Christianity is not religion? It’s a philosophy?

My gob, but Bill O’Reilly is an idiot. He had an argument with Dave Silverman tonight, trying to argue that the government has a perfect right to promote Christmas because Christianity is not a religion.

Right. Believing in a dead god who rose again to redeem humanity from sin is only a “philosophy”. Believing in prayer is only a “philosophy”. Believing in an afterlife with a heaven and hell is only a “philosophy”.

The only raving lunatic in this segment is O’Reilly.


Cuttlefish celebrates BillO with a poem about the war on Christmas.

HOLY CRAP! Pat Robertson repudiates Young Earth Creationism!

I really shouldn’t be surprised; Pat Robertson is kind of a dinosaur himself, and this literalist creationism pushed by Answers in Genesis is actually a relatively new development, but Robertson did come out and plainly reject the notion that the earth is only 6000 years old, or that dinosaurs and humans lived together. That’s sort of good news, but it’s really just old school creationism of the type that was common at the time of the Scopes trial and up through the 1950s.

But still…it’s always helpful to see the religious right splitting this way. You just know that Ken Ham is spitting blood in fury at this horrible liberal Christian who is denigrating the holy word of god! For the Hamites, the young earth is a bloody battle flag emblematic of their whole struggle for a Christianist nation, and to see Robertson under the banner of “Millions of Years” must be irritating.

(via The Friendly Atheist.)

Wasn’t Ron Lindsay just pinin’ for the days of the Accommodation Wars?

Yes, he was. We could happily bring them back, though, because Nicholas Wade is still writing for the NY Times, as Jerry Coyne mentions today.

Wade’s column is practically an exercise in nostalgia, harking all the way back to 2005. He’s very concerned that people are bashing poor Marco Rubio for not understanding that there is no confusion about the age of the earth — it’s 4½ billion, not 6000, years old. Wade is almost Mooneyesque in his tribute to the old tropes. Look here:

The inevitable clash with science, particularly in the teaching of evolution, has continued to this day. Militant atheists like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins beat the believers about the head, accomplishing nothing; fundamentalist Christians naturally defend their religion and values to the hilt, whatever science may say.

There’s Richard Dawkins! He’s militant! He’s beating up the Christians, who are all just meekly defending themselves!

I swear, I thought we fought our way past those old stereotypes years ago — only the terminally clueless still refer unironically to “militant atheists”. But have no fear, Wade has a solution to the conflict between scientists and creationists: all we need to do is admit that evolution is a theory.

By allowing that evolution is a theory, scientists would hand fundamentalists the fig leaf they need to insist, at least among themselves, that the majestic words of the first chapter of Genesis are literal, not metaphorical, truths. They in return should make no objection to the teaching of evolution in science classes as a theory, which indeed it is.

It’s like one of the oldest creationist misconceptions in the book! Of course it’s a theory, but it’s a scientific theory, which means that it is a broad explanation that encompasses all the available evidence and has excellent predictive power to guide research. It’s not going to console creationists, unless we plan to also encourage them to continue believing that it means “just a guess”. And seriously, Wade believes that that’s enough to make all the creationists in the world simply fold up shop and go back to church, blissful and happy in a world full of singing angels and magic spun sugar fairy-tale castles? That is quite possibly the dumbest resolution of a chronic problem in the conflict between science and religion that I’ve ever read.

Hey, I’ve got an idea: we can solve all the problems in the Middle East by just getting the Jews and Christians and Moslems to admit that they’re all worshipping the same god. Presto! The fighting ends! (Sorry, I just felt my own words were a challenge and had to come up with an even dumber idea.)

And please, if you’ve ever read the Book of Genesis, practically the last word you’d ever apply to it is “majestic”. Petty, tribal, vicious, demented, small-minded, violent, bizarre…those are better words. And the first chapter isn’t really great poetry, I’m sorry to say — if you think otherwise, you’ve been brainwashed by the repetition. I’m really not prepared to abandon a commitment to scientific evidence just so some dim bumpkin can cling to his cherished belief that a poem saying a magic man poofed everything into existence is a deep insight.

I save the worst for last.

A scientific statesman, if there were such a person, would try to defuse the situation by professing respect for all religions and making a grand yet also trivial concession about the status of evolution.

I’m no statesman, but…you will never catch me lying and saying that I respect all religions. I do not, sir. Religions are systematic collections of threats and cajoling lies intended to bully a population into living in fear and supporting a parasitic priestly caste. They do not deserve respect. What they need is dismantling.

You will also not catch me making concessions about science simply to appease pious politicians. I will state the strengths and limitations without regard for the sensibilities of ignorant charlatans.

Damn, I really am not a statesman. But if that’s what a statesman does, you shouldn’t be able to find a scientist so willing to compromise on their principles to be one.

Catholic priests: SHUT UP!

The Irish Catholic bishops have issued a statement on medical care given to Savita Halappanavar

Wait. What the fuck does anyone care what a mob of ignorant assholes say about reasonable, ethical medical care? I can’t even imagine the degree of arrogance involved for these self-righteous, unqualified old men to be so seriously offering advice on life-or-death issues of obstetrics and gynecology — to be piously asserting their importance even now in the aftermath of a death that would have been avoidable if Catholic doctrine had not meddled.

I can give advice, too. Catholic priests, sit down and shut the fuck up. Learn some humility for once in your privileged, pompous, puffed-up lives. This is the part where you should wake up and realize you are not qualified to run hospitals.

Instead, listen to the doctors. Like Jen Gunter, who finds the bishops’ advice to be inconsistent, incoherent, and confusing. That they even felt that their recommendations would be helpful or needed is damning.

All that their statement tells me is that they haven’t learned a single goddamned thing. They still think they’re qualified to interfere in medical decisions.

What I really want to see is the DNA sequence of an alien Grey

Dr Melba S. Ketchum has made press release of an astonishing discovery: she has sequenced Bigfoot DNA, she claims.

“Our study has sequenced 20 whole mitochondrial genomes and utilized next generation sequencing to obtain 3 whole nuclear genomes from purported Sasquatch samples. The genome sequencing shows that Sasquatch mtDNA is identical to modern Homo sapiens, but Sasquatch nuDNA is a novel, unknown hominin related to Homo sapiens and other primate species. Our data indicate that the North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.

Hominins are members of the taxonomic grouping Hominini, which includes all members of the genus Homo. Genetic testing has already ruled out Homo neanderthalis and the Denisova hominin as contributors to Sasquatch mtDNA or nuDNA. “The male progenitor that contributed the unknown sequence to this hybrid is unique as its DNA is more distantly removed from humans than other recently discovered hominins like the Denisovan individual,” explains Ketchum.

“Sasquatch nuclear DNA is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected. While it has human nuclear DNA within its genome, there are also distinctly non-human, non-archaic hominin, and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence. Further study is needed and is ongoing to better characterize and understand Sasquatch nuclear DNA.”

Wait. Fully human mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from your mother, so she assumes that all Sasquatches had human women as relatively recent ancestors, but at the same time, the nuclear DNA is some bizarre mish-mash that includes non-ape sequences? That makes no sense at all.

Well, there’s one way it makes sense: it’s the result of sloppy lab work and high levels of contamination, and a complete lack of discrimination on the part of the investigators. No details have been released yet, but I imagine that what they’re sequencing are from hair samples turned in by Bigfoot investigators: dirty, grimy hair samples collected by a mix of charlatans and naive, deluded hunters. I wonder if there are raccoon and possum genes in their sequences…

The paper has not been published, and I don’t see how making a press release about a paper in peer review would help. I expect that no reputable journal will touch it, and it will sink unpublished…except that the myth that Bigfoot DNA has been examined and found to be unique will live on.

But here’s what really bugs me: it’s from a DNA lab called DNA Diagnostics, Inc. They do forensics, paternity testing, and consulting/expert witnessing in the court system in Texas. Would you trust results from that lab? How many other labs doing forensic DNA testing are run by people who think they can identify Bigfoot in a sample? If Ketchum has dealt with any criminal cases, I foresee grounds for future court challenges in her future.

Holy Mohler

Did you know that Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has an almost daily round-up of of issues of concern for good conservative Christians called The Briefing? It’s on his website, under the category Urgent, because it’s all very, very important stuff, you know. I browse it occasionally to see what’s making Christian hemorhoids burn now; it’s kind of like the flip side of The Morning Heresy, if Paul Fidalgo were a glassy-eyed regressive conservabot zealot, but it’s not quite as demented as trying to read WingNut Daily — Mohler, dull and blinkered as he is, is someone mainstream religious conservatives take seriously.

Anyway, you might want to look in now and then, just to see what the staidly stupid Christian right is up to. Here’s a summary of a recent edition:

  1. He defends Black Friday, that orgy of raging consumerism, because “Christians must understand the moral complexity of a market economy”, and we must support retailers so they can keep people employed. What would Jesus say?

  2. Something I agree with: the state should not be involved in religious education at all. Of course, his reasons are a little different: it’s because state religion is a “tepid, lukewarm, lifeless distortion of Christianity” which led people like Dawkins and Hitchens to repudiate religion altogether.

  3. OMG, the University of Wisconsin-Madison funded the Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics student group on campus, to a degree comparable to that of Christian clubs! Beware, those universities are hotbeds of secularism.

  4. Paul Krugman has “assaulted” Marco Rubio for being a creationist. Doesn’t Krugman realize that this means he denies the truths revealed in the Bible?

  5. Britain isn’t making typewriters anymore. How sad. That damn future keeps rising up and burying the antique relics that established his worldview.

The nice thing about it is that you quickly realize that Christians and atheists are mostly interested in exactly the same issues. The big difference: Christians are mostly wrong about everything.

My staff has been doing nothing, I’m going to have to fire them!

Wait, what? Over on that Reddit thread about the benefits of douching, petzl20 has made this announcement:

Myers has a staff of assistants that research and do a large part of the writing for his blogs and tweets.

Gawdamn, I wish I’d known about this before. I’m going to put them to work grading papers and putting together my final exams for me instead — the writing is the fun stuff.

I’m not suddenly going to get a bill for hours worked, am I?

Scary, scary radio waves

When I started cob-logging here a couple months ago I made a stray reference to conflicts I’ve experienced in having been a skeptically oriented person in the environmental activist sphere. A few of you suggested you’d like to hear more about that. I found an example today, one of probably several hundred of this particular phenomenon I’ve seen in the last 20 years or so.

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