Join Me In A Moment Of Silent Prayer (or do nothing–it all comes out the same)

image thanks to PZ, who thanks Brian Flemming, who thanks Maria.
Let’s fold our hands and bow our heads
And mumble something low,
Or pray to tens of millions on
Some television show.
Let’s take a silent moment, and
Have others do the same,
So those remaining talking can
Be sure to feel their shame.
Let’s know that we are better, cos
We spent our time in prayer,
Than atheists and heathens who
Are working over there.
Let’s say a prayer for Washington,
For Darfur; for Tibet;
Let’s say a prayer for hunger, and
To fix the nation’s debt.
Let’s say a prayer for miners, trapped
In tunnels underground;
Let’s say a prayer for missing kids
In hopes that they are found.
Let’s say a prayer for polar ice
And students gone berserk;
Let’s say a prayer for everything–
It sure beats doing work.

Hard Determinism and the Meme of Free Will

Oh, the Greeks knew what they wanted—
Strong determinism stunted.
It is clear that if the populace was driven by free will,
Then society was blameless;
Truth be told, it was a shameless
Grab for power, and the senators were showing off their skill.
These philosophers were cunning
And in truth it was a stunning
Bit of framing—we can tell, because it lingers to this day.
We will claim we chose it freely,
Though the evidence says really
Our behavior was determined, and there’s nothing more to say.

You may cherish your illusion
It’s an understood confusion
But the truth is, you’re mistaken—it is nothing but a meme.
For the culture, it’s adaptive
Cos it keeps the people captive—
If you chose, then you’re accountable—a blame-the-victim scheme!
If the murder rate has risen
We just build a bigger prison
Cos it’s better than admitting that society has failed—
Better jobs and education
Can prevent incarceration
But denial of determinism keeps our people jailed.

Punishment, but not prevention,
Always focuses attention
On the action and the consequence, but not the prior cause,
So instead, we claim we see a
Mental state we call mens rea;
This reliance on an inner cause is written in our law.
If we look beyond the actors
In our quest for causal factors
Some environmental factors are quite easy to discern;
If mens rea and true freedom
Are illusions, we don’t need ‘em
We’re not stuck in ancient Athens—we can change, and we can learn.

Friday Limericks: Under The Sea

Maybe it is just those prepared cuttlefish snacks, but I am in the mood for fish.

‘Midst the seaweeds and sponges and corals
Live the cephalopods; and their quarrels
Will come, often, to blows–
A behavior which shows
A deplorable absence of morals!

A grey-haired and bearded signore
With a snorkel and mask, took a foray
To a reef, but gave flight
When his toe felt a bite–
But as everyone knows, that’s a Moray

Now a squid has a bite, but the truth is,
There’s a beak where you’d think that a tooth is
I suppose that won’t matter
If you’re on the platter–
A snack for a great Architeuthis!

I may add more later, but I have to get going–places to go, things to do! Uncharacteristic of Fridays for me…

Have fun!

Crazy Like A Squid…

The Deep Sea News guys have alerted us all to a libelous bit of writing by Jeff Vrabel that further convinces me that humans are not to be trusted with ink.

When possible, I like to keep close tabs on the world of octopuses, for two reasons: 1. Everybody has their hobbies, mine just involves cephalopod mollusks and don’t you judge me, and 2. I often get the feeling that they’re plotting something.

It’s like a weird sixth sense/octopus whisperer sort of thing. Come on – you know you’ve had that feeling, when you’re at home alone on a rainy night, reading by the midnight light of a single lamp, when all of a sudden you’re alarmed by a subtle yet inescapable fear that there’s an octopus over your shoulder watching you. Yeah. So it’s best if a few of us are just keeping an eye on them, is what I’m saying.

The Deep Sea News guys sum it up in their title: “Cephalopods Are Nuts”.


We’re not nuts, we’re just vindictive
And if history’s predictive
You can trace the simple logic that should quake you to your core
Take a glance at any menu
Look for “calamari”, then you
Have a taste of what humanity thinks squid are destined for.
People order up their sushi
Without wondering just who she
Used to be before they sliced her up and threw her on some rice.
People think it doesn’t matter
That what’s now your Tako Platter
Was an octopus, intelligent and social and quite nice.
Even cuttlefish are fried up,
Sometimes smoked or merely dried up
And available for purchase just like any other snacks!
With our lives so torn asunder
I must say that it’s no wonder
Every now and then, some octopus or squid just sorta cracks.
So if you are going fishing
For a humboldt squid, start wishing
That the rest of us don’t see you as you’re reeling in our friends;
Cos for those who know the history
It comes as no great mystery—
You’ve eaten us for much too long; it’s time to make amends.

Yeah, that’s right–just like it says on the label–this cuttlefish is prepared!

A Hymn

Ok, I admit it: there is a soft spot in my hearts for hymns. Both the staid and conservative hymns of the congregation I left decades ago, and the blues-laced gospel hymns that, for instance, the Blues Brothers Movie celebrated. There is a joy to that music, a weight to those lyrics, that is just beautiful. Now, I do not feel the same way about “praise music”, mind you. Its lyrics are insipid, its faux-anthemic chord structures and melodies are artificial, saccharine, and so without substance as to make Kenny G sound like Charlie Parker. It is clearly not the topic of hymns that makes me enjoy them, but rather the realization, in music and poetry, of their vision. I have no problems, atheist that I am, enjoying hymns or christmas carols, or the architecture of a cathedral or the design of a stained glass window. Beauty is beauty.

And I feel absolutely no desire to promote the idea of “atheist hymns” or “scientific churches” to serve whatever purpose hymns and churches do for the theist community. If I needed those purposes served, I would not be who I am. If I want to listen to a hymn, I am fortunate to live in an age where I can just find an appropriate internet site and listen. No need to write my own.

But I did anyway. It is all the fault of the Illinois legislature, and the million dollars being spent to restore or renovate that church. In all the furor over Representative Davis’s outburst, there were conversations here and there from people who either did or did not appreciate the architecture of that particular church. I swear I read one person saying that they would support the reconstruction of a church if it were secular. An odd concept to me, but whatever. Anyway, it all got me to thinking about these things, and the catch-phrase to my hymn showed up, in tune and with appropriate harmony.

The hymn can be sung either straight or gospel. Pipe organ for the first, combined piano and Hammond 3B for the second, and some singers who can shake the dust off the rafters. In the chorus, of course, the parenthetical parts are for the bass. As if I had to tell you that.

Oh, I still remember thinking that I had it figured out
I was certain of my theory, and I had no room for doubt
But my elegant predictions were in no way guaranteed
Now I’ll follow where the evidence may lead…

I’m following the evidence; I’m following the clues
                              (Following, I’m following the clues)
By following the evidence, there’s no way I can lose
                              (Following, I’m following the clues)
A slow and steady journey, make sure and then proceed
And I’ll follow where the evidence may lead…

I obtained my random samples, and I carefully took note;
With appropriate controls in place, the chances were remote
That some artifact would kill my study’s chances to succeed—
Now I’ll follow where the evidence may lead…


When I finished up my paper, then I sent it for review;
I was following procedure—it’s the proper thing to do:
But my peer-reviewers pointed to some things that I must heed
Now I’ll follow where the evidence may lead…

(skip the chorus this time)

My study’s methodology, reviewer one opined,
Was flawed because a crucial part was not made double-blind
And my biased expectations were a problem, I concede
Now I’ll follow where the evidence may lead…


There were parts of my procedure that I had to run once more;
I was happy when the data showed the same thing as before.
With a miniscule revision, my reviewers all agreed,
Cos we followed where the evidence did lead


Now it’s published in the journal, but that is just the start
A community of scientists will pick it all apart
Through acceptance or dismissal, now science will proceed
For we follow where the evidence may lead.

“I Thought I Saw An Atheist” Revisited

Ok, this one is seriously depressing. PZ reports on the deplorable actions of Illinois State Rep Monique Davis (D-Chicago), shouting down (easily, since he was not talking) an atheist activist (Rob Sherman), whose offense was that he was testifying against the expenditure of a million dollars of the people’s money to preserve a particular Baptist Church. There is an audiofile of the exchange.

…I thought I saw an atheist, upon the witness stand
It couldn’t be! Not where I live! This is a Christian Land!
The Constitution guarantees my right to scream and shout;
As the Good Lord is my witness, I demanded “You! Get out!”

I thought I saw an atheist demand an equal voice;
I told him he could leave right now, and that could be his choice.
I said his view was dangerous–our children must not hear!
It goes against the Bible, which our government holds dear!

I thought I saw an atheist nod quietly, and sigh.
The odds were stacked against him, which no person can deny;
What happens when a person is denied his civil right?
I may have seen an atheist who’s now convinced to fight.

Poe, Poe, Pitiful “Expelled”

Those who read the words of Myers know the fellow rarely tires,
No surprise a film desires his opinion, strongly held:
When they filmed him, on location, and they held a conversation,
It was all prevarication—lies are where Ben Stein excelled.
And producer, too, Mark Mathis, lying’s where the man excelled,
For the movie was “Expelled

“From our schools and institutions, in a form of persecution,
A priori, contributions from believers are withheld!
The design of all God’s creatures should be what is taught by teachers!”
With a cadence born of preachers, this the message that they yelled.
They were close enough to whisper, true, but verily they yelled,
And they made the film “Expelled.”

Though they try to make it killer, it comes off a bit as filler
When they try to say Kitzmiller versus Dover really smelled.
“It was purely propaganda!” you can read in memoranda
But the wedge-in-form-of-panda, as a weapon, never jelled,
Though it may be through incompetence the tactic never jelled,
And was properly Expelled.

It would really be terrific if Ben Stein could be specific
And provide the scientific stuff with which his head is swelled.
In the movie’s poor conflation, trading faith for explanation
Is the path to guide the nation to the glory it once held;
Back before the academics stripped the glory we once held,
And the truth became Expelled.

Ben Stein’s ultimate solution is to hogtie evolution
But it’s such bad execution the attempted coup is quelled
Stein is labeled as “heroic”; thus his monotone is “stoic”
As he braves the Mesozoic, where the early cavemen dwelled
If we disregard the science, who knows when the cavemen dwelled?
Any truth has been Expelled.

With a stolen animation, then a too-close imitation,
These nefarious creationists the storyline propelled.
All these lame attempts at spinning, from the end to the beginning!
Lying once was seen as sinning, if the Bible were upheld—
It’s too bad it’s inconvenient for those rules to be upheld,
Now the truth has been Expelled.

“A conspiracy of science!” they’re still yelling in defiance,
Though the truth is, their reliance on dishonesty has spelled
The demise of their position—and the crime’s of their commission;
The withdrawal of their permission, when the opening was held,
Because Myers tried to see it when the opening was held,
Was intelligence Expelled.

So accustomed to their lying, now they do it without trying,
These reality-denying little weasels are compelled
Even if their reputation had a granite-firm foundation
It would face annihilation, like a mighty oak now felled,
As it is, ‘tis but a sapling, but the sapling still is felled,
For the truth has been Expelled.

The Bible As Textbook

P.Z. shares with us a very learned man… who learned electron microscopy from the bible.

The books about astronomy,
Like Acts and Deuteronomy,
Are but a partial list of those in which I have reliance.
Biology’s dependent on
The First and Second books of John
And Genesis and Exodus? There’s nothing there but science.
The physicist who never fudges
Follows Joshua and Judges;
Daniel and Ezekiel show molar calculations.
In First and Second Timothy,
Electron-scan microscopy
Completes the compound microscopic treatment in Galatians.
The Chronicles of Higher Ed–
Both First and Second, which I’ve read,
Confirm for me the value of an honest education.
An education such as this,
That starts, of course, in Genesis,
And doesn’t give a Ph. D. ’til after Revelation.

Friday Limericks: I Wish…

First off, some thanks to a few people, so that they don’t get lost below the limericks. Thanks to the people who commented last week! My goodness, what wonderful verses! I am sorry I have been so busy in the real world–I should have heaped praises on each of you at the time. I hope that now is not too late. (Speaking of too late, it is never too late to add a comment onto one of those threads. Limericks should not be confined to Fridays alone, after all. Also, I should have thanked MuseSusan by name, 2 weeks ago, for her comment on “Limerick/War” that inspired the Friday Limerick Post. Thank you, MuseSusan–you are aptly named.

Now, on to the topic. “I wish”. There is a lot of room to play with this one. You can be silly:

I wish that my office were round
With no corners at all to be found
You would find me no mourner
For stacks in the corner—
Now everything’s all in one mound!

Or poignant:

I wish on the stars every night
That again she’ll return to my sight
It’s been too many years
And I can’t count the tears,
But the stars wouldn’t let me down… right?

Or put words in someone else’s mouth:

I wish I could frolic with squid
More closely than Jacques Cousteau did
I could study their charms
While ensnared in their arms
And surrender control to my id!

–P. Z. Myers

Even someone’s mouth you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot toothbrush:

I wish I possessed such a brain
That biologists could not explain—
A fiery crucible
All irreducible—
Or, hell, at least one that was sane!

–M. Behe

Or just be boring and write a normal limerick…

I wish it were summer already
With the temperatures all nice and steady
These up-and-down weeks
Are for rougher physiques
I’ll just wait here in bed with my teddy.

Ok, have at it! I really wish you would…

On Anonymity

I know that I noticed the posts earlier this week, for and against anonymity in blogging and other sorts of writing, but this has been a busy week out in that place where there are three dimensions and most people don’t speak in meter and rhyme. But a cuttlefish must certainly have something to say on this matter. And now that Zuska brings up the topic once more, I found myself commenting on Physioprof’s blog, and before I knew it…

The right to be a cuttlefish
And hide behind my ink
May not appeal to everyone
Despite what I may think.
But having anonymity
Is useful, you may note—
That’s why we pull the curtain closed
Before we cast our vote.
The bully likes a public vote,
Each person known by name,
If someone feels intimidated
Shame on them! For shame!
They ought to have the strength to stand
Behind the words they speak!
(That way the votes go to the strong,
And rarely to the weak.)
Behind the voting curtain, though,
The votes all weigh the same—
Unless there’s something wrong with that,
You need not know my name.

And so I stand on principle
For any nom de plume—
A right to be anonymous
Is one I will assume.
I do not judge the reasons
Why some like it out of sight;
For me it is enough to say
It is their perfect right.