left biblioblography: January 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Drive To End Blasphemy Laws

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
jesusandmoblasphemydayOne by one the instruments of torture have been wrenched from the cruel clutch of the church, until within the armory of orthodoxy there remains but one weapon -- Slander. – Robert Ingersoll, A Vindication of Thomas Paine

I was unaware there was a world-wide drive to end blasphemy laws.

This then, is the last bastion of the religious, that they cry “foul!” and demand a respect unearned, unable at last to force their religion down our throats at the point of gun or sword, losing the battle and the war, reduced to the cringing cowardice that is the delusional mindset.

There will be a day when these anachronisms cease to plague us – but no joke, it’s going to take the long road and much work, and our generation may not see the end to it. However putting an end to international blasphemy laws, that is pulling a LOT of venomous fangs that shouldn’t exist anyways.

So let’s keep fighting the good fight: it’s a wearying war of attrition to be sure, but our children and their children deserve to be free of this nonsense.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

More On The Madness Of Muslims: The Butchers Of Boko Haram

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

Boko-HaramWe are now in the 21st century: all books, including the Koran, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal. - Sam Harris

Those mad dogs are at it again:

Boko Haram emerges as brutal Islamic State of Africa

(RNS) Boko Haram, with its chilling brutality, radical Islamic ideology and unstoppable seizure of Nigerian territory is quickly emerging as the Islamic State of Africa.

While much of the world has focused on the terror attacks in Paris and the Islamic militants’ capture of swaths of Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram has gone on a bloody rampage through northeastern Nigeria.

Human rights groups have sounded alarms about the al-Qaeda-linked organization’s recent brutality: the slaughter of up to 2,000 people in the Nigerian towns of Baga and Doron Baga on Jan. 3 and the subsequent strapping of explosives on girls as young as 10 to detonate in public places. The unchecked rampage is affecting the looming presidential elections now weeks away and propelling a 72-year-old iron-fisted general, Muhammadu Buhari, back into the race.

Boko Haram first gained international notoriety for its savagery in April 2014, when it abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok and threatened to sell them as wives and sex slaves. The “bring back our girls” movement began with Nigerian village women demanding government action and grew into a worldwide rallying cry, with participants that included first lady Michelle Obama. Some of the girls later escaped but the fate of remaining captives is unknown.

In addition to its ruthless tactics, Boko Haram, echoes the Islamic State in its aspiration to create a “caliphate” across national borders by crossing into neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. On Jan. 12, its fighters seized the Cameroonian border town of Kolofata. Cameroon’s government said its forces killed 143 militants.

And like Iraq’s military setbacks against the Islamic State, Nigerian government troops seem weak and incapable of stopping Boko Haram from becoming a growing danger to Africa’s most populous country and the world’s 10th largest oil exporter.

“The United States needs to recognize we have a problem that’s second only to the problem we have with ISIS (Islamic State),” said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “We have a group holding territory and shooting down jet fighters. … If Nigeria collapses — it is the strong state in the region — there are no strong states to contain what would happen if Boko Haram succeeds in carving out an Islamic state in that area.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the Africa subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says Boko Haram is “as close to a carbon copy (of the Islamic State) as can be,” and the U.S. response to combat the two groups has also been similarly slow.

What’s needed, now, Smith said, is for President Obama to call Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and insist on the need for the U.S. military to train Nigerian troops to stop the movement.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told CNN  that the U.S. is “actively working with the Nigerians,” but added that “they need to step up,” move forward with elections slated for Feb. 14, and not let terrorists “use elections as a wedge between the government and its people.”

A week after the massacre occurred in Baga, groups that included Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported it. On Jan. 3, the town was razed and its inhabitants killed as they hid in the surrounding scrubland. More than 3,700 structures were damaged or destroyed, according to satellite imagery before and after the attack, according to Amnesty International.

A week later, Boko Haram strapped explosives to three girls about 10 years old and detonated them in a market in Maiduguri and in a mobile phone store in Potiskum, killing about 22 people in total, the groups reported.

President Jonathan, who previously sent 20,000 troops armed with tanks and aircraft to the country’s northeast, has said little about the Baga attack. One of his aides, Doyin Okupe, questioned the reported death toll.

Gbara Awanen, the head political minister at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, told USA Today only the ambassador is authorized to speak to the media. And Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye was traveling and unavailable, Awanen said.

Boko Haram, who’s name means “Western education is forbidden,” seeks to replace the Nigerian state with its own radical interpretation of Islam and now controls up to 20 percent of Nigerian territory.

Nigeria’s government has yet to accept large-scale international assistance to deal with the problem, said John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to the country.

The parallel to the Islamic State is limited by the fact that Boko Haram has not expressed a desire to become a global caliphate, Campbell noted.

Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations at the rights group Amnesty International USA, said Boko Haram also lacks the governing skills demonstrated by the Islamic State in some of the territory it holds, although residents under its domination in parts of Iraq and Syria have complained about poor services and disorganized government.

Despite the international clamor over the kidnapped girls, the Nigerian government has had no success rescuing the 219 still missing, and local media have exposed weaknesses in the nation’s military that include soldiers refusing to fight and mutinies.

On Jan. 3, Nigeria canceled a U.S. counterinsurgency training mission, according to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.

Nigeria has generally rejected offers of assistance from Britain and the United States “because of the conditions that come with such assistance,” said Akwei.

U.S. law prohibits U.S. military assistance to countries that commit human rights abuses. The Nigerian military’s operations against Boko Haram have resulted in multiple allegations of illegal killings and detentions of suspected Boko Haram members reported by rights groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, according to the State Department. Nigerian officials have rejected those claims as “fabrications,” Akwei said.

National pride also seems to be a factor, he said.

“The Nigerians have always felt themselves more capable and big enough and strong enough to take care of their own crises,” Akwei said.

Yet the country still has no cohesive military strategy to turn the tide and protect the population, he said. “It’s not the way a state functions if it hopes to survive, unless it’s unaware of the gravity of the threat.”

A bunch of rabid, xenophobic extremists? Who strap bombs to little girls? Sell children into slavery? Slaughter and raze entire villages? Someone needs to track these monsters down, and put a bullet in each one of their heads. And don’t give me that liberal crap about ‘all life being sacred’ – that only works if both sides agree to it.

An old saying goes something like this: “Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them.” In this case, this particular band of savages are trying to build a glass caliphate by throwing stones.

Till the next post then.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Witless Witch Doctors Wiping Out The Wrong White Folk…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
bushscienceWell, it seems like a step in the right direction….

Tanzania bans witch doctors after scores of albino people are killed in ritual slaughter

The government of Tanzania has banned witch doctors due to ritual killings of albino people for their body parts.

The witch doctors reportedly fueled the killings by inducing local people to believe “magic potions” made from body parts brought good luck and wealth.

Some religious leaders have welcomed the move but warned that a blanket ban could affect access to traditional medicine offered by healers and herbalists.

Now the leaders are calling for a new approach, even as the government clarifies it was targeting cheats.

“I don’t think the ban will end the problem,” said the Rev. Leonard Mtaita, a retired general secretary of the Christian Council in Tanzania. “A lot of people, including senior politicians, visit these witch doctors. I think the best approach would be to educate the communities about these issues.”

Tanzanian Roman Catholic scholar Pius Rutechura said that although the move was welcomed, it needed to be accompanied by a series of other actions.
“We need to research and understand why witch doctors prefer albino body parts and why people believe them,” said Rutechura, vice chancellor at the Catholic University of East Africa in Kenya.

In the last three years, more than 70 albino people have been slain. In the latest incident, on Dec. 27, an armed gang led by a witch doctor kidnapped a 4-year-old girl in the northern Mwanza district

Last year, the United Nations warned of increased attacks on albinos in Tanzania because of the upcoming 2015 general elections, when political campaigners visit influential witch doctors to seek help in winning the election.

Yeah, we have witch doctors in America too – we just call them Christian  Fundamentalists. And if we didn’t have a set of laws preventing it, those asshats would be murdering people for a variety of anachronistic nonsense as well. As for educating people…well, the best education will always be a secular one, not a religious one.

The only true supernatural horrors, are those perpetrated by belief in the supernatural. It is still horrifying – that anyone in the the 21st century would be hunted down and mangled in such a way…it’s stomach-wrenching. And for a bunch of superstitious bullshit to boot. And to compound this tragedy, it’s an election year, and witch doctors actually have political clout. Witch doctors. Man, someone needs to really re-think this fucked up government, like maybe bulldoze and start over.

It is to weep.

Till the next post then.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

More On The Madness Of Muslims: Serious Censorship

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

islam-religion-of-peace-cartoonTo speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we're deluding ourselves with euphemisms. We're talking about Islam being a religion of peace that's been hijacked by extremists. If ever there were a religion that's not a religion of peace, it is Islam. – Sam Harris

More death, pain, and madness at the hands of Islamic extremists – at this juncture, these sort of events are now to be expected at the hands of the proponents of their ‘peaceful religion’.

Charlie Hebdo hunt: Bloody end to sieges

Two sieges in France have been brought to a bloody end, with three gunmen and four hostages killed.

Two brothers who killed 12 in an attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine on Wednesday were shot dead as they fled a warehouse north of Paris, firing at police.

Shortly afterwards in eastern Paris, anti-terrorist forces stormed a kosher supermarket where hostages were being held by a gunman with reported links to the brothers.

The gunman and four hostages died.

French police believe the captives were killed before the assault on the Hypercasher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters late on Friday.

Four hostages were seriously injured and 15 were rescued unhurt. Two police officers were injured.

The operation was launched after the end of the siege in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) north of Paris.

The two brothers there, Cherif and Said Kouachi, came out of the building firing at police and were killed. Two police officers were injured.

One hostage there had earlier been released and a second employee, who was hiding in the building's cafeteria, was freed by police after the shooting ended.

Obama: "The US stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow"

French President Francois Hollande described the events as "a tragedy for the nation".

In a televised address, he thanked the security forces for their "bravery [and] efficiency", but added that France still faced threats. "We have to be vigilant. I also ask you to be united - it's our best weapon," he said.

"We must be implacable towards racism," he added, saying that the supermarket attack was an "appalling anti-Semitic act".

"Those who committed these acts, these fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim faith."

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there had been a "clear failing" in French intelligence.

"If 17 people die, this means mistakes have been made," he said, including those killed in attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in the toll.

Sorry president Hollande, but the religion itself is composed mostly of fanatics. He should probably get up to speed finding out about all the human rights violations in Pakistan, extremist armpit of the world. Or that puckered starfish, the KSA.

A dozen people slaughtered. Over a cartoon. Un.fucking.believable. More mentally deficient mad dogs that need putting down.

This is the line where religion departs from all reason: where a belief, no matter how ridiculous, is more precious than a human life. Whether in the taking of one or fucking one up, these illusions are becoming increasingly difficult to rationalize (or they should be) even for the more moderate among the religious.

Till the next post then.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Life On Earth–Exactly What Are The REAL Odds?

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

petardedLook round this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organised, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children!

Philo to Cleanthes, Part XI – David Hume

This whole non-debate is so ubiquitous, that I picked it from Facebook of all places. Apparently the Wall Street Journal is having slow news days, and/or completely lacking in journalistic integrity. Doesn’t anyone fact-check anymore? I know Fox News sure as fuck doesn’t, and the Republicans consistently say enough stupid shit to lump them into that mess. I’m guessing that the WSJ can be tossed into that indigestible stew.

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

There is just so much wrong with this nonsense. Let’s take a look at the ‘against all odds’ scenario.

Have you ever placed a bet in a casino? Sure you have. And the dealer, whether it be blackjack, roulette, or poker, can give you odds. Why can they give you odds? Here’s the secret: these games have been played trillions of times, catalogued, sorted, and the odds are laid out based on actual physical parameters. Poker has been played often enough, that (factoring in the amount of cards, amount of players, etc.) the odds can be placed at a near exact percentile. Do you see where I’m going with this? All of the parameters for card games are known – they’ve been known for centuries – based on easily replicated known factors.

A person can only measure odds when certain facts are present. How often does a full house appear, as opposed to say, a couple of pairs, or a straight flush. Even flipping a coin implies that there is an either/or choice.

The creationists have no cards. They have nothing to compare this planet against, except the other planets in our solar system. Is that enough? Sadly, no. Our species would have to collate a lot more worlds, catalogue them, and have some indication of life. They also need (for the teleological argument) an undesigned universe. At least one. Or provide some sample of undesigned fauna/flora. It’s simple sense, almost Taoist in approach: you have to know both opposites before choosing between the two.

As for scientists discovering ET life – folks, we have to get into space before we do this. Seriously. We haven’t had any manned flights beyond the moon. ET life could be existing at the bottom of a methane ocean, or deeply dug in under the surface. There’s only so much a telescope can tell anyone.

As for Fred Hoyle – I am sick of these jokers trotting this guy out. He was a panspermist, for Pete’s sake, and I get riled when someone cites that stupid shit about ‘the odds of a tornado going through a junkyard…” Talk about broken analogies.

So Sagan was off – how long ago was that? Science is in no way comparable to religion. Because scientists (the good ones) amend the facts when evidence rises. Apologists like to cite these things because they assume it’s all written in stone, when in fact there are rules of thumb in place. Even the Drake Equation is subject to permutation.

Sure, the teleological argument is tough for narcissists, it caters to the introversive (our species actually has enough of those people, that we can actually place bets! Yay!), but the fact remains: there is no divine babysitter keeping tabs and settling scores for us. Religion is our species’ attempt to superimpose our shadow on the universe.

But that metaphorical shadow will never eclipse reality, regardless of how often it is shouted to the skies.

The WSJ did print this response – pretty cool.

Till the next post, then.