Archive for September, 2015

Bill Nye completely misunderstands life

You might have seen this:

I have always had a certain amount of respect for Bill Nye in the past, even when I disagree with him. I just appreciate his calm, rational approach. This video disturbs that greatly, because it demonstrates a truly shocking level of irrationality and ignorance on the topic he’s arguing about. Let’s look at some of the claims he makes.

The first sentence in the video states that “many, many, many, many more eggs are fertilized than become humans,” but that after conception, the embryo must attach to the uterine wall (presumably, before it becomes human–though he leaves the statement unfinished).

Right off the bat, we run in to trouble. First off, Nye is equivocating on the word “human,” or else the statement is total nonsense. If you’re going to stand on science, then from a biological, scientific point of view, the zygote (newly fertilized egg) is a human at the moment of conception. Every egg that is fertilized is, at that moment, human. It’s not anything else. Conception is the textbook beginning of the human life cycle. Scientifically speaking, that’s the moment a new human comes into being. That’s just biology, baby. Or, baby biology, as the case may be.

So again, if Nye is resting his argument on science, he must not actually mean that a human embryo is not human. Rather, he’s playing a little loose with the technical meaning of the word–presumably when he says “human” here, he means something closer to “person” or implies “human-with-rights” or something along those lines. This is the only meaning I can find in this sentence without it being self-contradictory. But doing that means he’s not talking about science. Defining “personhood” or assigning rights to one or another class of humans isn’t a scientific question, it’s an ethical, philosophical one. So immediately, the idea that this is a scientific argument is missing its foundation. Let’s move on.

“If you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy whose sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?”

So, it gets worse. This is total nonsense no matter how you look at it. When a woman miscarries, the embryo dies of what we would call natural causes. So, while we have laws against killing adult humans (presumably for some kind of bible-thumping reason), we don’t sue or imprison people every time a person dies of natural causes. This statement implies to me that Nye has, possibly, never given even a moment’s serious thought to the issue he’s arguing.

Further, different individuals have different “rights” at times. Affirming that a baby is a human doesn’t mean treating it like an adult any more than affirming my two-year-old’s humanity means we have to let him vote.

In a statement directly to those in the pro-life movement, Nye then says you “literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ironically, it’s followed by this:

“You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance… Your interpretation of a book written five thousand years ago, fifty centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby, that’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.”

This… I don’t even know where to begin with this. Nobody… ever… anywhere… has ever made anything resembling such a claim. For the record, nothing in the Bible implies anything like this. But also, for the record, I’ve been in a lot… a lot… of abortion debates, with a lot of different people, and I pretty much never, ever bring up the Bible. I knew to expect to disagree with Nye’s conclusions, but I never would have expected such a wild, irresponsible, and truly ignorant statement from him. I don’t even know where such a nonsensical claim comes from. If this kind of statement is why Bill Nye is pro-choice, his opinion is truly based in utter ignorance.

“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, for medical researchers looking diligently….”

Jumping from this to “therefore abortion is okay” is the definition of non sequitur….

“I know people are now critical of the expression ‘fact-based,’ but what’s wrong with that?”

Finally, we have some pretentious looking down at anyone who would disagree. I’ve never actually heard anyone criticize facts either, for that matter, but this is the point of the video, of course- not to persuade someone who holds pro-life beliefs, but to tell those who are pro-choice that there’s no reason to ever bother seriously thinking about the question, because science. You can continue to look down on the pro-life movement because they are dumb because science and science-y words and bow ties so don’t think about it. This is what the video boils down to.

This video is four minutes and thirty-six seconds of awful logic and ludicrously nonsensical assertions coated in a pretense of science and delivered by a man whom you can trust because he put the word “Science” in his name. If you watched the video and thought Nye made great points, you are not paying attention.

I knew there must have been a reason I was always a Beakman kid.

UPDATE:

Trent Horn over at Strange Notions has a much more thorough response.

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A Christian, a Muslim, and Ben Carson walk into a bar…

Well, sometimes it all feels like a joke.

Dr. Carson stepped in it last week. From Huffington:

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Commentary has followed two lines so far. One is just sort of flat out wrong. The other, I don’t know how to think about.

1. Everyone saying Ben Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution, doesn’t understand the Constitution.

I am actually surprised, in a disappointed way, that this comes up in every left-wing response. “The Constitution says there will be no religious test for public office!”

To those on the left, this apparently means that voters are legally required to ignore a candidate’s faith when deciding whether they support the candidate. I’ll remember that next time someone attacks a conservative for sounding too Christian.

In actuality, this simply means that the states can’t write a law saying “ONLY EPISCOPALIANS ALLOWED ON OUR BALLOTS”. But if Larry the Lutheran can’t abide voting for Episcopal Earl, that’s his vote and he can do with it what he wants. Individuals are still allowed their religious convictions and their own opinions in the US.

So, what Dr. Carson said was, at least, fully in line with the Constitution. He didn’t say a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be President. He just said he wouldn’t personally support a Muslim candidate. He’s allowed that opinion.

2. Islam and the Constitution.

Here’s where I confess ignorance. Rather than knee-jerking out a response on either side–either cheering the courageous stand, or condemning the blatant bigotry–I want to actually consider the question. Is Islam incompatible with the Constitution? Let’s back up in his statement.

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

This, as a standard, ought to be uncontroversial. Someone’s faith is part of who they are. If a candidate’s religion dictates that he must act in a way that would violate his duties in office, Ima say maybe he shouldn’t hold that office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kim Davis.

So where does Islam fit into this question?

I think it’s important to remember that we vote for individuals, not religions. That would have been a decent answer for Dr. Carson to give, by the way. What does this individual’s Muslim faith mean to him or her? Because, of course, ask ten experts on religion how Islam may or may not be compatible with the Constitution, and you’ll get ten contradictory answers. I imagine you could ask ten Muslim theologians and have the same result. Islam, like any major religion, has broken into denominations and factions, and different leaders seem to have different interpretations of some pretty significant points.

I’m sensitive to the idea that there is unfair mistrust and misunderstanding of Islam. I’m familiar with the phenomenon. Atheists accuse Christians of believing in a magic sky fairy and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping statues and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Is the idea that Islamic sharia law would trump the Constitution for a Muslim President a similar mistake?

I honestly don’t know how to actually answer that. Many experts, including many Muslims, are of the opinion that the separation of Church and State doesn’t really fit within Islam. Many others disagree. In Muslim countries, wide majorities favor making sharia the law of the land. But then the people of Egypt–though 74% polled in favor of sharia at the above link–basically rioted to throw out Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after they started trying to implement sharia law. Given situations like that, I’m unwilling to accept a broad claim that authentic Islam automatically means taking the position that secular governments should be run according to sharia law.

I wouldn’t have said what Dr. Carson said. But whether or not the statement is justifiable depends on a greater understanding of Islam than I can claim, so it seems to remain an open question.

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Is it 2016 already?

Halloween displays are looking stale in the stores and Christmas decorations are already starting to appear. Time to decide who we’re going to vote for in November 2016 before it’s too late!

Having a couple of kids has made writing… and remaining fully informed… and, to be honest, caring about politics as much… more difficult. I’m planning to use this space to keep notes on my thoughts as they occur, and open them up for discussion.

First off, the driver of this clown car. I can’t. I just can’t. Donald Trump, really?

Polls show the top three GOP frontrunners are all three of the non-politicians in the race. Republicans nationwide have said, “Anyone, ANYONE but another politician!” Yesterday’s announcement by Speaker Boehner is encouraging to me. It implies that there is, maybe, finally, an awareness in the Republican party that GOP voters are fed up with the way Republican officials have behaved. Enough of politics as usual, right?

I get that. No more of this nonsense, let’s throw the bums out. Anyone but a politician. I’m sympathetic to that point of view.

But Trump!?

Here’s what I would #askTrump. If I hadn’t missed it. After two debates and a bunch of interviews, he’s made it clear that he isn’t deeply familiar with many of the potential issues facing our next President. His response has consistently been, I’ll be an expert by the time I sit in that chair, just you watch. And I’ll hire the best people.

Mr. Trump: would you, as a businessman, hire a CEO to run one of your companies, if the candidate demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the business and the industry, but insisted only that he’d become familiar after you agreed to give him the job? Would you be impressed by his confidence, or would you laugh at his arrogance as you show him the door?

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