Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blond and Pabst declare secularism has failed. By ignoring history, science, reason....

I thought I'd take about, oh, 5 minutes and show why the Blond and Pabst article is full of fail.

The article itself is in the Opinion section of the New York Times. If this is the level of quality for the New York Times opinion section, it may explain why newspaper readership is down.

Or, they were hoping for some sensationalism to drive traffic, like John C. Dvorak.
Either way, it only takes a few minutes to see how they have major failings in their argument.

This was a profoundly secular move: It simply denied natural knowledge of God and thereby eliminated theology from the sciences. Religion, stripped of rationality, became associated with a blind unmediated faith — precisely the mark of fanaticism. Thus religious fundamentalism constitutes an absence of religion that only true religion can correct.

I would say that secularism argues that there is no supernatural or divine beings in the absence of evidence. Even Richard Dawkins, in a recent podcast, mentioned that you can't say "there absolutely is no god", the best you can say is "there is no evidence of a god."

That's all secularism asks for. Rather than assuming that X exists, it first starts with "what is the evidence for X", and if the evidence does not hold up, then secularists are free to assume X does not exist. Provide evidence for unicorns and leprechauns and I'll believe. Until then, I'm not running after every rainbow to get a pot of gold.

Richard Dawkins's barely literate polemic "The God Delusion" declares that religion is irrational without ever explaining the foundations of reason itself.
This, to be blunt, is simply asinine. I don't need to go into a history of the background of reason and logic to explain why there's no Santa Claus.
Sam Harris's diatribe "The End of Faith" has to falsify history by claiming that Hitler and Stalin were religious in order to make its case for the malign influence of faith.

I'd say the job of falsifying history by claiming that Hitler was an atheist when he spoke of Christianity often, had his soldiers wearing Gott mit uns during World War II. Or ignoring Stalin's educational training at Greek Orthodox schools. Either way, trying to deny these facts and put them into the "atheism" box is disingenuous. Nobody knows what these two monsters really felt about religion, but it's clear - as Sam Harris has said - that what they lacked was not overfill of reason and opinion opinions, but a more - if I may say so - "faith based approach" that went out of its way to assert the dogma of Communism and Nazism was correct against all evidence.
One more, and then I don't know if I can keep up my gag reflex in the face of this much stupidity.

Darwinism is close to being completely rewritten. Hitherto, it had been assumed that forms of life are the product of essentially arbitrary processes, such that (as Stephen Jay Gould put it) if we ran evolution again life would look very different. However, evolution shows biological convergence. As Simon Conway Morris, a professor of biology at Cambridge University, has argued, evolution is not arbitrary: If it ran again, the world would look much as it already does.

How often does it have to be said: evolution by natural selection is not random, it is not arbitrary. It follows rules that were first discovered 150 years ago by Darwin and refined since then. Saying "evolution is random" is no more true than saying "plate tectonics are random" or "germ theory is random." If the clock was run back and run again, things would look the same because the same environmental pressures upon the species would be there to make them adapt in exactly the same way.
This doesn't mean that some power sat from above to push things that way. If I set up a series of dikes and channels, then ran water through it, the results would be the 99.9999% the time each time I ran the clock back and did it again.

This is only getting halfway through the article. I don't know who Blond and Pabst are, but they're clearly people that can be ignored as either ignorant of science and reason, or lacking the brain power to tie their shoes, let alone make statements regarding Secularism or, well, anything.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Man is tried as terrorist in civilian courts, and I get rude

Today in the news, Najibullah Zaza was tried in court.

In Brooklyn.

Of terrorism.

For the last few months, there's been a group of people who pee their pants protesting the idea of having terrorist trials in New York. You shouldn't read people their Miranda rights when you want to charge them with terrorism, you don't give them any Constitutional rights.

This group of people who wake up in the middle of the night with sopping wet diapers go on about how you can't give non-US citizens protections of the Constitution, even though the Supreme Court has said so for 150 years. Nope, it's all too much to use all of that "law" stuff on people whom, with their scary middle eastern brown skinned powers, will vanish and pop in and out like djinns from that Alladin movie and unleash their attacks on the US. It's like they're all The Joker from Batman or a character from "24". Save me, Jack Bauer! Save me!

Then we get back to Najibullah Zaza, who was tried in Brooklyn under terrorism charges. He had been read his Miranda rights, he had been brought into the courthouse by a New York police department that, contrary to what Cheney and Bloomberg and yes, I'm including those scaredy pants Democrats of New York who ran around screaming "Terrorists! Terrorists! Find me my mommy!" - somehow, the New York police officers didn't let a prisoner flip off the lights and run amok in the streets killing everyone he saw.

Granted, I'm sure this won't have these complete cowards give up their teddy bears at night, for fear that somewhere, someone is actually upholding the rule of law that this country was based on. I mean, according to these people who probably throw their children out the door at the first sign of danger screeching "take them first and leave me alone", it's unAmerican to actually arrest people, try them, and actually follow through what the Constitution and all of those pesky laws say.

Though, I think I'll stick with the law. Then again, I don't need a night light by my bed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Living With My Name

My entire life, I've lived with the knowledge that my name is a euphemism for men who request the services of hookers.

But then I started thinking about the other people in the world that got bad names. Can you imagine how poor Adolf Hitler Jr felt all of his life? Or, even the *entire* Hitler family after World War II?

I bet after Judas Maccabeus resisted the Roman Empire, there were tons of kids with the name "Judas" around during the 1st century BCE. By 100 CE, any kid with that name had to live in fear that they were going to get rocks thrown at them.

Then I think about the worst named family ever.

"Hi, we're the Hitlers - here's our son Judas, our son Richard - just call him Dick - and our daughter Jezebel. We're so excited about our little Jezebel - she's so popular with the boys at school!

"Especially the ones name John."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finding the balance between separation of church and state

Friday morning I went to a Dad's event at my childrens' elementary school. The idea was for the various father's to learn how to do things like encourage your children to do well by validating them, or tracking their grades, or things like that.

I'll be honest - it was not terribly well planned out (as in, dad's showed up, and the promised food wasn't there), the video we were invited to watch didn't have sound at first (seems they forgot to check if the computers showing the movie had sound), and it felt like the teacher kind of put it together 10 minutes before the event.

But there was one event that threw me, and I'm not sure how to react. At one point, the teacher pulled out a proverb about instructing our children. I was tempted to quote Proverb 23:13-14 "Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell", and ask if we should start beating out children - since the Bible says that too.

I refrained.

I'm very very much a supporter of separation of church and state. I'm all right with teaching The Bible as literature, say in a mythology class alongside Greek and Norse legends. But the moment you start using it as a tool of morality and instruction in schools, there's a world of bad that can result as people start picking what parts of the Bible to follow. The "love your neighbor" stuff is fine, but the "take up your sword" or "kill the men, kill the women who aren't virgins then take the virgins as wives" doesn't exactly sound like good behavior.

That said, I'll keep a close eye on this for the next meeting. Once is fine. If it becomes a habit, I might ask if he can find more than one source of pithy sayings to choose from - before we start being asked into a prayer circle.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh, Dick Cheney - You're Still an Evil Lying Bastard

KARL: OK. So -- so was it a mistake when your administration took on the Richard Reid case? This is very similar. This was somebody that was trying to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb, and he was within five minutes of getting taken off that plane read his Miranda rights, four times, in fact, in 48 hours, and tried through the civilian system. Was that a mistake?

CHENEY: Well, first of all, I believe he was not tried. He pled guilty. They never did end up having a trial.

Secondly, when this came up, as I recall, it was December of '01, just a couple of months after 9/11. We were not yet operational with the military commissions. We hadn't had all the Supreme Court decisions handed down about what we could and couldn't do with the commissions.

KARL: But you still had an option to put him into military custody.

CHENEY: Well, we could have put him into military custody. I don't -- I don't question that. The point is, in this particular case, all of that was never worked out, primarily because he pled guilty. (Source "This Week" transcript 2010 February 2)

Let's put a few things under consideration.

1. "Well, first of all, I believe he was not tried. He pled guilty. They never did end up having a trial."

I want to make sure I get this straight. A guy showing up, in court, in handcuffs, before a judge who asks for his plea, then decides the man's guilt or innocence, then issues a judgment - that's not a trial.

Evidently, Obama is making us unsafe by using the court systems. Because that's giving the terrorists what they want - a chance to escape and inflict harm upon people by using their super secret "Islamic ninja skills" to escape. That's why we need military courts, because only those He-Men with their big guns can keep us safe (as opposed to, in Cheney's mind, those nancy-pants who call themselves the New York Police Force).

Unless the guy pleads guilty. Which "isn't a trial." It's just everything that a trial does except for more talking in the middle with all of that messy "evidence" and "witnesses" and stuff.

2. "We hadn't had all the Supreme Court decisions handed down about what we could and couldn't do with the commissions."

So let's get this right. The Supreme Court has said "You can't arrest someone, say they're not a soldier, and then put them in a military tribunal. We decided that in 1866 with the Milligan case, and then in 2006 the Supreme Court rules 5-3 that the Guantanamo prisoners can't be tried in military tribunals, which is also against the Geneva convention.

So Dick Cheney, the man who once swore to defend the Consitution, is now going out saying "You know what? Fuck the Supreme Court. What do they know. Fuck the Constitution. Screw treaties and laws. I'm peeing my pants here because some brown guy tried to set his crotch on fire on an airplane - and Obama had the nerve to actually follow the Constitution and the rule of law for a human being taken into custody on American soil - which the Supreme Court says you have to give him Miranda rights and all of that messy law stuff."

With his own words, Dick Cheney describes what he wants. He doesn't want the Constitution, he doesn't want the Law - all he wants is to do whatever he wants to do, torture whomever he wants, have war without asking permission - and, of course, that makes him the most qualified to be in government.