So there’s a creationist twit in Texas whining about how the Houston Atheists will be demonstrating at a creationist home schooling convention and at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Continue reading
It’s not often that I feel inspired to respond to things I read in the newspaper.
Well, that’s not quite right. There’s enough madness in any given issue that I usually have a response to it. But a response in writing, submitted to the same newspaper? That’s a rarity.
So when a fellow atheist passed this story in the Albany Times Union on to me, I was mostly unimpressed. At first. And then I read the entire thing, and got to thinking.
I originally wrote this response in an e-mail to the opinion editor of that newspaper, but it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I haven’t heard back from them about whether or not it’d be published. So what the hell? Let’s publish it here.
Hurricane Irene is slowly plowing her way up the eastern seaboard of the US, drawing inexorably closer to where I live. But by the time she gets here, she’ll be little more than a tropical storm (if that). Earlier in the week, they were predicting that she’d still be a Category 2 by the time she got here. I’ve been complaining on Facebook about how boring things were going to be; I’ve kind of got a thing for big storms.
After reading this post from Hank Fox (author of Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist, which I highly recommend), I won’t be doing that anymore. Because I realized that the fact that I’ll be having a boring weekend is largely a result of me being lucky enough to be born anywhere other than in a Caribbean nation.
So I’ll take whatever I get, but I’ll also try to do what I can to help out the folks down in the Caribbean who’ve been hit pretty hard by this. I’ll also continue to be grateful to the scientists who gave us the technology to predict these sorts of things and track where they’re going.
Hank said it better:
All of this is really to make this one point: That here in this era of science (which I maintain is really only about 300 years old), we get to see the storm coming. Days, even weeks in advance, and from thousands of miles away. We can prepare, depart, or just sit tight and amuse ourselves with the approaching spectacle.
By contrast, in the era of religion, the previous tens of thousands of years, you got to see a storm when it hit your horizon, mere hours ahead of time, and you could flee at the speed of a human walk or — if you were rich enough — a horse’s trot.
Religion: Impotent. Lame. Late. Worse, as far as understanding the real world, religion not only fails to deliver the light for seeing things clearly, and at a distance, it blinds its followers from seeing what really is there. (Evangelist Pat Robertson said the recent Virginia earthquake is a sign of the end times, and Glenn Beck sees both the earthquake and the hurricane as a message from God.)
Science: As fertile as a thoroughbred stallion, it spawns stunning technology, useful information, world-spanning power to make change (admittedly not always a fantastically good thing), and, in this case, time to take shelter from the storm.
THIS is how lucky we are: We have science in our lives now. Instead of just religion.
It’s a good day for science education in Texas. According to the National Center for Science Education, the Texas Board of Education voted unopposed in favor of supplementary educational materials that promoted sound science, and didn’t approve any of the pro-Creationism propaganda. NCSE director Eugenie Scott is very happy:
“These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class. That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education.”
Always great to hear good news in the political battle between real science and nonsense.
Now if only Texas could do something about its teen pregnancy rates, which have grown to some of the highest levels in the nation ever since they adopted abstinence-only sex ed… or, better yet, if only they could convince potential presidential candidate Rick Perry that abstinence-only sex ed isn’t working:
At least all those frisky teens will finally have access to good science education!
Something I’ve noticed about myself since getting involved with atheist social groups is that I have an insistent desire to “spread the word.” The dilemma I find myself facing is simple on its face, but leads to much bigger questions: what word should I be spreading?
The more I look around, the more I see pseudoscience and anti-science attitudes flooding our popular culture. Whether it’s a new fad diet (just drink this mega-fruit juice and the pounds will melt away!), a TV show that uncritically swallows supernatural claims (ghosts make the room get cold, so that’s how we know they’re around!), or a news report that encourages people to make up their own minds on an issue that isn’t a matter of opinion (some say that the mercury in the MMR vaccine causes autism, while doctors say the MMR vaccine doesn’t contain mercury at all – you decide!), there’s always some new bit of woo-woo cropping up that can set your teeth on edge.
So President Obama nominated Francis Collins as Director of the National Institutes of Health. I’ve been debating whether or not to blog about this, because I’m ambivalent about the decision and because it’s been so heavily covered already by other atheist bloggers and writers. But I read this story in Newsweek and felt that I should speak my peace about the subject.
I thought of this while listening to The Atheist Experience at work today.
Many religious people love to promote the idea that religion and science are just two different ways of gaining knowledge about the world. They say that since science can’t give us all the answers we want right away, the only way we can find answers to the unanswered questions is to seek some sort of spiritual enlightenment.