Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Not a fiddle...

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005: Bush plays a guitar...while New Orleans floods.

Meanwhile: Condi shops for shoes.

And Dick's on vacation too! (Let's not call it a vacation though).

Update 9/1 Quote of the Day from George III:
    "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

Earlier (from Condi Rice):
    “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Deometry

There is a new article from the Swift Report on the fast growing field of Deometry, the xian alternative to pagan geometry.

And a thank you letter to the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation for funding the creationist Discovery Institute: Rebooting Creationism from Jesus General.

And for anyone who still has any doubts about the abysmal ignorance and anti-intellectualism of the American people: "New Poll: 2/3 of Americans Endorse the Teaching of Creationism" Looking in detail at the poll there are a few positive findings. Residents of the East and West Coasts are somewhat less ignorant than the denizens of the heartland.

And there is evidence here that the press have utterly failed to communicate the fact that a nearly unanimous consensus of scientists support evolution.

    There is no public consensus about how scientists view evolution. Opinions about what scientists believe are strongly associated with one's own beliefs on the subject. Most Americans (54%) think that there is general agreement among scientists that evolution has taken place, but a substantial minority (33%) says that no such scientific consensus exists. By an 82%-13% margin, those who accept natural selection theory see a scientific consensus on this issue. Among those who take a creationist position, a 46% plurality thinks the scientific community is divided over the evolution question.

Instead they teach the controversy, much to the glee of the religious right.

Update 8/31 One Side Can be Wrong Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences, warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne. " no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class."

The Stork Theory of Reproduction

The Bloody Fingerpainting of god

Not content with finding jesus on a tortilla, or the virgin in a grilled cheese sandwich, some xians apparently see in Katrina the fetus of fate. (via Salon).

Another xian orgainzation applauds god's vengeful hurricane:
    Repent America director Michael Marcavage explains: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."

Monday, August 29, 2005

American Sheeple


Criminal Policy

    Joseph Barnes, who is homeless, stands in the nearly deserted French Quarter with his cat Patches. Barnes said he was not allowed to enter the Superdome shelter with his cat, because pets were not permitted in the shelter. He said he was unsure where he would spend the night. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) from the LA Times

And in another attempt to discourage the poor from seeking refuge, the New York Times reports "On Sunday outside the Superdome, which holds 70,000 people, security forces searched everyone entering for drugs, weapons and other contraband."

More from The Guardian:

    The Dome was set up as a divided safe haven, with one side of the facility for the disabled and medically ill, where food and water and emergency personnel were plentiful, officials said. For the masses of residents, however, there was the other side, where all that was provided was a concrete stadium built for athletes and spectators.

Update 9/30 More and worse along the same lines here

Update 9/31 Class, Race, Iraq and Katrina in the Village Voice has possibly the best overall analysis.
    That is the physical damage as of now. Then there will be Katrina's more far-reaching harm, caused by the ways in which the Gulf South is part of the Caribbean Rim. The city of New Orleans has a 34 percent poverty rate, triple the national average. It's about 70 percent black. White flight, first to Jefferson Parish and then across Lake Pontchartrain, to the North Shore, has accomplished the desired aim of de facto segregation in the public schools, which are 93 percent black in Orleans Parish and some of the worst in the country...

    This stuff is bad and it's only going to get worse. To belabor the obvious, a lot of the people who stayed did so because they didn't have the money to leave. An estimated hundred thousand had no cars. Many didn't have jobs in the first place, and now they don't have homes, and there's plenty of stored-up resentment to go around. The city government cleared out Tuesday night, leaving a sinking ship...

    Finally, thousands of National Guardsmen and women can't be there to help their neighbors. Forty percent of Mississippi's National Guard force and 35 percent of Louisiana's are in Iraq, totaling around 6,000 troops. They took a lot of equipment with them that would be pretty useful right now—high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers, and generators. A general warned early this month that this might be a problem in event of a natural disaster.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

De-certifying Creationism

Creationists are suing the University of California system because

    UC admissions authorities have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution...Other courses rejected by UC officials include "Christianity's Influence in American History," "Christianity and Morality in American Literature" and "Special Providence: American Government."...UC's board of admissions also advised the school that it would not approve biology and science courses that relied primarily on textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books, two Christian publishers.

The Questionable Authority takes a look at one of these books to see what is so objectionable. Wow. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

    The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science any point God's Word is not put first, the authors apologize.

    The same encyclopedia article may state that the grasshopper evolved 300 million years ago. You may find a description of some insect that the grasshopper supposedly evolved from and a description of the insects that scientists say evolved from the grasshopper. You may even find a "scientific" explanation of the biblical locust (grasshopper) plague in Egypt. These statements are conclusions based on "supposed science." If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

And these quotes are from a biology textbook!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Devil in Stitches

Cross Stitching for Satan (via Sonya)

Taking the Jurassic out of Jurassic Park

Adam, Eve and T. Rex
    Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins.

    LA Times
    CABAZON, Calif. — Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion.

    The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

    Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

    Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

    The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least half a dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking to win converts to creationism. And more are on the way.

    "We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group building a $25-million creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., that's already overrun with model sauropods and velociraptors.

    "They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people," he said. "Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star."

    The nation's top paleontologists find the creation theory preposterous and say children are being misled by dinosaur exhibits that take the Jurassic out of "Jurassic Park."

    "Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark? Give me a break," said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution. "For them, 'The Flintstones' is a documentary."

    ...The nearly 7-acre museum, low-tech theme park and science center embodies its founder's belief that God created the world in six days. The dinosaurs, even super carnivores such as T. rex, dined as vegetarians in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve sinned — and only then did they feast on other creatures, according to the Christian-based young-Earth theory.

    About 4,500 years after Adam and Eve arrived, the theory goes, pairs of baby dinosaurs huddled in Noah's Ark, and a colossal flood drowned the rest and scattered their fossils. The ark-borne animals repopulated the planet — meaning that folk tales about fire-breathing beasts are accounts of humans battling dinosaurs, who still roamed the planet.

    ..."Go to Disneyland, they teach evolution. It's subtle; signs that say, 'Millions of years ago' " said evangelist Kent Hovind, the park's founder. "This is a golden opportunity to get our point across."

    Carl Baugh opened his Creation Evidence Museum in the 1980s near Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, where some people said fossilized dinosaur tracks and human footprints crisscrossed contemporaneously. The Texas museum sponsors a continuing hunt for living pterodactyls in Papua New Guinea. Baugh said five colleagues have spotted the flying dinosaurs, "but all the sightings were made after dark, and we were not able to capture the creatures."

    Organizers at Creation Research of the North Coast in Humboldt County, Calif., dream of building their own reptile park but lack funding and acreage. So do leaders at Project Creation in Mount Juliet, Tenn., who would need to raise about $1 million to assemble 30 to 50 pterodactyl and brachiosaur replicas to mingle with live chickens and goats.

    ..."We like to think of [dinosaurs] as creation lizards, or missionary lizards," said Frank Sherwin, a museum researcher and author.

    A 50,000-square-foot Answers in Genesis museum and headquarters is under construction near the Ohio-Kentucky border, where the group hired a full-time dinosaur sculptor. When the facility opens in 2007, the lobby will spotlight a 20-foot waterfall and two animatronic T. rexes hanging out with two animatronic children dressed in buckskins.

    ...The pastor and the Kanters now hope to turn Mr. Rex's innards into exhibits about cryptozoology — the study of speculative creatures, such as Bigfoot — and creationism. They will somewhat mirror those in Santee, which takes visitors from Genesis to modern times with placards that say Darwin "came at just the right time to be the catalyst for a revival of ancient paganism" and that evolution birthed Communism, racism and Nazism.

Also in today's LA TImes is an interesting editorial by Rosa Brooks Not Your Daddy's Creationists. She points out an interesting shift in the religious right's rhetorical strategy from the Alan Bloom, William Bennett style moral absolutism of the 80s and 90s to the relativism of the 00s. Now creationists, such as John McCain and George III, plead, apparently without any sense of irony, that "in the interests of intellectual and moral pluralism, "alternatives" to evolution should get a fair hearing in schools."

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Right to Privacy

NARAL has a good new ad running against Supreme Court Nominee Roberts based on his contempt for the "so-called" right to privacy. I think they really may be on to something here if they keep the theme going. A lot of people on the right have been sneering about the "so-called" right to privacy because this "illusory" right was the foundation of Roe v. Wade. Potentially I think this may be a huge mistake on their part which could be turned on them rather easily. I think they underestimate how many people like their privacy. There are widespread and well-justified fears of the loss of privacy in all areas of life, fears that cut across all sorts of political lines. It is not just an issue of constitutional interpretation, it is a question of values.

If the democrats weren't so utterly spineless, they might even be able to build a larger constituency around an endorsement of the right to privacy far beyond abortion rights supporters: It has some natural appeal to the rural right/homeskooking crowd, the gun nuts and libertarians as well as to civil libertarians, secularists, gays, people concerned about the rapidly expanding surveillance society etc.. I think the right of privacy might be able to gain the kind of general support that has proved impossible for abortion rights as such to maintain. It also has a ready made and fairly consistent elaboration in Mill's harm principle.

Anyway, it might be a good idea if we actually had an opposition party. Hillary and the rest of the democratic leadership are distancing themselves from abortion rights (and opposition to the war) as much as possible. And supposedly progressive bloggers like Kos have even taken to attacking NARAL for its "single issue" politics, and its single-minded devotion to what he called a "pet cause."

The Irakey Constitution

from Steve Bell in the Guardian

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Gates of Creationism?

Salon has a good story up about the funding from the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Cascadia Project which turns out to be a front organiztion for the Discovery Institute, the Creationist think tank profiled in the NYT article I discussed earlier.

    Greg Shaw, Pacific Northwest director [of the Gates Foundation], explains that the grant to Discovery underwrites the institute's "Cascadia Project," which strictly focuses on transportation in the Northwest. The Discovery Web site lists several program goals, including financing of high-speed passenger rail systems and reduction of automobile congestion in the Cascadia region, which encompasses Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. (The Gates Foundation, which is based in Seattle, gives a small slice of its money -- about $40 million in 2004 -- to groups that aim to improve life in the Pacific Northwest.) Poor transportation is a key problem for low-income families, Shaw says, and "when Cascadia came to the Foundation, there was a sense that there had not been a regional approach to studying transportation. Cascadia's plan to solve the transportation problem "was very much a bipartisan state, local and regional approach with a variety of states and counties and mayors." He didn't know if people at the foundation were aware of Discovery's I.D. work at the time they decided to fund Cascadia. "It is absolutely true that we care about sound science as it pertains to saving lives," he says. "The question of intelligent design is not something that we have ever considered. It's not something that we fund."

Indeed, it seems clear more than one group (Verizon and the Bullitt Foundation, for example) gave money to Cascadia without being aware of its Creationist ties

Although the Salon article suggests otherwise, it seems clear that support for the Cascadia project ends up in part supporting the administration and structure of the Disovery institute. Evan Dodds remarks:

    It frustrates me a little bit that their grant monies are obviously comingled a little bit. For instance, the director's salary is strongly supported (50k out of 141k) by money from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation... money (part of a nearly $10 million grant to the Institute in 2003) that an article in the PI claims was "exclusive to the Cascadia (transportation) project". Ok, sure.

Clearly there is more to this story. I mean really, what is really going on in an institution whose two priorities are "fighting against the teaching of evolution and trying to advance rail transit"?

There is an evolving discussion of this over at Pharyngula


And on the lighter side here is Mark Fiore's flash cartoon Supernatural Selection.


Something for George III to think about as we sink deeper into the quagmire. Perhaps Christopher Hitchens could ponder it as well.

Update 8/26: Jon Stewart barbecues a drunk Christopher Hitchens.

Just how dumb are we?

Some Poll Results:

Only 38% of Americans believe human beings developed from earlier species while 54% do not (June 05). This is a regression from 1994 when the numbers were: 44% believed in human evolution and 46% did not.

A slim majority believe in plant and animal evolution: 49% vs 45% (June 05).

And when asked "Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement. Darwin's theory of evolution is proven by fossil discoveries." only 43% said yes and 51% said no (Jan 05).

When you bring god directly into the question Americans get even stupider. The question (June 05): "Which of the following do you believe about how human beings came to be? Human beings evolved from earlier species. Human beings were created directly by God. Human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them."

Only 22% acknowledged that humans had evolved from earlier species, with 64% saying humans were created directly by god and 10% saying some powerful force (the force?) or intelligent being (the flying spaghetti monster?)

What this translates into in terms of views on public education is even more appalling: only 12% think that evolution should be the only theory of origins taught in public schools. 23% believe that only creationism should be taught in public schools. 4% supported intelligent design only. And 55% wanted all three taught. This is apparently "moderate" Republican and presidential hopeful John McCain's position.

The site linked to above from includes a lot of other polls on evolution conducted by various organizations, all with scary results. In addition there are various other polls on issues such as stem cell research, cloning, space exploration and the weather.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No Future

I wonder whether the Bush admin's hostility to science is at root an indifference to the future. So many of their policies bring empowerment or enrichment in the short term with utterly disasterous but predictable long term consequences. Agressive indifference to global warming for one. Arguably, the Iraq war is another. And then there are his tax cuts and indifference to the rising deficit, and looming economic disaster. Future generations just don't matter.

BBC: Rising Concern over Bush Administration's Hostility to Science

Monday, August 22, 2005

Radical Cleric Issues Fatwa

Pat Robertson calls for assassination of Hugo Chavez

    "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

via Atrios

8/24 Update: There is a hilarious video of this over at One Good Move

8/25 and a Daily Show clip also from One Good Move

and the Swift Report God Denies Links to Pat Robertson

and especially this Letter from George Bush to Pat Robertson via (really)


and from Jesus General Bring Me the Ears of Hugo Chavez

and more seriously Bring Me the Head of Hugo Chavez by Billmon.

More Americans in Heaven

Americans Most Likely to Go to Heaven, Study Shows

    A new study shows that there are more Americans in Heaven than there are individuals from any other country. The study, based on registration data collected over a period of five years, confirms what many Americans have long believed: that they are more likely than their counterparts from most other countries to ascend to Heaven upon leaving this world.

    French, Dutch least likely to make skyward trek...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Times Teaches the Controversy (again)

The NYT has another article up about the fucking creationists, again framed so as to create the impression of scientific controversy where there is only political controversy, namely the one between the reality based community and the anti-science fundamentalists. The creationists avowed goal is "to teach the controversy" and again the NYT does the work for them. The headline In Explaining Life's Complexity, Scientists and Doubters Clash thus amounts to creationist propaganda:. So the xians are the skeptics and the scientists the defenders of dogmatic orthodoxy. Really?

The opening sentence of the article is even worse: "At the heart of the debate over intelligent design is this question: Can a scientific explanation of the history of life include the actions of an unseen higher being?" This is framed as if it were a scientific question but it is only a political and religious one. There is no debate within science. There is a debate between the scientific community and a portion of the religious community. That the xians have managed to line up a few people with higher degrees in support of their cause merely proves that fanaticism can override scientific objectivity. That's why they call it blind faith. Idiots.

And the article standardizes the reference to scientists who support evolution as "mainstream" scientists, again giving the creationists the role of gadfly and heretic, rather than quack or sophist, which would be more accurate.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The NYT's Valentine to Creationists

Is there anything that the New York Times won't do in its efforts to suck up to the right wing? Today they have a long front page profile of the Creationist think tank the Discovery Institute that reads like one of the Institute's promotional brochures. The goal of the institute, in lieu of any scientific credibility, is to "teach the controversy". There is of course no controversy in legitimate scientific circles or in peer-reviewed scientific journals. However the NYT does a splendid job of helping them create this impression. In fact, the Discovery Institute itself recognizes this and links to the article on its website under the title "New York Times Credits Discovery Institute with Transforming the Debate over Evolution" Atrios suggests a more accurate alternate title for the NYT article: "Shape of the Earth -- Views Differ."

Some excerpts

    After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute's Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.

    Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."

The use of the term "mainstream scientists" instead of the more accurate "legitimate scientists" helps the frame the creationists as rebels or mavericks, a characterization that is maintained throughout the piece. Some examples (italics added):

    ...the organization's intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life's origins known as intelligent design....they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages [with the help of the NYT among others] and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive...

    For the institute's president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities ... More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute's signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment....

The stenographer reporter just takes all this posturing at face value, ignoring the obvious fact that the real motivation for pursuing this particular issue is pure religious fanaticism, and hardly stubborn open-mindedness.

    ...intelligent design is shunned as heresy in mainstream universities and science societies as untestable in laboratories.

An incredible reversal of reality: the language here makes the scientists seem like dogmatic ideologues unwilling to consider new ideas. The real goal of the movement is mentioned later without comment or recognition of how radical the goal is. They want to overturn the scientific revolution itself.

    These successes follow a path laid in a 1999 Discovery manifesto known as the Wedge Document, which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" in favor of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature."

The key "intellectual" figure of the so called "intelligent design" movement is a professor of mathematics (not biology) who has redecorated the creationist argument with sophistry. A debunking of his work can be found here and in more detail here. This hack has also been caught violating professional ethics in a particularly juvenile way.

There is some useful, albeit overly vague, information in the article about the funding of the institute. Apparently they got some of their money from the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation among others while rebaptised as a regional transportation outfit called the Cascadia project. This front organization's mission statement claims that their goal is to "support the development of a balanced, integrated, and expanded transportation system for people and goods in central Puget Sound and the greater Cascadia region of Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon." What they are really doing with this is hard to figure out from the website, which is mostly filled with meaningless generalities. Some funders apparently didn't realize what they were getting into and later withdrew funding. According to the NYT article, "Denis Hayes, director of the Bullitt Foundation, described Discovery in an e-mail message as "the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell" and says his foundation will have nothing more to do with them.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pastafarian Challenge

The folks over at Boing Boing are now "offering any individual a reward of $250,000 if they can produce empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

See also several recent updates to Cremationism

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

St. Helens Images Info

via Boing Boing

Now with short time lapse movies of the dome's growth from inside the crater!

The image above is a picture of the glow from the dome (only visible in long exposures).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A New Hope?

Christopher Walken for President 2008

    "Our great country is in a terrible downward spiral. We're outsourcing jobs, bankrupting social security, and losing lives at war. We need to focus on what's important-- paying attention to our children, our citizens, our future. We need to think about improving our failing educational system, making better use of our resources, and helping to promote a stable, safe, and tolerant global society. It's time to be smart about our politics. It's time to get America back on track."

Okay, it is a hoax...I think, but no one can deny he has the potential to act more presidential than other contenders, who were alas not joking.

The Seeds of Mass Destruction

Cannabis Culture Forum

The US government is in the process of extraditing a Canadian citizen for alleged crimes committed from Canada. The terrorist act for which extradition is sought: spreading the seeds of mass destruction, aka marijuana. He has been officially charged in Seattle with "conspiring to manufacture marijuana, launder money and traffic millions of marijuana seeds into the United States. At the time of his arrest, on July 29, he and his business were on a United States attorney general list of the 46 most wanted international drug traffickers, and the only one in Canada."

The "terrorist," Mark Emery, the leader of the British Columbia Marijuana Party and somewhat of a crackpot libertarian remains defiant: "Let me be the light that shines on the American gulag." According to the NYT:

    In July, the Canadian police, working with D.E.A. agents, arrested Mr. Emery and raided his headquarters at the request of the American government, so that he might be extradited for trial in Seattle. Last week, he was freed on bail; the extradition process could take years. It is bound to stir a debate in Canada about whether it should permit a Canadian to stand trial in the United States for an offense that is essentially tolerated here.

There is a lot more info here.

Christianity and Ecology

Last week I briefly discussed the absurd attempt to claim ecology as an essentially xian value. This week Alexander Cockburn does an excellent job of bringing out some key quotes to illustrate this. Dominion over the animals was spelled out in the bible and has been a key to their attitude toward nature ever since, whether the xians were left or right.

In the beginning:

    'Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion. . .over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. . .Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it.'Genesis 1:26 28

    'And [Peter] saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.' (Acts 10: 11 13.)

and now moving on to modern times:

    ...Dominion over 'Un-Christian' nature was at the heart of it, as C.S. Lewis spelled out frankly enough: 'Atheists naturally regard. . .the taming of an animal by man as a purely arbitrary interference of one species with another. The "real" or "natural" animal is to them the wild one, and the tame animal is an artificial or unnatural thing. But a Christian must not think so. Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and. . .the tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only "natural" animal-the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy.'

Although the word "dominion" is still widely popular with the xian right, the xian left has tended to adopt its bastard stepchild "stewardship". Whatever the name, the radical distinction in value between people with "souls" and creatures without them remains.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Giving Cremationism a Fair Hearing

There is no good reason to take the rebranding of creationism as "intelligent design" seriously.



    I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

    Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him....

The fast growing Flying Spaghetti Monster cult, whose followers are known as Pastafarians now has a very entertaining wikipedia entry

and in all fairness from the Swift Report

Bush: Students Should Learn About Creationism, Inteligent Design

    Don't accuse President Bush of being one-sided when it comes to the question of who created the earth. In recent remarks, Mr. Bush has encouraged school districts to incorporate both sides of the debate regarding the development of humanity: creationism, the belief that God created the earth in six days, and Inteligent Design, the idea that an unseen force has been guiding our development...

    ...The Odessa school system is also considering replacing its current high school math curriculum with a new approach that emphasizes God's role in the study of quantity, structure, change and space. One likely course offering: Deometry, in which students of the field once known as geometry (from geo meaning earth and metro meaning measure) accept as their starting point that God created the earth, before embarking on their study of lines, points and circles.

Update 8/17: Another classic from The Onion:

The Theory of Intelligent Falling
    Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

    "Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

    Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

and earlier from the Swift Report:

February 08, 2005

Student Suspended Over Evolution Slur

    A seventh grade student at a south central Kansas junior high school has been suspended after implying that a classmate was descended from monkeys. School officials say that the student's two-week suspension was merited by the seriousness of the offense.

    Classmates say student is member of an outlaw group called the "Biology Club"

Another update 8/23: The cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster continues to grow:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Message of the Day

    ...Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan...

    Imagine President Bush addressing the National Prayer Breakfast in these terms: "Behind all of life and all history there is a dedication and a purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful Zeus." Imagine his speech to Congress containing the sentence "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that Apollo is not neutral between them."

    Clearly, the commonplaces of language conceal the vacuity and strangeness of many of our beliefs. Our president regularly speaks in phrases appropriate to the fourteenth century, and no one seems inclined to find out what words like "God" and "crusade" and "wonder-working power" mean to him. Not only do we still eat the offal of the ancient world; we are positively smug about it. Garry Wills has noted that the Bush White House "is currently honeycombed with prayer groups and Bible study cells, like a whited monastery." This should trouble us as much as it troubles the fanatics of the Muslim world....

From Widespread Ignorance

No Sense of Irony

Now on sale at Crater Lake National Park: Monopoly National Parks Edition

Motivation, Values and Political Action

In The Nation there is an article discussing a complaint from the xian left that secular liberals refuse to treat them with respect, thus making cooperation toward common goals impossible. They want to address the nation's "spiritual crisis"
    This crisis, he argues, stems from "an excess of selfishness and materialism" associated with American capitalism, and the fledgling organization wants to change society's bottom line by de-emphasizing "money and power" and reinforcing values like "love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace."

The problem here is that they, like their counterparts on the right, insist on bringing their religion into their politics. This demand contains a kind of covert missionary agenda: the belief that a recognition of the value of their work towards these goals will lead to an endorsement of their motivation. I think they call this a kind of witnessing. They want to use their work towards these goals to advance their religious agenda, coopting others in the struggle into some degree of endorsement of the supposed origin of their values. Why you hold the values becomes more important than the values themselves.

And their understanding of their own motivations seems rather implausible on its face. The hollowness of their attempt to claim the values mentioned above as motivated by christ is most obvious in the absurd, but now quite commonplace, identification of ecological sensitivity as a xian value. Jesus is as silent on the intrinsic value of nature as he is on the value of education.

Ultimately though, why you hold certain values should be left a matter of private (perhaps psychiatric) but not public concern.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Barbara's Curse

As George III is haunted by the mother of a dead soldier, whom he may have arrested soon, it is a good time to remember his mom.

    From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
    A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death:
    That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
    To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood,
    That foul defacer of nature's handiwork,
    That excellent grand tyrant of the earth
    That reigns in gallèd eyes of weeping souls,
    Thy womb let loose to chase us to our graves.

Adapted from Queen Margaret's Monologue in Richard III

What the ...?

I saw this on a t-shirt for sale in Ashland this weekend.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Milking Jesus

An article in Salon Verily, I sell unto you surveys the recent flood of overtly xian businesses. Some choice bits:

About a Christian Faith Driving School based in Maryland.

    "He does not "witness" about his faith until the last session of the program, but he does preach the "moral values" of "courtesy and consideration to other drivers," he says. "By the end of the course the students seem to think that they can call and talk to me as a friend or a mentor, or ask me to pray with them." Gadow recalls that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration recommended against using "Christian" in the name of the school, suggesting that it might narrow his market. But he persisted, and now, four years later, he's turning students away."

and a Houston-based auto-repair franchiser, Christian Brothers which promises:

    "To glorify God by providing ethical and excellent automotive repair service for our customers, according to Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."

and a Minessota bank:

    "I got saved at an Amway meeting, so the marketplace is where I invite Christ into my life," says Chuck Ripka, 46, co-founder of Riverview Community Bank in Otsego, Minn. ("We invited Jesus to be the CEO of our bank," he says, attributing the bank's "supernatural" growth -- from $5.5 million in start-up capital to $103 million in 27 months -- to divine intervention.) While the bank's name may sound generic (and the company Web site is "God"-free), the Ten Commandments banner in the foyer, the "God Bless You" sign at the tellers station, and the painting in the CEO's office of two businessmen shaking hands with Jesus, might tip customers off. "God has allowed us to be who we are: We're Christians and we're bankers, and we're allowed to mix the two. To me, it's seamless. We're a bank first, but in the midst of it all, when customers express their own needs, I am able to pray along with them," says Ripka, who customarily asks God's blessing for reporters at the end of interviews.

Simulated Nuclear Attack on Portland c. 1955

A Day Called X part 1 and part 2 is a dramatized atomic evacuation of Portland, Oregon. It is a fully downloadable movie in multiple formats. The Internet Archive has a lot of other cool stuff worth checking out too, including Duck and Cover and the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares .

Demon of the day

Discrimination against atheists

Religion in America: Atheists claim discrimination

Posted 8/2/05
By Caroline Hsu

The owner of a coffee shop near Birmingham, Ala., has banned members of a secular group for atheists, agnostics, and other questioners from meeting in her cafe. The Universist Movement is claiming Christian persecution, while Cool Beans owner Amy Anderson says she's only trying to maintain order in her business.

In an increasingly religious America, the nonreligious have begun painting themselves as a persecuted minority.

"It's not OK to discriminate on the basis of race or sexual orientation anymore, but it's perfectly valid for someone to say I would never vote for an atheist for president," says Mel Lipman, president of the American Humanist Association.

The problem arose, says Universist Movement founder Ford Vox, when he met with Anderson to discuss holding a gathering at Cool Beans. After she asked what the group believed in, he claims, Anderson said she was not comfortable with it meeting in her cafe because she is Christian.

When asked if she had banned the Universists from meeting because of their non-Christian beliefs, Anderson replied, "That's not exactly true." Later, she called back—with her lawyer present—to explain that store policy is to review any group of 10 or more who want to meet in her cafe, which seats 30. She says she removed the Universists' fliers because she objected to a quote on the flier from a New York Times article that characterized the Universists as "especially feisty and shrewd."

"My first thought was that this is a potential red flag—this group could be disruptive if they met," says Anderson. "Also, the sheer number could be disruptive, regardless of whether they are courteous and good patrons or not."

For their part, the Universists are charging that owner Anderson has changed her story to avoid a discrimination lawsuit and is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They are organizing a boycott of the coffee shop and are also considering a lunch-counter protest reminiscent of the civil rights era.

"It is dismaying that in 21st-century America, a business owner feels entirely comfortable discriminating against the faithless," says Vox. "We should not be tolerant of people who exercise such intolerance."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


A nice and fairly typical example of Bush's use of doublespeak: simultaneously giving different messages to different audiences in order to disguise real intent and deflect criticism. Here it comes off as an almost comic extention of "plausible deniability".

    Bush Remarks Roil Debate on Teaching of Evolution

    At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news.

    Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

    Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

Does anyone really believe that's what he meant?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Coming further out of the shadows

Still equivocating, still hiding under the pretext of "fairness", but I think this is our scientist in chief's first overt endorsement of creationism. The theocratic vision comes just a little further out of the shadows.

    Bush: Schools should teach intelligent design

    Students should learn about it along with evolution, he says

    AP Updated: 11:07 p.m. ET Aug. 1, 2005

    WASHINGTON - President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss “intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

    During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

    “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.” The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

    Christian conservatives — a substantial part of Bush’s voting base — have been pushing for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Scientists have rejected the theory as an attempt to force religion into science education.

    © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Originally alerted to this story by Billmon