoff.

Of course, the irony behind the creationists claiming that they aren’t being allowed to freely criticize science & evolution specifically is that these same people shut down open debate and criticism of Expelled when they were trying to promote it! From attempting to blatantly manipulate the media at press events to employing dishonest interviewing tactics, the creationists behind this waste of a movie displayed an astonishing level of hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black – sheesh!

Well, all I can say to Ben Stein is this: you weren’t expelled Ben, you just plain flunked. And to the all the creationist whiners out there, it’s time you grew up and joined us in the 21st century.

Posted in creationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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