Ruse States it Plain

I certainly have my disagreements with Michael Ruse on questions related to science and religion, but sometimes he really comes through:

There are days when, I swear to God, I am all set to enroll under the banner of Richard Dawkins and anathematize all religions and those who subscribe to them. I take a lot of criticism from my fellow atheists, including my fellow Brainstormers, for arguing that science and religion are compatible. I still think that, but increasingly I cannot for the life of me see why any decent human being would want to be religious, and increasingly I think one should be ashamed to be religious.

Goodness! What brought that on?

There are a lot of Muslim kids in the (secular) public schools. Their religion puts on them the obligation to say prayers several times during the day, especially Fridays. You cannot just save it all up for the evening. So where are they going to say their prayers? The obvious answer is in an assembly room or some such place, between classes or over the lunch break. This in itself might make you a bit tense, but as I say, live and let live. I don’t think you would want to allow religious leaders to come in and run things, but if the kids want to do it, why not? It is much the same as the kids getting together to play a pickup game of basketball. I don’t want to pray or play basketball, but that’s just me.

But, get this. It turns out that girls who are menstruating are not allowed to articipate in the prayers. They must sit at the back and watch. This is not a social demand. This is a religious demand.

It is also absolutely outrageous. Let me spell it out. Girls with their periods are not sinful. They are not sick. They are not weak. That anyone would think otherwise in this day and age boggles the mind. It boggles the mind even more that respectable members of the Toronto District School Board should think this treatment of females is something that should be tolerated on school grounds, at any time.

The rest of the post is worth reading as well. I can find things to quibble with, but overall it’s pretty good.

Comments

  1. #1 Tulse
    July 15, 2011

    Wait a minute…a religion that irrationally treats women as second-class citizens? Huh, who knew? (Apparently not Ruse…).

    Seriously, this surprises him?

  2. #2 seashell
    July 15, 2011

    1) how the hell do they know that a girl is menstruating? (sniffer dogs? bathroom monitors?)
    and 2) if they are not allowed to join in that obviously means this is some sort of sponsored and lead activity not a personal prayer..why are the public schools having prayers anyway?

  3. #3 Elf Eye
    July 15, 2011

    If you look at the picture that accompanies Ruse’s article, you will see that it appears that furniture has been lined up to divide the room in half across its width. I wonder if the children in front of the barricade are boys, the ones behind it girls. If so, I find it disturbing that a public school would contribute to religious-based sex segregation, as would be the case if school representatives are condoning and perhaps even assisting in the organization of this activity that takes place on school grounds and during school hours.

  4. #4 Tulse
    July 15, 2011

    why are the public schools having prayers anyway?

    That’s an excellent question. Do note, however, that this is in (my hometown of) Toronto, so the US constitutional issues of church and state are not applicable (such barriers are more porous in Canadian law).

  5. #5 eric
    July 15, 2011

    I wonder if a different group decided that non-menstruating girls couldn’t participate in some activity, whether the school would sit back and let it happen. Its the exact same basis for discrimination, after all – you’re just reversing the group affected.

    I doubt it would fly but the mental gymnastics would be interesting. “No, we won’t allow that. The difference is, their bigotry only creates inequality a few days of the month…I mean…uh…”

  6. #6 MacTurk
    July 15, 2011

    Before you get all superior, could I point out that the Catholic Church was separating women and men in church every Sunday less than twenty years ago, and the Anglican(US = Episcopalian) were still insisting that women who had given birth had to “churched”(ritually cleansed) before they could come to church, again up to the 1970′s.

  7. #7 Deepak Shetty
    July 15, 2011

    Inspite of a bunch of things I disagree with in Ruse’s article – It’s really nice that he said what needs to be said.

  8. #8 ildi
    July 15, 2011

    Before you get all superior, could I point out that the Catholic Church was separating women and men in church every Sunday less than twenty years ago, and the Anglican(US = Episcopalian) were still insisting that women who had given birth had to “churched”(ritually cleansed) before they could come to church, again up to the 1970′s.

    These are not a government-sanctioned activities on government property.

  9. #9 David
    July 15, 2011

    Speaking or religion…

    http://www.trueorigin.org/evomyth03.asp

    30. In May 2000, Michael Ruse (philosopher of science) wrote: “Evolution
    is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is
    promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion–a full-fledged alternative
    to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist
    and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint–and Mr.
    Gish is but one of many to make it–the literalists are absolutely right.
    Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and
    it is true of evolution still today.” If religion cannot be taught in
    science classes, why is evolution taught in science classes?
    Ruse, M., “How evolution became a religion: creationists correct?
    Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics”, National Post,
    pp. B1, B3, B7 (May 13, 2000)
    http://www.omniology.com/HowEvolutionBecameReligion.html
    http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9404/ruse.html
    http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or151/mr93tran.htm

  10. #10 Lou Jost
    July 15, 2011

    And I doubt anyone here thinks Christian sects are “superior” to Islamic ones in the treatment of women. The bible has about as many misogynist commands as the Koran.

  11. #11 Badger3k
    July 15, 2011

    When it’s Christianity doing things, he can forgive them. When it’s muslims doing things (things that they have been doing for centuries – where has Ruse been – or rather, where has his head been?) – religion is now bad. At least he’s consistent in favoring his cultural upbringing.

  12. #12 SLC
    July 15, 2011

    Re David @ #9

    If evolution is a religion, then so is Newtonian Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Special and General Relativity, the germ theory of disease, etc.

    If Mr. David thinks that the Theory of Evolution is off the wall, he should take a look at quantum mechanics, perhaps the most preposterous theory ever proposed to explain observed phenomena. Unfortunately, to slightly extend a quote from Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, quantum mechanics, like evolution appears to be correct.

  13. #13 Deepak Shetty
    July 15, 2011

    @Badger3k
    When it’s Christianity doing things, he can forgive them.
    No its not what he’s saying. He’s saying there are some things he can forgive in the spirit of live and let live and some things he just can’t – and treatment of women seems to be one of them.
    And he’s asking to be excused on medical grounds for not going after the Christians.

  14. #14 Michael Kremer
    July 15, 2011

    Seashell @#2:

    In Toronto there is an entire publicly supported Catholic school system. Canada is not the US, as Tulse @#4 correctly notes.

  15. #15 Badger3k
    July 15, 2011

    Deepak@13 – So, has anyone seen him comment on the whole Ireland situation? The treatment of women there has been pretty bad. I wonder if that is excusable?

  16. #16 Zeno
    July 16, 2011

    Before you get all superior, could I point out that the Catholic Church was separating women and men in church every Sunday less than twenty years ago

    Really? Where? I suppose it’s possible that some Catholic church in some benighted corner of the world did this, but it certainly wasn’t true in any of my Catholic experience, which goes all the way back to the fifties. There was no segregation by sexes in any Catholic church I ever attended. Not under the old Latin mass. Not under the Novus Ordo mass that followed Vatican II. Of course, I was shocked when women no longer had to cover their heads (this went out of style in the sixties) and when mass services switched to English, but those are the major revolutions I lived through before giving it all up as a bad business.

    The Church has plenty to answer for, but the notion that the sexes were segregated during mass as recently as the 1990s strikes me as seriously misinformed.

  17. #17 nice_marmot
    July 16, 2011

    Before you get all superior, could I point out that the Catholic Church was separating women and men in church every Sunday less than twenty years ago, and the Anglican(US = Episcopalian) were still insisting that women who had given birth had to “churched”(ritually cleansed) before they could come to church, again up to the 1970′s.

    Which further illustrates the point that you apparently missed.

  18. #18 Tacroy
    July 16, 2011

    And I doubt anyone here thinks Christian sects are “superior” to Islamic ones in the treatment of women. The bible has about as many misogynist commands as the Koran.

    Since the Koran contains a lot of the New Testament plus Mohammad’s misogynistic ranting, it actually ends up being the case that the Koran is even worse than the Bible in this case – much like the way the Bible ends up being worse than the Jewish Tanakh, primarily because Peter never got laid.

  19. #19 Rieux
    July 16, 2011

    Good work as usual, Jason, but your reliance on “[X] States it Plain” as a post title is getting a little old.

  20. #20 Jesse
    July 16, 2011

    I am not sure about Canada. I do know that in the US every kid has a constitutional right to pray in school whenever they feel like it.

    The school itself can’t sponsor prayer. But if a kid needs to pray they can find a place and go do it. No problem. This does come up for Orthodox Jewish kids (I live in NYC) who need to find a place to go if they happen to be in the school area around sunset on a Friday. (This isn’t as weird as it sounds, since the sun sets in December and January the sun can set around 4:30-ish and if you are in some after-school activity or whatever you could easily be in school then). We have easily a dozen or more religions in every public school here, each with their own demands on people. Somehow we manage to accommodate them and thus far it hasn’t been a problem.

    As to Muslim kids, it’s pretty easy to accommodate. Just clear a room. There is no requirement that all Muslims have to pray in the same space. However certainly were I a Muslim teenager I might feel a hell of a lot more comfortable doing it with others like me, especially since I am living in a society that is less than welcoming a lot of the time.

    Yes, there are restrictions on menstruating women — Jews have the same thing. Nobody seems to notice around here. Either way, I don’t see what the problem is. The Muslim kids doing their thing according to their religious demands is no weirder than any other religious group in the school. (Has this guy met any Seventh Day Adventists?)

    Ruse is aware that the young women involved will know when they are menstruating and will abide by whatever rules their religion has, if they are devout enough.

    The only difference is that Muslims (and religious Jews as well) do it in a way that is more visible. (Religious Jewish women, for instance, are required to cover their hair — they just do it with wigs — some go old-school and go with a headscarf, but it depends on your fashion sense at that point).

    “This might make you a bit tense.” — For the love of all that lives, why? I really get a sense that this guy has never actually spoken to a Muslim.

    Before people jump on, I don’t think certain religious demands are a good thing for many women. But dammit, while I am an atheist, I also recognize that people don’t do what they do in a vacuum, either.

    It seems like Ruse’s beef is that a group of kids are practicing a religion he finds more unfamiliar than Christianity practicing their religion in public, where he can see it. There’s a subtext there that is kind of not cool.

    It isn’t like the Muslims are trying to impose their religion on anyone. That would be a problem. But they aren’t asking for the school to segregate students nor are they asking for the restrictions their religion imposes to be applied to anyone else, like asking for no pork to be served at lunch. (I lived in a Catholic-dominated area and I had to go with Friday Fish Lumps if I wasn’t brown-bagging it. That was a far greater imposition, I thought). Unlike Christians they aren’t asking for the Koran to be taught in science class.

  21. #21 Owlmirror
    July 16, 2011

    If religion cannot be taught in
    science classes, why is evolution taught in science classes?

    Because the evolution that should be taught in science classes is not a religion. It is a scientific theory and a fact.

    Ruse ends the article cited in #9 with:

    Evolution, Darwinian evolution, is wonderful science. Let us teach it to our children. And, in the classroom, let us leave it at that.

    (emph mine)

    The article is somewhat incoherent. Ruse cites Erasmus Darwin’s Deism, Huxley’s Social Darwinism, and Gould’s and Wilson’s “moral and social claims” about evolution.

    There is a problem with this, though. He veers over into intellectual dishonesty in that he presents no evidence whatsoever that those “moral and social claims” are being taught in classrooms, but implies that they are, and concludes that they should not be.

    And, that having been said, I am not sure that “moral and social claims”, in and of themselves, qualify as being “religious”, despite Ruse’s repetitive insistence that they are. That would require closer analysis of the quotes from those scientists that he cites, preferably in their original contexts.

    Indeed, it’s ironic that Ruse’s current assertions about Muslim students qualifies as a “moral and/or social claim”.

  22. #22 ildi
    July 16, 2011

    Really? Where? I suppose it’s possible that some Catholic church in some benighted corner of the world did this, but it certainly wasn’t true in any of my Catholic experience, which goes all the way back to the fifties.

    I was raised Catholic, and this was true at the churches we attended in Alabama in the sixties; women/girls on the left (Virgin Mary side), men/boys on the right (St. Joseph side). Our regular church had a hybrid version; school children were segregated by side, but families sat together. One of my embarrassing parochial school memories was going to morning Mass with my father and sitting on our usual side; the priest had a chat with my dad about me sitting on the boys’ side instead of with the girls in my class.

    I did a quick google and didn’t find a link to church doctrine, only personal anecdotes, so this may have been based on the customs of individual parishes.

  23. #23 Ophelia Benson
    July 16, 2011

    “It isn’t like the Muslims are trying to impose their religion on anyone.”

    Ha! That’s a good one.

  24. #24 matt
    July 16, 2011

    Awwww. You guys are like an old married couple…

    I think Ruse will come around. Just let him see enough of this sort of thing…

  25. #25 matt
    July 16, 2011

    Since you are required to login to Ruse’s site:

    Leviticus chapter 15 says the same thing. Dirty dirty menstruation!

  26. #26 Zeno
    July 16, 2011

    I was raised Catholic, and this was true at the churches we attended in Alabama in the sixties; women/girls on the left (Virgin Mary side), men/boys on the right (St. Joseph side).

    Wow. Thanks for sharing that. In olden times back in the late fifties, the Catholic school I was in would march us two-by-two to the church for morning mass, boys on the right and girls on the left (as evidently intended by God). We would file down the middle aisle and separate to the two sides, so boys did end up on one side and girls on the other. However, that was only for mass for kids in the morning. All other services were as mixed up as could be. I had forgotten about that parochial school quirk, which occurred in my school in California. It was never extended to adults or masses attended by families.

  27. #27 Jesse
    July 16, 2011

    @Ophelia–

    I mean in a western context. Yes, one could argue all day about what might be the case if Islam was privileged in the way it is in the Middle East. But that isn’t the case in the US or Canada. The power relationship is completely the other way.

  28. #28 ildi
    July 17, 2011

    But that isn’t the case in the US or Canada.

    Well, there was that issue a few years ago with the Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport refusing service to passengers carrying alcohol – which mystified me, because I thought the prohibition was against drinking it, not being in close proximity to it.

  29. #29 Modusoperandi
    July 17, 2011

    ildi, you’re forgetting about the dangers of osmosis.

  30. #30 Jesse
    July 17, 2011

    @ildi —

    that ended with fines for drivers who refuse service. It’s also a bit of a weird case because more of the drivers (as a percentage) are from Somalia — there isn’t the diversity of countries you get in New York, and some Muslim drivers offering free rides to blind people with guide dogs who were attending a local convention for the blind.

    The other factor, at least in terms of cabs, is that New York has a semi-monopoly at the cab stands. (You can hire a livery cab to get you but only the yellows are allowed to just pick people up). That means every driver gets the drill from the get-go. Airport trips aren’t terribly profitable for cabbies, BTW — the hours you spend on it mean you can make $200 worth of trips if you are really, really lucky. (The rate is fixed for trips to the City form JFK and the LGA trip will net you much the same amount. Newark is even less profitable, though the guys will do it).

  31. #31 ildi
    July 17, 2011

    It’s also a bit of a weird case because more of the drivers (as a percentage) are from Somalia — there isn’t the diversity of countries you get in New York, and some Muslim drivers offering free rides to blind people with guide dogs who were attending a local convention for the blind.

    Quite the opposite; the Muslim drivers in Minneapolis were also refusing to accept passengers with guide dogs because dogs are considered unclean in their culture. I didn’t mention that part because I wasn’t clear if it had a religious basis or not.

    Anyway, the point is that this is an example of Muslims trying to impose their religion on others in a Western context. Since the majority of the taxi drivers in Minneapolis were Somali Muslim, their attempt to impose their religious constraints on others had an noticeable impact.

  32. #32 Jesse
    July 17, 2011

    ildi, I just mentioned the offer of free rides to the blind folks tho, (at least from three Muslim employers). So in that sense whatever people were trying to impose didn’t work and a partial solution was found.

    The whole dispute seems to have made the rounds of several organizations using it as a case study in trying to make sure that people in that situation can do their jobs and the dominant society (that’s you) need not appear like you are trying to ride roughshod over it. (FYI the appeals court said MAC can require that all passengers be carried no matter what and drivers can be fined and disciplined).

    Anyhow, an added twist: there was not a single actual incident of a Muslim cabbie refusing a blind passenger with a dog a ride. I tried to find one – but while many news stories referenced it I couldn’t track down the actual individual who said that happened (and believe me, this reporter would love to interview that guy). Perhaps my Google-fu is weak, I didn’t spend hours on it.

    Either way, the Somalis didn’t end up imposing anything on anybody.

  33. #33 Rieux
    July 17, 2011

    Jesse and Ophelia:

    It isn’t like the Muslims are trying to impose their religion on anyone.

    Ha! That’s a good one.

    I mean in a western context. Yes, one could argue all day about what might be the case if Islam was privileged in the way it is in the Middle East. But that isn’t the case in the US or Canada. The power relationship is completely the other way.

    Jesse, I suggest you look at the picture at the top of Ruse’s piece. See those kids? They live “in a western context” called Toronto. Most of them were born and raised “in a western context,” at least geographically. And yet you know perfectly well that the vast majority (indeed very likely all) of them have had Islam and the misogynist elements thereof, such as the ones illustrated in the photo, “impose[d]” on them.

    As a result, your assertions that “It isn’t like the Muslims are trying to impose their religion on anyone” and now that “The power relationship is completely the other way” are false. Indeed, they’re ugly false (i.e., false in a way that blithely disregards the status and the human rights of the kids in the photo, especially the girls), and Ophelia was more than justified in scoffing at them.

  34. #34 ildi
    July 17, 2011

    Anyhow, an added twist: there was not a single actual incident of a Muslim cabbie refusing a blind passenger with a dog a ride. I tried to find one – but while many news stories referenced it I couldn’t track down the actual individual who said that happened (and believe me, this reporter would love to interview that guy). Perhaps my Google-fu is weak, I didn’t spend hours on it.

    It took minutes. I typed in “muslim taxi drivers alcohol.” Maybe you can call John Reinan at the Star Tribune (the phone number is at the end of the article), or get the hearing minutes from the Metropolitan Airports Comisssion:

    A group of blind Minnesotans was on hand, too, testifying about taxi drivers who refused to transport their guide dogs because Muslims consider the saliva of dogs unclean.

    Also you say:

    The whole dispute seems to have made the rounds of several organizations using it as a case study in trying to make sure that people in that situation can do their jobs and the dominant society (that’s you) need not appear like you are trying to ride roughshod over it.

    It’s not an issue of a dominant society riding roughshod over a minority. It’s a matter of a group (whether a minority or majority) trying to impose its religious practices on others. Which is what you keep trying to argue Islam doesn’t do in the U.S.

    Last year, the MAC received a fatwa, or religious edict, from the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society. The fatwa said that “Islamic jurisprudence” prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol “because it involves cooperating in sin according to Islam.”

  35. #35 daphne
    July 18, 2011

    Sorry I must make this comment.

    There are many different ways of thinking that often lead to the same or similar conclusions for those with eyes to see and the desire to do so.

    When someone has the habit of making definite conclusions instead of cultivating the habit of continually searching, they might be considered to have a belief system.

    Any belief system if truly believed in, could in some generic way be called a religion, whether it be the science one, the traditional one, or some personal construct.

    If we find ourselves feeling smug and angry it is more likely that we are reacting to the conflict of our beliefs with someone else’s.

    True, there are some beliefs that might be better than others, but we should never fail to see the nature of our mind and how it works.

  36. #36 Jr
    July 18, 2011

    “Since the Koran contains a lot of the New Testament plus Mohammad’s misogynistic ranting, it actually ends up being the case that the Koran is even worse than the Bible in this case – much like the way the Bible ends up being worse than the Jewish Tanakh, primarily because Peter never got laid”

    Actually Peter was married according to the New Testament. Perhaps you are confusing him with Paul?

  37. #37 o1
    July 18, 2011

    Evolution is a religion
    if that quote accurately represents Ruse’s view, then he’s missing a few marbles.

    “moral and social claims”
    i think he refers to evolutionary adaption toward group activites (aka ‘societies’). Most social interaction is not religious.
    __________

    the Catholic Church was separating women and men in church
    church, not public schools. Of course because of special interest property tax subsidies (already a violation of us const 1st amd), one could argue that (a physical) church’s discrimination was government supported.

    i’ve read that catholic priests treated choir boys differently than choir girls.
    __________

    Our regular church had a hybrid version; school children were segregated by side, but families sat together
    oh my lord, incestuous bisideuality! oh lord.
    based on the customs of individual parishes
    priestly ‘peccadillos’?

    genders are separate in many phys ed classes.

  38. #38 o1
    July 18, 2011

    Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport refusing service to passengers carrying alcohol
    when a local bunch of nuts goes on one of these tweak benders, i think it’s best to flood them with the copious other tweaks they’re (hypocritically!) ignoring.
    but lets stay with the same tweak in this case. the taxi driver must refuse to deliver passengers to any street (or city, continent, solar system) in which a residence or business may contain alcohol/pork/menstrual fluids/canine saliva, since the devout driver would be delivering a soul to sin.

    or, quit the nonsense while you’re ahead.

  39. #39 Owlmirror
    July 18, 2011

    Evolution is a religion
    if that quote accurately represents Ruse’s view, then he’s missing a few marbles.

    See comment #21. In context, he’s using “evolution” to mean something like “philosophical naturalism”; a worldview with a larger perspective on the facts of science.

    Not that I disagree that he’s missing a few marbles for indulging in such semantic bafflegab. And it’s rather hypocritical semantic bafflegab, given that he also published “Can a Darwinian be a Christian?” — all about “moral and social claims” combined with evolution.

    He wants to have his NOMA and hit people (including Gould himself!) over the head with it too.

  40. #40 TGT
    July 19, 2011

    @35 daphne,

    You are equivocating on the word belief.

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