Riker's Mailbox

Monday, June 23, 2008


My junior-hero* Sam Harris is involved in a new study about religiosity and, well... I don't know what exactly**, but he needs responses from two specific categories: devout Christians, and atheists. It just so happens that I know of a few places to round some of those up***.

Take a minute or thirty to visit his website and complete as much of the survey as you can!

* - for an explanation, see BLASPHEMY-ANTIPHON and its associated footnotes.
** - but it's gotta be good.
*** - You're reading one of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I consider myself a privileged individual for many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that I get to live in Southern California.

A small part of that privilege is having access to some excellent radio stations. I am a daily listener to 95.5 KLOS, the classic rock station in these parts,* and I am a rabid fan of the Mark and Brian show, their daily morning talk/variety show. These guys are smart and funny, and responsible for some wonderful events and charities in these parts.**

This morning, the hot topic was the recent court ruling in favor of gay marriage. The call-in response was largely in support of the movement (it is a liberal-leaning show and listenership, after all), but in the midst of it one obviously Christian lady called in and presented the idiotic 'slippery-slope' argument: "Well if a man can choose to marry another man today, what will he be allowed to choose tomorrow? What if he chooses to marry a little boy tomorrow?"

I'm not going to spend any time refuting Pedophile Lady's argument; my issue is with the way her comment was handled. Brian (1/2 of the show's namesake) quite appropriately dispatched her with a rebuttal and an "I'm ashamed and disappointed that this is your opinion", but he qualified it first with, "this is your opinion and I cannot tell you to change it."

...pardon me while I wrestle this soapbox into position...

Okay. Well, I have an opinion about this, and I most definitely wish I could change his.

Right after I heard the exchange, I sent the show a quick TXT message (a great feature, by the way), something to the effect of, "Brian, maybe some of these people SHOULDN'T be entitled to their opinion when it's based on bad/damaging information."

Well, the coolest thing happened shortly afterward: during a commercial break, Brian called me to talk about my message!*** He was really curious and wanted me to elaborate on my message, so he could get a better feel for the point I was trying to make. He admitted that he personally agrees with me (Another atheist! WOOHOO!), but insisted that he couldn't tell her she was wrong because it would make him a hypocrite. I tried to give an argument against that, but didn't have my thinking cap on (read: coffee in my stomach) and didn't give him the most effective one.

So... he had to get back to the show; we exchanged our gratitudes and compliments, and hung up.

But right after we concluded our session, the brilliance started pouring out. Of course. I went to the show's website to take advantage of the extended format of an e-mail response, and penned this follow-up, which I'd like to share with you all:

This is a follow-up to a TXT message I sent earlier today; Brian called me back and we talked briefly about my statement that some peoples' opinions shouldn't be honored if they're based on bad information:

Brian, I (of course) couldn't think of the best language to convey my point right away when you asked me to clarify... but I want to take another stab at it.

My point is that you are *not* automatically a hypocrite when you present a firm opposition to someone else's opinion... because in some cases their opinion can be objectively incorrect.

To object to an uninformed opinion with an equally uninformed counter-opinion would be hypocritical, sure... but just because an idea is wrapped up in the context of 'Opinion' doesn't mean it should be afforded automatic protection from scrutiny.

It is possible to objectively measure the quality or validity of an opinion - It could be my opinion that Mark is a moron (sorry, Mark), and all you'd have to do is show me the results of his IQ test to prove that my opinion is completely incorrect. I appreciate your compassion if you don't want to offend me by pointing out that I'm wrong (and I think that's a big part of your stance - I won't argue with your being courteous to callers), but this is a relatively harmless example.

But what if there were such a thing as a harmful example? Pedophile Lady makes a claim that is founded by what she believes to be an irrefutable and perfectly correct source - her church, clergy and bible. When the bible was written, it was correct according to the best info we had at the time. But today, we know objectively that there are physiological explanations for the occurrence of homosexuality. We actually know better, now, than to think that homosexuality is a choice. It has been confirmed time and again with the same scientific rigor that has successfully given us 80-year life expectancies, air travel, radio talk shows, and every other miraculous achievement of modern society.

But, Pedophile Lady's opinion is incredibly prevalent right now...

...and simply because these incorrect ideas about homosexuality are encapsulated in the Protection of Opinion, we're allowing countless real people to suffer lives of forced compliance, and relegating them to a form of second-class restricted citizenship.

All for the sake of politeness.

At some point we need to see that we're allowing a greater evil to thrive, because we're unwilling to perpetrate the evil of telling people when they're wrong.


It's about civic duty. We should be able and willing to stamp out harmful ideas and the acts they promote, especially when the cost of doing so (offending christians) is so feeble compared to the cost of doing nothing. It's time to bring a little obligatory rudeness into our arsenal.

* - I'm not going to tell you, but here's a hint: KLOS is named for Los (something).

** - See footnote above.
*** - This dude is a bonafide CELEBRITY. Of course I'm excited.

Friday, June 06, 2008



Website emails your personal message to unbelieving friends after you're swept up in the rapture!

(Not a direct link - I always link through geekologie when they're my source)

Am I the only one that thinks that the people running this service are handily exempting themselves from the celestial self-checkout line by charging their customers $40 a year? Sure, it's not as much as an xbox live membership**... but they're essentially saying, "We're not getting into paradise anytime soon; we might as well get comfy while we wait".

Greed is one of those killer sins, after all.

And let's face it, most of those letters are going to be a variation on the "I fucking told you so" riff. ***

Also, I think they cribbed their delivery mechanism from Lost.

* - FUCK
** - but it's also slightly less fulfilling, unless the peace of mind of having the last word is THAT important to you.
*** - Hell, they already made it through the gate, what's the harm in a little harsh language... especially when it's directed a heathens aplenty?