Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Entitlement babies

Entitlement babies, who does not know them. I work at a university, and many many kids are work hard, doing their best to get good or at least sufficient grades. And now and then, you encounter an entitlement baby. This are the kids that by default come complaining that they did not receive an A-grade. if a student has a legitimate argument, you change the grade. but some kids cannot deal with the fact that they did not get a better grade.

University is supposed to be for the best students. Unlike high school, it is not for everybody. Unfortunately, some kids who have grown up very protected (home schooled, inferior high school) and always get their way. Every request at home get fulfilled, when they are 16 they of course get a brand new car, working for that car, what is that? So, by the time they leave the house, they only know one way of living, and that is that all their requests are fulfilled immediately.

Enter real life......

Suddenly, the source of instant gratification, mum and dad, is gone. Why does that stupid teacher not understand that I deserve an A? I am sorry that I am late for work, but I went only to bed at 4 am, and I really needed the sleep, don't tell me that this is a issue, right? No? O well, someone else will appreciate me more. No problem officer, my dad will pay the speeding fine. O, you impound my car? He will buy me a new car. Have a nice day officer.

Sometimes, it does not stop there. Mum and dad keep actively helping. The only effect that it has is that they postpone the inevitable drop the kids are going to experience unless mum and dad have enough money to keep the entitlement going. If the parents are rich enough, some of those kids will just continue to waste the rest of their lives in entitlement, and they never learn to deal with reality. Because in reality, you do not always get immediately everything you want. Sometimes, you will never get something you want.

When we grow up, we learn that the answer at times will be no, and learning to deal with disappointment is a crucial aspect of growing up. A parent who really loves their child will not stand in the way of that learning experience, but teach their child coping skills so it can handle disappointment.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In Memoriam: Randy Pausch

I just heard this horrible news. Randy Pausch died Friday, July 25 after a long fight against pancreas cancer. So see why this hits me so badly, have look here at "The Last Lecture"

Friday, July 25, 2008

The God Delusion desecrated

Yes, PZ has done it, he desecrated The God Delusion from Richard Dawkins! That man does not know any shame!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DelFly Micro

Today, I found this, the DelFly Micro:

This is a mechanic dragonfly, with a small tail for steering. The coin is a one euro piece, a bit larger than a US quarter. It is based on the principle of the dragon fly. See it flying here and here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lesbos and Lesbians

Ha, we gay women are still allowed to call ourselves Lesbians! A court case in Greece was thrown out! Not that lesbian would not have been used for gay women any more if the court had ruled against using the name, but anyway.

Suppose they had won and the Athens court ruled that the word Lesbian could not be used for a gay woman? Would they after that have gone to court in all remaining countries in the world to request similar prohibitions?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And it has been served

Yesterday, I was talking about upping the stakes. And today, we have been served. Bill Donahue has just released a new press release, now with an e-mail address to someone at CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Seems that Mr. Donahue does not get the point. Someone like PZ is not going to back down. He is just going on with his plan, whether you like it or not.

But suppose for a minute he would back down under these treats... The only thing that would happen is that Bill Donahue would be rewarded for his aggressive behaviour, and that is about the last thing you want to happen. In this stage, nobody can afford it any more to loose, because loosing would give the other party a win. You cannot have that!

So, there is a perpetual need to up the stakes, over and over again. Unfortunately for Bill Donahue, he seems to run out of options, and needs now the help of the Muslims. Because they of course are much more dangerous. Maybe they will KILL PZ. No, Bill Donahue is smart enough not to ask for PZ to be killed, but he is using the general fear for Muslims (all Muslims are terrorists of course) as a tool for his own war. Unfortunately, it is not going to work, because the impression I get from PZ Myers is that is is not going to back down from treats, no, it will make him just more determined to do so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Upping the stakes

Ha, how do you get someone not to do something? You up the stakes. At least, in theory.

So, what is in the eyes of many Catholics more dangerous that desecrating a communion wafer? A Koran. So, many Catholics have made this request to him, in the hope he would not dare to do something like that, and back of, or at least be able to show that he is a coward. Unfortunately, it just escalates further. Congratulations, the dispute has just escalated a step further. So, what will be the next demand to him so that the requesters think they can show he is a coward/moron?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Catholics do not get about Atheists (and visa versa)

I have been writing about the brouhaha (here and here), and I just couldn't wrap my mind around what was annoying me about many of the responses from both Catholics and Atheists alike. Today, it dawned to me that neither side does any effort to discuss this issue at neutral territory.

Many Catholics argue from the position of the sanctity of the host and that Atheists should just be able to understand that. They don't, because that requires that they accept that the host is indeed the body of Christ as the Catholics say. Every time Catholics start from that position, they already have lost before even opening their mouth.

Along the same vein, Atheists argue from the position that only what Science can prove does exist, assuming that religious people should just be able to understand that. They don't, because that requires that they ignore their experiences, experiences that are very real to many of them, even if science could prove they are mere delusions. So, every time a Atheist starts from that position, they already have lost before even opening their mouth.

The issue is not whether or not the host of actually the body of Christ, or anything metaphysical, or just a unleavened piece of bread or a cracker. To focus on the object, the discussion is going to be derailed, regardless, because it ignores the human behind the statement.

I think it is a sound principle to respect each and every person in this world, within limits of course, as I would not pay respect to someone who wants to murder me. But as a basic principle, yes. Now, we just have to hope that people can apply this to the current ongoing controversy about desecrating Eucharists. What would happen if Catholics could just say, yes, we understand that for you Atheists only non-religious believes are very important, but for us it is very important and could you respect that, and if the Atheists could just say, yes, we understand that for you Catholics religious believes are very important, but could you respect that for us it is not? Than, the whole story would not be about a cracker, but about people.

But here is the crux, that would also require several people and institutions, including the Catholic church and its representatives, look at themselves and admit that they were wrong. Wrong about using violence, death treats etc. But now that the trenches are dug, I think this is going to be played out till the end, and the mutual understanding will be lost. The Catholic church is never going to apologize to Webster Cook. It took them decades to actually realize that protecting pedophiles was not smart and to apologize for that publicly, and they still have problems with that as various Bishops still protect them. So, I do not have any faith (no pun intended) in the Catholic Church that they will any time soon apologize for this incident. No, I expect this incident to escalate further and run its full course.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Meeting Prof. Steve Steve

Recently, at the evolution meeting, I had the great honour to meet Prof. Steve Steve. he was hanging out with Wesley R. Elsberry and others of the Panda's thumb crew. Proof of the excounter can be found here, where it is obvious that Prof. Steve Steve is fully in love with Nick Matzke.

Friday, July 18, 2008

God Bless! Hail Odin!

I am an Heathen. And that means that I have a whole pantheon full of Gods and Goddesses. I will write more about that at a later stage.

One of my pet peeves is the repeated blessings that I receive from good meaning people in the form of "God Bless". I know they mean well, but sometimes, it irritates the hel(l) out of me. And it irritates me so much not for the fact that they bless me, what bad can that do, but for the fact that they would be hell bend if I would reply back with: "Hail Odin", which would be the appropriate response for me. And believe me, I have done this in discussions with an Evangelical Christians, and they were often very offended.

For me, this has everything to do with tolerance, or intolerance to be more precise. Why is it okay to say "God Bless" to someone and be offended if they reply in kind with their own deity of choice? To me, this is a situation of different standards. One for Christians and one for everybody else. It has to change.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hate Crime?

A few days ago, I wrote about the Eucharist incident in Florida, and the fragility of the believes of many Catholics. Some thing that keep me thinking is that some compared it with a hate crime:

"We don't know 100% what Mr. Cook's motivation was," said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. "However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it." (Emphasis mine)
Let me get this straight, a Hate Crime?

First of all, we need a crime! Right? So, what is the crime here. The Eucharist was handed to him with the idea that it is consumed. So, we can dismiss charges like stealing etc. At most, you can claim he did not follow the implied contract that came with the acceptance of the host, and that is that he had to eat it immediately.

The next action is done by a representative of the Catholic church. But unfortunately, the stories vary to much to be sure what happened exactly. But for the sake of the argument, lets assume that Webster Cook indeed committed a crime punishable in regular court. I personally doubt it, but lets just assume.

To make it a hate crime, we have to prove intent that it was a crime that was motivated by hate towards the Catholic church. So, he did not eat it immediately. Why? He claims because he wanted to show it to his friend, and then consume it as intended. So, where is the hateful motivation, the intent to hurt someone because of the nature of the person or entity. It was not there. It is easy to claim that it was a hate crime because he stole it and took it out of the church. But there is a lot that happens, and that is unclear, between receiving the host and walking out of the church. Much of it is reactionary to events, attacks etc that happened in that between period.

In the coming weeks, it will be interesting what is going to happen in this case. What is the university going to do, what is the church going to do. I would not be surprised if this action has consequences within the church itself for Webster, but in the regular courts, I doubt it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Fragile Religion

I guess many of you have already heard about the little storm raging through primarily the blogosphere. A student senator from the University of Central Florida (UCF) takes a friend to Catholic mass to show him what it means to be Catholic. So, instead of immediately eating the Eucharist after it is given to him, he take it with him to his seat to show the friend before consuming it. The person handing out the Eucharist get angry, and the senator decides to take it home instead of eating it in the church. He later return it, but by that time, an evangelical atheist, PZ Myers, has jumped into the arena after which the Catholic League, or better, Bill Donohue, comes to the defence of the Catholic Church and starts a campaign to get PZ Myers fired. Death treats are mailed to both the UCF student senator and PZ Myers. Nice job guys, it is obvious to me that for some Catholics, a transubstantiated cracker is apparently worth more than a humans life. O, I forgot, a non-Catholic's human life as he obviously needs to be excommunicated.

Personally, I think it is fine to anybody to do whatever they see fit, as long as they do not force me to believe things the way they see it. That Catholics believe that the wafer has been transubstantiated to the body of Christ is one thing. To use physical violence to get it back, sorry, no go. Some go as far as saying it was a hate crime. My good grief, really.

What interest me more is the fragility of the believe of many Catholics. Apparently, the act of one person can bring down a whole community. Yes, really!
"We have to make acts of reparation," Gonzalez said. "The whole community is going to turn to prayer. We'll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well."
Well, isn't this a wonderful thing to give to your enemies? The perfect weapon to bring down whole communities. You steal a Eucharist, hold it in a zip-lock bag, and you have the fate of the whole community in your hands. Did someone already demand ransom for a Eucharist?

It made me look at my own religion. My religion is something that is in me, not in the objects I use. The objects I use are just ways to represent some things, they are nice, but I could do without them. Once, I complained to a friend that I did not have rune stones. He responded: "Of course you have runes tones, just take some scraps of paper, draw the rune stones on it, and there you go." He was right, and it is one of the central ideas that I like about Heathenism, their practical angle to life, religion and the universe.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Religion VERSUS Science: Really?

One topic I am going to discuss frequently is the supposed incompatibility of science and religion. For me, they are anything but incompatible. Science is by definition limited to the natural world, in other words, that what we can see, measure, make visible, and test. Religion by definition is dealing with the supernatural, that what science cannot see, measure make visible or test.

Sure, many religious people claim that there is a direct influence of deities on our material world, but unfortunately for them, science has been unable to verify that. At the same time, it is impossible for science to address something that does not have a signature in the natural world. So, whether gods and goddesses actually exist, who know, science at best is agnostic about it.

I have a problem with both evangelical/fundamentalist religious people of any religion, as well as evangelical/fundamentalist atheists. Anybody who claims that they have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is deluded, nothing less.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who is Heathen Scientist?

Four years ago, I was offered a post-doctoral position in Tallahassee, Florida, so I packed up my stuff and moved. From the low lands in Europe, The Netherlands, you get an idea about how the US is, but that is not the USA from the Deep South. Tallahassee might be in Florida, but as they say in Florida, "the more North you go, the more South you get", and that is definitely true, this is more like South Georgia and Alabama.

America is supposed to be the country of Freedom, but as some say, only if you are a white Christian heterosexual conservative male. Well, except for the white, I fail the remaining categories:
  1. I am a female.
  2. I am a lesbian.
  3. I am a Heathen.
  4. I am a socialist.
And related to those, but definitely a major aspect of the culture wars here:
  1. I am an evolutionary biologist
Over and over again, I am left gasping for breath about the insanity of the culture wars, especially when you come from a country where it is not an issue to be a lesbian, or a Heathen, or a socialist, or an evolutionary biologist. Anyway, I intent to write about those insanities I encounter........