Dear paternalistic asshole, fuck you.

So, there’s this:

In fact, the Saudis are protecting women and society by not permitting women to drive cars or move about freely.

Cars, freedom of movement and modern hotels are excellent tools to help women commit adultery and fornication. This may sound very strange to people in the West, but it is a hard fact of life.

Men are born hunters and that includes 84-yearold men like Hugh Hefner. Therefore, the restrictions on women by Saudis appear to be relevant.

I think it is not a wise policy to let the women roam freely in the jungles we are living in at this time.

I don’t think Wahabism or the Saudis are responsible for producing suicide bombers or terrorists. Islam absolutely forbids killing any innocent person of any religion, and taking your own life is also forbidden.

It appears the suicide bombers and terrorists are the products of injustices and the oppression of Muslims in many parts of the world, which lead young and ignorant men to commit horrible crimes, including the 9/11 tragedy.

The Holy Qur’an says: “And do not go near Zina (fornication). It is indeed a shameful and an evil path.” (Ch. 17; Ay32).

Anwar Sultan, Calgary

Wait wait wait. So when young men are oppressed, they commit horrible crimes and it’s totes not their fault guys, for serious. But oppressing young women is necessary. You know, for safety. Because if they drive, then they will be near fornication… somehow. And because men are hunters, they can’t be held responsible for just up and raping a woman, or committing adultery with a married woman. Because they’re oppressed, you see. So the only way to cure this horrible problem is with more oppression.

They see her rollin', they hatin'.

It must hurt to have to do these sorts of ridiculous yogic stretches to justify your asinine and contradictory beliefs.

Of Bridges and Bombs

Saskatoon Police reopened a bridge after a report of a mysterious case beside a heavily trafficked bridge. I laughed at the absurdity of this for a while until my brain actually started to think.

It’s good to be vigilant in todays day and age. We have to go to these lengths to protect ourselves due to the seemingly random bomb attacks of extremists. I blame religion for this kind of paranoia. Had the pious decided to work together instead of killing each other with random acts of violence we would not be in fear of attack. Times past the atrocities in other countries would be meaningless and distant. Today the global media has brought these acts into our living rooms every night to remind us that people are killing one another every moment in horrific manners while we are sitting there eating a T.V. dinner. I get sick when I watch the news during dinner making the meal unappetizing to say the least. I should patent that as a weight loss program and make millions. Try to eat a chocolate bar when watching 10 people get vaporized by a roadside bomb, or an infidels head get cut off for not praying at the right time. I bet you can’t.

Scenes like this are on our screens every night.

There are Canadians who blow stuff up without religious motivation. However, I would not fear being in a public place and getting obliterated by these extremists. If I was a pipeline, I may think differently (if at all).

Would you be more afraid of this scene if the person was holding a copy of the bible or Mein Kampf?

The enemy of peace has changed but the fear will never go away. During the crusades one might fear a man holding a bible and a weapon. The 20th century world wars had the Nazi’s threatening to conquer the world. Today, we have Islam attempting the take over the world. Fanatics such as the one above will not rest until everyone bows down to Allah. Everyone else is to die. I do not believe this is a universal Islamic way of thinking, however it is allowed to occur without any serious opposition which implicates the entire religion for the crimes committed by the few. The “moderate” Islamic people fear reprisal on themselves and their families from these ignorant fools as much or more than the rest of western civilizations. I believe that is why they remain as silent as they are. Governments also fear the Islamic terror machine going as far as to destroy a man’s career for drawing a political cartoon featuring Mohammed. These creatures are adept at keeping the rest of civilization on their toes. Every so often they change the rules of the game just enough to create panic in societies thousands of kilometers away.

As the Joker said:

Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”

So true.

2cp

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be Fundamentalist Christians

For all those interested, the following story is worth reading. http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/new-bethany-ifb-teen-homes-abuse

When I was young I went to a bible camp. I can say it was nothing like what Kathryn Joyce wrote about, per say. I think the worst I had to endure, other than the constant Christian subliminal brainwashing, was the milk served at meals. Every meal came with a glass of powdered milk. Every drop had to be consumed or you where not allowed to leave the table. I wonder what was in that “milk”.

Archie and the Gang are up to no good. Tune in next time when Jughead eats all the wafers.

I nearly died in that camp as well. The camp was located next to a lake and there were daily swimming sessions which were monitored by an adult. When walking along the bottom of the section designated for swimming I lost my footing and went under water. Luckily I was pulled out, resuscitated and proceeded to cough out water.

Still, nothing I can relate to compares to the horror that these young women go through. Young girls may rebel, may fight and swear, but no one deserves this torture. I you know someone who is currently rebelling, help them. Just talking about issues may actually accomplish something. Refer them to secular counselling that will look at what is actually going on, rather than attempting to exorcise demons.

If you know of a parent who is thinking of sending their child to a place like this, forward them this article. Hopefully they cringe and decide to see professional help as opposed to spiritual help.

2cp

Apparently, creationists love me

I don’t know whether I should be flattered that I appear to be that notable, or offended that my points seem to be so categorically missed. First the wrath of the geocentrists, now this.

So, way back this spring we took a gander on down to Winnipeg’s Creation Museum – yes, it exists, and yes, it is in a church basement, and yes, the church is full of people who believe in a literal Genesis story (which one, it’s still not quite clear), replete with Adam and Eve and plant-eating T-Rexes. There was a question and answer period after the tour of the “museum” (room). John Feakes, the pastor of the church, was an amiable, genuinely nice guy, but he was espousing some very odd interpretations of reality, including those which even Answers in Genesis has distanced itself (like the “human” tracks along side dinosaurs at the Paluxy River, which are pretty much irrefutably also the tracks of dinosaurs. Or you could go with giant humans with feet that look remarkably dinosaur-like in nature. Sure.)

In any case, in the question period, I asked him something along the lines of how he could refute the molecular evidence for evolution – that evolution predicts structural homology, that was used to create trees of life, and molecular biology has been used to confirm those exact same trees of life (with a few surprises which now explain a lot more about how life evolved). His response… well, I’ll let him tell the story in a lecture that he gave to the faithful. (This comes in at about the 51 minute mark)

Now I locked horns with a couple of atheist groups now, uh, last… year? They came out to see me. We talked for five hours on evolution and creation and all that kinda stuff. And one girl, she stood up at Q&A time, and she was very adamant, she said “I’m a scientist, and evolution has been proven, and now we can draw family trees based on the molecular data, and it’s just so scientific.”

And I said “Okay, just a minute here. Umm you’re telling me now, did whales evolve from galloping terrestrial mammals like cows, or something else? Right? Okay now, and we got into this whole thing where now the new molecular data shows they actually evolved from hippo-like creatures. [Sarcastic] Right.

I said “Okay, so are you saying that your family tree based on how these things look got replaced by a tree based on the molecular data?”

She said “Yes, that’s true.”

I said, “Okay, now, I want to tell you what Dr. Klassen said, because he is a flag-waving evolutionist. He was out debating creationists; he debated Duane Gish, back in the 80’s.” I said, “he said ‘If these things don’t line up, evolution’s been falsified.'”

[mimicking me with incredulous sputtering] Well that’s just his opinion and… [trails off]

Well, I’m not going to say he misrepresented me because I think he is more honest than most creationists – notice the “cow-like” and “hippo-like” animal references, rather than crocoduck accusations. He also prefaces this reference to me by talking about how the morphological tree of life based on morphology is rubbish, that it’s been thrown out and taken back to square one with the evolutionary tree. This is of course, completely false. Here’s a 2009 paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that looked at just that – comparing molecular to morphological data in mammals and molluscs. It turns out, in the overwhelming majority of genus, we were spot on with our homology data, or a single branch got bumped to another genus. Keep in mind that this is specific stuff here, it’s distinguishing between Homo sapiens, Homo habilis, Homo neanderthalensis, etc. Of our entire genus, one branch would be booted out and go, no, that’s really not as closely related to those as we thought, they’re better suited to say, Australopithecus.

The Tyrrell Museum is my favourite museum ever. Seriously, if you've not been, go. There's a great exhibit on evolution right now. (Plus lots of other fantastic things)

Of course, this is not a perfect analogy as from my understanding of the paper it was referring to only living species – however, consider that there are 20 species of common house mouse in the Mus genus presently, and any movement of those branch points to a different genus (say, a field mouse) counts as a hit. 65.8% of the time, molecular biology confirms exactly what we had figured out by phylogeny. 65.8% of the time! And this is being extraordinarily stringent, allowing for no minor corrections. If you include these minor corrections (a single species being moved from field mouse to house mouse origins, or inclusion of other branches which were thought to have diverged earlier), we were now right 87.3% of the time. What are the odds of a random, incorrect theory based on wild assertion getting two completely separate, independently verified pieces of data to agree 87.3% of the time. The other 12.7% of the time where we were wrong? Well these are the surprises that John Feakes points out. Look at this 12.7%, he says, and please ignore the 87.3% of the time that they got it right. Keep in mind, also, that this is from within Classes – certainly no mammals were being shown to be more genetically similar to molluscs or vice versa.

This seems like a good time for a happy dinosaur break.

So yes, I did agree that the whale was a surprise. Yes, I should have been able to form a better argument than saying it’s an appeal to authority (but truly, it was the first time I’ve ever encountered the “so-and-so said” technique and was shocked by it.) None of that changes the fact that, the majority of the time, we were absolutely right. And the overwhelming majority of the time, we were very nearly right. No amount of personal incredulity will change the fact the odds of this happening by mere chance are extraordinarily low (p=0.029).

Which are, shockingly, still better odds than your family ever having taken a recreational slide down Apatosaurus' neck

In fact, the authors of this papers state that “These results likely represent a worst-case scenario for morphogenus monophyly. Much of the compiled molecular work focused on ‘problem taxa,’ those known to be resistant to morphological analysis (e.g., freshwater bivalves, oysters, bovids).” These data are merely a conservative estimate on how right we were, based on data with a bias towards areas of morphological contention, and further works under the assumption that our genotyping techniques are perfect – and of course, errors are always possible. And they still were completely right in 65.8% of mammals.

If that isn’t evidence, I don’t know what is.

This was not my ancestors' family pet 6000 years ago, this is a the sort of thing that ate my shrew-like ancestors 20 millions years ago.

Oh, and as a final note, I resent being referred to as a “girl.” It implies immaturity, it’s condescending and it’s dismissive. It makes me sound like I’m playing dress up with big-girl pants. No one would refer to the guys who stood up to ask questions as “boys.” I don’t think it’s too much to ask to request the same level of respect.

Where is the objective morality?

My recent evenings have been spent at my computer logged into a Christian chat room. I recently viewed a video on Youtube promoting this chat room as the atheists defeat zone, the narrator exclaimed that Atheists have lost 31 debates, in a row, to the theists of this chat room. Challenge accepted.

And he has fricken laser beams that shoot out of his eyes! Evolution Win!

Being a curious cat, ever ready to punce on something shiny, I clicked the links and logged in. I was immedatly bombarded with “Atheists have sex with goats” and other derivitives of the concept of beastiality. A fellow by the screen name of American Christian proclaimed “This is the reason I will never ask an atheist to look after my dog.”

The conversation was based on objective morality being proof of a god. The theists argued that god gives morality and therefore anyone not subject to gods “law” would be free to do whatever they want including rape, torture, murder, theft etc. without consequence or rational thought. To a theist, objective morality falls under the umbrella of God and without belief in the almighty dictator a person is incapable of being objectivly moral.

With garlic butter.... /drool

I argued that a belief in god is not a requirement nor is it recommended to be objectively moral. I cited the many immoral people who believe in god far exceed those that do not in federal prisons. I also argued that morality is a product of civilization.

Bottom line, Religion does not make you moral. Morality is a product of social pressure. What is perfectly moral in the middle east, could be considered completely atrocious here in North America (ex. Women being stoned for adultery, female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, etc.) and vise versa (ex. Eating pork, Pornography, bikinis , etc.). Morality is a philosophical manifestation of social norms and has demonstrated that neither a God or humanity has the slightest clue as to the proper interpretation of the rules of objectivity.

The conversations then turned when a man by the screen name of Nephilimfree decided to exclaim that “science has disproved evolution!” He then went on to babble for nearly half an hour citing every creationist unsubstantiated claim he could in support of a god created world. He then posted several articles where he quote mined the first paragraph, which was meant to sensationalize the actual study, which stated that “Hundreds of natural selection studies could be wrong.” This character refused to stop talking and allow an opposing view point to come into the discussion. He repeatedly kicked a speaker off of the microphone with his abused moderator privileges.

Plugs ears "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

Yesterday, I came across this story in which a man killed his 4 year old boy under suspicion that he was a homosexual and a 28 year old woman for being infertile. Both these killings were done in the name of christianity and ultimately a personal god.

At least the fish get fed, right?

I asked what these christians thought about this man. They said it was gods will or something to that effect. To be fair, one person said it was wrong and he should be punished by law. Christians are not all bad. Just most of the crazy ones are.

In Which I’m an Axe Grinding Whinger

Well, the trolls finally found my blog posts from this spring, in which I am accused of conspiracy, lies, and scientific tyranny. Yay! I know, I know, don’t feed the trolls and all, but I would like to point out one simple thing: I honestly don’t care about geocentrism. I’m not a physicist, I’m not an astronomer. I am nothing more than an astronomy cheer leader, because I have always been fascinated by the stars and the planets and the galaxies. I was sort of sad when Pluto was downgraded from planetary status, but in a momentary “d’aw shucks” sort of way. I mourn the death of the American space program, that I never got to see a shuttle launch (though we did fly over Cape Canaveral once when a shuttle was on the launch pad. I took pictures). Any major changes to astronomy would interest me, because I have no vested interest in one theory or another. String theory can come or go – I’m a biologist and it makes no difference to me.

The hilarious thing is that apparently, according to my trolls, I have an axe to grind, and I am sitting here bitching and complaining and protesting because that’s all I do. This delights me, because I’m a busy woman with my own science to worry about. I had never even heard of geocentrism before I saw it on a Kijij listing for the lecture, and since I wrote the articles I have not worried about it for a moment since (barring my post earlier this week about the movie, which I wrote on a 10 minute break to lament science education). I wrote two comedy-based articles debunking the talk for the amusement of my fellow skeptics, and that was the end of it.

Now, I’m being challenged as a liar who misrepresented the evenings, even by those who have seen copies of the events that went on. What I find interesting is that these are only wild assertions. Which part, specifically, is untrue? Although I have not yet gone back to transcribe his talk, I certainly could to prove my point. Or perhaps, yes, I made a typo, or didn’t cover something in the notes I took. However, it is difficult to respond to such criticism if you don’t mention what I’m wrong about.

And yet, even though I spend both summaries asking over, and over, and over, “Please, somebody, just show me some evidence!!” none of them have presented any direct evidence for geocentrism. They all fall prey to the thinking of many creationists: if the current theory is wrong, then mine must be right! I am open to the concept that there is a better explanation for the way the world is than Newtonian physics. However, you must present this alternative theory!

In a geocentist world, this is what the solar system looks like. Please explain why planets are doing weird little circles all on their own. Please explain why Mercury never slams into the Earth. Please explain the forces that sustain this model.

Until then, truly, I’ve moved on with my life. The universe is not the focus of my scientific work and what frame of reference we use to describe it doesn’t particularly matter to me. This is not my field. I have far more to “whinge” about when it comes to people promoting medical quackery. You know, the stuff that is actually killing people.

Earth Wars: Revenge of the Geocentrists

So it looks like Robert Sungenis is no longer willing to just give poorly attended lectures and enter stacked debates, but has decided that he needs to go Hollywood with his poorly founded, ignorant, and paranoid ramblings. Seriously, they’re trying to make a documentary, Expelled-style. I’m not going to lie: I’m scared. Not scared of what he has to say, not scared of his challenge to science, not scared of dissent.

I’m scared of all those Good Christians™ of America will see this crap and think that God mandates that we give equal time to this “theory.” It scares me to see the world slipping backwards, the public’s hearts more easily swayed by rhetoric and conspiracy theories than good, evidence-based, exciting knowledge. Superstition and paranoia is so much easier than the truth for far too many. Sungenis is charismatic and assertive enough that this stands a chance of having someone listen –  and what then? With the death of the American (and, by proxy, Canadian) space program, will we ever look up at the night sky and be humbled as Sagan did when he waxed poetic? Or would we allow those gaps that contain God to grow?

"There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." - Carl Sagan

How can we make science capture the imaginations of people the way that these cons can? It becomes more and more clear that the only way forward is to proactively prevent these blatant attacks on science. We need to be loud, active voices for rational, skeptical thinking. Anyone with any iota of skepticism will easily see through Sungenis’ fallacies, and misrepresentations.

I fear for the ones who don’t.

Prayer in Manitoba Schools: Here to learn, except when you’re not

The Free Press (why do I read the paper?) is reporting that numerous schools in Manitoba still have students recite the Lord’s Prayer. This makes me especially sad as many of the schools listed are ones that myself or my brother have attended. I have no recollection of this, to be honest, with the exception of at J.A. Cuddy in Sanford. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t always been the case, but I’m sincerely confused because I attended Oak Bluff for a few years, and don’t ever remember doing it. Perhaps it blended so seamlessly into my expectations that I never thought it notable enough to remember.

In any case, everyone knows the entertainment in news stories comes from the comments. There are plenty of people spewing venom at this devious, atheist lawyer who is asking the schools to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are a few main themes for this objection:

Kids today are worse than they used to be! This is because they took prayer out of schools! Umm, I’m pretty sure the point of this article is that prayer is still in schools even though it’s not supposed to be. Most likely, you have a nostalgia bias, and remember things better than they were, and any real decline in good behaviour at school is due to other factors.
This country was built on Christian values! WTF, really? First of all, the argument from tradition is one of the worst fallacies. Second of all, this country has committed numerous atrocities based on those same Christian values. Xenophobia, racism and superiority lead to residential schools, Japanese internment camps, anti-Semitism, lack of women’s rights, etc. If those are the sort of values you think we should value and that Christianity promotes, you freaking suck, and Christianity sucks harder.
If you don’t like it, you should go to a country that doesn’t believe in God. Um no, first of all, a country cannot believe in God, only its people can. Furthermore, this particular country enforces the freedom of religious belief, INCLUDING atheism, agnosticism, and all other religions. There are very specific rules for how religion can enter public schools, and it is not allowed to be on school time. If you would prefer a country that does enforce such things, as pointed out by another commenter, I hear Iran is really nice for religious fundamentalism this type of year.
The Lord’s Prayer says nice things that all children should hear, regardless of their religion. First of all, no it doesn’t say anything that is worth saying. Talking about heaven on earth and being forgiven are explicitly Christian sentiments which are not universal. As for the bits about not doing or suffering from evil, isn’t that a given? Why do we need to teach our children, using religious doctrine, not to do evil? Do we need them to pray to an invisible man when someone has done wrong to them, or should we be encouraging them to actually do something about it?
“Who is Chris Tait? Who is he to dictate to others that they can’t pray in school? So schools are [sic] suppose to drop the Lord’s Prayer because some atheist lawyer says so?” No, schools are not supposed to use the Lord’s Prayer because our CHARTER says so. It is the law, the lawyer is reminding them of it!
“Heaven forbid, no pun intended, that the kids of today start their day being thankful, by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s not have them learn about empathy either. However, if a dissident from an obscure tribe wanted part of their ritual ackowledged or believes read that would be ok, right.” Honestly, I don’t read any part of being thankful in there. I hear praise to God, which is quite different than, golly gee whiz, I’m sure thankful I am a Canadian kid who has rights and laws protecting me like freedom of speech and education! Furthermore, the law is quite clear, it doesn’t matter who you are, you are not allowed to promote religion in school. True, we do teach kids about Native history (grade 6, I think) but I also distinctly remember learning about the Reformation during European History in grade 7. It’s okay to learn about such things for the purposes of knowledge. Just because we made bannock in grade 5 doesn’t mean that the school division is promoting being a Voyageur! There is a difference between knowledge and promotion.
If we don’t allow God in our schools, where will he be when things go wrong? We do not need God to deal with our problems. We deal with problems. If someone is about to be raped, are you going to stand there and let God intervene, or are you going to call the cops?
A Christian agenda teaches love and forgiveness! No, a Christian agenda is a Christian agenda, and as such you cannot teach it in public schools. What is so difficult about this? Can someone seriously argue with me that you cannot teach someone what love is without talking about God? That it is impossible to forgive someone for a wrong without them pleading their case before a man in the sky first? Seriously?
Why don’t people deal with more important issues? This is irrelevant! While it may be true that there are serious issues that require attention, that doesn’t negate the fact that the law is being broken. Should we ignore drunk drivers because there’s a serial rapist? Should all the police in the city work in the North End, because it has some major crime issues, and ignore the rest? Just because X is not as popular as Y doesn’t mean it deserves to be ignored. A similar issue is happening in research. A lot of women get breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need money for Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s.
This is an atheist deception! What? How? What? Saying atheists are deceiving you, and then listing a bunch of bad things that happen (including in schools that have 100% compliance with the prayer!) is not an argument, it’s a non sequitir.
Children in schools have to hear pro-choice, pro-homosexuality and pro-evoution lectures! This is infringing on our religious freedoms just as much!! No, the charter guarantees that everyone will be treated equally and fairly. Imposing your religious beliefs on everyone is very different than being provided with information that disagrees with your bigoted religious beliefs. The Charter does not protect your right to be an asshole.

Sorry, WFP commenters. If fallacies and false equivalences are all you’ve got for me, I remain unconvinced. Kids go to school to learn information and to learn how to think critically. They spend all day saying, here kids, figure this out! Then they say, okay, now shut off your minds, and talk out loud to a man in the sky. It’s not learning, it’s brainwashing. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s your kid, that’s your own choice, but if you want to brainwash for Jesus, there are plenty of schools that are more than willing to oblige you.