The appeal to disgust revisited

28 02 2009

A bad taste in your mouth—moral outrage has origins in physical disgust.” (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Another angle on why atheists/homosexuals/[insert outgroup here] are so reviled?

Was I dodging a bullet, or being dismissive?

12 08 2008

Here’s the scenario. I was travelling on a subway carriage in Japan with a group of friends, one of whom iwas soon to return to Australia, another of whom is a (I presume) born-again Christian. For weeks I had been raving about Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, boring my girlfriend to tears with a panoply of zoological “Did you knows” (e.g. did you know that the cicada produces its distinctive and loud song not by the rubbing together of wings/limbs that is associated with crickets and grasshoppers, but by buckling parts of its thorax as one would an aluminium can?). It was my girlfriend who dropped The Ancestor’s Tale into the conversation. “What’s it about?” asked a member of our group. “It’s about evolution,” she replied.

This elicited a roll of the eyes and a derisive “Oh, evolution,” from my Christian friend, at which point I panicked, and immediately changed the subject. My intentions were honourable: we had gathered together that night to have a good time and to give the girl returning to Australia a good send-off. I didn’t want the occasion soured by a religious debate, nor did I want my Christian friend to feel uncomfortable.

In hindsight, however, I wonder how my intervention must have seemed to her. Would she have appreciated what I was trying to do, or would she have felt as if I was simply dismissing her views, patronisingly attempting to rescue the night from her embarrassing Christian otherness? (She’s not the stereotypical born-again Christian: she’ll cuss and drink with the best of us, and doesn’t seem comfortable being “out” about her beliefs around her secular friends. Indeed, I wasn’t aware of her religious affiliation until I came across her blog.)

Or, did I perhaps miss an opportunity to take one for the team, as it were, by engaging her in frank debate and discussion on the topic of evolution? Would this in fact have been the more respectful thing to do?

What does Young-Earth Creationism have to do with the Apology to the Stolen Generations?

23 06 2008

According to John Stear of No Answers in Genesis, Carl Wieland of Creation Ministries International has claimed that his organisation is in possession of an 8-page draft of the Apology to the Stolen Generations tabled in Parliament by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In an article in which he also lauds the denialism of Andrew Bolt on this issue, Wieland claims that the draft contains the following paragraph, excised from the final version of the speech:

‘Prior to 1861, missionaries were prepared to accept according to the principles of their religions, that Aboriginal people were every bit as capable as Europeans. But with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origins [sic] of the Species in 1859, a new theory starts to take hold and the conception that Aboriginal people are a “disappearing race” starts to take hold in Australian public life. This had equally catastrophic consequences for Aboriginal people and communities.’

Wieland celebrates this passage as supporting the Biblical view that “we are all made in God’s image,” against the “Darwinist” view that “some [humans] must be more ‘highly evolved’ than others.” But he also bemoans, for obvious reasons, a reference to “over 50,000 years of Aboriginal wisdom and knowledge that has never been properly acknowledged or understood by Australian governments,” describing this statement as “inherent[ly] racis[t].” Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: this textbook contains science, and may not be suitable for cognitively immature audiences

17 06 2008

Textbook disclaimer stickers from the biology department at Swarthmore College:

More at the College website.

Your taxes, hard at work . . .

1 06 2008

. . . funding the teaching of pseudoscience at Sydney’s Pacific Hills Christian School, where, according to Friendly Atheist,

students were being taught the following spectrum of beliefs in regards to evolution:

Somehow, this teacher places Intelligent Design to the right of Theistic Evolutionist. That makes sense…

More at Open Parachute and Maralyn Parker. I’m not opposed in principle to federal funding of private schools: every dollar spent on the education of students is money well spent, as far as I’m concerned. But the emphasis in that previous sentence should be placed on education. I don’t support telling lies to schoolchildren at the taxpayer’s largess ($200,000 in the case of Pacific Hills, as of June 2007), thanks. If you want to lie for Jesus to your kids, do it with your own money.

And while you’re at it, fire that sad excuse for a teacher, whose lesson plan appears to have been inspired by this creationist website.

Is there a difference between lying and lying for Jesus?

9 04 2008

If you’ve spent any length of time in the atheosphere over the past month, you’ll be aware of the by-now-infamous “Expelled from Expelled” debacle involving PZ Myers. Myers himself gives the most entertaining account of what happened (but see also Matt’s series of posts on this incident). Basically, the producers of Expelled have been so desperate to get bums on seats that until very recently (hmmm) they were encouraging people to sign up on the movie’s website for private screenings, and to bring guests. Myers (who appears in the film as is thanked in the credits) signed up, arrived at the Mall of America screening with guests in tow, had his name checked off, and was then pulled out of the queue by a security guard, acting on the specific instructions of the producers, who threatened Myers with arrest if he attempted to enter the theatre. What the producers failed to notice is that one of Myers’ guests was none other than Richard Dawkins (who has written his own piece on the incident), who announced his presence to an ashen-faced producer Mark Mathis in the Q & A session after the screening.

Sure, it’s one hell of an own goal for the creationist movement, but for me the bigger irony lies in the tremendous amount of spin the producers and other ID luminaries have attempted to put on this incident, given Expelled‘s overarching thesis–that evolution –> atheism –> the Holocaust–and, by implication, antievolutionists’ claim to the moral high ground. (The motto of the production company behind Expelled reads as follows: “Producing world class media that stirs the heart and inspires the mind to truth, purpose and hope.” (Emphasis added.)) The creationists have been manifestly dishonest about the “Expelled from Expelled” fiasco–that much is certain–but they also seem to think they’re doing the right thing.

So here’s my question. Under what circumstances is mendacity theologically, ideologically or ethically justifiable?


22 02 2008

Take a vat of whine, add a heaped tablespoon of chutzpah, and you have the perfect recipe for an RWA on the losing side of an argument. 3 cases in point: Read the rest of this entry »

Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City

9 12 2007

Given that I’ve had to reincarnate FPO in WordPress anyway, I’ve decided to revamp the Wonderful World of Magical Thinking series ever so slightly with a new title, “Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City,” taken from Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Entries will still be categorised under the label “Magical Thinking,” and will still bring you the latest news, both depressing and amusing, in fundamentalism, irrationalism and dogmatism. Without further ado . . .

The week in fundie . . .

  1. Republican presidential candidate sums up his commitment to liberal democracy with a simple remark: “Freedom requires religion.” (CNN)
  2. Texas Education Authority director is forced to resign for her bias in favour of teaching science in the science classroom. (The Austin-American Statesman)
  3. Canadian secular humanist group Family of the Heart has a page of conference papers and presentations on Fundamentalism that is worth exploring.
  4. North Dakota middle school teacher shows her class the GodTube “Letter from Hell” in order to–get this–show the effects of drunken driving.”(Via Pharyngula)
  5. Only the fundamentalist brain could have dreamed up this equation: Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity = “homosexual indoctrination.”