If not free speech then what?

Free speech is absolutely vital for the sort of society in which I wish to live. I want a society where ideas can be freely exchanged, where they are judged on their merits alone and not on who supports or derides them. If we do not have freedom of speech then there can not even be debate on any other issue. This is something I’ve tried to defend throughout the history of this blog, whether it was calling out France for outlawing opinions, the UK for arresting people for harmlessly expressing their views or just arguing against offence being something we should be protected from. Now I need to do it again. Continue reading

Bad science reporting

Science reporting can be tricky but if your job is to report on such topics then you should do it responsibly. A recent article on Yahoo!, written by Elise Solé, shows a number of bad reporting habits that should be discouraged, starting with the sensationalist headline.

Why Teen Girls Should Avoid Soda

Drinking sugary drinks is bad for you and everyone should try to cut down. I essentially stopped drinking sugary drinks a few years ago for the sake of my teeth but there are many benefits to cutting them completely or merely reducing consumption. However, that’s not what this article is about. Compare it to a headline from another news article on the same subject (I’ll tell you why I chose this one later). Continue reading

Quicklinks

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted but that’s been due a particular busy time with me returning to Vienna, needing to find a place to live, starting the PhD course and, with terrible timing, falling sick. All that has left little time or energy to blog but I’ve had a breather today and will toss out a couple of links.

One of the biggest stories while I’ve been inactive was the Charlie Hebdo attack and later supermarket hostage drama. To do something different I’ve decided to post two links about positive Muslim activities regarding the attacks. Malian Muslim Lassana Bathily, who worked at the Jewish supermarket that was attacked, hid six people in the freezers during the hostage situation as well as escaping the building to inform police what was happening inside. Last I heard there was talk of awarding him French citizenship for his bravery. On imgur there is a collection of heartening cartoons from Arab newspapers expressing support for Charlie Hebdo.

In less heartening news there is an example of sexism from a Jewish newspaper that Photoshopped all the women out of a Charlie Hebdo rally photo. In Ireland we have the simultaneously depressing and funny “Sounds of Sodomy” sitation.

And, just so we don’t end on a low note, here is a collection of animals that are benefiting from prosthetics.

E&R is three years old!

Technically my blog’s third birthday was on the 14th of October but, I’m ashamed to say, I forgot all about it this year. To make up for it, I decided to move the celebratory post, and future ones, back to the end of the year as it will hopefully be easier to remember.

There doesn’t seem to have been much change in the number of hits per week compared to last year, though this year seems slightly higher. I now have 188 followers (45 in the first year, 118 in the second year) and this is my 220th post (168 at the end of last year). I no longer consider PZ Myers as a good example of rational or free thought and have removed Pharyngula from the blogroll. There also seems to have been a remarkable number of spam comments recently; 9070 spam comments blocked this year, more than half of the total number.

Views per week

Views per week

Continue reading

Quicklinks: Animals, animals and torture

Here’s a rather nice story about a dog who was born with deformed legs that can now run on 3D-printed legs. I can see all sorts of great things from that technology in the future.

While the US recently declared that a chimpanzee can not be considered a legal person and so not gain various rights that would come with, a court in Argentina has declared that an orangutan can have a legal right to freedom. This is similar to India’s decision last year to recognise dolphins as non-human persons.

A recent poll in the US confirmed an earlier poll result the more religious a person is, the more likely they are to support torture. Those with no religion was the only group where more than half of respondents were opposed to the CIA’s use of torture. Interesting when considering whether religion is a source of morality or not.

Feminism and equality

I’m all for equality. As Trivium declares, rather strongly:

Equality for every race, sex, sexuality,
And every choice to live our lives,
And to you bigot cretin, ignoramus,
Mind your own god-damn, fucking business

Therefore I tentatively support feminism. I say tentatively because, at times, it seems to move from promoting the equality of women to becoming anti-male and, at times, dangerously irrational. I do have a few recent examples about where I think feminism has moved away from equality and where I can no longer support it. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Following up Islam and vegetarianism

About two months ago, I submitted a post about the open mosque in Cape Town that included a short bit on how the idea of takfir can make Islamic conflicts worse, specifically with regard to ISIS (or ISIL or IS or whatever it calls itself these days). There’s a guest post on The Friendly Atheist that addresses the same point but taking a slightly different angle, saying that when some Muslim groups say ISIS is not Islamic they are not necessarily saying they are not Muslims. I doubt either perspective is completely correct but I should at least share the information.

Going further back, to last December, I described my experiences at a writer’s workshop, including my dismay at recent trends showing an increase in global meat consumption. This dismay is now reinforced by a recent article in The Guardian (found via io9) which summarises a report showing that to avoid climate change it is necessary to reduce the global consumption of meat. It’s not just a minor issue.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.

It’s pointless getting an electric car or cycling to work without reducing meat consumption because you’ll be directing attention at the wrong problem. It’s like telling people to be careful because candles are a fire hazard but staying silent about a trend for indoor bonfires! Even when people do say or do something, the reaction to suggestions that meat consumption needs to be reduced are negative.

For example, see this discussion about the push back against meatless Mondays. Not only the objections often completely misguided but when you see complaints about how meatless Monday or stricter emissions standards are bad for the economy you know that that person has a completely short-sighted view of the world. Are short-term economics really going to take priority over long-term survival?