April 26, 2017

Free Expression is Much Broader than the First Amendment

The First Amendment

The free expression of ideas (i.e., free speech) is much broader than the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The concept of free expression is not unique to the U.S., did not originate with our Constitution, and is not limited in scope by anything one finds in our Constitution. The First Amendment is valuable, and it addresses some of what is important about free expression. And yet, there are many issues related to free expression to which it does not apply. And so, it is important to recognize that not every important aspect of free expression is addressed by our Constitution. Something can be germane to the free expression of ideas without being a First Amendment issue.

April 25, 2017

Some Atheists Choose to Be Kind to Others

Some atheists are kind.

A couple of the comments on a previous post about social media discourse got me thinking. I know that atheism does not mean anything other than the lack of belief in gods. I also know that atheists suffer from all the same flaws that afflict all humans. And so, I am making a mistake when I expect atheists to be any more rational, reasonable, skeptical, kind, etc. than humans in general. I am not sure I will ever manage to come to terms with this entirely, though. Even though I know it is a mistake, I continue to find myself expecting something a little bit better from my fellow atheists and from myself.

April 23, 2017

The March for Science

Science-girl-with-ponytailThe March for Science took place in Washington DC yesterday, with other marches happening in many other cities around the world. It generated some controversy because - well, what isn't these days? It generated controversy primarily because some were worried that it would become politicized and turn into more of an anti-Trump demonstration than a pro-science demonstration. I can understand that concern. Some scientists and supporters of science undoubtedly voted for Trump. Some of those who did so probably still support him. I imagine they might not have felt particularly welcome at the march.

While I can understand the concerns about an overly politicized march and even empathize with those expressing them, that does not mean I agree with them. I really don't. As far as I'm concerned, any administration that denies climate science, puts creationists in positions of power, and proposes deep cuts to the budgets of federal agencies that fund scientific research is already politicizing science. I see nothing wrong with scientists, supporters of science, and members of the reality-based community at large pointing this out and demanding change. The march took place, at least in part, because many people believe that the scientific enterprise is being threatened by the Trump administration. They have a right to express their concerns and to rally public support for science. And frankly, I'm glad they are doing so.

April 22, 2017

A Brief Review of The Witch

The WitchSince I was not at all impressed with It Follows, I was eager to take a chance on a film that made practically every "Best Horror of 2016" list, so I watched The Witch. In a word, wow! Even though I thought it was a bit of a stretch to classify it as horror or to suggest that it was even mildly scary, it managed to be one of the better films in any genre I've seen in quite awhile. But how can a horror film that wasn't scary be any good? Great acting, amazing set, creepy atmosphere, and one of the most unsettling scores I can recall certainly helped. But what put it over the edge was how original the entire concept seemed compared to most of the crap coming out these days. Scary or not, it was just a damn good flick.

Contrary to what I was expecting, the film does not center on the witch trials. They are part of the context, and witch hysteria is relevant here; however, this is not one of those films where the centerpiece of the story is a trial interspersed with flashbacks. Instead, it deals with a family of devoutly religious Puritans coping with unimaginable hardship and a rapidly deteriorating conflict while their "god" is as uninvolved as ever. Most of all, it shows the terror with which the early Puritans regarded witches. I found it a powerful reminder that many people used to sincerely believe in witches (unfortunately, some still do).

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