It’s Rapture’s Eve. Are YOU Rapture Ready?

I’ve avoided thus far talking about this particular nonsense, so as not to give it any credence, and so as to scrub away some of my image of being an arrogant, know-it-all asshole who simply wants to point and laugh at the ignorant theists who believe this nonsense. But with the din of the crowd rising yet again in mockery of yet another fact-free, Bible-based belief, I need to throw my two cents in. Especially on this, the day before it’s All Supposed To Go Down. I’m nothing if not timely.

A 89-year-old preacher by the name of Harold Camping has evidently used the Bible, some incredible formulae, and I’m guessing a liberal belt of whiskey, to predict that tomorrow, on May 21st, 2011, the good Christians of this world will be Raptured away and the rest of us will be Left Behind(tm) to enjoy the armageddon pre-show that is the Tribulation. The whole planet will be shaken at 6pm local time — meaning a calamitous earthquake will occur in each of the time zones one at a time starting at the international date line. (I plan on live-tweeting the destruction as it travels from time zone to time zone, for the record.)

TIMING OF IMPORTANT EVENTS IN HISTORY

11,013 BC—Creation. God created the world and man (Adam and Eve).
4990 BC—The flood of Noah’s day. All perished in a worldwide flood. Only Noah, his wife, and his 3 sons and their wives survived in the ark (6023 years from creation).
7 BC—The year Jesus Christ was born (11,006 years from creation).
33 AD—The year Jesus Christ was crucified and the church age began (11,045 years from creation; 5023 calendar years from the flood).
1988 AD—This year ended the church age and began the great tribulation period of 23 years (13,000 years from creation).
1994 AD—On September 7th, the first 2300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end and the latter rain began, commencing God’s plan to save a great multitude of people outside of the churches (13,006 years from creation).
2011 AD—On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation).

I’m shakin’.

Note that 1994 passage. Know why it’s there? Because of Camping’s last failed prediction. He predicted the world would come to an end sometime between Sept. 14th and 17th in 1994. This is his nod to the fact that he predicted 1994 before, rationalizing it away as being the end of the first period of the great tribulation and the beginning of the latter rain. I’m guessing it started raining on or around the 7th and kept raining through his end of the world dates.

Camping owns Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting outlet spanning 150 radio stations throughout North America (name even a merely purely secular, much less explicitly atheist, outreach program with as much reach!), and has teamed up with a website named eBibleFellowship, using both to spread his particular eschatology to evidently great effect. Given how many media outlets have picked this nonsense up, it’s plain as day that people love a good apocalypse story. (How else can you explain the 2012 nonsense, or the movie 2012?)

There are a few key passages on eBibleFellowship’s website that remove what little wiggle room other folks have had in post-hoc rationalizations for why the world did not in fact end on the predicted date. The clobber passage that will be used most frequently against Harold Camping is found on one of his billboards:

On May 22, they should change these to 'cry mightily unto fail!'

The Bible guarantees it, huh? And how do we know it’s guaranteed? Because apparently a few numbers match up if you convert them to the Hebrew Calendar:

On May 21st, 1988, God finished using the churches and congregations of the world. The Spirit of God left all churches and Satan, the man of sin, entered into the churches to rule at that point in time. The Bible teaches us that this awful period of judgment upon the churches would last for 23 years. A full 23 years (8400 days exactly) would be from May 21 st, 1988 until May 21st, 2011. This information was discovered in the Bible completely apart from the information regarding the 7000 years from the flood.

Therefore, we see that the full 23-year tribulation period concludes on May 21st, 2011. This date is the exact day that the great tribulation comes to its end, and this is also the most likely landing spot for the 7000 years from the flood of Noah’s day.

Keep in mind that God shut the door on the ark on the 17th day of the 2nd month of Noah’s calendar. We also find that May 21 st, 2011 is the end of the great tribulation period. There is a strong relationship between the 2nd month and 17th day of Noah’s calendar and May 21st, 2011 of our Gregorian calendar. This relationship cannot be readily seen until we discover that there is another calendar to consider, which is the Hebrew (or Biblical) calendar. May 21 st, 2011 happens to be the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Hebrew calendar. By this, God is confirming to us that we have a very correct understanding regarding the 7000-year timeline from the flood. May 21 st, 2011 is the equivalent date to the date when God shut the door on Noah’s ark. Through this and much other Biblical information, we find that May 21 st, 2011 will be the day when God takes up into heaven His elect people. May 21st, 2011 will be Judgment Day! This is the day God shuts the door of salvation on the world.

Because May 21st coincides with the 17th of Iyyar, the second month, and because the Bible says in Genesis 7:11 that Noah’s ark was closed on that day, and because of the completely arbitrary date assignment developed by Camping (completely different from the Ussher Chronology by the way), that day is apparently exactly seven thousand years after the date Noah’s Ark supposedly shut its doors. And we all know a thousand years is as a day in God’s eyes, therefore the seven thousand year number.

It’s all self-cannibalizing nonsense.

Never mind all the specifics of this particular bit of nonsense for a moment though. What is it that attracts so many adherents about the idea of this world ending suddenly? Is it really a big draw, the idea that this universe was just a test to see who gets to sit around for eternity praising some deity, and that everyone else (e.g. everyone that doesn’t believe the same things you do) will be tortured for eternity? Looking through my mental rolodex of predictions about the end of the world, evidently so, given the numerous predictions of asteroid impacts, Mayan calendar roll-overs, et cetera. Despite a mountain of evidence showing that we’re actually in a good deal of trouble with regard to our actions harming this planet that is our life support system, though, the “world ending in an instant” crowd are way ahead of the game. We humans are so attuned to imminent cataclysm, from long years of evolution where a local calamity might wipe out our local tribe, that we can’t see long-term threats. It is well possible that one day, humankind will cease to exist. It will not be due to the actions of a capricious, vain and malevolent deity, but more likely due to a cosmic event that we cannot predict or deter. And more likely than a cataclysm, simply because we have naturally selected ourselves out of our niche environment by destroying that environment.

There’s nothing particularly special about May 21, 2011, to make it a particularly important roll-over date, save for some very specious math derived from a very old book of poetry by some particularly ignorant Bronze-age tribes in the Middle East. When May 22 is here, and none of either Camping or his followers are bodily disappeared from this planet, the question will not be “why do people go on believing these just-so stories”, the question will be “where in his math was he wrong?”

The answer, ultimately, is simple: they went wrong when someone believed the very old book held some deep mathematical formula that could predict the end of the world. If they want the real answer to how the world will end, they should have looked to T S Eliot.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Hawking: Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.

Wait, what? That’s not a Hawking quote? Well this is:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he said.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he added.

Hawking’s latest comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserted that there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe.

Tell me that’s not just about a perfect analogy. With a mechanistic worldview, you excise the “comfort” you might get from the false claim of heaven in return for the crystalline understanding of reality as it actually is. That might be upsetting for some people, but tough noogies. There’s so much more to derive comfort from in this world — like the love you have for one another in this world (the only one you get!), the amazing accomplishments of humankind since coming down from the trees, or even the simple majesty of this universe and how astounding and numinous it all is.

Funny thing is, while I’m sure this’ll drag apologists out of the woodwork to tell us all how wrong Hawking is to even try to take on theology, the only affect this has on me is to get that one damn ear worm stuck in my head again.

How to solve AronRa’s phylogeny challenge

The solution to the challenge as presented in AronRa’s video is, of course, multifold.

- One, we create an open-source phylogeny display/explorer program. Something like this may already exist.

- Two, we create a wiki run either by paleobiologists or via a democratic system wherein every registered user gets to vote on every change, and use as the starting point the existing data collated by Palaeos and Tree of Life. The Palaeos wiki is a good example, but it depended too heavily on the contributions of the original contributor, and will likely take a long time to catch up to the depth of the original.

- Three, the data supplied on the wiki has a downloadable/editable database that can be incrementally synchronized between users via registered user accounts, so researchers might contribute suggestions for changes that are peer-reviewed by the people in charge.

The strength of the open format is that it does not depend on individual contributors — neither the proposed application nor the wiki falls apart if the single point of failure, the person involved, happens to either get a life or lose it. One does not have to take on the Sisyphean task of categorizing every creature in the world alone. And granted, like Wikipedia, the weakness is that some idiots will piss in the pool. The advantage is that it is peer-reviewed on the fly, live, by people with a vested interest in having a good, accurate primer for evolution and a usable database for phylogeny and the evidence thereof. All we’d need is to set up rules that trusted moderators could regulate, where uncited additions are discussed and either cited, or reverted, depending on how important that reference happens to be. Controversial pages could be stamped with specific scientists’ peer-review stamps and locked once a number of them agree on what the page should say, roughly.

We can get our shit together on this. We just have to learn to trust others to help us do the job.

(You thought I was going to try to answer AronRa’s REAL challenge, about “created kinds”? Heh. You must not know me very well!)

Pink is for girls, blue is for boys

Remember the ridiculous levels of outrage sparked by this image of J Crew’s president painting her son’s toenails pink? The outrage is being tempered somewhat by the passage of time, but it’s still got some steam left. From The Guardian: Are pink toys turning girls into passive princesses?

So why the proliferation of pink in the toy aisles? Colour researcher Stephen Palmer thinks he might have the answer. He has been investigating how people respond to colour on an emotional level, associating different things – both negative and positive – with different colours.

His study suggests that adults lean towards clean, blue colours (reminiscent of clean water or sunny skies) and shun yellowy-brown or khaki shades that remind us of unpleasant things, such as faeces or vomit.

He also found that it’s relatively easy to twist people’s colour preferences, depending on how they feel about objects of a particular colour. Giving people differently coloured sweet or bitter-tasting drinks can skew their colour preferences. And you can shift someone towards or away from liking red by showing them either pictures of tasty berries and cherries, or yucky blood and guts.

The same link between personal preferences and colour also shows up outside the lab. Students at the University of California, Berkeley – whose branding is blue and gold – show stronger preferences for those shades than the colours of UCB’s arch rival Stanford University (team colours red and white), and vice versa.

If this holds true for children’s toys, then it could simply be that girls like pink because the things they like (regardless of their colour) are pink, and there’s no underlying biological reason for the rampant pinkification of their toys.

I can’t help but be skeptical of evolutionary explanations for cultural conventions like “pink is for girls and blue is for boys”. The color preference studies are interesting, but they certainly don’t rise to the level of explaining why a self-perpetuating meme like gender assignment for colors might be scientifically provable. The null hypothesis, that color/gender conflation is simply cultural rather than evolutionary, holds in the absence of any actual scientific data. I believe that stating as though fact that pink causes passivity and “princess-like” behaviour in girls is pretty much stating that the association is entirely cultural. The fact that the color is not universally associated with females or femininity is good corroborating evidence that rather than being a genetic preference, it is a self-perpetuating cultural meme, probably one whose origin was a very long time ago.

Temperature does not lead CO2

Climate science is difficult stuff. It’s subtle. It involves many factors working in concert to amplify one another. It’s not totally intuitive, and it does not depend solely on our CO2 emissions. Our CO2 emissions are but one factor in the so-called grand climate theory. Said theory does not predict most of the things the anti-AGW crowd claims, but it does make testable predictions which have not yet been falsified. Can we put some of this nonsense to rest now?

Canuck bloggers, you might become criminals shortly.

Well. If this is one tenth as serious as Macleans is making it out to be, I could be in for a world of hurt by pointing to hate-filled fuckers and laughing at them. Harper’s omnibus legal reform bills evidently slip into law two incredibly wrong-headed and speech-squelching internet laws restricting hyperlinking and pseudonymity.

Clause 5 of the bill provides that the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred may be committed… by creating a hyperlink that directs web surfers to a website where hate material is posted.

That’s just stunningly ignorant. Let’s put aside the ridiculous leap of reason that equates linking to something with saying something, and instead direct our attention to the sheer stupidity of this law on technological grounds. Namely, we usually do not have control of the things we link to. They can change. So if something I link to later becomes “hate material” then I will suddenly be guilty of a hate crime. Any sound legal advice in a country where such a law exists would be to stop using hyperlinks entirely, as they present too great a liability. And that would sort of kind of make the Internet itself illegal.
[...]

…regarding the offences of sending a message in a false name (via) telegram, radio and telephone. Clause 11 of the bill amends those offences by removing the references to those specific communication technologies and, for some of those offences, substituting a reference to any means of telecommunication. As a result, it will be possible to lay charges in respect of those offences regardless of the transmission method or technology used.

Wow. No “false names” on the Internet (or through telegrams, which bothers me less). Real names only kids—that’ll thwart the perverts!

On top of the Lawful Access reforms, which allow police to demand info from ISPs without warrants, and the usual gamut of hate speech and child porn reforms designed practically to ensure that everyone must vote for these otherwise onerous laws lest they be painted as kiddie fiddlers and hatemongers, this omnibus law turns pretty much every blogger in Canada into an enemy of the state. If you merely link to someone to point out their stupidity in promoting and promulgating hate, you could be a criminal. If someone changes the destination URL into something hate-filled, you could be a criminal. If you post something without using your real name (the only count I don’t stand to get disappeared over, thank goodness), you could be a criminal.

No wonder Harper wants to spend whatever’s left over from tax breaks for the rich, and those F-35s, on megajails. What say we all meet up in cell block C6 and trade cigarettes and play poker while we reminisce about the good old days when people could fucking well blog without being criminals?

This law is awe-inspiring in its complete lack of comprehension about how the internet works. Even though Lawful Access was originally written as a Liberal bill, it should never have stood muster, and it’s incumbent on any so-called Conservative to keep from criminalizing a whole class of harmless and blameless actors in this country.

Some very good sites that link me

I’m a total jerk, and don’t check my incoming links nearly often enough. It appears a number of very good sites have me on their blogrolls or have otherwise linked to me, and I haven’t yet reciprocated. This is a small token effort to even those scales, considering these blogs deserve all the attention I can throw their way. And while you’re looking for good blogs, don’t forget the list of blogs on my left-hand sidebar — each of them is excellent in their own right.

A fellow Canuck blogger, @loripop326, writes at Oh Shit, She’s Awake. She’s the only one I knew from Twitter prior to learning I was on her blogroll — mad props, as she’s an excellent writer with an addictive cadence particular to her writings. A sample:

Embrace yourself, just as you are.
I know that seems like something very obvious, but it’s really not.

Most of us hide parts of ourselves away. The parts that we think are too weird for others to see. The parts that maybe we’ve been told are fucked-up or that someone has made us feel ashamed of. Those pieces of ourselves are the ones that we think should never be known.

So we hide them away, hoping that no one ever discovers them.

We bury them in layers of ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘couldn’t’ and ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ until even we forget they are there. But they are there. Those are the parts of ourselves that are actually real. The innermost bits that we hide are what makes us who we are.

Paul Baird, the man from the UK who recently wrestled a grizzly bear to a draw err, forced Sye Ten Bruggencate to admit that there’s “nothing wrong” with circular reasoning, blogs at Patient and Persistant. He regularly takes on religious folks in online and live debate, and blogs also on skeptical and human rights issues, like this one about female genital mutilation, which overlaps all these fields.

Not all traditions are benign, but it seems to be the case that a tradition that has religious overtones is more difficult to overturn regardless of the damage done.

That said, from a relative morality perspective I do not condemn the practice as immoral within the local paradigm – the practitioners are not acting knowing that their actions are wrong. However, viewed from a modern Western liberal democracy the practice is immoral.

This is a newspaper article with an embedded video (warning – contains distressing scenes), and another about women and girls making a stand against the practice.

The underlying point is that no practice, regardless of it’s sincerity or perceived morality or tradition or religious basis, can stand unchallenged in the modern world.

Our friend SBH (while he hasn’t been around in the comments for a while, I have a relatively long memory for things like that), blogs at Rational Rant, and I honestly can’t come up with a superlative adequate to describe his eloquence. Take, for instance, his thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden:

Like a blind giant the United States started flailing about. An early blow took out one of Osama’s most hated opponents, Saddam Hussein, no doubt to his delight, but the destruction of his hosts in Afghanistan forced him to relocate abruptly. His network in ruins, he was reduced to crouching in the rubble of his dreams and issuing occasional rambling diatribes that the media dutifully carried, and operatives of the world’s intelligence services pored over for clues to his whereabouts. Fortunately friends in neighboring Pakistan took him in, and looked after him—until United States operatives under Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, stormed his hideout and executed him. It was an inglorious end to a futile and wasted life. Nobody is likely to miss him much—certainly not the Indonesians, Egyptians, Kenyans, and others whose family-members he had murdered to fuel his sadistic fantasies. The team that executed him dragged back his corpse as a ghastly souvenir. I suppose it will be returned to his family for burial or something equally civilized. Personally I hope they have his skull hollowed out for use as a visitor’s ashtray at the White House.

And back to the UK, where a Liberal Democrat councillor by the name of Chris Black runs a blog called Moonlight over Essex, and saw fit to link me in his Around the World blogroll. He’s kind enough to keep tabs on the colonies, and has blogged recently about Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the Quebecois NDP candidate swept into office despite never having been in her constituency, and largely being regarded as a “paper candidate” for having been thrown on the ballot when the NDP rep running originally decided to try for a different riding. He incisively tackles political issues from the vantage point of public office himself, including this post where he tackles the Lib Dems’ problem of identity:

On economic policy it was all a lot simpler for us in the ’80s when you had Thatcherism on one side and outright socialism on the other, it was easy for us to offer a middle path. Not so easy now – though I think we are doing a good job inside government holding back the extreme right of the Conservative Party who seem to hate the NHS, BBC , etc. But that’s not being seen by the public.

Also a lot of the “Liberal” battles over the last 40 of 50 years have been won. So what is our raison d’etre now? What do we say in 30 seconds on the doorstep?

If I was going out campaigning today I’d say : We support free enterprise – but the wealth should be shared, the lowest paid shouldn’t pay income tax and big corporations and super-rich shouldn’t get away with paying little. And we believe that that organisations like the NHS, the BBC and the armed forces should be properly funded and supported.

Never before has centrism sounded so good.

Go, read. There’s blog fodder I need attending to, as I have a novel beta to read in my spare time. Expect a few posts on autopilot for a bit while I get my book on.

If you’d like to be added to my blogroll, please let me know. I’ll consider adding any skeptical, atheist, political or Canadian blog you suggest.

RCimT: Climate roundup

When it comes to climate science, it’s best to get your information from climate scientists.

On the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster famously not-foretold by Jamie Darkstar of Darkstar Astrology, the US House Republicans have decided to mark the occasion with a new drill-baby-drill campaign. Meanwhile, this past year has all but sealed the deal on the verity of anthropogenic global warming. It’s happening, it’s been happening for decades, we’ve been screaming about it for decades, and nobody fucking cares that we’re driving right off this cliff.

Well, there are some minor victories in the fight, such as Obama’s move to refund the weather satellites that the GOP defunded as an “unnecessary expense”. And Senator Brown’s move to end the taxpayer subsidy of oil companies, who even without these subsidies would have made over a trillion dollars in profits in the last decade, mostly owing to the extreme gouging consumers see at the pumps. We already pretty much know they’re setting their prices to exactly what the market will allow, and if they jack the price up because they lose their taxpayer subsidies then you’ll see the same sort of ratcheting-back of gas consumption that started happening a few years ago. They’ll then lower the price again to keep everyone hooked, to keep everyone from weening themselves off their gas guzzlers.

And as usual, the enemies in this fight are easy to spot. Just look for the people who call necessary spending “wasteful”, and unnecessary corporate socialism handouts sacrosanct. While the Republicans rail on and on about the debt, demanding that “everyone feel the pain” of certain cutbacks, they’re simultaneously the ones giving big tax breaks to the robber barons and taking away the social programs that keep the poor from going bankrupt. The rich do not become rich in a vacuum. Economies thrive when the money is continuously cycled. It’s not about welfare or hand-outs, it’s about preventing the pyramid from being so top-heavy that it collapses. But these same folks are the ones who disbelieve all the science that shows we’re heading off that global warming cliff, so it’s no surprise they don’t care for the reality of economy, preferring instead to worship their “invisible hand” deity.

Oh how I wish I ruled this world. Maybe then some common sense would seep into humankind’s governance for once.

Pope served with papers in deaf children molestation case

Heh. A-heh heh. Pope Ratzy got served back on April 13th, and I totally missed it.

It is official, the Pope and two top Vatican officials have been served with court papers associated with the Milwaukee-area school for the deaf molestation case in which 200 deaf children were alleged to have been molested by Reverend Lawrence C. Murphy between 1950 and 1974.
[...]
Even though Reverend Lawrence C. Murphy has since died, the case continues because of the allegation that the Vatican attempted to systematically cover-up the case. It could even be said that they have obstructed justice and put other children is harms way.

If this case is allowed to proceed, it will open up the door for similar cases throughout the world. Earlier this year, a Philadelphia Grand Jury revealed a similar sexual molestation scandal involving 37 priests of the Catholic Church.

Nobody’s above the law. Especially not some guy wearing a funny hat claiming to be the emissary of God.