Category Archives: atheism

Who will dare show this in America?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BREvUKpZTeU&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00]

These are strange and deeply worrisome times for democracy, science, and education in America, once the beacon of those very things which drew people like me from all over the world to its shores. From a global leader for science and free intellectual pursuits, how has America become a place where even one of the most significant scientists in human history is no longer welcome? Not even a biographical film about him! In a week when this country’s very own democratically elected President was censored in the nation’s public schools and heckled by a congressman, this news should come as no surprise, I suppose:

Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as “a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder”. His “half-baked theory” directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to “atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering”, the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as “a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying”.

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

“That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said.

“The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

“It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It’s quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.

“Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn’t saying ‘kill all religion’, he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people.”

Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars Bettany’s real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin’s deeply religious wife, Emma. It is based on the book, Annie’s Box, by Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, and portrays the naturalist as a family man tormented by the death in 1851 of Annie, his favourite child. She is played in the film by 10-year-old newcomer Martha West, the daughter of The Wire star Dominic West.

Early reviews have raved about the film. The Hollywood Reporter said: “It would be a great shame if those with religious convictions spurned the film out of hand as they will find it even-handed and wise.”

Mr Thomas, whose previous films include The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, said he hoped the reviews would help to secure a distributor. In the UK, special screenings have been set up for Christian groups.

And you thought the money-grubbing, amoral (or immoral), Hollywood movie business loved controversy and liked to make a buck off it whenever it could! Apparently not, if it might irritate a minority (I hope) of religious extremists, America’s own Taliban. So a film about Darwin – a long dead and much celebrated scientist – seems much more dangerous to the fabric of this country than Borat! Sigh…

Dawkins on those who would expel him from Oklahoma

In these hard and worsening economic times, one would think that politicians and state legislatures have their hands full with a huge number of serious issues to deal with. Instead, one congressman in Oklahoma is upset about a mild-mannered English (as in from England, not of) professor visiting a state campus to deliver a lecture! Who might that professor be? Why Richard Dawkins, of course, who got State Representative Thomsen upset enough to propose a formal resolution to condemn Dawkins’ visit to University of Oklahoma last friday! Really?! So what did the good professor have to say when he did arrive in the good state? Watch:

Meanwhile, as Dawkins’ US tour continues, even into the heart of the bible belt as in this case – we here at Fresno State have something else to look forward (backward?) to: Ben Stein is coming to campus next week! Yes!! That’s who is the featured guest this month in the University Lecture Series! Weep, my fellow Darwin’s Bulldogs… and if you do go to his talk, please ask him who is being “Expelled” from academia, exactly?

Hat-tip: OneGoodMove

Tomorrow, I dine with a rationalist!

Yes, I am one of the group of faculty members invited to a reception with James Randi tomorrow night, before he gives his public lecture on campus. Should be an interesting dinner! Here’s the announcement for the lecture:

The University Lecture Series

Proudly Presents

James Randi

“Pseudo-Technology in the New Millennium”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

7:30 p.m. ~ Satellite Student Union

James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. He has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders and exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers. He appears frequently on US television shows and in the late 1960’s was host of “The Randi Show” on WOR-Radio.

To read more about James Randi visit our website.

For Ticket Information: please call the University Student Union Information Center at 278-2078 or visit them in the University Student Union.

Why are godfearing people so callous towards those in the paths of hurricanes?

And it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are Republican or Democrat in this country! Especially at this particular juncture in the political cycle of the presidential election, they are both willing to pray to the invisible man in the sky to make it rain on the other party’s parade – no matter who else gets soaked or drowns in the process!! What is with these people?!

First it was James Dobson calling upon his flock to pray for a storm to ruin Obama’s rock-star speech in the open stadium in Denver on thursday. That was hardly surprising, though, given how quick Dobson and his ilk are at praying for everything, and crediting god with raining destruction upon what they see as the evils of the world, such as the city of New Orleans, or the Democratic party. What else can one do but laugh it off, especially when no rain fell upon Denver?

But then, Gustav starts building up and bearing upon the Gulf coast, with New Orleans once again in its crosshairs. And what does one see from that lefty gadfly Michael Moore, but this interview, where he too is crediting god with being present and just, by timing this new hurricane’s landfall around New Orleans to coincide with the Republican convention being held way upstream along the same Mississippi river in Minnesota!! I couldn’t believe he’d actually said what he was saying – nor that he would then share that interview on youtube and his mailing list. How daft do you have to be, or politically blinkered (or worse, self-serving), to not realize when its an appropriate time to be ironic and when it is not? He has his defenders (and I might have been among them, but not this time) who are trying to focus on his ironic intent, and the fact that he immediately backtracked on TV – and I suppose he didn’t quite mean it in the same serious way that Dobson was calling upon god to rain on Obama’s speech. Moore has subsequently tried to clarify his stance with an “open letter to god” – but again, he can’t help but credit god with the hurricane and its timing; and add his own prayer asking that god kill that hurricane in its path before it wreaks further havoc on the gulf coast; and gloat over the fact that the FEMA man charged with the emergency response this time shares Dubya’s initial and Moore’s own name! He (and his defenders) also point out the fact that he did more in the immediate aftermath of Katrina than Dobson / Falwell (who were crediting god with cleansing New Orleans) or Bush/McCain (who were busy enjoying the latter’s birthday cake!). Does that make it ok for him to keep suggesting (even with tongue-in cheek) that Gustav is some sort of retribution for the republicans’ poor response after Katrina?

I’m not so sure that this letter lets him off the hook for his own god-bothering insensitivity this time. To those pharyngulites who are ready to accept Moore’s irony and mea culpa, I have to ask – why turn a blind eye to Moore’s catholicism in this instance, when Stephen Colbert’s much more overt irony irritated them so much when directed against atheists? You blamed his being a fairly active catholic then – why go soft on Moore’s religiosity? merely because he’s directing his “irony” against republicans? where’s the consistency – atheists?

Meanwhile Gustav has turned threatening enough for McCain to call for a suspension of most of his party’s convention activities on Monday. Good for him, and let’s hope the govt. gets its response right this time around! But I’m not praying for that… just watching the hurricane build again with increasing dread…

How an atheist came off looking worse than a little old hindu lady…

…in facing down Stephen Colbert! Over on Pharyngula, a bunch of atheists have got their panties in a bit of a twist over Stephen Colbert’s hilarious interview (see below the fold) of atheist spokesperson Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition as part of his “Better Know a Lobby” series this week. And I say that (about my fellow atheists) with affection – but c’mon guys, lighten up, and learn to laugh at yourselves the way you like to laugh at the theists too! Tackling Colbert in his blowhard pundit persona can’t be easy, and I should think you’ve done well if you help generate some good laughs (as in this interview) even if you come off red-faced. And the Secular Coalition gets that (see comment #21 on the Pharyngula thread). I have to say, however, that Lori Lipman Brown did worse than that little old lady from India who came on the Colbert Report several months ago to talk about Hinduism!

The highlight for me was actually the part in the beginning where he talks about atheists being excluded from the Democratic Convention in Denver last week! Now that is something I’d be a lot more upset about – and I thank Colbert for bringing that to air when no one else in the media mentioned it as far as I know. That is the real service he does in highlighting the hypocrisy of even the Obama people who like to talk about separation of church and state but apparently think it doesn’t apply to their own political gatherings. Here’s the interview with Lori Lipman Brown:

And if that makes your heathen cheeks warm with embarrassment, or upsets you, check out how much better this Hindu lady, who looks like she just walked out of RK Narayan’s Malgudi, and reminds me of my aunties, handled the Colbert blowhard:

Isn’t that a much better spirit to handle Colbert in? Or would you rather still accuse him of bias against atheists and in favor of any theist because he is a practicing Catholic? C’mon!!

An atheist from India on campus

Here’s a special event happening on campus this Monday evening:

Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics

Special Event7AF3C675-BB2C-4063-AF2F-A05D497464E7.jpeg

Special Guest Speaker Dr. Goparaju Vijayam to speak at the California State University, Fresno on Monday, June 23rd at 7PM.

Dr Vijayam is the Executive Director of the Atheist Centre in India. Together, the Atheist Centre and Dr. Vijayam work toward social justice throughout India.

The Atheist Centre is a social change institute founded in 1940 in Southern India. It’s mission includes many different activities all directed toward a positive social change through the use of secular social work and the promotion of Positive Atheism as a way of life.

The founders of the Atheist Centre were associated with Mahatma Gandhi and the nationalist movement, so the Centre’s directive of positive social change is a core principle.

Dr. Vijayam will be speaking about the work of the Atheist Centre, including it’s efforts against India’s culture of “Untouchability” and the caste system. The Centre works for casteless marriage, and promoting intercaste dialog and interaction – it has been at the forefront of this area since the Centre was founded.

Other Centre programs will also be addressed by Dr. Vijayam, including the Centre’s work against superstition in India. The Centre combats pseudoscience by promoting rational thinking to the general public. In this way it combats self-described “god-men” and miracle workers who prey on the gullible, and it fights against those who would accuse others of witchcraft or sorcery.

This is a rare opportunity for the Secular people of the Central Valley to meet with such a fascinating person. There will be time to ask questions and perhaps even discuss a little of Dr. Vijayam’s work.

Dr. Vijayam Lecture

Location: California State University, Fresno

Science II Building (google map) (detail map)

Room 109

Date: Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Time: 7PM – 9PM

Before the lecture, CVAAS will treat Dr. Vijayam to dinner at the North India Bar & Grill, located at 80 West Shaw Ave. between Villa and Minnewawa in Clovis. (see google map). We will arrive at 5:00 for dinner. Anyone who would like to attend for friendly conversation is welcome.

If you have questions or comments, you can email Mark at calladus@cvaas.org or call the CVAAS telephone at (559) 892-0102

www.cvaas.org

[From CVAAS Special Event | CVAAS]

‘Lying for Jesus?’ – Richard Dawkins on getting expelled from Expelled

Much of the internets (at least the reality-based, rational, irony-rich segments) have been rolling with laughter over the kerfuffle on good friday in Minneapolis when PZ Myers was expelled from the audience of the IDiotic documentary Expelled despite being featured – and thanked – in the film itself, and even as his companion Richard Dawkins, Darwin’s rottweiler, was allowed in. You have probably caught the story somewhere by now for even the New York Times picked it up (too bad the Daily Show / Colbert Report appear to be on hiatus next week!). Now we have Dawkins’ own account of the incident as well as a trenchant critique of the film itself. Not to be missed!

I have to say that, once I’d picked myself up from the floor after all that ROFL-ing friday night upon reading PZ’s comic account, I was inclined to chuckle and move on…

Until, that is, a couple of Pharyngula’s sciblings started trying to throw PZ and Dawkins under the bus over this silly business! While I am not surprised that those self-proclaimed master “framers” of science, Matt Nesbit and Chris Mooney are upset at these two atheist gadflies kicking up such a ruckus without even actually misbehaving – I am puzzled that they want PZ and Dawkins to shut up even in the face of such blatant (if incompetent) targeting by the ID goons! Surely, at least in this incident, N&B ought to be telling their religious friends that they shouldn’t be overreacting to mild-mannered atheists (who, in this case, had bent over backward in consenting to be interviewed under false pretenses by the producers of this film), rather than trying to shove the atheists into a closet?

I therefore have to now share the following videos with you. Watch and tell me – how threatened are you by these two science geeks?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c39jYgsvUOY&hl=en]

So I have to ask, once again, why can’t these master framers try to actually “frame” atheists like Dawkins and PZ in better humanistic light to their religious pals? Why not tell the religious that they really have little to fear from these atheists, other than gaining some sound scientific knowledge, and even getting an occasional guffaw out of their irreverent wit, rather than tell scientists to shut up for fear of offending the pious? And how much duller our lives would be if people like Dawkins and PZ shut up?