Monday, December 31, 2007

Quote Of The Day

When patterns are broken, new worlds can emerge.

Tuli Kupferberg

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quote Of The Day

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said Let us pray. We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Desmond Tutu

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Punch-up in Bethlehem

This is funny: priests of two Christian sects got into a brawl over how to clean the church which is suposedly built over where Baby Jesus Lay Down His Sweet Head.

Even funnier, this is apparently not the first time this kind of thing has happened:
It is not the first time that a ladder has led to fisticuffs among priests in the Holy Land. In the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City, a ladder still stands as a reminder for all priests to watch their tempers.
Could you ask for more perfect exemplars that religion is inherently divisive?

Christianity - it's a religion of peace, you know!

(hat tip bOINGbOING)

Quote Of The Day

"If you were taught that elves caused rain, every time it rained, you'd see the proof of elves."


Friday, December 28, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits."

Dan Barker.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Based on the number of 'tards who 'find' him, I suspect Jesus really sucks at hide'n'seek."

Marc Wolfe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Philip K. Dick

‘Mistletoe: A Poison’

The silence of that Yuletide
Lies sick in me. Poison-numb
From mistletoe is my pride
For I have let my sullen tongue
Swallow the darkness
And add to the starkness;
My love’s love’s love has died.

I would not reach, so could not touch
The stifled soul who lay in pain
And though it need not cost me much
Did nothing give, did nothing gain,
Would not the gelling silence stir
That lay with him and me and her
But let cold kisses stay as such.

I might have been a truer friend
I might have been a bridge to cross
I should have been a thread to mend
A garment tearing into dross
But I would not relate
And so could not create
But only helped to end.

B.T. Murtagh

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Whenever a poet or preacher, chief or wizard spouts gibberish, the human race spends centuries deciphering the message.

Umberto Eco

Monday, December 24, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Instead of Jesus, we have Santa Claus, who could be described as 'What God would be like if he had a sense of proportion.' He brings gifts instead of eternal life and coal instead of eternal hellfire. He has magical powers as ridiculous as those of Jesus, like the ability to climb chimneys and make ruminants fly, which are much more useful than Jesus' 'casting out demons into pigs' kind of thing.

He's clearly what Jesus would be if he was real. Nobody would ever consider nailing this omnibenevolent deity to anything, would they? Nor does he hold anything against you longer than a year. Of course, only the very young or foolish actually believe he exists. And a mark of maturity is the admission that he doesn't. People who believe are ridiculed...just as it should be."

Steve James*

* Who beat me to the blog title "Unscrewing the Inscrutable" but I like him anyway!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."


Assessing likelihood, part 2

It's an inescapable part of being a parent that you worry about your child's health, physical and mental and emotional.

Being a freethinking parent in a society currently so saturated with Christian propaganda, I sometimes worry about whether my child will be able to keep his head clear of it. On the one hand I don't want to propagandize him myself, and on the other hand his mother prefers to take a noninterfering agnostic approach, but on the gripping hand there's never a shortage of people here in South Carolina willing to preach at the drop of a hat, or even just a pause in the conversation.

Anyway, my son and I were driving along and chatting. He was telling me about a video game he likes cslled Psychonauts, and mentioned that the lead character is named Razputin. (He's ten, and video games figure largely in his world.) Being the kind of Dad I am I took it as an opportunity to regale him with the tale of Rasputin. I explained how he became powerful in old Russia by convincing the Tsar and Tsarina that he could help their little boy survive his haemophilia (I explained what the disease was, and that it was incurable for the poor kid who'd been born with it) by using magic powers.

He wasn't having any of it. "Daddy, are you saying that was for real? You must be joking with me, right?" I assured him that it was true, and I could show him photographs of the people involved in my history books when we got home. He ruminated for a while, then told me he didn't care if it was in the history books, he still didn't believe it. "Magic isn't real, how could he make that boy better?"

I explained that I hadn't said that Rasputin really helped the boy, only that he claimed he could and the Tsar and Tsarina believed him. He thought about that a bit, then said, "Daddy, I still don't believe it. How could he even pretend good enough to make them believe him? The boy would still keep bleeding. It's ridiculous!" I shrugged and admitted that it seemed a bit hard to credit, but that the Tsar and Tsarina were so desperate and worried about their boy that they just believed Rasputin when he said he could help.

"Well, Daddy, I think that's wrong. I think maybe they just pretended to believe him, to make their little boy less scared."

A parent always worries about something, but I think I'm going to stop worrying about my boy's ability to think for himself! He certainly seems better equipped to assess relative robabilities than the average Christian.

Assessing likelihood, part 1

A new Barna group survey on how literally American take their Bible stories just came out.

To combine with the last Barna survey, amongst Christians:

75% believe a virgin got pregnant.
75% believe a dead guy rose from the grave.
69% believe water transformed into wine.
68% believe 5 loaves and 2 fish fed 5000 people.
65% believe a man overnighted with lions, uneaten.
64% believe water covered every mountain on Earth.
64% believe a sea opened to allow foot passage.
63% believe a boy killed a man using a slingshot.
60% believed a man walked on water.
60% believe the universe was created in 6 days.
56% believe in smooth-talking snakes.
49% believe strength can relate to hairstyle.

Two of these are easy enough even for a rationalist to believe; David used an unexpected weapon and was maybe a bit lucky, and maybe Daniel just didn't smell good to the lions.

A couple more could be considered 'stretchers' with a grain of truth; granting preternatural strength in the first place, it's possible to assign a psychological explanation to Samson's couture concerns, and a lot of people could be satisfied with a little food and a lot of goodwill on a one-time basis.

With a great deal of magnanimity, probably best obtained with the aid of large doses of ethanol, and a suitable disregard for the fine details of the stories, similarly obtained, one can allow for a couple more; talking snakes, while they don't appear to exist now, aren't actually incompatible with the physical laws of the Universe, and the antiquity of the Universe could be fudged a bit - rounding, you know.

That leaves seven stories which contain elements any normal rational person would consider flat-out violations of the natural laws of the Universe.

The odd thing is that the level of belief seems to have very little to do with the plausibility of the story. The Ultimate Catering Triumph of feeding five thousand people with one platter of fish sandwiches is considered less likely than pregnant virgins, ambulatory corpses, and an alcoholic's wet dream. It's considered more likely that a man could split an ocean with his mind, than that a boy could split a man's skull with a well-aimed rock.

I suppose we should be grateful that these people do consider that last story, about the superiority of ranged weapons, as being more likely than the one about guys perambulating the surface of large liquid volumes, but I still have to question their ability to assess relative probabilities.

Bear in mind that these are the folks who consider evolution by natural selection unlikely and difficult to believe.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

For Those Who Doubt The Axial Tilt Theory

Don't consult oracles...

... consult an orrery!

Quote Of The Day

Religions change; beer and wine remain.

Harvey Allen

A Happy Winter Solstice To All!

Today, December 22 2007, is the real deal. Break out the brandy and firesticks!

And a big, big welcome to my brand new great-nephew, Iggy Fiorello Spetrino-Murtagh! Yay!!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Frog

Co-QUI! Co-QUI! This little fellow isn't shy at all, shouting his name out from dusk till dawn. And why should he be? Eleutherodactylus coqui is, after all, the official animal of Puerto Rico, where this small tree-dwelling frog primarily makes his home... and yes, it's the "him" who is the homemaker here! After the female lays the fertilized eggs, the male coqui frog shoos her away and then faithfully stands guard until the eggs hatch into froglets - unlike most frogs, coquis don't go through a tadpole stage but hatch out already in pretty much their adult form. Quite a distinctive frog, eh?

Quote Of The Day

If God kills, lies, cheats, discriminates, and otherwise behaves in a manner that puts the Mafia to shame, that's okay, he's God. He can do whatever he wants. Anyone who adheres to this philosophy has had his sense of morality, decency, justice and humaneness warped beyond recognition by the very book that is supposedly preaching the opposite.

Dennis McKinsey

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Every prayer reduces itself to this: "Great God, grant that twice two be not four."

Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Religion invents a problem where none exists by describing the wicked as also made in the image of god and the sexually nonconformist as existing in a state of incurable mortal sin that can incidentally cause floods and earthquakes."

Christopher Hitchens

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quote Of The Day

There is not enough love and goodness in the word for us to be permitted to give any of it away to imaginary things.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quote Of The Day

There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: "Let us be friends."

Robert Green Ingersoll

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Our society is in the grip of a perverse mindset... The conscientious nonbeliever, incredibly noble in courage and in will power to follow reason through to its ineluctable conclusions, is shunned rather than lauded.

Edward Tabbash

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pointless rambling, with backache

So here I am, sprawling half crippled in what passes for my easy chair because a bout of seasonal cleaning and decorating has put my lower back into continual spasms. Did my Creator design my spine badly, or is it an appropriate punishment for the lack of religious motivation in my decorations, or did evil enter my sacral vertebrae when some ancestor nicked an apple, or am I just an ape not totally evolved for the postures involved in mopping floors? I have my suspicions that it's the latter, so rather than begging for forgiveness or whatever I'm just carefully lying as comfortably as possible and slurping down rum and eggnog while I watch Matrix Revolutions.

Could the best question of all be why am I watching that particular waste of celluloid? Doubtful, but it's probably the best one I currently have the concentration to answer with anything approaching coherence. That's amusing, in a small way, since a certain lack of coherence is one of the primary defining characteristics of this category of film. That, in turn, is because I'm the one who is categorizing the films, and I chose that as a defining characteristic of Fetish SF (tm) films.

The reason I'm watching this turd third Matrix movie is more or less the same reason I forced myself through the sickened second one: I need the references. My primary cultural milieu is techno-geek, and for better or worse this trash is a primary source; I don't have to like it, but not having seen it is a bit like being a cultured upper-class Englishman of the Great War era who didn't know his Ovid or Homer. (Those guys wouldn't have had to look up the meaning of the "Temet Nosce" sign in the Oracle's house for example, and I'm glad my old Latin master wasn't anywhere near my ear just now.)

Ow ow ow ow... that's it, it's Mr. Cousins tormenting me from beyond the grave because I never could translate my Cicero, non gradus anus rodentum .

The rot set in right from the farced first one in the series. The initial concept, that all we see is a computer simulation and we're actually slaves to a machine civilization, was cool. It's a schtick that in its roots goes back millennia (with illusionist gods like Mara or Lucifer providing the simulation rather than machines, obviously). Philip K. Dick based his entire oeuvre on the question "How do you know what's real?"

It's a great question and can lead to all kinds of wonderful plot devices, plus it lets you pull iin the echoes from all the similar stories where heroes discover strange worlds behind the everyday one - down the rabbit hole we go, you're not in Kansas any more. Young man aided by an older Mentor travels to a strange world outside the known, braves dangers, comes back to save his home from the previously unseen danger. Classic Joseph Campell stuff, like much good science fiction, and giving it a plausible mechanism makes it compelling.

So why, oh why, oh why, did they have to give the machines such an utterly boneheadedly wrong motivation? Humans are being used as batteries, power supplies for the machines? What retarded dipstick somewhere in the process failed to understand basic physics? The damn people are consuming food, organic fuel administered via tubes; it would have been much more efficient for the machines just to burn the fuel to generate electricity. Besides, it fails even to provide a motivation for what the machines essentially do; why would they have to provide the elaborate artificial environment of the Matrix if that's all the humans are supplying?

What would have made more sense, and been just as ironic, would be if the machines were using the people in the vats as information processing units, taking advantage of our brains having evolved to recognize patterns even in incomplete data. That's a difficult thing to simulate in a computer, it would explain why the machines needed to maintain (and constantly modify) such a computationally expensive illusion, and there could be endless fun building analogies between what is happening in the real war and how the machines represent it in the Matrix.

Machine vulnerabilities could be mapped to problems facing the vat people in their eternal dreams. Hackers messing with the Matrix model could subvert the machine strategies, perhaps by making the machines overlook their own vulnerabilities by taking the pain out of the vat people's simulated backaches...

Ah, but that would have involved trusting the audience to understand a subtlety or two; I'd almost be willing to bet that something along those lines was in the original plot, but when it got Hollywood-ized some producer lost the nerve to do it that way. Maybe the same one who got all excited when the idea of tapping universal mythic structures partially penetrated, and felt compelled to throw in the utterly unnecessary and deeply boring prophecy subplot.

I should give style points, I suppose, for the powerful oracle being portrayed as a frumpy middle-aged housewife, but hell, style is the one thing these movies do have in abundance. In the Matrix everybody's obliged to wear designer sunglasses and fetishistic leather coats, and there's always a lovely shine on the rain of brass casings that fall from the guns which can't actually hit anyone if their choreography skilz are strong enough to overpower the local physics simulation. Be sure to pinwheel across the open space, and don't forget to hover for a second before that big kick! Fashions are pretty sizzlin' in Zion too, and great care is taken with the presentation of the huge variety of tasty treats our heroes are presented with there. It's downright odd how it's only on board the ships everyone wears threadbare rags and eats undifferentiated gruel.

I suppose in the end that's what so deeply disappoints me about this series of movies, and about the love my fellow technogeeks shower on it; it's the unworthy veneration of style over substance, and of emotion over reason, and the way my techie brothers and sisters eat that sad and threadbare techno-woo crap up as avidly as they do, just as long as you dress it up a bit. I always hope for a bit more skepticism; I don't know why, I so rarely get it. I just want the fanboys to wonder for a moment why the software program Agent Smith has such intense emotions. (Is it a simulation routine gone bad?)

At least they mostly do know it's fiction, unlike the morons who read that "Left Behind" shite.

And there goes the end of the movie, with the Oracle responding to the the Last Exile Child:

"Did you always know?"
"No, no I didn't. But I believed."

Oh, yeah, chalk one up for foundationless belief, that's a good moral for the story. Much better than "No, but great ends require taking great risks" or something like that. Ow.

Great, now I have a backache and a headache. I definitely require a reboot, if I can get my futon unfurled without deeper injury.

Quote Of The Day

Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.

Mark Twain

The Two Geneses (?) explained

I was discussing the first of many contradictions in the Bible - two inconsistent accounts of Creation in Genesis, with two incompatible timelines. She hadn't seen that one before, and insisted on being given the verses. If anyone else hasn't seen it, here they are:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so .... And the evening and the morning were the third day.


And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image.... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
(Notice that men and women are created simultaneously, and only after all the other plants and animals.)

Genesis 2:4-9
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth ... And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil..
Genesis 2:18-22
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them....
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
(First God creates the man,, then the plants, then the animals, then the woman.)

My friend is nothing if not fair, so she did her own research and came up with the explanation for how this muddle came about:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quote Of The Day

To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom.

Susan B. Anthony

Friday Frog

Today's frog is the western Chorus Frog, or Pseudacris triseriata a tiny but lovely little songster. If you want to catch a concert of these preepers I expect Garrison Keillor is bound to have them on sooner or later; they tour from March through July, in Minnesota mostly.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quote Of The Day

It requires only two things to win credit for a miracle: a mountebank and a number of silly women.

Marquis de Sade

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Quote Of The Day

If you believe in a rain god, you're more likely to make bad decisions in times of drought.

Greta Christina

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?"

Dan Barker

Monday, December 10, 2007

What I hate about Christmas

Hint: If you're thinking it's Christ, you're way off base.

No, actually I've always rather liked the Baby Jesus bit. The idea of the King of the Universe manifesting as a helpless baby, with parents of modest means, being born amid the farm animals... yeah, it's mawkish, but it's also the good half of the God-becoming-Man myth, the All-Powerful self-humbled to share our travails... well, it's mawkish and flamingly illogical to boot, fine, but at least it's not yet the psychotic guilt-trip the story morphs into later on. It'd be a harmless and somewhat cute myth if it wasn't for all the baggage associated with it.

I'm not one of those who dreads the obligatory getting together with family either. I don't often get the chance, actually, as scattered as my family is, but in any case we're not a dysfunctional lot and we genuinely enjoy each other's company - even the in-laws, within reason. I wish we could do more of it.

I love ham, and turkey, and stuffing, and cookies, and brandied pudding... (/me wipes drool).

Christmas music... meh. I could use a little more variety and I wish it didn't start at Halloween, but I can hang with it.

I don't even hate the present hunt. Sure, I cringe at the money I find myself spending by times, but then I do that around most paydays. (I'm a spendthrift before and a cheapskate after, sadly.) I enjoy the thinking about what I can get for my loved ones, the anticipation of their pleasure. It's fun. Sure, it gets a bit manic, but that's what commerce does, and I can even enjoy the rush of the crush when I gets me sales boots on.

No, what I really hate and resent is the commercialization of Santa Claus.

When I was a kid he was a cute and harmless myth (harmless because unlike Jesus no one actually expects you to carry it into adulthood). I remember listening enthralled to the reports on the radio of his sleigh being spotted... I really did lie awake listening for sleigh bells and hooves clopping on the roof. I was spellbound at the idea of the jolly old guy who lived at the North Pole and spent all year with his elves making toys, then flew around the world in a single night in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer (and I knew all their names) bringing toys to all the children. (We didn't dwell much on the lump of coal in my family.)

And when I cottoned on it wasn't a bitter thing, because above all Santa was a generous myth, one where parents and grandparents were willing to give up the credit for gifts they'd bought in order to make the season a bit more magical. What's not to love in that?

Now? Santa's huckstering for every retailer out there. Ho-ho-ho, Santa suggests you spend your money buying this cell phone, that television, the other bit of jewelry. Coca-Cola. Feh! He's not giving anything away, he's selling shit, and it isn't the least bit magical no matter how many CG twinkles and sound effects they add.

I miss the old Santa. Maybe he wasn't 'real' in other than the "Yes, Virginia" sense, but this new guy is just depressingly fake through and through.

Carnival Of The Godless #80

Almost forgot, the latest Carnival Of The Godless is up at The Jesus Myth, where faith and logic collide!

One day soon I'm going to write something worthwhile and submit to COTG again! I Swear!

Quote Of The Day

The savage prays to a stone that he calls a god, while the Christian prays to a god he calls a spirit, and the prayers of both are equally useful.

Robert G. Ingersoll

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quote Of the Day

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Without a winking smiley or other blatant sign of humorous intent, it is impossible to make a parody of fundamental religion that someone won't mistake for the real thing.

Poe's Law

Surely The Winning Idiocy

It's always a tough field to pick from when you try to pick out the stupidest or most pandering comment made by a Presidential candidate in any given election season. With the stellar* quality of some of the candidates, especially on the Republican side, it may seem hubristic to declare a tentative winner with so long left in the ever more interminable contest, but it really is difficult to see how anyone could top "Mitt" Romney's idiocy from yesterday's speech:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. [...] Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
I have followed politics reasonably closely for all my adult life, and therefore bear little respect for any politician, and certainly the toxic meltdown** of the Republican party over the last few decades has produced many a jaw-droppingly stupid soundbite; I have also made a lifelong study of religion, and therefore bear little respect for any given religion, and certainly the Mormons are second only to the Scientologists in the jaw-dropping stupidity of their precepts.

Still: what the FUCK? Did that consummate ass just manage to out-stupid Shrub? I believe so.

I recognize that the kind of simple-minded unreasoning faith that Shrub espouses*** is sadly endemic to much of American culture; the proportion of voters who consider the ability to believe in pregnant virgins and re-animated corpses to be an asset in the person who gets to control the nuclear (or even nucular) weapons is truly retch-worthy.

I also recognize that the word 'freedom' is valued by politicians, particularly American politicians and most especially neoconservative Republican politicians, more for its value as a knee-jerk trigger to jingoism than for any actual semantic content. Still, I thought the blatant misuse of the term pioneered by Commander Codpiece would set the standard for some time; after all, justifying the rapid-fire reduction of actual American freedoms by claiming an existential threat from "those who hate our freedoms" takes an appalling level of chutzpah.

His would-be successor may well have outdone even that hypocrisy, though. Look at it again:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. [...] Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
By this logic repressive theocracies simply don't exist; how could Iranians, for example, lack freedom when they are so deeply religious? Obviously the complete lack of open homosexuality noted by President Ahmadinejad is a completely free choice coincidentally shared by all Iranians, and the draconian prison sentences inspired directly from the hadith are simply an amusing cultural irrelevancy.

There must also be a terrifically inconspicuous subculture of strongly religious people hiding in countries like the Netherlands, to enable their manifest freedom. The easy attitudes toward drugs, sex, and political activism in Amsterdam, for example, must surely be the result of deeply committed (and deeply hidden) religious zealots.

You may wonder why the Founding Fathers, being the fans of freedom they were, were so perverse as to make a big point of separating church and state; didn't they know that religion and freedom are inseparable? Perhaps they simply lacked the perspective of being members of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, a creed which was forced to abandon a major precept of their faith (polygamy) by force of law - backed up, as always, by force of arms - because it conflicted with the religious precepts of their more numerous and powerful neighbors.

No, of course not. It is simply that they were by and large rationalists, products of the Enlightenment who weren't in those days impelled quite so strongly to pander to the demented fuckwits who prefer faith to reason no matter what the cost in thwarted scientific progress, in domestic disharmony and division, and in endless needless wars abroad.

It's 2007, and here in America (the land that likes to consider itself the vanguard of the future) we can't even consider the idea that it might not be necessary or even desirable for our supreme leader to believe in millennia-old agrarian myths. No, we have to spend our time debating whether we can accept an overlay of transparent deception from a more recent era on top, or whether we must insist on leaders who acknowledge only the purest of old hokum in this age of science and reason.

That is the actual issue which grips what passes for minds amongst the great American public; not whether we can accept as a leader someone who espouses lunatic idiocy, but only whether the particular style of lunatic idiocy is sufficiently mainstream. The inertia of popular irrationality is all that saves us from an acolyte of L.Ron Hubbard getting hold of the levers of power. and I still don't doubt the sheeple would pick a Scientologist over a rationalist.

After all, what's 'free' about examining the evidence the world presents you with, applying your best reason and logic to it, elucidating for yourself how it all works, then independently deciding what to do about it?

No, 'free' means you believe in a religion; that unity lies in believing your church is right and the others are wrong, heretical; that freedom lies in submitting to the inabrogable commands of a supreme being; that truth lies in accepting the precepts of your faith despite any evidence.

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.


* For this purpose, 'stellar' includes black holes; strange beyond reason, dense beyond belief.

** Of course, the "Grand Old Party" has tended generally downward since Lincoln's tenure or thereabouts, but the rate of descent has markedly accelerated in recent times.

***Shrub's sincerity is known only to himself; I've never been able to decide if he's a shrewd bastard who pretends to stupidity for tactical advantage, or possibly through sheer love of duplicity, or if it's simply that his idiocy is so profound as to mimic genius.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quote Of The Day

The idea of an incarnation of God is absurd; why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants, and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker?... Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dung-hill, croaking and squeaking "For our sakes was the world created!"

Flavius Claudius Iulianus (Roman Emperor Julian 'the Apostate')

Friday Frog

Mmmmm tomato... no, Homer, stop! That's not a tomato, it's a Madagascan tomato frog, Dyscophus antongilli, and as with most brightly colored frogs it's not so good to eat. While not actually toxic, these guys secrete a nasty white mucus which irritates and can cause allegic reactions to people. Anyway, they're endangered, due to habitat loss in the dwindling forests of northeastern Madagascar, and also due to excessive collecting for pet stores before that became illegal. Well, they are cute... but not tasty, Homer! Have another tomacco instead.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent — it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills."

Robert Heinlein

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Randomness scares people. Religion is a way to explain randomness.

Fran Lebowitz

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"The world holds two classes of men — intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence."

Abu'l-Ala-Al-Ma'arri (973-1057), Syrian poet.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quote Of The Day

When the philosopher's argument becomes tedious, complicated, and opaque, it is usually a sign that he is attempting to prove as true to the intellect what is plainly false to common sense.

Edward Abbey

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Natural selection is not like monkeys simply hitting the keys and, if wrong, starting again from the beginning. Selection is cumulative. Once one has made some progress, that stays on as backing for all subsequent tries. And selection does not demand one particular predetermined play, and that the best ever written. In evolution, there is no already-decided end point. Any play will do - an appalling farce, for instance - and all it has to be is better than any rival.

Michael Ruse

Saturday, December 1, 2007

You Are A Genius

A good friend submitted my blog for this readability test. Apparently, my writing requires genius to read:

This blog's reading level: Genius

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean it takes genius to write it; maybe if I was smarter, I could be clear without making my readers work so hard for it. Ah well, I yam what I yam!

Quote Of The Day

"Their judgment was based more on blind wishing than upon any sound prediction; for it is the habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire."