Apropos of our recent discussions, here are three new pieces to check out:
Last week Quinn O’Neill wrote a piece on Three Quarks Daily that seemed to ask skeptics to give religion a pass. A fair few bloggers, including me, took her apart. This week, in “Religion should not get a pass,” she explains what she really meant. The title tells it all.
The systematic indoctrination of children is unethical and must be stopped. Strictly speaking, religious freedom is a state protected right. But I think we can agree that freedom to choose a religion can be restricted in a more practical sense. For students at a religious school, the choice is free in a legal sense. It’s not a free choice in any practical sense, since all but one of the options have been obscured. If you are only exposed to one option, you don’t have a choice.
Curiously, despite O’Neill’s strong (and proper) claim that “systematic indoctrination of children is unethical and must be stopped,” she doesn’t mention that this brainwashing isn’t limited to the schools.
Speaking of giving a pass, over at Butterflies and Wheels Edmund Standing argues that we shouldn’t stop criticizing Islam—even the moderate version—just because not all Muslims are extremists.
Ultimately, Islam and the Qur’an do not pose problems because of ‘misinterpretation’, but rather because they belong to a world far from modernity and are actually of no relevance to modernity. Atheists have every right to point this out, even if it means criticising those who are nonetheless doing good work against extremism. Moderate Islam and moderate Quran’ic ‘interpretation’ offer no real bulwark against those who read the text of the Qur’an and take it at face value, as a perfect and divinely authored text. Only by acknowledging that any notion of a divinely authored book is simply false, by accepting the harsh reality that this book is in fact useless (and indeed dangerous) in the modern context, and by embracing human reason and freethinking will the curse of Islamic extremism ultimately be overcome.
Finally, in today’s New York Times, Carl Zimmer writes about the new Nowak et al. paper in Nature that questions the value of inclusive fitness theory. Zimmer even manages to dig up a few people who agree with the paper. But Zimmer’s a good science reporter, so he also sounds out the critics:
Andy Gardner, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, said bluntly, “This is a really terrible article.” One problem Dr. Gardner points to is the Harvard team’s claim that the past 40 years of research on inclusive fitness has yielded nothing but “hypothetical explanations.”
“This claim is just patently wrong,” Dr. Gardner said. He points to the question of how many sons and daughters mothers produce among the many insights inclusive fitness has brought.