Darwin and I have something in common!

Apparently, Turkey is publishing “A series of books for primary schoolchildren, describing Charles Darwin as a Jew with a big nose who kept the company of monkeys and other historical figures in anti-Semitic terms.” Darwin was Jewish? Well, checking my email rather than my pedigree, I have a long list of people who’ve tried to insult me by calling me a “dirty Jew”, too.

Maybe ol’ Chuck and I can share the honor of being titular Jews. I’ll have to introduce myself when we meet in Sheol..

The True Meaning of Christmas involves dead children, anyway

You’ve all been wondering, I’m sure, how William Lane Craig rationalizes the Newtown massacre with his faith in a benevolent god. Here he explains what came to his mind when he heard about the murders of little children, and asked himself how to reconcile the joyous season with the heartbreaking deaths. No problem, he says, this is what Christmas is supposed to be like.

You see, it’s just like the Bible, with it’s mythical murder of all the children Jesus’ age by King Herod. See? It’s supposed to be a vivid reminder that we live in an evil, fallen world, and that Jesus is the phantasm in the shadows waiting to scoop up our souls when we die and carry us to paradise.

OK, I’ll accept the parallels to the Herod fable (which is almost certainly not true, however), but now I want to ask a follow up. So, Dr Craig: were the Newtown killings ordained by your god? Was he sending us a message about the nature of the world and doing his best to extort us into believing in Jesus? (Will he murder more children every year to compel our belief?)

Or are you just into empty literary parallels? Because, you know, saying it reminds you of a passage in your bible doesn’t really explain anything.

Have you ever opened the refrigerator…

… grabbed the carton of milk, opened it to see if it had gone bad, had the smell of rancid horrible off hit your nose, recoiled, and handed it to the person next to you saying “Oh My God This Is Horrible Smell This”?

Why do we do that? Why is our first impulse, on having a horrible experience which we can spare those we care about from repeating, to insist on sharing that experience? It’s a mystery.

Anyway. This is horrible. Watch this.

Presenting the most festive holiday image possible

We’re not much for the Big Winter Holidays at our place, for a few reasons: the atheism thing, revulsion at enforced mass consumption, Seasonal Affective Disorder. For myself there’s also the fact that my birthday follows close on the heels of the New Year, and though that used to be a jolly opportunity for reflection on the accomplishments of the previous year, the process gets old when you’ve gone through it 50 times or more.

But we are seeing some friends in the coming week, and getting outside to enjoy the gorgeous winter light in the Mojave, and taking advantage of the slight slowdown in our work schedules to enjoy life a little bit. Also there’s the Doctor Who special. One cannot understate the importance of the Doctor Who special.

Regardless of how you experience the next few days,  with joy and hilarity or with clenched teeth or by not caring much at all either way, I hope your December 25 is every bit as happy as any of the other 365 days we’re scheduled to have had this year. And in that spirit I offer you the best holiday image ever.

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It’s a squamous, glutinous, phosphorescent Christmas eve!

We’ll soon be sitting down to a vegetarian Mediterranean style Christmas dinner at my daughter’s house, but before that, my son Connlann had to revive an old family tradition: he insisted on fixing lutefisk for an appetizer. So he bought some, did the usual salt extraction and soak, and baked it for a half hour (my mother assured me that it is much, much worse boiled — I remember the grey translucent goo from childhood Christmases). In case you’ve never seen it, here’s a platter of the stuff, drenched in melted butter and with some interesting lighting that gives it an appropriate eldritch glow.

lutefisk

Would you eat that? Connlann dug in enthusiastically. He actually seemed to like the stuff.

connlann_lutefisk

Skatje tried a tiny little sliver of it, aided by tissue paper noseplugs — really, this stuff reeks. She didn’t die! But I don’t think she’ll ever eat it again.

skatje-lutefisk

By the way, that’s Alaric smirking in the background. He’d already had a couple of bites, and was only there to crack a Nightstalker stout to wash the taste out of his mouth. I ate a goodly chunk of the palely pellucid processed piscine gelatin…it went down smoothly enough, like boneless slime — but I also welcomed the stout afterwards to thoroughly cleanse the palate.

The downside now, unfortunately, is that Santa will take one whiff of this place and turn around and flee.

Learning

Once upon a time, confident in my knowledge of biology, I was certain that creationists were stupid. But then I read some of their articles and listened to some of their talks, and learned that some of them (not all of them! Some really did prove to be incredibly stupid) were extremely intelligent and well-educated — they were just profoundly wrong, and were using their minds to build elaborate rationalizations to shelter their errors from correction.

And then I discovered that a lot of scientists didn’t understand evolution very well either, and that many atheists were even more ignorant of science than their creationist opponents. So I’ve been learning that some very stupid ideas may be held by intelligent people, and vice versa.

Also once upon a time, content in my privilege of being a person of equanimity with few mental instabilities to trouble me, I was certain that the people who held those bad ideas, if not stupid, were surely insane. How could you believe the earth was 6000 years old or that gods existed or that prayer and UFOs and Bigfoot were real, all crazy ideas without a doubt, if you weren’t crazy yourself? And then, of course, it sunk in that most of the inhabitants of this country believe fervently in a god, so it would require a peculiar definition of insanity to argue that a majority of fully functioning, prospering individuals were all mad. They’ve got some crazy ideas, sure, but that doesn’t mean that the entirety of their behavior can be dismissed as the product of a damaged brain.

And then I met a great many smart, disciplined, hard-working, successful atheists and scientists who admitted to suffering from mental illness…and they were good people! “Crazy” isn’t grounds for rejection of individuals.

Don’t get me wrong: there really are lots of stupid, crazy ideas floating around with dangerous levels of popularity. But you can’t reject them with pat dismissals of their promoters as obviously stupid and disturbed.

So yes, I’ll think twice before concluding that someone with a crazy stupid idea is necessarily mentally ill.

Once again, the Lord has made my enemies ridiculous

When I asked anti-feminists to support their opinions, I had expectations from past experience that they would fail miserably. I didn’t realize how badly they would flop, however. 760+ comments, and not one could present a reasonable argument: no explanation for why they oppose feminism, no evidence that feminism is bad, but lots of non sequiturs and emotionalism. I’m beginning to think that this anti-feminism stuff resembles a religious cult, and doesn’t belong in either skepticism or atheism.

Wait! While people were commenting pointlessly, Al Stefanelli made a video. I’m sure that delivered.

Nope, sorry, it’s an angry ranty video that accuses FtB of being a nazi-like anti-caucasion anti-man cult that is driving people away from atheism — there’s no evidence given for this remarkable assertion, and he couldn’t even be bothered to deliver any specifics on what horrible awful evil things we’ve done to have such extreme effects on the entirety of atheism, but poor mad Al is very upset about it all.

I think it’s settled. That fringe mob of people screaming at FtB because they’re so danged feminist aren’t rational. They’re just stupid assholes.


Maybe I should take that back. Stephanie has just posted a series of twitter comments rationally rebutting her ideology.

<reads comments; views animated gifs>

Whoops, no. I think my opinion of them just plummeted further, something I hadn’t thought possible.