An Islamist lexicon March 17, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Language, Religion.
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The Muslim Brotherhood is extremely concerned:
The 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), taking place from March 4 to 15 at UN headquarters, seeks to ratify a declaration euphemistically entitled ‘End Violence against Women’.
That title, however, is misleading and deceptive.
Does the Brotherhood mean to say that the UN declaration is not actually aimed at eliminating the disenfranchisement, maltreatment, and subjugation of women? Well, not exactly.
That title, however, is misleading and deceptive. The document includes articles that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family, the basic building block of society, according to the Egyptian Constitution.
This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies.
A closer look at these articles reveals what decadence awaits our world, if we sign this document:
1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage.
2. Providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and training them to use those, while legalizing abortion to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, in the name of sexual and reproductive rights.
3. Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.
4. Granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect for prostitutes.
5. Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.
6. Equal inheritance (between men and women).
7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.
8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.
9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce.
10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception.
These are destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution; they would subvert the entire society, and drag it to pre-Islamic ignorance.
The Muslim Brotherhood urges the leaders of Muslim countries and their UN representatives to reject and condemn this document, and to call upon this organization to rise to the high morals and principles of family relations prescribed by Islam.
So, ‘End Violence against Women’ isn’t really a “misleading and deceptive” title for the UN declaration, after all. On the other hand, I think I might have spotted a euphemism or two creeping into the Brotherhood’s heartfelt protest (which could non-euphemistically be titled ‘More Violence against Women’). Here, then, is a handy lexicon listing some common Islamist code words along with their actual meanings:
undermine the family: make it harder for men to control their wives and daughters
complete disintegration of society: a society where women are free and equal members
intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries: concern for the wellbeing of all inhabitants of Muslim countries
the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies: brainwashing, ignorance, and coercion
decadence: anything not prescribed in the worldview of a 7th-century tribal warlord
(via Butterflies & Wheels)
You know who you are March 5, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Democracy, Politics, Science.
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Two world systems February 18, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason, Science.
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Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, compares the geocentric model of Aristotle and Ptolemy with the heliocentric model of Copernicus, in the form of a discussion between three friends: Salviati, Sagredo, and Simplicio. Salviati is a scientist arguing for the Copernican position; Sagredo is an intelligent and curious layman who becomes persuaded by Salviati’s case; while Simplicio is a faithful follower of the established Aristotelian tradition.
At one point in the dialogue, after Salviati puts forward some observational evidence supporting the heliocentric view, Simplicio expresses confidence in his ability to “once more succeed in reconciling what experience presents to us with what Aristotle teaches. For obviously two truths cannot contradict one another.” Sagredo remarks:
I can put myself in Simplicio’s place and see that he is deeply moved by the overwhelming force of these conclusive arguments. But seeing on the other hand the great authority that Aristotle has gained universally; considering the number of famous interpreters who have toiled to explain his meanings; and observing that the other sciences, so useful and necessary to mankind, base a large part of their value and reputation upon Aristotle’s credit; Simplicio is confused and perplexed, and I seem to hear him say, “Who would there be to settle our controversies if Aristotle were to be deposed? What other author should we follow in the schools, the academies, the universities? What philosopher has written the whole of natural philosophy, so well arranged, without omitting a single conclusion? Ought we to desert that structure under which so many travelers have recuperated? Should we destroy that haven, that Prytaneum where so many scholars have taken refuge so comfortably; where, without exposing themselves to the inclemencies of the air, they can acquire a complete knowledge of the universe by merely turning over a few pages? Should that fort be leveled where one may abide in safety against all enemy assaults?”
I pity him no less than I should some fine gentleman who, having built a magnificent palace at great trouble and expense, employing hundreds and hundreds of artisans, and then beholding it threatened with ruin because of poor foundations, should attempt, in order to avoid the grief of seeing the walls destroyed, adorned as they are with so many lovely murals; or the columns fall, which sustain the superb galleries, or the gilded beams; or the doors spoiled, or the pediments and the marble cornices, brought in at so much cost — should attempt, I say, to prevent the collapse with chains, props, iron bars, buttresses, and shores.
Later on, after Simplicio again mentions his reverence for the great authors of the past, Sagredo recalls an incident he witnessed:
One day I was at the home of a very famous doctor in Venice, where many persons came on account of their studies, and others occasionally came out of curiosity to see some anatomical dissection performed by a man who was truly no less learned than he was a careful and expert anatomist. It happened on this day that he was investigating the source and origin of the nerves, about which there exists a notorious controversy between the Galenist and Peripatetic doctors. The anatomist showed that the great trunk of nerves, leaving the brain and passing through the nape, extended on down the spine and then branched out through the whole body, and that only a single strand as fine as a thread arrived at the heart. Turning to a gentleman whom he knew to be a Peripatetic philosopher, and on whose account he had been exhibiting and demonstrating everything with unusual care, he asked this man whether he was at last satisfied and convinced that the nerves originated in the brain and not in the heart. The philosopher, after considering for awhile, answered: “You have made me see this matter so plainly and palpably that if Aristotle’s text were not contrary to it, stating clearly that the nerves originate in the heart, I should be forced to admit it to be true.”
Aristotle acquired his great authority only because of the strength of his proofs and the profundity of his arguments. Yet one must understand him; and not merely understand him, but have such thorough familiarity with his books that the most complete idea of them may be formed, in such a manner that every saying of his is always before the mind. He did not write for the common people, nor was he obliged to thread his syllogisms together by the trivial ordinary method; rather, making use of the permuted method, he has sometimes put the proof of a proposition among texts that seem to deal with other things. Therefore one must have a grasp of the whole grand scheme, and be able to combine this passage with that, collecting together one text here and another very distant from it. There is no doubt that whoever has this skill will be able to draw from his books demonstrations of all that can be known; for every single thing is in them.
Furthermore, Simplicio asks,
… if Aristotle is to be abandoned, whom shall we have for a guide in philosophy?
We need guides in forests and in unknown lands, but on plains and in open places only the blind need guides. It is better for such people to stay at home, but anyone with eyes in his head and his wits about him could serve as a guide for them. In saying this, I do not mean that a person should not listen to Aristotle; indeed, I applaud the reading and careful study of his works, and I reproach only those who give themselves up as slaves to him in such a way as to subscribe blindly to everything he says and take it as an inviolable decree without looking for any other reasons. This abuse carries with it another profound disorder, that other people do not try harder to comprehend the strength of his demonstrations. And what is more revolting in a public dispute, when someone is dealing with demonstrable conclusions, than to hear him interrupted by a text (often written to some quite different purpose) thrown into his teeth by an opponent?
… So put forward the arguments and demonstrations, Simplicio — either yours or Aristotle’s — but not just texts and bare authorities, because our discourses must relate to the sensible world and not to one on paper.
The next day, before Simplicio arrives, Salviati shares with Sagredo his opinion of geocentrism’s defenders:
I have heard such things put forth as I should blush to repeat — not so much to avoid discrediting their authors (whose names could always be withheld) as to refrain from detracting so greatly from the honor of the human race. In the long run my observations have convinced me that some men, reasoning preposterously, first establish some conclusion in their minds which, either because of its being their own or because of their having received it from some person who has their entire confidence, impresses them so deeply that one finds it impossible ever to get it out of their heads. Such arguments in support of their fixed idea as they hit upon themselves or hear set forth by others, no matter how simple and stupid these may be, gain their instant acceptance and applause. On the other hand, whatever is brought forward against it, however ingenious and conclusive, they receive with disdain or with hot rage — if indeed it does not make them ill. Beside themselves with passion, some of them would not be backward even about scheming to suppress and silence their adversaries.
In 1633, Galileo was convicted of suspected heresy by the Roman Inquisition. He was forced to recant Copernicanism under threat of torture, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
The Dialogue was placed on the Church’s Index of Forbidden Books — where it remained until 1835.
The Emperor’s method February 3, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Science.
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“We are two highly skilled tailors, and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth of exquisite beauty — which is invisible to anyone who is too stupid to appreciate its quality.”
“Your proposition sounds very interesting,” said the Emperor, “and I would very much like to own a suit made of such an amazing fabric.”
The tailors rubbed their hands and smiled.
“But before I commission your services,” continued the Emperor, “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind taking a little time to demonstrate your product’s extraordinary properties.”
“Of course,” replied the tailors. “It would be our privilege to help your Highness try on our—”
“That’s not what I had in mind,” the Emperor interrupted. “I have a method that I employ in such situations, and it has served me well. Here is what you must do: We shall summon one hundred of my wisest subjects, and divide them into two groups of equal size. (We shall let chance determine who joins which group, by the flipping of a golden coin.) One group shall be presented with a steward clothed in your fabulous fabric; while the other group shall be presented with a steward wearing nothing at all. We shall then see how many members of each group claim to have seen any clothes.”
The tailors exchanged glances, dismayed. “We would love to oblige your Highness,” they said, “but we fear the proposed method is flawed: in our experience, true wisdom is very rare; so it is quite possible that none of the summoned subjects will be capable of seeing our wondrous fabric.”
“I see,” said the Emperor coldly. “Tell me, then: Is there some set of questions, some test we can administer, in order to determine in advance whether a person is wise enough to be able to detect your amazing cloth?”
“Actually, your Highness,” replied the tailors, “we’ve found that the only reliable indicator that a person is wise enough to see our material is that he does, in fact, see it.”
“That is quite unfortunate,” said the Emperor. “I wonder, then, how one could ever possibly tell the difference between your fine product and that of a scoundrel, who offered the same story but no actual fabric at all?”
The tailors looked insulted. “Begging your forgiveness; we are but poor, humble craftsmen, and cannot match your Highness’s intellect. But if your Highness — who is wise indeed — would only be willing to try on our clothes for himself, I’m sure we could demonstrate the quality of our wares to his utmost satisfaction. Surely your Highness would trust the testimony of his own eyes, and the word of his closest advisers? Surely one should follow one’s personal intuitions on such matters, rather than sterile methods and tests?”
The Emperor raised his eyebrows ever so slightly.
No one knows what became of the two tailors, but they were never heard from again.
Angels December 16, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Superstition.
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There are many things we still don’t understand about the Connecticut school shooting that left twenty small children dead; and some questions may go forever unanswered. Dealing with such a tragedy, and consoling those who lost loved ones, is one of the hardest things any of us could ever have to do. But one thing we should not do is pretend to know things we do not know.
Olivia Engel had a part in a nativity play at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. “She was supposed to be an angel in the play. Now she’s an angel up in heaven,” Monsignor Robert Weiss told a standing-room-only crowd at the church before the play on Saturday.
I’m sure some grieving people are comforted by that idea (without thinking through its implications) — but there is absolutely no reason to think it’s actually true. Tempting as it may be, false consolation is the easy way out: instead of dealing with reality and teaching our children (and ourselves) how to grieve, we imply that it’s OK to deny the facts and believe whatever makes you feel better. This is not a harmless “white” lie: disconnecting from reality has a price. Specifically, believing that people go to a better place when they die cheapens our lives here on Earth. Beliefs have consequences, and beliefs that take the “sting” out of death are especially dangerous. In fact, such beliefs do a lot of work for those who wish to rationalize killing children.
Darkness and light December 8, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason, Religion.
I will not light a candle for miracles: I will not celebrate gullibility, ignorance, self-deception, wishful thinking. I will light a candle for skepticism, for intellectual honesty, for experimentation, for evidence-based thinking.
I will not light a candle for tribalism: I will not celebrate sectarian, parochial worldviews that arbitrarily divide humanity into separate categories. I will light a candle for equality, for empathy, for solidarity.
I will not light a candle for worship: I will not celebrate submission, propitiation, servility. I will light a candle for self-respect, for independence, for human dignity.
I will not light a candle for militarism: I will not celebrate violence, aggression, retribution, revenge. I will light a candle for those who put themselves in harm’s way, who defend those that cannot defend themselves.
I will not light a candle in yearning for some idealized past: we have struggled long and hard to overcome many historical errors and injustices. I will light a candle for progress, for learning from past mistakes, for continuing to expand our knowledge and raise our standards and improve our society.
I will not light a candle and pray for some all-powerful being to save us in our hour of need: the universe doesn’t care about us and wouldn’t notice if our planet went dark. I will light a candle for rational decision-making, for responsible public policy, for building a sustainable future — so that the lights may stay on a bit longer.
I will not light a candle just because I am commanded to: I will not celebrate dogmatism and blind obedience. If I choose to, I will light a candle for individuality, for critical thinking, for personal liberty.
Also, I will not light a candle for fried food — that stuff will kill you. Go eat an apple.
Your brother’s on his own September 29, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Music.
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There’s not a man alive who could wake the sleeper
Untie the rope, hide the dope, sure there’s hope, but denial’s cheaper
And when we’ve all collected a
We’ll get a holy roller in
to rattle the drum
You can justify what happens then
‘Cause how could you have known
Leave the dust to dust and say amen
Put ‘sorry’ on the stone
You’re not your brother’s keeper now, your brother’s on his own
That’s how the seeds of avarice are sown…
On either side September 25, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Politics, Religion.
It’s a joke, right? A parody? A satirical mockery of the suicidal, cowardly, obscene, morally-bankrupt farce that postmodern, politically-correct multiculturalism has become?
The European Union has issued a joint statement with the African Union, the Arab League, and (I kid you not) the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
We share a profound respect for all religions. We are united in our belief in the fundamental importance of religious freedom and tolerance. We condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to hostility and violence. While fully recognizing freedom of expression, we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.
The anguish of Muslims at the production of the film insulting Islam, posting of its trailer on the internet and other similar acts, is shared by all individuals and communities who refuse to allow religion to be used to fuel provocation, confrontation and extremism.
We condemn any message of hatred and intolerance.
We know that the behaviour of small groups of people does not speak for the larger communities from which they hail; but the damage they can inflict can be considerable. We must ensure that the recent events do not undermine the relationships of trust and respect we have built up over so many years among our peoples, communities and states. The international community cannot be held hostage to the acts of extremists on either side…
We reiterate our strong commitment to take further measures and to work for an international
consensus on tolerance and full respect of religion, including on the basis of UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.
Yes, that’s clearly what we need: More respect for religion. Full respect, in fact. For Islam, and Mormonism, and Scientology, and Voodoo, and Wicca — we must respect them all, equally and profoundly. And all prophets, too — no matter what they preach. (Don’t they all preach the same thing, really?) We must take “further measures” against the extremists — on either side — who are holding the international community hostage: those who murder diplomats, on the one side, and those, on the other side, who provoke and incite by posting insulting films on the internet.
It must be a joke, right?
Although, come to think of it, not really very funny at all.
(via Butterflies & Wheels)
Crimes and insults September 22, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Freedom, Law, Religion.
As U.S. embassies were being attacked and innocents murdered throughout the Muslim world, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had this to say:
The Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has called upon the world community to declare blasphemy despicable and a criminal act.
Addressing Ishq-e-Mustafa Conference held at the Prime Minister House, he said denial of holocaust is met with punishment but Muslims’ sentiments are absolutely disregarded, adding it is incumbent upon all as a Muslim to protest against any insult to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
“The anti-Islam movie has harmed the sentiments of all Muslims including me,” he asserted, adding the issue does not pertain to the freedom of expression as it was intended to provoke the feelings of Muslims…
He said if denying Holocaust is a crime then demonizing holiest personalities is not less a crime. Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf said an attack on the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad [Peace Be upon Him] is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims.
The Prime Minister of Turkey agrees:
Erdogan said he will continue to give messages at the next UN General Assembly meeting about adopting international legislation against insulting religion. “I am the prime minister of a nation, of which most are Muslims and that has declared anti-semitism a crime against humanity. But the West hasn’t recognized Islamophobia as a crime against humanity — it has encouraged it. [The film director] is saying he did this to provoke the fundamentalists among Muslims. When it is in the form of a provocation, there should be international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred, on religion. As much as it is possible to adopt international regulations, it should be possible to do something in terms of domestic law.”
He further noted, “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start. You can say anything about your thoughts and beliefs, but you will have to stop when you are at the border of others’ freedoms. I was able to include Islamophobia as a hate crime in the final statement of an international meeting in Warsaw.”
Erdogan said the government will immediately start working on legislation against blasphemous and offensive remarks. “Turkey could be a leading example for the rest of the world on this.”
The only thing more depressing than the depths of moral confusion and ignorance displayed by heads of state in the 21st century, is that the international community’s response so often consists of apology rather than derision.
Allow me to offer some remedial civics instruction for those who are stuck in the Iron Age: One person’s freedom of speech ends only when another person would be materially harmed. The classic example is incitement to violence — which, incidentally, is widespread in the Muslim world. Antisemitism, like racism and sexism, should only be illegal when it is codified into discriminatory policy (also widespread in the Muslim world).
What must never be curtailed, however, is the right to freely criticize people and ideas — no matter how offensive or blasphemous such criticism may seem to some. Surely, anyone who cares about the truth has nothing to fear from allowing dissenting voices to be heard. If the opinions being expressed are clearly stupid and wrong, that should make them all the more easy to refute. And if the critics are simply too repugnant for words, if they’re being deliberately provocative and insulting, then everyone is free to ignore them. But not to harm or threaten or imprison them.
Holocaust denial, by the way, should not be illegal, even though it currently is illegal in some countries (not in the United States). The way to deal with liars and bigots is by exposing their lies and shaming them with evidence.
Are we all clear, now? Illegal: violence and discrimination. Stupid but legal: voicing nonviolent antisemitic opinions; denying the Holocaust; respecting Islam and its barbaric Prophet.
Forced ignorance is legal in Virginia September 15, 2012Posted by Ezra Resnick in Education, Freedom, Religion.
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Denying children a basic education severely harms them for life: it restricts their opportunities and limits their ability to think for themselves and make informed choices. Obvious, right? That’s why we have compulsory education laws, right?
Nearly 7,000 Virginia children whose families have opted to keep them out of public school for religious reasons are not required to get an education, the only children in the country who do not have to prove they are being home-schooled or otherwise educated, according to a study.
Virginia is the only state that allows families to avoid government intrusion once they are given permission to opt out of public school, according to a report from the University of Virginia’s School of Law. It’s a law that is defended for promoting religious freedom and criticized for leaving open the possibility that some children will not be educated.
I’ll bet you saw that coming: “promoting religious freedom.” I wish I didn’t have to keep repeating the obvious: The religious freedom of a parent does not include the freedom to harm his children. Not by abusing them physically, and not by keeping them ignorant (which is also a form of abuse). Parents are free to teach their religion to their children as persuasively as they can, but they have no right to keep them cut off from the world, denying them the freedom to decide for themselves how they want to live their lives.
Home-school advocates say the law is essential to preserving the rights of families who believe that any state control of their children’s education would violate the tenets of their faith. It takes on particular importance in the state where Thomas Jefferson helped define religious freedom as a bedrock principle for the country.
“They feel that their deity has given them that responsibility,” said Amy Wilson of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. For such families, she said, to have to file paperwork and evidence of progress would put them in a crisis of conscience.
What about parents who believe that any state control over their ability to beat their children would violate the tenets of their faith and put them in a crisis of conscience? Must the law preserve those parents’ rights, too?
The statute does not allow exemptions for political or philosophical beliefs “or a merely personal moral code,” but the beliefs do not have to be part of a mainstream religion.
In other words, you don’t need any rational justification for your position; you just need to say the magic word — “religion” — and you’re exempt from the law that applies to everyone else.
In Fairfax County, which reported nearly 500 children who had been granted the religious exemption as of the 2011-12 school year, parents and children older than 14 must submit a letter explaining their religious beliefs, and letters of support vouching for the authenticity of their beliefs.
Steven Staples, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said that once families have written to the district to request the exemption, superintendents tend to honor the families’ wishes. “Most folks who choose religious exemption have some very strongly held beliefs that we want to respect,” Staples said.
I’m asking you now, Mr. Staples: Would you honor and respect folks who very strongly believed in beating their children? Regardless of how many letters they submitted vouching for the “authenticity” of their beliefs?
Parents who seek the exemption, [Yvonne Bunn of the Home Educators Association of Virginia] said, “would probably rather go to jail rather than put their children in school, because they have very strong convictions that they’re following what God has directed them to do.”
Actually, jail sounds like an appropriate place for them — together with all the other abusive parents. Better to imprison the parents than to let them imprison their children’s minds.
(via Butterflies & Wheels)