Matt Nisbett farts again.

March 31, 2009

Oh dear, it appears that Matt Nisbett has had another little accident.  He appears to have farted again.

Several scientist authors and pundits, led by the biologist Richard Dawkins (2006), argue that the implications of evolutionary science undermine not only the validity of religion but also respect for all religious faith. Their claims help fuel the conflict frame in the news media, generating journalistic frame devices that emphasize “God vs. Science,” or “Science versus religion.” These maverick communicators, dubbed “The New Atheists,” also reinforce deficit model thinking, consistently blaming conflict over evolution on public ignorance and irrational religious beliefs.

Dawkins, you see, is now a maverick communicator, with all the negative connotations that are supposed to go with that phrase.  The fact that Richard Dawkins is arguably one of the most prominent and successful authors on modern evolutionary biology, and – entirely unlike Nisbett – a highly respected author, is not enough to save him from Nisbetts desulutory remark that he is merely a maverick communicator.   According to Nisbett, if you cast doubt on religious faith, you’re a maverick (small ‘m’ please.  Big ‘M’s are reserved for failed Rebulican presidential candidates) communicator.  Bollocks Nisbett.

Suprisingly, Nisbett actually initially allowed some comments on his blog (his is one of very few on Science Blogs that moderates comments for approval) which were almost universally negative.  It took him a while to respond to any one, but eventually he posted a comment, which started with this statement:

I think many objections are clearly addressed in the text of the chapter excerpt or in past articles I have published on framing.

The word “clearly” has a meaning.  I don’t think it means what he thinks it means.  If the objections of the overwhelming majority of people commenting on his spiel were addressed “in the text of the chapter excerpt or in past articles”, then he’s not communicating clearly – which one should imagine would be a problem for someone touting themselves as a communications expert.

He continues:

For example, I explicitly note that as a social critic and pundit, there is nothing unethical about Dawkins expressing his personal opinions about religion.

A statement that I think most normal people can agree with.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure Nisbett is normal.  Consider:

Yet when Dawkins and other New Atheists also use the trust granted them as scientists to argue that religion is a scientific question, that science undermines even respect for religious publics, they employ framing unethically,

A normal person would most likely interpret this as a direct contradiction.  Dawkins is entitled to write about his own personal views, but because he is a trusted scientist (Ha!  Has Nisbett never heard of Ken Ham or William Dembski?) it is unethical for him to do so.

Nisbett would appear to have closed comments on that post now.  His next comment (with no intervening comments from his first) starts, “Some commenters”.  Some of those commenter commented after his first post – I know, I was one.  I called him out for the lying sack he is.

Why is Nisbett a lying sack?  Consider this:

The conflict narrative is powerfully employed in the 2008 anti-evolution documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. By relying almost exclusively on interviews with outspoken atheist scientists such as Dawkins and the blogger PZ Myers, Expelled reinforces the false impression that evolution and faith are inherently incompatible and that scientists are openly hostile to religion.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind Expelled, you may not immedeatly see why this is not just a lie, it is bordering on libel against PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins.  I haven’t seen the film, but as I do know the story behind those interviews, and to say they were heavily cut and what made the final film would appear to be a gross understatement.Nisbett then goes on to describe the film as an attack on atheistic science, and how awful it is, and how much damage Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers have done to the integrity of science in the US, finishing off with:

By the end of its spring 2008 run in theaters, Expelled ranked as one of the top grossing public affairs documentaries in U.S. history.

In truth, Expelled was a disaster.  It was a complete and utter failure.  Nisbett here is lying.  Oh, I have no doubt whatsoever that when pushed he will say something along the lines of “it was the highest grossing public affairs documentary in Spring 2008, so long as one only includes April 2nd, somewhere around lunch-time, and limits the category of ‘public affairs documentary’ to ‘Expelled’, therefore I’m not technically lying”, but the simple fact is that Nisbett is a professor of communications – he knows full well that the impression he wants to impart with his words is – to be as generous as I possibly can be – only in the most strict sense backed by the facts.  But the new expert on ethics that is Matt Nisbett ought to know that a lie by ommission is a lie.

Nisbett is a liar.



January 29, 2009

Can we please, at last, agree that the catholic church is run by morons?  Cite

Last year he claimed that the “gay lobby” attends Holocaust memorials “to create for themselves the image of a group of people under persecution.”

This is the utterances of one Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell.  Clearly a basic education in history is unnecessary – and presumably an impediment – to advancement in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  For the history impaired: homosexuals were sent to concentration – and extermination – camps under the Nazi regime.

They were persecuted then by the Nazis, and they continue to be persecuted mostly by religious organisations such as the Catholic Church who – apparently – believe that gay rights extend solely to peadophile priests.

Fuck the Catholic Church.

Another one bites the metaphorical dust

November 27, 2008

And this time, it’s a police officer.

A Christian policeman who objected to being ‘bombarded’ at work by emails and posters promoting gay rights and events has been sacked for misconduct.

PC Graham Cogman, 50, responded to the ‘politically correct’ campaign by sending emails to colleagues which quoted religious texts and suggested homosexual sex was sinful.

Of course, being a good upstanding Christian citizen, he feels he has been discriminated against.

He confirmed he was considering an appeal against the dismissal and was continuing with plans to have his case heard by an employment tribunal on the grounds that he had been harassed over his Christian beliefs.

Apparently the police force don’t offer remedial courses in basic English.  He was not sacked because of what he believed – he was sacked because of what he did.  He is a police officer, and his duty is to uphold the law, not his personal beliefs.  If he cannot separate his personal beliefs from his actions, then he has no business being a police officer.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. One less bigot in the police can’t be a bad thing.

Legalised bigotry

July 10, 2008

This is ridiculous, infuriating, and just damned outrageous.  I previously wrote about a civil registrar who refused to do her job, because she was a homophobic bigot, and didn’t want to do her job.  She took Islington Council to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair discrimination.

Infuriatingly, she actually won.

A marriage registrar was harassed for refusing to conduct same-sex ceremonies, a tribunal has ruled.

Okay, she was harassed for attempting to break the law, which seems fine to me.  She’d be harassed if she was a racist or sexist, especially if her ignorance prevented from doing her job.  But in this case:

The tribunal ruled that Miss Ladele was discriminated against on grounds of religious beliefs and was harassed.

Or, in layman’s speak, “but it was okay, because she’s religious”.

This is bullshit.  This is utterly incredulous bullshit.

It is illegal in the UK to refuse to provide services to a person based on their sexual orientation.  Catholic adoption agencies fought hard and dirty to secure a religious opt-out.  Catholic politicians fought hard to secure a religious opt-out.  They failed.  The law of the land is quite clear: it is not acceptable – no: it is illegal – to refuse to provide a public service to a person based upon their sexual orientation.  Yet apparently, this employment tribunal thinks that there can be an exception to this law, because – erm – a person is religious.

Miss Ladele said she was being effectively forced to choose between her religion and her £31,000-a-year job as a result.

Of course she bloody was!  Like it or lump it, she provides a public service. As such, it is freaking illegal for her not to provide that service irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation.  If she didn’t like it she could simply find another f*cking job. This ruling makes a complete mockery of parliament (which doesn’t normally need a hand to be made a mockery of), and a complete mockery of the law.

But this pig-ignorant little bigot knows no bounds:

“It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine.

Bullshit.  This – like every other debate going on within the churches at the moment – has f*ck-all to do with “religious liberty”, and everything to do with personal bigotry.

The next time some pissant little theist tries to claim religious discrimination, and state intimidation against religion, or some ridiculous form of martyrdom because they’re being oppressed by the state machinary, I’m not going to bother to point to the bishops in the house of Lords. Nor will I bother to point to the huge number of state schools run by religious institutions, or the ridiculous amount of money the Anglican church owns, or the unprecedented restrictions on the right to protest in Australia over the pope’s – hideously mis-named – “World Youth Day”.  I will simply point to this decision, which shows just how much power the religious really do have.

It’s sickening.

Here we go again.

May 21, 2008

Another day, another story about a religious bigot who refuses to do the job they’re paid for.

A civil registrar who refuses to officiate at partnerships between same-sex couples, claiming that it is “sinful” and against her religion, has brought a legal case that could have implications for ceremonies conducted throughout the country.

Note that this is a civil registrar, employed by the town hall to perform a public duty.  She is not paid to discriminate.  Once again, there is a simple solution to her dilemma: get another job.  If you have a particular conviction then you should be the one to suffer for it, not the general public.  I don’t care what that conviction is. For example: when I started work as a programmer, I wrote real-time motion control applications (monitoring and robotics, prinicpally), as such I could probably demand a high wage in the arms industry writing missile guidance systems.  But I have a private conviction that I won’t write applications for the military, so I don’t.  I forgo the money I could make writing military applications, and opt to do the best job I can in civil industries.  What I don’t do is what this woman is doing: I don’t go screaming to the arms industry claiming discrimination.

The simple fact is that this woman – like many religious people, including some of our own polititians – is a bigot.  She may also be religious, but this is simply an attempt to make her bigotry “acceptable”, and it is telling indeed that many in the media – and in government – appear to be buying this hook, line and sinker.

But it gets worse.  This homophobic bigot is claiming persecution too because:

Ms Ladele, who has worked for the council for 16 years, alleged that she was accused of being homophobic by gay colleagues at Islington town hall and was shunned by staff after refusing to carry out civil partnerships.

You read that right.  She’s actively attempting to discriminate against gays, and is shocked – shocked! – to find that she’s being described as homophobic.  But isn’t that precisely what she is?  Or is she claiming that the word “homophobic” cannot be applied to someone who is religious?

She claimed that she was “ridiculed” by her boss, the superintendent registrar Helen Mendez-Childs, when she raised her concerns about the new ceremonies in August 2004.

Ridicule?  Personally, I couldn’t heap enough ridicule on this woman, and I think she’s doing a pretty damned good at ridiculing herself.  But what was this alleged ridicule?

Ms Ladele said that her superior had told her that her stance was akin to a registrar refusing to marry a black person.

And her superior had it bang on the money.  It is akin to a registrar refusing to marry a black person.  It is akin to refusing to marry an inter-racial couple. It is unwarranted discrimination, and it is wrong.

“There was no respect whatsoever for my religious beliefs,” she said.

And neither should there be.  Respect is earned.  Just because a belief is religious does not suddenly mean it has earned respect.  If superstitious clap-trap is making you believe stupid things, then you believe stupid things, and those views don’t suddenly become worth of respect: they’re still worthy of horror and ridicule.

It’s about time the religious started feeling uncomfortable discriminating against gays.  It’s about time that politicians ignored any organisation that promotes this kind of bigotry, instead of pandering to them. And it’s about time that those religious people who feel that their “personal convictions” stop them performing the duties they are paid to perform either found other jobs, or stopped having such stupid “personal convictions”.

Good riddance

April 24, 2008

As my dad used to say, Good riddance to bad rubbish:

 When the Labour government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations were passed last year, the leadership of the Catholic Church in England and Wales warned that the new law would spell the end of Catholic involvement in social service, particularly adoption. Now the first of the UK’s Catholic adoption agencies affected are announcing they will close their doors for good rather than betray religious principles and their guiding principle of the good of the child.

In other words, “The law requires us not to be bigoted a-holes.  We are a bunch of bigoted a-holes, so we’re taking our ball and going home”. Of course the catholic church is claiming that it isn’t a bunch of bigoted a-holes:

Contrary to common accusations that Catholics are trying to unjustly discriminate against homosexuals

See? They’re not discriminating against homosexuals, they’re just:

the Catholic Church holds that its motivation is rather the desire to protect the best interests of children.

They’re just protecting the best interests of children.  Why?

The Church teaches, according to recent documents from the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that allowing a child to be adopted by homosexual partners “would actually mean doing violence to these children” by placing them into a situation where their full social and spiritual development would be threatened.

They’re not bigoted, because placing children with homosexual parents would be doing violence to them. Words fail me — I am beyond disgusted.

The only reason that this view can be published with a straight face is because the catholic church is a religious organisation. The only reason that the government acts on the contemptible views of the catholic church is because it is a religious organisation. But can we finally lay to rest the view that the catholic church is any kind of “moral” organisation!  It’s bigotry and misogyny knows no bounds and it is utterly devoid of shame.  Any right-thinking person would be ashamed to hear themselves make the utterances we all too frequently hear from the catholic church and its self-appointed clerics. But then, I suppose, we’ve never heard the catholic church claim to be right-thinking, only “infallible”.


April 21, 2008

Universal Mecca Time

Muslim scientists and clerics have called for the adoption of Mecca time to replace GMT, arguing that the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth.

Erm, do you think that someone should tell them that a point on the surface of a sphere is not the centre of that sphere?  I’m really not sure if these guys are being serious or self-satirical, but something tells me they’re being serious.

One geologist argued that unlike other longitudes, Mecca’s was in perfect alignment to magnetic north.

A geologist said this? Aligned with what? Mecca lies roughly on 40˚W, whilst Magnetic North is roughly 114˚W.  You might as well claim that T’aiei in Taiwan or Manila in the Philippines should be  0˚Longitude!  But then you need to account for the slight problem that magnetic north moves. This is staggeringly stupid thing to say.

He [I’m assuming this is the geologist] said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.

Not quite.  England didn’t actually go around the world imposing GMT by force on the world.  In the long struggle to pin-point longitude, the English just got there first. Several times.  If you go to the Grenwich Observatory in London you’ll discover that there wasn’t one GMT, but a progression of GMT’s as more telescopes were built and courtyard space was slowly used up in an ironically pointless endeavor to try to discover a way of pinpointing Longitude at sea using telescopes.  The story is fascinating and is actually a story of very English blunders. If you’re interested, the story is brilliantly brought  to life in Dava Sobel’s book, “Longitude” (ISBN: 1-85702-571-7)

A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim “qibla” – the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.

The cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy is clearly following in the footsteps of his more deluded christian theologians.  I’m not familiar with this “qibla”, but I’m reasonably certain that it no more “proves” that Mecca is “the centre of the Earth”, than the Bible “proves” the Madam Adam and Eve story is true.

This one’s a good’en though:

The watch is said to rotate anti-clockwise and is supposed to help Muslims determine the direction of Mecca from any point on Earth.

Kudos to them. Hope it works.  The only problem I can think of is that they may need to think about points that are not “on Earth”.  It’s apparently bad enough for astronauts in Low Earth Orbit; how will they respond should humankind ever venture to the stars, or – the various mutually incompatible gods forbid – to the galaxies?

The meeting in Qatar is part of a popular trend in some Muslim societies of seeking to find Koranic precedents for modern science.

It is called “Ijaz al-Koran”, which roughly translates as the “miraculous nature of the holy text”.

Also known – just like creationist apologetics – by the more technical term, “bullshit”.