The Sexual Mystery of the Decade: Maleness glue

When I was in high school, I was part of an academic competition called Science Olympiad. Yes, I was a nerd, big surprise – but Science Olympiad was a level of awesome that far surpassed your typical quiz team. A team of fifteen would send two or three individuals to compete in events, with formats like typical exams, building airplanes, creating Rube Goldberg devices, making your own robots, using forensics to solve a crime scene. No area of science was left on covered – we had everything from ecology to quantum physics. But there was one event that was mine, one event that every time I competed in it at Regionals or State, I would win the gold:

Birds and Bees.

Yes, there was an event on reproduction, with a focus on humans. This event was offered to not only the high school teams, but the middle school ones too – shockingly progressive for many states, especially Indiana. The first year I was assigned the event I was a freshmen, though because of the grade cut offs, freshmen competed on the middle school teams. I got stuck with Birds and Bees since I was one of the oldest students and had actually gone through sex ed, unlike many of the other kids.

At the time, I was embarrassed; though looking back, it’s what sparked my scientific interest in sex. It was an easy joke for everyone (“Going to go study, Jennifer? Did you find a tutor?”) and on top of that, I had a giant crush on our coach, making it all the more awkward asking him questions about sex. I worked extra hard to find answers on my own, but eventually I found a term on our official Science Olympiad study sheet that I just didn’t understand:

Maleness glue.”

Eventually I gave up and approached my coach, probably blushing, and stammered out, “Mr. K, er, there’s this word I don’t know…can you tell me what it means?” I handed over the sheet of paper and pointed at the offending word. His smirk (he was most likely preparing to crack a joke) soon faded to a look of confusion.

“I have no idea.”

We ventured off to the computer lab to do some Googling. Apparently Indiana’s website blocking software wasn’t so hot eight years ago, because Mr. K yelled “GAH!” and quickly closed a window (Of course he wouldn’t tell me what it was, so being the curious scientist I was I looked it up when I went home, and it was gay porn). But regardless if safe search was on or off, we couldn’t find any useful information on maleness glue. It never appeared on one of the exams, but it became a running gag because of its mysterious nature. What the hell was maleness glue?

At the time, we had created various theories about the cryptic phrase. One male friend joked that it was just a euphemism for semen, but the event instructions were very scientific – no other euphemisms or slang were included. Another friend joked that it was the substance that made men gay (bound them together like glue). As much as I enjoy that theory, it’s also not exactly scientific – but if I ever discover the gay gene, it’s getting named mglu. The only real clue we had was that it was a process “involved in gonadal determination.”

Now I’m 22 years old and about to graduate with a biology degree, and I still don’t know what it means. I’ve asked two different college professors who taught human sexuality courses, and they’ve had no clue. At this point I’m fairly convinced there is no such thing as maleness glue, but there’s still the mystery of how it got on the event instructions to begin with. If you look at the same instructions for the event provided now, they have never been edited – they still contain the mysterious maleness glue. Was it a typo of an actually relevant sexual term? Was it just some disgruntled scientist, hoping to set a young student on a life long wild goose chase?

The world may never know.

Why I’m not going to waste my time reading the Bible

I have not read the entire Bible.

In fact, the only full stories I have read were about Creation (Ch 1 and 2 in Genesis) and the Prodigal Son, and that was because they were required for my Ancient World Literature class in high school. I know most of the stories and famous quotes just from growing up in a predominantly Christian culture (hell, I first heard the story of Moses from Rugrats), but I have not read the original text.

I don’t think this is necessarily very surprising, since I was raised in a secular way. Even many Christians have not read the Bible in its entirety. But whenever I get in a discussion with a religious person and they find out I’m an atheist, the first words out of their mouth are “Well, have you read the Bible?” For some atheists, this is so annoying that they feel compelled to read the Bible just to debate better (and to blog about it):

I am told that reading the bible is a life changing experience that will fully and unequivocally convince me of the existence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and maybe unicorns. I am also told, when I quote some seemingly strange passages from the bible, that I am merely taking them out of context, and that I would understand the “true” meaning if only I would read the bible in it’s entirety. I also look forward to the day that when someone asks me disdainfully “well, have you actually read the bible?” my reply can be “yes, have you?”.

While I understand their tactics and find that question equally annoying, I have no plans to read the entire Bible.

“Oh Jen,” you say, “you’re just being close-minded and set in your beliefs.” But I disagree. To illustrate my point, here are my top four reasons why I’m not going to waste my time reading the Bible:

1. There’s a double standard. Christians* claim that you can’t make an educated argument against Christianity unless you have read the Bible. Yet at the same time, they have often never read any other holy book, let alone all holy books, and they feel like that’s perfectly fine. Maybe if they stopped the hypocrisy of their standards, I’d consider them.

2. I don’t need to completely master Christian theology before I can realize that it’s wrong. As a corollary of #1, this is exactly how most Christians treat other religions. They reject Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Satanism, and Scientology without reading the Tripitaka, Vedas, Qu’ran, Talmud, Satanic Bible, Dianetics. They don’t believe in ancient Egyptian, Greek, or Norse gods and goddesses, yet they haven’t read every mythological story. We don’t need to know every detail about how people draw astrological tables to recognize it as bullshit. One only needs to learn so much about a topic before their skeptical sensors go off.

3. Even if I did read the Bible, Christians will continue to claim that I’m taking it out of context, misinterpreting it, or just outright lying. I have seen this happen over and over again with Bible-savvy atheists who were in debates. These people are so made up in their mind that no amount of reason will work, even if you’re using their own tool against them. They see what they want to see in the Bible, and quoting contradictory passages at them is futile.

4. From a purely literary perspective, the parts of the Bible I’ve read have been incredibly boring and poorly written. For a book that’s supposedly God’s word, you think he could have done a bit better. I have a queue of excellent books waiting on my bookshelf, and I much rather spend my time reading those than some 2,000 year old mediocre tome that will likely annoy me with its inanity.

I’m sure there are more relevant points that I’m forgetting, but those are the major ones to me. Maybe one day I’ll read it, when I’ve completely exhausted my list of superior literature, or I’m trapped on a desert island with nothing but the Good Book. But until then, I don’t feel the need to. I know the stories for the cultural literacy aspect, and that’s enough for me.

What do you think? Am I being lazy or practical?

*Obviously not all Christians act in the way I describe in this post. I’m talking about the ones who claim you must read the Bible. I hate making these sorts of disclaimers, but I don’t want people trolling me on this little thing.

A version of the Bible that’s actually useful

My friend over at SuperFunAdventureTime! decided (probably out of boredom) to make some improvements to his copy of the Bible. That seems like a daunting task, but I like the final result:His reasoning?

“The SuperFunAdventureBible clears up and confusing or flowery passages and allows the reader to concentrate on the real crux of the Christian faith. Christians should be thanking me, as I carefully removed (with a utility knife) all of the times the Bible urges people to participate in:

  • murder (Ezekiel 9:5-6)
  • genocide (Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Exodus 17:13-16)
  • incest (Exodus 6:20; Genesis 19:30-38)
  • abortion (Hosea 13:16)
  • cannibalism (Jeremiah 19:9)
  • materialism (Proverbs 14:20)
  • domestic violence (Proverbs 20:30)
  • shit-eating (Ezekiel 4:12-15),
  • genital mutilation (Genesis 17:9-13)
  • …and Communist party membership (Acts 4:32-35)

Thanks to me, the Christian apologetics have less to apologize over. Now, Christians can concentrate on the central themes of intimidation and greed without the requisite cognitive dissonance.”

I approve.

Though I think I would be more creative in what I stored in my SuperFunAdventureBible. How about condoms? You’re in the moment, your partner asks you to grab some protection, you show them your Bible, they freak out (hopefully), you reveal its contents, you both have a good chuckle and then go at it like rabbits. Eh? Eh?

Pssh, fine then. What would you store in your Bible?

Ray Comfort’s Origin meets counter-protests at Purdue

Yesterday I commented that Ray Comfort didn’t stop by Purdue to hand out his sullied version of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Since Ray changed the release date to the 18th to screw up secular counter-protesters, I thought that would be the last we saw of him. Well, I was wrong. Around 11:30 I started receiving a flood of text messages, IMs, and emails, all saying the same thing – the books were being passed out at the Engineering fountain at Purdue!

I alerted the masses via my own flurry of texts, tweets, and Facebook status updates, printed off a bunch of flyers from Don’t Diss Darwin (thankfully I was in a computer lab at the time), and ran off. I also had the foresight this morning to bring the batch of “I Support Science” Darwin Fish stickers we had been sent for free, and I’m glad I had them.Oh, and did I mention it was raining all day today? Kind of sucked.

Right after I got outside of I saw someone passing out books in front of LILY – the biology building where I live, sort of extra insulting – which showed me that they were all around campus, not just by the Engineering fountain. After politely receiving a book, I set up camp next to him handing out flyers and stickers to anyone who took a book.

Soon he ran out of books, and I was about to leave when I was approached by two biology professors I know.
Prof 1: Thank you so much for doing this!
Me: Oh, no problem.
Prof 2: Can we give you some money to reimburse you?
Me: Huh? For what?
Prof 1: For printing off all of those books. It must have cost a lot of money.
Me: Ooohhh, the Origin? Nooo, those are creationists handing it out. They added an anti-evolution introduction linking evolutionary biology to Nazism. We’re counter-protesting them.
Prof 1: I knew something smelled fishy!! Now I’ll definitely have to go read it, hahaha!

After that I ran to the Engineering fountain and found three different people widely spaces out and passing out books. A friend of mine tackled two of them who were closer together, and I focused on one (after getting another book, gotta catch ‘em all!). Very quickly he figured out what I was doing, and probably wasn’t too happy. I felt a bit bad since he was apparently a high school student roped into this, while everyone else were 40 year old white males. But I continued to hand out flyers and stickers, and more non-theists came to join me and take photos.

Lurk lurk lurk.

One of our members started talking to the people handing out books and asked if they had permission to be here. They skirted around the issue and just said they were with Living Waters Ministries. Purdue’s policy states that you can’t hand out anything on campus unless you’re specifically sponsored by a student group and a member of that organization is there with you – which was clearly not happening. However, we didn’t try to get them kicked off since 1) they were almost done passing out things anyway and 2) if they want to spread their stupidity, go ahead. We’ll just show how they’re wrong.
I then explained to this guy what the book was all about, and he heartily laughed.

Soon they were out of books, and congregated around where I was passing out flyers…and then they tried to debate me. They asked me about proof for evolution, and I started rattling of patterns in DNA, transitional fossils – but then I made the mistake of saying I was studying evolutionary biology. Immediately after that, they changed the topic to the Bible and how awesome it is because they knew they had no chance in debating me in biology.

I’ve stated this before, but I reeeaaallly hate debating people, especially about the Bible. One, I’m not good at thinking on my feet – I like having a keyboard and three seconds of thought. Two, I’m not a Bible scholar, so I especially hate Biblical debates. And three, I don’t freaking care. Their reasoning is so circular that it’s maddening, and I hate repeating the same arguments over and over again knowing that it is completely pointless and that I’m not going to change anyone’s minds. Thankfully Bryan (the guy I’m dating) appeared, and he was a great help since he’s currently reading the Bible and commenting on it daily over at his own blog. Still, after going through Pascal’s wager, the inerrancy of the Bible, the circular logic of God’s word making the Bible true, the “faith” of science, the God of the Gaps, God being infinite but the beginning of the universe needing a cause, atheists not trying to look for God, and morality as proof of God, I kind of wanted to die a little. Or punch babies, but that probably wouldn’t have reflected very well on me.

Eventually I had to escape because I was planning to meet someone for lunch. I later found out they were passing out the books not just in front of LILY and the Engineering fountain, but in front of the Stewart Center Wetheril, Ford dining court, Armstrong…and who knows where else. Unfortunately, we only reached a small group of people who received books since we didn’t exactly know what was going on, but something is better than nothing. We’ve alerted all the local media, so hopefully someone will pick up on it.

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. The most common responses I saw from people who took the book were, “Awesome, I’ve always wanted a copy!” The most common response from people rejecting the book were, “Ugh, no, I don’t believe in evolution.” You know what that means?

The only people who took Ray Comfort’s bastardized Origin were people who already accept evolution and are most likely to see through his deceitful bullshit. Them, and atheists who were gobbling them up like collector’s items. I got two, and other non-theist members were racing to grab one. I know when I’m teaching evolutionary biology at a university many years from now, I’ll be happy to wave this in front of my class and talk about the scary past where evolution actually had silly people fighting against it. At least, hopefully I’ll be able to say that.

These are going on the book shelf next to the Professor and the Dominatrix and Ken Ham’s Evolution: The Lie.

Quick skeptical update

If you haven’t yet deduced from my manic tweets, I’m busy. Really friggin‘ busy. But the best thing to do when you’re busy is to procrastinate, so here’s a super quick blog update for you guys.

1. Ray Comfort is a douchenozzle. To secretly move the release of his sullied version of the Origin up a day for the sole purpose of avoiding counter events shows his true colors. He is a scheming slimeball who knows his side has no intellectual merit, and the only way to gain followers is to avoid the peaceful reply of his opponent. Oh, and no, his people did not pass out the Origin at Purdue. I guess we’re just already so religious and conservative that he didn’t want to waste his time here.

2. Guess what came in the mail last week, and what I wore today?Woooo! My PZ vs Ken Ham Creation Museum Memorial Shirt! It looks awesome on black (a little washed on on white, but still alright). If you have no idea why PZ is on a squid and battling Ken Ham on a T-Rex, you should probably go here, newbie.

Ok, back to writing my summary of the sex determining gene in chickens. WOO BIOLOGY!

Indiana schools ban atheist websites

Oh Indiana, you’re up to crazy religious shenanigans again. Let’s have the Freedom From Religion Foundation explain what’s going on:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, responding to complaints from concerned Indianapolis taxpayers, has sent a letter of strong objection to the Indianapolis Public School system for its policy of censorship of web content that promotes or provides information about “atheistic views.”

Hmmm, I wonder what it exactly says?

Sites that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult practices, atheistic views, vodoo rituals or any form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events.

Uhhhhh…. Let’s have FFRF finish before I get distracted by The Stupid.

This policy … is unlawful because it violates the Free Speech Clause as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, FFRF charges. This policy does not prohibit or even mention religious views such as Christianity. A website like FFRF.org, which educates on freethought and nontheism, would, however, be blocked under this policy. This promotes religion over nonreligion, which is forbidden under the Establishment Clause.

In her letter, Foundation Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz pointed out that, in addition to the illegality of the policy, it discriminates against the 15% of the population that is nonreligious, the fastest growing segment of the American population (American Religious Identification Survey 2008).

“This policy not only violates the rights of students in the Indianapolis School District, but limits their capacity to expand their knowledge and acceptance of all individuals and beliefs,” Kratz noted.

How the hell could they have thought this was a good idea or even legal? You can’t look up views on certain religions or atheism, but Christianity is a-okay? Discrimination, much? The only thing I find much stupider than that is lumping atheism with supernatural/paranormal events when atheism rejects those things. I take it back: thinking that spells, incantations, curses, and magic powers can actually work is pretty fucking stupid.

But wait, that’s not all.

The policy also blocks LGBT sites “that provide information regarding, support, promote, or cater to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender sites” (see second page of policy).

Yep, let’s ban students from helpful information when they need it the most! Maybe if they can’t find out that it’s okay to be gay, they’ll start being straight again.

Though shame on Indianapolis students for not being able to just crack through the censorship. That’s the first thing you learn to do in high school! How else are you going to feed your Neopets, watch Homestar Runner, and play crappy flash games? Wait, what? That’s what I did 7 years ago? None of that is cool? Damnit.

(Thanks to the seventy billion different people who let me know about this one. Apparently atheism + Indiana = OMG GO EMAIL JEEENNNN!!)
(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Secret Diary of a Poor PhD Student…wait, Call Girl?

Some of you may be familiar with the blog Diary of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour. The stories of a professional woman’s secret life as a high class prostitute won the Guardian’s Blog of the Year in 2003 and has spawned multiple books and a Showtime series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The author had been working behind a pseudonym, but has now outed herself as Dr. Brooke Magnanti.

Until last week, even her agent was unaware of her name. But now Magnanti, a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol, has spoken of the time six years ago she worked as a £300 an hour prostitute working through a London escort agency. Magnanti turned to the agency in the final stages of her PhD thesis when she ran out of money. She was already an experienced science blogger and began writing about her experiences in a web diary later adapted into books and a television drama starring Billie Piper.

Magnanti said she was working on a doctoral study for the department of forensic pathology of Sheffield University in 2003 when she began her secret life. “I was getting ready to submit my thesis. I saved up a bit of money. I thought, I’ll just move to London, because that’s where the jobs are, and I’ll see what happens.

“I couldn’t find a professional job in my chosen field because I didn’t have my PhD yet. I didn’t have a lot of spare time on my hands because I was still making corrections and preparing for the viva and I got through my savings a lot faster than I thought I would.”

This fascinates me for a number of reasons. My initial reaction was how sadly underpaid PhD students can be, which I’m sure I’ll be experiencing first hand fairly soon. Not only is it hard to find a job during and after getting your doctorate, but the only decent paying job you can get is prostitution.

But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a job I’d want, but I’m not going to judge those who choose that path. Magnanti stressed that she greatly enjoyed her job, though she was lucky in that she was a high class escort with a generally safer pool of customers. I’m personally in the camp that thinks prostitution should be legalized and regulated (background checks, STD testing, etc). We shouldn’t punish people for being naturally sexual beings (and really, is prostitution that much different than buying someone dinner or jewelry with the hopes of sex?), but we should try to protect sex workers from potentially dangerous situations.

While that’s my opinion, I know many disagree with me. I’m afraid what sort of bad press this may get for female scientists. I don’t think it deserves bad press – more power to her for enjoying what she did – but I know the slut-shamers are going to come out of the woodwork. Women in science already have to deal with being in the minority and dealing with all sorts of biases and stereotypes. I’m just waiting for someone to go, “See, brains don’t matter because she still had to resort to being a whore.”

What do you guys think?

(Via BoingBoing)

Best Heathen-y Birthday Gift Ever

Last night we had a triple birthday party at my place. Two of my best friends and I all have November birthdays, so we decided to kill three birds with one stone and just have one big bash. Some of our friends (including Mike over at Politics and Pucks) got us some gifts, and they were pretty awesome:Godless cookie cake! It was extra delicious.A Christmas stocking?! That’s not very atheistic, since I don’t believe…but wait, what’s inside?Noooooo! Bananas?!? My worst nightmare!

Oh, and how could I almost forget: my friend Josh brought me this lovely Chick Tract on evolution from some fundies who were demonstrating around the bars:Much loling was had. My friends are great.

PZ Myers Speaks at Purdue: “A Few Things I’ve Learned from Creationists”

Yesterday night PZ Myers, who I’m sure you all know blogs over at Pharyngula, was nice enough to give a lecture at Purdue University. I found out through an ecology listserv that he would be speaking at an evo-devo meeting at Indiana University in Bloomington this weekend, and he was willing to fly in a day early to stop by West Lafayette first. We were all incredibly excited, and the atheists at IU were incredibly jealous.

Part of my duty at the President of the Society of Non-Theists was to safely retrieve PZ from the Indianapolis airport. Usually this would be a simple task – I’ve driven there a couple of times before and it’s about an hour and twenty away. The caveat was that PZ’s flight was supposed to arrive at 4pm, his talk started at 6pm, and flights are pretty much always late.

It seems the Flying Spaghetti Monster was not watching over us, because I soon got a phone call from PZ saying his flight was running a half hour late. No problem, plenty of time, I thought. I got to the airport and read American Gods in the parking lot for a while to waste time. But pretty soon it was getting later and later, and we both started to freak out on twitter. I unfortunately didn’t have internet access, so I had no clue what was going on (though it was apparently fairly amusing to our mutual followers).

I finally got a call at 4:50 that he had arrived, and we zoomed off toward West Lafayette, me trying to drive as quickly as possible without killing two atheist bloggers in one blow. I called my officers because I knew we’d be late, and that they should entertain the audience to prevent a riot – PZ suggested balloon animals, I suggested interpretive dance. We ended up being about 15 minutes late, but my awesome officers held down the fort by playing Mr. Diety videos (PZ: I have to follow Mr. Diety?! Oh no!). PZ then gave a great talk, “A Few Things I’ve Learned from Creationists” – which can pretty much be summed up by this photo:Thankfully PZ gave us permission to videotape it, so you can watch it yourself! (EDIT: So…apparently people think the sound quality sucks, but I think it sounds fine. Either my computer is awesome, or I’m just not that picky. Regardless, if you think it’s crappy, feel free to donate a high quality video camera to the Society of Non-Theists. EDIT 2: Thanks for all of the audio recording tips. If you hadn’t figured it out yet, we didn’t exactly know what we’re doing, and I feel really bad that it came out so badly, so I apologize. I’m still completely baffled by the people who say they can’t understand a thing, though. I can tell what he’s saying the entire talk…either listening through headphones is the trick, or I have super human hearing.)

I thought his talk was great, and so did everyone else (though I think some of the biology-heavy bits went over most people’s heads). He drew a big crowd – I wasn’t able to get an exact head count because there were so many people, but I’d estimate a little over 150 individuals were there. Just to give you an idea, here are a couple shots of the majority of the crowd (still leaving out about 30 or 40 people):Surprisingly, there weren’t many creationists there, or they were just keeping quiet. Only one question seemed to have a creationist bent, and no one looked especially furious.
We then relocated to Boiler Market, a local restaurant with great food and cheap pitchers of beer, a winning combination. About 35-40 people showed up, and we had a great time talking with our fellow non-theists. This event definitely brought some new faces out of the woodwork – hopefully they’ll stay, and we’ll see them at future meetings!The best part for me was definitely driving PZ from and to the airport. I was lucky to have him to myself for nearly three hours, and it was great fun talking to him. We talked about biology, grad school, blogging, silly religious topics, the book he’s writing, and all sorts of random things. I had a blast, and I hope he did too!

Catholic Church: You approve gay marriage, we stop social service programs

What happens when society progresses on human rights, but a 2,000 year old book is more important to you? Resort to childish strong-arm tactics:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

What in the world could this bill be saying that has Catholics so upset? Will it force them to perform gay marriages? To watch Bravo TV marathons? To ordain gay priests? …Wait a second…

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

So, the bill says you just have to stop discrimination…and they’re against this? Do they have any idea how bad this makes them look? I guess they’re not worried about PR, though, since their response is to threaten to take away social service programs than benefit the community. That’s a pretty jerk move, if you ask me, since it’s hurting people not even involved with the issue at hand. Just how many people will they be affecting with their selfish temper tantrum?

Catholic Charities, the church’s social services arm, is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations that partner with the District. It serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington’s homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church. City leaders said the church is not the dominant provider of any particular social service, but the church pointed out that it supplements funding for city programs with $10 million from its own coffers.

“All of those services will be adversely impacted if the exemption language remains so narrow,” Jane G. Belford, chancellor of the Washington Archdiocese, wrote to the council this week.

Wow, just wow. Thankfully the council members seem to have more sense than the church:

The church’s influence seems limited. In separate interviews Wednesday, council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) referred to the church as “somewhat childish.” Another council member, David A. Catania (I-At Large), said he would rather end the city’s relationship with the church than give in to its demands.

You know all of those recent debates about if the Catholic church is an overall force of good in the world? I think your “goodness” suffers a bit if you’re only using it for political clout. Just a thought.