12.31.2011

24 Purity Resolutions From Porn Addiction Ministry 'Porn to Purity'

Are you struggling with sexual sin? Are you looking to make a big change in the new year?

Look no further.

Porn to Purity, a ministry and website devoted to helping people recover from porn addiction has a list of 24 purity resolutions for 2012.

The organization is run by Jeff and Marsha Fisher. Jeff was a minister at the time that he was caught storing porn on his work computer. He and his wife 'had to leave the area,' according to Jeff. You can read his story here.

Seeing as Jeff and Marsha are people of God, so their resolutions are kinda God-oriented.

OK, a lot God-oriented.

Here goes:
  1. I resolve to go to a Christian counselor for the first time.
  2. I resolve to go to a sexual support group for the first time.
  3. I resolve to read a book on sexual purity. Anything from Laaser, Carnes, or Weiss is awesome!
  4. I resolve to fully disclose my sexual struggles to another person of the same gender.
  5. I resolve to read my bible everyday asking God to help me with my sexual struggles.
  6. I resolve to put Covenant Eyes (accountability software) on all of my computers.
  7. I resolve to have a friend block the questionable channels on my TV.
  8. I resolve to throw away all DVDs with sexual content or nudity.
  9. I resolve to stop surfing through the Sunday circulars for sensual material.
  10. I resolve to throw away or unsubscribe to all magazines that get me sexually excited.
  11. I resolve to allow someone to keep me accountable to my I-Tunes downloads.
  12. I resolve to not go see any movies without researching them on a site like Plugged In.com
  13. I resolve to keep looking for an accountability partner until I find a good one.
  14. I resolve to let my minister know about my sexual struggles and be a part of my “safe” team.
  15. I resolve to get rid of any music that is sexual explicit or stimulating.
  16. This year I resolve to call someone everyday so I can stay connected and stay pure.
  17. This year I resolve to dump my girlfriend / boyfriend who is hindering my desire to be sexually pure.
  18. This year I resolve to make sure my home and work computer are in public view.
  19. This year I resolve to get some help from a counselor so I can stop masturbating.
  20. This year I resolve to dress in a way that is modest and doesn't cause a stumbling block to others.
  21. This year I resolve to value others instead of objectify. Somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s son.
  22. This year I resolve to begin jotting my feelings and struggles in a journal or blog.
  23. This year I resolve to have a purity plan in place every time I travel.
  24. This year I resolve to ask Jesus to heal me from the emotional ties I have to old boyfriends / girlfriends.
In other words, avoid getting horny, or doing/watching/hearing/anything that might make you remotely horny, outside of the horny (but Christian) stuff you do with your significant other. 

Be sure to check out Porn to Purity's other resources, such as:
13 Tips For Dealing With Triggery Girls at Work
Girls in Church: A Tough Trigger
Triggered By the Morning DJs
Tough Triggers: Magazines, Catalogs and Circulars
Dealing With Tough Triggers: The Shower
A Tough Trigger: In the Bed Alone

Happy new year!

12.27.2011

Top Posts Of 2011...Plus A Blogger's Dozen

Is it silly to post a year-end review for a blog that has only been in existence for 11 months?

Perhaps. But here goes.

Top 10 posts of 2011:

Of the 318 posts this year, the following were the most popular.

1. Why A Heterosexual, Married, North Carolinian Father Of Three Cares About LGBT Equality
I sat down to write this the day after the NC Senate voted to approve a proposed constitutional amendment banning any legal relationship recognition for same-sex couples. I never would have imagined that this post would have been read by over 127,000 people. Most of these people read it because someone else shared it or passed it along. This happy accident showed me that, while there's a lot of work to be done before the May 8 vote, there are a lot of people who are fired up and ready to fight this anti-LGBT amendment -- including many dedicated straight allies (a crucial piece of the campaign.) Common sense, empathy, and reason, are contagious.

2. Why Not? Evolution, Videos & Rockstar Scientists
My friend Matt Shipman, a science writer based in Raleigh, NC, was not the only person who grumbled after watching the Miss USA contestants discuss whether or not evolution should be taught in school. However, he very well may be the only one who did so and then decided to create a video response featuring several kick-ass female scientists discussing the importance of evolution education. Matt's post provided the backstory to the creation of this video, which has since been featured at Jezebel, The Guardian, BoingBoing, Scientific American, Nature, and by Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. I am honored that Matt wanted to publish this post in these pages (his second post for this blog). I look forward to more guest posts by Matt.

3. Penn Jillette's 10 Commandments For Non-Believers
As part of his book, 'God No,' Penn Jillette serves up his (godless) version of The Ten Commandments.



4. Hi, I'm Rick Perry, And I Don't Understand Things
Like many people, the minute I saw Rick Perry's 'Strong' ad, my blood began to boil. I believe he may have set a record for political ads (not to mention a record for Youtube dislikes). Never before has there been so much bullshit crammed into 30 seconds of video. Thirty seconds of lies, misconceptions, offensive presumptions, and good ol' fashioned bigotry.




5. Faith Healing: Six Die After Church Tells Them They No Longer Need HIV Treatment
Faith-healing church leader tells HIV-positive congregation members that they are cured and no longer need treatment. They die. The sad part? This is only one of many disgusting examples of faith healing ideology leading to deaths in 2011 -- nearly all of which could easily have been prevented by simply going to, and listening to, an actual medical doctor.

6. Douchebag Of The Day: Bryan Fischer
Although I wrote many posts about Bryan Fischer in 2011 (he may very well be the person I most blogged about), for some reason this is the one that hit a nerve with folks, and was shared and tweeted the most. There's plenty more where this came from.
Catholic smut

7. The Catholic Church's $2.4 Billion Bookstore Peddles Loads Of Smut
Hands-down hypocrites of the year, the Catholic church absolutely is very much involved in the publishing, manufacturing, distribution, and selling, of erotica.

8. The Relative Insignificance Of Your Problems (And Perhaps, Humanity)
Personally, I feel there's nothing more life-affirming and stress-relieving than truly appreciating one's place in the big picture. While many feel that acknowledging insignificance somehow detracts from their sense of meaningfulness, it can be incredibly awe-inspiring, and actually quite freeing. Don't sweat the small stuff, indeed.

9. Happy Birthday, Carl
This simple post comprised of the text from Carl Sagan's 'The Pale Blue Dot,' and an accompanying montage created by a Sagan fan and proponent of scientific literacy/education, resonated with a lot of folks who have been inspired and entertained by the late, great astrophysicist.

10. Does The GOP Really Want A President Who Believes We Are In The Last Days?
Michele Bachmann serves up an insane prayer for her homophobic heavy metal BFF's 'You Can Run But You Cannot Hide' ministry.


A Blogger's Dozen:

Part of what makes blogging so interesting is that one can never know which (or even if) posts will find their way to readers in the bloated blogosphere (there are over 156 million public blogs in existence).

Here are a dozen posts readers might enjoy if they missed them the first time around:


Leaving the flock

1. Ask A Humanist: Reflections On Leaving Faith In The Bible Belt
This ongoing series of posts has been a way to publicly address many of the questions I've been asked by people here in the Bible Belt, where it is too often assumed that everyone belongs to a church congregation. Additionally, although there is no shortage of books about non-belief, there are not many which address the real-life impacts that leaving religion can have -- on our families, our neighbors, our children, and our emotions. I wanted, at the very least, to put my own views and experiences out there for others who might find them helpful.



2. Toss The Ten Commandments
Although many believe the Ten Commandments to be indispensable (and the cornerstone of American law), when you really look at them, they don't have much to offer from a moral/ethical perspective. We would do just fine by tossing them out and following only one.

3. Biblical Literalism and Circular Logic: Protecting the House of Cards
For many people, admitting that certain claims in the Bible are not true would mean reevaluating beliefs which had been treated as truths for a large part of their lives. They feel that any compromise on these beliefs  might cause the whole house of cards to come down. It doesn't have to be that way.

4. Religion And Well-Being
A look at the striking similarities of US maps depicting religiosity, well-being, poverty, and political leanings. How much does religion influence well-being, and vice-versa?

5. Reflections on The Rapture That Wasn't
It appears that we needed the rapture more than it needed us. A look at how Harold Camping's bizarre end-times beliefs are really not much crazier than the beliefs held by many Americans.

No, that's not in The Bible
6. That's Not In The Bible: Phantom Passages and Biblical Illiteracy
We tend to attribute many anecdotes, ideologies, and quotes to scripture even though they do not exist anywhere in The Bible. This points to a larger problem, one that affects politics, science, education, and even the enjoyment of art and literature. This post offers a secular argument for biblical literacy.

7. 30 Reasons Why Bryan Fischer is Dangerous and Must Be Stopped
Despite his growing role as a kingmaker in Republican politics, not many people know about Bryan Fischer. The scariest thing about Bryan Fischer is that, despite the fact that he spews hateful bile on a daily basis (via his talk radio show and via his role as spokesperson for the American Family Association), GOP politicians continue to cozy up to him, and none of them seem to believe he should tone it down.

8. Jesus: Anti-Welfare, Randian Capitalist?
How are so many Christians able to reconcile their Randian anti-welfare, capitalistic ideology with a religion based on a man who urged his followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor?

9. Welfare Myths, Christian Charity, And The Insanity Of Welfare Drug Screening
In 2011, we witnessed a growing chorus of resentment among self-described Christians towards the recipients of welfare and the assumption that welfare recipients are lazy, good-for-nothing, baby-having, divorced, drug and alcohol-abusing, freeloading minorities who are gaming the system. A look at how these myths are dead wrong, and how welfare drug screening is idiotic.

10. Is Religion Complicit In The Suicides of Gay Teens?
Bullied to death
It's true that bullying has occurred for as long as humans have been social beings, and that much of bullying is not directed at LGBT teens, but the bullying that LGBT teens experience is something different altogether. While no bullying should be acceptable, the bullying of LGBT teens should be of great concern, due to the nature of the bullying and its devastating effects on our children. The religious component of bullying is especially damaging.

11. Rabbi Thinks Non-Believers Actually Believe (But I Don't Believe Him)
Over at Huffington Post, Rabbi Adam Jacobs tries to make a case that everyone, regardless of what they tell you (or what they think they believe), believes in God. While I was willing to give the Rabbi the benefit of the doubt, it didn't take long to realize that I don't think he knows what he's talking about.

12. A Godless Proposal: A Kinder, Gentler Atheist
I am quite fond of many secular organizations and their members. I applaud many of their fantastic philanthropic projects, awareness campaigns, community-building initiatives, and the support systems they provide and foster. However, I have trouble committing to some of them due to philosophical differences. Why atheists could stand to tone down some of the antagonism and build bridges with religious folks who share their views on equality, science, church-state separation, and social justice.


Thanks for reading in 2011.  There should be plenty of fodder in 2012, and I don't plan on going anywhere.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year -- one full of sanity, tolerance, and reason.






12.25.2011

Great Moments In Juxtaposition: Pope Condemns 'Superficial Glitter'

On Saturday, the pope said this:

"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season"

While wearing this:


In this place:





12.22.2011

A Krampus Carol: Anthony Bourdain's Stop-Motion Hellscape Banned By Travel Channel

Thanks to the fine folks at Religion Dispatches, I was made aware of a mini-masterpiece of holiday entertainment that I would have never stumbled across otherwise. (I recently told Time Warner Cable to suck eggs.)

The Travel Channel's celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had prepared a wonderful, stop-motion animation entitled 'A Krampus Carol,' as part of his holiday special. The segment, of course, is based on Krampus, the European legend of St. Nicholas' much feared henchman who handles the naughty list on the eve of St. Nicholas Day.

The segment is skillfully done in the style of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials of the past.

Apparently, the segment was a little too much for the Travel Channel, who nixed Krampus in fear of terrifying the children, as Krampus has done for centuries.

Religion dispatches was keen to note a special appearance in the segment:
Perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, Bourdain’s Krampus Carol ends up capturing something important about the relation of folk beliefs to institutional doctrine. When Krampus raises his clawed fist to punish these poor cherubs, we see on the wall behind them (blink and you’ll miss it at 1:42) the smiling mug of none other than Pope Benedict XVI.

Just a random jab at Christendom and its discontents? Maybe. But Benedict is there because these claymation kinder are his kin. When he was just a Bavarian boy called Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope knew Krampus well—perhaps too well.

In fact, the Pope once told a Krampus carol of his own, in a video message to the people of Tittmoning, the small town near the Austrian border where he lived from the ages of two to five. In his memoirs, Benedict calls Tittmoning his “land of dreams,” and his holiday memories do begin with warm glow of a reverie:

“Before Christmas we walked through the hallways of the kindergarten and rehearsed to sing,” the Pope recalled. “And then we beheld in the hall where the Christmas tree stood. It remains for me truly a dream, reaching to the ceiling and on top bending over a little more.”

Soon Saint Nikolaus would arrive, dressed in gold brocade vestments that made the future pope “completely sure that all the other Nikolauses were fake, but that this was the real one, the only real one.”

What happy memories for the boy who would be pope! But then Benedict’s dreamy Alpine Christmas took a darker turn. At the end of the hall, he remembered, “two sisters held the doors closed, so that Krampus, who raved frightfully outside, would not come in.”

Part of the kindergarten’s Christmas celebration, he explained, was the reading aloud of all the naughty things the children had done that year, a catalogue of the transgressions of preschoolers. As a teacher moved through the list, the doors would bang and shake, and the two nuns charged with guarding them would pretend that they could hardly keep the doors closed, so vile were the children’s sins, so great was the wrath of Krampus.

“That was much scarier than if he were there,” Benedict said, “because what you only imagine, what has not yet happened, is much more dangerous than what you can actually see.”
Behold, Krampus!






12.21.2011

The Un-Aired Lowe's 'All-American Muslim' Commercial

In case you've been living under a rock this month, you're aware that Lowe's is receiving a great deal of criticism for pulling their ads from the TLC reality show All American Muslim.

Lowe’s yanked their ad from the series after the Florida Family Association encouraged members to email the program’s advertisers.

The FFA stated:
“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish. Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.”
Now viewers can finally view the un-aired Lowe's commercial.

OK, not really. The below satirical video was directed by Gregory Bonsignore, and stars Rizwan Manji and Parvesh Cheena, from the NBC sitcom Outsourced. (Read more about the project here.)







12.20.2011

A Godless Proposal: A Kinder, Gentler Atheist

I'm not much of a joiner. I have a hard time affiliating with organizations whose policies or ideologies I can't fully embrace.

I fully admit to doing so from time to time (I am a registered Democrat, after all). If we went through life only aligning with organizations, products, services, and politicians with which we agree 100%, we would probably be living off the grid in adobes, wearing loin cloths.

But when it comes to social and civic organizations, charities, and such, I'm skittish. I have avoided the Boy Scouts for their discrimination against homosexuals and atheists. I stopped dropping money in the Salvation Army kettles since I learned of their LGBT policies.

So, when a secular, pro-equality fellow like myself looks for kindred spirits, often he is pointed to secular and atheist organizations. They have become plentiful in the past decade, thanks in part to the internet and the rise in popularity of secular/atheist books, blogs, and websites -- all of which have helped many non-believers come out of hiding.

I am quite fond of many secular organizations and their members. I applaud many of their fantastic philanthropic projects, awareness campaigns, community-building initiatives, and the support systems they provide and foster. However, I have trouble committing to some of them due to philosophical differences.

Although I am a non-believer who came from a religious background, I am not the least bit resentful about my religious past (I grew up in a fairly liberal Methodist church). Unlike some who have left the church, I did not leave in disgust, or because of a bad experience. I left the church, and religion, simply because I could no longer admit that I accepted the doctrine beliefs. I did not believe, and therefore, I didn't belong there anymore. It would be like continuing to show up for piano lessons after having one's fingers amputated.

At times, I cringe at some of the undertakings of my fellow secularists. Take, for example, some of the holiday-themed initiatives. There are nativity brouhahas in Santa Monica and Athens, TX. There was the crucified skeleton Santa display in Leesburg, VA. There are the evergreen battles to remove 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance. There are in-your-face campaigns that tend to condescend to believers by claiming Jesus is a myth, or that there probably is no God.

To be clear, I do understand these endeavors. I get the sentiment. I don't disagree one bit that nativity scenes (or statues of Jesus, or engravings of the ten commandments) on government property are completely at odds with the Constitution's Establishment Clause. I don't disagree that it is rude to only acknowledge the Christian winter holiday this time of year. I don't disagree that much of the Bible (or much of religion) is mythical in nature. And I certainly don't disagree that non-believers are essentially invisible to society and to the government.

What I'm not crazy about is the antagonistic nature of some of the campaigns. (And I do realize that many atheists would not see these as antagonistic -- it depends on one's perspective, to be sure.)

I also tend to think that there are other, more important issues to address -- issues that can be addressed without further alienating ourselves. Is the removal of 'under God' in the pledge really more important than ensuring our kids learn about evolution in schools? Is it really that important that we insert ourselves into Christmas tree and nativity scene turf wars when we could funnel that time and energy into educating people about the science behind gender and sexuality and combating the religion-based bigotry that drives many LGBT teens to suicide?

I think it is difficult to gain acceptance and respect by systematically antagonizing average citizens who happen to be religious (many of which don't share the same religious views that we may find harmful). Part of my reluctance to antagonize is because I am still very close to my religious family members (and they are supportive and understanding of my secular approach to life), and I have many religious friends who share most of my political and social ideologies -- they just happen to also believe in God. I don't like throwing these people out with the bathwater.

While I certainly do not refrain from ridiculing specific religious beliefs or ideologies which cause harm or perpetuate bigotry (just ask any of my Facebook friends), I don't think that a scorched earth approach accomplishes much, except for furthering the stereotype that atheists are angry, smug, antagonistic, condescending, untrustworthy, and lacking in morals.

Call me crazy, but I tend to think that there is a particular group of people that can be extremely helpful to non-believers in combating negative stereotypes, and reaching some of our goals: progressive Christians. Christian writers such as John Shore, Mark Sandlin, and organizations such as The Christian Left, Believe Out Loud, and the Clergy Letter Project, are more closely aligned with the values of secular folks than one might imagine. These folks are progressives. They are pro-equality, pro-science, pro-evolution, and they have the same distaste for theocratic politicians as we do. They get angry when Christians use scripture to validate bigotry, or to deny overwhelming scientific evidence. They, too, are often maligned, berated, and threatened by Christians.

We are so focused on the fact that we disagree on the big questions that we don't see that we agree on all of the other ones. All of us want evolution taught in schools, religious dogma out of politics, and equal treatment for all. All of us want progress. All of us long for a time in America when the thought of a Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, or Palin in the White House is closer to science fiction than reality.

My Christian family and friends remind me that, for many people, religion does have a lot to offer. I am also reminded that these people are important to promoting progressive causes within their churches and their religious communities. They are much better positioned to do so than you or I.

I realize that there are many atheists and non-believers who long for a day when religion is a curious phenomenon we read about in history books. While it is likely that humans will evolve to a point where religion takes a different form (and perhaps a less-prominent role), I have a hard time believing that religion will become extinct. We would be wise to accept this, and focus instead on combating the aspects of religion that can be harmful, specifically religion-based bigotry, scriptural literalism, and anti-science ideologies. We can accomplish these things without attacking religion as a whole. As the saying goes, 'use a scalpel, not an ax.'

That's not to say that there is no place for the angry, antagonistic atheist-- there absolutely is. We need the Dawkinses, the Hitchenses, the Harrises, and the Dennetts, just as we need any uncompromising figures in a variety of disciplines to open our eyes and challenge our long-held beliefs. We need people who shake us out of slumber. We need these uncompromising atheists, just as we need lightning rods to expose animal cruelty, government corruption, environmental threats, and social injustices. However, when we all follow suit (and especially when less-eloquent and less-tactful individuals follow suit), we can lose respect, we can perpetuate stereotypes, and, in the end, we are left preaching to the godless choir.

I have had a great deal of success, on a small scale, engaging the religious by discussing particular aspects of theology that trouble me. I will often leave behind any arguments about the existence or non-existence of God. Instead, I address specific religious ideologies which contribute to science denialism, bigotry, misogyny, and social injustice.

Isn't a world in which the godless and the faithful share similar objectives better than a world where the godless are continually at war with the faithful? Which of these two scenarios is more likely to lead to a more secular society? Which is more likely to lead to a progressive culture characterized by tolerance, equality, evidence-based policy, respect for people of all faiths (or no faith), and clearer boundaries between church and state?

I believe that such a reality is possible. I also believe we are more likely to reach it through building bridges than by digging chasms.

I came to my secular worldview on my own terms. Nobody twisted my arm or ridiculed me into disbelief. It was through calm, deliberate reflection and critical thought. It required a casual exploration of literature and self-education in the areas of science, philosophy, and history. For many like myself, with strong ties to the church and people of faith, condescension and antagonism would have made that transition more difficult. For some, it might completely halt such a transition.

The best way to convince a meat-eater to become a vegan is not to erect a sign in front of their house complete with images of slaughtered animals and condescending remarks labeling that individual as ignorant and ethically bankrupt. A more effective approach might be to politely suggest that it's possible to live a healthy life without eating meat or using animal products.  One is more likely to create more vegans by letting others know that it's not easy, and that it's not for everyone, but that it can be a fulfilling and healthy way to live. Providing educational resources and support, and engaging others in polite discussion, is much more effective than an aggressive onslaught of condescension, ridicule, and judgment.

When I first explained that I was no longer a believer to my mother, she said, "Well, just don't call yourself an atheist." It was a funny statement, to be sure, but very telling. First of all, it said to me that my mother still loved me. Secondly, while she wasn't so upset about the non-belief part, she was well aware of the stigma attached to that word and felt I was too good of a person to deserve such derision.

That stigma will go away eventually. (The Tea Party is now more disliked than atheists.) We can choose to blame the religious for this stigma, and further alienate ourselves, or we can choose to erase the stigma by being living examples of that stigma's inaccuracy.

Maybe we can get some work done while we're at it.





The Modern Holy Shroud

This morning, neuropsychologist Vaughan Bell tweeted a link to a most bizarre scientific paper.

"This is the weirdest forensic science paper I have ever read...and that's saying something," he wrote.

He's not lying. Not only is that 'saying something' (Bell's Twitter feed is a constant source of bizarro scientific links), but it is indeed a very weird forensic science paper.

The paper came out of the University Center of Legal Medicine, Lausanne-Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland, and is titled, The Modern holy shroud.

Here's the abstract:
Testimonies disclosed that a 44-year-old pedestrian was struck head-on by a truck while she was roaming on the motorway; at the time of collision, the truck was travelling at a speed of about 90km/h. In the second phase of the collision, the pedestrian was projected about 100m before her body was run over by the truck and then by a car. The autopsy revealed extensive mutilations, making it impossible to verify the testimonies of witnesses to the collision as regards the pedestrian's position at the moment of the first impact. However, the reports produced by the technical expert and the forensic pathologist were able to confirm the testimonies, based on an impact zone on the front panel of the cab of the truck, where part of the pedestrian's face was reproduced like a "modern holy shroud".
And here's a picture of the front panel of the cab of that truck (Bell tweeted this image directly after his initial tweet).

You're welcome.




12.19.2011

Update: LA Times Autism Story Comment Fracas Continues

A few interesting developments in the Basko-Ditz LA Times autism story comment fracas (for those unfamiliar with the episode, you may want to see this post for a primer).

In the comments section of Harpocrates Speaks, the blog which responded to the Liz-Basko affair with a post entitled How Not to Make a Fool of Yourself on the Internet: A PSA, a commenter posted the following (alleged Twitter direct message transcript):

Here's a transcript of my bizarro conversation with Ms. Basko on Twitter. Notice how she never answers my question. I'm not sure if she simply does not understand my repeated question or is just dodging it. And for the record, I do have a son with autism and he receives SSI. I work three jobs so my wife can stay at home. That's why I found her comments so offensive and insisted that she answer my question (even though she didn't).
==

SB (Sue Basko): I am being stalked/harassed by a nut named @LizDitz who actually wrote the words being tweeted. Have reported to FBI.

ME: Since you have an account at LA Times blogs, FBI or LA Times should be able to determine if or who posted alleged comments.

SB: In the meantime, Liz Ditz and her "gravy train" words roll on. I have not been interviewed by her, never even heard of her!

ME: Not defending anybody but I only know about this because of you, not LD. Had to use Google to figure out what you were talking abt

SB: LD wrote words and tweeted them as mine - I have not had any interaction with her ever. She is cyberbully.

SB: It is on Google, but because she wrote it and put it there.

ME: Are you referring to her blog post or the quotes she attributed to you from the LA Times comments section of the Autism article?

SB: I do NOT have a blog at LA Times. I have a blog about protest marches! Not on LA Times!

ME: I'm referring to the fact that you have a registered account to add comments.

ME: latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/… You're a "Top Commenter," though maybe you connected via Facebook...

ME: I'm selective about who I follow, that's why I'm asking.

ME: Liz has updated her blog and provides a screen shot of your comments to the LA Times blog article.

ME: My question still stands, did you write those words or not? (I'm referring to the comments attribute to you in the screenshot)

SB: Check sources before you repeat words of malicious stalker. Please.

ME: I haven't repeated them. I'm just asking you if you made the comments she said you did. Yes or no?

SB: I do not even know what you are talking about - I have never had any interaction whatsoever with this woman!

ME: No one said you did. I'm doing what you asked, checking sources. DID YOU WRITE THOSE COMMENTS OR NOT? YES OR NO?

SB: THIS IS MY BLOG: occupypeace.blogspot.com CHECK YOUR SOURCES.

ME: I'm not talking about YOUR blog. I'm talking about the comments you allegedly left on a LA Times piece on autism.

ME: Did you write this or not? lizditz.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b…

SB: PLEASE STOP TWEETING AND CHECK SOURCES, TRY TO BE RESPONSIBLE.

ME: Did you make the comments or not? Yes or no? Why can't you answer the question?

ME: I am checking sources, I'm asking you.

SB: I publish a blog by autistic man: paulmodrowski.blogspot.com I do not write LD's blog!

ME: OK, I give up. I've been asking specifically about comments you alledgely made on the LA TIMES blog. Is my question not clear?

ME: So did you write the comments (now deleted) that were allegedly (notice I use this word) on the LA Times blog? Yes or no?

ME: Look up definitions of cyber bullying, cyber stalking, as I don't think you know what they mean. Look up Streisand Effect too.

ME: You may also want to read up on how social media works. Good luck...

I cannot confirm or deny that the above Twitter conversation actually occurred, but it doesn't seem to be terribly unbelievable, based on the way Ms. Basko has reacted to the critique of her original LA Times comments. Again, she appears to avoid making any concessions regarding the original post on the LA Times piece, instead pointing elsewhere, saying, 'Hey, look over there!' when asked very direct questions about the comments.

In addition, Ms. Basko left the following comment on the def shepherd Facebook page:


The link points to a blog post entitled Liz Ditz Came Out of Hiding on Doug Copp's Blog. The post is from October of 2010, and makes plenty of painfully vague accusations against Ditz unrelated to the whole LA Times autism fracas. The post at Doug Copp's Blog is devoid of any supporting materials, links, or references -- simply a lot of angry remarks with no substance. It references ARTI, an organization which calls itself 'The World's most experienced rescue team and disaster management-mitigation organization.'

A Google search turned up some posts on Liz Ditz's blog about Doug Copp's disaster rescue and mitigation business. Her posts are well-documented, pointing to a number of credible sources which outline the sketchiness of Copp's business. Plenty of other sources had also reported on the dubious nature of Copp's enterprise, including CBS News, Snopes, the Jamaica Observer, and the Albuquerque Journal. Clearly, this is not a case of Ms. Ditz fabricating accusations out of thin air.

It appears Ms. Basko may have simply scoured the internet looking for any negative comments to support her declarations that Ditz is a 'cyberstalker' who attacks others on the internet.

Shortly after Basko left her comment on the def shepherd Facebook page, she left similar comments on the Harpocrates Speaks blog post, in which she quotes much of the post from Doug Copp's Blog:


I'm sure we haven't heard the end of Ms. Basko. It's clear that she touched a nerve with the comments on the LA Times (which, it appears, she may be suggesting she never made). It's unclear if there actually is an investigation underway. Unless she knows something we don't know, there's very little likelihood that any law enforcement agency would get very far in an investigation before dismissing the whole incident as simply a case of someone with thin skin resorting to threats rather than answering her critics in the same venue that launched this whole incident to begin with.

Although I don't know much about Ms. Basko outside of her various internet posts related to this story, her Occupy blog, and the fact that she is an entertainment lawyer in LA, I do know that Liz Ditz is greatly admired for her autism work, and is the co-founder and editor of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, which has just been named 'Book of the Year' by Steve Silberman, senior writer for Wired and autism/neurodiversity blogger for the Public Library of Science.

Many would be quite surprised if Ditz were guilty of anything more than speaking up.





12.17.2011

The Only Conversation Worth Having: A Tribute To Hitchens

The below video tribute offers a wonderful example of Hitchens's ferocity, passion, and conviction. Hitchens, in his own words, speaking of knowledge, wisdom, belief, and death, against a backdrop of majestic natural beauty.

The tribute was created in January of 2011 while Hitchens was undergoing treatment, but it couldn't be any more poignant than it is now.

The audio is taken from Hitchens's closing remarks in a debate with William Dembski at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Dallas, Texas in November of 2010.

...When Socrates was sentenced to death for his philosophical investigations and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city, and he accepted his death he did say, “Well, if we are lucky perhaps I will be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters, too.” In other words, that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But, I do know that it is the conversation I want to have while I am still alive. Which means that to me the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet… that I haven’t understood enough… that I can’t know enough… that I am always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.





12.16.2011

Tens of Thousands Abused In Dutch Catholic Institutions

Via The Guardian:
The Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands was shamed on Friday when a comprehensive investigation of sexual abuse of children by clergy over 40 years found one in five vulnerable children had been molested.

An 1,100-page report from a commission led by a former education minister and Christian Democrat leader said it could identify 800 Catholic clergy and other church employees guilty of sexually abusing children in the 40 years from 1945 and that more than 100 perpetrators were still alive.
Add this to the growing list of offenses committed, perpetuated, and covered up by the Catholic Church.

In the US alone, there have been over 10,000 allegations of sex abuse made against more than 4,000 priests between 1950 and 2002 (John Jay Report).

Ireland trails the US in the number of Catholic sex abuse allegations, and significant number of cases have been also been reported in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

It begs the question: If a fraction of these allegations had been made against the Boy Scouts, or the YMCA, how long until the entire organization were shut down?






RIP Hitch

It is notable that Christopher Hitchens died on the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Although he was not born here in America, Hitchens became a US citizen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 17, 2007.

He was in many ways the quintessential Brit -- eloquent, erudite, and, when the occasion called for it, acerbic and painfully blunt.

He was also quite American in spirit. He never held back when expressing his opinions. He made no apologies for vices. He stubbornly stuck to his guns (his name is synonymous with dissent), and he never relented in his quest for the truth -- even in death.

No matter what your opinion of Hitchens, he was quintessentially American. He was a reminder that, no matter what the outcome, we should never compromise on our convictions. We should never relent in our search for the truth, even if that truth is painful, dangerous, blasphemous, or unwelcome. He reminded us that the truth is often ugly, and it often comes at great cost. He reminded us that, even though we may not like what people say, we are lucky to live in a country in which we have the right to say it.

We can only hope that when great minds leave us behind, that they have inspired many others to carry that torch. That, I believe, is the kind of afterlife in which Christopher Hitchens believed.


22 Comments From Christopher Hitchens:





12.15.2011

R.I.P CHRIST-mas Tree

While taking in the abundance of Christmas-themed yard displays this year, the CHRIST-mas Tree popped into my mind.

For those of you unfamiliar with the CHRIST-mas Tree, news of its existence created somewhat of buzz in 2009, and it became a minor internet phenomenon. Stephen Colbert even featured the tree in a segment called Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude.

Essentially, the CHRIST-mas tree was a tree that literally puts the Christ back in Christmas -- in the form of a crucifix. It also was available in a red, white, and blue 'Christian Nation' model.

The company also sold a 'Crown of Thorns' tree-topper, as well as other decorations 'designed to remind us of the true meaning of the Christmas holiday.'

According to Boss Creations, the creators of the CHRIST-mas Tree:
In recent years, our Christmas holiday has been made to become a generic holiday for all religions with many being forced to call it a “Holiday” season instead of Christmas season. We, as Christians, must take a stand and rescue our religious holiday. We at Boss Creations believe that one way to do this is to decorate with more Christian-themed holiday decorations including The CHRIST-mas Tree.

We had figured a way to enhance the tradition of decorating a tree for Jesus at Christmas by adding a cross that acts as a reminder of Him. By changing our tree to include a cross, we are making a statement that we want to keep our Christmas holiday! Our new tree and decorations ideas will not only help to enhance our celebration of the Christmas holiday but will help to enlighten those who may decorate for Christmas but may not be “Christians.”

Praise Jesus.
Describing the CHRIST-mas Tree, Stephen Colbert said, "It’s like George Washington and Jesus teamed up and declared independence from taste...Best of all, this tree can be used year-round. Christmas, Flag Day, Fourth of July, hell, this thing would look pretty good in a gay pride parade."

I was curious to know what the CHRIST-mas Tree folks were up to this year. Although their tree made the biggest waves in 2009, there were several stories and mentions in 2010.

Yet I hadn't heard anything at all about the CHRIST-mas Tree in 2011. I was curious to find out if there were any new models, or if perhaps they had expanded  into other areas of Christmas decoration market (An inflatable Jesus would be truly amazing, wouldn't it?).

I'm sad to report, folks, that the CHRIST-mas Tree is no more. Boss Creations' website is as barren as Charlie Brown's tree, and all references to Boss Creations, and the CHRIST-mas Tree, are written in past tense:
When Boss Creations was around, it was the best source for your faith-inspired holiday decoration needs. We offered a variety of unique, innovative and high-quality Christian-themed decorations that were sure to enhance your holiday celebration!

Our past collections of inspiring CHRIST-mas trees, the Crown tree topper, nativity decorations, wreaths and other decorations were designed to remind us of the true meaning of the Christmas holiday. We still hope that you’ll continue to help put Christ back into Christmas this holiday season.


While there is nothing to indicate what happened, one can only assume that sales may have been a problem. The three people who have commented on the Web post quoted above, did so in 2011, and none of them seemed aware that the CHRIST-mas tree was no more.

Only two people have left comments on Boss Creations' Facebook page:
Is boss creations out of business please no im trying to get on site can't anyone know

I want a tree. Is there any left
In addition, the company's Twitter feed has been silent since April.

There are, however, several blog posts on their site, which stay true to their mission of fighting the War on Christmas.

The CHRIST-mas Tree itself, however, appears to have given up the ghost -- and, sadly, there is no indication of a resurrection.








In Which A Comment On An LA Times Autism Story Triggers A Shitstorm

Sometimes things happen on the internet. And sometimes the only way you can adequately explain what happened is by using the internet.

Take this bizarre series of events that sprang from an unfortunate and misguided comment left on an LA Times piece on the rise of Autism diagnoses over the past 20 years. The comment was left on the LA Times website by Sue Basko, an LA entertainment attorney.

Here you go:
Many parents today want a diagnosis of autism spectrum for their child, not only because there is a great deal of funding allocated for services for those children, as the news article explains, but also because this qualifies the child or family to collect a good SSI payment each month. If a family can get a few kids diagnosed with such things, the family can live off the payments. This was caused because welfare payments are so low, welfare is so hard to get, and intact families with both parents present do not qualify for welfare.

The real story would be to check out what percentage of families with child with an autism diagnose are collecting SSI. That is where you will find the real secret behind this "epidemic." Also, school districts that will receive extra funding for each child with autism will be far more likely to make such a diagnosis.

When I was a kid, there were kids who kept track of details, counted things, paid little attention to others, and seemed socially awkward. There were called future accountants.

I realize there are actual cases of autism, which seems to be a form of retardation. A lot of this spectrum stuff, I think, is based on wanting to collect available funds, without regard for the fact it stigmatizes the children for life to have such a diagnosis.

Anyone who writes a scathing reply should reveal if their family is collecting SSI or if they or their school is in any way collecting funds based on autism.

Wow, right? I mean, where do you even start?

Enter Liz Ditz, a California dyslexia consultant, autism advocate, writer, and editor. Ditz took offense to Basko's comment, and decided to address the many inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and insensitive remarks in a venue where Basko would be sure to see them. (To be clear, Ditz was hardly the only person who reached out to Basko to address the comment, and Basko claims to have received a pseudonymous voice mail message addressing her post.) Ditz left the following on Basko's public Facebook page (the page is oddly unavailable as of this writing):

Hi Sue. I read your comment yesterday at the LA times piece on autism, and was quite struck by your naiveté about autism.

To begin with, the word "retardation" isn't used any more. The Arc, the largest national advocacy organization, .... [Liz hit return here, falling victim to poor Facebook UI, left that comment, and started over]

First of all: I am not autistic, I do not have a child with autism, and I certainly have not applied for SSI for said non-existent child. Yes the school district in which I live educates children with autism, but since it's a poor and struggling district any marginal payment hardly makes up for the marginal cost of educating said children. I am however, and autism ally an advocate, and a co-founder and editor of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism (TPGA). Our webpage is here:

http://thinkingautismguide.blogspot.com/

and our Facebook page is here:

http://www.facebook.com/thinkingpersonsguidetoautism

Second, it is too bad you got a pseudonymous message. However, as I said, your comment revealed an immense amount of ignorance about autism.

The arc (http://www.thearcorg/) now refers to "intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Autism is unrelated to retardation. Some autistics have intellectual disabilities, but many have average or above-average intellectual capacities. What we are finding is that even autistics with limited verbal language may have substantial intellectual ability. I'd be glad to share the research if you'd like.

On to SSI and your assertion that the autism diagnosis "qualifies the child or family to collect a good SSI payment each month" and that families can even "live off the payments" and "A lot of this spectrum stuff, I think, is based on wanting to collect available funds."

Your assertion is completely mistaken

I wonder if you had any idea, when you wrote that, how hateful -- vitriolic even-- your assertion would appear to parents of autistic children, or adults with autism?

I invite you and your readers here to come by TPGA and get to know real families dealing with autism and real adults with autism and how they live.

Ditz's comment was soon deleted from Basko's page. (See Ditz's blog post for a screenshot. She has written about this entire episode, much of which I am recounting here).

Ditz also dug up some information on SSI payments: "The princely sums autism parents can get from SSI, per child: the maximum is $674 per month." Some gravy train.

One would think that the Ditz-Basko episode might end there, as internet exchanges often fizzle after someone is adequately schooled.

Not quite.

I have been a follower of of Ditz on Twitter, and I received the following tweet from Basko yesterday:


I was unsure why Basko had reached out to me, as I had never had any interaction with Basko. I also wondered what the hell Liz Ditz did to provoke such a bizarre, accusatory message from someone I did not know. However, after taking a look at Basko's Twitter feed, I noticed that she had sent the same exact message to dozens upon dozens of Ditz's followers.

Plenty more where those came from.

Wow again, right? Who's harassing who, again? According to Ditz, her only 'interactions' with Basko were the initial post to Basko's Facebook page, Ditz's blog post, and a total of five tweets with mentions of Basko.


The last time I checked, discussing someone's very public comments on the internet publicly on the internet without invoking threats does not constitute stalking/harassment, and most certainly doesn't require the attention of the FBI. (Read Ditz's comments on the accusations here.)

I have a lot of sympathy for Ditz in this instance. I, too (along with many other fellow skeptics and rational, science-minded folks), have a hard time not speaking up when witnessing injustices, fallacious claims, propaganda, or general batshittery/douchebaggery. I just can't let it go unchecked. I'm sure Freud might have a lot to say about this compulsion, but so would Batman. Sometimes we are compelled to fight the good fight, regardless of glory or reward -- often a Sisyphean task on the internet.

A story like this would not be complete without a moral, would it? Well, you're in luck. The above episode inspired a post from writer/blogger Todd W. at Harpocrates Speaks, entitled How Not to Make a Fool of Yourself on the Internet: A PSA. The post is very much worth your time, and includes such advice as: Think Before You Type, Don't Go Orwell, Don't Deny You Said What You Said, Don't Libel Your Critics.

The great thing about such advice is that if we all followed the first rule, 'Think before you type,' there would be no need to follow the rest. And when such rules are broken, we often have no choice but to invoke Thomas Jefferson:

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."



For more discussion on this whole episode:

Left Brain Right Brain

Caffeinated Autism Mom

Colorado Moms




12.09.2011

Louis CK: 'People Who Argue Against Evolution Sound Really Stupid'

From Louis CK:
This is an experpt or outtake from my new special "Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater" which will be available exclusively on my website http://www.louisck.com starting on December 10th for 5 dollars via paypal. You can stream or download the special or both. It is only available on the site. This clip does not appear on the special. I feel very fat today.


Enjoy:





Rick Perry Doubles Down On Homophobic, Theocratic Ad, Still Doesn't Understand Things

Rick Perry responded to the public reaction to his homophobic theocratic abomination of a political ad in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

In the interview, he doubled down on his anti-gay rhetoric, stating that he'd reinstate DADT if elected. He also defended discrimination against gays by the Boy Scouts and Catholic charities.

When pressed by Wolf on the issue of DADT, Perry served up one of his famous 'gut feeling' answers (if you recall, when Perry was asked how he knows abstinence works, he replied that he knows it works, "from my own personal life."
BLITZER: But military commanders tell me, in the past few months since the policy has changed, they’ve had no problems. Including the commandant of the Marine Corps, who was originally opposed.

PERRY: Well, I’m just telling you the members of the military I talked to, when this was being talked about, I didn’t talk to anyone who was for it…

When pressed on the topic of Obama's 'war on religion,' Perry didn't fare much better, and resorted to McCarthy-esque absurdity, ignoring the many instances of Obama publicly embracing religion.
PERRY: We’ve got a federal judge, for instance, in San Antonio that said these kids can’t say an invocation at school. I mean, they say you can’t even use the word “invocation” at their commencement.

BLITZER: Is that President Obama’s war on religion?

PERRY: I’m just giving you some examples of what we’re seeing from the left, of which, I would suggest to you, President Obama is a member of the left and, uh, substantial left of center beliefs, that you can't even have a Christmas party. You can't say a prayer at school.

Rick Perry is ignorant, ladies and gentlemen. He is dumber than a bag of hammers. Sure, we hear the old 'why can't my kids pray to Jesus at their public school' thing from our ignorant uncle on Facebook, but this guy is the Governor of Texas, and a potential (although unlikely, at this point) candidate for the highest office in the country.
PERRY: I ask people, 'Which one of the Ten Commandments do you not like?' I mean, why aren't our children allowed to pray in school? Why can they not celebrate Christmas? Those are, I think, traditional and solid American values that we're seeing trampled upon by this Administration.

Well, Rick, I'll tell you the problem with the ten commandments. Four of them are solely religious edicts that have nothing to do with ethics or law, and three of them are one-dimensional prohibitions that are irrelevant to modern law. So, as a non-religious tax-paying American citizen, I don't care for the enshrinement of religious edicts. That kind of reeks of theocracy. You're not crazy about Sharia Law, so I'd think you'd be able to get your head around this.

Why aren't our children allowed to pray in school? They can pray all they want. Prayer is very much protected in public schools by our Constitution. There are simply some restrictions -- mostly that prayer can't be mandatory, and you can't have 'sanctioned' prayers during school time or school events. Because, see, that would be forcing it on someone who has the right to not be proselytized to as part of a captive public school audience. I am sure that if you imagine a teacher leading the class in an Islamic prayer, you can understand how this might not be cool, Rick.

Why can't they celebrate Christmas at school? Well, first of all, Christmas has in no way been banned in public schools. Again, there are simply rules that are appropriate to follow to avoid alienating students or identifying them with a religion not their own. Because, Rick, aside from the above issues relating to proselytizing, we live in a melting pot. It's not as homogeneous as it was when you were a kid. If you want the kids to celebrate Christmas in school, then maybe we need to provide equal time for other religions. Here you go -- here's an inclusive, interfaith calendar of several dozen holidays and festivals observed by Americans. Good luck getting any actual teaching done.

Here's the Blitzer-Perry video, for those who are interested in killing a few brain cells:






12.08.2011

Conservatives Fear Rampant Bestiality In The Military

Religious right nutjobs Michele Bachmann and Bryan Fischer are very worried that our military is going to start having sex with animals.

Yes, really.

Last week, the US Senate voted to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The repeal was part of a larger piece of legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act.

While the Defense Act has certainly been controversial, bestiality hasn't been the reason.

You see, Article 125 is an archaic statute which bars troops from engaging in consensual sodomy, and its repeal was tacked on to the defense act (hardly unusual in legislation) -- a move applauded by LGBT rights advocates.

However, since the article defines sodomy as "unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal," the nutjobs read this as the military condoning bestiality.

Here's World Nut Daily asking White House press secretary Jay Carney if the president approves or disapproves of sex with animals:


Last night, Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck watched that video together on Beck's web show.

Bachmann reacted:
It’s absolutely abhorrent, reprehensible and you think, this is the kind of thing parents try to keep from their children because parents want to have their children enjoy innocence. Children need that latency period, they need innocence and your own government legalizes this? … Are we really going to say ho hum and laugh and go back to sleep? There’s got to be something we stand for...So the big question is, is there anything that’s wrong? That’s my question. If that’s not wrong, Glenn what’s wrong? Is there anything that’s wrong? Then you have a very serious problem on your hands.
Here's that clip:


Bryan Fischer, of hate group American Family Association, stated:
You have an instance of bestiality now, and the military has no legal way to deal with it. That's been now normalized...Once you cross the threshold that sexual intimacy is between for a husband and a wife in marriage...once you cross that boundary, there is no place to stop."
Here's that clip. It's a little long and painful, but feel free to watch if you're so inclined:


Next thing you know, military animals will be requiring separate shower and bathroom facilities.



12.07.2011

Hi, I'm Rick Perry, And I Don't Understand Things

The Rick Perry campaign released a Hail Mary ad yesterday. It's a doozy -- thirty seconds of gay-bashing, patronizing declarations of faith, anti-Christian accusations, and a fundamental misunderstanding of constitutional law.

The video features a Marlboro Man-esque Perry (and his belt buckle) walking in nature, perhaps somewhere on Niggerhead Ranch.

He states:

"I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”




There's so much here, it's hard to know where to start. It's sad, but not surprising, that Perry would take a swipe at our gay and lesbian service members (although you'd think he might realize that many Christians actually support the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell), but last time I checked, kids can pray in school, and there's no law stopping them from celebrating Christmas. The difference, Rick, is in something called the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Certainly the governor of a state with one of the highest immigration populations might understand that when people become citizens of America, they aren't required to leave their entire culture behind. Many immigrants - maybe not so much in Texas -- practice other religions. Perhaps the 22% of the population who don't call themselves Christians should be forced to recognize and take part in a religion that is not their own.

Rick, kids can pray. They can celebrate Christmas. They just can't have public school prayer-a-thons or Jesus parties. They simply need to refrain from pushing their religion on other kids. That's called being a dick. It's also kind of a violation of rights. Public schools are not in the business of endorsing religion, and are prohibited by the Establishment Clause from endorsing one religion over the other. This is basic stuff -- something that a president should understand and respect. Do we want a leader who disregards the rights of nearly a quarter of the US population?

And that thing about Obama's 'war on religion'? You mean like when he retold the story of Jesus' birth? Or his speech on prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast? Or maybe when he issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation? Perhaps when he expanded Bush's faith-based initiatives? How about when he invited Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration? Or opening rallies with prayer?

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. It's not like Rick Perry has been the poster boy for factual accuracy. This was quite simply a desperate attempt to court Christian conservatives, to raise tired (and misguided) questions about Obama's faith, and to curry favor with the segment of the population that is anti-LGBT, who feel that white Christians are being persecuted, and who believe Obama is a Muslim.




12.06.2011

Pat Robertson Ruminates On Time, God Speaks to Jim Bakker & Rick Joyner Via Thunder

Today is a banner news day for televangelist batshittery.

Here we have Pat Robertson ruminating on precognition and the mystery of time:




And if that didn't blow your mind, sit back and watch as God speaks to Jim Bakker and Rick Joyner through thunder:




You're welcome.



Anti-Science: In Which 'Age of Autism' Boos Me, And A Scientist Responds

This morning I criticized the website Age of Autism by way of a tweet highlighting their site as part of a list of the 10 worst anti-science websites. They subsequently blocked me, and tweeted 'Boo!' back to me.


As a big fan of free speech, peer review, and dissent, it peeved me that a benign public tweet mentioning AoA as part of a list, would result in being blocked. This is, after all, an organization who, in their own 'About Us' section, condemns those who "aren't interested" in other points of view, and who "don't listen."

Their choice of words, "Boo!", while annoying, perfectly distilled the essence of AoA's willful ignorance. It was the twitter equivalent of sticking fingers in ears and exclaiming, "Lalalalalalalalaaa!"

The science writer, biologist, and autism activist Emily Willingham was also peeved. (Full disclosure: I am one of Emily's followers on Twitter (and she is one of mine), and we have several mutual acquaintances. She has been featured in these pages, and I happen to think she kicks ass.)

Emily wrote a post on her blog, The Biology Files, where the AoA 'Boo!' episode served as a jumping-off point for a screed on the anti-science movement and the value of real science.

She writes:
This nadir of discourse is a perfect example of why the anti-science movement in this country is so damaging. The refusal to think critically, to alter conclusions as necessary based on new evidence, to budge from some pre-set notion regardless of information to the contrary--that "BOO!" sums it all up. It says, "We do not care that you think we're anti-science, and we have taken our ball and gone home." It says, "We are incapable of defending our position, as usual." It says, "We are childishly adherent to our cause, no matter its level of failure, no matter evidence to the contrary." That "BOO!" encapsulates well the attitude and argumentative capacity of those who promote anti-science values.

Yes, I said, "Values." Because the anti-science crowd operates together on a fundamental set of values, whether they're evangelizing against evolution, climate change, or vaccines. They place more emphasis on boastful "gotchas" than they do on getting it right. They use half-truths to get buyers for what they sell--and yes, they're usually selling something--and make people forget that the yin to a half-truth's yang is a half-lie. They value the power of emotion and testimony over method and evidence, and they use emotion and testimony cynically and unabashedly. But most of all, they value the opportunity to say "BOO!" to the folk who rely on the long-term, unemotional, data-gathering process we call "science" to form conclusions.
We see denialism everywhere these days. You can't turn on a news channel today without being bombarded with anti-science sentiment: climate change is a hoax, evolution is 'a theory that's out there,' a blastocyst is a person, Gardisil causes mental retardation. The list goes on and on.

Willingham on the damage caused by anti-science:
This clash of values between science and anti-science intersects every sphere of our lives. People turn to the anti-science practitioners and place their health and lives and their children's health and lives in jeopardy. People turn away from the conclusions of science based on available evidence and endanger everything from the food we eat and water we drink to the very balance of the biosphere. People turn away from educating our children in science, preferring the value of ignorance over the value of knowledge. People turn our nation away from being competitive by making a mockery of the value of knowledge and emphasizing instead the anti-science value of embracing half-truths and promoting scientific illiteracy. Were they able to spin in graves, our founding fathers, many of whom were extraordinary critical thinkers, would be spinning like tops to see the people of this nation they founded so proud in their emphatic and willful ignorance.

We live in a world in which, more than ever, critical thinking abilities and a broad and deep knowledge across the spheres of life and the rest of the physical world will be required tools for function and advancement. The anti-science emphasis on and exploitation of values of half-lies, ignorance, and illiteracy can only endanger us and the world around us, sometimes fatally. It's difficult for me to understand the mental processes of a person or a group of people who prefer ignorance and failure over method and evidence. But then again, my values don't involve resorting to playground childishness like "BOO!" as a retort to legitimate criticism.
Read Emily's entire post here. Share it. Tweet it to AoA, if you want. Warning: you will be blacklisted.