Archive for December, 2007

An Open Letter To Mum

Dear mum,

 

I’d like to start by saying that I do love you ever so much, and I do love you no matter what (well, if you were a fundie I’d have issues bringing myself to do so, but you’re not and if you were you would have brainwashed me into being a fundie anyway). Not only am I thankful that you feed me, and support me in all my endeavors, but I am especially thankful that you are an Atheist. If you weren’t, I’d have an especially hard time being faithless.

 

So, you are very rational in that regard…

 

But there are a few things that we need to talk about, eh.

 

For example, your faithful support of the Chinese government. Let’s start with the story you told me of why you ended up becoming a teacher, even though it was your dream of becoming a diplomat.

 

The Chinese government was giving you an interview to assess whether you’d make a good diplomat or not. You had the grades, the high test scores… But during the interview, they thought you weren’t willing enough to follow orders. They asked you if you would mind becoming a teacher. You said that you really didn’t want to, but if the Chinese government ordered you to, you would. This was enough for them to determine you weren’t loyal enough, and you went to Washington to study to become an English teacher.

 

I don’t know why you ended up still doing it when you became a United States resident and could choose to do something that you really wanted to do. I think that they brain washed you to the point where you believed you should do what they told you to even when you had a choice.

 

There are few things more important to me than freedom. I can’t believe that you so willingly sacrificed yours to people who wanted to control your destiny.

 

When I pointed out to you a few days ago that the Chinese government had blocked websites about the incident at Tiananmen Square in 1989, as well as my blog and several foreign news sources, you said that they didn’t know all sides of the story. When I asked you why the Chinese government did kill people at Tiananmen Square you said “They were refusing to work and disrupting the economy. What is most important is that people work in the factories and help the economy work, so that’s why the Chinese government killed them.”

 

No, the economy is not the most important thing. At least, it’s not when it comes at the expense of people’s lives and freedom.

 

I do highly doubt that the Chinese government will bother trying to arrest me if they do read this (at least I don’t think that the secret police is still around), but if they do, what blind statement will you make to defend them when I’m rotting in some prison cell?

 

“Well, my daughter shouldn’t have said such stupid things…”

 

Your vehement support of Chinese medicine whenever I express doubts is simply absurd.

 

Granted, there is some truth in Chinese medicine claims… Some of their herbs work. Acupuncture has also been shown to release endorphins, chemicals which naturally relieve pain in the body, so it works sometimes. But, really, you don’t need an acupuncturist to do some crazy stuff with yin, yang, and the twelve meridians or whatever… The concept that makes acupuncture work occasionally is simple enough that all you really need is the knowledge of where a certain nerve cluster is. The Vulcan neck pinch probably works just as well (and is cheaper than) an acupuncturist.

 

But every time I ask you to prove that certain Chinese medicine cures work (a scientific test would be fine, except alternative medicine by its very definition has not been tested), you say something like “It’s been around for thousands of years. That’s all the proof I need.”

 

Oh come on! There are loads of things that have been around for thousands of years that don’t work. Astrology has been around for thousands of years… if it were wrong you think we would have disproven it by now. Are you going to start reading your daily horoscope? How ‘bout we blow all your savings on getting a professional psychic to do your astrological profile? Tarot has been around for a while. So has palm reading!

 

For a long time before modern medicine, bloodletting was a common practice. Patients would often die, if not from blood loss, from infections caused by the knife the doctors used. Mercury was also commonly used, and it cured the disease… and unfortunately, also the patient… but it seems that they stuck around long enough to pay the medical bill. They didn’t get rid of these practices for a long time. This is why homeopathy seemed to work. It was so dilute that, for once, the medicine didn’t kill the patient… however, sometimes they’ll die from not actually getting the disease cured.

 

But I don’t care if my own nationality came up with it, and I don’t care if it has been around for thousands of years. If it doesn’t stand up to the test, it doesn’t work, and it won’t work no matter how long it has been here.

 

You have a high blood pressure problem, which you are treating with some sort of flower-based Chinese medication. I don’t know how strictly the Chinese government regulates medication, but I know that this is not mainstream and if it’s not mainstream it’s because it hasn’t been tested. When I asked you how you knew that it works, you said “I haven’t died yet.” That was enough to make me afraid for you. At the very least, ask the people who sold it to you for a scientific study showing that it works better than a placebo. If they don’t, then please invest in medicine that was made after the Dark Ages. Like I said, I love you very much, and it does me no good if you die from high blood pressure. I don’t want you to die. Can you understand my plea?

 

This morning, when Deepak Chopra was interviewed on BBC World, I turned to you to try to explain why what he said was utter tosh. He went off on some jargon-filled explanation about how when you have a “subjective state of euphoria, your body releases dopamine, and serotonin, and these function as anti-depressants and help your immune system.” Basically, he was saying that if you’re happy it’ll counteract depression… But then he also said that a strong immune system will kill cancer. He said that we would all get cancer if we weren’t happy because then our immune systems won’t be strong to kill cancer cells.

 

I can only assume this idiot hasn’t studied medicine at all. Cancer is caused by cells with DNA that causes it to multiply unstoppably. This DNA could have been inherited, or it could have been altered by certain toxins or radiation. I don’t care how happy you are, if you inhale a bunch of radon gas, you will get lung cancer.

 

You told me that I was being too egotistic in calling him an idiot. But, mum, this is basically the same ancient “wisdom” that you’re basing your belief in Chinese medicine on. He said explicitly that his ideas were from Asian medicine ideas.

 

There are already plenty of people in this world living in the Dark Ages. Please… step into the light of the 21st century. Please.

 

That said, I love you and I hope you can open your eyes.

 

Your loving daughter,

 

Elles

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Stupid Chinese Government

 

Alright… So I do owe the Chinese government… If it weren’t for them, they would have let my mum realize her dream of becoming a diplomat, and she wouldn’t have gone to Washington to fulfill the destiny they chose for her of becoming a teacher. If she had had the freedom to choose what she wanted to be, she wouldn’t have met my dad, and my mum wouldn’t have had me and I wouldn’t be here. The Chinese government also gave me an Atheist mum. I am extraordinarily thankful to not have a fundie for a parent (most of my friends do), though her Chinese pride also causes her to believe that acupuncture works just because it’s old (bloodletting is also an old practice, eh).

 

So I owe my existence and Atheist mum to the Chinese government… of course, I ultimately owe my existence to virtually anything you can think of, I suppose.

 

But because of the Chinese government, I am unable to access my blog from here in China for my two week vacation. They have some weird kind of firewall that blocks foreign news sources and blogs. My mum’s explanation was that foreign news sources can’t see the story from all sides (?) and are biased.

 

So, she basically confirmed that they’re afraid of Chinese people reading stuff that badmouths them, and that’s why they’ve blocked all the blogging websites and foreign news sources. So how is it that I’m badmouthing them on my blog when it’s blocked from China?

 

The answer is, I’m not. I’m e-mailing this post to Homo economicus as soon as I’m done typing it up, and he’s going to post it for me (and maybe he can add the scarlet A letter while he’s at it since I’m too naive to figure it out on my own, hint hint). Haha. I feel good about circumventing the system…

 

At least I think that they’re not totalitarian enough to find out that I’m doing it and arrest me… But, I honestly am not afraid of that. If I can be arrested for being censored, than it’s something worth standing up against. But don’t worry, it’s not going to happen to me.

 

I just want to say that though the Chinese government hasn’t been all bad to me (though I owe my existence to them because they limited my mum’s freedom, though she doesn’t feel that way), if they had nothing to hide (they do have something to hide), all this inconvenience and censorship would not have been necessary. So, I’ll chalk this up as my first experience of actual totalitarianism, add a few dozen points to the Chinese government on the scale of evil, and go back to helping my grandmother move out of her apartment here on Hua Hai road.

Happy Christmas!

One of the most hilarious things I’ve seen recently on the internet is the controversy (if you could call it that) surrounding the fact that Richard Dawkins sings Christmas carols! Le gasp! The horror!

I can understand the confusion from the press, but most amusing is how pissed some people are about it. It’s as if they want to send the Atheist Inquisition after him and sentence him to 200 lashes.

Well, when I heard that he sang Christmas carols and called himself a ‘cultural Christian’, I’ll admit to a bit of surprise. But, it made sense… to me, at least. When I was younger, my parents exposed me to a few Christmas traditions. They gave me presents, we occasionally set up a plastic Christmas tree, but mostly we’d just use the time off from school and work to travel. We never felt obligated to celebrate the holiday, but I enjoyed it. I mean, free toys were the coolest thing ever at my age.

When people asked me if my family celebrated Christmas, though, it was about as awkward as being asked what religion I was, since I’d have to end up saying I was Atheist both ways. I told them the truth, that we traveled mostly, occasionally set up a tree, gave presents to friends… but surprisingly, it was my religious friends who got mad at me. One of my (now ex-)Catholic friends started whining about how the holiday was not about presents, but about Jesus.

It seems to have changed. Now it’s a minority of Atheists that are getting pissed at the Atheists who celebrate Christmas.

Well, I might’ve sort of supported those Atheists earlier on, but when I went around saying “Happy Holiday” it was not because of political correctness, it was because it’s a Pastafarian holiday. But, today I came to the conclusion that it’s OK to say you’re celebrating Christmas. The Christmas I celebrate is a secular Christmas. Some people may start saying that that’s an oxymoron, but even theologists think that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December, but that the Christians celebrated it during that time. Something about the Winter Solstice making it easier for them to blend in with the Pagans, but I don’t remember and I don’t want to misinform…

But the point is, it’s OK to celebrate Christmas. It’s OK to participate in those traditions. Why? It’s OK to have fun for no , or a meaningless reason.

Christmas traditions can be fun. I like looking at the pretty lights. I like getting presents from friends. I like making presents for my friends, and giving them to them. I like food.

So, while I was eating breakfast this morning, I came to that conclusion, left my food at the table, sat down at the piano, and started playing Christmas carols and bellowing the lyrics as loudly as possible. My mum must have thought that I was acting quite mad. But isn’t singing a song about the night Jesus was born about the same as singing some of the Potter Puppet Pals songs? You don’t have to take the lyrics seriously, and I can’t really think of an example when you need to take lyrics you’re singing seriously.

Then, I went downstairs, dragged up the plastic Christmas tree we hadn’t set up for two or three years, and decorated it. I wrestled a bit with the tangled up tinsel and lights, wrapped them around, then started hanging ornaments on spare branches.

And I had quite a lot of fun.

So why should theists get all the fun of the season? The answer is they shouldn’t. Atheists have every right to practice whatever traditions they want, not matter what the origins are (most Christmas traditions have secular origins anyway), just as Christians have the right to practice traditions that have Pagan origins.

And Hell, if Dawkins wants to sing Christmas carols (as long as he doesn’t have the singing voice of Sanjaya), and Hitchens wants to set up a tree, and if I want to do both, we should be allowed to. And if some people don’t want to, more power to them. I hate some aspects of Christmas myself.

So, to all ye faithless and faithful, have a Happy Holiday/Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever.

Science is Just Another Religion That Wants World Domination!

I’ll try to ease up on the sarcasm from here on out…

I’m in a bad mood today. Last night, my friend “Yitaru” (well, that’s obviously not his real name but that’s his name in the chatroom) came into the atheist chatroom and asked the following question:

Why should science replace religion for our morals?

We tried to make clear that we didn’t think that morals should be derived directly from science, but that science and logic should be used to influence moral decisions. The example we used was abstinence-only education. I ran two thought experiments.

Two teenagers who have been educated about safe sex use condoms and therefore do not contract any STDs or have any pregnancies.

Two teenagers who have been through abstinence-only education break their abstinence vows (the average time is 18 months after taking them), have sex, but are told that condoms don’t work and therefore don’t use them. Their chances of contracting STDs or having pregnancies increases.

However, he sort of leeched onto the “philosophy” part of it, calling religion a philosophy just like science. Well, in a sense, science is a philosophy, but it’s different from other philosophies for the following reason.

Evidence. Again. I think I’ve already made a post about evidence being what separates science from Intelligent Design somewhere…

Of course, evidence and logic are the shoes on your two feet. You can get further with both than with just one (that’s a Babylon 5 quote that’s been modified, for the record).

And then he said that logic is subjective (?!?) because what seems logical to one person is illogical to another person. Ha!

And then when we were trying to explain to him why (again) science is not another religion and expressed our frustration, he claimed that we had been personally attacking him and said that we were all like a bunch of Creationists and left (damn… run-on… and I’m too lazy to fix it). When I talked to him privately later, he said that the Creationists and the Atheists are like two children fighting over whose toy is better. That science has no reason to say that other philosophies are wrong because it itself is a philosophy. I then had the pleasure of listening to him flaunt his “agnosticism” and say that he had “seen the light.”

Well, it’s a shame that I have lost an ally to postmodernism, that dreadful enemy of reason. But I think I’ll address the “my toy is better than your toy” analogy.

Let’s take… a Barbieist (supporter of the Barbie doll) and a Legoist (supporter of Legos). Let’s imagine that they support their toys for the same reason that religious people support their religions (in other words, think of a Muslim and a Christian arguing).

Barbiest: My toy is better than your toy.

Legoist: No, my toy is better than your toy.

Barbiest: Is not!

Legoist: Is too!

Now, let’s have the Barbiest ask the Legoist why the Lego is better than the Barbie.

Barbiest: Why are Legos better than Barbie dolls?

Legoist: Because my parents played with Legos.

Barbiest: Well, my parents played with Barbie dolls too!

In other words, they believe what the believe because of tradition. What’s another popular reason why religious people believe? Authority.

Legoist: Well, the CEO of the company that makes Legos says that Legos are better.

Barbiest: Well, the CEO of the company that makes Barbie dolls says that Barbie dolls are better.

The other reason would be revelation…

Legoist: I just have a feeling inside that Legos are better.

Barbiest: I just have a feeling inside that Barbies are better.

I think that this argument seems absurd, and I hope it’s quite obvious why. Richard Dawkins ended his book, A Devil’s Chaplain, with his letter to a ten-year old daughter that highlighted a good reason for believing in something (evidence) and three bad reasons for believing in something (tradition, authority, and revelation). However, when an evolutionist gets in an argument with a creationist, I have found that it almost always ends like this:

Creationist: It’s something called faith! Something that you will never understand!

So let’s change the argument a bit.

Barbiest: I think that Barbie dolls are better than Legos.

Legoist: I think that Legos are better than Barbie dolls and here’s why. You can build stuff with them, building stuff is fun. It’s also useful to develop those skills if you want to become good at Math, or if you want to become an engineer.

Barbiest: I still like Barbie dolls better because I believe they’re better because I believe they’re better.

Bottom line. Science is better because we know why. We know why because of evidence and logic.

But logic is subjective! What’s logical to one person isn’t logical to the rest of us!

That’s about the same as saying that where one person thinks there’s a cliff edge, another person won’t think that there’s a cliff edge. Logical fallacies can be considered subjective, but real logic is objective.

If P then Q, then if P then Q. If you haven’t taken symbolic logic, that might not make a lot of sense… But let’s say that P means that it’s raining. Let’s say that Q means that the sidewalk is getting wet. Therefore, if it is raining, then the sidewalk is getting wet.

However, there is room for fallacy here. If Q then P. If the sidewalk is getting wet, then it must be raining, right?

Not necessarily. The sidewalk could be getting wet because a sprinkler is broken. Maybe a child spilled something. Maybe a block of ice is melting. We can probably figure out which it is by observing the immediate area around the sidewalk, to gain evidence to figure out what is causing the sidewalk to be getting wet.

Let’s take the following “proof”:

1. Richard Dawkins is happily married to Lalla Ward.

2. Richard Dawkins was introduced to Lalla Ward by Douglas Adams.

Conclusion 1: Douglas Adams is a good matchmaker.

3. I have the same birthday as Douglas Adams.

4. If I have the same birthday as Douglas Adams, then I was exposed to the same astrological energies, and Douglas Adams and I are the exact same person.

Conclusion 2: I am a good matchmaker.

5. If I am a good matchmaker and I think that two people would make a good couple, then they will make a good couple.

6. I think that Richard Dawkins and I would make a good couple (Well… not really… there’s sort of a half century and two years age difference).

Conclusion 3: Richard Dawkins and I would make a good couple.

Ergo,

Richard Dawkins and I are meant for each other.

So! Is Richard Dawkins going to read this “logic” proof, divorce his wife, and come marry me?

Of course not! Why? Let’s play spot the fallacies… I think that they’re blatantly obvious, so I’m not going to go through it and pick it apart.

The point is, no matter how logical I think something sounds, that does not mean that it actually is logical.

But philosophy does not necessarily use fallacies!

True, but it doesn’t take evidence into account either. To Aristotle, and to your and my common sense, a ball weighing 100 cubits that is dropped at the same time as a ball weighing 10 cubits will hit the ground before the ball weighing 10 cubits. We know this is not true, however, because of the laws of physics, but also because a little known scientist named Galileo tested that claim. The evidence was that they hit the ground at the same time, and now our laws of physics are more correct.

But who was right? The philosopher? Or the scientist who went out and tested the claim?

You’re right. Science is just another philosophy, but it’s right, and the reason why is because… we tell you why.

Tragedy and Conspiracy

I just don’t get it. How is it that with every tragedy that occurs some conspiracy nut is lurking in the shadows, ready to spring from them and shift the blame as far away from the actual cause as possible? It happens so often that perhaps there’s alien or government involvement here? Or perhaps not.

Here’s my theory on conspiracy theories… Sometimes it is just a deluded/gullible person who wants to feel smart about themselves, so they gather a bunch of circumstantial “evidence” and speculations, take advantage of people who already mistrust authority (not that it’s a bad thing to mistrust authority, but an authority who tells you to mistrust a specific authority is probably not trustworthy either), and voila! Blame is shifted, and the government did it.

Or maybe sometimes they just have a motive to discredit somebody. 9/11 deniers often ask me if I’m a Republican (I’m not) as soon as I start arguing against them. My theory is they just waste all their time pouring over out of context quotes because they want to discredit Bush (as if he needed further discrediting).

Today, I had the displeasure of stumbling upon the following articles on the internet:

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_7691068
http://www.uncommondescent.com/philosophy/2889/

First of all, note that Uncommon Descent seems to be basing its case against Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett (I really need to get around to reading one of his books) based on that single sentence: “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.

Has this guy read a single book by Richard Dawkins or Dan Dennett? Furthermore, has he read the entire rant? For your convenience, I’m posting the rest of it here.

“Well all you people out there can just kiss my ass and die. From now on I don’t give a @#%$ about what all you mutha fuckers have to say, unless I respect you which is highly unlikely, but for those of you who do happen to know me and know that I respect you, may peace be with you and don’t be in my line of fire, for the rest of you, you all better @#%$ hide in your houses because I’m coming for EVERYONE soon, and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth, and I WILL shoot to kill and I WILL @#%$ KILL EVERYTHING! No I am not crazy, crazy is just a word, to me it has no meaning, everyone is different, but most of you @#%$ heads out there in society, going to your everyday @#%$ jobs and doing your everyday routine shitty things, I say @#%$ you and die, if you got a problem with my thoughts, come to me and I’ll kill you, because……..God damnit, DEAD PEOPLE DON’T ARGUE! My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am the law. If you don’t like it, you die. If I don’t like you or I don’t like what you want me to do, then you die. If I do something incorrect, oh @#%$ well, you die. Dead people can’t do many things, like argue, whine, @#%$, complain, name, rat out, criticize, or even @#%$ talk. So that’s the only way to solve arguments with all you fuckheads out there, I just kill. God I can’t wait till I can kill you people, I’ll just go to some downtown area in some big city and blow up and shoot everything I can.

You break my back but you won’t break me…..all is black but I still see…shut me down, knock me to the floor…..shoot me up, @#%$ me like a whore….trapped under ice, comfortably cold, I’ve gone as low as you can go….. feel no remorse, no sorrow or shame……time’s gonna wash away all pain I made a God out of blood not superiority I killed the king of deceit and now I sleep in anarchy”

His tone reminds me so much of Dawkins’ eloquent, intelligent prose! But wait… did he mention Christianity causing most of the problems in the world further in his rant? Er… Um… No.

The fact of the matter is, like most shooters (Columbine, Virginia Tech) he was mad at society, and his hate was not directed at Christians alone. And even if he were, for cryin’ out loud, Dawkins and Dennett aren’t the only people pissed at Christianity. It’s not exactly a new trend… their popularity kind of got diminished by the crusades, and people were speaking out against them before that too. Not that I agree that Christianity is to be blamed for all, or even most of the problems in the world. Dawkins himself has said repeatedly that he does not think that religion is the root of all evil, as the accusation came up quite a bit with his documentary (again, I really need to read some of Dennett’s work).

Next, note the first comment on the Denver Post article which blames the left and Moveon.org for filling him with hate. Read the following comments, and I think they do an adequate job of debunking it.

Sometimes people just snap. Sometimes somebody’s at fault. Sometimes somebody’s not. This guy obviously had an abusive past with a deluded fundie mum, but I’m just not going to start blaming fundies for the shooting. I have plenty of other things to be pissed at them for, and those things did not directly result in this shooting. Sometimes, you just have to accept that stuff happens.

For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, when a tragedy like this occurs, how dare they dishonor those lost by shifting the blame elsewhere for their own purposes. When this happens, we are supposed to comfort those who have lost loved ones, share our condolences, and move on. Otherwise, these people need to go away.

666

As of right now, my blog has had 666 views…

Yay.

Oh, and earlier tonight I beat my record for Solitaire with a time of 114.

Defending Dawkins

Haha. I think that that title’s a bit ironic, him being a defender of reason.

When I first read Skeptical Inquirer magazine, it was in the library at the University of Denver. I had been attending a summer program there for gifted students, and started reading the magazine for an article on quantum mechanics… and then kept reading. I instantly loved it, but it wasn’t until the Fall of my 8th grade year that I finally bothered myself to get a subscription to it. This was probably sparked by my discovery of the infamous website, Answers in Genesis. Through the Center for Inquiry, I began to become exposed to even more new ideas, and a whole new world of skepticism, which held such names as Joe Nickell, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others… But as much as I greatly admire these names, I think that the person I most admire is Richard Dawkins.

The first time I was exposed to him was listening to an episode of Point of Inquiry, and it really was quite nice listening to a voice that I could so whole-heartedly agree with. I hadn’t read any of his books, and wouldn’t get one of them for several more months because I’m just lazy like that, but I already knew that I admired him. He delivered quite a devastating blow to religion, and I liked that…

But, at the same time, I was hearing criticisms of him. Criticisms from fellow skeptics, criticisms from the media…

What really got me writing this blog entry was the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer which had an article on him that, though I’m not quite sure it was exactly criticizing him, still used words such as “hostile” and “militant atheist” to describe him. I couldn’t help but start thinking about all those criticisms (I’m getting really sick of the word now) that I had heard before.

I have heard “militant atheist” used to describe him dozens of times, I have heard fellow skeptics say that he comes across as arrogant and pompous, and I have heard theists say that he must be a twisted, lonely man. Also prominent in my mind, the episode of South Park in which Richard Dawkins has sex with Mrs. Garrison, finds out that she’s (it’s?) a trans-sexual, is disgusted, and says “How could I have been so stupid?!?”

Having read many of his articles, and books, and seen videos, and heard him on radio shows, and met him, I have never really been able to know what they were talking about. I suppose I can see how some of the things he has said can be seen to be arrogant, especially when not read in context, but I would like to use this blog entry to argue otherwise.

I think that one need only read one of his books to know that that is far from the truth, and the well-known quote in the beginning of Unweaving the Rainbow, I think, should effectively shut up people who say the man is a twisted, arrogant, pompous ass.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you, and I, in our ordinariness that are here.”

That entire paragraph is laced with a sort of… spirituality… for lack of a better word. But, I put that last part in bold to point out Dawkins’ lesser-known humbleness. I don’t think that he really does think that he’s better than all of us, though I do admittedly think that he is the coolest person ever (might not take too kindly to reading that if he ever stumbles across this blog), he is nowhere near as egotistic as I am and he could probably justify being egotistic if he was.

Well, I should clear up that last part… I don’t actually think that I am that great. I think that I was lucky enough to have parents who cared about me, who shared their knowledge of the world with me, who encouraged me to gain more knowledge of the world, and sent me to a charter school. Any precociousness that I may seem to demonstrate is not because of a destiny, or my genes, but because of the learning-rich environment in which I was brought up.

Which brings me to something else. Like I said, I don’t think that I’m really that special. I’m just motivated to learn, and this is because I was lucky to be brought up that way (I blame public school for not exposing students to a love of learning like the one I have but that’s a entry for another time…). But if you’ll see my first entry, “I Am Great”, it contains an excerpt from an e-mail that Richard Dawkins sent me shortly after he met me. He told me that I had bowled him over.

Would a pompous ass really be greatly impressed with a 14-year old girl like me? I am not trying to brag at all (for once), but when one of the world’s greatest minds can be bowled over by something so simple as a 14-year old girl who stood up in an Irish pub to give a 5-minute speech about a skepticism club she’s starting at her high school, I think that that has to be one of the most humbling things possible. Would a man who said “How could I be so stupid?” after having sex with a trans-sexual (by the way, I have reasons to doubt that he’d be disgusted by that anyway) say that? I doubt it.

I have often heard fellow skeptics longing for “another Carl Sagan”. I admittedly haven’t read as much of Carl Sagan’s books as I should, though I have seen Cosmos a few times, but I think that Richard Dawkins is another Carl Sagan. Passionate about science and the truth. Utterly fascinated by the world. A remarkable ability to share science with the general public. Highly moral. Eloquent. All one has to do to know this is true is listen to him talk, or read one of his books. He always manages to bring a smile to my face. Richard Dawkins is a defender of reason, and another Carl Sagan, but nominating him for the “Bad Faith” award and supporting the South-Park-Richard-Dawkins impression on the general public is not going to help get the message across.

So, to those who think that Richard Dawkins is ineffective/bad for the cause of skepticism, if you want him to be effective, stop supporting the media’s impression a person that he’s not.

Ok, so I don’t like how I ended that… Let me word it a different way…

Richard Dawkins’ message is beautiful, and persuasive. However, when the theists keep hearing the words “militant”, “hostile”, and “arrogant”, that’s just already biasing them against him. The media does it enough, and it doesn’t help when we do it either.

Mm… no. I don’t like how I ended that either…

I’ll just end with these thought-provoking words…

Boom-shabba-labba-labba.