I have a facebook friend who shared this picture on her wall. Now, I’ve been asked by both family and friends not to comment on things like this. I’ve also been asked politely (and less politely) to keep my atheist posts to the blog so I don’t inadvertently end up force-feeding the “indifferent majority”; a position I find rather useless and unnerving. Continue reading
Sam Harris’ “The Fireplace Delusion” is, much to my discomfort, speaking directly to me. I own a woodstove and use it whenever possible to heat my house. Harris says I shouldn’t be doing this and should be using a cleaner, albeit more expensive, fuel to heat my house. Harris provides evidence for why using a fireplace or a woodstove is dangerous and tries to convince me that my reluctance to believe him is irrational,
If you care about your family’s health and that of your neighbors, the sight of a glowing hearth should be about as comforting as the sight of a diesel engine idling in your living room. It is time to break the spell and burn gas—or burn nothing at all.
and is similar to the attitudes of religious believers:
It seems to me that many nonbelievers have forgotten—or never knew—what it is like to suffer an unhappy collision with scientific rationality. We are open to good evidence and sound argument as a matter of principle, and are generally willing to follow wherever they may lead. Certain of us have made careers out of bemoaning the failure of religious people to adopt this same attitude.
However, I recently stumbled upon an example of secular intransigence that may give readers a sense of how religious people feel when their beliefs are criticized. . . .We can call the phenomenon “the fireplace delusion.”
On a cold night, most people consider a well-tended fire to be one of the more wholesome pleasures that humanity has produced. A fire, burning safely within the confines of a fireplace or a woodstove, is a visible and tangible source of comfort to us. We love everything about it: the warmth, the beauty of its flames, and—unless one is allergic to smoke—the smell that it imparts to the surrounding air.
I am sorry to say that if you feel this way about a wood fire, you are not only wrong but dangerously misguided. I mean to seriously convince you of this . . . but please keep in mind that I am drawing an analogy. I want you to be sensitive to how you feel, and to notice the resistance you begin to muster as you consider what I have to say.
Because wood is among the most natural substances on earth . . . most people imagine that burning wood must be a perfectly benign thing to do. Breathing winter air scented by wood smoke seems utterly unlike puffing on a cigarette or inhaling the exhaust from a passing truck. But this is an illusion.
Harris goes on to provide scientific proof that burning wood is dangerous and concludes,
The unhappy truth about burning wood has been scientifically established to a moral certainty: That nice, cozy fire in your fireplace is bad for you. It is bad for your children. It is bad for your neighbors and their children.
Of course, if you are anything like my friends, you will refuse to believe this. And that should give you some sense of what we are up against whenever we confront religion.
Sam Harris is correct. Discarding my religious beliefs was easy; however, despite the evidence, discarding my woodstove will not be easy or immediate.
Do you have trouble indentifying exactly which fallacious argument is being used? I do, and usually, I resort to Wikipedia to clear up my confusion. However, the website Something Surprising has posted a useful crib sheet entitled “Delusional Logic” as a guide to the most common fallacies:
Do you spot logical fallacies everywhere you go? Download this unique new pdf file free and start to enjoy the fun.
Okay, this is just getting ridiculous now. Those of you that know me best from my work decrying racist attitudes and unraveling the code of “politely” racist statements know that I have a fairly well-developed radar for bigotry. I am not one to shrink from making the call, even in those circumstances where the room is against me and I am forced to explain myself in excruciating detail. Racism is a serious problem, and I think we should be devoting more time and attention to it, not less.
If you’ve been involved in discussions of race-based (or really, any other kind of) bigotry, it’s a good chance that you’ve been accused at some point of being “the real racist”. The argument goes something like this: if everyone just acted like race wasn’t important, it would all of a sudden cease to be a factor. I will not bother detailing the number of reasons why this position is stupid - it’s the Wile E. Coyote school of debate:
However, the ubiquity and regularity of this completely facetious line of “reasoning” has left folks like me, who deal in racism on a regular basis, with a particular sensitivity about bogus “racism” calls. There’s nothing that undermines your completely legitimate argument faster than someone saying “yeah but soandso said the same thing, and ze was full of crap!” Then you have to waste time and precious consonants explaining the many ways in which your situation is not the same as theirs.
Which is why stories like this make me mad: Continue reading
This morning, before settling down to write this post on Jerry Coyne’s article, “Why you don’t really have free will,” I logged on to Why Evolution Is True and found Coyne’s follow up post on his article. I don’t know whether there is any connection between physics and coincidence, but I like the title, so I used it.
However, my initial reason for writing this post is to call your attention to the article, provide my comments and ask for yours.
In his USA Today article, Coyne clearly states his thesis:
The debate about free will, long the purview of philosophers alone, has been given new life by scientists, especially neuroscientists studying how the brain works. And what they’re finding supports the idea that free will is a complete illusion. (emphasis added)
Coyne goes on to define what he means by free will, and he supports his position with analogy:
Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. . . . The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we’re characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we’re puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics.
The second sentence is familiar and makes me suspect that Shakespeare preempted Coyne:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players (AYL 2.7.1-2)
Coyne presents a convincing argument for the absence of free will, and in his last paragraph, he assures us,
There’s not much downside to abandoning the notion of free will; . . . And there are two upsides.
The only sentence in the whole article that I question is the very last sentence:
With that under our belts, we can go about building a kinder world.
If we don’t have free will, how can we build a “kinder world”?
“Why you don’t really have free will,” deserves a close reading. After you read it, let’s discuss it.
The following photo was posted by @LoveGod50. He’s been one of two people (the other is @GodsWordIsLaw) who have been openly harassing Ricky Gervais on twitter. Continue reading
So, if you read my latest post, A Personal Story (or Ramble) to the end, I posed the question about making a list of goals.
Please respond here, Continue reading
An article from the Toronto Sun online, “Ex-bishop ‘a societal pariah’: Lawyer,” is similar, if not identical, to an article I read in the Peterborough Examiner today. I was furious, not so much by the headline but by the article itself. If ex-bishop Raymond Lahey “has, in effect, become a societal pariah,” he deserves to be. Lahey’s lawyer, Michael Edelson, wants a light sentence for the priest who pleaded guilty to importing child porn:
Lahey, who hammered out a multi-million dollar settlement for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church, lived a “life of great deeds, good work and immense erudition, education and good character,” Edelson said.
Now, “he wears the scarlet letter,” Edelson said.
Raymond Lahey deserves to wear a scarlet letter even if forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford says that Lahey is no worse, no different than any other man:
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford testified Lahey is into sado-masochism — the submissive side.
Submissives, among other things, enjoy humiliation, he said, noting it “is relatively common.”
Bradford was unshaken on a number of critical issues while on the stand: Lahey is not a pedophile, he is not a risk to the community, and he doesn’t need treatment.
Bradford said the ex-bishop of Antigonish, N.S., did exhibit an interest in male youths aged about 14 to 18, as well as in men.
But Bradford warned a tendency towards this so-called “hebephilia” isn’t a formal diagnosis.
“A lot of normal people show (an interest in adolescents),” he said.
So hebephilic men are normal? Isn’t it a failure in logic to say because a lot of normal people show an interest in adolescents, hebephilic men are normal?
The definition for the word hebephilia is not in the Oxford Dictionary on-line; however, Wikipedia says, “Hebephilia refers to the sexual preference for individuals in the early years of puberty,” yet Dr. Bradford claims Raymond Lahey “is not a risk to the community, and he doesn’t need treatment.”
Lahey should receive the 18- to 22-month jail sentence and probation that the Crown prosecutor David Elhadad is seeking. This will send a message to Catholic priests, the Catholic Church and Catholic apologists that a sexual interest in children or adolescents is unacceptable.
In an article about Canadian politics, Richard Gwyn says
But governing Canada, in the sense of steering it past reefs, is a snap. With oceans on three sides and the U.S. on the other, the country couldn’t be more secure. Affluence comes as easily to us, thanks to nature or God.
While “thanks to nature or God” may be a throw-away comment, it is symptomatic of the arrogance of winners. To say that Canada and Canadians are affluent relative to the rest of the world because God put the country and its people in one of most resource wealthy areas of the globe is arrogance.
Gwynn goes on to say,
As a last bit of luck, Scottish virtues — common sense, pragmatism, conservatism — entered early into our national DNA.
If Canadians have common sense, they know that Canada’s affluence comes from its geographical position on the map of the world, not from God. I’m getting increasing frustrated by people who give credit to God for their own or their country’s success rather than to chance or hard work.