Monthly Archives: July 2011

Maybe Texas can catch a break after all!

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:

Abstinence makes the heart grow randy.

At least all those frisky teens will finally have access to good science education!

The good ol’ ought-is problem.

I do love me a good philosophical discussion.

Over at Lacrimae Rerum (ooh, Latin!), Skatje Myers has posted a delightfully scathing review of Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape. Initially I was impressed by Harris’ arguments, and I still agree with much of what he said, but I have an admittedly slim education in philosophy and wasn’t aware of many of the kinds of objections people would raise to what he said. Skatje did a much better job of critically analyzing the book, in my opinion.

The comments over on her blog have raised a lot of interesting philosophical questions, so if you’re into that sort of thing, I’d suggest hopping over to join the discussion. If not… well, don’t. Anyway, I just wanted to copy a couple of comments from there that I thought really distilled the is-ought problem, as originally outlined by Scottish philosophical genius David Hume.

David_Hume

Pictured above being a badass motherfucker, even in drag.

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Pray if you must, but actually do something, too.

One of my friends was recently diagnosed with a relapse of breast cancer. All her Facebook friends are pledging her their prayers. That’s all well and good, but like the saying goes, prayer and an aspirin will cure your headache.

As an atheist, of course, I don’t pray. I know it won’t do any real good. But I still have an urge to show some sort of sign of commiseration  with my friend. “Sending good thoughts” isn’t much better; it’s just another way of saying “praying” without getting a god into it. On that note, I’ll be making a donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, since a good portion of their funds actually go toward research, education, and patient care. I urge everyone who can to donate something, because at this point, it’s basically a given that you have known, currently know, or will know someone with breast cancer. Our money can do real good in this case.

Texas can’t catch a break.

When it comes to its education standards, Texas has had a lot of bad luck these last few years.

Whether they were contending with a willfully ignorant dentist whom Texas Governor Rick Perry somehow thought was qualified to chair the State Board of Education (SBoE) and who decided it was his job to stand up to the experts on the subject of evolution, or debating how to keep radical ideologues from revising the social studies curriculum to take emphasis off of the influence of the Enlightenment on America’s founding fathers and “to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority,” advocates for good education have had their hands full for quite a while.

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I don’t get it.

The new TV series Falling Skies is all about a ragtag bunch of resistance fighters trying to turn the tide in a seemingly hopeless battle against an overwhelmingly powerful, vastly more advanced alien invading force. It has promise.

But they keep bringing religion into it.

There’s a single character who is constantly doing Goddy stuff. It’s pretty much her schtick. Whether it’s praying for the people who are missing or leading others in grace before a meal, it’s quickly becoming obvious that there won’t be a scene that she’s in where she’s not doing something God-related.

Here she is, facing the reality that the universe was not made especially for human beings, that there’s clearly nobody watching over humanity and keeping it safe, and yet she’s talking about how her heavenly father is watching out for them and crossing herself in prayer. Every day more people die or more kids are kidnapped and turned into mindless worker drones by the aliens, but here’s this girl deluding herself into thinking that the Big Guy’s up there watching out for them. She even admits that her prayers aren’t for anyone else – that they’re just to help her cope.

And she gets praised for it left and right! Why on earth would someone like this be treated as respectable in an apocalyptic battle for the survival of our species? What good could her superstitions possibly do?

Regardless, she’s a minor character so far, so it’s more of a weirdly out-of-place annoyance than a real cause for complaint. The show is a pretty decent bit of TV sci fi, and I just hope it doesn’t go the way of “V” before it, which also took a decidedly god-centered turn with the idea of the aliens trying to build a machine that could remove the human soul… and was canceled after two seasons because of terrible writing.

Not posting. Too busy reading.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Christopher Hitchens’ anthology The Portable Atheist, do. It’s a fascinating collection of writings on a massive variety of subjects of interest to and written by freethinkers, atheists, philosophers, scientists, and so on. A lot of the material is really dense stuff, particularly the bits by Hume and Marx. I love it and highly recommend it.

Also, apparently there’s a big hubbub in the atheist community about stuff happening in elevators in places. I’m doing my best to avoid talking about it because I just don’t think I could say anything that hasn’t already been said better.

Anyway… sometime this weekend I hope to put together my third post in my series on the Alpha Course I attended. Stay tuned.