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The Islamophobia card remains in play

Why Evolution Is True

As I’ve said many times before, the word “Islamophobia” has been grossly misused to mean “hatred or fear of Muslims”. But look—the word is  “ISLAMophobia”, not “MUSLIMophobia”! And there are many who do have that latter form of bigotry, including the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, Donald Trump. Trump is a “Muslimophobe.”  The term “Islamophobia” is all too often used to characterize those not who dislike Muslims, but who dislike the ideology that drives many of them to perform either terrorist acts or oppressive behaviors, like the subjugation of women and the demonization of gays. While demonization of Muslims as a group is unjustified bigotry, criticism of Islam—whether you agree with it or not—is justifiable free speech, and a dialogue worth having.

Nevertheless, there are those who consider any criticism of Islam itself as “Islamophobia,” using that term to dismiss such discussion as a kind of bigotry. Religion, they say, has little or nothing to do with…

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St. Petersburg: food

Why Evolution Is True

Since I was in St. Petersburg for only about ten days, and five of those were at a scientific meeting, I can’t say that I’m deeply acquainted with Russian food.  What I did have I enjoyed very much, but what I’m presenting is just an eclectic selection of pictures of what I ate, or what I saw.

First, two places I did not eat, but which you’ll want to see anyway:

The menu (in Soviet Russia, the cheeseburger noms you):

The plush chicken was advertising some chicken restaurant next door:

The St. Petersburg equivalent of McDonald’s is “Teremok,” a chain that specializes in blini, or Russian crepes.  They also have kasha, or buckwheat porridge, and kvass, a lightly alcoholic drink I’ve mentioned before, which is made from fermented rye bread.  The food at Teremok is very good, and I ate there several times during my perambulations…

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Cooking & Travelling in South-West France, by Stephanie Alexander

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Cooking and Travelling in South-west FranceLast year year when The Spouse and I were expecting to spend some time in Cognac in the south-west of France north of Bordeaux, as usual I did some reading to enhance my understanding of the culture and history of the places I hoped to be visiting.  My choice of book had been a little different to the usual travel guides:  I read Cooking & Travelling in South-West France by the inimitable Stephanie Alexander, and I wrote this review, intending to post it once we were in situ.

Well, as regular readers know, the trip was aborted when my father was gravely ill.  I never got to Cognac, and all I saw of Paris was the railway station and the airport as we dashed back from Brussels.  And I forgot all about this review, which has been lurking amongst a collection of drafts ever since…

Most Australians know Stephanie…

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Let sleeping tigers lie!

Why Evolution Is True

This video of one tiger waking up another, with a reaction by foreign visitors, was taken at the Dublin Zoo and posted on YouTube April 9. It already has nearly a million views.

Listen to those roars!

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Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

I suspect there will be a lot of biology posts today, so we’ll have a shorter version of RWPs, but not a lesser one, for these are bird photos by the estimable Colin Franks (photography site here, Facebook page here, Instagram page here).

Northern Pygmy Owl  (Glaucidium gnoma):

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Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus):

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Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus):

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Dunlin (Calidris alpine):

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Common Merganser – female  (Mergus merganser):

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Ring-necked Duck  (Aythya collaris):

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Freedom of speech: Salman Rushdie on American students, and the latest list of “banned” books

Why Evolution Is True

The columnist Clarence Page had a chat with Salman Rushdie, who taught at Emory University, about freedom of speech. (Remember that it was Emory students who got so upset when they saw pro-Trump slogans written in chalk on their campus.) Rushdie was in Washington D.C. to discuss the question, “Should or must art be politically correct?”, an event organized by Page’s wife, and Clarence took the opportunity to ask Rushdie about several issues.

“When people say, ‘I believe in free speech, but …,’ then they don’t believe in free speech,” [Rushdie] said. “The whole point about free speech is that it upsets people.

“It’s very easy to defend the right of people whom you agree with — or that you are indifferent to. The defense (of free speech) begins when someone says something that you don’t like.”

And that is a simple point. The rebuttal by the Regressive Left is that…

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Philosophy’s PR problem — I

Footnotes to Plato

public relations[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here]

“Philosophy is dead.”
(Stephen Hawking)

However one characterizes the discipline of philosophy, there is little doubt that it has been suffering for a while from a severe public relation problem, and it is incumbent on all interested parties (beginning with professionals in the field) not just to ask themselves why, but also what can be done to improve the situation. This chapter is offered as a series of reflections on these two aspects of the issue. We will examine in some detail a series of representative examples of brash attacks on philosophy (to which I will offer my own, shall we say, blunt response), mostly carried out by a small but influential number of scientists and science writers, attacks that seem to capture something fundamental about the broader public’s attitude toward…

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Rowan Williams: God’s not only not an answer, but He/She/It’s not even a thing!

Why Evolution Is True

Well, well. Here we have an article in the Guardian by Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, arguing that atheists are constantly “arguing against propositions that no serious Christian writer would endorse.” I would have thought that the propositions we were arguing against were those of God’s existence, the divinity of Jesus, salvation, and so on—things that seem pretty much in the Christian mainstream—but Williams, a Sopisticated Theologian™, says “nope.”

In fact, Williams is exaggerating here: the argument he says atheists make, but that no Christian believes, is our refutation of the First Cause argument, also known as the Cosmological Argument. The argument goes, of course, like this: everything must have a cause, including the Universe, but the chain of causation cannot run on forever: there must be a First Cause. And that cause must have been God. God therefore exists, QED.

One response to this argument is this: “But who caused God?” That’s…

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Christopher Hitchens on offensiveness

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University of Ottawa yoga class suspended for “cultural appropriation”

Why Evolution Is True

This could have come from The Onion, but these days it’s hard to tell the difference with articles like this one from the Ottawa Sun. The Student Federation at the University of Ottawa, apparently infected with the same brain virus that’s sweeping through British student unions and U.S. colleges like Dartmouth, has suspended a yoga class because it’s a form of “cultural appropriation”. This may have been prompted by a complaint from the Centre for Students with Disabilities:

Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that “while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students … there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” according to an email from the centre.

The centre is operated by the university’s Student Federation, which first approached Scharf seven years ago about offering yoga instruction to students both with and without disabilities.

The centre…

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