Tag Archive: Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: Theological Beliefs Force People to Endure Needless Suffering

assisted suicide

Cartoon by Ted Rall

Granting dying patients the power to determine when their lives will end has long been a serious point of contention with some American religious groups who view these right to die laws as government embracing a “culture of death.” Well-known right to die activists such as Jack Kevorkian have countered that religious ethics should not subvert sound medical reasoning. As of now, the argument against establishing right to die laws remains the dominant American position as only six states and the District of Columbia currently allow physicians to prescribe medications that hasten death. Another, more blunt way to put it, is that a theological belief is forcing millions of families and individual Americans to endure needless suffering that most of us spare our pets.

On its face, the religious objection to right to die laws is based on an otherwise morally praiseworthy worldview that all human life is sacred. Understanding how this seemingly positive belief became the chief impediment to ending so much needless human suffering presents a great lesson in the underlying conflict between science and dogmatic belief.

To be clear, I do not think this conflict needs be a zero-sum game. Indeed, the Constitution provides a great blueprint for how religious faith and science can interact in the same space to overall mutual benefit. Moreover, a strong argument can be made that a constant state of tension is how our market of ideas should function under. That said, I do agree with the critics of dogma such as neuroscientist and author Sam Harris in one very important respect; the main problem with dogma, no matter how benign, is that it is unresponsive to new evidence and discoveries.

The practical issue is the period in which most religious scripture takes place is centuries apart from the time period when modern science came about. Therefore, it is utterly impossible for scripture to take into account the evidence that modern science has produced. This places literal, dogmatic interpretation of spiritual text often in conflict with readily provable realities that modern science has revealed. For instance that the earth is billions, not thousands of years old. Often times, the descriptive conflict between religious dogma and modern science does not bear any direct impact on the everyday lives of most. When the subject matter spills into medical ethics however, the debate can have very real consequences.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The Right to Die, March 12, 2019

Quote of the Day: Bringing Something Into Existence With an “If”

if

I found the following quote from Bob Seidensticker to be an excellent explanation of Evangelical presuppositional apologetics. If you have ever had a discussion with someone who is a presuppositionalist, you know how frustrating such discussions can be. This quote doesn’t provide an answer to presuppositionalism as much as it shows how presuppositionalists think. You will likely never win an argument about the existence of God with a presuppositionalist since they reject an evidentiary approach when it comes to the existence of God and supernatural nature of the Bible. It does, however, help to know HOW such people think. This will keep you from wasting hours talking with someone about God or the Bible, only to have them default to “the Bible says.” End of discussion.

Christian use of “If”
Christians can also make daring use of this word, but it’s a different kind of daring. Here are some examples where they conjure up the supernatural with an If.

If God exists, it makes not only a tremendous difference for mankind in general, but it could make a life-changing difference for you as well. —William Lane Craig

If Jesus was literally God incarnate, and if it is by his death alone that men can be saved, and by their response to him alone that they can appropriate that salvation, then the only doorway to eternal life is Christian faith. —John Hick

If Jesus rose from the grave, that’s the most important event in history. It proves Jesus is who He said He was, that Christianity is true, that you will be resurrected and brought before God to account for your crimes against Him. —Alan Shlemon

If God had the power necessary to create everything from nothing [that is, create the universe], he could probably pull off the miracles described in the New Testament. —J. Warner Wallace
(Sometimes the if is assumed. For example, the atheist raises the Problem of Evil, and the apologist replies, “[If we first assume God,] Who are you to question God?”)

Perhaps you can see the problem. Yes, if that amazing and unevidenced claim about God or Jesus is true, then your conclusion holds, but why would you think it would? It’s like saying, “If Santa exists, I’ll get lots of presents” or “If friendly aliens are among us, they’ll give us lots of cool technology” or “If I can speak to the dead, I will gain great wisdom.” The conclusion might logically follow, but why accept the ridiculous if premise? No reason is given.

In Christians’ Alice-in-Wonderland logic, the premise is the conclusion. The four quoted examples above simplify to “If God exists, then God exists.” The Christian apologist could cut to the chase, declare that God or Jesus exists, claim victory over the atheist, and be done with it, but then of course they admit the sleight of hand. The second half of the “If God exists . . .” statement is window dressing compared to the fundamental claim that God exists. The conclusion was buried in the premise all along.

This is the Hypothetical God Fallacy. It’s a fallacy because no one interested in the truth starts with a conclusion (God exists) and then arranges the facts to support that conclusion. That’s backwards; it’s circular reasoning. Rather, the truth seeker starts with the facts and then follows them to their conclusion. Christians don’t get an exemption, and they must do it the hard way, like any scientist or historian, showing the evidence that leads unavoidably to the conclusion.

— Bob Seidensticker, The Cross Examined,  A Popular Blunder: Bringing Something Into Existence with an “If”, March 11, 2019

Quote of the Day: The FACTS on the Born-Alive Debate

abortion facts

What statistics are available on cases of failed abortions in which a baby is born alive? How often does this happen?

There is some limited data on babies born alive as the result of an abortion procedure, but it’s unclear what the medical circumstances were in each of these cases. There is more extensive data on when abortions are performed. We’ll go through the available numbers.

First, in terms of a baby’s viability — the ability to survive outside the womb — one 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine on preterm births said: “Active [lifesaving] intervention for infants born before 22 weeks of gestation is generally not recommended, whereas the approach for infants born at or after 22 weeks of gestation varies.” The study noted the “extremely difficult” decision on whether to use treatment for infants “born near the limit of viability,” saying that while in some cases treatment is clearly indicated or not, “in many cases, it is unclear whether treatment is in the infant’s best interest.”

The study looked at the cases of 4,987 infants “without congenital anomalies,” or birth defects, born before 27 weeks gestation. It found that 5.1 percent of babies born at 22 weeks gestational age survived and 3.4 percent survived “without severe impairment.” Several weeks further into gestation, at 26 weeks, 81.4 percent of babies survived, 75.6 percent without severe impairment.

Abortions in such later stages of pregnancies (which typically are 38 to 42 weeks full term) could be performed because of congenital anomalies, but that study provides some sense of when a fetus without birth defects could be viable and when decisions on medical interventions could be made.

Late-term abortions are rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1.3 percent of abortions in the U.S. were performed after 21 weeks gestational time, according to 2015 data. The CDC’s report showed that 65 percent of abortions that year occurred in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

Forty-three states have banned “some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues.

What about abortions that result in a live birth? One CDC report on death certificates for infants for 2003 to 2014, showed “143 deaths involving induced terminations” of pregnancies during that 12-year period, 97 of which “involved a maternal complication or, one or more congenital anomalies.” The data “only include deaths occurring to those infants born alive; fetal deaths (stillbirths) are not included.”

The CDC notes that the 143 number could be an underestimate of induced terminations of pregnancies. In looking at the data, the CDC found some cases where it was unclear whether a pregnancy termination was induced or spontaneous. In such cases, if congenital anomalies and maternal complications also were involved, the CDC assumed those were spontaneous terminations, due to the “strong association between severe congenital anomalies or maternal complications and premature labor and birth.” In other words, the CDC assumed such cases were premature labor as opposed to a decision to induce labor or end the pregnancy.

The Facts on the Born-Alive Debate, March 4, 2019

Quote of the Day: Should Christian Crosses be Permitted on Public Property?

peace cross

The right question for the [U.S. Supreme] court is whether a religious symbol on public property endorses one religion over others. The Peace Cross clearly does….At a time when Americans subscribe to a wide variety of religious beliefs — or none at all — it’s vital for government to be religiously neutral.

— Los Angeles Times Editorial, February 27, 2019, Via The American Humanist Association Newsletter

Quote of the Day: Churches That Value Protecting Their Reputations More Than Abused Children

value children over dogma

The egomaniacal and rapacious drives of a molester who blots out all sense of right and wrong, brutally disregarding the pain he is causing children, have often found a parallel in churches bent on protecting themselves at the expense of thousands of victims. That disregard is a malignancy in the church . . .

If religion or any institution depends on the sexual exploitation or subordination of children or women, then it is better that such institutions should cease to exist. If it is a question of the survival of the institution of the church versus the survival and safety of children, then our allegiance clearly must be with children.

— Dan Barker, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1988

Betrayal of Trust is now out of print. You can read the book in its entirety here.

Quote of the Day: Is New Atheism Dead? By Steven Pinker

steven pinker

The entire concept of a “New Atheism movement” comes from defensive defenders of religion. I think of it not as a movement but as the overdue examination of an idea: Does a supernatural deity exist, and should our morality and politics be shaped by the belief that it does? For various reasons—the intrusion of theo-conservatism during the presidency of George W. Bush, the rise of militant Islam, an awareness of the psychological origins of supernatural beliefs, sheer coincidence—a quartet of books appeared within a span of two years, and pattern-spotters invented a “New Atheist Movement.” (I would not downplay coincidence as the explanation—random stochastic processes generate clusters of events by default.) Judged by degree of belief, the “new atheism” is not only not dead but it is winning: every survey has shown that religious belief is in steep decline, all over the world, and the drop off is particularly precipitous across the generations, as compared to just drifting with the zeitgeist or changing over the life cycle. This is reflected in laws and customs—homosexuality is being decriminalized in country after country, for example. These trends are masked in the public sphere by two forces pushing in the opposite direction: religious people have more babies, and religious communities turn out in elections and vote in lockstep for the more conservative candidate. If the “new atheist” message of Christopher Hitchens et al. was “Atheists should have more babies,” or “Atheists should form congregations and vote en masse for the same candidate,” then yes, it was an abject failure. But if it is “The evidence for a supernatural being is dubious, and the moral norms of legacy religions are often pernicious,” then it is carrying the day, or at least riding a global wave.

Steven Pinker, Why Evolution is True, Is New Atheism Really Dead?, February 15, 2019

Quote of the Day: Is New Atheism Dead? By Sam Harris

sam harris

I’ve always been skeptical about the utility of identifying as an “atheist,” because it rarely seems helpful to heap the false assumptions that surround this term upon one’s own head. For this reason, I’ve never been eager to wear the label “new atheist” either.

However, there was something genuinely new about the “new atheism.” The publication of our four books in quick succession moved the conversation about faith and reason out of rented banquet halls filled with septuagenarians and brought it to a mainstream (and much younger) audience. The new atheists also made distinctions that prior atheists tended to ignore: For instance, not all religions teach the same thing, and some are especially culpable for specific forms of human misery. We also put religious moderates on notice in a new way: These otherwise secular people who imagine themselves to be on such good terms with reason are actually abetting the forces of theocracy—because they insist that everyone’s faith in revelation must be respected, whatever the cost.

The new atheism has not disappeared. It has merely diffused into a wider conversation about facts and values. In the end, the new atheism was nothing more than the acknowledgement that there is single magisterium: the ever-expanding space illuminated by intellectual honesty.

Sam Harris, Why Evolution is True, Sam Harris Weighs In on “Is New Atheism Dead?” February 15, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Phil Robertson Says He Doesn’t Need Medical Insurance

phil robertson aids

We have been given — contrary to what Kamala Harris said — she says, ‘Elect me and everything’s free!’ Look! Everybody can have their own health care, the government is going to finance the whole thing! It’s not going to cost but $30 trillion. I’m offering you the greatest deal you ever had. Elect me and everything will be free!

What I’m saying is that, Kamala, I already have health care. It’s given to me by God. Eternal health care. I’m guaranteed to be raised from the dead. I have life and immortality given to me by God through Jesus.

(“People get sick on Earth,” Cavuto pointed out.)

The temporary reprieve is not worth it. I’m telling her, I have eternal health care and it’s free.

….

(The “Duck Commander” went on to insist that President Donald Trump never lies.)

A man that talks a lot like the president of the United States, he’s going to make some mistakes. I’m just saying the news media, according to Jesus, the evil one is the father of murder — that kind of fills in the blanks on why we’re such a murderous nation all the way down to killing our sons and daughters in our mothers’ wombs. And he’s the father of lies. I’ve never seen the extent of this kind of lying coming out of the news media. I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve been on the Earth.

(“But you don’t see it out of the president?” Cavuto pressed.)

I would say Donald Trump is not a liar. [And Bruce says, Phil Robertson has dementia.]

— Phil Robertson, Crooks and Liars, Duck Commander Yells About Medicare For All, February 5, 2019

Want to hear more nonsense from Fundamentalist Phil Robertson? Watch the video, but make sure you have a barf bag handy. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Quote of the Day: Where Morality Comes From

dr jerry coyne

With few exceptions, most scientists and philosophers think that morality is at bottom based on human preferences. And though we may agree on many of those preferences (e.g., we should do what maximizes “well being”), you can’t show using data that one set of preferences is objectively better than another. (You can show, though, that the empirical consequences of one set of preferences differ from those of another set.) The examples I use involve abortion and animal rights. If you’re religious and see babies as having souls, how can you convince those folks that elective abortion is better than banning abortion? Likewise, how do you weigh human well being versus animal well being? I am a consequentialist who happens to agree with the well-being criterion, but I can’t demonstrate that it’s better than other criteria, like “always prohibit abortion because babies have souls.”

— Dr. Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, More science-dissing: WaPo’s misguided criticism of “scientism”, January 29, 2018

Recommended Books by Dr. Jerry Coyne

Why Evolution is True

Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

My friend Bob Felton recommends the book The Ethical Project by Philip Kitcher

Amazon’s listing says:

Principles of right and wrong guide the lives of almost all human beings, but we often see them as external to ourselves, outside our own control. In a revolutionary approach to the problems of moral philosophy, Philip Kitcher makes a provocative proposal: Instead of conceiving ethical commands as divine revelations or as the discoveries of brilliant thinkers, we should see our ethical practices as evolving over tens of thousands of years, as members of our species have worked out how to live together and prosper. Elaborating this radical new vision, Kitcher shows how the limited altruistic tendencies of our ancestors enabled a fragile social life, how our forebears learned to regulate their interactions with one another, and how human societies eventually grew into forms of previously unimaginable complexity. The most successful of the many millennia-old experiments in how to live, he contends, survive in our values today.

Drawing on natural science, social science, and philosophy to develop an approach he calls pragmatic naturalism, Kitcher reveals the power of an evolving ethics built around a few core principles—including justice and cooperation —but leaving room for a diversity of communities and modes of self-expression. Ethics emerges as a beautifully human phenomenon permanently unfinished, collectively refined and distorted generation by generation. Our human values, Kitcher shows, can be understood not as a final system but as a project the ethical project in which our species has engaged for most of its history, and which has been central to who we are.

Other Books by Dr. Philip Kitcher

Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism

 Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith

Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism

Quote of the Day: Why People Have Different Skin Colors

bridget alex

Human skin color reflects an evolutionary balancing act tens of thousands of years in the making. There’s a convincing explanation for why human skin tone varies as a global gradient, with the darkest populations around the equator and the lightest ones near the poles. Put simply, dark complexion is advantageous in sunnier places, whereas fair skin fairs better in regions with less sun.

That may seem obvious, considering the suffering that ensues when pale folks visit the beach. But actually, humanity’s color gradient probably has little to do with sunburn, or even skin cancer. Instead, complexion has been shaped by conflicting demands from two essential vitamins: folate and vitamin D. Folate is destroyed by the sun’s ultraviolent (UV) radiation. Whereas the skin kickstarts production of vitamin D after being exposed to those same rays.

Hence, the balancing act: People must protect folate and produce vitamin D. So humans need a happy medium dosage of sun that satisfies both. While the intensity of UV rays is dictated by geography, the amount actually penetrating your skin depends on your degree of pigmentation, or skin color.

That’s the basic explanation, proposed in 2000 and fleshed out since by anthropologist Nina Jablonski and geographer George Chaplin.

….

A range of skin colors evolved at different times, in different populations, as human spread across the globe. In addition to these genetic biological changes, groups have also developed cultural adaptations to deal with variable sunlight. For instance, we can consume diets rich in folate and vitamin D. We can also build shelters, wear clothing and slather sunscreen to block UV rays.

Skin color is one of the most obvious and (literally) superficial ways humans differ. But the evolutionary story behind this variation is shared: Over the course of human evolution, complexion evolved from light to dark to a continuous gradient, mediated by geography, genes and cultural practices.

Dr. Bridget Alex, The Crux, Why Did Darker and Lighter Human Skin Colors Evolve? January 28, 2019

See The Curse of Cain: Why Blacks Have Dark Skin

HT: Bob Felton at Civil Commotion

Quote of the Day: Why Women Have Abortions After 24 Weeks by Dr. Jen Gunter

dr jen gunterWho has abortions at 24 weeks and beyond?

Women who are very ill around 24 weeks where the fetus is not expected to survive and delivery is needed and avoiding a c-section (see above) is preferable. It may also be when there are fetal anomalies and a vaginal delivery is not possible, or, when it is.

Let me explain.

High blood pressure in pregnancy can lead to severe maternal and fetal health issues. It can require a very premature delivery to save the life of the mother. A good example is a woman at 26 weeks who needs to be delivered for her blood pressure — that is the cure, delivery. However, because of her high-blood pressure fetal development has been affected and her fetus is estimated to weigh 300 g, which means it can not live after delivery. She will be offered an abortion if there is a skilled provider. This is safer for her and her uterus than a delivery.

A lethal birth defect at 32 weeks. The plan is to let the fetus succumb after delivery. The pregnancy has anencephaly or any one of a thousand other catastrophic chromosomal or cellular collisions that can conspire against you in pregnancy. The pregnant person thought they could make it to their due date, but they just can’t take it anymore. Or maybe their blood pressure is sneaking up and the idea of risking their life for a non viable pregnancy is not what they want or their doctors recommend. They choose an induction of labor, which in this situation is an abortion because the pregnancy is being terminated.

Triploidy or mirror syndrome or a massive cystic hygroma or any other birth defect that can affect how the fetus is positioned and how it molds and bends to deliver vaginally. If you don’t know what these terms mean, then you are not qualified to discuss abortion at or after 24 weeks, so stop. Now.

In these situations (tripoidy, mirror syndrome etc.) the fetus can be laying lengthwise (not head or buttocks down) so labor is not an option. A c-section is needed for delivery. Maybe there are also health reasons a c-section is less than ideal. Maybe the pregnant person just doesn’t want a c-section for a non-viable pregnancy. If a person who is skilled to a D & X is available, the c-section can be avoided.

There are, of course, other cases. I tweeted about the above scenarios, but realized everyone who wasn’t a well-trained OB/GYN wouldn’t understand. So, now you know why we “just can’t do a c-section” in these cases — or if we did why a c-section would STILL BE AN ABORTION.

— Dr. Jen Gunter, Abortions at or after 24 weeks are sometimes needed medically. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, January 29, 2019

I am a regular reader of Dr. Gunter’s insightful and, at times, wickedly humorous blog. I encourage readers to check it out. If you love science and the faithful, truthful dissemination of facts, you love and appreciate Gunter’s writing.

Quote of the Day: The Facts About Late-Term Abortions by Dr. Jen Gunter

dr jen gunterHow many women have abortions after 24 weeks [the widely accepted age for viability]?

Very few.

Only 1.3% of the 638,169 abortions that happen each year in the United States occur at or after 21 weeks — so approximately 8,000. As I am an expert I can tell you most of these procedures happen before 24 weeks. Most are for fetal anomalies (birth defects) and maternal health, but a few are maternal request.

A couple of years ago I took a deep dive into how any abortions at or after 24 weeks occur. I looked at the states that had no gestational age limit and the best estimate I have (this data is not tracked by the CDC) is there are about 1,100-1,200 abortions at 24 weeks onwards in the United States.

— Dr. Jen Gunter, Abortions at or after 24 weeks are sometimes needed medically. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, January 29, 2019

I am a regular reader of Dr. Gunter’s insightful and, at times, wickedly humorous blog. I encourage readers to check it out. If you love science and the faithful, truthful dissemination of facts, you love and appreciate Gunter’s writing.