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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: February 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Memo: The Earth Doesn’t Move

Kansas’ government school science curriculum is no longer the laughing stock of the nation and the world; the dubious honor may next be bestowed on Georgia. Georgia state representative Ben Bridges has circulated a memo to other state lawmakers around the country encouraging his colleagues to challenge the teaching of evolution (while promoting of I.D. creation “science”) in court by stating that evolution is not science but part of another religion thus violating the separation of church and state. This in itself is nothing too unusual; those who promote I.D. have made that argument before. Bridges memo goes even further: evolution is part of an ancient Jewish conspiracy! Obviously, this did not sit well with the Anti-defamation League.

Just when I thought this story couldn’t get nuttier, the memo has links to a site called as its authority. not only takes on well-established scientific theories of evolution and the big bang (what the site calls “big bangism”) but the very fact that...the earth revolves around the sun! According to the site the earth DOES NOT MOVE and the sun REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH. No shit.

Marshall Hall, the sites creator and former government school teacher (scary), believes that the idea that the earth revolves around the sun is also a giant conspiracy to discredit the bible. Hall references two bible verses “The world is established and cannot move” (Psalm 93:1) and “He hangeth the Earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). Following these verses, Hall goes on to say:

The Bible and all real evidence confirms that this is precisely what He did, and indeed:

The Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun.

The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told.

Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science".

The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie.

Those lies have planted the Truth-killing virus of evolutionism in every aspect of man’s "knowledge" about the Universe, the Earth, and Himself.

I can’t say that I am all that surprised that there are such people out there who have not left the dark ages. What is a little surprising and very disturbing is the idea that a U.S. lawmaker on any level would listen to moon bats such as Marshall Hall to put forward an agenda in government schools. Had I stumbled across this site myself, I would have thought it to be a spoof to mock creationists because I know that most creationists would never question the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Most creationists would not take Psalm 93:1 and Job 26:7 literally and would say that the descriptions made in these verses were based on the understanding people had of the universe at that time (which is a lame explanation if you ask me seeing that they were supposedly authored by the creator of the universe). In a previous post, I wrote the following statement:

Since we don’t want to offend the fragile faith of the fundies, why not allow them to substitute their own version of reality in all the other sciences? Clearly the astronomers don’t know what they are talking about either because the Bible clearly stated that the earth was flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. We ought to burn all books written which contradict the Bible. This will be no small task: we pretty much have to rid ourselves of everything we have learned about biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, psychiatry, history, mathematics, medicine, and more.
Little did I know at the time I wrote that statement that there were fundies with influence setting out to do just that. Could there ever be a better argument for school privatization and school choice than this?

Hat tip: Nealz Nuze

Related Posts:
Sunday School Science Lesson
The End of Faith (Book Review)
Can Mysticism Co-Exist with Reason and Liberty?
The Battle for Young Minds
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Vaccinating Your Daughter Does Not Mean Compromising Your Values

Doug Mataconis has written a series of posts over at The Liberty Papers about whether or not the state should force parents to vaccinate their children. Perhaps the most controversial vaccine is the one which is supposed to inoculate young girls as young as 9 from the sexually transmitted HPV virus. As a libertarian, I am very conflicted on the proper role of the state on this issue. On the one hand we have the state, in some cases, mandating that parents vaccinate their pre-teen girls thus trampling on parental rights. On the other hand, we get back into the grey area of children’s rights (i.e. if a teenage girl wants the vaccine despite what her parents’ wishes are, whose ‘rights’ should prevail?).

For the purposes of this post, however; I want to put aside the question of whether or not the state should force parents to vaccinate their children and address the primary philosophical/religious objections of those who would choose not to vaccinate their pre-teen girls. There are some who do not believe in any type of vaccinations for their children and are at least consistent in their views. There is another group who is opposed to this particular vaccine (and have no qualms about other vaccines whether state mandated or not) because of the fact that HPV is transmitted sexually. The main objection seems to go along with the so-called ‘abstinence only’ mentality.

Most parents want to do what is in the best interests of their children and for the most part, those parents who do not want the HPV vaccine for their daughters are among those parents. Very few parents want to believe that their teenagers are sexually active and most parents want to do whatever they can to discourage their teenagers from having sex at least until they reach adulthood. Some parents believe that despite what they may have done whenever they were younger, despite the sexual messages which pervade our culture, and despite the typical behavior of their children’s peers that somehow, their exceptional parenting will penetrate their teen’s minds and respond with the desired results. If this is your view, then according to the CDC, you have about a 50/50 chance of being right…but why take the chance that your child is in the 50% who is sexually active? (Neal Boortz has an interesting theory on how to tell if your teenage girl is sexually active: smoking. According to his theory, if your daughter smokes she is also sexually active. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not but it’s a very interesting thought.)

Now let’s suppose that your teenage girl is not sexually active. No worries right? Ever heard of rape? If your concern is that by giving your teenage daughter the HPV vaccine you are somehow saying “it’s okay to have sex,” well here is your out. If you really are the exceptional parent you think you are you should be able to communicate that indeed you are not giving her permission to have sex but are trying to protect her. How terrible would you feel if your daughter was raped and contracted the HPV virus which ultimately lead to cervical cancer? You can still give your “abstinence until I’m dead” speech and point out the other risks of sexual activity that have no bearing on the HPV vaccine (pregnancy, AIDS, and other STDs).

However strong parents are in their convictions and however much time they have spent instilling certain values into their children, the fact remains that the children will ultimately make the choice on whether or not to have sex, smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs. Parents with three teenagers may find three completely different responses to those values. Teenagers who stray from the path are not always the product of poor parenting. Even the most well behaved teenagers make mistakes on occasion.

I suppose some might argue that when their teenagers do make a mistake, they should suffer the consequences. Generally, I agree with that approach but we also must consider that although teenagers seem to be very mature at times, the part of the brain that perceives possible negative consequences is not fully formed. Teenagers do very stupid things because they often see themselves as invincible. Who among us did not do some very stupid things which could have put ourselves in the hospital or the morgue? This is not to excuse such behavior but we must realize that all teenagers will make some very bad decisions. The question is should the consequence be their very lives when the outcome could have been prevented by a responsible parent? Vaccinating your daughter with the HPV vaccine does not mean compromising your values.

Learn more about HPV at WebMD
About the HPV vaccine
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Friday, February 02, 2007

Ayn Rand in Her Own Words

On February 2, 1905, the author of The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the philosophy of Objectivism was born. Her name was Ayn Rand. In March of 2005, I wrote a post titled The Virtue of Selfishness to describe my understanding of perhaps the central theme of Objectivism: selfishness. While selfishness is an integral part of Objectivism, selfishness is by no means its only virtue. Productiveness, integrity, honesty, and justice are also crucial in achieving happiness (happiness is the true meaning of life and an end in itself).

Critics of Objectivism, including those who have responded to my posts, try to view selfishness apart from these other important aspects. One critic responded writing:

Selfishness, on the other hand, has no underlying foundation or justification other than satisfying one’s appetites--for pleasure, for gratification, for adulation or whatever the self wants at the moment. A selfish person would shoot another person just to take his shoes.
I responded writing:

If the selfish person holds these other virtues [productiveness, integrity, honesty, and justice] as well, he or she will likely not "kill a person just to take his shoes."
Other critics have made similar arguments but I have seen very few critics who will deal with Objectivism in its entirety. Rather than trying to continue to explain Objectivism myself, I thought it would be a great idea to allow my readers to hear from Ayn Rand herself to explain Objectivism in her own words.

This first clip is from a 1959 interview with Mike Wallace. Wallace asks some questions some of her contemporary critics had about her and her philosophy and she answered them expertly.

The interview continues in part 2 and part 3, both on the YouTube website.

This second clip is the first of a five part series which was taped toward the end of her life. This time, Ayn Rand is a guest on Phil Donahue’s TV show. Watch how she tears his statists arguments to pieces!

The remaining four parts are also on the YouTube website. Much of what she said in these clips ring true especially today. Rand was distressed with America’s slide into socialism back then; I could only imagine what she would think about where we are at today. Her philosophy of Objectivism would add so much to our national debate on so many important issues.
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