Ouch — American Atheists gets a slap that hurts

All the religious fanatics and Christian and Muslim weirdos who criticize atheists can take a flying leap — and when Bill Donohue rants and raves about atheist billboards, it’s a vindication and a triumph. But when one of our own, the black atheist Sikivu Hutchinson, speaks out in criticism, it’s a message that must be taken seriously and addressed.

But AA’s ahistorical paternalistic approach to “secular” public service messaging is one of the main reasons why New Atheism is still racially segregated and lily white. Clearly AA doesn’t give a damn about the reality of urban communities of color in the U.S. vis-à-vis the institutional role of organized religion in a white supremacist capitalist context.

David Silverman, are you listening? I know this is not the message you want to send, but it’s what people are hearing. Fix this. Don’t tell people of color what they want, listen when they tell you what they need.

So is AA on the frontlines of providing prisoner re-entry resources—the real regime of 21st century “enslavement” for millions of African Americans—to families and communities that are permanently locked out of the so-called American dream due to the legal disenfranchisement of former convicted felons in employment, housing, and voting? Did AA even deign to consult with local interfaith and secular, humanist or atheist people of color about the cultural and psychological impact of the legacy of slavery in a nation where black bodies are still the primary targets of violent police suppression, racist criminal sentencing and capital punishment?

Why, I do believe there’s a hint or two in there about what would win people over to our side…

The most revolting aphrodisiac ever

All right, is there nothing so disgusting that someone somewhere won’t eat it in the belief that it will make their penis hard? Nepal is suffering from goldrush-style violence over the harvesting of yarsagumba, a purported ‘natural viagra’. This is yarsagumba:

Yarsagumba is the result of a bizarre parasitic relationship between fungus and insect. Spores of the Cordyceps mushroom invade and consume the larvae of the Himalayan bat moth, which live underground at altitudes of 10,000 to 16,000 feet for as long as five years, feeding on roots before they commence their metamorphosis into moths.

After the fungal spores have killed and mummified the larvae, they send up a spindly brown stem, a tiny knob-headed mushroom – and then they are very likely to be picked.

Sound familiar? It’s Cordyceps, the parasitic fungus that alters the behavior of its insect hosts. The Nepalese are carefully gleaning high-altitude fields, looking for shriveled dead insects with fungal stalks sprouting from them, and selling them at high prices on the global market.

What was the first person to pick up one of these and chew on it thinking? “I’m desperately starving and about to die”?

Anyway, the article claims that it’s actually effective.

The fungus’s reputation is powered by the anecdotal reports of consumers as much as by ancient tradition: In other words, it appears to work. And medical research has backed up claims for its efficacy. A study at Stanford University’s medical school found an increase of 17-ketosteroids in the urine of men taking daily doses of yarsagumba, which indicates an increased production of androgen and other sex hormones in the adrenal gland and testicles.

Controlled animal tests offer credible evidence that regular yarsagumba use decreases recovery time between orgasms and increases the volume of semen production. In another blind trial on human subjects, 65 percent of Cordyceps eaters reported an enhanced sex drive.

I don’t know if I quite believe it. I looked for some of these articles, and not much turns up on PubMed. There are a few articles in places like The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (not very credible), and a few studies in tissue culture that show an effect on steroid synthesis in tumor cells. Nothing incredibly definitive, although I suppose it’s possible it has some effect…but nothing that justifies going all gangster over it.

Well, other than that gullible people will go crazy over imaginary magical herbs.

Bring them home, end the villainy

Now some of our troops are committing murder. Unsanctioned murder, that is, unlike the usual stuff.

A U.S. servicemember left his base in southern Afghanistan on Sunday and allegedly went on a shooting spree that killed 16 civilians, plunging U.S-Afghan relations into a fresh crisis.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the act an "assassination" and demanded an explanation from the United States. U.S. officials, who have not confirmed details of the incident, issued immediate apologies.

Can we just shut the whole mess down now?

I get email

Yes, I still get affectionate, loving email from devout Catholics.

The gore and tenacity to take the consecrated Host and desecrate it by piercing a nail through it and discarding the Blessed Sacrament.

Your soul will plead in mercy at the final Hour of your Death.

When you are in grave pain, cry out in Mercy by saying Jesus, I Trust in You…at the final Hour of your death.

Foolish Man…What good is it for you to gain all the wisdom in the world with your professorship yet lose your soul…

I was robbed. I was supposed to get all the wisdom in the world when I became a professor? Who do I complain to about getting my due?

A tiny bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

Good news! The gorilla genome sequence was published in Nature last week, and adds to our body of knowledge about primate evolution. Here’s the abstract:

Gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives after chimpanzees, and are of comparable importance for the study of human origins and evolution. Here we present the assembly and analysis of a genome sequence for the western lowland gorilla, and compare the whole genomes of all extant great ape genera. We propose a synthesis of genetic and fossil evidence consistent with placing the human–chimpanzee and human–chimpanzee–gorilla speciation events at approximately 6 and 10 million years ago. In 30% of the genome, gorilla is closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other; this is rarer around coding genes, indicating pervasive selection throughout great ape evolution, and has functional consequences in gene expression. A comparison of protein coding genes reveals approximately 500 genes showing accelerated evolution on each of the gorilla, human and chimpanzee lineages, and evidence for parallel acceleration, particularly of genes involved in hearing. We also compare the western and eastern gorilla species, estimating an average sequence divergence time 1.75 million years ago, but with evidence for more recent genetic exchange and a population bottleneck in the eastern species. The use of the genome sequence in these and future analyses will promote a deeper understanding of great ape biology and evolution.

I’ve highlighted one phrase in that abstract because, surprise surprise, creationists read the paper and that was the only thing they saw, and in either dumb incomprehension or malicious distortion, took an article titled “Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence” and twisted it into a bumbling mess of lies titled “Gorilla Genome Is Bad News for Evolution”. They treat a phenomenon called Incomplete Lineage Sorting (ILS) as an obstacle to evolution rather than an expected outcome.

[Read more…]

Why I am an atheist – Chris Kwolek

To put it simply, the idea of a god or gods is preposterous; if there were any higher being which had sway over this world, we would see some measurable signs of it, which are markedly absent. Furthermore, had any such thing happened throughout history, there would be some form of consensus throughout historical record of this being or beings, but what we have from history instead is a large number of contradicting accounts. As a final note, the motivations of religious figures are transparent: They have everything to gain from perpetuating these stories, and we have seen their capability to control people through these religious teachings.

Chris Kwolek
United States

The Southern Poverty Law Center notices the Men’s Rights Movement

And it isn’t pretty. Finally, someone notices the similarities between violent, angry misogynists and violent, angry racists, and calls the MRA’s out on their lies about women.

The men’s movement also includes mail-order-bride shoppers, unregenerate batterers, and wannabe pickup artists who are eager to learn the secrets of “game”—the psychological tricks that supposedly make it easy to seduce women. George Sodini, who confided his seething rage at women to his blog before shooting 12 women, three of them fatally, was one of the latter. Before his 2009 murder spree at a Pittsburgh-area gym, he was a student — though clearly not a very apt one — of R. Don Steele, the author of How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35. “I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me over an 18 or 25-year period,” Sodini wrote with the kind of pathos presumably typical of Steele’s readers.

They also conveniently label the pariah sites of the men’s movement — if you want to know what sites to avoid, or what urls to preemptively put in your blog filters, that’s very handy.

(via Man Boobz)