Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Archive for December 2010

God Done Diddit

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I want you to picture a guy, let’s call him Paul, walking into an urban police-station. Beaming, he proclaims that he knows what happened to the dead body that was found in the river five days ago; that he’s solved the mystery.
Let’s assume that by some random chance, or maybe out of desperation, the police actually take him seriously. So they ask him in, lead him into a room, sharpen their pencils, switch on the tape-recorder, and take a statement. This is how it goes:

PAUL: “You ready? Can I start?”
OFFICER: “Sure. Please tell us what you know.”
PAUL: “You see, he was murdered. Frank did it.”
OFFICER: “Frank… Frank who?”
PAUL: “Well, Frank of course. Frank Frank. Who else would I mean?”
PAUL: “…”
OFFICER (With disappointment at the realization that this won’t be the clue they’d been hoping for): “That’s it? That’s what you came to tell us?”
PAUL (Genuinely puzzled): “What do you mean? I told you what happened. What more could you want?”

We could imagine this going on indefinitely, but this little conversation is enough to convey my point. Merely tossing a name out there and proclaiming that a murder took place is not the same as truly solving the mystery of an unidentified body.
Yet, this is exactly how religious people tackle the question about the origin of our universe. They proclaim that it was “made”, and that it was “God” who made it. And then they lean back, satisfied with their accomplishment of having “solved” the mystery, gaze us a beaming smile, and react confused when we reject their “explanation” as preposterous and stupid.

To complete the analogy, let’s have Paul defend his thesis by proclaiming that it’s more likely Frank committed a murder than that the water of the river simply morphed into a dead body.
Theists frequently claim that, due to the apparent fine-tuning of our universe, it being made is more likely than it just coming into existence “by a giant explosion”. Of course, nobody ever said that a giant explosion was the origin of the universe, just like nobody at the police-department proposed that the body is actually magically transformed water of the river.
The Big Bang Theory is actually not about the origin of the universe: Like the police, we’re still pretty clueless regarding that mystery; like the police, it’s likely we’ll solve it eventually. What the Big Bang Theory actually is about is the early development of the universe: The theory states that the universe transformed from a very hot, very dense state to a less hot, less dense state, which is analogous to the police stating that it’s very likely the body they found was, at some point in the past, alive. It’s something we know beyond reasonable doubt. It’s something we can prove pretty much for sure.

What bothers me about all this is not that there actually are people like Paul out there, who really do not see the problem with the sort of oversimplified skyhook-explanation they give for complex problems.
What bothers me is that my analogy fails at one very important point: Paul the potential witness is regarded as a lunatic by society, and will probably find himself in a mental institution in the near future. Paul the theologean, on the other hand, is a highly respected member of society, gets invited by TV-stations to comment on enormously important political topics and has a huge influence on public opinion regarding an incredible variety of topics.

Missionaries of Inhumanity

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Warning: Due to the distressing nature of the images, I’ve posted all of them at the very end of this post. May not be suitable to be viewed at work. Viewer discretion is advised.

Hemley Gonzalez, currently back in India, has found another volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity who is now, after 13 years of working for Mother Teresa’s famous organisation, willing to speak up about the countless cases of abuse, medical negligence, and financial fraud she witnessed. And she has many stories to tell. Here is the full-length interview, courtesy of Hemley Gonzalez.

Sally Warner, a registered nurse with a degree in sociology and a graduate diploma in social work from Western Australia, began working as a volunteer with The Missionaries of Charity in 1997. She quickly realized there was something horribly wrong going on in all of the children homes she had visited and volunteered in and soon after became a dissenting voice and critic of the organization, publishing her first book titled “Mother Teresa” in 2003 about these experiences and now currently working on her second publication “Mother Teresa: Sainthood Delayed” to be released in 2011. Sally had heard about my work and the facebook campaign: STOP The Missionaries of Charity / www.stopthemissionaries.com and after finding out I too was in Kolkata, a meeting was scheduled. The following is the transcribed audio of my hour-long interview with her on this most disheartening subject. More about Sally’s work: www.sallywarner.blogspot.com

Hemley Gonzalez [HG]: When did you come to Kolkata to work with the Missionaries of Charity?

Sally Warner [SW]: I’ve spent the last thirteen years volunteering and visiting several houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity, and eventually made my way to Kolkata in late 1999 and began volunteering in some of the houses in early 2000. Here I have visited and volunteered in: Green Park, Shanti Dan, Premdan, Daya Dan and Kalighat which I found quite awful, I lasted only a few day there as I thought it was very dangerous for volunteers with all the highly contagious cases of Tuberculosis, but I had to see it for myself and couldn’t believe it. Speaking of Kalighat, it is now closed for renovations which I’m sure you and your “STOP The Missionaries of Charity” campaign had much to do with.

HG: How many houses would you say you’ve worked in over the last 13 years?

SW: The following is a timeline of the homes I’ve worked in as well as the many others I have visited. I have spent most of my time in the children homes, there were some I could not deal with, some of the ladies homes, and others where patients were just sitting around and doing nothing, often in cement floors and lying in their own excrements, people drugged wrongly by the nuns and of course there is or should I say for now “was” Kalighat, where anyone could just walk in and immediately see an average of 50 men and 50 women laying in cots and basically rotting away.
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Responsible Charity

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Perhaps you remember Hemley Gonzalez. He is the one who did some amazing work raising awareness about some of the more controversial stuff behind the Missionaries of Charity – namely Mother Theresa’s Sisterhood’s opposition to hygiene, their refusal to administer pain-killers or use modern medical equipment, their rather mysterious attitude bookkeeping, and the horrible state of their sanitary facilities, all despite the millions of dollars this organisation receives in donations each year. He quickly became one of Mother Teresa’s most outspoken critics, even being interviewed by the indian Forbes magazine.

The short version of his story goes as follows: He went to india as a backpacker, felt inspired after reading a book about Mother Teresa’s work, and decided to visit Kolkatta to help. Upon arrival he was shocked by the crass difference between reality and the idealised image presented by the media and the Biography he’d read. Yet he stayed for two month, helping the best he could, faithfully documenting everything. Back home, he started a Facebook group called STOP the Missionaries of Charity, successfully kicking up some dust.

He could have left it at that. Like most of the Western world he could have sat at home whining and complaining, enjoying the attention, and never offering actually constructive criticism.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing about him now if he’d opted for that course of action. Being the inspiring person he is, Hemley went back to the US, spent two years networking, gathering support, and getting all the necessary applications and paperwork on the way. Currently, since December 2nd 2010, he’s back in India, enrolling kids in school, providing food, clothing and medical care, helping families make a living so the kids will be able to stay in school… only this time, it’s in the name of his own charity organisation, Responsible Charity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

December 17, 2010 at 19:15

How Homeopathy Works

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Irreducible Complexity Has Been… Reduced. To Nothing.

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One of my favourite YouTubers, QualiaSoup, has put out another great educational video, addressing the “Intelligent Design” (=Creationist) argument of so-called “irreducible complexity”, which claims that evolution cannot be true since they are things that are so complex that they could not have come about by a gradual process like evolution by natural selection. The video dismantles the argument beautifully in very simple terms; it’s easy to understand and, more importantly, it’ll empower you to counter the argument yourself next time you come across it in a discussion.

One more thing: If you like QualiaSoup’s vids, be sure to check out his brother, too. He goes by the username TheraminTrees and produces videos of a very similar style which are just as brilliant.

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