A strawman’s call to action!

Another little article came across from the feeds from the McCook Daily Gazette which was truly amazing. The writer, Sam Elridge constructed a strawman which constructed a strawman. First, he suggested that colleges will soon, if not already have courses in atheism. That would be a rather short class. First 5 minutes; “No evidence for any gods. Class dismissed.”. Now I could see a class in humanism as being somewhat more substantial. In any case, the name for his chosen strawman is Prof. Churchkiller, an atheist professor seeking to explain why Christians aren’t really a danger since they don’t really believe what they claim. The whole piece is really meant to be a rallying article to get Christians to rise up, and, well, I don’t know, usher in a theocracy? As evidence of this lack of Christian belief, he has Prof. Strawman Churchkiller state:

Want proof? Consider what I just told you about God. If Christians really believed in a God of this Power and Consequence, a God capable of being individually involved, intimately, with the six billion persons of Earth, I’d think they’d act differently. For example, God proclaims that children are God’s gifts to mankind. Would Christians who really believed in this MIGHTY of a God, stand by an let Abortionists kill fifty million of these “gifts”?

Must be why in the Old Testament, this God causes and orders the deaths of countless numbers of his “gifts”. But that aside, has Mr. Elridge been paying attention at all to modern politics? Abortion is a litmus test issue for many fundamentalist Christians. What is he really advocating, civil war over this? The secular response is that at early stages of pregnancy, the embryo has no nervous system. Thus, there is no suffering involved to the embryo. This is the starting point for a basis of a calm rational discussion concerning abortion that requires no supernatural claims for justification. As a society consisting of multiple belief (or non) systems, governed by a secular government, that is the correct approach. If one is a Christian believing that abortion is wrong in a number of cases, don’t have an abortion in those cases.

He also writes this:

We Atheists saw to it that their God was tossed out of our schools on His ear, and did the Christians rise up? I have already talked about abortion and how defeated the Christians are in that area. We have almost got the work place declared off limits to Christians, remember, “keep it in the church.” Certainly talk of God is not allowed anywhere in colleges, and I don’t know of a single pornography fight that Christians have won lately.

Well, yes, many Christians did complain bitterly about taking prayer out of schools. We still have “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. Further, if talk of God is not allowed in the colleges, how does Elridge have Prof. Strawman Churchkiller talking about God? Teachers and administrators can not be seen as officially endorsing any religion, Christian, Hindu, Wiccan, Islam, or whatever. One can, of course, have (and I have even taken) comparative religion classes in college. Students can talk about their own particular religion all they want. There are Bible clubs in school. At my own place of work, for a while several of the Christians were meeting for Bible study during lunch, so no, the work place is nowhere near being off limits to Christians, nor is anyone advocating this. I am not sure what pornography fights he may be thinking of, but I can’t help but remember the incredibly disproportionate response to the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”.

Shortly after we have:

Many Christians today are consumed, as most of us, with the cares of life. They don’t want to take the time to learn about their Faith, or to act on their Faith. It was their own Jesus who said: “you must be willing to give up all, for My sake and the Gospel.” Who is willing to give up all nowadays? I may support my atheist ideals wholeheartedly, but, am I willing to take a bullet in the head for Atheism right now at this moment? A Christian, a Christian who believes, would take that bullet, for their God.

Am I willing to “take a bullet” for atheism? For the idea that there is no God? That would seem counterproductive. However, I am willing to fight for, and take a bullet if necessary, for the cause of liberty, freedom of speech and of, or from, religion.

So, it seems to me that either 1) Elridge has not been paying attention to how vociferous Christians are in the country, or 2) he is trying to advocate for stronger measures.

Some of the comments to this story were pretty good. But I was particularly amused by someone called G5. Getting off track a bit (and we’ll follow him for fun), he writes:

When I was a child science books had Gravity described as forces generated by the rotation of the earth. Of course that was nonsense, because the rotation of the earth works against gravity forces.

More recently, during the 19th century, it was discovered that electrons were negatively charged particles. That meant that electrons flowed from negative to positive. (Positive particles, Protons, are 1840 times larger than electrons.) Prior to that, all the books and schematic diagrams had electricity flowing from positive to negative.

I’m not sure what books G5 was reading as a child, but if what he said was correct, the books were blatantly wrong, and would have been known to be wrong even at the time he read them. Gravity has never been described by scientists as being generated by the rotation of the earth. It was described by Newton as a force inversely proportional to the square of the distance between 2 objects and proportional to the product of the masses, but never dependent on the rotation of a body. A body will have a gravitational force associated with it whether or not it is rotating. Of course, now we know that it is caused by a (in simple terms) bending of space time, via general relativity.

Second, he is correct about the current and charge flow bit. Except the convention is still to show current as flowing from positive to negative, making some fun confusion for beginning students. Of course, sometimes there is positive charge flow. In the world of semiconductors, when an electron moves from one vacant atomic orbit to another, it looks like a positively charged hole moving in the opposite direction. One can use the Hall effect to determine what sign the charge carrier is in a given material. The Hall effect takes advantage of the fact that the force on a moving charged particle in a magnetic field is proportional to the charge of the particle, its velocity, and the strength of the magnetic field. The direction of the force is perpendicular to the velocity of the particle and the magnetic field. So, the direction the particle is going to take will depend on the sign of the charge of the particle and you can use this to find out what the sign is. Now if you take one type of material (say a positive charge carrier .. a current of holes, usually called a p type) and sandwich it between the other type (n type of negatively charged carriers), you’ve made a transistor. Cool stuff.

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