Evidence that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth…together!

The Ark Park and the yokels who visit it are made for each other. An article Louisville Magazine describes the awe and wonder the fake ark inspires in attendees.

Golly, someone said when the Ark came into view. Oh my goodness.

Four guys built that, another man said. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Yep, sure is unbelievable. Here’s a photo of an early phase in the construction.

ark_crew

One, two, three, many. Yes sir, four people made it.

Then there’s the point where visitors explain that gravity doesn’t exist.

Gravity has never been proven, because gravity is a large object attracted to a smaller object, and it’s never been seen. If gravity existed, a BB and a bowling ball should bump into each other. So you see how guys like Newton get caught in their own lies.

So, if I held a BB near, say, a big rock with a diameter of about 13,000 km, they would just hang there and not bump into each other? ‘k.

The reporter asked Georgia Purdom a rather fundamental question: why?

“So why an Ark?” I said. “Why build it at all?”

We want people to see that the Bible is true, Purdom said. Just as there was a judgement in Noah’s day, there’s another judgment coming, and those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their personal savior will spend eternity in hell.

Such nice people.

But really, my favorite part is where he asked Andrew Snelling for evidence that dinosaurs and people lived at the same time. Easy, he claims.

Purdom introduced me to geologist Andrew Snelling, who followed Ken Ham to the U.S. from Australia and for the last nine years has been the director of research for Answers in Genesis. I said,
“There were dinosaurs on the Ark, right?” Snelling nodded. Right.
“Then why aren’t there dinosaurs today?”

Dinosaurs went extinct after they left the Ark. After the Flood, we had the Ice Age. We had a radically different world. Some creatures weren’t able to adapt. But most cultures in the world have some legend about dragons, and these dragons are actually a good description of dinosaurs. The Chinese, for example — their dragons are depicted on scrolls pulling the chariots of emperors. And there was a story called Beowulf in which the king slays a dragon, and this happened in Norway.
“So you take Beowulf to be evidence of dinosaurs existing?”
Yes, Snelling said. It was an eyewitness account.

Huh. I just happen to have the Heaney translation of Beowulf right here, and this is the description of the dragon.

Unyielding, the lord of his people loomed
by his tall shield, sure of his ground,
while the serpent looped and unleashed itself.
Swaddled in flames, it came gliding and flexing
and racing towards its fate.

So it’s kind of a writhing, scaly, giant, worm-like creature. That breathes fire. That’s definite; it repeatedly talks about flames and smoke and burning. Are we then to believe that dinosaurs could breathe fire?

Here’s a Chinese dragon dinosaur for you. It doesn’t look much like any dinosaur species I know of, but apparently we are supposed to take “eyewitness accounts” as the gold standard.

Beijing_Nine_Dragon_Wall

Incredible. Literally incredible.

Dogma comes in many flavors

Ask an atheist, and they will tell you that religion poisons everything. There is an understanding that human nature is not fixed, but is susceptible to all kinds of influences — people make decisions based not simply on what they are, but on how they were brought up and shaped by their environment. They are likely to note that an American is most probably a Christian, not because they thought it through and worked out the logic and evidence, but simply because they were brought up in a predominantly Christian culture; if they’d been born in India they’d most likely be Hindu, in Italy Catholic, in Iran Muslim, in Sweden Lutheran, etc.

Where this awareness fizzles out, though, is in domains where we’ve absorbed and accepted the dominant worldview — suddenly, the conventions become not a plastic response to history and contingency and idiosyncratic circumstance, but “human nature” and the arguments become all about the necessity of maintaining the status quo: “that’s the way it is”, “are you some kind of freak?”, “we wouldn’t be this way if it weren’t adaptive.” There is a pressure to conform, because everyone is expected to behave the way everyone else is.

We wouldn’t hesitate to be iconoclastic if the issue is one of faith. Break it down, we’d say, shatter those chains and think for yourself. Other topics, though, are suddenly taboo. Try to go to most atheist meetings and question, for instance, conventional notions of masculinity. A significant number of those radical superstition-breakers will be appalled and start whispering about you, and divisions will form and some will cast you out. There will be references to such distinguished defenders of the fixity of gender norms as Steven Pinker and Christina Hoff Sommers when they want to appear highbrow, and mutterings about cucks and SJWs when they don’t care. They are willing to be infidels only on narrow matters of religion, but on anything else, they are as hidebound and inflexible as the most dogmatic Catholic.

But they are wrong. Masculinity is not one simple thing. There is no rulebook that says “You must have short hair; you must enjoy football; you must sneer at queers; you must eat steak and work out on weekends.” Having a penis does not imply that there is a suite of behaviors you must accept, while not having one means you cannot engage in them. There is a link between biology and behavior, but it’s weaker than you think and requires constant reinforcement from culture in order to sustain itself. We know this is true because different cultures have different notions of masculinity. There is no one true male nature.

Cartomancer has a long and thorough post on the nature of masculinity in ancient Greek culture. It’s amazing. Right there at the root of contemporary Western culture, they can’t even get this fundamental biological essentialism right — different cities had different perspectives on what it means to be a man, almost as if the Y chromosome does not dictate every aspect of your identity.

I have spent some time outlining the Homeric models of manly behaviour, because they show us threads that continued to be important in the culture of the Classical city-states of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, widely regarded as the high water mark of Greek culture. But to talk of one Greek culture is clearly a mistake. The different city states each took their shared Homeric inheritance and distorted it in different directions, placing emphasis on different aspects of their shared culture and in so doing creating different and competing conceptions of masculinity.

Spartan culture, for instance, was radically authoritarian, militaristic, anti-intellectual and anti-capitalist. Full Spartiate citizens were expected to be full-time warriors, living in communal barracks with their fellow men and spurning the trappings of wealth, comfort and sophistication. To them courage was everything, the model of Achilles their ultimate goal. The Spartan approach to courage comes across well in the saying, recorded by Plutarch, that Spartan mothers expect their sons to come back carrying their shields or on dead on top of them (that is, having won the battle or having died trying – throwing away your heavy metal hoplon shield to better escape a pursuing enemy was an unforgivable crime in Sparta). The Greek word we usually translate as “courage” is andreia – literally “manliness”, and the two were pretty much synonymous in Sparta (compare the Latin virtus, from vir, man, which is the root of our “virtue”).

They don’t say much about femininity — there’s another lengthy essay that needs to be written — but it’s too often implicit that the feminine is the mirror image of the masculine. If courage and virtue are manly traits, then women must be timid and weak, or they are violating norms. If men of other cities are less diligent in pursuing glorious death in battle, they must be “pussies”, or that universal put-down, “women”. If a woman expresses courage like a man, she must be “butch”, a “dyke”, and must therefore be ugly and less desirable as a woman.

We are soaking in these attitudes. Fire up an online video game and do poorly, and watch the reaction: you must be a “pussy” or a “fag”. It’s gotten so bad that if you merely defend the equality of women, you are a damnable SJW who is betraying men.

But we can fix that! We tried to bring up our kids to be tolerant and open and willing to explore their identities beyond blindly accepting gender-defined paths, and I think they turned out pretty good. There are sub-communities within atheism that are conscious of other ways of thinking than the default patriarchal set, just as there are better ways of thinking about the universe than the indoctrinated godly explanations. We can learn to be better and recognize the artificiality of so many conventions in our society, so we can break them. This ought to be understood as the default position of atheist organizations everywhere. No gods, no masters, no dogmas about human nature.

There’s a flip side to human plasticity, though. If we’re flexible enough that we can be made better, then we must also recognize the possibility that culture can make us worse. If atheism is liberating, it’s also true that Catholicism is persuasive, and we could be living in a society that constantly tells us we need to be more Christian (hey, we do!). If the truth is that gender roles are more complicated and less rigidly dictated by biology than many people believe, there can also be a culture that promotes the lie that there is only one true way to be a man, and we have that, too, and it harms people as badly as the most demented religion out there. It’s called the alt-right, or the manosphere, or machismo, or any of a thousand names that some will automatically accept as virtuous (it’s built into the language that man equals virtue, after all.) Abi Wilkinson reports on her experiences with toxic masculinity.

In modern parlance, this is part of the phenomenon known as the “alt-right”. More sympathetic commentators portray it as “a backlash to PC culture” and critics call it out as neofascism. Over the past year, it has been strange to see the disturbing internet subculture I’ve followed for so long enter the mainstream. The executive chairman of one of its most popular media outlets, Breitbart, has just been appointed Donald Trump’s chief of strategy, and their UK bureau chief was among the first Brits to have a meeting with the president-elect. Their figurehead – Milo Yiannopoulos – toured the country stumping for him during the campaign on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour. These people are now part of the political landscape.

On their forums I’ve read long, furious manifestos claiming that women are all sluts who “ride the cock carousel” and sleep with a series of “alpha males” until they reach the end of their sexual prime, at which point they seek out a “beta cuck” to settle down with for financial security. I’ve lurked silently on blogs dedicated to “pick-up artistry” as men argue that uppity, opinionated, feminist women – women like myself – need to be put in their place through “corrective rape”.

I know about the “men going their own way” movement, which is based around the idea that men should avoid any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with women. I’m aware of “traditional marriage” advocates, who often argue that you should aim to marry a very young woman as she’s likely to be easier to control. I also learned the difference between an “incel” who is involuntarily celibate, and a “volcel” who makes a deliberate choice to avoid sexual activity, and sometimes also masturbation, often in the belief that ejaculation depletes their testosterone and saps them of masculine power.

I’ve read their diatribes, too, and what I find dismaying is how often they cite science as somehow backing up their views, but to their minds, “science” means rationalizing their rigid and deterministic gender essentialism. Good science says no such thing. Neither does history or philosophy or sociology or anthropology or psychology. We have a responsibility to stop these lies. They are as damaging to human psychological development as dogmatic Christianity or Islam, and if you are concerned about removing obstacles to our species’ potential, as most atheists will say they are, then you have an obligation to combat the propaganda of these pseudo-scientific Y chromosome worshippers as you do the propaganda of religion.

We growed a little more

Quietly, in the dead of night and in disguise, we stealthily slipped in some new people on the FtB roster. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

You can go visit them yourselves, but keep it on the down low. If it ever got out what a hive of rapscallions and scallywags we were nursing at the SJW teat, they might call us rude names or something.

I can’t claim to be a prophet…yet

A reader has warned me that I might be guilty of the sin of prophecy. Back in 2014 I wrote this:

I will make a prediction, right here and now. The number of people identifying as “nones” will grow in this country in coming years, because we’re on the right side of history, and because organized religion is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on other-worldly issues that don’t help people. The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

And then they pointed out the results of this Gallup poll from the summer:

beliefingod

Nope. Not going to claim I’ve been sadly vindicated yet. As the article from Gallup points out, there’s a lot of wobbliness due to the precise wording of the question. I’d also suggest that the previous year’s abrupt downswing in religiosity looks more like noise, so this year’s upswing is nothing but regression to the mean. There are still signs of a slow trend away from belief in gods, but it’s nothing dramatic, and we’re not seeing widespread acceptance of overt atheism. As the article explains, the variations may not be meaningful of any kind of shift in ideas.

The exact meaning of these shifts is unclear. Although the results can be taken at face value in showing that fewer Americans believe in God than did so in the past, it is also possible that basic beliefs have not changed — but rather Americans’ willingness to express nonreligious sentiments to an interviewer has. Whatever the explanation for these changes over time, the most recent findings show that the substantial majority of Americans continue to give a positive response when asked about their belief in God.

I’m still going to argue that atheism needs something more than a denial of the existence of gods if it is going to achieve wider popularity. We’re riding on a slow swell of anti-clericism, but we need to get into the curl of a more active social relevancy.

We also can’t deny that we hold a minority view. But the “good” news is that the resurgence of Republican theocratic meddling might yet inspire more anti-religious views!

I get email

This is from א ב.

i have 2 interesting thoughts about evolution

according to evolution- a feces (a group of bacteria) can evolve into a supermodel (human)

according to evolution if we will find a watch with a dna and a self replicating system- we will need to think that this watch just evolved. because its have a living traits

have a nice day

I’m sorry, you’re entirely wrong. You do not have any interesting thoughts about evolution.

“Feces” is plural (singular is Latin “faex”, but English did not adopt the singular form). It is not a group of bacteria; it is waste material from digested food with additional bacteria. Evolution does not predict that it will evolve into a human. Quite the contrary: the bacteria in our guts are already specialized far beyond the state of the ancestral microorganisms that evolved into eukaryotes, they are quite unlikely to evolve multicellularity (which is another derived condition), and they’ve got better things to do.

Essentially all the organisms you can find in the natural world contain DNA, reproductive processes, and clock-like mechanisms — circadian rhythms are ubiquitous. Think about circadian rhythms, monthly and yearly cycles, and internal regulatory mechanisms, like the cell division cycle. Creationists are people who, if they found a squirrel in the woods, are more likely to strap it to their wrists and call it a Rolex.

The celebrity death toll is a matter of perception

abevigoda

We hear a lot about how awful the year 2016 has been…but have the obituaries actually been that frequent? Greg Laden compares the number of celebrity deaths this year vs. other years, and the answer is no. Which is actually what I expected — there is no causal mechanism and no selective agent making a particular year more lethal than other years.

deadcelebsaccordingtotvguide

Now if we’d had a global war, a civil war, a plague, and a collapse of society (wait until 2017 for those!), then we’d have a reason to expect a surfeit of deaths. I wonder how Syrian celebrities are faring this year?

Otherwise, though, I think this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. All it takes is the death of a few celebrities, a little nudge of superstition, like the rule of threes, and soon enough people are doing all the work for you, gleaning every mention of a death and throwing them into the tidy category of “2016!”, and that reinforces the story. You can’t remember every celebrity who died, but you can remember “a lot of celebrities died in 2016”, and that becomes the memorable link.

Alternatively, all the people who sold their soul for fame and fortune are being recalled this year because the stony-faced guardian of the portal to Hollywood Hell, Abe Vigoda, died in January 2016, unleashing a swarm of vengeful demons.

Now be honest: Who remembered that Vigoda died early this year? How many of you are now adding his name to the tally of 2016 deaths, reaffirming the myth?

The Discovery Institute is full of weird little people

The Intelligent Design creationist hit their peak sometime before 2005, and then plummeted rock-like into the depths of negligibility with the Kitzmiller decision, that made it clear they were just another gang of ignorant creationists with no scientific credibility. They still try to seem relevant, though, and go through the motions. One of their soft spots now is those other creationists — they try a little too hard to distance themselves from the more common breed of science denier.

An example: I relayed that creationist petition from Joe Hannon, something certainly fit for mockery. I did not mention the Discovery Institute, but David Klinghoffer is now castigating everyone who said anything about it, calling it “fake news” and a “phony petition”, and saying we “embraced a whopper”, because he couldn’t find anything about a Joe Hannon anywhere.

Uh, it’s a real petition. You can sign it and everything. It’s also a real (and very bad) argument of the kind made all the time and all over the place. It’s fairly typical of the popular and profitable kind of creationism sponsored by groups like Answers in Genesis — perhaps Klinghoffer would like to pretend the $100 million plus Ark boondoggle in Kentucky doesn’t exist? These are very silly arguments, but people do make them — and Mike Pence made them on the floor of Congress — so it’s weird to berate people for refuting them.

As for “Joe Hannon”: real person, fake name. We (the recipients of his email) had a brief conversation about it, and are convinced that it’s a fairly well known crank, atheistoclast AKA Joseph Bozorgmehr, on the basis of the style and nature, and also because he sometimes posts as Joseph Esfandiar Hannon Bozorgmehr.

It’s actually pretty easy to figure out who “Joe Hannon” is — he’s notorious for his bad arguments, and for his frequent fake identities. I’ve banned him multiple times, and Larry Moran, as well as everyone at the Panda’s Thumb, knows exactly who he is.

Atheistoclast is Joseph Esfandiar Hannon Bozorgmehr from Manchester, United Kingdom. He infected other postings on Sandwalk under the name “Reza” [Darwinism and Junk DNA].

He’s been banned from Pharyngula and was banned from RichardDawkins.net except that he created 95 new identities in order to get around the ban.

He is a holocaust denier. He used to run a business “selling components – just nuts and bolts – to the Iranian nuclear and missile industries” but it was shut down because of sanctions. Now he rants against British conspiracies.

Bozorgmehr has even been cited by…Evolution News & Views, the online propaganda organ of the Discovery Institute, claiming that he had disproven the efficacy of gene duplication in evolution (he hasn’t; it’s a very bad paper). Will EN&V admit that they “embraced a whopper”?

Klinghoffer’s only argument is that Hannon’s email and petition reads like a parody to me. That’s not a good argument against rebuttals, though, since everything the Discovery Institute publishes, including Klinghoffer’s ridiculous opinion pieces, sounds like a parody to me.

I get email

Isn’t this fun…I got email from a creationist today; it was also sent to a lot of other people. Joe Hannon wants Mike Pence to outlaw the teaching of evolution.

Dear All,

Howdie. I thought you might be interested to read a fresh online petition which is directed at VP-elect Mike Pence calling on the incoming Trump Adminstration to impose an immediate,unconditional and indefinite nationwide moratorium on the teaching of evolution in public schools, including the threat of crippling financial sanctions on those schools that do not fully comply with this proposed executive action: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/moratorium-teaching-evolution

However, the real business will begin when Congress reconvenes on Jan 3rd. We will be speaking with Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) who heads the House Education Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. We will be asking for his subcommittee to approve a similar measure as an amendment to a House bill on education in 2017. Hopefully, the incoming Trump-Pence Administration will let high school students learn actual biology without the flawed narrative of evolutionism forced down their throats.

Merry Christmas to y’all,

Joe Hannon
Republicans Abroad (Make America Great Again)

He has a petition! It has two signatories so far: Joe Hannon and Uriah Wanker. That’s how serious this is. He has the backing of Wankers.

Well, let’s take a look at this petition. He has three primary arguments that he believes invalidate evolutionary theory.

1. The demise of the genetic blueprint: The majority of high school textbooks, along with the popular media, refer to DNA as a “blueprint” for building a living organism. This is taught because the Neo-Darwinian paradigm insists that the diversity of form in the biosphere is due to variations in DNA among species. However, this assumption has been shown in recent years to be essentially false, and that there is no blueprint in the genome governing the shape and complexity of the organism. Two researchers, Monteiro and Podlaha, admit that,“the genetic origin of new and complex traits is probably still one of the most pertinent and fundamental unanswered questions in evolution today.” Harvard professor, Peter Park, goes even further to proclaim that,“it’s become very clear that DNA sequences are just a building block. They don’t explain higher-order complexity.” Obviously, if organisms are more than just the epiphenomena of their genes, then the gene-centric Neo-Darwinian paradigm cannot at all explain the diversity of form and so fails utterly.

The “genetic blueprint” is a metaphor. The metaphor doesn’t work. The failure of a metaphor is not the failure of the fact of evolution.

Monteiro and Podlaha will be surprised to learn that their work is being cited as evidence of the collapse of Darwinism (actually, I think all scientists would be surprised to be told that the existence of unanswered questions means science has failed.) I don’t think Hannon understood the paper, if he read it all. The authors were setting up a specific question:

This work is difficult and time consuming, but the question at its core—the genetic origin of new and complex traits—is probably still one of the most pertinent and fundamental unanswered questions in evolution today. At stake is the possibility of testing whether novel complex traits arise from a gradual building of novel developmental networks, gene by gene, or whether pre-existent modules of interacting genes are recruited together to play novel roles in novel parts of the organism.

Hannon left out the part where they explain that they are asking whether novel traits evolve by incremental construction of new gene networks, or whether they evolve by cooption of an existing network for a new purpose. Whether a god magicked them into existence isn’t one of the choices.

2. The demise of cumulative selectionism: The core premise of Darwin’s theory of evolution is that biological features have been produced by the cumulative selection of innumerable slight successive modifications. But as renown biologist Dr. Michael Denton has noted, the theory of evolution has been in crisis for the past 30 years because of the abject failure to show that there is a functional continuum in biology that allows for a gradual change leading to complex new features. In his view,“Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth.”

Quite wrong. Critics have been predicting the imminent death of Darwinism since the day Darwin published it. Like their biblical prophecies, it never seems to come true.

As for the absence of a functional continuum — look to transitional fossils. There are plenty of examples.

3. The demise of the LUCA: The Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) is the hypothetical organism, that lived 4 billion years ago, for which there is no actual physical evidence of at all. It is only inferred because all life shares essentially the same genetic code. Recent scientific research indicates there is no reason to believe that it ever existed. As Professor Ford Doolittle states, “We do doubt that there ever was a single universal common ancestor.” Indeed, the idea that all living organisms are descended from a single ancestor is as preposterous as the discredited hypothesis that all human languages are descended from a prototypical tongue.

Correct. There was no single universal common ancestor. Again, all you have to do is read the original source to see that Joe is selectively editing and lying about the context of the quote.

We (some of us) do doubt that there ever was a single universal common ancestor (a last universal common ancestor or LUCA), if by that is meant a single cell whose genome harboured predecessors of all the genes to be found in all the genomes of all cells alive today. But this does not mean that life lacks ‘universal common ancestry’—no more than the fact that mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome phylogenies do not trace back to a single conjugal couple named Eve and Adam whose loins bore all the genes we humans share today means that members of Homo sapiens lack common ancestry.

So, bottom line: his case is a concatenation of lies, ignorance, and quote-mining. Standard creationist crap, in other words. Mike Pence will eat it up. Uriah Wanker will also find it copacetic.

Is that in my job description?

Lance Wallnau explains what college professors do:

Anything we do regarding abortion, prayer, marriage, he said, anything we do that doesn’t get into the educational narrative that is affecting the minds of students will be lost within eight to 10 years because you’ve got gatekeeper priests, there are priests of Baal at the top of the university mountain, poisoning the minds [of young people.] They’re like intellectual pedophiles molesting the virgin territory of your children’s imaginations.

Funny. That stuff isn’t in any of my classes. I guess Wallnau just needs to lie about us molesting brains and worshipping Baal because he thinks it sounds less idiotic than admitting that we, for instance, teach that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old rather than 6,000.

If we’re going to allow piano lessons, we must also allow penis-chopping

It must be fun-with-philosophers day, because Ron Lindsay has written an article for CFI declaring that male circumcision should not be a major concern for humanists. He has several bad arguments to support this idea.

One is that he doesn’t think it’s very important. No, really; he’s in charge of ranking our priorities.

The head of the affiliate said they were going to concentrate on making an all-out effort to ban circumcision. I remember thinking to myself: of all the ills of a society on which a humanist organization could concentrate, this organization is going to focus on saving the foreskin?

STOP EVERYTHING. I say the biggest crisis looming over our heads is climate change, so of all the ills our society faces, why is the Center for Inquiry wasting their time opposing religion? Get some perspective, people!

Another reason he gives is that the foreskin is so teeny-tiny, and people aren’t seriously harmed by lopping it off, so it’s a trivial matter, especially compared to real problems (don’t forget, Ron Lindsay is the arbiter of what matters).

For humanists who are concerned about how the bodies of children are permanently shaped by their parents, I suggest they concentrate on how children are educated. We need tougher regulation of homeschooling and we need to prevent public funding of religious schools— something which seems quite possible under the new administration. The appropriate response to male circumcision is a shrug of the shoulders; it’s just not that significant an issue. We have other work to do.

I agree that education has a greater effect on children than circumcision. But this is just the fallacy of relative privation: that problem A has more severe consequences than problem B does not mean you should ignore B until A is completely solved. There’s always other work to do. It never ends. I taught two courses this term, but when the work piled up in one I couldn’t just tell the other class to stop meeting and stop learning until I’d caught up. You make do.

I’ll also point out that Lindsay was head of an organization of many people, and that he didn’t do all of CFI’s work. Ron Lindsay could ignore one cause; that doesn’t mean the entire organization isn’t allowed to work on it.

Then he dismisses the entirety of the autonomy and consent arguments!

The other reason I think many humanists are so opposed to circumcision is their adherence to a philosophical principle which, superficially, has strong appeal, namely that no permanent changes should be made to someone’s body without that person’s consent. Seems eminently reasonable—the problem is that it is impossible to comply with this principle with respect to the most important part of our body, namely our brain, and the possible harm that may be done to us via the shaping of our brain when we are young makes the loss of a foreskin trivial.

Yes. The universe is not perfect. We have to compromise all over the place. The fact that we cannot control what people teach their children means, what the hell, let ’em make any ol’ cosmetic change to their children’s bodies that they want. They have the right to teach children that Jesus is real, so we shouldn’t complain if they want to tattoo a picture of Elvis on their forehead. Or snip off the end of their penis.

Because piano lessons.

Most developed countries do exercise some control over the training and education children receive, imposing various legal standards and restrictions, but even so, wide scope is given to parents in terms of how they raise their children. Homeschooling is permitted in the United States, for example, with minimal oversight in most states. (Interestingly, homeschooling is forbidden in some European countries, such as Germany—again a significant cultural difference.) With respect to training in music or sports, parents can subject their children to extensive training, just short of physical abuse. Hour after hour of piano practice or swimming lessons. When grown, these children might be grateful for their training, or they may resent the physical or psychic pain they had to endure while forced to pursue an activity which they never liked. On the other hand, some children will receive no training in music or sports, something which they may regard as a handicap in later life. Either way the bodies of these children will have been permanently altered by their parents.

It’s true! Excessive focus on one discipline, whether it’s football or piano, can be damaging to a child’s development, especially if they have no talent or interest in the subject. These wrongs therefore justify another itty-bitty wrong, docking their penis. Or tattooing Elvis on their forehead, as long as we’re building arguments around hypotheticals.

He wraps it up with this pile of garbage: we should impose limits on what parents can do to their children, but elective cosmetic surgery doesn’t cross that line, because maybe it helps something.

Nothing in the foregoing analysis should be interpreted as saying we should allow parents to change their children’s bodies in any way they regard as suitable just because their role in shaping these bodies is inevitable. Clearly, limits should be— and are —imposed on what parents can do. Parents cannot inflict disabling injuries on their children. But, as indicated, the evidence regarding male circumcision is that it provides some small benefits. It cannot plausibly be characterized as medically necessary, but, with appropriate use of analgesia, it’s not harmful. The energies that some devote to opposing male circumcision might be better spent lobbying for tighter regulation of homeschooling. The cerebral portion of young male bodies should receive as much attention as the genital portion.

I’ve read the CDC summary, and some of the papers that claim there are benefits to circumcision. I’m unimpressed. There are multiple reasons why those arguments of a benefit are weak.

  • They fail to show any benefit to American children. Some claim to have found significant benefits to some African populations, which are under a very different regime of infectious diseases.

  • Even those effects in African populations are inconsistent. Some claim statistically significant reductions in infection rates, others don’t.

  • The studies that do show an effect show that late, voluntary circumcisions are as effective as post-natal circumcisions. So why force it on babies?

  • All of these studies are carried out under a complicated set of biases. Americans have high rates of circumcision, Europeans don’t. Strangely, American studies say it’s not a problem, European studies find it harmful. Isn’t that odd? It’s almost as if cultural biases influence the results, although we know that can’t possibly be.

  • The CDC summary is not without strong dissent.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced a set of provisional guidelines concerning male circumcision, in which they suggest that the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks. I offer a critique of the CDC position. Among other concerns, I suggest that the CDC relies more heavily than is warranted on studies from Sub-Saharan Africa that neither translate well to North American populations nor to circumcisions performed before an age of sexual debut; that it employs an inadequate conception of risk in its benefit vs. risk analysis; that it fails to consider the anatomy and functions of the penile prepuce (i.e., the part of the penis that is removed by circumcision); that it underestimates the adverse consequences associated with circumcision by focusing on short-term surgical complications rather than long-term harms; that it portrays both the risks and benefits of circumcision in a misleading manner, thereby undermining the possibility of obtaining informed consent; that it evinces a superficial and selective analysis of the literature on sexual outcomes associated with circumcision; and that it gives less attention than is desirable to ethical issues surrounding autonomy and bodily integrity. I conclude that circumcision before an age of consent is not an appropriate health-promotion strategy.

Lindsay is comfortable with dismissing people’s objections to circumcision because he thinks it is a trivial problem, but somehow, a trivial and disputed positive effect is enough to justify disregarding any concern about an unnecessary surgery routinely performed on infants for no good reason at all. Does he even realize that circumcisions were not performed because there was evidence that they helped at all?

This makes no sense.

But then, Lindsay also put a priority on chastising women at a feminist conference. He also, as a humanist, thinks the death penalty is just fine. He knows what issues are really important.

You know what’s much more important than circumcision, or state executions, or the ongoing harassment of women, women in his own organization?

Chupacabras, that’s what. That is the other work CFI must do. Valuable and scarce resources must continue to be invested in debunking this plague on our nation, while the only appropriate response to those other nuisances is a shrug of the shoulders.