“Under God” Suits In MA, NJ

Public schools are, it seems, now alleging that pledging
Allegiance to flags, and to gods, is the rule;
“Under God” makes the word “indivisible” risible—
Laughable, really, for kids in their school—
Of course there are children abstaining, explaining
Their worldview prevents them from going along;
They’d say “under god”, but it’s blather; they’d rather
Say nothing at all, than to say something wrong

These kids will all face brutal mocking—it’s shocking,
That good Christian children would treat them this way
But kids know, the way to defeat them, is beat them
Till, bleeding and bruised, they have learned to obey
The truth is, the pledge that they’re saying is praying—
It separates children, by form of belief…
Just read Seuss’s tale of the Sneetches, which teaches
That such segregation leads surely to grief. [Read more...]

On Realizing That Corporations Are People Too… And That You’ve Fallen In Love With One.

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

My sweetheart business enterprise
I tried to win you back
I told you my intenterprise—
You told me what I lack
My capital I’d spenterprise
But you would not invest
My future’s in descenterprise—
My value is depressed.

My love, my all, my syndicate—
Forever and beyond!
I note, to my chagrindicate,
My word’s my only bond
I’d fight through thick and thindicate
To have you as my bride
I know I cannot windicate;
You know, at least, I tried

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

Yeah… put “loving you back” as another difference between the kind of people known as “corporations” and the kind of people known as “people”. “Going to jail” is another thing corporations can’t do. We’ll find out pretty soon whether “discrimination” is yet another.

Denser Than The Pre-Expansion Universe

Expansion of the cosmos
At a faster pace than light
Renders Genesis a fairy tale,
It seems—alas, not quite.

The mental calisthenics
That it takes to make them fit
Will keep believers straining, when
An honest mind would quit

“A believer and a scientist”,
Is how she chose to live—
But disconfirming evidence
Meant something had to give

Azusa University
Is Christian to the core:
“The big bang proves the bible right!”—
Discrepancy no more!

It isn’t doing science
When, no matter what you find
The conclusion never alters:
See? The cosmos is designed!

All creations need creators
Why, it’s only common sense!
Seems the pre-expansion ‘verse
Is not the only thing that’s dense.

On the CNN Belief Blog, a Dr.Leslie Wickman, director of the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University, asks “Does the Big Bang breakthrough offer proof of God?

The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,” which argued that the universe has always existed, without a beginning that necessitated a cause.

However, this new evidence strongly suggests that there was a beginning to our universe.

If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

And she’s a scientist! So you know this can’t just be her faith talking.

As a modern believer and a scientist, when I look up at the sky on a clear starry night, I am reminded that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). I am in awe of the complexity of the physical world, and how all of its pieces fit together so perfectly and synergistically.

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the writer tells us that God “established (his) covenant with day and night, and with the fixed laws of heaven and earth.”

These physical laws established by God to govern interactions between matter and energy result in a finely tuned universe that provides the ideal conditions for life on our planet.

Just ask the dinosaurs, who ruled for longer than we have been around, or the beetles or bacteria, either of whom dwarf us both by numbers and by mass. Or perhaps for humanity, who can’t live below the sea or above a certain altitude, but who, given the right sort of environment, will multiply ourselves into a famine situation, and who are doing our best to destroy these ideal conditions.

As we observe the complexity of the cosmos, from subatomic particles to dark matter and dark energy, we quickly conclude that there must be a more satisfying explanation than random chance. Properly practiced, science can be an act of worship in looking at God’s revelation of himself in nature.

Properly practiced, of course. And the worth of an explanation is often reflected in how “satisfying” it is.

One wonders how it is that a self-described practicing scientist can look at the same evidence that, for some, banishes God from His last hiding place, and call it evidence for His existence. Oh, that’s right–one doesn’t wonder at all: it’s her job. She’s the director of the Center for Research in Science at a place that already knows what all the really big answers are. After all, you can find these answers in the bible.

“An Abortion, But Not A Tan”

“A young women if this bill passes can get an abortion, but not a tan, an abortion would be legal but a tan would not, think of it.” Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester)

She’s much too young for cigarettes,
And way too young for booze
Too young by far for voting;
There’s no telling who she’d choose!
She’s still too young for driving—
She could wipe out in a skid
But she’s old enough, or so they say,
To bear and raise a kid.

Too young for getting married
And too young to get tattoos
Too young to buy a handgun
Or to gamble (win or lose)
Too young to do a lot of things,
No ifs, no buts, no maybes…
But magically, she’s old enough
To be put in charge of babies!

I thought about it, Steve. There are, as you can see, quite a few things the state has decided are in its best interest, and the best interest of its citizens, to regulate. We don’t allow 14-yr-olds to vote, with or without their parents’ permission–that is the state’s choice. We don’t allow the parents to decide that their 12-year-old is responsible enough to drive. Mind you, parents can be idiots sometimes, so it is quite often the case that they will be the source of the kid’s cigarettes or beer well before it is legal; in such cases, we hold the parents liable for contributing to the delinquency of a minor!

Yup, kids make stupid decisions at times. They do things before they are mature enough to make good decisions (and of course, many adults simply make bad decisions, but the state has decided they can be responsible for themselves at a certain point). Forcing a teenaged girl to go through with a pregnancy is actually a fairly horrible thing to do; she is not mature enough, physically or emotionally, for childbirth, let alone for parenthood. One could make a strong case that it is in the state’s (and certainly the girls’) best interest to mandate abortion in cases of young teen pregnancy… but of course, such a law would never pass. Allowing choice, though, is not at all an extreme position–rather, it is a middle ground between mandating birth and mandating termination. And it is the only one that recognizes the bodily autonomy of the girl herself.

So, yeah, Steve, if the Tanning Safety bill had passed, a girl could have an abortion legally before she could go to a tanning bed legally (given the presence of the sun, the bill would not prohibit her from actually getting a tan); and this position is perfectly consistent with being concerned for the best interest of the girl. Your pro-skin-cancer, pro-forced-birth position is also consistent, if being cruel to girls is your aim.

(Of course, “A Good Cartoon” had this covered a while back.)

Intrinsically Worthless

From a comment at an article “The Empty, Boring Atheism of Richard Dawkins” (from the Catholic World Report, naturally): “What is an “appetite for wonder” in an intrinsically meaningless universe but simply an appetite for diversion and entertainment?”

I love my spouse and children—
Well, I say I call it “love”,
But it doesn’t hold a candle
To what comes from God above.

I marvel at a symphony—
In this case, number seven—
But, of course, it sounds like screeching chalk
Compared to harps in heaven

A mountain, or an ocean,
Or a sunset or a birth—
But I know there is no meaning
In the things I see on earth

Intrinsically, we have no worth,
We really must admit.
Intrinsically, without a God,
Intrinsically, we’re shit.

The universe is meaningless
And all our lives, as well
Though I’ve never been to heaven
Clearly, life on earth is hell

I pretend to love my children
I pretend to love my wife
But I know that, once in heaven,
I’ll forget about my life

Cos it’s God that gives life meaning,
Not our family, not our friends—
Not our passions, not our pleasures,
All erased when this life ends

Life on earth is mere diversion—
Entertainment till we die—
Others strive to make life better;
I, myself, must wonder: why?

What’s the use of helping others?
What’s the use of pitching in?
When it’s God, not man, deciding
What is good, and what is sin

I can’t know what’s good or righteous;
I can’t know what’s bad or wrong
I can’t know that what I thought was right,
God hated all along!

I can’t trust my own perceptions
I can’t fathom what is true
All I know without a doubt is
I know better than do you.

You, who love your spouse and children,
Music, mountains, seas, and more
You, who love without a God to tell you
What your love is for

What a pity you’re so hollow
What a shame you have no God
What a horror that your world
Is just this “natural” façade

All your life amounts to nothing!
Can’t you get it through your head?
Can’t you see? The only meaning
We can have is once we’re dead!

But of course… I got it wrong (so did several others on the comment thread-and in truth, I wrote it after only his first comment, so I didn’t know). The commenter, identified as a moderator, on Catholic World Report, does not actually believe in a god. Go figure. His big deal is not the absence of a god, but rather the absence of intrinsic meaning. In an intrinsically meaningless universe, what we are left with is mere diversion, mere entertainment, nothing worthwhile.

And he is dead wrong.

I will, of course, grant the “no intrinsic meaning” bit, but there is no magic in the word “intrinsic” that makes meaning any more… meaningful. Money has no intrinsic value–it is paper and metal, or bits of information. The intrinsic value of a $100 bill and a $1 bill are the same. And when we ran on the gold standard, nothing was different–it was social agreement that made gold the standard rather than quartz, or chickens (I now have the image of a one-chicken bill, and making change for a goat bill).

And yes, what is meaningful in life–doing good, fighting for causes, creating art or music, advancing science–all are meaningful solely because we say so. Because that’s what meaning is. Specifying “intrinsically” before “meaningful” is a bit like specifying “invisible” before “pink”. We understand the words from other contexts, but they don’t belong together in this one. Noting that life (or anything) has no intrinsic meaning or worth is trivial, and suggesting that because life is somehow diminished–even worthless–because it does not have this characteristic which it never had to begin with. These fictional modifiers–”intrinsic” is one, “ultimate” is another–serve only to introduce an impossibility, our lack of which is somehow damning.

Just remember, that argument has no intrinsic worth.

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.)

Upskirting The Law

It might be bad; it might be wrong;
An upskirt shot that shows a thong
But perverts told us all along
There is no law against it

Now Massachusetts’ highest court
From justice fell extremely short;
Compassion, in today’s report?
The courts had not dispensed it

Since lawyers live by splitting hairs
The clothing that a woman wears
In subway cars or café chairs
Defines her as “not nude”

So perverts, then, can snap away
The upskirt photo won the day
And, all too late, lawmakers say
The laws will be reviewed.

We have a freedom fetish in our culture. I don’t think even Michael Robertson‘s own lawyer would argue that what he is doing is good, or right, or admirable. But, since a judge has ruled that there is no specific law that is being violated here, Robertson’s loathsome behavior is–not good, not right, not admirable… and not illegal. Because the women he did not ask to take upskirt photos of were actually wearing clothes (thus, it seems to me, signaling to the world that they were not in the subway to serve as someone’s masturbatory models, but were in fact commuting to or from work), they were thus not “nude or partially nude” (in which case, he’d have been violating Massachusetts’ “Peeping Tom” law).

The law always is reactive–it took a while to catch up to video technology, and to the internet… We can’t prescribe particular behaviors, because that infringes on freedom. We have to allow anything and everything that is not specifically prohibited. As such, it is the lot of some people to suffer indignities that are not against the law, until their case inspires new law… too late for these people.

Did I say “people”? Sorry, I meant “women”.