Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bishop Tobin is a slimy little toady

On a recent Hardball, Chris Matthews reams Bishop Thomas Tobin like an altar boy over his hypocritical request that Sen. Partick Kennedy not accept communion because of his voting record on abortion legislation. And yes, I said hypocritical -- I initially thought the Bishop's position was just wrong and stupid and mean, but I now realize it's hypocritical too, after hearing Matthews' clever argument. It goes something like this: "Okay, Bishop, you say Kennedy should have voted a different way. So what should abortion law be? Should abortion be a criminal offense?"

Tobin won't answer. He condemns Kennedy for not legislating like a Catholic, but he can't (or won't) say what that would mean. It takes a minute and a half of badgering by Matthews just to get this pathetic slimeball to say he thinks abortion should be illegal at all. Seriously! He wants to tell other people want to think and feel, but he refuses to actually take a position that might draw fire towards him.

Oh, and his contention that Kennedy attacked him first is just absurd. Yes, Kennedy chose to make Tobin's assholeness public. But Tobin was the one who chose to be an asshole in the first place. I suppose that Bishop Tobin also thinks that it is the abuse victims who attacked the priests and not the other way around, because the priests had the good graces to keep the child molestation a private pastoral matter, while those grandstanding victims went and publicized the whole thing. Right...

Not that it ought to matter whether Kennedy gets to eat a holy Jesus cracker or not, but this just highlights how despicable the Catholic church is. Yeah, sure, religion provides people with solace -- by attempting to manipulate them through spiritual blackmail. Real nice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Religious leaders in Belfast object to "Don't label me" billboard

I guess this is no surprise. There is no atheist/humanist billboard innocuous enough that it won't draw protests. If an atheist organization put up a billboard that merely said, "Have a nice day!", I'm sure there would be all sorts of objections. "We don't need that in our community -- God decides what kind of day it is!"

Anyway, the final phase of the BHA's bus campaign, in which a billboard with a picture of a child simply reads, "Please Don't Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself," surrounded by a bunch of possible "labels" that people might wrongly apply to a child ("Christian child", "Muslim child", "Mormon child", "Atheist child", etc.), is drawing fiery objections from religious leaders in Belfast. You'd think that asking people not to label their children would be uncontroversial, but I guess not.

Most of the objections miss the point -- "How dare you tell us how to raise our children!" -- but one which does take the point head-on also happens to be the most disturbing. From Sheikh Anwar Mady of the Belfast Islamic Centre:

We believe that every child is born as a Muslim. Religion is not given by the family, but it is a natural religion given by our God at birth. The role of the family is to teach the traditions of the faith. But that faith is implanted at birth.

So yeah, his contention is that every child ought to be labelled a "Muslim child". Egads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NCSE's "Don't Diss Darwin" flyer strikes the appropriate "accomodationist" tone

The National Center for Science Education has generated a flyer to be passed out at college campuses tomorrow in order to counter the distribution of bananaman Ray Comfort's mangled version of Origin of Species. I noticed in the flyer that the NCSE strike the perfect tone for "accommodating" the religious in the fight for evolution, while not alienating atheists or making explicit theological statements:

Comfort implies that it is necessary to reject evolution in
order to be a good Christian.

Ironically, although Comfort quotes Francis Collins, the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project and is now in charge of the National Institutes of Health, he fails to mention that Collins is a committed evangelical Christian who accepts evolution!

People of all faiths and of none have accepted evolution on its scientific merits. The fact that Comfort fails to acknowledge this suggests that he is arguing in bad faith.

Right on. Notice how they never actually say that there is no contradiction between evolution and Christianity (which would be an explicit theological position, and not appropriate to the NCSE's mission statement). They also put in a positive acknowledgment of atheists ("people of all faiths and of none"), a la Obama's inaugural nod to "non-believers".

This is accomodationism done right. They make only factual statements, not theological or philosophical ones1. They are inclusive. And they don't belabor the point. If this is as far as accomodationism ever went, I would have zero complaints.

1As is often overlooked, prominent "anti-accomodationists" like Jerry Coyne have clearly stated that the NCSE should also not be saying there is a contradiction between faith and science, because that would also constitute a theological/philosophical position. Based on the NCSE's mission, they need to stick to the facts -- and the bare facts merely say that there are Christians and other theists who believe in evolution. End of sentence.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I had a bad cold the end of last week, and before that work was heating up a bit, so that's why there have been no posts. I am finally reading Bruce Hood's SuperSense, though, and I will probably have a lot to say about it shortly. In the meantime, since I have nothing original to say, how about some cool links?

Socialist Fire Departments
I just made a similar joke on the Dispatches blog a week or so ago, but this website carries it much farther. Bravo.

3-D Mandelbrot attempt
So a true 3-D equivalent of the Mandelbrot -- with its simple formula, and its unending and consistent complexity -- is apparently somewhat of the holy grail of 3-D fractals. Here is a remarkable attempt, though they admit it's not quite a true 3-D Mandelbrot. It also introduced me to the idea of hypercomplex numbers. Woah. If I turn out to be totally off base on this whole atheism thing, and end up reincarnated, I'm totally going to be a math major. Well, maybe on the third life -- next time around, I'm going with a lit major, because I am also terribly interested in that, but I'd probably get laid a lot more in college...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No surprises there

Yep, Prop 1 in Maine succeeded. No surprise there.

The outcome is "further evidence that although voters have shown tolerance toward same sex couples, they draw the line at marriage," said Jeff Flint, a partner with Schubert Flint Public Affairs in Sacramento, who worked on California's "Yes on 8" campaign in 2008.

No, it's further evidence that making it so that voters can overturn acts of the legislature and pass (state) constitutional amendments with a bare majority is a fucking retarded idea. I'm totally down with a voter veto if a supermajority is required -- that could be a useful check against the possibility of a corrupt legislature. But a bare majority? Insanity.

Referendum 71 does look like it's going to pass in Washington State, but that only extends equal benefits, i.e. it's the old separate-but-equal refrain.

Oh well. Have fun being on the wrong side of history, assholes.