Imagine no heaven

It’s been a long day — classes and lots of grading. I was ready to sit back and switch off my brain and take it easy, and then Mr Deity dives into the tangled twisty logic of paradise, and suddenly I’ve got a brain-ache.

I don’t even like Disneyland, why would I want immortality of any kind, let alone one where I’m supposed to be happy for eternity? I think the only afterlife I’d like would be the kind where I get to storm the gates of heaven and end the whole tyrannical empire.

Nasty little man snipes at the brave

I am the father of a non-religious soldier. I take it personally when a cretinous wackjob priest declares that my son is a coward lacking in commitment, damned, evil, and weak. Fuck you, Bryan Griem.

There’s an adage I expect will be repeated by other ministers responding to this question. It goes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Meaning, when bombs burst, everyone hedges their bets and prays, “God, save me!” There’s a joke about one combat vet who prayed “Lord, if you’re there, I’ll serve you and attend church every Sunday; just get me through.” The Air Force immediately comes and blasts everything, answering the man’s prayer. He then looks up to heaven and says “never mind….”

I know that religious people have security that atheists don’t. If you believe in life after life, you fight harder, risk more, and serve better than a guy who thinks, “this is it!” If you believe you’re nothing but worm-food at death, you aren’t going to jump on a grenade to save the platoon, or charge a machine-gun nest expecting to meet Jesus. You’re going to be reserved, second-guessing, and probably be a big fat chicken.

Look, you just read the stats: “Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health.” Atheists be damned. They will be. So I really don’t care what they think regarding these tests. I’m tired of having their constant nagging, their constant opposition against God — their evil. They contribute nothing positive in the long run. Their very name, “a” theist, means they are “against,” with a big “no” regarding America’s “creator” and “Nature’s God” (the one mentioned in our Declaration of Independence). I’m frankly sick of them. Why they are here on the In Theory cast is beyond me. It’s like saying, “I have no spiritual input because I don’t believe in the spirit. So here’s my ignorance….”

I wonder what the military puts on gravestones of atheists, a thumbs-down? Listen, all religions are protected by our laws, but atheists don’t countenance America’s documents that mention God. They don’t actually deserve rights that even bizarre religionists have. If it could be shown that people who deny God create military weakness, however small, what should commanders do when choosing a winning military? I agree with you.

This is what we get when the Army decides to evaluate soldiers’ “spiritual fitness”: scumbags like Griem judging our troops by how superstitious and gullible they are.

You can let Griem know what you think of his attack on our troops. Be civil, but don’t pussyfoot around his douchebaggery.

Keep that Santorum out of our science

Jeez…Rick Santorum, young earth creationist, climate change denialist, anti-stem cell research crusader, fundamentalist/evangelical Christian, has just accused liberals of being anti-science. He might have been right if he’d been talking about the liberals who are mushy-headed over alternative medicine, but in this case, he’s pinning his accusation on the fact that we don’t want to burn more coal.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum charged on Monday that President Barack Obama and Democrats were “anti-science” because they refused to exploit the Earth’s natural resources to the limits of technology.

Over the weekend the candidate had been criticized for saying that President Barack Obama followed a theology that was not “based on the Bible.” He later insisted that he was talking about the president siding with “radical environmentalists.”

“I accept the fact that the president’s a Christian,” Santorum told CBS host Bob Schieffer on Sunday. “I just said when you have world view that elevates the Earth above man and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth — like things that are not scientifically proven like the politicization of the whole global warming debate.”

The scientific view is that global warming is occurring, and that it’s driven by anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases; the politicized, ideologically demented view is a denial of the evidence. Like Santorum’s nonsense.

This is a speech he gave to the crowds in Ohio:

But if we don’t provide those opportunities for those jobs that can sustain a family, for power in this country that is affordable, not just coal but all energy. It drove the economy of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio for a long time. And through a variety of things — yes, problems with management, problems with negotiations — but actually there were bigger problems. The bigger problems of environmental regulation. In many cases environmental regulation that has gone extreme, particularly in this administration.

What they have done? And I referred to it the other day and I got criticized by some of our, well, less-than-erudite members of the national press corps who have a difficulty understanding when you refer to someone’s ideology to the point where they elevate Earth, and they say that, well, men and humanity is just of a variety of different species on the Earth and should be treated no differently.

Whereas, we all know that man has a responsibility of stewards of the Earth, that we are good stewards and we have a responsibility to be good stewards. Why? Because unlike the Earth, we’re intelligent and we can actually manage things.

Did Santorum just call the press “less-than-erudite” while arguing against the idea that humans are one of a variety of different species on the planet? What a maroon.

And yes, we’re intelligent, and we should try to manage things. So what does that make a head-in-the-sand denialist like Santorum who wants to allow unrestricted, unmanaged exploitation of natural resources? Not a good steward, I would say.


I am grading the first exam of my first year introductory biology course. The first question on the first exam is always a gimme, just to ease them in and lighten the mood a little. Here’s that first question:

The correct spelling of PZ Myers’ last name is
A. Meyers
B. Meier
C. Myers
D. Mayr

12% of the class answered “A”.

<sigh> I shall carry on with the rest of the exam. I hope the students don’t mind that I return them spattered with my tears.

Another poll prompted by an incoherent old priest

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has come out to oppose gay marriage. He says he doesn’t “begrudge rights and benefits to homosexual couples”, and he also made this statement:

The state does not ‘own’ the institution of marriage. Nor does the church.

The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.

So who got to define it in the first place? What makes an antique definition sacred? Why shouldn’t society adapt to reality?

And at the same time, Lord Carey calls gay marriage “cultural vandalism” and is supporting a group called the Coalition for Marriage, a new UK organization that makes the same tired old arguments.

If marriage is redefined, those who believe in traditional marriage will be sidelined. People’s careers could be harmed, couples seeking to adopt or foster could be excluded, and schools would inevitably have to teach the new definition to children. If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?

You know, people’s careers are harmed and couples are excluded from adoption right now because of the existing anti-equality policies; the difference such a law would make is that instead of gay people being harmed, it would be bigots who would face the consequences of their beliefs. This isn’t a “save marriage” movement, it’s a “save the bigots” movement.

There’s a poll. Even if it is in that dumb rag, The Telegraph, it’s going the right way. How about pushing it further, and slapping the Telegraph around a little bit?

Should gay marriage by legalised?

Yes, everyone should have the right to get married no matter what their sexuality 81.12%
No, marriage should be between a man and a woman 18.88%

A Better Life

Here’s a wonderful project: a photographer is creating a book portraying the happiness of atheists. Titled A Better Life, he’s looking for support through kickstarter, where donations can also get you a copy of the completed book. Maybe you should get a couple of copies, so you can give them out as presents to those annoying fundy relatives.

The beginning of this video shows exactly why the book is necessary.

That didn’t work: Samsung sucks

Remember that I complained about an obnoxious bug in the Mac OS, which was traced to the Samsung printer driver? I was gratified to see that the Mac update mechanism announced an upgrade to that printer driver (is it possible they actually pay attention to complaints on the web?), so I installed it tonight.

In case you were anxiously awaiting a bug fix yourself, I’ll tell you…it didn’t work. I’m watching printtool eat up all my memory right now, and am about to shut it down and go to bed.

(And you know what? If any idiots start pointless, stupid OS flame wars in this thread, I’ll delete you in the morning, and close thread comments.)

Aaaaand…of course I had to delete a half-dozen comments this morning, although it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

I also had some helpful email: at the suggestion of a correspondent, I also killed this stupid little startup item called SPanel that was installed when I got the printer. It’s behaving so far this morning.

Lots of people suggested that I simply drop-kick the printer into the nearest landfill, which may happen. I don’t trust it anymore; I’m reluctant to use the goddamned thing, because I feel like everytime I fire it up I have to monitor CPU activity to see if it is bleeding memory again, and I have to restart my computer afterwards…whereas I typically go months without a shutdown or restart.

Bottom line: treat Samsung devices as equivalent to vectors for viruses that will corrupt your system and degrade performance significantly. I’ll never buy anything from Samsung ever again — they’ve got plenty of competitors so there’s no reason to risk struggling with their incompetence.

Family matters and cheesy insinuations

What do you know? Richard Dawkins and I have something in common.

In a particularly slimy move, the Telegraph has posted an article that tries to tar Dawkins with the sin of slavery. Not that Richard Dawkins himself has slaves or endorses slavery, but that he had an 18th century ancestor who had a Jamaican estate with over a thousand slaves. The reporter also made the ludicrous suggestion that slave-holding was genetic.

I’d scarcely had time to re-open my lecture notes when he rang back: “Darwinian natural selection has a lot to do with genes, do you agree?” Of course I agreed. “Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

So now there’s a slavery gene? That is quite possibly the dumbest assertion I’ve heard in a whole week…and I read creationist websites. As Dawkins points out, he had 512 direct ancestors in that same generation, and that he has a number of ministers in his lineage. Not only is it ridiculous to invent a slavery gene, but it’s a selective absurdity to cherry-pick members of a large population of remote relatives and claim that an individual is responsible for everything every ancestor did. That’s a rather biblical position to take, I think.

So what do we have in common? I poked around a bit in the genealogical records and found this: a piece of the 1820 US census.

It’s not easy to read, but that’s a bit of the records for St Stevens Parish, King William, Virginia. I’ve mentioned before that I’m Scandinavian on my mother’s side, but on my father’s side, I’m English/Irish/Scots and an undefined mingling of who-knows-what, including a bit of Dutch, and they’ve been skulking around North America since somewhere in the 17th or 18th century, and some of them were even Southerners. My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Garland Hurt (1764-1839) was a Virginian married to Martisha Thurston (1768-1818), who had 3 sons and 3 daughters…and also 1 female slave under 14, and 1 female slave between 14 and 25.

Oh no! Do I carry the slave-master gene?

I suppose if I were interested and extremely ambitious (sorry, I’m not), I could trace all of Garland Hurt’s descendants forward, and then we’d find not only that some of you readers might be related to me. I suspect that some of the people who utterly despise me (if they even know of me) are distant cousins. We’re different from each other and from our ancestors.

My family is a bit down-class compared to those fancy-pants Dawkinses, but as you can see, it’s easy to find slave-owners for any of us among the swarms of ancestors we all have, just by going back far enough. I also have at least one ancestor who fought on the Union side (an Iowan who fought with Grant in the Mississippi campaign) in the Civil War. I deplore the slave-owner, but I don’t own his guilt, nor do I get to take credit for the great-great-grandfather who was mustered out in New Orleans. We’re all a great gemisch of subsets of genes from a bounded population. It’s simply silly to start parsing out characteristics from individuals in a complex cloud from the ancestral gene pool and arbitrarily assigning them to single contemporaries. The writer of that article, Adam Lusher, is an idiot…and the Telegraph ought to be embarrassed at publishing such tripe.