Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

What the big deal was about the #CFI statement.

June 18, 2013

To illustrate why the CFI statement was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad statement, I will use strikethrough for fluff; that which is without substance in this context. I will use bold to represent obvious falsehoods.

As background, this statement was necessary because CFI’s CEO, Ron Lindsay used his opening speech at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference to chide and patronize its attendees, while implying that feminism in the movement has gone too far.

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors Statement on the CEO and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference

June 17, 2013

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

First, the statement title is in part “on the CEO and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference,” but the statement doesn’t address him in the context of the conference at all.

Second, they dare to say that Ron Lindsay is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, after he gave a speech that was patronizing and contemptuous of feminism and social justice issues in a slippery slope style, asking:

“Who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway?”

“Is the destruction of capitalism considered part of a social justice program? If so, that position certainly has very significant implications,”

“Are there truly no significant divisions currently within the feminist movement?”

And which give the impression he just managed to stop from asking  ‘Isn’t it just too much work to be feminist and skeptical? I mean, we have Bigfoot to argue against here.’

Third, they say that the controversy was surrounding the conference, instead of Ron Lindsay and his speech of amazing inappropriateness. No. Just no. That is insulting to the intelligence of everyone involved.

Take a look at that statement, once all the fluff and nonsense is gone:

“The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy.”

And that is why they would have been better off not saying anything: because they aren’t unhappy with Ron Lindsay’s speech, nor with misogyny and sexism, nor with harassment nor inequality nor anything else addressed at the conference.

No. The CFI Board is unhappy with the controversy.

Who built that?

August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney doesn’t even acknowledge the $30 million Federal bailout that keep Bain Equity from going bankrupt, or the $10 million that taxpayers had to make up for when Bain Equity wriggled out of paying it back.

John Green gracefully acknowledges that without government roads his books would have a harder time getting to the much smaller market of literate people that would exist without public education.

I would say the main differences here are that the types of work John Green does has proven benefits, unlike that of Bain Capital, and that John Green has an awareness of the world that goes beyond base self interest. Oh, and that John Green has an admirable quality that Mitt Romney lacks: human decency.

John Green says it best in the last paragraph of his post:

Over the years, I’ve encountered a few successful people who believe they did it all themselves and achieved success because they are just better than their fellow human beings. Some were bankers; some were writers; some were lawyers. Some male, some female. Some rich, some not. Some were born into privilege, some weren’t. I guess they’re a pretty diverse crowd. They only have one thing in common, really: They’re all assholes.

Mitt Romney’s Financial Exploits

August 31, 2012

And never was there a more fitting use of the word exploit.

Mitt Romney doesn’t acknowledge the $30 million Federal bailout that kept Bain Capital from going bankrupt. Or the $10 million which never got paid back for which taxpayers had to foot the bill.

And that is only one example of Mitt Romney profiting, as Matt Taibbi puts it, “by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back.”

Or to put it another way:

Gawker has more information on Romney’s financial exploits.

Science, for Women and Guy(s)

August 28, 2012

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Mike Huckabee describes the political debate I want to see.

August 26, 2012

“This could be a Mount Carmel moment. You know, you bring your gods. We’ll bring ours. We’ll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven. That’s kind of where I’m praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we’ll see it clearly, and everyone else will too.”

Mike Huckabee, rallying Southern Baptists to support Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) in his campaign.

This is very interesting to me even aside from the implication that “good Christians” should believe like Romney, Ryan, or Akin – and the Republican Party Platform – that abortion should never be legal, and like Akin and Romney that rape somehow isn’t rape if it results in pregnancy.


I mean, look at that quote: I am sold. I want to have these charlatans who claim to know the mind of god stand before the world and have a miracle competition. As the judges we can get The Amazing Randi, Penn and Teller and any other stage magicians willing to watch for fraud. To enter the competition, contracts must be signed saying that anybody who tries but can’t perform a miracle has to tithe to the National Center for Science Education for the rest of their lives.

Anybody who actually performs a miracle before all the world suddenly has a much greater reach and audience.

I can see no possible downside… except to charlatans.

 

Mike Huckabee quote found through Political Wire.

Atheism Plus Social Activism

August 19, 2012

Atheism Plus logo suggestions by Jadehawk

First, if you haven’t read Jen’s call to action, go read it and the follow up. I have to say: this is the movement I thought I had joined.

My reason for becoming an atheist- the reason I started losing my faith and questioning religion- was because of biblical passages that were anti women, anti homosexual, pro slavery and pro disproportionate response. Yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god, but that is just the definition. I didn’t question the existence of god first. I questioned the morality of god:

I asked how could God kill children with bears just because they called someone baldy? Couldn’t the prophet have used a beneficial miracle or just good works to show that other things are more important than outward appearances? How could it be deemed appropriate by an omnibenevolent and omniscient being to create homosexuals and then declare homosexuality to deserve death by stoning? If it was a sin, why would God make some people have the urge and others without? And how could two adults being in love ever be a sinful thing?

I asked how God could make women the property of their fathers, to be bought for marriage. How could God decide that war and slavery was correct and that virgin women captured in battle were prizes for warriors? I asked how God could flood the whole world and kill everybody for being sinful when he made them to be sinful in the first place.

And the sick thing was, I wasn’t asking “how crazy is this god?” I was asking “how sinful am I that I can’t even begin to understand God’s Perfect Morality?” I was questioning God’s morality to understand it: and thought that it was evidence of my sinful state that I failed to understand.

But it wasn’t understandable as morality because it wasn’t morality. Even when I realized that, I didn’t stop believing in God. At first I simply decided that the bible didn’t properly record His morality. It took me a long time of exploration and questioning before I finally rejected the god hypothesis. But it was the immorality of the Christian Bible that started me questioning.

And it is my humanism that makes me blog as an atheist. My atheism itself might be just a conclusion about rejecting a premise because of insufficient evidence, but pointing out that lack of evidence is a means to an end: that of freeing minds from the shackles of religion, and undoing the social harms done in its name.

If you think that humans deserve equal rights, that women and men are equal, if you think that death sentences by stoning or otherwise deliberately carried out slowly are barbaric, and that love between consenting adults is something to be celebrated rather than to be opposed, if you think that distinctions in pigmentation are trivial and the social differences that result are profoundly terrible and that slavery and rape can never be justified, then you should oppose religion. But you shouldn’t stop at religion.

These wrongs exist outside of religion as well: religion is merely a transmission device that causes the ideas within to be more resistant to change. But we need to oppose misogyny and racism, homophobia  ableism and xenophobia wherever they may be. And while we are at it, we should fight the undervaluing of labor and the overvaluing of capital. Opposing these things helps everybody, whether you are privileged or oppressed on any particular question doesn’t change that: as a white person, it is in my interest to oppose racism just as it is in the interest of a straight person to oppose homophobia.

This especially goes for the situation of social movements focused on achieving progress in one facet of human rights: ignoring the other facets doesn’t work. You can’t claim to be working for human rights, and then say “Yes, but not for those people.” Just as the gay rights movement had to reform to include lesbians, the atheist community has to embrace women, the LGBTIQ community, people of color and has to embrace their issues as well. This should be a natural fit – as I pointed out, those issues are our issues – but I know we are going to have to work to make up for those activists who only care if an issue effects white straight males.

Ambiguous graffiti

August 17, 2012

I saw this graffiti and was struck with questions:

“Fuck Gay’s!!!”

Is this pro gay or anti gay? Or just pro fucking?

Why the apostrophe? What does the writer want to fuck- or want to encourage others to fuck- that belongs to gays? If body parts, it indicates that it is pro gay. Or at least pro fucking.

But if rights or property, that would be anti gay.

Now, if it is just a grammatical error, that would also indicate anti gay, because the ability to spell and correctly construct grammatical structures seems to be lost on people scrawling hate on walls.

As to the exclamation points, I’m just going to quote from Eric, a book by Terry Pratchett: “Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.”

What do you think?

Food, Education and Race.

August 14, 2012

 

At the same time as the CDC reports that obesity is increasing across the nation…

a study shows that school nutrition laws have a substantial correlation with reduced weight gain.

Also, studies show a persistent gap in health and longevity between people of different education levels and races.

If we were to make education through college- and quality school lunches in K-12- economically available to all Americans, perhaps we could substantially increase the health of America, and reduce health care costs as part of the deal.

Military vs. Space: why the Mars Rover is a great deal.

August 6, 2012

The United States military budget was 711 billion dollars for 2011, more than the next 5 highest military budgets combined. Some of the projects that Congress supports are things the Pentagon doesn’t want. Such as 3 billion dollars for refurbishing tanks that the Pentagon plans to replace anyway: with a model that doesn’t have a glaring weakness to IEDs. Or the drones and ships that Congress is forcing on the Pentagon to the tune of 4 billion dollars.

And yet, the 2.5 billion dollars spent on Curiosity is described as “budget busting.” In contrast to the 711 billion dollars in military spending, the entire 18.4 billion dollar NASA budget seems downright piddling. If the entire United States Federal budget for 2011 was represented by a dollar, the NASA portion would be about half of a penny. And the rate of return? A study by the Midwest Research Institute concluded that “the $25 billion in 1958 dollars spent on civilian space R & D during the 1958-1969 period has returned $52 billion through 1971 — and will continue to produce pay offs through 1987, at which time the total pay off will have been $181 billion.”

Maybe the reason war has a reputation for being so good for scientific advancement and the economy is because during wars is when governments are willing to spend money on research and development. Maybe if we took that knowledge and used it for R&D for things other than weapons, we could advance without blowing each other up. After all, you can’t tell me that this didn’t require advances in our engineering:

More than the present engineering challenges though, space exploration is inspiring. Some of the kids who are in elementary school today, who stayed up late last night, the kids who are writing reports about the Mars Rover, who are going to be naming their next pet Curiosity… those are the kids who will go into science and engineering to follow their newly ignited passion. When we make advances into space… the excitement, the wonder, the joy of discovery creates the next generation of explorers.

And for those of you who think that international affairs are more important than space exploration, consider how much smoother diplomacy would go if these were the mental images associated with Americans:

NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute as seen by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

People watching the Curiosity landing from Times Square.

…rather than this:

Tell you what: If you are really paranoid, we could reduce our military by 450 billion per year and still be the number one military spender on the planet – and have 450 billion per year to put into science, education and infrastructure and to eliminate the deficit.

To follow Curiosity’s progress, here is its Twitter feed.

(Edited to correct a “m” to a “b” for one of those “illions.”)