PZ: No, Sam, atheists do not belong in the closet

Pharyngula responds to Sam Harris presentation to the Atheist Alliance:

Like you, I look forward to a post-theist future when the term “atheist” is a quaint relic that lacks any contemporary context, as silly as saying that one is an a-Zeusist or an aleprechaunist. That time is not now, and you are ignoring reality to pretend that it is. We do have a context that makes atheism relevant and appropriate: we are immersed in a deeply irrational religious culture. Those labels you denigrate — “atheists,” “humanists,” “secular humanists,” “naturalists,” “skeptics,” “anti-theists,” “rationalists,” “freethinkers,” and “brights” — are useful rallying cries for the tiny, scattered bubbles of rationality drifting in the sea of superstition and ignorance. It’s how we find each other and grow. It’s how we build whole communities working for a common cause, rather than acting as isolated individuals.

+1 (geek for “I strongly agree”)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

After watching the practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix on SpeedTV, and hearing about:

  1. the ridiculous suggestions about penalizing Lewis Hamilton for last Sunday’s race, when the fault clearly lay with Webber for repeatedly getting alongside Hamilton [fortunately resolved with a bit of common sense], and
  2. Max Mosely’s unprofessional and borderline-libellous comments concerning Jackie Stewart

I can only conclude that the FIA is, itself, acting to “bring the sport into disrepute”. But since it is the sport’s governing body, who is going to hold them accountable? This is ridiculous…

Andrew comes all over Deepak Chopra

You can always tell when Andrew Sullivan is going to talk about religion, because he sticks a nice picture of clouds, or water, or rainbows, or some photogenic bit of nature at the top. I’m guessing that he was exposed to “All Things Bright And Beautiful” one too many times as a child.
Anyway, today’s piece was pretty much par for the course. A nice picture of rippling water, and then a correspondent talking about an autistic child:

The example of Jessica shows us how our own view of the world might be equally skewed. There may be many essential features of the world to which we are blind, just as she is blind to other people’s thoughts and feelings. So our theology also reflects our possibly skewed view of the world.

And Sully plunges in:

It has to, of course, because we have no other way of knowing God. But that is surely the point: anyway to understand God that is not God will misprise the divine in some way. Which is why the Incarnation remains our best hope; and why he spoke in parables. The most we can understand is stories and analogies. The rest is more distant from us than an autistic mind is from a normal one.

WTF? What the hell does that bold text actually mean? First there’s the obscure “misprise”, which even Google can’t define. (It means “mistake”, of course.) But even then… Is “anyway” meant to be “any way”? No, it still doesn’t mean anything. Won’t parse. The last time I saw that kind of woo was when I mistakenly read some Deepak Chopra over at HuffPo.
Coincidentally, the Barefoot Bum ((I thought you’d renounced blogging?)) just posted my favourite quotation from Frederick Crews’ book Follies of the Wise. It’s a wonderfully refreshing antidote to woo of all kinds:

“The human race has produced only one successfully validated epistemology, characterizing all scrupulous inquiry into the real world, from quarks to poems. It is simply empiricism, or the submitting of propositions to the arbitration of evidence that is acknowledged to be such by all of the contending parties. Ideas that claim immunity from such review, whether because of mystical faith or privileged ‘clinical insight’ or the say-so of eminent authorities, are not to be countenanced until they can pass the same skeptical ordeal to which all other contenders are subjected.”

And if Andrew feels that this doesn’t apply to theology, then he’s really saying that his theology doesn’t involve the real world. It’s unreal. In which case it’s time for Dawkins’ suggestion.

When principles collide

Could a Muslim doctor refuse to treat a gay patient? Yes – because of his conscientious objection. No – because that would be discrimination. Enter the virtual philosopher:

Surely there are role responsibilities that go with taking on the job of being a doctor that include a certain distancing from personal religious and moral stances. If doctors aren’t prepared to take on that kind of responsibility, painful as it may be for them on occasion, then they probably should change profession (or possibly go private).

Unfortunately, this may be about to change back in England…