An Obvious Alternative

You know, maybe we should be debating abortion after all. We sometimes get so hung up on the way things are and the way we think they should be that we forget there’s more than one way to solve our problems. Yes, it’s true that there isn’t a lot of common ground between anti-abortion and pro-choice folks. One side wants to prevent pregnant people from getting abortions, and the other doesn’t want to force pregnant folk to be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. So what do you do with an unplanned pregnancy, eh?

But maybe there’s a way to prevent most abortions AND not force unwillingly pregnant people from staying pregnant. Maybe there’s a third way. Mimmoth has an innovative idea:

Perhaps we have been asking, over and over and over, the wrong question.

If we are going to deprive people of bodily autonomy to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death there is an obvious alternative that we, as clear-eyed skeptics willing to question tradition and religion, should be examining–an alternative that causes less harm and does more good, as it benefits not only women, but also men.

The question we ought to be asking is, should we sterilize men to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death?

Every man over the age of puberty would make a few sperm donations, which are frozen away, then promptly be vasectomized, period, no exceptions. The frozen sperm is saved for when he and his partner decide together to have a child. In the meantime, never again need a man fear being tapped for child support for a child he didn’t consent to. And never again need a woman fear being made to endure pregnancy and labor for a child she didn’t consent to.

It’s true that this would deprive more people of bodily autonomy–all men instead of one third of women. But the harm would be much smaller. Instead of vomiting through nine months of pregnancy and screaming through eighteen hours of labor we would be talking about a half-hour visit to the doctor’s office, of which the shaving would be the most time-consuming part of the procedure.

With every child a deliberate decision on the part of both parents, abortions plummet–not quite to zero, alas, as there are those rare tragedies when a wanted pregnancy goes badly awry–but by easily 90-99%. Surely that is cause for rejoicing, if saving wonderful wonderful fetuses from death was actually the point.

And it may turn out, when it’s men’s bodily autonomy we’re talking about stripping away, that bodily autonomy is important after all, so we’ll live with abortion on demand and without apology. That’s also okay with me.

#UpForDebate

Brilliant! There is so much win here. MRAs could stop whining about getting spermjacked – they’d never have to worry about that again! Fetus worshippers could rest easier, knowing that the only “babies” being “killed” would be ones where it was self-defense. Women wouldn’t have to worry about unwanted pregnancies and birth control. Even God would be happier, knowing sperm was no longer being wasted. The “no sex except for procreation” crowd would still be grumpy, but they’re only happy when they’re mad, so even they would be satisfied.

It’s the perfect solution. I look forward to it being implemented in the very near future.

Image shows a cat sitting slumped over like a dejected person. It's front legs are draped like arms with its paws in its lap. The caption says, "Don't look. I just got back from the vet.

 

The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese

Originally published at Scientific American.

You want some Yellowstone? You got some Yellowstone! Amanda Reese is one of my most talented friends, and she’s just got her photography website up. After I did a lot of squeeing and awing and OMGing, she graciously agreed to let me filch a few of her images to show you. Because supervolcano. Love it!

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows a ridge behind Grand Prismatic Spring. Part of the spring, bright orange, is visible in the foreground. Steam is rising between the spring and the ridge.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Amanda says, “This is a must go to spot in Yellowstone. The insane reflections and endless colors are a photographers dream!” Geologist’s dream, too! This is the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world. Kipling called the area where it’s found Hell’s Half Acre – and lemme tell ya, if hell is this gorgeous, sign me up to go!

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image is a close-up of the spring, showing the patterns in the tan ground beneath the water.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

I love the patterns of the clouds reflected in the water, and the strange ground beneath. Amazing to think what molten rock, water, and bacteria combine to achieve here.

Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows an amethyst-blue spring with trees in the background.

Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

 

The water looks cool blue serene, but it’s hot! And hidden: “This is a hidden gem in Yellowstone. Very few tourists and was an absolute highlight of our trip. This thermal pool was one of few not roped off so I was able to get very close for this shot.” One of the things I love about hot springs, other than their colors, is feeling their warmth (mind you, I don’t dabble me toes in the boiling ones!) and knowing that the heat is coming from within the earth. It’s a tangible reminder of the power beneath Earth’s skin.

Mind you, the cold water around Yellowstone is mind-blowing, too – our own Anne Jefferson reminds us that those cold rivers and streams might move more heat than the flashy geysers and showy hot springs!

    Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image is the sun shining through a small gap in clouds.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

“The sky opening up after an afternoon storm.” Those crepuscular rays are phenomenal.

All right, I know this isn’t geology, but I couldn’t resist showing you them:

    Flamingos, Woodland Park Zoo, WA, Feb 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows the head and necks of two flamingos. One is nibbling at the beak of another. They almost look like they're drawing a heart.

Flamingos, Woodland Park Zoo, WA, Feb 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

They look like lovers, don’t they just? Actually, they are: “Two flamingos in a battle over food. Even when fighting they still appear so fragile and beautiful.”

Amanda has an extraordinary talent for bringing out that fragile beauty in wildlife. She’s also amazing with kids and people and architecture and art and… well, basically, if it can be photographed, she’ll photograph it marvelously! Go enjoy her site. She’ll be accompanying me on some geoadventures this summer, so you’ll see more of her round here, too!

And if any of you Puget Sound locals need a photographer, allow me to gently nudge you Amanda’s way with a meaningful clearing of the throat.

Thank You, Ron

Dear Ron Lindsay,

Thank you for your apology. Thank you especially for this bit of your apology:

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.

You could have taken the Way of the Weasel and said so sorry we were offended, but you did what a leader needs to do and accepted full responsibility. I respect that. And that has, in turn, restored a bit of my respect for you. (Still – I’d have suggested replacing some with many, but otherwise not too bad.)

I’d also like to say that you just bested your own Board of Directors (and it might be nice if they stepped up and followed your lead – it would show they have the same ability to recognize when they’re wrong that you do). I appreciate that. I realize you could have left matters with their ridiculous non-statement and cut us all loose, but you didn’t – you did the right thing, and you’ve explained why you waited to do it. I hereby rescind my request for your head on a pike your resignation. Never wanted that as much as a sincere apology, anyway – you’ve done good work in the past, and it will be good to see you continue that work with a new understanding going forward. I certainly haven’t forgotten your strong statement against hate directed at women in the secular community. Perhaps now we’ll see you live up to your own words:

Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

(Hint: Justin Vacula is one such individual. Y’know – the dude you hugged who writes for a hate site? Yeah. The people who cheered your unfortunate speech, snippy blog posts, and subsequent silence, and are now no doubt enraged by your apology, are others you should consider carefully before extending any welcome.)

Some folks are still wary, some are still pissed, and all of us will be watching to make sure you and CFI were actually listening, but I for one am reasonably sure you were. I think you’re the kind of person who can take criticism on board and, after the heat of the initial moment, and the instinctive defensiveness, comprehend why it is you came under so much fire. I know you can read past our anger and disappointment, extract our advice, and put it to good use. And I know that will make you a better ally, one I’ll be proud to stand beside.

We all fuck up sometimes. Thank you for being a person who can recognize a serious mistake and issue a true apology. Thank you for letting pride bend when it needed to.

See you at WiS3.

Sincerely,

Dana Hunter

PS. Have a sleeping kitten as a symbol of peace between us. Who (other than PZ) can resist that, amirite?

Sleeping Luna.

Sleeping Luna.

PPS. Dear Board of CFI: You have a long way yet to go before you earn forgiveness for that appalling and frankly insulting non-statement of yours. Get crack-a-lackin’.

h8151B923

No Longer Donating to CFI? Skepticon Could Use Your Help!

Thanks to our own John-Henry Beck, I was made aware of this outstanding adherence to principles, irregardless of money:

However, after witnessing the actions of one of our years long sponsors, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), it has come to our attention that, in order to uphold the values that we have come to embody and endorse, we will no longer accept their sponsorship.

So what does this mean for Skepticon? Well, losing a large sponsor is going to hurt a little bit (we’re probably going to have to sell some of those awesome hats were were talking about) but it has made even determined than ever to make a conference that we can be proud of.

That right there tells me Skepticon is worth supporting. If you’ve withdrawn your fundage from CFI, Skepticon is a great place to redirect your donations. I’ve thrown some money in their coffers, and will be doing so on a semi-regular basis. Remember, this is student-led and free, and principled. If you can spare the change, show them some love.

And, Skepticon? Thank you for being awesome. Much love!

h1C568DB0

Being Visible

Agents of change make status quo folks rather squirmy. Folks who were previously absent or invisible either join up or speak up, and next thing you know, colored people want to drink out of lily-white fountains, and red people want their land back and treaties honored, and homosexuals want to get married, and women want to be treated as more than sex objects…. It’s hard. It’s very hard for those who’d been used to the Way Things Were. There the world was, ticking over nicely in their estimation, and suddenly a horde of uppity upstarts are there harshing their mellow.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

And what they’d dearly love is for us to shut up and go away.

I do understand. I’ve been Status Quo, you see. I grew up in a conservative household, and the conservative sentiment is “America – love it or leave it!” and there were many times when I wished those noisy liberals would just shut up and move to Canada if they hated this country so much. Learning the liberals were right was a long, at times painful, process. And there were issues with white privilege, and cis privilege, and middle-class privilege, that had me howling “shut up and go away!” until the people who refused to shut up and go away got through the fingers I had stuffed deeply in my ears. Now I’m glad they didn’t do what I wanted.

And that’s not a patch on the discomfort caused by feminists, who had a job o’ work convincing me to reexamine certain of my assumptions and admit that yes, even in America, feminism is desperately needed.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Did you notice? None of those folks went quietly away.

They remained visible and vocal. Sometimes, they were out there very vocally explaining the injustices they’d suffered, demanding commitments be honored and rights be extended. Sometimes, they were giving me a glimpse into what it meant to live as a minority among the majority, or disadvantaged among the advantaged. Sometimes they were just there, being visible doing things “conventional wisdom” said they weren’t supposed to do, thus proving conventional wisdom full of shit.

So there it is, this thing you can do if you’re not a firebrand or an activist, if you’re not able to devote yourself to constant activity in campaigns for equality. Not all of us have to be leaders or marchers. Those activists need you, too, being visible. Being in a non-traditional career, or a non-traditional relationship, or a non-traditional body. Being an atheist, matter-of-factly. Adding some color to a sea of white. Because the more visible the formerly-invisible people become, the harder it is to ignore and dismiss and other them, and the more other formerly-invisible people are encouraged to become visible. And momentum is gained. You know how inertia and momentum work. You know it gets easier to keep the ball rolling in the direction you want it to once you’ve got it up to a good speed.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won't understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won’t understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

How can you impart a little extra momentum, even if you’re not in a position to give it a good shove? Do the little things. Sign petitions. Phone, write or email politicians and organizations and companies to let them know what you’d like them to start, stop or keep doing. When you can, correct mistaken assumptions and let the people around you know when something they’re doing or saying is a problem. You don’t have to make a huge fuss, just let them know there’s an alternative to what they just did or said that won’t hurt you. Support the people around you who are doing that work. People sometimes won’t understand they’re doing or saying bothersome things until multiple people have advised them it’s a problem.

You can think of more, I’m sure. And it won’t seem like much. It won’t ever seem like enough. Friction will sometimes steal some of the momentum, and it’s discouraging and horrible when that happens. You’ll sometimes feel like giving up in despair, because how can you’re little bit change anything?

But the point is to keep being visible. As much as you can. Because it’s very, very hard to ignore the people in plain sight, even if all they’re doing is quietly going about living a life prejudice said shouldn’t be possible.

Do your thing, and you will help revolutionize the world.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she'd be considered male; she told them she'd work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she’d be considered a man; she told them she’d work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

 

(None of this is new. We already know it. But it sometimes bears repeating.)

Los Links: I Laughed, I Cried, They Became a Part of Me

Some of you will remember Los Links from back in the day when I could spend two days out of every week reading blogs, and then share the linky goodness with you. Life’s been too busy for a while for that, unfortunately. It should have been too busy tonight, but my brain said, “You know what? Fuck you. I’ve been thinking all day.” War at work, y’see: fighting to make things the best they can possibly be at an American megacorporation. It’s fun, and fulfilling, but taxing.

Thankfully, I had posts written (longhand) in advance, but my wrists said, “You know what? Fuck you. We’ve been typing most of the day.” So today ended with me lying about catching up on some freethought reading. If this continues tomorrow, I can bring you a roundup of recent geology posts. I suppose that won’t be so bad, now, will it? And then, on Wednesday, you will be guaranteed an original post of near-epic proportions, because we’re going to talk about why Mount St. Helens melted some bits but not all the bits on the cars. If we’re very fortunate, we’ll end up on Boing Boing again (thank you, Maggie Koerth-Baker!). I say we, because I wouldn’t have written up cars if it hadn’t been for you lot liking things like that, and as it turns out, you’re not the only ones. So, thank you, my darlings!

It’s not all happy fun times, alas. The thing with frequenting the freethought and skeptic blogs that I do is that Things That Are Not Happy get discussed, and if it weren’t for the bloggers and commenters restoring my hope for humanity, I’d have crawled off to a cave and become an official misanthrope by now. Between all of you, though, I am not willing to declare the vast majority of human kind irredeemable arseholes. Only a subset of it. Sigh.

There will be a humorous intermission, and loving comfort at the end. Stay with me.

Almost Diamonds: When You Already Are the Middle Ground. An important read, this, reminding us that people who are screeching for some “middle ground” between “the two extremes” haven’t quite noticed that one of those “extremes” is already the middle ground they’re howling for.

Being out of patience with the whole make-peace-with-the-howling-bigots sanctimonious shits, I’d like to recommend, in a calm and even voice, that they read the above post, and then please, if it’s not too much trouble, take their sanctimonious faux-peacemaking shit and stuff it in the orifice of their choice.

Love, Joy, Feminism: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Abortion Wars. I am inspired by Libby Anne’s post about her first experience as an abortion clinic escort. I’m inspired to start walking in to abortion clinics on days when protesters are present, just so I can shout at them, “Wow, thanks! I was just coming in for an ultrasound, but your signs featuring fake dead baby parts and your religious howling has inspired me to abort instead, because I don’t want to raise my child in a world featuring you assholes!” I’d love to see their dear little faces as they tried to compute that, and whilst we were facing off, some women could hopefully walk unmolested into the clinic for their procedures.

Skepchick: Ain’t I A Skeptic? This is just… I don’t even… I’m ashamed of humanity and any feminist who would complain that a woman isn’t a good enough feminist because she chooses to stay home with her kids. This is a reminder that feminism is about a woman’s choice, not about forcing her into a different set of narrow boxes. It’s also a reminder to white feminists such as myself that there are feminists of color whose experiences are different from our own, and we cannot shut them out. Why the fuck is it so hard for people to realize that mileage varies with varying degrees of privilege?

Blag Hag: Indiana high schoolers want to ban gays from prom. And just when the clueless gits within the skeptic/atheist communities have just about turned me off from speaking out against religion, because their toxic bullshit seems more or less equally toxic, along comes religion to remind me that, no, while people can be toxic bullshit-spewing arseholes no matter their creed, religion makes people just that much more likely to spew disgusting, hateful, poisonous shit. So, um, thanks for reminding me that religion is still a force worth fighting… and if you’ll excuse me, I wish to crawl into a corner and weep for humanity before I don my fighting trousers (thank you, Avi, for a memorable phrase).

Mah new battle standard.

Mah new battle standard.

I promised you a humorous interlude, and a humorous interlude you shall have.

Butterflies and Wheels: The wot is feminism chart. Funny-sad or sad-funny that anti-feminist tropes can be made into such a humorous and apropos chart? I think we should establish a drinking game based upon it.

Daylight Atheism: Why Atheists Should Care More About Education. We already do care, of course, and not just when creationists get frisky. But there’s so much poverty, and so many lost opportunities, and so many kids who need better chances. Give a child a bible, and they can be stuffed full o’ falsehoods. Give a child a good education and a bible, and they can say, “Wait. Just. A. Minute. WTF???”

Choice in Dying: Wafa Sultan and the Position of Women in Islam. Warning: contains women-as-property, pedophilia, little boys being taught that women are nothing but property that should remain silent, animal cruelty, and a charming hadith about the kinds of nasal secretions a wife is expected to lick off her husband’s face with her tongue. I’m sure I missed some trigger warnings for various forms of horrible misogyny, cruelty and sexual violence – but hey, Islam’s totes the religion of peace, amirite?

(Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Find a happy place… ah, here we go. I hope.)

WWJTD: Boggle on mental illness and “a cry for help”. I like this muchly. Makes me want to go handing out sticks.

As originally seen somewhere on Skepchick.

As originally seen somewhere on Skepchick.

And if you’re still needing something warm and fuzzy after all that, might I suggest Cats Hugging Things? Because it’s pretty damned hard not to squee at this.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to avoiding absolutely everything by re-reading Marriage, a History and sniggering at all the “traditional” marriages therein.

A+, Plus Drool-Worthy Geology, AW #49 Info, and Other Bits

Blowing the dust off ye olde computer to say “Allo, allo, I’m still alive!” Taking a break, still, although I’m dipping my toes back in to a desultory bit o’ work. Like, this post.

First off, I just want to throw my support to Jen McCreight’s brilliant Atheism + idea. When my brain is back from its temporary vacation, I’ll have something more to say than “Woo! Count me in!” But this, plus the overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception, reminded me once again why I’m so damned proud to be a part of FreethoughtBlogs, and why I won’t ever give up on the atheist movement. People like Jen see problems that almost seem intractable, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

Judging from some comments I’m seeing, at least a few folks are going to say, “Huh huh humanism!” with a greater or lesser degree of snark. So allow me to provide some links to read before too many people start protesting that A+ is just a snotty way of saying secular humanist. I have helpfully put the links most focused on the humanism vs atheism+ discussion in bold, which means you should read them carefully before launching into a tirade.

How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism

Atheism+

Why Atheism+ and not Humanism?

Atheism+: It’s time to walk the walk

A new atheism

Standing on Our Own

A new dawn

The difference between “atheism+” and humanism

Atheism Plus: The New Wave of Atheism

Is “Atheism Plus” Just Secular Humanism?

Atheism, Plussed And Nonplussed

The New Atheism +

I hereby join my fellow atheists +. This is it. This is the right spot for me. Although I’m a rebel and just had to change up one of the logos to suit myself, because I don’t like red and blue juxtaposed. Deeep riiifts!

A+ logo by by One Thousand Needles, with one minor modification by moi.

I like this. I feel very good about this. And I hope Surly Amy gets to work on the A+ Surly-Ramics ASAP. Want.

Right. Position staked, on to other matters. I’m in week 3 of nicotine withdrawal, for those interested and wondering how that’s going. Answer: nawt too gooood. I think this is the week where The Addiction Strikes Back, because it’s being a bastard. I still, however, am not smoking, although at the moment, I’m not happy about it. I feel like most of my personality has been cored out. That’s the trouble when a not-insignificant part of your identity was tied up in a particular habit. I will adjust, and I am definitely enjoying the fringe benefit of not coughing all the damned time, but it will take a while longer before the physical addiction subsides and I have managed to reinvent myself. In the meantime, I’m staying mostly offline and away from the usual routine. I’ve chosen to spend the majority of my time reading classic freethought and atheist works, in between bouts of cooking and eating all the food in the universe, and sleeping. Lotsa sleeping. Soooo much sleeping. It’s as if a twenty-year sleep debt has tracked me down and demanded paying. Chantix combined with ordinary pre-Aunty Flow fatigue, I’m relatively certain. The cat’s mostly enjoying my immobility, except when she becomes bored by it and amuses herself by yowling in my ear.

The dreams continue apace. Some have been rather dramatic, some have been prosaic (I hate the dreams about work. Chantix makes each dream more vivid, so I feel like they should be paying me for this shit). Some have been wonderful sci-fi extravaganzas I hate waking up from, because I want to know what happens next – and for some reason, I always wake up on a cliffhanger. And then there was the wonderful one where I was talking to a theist, one of the sorta mushy-gushy mystical ones, who dramatically announced that religion is the moon and stars, then asked me what atheism is. I thought about it for a moment. Then I looked up at the blue infinity above me, held my hands up to compass it, and said, “Atheism is the sky.” And I believe he got my meaning: a bright, clear place where a person can breathe and think and is not boxed in by old myths.

I quite liked that dream.

Food-wise, this has been an adventure. One side-effect of quitting I didn’t expect was a sudden interest in vegetables. Seriously. I’m craving things I don’t ordinarily crave: squash, spinach, corn and the like. I’m more of a meat-and-taters person, so this is rather odd. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, and since quitting smoking, I’ve wanted sweet stuff even less. To the point, mind you, where I even like water. In moderation, of course. Let’s don’t get too crazy. Water’s still mostly for washing in, but I’m drinking more than before. Weird.

And yes, I’ve put on weight. Not much, but some. There are a few bones I can only feel if I prod for them now. Judging from my father, I’ll end up looking malnourished, though: pot belly with chicken arms and legs. That’s just how our side of the family rolls.

Now, I promised you some eye-popping geology. Courtesy of Hexidecima, here ’tis, and I’m shamelessly stealing a teaser photo so that you’ll go read the post and look at the others and begin to drool with soft noises of ecstasy, as I did.

Looking westbound. US 322. Image courtesy Club Schadenfreude.

Want.

And this brings me to a point: those of you who write geology posts should always be bold and pimp them in the comments, even if unrelated to the current discussion, because I like to drool.

Also, if anyone wants me to start open threads to encourage jibber-jabber and such sharing between cantina regulars, I’m happy to. Say the word, and it will be so.

A quick note on Accretionary Wedge #49: some of you have never encountered the Wedge before. It’s basically geobloggers getting together monthly to post around a common theme, chosen by the host of the month. The host announces the theme, those of us inspired by it write a post about it, plunk the link into the host’s comments, and then, ideally, the host gathers all links together into a single post for all to enjoy. Does that mean you have to have a blog to participate? No. If you haven’t got a blog, but want to write up a little something on otherworldly geology, I will be happy to put you up as a guest post right here. Just send the draft to me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. Make sure you have the rights to any pictures you include, because this is a commercial blog, and copyright rules are important.

And, finally, it’s time for the arachnophobes to avert their eyes, because Jean Gogolin sent me this link. Yes, that’s a new spider. Yes, it dwells in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it has wicked claws. And yes, I’m going to be looking for one! I’m hoping to catch it using its claws on some poor unsuspecting prey, so I can make a new discovery for science. Hopefully, I won’t be announcing it eats humans….

That’s about it. I’ll probably be going dark again, have to get some research done and fight my poor addicted brain a bit more. Thank you all for your support and understanding. I’ll be coming back refreshed soon, and then I will present you some geology that will make your eyes pop.

Especially if Lockwood and I end up following Trebuchet’s footsteps into the John Day Fossil Beds this fall… Yum!

This Isn’t A Review of Victor Stenger’s New Book

God and the Folly of Faith. Cover Art credit Prometheus Books.

I’d actually like to do that book justice. I’ve read it. I’m still digesting it. I can tell you my foremost thought whilst reading it: “Damnit, Victor, I’m a geologist, not a physicist!” It’s been a long time since I’ve read up on physics. The middle chapters, in which he drills down pretty deeply into physics, put my brain through the kind of workout that still leaves you wobbly days later.

My second thought throughout most of the book was, “Ha ha ha, the quantum woo people are gonna hate this!” No mercy. No quarter. Beautiful.

However. Like I said, still digesting. I’ve got bits highlighted for further contemplation, and when I get a spare moment (ahaha I am teh funneh), I’ll scribble down a few notes and get round to saying something that might actually be vaguely interesting about it all and persuade you that you, too, must put your brain through the same experience as mine. Because you know you want to. Unless you’re a quantum woo person, or the kind of religious believer who sticks your fingers in your ears down to the knuckle and screams “Lalalalanotlistening!” until the bad heathen goes away, that is. In that case, you’ll probably hate it. But if you’re a science-loving sort who’s disgusted with the ways various religions and spiritual beliefs try to claim science totes vindicates their position, only to howl that science is nasty and reductionistic when it fails to support them, but then turn right round and claim that science just wuvs woo, then yes: God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion will suit you right down to the ground. Especially if, like me, you groan and roll your eyes whenever someone piously brings up NOMA.

Right. So. The reason I bring it up now, before I’m ready to write a deep and profound and, in places, mildly critical review (really, Victor? All the atheists who ever existed, and you couldn’t find one single solitary woman for your list of famous atheists? Really?), is because of this: Salon just published a howler of an article in which some jackass claims science supports near death experiences, and the afterlife is proved. Evidence: “like, y’know, this woman named Maria had this near death experience-”

And I’m all, “Stop. Just stop.”

I should not have to repeat the tired old “plural of anecdote is not data” line. The editors at Salon should already know this. But we’ll be generous and pretend they have not heard it, and the fact that a bunch of stories written up in fancy language is not science is a fact they were, until just now, unaware of. We will give them that slight benefit of the doubt. Then we will quietly hand them Victor Stenger’s new book, which could have saved them from experiencing massive amounts of embarrassment and publishing something which has made them look like Huff-Po (and if you know anything about Huff-Po’s tendency to publish the most gawd-awful tripe draped with sciency-looking words and attempting to pass itself off as science, which is about as convincing as someone putting a box over a bicycle, painting it gold, and calling it a Porche – hold on. This sentence is wandering off uncontrollably, so let me rephrase: if you know anything about Huff-Po’s tendency to publish rancid bullshit, you’d know that’s quite a lot of embarrassment, and is best avoided).

You see, Victor has a whole section dedicated just to Maria and the Shoe. We learn that not only can Maria and the Famous Shoe She Saw While Dead cannot be verified, we also learn that Maria’s Miraculous Seeing of the Shoe wasn’t actually miraculous. Not unless you count the fact that in the story, no one is reported to be blind, including Maria, and the famous shoe could be seen from her room.

I’m reminded of a line from the Qabus Nama, quoted in The Walking Drum: “Our senses perceive things which do not impinge upon our awareness, but lie dormant within us, affecting our recognition of people and conditions.” Yes, even people in the 11th century knew we sometimes notice stuff (like shoes on ledges visible from hospital rooms) which we don’t consciously realize we’ve noticed. People who really really want NDEs to be true, however, do not seem to know this. Intriguing.

So, yes, the Salon folks needed this book. They needed it badly. They needed it foremost for the section on NDEs, of which the anecdotal Maria’s anecdote is just one small part, one pellet in the buckshot cartridge that blows NDEs to smithereens as it were. They also needed it to help them figure out how to sift woomeisters from people who know what the shit they’re talking about. One of the first clues, which I don’t recall being explicitly stated in this particular book, but have learned from prior experience is a good rule of thumb: if someone co-wrote a book with Denyse O’Leary, you probably shouldn’t trust a single fucking thing they write ever again. (If you have no idea who Denyse O’Leary is, this sums her up quite well.) Victor provides many other clues. Together, they add up to a clue-by-four, with which editors everywhere should whack themselves when being presented with some pablum claiming science has “proven” some sort of spiritual bs. I mean, yes, it’s infinitesimally possible science will someday find cold hard evidence proving something we thought was supernatural – but there’s “evidence,” and then there’s evidence, and editors need to know the difference.

Since they don’t, you do. So I suppose what I’m saying is this: I’ve sort-of just reviewed Victor Stenger’s new book God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion; it’s not perfect but it’s extremely useful; and you should go read it forthwith. Especially if you like seeing Dinesh D’Souza and quantum woomeisters in general thoroughly paddled.

I’m Sending You to the Salt Mines

This. Is. Amazing.

If somebody wanted to send me to work in this salt mine, that would be totally fine. I’d be all over that. It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen. Who would have ever thought that a bunch of salt miners would have spent extra time down in the mines to create something so perfectly magical?

Who would have thought plain ol’ salt could be the medium in which such beauty could be expressed?

I’m going to show you a glimpse of the whimsical part of it.

Image Source

Then go gape at the rest. While you’re at it, the geology of that mine is pretty wonderful, too.

I will never see humble old salt in the same way ever again.

This Student Gives Me Hope

I don’t know who she is, only what she has done. And what she has done is this: become a banned book library. When her school decided upon a list of things the kids absolutely must not read, due to parental outrage and a belief kids can be kept from great literature and harsh truths, she tested their limits by bringing in a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. When it caught the eye of a fellow student, she lent it out. And then things snowballed, and she now runs a clandestine locker-library full of banned books, which kids who had no interest in good books until they were forbidden to read them are now thoroughly enjoying.

Firstly, we have a young woman who’s passionate about books. I already love her.

Secondly, we have a young woman who’s not prepared to be told what she can and cannot read. Love kicks up a notch.

Thirdly, we have a young woman who’s getting other young men and women reading intensely. Love shoots through the roof and becomes adoration.

I have news for parents and school authorities who believe they can shelter children from things they think are too awful for young minds: you’ll fail. You have failed. You’ve always failed. Unless this was a very clever reverse-psychology ploy to get kids interested in books, in which case you’ve succeeded brilliantly. Bravo. A cunning plan – quite evocative of the way the potato was introduced to Greece.

Too bad I doubt the administration was that smart.

We jaded adults may believe kids these days are incapable of deep thought and literacy and scholarship, and we are so very, very wrong if we believe that. Look at this student. Look at what she and her fellow students are doing. Look at how much books matter to them. Enough to take not-inconsequential risks for. And they are smart enough and confident enough to decide what they can and cannot read, all for themselves, to hell with the naysayers.

I love this to pieces. It tells me that, despite rumors to the contrary, we’re not raising a nation of apathetic know-nothings, although we’ve been trying very hard to do so. No, we’ve got a crop of brilliant, bold, and brave kids coming up, and the world will be better for them.

I just hope that once my books get published, they’re summarily banned. I’d like to have this kind of readership. I want kids like this at my signings. Unleashing that wise, unruly literary mob upon the unsuspecting citizens of this increasingly stifled country would make me twelve kinds of happy, and prouder than I’ll ever have words to express.