Happy Birthday Mike Haubrich!

Stephanie asked me and a number of others to pick a post that demonstrates why each of us like Mike Haubrich’s writing style, and why we’re regular readers of his, by way of a birthday present. Apparently he likes to be remembered and praised on his birthday. I personally just prefer a slab of cake and a quiet evening at home with my beloved, possibly splitting a bottle of wine between us, but to each their own.

So I undertook to dig through Mike’s archives to find just one post that’s indicative of everything I like about the man’s writing ability. I didn’t even make it past the front page before I found one that hit all the high points, and I have no doubt that I could find dozens more in his older posts.

Mike is capable of taking disparate and esoteric concepts and tie them together such that you have no doubt as to his argument’s veracity. In the post I linked, he took the social contracts humans create, and how we as a species evolved as social animals, and extends it to explain exactly why we as humans are so prone to creating rules and regulations and systems of government and are so willing to rewrite these rules to be as amenable as possible to the needs of all its participants.

Government in this sense is also available to non-human animals, such as wolves, chimps, bonobos, lions, ants, gorillas, wasps, herring. It’s any form of social gathering that provides protection, or shared goals. It is not unique to humans, although we are rather unique in spending a fair bit of time thinking about how to best form and maintain social contracts. We are also unique in that we have a tendency to formalize our forms of government in writing, so that those who agree to the contract know the rules.

It is a form of distribution of labor, something that enables societies to grow, prosper and produce. Yes, there are great battles, bloodshed and civil wars fought over the wording and meaning of documents that lay foundation for government, and yes even after the documents have been agreed upon they are often subject to change. Good foundational documents contain procedural instructions for how these changes should take place.

He takes those things that everyone on both sides of an argument take for granted — the universality of social structure and the necessity of external support in extraordinary circumstances, and the role of or lack of role of government in such a situation, for instance — and he strips away the superfluous and asks the questions that lay bare the core of the problem itself.

So, when Senator Tom Coburn says that the “government is a solution to our problems is inaccurate” so shortly after saying “What’s missing here is neighbors. Helping people that need our help.”

(Closed circuit to government:)

Just exactly how is that done, and by whom, Senator? This woman will get some help, now, because you are going to use the power of your government office to make sure that it gets done. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, although I am rightly cynical that you may be just saying that because you are a politician with a microphone and have been put on the spot.

He holds no cows sacred, and he’s willing to go after the other side’s core tenets, such as the “free market” principle:

Do you trust people to have power over your health decisions when you have no influence over their selection, as in a corporate insurance board whose goal is stockholder return? Is that the sort of government you prefer over one which you can help choose?

I love Mike’s writings because they are unabashed, they are raw, they are emotional, and they are vastly, by and large, absolutely correct. He has an insightful and keen mind, and an easy eloquence I hope to emulate.

Keep fighting the good fight, Mike Haubrich. You’re a credit to the side of reason, and I hope you fight on through many, many more birthdays to come.

The banned Mormon cartoon

You’ve no doubt seen this already at some point in your intertubes wanderings, but in case you haven’t, here’s a slightly older cartoon explanation of Mormonism. You can tell it’s older by the rotoscoped animation. And yes, this is a very close representation of their true beliefs.

My true belief is that Joseph Smith was a liar, a charlatan and a fraud, with a messiah complex the likes of which haven’t been seen since Jesus of Nazareth himself. That is, if Jesus even existed, which a number of secular historians strongly doubt… not that his historical veracity even matters, since if he existed, he was just a cult leader like Joseph Smith or David Koresh or Claude Vorilhon.

Potholer54’s Golden Crocoduck Awards still going strong

Here’s a whole new batch of nominees for Potholer54’s second annual Golden Crocoduck Awards! For those of you who weren’t already aware, the Award is presented to creationists who fundamentally misunderstand evolution and make spurious arguments based on strawmen and fallacious understanding of the scientific concept. Kent Hovind took last year’s award hands down. Our local pet troll would probably be a shoe-in, if he made videos, but sadly he doesn’t, leaving us reasonable folks that much poorer of LOL’s.

The Vatican is Bullshit

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Vimeo has up the Vatican episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit. For now, at least. Watch it while it’s up.

Penn & Teller, Bullshit! The Vatican from Brewster on Vimeo.

I don’t think there’s terribly much I could add to this, as ever, insightful episode. I especially love the part where Penn explains why Ratzinger can’t be thrown in the clink in the US for being the one who ordered the covering up of the massive child abuse scandal in 2005. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it.

Who’s dogmatic?

I’ve talked about this a while back, and it’s talked about elsewhere on the blogosphere at great length and to great depth. However, it needs repeating, because among the rank and file of the droning God-worshippers out there, there’s still a certain perma-moderated reader that needs to understand the terms he’s using, as he’s wholly ignorant of the different axes on which atheism and agnosticism lie. He is also wholly unaware that both sides are capable of dogma, that those of us in this argument that specifically disbelieve in his Abrahamic god are not doing so dogmatically, and somehow thinks that his dogma is not in fact dogma but is rather scientific in itself. Video and more rant below the fold.

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Lying for Jesus on Facebook

Here’s a story I’m sure we’ve all heard. It’s obviously invented from whole cloth, but watch it anyway.

This was posted on a Facebook cause asking for support for putting Christ back into schools (as though it had any place outside of Sunday school to begin with). Julie at RationalBehavior commented about it, and a conversation ensued where one of her grade-school friends espoused her belief that religion should totally take over schools and teach Christianity to the exclusion of both science and all other religions, thus thoroughly violating the Establishment Clause.

She even posted more lunacy from the same culprit. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. And it’s almost enough to make me want to reopen my Facebook account.

RCimT: Friday Grab-Bag

Extracts from the first two chapters of Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (my Amazon referrer!) are available as links from his website, as though I didn’t already have enough on my reading list. A selected quote:

Much of the initial domestication of the dog was selfdomestication, mediated by natural, not artificial, selection. Long before we got our hands on the chisels in the artificial selection toolbox, natural selection had already sculpted wolves into self-domesticated “village dogs’ without any human intervention.

Only later did humans adopt these village dogs and transmogrify them, separately and comprehensively, into the rainbow spectrum of breeds that today grace (if grace is the word) Crufts and similar pageants of canine achievement and beauty (if beauty is the word).

I wish I was half so eloquent.

Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich have both weighed in over at Quiche Moraine on the political divide between reason and emotion, and what’s fueling the “debate” over health care. Suffice it to say, when viewed objectively, the Republicans and those that support the “death panel”, “teabag”, “birther” nonsense do not come out well at all. I especially love that Mike’s called them out on their present Eddie Haskell tactics of saying “we would never dream of doing such a thing” right after doing exactly that thing that has generated so much outrage.

Roger Ebert is rapidly becoming one of my favorite media figures, posting this incisive point-by-point destruction of the right-wing talking points, including a passage from pretty much the ultimate fictional socialist, Jesus Christ: Matthew 25:31-46. A sample:

37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?”
40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

It’s a damn shame that though Christians love to pick and choose which passages they will adopt, and they keep picking the wrong fucking ones.

Those of you annoyed by the sudden resurgence of the “Banana Gambit”, as originally popularized by Ray Comfort and his pet washed-up-actor Kirk Cameron, in the ongoing dialogue between people who like reality and people who prefer really old fiction novels, would do well to brush up on the true history of the banana, because humans have everything to do with its “intelligent design”. Which by the way isn’t intelligent at all, since half the time you can’t use the “pull tab top” without mashing the banana all to crap. Monkeys even know to squeeze the bottom to break open the tip, then pull it apart from that end, yet we have barely figured out as much, as evidenced by Comfort’s flailings. Also, the banana probably fits as nicely in your bum as in your mouth.

And as the 2012 Apocalypse nears, it’s good to have some real information sources to help us counter the claims of the idiots whose voices are rising to a crescendo of mind-blowing stupidity. See, creationists? I don’t just fight YOUR brand of stupid, I fight ALL brands of stupid!

Speaking of which, here’s more Christians being offended by the existence of atheism, and some more billboard counterexamples showing exactly who’s being civil and who’s not.

Craig Venter is betting the biotech industry will make wholly synthetic life forms by year’s end. Since science allows us to determine how life works, we can actually do things like bioengineer life from non-living matter. That’s right, “encroaching on God’s domain,” whatever. Just as long as nobody develops Super-AIDS, we’re good. I personally see bioengineering as our way out of this fossil fuel mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. If anything’s going to be able to pull the CO2 out of the atmosphere, this is going to be it.

Finally, Greg Laden’s got a fantastic series of posts about “The Falsehoods” — specifically, foundational mis-assumptions on the part of people intentionally trying to misunderstand evolution. If Zdenny hopes to ever complete his assignment, he should start by reading every one of these posts then, instead of commenting as I’m sure he’s going to want to do, divert that effort into my challenge so that he can regain the posting rights he so greatly desires (as the held comments queue is now at 35 and counting). Here’s all the links:

Update: I should have included this above, but didn’t think to check my feeds before throwing all the stuff I already had in tabs into this post. Stephanie makes me extremely worried for her health given the States’ current insurance scheme’s propensity to refuse to cover “pre-existing conditions”. That she has to worry about having to see the doctor for fear of costs, is a horrendous failure of compassion. Please, PLEASE, fight for health care reform. I hate to see people die of preventable illnesses just because they aren’t rich enough to cover the exorbitant premiums out of pocket. Remember, Jesus would want you to fight for the less-well-off!

Anyway, happy Friday! Here’s hoping I get everything done work-wise that I’m hoping to do today.