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User Journal

Journal: The Insidiousness of ID 1

Journal by Elrac

Scientific American said it better than I ever could:

Intelligent Design is part of a calculated strategy that [founder Phillip] Johnson calls the "Wedge," referring to the tool used to split a solid object--in this case, the cornerstone of biological science. According to a document that appeared on the Discovery Institute's Web site in 1999, the goal of this plan is "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies." The document also makes sweeping, inaccurate claims such as "new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature." This statement is pure propaganda. (The document can still be found on the Discovery Institute's Web site by searching for "wedge," although it is now prefaced by 12 pages of insistent justification.)

Must not let ID win. Must not let ID win!

User Journal

Journal: Luther on: Religion vs. Reason

Journal by Elrac

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spritual things, but -- more frequently than not -- struggles against the Divine Word ... Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.

- Martin Luther

My conclusion: Any person of reason must oppose religion.

User Journal

Journal: The USA lies on the equator? 3

Journal by Elrac

I Just read Is this the equator? in the Orlando Sentinel. Apparently there's a school textbook out claiming that the equator runs through the US.

OK, accidents happen. This wouldn't be so bad if this were a case in isolation. What makes this a tragedy is the combination of these circumstances:

  • A large number of texts contain a lot of factual errors like this;
  • Publishers point to errata pages on their Web sites;
  • Corrections mailed in are frequently not applied;
  • The number of errors is increasing;
  • More emphasis is placed on political correctness than factual correctness;
  • Hack writers are employed to write textbooks, the authors on the cover have sometimes never heard of the books;
  • State school boards make texts mandatory for public schools throughout the state;
  • Local schools are not allowed to make their own choice of (perhaps) better texts;
  • The school boards' review panels often don't have members qualified to judge the subject matter of texts, especially science texts;
  • Texts are published by a very small group of quasi-monopolists;
  • Textbook publishers spend 30% of their budgets on marketing, which doesn't leave that much for content and quality; and
  • Teachers often don't have solid knowledge of topics, especially science, and so can't spot and correct errors in the books.

I'd like to quote the most glaring example of where this all leads:

...Marie and Pierre Curie, the French couple who shared a Nobel Prize for their research on radiation. Before the advent of political correctness, textbooks pictured the husband-wife team together. Soon, however, Pierre's picture was excised. And then, some textbooks -- for example, Chemical Building Blocks, one of 15 books in Prentice Hall's Science Explorer series -- darkened the skin of the Polish-born Marie, presumably to suggest she was a woman of color.

What does this tell us? Corporatism and Political Correctness, combined with a lack of diversity and most likely corruption, result in school kids being taught incorrect data about science and other topics.

The USA is a high-tech country, and one of its mainstays is technical innovation. Shoddy school policy is dumbing down the US population, to the detriment of the whole nation.

User Journal

Journal: White House hijacks Patriot Reform

Journal by Elrac

This week the Bush administration has strong-armed lawmakers into re-drafting a final Patriot Act reauthorization bill that actually makes the Patriot Act even worse, reversing months of careful and substantive bipartisan negotiations that attempted to deliver real reform.

The rights of everyday Americans will be the losers as Administration officials strong arm Congress into an egregious Patriot Act reauthorization bill that expands government powers beyond even the scope of the original legislation.

More to be read here.

User Journal

Journal: Quotes of the day

Journal by Elrac

This one had my girlfriend and me roaring with laughter:

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the same sense and to the same extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

-- Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken, American editor and critic (1880-1956).

Wait, there's more:

The more I read about man and his maniacal ruthlessness and his murderous envious scatological soul, the more I realize that he will never change. Our stupidity is immortal, nothing will change it. The same mistakes, the same prejudices, the same injustice, the same lusts wheel endlessly around the parade ground of the centuries. Immutable and ineluctable. I wish I could believe in a god of some kind but I simply cannot.

-- Richard Burton, Welsh actor (1925-1984).

And on a more political note:

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.

-- Thomas Jefferson to Baron von Humboldt, 1813.

User Journal

Journal: Greetings from Idiot America 2

Journal by Elrac

The title is not my words, it's from an Esquire article. I found it so spot-on that I'm linking it here:

Greetings from Idiot America

In spite of the title, a well thought out piece about what ails the USA these days.

In spite of the length, a piece well worth reading if you have a half hour to spare.

UPDATE:

The original poster at that link suddenly realized he was violating copyright, and shortened the article to an excerpt. If you're interested in the whole thing, then comment or message me with your email address (I won't ever do anything else with your address, I promise!) and I'll send you the full text. While I believe in copyright and the author's right to make a buck, I think it will be forgiveable if I forward it to the small handful of people likely to respond, and whom I will consider friends in spirit. If this really gets out of hand, I'll send Mr. Pierce some cash I have left over from my last trip to the USA.

User Journal

Journal: Where I stand: Science vs. Religion 1

Journal by Elrac

Slashdot is getting increasingly polarized along the lines of conservatism (especially American conservatism) and religion on one side vs. science, enlightenment and liberalism on the other. Just in case anyone cares, I think it's time to state where I stand.

Religion

My parents tried to raise me to be Jewish, but without success. Since long before I knew the meaning of the term, I was an agnostic. Having had an opportunity to educate myself and think about things, I am now a convinced atheist.

Politics

In my youth, I marvelled at money and the things it could buy, and was a fan of capitalism. In the past few years, I've seen evidence of the effects of unbridled capitalism: I feel pressured by corporations and an apparent power reversal between producer and consumer. Capitalism has its strong points and I still prefer it to many alternatives, but I believe it wants to be reined in.

I live in a European country that (mostly) takes care of its disadvantaged, its old, its infirm, its homeless and jobless. While I don't consider pure socialism a Good Thing, I think a good national policy needs to have some socialism mixed in. Surprise: Socialism doesn't preclude prosperity.

Science

I was fortunate to attend Canadian schools and get a solid science curriculum. I've been fascinated by science, especially the physical sciences and mathematics, since my school days. Science uses methods of common sense to discover and attempt to explain the world around us. Science builds on itself and constantly re-creates itself better than before. Scientists stand on the shoulders of their peers and predecessors in building up ever wider knowledge and better tools. Science was Open Source before Open Source had a name.

Science vs. Religion

Science attempts to build a complete, consistent, interlocking picture of life, the universe and everything. In time and through science, our knowledge of ourselves and our world becomes more complete and more useful, and our lives can become better. Religion is an archaic anachronism dating back to the times when primitive men huddled in caves and puzzled about the origins of rain, lightning and thunder. Then, they postulated supernatural spirits in the sky, in clouds, in rocks and trees. Now, we smile patronizingly at the ancient myths but people don't realize that monotheism is just a different package for the same mysticism. In my view, monotheism is a step in the right direction, leading from polytheism to 0-theism: Atheism.

MAN CREATED GOD, NOT VICE VERSA.

Knowledge, science and technology bring mankind forward toward the full realization of its potential, religion holds it back with shackles of ancient dogma.

Tolerance

I used to believe I should be tolerant toward those of other faiths. I used to think of religion as harmless nonsense, to be pursued at will by anyone just like any hobby. I was wrong.

Religious leaders are political leaders. This was true thousands of years ago, it is still true. These leaders are not tolerant; they seek to convert or overcome. Especially the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have long histories of strife and even genocide. Many religious people are not content to live by their own self-imposed rules but want to impose them on the rest of us too. This is where I draw the line.

Christianity emphasizes a mystical afterlife at the expense of our current, very real life. It emphasizes a mystical soul at the expense of real sensations. These central tenets have led to untold wrong decisions about matters involving human lives. Christians have burnt humans alive to save their souls. Christians deny abortions to poor families, resulting in squalor and misery for the unwanted children and their needy families. Christians protect primitive clumps of cells but sacrifice sentient animals and humans. In preparing for an afterlife that never comes, Christians waste the only life they have. To protect their religion, many Christians feel they must fight knowledge and science.

To the extent that they infringe on my freedom, my standard of living and the good of humanity as I perceive it, I am committed to oppose them.

Counting in octal is just like counting in decimal--if you don't use your thumbs. -- Tom Lehrer

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