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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-11-16 06:50
Subject: [links] Link salad, airplane edition
Security: Public
Location:Seat 6E, AA Flight 1185, at the gate at DFW
Mood:working, really, I swear
Music:boarding announcements on the PA
Tags:cool, politics, religion, science, tech, travel
xkcd features Cory Doctorow, superhero

I have some issues with this — Caught a current story on this lawsuit on an airport tv this morning. I'm a raging secularist, and an atheist besides, but I find lawsuits like this more than a bit silly. I will note that CNN Headline News filmed the 12-foot crosses so that they looked like the usual small roadside cross, I assume to make the American Atheist spokeswoman seem a bit silly.

British Airways runs "ghost flights"

Single parent genes

Are we getting closer to human cloning?

Saudi rape victim sentences to 200 lashes — This sentence was for being in an automobile with unrelated males.

How about this: Under Shariate law, a woman who simply reports a rape is considered to have admitted her guilt as an adultress, and is subject to penalties up to execution. If this horrifies you, consider the secular viewpoint on this. There is no difference between that sort of religious insanity and moves to teach Intelligent Design in school, except in the matter of degree. In both cases, people of faith are deliberately discarding rationalism in the name of their religious principles.

I think one reason the Right likes to characterize liberal-progressives as being sympathetic to Islamic terrorism is their own unspoken discomfort with how closely allied their fears and goals are to aggressive, conservative Islam. Liberal Western secularism is the enemy to both Evangelical Christians and Wahabbist Muslims. That realization is pretty much impossible to handle within the worldview of the lapel pin patriots on the right, so they behave much as closeted, self-loathing gays who displace with loudly public homophobia. (Who, oddly enough, are also found in numbers on the right.)
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J. Kathleen Cheney
User: j_cheney
Date: 2007-11-16 15:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I find lawsuits like this more than a bit silly

Yeah, I think the danger is in the precedent that it might set, because almost all military gravesites have some crosses or stars of David in them (usually carved on the stone). It would be a shame to remove the tombstones of, say, Civil War soldiers (as a broad example) because of this one incident...but that's where it could lead.
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elusivem
User: elusivem
Date: 2007-11-16 18:34 (UTC)
Subject: The military respects one's beliefs with its markers
Yes military markers have crosses. They also have chalices, lions, lambs, crescents, atoms, pentagons, nine pointed stars, wheels and some 50 other symbols. Utah chose only the Christian cross because it only endorses the Christian faith.

As for our historical markers, from what I have personally seen, it is a skull and cross bone, some dark angle or nothing at all; not a specific religious symbol.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Rafe
User: etcet
Date: 2007-11-16 15:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, that made me press the YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME button.

As far as the overall notion - what's wrong with a larger version of the small roadside memorials that seem to be all over the damn place - a white circle with black lettering, set on either a post or tripod? There is nothing confrontational or denominational about them, and they're widely recognized as markers of highway fatalities.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Rafe
User: etcet
Date: 2007-11-16 16:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe they're a regional thing - here in Florida, they're everywhere. I'm trying to recall what, if anything, was along the NY Thruway....
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Kelly Green
User: saycestsay
Date: 2007-11-16 16:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They are ALL OVER THE PLACE here in Los Angeles; and I saw one in Saratoga Springs, NY, during WFC.
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User: ex_chrisbil
Date: 2007-11-16 16:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"If this horrifies you, consider the secular viewpoint on this. There is no difference between that sort of religious insanity and moves to teach Intelligent Design in school, except in the matter of degree. In both cases, people of faith are deliberately discarding rationalism in the name of their religious principles."

Jay - thank you. This is the kind of logic that I try to apply to old Christian friends of mine daily. There is no picking and choosing with religion. It's dangerous - take it from someone who has been there!
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2007-11-16 16:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There is no difference between that sort of religious insanity and moves to teach Intelligent Design in school, except in the matter of degree.

Er...but the degree is so obviously wide as to completely destroy the primary argument (that there is no difference between the two insanities).

It's like saying science is bad because scientists supported the eugenics movement.
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User: ex_chrisbil
Date: 2007-11-16 16:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But one of the points that I and (I think) Jay are making is that once you're taught to believe one thing without evidence or balanced and considered thought, there is very little to stop you believe/acting on another.

I didn't put that very elegantly (and Jay, I don't mean to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I'm wrong).
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User: ellameena
Date: 2007-11-16 17:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I also think this is what Jay is saying. But if so, that ignores the fact that the average person doesn't actually understand evolution and could not derive it from first principles. In fact, thousands of generations of rational, intelligent people lived and died on this planet before charles darwin stumbled upon the "obvious" facts of evolution. The irrationality of intelligent design is in not trying to find some objective way to evaluate the experts making scientific claims. If you do that, then you will find the credentials of the "evolutionist" side to be much more impressive. However, this isn't always the best way to find the truth (sometimes the establishment is wrong), so I actually can't blame some people for feeling that intelligent design is more credible. In fact, evolution is highly counterintuitive in many ways--contrary to what we are programmed to believe.

In contrast, the rape situation is a violation of natural law, moral conscience, and the explicit instructions of scripture--old testament, new testament, and most likely Koran. All judea-christian tradition upholds the rights of a woman who is a victim of rape. In point of fact, what you have is not a case of irrationality, but a very aggressive form of mysogyny. In fact, it doesn't seem irrational at all. In Saudi Arabia, it's against the law to be raped. It's perfectly rational. Appalling and unfair, also.

I do think there is a much more nuanced way to look at reason in religion than this blanket statement of: "If you can believe one impossible thing you can believe anything." Theologians have been writing about reason, faith, and moral law for two millennia. You are free to disagree, but you should read and understand what they have to say first. The fact is that most people believe things for which they do not have direct evidence. Religion can actually be a way of thinking more rationally, because you are holding your own beliefs up for examination.
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User: ex_chrisbil
Date: 2007-11-16 21:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There is indeed a much more nuanced way to look at reason in religion than that statement. However, I'm not trying to be intellectual or deep about this, let me very clear. I spent eighteen years of my life trying to be dictated to by these arseholes and I have very, very solid, intimate and detailed experience and knowledge of what goes on, and how people act when they are in such an irrational group.

Other people aren't always much better, but on the whole, they are.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-11-20 13:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One denomination is not all of Christianity.

One particular, militant, form of evangelical Protestantism is not all of Christianity.

That particular form is quite toxic--but it's not the only form, and although I spent several years under the influence, the influence of milder forms prevailed, although my reaction to it was sufficiently extreme that I seriously could not walk into an evangelical Protestant church for years without risking an asthma attack due to nerves (and my exposure was solely to the Youth With a Mission version of it, in the early days, not the fullblown church experience. I suspect I probably know some of the Powers that Be in that particular denomination by now).

It took the rituals and outward form of the Catholic church to counteract that reaction. That church has its own problems, but the tradition of intellectualism within it is as strong as the tradition of "shut up and follow the rules." I much prefer to have the choice.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: ellameena
Date: 2007-11-16 17:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, most people of faith adhere to an internally consistent moral code in which murder is clearly outside the realm of acceptable behavior. A notable difference in muslim extremists is that if you challenge them on the killing of innocents, they will respond that it is acceptable to violate God's own law to do God's will. This is not a common religious tenet--it is highly unusual. It's extreme. This is what all terrorists have in common with each other, but it is something adamantly not held in common with the average believer. Most muslims abhor violence and terrorism, just as do the vast majority of Christians.

Interestingly, this is the heart of the kerfuffle over Pope Benedict's comments about Islam last year. Lost in the furor was the fact that Benedict was criticizing the "I will do God's will even to the point of violating God's own laws" irrationality of some muslim philosophy.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: ellameena
Date: 2007-11-16 21:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Rejecting the premise is not a proof of irrationality. Anyone who enjoys reading or writing fiction is capable of applying the rules of logic to a situation based on an untrue premise.

Also, I think that pretty much the same criticism of moral choices could be directed at atheists--that since you do not have any higher authority guiding your actions, that your morals are arbitrary, that they are "flexible" and that you can discard them at any point should they become inconvenient. I would say that would be a pretty unfair thing to say, though, based on what I know of my friends who do not believe in God.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2007-11-16 17:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's like saying science is bad because scientists supported the eugenics movement.

I disagree. I mean, we know eugenics works: look at sheep and dogs. If you want a specific outcome in a breed (of dogs, sheep or humans) you start a specific breeding program. But (and it's a very, very big 'but') the qualities for which you are breeding are not objective qualities: they're purely subjective, they're things the breeders want. Science, the quest for empirical results, is utterly unrelated to what one or more groups might want for their future generations of supermen. There is no "degree of difference" between empiricism and eugenics: they are categorically different.

Intelligent Design claims to not be purely subjective: it claims to have an objective, demonstrable component. It has not yet demonstrated that component, which is why it's madness to give it anything close to "equal time" with the science that gives us insulin, frost-resistant tomatoes, and high-end pattern-recognition software.

Eugenics, ID, and Sharia Law are all subjective things the proponents want to be True-with-a-capital-T-True. Unfortunately for them, they are "True" only by fiat, whereas gravity, atomic bonds, and natural selection remain demonstrable, effective, robust and reliable regardless of one's wishes.
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2007-11-16 17:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Er...maybe you're unaware, but the eugenics movement used the arguments of evolution to support its methods of sterilization, euthanasia, and discrimination.
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2007-11-16 18:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm well aware of what the various eugenics movements did.

There are no "arguments of evolution." There are facts about evolutionary processes, and there are conclusions to be drawn from those facts. The most salient fact of evolution is this: "In any given niche, the most predominant species will be that which most efficiently exploits the resources of the niche."

That statement says nothing about the size, strength, intelligence, longevity, or whatever of the species. Those might be qualities we find in some efficient exploiters, but often we find that other qualities we value far less, like sleeping all the time or being weak and thus using the local resource pool slowly, being so dumb as to be incapable of being distracted from the business of eating, being incredibly short-lived and fecund to outpace other species as they evolve new strategies, often tend to be the trick that wins the niche.

The eugenics movement did not somehow emerge miraculously after the publication of Origin of the Species. They had been around for centuries: various attempts to apply animal husbandry to the human species had been attempted, usually without success. The eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had values completely independent of anything derived from biology.

Instead, the eugenics movement illicitly seized the language of biology to give their ideas the patina of scientific respectability. Their use was objectively illegitimate. Their ideas did not, as you imply, come from evolutionary biology, but were imposed despite what we knew, even then, about biology.

In this, the intelligent design movement is exactly the same: they steal as much as they can get away with, illicitly using NFL set theory and Shannon theory to sound mathematical, subverting the science journal process to sound peer-reviewed, and quote-mining the existing literature to sound as if they have a point. Their ideas do not come from biology, either, but are imposed despite what we actually, empirically know to be true about biology.
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User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2007-11-17 00:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
maybe you're also unaware that creationists/evangelicals did the same thing, using different arguments. References available on request.
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Brian Dolton
User: tchernabyelo
Date: 2007-11-16 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've long been aware of the irony that many of the reasons funamentalist Muslims hate Western civilisation - female emancipation, gay rights, etc - are precisely the same things that fundamentalist Christians fulminate about. And before someone points out a "difference in degree", is there really a difference in degree between those who carry out suicide bombings in Iraq and those who bomb abortion clinics in the USA?

The root cause is the same; the moment you start to go from "people have the right to determine their own parameters of existence" to "God says people who do this are evil and I'm going to take it on myself to prevent/destroy them!", you've crossed a line.

I am concerned, however, that secular ilberals are just as capable of crossing that line. I'm hardly a fan of the Taliban or Shari'a law (and I've been to Saudi Arabia and found the place utterly repugnant - in contrast, I must note, with other Islamic countries I've visited), but if people WANT to live under those conditions, then they have every right to. What they DON'T have is the right to stop people from leaving those states and going elsewhere - which, given that there are comparatively few women who want to live in a Wahabbiist/Shari'a society, should restrict the lifespan of such a culture somewhat.
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User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2007-11-17 01:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sadly, many of them think it is what they want.

Read Ayaan Hirsi Aliv
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2007-11-17 01:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Quite a few things are not rational, Jay, and I'd posit that you'd never give up most of the non-rational parts of your life you enjoy.

Like What?
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2007-11-17 02:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Each is easily accountable for under metaphysical naturalism. In what sense do you mean they are irrational in the same way faith is irrational?

(Faith is irrational because it abuses logic and reason, pays no attention to evidence or the real world... do love and imagination share these traits?)
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2007-11-17 21:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Imagination wouldn't be especially useful if it didn't have any bearing on the real world... and to suggest there are -no- reasons why we love those we do doesn't make much sense either.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-11-20 13:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Props!

I agree with you. One reason I *so strongly* want separation of church and state is that I don't want a state religion telling me what to believe.

And those strongly in favor of a theocratic state would have the exact opposite reaction if it was a denomination other than their very own in charge of things.

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