Sunday, May 31, 2009

Whassup with the show...

Okay, so as I understand it, here's how things are as of tonight.

Today's show was the last to be recorded out of the Access studios, for at least the summer months of June-August. Exactly when in August, or after August, they will reopen, I haven't heard. I know they're spending a month renovating and upgrading. Then there will be another month devoted to training up producers on the new equipment.

Next weekend will be a weekend off for us, so no show on Ustream or otherwise. The following Sunday, June 14, which is the next one I'm scheduled to do, will be attempted out of Matt's place. We'll try to do video, which will all depend on how much the various hardware and software we have decide they like each other. It will also require Matt to sponge down his walls and hide the inflatable tapir, which we keep bugging him about, but you know bachelors and housekeeping.

It's possible it could be an audio-only show, which would mean AETV will basically be another NPR for the time being. But if we can do video, we will.

We may or may not be able to take calls, so I've been warned to be prepared. Lovely. As we won't have a strict 90-minute time slot either, the show may be longer or shorter.

In other words, expect us to be working through lots of DIY-centric teething pains as we strive to keep bringing you AETV all by our little selves. Personally, I just can't imagine anything going wrong....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Toodles, Mac!

From a TFN email alert:

Senate Sends Message to State Board of Education: No More Culture Wars

Moments ago, the Texas Senate voted to reject Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. The 19-11 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is releasing the following statement:

“Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

Thanks to all of you who made calls and wrote letters about this important nomination. The Senate clearly heard your demands for responsible, common-sense leadership on the state board.

Regardless of the governor's selection for the next chair of the board, our work is not done. With your support, TFN will continue leading the charge for sound education standards, ideology-free textbooks and the best interests of Texas school children.


Now watch. Perry will get his revenge and appoint Cynthia Dunbar now.

Bang bang shoot shoot!

One state senator I suspect will not be voting today against Don McLeroy is my own, Republican Jeff Wentworth. And it's not simply because he's Republican, but because he's so far to the right that he's actually sponsored a bill here in Texas no one but the NRA wants: SB 1164, which would allow people to carry concealed handguns into buildings on college campuses.

I'm no reactionary anti-gun lefty (no, really, I'm not, so this isn't going to be the equivalent to those arguments you hear from right-wingers railing against sex and porn by starting "I'm no prude, but..." who then go on to illustrate in detail how big a prude they really are). But anyone sensible ought to see the flaw in Wentworth's logic. He begins by cynically exploiting fears of another Virginia Tech massacre, where hapless students were "picked off like sitting ducks" because the law left them defenseless. In the Hollywood fantasies of Wentworth, such massacres would be stopped dead in their tracks by courageous, armed law-abiding heroes ready to leap into action like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, busting caps and saving lives.

Setting aside obvious objections to this scenario — like the extreme rarity of such shootings overall, and the presumed readiness of regular people to respond to such a crisis with the cool head of a trained police officer or Navy SEAL simply because they took a 10-hour gun safety course — you'll notice that Wentworth immediately kneecaps his own fantasy by assuring skeptics that, for one thing, the proposed law would only apply to those legally able to own guns in Texas in the first place: people over 21. So there's no need to worry about hordes of hormonally distressed 18 and 19 year olds walking around campus packing. It'll just be the older and wiser seniors, grad students, and staff, all of whom can be counted on for rational level-headedness every time.

So we should support the law because, we're told, it'll save lives, and we shouldn't worry about its possible negatives, because most people on a college campus wouldn't be able to take advantage of it anyway.

Bwuh? So, excuse me, how will lives be saved here? I mean, what's to stop our hypothetical armed psycho from simply wandering into a large class packed with freshmen and sophomores, led by a professor who has chosen not to exercise her concealed carry rights (which will be most of them), and opening up? If the nearest legally-packing senior is up on the third floor, or, say, six buildings away, how many lives will be lost in the time it takes him to sprint to the scene and do his Keanu bit?

And what of other concerns that seem not to have occurred to Wentworth at all? Like, what if a legally armed senior has his registered piece stowed in his backpack? And then he ducks out of class to go to the bathroom? And in that time, his backpack is stolen?

And as anyone who's ever been to college knows, no one in campus dorms ever gets drunk...

It's one thing to want to find ways to protect people from those in our society who would harm us. We all want that. But in a perfect world, while we could easily prevent all crimes simply by passing law after law to head the bad guys off at the pass every time, the truth is we don't live in that world. If college students in Texas didn't need the passage of a concealed carry law after Charles Whitman's rampage (and yes, I know that sportsmen with their hunting rifles helped hold Whitman at bay during all that, but that was still after he'd mowed down a number of innocents), then what exactly has changed since 1966? Other than the NRA's lobbying power and hold over the GOP?

TAM7: Matt yes, Martin no

This year, it will be Matt Dillahunty representing Austin at the Amaz!ng Meeting 7 in Las Vegas in July.

As someone who's been doing the belt-tightening thing during the economic slump, I'm sad to be missing it this year. Unless AXP fans rally and throw cash at me to get there. (Though that's not a hint at all! he insisted, inserting a big smiley emoticon.) So if you're lucky to go, do pull Matt aside and say hi, and he may condescend to grunt desultorily in your general direction. He may discuss the trip on the show when he returns, but I asked him if he planned to liveblog the conference the other day, and he gave me this look like, "What, are you fucking stupid?" So I guess that'd be a no. Anyway, better luck for me next year, I guess.

In related news, the JREF have announced the very first UK TAM, in October, and it's already sold out. Damn!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More email fun: "Look at all the trees!" edition

"liam humphrey" []

Hello Atheist Experience,

I am sending an email to ask you a question about God's existence.

How, when you look out the window in the morning, can you not say that God doesn't exist?

There must be a bigger force that has created all this beauty. It can't be a coincidence, and science is unable to create such magic.
Science is a conspiracy theory. It is a ;lie by people who are in denial about Christianity.

I would also like to complain about Matt Dillahunty's techniques when confronting us. I find him rude and irrational.

Thank You

You're welcome.

And anyway, we do say that God doesn't exist when we look out the window in the morning (as well as other times). So what this dope is complaining about, I have no idea.

Addendum: So okay, it was a Poe. Still, remember what Poe's Law states: you can't tell. And we've gotten real emails just this wacky. So, nice one.

Could Thursday be D-Day for McLeroy?

Texas' official State Embarrassment Don McLeroy will find out tomorrow, hints the TFN, whether or not his appointment as chair of the universally derided State Board of Education will stand or fall. The Democrats claim to have all the votes they need to block his approval, but one should never underestimate the underhanded dealings and shenanigans of far-right Christian ideologues in Texas.

McLeroy has to go. This should be a no-brainer. But there are plenty of people in this state with no brains actively bucking for him. Why, apart from the fact he's subjected the state to nationwide ridicule and overtly based his policymaking on his far-right religious ideals, has he been such a disaster heading up the SBOE? Well, you see, chairing the SBOE isn't exactly the kind of place where one expects showboating political ideologues to make waves. It ought to be a non-partisan, administrative position focused on doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of education for the state's schoolchildren, full stop, whatever this or that lobbying group with an agenda demands. Those inclined to defend Mac by saying "The Texas Freedom Network is a lobbying group too!" should extricate their craniums from their rectums long enough to note that had right-wing Christians on the SBOE not actively engaged such groups as the Discovery Institute in formulating state science education policies, the TFN could well have stayed home.

Apart from the coordinated gang-rape of science education that Mac has led at the Board, he has...

  • ...also injected extremist right-wing ideology into social studies curricula, by appointing outright cranks to review panels to judge social studies standards. Among these are Christian Reconstructionist quote fabricator David Barton of Wallbuilders, whose agenda is promoting the theocratic "Christian Nation" myth; Bill Ames, a "textbook reviewer" for ultra-right harpy Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum; Peter Marshall, a four-alarm wackaloon of the Fred Phelps school, who has described Hurricane Katrina as God's punishment for teh gayz, and demanding Christian parents pull their kids out of public school; and sexist creationist clod Allen Quist. Yeah, that's the kind of review panel Texas education needs: a bunch of lying education haters.
  • ...summarily rejected a set of recommendations, put together by experts and educators over a three-year period, for English and language arts standards, in favor of an 11th-hour quickie set of standards drafted in one night by Mac's fellow ideologues, and rushed into a vote without adequate time for review.

Hopefully, our senators will do the right thing and, in one very small way (after all, Mac won't be removed from the SBOE if his chairmanship is not approved, he just won't be chair), we will begin to turn the tide and push back against the despicable, mortifying, and contemptible ignorance and arrogance that has poisoned not only education in Texas, but the reputation of the state as a whole.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Bible's greatest hits: Genesis edition

The Atheist Experience episode #606 will be about the Bible's impact on our culture, focusing on the book of Genesis. Dust off that Bible and follow along. We'll talk about
  • how just-so stories have been used to blame and repress minority groups,
  • how the in-group uses the stories to align with power and justified thuggery,
  • how the breeding log of Genesis provides convenient hooks for derivative religions, and
  • how so many aspects of the goofy episodes in Genesis still remain with us while the really embarrassing ones are forgotten.
In future episodes, we'll look at the greatest hits from some other parts of the Bible.

Christian radio hypes gold. A lot.

I've been listening to Christian radio lately, and I'm hearing a LOT of commercial programs hyping investments in gold. Now, I'm not really up on current prices of precious metals. I did do a show where I mentioned Liberty Dollars, which I consider to be a massive ripoff.

I'm generally interested in scams and ripoffs, and my skepticism sensor get triggered loudly when I hear a program (1) on Christian radio (2) involving pushy marketing hype, that (3) pushes an investment that is perfect for EVERYONE, and (4) predicts financial doom for anyone who does not participate.

This last bit, as I have probably said before, is a hallmark of both sneaky advertising and religion. It short-circuits your ability to think rationally about an idea on its merits, instead cutting straight to emotions and panicking you by making you think that you'll be tortured forever (or whatever) if you dare to even ask questions about the concept.

So in this case, what's at stake is the total meltdown of all world markets, where stocks will be worthless and a dollar in the bank will be about as valuable as a Russian ruble. Only precious metals can save you from a fate of scraping food out of dumpsters for your children. Very, very soon now.

Look. I don't have a problem with gold as an investment. It is indeed the case that as the economy gets worse, the value of gold rises with respect to the dollar; as, indeed, will your pounds, francs, lira, and yen. If the dollar is doing badly, it makes sense to own something that is not a dollar. Simple as that.

Unlike most stock indices, the value of gold has actually increased pretty significantly since the year 2000. With hindsight, it's been a good recent investment.

But watch out, because after a commodity rises in value is not the best time to buy. There was a stock bubble, then a housing bubble, and the fact that gold is not rising doesn't mean that gold is going to do well forever. I'm not saying it's a scam, but the hype currently surrounding gold does set my spidey-sense tingling like crazy. When lots of voices start loudly pitching something, it usually means there's money to be made -- not by you, but from you. They've probably latched on to a pretty good gig in convincing people to shell out their money for something much more expensive than it's worth.

Anyway, the question is, why Christian radio? Is it just because there are so many gullible people there who are already conditioned to respond to threats of impending doom?

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Stop bashing my religion"

Fairly often, we get e-mails complaining about how we are only out to bash Christianity and will we please just stop. Usually, the author will have a glowing impression of their religion and its impact on the world and we are just misinformed.

We do beat up on Christianity. I know I do. I think it’s a good thing to make people aware of the harm that misplaced faith can cause, both in the abstract and the concrete. Christianity provides many examples. The fact that most Christians are unaware of the harm that their religion is cause is compounds the problem. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not a valid excuse.

Most of the problems we point out about Christianity apply to other religions, as well. But perhaps I am being somehow unfair to Christianity. I try to be open to criticism myself so that I’m not perceived as a hypocrite and so I’m not closed to opportunities to learn and grow.

My first response is usually, “Can you give me an example where I/we have unfairly criticized your religion?” This usually gets me no response. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are making a lame attempt to silence the critics of their cherished belief system. If you can’t provide evidence for a claim, then why should anyone take the claim seriously?

One thing I’m “guilty” of is pointing at a subgroup of Christianity such as the religious right, the fundamentalists, or the evangelicals, and implying that these groups represent the whole. Under most circumstances, this sort of generalization would be inappropriate. I do feel it is appropriate for Christianity. Christians claim that their god is the author of the one true absolute morality. They claim that their god is omniscient and created all of humanity, including Christians themselves. They claim to be able to talk with that god via prayer and that the god can guide those with faith. They claim that their god is the same as Jesus who they strive to emulated and follow. They claim that the “Holy Ghost” is the same as their god and that it dwells within believers. How is it then, that there is can be any Christian subgroup that is doing something embarrassing to Christianity? The simple answer is that one or more of these claims are false. I try to get the complainer to identify which of these assumptions is incorrect. I have yet to get a response.

Perhaps a believer can claim that they alone have the true religion™ and that everyone else is a poser. Such a claim would need to be justified, but it’s easy to demonstrate that most believers don’t think that way. Overall, Christians value tolerance of other religious beliefs, especially those of other Christian sects. This tolerance grew out of centuries of killing each-other in holy wars because none of the warring parties had any solid evidence for their beliefs. The lack of an objective reality underlying their belief systems explains the large number of competing sects of the various religions of the world.

Tolerance can be insidious, however. You often hear, “Thou shalt not judge…” especially when somebody is trying to soft peddle some heinous act to which they are a party. I view this attitude as an agreement among thugs. It means, “You don’t draw attention to how I’m screwing people over, and I won’t draw attention to how you’re screwing people over.” Practically speaking, it’s a free pass for the thugs to screw people over, which is exactly what Christianity does so well. “You don’t hold me accountable for my rape of children and I won’t hold you accountable for your obsession with trying to end the world via meddling in the Middle East.” “Let’s get together in the spirit of ecumenicism and trash the next guy.” Usually the next guy is a non-believer.

My attitude is that believers should be held responsible for the harm done based on those beliefs. We’re doing our part by pointing out the systematic problems caused by religious belief. Those who just complain about our message obviously want to evade that responsibility. Perhaps I should take heart that these people are motivated to somehow reduce their discomfort. With a little guidance, they might be encouraged to take responsibility for their religion or leave it. Either way is fine with me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The world McLeroy wants

A recent report reveals what those of us who value science education and its benefits to society have long since feared: American students' comprehension of the biosciences can be summed up in two words, epic fail.

Middle and high school students across the country are generally falling behind in life sciences, and the nation is at risk of producing a dearth of qualified workers for the fast-growing bioscience industry, according to a report released Monday.

Students are showing less interest in taking life sciences and science courses, and high schools are doing a poor job of preparing students for college-level science, says the report, funded and researched by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Biotechnology Institute.

The deficiencies will hurt the country's competitiveness with the rest of the world in the knowledge-based economy, the report concludes.

What the news article doesn't mention is that ever-expanding elephant in the room. There's a reason this is happening, and it isn't just that students would rather spend time with their 360s and PS3s. The interest in science education is waning because of a powerful and orchestrated right-wing Christian anti-science movement, which has seen its most appalling and flagrant expression in the Texas State Board of Education under Don McLeroy, who thinks experts are bad guys he needs to "stand up" to. Yes, well, I'm sure when you reach those pearly gates, Don, St. Peter will hand you your harp and halo and say, "Well fought, brave soldier." At least, I'm sure that's how the scene plays out in Mac's rapturous fantasies.

But as the report makes plain, the effort to protect religion via the outright demolition of education is having a disastrous effect, not merely on the minds of students (there's nothing worse you can do to a mind than rob it of the very will to learn, but the fundies, naturally, would disagree), but on the nation's economic future.

The biosciences are going to be one of the most important growth industries this century. And with the Christian War on Education in full swing, you can rest assured, that growth won't be happening here. We've long since been on the downward slide towards becoming an intellectual third world country. Now it seems we run the risk of becoming one across the board.

Texans, feel free to bring the findings of this report up when contacting your state senator with your opposition to McLeroy's appointment. I plan to. It may be a futile effort at this point, but the truth is always worth fighting for. The fact the fundies fear it so much is all the incentive you should need to keep fighting for it.

Fundies rally behind McLeroy, give a big thumbs up to teen pregnancy

Time to get on the horn to your state senators, people. I'll just link to the relevant TFN piece. You know where to take this from there.

In similar Christian War on Education news, the Texas house today voted down a bill that would require medically accurate sex education in the state. Bring on the teen pregnancies! Nice one, godbots.

More email joy!

Okay gang, you're going to hate me for subjecting you to drivel this far gone. But I promise...stick with it. The payoff is at the end. Yes, we're now starting to hear from these kooks.

It is not the question of God but the affects that seeing authority externally...God has never been proved to be a man and its symbolism in authority is the issue to human perception as it creates a need to measure the illusion of an image...That is the real meaning in the metaphors of Adam Eve Cain Abel...It is also an unknown fact that Jesus if he ever existed was teaching about human perception, Christianity misses the whole point and worships the cross rather than learning the teachings which are in fact a science to our duality of perception. Reason & Logic is what he was really teaching...It is nature that we all possess and knowledge is intuitive when there is no need to measure the illusions of self perception....Judgment in society is based upon the illusion of ego which relates to quantum physics and reality tunnels...The bible read in the proper context is a science, but most religion symbolizes authority in god. God does not exist but we all share the same natures in our duality of mind....

There is a good reason for religion because when we die our energy still has an impression upon it based upon the illusion of self perception, there is such a place as the fifth dimension of time space where we go, but

...(snap snap) Hey! Still awake? Okay, here it comes...wait fooorr it...

this will be revealed to humanity Dec 21 2012....

Zing! We'll be here all week, gang. Remember to tip your waitresses.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More paranoiac raving from that kook Brannon Howse

If fundamentalist nutcases didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. On second thought, no we wouldn't. We could actually get on with the worthwhile business of advancing the human race, increasing our store of scientific knowledge about our world, our universe, and ourselves, improving health care, extending life expectancy and raising the quality of life for everyone, supporting and evolving the arts, practicing such quaint notions as human rights and equality, ending war, and spreading our reach out into the cosmos.

Instead, we're stuck on this poor little blue ball with a horde of gibbering twits.

Speaking of Brannon Howse.... The big cheese over at the Christian Worldview Network makes a habit of uncorking his paranoia on his weekly internet radio show Worldview Matters, letting it flow over and bathe his listeners in its curdled, pus-like warmth.

Keep in mind that Howse's "worldview" is little saner than that of the creepy, muttering homeless guy whom you tried to ignore on the street earlier today, carrying on an extended debate with the aliens in his head interrupted only by pleas to passers-by for change or cigarette butts.

To Howse, pretty much everything that exists in America today is an evil liberal plot led by Marxist Barack Obama and his stormtroopers to Destroy All Christians. Howse is, if nothing else, a master of the sensationalist headline. William Randolph Hearst would have loved this motherfucker, if only for awesome histrionic dribblings like this: "Liberals who hate Christians love pedophiles and refuse to pass an amendment on to H.R. 1913 that excludes pedophiles from special protection. Does this not tell you all you need to know about their real goal for America and Christians?" I mean, that's just gold.

Now, here's the thing. I kind of value my brain. I consider it a friend, and as I like to have pleasant and healthy relationships with my friends, I try to avoid subjecting them to needless abuse. Friends are touchy that way. Thus I cannot really bring myself to listen to one of Howse's maniacal podcasts, unless my brain also happens to be in a mischievous mood — like that one time with the hermit crab, the tube sock, the Krazy Glue, and a napping Kazim — and says to me, "Aw, come on, let's do it, it'll be hilarious!"

But I do get an endless charge out of those headlines, especially ones where I know a thing or two about what he's blithering about and can see the crazy so clearly it's simply breathtaking. In his latest episode, he raves about, of all things, the upcoming census. The headline is a joy to behold.

Topic One: The government GPS Tagged Brannon’s house and has or will tag your home in the next 90 days. Why? Why is the federal government spending $700 million to have 140,000 workers tag every front door with GSP in just 90 days? The census is not until 2010 and this person that is tagging your front door does not even talk to you since they just walk up to your door and load the GPS coordinates and walk away. In Germany, Jews were given a yellow Star of David to wear, I wonder if in today’s America, Christians will have a yellow cross on the governments GPS map?

Folks, you can't invent that kind of crazy! I mean, census workers GPS tagging homes is just the same as the Nazis putting the yellow stars on Jews!? Great galloping...uh...something that starts with "g".

If Howse wasn't so deliciously non compos mentis, he could easily have tracked down a few facts before launching into a rant like this. For one thing, the people out doing the GPS tagging of addresses are called enumerators. And while I can't speak for the person assigned to Howse's neighborhood, the one who came through mine spoke to me, thank you very much, and was very friendly. But then, you know, I'm a friendly guy, and when I meet new people, friendly conversations tend to ensue. I can, on the other hand, probably understand why Howse failed to have a similar friendly engagement with his own enumerator, as it's easy to imagine him bursting out of his front door in his robe and bedroom slippers, waving his Bible like a katana and shrieking, "Vile minion of Say-tun, I bind thee in the name of the Holy Spirit, now get offa my lawn!"

The census is taken every decade, and far from being all about rounding up the Christians for the ovens (one detail that fails to penetrate the fog clouding Howse's miniscule brain is that enumerators simply tag addresses, they don't ask what the religion is of the people living there), it's a task mandated by the Constitution itself. As for why they're getting such an early start, well, only someone as stupid as Howse would ask such a thing. It's just like asking, "Hey, I thought that new skyscraper they were going to build downtown isn't supposed to open till next year. So why are they laying the foundation now?" Uh, because big jobs take lots of preparation, idiot. The US has just over 304 million people in it. And as the task of the census is, as they state quite clearly, "to distribute Congressional seats to states, to make decisions about what community services to provide, and to distribute $300 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year," obviously providing services on that scale to so many people isn't the sort of thing you throw together in a week or two. Then again, I may be blind to whatever Vast Conspiracy the government has on its planner this week, and have been too easily fooled by the official site's omission of "...and to pinpoint the location of Christians so we can exterminate them more efficiently" from their list of census benefits.

Well, I'm sure Howse will be comforted to know that I'm actually considering applying for a summer job with the census, following my friendly conversation with the friendly neighborhood enumerator I met. So if there isn't already a "Target the Christians" objective among the government's current action items, I could probably suggest it to my supervisor. He'll kick it upstairs, and I'm sure our Islamofascist Marxist president Darth Barack will love it! Thanks for the idea, Brannon. I got a yellow cross with your name on it, buddy! And your little dog, too! Arbeit macht frei! Bwaaaaah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-haaaaaah!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Co-Dependent Worldview

There are many misconceptions about co-dependents and co-dependent behavior. Many people still consider co-dependents to be merely “enablers” or people in relationships with addicts. But if we define a co-dependent person in such a way as to require that they be in a relationship with an addict (or with anyone) in order to qualify as “co-dependent,” that would be like defining an alcoholic as someone who is actively drinking—so that when the alcoholic is sleeping, we might rightly say he’s not an alcoholic. A co-dependent, like an addict, is identified by his mental perceptions—how he envisions his interactions, not who or what he’s interacting with in the moment.

This is not to say that if someone offers a definition of a co-dependent using a relationship model that there is no place for that. Certainly, if I were a family counselor, I would likely lean very hard toward a working definition that addressed my model of therapy in a way that would help my patients understand their roles in the situation. That’s fine. But I'm not defining “co-dependent” here in order to target a working treatment model. I'm seeking to understand a mental mindset that results in the dysfunctional relationships co-dependents gravitate toward due to a developmental disorder.

"Co-dependency is defined as a psychological disorder caused by a failure to complete one of the most important developmental tasks of early childhood, that of establishing psychological autonomy. Psychological autonomy is necessary for the development of the self, separate from parents."
—Barry K. Weinhold, PhD, and Janae B Weinhold, PhD, co-authors, "Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap.”

It is then, literally, to be blunt, a childish worldview that was never outgrown. This deals with boundaries, especially psychological boundaries, that the co-dependent has either weakened or lost. Just as a child who stubs his toe on a piece of furniture might become angry and hit (blame) the chair, so does the adult co-dependent not see the clear divide between himself and other people and things outside himself. And he sees his emotions as being at least partly dictated by people and things outside himself. He believes others have the ability to affect his emotional state, without his consent, to some degree. And to the level he accepts this, that is the level to which he is engaged in co-dependent thinking.

In order to address this problem, the following was suggested: "…to treat and heal the suffering and dysfunction of co-dependence, we first realize that we are powerless over others. We are powerless over their beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions and choices, and their behavior. But we discover that we are powerful over ourselves, our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors."

And in order to offer a useful, broad definition (not narrowed for specific treatment programs), "…we can define [co-dependence] briefly as any suffering or dysfunction that is associated with or results from focusing on the needs and behaviors of may be mild to severe."
—Charles L. Whitfield, MD, (both quotes above) from his book "Co-Dependence, Healing the Human Condition. Whitfield is certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine and a former instructor at Rutgers Univeristy.

In other words, if I experience unpleasant or unwanted responses (“any suffering”) based on my observations of the actions of another (“associated with the behaviors of others”), that is a co-dependent perspective. And that last bit is important. This is not an “all” or “nothing” measurement. The level to which you relate to this worldview dictates the level to which you are co-dependent—mild or severe.

In the section of their book entitled "Healthy Ways to Handle Feelings,” Drs. Weinhold write, “own your feelings and take responsibility for being the source of your feelings."

My posts are long enough, but that bears repeating: “take responsibility for being the source of your feelings.” As long as I continue to hold to a model that there are sources, other than me, for my emotional responses, I'm feeding into a mindset born of a developmental dysfunction.

“CBT treatments have received empirical support for efficient treatment of a variety of clinical and non-clinical problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders. It is often brief and time-limited. It is used in individual therapy as well as group settings, and the techniques are also commonly adapted for self-help applications...In cognitive oriented therapies, the objective is typically to identify and monitor thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that are related and accompanied to debilitating negative emotions and to identify those which are dysfunctional, inaccurate, or simply unhelpful. This is done in an effort to replace or transcend them with more realistic and useful ones.”
—Wikipedia entry on “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)”

In other words, the goal is not to avoid situations where unwanted emotions arise and it is not to learn to live with these emotions and contain or suppress them. The goal is to teach people how to choose more appropriate, beneficial emotions over ones that are causing problems for them in their lives—because we can, and do, choose our emotional responses. A person suffering from anxiety disorder can actually learn to stop feeling anxious. This is achieved by heightening the person’s awareness via teaching him to monitor what is happening in his own mind, and make better choices in his reactions—including emotional reactions. We can choose appropriate or inappropriate emotional responses. However, most of us don’t really consider our mental reactions and responses. We take them for granted and let them move along without much interference unless and until something really bothers us enough to the point we need to learn how to take a more active role in controlling our mental, intrapersonal dialogues.

A quick word about avoidance: If you go to the local book store and pick up a copy of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you will find that in treating emotional disorders, such as anxiety, avoidance is a behavior the therapist must try to interrupt. It is not uncommon for people to suffer from anxiety in particular environmental situations. In order to avoid the anxiety, the patient avoids the situation (for example, driving a car). The problem here is many-fold. The patient is heading for phobia and soon will be not just someone with anxiety disorder, but someone with anxiety disorder and a phobia of driving.

The patient is misattributing the environmental stimulus as being the catalyst for the anxiety he feels. In reality the catalyst is his misinterpretation of the environmental stimulus: He sees driving—a mundane activity—as irrationally threatening and fearsome. What he doesn’t understand is that his anxiety and fear are not brought on by driving, but are rather brought on by his mentally defective interpretation of driving. The event occurs and is nonthreatening. But the patient’s mind interprets it as a threat, and he then responds with fear, panic, and anxiety to his imagined and unjustified mental model of what is happening. So, his emotional reaction is not in response to anything outside his head. It’s a response to a distortion within his head. If the distortion can be addressed, so that he regains a more realistic perspective of driving, then he will find he can choose an emotion other than “anxious” when he drives. But he first has to be able to make a rational evaluation of the event (while he’s in the event). He has the capacity to do this, as do we all, but he does not know how to do that at the time he enters therapy.

In communication psychology and intrapersonal communication, there are two things I learned that have served me extremely well in life:

1. Nobody and nothing can make me mad.
2. Emotions tell us nothing about the world outside our own minds.

This is not to say I never get angry. The key word is “make.” When I become angry, I know I must accept responsibility for the anger I emote. Choosing anger as an appropriate emotional response is not the same as being forced to be angry. Likewise, choosing anger when it is an inappropriate response is not the same as being “made” angry. As an honest person I must admit I became angry—of my own free will. I was not force or made to be angry—no matter how tempting it might be to blame others for my own lack of judgment or unwillingness to exercise self-control.

And that is very difficult for some people to grasp, because not everything in reality is intuitive. Some things are actually counterintuitive the more deeply we study them. And it is often to our detriment that our emotional reactions are not intuitively understood for a great many people.

Something good happens—someone gives me a birthday present—and I feel good. Something sad happens—my dog dies—and I feel sad. Something scary happens—I step on a snake—and I’m scared. What could be more simple? A child can make this connection, right? Well, right, a child could make this connection, but the child would be wrong to say the events were the catalyst to his emotional reaction. It is not these events that evoke these emotions. It is our mental models and interpretations that evoke these emotions. How can I know this? Because, fortunately, we sometimes have cases we can examine where our mental models don’t correspond with environmental realities. And when that happens, which one of those things (our environment or our noncorresponding interpretation) do you imagine our emotions align with?

Well, when we consider it that way, it becomes intuitive again, doesn’t it? Would anyone fail to rightly guess that our emotional reaction will align with our interpretation of the environment—and not the environment? If there is nothing to fear in my environment, but I believe there is something to fear, I will feel corresponding fear. But corresponding to what? To reality or to my interpretation?

This becomes relevant in religion when people use emotional response as an affirmation of their belief that god is interacting with them in their lives. They "feel" god—and for many people that reinforces that there really is a god "out there" beyond their minds, creating these emotional impulses. But their model is flawed and actually a prime example co-dependent thinking and misattribution.

In other words, if I hear a strange noise in my house—and I believe someone is trying to break in—I will react emotionally as if an intruder is trying to enter my home (even if it’s just a branch scraping my window). My cognitive self confronts existent reality, interprets that reality, and then relays that interpretation, which is fed into another part of the brain that kicks out an impulse—emotional or otherwise. That response then goes to my cognitive self and I must decide whether or not the response is appropriate. If I deem it appropriate, I will unleash it. If I deem it inappropriate, I will send a new message back to my brain letting it know that isn’t an acceptable response, and I will choose another. And all this can happen instantaneously. In fact, this internal dialogue is happening in each of us, nonstop, all the time—whether we pay attention to it and acknowledge it, or not. We actually can tune into it—we just generally don't bother.

This process can take milliseconds or years to produce a change in emotional response. And in very few cases, we may not have time to cognitively assess our response at all. Something might not frighten us slowly—but, instead, very quickly. This would be an emotional "spike," and the immediacy of it would make it difficult or impossible to process and restrain in the moment. But we are, most of us, rarely confronted in daily life with such immediate and extreme levels of emotional impulse. You might think of it as walking along normally and stumbling over a tree root. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are in immediate control of your walking. That doesn’t mean you spend your energy focusing on it and monitoring each move—but you still understand you are the one controlling your movements as you walk. You don’t have to concentrate and think about it, because you’ve done it for so long that it’s nearly automatic. But hit that tree root and you look like you have lost any and all control over your legs and body. It’s a glitch for sure, but the exception and not the rule.

We take our emotional responses and psychological control for granted. And how many times do we hear people claim outright that we can’t control how we feel, who we love, what we like, what we hate, sometimes even what we do? These are excuses to unburden ourselves of our responsibility for our own reactions—literally to not take responsibility for our very selves.

Many, many things can show us that we have the capacity to adjust our emotional responses toward things—to change how we feel about them. If we are reasonable, someone might present a good argument or evidence that contradicts something we thought we understood previously, but now realize we did not. And we decide that maybe our attitude about a particular situation is perhaps not appropriate. So, we adjust it. Who hasn’t had that experience? Just as well, we might have a sudden and impactive emotional experience or trauma that changes our view. Maybe we nearly die, and it makes us realize that we should take more joy in our lives while we’re here. And we really do enjoy life more after that. Or maybe there is no trigger. Maybe I go to a party that I felt obligated to attend. I’m committed to be there for five hours and it’s pure tedium. I’ve served two hours of my hell-party sentence sitting in a chair by myself, when I simply consider that maybe if I tried to go and meet a few people it might not be so horrible. I go out and mingle, and whether I find any interesting people or not, I find the night is at least somewhat improved over brooding in a corner for three more hours.

In all of these cases, there are common denominators. One is that I agreed to consider another view—and ultimately to adopt another view of my situation. The person who gains new information can’t say that anything outside his own mind changed. The situation is the same. The information he gained wasn’t “not there” before. He simply was unaware of it. But reality didn’t change, only his view of it broadened. He now can consider “more” of it and has a different feeling about what he’s looking at. The man who nearly died did not come back to a new wife, a new son, a new job. He simply gained a new view of it all. And the guy at the party didn’t find a way to change the party. He just changed his view of it—all on his own. He recognized that he had zero control over the party, over the people, over the refreshments, over time, but he discovered, as Whitfield pointed out, that he was powerful over himself, his own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors. Over himself, his actions, his attitude, he had total control. And by exercising it, he went from frustrated, angry and bored, to at least somewhat interested. He went from a co-dependent view of himself as a victim, obligated to a hateful five-hour torture session, to someone in control who was willing to take responsibility for his evening and whether or not he enjoyed it on any level.

Another common denominator in these three cases is that any of these men could have refused to agree to adopt a new attitude. I could get new and contradictory data and still hold tenaciously to my perspectives. I could nearly die, and come back and be the same complacent, joyless ass I was before. I could go to the party, wallow in my piss-poor mood all night, and go home thinking about how I’ll never get that evening back. It’s completely up to me. I am the only one who can control my attitude—and I can change it to a polar opposite view if I deem doing so is justified.

But whatever I do, as the Drs. Weinhold note, I must own my feelings and take responsibility for being the source of my feelings. I can’t be held accountable for everything that happens to me in life. But I can very well be held to account for every reaction express—so long as I’m enjoying a normal level of mental health.

Co-dependent attitudes are so prevalent, mainly, I would wager, due to some of the issues noted above—being so used to having near-automatic, appropriate emotional responses that we hardly notice them or feel a need to exercise restraint or control over them, and also, understandably, misattributing our emotions to things outside of our own minds, because so often, for the most part, our mental models are close enough to the Real McCoy that we don’t stop to examine whether our emotional reactions are toward the models or the reality being modeled.

According to Whitfield, "Co-dependence is the most common of all addictions: the addiction to looking elsewhere." Whitfield acknowledges we "live in a world where nearly everyone is acting co-dependently most of the time." In other words, this thinking, based on a developmental flaw, is extremely pervasive and common. It is so common in fact, that some co-dependence evaluation questionnaires have people answer with a scale like this one, (Almost Always = 4, Frequently = 3, Occasionally = 2, Never = 1), where the low score would be the least co-dependent attitude. Note there is no setting for “0.” In other words, nobody gets out of that test with zero level of co-dependence.

It may sound unfair, but it’s true. Examples of these evaluations appear in Weinholds’ and Whitfield’s books, and in many other places. I guess the message is that it’s simply too much to hope that a person could actually take full responsibility for himself. While I’d love to recoil, I can’t say that I don’t see a lot of this attitude in people. And I can’t say that I don’t have to police it in my own head. Road-rage anyone? But when I recognize it, I can say I don’t defend it as being beyond my control. Not controlling myself, certainly, is not the same as not being able to control myself—and not the same as not being responsible for controlling myself. I do what I do, because it’s what I chose to do—whether in the moment or after careful consideration is irrelevant. It is my reaction, and I must own it—since nobody else can. My mental and physical reactions are mine and come out of my human experience and worldview. If I can’t defend them, then I should reconsider them—in the moment or after careful consideration.

All this said, I admit fully that without religion, there would still be co-dependent people. And, actually, at least one religion, Buddhism, appears to give people props for exercising mental control and taking as much responsibility as possible for their own mental reactions. So, that said, not all religions feed into the “co-dependence trap” (as the Weinholds’ labeled it). Even Hinduism, with its self-defeating caste system and karma, contains an example in the Bhagavad-Gita of the self exercising control of emotional impulses. The process is compared to a charioteer driving a team of horses, and the analogy is meant to illustrate the value of exercising measured self-control over the mind's impulses.

And isn’t this supposed to, somewhere, touch on religion a bit more?

With that, let’s have a word about compartmentalization. Consider Whitfield’s earlier statement, “we are powerful over ourselves, our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors." His point in a nutshell is to take responsibility for you reactions, and stop blaming others for things that should be your responsibility as part of your life. Be the captain of your own destiny! And the Weinholds’ appear to agree. Intrapersonal communication models, based on research in communication psychology, also concur, and CBT demonstrates it as a working, demonstrable model as well. So, how does one explain statements like the following from Co-dependents Anonymous’ 12 Steps? Is this funny or sad?

Step 2: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 7: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I refuse to elaborate on the discrepancy here, because to do so would be an insult to the intelligence of every reader. If you can’t see the glaring hypocrisy of these steps in a program to help people who are having trouble taking responsibility for themselves and their own lives and personal reactions—as Foxworthy might say, “You just might be” a co-dependent.

Here’s what’s even spookier. Dr. Whitfield promotes and advocates this 12-step program in his aforementioned book. The same man who says my problem is that I am not acknowledging I am the source of power over my own life, advocates letting go and letting god, by throwing me into a program where I am immediately told I must accept I am powerless—beyond whatever power god, in his mercy, is willing to grant me.

How is that any better than being powerless over myself except for whatever power someone else or my environment grants me? In any of those scenarios, I still haven’t taken responsibility, I’ve merely shifted the responsibility for my life from one source that is not me to another source that (I believe) is not me. Where exactly did I gain any power from this shift?

But as if this weren’t disturbing enough, isn’t this pretty well Western religion in a nutshell? Conservative fundamentalists preach “responsibility,” then co-dependently slough off responsibility for everything in their lives to a mental model that does not represent themselves. Again—oh, the irony. They absolutely rail against people who they perceive to not be taking responsibility for themselves, and they preach out of that same mouth, the doctrine of fully crippling, co-dependent salvation (because I just can’t rely on myself to run my own life).

But let me add one last thing. Let’s end on an atheist note. We get many letters. And for every letter we get saying X, I can promise you we get just as many saying –X. One topic particularly that I find funny is “Matt’s attitude toward callers.” Matt could get 10 e-mails a day on this subject, and I promise you that five would scold him for being too mean and nasty, and the other five would praise him for his patience and kindness toward callers (some even scold him for being too kind). Some go on to say Matt, and the rest of the hosts/cohosts are no better than fundamentalist Christians in how we pig-headedly shove our opinions down the throats of others.

How do we stack up with this question from the “Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence”?

“I attempt to convince others of what they ‘should’ think and how they ‘truly’ feel.”

Let it be known that for myself, I understand that I have no control over what someone else thinks and feels. Without their consent to dialogue, consider, and ultimately change their mind, I can do nothing to impact them or their views. The power is fully, 100%, with them. They own that realm utterly.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t invite them to dialogue, consider or change their views. Whether they think they should or can or will—is not within my power. I don’t lose sleep over it. An invitation is not an attempt at coercion. Anyone can refuse—no threats or fear of reprisals. Anyone can turn the channel, not call, or not e-mail us. Anyone who interacts with us has, of their own free will, and under their own power and cognition, chosen to engage with us for whatever reason of their own. And whatever they get out of it, they own it. Whatever they feel about it, they own that as well. If someone is offended, it’s not because of something I’ve said, it’s because they maintain such fragile ego models that even words manage to make them feel threatened. Whatever, they express or send to us—they own it. None of that belongs to anyone at AE. It’s completely the sender's.

Own yourself. Empower yourself. Live your life and don’t lose out by thinking you have anything less than total control of what you put into it—mentally and physically. Whatever you have, you can give—100%—if you choose. Or you can be a walking, talking reaction—wandering through your life feeling powerless and victimized, waiting for your sign from your partner, environment or god model, before you’ll dare to make your next move. But I’m not telling you what you “should” do. I’m just inviting you to expand your perspective to consider what you "could" do. The power is only ever yours, whether you use it or convince yourself you can give it away.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ratzinger is a self-serving hypocrite and the press is too brow-beaten to tell the truth

In the May 12th Austin American Statesman, there is an article from the Los Angeles Times concerning the Pope's visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. (Unfortunately, I can't find a link to the story that was printed.)

Ordinarily, I try very hard to ignore the ridiculous antics of the Pope and the Vatican. Maybe I secretly believe that if we don't give them any attention, they'll just crawl back under their rocks and leave the world alone. It's not true, unfortunately. So many papers and TV stations seem to use any excuse at all to write some fawning piece on Ratzinger's latest pontification or self-serving act of "reconciliation".

What never fails to piss me off is that the news rarely covers the skeptical position on the issue. Supposedly, the "big controversy" of the Pope's visit is how the Vatican is dealing with some idiot Bishop that denied the Holocaust. That's just a minor side show compared to the issues the article failed to mention at all.

The article failed to mention that as a lad, Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth. No redeeming tale of heroism or defiance of a great evil excuses his actions, just a lame half-assed apology to the effect that everybody joined up, therefore he should get a moral "passs". When this issue is brought up in the news, it's quickly pointed out that he defected from the Hitler Youth. They fail to mention that his defection only happened when the winds changed and Germany was facing collapse. Remember that Ratzinger is supposedly the world's best Christian. Maybe he is.

It's rarely mentioned how the Catholic church was embedded in German culture and that the Church never spoke up against the atrocities of the Holocaust. Yes, there were a few exceptions among individuals. The Church had a millennium plus history of persecution of Jews and I honestly believe that the church was happy to have some godly people take care of those evil Jesus killers. It was only later, after the failure of Nazi Germany that the Catholic church felt any embarrassment about what they had done. This whole bullshit propaganda phrase "Judeo-Christian" was coined to attempt to spin clean the blood on the hands of both Catholics and followers of Martin Luther, perhaps Hitler's only rival for the title of anti-Semite extraordinaire. (Fun fact: Hitler thought that Martin Luther was so wonderful that he chose Martin Luther's birthday to launch Kristallnacht. The Holocaust was an ecumenical undertaking.)

I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned in the press that Hitler was a Catholic. He was never excommunicated by the Catholic church. God is on his side. Presumably, if you go to heaven, you'll get to have lunch with the guy.

So when I read about Ratzinger visiting the Holocaust memorial and claiming that the event should "never be denied, belittled, or forgotten," I get a little pissed off at the jaw-dropping show of self-serving hypocrisy. And the fact that most Americans are completely ignorant of the back story. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. The sad irony is that the few papers that would print this information would be beaten into submission by loyal Christian thugs who would claim persecution of their cherished religious beliefs (for printing facts about the real persectuion done because of those beliefs).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama disappoints religious right repeatedly

This isn't new news, but I'm cleaning up loose ends since I promised to post these stories to the blog on the last show.

Dobson 'Disappointed' Obama Skipped Day of Prayer Ceremony

Evangelical author and radio host James Dobson said that he is "disappointed" that for the first time in nearly two decades there was no representative from the White House during the National Day of Prayer event.

"I have not asked to meet with the president and certainly he has not asked to meet with me, but I would just like this country to remember its foundation, to remember its heritage and honor it, especially on the day set aside by George Washington in the beginning for prayer in this country," he said. "And I would hope that that would have occurred."

The president has disappointed James Dobson. Folks, can I get an "Awwwww"?

It wouldn't be right to give Obama full marks for snubbing Dobson without noting that it came out later that Dobson didn't actually invite him to the event.

Only 'Pro-Life' White House Officials Invited to Prayer Day Event

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson scolded the White House for neglecting to send a representative to yesterday's National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol, but a source familiar with the situation said the Obama team didn't have much of a chance. That's because the event organizers stipulated that the White House representative had to be opposed to abortion rights, according to this source.

"The administration's representative had to be pro-life," says the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Nobody else was allowed to go."

Damn, now Obama has an excuse. I would have preferred it if he had just come out and said "James Dobson can kiss my ass."

But in other happy news,

Obama budget cuts funds for abstinence-only sex education

President Obama's new budget would eliminate most money for abstinence-only sex education and shift it to teen pregnancy prevention — a U-turn in what has been more than a decade of sex education policy in the USA.

The proposed budget, sent to Congress last Thursday, "reflects the research," says Melody Barnes, director of the team that coordinates White House domestic policy.

Since we all know by now that abstinence-only education simply doesn't work, this appears to be another nice step on the road to moving us back towards being a reality-based country.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We get email, yes we do. We get email, how about you?

A sampling of our latest, exactly as written:



[...Long, deep sigh...]

For the conclusion of the Ross/Rana/Shermer debate review

I apologize for not completing my earlier discussion of the debate. For those who don't listen regularly to The Non-Prophets, I just wanted to mention that we had a fairly lengthy discussion there. You can hear the end by listening to this episode.

If you have listened to the episode, feel free to post a summary of what we said in the comments.

New show videos uploaded.

Breaking news from Don Baker:

I now have the last three videos up on and linked from our archive page. I don't think this will be the end of the story as far as our video hosting, but it's usable for now. Our fans can watch and download videos like before. Blip's video player doesn't allow you to skip past what the player has downloaded to your computer, so people will probably have to let the player sit for a while downloading if they want to skip past announcements and such. The service doesn't allow anonymous comments. It does support Creative Commons licensing, which I like.

It's ok to announce that we have the video back and we're interested in comments. I'll update the notes on the web site soon.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Over two years later, people still blame us for Kent Hovind

Well well well, what do you know. Yesterday on the show, I brought up this two year old post because Kent Hovind's devotees still whine about his unjust incarceration. And then at the wee hours of two in the morning, someone else comes along and does precisely that. Since the linked post is more or less off the radar of most other commenters, I thought I'd bring it back to the top with a new post.

Andrew writes:

Wow.. I bet if creationists did something like this to Richard Dawkins the atheists would be in tears.

Okay, a few points of order here. First: Richard Dawkins is not an American citizen. I suppose he could get picked up for not paying taxes in Britain, but as far as I know, the completely wacky notion that you can live as a fairly affluent citizen in a first world country without paying your way is mostly local to the United States. Especially since the arguments I see all appear to hinge on misunderstood obscure points of American law, American history, and the US Constitution.

Second: if Richard Dawkins committed a felony, we would not be upset at the people who tried and convicted him. We would much more likely be pissed off at Richard Dawkins for doing something so stupid without thinking through the implications. Unlike religious figures, neither Dawkins nor any other atheist "celebrity" is considered infallible and beyond criticism.

Third: Where the hell is the analogy to "creationists doing something like this"? Atheists didn't put him in jail. Hovind was put in jail by a judge and jury of his peers by the laws of the country that you probably claim to love. All we've done is make fun of him for it. :)

As I was saying on the show yesterday: people like Andrew see the world in terms of absolute good and evil, regardless of facts and evidence. It rarely crosses their mind that someone they believe is "on the side of right" might actually deserve to go to jail due to crimes that they committed. In the Christian mythos, of course, everyone deserves nothing less than eternal torture, but they get to avoid it by saying an incantation about accepting Jesus in their hearts. Hovind, being a Christian, shouldn't be subject to any punishment, and therefore it must be wicked unjust infidels who are persecuting him.

Fact of the matter is that the tax code is too complex and unpredictable to avoid some error. Depending on how much money you've made, you could somehow be classified as much a criminal as a mugger on the street.

Oh yeah, it's true that people can and do get in trouble for honest mistakes in computing the taxes they owe. Here's something that doesn't fall in that category: refusing to pay taxes for years, flaunting your claim that you don't have to, and not bothering to run this obviously mistaken belief by a qualified lawyer who has a clue what the hell they're talking about. That's beyond stupid, it's criminally stupid.

Another point: If a prominent Darwinist were taken in for something like this (it's not possible since all these organizations are tax-funded in the first place) everybody would be screaming "The sky is falling! We're going back to the Dark Ages of science!"

I'm afraid I will need some evidence of this extraordinary claim that "everybody" would be doing this. When a prominent scientist is convicted for breaking the law, few people assume that it reflects in any way on science in general. Well, creationists probably do, because ad hominems are so much fun.

There is alot of corruption within our government and a few key organizations get all the benefits in the world. This hasn't changed since Obama rolmao. (WE WANT CHANGE!!) And those who supported McCAin were just as blind.

Right now we neither have a free market or socialist country. Right now we have a corporate and government alliance. It's because of mergers that the government forces or creates that true monopolies are born.

Creationist or not, Kent Hovind was just another blind victim of the IRS. An organization which we do not need. (They're not even productive.)

But just remember boys and girls,

"Don't Steal! The Government Hates Competition!"

Corruption within our government there certainly may be. Convicting and imprisoning a fraud is not an example of that; it is an example of the system doing what it is meant to do. While you do bring up legitimate concerns, not every conviction is a conspiracy. So far, you have yet to demonstrate that this one is.

Also, what's up with the weirdly sardonic tone of the sentence in quotes? Even assuming that we grant that the government is, by and large, a criminal organization, is Andrew saying that this means nobody should be convicted for stealing? Ah, the squishy nature of absolute morality...

Andrew then writes a second post, in which he starts trying to come to grips with the fact that maybe Hovind was convicted with good cause by a fair jury. Then he tries to rationalize it away. Needless to say, he finds another way to blame atheism.

Who knows. Maybe he's in jail because he started to become too self-absorbed or took his mind off of spiritual things. Next thing you know, Kent Hovind gets greedy and poof!

Eh? Eh? You see what Andrew just did there? Prominent Christian apologist Kent Hovind broke the law because he took his mind off of spiritual things. You see, his only real crime was acting too much like an atheist.

He's in jail! My advice to Hovind: Just go with it. Don't try to fight the system. If you want to spread your message as soon as possible just play by the rules.

Good advice. It would have been even more valuable before Kent decided not to play by the rules that pertain to US tax law. But still good, in general.

Kent Hovind has his flaws. He's a human being just like us all. Of course some people would say "Well does he desrve to go to Heaven?" Nope.

Neither would I. Neither would you. That is assuming, of course, that Heaven exists. Which I do every time.

Atheists, of course, would not bother asking whether Kent deserves to go to heaven, because we don't believe in your happy land. But you see, it's exactly how I was explaining it yesterday. Heaven never entered this question in the first place until you brought it up. We were discussing man-made laws and the evil conspiracy to enforce them.

Christians often claim that it must be a very dangerous thing to become an atheist, since true morality must come from God, and there is no other force preventing people from murdering and stealing. Yet in the fundamentalist mindset, there are no crimes other than angering God, and those crimes can be washed away by saying an incantation. Andrew was implying earlier that Kent Hovind deserves special dispensation to be forgiven for his crimes due to the fact that he said the words. Now he backs it up by invoking his belief that all humans have sinned equally, whether or not they made off with nearly half a million dollars in legally owed finances.

In other words, the moral check and balance of Christianity is phony. Christians and atheists alike may follow the law out of a sense of societal obligation or fear of earthly punishment. But becoming a Christian does not noticably improve the likelihood that you will do so, because it's a moral blank check.

Kent Hovind may very well have been in the wrong here. I currently see it as more than likely (considering our current, flawed laws.... laws nonetheless. However unconstitutional, invasive, counterproductive, or dumb they might be.)

Hey, admitting he has a problem is the first step to recovery. You should maybe drop Kent a line to let him know he should start thinking about what he done wrong.

Warning: Assumptions about Heaven and God being real coming ahead.

I thought you might appreciate that warning. God might have put him there so that he could learn some humility.

But, hey. That's the extent of my knowledge. Whatever God could have planned is beyond me :S.

Oh, and Kent Hovind's point all along has been: "Evolution is not science because it cannot be observed beyond changes within certain kinds of animals." It's a good theory and all and very well-thought out. And it can make alot of logical sense.

But it can be very illogical as well. I think Kent Hovind misses some points about evolution, but he does make SOME good cases in favor of creation and a Young Earth.

I believe in the Young Earth myself and I will continue to believe in it until God himself tells me I was wrong.

And now we observe the impact of fundamentalism on scientific discourse as well as legal and ethical standards. Andrew has a belief which is in no way informed by scientific research, observation, or evidence. How will this belief ever change to one that is more accurate? By learning more about reality? No, Andrew will only change his mind if his invisible friend personally notifies him that it is okay to do so.

And I just bet THAT'S going to happen.

And, please. I BEG you to set aside your flame-throwers and spare me from major flammage.

Everybody likes to play pin the tail of the creationist lol.

Your request was denied. But hey, that tail is very becoming.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Not even pretending anymore

As most of you probably are aware, the confirmation (or not) of Don McLeroy as chair of the Texas SBOE is pending. The SBOE is now officially a nationwide laughingstock, first with Conan O'Brien and then Bill Maher finding plenty of fodder for humor in the board's idiocy ever since it's been a country club for fundagelical numbskulls who believe the Earth was created more recently than dogs were domesticated.

Once the comedy gets all the way around to the likes of Dane Cook, you'll know Texas' reputation has bottomed out.

The Texas Freedom Network is urging every Texas resident to contact their state senators to urge them to vote against McLeroy's confirmation. I'm nervous about this, particularly as my state senator here in Austin is loyal Republican Jeff Wentworth. But I plan to contact him anyway. You should do the same if you're a rational Texan. Find out who represents you here.

In the meantime, fellow SBOE member Ken Mercer — the guy who keeps bringing up things like Piltdown Man — has rallied to his buddy's defense. And sure enough, he's playing the good old Christian Persecution Card. I mean, what else would Mercer be doing when his column has such a whiny title as "Christians Need Not Apply." Seriously, that little card is starting to look more than a little worn and dog-eared, isn't it?

By now, reading the angsty rants of fundamentalists scorned is a thoroughly tiresome exercise, inspiring little more than a bemused shaking of the head. But it's worth noting that guys like Mercer are no longer even pretending not to be hypocrites any more. As the TFN blog points out, they want it both ways. They repeatedly claim (blatantly lying, of course) that their positions as board members are not in any way motivated by their religious beliefs, or the desire to pander to voters that share them. But in the same breath, if their policies and activities as board members are criticized at all, then it's back to the old "Oh noes I is pursekuted becos I haz the Krischianity!!!!1!one!" So suddenly, the reason to support and defend McLeroy has everything to do with this...

“I wanted to write to you [McLeroy] and express my sincerest appreciation to you for having the courage to stand by your convictions during your recent hearing. It is unfortunately rare, today, to see anyone willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by their Christian beliefs, particularly in the face of abuse such as what you took.”

...even though we're expected to go on believing that those Christian beliefs Mac boldly stands by do not in any way influence his work as chairman of the SBOE. As cons go, that ain't very smooth, fundies.

The voting on this issue will be extremely partisan, people. Today the House voted down HB 710, which would have subjected the SBOE to periodic review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. All but one Republican voted against this common-sense bill, which would not have stripped any authority from the SBOE at all. Even simple oversight strikes fear into the hearts of the Republicans and their Christian Right masters, it would seem.

Finally, I love this little quip from the TFN blog, in response to Mercer's comparing McLeroy's "persecution" to that we're supposed to think is being suffered by homophobic pageant queen Carrie Prejean.

...Mercer deserves credit for coming up with the most apt comparison to date for the level of intellectual debate at the Texas SBOE — a beauty pageant. The uninformed, vapid discourse at the board resembles nothing so much as a room full of beauty pageant contestants confidently asserting opinions on politics or world affairs. And both ellicit similar snickers and groans from the audience.

Ouch! Come on, no need to harsh on the pageant girls! They're a MENSA gathering compared to the SBOE. And cuter too!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Out of the mouths of blondes

The extremist far-right wackaloons good and godly people in the loving Christian community of lovingful loving loveness figured out a while back that their message of hate, hypocrisy and ignorance love and apple-pie decency was a much easier sell when it came from the mouths of photogenic blondes. Hence their embrace of Miss California pageant winner Carrie Prejean, who made evangelicals around the country cream their prejeans when she spoke publicly against marriage equality.

Now, I'm the last guy anyone would accuse of political correctness — okay, scratch that, I'm entirely sure I'm far from the last guy there, as I suspect just about everyone on the right is significantly more disdainful of the practice than I am. Anyway, where I was going with this is that I think beauty pageants are teh stoopid, if for no other reason than their smug duplicitousness. I mean, come on, they parade chicks around in bathing suits while at the same time expecting them to maintain an alabaster-goddess image of unrealistic virginal purity. The average porn movie and topless bar is, if nothing else, at least honest about its agenda of prurient objectification!

Which is why it's so hilarious that some of the same evangelicals who've pounced on Prejean to be their hot homophobia cover girl are wondering if they need to back off now that a couple of totally G-rated glamour shots of her have — inevitably — turned up. Again, what's funny here? That topless photos featuring a consenting adult woman are fine; it's the hypocrisy of the pageant's "it's only okay to display women as sexmeat when we do it" attitude that's risible and asinine.

For her own part, Prejean is responding to her recent publicity, criticisms of her homophobia, and the possibility she may lose her title because of these pictures, in the expected fashion: by playing the Christian Persecution Card.

"I am a Christian, and I am a model," she said. "Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos."

She said the photos "have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith."

"I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be," she said. "But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive. [Emphasis added.] While we may not agree on every issue, we should show respect for others' opinions and not try to silence them through vicious and mean-spirited attacks."

I just love it every time a vocal bigot (regardless of whether or not she's blonde and hot, thank you) calls anyone else "intolerant." I mean, that's not only rich, rich irony. It's a double-deluxe extra-chocolate fudge and cherry syrup level of richness. And we'll not even get started on the plea for "respect" from someone who thinks her Bronze Age beliefs entitle her to deny millions of people she doesn't know and whose lives will never impact hers the right to enter into loving, committed relationships.

Anyway, it's just another example of the sort of uncontrolled clusterfuck that erupts whenever evangelicals make absurd spectacles of themselves. Personally, Carrie, you should have stuck with topless modeling. I promise you, you'd be in a lot better company.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

How not to stage an atheist debate, part 3

I want to digress from the format of the debate to look closely at some of the content that Ross hurled out there at breakneck pace. I'm looking at a yellow piece of paper, of which a copy was left near every seat in the house. The title is "RTB Testable Creation Model Predictions." It lists under four major sections: "Origin of the Universe," "Origin of Life," "Origin of Animal Species," and "Origin of Humanity."

I can't find a copy on the net and I'm not interested in typing the whole thing, but let me just grab a representative example. This is just one that especially caught my eye. Under "Origin of Humanity," prediction number 3 says: "Humanity's origin will prove to date back to between ~40,000 to 150,000 years ago."

All by itself, this is a perfect representation of what Hugh Ross cluelessly imagines to be a scientific prediction. First of all, because it's absolutely non specific in what the nature of the evidence might be. How will humanity's origin prove to date back to that point? What kind of artifacts will be uncovered that will confirm this? Where shall we attempt to look for these things?

This may be a prediction, but it is not a testable prediction, because there is no concrete plan of action to actually perform the testing. Hugh Ross is perfectly content to sit on his ass and say "Future scientists will prove that I was right" -- not entirely unlike George "only future historians can judge me" Bush I might add. (Cheap shot!) There is also no time frame for this "prediction" -- if it never comes true in Ross's lifetime, oh well, we have the rest of future history to wait.

And the second thing is, it's really not a prediction of creationism. Oh sure, it's a prediction of this particular model of creationism, so tautologically it says "If humanity came into existence more than 150,000 years ago, then my theory that humanity came into existence more than 150,000 years ago is falsified." Doesn't make the slightest impact on the general proposition of whether creationism is true.

To satisfy yourself that this is the case, I want you to imagine that conclusive evidence were found indicating that humanity came into existence 150,001 years ago. Furthermore, let's suppose that this evidence were so incredibly persuasive that Rana and Ross had no choice but to accept it. Yeah, I know this strains credibility, because there is nothing a creationist is required to accept when it comes to fact-checking, but just play along. Suppose that tomorrow Ross were genuinely convinced that humanity came into existence at least 150,001 years ago.

Now my question is: Can you honestly imagine Ross going on to say "I guess that proves that creation is wrong, then!" Because I sure can't. At most, I can see Ross going back to his little Word document, and quietly changing it so that NOW it says "Humanity's origin will prove to date back to between ~40,000 to 160,000 years ago." Then he'll claim he has updated the model, and the new model has not been falsified.

This is the problem with a theory that presumes the existence of an infinitely powerful being. It confounds all possible attempts at prediction. The god can just as easily do things one way as another. Sure, you can SAY something like "My theory predicts that life originated abruptly" (which Ross does, in the "Origin of life" section, bullet point #3). But if your god felt like creating life slowly, then he could create it slowly. Hence life originating abruptly is actually not a prediction of the theory at all, because if the prediction is wrong then it doesn't falsify the theory.

To his credit, Michael Shermer made a good effort to drive this point home later, but here he was both helped and hindered by the extremely stacked audience. During his presentation, he yelled out "If this prediction were shown not to be true, would you all stop believing in God?" and the crowd obligingly yelled back "NO!!!!!" To people who already understood his point, Shermer drove it home again. But to the people who were actually shouting at him, it went right over their heads. I could hear them: they were PROUD of themselves for having the conviction to stand up for their faith. They obviously didn't feel like a point had been made at their expense. In my opinion, Shermer needed to back up his showmanship with an easily understandable explanation about how none Ross's predictions constitute falsifiability even to Ross himself. It might be the time constraints, but I didn't feel that this came across.

Okay, this is turning into quite a marathon, but my notes are much sparser for Rana and Shermer's presentations. I'll get to them next time.