Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. This guy is a genuine big-brained hominid, one of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and he writes to convince his readers that our world is getting steadily better, century after century. And he proves it with facts!
Changes can be either good or bad. However, contrary to popular opinion, cultural changes around the world tend, on average, to be good, in the sense that they bring greater happiness, freedom, health, and prosperity to more ad more people.
His two latest books are possibly the two most important books I have ever read.:
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Pinker shows that all down through history, for the past several thousand years, the world has been slowly getting safer from violence of all kinds including muggings, rape, murder, and war, freer from disease, poverty, and superstition, more prosperous, better fed, and happier. These are real cultural changes that usually happen so slowly that most of us are not even aware of them. But our lives are much better now than they were back in the “good old days” when you might have had to get your appendix cut out by candlelight at 3 AM. With no anesthetic.
“Between 1980 and 2005, 80 percent … 80 percent of all new income in this country went to the top 1 percent. 80 percent!” Bernie Sanders
Don’t forget Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in November, 2016
“Between 1980 and 2005, 80% … 80% of all new income in this country went to the top 1%.”
Eighty percent of all income in this country goes to the richest one percent of the people. “They want more, more, more. Their greed knows no end.” Furthermore, the “top one-tenth of one percent earns 12 cents of every dollar” earned in this country today. Can you believe it?
Bernie Sanders is fair
Sanders admits there are many reasonable and patriotic rich people in this country that want everybody to prosper. But he says there are many others who only want to accumulate more and more money for themselves while poverty increases and the middle class goes away. They also want (and get) more and more tax breaks.
I’m not against rich people. I admire some of them tremendously. I’m well aware that a few of the richest Americans have given away most of their money to help the poor, and I appreciate them very much.
I’m against rich people getting richer and richer while poor people get poorer and poorer. I’m against more and more tax breaks for the one percent of the population who gets 80% of the money.
So is Bernie. That’s why I like him.
That’s not the only reason I like Bernie. I like him because he’s honest. Because he tells it like he sees it. And because he looks out for the little people.
I’m one of those little people, and I appreciate Bernie being on my side.
The state must force pregnant women to try to carry deformed, deceased, or non-viable fetus as long as they can.
Last week, a grown man stood on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives and argued that the state must force pregnant Texans to try to carry dying, deceased, or non-viable fetuses as long as they can. Anything less, said state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), wouldn’t be “pro-life.”
These fetuses “are going to suffer, they’re going to feel pain,” just as adults with terminal illnesses do, said Schaefer, a freshman Tea Party politician from East Texas. “That’s part of the human condition, when sin entered the world, and it grieves us all.”
by Andrea Grimes, Senior Political Reporter,
RH Reality Check, April 28, 2015
“When sin entered the world.” There’s the clue. Sin supposedly entered the world when Adam ate that silly fruit so long ago, so now somebody’s gotta suffer. And if you happen to be pregnant, it’s gonna be you. And if you just happen to be carrying a defective fetus, it’s gonna suffer, too. Shaefer said so.
Well, it was last month now. I didn’t see it until this morning, or I would have posted this sooner.
You think religion is good for people? Everybody ought to have faith in something? It gives you a warm feeling to see a church on every corner? You’re glad we have such a “man of God” in the legislature?
Well I disagree.
This is just one more example (as if another example were needed) of the evil brought about by an ancient set of superstitions. This man doesn’t care that you suffer. He doesn’t care that your innocent but defective or dying fetus suffers. He wants your fetus to experience life to its fullest, even if that life is only a couple of months of suffering in its mother’s womb, and even if it will never ever think a thought or smile a smile or enjoy anything at all or probably even see the light of day. That blind, mindless suffering may be the only life it will ever experience!
He wants to force you to carry your deformed, suffering fetus as long as possible.
He wants you, a pregnant woman, to carry your dying fetus (if such it be) as long as possible. If you refuse, he wants the state to force you. Why? Because “That’s part of the human condition, when sin entered the world, and it grieves us all.” It doesn’t matter that “your fetuses are going to suffer, they’re going to feel pain, just as adults with terminal illnesses do.” No, let your fetus enjoy hurting as long as it can.
This arrogant man might obtain a small amount of credibility if he were to give birth to a nice pair of twins. But, even then, just a little credibility. Not enough.
East Texas tend to do a lot of hunting. If Rep. Shaefer were on a hunting trip way out in the back country somewhere and he had an attack of acute appendicitis, I wonder if he would consent to emergency surgery with a hunting knife and no and anaesthetic. After all, isn’t pain just “part of the human condition?” Maybe the state should force him.
This is Rep. Shaefers religion. No doubt he thinks it comes from the Bible, even though the Bible actually says almost nothing about abortion. Certainly, not all Christians agree with him; but there are important lessons for us here.
It’s important for us all understand and remember that neither Texas nor the United States has ever been a nation under God. NEVER! For about 228 years we have been one nation under the Constitution of the United States of America. We are subject to the Constitution because our elected representatives agreed to it. We are not, never have been, and must never be ruled by somebody’s interpretation of an old book written by at least 40 different people in two or three ancient languages and translated and retranslated and edited and censored, over and over again, until finally King James of England decided to create an English version of it.
Many of our ancestors came here from Europe to escape from religious laws. Remember the Mayflower? These were mostly religious people, but they came to what is now the United States to get away from the horrible religious legal system in Europe. Because of their experiences, they created a Constitution for us that doesn’t even mention God or religion except to forbid the government from creating an established religion.
Disclaimer: Shaefer himself said dying fetuses will suffer. This is only true if they’re allowed to live too long in the womb. For the first four or five months–maybe even longer–it’s almost certain a fetus cannot feel any pain. Its brain and nervous system simply aren’t developed enough. Abortions, when possible, should always be long before that; but sometimes the condition of the fetus is not known that soon. To carry a defective or non-viable fetus to term–or not–must always be the pregnant woman’s decision.
THIS IS IMPORTANT! The United States of America is NOT and never has been a Christian nation. It was NOT founded on Christian principles. It WAS founded on humanitarian principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” How can a sick, deformed, dying fetus pursue happiness? Men and women like Rep. Shaefer, who want to rule over you and me according to their own silly superstitions, must be voted out of office. They MUST be replaced with representatives who will uphold the Constitutions of their State and the United States of America, as they have sworn to do.
These two moderately long articles will help you understand the recently declared Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) better than anything else you are likely to have read. Why do they really hate us? Do they really believe what they claim to believe? Is that why they behead foreign journalists, make sex slaves of beautiful young Kurdish women, burn Muslim men to death in wire cages, and crucify children? Do they actually believe Jesus (NOT Mohammad!) is going to save them from Western “Crusaders?” Maybe most perplexing of all, why do hundreds (maybe thousands) of young American, Australian, and European men travel to Iraq and Syria to die fighting for this evil?
At times I have been very disappointed with our “President of change.” This time, I agree with what he says. My only disappointment here is that we’ve waited so long already to bomb these barbarians to hell! (Literally or figuratively. Whatever.)
We’ve stood by and watched while they cut the heads off two American journalists and slaughtered hundreds of innocent civilians who just happened to be in the wrong place. It’s time to put and end to it.
Below are some very revealing news videos created inside the Islamic State itself. Look how these very well trained (though not so well disciplined) terrorists with modern weapons challenge the rest of the world openly. Arrogantly. Even proudly! They dare us: “WE WILL DIVIDE THE UNITED STATES IN TWO.”
(Click inside this video for parts 2-5. When I posted these, the Arabic parts had good English captions. Now they have been largely covered over with French. They’re still worth seeing, though.)
We should have blasted these barbarians out of existence when they crossed the border into Iraq. If not sooner. They were originally part of al-Queda, after all.
I do not believe the Islamic State leaders represent the average, ordinary Muslim. Rather, I suspect that most Muslims in most countries (especially those in the US) are Muslim in name only, just as most Christians are Christian in name only. (In most of the Muslim countries, of course, they have to practice the official religion to whatever extent is required in their particular country, regardless of their own real beliefs or desires.
This particular group of Islamist extremists, being originally part of Al Queda, should have been dealt with long before they ever left Syria. Now we should evacuate refugees when appropriate and drop humanitarian supplies to others while we protect them from the air as needed.
Note: I am definitely NOT suggesting we send American soldiers back into the Middle East to fight on the ground. We did that! Now we need to blast these barbarians — the new “caliphate” — out of existence from the air, using missiles and drones whenever possible. (I don’t understand why we are using manned bombers. Neither have I ever understood the rage some Americans have at the use of drones. If we have to fight, I am in favor of fighting to win quickly with as little loss to Americans and other innocents as possible.)
This “caliphate” is calling for all Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to its leader, the new “Caliph,” who is said to be a direct descendent of Mohammad’s family, thus trying to lend some credence to his rule. If all Muslims declared their allegiance to him, of course, that would mean all Muslim states would instantly come under his rule and become part of the IS. That is a truly terrifying thought!
Of course, I know this is not going to happen. But I don’t think he is going to stop where he is. He clearly intends to take the rest of Iraq and Syria and then as much of the Middle East as he can. And he is already teaching young boys to say they want to “divide the United States in two.” He is NOT going to stop until somebody stops him, and the IS will be a worse hotbed of terrorism than Afghanistan and Pakistan have ever been.
The time to stop these uncivilized barbarians was several years ago, but we didn’t do it then. Now it MUST be done.
This post has been adapted from Wikipedia, and additional information has been added from the resources listed at the end.
Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a.k.a. Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah (her “Muslim name,” because Sudan is considered a Muslim country), is a 27-year-old female Sudanese medical doctor who got her training and degrees from Khartoum University and is married to a U.S. citizen named Daniel Wani. Wani is confined to a wheelchair. They have a 20-month-old son named Martin Wani, and Ishag is eight months pregnant with their second child.
She has been condemned to death by Sudan’s Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif in Khartoum North (described as “notorious” by some sources), and will be hung for apostasy after about two years, giving her time to give birth and get her new baby started in life. Some time before her hanging, both she and her husband will be beaten with 100 lashes each for “adultery.”
Apostasy is the “crime” of rejecting one’s religion. (I am an apostate because I no longer believe the Christian fundamentalist nonsense I was taught in my youth. Fortunately, apostasy is not considered a crime in the U.S.) Yet Ishag never left her religion. She claims she has always been a Christian.
She had a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother. Her father left them when Ishag was a very young child, so she was raised in her mother’s faith and eventually married a Christian man, Daniel Wani. According to the court, this is not good enough. She was given three days to recant her Christianity and “return” to Islam. While others in similar positions have “recanted” to avoid execution, Ishag is evidently braver. She refused.
She told the court she had been a Christian all her life, and could not rescind her beliefs at the request of a court. Since she has never been a Muslim, she said she could not have committed apostasy against that religion. But the court claims she should have adopted her father’s religion, and has therefore convicted her of apostasy for “leaving Islam.”
About 50 people outside demonstrated against the verdict.
Her husband, Daniel Wani, told CNN he feels helpless. “I’m so frustrated. I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m just praying.” I certainly sympathize with his frustration and feeling of helplessness; but, so far, his prayers don’t seem to be helping noticeably.
In Sudan and many other Muslim countries, Muslims and Christians are not necessarily treated alike by the law. Since she was a Christian from early childhood, none of this should have happened to her. No apostasy and no “adultery;” no beatings and no hanging; and no imprisonment. This whole thing came about because her father was a Muslim, and the court decided she should have taken his religion. So she was tried as a Muslim. In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name.
Because the Sudanese version of Islamic sharia law does not allow marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, her marriage to a Christian man was ruled invalid by the court. This is why she and her husband were sentenced to receive 100 lashes each for adultery, to be administered some time in advance of her being hung. (Apparently, no dates have yet been set for the sentences to be carried out.)
There was no claim that either she or her husband ever had sex with, or was married to, anyone else. The adultery charges were added only because of the court’s ruling that her marriage to a Christian man could not be valid. (We in the U.S. would probably say “fornication” instead of “adultery.” That is, if their situation were to bring any comment at all. It wouldn’t, of course.)
After the sentence was decreed, the prosecutor’s spokesman Ahmad Hassan told the Associated Press that “they were given ample time to prove their innocence, but I for one believe in upholding our traditions and customs as Sudanese.” Well, that’s just dumb! Some traditions and customs are worth upholding. Death for apostasy is NOT one of them.
Her 20 month-old son has also been imprisoned with her. He is denied all contact with his father, who will never be permitted to raise him. Authorities have ruled that since the absentee maternal grandfather that he never met was a Muslim, he cannot legally be raised by non-Muslims. The nightmare has also included denial of bail, insufficient medical care for both Ishag and her unborn child, and beatings in prison.
It is claimed the U.S. Embassy has offered very little help, but I am not sure what help it could offer without the probability of making things worse. People in some African and Middle Eastern countries may be given increased punishments when people try to intervene for them. At some point, though, the U.S. must surely act on behalf of its citizen, Daniel Wani, and his family.
Accusing Wani of converting a Muslim woman to another religion and marrying her – although Sudanese law does not explicitly ban proselytism – authorities have taken Wani’s passport and forbidden him to travel.
Ishag is in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison with her 20-month-old son. No visitors have been allowed. Vital medical treatment has been refused, and she has been denied transfer to a hospital, though she is 8 months into a difficult pregnancy. Surely it is time for intervention by the U.S. to prevent tragedy!
Mohamed Jar Elnabi, a lawyer representing Ishag, said her husband, Waniwas barred from even going into the court when she was being tried and sentenced. Elnabi said Wani is wheelchair bound and “totally depends on her for all details of his life, he cannot live without her.” Elnabi also said, “The couple’s son is having a difficult time in prison. He is very affected from being trapped inside a prison from such a young age, he is always getting sick due to lack of hygiene and bugs.”
The United Kingdom government described the sentence as “barbaric” and a UK minister was “truly appalled,” noting Sudan breached its international human rights obligations. The United States government, was, “deeply disturbed” and also called on Sudan to meet its obligations under international human rights law. A joint statement from embassies of Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States before the sentence also expressed, “deep concern” urging “justice and compassion”. This doesn’t seem like enough support for a U.S. citizen and his family.
A lawyer for Ishag said the case would, if necessary, go to Sudan’s highest Constitutional Court. The version of sharia law passed in Sudan in 1983 outlawed conversions of faith on pain of death. However, their 2005 interim constitution guarantees freedom of religion. In addition, it is also guaranteed by international human rights laws that Sudan has apparently signed onto. However, the Sudanese constitution also stipulates Islamic law as a source of legislation, and since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to make Sudan a more strictly Islamic country.
Traditionally, the death penalty has only been applied to apostates who were also guilty of treason. Those who simply converted to another belief, as Ishag is accused of doing, were not executed. Judges who apply the death penalty indiscriminately to apostates are said to have limited education in Islamic law. Neither were women traditionally sentenced to death even during times of war, because the prophet Muhammad declared vehemently that women should not be harmed.
Though I am no lawyer and have no special insight into such cases, I think most likely the death sentence will be overturned on appeal; but probably not before the family suffers tremendous harm. I have no idea how Wani is faring without his wife to help him. It’s anybody’s guess whether or not any of the beatings will be carried out, or whether the young man and woman will eventually be left alone to live the rest of their lives together, or permitted to rear their own children. It’s obviously a horrible situation for them.
According to Mohamed Ghilan, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, speaking to Al Jazeera, this case serves the government of Sudan as a distraction against complaints the Sudanese people make about their government. He said, “The punishment has little to do with religion and serves as a political distraction. This is a ploy by the Sudanese regime to appear as ‘defenders of Islam’ to mitigate their corruption.”
It is important to understand that different Muslim countries interpret the Sharia law in different ways, and not all of them consider apostasy a crime. Sudan, like much of Africa, was a land of savage people before they ever heard of Islam, and the religion doesn’t seem to have changed a lot of them very much. Many, like this judge, are still savages.
I wondered exactly how flogging is done in Sudan and other countries where the practice still exists. I haven’t found a definitive answer, but Wikipedia provides some generalized information under the heading Flagellation:
Present-day official flogging
Main article: Judicial corporal punishment
No longer used in most Western countries, flogging or whipping is still a common punishment in some parts of the world, particularly in many former British territories and in Islamic countries. Medically supervised caning is routinely ordered by the courts as a penalty for some categories of crime in Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.
“Medically supervised” to keep the victim alive long enough to enjoy every stripe of the beating, I suppose. Am I getting cynical? I hope not.
Sudan won its independence from the UK in 1956, and this may be where they got the practice of flogging people. Flogging was practiced in the British Empire until 1879 and also in the United States until 1861, mostly in the military and to control slaves.
Farther down the page, Wikipedia has this to say about flogging under the heading Islam:
Flogging is a form of punishment used under Islamic Sharia law. It is the prescribed punishment (hadd) for offences including fornication, alcohol use and slander and is also widely favoured as a discretionary punishment (ta’zir) for many offences, such as violating gender interaction laws. Punishment is normally carried out in public. However, some scholars maintain that this goes against the teachings of Islam. In Islam, lashes for punishment for women are often performed with the Qu’ran under one arm to minimise the swing and as a reminder of the source of legislation. They are not supposed to leave permanent scars, and when the number of lashes is high, are frequently done in batches to minimise risk of harm.
Just a few days ago, on May 14, I discussed a Saudi Arabian flogging consisting of 1,000 lashes, and I wondered, “Is it even possible to survive that kind of beating?” This sounds as if it is, if only to be sure the victim suffers enough.
I have accused the government of Saudi Arabia (meaning especially King Abdullah and the royal family, since the king is an absolute dictator) of cruelty and corruption before. I have added that Former President Bush should have included them in his “Axis of Evil “along with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and that they certainly should not be considered allies of the United States.
I found this news clipping on Professor Jerry Coyne’s blog, Why Evolution Is True, the day before yesterday. One of his readers had scannedit from this week’s The Economist. I’m sorry I don’t have more specifics.
The concept of hell as taught in the Bible (at least in English versions) is so horrifying and evil in so many ways it’s hard to pick out just one particular aspect as the worst, but that it just keeps on going and going and going and never stops must certainly be the worst aspect of all.
There is some of that quality in this punishment, though I admit it is feeble by comparison with true eternity. A thousand lashes would only SEEM like eternity, and only if the recipient survived long enough to feel a significant number of them.
At a time when reasonably civilized (if only by comparison) countries grant their citizens freedom of speech and religion, Saudi Arabia is locking this man up for ten years for expressing his religious opinions in an internet forum. But only if he survives a truly horrible beating that will keep on “going and going and going.” Is it even possible to survive that kind of beating? I don’t know. I need to learn how the beatings are administered.