SCIENCE, RELIGION, AND SOCIETY: THE PROBLEM OF EVOLUTION IN AMERICA

It’s been a while since I’ve been busy.  Hopefully I’ll have some more time to write he and out.  I have yet to read this paper, but it’s only 10 pages and published by Jerry Coyne.  The paper is titled: Evolution.  Guess what it’s about.  Here’s a link.  And yes, it’s free.  Go to his blog if that link fails or if you don’t read his blog regularly.  It’s among the best on these topics.  Here’s the abstract:

American resistance to accepting evolution is uniquely high among First World countries. This is due largely to the extreme religiosity of the United States, which is much higher than that of comparably advanced nations, and to the resistance of many religious people to the facts and supposed implications of evolution. The prevalence of religious belief in the United States suggests that outreach by scientists alone will not have a huge effect in increasing the acceptance of evolution, nor will the strategy of trying to convince the faithful that evolution is compatible with their religion. Because creationism is a symptom of religion, another strategy to promote evolution involves loosening the grip of faith on America. This is easier said than done, for recent sociological surveys show that religion is highly correlated with the dysfunctionality of a society, and various measures of societal health show that the United States is one of the most socially dysfunctional First World countries. Widespread acceptance of evolution in America, then, may have to await profound social change.

I’ll try to write later today.  Anyways, it’s 4am.  Oops.

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World Series–Armed Services Promoting Religion

I do realize that the World Series is not a government event.  But, for the National Anthem, they have a celebrity singing.  Every single time.  Demi Lovato, Zooey Deschanel, etc..  But when “God Bless America” is sung, it is always a person in the military.  Not only that, but, it is televised when normally, it is not.  (During the regular season.)

Now, I think it is clear that this is trying to instill religion in the military and to promote it to the audience.  Why can’t a celebrity sing this song?  The announcers also tell people to stand up and take their caps off.  This is not a national song, and there is no reason to respect it as such.  In fact, this should be offensive to Americans for treating other songs with equal “respect.”

By using the military to sing God Bless America, exclusively, it is clearly a way of putting God into the armed services and saying the armed services support this being projected on the crowd.

Time and time again, God is forced into our daily lives, when it is in fact, illegal to do so.  I find it annoying when I go to a baseball game and then they take the time to sing this idiotic song.  In fact, when I refuse to stand and “respect” (as much as you can “respect” a song)  everyone around stares.  I understand that this is a private event and that they have the right, but it is still forcing religion on others.  If you try to walk around and go to your seats, the person looking at the tickets will yell at you.  Yes, I have done this.  In this country we should be able to go to see “America’s Pastime” without having to endure religious indoctrination.

In fact, a quick Google search brings up this lawsuit, where it was settled and the person got kicked out of Yankees Stadium when he had to use the restroom.

Oh, and I guess it’s time to address the stupid use of prayer before, during, and after a game.  Ok, seriously, praying before a game?  Even if God existed (which it doesn’t) why would God care about a sports game when there are 925 million people in this world who are hungry?  Or when there are 9 million children under the age of 5 who die every year?  Yeah, seriously, praying after you get a hit, that’s being dumb, even by the standards of prayer.

Surprise! Evangelicals Love Premarital Sex Too!

As pointed out by Think Progress,

While the study’s primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result: 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex – slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults, according to the teen pregnancy prevention organization.

Wow! 80 percent of evangelicals are automatically going to hell!  And they still believe this crap?  Hm, I think this would easily qualify as HYPOCRITICAL!  Am I mad that they are having sex before marriage?  No, in fact, I’m glad.  It’s healthy and there’s no reason to torture yourself by denying the opportunity to have fun.  But, the problem lies in the fact that they oppose sex education, birth control, and other contraceptives.  And no, abstinence-only “education” is not education.  But rather, indoctrination of dogmatic and foolish beliefs.

I guess this means that evangelicals really aren’t too afraid of going to hell or think that the concept of going to hell because they had sex before marriage is foolish.  Or maybe they think that the rules just, “don’t apply to them.”  I’m betting on the last one.

Furthermore,

As chief proponents of abstinence-only education, religious right-wing organizations insist that delaying sex until marriage “is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.”

This is not true!  What about parthenogenesis?  Their beloved “virgin birth.”  Oh wait, this is only documented in several animals that do not include humans.  And, only females can be born!  Ok, Ok, I kid the evangelicals, but still, you can contract an STI or STD without actually having sex.  For example, HIV can be transferred through a blood transfusion.  Yes, I do realize this is beside their “point.”  But the 100% statistic is still misleading.

Anyways, lets look at the evidence.

Health experts, however, note that evidence suggests such programs “are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active.” Studies have not found that abstinence-only programs cut pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or even the age when sexual activity begins.

Without proper sexual education, sexually active young adults are more likely to have unintended pregnancies or contract STDs. Family planning health centers like Planned Parenthood, however, are dedicated to addressing these needs. Indeed, Planned Parenthood’s chief services are sexually transmitted diseases testing and treatment as well as contraception. These services help Planned Parenthood prevent “more than 620,000 unintended pregnancies each year.”

What!  Abstinence-only indoctrination doesn’t work!  Wow!  What a surprise!!!  Not.  That’s like telling a child not to ever play in the street and expecting them to abide by that 100%.  It’s rather silly, really.  But in fact, that is a bad example, because playing in the street can indeed be dangerous whereas sex, generally is safe assuming you don’t have low standards.  And even if you do, you would presumably be taking many other risks and sex would be one of the least concerns.

Planned Parenthood helps out many many women a year and only 3% of the services provided are abortions.  Planned Parenthood frequently helps out people with cancer screenings.  Is it really wise to take this away from the poor–those who need it most?  Is it humane?  No.  Planned Parenthood is a great organization that often helps out the less-fortunate or the non-fortunate.

This is just another unfortunate stance that the Religious-Right tries to force on the rest of America.  Not only is it terribly hypocritical, but it also suppresses woman’s rights, takes away from much needed health services for the poor, and indoctrinates the youth with religious dogma and abuses them with threats of going to hell.

This nonsense is derived from one source, religion.  In no way, does this “attack on sex” educate children.

EDIT: Just thinking about this, I would expect evangelicals to under-report premarital sex at a higher frequency than the general population since it is so heavily frowned upon in their circles.  So I would guess the already small gap of 8% is even smaller.

Choose Church or Jail

ThinkProgress notes of this new unconstitutional program in, Bay Minette, Alabama.  The program is called Operation Restore Our Community.  These are the details:

Operation Restore Our Community or “ROC”…begins next week. The city judge will either let misdemenor [sic] offenders work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for a year.

If offenders elect church, they’re allowed to pick the place of worship, but must check in weekly with the pastor and the police department. If the one-year church attendance program is completed successfully, the offender’s case will be dismissed.

It doesn’t take much brains to realize that this is unconstitutional.  And considering this is ordered by their city judge, it is obvious that he is just trying to promote religion.  According to the local news wkrg.com, this is what the Bay Minette Police Chief, Mike Rowland, had to say

it costs his department about 75 bucks per inmate per day. Rowland says the ROC program will be cost-effective and could change the lives of many people heading down the wrong path.

Rowland says the program is legal and doesn’t violate separation of church and state issues because it allows the offender to choose church or jail…and the church of their choice.

Rowland is blatantly lying.  And like the city judge–I could not find his name–he too is trying to promote a religious agenda.  How in hell is giving someone the option between church or jail a real choice?  Who is going to say, no I think I’d prefer to be locked up.  Yeah, that seems like fun.  I won’t see my family, I won’t have to work, I can’t go on vacation, I’ll make a bunch of new friends in jail.  Oh! I just can’t wait!

This is obviously unconstitutional and if the police chief thinks that this isn’t true, not only should he be fired, but his department should be investigated.

Furthermore, Reagan appointee to the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, notes,

In his dissenting opinion in Lee v. Weisman, Scalia wrote that the state may not us the “threat of penalty” to “coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise.” Telling someone — even someone convicted of a crime — that they must participate in a religious service or go to jail clearly fails Justice Scalia’s test.

Yes, even Scalia would be against this fanatical program.

Think Progress adds that even conservative law Professor Eugene Volokh points out,

religiously compelled church attendance is so clearly and obviously unconstitutional, that the Mississippi Supreme Court held that a “judge’s decision to order people to attend church as a condition of bail is not just unconstitutional, but merits a 30-day suspension from the bench.” Again, this was in Mississippi.

Even Mississippi is against this.  Mississippi for crying out loud!  This state is in the heart of the bible-belt and it still says this program is unconstitutional!  A 30-day suspension to the judge should be given at the very minimum.  The judge obviously knows it is unconstitutional and intentionally ignores the law.

This is the problem with religion.  People are not able to keep it to themselves; they have to force it upon the rest of the world.  Whether it be divorce, abortion, sex education, contraceptives, family planning, child abuse, hatred toward homosexuals, or pushing a religious agenda in the public school system.  All of these are bad.  So called “moderate” religion is not benign either, it acts as a succor for hatred and violence.

Instead of this program, how about something that is helpful?  Say, attending school or going to therapy or how about public service?

Cats Praying… What The Fuck? Oh, And You Don’t Have Free Will.

Jerry Coyne pointed this nonsense out in which the author, Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D., at Psychology Today, claims that cats pray.  This is her evidence:

The other day, as I was dusting off a little glass shelf that had been my mother’s, I inadvertently bumped one of the tiny figurines on it–one of a set of blue and white china elephants she had once given me. The disturbance sent all the beloved creatures toppling. As I juggled to keep the whole shelf from falling, I felt a flash of frustration move through me; I might have been tempted to utter a censorable word, except that just at that instant my eyes caught Miss Kitty’s. Sitting motionless on the footstool next to me, her inward gaze shifted outward ever so slightly, just enough to neutrally observe my agitated state.

Instantly, the contrast in our inner experiences became palpable to me and I had a sudden insight. “Why, she’s praying,” I thought, as my mind fell into the calm oasis of her silent meditation.

Millions of cats throughout the world quietly doing their spiritual duty, emanating peace and contentment.

I see in no way how this is any evidence of praying.  Was a brain-scan performed to see look at which parts of the cats brain lit up?  Of course not.  And who the fuck should get funding for that idiot project in the first place?  Even the crackpot Templeton Foundation would not fund this lunacy.

Now, why would anyone think that a cat is capable of conscious though?  And more so, idolize a God in the same way humans would?  Can felines also read?  If they can’t how could they be praying to a God that humans pray to?  Oh, but you’ll claim next that they can understand English and must have overheard someone talking about Jesus/God.  Or maybe that they know innately that God exists.  Or how about that the receive transference from humans?  Yea, that makes sense too.  But in fact, it makes just as much sense as a cat praying.

Now, this begs the question of what other animals pray?  Well, obviously a praying mantis does.  Duh!  It’s in their fucking name!  Not only that, but the assume a praying position!!!  How could one not think that they are praying?  What are the chances that they would randomly obtain a position that is generally designated to prayer?  Yes!  They must be a religious insect!  Um, no!  They too cannot comprehend thoughts like humans can.  They too, like cats, don’t think.  They are instinctual.  They have reactions.  That’s how their brains function.  Neurons fire back and forth and cause an action to occur.

Now is the time for me to introduce the concept of “free will.”  This will surprise many people, but this concept is an illusion.  We do not make the choices that we think we make.  People often have a hard time understanding or comprehending this because is appears that we do have free will.  But, there are experiments that can test this notion.  What happens is that we hook someone up to take brain scans and then the person is told to make an choice on two arbitrary objects as soon as it comes to that person’s head.  We can actually “predict” the choice with high accuracy before the person “chooses” themselves.  This means that your unconscious is making the decisions.

Do you really think that you can control 100 billion neurons in your head firing back and forth?  Or take this experiment.  Think of someone in your head and say the first person who pops in.  Lets say you said Tom.  Why did you think of Tom and not Dan, or anyone else for that matter?  You did not “freely choose,” and thus, you can see that you do not, in fact, have free will.  Another test is to start talking in a conversation with someone.  Notice that you don’t know what the last word of the sentence is going to be.  But, somehow our brains do.  If they did not, we would constantly make grammatical errors and the sentences would rarely make any sense at all.  But we never do!  It really is incredible to think that our brains somehow know what our sentence will look like before we actually consciously know!

I know what you’re going to say, “you’re telling me that if i stand up and walk across the room, I did not choose to do so?”  Correct.  Let’s take the following as an example.  Most people don’t think that a dog has free will.  In fact, let’s use a mouse because that’s even more ridiculous to assume that a mouse has free will.  Then take two equivalent treats.  Next, place them two feet in front of the mouse and and let the mouse go.  The mouse will run (or walk if it’s a lazy fucker) toward one of the treats.  It looks like the mouse made a decision.  He didn’t.  His brain reacted in some way that made him go toward one treat over the other.  He did not consciously choose.  This is the same illusion that happens with humans when we think we consciously chose something.

Another thing that gets people on the whole notion of free will is that they will ask, “well, if you say I don’t have a choice in anything, then I should just not do anything since it will happen anyway.”  No, this is called fatalism.  This was more of a Calvinistic idea.  Lets say for instance that I did not write this blog post.  Will the blog post write itself?  Of course not.  You still have to do stuff.  Even if you try not to do something, your body will push you to do something.  Try sitting in bed all day.  Your body will make you want to go to the bathroom, talk to friends, go eat, go get up and walk around, etc..  Just because you don’t have free will does not mean that you can lie around all day.  Our actions are based on our genes and our environment.  That is how our brains work.  So enough of this fatalism nonsense and back to this cat prayer lady.

I have provided another quote that completely ignores facts.

She then went on to quote her mom in saying,

It was a musing-aloud about how maybe the world seemed to be in increasingly bad shape because there were fewer and fewer monks and nuns spending time in seclusion praying.

Really?  You think the world was better in the past?  Would you have liked to live in the 14th century while the Black Death took place?  Or how about during the Inquisitions?  Or the Crusades?  Was it a better world when gays were put to death?  How about the Salem Witch Trials?  Would you prefer to live then too?  Or the Civil War?  Was it a much better time period when slavery was all over?  Do you prefer when infanticides or genocides were horribly common?  Or how about before modern medicine when you could die of nearly any illness we consider minor today?  And when the life expectancy was cut in half of what it is now?  How about during the Partition of India in 1947 when millions were slaughtered?  Yes, these atrocities resulted from religious beliefs.  Science has made everything much more pleasant.  Religion has served to slow the progress of science and encourage hatred.  As Steven Weinberg famously said, “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”

If one takes only thirty seconds to think about like in the past versus life today, one would never choose to live in an earlier time period unless of course, they are terribly sadistic.  I encourage you to look at the history of violence in this world since you clearly overlook all of the evidence.  How about reading this book by Steven Pinker.

It’s really incredible to think that a cat would pray for you because you almost knocked over a table.  Why would a cat possibly care about you knocking over a table?  It’s incredible that you are even seriously suggesting this as a possibility.

Of course I do realize this is a joke, but it looks doubtful.

Why Be Hostile (this does not mean violence) Toward Religion?

Apparently, at least according to Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, atheists have recently committed a terrible, fanatical act. (It’s a terribly ignorant and hypocritical article, so you might not care to suffer through read it.) What did they do? A group of 15 atheists tore up PHOTOCOPIES of the Bible–not even the Bible itself! (Which is still no where near a horrific act!)

PZ Myers elegantly explains how this is absolutely ridiculous. See here. You should read the whole thing as well as frequently check out his blog.

Here are some things he lists that have occurred in the name of religion when asking if atheists have committed these. The answer is obviously no.

  • raping children in our care?
  • hunting for witches in Africa and setting them on fire?
  • rioting over poorly-drawn caricatures of Madalyn Murray O’Hair?
  • stoning women to death for adultery?
  • telling air force cadets to prepare for a righteous armageddon?
  • hypocritical?
  • chopping the hands off thieves?
  • displacing and oppressing people because they live on land Dawkins said was ours?
  • pouring money into California to suppress the rights of gay couples?
  • building compounds and filling them with automatic rifles?
  • lying to children in our educational system?
  • telling women they aren’t allowed to speak at our meetings?
  • flying planes into buildings?
  • chopping bits off baby penises?
  • inculcating shame and guilt in generations of children?
  • ignoring the stewardship of our planet because nature couldn’t possibly allow us to mess it up?
  • denying children medical care because disease is Hitchen’s will?
  • strapping bombs to our bodies and boarding church buses before detonating them?
  • telling poor people they aren’t allowed to use family planning?
  • butchering albinos for body parts we use in our secret ceremonies?
  • legislating death and imprisonment for sexual practices we disapprove of?
  • making women dress up in bag-like tents before allowing them to go outside?
  • dynamiting ancient works of religious art?
  • crusading?
  • chopping off clitorises?
  • demanding special privileges?
  • dismantling the social support network?
  • using our tax-free income to lobby for conservative politicians in our tax-exempt buildings?
  • calling for pogroms and ethnic cleansing?
  • setting our critics on fire?

These bullets are an excellent list of reasons to be so hostile toward religion. Religion has killed and abused millions and millions of people, and it still continues to do so and justify itself with fairy tales.

Oh, and for the hostility aspect. Atheists merely point out the reasons not to believe in a God.  We also don’t want it in the public school system since it is better if people are taught the truth rather than something made up.  When I say hostile, there is no aspect of violence in any way. Atheists prefer to use knowledge.

Science and Spirituality Intersect. Um, No They Don’t!

In Gadadhara Pandit Dasa’s article over at the HuffPo, he tries to claim that spirituality and science intersect.  His article is met with many errors and blatant ignorance with regards to science, scientific theories, and peer-review.

This is my response:

You start off by complaining that you were treated badly at Columbia University. Well, that is because you are terribly ignorant and do not belong there. You even admitted this yourself.

“Not having a background in science, I was a bit uncomfortable with participating, but the group organizing the event really wanted an Eastern/Hindu perspective on how science fits into the Hindu philosophy and tradition. Hesitatingly, I agreed.”

But, since you read a little bit on science, you now claim to be an expert. This does not mean that you have a place at Columbia University.

You also imply there is a difference between spirituality and religion. This is not true. They are both comprised of fairy tales (you might say “metaphors” –same thing) and irrational thinking. They are the same. You then show that you don’t have any knowledge on what science is by saying it didn’t prove the atoms existence. Science does not prove things, it disproves things. Now, we do have pictures of individual atoms. Try searching on Google. There are many results. If you are not capable of this, as is the case thus far, click here. You also go on to attack people for having “faith” in a “few” scientists. Clearly you do not understand the peer-review process.  Furthermore, you do not understand that other scientists repeat these experiments.

You also do not understand that in science, nothing is 100%. This is an important concept. Gravity is not 100% nor is it 100% that our planet is not flat. What scientists do is they look at the evidence and get to the point where there is no reasonable doubt. And that is what we call a scientific fact. Then you attack other things like the Big Bang. You cite an article by Roger Penrose to back you up. This just shows your ignorance, for he is an atheist. Moreover, you admit that there is evidence. That is how we test to see if something exists, occurred, etc.. We look for evidence, religion makes it up. Duh.

You then go on to claim that Carl Sagan supports your view. Again, this is not the least bit true, and surely he would have condemned you for doing this. Carl Sagan was a non-believer. One of his more famous quotes is this.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

You claims are certainly extraordinary.

Next you claim that the Vedic already talked about the multiverse. This doesn’t mean anything. And furthermore, you cite two movies, Contact, and Men in Black. Does this not indicate that you have no evidence, so you need to cite fictional movies? (I’ll get to Carl Sagan in a bit) The Vedic is faith, and hence, has no evidence or anything to back it up. Here is a quote by the world renowned biologist, Jerry Coyne, that elegantly explains my point.

“In science, a falsified hypothesis gets tossed on the scrap heap; in religion, a falsified hypothesis becomes a metaphor.” (Jerry Coyne, WEIT)

Now, you claim that Einstein was not the first to come up with the Theory of Relativity, because a Puranic text did. This is the quote you cite.

“… One’s life endures for only one hundred years, in terms of the times in the different planets… Eternal time is certainly the controller of different dimensions, from that of the atom up to the super-divisions of the duration of Brahmā’s life; but, nevertheless, it is controlled by the Supreme. Time can control only those who are body conscious, even up to the Satyaloka or the other higher planets of the universe.”

Bhagavat Purana

This is not Einstein’s theory. It never has been, and it never will be. This quote is completely irrational.  Someone living 100 years in terms of different planets? What? How does that have to do with sending someone in space and they don’t age as much? We can do that on this planet too, there is no need to travel to other planets. How else would we have done the experiments to show this? We put clocks in a supersonic jet and note the time. You can also do this in space. The point is that you age slower when you go faster and viola! Then it mentions that time is controlled by the Supreme being. Um, no. Where is there any evidence at all for that? Sorry, but this “Original Theory of Relativity” is in no way close to Einstein’s, nor is it a theory.

Next, you say the following.

There is also a story from the Puranas which parallels Einstein’s hypothetical experiment. A yogi, upon exiting the earthly realm for the higher planetary realms, was informed by the inhabitants of these higher realms that millions of years had instantly passed on Earth in the mere moments since he had entered the higher realms. They also told him that all of his relatives and everyone he had ever known was deceased.

You are again claiming that this talks about the “twin paradox.” I see no connection. It talks about a Yogi going from an earthly realm (whatever that is) to a higher planetary realm (again, whatever that is). Then it says millions of years have passed instantaneously on Earth the moment he entered the higher realm. Ok, go do an experiment and get a yogi in space and onto another planet and make millions of years pass on Earth instantaneously.  If you successfully do this and get it peer-reviewed and published in Science (which should be very easy if you did the experiment and the results turned out like I wrote), I will gladly give you $5,000. You will likely even win a Nobel Prize, assuming of course, that your results are reproducible. You next claim,

 We can pass this off as myth or fable, but one should ponder how these texts of ancient India are coming up with concepts that are so close to modern scientific theories.

Yes, we should pass them off as myth or fable, that is what they are. Furthermore, if these ancient texts do indeed bring up concepts of modern scientific theories, how come India is not the most advanced country in the world? After all, you claim they beat Einstein to the chance by hundreds of years. I am not sure how you do not see how ridiculous your claims are.

In your last paragraph, you claim the following.

There is a wonderful synergy between science and spirituality within the Vedic tradition, and I don’t believe there is a real border dividing them. It’s all just wisdom and knowledge, which is what the term Veda means.

This is not true. At all. There is no synergy between spirituality and science. Science shows that spirituality is made up. It has gotten us nowhere, except for a bunch of churches, temples, etc. which attempt to slow the progress of science and oppress minorities. Science has brought us every advancement in the past 400 or so years. From medicine, to cars, to light bulbs, to computers, to airplanes, to spaceships, to yachts, etc. etc. Oh, and for the work Veda meaning knowledge or wisdom, who cares? So a word means that, it doesn’t mean the story contains either. Take for instance, Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, was she really going rogue? No, she was trying to capitalize on her undue fame and make a fortune. The last two sentences don’t really mean anything except that you say,

These truths help us to ultimately transcend the realm of matter, shed the material body we inhabit and endeavor to re-enter the spiritual realm.

This doesn’t mean anything to any logical person. Transcend the realm of matter? How? What? Then you want us to re-enter the spiritual realm. Well, none have us have ever been there in the first place, so it would be terribly difficult to re-enter.

Well, I think I’ve done enough damage on this article for one day. I’m out.

Edit: Yes, I did notice that he claims the universe is 15-20 billion years old.  Usually we say it is about 13.7 ± 0.13 billion. See here.