Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Doing The Most Good – The Moral Imperative of GM Crops

We here in the wealthy, well-fed west are overlooking one of the greatest moral crises in the world: the millions of deaths and hundred of millions more illnesses caused by starvation and lack of basic nutritional needs of people in the world. People who live in more desperate situations that we can even imagine.  We have a moral obligation and duty to use every method at our disposal, including GM crops, to alleviate the suffering of almost a billion people on our planet. (1)(2)  Every year, over two million children needlessly die of starvation (2).  

An example of a low risk GM crop is discussed by Steven Novella at his Neurologica blog, and covers the introduction of Golden Rice, which is supplemented with vitamin A.  This crop could save close to 500, 000 children a year who die of vitamin A deficiency.   There are some very salient points brought up in his article, but I’d like to quote one in particular:

Bruce Chassy is speaking this week at the AAAS meeting (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) arguing that the current regulation of GM crops is counterproductive (an opinion he also gives here). He argues that the last 20 years have demonstrated the overall safety of GM crops through multiple plantings and scientific studies. We still need to monitor GM crop safety, but the current level of regulation is harming the hungry and the poor, mostly in the third world.

Of course we have a duty to make sure that all GM crops are tested as throughly as possible to keep side effects to a minimum, be it to human and animal health, or the spreading of deleterious traits into wild plants.  But, like most anything in life, the risks of harm from GM crops needs to be weighed against the harm caused by nutritional deficiencies and starvation world wide.  From what I can see in the history of GM crops so far, the benefits for humanity far outweigh the risks.

We live a sheltered, comfortable life here in the west.  We are able to look past the basics of life, food and shelter, to other issues, such as the environment.  To label all GM crops as bad is unscientific, and given what we know, immoral.  When we have GM crops that can save millions of lives, that can provide more food per acre for starving people, that can fulfill the nutritional needs of the poor, we have a moral obligation to take the necessary risks and do the most good for the whole of humanity.

(1) http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/

(2) https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats

 

 

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Horrors Of Salvation – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the horror behind the story of Noah.   I had considered expanding on the concept horror embodied in the idea of sacrifice found in the Bible by also talking about the who Jesus story, but decided to just keep it simple and stick to Noah.  I saw a comment on the Noah post that made me wish I had talked about Jesus.

 

It’s sad to hear that this is what the message of Christianity is becoming about. Dead religion will tell you one of two things about God…(1) He’s schizophrenic (He loves you but He hates you) or (2) He’s mysterious (nobody can figure Him out). But here is Jesus, who arrives later on as the Messiah. It is in Christ where God’s nature is revealed, and He is a God of Love.

Things may still be unclear about the Bible and there seems to be a lot of contradictions on God’s nature. But, the Cross made a significance, a proof, to how much God loves us (John 3:16). Hope that helps! 

Comment by tacticianjenro | September 2, 2012 | Reply

 

His argument is one made by many Christians to negate the nastiness of the Old Testament: that God suddenly became a merciful and loving god once he sent Jesus (or became Jesus, the Bible is a bit confusing on that point) to save us all.

 

Even if you grant that this argument is valid, the whole idea of sacrificing someone, someone who is supposedly innocent, is just as horrible and depraved as anything in the Old Testament.  Sure, it’s just one guy, not every person on earth, but the number of those sacrificed isn’t the issue.  The issue is the need for a blood sacrifice at all.  

 

I was raised Catholic.  I could never understand why God required a sacrifice to free us from sin.  If he is all powerful, why not just forgive our sins and be done with it?  The priests explained to me about Original Sin.  That didn’t make any sense to me either.  Why would God punish every human who ever lived just because the first two people sinned?  Why not just forgive Adam and Eve their sins?  Or if He couldn’t find it in his all loving heart to do that, why not just strike them both dead and be done with it?  He’s God.  He could just make more.

 

The idea that Jesus, the only son of God, the innocent lamb, had to die just because the rest of us were sinning bastards is insane.  That isn’t love, it is sadistic and cruel.  Worse, it is pointless.  If God is all powerful, then either forgive each of us our sins or smote us, don’t go killing your only son, especially when he doesn’t deserve it.

The idea that the god of the New Testament is now a loving, merciful god as opposed to the angry, vengful god of the Old Testament; that he is somehow a new and improved god, is absurd.  The sacrifice of Jesus is no different than asking Abraham to kill his son, or the killing of all the first born of Egypt.  It is just as cruel, just as horrible and depraved.  

The fact is, God, both the old and new versions, is a dick, pure and simple.  

 

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Horror Of Salvation

I saw this drawing on DeviantArt today.  

Noah s Ark by frowzivitch

by Flora Turcniovic

While it is outwardly whimsical, at second glance it is full of horror.

The Story of Noah’s ark is often told as a story of salvation.  God has saved Noah, his family, and two of every creature from a world wide flood.  He sets them down in a new world with the sun shining and a rainbow in the sky.  It is given to us as a story hope and a lesson in God’s unending love for us.  

In this story, God decided to destroy his creation.  It is claimed that he did the because humans had almost all become sinners, loving nothing but sin and debauchery.  So he decided to destroy them all, all except Noah and his family, who loved him and we good and decent people. 

What is overlooked in this story is the complete horror and incomprehensible death and destruction that was perpetrated by a vengeful, capricious god who thought nothing about wiping out almost every living thing on earth.   Even if you accept that everyone but Noah and his family were sinners, were they all so completely evil that they all deserved death?  Even if you accept this, what about the animals?   Were they all sinners as well? 

What this artwork shows is a glimpse of the horror of the wonton death and destruction that this “loving” God visited upon his creatures.  What about all of the people?  Can you imagine seeing millions of bodies floating in the ocean, stretching from horizon to horizon?  What this reveals is utter destruction and death on a scale unimaginable perpetrated by a vengful and evil god, one who’s anger is far greater than his love, and who requires destruction and death in return for salvation.

This is the unacknowledged and overlooked horror of religion.  That message is that God will save us.  What is unspoken is that he is saving us from himself.

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Death

There is nothing when we die

No hell, no heaven up in the sky.

Dead is dead and this I know

Because the Bible tells me so.

“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:4-5

 

December 26, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , | 1 Comment

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,”.

Christopher Hitchens wrote this in the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair.  Hitchens was in the presence of those friends when he passed away from complications due to esophageal cancer onThursday at the age of 62.

Hitchens was fearlessly outspoken on every topic he cared to cast his sharp, insightful mind on, wether it be atheism, Mother Teresa, or the latest health fad.  Not only was he outspoken, but he spoke more eloquently and persuasively than anyone I’ve ever heard.  His command of the English language, and his powerful and precise use of it was second to none.  He is the only modern author that I’ve read where I would need to look up a word at least every four or five pages.  Yet his vocabulary was never archaic or pedantic, but rich, flowing, and precise.

He is probably best known for his championing of atheism.  Considered one of the founders of the New Atheists, as well as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennet), he was unapologetic, even harsh, in his criticism of religion and faith.  As he persuasively and beautifully put it:

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

He was reviled, yet often respected, by those of faith with whom he corresponded or debated.  Many of these, upon the announcement last year that he had terminal cancer, offered their prayers for him.  While he had no belief in prayer, rather than scoffing at them, he responded:

…that, if they want to pray for him, it’s fine by him. “I think of it as a nice gesture,” he said. “And it may well make them feel better, which is a good thing in itself.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/sep/20/christopher-hitchens-prayers)

As always, he showed his great and deep understanding of humanity, both the good and the bad, and sought to expose it’s ills, while steadfastly supporting the inalienable human rights that we all share.

Others have eulogized him much better than I can.  Steven Novella beautifully states:

“His fellow materialists have to face this reality as well. Hitchens is gone. His brain – which was everything he thought, felt, remembered, and all the insight he had to offer the world – no longer functions, and never will function again. The same fate awaits us all. Without regret, Hitchens seemed to understand the flip side of this reality – we are the lucky few who get to live.  So make the most of it while you can.”

A sentiment Hitch would have totally agreed with.

PZ Myers plainly and persuasively wrote:

“Hitch is dead. We are a diminished people for the loss. There can be and should be no consolation, no soft words that encourage an illusion of heavenly rescue, no balm of lies. We should feel as we do with every death, that a part of us has been ripped from our hearts, and suffer pain and grief — and we are reminded that this is the fate we all face, that someday we too will die, and that we are all “living dyingly”, as Hitch put it so well.

As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive.

It’s what Hitch would have wanted of us.

It’s how Hitch lived.”

The non-beleiving and humanist community has lost a great spokesperson, but more importantly, the world has lost a great human being.  I think the world would be a much better place if we could all follow Hitch’s example of living life to the fullest and fearlessly seeking justice for all of us.

 

December 17, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Message From The Dead – A Skeptic’s Last Words to The World

Phil Plait blogged about Derek today.  Derek was a skeptic who I never knew, nor herd of, until today.  He died of cancer May 3rd and he left a final message on his blog.  Please, go and read it.  It embodies everything I believe about living my daily life, which is; never take anything for granted, enjoy every moment, and always tell those you love that you love them, as often as you can.

This life, as far as anyone can tell, is all that we have.  The people in our lives are what give it meaning, and it is to the people in our lives that we will leave our legacy.  Once we die, we will live on in thier memoires, the stories they will tell about us, the influence that we had upon them. 

I lost my father in 1992, my sister in 1997, and my mother in 1999.  They all died suddenly and I never got to say goodbye to any of them, but I had no regrets because I always kept in touch, and I always let them know that I loved them.  I learned more from these loses about living day-to-day than anything else in my life. 

You never know when you, or someone you love, might be taken from this life.  Cherish every moment you have with those that you love, and tell them and show them, as often as you can, that you love them and value them.  It will be your legacy to them and it will enrich thier lives more than you can imagine.

I will leave you by quoting Phil Plait, who quoted Slau, who quoted Warren Zevon:  “Enjoy every sandwich.”

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Skepticism | , , , | 4 Comments

Coexistence?

A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
wpid-174270_830719950_2402185_n-2011-02-13-18-21.jpg

I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,

wpid-sexist_by_dailyatheist-small-2011-02-13-18-21.png
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.

Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.

While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Religion Kills Another Child

In Bangladesh, a religious cleric ordered a 14 year old girl to be given 100 lashes with a bamboo pole for supposedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. The man’s wife said that she saw the girl speaking to her husband near their home and notified the village cleric who order the husband and the girl to undergo the punishment of 100 lashes. The girl collapsed half way through the beating and was taken to hospital where she died a week later.

If this weren’t horrifying enough, the wife tried to claim that her husband was raping the girl and upon hearing the girl’s cries, the wife ran in and began beating the girl. Let me repeat that. Upon supposedly hearing a 14 year old girl being raped by her husband, the wife said that she ran in and beat the girl! The police aren’t buying that story, but what does it say about these people that she would think that beating the girl who was being raped was actually justification for her death?

This incident speaks volumes about the almost non-human status of woman in many religions and cultures. While it may be true that some of the attitude toward women is cultural, it is almost always supported by religious writings and teachings.

Wether the girl was just talking to her cousin, who is a male relative after all, or if there was an illicit relationship ilvolved, murder is not an appropriate punishment, especially for a young, impressionable 14 year old child.

I am reminded of a quote by Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg:

        “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil – but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Humanism, Religion, Skeptical | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I’ve have been super busy with work and my kids today, so I didn’t get a chance to compose a proper blog entry. Instead, I will share this quote with you:

“As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.”

- Bill Clinton, 2010

I’m sure the people on the right will dismiss this out of hand, after all, they hounded Clinton from the day he took office. Then again, they aren’t really all that hot on the truth anyway.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Tragedy Brings Out The Worse In People

There has been much talk and speculation about the motives for the Shooting of Rep. Giffords and others in Tucson, AZ. The right wingers are falling all over themselves to minimize the possible damage, using ad hominem attacks against just about everyone who is further to the left than Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, those on the left have been making wild speculations about the motives of shooter, sure that he must be a dyed in the wool Tea Partier with a lifetime NRA membership who spits on every homeless person he sees.

Despite all the calls for unity and civility, the reactions have been par for the course for our national discourse of just about every issue out there. It is disheartening and frustrating. Yet, even the most self-serving and stupid reactions from people like Sarah Palin pale when compared with the pure hate and idiocy that reins on the Internet.

I found these comments on the Man Boobz blog:


He [was] probably dumped by a girl and that’s what started him on the road to crazy batshit loonery. I can’t think of any other factor that could more quickly drive a man to violence than women.

And this one:


it pisses me off when i see all this outrage on the news and from the public knowing that if it was a congressMAN who was shot, everyone would be wondering what he did to deserve it.

this really shows you how society values women over men. and she’s not even dead!


And this:


This is yet another example of how Femerica values female lives more than male lives. In the eyes of most Americans, men are less human than women.

The male judge gets a mention because he is a lackey for the interests of the elite. Even though he is dead, since he is a male, his death is presented by the media as less of a tragedy than the non-lethal shooting of a female politician with a good chance for recovery.



The death of the young girl was portrayed as third in line in terms of level of tragedy. By American standards, it was a tragedy because she possessed a vagina, but since she was not grown enough to be a full-fledged feminazi, her death was less of a tragedy than the non-death of the female politician.

These reactions bring douchebagery to a completely new level. The utter hate and contempt for anything female is staggering. I don’t even know where we can begin to address ideas like these.
I normally like to remain upbeat about things, but this whole situation makes me wonder if our society has passed the proverbial point of no return and will eventually tear its self apart from within. I have no words of wisdom today, just sadness and dismay.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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