I’m Pretty Sure This Child is an Atheist…

I know we like to argue over whether or not babies and toddlers should be considered atheists and I know Richard Dawkins has spoken out against the religious labeling of children, but I think I’ve found a legitimate young atheist:

I feel the same way, little girl…

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE / “Hannity Hypocrisy for Redneck Tax Evader Cliven Bundy and his Benighted Bubbas” / Jon Stewart

A Great Essay: “The Environmental Movement Is Not About Saving the Earth”

I didn’t hear this when it first premiered in 2006, but Lauren Becker‘s audio essay on Earth Day (which is today in case you missed it) is just fantastic:

First of all, just listen to that phrase: Save the Earth. Who are we kidding? The Earth is an enormous mass of inorganic material eight thousand miles thick with just the thinnest margin of life clinging to its surface. It’s a giant rock. It’s been here for 5 billion years and it will be hereanother 5 billion years – whether we recycle those bottles or not. The Earth doesn’t need our saving. It doesn’t even know we exist. It’s a rock! Far from saving it, we could do everything in our power to try to destroy it and 10 million years later, it would still be here, a big rock orbiting a much bigger star – with no evidence that we ever existed.

No, the environmental movement isn’t about saving the Earth. It’s not about saving the whales, the trees, the baby seals, the coral reefs, the wild salmon, the spotted owl, or even the air and water. What we so desperately need to understand, what we must internalize until it is part of our very being, part of our every action and decision, is this: the environmental movement is about saving the humans. It’s about saving us – you, me, and our kids.

Great stuff, with an ending that really made me smile. You can read the full essay here.

(via Center For Inquiry. Image via Shutterstock)

Something from nothing?

Via The MessianicManicCan the Universe Pop into Existence? – YouTube.

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A Year After Being Sued for Posting Videos Showing Ergun Caner’s Lies, a Blogger is Vindicated in Court

For several years, Ergun Caner (below), a one-time leader of Liberty University’s theological seminary, told everyone about his tragic background and story of redemption. He said he had grown up in Turkey in a Muslim family, with a polygamist father, and he was trained to do “that which was done on 9/11.” But he later became a Christian and that saved his life!

In truth, he was born in Sweden and immigrated to Ohio when he was two. He was no terrorist-in-training. The crux of his life story was a fiction.

Blogger Jason Smathers has been documenting Caner’s lies for years now… to the point where Caner was removed from his position at Liberty when they were investigating his background.

The deception became even more apparent when Smathers posted videos he obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of Caner telling a United States Marine Corps group his (false) life story. Caner sued Smathers to suppress the videos and to quell the embarrassment.

It’s been nearly a year since that happened and there’s finally good news. A court ruled in Smathers’ favor yesterday:

Ergun Caner, president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., filed a lawsuit last summer claiming ownership of two videos that Smathers posted of Caner speaking as an expert on Islamic culture in training for U.S. Marines preparing to deploy in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Terry Means, however, said Caner failed to make a case and that Smathers used the material fairly, as copyright law permits, for “purposes such as criticism, comment, [or] news reporting.”

“His sole purpose was to expose the inconsistencies in Dr. Caner’s biography and criticize a public figure,” the judge determined. If the unauthorized reproduction of his lectures caused Caner any financial loss, he continued, it was the result of “legitimate criticism” of his words.

That’s a wonderful outcome since Caner’s only goal was to cover up his own lies. What Smathers did amounted to fair use of the videos in question and Caner’s damaged reputation is not one’s fault but his own.

You can see the videos in question here.

Kudos to Smathers (a Christian pastor himself) for his work on this issue. It would’ve been much easier to back down when Caner wanted the videos taken down, but Smathers stood his ground and was ultimately victorious.

Sal Cordova tries, and fails, to understand evolution

Sometimes you just want to throw up your hands and say something very rude. This is one of those times.

Salvador Cordova is trying to explain non-Darwinian evolution to his friends over on Uncommon Descent [Cost of maintenance and construction of design, neutral theory supports ID and/or creation].

Here's the punchline ....
But if most evolution is non-Darwinian, maintenance much less construction of design cannot be explained by Darwinism, then the case for ID is strengthened.

Now if most evolution had been non-Darwinian, one would rightly argue it would have been a random walk, and thus not much better than a tornado going trough a junkyard. Creationist have seized on this and said, "well we’re not a junkyards, therefore some non-random process must have created designs in nature, hence we are designed". In contrast, Larry Moran and friends have said "evolution is a random walk and we are obviously junkyards and you’re an IDiot if you think biological organisms are mostly functional."
It's very, very, difficult for me to believe that Cordova isn't lying through his teeth. He can't be that stupid, can he?

New Poll Shows the Effect of Religious Ignorance on Scientific Issues

According to a new survey by GfK Public Affairs for the Associated Press, we’re dumb. Really, really dumb.

While most Americans understand that smoking causes cancer and that a mental illness affects the brain (real stumper, that one), only 53% are confident about childhood vaccines being safe and effective, 31% confidently accept evolution, and even fewer are confident about the age of the Earth and origin of the universe.

There’s actually a striking contradiction on the list. While only 31% of adults accept human evolution, 65% of them accept microevolution (though not in name) in the sense that overusing antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. But what is human evolution but a long series of microevolutions?

That suggests that people are willing to understand and accept the idea of natural selection, but they’re often wrongly told we’re so special that it doesn’t apply to us. That’s the result of indoctrination, pure and simple. (It’s hardly surprising that the items on the list ranked lowest in confidence are ones where ignorance is spread by many religious leaders.)

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

William Saletan at Slate sees a positive side to this:

From the standpoint of scientific literacy, it would be better if people didn’t believe in fairy tales. But from the standpoint of public health and a well-functioning society, we just need them to lay off the antibiotics.

I’m pretty sure Saletan and I are of the same mind on these issues, but I don’t share his optimism. If so many people can have doubts about the age of the Earth or global warming — likely because religious/right-wing figureheads convince them that certain scientific truths are really part of some godless conspiracy — then the fact that they may be more likely to support, say, childhood vaccines is just hanging by a thread.

What happens when evangelical pastors decide that vaccines or genetic testing are somehow anti-biblical and the next big threats to society? How many believers will change their minds on those issues? If they’re willing to suspend all critical thinking on something as scientifically solid as the origin of the universe, what’s stopping them from falling prey to other faith-based rumors?

This survey only displays symptoms of a much larger problem: Ignorance is in play everywhere, but nowhere is it embraced like it is in some religious communities.

Back to biblical basics at Bryan College

ALL IS not well at Bryan College in Tennessee. Seems as if academic staff and students are straying off the biblical straight and narrow and are entertaining dangeous ideas which are causing diehard creations like Ken Ham to have fits of the vapours.

According to this report, over the years, more diverse views on Genesis 1 and 2 have crept in. Some professors, staff and students didn’t just identify as young-Earth creationists. Their views became more nuanced. They called themselves progressive evolutionists and theistic evolutionists and old-Earth creationists; horror of horrors, they tried finding ways to reconcile faith and science.

Overall, conservative Christians in the US, some experts say, are increasingly finding ways to come to terms with evolution’s possible role in the creation story. Sixty percent of Americans believe in some form of evolution, whether it was divinely inspired or not, according to the Pew Research Center.

So the college decided to nip this diabolical, deviant tend in the bud by issuing a “clarification” to its current Statement of Belief which reads:

That the origin of man was by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the Book of Genesis; that he was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred physical and spiritual death.

The clarification now says:

We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.


The board of trustees is requiring professors and staff to sign up to this clarification, announced by college President Stephen Livesay in a statement earlier this year. If they don’t sign, they fear that jobs could be on the line.

Stephen Livesey

Stephen Livesay

In the statement, Livesay rejected the idea that the change would alter the quality of academics.

This clarification will not hinder the rigorous teaching and discussions that are and will continue to be a hallmark of a Bryan education. We want current and future generations of Bryan students and faculty to experience a robust learning environment enjoyed by the generations before them.

In a recent debate, Livesay declared:

Scripture always rises above anything else. Scripture rises above science. … Science at some point will catch up with the scripture.

Nearly 300 of the school’s 800 students signed a petition within a few days asking the trustees to reconsider the change. Joseph Murphy, in a Student Government Association letter to the administration, said the decision was made without faculty input and that the president and trustees were threatening academic freedom. He called the move unjust, uncharitable and unscriptural.

We believe that this sets a precedent of fear and distrust in our community. We believe that this will discourage potential faculty and staff from serving at Bryan and potential students from coming here.

But Kevin Clauson wrote a letter to the student newspaper, the Triangle, urging students not to sign the petition. He said the wider culture is waging a battle for the “heart and soul” of evangelical higher education.

If an Evangelical Christian college wants to remain such, it must of necessity limit ‘academic freedom’ to some extent. This is more or less done through doctrinal statements that must be subscribed to. If the attitude was ‘believe whatever you wish–anything’, then there would be no way to guard the institution against error or even heresy.

Spinal tap

The NHS plan to stick all our data (“anonymised” for sensitive data in a way that will send you to a dictionary to see if you got the word “anonymised” mixed up with another word like “publicised”) has been temporaily shelved – until people forget that it’s an ongoing scandal. Or it gets overtaken by the new shock-horror of selling off our tax data…. from the BBC.

The HMRC plan is currently undergoing a transparent consultation process, so getting detail from the web is hard. However, even trying to find out about the NHS plans is illuminating enough. They’ve sort of embuggerated their website explanations so it’s close to impossible to work out what is currently included in what pile of NOTpersonal data. But the site Connecting for Health has information – which is apparently no longer relevant but which redirects me to a site where I can’t find any real information at all. (HSCIC)

Information held on the Patient Demographic Service

The PDS only contains demographic details about a patient. No clinical or sensitive information is held on itPDS fields. Here are a few of the fields involved and what each is for:

    PDS field Description of data

NHS Number The unique patient identifier.
Patient name Including any previous names, aliases and preferred name, e.g. Chris rather than Christopher.
Date of birth
Includes main, temporary and correspondence addresses.
The patient’s legal guardian, proxy, family/close contact.
Telecommunication contact details Contact details such as telephone number, fax number and email address.

NHS Care Record consent to share status Indicates that the patient has agreed to share their health record. (Oh, the irony)

I assume that HMRC also have a master index file like this.

General good advice: Never blame on a conspiracy what can be safely attributed to human stupidity.

I shall heed this advice and assume that the people who think it’s a good idea to do this are just ignorant. Can we all club together and send them on a comprehensive course on 21st century data mining? This was David Davis (aka, “the only good Tory, despite his excremental views on many other topics”) reported in the Guardian:

The Tory MP David Davis, a former minister and shadow home secretary, described the proposal as “borderline insane”, adding: “The Treasury lists no credible benefits and offers a justification based on an international agreement that does not lead other governments to open up their tax database,” he said. “The officials who drew this up clearly have no idea of the risks to data in an electronic age. Our forefathers put these checks and balances in place when the information was kept in cardboard files, and data was therefore difficult to appropriate and misuse.

“It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously.”

Faith-Healing Parents Who Let Their Daughter Die Don’t Want Jurors To Know About Their Religious Motive

Travis and Wenona Rossiter, an Oregon couple, are among a special type of shitty parents: those who let their kids die of a treatable disease, rather than take them to a doctor.

The Rossiters belong to the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist outfit that holds that prayer is the way to making sick people better.

Does it work? Like hell it does. Their daughter Syble died of complications from diabetes a little over a year ago. She was 12. Prosecutors say the girl would likely be alive today if it wasn’t for the parents’ wishes to deliver her to the care of Jesus, rather than the care of a trained medical team.

Now the Rossiters, accused of manslaughter, claim that it would be “prejudicial” for the jury to learn of the religious beliefs that killed their daughter.

Defense attorneys for Travis and Wenona Rossiter, an Albany couple accused of manslaughter for the death of their 12-year-old daughter in February 2013, are seeking to exclude evidence of religious beliefs or practices during their trial. …

Mark Heslinga, defense attorney for Wenona Rossiter, said evidence of religious beliefs would be prejudicial.

My client is requesting he be tried for the actions of that day, not for his religious beliefs,” said Tim Felling, Travis Rossiter’s attorney.

Judge Daniel Murphy may well be sympathetic to that argument. He has already ruled that the jury is to be kept unaware of the death of Wenona Rossiter’s brother, Anthony.

Anthony Hays, 7, died of leukemia in 1994, after his parents failed to provide medical care for him. In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted his father, Loyd Hays of Brownsville, on charges of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to five years’ probation. …

Murphy said the two children died of completely separate causes, so he didn’t see the relevance.

Well, Judge, the relevance would be that in this family, there is a pattern of criminal religious misconduct that is demonstrably claiming children’s lives. The Rossiters have two other children. Are you saying, Judge, that you’re prepared to let those kids get Schaibled?

Wenona Rossiter was a child herself when her parents let her brother die. She obviously bears no culpability in his murder. But if I were a juror, I’d like to know that she learned so little from the event that she blindly — and fatally –  repeated it when it came time to take care of her own sick child. Her history, Judge, would tell the jury that there is a high likelihood of Ms. Rossiter letting her other children die if they get dangerously sick. And I’d rather, you know, keep her away from them if that’s the case. Preferably behind bars.

It gets worse.

Murphy also ruled against allowing evidence of prior bad acts regarding a lack of medical care for Syble Rossiter. “It doesn’t prove they acted recklessly in this case,” he said.

Objection, Your Honor. The same one as before. Knowing there’s been a pattern of neglect would help assess both Ms. Rossiter’s guilt in the matter and the probability of her endangering her other children in the future.

If justice is to be served, the jury — along with the public — has a right to know.

I’m going to Seattle!

It’s a good deal — I’m going to spend a few days with my family, and then on Thursday, 5 June, at 7:30pm, I’ll be at Town Hall to talk about An Atheist’s Insight. I’m planning on specifically addressing the conflict between science and religion, and then opening it up to a nice thorough Q&A — you’ll be able to grill me. Lots of fun!

One catch: they’re charging admission. You’ll have to cough up a whole $5 to have the privilege of pestering me.

Oh, also, the big reason for doing this: The Happy Atheist is coming out in paperback. There will be a book signing. Or if you’d prefer, a book burning (it’ll sell copies, so that’s fine with me). I’ll also be in town most of that week, so if we want to do an informal get-together, we might be able to arrange that, too.

A whole year

Yes, we realise that a whole year has passed since the last blog post, but we are busy heathens here at WhyDontYou Towers. Sorry we have neglected this site and we do make a pinkie promise that we will try to update it a bit more regularly in the future. And yes, we do know we’ve made this promise before….

Because Stone Cold said so …

Check out this "Stone Cold" Steve Austin quote from his most recent podcast providing his thoughts on churches and gay marriage:

Which one of these mother fuckers talked to God, and God said that same sex marriage was a no can do? Can you verify? Can you give me some 411 on that background?

… I’ve got some damn good friends that are gay. I’m absolutely for same sex marriage. I don’t think that there is a god that says you cannot do this, you cannot do that. If two cats can’t get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison and then accept God. He’s going to let him into heaven. After the fact that he did all that shit?!? See, that’s all horse shit to me. That don’t jive with me.

Can someone give Stone Cold a “hell yeah!”

Listen to his podcast here.

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Louisiana Republican Pulls His Own Bill to Make the King James Bible the State Book

Last month, Louisiana state Rep. Thomas Carmody (below) proposed legislation to make the King James Bible the state book.

It was a controversial proposal, even in committee hearings, but not for the obvious reasons.

Rep. Stephen Ortego opposed the bill… because he felt the KJV wasn’t inclusive enough of all Christians. Because, let’s face it, no one else really matters.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff thought it would make far more sense to adopt “all books of faith” as the official state books of Louisiana. She never elaborated on how a decision would be made on which books would be included on that list… so maybe The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had a chance?

Carmody didn’t accept either of those amendments… but it wasn’t until last night that he finally pulled his own bill:

Rep. Thomas Carmody… scrapped his proposal to make the Holy Bible the official state book before it could go to a full vote of the state House of Representatives Monday evening. The bill had become a distraction, he said.

Damn right it had. It was unnecessary, divisive, and completely contrary to the point of state books that derive from a shared culture or elevate native-born authors. Carmody created the distraction and it’s about time that he cleaned up his own mess.

That means Alabama is still the only state with the Bible as its state book. That’s already one state too many.

(Thanks to Scott for the link)

Chimpanzees Are Extremely Picky About Where They Sleep

The primates painstakingly rebuild their nest from scratch every night—a pre-bed ritual reminiscent of the "Princess and the Pea".


Read more of the article here.

Gluten-free skin and beauty products: Extracting cash from the gullible

Even though yesterday was Easter, and, as unreligious as I am, I was still thinking of taking it easy, there was one target that popped up that I just couldn’t resist. My wife and I were sitting around yesterday reading the Sunday papers and perusing the Internet (as is frequently our wont on Sunday mornings), when I heard a contemptuous harrumph coming from her direction. She then pointed me to an article in our local newspaper entitled Gluten-free beauty products in demand among some customers.

Read more of the article here.