No Debate

They don’t actually want to debate us.

These people–mostly men, mostly white–claiming that we’re destroying the world by shutting down debate? These people claiming that blocking someone instead of hashing out their issues (personal or political) is damaging public discourse? These people claiming that telling them to “get bent” is abridging their freedom of speech?

Yeah, that’s as far as they really want things to go. Complaining bolsters their reputations, at least among the people who don’t think things through. It generates easy content. It garners cheap outrage. It requires neither work nor accountability. Smears and insinuations are much, much simpler.

That’s a big reason there aren’t many of these debates. Sure, plenty of people aren’t willing to directly debate racism and sexism any more than they’re willing to share a stage or their spotlight with creationists. Some people refuse to be harassed into a debate. Some people know debate is bad both for getting at the truth and because framing every disagreement as a debate is bad for communication. But when the smear merchants come up against someone who is willing to engage them directly, they tend to get a bit scarce.

Take, for example, “The Amazing Atheist” (aka a number of names, but we’ll call him “Kirk” here, since that’s the last name he’s currently using publicly) deciding not to debate Martin Hughes. Continue reading “No Debate”

No Debate

Mock the Movie: Round Table Edition

When you have a classic story, why would you need a lead who can act or sets that don’t look like sound stages or fight choreography? Sword of the Valiant is one of those movies where you’ll recognize nearly everyone on screen. Out of politeness, however, you’ll pretend you don’t.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Round Table Edition”

Mock the Movie: Round Table Edition

Saturday Storytime: Sleeping Beauty

This story from Ian McHugh is light and fluffy and exactly what I was looking for as a chance.

Late-1800s charcoal drawing of a young woman reading a page she's pulled out of a wooden desk. Circular vignette.
‘Look to your defences, monster!’ he cried, in what he hoped was an authoritative tone.

‘That’s really quite hurtful,’ she said, but declined to lift her club again. Which, he had to admit, was probably for the best. The ogress had sprung to her feet with alarming speed when he entered the dell, and her pocked hide looked as if a siege engine wouldn’t dent it.

There were a couple of shields propped next to the cave mouth. Juan tried not to imagine what had become of their owners.

‘What do you mean “I’m holding them wrong”?’

‘Your weapons,’ she said. ‘You hit me holding your sword like that, you’ll just jar your elbow. And your shield’s too low. It’ll trip you if you have to back up.’

‘I…’ Juan stopped, not sure what he had been about to say. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: Sleeping Beauty”

Saturday Storytime: Sleeping Beauty

Frivolous Friday: Remembering the Beaver

Photo of a bowl of poutine. Brown gravy over cheese curds and french fries.
“poutine-rageous” by Paul Joseph, CC BY 2.0. Because even a Canadian flag felt too American.

Happy Canada Day! For the U.S. folks in the crowd, no, this is not the equivalent of our July 4. It’s the anniversary of Confederation, where the Canadian colonial provinces, including the province of Canada, came together to form Canada. It’s one of those weird little holidays you could only get from this weird bit of colonial history.

For my Canadian followers, I’d like to extend my sympathies. I just found out that Founders Hall in PEI has closed.

Anyone who knows me knows I love odd, local, and oddly local tourist museums. There’s the ball of twine, the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center, Woodleigh Miniatures, the Kensington Runestone Museum. (And I clearly need to write up some of these trips that I haven’t before.) If someone tells me PEI’s Potato Museum has closed, I’ll be heartbroken.

Founders Hall was very local, focusing much of its museum space on the role Charlottetown played in Confederation. It also focused outward, on the entrance of the other provinces, and forward in time to include particularly First Nations perspectives that weren’t well represented in all the decisions that built Canada.

However, Founders Hall wasn’t terribly odd, unless you find Canadian patriotism a bit odd in itself. You might. I’ve now written more posts about Canada’s founding than most Canadians. It displayed typical Canadian conservatism in talking about itself through most of museum. Mannequins in historical garb. Informational plaques. Video and audio available for depth.

Then, just about the time you thought you were done, along came the beaver. Continue reading “Frivolous Friday: Remembering the Beaver”

Frivolous Friday: Remembering the Beaver

Repost: Garbage Statistics

This may not be the post you’re looking for from the title. It’s an old, odd look at how my brain works, though. It amused me, so I’m reposting it.

Literally. We have a corner lot in the city, with plantings where a lot of people would have lawn, so lots of trash gets blown into our yard and stays for a while. One of the rites of spring is my own personal neighborhood cleanup. I started right after work, and here’s a little rundown of what I found.

  • Greatest decrease, prior year to current year: cigarette butts, down 30%
  • Greatest decrease in item size: cigarette butts, 97% smoked fully

Either the recession and increased taxes are making cigarettes less appealing, or the winter weather, coldest it’s been in several years, is keeping smokers inside.

  • Most frequent item: still cigarette butts (~30)
  • Greatest increase: Styrofoam cups, up 50%
  • Largest item, volume: FedEx envelope (1)

No clothes this year. That usually takes this category.

  • Greatest overall volume: advertising newspapers (4), all sopping wet
  • Greatest single dimension: unspooled cassette tape (4 feet)
  • Most personally disgusting: cigar mouth pieces (2)
  • Most generally disgusting: chewed gum with teeth prints (2)
  • Most obsessive: bus transfer, torn into pieces 1 cm. by 1.5 cm.
  • Saddest item: beads from a piece of kids jewelry with the shiny half worn off (2)
  • Item most likely to make it into a story: broken 2008 Mickey Mouse Christmas ornament (1)
  • Most impossible to gather: pieces of windshield glass from the car that hit the tree two feet inside our fence (100s)
  • Nicest surprise: temperature (79F)
  • Most welcome sight: active earthworms (2)
  • Smallest ratio: energy to ambition (1 hour:infinite)
  • Total volume: 1 medium shopping bag
  • Percent complete: 33%

Back at it this weekend. Then I can trim the lilacs and dispose of the brush pile and pull grass and rearrange the ferns and the hardy geraniums and…whew! Yeah, I’ll be at this a while.

Repost: Garbage Statistics

“Appignani Humanist Legal Center”, David Niose & Monica Miller on The Humanist Hour

This week, we’re bringing some of the news out of AHA’s annual conference for everyone.

Blue Happy Humanist logo with headphones and a microphone.
This year, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center celebrates a decade of service. The center provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of religious and secular minorities by directly challenging clear violations of the Establishment Clause and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers. Through a combination of staff and pro bono attorneys, the center engages in amicus activity, litigation, and other legal advocacy.

This May, at the American Humanist Association’s annual conference, David Niose, legal director for the center, and Monica Miller, senior counsel, spoke about the center. They talked about its victories and challenges, and the cases in front of it today.

You can listen to the podcast here.

“Appignani Humanist Legal Center”, David Niose & Monica Miller on The Humanist Hour

About that “Arc of the Moral Universe”

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

Did you know the original was part of a sermon?

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just.[^1] Ere long all America will tremble.

Theodore Parker was an abolitionist who published those words in 1853. His words were popular at the time, but we know them through Martin Luther King Jr., who quoted a paraphrase that had been attributed to Parker. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King, of course, was also a minister.

It shouldn’t be any surprise then that the sentiment is ultimately a religious one. In fact, we should perhaps twig to this from the paraphrase, or even from the phrase “moral universe”. The idea that the universe has inherent moral qualities hasn’t been demonstrated. The impetus to view it that way is religious or at least is one of the impetuses to religion.

Yet I hear nonreligious people and skeptics use the phrase all the time. It’s used to energize activists and to comfort people in danger of burnout. Far more rare are statements or essays that question the idea even in its particulars. We even have a book with a title borrowed from the phrase arguing for the premise.

Yes, the book argues that nonreligious forces–science in particular1–are what bend the arc and that religion has the capability to reverse it. Yes, that book and many of the other uses of King’s quotation are referring to a metaphorical moral universe rather than the supernatural one of Parker’s original words. However, the directionality and inevitability of the quotation are generally accepted, if sometimes hedged.

If we don’t allow religion to dominate, our world will become more just. If we keep fighting, we will achieve more justice for more people.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t necessarily true. Continue reading “About that “Arc of the Moral Universe””

About that “Arc of the Moral Universe”

CONvergence 2016 Schedule

Coming to CONvergence this weekend? Want to see me talk about things? Here’s where you can find me.

CONvergence 2016 logo with rocketship with text "...and how do we get there?". Dates June 30 - July 3.
Gone Off the Rails: How to Moderate
Thursday June 30, 2016 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Crowne Plaza U

Sometimes, you’re on a panel that starts to go wrong: some guy starts talking over all the women in the room or the person who volunteered to moderate the panel turns out to be a blowhard. How do you fix this on the fly? And not be That Guy? Panelists: John Seavey, Sigrid Ellis (mod), Mark Oshiro, Michael Carus, Stephanie Zvan

Crowdfunding Your Way to ‘There’
Thursday June 30, 2016 5:00pm – 6:00pm
DoubleTree Atrium 4

Is crowdfunding your best bet? Which crowdfunding option should you choose? And how do you get from unknown to funded? The promise and perils of the crowdfunding journey will be explored. Panelists: Marie Porter, Anj Olsen, Chrysoula Tzavelas, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Tania Richter Continue reading “CONvergence 2016 Schedule”

CONvergence 2016 Schedule

Saturday Storytime: Bride Price

This story from S. E. Jones really didn’t go where I expected it to. I rather like the differences.

Late-1800s charcoal drawing of a young woman reading a page she's pulled out of a wooden desk. Circular vignette.
The family hall was tucked behind the children’s hospital. The road was dotted with skeletal plane trees, their leaves long since stolen by winter. Against the brick of the surrounding buildings, the hall looked odd—an Edwardian manor untouched by time.

Well. The great magical families had never been shy about protecting their own property while letting everything else burn. The blitz of World War Two had made much less of a dent in their holdings than in those of the general public. They had lost just as many buildings in the resulting public anger before they had joined the war effort, but that was the foresight of the great families—keeping themselves separate until reality forced them to participate in society.

Not that they’d learned yet—her bride price was not something anyone would be able to bid for. No, only those with magic in their blood need apply.

Kyria slipped in through the old servants’ door. Her footsteps echoed as she made her way down the corridor.

Her father would be in the ancestors’ hall. When built, it had been furnished with a throne and portraits of old men of power. Anything to make visitors feel small.

Now, the throne was gone, and the hall was divided into two meeting rooms, connected to each other by a single door. The walls were a product of the old messy feuds that came with the interbreeding between magical families. Now they just cut down on the heating bills.

Kyria made her way to the first meeting room. The portraits stared down at four chairs, each occupied by a man. One chair stood empty.

So these were her supposed suitors. Quick off the mark. That made them very rich or very poor. Either eager to cement their legacy, or desperate to start one.

Damn them all and all their legacies to hell. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: Bride Price”

Saturday Storytime: Bride Price

“But I Don’t Live in a Swing State”

I guess there’s no better morning to write this, is there?

When I write about elections, I almost invariably get U.S. voters telling me that, sure, they agree with what I have to say, but they don’t live in a swing state1. Why do they tell me this? They say this when they’re justifying to themselves and trying to justify to me voting for an outcome they don’t want.

  • Sure, our presidential election is between a highly effective politician with some bad decisions under her belt and an ignorant, impulsive fascist, but I don’t live in a swing state.
  • Sure, women, people of color, sexual minorities, immigrants, etc. are in deep trouble if this election goes the wrong way, but I don’t live in a swing state.
  • Sure, the ascendance of the far right wing in Europe is an international crisis we need to not contribute to, but I don’t live in a swing state.

You get the idea. Continue reading ““But I Don’t Live in a Swing State””

“But I Don’t Live in a Swing State”