Notes and Comment Blog

A remnant

Mar 17th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

Hmm. I’d seen some comments about finding a bible in the Harlem explosion, and I was going to say something erm challenging about it, but I avoided Fox and the Daily News and chose the CNN version, and…well given the story CNN tells, I really don’t feel like looking down my nose at it.

On the third day of a grueling recovery effort from the three-story pile of rubble, firefighters early Saturday pulled a large waterlogged Bible from the ashes and ruins of the Spanish Christian Church, which occupied the basement and first floor of one of the two destroyed buildings.

“One of our members found a Bible, the original book they tell me of the founders of the church,” Cassano said. “It was singed, but it meant an awful lot to the pastor because at least we have a remnant of the church. It showed the pastor they’ll be rebuilding. This church is resilient.”

When firefighters presented the Spanish-language Bible to the church’s 83-year-old pastor, the Rev. Thomas Perez, the pastor was overcome.

Perez, who has stood vigil with others at the blast site, was participating in a small prayer gathering with religious leaders and experienced chest pains, said the Rev. Vernon Williams, who attended the vigil.

Cassano said Perez was recovering at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“He was overwhelmed with emotion, for sure,” the fire commissioner said. “It’s a very sacred thing for him.”

After Perez was taken away by ambulance, Williams said, about two dozen people at the vigil prayed for him before carrying the Bible in a procession near the site.

“It was the altar Bible,” Williams said. “There was no sing[e]ing on the Bible at all. It was intact, with a little water damage.”

The small evangelical church and Bethel Gospel Assembly lost five members in the explosion.

The blast victims were identified as Carmen Tanco, 67; Alexis (Jordy) Salas, 22; Griselde Camacho, 44; Rosaura Hernandez, 21; Andreas Panagopoulos, 43; George Ameado, 44; and Rosaura Barrios, 44.

All right…I don’t get from that that oh it’s ok then, because the bible survived. I get more of a clutching at whatever there is.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Fixing feminism one tweet at a time

Mar 17th, 2014 4:45 pm | By

If you want to make yourself pissed off – and who doesn’t?? – you could do worse than checking on the Twitter account of Christina Hoff Sommers now and then. Here’s my crop from a quick scroll through just now:

Sexual McCarthyism in military is result of phony study.Sex assault genuine problem;but won’t be solved by fake data.

General Sinclair broke rules by having affair:Bad.But military pursued rape charge it knew not true:Horrifying.

Wow!Pentagon pursued sex assault case even though it knew accuser lying.Sexual McCarthyism no longer just on campus.

Wait a minute. I thought women were supposed to be the cooperative sex. …

Iraq just legalized spousal rape. American feminists organize to “Ban Bossy.”

Uh-oh! The ultimate male hegemon–Mitt Romney–regularly called “bossy” during campaign.

My advice to Sheryl Sandberg and others who find little word “bossy” threatening: Woman up!

Other male-specific putdowns–loser, creep, putz, bastard — and worse. Male achievement a complete mystery: So many mean words! #banbossy

RTing one Mark J Perry:

Do gender activists advocate perfect gender equality for: prison populations, motorcycle deaths, job-related deaths?

That’s a good enough sample for now.

She used to be a philosopher. Some people should just never go near Twitter.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Isn’t it amazing what the teacher asked

Mar 17th, 2014 4:03 pm | By

Remember that schoolteacher who bullied the Buddhist kid for not “correctly” answering the question she asked on a test:

“ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

when the “correct” answer was supposed to be “the Lord”? Remember that?

Well a judge has said that’s a no-no.

6th grade science teacher Rita Roark taught students that the Bible is “100 percent true.” She told them God created the Earth 6,000 years ago and called evolution a “stupid theory made up by stupid people who don’t want to believe in God.” What follows is a test question she gives to students.

“ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The answer Roark looked for was “The Lord.” But “C.C.,” a student in Roark’s class, couldn’t answer the question, nor would he have. That’s because C.C. is a Buddhist, not a Christian. Roark not only violated her student’s First Amendment rights by pushing specific religious beliefs on a classroom assignment, she also ridiculed her non-Christian student. She led her class in laughing at “C.C.” and called his Buddhist faith “stupid.” Roark also told “C.C.” that “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.”

Christian propaganda can be found all around school property. From pictures of Jesus, posters, Bible verses, and official prayers, Negreet High School clearly seeks to indoctrinate students and bully those who don’t practice the Christian faith. When parents confronted Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb about the issue, she told them to either change their faith to fit in with “the Bible Belt” or find a school where “there are more Asians.”

Or get out of God’s country or give up on getting an education or jump off a cliff. One of those, anyway we win and you lose.

District Judge Elizabeth Foote not only ruled against the school, she threw the book at them. In her ruling, Foote agreed that the school district clearly violated the constitutional rights of students by forcing Christian doctrine down their throats. She ordered the school to remove all of the propaganda from the premises. The ruling banned school officials from initiating prayers, using class work to promote religion, sponsoring a religious belief, or holding religious services at the school. Students are still permitted to pray in school and participate in religious clubs. But as the ruling states,

“The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event… School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious belief, or lack thereof.”

In other words they’ve been told to do what they should have been doing all along.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Look for the Chopped-Off Alien Fetus Pods

Mar 17th, 2014 2:29 pm | By

I don’t know what this is, but it’s making me laugh until I have to get up and walk around the room to regain my composure.

Lileks Institute: Knudsen’s, the Very Best.

Excuse me, I have to blow my nose again.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Mar 17th, 2014 11:40 am | By

There’s an issue here; a crux, an aporia, a conundrum, a fork.

On the one hand, yes, of course, you have to ground all your claims in something. Reasons don’t just fall out of the sky; we have to think about them, and criticize them, and back them up.

On the other hand, you don’t want all questions to be permanently open. That would lead to a war of all against all.

How do you reconcile those two items?

Beats the hell out of me.

I’m seeing some philosophy types who are annoyed by this idea that some questions should be treated as closed, because hey, there are arguments for abortion rights, and it’s philosophy types who can make them.

Yes, ok, but does the discussion have to go on forever? And what do we do in the meantime? And what about all those places where it is in fact treated as closed? The US teems with new attacks on abortion rights and women’s right to be treated as human beings with human rights of their own; Ireland doesn’t even have abortion rights apart from the extremely minimal ones voted in last summer in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar; but in the UK and many other European countries abortion rights are just there – the question is treated as closed. It’s not clear why we have to start over again from scratch every day.

Also: philosophy types should not act like Spocks. They should not get all surprised and miffed when women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights. This is a human thing. It’s human to get upset about controversies that are close to home. There’s something…reptilian about pointing disdainfully at people who get angry about controversies of that kind.

The reality is that rights were invented as a way to treat certain questions as closed for practical purposes. That’s why they’re rights as opposed to laws. That’s why they are called “inalienable” in the Declaration of Independence. “Inalienable” can be translated as “you can talk until you’re blue in the face but you still can’t take away our rights.”

Update: actually unalienable, not inalienable. My mistake.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What prompted this reaction?

Mar 17th, 2014 9:46 am | By

Philip Roth did an interview for Svenska Dagbladet and the NY Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago. There was one interesting question.

In some quarters it is almost a cliché to mention the word “misogyny” in relation to your books. What, do you think, prompted this reaction initially, and what is your response to those who still try to label your work in that way?

Misogyny, a hatred of women, provides my work with neither a structure, a meaning, a motive, a message, a conviction, a perspective, or a guiding principle. This is contrary, say, to how another noxious form of psychopathic abhorrence — and misogyny’s equivalent in the sweeping inclusiveness of its pervasive malice — anti-Semitism, a hatred of Jews, provides all those essentials to “Mein Kampf.” My traducers propound my alleged malefaction as though I have spewed venom on women for half a century. But only a madman would go to the trouble of writing 31 books in order to affirm his hatred.

It is my comic fate to be the writer these traducers have decided I am not. They practice a rather commonplace form of social control: You are not what you think you are. You are what we think you are. You are what we choose for you to be. Well, welcome to the subjective human race. The imposition of a cause’s idea of reality on the writer’s idea of reality can only mistakenly be called “reading.” And in the case at hand, it is not necessarily a harmless amusement. In some quarters, “misogynist” is now a word used almost as laxly as was “Communist” by the McCarthyite right in the 1950s — and for very like the same purpose.

Yet every writer learns over a lifetime to be tolerant of the stupid inferences that are drawn from literature and the fantasies implausibly imposed upon it. As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don’t pretend to be.

Well, as for the interviewer’s question, “what prompted this reaction initially,” I can say what prompted it in me: it was reading his early novels, and in particular My Life as a Man, which is so frenzied in its loathing that it put me off reading him at all for decades. That’s what.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: The Myth of the Consistent Skeptic

Mar 16th, 2014 5:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by Blanche Quizno on Another bad model.

Let’s not fall into the trap sometimes described as the “Myth of the Consistent Skeptic.” Albert Einstein was an huge and outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union’s government system, holding onto his positive view even as negative information poured in:

Einstein held a wide range of beliefs beyond his contributions to science and outside his area of expertise. For example, in 1933, Einstein (we believe correctly) voiced his opinion about political liberty in Germany, “As long as I have any choice, I will only stay in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule. Political liberty implies liberty to express one’s political views orally and in writing, toleration, respect for any and every individual. These conditions do not obtain in Germany at the present time” (Einstein 1949, p. 81). Einstein openly criticized Nazism and the brutalities that occurred under that government.

The important point, however, is that Einstein’s positive beliefs toward the Soviet Union did not change as substantial information came forth demonstrating that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state that did not tolerate political liberty. Einstein was never shy about judging capitalism or Nazism by their deeds and actions instead of their rhetoric. He did not apply this standard to the Soviet Union. A consistent skeptic would not use double standards to evaluate different forms of governments.

If Einstein was a consistent skeptic, one would predict that, as the accumulating evidence came forth over the years, Einstein would modify his beliefs and become a leading critic of both Stalin and the Soviet Union for their violations of political liberty.

The point is that, since people are complex, complicated individuals, you’re rarely going to find a single person who is completely, unfailingly luminary in every characteristic bar none. So do we throw out the baby with the bathwater if we happen to find something icky?

If so, then we’re going to have to OURSELVES be consistent across the board. Out with Heidegger. Out with Einstein. Out with Thomas Jefferson:

In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce …this assemblage of horrors,” a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberties.” As historian John Chester Miller put it, “The inclusion of Jefferson’s strictures on slavery and the slave trade would have committed the United States to the abolition of slavery.

But in the 1790s, Davis continues, “the most remarkable thing about Jefferson’s stand on slavery is his immense silence.” And later, Davis finds, Jefferson’s emancipation efforts “virtually ceased.”

Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson.

The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.

The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”

The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him. – “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson”, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2012

George Washington freed his slaves. Thomas Jefferson never did – even though Jefferson’s old friend, Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kos­ciuszko, left him in his will the equivalent in today’s dollars of $280,000 to use in freeing his slaves. Jefferson had helped draft this will; he knew what was in it. As executor of that will, Jefferson had a legal responsibility to carry its terms out as specified, which meant using that money to free his slaves. Jefferson did not. He refused to accept the cash because he could make more money off his slaves. Jefferson never freed his slaves, many of which were his own children.

Isn’t enslaving your own children far more heinous than believing and saying horrible stuff about an ethnic group that’s not your own?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Another bad model

Mar 16th, 2014 2:37 pm | By

So Heidegger was even worse than everyone thought. They thought he was a little anti-Semitic, yes, but not…you know…all the way anti-Semitic.

This week’s publication of the “black notebooks” (a kind of philosophical diary that Heidegger asked to be held back until the end of his complete work), challenges this view. In France the revelations have been debated vigorously since passages were leaked to the media last December, with some Heidegger scholars even trying to stop the notebooks’ publication.

In Germany, one critic has argued that it would be “hard to defend” Heidegger’s thinking after the publication of the notebooks, while another has already called the revelations a “debacle” for modern continental philosophy – even though the complete notebooks were until now embargoed by the publisher.

So what did he say?

“World Judaism”, Heidegger writes in the notebooks, “is ungraspable everywhere and doesn’t need to get involved in military action while continuing to unfurl its influence, whereas we are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people”.

In another passage, the philosopher writes that the Jewish people, with their “talent for calculation”, were so vehemently opposed to the Nazi’s racial theories because “they themselves have lived according to the race principle for longest”.

The notion of “world Judaism” was propagated in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish plan for world domination. Adolf Hitler stated the conspiracy theory as fact in Mein Kampf, and Heidegger too appears to adopt some of its central tropes.

Did Heidegger have much to say about “World Gentilism”?

Other philosophers have argued that the new revelations do not amount to a “smoking gun” of antisemitism, and should not lead to a dismissal of Heidegger’s other writings even if they did. “Philosophy is about learning to be aware of problems in your own thinking where you might not have suspected them,” said the British philosopher Jonathan Rée about the black notebooks.

“The best of what Heidegger wrote – indeed the best of philosophy in general – is not an injunction to agree with a proffered opinion, but a plea to all of us to make our thinking more thoughtful.”

Ok, but a philosopher whose thinking is infected with something as stupid and vicious as anti-Semitism – especially anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany – isn’t going to be much help with making our thinking more thoughtful. Do you see what I mean? Because he’s not a good example of more thoughtful thinking. Anti-semitic thinking is not a good model for making our thinking more thoughtful.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The least edgy thing you can do

Mar 16th, 2014 10:31 am | By


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The prior consolidation of a decent politics

Mar 16th, 2014 10:06 am | By

Michael Ignatieff has a fascinating review-article in The New Republic taking off from the book Countrymen by Bo Lidegaard, the editor of the Danish newspaper Politiken. The book is about the fact that the Danes did not co-operate with the Nazis in rounding up and killing all the Jews during World War 2. Ignatieff – who would be the Canadian PM now if Stephen Harper hadn’t won that election – makes a striking point:

The Danes knew long before the war that their army could not resist a German invasion. Instead of overtly criticizing Hitler, the Social Democratic governments of the 1930s sought to inoculate their populations against the racist ideology next door. It was in those ominous years that the shared identity of all Danes as democratic citizens was drummed into the political culture, just in time to render most Danes deeply resistant to the Nazi claim that there existed a “Jewish problem” in Denmark. Lidegaard’s central insight is that human solidarity in crisis depended on the prior consolidation of a decent politics, on the creation of a shared political imagination.

That’s connected to what I’ve been saying for the past few days, and at intervals before that too: that some things really shouldn’t be “up for debate” and that we should prefer even a kind of dogmatism or stubbornness when it comes to those things. The Social Democratic governments of the 1930s sought to inoculate their populations against the racist ideology next door. Not have a conversation with them about it, not debate it, not weigh the pros and cons of it, but inoculate them against it. The shared identity of all Danes as democratic citizens was drummed into the political culture. Not offered, not suggested, not included on a list of goods, but drummed into the political culture. This was done just in time to render most Danes deeply resistant to the Nazi claim. Not skeptical, not unconvinced, not dubious, but deeply resistant. Why? Because human solidarity in crisis depended on the prior consolidation of a decent politics. That’s why.

Some things it just really is worth drumming into people until it’s in their bones and sinews and blood vessels, until they can’t not believe it.

H/t Kristjan Wager for the link.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Skeptics should be willing

Mar 15th, 2014 2:45 pm | By

Seen on Twitter:

What a joke #UpForDebate is. Skeptics should be willing to revise any and all of their beliefs given sufficient reason, argument, evidence.

Really? All? Are we sure? Our beliefs that genocide is wrong? Our beliefs that Hitler should not have tried to kill all the Jews? Our beliefs that it’s wrong to beat small children? Our beliefs that torture is not permissible? Our beliefs that murder is wrong? Our beliefs that assault is wrong?

So we’re just back to #UpForDebate again.

No, really. We don’t have to put everything on the table. It’s ok to see some things – in fact many things – as moral progress, and a ratchet, and to treat them as settled.

Some self-styled skeptics really don’t get this. (Others do get it, and accept that skepticism isn’t the only or best tool for analyzing morality anyway.) Some self-styled skeptics think being skeptical of homeopathy and being skeptical of basic human rights are exactly the same thing. They are mistaken.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How can anyone possibly not want a baby?

Mar 15th, 2014 12:48 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte did an eloquent post on the isue of “secular” anti-abortion arguments yesterday. No, she doesn’t buy it either.

So, the atheist/skeptic community is in an uproar on the subject of abortion, and since that’s kind of my jam, I figured I should weigh in. The question isn’t whether or not legal abortion is moral—outside a few kooks, nearly all non-believers are pro-choice—but whether or not those anti-abortion kooks should be indulged and given the privilege of having everyone treat their shit arguments like they have value in free-wheeling discourse, or if they should be shunned on the grounds of being shit arguments the same way anti-gay or overtly racist arguments are shunned.

I find the anti-shunning side to be peculiar, on the grounds of boredom. Yes, we should, as freethinkers, not shy away from “difficult” topics and have freewheeling discourse about them, but it’s not like anti-choicers have suddenly farted out a bunch of new crap arguments to pick apart. They’re still pooping out the same old crap argument they’ve been using for the past forty years—that an embryo or even fertilized egg that has no brain has more human rights than the woman who has been drafted into growing it against her will—that’s been debunked a million billion times.

Go ahead if you want to, she goes on, but don’t go thinking you’re advancing free thought by doing it, because that would require arguments in good faith, and that’s not what these are.

Like Kruszelnicki’s pseudo-liberal argument that if only there were more daycare and stuff like that then women would stop all this abortion horror. Oh yeah? says Amanda.

Ah, doesn’t that sound nice? We give women more opportunities to leave work early for their mothering duties and some gold-plated day care and perhaps some re-education camps (don’t say that out loud) and eventually, they will succumb to our soft coercion and know that having a baby is what they really want, like they should, because all ladies love babies—and all ladies want a baby right now  because they are so cute—because they are ladies.

Well, let me just put a stop to this shit right now. You can give me gold-plated day care and an awesome public school right on the street corner and start paying me 15% more at work, and I still do not want a baby. I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

And we get to feel that way, and act on it, because it’s our lives, not someone else’s.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Now Friends on Facebook

Mar 15th, 2014 11:38 am | By

Let’s take a look at Kelsey Hazzard, the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life. (She and Hemant are now Friends on Facebook. You can say that in a James Earl Jones voice if you want to.)

Kelsey Hazzard is the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a legal fellow at Americans United for Life. She is also the author of the pro-life novella “Cultivating Weeds.”

Ok then let’s take a look at Americans United for Life.

Americans United for Life, the nation’s premier pro-life legal team, works through the law and legislative process to one end: Achieving comprehensive legal protection for human life from conception to natural death.The nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization holds the unique distinction of being the first national pro-life organization in America— incorporated in 1971, before the infamous Roe v. Wade decision.

AUL’s legal team has been involved in every abortion-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade, including AUL’s successful defense of the Hyde Amendment before the Supreme Court. AUL’s legal expertise and acumen set the bar in the pro-life community for the creation of effective and defensible pro-life positions. At the state, federal and international levels, AUL works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced. AUL knows that reversing Roe v. Wade can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.

That’s all bullshit. Abortion isn’t a threat to life. Abortion isn’t a culture of death, or the opposite of a culture of life. The way to protect human life is not to ban abortion. It’s all bullshit. The real threats to life are disease, poverty, violence, war, workplace hazards, environmental hazards, accidents, lack of education – systemic problems, social problems, problems of inequality and malpractice. Forcing women to bear children they don’t want to bear is completely tangential to all of that, and in fact greatly increases the risks to life for the woman.

So it’s all bullshit. All of it. It’s people blowing smoke for the sake of some kind of obstinate sentimentality about the fetus…except when it’s just plain old god-bothering disguised as obstinate sentimentality about the fetus.

These people are deadly enemies of women; make no mistake about it.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Argumentum ad horrorem

Mar 15th, 2014 11:11 am | By

More from the wonderful people at “Secular” “Pro-Life.”

creep“If abortion advocates were so secure in their position, in knowing that their stance is right and just, then why would they feel so threatened by pro-life displays? Why feel the need to censor pro-life information from getting out there if there’s no truth to it? It’s the million dollar question with an answer we’ll never get, because it exposes the utter frailty of the pro-abortion movement. Pro-lifers have truth and science on our side. Abortion advocates can’t fight against that, and they know it — so all they can do is try to shut us down.”

The quoted passage and the picture are from a piece at Live Action News, another anti-abortion-rights site.

Here’s how the piece starts:

Pro-life and pro-abortion students clashed this week at the University of Georgia. Pro-life students erected a display, hosted by Justice for All, that included graphic images of aborted babies. Unsurprisingly, pro-abortion students were having none of that.

While pro-life students showed their peers the reality of abortion with graphic images, pro-choice students built a makeshift wall to block the images from view and held signs with statements like “Pussy Power” and “My Body, My Choice.”

In interviews with The College Fix, pro-abortion students called the graphic images – which showed bloody fetuses after late-term abortions – “hateful speech.” They said students shouldn’t be forced to look at them, and that most of the pictures showed “stillborns” and not abortions.

The more I look the more surprised I am that Hemant Mehta solicited that guest post from Kristine Kruszelnicki.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Post the whole sentence, cheaters

Mar 14th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Oh ffs.

derpSecular Pro-Life

“Slowly but steadily, it seems more and more pro-choicers acknowledge this point.

It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”

Peter Singer (pro-choice philosopher), Practical Ethics

Of course we acknowledge it. A human embryo is of the human species. The issue is not that it’s not human and the issue is not that it’s not alive. The embryo is alive and of the human species. It’s a human being in the sense that Singer specifies there. That’s not the only sense. The sentence doesn’t even end there in the book: the punctuation mark after “being” is a semi-colon, and the sentence goes on to say that the same applies to an anencephalic infant. Then there’s a new paragraph and a new and different meaning of “human being” – so Singer isn’t saying or acknowledging what the hacks at Secular Anti-abortion Rights are pretending he said and acknowledged. Surprise! They’re not honest.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Mar 14th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

I’m trawling through Secular Pro-Life’s Facebook page. Look, if they’re going to be the boss of us now, we need to know a little more about them.

They want us to know they like baaaaaybeeeeeeeeez. They want us to know that so that we’ll feel guilty for being such baby-hating bad heartless evil people. So they let us know they donate diapers, and they show us photos of baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybeeeeeeeeeeeeez.

babiesNow, don’t you feel rotten?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The hyenas are prowling

Mar 14th, 2014 5:03 pm | By

Good job, Hemant.

Kristine Kruszelnicki of course is the “secular” anti-abortion rights person who wrote that guest post at Friendly Atheist.



Kristine Kruszelnicki shared a link

Justin Vacula just wrote to congratulate me on being PZ Myer’s “Witch of the Week”. I get to be trashed on PZ’s blog for the second time. Yay! (Free publicity at least?)

Of course he did. He is worried about disunity among the atheists.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The most vulnerable members

Mar 14th, 2014 1:25 pm | By

I’m looking into “Secular Pro-Life” now, having not done so before. They are repulsive. Their rhetoric is religious in its exaggeration and its coerciveness.


For five years, Secular Pro-Life has united people of every faith and no faith to fight for the most vulnerable members of our human family.

That’s religious bullying via sentimentalism. “Vulnerable members of our human family” is religious language for a developing fetus.

I’m sure they think they’re secular, I’m sure they aren’t officially religious, but their rhetoric is saturated in religiion, whether they’re aware of it or not.

They reported on their tabling at the 2012 American Atheists convention. (Yes. Sigh.)

Kelsey: One elderly woman looked me in the eye and said “I don’t understand how women could be so hateful to other women.”  I was upset by the attack, but calmly responded: “I do not hate women.  No woman wants to have an abortion.  No woman wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to have unprotected sex today, so that I can get pregnant and have some doctor put sharp objects up my privates.’  No one wants that.  And we want to make sure women don’t end up in that situation.”  That settled her down a bit and she walked away.

No woman wants to get pregnant when she doesn’t want to get pregnant; that’s true by definition. But if a woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant does get pregnant then she may very well wake up and say, “I’m going to have an abortion today” and feel massive relief that she can say that and it will be true. Kelsey and her friends don’t have the power to make sure that no woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant does get pregnant.

Rebecca has a post about those people at that convention.

it was disheartening for me to discover that a booth at this past weekend’s American Atheists conference was presenting the “scientific” argument against abortion:

That photo is from Surly Amy. By the time I arrived, he had been joined by a woman who was obviously well-versed in anti-choice rhetoric. I interviewed them for about an hour, and while I mostly kept my cool as they grinned and talked about how a fertilized egg deserves “the same” rights as me, I had to stop the interview shortly after the man insisted that a fertilized egg has the same rights as a 12-year old who has been raped and impregnated by her father. Then he went on to tell me that he’s one of the people who waves photos of bloody fetuses at women, and he refused to condemn the actions of anti-choice activists who surround and harass women attempting to enter Planned Parenthood. The best he could offer was that the strategy may be ineffective, and when I pressed him he agreed that specifically calling a woman a whore is “wrong.”

I told him he is a horrible person and I walked away because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. The Religious Right has successfully invaded a secular space to sell their anti-woman message, and in our ranks we have a sizable portion of people who declare that fighting back is too political. Too feminist! Too leftist. Too insular and academic.

Fuck that. If we don’t stand up and defend our values – humanism, skepticism, scientific inquiry – when they are under attack by those who would seek to further limit the rights and freedoms of the disenfranchised, then those values aren’t worth holding at all.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Invisible because incorporated

Mar 14th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

Another review of Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex, this time at NPR, by Marcelo Gleiser.

(Don’t forget, she’s a speaker at Women in Secularism 3, a mere two months from now.)

The man who gave us philosophy as we know it is back, walking among us, going to TV talk shows, visiting Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., having his brain examined by a naïve reductionist neuroscientist, engaging with our current struggles.

For this we must thank Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s inventiveness and intellectual courage. Her bookPlato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, has just been published to rave reviews by people such as philosopher Colin McGinn. Goldstein’s goal is clear: to show to the “philosophy-jeerers” — those who claim philosophy has no value whatsoever — how absurdly wrong (and mostly ignorant) they are.

To show, that is, not to tell.

Philosophy has changed much since Plato, as it should. After all, its purview is precisely to examine and re-examine itself as a precondition to growth. No advance would be possible without this openness to criticism. (Incidentally, and not surprisingly, this is also how science functions. Plasticity is an essential property of any evolving knowledge system.) Goldstein’s brilliantly constructed narrative, combining Plato’s original texts with current-day events, shows how timely the central questions of philosophy remain, as the answers multiply.

Answers are never final, or, if they seem to be, they shouldn’t be interpreted as such. Yet, while in science it is easy to identify progress, in philosophy the task is harder. As Goldstein reflects upon Plato’s legacy, she offers a portrait of the shifting nature of our philosophical inquiries and our search for meaning:

Philosophical progress is invisible because it is incorporated into our points of view. What was tortuously secured by complex argument becomes widely shared by intuition, so obvious that we forget its provenance. We don’t see it, because we see with it.

Philosophy provides the goggles with which we make sense of reality.

And you want to know something about those goggles.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Mar 14th, 2014 11:40 am | By

James Croft has a new entrant in the #UpForDebate who gets to talk about abortion rights how many decades do we have to keep discussing whether women get to have bodily autonomy wars.

A couple of years ago he took part in such a debate, and realized while it was in process that it was basically a sham and he shouldn’t have agreed to do it. It was not a pleasant moment.

What I had failed to realize, despite my weeks of preparation, is that my ability and willingness to enter into a space of “debate” around the issue of abortion is a manifestation of privilege. What you are wiling to debate – what is effectively “up for discussion” – is frequently a reflection of what you think, in principle, you might be willing to give up. What you are able to put on the table of public discourse are the things you don’t feel too threatened to let go of. During all my discussions on the topic before the debate it had never occurred to me that my ability to conduct the research and weigh the arguments in a reasonably dispassionate way was due to the fact that I simply will never have to face the decision to abort. I was discussing, and discoursing, and debating rights which are not mine to put up for discussion. By opening that debate, even taking the pro-choice side, I was essentially putting women’s right to autonomy on the table in a way I have no business doing. Engaging in abstract philosophical discussion about other people’s rights in a public forum, when those rights are constantly under threat in the current political and social climate, and when the answer to the questions you raise will never effect you directly, is a callous and thoughtless thing to do.

I know how this feels to some degree, because I feel a certain sense of outrage when straight people debate the rights of queer people. I have many times found infuriating the way that straight folks can casually discuss my right to get married the same way they might discuss where to go to lunch that day. When it is my fundamental rights being debated, it is very easy to see when the issues are being discussed with too much intellectual remove, and too little righteous anger. I have, more than once, tried angrily to impress upon those arguing against equal marriage (say) that it is my life they are talking about, not some topic for a class paper. My life. It is sadly less easy to see this happening when you are on the other side of the equation. The fact is that as much as I try to be an ally to women, I do not feel the sense of threat and personal affront when confronted with an argument against abortion which I feel when confronted with an argument against gay rights. It doesn’t hit me where I live – which makes me a very bad person to judge when and to what extent such discussions are appropriate.

I think that’s right. It’s a hard thing for people to hear, because it seems inimical to open free discussion…but I think it’s right anyway.

I should have known better, then, than to have reposted on Facebook, without any critical commentary, an article by Kristine Kruszelnicki recently hosted on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog presenting a secular case against abortion. The case presented is shoddy and unconvincing, and it would have been far better, were I to post it at all, to have done so being explicit that I disagreed strongly with it and was posting it for the purpose of attempting to improve the arguments in favor of a woman’s right to choose. I should have been particularly mindful of posting that piece in such a way given the fact that the secular community still seems incapable of agreeing that women are indeed full people, and that it is not OK to proposition them endlessly at conferences, invade their personal space, grope them, make demeaning comments about their appearance all the time etc. Furthermore, I should have recognized that the posting of that article came closely on the heels of what seems to be a signal from Dave Silverman that American Atheists, Inc. might be willing to make common ground with conservatives on the question of abortion in order to further other “more clear-cut” secular aims (it is particularly stupid that I didn’t think of this given the fact I criticized Silverman myself for his statements at CPAC). When the bodily autonomy – and therefore fundamental dignity – of women is not firmly established, it is simply inappropriate to treat as an academic exercise questions of abortion rights – especially without framing those questions in any way.

And the bodily autonomy – and therefore fundamental dignity – of women is not firmly established. We keep seeing that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)