Census 2011

As readers of my blog may remember, I have discussed the Australian Census several times before (use the search bar to review old posts) and how the religion question is skewed toward people noting they have a religion when in fact many of them are actually not religious. Like many other countries which are having a census this year (UK, Ireland, NZ) campaigns are in motion to get these people to mark ‘No Religion’ on the census form if they are not religious. The Atheist Foundation of Australia are spearheading the campaign in Australia and currently plan to have billboards across the nation in major cities stating “Census 2011: Not religious now? Mark ‘No religion’ and take religion out of politics.”

The billboards will look like this (click pic for full size image):

NOTE: I have changed my Header picture to the above picture and will have it there until after the census, as long as the AFA don’t mind?

They also have a nice round logo (click pic for full size image):

The AFA are asking for donations to help fund the billboards, if you are interested check the AFA’s site for details. Plus they have a range of products for sale on the cafepress site to help raise much needed funds. Why not do your bit? If you can’t afford to spend any money at least spread the word.

There is an active discussion of the Census 2011 topic on the AFA’s forum if you want to keep abreast with news and updates. I posted the following on the site today:

Great to see the Census campaign has started up, but I have an important question.

Has the AFA contacted like minded organisations (eg: Political parties who would be interested such as the Secular Party of Australia or the Sex Party ; or like minded organisations like The Rationalist Society of Australia or the Australian Skeptics; or campaigning organisations like Getup) ?

Whilst I’m sure a Billboard will have some impact to the people who see it and, if we are lucky, a further impact from mainstream media if they pick it up as a story; having more organisations involved would surely help our cause, and assist in reaching the message to a wider audience?

I also agree that a facebook and twitter account should be available for those who like to spread a message via online means.

I have sent a tweet this morning linking to the AFA site.

Apologies if the AFA committee are already in the process of contacting like minded organisations.

Well it looks like the AFA committee are in the process as David replied that they have “an extensive list of media outlets and other organisations. They have been contacted.”

 

So lets spread the message and see if we can’t get a more accurate measure of the non-religious in Australia at this years census. Remember your tax dollars go toward funding various religions and their activities and the government hands out these tax dollars. Perhaps the government wouldn’t be so inclined to spend so much tax money on religions if they found out there isn’t as many religious people as they thought?

Remember mark ‘No Religion’ on your census form this year, and mark ‘No Religion’ for all your children, as Dawkins says children shouldn’t be labelled little christians or little muslims just because that’s what religion their parents follow. Children are too young to have formed a viable opinion as to what religion, if any, they are.

In 2011 you will be able to fill in your Census form online via the eCensus. You can also register to deliever and collect census forms if you are so inclined. Check the ABS Census page for information

More to follow as the Census 2011 and Census 2011 ‘No Religion’ campaign progresses.

 

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Why Do Good

“where does the desire to do good come from”

Bradley left a comment on my FAQ 1 page – The Ten Commandments and Morality – as follows:

I just have a question, not a comment. If there is no transcendental being from whom we get at least some inspiration to do good, where does the desire to do good come from, and why would we have any preferences any way? I know that certain things are just naturally disliked, but what makes it uncomfortable or not to be liked?

Rather than clog up my FAQ page I’ve copied this to a new post so I can answer the question, as well as make it easier for others to answer or comment.

Well Bradley to put it simply, the desire to do good has just been bred into us, the human race would not have survived if at least most of us hadn’t wanted to instinctively do good. How long do you think humankind would last if everyone wanted to rape, steal, lie, cheat, harm or kill? Not long.

Much like you assert that “certain things are just naturally disliked” so are certain things just naturally liked.

Apart from the evolution of society needing to (mainly) do good to each other to survive [read some literature on the ethic of reciprocity, which by the way was NOT invented by Christians as some are want to believe, as to why] science has also found various chemicals in the brain, and brain functions, that indicate the desire to do good is a physical property of the body. Have a read of some articles about Oxytoxin for example.

I don’t know about you Bradley, but I find when I do something good I feel good, I get a little “kick” out of doing something good, and it makes me happy. Why would this be? Perhaps it’s chemicals in the brain? Perhaps it’s because of the knowledge that I’ve made someone happy or improved their life in some way. But why be altruistic (which is what we are talking about when we discuss doing good things for no apparent reason or expectation of return)? We know that most religions cite altruism as a virtue, but I don’t consider that religion has a ‘hold’ on altruism. In fact it has been shown that many species of animals act in an altruistic manner and that there is an evolutionary explanation for altruism.

I consider it wholly possible to do good without any transcendental being providing inspiration. Anyway, how would we know a transcendental being provided the inspiration? Could it not be that any supposed transcendental inspiration is actually our own innate goodness and inspiration? That due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of thought, this inspiration was deemed to have come from a transcendental being only because there didn’t seem to be any other way to explain it’s existence?

Time and again science has discovered reasons for things that people thought were the actions of a transcendental being, pushing the reason for a need, or the possibility, of any transcendental being further and further into non-existence. Perhaps one day science will prove where the desire to do good comes from (from what little I’ve read they pretty well already have) or perhaps there are some things that just are. Either way I see no reason to bring any transcendental being into the equation.

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Books – August 2010

Just added a new page called Books (see header) which lists all the Atheism, Philosophy, Science, Theism, and related topics, books that I own (and have, mostly, read – see Legend), updated and current as of August 2010.

Most of these used to be listed in a text widget in the sidebar, which has now been deleted.

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Australian Vaccination Network

Or as it should be more rightly called: Australian Anti-Vaccination Network discourages people to vaccinate their children with unfounded claims, this presents a danger to public health.

Several campaigns have been launched to counter the hazard that the AVN presents to the public, including Stop the Australian Vaccination Network. Recently the NSW HCCC has issued a notice against the AVN which they have yet to comply with. A new campaign has started encouraging bloggers and other online concerned citizens to create links to the Australian Vaccination Network or AVN which instead point to the HCCC notice. Hopefully if enough people get involved in this campaign people searching on Google will get directed to the HCCC notice instead of the Australian Vaccination Network site, hence ensuring concerned parents are made fully aware of the AVN‘s deceptive practices. I urge all concerned bloggers to get involved. Feel free to copy the entire text of this post if you like, instead of having to try and come up with your own text. (It would be appreciated if you provided a link back here (use this URL or the permalink) and/or acknowledgement where you got this from.)

Here is a similar text from ChrysStevenson, found via twitter, from her web site, used with her knowledge and permission:

Australian Vaccination Network

In a  triumph of reason, the Australian Health Complaints Commission has issued a public warning about the Australian Vaccination Network .   After a 12 month investigation, the HCCC found that the Australian Vaccination Network:

  • provides information that is solely anti-vaccination
  • contains information that is incorrect and misleading
  • quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.

The Australian Vaccination Network is now also under investigation by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR).  According to the OLGR, an audit of the Australian Vaccination Network revealed breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991, including alleged incidents of fund-raising without authority, unauthorised expenditure and failure to keep proper records of income and expenditure.

Help by either creating your own post or copying mine, the more the merrier, the Australian Vaccination Network needs to comply with the HCCC Public Warning Notice.

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Intelligent Design – I don’t think so

Why Intelligent Design (ID) proponents will never be taken seriously, and why they have nothing to add to the scientific evidence for life on earth.

from http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf (pg 77,78) the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District text of court decision. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

The immune system is the third system to which Professor Behe has applied the definition of irreducible complexity. Although in Darwin’s Black Box, Professor Behe wrote that not only were there no natural explanations for the immune system at the time, but that natural explanations were impossible regarding its origin. (P-647 at 139; 2:26-27 (Miller)). However, Dr. Miller presented peer-reviewed studies refuting Professor Behe’s claim that the immune system was irreducibly complex. Between 1996 and 2002, various studies confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the origin of the immune system. (2:31 (Miller)). In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fiftyeight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” (23:19 (Behe)). [my emphasis]

We find that such evidence demonstrates that the ID argument is dependent upon setting a scientifically unreasonable burden of proof for the theory of evolution.

So ID has proven that no matter what, or how much, evidence they are presented with, they will never accept it or be happy with it. They have proven that they have a completely closed mind, they believe in an Intelligent Designer (God) and will not accept any evidence that disproves that idea. Therefore the ID movement can have no claim whatsoever on having any sort of scientific idealogy, as science is willing to accept new evidence no matter which way that evidence leads.

From reading “Only a Theory” by Kenneth R. Miller

Intelligent Design – neither intelligent nor designed

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Is the Bible True or False

So,

Is the Bible True or False?

Or,

The Da Vinci Code Argument TM

Just because a book contains some factual references does not make the whole book factual.

There are some stories written in the Christian Bible that have archaeological, geological or other evidence to back them up; or at least indicate a strong likelihood for being based on real places, people or events. However this does not necessarily prove that what the Bible says happened to them, or what they said or did, is true or correct.

For instance, there is evidence that Jericho was an occupied area as far back as the Natufian period (10,800-8,500 BC), and in the Early / Middle Bronze Age (3100-1800 BC) had extensive defensive walls. There is also evidence that Jericho was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age (1800-1400 BC). (from The Archaeology of the Ancient City of Jericho)

However, is there evidence that the walls of Jericho were blown down at the sound of Joshua’s horn? No, and it seems highly unlikely.

We have evidence for Jericho (or at least dwellings in the area prescribed to be Jericho) actually existing and being destroyed at some stage, however, this does not prove the story of Joshua being true as there is no evidence for the sounds of horns destroying the city. True, the absence of evidence does not mean it didn’t occur, a supernatural occurrence might not leave any natural evidence, but it also doesn’t prove it did occur. Additionally it is now held that Jericho was destroyed in 1562 BCE, well over 100 years before the accepted time of the biblical story.

Despite some stories having some evidence, there are also stories for which, despite intensive searches and investigation, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and in some cases completely contradictory evidence.

… geological investigations [have] proved without a doubt that there was no planet-wide flood as described in the Old Testament of the bible, …

from Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? History of Archaeology, Part 3 :

So, let’s not ask if the Bible is true or false. Instead, let’s ask a series of questions.

1. Did the places and cultures that are mentioned in the Bible and the other ancient texts exist? Yes, in many cases, they did. Archaeologists have found evidence for many of the locations and cultures mentioned in the ancient texts.

2. Did the events that are described in these texts happen? Some of them did; archaeological evidence in the form of physical evidence or supporting documents from other sources can be found for some of the battles, the political struggles, and the building and collapse of cities.

3. Did the mystical things that are described in the texts occur? It’s not my area of expertise, but if I were to hazard a guess, if there were miracles that occurred, they wouldn’t leave archaeological evidence. [Personally I don’t totally agree with this last statement from the author of the About.com article, some supernatural miracles could leave evidence, not necessarily evidence for their supernaturalness but evidence something happened]

4. Since the places and the cultures and some of the events that are described in these texts happened, shouldn’t we just assume that the mysterious parts also happened? No. Not any more than since Atlanta burned, Scarlett O’Hara really was dumped by Rhett Butler.

There are many many ancient texts and stories about how the world began; and many are at variance with one another. From a global human standpoint, why should one ancient text be more accepted than any other? The mysteries of the bible and other ancient texts are just that — mysteries. It is not, and never has been, within the archaeological purview to prove or disprove their reality. That is a question of faith, not science.

In my opinion, if you have to rely on faith, then in all likelihood it isn’t true.

The fact that parts of the bible are somewhat backed up by some evidence, doesn’t mean the whole of the bible is factual, especially all the supernatural elements of it. There are far too many errors in the bible, and sections for which there is no, or contradictory, evidence, for the Bible to be accepted as a factual book.

Why I call it The Da Vinci Code Argument TM. The Da Vinci Code contains a lot of facts; places, names and events that are real. It also contains a lot of “FICTS” (a made up word that represents a fiction that has some basis in fact or sounds convincing enough that it might be a fact), it is though a work of fiction. The Bible is, in a way, similar to the Da Vinci Code; it contains some factual places, names and events, it also contains some “ficts”, but overall it is a work of fiction.

When the Da Vinci Code was released there was quite an uproar among some elements of society, particularly the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and others spent considerable time and effort debunking some of the “facts”, “ficts”, myths and legends mentioned in the book. Dan Brown may have stated some points as facts that obviously weren’t, whether this was intentional or not is debatable, but ultimately everyone knew (or should have) that the book was a work of fiction.

It’s a pity that the Catholic Church and other Christians don’t spend as much time and effort debunking their own book, the Bible has been shown to contain many factual errors, contains plagiarised versions of older myths and statements about supernatural events that can never be proved. Rather than trying to bend and twist what little facts are in the Bible into declaring the Bible factual, perhaps it’s about time the churches came out and admitted the Bible is a work of fiction?

This post was inspired by a comment on Atheist Climber’s  Scared of Death post, in which sabepashubbo questions how can we say the bible is a work of fiction when it contains some facts.

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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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