Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Slave Brides

Posted in Muslims Against Sharia, Religion, Religious Extremism, Religious Idiocy, Sexism by Skepdude on August 21, 2008

“Shaikha,” a 16-year-old Saudi girl, drank bleach in an attempt to kill herself because her father was forcing her to marry a 75-year-old man. And why? So that Shaikha’s father could himself marry the elderly man’s 13-year-old daughter! Shaikha begged and pleaded not to be forced into this marriage–even her mother supported her plea; all to no avail.

While such normalized atrocities continue in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim world, Random House cancels the publication of a novel, The Jewel of Medina, based on the life of Aisha, the prophet Mohammed’s beloved wife whom he married when she was either six or seven years-old. The marriage was presumably consummated when Aisha was nine-years-old.

Can there possibly be a connection between what Mohammed did and what other Muslim men do? Is the mere suggestion heretical? Is telling the truth about Mohammed heretical?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY.

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Meet the Flat Brainers!


When it comes to science, the rule of thumb is that we should always challenge everything, in order to make new discoveries and advance our knowledge. After all, if we were to sit around content with the knowledge we have, there would be no drive towards the unknown. Nevertheless, there are certain scientific facts that are so well established, that they just can’t be challenged, unless by a brilliant genius who sees what everyone else misses. Read this carefully : An average Joe, with no training in the field he’s seeking to reinvent has just as much chance of succeeding as an ID proponent has to make sense. And those are pretty slim odds.

One of those well established facts in science is that the Earth is round, not flat. That was established eons ago. There are countless photos, videos and what have you to demonstrate that. Anyone who’s ever set foot on a plane has seen with their very own eyes the slight curvature of the earth’s surface. Yet, as unbelievable as it may sound, there are still people out there who think this whole round Earth thing to be nothing but a vast, world-wide conspiracy. They still believe the eart is flat, infinite and 9,000 kilometres deep (about 5,600 miles) and get this, it stretches infinitely horizontally! You can’t make this stuff up. You can only whole-heartedly believe it.

Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the “conspiracy” that the Earth is round.

“People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers,” says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

Why are people so fascinated with the idea of a “conspiracy”? How many of these so-called conspiracies can the world governments have going at the same time anyway? The UFO proponents cry conspiracy. The flat earthers cry conspiracy. Almost any thing can be imagined and the lack of evidence blamed on a governmental conspiracy. These folks believe in their weird hypothesis precisely because they can’t find any evidence to back it up. Talk about weird! String theory has got nothing on these nuts!

Prejudiced? Of course I am prejudiced against flat earthers. They are,at the worst complete idiots, and at the best, self deluded, hallucinating, mentally ill people. There is a certain egotistic trend with all such people. They seem to think to be in on something that the general public doesn’t see. They seem to think they’re smart because they have “uncovered” these hidden secrets that “normal” people were never meant (and thus they are better than normal people) to uncover. To me they are like little boys pretending to be superheroes and getting that instantaneous gratification.  All the guys out there know what I’m talking about.

“Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.”

Blind faith…check! Ignorance…check! Anti-intellectualism…Double check!  The fascinating thing however, is that they blame us, the sane ones, of blind faith, ignorance and anti-intellectualism, because you see we aren’t smart enough to see through the veil that the world governments have woven over our eyes. But they can! And they have no evidence to back it up. And that is precisely how they know they’re right. You get the (il)logic there?

“I came to realise how much we take at face value,” he says. “We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses.”

And he offers a perfect example of accepting what we are told at face value…himself!

Mr Davis now believes “the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite – it stretches horizontally forever”.

“And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep”, he adds.

And here’s another, slightly different take:

James McIntyre, a British-based moderator of a Flat Earth Society discussion website, has a slightly different take. “The Earth is, more or less, a disc,” he states. “Obviously it isn’t perfectly flat thanks to geological phenomena like hills and valleys. It is around 24,900 miles in diameter.”

I see it’s either infinite or 24,900 mile disc. I guess they both think the other is part of a conspiracy to hide the true “truth” about our beloved planet.

What about all the photos from space that show, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Earth is round?  The space agencies of the world are involved in an international conspiracy to dupe the public for vast profit,says Mr McIntyre.

John Davis also says “these photos are fake”.

Of course, the folks at NASA are all millionaires and getting richer by the day.

And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world?

Mr McIntyre laughs. “This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions,” he says. “A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason – the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth.”

Oh the humanity! The poor, poor humanity!

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Theocracy in action—HHS proposes to limit birth control

Posted in Denialism, Medicine, politics, Religious Extremism, Sexism by Skepdude on August 2, 2008

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “DENIALISM”

I’m so angry I can barely type coherently. I have very strong feelings about abortion, but I believe it is possible to respectfully disagree about the ethical issues involved. I have an obstetrics colleague who does not perform abortions, but refers patients needing this service to others. That’s the ethical way for a doctor to oppose abortion—don’t do it, don’t prosteletize, refer out. My personal feeling is a woman has the right to control her body and all that dwells within, but I can see why others would disagree.

All that being said, if you chose a profession that will, by its very nature create an insoluble ethical conundrum, you need to get a new job. Pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control when given a lawfully written prescription should be fired immediately and consider a change in careers.

The Religious Right is trying to protect these types of “acts of conscience.” Traditional passive resistance in the model of Thoreau and King emphasized the breaking of unjust laws and the acceptance of any punishment that goes with it. The religious right in this country is not content with this model—they would prefer to allow for acts of conscience without consequences. In this vein, the Church Amendment was passed. This amendment protects professionals who are trying to impose their values on others by mandating that health care providers who receive federal funds not require providers to provide services that to which they morally object. This has not been widely enforced apparently, because a draft is circulating at the Department of Health and Human Services that would step up enforcement, and broaden the services to which people could object, even protecting them if they refuse to refer to an alternate provider. This document terribly flawed for a number of reasons.

This draft misunderstands fundamentally the nature of health professionals. We serve patients, not ourselves. The draft document equates providers who refuse to provide or refer for services with conscientious objectors in time of war. This is patently ridiculous. We have a volunteer military. When we had draft, it was possible for someone who would normally have nothing to do with war be forced into a moral dilemma. The way out was CO status, which would allow pacifists to serve without taking life. Service wasn’t a choice—killing was.

I chose to be a physician, knowing full well that medicine is fraught with moral ambiguities. I could have opened a coffee shop instead. Professional organizations recognize the primacy of our patients’ needs over our own—our obligations are not to our own morals but to our patients. It’s part of our ethical code.

The HHS draft makes a mockery of this. It quotes a study that states that many physicians feel that they are obliged to present all options to patients regardless of their personal objections. The draft points out that this may be contrary to law. This may be true, but the fact is that WE ARE ETHICALLY OBLIGED TO PRESENT ALL MEDICALLY APPROPRIATE OPTIONS. No law changes these ethics, and in fact, it might be argued that any laws that directly conflict with our ethical obligations to our patients are immoral and require us to speak and act in opposition to these laws.

The draft attempts to create a conflict where none exists. Health care providers do not need their morals to be protected from discrimination. If we object to standard medical practices, we can find a position where our morals aren’t challenged (but that’s hard to find in medicine).

The draft seeks to more strongly enforce the Church Amendments. To justify this invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, it makes some very dubious claims. One is that Plan B, the pill that prevents embryonic implantation, is an “abortifacient”. More on this shortly.

Another claim is that forcing doctors to subsume their beliefs to their professional obligations will cause a shortage of health care professionals. What unmitigated bullshit.

But then comes the really sinister bit. They wish to redefine abortion for the purposes of the statutes. In order to do that they invoke a Zogby poll of American values, and two medical dictionaries. They mention the British and American Medical Associations’ definition as pregnancy occurring after implantation, and then toss away the professional definition for two dictionaries and a poll. They also propose to determine what constitutes abortion by the individual’s conscience “within the bounds of reason”. In other words, any health care professional can call anything an abortion and be legally protected from providing medically and ethically appropriate care. Let me quote the report:

“Abortion” means any of the various procedures—including the prescription, dispensing, and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action—that results in the terminatino of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.

Your federal government is giving doctors, nurses, and pharmacists the freedom to deny you anything they don’t like, including most forms of birth control. Heard of Griswold v. Connecticut? Forget about it. The government has decided that with regard to health care, the Establishment Clause is irrelevant, and the Free Exercise clause is more important than the rights of patients. You should be very afraid for your personal freedoms.

The theocrats who are attempting to make this law are too cowardly to give up their comforts for their beliefs. Rather than engaging in passive resistance, they wish to legislate their religion. If this becomes the law of the land, expect to see some real passive resistance from the health care community. Keep your eyes open, and vote wisely.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “DENIALISM”