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

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.

Unexpected Science: Sixth Grade Edition

Lionfish live in the ocean
Little Lauren gets a notion:
Might they live in rivers, too?
Would they thrive in brackish water?
Lauren, ichthyologist’s daughter,
Knows just what to do

Slowly starts desalination
Learns some brand-new information
Of which we’re now aware
New understanding’s always great
So, never underestimate
The sixth-grade science fair!

Via NPR, new information from a young scientist–a sixth grade science project demonstrates that invasive lionfish would be able to survive in brackish river water, widening the range of potentially threatened ecosystems.

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean,” Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. “So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ ”

In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.

“It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary,” she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.

Now, there are a lot of problems with science fairs, and frankly, Lauren’s very good research points out some of them–for instance, the odds of any random kid from her class having access to six different aquarium tanks (and the equipment needed to maintain them) are remote. This sort of science fair shows the role privilege can play.

But it also shows that a great question, and an elegant test of the answer, can sometimes come from unexpected places. Reminds me a bit of Emily Rosa. And we should not be surprised in the least when kids’ science fair ideas are influenced by what they have grown up listening to around the dinner table.

Utah Girls Have No Right To Bare Arms

The photos they saw
Though they’d broken no law
Still were setting off major alarms
See, the dresses they chose
Left their shoulders exposed!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

They were sleeveless—just straps,
And they’d worn them, perhaps
Many times, and encountered no harms
But for yearbooks, their school
Had a Mormon-based rule:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

If their views are expressed
By the way they are dressed
In their cities, or suburbs, or farms,
At their school, then, the church
Leaves the girls in the lurch:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

One girl was amazed
That her neckline was raised—
Her tattoo was a part of her charms!
But a bit of bare skin
Is a terrible sin!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

Wasatch High School in Utah has a thing for modesty. They have made news, for altering yearbook photos–raising necklines, adding sleeves to cover bare shoulders, hiding a tattoo… and the first students learned of it was when the yearbook came out. They feel, understandably, like the school has disapproved of their expression, has tried to shame them, has determined that they don’t measure up.

“I feel like they’re shaming you, like you’re not enough, you’re not perfect,” sophomore Shelby Baum told the Associated Press on Thursday. Baum’s collarbone tattoo reading “I am enough the way I am” was removed from her photo. She also discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt. Baum said she wants a refund or a new book with an unaltered photo.

I suppose it goes without saying that every one of the altered photos was of a female student. Completely coincidentally, I am sure.

Ok, That’s A First

Twice today, students asked questions that I had previously examined on this blog, such that my immediate thought was “oh, I’ll just recite this verse”. Which, of course, I did not. I gave a nice, thorough, completely prose response.

I need to get more people reciting my verses as answers to classroom questions, so that I can do so without raising suspicion.

In the future, anapestic tetrameter will replace powerpoint as the go-to presentation format.

Opening College Doors To Cults?

I don’t like teaching;
I don’t like students;
I don’t know their faces;
I don’t know their names.
I don’t like service;
I don’t like advising;
I don’t like playing
Departmental games
My at-risk students
Go unsupported
A fully expected,
If tragic, result—
We must do something
That costs me nothing:
Let’s outsource the problem
And call in a cult.

Marshall Poe, writing in The Atlantic, suggests that Colleges Should Teach Religion to Their Students. You see, teachers and administrators are in loco parentis, and some of us are far more loco than parentis.

I used to teach at a big land-grant university in Midwest. In that capacity, I did what most professors do. A third of my job was research, a third was teaching, and a third was service (committee work and such). I was a very conscientious researcher, a somewhat conscientious teacher, and avoided service whenever I could. I do not think I was unusual in this regard. Most professors at big universities love research, are lukewarm about teaching, and loathe service. This is why they are always after sabbaticals. They want to write books, not teach undergraduates or serve on curriculum committees.

It should come as no surprise, then, when I tell you that I did not know my undergraduates very well. I taught a “two-two” load, meaning two courses a semester. One of those was a tiny graduate seminar, meaning no undergraduates. Each of my undergraduate courses met for about two hours a week, three at the outside. On average, then, I saw my undergraduates for four to six hours a week one semester and for two to four hours a week in the other. When I say “saw,” I mean exactly that. Typically, I stood at a lectern and lectured to them. I never really interacted with them. They were just faces. Of course, being a somewhat conscientious teacher, I invited them to my office hours. They almost never came, and I knew they wouldn’t. Again, I would say that my experience with undergraduates was fairly typical.

The “False Consensus Effect” is a real thing. Poe knows he paints a horrible picture of a university professor, so to make himself look better in comparison, he claims that everyone else is just as bad. Poe makes me feel much better about Cuttlefish University, where even the most research-oriented profs actually do (or convincingly pretend to) give a rat’s ass about undergraduates. But (good news, everybody!) Poe was forced to do some undergraduate advising, where he found that for some unknown reason, these students were not being well served by their academic environment:

What I discovered was that many of the students I talked to were disappointed, confused, and lost. They were bright kids. Many of them had looked forward to going to the university all their lives. College was, in their imaginations, a sort of promised land, a place where you find your calling and get the skills necessary to pursue it. What they found, however, was not a promised land at all. To them, the college curriculum was a bewildering jumble of classes that led to nothing in particular. Take this, take that, it doesn’t really matter so long as it “counts” toward your major and graduation. They learned to pick classes not on the basis of interest or relevance, but simply because they fit nicely into their schedules. To them, campus life revolved around bread and circus. The university funded huge events—football games being the most important—in which drunkenness was the order of the day. One of my standard in-take questions came to be “Have you been arrested for public drunkenness?” To them, the prospect of graduating was terrifying. They knew that the university had not prepared them for any particular line of work. The answer to “What are you going to do next” was usually “Go to graduate school” or “Get a job.” What graduate school and what job didn’t matter; any would do.

I also learned that because they were adrift in so many ways, they suffered. It was not difficult to get them talking about their distress, probably because no one at the university had ever thought to inquire. There were those who drank too much and got into trouble. There were those who were full-blown alcoholics or drug addicts. There were those who were too depressed to go to classes. There were those who cut and starved themselves. There were those who thought of killing themselves and some who even tried. There were those who fought with their roommates. There were those who, having fought with their roommates, were in the hospital or homeless. And, more than anything else, there were those who said “Fuck it” and just dropped out.

So he championed major reforms, demanding that the undergraduates who pay the bills are treated with at least minimal standards of dignity. So he gave up. Sure, he reports his efforts at trying to get the university to change, but realized that doing the right thing would be difficult and expensive (read: unacceptable to a university filled with people who shared his priorities on the worth of undergraduates). So… ah! Genius!

One of the results of Poe’s sadly accurate description of undergraduate life is, college students are frequent targets of cult recruiters. Cults see a population adrift, and give them a rudder. Or an anchor, or maybe an outboard motor, whatever metaphor actually works. It’s a match made in heaven, or maybe hell, but religious groups are champing at the bit to be invited to get their hooks into these kids help these poor students, and Poe wants to open the doors wide and invite religious teachers–not religious studies teachers, but actual priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, elders, lamas, gurus, mullahs, chaplains, abbots, witches, medicine men, deacons, apostles, ayatollahs, and the like. Well, he actually mentions only three Abrahamic traditions and atheism, but once a state university opens the door to one, any sect can demand equal treatment, and if he wants some available for academic credit, then he is really proposing that every university employ a cadre of religious teachers of all conceivable denominations. To pass constitutional muster, it would have to be an open forum, independent of the percentage of adherents, subsidized by the university (and undergraduate tuition) as needed.

Because the alternative is fixing a system that treats undergraduates like an inconvenient side effect of the need to fund a research university.

(Ophelia’s take.)

Bad News From North Carolina: Christian Love Strikes Again

I thought I saw an atheist
Among the kids at school
Who didn’t understand that, here,
The Christian bullies rule
You may call it “brave” or “foolish”
But she dared to show her face
I may have seen an atheist…
They put her in her place.

I thought I saw an atheist,
According to report,
Who thought she’d start a godless group
For mutual support
But no such group was needed—
This is how the story ends—
The local bullies threatened her,
Her family, her friends

I thought I saw an atheist
As hopeful as she’s brave
If such a girl surrenders,
Then the situation’s grave
She made the choice she had to make—
The threats were aimed at her
I thought I saw an atheist
Show Christians what they were

I thought I saw a Christian town
Displaying Christian love
Who know they get morality
From heaven up above
With threats of harm directed at
Those different in their sight
Yes, by their acts we know them…
That’s Christian love, all right.

Via Hemant, the not-terribly-unexpected news (though saddening and maddening) that Canton, North Carolina will not be getting an atheist club in their school after all. Oh, it’s not that the town suddenly found a legal argument. No, they shut this one down the old-fashioned way, through bullying, intimidation, and threats to the 15-year-old girl who was looking to form the club, and to her family and friends.

I expect the good, tolerant christian folk of North Carolina to spring to her aid, identifying and denouncing the bullies… any century now.

Atheism In Virginia

The Telegraph (UK) has a really nice report on the state of atheism in the state of Virginia–including contrasting reports of Virginia Tech and Liberty University. The very real concerns of atheists in Virginia make me sad for them, but very happy I am in a considerably less religious state.

Attached to the story is this video–the atheists at Liberty University, of course, have to appear in shadow if they want to remain there.

The recent shift in the gay marriage debate is evidence, say secularists, of how fast entrenched public attitudes can change: a decade ago just 30 per cent of Americans supported gay marriage, today the figure is consistently over 55 per cent. A decade from now, will attitudes to religion have followed suit?
And yet despite the softening approach of the younger generation towards religion, in this fiercely Bible-minded corner of Virginia, many atheists and agnostics still feel they must live in the shadows.
In two days of interviews at least half of the avowed non-believers declined to be named in the Telegraph, citing fears they would be ostracised by friends, family, churches and even their employers.

One grad student expresses worry that her atheism could hurt her in a job search:

“I’m more concerned about getting a job than losing one,” she said. “I know they Google you and while I can’t hide my atheism, I don’t really want to advertise it.
“If the person hiring is a person of faith – which is more likely than not around here – that could easily be the difference between a job and no job. And I have student loans. I need a job.”

As an undergrad, Cuttledaughter had to keep her atheism to herself at her research position, though she found it odd that such high-powered, well-respected disease researchers were, as she put it, “scary religious”. She needed the experience and the recommendations, so she sat there with her mouth shut while her colleagues and superiors talked about, say, how foolish the atheists were who wanted the decalogue monuments or nativity scenes removed from courthouses, or who took schools to court for school-led prayer.

Lubbock Is Flat. Earth Is Not.

In Texas, a creationist once took a look around
And he noticed that the world he saw was flat
When you live your life in Lubbock, there are no hills to be found,
And it’s Lubbock the creationist was at.

And he looked around the grasslands, just as far as he could see,
To the distant shapes of longhorn cattle ranging
And since none of them bore puppies, it’s as plain as it could be
Evolution was a farce, and life unchanging

So he tried to share his wisdom, cos the state could ill afford
Teaching kids the world is different than it looks
Now he acts as an advisor to the education board
Giving input when they choose their science books.

If it’s good enough for Lubbock, then it’s good enough for all
And the world is flat, unchanging, young, and hot—
It’s ironic that a Texan would be prone to thinking small
But the truth is, Lubbock’s flat; the earth is not.

So I got sent a link today to the Texas Freedom Network’s campaign to get the Texas School Board to listen to the facts. They also have a petition…

Lubbock is flat. Earth is not. Will Texas textbooks teach the difference?

Me, I just like the prairie dog.