Tuesday, June 22, 2010
This week’s “shout” goes out to Sen Robert Adley and his part in the Louisiana “Statewide Day of Prayer for Louisiana and the population and region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico”.
Don’t bother going back to read that again, you read it right. The Louisiana legislature wasted valuable legislative and problem solving time with proposing, discussing and voting on a supernatural solution to the BP oil leak.
(Not to mention the time that was taken drafting and redrafting a 2 page document justifying and mandating it;
Before we even get to the meat of the absurdity of this state mandated day of prayer, what ever happened to the constitutional interpretation (Thomas Jefferson’s) of separation of church and state?
Have we really gotten so lax in our legislative approach that we now set aside efforts for finding real solutions and delve into supernatural invocations for help?
Have we gotten so politically correct that we can’t just accept the speaker summarily dismissing this sort of talk as something best left to the discretion of individuals and off the discussion table?
Have theists gotten so arrogant in their belief that they really feel it is representative of their people and that it has a place in the politics of a nation?
Have politicians gotten so corrupt as to use people’s religious beliefs for cheap political gain during times of crisis to the detriment of the nation?
The answer to all of these questions is a depressing “Yes!”
Sen Adley, You should be ashamed of yourself. As an evangelical you may dismiss my secular deprecation of your actions, even though I would stand in defense of your right to pray.
But to waste valuable time discussing it when you have a crisis on your hands is absolutely disgusting, immoral, and a betrayal to all those who depend on you.
No one is stopping you, nor anyone who believes such things from invoking prayer to convince themselves that they are assisting the efforts for clean up.
No one needs a “a Statewide Day of Prayer” to “provide each of us with a powerful
opportunity to humble ourselves before our Almighty God” because that opportunity already exists each and every day.
There is nothing that can be accomplished by such a call, because prayer, (if it works at all (and the evidence says that it does not)) isn’t a mandate, nor a date, nor more powerful if many people are coming together in it.
Each prayer is personal, according to you, and considered equally, in your belief, by god.
So unless your belief is that God doesn’t care about individual prayer, or that he gives greater credence to prayers said in unison, or even that he gives preference to those said on days set aside for that purpose, then what you have done is a cheap political stunt to garner attention by setting aside responsibilities and focusing on grandstanding for a time.
It is a disgusting appeal for popularity, a cheap political tactic, and an unethical diversion from the political ideals that you took an oath to uphold as a member of office.
You saw an opportunity and you took it. Personal gain was there, ripe for the taking and you wasted no time snatching it up and snatching your opportunity to take ownership of the morality that is implied in prayer with many people.
People desperate for a solution look to you, and you played on that desperation by manipulating perceptions of your dedication by calling to their beliefs instead of calling for a solution.
If a solution isn’t found in the coming weeks, will we be smelling burnt animal flesh from the legislature?
Or communal chanting?
Give us a break! No one believes that you have done any good with your suggestion of a day of prayer if they really think about it.
Sir, people will pray for solutions with or without your governmental day of prayer. So setting aside our disagreements on the efficacy of prayer, the only person who can benefit from this outlandish legislation is you. You wanted to gain favour, and now you have it from those who are desperate for ANY solution. They plead for help and you provided only words.
Unchristian (well, we may disagree about THAT too)
In a word….
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Here is my week’s rational response to a common Christian meme.
“God can’t be understood intellectually, only spiritually”
Or here is another permutation of that statement;
“You can’t use physical evidence to prove god, only spiritual evidence”
I have had recent encounters with theists who use this (along with many others) as a way to escape the burden of proof that is on the shoulders of every person making any claim. They use it as a way to show how they shouldn’t be expected to have evidence, and they leave it at that. With no evidence for THAT claim either.
What exactly IS spiritual evidence?
Is it anecdotal? Because you experience something, the explanation that you ascribe to that experience must be real?
It is pretty clear why that argument can’t be held as absolute truth.
Our experiences are affected in many ways, and sometimes they alter our perceptions of things in such a way as to affect the information that lends itself to our beliefs.
This creates a vulnerability to false beliefs.
“Elvis is alive”
“I was abducted by aliens”
“I saw a ghost in my room”
“I am the reincarnation of Napoleon”
These are all claims that we could all agree are based on misinformation of some sort. They are very often created by experiences that we misinterpret. Circumstance is also important when considering the level of delusion that we can enter into. So are mental state, emotional wellness and social factors as well.
These factors can be ignored if we just inject one more….
It is easy to ascribe fantastical explanations to certain experiences when we are in the company of those who will verify your belief by not responding with incredulity but with acceptance and relief that you see “it” too.
As comforting as that might be to accept, if the explanation doesn’t stand up to even the most basic scrutiny, or if your explanation defies the laws of everything that we know about reality, you should rethink your conclusion.
There is a saying;
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
Doesn’t stand up to examination?
Then it’s back to the drawing board, just like any other claim or hypothesis.
Do you not even allow the possibility that your experiences could mean something else?
That is called confirmation bias.
Do you really think that you can develop theories on the nature of reality based solely on personal experiences and with absolutely no collaborating evidence in a universe so large?
Or do you believe that the commonality of your experience with others lends it enough credence to allow your claims to contradict all of known science?
That is called an argument from popularity, and it is just as false. Many people once believed the earth was flat too.
If it isn’t anecdotal, then is it perhaps there IS a spiritual plane in which things can dwell outside what we see as reality.
Can this explain things?
If something exists in reality, then it manifests in reality, if it manifests in any way then it can be observed and studied.
If something doesn’t manifest in reality, then it is either irrelevant (because it can’t affect us until it DOES manifest) or it is non existent. I have heard the answer to that, and it is even less satisfying.
“He only manifests in the hearts of his believers”
Not only would that STILL be a manifestation, but it is a cop out. It is akin to saying “You can only see this dragon if you believe he is there BEFORE you have any reason to do so.”
He exists as a manifestation of belief?
This explanation means that he is either a CREATION of our belief (and therefore us), or that he is simply a figment of the imagination of belief.
In the end it doesn’t matter where you say he manifests. You have to have a reason for believing.
If you don’t have a reason to believe, then that belief is just baseless superstition.
That is what we are looking for when we ask for evidence.
Something that will stand up as a reason to believe.
Something that will point directly at the existence of a creator being.
Something that is grounded in reality, and not just pretence of knowledge about something that you don’t understand.
We are open to hear your reasons, and to consider them in the interest of intellectual honesty.
If you don’t give any, then you can be comforted by knowing that you deserve all the ridicule that you get for making baseless and undefended claims.
If you don’t give any, then you can be comforted by knowing that you have entered into the realm of belief where Elvis sightings are regular, unicorns run the landscape, and you (or your friend) may just be the reincarnation of Napoleon.
People may laugh, and they might be right to do so.
So let’s try again;
Monday, June 7, 2010
Here is the headline from MSNBC
"Hospital nun rebuked for allowing abortion"
And the addition just under the headline;
"She agreed that seriously ill woman needed procedure to survive"
Well in this weeks edition of Beyond Belief News, we tell the unbelievable story of a Hospital Ethics committee member being let go for being judged unethical in examining the ethics of a life saving medical procedure.
The key pieces of information that you are missing is that the Ethics committee member was....
The life saving procedure?
The person who punished the nun?
Not a doctor, not an expert in medical ethics, not an expert of any kind.
The patient made the decision to terminate the pregnancy because of a previous condition called Pulmonary hypertension. In order to make such a serious decision, she consulted her doctors, her family and the ethics committee (of which the nun,Sr McBride, is a member). They informed her that her heart dysfunction would be made worse and possibly fatal by continuation of the pregnancy. In a statement issued 14 May 2010 "If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it," the letter says. "We are convinced there was not."
Sound medical advice.
The Bishop Thomas J Olstead, however, felt that he was qualified to comment on the validity of this decision, despite no actual qualifications or medical knowledge in his background.
Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic. "I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese, I am further concerned by the hospital's statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother's underlying medical condition. An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."
Who is he to say what medical professionals should and shouldn't do? Further what did he want them to do?
Watch her die from cardiac arrest, and then watch her baby die anyway?
McBride was reassigned and excommunicated, for the crime of listening to the advice of doctors and allowing the abortion to happen.
I would defend his right to exclude her from his catholic "club" for not following their immoral rules, but to expect hospitals (even catholic ones) to respect religious dogma more than their patients health and safety is unforgivable.
It is long past time for governments to remove all catholic doctrine from hospital mandates, to remove the "catholic" from any hospital and allow them to do their jobs without iron age morality interference.
It is long past time to stop conflating religion with health and education. They are mutually exclusive and, in most cases, polar opposites.
Once you make the decision to favour death over over a procedure that will save a life that is NOT YOUR OWN because of YOUR personal morality, you no longer have a hospital.
All you have then is a building ruled by witch doctors, evangelists, and a 2000 year old morality which you force on people in need of care, not judgment.
Do we want to examine religious ethics instead of medical conditions?
Are we concerned with personal morality instead of patient mortality?
A philosophy of long ago, or the philosophy of life?
What I am trying to say is;
Catholics, if you are going to stand in the way of treatment,
leave the business of healing to the doctors.
"Teach the controversy"
"Evolution VS Creationism"
We hear this phrases said in scholastic circles all over North America. Sounds reasonable doesn't it?
If there are two sides of a debate on a subject, shouldn't we be teaching our children both sides and then allowing them to make up their own minds? At the very least giving them the knowledge and teaching them the logical abilities they will require to study the facts and partake in the debate? Shouldn't we avoid isolating one side merely because it is the one that we accept when there are other facts available?
The answer is yes.
A resounding yes.
I will say it one more time...
Now let me elaborate.
There was one word in that paragraph that was vitally important.
Can you see which one it is?
IF there are two sides.
IF there are other facts.
When speaking about evolution and creationism, there simply is no other side.
On one side is all of the world's scientists who have studied and labored to refine or refute the theory of evolution while never having the theory fail.
On the other side are undereducated religious naysayers who posit ridiculous claims about the falsity of the theory of evolution. Their claims range from the ridiculous (re: croco-ducks) to arguments from incredulity (re: "I aint no monkey!") to arguments from ignorance that sound very convincing to those who aren't schooled in evolution (Re: That the law of thermodynamics refutes evolution (side note- It doesn't)).
The problem is that these are all born from a lack of scientific knowledge.
And in an argument about SCIENCE, the debate, ANY debate has to be between people who have a solid understanding of what they are talking about.
In other words;
Sorry creationists, there is no controversy, and you don't get a "side" until you are learned in the subject in which you attempt to debate.
The problem is that, once you learn about the scientific facts, you won't think there is a debate either!