Thursday, July 31, 2008

This is why we can't have nice things


My personal favorite was the guy who thought that the game had to be terrible simply because it was banned. Now that's logic par excellence.

I also loved the explanation of Fallout 3 to make it sound ultra deviant. I'd love to hear a similar summary of Mario Brothers: "You suit up as a plumber who stomps on poor, defenseless turtles? And you play this game for hours? How aberrant!"

It's crazy that policy makers are this clueless when it comes to video game censorship. And it doesn't help that they try to justify their prejudicial judgments with "won't someone think of the children" rationales.

Another Day, Another Hatchet Job

This time it's from Salon, under the groan-worthy heading: What's wrong with science as religion

Since PZ himself and Chris already sunk most of the arguments, I'm going to leave Karl Giberson's personal beef with PZ alone. And as tempting as might be to reiterate my thoughts on Crackergate, I'm going to try to leave that alone as well. Besides, I have bigger fish to fry: his editorial drive-by on the notion of science itself.

The distortions come out right away: Crackergate apparently damages the reputation of science.

That's right, one person's controversial opinion (controversial in the sense that a sizable chunk of the population doesn't believe that crackers are crackers) damages science as a whole. Presumably, if Myers was a math professor, the headline would read that he does "addition no favors". This is incredibly silly argument, a thinly-veiled way of telling someone to shut up.

It seems like every time an atheist (who happens to be a scientist) criticizes religion, there's always wailing and gnashing of teeth about how scientists are intolerant, fundamentalist atheist bigots (sigh), claims that science is just like religion, and accusations of scientism.

And this editorial is no different: PZ is an atheist reverend (he's also called a televangelist and an inquisitor), Dennet is an atheist preacher, and the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution form a secular creation myth. From this dubious foundation, he insinuates that science is like religion. The inanity is breathtaking.

Oh boy, where to begin. Let's start with the basics, something Karl apparently needs a refresher course in: science is a way of gathering knowledge through empirical means - hypotheses are driven by fact. Needless to say, this is VERY different from how religions operate.

Secondly, some scientists are very vocal about their rejection of religion. Good for them. They have every right to air their opinions, just like everyone else. They shouldn't be forced into silence on the matter or maligned as atheist inquisitors simply for saying what a lot of people are already thinking - that religious claims about the nature of the universe are mistaken (and in some cases, absurd).

You'd think this would be obvious, but the Catholic leadership just sent out a statement saying that "freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance". Clearly, some religious people are strong proponents the sit-down-and-shut-up approach.

This often gets packaged as a Science VS religion narrative, with the world's devout under siege from an unmerciful army of atheist scientists. This isn't just incredibly dishonest, it misses the point entirely - this isn't a war between science and religion. This is a war between humanity and religion. Large chunks of the populace, from astrophysicists to janitors, have serious reservations about religion. And I'm grateful that people like PZ get out there and say it in a big way.

Science itself doesn't demolish religion, it merely undercuts religion by providing a method of knowing about the world that doesn't involve divining with pig entrails. And in cases where religions make empirical claims about the world (i.e. that the world is 6,000 years old or that touching someone will cure their cancer or that prayer will bring rain), science serves to contradict our superstitions. Religious people often have trouble accepting facts that contradict their deeply-held views, but that's their own problem, and not the scientist's.

Finally, Karl gets around to to what he's really after: "In order for many of us to truly feel at home in the universe so grandly described by science, that science needs to coexist as peacefully as possible with the creation stories of our religious traditions."

Okay, so he just wants peaceful coexistence between science and religion. Except for cases where the priests say one thing and scientific discoveries say another, this already exists - few religious people are offended by algebra or physics.

But I think what's really getting his goat is that PZ, a fellow scientist, is rocking the boat by openly attacking religion. Well, that's too bad. People are going to have different opinions on matters of religion and he's just going to have to deal with it. His hatchet job certainly isn't going to silence anyone.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alien invasion!

There are aliens bases on Earth

Well, according to one UFO nutter, at any rate.

Artist's rendering of alien invasion of North America

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When velvet worms attack!

Look at all that slime go! o_O I'd hate to be that beetle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crackergate comes to a close

Well, PZ did the deed.
"Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything."
Truer words have never been spoken.

To be honest, at first I was a little worried about the whole ordeal - PZ is an excellent firebrand, passionately advocating sanity against a host of superstitions, but he has a talent for rubbing believers the wrong way, even when he's right. Especially when he's right. But after Donohue started a witch-hunt against him, it's hard not to appreciate what he's doing.

It all started when he came to the defense of a student who had wandered out of Mass with the infamous cracker, and had unwittingly triggered an avalanche of hysterics: the faithful made silly claims that their God had been held hostage and that they student engaged in "hate speech". All over a cracker. PZ quickly took them to task on his blog, and ended the post with a threat to desecrate a sacred cracker himself. Was that going over the line? Maybe. Maybe not.

But then Donohue, whose sole job seems to be getting offended and then demanding that the heinous criminals responsible for his personal discomfort be fired on behalf of Catholics everywhere, set his minions loose on poor PZ's mailbox, flooding it with barely legible death threats and all manner of horrendously unpleasant screeds, all while calling PZ a hate-filled bigot. Feel the love.

Threatening to kill a fellow human being...over a cracker. Now that's a disturbing morality.

If what someone does to a cracker in the privacy of their own home is apparently intolerable enough to warrant such outrageous behavior then this is one sacred cow whose spell absolutely must be broken.


I believe some introductions are in order.

I'm hydra, your lovable little guide to the deep. I'm an amiable little critter around these parts, getting my feet wet in the blogosphere.

My interests are multifaceted, like myself. I intend to post about anything that strikes my fancy - science, religion, politics, you name it.

Provehito in altum!


w00t, first step done. Brand spankin' new blog.