Archive for the ‘reason’ Category

just … horrible

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

Last night we picked my visiting friend Richard up from the Mall of America where he’d been doing the tourist thing – spending a whole day and a wad of cash there. We met him at 6ish then got something to eat. On the way out we were accosted by a disgusting wailing noise which was so repulsive I was a little bit sick into my mouth. It turned out that “Christian” “singer” Joy Williams was making an appearance in the atrium much to our misfortune. Words almost fail me. Many slack-jawed Republican lilywhite suburbanites gazing open-mouthed at her all confused as to how their repressive version of religion mixes with a skinny blond woman gyrating and holding a microphone near her mouth while singing stuff about, presumably, how great it is to hold hands and be a virgin for the Lord. As for the singing, imagine a shrill, extra-sugary version of all the blandest girl-singer stuff you’ve heard on the radio, turn it up and multiply it by 6.66. Man it was bad.

The worst was when we took Toby past. He started clapping. My own son! In a crowded elevator I rebuked him. Poor little guy was all confused. We hopefully flushed out his system in the car with a dose of They Might Be Giants, but I still feel icky.

manic street preacher

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

Well he wasn’t actually manic, but he was loud and kind of offensive and depressing. There is/was a guy shouting in the street outside my office about the coming rapture and how we should all repent and vote Republican etc. Someone shouted at him to shut up, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. By coincidence, SFGate’s Mark Morford notes today that not all Christians are offensive nutjobs. The first example of enlightened, progressive, non-bigoted Christians he mentions are of course Episcopalians.

letter to the post

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

I just read an article on the Washington Post website which was so downright nonsensical, that I felt the need to write the following letter to the author and the editor:

Dear Mr Mathews

Thank you for your article on Intelligent Design. I felt moved to write to you because the premise of the article is flawed.

Firstly, I completely agree that it is important for students to learn to question what they are being taught. In a math class, learning proofs for equations helps with this. In history class, I agree that questioning “facts” is a very important part of an education. I also agree that biological principles should be questioned. In fact many areas of biology question and refine the principles of evolution and inheritance, and rightly so. The flaw in your article, however, occurs when you suggest that ID could be used as an adjunct or alternative to science. It is crucially important to remember that the theory of Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory – it is merely conjecture based on the philosophical idea that “biological systems are very complex, therefore something/someone must have designed them”. There is no way to prove or disprove this using scientific principles, as there is with the theory of evolution. No papers have ever been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals which support the ID theory. No science has ever been advanced by the ID theory; I’m sure you realize that a huge portion of biological research and advance could not have happened without scientific understanding of the theory of evolution. You used the examples of the perpetual motion machine in physics class, and the big bang theory in earth science. I agree that these should be taught in science classes, because they are based on scientific theory. Intelligent Design is not. If it is introduced to the science classroom it can only validly be used to show what a non-scientific theory looks like. For this to be treated as a scientific theory would undermine our children’s educations and turn American science into a laughing-stock.

By the way, the directors and supporters of the Discovery Institute do everything in their power to make their theories into political footballs, as is evidenced by proponents’ plans to have stickers on biology textbooks and take the teaching of evolution out of school curricula.

hard decisions

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

There’s a high-profile story going on at the moment where there have been court appeals and counter-appeals by the husband and family of a woman who has been in what doctors call a “persistent vegatative state” after being brain damaged seven years ago. The husband, who is the legal guardian, argues that she would not have wanted to be kept alive in the state she’s in and that she should be allowed to die by being taken off life support. Her parents and brother are arguing against this. It’s all rather a horrible story, not just in of course the life and death situation, but the fact that there’s so much political and media grandstanding, with contradictions all over the place, as noted by Paul and others.
It reached new lows for me when I noticed the following paragraph in today’s Washington Post update:

“The Schindlers’ attorneys argued that allowing their brain-damaged daughter to die before the federal courts can review her case would violate Congress’s will and lead to the ‘damnation of her soul’ because it would conflict with her religious beliefs.”

Welcome back, 17th century! They should know perfectly well that the courts, at least in the United States, don’t give a hoot about souls. Courts are here to uphold the laws of states and the Union, not religious beliefs which people may or may not have.

laughing stock

Monday, March 21st, 2005

One of my regular reads, pharyngula, frequently makes the case that the current American obsession with creationism, which the religious “right” don’t believe should exist with scientific reasoning and weighing of evidence, is undermining education and making America stupid. I agree – in my opinion creationism and evolution are two different things – the former is a belief, relying on faith (more specifically a chapter or so of one book); the latter is a strongly supported scientific theory, relying on enormous amounts of evidence and surviving considerable amounts of rational scientific criticism, which helps to underpin almost all biological science. So it is with a heavy heart that I read this piece from the BBC about how IMAX cinemas are becoming too concerned about a religious backlash to present movies which mention evolution. Apparently blinkered religious nuts are making it so that children can’t gain a good scientific education, and the American political and religious landscape will increasingly be a laughing stock.