The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Iain Benson, Rebutted

I was reading PZ's blog and came across this post which I felt, as a Canadian, I had to address. Here's the link to the original posting by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and some dude named Iain Benson, who says:
Every citizen has faith and belief in something and contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as an unbeliever
If you look under "tired old tropes about atheism", you'll likely find this one at the top of the list, right up there with, "Where do you get your morals from?" It's tremendously annoying to have answered this point a million times over with these blockheads just never getting around to understanding.

No, we don't have faith. We do have trust. Trust is that feeling you have when you're rounding a blind corner in your car - you trust that if anyone is coming the other way, they'll be in their lane. You trust that they've been to driving school, that they know the rules of the road, and that they don't have a death-wish where you play a starring role. It has nothing to do with faith (believing in something without evidence, many times in the face of contrary evidence) and everything to do with prior knowledge. Get it the fuck straight.
Atheists are men and women of faith. Their faiths are different but they are still faiths and their beliefs still beliefs, no matter how much (Richard) Dawkins and those like him wish it was different. Humans are stuck being believers, and that's all there is to it,
Here Benson is making an equality between the words "faith" and "beliefs". I have no faith, but I along with most - if not all - atheists have many strongly held beliefs. For example, I believe that freedom of speech is of utmost importance, especially when questioning nonsense that has a position of privilege in the public sphere. I believe that the government has no place in the bedrooms of the state. These beliefs have no basis on faith because beliefs and faith are two different things. Making them equal is disingenuous and scummy and uses fatuous reasoning to attempt to make atheism and religion stand on even ground.

Religion doesn't stand on ground.

Benson then makes an argument that "secular" should be replaced with "public" when talking about non-religious topics/people. He says, "Secular was used historically to distinguish between those things that were deemed to be 'in the world' and those that were expressly and technically 'religious..." Alrighty, my Oxford English Dictionary defines "secular" as:
1. concerned with or belonging to the material world and the affairs of this world as opposed to the external or spiritual world. 2a. (of literature, music, an artist, etc.) not concerned with religious subjects b. (of education, etc.) excluding religious instruction; not promoting religious belief. 3. (of clergy) not bound by a religious or monastic rule. 4. occurring once in an age or century (the secular games) 5. lasting for or occurring over an indefinitely long time
Hm, seems to me that Benson is trying to use definition 3 exclusively instead of the variety of usages we see above. Seems to me we can use definitions 1, 2a and b instead of Benson's preference and dispense with the silliness he's promoting.
We need to start by speaking of 'public' when we are tempted to use 'secular' and we need to stop speaking of 'non-believers' when we should address those who believe other than what we do...The public sphere has a variety of competing belief systems that are religious and non religious and the only way atheism and agnosticism can be understood is as participants in the public sphere, but not as the dominant participants.
See what he's doing? He wants to make religious faith and non-religious beliefs the same. Don't be fooled, they're not. When non-religious people say that same-sex couples should have the right to get married or have the same rights as hetero couples, that's based on humanity and reason and logic. When religious people say that same-sex couples should not have the same rights, that is based on bronze-age nonsense and rules that come from a book they think was dictated by a magical sky-daddy. See the difference?

Likewise religious institutions have as much right as non-religious institutions. Everyone has a belief system of some sort and those who draw on religious sources should not be put at a disadvantage
Oh, yes. Yes, they should. See, where you draw your beliefs from is very important. Sure, everyone has a set of beliefs, but if Person A believes that safe sex education and distribution of condoms is important for junior high school and high school students to curb teen pregnancy and STI rates; that belief is based on logic, statistics, and reason. If Person B believes that condoms cause pregnancy, that sex education is "icky" and not appropriate for students, and that abstinence-only is the way to go, that belief is based on personal prejudices and ignores the evidence (see page 12 specifically).

Everyone is free to believe whatever the hell they want, provided those beliefs do not harm anyone else - that is what a free society means. That said, if you believe nonsense, in a free society you will be called upon occasionally to defend that nonsense or be cast aside in the marketplace of ideas. Religion is being cast aside and the people who believe are not too happy about that.

Today's struggle is not between belief and unbelief, nor between those with faith and those who do not recognise faith, but rather a set of public struggles for recognition and fair treatment between competing belief systems
Religion has had a long, long time of being fairly recognized as a belief system and it has failed. With the explosion of information, young people are fact-checking their authority figures and the leaders of religions are looking pretty squirmy under the microscope while scientific inquiry comes out squeaky clean. You can learn science, you can put the time in and figure out new approaches, and you can realize that science is honest in its appraisal of itself (i.e. "We know we don't know everything, and the areas of darkness are the greatest areas for research").

Finally, under a picture of Christopher Hitchens, there is a caption that reads:
the late Christopher Hitchens did not recognise himself as a believer and follower of the dogma of aethism
Once again, the OED defines "dogma" as: noun - 1. a belief or set of beliefs held by an authority or group, which others are expected to accept without argument. 2 an arrogant declaration of opinion. [Latin from Greek dogma -matos opinion, from dokeo seem] Hm. Odd, isn't it? There are NO beliefs within a group of atheists that are "accepted without argument". In fact, I would argue that arguing is the quality most atheists share, especially when the belief comes from an "authority". Stating that Christopher Hitchens accepted the "dogma of atheism" is absurd to the point where I would question if Benson ever read Hitchens' books & essays or ever saw the man debate. It's embarrassing.

Iain Benson, you do not know of what you speak.

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Growing in Grace Under Fire

There's a cult in Toronto who says that June 30 is the END OF THE WORLD! OMG! Surprisingly, it's not related to Harold Camping and his band of happy doomsayers, it's some weirdo named Jose de Luis de Jesus. Guess who he and his followers think he's the second coming of? Yeah, it's Jesus.

They say that once June 30th comes around, all the unbelievers will be destroyed and then the cult followers will gain special powers like flight, walking through walls, and running without getting tired. Although, why you'd ever run when you can fly is beyond me. Granted, logical thought is not now, nor has it ever been a strong suit for religious nutbags.

These melonheads think they're going to live through the End Times so the old, "sign all your shit over to me" line should work on them. "In the event that the Apocalypse does not occur on June 30th, 2012, all your worldly belongings, possessions, investments, and assets will become the property of (insert rational member of society)". Or maybe de Jesus can sign all his crap over to his ex-wife, who he has apparently already paid $144,000 - presumably cult "donations".

What was that that P.T. Barnum said....?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tragedy, Defined

A little girl is born to a crack addict. She gives the baby up for adoption. The baby is taken in by another crack addict who has already lost two children to Children's Aid Services (CAS) and who has a "reformed" crack addict boyfriend. They neglect the little girl and beat her, destroying her inside and out until they finally beat her to death at age seven. When police investigate, they find a note where the little girl had written, 62 times, "I’ am A awful girl that’s why know one wants me."

It makes me cry to even write that. Still think there's a god out there somewhere?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

BodyTalk? More Like Stupid Mind Magic

I have gotten several emails about this (apparently) new form of bodywork. The creator is trying to drum up business and as such, is spamming massage therapists with her ideas. I'm going to show you what she sent me and we'll talk a quick walk-through of her claims.
Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Treatment Sessions? Have You Thought of Working Smarter Not Harder?
This is a common first line to grab the attention of bodyworkers because we have a physical profession with lots of dropoffs due to tendonitis in the thumb/wrist, etc... and lots of minor nagging injuries because of postural irregularities while we massage. If you can "work smarter", then your career might last longer - usually, however, working "smarter" entails working with woo.

The next section of her email starts with, "Did You Know That...", which is almost always followed by some claims of such extravagance that you'd think jewels would fall out of your anus. Here are some of her "Did you knows":
The key element to maintaining health in the body is the re-establishment of communication between all systems and parts of the body
Um, last I checked, your body is in constant communication with all of its parts. If it's not, you have serious problems. This little factoid of hers makes no sense.
The body has the ability to synchronize its activities, heal, and adapt to the stresses of life. Unless it is on overwhelm
Obviously the body has the ability to heal and adapt. We'd have a pretty short and shitty life if it couldn't adapt and heal non-fatal injuries. I don't know what the hell she means when she suggests that your body can be, "on overwhelm". Maybe that's just when you hang out at Chucky Cheese on a weekend afternoon.
The most important consideration in the healing process is the sequence in which the body heals its systems
Well, sure. I mean, if the inflammation sequence isn't performed in the right order, it won't work. What she seems to be implying here is that we have some conscious control over this sequence, which is silly. Some of my critics may see it fit to ask me why it is silly, but I would suggest some reading on the topic (from a reputable scientific source) and then come back.
One of the main factors that slows down the healing process is the superimpostion of the bias and agenda of the practitioner.
Ok, this one is pure bullshit. She is saying that I have spooky powers to keep people from getting better because I can use massage-magic to interrupt my clients' bodily processes. Stupid nonsense.

She then asks, "What if you knew of an integrative healthcare system that could tell you what is wrong with the body, what needs to be treated, and in what order?" Oh whatever could that system be? Who is the genius who came up with this amazing way of treating poor clients who know not of mind-magic?

Well the system is called "BodyTalk" and the lady is offering a four-day "BodyTalk fundamentals" course that covers these topics:
•BodyTalk theory and exploration tools
•Essential General Balance Techniques including Balancing the Brain, addressing the Stress Threshold, Hydration levels, Releasing Scars and Adhesions, Interference
Balancing Communication within the Organs, Endocrines and Body Parts
•Supporting the Immune System (microbes, allergies, toxins and intolerances)
•Addressing stored active memories, Belief Systems and Fears/Phobias
•Introduction to Energy Anatomy and Balancing of the Chakras and Meridians
•Balancing Environmental Factors that affect the BodyMind Complex
Genetic Repair at the Cellular Level
•A Simple but powerful technique to stimulate the Lymphatic System
•Circulation of Blood, Nerve and Lymph
•Structural Balance and Integrity
The emphasis there is mine. I had to highlight those parts because they're so dumb that I wanted to make sure they stood out - more than the dumbness already makes them. Oh, and here's another red-flag when dealing with quack nonsense:
The BodyTalk system can be learned easily by individuals with or without a background in healthcare.
Yeah, who needs any background in healthcare when you can use magic! What do you need books and science for when you can just intuit what to do and change things (like the brain or endocrine function) that are really hard to quantify?

It's the "Make Shit Up" school of healthcare!

The lady (Tracey) says that you can, "Learn to go beyond technique alone and to think outside the box with an open mind." Yes, exhibit A is your brain on the sidewalk, all opened.

I love this one. She says:
Regular use of objective measurement before and after BodyTalk sessions (as taught in the BodyTalk Orthopedic Evaluation class) demonstrates the effectiveness of the Module 1 & 2 techniques in releasing physical, energetic, emotional, environmental, and consciousness issues held in the BodyMind.
Riiiight. She teaches you the technique, she teaches you the method to measure its efficacy, then you know it works. For some reason, the phrase "closed loop" is coming to mind.

Finally, check out how she signs her name at the end of her email: Tracey Worrall AdvCBP, ParBP, CBI, BAT, BA

Man, that's a lot of letters after her name. What do they all mean? Well, the first one is "Advanced Certified BodyTalk Practitioner"; the second is "Parama BodyTalk Practitioner", whatever the hell that is; CBI stands for "Certified BodyTalk Instructor"; BAT is "BodyTalk Access Trainer; and finally BA is the commonly know Bachelor of Arts. So out of five qualifications, she made up four of them. That's not a good average.

Hell, I could put BMF, UCG, SoW, SHD(TK) and FC after my name, but "Bad MotherFucker", "Universally Cool Guy", "Stimulator of Women", "Stay at Home Dad (Two Kids)", and "Former Cheerleader" don't really hold much weight in the employment world. Actually, come to think of it, they hold as much weight as what Tracey Worrall puts after her name. Maybe I'll try that out on my new letterhead....

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