Christianity Debate (again)

I’ve figured out the issue with embedding YouTube videos. Here’s the video I tried posting the other day.

Aaaand another Symphony of Science

I find this one is the most well composed musically. It’s also the worst one.

Thought of the day

Anyone who tries to link Darwin and Hitler is being a dishonest hack.

BMA: Gay conversion therapies are harmful

No surprise here.

Following a year-long undercover investigation by a reporter, the British Medical Association has determined that “gay conversion therapy” is not therapy, is more harmful to patients than helpful, and should be banned.

Journalist Patrick Strudwick posed as a patient seeking “gay conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” for a year. In his report on his experience, he described what amounted to psychological torture; Strudwick went to two conversion therapists. One, a Christian, focused on turning him to focus on her god and tried hard to convince Strudwick he’d been sexually abused. The other focused on explaining to Strudwick that he was somehow “wounded”, and that he had to find the source of those “wounds” to discover the roots of his sexuality.

This is merely anecdotal, but I’ve had discussions about sexual orientation with one youth minister where it was an ingrained assumption that the only reason anyone is gay is due to sexual abuse. Of course, he had no relevant training for anything that didn’t involve the narrow literary criticism that is the uselessness of theology, but that didn’t stop him from having full faith in what he believed. Evidence be damned, right?

The British Medical Association has determined that such “therapies” have been discredited, are damaging to patient, and should be banned. The Association’s membership further agreed that the NHS should investigate any cases of such conversion therapies, and terminate any public funding to such practices.


Where I was wrong

Blizzard, the company that owns the World of Warcraft game, has made a very stupid decision.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic forums, will remain unchanged.

This is a dumb move that puts people in real, physical danger. The Internet is not filled with a bunch of sunny, happy gamers. A lot of people are dicks. They get pretty crazy about this stuff.

But I don’t play any of those sort of games. I don’t care for them. What I care about comes from PZ (indirectly).

There’s a good discussion going on at Shakesville — this decision is an exercise in privilege by Blizzard. There are a fair number of female gamers who would rather not advertise the fact…because many male gamers are jerks.

I disagree that this is an exercise in privilege. That to me suggests a malicious intent on the part of Blizzard. In reality, the company is trying to cut down on douchebaggery. Its intention is not to adversely affect women – though that’s what will happen. (But this is semantic. I know PZ doesn’t mean Blizzard is targeting or intentionally ignoring women, and I further know the word “exercise” can be understood to mean that. But the connotations suggest something far more negative on the part of Blizzard. If PZ said example, I wouldn’t disagree.)

But PZ has a second post about the fast-paced failure of Blizzard’s experiment. In this one he talks about how this will harm many women, increasing the sexual harassment they will endure in their gaming experience. He links to this article by Jessica Valenti.

One website, run by law professor and occasional New York Times columnist Ann Althouse, devoted an entire article to how I was “posing” [in a picture with Bill Clinton] so as to “make [my] breasts as obvious as possible”. The post, titled “Let’s take a closer look at those breasts,” ended up with over 500 comments. Most were about my body, my perceived whorishness, and how I couldn’t possibly be a good feminist because I had the gall to show up to a meeting with my breasts in tow. One commenter even created a limerick about me giving oral sex. Althouse herself said that I should have “worn a beret . . . a blue dress would have been good too”. All this on the basis of a photograph of me in a crew-neck sweater from Gap.

I won’t even get into the hundreds of other blogs and websites that linked to the “controversy.” It was, without doubt, the most humiliating experience of my life – all because I dared be photographed with a political figure.

In March of 2009, I made a post about Sheril Kirshenbaum. In it I defended some comments by male posters which pointed out her looks.

Let’s keep in mind what the original post was all about. It was an introduction. Is there a specific, pre-approved, politically correct response expected? I see an intro to a new blog, a short description, and a picture – the most prominent thing about the post – and not much else. It is entirely reasonable to comment on the picture.

No, it isn’t.

It is reasonable to expect comments on pictures of attractive women, but it is not reasonable to focus merely on that. Reading over that post makes me cringe. I’m embarrassed.

Some of that embarrassment only comes from the fact that hindsight shows me how easy it is to misunderstand many of my points. In a couple of places, I point out minutiae simply for the sake of accuracy.

First of all, I prefer accuracy so let’s augment that last statement a tad. It’s never acceptable to judge anyone based on appearances and number X chromosomes, in most instances.

That’s true – and virtually everyone agrees with it. No one ought to expect people to go on dates, for example, without any physical standards. Part of a good relationship is attraction, and that comes in much more than a mere intellectual form.

But there I go again. It sounds like I’m saying it’s okay to publicly pass judgement on Kirshenbaum’s looks in the given context. I’m not. At least not now. But unfortunately, for specific comments (i.e., the more benign ones), I was saying it was okay. That was wrong.

This doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed in the least about my response to caricature feminists who think a picture of fat women accompanying an article about fat women is sexist. My response was correct there. Obesity was being objectified, not women. And sexism is not defined as a one-way street.

But, again, I am embarrassed about my response to Kirshenbaum. I’ll stand by some of the details of my post – if it’s sexist to comment on Kirshenbaum’s looks, then it’s sexist when female guests do the same to Sean Hannity – but I do not stand by the primary point I was making. No. It was objectification when those users honed in on Kirshenbaum’s looks.

I was wrong.

Immigration law: U.S. sues Arizona

In an excellent move, the federal government has sued Arizona over its bad immigration law.

The lawsuit filed in Phoenix federal court on Tuesday sidestepped concerns about the potential for racial profiling and civil rights violations most often raised by immigration advocates. Experts said those are weaker arguments that don’t belong in a legal challenge brought by the White House to get the measure struck down.

Instead, the suit lays out why the government believes that immigration laws passed by Congress and enforced by a range of federal agencies must take precedence to any passed by a state Legislature.

This all seems so straight forward. The bill takes what is obviously federal authority and usurps it. Legally, it sounds like a very solid case. Arizona ought to lose this one.

What I find most objectionable about the law is that it so poorly defines what constitutes “a reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally. Does the person have shifty eyes? Is there really traumatic music playing in the background? In all the defenses the mooks like Sean Hannity and co put up about this not being racist, they never say what might be “reasonable” here.

The law itself actually offers some definition, such as hanging out where illegal immigrants tend to also hang out. Yeah, I get that. I mean, sure, the law is assuming the guilt of others as being illegal in the first place, but why not? Most brown people are illegal, so all assumptions are okay, right? Or how about speaking poor English? It’s completely fair to the new, legal immigrants to be forced to show their papers, right? Especially when there’s no criteria for what constitutes “poor English”. Again, this bill so poorly defines “a reasonable suspicion”.

The law also makes it a state crime for legal immigrants to not carry their immigration documents.

I take back what I said earlier: this is probably the most objectionable piece of this awful law. It only serves to treat some citizens as second-class. Naturally born U.S. citizens are not required to carry their licenses or state ID’s with them at all times. Why make things so drastically different for other citizens? This is what happened after the Emancipation Proclamation: freed slaves were made to carry documentation proving their freedom since not all slaves had been freed. In other words, the legals and the illegals had to prove their full citizenship (“full” being relative for blacks at this time) based upon the color of their skin. The only difference with the law in Arizona is that it might cover a slight minority of whites – a minority which will not be targeted in enforcement.

No equality in Hawaii

There’s a common argument that bigots will put forth in their defense of the privilege* of marriage: marriage is a sacred vow before God that is meant to better secure a happy family, complete with children. Gay people cannot naturally have children with each other, so they ought not have marriage. However, they do deserve many of the same rights. So long as they have marriage by another name, it is far less objectionable.

This argument is still bigoted, ignorant, disrespectful, and asinine, but at least it acknowledges that gay people do have rights. (It has been a struggle just to be sure employers are unable to fire people for something as irrelevant as sexual orientation in many states. Other states still refuse to accept that a gay person shouldn’t be fired from her cashiering job at Wal-Mart.)

But even this not-as-far-right-wing-as-it-could-be argument wasn’t good enough for the governor of Hawaii.

Hawaii’s governor ended months of speculation by vetoing contentious civil unions legislation that would have granted gay, lesbian and opposite-sex couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s action on Tuesday came on the final day she had to either sign or veto the bill, which was approved by the Legislature in late April.

This comes after Lingle sought advice from two unqualified jokes (otherwise known as rabbis). I suppose it isn’t surprising that someone who believes religion has anything to offer on this subject would also make a terrible decision with awful consequences for human beings.

Lingle said voters should decide the fate of civil unions, not politicians.

“The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day,” she said. “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.”

A year after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws, a majority of Americans still believed it was morally wrong for two people of different races to marry. The masses are not to be trusted with the rights of minorities.

*It is actively a right in 5 states and D.C.