Monday, March 20, 2006

Stone and Parker: "Quit Yer Bitchin!"

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      In response to the pulling of the Scientology episode from airing on Comedy Central, Matt Stone have offered the following response:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!! -- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu

      

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bigots' Letters to the KC Star Editor

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      I have been following short comments in the Opinion section of the Kansas City Star for a few days about parents and teachers concerns over how teenagers in our middle schools and high schools use the word gayas a catch-all for anything that can be slandered. I knew it would only be a matter of time before some religious zealot would make a reference to homosexuality as a sin, and that it is natural for teens to instinctivelyassociate it with wrongness.

      You sure were an easy prediction, Jason Bergner, of Warrensberg, MO. The dedication to believing the sheer number of logical fallacies and religious bigotries to have written that response to Barbara Shelly (3/10, "Teen slang fosteringatmosphere of intolerance, ignorance, fear") is, for lack of a better word, industrious.

      It never escapes my attention just now obsessed you Christians (and other folks) can be with what is instinctive or natural about your poor ideology (a.k.a., theology), when at the same time your religion is well known for rejecting natural sciences, especially evolution. First you deny that we are defined by our genes in any behavioral sense whatsoever, that we are above nature, its commander... and then you talk about how homosexuality is somehow naturally wrong.If by naturally wrong, you mean that it must be bad to adhere to a lifestyle that does not include the production of offspring, is that not in itself an advocacy of a "Darwinist" concept? Is this not the very same caricature of "Darwinist" ideology you condemn (and I would bet you personally deny evolution as well), that places prime importance on the survival and proliferation of genes? If your belief system stems from the authority of supernatural deities, arguments from your caricature of nature are meaningless.

      And it sure is funny that you claim homosexuality "is pushed down their throats as being a normal lifestyle choice in virtually every TV show and movie they see." Do you not have your own conservative media ring to watch instead, such as the O'Reilly factor and all that other Republican bunk? Why is it the religious right is always taking every opportunityand you get manyto be in the media just to complain about the liberal media? Just because the gay character is not being kicked out of school or sent to hell, or converted into a conservative Christian, or murdered in a fag drag does not mean it is being shoved down their throats. It is always amazing how people like you, Jason Bergner, think the mere mention of a subject is equivalent to an advocating of it... unlessyouare talking about it. Like it or not, TV shows and movies with homosexual characters are popular, which means more people are OK with homosexuality than you realize. Shows producers had to be sure their audience would be OK with gay characters before they were inserted! Your argument is a false dilemma. Besides, I would like to know where these places are where our teenagers are forcedto watch TV, or even any kind of TV.

      By citing how homosexuality is not normal, are you attacking it because it is a minority lifestyle, because it does not seem to be a naturallifestyle to you, or as an immoral lifestyle to you? If in the first case, than you should also be hating Hispanics, Latinos, Blacks, Italians, Asians, Native Americans, and any other minority we can think of. I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one, but your rhetoric in your comment sure is in line with that of the normal intolerant redneck stereotype, so far. If in the thirdcase, then that is not your decision. It is theirs.

      As for your first paragraph where you think Barbara Shelly is advocating thought police, what do you call it when you assume the children of Christians will or should become Christians? What else should we call it when somebody says, "He is a Catholic Child," or "She went to a liberal school," or "She's from a black neighborhood?" What else should we call it when although you state (correctly, for once) that "freedom from the slightest chance of being offended is not to be found in our Constitution," and yet you are repulsed by the mere acceptance of one of your sectarian taboos by those who are not part of your sect, and claim it is being forced upon you, i.e., persecution? What else should we call it when you think your theology/ideology should come before civility, before liberty, and before justice?

      No. When we want to fight the abuse of the word gay, to use it to imply negativity, there is nothing Orwellian about it; Quite the opposite, in fact. Once upon a time, we separated white people and black people into different schools and called it Separate but Equal.Sure enough, the impact on the minds of black children was to teach them that they are inherently inferior to whites. What do you think we are doing when we turn the word gay into an umbrella for demerit?Statistics do prove, causally, that the harsher an environment is to homosexuality, the higher suicide rates are for homosexuals. The same goes for environments that are harsh towards minority students and environments with a large economical class divide.

      At least you and Gaye Kohler from Belton sort-of agree on one point. You say, "maybe teenagers dont mean anything by the use of the word gay." Gaye says, "If young people knew what the other definition of gay is, they would know how silly that sentence sounds."

      Only, Gaye is talking about 5th-graders, 10/11-year-olds. When we say teenagers, we usually mean high school students. The matter we must seek out now, is this: is the real definition of gay common knowledge to the teenagers we are talking about, and can the contrived connotation of gay with wrong possibly escape their minds? Yes, teenagers and probably very many of those younger students are aware of what we mean by gay. And no, the conflation of gay and wrongcannot escape them, just as how an automatic weapon is obviously meant to kill many people efficiently, even though when sold commercially or made at home, they are packaged as recreational.

      Of course teachers should be discouraging, the abuse of the word gay.Just as schools are not the place to advocate religion or to advocate anti-religion, they are not the place to casually ignore the silent but prominent masochistic atmosphere towards a particular lifestyle.

      The whole blaming TV thing was bogus from the beginning, when you think about it. On no modern television program can we find advocacy of negative sectioning-off of student subcultures, no show that tells us Goth kids should go slit their wrists and die some where, no show that advocates jocks beating up nerds, none of that. And yet it persists. No, this crap, and we all know it, comes from home. Students are using gaythe way they do because that is how they are taught. There is nothing instinctive about it, no matter how strongly you feel, Jason Bergner. Racism is not instinctive, your religion is not instinctive, and your bigotry is not instinctive. When you claim this, you are advocating a caricature, a straw-man of what you think Darwinism is. You think nature is 100% "red in tooth and claw." In reality, genes are mostly cooperative. In a scheme with many multitudes between hawks and doves, the individuals and groups inside a species that tend towards "kill or be killed" never last. To claim that a hostile attitude towards a rival ideology or race is natural is inherently flawed.

      I applaud Barbara Shelly. She understands the difference between respect and tolerance, unlike homophobes and the religious right who advocate homophobia. We want students to tolerate each other, and they should. This does not mean they must respect those with whom they disagree. But does mean that they cannot create an unwelcome atmosphere in an environment in which they do not own and do not govern. School is a place for education, for learning skills and facts. Not ideology. Homophobia has no place, just as there is no room for racism and classism.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Isaac Hays Catches the "Anything but Religion!" and "Skeptic is Just Another Word for Cynic," Bugs.

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      Well, shit. I have enjoyed the ruthless and intense skepticism of Comedy Central's South Park for years. Say what you will about their vulgarity, but one the fact remains that creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are great skeptics. It is just too bad the voice-actor of Chef, Isaac Hayes (yes the Isaac hayes, has somehow become fed up with it all.

"In ten years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews," Stone said in a statement issued by the Comedy Central network.
Thanks, Matt. What a hypocrit!

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Ed Brayton, pt. 2

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      Ed Brayton has replied to my comment. I don't know why I get that error message from his blog about registering (as if it is a forum; that is why it is so annoying) when I leave a comment at Dispatches. On others at Scienceblogs I can simply use the captcha image word verification and get it published if the blog admin. deems it is not spam. But hey, I got through. I hit the 'back' button instead of going back to the homepage, so I maybe my comment was published anyways, but it was not part of the metadata of the webpage I went 'back' to using my browser history. Oh, just as well. Before I go on, I should note that the reason I am taking a time-out to berate Ed Brayton over this issue personally instead of somebody else like all Catholics or the Catholic Charities of Boston itself, is because I link to Scienceblogs. While it is smart for me not to 'debate' Catholics or the CCoB because they take any debate, win or lose, as proof of their righteousness, I do not do the same with scientists or bloggers whose subject is science. I link to Scienceblogs.com but not to Dispatches... specifically. If I advocate all the blogs except is, I will make that explicit.

      He says I'm barely coherent. Well then, I suppose his assumptions about the morality of the Catholic Charities of Boston's decision are so engrained he can't even see them as assumptions and thinks there's some universal agreement with them. Let me clarify. Was what they did a moral decision, or simply ideology? Does Ed Brayton often take the time to differentiate between the two? Well, he sure doesn't here. Imagine you are faced with a decision like this:

      For whatever reason, you are in the office of the Department of Children and Families. You are a professional psychiatrist (or not, maybe a suicide hotline employee, somebody qualified for the following), and you can tell by the dialogue of a teenager near you that s/he is borderline suicidal. You know with fair certainty that if s/he is still forced to leap from foster-home to foster-home, s/he's most likely to kill himself/herself or become a criminal that escalates to murder by the time s/he turns 18. You listen to the conversation with his/her sponsor (or whomever it is he's talking too) and they tell him/her that the situation is pretty much hopeless for getting adopted into a good home. However, you know of some resources that really can help him/her get into a good home, and in time, and give this teenager some real hope. The only problem is, there may be some --(gasp!)-- gay people who want to adopt, and you're a god-fearing Catholic (or whatever), so you refuse to help. A year or so down the road when you (or anybody who even knows about this incident) read/hear in the news that this very teenager has committed suicide or murdered somebody because you did not help, can any defense justify your lack of preventitive action that you were well aware of? Answer? NO.

      Imagine the same thing in some other situation. You can prevent a death, via murder, suicide, negligence, etc. But you refuse because in order to do so, you may have to deal with --(gasp!)-- gay people. Or black people. Or Prebyterians, or muslims, or NRA members, or peopel with brown hair. Or some other excuse because of the church, group, religion, country, etc. that you belong to. Or even if it has nothing to do with a group. Is it OK not to intervene to prevent that death? Or even if it's not death, extreme suffering, such as child abuse (sexual, phyical, negligence, psychological, any|all of the above)? Or even if not that, a huge societal problem that's this much harder to solve?

      Let's expand this some more. Instead of just you, just a person, it is a group that refuses to help this teenager, or prevent a phenomenon that would lead to the suffering and/or death of many individuals. If you think it's OK so far, because the preventative action would have been "against your morals" or "against your religion" from an individual's point of view, think now if it would be OK if an entire group of people, a pillar of a city (such as the Catholic Charities of Boston) that did this. Is it OK now?

      Of course not. Even if these teenager's suffering would go on whether or not CCoB was there, there is nothing admirable or even morall excusable about the suicides or the creation of murderous criminals that they are refusing to prevent. With the power that an organization can wield or refuse to wield in this respect is inexcusable, base even.

      No, I am not saying that it is the duty of charities to prevent any death and all the criminal behavior of the people they are supposed to help. But when it comes to the moral implications of a charity's actions, I think Ed Brayton is grossly confusing how far a person can be removed from crime in a demographic, with how far an organization can be removed from those crimes and sufferings of a demographic which they are in the business of helping. Let us imagine again. A murder is about to happen right in front of you. Of course you should do what you can to prevent it, even if it means calling the police and just trying to talk to the soon-to-be murderer, so at least he/she can not do it again. Easy enough decision, right? Now imagine an organization such as... oh, let us say that this soon-to-be murderer is a homeless man who was living in a shelter. Imagine if all the employees in the shelter knew the man had a gun or a big knife obviously meant for killing people outright, and they did nothing about it because of some arbitrary scruple. Imagine this was the official policy of the organization this shelter is a part of. Now that it is too late to stop him from pulling the trigger or swinging the blade, is their lack of action excusable? NO, DAMNIT!

      And this is where Ed Brayton really lost me as a fan.

On the one hand, I think they are completely wrong in their position on gay adoption. On the other hand, I respect the fact that they chose to withdraw from acting as an official state agency rather than compromise their beliefs.

      No, Ed. Because this organization's significant impact on its environment of sapient individuals goes beyond the proliferation of ideas and philosophies (memetics) in to the realm where what they do actively prevents deaths and the creation of future 18-year-old murderers by some significant measurable level, their sectarian and personal beliefs do not excuse them from ceasing these charities. This is espcially true because they were acting as a state agency. When you work for the state, working for the state comes first. You defend their action of withdrawl as if it would be OK if every single charity which had a majority of employees belonging to a certain religion decided to stop what they are doing because it may interfere with that religion. Would you still have said what you said if this were happening often and all over the country?

       What if the Christian Children's Fund suddenly stopped helping children in impoverished countries because they may have to let --(gasp!)-- gay people do the 'dirty work' of it for them? Would it still be so respectable? Of course not. The truth is, it never was. The correct decision of the Catholic Charities of Boston was not to refrain from acting as an official state agency. The correct decision would have been to put their ideology aside and do the work that they are there to do as the state agency they were, because what they did as adoption advocates went beyond putting children in homes and making families happy, but to a significant degree (even if small), helped prevent suicides, child abuse (a legal matter a state agency is definitely in the business of reporting and preventing when it sees it), and the creation of teenaged murderers because of the environment they would be in if not for said agency. Their business went beyond the emotional and into the physical, so ideology should not have controlled this decision. What they did was not respectable. At all.

      Ed, your 'respectable' attitude towards this thing is extremly naive. You said you disagree with them. Good for you. But considering the consequences of their actions, you should not respect it. CCoB was not repectable when it did refused to allow gay adoptions when it was not forced upon them, and it is not respectable to abandon all adoptions because now they have to as a state agency. Their view and policy was never respectable. Ever. A charity should never be respected if within its purpose, it makes an exception of negligence. A suicide hotline that refused to talk to the gay callers, I am sure you would not respect. Nor if it neglected the Hispanic callers, or something like that.

       So how come you find the actions of CCoB respectable? Oh, right. They said the magic word: "Religion!" That is just bullshit, Ed Brayton, through and through. Maybe what you really meant is that you will tolerate their decision. Fellow ScienceBlogger Orac recently posted about this confusion. Let me put it this way. If you are writing letters to CCoB because you disagree with them (and I'm going to send all of this to them), you are merely tolerating them. If you are not actively protesting their action and not advocating that they go back on it, then you respect them. You disagree with them and on the internet are protesting their decision. But you do not show signs that you think they ought to go back on it. In fact, you advocated their decision on what seems to be some confused notion that they were acting to protect the separation of church and state (You are glad they are not recognized as an official state agency now) (And anyhow, if you really respected the separation of church and state in the first place, should you not have protested the very fact that a state agency with "Catholic" in its name was a gross and blatant violation?). Your wording in that original thread makes it seem like you do not tolerate nor respect CCoB's decision. Until you actually say the words, that is. But it seems that the only reason you feel compelled or obligated to say them is because it was a 'religious' decision. And that, again, is bullshit. That is not a reason to respect a decision. Decisions are respectable or deplorable on their own merit. There are no loop-holes, no get-out-of-jail-free cards, none of it. Stop 'respecting' CCoB's decision.

      OK, so you say you respect "the fact that chose to withdraw from acting as an official state agency..." Well, I whink anybody can tell that you mean to say you respect their action in making the decision, not the fact itself. Would you disrespect a fact? Would you call it insolent? Orac would disagree with your terminology, and I do too. "A statement of fact cannot be insolent." Talk about incoherence...

      Let me get down on some other reasons why the CCoB is deplorable (other than their bullshit separation church/state gambit about not being an official state agency because it would violate church law). Here is a quote from the very news report that you cite, Ed.

Catholic Charities of Boston began in 1903 as an adoption agency primarily serving Catholic children left by parents who died or abandoned them. (Emphasis Mine)
First, obviously, the fact that they only work with children abandoned by Catholic parents (as reported) alone should disqualify them from being a state agency, for, as I said, state charities should not make ideological exceptions! But what is equally striking to me is the casual label "Catholic children." Here is a frightening Orwellian practice in our language that I noticed when I was quite young, but have recently noticed that Richard Dawkins often talks about the very same thing in his essays. Here's one plucked from article on the internet via a google search (linked quote)
“Religion should be something for children to choose or not when they become old enough to do so,” Dawkins said. “The child is not [naturally] a Christian child, but a child of Christian parents.”
Why, oh WHY do you respect CCoB for anything? Does it not disturb you that these children the CCoB were supposed to help were labeled Catholics before they could actually justifiably make such a decision? They were really never an adoption agency. They were a retainer for Catholocism.

      My conclusion? My thesis? Your respect for CCoB is bullshit, and a total moral failing. Period.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ed Brayton's Moral Failing in the Face of the Choices of Catholics

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      Ed Brayton, of Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has achieved a monumental failure. Click the link and read. Now read my reply to him:

      NO! Adoption is not only a chance for altruism, but it helps society at an individual's level. Surely you can contemplate how many suicides, how much abuse, how much murder can be avoided in a person simply by being adopted instead of being subjected to the psychological manipulations of hopping from foster home to foster home all their childhood?

      When faced with the chance to save lives, *a life,* compromising ones beliefs should always be the first option if that is what it requires. If suicide rates and such in places where the Catholic Charities of Boston have helped out in adoption and getting kids out of 'the system,' we can rightfully say they made the wrong decision. Martyrdom and killing for a meme/plex are one and the same; somebody has to die for one to live and for the other to diminish.

      Only the prevention of unnecessary death in the face of one's beleifs can be considered true disinterested altruism. It is an ideal under which memetics/ideology should always be far inferior.

      So NO! It was not admirable that they chose to stop helping kids get out of the system and prevent suicides/murder/strife before compromising their beliefs. When you do that, you treat your memes like genes, as if it's natural and therefore OK. Nature in this way really is red in tooth and claw, and it is not something we should emulate(my thanks to Richard Dawkins for this wording, more or less).

      Dispatches is a blog where after I submitted this comment, I got an error message asking me to register. Psha.

      

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