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Rationalist International Bulletin # 140

Feb 14th, 2005 | By Rationalist International

Vatican: The Kidnap Program

After the end of the Second World War, the Vatican issued a secret order to the French church authorities, directing them to keep all baptized children from Jewish families in their custody, who had been accommodated in Catholic homes and convents during the Nazi occupation of France. The Vatican had decided that these children should not be returned to their surviving Jewish parents, but handed over to Christian institutions to ensure their Christian education. This secret Vatican order, a document in French language dated October 23, 1946, has recently been digged up by Italian church historians and was published in January in translation in the respected Italian daily Corriere della Siera. It triggered yet another controversy … Read the rest

Behe Jumps the Shark

Feb 9th, 2005 | By P Z Myers

Nick Matzke has also commented on this, but the op-ed is so bad I can’t resist piling on. From the very first sentence, Michael Behe’s op-ed in today’s NY Times is an exercise in unwarranted hubris.

In the wake of the recent lawsuits over the teaching of Darwinian evolution, there has been a rush to debate the merits of the rival theory of intelligent design.

And it’s all downhill from there.

Intelligent Design creationism is not a “rival theory.” It is an ad hoc pile of mush, and once again we catch a creationist using the term “theory” as if it means “wild-ass guess.” I think a theory is an idea that integrates and explains a large body of observation, … Read the rest

The Naturalistic Fallacy and Sophie’s Choice

Feb 3rd, 2005 | By Paula Bourges Waldegg

It’s not hard to accept that there’s a pressing need to find answers for the questions that issues such as cloning, pollution, or genetic manipulation entail. However, it is difficult to agree which are these questions and their possible answers because the debate is often driven by the naturalistic fallacy, the belief that nature is essentially good. The environmentalist movement, for instance, frequently appeals to the goodness of nature as a way to promote their causes. Many of the fears and misconceptions that shape our options and influence our choices are a result of this fallacy. Exposing them is therefore essential to reconcile clashing positions and find solutions that don’t force us to choose between man and nature.

A friend … Read the rest

Academic vs. Horowitzian Truth Standards

Jan 29th, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

28 January 2005

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

Thank you for
your response
to my recent
of your interest in promoting left-right balance.
In it, you urge me to comment more on the specific contents of the
Bill of Rights
, rather than on your statements in defense of
the Bill. While I’m more than happy to share my thoughts on the
Bill’s contents, it is not easy, in the context of our exchange,
to separate this material from your own arguments. Indeed, I think
it would be very enlightening to show how your own way of thinking
epitomizes many of the things that most trouble me about the Bill.
A consideration of competing concepts of truth (or, as some … Read the rest

“Chief” Objections: Racism, Rhetoric and Native American Mascots on College Campuses

Jan 26th, 2005 | By Phil Mole

The recent success of the University of Illinois at Urbana’s basketball team has distracted attention from a longstanding and contentious issue: the status of school sports mascot Chief Illiniwek. The Chief is one of the last remaining college team mascots modeled after Native Americans – the kind usually portrayed by white students wearing face paint and “traditional” native costumes. The school’s Board of Trustees has debated the fate of the Chief for more than a decade, but a resolution seems no closer. Despite recent statements about the need to retire the Chief, the university continues to delay progress toward this goal. It may be a good time to review this controversy, since doing so may reveal much about the nature … Read the rest

Beloved Cartoon Character Comes Out of Retirement

Jan 24th, 2005 | By Barney F. McClelland

Bithlo, Florida — With controversy swirling around several prominent cartoon characters, the most recent incident involving the wildly popular SpongeBob Squarepants and his sidekick Patrick coming under fire from conservative Christian groups led by Dr. James Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family, claiming that they are working to promote homosexuality, an old hand at children’s entertainment has announced that he is coming out of retirement.

From his trailer in this seedy Orlando suburb, Mighty Mouse says he is ready to make a comeback.

“The whole scene just makes me sick,” said the now portly Mouse who just celebrated his 63rd birthday, “I mean, just look at that Tinky [Teletubbie] and tell me he ain’t a little light in … Read the rest

Letter to David Horowitz

Jan 23rd, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

January 20, 2005

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

Thank you for joining me and AAUP Associate Secretary, Marcus Harvey, in last Saturday’s exchange on 1360 AM KLSD (Air America Radio, San Diego). I’m glad that you feel you fared so well in that exchange. In the interests of furthering the conversation, I would be delighted to have another live discussion with you, or with any of the so-called Students for Academic Freedom. Perhaps, in the interests of balance, any future debate can be held in a conservative venue.

To the extent that it continues the dialogue, I also welcome your blog response to our debate, and to my article ” What’s Not to Like About the Academic Bill of Rights.” … Read the rest

What’s Not To Like About The Academic Bill of Rights

Jan 22nd, 2005 | By Graham Larkin

Locking up my bike on the way to the office on May 3, 2004, I noticed that events were underway in the large pavilion pitched in front of the Hoover Center, the right-wing think tank overshadowing my office in the Nathan Cummings Art Building at Stanford University. The voice on the microphone was introducing prominent ultra-conservative intellectual David Horowitz. As the representative for private universities on the steering committee of the California Conference of the American Association of University Professors (CA-AAUP), I had recently taken a pressing interest in Mr. Horowitz’s activities. He is, after all, the brains behind the mischievously-named-and-crafted Academic Bill of Rights – a document which co-opts post-modern ideas on the situated nature of truth and … Read the rest

Minority or Citizen? A Roundtable Discussion

Jan 11th, 2005 | By Hamid Taghvaee, Ali Javadi, Azar Majedi

Worker-communist review: The debate surrounding the banning of conspicuous religious symbols in schools and government workplaces in France have raised some fundamental questions about religious freedom and freedom of choice and dress. Is the ban a restriction on religious freedom, choice and dress? How far must a ban go? Why?

Hamid Taghvaee: In my view, banning religious symbols in schools and workplaces is completely justified. The ban has nothing to do with religious freedom because it is a social and public ban. In civil societies, religion and religious practices must be free as long as they remain private matters. Civil society can only recognise freedom of religion as a private matter; otherwise it will not be civil society … Read the rest

Are You an Altie?

Jan 5th, 2005 | By an American Cancer Surgeon

A while back on misc.health.alternative, a term was coined to describe people who are so militantly pro-alternative medicine and so distrustful of conventional medicine that they will never admit when conventional medicine is effective and refuse ever to concede that any alternative medical practitioner might, just might, possibly be a quack. (Certain regulars on misc.health.alternative inspired this term. One day perhaps I will discuss a couple of specific examples with actual posts by them to Usenet, so that you can see even more clearly what I mean.) I forgot which m.h.a. skeptical regular coined the term, but the term was “altie.” About a year ago, we even came up with a Jeff Foxworthy-like list of traits of alties (“You … Read the rest

Stop the Death by Stoning of a Woman in Iran

Dec 20th, 2004 | By The International Committee Against Stoning

Hajiyeh Esmaelvand lives in the city of Jelfa in Iran. She has been condemned to death by stoning. The Islamic court in Iran has given verdict of execution by stoning to be carried out 2 weeks from now for having sexual relations out side marriage.

Think about it, a lot of people all over the world are looking forward to some time off and the celebrations that they are going to have in two weeks time. The Christmas and New Year season just around the corner. In another part of the world a woman is suffering with the trauma and fear of the deadly moment awaiting her.

The Islamic government of Iran is planning to kill a human being by … Read the rest

The Stinking Ninth Class

Dec 15th, 2004 | By David Stanway

It’s a hard life for educated folk. Earlier this year, the Chinese state newsagency Xinhua reported that the life expectancy of the Chinese intellectual was, at 58, more than ten years lower than the national average. A survey also showed that 76% of the nation’s journalists died between 40 and 60.

Many were surprised by the findings. The insanities of Chairman Mao’s “anti-rightist” campaigns and, worse still, the Cultural Revolution, had by now given way to a kind of modus vivendi. Intellectuals were no longer the “stinking ninth class” of society, some way behind criminals, prostitutes and vagrants in a peasant-led pecking order. By now, in the interests of “stability and economic development”, there would be no more mass persecutions. … Read the rest

Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!

Dec 13th, 2004 | By Antony Flew

Has Antony Flew ceased to be an atheist?

In a sensationalist campaign in the internet, it is alleged that Professor Antony Flew, British philosopher, reputed rationalist, atheist and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, has left atheism and decided that a god might exist.

The controversy revolves around some remarks of Prof. Antony Flew that seems to allow different interpretations. Has Antony Flew ever asserted that “probably God exists”? Richard Carrier, editor in chief of the Secular Web quotes Antony Flew from a letter addressed to him in his own hand (dated 19 October 2004): “I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about … Read the rest

Review of Taner Edis’ Ghost in the Universe

Dec 5th, 2004 | By Phil Mole

Taner Edis’ excellent book The Ghost in the Universe comes to us at a rather unique period for writing about science and religion. Never before have so many books tried to analyze the relationship between theological and scientific views of the world, and never before have so many utterly failed in the attempt. Often, writers distort something essential about both disciplines, and ignore the complexities at the heart of their relationship. Thus, although the bookshelves groan under the weight of volumes contributing to the debate, clear-minded analyses of the fundamental issues are harder than ever to find.

To better understand the achievements of Edis’ book, we should quickly survey some of the competing contributions. We find many theistic writers enlisting … Read the rest

Introduction to Creationism’s Trojan Horse

Dec 1st, 2004 | By Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross


It used to be obvious that the world
was designed by some sort of intelligence.
What else could account for fire
and rain and lightning and earthquakes?
Above all, the wonderful abilities
of living things seemed to point to a
creator who had a special interest in
life. Today we understand most of these
things in terms of physical forces acting
under impersonal laws.We don’t yet
know the most fundamental laws, and
we can’t work out the consequences of
all the laws we know. The human
mind remains extraordinarily difficult
to understand, but so is the weather.
We can’t predict whether it will rain
one month from today, but we do know
the rules that govern the rain, even

Read the rest

The Derrida Industry…

Nov 29th, 2004 | By Brian Leiter

…has been working overtime to salvage the reputation of their man. Things are so bad that Joan Scott–who I’m told is a substantial historian, but apparently not much of a philosopher–actually wrote the following to The New York Times:

[Your obituary writer] is embarrassingly illiterate in the history of philosophy. His obituary is also terribly one sided. I thought the Times was committed to balance. Where are the appreciative quotes from American philosophers and literary critics? From those (and there are many) who have used his work to great effect and taught whole generations of students how to read [sic] differently [i.e., badly]?

The obituary author may, indeed, be ignorant of the history of philosophy, but certainly no more … Read the rest

1621: A Historian Looks Anew at Thanksgiving

Nov 26th, 2004 | By Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs

“A Thanksgiving for plenty. O Most merciful Father, which of thy gracious goodness hast heard the devout prayers of thy church, and turned our dearth and scarcity into cheapnesse and plenty: we giue thee humble thankes for this thy special bounty, beseeching thee to continue this thy louing kindnes unto vs, that our land may yeild vs her fruits of increase, to thy glory and our comfort, through Iesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

This prayer of Thanksgiving was not used by the Pilgrims in 1621, but with these words we must begin, if we want to assess the claims that, “The 1621 gathering in Plymouth was not a religious gathering but most likely a harvest celebration much like those the … Read the rest

The Pre-Established Harmony – Not

Nov 23rd, 2004 | By H. E. Baber

The New York Times: Living for Today, Locked in a Paralyzed Body

When Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked an Oregon law allowing doctor-assisted suicide in 2001 – a case that is still working its ways through the legal system – patients with the disease were among those who supported the law in court. But while the legal case and much of the national attention has focused on the issue of the right to die, less is known about those patients who want to live, and, like Dr. Lodish, will go to extraordinary lengths to do so.

Debates between Liberals and Conservatives on some “lifestyle” issues are usually represented as disputes between those who believe that people should get what they … Read the rest

Not the first time

Nov 18th, 2004 | By Maryam Namazie and Azar Majedi

Maryam Namazie: Theo van Gogh, a film director and journalist, was assassinated in broad daylight in Amsterdam on November 2. He was repeatedly stabbed and his throat slit. They say his assassin has “radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions”. There is a debate on whether this is the act of an individual or the political Islamic movement. Why have you said it is political Islam?

Azar Majedi: This is not the first time we’ve seen that someone who has criticised Islam has been murdered. Political Islam has been massacring, torturing, executing and beheading people for the exact same thing in the Middle East, in Iran under the Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and so on. Even when they are not … Read the rest

Political Islam vs. Secularism

Nov 15th, 2004 | By Azar Majedi

‘Islam against Islam’ is an interesting topic. The irony of a believer criticising the beliefs is provocative. I am not a Moslem; I am an atheist. However, I have lived Islam; I have firsthand experience of Islam. I was born within a religious conflict: a religious mother and an atheist father. From childhood, I began to see the flaws, the restrictions, the misogyny, the backwardness, the dogma, the superstition, and uncritical nature of Islam vis-à-vis the enlightenment, the freethinking spirit of atheist thinking.

I became an atheist at the age of 12.

The establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran after a failed revolution laid bare many other appalling and cruel dimensions of Islam, which we later came to label … Read the rest