Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gone on vacation

I see there´s a spirited debate going on in a few threads, but I won´t be able to participate or make any new posts for a few weeks.  Have a nice Christmas/holiday season everybody!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kent Hovind's "Doctoral Thesis"

I just finished reading the entire 102-page doctoral thesis of Mr. Kent Hovind (note that I won't be referring to him as "Dr."), from the prestigious, non-accredited Patriot Bible University. If you don't know, Hovind is one of the dumbest, but most popular, creationism proponents in the USA. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in prison for tax fraud. The dissertation has been highly sought-after for years by people attempting to see what exactly qualifies Mr. Hovind as a Ph.D., but was never made available until it leaked onto the internet just a few days ago. Now the secret is out! I have some thoughts on it:

1. It contains numerous spelling and grammatical errors. The errors sharply increase in frequency and severity in the second half of the paper, telling me that the finish was seriously rushed. The second half was clearly never proofread, not even while it was being typed.

2. Many of the pages are hand-numbered in messy writing, even though the rest is typed.

3. He brags quite often that he was a high school science teacher. He apparently thinks that should be impressive. To the rubes, it probably is impressive. They don't know that you don't even need a university-level science degree to teach high school science. I don't think Hovind has any scientific education beyond high school. (Verification, anybody?)

4. It contains numerous personal anecdotes and opinions which are not backed up with any facts, and even a poem which he wrote.

5. It contains no references at all to any of the supposed facts it contains, something which would be demanded for all stated facts in a real dissertation.

6. It contains at least one quote which seems to be completely fabricated. This quote is used twice, in different parts of the paper.

7. In one part he argues that religions should not be in schools, then later he writes that his religion should be.

8. It begins with, "Hello, my name is Kent Hovind." This is not at all acceptable for a doctoral dissertation at a real university, nor even for a grade-school paper on polar bears.

9. It contains an ironic discussion about people's faith in their beliefs being so strong that it can hinder scientific progress.

10. It discusses countries in which people are not allowed to practice religion, saying they are contrary to freedom, but ignores countries in which one must practice the state religion and may not be an atheist (at least publicly).

11. It contains an anecdote about how fat Charles Darwin's grandfather was. Is this appropriate for a doctoral dissertation?

12. When he wonders why no trees are more than a few thousand years old, the words "forest fires" never occur to him.

13. It ignores modern scientific knowledge.

14. It contains no original research.

15. Most of the chapters which are discussed in the introduction are not actually contained in the thesis. He planned to write 16 chapters, but only the first 4 are included. He didn't even adjust the introduction to recognise this. The content promised in those chapters is not found anywhere else in the paper, indicating that it wasn't just several chapters combined into one. More evidence for my point #1 above.

16. In 2 places in which he attempts to quote a book (who knows if the quote is even legit), the title is missing, with a note to himself to add the title later.

If you're interested in reading it, check it out here. It's a fairly fast read, as it contains nothing scholarly or difficult on the intellect.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Atheism, Religion and Genocide - Part 1 - Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

As some of you already know, I went to Uganda last summer. Uganda has a really bad reputation for what happened in the past, but has been a mostly safe and stable country to visit for years now. Many people who remember watching its worst troubles on the news do not realise that it has since recovered quite well, except for a violent insurgency in the remote north.

I spent 2 weeks there, and really liked it. I had some great wildlife encounters, and the people were very friendly. The public displays of religious faith were much more numerous and stronger than I had experienced anywhere else. There are heaps of businesses, completely unrelated to religion, that have religious names. It is very common to find a hair salon called, "Saved By God", or a grocery store called, "God's Grace" or something like that. Even the banks get into it. An ad for a bank in neighbouring Kenya has a smiling face saying, "(bank's name) is my kind of company because it is God-fearing". The buses have banners on the front that say, "Protected by God/Allah", whichever is appropriate for the driver. There is a channel on TV which is just people dancing for Jesus, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Considering they only have about 7 channels, that seemed like an excessive waste. Even if you are religious, why would you want to watch little boys and midgets dance for Jesus to the same music over and over again?

In my friendly exchanges and experiences with the Ugandan people, it never occurred to me that they might be.... well..... genocidal maniacs.

When I first saw this article on CNN, I thought it was a joke. I don't know why I thought it was a joke, CNN not being known for its sense of humour, but it just seemed so ridiculous.

Here is a brief summary of the bill before the Ugandan parliament (I have read the original text):

1. Anybody committing a homosexual act can be imprisoned for life.
2. Those who 'attempt' a homosexual act can be imprisoned for up to 7 years.
3. Those who know of homosexuality taking place, but do not report it, can be imprisoned for up to 3 years. This includes hotel owners whose rooms are being used by a gay couple.
4. Anybody committing a homosexual act more than once faces the death penalty.
5. Anybody who commits a homosexual act and is HIV-positive faces the death penalty.
6. Anybody who enters a same-sex union can be imprisoned for life.
7. The law applies to any Ugandan citizen or resident who commits a homosexuality crime, even if the act is committed in a country where it is legal. Extradition will be sought (not like any civilised country would grant such an extradition).
8. Organisations, blogs, etc. which promote gay rights are illegal, effectively banning opposition to the bill once passed.
9. Any international treaties which contain provisions counter to this bill (ie. human rights treaties) are declared void.
10. The bill also declares same-sex attraction to be purely a choice, with no natural influence. Being religious people, they do not feel bound to provide any evidence for such a statement.

So people who commit homosexual acts more than once (ie. most homosexuals) face death. Sounds like genocide to me. Here's what some leaders of (morally-superior) religions in Uganda had to say, according to the CNN article:

"The Rev. Esau Omara, a senior church leader, said over the weekend that any lawmaker opposing the bill will pay for it during the next election, according to local newspaper reports." (link)

"And a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje, has called for gays to be rounded up and banished to an island until they die."

To their credit, it seems that some religious organisations outside of Uganda have spoken out against this bill, as have the leaders of several Western nations. However, at least one religious organisation is accused of being officially opposed to the bill, while some of its individual members allegedly lobbied in favour of it.

But deep down, this is what most Christians, Muslims and Jews want, at least those who actually believe their book is true and want it followed. The ones who think the books are a buffet of choice to be cherry-picked might not agree, but for those fundamentalists, which a large percentage of the religious are, they are commanded to do so!

Leviticus 20-13:

13If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So where are you now, you divinely-moral religious believers? Most of you probably don't even know about this, because your pastors don't like to bring up the negatives of religion and who the hell cares about Africa anyway, but if you are aware of it, what are you going to do? Are you going to stand up for your book, or stand up for human rights and against genocide? Are you going to find a way to blame it on atheists? It's time for those of you with any real morality in you at all to stand up to the murderous power of your religion!

If you choose to stand for decency and human rights, there are Facebook groups and online petitions. Search around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Avoid donating to the Salvation Army

Some holiday advice to those charitable atheists who might be considering dropping some money in those Salvation Army buckets at the mall this winter: Find another charity.

Here is the Salvation Army's mission statement:

"The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.

Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now using word verification for comments

I've been forced to turn on word-verification for all comments. The site has begun attracting too much spam, most of it for prescription drugs, and some in languages I can't read. Sorry for this, but once again, spam makes the internet less user-friendly for everyone. If there is a hell, I know the spammers will be there. Hopefully they'll be in a separate zone from me and my readers.