Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Earthquake time

Apr 23rd, 2015 5:16 pm | By

Of course. [Some of] Gamergate is picking up Dawkins’s cool hashtag. Make #‎UPINFY‬ trend wooha!

DragonKing ‏@BahamutDKing 6 hours ago
#gamergate Earthquake time make #UPINFY trend and show these there are no safe spaces we can’t prove are not safe from facts.

Kozi ‏@SergeantKozi 8 hours ago
@_Icze4r Check the #UPINFY tag for the latest culture war front, (University Probably Is Not For You) in response to Based Mom’s treatment

Video Culture Replay ‏@VCR_Blog 8 hours ago
If you are triggered by clapping and different opinions than those taught by mainstream “academic feminists”, #UPINFY

Ross The Boss ‏@gigagiga333 8 hours ago
#Gamergate please boost this tag #UPINFY

Akashi ‏@Onetailedfox3 8 hours ago
We should really just start replying to any SJW with #UPINFY. It is amazing.

Thanks, Richard. It’s lucky for us you’re such a feminist, isn’t it.

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

What language are they speaking? Is it English?

Apr 23rd, 2015 1:25 pm | By

I think what set Dawkins off on his University Probably Is Not For You hashtag spree was Christina Hoff Sommers on her own Twitter spree on the subject of her talk at Oberlin on Monday.

He replied to one of her tweets:

Richard Dawkins‏@RichardDawkins
@CHSommers What language are they speaking? Is it English? English is my native language and I couldn’t understand a single word they said.

Kids today eh. Students eh well I never. Young people talk a strange lingo get offa my lawn wot wot.

So what about Sommers’s talk at Oberlin? You probably know without looking. There was hostility, there were protests, there was talk of safe spaces and trigger warnings. There was probably a good deal of silliness, because people can be silly, yes even feminist undergraduates. Sommers gave a predictable little interview to Reason on the subject.

But the thing is…Sommers spends quite a lot of her time and energy deliberately provoking such responses. She’s very like Dawkins that way only more so. She does not act like an academic philosopher now, she acts like a Fox “News” personality or a shock jock. Her videos are snide and sarcastic, and her tweets are the same only more so. She’s obnoxious on purpose, then she gives a talk at a liberal college and gets the expected responses, then she gets more mileage out of complaining about the responses. It’s her shtick.

The students at the liberal college are pretty foolish to take her bait, but she’s pretty malicious to dangle it in front of them. And Dawkins is wrong to take her seriously.

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

Guest post: Presto, vaccination levels shot up into herd immunity levels

Apr 23rd, 2015 12:52 pm | By

Originally a comment by quixote on California has the “personal belief” exemption.

Some little municpal health department near Vernal, Utah, was trying to figure out how to up the vaccination rate. The vaccination cost $25. A personal belief exemption involved ticking a box on a form.

Well, a local live wire figured they should reverse the incentives. They made the vaccination free and charged $25 for administrative costs to fill out a more time-consuming exemption form.

Presto, vaccination levels shot up into herd immunity levels (above 95%) and the problem was solved.

What struck me about this story that I heard from a relative is how little it took for people to decide their deeply held personal beliefs were totally negotiable.

Add to that the entirely justifiable costs of billing anti-vaxxers for all the contact tracing and unnecessary medical expenses incurred by their BS, and I bet you could get vaccination rates back up where they belong.

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

“University probably is not for you”

Apr 23rd, 2015 12:29 pm | By

This is unfortunate.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 22
University is about confronting new ideas, unfamiliar, un-“safe”. If you want to be “safe” you are not worthy of a university education.

Sadly, it didn’t stop there. It went on.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 12 hours ago
If you can’t handle challenging questions like “What’s wrong with incest, or cannibalism?” University Probably Is Not For You (#UPINFY)

That one set off a little hashtag storm, which is still going on.

The originator helped.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 12 hours ago
If you can’t handle challenging questions like “Could rape be a Darwinian adaptation in wild animals?” university may be not for you #UPINFY

A philosopher suggests that children will one day sue their parents for bad genes. Another asks when nuclear 1st strike justified. #UPINFY

If you boycott a lecture because scared it may challenge your existing beliefs & “trigger” un-“safe” feelings #UPINFY

If you are implacably convinced that all knowledge & wisdom is contained in one centuries-old book, #UPINFY

And then, the conclusion:

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins  11 hours ago
If, for any of the reasons given, it looks as though #UPINFY, why not go to University anyway? It just might open your mind.

Nice of him to throw that minimal lifeline at the end, but…not really.

It’s nasty stuff. It’s also fatuous. It’s not true that universities are packed to the rafters with academics asking silly “provocative” deliberately rude questions. Dawkins gives the impression of wanting them to be like that, but they’re not like that.

There’s a germ of truth in what he’s saying, which is that students shouldn’t dogmatically refuse to consider any ideas they don’t already hold – but there’s a whole silo full of truth in what I’m going to say now, which is that crude slogans are not the best way to convey that kernel of truth.

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

California has the “personal belief” exemption

Apr 23rd, 2015 11:39 am | By

George Skelton at the LA Times observes that we all tend to value health very highly, and that that makes it surprising that so many people are hostile to vaccinations.

You parents who won’t permit vaccinations because of a personal belief, well, you’re free to practice that belief any way you’d like — as long as it doesn’t threaten other people’s kids.

Americans do have freedom of religion — but not the freedom to jeopardize the health of other Americans.

That’s the way it should be, anyway, and how a bill struggling through the Legislature would make it in California.

It passed one Senate committee; it has to pass two more; if it’s passed by the Senate it will get a stiff fight in the Assembly. If it passes Jerry Brown might sign it.

Besides polio, kids are required, before entering school or child care, to be immunized for such communicable diseases as diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox and hepatitis B.

But California has the “personal belief” exemption that increasingly has resulted in parents refusing to inoculate their children. Besides a religious belief, many are scared that vaccinations can cause other ailments.

Many mistakenly believe, for example, that a measles shot can lead to autism — a discredited theory promoted in 1998 by a lying researcher. His study later was retracted by the journal that published it. And many studies since have shown there is no link between vaccinations and autism.

But Wakefield injected it into the memestream, and it may never get out.

Experts say that low vaccination rates fueled the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December, sickening 157 people and inspiring the legislation.

“Each year we’re adding to the number of unvaccinated,” Pan says. “If it gets low enough, that’s when disease is able to spread. Because so many people haven’t experienced these diseases, they don’t know how serious they are.”

I haven’t experienced falling off a tall building, but I know how serious it is. People should pay better attention.

During the Senate Education Committee’s fiery hearing last week — attended by hundreds of angry parents — a polio survivor told about being stricken at age 7. She urged passage of the bill, speaking in a voice apparently weakened by respiratory problems.

Later, she was mocked on Facebook by two opponents of the bill. “Lisa” referred to “the hysterical polio survivor” and added: “Poor woman needs emotional therapy.” “Annika” responded: “Polio was really DDT poisoning.”

Oh, man, that’s revolting.

In 1951, before there was a vaccine, more than 10,000 Americans were afflicted with paralytic polio. I was one. My strong single mom guided me through the ordeal. She was a saint.

But if there had been a polio vaccine that she had prevented me from receiving, I never would have forgiven her.

Parents who won’t allow their children to be vaccinated are — let’s put it politely — misguided. That’s their problem — and their kids’.

The Legislature should gather enough courage to make sure it’s not also everyone else’s problem.

It should indeed.

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


Apr 23rd, 2015 11:00 am | By

Not getting it.

A godbotherer claims that Obama is driving all the Christians out of the military and sowing their fields with salt. His claims are short on citations, apart from a link-free date-free mention of the Washington Times.

But he does give a couple of examples.

If you are in the military today, you have got to be so careful about any expression of faith.

Even the slightest slip up can cause the authorities to crack down on you.

Just consider the following two examples which come from Newsmax…

In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion was sent an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he had promoted Christianity and used a Bible during a mandatory suicide-prevention training session.

Last month, a Navy chaplain was removed from his job and may lose his career after complaints about his private counseling during which he discouraged homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

You mean a Christian chaplain actually “used a Bible” and “promoted Christianity”?

Not too sharp, is he. It was a mandatory suicide-prevention training session. That’s the issue. Obviously Christian chaplains can use a bible and promote Christianity, but they shouldn’t be doing it for mandatory training sessions. I’d prefer to be able to say they’re not allowed to. but that’s the very point at issue. Chaplains should be available but not mandatory.

Everything else he says is, frankly, bullshit.

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

Guest post: Priorities

Apr 23rd, 2015 10:14 am | By

Guest post by Monette Richards, President of CFI – NE Ohio and a Director of Secular Woman.

I am being frustrated at the priorities we set in the secular movement. The amount of restrictions being passed against bodily autonomy, restrictions that have strong, deep roots in religion, are depending on bad and/or faulty science and yet are being outright ignored by most of the secular organizations. It is infuriating.

The slow but seemingly thorough takeover of hospitals by the Catholic Church is a growing problem that is hardly addressed. The directives set by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops set limits on the care they may provide. Already, we see this endangering women, especially those without the means to travel to another, non-religious, hospital.

Public funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) has been an ongoing trend. CPCs are notoriously religion-backed clinics that use lies and tricks to try to keep pregnant individuals from having abortions. Public money is going toward groups that then try to push their religious views on pregnant people.

The entire anti-abortion movement, even the secular one, is totally and completely based on religion and bad science. And yet, Hemant Mehta thinks giving them a platform, twice, to present this argument is a great idea! Even Silverman bought into it. We need to hold their feet to the fire and not let them fudge these arguments. Anti-abortion arguments are based on either religion or bad science.

And this bad science is being worked into bills, forcing doctors to outright lie to patients. Healthcare coverage is being denied by redefining contraceptive to abortifacient.

So, why haven’t these facts brought our movement to its feet to grab the torches and pitchforks? Why would a movement that jumps on any chance to make sure creationism isn’t taught in public schools not also work just as hard to keep bills based on junk science from becoming laws?

We are a movement built by, mostly, white middle class men and, therefore, are structured to focus on white middle class men issues. We are a movement who can find the time and money to support a man who wants to “try atheism for a year” but can barely find the funds for a program for young, black female humanists.

Secular Woman’s origin is due to much of this. We needed an organization that put these issues as our focus. We should not have to depend on organizations which will not focus on the religious aspect of these issues, like NARAL, PP, and NOW, to protect us from the onslaught. And it should be obvious that they are not enough, anyway. It should be obvious that when religion invades the lives of some of us, it is a problem for all of us.

This is not to say we shouldn’t ALSO work on other things. This is no Dear Muslima. I’m a big believer in ending microagressions as well as hugely obvious transgressions of the First Amendment. Getting Jesus pictures out of schools and ten commandment plaques off of courtroom walls are important tasks.

For the past few years, we have been facing very awful laws that are getting passed in lot of states, with poor women suffering the most. And these very awful laws are being mostly ignored by the secular movement.

We have organizations paying to court the most conservative, the people who are behind these same laws, these same encroachments, these same directives which are actively harming women.  When we should all be working together to stop them.

I’m frustrated. I’m angry. Why isn’t everyone?

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

All they have done is put stickers all over the place

Apr 23rd, 2015 9:16 am | By

The theocratic Islamist campaign to convince UK Muslims that “VOTING FOR MAN-MADE LAW IS SHIRK” has popped up in Leicester, the BBC reports.

Bright yellow stickers have been posted in areas of Leicester with large Muslim communities saying voting is “shirk”.

Shirk is the sin of worshipping someone other than Allah and is considered the most grievous crime for a Muslim.

Which just goes to show how anti-human and revolting religion can be at its worst. The most grievous crime, ahead of murder, rape, genocide, torture. Plus of course there’s the fact that voting for X≠worshipping X.

Dr [Ather] Hussain, an imam in Leicester and surrounding cities, said: “It’s laughable. Logically and religiously speaking they haven’t got a leg to stand on.

“I fail to see how voting would be considered as the most grievous crime possible for a Muslim to commit.

“The argument is shallow, baseless and it has absolutely no standing religiously or theologically in our religion.”

And he added that those who posted the signs probably did not believe it themselves.

“If they had a sound argument perhaps they would operate in mosques and in the right public spaces.

“But quite cowardly, all they have done is put stickers all over the place without any context, without telling us who they are, without giving us any indication about where we can find more about these ridiculous beliefs.”

It’s a sort of graffiti. But, unfortunately, it’s a sort that some people will find impressive and convincing.

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

Never really a party, but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman

Apr 23rd, 2015 8:46 am | By

Election fraud in Tower Hamlets.

An east London mayor has been removed from office and a poll declared void after he was found guilty of electoral fraud.

An Election Commissioner concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman breached election rules and must vacate his post immediately.

Four voters alleged he used “corrupt and illegal practices” in last year’s election, which must now be re-run.

Mr Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again.

Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey said it was a big mess, caused by one guy’s ruthless ambition.

Mawrey also described Bangladesh-born Mr Rahman as an “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion” and suggested he had played “race” and “religious” cards.

Mr Rahman ran a “ruthless and dishonest campaign to convince electorate his rival John Biggs was a racist”, Mr Mawrey said.

That sounds familiar. It sounds like George Galloway, among others.

BBC News correspondent Sarah Campbell said the Election Commissioner had upheld a number of the allegations, including:

  • Voting fraud: ballots were double-cast or cast from false addresses
  • False statements made against Mr Rahman’s rival Mr Biggs
  • Bribery: grants approved to organisations which Mr Rahman favoured, most of which were run by Bangladeshi groups
  • Treating: providing free food and drink to encourage people to vote for Mr Rahman
  • Spiritual influence: voters were told that it was their duty as Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman.

That’s interesting. I wonder if that allegation has ever been made about an Anglican candidate, and if so if it has ever succeeded. In the US candidates do that as a matter of routine, of course.

[T]he Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was “never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman”.

Again, reminiscent of Galloway and “Respect.” And some other examples I can think of.

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

To keep players on the field

Apr 22nd, 2015 5:42 pm | By

The National Football League has to give former players a whole lot of money.

A federal judge gave final approval on Wednesday to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former National Football League players who accused the league of covering up the dangers of concussions.

The settlement, approved by Judge Anita Brody, includes allowing for monetary awards of up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma and could cost the league $1 billion over 65 years.

Which they can well afford, considering how profitable the whole racket is.

The NFL is accused of covering up the dangers of concussions to keep players on the field. The league and the players union estimate that 30 percent of former players will develop brain conditions like Alzheimer’s or a less debilitating form of dementia.

Concussions have become a major issue for America’s most popular sports league, causing some players to cut short their careers, including Chris Borland, a 24-year-old linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, who recently retired over concerns about long-term head injuries.

The game is violent not incidentally but intentionally. The violence is an important part of the game. Fans like it. Advertisers play it up.

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

The national nut

Apr 22nd, 2015 5:17 pm | By

Almond milk. I already knew this from looking at the ingredients and the bit where it says how much protein and so on per serving – almond milk isn’t a useful thing.

People drink almond milk for a variety of reasons, but many have no idea how devoid of nutrients their trendy dairy milk alternative actually is.

Each half-gallon carton contains very few actual almonds. Evidence shows there may be just over a handful.

Well if they don’t know they didn’t look, because if you look, it’s obvious. Almonds aren’t the main ingredient. It’s mostly water and sweeteners.

While the amount of almonds in each brand of the beverage vary, an analysis of UK almond milk brand Alpro showed that nuts make up just 2% of the drink.

Doesn’t surprise me a bit. It’s like Nutella – Nutella is fabulous, but it has very little hazelnut in it. It’s dessert, it’s not a nourishing food. Same with almond milk.

A typical serving of almonds has 160 calories per serving. By comparison, a cup of almond milk contains just about 30 calories. And while a serving of almonds has 14 grams of total fat and 6 grams of protein, a serving of the milk has 2.5 grams of fat and just one gram of protein.

In other words, a single serving of almond milk has almost no protein. Compared with plain old almonds, it fares even worse.

It’s basically syrup. Drink it if you like it, but don’t be thinking it’s food.

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

What’s the national fruit?

Apr 22nd, 2015 4:59 pm | By

More compulsory religion for the US.

North Carolina’s McDowell County is now the third municipality in the state to approve adding the national motto “In God We Trust” to its public buildings.

The McDowell County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the inclusion of “In God We Trust” signs for county buildings last Monday.

So take that, atheists! And secularists, and people who don’t call themselves secularists but still don’t want god shoved on them in government buildings. Take that, all of you! No freedom of religion for you! Religion is mandatory around here and don’t you forget it.

(Also that “national motto” thing is ridiculous. That’s not a thing. We don’t have a national sock or a national dog or a national cookie – we don’t need a national motto, either. We can pick our own mottos. “In god we trust” is particularly obnoxious – I don’t trust that bastard an inch, because it’s just Rick Warren or the pope hiding behind a mask.)

“Upon presentation to our board, the commissioners’ voted to have, at no cost to the county, the motto displayed on the county administration building in two locations: in our boardroom and on the county courthouse,” said Walker.

“We did this to reaffirm what our Founding Fathers affirmed and that is our national motto is ‘In God We Trust.'”

Wow, that’s ignorant. The “founding fathers” did no such thing.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director with the Washington, D.C. –based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told CP that McDowell’s actions were unconstitutional.

“Placing large signs reading ‘In God We Trust’ on government buildings promotes religion to a substantially greater extent than does the historical practice of merely allowing the phrase to appear on coins in small type,” said Luchenitser.

“The county’s conduct sends its citizens a message that the county’s government favors the religious over the non-religious, and adherents to monotheist faiths over others.”

Yes it does. It’s none of their business. It’s not their job to try to force us or pressure us to take their god seriously.

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

Wink wink smooch

Apr 22nd, 2015 12:01 pm | By

In the Spectator

Bahar Mustafa, the Welfare and Diversity officer for Goldsmiths Students’ Union, must have a strong sense of irony. You’d have to, to run an ‘anti-racism’ event which states that ‘if you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME. As the student publication the Tab reports, the event claims to be ‘challenging the white-centric culture of occupations’, ‘diversifying our curriculum’ and building a ‘cross campus campaign that puts liberation at the heart of the movement’.

It’s an anti-racism event but men are told to stay away? I don’t even…


She’s the welfare officer at Goldsmiths. Hmm.

Back in February, Mustafa, who describes herself on Twitter as a ‘queer, anti-racist feminist killjoy’, came to my attention when she helped organise a ‘BME ONLY social’ before a screening of the film Dear White People. For those not acquainted with the lingo, this means for Black and Minority Ethnic only.


Come to all the things!, smiley face kiss kiss kiss, except don’t if you’re in the wrong group. Kiss kiss kiss smiley face.

She also lied about why Kate Smurthwaite’s gig at Goldsmiths was canceled at the last minute, lied in a way that’s damaging to Kate and protective of the goons at Goldsmiths who got her gig canceled.

Kiss kiss kiss smiley face.

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

Huge fan

Apr 22nd, 2015 11:14 am | By

Of course.

Embedded image permalink

THE AMAZING ATHEIST! ‏@amazingatheist 14 hours ago
Hey @CHSommers I would love to have you on my podcast, The Drunken Peasants.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers
@amazingatheist Any time. Huge fan.

If you’ve forgotten who the amazing atheist is and what he’s like, just take a squiz at his feed.

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

By what twisted argument should Islam be less compatible with humour than other religions?

Apr 22nd, 2015 11:00 am | By

The Independent has a nice big (translated) excerpt from Charb’s book.

Stéphane Charbonnier was a cartoonist and writer. He was a supporter of the French Communist Party. And while, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo aggressively poked fun at Catholicism and Judaism as well as radical Islam, his book – published in France last week – is a passionate rejection of the allegations that, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo was “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

In the book, Charb, as he was always known, defends his publication of cartoons mocking radical Islam and caricaturing (but never mocking) the Prophet Mohamed. He argues – from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint – that the word “Islamophobia” is a trap, set by an unholy alliance of Muslim radicals and the unthinking, liberal Western media. The real issue, he says, is racism and Charlie Hebdo was never racist…

He argues from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint.

That’s important.

Really, the word “Islamophobia” is badly chosen if it’s supposed to described the hatred which some lame-brains have for Muslims. And it is not only badly chosen, it is dangerous. From a purely etymological viewpoint, Islamophobia ought to mean “fear of Islam” – yet the inventors, promoters and users of this word deploy it to denounce hatred of Muslims. But isn’t it odd that “Muslimophobia”, or just “racism”, isn’t used instead of “Islamophobia”.

Why has this word taken over? From ignorance, from idleness… but also because those who campaign against Islamophobia don’t do so to defend Muslims as individuals. They do so to defend the religion of the prophet Mohamed.

They do so to silence atheists and secularists and freethinkers who want to talk about the ways religion is an obstacle to human flourishing. They do so to shore up and protect the illegitimate power of religion and religious authority figures. They do so to keep humanity enchained.

So, yes, we are in the middle of an explosion of racist behaviour – yet the word “racism” is used only timidly, and is on the way to being supplanted by “Islamophobia”. And the campaigners for multiculturalism, who try to foist the notion of “Islamophobia” on the judicial and political authorities, have only one aim in mind: to force the victims of racism into identifying themselves as Muslims.

Anything to trap people more firmly in the religion of their ancestors.

However, why do the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, who know that their drawings will be exploited by the media, by the retailers of anti-Islamophobia, by far-right Muslims and nationalists, insist on drawing Mohamed and other “sacred” symbols of Islam? Simply because the Charlie Hebdo drawings do not have the vast majority of Muslims as their target. We believe that Muslims are capable of recognising a tongue-in-cheek. By what twisted argument should Islam be less compatible with humour than other religions?

By the argument from the racism of lower expecatations.

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

Guest post: It’s worth running a simple filter

Apr 22nd, 2015 9:46 am | By

Originally a comment by Morgan on Psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue.

Making demands about alternatives before you’ll bother to learn the truth about it seems callous, in addition to incurious.

Look, here’s the thing: you sound like a crank.

That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but from what you’re saying, it’s more likely that you’re a crank than not. So before giving what you have to say much time or attention, it’s worth running a simple filter of asking what your views are, in case they’re “people need to regulate their orgone energy via crystals” or something else that would clearly indicate you’re not worth the effort. What you’re saying may seem obviously reasonable to you, but to me as an outside observer it’s not obviously different from any wooish alt-med claim about how, for example, AIDS isn’t caused by a virus but by poor nutrition / immorality / sinister Western drugs. It doesn’t help that the way you talk about “biopsychiatry” comes off to me as suspiciously dualist, like the idea that mental phenomena are based in the biological action of the brain and that treating or managing them may require medical interventions is just obviously false for some reason.

Your response does shift the odds away from crank, but it’s still vague enough not to be particularly compelling. Okay, so if I’m understanding you correctly, your contention is that much of psychiatry, in particular the diagnoses in the DSM and the pharmaceutical treatments for them, are so poorly evidenced as to be worthless – what’s labeled “schizophrenia” or “depression” is so poorly defined, ad-hoc, and lacking in scientific grounding that it doesn’t make sense to talk about “a mental illness” called schizophrenia. The obvious problem there, then, is that people do have issues that lead them to be diagnosed, and they do take medicines prescribed for their diagnosis, and at least some of those people do improve when they’re medicated (and notice a definite pattern of worsening if they stop). So maybe all such problems are the result of traumatic or stressful experiences or conditions, and there should be more focus on heading off mental health problems by reducing poverty and improving parenting and so on – sure, that’s not in principle a bad idea. But once someone ends up with an issue, are you saying the fix is to solve all the problems in their life that might have led to it? That’s not really useful to many, probably most, people actually trying to live their lives unable to remedy structural oppression. Are they to seek intervention, but definitely not drugs? So what about when they’ve tried everything they could, and it’s the drugs that seemed to actually made a difference? Is that always just the placebo effect? Or is the solution that

…some problems that have been falsely labeled as disorders in order to sell drugs are really the pains of human living, part of the human condition in an imperfect world, and will pass.

? That’s kind of a convenient out – if the approach you advocate doesn’t work, just wait for the problem to go away by itself. The problems that are leaving you unable to function are just the pains of human living, tough shit, suck it up. You say you don’t want to stigmatize or minimize, but surely you can see where what you’re saying has that effect regardless of your desires?

In the other thread you ask:

If you think I’m being a bad advocate, what do you suggest?

My suggestion: have a clear summary that you can link or paste of what you are saying, and what you’re not. Be aware that “psychiatry is totally wrong and you don’t need your pills” is a claim made by a lot of people for bad reasons, and you’re going to have to work to distinguish yourself from those people – you may feel you’re doing so by recommending books or linking articles, but that doesn’t actually set you apart. Saying “we should be skeptical about this” is not as small and unobjectionable a statement as you seem to think when in effect it’s “we should disregard an entire branch of medicine as pseudoscience and any ways in which people find it’s helped them as accidental”. If you think the problem is pharmaceutical treatment of mental health problems but still think people will need professional, evidence-based, medical assistance to deal with them, then maybe focus your criticism a bit more, since as far as I can see that would still require psychiatry to gather and understand that evidence and provide that assistance.

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

A Titanic every week

Apr 22nd, 2015 9:12 am | By

Via Twitter – Charlie Hebdo satirizes apathy of European leaders to migrants.

Embedded image permalink

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

You have no choice. The community has no choice. The movie maker has no choice.

Apr 21st, 2015 6:14 pm | By

The producer of the movie that got the Sikh “campaigners” in Wolverhampton so riled up today withdrew the movie so the riled up campaigners could have just bided their time. The Indian Express has the ridiculous details.

Harinder Singh Sikka, the producer of controversial movie “Nanak Shah Fakir”, on Tuesday announced to withdraw the movie from cinema halls across the country and globe. Sikka made the announcement after meeting Akal Takht chief Giani Gurbachan Singh in Delhi.

Akal Takht chief was in Delhi on Tuesday after his return from Muscat and was scheduled to go to Bidar for a religious function. Sikka in a statement said the decision was taken while bowing before the supremacy of Akal Takht. He assured that required changes as suggested by Akal Takht chief would be made in the film before its re-release.

“The producer of movie has withdrawn the film and now an expert committee of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee would give its suggestions as to what all changes were needed in the film contents,” said Akal Takht chief, when contacted.

It’s apparently a holy biopic anyway, so maybe it’s only fitting that a holy committee gets to meddle with it…but the principle is bad, even for a holy biopic. People have made movies about Jesus that weren’t at all orthodox, and Christians made plenty of stinks, but they didn’t get revision rights.

“The film has to adhere to Sikh maryada (code of conduct). SGPC expert committee would give its recommendations for required changes in the film to ensure that there is no violation of maryada. Only after that film could be cleared for released,” said SGPP president Avtar Singh Makkar.

Notably, various Sikh organisations have been up in arms against the movie, alleging that it violated the Sikh maryada by portraying Guru and family members in human form. Amid controversy, the movie was released on April 17.

Oh get a grip. Adhere to the Sikh maryada yourself if you want to; stay away from the movie if you want to; but you shouldn’t be allowed to re-make someone else’s movie to conform to the Sikh maryada.

Meanwhile, radical Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa in a statement said “Announcing the withdrawal of the movie and surrendering before the Akal Takht, the producer Harinder Singh Sikka has tried to save face and skin”.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said “wisdom has dawned on the film-maker though a little too late”.

“He will have to repent and pay for hurting the sentiments of the Sikhs and not listening to umpteen calls of reason. This is also a lesson for the sleeping government and the film censor board that cleared the movie ignoring the blasphemous features of the said movie,” he said.

Bullies. Stinking bullies.

“Today producer Sikka has announced the withdrawal of the film after meeting Jathedar (Chief) of the Akal Takht. From the day first, we have been saying, shouting and urging that it is the Jathedar Akal Takht only who can direct the film-maker to withdraw the film. Why Jathedar Gaini Gurbachan Singh took so much time to finally act, only he can explain!” Kanwar Pal said.

Maybe because it was his movie and not everyone else’s!

Dal Khalsa had submitted a memorandum to Jathedar Akal Takht on April 6, urging him to direct the producer to withdraw the film. “The concluding lines of our letter to Jathedar,” Kanwar Pal said, were, “You have no choice. The community has no choice. The movie maker has no choice –Nanak Shah Fakir film has to be withdrawn”.

Bullies bullies bullies bullies bullies bullies bullies.

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

The Sikh campaigners sat down on the floor and began to shout

Apr 21st, 2015 5:28 pm | By

News from Wolverhampton:

Hundreds of people had to be evacuated from Cineworld Wolverhampton after 50 protestors turned up and staged a sit-in over the screening of a controversial film.

Police had to be called and the cinema cleared and closed after the protestors surged through the main entrance and headed for the screen showing Bollywood blockbuster, Nanak Shah Fakir.

Once inside, the Sikh campaigners sat down on the floor and began to shout, refusing to move until cinema bosses met their demands and stopped the screening.

Well that’s that then. We can’t have anything if religious protesters decide they don’t want us to have it. All they have to go is sit down and shout, and that will be the end of whatever it was we were having.

Why the hell didn’t the “cinema bosses” call the police instead of doing what the lawbreaking trespassing extortionists demanded?

Nanak Shah Fakir, which is directed by Sartaj Singh Pannu and narrated by Arif Zakaria, has been mired in controversy since its release last week.

It stems from a depiction of the Guru and other religious figures in human form, which is considered to be a blasphemous violation of religious doctrine by many Sikhs.

Fine; they don’t have to look at it; they don’t get to shut it down for everyone.

It has been banned in many parts of India and attracted mass protests, while some UK cinemas have refused to show it through fear of offending religious sentiments.

Ban all the things. Ban Behzti, ban Wendy Doniger’s books, ban Taslima Nasreen’s books, ban Nanak Shah Fakir. Ban ban Caliban.

Cineworld said it has no plans to show the film in future following the incident. Posters advertising the film have since been removed from the cinema’s walls.

How absolutely cowardly and abject.

One man, who asked not to be named, said he was among dozens of customers asked to leave the multiplex when the commotion ensued.

He said: “It was extremely intimidating. For a group of people to be able to get a film stopped and then banned is just ridiculous.

“It’s an attack on freedom of speech. The atmosphere was quite aggressive in there and it’s not what you expect to face when you go and watch a film.”

Well quite! And it’s pretty damn mind-boggling that the cinema is giving in to the extortionists instead of pressing criminal charges against them.

A theater employee said:

“We apologised and offered those customers affected a full refund. The police were called to the cinema and we are currently working closely with them to investigate.

“We have taken the decision to cancel screenings of Nanak Shah Fakir because we want our customers to enjoy visiting our cinemas and experience a wide range of films without disruption from others.”

The way to do that is to refuse to let the extortionists have their way. It’s absolutely not to do what they demand.

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

A paper entitled “Back to censorship as usual”

Apr 21st, 2015 4:54 pm | By

Jason Walsh is disgusted with Queen’s University Belfast for canceling an academic symposium for bad self-regarding reasons.

Among the participants at this conference was to be yours truly, the Ireland correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, the world’s most measured, careful and, critics (with whom I would disagree) would say, stiff newspaper. Other participants included, well, academics. It was an academic symposium, after all. As I was a putative participant there is an ethical conflict in me reporting on the matter. There is no such impediment, however, on me complaining about it, so buckle-up while I take you for a spin around the insanity that is the modern university.

I had planned to give a paper entitled “Back to censorship as usual”, arguing that after a brief, and frankly unconvincing, outpouring of support for freedom of expression we all got back to calling for more censorship, including self-censorship. In short, I was planning on standing in front of a room of people who are likely to take a dim view of what I do for a living and defend my beleaguered trade as a lodestone of civilised debate. After all, we still didn’t have a full count of the murdered journalists, not to mention shoppers in a kosher supermarket, when social media was already exploding with talk about potential Islamophobic reprisals. Perhaps we could at least mop the blood up before writing, as trendy neo-leftist Jacobin magazine did, that Charlie Hebdo was a “frankly racist publication”.

No, not at all, people were announcing CH was racist while the windows were still rattling.

Let’s tell the truth: there was no security risk, unless the potential for hurt feelings after a bit of shouting is now considered a matter of security, in which case I suppose we should be calling MI6 every time there’s an argument about the washing up.

The only conceivable reason this conference would be cancelled is that someone — someone like me, for instance — might say something that might upset someone else. That is what passes for reputational damage today? Back when I was knee-high to a parking meter we called that debate, and isn’t that what the university is all about?

The real reason for the cancellation was given away with the mention of reputation. What damage to Queen’s reputation could have happened, though? That it would develop a reputation for tackling difficult subjects?

After this decision the Vice Chancellor deserves the reputation he will get.

Maybe he’ll get the one he wants, for being an aware, thoughtful, anti-Islamophobia Vice Chancellor who wants to avoid any possibility at all of discussing something that might be at all irksome to, say, the Mutaween in Saudi Arabia.

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