Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Deepak Chopra Wisdom – Just a Jumble of Words

Deepak Chopra is a promoter of new age spiritualism.  His books, CDs, and DVDs sell millions.  He is a sought after speaker.  The thing is, most of what he has to say is bullshit.  Its all a mish-mash of new–agey mumbo jumbo.  

A great example of how his pronouncements that sound so profound are really just a steaming pile of nonsense can be found on a website that uses random words culled from Deepak’s Twitter feed to create phrases that sound like something Chopra would say, except that they are thrown together randomly.  

Of course, this doesn’t prove that Deepak Chopra is full of shit, but it does show that it doesn’t take much to sound deeply philosophical and spiritual like Chopra.

Go give it a try.  You know you want to.

June 23, 2012 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not About Abortion Anymore

The so called War on Women has been escalating for months now.  Republican controlled legislatures across the country have been proposing and passing laws that aim to restrict the legal procedure of abortion by basically bullying women and doctors with threats of unneeded exams, arrests, and anything else that they can think of.  

Until now, the issue of the morality of abortion has been up for debate.  Until now.  

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga of the Michigan House of Representatives have been told that they may no longer speak on the House floor.   The reason is that they dared to propose an amendment to a that would put new restrictions on abortion provider which would restrict a man’s access to a vasectomy.

Brown, who voted against the legislation, told supporters of the bill, “I’m flattered you’re all so interested in my vagina. But no means no.”

And Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill that would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy. 1

This action by the leader of the Republican controlled house has turned this debate from one about abortion to one of the right to free speech.  Not only are the representatives being denied their right to speak about a bill that is up for consideration, they constituents are being denied their rights to representation.  

A democracy requires freedom of speech and a voice for everyone in the democratic process.  By denying these women their right to speak out against a proposed law that they disagree with, by denying the voters their right to effective representation, the Republican majority seeks to silence the minority. They seek to silence anyone who would dare challenge them.  This is not democracy; it is despotism.   

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, if you value what the U.S. stands for; freedom, democracy, liberty, then you must abhor an attempt to shut out and silence dissenting voices in the political process.

It is no longer about the morality of abortion.  It is about the morality of despotism.  It is about the rights of the minority being trampled by the majority.  

The American Revolution came about because Great Britain sought to control us against our will, without giving us the right of representation.  Now the political majority are attempting to do the same by denying dissenters the right to speak out, thereby denying them, and their voters, a voice in the political process.

We are slowly letting our liberties bleed away and those liberties, once gone, will be difficult to regain.    The freedom of speech is the most important right we have.  To attempt to take it away by political force should appall and frighten everyone of us.  

Don’t let your rights be trampled on just because you agree with those who would take them away.  Tell your representatives at every level of government that you won’t let this stand.  

As Michigan State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer said,

“Right now we are seeing our Republican colleagues in the House working to take away our rights to choose, our rights to health care, our rights to make decisions about our bodies. And just today, they’re taking away our female colleagues rights in the House, they’re right to speak on the floor.” 2

 

1) http://www.freep.com/article/20120614/NEWS15/120614049

2) http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/15/michigan-lawmakers-barred-from-floor-after-vagina-vasectomy-remarks/?iref=allsearch

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 1 Comment

More and More Dinosaurs. You Know You Love Them!

More great dinosaur artwork!

http://freethinkingfordummies.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-and-more-dinosaurs-you-know-you.html

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Atheist Images and Something That’s Not

Must see images!

http://freethinkingfordummies.blogspot.com/2012/06/atheists-images-and-something-that-not.html

June 13, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Science | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Major Difference Between Science And Faith

The biggest difference between science and faith is that science isn’t afraid of the truth (truth meaning empirical evidence).  In other words, science isn’t afraid to be wrong.  In fact, this is what makes science the amazing tool that it is for learning about the world we live in.   Faith, on the other hand, often insists on the absence of evidence, or at least empirical evidence that can be tested.  

This difference, the willingness to be wrong, is a fundamental and critical difference between science and religion.  Despite what some may say, because of this there is no compatibility between science and religion; there is no room for accommodation.  

A great example of this is this news story about the discovery of brown dwarfs in our local galactic neighborhood.   Scientists have discovered that there are far less brown dwarfs in a 26 light year radius around our sun than previous studies had predicted.  

 

Davy Kirkpatrick of the WISE science team at NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena had this to say about the study:

Those discoveries could bring the ratio of brown dwarfs to  up a bit, to about 1:5 or 1:4, but not to the 1:1 level previously anticipated.

This is how science progresses as we obtain better and better data,” said Kirkpatrick. “With WISE, we were able to test our predictions and show they were wrong. We had made extrapolations based on discoveries from projects like the Two-Micron All-Sky Survey, but WISE is giving us our first look at the coldest brown dwarfs we’re only now able to detect.”

Here is a scientist not just admitting that his theory was wrong, but actually excited about the fact.  Why? Because this is how we learn things.  This is the way that we find out how the world around us really works.  Being wrong in science isn’t a liability, it is a strength.   The history of science, going back to when humans first started making tools, is one of trial and error.  The more you can eliminate what doesn’t work, the closer you get to what does work.  And that is what science is all about, finding what works.

Faith, in contrast, relies on gut feelings, mystical prophets preaching magical things, books that make claims that can’t be tested. that are improbable and often contradictory.  Faith gives us unicorns, leprechauns, krakens, multiple gods, goddesses, angels, demons, and men rising from the dead.  Faith causes people to die when proven, life saving treatments are available, but shunned.  Faith no only shuns facts, but often demands that facts be ignored.  Martin Luther put it quite well when he said that, “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” (Tischreden, 1568, #353)

The ability to falsify an idea or hypothesis is crucial to understanding if that idea or hypothesis is correct or not.   In learning about the world around us, the willingness to be wrong is a virtue.  If we accept that something is true without evidence or proof and leave it at that, we make an assumption about the world that very well could be wrong.  If we question and probe, making mistakes along the way, we learn something valuable and are much more likely to be right.

It’s been somewhat callously and pithily said that, “Faith flies you into buildings.  Science flies you to the moon.”   While this greatly oversimplifies the issue, there is certainly truth in it.  Science does fly us to the moon, the planets, and with the Voyager spacecraft, even to the stars.  Faith, while it might give us comfort, tells us nothing about our world.  It makes no testable predictions, it solves no technical, social, or practical problems.  It teaches us nothing about the world around is.  It is wishes, hopes and dreams, but without the means to achieve any of them.  Faith does not make dreams come true; science does.

 

The ability to falsify an idea or hypothesis is crucial to understanding if that idea or hypothesis is correct or not.   In learning about the world around us, the willingness to be wrong is a virtue.  If we accept that something is true without evidence or proof and leave it at that, we make an assumption about the world that very well could be wrong.  If we question and probe, making mistakes along the way, we learn something valuable.

It’s been somewhat callously and pithily said, “Faith flies you into buildings.  Science flies you to the moon.”   While this greatly oversimplifies the issue, there is certainly truth in it.  Science does fly us to the moon, the planets, and with the Voyager spacecraft, even to the stars.  Faith, which it might give us comfort, tells us nothing about our world.  It makes no testable predictions, it solves no technical, social, or practical problems.  It teaches us nothing about the world around is.  It is wishes, hopes and dreams, but without the means to achieve any of them.  Faith does not make dreams come true; science does.

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , | 8 Comments

Follow-up and Apology

I posted the other day about some comments DJ Grothe made about women feeling safe at TAM.  I was dismayed and angry about how his words were perceived as sexist.

I overreacted.  I’ve had a chance to read more from other sides of the issue and I can no longer stand by my condemnation of DJ.  He has done much to help the skeptical community become more inclusive and I was wrong to be so quick to judge him.

I let my emotions get the best of me.  I allowed my bias (the fact that Rebecca was the first one to really inspire me to become a skeptic) to get in the way of clear thinking.  Worst of all, I didn’t do any digging to find out more about all sides of the issue.  I didn’t use reason, but I let emotion guide my writing.  It was a disgraceful performance equal to the sloppy woo ridden drivel that I constantly rail about here.  

To DJ, and to all of my readers, I most sincerely apologize.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Feminism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , | 5 Comments

Skepticism’s Dirty Little Secret Isn’t Secret Anymore

It started with Elevatorgate.  Rebecca Watson related an experience she had at a conference at which she’d just spoken about how uncomfortable it makes women to be constantly hit on at conferences.  Afterwards she was going up to her hotel room in the elevator and there was a man there with her who was at the conference.  He asked her if she’d like to go back to his room.  That was exactly the type of unwelcome advance that she was speaking out about.  In a video blog about the incident she simply asked men to please not do that.  

She didn’t  call the guy a scumbag, she didn’t rail against men in general, or even those types in particular.  She didn’t call for all women to rally around the feminists flag.  She merely asked men to be respectful of women and not hit on them.

For her troubles she was called a bitch and a cunt.  She was told that she deserved to be raped.  She was threatened with rape and violence.  Even the venerable Richard Dawkins weighed in saying that women like her needed to stop whining and think about all the women in the world who are forced into prostitution, abused by men, forcible raped, etc.  

All of this highlighted the ugly underbelly of the skeptic, humanist, and atheist communities: men just don’t get it.   Yes, there women around the world in much worse situations that Rebecca and other women like her in our society.  That’s not the point.  The point is that women feel unsafe in places where they should feel safe.  The point is that women are being treated like objects.  This treatment may not raise to the level rape, forced prostitution, or genital mutilation, but it is still unacceptable because it creates fear in thousands of women.  No one she feel unsafe, especially in a community that prides itself on its inclusiveness.

Not only do some men in our community not get it, some are downright misogynistic.  They are quick to call women who speak out about sexism in the community feminazis, whores, and man-haters.  

Then there are the, what I will call, accommodationist.  They try to show their understanding and support of women while at the same time making excuses for mens’ bad behavior.  They say that these men are a product of their society, that they didn’t mean to offend, or some other lame assed excuse.  

The fact is that there is no excuse for sexist and myogynistic behavior.  And there certainly is no excuse for character assignations and threats of violence.  

Women in the community have had enough of this disgusting behavior from men.   They have said resoundingly that they do not feel safe at conferences.  The vicious attacks from the misogynists have frightened them.

The effects of this may be seen at this year’s registration for TAM.  Up until last year, registration for women was close to about 40%.  So far this year it is 18%.  Once can’t help but wonder if the events of this past year have had an influence on the huge drop in female registrations for TAM.

JD Grothe, president of the JREF and TAM’s organizer certainly thinks so.  He recently stated, 

Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been on reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

He singled out Rebecca as one of those who were being, as he claimed, irresponsible.

Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

Rebecca recently announce that she will not be attending TAM this year.  I don’t blame her.  This is incredibly sad, not because a well know skeptic won’t be attending, but because that those 40% of woman attending last year is in large part due to Rebecca and others at Skepchick.  They have been raising money for years to send women to TAM and have succeeded in helping the number of women attending TAM to double over the last few years.   This surge in women attendees have spilled over into other conferences such as Skepticon, and has fueled a flowering of hundreds of skeptical female voices in the blogosphere.  

I was pondering attending TAM, but decided against it several weeks ago for financially reasons.  Now I’m defiantly glad that we didn’t register.  I would have been compelled to not attend TAM, despite losing  a substantial amount of money for the registration fee.  But more importantly, I could not attend TAM because I can not condone, or support with my money and presence, DJ’s stance here.  Blaming women who speak out about their feelings and fears is no different than blaming a rape victim for being raped.  

Of course this doesn’t rise to the level of rape, but the results are in the same.  Women are being victimized by being blamed for speaking out and taking action against an injustice.  They are being made to feel violated simply by saying they feel unsafe.  

I won’t consider attending TAM until I see that the organizers are willing to stop blaming women and take real, meaningful actions to stop sexual harassment at their conference.  I am also withholding my financial support for the JREF and will no longer write for the JREF blog while these conditions remain.

I am hoping that men in the community will respond to these events by voicing their support for Rebecca and all women in our community who are outraged by this latest turn of events.  I would call on PZ Myers, Phil Plait and other prominent male skeptics, who I know wholeheartedly support women’s rights,  to avoid TAM.  We need to send a message to DJ and other organizers that this behavior will not stand.  Maybe if we start throwing our support and our money behind other events, such at  CFI’s Women in Secularism conference, this will send a message to organizers of conferences to take real, meaningful actions to alleviate this problem.  Hopefully this will allow us to create events and venues where all participants can feel welcomed and safe. 

 

 

 

defiantly

June 2, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, Humanism, secular humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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