Remember, It’s Not Just An Ark!

Yes, Kentucky is planning on spending too much money on a creationist theme park. But I had forgotten–it is much more than just a replica ark! They are also planning on other themed rides and exhibits, and what says “family fun” more than the ten plagues of Exodus?

Step right up and buy your tickets,
While you wait for Noah’s flood;
Buckle up and watch your hands now
As the water turns to blood!
It’s the first of ten to visit,
Killing all the little fish;
Take a sniff—the smell’s authentic
Cos we know that’s what you’d wish!

With the fish all dead and dying
In the rivers, lakes, and bogs,
Time to move on to the second—
It’s the plague of raining frogs!
As they splatter all around you,
Watch your children’s pure delight;
Cos the Bible is our blueprint
And we try to do it right.

Now the trolley turns a corner
And you’re thinking “this is nice”
Cos you know what’s coming third in line—
A plague of gnats or lice!
Deeply hidden in your follicles,
The eggs begin to hatch,
And it’s family fun for everyone,
So everybody scratch!

If you haven’t read your Bible
Then the next room’s a surprise
When you’re driven to distraction
By the swarm of beasts and flies!
It’s an accurate portrayal
So your skin will puff and bleed,
But you’re here to see the Bible
And we give you what you need!

In the next room, watch the animals
All stricken with disease!
You want to see the pestilence,
And we just want to please!
Ahead of you, a plaintive moo
Betrays a dying calf—
Your children see its painful sores
And laugh, and laugh, and laugh!

Moving on, we see the dreadful price
Exacted for your sin,
As boils erupt, unhealable,
On every inch of skin;
It’s painful, itching, oozing,
With an odor of decay—
Cos we chose the right bacteria;
You’d want it just that way.

We are sticking to the Bible
To the very last detail
So we use no safety helmets
As you meet the plague of hail
You’ll be battered and bombarded,
You’ll be broken, bleeding, bruised,
But you’ll truly feel the wrath of God
With methods that He used!

For the next, a plague of locusts,
Wreaking havoc on your crops;
Here we focus on your hunger
And the dust that never stops.
It makes every breath an effort
So the kids will think it’s fun,
As it raises their awareness
Of the things that God has done.

Up ahead, a plague of darkness,
As the world dissolves from sight
It’s a darkness that is palpable
Beyond a lack of light
You can feel it like a blanket,
Like a blindfold, or a hood;
It’s a terrifying notice
And it tells you God is good.

But of course, we’ve saved the best for last,
The tenth, the plague of death,
Where the dead, decaying babies
You will smell with every breath.
There are corpses, corpses, everywhere!
It’s every firstborn son!
And so you see, we guarantee
It’s wholesome family fun!

Wait, you say–no sentient being would ever consider making a tourist attraction out of the 10 plagues of Exodus! Well, you are mostly right. No sentient being would do it. But it appears that the creationist don’t-think-tank planning Ken Ham’s biblical theme park are planning it:

So, not so much “Six Flags” (for non-USA–that’s an amusement park) as “Ten Plagues”. Fun.

Let’s All Help Out Ken Ham!

There’s the fall, and the plagues, and there’s Babel
And there’s Adam, and Eve, Cain, and Abel,
In Kentucky, the ark
Makes a marvelous park…
If the government’s wholly unstable

Kentucky is poised to give $18 million in new tax breaks (pending approval from the legislature) to the Ark project at Ken Ham’s creation museum. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Board has apparently decided that the state will make more money fleecing believers than it will lose by frightening off those who don’t believe The Flintstones was a documentary. NPR reports:

Kentucky has approved $18 million in new tax breaks for a controversial Christian theme park that is to feature a 510-foot-long replica of Noah’s Ark.

Maryanne Zeleznik of member station WVXU in Cincinnati reports that the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the incentives for the Ark Encounter, to be built in Williamstown. The legislature must still OK the plan.

So… on the one hand, people still have time to contact the Kentucky legislature and warn them off… but assuming that the KTDFB know what they are doing, maybe the best thing for Kentucky is to help them advertise the upcoming attraction. Ad copy doesn’t come cheap, and their current ads, well… So I’ve decided to help them, with some old stuff I had laying around.

First, for the Ark itself:

Our day at the park
Having fun on the ark
Will begin as we stroll up the ramp
With the mammals and dino’s
And strange hellifino’s
And all of it, gaudy and camp

There are creatures in twos
Like the grandest of zoos
Some in cages for people to see
Some are plastic, of course,
Like the odd “Jesus horse”
You can ride on (just children!) for free

With the tour guide explaining
It soon will start raining—
It’s best that we get through the doors
And with thunder and lightning
More piped-in than frightening
The skies open up, and it pours

It isn’t surprising
The water starts rising
With rivers obscuring the ground
We’re on board! We’re the winners!
We laugh at the sinners
Outside, who are there to be drowned.

Some electrical junction
Is bound to malfunction;
The waters continue to rise—
Now it’s panic and screaming
(Please tell me we’re dreaming!)
On board, we can hear all the cries

Now the water is rushing,
The pipes are still gushing,
We realize, we’re really afloat!
Like the Genesis story
We share in the glory
And ride in the biblical boat

Though it’s ill-built and creaky,
Substantially leaky,
We ought to be fine for a while
And although we’re all stuck
We rejoice in our luck
And we look at each other and smile.

Soon the still-rising tides
Means the screaming subsides
From the folks who did not get on board
And we know that God willed
That these people be killed
So we all praise the works of Our Lord

As the day turns to night
With no rescue in sight
Our exhaustion will drive us to sleep
Though the children are wary
Cos darkness is scary
And the lions are eating the sheep

So we all sleep in shifts
As our giant bed drifts
And there’s still not a star in the sky
Soon the sun will arrive
And we’re mostly alive
And if not, then God wants us to die.

At the whim of the weather
We huddle together
As carnivores roam through the decks
And we learned within hours
The stench overpowers—
Of feces, of death, and of sex

When the rain finally ceases
We pick up the pieces
And head to the top deck, for sun,
Where the clean-smelling breezes
Sweep by (thank you Jesus!)
And we kneel down and pray, every one!

As we float, we survey
The remains of the day
From our vantage above, on the ark
Where our neighbors and friends
Met their untimely ends
With the visitors there at the park

And we bow heads, and praise
God’s mysterious ways—
Our friends’ bodies have now begun bloating
And as plump as you please
They rise up through the seas
All disfigured and blue, they are floating

All the husbands and wives,
Little children whose lives
Were destroyed by their callous Creator
While we’re safe on the ark
Cos we chose to embark
A bit sooner, and not a bit later

There was water to drink
But it’s starting to stink
And starvation’s its own form of hell
But the hunger and thirst
Isn’t even the worst—
More than that, is the horrible smell

The miasma which flows
Though you cover your nose
Overwhelms you, and just never ends
And the worst of it all
This olfactory pall
Is the smell of our neighbors and friends

We float day after day
As around us, decay
And disease take a toll on our minds;
And our bodies grow weak
As around us, unspeak-
able horrors are all that one finds

In the decks down below
Where we never dare go
There is carnage like never before;
Most the mammals are gone
But the beetles live on
As they feast on the filth and the gore

There are maggots and flies
Which is no great surprise
In the dung and the foul, rancid meat
But up top, it is grim
Cos the pickings are slim
And there’s nothing for humans to eat

If we haven’t quite died
When the waters subside
We’ll praise God, and we won’t think to sue
Sure, it’s horribly cruel
But we learned, at home school
That what’s right is what Yahweh would do

False Flag Impeachment?

This talk of impeachment is scattered—it mattered
To very few people—near no one at all!
No major political figure so big you’re
Expected to answer the phone if they call!
No media darling whose speech meant impeachment
Was favored by some in the party of No
A sign that the don’t-tread-on-me-ers, the TEA-ers
Insist that it’s time for Obama to go!

Oh, no, it’s the Democrats, really, who feel he’s
A useful distraction and fundraising tool
Your typical voter won’t notice the POTUS
Is pulling their strings—cos a voter’s a fool!
Impeachment’s about raising money—it’s funny,
A truth they won’t tell on the idiot box.
Republicans don’t want distractions, but actions!
Just trust us—remember, you heard it on Fox!

It’s getting harder to tell the satires from the real opinion pieces. I thought I had stumbled upon one of the former, with the first paragraph here:

In a matter of days, Democrats looking to head off Republican gains in November have turned scattered talk of President Obama’s impeachment into a sustained rallying cry — even managing to fundraise off the perceived threat.

Scattered talk… from the former Vice Presidential candidate, from members of Congress, and with the support of 57% of Republican voters, according to a CNN/ORC poll. I’ve seen little handfuls of people gathered on street corners and highway overpasses with “Impeach Obama” signs, letters to the editor of our local paper, websites selling impeachment T-shirts… scattered indeed. Clearly a false flag operation.

The frenzied warnings have Republicans scratching their heads – after all, few if any in the party brass are openly pushing impeachment — and accusing the other side of ginning up the controversy for political gain.

“You know, this might be the first White House in history that’s trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told “Fox News Sunday.”

Now, technically, “few if any in the party brass” is true. Palin is, as is her habit, no longer in an official position of power, and the party brass have very little connection to the rabid tea faction that actually drives their lurch to the extreme right. But by including the word “brass”, they can gloss this over and pretend that it must be the Dems who are behind this.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kicked off the impeachment headlines earlier this month when she penned a column calling for it. But to date, most senior Republicans have shied away from that call.

House Speaker John Boehner stood by his decision to proceed with a lawsuit against the president over alleged abuse of executive power, but would not sign on to the impeachment idea. Even Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of the most conservative members of the House GOP caucus, would not get on board with impeachment (though she did back impeaching “certain officials in the Executive Branch.”)

Again, note the qualifiers in “most senior Republicans”–and let’s pretend that the silly Boehner lawsuit was anything but an attempt to appease the impeachment-hounds.

It seems that the only real way to tell the satires from the opinion pieces is that the former tend to be better written:

You don’t have to be a licensed distractionologist to see that the White House is trying to get the president impeached in order to draw attention away from how bad he is at his job.

Don’t believe me? Perhaps a little “history of Obama distractions” is in order.

When he was running for president, Obama tried to distract American voters from the fact that he is black by running for president. That should have been our first sign that this guy was an expert at diversions.

Once in office, Obama immediately ruined our economy by being president, so he distracted us from our financial woes by using death panels to reform the country’s health care system. To draw attention away from those death panels, the administration created the Solyndra solar panel company scandal, and the Fast and Furious federal gun-walking scandal.

Then, to distract from Obamacare, Solyndra and Fast and Furious, Obama selfishly released his long-form birth certificate, causing Donald Trump’s head to explode and sending the right-wing blogosphere into a monthslong apoplectic fit.

Nice to see Fox is there to keep us focused on the shiny thing.

So Close!

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, notices some interesting stuff about belief and disbelief, and nearly gets it right. Alas, no–but it is instructive to look at the interesting stuff, though.

There are as many atheisms as there are gods. We spend most of our lives disbelieving in things without wasting time asking why, and quite right too. So what is it that makes some particular forms of disbelief intellectually fertile or socially significant? Nick Spencer’s short history of atheism goes a long way towards answering this question, and anyone seriously interested in religion and irreligion today should read it.

Well… yes and no. As both my regular readers know, I like the privative definition of atheism; by that definition, of course, atheists did not and could not exist before believers did. “Godless” presupposes a god. There are no “flightless tables”, even though no tables fly; there are “flightless birds”, though.

What Brown gets wrong, though, is that he confuses “nonbelievers in god X” with “atheists”. There is already a perfectly good word for non-believers in the Christian God: heathens. Non-adherents to Islam are infidels; non-Jews are goyim. These are not different types of atheist, though–a heathen may well be a Muslim; a Jew may be an infidel; Christians are goyim. Not all religions have this us-them binary, but clearly a great many do.

Over in Greece, the logical difficulties of an omnipotent and benevolent God were clear as soon as people got the concepts of omnipotence and benevolence straight. Everything you needed to be an intellectually fulfilled disbeliever in the Christian God was in place by the birth of Christ.

And everything you needed to not believe in Zeus was available the moment Zeus was. All you need is something to create the positive category, and the privative, negative category is the logical consequence. But Brown doesn’t see that.

One answer, Spencer suggests, is that important atheism is always secondary to theism. For any particular atheism to matter, there must be an important conception of God to be rejected; in that sense, atheism is closely related to blasphemy. And the concept of God is itself extremely flexible: some are so strange as to be unrecognisable as gods to other worshippers, which is one reason why the early Christians themselves appeared as atheists to the pagans around them.

Arguments against God’s justice, such as those we see in Babylon, are not arguments against his existence: they are arguments about his character, which presuppose that he has one. Modern atheism, in the sense of a rejection of Christian monotheistic conceptions of God, doesn’t really get started until the 18th century. But by the French Revolution, modern western arguments were clear except for the faith in science, which emerged in the next 100 years.

Yes, of course, atheism depends on religion, logically, as I said above. But atheism does not require a rejection, nor does rejection of a religion’s tenets equate to atheism. As often as not, those who disagreed with a particular tenet of Christianity simply started their own denomination. Martin Luther disagreed with the Catholic church; by Brown’s logic, that makes him an atheist? Joseph Smith–atheist? Oh, hell–here’s a list of founders of religions; by Brown’s logic, each of them are atheists about whatever other religions they might have followed but did not. “[A]rguments about [God's] character, which presuppose that he has one”, are far more likely to be reasons for the splitting of and establishment of new religions, rather than reasons not to believe.

Of course, he is wrong. Being a non-believer in X does not make you an atheist. It makes you a non-believer in X, that’s all. Sometimes there is a label–heathen, infidel, goyim, or perhaps hundreds or thousands more–but there is no need.

The study of how these arguments spread and ramified into their modern forms turns out to be historical and political, rather than philosophical. It was impossible to separate a reaction against Christianity from a reaction against the Christian church, and so the forms this opposition took was determined by the role of the church in the societies involved.

“The” Christian church. See? He’s doing it again. There is not one Christian church, with those who do not believe all atheists. There are hundreds (or thousands, or tens of thousands, depending on how you define them) of Christian denominations, and they are not always even on speaking terms with one another. One can be a Christian and not believe that Catholics are, or that Mormons are. Or one can be a Christian and include those groups among one’s own ingroup. More importantly, one need not be an atheist to disagree with fundamental tenets of a religion. “[A] reaction against the Christian church” can lead to atheism, or to yet another version of the Christian church claiming to be the right one.

Too bad. His first two sentences showed promise. So close.

Absence Of Belief… One God At A Time?

A Christian man once told me that I “disbelieve in God”;
That a claim of that proportion took some gall!
I corrected him, and told him (which he thought was rather odd)
That I don’t believe in any gods at all!

I asked him to consider whether other gods exist
Which was something that, it seems, he’d never done
In examining the reasons every one could be dismissed
It seems stranger to believe in only one!

There are gods he’d never heard about, but clearly did not follow—
Could he really claim he disbelieved in those?—
Demanding active disbelief is rather hard to swallow
But an absence of belief? Well, I suppose.

Gee, looks like I am not the only one looking at definitions of atheism:

One of the great oddities with regards to issues pertaining to Atheism is the ongoing debates about the definition of the term “Atheism” (and thus, “Atheist” as well).

Often, individual Atheists will concoct their own definitions, demand that the definition applies to all Atheists and authoritatively demand that their definition be adhered to as the only true one.

This quote has been brought to you by the makers of “No True Christian”, your trusted name in deflecting blame. If we can’t trust Christians to define atheism, who can we trust?

The writer cites half a dozen online dictionaries (it is a dictionary’s job to describe how language is used; in a majority Christian population, an online dictionary definition of atheism will not reflect the self-description of atheists themselves), and sums up:

The assertion which is clearly stated within academic scholarly definitions means that Atheism is the position of claiming to know that God does not exist.

The problem is threefold:

1) On this issue, Atheists prefer to run away from academic scholarly definitions and invent their own (or, appeal to weak aka negative aka implicit atheism).

2) The academic scholarly definitions require that Atheists provide evidence so as to prove that God does not exist.

3) Such proof would require Atheists to be omniscient (possessing all knowledge) but since omniscience is a characteristic of deity (it would identify one as a deity) then someone who is omniscient could not prove that God does not exist as via the omniscient claim, they would actually prove the existence of God namely, themselves as they are exercising a characteristic of God.

Ok… first off–”academic scholarly definitions”? Now, I cannot claim that I have never seen a dictionary cited as a source in a scholarly paper, but it is very, very rare; a dictionary definition is far more characteristic of a grade school paper. One of the key elements of scientific writing is the specific vocabulary used, which depends greatly on the subject at hand. The common language definitions of a great many things are far too fuzzy for academic use, and it is the common language definition that the dictionary provides. So… point one is a misrepresentation; what is more, the point it makes is precisely the opposite of what actually is happening in this case.

Secondly… Why “God”? Some of those definitions said “God or gods”; if we look at “gods”, then the “academic scholarly definitions” (well, dictionary definitions, actually) put the same burden on anyone who believes in only one of those gods. Like, say, the Christian writing the post.

Thirdly… Again, the writer presupposes the characteristics of one particular god. The Greek gods could be fooled (recall how Prometheus taught the people to offer two sacrifices–one with the good meat hidden in the stomach, the other with the bones covered with a layer of tasty fat, to fool Zeus), so omniscience is not a characteristic of all gods. Besides which, for the writer to believe in one god and not others would require the same degree of omniscience! To recognize omniscience in one’s own god, as opposed to merely “much, but not all, knowledge”, would require omniscience on one’s own part in order to comprehend the god’s knowledge!

But of course, the writer is not omniscient, and need not be; he can take his god’s omniscience on faith. And he does not need to actively evaluate every other god; not believing in them is sufficient. I won’t hold him to the standards he requires of me. Because he’s wrong, and those standards don’t apply to anyone.

Related Post

College Quiz Reflects Actual Research; Student Freaks Out, Blames “Liberal Spin”

Ohio State, it seems to me,
Despises Christianity;
The answers to this latest quiz
Are biased toward the way things is,
Instead of, if I might be blunt,
A bias toward the things I want—
And so I’m going on the hunt.

I’ll call the press, and force the prof
To take this truthful question off!
This “science” can’t be in our book
(I must admit, I didn’t look,
Or I’d have seen the study there)
Or if it is, I do not care!
It makes me mad, so it’s not fair!

I don’t care what the study shows—
It’s crap, as everybody know!
Liberal bias, it’s plain to see
Pervades this “University”!
But I know best—I won’t be fooled!
This “published study”? Overruled!
You can’t teach me! I won’t be schooled!

This one is really quite funny. An undergrad at Ohio State University saw a question that reflected some uncomfortable research findings, and the shit has hit the fan:

An Ohio State University (OSU) class has apparently determined another fundamental difference between Christians and atheists: their IQ points.

An online quiz from the school’s Psychology 1100 class, provided to Campus Reform via tip, asked students to pick which scenario they found most likely given that “Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125.”

The correct answer? “Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.”

Except that the OSU class had nothing to do with the determination; the question is from an online quiz that is part of the book’s ancillary package, apparently. Chapter 10 of the class’s textbook examines intelligence, apparently including some of the empirical evidence on correlations between IQ tests and various demographics (The other possible answers seem to show that the book also mentioned correlations between IQ and political conservatism/liberalism, and between IQ and earning power, but those answers were phrased to be the opposite of what the studies actually show, and thus were clearly incorrect).

According to a student in the class who wished to remain anonymous, the question was a part of an online homework quiz. Students were required to complete a certain amount of quizzes throughout the course but were encouraged to finish all of them in order to prep for the final exam.

“I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question, which is a sad thing,” the student told Campus Reform in a phone interview. “But how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ?”

Well, my guess is that this question is answered in the textbook the student apparently did not read. A recent paper, likely the source of the information asked about in the quiz, was a meta-analysis of 63 studies that apparently were able to do what this student finds impossible. (The paper proposes a number of different causal mechanisms, none of which boil down to “Christians are dumber than atheists”, as the CampusReform article headline puts it.) The question also has a “report this question” button, but I suppose calling Campus Reform is more fun. Besides, martyrdom:

“Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity,” the OSU student said. “If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.”

Oddly enough, Cuttledaughter worked in an OSU lab–a biological research lab, with some heavy hitter profs. She was the only atheist in the lab, and felt she had to keep quiet when various discussions took place around the lunch table (at which, btw, grace was said. every day. in a science lab. because colleges tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity), like talk about the War against Christmas or the Jackson, OH school portrait of Jesus. I also have friends who are faculty at OSU; every one of them is Christian.

In sum… the question reflected real research, and was fair game to ask. The student, uncomfortable, chose to go to newspapers rather than through available channels. And whether or not a University opposes or panders to a given religion may well be mostly in the eye of the beholder.

Well, Now, That Was Strange…

My view, it seems, has been dismissed
Because I am an atheist;
It’s strange—that’s not my view they list—
They call it mine; they quite insist,
Although I never said it.

They know the way the godless act
With lots of noise and little tact
Beyond debate, it’s known as fact
By learned types—to be exact,
Philosophers of reddit.

They’ve seen the way it always works
The utterly expected quirks:
When on his own, he merely lurks
But in a group, they act like jerks—
“My allies will protect me!”

I’ve seen it too—I won’t deny
They act like jerks; I don’t know why.
But think again (I hope you’ll try)
Cos here’s the funny thing—oh, my!
Those atheists reject me!

An amusing little thing happened yesterday. My previous post got linked to by two different subreddit areas (forgive me if my reddit vocabulary is incorrect; I am not a reddit regular. Cuttledaughter loves it, but I guess I have plenty to do here), with very different reactions.

First, it was posted on the “bad philosophy” area. I’ve never seen that subreddit before yesterday, so I don’t know any of their customs or traditions or characters, so I really have nothing to compare it to; I am not complaining about what was said, because I don’t even know if it was meant in earnest (as they say it is “not a place for learns”). But, that said, some of the comments were very dismissive of atheists. Not me in particular, mind you–indeed, those comments read as if they had never read my blog at all (which is overwhelmingly likely, as I am a very small fish in a very big ocean), including the post they were commenting on. Rather, they spoke of atheists and gave the example of the reddit atheism area–a very different place from here, I gather–and disparaged the typical atheist as represented by the reddit atheist.

Meanwhile, the other reddit link to my post was in the “atheism rebooted” area, where it gathered a grand total of two comments, only one on topic. The other, though, was the interesting one:

There is a reason I avoid FTB like the plague… A+ is a huge reason.

Now, you might have noticed that my blogpost itself had absolutely nothing at all to do with A+. Doesn’t matter.

The people giving atheism a bad name already reject us; it’s just too bad the outside world (well, in this case a philosophy subreddit) still groups us with them.

Dana’s right–the rifts aren’t deep enough yet.