Open thread

A very interesting synopsis of the escalating anti-religious movement within science.  “Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that ‘the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,’ or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for ‘progress in spiritual discoveries’ to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book ‘The God Delusion’ is a national best-seller. Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control. Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.”  It’s a very good read and I highly recommend it.  I also wholeheartedly agree with the concept of science more actively butting heads with mythology and its dangerous and anti-thinking rule over most people.  The truth is not to be found in scriptures or dogmas.  The universe is too vast and magnificent and frighteningly diverse to be the feeble and often cruel invention of some benevolent deity more concerned with who I love than with saving starving children or intervening in genocide.  No, poppets, science is where the answers are to be found if we are to understand in even the smallest way precisely who and what we are, and what marvels await us both out there and in the smallest of things right here on our own planet.  Science needs to stop rolling over for fanatics.  It’s time to use the same zeal and passion to preach the truth and to show the faithful how misguided and uninformed they really are.

This is very disturbing.  “The spread of the HIV/Aids pandemic continues unabated, with the number of people infected rising once more in some countries which had been thought to be beating the disease, according to the UN. [. . .] But in recent years the message on condoms has been diluted in favour of greater emphasis on sexual abstinence until marriage – in line with the thinking of the Bush administration, which is spending millions of dollars on HIV prevention and treatment. Critics say many women are not in a position to abstain from sex and that many are infected by their husbands.”  This religious fervor to preach abstinence as opposed to prevention when it comes to sex is horrific and endangering people around the globe.  So the perceived superior morality is really just a guise to inflict more pain and suffering on people.

Oh, isn’t that nice!  It’s a video of American troops teasing Iraqi kids and taunting them with fresh water.  It’s disgusting.  I’m sure that’ll win their hearts and minds, huh?  Yep, I’d say so.  Promise them fresh water and make them run for miles behind a speeding vehicle until they give up, all the while holding their hands out and begging for something to drink.  What’s happened to Americans…

Don’t miss the 48th Skeptics’ Circle for a great collection of critical thinking on a great many topics.  It’s a very good edition.

Tangled Bank #67 is all about giving thanks for science (get it? Thanksgiving…? ah, never mind).  This carnival offers the best science writing from across a broad spectrum of disciplines, so you’re apt to find at least one or two items that suit your fancy—if not a whole lot more.

A pathetic example of Dallas’ skewed priorities when it comes to crime.  “Over the last few days, [Dallas SWAT has] been raiding poker rooms all over the area, busting in with M-16s and even jackhammers to bravely protect us from people playing a game of skill with other adults. [. . .] Let’s keep in mind a few telling statistics. Dallas is one of the most violent cities in the nation, with a violent crime rate 3 times higher than the national average. The murder rate of 20.2 per 100,000 people is nearly 4 times the national average. Rape occured in Dallas about 50% more than the national average, while robbery and aggravated assault were more than double the national average. And yet the SWAT team seems to have all the time in the world to waste on stopping consenting adults from playing poker with one another.”

When they kick in your door…  “Last night Kathryn Johnston was home, alone. She’d lived in her house in Atlanta for 17 years. Since she was 92 and alone, she had a reasonable fear for her safety. So when unknown men kicked in her door, she opened fire on them with a handgun she had for her protection, striking three of the assailants. In return, they shot and killed her. Though the police know who the men were, they likely will not be prosecuted. That’s because they were plainclothes Atlanta police, acting legally on a warrant in a narcotics investigation. Obviously, a mistake was made somewhere along the line.”  This is a compelling and sad read, and it reiterates something I have said for a very long time: the War on Drugs™ is a disaster; drugs should be decriminalized and some should be legalized; all the funding going to this failed effort can be diverted to more important needs and programs; and the loss of rights, liberties, freedom, and life caused by this terrible policy should be ended.  Look at the fake drug scandal in Dallas.  Look at how full the jails are of petty drug criminals incarcerated for possession of a small amount of something or other, a problem that increases prison costs because we have to build more facilities to hold the real criminals, and a situation that often leads to real criminals being put back out on the streets where they pick up right where they left off.  Look at the billions and billions spent on stopping the drug trade that has served no useful purpose (had it even been marginally successful, drugs would not be as prolific now as they are, and they are more readily available and used by more people than ever).  Jim is right: It’s time to give up this stupid morality-based farce and do a major u-turn on our approach.  After all, why are alcohol and tobacco legal?  Can someone explain the difference without resorting to bad statistics, false science, and—again—religious morality (besides, I think the Bible talks about alcohol more than it does marijuana, right?)?

Leave a Reply