Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pat Tillman Was An Atheist?

So, after watching Bill Maher interview Richard Tillman (Pat Tillman's brother), I learned something that I didn't know: Pat Tillman was an atheist.

That's a surprise, right? That sure wasn't in the news when he died. If he was an active member of a church, I bet that would have been in the papers.

Well, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so we'll just assume that's all bullshit and say the family was private. That sounds good. You know what else sounds good? This next little quote. It made my day and brought up an interesting issue.

Pat's funeral was attended by Maria Shriver and Senator John McDouche . . . I mean McCain. As shown in the documentary The Tillman Story, Maria at one point said "Pat, you are home. You are safe." McCain then added to this and said "You will see Pat again when a loving god reunites us all with our loved ones."

This is followed by the most insane, but somewhat interesting quote at a funeral I've heard in a long time. Richard then went up to give a short eulogy and said this:

"Thank you for coming. Pat's a fucking champion and he always will be. Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this. He's not with God. He's fucking dead. He's not religious so, thanks for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead."

I heard that and was like "DAMN"! What he said later in the interview was also kind of like "DAMN!" He explained this to Maher:

"I don't into a church and say 'this is bullshit, so don't come to my brother's service and tell me he's with God.'"

Now, I think that in general his statement was a little out of place for a funeral, but it makes sense. He is obviously upset about his brothers death and so I think that got the best of him, but I wouldn't want that kind of stuff at my funeral either. I'm not religious, so I wouldn't want people telling me or my friends and family that I'm with god. I'd want them to know that I'm dead. For someone to say something like that might be offensive. Like he said, you wouldn't go into a church and say their beliefs are bullshit, so why go to the funeral of a non-religious person and say that they're with god?

Anyways, just a thought.

Atheists and Jews Top Religious Knowledge Survey

So, a study by the Pew Forum concluded that atheists and agnostics knew more about religion than any other similar demographic (Jewish people came in second). Who'd have thunk!

So, results of the study showed that atheists/agnostics were more knowledgeable about a wider range of religious beliefs, they knew more about individual parts of the Bible, and correctly answered an average of 20.9 out of 32 questions.

The results did not surprise me. The way I see it, the more you know about religion, the less you want to be religious, haha. The more and more you look at what it is people believe, you can begin to understand how truly ridiculous it is.

I think that a lot of people become atheists for this reason, and when I say atheist I'm talking about someone who describes themselves as a New Atheist, and not the strict atheist definition. They look at all of the claims made by many religions and begin to see patterns. They see that these religions all make claims about the universe that cannot possibly be substantiated and that they are really irrational.

It seems a lot of atheist organizations are also not surprised by the results, much like I am. If you want more information on links between religiosity and intelligence (a little unrelated, but still interesting), check out the studies cited in the Wikipedia entry here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Liberty of a Sex Offender

Just the word "sex offender" conjures up images of a creepy guy with a beard, mustache, and thick rimmed glasses drooling over a little girl. While this is an extreme exaggeration, this is the stereotype that is most often depicted, so its no wonder that in the last half century the country has gone crazy over sex offenders.

In 1947, California became the first state to require sex offenders to list themselves on a registry. Since then, all 50 states have followed suit and created sex offender registries. Using these registries, the government can track the activities of offenders and the public can be made aware of sex offenders in the area (ya'll better hide your kids, and hide your wife). The goal here is to make the community safer and make sure the person does not become a repeat offender.

Seems harmless enough, right? You know, we have to protect society from those bad people. Let me just ask one question then: why don't we have a murderer registry?

I mean, think about it. Why wouldn't we want to protect ourselves from murderers? That would be a smart thing to do, wouldn't it?

Oh, wait, let me ask another. Why don't we have a burglary registry? Oh, wait, why don't we have an arson registry? Oh, what about a securities fraud registry? Perhaps a guy who got caught with marijuana registry? OH, we could have a general creepy dude down the block registry!

You see where I'm going with this? A criminal registry, in general, is silly and violates a person's natural rights.

If I have committed a crime, and served out my sentence, I do not need to be monitored and tracked like an animal. I have paid my debts to society and deserve to rejoin it in peace. To FORCE a person to join a registry and not only be reminded for the rest of their lives about their crime, but to make sure everyone around him is aware of this is wrong.

So, at this point, it would be nice to throw out some facts and figures to complement the natural rights argument. Let's see, according to the a study done by Karl Hanson and Kelly Morton-Bourgon for Public Safety Canada concluded that the recidivism rates (repeat offender rates) for sex offenders over a period of 15 years after the conclusion of their sentence was around 24%. This means that 24% of sex offenders commit another sex crime. As far as any crime is concerned, the conclusion after 15 years was that it was 36%. So, 36% of sex offenders go on to commit any sexual or nonsexual crime. Specifically, the numbers were 13% for incest perpetrators, 24% for rapists, and 35% for child molesters.

So, all in all, we're looking at less than half. That's a pretty good number, but would you pay for something that only works 2/3 of the time? I sure as hell wouldn't. So, in order to really verify that sex offender registries have an effect, we need some more information. We need data from back before there were registries. The problem? There isn't any. Because we have no control group, we cannot say conclusively that the sex offender registry is the cause of the repeat offender rate being around 24%. Even if we had data from before there were registries, we would still have to scientifically survey sex offenders in order to prove a link between the registry and whether or not the person committed another crime. Just because there is a registry now doesn't mean that the data is the result of it. We simply can't prove that.

So, only one argument stands. That is the argument from natural rights, and it will be how I end this post. When you have committed a crime, and finished out your sentence, you have the right not to be tracked by the government and a right to not have to make your crime publicly known. You have paid your debts to society, and so you shall have all the benefits of being a citizen in that society.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gypsy Prejudice?

France got in a lot of trouble from the EU for its recent deportation of many Roma people (not Romanian, Roma, as in gypsies). They dismantled nearly 100 camps and deported approximately 1,000 of them, mostly back to Romania. The EU is deciding on whether or not to fine France, claiming that the mass deportation was the result of discrimination against the Roma people. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding was angered by it, saying that "people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to an ethnic minority."

She went on to say that "After 11 years of experience on the commission, I even go further: This is a disgrace. Discrimination on the basis or ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe."

So, is she right? Was this deportation the result of racial and ethnic discrimination?

Well, she's probably right in some respect. France, historically, has not been particularly friendly to immigrants. Europe as a whole has not been friendly to the gypsies in particular, but does that mean that France did this based on that fact?

Well, we have to understand that those people were there illegally, setting up camps on public property and working under the table and not paying taxes. France was well within their legal right to deport them. Think about what the United States does every year. Is there discrimination against Hispanics? Probably, but the US is well within its rights to deport them because of their illegal status.

This case is a legal issue. France deported them because they were illegal, just as they would any other illegal citizen. Just because they historically have discriminated against doesn't necessarily prove that their actions were based on that. Correlation does not imply causation.

That being said, should France have deported them? Of course not.

Anyone who is willing to abandon tradition and family to try to make a better life for themselves is a hero, and heroes should be welcomed with open arms wherever they choose to go. People are naturally free, and therefore are free to immigrate as they please. This includes the Roma people. Instead of deporting them, France should have given them citizenship and allowed them to stay so that they could work and make money like the rest of France. Restriction of immigration is a restriction of freedom, and freedom does not care what country you happen to be in.

Translate this over to the US. Does the US have a right to deport people? Yes. Should they? No. They should give them citizenship and open up the borders.

So, to France (and quite frankly, the rest of the world), stop inhibiting the natural rights of free people. People are free to move about as they please for whatever reason. If you think it happens to be a burden on the system, well then tough titties. Maybe you could try the free market alternative instead of maintaining a democratically socialist government. Whatever you do, understand this: freedom doesn't end when you cross the border.

Monday, September 13, 2010

12 Arguments Evolutionists Should Avoid, Part 10

The next argument that evolutionists should avoid is that "mutations drive evolution".

Well, duh. At least, they help it along. Of course theres more to it than that, but ultimately mutations are the biggest forces in evolution. Over time, genetic mutations can cause the changes that drive natural selection and ultimately evolution. So, what's the issue?

"Mutations cannot produce the types of changes evolution requires—not even close. Some may benefit an organism (e.g., beetles on a windy island losing wings), but virtually every time mutations come with a cost."

Oh boy. Yes they can. What mutations cannot do is cause an increase or a decrease in information, that is left up to chromosomal duplications and deletions, but that is a different story altogether. Mutations can cause the necessary changes, like the example they give, but not every mutation has a cost. This is complete bull. The VAST MAJORITY of mutations are benign, meaning that they don't cause a negative or positive change. Mutations that cause positive changes, like the example they give, don't have negative effects. If they did, they would die and natural selection/evolution would be working as predicted. Only those mutations that are truly beneficial would live on.

I don't quite see what AIG is seeing here. Whatever they're reading is obviously not doing them any good.

Fast Food Bastards

I don't eat a whole lot of fast food. I don't much care for it, but I'll eat it when I need to. But that's my CHOICE, and that's the theme here. Choice.

America, generally speaking, is the wealthiest nation in the world. Free-market capitalism has made us powerful. It has made our people strong, it has given them the ability to pursue their dreams. We have created more of what makes life simpler, made it cheaper, more efficient, and saved more lives and made more lives easier across the world. One of our biggest accomplishments in America is food. The free-market has generated massive surpluses of foods, it has fed our country and has helped to feed the world. We make food dirt cheap (a ton of corn costs roughly 167 dollars. That's 2000 pounds of corn for about the price of a good microwave). Food is so cheap, and we make so much of it, that we no longer have to worry about starvation. We eat good.

Some of us eat too good. The free-market has given us so much food that people can eat whenever and wherever, and they do. Obesity is, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the second largest cause of preventable death (although, most government studies are bullshit anyways, so take it with a grain of salt. haha, get it? Salt?).

So, here's the point. People are getting fatter. They are developing more and more illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. There is a serious problem. Naturally, who is the first to be blamed?

Of course, its the fast food companies. They've warped our taste buds, drawn in our children, and made us all fat! It's all their fault!

You see it's a lot easier to blame everyone else for our problems. Is it their fault? Really?

Well, some of it is. It really isn't good for you and you shouldn't over eat it, but that is beyond the point. People are not forced to go into McDonalds and buy a hamburger. It is their CHOICE. They CHOOSE to go in and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat, and so on and so forth.

So, the blame is not entirely on the fast food companies; it's our lifestyles. Ultimately, it is up to us, the people, to alter the course of this problem. By demanding healthier foods, the market will change and producers will be forced to adapt or lose business and die. No intervention from the government required.

But wait . . . haven't the fast food companies wired us to want their foods above all others? Don't they modify their foods to make them more attractive? Isn't it true that fast food companies have changed us? Sure, but they sure as hell didn't do it with magic or some fancy science.

Animals, are naturally wired to "crave" three things. Fats, sugars, and salts. This is an evolutionary adaptation that was developed over millions of years. Foods that have these flavors usually contain the necessary nutrients that are needed for survival, so organisms that were naturally attracted to those flavors would have a greater chance of survival and reproduction.

Fast food companies have not "changed" anything about us. They are playing on our evolutionary habits. If they didn't, food wouldn't sell. That's basic economics.

The fast food industry makes unhealthy food. This is true, but ultimately it is up to us to change this. We need to get rid of this bullshit government intervention and let the free-market go. If we as people change, the markets will change. If the markets change, then the producers will change. If the producers change, our country will change. Can you imagine all of this, coming as a result of CHOICES we made? Just as simple as that, a CHOICE. A CHOICE is powerful. It can change people. It can change societies. It can change the world.

We are the solution. We must get rid of the federal monopoly on schools and their education regulations that get in the way of a good health education. We must empower each other with knowledge. We must get the government out of our way. We don't need to sue, we don't need to regulate, and we sure as hell do not need to destroy the industry. We simply need to make good CHOICES. Just stop buying their shit.

Oh, but don't go organic. That's bullshit too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good ol' Christian Morality

September 11 is a day of mourning. A day for those who lost their loved ones in the tragedy at the World Trade Center to honor their passing. As it turns out, for one Florida minister, it is also a day to declare all Muslims enemies of America and burn their holy book at a public event. Wonderful, this is a good example of some of the conservative Christian "morality", as well as an example of how divisive organized religion really is.

Ah, a good ol' book burning. Brings us back to the days of witch hunts and burnings at the stake, doesn't it? These are the kinds of Christians that get under my skin. They declare other their enemies, proclaim that they do this in the name of god, and all of a sudden they are justified in their actions. They claim that it is "moral" because of this. If there is a definition of morality that is not entirely subjective, I would think that burning the holy book of another religion is not something that is moral. Especially when you consider the fact that the two religions worship the same god. All this demonstrates is conservative Christian bigotry, and the apparent hatred of those who think differently.

What do they get out of book burning? Why is it that these Christians get to declare the entire religion of Islam as the enemy? It was a very small group of fundamentalists (much like these Christians, ironically) who had some deep anti-American sentiments. Islam, is not the enemy. Islam did not hijack the planes. The radicals who interpret the Qur'an in a fundamentalist way is what killed all of those people that day.

This is a good example of the divisiveness of religion. They don't see people as individuals, they label them. It's not that Al-Qaeda is the enemy, or even the specific hijackers. It's the entire religion of Islam, and when you declare an entire group the enemy, you have effectively divided society. You have made it acceptable to consider doing harm, potentially to people who have not done anything to you. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and just want to practice their faith like everyone else, but they are demonized and made into radicals who want to see America destroyed.

This is why religion and government are not allowed to mix. Can you imagine if we had a Christian government that could declare all Muslims the enemy? That would have catastrophic implications, potentially causing wars and other atrocities.

While the burning of a holy book seems harmless, but the movement and bigotry that it represents is despicable. It is the symbol of everything that is wrong with organized religion.

As of now, the book burning has been postponed, but that is irrelevant. The fact that this would have even come to anyone's mind is shocking. How about we get some Muslims to burn a Bible, and see what happens. Isn't that fair?