I Demand That Wellnessism Be Taught In Science Classes In Texas Public Schools

by Don on March 30th, 2009
in Politics

Along with evolution, germ theory and creationsim, I want wellnessism introduced in biology classes in Texas public schools.  If the first two areas of scientific knowlledge are "just" theories to the school board leaders, well, then let's hear all the theories and let the little children decide what's sensible.  Isn't that what made America great? 

Christian Scientists believe disease is caused by sin, spiritual healers believe in the theory of auras, shamans believe in demonic possession, psychic surgeons believe in extracting defective parts without cutting, astrologers in birth periods and constellations and Republicans believe in the theory of small government and great fortunes.  I say let all these theories and wellnessism - the theory that healthy lifestyles will set us free of doctors, drugs and disease, be taught.  "Teach the controversies," I say.  That's what the Christian fundamentalists insist upon in Texas, and if it's good enough for Texas, it's good enough for me.  Yeehaa. 

Now I realize there is more going for the germ theory of disease and the theory of evolution, at the present time, than wellnessism.  However, wellnessism has a whole lot more going for it than creationism and the other theories noted above. So, fair's fair.  Teach the controversy, even if we wellnessism enthusiasts have not made a claim yet for our beliefs as theory.  We just want equal times with the intelligent design folks.

Wellnessism explains why people who exercise vigorously, dine more or less in accord with established dietary guidelines, take responsibility for their health and seek added meaning and purpose, happiness, support and all kinds of positive initiatives manage to boost the quality of their lives.  Wellnessism explains a few things and predicts a few others, and even gets it right now and then.  What can creationism explain?  Therefore, we want to be included, especially if the "Grand Wazoo did it" theory gets access to the science classes in Texas.

Oh, and it's OK with wellnessism supporters if the Texas school board requires educators and textbooks to play up the "problems" with wellnessism, as they plan to do with the theory of evolution, provided they also list the "strengths and weaknesses".of creationism.  Good luck with that.  Who will be asked to provide the strengths of the latter - televangelists?

Since the Texas state board of education is composed of at least half a dozen and probably more creationists, I think it only fair to insist that half the board be composed of persons with healthy lifestyles.  It would not do for a group primarily consisting of overweight, chain-smoking rednecks who have no clue about the nature of the wellness movement or the lifestyle it entails to be making decisions that affect the lifestyles of Texas schoolchildren. 

Jerry Coyne, author of the best-seller "Why Evolution is True" (Viking), wrote an article entitled "Creationism in the Classroom" (guardian.co.uk, 26 March 2009) which inspired these demands for wellnessism.  In his essay, Dr. Coyne offered this parting observation"

"What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. That state is a sizeable consumer of public school textbooks, and it's likely that if it waters  down its science standards, textbook publishers all over the country will follow suit. This makes every American school hostage to the  caprices of a few benighted Texas legislators.  Our children will face enormous challenges when they grow up: global warming, depletion of fossil fuels, overpopulation, epidemic disease.  There is no better way to prepare their generation than to teach them how to distinguish fact from mythology, and to encourage them to have good reasons for what they believe."

Just so. To show how reasonable wellnessism enthusiasts are, we will remove our righteous demands for equal time if the creationists (and the spiritual healers, shamans, psychic surgeons, astrologers and Republicans) back off and take their "theory" of intelligent design back to their churches. 

Not that such nonsense belongs there, either, but it will be far less harmful than introducing "intelligent design" in science classes.

Urge the President To Minimize Religious Interference In The Delivery Of Medical Care

by Don on March 17th, 2009
in Politics

Under the disastrous era of George Bush, religious zealots were able to convince the chief executive to create a provider refusal rule. This rule requires health care institutions receiving federal funds to certify in writing that they would allow health care providers to refuse services on religious and ideological grounds. It was an invitation to sectarian mischief.

Fortunately, it took a while to get into the system, but it has been in place since January 20th.  Already, the new president has directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind the provider refusal rule. However, this requires a period of public opinion gathering about the policy - and thus the purpose of this message is to urge you to do just that. Make a comment.

Here is my comment, which I plan to mail to HHS. Consider sending one of your own. You have until April 9th to do so.

Madam Secretary:

I join with other Americans who support the separation of church and state to urge that an end to the rule entitled "Ensuring that Department of Health and Humans Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law."

As many have noted already, this Bush-era directive is driven by extremist religious ideology. It is an invitation to mischief and discord. It is vague and would almost certainly reduces access to health services and information for women seeking reproductive services. It could also lead to an interruption in the ability of anyone to gain assistance for a medical condition about which there is controversy based on religious dogma.

The conscience of a providers should not be given more weight than the health needs of patients. The danger is greatest in remote rural areas where alternative health care providers are few, but the situation would be intolerable anywhere. It is especially distressing in instances wherein a health care facility is funded in part by our own tax dollars.

Abortion is so loosely defined that the rule could tempt religious medical personnel to refuse to provide contraception, treatment for infertility or HIV/AIDS, information about end-of-life care or any medical procedure linked to a religious belief, however primitive.

I join with the Center for Inquiry and hundreds of other secular institutions in asking that you please rescind the provider refusal regulation as soon as possible.

Thank you very much. May the Constitution be our guide.

No Religion? A More Accurate Description Might Be That More Americans Than Ever Prefer Beliefs Supported By Science, Reason And Evidence

by Don on March 12th, 2009
in Religion

A new poll puts the number of "godless Americans" at 15%.  Those of us so grouped are said to be "without faith," "unchurched" or "lacking any religion."  While these descriptors are accurate enough, the terms are a bit like the word "atheist" - instructive enough in identifying what we DON'T believe, but of no value in indicating what does define or even describe us.  It would be desirable, I believe, to have a term for the 15% that is positive, not negative.

I suggest that a more positive and possibly more accurate way to express the latest poll data would be to note that 15% percent of Americans prefer reason, science and rationality to "faith" in that which cannot be shown to be true or false.  That includes all religions.

Most of those who chose "none of the above" to the pollsters asking about which religion they embraced might agree that they do not LACK something (faith, etc.) - they possess something the others lack - a commitment to evidence.

As a fervent believer - science, reason and evidence, I consider myself a secular rationalist.  I think there are a lot of us.

What Rush Limbaugh Said When He Called Me This Morning

by Don on March 5th, 2009
in Politics

I put no more stock in the predictive value of dreams than I do in the so-called prophesies of Nostradamus, crackpot ESP con artists or religious zanies like Pat Robertson. Nor do I read much into images or episodes of any kind experienced in dream states. The latter may be rough guides to inner turmoil, or maybe not. Perhaps some revelations or scenarios, particularly those that are vivid and emotional, should be explored with trained professionals in therapy, aided by powerful drugs. I hope not, because I am definitely NOT so inclined, even if "we are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep." (Prospero, The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1.)

Therefore, I did not think much about a visit last night from Rush Limbaugh, who wanted to apologize for making such an ass of himself lately (i.e., at least the last eight or thirty years). Why apologize to me?" I asked Rush. "I don't care - tell your listeners. Tell Michael Steele.

I find you obnoxious, pathetic, grotesque and an abomination. I don't take apologies for others - tell the American people you are sorry for being such a wretch and reform your ways. But please, don't bother me - I'm a wellness guy. I look on the bright side, stay positive, take responsibility, pursue happiness, exercise a lot, search for meaning and act at all times with compassion and love for my fellow man. Go away, you awful person.

When I finished, Rush looked at me in a melancholic way and said, ???úDon, you're the only one who can guide me. You understand REAL wellness. Please, don't reject me. I'm obese, unhappy, addicted to drugs; I have no real friends, except the lunatics who thrive on my unhinged rants. I want to reform my ways, change my life, make amends and become a decent person. I also want to shape a healthy lifestyle, have more fun, contribute to society in a positive way. I even want to help Barack Obama succeed, not fail. Won't you help me?

Well, let me tell you - I felt awful. Why had I responded so harshly? I was almost as mean and nasty as Rush - with Rush. Did I want to be like that? No way. So, like Michael Steele, I apologized to Rush. I said, ???úIt's not too late. Don't worry about the past. Now that everyone expects the worst from you, you can be like Nixon in the 70's, opening up a dialogue with China! I'll help you. Start by telling everyone you no longer want to be the face or the leader of the Republican Party. You don't want to be obnoxious, pathetic, grotesque, an abomination or a wretch. From now on, you will promote REAL wellness - reason, exuberance and liberty. You're going to look on the bright side, stay positive, take responsibility, pursue happiness, exercise a lot, search for meaning and act at all times (with rare exceptions) with compassion and love for your fellow man. You will even root for and help President Obama to succeed, not fail. You will be a new Rush Limbaugh person, thoughtful, kind and mellow, constructive and positive.???ù

Well, I can tell you, when I woke up I felt great. I felt full of energy, good will and passion - I wanted to go to work and write articles that would set things right. I looked over at my lovely wife, sleeping soundly and felt hugely amorous, I woke her up, put my arm around her - but I won't go into all of that here. I'll save that for my pay-for-view site.

Anyway, before long, I remembered I don't put much stock or read much into dreams, so all good will toward Rush was gone before I fired up the coffeepot. Then again, dreams sometimes augur moral lessons and those who ignore dreams (e.g., as in Macbeth) do so at some peril. Who knows, maybe Rush will change his ways. If he does, remember this tale. Maybe I'm psychic, have ESP or can see the future. I don't think so but if Rush transforms in the very near future, I might reconsider.

Why Skeptics, Doubters And Infidels Should Come Out Of The Closet To Express Secular Perspectives On Current Events

by Don on February 23rd, 2009
in Religion

Some believers in a personal god want everyone, including non-believers, to be reverent and deferential regarding the deity they adore, the almighty one possessed of supernatural, unimaginable omnipotence. They want us to be respectful of their beliefs in a deity who rules over everything while exuding boundless love for all creatures.

Well, if I could wrap my brain around that idea, I could probably manage a mighty kowtow to the Glorious One. But, perhaps due to a gene deficiency, I find it impossible to generate much enthusiasm for the Grand Creator business.

Therefore, I don't empathize with Muslims who get all worked up about cartoons that depict their prophet in ways not of their liking, which includes any depiction at all. Likewise, I have zero concern for the sensibilities of those who chose to be offended by cartoons featuring the Pope, or any religious figure, real or imagined, living or dead.

To his credit, Denmark's prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded to demands for an official apology by Islamic religious officials after a local newspaper published cartoons that offended some Muslims as follows: "The government refuses to apologize because the government does not control the media or a newspaper outlet; that would be in violation of the freedom of speech." Just so. Let us all marshal our energies in the months to come to see that things stay this way, in our own societies. Let's come out and declare our unwavering support for keeping separate church and state while ensuring that citizens enjoy freedom of speech and all that goes with it.

I saw the movie "Milk" the other day and heard Barry Lynn speak in Pinellas Park a few days thereafter. Both were inspirational, informative and fun. Both offered many important lessons, one of which is the value in being public about non-beliefs. In this fashion, the devout are more likely to realize that doubters or unbelievers are folks just like themselves, in most ways. They are just regular friends and neighbors, co-workers and even relatives.

In the life of Harvey Milk, the issue was discrimination against gays; in the present case, the group that needs to make its presence and ideas familiar is non-believers in any versions of god creatures.

In the UN, a sub-organization organization comprised of representatives of Islamic countries is demanding that the larger body adopt a speech code. The code would apply in all societies (not just Islamic countries) and give special protection to believer sensibilities, particularly Islam. It would make "off-limits" the "holy truths" of other religions, and identify offenses as "blasphemous."

Hopefully, the USA and other countries that prize freedom of speech as much as the Danes will defeat such a constraint on liberty sought by leaders of the very nations that have so little or none of it.

I had a personal experience along these lines just yesterday. A friend became quite ill all of a sudden and was hospitalized. To deal with the large number of friends calling for updates and in order to provide an opportunity for friends to express support, she created a website. At the site, she placed a description of her illness and treatment. The latter was highlighted by a condemnation of the medical system. She wondered how anyone rich could obtain medications she was given that cost over $1,000. She wrote, "Please say a special prayer for anyone without adequate health insurance."

As a non-believer, I wanted to enter a comment at the site that a person without insurance will surely need more than a prayer, special or otherwise. My dear wife, more diplomatic than me perhaps, put the kibosh on such a comment. She feared I would upset the patient, who did not need a reminder that maybe a Grand Wahoo of some kind was not "up there" answering prayers, whether for the uninsured or anyone else.

My wife is usually right about such things (I suppose nine out of ten is "usually") so I grumbled a bit and refrained from writing anything "blasphemous" at the site. I lit a candle and did a rain dance instead. Did I do the right thing? I don't think so - but I have caved before. I allowed my first-born to be baptized in order to keep the relatives happy. Another sell-out. Have I no shame? (Not enough, I can hear you saying.)

Which leads me to the suggestion that non-believers of all stripes do better than I did (above) and emerge from proverbial closets of polite silence on religious perspectives to do what Harvey Milk asked of gays - let everyone recognize that many of their friends do not buy into, share or positively regard supernatural beliefs. It would, I believe, lead to clearer communications and understandings and thus better relationships based upon genuine respect for varied perspectives.

And it might help you avoid acting diplomatically to a fault.

Someday, I will be brave -- maybe I should see the Wizard of Oz.

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