Monday, 28 July 2014

Help A Bright Light Of Reason Shine Again In Uganda

From their website.
Just in case anyone missed it -- it's been announced by PZ Myers, Hemant Mehta and Becky Friedman -- the critically important group Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability based in 'kill-the-gays-law' Uganda has been effectively put out of commission by a robbery.
The thieves have taken all 6 computers, 2 laptops, power cables, their projector and camera, three guitars, a desktop printer, and even the office phone was taken. Some cash due to be paid for rent was also stolen. (The security guard is now conscious again, by the way!)
This has severely impacted this group's ability to carry out important work.
“HALEA staff and members are devastated with this development, we have lost the important tools that enable us to operate and surely this is a great set back in the history of the organization. This has happened at a time when we had so many vital activities going on and many pending.”
Most recently, you can hear an interview on Ask an Atheist with Norm Allen, founder and former director of African Americans for Humanism.

You can help the group by using PayPal over at IHEU. The estimated required $10,000 was last updated July 23rd, so we know we have a ways to go.

Remember, even one laptop would at least return some of the group's original online presence.

I'll leave it to you to read the details about this in the posts and interview above. I just wanted to add my small voice to the group of bloggers and radio hosts out there who are calling attention to this small group. It's small groups like these along with Humanist schools that will hopefully one day turn the tide in Uganda and, with a new generation, reverse dreadful laws and persecution against people because they are gay or do not believe in God.

Just watch God Loves Uganda on US Netflix if you want motivation to help this group.

Video: Hemant Mehta Talking At Imagine No Religion 4

Hemant Mehta at INR4 (source)
Hemant Mehta, whom I met over at Humanism at Work a couple of weeks ago, recently talked at the Imagine No Religion 4 convention about the importance of keeping blogging and reporting on the web accurate. He should know. He runs probably the most influential atheist blogs out there.

Here's the video Hemant talking about this important subject in Kamloops, BC. I'm watching it now and I think it should be required  viewing for anyone who creates or consumes blog content.

I had referenced an older version of this talk back in my post about how I ended up misreporting Edward Slingerland's project and had to apologize for not properly researching before blogging. We all mistakes but the secret is to acknowledge, take responsibility, apologize and learn from them.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

"Poor Secular Kids Can't Tell (Biblical) 'Truth' From Fiction!"

I heard about a fascinating study last week on the David Pakman Show about how children raised with religion -- seems like Christianity in this study -- are less able to discern fact from fiction. I Fucking Love Science blog describes it well.
For the investigations, researchers enrolled 5- and 6- year old children and separated them into four groups: children who attend public school and church, children who attend public school but not church, children who attend parochial school and church and children who attend parochial school but not church.

They then exposed the children to three different types of stories- biblical (religious), fantastical (where the divine element was replaced with magic) or realistic (all supernatural elements removed). They then asked the children to judge whether the protagonist (lead character) was fictional or real.
So what happened was that both groups believed the completely realistic stories (read: naturalistic). Also predictably, the Biblical stories -- like Noah's Ark -- were predominantly judged as true by children from religious backgrounds and fictional from children from secular upbringings.

The interesting part comes with the fantastical stories.
Children exposed to religion, either through school or church, decided that the characters were real, whereas secular children judged them to be fictional.
So it seems like being raised to believe in certain supernatural stories opens up the door to all kinds of belief in the supernatural without evidence, while a grounding in a more naturalistic secular point of view inoculates kids against believing in magic. Really, both groups of kids are behaving perfectly consistently.

Fast-forward now to an article by David Roach in the Baptist Press.

Religious beliefs form by age 6

About the title. Personally, I think that if religious beliefs are cemented by the age of six, we should all be concerned. A six year old is not qualified to critically examine metaphysical truth claims or realise when they possess inadequate knowledge to come to a sound conclusion. This is why we ought to let their brains develop first.

Anyway, what's really amazing with this piece is how it tries to turn the conclusion of most media observers -- including the study authors -- on its head. It's the secular kids who are most impaired here because they're unable to see the Biblical accounts as non fiction!
Media reports of the study have tended to portray children with Christian training as ignorant or developmentally challenged. For example, the Huffington Post reported that “young children who are exposed to religion have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction.” But a careful examination of the study suggests the opposite of what some media reports imply. In the rush to slam Christianity, it’s been overlooked that religious children correctly identified the true stories far more often than did secular children. After all, the “realistic” and “fantastical” stories were mere concoctions of the researchers’ imaginations, unlike the biblically-based stories, which were largely true though some changed the details of Bible stories and one was an apocryphal story about Jesus that contained elements similar to what is reported in the Gospels.
Roach had pointed out earlier in his article that some of the Biblical stories were somewhat Biblically inaccurate, so the children could be excused for not always believing those versions to be true. 

This is what happens when True or Non-Fictional equals, in all cases, what's in the Bible. Boat full of pairs of every kind of animal on the planet? TRUE! Earth created in six days? TRUE! Talking donkey? TRUE!

It turns out that the poor secular children were unable to properly identify all those Biblical accounts -- because, I suppose, they just evaluate the plausibility of these stories as they would the The Cat In the Hat or Jason And The Argonauts! Aren't they silly?
Still, the secular children misidentified the religious stories as false at a higher rate than the religious children misidentified the fantastical stories as true. In the end, the Christian worldview proved more effective at recognizing truth than the secular worldview.
Enormous... facepalm...