Whack-a-Mole.

I mentioned the other day that when prominent figures in movement atheism mansplain how to feminist (or pull a Dear Muslima), it really ought to be debunked and/or mocked every time. I had envisioned “Whack-a-Mole, but with squirrels. Or possibly, douchebro atheists.”

Well. I was too lazy to work on Part 3 of the Coyne series inspired.

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Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 2: NOPE.

(Part 1 is here.)

[CONTENT NOTE: While this post contains no graphic descriptions or images of violence, it does contain discussion of: child sexual assault, abuse and death; suicide; hostility to consent, bodily autonomy and agency; homophobia; sex- and gender-based discrimination.]

Just a reminder: in the intro to Part 1, I noted that while Dr. Coyne communicates some very useful and interesting things in this lecture (and elsewhere) that readers may find worthwhile, he is exasperatingly prone to poo flinging, and I fully respect the decision of anyone who decides to pay him no attention whatsoever on this basis alone. As I said, FWIW I do not allow Coyne’s poo flinging in the remaining portions of the transcript to go unrebutted.

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Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 1: YES!

In February Jerry Coyne delivered the British Humanist Association’s annual Darwin Day Lecture in London. For those unfamiliar, Coyne is an evolutionary biologist, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, and the author of Why Evolution is True (which I have read) and Faith vs Fact (which I have not). He is a fierce critic of creationism and a fiery proponent of atheism; he blogs prolifically about these and other topics at Why Evolution Is True.

I genuinely like Jerry Coyne. He comes across as knowledgeable and affable, the kind of person I’d really enjoy sitting next to at a dinner party. Of course that doesn’t mean I agree with him all of the time, and in fact his annoying propensity to shit all over straw feminists is fucking exasperating (more on that in Part 2), as is his comical obliviousness to his own privilege (more on that later too).

But hey, nobody’s perfect. We can all decide for ourselves who we will expose ourselves to, on which topic(s) and under what circumstances. For example, Richard Dawkins is dead to me, barring his (highly unlikely) resurrection into a state of semi-self-awareness minimally capable of basic human decency and rationality. On the other hand, when a good friend recommends Jerry Coyne’s Darwin Day Lecture to me, I might be inclined to put on my (metaphorical) biohazard suit so as not to get splattered with (metaphorical) shit, and check it out. Those with less privilege are always making such calls: suit up and wade into the muck, or maybe sit this one out. Otherwise we would consistently miss out on some interesting and useful knowledge, and worse, we would hardly ever go to any dinner parties at all.

I get the Spidey-Sense that anyone reading this who is in some marginalized group(s)—i.e., not white, male, straight, cis-, able, etc.—is nodding along with me, because microaggressions are A Thing to which those privileged along these axes tend to remain haplessly oblivious. So I completely respect your making a different call about paying any attention whatsoever to Coyne (or Dawkins or anyone else).

But I found (some of) Coyne’s lecture, entitled Evolution and atheism: best friends forever?, fascinating. Moreover, he provides support for my point in this post, namely that:

there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that a robust welfare state (especially quality universal single-payer health care) decreases religiosity, while economic insecurity (with respect to wages, housing, food, etc.) increases it. See, e.g., Phil Zuckerman’s book “Society Without God.” Fiscal conservatism in the form of [American Atheists president] Dave Silverman’s “small government, low taxes, a free market” is entirely antithetical to taking the path most likely to get us to the very outcome he seeks: the death of religion.

I transcribed portions of Coyne’s lecture because I think readers may be genuinely infotained by it, but mainly because I’d like to have an easy link to it in order to help shut down the font of incoherent nonsense that is conservative movement atheism. In case it helps you decide whether to continue reading: I do not allow Coyne’s aforementioned (metaphorical) poo flinging in these portions of the transcript to stand unrebutted, and in any case no poo is flung in Part 1.

Tl;dr:

TRIGGER WARNING: Jerry Coyne.
(especially Part 2.)

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Your liberal media.

imageNew York State Capitol building.
CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

The city of Albany, New York and its surrounding area is the third most populous metropolitan region in the state and 38th in the country. Over a million people live in the Capital District alone. The Capitol building is recognized as one of the most beautiful state houses in the nation, but it has an ugly side: it has long been home to the most dysfunctional and corrupt legislature in the country. Although pundits prefer euphemisms like “conservative Democratic political machine,” the entire scam is actually run by the Squirrel People, along with their BFFs and natural allies among Dick Cheney’s Lizard People. It should surprise no one that leading up the recent New York primary, the Squirrel People of Albany were loyal campaigners for Hillary Clinton; she was (and is) supported by every name brand Democratic politician in the state. Albany’s Times Union, the largest local newspaper in the region, endorsed her. Clinton won the New York primary handily by about 15 points, collecting 139 of the state’s delegates to Sanders’ 108.

Interestingly, Sanders beat Clinton in the Albany metropolitan region by almost 7 points—but Albany’s Times Union didn’t report it.

The Times Unionarticle posted on the night of the primary didn’t mention Sanders’s victory at all. Instead, the article, headlined “Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton win in New York,” gave the impression of a Clinton and Trump sweep. “New York,” it proclaimed, “turned out to be the state where the presidential front-runners regained their mojo.” Although the article devoted a good deal of attention to the activities of primary voters in the capital district, it somehow omitted reporting on whom they had voted for.

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Mothers Day 2016.

image

Thank you to all the moms who are raising generations of kinder and wiser people. I appreciate you this Mothers Day—and always—for making the world a better place.

For those who face a difficult time on Mothers Day, I get you. Whether it’s grieving the loss of a beloved mother (or mother figure) in your life, and/or navigating an abusive or toxic family member, please be extra kind to yourself and do whatever you need to do to feel safe and loved. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do that, you know.

By the way, if anyone is looking for me over the weekend, I’ll be in Mothers Day hell.

image

Mothers Day finger sandwiches.

FROM HELL.

Sorry gay people! You don’t get to go to crappy cartoon paradise!

This video produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been making the rounds in my feeds, and I finally watched it this morning. Pink News has a partial transcript, but the gist of it is a little girl gets coached by her mom to tell her friend that God does not approve of her same-sex parents’ lifestyle, nosiree, not one bit, and he will not let them play in his sandbox if they don’t straighten up. (Geddit? Straighten up? Hahaha I crack myself up.)

There is much to mock here of course, but also much to fear. This is indoctrination into bullying for the elementary school set which, if the roles and messaging were reversed, would have the religious right screaming about persecution. (And for once they might actually have a point.) No child deserves to be told that her parents are going to burn in a lake of fire forever for the unspeakable crime of loving each other and raising a family together. And in a nod to widely-discredited and dangerous “conversion therapy,” mom tells the kid, “People can change. That’s why we share his message.”

STFU 4EVER KTHX.

The most heartbreaking part of it is that the little girl has it exactly right when she tells her mom, “Carrie drew two mommies. She told me they’re married to each other. My teacher says that all that matters is that people love each other and that they’re happy.”

But mom’s not having any of that. And neither is the ultimate bully, Jehovah. Mom says:

“People have their own ideas about what is right and wrong – but what matters is how Jehovah feels. He wants us to be happy and he knows how we can be happiest. That’s why he invented marriage the way he did.”

“I’LL TELL YOU WHEN YOU’RE FUCKING HAPPY, RAWR!!!” -God.

Christ, what a shitshow. Anyway, let’s just focus for a minute on this paradise we’re all supposed to want to get into. With a truly bizarre metaphor, mom compares entering heaven to…getting on an airplane. If you’ve ever flown coach on American, I’m sure you’ll grok the irony here. Worse: in this scenario a gay partner is forbidden cargo, and Jehovah is the TSA? Or something?

MOM: It’s kind of like going on an airplane – what would happen if someone wanted to bring something on the plane that wasn’t allowed?

KID: They can’t go on the trip!

MOM: Right! It’s the same with Jehovah! He wants us to be his friend, and live in paradise forever, but we have to follow his standards to get there…To get there we have to leave some things behind – that means anything Jehovah doesn’t approve of.

The cartoon d00d looks at his (super gay!) bag, twice, before unceremoniously ditching it and dashing through the heavenly purple metal detector.

heavenlytsa

Leave your gay “baggage” behind—and enter hay fever paradise.

I wouldn’t want to share an elevator ride with these insufferable assholes, much less eternity.

__________

Just your regular reminder (on the remote chance there’s no Wifi in the afterlife): if you’re looking for me, I’ll see you in hell. 2nd circle, VIP section.

US health care is sickening.

The theme of my day yesterday was health care. First, I read this blood pressure spiking article from Pro Publica. Remember when I mentioned payday lending? Well, it’s the same idea—leeching off of the very people who can least afford it—except with medical debt.

In 2013, 79,000 debt collection lawsuits were filed in Nebraska, a state with fewer than 2 million residents. One collection agency in the state files an average of 120 lawsuits a day. The charges are often less than $100, but the judgements tack on court costs, attorney fees and interest, so for example one bill for $66 became $275. The collection agency then proceeds to relentlessly seize meager bank accounts and garnish the wages of low income people. Nice racket, right?

Nebraska may be the most egregious outlier among the 50 states, but it is hardly alone. The number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the US is medical debt; it results in more collection actions than credit cards. And the majority of bankruptcy filers have some type of health insurance.

This is your health care on capitalism.

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Rebranding anthropological textbooks.

This link to a blog post by design anthropologist Dori Tunstall has been popping up in my feeds.

Beloit College Anthropologist, Associate Professor Jennifer Esperanza was feeling frustrated. Why is there always images of “exotic” peoples on the cover of anthropology textbooks? “Why can’t there be images of, for example, a group of white American women eating salads, on the cover?,” she asked.

Why indeed.

The design brief that I offered to my former Swinburne Design Anthropology postgraduate students was the following:

Greetings Danthro Alums. I have a quick weekend project for you to do as a favor. A friend of mine pointed out how all anthropology textbooks have these “exotic” images of others on the covers and never an image of “white women eating salad”. 

Me, being Dr. Smarty Pants, said, “Wouldn’t it be great to replace those exotica images with those of middle class American/Australian Caucasians doing stuff, maybe even using stock photos?”

So, I would ask you to select a cover from a cultural anthropology textbook and replace the “exotica” image with an image equivalent of “white women eating salad.”

Design anthropologist, business coach, and branding specialist, Julie Hill accepted the challenge and produced nine images for the project. She describes her experience below:

I found this exercise interesting and fun to explore. Especially focusing on the shift in the lens, from traditional anthropology to contemporary ethnography, and what that means. The longer I did it, the more interesting it got – I accessed deeper cultural themes, such as beauty, festivities or core cultural values.

I found the results of this exercise thrilling and thought-provoking. See what you think. [Read more…]