While trying to find the list of nations by evolution acceptance from Religulous, I happened across this blog http://somethingsurprising.blogspot.com/. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, most of the entries weren’t really interesting, but as I scrolled down, I found articles that had obviously been written by a skeptic, and possibly an atheist.
I’ve skimmed many of the articles by this point and read quiet a few, and it couldn’t be more obvious that the main (possibly only) blogger on this site–Plasma Engineer–is an atheist.
He apparently lives in Great Britain, so he probably isn’t interested in any collaborations, but if anyone wants the view of an atheist from across the pond, you got the link right here.
This article was linked at PZ Myer’s blog:
The gist of the article is that Muslims are now pushing for anti-blasphemy laws, but such laws protecting Christianity used to be ubiquitous in our own country. So, in the spirit of freedom and defiance of those who want to stifle it, here is a bit of “blasphemy:”
Mohammed was a false prophet (in fact there never has been true one), and Mary was not a virgin.
Free speech is a great thing!
So, when the whole gay marriage debate was taking place in Minnesota, I always forcefully attacked the slippery slope argument that if we allow same-sex marriage we would have to allow polygamy. But now it turns out there are in vfact people pushing for polygamy.
I just read an article in Slate by Jillian Keenan, a self-decribed feminist and avocate of sex-positivity, who argues, essentially, that polygamy is a matter of sexual freedom and allowing women to make their own choices. She acknowledged that historically in the United States, polygamy has been associated with abusive situations, but argues such problems without a wholesale prohibition of the practice.
So, I am trying to decide — my gut reaction is against polygamy (though I do not have the same gut reaction against polyandry, which I freely admit is a double standard); am I under the thumb of tradition, or is polygamy an inherently anti-woman institution? While I would like to hear from anyone who has something to say, I am, of course, particularly interested in hearing what female readers might have to say.
And by the way, I know this is as trite as can be, but whatever one thinks about polygamy, one woman is more than I can handle!
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is one of the most obnoxious state level politicians currently holding power. But she recently got one right, vetoing a bill passed by the Arizona legislature that would have allowed business owners to discriminate against GLBT patrons based on “religious freedom.” Despite the defeat of this discriminatory bill, I suspect that “religous freedom” will be the favored excuse of bigots of every stripe.
A new blogger has joined the ranks at Freethoughtblogs. The blog title is “On the Margin of Error”. I’m not sure about the origin of the name and I think he has some explanation on his site that I will have to read. He is a former Muslim who lives in Iran and must use an alias to hide his identity and protect his life. He is offerring an insider’s view of Islam and a perspective on the religion’s strengths and weaknesses. Suffice it to say that his initial entries suggest that he will get “slammed” a lot for being an islamaphobic. He agrees with Harris that Islam is different from other religions and a lot worse than the others. I would consider him similar to Ayaan Hirsi Ali at this point although I haven’t read all of his posts yet. I plan to put him on my list of regulars and will likely have to give up what remains of my life outside of reading blogs, going to work occasionally and working on the endless list of things I’m supposed to be doing at home.
If you are interested in learning more about Islam, I would recommend giving it a look. His initial posts have drawn a large number of very detailed comments, so there is a lot to go through if you have been thirsting for a better understanding of Islam. There are other blogs by former Muslims at the FtB site of course, but many of them focus on specific issues like the treatment of women, protecting the rights of former Muslims, etc. rather than exploring the nature of the religion and its tenents. I need to get a better grasp on this stuff and I hope his blog will help. In his first couple of posts he brought up aspects to the history of the religion that were new to me (not all that hard to do I suppose) and insights into the parts of the religion that are typically not seen by those outside.
It has been a long time since I posted information and content associated with our monthly meeting, but the topic of our meeting on the 25th is worth sharing. The general topic was the “war on women” that seems to possess the religious right and their involvement with the GOP. I would like to think that the assault on women’s rights was not the exclusive domain and constant harping point of the GOP, but the loudest voices from that domain seem to determined to make it so. Worse, the GOP has done virtually nothing to counter that perception. I think it is a bit hyperbolic to refer to it as a “war” on women, but the seriousness of the problem and the continued reality of the threat needs to be acknowledged. The video embedded below captures a lot of the reality of the hostile environment that surrounds basic questions about providing the level of protection to women as men take for granted. It generated a lot of discussion and the issues need to be revisited periodically to assess whether we are making any progress.
We watched a second video that drew upon a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. It includes some footage of the ridiculous comments and ignorance of those who claim to speak for the “conservative” position. In particular it looks at how the assault on women is also an assault on science. I wish that conservative didn’t so often equate with stupid and ignorant.
I think I have to go and take a shower or something now. I feel like I have been wallowing in something really bad. See you later.
After watching the Carroll/Craig debate, I came up with a few questions based on Ol’ William Lane Crackhead’s scientific arguments for God’s existence. I would love comments and opinions on my questions here.
1. God is an incorporeal “spiritual” being with no physical manifestation. If this is the case, then how does this non-matter entity interact with the material universe? What processes or forces can a being with no physical presence in the universe possibly use to interact with it?
2. Crackhead claims that Newton’s laws of thermodynamics prove the existence of God (it is this squirrel shit-level nuttiness that caused me to give him his nickname). These laws dictate that energy can be neither created nor lost, but must instead simply change form. If heaven is real and the souls of the dead continue to exist forever (assuming souls are some form of energy) then where does the energy needed to create new souls come from if the energy from previous souls never changes form but continues to be those specific souls for eternity?
I would have to say that Carroll was the hands-down winner, keeping Craig mostly on the defensive, calling him out on his errors, and completely outclassing him (unsurprisingly) in terms of his knowledge of physics and cosmology. But I do have one concern. I was just reading Mano Singham’s blog; Singham himself was not able to watch the debate but invited comments from those who did. One commenter stated that he was frustrated with some of the technical language, especially in Craig’s case, and used as an example Craig’s reference to “Boltzmann brains.” Singham then pointed out that one of Craig’s common tactics is to find something really esoteric that he knows the audience won’t understand so that he can look like he really knows a lot about a topic with which he is only superficially familiar. So this makes me think — and this is nothing new or original — that maybe in a sense Craig scored a tactical victory just by appearing to be able to debate someone as well-versed in physics/cosmolgy as Carroll. Although I think anyone truly objective, and especially those familiar at all with some of the topics, would share my assessment of the debate, I also suspect that a large proportion of viewers were theists hoping to have their beliefs confirmed, and, despite Carroll’s effectiveness, Craig’s obfuscation might have been enough to give them what they were looking for. On the other hand, I can’t imagine that anyone not already wanting to convert from a neutral or atheistic position to theism would have been convinced by Craig.
If anyone is interested, the debate between the notorious slickster William Lane Craig and the eminently respectable physicist Sean Carroll will be live streamed tonight at 7:00 PM. In general, debates are not a good way to determine truth. They are often more about showmanship and mastery of debating tactics than anything else, and Craig is certainly a very formidable debater. However, I think this one might be worth watching. Carroll has a unique gift of making very complicated ideas accessible to a lay audience, and I think he will do well against Craig. In any event, watching Carroll’s presentations will be a good way to learn about cosmology.
This past weekend there was a lengthy series of presentations at a church in San Antonio, Texas that covered a wide variety of issues and attempted to address the challenges made by the “new atheists”. I became aware of this event through Matt Dillahunty who had been invited to participate in three debates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings as well as having a chance to attend the lectures that were presented by theists during the day. He posted this link to the schedule and the videos of all the sessions on his Facebook page and I decided to watch and learn from both Matt and the preacher he debated. You will find the links to Matt’s debates at the bottom of the page since they took place in the evening rather than earlier in the day.
The experience was both interesting and painful. Over the past few years Matt has become a skilled speaker as well as good at debate although the format has serious limitations for getting at the truth. In his presentations, Matt exhibits down to earth reasoning, arguments and humor. His opponent in these videos demonstrated none of that and seemed to want to overwhelm the audience with how much more he knew than they did. I wonder how hard it was for some in the audience to ignore the contrast and block off their mind to Matt’s easy to understand and honest presentation.
You have to be rather patient since the debate videos run more than 90 minutes each. Matt also cautions viewing or listening to them at your own risk. I know I found it difficult to listen to his opponent. I haven’t watched any of the lectures yet, but plan to do so since Matt notes that they demonstrate a rich array of logical fallacies, misunderstandings, etc. The usual problems. Apparently much of the lecturing was to put down the 4 Horsemen of New Atheism. But Matt notes on Facebook that they had profound difficulties understanding anything that the New Atheists have said. I suspect I won’t be able to make it all the way through many of them. However, it is a unique opportunity to see what goes on in the heads of believers.
The debates could be used as a workshop for identifying logical fallacies, misunderstandings and poor arguments of all sorts. The Christian opponent tried to present himself as learned and sophisticated, but his training was all from some small time bible college and his arguments were so crazy I sometimes had to stop the video to avoid a brain cramp. It was unfortunate that the debate format wouldn’t allow Matt to pursue a “Boghossian” dialog since the words “how do you know that” would have led into a chaotic mind and probably a collapse of every argument made by the preacher. I am again wondering if this level of delusion really is a mental illness.