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General

When You Build an Anti-reality Culture…

…this is what you get:

Hundreds attend faith healing schools linked to fundamentalist Bethal Church

Hillsong Church offshoot offers supernatural course that can ‘cure cancer’

A refusal to engage properly with science around origins means that the churches end up getting actively into the business of bashing science and empiricial evidence. And then, when there’s such a rich resource of people who have been well trained in actively rejecting reality, why not make some money?

Categories
Climate

Ross Gittins reminds us of the bleedin’ obvious (we need the reminder)

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/climate-inertia-shows-ugly-side-of-the-australian-character-20110524-1f2dj.html

Categories
Religion Science Stuff

Praying for the sick simply does not work

I probably shouldn’t have to make the disclaimer after all this time, but it seems I do: I’m not attacking religion, Christianity or God. I’m challenging our (necessarily, inevitably) limited understanding of those things.

Here’s a big analysis of the research evidence: http://www.springerlink.com/content/ql345l2h434666l5/

It’s pretty conclusive: praying for the sick to be healed simply does not work.

Where it gets interesting is what we do with that. Rather than perhaps thinking again about what prayer means and what it is for, the most typical responses are to either try to impeach the science in some way as a godless plot or else to mutter about the inscrutable will of God.

His will must indeed be inscrutable if it turns out that praying for someone yields *exactly* the same medical outcomes as not praying for them… and if most Christians’ current understanding of the power of prayer is correct.

It’s not simple, and it’s not meant to be simple: but just pretending reality is not as it is doesn’t cut it any more.

Categories
General

Just WoW

It’s William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson’s world, we just live in it: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/chinese-labour-prisoners-world-of-warcraft-jixi-re-education-camp-scam/story-fn7cejkh-1226063275491

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General

Any chance we can finally put the discredited ‘supply side’ myth to bed?

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Pretending that cutting taxes to the wealthiest will stimulate the economy and ‘trickle down’ on the rest of us (yeah, it’s about as charming as it sounds) is the epitome of insanity.

http://www.salon.com/news/debt_ceiling/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2011/05/25/gop_debt_lie

Categories
General

Offensive

Just something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I know it’s potentially a bit contentious and not simple. But I think it’s worth talking about.

We were chatting on Facebook about being a little careful what we post where to avoid offending (more religious, in this instance) family members or friends, and I wrote:

…if I choose not to post something that I know will upset someone, out of respect for them, that’s one thing. If they attack me and play the ‘offended’ card as a way of controlling me, based on values of theirs that I don’t share, that’s quite a different thing.

I don’t know, maybe it puts me in the same paddock with the old right-wingers and their mutterings about ‘political correctness’ and loud defense of their right to be as racist, sexist and so on as they wish, and that’s company in which I’m not very comfortable.

But if we allow people’s taking offense at what we say to control us, we place ourselves within their power to manipulate our words and actions, and that’s dangerous.

I think that, like most issues, it’s a two-edged sword: we need to take responsibility for our words and not give offense purely for the sake of giving offense, but on the other hand sometimes the things that it’s necessary to say will give offense to someone.

It comes down to being thoughtful, in both senses: considerate and reflective.

But it’s also a choice on the part of the person who reads or hears what we say, whether they will choose to take offense (and loudly proclaim so) or whether they will listen and consider whether maybe we have a point.

Categories
General

Alternative Government? Pffft

The Coalition respond to the Climate Commission report by milling around contradicting each other and talking lies and nonsense: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/coalition-at-odds-on-climate-change-report-20110523-1f0qn.html

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General

The Amen Break

Very cool 20 min YouTube video starts off by exploring the ubiquity of a particular drum riff and expands from there into a meditation on ownership, information, meaning and culture.

Categories
General

Of Keytars and Keelhaulin’

We enjoyed the Alestorm show heaps last time: http://www.bravus.com.au/blog/?p=1890 So when a friend texted Cassie after her (victorious, again) netball game last night to ask if we were going this time, we suddenly realised we’d forgotten it was on, and started rushing to try to get there on time (with a brief spell of deep depression in between when we thought it had sold out).

Got there toward 9, and the first band, Scuurvy, had a couple of songs to go. They were fun and rollicking, and had taken the pirate theme as far as dressing up too (something Alestorm don’t do). Lots of big singalong choruses – the music is pretty simple, but effective, and just plain fun.

Second support, Voyager (from Perth), were a revelation. Something I haven’t really heard before (which I always like), they were something like a metal Icehouse or Gary Numan. Some sequenced touches and a great singer, with some excellent growling, screaming and singing thrown in from the bass player, it’s hard to describe but deeply impressive. Here’s a video to give you some idea:

Plenty of huge riffing, and some serious shredding from the lead guitarist, Simone. One similarity with Alestorm was that the lead singer, Daniel, rocks a keytar live. Will definitely be checking these guys out further.

And, about Alestorm, what more can be said? If these guys don’t make you smile, may as well walk the plank – you’re already fatally becalmed. (All right, I’ll stop.) Just a hugely enjoyable night out – and some virtuouso shredding in the midst of the clowning.

Categories
General

Another Good Education Article

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/the-cookie-cutter-approach-to-education-doesnt-make-us-happy-20110504-1e7vl.html

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General

Guest Blog?

Fair bit of discussion here in the past few days (which is great!) about the Old Testament massacres and their morality – and the reflection on God’s morality.

I’d be delighted if one or more of the Christians who have posted – Paul, Mark, Ray, others – would be willing to write a guest post on this issue. Drop me an email if you’re keen and I can set you up to post.

Give me the meat: how do you *really* deal with this? Don’t give me platitudes or easy answers. Re-read the relevant passages where the babies’ heads are smashed against walls and imagine it happening to your babies. Women and children hacked down in cold blood. Virgins kept alive to be ‘married’ to the men who did that to their families.

As I’ve been saying, I can’t find an accommodation that lets me live with that and continue to believe in God. Well, I can, but it’s that the Old Testament is wrong and those were human actions, ascribed to God, not God’s will.

You’ve apparently found a way to believe that God wanted that stuff and that’s OK, and I want to understand.

It’s not a setup to shoot you down, it’s an invitation to a dialogue in which someone other than me provides the initial stimulus.

Categories
General

Job description for a god

Something I wrote in a Facebook discussion the other day and thought I’d share here:

As to the grounds for accepting the existence of a deity, I think for me there are a couple of elements:

  1. It must not outrage common sense: the qualities of the deity must be such that it doesn’t require suspension of logic and critical thinking to believe
  2. It must not outrage morality: any god that fails to live up to even human standards of decent behaviour cannot be superhuman

Those two already probably rule out all of the actual deities people believe in, and they’re just the negative criteria!

  1. Belief must enhance life, in terms of both joy and goodness. If believing in a god makes my life worse, it’s not worth it, if it makes other people’s lives worse it falls foul of Element 2 above.

Within all of this, the belief that (a) there is no deity that meets all these criteria or (b) there is no deity at all is a respected option… it’s something that can be shared with others, but believing in the existence of a deity as described above does no harm… and therefore is not worth fighting against, IMO.

Some would argue that it also does no good, but Element 3 takes care of that – if it does no good, discard it. ‘Good’ in this instance is not defined in terms of finding parking spots – or even curing cancer – since that kind of good contravenes Element 1.

A friend later pointed at that much of science is counter-intuitive so ‘common sense’ is not always a good test. It’s a good point, so perhaps something like ‘critical reason and evidence’ is a better way of saying it, but with the strong caveat that ‘evidence’ is not reduced to ’empirical evidence’.

Categories
General

I usually find Superman the dullest of the superheroes

But that might be about to change: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/superman-renounces-his-us-citizenship-20110504-1e780.html

Categories
General

Excellent article on teacher pay and conditions

… via Glenn Weare: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01eggers.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Categories
General

PZ has a point

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/wait_i_thought_they_believed_i.php