November 28, 2005

For Evolution v. "ID" fence-sitters

I've spent a lot of time over the past week thoroughly enjoying the feedback section of Talkorigins.org. Something I've noticed that has allowed for the most amusement is that there is a surprising amount of insulting, threatening and just plain stupid hate mail coming from self-proclaimed teenaged xtians.

Please enjoy a few examples:

from October 2005:

"u people are the most f***ing redeclouis web site i have ever been on u asswholes. Go f*** someone up the ass u c***s.All the basterds that are looking at this u should go suck yours and someone elses dick.thank u for all of your f***ing conserns,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Starla hutchinsonbitchf***ingasswholes"

To be fair this person doesn't state her age, but seriously now - does she have too?

"I am a 13 year old girl. I believe in God and I am a Christian. Evolution doesn't give you any kind of fact. The Bible does, I'm sorry you don't believe the same way I do, but I know that God created all living things and made them wonderful, and that's a FACT!"

"I am 13 years old and have never heard any bull shit that ur sayin about my god in my life and if there is no Jesus or GOd prove it!! ya thats what i though he is there and if u dotn wanna beleive in him u will go to hell its that simple becuase when ur in hell and u r wonderin why its cause u dont got him ! if u talk any more crap about my god i wil get angry plus after he died for u to be here right now and u still wotn beleive in him u r a fool all of u ! The person who disagrees with u SEan hurley"

from August 2005:

"Dude ure a toal noob, creation ownz your mom in teh faceorz.
Like seriously if you were playing counter strike right now, and your "evidence ofr evolution was your headshot skillz. the big dR.D would be pwning you in teh face. Shut down teh site noob."

There is also those who are just plain confused (from October 2005):

"How can a theory be fact? Are we now changing the definitions of our words to fit our opinions? Sorry not falling for it. Evolution is a religion, no matter what neat scientific names you attach to it. You are surely defending it with a religious fervor. Thank you for your time."

There are also just the insane ramblings (from October 2005):

"since you know more than God, everything you say must be right. Or maybe not. Most of what you believe and hold as truth are THEORIES! Evolution my eye. speaking of eyes, tell me how they "evolved" will you? then perhaps you can explain how A fish crawled out of the sea and evolved into a mammal with lungs without dying before he evolved. You scientists make up something to explain all of your theories without ANY proof. You are fools living a lie. And being as Satan is the father of lies, he is your master. Turn or Burn boys!"

From August 2005:
"Evolution is fake. I want evolutionist to explain this. How do grass and trees grow from a small seed (Genesis 1:11). The sky is unreachable and it had to be a creator to that. People dying in their sleep. The Moon, sun, stars, clouds,rainbow,mountains, planets outer space. Why are ya'll celebrating Christmas without knowing the true meaning. It is better to Worship GOD and there is not one, then to be athiest and he is there. Psalms 53- the fool hath said in his heart there is no GOD. And Romans 1:20-For the visible things of him from the creation of the world are claerly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. so u ca'nt say u did not know. Amen"

Notice that these are all Xtian posters. Xtian posters who seem to think psoting bible verses proves anything. I have yet to see a Muslim, a Jew or a Whathaveyou ranting on about ID as a positive thing. I have seen them questioning Evolution, but not supporting ID. (If I'm wrong, please correct me.)

(However, let me also point out that among the goofy hate mail there are many many shining examples of Xtians who are supportive of the site, or at least courteous in their rejection of it. Maybe there's hope for humanity afterall.)

This combined with Pat Roberstson's lovely speech about God abandoning those who live in Dover, PA because they "voted god out of their school system" - has to finally prove to anyone who may still be sitting on the fence about Evolution versus ID voodoo that this manufactured "controversy" is not about "teaching opposing views" but about forcing the Xtian religion into science class. This is about circumventing current law so that whackadoo Xtians can spread their meme around - as they are apparently compelled to do. AND this is about redefining science so that it ceases to be science at all.

But, as I've said before - let them fill their kids heads with silly fairy tales and allow their kids to get a terrible education. McDonald's will always need people to work the night shift.

November 18, 2005

I'm Very Interested In Hearing Some Half-Baked Theories

The Onion does it again

I'm Very Interested In Hearing Some Half-Baked Theories
November 9, 2005 | Issue 41•45

As an ill-informed pseudo-intellectual with a particular interest in the unverifiable, I'm always on the lookout for some partially thought out misinformation. So, if you have an uninformed solution to a dilemma that doesn't actually exist, don't bother double-checking your information. I'm all ears.

However, I must warn you: If you want to convince me of anything, you better be prepared to back up your claims with rumor, circumstantial evidence, or hard-to-make-out photographic proof. I may also need friend-of-a-friend corroboration or several signed testimonials all written in the same unmistakably spidery handwriting. I'm a quasi-critical-thinker. Things have to add up more or less in my head before I let myself be taken in by some baloney story.

Take Atlantis, for example. When I first heard about this lost civilization, I was suspicious to say the least. But then someone made a good point: Prove that it didn't exist. I was hard-pressed to find a comeback to that.

But if Atlantis really did exist, then where did it go? It couldn't have just disappeared without an unreasonable explanation. I was about to give up on the whole matter when suddenly it hit me: It probably washed away, and it's too deep underwater for scientists to find it. All it takes is a little supposition mixed with critical theorizing and you can easily stumble on a tenuous half-truth that really makes you think.

Over time, I've also learned that slapdash research is key before jumping to any conclusion. While I've always postulated the existence of gnomes, it wasn't until I researched the topic on AskJeeves.com that I realized it's a well-documented medical condition.

As important as research is, it's all about common sense in the end. If you can't cool your apartment by leaving the refrigerator open, how's it keeping all that produce fresh? Think about it. If you can't really read the world's great works of literature in only five minutes using a system peddled on TV, how do you explain that gentleman on the infomercial who aces those tests? Would extraterrestrials travel millions of light years just to abduct a non-trustworthy human for their series of intrusive tests? Yes.

And there's a reason liars like James Randi have never been anally probed.

Now, if you have a half-baked theory that you'd like to disclose, please be so kind as to skirt around the issue. I'll only listen to your elaborate webs of presumption and hearsay if you promise to veer unexpectedly and pointlessly off course at every opportunity. Prose density is part of what makes a half-baked theory fascinating.

Only last week, my friend Janet gave me a book that teaches how, through a diet of salmon and romaine lettuce, you can shave 20 years off your appearance. However, before we got to the hard-core salmon-and-lettuce, face-lifting theory, I was taken through a series of anecdotes, solicited testimonials, and long-winded circular logic proving the author's qualifications by citing the medical establishment's fear of his simple brilliance. It was an eye-opener.

I encourage people endowed with a gift for half-baked theories to inform as many unsuspecting strangers as possible. That's how I'm most interested in being exposed to shaky new ideas. At the bus station, on the street corners, wherever strikes your fancy. If you don't have the courage to approach people in this way, I recommend a stiff drink or a lifetime of crippling mental illness.

Only then will we continue to safeguard the free exchange of erroneous fallacy so vital to maintaining a freethinking, uneducated society. Thank you.

November 17, 2005

Darker, the World Gets

From Daily Kos comes a nice obit to a great man who passed away recently, Vine Deloria.

I credit Deloria’s Red Earth, White Lies (an attack on the scientific theory of pre-historic North America), (along with Bordewich’s Killing the White Man’s Indian and Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me) with being my first forays into the art of bullshit detection. I'm a freethinker today largely because of these books.

Deloria is a personal hero of mine. All those with humanitarian leanings would do well to study this man.

The world misses you already, Vine.

November 16, 2005

Liberalism

I am a Liberal. I used to be a Liberal-ish Republican (yes, they do exist- or did before the retarded monkey king became president). I am not, however, a democrat. I am non-partisan in my contempt for politicians.

Anyway, it seems most people (neo-cons) can't tell a liberal from a screaming commie pinko lefty anymore then then can tell the difference between science and mythology.

So to help y'all out. Liberalism (thanks to Robis from the Atheist Network for the linkage. )

A taste:

Liberalism can be understood as (1) a political tradition (2) a political philosophy and (3) a general philosophical theory, encompassing a theory of value, a conception of the person and a moral theory as well as a political philosophy. As a political tradition liberalism has varied in different countries. In England — in many ways the birthplace of liberalism — the liberal tradition in politics has centred on religious toleration, government by consent, personal and, especially, economic freedom. In France liberalism has been more closely associated with secularism and democracy. In the United States liberals often combine a devotion to personal liberty with an antipathy to capitalism, while the liberalism of Australia tends to be much more sympathetic to capitalism but often less enthusiastic about civil liberties. To understand this diversity in political traditions, we need to examine liberalism as a political theory and as a general philosophy. These latter two are the concerns of this essay.

November 14, 2005

What God's Own Party thinks of God's Own People

Abramoff-Scanlon School of Sleaze
Wednesday's Senate hearings yielded more scandalous revelations about how the dynamic lobbying duo bilked American Indian tribes out of millions and used the money to win elections for their Republican clients.


“Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe’s gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.

“The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees,” Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them.” The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious “wackos” could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it. ”

There’s a book called What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America which is a nice companion to this article. (if you’ve ever wondered why the red states constantly vote against their own best interests, read this)

November 11, 2005

Something We Can ALL Agree On

Viggo Mortensen is the world's most perfect man. Musician, artist, actor, photographer, poet, non-republican, multi-lingual, straight man. WhohoO!

They must have stopped making them like this. There isn't any of these in MY generation, that's for sure.

A little Viggo treat for Friday.

November 09, 2005

I LOVE Buffalo

2005 Election Results

Buffalo is a city with 5 democrats to every 1 republican.

The Democrats trounced the republicans. Repubs lost three of their seats in the legislature. *happy dance*

Congrats Byron Brown!!

It was bound to happen anyway. While Bush is doing his ungraceful political belly flop, our repub county executive - the most corrupt piece of crap we've ever had in that seat - gave hundreds of cushy county jobs to his buddies and drove the county into extreme bankrupcty, AND the republican candidate for mayor ran a pathetic negative campaign. Who votes repub anymore?

November 07, 2005

WTF is going on at the Vatican?

First they admit that the Bible isn't in errant, and now THIS.

There must be a non-theist mole in the Vatican. A sort Ace-in-the-Holy-See. ;)


An official within the Roman Catholic Church stated that people of faith should listen to what secular modern science has to say, or risk falling into “fundamentalism” by ignoring reason.

The head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard made the comments as part of a Vatican project to end the “mutual prejudice” between science and religion. The comments take added significance as a debate over intelligent design theory and evolution takes place in a Pennsylvania federal court case.

"We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," said Poupard, according to the Associated Press.

“But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism,” he added.

"The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity," said Poupard.

The Church's condemnation of Galileo for embracing the idea the earth revolves around the sun was an important reason for creating the Vatican project. In 1992, Pope John Paul II said that the incident was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

During the press conference, another official at the press conference affirmed a 1996 statement by the late Pope John Paul II in support of evolution, who called it “more than just a hypothesis.”

“A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false,” said Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, who is the director of a Vatican Project called the Science, Theology and Ontological Quest. “(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof,” he said.

Poupard, however, emphasized that “the universe wasn’t made by itself, but has a Creator.” (*LOL*)

He added, “It’s important for the faithful to know how science views things to understand better.”

Separately, Pope Benedict XVI told German politicians from Bavaria visiting the Vatican on Wednesday that science had both positive and negative consequences.

“It’s about whether we abide by utilitarian laws or we follow the laws laid out by God,” the Pope said, according to the AGI Italian news service.

The Pope affirmed that those who “were aware of their obligation to God … do their best to reconcile scientific progress with human life” at all its stages of development, the Pope.



Okay, not a total victory - but a step in the right direction. I guess even the Vatican wants as much space between themselves and the Religous Wrong as possible.

:)

November 03, 2005

The Faith that Supports US Violence

The Faith that Supports US Violence

A taste:

In the second year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq many people in the U.S. still tend to think of the United States not as the imperial empire that it is, but as the Promised Land, the embodiment of Western virtue, the incarnation of “freedom and democracy.” Therefore in pursuit of a presidential “war on terrorism,” everything is permitted. From starting a war to setting aside the rules of warfare, the U.S. is entitled to do what it wants when it wants, provided the action can be justified in terms of saving U.S. lives.

Whether we call this outlook superpower or chosenness syndrome, national essentialism or millennialism, at its root lies “the belief that [U.S.] history, under divine guidance, will bring about the triumph of Christian principles” and eventually the emergence of “a holy utopia.” Such belief in the unique moral destiny of the U.S. may be held independent of Christian principles. Its historical origins, however, trace back to colonial New England, and even further to the Bible. It is omnipresent in every part of the country, though its strongest regional base lies in the South and West.

Long before the birth of the Republic, ideas of “chosenness” have been at the heart of a complex ideology of rule that has resonated powerfully in U.S. society. Both Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans and early 19th century Protestant millenarians conceived of the United States as an exceptional nation, chosen by God to be the acme of freedom and to redeem humankind. As historian Ernest Tuveson observed during the Vietnam War-era, the idea of the “redeemer nation” through which God operates is also the foundation of the notion of continuous warfare between “good” and “evil” people. Virtually every politician who exploits the religious emotions of people in the U.S. for the purpose of waging war consistently draws on these ideas and images, embodied in religious and secular texts.

Today no single millenarian ideology exists but rather a complex religious spectrum in which ideas of chosen people and visions of the United States as God’s model of the world’s future figure prominently. But just as in the past, these ideas link directly to the apocalyptic “defining moment,” in which the leaders at the top of society summon the people to fulfill some sacred mission of redemption, or to play some new role of universal significance for the sake of humanity. Usually, the key moments occur when the president, for his own political purposes, declares them. In periods of great economic or political change or national crises, when the community is beset with fear, presidents have been instrumental in situating the crisis, establishing its conditions, and pointing toward solutions. At such times, too, millenarianism can generate support for policies of imperialism and war or for advancing democratic ideals in the process of overcoming enemies.



November 01, 2005

As an Atheist

Over at the Atheist Revolution Blog, a sort of challenge was laid out to other atheist blogs to move away from critique of the current situation and more towards solutions.

So, as my effort to this effect here's an article that explains atheism without the harshness of a Cerk Uygur. Maybe explainning this way will get the point across without ill effects.

From the Salt Lake City Tribune:

As an atheist, you must live an ethical life
Scott G. Morris

As an atheist, you must live an ethical life I am an atheist.

There, now that you have climbed back into your chair and your pulse rate is back to normal and your wife has explained that it is not an act of treason to be an atheist, let's discuss the obvious.

Understand that I am an atheist by conviction, not by choice. That is, observation and study have led me to what seems to me the inescapable conclusion that god and religion are artifacts, created by people, and, in fact, altered and recreated regularly as convenience requires.

Please don't bristle and take violent offense. This is my honest conclusion, based, to begin with, on the realization that self-serving paradigms (i.e. white people are better than other people, men are better than women, god gave us the world to do with as we please, the religion into which I was born is the really true religion, etc.) are automatically suspect. It has taken a measure of courage to leave behind the comforting opinions of the majority, but what is true is true .

You will have a different opinion, and that is fine. I accept and respect your ability to form your opinions, even if I find religious beliefs and their expression offensive. But then, no one has a right to go through life without being offended.

I, and other atheists I know (and yes, there are lots of us, about 17 percent of the U.S. population, 25 percent among those under 29, a greater percentage in Europe), would love to feel that Somone was guiding things, taking care of things, watching over us.

But wanting something to be so does not make it so. It is far better to accept the world as it is than to pretend it is as you wish it to be.

Please, don't start trying to show me all the evidence that god exists. I've heard it all, over and over, and it just doesn't hold water.

But I'm not going to try to convince you, either. I'm not interested in converts. Frankly I don't care what others believe as far as god and religion are concerned.

I would, however, like to explain what it's like to be an atheist in this society, so that maybe, just maybe, you can realize that not believing in a god doesn't make you a bad person (and vice versa).

I have heard for years now that I would "make a good Mormon," apparently because I am devoted to my family, am known professionally and personally for integrity and honesty, work hard to take care of my home, care about what happens in my community.

I suppose that I am proof that a person doesn't have to belong to a particular religion to have "family values" (a phrase I hate).

And yet when someone learns that I am an atheist, the reaction is almost always something like, "Well, then, how do you know right from wrong?" or "So, you don't have any morals?" or even "But you're such a good person!"

I answer thusly: If you believe in a god, then whatever evil you do, there is a power that can fix it. Whatever harm your actions cause, there is someone or something that can make it right. And that's fine.

But if you are an atheist, then you alone are completely responsible for the results of your actions. If you commit an act of vandalism and ruin some beautiful and fragile piece of nature, there is no one to mitigate the damage. If you harm someone, even inadvertantly, you can't take comfort in the fact that god will make it right for that person, in this life or the next.

As an atheist, you must live an ethical life. There is no other choice.
We are all familiar with examples of very religious people who are either very good people or very bad. In my experience (which includes a lifelong study of history), religion doesn't make people behave either for good or evil.

People may use religion as an excuse for their violence or prejudice, or as a guide and format for their service and sacrifice. But they would do exactly the same things with no religion at all, because that is how they are as individuals. And athiests are good people or bad people because of how they are, as people, regardless of any religious question.

So my point is this: Just because I don't share any of your religious convictions, don't relegate me and my fellow atheists and agnostics to an "outsider" status. I respect your right to believe and live as you see fit, and I expect the same in return.
---
Scott G. Morris is recently retired from the fire-alarm industry, where he was a manager, designer and salesman. A lifelong resident of Utah, he presently holds the jobs of husband, father and grandfather.