All entries by this author

In Edinburgh this evening

Aug 14th, 2014 10:38 am | By

In case you’re in or near Edinburgh and (unlikely) don’t already know, PZ is doing a talk for the Edinburgh skeptics in about an hour and a half.

Thursday 14 August 2014, 7:50 pm – 8:50 pm
At: Banshee Labyrinth, 29-35 Niddry Street

What’s it about? Creationism and the rural US, aka the Bible Belt.

The rural United States is a strange place to live, with a citizenry absolutely convinced of their divine favor and destiny, yet still insisting that the silliest ideas must be respected. I’ll be discussing some of the more memorable encounters with creationists, and how I think we must deal with this problem.

Prediction: it’s not by Teaching the Controversy.

 … Read the rest

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And the Fields medal goes to

Aug 14th, 2014 10:25 am | By

An Iranian mathematician working in the US has won the Fields medal. And the kicker? She’s a woman. Professor  Maryam Mirzakhani was recognized for her work on complex geometry.

In becoming the very first female medallist, Prof Mirzakhani – who teaches at Stanford University in California – ends what has been a long wait for the mathematics community.

Prof Dame Frances Kirwan, a member of the medal selection committee from the University of Oxford, pointed out that despite maths being viewed traditionally as “a male preserve”, women have contributed to mathematics for centuries.

She noted that around 40% of maths undergraduates in the UK are women, but that proportion declines rapidly at PhD level and beyond.

“I hope that

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An asset to atheism and a supporter of brave infidels

Aug 13th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

Now here’s the Richard Dawkins I consider a major asset to the atheist movement and to other atheists. It’s the Dawkins who has been giving support to Maryam Namazie for years, and continues to do so.

The sound is terrible, but there are titles. Note what Richard does and says at the end.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgMaaL9UgoURead the rest

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Women don’t matter

Aug 13th, 2014 4:34 pm | By

One might have thought the abortion situation would improve after the tragic, pointless, cruel death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, but apparently any change at all is going to be tiny, slow, and resisted every step of the way.

The Guardian got its hands on a copy of new guidelines issued to Irish doctors. The guidelines stink.

Pregnant women in Ireland could be blocked from having an abortion even if they are at risk of suicide after conceiving as a result of rape or incest, under new guidelines issued to Irish doctors.

Experts warned that the Guidance Document for Health Professionals, which has yet to be made public but has been obtained by the Guardian, will give power to

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Taking the empty back roads over the moors

Aug 13th, 2014 4:11 pm | By

Here’s an amusing blog post about PZ’s talk in Hebden Bridge yesterday.

A few days ago I saw that Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota MorrisPharyngula blogger, and sworn enemy of creationist nut-jobbery in all its forms was coming to speak in Hebden.

But he was snowed under and forgot, until he saw a tweet of PZ’s mentioning it was starting in 30 minutes.

Hebden Bridge is about 30 minutes away by car from my house. I found my keys, leapt into the car, forgetting my phone, and hit the road. Taking the empty back roads over the moors I somehow managed to get to the Trades Club with two

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Manly men drop former manly man Mark Driscoll

Aug 13th, 2014 3:13 pm | By

Manly man Mark Driscoll has been dropped from a Manly Men conference because…well because they don’t like him any more. His jesus is broken.

Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll was scheduled to be a headliner at the upcoming Act Like Men conferences, a nationwide evangelical convention where men get together to talk about Christianity and manhood. Which makes sense: Everyone knows that manhood is Mark Driscoll’s favorite subject. He can’t stop talking about being a man, and how cool it is, and how difficult it is, and how awesome God thinks it is. It’s fair to say, in fact, that Mark Driscoll has men on the brain, all the time. It’s raining men in Driscoll-town!

And so this has

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He lives there because the taxes are higher

Aug 13th, 2014 3:00 pm | By

From The Talks, an interview with the actor Stellan Skarsgård. People have good sense in Sweden.

Mr. Skarsgård, where do you live?

I live in Sweden because the taxes are higher, nobody is starving, good health care, free schools and universities. It’s a civilized country and I like that.

You prefer paying higher taxes?

Of course. If you make a lot of money like I do you should pay higher taxes. Everybody should have the possibility to go to school, and university, and have good healthcare.

Goodness. How reasonable, and how rare.

 

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At Conway Hall on Monday

Aug 13th, 2014 2:29 pm | By

This happened on Monday:

Talks & Lectures

Witchcraft belief: Murder and Misogyny in the 21st Century

Mon 11 Aug 2014, 19:00

London Black Atheists, Central London Humanist Group and the Nigerian human rights activist, Mr Leo Igwe present

Witchcraft belief: Murder and Misogyny in the 21st Century

Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe explores the toxic mix of religion, superstition, misogyny, cruelty, mental instability and sheer greed that are factors in the accusation of mainly women and children of witchcraft and offers solutions on combating this modern day scourge of the world.

London Black Atheists, Central London Humanist Group and the Nigerian human rights activist, Mr Leo Igwe, a renowned campaigner against witchcraft accusations and winner of the National

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The NSS says No to witch-hunters

Aug 13th, 2014 10:31 am | By

The National Secular Society has called on the Home Secretary to deny David Oyedepo entry into the UK.

David Oyedepo Jnr is due to address a Winners Chapel International convention in Dartford on 13-16 August. In a letter to the Home Secretary the National Secular Society argued that preventing Mr Oyedepo from entering the country is a necessary step to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.

In 2011 Mr Oyedepo was captured on video assaulting a young girl at one of his ministration events in Nigeria. After [he accuses] the girl of being a witch, she can be heard saying she is a “witch for Jesus”. Mr Oyedepo then slaps her around the face and denounces her as

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Managing disagreement

Aug 13th, 2014 9:33 am | By

Robert Reich has a public post on Facebook that says essentially the same thing as the joint statement that Richard Dawkins and I signed. It says we are going to disagree, that’s inevitable, so we have to do it in a reasonable way.

This is the summer of our discontent. Almost everyone I know is angry — with politics, with government, with the media, with their work, with their employer, with people who hold different views. Why? Not since the 1930s have so many Americans been on a downward escalator economically and faced so much financial insecurity. That we’re supposed to be in an economic recovery makes it all the worse. I think this the root of our anger,

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It’s not always code for something else

Aug 13th, 2014 9:04 am | By

James Bloodworth ponders the difficulty of explaining fanaticism and the fact that sophisticated people are often very bad at it.

Back in the 1930s, attempts to explain fascism famously tripped up many leading intellectuals of the time. Hitler’s demands to expand the Third Reich were taken by many otherwise sophisticated people as code for something else. Was it not true, after all, that the Treaty of Versailles had imposed punitive and unreasonable conditions on Germany? As Paul Berman noted in his book, Terror and Liberalism, despite the SS repeatedly reaffirming at its death camps that “here there is no why”, for much of the left there was always a “why”.

Many people seem to miss the fact (or to … Read the rest

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Guest post: This isn’t the loophole

Aug 13th, 2014 8:46 am | By

Originally a comment by gormanator on When self-ownership applies.

This business of trying to noodle out the morality of suicide in a framework of “rights” seems unlikely to result in any sort of useful moral clarity. It reminds me of the standard libertarian argument: “no one has a right to coerce another human to do anything” (sounds reasonable enough, if you don’t think too hard for counterexamples), ergo I can’t prevent you from owning a machine gun because that would be coercive. That’s just a shitty way to frame a political philosophy. The world is just… more complicated than that.

When I was twelve, I got to watch my mom try to kill herself. (Thankfully, she survived, but … Read the rest

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The truth about us is far more complex and subtle

Aug 12th, 2014 11:33 am | By

Leonard Mlodinow writes in Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior:

We all make personal, financial, and business decisions, confident that we have properly weighed all the important factors and acted accordingly – and that we know how we came to those decisions. But we are aware only of our conscious influences, and so have only partial information. As a result, our view of ourselves and our motivations, and of society, is like a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. We fill in blanks and make guesses, but the truth about us is far more complex and subtle than that which can be understood as the straightforward calculation of conscious and rational minds.

What I keep … Read the rest

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Disposing of the women

Aug 12th, 2014 11:17 am | By

More horror from ISIS (aka IS).

According to an Iraqi lawmaker of Yezidi origin Vian Dakhil, who addressed the Iraqi parliament last week, with tears in her eyes, “IS militants have abducted five hundred Yezidis women”. Later the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry indicated that families of the captives had contacted them to report the abduction of their womenfolk.

Erbil-based media network Rudaw was one of the few local media channels that quoted eyewitnesses who survived the attack saying “hundreds of women were kidnapped and transferred by IS jihadists to an unknown place in Mosul”.

The whereabouts of the kidnapped women became known when the head of the Women’s Rights Commission at the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament, Evar Ibrahim, confirmed on Tuesday

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When self-ownership applies

Aug 12th, 2014 10:36 am | By

Tom Flynn takes issue with Jennifer Michael Hecht’s view of suicide in her latest book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. Her view is what the title indicates: you’re not allowed to.

Tom admires her writing, but remains unconvinced.

Make no mistake, Stay is compellingly written—I don’t think Hecht is capable of writing other than marvelously—so why couldn’t her book change my views? Stay has multiple difficulties, but its fatal problem is straightforward: while many naturalistic thinkers have offered arguments against suicide, and Hecht marshals them skillfully—who knew that apostle of liberty, John Stuart Mill, thought people lacked the right to end their lives?—the most powerful naturalistic arguments about suicide uphold its licitness. Period. Candidly, Humean

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Lock in the freshness!

Aug 12th, 2014 10:03 am | By

Josh Slocum takes to the Washington Post to explain to us, in his characteristically hornet-like way, what the problem is with putting dead bodies in boxes and then storing them in buildings above ground.

You’ve never heard of exploding casket syndrome (ask your mortician if it’s right for you), but funeral directors and cemetery operators have. They sell so-called “protective” or “sealer” caskets at a premium worth hundreds of dollars each, with the promise that they’ll keep out air and moisture that — they would have you believe — cause bodies to rapidly deteriorate. Like Tupperware for the dead, they “lock in the freshness!” with a rubber gasket.

Ah but if you lock it in, then…well we … Read the rest

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Blow up that one frame for a closer look

Aug 11th, 2014 6:38 pm | By

I’m still thinking about it, because the more I think about it, the worse it gets. The more I think about it the more it underlines that this is not what I want in any kind of campaign or movement, let alone a community.

Look at it again.

I was trying to say something about logical thinking, but that logical point doesn’t raise its silly head in neutral cases like X and Y and in cases like giving somebody a slap around the face as distinct from breaking their nose. It doesn’t raise its head with that. It does raise its head when you’re talking about rape and pedophilia and possibly nothing else. Therefore, I wanted to make the

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You don’t have to look far to see what Islamism is

Aug 11th, 2014 6:04 pm | By

Maryam posted her talk at the Global Humanist Conference on her blog.

Have an excerpt to inspire you to go read the whole thing:

No religion looks favourably upon women, gay and lesbians, freethinkers, dissenters, other religions or atheists, and blasphemers, heretic and apostates… Punishing freethinkers is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. But there is something about Islam primarily because it is the banner of Islamism, a far-Right political movement, spearheading what I call an Islamic inquisition.

Islamists want the far-Right restructuring of societies – concretely this means a Caliphate or Islamic state, the implementation of Sharia law, the imposition of the burka and compulsory veiling, gender segregation, defending Hududd punishments like death by stoning, and

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Guest post: On the utility of having a full range of emotions

Aug 11th, 2014 3:56 pm | By

A post Bruce Everett wrote on Facebook and gave me permission to post here.

I find it a bit funny (not “haha funny”), all of this assuming-everyone-else-is-irrational business that’s going on amidst discussions of trauma. It’s also especially not-haha funny when people assume that I’m being overly emotional myself, when in actual fact I have a good degree of difficulty in experiencing a wide range of emotions on account of my clinical depression.

They might as well be accusing me of being in North Korea – it’s another country I can’t get to. And of course, if they’re going to accuse me of something this absurd, you know how they’re going to treat people who quite understandably have strong emotional … Read the rest

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Why oh why would rape be a sensitive subject?

Aug 11th, 2014 12:56 pm | By

Oh dear. A London-based reporter for Religion News Service, Brian Pellot, was at the Global Humanist Conference and was at Samira Ahmed’s interview with Dawkins and has a transcript. It’s rather dispiriting.

Dawkins said that his rape tweets were “absolutely not presented as provocation.” Asked if he regretted sending them, he said, “I don’t regret it as much as you want me to say I do.”

I don’t actually care whether he regrets sending them or not; I care much more about whether he sees the reasonable points many people have made. That would have been a better question, really, because asking him to express regret on stage in front of a thousand people is not likely to be … Read the rest

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