Archives for posts with tag: misleading

On the front page of the Times, David Barstow spins the murder of George Tiller into An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death. A subhead reiterates the false dichotomy:

Protesters tried to close the abortion clinic of Dr. George R. Tiller; abortion rights advocates celebrated him.

In the daily-email version of the front page that I received, the subhead reads:

What thousands could not achieve in three decades of relentless protest, a gunman accomplished on May 31 when he shot Dr. George R. Tiller in the head.

I swear to God. That’s what they said. I just copied and pasted it. The first clause refers to anti-abortionism as a form of protest. Consider that fanaticism, repression, or even terrorism would have been more correct, and you get a glimpse of how misleading this piece is. The second clause turns a premeditated murder into an accomplishment, echoing the word achievement in the first clause.

In what the Times misleadingly calls a “battle, fought to the death” only one side was trying to kill people: the misleadingly named “pro-life” side. They wanter Tiller dead, and they got what they wanted. Tiller, on the other hand, was performing abortions. That’s not the same thing.

Remember that the anti-abortion “movement” wants to make abortion illegal. Not safer, or rarer, or more carefully considered. Illegal. They want to give the fetus more protections under the law than the mother has. After all, the fetus is an unborn person; the mother is just a woman.

[F]or more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

This misleading number comes straight from the anti-abortionists. The whole article is full of distortions like this.

His willingness to abort fetuses so late in pregnancies put him at the medical and moral outer limits of abortion. Yet he portrayed those arrayed against him as religious zealots engaged in a campaign whose aim was nothing less than to subjugate women.

But that is precisely what they are, and precisely what they aim for.

When an abortion provider in Florida was assassinated in 1994, Dr. Tiller spent the next few years under the protection of federal marshals. By 1997, he had been labeled “the most infamous abortionist in the United States” by James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

Barstow quotes Dobson’s epithet as if it’s a matter of public record. For the record: the word ‘infamous’ is a moral judgement, not a fact.

Several years ago it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy to shut down Dr. Tiller.

See the language? Instead of “it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy” he could have written, for example, “the radical clerics altered their strategy”.

“God has his own way,” Mr. Gietzen [chairman of the “Kansas Coalition for Life”] replied, “but you can’t say our prayers weren’t answered.”

They prayed that someone would kill George Tiller. And God heard them! Allahu Akbar!

Yet later, Mr. Gietzen said his feelings were more complex. [He would say that, wouldn’t he?] Many years ago, he explained, he had wrestled with the question of whether it would be moral to kill Dr. Tiller. [That is so kind of him!] Only after months of reading and praying, he said, did he conclude that violence could never be justified. [He kept praying for it, though.] Killing men like Dr. Tiller, he said, will only put off the day when abortion is outlawed altogether.

And then we’ll all have the benefit of a truly loving and gentle society. All of us, that is, except the women.

Here’s something the founder of all Protestantism wrote on this topic.

Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for. [Martin Luther, Works 20.84 (I haven’t been able to verify this quote. It’s all over the Web, but I couldn’t find the original.)]

No scripture can ever justify such an attitude. The fight over abortion comes down to this. Who do we want to write our laws — theocrats, or people who have a conscience?

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Viewpoint: Scientists who Blast Religion Hurt Their Cause | Newsweek.com

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum continue, in Newsweek, the bizarre attack they began in their book Unscientific America.

As soon as Francis Collins … was floated as the possible new director of the National Institutes of Health … the criticisms began flying. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for one, said Collins is too public with his faith. Collins wrote a book called The Language of God, frequently talks about his religious conversion during medical school, and recently launched the BioLogos Foundation, which declares, “We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation.”

The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.

First, note the dismissive “the criticisms began flying.” Apparently these were not criticisms that need have been taken seriously.

Second, a fact-check. Did Jerry Coyne say that Francis Collins is “too public with his faith”? I searched Coyne’s blog for the phrase “too public”. It was not found. This is classic projection. Mooney and Kirshenbaum believe that Coyne is being too public with his atheism. Jerry Coyne is concerned, not that Collins is too public with his faith, but that his faith might compromise some of his scientific or policy decisions. And it’s not as if we’ve never seen that happen.

What we have not seen is outspoken atheists “turning Americans off to science”. Do Mooney and Kirshenbaum have any examples or measurements of this effect? If there is no evidence of the phenomenon, then it is not exactly a “stunning irony”, and they need not have written a book about it.

Do we really need, more than we need outspoken atheists, “researchers who show … that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs”? Why do we need that — so that religious believers are not afraid to go into science? It’s never stopped them before! Maybe Mooney and Kirshenbaum, looking at the fact that very few serious scientists are hard-core believers, surmise that the scientists are scaring the believers away. But there is a much more plausible explanation. People who possess the intelligence and acquire the education necessary for a career in science tend to be too smart to believe in fairy-tales.

The New Apologists never mention the so-obvious-we tend-to-forget-about-it reason for outspoken atheism: religious doctrines, every last one of them, are false. Hard to reconcile that with the scientific method! If you really want us to take seriously the idea that religion might in certain cases be a good idea even though it is made entirely of lies, then you’ll have to come up with something much more convincing than the idea that atheists are “turning Americans off to science”.

And Collins’s approach isn’t just good as a strategy to get the public to better appreciate science. The idea that science and religion can be compatible is strong on the intellectual merits as well. … [I]f we consider religion more broadly—in its own considerable diversity—we find many sophisticated believers who’ve made a peace between their belief and the findings of modern science. It’s not just Collins; consider the words of the Dalai Lama: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”

That there are people who seem to be doing it does not make compatibility between science and religion “strong on the intellectual merits”. By that measure, science and alcoholism are compatible too.

“It’s not just Collins”, Mooney and Kirshenbaum write — and then they quote the Dalai Lama as saying that he would change the tenets of his religion if he found them to be in conflict with science. This is unlike anything Francis Collins has ever said. To imply that Collins agrees with the Dalai Lama on this point is misleading in the extreme. Collins’s style is to insist that there never could be a conflict. He agrees with Mooney and Kirshenbaum; he does not agree with the Dalai Lama.

Distortions like this are typical of religious apologias. The reason is obvious: it’s terribly hard to come up with good reasons for religion, if you limit yourself to telling the truth.