On Supernatural Claims to Sovereignty

There are several views on whether skeptics should get involved or not over the latest revelations regarding the Pope’s seeming complicity or knowledge of the Church’s retention of priests who had molested children in the past. Hitchens and Dawkins are for investigating whether the Pope should be arrested, Phil Plait says Skeptics should tread lightly and persuade through reason rather than attack, and fellow Kansan Josh Rosenau agrees.

Below you can see Dawkins defending his call, and I’ll chime in afterward about why I disagree with all of them to minor extents.

As the reporter demonstrates this is an emotional issue for many people, and Phil is correct when he says we need to tread lightly as skeptics. On the other hand his argument goes astray with me because skeptics should always speak up and ask “why” when Supernatural claims of sovereignty are used as shields from the laws the rest of us must live within. Calling for an investigation does make sense however Hitchens and Dawkins calling for it strikes an odd note.

As a skeptic when you see special legal handling or indications of special legal handling for religious institutions and persons you should always point that out, and if warranted, call for an investigation.

The Pope, as head of the Catholic Church, enjoys a certain amount of immunity to normal laws — let’s face it: if this were the head of the army, or the head of GM, or anyone else in any other position you would see the masses with their torches and pitchforks storming the castle by now, and you would see prosecutors in many jurisdictions clamoring to get the culprit first. You would not see it drag out over decades, nor would people put up with a double spin cycle of repeating events. I gave the last pass I was going to give during the last round of scandals regarding this — it’s not going to happen again.

The hint of Papal immunity is what rubs most skeptics the wrong way in this case. It’s a smack in the face to America, and the principles we were founded upon when it is truly exercised. It denies reason, the reformation, the renaissance, and the end to tyranny through religious justification that our country truly represents.

Underneath every monarch, king, or historical tyrant lies some justification through religious woo as to why that person’s family is noble and none others are, and why they therefor deserve to rule. Whether it’s the Dalai Lama, The Pope, or some imagined Caliph to be, they are all justified by religious supernatural claim, and that is where they must be challenged. So I will not be meek, I say the pope should be investigated.

I say that it appears that the Pope is receiving prosecutorial inaction here here others might instead receive action due to his claim of supernatural sovereignty and the diplomatic treatment he receives. In reality he is no different than you or I, and is not above our laws.

Unlike Hitchens and Dawkins however I don’t think it’s the UK or international courts where this belongs, or if it even belongs in court yet. The Pope’s actions and inaction do need investigation, not in the UK but rather with the State of California and in particular the City of Oakland investigators*. It is there were the string of correspondence regarding this originated, and it is there where the child molesting Priest was part of the Diocese. So City of Oakland and State of California is where the matter belongs because they have the factual standing and it does not belong in the UK.

Since it’s not clear that the Pope is obstructing justice from just the one letter it does seem to me that either California or City of Oakland ought to investigate further, subpoena all of the correspondence, and relook at the cases during the appropriate timeframe to discover if there was obstruction or failure to report issues.

Note to the Vatican travel office: it’s probably best not to route the Pope through OAK anytime soon. So in a nutshell where I am at is here: Skeptics should be calling for further investigation by proper authorities, my respect for all of the skeptics above is immense, however I disagree with them a bit on this one.

Update: Ack! It appears I am in the PZ camp on this matter.

*Update II: It appears that Munich also has a bit more reason for the civil authorities to investigate or react to the Pope’s response than other areas as well.

Road’s Edge Somewhere in the Desert

Here’s an attempt to manipulate perspective at the edge of the road in the desert.

The real problem of this photo is that it was taken in Spring, and really doesn’t look like full desert because everything to the right or left of the area I cropped to was blooming or green.

Measuring the Ice: ESA

There’s been a lot of controversy over ice extent and thickness, and most of the controversy has been generated from the traditional denialist camps and outlets and they are bent on distorting and devaluing what is reported. With the new NASA measures underway, and new ESA satellite measurements outlined below the evidence will become incontrovertible.

Please also take note of this video from Peter Sinclair outlining some of the ploys used to attack the data.

On Heading Off to Hate Church

from the Churches that pray for our President’s death to those that hate Islam and want to hurry a Civilizational apocalyptic war with all of Islam, to those that hate gays, to those fed by foreign lobbies with arcane goals, these hate churches are on the rise.

It’s not a secret that hate churches are on the rise in the US, the prototypical one being the Phelps clan; Westboro Baptist tends to castigate Homosexuals and other religions, such as Judaism.

The Phelps hate church is really just the tip of the iceberg however, and a convenient focus for media and others who would define hate churches – those who would point at the Westboro Baptist Church and say “See? We’re not as bad as them…”

However the reality belies that argument — from the Churches that pray for our President’s death to those that hate Islam and want to hurry a Civilizational apocalyptic war with all of Islam, to those that hate gays, to those fed by foreign lobbies with arcane goals, these hate churches are on the rise.

The two themes you find constant among these groups are hate for other religions (Judaism, Islam, etc.) and hate for Gays. Occasionally you will find racial prejudice fed as well, but that’s inconstant.

So why does religion sometimes foster hate? More importantly: why does a minority of church goers in the US pick a church that extolls hate? This is something I will be discussing and speculating upon over the next few weeks, since most people who are religious cannot begin to fathom where these fringers are coming from.

In the Baylor study, college students recruited from introductory psychology classes were primed with either religious-word letter strings like “Bible,” “faith,” “Christ” and “church” or neutral words like “shirt,” “butter,” “switch” and “hammer.” Researchers found that religiously primed students demonstrated “a slight but significant” increase in racial prejudice.

Previous studies show a complex relationship between religiosity and racial prejudice. Some dimensions of religion have been shown to increase levels of prejudice, while others reduce it. Those studies all rely on self-reporting, however, and are therefore skewed by the phenomenon of “social desirability,” meaning that some people report more positive racial attitudes than they actually hold.

The Baylor study is thought to be the first to test whether exposure to religious concepts may contribute to racial prejudice.

When Creationists Put on Their Angsty Panties

You can bet that Fox news will cover it since it continues their “Culture Wars” theme and keeps their bile-fed elderly market share pumped up and angered enough to watch. Christians are being persecuted daily after all and there are lions waiting around the corner for every one of them… (ok — so I’m not practiced at snarkasm and that didn’t work well but let’s continue anyway…) I have to have some humor here because otherwise I might cry in frustration at how some humans misuse their time by trying to get books banned.

At the intersection of science and superstition

In the latest incident you find a fundamentalist creationist Christian upset because a biology text had the temerity to state that 7 literal day creation is “Myth.” Since only fundamentalist creationists believe the bible to be “inerrant” and the majority of Christians view the Bible as inexact, or allegorical, or subject to interpretation and translations errors by humans over the past 20 centuries, you have to wonder why Fox pimps such a minority view of Christianity.

On the other hand if you’ve been following the infamous Discovery Institute created culture wars for a while then you know exactly what’s going on. In Discovery Institute’s view if you are a tolerant, non fundamentalist sort then you aren’t really a true Christian, and not a true Culture warrior — and you certainly aren’t feeling persecuted enough yet.  You are “CINO”. Christian in name only. Leave it to Fox news to further the fundamentalist’s faux outrage.

Looking at the Text book in question you see that it gets pretty rave reviews and even seems modern and up to date with the latest real discoveries and controveries.

“Asking About Life” Allan Tobin and Jennie Dusheck

[remaining question: do angsty panties come in red and are they hair lined?]

Update: More at Little Green Footballs and Video of Fox and Friends