Archives November 2008

Am I A Humanist? Definition vs. Allegiance

I don’t know whether I’m a Humanist.

I haven’t read any of the
Humanist manifestos,
but a while back, a podcast that I listen to had a show about
humanism, and discussed the main points of Humanist Manifesto III, the
most recent one. I agreed with points that were discussed, such as
that knowledge of the world comes from observing the world, and that
moral values are something that we humans have to work out for

But I don’t know whether I’m a humanist because I don’t know whether
it’s a matter of definition or of allegiance.

Read More

What? Protests Change Minds?

When I
earlier about participating in the “No on Prop 8” demonstration at the
National Mall, I was rather dismissive of the notion that it might
affect anyone’s opinion.

However, SurveyUSA published a
about Prop 8 with an interesting result. People who voted for Prop 8
were asked “Have the protesters changed your opinion on Prop 8?”. 8%
of them said yes.

Read More

Props to Moderate Catholics

I give moderate theists
when they fail to stand up and tell the Pat Robertsons and Jerry
Falwells of the world that they’re full of crap, so it’s only fair to
give credit where it’s due:
Catholics for Choice
has issued a
about Bill Donohue and the
Catholic League.

It provides a good overview of how BillDo operates, including
manufacturing controversy and bullying. The most interesting part (to
me) was the section about inflated membership numbers (p. 17).

(HT PZ.)

(Update: Fixed link to the report. Thanks to alert reader Fez.)

Minimal Electoral Map

During a discussion on whether the electoral college is still a good idea, someone brought up the point that it’s possible to win the electoral vote but lose the popular vote, and pretty badly at that.

So I wrote a Perl script that used evolutionary computation to try to produce the most skewed electoral map possible. Here’s what it came up with:

Electoral Vote

(click to embiggen)

Read More

A Gay Outing

It’s funny how you never see the sights and do the “local” stuff in your own town. I went to Paris once, and stayed with a friend who had lived there for sixteen years, and had never gone up the Eiffel Tower until I dragged him.

Me, I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for years and years and had never gone to a protest. Which seems a shame: people come from all over the country to march and protest here. For me, it’s just a Metro ride downtown.

So when I found out that there was going to be a
series of coordinated protests
against California’s Proposition 8 across the country, I figured I
should go. I’m neither gay nor Californian, but I figured I could
raise the body count. Especially since the “coordinated” part meant
that the ones in Maryland and DC were going to start at 1:30. I pity
the poor Hawaiians, who had to be out on the streets by 8:30.

Read More

MD to Abolish the Death Penalty?

The Post

A high-profile panel appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley recommended last night abolishing Maryland’s death penalty, concluding that the state’s system of capital punishment is too costly and vulnerable to wrongful convictions and fails as a deterrent to crime to be sustainable.

From here, the report goes to the governor, and then to the legislature — which is a whole separate quicksand pit of committees and deliberation — before a bill abolishing the death penalty lands on the governor’s desk.

But it’s a step in the right direction. W00t!

Godless Buses

Local CBS affiliate WUSA 9

The American Humanist Association, located in Washington, will announce its “Godless Holiday Campaign” on Tuesday with ads on Metro buses and in newspapers. The slogan for the campaign is “Why Believe In a God? Just Be Good for Goodness Sakes”.

The campaign coincides with bus ads by the British Humanist Association. The British ad reads, “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.

Speckhardt says there will be full page ads in The Washington Post and The New York Times helping to launch the campaign.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anything about this at the AHA’s
site. (Update, Nov. 11: Pictures of the ads here.)
But it’s still cool. The consensus among the crowd that attended
PZ’s talk
(and subsequent
hepatic ethanol solubility experiments)
was that the way for us godless heathens to get a voice in society is
to stand up and make ourselves known.

Of course, the other bit of consensus was that with a segment of the
population as argumentative and independent-minded as ours, it’s
nearly impossible to get organized enough to speak with a single
voice, especially since “there are no gods” is no more a rallying
point than “I don’t like sports”.

But still, it’s a step in the right direction.

(HT Shelley.)

(Update 2, Nov. 12: The Post had a story about this as well.)

Letting Go of God

Julia Sweeney
that the DVD of her one-woman show Letting Go of God will be available on Nov. 21. Squeeee!

As a preview, here’s a video she uploaded of what appears to be an early version of one of the scenes in the show. If you’re offended by it, then you’re probably Bill Donohue.


Morality and Fiat Currency

On the
latest episode
of The Non-Prophets, the guys got into an extended discussion about
morality. That discussion should be required listening for anyone with
any questions about how you can be moral without absolute rules
imposed from without, or whether situational ethics automatically
means it’s okay to commit genocide.

But what interested me more was a connection I noticed to fiat

Read More

BillDo Misrepresents Prop 8

Once more, BillDo
forgot to keep his noise-hole closed:

[In an anti-Proposition 8 TV ad] Two young men, who identify themselves as being from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knock on the door of two lesbian women announcing that “We are here to take away your rights.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

“Radical homosexuals have a long history of anti-religious bigotry, so it is not surprising that with a pro-marriage initiative on the ballot in California (Proposition 8 would secure marriage as a right between a man and a woman only), they would resort to gutter tactics.

Unfortunately, Shrill Bill missed the big difference between Prop 8
and anti-gay-marriage laws passed in other states these past few
elections. Those other laws were preemptive: they were intended to
shore up the “one man, one woman” side in advance of possible court

In California, on the other hand, gays did have the right to
marry (until Prop 8 passed, at least), and many took advantage of
that, gaining all the rights, privileges, and obligations that come
with it. Now Prop 8 is taking away those rights, rights that people
already have.

Choke on a bag of cocks, Bill.