I thought I was getting over my laryngitis in time for my presentation at Skepticon, but as I approached the mic, my voice gave out again. There I was on stage in a Civic Center, doing an impression of Vin Deisel playing the Iron Giant. I talked for 45 minutes like that. I didn’t have a choice. But I wasn’t going to upload that video. There were other issues too, video segments that wouldn’t play and so on. So once I got my voice back, I recorded the speech as a voice-over narration in the kind of video I used to make, back before I had to write a new and original speech every month. I enjoy doing these. I wish I had time to do more.
Dec 03 2013
Dec 02 2013
Looks like it’s that season again.
Nov 24 2013
People of Color Beyond Belief is hosting a webcast to debunk the notion that we live in a post-racial society. It is starting right now, and is moderated by Sikivu Hutchinson. The panelists are Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers & Black Skeptics Chicago Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers Raina Roades: Black Freethinkers – The RSS Feed & Rhoades to Reality. They are having some technical issues, whicj I think may be related to a feedback loop with the speakers and the microphones. Hopefully, they can figure the problem out.
Nov 23 2013
Tonight I received an email from Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. It is titled, ‘A Victory for Science in Texas’. It reads (in part) as follows:
Moments ago the Texas State Board of Education cast a final vote to approve science textbooks based on established science. This is a huge victory for science education and all the Texas students who will have sound science materials in their classrooms for the next decade.
Predictably, there was a last-minute effort at the board to threaten two widely used textbooks. But that attack yielded no concessions from either publisher that would water down instruction on evolution or climate change. And ultimately, the board voted to approve all the proposed science textbooks.
And you deserve the credit for this. The Texas Freedom Network’s #StandUp4Science campaign has been possible because of supporters like you. You kept the pressure on by taking action online, spreading the word on social media and contacting board members.
Your activism stopped the anti-science forces from vandalizing Texas science textbooks.
Now I realize that lots of other people got this same message, and that it was not intended for me alone. It might not even have been written with me in mind. But I like to think that it was, because it makes sense.
Kathy Miller and I both testified before the State Board of Education a couple months ago. She sat next to me then, and again when she joined my wife and I, and P.Z. Myers at another ‘Stand Up For Science’ event. That was when we all presented our case to a capacity crowd at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. That was the day after we picketed the Texas Homeschool Coalition for allowing con-men like Ken Ham to represent them as keynote speakers. After that, The Texas Freedom Network hosted Bill Nye to stir up support for legitimate science education, and my speech at Apostacon both ridiculed and challenged the creationists from the school board hearings. As part of that presentation, (now viewed over 20,000 times) I also suggested/predicted that text book publishers take the bold step of ignoring the pleas of the Religious Right on that board -which they did.
I have been in-touch with the Texas Freedom Network frequently over the last several months. They’ve kept me informed, and I’m very happy with the way that our combined efforts have raised awareness of the outrageous under-handed factions seeking to undermine science education. I don’t know how much credit -if any- I can personally claim, but at least I feel as though I did my part -and it worked.
So TFN, allow me to respond accordingly. You’re welcome, my pleasure, anytime.
Now could you invite me the next time you have Bill Nye over?
Nov 16 2013
Only to be told we have been bumped from The University Plaza to the Holiday Inn because the event hotel is overbooked. It is 2:00 AM local time here, and Aron is still fussing over his speech about Pterosaurs for tomorrow at 10:00 AM. Normally freethinking events are a respite for me from problems that come with being an Atheist Texan.
But this time, I feel a little bit of dread. Admittedly, PZ had more reason to feel dread with people threatening a walkout of his speech. The reason is I’ve gotten so many hateful youtube comments from anti-feminist atheists on the discussion I did about rape culture. I feel a little anxious that I might run into someone like that here.
Every year, Skepticon has been a welcoming haven to me, so the anxiety is probably misplaced. I always try so hard to be decent to people nearly to a fault, so I am a bit flummoxed by hostility. Even from people I know are going to be hostile like Ken Ham. Hostility within the community that has always been a safe haven to me is much harder to get a handle on.
Oct 23 2013
It figures, don’t it? When I saw this photo (taken of me during an argument at the Reason Rally) I thought, “this is the worst picture that has ever been taken of me.” So of course that’s the one that gets shown on CNN.
It’s not like I was really on CNN. If I was, I would have explained what a god is, so that believing Neilsons would have a clear understanding of what atheists don’t believe in, and why. But someone on their staff saw fit to put my picture there, as if I had anything to do with Oprah. Well boys, at least now I can say that I’ve sorta been on CNN, …kinda.
Today Matt Dillahunty tweeted that Oprah Winfrey should have an atheist show, which is a great idea that ought to happen. He suggested a number of appropriate guests, but that list does not include me. They want pretty-boys like David Silverman, Zack Kopplin, and Jerry DeWitt, all friends of mine. They’ve already been in People magazine, Faux News, CNN, Bill Maher, and so on. They’ll never put me on TV. But the news channels will post the worst pic they can find of me when they want atheists to look counter-culture. That’s why I’m on the Dogma Debate; because I have the face for radio.
Some of my old friends from back in the day think I’m famous now, but I’m really not. A lot of my new friends are on Wikipedia, but not me. Well, there is one reference to me when you look up Learning Hebrew: A Gothsploitation Movie. In the ‘review’ section, it mentions how I referred to that film as “the weird kind of strange”. It’s not a movie I’m actually in, just one I promoted. The only cinematic film I’m in is The Zombie Christ, and it’s so bad, even the cast doesn’t want to see it. This is amusing, but I am probably the most famous person in that movie, but I was only an extra, and they didn’t even put my name on IMDB. They just gave me tee-shirt promoting the film, along with a copy of the movie …recorded on a used VHS tape.
I’m happy that Lawrence Krauss lists me as one of his friends, and Dawkins usually seems pleased to see me too. They’re in a documentary film together, The Unbelievers which is currently being released in Hollywood. I’m in maybe seven different documentaries, most of which were released direct to YouTube. The only one that ever made it to TV was only aired in Canada, and I wasn’t even interviewed in that one; I just appear in the background. Oh well.
If I had more fame, I’d probably have more money too, and I can just imagine how many problems that might cause in my life! So it’s probably just as well that I’m not really famous. Still, I can’t believe I fought zombies for Jesus, and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt.
Oct 22 2013
The idea behind the ‘Sexy Secular Conference’ at the University of Akron was apparently to present progressive concepts on non-traditional courtships, romantic expression, bending gender roles, and so on. This was not my usual choice of topics, and it’s not going to become one either. But I took that opportunity to express an opinion, and to share a few concerns I had and still have about myself. I have never ‘grown’ more as a person than when I realized that I had prejudices, and that they needed to be corrected. That’s really what this is about.
Now that the video is posted, I’d like to respond to a number of criticisms I’ve seen in the comments; not the replies, just the comments. Most of them merely repeated fallacies I had already addressed in the video. For example, the idea of women having equal rights with men somehow means something different than gender equality, as if men wouldn’t have equal rights with women at the same time, a logical fallacy.
Otherwise, critics did as I predicted, twisting my words into things I never said. For example, I never said women deserved special treatments. In fact, I said that even according to the leader of the feminist movement, they did NOT deserve special treatments -despite my critics’ many allegations to the contrary.
Someone accused me of accusing Thunderf00t of something, and this person said that I am wrong about Thunder in that he doesn’t hold the position [they say] that [I think] that he does. They didn’t tell me how I got it wrong, and I can’t guess, because they didn’t tell me what I was accusing him of either. The only information they did give was their assumption that I was talking about Thunder’s video. I wasn’t. Although I was at one point thinking about a conversation we’d had.
The things I addressed in my video are things that I have personally experienced, or that both sides of the aisle have confirmed, and they didn’t necessarily rely on patriarchy theory. I know that goes on, but it doesn’t have to be the sole force behind the oppression of women as I see it. Western religion is unarguably patriarchal, and religion is now and always has been the dominant oppressor of women. But that obviously doesn’t explain misogyny in the atheist community.
One very weird comment was the charge that I was reciting the mantra of the religion of feminism, and that feminists over-emphasize women, neglecting the rights of men. This is an important point. I did mention the inequity of judicial bias toward ‘the mother’ in family court cases. When I split from my daughter’s mother, several lawyers refused to take my case because [they said] “the mother always wins“. Looking into that at the time, I read and heard from female feminists who said that the bias toward the mother was sexist -in more than one aspect -even though it favored the woman! That is why that bias has since been corrected!
Can anyone cite for me any instance wherein women are granted superior status? Or when men are deprived of rights in order to benefit women? Because I have even heard female feminists arguing that it is sexist to save the women and children first.
Someone said that the standards for women in the military were lower than for men. My daughter says that is not the case. She says women can be Marines now, but they still can’t be SEALs because the Navy tested promising female recruits and none of them could meet that standard. So I don’t think that criticism is true either.
My critics accused me of a false dichotomy when I said that if one is not feminist, then one is sexist. First of all, I said made very clear that it was not a dichotomy at all, that we are all likely to be both to some degree. But if it was a dichotomy, then it wouldn’t be a false one -according to the very definition of the word.
A lot of people criticized me for using the wrong definition, saying that the dictionary is wrong. OK, I can point to a few other instances I know of where I can show that practically every dictionary is wrong. Look up ‘animal’ or ‘abiogenesis’ for example. However in both of those instances -as in all others- I can show what the real definition is, where to find it, and how to confirm whether it’s accurate. None of my critics did any of the above. They wouldn’t provide any citation to any other definition, and gave no way to see whether their contention is valid. They said “go watch this”, or “go read that”, but they couldn’t relate or explain -or even show- any arguments supporting their position.
Now someone did produce a quote from Valerie Solanas, an attempted murderer who appears to be THE man-hating lesbian who served as the template ‘radical feminazi’ for all the Wimmin’s Libber–haters I knew growing up.
“The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.”
I’ve also been accused of ignoring the extremists, which I never do. If we argue that Valerie Solanas represents feminism, then we should say that the Westborough Baptist Church represents Christianity. However even though the Ku Klux Klan say they are exclusively creationist Christians, they also say that Fred Phelps’ Kansas clan is too extreme to represent their views.
It should also be said that if we compare the “God is love” Christians to the “God hates fags” Christians, we can confirm which is closer by comparing each of their philosophies to the doctrine they’re both supposedly based on. Doing that, we will see that Phelps actually does represent the Christian religion pretty closely, but that Solanas doesn’t match the feminism movement at all.
Solanas’ position clearly neither fits the definition of ‘feminist’ in any dictionary nor any description given of the 5 feminist movements that I have yet seen either. It is opposed in the sentiments of Gloria Steinem, and all of the other leaders of those movements, as well as their platform itself. Look them all up in Wikipedia. All the sources I have yet found give the same definition I do. Where is there a different one?
Some of my critics said the definition I use is not the one used by the majority of feminists they know. I find that curious because it *is* the definition used by the ENTIRETY of the feminists *I* know, and I know a LOT of feminists!
Someone drew a pretty fair analogy between the definitions of feminism and the meaning of PETA, implying that both should be treated as a movement, rather than sticking to the described meaning of their names. OK, if we do that, then when and where does the leadership and platform of that movement show this deviation? Can anyone name the current leaders of whatever phase of the feminist movement we’re currently in? And show me where the platform indicates how I am wrong?
The best criticism I have so far received is that I may be using an out-dated term which might not be the most appropriate, considering that words change meaning over time. I can understand that. I mean, I used to identify as agnostic when I was really atheist. I called myself all kinds of things before BionicDance invented the word, ‘apistevist’. It was only relatively recently that I started calling myself ‘feminist’. I used to identify as ‘egalitarian’, and I liked that word much better. However, that was until someone explained to me the full definition of egalitarian. It refers not only to gender and race, both at the same time, without specification; it also implies that everyone should have the same social and economic status. Not ‘rights’; ‘status’, as in ‘class’. The word was being used to promote Communism, in that an egalitarian society meant one in which all the wealth and power was redistributed equally.
Now if that is no longer the sense in which that word is applied, (and that now may be the case) then anyone who prefers to label themselves that way is of course welcome to do so securely. Although I would still like to differentiate exactly which context of equality I’m talking about in a given instance.
One final note on the topic of feminism/sexism/humanism and so on is this: Some people say they would rather identify as humanist than feminist. Greta Christina identifies as a feminist, and just a few months ago, I saw her receive a Humanist-of-the-year award by the American Humanist Association. Greta is also posts at Freethought Blogs as a proponent of “Atheist +”, a branch of infidel activists primarily concerned with issues of social justice. There was a lot of animosity against A+ when they formed. Because of one or two poorly-worded comments, they were seen as divisive and exclusionary. However, when I told Greta that I choose not to use her label, and that I would refer to myself as a progressive atheist instead, she responded quite clearly, -on camera, and in front of live audience at a major conference:
“I don’t give a damn what people call themselves.
If they’re atheists, and they’re on-board with social justice,
then they’re a friend of mine.”
So in their own words, the leaders of mainstream feminism are not man-haters. They’re not exclusionary or divisive, and they’re not trying to gain superiority over men either.
I should also say this to Greta: In the Q&A, I should have answered that this dialogue still needs to happen. I’m not telling anyone to be quiet about anything they feel is important. But when we disagree -as we frequently will- I hope we can do it productively.
On the matter of the chromosomal difference between men and women, and the criticism against anyone who says that men are genetically half-female, I know the biology too well to say otherwise; it’s true. Not all facts are comfortable ones. Take for example what I said about sexually ambiguous characters like Michael Jackson or ‘Ms Hathaway’ from the Beverly Hillbillies. I realize my comments will seem insensitive to trans-gendered people. That is not my intent. I am not comfortable with the fact that I felt a sort of revulsion against androgynous people when I was a child. But it is a fact that I did, and I think it would be disingenuous to conceal it. It might even have clinical value in that (I think) it was a biological rather than cultural response.
Finally I can’t believe that I said Rob Halford was in Iron Maiden. There was a guy in the audience wearing an Iron Maiden tee-shirt; that might be why. I am probably more embarrassed about that than anything else. I’m not even a Maiden fan. I mean, I’ve seen them live, and it was a great show! But I love Priest! Screaming for Vengeance and [ironically] Defenders of the Faith are two of my favorite albums! So yeah, I’m feelin’ pretty stupid about that. But I appear to be spot-on about the definition -and application- of feminism.
Oct 17 2013
Last month, I and many other testified before the Texas State Board of Education in an attempt to preserve good science standards that were set in 2011. Several others testified in an attempt to undermine science by weakening lessons on cosmology, climate change, and evolution.
Ideally the Board of Education should all be educated and unbiased and should have weighed our testimony to respect the scientists and reject the whack-a-loons. But this is Texas. So instead they requested a list of changes, mostly ‘thinly-veiled criticisms’ of each of these branches of science.
In the past, Texas has had profound influence over publishers, because we were a huge buyer, and there would be serious costs involved if a publisher refused to accommodate the demands of the right wing ideologues in this state. However times have changed. In my speech at Apostacon that weekend, I said that technology has changed, such that publishers don’t have to cower to Texas’ unreasonable demands anymore.
I have just received notice from the Texas Freedom Network, and am pleased to report that each of the 14 textbook publishers involved have all ignored the outrageous changes demanded by our pseudoscience loonies. Thus our science standards will remain strong on legitimate science.
Oct 12 2013
I somehow stumbled across a video that I just have to comment on. I don’t want to provide a link to it, because the counter showed that I was only the 3rd person to see it. Hours later, there was only one more view. So I’m not going to call attention to him. I suspect this guy isn’t ready to respond to the harsh reality that we so stridently represent. My intention is not to preach to the choir here. You guys have already heard it all anyway. I intend to address this one individual anonymously, but without excluding other readers who didn’t see his video.
This person said he was looking for the ‘rift’ between ‘non-believers’, by which I assume he means atheists, skeptics, rationalists, apistevists, etc. (Whom I will attempt to speak for here) and the ‘make-believers’ whom he represents in the context of this post. He suggested that ‘we’ likely assume that all Christians are just simple-minded folk. While that is grotesquely true way too often, (and there is even a growing body of clinical research to support that!) it is not always the case. It usually comes down to a question not of intellect, but of intellectual honesty. Whether you have an emotional ‘need-to-believe’ in some irrationally preconceived notion, and whether that overrides your desire to understand whatever the truth really is, regardless what it might turn out to be.
Now I would say that any honest earnest quest for truth must begin with the abandonment of faith. Are you prepared to lie in order to maintain your self-induced delusion? Or are you bold enough to question your own convictions and even test them to find out if they’re true, and discard them if they are not? That’s the rift. That’s the difference between us.
Now this person was promoting an upcoming conference called ‘Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World‘. (sigh) Where do I begin just with that?
1. There is nothing reasonable about faith. Those two words mean completely opposite things. Putting them together creates an oxymoron, That’s why William Lyin’ Craig thought it would make a clever book title. Faith is an unreasonable conviction which is assumed without reason and defended against all reason. That’s why faith is the most dishonest position it is possible to have. It really is!
Having reason means that you’re amenable to reason, and that you can be reasoned with, because your position is based on logic and evidence [reasons] instead of faith. With evidence, you neither require nor desire faith, and visa versa. In a reasonable perspective, the truth is what the facts are, and truth becomes paramount. Thus we do not have any a-priori assumed conclusion which we’re predetermined to defend; we are free to follow the evidence in whichever direction makes the most sense. It doesn’t matter what you believe; all that matters is why you believe it, and how accurate you can show your beliefs to be. Can you show there is any truth to it? Guess how I’ll answer that question.
2. From what I understand from willful believers, their perspective is wholly opposite of ours, because however confident they pretend to be matters more than whether they actually know what they’re talking about. That’s why they assert as fact that which is not evidently true, and that’s why attest the strength of their conviction without justification from any defensible data. They see actual factual truth as irrelevant. There need not be any measurable truth in anything they ever claim, and in fact there isn’t. No religion out there can show that their baseless assertions are correct at all, much less whether they are any more so than all the other religions.
Thus everything they say is completely empty to us. Unsupported assertions of impossible absurdities are indistinguishable from the illusions of delusion, and no one should believe anything that requires faith. Because faith requires that we believe without question, without reservation, without reason. That is irrational, foolish; that’s what a fool is. Your Bible got it wrong. Any assertion that requires faith should be rejected for that reason.
We of course have a prerequisite mandate that we cannot honestly state as fact that which is not actually factual. That means we have to be able to prove that it really is true by some sort of objective verification. We have to have multiple lines of evidence independently indicating only one conclusion over any other before we can say that anything is actually true. We can’t even say that something is probably true unless we already have the data indicating that probability. Otherwise we could only say that we believe X to be true, but we can’t say that we know it is. If you can’t show it, you don’t know it. If we can’t verify your claims to any degree at all, by any means whatsoever, then it is a fact that you cannot possibly know what you only think you know.
Having no reason to believe something is a good reason not to believe it. There is no way to be certain of anything if you cannot demonstrate or verify it objectively. If you can’t show that anything you say is certainly true, then it is meaningless. And in the case of Christian claims, it would still be meaningless even if it was true, but that’s a topic of deeper conversation than our subject is ready for.
We have to reject all the logical fallacies on which religious beliefs depend. We have adhere to the rules of science. So we can disprove a positive claim, and the Bible makes many claims that have been conclusively disproved, the flood, the tower of Babel, the Exodus, and so on …and on, and on. But we needn’t bother trying to prove a negative claim -like ‘there is no god’. In science, there is only what is supported by evidence and what is not supported. Whatever is not supported by evidence doesn’t yet warrant serious consideration. Come back when you have something of substance. These are some of the rules of logic to which we must adhere. For example:
“Positive claims require positive evidence;
extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.
“What can be asserted without evidence
can be dismissed without evidence.”
This is an example of the ‘minds’ who speak for science, for reason over faith. The person who’s video I am addressing said he was excited about the ‘minds’ that will be speaking at that upcoming conference; he said they were brilliant. But these showmen make the most extraordinary claims, unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, and consistently shift the burden of proof when they’re called out on that. Such people represent less ability to ‘dazzle with brilliance‘ than they do to ‘baffle with bullshit‘.
The person I’m writing to said these speakers have answers to important questions, specific ones which he listed in his video. I have answered those questions below, just for the sake of consideration / comparison.
Q: Why does God allow evil? A: Because God is evil.
The supposedly sacred fables in the Bible describe God as creating evil intentionally, of consorting with evil, being compelled by evil, and of gambling with the devil -with human suffering as the desired outcome. In fact, God is depicted as being almost entirely evil himself, throughout the entire cluster of repugnant horror stories. The Bible is NOT the ‘word of God’, nor could it be, since it is dead wrong about damned near everything back to front. It is an obviously internally conflicted compilation conceived by ignorant and bigoted savages attempting to justify slavery, genocide, sexism, racism, and other inhuman atrocities. Consequently the book itself is evil in that it endorses everything that evil is.
Q: Is there evidence for the resurrection? A: No.
There is strong inference that Jesus is at least a legendary character -if not entirely mythical, (and plagiarized from previous polytheism), yet he still failed to fulfill any of the Jewish prophesies of the coming Messiah. Then there are the notably epic events of his death, like the official attention from multiple heads of state, hours of global darkness, undead saints in downtown Judea; none of which was remembered or recorded by any historian of that time. Considering all that, and the fact that there was never any evidence that he ever even lived in the first place, then logically there can be no evidence of him having lived …again.
Q: Does God exist? A: No.
(a) God is defined by his miraculous nature, defying the laws of physics. Thus he is physically impossible by definition. (b) God is defined as existing outside our reality rather than within it, thus he does not exist in reality, again by definition. (c) God evidently does not exist, since there is no evidence to indicate any such thing, and (d) there is plenty of evidence to show that the whole idea was contrived out of earlier, equally erroneous theologies, and adapted by superstitious primitives.
Q: Is scripture reliable? A: No.
This is an especially important point, because this answer would still be no, regardless how one answers the preceding question. Even if some -or all- of the legends in that tome were actually true, the Bible still wouldn’t be reliable on its own without outside verification. Human journalism never has been nor will be. But even if God exists, and he wrote the book himself, (in which case it would be completely different) the authority of the author is not enough. It would still require outside verification from independent evidence, and that is just not the case.
Where you were born usually determines whatever religion you embrace. And the more men speculate, the more their religions divide into different sects, denominations, cults and so on, continuously dividing and contradicting each other, because it is the blind leading the blind. But if you give up whatever faith and pursue evidence instead, then it doesn’t matter what religion you came from, you’re going to find yourself zeroing in on the same one-and-only evident reality as everyone else in the global scientific community. That is the truth of nature and the nature of truth.
There, I saved you a trip. Now you don’t have to go to that oxymoronic conference where baffling bullshitters will tell you just what you want to hear, but who will never tell you the truth, nothing that any of them can honestly say they actually know, or that is even possible, much less rational, or otherwise logical, nor anything important to the ‘faith’ which can be proven to be true.