Reason TV: Nanny of the Month Award – March 2012


Daniel Hannan: Why Iceland won’t join the EU


Minute Physics: Einstein’s Proof of E=mc²


March 29th: Happy Constitution Day!


Free Speech at American Colleges


Abortion And Education: the logical flaws in the positions held by the ‘religious right’

OK – this is a very contentious topic.  Please, read my disclaimer first:

In this post, I do not wish to debate the morality of abortion or if it ought to be legal or illegal and anything else related to abortion itself.  Let’s leave that for a later post focused specifically on that topic.

This post is about the inconsistencies in the ‘principled positions’ presently proposed (held) by many people who consider themselves as part of the ‘religious right’ and/or (because they do differ at times, but not always) ‘social conservatives’.

No, I am not taking the position that they are correct or incorrect, right or wrong.  I am simply stating that they are inconsistent in their reasoning.  As in, ‘if A, then you cannot logically argue for B; if B, then you cannot logically argue for A’!

Now that I have presented the disclaimer at such great length, let me present the two positions, as I understand them to be argued by the aforementioned factions within the conservative movement.

Position A: 

A person’s a person, no matter how small – or within a womb he/she is.  Since the genetic material is set at conception, from zygote on, this is defined as a human being with full human rights and freedoms.  Abortion is immoral and should be illegal because by intentionally killing this entity, one is killing a human being and thus violating his/her civil liberties.

In other words, ‘Position A’ holds that killing a fetus is murder because civil liberties and full human rights kick in at conception.  The right of the child to his/her civil liberties is inviolable, regardless of what the parents’ views are.

Position B:

Parents have a right to raise their child as they wish, without interference from the government.

In other words, parents should have the right to exclude information from their child’s education which they don’t like or agree with, they may discipline their child in any way they see fit, and so on.  They could even subject them to plastic surgery for the hell of it, if they wanted to…

Please, don’t get me wrong – I do not know where the proper balance between the civil liberties of the child versus the civil liberties of the parents lies!

All I am saying is that if you think that the government has the right to interfere in in parental decisions from the very beginning – before the child is even born, it is logically inconsistent to then claim that the government has no right to interfere from that point on, whether it is sex ed in school or teaching children from a very young age that there are multiple religious beliefs (as well as disbeliefs).

After all, we do know from multiple, well documented studies that most children who receive religious indoctrination from their earliest childhood can never fully shake the effects of this early brainwashing.  We also understand quite well how this works and that early childhood religious indoctrination actually changes the physiology of a child’s brain.

This clearly interferes not just with the civil liberty of freedom of religion, it actually interferes with the right to bodily integrity:  the same right which is being violated by abortion if one were to extend civil liberties to the point of conception.

It seems to me that if one is arguing from a principled position, one can either argue that the parents have the exclusive right to make decision on behalf of their children or that children have their own civil liberties which nobody, not even the parent, can violate.

Both positions make very valid points.  But, they are irreconcillable with each other because each stems from a set of principles which abrogates the other.

Either the civil libertis of the child – especially the right to bodily integrity – start at conception, as argued in ‘Position 1’:  if this is so, the parents do not have the right to violate this bodily integrity, ever.  Not to circumcize their children (of either sex), nor to corporally punish them, nor to rewire their brain through early childhood religious indoctrination!

Or the parents, as guardians, have the right to treat their children as they wish, as expressed in ‘Position 2’:  they may subject them to non-medically necessary surgical procedures (religiously motivated or otherwise), they may spank them, they may deny them education and they may alter the natural structure of the brain through childhood religious indoctrination.

The problem comes in when the ‘religious right’/’social conservatives’ attempt to take both positions at once:  abortion is murder and government must step in to stop it – and the government has no right to ban childhood circumcision, ban corporal punishment and to over-ride the parent’s interference with healthy brain development and education….

Again, I am not passing judgment on either set of principles.

All I am saying is that people need to choose one set of principles and stick with it, or they will not only open themselves to justified ridicule, they will continue to taint the ‘c’onservative movement as a whole.

Reason Rally 2012: AronRa chats up some young creationists

The videos from this weekend’s Reason Rally 2012 in Washington D.C. are only just beginning to pop up.

While the lineup is studded with stars like Richard Dawkins (whose message I detest because of his inaccurate use of language which leads to more confusion than it clears up) who came to stand up for science and logic and reality.  Great.

But these are not really the most interesting or fun of the videos.  I prefer dialogue to speeches, so it is perhaps natural that I find videos like the one below much more interesting.  And, I do like AronRa!

Vi Hart: 9.999… reasons that .999… = 1

When you went to grade school, were you taught that ‘it is impossible to divide by zero’?  Or, that ‘we do not divide by zero’, as Vi Hart claims in the video she was taught?

I only ask because where I went to grade school (the other side of the iron curtain), we were taught from the very beginning that anything divided by zero = infinity….

Interesting video.  Personally, the argument I find most convincing is the demonstration of equivalence because there is no number which is greater than 0.9999repeating and 1.0.

OK, now for a bit of philosoraptoring

What does the term ‘=’ mean:  is ‘equal to’ actually mean ‘the same’?  Or does it mean ‘equivalent’…

Or, indeed, does ‘the same as’ mean ‘the same’?

Would you get into a Star Trek type replicator-transporter?

Reason TV reports from the Reason Rally


Reason TV: An Atheist Billboard in Brooklyn

This reminds me…

Five or six years ago, when we were checking out the high-schools in our area for the right one to send our older son to, we visited a number of the ‘best’ schools in our area.  All the schools were trying to get as many of the ‘gifted’ kids to go there as possible, so on these visits, we were given the red carpet treatment…

I always checked out the library:  the natural environment for an Aspie…

In one of these schools (the one whose formal presentation was most adamant that they are inclusive and do not tolerate any ‘cliques’), in the ‘religion’ section of the library, I found a surprisingly wide range of Christian literature.  Not only did they have the books on the most common Christian denominations, they even had books representing Gnostic Christianity and even saw one on the Russian Orthodox faith.  I was impressed.

Soon, however, I was struck by the fact that though the variety of Christianity represented in the ‘theology’ section was commendable, there were absolutely no books on other faiths.  Not one!

I did what any other person would do:  I asked the librarian where books on Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on were.  With a smile, she directed me to the ‘mythology’ section…

Yes, ‘mythology’.

I could not stop laughing!

This just goes to show you:  even theists are perfectly capable of seeing that ‘religious beliefs’ are nothing more than a collection of myths.  It is perfectly obvious to them – all of them…

…with the tiny exception of their own religion…