Look! It’s raining stupid people this morning!

What else can I think, when reading Echidne of the Snakes, I run across this astonishing gem of self-loathing femininity.

If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt and politics, what would you do? Hoo-boy, this is where I get in trouble, and that starts with “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “pool.” I’d like to jump in a pool right now. Some may tell me to jump in a river for this one: I would remove women’s suffrage, and I might even consider making voting rights tied to property ownership.

Well, actually, she doesn’t get in trouble: read the comments and everyone is quite supportive, and think that disenfranchising the majority of Americans is simply a wonderful idea. It would clear the roles of all those worthless welfare queens who always vote for Democrats, dontcha know. Women aren’t supposed to vote or run for office or do anything other than serve their families.

And they’re very, very happy about it all.

As you might guess, when you’ve got a popular idea this stupid, that makes people content to lobotomize themselves and throw away the basic privileges of a democratic society, there’s one thing behind it all: religion. The site cites the The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, a lovely short document that will fit in well in the Republic of Gilead. And of course, coupled with this, we find as usual crazy ideas about the history of the world.

You know, this kind of thing just reinforces my belief that religion is a deep-seated evil in the world. And before all you moderate, liberal sensible Christians start yelling at me for tarring you with a broad brush, tell me: how many of you criticize the insane wings of your belief systems? Have you gotten off your butts to police this broad institution you call sacred, that you believe has a holy duty?

Every time they’re mentioned, an editor at Time sheds a tear

Time’s former “Blog of the Year,” the execrable PowerLine blog with which I share a state, has done it again: said something so stupid and so palpably false that I’m feeling a bit embarrassed about ragging on Oklahoma in my previous post—I should feel ashamed by association at being a Minnesotan. Check out Deltoid: down is up in the world of the Hindrocket.

It’s a Bible Belt story, but don’t worry—it has a happy ending

Oh, geez, Oklahoma.

There was a weird court case there recently. Well, maybe not so weird, unfortunately—I could see it happening here. To make it short, an atheist girl in high school was kicked off a sports team because she wouldn’t join in team prayers; abuse ensued; school officials lied; the principal assaulted the father; police and principal perjured themselves to press charges against him; threats were made to try and drive the family out of the state. It’s actually a little bit hard to believe such stuff could go on in 21st century America, but it went to trial, and this next little anecdote alone is enough to convince me that the Smalkowski family was discriminated against for their lack of faith.

Edwin introduced himself to the jury as National Legal Director for American Atheists and asked the prospective jury in the Oklahoma panhandle if they could accept the testimony of an Atheist over that of a professed Christian. When the jury looked at him blankly, the judge asked the prospects if they understood the question. One woman spoke for many in the group by asking “What is an Atheist?” Edwin explained that an Atheist was a person who did not believe in a god or gods or in a supernatural world, and that the defendant and his entire family were such persons. Many of the prospects said they could not believe such a person over a Christian and were struck for cause. To their credit, many members of the jury panel, including two ministers’ wives, told the judge they could not be fair to an Atheist in such a situation and were excused.

Don’t worry, foreigners who read this, in the United States we ship all of our really stupid people to Oklahoma, so this story isn’t at all representative of what you’d discover in Iowa or Alabama or Pennsylvania.

Nah, I lied. Oklahoma is a perfectly normal state, and even in Minnesota we’d probably have to struggle to scrape up 12 people who both knew what an atheist was, and didn’t think they strangle kittens for fun. Sigh.

Anyway, the good news is that they did manage to find 12 intelligent people, and got a fast and unanimous verdict of not guilty. Yay, Oklahoma!

One cute postscript:

The night of the verdict, tornados of unusual violence descended on the panhandle of Oklahoma. The home of the Principal who had brought the false charges against Chuck Smalkowski was severely damaged.

This fact has no relationship whatsoever to the verdict.

Man, you mess with the religious and all you have to face are imaginary, invisible, insubstantial ghosts; screw with the godless and you have to deal with the immense power of the real physical universe. (To be fair, though, you still have to deal with the same forces even if you don’t screw with us.)

Squidly oddments

There are always a few strange leads to cephalopod miscellany in my mailbag…people have this odd idea that I like tentacled molluscs. So here we go, a few strange things on the strange ol’ internet.

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This t-shirt is anatomically incorrect! I’m not sure what that thing is, but it’s no cephalopod I’ve ever seen. Although I suspect he’s wondering what that strange pink beast does with those two stumpy tentacles.


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I wish I had a giant squid at my dinner table. At least it’s anatomically more reasonably drawn.


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There are an awful lot of knitters with a strange fascination with cephalopods.


Running some more Numbers

When I criticized that Ron Numbers article, I should have mentioned there were lots of other peculiar little comments that I didn’t bother to address. Jason Rosenhouse fills in the gaps. One of the things Numbers tried to argue was that creationists are pro-science because they pay lip service to science…but Jason squashes that idea.

Referring to creationists as anti-science is not meant as a description of how they see themselves. It is meant as a description of what they are. Just as the Devil can cite scripture for his purposes, so too can creationists use scientific sounding jargon in making their case. The fact remains that in both word and deed their actions drip with contempt for science and scientists. It is terribly naive for Numbers to pretend otherwise.

Acoelomorph flatworms and precambrian evolution

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One of many open questions in evolution is the nature of bilaterian origins—when the first bilaterally symmetrical common ancestor (the Last Common Bilaterian, or LCB) to all of us mammals and insects and molluscs and polychaetes and so forth arose, and what it looked like. We know it had to have been small, soft, and wormlike, and that it lived over 600 million years ago, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of beast likely to be preserved in fossil deposits.

We do have a tool to help us get a glimpse of it, though: the analysis of extant organisms, searching for those common features that are likely to have been present in that first bilaterian; we’re looking for the Last Common Bilaterian by finding the Least Common Denominators among living species. And one place to look is among the flatworms.

[Read more…]

I hate to do this…

…but I have to defend Rush Limbaugh. He was detained for having a bottle of Viagra at the airport? What was he going to do, threaten Palm Beach with his little gift from god?

I think Limbaugh is a lying hypocritical scumbag, but what alarms me more here is the way airport security and customs has become an arm of fascism: a way to invade the privacy of the individual, all in the name of protecting us from the faceless evil of the other. A guy, I don’t care who it is, traveling with one bottle of Viagra is not a threat, and this shouldn’t have warranted even a prim finger wagging with eyebrow raised from an inspector.

Besides, seeing this in the news everywhere and having to imagine Limbaugh with a chubby is making me feel a little bit ill.