Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When the Hell Did Psychotic Become a Political Party?

I’m not sure when paranoid psychosis became a legitimate voting bloc, but after reading more details about the How To Take Back America Conference, I’m pretty sure opposing drug use in the 1960’s must have caused brain damage. How the hell did so many people get so disconnected from reality and why are they so damn proud of it?

Granted, most of them are the same people who think the Adam’s family fed carrots to velociraptors until Eve started chatting up a tree snake (Go figure! You couldn’t swing a dead cat in Eden without hitting a friendly reptile and she managed find the only one with a hidden agenda!), but still, how can anyone seriously think that any US President could simultaneously turn the nation into Nazi Germany AND the Soviet Union? And how could that be one of the sanest things discussed at the conference?

Michelle Bachman, the goddess of truth and rationality (on Planet Wackoloonie) addressed the group. I don’t know what she said, but even if I had heard her, I doubt I would know what the hell she was talking about. The fact she was invited to speak is sufficient evidence that these people are out of their freaking minds.

Phyllis Schlafley, the woman who eschewed traditional female roles to make a career out of demonizing women that eschew traditional female roles, told a packed house “…that the feminist movement is the most dangerous, destructive force in our society today.” [...] I’m talking about drugs, sex, illegitimacy, drop outs, poor grades, run away, suicide, you name it, every social ill comes out of the fatherless home. Oddly enough, she seems not to have provided any statistical evidence to support her statements, but I suppose info from such a credible source stands on its own merits. Afterwards, Mike Huckabee presented her with the “American Hero of the Century” award. It wasn’t stated for which century the award was given, but I’m guessing the 17th.

Other highlights of the conference were calls to reclaim all the civil rights that have been taken away from upper-middle-class white protestants (WTF?), calls to be ready for armed insurrection against the legitimately elected government if they try to take over the legitimately elected government, and calls to fight to insure freedom of religion, as long as that religion is evangelical Xian and that those rights include suppression of all other beliefs, by violence if necessary (or if no one gets caught doing the violence, because the Prince of Peace hates it when righteous Xians go to prison for murder and stuff).

On the one hand I think a golden opportunity was missed during the conference to build a big fence around the whole bunch for the protection of the human race. On the other hand I think it’s nice that all these people got a weekend off from their normal routine of electro-shock therapy and straitjackets.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ray Comfort and the Origin of the Feces

First, let me say that if you take information and intentionally misrepresent it, you are a liar. If you have others point out where your assertions are wrong (on national TV), but you continue to repeat your lies anyway, you’re also a hypocrite. If, in addition to that, you call those who have demonstrated that you lied, immoral, ignorant liars, and you claim moral superiority for yourself, you are an evil, sociopathic scumbag, Ray Comfort.

I just read the 50 page introduction that Ray Comfort has added to “The Origin of the Species” in the editions that he is donating to Universities. He is doing this, in part because he says he has learned that up to 60% of psychology and biology professors in major universities don’t believe in a god. So, he sees that persons who, almost by definition, are much better educated and more intelligent than average, have used that education and intelligence to arrive at the conclusion that there is no god, and he thinks a book, that’s already ubiquitous, can be given away with 50 pages of untruths, misconceptions, and unsupportable suppositions added and convert these professors.

This is a very typical collection of Xian apologist arguments that every supporter of evolution has heard before. Inexplicably, (after a quick biography of Darwin) it begins with a section about the structure of DNA. Since DNA structure was identified 96 years after “The Origin of the Species” was written, it is quite clear that this introduction has nothing to do with the book it introduces.

Not only is the introduction not specifically about the book, it appears that Comfort hasn’t even read the book. He presents a quote that’s footnoted as from pages 133-134 of the 1872 ed. I checked and it is from those pages, that is, one must combine sentence fragments from both those pages to achieve that “quote”. Later he employs the famously misrepresented introductory remarks about the complexity of the eye. He does mention that Darwin thought he could (not, noting that Darwin actually did) explain the evolution of the eye, but Comfort didn’t buy it anyway.

In case readers are not persuaded by the blatant misrepresentation of science, Comfort brings out the big guns for his final argument. It’s his own special version of Pasqual’s wager. According to him everyone needs religion and, although there are many choices, Christianity is the best choice because, if it turns out to be real, the punishment of burning and torture for eternity is worse than for any other religion. What a great way to choose a religion! Pick the one that has to threaten you the most to get you to join.

In summation, Ray Comfort, in a stroke of brilliance that exceeds his miraculous banana theory, is giving away a book that includes an introduction that can be rebutted simply by reading the rest of the book and the people to whom he is sending this book are among those most likely to have already read the book and whose backgrounds make them among the best equipped persons to demonstrate what a load of crap the introduction is. I think we should all applaud Ray Comfort for publishing and donating these books, in fact, I think we should encourage him to do the same thing with all the books that Darwin wrote, anyone named Darwin. Let’s keep him spending his money in this way until he’s as financially bankrupt as he is morally.

They Must Be Crackers

P. Z. Myers had a post on Pharyngula yesterday about the afternoon discussion he held in Fargo ND saying "My opening remarks were about being assertive atheists who challenge conventions and do things like desecrating crackers…", and then he commented on Catholics in the audience who expressed that they were offended. One can find examples of this kind of egocentric outrage any time a disregard for Christianity is expressed in the US (as in this later post).

They just can't shift their mental gears enough to understand that what they see as the "consecrated body of the Savior" is still just a cracker to anyone of a different belief. They think that because a priest said some words and made hand gestures over baked flour disks, everyone should perceive them as little chunks of human flesh that are part of their favorite person. A non-believer can do DNA testing, mass spectrometry, X-rays, fMRI's or satellite photos and still find nothing but flour and water. Unless one assumes that Catholics revere the Pillsbury Dough Boy, no evidence of a Savior can be found.

The point is that what is revered within a religion is perceived in a unique way by devotees of that religion, but for those outside that belief, these things are just mundane objects. Christians should understand this since it has been their attitude toward the religious objects of other religions for as long as there have been Xians. Missionaries have denigrated, defaced or destroyed religious objects of other people on every continent of the world (except, maybe Antarctica) and when the non-Xians rose up in outrage, the Xians would shrug and say, "What's the big deal? It's only a cracker."

Acts like Dr. Meyrs' "desecration" of a communion wafer need to occur to remind people that there are a lot of different views represented within the human population and one's own beliefs are no more valid than anothers. Most of the people that are outraged by the blasphemous acts of non-believers have themselves sneered at or desecrated what others believe to be holy. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Catholics should not be too surprised if a non-Catholic looks at a communion wafer and sees only a cracker, and those same Catholics should not be surprised by the outrage of Native Americans when something they revere is desecrated by ignorant or uncaring persons.

For way too long Xians in the US have had the attitude that their religious symbols are "the body of Christ" but everyone else's are just crackers. They need to learn that the trappings of their religion have no more value than anyone else's, and no less, but once that wafer is out of the hands of a believer, what ever special powers it possessed are gone and it reverts to cracker status and is not worthy of your outrage.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Devalued Voters Summit

Big fat bummer! I missed the Values Voters Summit in DC this weekend. It sounds like it was quite a wingding with all the best and brightest of the Real Americans. Just check out the awesome subjects for the breakout sessions:

So how do you suppose the summit went? Well, if the schedule was followed, everyone got together and congratulated themselves for being such upstanding, moral, Xian patriots and guardians of American culture. Then a bunch of conservative politicians reiterated the self-congratulation. At every opportunity, some Xian ceremony or religious lip-service was added just in case someone forgot that all Real Americans are evangelical Xians, then they talked about fixing the ruination of all that is good in the world that has occurred in the last 8 months. Before going home, they all did more Xian ceremonies to insure that god knows what he's supposed to be doing.

Judging by the synopses of the above topics, and knowing the track record of some of the speakers, these folks spent the weekend convincing each other that whatever they believe is the unalterable truth and the will of god, and anyone who disagrees, or any idea created by her/him, is the spawn of satan and must be completely crushed lest the world should come to a horrible end before the next teabag meeting.

In short, these folks get together, reinforce their self-centered belief that they're the ideal examples of the true American Xian and then proceed to demonstrate that anything good or moral in the bible is beyond their knowledge. They vilify and demonize those outside their group with bigotry, distortions, and bold faced lies. They demand their civil rights, which they interpret as the right to impose their views on everyone else any time they want and the right to suppress or destroy even the most benign opposition. They then discuss their methods of achieving their goals including what amounts to destroying the constitution and overthrowing the legitimately elected government. These are our great Xian patriots.

The most repugnant thing about this summit is the way conservative politicians cater to these people and even aid and abet their delusional agenda. The world will always have crackpots that live in a fantasy world, but there is no good reason to encourage belief in a 6000 year old world, the world ending in the next few years, CO2 not effecting the atmosphere, the president being the antichrist (from a foreign country) or any other anti-reality, anti-American nonsense. It's time for people to step forward and point out that delusional, treasonous behavior is not acceptable in our government representatives. We don't tolerate victims of alien abduction, Atlantians, or reincarnations of Jesus in office, so supporters of the Flintstones as history, or Satan in the oval office should be treated the same.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fundamentalism Causes Babies

A new article on LiveScience.com talks about higher teen birth rates among teens in communities that are "highly religious". Highly religious is their term, but what they are referring to, is areas with a high concentration of fundamentalist Xians. The article speculates about possible causes for the religious-preggers-ratio, but I have personal experience that strongly suggests that the main problem is ignorance.

In the distant past (1970), when I was a high school sophomore, my family moved from Danbury, Connecticut, which had one of the highest rated and most progressive public school systems at that time, to Avon, Indiana, that didn't. Danbury benefited from the sophistication spillover from New York City and as a result its High School health classes spent a great deal of time on human reproduction and contraception. Avon was a largely rural community that was just starting to become a bedroom community for Indianapolis and evangelical Xians who lived on farms were what the faculty still perceived as the student population. I don't remember health class in Avon, but I remember that many of the councilors and teachers seemed uncomfortable acknowledging that students had two sexes. The attitude of the educators was that ignorance was the best and only condoned contraceptive.

It was easy to see the effect of the different educational approaches: the "highly religious" community had a lot more teen pregnancies. Ignorance is one of the main objectives of fundamentalists. Since they insist that their members must believe the fundamentals of their group, the survival of the group is dependent on their ability to suppress or disavow any contradictory evidence. In addition to that, sex is icky and dirty and embarrassing to talk about so it's best to conceal the facts and hope the kids don't try to figure out what genitalia are for until after they're married.

Unfortunately, in spite of all the parents' prayers, or, according to fundies, because prayer is not allowed in school, hormones beat out ignorance when adolescents feel the need to insure the fitness of the human species. The result is a bunch of undereducated, emotionally unprepared children trying to raise younger children whose existence is frequently resented by the parents. The expectation would be a higher rate of sexually transmitted disease, more abandoned and abused children and more botched abortions. It seems like an awfully high price to pay for religious dogma.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ignorance on Parade

The Tea Party Express arrived in DC to protest government spending, rising taxes, destruction of the constitution, communism, fascism, and the eminent end of the world as we know it. As I've mentioned before, alluding to the Boston Tea Party when protesting taxes is already a mark of how misinformed the group is. The Boston Tea Party was to stop low priced surplus tea from being brought from England, thereby destroying the local tea business. If the people in Washington were protesting business monopolies, the tea party would be an appropriate symbol. As it is, perhaps it's an appropriate symbol for a large group that doesn't know what it's talking about, but nonetheless is sure it's correct.

The first thing I notice about these people is that they have amnesia of all things that occurred before Obama's inauguration. They don't remember that the recession and the bail-outs started during the Bush administration. They don't remember that there was a budget surplus when Bush came into office and a trillion dollar deficit when he left. They don't remember (or think is relevant) the unconstitutional acts of the previous administration, and they don't remember that, for most of them, they got poorer while their boss got richer. In fact, it's worth noting that while the "Tea-baggers" filled DC with anti-Obama signs and T-shirts, people were actually thrown in jail for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at Bush's appearances.

The Atlantic just had an article about the economic legacy of the Bush administration, based on US Census statistics, which reinforces the bumper-sticker slogan; If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. These protesters seem not to be paying attention to anything (except, maybe, the delusional rants of Glen Beck) and it's evident in their signs: Obama, depicted as Hitler, is turning the US to communism, government should keep it's hands off Medicare and Social Security, Obama's turning a Xian nation into an Islamic nation, and, if Obama's plans worked, everything should be fixed by now.

If these people really want to make this a better nation, they need to spend less time walking around with stupid signs, turn off the TV at home, stay home from the bible study meetings, and start reading some non-fiction for a change. When they learn that the spoutings of Glen Beck, Rush Limbo, and their anti-education fundy preachers are actually fiction, then, we can begin to have rational conversations about fixing problems and improving lives. Or, they can continue to parrot messages of ignorance and hate until we're all so angry and polarized that we annihilate each other. They have the freedom to chose.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Free Audio Books and the Beagle

I like to put audio books on my MP3 player and listen to them while working around the house or down in my wood shop. I'd been getting them through the Columbus Library's website where they have a fair selection of nonfiction and the books are professionally recorded. If you have a library card somewhere, check your library's site. You might have a similar deal. Recently I found another source that's very cool. Internet Archive has a large collection of audio, videos and Ebooks that are in the public domain. There are also opportunities to volunteer to record books into the audio collection (I may do some, but I talk so slowly that it may take half an hour to listen to a book title). Check it out, volunteer, donate and enjoy the accumulated knowledge.

The last book I listened to was "The Voyage of the Beagle" by Charles Darwin. I'd read a lot of his writings, but thought this book, usually described as a travelogue, would be no big deal. Boy, was I wrong. I think this book gave me more insight into the way Darwin's mind worked and his amazing powers of perception than anything else I've read by him. While his later works display the end results of his brain power, "The Voyage of the Beagle" allows the reader (or the listener, as it were) to observe the gears turning. Darwin not only seemed to gather more information from his observations than most people, he was then able to compare species he observed to taxonomically similar species in other parts of the world and determine the direction and possible methods of migration of flora and fauna. After reading this book, natural selection seems a more natural conclusion from the accumulated data than I had previously thought. I don't mean that reading about the Beagle voyage would allow anyone to reach the same conclusion, that obviously didn't happen, but, rather that Darwin's incredible intellect was so apparent that of course he figured it out.

Joe Wilson's Always Been Loud and Wrong

Everyone is talking about Joe Wilson (R. SC) yelling during Obama's speech, and some are even pointing out that Wilson was wrong. Apparently, this is an old habit. Daily Kos found a video of Wilson calling Rep. Bob Filner (D. CA) a liar and then insisted that he hates America when Filner pointed out, correctly, that the United States aided Iraq's biological and chemical weapons program.

It turns out Joe Wilson is the type of person that is frequently the subject of my blog; the type that that thinks everything he believes is correct and anyone who disagrees is not just wrong, but also the enemy. Another Rep. from SC declared that health-care would be Obama's Waterloo, but I'm hoping it be Wilson's Waterloo instead. Look over your shoulder, Joe. Is that Wellington gaining on you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Aftermath of the Scary Speech

Obama's speech to the students of the US has come and gone and there are no reported fatalities. Of course, this could just the lull before the storm. When our guard is down, Nancy Pelosi might broadcast the trigger word that was implanted during the speech, then all the children will become ultra-liberal zombies who ravage the country with taxing, spending and creating social programs. Oh! The horror!

Now, Karl Rove has tipped us all off to what really happened; Pres. Obama was going to deliver a speech that would indoctrinate America's children into becoming communist-fascist, Islamic-atheist, terrorist-sissies. Thank goodness the outrage by the Real Americans forced the Antichrist administration to change their evil plan at the last minute, and, thank goodness we have the honesty and integrity of Karl Rove to thank for making that clear. Next, we need to demand to see the real speech as well as the real birth certificate.

Seriously, people like Karl Rove know that the most conservative, most fundamental Xians are very afraid of change and very easily swayed by religious talk, and are therefore easy to manipulate. That is, after all, what Rove did for a living when he worked for George W. Bush. He and other conservative pundits are intentionally tapping into this vulnerability to create a fictitious environment of fear that they know will scare the bejeesus out of a bunch of folks that don't have the rational tools to deal with it objectively.

There are people who were literally afraid to expose their children to a back to school speech. In an interview I read over the weekend, a woman said she didn't want her kids exposed to the President's speech, saying she was an American, the kids are Americans and she is very frightened right now. Does that seem rational to you?

The implication, of course, is that the President of the United States is not an American, that his plans do not consider the best interests of the US's people, and that something really, really, bad is this administration's real goal. They want to avoid their kids' exposure to our President in the same knee-jerk way that they would "protect them" from atheism, evolution and homosexuals. They're scared of the President in a similar way to how I'm scared of knee-jerk reactionaries who are armed with firearms but not with fully functional brains.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Let's Censor the President

Censorship has gone crazy. Science classes have to be edited to avoid conflicting with religious dogma. Books need to be banned from libraries lest someone should perceive the contents thereof as socially acceptable in the community. TV and radio broadcasters are expected to remove shows that some people find offensive, but would never even watch, and some parents even forbid their children from associating with kids from families with different religious beliefs. The list goes on and on.

There used to be one thing that couldn't be censored; addresses by the President of the United States. When Pres. Obama announced that he intended to give a TV address to the students returning to school, parents, even here in Central Ohio, called the schools threatening to keep their children at home if the schools exposed their children to the corruptive influence of the duly elected leader of their national government.

We seem to have created an environment in the US where some people think it is acceptable to be completely intolerant of any opinion other than their own and have a right to demand that nobody is even allowed to be exposed to an opinion other than theirs. Sadly, these narrow-minded folks are frequently the same ones who claim to be the most patriotic Americans and they are also the quickest to scream about their constitutional rights if suppressed in any way. The best solution to this is to teach their children to think objectively and give them a hunger for all knowledge, then maybe the next generation will be more open-minded and have a valid reason for being embarrassed to be seen with their parents.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Few of my Favorite Things

I just found this article at Bloomberg by way of a reference to it in Pharyngula. The article is about an investment con where honest investors lost their life savings to 3 guys who promised great profits on their investments, but delivered nothing. The scam was what the article calls "affinity fraud",that targets a group of like-minded people who are especially vulnerable due to the mutual trust among the members. Here's my I-told-you-so moment. The targeted group was evangelical Xians and Mormons.

As I have ragged about a couple of times, some Xians make themselves easy marks for unscrupulous individuals because of their bias toward, and greater trust of, those that identify themselves as Xians. The members of the group lower their inhibitions because they perceive themselves as in a safe environment. The conference call meetings of investors included praying (as well as preying) and talk of using the profits for good causes. No matter how absurd the reasons that were given for needing more money or how many warnings they got from friends and relatives, the investors did what ever they could to come up with more money, even getting second morgages.

This brings me to another subject I've blogged about; avoiding cognitive dissonance. Fundies may be the all time champs at refusing to acknowledge the contradictions between their beliefs and facts that would cause the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. Just like the text books say, the people with the greatest emotional investment in the investment are are most likely to deny being ripped off. Some of the folks who lost everything, even though the con-men are all in prison, insist that they lost their money because the FBI stopped the process before the highly profitable deal could be completed.

I feel very sorry for these people who lost everything just because they trusted their fellow man, but as I have suggested before (and as G. W. Bush's political team said), fundies are very easy to manipulate. It's just a pity they don't read my blog, or they would have been armed and ready for the scammers.