Archive for the ‘reason’ Category

cooking and evolution

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Obviously I believe that humans were created exactly as they are now, almost exactly 6000 years – 2 days ago, but if hypothetically evolution of the human species was true, this is a fascinating article about human development and its interaction with cooking.

I think there are a small number of things which set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom – possibly music (although birds, whales etc make music too), possibly self-awareness (although anyone who has owned a cat or dog will know that they are self-aware, and elephants can identify themselves in mirrors) and possibly language (etc), but I think that preparing and cooking food is a pretty clear difference.

words well written

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Further to my last post, here’s a moving and worth-reading piece from the Archbishop of Dublin.

shaken to the core

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

There has been awful news coming from Ireland this week – the Commission into Child Abuse in Roman Catholic institutions was released after nine of years of study, and the results are completely shattering. In summary it reports that over a period of at least 60 years “sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys’ institutions. It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions. Schools were run "in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff".” About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s. More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there. And one of the worst things is that the Church leadership knew that this was going on and did little or nothing to stop it. Furthermore, the Christian Brothers have successfully sued to prevent the names of the criminals to be published, and to limit liability of their organization. I have no idea how they managed to pull that off, but it is cowardly and repulsive.

These children were subject to emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse over years, treated like criminals and slaves and denied the most basic of human comforts and legal rights.

Another aspect of this which is truly repulsive has been some of the reaction of Church leadership. There have been some who have spoken about their sorrow, but they are rather feeble-looking compared to the following.

Consider, for example, what retired U.S. Catholic Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, who has himself been accused of child abuse, had to say: “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature. [I] Accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it’.”

Or this quote – it’s from 2002 in response to the Boston abuse scandal, but it has been quoted in response to this case too. Fr. Roger J. Landry said “No matter how sinful a priest is, provided that he has the intention to do what the Church does — at Mass, for example, to change bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, or in confession, no matter how sinful he is personally, to forgive the penitent’s sins — Christ himself acts through that minister in the sacraments.” So it’s about intention, not about actions? Maybe there’s a theological case for that, but when the actions are systematic abuse, you may be on shaky ground.

The president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, had this to say:

Reuters is reporting that “Irish Priests Beat, Raped Children,” yet the report does not justify this wild and irresponsible claim. Four types of abuse are noted: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional. Physical abuse includes “being kicked”; neglect includes “inadequate heating”; and emotional abuse includes “lack of attachment and affection.” Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: fully 82 percent of the incidents took place before 1970. As the New York Times noted, “many of them [are] now more than 70 years old.” And quite frankly, corporal punishment was not exactly unknown in many homes during these times, and this is doubly true when dealing with miscreants.

Regarding sexual abuse, “kissing,” and “non-contact including voyeurism” (e.g., what it labels as “inappropriate sexual talk”) make the grade as constituting sexual abuse. Moreover, one-third of the cases involved “inappropriate fondling and contact.” None of this is defensible, but none of it qualifies as rape. Rape, on the other hand, constituted 12 percent of the cases. As for the charge that “Irish Priests” were responsible, some of the abuse was carried out by lay persons, much of it was done by Brothers, and about 12 percent of the abusers were priests (most of whom were not rapists).

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.

I think that’s worth examining, while you lift your jaw from the floor at the hubris and insensitivity. Firstly “hardly draconian”, and using when they happened. Bear in mind that this wasn’t happening to kids in school who could go back to their parents and complain (although that would be bad enough). This was happening to children in institutions run by the people who were abusing them. There was no escape. The fact that there was lack of attachment and affection makes it even worse. These children had no families apart from the people in authority who treated them like dirt.

He seems to defend the fact that only 12% of the abuses were actually rapes, rather than the other deeply inappropriate conduct. Considering how many children were abused – a few thousand – I think that’s an insanely high amount. One commenter I read today said it was like the line in Father Ted: "We’re not all like that. Say if there’s two hundred million priests in the world, and 5% of them are pedophiles– that’s still only ten million!" I don’t know what Donahue is trying to get at here, but it’s not pretty.

Then there’s the comment by outgoing Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor: “He said, rather controversially perhaps, that a lack of faith is ‘the greatest of evils.’ He blamed atheism for war and destruction, and implied it was a greater evil even than sin itself.”

And another evil apparently is being gay and wanting to get married – the Catholic Church in Maine is being investigated by the US Inland Revenue Service because they are accused of violating tax rules by helping a referendum campaign aimed at repealing the state’s new same-sex marriage law. So at least we’ve got our priorities straight. Let’s also not forget the little girl in South America who was excommunicated a few months ago because her father had raped her and her mother arranged for her to have an abortion because her life was in danger because of the pregnancy.

Anyway. I apologize for ranting at you, reader, but I sort of needed to get it off my chest. I knew that there were many shady things going on in the Church, following the abuse scandals here in America, but this somehow takes things to a different level. It just seems so much worse. And I have to wonder, where was God in all this. I would imagine that at least some of these poor little kids prayed for help, prayed for release from their nightmares. I’m aware that it was actual humans committing the abuses, not God, but they were part of God’s Church and you would think they were lead by scripture, and assume that they prayed too. But the help didn’t come, and clearly many faith leaders are continuing to demean the victims.

this man is clearly an idiot

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, a poster child for Republicans: “Joe” the “Plumber”:

In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?

At a state level, it’s up to them. I don’t want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it’s wrong. People don’t understand the dictionary—it’s called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It’s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we’re supposed to do—what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we’re supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I’ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they’re people, and they’re going to do their thing.

Ugh – God and bigotry using God to justify bigotry.

victory for anti-bigotry

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Yes it’s been ages since I’ve posted, so to make up for it here are two heart-warming tales of young, decent people standing up against madcap bigotry – in both these cases, against the nastiness that is the Westboro Baptist Church, fronted by Fred Phelps. He has a history of really nasty anti-gay protesting, often outside funerals of US Army victims of war, because apparently America is a hotbed of gayness, and therefore the soldiers deserved it.

Victory number one: The Phelps people were planning to protest outside Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, because apparently Walt Whitman might have been gay or something. But the school had other ideas:

At the 2:10 p.m. dismissal, 500 students issued forth from the campus and lined up, several students deep, along the police tape, across Whittier Boulevard from the congregants. They alternately chanted the school name and “Go home!” — drowning out voices from across the street.

Faculty had spun the event into an interdisciplinary lesson. English teachers spent the day on Whitman’s verse. Social studies teachers led a unit on tolerance. Math teachers fanned through the crowd, attempting a head count.

It was the first taste of protest for many Whitman students, and perhaps the first time they had paid much mind to their namesake.

“This is my school, and this is where I live, and that makes it personal to me,” said Maddie Oliver, 18, a senior. Along with others, she wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the Whitman passage “Let your soul stand cool and composed.” Principal Alan Goodwin helped choose the slogan, hoping students would see its wisdom, he said.

Rebekah Phelps-Davis, daughter of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps, said it was “the duty of the servants of God to go where the message needs to be heard.”

Susan Russell, 17, a junior, said she hoped the publicity would “highlight how ridiculous they are. I mean, that sign — ‘You will eat your babies’ — that doesn’t even mean anything.”

Victory number two: the Phelps people protested outside a school in California, where a production of “Rent” was to be staged. Once again, both teachers and students had more enlightened and, frankly, beautiful ideas:

A handful of members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which is known for its anti-gay protests, vowed to come to the campus to demonstrate against what it saw as the godless enablers of homosexuality. By midday Friday, the protesters had arrived. There were three of them, carrying signs that said, “[Gays] Are Beasts,” among others.

As they gathered on the sidewalk, several students came together in counter-protest on the other side of the street. Within minutes, more than 200 — some wearing rainbow tie-dye shirts and holding peace signs — stood sentry in front of the campus, clutching signs that said, “Support Love,” “God Hates No One” and “Love Is Not a Sin.”

The students turned the protest into a mini-celebration, singing songs from the musical and breaking into the school’s own fight song. A couple ran through the crowd in swim trunks, with the words “God Loves Gays” written across their chests. One was wrapped in a rainbow-colored cloth. Another wore a handmade shirt that read, “Love Is Equal.”

At one point, several students ran across the street to stand near the protesters. They shouted, “God loves gays and lesbians too,” and waved their signs at passing cars. Minutes later, Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, and his supporters walked away, taking their signs with them.

not so elegant

Friday, March 6th, 2009

A great page on Wired today – 12 elegant examples of evolution. Some totally cool stuff, until you scroll down the page and read the completely non-evolved comments of the ridiculous and ignorant evolution deniers who seem to feel the need to trumpet their nonsense without any kind of knowledge or humility. I was all inspired by wonders of nature and of science and of human ingenuity, and now I’m feeling a bit deflated. Oh well. It’s worth a look, just don’t read as far as the comments.

faith healing

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I saw a link today to a rather insane plan in the UK to “overcome whatever obstacles and difficulties we may face as a country, an economy and as individuals”:

For exactly two minutes on March 6th at 11.00am our consortium of psychics and healers will act as a channel for the positive thoughts of the entire country.

Um. A channel, to where? And what will that do? Also, how many actually positive thoughts are there in Britain? I remember an American comedian in the UK talking about why people say “Have a nice day” in America but not in Britain: because Americans might forget to have a nice day, but it’s not actually possible to have an entirely nice day in Britain.

Anyway back to this article, don’t worry, because:

It is a proven scientific fact that thinking about something often causes it to happen. Some call this quantum physics.

I’m not sure that this is a proven scientific fact, are you? And it only “often” causes it to happen? I wonder who the “some” are who call this quantum physics – I would guess that they are almost entirely not physicists.

worth reading

Monday, January 12th, 2009

We’re getting close to Feb 12, 2009, which is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and will be celebrated by many/some as Darwin Day. One science writer has taken a cue from’s recent, and excellent, blogging the Bible series to do a similar series by reading On the Origin of Species and writing about it chapter by chapter (here’s the set-up and here’s chapter 1, about variation through domestication). Fascinating stuff, and I’m excited to keep following this series on this most amazing man and theory.

not much hope

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

The news from Israel and Gaza about the ongoing violence is pretty nasty at the moment, to say the least. There’s so much history and antagonism from both sides, and I just wish that the human reflex to try to resolve everything through violence wasn’t so pervasive. Apparently, according to this guy, it’s also a godly reflex too (and I’m sure there are plenty of people on the other side who could sound equally objectionable). Sheesh.

that’s all right then

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Interesting point from the US Representative from near where I live (one Michelle Bachmann) – we don’t need to worry about saving the planet because that was all taken care of 2,000 years ago. Ideal.

I think I need a “What is wrong with people?” category in my blog.