atheist news feeds

Who trusts Marcia McNutt?

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 5:40pm

After informing us of her environmentalist cred — she drives a hybrid car and has solar panels on her home! — Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science magazine, makes a remarkable statement.

I believe it is time to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from the tar sands deposits of Alberta, Canada, and from the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Environmental cred…blown.

She’d better have a really good argument for why an environmentalist ought to support the Keystone XL pipeline, given that it is a great big leaky pipe full of death that will feed America’s oil addiction. Really good. Blow my socks off with an ultra-potent, evidence-based argument, please. And here it is.

Even after accepting that Keystone XL would not accelerate extraction of the Canadian oil sands, I still opposed the project because the pipeline would cross environmentally sensitive regions, such as the Sandhills of Nebraska, a natural wetland that supports many species, including migratory birds, and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest groundwater resources. The project’s developers, the TransCanada Corporation, modified the pipeline to avoid sensitive areas and have promised comprehensive monitoring and state-of-the-art shutoff valves to reduce risk to the environment. No method for moving hydrocarbons can be considered completely fail-safe. At least the current permitting process can, and should, be used to ensure that Keystone XL sets new standards for environmental safety.

That’s it? The Canadians are going to continue to turn Alberta into a toxic craphole even if we don’t build the pipeline, they made a slight detour to avoid the most sensitive parts of our environment (but it’s still a great big dribbly fragile source of poison bisecting the US from Canada to Louisiana), and…


Fuck me, Transcanada promised to be really, really careful.

We all know that no fossil fuel company would ever, ever, ever lie.

Then she makes the tepid suggestion that we ought to let them build their colossal douchehose of noxious blight, and ask them nicely to contribute some small fraction of their pollution profits towards research in alternative energy.

Seriously? That’s it? That was so pathetic and unconvincing, it couldn’t possibly persuade anyone. But somehow, that’s enough to get the editor-in-chief of one of the most prominent science journals in the world to change her mind.

This does not add up.

McNutt M (2014) Keystone XL. Science 343(6173):815.

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Atheist group to La Crosse police: Stop using chaplains - Green Bay Press Gazette

"Atheist" in google news - February 21, 2014 - 5:01pm

Atheist group to La Crosse police: Stop using chaplains
Green Bay Press Gazette
LA CROSSE — A Wisconsin-based group of atheists has asked the La Crosse Police Department to stop using chaplains, arguing that they violate the constitutional separation of church and state. The Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a letter to ...
Atheist group objects to police

all 17 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

Debate tonight

The Panda's Thumb - February 21, 2014 - 2:21pm
Sorry about the late notice, but we just heard about this from a commenter known as “eric”. Tonight, at 7:00 Central Standard Time (or 8:00 Eastern Standard Time), Sean Carroll will debate William Lane Craig on the subject, God and Cosmology. Professor Carroll is a physicist and cosmologist working on dark energy and dark matter at Caltech; Professor Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and a well known Christian apologist.... Matt Young

Atheist Group Tells Michigan City Council to Stop Praying on Taxpayers' Time - Christian Post

"Atheist" in google news - February 21, 2014 - 2:15pm

Atheist Group Tells Michigan City Council to Stop Praying on Taxpayers' Time
Christian Post
An atheist organization has sent a letter of complaint to a city council in Michigan over the local government's usage of prayer at council meetings. The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened legal action against the ...

Categories: Atheist News

Et tu, Chemistry?

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 12:56pm

Quick, everyone! Get out your Bingo cards!

The International Congress of Quantum Chemistry is going to be held next year, and they announced their preliminary speaker list: it was entirely made up of men. This is not surprising. It’s held by the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences, which is almost entirely made up of men, too.

Notably, there are only four female scientists among the 110 living members of IAQMS, which elects new candidates by internal vote. Ten out of 102 talks during the previous three conference were given by women, and only two female chemists have been awarded medals over the past decade, according to the instigators of the boycott.

I’ve highlighted the bit about how this kind of sexism is perpetuated. It takes a real effort by existing members of the organization to break up bad habits…and it doesn’t sound as if some members are interested, despite the fact that there is an online list of women in quantum chemistry that would make it easy to find interesting women to invite.

Cue the excuses:

Zhigang Shuai, a professor at Tsinghua University in China and chair of this year’s ICQC, wrote a letter to explain that one woman had been among the original invitees, but had not responded

There might be women in our second choices!

many of the people on the original list were obligatory selections

There aren’t any women of obligatory importance in the field.

And then, of course, the Asshat Backlash. Here’s Professor James Kress, complaining about all those people complaining about discrimination on a chemistry listserv.

If you INSIST on discussing this on CCL, the please place an identifying header on all your emails so that those of us who care about SCIENCE, as opposed to trendy whining about supposed “gender inequality” and other fashionable modes of Political Correctness can at least have a hope of filtering out all of the nonsensical content and peruse the SCIENTIFIC content.

Oh, Dr Kress cannot shut up:

Inequality is a fundamental characteristic of any collection of more than one human being, he said, and suggested that if people don’t like the current conferences they should start their own. You’re not entitled to excel. You have to earn it. I guess that’s kind of an old fashioned perspective but it’s certainly mine.

Kress doubled down in a followup email. Given that everyone has unique DNA, it is scientifically certain that no two people will be identical in terms of capabilities, he wrote. ALL SORTS of differences in capabilities exist in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Math, etc. Those who work harder, overcome their capability deficient and make themselves equal to or better than their colleagues. Hard work is the way to address the capability issue and thus achieve equality.

He’s got his, and by god, he deserved it, and if you aren’t getting invited to speak at conferences, it’s entirely because you are a lazy slacker with female DNA.

So, what conferences have a problem with rampant manly privilege so far? Atheist, skeptic, science fiction, literature, philosophy, technology, and now chemistry? Did I miss any? Yeah, probably. It seems to be all of them.

Categories: Our friends

There is a common theme running through Christian college stories…

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 12:04pm

Here is how administrators at Patrick Henry College handle rape reports.

In late November 2006, four years before Claire’s experience, another young woman reported a sexual assault to Sandra Corbitt, who was then the dean of women. Sarah Patten cried as she recounted how, the previous Saturday night, a boy named Ryan (whose name has been changed) had sexually assaulted her.

“I know him,” Sarah remembers Corbitt saying. “He’s a nice boy. Are you sure you want to report this?”

Sarah described what she could remember: coming in and out of consciousness, her limbs feeling heavy and paralyzed, Ryan on top of her, his hands groping her all over, waking up disoriented.

Sarah says Corbitt grilled her on certain details: What was she wearing? Had she flirted with him or given him mixed signals? “The entire line of questioning was basically like, ‘Did you make it up? Or did you deserve it in some way? Or was it consensual and now you’re just lying about it to make him look bad?’ ” recalls Rachel Leon, Sarah’s roommate who had accompanied her to Corbitt’s office for support.

Listening to Sarah from across her desk, the dean was as polite as ever. But she didn’t seem to believe Sarah’s story at all. “If you were telling the truth about this,” Sarah remembers Corbitt saying, “God would have kept you conscious to bear witness to the abuse against you.”

Wow. God confers resistance to date rape drugs.

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The Logical Tension of Atheistic Materialism - Right Side News

"Atheist" in google news - February 21, 2014 - 10:31am

The Logical Tension of Atheistic Materialism
Right Side News
Mr. N is well known in my locality as an atheist who writes letters to the editor, often making rhetorical arguments impugning Christianity. In a recent response to Mr. N's letter, a friend of Mr. N's, whom we will refer to hereafter as Mr. R, made a ...

Categories: Atheist News

Christianity has always endorsed gay marriage? WTF?

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 9:42am

This long-winded Christian apologist (well, that was redundant) Damon Linker has been making bizarre arguments for some time: he’s one of those deeply dishonest twits who argues that god is the transcendent source, the ground, or the end of the natural world while simultaneously ignoring the specifics of Christianity — and his primary argument against atheism always seems to be that old canard, that good atheists are supposed to be miserable, like Nietzsche — it’s always Nietzsche. His specialty seems to be making overwrought counterfactuals based on how he thinks the world should be…that is, Christian and pious.

His latest? Christianity invented gay marriage. Somehow, he manages to mention the near-universal Christian unity in opposing gay marriage, waves it all away, and then declares,

The ultimate source of the democratic revolution — the motor behind its inexorable unfolding — is the figure of Jesus Christ, who taught the equal dignity of all persons, and declared in the Sermon on the Mount that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, and that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Nothing in the history of the Christian church suggests that they ever followed this rather idealistic interpretation of doctrine. Would the Jews of his time been tolerant of gays? Don’t you suspect that when he said, “the meek shall inherit the earth”, he was actually preaching to a conquered people and promising that the conquerors will get their comeuppance?

But stretching the truth is not an activity Linker confines only to his Bible readings. He’s got a strange view of American history.

They already did touch in the United States, the world’s first nation settled by egalitarian Christians (the Puritans) and explicitly dedicated in its founding documents to the principle of universal human equality.

Puritans were egalitarians? Only if you were a man.

The US was founded on universal human equality? Only if you were white.

Marriage equality is inevitable. It’s also inevitable, I guess, that some Christians are now maneuvering to take credit for it.

Wait, who’s right, Damon Linker or Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, United States Army, (Ret.)? Boykin has made some interesting comments about Jesus.

The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A might warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.

And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.

I guess I’m going to have to bet on Boykin’s Jesus. Good, bad, he’s the one with the gun.

For further historical revisionism, guess who wrote the second amendment to the US constitution?

Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? … From the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus…

I’m not handing out prizes for guessing correctly, you all saw that one coming.

Categories: Our friends

Cheer up

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 9:04am

I woke up this morning feeling dreadfully oogie — I might be dying, slowly, sinking into decrepitude and all that. Darn.

So, anyway, I found this.

Feeling slightly better. Might be able to crawl into work. My dissolution into mucus and slime and rotting meat is…deferred. On a cosmic scale, not for long, mind you.

Categories: Our friends

The Elder Gods seek entrance to our realm via A Beka books

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 8:47am

I have a bookshelf where I stuff all my creationist books: weird volumes from Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, strange self-published kook rants, the oh-so-serious garbage from the Discovery Institute, crappy odd tracts from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. It is an evil bookshelf. I rarely open them anymore; I have to roll a sanity check every time I do, and I fear that someday they will reach out and suck my brains out through my eye sockets. They live on brains, you know, especially the sweet fresh brains of children, and I have been denying them access. I should probably make an addition to my will to have them properly disposed of after I die — a toxic waste incinerator, perhaps, or stored with spent nuclear fuel rods deep in a mine somewhere, or cast back into the outer darkness from whence they came.

So I’m a bit worried about Dana Hunter. She’s been carrying out Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education, actually reading the awful garbage that Christian organizations put out for home schoolers. I’ve been monitoring her closely, looking for signs of a break from reality: Gibbering. Iridescent hued ichor splattering her web pages. Rivers of blood flowing from my USB ports every time I click on that URL. You know, the typical sort of thing you get with supernatural madness.

You should be monitoring it too. If you see any signs of total cerebral implosion, let me know — I am prepared to stage a science intervention in an emergency. Otherwise, I’ll be in Seattle in June for a routine checkup of Dana’s sanity. I hope she can hold out for that long.

Categories: Our friends

Friday Cephalopod: Tentacles

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 8:25am

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a new exhibit, Tentacles. It is about…I think you can guess what it’s about. Can I find an excuse to visit California in mid-April?

Categories: Our friends

Catherine Deveny wants your money

Pharyngula - February 21, 2014 - 8:19am

She’s an Australian comedian and aggressive atheist, and she’s putting together a short film that tells you everything you need to know about atheism in 20 minutes (what? shoulda aimed for a feature film trilogy). To do that, she’s asking her fans to kick in a few dollars. She’s a good one, it’ll be worth it.

Categories: Our friends

Atheists do have faith - just like everyone else - News24

"Atheist" in google news - February 21, 2014 - 5:07am

Atheists do have faith - just like everyone else
Furthermore, I do think atheists, in general, need to think a little more about philosophy. Many don't and, as a result, are weaker for it. Furthermore, the fact that they'll argue philosophy when, in fact, they're not so strong in it can be as ...

Categories: Atheist News

Santeria, Scientology, Satanism — oh my! Atheist author explores minority ... - Religion News Service

"Atheist" in google news - February 20, 2014 - 6:14pm

Santeria, Scientology, Satanism — oh my! Atheist author explores minority ...
Religion News Service
If you answered “not much,” you're far from alone. Studies have shown that a great number of Americans are ignorant about major religions—so it's no surprise that, when it comes to minority religions, misinformation and stigma are widespread. Atheist ...

Categories: Atheist News

Christian, Atheist Display Complicated Friendship in New Documentary - Charisma News

"Atheist" in google news - February 20, 2014 - 4:32pm

Christian, Atheist Display Complicated Friendship in New Documentary
Charisma News
A new documentary film titled My Week in Atheism is about a friendship caught between the two opposing worldviews of atheism and Christianity. The movie remains neutral, enabling the viewer to watch as director John Christy, a devout Christian ...

Categories: Atheist News

Surprise! #scio14 is next week!

Pharyngula - February 20, 2014 - 4:00pm

I don’t know whether to be impressed with my foresight or be dismayed at my memory, but I had a shock this morning: I actually checked my calendar and it said I’m supposed to be in Raleigh, North Carolina next week for the ScienceOnline Together conference. Panic city! And then I checked and discovered that I’d arranged my hotel room and flight ages ago. I must be getting old, but at least I’m compensating by planning ahead. Also, I suppose I could have checked my calendar next week and been totally surprised.

Anyway, it should be fun. Maybe I’ll even post a few things from the event, like every single other attendee. Or not. This is one meeting that does not suffer from a shortage of web attention.

Categories: Our friends

Sex differences are real

Pharyngula - February 20, 2014 - 12:37pm

But they’re more complicated than many people assume, and even where they exist, they say nothing about how you should treat people.

I was reading Alex Gabriel’s article on the gender binary wars, and it just seems to me that a lot of people have this cartoon version of a bimodal distribution in their heads, so I scribbled up some cartoons of my own.

This is how some loud people like to pretend sex differences are distributed. It’s clear, it’s simple, and there aren’t any intermediates. The x axis of the plot can be anything: has a penis/clitoris, has a Y chromosome, likes to have sex with women vs likes to have sex with men, amount of milk secretion, ejaculation volume, whatever. We have a stereotype for how the sexes behave, and you will fit into one category or the other, because there are only two distinct elements.

Immediately, though, there are problems. This is a multidimensional problem, and sometimes the distributions match, and sometimes they don’t. For example, if you use adult size of the genital tubercle (the structure that develops into the penis in males and the clitoris in females), you’ll see a nice bimodal distribution of sizes in the population, with one peak for females and another for males. But then the middle isn’t empty: there’s slight overlap. And worse, sometimes males who by all other criteria identify as men fall into the female half of the distribution, and females who by all other criteria identify as women fall into the male half. There is clearly a biological distinction — the peaks are real and distinct — but the middle point is not empty.

And then you have the fact that people love to claim that the biological criteria are clear-cut, but they use different criteria, and they give different answers! So using the genital tubercle criterion, you can place people into that bimodal distribution, but if you use the Y chromosome criterion, you get distributions that mostly overlap well, but then there are people whose penises put them solidly in the male part of the distribution, but their chromosomes put them in the other part, and vice versa. Where’s your mathematical clarity now?

And then what happens? Most of the signifiers we use to distinguish male and female aren’t so robust. We have bimodal distributions that are only weakly separated into two peaks.

This could be a chart of height, for instance; women tend to be slightly shorter than men. It could also be a chart of hair length, where fashion has an influence. It could be a chart of performance in mathematics, in which case it may be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, where we mold people to fit our preconceptions. We’ve got a gigantic collection of plastic behaviors that we tend to force on people as gender signifiers: do girls really like pink more than boys, deep down? Are boys really unsuited to cooking or other domestic chores? In these cases, are these distributions a meaningful way to identify what human beings should do? No. In fact, they erode the sharpness of the entire distinction. You can be male in one characteristic and female in another.

There are a thousand different parameters we use to identify sex. It is definitely true that sex differences are real and when we average all of our matches to those parameters, most of us tend to clearly fall into one peak or the other. Most of us are, in aggregate, mostly male or mostly female.

But here’s my problem.

Let’s assume that when we look at the totality of our natures, and we plot an arbitrary index of sexual identity, we do get two clear and undeniable peaks. I think this is entirely true, even though I don’t have a formula to calculate it, and I think a lot of people would agree — the sources Alex Gabriel is discussing are all trying to identify the magic criterion that sharply demarcates male from female. So let’s pretend these advocates for the gender binary are correct and can come up with a simple way to tell who is supposed to be a man and who is supposed to be a woman, and they show that the population looks like this:

We can argue about how deep that central trough would be — maybe it’s close to zero (but we know it’s got to be non-zero; we wouldn’t even be having this argument if it weren’t for the existence of people who deny that they fit into one peak or the other), maybe it’s a large and significant fraction of the population. I don’t really care. We have people living in this red circle.

Even more complicatedly, we have people who, in one criterion, live in the left peak, and by a different criterion, live in the right peak. How many? I don’t know. Does it matter?

If it’s a hundred million people, who are you to say that they must be condemned and punished for making their precious bimodal chart complicated? If it’s just one person, why would you make it your mission to make them miserable for being true to their own nature, rather than yours?

I don’t even get the point of the argument. Everyone — from the trans-exclusionary radical feminists to the most egalitarian and liberal of us — recognizes that sexuality and gender are too complicated to be reduced to a one-dimensional, single binary switch. Once you’ve conceded that, you’re just bickering over the depth of the trough in the bimodal distribution, and nothing in that argument justifies treating the minority case as less than human, or compelling individuals to live in the pigeonholes you’ve assigned to them, no matter how miserable you make them. It’s not even justifiable to label them freaks, weirdos, or anomalies: they are part of a continuum of human behavior that includes every one of us.

It’s as if people are so committed to the idea that there are only two possible valid human natures that they are prepared to wish away all evidence to the contrary.

Categories: Our friends

The Growing Importance of an Atheist Community - Huffington Post

"Atheist" in google news - February 20, 2014 - 10:36am

Charisma News

The Growing Importance of an Atheist Community
Huffington Post
Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label that strategically avoids the word atheist, but when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist ...
Atheist trust - not faith!News24
Christian, Atheist Display Complicated Friendship in New DocumentaryCharisma News
Fighting atheist tendenciesSaudi Gazette
The Boar
all 10 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

Math: the lies of atheists and humanists

Pharyngula - February 20, 2014 - 9:51am

They’re on to us, those brave Christian truth-tellers!

Ruben Bolling

Categories: Our friends

Cynthia Gockley is a strong, confident woman

Pharyngula - February 20, 2014 - 9:38am

And that frightens pick-up artists. Just ask them. You all remember Matt Forney, right? He’s the slimy character whose post about liking women who are insecure and intimidated made the rounds a while back, and his blog is full of repellent bigotry, like his post that says fat girls are vermin and are also stupid, just like black people. So we know direct from the ass’s mouth how these guys react to any woman who does not know her submissive place.

Whenever a girl I’m talking to brags about how she’s “confident” and “strong,” I can feel my dick deflating like a punctured tire.

Or take a look at RooshV, the racist, sexist, homophobic scumbag who travels the world, writing books about all the women he “bangs” in one-night stands. He turns into a whiny-ass-titty-baby when he finds women who don’t fall for his “charms”.

Times are bad for Forney and Roosh, in part because a lot of women are waking up to the game and aren’t falling for it, because there are also a lot of women who are speaking up on blogs and social media to expose these sleazy con artists, and just generally the PUAs are becoming fodder for the mockery mill everywhere on the internet — I’m sure they have a hard time getting it up when everyone is laughing at them.

But really, Matt Forney, “punctured tire” is such a poor metaphor. I’m thinking it’s more like worms on the sidewalk during a rain. PUA dicks are not only limp and squishy, but all the traffic is coming by and stepping on them.

So they’re fighting back, in a way that just makes them look even worse. The Matt Forney’s of the world are cruising around, looking for feminist women they can “neg” and intimidate, and the worst insult they can throw around is that they are feminists.

Case in point: A woman using the pseudonym Cinzia La Strega has been an active commenter on feminist blogs, and has her own blog in which she mocks the absurdity and repulsiveness of PUAs on the web and twitter. She’s annoying to Matt Forney because she laughs at him — she actually reads the nonsense he posts publicly and, rather than becoming aroused, she ridicules him. She must be punished for making him impotent.

So he dug into public records, social media, all that sort of thing, tracked down her identity (it wasn’t hard; she admits to not being a technical person and made no major efforts to hide, other than by using a pseudonym), and exposed her in detail. I won’t be linking to that post. I’ll just tell you that he published her name, her place of employment, her RateMyProfessor page (she’s a community college teacher), her address, her phone number, her weight, photos, her sexual history, accounts about her unpleasant pedophile uncle, her relationship with a transexual “woman” (the scare quotes are Forney’s), and engages in a lot of bizarre remote psychoanalysis. And most damning of all, he accuses her of being a FEMINIST right in the title.

Then he attempts to document her psychopathic stalking of PUAs, oblivious to the fact that she has never done anything as stalkerish as Matt Forney’s own post. But to be fair, I took a look at his accusations. For instance, he claims that she tracked down one of [Forney's] high school classmates solely so she could write a post about [his] teenage years. It turns out this wasn’t true; she replied to a comment on Jezebel by someone who volunteered that she knew Forney in high school, and then she wrote a post in which expressed sympathy for people who’d suffered social rejection in their high school years.

I’m sure that was the most galling thing for an arrogant creep like Forney: a woman expressing a bit of empathy, even pity, for poor warped individuals like himself. So he rages ineffectually, trying to hurt Cinzia La Strega by publishing her personal data with patently false color added by a disgruntled misogynist.

The laugh is on him, though. He decided to try this feeble tactic on a woman who then turned around and asked me to publicize the story, and who wasn’t intimidated in the slightest.

Cinzia La Strega is Cynthia Gockley. Go say hello. She isn’t afraid, and Matt Forney’s dick is very sad.

You want a dose of irony? One of Forney’s recent posts is titled How to destroy a person’s reputation with Google, it contains a list of recommendations, and it promises to destroy feminism with these techniques. His Cynthia Gockley post is practically a literal exercise in implementing his own suggestions. He got some brief success — his attack on her is currently the top Google result when searching for “Cynthia Gockley” — but it only worked because that name was practically unknown on the internet before this, since she was writing under a pseudonym.

This post is climbing fast in the google rankings for the name. If you have a blog, mention Cynthia Gockley in the title of a post — I think Forney’s priority is pretty easy to topple.

Also, try a Google search for “Matt Forney”. The SEO master has been hoist on his own petard.

Categories: Our friends
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