The cost of questioning your faith

Via Grrlscientist, the story of a creationist who learned, and who has paid the penalty for learning.

Reading this article makes it easier to understand why religious fundamentalists of all faiths have so much difficulty in accepting the truth since they stand to lose everything, including their very identity.

Contrast this with Mike Adams’s claim that “Accepting Christianity… is far more likely [than Islam] to have come from a rational appraisal of the evidence. And it is far less likely to have come from the threat of the sword.” But there are other threats besides swords, and more compelling.

Recommended Reading: How to teach

A Blog Around The Clock has some thoughts up about The so-called Facebook Scandal, in which he addresses some very interesting points.

Science is supposed to be a collaborative activity. Why is it organized (and taught) as if it was a competitive activity? How does that affect science? Negatively, by increasing secretiveness and sometimes outright fraud.

The Web is changing all this. The teenagers already grok that the old selfish notions of intellectual property are going by the way of the dodo. They naturally think in terms of networks, not individuals. And thinking in term of newtorks as opposed to a linear, hierarchical, individualistic focus, is necessary for speeding up the advancement of knowledge and societal good.

In other words, it is not important what each individual knows or does, it is important what the interactions between individuals can do, and how the group or community (or global community) learns and acts upon the knowledge.

Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action. Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time. The biggest sin would be selfish non-sharing of information.

slacktivist on self-deception

I’ve been reading slactivist’s ongoing review of Left Behind for some time now, both because it’s fun to read his ascerbic comments on the non-quality of the writing and because I enjoy finding out what’s in the book without having to endure slogging through it myself. The latest installment, however, opens with a particularly trenchant analogy.

Imagine trying to convince yourself that curling and cricket were more popular in the U.S. than baseball and (American) football.

But that’s not the good part.

Read the rest of this entry »

Math homework

Settle down you numerophobes. Daylight Atheism has a very fascinating exercise in critical thinking, and it’s worth reading whether you’re a mathematician or not. If you have a positive result from a blood test that’s 95% accurate, and it says you have a very rare disease, what are the odds you really have it? Surprisingly low!

A more intuitive way to explain this result is this: the test is highly accurate, but the disease is rare. Therefore, the vast majority of people who are tested won’t actually have it – and the number of false positives from that group, though small compared to the size of that group, is larger than the relatively small number of people who actually have the disease and correctly test positive.

Recommended Reading.

Infallibility is not the answer

Daylight Atheism has another excellent post up. Here’s just a real brief excerpt:

[T]rust in inerrancy is not a solution to the problem: it is a refusal to face the problem.

Recommended reading!

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Why Race, Gender and Religion Are Not The Same

Ed Brayton makes some excellent points about the predictable complaints from the Religious Right about how criticizing Huckabee’s religious beliefs is like mocking Hillary for being a woman or Obama for being black.

He seems to just presume that ridiculing someone’s race or gender is equivalent of ridiculing someone’s religious beliefs, but that presumption is clearly false. He is committing a category error here. The difference is that religion is an idea (more properly a set of ideas) and ideas, unlike race or gender, deserve criticism. Someone’s race or gender can’t be wrong or absurd, but their ideas certainly can.

Recommended reading.

Founder of the pro-life movement

As we saw earlier this week, the Bible does not label abortion as murder, nor does it classify “the unborn” as persons. Where, then, did the religious right get the idea that abortion is such a mortal sin? Daylight Atheism has the answer.

Ask any observer of American politics today to name the most influential figures of the religious right, and some familiar names are likely to come up – Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Roy Moore, and others. But one name that’s not as likely to appear is Francis Schaeffer. That is a regrettable oversight, because even though Schaeffer died in 1982, he is possibly the one person most responsible for the existence of the religious right as we know it today.

A most intriguing read. I’m adding it to the Recommended Reading list.

Now Playing: Skeptics’ Circle #77–The Overmedicalized Edition

Skeptics’ Circle #77–The Overmedicalized Edition is now online and I was pleasantly surprised to find one of my own posts there (thanks!).  Lots of good stuff in this one, so I’m adding it to the Recommended Reading list.

Zinger of the day

Ed Brayton, at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, quotes a Messianic Jewish leader as claiming that unless Dubya gives up his attempts to set up a Palestinian state (and incidentally bringing badly needed peace to the region), God will punish America by handing us over to a series of bad presidents. Ed sums up the situation pretty succinctly:

So let’s get this straight: If we don’t do what God says, God’s going to punish us by giving us bad leaders. How exactly will we tell?

Good question.

Bullies, toadies, and Faith In America

I like slacktivist’s take on Romney’s infamous “Faith” speech.

Here’s why Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” speech is backfiring: Bullies don’t respect their toadies.The speech includes some decent stretches, but it was not, primarily, a courageous plea for religious tolerance and mutual respect. It was, instead, primarily an obsequious bit of sucking up by an outsider hoping to curry favor with the in crowd by parroting their condemnation of other outsiders.

He has some interesting things to say about the fruit Romney is likely to reap from what he is sowing here, especially as a Mormon. Recommended Reading.