Boys Scouts Revisited

The Boy Scouts of America recently received two major blows to its coffers with some major sponsors pulling the plug on their donations. Both Intel and UPS have responded to an online petition (which I signed along with 30k Americans) asking companies to stop contributions to the BSA due to their outdated and discriminatory policies by doing just that.

“We promote an environment of diversity and inclusion,” Petrella said Monday. “UPS is a company that does the right things for the right reasons.”

One of the ways the Boy Scouts raise money during this time of year is by selling Christmas Trees. I urge you to shop elsewhere and continue to hit them where it hurts: in their wallets.

My Letter to the Utah Museum of Natural History re: Boy Scouts Day

I’m browsing Facebook today and noticed the Utah Museum of Natural History was advertising $1 off discounts for Scouts (boys, girls, cubs) tomorrow, August 15th. As the regular readers here might know, I’m an atheist, but I’m always careful to pick my battles where I find my time can make a significant contribution to equality.

At a glance, it’s essentially just a marketing scheme to bring more people to the Museum and their intentions, it can be argued, are to support the education of our youth, albeit a selective group.

However, a public facility geared towards science, history, and education should not give preferential treatment to a religious organization, imo.

Below is the letter I wrote them today:

August 14th, 2012
To Whom It May Concern:
It has come to my attention that the Museum is offering a discount offer in the price of admission for members of the Boy Scouts of America on August 15th, 2012.
I learned about this offer through your Facebook page and your web site, links provided here:
The Boys Scouts of America exists under a Congressional charter. Because the BSA has taken a stance against gays and nontheists, it is currently calling itself a religious organization.
It saddens me to see an institution such as our State Museum giving preferential support to an organization that has consistently and adamantly upheld discrimination policies at its core, with no sign of changes, despite great pressure from litigation and non-litigation efforts.
The Boys Scouts of America have clearly stated “that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
Your association with the BSA (by means of preferential treatment) sends a message to those who do not share the BSA’s “values” that the Museum supports these ideals or at the very least holds the BSA in high esteem.
I would like to point to this section of your Statement of Ethics stating that your museum “enjoys a high degree of public trust.  To maintain that confidence, we must act with integrity, prudence, intellectual honesty, foresight and appropriate transparency, in the best interests of the collections and other resources we hold in trust and of the diverse publics we serve…”
A diverse public includes many individuals with characteristics that are not inline with the Boy Scouts of America’s requirements for membership.
I would advise you to reconsider this marketing strategy and cancel this and future Scout Day at the Museum. While I am a fan of promoting science, rational thinking, and curiosity to children and young adults, the message being sent in this case is one of support of a controversial organization that has in its past been heavily criticized both from non-member as well as from former and current members for its discriminating policies.
I would appreciate a response to this email with your feedback and/or suggestions to continuing improving our Museum’s public image and appeal.
Sincerely

The Bad Astronomer is coming!

Phil Plait, rocket nerd and writer for the blog Bad Astronomy on Discover Magazine blogs and of his latest book Death from the Skies, will be speaking at Utah State University on the same topic this Friday, April 27th 2012, at 7 p.m. in the Emert Auditorium, Room 130, of the Eccles Science Learning Center.

This is a free event open to every one (or at least those who are ready to face our imminent doom).

“When I started writing this book, I sat down and brainstormed every single astronomical event I could think of that could wipe out life on Earth,”

Let your friends know the next time they commit one of these logical fallacies

Arguing with someone can be really frustrating at times when the other person doesn’t understand the basics of making logical statements and constructing reasonable arguments.

If only you had a way of showing them that what they’re saying violates some basic rules in reasoning. :(

Well, now you do!

Your Logical Fallacy Is is… well, exactly what it says it is.

This awesome web site lists some of the main mistakes in arguing one often hears and cringes over. It allows you to link directly to a specific fallacy, complete with a simple explanation and example of said fallacy.

They also have printable vector posters you can print out and display at your favorite arguing arena, be it your cubicle, coffee shop, or church!

What is true, truth, exists and not unreal?

arguing_with_christiansI recently had a (very) late-night discussion with two Evangelical Christian friends regarding my disbelief in their god. Some of the usual topics were brought up regarding faith, morals, and science as it relates to religion. Arguments were flying back and forth with the two of them appealing to their experiences to validate their faith and my incessant (and pesky) appeal to reason, logic, and reality.

As the night went by I was feeling confident in my use of analogies and context to examples my need for sticking to finding out the truth about things. I argued that we hold different levels of trust in a truth statement based on the amount of evidence we find to support the statement and the relationship and between the likelihood of the claim and the amount of evidence needed to support it. As I could tell they were growing frustrated by my equaling their believing in an ghostly friend to my having a pair of hippos in my left pocket or the existence of fairies and leprechauns on my front lawn, I sensed a (non-surprising) shift in their tactics. They went from trying to “reason” the existence of god to claiming that what was real to them just wasn’t real to me.

 

Wait. What?

"You're just trying to get out of cleaning all this lint in here!"

 

I pressed again and asked if the elephant in the cupboard was real or not and again they insisted that, if it’s real to me, then it’s real to me.

At this point, and realizing it was almost 4am and I had to work in a few hours, I made a desperate attempt to clarify the difference between perception (belief) and things that actually exist (I know… tautology… it was 4am!!!), but every attempt was shut down with contemptuous similar remarks in the confidence that they had finally put the last nail on the coffin.

“We get experts on everything… There’s all kinds of myths and pseudoscience all over the place… I might be quite wrong. Maybe they do know all these things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to really get to know something. How careful you have to be about checking your experiments. How easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something… I can’t believe that they know when they haven’t done the work necessary, they haven’t done the checks necessessary, they haven’t done the care necessary.” – Richard Feynam

They did indeed as I was dead inside. Discussions like this take a lot out of oneself. They leave you with a dizzying incomprehension of the wide spectrum of reasoning the human mind is capable of displaying. They make you regret you ever posted that link on Facebook about the origins of Easter or Christmas. They make you a minority. The wrong one.

They all went to bed and after sitting at that dinner table in regret of the hours wasted in such a foolish endeavor, I got up, took the hippos out of my pocket, the elephant out of the cupboard, and brought the fairies and leprechauns inside for the night. I think I’ll make them clean up the pile of shit in the kitchen in the morning.

“Once you start doubting, which… to me is a very fundamental part of my soul, is to doubt, and to ask. And when you doubt and ask, it gets a little harder to believe. I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not-knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong… I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel freightened by not knowing things. By being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t freighten me.” – Richard Feynman

Why you too should attend The Reason Rally

 

The Reason Rally will be held in Washing DC on March 24th, 2012, from 10am to 4pm at the National Mall.

The list of attendees is insurmountably excellent.

Go! Enjoy! Represent our views!

“America is NOT a Christian Nation”

In light of the time Congress wasted yesterday passing a bill that reinstates our country’s official motto “In God We Trust,” I would like to remind those in power (especially Sarah Palin) that this country is NOT a Christian nation.

Uh…. maybe I’ll let the Founding Fathers do the reminding:

These awesome posters are part of a bus ad campaign by The Freedom From Religion Foundation. Check out the rest of them on their site. I hope Sarah Palin can read these.

The best video in the entire universe

The pope on trial

Wow! I just love this cover of the New Statesman this week.

It is about time we start looking at the pope figure for what it truly is: a man capable of great or horrible things. In this case, a man with the weight of years of covering pedophilia cases for the Catholic church who needs to face responsibility.

God is calling you… literally

God is calling

Wow! This has to be better than tweeting him your prayers, right?

But that is exactly what he did at St. Nicholas of Myra vacation bible school this week. God actually took the time off his very busy schedule causing earthquakes and killing evil people at the Love Parade to call each of the 21 children at the camp with messages to “follow him.”
The children were between the ages of 6 to 9 years-old, which is the perfect age, of course.

Oh, man, there are so many things wrong here that I don’t even know where to begin.

The first thing that clearly comes to mind is the parallel with Santa Claus (even the name of the school is St. Nicholas!!!) eating the cookie and drinking the milk from the mantle, while possibly leaving muddy footprints and reindeer crumbs on the snow. This is no different and every adult involved in this camp’s little stunt knows that it’s not god at the other end of the line, but Father O’Neal just trying to touch… uh… reach out… I mean, influence the children at his school with a personal phone call from the big man in the sky.
So the level of deceit is beyond me.

As a non-believer, I actually really love this program. Just like the Santa bit, children will smarten up to it eventually, as we all did, and hopefully it’ll be one more notch in their skeptic belt against believing in fairy tales.