Friday, December 28, 2007

Imaginary Assault

This kid has balls of solid brass:

"This boy got up and his visual aid was a Bible and a book. And he got up and started his speech by saying 'Now, this piece of crap' and pointed to the Bible."


"He took the Bible and he said, 'I'm going to do this because I can. I'm going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren't going to be able to comprehend and he took the Bible and started ripping out pages."

A kid in school gets up in front of his class, throws a few insults at Christianity, and proceeds to rip pages out of a Bible. I've done it before, it's no big deal. But of course, the Stokholm Syndrome sufferers in the classroom had to take the action as a threat directed against them personally, and the kid is most likely suspended.

The next time some theist insults evolution, or so much as looks at a Dawkins book crosseyed, I'm gonna file assault and battery charges against him. No, not really, as that would be ludicrous. To rip pages from a Dawkins book (pardon my ripoff of Jefferson) neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. But these poor brainwashed children in the classroom felt that the destruction of a holy book was a personal assault against them.

Officials said that ripping up a Bible is constitutionally protected, adding the punishment has nothing to do with the student's Freedom of Speech demonstration.

"Any actions that were taken in this case were because of behavior separate from the Bible," said Parker High Principal Dale Carlson.

Yea right.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Your Brain Looks Like on Faith

Sam Harris, Neuroscience researcher and author of "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation," recently co-authored a study entitled "Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief and Uncertainty." And has an interesting article about it:

Harris tested how the brain responded to assertions in seven categories: mathematical, geographic, semantic, factual, autobiographical, ethical and religious. All seven provided some useful data, but only the ones relating to math and ethics produced results clear enough to give a vivid picture of the way the simple and the complex, the subjective and the objective intertwine. Regardless of their content, statements that the subjects believed lit up the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a location in the brain best known for processing reward, emotion and taste. Equally "primitive" areas associated with taste, pain perception and disgust determined disbelief. "False propositions may actually disgust us," Harris writes.

Is there a practical application here? He speculates that if belief brain scanning were sufficiently refined it could act as an accurate lie detector and help control for the placebo effect in drug design.

Harris says there is no critique of faith hidden somewhere in his brief paper. But his next neurological enterprise may be another matter. He is planning an fMRI run that will concentrate specifically on religious faith, which Harris thinks he now knows how to plumb more deeply. He also plans to set up two different subject groups — the faithful and non-believers. "That way," among other things, he says, "you can ask, 'Do believers believe that Jesus was born of a virgin the same way that nonbelievers believe that Chevrolet makes cars and trucks?'" It may turn out that the brain treats religious faith as its own special category of belief unlike ethics and math.

But that is not what Harris expects to find. He suspects the machines will show that "belief is belief is belief." And that conclusion, he admits, may put him at loggerheads with familiar foes. No one, he says, could accuse him or anyone else of trying to disprove God's existence on the basis of an fMRI. But faith is more vulnerable. "People who feel that religious faith is a singular operation of the brain — if they admit that it's an operation of the brain at all — would object to what I'm doing, since it may show that faith is essentially the same as other kinds of knowing or thinking. The whole thing will seem fishy to anyone who thinks we have immaterial souls running around in our bodies."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tea Party, Los Angeles Style

I don't only kill afterlifes one believer at a time. I also abolish states one brick at a time.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Daniel Dennett Demolishes Dinesh D'Souza

Good old Daniel Dennett debated Dinesh D'Souza, and it went pretty well in Dennett's favor in my somewhat biased opinion.

I've corresponded with Dinesh before, and I wasn't too impressed. Why the guy is so popular is beyond me. But incredibly stupid things do tend to be popular, don't they?