The Apple iGod

Mac-ily crack-ily
Apple Enthusiasts
Think about gadgets, and
Light up their brains,

Piquing the interest of
Neuroanatomists,
Glad to discuss what
The picture explains:

Sexily, vexily,
Newest technology
Shows an analysis
Just a touch odd;

Macheads don’t suffer from
Psychopathology;
Rather, their brains see the
Gadgets as God.

Apple-ish, Chapel-ish
Documentarians
Came to conclusions
A bit front-to-back;

God was their yardstick, but
Incomprehensibly—
Truth is, Jehovah is
Merely a Mac.

So, yeah, CNN is reporting about a Beeb documentary on the Secrets of the Superbrands. The big news that CNN takes from it is that Mac devotees’ brains (as measured by MRI) light up when they are viewing Apple gadgets the same way that religious devotees’ brains light up when they see images of their god.

But of course, the interpretation is all wrong. They say that iPads, for instance, benefit from MacHeads’ “god-like devotion”… No, actually. God (whichever god you choose) inspires Mac-like devotion. I doubt very much that an area of the brain evolved to deal with stuff that is not there. I suspect, rather, that it developed to deal with stuff that is actually there, and was hijacked by a fiction.

I have often wondered whether the areas of the brain that light up for religious devotion, might light up for pop stars, movie idols, favorite authors, or the like. It would surprise me greatly if the feeling of awe inspired by a god and the feeling of awe inspired by a Van Gogh are differentially located in the brain. Evolution is a notorious tinkerer, and re-uses stuff all the time: “Love, pain, money, cocaine light up same area of brain“, suggests one title. So, no surprise that iPads and gods are similarly wired.

What would have been extraordinary would be if god-perception was utterly unique. That would be remarkable, actually. But that, I suspect, would require intelligent design. No such luck.

Attack Of The Minnows

The big fish in their tiny pool
Where all the world is just one school
Can taunt and tease the godless fool
And bow their heads and pray
But video technology
Means, now the outside world can see
The worst of Christianity
In prominent display

Replacing prayer with silent thought?
Not good enough! And so, they fought!
They never figured to be caught—
And also, it was fun!
So, proving that they have no shame
The cowards held the kid to blame
And broke the law; it’s just the same
As Jesus would have done

It could have been such a great civics lesson. It could have been the mother of all teachable moments. It could have been a time for a community to shine.

But no.

It was a time for a community to pull together against a common enemy, to pretend to be victims of a persecution they were actually perpetrating.

Context, and video, at PZ’s.

Graduation Rites

All across our mighty nation
At this time of graduation
It is Christian obligation
To acknowledge god in prayer
With a solemn invocation
Or an eloquent oration
That’s an open invitation
Aimed at everybody there

With a biblical quotation
To elicit contemplation:
“Lead us not into temptation”
As we head into the world
And with no equivocation
We affirm our adoration
And we pledge our dedication
To a banner there unfurled.

Now some godless aberration
Through his email machination
Seeks no less than termination
Of our simple, cherished rite!
Says we’re all in violation
Of the proper legislation
And demands an abrogation
Or he’ll lawyer up and fight!

Having read his information
We admit, with resignation,
Though it seems abomination
We sought federal advice
With our lawyers’ consultation,
To avoid much litigation
We announce the cancellation
Of the virgin sacrifice.

Via PZ, we hear of the annual dance between God and Country. Only one or the other gets invited to public school graduations, it seems. In Bastrop, LA, it was God that got the ticket, until Damon Fowler reminded the school that their traditional prayer was unconstitutional. As a reward for his civics lesson, the school lauded the young man, and is dedicating the graduation ceremonies to him.

Oh, wait, no. They are threatening him, and pretty much riding him out of town on a rail. Though the school board quickly realized he was in the right, the good christians of the area are planning to overwhelm the compromise “moment of silence” with prayer. This, of course, is their right. And it shows how much they value the words of Jesus, specifically Matthew 6:5-6. I kinda wish someone there would take that moment of silence (if it is indeed disturbed by loud prayer) as an opportunity to sacrifice a chicken or goat, right there, spray its carcass with rum, and basically exercise the same first amendment rights the other praying folks are. Except that I would feel a bit bad for the poor animal.

What’s The Lede?

The data are in, and they show there are planets
Which orbits, it seems, have not captured—
But science is boring, so bury that story,
There’s people who hope to be raptured!

The Milky Way Galaxy’s filled with these wanderers
Lost, unattached, and alone
But let’s go with the cultists who think they’ve discovered
A code that the bible has shown!

Gravitational lensing shows planet-sized masses
Adrift in the vastness of space
But freak-shows sell papers, and Jesus is coming!
Who cares if it’s really the case?

There’s trivial crap, and there’s serious matters,
There’s bullshit, and then, there is news
Thank goodness the media know what they’re doing…
Cos lord knows, the public can’t choose

So, yeah. A trivial percentage of christians think the world is going to end this Saturday; thank goodness every media source on the planet has seen fit to cover this important story. I’d link to a half dozen or so, but the truth is I am sick to death of it.

In the real world, they’ve discovered planets that are not attached to their own solar systems. “Rogue planets”, or some other word (since planets are, technically, partially defined by their orbiting around a star), have been found–as predicted–by looking for the effects of microgravitational lensing. Actually, quite a few have been found, and by extrapolation there may be more of them than attached stars!

Damn!

The real world universe is so much cooler than bronze-age mythological fairy stories.

But let’s not let that get in the way of a headline.

Message In A Virtual Bottle

Happy birthday, to someone who’s dropped off the map
Though the odds that you’ll see it are long
I’d have bet, years ago, that we’d always be close
But of course, I’d have bet and been wrong
So wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing
I wish Happy Birthday, my friend;
Cherish the days that you have with each other…
It’s always too soon when they end.

Happy Birthday, to the person responsible for my moniker.

How Annoying!

I am a student of human behavior
The funny, the sad, the annoying, and worse;
When faced with “those people”, this view is my savior–
I take it all in, and I write it in verse

The clipping of toenails, the cracking of knuckles,
The scratch of a knife or a fork on a plate
While some pull their hair out, for me it’s just chuckles
I find things amusing that others may hate

The grocery-store fast lane, with one extra item
The dog that’s been barking from midnight to three
Examples come quicker than one man can write ‘em
They bother some folks, but they don’t bother me!

The internet comments I’ve often predicted:
“This story was simply a waste of my time!”
So, too, was the comment they rudely inflicted
On us, which I notice and add to my rhyme

NPR has a piece up on a new book by a couple of NPR-affiliated authors–Annoying: The science of what bugs us. As is completely predictable, the comments there are great fun.

I was giving final exams, and thus trapped like a rat in a cage for about 4 hours this morning; the above verses are the product. It’s not (as yet, anyway) a complete work, but I have grading to do, so I will leave it to my readers to vent their annoyances or celebrate their lack thereof.

Back to work. How annoying!

Maine Boy Still Unidentified

Update–he has been identified, and his mother is in custody. Damn.

Maine police have found the body of a young boy. Found Saturday afternoon, and not yet identified.

Boston Globe story. Seacoast Online story. Fosters story.
They are asking for help. On the off chance you hadn’t heard yet, and can spread the word, please do.

I used to run a daycare, and this story just hurts. I can’t help but see *my* kids there. Someone must be missing their little boy by now.

Tom Waits, to rip your heart right out of your chest:

Eurovision?

Ok, so I was a little disappointed in Eurovision. I am a Eurovision addict, much to my shame, but this year there was no song/act that just blew me away. My highest picks were only 3/4 up the way up my page (ongoing ratings–from bottom to top of page), and my tastes and those of the European continent… did not mesh. Not entirely true–I had Italy in my top handful, and they placed second. First (Azerbaijan) and third (Sweden) were not in my top ten. Azerbaijan were in my bottom handful.

So this is for my European readers–too often, my posts are USA-centric. Did your favorites win? Lose? Do you hate Eurovision with a passion reserved for war crimes? Do you love it, perhaps despite yourself?

(for the record, my all time favorite is “We are the winners of Eurovision” by LT United, for Lithuania in 2006, which I refuse to believe was 5 years ago.)

What Happened?

Ok, so I know I had another post here, and I know a dozen or so people replied to that post–I have their comments in my email. But the post (“on the road”) is gone, as are the comments, and I have no idea why.

So anyway, I am back from two long days of driving, and have therefore missed out on two days of grading papers. So I will repeat the invitation–who are you? Drop a line in the comments, and let me know how long you have been reading, where you found my blog, a bit about yourself. I have read the ones posted on the mysterious missing post, and find that my readers are as fascinating as they are intelligent (intended as a compliment on both, btw). Probably damned good looking to, and I bet they smell nice.

Back to grading, unless something forces me to write it. Oh, if anyone knows what might have happened, that would be cool to know too.

PSA: Post-Rapture Pet Care

As recently noted, there are a number of people who firmly believe we have just over a week until they will (they hope) be raptured. As a public service to those individuals, I am reposting an older verse and story, so that they might put their minds at ease with regard to their animal companions. (Note–because of increased demand, prices have gone up since I wrote this.)

The day the rapture sweeps the land,
And plucks up true believers,
Among those heathens Left Behind
Are Labrador Retrievers

No Saint Bernard will make the trip
Nor Cockapoo, nor Hound;
The Lord may be my shepherd,
But my Shepherd stays aground.

No Poodles, Pugs, or Pekingese;
No ifs or ands or buts—
The rapture takes God’s faithful,
But it doesn’t take the mutts.

Believers who are worried for
The welfare of their pets
Are offered, now, an answer
If they’d like to place their bets.

Eternal Earthbound Pets” exists
To serve those Left Behind;
It’s rapture pet insurance, if
Believers are inclined.

Of course, not all believers think
Their pets will all be lost;
Their pets may go to Heaven, too
(Thus saving them the cost)

And Fido sits beside them, cos
In Heaven, all is well;
Together, they can laugh and spit
At sufferers in Hell.

From The Union Leader (Manchester, NH) comes the last pet-sitting service you will ever need. Well, assuming that you are going to heaven. If you’re with me, plan on needing to buy kibble for a long, long time.

As those Christians who believe in the Rapture get taken up into eternity, the pet-lovers among them will have one less thing to worry about if a Langdon atheist has anything to say about it.

Bart Centre, 61, a retired vice president of an international retail firm and current co-owner of Eternal Earthbound Pets, is offering a $110 post-Rapture pet care service. The way Centre sees it, he makes a little money in his retirement, and should Jesus Christ return and the Rapture occur, those snatched up into heaven will have their pets cared for, he said.

Of course, to me, the most interesting thing was the reaction from the editor for Rapture Ready:

One Christian who is having a bit of a chuckle over it is Terry James, general editor for the popular Christian Web site Rapture Ready based out of Arkansas.

“He’s giving somebody the business,” James said. “It’s a scam. . . . Anyone who would take that offer seriously, well, how would you even follow up?”

James said what is true is that Christians who believe in the Rapture do wonder about what will happen to their pets. So many, that James wrote a pamphlet about it. He said though pets will be left behind, if the people in Heaven decide that they miss their pets, they can decide to have them brought up later. He acknowledged that sounded a little screwy, but, he said, it’s what he believes.

“I find it kind of amusing to tell you the truth,” he said of Centre’s business venture. “I don’t begrudge him and I don’t hate him for it. And if anyone is actually foolish enough to buy the service and don’t think to follow up, well, then they are foolish.”

Leaving aside the irony of a biblical literalist making up non-biblical pamphlets telling feel-good stories about pets in heaven, and leaving aside the irony of someone with his beliefs calling any other beliefs foolish, there is a further, less evident (or maybe that’s the H1N1 talking) irony.

I have, in arguments with Rapture Ready believers and their ilk (not using my Cuttlefish handle), been told that they are happy I am going to hell, and that they will greatly enjoy looking down from heaven and watching me suffer in a lake of fire. I have been told that they will laugh, and if they are feeling particularly charitable, they will spit on me, just to watch me welcome this relief from the searing heat. Seriously.

And these people (or, most probably, others who share portions of their world view) are going to miss their dogs in heaven? Terry James makes up a story about bringing up Fido later, but gee, it’s too bad about grandma. If you love her, maybe you can convince more of your heavenly friends to spit on her.

(edited to add: predictably, the commentary on the story is every bit as interesting as the story itself, which will surprise no one familiar with the Union [mis]Leader.)