Thought of the day

Why are the Florida Marlins allowed to exist? The ownership isn’t even interested in baseball.

You’re a coward, Jack Hudson

In continuing his Ken Ham tactics of creationist cowardice, Jack Hudson is quoting from other blogs without linking directly to them. Maybe he’s afraid his following of 3 fellow creationists won’t be able to handle it?

Saying, “Nothing can be caused by atheism because there is nothing within atheism TO cause anything.” is like saying that cutting the breaks on a car won’t cause it to crash because brakes don’t cause cars to move, accelerators do.

This is a direct quote from a commenter on FTSOS’ Facebook Page. In most circles, not giving credit where credit is due is known as plagiarism. But then, it’s okay to lie so long as it’s for Jesus.

It may be true that atheism didn’t cause Maoists, and Stalinists, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Ill and Fidel Castro to kill, torture and imprison tens of millions of people; however it was certainly atheism that allowed them the freedom to completely disregard human rights and human worth and reduce entire populations down to political chattel. This isn’t a matter of conjecture, but history and fact.

This isn’t history; it’s just poor lying. Jack starts by admitting that the arguments he has been parading around the Internet for years are wrong – atheism didn’t cause Mao or Stalin or anyone else to act in any way – but then he pretends like atheism somehow allows for more evil. It doesn’t, that’s non-sense, and it runs counter to the extensive arguments that have been presented on FTSOS without addressing any of them. Atheism is a descriptive claim. It literally cannot allow or disallow for good or evil any more than a claim that rocks exist allows for anything. Jack, like so many other dumb Americans, is incapable of distinguishing between descriptive and normative claims.

Of course, New Atheism, being primarily an emotional response, is not concerned with either history or facts.

This non-sequitur does a couple things. First, it aims to cry “You’re emotional!”, thereby evoking an emotional response. It is an attempt to bring people to emotion because the reality of the situation is that people like Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and Richard Dawkins just aren’t going there. Maybe if people like Jack lie enough then a sliver of emotion will push through, thus justifying his lying claim. (Maybe he was also trying to get an emotional response when he texted my cousin.) Second, Jack’s lie is assuming that emotion is somehow invalid. It isn’t. Emotion is an important aspect of the human experience and it can act as an aide in argumentation. Look at John Kerry and George Bush in their ’04 debates. Kerry destroyed Bush on the facts, and I think was later vindicated by the rest of Bush’s failed presidency, but Bush came out looking much better in the latter debates because he was emotionally assertive in his responses. That alone wouldn’t have won him points – he did present actual arguments, and those acted as the primary catalyst to his improved debate image – but they were key in his success (and the country’s failure, but I digress).

The funny thing about all this cowardice is that it was Jack who actually influenced me to use my real name on the Internet. In some ancient message board he would point out that anonymity was an excuse to hide from one’s words. This was a reference to my use of a secondary name in an effort to finish a discussion that had begun under a different name. In reality, I was forced into doing this because the board had banned my first name (how dare I say homosexuality wasn’t a choice!) and it would have been stupid and pointless to come out and say “Look! I’m the guy you just banned!”, so Jack’s criticisms actually made no sense whatsoever in that context. However, his broad point was an important one (again, just not to the situation, despite his silliness). It seemed to me his was saying, ‘Own up to what you say’, and I agree with the sentiment. It’s just ironic that he now rejects it.

My favorite Hubble image

Bigot gets fired

Jonathan I. Katz is a ridiculous excuse of a human being. Here’s what he says about gay people.

Unfortunately, the victims are not only those whose reckless behavior brought death on themselves. There are many completely innocent victims, too: hemophiliacs (a substantial fraction died as a result of contaminated clotting factor), recipients of contaminated transfusions, and their spouses and children, for AIDS can be transmitted heterosexually (in America, only infrequently) and congenitally. The icy road was lined with unsuspecting innocents, who never chose to ride a motorcycle. Guilt for their deaths is on the hands of the homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers who poisoned the blood supply. These people died so the sodomites could feel good about themselves.

What of those cursed with unnatural sexual desires? Must they forever suppress these desires? Yes, but this is hardly a unique fate. Almost everyone has desires which must be suppressed. Most men and women think adulterous thoughts fairly often, and find themselves attracted to members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. Morality requires them to suppress these desires, and most do not commit adultery, though they feel lust in their hearts. Almost everyone, at one time or another, covets another’s property. They do not steal. Many people feel great anger or intense hatred at some time in their lives. They do not kill.

I am a homophobe, and proud.

This bigot was given a prominent position within the Obama Administration, working on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. To compound Obama’s error, the guy is also a global warming denier to some extent. (“To some extent” = global warming is happening and is caused by people, but it’s somehow good for us.) A person such as this deserves to be shunned and pushed away from any prestigious position or stature – that should be obvious. In fact, it should have been obvious that such a person shouldn’t have been given any sort of distinguished label in the first place. Fortunately, at least hindsight is 20/20.

Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill. Some of Professor Katz’s controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department’s efforts.

Good.

Go fuck yourself, Tim Pawlenty

Because some things are so obviously absurd, they don’t deserve more than a good ol’ “go fuck yourself”.

In a move likely to burnish his presidential prospects among social conservatives, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that granted same-sex couples the same end-of-life rights as married couples. The bill, which passed the legislature last week, would have given gay partners the power to decide about how to dispose of a body and file wrongful death suits.

“Marriage – defined as between a man and woman – should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been. I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage. Accordingly, I am opposed to this bill,” he said in his veto message.

You’re opposed to the bill because you’re a fucking bigot. That’s it. Go fuck yourself.

Atheism, worldviews, and responsibility

A bit of a firestorm has broken out on FTSOS’ fan page (or is it a “Like Page”? Silly Facebook). A number of claims have been made which deserve a response (if only because I initiated the discussion), but since the comment system on Facebook is inadequate, an entire blog post is necessary. Besides, a number of logical mistakes have been made in the discussion which are all too common among theists.

To give some context, this is the line which started it all (minus an apparent typo).

This is worth repeating, too: atheism has never been responsible for an act of evil. Ever.

The first substantial criticism was one that amounted to little more than semantics.

Of course those are not examples of atheism being responsible for acts of evil. No more than Christianity is responsible for the crusades or Islam is responsible for suicide bombings. People are responsible for these things.

This person was likely trying to excuse ideas as having any sort of responsibility, and strictly speaking, I suppose that’s true. An idea is powerless without a conscious act or consciousness behind it. But I think it’s also obvious that ideas influence, inspire, and drive people. No one ignores Islam as a major component in 9/11 or the abuse of women in places like Saudi Arabia.

It’s inappropriate – and plainly wrong – to try and separate people from ideas. If we aren’t a composition of ideas and memes, what are we? The vast majority of the people – especially the religious – don’t want to say humans are merely their genes, but that’s the alternative to excusing all manner of ideas in order to create this inane wall where no ideology or systematic pattern of thought bears any responsibility. Just ask: if people are responsible for all actions, not ideas, then what causes people to act?

Of course, some people do get it.

The difference is that atheism is NOT an ideology. Atheism has no moral grounds, no rules, no dogma, no tenets. Nothing can be caused by atheism because there is nothing within atheism TO cause anything. Atheists come from all walks of life, there is not one type of atheist, which (sic) one set of beliefs.

This is precisely correct. Atheism is a descriptive, not a normative claim. The same goes for agnosticism and pure deism. There are no values which come with the claims themselves. People can and do build values around particular claims, but the claims themselves remain merely descriptive.

The next one goes a little off-topic, but still deserves a response.

This is worth repeating. Ideologies are not responsible for acts of evil. Only people are.

And also, for one to call something evil, one must have an objective moral standard.

An atheist has no objective standard with which to back up his rants against “evil” because for the atheist objective evil does not exist. He is full of contradictions.

Again, if ideologies are not responsible (and again, in the semantic sense of being a primary inspiration or drive), then how are people responsible? Are we genetically driven towards action? If so, we aren’t really all that responsible. Do all humans have an equal set of facts on which they act? Or, to bend over backwards, do humans only act on facts, whether real or perceived? If that was true, then ideological actions would become less consistent: the Republicans wouldn’t compose a solid block of doing nothing because plenty of facts fall far outside their current ideology (and the same goes for Democrats or any political party).

As for calling something evil, no objective standard is necessary. This whole line of argument obviously assumes that morality is an objective endeavor. The whole thing just pigeon holes all moral cases to needing a god. Ironically, even those who claim to have an objective source for morality often call things evil even when their source is silent.

Looking back through all the ethical philosophers, it becomes obvious that very few who weren’t also theologians (and really, are theologians even philosophers?) bothered with claims of needing an objective source. Those espousing utilitarianism, libertarianism, and even natural law theory often ignored the use of any gods in their systems. They came up with a basis – the good is pleasure/reduction of pain, the good is liberty, the good is what is natural, etc – and developed systems of thought from there. These systems of thoughts, in turn, influenced their actions as well as the actions of those who agreed/agree with them. That’s what ideologies, ideas, and systems do. The modern day teabaggers, while extremely inconsistent with their ideology, are generally moved to action by libertarian ideas. Of course, since they’re inconsistent (and they don’t really know it), they strictly apply their ideology in a way that will garner them more personal wealth. But regardless of this inability to recognize their own internal philosophical flaws, they are loosely driven by libertarianism because ideas are what bring people to action.

This next one is a response to the claim that atheism is not a philosophy or world view.

Let’s put your grammatical error aside for one moment and look at this statement with the help of my old friend Althusser. Althusser is a great guy when it comes to Ideologies. He states that we are interpellated into an ideology by our reject of other ideologies. For example: I do not believe in God, I am NOT a theist/deist. Therefore I am an Atheism (sic). Please note, this is not referring to me. I am certainly not an Atheist, but a trainee Priest instead. And, my dears, Atheism is as much a world view as anything else. It influence the way you VIEW the WORLD. Therefore, world view.

(Link added by me.)

The fact that volcanoes and Earthquakes happen also influence the way I view the world. Poverty and wealth hold influence, too. Oh, and the existence of such varied landscapes as the deserts of Utah and the mountains of Maine influence my world view. That doesn’t mean any of those constitute world views per se. They are not ideologies or even ideas. It takes more than something to merely be a fact (or perceived fact) in order for it to be a world view.

And finally, this old canard had to be trotted out.

PS. You call De/Theists ‘predictable’ for using Stalin/Mao/Hitler/etc as examples of ‘Atheist Evil’, yet spew out The Inquisition/Crusades/Salem Witch Trials as your examples for the counter-argument. Are you familiar with the notion of the pot calling the kettle black?

First, whether or not Hitler was an atheist is dubious at best. As late as 1941 he was saying he would always be a Catholic. Second, Stalin and Mao never acted out of some sort of atheistic inspiration. They couldn’t have. The idea is as absurd as saying someone acted out of deistic inspiration. How? How can descriptive claims also be normative claims? What would that look like:

“The fact that there is some sort of creator has told me to do X, Y, and Z. Just ignore for a moment the fact that my belief inherently tells me nothing about the characteristics or traits of this creator, thereby giving me no normative information.

Or agnosticism.

The fact that I don’t know has told me to do X, Y, and Z. Just ignore for a moment the fact that a lack of clarity doesn’t tell me how to act.

Or atheism.

The fact that there is no god has told me to do X, Y, and Z. Just ignore for a moment the fact that my belief is not an ethical system, makes no normative claims, and doesn’t inform me of any sort of morality.

The fact is that religion was what inspired the Inquisition, Crusades, and witch trials. It is the inspiration for the great tragedies, like the anti-science movement that has existed for so many thousands of years, to the more benign such as the Blue Laws many states still hold. Religion is a divisive ideology which drives people to act and behave in particular ways.