Articles

Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

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A Curious Accident in Space-Time

Mar 5th, 2005 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

Despite the lack of evidence to support the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, many people firmly believe in it. If you are skeptical on this matter you are likely to be accused of being arrogant, anthropocentric or even a religious fanatic. However, to consider the possibility that we might be alone in the universe doesn’t necessarily make you any of those things. You can believe both that humans are rare or unique and at the same time that they are a purposeless arrangement of matter or a curious accident in space-time.

In 1961 the astronomer Frank Drake announced that the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy that might contact us could be calculated with the following equation:

N = R … Read the rest



Old News You Can Use: the denaturing of history

Mar 2nd, 2005 | By Barney F. McClelland

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell, 1984

If there were a poll assessing the least favorite subject taught in high school, I would have to put my money on history or its more au courant euphemistic title, “social studies”. If history is not the clear cut winner, it would certainly be among the top three – my choice, mathematics, I suppose, would also be a strong contender.

The chronic complaint against history as a subject, you will hear from most Americans, is that it is “old news”. In our up-to-the-minute media saturated culture this is an undeniable fact. “That was soooo last year,” is perhaps a bit exaggerated, … Read the rest



‘More Than a Stretch’

Feb 24th, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

The first casualty of David Horowitz’s effort to impose ideological “diversity” on American campuses has been the truth. Horowitz initially supported his proposal for an Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) with “independent” studies pointing to a vast predominance of “leftists” on American campuses. As I pointed out last September, neither of the studies in question seems to be independent of Horowitz’s own Center for the Study of Popular Culture. (Nor does the help of the notoriously mendacious Frank Luntz serve as any guarantee of credibility.) In a subsequent exchange with me, Horowitz underwent breathtaking contortions in an effort to back out of bogus claims he had made in support of his ABOR campaign. For instance, in order to deny … Read the rest



Against Nature: Why Nature Should Have No Say on Human Sexuality

Feb 18th, 2005 | By Edmund Standing

In debates about sexuality, ‘nature’ is invariably brought into the discussion, and usually all the participants involved will try to claim that nature supports their position. Why? What if nature isn’t our best guide at all? We live most of our lives in a constant process of negating the base realities of nature, yet when it comes to sex we suddenly think nature has all the answers. This is illogical and regressive. We should no longer look to nature for answers about human sexuality; in fact, it should have no say on the matter at all.

Nature = Good?

There is a generally held assumption that if something is ‘natural’ then it is ‘good’ or ‘right’. This is seen in … Read the rest



Rationalist International Bulletin # 140

Feb 14th, 2005 | By Rationalist International

Vatican: The Kidnap Program

After the end of the Second World War, the Vatican issued a secret order to the French church authorities, directing them to keep all baptized children from Jewish families in their custody, who had been accommodated in Catholic homes and convents during the Nazi occupation of France. The Vatican had decided that these children should not be returned to their surviving Jewish parents, but handed over to Christian institutions to ensure their Christian education. This secret Vatican order, a document in French language dated October 23, 1946, has recently been digged up by Italian church historians and was published in January in translation in the respected Italian daily Corriere della Siera. It triggered yet another controversy … Read the rest



Behe Jumps the Shark

Feb 9th, 2005 | By P Z Myers

Nick Matzke has also commented on this, but the op-ed is so bad I can’t resist piling on. From the very first sentence, Michael Behe’s op-ed in today’s NY Times is an exercise in unwarranted hubris.

In the wake of the recent lawsuits over the teaching of Darwinian evolution, there has been a rush to debate the merits of the rival theory of intelligent design.

And it’s all downhill from there.

Intelligent Design creationism is not a “rival theory.” It is an ad hoc pile of mush, and once again we catch a creationist using the term “theory” as if it means “wild-ass guess.” I think a theory is an idea that integrates and explains a large body of observation, … Read the rest



The Naturalistic Fallacy and Sophie’s Choice

Feb 3rd, 2005 | By Paula Bourges Waldegg

It’s not hard to accept that there’s a pressing need to find answers for the questions that issues such as cloning, pollution, or genetic manipulation entail. However, it is difficult to agree which are these questions and their possible answers because the debate is often driven by the naturalistic fallacy, the belief that nature is essentially good. The environmentalist movement, for instance, frequently appeals to the goodness of nature as a way to promote their causes. Many of the fears and misconceptions that shape our options and influence our choices are a result of this fallacy. Exposing them is therefore essential to reconcile clashing positions and find solutions that don’t force us to choose between man and nature.

A friend … Read the rest



Academic vs. Horowitzian Truth Standards

Jan 29th, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

28 January 2005

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

Thank you for
your response
to my recent
investigation
of your interest in promoting left-right balance.
In it, you urge me to comment more on the specific contents of the
Academic
Bill of Rights
, rather than on your statements in defense of
the Bill. While I’m more than happy to share my thoughts on the
Bill’s contents, it is not easy, in the context of our exchange,
to separate this material from your own arguments. Indeed, I think
it would be very enlightening to show how your own way of thinking
epitomizes many of the things that most trouble me about the Bill.
A consideration of competing concepts of truth (or, as some … Read the rest



“Chief” Objections: Racism, Rhetoric and Native American Mascots on College Campuses

Jan 26th, 2005 | By Phil Mole

The recent success of the University of Illinois at Urbana’s basketball team has distracted attention from a longstanding and contentious issue: the status of school sports mascot Chief Illiniwek. The Chief is one of the last remaining college team mascots modeled after Native Americans – the kind usually portrayed by white students wearing face paint and “traditional” native costumes. The school’s Board of Trustees has debated the fate of the Chief for more than a decade, but a resolution seems no closer. Despite recent statements about the need to retire the Chief, the university continues to delay progress toward this goal. It may be a good time to review this controversy, since doing so may reveal much about the nature … Read the rest



Beloved Cartoon Character Comes Out of Retirement

Jan 24th, 2005 | By Barney F. McClelland

Bithlo, Florida — With controversy swirling around several prominent cartoon characters, the most recent incident involving the wildly popular SpongeBob Squarepants and his sidekick Patrick coming under fire from conservative Christian groups led by Dr. James Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family, claiming that they are working to promote homosexuality, an old hand at children’s entertainment has announced that he is coming out of retirement.

From his trailer in this seedy Orlando suburb, Mighty Mouse says he is ready to make a comeback.

“The whole scene just makes me sick,” said the now portly Mouse who just celebrated his 63rd birthday, “I mean, just look at that Tinky [Teletubbie] and tell me he ain’t a little light in … Read the rest



Letter to David Horowitz

Jan 23rd, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

January 20, 2005

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

Thank you for joining me and AAUP Associate Secretary, Marcus Harvey, in last Saturday’s exchange on 1360 AM KLSD (Air America Radio, San Diego). I’m glad that you feel you fared so well in that exchange. In the interests of furthering the conversation, I would be delighted to have another live discussion with you, or with any of the so-called Students for Academic Freedom. Perhaps, in the interests of balance, any future debate can be held in a conservative venue.

To the extent that it continues the dialogue, I also welcome your blog response to our debate, and to my article ” What’s Not to Like About the Academic Bill of Rights.” … Read the rest



What’s Not To Like About The Academic Bill of Rights

Jan 22nd, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

Locking up my bike on the way to the office on May 3, 2004, I noticed that events were underway in the large pavilion pitched in front of the Hoover Center, the right-wing think tank overshadowing my office in the Nathan Cummings Art Building at Stanford University. The voice on the microphone was introducing prominent ultra-conservative intellectual David Horowitz. As the representative for private universities on the steering committee of the California Conference of the American Association of University Professors (CA-AAUP), I had recently taken a pressing interest in Mr. Horowitz’s activities. He is, after all, the brains behind the mischievously-named-and-crafted Academic Bill of Rights – a document which co-opts post-modern ideas on the situated nature of truth and … Read the rest



Minority or Citizen? A Roundtable Discussion

Jan 11th, 2005 | By Hamid Taghvaee, Ali Javadi, Azar Majedi

Worker-communist review: The debate surrounding the banning of conspicuous religious symbols in schools and government workplaces in France have raised some fundamental questions about religious freedom and freedom of choice and dress. Is the ban a restriction on religious freedom, choice and dress? How far must a ban go? Why?

Hamid Taghvaee: In my view, banning religious symbols in schools and workplaces is completely justified. The ban has nothing to do with religious freedom because it is a social and public ban. In civil societies, religion and religious practices must be free as long as they remain private matters. Civil society can only recognise freedom of religion as a private matter; otherwise it will not be civil society … Read the rest



Are You an Altie?

Jan 5th, 2005 | By an American Cancer Surgeon

A while back on misc.health.alternative, a term was coined to describe people who are so militantly pro-alternative medicine and so distrustful of conventional medicine that they will never admit when conventional medicine is effective and refuse ever to concede that any alternative medical practitioner might, just might, possibly be a quack. (Certain regulars on misc.health.alternative inspired this term. One day perhaps I will discuss a couple of specific examples with actual posts by them to Usenet, so that you can see even more clearly what I mean.) I forgot which m.h.a. skeptical regular coined the term, but the term was “altie.” About a year ago, we even came up with a Jeff Foxworthy-like list of traits of alties (“You … Read the rest



Stop the Death by Stoning of a Woman in Iran

Dec 20th, 2004 | By The International Committee Against Stoning

Hajiyeh Esmaelvand lives in the city of Jelfa in Iran. She has been condemned to death by stoning. The Islamic court in Iran has given verdict of execution by stoning to be carried out 2 weeks from now for having sexual relations out side marriage.

Think about it, a lot of people all over the world are looking forward to some time off and the celebrations that they are going to have in two weeks time. The Christmas and New Year season just around the corner. In another part of the world a woman is suffering with the trauma and fear of the deadly moment awaiting her.

The Islamic government of Iran is planning to kill a human being by … Read the rest



The Stinking Ninth Class

Dec 15th, 2004 | By David Stanway

It’s a hard life for educated folk. Earlier this year, the Chinese state newsagency Xinhua reported that the life expectancy of the Chinese intellectual was, at 58, more than ten years lower than the national average. A survey also showed that 76% of the nation’s journalists died between 40 and 60.

Many were surprised by the findings. The insanities of Chairman Mao’s “anti-rightist” campaigns and, worse still, the Cultural Revolution, had by now given way to a kind of modus vivendi. Intellectuals were no longer the “stinking ninth class” of society, some way behind criminals, prostitutes and vagrants in a peasant-led pecking order. By now, in the interests of “stability and economic development”, there would be no more mass persecutions. … Read the rest



Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!

Dec 13th, 2004 | By Antony Flew

Has Antony Flew ceased to be an atheist?

In a sensationalist campaign in the internet, it is alleged that Professor Antony Flew, British philosopher, reputed rationalist, atheist and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, has left atheism and decided that a god might exist.

The controversy revolves around some remarks of Prof. Antony Flew that seems to allow different interpretations. Has Antony Flew ever asserted that “probably God exists”? Richard Carrier, editor in chief of the Secular Web quotes Antony Flew from a letter addressed to him in his own hand (dated 19 October 2004): “I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about … Read the rest



Review of Taner Edis’ Ghost in the Universe

Dec 5th, 2004 | By Phil Mole

Taner Edis’ excellent book The Ghost in the Universe comes to us at a rather unique period for writing about science and religion. Never before have so many books tried to analyze the relationship between theological and scientific views of the world, and never before have so many utterly failed in the attempt. Often, writers distort something essential about both disciplines, and ignore the complexities at the heart of their relationship. Thus, although the bookshelves groan under the weight of volumes contributing to the debate, clear-minded analyses of the fundamental issues are harder than ever to find.

To better understand the achievements of Edis’ book, we should quickly survey some of the competing contributions. We find many theistic writers enlisting … Read the rest



Introduction to Creationism’s Trojan Horse

Dec 1st, 2004 | By Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross

Introduction

It used to be obvious that the world
was designed by some sort of intelligence.
What else could account for fire
and rain and lightning and earthquakes?
Above all, the wonderful abilities
of living things seemed to point to a
creator who had a special interest in
life. Today we understand most of these
things in terms of physical forces acting
under impersonal laws.We don’t yet
know the most fundamental laws, and
we can’t work out the consequences of
all the laws we know. The human
mind remains extraordinarily difficult
to understand, but so is the weather.
We can’t predict whether it will rain
one month from today, but we do know
the rules that govern the rain, even

Read the rest


The Derrida Industry…

Nov 29th, 2004 | By Brian Leiter

…has been working overtime to salvage the reputation of their man. Things are so bad that Joan Scott–who I’m told is a substantial historian, but apparently not much of a philosopher–actually wrote the following to The New York Times:

[Your obituary writer] is embarrassingly illiterate in the history of philosophy. His obituary is also terribly one sided. I thought the Times was committed to balance. Where are the appreciative quotes from American philosophers and literary critics? From those (and there are many) who have used his work to great effect and taught whole generations of students how to read [sic] differently [i.e., badly]?

The obituary author may, indeed, be ignorant of the history of philosophy, but certainly no more … Read the rest