I Proudly Am An Atheist

The recent news cycle has once again reminded us that we atheists are a subhuman species, not deserving of the oxygen we are hogging that might otherwise go to good godly people like… well, everybody in the media, every politician, every soccer mom, brave firefighter, patriotic flagwaver, and superhero–you know, the Good Folk. Greg Laden’s blog has some examples–I don’t want to link them here.

The second video at that link, in particular, turns my stomach. I can’t watch it without hearing other terms substituted, all of them inappropriate and best left in the past, casually uttered by racist, sexist, homophobic, antisemites like, say, my Grandfather. His generation saw nothing wrong with such language–well, at least not among good white christian folk like him.

Gradually, of course, such language became an embarrassing remnant of an earlier time, relegated more and more to isolated pockets, to divided subcultures. The vocabulary is still there, but is no longer a part of polite talk; it is, at least, recognized as the insulting behavior it is. No one on the national stage would ever speak freely and casually about any of these groups as second-class citizens, let alone pariahs. (Yes, there are still the Sally Kerns of the world, and the YouTube videos of groups waiting for McCain rallies, but the very fact that these are posted as examples of inappropriate behavior, and that these people would never say the same things on national television, is precisely my point.)

With one exception. Atheists are fair game. “Godless” is still defined as “wicked; evil; sinful”; an accusation of “consorting with atheists” is grounds for slander. Not just in hushed tones when we are fairly certain the microphone is off, but proudly, deliberately, on national television. Not just Liddy Dole’s shameful ad, but the CNN discussion of that ad, takes the moral inferiority of the atheist as a given.

Disgusting. Just as it was before with any other group. And just as divisive as before–using group membership as a weapon. I had hoped for better. I hope that some newsperson, somewhere, on the national stage, has the guts to call out his or her peers on this. I will not hold my breath.

I proudly am an atheist;
I do not share your views.
Imagine how insulting,
When I watch the evening news
And I see you point at folks like me
Indignantly, with rage,
As if we were the lepers
Of a less enlightened age!
No need to watch your language
Or to treat us with respect—
Because demonizing us is still
Politically correct.
You’d never talk like this regarding
Blacks, or Gays, or Jews,
But with atheists, just look at all
The language that you use!
“Obama is a terrorist”—of course
The claim’s obscene;
But “Hagan is an atheist”?
The worst you’ve ever seen?!?
Comparing her to me is now
The lowest of the low?
It’s good I don’t believe in Hell—
I’d tell you where to go.

I proudly am an atheist
I proudly am a Jew
I proudly am a Christian,
And I’m proudly Muslim, too.
I’m proud to be both Gay and Straight
I’m proudly Black and White
I’m proudly Man and Woman
And I’ll proudly join the fight.
I proudly am Humanity,
Whatever that is worth;
There is no group below me,
Or above me, on this Earth.

… The Rest Of The Story (Sweet Zombie Jesus!)



It started so simply–they’d meet and they’d pray
And perhaps join each other in song
How could they have known that this beautiful day
Would so soon go so horribly wrong?

Their prayers went unanswered–well, no, it was worse,
They were answered by God up above
The Old Testament God, of the famine and curse
Not the wimpy New Testament love.

When God saw them gathered, it looked like a calf
They were worshipping, not their Creator–
And as Yahweh is more prone to smolder than laugh,
It’s smite first, then ask questions later.

But God’s getting old–He’s not right in the head,
And His aim’s not the same since the Flood
So now these good christians are Living Undead
With a craving for brains and for blood.

So heed the examples on Wall Street this week
As they struggle to shuffle and moan–
Count your blessings, although the economy’s bleak;
No more praying–just leave God alone!

(ok, the truth is the zombie stuff is from
Zombiecon 2008. Well worth checking out…)

More Bull!

Haven’t we heard something like this before?

The photograph is worth a laugh–
They’re praying at a golden calf?
It might be nice if they’d think twice
And offer it a sacrifice!

The Ba’al Street Journal, in its turn’ll
publish all their acts infernal

Hmm… you think The Giver can deliver
And maybe part the Hudson River?
Give a sign that all is fine
And part of His proposed design–

That banks will bail and markets fail
And senators will go to jail
All by God’s hand, just as He planned
And these folks just don’t understand?

By logic’s rules we learned in schools
The best bet is… these folks are fools.

photo thanks to Wonkette, cuttlecap tip to PZ.

On the home stretch…

It’s been over two years (and it hasn’t been fun)
Since the first of the candidates started to run;
Now the shouting and screaming is reaching its peak—
A sign that we vote in just under a week.

In North Carolina, our friend Liddy Dole
Systematically sells what remains of her soul
Is Dole really Christian? Of course we can’t tell,
But she must not think lying will send you to Hell.

In Pottsville, a crowd waiting out in the rain
Bearing buttons and stickers and signs for McCain,
Unabashedly bashing the things Barack lacks
Or admitting that, simply, they won’t vote for blacks.

Just when you thought that it couldn’t get dumber
Along comes the circus—I mean, Joe the Plumber!
A man not possessed of the brains God gave grass,
In front of the cameras and being an ass.

If you find it depressing, distressing, or sad,
If it makes you excited, or anxious, or mad
I suppose I will end on an optimist’s note:
You are part of the cure, if you Get Out And Vote!

(If we’re lucky, it might last a month, maybe two,
Before someone starts the whole process anew.)

The Digital Pack-Rat, volume 5

Just collecting a few odds and ends…

From a PZ thread “Magic isn’t science”…

The Discovery folks, in defiance of science,
Pretend that their methods are new and improved;
The cost of believing in magic is tragic–
These people have clearly had brain parts removed!

From a fun little Friday Cephalopod post (nom nom nom nom)…

A small blue fish–it’s all I wish;
A crunchy, chewy, tasty dish!
Each little bite is pure delight–
I’d nom nom nom all day and night!

Every day, the inky deep
Is where a cuttlefish may creep
That little fish? Today it’s him–
Tomorrow, children as they swim!

From “Well, maybe it is exactly like their brains“,

The experts say, in their reports,
The frontal lobe is made of quartz.

The temporal–they checked it twice–
Is made of something else: that’s gneiss.

What’s more, it’s clear that your parietal
Is chert–a sort of flint varietal.

I’m not sure what makes up your occipital,
Whatever it is, it doesn’t chip-at-all.

And lastly, from Sarah Palin: Ignorant and anti-science

One wonders: will Palin prevail in detailin’
The follies of funding the fruit-flies in France?
Or will this disclosure expose her composure
Is stunningly stupid–a stultified stance?

The Return Of Inkmaster Cuttle!

At a meet-and-greet on a one-way street
As I beat the concrete with the soles of my feet
Saw a sweet petite with a smokin’ seat
And discreetly but fleetly I asked her to eat
But I beat a retreat through the heat in defeat
When she asked “Are you one of them Librul Elite?”

Resigned to my fate, I just ate off my plate
While Kate set me strait about bait in Kuwait
And the blue state crime rate, dictators, desecrators,
Lightweight running mates makin’ great procreators
It’s late while I wait but she doesn’t abate
The spate of hate she relates at my pate

So the pain in my brain begins straining again
And I’m looking in vain to obtain some champagne
I can drain, she sustains her refrain to no gain.
I try to explain that I’m going insane
Make it plain her campaign I will hold in disdain
I am not on the train for the reign of McCain

When at last I convey what I wanted to say
That I’m not gonna stray, she displays her dismay,
Then “Ok”, makes her way from the little buffet
I survey her display as she’s walking away
And her hips start to sway like some sort of cliché
I say “Hey… wait… hey… was that Tina Fey?”

A Modest Proposition (Eight)

It’s a simple little proposition, Proposition Eight:
All we ask is that you join us, as we all discriminate!

This is only the beginning of a looming Culture War,
As we try to set the clock back to the way it was before
If the homos get to marry, it will not end there, of course:
What’s to stop someone from marrying a cat, or dog, or horse?
To put morals back in marriage, we need strong religious views
And we need them now! We missed the chance before, with Blacks and Jews.
It’s a simple little proposition, Proposition Eight:
All we ask is that you join us, as we all discriminate!

Take a moment to consider, looking deep within your heart;
It’s supported by the bible—well, the homophobic part,
And that “love thy neighbor” business can be taken many ways
See, my Lord and Savior’s neighborhood did not have any gays.
And Leviticus—or maybe Laws—I’m not quite sure which verse,
Says that murderers are worse than thieves, but gays are even worse!
It’s a simple little proposition, Proposition Eight:
All we ask is that you join us, as we all discriminate!

For centuries—millenia—the whole of human life—
A marriage was the union of a Husband and a Wife;
Now the California liberals are preying on our fears,
And they’ll force us to equality and civil rights for queers!
Then the gays will think they’re people, just like you and just like me,
So we have to stop this here and now—and Jesus would agree!
It’s a simple little proposition, Proposition Eight:
All we ask is that you join us, as we all discriminate!

X-Rays From Sticky Tape?!?!

The New York Times reports on a new study in the current edition of Nature; it seems a new source of X-rays has been discovered. Scotch tape. Yup. Unrolling sticky tape in a vacuum releases a surprising amount of energy, some of it in the form of X-rays! (Extremely cool video here.) My favorite quote: “The researchers suggest that the high charge density generated by peeling the tape could be great enough to trigger nuclear fusion.”

The characteristic defining a human 

distinctly apart from an ape
Not opposable thumbs, or intelligent thinking, 

but what we can do with Scotch tape.
Your chimp or bonobo or highland gorilla 

will typically not even care
And orangs and gibbons tear tape into ribbons 

and tangle it into their hair.
It’s humans alone who will try to discover 

what else you can do with the stuff
(As if wrapping presents or fixing a photo 

were not inspiration enough).
A professor of physics at UCLA, 

in a demo both simple and clever,
Showed X-rays emitted when tape is unrolled 

in a vacuum—the coolest thing ever.
Enough were emitted to X-ray a finger—

a medical use may be found;
Or measuring wear of composites; it seems 

that the new applications abound!
The X-rays are different for each brand of tape, 

and they didn’t find any for “duct”;
Which is just fine by me, cos if duct tape gets weapons,
humanity surely is fuct.

Thank You!

Thank you all.

This post marks this blog’s official birthday; one year ago The Digital Cuttlefish went public. Since that time, 195 posts, more than 200 poems, and you people have changed my world. So again, thank you.

My readers are wonderful people. I know this from comments, I know this from seeing my verses posted around the globe on other sites, even in other languages. I know this because it was my readers, with their donations, who afforded me the opportunity this past summer to begin an incredible journey that has not yet ended. (If that is cryptic to any of you, no worries–the people who helped know who they are.) And of course, there are six of you, spread out over three continents, whom I have actually met; so far, 100% wonderful.

I don’t see a whole lot of reason to stop now (although every few weeks I become convinced that I have run out of topics, run out of rhymes, run out of inspiration–until some creationist, politician, or cephalopod makes the news and re-inspires me); indeed, I am even in the process of compiling and editing some hundred or so of the past year’s verses into an actual dead-trees book, which I hope will be available for your squidmas and cephalopodmas needs.

Anyway, thanks, much more than I have the ability to put into words. Especially my long-time readers and commenters, who provided the rewards that kept me going when I was lucky to have a couple dozen readers a day. And also to those who read but do not comment (614 visits from Uppsala, compared to only 366 from New York City? More visits from Miramichi than from London? You people are so cool!), who force me to imagine how you found this site (ok, mostly through Pharyngula) and what you think of it. If you wish, consider this post an invitation to just say hi in the comments!

Now, the real world calls, and I had better prepare for it. Here’s to another successful orbit!


Happy Fechner Day!

158 years ago today, Gustav Theodor Fechner awoke from a dream which would change his life, and the course of science itself. In his dream, Fechner had discovered the key to studying sensation and perception, the method to measure the mind itself. Of course we cannot simply turn up some switch and increase your awareness, or your sensitivity, or anything about your experience of the world; prior to Fechner’s dream, the only way to study your thoughts was… to think about them. Introspection, essentially. It could not be systematically controlled-indeed, the very thought of controlling the mind, that non-physical part of Descartes dualistic view of Man, was ludicrous.

But Fechner found a method that, in hindsight, was simplicity itself. He would vary the external stimulus systematically, and an observer would report whether a perceptual change was noticed. Can you tell the difference in brightness between this light and this one? Can you tell a difference in saltiness between this solution and this one? Can you tell a difference in weight between this cylinder and this one? By reducing the subject’s responses to a simple choice, and varying stimulus materials, Fechner could measure sensitivity and bias separately, and could determine both absolute thresholds (the dimmest light, quietest sound, lightest weight, that one can detect 50% of the time) and difference thresholds (how much brighter, louder, heavier, must a stimulus be in order for that difference to be detected) for a number of different sensations and stimuli.

And he found that our perceptions are describable by mathematical equations–initially a simple linear function (Weber’s Law), improved to a logarithmic function (Fechner’s Law), suggesting that just maybe our minds are not working under separate and distinct rules than our bodies. Fechner’s work laid the groundwork for the science of Psychophysics, and pretty much all of experimental Psychology owes a debt to his methodology.

For this Fechner Day, I am re-posting a portion of an older post, from last February. You will see why.


Parenthetically, I note with sheer joy the fact that the paper cites Fechner (1877). And it is relevant. How cool do you have to be, to have your work cited 131 years after you wrote it? As cool as Fechner, that’s how cool. Fechner more-or-less invented the science of psychophysics, managing to capture sensation and perception scientifically for the first time. And here he is, cited in a 2008 paper. On machines tasting espresso.

On second thought, that might be my problem right there. I am still impressed by Fechner, and I live in a world where machines can meaningfully taste coffee. Food… or espresso… for thought.

I have a machine to smell my coffee,
To see if it’s any good;
I asked it to make me the perfect cup,
But I think it misunderstood—
It analyzed alkaloids, sampled aromas,
Tried seventeen samples of beans,
Then told me I clearly had no taste at all:
I never was good with machines.

My pre-owned car has an onboard computer—
It measures my driving, you see.
I guess I don’t drive like the previous owner;
My car likes him better than me.
It spits out a spreadsheet of technical numbers—
I don’t know what much of it means,
Except that my car thinks it’s better without me:
I never was good with machines.

Of course, at my office, I have a computer—
The one I am using right now;
It laughs at my grammar and sneers at my spelling,
Although I’m not really sure how.
Just one tiny part of a cubicle farm
Where we’re packed like so many sardines—
Do we use computers, or do they use us?
I never was good with machines.

I’m worried that someday my household appliances,
Sitting at home on my shelves,
Finally realize there’s nothing I offer
That they can’t do better themselves.
They make better coffee, they get better mileage,
Their words rarely stink up their screens—
And I’ll be left out in the cold and the dark:
I never was good with machines.