Tim Tebow: Football and Christian Privilege

One consequence of my being home for the holidays is watching a lot of football with my dad. I’m currently watching Florida destroy Florida State, but the conversation at the McCreight house isn’t focused on football – it’s on Tim Tebow.

Tebow is the senior quarterback for Florida. He’s well known not only for his great football skills, but for his evangelical Christianity. He was home schooled by missionary parents and noticeably writes Bible verses across his face while playing. For example:Personally, I have no idea why he’s allowed to do this (and neither does my dad – yay ranting about religion with your family). I have a really hard time imagining a football player being able to write “Allahu akbar” across his face in Arabic, or even worse, “There is no God.” Even if the NCAA would legally allow these other sayings, the fallback from fellow players, coaches, and fans would be so great that a Muslim or atheist player probably wouldn’t even consider it. I don’t know about you, but I feel uneasy enough labeling myself as an atheist on the internet – I’m not going to do it when 300 pound men are actually supposed to come tackling me.

But it’s not just because of its religious. By writing anything distinctive on his face, he’s drawing attention to himself. Showboating after touch downs is explicitly forbidden in college football, yet drawing attention to yourself with Bible verses is okay? I guess the news network is partially to blame for this. CBS is currently using every chance to zoom in on Tebow’s face and use that as TV filler – would they be doing this without the Bible verse? No, at least no where near to this extent.

If that’s not enough, the CBS announcers took the time to read the actual verse that Tebow was referencing today. It was Heb 12: 1-2, though they only read the first line:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Good call leaving off all the Jesus heavy part, at least. They claimed they should read it since it was obviously important enough for him to select and write on his face. So do I get to select passages I find meaningful and have them read on national television? Yes, if it’s a Bible verse.

This isn’t about censoring Christians so that they can never talk about their faith. There is a time and place for such discussions, and representing a public university in college football is not it. This is about illustrating that you’re rewarded for expressing your Christianity, but everyone who disagrees better keep it to themselves. Christians are a privileged group, and crying “Oppression!” as loudly as they can doesn’t change the facts.

Obama’s godless Thanksgiving proclamation

Every year once the President is done with the serious duty of pardoning a turkey, he addresses the country with a Thanksgiving proclamation. However, Obama’s speech was a tad bit different than those in the past – he left out references to God. Well, not completely. His single reference to God was tucked inside of a George Washington quote:

Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed “by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,” and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war.

But those were George Washington’s words, which were balanced with the practicality of Lincoln’s quote. Obama himself didn’t invoke a deity. When you compare this to some of the things Bush said during his last Thanksgiving proclamation, you can see the difference:

On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation’s first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God….

Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life….

And as noted by Jill Stanek, “President Bush called the 1st celebrants “Pilgrims,” Obama said they were “European settlers.”” A subtle but significant difference.

Some nonbelievers don’t care when Obama gives a shout to non-believers or simply leaves God out of his secular speeches, but I think it’s important. If our President invokes God like belief is normal, required, and patriotic, it alienates the “Nones” of America. By simply keeping his Thanksgiving proclamation secular, Obama is making baby steps toward a more inclusive environment. Yes, there is certainly more I think he could be doing, but I’ll take what I can get for now.

DarwinTunes: Hands-on evolution of music

Being on nerdy professional ecology listservs has its perks: I get to find out about fun projects like DarwinTunes:

The organic world – animals, plants, viruses – is the product of Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Natural selection expresses the idea that organisms (more accurately their genes) vary and that variability has consequences. Some variants are bad and go extinct; others are good and do exceptionally well. This process, repeated for two billion years, has given us the splendours of life on earth.

It has also given us the splendours of human culture. This may seem like a bold claim, but it is self-evidently true. People copy cultural artefacts – words, songs, images, ideas – all the time from other people. Copying is imperfect: there is “mutation”. Some cultural mutants do better than others: most die but some are immensely successful; they catch on; they become hits. This process, repeated for fifty thousand years, has given us all that we make, say and do; it is the process of “cultural evolution”.

However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. For example, how important is human creative input compared to audience selection? Is progress smooth and continuous or step-like? We set up DarwinTunes as a test-bed for the evolution of music, the oldest and most widespread form of culture; and, thanks to your participation, these questions will soon be answered.

You can participate in the experiment by clicking here! Pretty neat stuff.

I think I’ve finally found something to start collecting

Because of Thanksgiving yesterday, I got to see my brother Chris and my sister-in-law Erin. I don’t get to see them too often since they live in New York, but they’re pretty awesome and I’m always excited to see them. To put it in perspective for you, they’re my only family members who know about my blog and who I feel comfortable being heathen-y around.

At one point in the night, Erin pulled me aside and told me they had a belated birthday gift for me, but that it may not be socially acceptable to open it in front of the rest of the family. That made me even more excited, so we ran off into another room where she presented me with a giant bag. She explained that while they could have mailed it to me, it had some back story so they wanted to give it to me in person. She then dug around in the bag and handed me the Thanksgiving Chick tract.I know this is totally what my Thanksgiving looked like.

I laughed and joked how I was starting to collect these things, since my friend gave me an evolution one a couple weeks ago. Erin smiled and said I wouldn’t have to try too hard to collect them…because she and Chris had given me every single current Chick tract. I kid you not:I now own 106 Chick tracts (with a couple of duplicates, but not many). How the heck did Erin get all of these? That story is even crazier. Apparently when she was attending high school in California back in the 80s, Chick tracts were constantly being passed out at her school. One of her friends got to meet Jack Chick and asked Erin if she’d like to meet him too. Being the adventurous heathen she was, she said sure, and had coffee with Jack Chick. Ever since then she’s been receiving free shipments of the newest Chick tracts.

Since Erin is a smart cookie and knew these would amuse me greatly, she called up Chick Publications and asked if she could have some more Chick tracts so she could share them with family over Thanksgiving – which is totally true, just not for the reasons they assumed. They were happy to spread the word, so they sent her a free box of the All Tract Assortment, which I now own.

That’s not all. Like a sign from some sort of atheist God (shhh, it doesn’t need to make sense) the box came with a free copy of a Crusaders comic. Which one? Primal Man?, the comic on evolution. Just too perfect. And if that wasn’t enough, they bought me R. Crumb’s Illustrated Book of Genesis, which I started reading during the car ride home. Simply awesome.

Not sure if I want to go for the whole set, though. I’d have about 940 left, and I’m not sure what I would do with that many Chick tracts…other than cry at their insanity.

I am thankful that by chance of birth…

I am thankful that by chance of birth I have running water, proper sewage systems, electricity, and enough food that I’m going to feel sick after eating it all, and then still have left overs for a week.

I am thankful that by chance of birth I have two parents that wanted me, love me, and continue to support me; that I have grandparents, an uncle, brothers, nephews, and in-laws who are all amazing people, none of which I’d want to distance myself from.

I am thankful that by chance of birth first class medical care is available to me, that dying from a curable disease is a foreign concept, that I actually have health care unlike so many others, and that I still have room to complain that it should be better.

I am thankful that by chance of birth I live in a country where my freedom of speech is protected; I can write and blog and criticize religion without wondering if I’ll lose my job, end up in jail, or suffer serious physical harm.

I am thankful that by chance of birth I was born in a century where I’m not seen as property to a man, that I haven’t been forced to bear multiple children by age 22 (or died in the process of doing so), and that I’m not viewed as less intelligent or capable of a scientist for having a uterus.

I am thankful that by chance of birth my greatest concerns in life right now are where I’m going to graduate school (not if I’ll have education at all) and that the internet at my parents’ house sucks.

Am I blessed? Did some omnipotent being want favor me while making other suffer through disease, starvation, poverty, and genocide?

No. I am merely lucky, and humbly thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving

Some delicious evolutionary facts for Thanksgiving

There’s a cool post over at the Axis of Evo highlighting some fun, Thanksgiving-themed evolution facts. Here’s one of my favorites (had to pick the one that talked about sex, of course):

2. That turkey on the table, unless you got one of those expensive, frou frou free range ones, will probably be a Double Breasted. They get as big as 86 lbs. That’s 1 lb heavier than Nicole Richie was in 2006, by the way. They can’t fly, and they can barely run. Males are so supersized, in fact, that they are physically unable to impregnate the females anymore, and thus humans must intervene in the sex act with some rather simple equipment (if you are brave, you can watch some clips from Dirty Jobs: part 1, part 2; don’t). Compare this size to the maximum size of a wild turkey, its ancestor: 38 lbs. Artificial selection for bigger and and bigger turkeys has thus been hugely successful, and is a great table side demonstration of descent with modification. And there’s still room for growth…the elephant bird of Madagascar weighed 1100 lbs (can you image Mike Rowe wrestling one of them?).

Mmmm, I’m thankful for evolution, or we wouldn’t have such delicious food to eat!

Best postcard ever

One of my good friends is currently studying abroad in Italy (sooooo jealous), and I received pretty much the best postcard ever from her today:

“Jen and Vanessa,
Please know that when I first saw these classy postcards in Florence, I had a short list of “Who would most appreciate gratuitous peener?” and you came in at the top. Congrats.”

I feel like I should be concerned that lots of penises make my friends think of me. Hmm.

Purdue senior tries to return parking ticket, gets arrested for terroristic mischief

What happens when you need to pay off a parking ticket and return a wheel lock, but Parking Services isn’t open yet? Maybe you can just leave it in a box outside of their door – seems simple enough, right? Nope, obviously everyone needs to freak out, because a box automatically equals a bomb.

According to a press release, around 7:50 a.m. Thursday, three college-aged men left a suspicious box in a hallway at the center, located at 504 Northwestern Ave. Police evacuated the building and used a portable X-ray machine to examine the box’s contents. Inside of the box there was a wheel lock, a Purdue parking ticket and $20. Police re-opened the center at 9 a.m.

So they closed down the building for an hour…no major harm done, right?

Police arrested 21-year-old Roy C. Sun of Andover, Mass., on preliminary charges of Class C felony terroristic mischief and possession of stolen property, a Class C felony. …

Terroristic mischief is when a person knowingly or intentionally places a device with the intent to cause a reasonable person to believe it is weapon of mass destruction, according to the press release.

Norberg said it is not a good use of police time when they have to respond to this kind of activity.

“It was a very serious matter to do something that mimics a terrorist activity – it uses numerous resources,” she said. “When they’re doing that they’re not out doing other things that might be needed.”

A Class C felony is punishable by a maximum of eight years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, and a Class D felony is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

…Are you fucking kidding me?

First of all, it’s fairly obvious that the guy wasn’t knowingly or intentionally trying to make the box seem like a weapon of mass destruction (really? WMD?). He was trying to return a parking ticket and didn’t think that police would irrationally freak the fuck out about it. Maybe if this isn’t a good use of police time, police shouldn’t be so trigger happy to think there’s a freaking WMD in a tiny building on their relatively insignificant college campus in the middle of a corn field. Left outside the White House, I can understand – but outside of Parking Services at Purdue? What did they think, someone got so disgruntled with getting ticketed that it was time to do everyone in?

He hasn’t been officially charged yet, so hopefully the prosecutor’s office will realize how ridiculous this is. There is a facebook group and they’ve already held a protest. On top of that, this story is becoming popular on reddit… Lovely that Purdue will yet again be in the news for something stupid. We’re really building up our image this year.

Was Kirk Cameron at Purdue for the Origin project?

My friend just alerted me to this article over at DailyTech that claims Kirk Cameron was physically at Purdue University on Thursday handing out Ray Comfort’s creationism-sullied Origin. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “Wait. What? WHAT? AAHHHH! HOW DID WE MISS HIM?! ARRGHHABBABBLL!” Then I actually took the time to slowly read the article. It didn’t include much more information, other than this picture with the following caption:

Kirk Cameron poses with students at Purdue University, holding copies of “On The Origin of Species”, containing a controversial intro he helped pen. (Source: Living Waters)

If you remember my post about our counter-protest, Thursday was cold, rainy, and miserable. You would be hard pressed to find any student not bundled up in multiple, water-proof layers and clinging to their umbrella…or to find a single spot on campus sunny and dry enough for this photo. Either God sent down a ray of brilliant sunlight just for Cameron’s photo op, or this article is full of crap.

I’m going with my “full of crap” theory. The article also claims “Scientists on campus rallied against the handout with a handout of their own…” when it was actually the Society of Non-Theists who were performing the counter-protest. I checked the article they linked to over at NBC Chicago, and it only mentions that Cameron was behind the movement, not physically at Purdue. They also failed to mention the Non-Theists, but we got a plug in the Chicago Tribune!

So has anyone else heard anything about this? I’m pretty certain he wasn’t here – can’t imagine the local news places wouldn’t pick up on that.

Theists completely miss the point of BHA’s new campaign

You may have heard of the new billboard campaign by the British Humanist Association against state funded faith schools. It takes a page from Richard Dawkins argument that small children are not yet intellectually or emotionally mature enough to make their own decisions about religion, and should not be labeled with the religion of their parents.Apparently the happy children pictured above came from a stock photo website, and are actually kids of famous evangelical Christian parents. What do people have to say about this?

[Their father] said: “It is quite funny, because obviously they were searching for images of children that looked happy and free. They happened to choose children who are Christian. It is ironic. The humanists obviously did not know the background of these children.”

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He said that the children’s Christianity had shone through. “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”

Gerald Coates, the leader of the Pioneer network of churches, which Mr Mason and his family used to attend before they moved to Dorset, said: “I think it is hilarious that the happy and liberated children on the atheist poster are in fact Christian.”

Are people really this daft? The whole point of the bloody campaign is to show we should stop labeling children, yet they go on to repeatedly call them not Christian children. They are not Christians. They are impressionable kids who are currently being raised in a Christian environment and do not yet have the skills to make informed decisions about religion. But with the level of critical thinking we’re seeing in the adults, I’m concerned that they’ll never reach that level of comprehension.

And the fact that they imply that these children are happy just because they’re raised by Christians annoys the hell out of me. Yep, atheists are completely unable to raise children in a healthy, loving environment. That’s why we didn’t use atheist kids, because they wouldn’t stop sobbing or cutting themselves long enough to take a good photograph. Oh wait, no, it’s because we don’t label children as “atheists” or “humanists.”

Good thing being the children of twits doesn’t automatically make you a twit yourself.

(Via RichardDawkins.net)