Richard Dawkins Speaks to CNN About Scientific Literacy, Morality & Creationism

CNN has a nice in-depth video interview with writer/biologist Richard Dawkins. It's definitely worth your time if you care about scientific literacy.

A few highlights:

On whether or not evolution should be taught to young children:
You can't even begin to understand biology, you can't understand life, unless you understand what it's all there for, how it arose - and that means evolution. So I would teach evolution very early in childhood. I don't think it's all that difficult to do. It's a very simple idea. One could do it with the aid of computer games and things like that.

I think it needs serious attention, that children should be taught where they come from, what life is all about, how it started, why it's there, why there's such diversity of it, why it looks designed. These are all things that can easily be explained to a pretty young child. I'd start at the age of about 7 or 8.

There’s only one game in town as far as serious science is concerned. It’s not that there are two different theories. No serious scientist doubts that we are cousins of gorillas, we are cousins of monkeys, we are cousins of snails, we are cousins of earthworms. We have shared ancestors with all animals and all plants. There is no serious scientist who doubts that evolution is a fact.

On the source of morality:
We have very big and complicated brains, and all sorts of things come from those brains, which are loosely and indirectly associated with our biological past. And morality is among them, together with things like philosophy and music and mathematics. Morality, I think, does have roots in our evolutionary past. There are good reasons, Darwinian reasons, why we are good to, altruistic towards, cooperative with, moral in our behavior toward our fellow species members, and indeed toward other species as well, perhaps.

There are evolutionary roots to morality, but they’ve been refined and perfected through thousands of years of human culture. I certainly do not think that we ought to get our morals from religion because if we do that, then we either get them through Scripture – people who think you should get your morals from the Old Testament haven’t read the Old Testament – so we shouldn’t get our morals from there.

Nor should we get our morals from a kind of fear that if we don’t please God he’ll punish us, or a kind of desire to apple polish (to suck up to) a God. There are much more noble reasons for being moral than constantly looking over your shoulder to see whether God approves of what you do.

Where do we get our morals from? We get our morals from a very complicated process of discussion, of law-making, writing, moral philosophy, it’s a complicated cultural process which changes – not just over the centuries, but over the decades. Our moral attitudes today in 2012 are very different form what they would have been 50 or 100 years ago. And even more different from what they would have been 300 years ago or 500 years ago. We don’t believe in slavery now. We treat women as equal to men. All sorts of things have changed in our moral attitudes.


Oh, for Xenu's Sake: Scientologists 'Helping' Vietnam's Agent Orange Victims By Providing 'Hubbard Method' 'Detoxification'

Via Washington Post:
Vietnamese with ailments linked to Agent Orange are undergoing a “detoxification” treatment involving saunas and vitamins that was developed by the Church of Scientology and which has been criticized as pseudoscientific.

Scientologists use the “Hubbard Method” to try to cure drug addiction and alcoholism. The church set up a center in New York after the 9/11 attacks offering a similar service for first responders who may have been exposed to toxins.

A group of 24 people arrived for treatment at a military hospital in Hanoi for a month, free of charge, Dau Xuan Tuong, deputy administrator at the Vietnam Association of Agent Orange Victims, said Thursday. He said 22 people underwent the treatment in 2011 in northern Thai Binh province.

“Their health has improved after the treatment, and some saw their chronic illnesses disappear,” he said. “We need to do more scientific research to determine its impact.”
Ya think, Doc? You do realize that science and Scientology don't really have anything to do with each other, right?

And who's funding this garbage?
U.S. Embassy spokesman Christopher Hodges said Washington was not funding the program and said “we are not aware of any safe, effective detoxification treatment for people with dioxin in body tissues.”

It wasn’t known what other medical care the participants were receiving. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard opposed psychiatry and the use of drugs for mental illness and addictions, but church members accept conventional medical treatment for physical conditions.

Actor Tom Cruise co-founded the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, where participants were each given vitamins and nutritional counseling and participated in daily exercise and sauna sessions. He defended it at the time as helping the workers recover.

Critics, many of them scientists, have said there is no evidence the “Hubbard Method” does any good.

It was unclear if the Vietnamese government was aware of those concerns before agreeing to try the project.
Full story here.


Pat Robertson: Democrats Are The 'Party Of Gays, Godlessness And Whatever Else'

It's gotten to the point that it would be newsworthy if Pat Robertson didn't say something completely insane in his broadcast. He's a broken record of bigotry, senility, and illogic.

That being said, Robertson is downright outraged that the Democratic platform openly embraces marriage equality and the right to abortion.

Robertson, speaking on The 700 Club:
Back in the 1850s or 60s there was a charge that one party was the party of rum, Romanism and rebellion. I don’t know what you label the Democrats now but it’s the party of gays, godlessness and whatever else. I mean, same-sex marriage is in the platform, they want to go along with that as a right, I’m just astounded.

They can’t defend it and you ask yourself, you’re going to go before the American people and that’s going to be the face they’re going to present to America. You have insulted the Catholic Church with your rules, you have insulted right-to-work states, you have insulted certain union groups with your stand on the pipeline and now you’re going after God, it makes no sense but that’s what they want to do.


Chuck Norris' Anti-Obama Video Warns of '1,000 Years of Darkness'

Via Christian Post:

American actor Chuck Norris has made an anti-Obama video with wife, Gena Norris. The couple recently released the YouTube video that invokes God and Ronald Reagan, and encourages Evangelical voters to use their power to oust President Barack Obama from his position as Commander-in-Chief in the upcoming November election. Norris begins the video by saying that "our great country and freedom are under attack," and that the U.S. may be "lost forever" if changes are not made.

"We can no longer sit quietly or stand on the sidelines and watch our country go the way of socialism, or something much worse," Norris warns.

 Norris then encourages Evangelical voters to head to the polls to have their voices heard. According to the video, 30 million Evangelicals failed to vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Gena Norris implies that this religious absence at the polls led to Obama's victory four years ago. 


'Incredibly Ironic': Equality NC Responds To NC Values Coalition's Cries Of Victimization

This weekend, the anti-LGBT organization known as the NC Values Coalition sent a strange email alerting their donors to Equality NC's latest campaign video.

NCVC's email claims that NC Equality's video, "Payback Challenge," which features footage of an Amendment One supporter shooting holes in an anti-Amendment One yard sign, was a "thinly-veiled threat against supporters of traditional marriage and can have no other purpose than to incite hatred." (See the full email here.)

The email was clearly a classic example out of the Religious Right playbook: the victimizer playing the victim.

I reached out to NC Equality's Stuart Campbell to get his take on the claims.

"We find it incredibly ironic that the NC Values Coalition would condemn Equality NC for recounting the shooting of one of our supporter's signs when they were deafeningly silent during the Amendment One campaign with their condemnation when the actual shooting occurred," stated Campbell.

"This latest attack comes from the same organization that partnered with the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage and various SPLC-identified hate groups to support writing discrimination into our state's constitution--an organization that would now, speaking out of the other side of their mouth, attempt to deflect its own hate-filled agenda by calling us "out of line."

Their twisting of the truth demonstrates that the NC Values Coalition will stoop to any level to promote their own agenda of discrimination and division, and that it has never been more important to unite our supporters in our fight for equality."

To learn more about Equality NC and to help them in their fight for equality, visit their website here.


The Bizarro World Of The NC Values Coalition

The NC Values Coalition sent out a fundraising email yesterday that is jaw-droppingly insane.

Let me walk you through it. Here goes:
This week we are reminded that our fight for traditional marriage did not end on May 8th.

EqualityNC has released a very disturbing video targeting our own Tami Fitzgerald and pro-marriage legislators under their "Payback Challenge" campaign. [emphasis theirs]
Let's stop for a second before we get to the crazy part.

Just so we're all clear, Equality NC's "Payback Challenge" is, in their own words, a fundraising drive "dedicated to making strategic investments in key legislative and state races in North Carolina’s primary and general elections." Disturbing stuff, right?

The "Payback Challenge" video's goal is pretty simple. First, it is intended to remind LGBT North Carolinians and equality-supporting allies that Amendment One was very much "personal," and very much "payback," despite the insistence from Tami Fitzgerald and Vote For Marriage NC that it wasn't.  Secondly, the video is to urge LGBT North Carolinians and pro-equality allies to donate to Equality NC who are working to help elect pro-equality candidates in the 2012 election. Horrible, right?

Here's the video, before we move on with NCVC's facepalm-inducing logic.

Pretty effective, right? Sometimes, organizations like the NCVC do all the work for you. All you need is to hold a mirror up to them, and you have yourself all the ammunition you need (no pun intended, seriously).

Okay, back to the hilarious NCVC email:
The video - which can be found here - overlays gunshots and video of a man shooting at an anti-amendment sign with video of NC Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald praising the passage of the marriage amendment on election night.

The video is a thinly-veiled threat against supporters of traditional marriage and can have no other purpose than to incite hatred. [emphasis theirs]

Their purpose is clear and it is distasteful in light of the shooting incident that occurred just a few weeks ago when a volunteer at a Washington DC homosexual rights group walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council and started shooting. This video is innapropriate, and EqualityNC has crossed the line. [emphasis, again, theirs]

We do not expect EqualityNC to agree with us. But we do expect them to communicate responsibly and civilly. We condemn this video and hope that Americans from all walks of life will join us.

Friends, we at the NC Values Coalition will consistently and constantly defend traditional marriage. In spite of their threats.

Please stand with us against their attacks and join us in condemning this disturbing video.

Jessica Wood
Communications Director, NC Values Coalition
Wait, what?


(Also, "In spite of their threats" is not a sentence, but let's not quibble over grammar.)

Also, these are very likely the same folks who thought it was silly and overreaching that people got upset when Sarah Palin released a map with crosshairs targeting legislators who voted for Obama's health care bill.

But I digress.

So, back to the email. "Equality NC's purpose is quite clear"? Um, you mean, that they're showing people how hateful and violent your fellow anti-LGBT, "pro-marriage" supporters were in the weeks leading up to the Amendment One vote?

And while nobody on the pro-equality side is condoning the lone act of violence against hate group The Family Research Council, there is nothing -- nothing -- in the video that even remotely suggests that compassionate pro-equality North Carolinians go out, purchase an arsenal, and shoot anti-gay activists and hate group members.

This is what you do, people, when you have nothing but your own religious bigotry. You make stuff up. You project your own hatred, and the hatred of those who share your beliefs, onto your opponents -- opponents who want nothing more than to allow all of their fellow North Carolinians to be treated equally and to not be discriminated against because of their natural traits.


Study: Supernatural Reasoning Increases With Age

Via Futurity:
As we age, we often rely more—not less—on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, research shows. 
“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems—from God to atoms to evolution—they engage in coexistence thinking,” says Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology the University of Texas at Austin and the study’s lead author. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.” 
Legare says the findings, published in the journal Child Development, contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge. 
“The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures,” Legare notes. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.” 
The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare says. 
“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare suggests. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education, or technology.”
Full story here.

'The Fighter' Boxer Pulls Support From Scott Brown, Fights For Marriage Equality

Micky Ward, the Massachusetts boxer who inspired Oscar-nominated film The Fighter, has delivered a blow to Scott Brown.

“I can’t support Scott Brown. I just can’t do it,” Ward told The Sun of Lowell after agreeing to back Brown, who is up against progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren. “I found out Scott is anti-union and I’m a Teamster guy. I found out he’s also against gay marriage, and I say, if you love someone, you should have the same rights no matter who you are.”

(h/t Queerty)