Krish Mohan Headlines The Steel City Improv Theater: 4/25/2015 at Steel City Improv Theater


Where: Steel City Improv Theater (5859 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 15232)

When: 4/25/2015

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221962654/

Garrett Titlebaum and Ian McIntosh host some of the funniest comedians in Pennsylvania each month at Keystone Comedy: Stand Up at The Maker. This month we are joined by funny people Christine Marie, Day Bracey and the evening’s headliner Krish Mohan.

Only $10 for a whole lineup of great laughs!

http://steelcityimpro…

Pittsburgh 15232 – USA

Saturday, April 25 at 10:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221962654/

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Drinking Skeptically at Claddagh’s: 7PM TODAY at Claddagh Irish Pub


Where: Claddagh Irish Pub (Southside Works) (407 Cinema Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15203)

When: 7PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221017454/

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, atheists, humanists, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There is no specific topic. It is just an open discussion among fellow freethinkers about science, religion, skepticism, beer, life and leisure. Both teetotalers and those who imbibe moderately are equally welcomed. We generally meet the third or fourth Friday of each month, skipping August and December. 

This month we head back to one our original haunts, Claddagh Irish Pub in the Southside Works.  We have a semi-private room reserved with seats for everyone, but also the ability to mingle, for those that prefer to roam.

We start gathering at 7 pm, but latecomers are more than welcome. Hope to see you on Friday night!

Friday, April 17 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221017454/

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CFI Monthly Lecture and Movie Night!: 4/22/2015 at First Unitarian Church


Where: First Unitarian Church (605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213)

When: 4/22/2015

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221271186/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to CFI’s monthly lecture and movie night series!

Each month we alternate between a lecture and a movie.  Both feature a variety of topics from science to skepticism to humanism and beyond.  We often have time for great discussions or Q&A sessions afterward, too.  The topic is generally posted a month or more in advance–please check back soon, and feel free to email speaker or movie ideas to pgh@centerforinquiry.net

See you there!

P.S.  We usually head to Ali Baba’s on nearby Craig Street at 5:30 p.m. for a pre-lecture or pre-movie dinner. Please leave a comment below if you are coming to dinner so we can include you in the reservation. Thanks!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accommodations.


Wednesday, April 22 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221271186/

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Quote of the week


Mike AusRead more: Conversion on Mount Improbable: How Evolution Challenges Christian Dogma

h/t Jerry Coyne, WEIT

 

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Another Roadblock to Acceptance of Science


The Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette usually has a feature in the Forum section that is called The Next Page. This is a full page in-depth article that is completely different each week. The subject matter varies greatly, both in focus and in thrust, and can be about subjects as diverse as history or human interest stories or medical breakthroughs or scientific discoveries.

This past week’s feature was about a young man who participated in a robbery when he was fifteen years old. He drove the getaway car for an accomplice who, during the course of the robbery, murdered the couple they were robbing. According to the law, when someone is an accomplice in the commission of a crime which results in a homicide, whether he had a hand in the actual murder or not, he is still deemed to be just as much a part of the murder as the person who did the killing.

So as a result, the 15-year-old kid got sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole – something that the Supreme Court has since determined to be illegal. It has ruled that such a severe punishment for a juvenile amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, and considering what we know about adolescent brain development, they are indeed correct. Unfortunately, the ruling isn’t retroactive, so this guy is still screwed, barring a new ruling in a different case by the Supreme Court forcing resentencing for juveniles previously sentenced to such a severe punishment. But that’s not really what this post is about.

Reading through the article, I came across a quote from a family member of one of the victims who said that this young man should never get out. He was quoted as saying “(t)hey get out, I take care of them. That’s how I feel about it, really.” While I can understand his enmity and anger, I was struck by his vindictiveness. And I’ve noticed that many times before, not only from people who have been victimized by violent crime, but from people not personally affected by a crime and how they react and demand severe and disproportionate retribution for some offense or other.

I have also long been aware of how our society has perverted the original paradigm of justice from a system that embraced the idea that “it is better that ten guilty go free than to punish one innocent” and made a U-turn to one that aggressively pursues a policy of “it is better that ten innocent be punished than one guilty go free”. I attribute this in large part to our much greater affluence and the resultant fear of loss that comes with such accumulation of wealth and comfort. It is well known that fear of loss, whether rooted in reality or false perception, is a much stronger motivator than an equal potential for gain. And of course this is exacerbated by the fearmongers who play this up and push inhumane “law & order” agendas in cynical campaigns for votes or TV ratings.

The sheer vindictiveness and mean spiritedness of our society is clearly manifested in our unwillingness to actually try to alleviate some of the root causes of crime such as poverty and lack of economic opportunity, not to mention our unwillingness to spend money to rehabilitate offenders and to try to prevent recidivism. Our criminal (in)justice system is really only about tormenting offenders and extracting as much vengeance as possible to satisfy our sadistic impulses.

And then today, I read a Reuters news article (on Yahoo News) about a young transgender teen’s suicide as a result of her having been severely bullied in school. This happened in a small town just north of San Diego. Reading over the comments as I am wont to do (because that’s where you can see the real, unguarded attitudes of people at large), I was struck by the complete lack of empathy for this victim – even almost bordering on animosity toward her, something that I found thoroughly disgusting.

And that leads me to the actual point of this post. Because our society has become so mean-spirited and cold-hearted and so hell-bent on vengeance, anything that might detract from that regime is never going to be widely accepted. And that does not bode well for acceptance of what seems to be becoming increasingly apparent – the likelihood of determinism as the overwhelming characteristic of our behavior and the realization that we really only have an illusion of free will. It is our past experiences and the genetic components of our psychological makeup that constitute the majority of factors influencing any decision opportunity at any given time – it is not merely a go/no-go switch operating in a vacuum over which we are are the sole agent. But acceptance of determinism would necessarily call into question the ethicality of our entire criminal (in)justice system and our whole perception of crime and punishment. And that would never square with our societal vindictiveness.

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PSF Ladies Meetup: 2PM TODAY at Cafe Phipps


Where: Cafe Phipps (1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 2PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221051333/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the PSF Ladies Meetup at the Phipps Cafe.

See you there!

For more fun, follow us on Facebook!  To learn about more secular groups in Pittsburgh, check out the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website.

*PSF strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com to request accommodation.

Pittsburgh – USA

Sunday, April 12 at 2:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221051333/

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Drinking Skeptically at Claddagh’s: 4/17/2015 at Claddagh Irish Pub


Where: Claddagh Irish Pub (Southside Works) (407 Cinema Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15203)

When: 4/17/2015

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221017454/

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, atheists, humanists, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There is no specific topic. It is just an open discussion among fellow freethinkers about science, religion, skepticism, beer, life and leisure. Both teetotalers and those who imbibe moderately are equally welcomed. We generally meet the third or fourth Friday of each month, skipping August and December. 

This month we head back to one our original haunts, Claddagh Irish Pub in the Southside Works.  We have a semi-private room reserved with seats for everyone, but also the ability to mingle, for those that prefer to roam.

We start gathering at 7 pm, but latecomers are more than welcome. Hope to see you on Friday night!

Friday, April 17 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/221017454/

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Lunatics Rising


Lunatics Rising

Rarely does one get an opportunity to view the inner workings of batshit crazy up close and personal as I did this morning.  John Hagee, David Barton, Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg and one other character that’s definitely more than half of the way to crazytown, Ph.D. and (discredited) astronomer Hugh Ross, sat down to discuss Hagee’s new predictions of divine retribution that he’s predicting in his new movie production, “Four Blood Moons.”

David Barton was on-hand to confirm Hagee’s insane delusions citing the secret codes and connections he’s found in America’s founding documents to support Hagee’s lunatic claims.  The good Rabbi, Scheinberg, provided a special bonus by clearing up the confusion around the Hebrew word that Moses used to describe the moon that appeared to the Israelites one day;  he said it was as a special sign from gawd that they could “survive oppression.”

Oh, this 29 minute conversation is a doozey and a must-see if you’re looking for a hearty laugh as well as to learn a lot more about the inner workings of a brain that’s been very seriously infected with the gawd virus.   The really good stuff starts at 5:05.

One thing is absolutely certain: were it not for the first amendment, the entire panel would be locked-up in an asylum, in a straitjacket, being fed an IV drip of Thorazine 24/7.  But because, and probably only because, of the 1st Amendment, these idiots are out and about trolling for other credulous morons and rakin’-in bookoo bucks doing it.

Only in America!  We’re #1!

OK, I agree; I’ve gone a little overboard in my assessment of these morons.  They actually were very good for one thing – a stomach crunching laugh.

 

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CFI and PSF Discussion Group: 7PM TODAY at Tan Lac Vien


Where: Tan Lac Vien (2114 Murray Ave (Squirrel Hill), Pittsburgh, PA 15217)

When: 7PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221051331/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Hi Everyone,

This is our monthly discussion group.  This month’s topic is health care. Does some health care need to be rationed? Do we need to treat health care dollars as a finite resource? What about situations like end-of-life care where nearly a quarter of Medicare outlays are spent in the last year of life, often being merely an exercise in futility?

As always, if you have any suggestions for a topic, please email us at: pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accommodations.

 

Thursday, April 9 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/221051331/

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David Brooks is Dead Wrong About the RFRA


Recently, the Post-Gazette ran a column by David Brooks that was really irritating. (It was probably a reprint of a column that ran in the NY Times the day before, so some of you may have seen it there.) Brooks is one of the few conservative pundits that I actually respect, and frequently find myself agreeing with. His commentary on the PBS Newshour’s Shields and Brooks segment is often interesting and nuanced and quite reasonable.

Unfortunately though, whenever the opportunity presents itself he often insists (as in this column), on showing complete deference to religion and giving the religious a pass to shove their nonsense down rational people’s throat. This column was about Indiana’s License to Hurt and Discriminate law that was signed by Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence and the subsequent outcry that this caused. Because of the furor, Pence and the Republican leadership in Indiana put on a full court press to try to deny that the legislation was discriminatory and anti-gay and ultimately amended the bill. They are being thoroughly disingenuous. Make no mistake – this law was intended to hurt and legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, as are most of the recent iterations of this law in other states. How do we know this? If you look at photos of the bill’s signing – not the officially released PR photo but the photos from the private celebration – you find directly behind the governor three of the most vicious and most aggressive anti-gay activists in the state – Curt Smith, Eric Miller, and Micah Clark. (Micah Clark, it should be noted is part of the American Family Association, an organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

The main thrust of Brooks argument is that we need to show deference to people’s religious sensibilities and take them into account when dealing with controversial issues. But he is dead wrong. While we do need to respect the rights of everyone to have their faith, to believe whatever irrational nonsense they wish to believe, we are under no obligation whatsoever to respect the beliefs themselves. As the Campaign For Free Expression has said, “Ideas don’t need rights – people do.” Brooks is not alone in this – conflating respect for people with respect for beliefs themselves is a common mistake that religionists almost always make when dealing with the topic of religious rights.

All religions are based on ancient mythology that was used to explain the natural world and to provide a framework of rules to establish a (sorta) just and harmonious society. (The exceptions, of course, are those religions based on 19th century cons or twentieth century tax dodges.) But as western society has evolved and gone through The Enlightenment, the need for these mythologies has diminished to a point of nonexistence in the 21st century.

Because these are mythologies or based in mythology, they have no credible evidence to support them and therefore have no basis in reality. And since they have no basis in reality, the resultant pronouncements of these fairy tales have no legitimate place in the formulation or implementation of public policy in a secular society founded, as the U. S. was, on Enlightenment values. For that matter, I have to question whether these have any legitimacy anywhere in the public square.

Even if we concede (and I absolutely do not) that these irrational, often demonstrably false beliefs deserve to be taken into consideration, Brooks argues that we need to use gentle persuasion to convince the delusional people to be decent human beings rather than using the force of government edict as a hammer to protect minority rights. That might be a viable argument if the delusionals had the capacity or intent to be fair and tolerant and respectful of others’ rights. But they don’t. A letter to the editor two days after Brooks’ column was published very clearly stated that the letter writer had no intention of ever respecting the rights of LGBT people. And in Texas, an effort by several legislators to amend Texas’ 1999 RFRA law to make it even more discriminatory is underway, although after the Indiana debacle it looks like that will be rebuffed.

It is time, once and for all, to get religion out of public policy. We need to make it completely clear to the delusionals that their fairy tales, for which they have no evidentiary support and that have no basis in reality, and the mean-spirited intolerant nonsense that flows from those fairy tales, has no legitimate place whatsoever in the public policy arena. And if that message needs to be sent with a government hammer to be understood, then so be it.

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