Monthly Archives: July 2010

What is it good for?

To paraphrase Edwin Starr’s song War:

NSCP, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing

Today @ChrysStevenson tweeted about an article on the sunshinecoast.com.au site titled: School Chaplains programme could end. Written by Liberal National Federal Member for Fisher Peter Slipper who warns that “a valued school programme could be at risk under Labor.” That “valued” school program? The totally wasteful, dangerous and delusional National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). Slipper warns that under a Labor government Gillard may cancel funding to the NSCP, he states that:

The Liberal National team has committed to keep funding part-time school chaplains for at least another three years.

As if that’s a good thing!

Apart from a few deluded religious people, and obviously the churches as they see this as a great, taxpayer funded, way to proselytise to a captive audience, I don’t accept that there really are that many people who think the NSCP is a good idea?

Slipper tries to argue

“Even the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described school chaplains as the ‘glue’ that holds school communities together.

Well Rudd would, he’s a deluded religious nut too.

Slipper’s final statement

“A lack of continued support for this project would simply be another Labor backflip.”

Should be worded:

“A lack of continued support for this project would simply be the right thing to do.”

The only possible reason I can see that some school principals and teachers see the NSCP as a good thing is that it provides government funding for some sort of counselling. The problem is that this funding is going to unqualified and unskilled religious ministers. What the government should do is provide the same amount of funding to fully qualified, trained, experienced, secular counsellors such as the Australian Psychological Society has recommended in their submission (pdf).

I posted a comment on Peter Slipper MP’s article, under my twitter OzAz name, and also sent the MP an email, this is a copy of that email:

Just read your piece on the mysunshinecoast.com.au site. I for one, and there are very many like me, would be more than happy to see the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) end. It is a total waste of taxpayers money and appalling that taxpayer funds are used to promote religion in public schools.

I have posted a comment on the site, I trust you will bother to read it and the other comments deploring the NSCP. In case you do not have the time to read all the comments, I posted this link: http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/APS-Submission-School-Chaplains-July2010.pdf I strongly suggest you read it, take your obvious religious bias out of the equation and decide if the APS has a valid point.

I’m not affiliated with the APS at all, and not sure if their proposal is the best, but I am sure it would be better than having chaplains performing counselling services, and at least it is a secular approach. Which is the way it should be in state schools.

Regards

May I suggest you also write a comment and or send an email to Peter Slipper peter.slipper.mp@aph.gov.au letting him know that a lot of people do NOT want the NSCP.

Cheers

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The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One

Watched an awesome video last night on ABC1 TV Compass program called: Christianity: A History – God and the Scientists; do yourself a favour and watch it (streaming video or download, about 50 minutes). The presenter Colin Blakemore (a British neurobiologist at Oxford University and Warwick University)

interviews scholars and churchmen in order to understand how science transformed Christianity over the last four centuries. He shows how scientists born of the Enlightenment realised that the laws of the universe were there to be discovered, not read about in the Bible. He argues that science is the biggest challenge Christianity has ever had to face, and that it will eventually make religion unnecessary. from ABC Compass

It was a very informative show covering some of the history of science particularly how it pertains to Christianity. Despite Christianity actually starting many universities and initially encouraging thinking, they changed their mind quite quickly when anyone discovered something that went against church dogma (Copernicus, Galileo et al). The church doesn’t come across as being very open-minded (but has it ever?) and some of the methods used to dissuade free-thinking and scientific investigation were rather cruel (an understatement, torture methods used during the inquisition were horrendous), As Blakemore points out, the church didn’t always have to actually physically torture people, sometimes the mere threat was sufficient for people to recant their (correct) ideas. Self censorship is a powerful weapon.

The cognitive dissonance shown by some of the people Blakemore interviewed was interesting, the Vatican astronomer seemed fully conversant with all the latest astronomical findings and seemed quite happy to discuss the earth being 4.5 Billion years old, but some how still managed to fit God into the equation. But the greatest cognitive dissonance shown was by Dr Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and scientific adviser for the Creation Museum! He fully believes the biblical version of creation that God created everything in six days, that dinosaurs roamed the earth alongside humans, including Adam and Eve. I could hardly comprehend it when Lisle replied to one of Blakemore’s questions with

“If we find some experiment that seems on the surface to disagree with the word of God, we go with the word of God”

at about this stage I think a part of my brain melted from the sheer idiocy. The scientific method, which someone with a PhD in Astrophysics should know, does not allow you to disregard results of an experiment just because you don’t like those results; you have to go where the FACTS direct you, like it or not. I could not understand how someone could get a PhD in Astrophysics and be so deluded, as the title of this blog says: The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One. If you just want to watch Blakemore’s visit to the Creation Museum, including the interview with Lisle, check the link, it goes for about 4 and 1/2 minutes. But be warned, the Stupid It Burns!

the_stupid_it_burns.jpg

Blakemore’s visit to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) left me wide eyed with the sheer enormity of the project, that thing is HUGE. People talk about the majesty of some religious buildings, and I agree some churches are architecturally and/or artistically inspiring, but the LHC is truly majestic in its own right.

How could anyone not be amazed with what science can achieve? How can anyone disregard scientific facts and instead accept what was written thousands of years ago by people who knew no better. We know better now, it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that much of what is written in the bible is wrong, that the bible is not a scientific book. So why do so many people still cling to the biblical fallacies, and prefer (misguided) belief over scientific evidence?

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Exemption on Religious Grounds

Australia is about to have an election, voting is on Saturday 21 August, but not everyone can make it to a polling booth on that day so we have a system that allows certain people to submit a postal vote before the election day. Like a lot of Australians I received a Postal Voting Information leaflet in the mail this week, which contains two postal voting forms and tells you how to fill out the form. Not everyone is allowed to submit an early postal vote and the leaflet contains an eligibility list, this is the exact wording:

Eligibility for early voting

You are eligible to vote before election day if, on election day, you can’t get to a polling place because you:

  • are outside the state or territory where you are enrolled to vote
  • are more than 8km from a polling place
  • are travelling or can’t leave your workplace to vote
  • are seriously ill, infirm or approaching childbirth (or if you are caring for someone who is)
  • are a patient in hospital and can’t vote at the hospital
  • have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place
  • are in prison or otherwise detained
  • are a silent elector

OK, most of these are fair enough and quite self explanatory, if you physically can’t get to a polling place (and they have thousands of them) on election day then the government has to provide you with a system to let you still vote; hence the early postal voting scheme. [For those non Australians reading this, in Australia it is compulsory to vote, if you don’t vote you get fined (it used to be about $50, not sure what it is these days)]

Why is a religious belief an excuse to not attend a polling place on election day? What religious belief could prevent you from voting on a Saturday?

I’d love to submit a postal vote, heaps easier than having to make sure you put aside 1/2 an hour or so in the day, physically getting to a polling booth (where you often have to queue for a while) getting inundated with all the ‘how to vote flyers’ and then standing there and filling in the massive ballot paper; but I don’t meet any of the above eligibility criteria so I can’t. Why can you get away with it just because of a religious belief? Why, yet again are we pandering to the religious?

Knowing that some polling places are actually inside churches (schools, community halls and churches are the common places used for polling booths) perhaps I could claim eligibility by saying that my atheism prevents me from attending a polling place within a church? What do you think are my chances of getting away with that excuse?

Oh, and one last thing, what the heck is a “silent elector”?

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Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is an important part of education that is sometimes neglected. Fortunately there are people trying to improve this downfall.

The Critical Thinking Education Group (CTEG) provided talks/workshops at TAM8, the link is the resources from those talks and workshops.

From what I gather, one of the issues discussed was selective attention, or inattentional blindness, where you are so busy looking for one thing, you can completely miss other, sometimes important, things. The classic example of this is the gorilla on the basketball court video (including explanation), where you are shown a video and asked to count the number of times one team passes the ball, but then at the end asked if you saw anything unusual. Most people don’t see the gorilla walk across the court. BTW, there is an updated version of this video where, because most people now also look for the gorilla, they have done a few other tricks. (All these videos can be found on the CTEG site)

Another example of selective attention is misheard lyrics, often called mondegreens, where you don’t interpret the correct lyrics of a song when you hear it. There are ways to force you to misinterpret lyrics and the following is an (very humorous) example of that (taken from the CTEG site). The video shows pictures and words to match the lyrics being sung, or do they?

The original lyrics are below, dont look at them until you’ve watched this video at least once (from http://members.optusnet.com.au/~charles57/Carmina/carmlyr.htm#track1 )

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The song is the classic O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)

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O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem,
potestatem
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
obumbrata
et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

Now listen to the video again, but this time read these lyrics whilst listening to the video. Amazing how the brain can be tricked into interpreting the singing to match either lyrics (though obviously the real ones match better).

The brain can be tricked into all sorts of things, make sure yours doesn’t. 🙂

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