Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meta-Atheism - A New Tool for Unbelievers?

Christopher Hitchens has an op-ed piece posted on the Council for Secular Humanism website that caught my attention. Most of it is Hitchens slamming Mother Teresa in his usual biting and brilliant prose. But there is one bit, I think, that brings up a subject that should really be explored in more depth by the freethinking community. With regard to the priests who molested children, Hitchens says,

Their foul crime is not one of hypocrisy. No priest who sincerely believed even for ten seconds in divine judgment could conceivably endanger his immortal soul in this way, and those in the hierarchy who helped protect such men from punishment in this world are equally and obviously guilty of a hardened and obscene cynicism.

Upon reading this statement, I was immediately reminded of an article written by the ever insightful UMD Philosophy Professor Georges Rey on what he calls Meta-Atheism. You can find the full article here and a nice summary here. The basic idea, though, is that many of those who profess religious belief do not actually believe, and that their unbelief is demonstrated in their actions. If one truly believes that upon death a true Christian rises to heaven to rest in the arms of god, then funerals shouldn't be so somber, and Christians should not fear death, but rather welcome it. But this is not the case. And it seems to me that if this is right, freethinkers should use it to their advantage.

If Rey's thesis (and that expressed by Hitchens) is true, this may serve as an inroad for those who wish to see the light of reason illuminate the darkness that faith has brought to the minds of so many. It would be one more argument to use against the religious believer, one more contradiction to force the theist to face. We should continue to point out the evils that religious has wraught, and the irrationality inherent in belief systems based on faith, rather than evidence, but we should include in our arsenal the reminder that with regard to much of what the religious claim to believe, it is not just that they fail to practice what they preach, but they fail to behave as though their beliefs were true.

In addition, making it clear to people that they do not behave as though they really believe might make it a bit easier for them to accept unbelief. They are, if Rey and Hitchens are right, halfway there already.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Sign the Open Letter From American Feminists

Kathy Pollitt at the Nation has just drafted an open letter from American feminists protesting the media's misrepresentation of us as indifferent to the cause of women around the world. I just signed it. And so should you. American feminists are not only painfully aware of the plight of our sisters around the world, but have worked hard to make things better for them. The media's indication otherwise is just another attempt to make feminism look bad. And why on earth would they want to do that, I wonder?

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Problem With Mixing Faith and Politics

Ira Chernus has an article over at AlterNet about how having faith in politics is damaging to our democracy. While I couldn't agree more with his thesis, I have to disagree with his reasoning.

When faith and politics are allowed to mix the result is disasterous. Anyone who disagrees with this statement needs look no further than the theocratic states across the sea to see violent and repressive counterexamples to his view. But what is it about this blending that is dangerous? According to Chernus, it is the certainty that comes with religious belief systems:

When religious language enters the political arena in this way, as an end in itself, it always sends the same symbolic message: Yes, Virginia (or Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina) there are absolute values, universal truths that can never change. You are not adrift in a sea of moral chaos. Elect me and you're sure to have a fixed mooring to hold you and your community fast forever.

This notion of absolute truth, Chernus tell us, is antithetical to democracy:

The essence of our system is that we, the people, get to choose our values. We don't discover them inscribed in the cosmos. So everything must be open to question, to debate, and therefore to change. In a democracy, there should be no fixed truth except that everyone has the right to offer a new view -- and to change his or her mind. It's a process whose outcome should never be predictable, a process without end. A claim to absolute truth -- any absolute truth -- stops that process.

This sort of anti-realism, embedded within the relativism that Chernus takes to be central to democracy, is the result of the postmodernist view point that has infected both the academy and, now, the general consciousness. But the postmodernist's core thesis of relativism is at best false and at worst completely meaningless gibberish. The core of our democracy is not that there is no absolute truth "written in the cosmos". If there weren't, science would be a futile enterprise, and our debates over policy would be completely pointless. If there is no truth to be found, then there is no reason for us to argue over what it is, and the search for it that is the foundation of science is nothing more than a quest for an illusion.

The core of our democracy is not relativism. Rather, it the notion that the people have the right to govern themselves. In order for this to work, however, we must be allowed to debate the proper way to govern ourselves. We must be allowed to reason together to determine the best course of governance. But inherent in the idea that there is a best course of governance is the notion that there is a fact of the matter. Either a certain policy is the best or it is not. The free market place of ideas, without which democracy would be a sham, is how we go about trying to figure out what the best policy is. The problem with bringing faith into the mix is not its claim that there are absolute truths, but rather its claim that it has access to these absolute truths without any evidence.

Public debate, the cornerstone of a free society in which the governed are also the governors, succeeds only when those who are involved defend their claims using reason and empirical data. Any faith based belief system violates this. Faith, by definition, is belief without evidence. The faithful make their claims without justification. Faith, then, does not play by the rules of the game. Rather than bringing a sound argument, or good empirical data, to the marketplace, faith brings only itself. And this is why faith is detrimental to our democracy. Rather than adding to the discourse, faith provides only a distraction - an easy way out. Faith erodes our democracy by giving people an easy way to avoid moving the discussion forward. It erodes our democracy by allowing people to make quick policy decisions without having to think about them. The problem is not that the faithful claim that there is an absolute truth; it is that by putting their faith into the sphere, they prevent us from discovering what that truth really is.

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Are You A Terrorist? Look Again.

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. Sounds okay, right? It's just our congress trying to keep us safe from the evil terrorists again. Those of us who have been paying attention to what actually goes into congressional attempts to "keep America safe", however, are wary of the consequences of yet another law that focuses on security. And we should be. As an article at AlterNet makes clear, the Act is extraordinarily vague in defining what it seeks to prevent. So vague, in fact, that you might just fit the bill. Long quote below the fold.

The initial text of H.R. 1955 states its aim clearly enough before falling into obfuscation -- "to prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes" -- a characteristic that could be argued to be its defining template. Speaking of definitions (or the lack thereof), H.R. 1955 defines "homegrown terrorism" and "violent radicalization" nebulously; the former is merely "the use, planned use or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives," while the latter means "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change." Ideologically based violence, in turn, is defined as "the use, planned use or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious or social beliefs."

I'm pretty sure that every socialist and anarchist I know fits this description, even though they would never plant a bomb or fire a gun. But they sure do think about it, and talk about it. Anyone who has ever thought that we need to scrap it and start all over again, or who has an ideological perspective that differs from those in power, could easily be viewed as a homegrown terrorist. Pretty much every fundie I know fits this description as well, although I'm pretty sure that, despite their actually having terrorists in their ranks, they won't have to worry. They run the show, after all.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

PAS for Men

The Reproductive Rights blogsphere has been buzzing about the new trend in the anti-choice movement - men's PAS. It all started with this article in the LA Times. And now, there is an excellent article over at AlterNet about this nonsense and how it might pose a danger for reproductive rights.

PAS, or "post abortion syndrome" has been something that the anti-choice crowd has been harping on for some time. It's modeled on PTSD, but, unlike PTSD, there is no real scientific evidence that PAS exists even in women who have had abortions. This hasn't dissuaded anti-choicers from now claiming that men experience it too. Oh, pobrecitos!

Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that there are going to be a wide range of emotional reactions to an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, and to an abortion. Different people are going to react differently both to the situation and to the choice that they make. But a syndrome? If there were some actual evidence, then maybe I'd sit up and take notice, but there isn't. And what the anti-choice crowd doesn't seem to notice (or perhaps, doesn't care about) is that even if PAS existed, this would still not be an argument for making abortion illegal. The fact that the exercise of my rights has an emotional impact on you doesn't mean that I shouldn't have those rights. Unless there are some premises added there, all you've got is a wild non-sequitur.

On a side note, I find this part of the oh-so-woeful story told in the NY Time article particularly telling:

Chris Aubert, a Houston lawyer, felt only indifference in 1985 when a girlfriend told him she was pregnant and planned on an abortion. When she asked if he wanted to come to the clinic, he said he couldn't; he played softball on Saturdays. He stuck a check for $200 in her door and never talked to her again.
Aubert goes on to say that while he feels as though the abortions cleared a path to success for him, his moral compunctions compel him to say that, if he could, he would go back and "save the babies". But when asked whether the women who he impregnated might feel differently, his shocked response is "I never really thought about it for the women".

He never really thought about it for the women. Given his decision to slide a check in the door of one woman and walk away like a jackass, I can't say that I'm surprised. Maybe if he had thought about it for the woman he would have a better understanding of both the reason why women need to have a choice and the choice that this particular woman made. Maybe if he had actually given any thought to it at all, he wouldn't now be so pained by something that, at the time, mattered less to him than a softball game.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stigmatizing Abortion - Saving teh babiez or harming women?

Anti-choice zealots standing outside abortion clinics shouting hateful things at the women who enter couldn't possibly have negative impacts, could it? The stigma that the anti-choicers are working hard to attach to abortion and the women who have them couldn't possibly result in death and maiming, could it? According to Eddie Mhlanga, the head of the UZKN Medical School's Obstetrics and Gynecology unit, yes it can.

Stigma creates fertile ground for illegal abortion providers to manipulate and possibly kill vulnerable women who acquire their services...

In KwaZulu-Natal in particular, health workers are still very judgmental, sometimes deliberately, to poor women who are in most need of the government facility... Mhlanga added that many KZN hospitals made it difficult even for health workers who wanted to provide the service, as they were called "murderers" and "terminators".

Anti-choicers often push this idea that they are working to reduce the number of abortions, that by standing outside abortion clinics shouting hateful things or condescendingly praying for the fetuses they are convincing women not to have abortions. The experience in South Africa seems to show, however, that rather than convincing women not to have an abortion, they are convincing them instead to have it in the shadows, where it is unsafe but secret.

Also in the article - another anti-choice claim shot down by data taken after South Africa's Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act is the idea that back alley abortions don't result in problems. That women don't die from them. Hmmmm... according to the article deaths from septic abortions have dropped by 90%, the number of women coming in from botched abortions dropping from 12 or 14 to 1 or 2 at one hospital. I thought women didn't die from illegal abortion? Or are the anti-choicers now going to fall back on the disgusting idea that these women deserved it?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Happened to "Know Thy Enemy"?

So, a group of parents in Maine is upset about the fact that birth control is a topic in a high school biology class. To be completely honest, I often have a really hard time understanding this idiocy. Why, I ask myself, would parents want their children to be uneducated about anything? It seems to me that a good parent would wish for their children to know as much about this world as possible, since not only is knowledge key to coping with the world, but it is also valuable in and of itself. So why fight to prevent your children from learning? But then I remember that the most likely reason that these parents wish to keep their children ignorant is... you guessed it... religion! Ignorance is a driving force behind any religious commitment.

But then I wonder what happened to that insightful old adage "know thy enemy". The religious right in the United States has been fighting for a while now against anything having to do with sex in the public sphere. In particular, thay have fought to restrict access to birth control and abortions. I assume that the parents who are trying to fight this battle today are hoping that their children will continue to fight it in the future. But wouldn't they be better prepared to get rid of birth control if they knew what it was? Isn't understanding what you're against crucial to defeating it? One would think so. And the fact that these parents, and many like them, do whatever they can to prevent their children from learning about "the enemy" is, I think, extremely revealing. Their attempt to guard their children from learning about contraception, evolution, etc indicates that on at least some level, they recognize that "the enemy" is right. If it really didn't make sense to allow women access to contraception, or to believe that life evolved, then there wouldn't be anything for these parents to worry about... especially when it comes to their high school age children. Their terror at the idea that their children might learn about these things reveals an understanding of the tenuousness and unfoundedness of their position. It reveals that deep down they know they're wrong.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Huckabee and "God's Standards"

If the fact that Huckabee has now stated that the Constitution should be amended "so that it is in God's standards" doesn't give you the chills, well, then you're probably a fundagelical who's arrogant enough to believe that you know what God wants - and you're just as scary as Huckabee is.

H/T Heretic54

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Why I Won't See "Juno".

Like Knocked Up, Juno has raised a good deal of controversy in the feminist blogosphere. But I'm surprised at the positive reactions I'm seeing. Some are calling Juno "post-feminist", others are claiming that it "speaks in a solidly female voice". And, of course, there are anti-choicers who are lauding the leading lady's decision to take the pregnancy to term and pro-choicers who are complaining about the lack of real attention given to abortion issues.

While I tend to agree with some of the complaints about the lack of true perspective with regard to the abortion issue, I can't really say because I haven't seen the movie. And I won't see it. And the reason has nothing to do with the fact that Juno, the pregnant teen who is the movie's main character, opts to keep her baby. Not only would there be no movie if she chose to terminate, but being pro-choice is all about believing that women have a right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Hence the slogan "My body, my choice". My problem with Juno is that, despite the claims of many that it is inherently feminist, it is just the opposite. Juno is anti-feminist. How can I know this without having seen it? Well, I'll tell you.

There have been a number of movies recently - Waitress, Knocked Up, and now Juno that deal with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. And this is certainly an issue that should be out there in the public consciousness. But that's exactly where these movies go wrong. All of them treat the issue of unplanned pregnancy in very glib terms. These are not dramas, remember; they aren't even tragicomedies; they are comedies, comedies that derive a laugh from the idea of unplanned pregnancy. Now, I'll be the first to admit that pregnancy can be fertile ground for comedic material, but these movies don't just gain a laugh off of unplanned pregnancy. In the case of Juno, according to reviews, the pregnant teen is portrayed as having an easy pregnancy, parents who are immediately supportive (and perhaps even nonchalant) about her pregnancy, and for whom adoption provides the perfect last minute solution for everyone involved.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but teen pregnancy is no laughing matter, and it is certainly not normal for everything to come so easily for a pregnant teen. Now, I understand that Juno and its fellows Knocked Up and Waitress are fiction. But we seem to very easily forget how quickly fiction can seriously influence our understanding of reality. Think about it for a second. What's wrong with the fact that nearly every female movie star, singer or model in a magazine is paper thin (and in the case of movie stars and singers, simultaneously curvacious in all the right places)? The problem with this is that the longer we are bombarded with images of stick figures with double Ds, the more we, as individuals and as a culture, begin to view this as normal and proper. We start to think that this is what women should look like, and that there is something wrong with any woman who doesn't look like that.

In a similar vein, Juno and movies like it are telling us that unplanned pregnancy is light matter. They are telling us, perhaps not even intentionally, that the way that they portray the situation is normal, and that if you have an unplanned pregnancy and experience anything more than perhaps a realization that life is more complex than you thought and a struggle with understanding yourself and how you relate to others, then there is something wrong with you. That is every bit as anti-feminist as a set of movies that portray women as meek, mild and accepting of male dominance. It is grossly dishonest, and it shapes discussion of this sensitive issue in a way that silences the female voice. Unplanned pregnancy - particularly teen pregnancy - should be part of the public conciousness. But the public should be conscious of the real situation. Unplanned pregnancies are not light and funny. Decisions to terminate do not involve cutsy euphemisms for abortion. Parents are not always supportive. Pregnancies are not always easy. Putting a child up for adoption is not always a perfect solution. It doesn't always end up okay in the end, and even if it does, the road there is far more complex and confusing and painful then the experience of a sassy indie girl gaining a bit of self-understanding and emotional maturity. And that's okay. There is nothing wrong with a woman who has a not-so-funny unplanned pregnancy. There is nothing the matter with a woman whose experience with this trying situation isn't cute. Yet another movie that says different? I'll pass.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Huckabee Either Intentially Misleads or Is Ignorant of His Own Scriptures

In the recent Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, Mike Huckabee repeated claims about the position of a woman within the context of marriage. This was his statement, which you can find in the complete transcript of the debate:

"... the point, and it comes from a passage of scripture in the New Testament Book of Ephesians is that as wives submit themselves to the husbands, the husbands also submit themselves, and it's not a matter of one being somehow superior over the other. It's both mutually showing their affection and submission as unto the Lord."

Well, actually, here's the key passage in Ephesians that he's talking about:

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to
their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Now, it seems pretty clear what's going on here. The Bible is telling wives to submit to their husbands, just as they sumbit to god. So, you should act toward your husband as you would toward god, with all deference, fear, obedience, etc in absolutely everything. On the other side of things, husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ did not love the church as an equal, but as its savior (note the reference to Christ's sacrifice) and leader. This is obviously not a description of an equal relationship or of one of "mutual submission". It is the description of the relationship between a groveling and obedient woman (don't tell me you wouldn't grovel before god if he actually turned up) and her "savior" husband.

In making his statements, then, Huckabee either didn't know the scripture he was referring to, in which case he's rather ignorant of the religion that so apparently motivates his policy decisions, or he intentionally misconstrued it in order to avoid having to face negative backlash over the outmoded and misogynistic teachings that he adheres to. Ignorant believer or anti-feminist liar? I'll let you decide.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blog For Choice Day!

January 22nd, the anniversay of Roe, is Blog for Choice Day. This year's topic is why you think it is important to vote pro-choice. If you've got a blog, sign up here and help ignite the blogosphere with rational arguments for choice (and perhaps a little pro-choice ferver).

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Sex Segregation

A bill making it clear that it is okay for schools to segregate students on the basis of gender has passed a Senate committee, according to the AP. The justification for this? According to Senator Stephen Wise, the Bill's sponsor,

...single-gender classes are currently used in 17 counties around Florida and it has resulted in better test scores among many students.

Wise says the practice is based on a theory advocated by some learning experts who believe boys and girls learn differently, so single-gender classes allow teachers to tailor their instruction more effectively.

Now, I have to admit that I haven't seen the data. However, I'm skeptical. Any time someone tells that there are differences between girls and boys with respect to education, I have a tendency to cringe, since what follows is usually some drivel about how boys are better at math and girls are better at language arts.

Since I don't know what research Wise is referring to, though, I'll suspend judgment. I'm worried, though, about the potential abuses of classrooms segregated on the basis of gender. The hollow sound of "separate but equal" is already ringing in my ears. And I can only imagine what would be taught to the girls in some of the more conservative districts of this country. A good deal of home ec, perhaps? Lots of emphasis on marriage and family?

It's important to keep in mind as well the fact that one of the most important functions of primary education is socialization. How can students be properly socialized if they aren't given the opportunity to interact with members of the opposite sex? Such segregation seems likely, to me at least, to stunt the social development of students.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Traveling and Paper Writing

So, I won't be blogging for a while, since I'll on planes and in airports and then will have two days to finish two papers that are no where near close to complete. While I'm gone, though, check out the Pro-Choice Carnival, the Carnival of the Goddless, and the new blogs on the Atheist Blogroll. Also, I highly suggest looking at Jill's questions for pro-lifers over at Feministe.

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Bill Maher Rocks!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

You Can't Be Religious AND Be a Feminist

It is about time that someone wrote this article. Read well, because she is absolutely right.

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Speaking of Big Brother...

Call, email or fax your representative to stop this bit of theocratic revisionist history from becoming "resolved" by our very own congress. I knew the crazy Christian right had a lot of power, I didn't think it had this much.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Big Brother is Watching You

People often roll their eyes when I bring up Orwell's 1984 while complaining about some strike against our civil liberties. Well, roll your eyes all you want; just be aware that the government is watching you do it. Privacy International has released the privacy ranking. And the U.S. has moved from bad to worst.

So, why are we now tied with China on a civil liberties issue? Well, you can probably blame the Bush administration, what with their PATRIOT Act and continued strengthening of the NSA and weakening of the FISA court, their warrentless wiretapping, their National Security letters, their data mining, their no-fly lists, and their cameras everywhere! The only thing we need now is really big posters with Dick Cheney's scowling face on them to serve as a frightful reminder that they've always got their eye on us.

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Cervical Cancer Screening Month

January is cervical cancer screening month. So go get that exam! And talk to your doctor about prevention!

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David vs Goliath's Whole Family

Perhaps the title is in poor taste, but a new theory about the cause of the dinosaurs' demise made me think of the biblical story. According to this theory, insects may have been responsible for the slow extinction of the dinosaurs after the initial cataclysmic event. They may be little, but they can pack a serious punch!

Of course, I can hear the creationists (ahem, IDists) now... "the insects abounded because of the flood!"

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Religiously Based Custody Decision

Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars (another great blog) has posted on something absolutely horrible. A mother was denied custody because she would not force the children to go to church. Apparently, this isn't an isolated incident. And people wonder why atheists are afraid to come out and admit it. For a group of people who seem to think they are soooo persecuted, Christians in America sure don't have a problem persecuting others.

One would think that I shouldn't say much about this, since I agree, to an extent, with Dawkins claim that religion is child abuse. I don't go as far as he does, though. Rather than viewing religion, per se, as outright abuse, I see it more as negligence in the nurturing of a child's intellectual capacities. It's along the lines of raising children in a house devoid of books, although more damaging. Nonetheless, I would be just as outraged if custody was denied to someone because they were religious. Whether or not you have a propensity to believe things that you have no evidence for shouldn't enter into whether or not you get custody of a child. Rather, it is whether you can best care for that child. Simple as that.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Abortion Rights and Bodily Autonomy

Apart from being unable to keep herself from childish name calling, Jill Stanek seems to have misunderstood a point that Jill at Feministe was trying to make. Because misunderstandings like this seem to be at the root of many of the arguments between those who support abortion rights and those who wish to destroy them, it's important to clear them up when we see them. So here goes. Feministe Jill claims the following:

I am pro-choice because I believe that if we outlaw a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, there is no legal argument against forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy, or disallowing certain people from reproducing.

This is what Stanek had to say in response:

I don't know any other way to say this. Jill, frankly my dear shared name, you're crazy. You must have ventured too close at the Pro-Choice Carnival to the guy in the sideshow who sticks pins all over his body and yourself become a pinhead.

Outlawing slavery, the closest analogy, did not contradictorily give the government or anyone the right to own slaves, for heaven's sakes. Outlawing anything for that matter does not translate into forcing what was outlawed onto the public. Get real.

First, just as a matter of argumentative etiquette, being unable to understand the justification for a claim does not give you carte blanche to start hurling ad homonym attacks at the individual who made the claim. Second, as someone who has been as active in the abortion debate for as long as she has, one would think that Stanek would see right away what stood behind Feministe Jill's claim. The right to choose whether or not to have an abortion is based on the fundamental right to bodily autonomy - on the right to choose what happens or does not happen to one's body. Denial of the right to choose is denial of the right to bodily autonomy, and once you deny that right, there is no longer a legal argument to be made to prevent forced abortions, prohibitions on procreation, or even forced blood donation.

Because denial of abortion rights is a denial of the right to bodily autonomy, Stanek's "closest analogy" is not analogous at all. The abolition of slavery involved a recognition of fundamental rights, not a denial of them. And a recognition of fundamental rights will, of course, have drastically different consequences than a denial of them.

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Oh no! They're after us language scholars now!

PZ Myers over at Pharyngula (if you don't already read his blog, you should) noticed this. Apparently, the creationists are now claiming that all words in all human languages have "Edenic" roots. Unfortunately, they've been as sly with this attack on science as they are with most of their others. How are we to possibly verify this claim? After all, they are claiming that all words have proto-Hebrew roots - roots that derive from the language designed by god and given to humans in the Garden of Eden. So, what was this language? How do we get at it? Many of their articles (yes, there are articles, take a look if you want to get ticked off) make sad attempts at linking current English words to Hebrew. But since Hebrew came about after the Tower of Babel (yes, they actually believe that human languages split off as a result of an incident at the Tower of Babel), what reason do we have to believe that is is closely related to "edenic"? None. If you want to be as incensed as I am right now, check out their website.

Expect more on this disgusting nonsense soon. For now, I'm going to go bang my head against a wall.

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France Too?

Apparently, the French have lost their minds as well. Now, I'm no crazy Libertarian or anything, but it's my personal belief that a business owner should be able to make decisions about what goes on inside his own establishment. Just as some people decide that shoes must be removed in their homes in order to protect their carpet, and others couldn't care less if you walk around their house with big ol' dirty boots on, a business owner should be able to decide whether to allow smoking in his establishment. Potential employees can then choose whether or not they want to work there, and potential patrons can decide whether or not they want to give the place their business. It's simple. And businesses were already catering to non-smokers before most of the American smoking bans even went into effect.

Of course, I'm sure to hear a whole bunch from people about the potential dangers of second hand smoke, etc. Fine. Working in mines is dangerous too. You know this when you walk in. Eating hamburgers all the time will damage your health too. You know this when you walk into McDonalds. It's one thing to prevent people from having to deal with it in busses, trains, etc. That's fine. But when the market not only can but is taking care of something, there is no reason to take away business owner's rights over it.

H/T Heretic54

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Another Bad Argument from D'Souza

Dinesh D'Souza say's he confused. Apparently, Richard Dawkins called himself a "cultural Christian", and D'Souza seems to think that this contradicts everything Dawkins has said about the negative impacts of religion. How, he asks, can you believe that there is no god and that religion is detrimental to our society, and yet still embrace a cultural tradition that is laced with the Christian religion?

Well, it's rather easy, actually. What D'Souza seems to miss is the fact that something can be mostly bad and yet still have positive elements to it. Culture is not all or nothing. A perfect example of this can be found in Nietzsche. He believed that self-abnegating Christian morality was absolutely deplorable. But he also recognized that we had gained something valuable from it - namely self-control. (See his Geneology of Morals) Similarly, we might think that the psychological theory of behaviorism, though patently false, left us with a better understanding of how we must go about doing research in psychology. So why can't Dawkins accept the fact that he was raised in a culture that is the result of the Christian tradition, embrace those aspects of the culture that are beautiful, useful or generally positive, and then rail against the rest of it? I can't see any reason, and until someone gives me a good one, rather than their own confusion, I plan on continuing to listen to music that was inspired by faith, read literature with religious undertones, and pointing out all of the terrible aspects of a religious culture.

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