More Indianapoplexy

Here’s the article from the ACLU:

On December 23, 2010, Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide. Had Shuai, who is being represented by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and local attorneys, not been pregnant when she attempted suicide, she would not have been charged with any crime at all.

Of course, no one would deny that what happened in this case is terrible and tragic, and probably no one feels that more than Shuai herself. But this case is about so much more than whether attempted suicide should be a crime — in Indiana it is not — and the death of her daughter; its implications go much further.

The state is misconstruing the criminal laws in this case in such a way that any pregnant woman could be prosecuted for doing (or attempting) anything that may put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of her pregnancy.

That’s right: according to the ways the laws are being applied here, the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman who smokes or lives with a smoker, who works long hours on her feet, who is overweight, who doesn’t exercise, or who fails to get regular prenatal care, is a felon. And the list of ways these laws could be construed to unconstitutionally prosecute pregnant women goes on and on.

Allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women’s bodies, decisions, and every aspect of their lives, and to send them to jail when they disapprove of a woman’s behavior, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens by denying them the basic constitutional rights enjoyed by the rest of us.

Moreover, what does it say about our society — about our obsession with incarceration and using the criminal justice system to treat public health issues, and with controlling women’s lives and treating women as if they were somehow separate from their own pregnancies — that we would give a life sentence to a woman who tried to kill herself, just because she did so, in a moment of utter despair and distress, at the end of a wanted pregnancy? Is this (or any) punishment really appropriate here? Does anyone really think this will somehow deter desperate and distraught pregnant women from attempting suicide in the future?

If, as a society, we truly cared about healthy moms and babies, our focus would be on how we can support pregnant women, not how we can manipulate our criminal laws, and undermine basic constitutional principles, to find new ways to punish them.

Sigh. I’m too dragged down by this stuff to have anything to add.

I need a term for Indiana-induced rage

Because shit like this keeps happening:

On Wednesday, House Representatives of the Indiana state considered a controversial anti-abortion bill, introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), that would make abortions illegal in the state after 20 weeks. Representatives were also considering a bill amendment, proposed by Rep. Gail Riecken (D), that would make exceptions for “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm.”

You know, pretty common sense exceptions.

There’s just one problem with the amendment, argued Turner, the original bill’s sponsor: Women would then have a “giant loophole” where they could simply lie about being a rape or incest victim and procure an abortion anyway.

The amendment was voted down 42 to 54 and the anti-abortion bill itself passed the House 72 to 23.


I really don’t know what else I can say about this sort of shit. I know I may not live there anymore, but I care about my friends and family – fuck, I care about strangers who are having their rights and fucking dignity ripped away by people like Eric Turner.

The only thing giving me hope for Indiana is that there are amazing people like Rep. Linda Lawson (D), a sex crimes investigator for six years, who managed to passionately defend the women of Indiana in a situation where I would have been speechless.


Not cool, Hemant

I love ya. You’re an awesome friend and a brilliant blogger. I know you’re an all around good guy and you thought you were just being funny.

But please don’t ruin a brilliant interview with Kari Byron of Mythbusters about her atheism by saying “This whole post was really just an excuse to post a picture of Kari.”

It’s not funny, it’s disappointing.

I know you were just joking and you’re a supporter of diversity. And before people accuse me of trying to make you a eunuch – you’re allowed to remark that she’s attractive. Hell, I think Kari is hot.

But to too many people, only appreciating a woman for her looks and not for her intelligence is not a joke – it’s a negative mindset that joking helps perpetuate.

Does who wrote the Bible matter when it comes to ethics?

I friend pointed me to this article by Bart Ehrman – Who Wrote the Bible and Why It Matters. It didn’t start off so well:

Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors — a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place.

Unfortunately those “rabid fundamentalists” are more common that Ehrman suggests. One third of Americans believe the Bible is literally true.

But is it possible that the problem is worse than that — that the Bible actually contains lies?

Uh, duh? Okay, that’s the atheist in me talking – I understand he’s using this lead in for journalistic reasons. The middle part of his article is pretty good, explaining how certain parts of the Bible that are claimed to be written by certain people are actually forgeries. But I found one of his specific examples intriguing:

This may all seem like a bit of antiquarian curiosity, especially for people whose lives don’t depend on the Bible or even people of faith for whom biblical matters are a peripheral interest at best. But in fact, it matters sometimes. Whoever wrote the book of 1 Timothy claimed to be Paul. But he was lying about that — he was someone else living after Paul had died. In his book, the author of 1 Timothy used Paul’s name and authority to address a problem that he saw in the church. Women were speaking out, exercising authority and teaching men. That had to stop. The author told women to be silent and submissive, and reminded his readers about what happened the first time a woman was allowed to exercise authority over a man, in that little incident in the garden of Eden. No, the author argued, if women wanted to be saved, they were to have babies (1 Tim. 2:11-15).

Largely on the basis of this passage, the apostle Paul has been branded, by more liberation minded people of recent generations, as one of history’s great misogynists. The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing. And why does it matter? Because the passage is still used by church leaders today to oppress and silence women. Why are there no women priests in the Catholic Church? Why are women not allowed to preach in conservative evangelical churches? Why are there churches today that do not allow women even to speak? In no small measure it is because Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant. Except that the person who taught this was not Paul, but someone lying about his identity so that his readers would think he was Paul.

So…if Paul really had said these things about women, they would be fine? I understand that Ehrman is using the Bible to try to argue that churches need to stop doing these things, but my point is it doesn’t matter who wrote it or where. If Jesus himself had said those quotes, they would still be unethical.

But maybe that’s just my point of view as an atheist. Whether it’s written by a particular dude or some random other dude, God still doesn’t exist and Jesus still wasn’t resurrected.

But what about the devout believers – the ones who actually base their lives off of these passages? Will this type of argument be enough to change their minds? Maybe that of some individuals, but I doubt it will affect the major institutions. Fundamentalists think the Bible is the literal word of God – it’s contrary to everything they believe to accept that whole passages could be lies. To them, the Bible can’t be wrong.

43% of Americans are young earth creationists. They’re prepared to ignore all scientists in order to keep the Bible infallible – you think they’re suddenly going to change their mind because of a couple of historians?

Maybe I’m being cynical, but I not adopting this as my new tactic to promote equality of the sexes.

EDIT: Case in point. Saw this link from the SSA immediately after writing this post. Campus Crusade for Christ already has a whole website devoted to refuting him. At least he’s freaking the Christians out – that’s always a good start.

I know what I’m doing in 4.5 years

You and your committee may be the only people who read your PhD dissertation (well, if you’re lucky) – but you can still enjoy is aesthetically:From Street Anatomy:

A long-time Street Anatomy fan and soon-to-be doctor, Stephen, recently sent in this image of an anatomical heart made up entirely of the words from his dissertation. He put tons of effort into studying a particular cardiac arrhythmia, noted below the heart, and instead of hanging fancy diplomas on the wall, he chose to immortalize his time and efforts into a piece of anatomical art.

Someone please remind me of this awesome idea when I’m about to graduate.

Sometimes you can’t win

That’s the look I give when I’ve just lost a couple more brain cells.

Day 1:
Man: Men are sexual beings! We evolved to be promiscuous!
Woman: Um, but biology isn’t an ultimatum. You can control your actions.
Day 2:
Man: We should care about a skewed gender ratio because then I’d have more women to date!
Woman: No, we should care because women also have ideas to contribute. We don’t just exist so you can have sex with us…
Woman: *stares blankly at viewer*
The Joys of Feminist Blogging]

The wrong reason for diversity

At the Secular Student Union dinner tonight:

Guy 1: So, what was your talk in Minnesota about?
Me: The intersection of atheism and feminism, what we can do to get more women to leave religion, and how to make the atheist movement more welcoming to women.
Guy 2: Cool! Is the lack of women really that big of an issue? I’m just new to everything.
Me: For a lot of groups, yeah. I mean, just look at ours. There are only three women.
Everyone: Yeah… *shame*
Guy 3: Heh, I’m dating a third of the SSU’s women.
Me: So yeah, I talked about how to make groups more welcoming so more women join.
Guy 4: I guess that’s a good thing. Means there would be more girls to date.
Everyone: *glare*
Me: Um, that’s precisely what you shouldn’t say.

Super Duper Hint For The People Who Don’t Get Why This Is A Problem: Women don’t exist for the sole purpose of dating you. They can actually participate for the same intellectual and social reasons that you do. It’s fine to be attracted to someone and date within a group, but don’t only see a woman as Person Who I Want to Sleep With.

On the bright side, I’ll never be out of blogging material.

Blag Hag 2011 Census Results Pt. 3

Time to respond to some of your comments! First of, a HUGE thank you to all the wonderful, thoughtful comments people left me. I really appreciate having people thank me for the blog and telling me to “Keep being awesome” (a phrase about 40 of you used, haha). Looking down the list and seeing that most of you just want me to keep doing what I’ve been doing definitely makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

Blog related:

Post moar plz :P

This was one of the most common comments I got, haha. Trust me, there are days where I have four great post ideas but I’m stuck doing homework – grad school keeps me a lot busier than undergrad. But at the same time, I do waste a lot of short posts on tweets, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to keep those things for posts. I’m trying, I’m trying!

I think it is always very interesting to read about your family (Dad atheist, Mum theist, grandparents mustn’t know that you are atheist…) so I would enjoy more posts, but then, this goes into a very private area and I understand if you’ve got limits here.

Honestly, I don’t blog about it too much because religion just doesn’t come up that much with my family. Oddly enough, knowing some of my family now reads my blog has made me shy away from a couple of other topics. Is it weird that I have no problem talking about certain things to total strangers, but I’m awkward when it comes to my family?

As a scientist, how about blogging your thoughts on Mother Nature a little bit more? Or is that more PZ Myers territory?

That’s something I hope to do more of as my confidence as a scientist grows – maybe my Science Communication class will help. Part of me just doesn’t feel informed enough to write good science articles. And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little lazy. It takes a lot more time and effort to write a good science blog post than something that’s opinion based.

you could explain a little more about your studies/research.

I would love to talk about my research more. Unfortunately I can’t really discuss stuff publicly until it’s been published, lest our ideas get stolen by someone else. I should talk about what I’m learning in my classes more. I guess at the end of the day, I blog to relax, and I don’t really want to think about school anymore, haha.

I truly appreciate you comments on feminism. You give me ideas with which to shape my discussions with my daughter, son, and wife.

I really appreciate your posts on feminism, particularly those that relate it to skepticism But really, any feminism posts are filling a void in most of your male readers daily rss feed, I assume. As a male feminist, or at the very least a feminist ally, I think it’s nice to have the patriarchal bullshit that women have to face brought to our attention from time to time. We sometimes need to be jolted out of complacency. Keep up the good work!

Keep updating on your involvement in the atheist community, especially with a feminist bent. The posts about feminism in atheist might end up putting up the biggest bullseye on your blog, but I for one appreciate them the most.

LOVE the feminism blog posts, and I 100% agree with you on these issues. It’s seriously disturbing to discover how some atheists respond to discussing feminist issues, especially when I typically hold such faith in the atheist community as a whole. I really value your voice and discussion on these topics.

I very much enjoy reading perspectives that combine sex-positive (granted this is more subtle and not a main focus of the blog, but I appreciate having a skeptical feminist place that doesn’t portray all porn as they enemy of women), feminist and skeptic interests. Your blog fills a space that I feel should have greater recognition at large.

Nope, you’re doing awesome. I must say, I absolutely love the feminism stuff you post on your blog, but I really hate the shit that you get for doing so. You are able to put into words ideas that I have been mulling for ages but haven’t yet been able to fully verbalize, and I appreciate that. Keep up the good work, and think of the haters as simply giving more data for your analyses.

You have probably taught me more about feminism than any other internet writer, and these days – in large measure thanks to you – I am proud to call myself a feminist.

I got 38 comments exactly like these. Thank you guys so much – it’s awesome knowing what I’m doing is worthwhile and making a difference.

Don’t listen to those whiny commenters who start their blubbery bitchiness whenever you do something that dings their sensibilities. They don’t pay the bills, so they should just go fuck themselves three ways from Friday…Whatever that means.

Unfortunately my awesome commenters don’t pay the bills either. But thank you!

i have no idea if you really read the comment threads much, or just let them go, but they’re usually pretty interesting, when i read them.

I read 99.5% of the comments people make here. Occasionally people will get into deep philosophical discussions that aren’t really related to my original posts, and sometimes I’ll tune out on those.

I find some posts to be too US-centric. The underlying assumption seems to be that all of your readers are American. Please consider the fact that “www” stands for “word-wide web” (And America is NOT the whole world). People of all different cultures read your blog, it would be nice if you could keep that in mind. Thank you.

I do try to keep this in mind, but it certainly is a bad habit of mine. I’ll try to be better in the future!

I have a rather selfish comment, but since you asked, I might as well respond. Every now and then, you have posts consisting of a humorous picture, and some response to it in the subject or the post that can only be understood if you’ve seen the picture. As I’m totally blind, I feel left out of these sorts of posts. It may be that describing the picture would remove some of the humor, but if it can contribute or not detract, it would be helpful. These posts are certainly rare, and the majority of your posts are predominantly writing, and I enjoy those.

Oh crap, I never even considered this! This, folks, is a perfect example of privilege. I’ll try to be better about captioning photos in the future. Though knowing how forgetful I am, I will probably forget from time to time – I apologize preemptively to anyone this is an issue for.

Teen pop music should play when I come to the page and there should be no way to turn it off. Also you have a serious lack of pixelated gifs dancing around the page at random. Attend to that.

I’ll find a way to get Rebecca Black on auto-play ASAP. Maybe even a midi version.


Ask out the dude on the bus already, sheesh!

But, but, it would be so awkward! And the likelihood of him actually having things in common with me (other than just being cute) aren’t very good! Argh!

Friend me on Facebook :D

Sorry, but I stopped friending blog readers on Facebook – it was just getting unusable. If you’re desperate to connect to me via facebook, Blag Hag has a fan page.

Get yourself invited to go on “Ask an Atheist.”

I was invited! A couple times, now. We just haven’t worked out a date yet. One day, one day it will happen.

I’ve had an internet crush on you for a while, and wanted to tell you to boost your self-esteem. I didn’t know how to tell you without coming off as creepy. I’m 19, so I hope that you think I’m young enough to find this adorable. :)

Haha, it’s cool – I have my fair share of internet crushes too. As someone who was that awkward unpopular nerd most of her life, it does give me a bit of an ego boost.

Keep doin’ what you’re doin’! Also, stay in school! I couldn’t go straight to grad after under, and won’t be able to for a while yet. You’re living the dream! The exhausted exhausted not-enough-time-to-study/research dream. *noncreepywomanonwomanhugs*

Give up academia and concentrate on being entertaining and informative.

Haha, such mixed opinions. Trust me, giving up on academia has crossed my mind. Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t pay the bills. That and I really do love science, as much as a pain it can be at times.

Go to Dragon*Con!

Speaking tour of Australia?

Find someone to buy me the plane ticket :P

Just so you know, i’m finishing up my B.Sc next year, and am now somewhat terrified about the prospect of grad school. But on the plus side your scary spider stories make me laugh.

I’m glad you get enjoyment from my suffering :P

I just wanted to say, as an atheist undergraduate biology student, it made me feel really good to know you watch America’s Next Top Model as well :)

Oh my god, it’s like crack. It’s so horrible and against everything I stand for, but I can’t stop watching. I mean, what the hell is up with Alexandria?! I’m rooting for the plus size model or the adorable southern bell.

I guess asking for cheesecake shots would be labelled as “sexist,” huh?

Maybe a bit, but hey, since you were brave enough to ask, here you go.

I am drunk, in a french hotel, at midnight having attended the worst conference I’ve ever been to. Nothing I could possible write here would be coherent.

And with that winning comment, we’re done.

That’s all you got, Ken Ham?

Allow me a moment to gloat.

Ken Ham is bragging about how much traffic his various anti-science websites have received in the past year, and how much they’ve improved from the year before. Let’s ignore for a moment that a good chunk of that traffic is people showing up to giggle at his wackiness and just look at the numbers:

• In 2010, the Answers in Genesis main website had more than 10 million visits for the first time (10,225,465 visits, previously 8,726,503–a 17% growth) from more than 5 million unique visitors (5,445,617 unique visitors, previously 4,650,206–a 17% growth).

• The Creation Museum website had more than 1 million visits for the first time (1,079,290 visits, previously 899,890–a 19.9% growth).

• The Answers Vacation Bible School (VBS) website had more than 100,000 visits for the first time (110,767 visits, previously 34,231–a 223% growth), with almost half a million page views (476,551 page views, previously 122,301–a 289% growth).

Alright, Answers in Genesis has me beat – even though Pharyngula‘s traffic dwarfs it. But I owned the Creation Museum. One million visits? Blag Hag had 2,316,028 visits during it’s second year of existence. It had 344,158 visits it’s first year – a 573% growth. And when you look at page views, I had a 791% growth.

Oh, and Answers Vacation Bible School? Psshhh. I beat you in a single day – 261,474 on the day of boobquake. The following day beat you too.

Even if you factor out all of my boobquake traffic, I still got over a million visits this year and a 295% growth. Me. A godless science student with a free Blogger account, some opinions, and a little bit a free time. I outpaced your multi-million dollar, highly advertised, anti-science “Museum.”

Two words:

Wah wah.

Blag Hag 2011 Census Results Pt. 2

And now for the questions about atheism and blogging!

As always, click the images for bigger versions.Last year men used the terms “skeptic,” “freethinker,” and “anti-theist” more often than women. This year “anti-theist” is still used more, but “skeptic” and “freethinker” are not significantly different. However, “atheist” and “infidel” were used less by women now. There’s a general trend of women avoiding terms that tend to have negative associations.

I’m intrigued by the changes in term usage since last year. All of the labels except “freethinker” were selected by a smaller percentage of readers this year. “Atheist” was hit particularly hard, dropping from 82% to 42%. The next biggest change was for “agnostic,” dropping from 23% to a measly 3%. I think the most likely explanation is that I’m attracting a much broader readership, while I originally started out predominantly as an atheist blog.

Oh, and most people still hate the label “Bright.” Wah wah.

Favorite open responses:

  • Evil
  • Evil baby-eating atheist
  • Baby-eater (I’m seeing a trend)
  • Awesome
  • Badass
  • Cool
  • BAMF (Again, a trend…)
  • He Who Shall Not Be Named
  • Chaotic good
  • Bipedal furhead
  • Devoutly in the awe of the unknown
  • “Indifferent agnostic” – it’s not that I don’t know, it’s that I don’t really care
  • I’m not a pastafarian, but I do think they are sexy. Is that ok? (Yes)

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find here, but I was just curious. Unsurprisingly, people are more likely to do activism that requires the littlest amount of time and effort – being out, buying a book, commenting on a blog.

I was a little surprised that the only gender difference was in writing letters to the editor (anyone have an explanation for that?). I guess from personal experience I expected women to participate less. Of course, there are two potential problems here. One, this doesn’t look at the frequency of these events – maybe they showed up to a single event or wrote a single blog post. Two, we have a biased sample – these are women who are already reading at least one atheist blog (mine), not women in general.This one surprised me a bit. I thought everyone would keep updated about the blog using some sort of RSS reader, like Google Reader or Blogger Dashboard, mainly because that’s what I do. Apparently slightly more people manually check the blog through bookmarking or some other sort of link. I have 3,928 subscribers. Using this updating method data as an estimate, I probably have approximately 8,000 readers. Wow! Not to shabby for a 2 year old blog.

Twitter and Facebook are rarely used on their own, but rather in addition to another method. Though you can see a slight difference when seeing how much people comment:It seems that people who use Twitter and Facebook, either alone or in addition to bookmarks or RSS feeds, are more likely to comment. Maybe they use those things because they’re more socially interactive online in general?

But overall, a very small percentage of my readers make up the vast majority of the comments. Hello, all of you lurkers out there! Though an interesting trend is seen when you break it up by gender:Ladies! Why aren’t you commenting as much?! No wonder blogs can look so male dominated. Seriously though, why are women less likely to comment? Are we less inclined to speak up thanks to social conditioning? Is there something about the environment in the comments that make them seem unwelcoming? If you’re a lurker (lady or otherwise), please let me know. I’m generally curious, but I also want to make sure my blog is a place where you can feel comfortable.I guess a 5 point Likert scale wasn’t the best way to ask this question, since if you stick around to read Blag Hag, you probably like most of the topics. Oh well. I should check to see if non-US readers are the most apathetic about politics, and if everyone but graduate students are apathetic about my grad school posts, haha. Other than that, I didn’t get too much out of this question. Going to keep doin’ what I’ve been doing.

The only topic that differed between the sexes was Feminism:Women readers really like when I talk about feminism. Shocking, I know. Thankfully my male readers still generally like it! …Of course, I’ve probably scared off all the dudes who can’t stand it. Hm.
A couple interesting things on how people found my blog:

  • If you want readers, get Pharyngulated. PZ has the power. Though he seems to send mostly guys over. I’d be really interested to see the gender makeup of his readership – is it really that male biased? I wonder what my gender ratio would look like if you took out the Pharyngulites…
  • Boobquake attracted equal numbers of male and female readers. Take that, haters who say it’s only guys sticking around for my boobs!
  • More women seem to find their way here after being referred by friends (or according to some comments, family). Maybe this is their first step into the atheist community? Regardless, thanks for recommending my blog to friends!
  • Of the “Other blogs” specified, the most common mentioned were Dan Savage (25), Skepchick (10), Greta Christina (2), Daylight Atheism (2), and Boing Boing (2), JT Eberhard (2), and “feminist blogs” (2).

Other interesting ways people found my blog:

  • Webcomics – Something Positive (5), Girls with Slingshots (2), Wapsi Square (1)
  • The Bloggies (5)
  • Flyers for my speaking events (3)
  • Met at convention or group (9)
  • “Your landlord” (…This is kind of scary)
  • OkCupid (Nope, this is scarier, haha)
  • “Jesus made it come to me in a dream” (Oddly less scary)

I still haven’t even attempted to look at how location or past religious beliefs correlates with anything… If you have something you’d like to investigate, let me know. But before that, I’ll look at some of the comments you guys left in the free response, since even I can get sick of making graphs.

Like always, feel free to discuss in the comments.