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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
… Read the rest
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
…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
“A Thanksgiving for plenty. O Most merciful Father, which of thy gracious goodness hast heard the devout prayers of thy church, and turned our dearth and scarcity into cheapnesse and plenty: we giue thee humble thankes for this thy special bounty, beseeching thee to continue this thy louing kindnes unto vs, that our land may yeild vs her fruits of increase, to thy glory and our comfort, through Iesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
This prayer of Thanksgiving was not used by the Pilgrims in 1621, but with these words we must begin, if we want to assess the claims that, “The 1621 gathering in Plymouth was not a religious gathering but most likely a harvest celebration much like those the … Read the rest
When Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked an Oregon law allowing doctor-assisted suicide in 2001 – a case that is still working its ways through the legal system – patients with the disease were among those who supported the law in court. But while the legal case and much of the national attention has focused on the issue of the right to die, less is known about those patients who want to live, and, like Dr. Lodish, will go to extraordinary lengths to do so.
Debates between Liberals and Conservatives on some “lifestyle” issues are usually represented as disputes between those who believe that people should get what they … Read the rest
Maryam Namazie: Theo van Gogh, a film director and journalist, was assassinated in broad daylight in Amsterdam on November 2. He was repeatedly stabbed and his throat slit. They say his assassin has “radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions”. There is a debate on whether this is the act of an individual or the political Islamic movement. Why have you said it is political Islam?
Azar Majedi: This is not the first time we’ve seen that someone who has criticised Islam has been murdered. Political Islam has been massacring, torturing, executing and beheading people for the exact same thing in the Middle East, in Iran under the Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and so on. Even when they are not … Read the rest
‘Islam against Islam’ is an interesting topic. The irony of a believer criticising the beliefs is provocative. I am not a Moslem; I am an atheist. However, I have lived Islam; I have firsthand experience of Islam. I was born within a religious conflict: a religious mother and an atheist father. From childhood, I began to see the flaws, the restrictions, the misogyny, the backwardness, the dogma, the superstition, and uncritical nature of Islam vis-à-vis the enlightenment, the freethinking spirit of atheist thinking.
I became an atheist at the age of 12.
The establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran after a failed revolution laid bare many other appalling and cruel dimensions of Islam, which we later came to label … Read the rest
Physicists Matt Young and Taner Edis are the editors of a new volume whose contributors are working scholars in the sciences touched by the newest expression of “creation science”: Intelligent Design (ID) Theory. Why Intelligent Design Fails is a patient assessment of all the scientific claims made in connection with ID. The half dozen science-enabled spokesmen for ID are the indispensable core group of an international neo-creationist big tent. Goals of the American movement are sweeping: they begin with a highly visible, well-funded, nationwide effort to demean evolutionary science in American school (K-12) curricula. ID is offered as a better alternative. The hoped-for result is the addition of ID to, or even its substitution for, the teaching of evolution. Which … Read the rest
“The Passion held the No. 1 position at the box office for three weeks, then dipped when Dawn of the Dead knocked it out of first position. Now in its seventh week, The Passion beat out last weekend’s No. 1 movie, [the] comic-book action-adventure Hellboy, which dropped 52 percent to $11.1 million . . ” Anne Thompson, New York Times, April 11, 2004.
The German Romantics revolted against the Enlightenment by inventing a poeticized Christianity in literature and art and by incarnating their reinvented religion in a spiritualized poetry, love, and nature. Since their spiritualization of art effected its transformations in an autonomous poetic realm, their political impact was slight. For the same reason, even the deeply … Read the rest
Yesterday Theo van Gogh, a journalist and a filmmaker, was brutally murdered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was murdered because he cared and dared to expose the inherent misogynism in and the brutal nature of Islam. An act, which sadly, nowadays calls for great courage, due to advancements of political Islam and the rise in religion’s influence in the society. He was murdered by political Islam, a reactionary movement that resorts to intimidation and terror as its main tools for gaining power and achieving its goals. This is not the first crime committed by this movement as a way to silence the critics of Islam and Islamists, and if we do not stand against it, it will not be the last. … Read the rest
Freud once wrote, “Intolerance of groups is often, strangely enough, exhibited more strongly against small differences than against fundamental ones.” This is certainly true of intellectuals. The problem is that if you look at anything very closely, including ideas and ideals, differences which appear small from the wider perspective suddenly appear very large indeed. And so it should be. It is precisely our ability to examine the objects of intellectual endeavour closely and discern differences invisible to the naked mind’s eye which allows us to deepen and extend our learning in the humanities and the sciences.
However, if we never step back and examine the broader picture, we can become blinded to some important features of intellectual life which should … Read the rest