Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Real-World Costs of Abortion Restrictions

Right wing, religious, anti-choice proponents have realized that their best strategy to outlaw abortion is to chip away at it piece by piece. For example, in Nebraska (and some other states) they've outlawed abortion after the 20th week based on BS studies that are meant to look scientific. Since submitting to dogma is more important than the women this harms, I wonder if they even care about the actual cost in terms of people's lives. For example:
Last fall, Danielle and Robb Deaver of Grand Island, Neb., found that their state’s new law intruded in a wrenching personal decision. Ms. Deaver, 35, a registered nurse, was pregnant with a daughter in a wanted pregnancy, she said. She and her husband were devastated when her water broke at 22 weeks and her amniotic fluid did not rebuild.

Her doctors said that the lung and limb development of the fetus had stopped, that it had a remote chance of being born alive or able to breathe, and that she faced a chance of serious infection.

In what might have been a routine if painful choice in the past, Ms. Deaver and her husband decided to seek induced labor rather than wait for the fetus to die or emerge. But inducing labor, if it is not to save the life of the fetus, is legally defined as abortion, and doctors and hospital lawyers concluded that the procedure would be illegal under Nebraska’s new law.

After 10 days of frustration and anguish, Ms. Deaver went into labor naturally; the baby died within 15 minutes and Ms. Deaver had to be treated with intravenous antibiotics for an infection that developed.

Apparently, stupid ideology is more important than the health of the mother or the developing fetus. And, given the prevalency of slut-shaming that happens in the anti-choice movement, how will they shame this woman who is married and was actively seeking to have a child? (Here's a great post from a former anti-choice advocate who talks about slut-shaming and how it's all about shaming women.)

Meanwhile, in states like South Dakota, lawmakers are requiring women to go to pregnancy crisis centers before they can have an abortion. Nevermind the fact that these centers are not licensed, don't offer medical services, offer debunked and misleading information, and are really just vehicles for Xian ghouls to try and "save souls" by preying on women in vulnerable positions (link). The real cost, of course, is that of the women who are constantly being hounded, slut-shamed, proselytized to, made to jump through hoops, and told that they aren't able to decide what is best for their own bodies because they are simply too stupid or too emotional or too female to have their own opinions.

It's time to end these misogynistic attacks on women's reproductive freedoms. Women are not here to be baby incubators, they are not property, they are fully able to make decisions and act as autonomous units, they do not need to be slut-shamed, they do not need to hide their sexuality away as some delicate flower never to be touched until they are ready to be owned by some man in marriage and made to have offspring. If a woman wants to wait until marriage, that's her choice. If a woman wants to engage in the very human act of sex, that's also her choice. If a woman doesn't want to be pregnant, that's her choice. If her contraception fails and she chooses an abortion, that's her choice. It's past time for anti-choice zealots to realize these simple truths.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Science vs. Faith...Again

I've previously written about whether science and faith can be reconciled - they can't. But, today in the HuffPo, I find someone trying to argue that only good Xians accept evolution.


Apart from the obvious problems of reconciling the Bible with a naturalistic account of the origin of the universe and then subsequently with the origin of species...

Wait, what?

Apparently Mr. Dudley's claim is that Xianity has always embraced science, so standing in the way of science now is un-Xian.

In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner's view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.

This, of course, only tells half the story. Sure, Xians have always embraced science, so long as they were in control of what it said and they could easily fit it into their pre-conceived notions of how the world was supposed to work. IOW, as long as they could control the content so that it only said what they wanted, they were all for it. Look at what happened the moment scientists started to speak out and show that long-held "truths" of the church were not actually true. Galileo anyone? And, that's just one example. A more modern example is the creationist movement that attempts to hijack science classrooms and force their beliefs down everyone's throats.

But, even when Xians were supposedly supportive of science, they really were not. They were attempting to force the facts to fit their pre-determined conclusions. It was anti-scientific from the get-go. That is because science in its essence is the eschewing of faith, while religion relies on faith.

Not that everything Dudley says is bad:

Because no amount of talk about "worldviews" and "presuppositions" can change a simple fact: creationism has failed to provide an alternative explanation for the vast majority of evidence explained by evolution.

It has failed to explain why birds still carry genes to make teeth, whales to make legs, and humans to make tails.

It has failed to explain why the fossil record proposed by modern scientists can be used to make precise and accurate predictions about the location of transition fossils.

It has failed to explain why the fossil record demonstrates a precise order, with simple organisms in the deepest rocks and more complex ones toward the surface.

It has failed to explain why today's animals live in the same geographical area as fossils of similar species.

It has failed to explain why, if carnivorous dinosaurs lived at the same time as modern animals, we don't find the fossils of modern animals in the stomachs of fossilized dinosaurs.

It has failed to explain the broken genes that litter the DNA of humans and apes but are functional in lower vertebrates.

It has failed to explain how the genetic diversity we observe among humans could have arisen in a few thousand years from two biological ancestors.

Yes, exactly. Evolution explains the data, creationism is sadly lacking. But, then he goes back to claiming that it's un-Xian, and even says that those who reject the data ought to rip pages out of their Bibles:

Those who believe God created the world scientists study, even while ignoring most of the data compiled by those who study it, might as well rip dozens of pages out of their Bibles. Because if "nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible," it's basically the same thing.

The only way to "reconcile" the Bible with the natural world is to ignore the data. It's not the creationists that should be ripping out pages, it's Dudley. He's engaging in post-hoc rationalizations in order to shoehorn his Bible into the scientific knowledge of the day and greatly distorting it in the process - it would be better for him to simply jettison the superstitious mythology known as Xianity. It would be great if he were correct and we could maybe convince Xians to stop ignoring the scientific data and even actively fighting against it, but it wouldn't be true.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bravery of the Skeptic

Sometimes I peruse some of the older posts on blogs that I frequent and it leads me down some interesting rabbit holes. Going through some of PZ Myers' old stuff I came across a book review, which lead me to an apologist's blog, which lead me to a curious entry from said apologist wherein he claims that skepticism and freethought are cowardly positions to take.

I thought I would address some things about his piece:

1) I highly doubt he makes a good skeptic.

Bob, on the other hand, is making a definitive statement that he is prepared to back up.

Since Bob in this case presents the theist and is willing to make positive statements that he is prepared to back up...where is the backing up of Xianity? Why can no one put forth coherent, cogent, and compelling reasons to actually believe?

3) Um, causality does not always hold in the quantum world - so the gotcha put forth is not really a gotcha after all.

4) The big bang shows that the universe was not eternal and unchanging, not that the singularity popped out of nothingness. But, time is an element of the behavior of light in this universe, and so asking about time "before" the big bang may very well be meaningless. Causality also happens to be a concept that depends on time and the laws of physics, which the author points out break down during the big bang, thus defeating his own argument.

5) The reason for the argument that the universe must have a cause is so that the theist can seize upon the idea that goddidit. This is nothing more than a fallacious god of the gaps argument, however, and further it leads to turtles all the way down once one asks what caused god. (The theist will reply that god is uncaused which is special pleading, or that god is uncaused and eternal and therefore didn't come into being and does not need a cause, which is also special pleading and destroys usual Xian ideas that god is perfect and unchanging in the process.)

But, all that aside, the reason I wrote this is because he seriously misconstrues why it's brave to be a skeptic! Sure, in terms of the belief itself, it's a bit more brave to put oneself out there and make a claim that could be wrong. It's more rational to hold the atheist's position, and therefore safer in a way, but that completely misses the point.

Going against the herd is always difficult, especially for social animals like humans. The easy thing to do is put one's head down and simply agree with the rest of the people around you and mouth your prayers and hymns to a god that you don't believe in. Doing this at least gets you peace and quiet.

People have, throughout recorded history, been killed for the sins of apostasy, blasphemy, and heretical thought. Socrates was killed for his heretical stance that went against the political tides. But, even now people can still be killed in many parts of the world for not believing in a specific deity or conforming to the beliefs of the majority, whether it's fatwas in the Muslim world or people performing abortions in the Bible belt. Being a skeptic raises the ire of the people who fervently believe and puts the skeptic at risk simply for daring to have different thoughts and a rational standard of necessary evidence before swallowing the superstitious claims of theists.

When Madalyn Murray O'Hair stood up to protest school prayer, she was called the "most hated woman in America."

Vocal atheists like Justin Vacula routinely receive hate mail.

Webster Cook was threatened with bodily harm and death for taking a communion wafer and not eating it, which touched off the whole "Crackergate" controversy.

Damon Fowler) has received death threats, intolerance from school officials and fellow students, been thrown out of his house by his own bigoted parents and forced to move 6 hours away to a new state and live with his brother and all for skepticism.

It would be much easier for all of them and all of the rest of us to just be quiet and not rock the boat. We could sit there and watch as the majority runs roughshod all over our rights and tries to silence us all through abuse and threats of violence, but many people don't. Many people take the skeptical stance and stand up to be counted. Many people don't simply accept what's been spoon-fed to them all their lives and don't simply go with the herd. That's what's brave about it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

It's Not Learned or Taught

"Religion teaches us..."

"What we learn from religion is..."

How many times have we seen these phrases or something similar? I have an idea, let's stop using them, because they are invariably followed by some inane ramblings that are either nonsensical, untrue, or both. For example:

'Religion teaches us about our relationship to god.'

Really? It teaches us something that's nonsensical and completely fabricated? And, whose religion? How does anyone know that the claims made by this religion are true or make sense? They don't? Oh, I see.

If we are being honest, there's nothing we can claim that we learn from religion or that we've been taught by religion, as religion is nothing more than made up claims that talk about nonsensical ideas that can not actually be evaluated. We may as well claim that religion has taught us that yjujkfdi saiojnn snoaing as that makes just as much sense as any claims to made-up invisible sky faeries and our relationships to them. Let's expunge these phrases from our lexicon for truth's sake.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Abuse, Abuse, and Abortion

A trio of recent news items have caught my eye, and I wanted to pass them on as well as some thoughts and comments.

1. A couple weeks ago the US Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a report on the abuse cases happening here in the US. Miranda Celeste does an exceptional job of pointing out what is wrong with the report (actually, exceptional isn't a strong enough word). To sum up, they rely on limited and untrustworthy data from dubious sources, redefine "pedophilia" in order to make their percentages look better, and make numerous attempts to re-locate all the blame on other sources, such as the prevailing culture and lack of training (in how not to abuse children). In conclusion, Ms. Celeste says:

Time and time again we have seen that the Church will do whatever it takes to downplay and/or cover up their failings and crimes. They have shown their willingness to fight dirty, and one of the most useful and effective tools in their arsenal is their dominance of the discourse and conversation (both in the media and elsewhere) about these issues. The Causes and Context study is a textbook example of this: when the media reports its “takeaways” without providing context, they are, in effect, doing the Church’s face-saving dirty work for them.


Don’t shut up, even when you feel like you’re repeating yourself. It took me a while to realize that the reason I’ve sometimes been repetitive when writing about this is that the Church itself has repeated the same crimes and the same institutionally sanctioned cover-ups over and over again. They repeatedly refuse to admit their culpability or to face legal punishment when appropriate. And, most importantly, they repeatedly deny outsiders access to their files that contain information on the sexual abuse of children and the cover-ups of that abuse.

Until the day that they allow that access, until the day that the light of public scrutiny is finally able to illuminate and reveal the darkest and most disturbing aspects of the Church, we owe it to the victims to never, ever shut up.

She hits the nail on the head. And, it can not be stressed enough that the crimes of abuse are horrible, but what really gets me going is that the church has facilitated these crimes, covered up these crimes, made excuses for these crimes and cover-ups that point all the blame elsewhere instead of owning up to it, and shown no regard for their actions and made no attempt at atonement or responsibility.

2. And, speaking of abuse, one California mother thought it a good idea to slit her children's throats because of the rapture. Luckily the children were saved and she's incarcerated right now, but this illustrates quite well the real harm that such religiously derived irrational beliefs can cause to the people who uncritically accept such ridiculous beliefs.

3. But, hey, on the lighter side of things, if you ever want to go to a fun, hip, happening place to kill some babies, the Abortionplex is for you!