essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
Creationist: Take a look at all you present, anything you think a 5 year old won't understand, explain it. Act like a teacher, Teach it first.

Endogenous Retroviruses

When mommies and daddies love each other very much, they make a recipe for a baby. They mix a copy of half of daddy’s recipe with a copy of half of mommy’s recipe to make a baby recipe. The recipe is so long that it takes nine months to make a baby!

And by looking at your recipe later, you can see that you are related to your mommy and daddy because you can see bits of their recipes in you! (Or you’re adopted, but your mommy and daddy still love you!)

And this can go back through the generations. If half of grandpa’s recipe goes into your mom, and half of mom’s recipe goes in you, then one quarter of your recipe comes from grandpa!

Now, if you have first cousins, that means one of your parents was the brother or sister of one of theirs. And those siblings had the same parents… your grandparents. By comparing your recipe to the recipe of your first cousin, you can see that you share a common grandparent. This is called common ancestry. Since recipes get shared in an unbroken chain from ancestor to descendant (that means a baby!), if you have enough information, you can determine whether two recipes have a common ancestor. Fortunately, those recipes are really long, so there is a lot of information.

But sometimes little accidents happen to the recipes. This is really important, but we’ll save that for when you are six. But one particular kind of accident is when you get sick. Sometimes a germ will leave its cooties in your recipe. Ew!

Before, maybe your grandpa had a recipe with a line that said:

Step 146734 Make five itty-bitty toes on the end of each foot.

And afterwards, it might read

Step 146734 Make five itty-bitty toeGERM COOTIESs on the end of each foot.

And now that might be part of your recipe! Because he is your ancestor.

Your friend on the playground might have this in her recipe:

Step 146734 Make five itGERM COOTIESty-bitty toes on the end of each foot.

Do you have a common ancestor with her?

Did you say no? Because the cooties are in the wrong place? Haha, the joke’s on you. The answer is actually yes. All human beings are related. But looking at this one tiny piece of the recipe, we don’t have any evidence that your friend descended from your grandpa. (Don’t ask him about it in front of your grandmother.)

Since grandpa got the cooties in his lifetime, it can only show up in that exact spot in his descendants, or in someone else who coincidentally got the cooties in the same exact place in the recipe. But the recipe is so long this is very unlikely.

But if we look at the whole recipe, you and your friend actually have a lot of recipe cooties in common. Ew! I know. But it’s pretty harmless. Everyone has them. Thousands of them. And because a lot of them are in the same place, we know you share common ancestors. But since a few of them are different (like the one from your grandpa) we know that your common ancestor was further back in generations than your grandpa.

So by comparing the number of shared cooties to the number of unshared cooties, you can see how closely related you are.

And when we compare your cooties to those of a chimpanzee, we find a lot of cooties in different places, but a lot of cooties in the same place! We also have common ancestors, but it wasn’t in your grandpappy’s day or your great great great grandmammy’s day. It was 5 million years ago.

In fact, orthologous cooties fall into a nested hierarchy among primates.

essentialsaltes: (beokay)
Why Violence Has Declined takes a long, long, too-long look at rates of violence over the past umpty-thousand years from our hunter-gatherer forebears to today. Pinker has marshalled a shitload of facts and statistics, and though there may be some niggling details here and there, on the whole, he's pretty convincing that rates of murder, war, and violence have declined per capita. This does require an explanation, and I think Pinker certainly outlines many ideas that contribute, but he doesn't seem to present a very strong thesis for an explanation. Rather he takes us on a plodding journey through the museum of ideas that every political philosopher has considered. The book plods so much that I found much of it a chore to get through. Reading through the outline in Wikipedia is good enough -- just feel certain that each point is held up by a few hundred footnotes each.

One of the ideas that did stick with me was that many violent acts are considered acts of justice by their perpetrators. They are not doing wrong, they are taking justice into their own hands. That bitch stole my man -- smack. That driver cut me off -- blam. Obviously, these solutions are not terribly rational, and generally frowned upon by Leviathan. I think it could extend to larger actions -- riots in Watts and LA. It doesn't make any fucking sense, but there was some ache for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels.

Now, I have plodded so slowly through the book that that idea lodged some time ago. And then as I mulled it over in my mind, I considered the Trump voters in the lead-up to the election. Can a vote be an act of violence? A stupid plea for justice when you're aching for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels? Mmmmm... no, I can't quite bring myself to consider a vote for Trump to be an act of violence. And then the vote actually happened, and Trump won. I still can't quite elevate it to an act of violence. But I think a lot of my friends may consider it to have been an act of violence. And certainly we have seen (even given some level of pernicious fakes) that some Trump supporters have been emboldened to enact actual violence. And we've also seen protests of Trump that have also risen to the level of violence.

Now I have to tread carefully here, because I think there are significant differences between the two sides. It is not just that I am trapped in my bubble and not their bubble (and I'll get to the bubble later, especially since almost everyone who will read this is in my liberal bubble). At the same time, the people (considered as people) in the two camps. Are not all that different.

Now apparently the worst thing I could possibly do is to suggest that we should reach out and hug the other side and unite. Which is fine, because I'm not suggesting that. When Trump has rotten plans, they should be fought. And many of his plans are rotten.

But possibly I'm saying something even worse. That people are people. And people on both sides are not all that different. And to realize that, it definitely helps to spend time outside your bubble.

Many of you know of the long years I've spent in the mission fields of Christian websites, spreading the good news of rationality and fact-based argument. It is not easy work, because they are beset by demons that deceive them. And again, it's not about compromise -- I think the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and they think it's 6,000 years old. I'm not looking to compromise at 2,250,003,000 years old. Wait, I'm rambling a little too much, but maybe we'll come back to this.

Another bit of bubble escape was listening to the infuriating drive-time talk show on a Christian radio station, though I haven't in many years. Until election night. As I drove home, feeling pretty confident that it was going to be close (my prediction: Hillary 278 EV) but would go blue, I turned that station on hoping for election news and... delicious Christian tears. Because that's a thing now. Enjoying people's tears. And because I'm a bad person.

And I got those tears. But I did not find them enjoyable. pout

A young Latina called in to the show. Her voice shook with raw emotion, clearly crying. Hillary was going to win, and as everyone in the conservative Christian bubble knew (as did I since I'd been visiting), Hillary believed that "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs have to be changed". And as it was being spun in the bubble, this young woman knew that President Hillary was going to forcibly change religious beliefs in America. She was genuinely, fearfully afraid that hers was the last generation that was going to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

All bullshit, of course. But the tears and pain in that bubble were real. Just like they were real when Obama was elected in 2008 and was going to take everyone's guns.

Anyway, fast-forward a few hours, and suddenly the tears were on the other foot. (Shut up.) There were organized cry-ins. And, and... the other side mocked it. They were enjoying those tears! How could they be so cruel?

Not all that different.

But they're all racists!

Yes, half of Trump voters hold implicit bias against POC. And only a third of Hillary voters do.

Not all that different.

But Trump's spouting ugly racism!

Well, yeah. Again, I don't want to rest on any false equivalencies. But if you want to characterize the GOP as full of racists, then you should step inside the other bubble and look at yourself.

You support murdering babies. You literally want doctors to crush the skulls of infants with forceps.
You want perverts to molest our delicate American girlhood in the bathroom at Target.
You want religious expression to be locked inside the walls of churches.
You let the biased(*) lame-stream media do your thinking for you.

[* I'm too tired, but to its credit, the media finally decided that he said/she said journalistic equivalency was no longer valid. Trump was lying. They called him on it. They endorsed Hillary. But... it does feed the narrative that the media is biased against Trump.]

You want them to stop being racist and join the correct party? Well, maybe you should stop killing babies, and join the correct party.

You scoff when people say they aren't racist, but voted for Trump? Well, what do you think of Tim Kaine, who personally opposes abortion, but stood for VP of the Democrat Party? And he's by no means alone. There are Democrats who think abortion is murder. If you can be against baby-murdering, and vote for a baby-murdering candidate, then surely you can be a non-racist and vote for a racist candidate. Sure, it must be a terrible internal conflict. Sucks to be them. But they got their racism/baby-killing just like the people-of-yesteryear got Skinemax with the package.

Not all that different.

But they are so very fact-challenged!

Well yes. That's what I combat the most. You give them a snopes link, and they don't believe snopes. You provide the links on the snopes page to the NYT, and they don't believe the NYT. There are some people there whose solitary (it appears) information source is infowars(*). They were primed and ready to believe crap like a Kenyan born Obama, or a Jade Helm takeover of Texas. Because it fits their narrative.

(* I'm too tired, but if you're getting info from occupydemocrats or Huffpo... Not all that different.)

In our bubble, the narrative is that Trump is a sexual predator. And I'm morally certain that Trump has grabbed more unwilling pussies than trans people have assaulted anybody in a bathroom. So the woman who accused Trump of raping her when she was a teenager fits the narrative. But when the press conference was announced, my baloney detector started beeping. Because (for better or worse) before I am a Democrat or a liberal, I am a skeptic. A court of law is where these things are decided, not at press conferences or FBI memos. And when the press conference was cancelled due to 'threats', my suspicion grew. It was not impossible that threats had deterred some poor woman, but I was not buying it at this point. But a lot of other people were. They railed against the Trumpeters who had cowed this woman. Maybe Trump had bought her off. How many millions did it take him? And then two days later, she dropped the suit. No cause given. Bought off? Full of shit? We may never know. But a retracted anonymous accusation is not much to hang something on, unless the narrative is more important than evidence.

And if you point to snopes articles showing that some cases of 'postelection Trump supporter racism' are imaginary... some people don't want to hear that shit. It doesn't fit the narrative.

I've showed dozens of snopes articles to conservatives, and know what it feels like to be ignored. So when it comes from the other side, it just shows that...

Not all that different.

We all laughed (I did, I'm a bad person) at that stupid bint who cut a backwards B on her face.

But we were also mad. She perpetrated a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate.

We were furious. She lied to say a black man did this. I hate her.

And now Trump supporters tore the hijab off a woman. Stole her wallet. That feeds the narrative.
But it's bullshit. All a lie.

C'mon now, everyone. Let's laugh at her. And hate her. C'mon. She made a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate. She lied to say white men did this to her. I hate her. I really do. But more importantly...

Not all that different.

As promised, this book review has devolved. Let me pull it back, at least briefly.

"According to Hofstede's data, countries differ along six dimensions. One of them is Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation: 'Long-term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of 'face' and fulfilling social obligations.'"

Those are not bad descriptors of the two societies living in their bubbles that exist within America. The liberal and the conservative.

One of my regrets about the election is that so much was about the personalities and less about the issues. I have read that the Clinton campaign gamely released insightful policy statements to the media, but they never reached me. Since the Donald sucked all the oxygen in the primary fight, one would have thought that the Clinton team would strive harder in the general to make sure its message got out, but it didn't. Honestly, perhaps I'm giving them credit for having a message, because from my standpoint, most of what I heard from the Hillary campaign was...

It's her fucking turn. She cashed in her chips to keep the competition away. Only that asshole Sanders and McWhatever didn't get the memo. "Trump is awful. I'm not Trump."

Though true, this is not compelling. She could've done better with "I will be the third Obama term."

Anyway, one of the few policy things that did come out (because I watch closely) is for the coal miners of America.


"Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion, 4,300-word plan to retrain coal workers that covers everything from education and infrastructure to tax credits and school funding.

Donald Trump’s coal plan is a duckface thumbs-up in a miner’s hard hat and a rant about hair spray, President Barack Obama and China."

Retrain coal workers? That's "adapting to changing circumstances". That's a Long-Term society strategy. And it's right.

A duckface thumbs-up? Well, if you can see through the HuffPo bias, that's a strategy oriented on today. Short-term. For the white working class families that are struggling.

And now, for you in my liberal well-informed bubble. Surely you are cognizant of the current spot price for coal.

No? Well, there are lots of reasons for it, but coal prices have tripled recently. And although US miners have not (yet) seen much of a boon, due to the horrible EPA, and Obama rules about coal-fueled power plants, a Trump presidency is clearly going to change that. Yes, there are certainly problems with burning coal like there is no tomorrow, but... if you are a part of an unemployed coal-mining family in Pennsylvania or Ohio focused on today... then you are part of the Short-Term Society, and I can see reasons other than racism to vote for Trump. And they did. And they are legitimately mad when we say their votes were racist.

In conclusion:

essentialsaltes: (islam)
"My child's personal religious beliefs were violated,” said Edmisten, adding that her seventh grade daughter took zeros on the section on Islamic history after a teacher didn’t allow her to opt out of the curriculum and standards and do alternative studies. “Those are zeros that we proudly took and we will not compromise.”

Some people can't even face learning about something.

When I first saw the story on HuffPo, it seemed like it was just one crazy mom, but sadly that's not the case.

She got applause for her rant, and a board member made a motion to remove the textbook “because it does not represent the values of the county.”

And then there's this:

Hughes said Sullivan County must follow the law and standards “"whether we like it or whether we don’t.”

“I think everybody on the board agrees with the public. We live here, too,” Hughes said.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
"Club Monarch, an afterschool bible club, was run in part by teachers and routinely given preferential treatment at Mariposa Elementary School in Brea, Calif. The club was mentioned in the weekly newsletter and listed in the school calendar. The newsletter announcements asked students to "Stop by the office to sign up." There were posters around the school exclusively advertising the club. At a back-to-school night, the principal effusively praised and recommended the club. And the club was allowed to begin its meetings a mere five minutes after the school day ended.
The school was distributing Club Monarch registration forms to its students and coordinating registration, instructing parents to return the forms to the school office or to their child's teacher. Records showed that school staff members were routinely planning and coordinating Club Monarch meetings via their school email accounts, often during the school day. Superintendent Mason actually spoke at a Club Monarch meeting in February, "sharing ... the heart of Jesus with the children," according to the club's Facebook page."

Now, after school religious clubs (indeed 'worship clubs') are allowed (so sayeth the Supreme Court) if schools open their doors to any and all comers, but the context has been for outside groups coming in, and without any support from the school: "the children required their parents' permission to attend the Club's activities; they were not permitted to "loiter outside classrooms after the schoolday has ended". The Club was using space on the school grounds into which elementary school children did not typically venture during school hours, and ... The instructors are not schoolteachers."

In this case, it was very much an inside job, and with plenty of support from the school and its employees. I bet the meeting between the district lawyers and the super was interesting. Perhaps in an overdose of CYA -- though indeed this is what the FFRF called for -- the final decision was to disband the club entirely.

(* I went to high school in Brea)
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
This book traces the history of the idea of the origin of life from the Greeks to modern ideas of the Miller-Urey experiments and RNA-world and so on.

Most interesting to me, perhaps, was the fact that the concept of spontaneous generation was taken as a given for such a long time... and like so many things taken for granted in the West (geocentrism, say) support for it in the Bible was attested to. Everyone know that if you leave a pile of grain around, mice are just going to spring out of it. It was a sign of God's ongoing generative influence. And so Pasteur's work caused a sea-change in apologetics. Lots of good details, but since most of this was read on international flights, I'm in no position to go into much detail. Pretty good book, though.
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
Islands of Space by John W. Campbell is the kind of gee-whiz space opera that makes Buck Rogers look nuanced. A passel of superscientist men effortlessly invent multiple impossible inventions and generally behave like 12-year-old boys with their new godlike powers.

"The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women..." FAIL

"Islands of Space is generally credited with introducing the concepts of hyperspace and the warp drive to science fiction." So that's something, anyway.

It's also interesting that the book interpolates the plot from his story "Dead Knowledge," which I liked quite a bit. Here, apart from the bare bones of the plot, all of the atmosphere and emotion has been drained away, probably because it would not have meshed with the whizbang mood of the novel.

I'm glad even the people of long ago smelled this one as a stinker. Ted Sturgeon thought it was crap (and he, of all people, would know). "This is a real lousy book."

Rachel Held Evans is probably best known for A Year Of Biblical Womanhood, chronicling her attempt to live according to the Bible's rules for women. But recently she was quoted in an article in (I think) Smithsonian about her hometown of Dayton, famous as the site of the Scopes Trial in 1925. She intimated that the attitudes in Dayton haven't changed much, and her story of asking too many questions in a community that has all the answers (and doesn't like pesky questions) was published as Evolving in Monkey Town. I couldn't pass up a title like that.

Sadly(?), the creationism/evolutionism angle is not really a major part of the story, just useful as a title that would get me to buy it (it worked!) [I gather that the title was originally the title of her blog]. It's actually a little maddening that what little she says about it seems to indicate that the question is still an open one in her mind. The book has since been retitled "Faith Unravelled", though that's a bit of a misnomer as well. It's more a story of her journey of faith. She starts as a model member of the local community, multiple winner of her school's Best Christian Attitude award, and a graduate of [William Jennings] Bryan College, a place literally founded in the wake of the Monkey Trial to defend a Biblical worldview. More recently than the book, Bryan College changed its statement of faith to include the belief in a literal, specially created, Adam and Eve, resulting in the departure of some faculty members.

As a thoughtful, reflective, skeptical, millennial, she navigates her theology to come to a place where she can recognize that (although no one wants to admit it, and some may be too unreflective to even be aware of it) every Christian 'picks and chooses' verses and interpretations of the bible based on their own particular biases and experience. I generally like her picks and choices, and it must be tough to swim against the stream. Asking questions no one wants to hear, and then coming up with unpopular answers. "I was called a socialist and a baby killer. People questioned my commitment to my faith, and my country, some suggesting that I may face eternal consequences for my decision [to vote for Barack Obama]."

At the same time, it's clear that her questioning has its limits. "Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue."

My answer to that is a quote from the Great Beast. Crowley may have been an extravagant old fraud, but he sometimes had a piquant way with words:

"I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening;
I drank and danced all night with doubt and found her a virgin in the morning."
essentialsaltes: (agent)
Ancillary Mercy is the third of the trilogy. It ties off a lot of loose ends, but with not quite as grand an ending as I had anticipated. Some iffy motivation here and there, I thought, and some references to stuff earlllly on in the trilogy that might have paid off better for me if my memory were better. Certainly, there are some great scenes and some snappy dialogue. If this had been the first book, I might not have gone on, but still a good read.

Science, Religion, & Reality is an anthology of essays on these topics. My edition is from 1950, but the original was 1925, the same year as the Scopes Trial. On the whole, the essays are long and dull. Perhaps the most interesting 'controversy' is the one between vitalism and mechanism. The essay gives both a fair hearing, but clearly (and correctly) shows mechanism in the ascendance. The other interesting thing is, being just at the time of the Scopes Trial, the thinkers in the book generally regard religion as having ceded the territory to science. In the main, true, but from Scopes on, the anti-scientific crowd in religion has gotten stronger.

"It is amusing to reflect that the theologians were so adequately punished whenever they were indiscreet enough to interfere (in scientific judgments); they always backed the wrong horses. ... There can be no conflict as long as theology does not tamper with scientific controversies which are irrelevant to religion itself. Theologians have finally realized it; the best of them know that they have nothing to gain and everything to lose in such conflicts, and they will not stick their necks out any more. ... Whom must we trust in a scientific controversy, the competent people or the untrained and the irresponsible?"

Arthur Eddington has one of the better essays, with an interesting take on the objective/subjective. "The motive for the conception of an external world -- a world that will remain significant when my consciousness ceases to be--lies in the existence of other conscious beings. We compare notes and we find that our experiences are not independent of each other. Much that is in my consciousness is individual, but there is an element common to other conscious beings. That common element we desire to study, to describe as fully and accurately as possible, and to discover the laws by which it is modified as it appears now in one consciousness, now in another. That common element cannot be placed in one man's consciousness rather than another's; it must be placed in neutral ground -- an external world."

On writing physics problems: "The examiner, exercising his ingenuity, begins ... as follows: "An elephant slides down a grassy hillside..." The experienced examinee knows that he need not pay heed to this; it is only a picturesque adornment to give an air of verisimilitude to the bald essentials of the problem."

Haldane was pretty much on the nose, decades before the discovery of DNA: "The cell-nucleus must carry within it," he says, "a mechanism by which reaction with the environment not only produces the millions of complex and delicately balanced mechanisms which constitute the adult organism, but provides for their orderly arrangement into tissues and organs."

This discussion reminds me of Dan Dennett in Breaking the Spell, where he tries to allay the fears of those of faith that studying religion might 'break the spell' of religion: "Some religious people, it is true, have too frequently given cause for thinking that interest in religion is mere prepossession. They fail to realise that truth is the supreme religious interest, and they even seem at times to treat religion as a sort of germ which would die in the sunlight."
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
The Discovery Institute "is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscience intelligent design."

Although the DI has tried to hold the party line that Intelligent Design (ID) is just about the science (although it may have 'philosophical implications'), it is a poorly kept secret that the goals of the organization (as outlined in the Wedge Document, for instance) show it to be a religious organization devoted to affirm "God's reality".

This is all prelude to say that the NCSE now reports that the the DI is merging with the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which was founded for the purpose of "proclaiming, publishing, preaching, teaching, promoting, broadcasting, disseminating, and otherwise making known the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible and the light it sheds on the academic and social issues of our day."

FTE is also notable as being the publisher of creation science textbooks, including Of Pandas And People, the famous missing link between creation science and intelligent design literature ("cdesign proponentsists"). The book featured prominently in the Kitzmiller trial and decision, which coincidentally celebrated its 10th anniversary a few days ago. Merry Kitzmas!
essentialsaltes: (secular)
I got an auction catalog of autographs, and was struck by the content of this letter from Jefferson Davis.

Unlike the US Constitution, the Confederate constitution mentions "Almighty God" in the preamble. Otherwise, it hews close to the US constitution in many places, including the 'no religious test' clause and essentially the First Amendment.

Anyway, to provide the rest of the background, some were giving Davis some grief for not referring specifically to Jesus in certain proclamations. And there was some widespread sentiment that this was because Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin was a Jew. Two of these angry letters are also part of the lot: "Alas! that Jefferson Davis should fear a Jew more than he honors Jesus! . . . Sir you are . . . doing a gross wrong to a Christian people: above all insulting God by the Judaising [sic] of your very proclamation . . . to please a Godless & prayerless Sect'y of State!"

Anyway, Jeff's response:

"Many well-disposed persons do not understand the constitutional restriction upon my conduct... It might have been well that our Constitution should not only have recognized a God, as it does, but the Saviour of mankind also; that it should have had not merely a religious but a Christian basis. But such is not its character, and my oath binds me to observe the Constitution as it is, not as I would have it, if in any respect I should wish it changed."

A weak leader and rebel scum, but clear on constitutional principles.


Jul. 14th, 2015 04:56 pm
essentialsaltes: (islam)
Alif the Unseen, by G Willow Wilson.

Although the plot suffers from some obviousness and just-in-time logistics, it's really a fun read. Half-Arab hacker in an unnamed Arab emirate starts with girl trouble, and winds up with supernatural trouble, with jinn and other elements of Islamic mythology. Sort of a crazy Arabian Night tale for the digital age. The author is a convert and lived in Egypt for some time, so there are a lot of interesting cultural details that are no doubt from her experiences. It's a little odd that the (rather secular) hacker has to get a bit in tune with his inner Muslim, but it follows from the premise that the supernatural in the world is based in the truth of Islam.

Salvage and Demolition, by Tim Powers.

A fine novella of time travel. A little unsatisfying because much is left unexplained, yet at the same time, padding it out longer with explanation would probably not make it any more satisfying, so maybe that's not a problem after all. Some nice illustration (as always) from JK Potter.

The Wind's Twelve Quarters, by Ursula K. LeGuin.

A collection of 17 short stories, including some that eventually mutated into novels. It's neat to see some of the origins of Earthsea. Less so for some of the other entries, or her 'psychomyths'. And it's hard to read "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" for a second time with fresh eyes.
essentialsaltes: (poseidon)
All 50 Chapters!

I liked the parts where these old Yehudis tolchock each other and then drink their Hebrew vino, and getting onto the bed with their wives' handmaidens. That kept me going.

A faithful (so to speak) adaptation, and remarkably restrained, given much of his other work. Sure, every woman typifies his ideal proportions, but they mostly have clothes on, and the sex scenes are hardly gratuitous, though the adult supervision warning on the cover is justified.

The pictures force you to slow down, and think about some of the weird stuff going on, and some of the pictures may help to draw the weirdness to your attention. Why exactly is Abraham pretending his wife is his sister, so he can prostitute her not once, but twice? Crumb actually addresses this in his afterword, suggesting that this was some remnant of a hieros gamos-type ritual, in which Sarah plays a role as goddess to cement a relationship with these political leaders. Anyhoo.

Or other things like Jacob and Laban, where the two basically take turns screwing each other (in the business sense), including bonus magic, as Jacob uses striped sticks to produce stripe-y sheep and goats.

I mean, yeah, yeah, Adam & Eve & the Flood is all great, but why don't we ever hear about the animal husbandry of stripe-y flocks?

This sat on my amazon wishlist for a long time. And now I have it so that I can...

✓graphic novel
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
A History of American Secularism

A fascinating look at the idea of secular government from the Founders to the present, and how the idea has shifted from Enlightenment ideals to the Golden Age of Freethought in the 19th century, when the Great Agnostic Ingersoll could give the nominating speech for a Republican candidate for president (even in the good old days, when Republicans were the party of abolition). To the emergence of fundamentalism in the early 20th and its later common cause partnership with conservative Catholicism, and the response with the freethinker's coalition with liberal Protestantism and (secular) Judaism.

The historical detail is quite excellent, but as the time grows nearer the present, a hint of polemicism arises. I don't disagree with her, but the shift in tone is noticeable in the last chapter or so.

And yes, the blockquotes )
✓one-word title
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
Imagine there's a bird called the isoduck that lays eggs. And you're an isoduck farmer, and you have lots of isoducks and lots of isoduck eggs.

You discover that if you have a bunch of isoduck eggs, half of them will hatch into isoduck chicks every hour.

So if you put 16 eggs in a big box, after an hour, there would be 8 eggs and 8 chicks. And after another hour there would be only 4 eggs and 12 chicks. And so on.

One day one of your farmhands shows you a box. Inside it are 3 eggs and 9 chicks. He tells you that he only put eggs into the box, but now there are both eggs and chicks. You tell him, "I know when you put the eggs in the box."

He asks you how you know that. So kids, how do you know?

That's right! You know that half of the eggs hatch every hour. If there are 3 eggs now, that means an hour ago there were six eggs, and that means instead of 9 chicks, there were only 6 chicks and hour ago. And with six eggs and six chicks, obviously one more hour ago, there were 12 eggs. So your farmhand put the eggs into the box two hours ago.

By counting the number of eggs and chicks, you can calculate how long ago the eggs were put in a box.

Now the isoduck is made up. But in real life there are certain atoms that are radioactive. These radioactive atoms, also called isotopes, don't hatch into ducks, but they hatch into different kinds of atoms. For instance, one kind of potassium isotope hatches into an argon isotope.

And they hatch with the same rules as the duck. Only it isn't half of them every hour. It takes 1.3 billion years for half of them to hatch!

But the rules are the same, by counting the number of potassiums and argons, you can calculate how long ago the isotopes were put in a box.

Of course, there aren't any potassium farmers that put potassium isotopes in a box. But there are certain kinds of rocks that have potassium in them. And argon is a gas, so it shouldn't be found in a rock like this. But when we look, we find there are little argon isotopes trapped inside the rock! When the rock was hot and molten, the argon would all bubble away like steam escaping. So when the rock cools and gets hard, there's no argon inside. So all the argon that we see today came from the potassium isotopes hatching.

By counting the number of potassium and argon isotopes, you can calculate how long ago the rock cooled down and became solid.

And when we do that, we find that the oldest rocks on earth we find are more than 4 billion years old.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
A while back, I mentioned that I had acquired this. As promised there, rather than risk destroying it with my eye tracks, I found an e-text, which comprises "More wonders of the invisible world / collected by Robert Calef ; and Wonders of the invisible world / by Cotton Mather ; together with notes and explanations by Samuel P. Fowler"

The e-text is quite a struggle at times, since the long s, and various ligatures didn't scan so well. It's also often hard to tell who is speaking, since some of the text is letters written back and forth, and since the e-text contains both Mather's original, and Calef's response (which itself often quotes Mather).

Calef's books is largely a direct attack on Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials. It's kind of interesting since Calef certainly does not suggest that witches don't exist. It's in the Bible, so it's real. And the death penalty is set out very plainly. But what the Bible doesn't do, really, is say what exactly a witch is. All this nonsense about signing names in the Devil's book, and flying on sticks, is just superstition that is not Bible based. If we knew what witches really were, then we'd have a chance to convict them on the evidence, but it's wrong to convict them on peasant superstitions of what witches are.

There is also rather a lot of how-many-angels-can-dance sort of theological argument about whether Satan can grant witches power of his own power. Or whether God allows him to grant these powers. Or whether all powers necessarily come directly from God.

But anyway, on to the blockquotes:Read more... )
essentialsaltes: (narrow)
Likely 2016 voters prefer gay people over evangelicals.

"In it, 53 percent of respondents held a favorable view of gay people, while 42 percent held a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the likely voters surveyed held an unfavorable view of gay people, while 28 percent held a negative view of evangelical Christians.
When evangelicals, for instance, were asked if they favored or opposed gay marriage, only 19 percent of those older than 50 favored same-sex unions, but 45 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old set did."

It will be interesting to see the Republicans slowly change their tune on this. They want to keep their hoodwinked conservative evangelical base, but these are the new realities. And we'll probably get to see it played out in the polling and primaries and presidential candidates. I know the social conservatives hope to do well in Iowa, but if gay marriage is their only message, they may be disappointed when they find that 36% of Iowans are pretty 'meh' about the whole thing.

I think we're already starting to see the shift. The gay marriage thing is getting close to 'stick a fork in it', but we may hear more and more about 'religious liberty' and its 'restoration'. But even that hasn't been going so well recently. When used as a codeword for discrimination, its popularity sinks like a rock and backpedalling ensues, leaving it as an empty nod to religious liberties that already exist. Much like all the other largely empty nods to religion that the Republicans have made to keep their base hoodwinked.

Of course, we're also hearing the new message about the poor minority of citizens who just have different beliefs about gay people, and how they're now being discriminated against, and you shouldn't treat people badly just because of their different beliefs. When they were the 'moral majority' they were deaf to the entreaties of the minorities, so they deserve to be ignored. But I will listen to them:

#1, to make sure no real discrimination is happening
#2, because their tears are delicious
essentialsaltes: (whiskey Tango but no Foxtrot)
"If a gay couple was to come in and they wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no... We are a Christian establishment... We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything. We definitely agree with the bill. I do not think it's targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination. It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief."

No, that's what the word 'discriminating' means. Differentiating between different types of people and treating them differently. You do want to discriminate. You just want to legally discriminate. And you're happy this law will give you some cover.

"Why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?"

Beat over the head? Beat over the head? Making fucking pizzas for paying customers?

This touches me deeply since we served pizza at our wedding.

PS "anyone has the right to believe in anything"? Such a trenchant rallying cry for the Hoosier booboisie. Put that on some protest signs and march.
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
BioLogos (Francis Collins' pro-evolution pro-religion organization) funded Jonathan Hill, a Calvin College researcher, to conduct a study of American views on evolution and creationism.

For decades, the traditional (and easily comparable) data has been from Gallup polls that have asked the following question, starting in 1982:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings:
(1) human beings have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life and God guided this process,
(2) human beings have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life, but God had no part in this process, or
(3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?

Although this seems to carve things up neatly into theistic evolution, 'atheistic' evolution, and YEC, people's actual beliefs are, if not more subtle, at least more complicated. The results of these Gallup polls is that the largest response has always been for choice 3, the YEC option, with Americans agreeing with this option at 40% or more.

The current poll included 3,000 American participants, and provides a much clearer look into people's actual beliefs, and the different factors that influence (or correlate with) different beliefs.

Professor Hill offers his summary of the research, and there is a link to the entire study results. He focuses in his summary most on what recipe produces (his word, not mine) a YE creationist (or atheist evolutionist).

The National Center for Science Education has also posted a quick look into the data.

One of the tidbits that caught my eye: "only 8% of the sample met the further restrictions of believing in 6 24-hour days of creation which took place less than 10,000 years ago". Despite 40% picking the YEC option in the Gallup poll, putting together a complete suite of YEC beliefs actually shows that quite a small number are 6-literal-day YEC. Of course the same goes for full-on 'atheistic' evolution: "atheistic evolutionists, who accept human evolution but do not think God played a role (even if they personally believe in God), represented 9% of the sample."

"Not surprisingly, the pro-evolution almost always justify their stance by noting that it represents the best science, while those classified as creationists cite the authority of the Bible and defense of Christianity as the main motivations for their beliefs. ... This suggests that the two groups are in effect hearing two different questions, with one group hearing a question about science, the other hearing a question about religion. "

"a mere 32% of the creationists and only 19% of those who do not think God was involved in evolution agreed that science and religion are “ultimately compatible.” Over half (53%) of the theistic evolutionists disagreed, saying that the two are ultimately compatible."
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
Subtitle: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University

It tells the story of a Quaker student at Brown who spends a semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in 2007. OK, yes, it's a bit of a stunt, but at least it's an interesting one, and Roose definitely throws himself into the role, a lot more so than, say, Jason Rosenhouse in Among the Creationists. Roose enrolls at Liberty and presents himself as a Christian (At Liberty, "Christian" is synonymous with 'born again Christian') and (awkwardly) fakes up a recent conversion story to explain his presence (and why he has so little knowledge that he would flunk Sunday school for six year olds).

In short he comes to, generally, like the students and staff at Liberty, and a little Stockholm Syndrome sets in I think, and he finds himself simultaneously defending them, and disapproving of their (fairly common) homophobia and the one-sidedness of some portions of the 'education'. He even comes to have some appreciation for Jerry Falwell. And in "you can't make this shit up", he scores a one-on-one interview with Falwell for the school newspaper, gets praised for it by Falwell himself in convocation (I mean, what's not to praise, it was a puff-piece in the Liberty newspaper; the hard-hitting exposé uncovered the fact that Falwell had a peach Snapple every day at 3pm, which he slammed down in 6 seconds). A few days later, Falwell's dead, and this Quaker mole has published the last print interview Falwell ever gave, which comes to have a life of its own as it is reprinted in the memorial for the funeral.

I have once again abused the highlight feature of the Kindle...

if you click here, I'll reward you with Larry Flynt's parody ad featuring Falwell that led to a Supreme Court case )


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