Notes and Comment Blog


May 23rd, 2014 5:52 pm | By

PZ takes a look at the Global Secular Council Debut and compares how that’s being run to how he and Ed thought about Freethought Blogs when they were setting it up.

Will they be effective? I looked at their Issues page, and it’s rather high-mindedly vague. For instance, one issue isInternational Human Rights. I’m glad they’re for ‘em, but after a scant 3 paragraphs that consist of platitudes, they present their summary:

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. government should apply political pressure whenever possible to countries violating their international human rights obligations.

So, the Global Secular Council’s advice is that the US should do something about it?

I had to stop and laugh for about 3 minutes. I’m so glad they have all those EXPERTS to come up with that groundbreaking new POLICY RECOMMENDATION.

They’re not going to accomplish much if they’re just going to announce a set of goals on a website and then pose wisely to convince other people to go do the actual work, somehow.

I’m always going to be suspicious of an ad hoc group that assembles itself, declares itself the leader, and then tells everyone to follow on the strength of the prestige of their team. That’s not how real, functional organizations work. “BE IN CHARGE” is not a mission statement.

As a counter-example, look at Freethought Blogs. It’s an organization. When Ed Brayton and I were discussing setting it up, we did not begin by saying we’re really, really smart, and we should take charge and lead the whole atheist movement — we had a more reasonable and limited and specific goal. We wanted to set up a platform where we could write freely, and where we could create a shared space for people who wanted to promote equality and diversity within the movement…and thereby amplify the voices of all those people with broader social concerns than simply not believing in gods.

Mission, then framework to do it, and only then people to do the doing. This Global outfit seems to have thought, “Oooh we have all these shiny thought-leaders going to waste; let’s call them a GLOBAL COUNCIL so that everyone will be excited.” And now they’re surprised and puzzled that some of us are saying it seems to be a clusterfuck.


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

Guest post by Alex Gabriel: on being un-ideological to a fault

May 23rd, 2014 3:25 pm | By

Originally a comment on To I, to she, to he, to they

So, quite aside from anything else here (and FTR, I completely agree with you about this org): I’m sick of ‘ideological’ being a dirty word. Having a coherent, connected set of principles that inform how you think is not a bad thing. Having words and concepts and ways of understanding based on them that frame your politics at large is a good thing.

What’s clearer to me by the day (and one of the reasons my blog’s called Godlessness in Theory) is that the limp, illiterate brand of skepticism proffered by many of the GSC’s people, which prides itself on being ‘rational’ and ‘evidence-based’ at the loss of any context anywhere, is un-ideological to a fault.

When we regularly have to explain to you the value of philosophy and sociology, the best definitions of sex and race, the actual relevance of empire to the way we talk about religions (all secular in-fights from the past year) and countless other fundamental things… that’s not a sign you’re being a Tru Skeptic and resisting Orwellian brainwashing. It’s a sign you’re failing to think in enough depth.

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

And now we pull down / on the lever

May 23rd, 2014 2:41 pm | By

This is the music Lauren played 3 minutes before each talk or panel was scheduled to start, as a signal to everyone to come in and sit down and be quiet.

Schoolhouse Rock: Women’s Suffrage Movement

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

To I, to she, to he, to they

May 23rd, 2014 11:31 am | By

And there’s their About page.

Every ideological movement has a policy center. Republicans have The Heritage Foundation, New Democrats have the Progressive Policy Institute, Libertarians have The Cato Institute, and Secularists have the Global Secular Council.

First, well, no. Ideological movements don’t usually have just one policy center. Also, not all participants in the movements take any one center to speak for them. Second, “ideological” is usually used as a weapon in this “movement” – feminists are constantly accused of importing an “ideology” into the crystalline purity of the atheist or skeptical “movement.” That’s complete bullshit, of course, but it’s still rather funny to see this group so cheerfully identifying itself with an ideology.

With these organizations as models, Global Secular Council is the international policy research and resource center for atheists, humanists, and other secularists who speak out for science and reason instead of religion and faith.

There’s the arrogance already. No, Global Secular Council is not the international policy research and resource center for atheists, humanists, and other secularists. It may be (at best) one of several, but it’s not the. It doesn’t get to appoint itself “the” anything that way.

The world’s greatest thinkers are already making the case for rationalism, but as free agents their impact on international discourse is hindered.

Oh dear god stop talking about yourselves that way. Stop calling yourselves the world’s greatest thinkers. Most of you are not, and in any case it’s a terrible look.

We coordinate the thought leaders of our movement, providing an arena where compelling information from a secular perspective can be organized, published, and disseminated.

And don’t ever, ever, ever call yourselves (or anyone else) “thought leaders.” Nobody wants “thought leaders” and you’re not it anyway. We can do our own thinking, thank you. We can educate and inform each other, we can help clarify each other’s thinking, but we don’t have thought soldiers and thought officers. Forget it. You’re not our bosses, our mullahs, our stars, our heroes, our anything of that kind. You’re an embarrassment if you claim otherwise.

Our team of social and political thought leaders compiles the knowledge and data that uphold our worldwide community, providing substance and fresh leverage to we who think scientifically, as we lobby for government and societal change in the United States and around the globe.

Too bad our “thought leaders” don’t even know to write “to us” instead of “to we”…(Seriously? To we?)

To we who are hungry, it’s time for lunch.

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

The Adorbs Secular Council

May 23rd, 2014 10:59 am | By

They’re adding stuff, the Top of Their Field geniuses at The Global Secular Council. We get to watch them add stuff.

They’ve added a page for something called The Bella & Stella Foundation, which has a link at the bottom of the Team page. It’s some sweet whimsy-whamsy so that we’ll know they don’t take themselves too seriously. (Right, because a few US/UK white guys declaring themselves a Global Council has no trace of taking themselves too seriously.)


These two furry heathens do not suffer fools lightly, as they are both staunch proponents of the separation of church and state. When lounging in direct sunlight, they have a propensity for summoning the unwitting to their soft stomachs. A simple enough gambit, they let others pet them for the perfectly calculated amount of time, before the naïve are swatted at with more speed than a Hitchens one-liner.

Both have advanced degrees in the theory and practice of self-cleansing, and follow in the pursuit of each other’s genius to Ph.Ds in cat-naptology.

Isn’t that just adorable? Doesn’t it make you forget all about wondering what the hell this handful of white mostly-males from the US/UK has to do with anything global? Aren’t Bella and Stella just a perfectly fine substitute for people with some actual global reach and experience? Why wonder where Taslima Nasreen and Maryam Namazie and Gita Sahgal and Pragna Patel are when you can have Bella and Stella?

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

Your resource center

May 23rd, 2014 8:02 am | By


Here’s how the left margin of their Twitter account looks.

globeyOh really? My and our resource center for international policy? Really?

What makes it that? Who says it’s that? How can it possibly be that?

There’s not a trace of internationalism in their lineup. Not a whiff. There’s not one person who’s not pale, when internationally and globally, a lot more people are not pale than are pale. This joke of a “Global” council looks as if some twenty or thirty conceited Yanks and Brits have gotten together to reinvent the East India Company. I suppose Shermer wants to play the John Stuart Mill part, since Mill used to take his trousers off every day when he got to the office.

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

Oh so that’s how they cropped it

May 23rd, 2014 7:26 am | By

Oh I see the “Global” Secular Council (populated exclusively by Anglophones from the US and the UK plus one Swedish guy) has a Twitter account. I just replied to its “We’re live!” tweet by asking what makes them “Global”. I don’t suppose they’ll reply but I would really like to know.

But also interesting is that in that tweet they included the original of the front page masthead photo that we’ve been talking about. It’s different, and different in an interesting way.

Embedded image permalink

See there? On the opposite end from the Shermer-Rogers end, there’s Bill Nye – but apparently they like the Shermer grab so much that they feel it’s worth the price of not showing Bill Nye on the masthead. They want the first thing people see to be Shermer grabbing a woman and mugging like a frat boy, rather than Bill Nye not grabbing or mugging.

Strange choice.

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

The same sort of standards

May 22nd, 2014 5:58 pm | By

Lots of people are talking about Laura Hudson’s article in Wired on how to curb online abuse. I liked this bit in particular:

Really, freedom of speech is beside the point. Facebook and Twitter want to be the locus of communities, but they seem to blanch at the notion that such communities would want to enforce norms—which, of course, are defined by shared values rather than by the outer limits of the law. Social networks could take a strong and meaningful stand against harassment simply by applying the same sort of standards in their online spaces that we already apply in our public and professional lives. That’s not a radical step; indeed, it’s literally a normal one. Wishing rape or other violence on women or using derogatory slurs, even as “jokes,” would never fly in most workplaces or communities, and those who engaged in such vitriol would be reprimanded or asked to leave. Why shouldn’t that be the response in our online lives?

Why indeed?

What would our social networks look like if their guidelines and enforcement reflected real-life community norms? If Riot’s experiments are any guide, it’s unlikely that most or even many users would deem a lot of the casual abuse, the kind that’s driving so many people out of online spaces, to be acceptable. Think about how social networks might improve if—as on the gaming sites and in real life—users had more power to reject abusive behavior. Of course, different online spaces will require different solutions, but the outlines are roughly the same: Involve users in the moderation process, set defaults that create hurdles to abuse, give clearer feedback for people who misbehave, and—above all—create a norm in which harassment simply isn’t tolerated.

Let’s do that.




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

Seemingly innocuous mischief

May 22nd, 2014 5:34 pm | By

Right Wing Watch tells us how the American Center for Law and Justice – which was founded by Pat Robertson to be the opposite of the ACLU – likes religious freedom in the dear US but not so much outside that cozy god-loving gun-toting country.

Both the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) affiliates voiced support for Russia’s 2013 gag order on gay-rights advocacy. In addition, following the 2012 Pussy Riot protest, the SCLJ called for a law criminalizing religious blasphemy. One of its leading attorneys then helped draft one proposed version of the law. 

Religious freedom for me but not for thee.

Shortly after the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest at a Russian Orthodox cathedral – for which they were ultimately sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism” – the SCLJ issued a press release endorsing the efforts of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, an Orthodox Church official, to criminalize blasphemy, which at the time was punishable by just a small fine. The press release argued that “seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health,” and recommending “harsh punishments” for people found guilty of blasphemy.

The press release called for Russian officials “to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.”

I suppose the thinking is that religious freedom is for religious people, so blasphemy and protesting in a cathedral don’t count as religious freedom, since no religious person would do such a thing.




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

Why become a patron of blasphemous art?

May 22nd, 2014 5:24 pm | By

Author of Jesus and Mo explains why it’s a good idea to support J and M via Patreon.

Early in 2014, Jesus & Mo began to cost more money than it made. It has never made much money, as that was never the intention – but the sudden increase in the number and intensity of attacks on the website meant that, without financial help, Jesus & Mo would no longer be a viable enterprise. I love making the comic, but I am not willing to pay $250 plus per month just for the privilege of showing it to the world!

The high cost of hosting is largely down to the advanced Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection which is now necessary. This is provided by CloudFlare, and paid for out of J&M’s NearlyFreeSpeech account. Thanks to the generosity of readers, we now [May 2014] have enough in that account to keep us online for a couple of years, even if I never post another comic.

However, the donate-direct-to-host model is not ideal for me as the creator of J&M because I don’t get to see any of it. The funds are strictly ring-fenced for hosting purposes only.

This is where Patreon comes in. Any money raised through Patreon goes to me personally at the end of the month, when I can spend it on important things such as beer, books, and bicycle parts. Of course, I can also use it to top up the hosting account when necessary, or buy food for my family. That’s the clever thing about it!

Patreon pledges are entirely voluntary – you will never have to pay to read Jesus & Mo on the internet – and they can be cancelled at any time. Also, they come with an incremental system of patron rewards, depending on how much you pledge. It’s all pretty good fun, really.

Some readers may still prefer their donations to go towards hosting costs alone, and for those I have left the “Help keep J&M online” form at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. Otherwise, please use

patreon donate page

Whether you pledge or not, thank you for reading Jesus & Mo.

Peace and blessings,


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

Including, not except

May 22nd, 2014 12:25 pm | By

The Catholic church’s rules on abortion, mandated by US bishops via the ERD (Ethical and Religious Directives) are so twisted and vile that even people who are reporting on them can get them wrong.

This from an article on the church takeover of healthcare institutions in Washington state:

Sheila Reynertson, advocacy coordinator at MergerWatch, which tracks hospital mergers, called the rapid expansion of Catholic-sponsored or -affiliated health care systems in our state an anomaly. A MergerWatch/ACLU study found that in 2011, one in nine acute-care hospital beds across the country had a Catholic affiliation. At the same time in Washington state, 28 percent of acute-care hospital beds were Catholic. That study is based on the most recent information released by Medicare. But the Washington chapter of the ACLU has been closely tracking activity in Washington since then and reports that once all announced agreements are finalized, around 50 percent of all hospital beds in the state could be affiliated with a Catholic organization. 

At the heart of the matter for patients like Tamesha Means is a document called the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” which guides Catholic providers. Written by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops in 2009, the directives forbid doctors at Catholic hospitals from prescribing contraceptives for the sole purpose of family planning; performing tubal ligations and vasectomies; terminating pregnancies in any scenario except if the mother’s life is in danger; and assisting terminally ill patients seeking to terminate their lives under Washington’s Death with Dignity law. 

See it? In the part about abortion? “terminating pregnancies in any scenario except if the mother’s life is in danger” – no – INCLUDING when the mother’s life is in danger. That’s what the Tamesha Means lawsuit is about. The author, Nancy Gohring, reported that accurately at the beginning of the story, but perhaps didn’t grasp all the implications.

Tamesha Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke. The Michigan woman visited a nearby Catholic hospital twice, and was sent home, each time in severe pain, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in December of last year. Doctors at the hospital, directed by Catholic guidelines that forbid abortion, did not tell her that her fetus had virtually no chance of survival or that the safest treatment was to terminate the pregnancy, which was the case, according to the suit. On her third trip to the hospital, after she’d begun to show signs of an infection, the hospital was preparing to send her home again when she miscarried. 

The safest treatment was to terminate the pregnancy, and the hospital totally failed to offer to do that, and in fact it concealed the fact from the patient. It refused to do an abortion EVEN THOUGH that put Tamesha Means’s life in danger.

We need to be vigilant about this shit.


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

How to explain

May 22nd, 2014 11:46 am | By

Ken Auletta at the New Yorker explains that Jill Abramson wasn’t fired from the New York Times because of gender, it’s just that she was so difficult. Oh well then.

Sulzberger has been, to say the least, an imperfect steward of the paper; he has presided over some disastrous investments ( and disastrous appointments (Howell Raines). But he was surely smart enough to know that firing Abramson, the first female editor of the paper, would set off nightmarish publicity.

Hmm. Let’s think about this. Is Sulzberger smart? Yes. Must be. Because he’s Sulzberger. So is he smart enough to know that firing the first female editor of the paper would set off nightmarish publicity? Must be. See above. Would Sulzberger prefer not to have nightmarish publicity? Let’s think about this. Yes; yes he would. Anybody would, so he would. So does that mean he didn’t fire her because of gender? Let’s think about this. He didn’t want nightmarish publicity, and he’s smart enough to know firing her would cause nightmarish publicity, so I guess so, yes. Yes, that must mean he didn’t fire her because of gender. He must have done it for some really good reason, much better than gender, to overrule that thing about not wanting the scary publicity.

The suggestion that Sulzberger may have practiced a double standard in pay must be especially painful for him. He can be faulted for many things, but he has championed the traditional news values of the paper and prides himself on being a leader in diversity, showing a far more welcoming attitude toward gay and minority employees than previous publishers; he hired the first woman to lead the newsroom, and now the first African-American, and has made a point of urging diversity in general. And so it must have been especially galling for him to be at the center of criticism regarding gender, and it had to play a role in his finally coming out with such a sharp, counter-punching statement about Abramson’s management of the paper and its employees.

Ok. Ok. I see where this is going. He prides himself on diversity, and he fires the first woman editor…so that’s why he had to shit on her after he fired her. I see! It totally makes sense. He’s a good person (see above about diversity), and firing the first woman editor made him look bad, so that’s why he had to attack her after he fired her. Totally makes sense.

Almost from the start, Sulzberger and Abramson had difficult relations, which only frayed with time. Sulzberger, as he said in a public statement issued Saturday, heard repeated reports from people in the Times newsroom in the past few years that Abramson was given to repeated instances of “arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.” In a review of her performance as executive editor, he even told Abramson, not for the first time, that the way she was said to treat colleagues could not continue. It is true that Abramson was not necessarily any more peremptory or erratic than male predecessors like Raines or A. M. Rosenthal. At the same time, she was working in a more modern atmosphere in which there is a greater expectation that executives will be more considerate. 

Ohhhhhh that’s it. Now I get it. I was wondering about that. I’ve heard so much about the “management styles” of the men who had the job before any women could get it. I’ve heard it was so much not kinder and gentler than Abramson’s. But now I understand: she couldn’t get the job until later, and during the time it got later, the fashion for management style changed, and hers didn’t fit the fashion. It’s just a coincidence that she was the first woman editor and that the fashion changed the instant she got the job. Life is so funny sometimes.

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

The next morning

May 22nd, 2014 11:27 am | By

This is something I was unaware of. There are some things it’s good to be unaware of. I became aware of this example because of a random headline that made me curious. The thing I was unaware of is “coyote ugly.” Urban dictionary explains:

A situation encountered after a night of consuming alcohol whereby a person, usually male, wakes the next morning in a strange bed with a sexual partner from the previous evening who is completely physically undesirable (see ugly, nasty, two bagger) and sleeping on the man’s arm. The hapless male would rather gnaw off his own arm than wake the woman and have to face the ills of his intoxicated choices the previous evening. Originating from a phenomena whereby a coyote captured in a jaw trap will chew off its own leg to escape certain death.

Now I know.

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

Oh it’s Nicholas Wade again

May 22nd, 2014 8:28 am | By

I see Nicholas Wade has a new book out. I reviewed a book of his, The Faith Instinct, for Free Inquiry in 2010; I disliked it quite a lot. It was full of windy speculation about the putative evolutionary advantages of religion, which I had zero confidence in because he’s a journalist rather than a biologist and also because his speculation was so speculative. Also his claim didn’t even make much sense – the idea was that religion is good for group cohesion, so people who do religion have an advantage so they win all the wars. Huh. Really? What about the way group cohesion can lead to fights with those outside the group? Maybe they’d all have been better off with mild hostility to everyone, ingroup and outgroup alike. It was a simple-minded claim, and argued simple-mindedly. It was a science reporter taking on a subject that needs a lot more academic expertise than he brought to it. It was Dunning-Krugerish.

So I’m not surprised to see that his new book apparently includes a lot of blather about genetics and that he gets it all wrong.

Eric Michael Johnson has a scathingly witty review at Scientific American.

Nicholas Wade is not a racist. In his new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, the former science writer for the New York Times states this explicitly. “It is not automatically racist to consider racial categories as a possible explanatory factor.” He then explains why white people are better because of their genes.

Pause for laughter

In fairness, Wade does not say Caucasians are better per se, merely better adapted (because of their genes) to the modern economic institutions that Western society has created, and which now dominate the world’s economy and culture. In contrast, Africans are better adapted to hot-headed tribalism while East Asians are better adapted to authoritarian political structures. “Looking at the three principal races, one can see that each has followed a different evolutionary path as it adapted to its local circumstances.” It’s not prejudice; it’s science.

Well at least he took on a tidy, discrete, small subject, that can be deal with without huge amounts of knowledge and theoretical understanding. No biting off more than he can chew there, hell no.

What makes Wade’s book so troublesome is that he offers no scientific evidence to support his racial hypothesis. None. In fact, Wade acknowledges himself that his ideas on this topic are “leaving the world of hard science and entering into a much more speculative arena at the interface of history, economics and human evolution.” Nevertheless, because he thinks academics have suppressed the importance of genetics and race in human history for political reasons, Wade charges ahead and concludes, confidently, that Western civilization is a Darwinian success story.

Some people can do good work at places like “the interface of history, economics and human evolution” – but they are very, very few. It takes a lot of knowledge and it takes a very sharp mind. Nicholas Wade does not have a very sharp mind. Not at all.

People who try to do sharp mind stuff when they don’t have sharp minds make me tired. It’s a particular form of Dunning-Kruger that really gets on my nerves.

Wade argues, essentially, that in the last 12,000 years, Europeans evolved beyond our early tribal heritage but other races did not. In Africa and the Middle East, for example, Wade says that tribal systems of government, in which allegiance to family and clan is paramount, continue to this day. In both Africa and the Middle East, therefore, the “failure to develop modern institutions” must have a deeper explanation than centuries of colonialism, a post-World War II economic model centered in Europe and the US, Western support for regional dictators, degradation of the local resource base, limited access to quality education, poor sanitation, lack of a public health system, inequality, patriarchy, or differences in culture, religion, history, economics, law, and geography. Wade doesn’t consider any of these other factors, but he doesn’t need to; genetic biology trumps history and culture. For Wade, tribalism is in their nature and it will take a long time before those people are ready to join the civilized West.


Tribal behavior is more deeply ingrained than are mere cultural prescriptions. Its longevity and stability point strongly to a genetic basis…The break from tribalism probably requires a population to evolve such behaviors as higher levels of trust toward those outside the family or tribe.


That’s downright creepy – it’s racism in its purest form.

Of course, the question about the historical rise of Europe in world affairs is certainly not a new one, nor is it unimportant. Perhaps the most well known explanation in recent years is that by UCLA biologist Jared Diamond in his 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Diamond argued that geography, not biology, was the key to understanding the fates of human societies. Up to 12,000 years ago all humans lived as hunter-gatherers. But different regions around the globe had different plant and animal species to draw from when some societies turned towards domestication as a survival strategy. Those societies that lived in regions accidentally containing species more suitable for domestication ultimately had a head start over other, less fortuitous societies. Europe’s rise to dominance, Diamond argued, was a coincidence of geography.

The geographic explanation in Guns, Germs and Steel is, in many ways, the antithesis of Wade’s race-based narrative, so it is telling that he submits Diamond’s book to special scorn. According to Wade, “Diamond’s argument seems designed to distract and confuse,” and “its anti-evolutionary assumption that only geography matters, not genes…is driven by ideology, not science.” There are certainly reasons to challengethe all-encompassing explanation presented in Diamond’s book, but it is strangely inconsistent for a journalist who admits his scientific argument is not based on evidence to charge a trained biologist with being anti-scientific.

The accusation of being driven by ideology not science is strange, too. Does Wade take “Tribal behavior is more deeply ingrained than are mere cultural prescriptions. Its longevity and stability point strongly to a genetic basis” to be science? And not ideology?

A Troublesome Inheritance has been roundly criticized by scientists and journalists alike. Biologists such as H. Allen Orr and Jerry Coyne have pointed out its many scientific problems. Statistician and political scientist Andrew Gelman has identified the “naivete” in Wade’s eagerness to assume a genetic cause for any change in social behavior. Following their debate, the anthropologist Agustin Fuentes observed, “Wade ignores the majority of data and conclusions from anthropology, population genetics, human biology and evolutionary biology.” Even Wade’s former newspaper, the New York Times, carried a review panning the book. Unfortunately, readers lacking a background in science or journalism may not so easily spot Wade’s many errors. This could lead to even more troublesome issues given the excitement the book has generated among those predisposed to accept its conclusions.

Has it? Oh good grief. I thought The Faith Instinct was hack-work (and very ideological, by the way), but this is some levels worse than mere hack-work.

“Wade says in this book many of the things I’ve been saying for the last 40 years of my life,” said David Duke, the white nationalist politician and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, on his radio program on May 12, 2014. “The ideas for which I’ve been relentlessly villified are now becoming part of the mainstream because of the irrepressible movement of science and genetics.” Duke devoted his “blockbuster” show to a discussion of A Troublesome Inheritance and celebrated how Wade bravely took on the “Jewish Supremacists” and their “blatant hypocrisy over race and DNA.” There have also been multiple lively discussions about the book, the online forum Duke created and one of the most visited white supremacist websites on the net with about 40,000 unique users each day.

Over at The American Renaissance, which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as a white supremacist online journal, dozens of articles have been published about the book over the past two months. “People who understand race are clearly rooting for this book,” wrote Jared Taylor, founder and editor of the publication. Other white power advocates see the book’s arrival as a call to battle. John Derbyshire, a self-described white supremacist and former columnist for the National Reviewwrote triumphantly, “Wade’s calm, brave assault on the enemy’s lines will likely be repulsed, but not without enemy losses, making the next assault more likely to break through.”


…when a thesis is known to be politically incendiary it is the responsibility of both scientists and journalists alike to ensure that the evidence is, in fact, valid before it is presented to the public. False scientific conclusions, often those that justify certain well-entrenched beliefs, can impact peoples lives for decades to come, especially when policy decisions are based on their findings. For more than 30 years Wade worked for the New York Times, an institution whoseStandards and Ethics states:

[I]t is imperative that The Times and its staff maintain the highest possible standards to insure that we do nothing that might erode readers’ faith and confidence in our news columns. This means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach.

Nicholas Wade has failed spectacularly. A Troublesome Inheritance is wrong in its facts, sloppy in its logic, and blatantly misrepresents evolutionary biology. If the white power movement views this book as a triumph it is a sad reflection on the state of their ideas. Instead of providing a Darwinian success story, Wade’s thesis deserves a quick extinction.

Why did the NY Times have this guy on the staff for 30 years?


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

It’s more of a guy thing

May 21st, 2014 4:38 pm | By

The more I look at that picture, the more I’m just…amazed and repulsed.

guyThis isn’t at a party, or even a banquet or a reception. It’s for a group photo of Very Important People in the Global Secular Conference; it’s for the home page, the front page, of this Important new organization. Six adults and one frat boy. Yeesh.

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

10 people in one village, 20 in another

May 21st, 2014 4:24 pm | By

The US is sending support personnel to Chad to help look for the Nigerian schoolgirls.

“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” [the administration] said in a letter.

“The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required.”

Also, the UN angle.

Also Wednesday, Nigeria asked the United Nations to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization as its escalating attacks spread alarm nationwide.

If approved, it will enable countries to impose arms embargoes, travel bans and asset freezes.

A United Nations al Qaeda committee is expected to decide when it meets Thursday. Nigeria’s request lists the terror group as an affiliate of al Qaeda.

This is a “significant step” in the fight against terror, said Joy Ogwu, the Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations.

There certainly doesn’t seem to be much room for doubt that that’s what they are. Kids getting a little carried away with a prank? No. They’re terrorists doing terrorism.

There was the horrendous attack in Jos yesterday but there were also smaller ones before that.

In separate attacks in Borno state this week, at least 30 people were killed by members of the terror group, according to local residents.

Boko Haram attackers swooped in on motorcycles Monday and killed 10 people in one village, residents said.

A day later, gunmen stormed a nearby village and killed 20 others, residents said.

During the attacks, Boko Haram set fire to homes and food stores, residents said, and fired machine guns. The group has not claimed responsibility for those attacks.

I’d call that terrorism. It sounds terrifying.


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

Tasteful witticism

May 21st, 2014 3:46 pm | By


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

Global shmobal

May 21st, 2014 11:52 am | By

Oops. There’s a thing called the “Global Secular Council.”


First? It’s not so global. They’re nearly all American or Ukanian, and the whole thing is clearly Anglophone.

Last? Its team of experts – 23 of them. Five women. Five.

Look at the glam picture at the top of the front page – what do you see? Four men and three women – not parity, not more women than men, but close to parity. Funny how the conspicuous glam photo on the front page looks as if there are almost as many women as men when in fact, there are not.

That’s not all you see, but I won’t go into that.

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

Reading the Pennsylvania decision

May 21st, 2014 11:35 am | By

The decision is here.

Page 17

The parties to this action certainly do not dispute that the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees individuals the fundamental right
to marry. They stridently part company, however, over whether the fundamental
right to marry encompasses the right to marry a person of the same sex. Plaintiffs
contend that the fundamental right to marry belongs to the individual and protects
each individual’s choice of whom to marry. In stark contrast, Defendants contend
that, because “[t]he United States Supreme Court has never recognized that the
fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry a person of one’s choice,”
the Marriage Laws do not violate Plaintiffs’ due process rights. (Doc. 117, p. 20)
(emphasis in original). Against this jurisprudential backdrop, and in view of the
parties’ polarized positions, we are tasked to consider and address the scope of the
fundamental right to marry.

If the fundamental right to marry doesn’t already include the right to marry a person of one’s choice, then it ought to, just as it also ought to include a right not to marry a person not of one’s choice.

Page 18

While the Supreme Court has cautioned that the Due Process Clause only
“protects those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively, deeply
rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, . . . and implicit in the concept of
ordered liberty,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720-21 (1997) (internal
citation and quotation marks ommitted), the Supreme Court has clarified the
boundaries of the fundamental right to marry when tested by new societal norms.
Perhaps the most classic example of such clarification is Loving v. Virginia, 388
U.S. 1 (1967). In Loving, the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s laws against
interracial marriage, finding the state’s anti-miscegenation statutes violative of
both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court characterized the right to marry as one that “resides with the
individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” Id. at 12

But people now balk at applying that to the sex of the person chosen, because that seems so much more basic. Well get over it. “Seems” is the operative word. “Seems” can be changed. Race seemed just as basic to many people at the time of Loving, and “seemed” can be changed.

In a retrospective discussion of Loving, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that
its decision to find Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statutes unconstitutional was
entirely correct, despite a long historical tradition in this nation of prohibiting
interracial couples from marrying. See Casey, 505 U.S. at 847-848; see also
Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 216 (1986) (Stevens, J., dissenting) (“[N]either
history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from
constitutional attack.”), overruled by Lawrence, 478 U.S. 186; Perry v.
Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921, 992 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (“[T]he Court
recognized that race restrictions, despite their historical prevalence, stood in stark
contrast to the concepts of liberty and choice inherent in the right to marry.”).

Despite their historical prevalence, you see – yes it seemed that way for a long time, but we can get over it; what seems can change.

To be continued.

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

Quick, impeach someone!

May 21st, 2014 11:02 am | By

The American Family Association’s Diane Gramley wants Congress to impeach John Jones because hey FAMILY.

Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania tells OneNewsNow she’s looking to Congress to take action against judges like John Jones. 

“Congress has the ability in the U.S. Constitution to begin impeachment proceedings,” she explains. “When you look at these judges – not only Judge Jones here in Pennsylvania, but other federal judges who are handing down these decisions – their actions are unconstitutional.”

I have doubts about her constitutional scholarship.

The AFA of Pennsylvania put out a press statement on the decision yesterday. Of course it did. It says right in the title that the ruling is wrong.

Judge John Jones’ decision today to declare Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional comes as no surprise.   He made the same type mistake in his 2005 decision in the Dover Area School District intelligent design case forbidding even the mention of an alternative theory to the theory of evolution.   The American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of PA) condemns Jones’ continued judicial activism as he steps out of line with other judges who are redefining marriage with their wrong-headed decisions. We call on Governor Tom Corbett to appeal this outrageous decision.

Ignorance, superstition and hatey bigotry united together under the badge of “family”…It’s a good thing there are good families with decent people in them out there, or the AFA would give the whole idea a bad name.

“Today’s 41-page decision from Judge Jones  throws out the majority vote of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate back in 1996 when DOMA passed. He has overstepped his constitutional authority by usurping the General Assembly of its legislative power. Jones further complains on pages 34 and 35 that even though 17 bills have been introduced in the PA legislature that would give homosexuals special rights – including “marriage” — there’s no guarantee that they will pass . . . so he has to step in and create his own law by throwing out our law protecting marriage,” notes Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA.

In his decision Jones predicts the term same-sex marriage will disappear and be replaced simply by marriage. The AFA of PA could not disagree more strongly. The average Pennsylvanian fully understands marriage is only between one man and one woman and any other arrangement is not marriage.

“Homosexual activists have found allies in unelected federal judges who circumvent the will of the people. These judges are not answerable to the people for their decisions as the people have no say through the ballot box as to whether the judge stays or goes after such outrageous decisions.   Unelected judges making laws from the bench are not what the Founding Fathers intended and that is fully outlined in the US Constitution. We redefine family and marriage, the bedrock of society, at our peril, ” further commented Gramley.

Who clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

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