Posts tagged politics
Posts tagged politics
And this is why I have true brotherly love for this man and subsequently, why I love the tools of science.
Richard Dawkins Reads His Hate Mail
+ Richard Dawkins Answers Questions & Reads His Hate Mail
+ Richard Dawkins Answers Reddit Questions & Hate Mail
+ Richard Dawkins Interviews Ted Haggard
+ Richard Dawkins ….and Bill O’Reilly
+ Richard Dawkins on Faith | The Arrogance of Immortality | Imagining A World Without A God (Gods?) | Natural Selection
+ Richard Dawkins “What’s So Bad About Religion?”
+ Richard Dawkins | Age of Reason (4 Parts)
+ Richard Dawkins | Brainwashing Kids Since The Bronze Age
+ Richard Dawkins | An Appetite For Wonder
+ Richard Dawkins | Interview for The Reason Documentary Project(56:38)
Former Christian Fundamentalist: Science Robbed Me Of My Faith
Author Ed Suominen explains how evolutionary biology forced him to abandon creationism — and the church
Ed Suominen was raised in a small sect of Lutheran Christianity called Laestadianism. Of the 32,000 denominations into which Christianity has fractured, his is one of the more conservative. Members believe in the literal truth of the Bible, including the creation story. They eschew sins like drinking, dancing, watching television, wearing earrings, and playing school sports. They marry only within their own sect and believe God alone should decide how many children they have. Suominen followed the rules; he met and married the right kind of girl, and together they have 11 children.
But Suominen is also an engineer, trained at the University of Washington. He has been a patent agent and an inventor, and eventually his work with electrical and digital systems led him to notice something his church hadn’t taught him about: the power of natural selection. He was trying to optimize a design, when he came across a useful software tool:
“You set up an artificial chromosome with each digital ‘gene’ determining a parameter for some widget you want to design. Then you created a population of individual widgets by running simulations with different sets of randomly chosen parameters, and had the widgets ‘mate’ with each other. You repeated this process over many successive generations, throwing in some mutations along the way. Those widgets that worked best in your simulation had the best shot at having ‘children’ in the next generation.”
It was the beginning of the end. After discovering the practical value of evolutionary computation, Suominen began reading about evolutionary biology. The Genesis story fell apart and frayed the fabric of his Christian belief.
Outsiders sometimes scratch their heads about the dogged insistence of creationists that Adam and Eve actually existed 6,000 years ago in a perfect garden without predators or pain, until they took Satan’s bait and bit into a world-changing apple. How is it, 100 years after Darwin, that we are still fighting about what will be taught in biology classes? Why, in their determination to refute evolution, do some Christians seem intent on taking down the whole scientific enterprise?
The answer lies in Suominen’s lived experience. As he puts it, “You don’t have original sin without an original sinner. And without original sin…you don’t need a redeemer.” In other words, the central story of Christianity, the story of a perfect Jesus who becomes a perfect human sacrifice and saves us all relies on the earlier creation story.
After evolutionary computation cracked the walls of Suominen’s information silo, his curiosity and training as an engineer took over. He spent the next year consuming books about Christianity, by defenders of the faith and by critics. He wrote about his spiritual journey in a series of musings now published under the title “An Examination of the Pearl.”
Since evolution is what most compelled his fascination, he began exploring the various ways Christians try to reconcile biblical teachings and biology. The end result was a second book, “Evolving Out of Eden,” written with Robert Price, a Bible scholar and former Christian. Suominen launched the project torn between curiosity and a desire to affirm old beliefs. By the end, he confessed:
“I was raised a fundamentalist and spent four decades living as one; I’m still not ready to call myself an atheist. But after co-authoring this book, I just can’t see where there’s any room for a god.”
In a recent interview, Ed Suominen discussed his life-changing journey.
Valerie Tarico: Your book is about evolution, both biological and personal. You’ve been through a change in worldview that most people can only imagine. Does it feel disorienting?
Ed Suominen: Yes, it’s a tremendous change. But I feel much less disoriented than when I was battling cognitive dissonance every day trying to maintain a coherent worldview out of pieces that just wouldn’t fit together. I’d come home from church on Sunday and spend hours or even days trying to recover my intellectual integrity. One part of my brain would continuously play the ominous soundtrack from my childhood indoctrination, repeated in church every Sunday: Believe or be damned. Meanwhile, another part would list off the hundreds of issues that made “belief” impossible and dishonest. And evolution with all of its theological dilemmas headed up that list.
It’s wonderful to be able to stand up and look over that toxic fog of piety and just see, accepting reality for what it so clearly is. I am happier now than I ever was in the church, despite the social loss of leaving it.
VT: Do you ever find yourself wishing you’d never opened Pandora’s Box?
ES: My old church had its annual nationwide summer services right near our home this July. Here I was, within 20 miles of a gathering of around 2,000 members of “God’s Kingdom,” which considers itself the only true church on earth. There were people I’d grown up with, people I’d been with in the pews and on camping trips for my whole life. They stayed in their place, and I stayed in mine, an outsider now. I certainly felt some pangs of longing. But it was only about the people, not the institution that envelops and controls them.
When I listened online to the sermons preached during those services, I wondered how I’d ever taken any of it seriously. One was all about Noah and the ark, and how God’s patience had run out when believers started intermarrying with people from “the world.” It’s an ancient myth copied from the epic of Gilgamesh, and this guy is sitting there doing a gross misreading of the text while taking it all very literally otherwise. The story itself is so ridiculous that many people in the church don’t really buy it. Yet it’s one of those things that you really are expected to believe—the Bible is God’s word, not to be questioned.
VT: How have your 11 children and your wife responded to your changes?
ES: While I was still wrestling with all this, my wife turned to me one Sunday morning and said, “I know this is how we were raised, but I’m not buying it anymore.” She had been doing some reading, too, and that was that. I had to study and ponder and write, even for a while after she made her quiet, no-nonsense departure from the church. She is a wonderful, bright woman whom I love and admire very much.
I respect my children’s privacy too much to talk extensively about their beliefs or lack thereof. That’s their business. But I will say that they seem to all be doing just fine with the changes in my wife and me, from the oldest to the youngest. Our home is a place where they can be free to think and believe, or not believe, for themselves.
VT: Would you say you lost your faith gradually, or might you describe it as a series of plateaus, punctuated equilibrium?
ES: Your “series of plateaus” analogy is an excellent one. I recall a few defining moments, starting with the realization that my God of the Gaps was gone. Evolution provided an elegant and tangible answer to the question for which the guided, supernatural process of creation previously had been my only answer: “How could all of these amazing forms of life, myself included, have just happened to arise?”
Then there was the upsetting day when I spoke with a preacher whom I respected (and still do) after sharing with him some of my thoughts about evolution. I asked him if I really had to reject human evolution and believe in Adam and Eve to be a Christian. He was thoughtful about it, but his response made clear where I stood with respect to the faith we both held dear: Yes, the fall of humankind in Eden is a foundational point of Christian theology. I wandered around in a daze for a while, sad and scared, but realizing that he had only told me what I already suspected.
I enlisted my friend Robert M. Price to see if there was any plausible theological solution. Dr. Price had been serving as a sort of spiritual therapist for me, helping me deal with the issues I’d been finding with my religion once evolution had “cracked the walls of my information silo,” as you adeptly put it. At this point, our work together turned into a full-blown writing project, and together we plowed through books by Francis Collins, John Haught, Kenneth Miller, and others who claimed to make sense of Christianity in view of evolution. But to us, despite trying to approach the theology with an open mind (which Price does even as an atheist), the only thing sensible about their books were their eloquent defenses of evolutionary science.
VT: Most creationists seem pretty adept at deflecting the evidence for evolution. Why did it get you?
ES: I saw it happening right in front of me on my computer screen. As an engineer with lots of software experience, I understood what the computer was doing. Simulated organisms were evolving remarkable abilities to move, swim, etc., and nobody was designing them to do that. Random mutations and genetic crossover between the fittest individuals in the population produced a new, slightly more evolved population. Repeated over hundreds of generations, it worked.
My reading did nothing but confirm this. All of the arguments I saw against evolution were made by believers in defense of their faith. I tried to look at both sides of the story, but it became obvious that there was only one side with any credibility. The other was just wishful thinking and denial.
VT: Out of all of the ways in which believers have tried to reconcile evolutionary biology and the Christian tradition, which seem to you the most robust or credible?
ES: That’s an insightful and difficult question, because the plausibility of these writers in the realm of theology seems to be inversely proportional to their acceptance of the science. You can head in one direction or the other, but you can’t have it both ways, despite their protests that they can. One of the most eloquent and level-headed about the scientific findings and issues for traditional theology is John F. Haught. Yet his tedious appeals to the “drama” and “aesthetic intensity” of evolution are so far off our credibility meter that it would be difficult to summarize our conclusions without sounding uncharitable. Our view of all these sorts of evolutionary apologetics, his included, might be apparent from the title of one of our subheadings, “Shoveling After the Parade.”
The most robust attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable may well be Philip Gosse’s “omphalos” idea that the universe was created recently with the appearance of great age. Of course, God created Adam with a navel and trees with rings! They wouldn’t be recognizable without those “retrospective marks,” after all. (Christians are faced with the same issue concerning Jesus and his magic Y chromosome.) It’s ridiculous and reduces God to a cosmic cosplayer, but at least it doesn’t try to dismiss all of the Bible’s clear teachings about a young earth and special creation, or fancifully reinterpret 2,000 years of Christian theology.
VT: Your story makes people feel hopeful that change is possible, that individually and collectively we can change and grow. What should people who are invested in science and progress say to creationist friends and family members?
ES: The stakes are too high to expect much rational deliberation of the evidence, I’m afraid. For me, the evidence of evolution snuck in the back door when I wasn’t looking.
Perhaps the best thing to say to creationist friends and family is that you understand why they believe so strongly, and that you’ll be happy to help them whenever they might wish to look beyond those beliefs. The first and most productive step might be getting them to acknowledge, to themselves at least, that religion is the real motivation for every single argument against evolution.
Study found ‘a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity’ in 53 out of 63 studies
A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.
A piece of University of Rochester analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.
According to the study entitled, ‘The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations’, published in the ‘Personality and Social Psychology Review’, even during early years the more intelligent a child is the more likely it would be to turn away from religion.
In old age above average intelligence people are less likely to believe, the researchers also found.
One of the studies used in Zuckerman’s paper was a life-long analysis of the beliefs of 1,500 gifted children with with IQs over 135.
The study began in 1921 and continues today. Even in extreme old age the subjects had much lower levels of religious belief than the average population.
The review, which is the first systematic meta-analysis of the 63 studies conducted in between 1928 and 2012, showed that of the 63 studies, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while 10 showed a positive one.
Only two studies showed significant positive correlations and significant negative correlations were seen in a total of 35 studies.
The authors of the review looked at each study independently, taking into account the quality of data collection, the size of the sample and the analysis methods used.
The three psychologists carrying out the review defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience”.
Religiosity is defined by the psychologists as involvement in some (or all) facets of religion.
According to the review, other factors - such as gender or education - did not make any difference to the correlation between intelligence and religious belief.
The level of belief, or otherwise, did however vary dependent upon age with the correlation found to be weakest among the pre-college population.
The paper concludes that: “Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’.”
Criticisms of the conclusions include that the paper only deals with a definition of analytic intelligence and fails to consider newly identified forms of creative and emotional intelligence.
The psychologists who carried out the review also sought to pre-empt the secularist interpretation of the findings by suggesting that more intelligent people are less likely to have religious beliefs as they associate themselves with ideas around personal control.
"Intelligent people typically spend more time in school - a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits," the researchers wrote.
"More intelligent people get higher level jobs (and better employment (and higher salary) may lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs."
Occasionally, the Religious Right has to come up with secular justifications for its agenda.
Bill O’Reilly recently got into a little hot water with the religious right. The abrasive talk show host dared to suggest on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” that the anti-gay movement would be better off using secular arguments against same-sex marriage than resorting endlessly to biblical ones. “The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals,” O’Reilly argued, adding, “And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
The outcry was swift, and in true Christian right fashion, thoroughly disingenuous, with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Laura Ingraham trying to cast O’Reilly’s statements as some kind of attack on people’s religious beliefs. Not that they didn’t have cause for hurt feelings. After all, the religious right has already tried the strategy O’Reilly suggested. The lawyer arguing against same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court didn’t reference God or the Bible, but instead came up with a bunch of unconvincing but definitely secular claims. The real reason to be mad at O’Reilly is that he’s condescending, telling the religious right something it already knows, that in order to push its religious views on the public, it needs to dress them up in secular packaging.
Since the beginning, the Christian right has been aware that the First Amendment makes it impossible for them to use “God said so” to justify legislation. They’ve spent decades grafting secular reasons onto what are fundamentally attempts to foist their views on the rest of the country, often going out of their way to conceal the religious origins of their policy ideas. In response, I created this list of what the religious right wants; what nonsense secular reason they give for wanting it; and the actual, true reason, usually down to chapter and verse.
1) What they want: A rollback on environmental protections. This is but one of many ways the religious right has merged its interests with that of corporate America.
The secular reasons they give: Many on the Christian right scoff at the science of global warming. Sadly, Americans in general are resistant to the science of global warming, but white evangelical Christians are even worse than the general public. Pew Forum found in 2009 that 47% of Americans accept the science of climate change, but only 34% of white evangelicals. The objections the religious right offers are fed to them by oil industry lobbyists, such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council calling global warming theory “speculative.”
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: They justify this to themselves religiously coming and going. The fundamentalist Cornwall Alliance claims that belief in climate change is anti-Christian, because it “rests on and promotes a view of human beings as threats to Earth’s flourishing rather than the bearers of God’s image” and implies that God’s creation is “the fragile product of chance, not the robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting product of God’s wise design and powerful sustaining.” On the other side of it, as Ben Jervey of GOOD argued, 41% of Americans believe Jesus Christ will usher in Armageddon before 2050. If you believe the world is about to end, it seems pointless to make huge sacrifices to preserve its health into the future.
2) What they want: For the government to take money from the public school system and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers. They’ve had remarkable success at this by hijacking the larger, secular debate over education.
The secular reasons they give: The claim is that “school choice” creates competition among schools that improves educational outcomes. Public school charter systems are seen as an inadequate alternative, because they are supposedly not flexible enough.
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: They want the government to pay for the religious indoctrination of children. Even though the vouchers can, in theory, be spent on private secular schools, the way the program works in places like Louisiana makes it clear that this is about government-sponsored religious education.
3) What they want: No Equal Rights Amendment. While this battle to prevent the Constitution from being amended to give women equal rights, which the right won, was mostly fought in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Christian right-controlled legislatures occasionally take time to vote against it today.
The secular reasons they gave: In many ways, Phyllis Schlafly used the battle against the ERA to invent the modern conservative strategy of making bad faith secular arguments to advance a religious agenda. As Rachel Maddow recounts, Schlafly and her comrades claimed the ERA would mandate unisex bathrooms, make it illegal for women to be housewives, and destroy families.
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: The Bible is pretty clear that women are not equal to men, calling them “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) who must live “in silence” to “not usurp authority over man” (1 Timothy 2:12), because women are to basically worship their husbands, “and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
4) What they want: A ban on gay marriage. Often cast as “protecting” traditional marriage.
The secular reasons they give: The argument presented in favor of Prop 8 before the Supreme Court is that marriage was established to make sure children are raised by the parents who created them through sexual intercourse, and that expanding it to include gay couples (it’s already expanded to include stepfamilies and infertile couples) would redefine it in a way that would cause vague damage the anti-gay lawyer refused to describe.
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: The Old Testament harshly condemns homosexuality, saying, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). Christian fundamentalists have downgraded this simply to mean that their government shouldn’t endorse marriages that go against right-wing religious teachings.
5) What they want: To end the teaching of evolution in schools. This battle has been going on since at least the 1920s, and every time it comes around, the religious right gets a little better at hiding its religious motivations behind secularist claims.
The secular reasons they give: The current strategy is to claim that evolutionary theory is scientifically controversial, and therefore schools should “teach the controversy.” Clearly, they hope to give students reason to doubt the theory of evolution. In reality, there is no controversy. As the National Center for Science Education has stated, “There is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism of evolution.”
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: For Biblical literalists, evolution is an uncomfortable topic because the Bible says God created the world in the space of six days. While evolution correctly holds that human beings are primates who evolved from a common ancestor, the Bible teaches that God made them out of “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Why that is supposed to be less demeaning is hard to say.
6) What they want: To restrict access to abortion and contraception. Everyone knows the religious right has it out for abortion rights, but recently attacks on contraception access have also been increasing.
The secular reasons they give: Abortion is “baby-killing,” it’s unsafe for women, and it causes breast cancer and suicide. Emergency contraception is really “abortion” and birth control pills are unsafe. Telling kids just to abstain from sex is the only public health strategy we need. Condoms don’t work to prevent HIV.
All of these claims are lies, as is the secular pose that anti-choice activists take when promoting these lies.
The unconstitutional, actual religious reasons: Right from the beginning, the Bible is big on the idea that a woman’s role is to be frequently pregnant, whether she likes it or not. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). He commands it again to Noah: “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein” (Genesis 9:7).
So, in a very real sense, even when Bill O’Reilly is right, he’s wrong. He’s not wrong to say that social conservatives would do well to come up with secular arguments for their positions, instead of tell a country with strict protections for religious freedom to obey their interpretation of the Bible. He’s just wrong to think they don’t already know that. After all, they wrote the instruction manual.
And you can’t be content with this rule anywhere unless you are a “Supreme asshole”.
Labels frustrate me. Gay, straight, male, female, atheist, theist, Republican, Democrat - all of them do. Because we use these labels to sort people into these groups and make blanket assumptions about the lot of them based solely on these labels.
But when we assume characteristics about a person based on a label (even if it is one that they have applied to themselves), we are not allowing ourselves to truly know that person, and they get judged before we know anything about them.
People are far too complex to just be able to tell everything, or even anything, about them from a few adjectives. Someone might be a gay Democratic politician but they could still be hateful towards Jews. Someone with a PhD in theoretical physics could be a staunch Christian.
But we assume things about people - we assume that atheism is associated with intelligence or amorality (depending on the lens through which you look at it), theism with ignorance or morality. We assume that people born with a Y chromosome will fit into Male gender roles. We assume that a white straight male is automatically born into a better situation than a black gay female. We assume that teens are too stupid to think about anything except sex and music, and that adults are too busy thinking about more important things. We assume so many things about so many people that are completely arbitrary.
And I’m sick of it. If someone is an atheist, it means they do not believe that there is a God. It does not make them a better person than any Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew, nor does it make them a worse person. If someone is born with two X chromosomes, it means that they will have breasts and a vagina. It does not mean they must wear dresses instead of suits, it does not mean they cannot call themselves Steven. If someone is a Republican, or Conservative, it means they have a Conservative political ideology. It does not mean they hate black people, gay people, or poor people.
So please, I ask you, if you find yourself generalizing about whole groups, painting the world in these us vs. them (white vs. non-white, cis vs. LGBTQ, women vs. men, conservative vs. liberal, atheists vs. theists) ways, remind yourself that the world is NOT split up into good people and Death Eaters - it is FAR, FAR more complex than that.
Even though we are in a world where we interact with far more people than our brains evolved to interact with and treat as individual people, we must do our best to overcome this bias to sort others into these groups, and make assumptions about a person’s identity based on a particular facet of it.
VERY well said
Click here. Sign it. Reblog this. Tweet. Facebook. You know the drill.
Need I say more? Get this signed, and pass it on.
As much as we like to debate over religion, any disagreement will always be a secondary thought to keeping our world- and those on it- safe. No killing, no hurting, no taking away others’ rights. That’s the way it should be, no matter what creed you follow.
Some people are gay. Get over it!
It’s recently come out that here in the UK, some bus driver refused to do his job and left passengers stranded in the cold just because he didn’t agree with this advert.
I’m all for employees rights and shit, but when you pull a move like this- and for that kind of motivation- you don’t deserve to keep your job. Absolutely horrid.