Archive | December, 2011

Mother Teresa: Blessed Billionaire, Holy Hypocrite

Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

— Christopher Hitchens

The Catholic Church is in a position to truly help the poor. If they wanted to, they could feed the 14.2 million hungry Filipinos for more than a month. If they wanted to, they could feed the 1.88 million Filipinos who almost always have nothing to eat for almost a year. If they wanted to, they could send a significant amount to the victims of Sendong — a donation that would exceed even the total of their many second collections — greatly helping the victims recover, rebuild, and prepare themselves for potential disasters.

But it seems like the CBCP doesn’t want to. Whatever their motivation for hoarding wealth, we know that their billions are kept invested in corporations, helping rich businessmen become even richer. And as their wealth continues to grow, the poor and hungry continue to suffer.

Well-meaning Catholics could notice this selfishness and ask: “Why can’t the CBCP be more like Mother Teresa?” Well, they already are. And based on their many similarities, no one else would make a better patron saint for the CBCP.

The CBCP claims that theirs is a Church of the Poor. This is a lie. The Catholic Church is a Church of Poverty. What’s the difference? The former would get the poor out of poverty; the latter would keep them in it. This is best exemplified by a true saint of poverty: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Saint of Suffering

Who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? Next to Jesus, the top answer Catholics would give is probably “Mother Teresa.” She has been honored by both secular and religious organizations with awards and adoration. Beatified in 2003, she is only one miracle short of canonization. It may come as a surprise to many that she isn’t already a saint, and most Catholics would agree that she deserves to be one.

Billionaires Mother Teresa and Cardinal Sin having a good laugh.

But this is only because what they know of her life is even less than what they know about the Catholic Church. In the same way that many are ignorant of the Church’s past atrocities and present scandals most Catholics remain unaware of Mother Teresa’s unsaintly actions.

These actions are based on what a former member of her order called a flawed “theology of suffering.” In Mother Teresa’s words: “The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Therefore, the Catholic who suffers the most is closest to Christ. When you remove suffering, you remove Christ. Instead of minimizing their suffering, Mother Teresa ensured it. Alleviating suffering, let alone eliminating it, was out of the question. Seen from this perspective, her behavior toward her patients makes sense.

Instead of curing them, Mother Teresa gave the bare minimum of treatment, resulting in suffering for most and death for some. She gave insufficient or outdated medicine, reused old syringes, and gave cold baths to all patients, even those who could find comfort in a warm one. She’d refuse to install elevators for the disabled, even when the city government offered to pay for it. Instead of hiring competent doctors, she’d rely on incompetent volunteers because she believed strongly that ignorance was more valuable than expertise (Livemore 93, 156).

Instead of being true hospitals or hospices, the establishments run by Mother Teresa were more like prisons at best: The patients, if they were well enough to escape, probably would. At worst, they were torture chambers. She’d refuse to give painkillers even to dying patients who were suffering unbearable pain. Instead of using painkillers, she’d comfort patients by saying, “You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you.” One poor patient replied, “Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Holy Hypocrite

What makes all this worse is the fact that Mother Teresa had the resources to make things better. Estimates of donations reach the millions — even billions — of dollars. Unfortunately, we can never be sure. In the same way that Mother Teresa’s atrocities remain a secret, Missionaries of Charity remains the only charitable organization in India that refuses to reveal how much money they have and how they spend it:

Missionaries doesn’t keep a tab on the financial transactions that take place. No one other than the sisters knows where the money that is donated is spent.

One such sister is Susan Shields, a former member of Mother Teresa’s order for nine and a half years (emphasis mine):

Our bank account was already the size of a great fortune and increased with every postal service delivery. Around $50 million had collected in one checking account in the Bronx… The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives or on the lives of the poor we were trying to help… For Mother, it was the spiritual well-being of the poor that mattered most. [Hitchens 31]

That million-dollar bank account in the Bronx was only one of the many bank accounts owned by Mother Teresa around the world. She has admitted to establishing 500 convents in over a hundred countries. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Mother Teresa was running a billion-dollar business.

And while the convents and bank accounts benefit from more donations, her hospices remain unfit even for the poorest of the poor — definitely unfit for a billionaire like Mother Teresa. Instead of using one of her own establishments when she herself got sick, she flew first class on Air India to a clinic in the United States.

This hypocrisy pervades her entire order. Dr. Collette Livemore, once known as Sister Tobit, served as a Missionary of Charity for eleven years. But she was disillusioned by many experiences, such as one that she had in Manila (emphasis mine):

One day, when we were having afternoon tea, there was an urgent knock at the door. The portress reported, “A little boy is having trouble breathing.” I started to get up because I had access to the Tahanan medicines and thought I should go to help.

“Sit down, Tobit [Livemore], there is no hurry. We are not running an emergency hospital,” the superior reminded me. I thought to myself, Is afternoon tea more important than assisting the boy and giving comfort to his parents? Yet I obediently waited until after tea to get some salbutamol to relieve his distress. [Livemore 105]

Order of Obedience

Livemore continued to struggle. “I still did not fully accept that obedience to our superior considered more important than our service to the poor.” But she continued trying to help despite the order’s strict rules. Once, she tried to aid a dying child but was scolded for it because no new admissions were supposed to be made on a Thursday. For actions like these, she was removed from an important position.

You had to keep quiet, you had to suppress your intellect. Mother said that God uses the weak to confound the strong and the unintelligent to confound the knowledgeable, so it was almost lack of faith to try and use your head.

She was replaced by someone who was more obedient and, well, more ignorant:

Some of the superiors in the MCs were thrown into positions of power with little education or preparation, yet they were responsible for hundreds of people and many resources. Because Mother believed that God used the weak to confound the strong and intelligent, the Society acted almost as if preparing someone for a managerial role betrayed a lack of faith. The Society showed the same lack of logic by expecting God to make up for ignorance and lack of training in the medical work.

Despite this, Livemore continued to do her best to help. She believed that “if you see another person suffering, it becomes your business right then and there. You can’t just turn away and pretend that you don’t see.”

Blessed Billionaire

So who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? I hope you agree: Dr. Collette Livemore would be a far better answer than Mother Teresa. Actually, so would most decent human beings.

Like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the CBCP claims to be on a mission of service to the poor. Both use this claim to collect millions in donations. Both have succeeded. Not in their missions, but in collecting millions.

I encourage all Catholics to ask Mother Teresa to pray for the MC and the CBCP to use their billions in service of the poor. It wouldn’t erase all the evil she committed on Earth, but at least such a miracle would finally make her a saint in Heaven. Unless, of course, the Vatican has an issue with canonizing an atheist.

Posted in Religion, Society27 Comments

Beauty, Life, and Death through a Macro Lens: Is there an Intelligent Designer?

 

I’ve been dabbling in macro photography recently and it’s like having a new set of super eyes, one that allows you to appreciate the beauty of flowers and insects by seeing their vibrant colors and intricate eye patterns, like the weevil above and the fly below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such beauty compels some people to conclude that there must be an Intelligent Designer, a Loving Creator who creates and sustains life. However, naturalists argue that it is the sun which is the ultimate sustainer of all life on earth. The sun makes the plants grow, and certain animals feed on them, like this bee sucking nectar from a flower.

 

 

 

 

 

Other animals prefer animals for food, like this spider waiting on another flower for a bee just like the one above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a colorful jumping spider. Handsome creature, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does it look as beautiful now when it’s holding a small dragonfly in its jaws, paralyzing it with venom and slowly sucking the life out of it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is much debate about whether or not insects and even higher animals are capable of suffering pain from physical injury, e.g., being eaten alive, but even assuming that they don’t does not change the fact that certain lives must be ended in order to sustain other lives. That’s just the law of the jungle, the natural order of things – nature, red in tooth and claw – and it doesn’t look very lovingly designed at all. As Richard Dawkins observed in The Greatest Show On Earth,

If we are going to postulate the creator of the cheetah, he has evidently put every ounce of his designing expertise into the task of designing a superlative killer. But the very same designer has equally evidently strained every nerve to design a gazelle that is superbly equipped to escape from those very same cheetahs. For heaven’s sake, whose side is the designer on? Does the designer’s right hand not know what his left hand is doing? Is he a sadist who enjoys the spectator sport and is forever upping the ante on both sides to increase the thrill of the chase?

Now consider an artificial world inside a butterfly sanctuary, an environment tended by a Gardener who loves butterflies. The Gardener is not very powerful, but within his limited ability he provides a safe and abundant haven for the winged residents by putting a large screen dome to keep predatory birds out, removing spiders and their webs, planting different flowers, and even placing sliced peaches on a table for the butterflies to feast on all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this butterfly-loving Gardener did not plant a forbidden flower anywhere in the garden, a flower that would cause the banishment of the butterflies that would feed on its nectar.

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Now contrast this garden world to the world we live in…

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All images by Jong Atmosfera

Posted in Personal, Religion, Science143 Comments

Ten Commonly Used Fallacies Against LGBT Rights Activists

Logical debate is a necessary part of every activist’s life. But before engaging in a debate, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I know the subject? – For seasoned activists, this should be a given. But for newbies, it is normal to romanticize passion and equate it with victory. If you don’t think you can pull it off, leave it to the experts. If you think you can, make sure you have information handy.

2. Are my objectives realistic? – If you are about to argue with a religious fundamentalist with the intent of convincing the person to turn against faith, you might as well argue with a 10-foot tall slab of concrete. As a personal policy, I never engage in debate to win. I engage to educate and to learn.

3. Are we both clear on the parameters? – At the onset, make sure both of you know the rules. I generally do not engage if I know that Bible verses will be used against me. It defeats the purpose of a logical debate. But for some people, that is perfectly fine. So know what parameters work best for you.

4. Can I document the whole discussion? – If you can’t document the discussion, then be prepared for a lot of moving goalposts (discussed later). Documenting the discussion ensures that both of you have a way of getting back on track. It’s also a nifty way of catching contradictions.

5. Will this do more good than harm? – Sometimes, winning an argument will actually put you in a worse position or result in more damage to your cause. Be selective. Choose your battles.

 

 

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then I present to you ten commonly used fallacies and what to do when they are used against you in logical debate (actual quotes from actual debates are found here):

 

Fallacy #1: Appeal to Nature – “This is the fallacy of assuming that whatever is “natural” or consistent with “nature” (somehow defined) is good, or that whatever conflicts with nature is bad”

Example:

“Marriage is only between a man and a woman because that is the natural law of things”

What you can do: Aside from explicitly calling out that this is a fallacy called “Appeal to Nature,” you can also point out that it is in our nature to get sick and eventually die. This means that preventing death and sickness from happening is unnatural. And yet we don’t consider modern medicine and doctors as “bad.”

 

Fallacy #2: Appeal to Popularity – “The basic idea is that a claim is accepted as being true simply because most people are favorably inclined towards the claim.”

Example:

“I am against same-sex marriage because a majority of the population is against it.”

What you can do: As with the first fallacy and all the succeeding fallacies, it is a must that you call out what kind of fallacy the person is using. And then point out that in the past, a majority of the population also believed that the world was flat and the earth was the center of the universe. Both arguments turned out to be false. If you are in the US, you can also point out that last April, same-sex marriage supporters outnumbered the opposition for the first time. Unfortunately, we have no such survey in the Philippines yet.

 

Fallacy #3: Appeal to Tradition – “Appeal to Tradition is a fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that something is better or correct simply because it is older, traditional, or “always has been done.”

Example:

“Marriage is reserved for heterosexuals because that’s how marriage has been defined for 2000 years”

What you can do: State that slavery was also acceptable for more than 2000 years but that does not make it right. Also state that the 2000 year old definition of marriage has already been redefined a decade ago when same-sex marriage was made legal in the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden.

 

Fallacy #4: Cherry Picking – “Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.”

Example: 

PERSON A: “Laws are based on natural moral standards”

PERSON B: “Then why did the Supreme Court disallow Comelec to use morality in denying Ladlad accreditation?”

PERSON A: “The Supreme Court respected Ladlad’s right to freedom of expression.”

*It is true that the Supreme Court cited the right to freedom of expression. But what PERSON A conveniently left out was that the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Comelec also included “Public Morals” as an invalid ground for blocking Ladlad, thereby disproving PERSON A’s original claim.

What you can do: Refute the claim by presenting the rest of the facts that the person left out. The complete and original text of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Ladlad vs Comelec case is available online. But put simply, the Supreme Court disallowed the Comelec to use Public Morals and Religious Belief to deny Ladlad accreditation. This is important jurisprudence because it tells the public that the use of morality and religion in deciding state affairs is unconstitutional.

 

Fallacy #5: False Analogy – “A false analogy is a rhetorical fallacy that uses an analogy (comparing objects or ideas with similar characteristics) to support an argument, but the conclusion made by it is not supported by the analogy due to the differences between the two objects.”

Example:

“Marriage is not for everyone. For example, minors can’t marry. Mentally handicapped people can’t marry. Humans can’t marry their pets”

What you can do: Explain why the analogies presented are not similar to the original argument. In this case, the family code of the Philippines requires legal consent from both parties, which minors, the mentally handicapped, and pets cannot provide. And then avoid analogies entirely because if they are not used smartly, they have the tendency to backfire.

 

Fallacy #6: Moving The Goalpost – “The “Moving the Goalpost” logical fallacy is another one that has a fairly descriptive name. It is the case when Person A makes a claim, Person B refutes it, and Person A moves on to a new or revised claim, generally without acknowledging or responding to Person B’s refutation. Hence, the goalpost of the claim has been shifted or moved in order to keep the claim alive.”

Example:

PERSON A: “Moral relativism causes same-sex marriage!”

PERSON B: “But earlier, you said same-sex marriage causes moral relativism, not the other way around.”

PERSON A: “No, what I meant was same-sex marriage reinforces moral relativism. I admit that is was poorly constructed because I was in a hurry.”

What you can do: Keep track of how many times the person moves goalposts. If the person does this often enough, faulty logic will soon expose itself. The key here is documenting the entire conversation.

 

Fallacy #7: Presenting Opinion as Fact – “In casual use, the term opinion may be the result of a person’s perspective, understanding, particular feelings, beliefs, and desires. It may refer to unsubstantiated information, in contrast to knowledge and fact-based beliefs.”

Example: 

“Laws are based on natural moral standards”

*when what the person really meant to say was “Laws should be based on natural moral standards”

What you can do: Assert that in the absence of facts, all you have is opinion. But be cautious, too, because not all facts are from credible sources. Prefer facts over stats because stats can be manipulated depending on who is doing the study.

 

Fallacy #8: Red Herring – “A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic”

Example:

PERSON A: “It is not true that homosexuals were not allowed to run for public office”

PERSON B: “Ladlad was barred by Comelec”

PERSON A: “The Comelec didn’t just bar Ladlad because of homosexuality because that is oversimplifying the position. Just look at gay pride marches. It is embarrassing. But I’m not saying that just because homosexuals behave that way, they can be discriminated against. I don’t understand why people assume that just because I think homosexuality is disordered that I automatically want to bully homosexuals. That’s pretty immature.”

What you can do: Acknowledge the new information presented. But make sure that your acknowledgement is not taken as agreement. State the exact same question for emphasis before the red herring was thrown at you. Again, this is why documentation is key.

 

Fallacy #9: Slippery Slope – “The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question.”

Example:

“Same-sex marriage will cause population implosion.”

What you can do: Ask “how” and ask for facts just a few repetitions short of ad nauseam. Let them ramble and eventually, they will run into self-contradictions. In which case, be ready for more moving goalposts and more red herrings.

 

Fallacy #10: Spotlight Fallacy – “The Spotlight fallacy is committed when a person uncritically assumes that all members or cases of a certain class or type are like those that receive the most attention or coverage in the media.”

Example:

“Gays are not oppressed because that’s not what we see in the media”

What you can do: State factual evidence to the contrary. From an international perspective, the United Nations recently released its first report on LGBT rights. You can also download the Philippine LGBT Coalition report (which I co-authored Ü) to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. It is a good resource for citing actual documented discrimination against LGBT people in the Philippines.

 

These are just some of the common fallacies I’ve encountered recently. If you know of more or have found other effective ways of handling them, help our readers and post your experience here.

 

Happy debating!

 

“Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world: all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” – Albert Einstein, 1954″

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Society119 Comments

Typhoon Sendong and the Necessity of Scientific Literacy in the Philippines

Typhoon Sendong: An Avoidable Tragedy

With the death toll recently going over 1000 deaths, the number of human lives ended by Typhoon Sendong is heartbreaking. What makes it more tragic, however, is the fact that many of these deaths could have been avoided.

It is good to see that the government is doing its job of helping the survivors of the calamity in the cities of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and Iligan. (You too can help the survivors. Start by clicking here.) However, it would have been better to see the government preventing a calamity of this magnitude from happening in the first place. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The prevention would have been as simple as making decisions that were scientifically informed. As this report shows, scientists have already warned both local and national government of this calamity. By not heeding the scientists’ warnings, some government officials are guilty of indirectly causing the tragedy in CDO. 

The aftermath of Typhoon Sendong and the flashflood it caused.

 

Scientific Literacy in the Philippines

We live in an era when human life should be most enjoyable. For what else is all our scientific knowledge if it is not used to make everyone alive live a long, safe, happy, and healthy life?

We at Filipino Freethinkers believe that the principal purpose of modern science is the improvement of the human condition. This is why we do our best to defend science, combat pseudoscience, and further the cause of science education in this country. (To see the most recent example, read the excellent article Of Heroes and Hoaxes: Painting a CNN Hero in a Dangerous Light).

But defending science and advocating its consistent application in all aspects of life is difficult here in the Philippines. For one, many of the powers that be apparently have a stake in the public’s scientific illiteracy. A good example of this is the CBCP’s opposition against the passage of the RH Bill. The proliferation of many pseudoscientific objections to the bill is another sign that the cause of scientific education here in the Philippines still has a long way to go.

To say that our public is scientifically illiterate is an understatement. As a case in point, recent reports that many young Filipinos take soda-detergent mix as contraceptives reveal the dismal state of reproductive health education in our country.

That the Philippine public is scientifically illiterate is one disheartening thing. That some of our reputable newspapers publish pseudoscience and baloney is another. However, the fact that our government does not make decisions based on scientifically sound judgment is the most tragic of all. Equally sad is how our government needs wake-up calls like the Typhoon Sendong tragedy to finally listen to scientists. But as a Filipino saying goes, “Aanhin mo ang damo kapag patay na ang kabayo? [What will you do with the fodder if the horse is already dead?]”

 

How Sineskwela and Grade School Science Could Have Avoided the Tragedy

One sad aspect of the public’s relationship with science is how people find science “nosebleed inducing” and intimidating. Even as I write how science could have helped avoided the Sendong tragedy, I can already feel the expectation that a lot of jargon will be involved in the explanation. Let me dispel this expectation as early as now by reiterating the message of this section’s title: to avoid a tragedy similar to the Sendong tragedy, all we need are lessons from the science-centric children’s TV show Sineskwela and our grade school science teacher. These are the lessons the government should’ve heeded three years ago.

Lesson number one: Do not live within a river’s flood plain because this area is naturally flooded on a regular basis. Many people seem to think that humans can live anywhere they want to. But a smart Grade 6 student should be able to tell you that an area known as a flood plain always surrounds rivers. The flood plain of the river is an area close to it that is regularly flooded during heavy rains. It is therefore imperative for the government to disallow people from buying land and building homes within this area. Both local and national government, however, did nothing to prevent many people from building their houses close to the rivers of Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental.

The flood plain of a river is the area near its banks that is naturally flooded at a regular basis.

Lesson number two: Excessive logging is bad and more trees in the mountains is good. During heavy rains, the roots of big trees trap a lot of the rainwater. This helps prevent flooding and this is why the government should protect forested mountains from greedy logging and mining companies. However, these very rich companies easily bribe our corrupt government officials. The greedy mining companies are especially active in metal-rich CDO. (Even the very name of Cagayan de Oro tells us how much gold there is under its mountains.) When mining companies dig for metals in the mountains, they must cut the trees. To maximize their profit, these companies often try to escape their responsibility of replanting trees, and the government often allows them to get away with it. But we already know that this leads to the the following equation: bald mountains + heavy rains = flash floods = countless preventable deaths.

[Edit: I have been informed that there are no large-scale mining activities in Misamis Oriental as the previous paragraph suggests. Recent developments also suggest that illegal loggers and the people living in the mountain side are more responsible for the  loss of forest cover in the mountains of Misamis Oriental.]

An opent-pit mine in the Philippines.

Lesson number three: Global warming is changing our climate. The island of Mindanao used to have the kind of climate that rarely experiences strong typhoons. This is why people living in Mindanao are not traditionally prepared for strong storms unlike people living in typhoon-prone areas. But since global warming is changing the world’s climate, places that are not regularly visited by typhoons, like Mindanao, must expect more typhoons in the years to come.

The Philippines has seen the effects of abnormal weather patterns in recent years.

Lesson number four: Global warming will make “wetter” and more vicious tropical typhoons. Because of global warming, storms will now have more rain than usual. This is why flooding is a greater problem now than it used to be. Another effect of global warming is to make typhoons more unpredictable in terms of strength, speed, and path taken. This is why Sendong attacked CDO with the element of surprise.

Lesson number five: Global warming causes sea levels to rise. Because the planet is getting warmer, the polar ice caps are melting. As these ice sheets melt, they add water to the world’s oceans. This causes the water level in the oceans to rise, increasing the risk of flooding in low-lying areas such as the coastal towns and cities of Misamis Oriental.

Typhoon Ondoy (2009) was another evidence of the change in our country's weather systems.

 

Scientific Literacy = Human Lives Saved

The fact that the public and the government ignored the simple science lessons given above shows a dangerous lack of understanding of how the Earth works. If Filipinos understood this, they would have more respect for its power and they would be able to prevent its power from ending so many lives.

Although we grieve for the victims of tragedy caused by Sendong, we must not fail to learn from this event. Both the public and the government can help prevent a similar tragedy by learning more about how the Earth works and how its workings are being altered due to climate change.

Let this tragedy be a painful reminder to the public and the policy makers that in this day and age, making decisions based on a high level of scientific literacy is a matter of life and death.

Do what you can to help the survivors in CDO. And do what you can so that this does not happen again.

Posted in Science, Society2 Comments

CBCP: Church of the Poor or Conference of Pharisees?

Following the way of the Lord, we opt to be a Church of the Poor which demands evangelical poverty of us all, and harness the transformative power of the poor among us towards the justice and love of God in this world.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

I recently wrote an open letter to the CBCP, asking them to donate a billion pesos to the victims of Sendong.

Many agreed with its message, but some protested. The most common response of these CBCP apologists is to challenge me to help the Sendong victims myself — and even drop everything and volunteer in CDO — as if the CBCP would be excused from fulfilling my request if I fail to fulfill theirs.

This kind of argument is a logical fallacy known as tu quoque: “a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser.”

Another logical fallacy these apologists commit is the straw man — attempting to refute my argument by attacking a position I never had in the first place. In my open letter — and in the follow-up post criticizing second collections held by billionaires — I don’t simply say that the CBCP should donate a billion to Sendong victims just because they could do so.

My position is that the CBCP should do so because if they don’t, they will be inconsistent with their self-identification as a Church of the Poor. In other words, they’ll be hypocrites.

I won’t dignify their straw man – tu quoque combo by telling you how much I’ve donated or how I’ve helped the Sendong victims. But I can assure you that (1) I’ve never claimed to represent God, (2) I am not guided by a mission statement that mandates service to the poor, and (3) I don’t have 18 billion pesos in investments.

The CBCP, on the other hand, claims to represent an all-good God, claims to be a Church of the Poor, and has 18 billion pesos they could use to prove both claims.

And not only are they failing to do what they could and should, they’re asking others to sacrifice — skimping on parties, skipping on fireworks — when they clearly can’t do the same (at least not with their billions).

Good Samaritans or Modern-day Pharisees?

The hypocrisy of the CBCP reminds me of a group of religious leaders in the New Testament known as the Pharisees (emphasis mine):

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach. Don’t the bishops commit the same when they ask Catholics to share their wealth while these bishops hoard theirs?

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for acting like kings with their fancy clothes and important titles such as “Rabbi” and “Father.” How many times have you seen a Catholic kneel before an extravagantly dressed archbishop, respectfully address him as “your excellency” or “the most reverend” or “father,” and kiss the expensive gold ring on his finger?

The billionaires of the CBCP may have failed to follow Jesus’ teaching about selling their riches and serving the poor, but they’re doing an excellent job spreading Jesus’ teaching about the hypocrisy of religious leaders. As they say, the best way to teach is by example.

Posted in Religion, Society6 Comments

Of Heroes and Hoaxes: Painting a CNN Hero in a Dangerous Light

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not out to demonize a woman who has obviously done loads for maternal and reproductive health. At 54 years old, Robin Lim has helped thousands of poverty-stricken Indonesian women to experience a healthy pregnancy and to safely give birth, and for that, she most certainly deserves to be hailed as this year’s CNN Hero.

As a rabid supporter of the passage of the local Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, it gladdens me to know that a person has actually built her life around providing the poorest of mothers with prenatal and postpartum care, birth services, and breast-feeding support — and has done so for free. Her Yayasan Bumi Sehat Foundation has done more for reproductive health in a single day than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has done in, well, ever. I seriously wish that there were more people as passionate and take-charge about the cause as she is.

Here we go again, Inquirer

What doesn’t sit well with me, however, is how the media is playing up the fact that she is an advocate of “alternative medicine.” I’m giving the stink eye to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in particular, because as far as I know, CNN  and other news outfits have yet to mention the words “hilot,” “alternative,” “homeopathy,” and “herbal medicine” in its features of Lim, whereas the Inquirer has been practically framing her as the poster woman for “No Therapeutic Claims,” and actually sees this love for quackery as a good thing. (Incidentally, FF has had quite a beef with the Inquirer’s integrity, as can be read here, here, here, and here.)

Take note that Lim was awarded mainly for her outstanding efforts to practice and promote safe birthing. CNN as the awarding body did not bestow her the honor because she felt that “there should be a reinvention of the health-care system by including holistic medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and physiotherapy.” If that were actually the case, then Deepak “Quantum Mysticism” Chopra should have been crowned President of the fucking Universe ages ago

Shit sells

Sensationalism is the culprit here, I think. It is this horrid excuse for journalism that possibly encouraged the Inquirer’s writers to play up the “alternative medicine” angle. In line with local media’s never-ending, unnerving campaign for this thing called “Pinoy pride,” there’s a good chance that this facet of the half-Filipino Lim was highlighted because her traditional healing background was the most “Filipino” of her qualities. This nation is, after all, known for its folkloric herbal concoctions and its faith healers, never mind that these concoctions can’t hold a candle to actual lab-developed drugs, and that these healers are money-grubbing quacks of the highest order. (This broadsheet has, unsurprisingly, had a history of publishing scientifically unsound things like “miracles” as fact, so there’s that.)

Another possibility is that Lim herself insisted on the topic of her Inquirer piece. If that were the case, though, then the Inquirer should have suggested a different angle, or at the very least peppered the article with disclaimers regarding the efficacy of traditional healing methods, in the hopes of maintaining the barest smidge of journalistic credibility. But they didn’t.

Ooga booga and mumbo jumbo

“Alternative medicine” is a load of bull. As the old joke goes, “alternative medicine” that is proven to work is just called “medicine.” It is this staggering lack of proof — and its advocates’ insistence that proof is neither necessary nor applicable — that sets the former apart from the latter. It goes out of its way to be baseless and unscientific, depending on flimsy, abstract concepts such as “auras” and “chakras” that have as much chance of being real as unicorns, mermaids, and the Jonas Brothers’ pledge of virginity. And while some unconventional healing methods are said to be okay complements for actual, scientifically proven methods and medicines, this so-called “complementary medicine” cannot and should not stand alone.

Even if Lim advocated the methods that worked in certain, complementary ways (and I use the term “work” very, very lightly), it was still publicized by the Inquirer in such a way that she seemed to be for “alternative medicine” in general, which includes a long, snaking list of  very bad decisions. (She espouses the whackadoodle fad that is homeopathy, which is bad enough, so imagine how much worse the stuff she doesn’t espouse are.)

Moreover, it’s also quite unfortunate and ironic that the article, which features a woman known for her hard work in furthering reproductive health, placed so much emphasis on highly suspect “remedies” that have nothing to do with RH, and in no way mentions how certain lab-developed medicines can do and have done so much for maternal health. In fact, it’s disheartening how the RH Bill, which promotes safe, effective, and clinically approved medicines in the form of family planning supplies, can be so easily dismissed by many, while something as impotent — and fatal — as faith healing gets good press at the drop of a hat.

A bad influence

In the end, by playing up this sorely misguided aspect of Lim’s, the Inquirer can be said to be taking part in putting people in danger. Ranked as the top newspaper in the Philippines, it’s safe to say that this broadsheet helps to influence many Filipinos’ opinions. It is only right, then, that they make sure that the stuff they offer as journalism is, in fact, journalism and not just a bunch of interesting-sounding yet highly deceptive words. But this is sadly not the case.

This piece on Lim could very well encourage many people to prioritize alternative methods over tried-and-tested ones and, thus, keep these people from getting the proper medical attention every one of them deserves. “If an actual CNN Hero is for it, then it can’t be wrong” is the kind of opinion that might proliferate. As much as we hope people to be more discerning of what they read, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and, in the Inquirer’s case, absolutely necessary to be factual than not.

__

Images from thejakartapost.com; policeheadlines.com; and skepacabra.wordpress.com

Posted in Personal, Science, Society33 Comments

Billionaire Archbishop Holds Second Collection for Sendong Victims

Last night, Archbishop Luis Tagle ordered all priests, rectors, and chaplains in Manila to hold a second collection for the victims of Sendong:

“In the spirit of Christian solidarity, I request that a second collection be made at all Masses in all parishes, shrines, and communities in the Archdiocese of Manila from today until Christmas Day,” he said.

This is good news. But when you consider the fact that Manila is the richest archdiocese in the Philippines with P17.26 billion invested in stocks, you have to ask: Shouldn’t they be doing more?

The Billions of Bishop Tagle

For starters, they can sell a fraction of their shares and send money directly to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and the Diocese of Iligan. As far as I know, these churches aren’t as fortunate to have stock investments of their own.

Anything short of this would cast doubt on Tagle’s statement that the calamity “saddens us and breaks our hearts.” Tagle would also be a hypocrite. How can someone encourage people to have simple Christmas parties or remember “Jesus who became poor” while he has P17 billion he could share?

If he truly wants to “make our Christmas this year more meaningful by our solidarity with each other,” Archbishop Tagle should answer my open letter and donate to the Sendong victims.

I urge all Catholics to remind the clergy of their vow of poverty and mission of charity. Before holding even more second collections, Catholics should demand a first collection from their bishops first.

***

Before giving to that second (and first) collection, please consider visiting these pages to learn how you can really help Sendong victims:

Posted in Religion, Society76 Comments

Open Letter to CBCP: Donate One Billion to the Victims of Sendong

Dear CBCP,

Yesterday, your Pope prayed “for the people without homes and for the many missing,” assuring the victims of his “closeness” to them. I don’t know what he prayed for, but surely he didn’t just ask God for more people to pray for the victims. In addition to spiritual assistance, the Pope probably asked God for people to give material assistance, too.

One of your priests, Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, was more explicit in his request for material assistance:

“In the spirit of Christmas, I am appealing to our countrymen that if they have excess money, they just give it to our countrymen who were affected by the typhoon.”

So in the spirit of Christmas, I humbly ask that you answer the Pope’s prayer and Fr. Pascual’s request by donating to the Sendong victims one billion Pesos.

This should be easy. According to Philippine Stock Exchange records, you have at least 18 billion Pesos invested in various corporations as of July 2011. What is one billion when you’ll have 17 billion left?

Your former president, Oscar Cruz, said in an interview that the 18 billion has been there since the time of the Spanish occupation. If it’s been sitting there unused for so long, every peso invested is just the kind of excess money Fr. Pascual is requesting. Cruz also said that you can’t simply do what you please with the money, implying that donations such as what I’m asking for won’t be that easy.

But recently, former archbishop Rosales allegedly sold more than a million shares of Philex Mining Corporation (PX) in April and May this year to Manny Pangilinan.

Regardless of whether you really did sell stocks to Mr. Pangilinan, it shows us that it’s possible to acquire (and therefore sell) more than a million shares in the span of a couple of months.

With the extent of the damage done by Sendong, recovery will surely take more than a few months — even more than a year — and rebuilding will take millions of pesos. This should give you enough time to sell enough shares to make the one billion peso donation.

Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21).” Is it so hard to imagine Him telling you to sell some of your stock and give to the victims of Sendong?

He also said that you cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24). Bishops of CBCP, show us once and for all which is your master. Donate one billion to the Sendong victims and prove that you are truly a Church of the Poor.

Sincerely,
Red Tani

Posted in Religion, Society44 Comments

The Most Powerful Force in the Universe (Part 2)

The RH Bill and Exponential Growth

In my article What the Debate on the RH Bill Should Not be About, I argued that overpopulation is a non-issue in debates over the passage of the RH Bill. There I reasoned that the battle over the RH Bill is a women’s rights battle and that overpopulation has little if anything to do with it. While I am still convinced that the RH Bill is a women’s rights issue, the following observations forced me to reconsider the relationship between the bill and the Philippine population problem:

  • The world population has exceeded 7 billion. What’s worse is that it shows no signs of stabilizing on its own anytime in the foreseeable future (contrary to the claims of the laissez-faire advocates).
  • The successful population management measures in many countries around the world, particularly in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, have yielded very positive effects. In fact, the said countries have already overtaken the Philippines in terms of social and economic progress.
  • Our legislators, particularly Senator Sotto, continue to use overpopulation denial myths as arguments against the passage of the RH Bill.
  • Conservative estimates have pegged the Philippine population at 101 million as of July 2011.[1]
  • The Philippine population grew by 1.904% in the year 2011.[1]

The above observations should be enough to convince any rational person that the RH Bill is not only important but is urgently needed. Sadly, many of our politicians aren’t really of the rational sort.

 

Seven billion. That's a pretty big number, dontcha think?

 

Sotto Voce?

On a Senate interpellation on the RH Bill held last December 5, Senator Tito Sotto parroted the same old ridiculous arguments that supposedly prove that the world is not overpopulated. Worse still, Sotto went as far as to claim that the world would never experience overpopulation. In his own (?) words, “These people think that they are smarter than God. Sa tingin ba nila gagawa ba ang Diyos ng mundo na mapupuno? [Do they think God will create a world that will be overpopulated?]”

"Dapat bang maging senador 'to?" "HINDE!!!!11!!!1!!"

Sotto’s argument is blatantly invalid in two ways. First, it is legally invalid; such a theological argument has no place in a secular interpellation (and that goes for you too, Senator Miriam Santiago). The fact that such a theological argument can be used in a Senate interpellation without drawing any objections from the other senators is enough to give any secularist a conniption. Second and perhaps worse, Sotto’s argument is logically invalid; it does not follow that if there is a god, then that god will create a world that will never be overpopulated.

Setting aside the invalidity of his arguments, Sotto’s claim that the Philippines will never be overpopulated is also demonstrably, disturbingly and dangerously false. The key to debunking Sotto’s absurd claim is contained in just two words: exponential growth.

 

Three Chinas in a Philippines

This year, the Philippine population experienced a growth of 1.904%. If this population growth rate is maintained, the Philippine population will double in a mere 36 years and 9 months – around 37 years.[2] If there are 101 million Filipinos alive today, that means there will be 202 million Filipinos alive 37 years from now. Give another 37 years (that’s 74 years from now) and there will be 404 million Filipinos alive. Fast-forward to another 37 years (111 years from now) and our population is already at 808 million; by then our population is rapidly speeding toward the 1 billion mark. Does this pattern sound familiar? Why of course, it is nothing but the geometric progression that we’ve met in Part 1 of this article. By now you should know that if our population keeps on growing in such a pattern, then we’re in for a lot of trouble.

Shown below is a table of the projected population of the Philippines in the next two centuries under the assumption that our population growth rate remains steady at 1.904%.

Table 1
Year Population
2011 101 million
2048 202 million
2085 404 million
2122 808 million
2159 1.616 billion
2196 3.232 billion

 

Under this steady growth rate scenario, the Philippine population would exceed 1 billion somewhere around the year 2130. Our great grandchildren, perhaps even some of our grandchildren, would still be alive at that time and would be among the 1 billion Filipinos trying to fit inside a country 32 times smaller than China. By the end of the 22nd century, the number of people trying to fit inside the Philippines is more than thrice the number of people living in China today. By the year 2500 the Philippine population is already, quite simply, astronomical. Now matter how look at it, the Philippines can be overpopulated and it will be overpopulated if we will do nothing about our population growth rate. Take that, Tito Sotto.

 

The Philippine Population Growth Rate: Good News and Bad News

Three objections can be leveled against the previous hypothetical scenario. The first one goes like this: Malayo pa naman ang taong 2196 ah, bakit natin po-problemahin yun? [The year 2196 is still many, many years away, why should we bother about what’s going to happen then?] The degree of myopia implied by this objection is, sad to say, exhibited by many of our politicians and citizens. This can be remedied only by good moral education. But this remedy takes a long time, perhaps several generations. We need to act on the problem now. The only way to expedite the solution is to replace our myopic politicians with wise, far-seeing leaders. For this purpose we have the democratic process of voting our future leaders.

The second objection is worse than the first: Malapit namang magugunaw ang mudo. Bakit pa tayo magpapakahirap sa pag-ayos nito? [The world is going to end soon anyway. Why waste your effort making it a better place?] Unfortunately, many people, some of them even intelligent, sincerely hold this view that the world is ending soon. It is our job as freethinkers and as people who love the earth to think of creative ways to convince these people to care for the future of our planet. We might need to convert them to freethought or to more liberal versions of their religion. We might also try to convince them that if they believe that the god they love created this world, then they should do everything to take care of it. Whatever our strategy is, we must do everything we can to decrease the number of people who believe the world will end soon because if we don’t, then it surely will.

The third objection is a rational one: The steady growth rate scenario is an oversimplification because the Philippine population growth rate isn’t really constant but is in fact decreasing. This objection is in fact valid. (It does not, however, negate the fact that the scenario in the previous section disproves Tito Sotto’s claim that the world will never be overpopulated.) Official records show that the Philippine population growth rate has been on a general trend of decline over the past decades. The Philippine population growth rate over the past few years is shown in the table below. [3]

Table 2
Year Population Growth Rate
1970 3.08%
1980 2.71%
1990 2.35%
2000 2.36%
2007 2.04%

 

There is good news and bad news in the trend of the population growth rate.

Let’s begin with the good news. The decline in our population’s growth rate is either an effect or an indicator of the following:

  • Our government’s previous family planning programs have been, to a certain extent, effective.
  • Filipino women have been slowly gaining empowerment over the past decades.
  • The Filipino youth have been slowly gaining accurate RH information in recent years.
  • Philippine cultural values have shifted from the valuing the quantity of life to valuing the quality of life.
  • The Church’s anti-contraceptives stance is quickly losing support among Filipinos.

Now off to the bad news. I will first state them in somewhat technical language. Later I will unload them in layman’s language. Here they go:

  • While fertility rates have been steadily declining in middle- to high-income families, the fertility rates in low-income families have not dropped; in fact, studies show that they have increased in the period between 1997 and 2000(see Reference [7]).
  • The disparity between our country’s fertility rate (somewhere between 2.79 and 3.19[4]) and population growth rate (1.904%) is an indication that there remains a high infant mortality rate in the Philippines.
  • The decline in our population growth rate is better modeled by a decreasing exponential and not a decreasing linear plot.[5]

Now let us explain the bad news in layman’s language one by one.

First bad news: Families with means voluntarily undergo family planning while poor families continue to have more babies than they can feed. (But who doesn’t know this already? Apparently the anti-RH camp.) So even though the population growth rate of the Philippines is declining on average, the decline is not uniform across all income levels.  This causes the top of the social pyramid to become thinner and the base to become wider. If this keeps on going, this means that in the near future our society will be composed of fewer and fewer people with means and more and more people who cannot feed their families. (Wait, am I describing the future here or the present?) An economist of any feather will tell you that this is really bad news.

A Philippine porridge line. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Second bad news: If there are many children born for every woman in the Philippines, then why is our population not growing as rapidly as it should? Surely this is not because of an increased natural death rate; our natural death rate is in fact declining. The only explanation available is that many infants are dying. High infant mortality rate is an indication of high birth rates among low-income families. That brings us back to bad news number one.

Third bad news: Yes, our population growth rate is decreasing, but its rate of decrease is slowing down over time. This means that as years go by, it won’t decrease fast enough to curb our growing population. For example, by year 2100, our population growth has decreased but is still at 1.52%. That’s 89 years from now when our population growth rate is at 1.904%! End story: our population will keep on growing exponentially if we do nothing about it. The decline in population growth rate is not enough to curb the exponential population growth that has been going on for decades now.

The graph below shows the projected Philippine population in the coming decades as assessed by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the graph, the Philippine population will be at 150 million in the year 2050. Note that this projection is around 75% of the value projected in Table 1 for the year 2048.

Projected growth in Philippine population. From the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Lessons From the Losing CEO

If we learned anything from Part 1 of this article, then it is that one should never underestimate the power of exponential growth. We are therefore faced with the following fact: Our population is already at 101 million and it continues to grow exponentially. Even if our population growth rate is declining, it is not declining fast enough to curb the dangerous rise in our numbers. Worse still, studies show that while families with means tend to have fewer children, poor families tend to have many.

But we’ve seen that there’s good news. As long as you give families and especially women the freedom to choose, they will choose to keep their family size manageable. This is shown by the significant decrease in the fertility rates among middle to upper class women over the past decades. Poor families and poor women in particular, however, still do not have the means and the freedom to choose the family planning method that suits them best. This explains why the fertility rate among low-income families remain dangerously high. All the facts indicate, however, that if we give them the power to choose, low-income families will voluntarily plan families of manageable sizes (1-4 children). Note that they will do this for their own good without knowing that they are, in effect, helping to solve a national problem.

Herein lies the magic of the RH Bill: It solves two different problems in one stroke. On the one hand, it will give poor families the power of options in planning their family. On the other hand, its end effect will be the curbing of our population growth. The RH Bill will do these and more. At the most basic level, the RH Bill will give women their basic rights to family planning services and it will give the youth their basic rights to scientific and age-appropriate education.

 

The RH Bill: An Urgent National Concern

Never forget that one does not kid with exponential growth. If we are to secure our future as a country, then we must manage our population now. In fact, we should have started decades ago.

Congress and Senate must pass the RH Bill by January of next year, or else it will be too late. Remember, we are racing against time in our battle against the most powerful force in the universe.

Reproductive Health = our Republic's Health.

* * *

 

Notes:

[1] Taken from the webpage of index mundi, Reference [4]. See also References [5] and [6] for official data.

[2] The equation for any kind of exponential growth is similar to that of compound interest: FV = PV(1 + i)n. Here, FV is the future value (of an investment or of a population), PV is the present value, i is the rate of increase and n is the number of times the value is increased. In our case, PV is 101 million, the present population of the Philippines. If it doubles, this means that FV is 202 million. Meanwhile, i is 1.904% = 0.01904, the population growth rate. We want to solve for n, the number of years it takes for PV = 101 million to become FV = 202 million. This is accomplished by dividing both sides of the compound interest equation by PV, then taking the logarithm of both sides and then finally using the properties of logarithms. The solution is going to be n = 36.75.

[3] See References [5] and [6] for the official estimates. Reference [4] provides more recent, unofficial estimates. Reference [8] provides projections based on UN studies.

[4] The high estimate is from Reference [4], the low estimate is from Reference [8].

[5] The best fit exponential curve in the population growth rate has an equation of f(x) = (2×10-7)e-0.01x with coefficient of determination R2 = 0.935. I tried the best-fit linear curve, and its coefficient of determination is only at R2 = 0.932; even then, the slope of the linear trend line is negligibly small so that difference between the predictions of the linear plot and those of the exponential plot will not be very great.

* * *

References:

[1] Miller, G. Environmental Science, 10th ed, 2005.

[2] Campbell, N.A., Reese, J.B. and Mitchell, L.G., Biology, 5th ed, 1999.

[4] Index Mundi. <http://www.indexmundi.com/philippines/population_growth_rate.html>, accessed 15 December 2011.

[5] National Statistics Coordination Board. <http://www.nscb.gov.ph/secstat/d_popn.asp>, accessed 15 December 2011.

[6] National Census Data via the National Statistics Office. <http://www.census.gov.ph/data/sectordata/popproj_tab1r.html>

[7] Asian Development Bank, Poverty in the Philippines: Income, Assets and Access. 2005.

[8] Costello, M.P. and Casterline, J.B., Fertility Rate Decline in the Philippines: Current Status, Future Prospects. 2005

 

 


Posted in Politics, Science, Society5 Comments

“He knows the Truth now”

So Long and Thanks for all the Hitch

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011), the spice and sting of the Four Horsemen, will be sorely missed. Hitchens did not have a deathbed conversion and his statements during the months before his death guaranteed that nobody is to take advantage of his death and sickness to further their personal agenda.


Hitchens the Dionysian.

But why expect a deathbed conversion from a bon vivant who uttered the following words?

“Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

 

Taunting a Dead Man

While Hitchens will be sorely missed, Rick Warren will be sorely with us still. In the wake of Hitch’s death, this “friend” of Christopher’s mustered up the gall to tweet the following words:

My friend Christopher Hitchens has died. I loved & prayed for him constantly & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now.

I believe it is one thing to be a Christian and to assert the superiority of your beliefs, and it is completely another thing to rub your beliefs on a dead man’s face. True, it is Warren’s right as a Christian to believe that Hitchens must be somewhat surprised right now to find himself in the afterlife. (Although we who know Hitch are sure that he can wit his way into heaven or hell, depending on whether he wants great climate or great company.) True, it is also his right to voice out this belief. True still, it is his right to place a thin veneer of taste over this belief by simply calling it “the Truth” with a capital T.  But doing it to someone who cannot answer back is simply going below the belt. Six feet below, to be precise.

 

“So how’s the weather down there, Hitchens m’boy?”

Madalyn Murray O’Hair once said,  “It is everybody’s right to be insane.” To that I would like to append the clause, “… as long as their insanity causes no harm to others.” Warren’s insanity in this particular instance is well within the bounds of allowable insanity. There is nothing immoral about Warren’s tweet. My argument against Warren does not come from ethics but from aesthetics. After all, the dead person he taunted in his tweet was a debate connoisseur for his entire career. One must not forget that to Hitchens, the content of a good argument will go to waste if it is not delivered with style and a few tastefully added cuss words.

Imagine one player losing a one-on-one basketball game to a good opponent. When the winner left the court, the loser kept on shooting the ball and counting his scores and declaring himself the winner of the match; Warren’s taunting a dead Hitchens is like this but worse. To me it looks like Warren was not able to get a good shot when Hitchens was around, so now that Hitch is gone, Warren thinks that it’s time to take all those missed free throws. Unethical? No. Pathetic? Yes. With a capital Y.

 

Truth with the capital T

Another sorry aspect of Warren’s tweet is his confidence on waving the banner of Truth with a capital T. This confidence of course he shares with millions of other fundamentalists, Christian or otherwise. There is nothing new in Warren’s religious hubris, but let me grab this opportunity to compare this religious hubris and the confidence of reason.

Hitchens was confident, as am I, that there is no afterlife. Both he and I share the conviction that this life is better lived without the “false consolation of religion” and its attendant hopes of heaven and threats of hell. Meanwhile, Rick Warren is confident, as are millions of believers, that we are dangerously wrong. And so they try their best to save us from fire and brimstone and to bring us to everlasting life. I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, but no thanks, I’m fine with my rational worldview.

So this is the situation: People disagree and everyone thinks they are in the right. Well, okay. That’s how the world is, messy and beautiful. What makes it ugly is that few if any fundamentalists appreciate the nuances between being confident of one’s belief and being absolutely certain of them. The appreciation for such nuances is what makes us freethinkers, believers or unbelievers, act rationally toward people who disagree with us. This appreciation gives us the ability to be considerate and to come up with reasonable compromises without compromising our intellectual conscience and values. On the other hand, the lack of appreciation for these nuances is not only behind Warren’s hubris. It is also behind the hubris of the terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers. It is the hubris behind Hitler’s genocide. It is the hubris behind many people’s apathy toward environmental degradation and climate change. Now I am not saying that Warren’s nearly innocent tweet is comparable to the 7/11 attacks. What I am saying is that these actions, although very different, stem from the same root sentiment – the feeling of absolute certainty about one’s beliefs. In god is not great, Hitchens wrote, “The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.” Might I add that in this day and age, such immaturity is dangerous to us as a species.

I guess half of being a freethinker is being able to appreciate the aforesaid nuances. In light of its many profound effects, therefore, I think it is very important that we freethinkers share such appreciation with as many people as we can. And that goes for you too, mister Rick Warren. If nobody can convince you to become an atheist, I hope at least someone can convince you to lower down your hubris level. After all, isn’t humility a supposedly Christian virtue?

 

We’re All Gonna Die…Someday

Yup, we’re all gonna die someday. For Christopher Hitchens, that day has already come. But contrary to what Warren said, that day is not the day to know the Truth. Truth is something we strive for constantly throughout our lives, it is not a single destination but a series of stops along the journey of reason.


Thanks for letting us hitch, Hitch!

This is the same journey Christopher has been taking his entire life. We should consider ourselves lucky Christopher went up that road ahead of us, because now we can be assured there will be lots of open bars and dancing clubs along the way.

Good bye and thanks for all the laughter, Christopher Hitchens. It’s been great hitchin’ with ya, Hitch!

Posted in Personal, Society, Stories5 Comments

Christopher Hitchens, 1949—2011

Christopher Hitchens died on December 16 at the age of 62. The man faced cancer head-on without, what he called, the false consolation of religion. He was a steadfast opponent of “mind-forged manacles” and “celestial dictators.” He had a legendary wit that he wielded with deftness against “elderly villains” such as Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). He was a champion of freedom of speech and he abhorred what he viewed as the servility promoted by religion. A self-described “anti-theist,” Christopher Hitchens was one fourth of the so-called Four Horsemen with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. He died in the presence of his friends and without a deathbed conversion. He wrote in his biography of Thomas Paine, “Thus he expired with his reason, and his rights, both staunchly defended until the very last.” The same could be said for Hitchens. A voice for reason in an age of overwhelmed by nonsense has been forever silenced but, Hitchens wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you. That’s the reflection that I think most upsets people about their demise. All right, then, because it might make us feel better, let’s pretend the opposite. Instead, you’ll get tapped on the shoulder and told, Great news: this party’s going on forever – and you can’t leave. You’ve got to stay; the boss says so. And he also insists that you have a good time.”

—Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Personal reflections

Christopher Hitchens’ eloquent words have touched the lives of many atheists here in the Filipino Freethinkers. Below are some personal reflections on the impact Hitchens has made in the lives of freethinkers.

Christopher Hitchens was the voice that led me out of the darkness, the wit that showed me the light. “god is not Great” was the first atheist book I had read on my journey away from theism. His words were the clarion call that crystallized the hazy thoughts that swam in my head as I pondered a universe without a God. I’ll genuinely miss his scathing, fearless humour.

We’ve lost one of the great voices for reason of our generation. While we can’t look forward to meeting Hitch in the afterlife, each and every one of us can help carry on his legacy. In our own ways, we have to raise up our voices against vicious unreason, we have to bring our wit to bear against ideas and beliefs that shackle people’s minds. We all have to be our own Hitch.

Jeiel

The first time I encountered Hitchens was several years ago, before I started giving a fuck about whether there was a god or not. I spotted the title “god is not Great” while scouring a bookstore, and the small “g” alone gave me chills. I felt drawn to the statement. I really wanted to agree with it, wanted to actually think further about it. It would take a while before my head was actually clear enough to embrace these few words wholeheartedly, but what matters was that I embraced them in the end. I read the book only after I realized that god did not exist, and that was a mistake. I should have grabbed that book the first time around. I will no longer doubt doubt from now on, Hitch.

Marguerite

I was 18 years old and very combative. I was very eager to argue with anyone I met that god is not great and that religion is a big lie. In fact, I did have this argument with a lot of believers. Looking back, I really wish I met Chritopher Hitchens as early as then. A touch of Hitch would have made all those debates more tonge-in-cheek and enjoyable. Finally getting to know Hitchens a few years back was life changing; although Hitch didn’t cause me to change my major beliefs, he effected something much better — he changed my way of approaching and delivering all rational arguments.

Hitch taught me that arguments should never be monotonous and dull and that reason and humor made an excellent pair. He showed me that serious talk does not have to be somber and that life-and-death matters can be and should be laughing matters. Yes, Hitch will be sorely missed, but he left us all an abundant gift of wit-spiced reason that we will always be grateful for.

Pecier

Posted in Personal1 Comment

The Most Powerful Force in the Universe (Part 1)

A Tale of the Two CEOs

One day, two bold CEOs decided to play a game of chess where the winner gets to ask anything he wants from the loser. After the game, the winning CEO asked the losing CEO to choose between two payments. The first payment involves the losing CEO giving half of his company’s assets to the winning CEO. The second payment involves placing 1¢ in the first square of the chessboard, 2¢ in the second square, 4¢ in the third, 8¢ in the fourth and so on until all the 64 squares of the chessboard are filled. Thinking that it will allow him to get off easy, the losing CEO agreed to the pay the winning CEO the second reward. But the losing CEO made a very serious mistake. In the process of trying to pay the winning CEO the reward, the losing CEO ended up going bankrupt and buried in debt. In fact, the losing CEO may never be able to give the reward money even if he spends his whole life working for it.[1]

 

Double, Double, Double….Jeopardy!

Human intuition evolved to understand linear progressions and patterns only. For many everyday purposes, this intuition is a quick and effective tool in assessing odds and projecting future values. The losing CEO’s big mistake is that he used the said intuition on an example where it is not applicable, an example that involved not a linear progression but a geometrical one.[2]

When you add up the terms of an increasing geometric progression, what you get is exponential growth.[3] As with geometric progressions, the human brain is notoriously ill equipped in understanding the power of exponential growth. This is shown by the fact that, without the aid of mathematics, almost all of us find it difficult to understand why the losing CEO made such a grave error. In order to comprehend the gravity of the losing CEO’s mistake in choosing the second payment option, let us get rid of our intuition for the moment and let us turn to mathematics.

Imagine starting with x of something. If you double that number, it becomes twice the original, 2x. If you double the previous result, you get four times the original, 4x. If you keep on doubling the most recent result, you’d successively get 8x, 16x, 32x, 64x and so on. Notice that doubling once gives you 2x or 21x while doubling twice gives you 4x or 22x. Meanwhile, doubling thrice gives you 8x or 23x and doubling four times gives you 16x or 24x. Following this pattern, we can see that doubling x an n number of times gives you 2nx.

 

Paal Paysam's chessboard.

Recall that the losing CEO started with a mere 1¢ (that is, x = 1¢). By the 8th  square (the last square in the first row) he is required to double the original 1¢ seven times. This means that he must place 27 times 1¢ on the 8th square. Using a simple calculator, one can easily confirm that 27 = 128. This means that the 8th square must contain 128¢ or $1.28. So far, the losing CEO still feels he’s having it easy. However, when he reaches halfway through the chessboard (the 32nd square), he would have doubled the original value 31 times. This means that the 32nd square must contain 231 times 1¢. Using a calculator, one can compute that this amounts to 2 147 483 648¢ or around 21.5 million dollars! But the tragedy of the losing CEO is only beginning; even though at this point he is halfway through the chessboard, the losing CEO is still very far from paying half his due. By the time he reaches the last chess square, he is going to need a whopping 92 million billion dollars! But wait, there’s more. The said 92 million billion dollars is for the last square only. Adding up the amount of money he must place on all 64 squares of the chessboard, the total amount of money the losing CEO owes the winner is approximately 184 million billion dollars![4]

 

The Curious Case of Exponential Growth

Here’s another example of how wildly counter-intuitive exponential growth is. Imagine starting with a piece of paper (of thickness 1.0 mm). Fold that paper into two halves so that its new thickness is twice the original. Now fold it again so that its thickness is four times the original. If you repeat this process just 42 times,[5] you end up with a piece of paper that will extend from the surface of the earth of the surface of the moon!

 

Going expo.

 

A very peculiar aspect of exponential growth that the human brain finds so hard to understand is the fact that if something grows exponentially then the present value is greater than all the previous values combined. For example, notice that the amount of money the losing CEO must place on the 5th square, for example, is greater than the total amount of money he must place on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th squares. This is true even for the 64th square – the amount of money it must contain is greater than the sum of the contents of the remaining 63 squares.

 

Exponential Crises

Albert Einstein once said, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” Since the mechanism behind compound interest is exponential growth, the previous example shows that Einstein’s humorous hyperbole is only partly so.

Big companies, especially banks, tap into the power of exponential growth to get rich. But big companies pay decent sums to their actuaries and analysts to deal with the number shuffling involved in compound interests (in the interest of compounding their profit and compounding your debt). In the absence of such expertise, unaided human intuition will more often than not fail in assessing problems involving exponential growth.

An individual’s failure to appreciate the power of exponential growth usually leads to debt crises.  The losing CEO is just one (rather fantastic) example of the victims of the human brain’s inability to grasp exponential growth. To give a more common example, the many people who are buried in credit card debts are similarly victims of the failure of human intuition to grasp the full force of compound interest and the mechanism behind it, exponential growth.

In many ways, the losing CEO represents human civilization. Many of the problems we face today as a society stems from our failure to assess the power of exponentially growing quantities around us. Like the losing CEO, we use our linear human intuition to analyze situations involving geometric progressions and we end up engulfed by the problems this wrong judgment caused.

Three of the greatest problems caused by our failure to grasp exponential growth are:

  • the human population explosion
  • the rapid (or should I say rabid) increase in human demand for resources leading to the even more rapid depletion of natural capital
  • the rapid increase in industrial activity leading to uncontrolled increase in the generation of pollution and waste

I will write about the other two global problems in future articles. In Part 2 of this article, however, I will concentrate on the first and perhaps most important the three – human population explosion. I say it is the most important because it is the key to solving the other two problems; the problems of resource depletion and environmental degradation cannot be fully addressed without addressing population explosion. Finally, it is the human population explosion that I will write about in Part 2 because it is an urgent national issue that is intimately related to the debates regarding the passage of the RH Bill.

 

Click here to read Part 2.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

[1] Adapted from a version of the legend of Paal Paysam told on Reference [1].

[2] An arithmetic progression is a sequence of numbers in which the next number in the sequence is just the previous number plus a constant. Examples are the sequence {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …} and the sequence {4, 7, 10, 13, 16, …}. In the first progression, the constant being added is 1 while in the second it is 3. A geometric progression, on the other hand, is a sequence of numbers in which the next number in the sequence is just the previous number times a constant. Examples would be {5, 15, 45, 135, 405, …} and {2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, …}. In the first sequence, the constant being multiplied is 5 while in the second it is 2. Notice that the second progression is simply the progression our losing CEO is having a problem with. Geometric progressions, however, can also be decreasing, just like the sequence {4, 2, 1, ½, ¼, …}.

[3] The sum of the terms of an increasing geometric progression increases exponentially as you increase the number of terms being summed up. For those who know their math jargon, this can be expressed by saying that the partial sum of a monotonically increasing geometric series diverges. The result for a decreasing geometric progression is similarly tricky to the human intuition and is at the root of Zeno’s Paradox. The apparent Paradox is resolved if one understands that a sum of infinitely many numbers can be finite if the numbers being summed up form a decreasing geometric progression. That is why 4 + 2 + 1 + ½ + ¼ + … = 8, even though you are adding infinitely many numbers.

[4] For those who recall their college calculus, the formula for the nth partial sum of a geometrical series with 1 as its first term and 2 as the common ratio is given by the formula sn = (rn – 1)/(r – 1). Here, r = 2 and n = 64. The total amount of money the losing CEO must place in all the 64 squares of the chessboard is just equal to the partial sum sn.

[5] Douglas Adams is God.

 * * *

References:

[1] Miller, G. Environmental Science, 10th ed, 2005.

[2] Arfken, G. B. and Weber, H. J., Mathematical Methods for Physicists, 5th ed, 2001.

 

 

Posted in Science, Society1 Comment

December 18 (Sunday) Starbucks Anson’s Ortigas Meetup

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City (Google map)
Date: Sunday, December 18, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

FF at the LGBT Pride March 2011
 

This week’s topics:

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Gilligan’s in Megamall. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

  • Newbies are welcome.
  • Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
  • There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
  • Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
  • You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
  • You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

13 Comments that Put dboncan in My LGBT Spotlight

Dear dboncan,

Thank you for reading my article “Why LGBT people must get personal with the Catholic Church.” I read through the comments you made on the Filipino Freethinkers site and picked out 13 that I thought I could address immediately. The rest of your comments were clearly opinions that I know you will hold on to dearly so I will treat them with respect by setting them aside.

Let me be transparent with you. My objective for taking time and responding to you today is, at the most, to turn you into an ally, and at the least, to change some of your perceptions by giving you needed information.

Of course, this is only possible if both of us keep an open mind and remain calm and objective. So if, at any point, you show signs that you have closed your mind about the topic without hopes of turning you into an ally, or make personal remarks similar to your verbal attacks against the other commenters, then I will respectfully withdraw from the discussion.

Here goes.

 

Comment #1:

“Let’s see you are pissed because violence is done to them, well so am I. But the law protects everyone and if there is violence, are you telling me that the police won’t act on it just because the victim is homosexual?”

My response: Yes. There are several reported cases of police not enforcing the law because the victims or complainants were not heterosexual. There are even cases where police take advantage of the situation and harrass the complainant or extort money from them. If you need further information. I will refer you to the right organizations but I cannot post cases here because of confidentiality issues. The bottom line is, to say that “the law protects everyone” is only good on paper but it is not implemented in reality.

 

Comment #2:

Are you telling me that you want legislation that will penalize bullying of homosexuals… but what not weaklings, handicapped, etc… the bullying of homosexuals is because of the perception that they are weak.”

My response: Yes, we want that kind of legislation. But just because we cite examples of discrimination against LGBT people most of the time, it doesn’t mean we do not acknowledge the existence of discrimination against other vulnerable sectors. It only means that we are able to expound on these examples because they are closer to our daily experience. In the same manner, people with disabilities (PWDs) normally cite discrimination against PWDs but it doesn’t mean they don’t recognize the existence of discrimination against others, like, say, indigenous peoples. SB2814 is a bill that will give us, and other vulnerable sectors, that kind of protection.

“Legarda Hails Passage on Third Reading of Anti-Discrimination Bill” -http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2011/1122_legarda1.asp – accessed 2011-12-11

 

Comment #3:

“A comment above says he is pissed because he can’t hold hands in public without being looked at strangely, should we penalize staring behavior as well?”

My response: Please do not put words in my mouth. This is what I said:

“The truth is, the “Marxist mold” and the politics behind the LGBT movement are irrelevant to me when I can’t hold hands with my partner in public. To me, it is hardly political, it is personal.”

In the context of that paragraph, I did not say I was pissed, I did not say anything about being looked at strangely, and I did not demand penalizing staring behavior. All I did was illustrate my point that not everyone in the LGBT movement has a political agenda and not everything about LGBT activism is political. Sometimes, the discrimination we experience is very personal in nature and has little to do with the politics that Acosta was refering to in her presentation.

If you are referring to someone else’s comment, please post it here and I will gladly apologize for assuming I was the subject.

 

Comment #4:

“How can marriage be an absolute basic human right?”

My response: Because that’s what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says and as a member of the United Nations, the Philippine government has the obligation to protect, respect, promote, and fulfill this right as many countries have already done:

“Article 1. – All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

“Article 2. – Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

“Article 16. – (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” – http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml – accessed 2011-12-11

 

Comment #5:

“Can minors marry? why not if it is an absolute right? can mentally handicapped people marry? can humans opt to marry their pets?”

My response: These are all false analogies. Please refer to Article 16 Section 2 (above). You cannot get “free and full consent of the intending spouses” if your intending spouse is a minor, a pet, or mentally handicapped.

 

Comment #6:

“Some “rights” are not absolute some are.”

My response: This is simply incorrect. Being absolute is not a characteristic of human rights. Human rights are “Universal, Inalienable, Interdependent, Indivisible, Equal and Non-discriminatory”

“What are human rights?” – http://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx – accessed 2011-12-11

 

Comment #7:

“Tell me how the LGBT are sidelined politically? Has any LGBT been disallowed the right to suffrage or to run for public office, given a drivers license, cedula, taxed higher, refused enrollment in school or refuses police protection solely by their orientation?”

My response: Yes. Ladlad Party List was disallowed in 2009 to run for public office. They were eventually allowed to run when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor but the case is a clear example of discrimination in politics based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, the Supreme Court blasted the Commission on Elections for using the Bible and Quran in its decision. Here are the first two paragraphs of the Supreme Court’s ruling:

“Our Constitution provides in Article III, Section 5 that “[n]o law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” At bottom, what our nonestablishment clause calls for is “government neutrality in religious matters.”[24] Clearly, “governmental reliance on religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.”[25]

We thus find that it was grave violation of the non-establishment clause for the COMELEC to utilize the Bible and the Koran to justify the exclusion of Ang Ladlad. Rather than relying on religious belief, the legitimacy of the Assailed Resolutions should depend, instead, on whether the COMELEC is able to advance some justification for its rulings beyond mere conformity to religious doctrine. Otherwise stated, government must act for secular purposes and in ways that have primarily secular effects.”

“G.R. No. 190582 – SC Decision on Ladlad vs Comelec” -http://icj.org/dwn/database/Ang%20Ladlad%20LGBT%20Party%20v.%20COMELEC.pdf – accessed 2011-12-11

People who live with partners of the same sex and raise a family are taxed higher because in the eyes of BIR, the tax status of both individuals is “single” and not “married with dependents.” But in reality, their expenses are comparable to expenses of heterosexual couples who enjoy tax benefits of being legally married.

We have documented cases of schools who conduct masculinity tests and reject students who fail this test. This discrimination also affects even heterosexuals who show signs of femininity.

 

Comment #8:

“I oppose this because its repercussions introduce a society where morality becomes relative to a persons preference and taste!”

My response: Morality has always been “relative to a persons preference and taste.” What is moral for a Christian might not be moral for a Muslim and vice versa. Thankfully, our government operates on the rules of law and not the rules of morality. As I’ve already mentioned above, the Supreme Court favored Ladlad Party List and struck down Comelec when it used morality as grounds to bar Ladlad party list from running for the 2010 elections.

Same-sex marriage is already legal in the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden

Can you explain the “repercussions” of same-sex marriage in these countries?

 

Comment #9:

“I oppose certain moves in granting homosexuals sweeping “rights” which should be rightly reserved for heterosexuals like marriage or adoption.”

My response: There are no rights that are “rightly reserved for heterosexuals” as this is clear violation of Article 2 of the universal declaration of human rights.

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”

 

Comment #10:

“it does not follow that just because someone is productive, they can also contribute to the growth of society in the sense of which i was referring to, i.e. propagate and raise children.”

My response: There are heterosexuals who are unable to propagate and there are heterosexuals who simply want to marry but do not plan on having children. Since they are unable to contribute to the growth of society in the sense that you are referring to, should they be disallowed to marry?

 

Comment #11:

“It falsely imparts to children that there is such a thing as a third sex when there isn’t.”

My Response: You are right. There is no third sex. There is a whole spectrum of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. And that is what children need to learn and understand.

 

Comment #12:

“It is a pretentious union with pretentious results.”

My response: I take offense in this statement. There is nothing pretentious about the celebration of two people being in love and committing their lives to each other. There is nothing pretentious about a person being able to claim inheritance benefits of their spouse, being a beneficiary to health insurance, visitation rights, etc. These results are very real and contribute to the well-being of a person. Please do not trivialize them by calling them pretentious.

 

Comment #13:

“cisgendered” seriously there is a term? the terms cis and trans used to be a chemical prefix and the word gender used to refer to parts of speech.” I am so amused, we get a chemical prefix and combine it with a reference to a part of speech and we have a sex that is somewhere in between male/female and homosexual.WOW!”

My response: Again, I take offense in your tone. All kinds of terms come up regularly in order to define human experience. Words like insulares, peninsulares, flips, chinks, jejemons, hipsters, dorks, nerds, squatters, kasambahay, whether with negative or positive connotations, were all coined because of the psycho-social need of certain sectors to create a group they can associate with or have an available term to refer to a sector of society. I highly doubt that international law experts, civil society groups, humanitarians, and diplomats said “WOW!” and were as “amused” as you were when they used these terms in drafting the Yogyakarta Principles and the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Also, there is no “sex that is somewhere in between male/female and homosexual.” Both males and females can actually identify as homosexual, transgender, or cisgender. Once you understand the intricacies of these terms, you might be less amused and might find more respect for the people who self-identify with these terms. Here are a couple of sites that might help you understand the terms:

“Transgender, Genderqueer, Cisgender… What Do These Terms Mean?’ -http://kinseyconfidential.org/transgender-genderqueer-cisgender-terms/ – accessed 2011-12-11

“TRANS 101: CISGENDER” – http://www.basicrights.org/uncategorized/trans-101-cisgender/ – accessed 2011-12-11

 

So again, I hope you take the information seriously. If, as early as now, you’ve already made a decision that I will be unsuccessful in either or both of my two objectives, then feel free to ignore this.

Thank you for your time.

Ronald “Ron” de Vera (aka rondevera)

 

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Image from andresflava

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society199 Comments

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