Required Readings

Required Readings, 5 January 2014

Is Bill Nye the Science Guy right in accepting to debate creationist Ken Ham? This and more in 2014’s first Required Readings. Good morning everyone, and happy new year! Have a good time enjoying our first Required Readings of the year!

I think Bill Nye is great, but I think he’s making a mistake – should the Science Guy debate Ken Ham on the creationist’s turf?

Pope says realities like gay couples are church’s new educational challenge – I still feel a little strange about praising a pope’s actions, but this does seem like progress.

Government to Catholic Schools: Teach Religion OUR Way – Canada wants to dictate how religious schools teach religion.

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Image credits: Wesleying

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Mauricio Gago

Mauricio Gago

Mauricio Gago teaches chemistry at the University of Costa Rica. He is interested in the comprehension of science and how it helps you identify what's pseudoscience (or not science at all) and what actually lets us understand our world.


  1. January 6, 2014 at 8:37 am —

    Call me a cynic, but I don’t see any significant change since he took office. Kaoru’s post on Queereka summed up fairly nicely how I feel about the guy. Frank may be the best PR guy the church has ever had. He says literally nothing substantive about real issues, but because he doesn’t come right out and say that he hates gay people or women or whomever, he gets accolades left and right.

    Why is it an education challenge for the church to reach kids from families with queer parents? Is it because the church thinks your parents deserve eternal damnation because they love each other, and you can’t say that without alienating a kid? He doesn’t say anything about church policy, rules, catechism, except occasionally acknowledging they exist (I’ve yet to read something where he makes a value statement about them, let alone says they should change because they’re hateful and/or discriminatory). He doesn’t make any value statements about queer people or women or those who want bodily autonomy. He acknowledges that they exist, says we should be nice to them (because obviously they deserve otherwise, right? I mean, they’re not even human) or shouldn’t focus on them (meaning, please don’t draw attention to the fact that we will still make ridiculous lies to cover our contempt of all these groups while simultaneously acting against them all across the world).

    Acknowledging that I exist won’t placate me, because I know I exist. Doing something meaningful to show me the pope thinks I’m a human being might get me to turn around. To quote Mamet, “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids.”

  2. January 6, 2014 at 8:59 am —

    I agree he hasn’t done anything important, but what the church does is unimportant, the church can do what the church pleases (well, not all, they should take their hands off of kids, but that’s another story). The thing is, the change in rhetoric might actually change how church followers view others and change their opinion on various topics, so that in itself is what is most important, so even if he does nothing concrete, I think he’s doing a good thing.

    • January 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm —

      See, and the impression I get from the new rhetoric is not a redirection so much as laying cover for the same crap. It’s the same argument I saw from all the Phil Robertson defenders. “He’s cool, it’s just his beliefs that are mean,” is a defense ridiculous on the face of it.

      The pope is passing the book*. I actually think he’s going out of his way to push blame for bigotry onto the catechism and Bible as a way to absolve guilt for bigots and assholes who can then claim it’s not them, it’s their rules they have chosen to follow. Mind you, it’s really stupid scapegoating, but it’s scapegoating. It offers them a chance to reduce their guilt but still engage in vile behavior. Because they really do care, that’s why they withhold contraceptive care (or do a hundred other terrible things).

      *A phrase I stole from either someone on Ask an Atheist or Reasonable Doubts, and I can’t remember who or which.

    • January 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm —

      Mauricio, I do see your point, and I think would be good if things were happening that way, but I don’t think they are. I would like to agree with you, and I’d be happy if this year the pope made me look like a big jerk for these little rants, because then there would be actual change on a large scale. It will take more than what I’ve seen so far to convince me, though. Too many loopholes and not enough content for me to feel it’s anything more than PR so far.

      • January 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm —

        Sorry, that wasn’t clear. I think I see your point, but I don’t think the PR is significant enough to effect change due to the loopholes and cover it provides, even though it’s reasonable that PR could change the discourse enough to effect change without necessarily changing church operations. Which I think is the point you were getting at.

  3. January 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm —

    The fact remains that in heavily Catholic countries (even those where most people don’t actually go to church), what the pope says does, in fact, matter. Even a change in tone, if not in the actual catechism, can make some amount of difference when it comes to lawmaking.

    Italy just passed a non-discrimination law that protects people on grounds of sexuality and gender identity, even if they are still a long way off on legally recognizing gay families. I honestly don’t think this would have happened with a pope hostile to LGBTQ people rather than one who emphasizes recognizing shared humanity.

    That and a reminder to Catholics of their obligations to promote social and economic justice in the world might actually help distance the Catholic hierarchy in the US from far-right politics (in fact this is already happening). That also wouldn’t be a bad outcome, even if there are still a lot of problems with the Church in general.

    • January 10, 2014 at 6:53 am —

      Not familiar with those circumstances, so I will cede that eagerly. I guess my frustration stems from the idea that being slightly less shitty isn’t the same as being good. His being slightly less shitty gives the wiggle to room other people making progress is more a testament to other people working to recognize basic human decency than it is to his poping.

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