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CFI and the Non-mosque not-on Ground Zero-An inquiry

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 29, 2010

So the CFI has joined the discussion about the non-mosque not on Ground Zero with a press release, a very worrying to me as a secularist, humanist and skeptic, misguided press release.

The Center for Inquiry is troubled by the rhetoric of some of those protesting the proposed Islamic religious center and mosque near Ground Zero, and it especially deplores the growing politicization of the dispute.

That’s good actually; I am worried myself about the tone and the nonsense rhetoric being thrown around by those opposed to the non-mosque.

CFI also holds that the focus of the protests is too narrow; it would be inappropriate to build any new house of worship in the area immediately around Ground Zero, not just mosques.

What? CFI is worried by the rhetoric, because it is too narrow and it is only focused on Islam?

“The 9/11 attacks were an example of faith-based terrorism, and any institution that privileges faith above reason is an affront to those who were killed and injured in those attacks,” observes Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI.

Oh Ron, Ron Ron Ron Ron Ron! Fox News is appalled because “The Muslims” want to have their own center near ground zero and you’re appalled because “The Religious” in general want to do that? And can you please tell us what is the appropriate radius around Ground Zero where religious expression of any sort shouldn’t take place because it would affront the victims and families of 9/11? Yes, Ron please specify the radius around Ground Zero where you think we should ignore the Constitution of the United States of America.

CFI fully supports the free exercise of religion; protecting the rights of believers and nonbelievers is central to CFI’s mission. Accordingly, CFI endorses President Obama’s recent statement reminding the country that Muslim Americans enjoy the same rights as other Americans and should not be treated as second-class citizens.

Except for a radius, to be specified by CFI, around Ground Zero that is. Way to support the guilt-by-association fallacious way of thinking Ron. See CFI cannot have its cake and eat it too; you cannot rely on the Constitution to fight creationism from creeping into our schools without accepting that the same Amendment of the Constitution demands the right of free exercise of religion be granted to people of faith. Doing that would be hypocritical and we all know, or should know, that hypocrisy has not room in rational inquiry.

UPDATE 08/29/10 – The CFI has issued an updated statement which supersedes the previous one. Here is the full text of the new, improved, statement.

The Center for Inquiry’s Statement on the Ground Zero Controversy

CFI fully supports the free exercise of religion; protecting the rights of believers and nonbelievers is central to CFI’s mission. Accordingly, CFI endorses President Obama’s recent statement reminding the country that Muslim Americans enjoy the same rights as other Americans and should not be treated as second-class citizens. There should be no legal impediment to the placement of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, just as there should be no legal impediment to the placement of a church, temple, or synagogue near Ground Zero.

Further, CFI laments the effort by some to turn the proposed Islamic center into a political issue. Government officials and candidates for office should not intervene in disputes over the alleged offensiveness of a place of worship. Such conduct violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Establishment Clause. Government officials should not be deciding who is a “moderate” Muslim any more than they should be deciding who is a “moderate” Christian or Jew.

A number of private individuals have protested the proposed Islamic center. The tone and substance of these protests covers a wide range. Some protesting the Islamic center have raised legitimate questions, but to the extent the objections to the Islamic center mistakenly equate all Muslims with Muslim extremists, CFI condemns them.

CFI maintains that an Islamic center, including a mosque, near Ground Zero, in and of itself, is no different than a church, temple, or synagogue. It is undeniable that the 9/11 terrorists were inspired by their understanding of Islam, and that currently there are far more Islamic terrorists in the world than terrorists of other faiths, but those facts are not relevant to the location of the Islamic center, absent evidence that terrorists are involved in this endeavor, and there is no such evidence.

CFI’s unequivocal support for the legal right of Muslims to place a community center near Ground Zero does not imply that CFI views the new center as an event to be celebrated.  To the contrary, CFI is committed to the position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve humanity’s problems. All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or elsewhere.

This statement supersedes any prior statement issued by CFI regarding the Ground Zero controversy.

Much better, that’s what the first one should have read like in the first place.


Food Faddism and Child Abuse

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 29, 2010

Guest post by Kyle Tuttle

Fad diets are nothing new; they’ve been around for ages. And the reason they’re fads is that most people soon realize they don’t work and stop using  them just as quickly as they started. Unfortunately, there’s always another fad diet waiting in the wings.

The typical fad diet falls into one of (or a combination of) the following three categories:

  1. The virtue of a particular food or food group is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases, and is therefore incorporated as a primary constituent of an individual’s diet.
  2. Foods are eliminated from an individual’s diet because they are viewed as harmful.
  3. An emphasis is placed on eating certain foods to express a particular lifestyle.

The human body requires a base level of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to grow and function properly, and fad diets often disrupt this nutritional balance. The impact of this disruption can range from mild to devastating. In the case of developing children, the effects of malnutrition can be especially severe.

Two popular fad diets have been shown to be particularly harmful to young children:

  • Vegan diets. Vegans avoid foods made from animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy — each a natural source of the proteins, fats and vitamins (particularly B12) crucial to infant development. While advocates of vegan diets do often recommend mother’s breast milk as the optimal diet for children under the age of one, it’s rare to hear them acknowledge that infants fed only breast milk can still be malnourished if the mother follows a strict vegan diet.
  • Macrobiotic diets. These restrictive diets get progressively more limited as one gets older. Grain is the staple of a macrobiotic diet, present in disproportionately high levels, and at the expense of meat and dairy — the latter of which (as mentioned) is especially important in infants. In fact, scientific studies have shown a high prevalence of rickets and an increased risk of vitamin B-12 and iron deficiency in infants on macrobiotic diets.

While malnutrition is harmful at any age, it is particularly catastrophic for young children in their formative stages. An infant’s nutritional needs are distinctly different from an adult’s:

  • A deficiency of vitamin D and calcium can lead to rickets – characterized by dental deformities, decreased muscle tone, and softening of the bones, which can lead to skeletal deformities, including a misshapen head and bowlegs, among others.
  • A deficiency of B vitamins carries a whole host of malnutrition nightmares. For example, Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.
  • Due to the extensive growth and myelination of their nerve cells, children under the age two children require very high levels of dietary fat. About 50% of their overall calories should come from high-fat sources.

Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that subjecting an infant or young child to fad diets or cult diets that disregard established nutritional guidelines isn’t just irresponsible, but is in fact a form of child abuse. Consider the following cases, where parents were charged with intentionally harming their children through the use of overly-restrictive fad diets:

  • Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas were each sentenced to life in prison for the death of their 6-week old son, Crown Shakur. The infant was fed a diet consisting almost entirely of soy milk and organic apple juice, and weighed just 3 1/2 pounds when he died.
  • Joseph and Silva Swinton were convicted of first degree assault after nearly starving their infant daughter, Ilce, to death on a strict vegan diet. At 15 months old, Ilce suffered from rickets, broken bones, internal injuries and suspected neurological damage.
  • Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn were acquitted of aggravated manslaughter but convicted of four counts of child neglect when their 6-month old daughter, Woyah, died after being fed a diet of raw fruits and vegetables. The child neglect charges stemmed from the condition of their surviving children, each of whom was severely malnourished.

Clearly, these are extreme cases, but they illustrate how dangerous fad diets can be when enforced on young children who have very different nutritional requirements from adults. Without intervention, a child can suffer permanent physical or mental damage, or even death. If an adult prefers to eat a vegan diet to protect animals, that’s their choice and their right. But when they have a child, perhaps that’s the animal they should be saving first.

This guest post was contributed by Kyle Tuttle, whose writing focuses on helping students find the right psychology degree. He can be reached at tuttletr33 at gmail dot com.

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