Hovind loses appeal; wife will now be charged

Okay, I know this news is a couple of days old. But I’m hoping its repeated posting here is enough to convince the small army of Hovindites who’ve descended upon this comment thread that the game is over, the jig is up, your boy is toast, and any further attempts to defend Kent by trotting out innuendos about government conspiracies or wondering whether the jail tapes are legal (they’re still up on YouTube; they are) isn’t going to change reality any more than Hovind’s “Dinosaur Adventure Land” dog park and its chintzy displays changed the reality that Earth is 4.5 billion years old and all its living things are descendents of a common ancestor. Go watch the video about the martial arts “qi” master again, getting pwned by someone who seems to be a thoroughly run-of-the-mill black belt. When fantasy meets reality, it’s like a squirrel on the highway meeting a semi.

I do feel sorry for Jo, though.

Words of comfort

As Pharyngula recently noted, Dinesh D’Souza has written a characteristically appalling opinion piece on the absence of atheists providing comfort to the bereaved Virginia students:

“The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!”

Over at Daily Kos, an atheist professor at Virginia Tech has written a beautiful and moving response:

“We atheists do not believe in gods, or angels, or demons, or souls that endure, or a meeting place after all is said and done where more can be said and done and the point of it all revealed. We don’t believe in the possibility of redemption after our lives, but the necessity of compassion in our lives. We believe in people, in their joys and pains, in their good ideas and their wit and wisdom. We believe in human rights and dignity, and we know what it is for those to be trampled on by brutes and vandals. We may believe that the universe is pitilessly indifferent but we know that friends and strangers alike most certainly are not. We despise atrocity, not because a god tells us that it is wrong, but because if not massacre then nothing could be wrong.”

“You can find us next week in the bloodied classrooms of a violated campus, trying to piece our thoughts and lives and studies back together.

With or without a belief in a god, with or without your asinine bigotry, we will make progress, we will breathe life back into our university, I will succeed in explaining this or that point, slowly, eventually, in a ham-handed way, at risk of tears half-way through, my students will come to feel comfortable again in a classroom with no windows or escape route, and hell yes we will prevail.

You see Mr D’Souza, I am an atheist professor at Virginia Tech and a man of great faith. Not faith in your god. Faith in my people.”

Where you find religion, you find killing

Lost amidst the media coverage of the VT shooter is this grim report from Turkey about an attack on a Christian publishing house, in which three people were tied up and had their throats cut. While Turkey is “officially” secular, it is only “secular” in that it is not an overt Islamist theocracy; sociopolitically, it may as well be. Ultra-right-wing nationalism is rampant, and these killings were carried out by just such a group of Islamist extremists.

So here we have another case of people dying because of differences in belief about a nonexistent invisible man in the sky. And that’s it. It is sobering and disgraceful that in the 21st century, people still kill other people because of what they believe about their god. If the human race does not grow up sooner rather than later, reject these ancient superstitions, and embrace reason and reality, civilization as we know it will not make it. Deal with this: THERE. IS. NO. GOD. Full stop. So put down your guns and your knives and your bombs and learn to live with each other.

Right-wing Fighting Keyboardists and their manly power fantasies

In the race to the bottom to see who can be the worst douchebag to comment self-servingly on the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I present the National Review‘s John Derbyshire, who seems to think that, had he been present at the campus when the shooter went on his rampage, he wouldn’t have been one of those emasculated pussies running for their lives or diving under desks. No ma’am! He would have leapt into action, somersaulting over desks, dodging bullets in mid-air like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, and taken the fucking gook out with a solid one-two punch, after which he would have been hailed as the hero of the day, carried around on everyone’s shoulders, and every sorority girl, Hooters waitress and cheerleader for 100 miles around would have been lining up to ball him.

Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn’t anyone rush the guy? It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. [Yeah, right, like everyone present would have known exactly what kind of gun he was firing and how many rounds it held.] Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren’t very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can’t hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. [Yeah, well, he did kill 31 people, you shit.] And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren’t bad. [Yeah, well, he did kill 31 people!]

Yes, yes, I know it’s easy to say these things: but didn’t the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It’s true—none of us knows what he’d do in a dire situation like that. [But you’re fine with judging them as cowards anyway.] I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I’d at least take a run at the guy.

Yeah, you hope, asshole. While you’re at it, just hope you’re never in the situation those students you mock were in, and that no one further insults their families and survivors as you have done by blaming them for their own senseless deaths.

Reality vs. fantasy: a visual metaphor

Via PZ, a YouTube clip of a martial arts “master” who seems to have watched too many Shaw Brothers wire-fu movies from the seventies, and who thinks he can vanquish all comers by the use of his “qi”. In the video on Pharyngula, you can see him goofily flapping his arms in the general direction of a host of “opponents” who are all several feet away, obligingly falling down, or pretending to convulse as if their bodies are taking vicious blows.

Then, said “master” decides to prove his skills in the real world by taking on a practitioner of regular old-fashioned martial arts…and gets pwned in most humiliating fashion. Go to Pharyngula to see the whole video with the ridiculous wannabe-Jedi playfighting, followed by the real thing. The clip below is of the “master”‘s sad defeat, from a better, clearer angle. (Don’t watch it if the sight of a poor idiot taking a few kicks to the face might upset you. Good grief, I studied tae-kwon-do when in college in Houston, and even today I could block better than this guy. But then, I would know to block rather than just relying on my magical force field.)

The whole ludicrous farce is, as PZ has also pointed out, a grim metaphor for the dire consequences of rejecting reality in favor of irrational fantasy. As people in the US continue to turn their backs on science and empirical truth, so shall we find our collective asses handed to us when other countries who don’t disdain things like evolution, global warming, or any other ideologically incorrect science, race ahead of us intellectually, economically, and in overall quality of life for their citizens.

Worst. Monday. Ever.

By now I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the lunatic armed rampage at Virginia Tech that has, as of this writing, claimed at least 31 lives.

What will be nearly as hideous as these crimes is the fact that in the coming days, numerous groups — a number of which I imagine will belong to the Christian Right — are sure to co-opt this tragedy as they did Columbine for their own political gain, exploiting all this pain and suffering to propel more bombastic propaganda into the media that this is why we need the Bible and the Ten Commandments and forced prayer in schools and in the government, etc., etc.

Of course, I suppose I could be accused of exploiting the event to point to it as yet another piece of ironclad, irrefutable proof of the nonexistence of God. Difference is, I’d be right. But who’s right or wrong here will be no consolation to the families of the victims. Our condolensces go out to them all.

Update — tol’jaso!: Wingnut Coulter-wannabe Debbie Schlussel is first out of the gate with a Muslim terrorist conspiracy theory, based solely on the fact that the shooter was identified as “Asian” in some news reports. Nothing like a little right-wing racial profiling to heal a shattered community in a time of tragedy, eh?

Yet another update: Now Bush seems to be thinking a visit to VT would be the ideal photo op to boost his flagging approval ratings. Never mind that what happened today is a mild day in Baghdad. Thanks but no thanks, chimpy.

The updates keep comin’: Well well well, Debbie. Turns out our shooter was a South Korean who’d been in the country since 1992 and who’s been described, as so many unhinged lunatics seem to be, as a “loner”. There goes your Muslim conspiracy theory. I just don’t know how to contain my surprise.

The shooter apparently left behind a note railing against “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans.” Meanwhile, deceitful charlatan Ken Ham, the creationist fool responsible for that momument to ignorance in Kentucky, has wasted no time blaming “naturalism” and “atheism”.

Another tragedy brings out religious smarm

Here’s a story about the sinking of a cruise ship off the coast of Greece, in which almost all passengers and crew survived, and here’s the obligatory dumbass comment by some of said survivors:

The couple says prayer is the reason why only two out of 1,600 people were reported missing.

Guess those two were off having gay sex somewhere.

No comment on why God didn’t prevent the wreck in the first place.

$176 million a year not enough to stamp out f*cking

Here’s one that’ll knock you over with a feather. A study commissioned by Congress has shown that abstinence-only sex education programs, on which our government currently spends $176 million of our tax dollars annually, have quite literally no effect at all on teens’ sexual behavior.

The only thing defenders of the programs can say in their defense — apart from what they’re currently saying, which is that the failure of the abstinence message is that is just isn’t being repeated enough, which reminds me of the hilarious line from Black Adder Goes Forth: “By doing exactly what we’ve done the last 18 times, the Germans will be caught totally off guard!” — is that this new study also shows no effect on contraceptive use either. (It had been one assumption of abstinence-program critics that kids who fall off the wagon would be less informed and less likely to use condoms.)

Naturally, anyone who’s been paying attention will know exactly why abstinence programs don’t work. They’re all part of the Religious Right’s war on science. They have nothing to do with facts about sexual behavior, STD’s, or any other factor that can be supported with evidence. They’re about foisting Christian “morality” on students without regard to reproducible results. They’re about theocratic social engineering, not education. Their proponents are the same folks who deny evolution, global warming, and increasingly, other ideologically touchy subjects like the Holocaust.

Way back during the Reagan administration, Austin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sergeant did a brilliant panel. A school principal is shown informing a teacher, “All right, we’ve removed everything that could possibly offend any religious group! So, Mrs. Smith, get in there and teach!” And the teacher is standing, gagged, in a classroom stripped of pictures, textbooks, maps, pencils, even desks. It was on point then and distressingly so 20 years later.

This is another of the evils of politicized religion. Rather than contribute anything meaningful to learning, these are people who want to play politics with our children’s educations — and, increasingly, their lives.