Monday, April 26, 2010

Muslim Responses to Free Speech

Somehow, after the insensitive cartoon has been made, and justifiably, some feelings were hurt, still the stinging indignation is pointed at the free speech rather than at the death threats and in all too many cases actual murders perpetrated by those who call themselves Muslims. The choice is whether to side with the irrational murderous rage or with the freedom to speak.

The focus of indignation must surely be the untempered reaction of the radicals. The focus is the believer, already given to leaps beyond reason by believing in the first place, who is not able to limit his or her recourse to something fitting offended sensibilities but must make such an outcry as to place oneself above all others and invoke the right to take away human life as some kind of payment for hurt feelings. No laws, judgements, trials, sense, reason or self-control employed, just blind murderous rage. That is what is truly offensive. That is what should be the target of all our outrage. It is unacceptable to overlook the sanctity of human life before going right for the free speech as the target of anyone's indignation.

The trouble with belief is that the ability to make great leaps without evidence leaves the door open to accepting many more irrational ideas without question. The deep ignorance of statements by Pat Robertson about the Earthquake in Haiti being some kind of punishment for a pact with an invisible evil being is one example. Plate tectonics and physics explain that, there is no need to invoke the supernatural. Infact, it does more harm to stop and pretend it was done by magic, thereby contending that further study is either impossible or unneeded. How callous the statement is to those suffering the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

A Muslim Cleric in Iran tried to declare that female immodesty is causing Earthquakes via the mechanism of God's anger.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes" Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi said.

This is absolute ignorance coupled with a brilliantly cynical use of social control mechanisms. That the people have already surrendered to belief without evidence makes it possible.

One can never be sure of what the next leap into irrationality will be, among any religious group.

Moderate Muslims need to turn their attention away from obscure cartoons, toward their more extreme co-religious elements and begin to criticize their behavior, if only because it is actually destructive to human life and risks defaming all those who share their faith, instead of just simply being "unkind" like a political cartoon.

Every other faith group seems to be above taking offense to their critics or perhaps they have found constructive ways to project their own positive messages. Institutions are in need of a little ribbing from time to time to point out their injustices and faults.

No person or group can be immune from criticism. The act of killing, making death threats or even making thinly veiled death threats is not an appropriate nor acceptable response.

No more unjustified murders can be allowed before civilized society must act to defend civil living. People frankly have the right to offend one another and to speak their minds without being targeted for death. If the terrorist had powerful weapons they would use them. Free countries already have powerful weapons and the depth of their restraint is shown when confronting fascist radicals such as those who murdered Theo Van Gogh for making a short video against wife-beating!

People must come to their senses and start criticizing the violent and murderous radical religious actors not the free speakers!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Global Wha Wha?

I read two articles today that both struck me as a little far first.

Someone pointed out that there was a Live Science article proposing that the movement of Ice Weight as water could redistribute pressures which can disrupt force balances and lead to Earthquakes. Global Warming is increasing Earthquakes, at least until the ice is all melted and the water weight is done shifting. That seems plausible.

See the 2007 article:

And then there's today's article. Where a Muslim Cleric in Iran tries to declare that female immodesty is causing Earthquakes via the mechanism of God's anger.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi said.

Is it really still the dark ages over there? I thought it through. If Global Warming causes Iranian women to uncover "some of their hair" and wear more "revealing" clothing (I presume they Ankle and Neck) then one could correlate that the same thing that is contributing to a spike in Earthquakes is also contributing to a spike in dressing lighter among Iranian women!

Here is a the link to the BBC article about Iranian women:

Of course, no matter what happens it will be taken as a spur to more religious commitment:

"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," he said.

The Cleric's attitude is awfully insensitive to the tens of thousands of Iranian Earthquake victims and their families over the last decade. This is on its face an egregious (though that word should be used for things that are not as common as this) example of the exploitation of tragedy and the use of fear to manipulate credulous people. I find it shameful and yes, ignorant as well, by the best definition of the term.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just one Bible verse

I am going to examine just one claim of the Creation myth in the Bible by evaluating just one verse:

Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

To someone who knows about modern scientific discoveries and understanding, the passages in Genesis reveal a deeply localized pedestrian view of the Universe from the perspective and understanding of an unsophisticated observer. The emphasis on Earth its self as significant in the Universe betrays a provincial perspective. The scale of the rest of the Universe compared to the significance of the Earth and its day, night, sky, staggeringly great. It almost too much to express.

Our Sun is an average star. Even so, it is around a million times greater in volume than the Earth. There are billions of stars in billions of galaxies in the Universe many of them larger than the Sun by orders of magnitude. To say all of that was created on the fourth day when making the Earth took more than a day is clearly a notion proceeding from the perspective of an Earth bound author with little scientific knowledge. It is to the desert religious of the bronze age as if the stars were quickly stipple painted on to the sky as an after thought.

I understand that this is not the lynch pin of religion, of course. Though reading the myth does reveal its heavy dose of anthropic preference and inadequate description of what we now know is out there.

The most obnoxious thing is the phrase "two great lights". Because the author, or the author's imagined god, didn't happen to know that the Moon merely reflects the Sun's light and is not a source all its own.

When scrutinized from a perspective of truly greater light and knowledge, the Bible stories show their deep lack of understanding and real information about the Universe and they appear to be just what they are, the best effort of a quivering baffled and dazzled early man.