Thursday, April 27, 2006

Striking A Minor Blow For Feminism

My blogging co-conspirator Philoman and his wife had a beautiful little baby girl back in February. Earlier tonight, he and I were talking about his bundle of joy, and being the worrier than Philoman is, he said that he’s already wondering what she’s going to have to contend with boy-wise. I immediately responded, “What you’re really saying when you talk about boys is that you’re worried that you won’t teach her to how to make good decision and take care of herself, aren’t you?”

He looked puzzled for moment, and then seemed to get what I was saying, and agreed.

He had fallen into that old double-standard trap of assuming that boys would be the sole aggressors and that his little girl would be some sort of passive participant. By asking him that pointed question, I was trying to turn that assumption on its ear, and imply that if he raises her right, she’ll make good decisions about what kinds of positions she puts herself into, and that if she makes a mistake, she’ll know to kick the bastard in the balls and leave elegantly.

I know it's never that simple in real life, but hey, if we don't strive for perfection, we'll never improve at all.

I gotta say, I feel pretty good about that particular pointed question.

Ah, Sweet Discord!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)High
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Skeptic's Reflections On Perception

The word "perception" keeps popping up in my conversations lately. It came up in my very first late-night philosophy session with my new lab partner, when we discussed memory's unreliability. It keeps coming up in my evolution arguments with Gunner, mostly about his skewed ideas about the Scopes Trial. It has come up several times while my local friends and I hash and rehash the Gay/Straight Alliance fiasco at a local high school. (BTW, you can find information about that here and here. It really pisses me off, but that's a whole other post.) It even came up in my discussion of Silent Hill.

When a word pops up that much in so short a time, it usually means that it's on my mind a lot, and upon reflection, I have to say that that's the case right now.

Perception is a powerful thing. In politics today, perception is more important than reality. Maybe it always was. I don't know.

In the justice system, perception is sadly the only important thing to the jury, in general. I wish it was different, and that juries would only look at the facts, but that's just not the case.

Even on a personal front, perception is about to take a front seat in my life.

Perceptions are more important than most people tend to think, even though there is a lot of folk wisdom out there that touches on it. Think about it. All the advice about first impressions that we get and give are about perceptions, since first impressions are all superficial and thus perception-based. None of it's based on deep insight. There's more, but I'll leave it to the reader to come up with other examples.

In the culture wars, perception is everything, although the godless side doesn't seem to understand that as well as it should. Look at Dover, PA. The bulk of the local community was thoroughly behind the school board until the dollar signs started piling up and the trial itself made them out to look so stupid.

But that lesson seems to keep escaping at least a section of the atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, brights and what-have-you. Sadly, it's often the most vocal section. While I thoroughly agree that religion is more blight than boon, I can't help but put myself in the opposition's shoes. I seem to always get incensed when someone tells me a cherished belief is wrong. It may take me a long time to come around to a different perspective. And that's something that the godless community needs to remember. Except for those lucky few raised in a godless home, our entire population came to our convictions through a process. And lets be honest here. If it wasn't a slow process, then there's probably a flaw in your reasoning somewhere. People just don't wake up one morning and declare themselves free of religion. It just doesn't happen. Although it does make for an amusing image, doesn't it? Ponder for a moment why the idea of someone throwing off the covers, stretching luxuriantly and then declaring "I am an atheist!" is amusing.

Like so many funny things, it's because it's completely unexpected. And that's because becoming godless, whether you self-identify as agnostic, atheist, secular humanist, bright, all of the above or none, is a drawn-out, often painful process. It hurts to give up cherished beliefs that have been drilled into you since you were a child. It's scary as hell to accept that there is no hell, and thus no heaven, either.

But true believers don't perceive us as having come to our conclusions through hard-fought, hard-won self-searching. All they hear when we tell them that we evolved from lesser primates is that "We evolved from monkeys". Yes, that's inaccurate. Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, it's uninformed and dangerously ignorant. But that doesn't make it any less true. The god-fearing, of whatever stripe, look at our philosophies and our reasoning and our joy in living, and it clashes with everything they've been taught. And they. Just. Don't. Understand.

One of the first three questions I'm always asked when I let the cat out of the bag about my agnosticism is what I have against God and/or religion. Always. True believers go through periods of questioning, and those questioning periods are usually at times of great stress. The loss of a loved one, a job or a home seem to be the most common triggers in my (admittedly limitied) experience, although I have heard tales of questioning arising from something as simple as college attendance or travelling the world. There's nothing quite like learning about another religion for casting your own into sharp relief, after all.

But most questioning seems to arise due to loss-based stress, and that's the conclusion that believers jump to: that I'm an agnostic because I'm angry, disappointed or otherwise disillusioned about religion/God. That's how they perceive those who don't believe. Not as true non-believers, but as lost sheep who have gone astray. That's also why they tend to get incensed over the in-your-face attitudes of the hard-line atheists out there. The more they argue, fuss and fight, the more they appear to be children who don't want to take their metaphorical medicine.

I know that's going to insult a lot of the godless out there, this image of them as reticent children. But you have to remember that we are dealing with people who believe. They have the capital "T" truth, or at least a piece of it. We look at them and smirk in our superiority, but they look back and smile at our recalcitrance. I think we've forgotten what that feels like. Skeptics live in a world of uncertainty, be definition. If you accept modern definitions and philosophies of science, then you can never give 100%, unchanging acceptance to anything!

You can give enough temporary agreement to things like the theory of evolution or the theory of gravity that in real-world, practical terms you can treat it like 100%, but at the center of a true skeptic's philosophy, there should be some uncertainty. I suppose you could say that a skeptic should be skeptical of his skepticism. But that might make your brain sizzle. I know it does mine, at times.

True believers walk through life with certitude in a plethora of things. They believe they have the truth. Never mind the fact that ten years ago they believed things they don't believe today. Never mind the fact that ten years from now their beliefs will be even more different. That doesn't matter. They suffer from a connectivity of perception. Their beliefs change incrementally over time, just like a skeptic's does. The difference is that a skeptic doesn't care if his attitudes and beliefs change. Uncertainty is at the core of his philosophy.

But religion is a stabilizing force. It's the antithesis of change. And a true believer has a sort of tunnel vision where his beliefs are concerned. He needs that stability, or at least come to expect its presence, so he doesn't handle having his beliefs challenged very well. That's why the Catholic Church takes centuries to admit that Galileo is right, or that the world is round. Change is difficult, scary and painful, especially to those who aren't used to having their perceptions shaken time and time again.

I'm an introspective guy. In other words, I brood. But I love having my views challenged, because that gives me a chance to define them a little more, chip away some of the goofiness in my belief structure and, for want of a better word, purify my perceptions. But the god-fearing don't want to do this, as a general rule, because they feel that they already have the truth. Calling them loons and kooks isn't going to endear them to giving us skeptics a fair shake.

I know its tempting, and I know it gets really old when you have to rehash the same arguments again and again. But if we have to reinvent the wheel a billion times to get our point across, to get people to perceive things the way we skeptics do, then that's what we have to do. And we have a responsibility to do so as well and as often as possible. The faithful may view us as recalcitrant children but I view them as people with blindfolds on. You don't blame someone for being blindfolded unwillingly. You just help them get it off. Their eyes are gonna hurt in the light of day, but it's still worth doing. Doing it with a little compassion is worthwhile, as well.

At least that's my perception. You may perceive things differently.

More On The Gunner Argument

Here's a good chunk of an exchange over evolution I had with my old college buddy Gunner. My comments are in blue italics. His are red bold.

Me: Second, a scientific theory is never accepted as useful unless it has predictive power and explains already collected evidence. Does the Bible have true predictive power? Can you read it and tell me where to find a specific kind of fossil that will have specific kinds of features?

Gunner: Yes, the bible is a tremendous Archeological source. It will tell you where to find cities, how people lived, and it is well over 98% accurate in doing so. That is more than enough to convict a person in a trial using DNA.

Me: It's an archeological source, but not a hard science source. Here are several things that the Bible gets wrong scientifically:

{Snip. No need to see the entire list. Just check the link below.}

And these are just in Genesis. And they're not everything in Genesis that's scientifically wrong. I won't bother to list more. Check out this link for the total list:

What else can I say to get my point across?

Here's more:

Gunner: Yes, if you follow the Wall between Church and State philosophy. They are just like evolution in the classroom, Nichie (Spelling) or Foucaults philosophy in the classroom or anything else that can be offensive to a persons religious sensibilities. That is why the actual Supreme Court decision is stupid.

Me: But evolution isn't a philosophy. It's a model of the world that's been arrived by the scientific method. Now, the scientific method has been shaped by philosophy, but only insomuch as it says that if it's supernatural, it's not science, because we can't study it. That's the point of science, to study the natural world and figure out how it works. And evolution is just one theory among many that have been created to do just that.

It always amazes me that Fundievangelicals like to say that evolution is only a theory, but never point out that gravity is only a theory. Scientifically, they are equivalent in accuracy. Evolution is not philosophy. Evolution is a reasonably accurate way of looking at how we got here. And it works. We have seen evolution occur, in the real world. We know it happens to animals. We are animals. Why is it so hard to accept that it happens to us?

Because you believe the world is only 6000 years old? If you believe that, it only shows your ignorance. There is evidence in every old lake in the world that disproves that. The speed of light disproves the young earth creationist position. Radio isotope dating. Measurements of meteor impact frequency on the moon. Lake varves. Genetic drift in humans and other biochemical markers. Heck, until the late 1970s or so, there was a tree on a mountain in California that was older than the biblical Flood. How did it survive? If you can't even get the Flood date right, then how can you say the world is a given age?

You can't. But science has plenty of evidence, from multiple lines of independent research, that bear out the age of the universe. And they all agree. The same can be said for the age of the earth, and the age of the human race. One of the most damning bits of evidence is that we can measure genetic bottlenecks in species, and we are accurate 99.9% of the time. If the Bible is accurate, then every living species in the world should have a genetic bottleneck approximately 4500 years ago. And yet they don't.

Can you explain that? Just that one challenge to young earth creationism. Explain why every living species in the world doesn't have a genetic bottleneck that's 4500 years old. I bet you can't.

I know he's not going to respond in any reasonable kind of way. Once a person goes fundy, it's really hard to deprogram them. And if he's being completely truthful, he's actually been this way for longer than I've known him, and for four years of Dungeons & Dragons, drinking, and late-night philosophizing, it just never came up.

Mind-boggling, isn't it?

Lincoln With A Lightsaber

August J. Pollak of Xoverboard fame had this to say about Abraham Lincoln:

Someone challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel. His terms were broadswords. In a pit.

I repeat: greatest President ever.

I couldn't agree more. Although it's a good thing Lincoln wasn't a Jedi.

Don't believe this? Check it out for yourself: Lincoln's Forgotten Duel

Abortion Talk

Melantha over at Rekindling the Inner Fire makes some interesting points about abortion.

Here's one of my favorites:

Abortion is about motherhood, raising children, and self responsibility and knowledge.

Motherhood is not about a ball of cells, it’s not about pregnancy. The fact that you are physically capable of having a child and getting pregnant does not make you a mother. Birthing a child does not make you a mother. Every damn animal on the planet can pop out kids, only humans truly have mothers.

I know my mother isn't my mother because she gave birth to me (although she did). She's my mom because she helped raise me. My dad is my dad not because he donated to my genetics (although he did). He's my dad because he helped raise me. I know it's a self-evident kind of thing, but it's something that we need to be reminded of.

Every person in America knows someone who has a "parent" that's not biological. If there's one that doesn't, they've been living in a cave somewhere. This phenomenon stretches back through history, too. It's not just local to the US and it's not a new phenomenon.

I like Melantha's conclusion, too. It speaks for itself:

No woman who wants to become a mother should be forced to abort her child.
No woman who does not want to become a mother should be forced to have a child.

I can't help but agree.

Bush's Approval Ratings

I keep saying it and saying it. The only problem with people who voted for Bush getting what they deserve is that I have to get it, too.

Check out this map of Bush's approval ratings by state. If he were to run for election today, he'd only carry four states, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska and Wyoming. So, potato-farmers, Mormons, corn-huskers and whatever hell Wyoming's famous for are the only types who still like him. And those states' approval ratings are only in the 50s. I know his isn't the worst approval rating of a second-term president. I know there's a so-called Second Term Jinx. But jebus! Can't the White House take the hint?

We don't like you. We don't like what you're doing. Stop it.

(hat-tip to Nanovirus)

The World Turns Topsy-Turvy

Okay, it's truly bizarre when Glamour magazine has an article I'm interested in. But all I can say is, wow! Their article on Doctors' Distrust of the FDA is both thought-provoking and undeniably scary. The butt-sht it probably gratuitous, but I don't really care.

Glamour magazine has investigative reporting. Who knew?

(hat-tip to Bitch Ph. D.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gas Prices Need To Be Higher

Everyone is smarting over the prices at the pump right now, and I understand that. I don't like paying what I'm paying any more than the rest of you. And I am really sickened by the fact that all that extra money is going right into oil baron pockets. But I have to agree with DuaneSmith over at Abnormal Interests.

He has a very good post about gas prices that I can't disagree with. It says, in short, that gas prices should be higher, not lower. The really pertinent part, to me, is this:

... The increase in price should be in the form of a partly revenue neutral tax. The tax should be so designed that the poor are not hurt. In fact, they should be given public transportation grants or the like from part of the tax that is not revenue neutral. Another part of the increased revenue should go to building public transportation infrastructure in areas where it is currently the least used and hardest to design and to improving it where it is the most used. Yes, it does need to be phased in but in a matter of a few years not a few decades. But we should borrow against it to start the infrastructure tasks ASAP.

On top of this, we need something like a truly revenue neutral tax on greenhouse gas emissions at every point in the supply and use chain.

For one thing, Americans are spoiled rotten when it comes to gas. When you factor in inflation, gas is still pretty damned cheap, all things considered. And our car culture feeds off that cheap gas. But that cheap gas does very little to help the areas in economic distress. His idea would redistribute (and I know, that's a nasty, leftist word, but I don't give a rat's ass) resources to where they are needed most, assuming decent management of the money. And we need solid infrastructure development for those areas now. Expansion into surrounding areas can come later. History has shown that any time you increase ease of transportation, you get an economic boom.

There's a reason Rome built roads everywhere it went, and it wasn't purely for ease of military use. They knew what decent, well-maintained roads did for the economy of the Empire. It's been said that the US is the new Roman Empire. I'm not sure I agree with that, but it can't be denied that the US interstate system has been an economic boon. This principal will also work on smaller scales, in the more economically backward areas of the country. Places like the inner city, southern West Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana. Every one of those places has transportation issues. Fix those issues and you go a long way, although not the entire distance, towards fixing the other issues in the area. By fixing the local infrastructure, you improve school systems, lower crime rates, increase interest in corporate development and a plethora of other benefits. I'm not saying throw money at the problem. It would take wise stewardship to make it work in any given area. Using tax money of any sort always does. But if done correctly, it would, in the end, go a long way towards putting more money in the hands of the local populace, offsetting the increased burden on the the families in these areas, gas-price-wise.

And I think we can agree that having more money doesn't make everything better, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Fundamentalist's View of Scopes

Well, Gunner kept going on and on about the "Scopes Monkey Trial" and how it's decision put up a "Wall Between Church and State" in our little blog-debate. So, I sent him a nice little link showing how Scopes was actually rather ineffective from a legal perspective. For those of you that don't know the history of the case, here's a brief synopsis:

In the mid 1920s, Scopes tried to teach evolution to his biology
class. This broke Tennessee law, causing him to go to court. His
defense attorney ultimately asked the jury in the case to find him guilty so it
could go to higher courts. He hoped it would make it to the Supreme
Court. Scopes was fined $100. When the case made it to the Tennessee
appellate court, it was overturned on a technicality instead of for
constitutional reasons. Thus, from a precedent setting perspective, the
Scopes trial was a wash. Here's a link with all the fun facts, including
bits about the prosecution and defense, both famous names for one thing or
another: Scopes Trial

That's not the link I sent Gunner to, but it's pretty good. I like Wikipedia. Anywho, I haven't checked in lately, but I doubt it'll do any good. Scopes is one of the rallying cries of the fundamentalist movement. While it wasn't a legal precedent setter, it did have a lot of social impact. It was the first shot fired in the court-fought war between biblical literalism and the scientific method. No matter how much history you cram down a guy's throat, and Gunner's a history teacher, by the way, it won't matter not one bit.

Fundies are going to continue to wave the Scopes trial before their congregations like a red flag in front of a bull, because it's effective. It doesn't matter if what they're saying is accurate. Accuracy is irrelevant to these people. That's part of what bugs me so much about my fight with my pal Gunner. He used to be such a stickler for details back when we were in school together, but now he spouts inaccurate and downright false garbage, just because someone who has similar religious beliefs to his told him it was so. If he had a student turn in a paper that was so poorly researched, I imagine he'd flunk the idiot.

But that's the nature of fundamentalism: "I know I'm right, no matter what the facts are!"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day, Don’t Mind The Oil Prices

I had actually forgotten that today was Earth Day until I checked Google. Thanks, Google, for reminding me. That’s actually kind of scary, that I now depend on Google to remind me of those second-tier holidays and anniversaries that we all should remember, but just don’t seem to have the time for anymore.

But Google’s all-pervasiveness isn’t the most disturbing realization I’ve had in the last few minutes. No, the most disturbing was that just yesterday, oil prices broke all records, hitting over $75 a barrel, and yet we will be having Earth Day celebrations all day today.

Fundy Christians like to intimate that scientists and others time news releases to “attack” their holidays. But where are the “War on Christmas” and “War on Easter” conspiracy nuts when something really important like this little coincidence comes along? Nowhere to be seen nor heard.

Earth Day, the day set aside to remind us that we should be, at most, stewards of the planet, is overshadowed by record-breaking crude oil prices. Those prices are being driven by a plethora of factors: US demand, the growing Chinese markets, probable underproduction on the part of oil-producing countries, and growing turbulence in the Middle East. There are others that I’ve missed, I’m sure.

But today’s Earth Day. Many a park will get a spring cleaning, a few rivers will get some work done, and even a few streets will be spruced up. But I’ll bet very few records will be set today, unless they’re oil-based. Tomorrow, we’ll go back to our everyday lives and most of us won’t think a second thought about environmental issues.

Global warming has been in the news so much lately that we just tune it out, even though the newest predictions have cities underwater sooner than ever expected. No one’s even heard of the most recent water pollution problem: combinatory effects of multiple low-level contaminants. And if the press can be believed, then our wonderful chimp of a President is considering nuking Iran. I know late-generation nukes are cleaner than the old dirty bombs, but I doubt the environment will look kindly on more fallout. But hey, that’s in the desert half way around the world. We don’t have to worry about that, right?


I wish. Happy Earth Day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Arguments With Old Friends

An old friend contacted Aradia on MySpace the other day. When I looked over his profile, he didn't seem to have changed much. Heck, he pretty much looked the same as he had when he was in my wedding. But then I started looking through his blog entries.

He had gone totally fundy on me. I was shocked. I mean, I was religious in school, but never this nuts. And he and I have always been on opposite sides of the political fence on social issues. But heck, he was in my wedding. He hung around with a gay guy in college! He was a hard-drinking frat boy who chased tail just like the rest of us. He even saved my life one Halloween during the great Rocky Horror Picture Show/Redneck Bar fiasco. Surely he wasn't as bug-fuck crazy as his blog entries seemed. Or so I thought.

Alas, his fundy roots have apparently taken hold and he's ranting about liberal this and evolution that. So, I was left with no recourse.

I picked a fight.

So his blog entries should be seeing some wacky fun times ahead. I'll keep you all posted as to the fun and funny things we say to each other. I'm actually looking forward to this. Gunner was always a good one for an argument or eight.

This is going to be fun.

Edit: Removed link to Gunner's Blog. I was informed it might get him into hot water, so I removed it. Guess you'll just have to check in from time to time here to see what's up. Darn. More site traffic for me. Oh well. :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Carnival Of The Liberals #10

CotL #10 is up. PZ chose RI's Tiktaalik and the Gospel of Judas for inclusion. Yippee! I knew pandering to his sensibilities would work. Heh.

Anyway, here's the link to Carnival Of The Liberals #10.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Teach Science Early

There's a post over at Abnormal Interests discussing the way creationists justify their beliefs. Essentially, it says that creationists start with a premise, i.e. that literal biblical creation is true. Then they work backwards from there to find and justify their beliefs. It goes on to say that they do this, not because evolution doesn't make sense, but because they've already been taught that Sky-daddy created the universe in six days.

This just goes to show you that we need to start teaching critical thinking skills as early as possible. I don't think the beginnings of critical thinking are beyond the average late-elementary school kids, say eight to ten years old.

Of course, those fundies I used to hang around with never really supported me when I tried to get their ten-year-old to think critically. Now, I see why. I wonder if it was intentional on their part?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tiktaalik And The Gospel Of Judas

You know, it's a mainstay of conservative rhetoric that the US media has a "liberal bias". And there are a lot of good arguments both for and against this talking point. But in the last couple of weeks, it's become quite apparent that the US media knows just where it's bread is buttered.

Let's first look at the Gospel of Judas. Here's part of what National Geographic has to say about it:

The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus' request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities.

It was copied out around 300 AD, and apparently written before 180 AD. That puts it reasonably close to some of the youngest books of the canonical Bible, although not quite on par time-wise with most of the New Testament.

Still, the media had a field day with this announcement. I watched a ten minute segment on CNN's Headline News channel the day NG went public. Ten minutes of coverage every half an hour for an entire day, with an interview with a representative from National Geographic. The New York Times Online has seven separate articles and op-ed pieces about it, at least one of them in both the National section and the Science section. What puzzles me is this: the article questioning the gospel's authenticity is the one in the National section but the one announcing it's very existance is in the Science section.

Shouldn't those be reversed? I could see how it's existance might, by some stretch of the imagination, be of national interest. After all, the bulk of the country is Christian, and this speaks to a Christian belief, or at least it appears to do so. But honestly, shouldn't its authenticity be of scientific interest first, last and always? Whether the nation believes it or not has nothing to do with its historical authenticity.

Because I can assure you, this discovery isn't going to change the bulk of American Christianity's beliefs one iota. If Judas was a traitor or not is irrelevant to the central belief of Christians, isn't it? As one acquaintance of mine put it, "Jesus came to Earth to die for us. It was inevitable. It doesn't matter if Judas betrayed Christ or followed his wishes. The end result was the same. He died on the Cross." I honestly can't see the rest of America's Christian community straying far from that thought, especially once the Robertsons and Falwells get their public relations engines going.

But notice how much attention the Gospel of Judas is getting in the media. All the major news outlets have covered it to one degree or another, most of them extensively. National Geographic, supposedly an organization dedicated to furthering human knowledge, created a two hour special on it. It seems to be on everyone's lips. And ultimately, it's not going to affect things one way or the other very much at all.

Contrast that with the discovery and announcements about Tiktaalik roseae. Wikipedia has this to say about this new fossil:

Tiktaalik generally had the characteristics of a fish, but with front fins featuring arm-like skeletal structures more akin to a crocodile, including a shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

I had to go to Wikipedia because that's the site with the most information that I could find. The official site is a little skimpy on details. I would imagine it's a funding issue, but I don't know.

A quick search of the NYT Online shows one article and one op-ed piece. The op-ed piece actually downplays the discovery of Tiktaalik. The only broadcast talk about it that I've heard was a quick mention on Real Time with Bill Maher and a ten minute segment on Penn Jillette's FreeFM radio show. You can at least download that clip from his show's website here.

And some of you out there might say, "So what?" And for most scientific discoveries, I'd agree with you. Most things scientific are of interest only to scientists and technologists. The gee-whiz factor is usually pretty low for, say, the discovery of the Laotian rock-rat. At least to the average person.

But Tiktaalik is a little different. You see, scientists have been predicting the existance of this huge beastie for quite some time, using that central tenet of biology: Evolution. This discovery is truly a vindication of the predictive powers of the Theory of Evolution. It should be trumpeted as a huge success for science in general, and evolutionary theorists in specific.

But it's not being talked about. Why not?

Could it be because we have a President who's so scientifically clueless that he endorses Intelligent Design? Contrast that with Senator Joe Biden on the aforementioned Real Time with Bill Maher, where he categorically denied the Evolution-doubters. And I don't think anyone can honestly say Joe Biden is the most liberal Democrat on the block.

Could it be that we have a Congress that's looking more and more at science funding as a place where they can cut back to keep tax cuts going to the wealthy?

Could it be (and here's where my money's at) all the major news outlets are money-making concerns and they know where their bread is buttered? Could it be that that buttered bread has an image of Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, or some other religious craziness, imprinted on it somewhere? CNN is ultimately a product of Ted Turner's vision, for goodness' sake! How could it not pander to the religious right in this country? They employ Nancy Grace! She believes psychics help solve crimes!

It's a sad state of affairs, but it's inevitable. As long as politics is linked to religion in this country, science and rational thinking in general are always going to get the short end of the stick. And in the long run, that's going to ruin us, financially, socially, politically and militarily. It's already begun. It's probably already too late. But the best we can do is try to oust these conservative idiots and get the US back on track.

It won't be easy, especially when institutions of learning are putting so much effort into the "Gospel of Judas" discoveries out there and virtually ignoring the Tiktaalik roseae types of things yet to be found.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Toluca County Friends

Below you will find a reproduction of an email exchange I recently had with a friend of mine from high school. We went to high school in West Virginia, but sadly, not Toluca County. Although McDowell county is kind of creepy at times. Anywho, here's the exchange. See if you can spot why she's my friend...

From: Kali, Destroyer Of Worlds
Sent: Tuesday, April 04, 2006 4:01 PM
To: Coralius
Subject: how very odd . . .

In looking up some info about Silent Hill, I found the link

you (I assume) started on Blogger. How neat!

From: Coralius
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006, 11:49 AM
To: Kali, Destroyer Of Worlds

Yup, that's one of my websites. I get about thirty hits a day on that
article. It's really bizarre. I share that site with a couple of
friends. It's our "geekness" site. I have a personal site, as well.
It's here:

You'll probably find it more interesting, considering your

From: Kali, Destroyer Of Worlds
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 11:50 AM
To: Coralius
Subject: Re: how very odd . . .

Is it about Mexican zydeco radio stations and hedgehog recipes?

Gotta love it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Carnival Of The Godless #37 Is Up!

Heh, I had forgotten that I submitted a post for this edition of COTG, so when I snuck a peak at my statistics at lunch, I was astonished. And then I remembered that The Neural Gourmet is hosting Carnival Of The Godless! Go check it out. He called my posted a good ol' Atheist Rant. I can't disagree.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Feeling A Touch Psychic

Wow. I've lived in North Carolina for many years now, and I still haven't gotten used to the weather cycle. Not really. Back in West Virginia, we wouldn't even begin to think about cutting grass for a few weeks. They got snow earlier this week!

But not here. Here, the wild onions were starting to get out of control. I didn't realize the grass itself was, though, until I started cutting it. It was a heck of a lot higher than I'd realized.

The worst part, though, was the realization that winter had not been kind to either I or Aradia. I know I was huffing and puffing by the end of it, and we just don't have that big of a yard. It was embarassing.

I'm feeling a touch psychic all of a sudden. I predict daily walks in my near future....


"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu