Sunday, April 29, 2007

Atheist Revolution on academic diversity

Big thank you to The Freelance Cynic for nominating me for a Thinking Blogger Award. You're a peach, and I'm a shameless slacker lately. I'll try to be worthy of the recognition.

Blogs That Make Me Think

1. The Bad Astronomer

2. I Blame the Patriarchy

3. The Panda's Thumb

4. Richard Dawkins

5. Atheist Revolution

Speaking of, here's something that made me think recently:

This post at Atheist Revolution

...the Missouri General Assembly will soon consider a bill calling for "intellectual diversity" in publicly-funded universities. The bill contains the following text:

(e) Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution's guidelines on teaching and program development and such concerns shall include but not be limited to the protection of religious freedom including the viewpoint that the Bible is inerrant;

The intent is quite clear. Christian fundamentalism should be off limits to criticism. Rather, it is to be honored under the same banner of diversity that leads us to respect race, gender, etc. Take a minute to consider two applications of such a policy. First, universities could fall under pressure to hire more Christian fundamentalist faculty. Just like universities are encouraged to hire more women and ethnically diverse persons, I could easily imagine a call to increase the numbers of fundamentalists to better reflect the views of the student body. Second, rational faculty would be prohibited from penalizing students for spouting religious nonsense as a replacement for factual information across the curriculum. Science professors would have to accept "intelligent" design papers as being on the same level as those on evolution.

Of course this is ridiculous. But all it does is codify in writing restrictions that already exist in practice. After all, educational institutions that contort themselves to accommodate religious beliefs in every possible fashion--and force instructors to do so as well--cannot exactly come around the other side of the same fence and admit that religion is a lot of hooey.

Every college for which I've taught has allowed excused absences for religious holidays. Every one. Academic departments accept a certain number of absences for any class, since everyone understands that students get sick, have flat tires, experience family emergencies, etc. This is fair practice. Students (like me, I confess) who make use of every one of those allowed absences must juggle them carefully to guard against going over and suffering the consequences. Why should a personal religious celebration receive special recognition? If I missed class because I wished to travel out of town for a family birthday celebration, for example, I had to use one of my absences. The religious kid got to go to birthday parties AND miss for a family celebration of their personal religious ideas. Why?

Sam Harris's most crucial message, in my opinion, is this: We have to stop giving religion special treatment. We have to stop bowing and scraping and backing away as soon as someone invokes religion as his/her reason for doing or believing something and consider all ideas and actions on their merits, without bracketing some of them off as unassailable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I KNEW it!

Of COURSE Larry Birkhead is the father of Anna Nicole's baby. Did anyone really doubt it? We certainly knew that douchebag Stern's pants were on fire sitting on a telephone wire. Ha!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: A tricycle = joy

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Has Billy Graham always been crazy?

From The Oklahoman, April 2, 2007:

Dear Dr. Graham:

I'm concerned about all the reports I read about global warming and us poisoning the environment and things like that. Do you believe we are in danger of destroying the world because of these things?

W. McK.

Dear W. McK.:

The Bible clearly commands us to take care of the world God created, and we ought to do all we can to protect our environment. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, we are told, "to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15).

At the same time, the final chapter of the world will be written by God, not by us. The future is in His hands, and the world as we know it will be finished only when He brings it to an end. God is sovereign, and the world in its present form will not end until God intervenes.

When that day arrives, Christ will come again to banish all evil and establish His Kingdom. The Bible says, "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). This is what the Bible calls "the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Never forget: Our ultimate hope is in God, not in any scheme of men.

Does this mean we shouldn't be concerned about our environment? No, of course not. God made the world, and it is wrong for us to misuse it or treat it with contempt. But even more important is something else He made: our souls. God loves us, and He sent His only Son into the world to cleanse us from the greatest pollution of all--the pollution of sin. Turn to Christ today and ask Him to cleanse you and remake you from within.

OK. Somehow I had the idea in my head that Graham was a harmless, kindly old man. This marks him as a crazy person in my book, though. It's just so irresponsible, this idea that ultimately we can't destroy the world because God's the only one who can do that. (I won't even touch the bizarre impulse to give the time of day to such a capricious, nasty deity as that.) Don't worry about polluting the oceans; worry about utterly arbitrary notions of shame and guilt and "sin." Gross.

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