Ruining Christian holidays, one billboard at a time


Hey, I said that in an interview last spring, which is getting a little wider circulation now: religions are fairy tales. Somebody slapped it on a billboard over Easter, though, and businesses around it reported a two-thirds decline. It sounds like it was very effective at scaring away fools, and that, unfortunately, fools represent a significant fraction of their customer base.

Maybe they should have prayed it away. Or summoned one of their favorite fairies to poof it out of existence.


Watch out, if you signed up for one of the Expelled showings, you might find your email address shared with more people than you expected.

I think John ought to sell his newfound mailing list — it’s jam-packed with the gullible, so it would be rather valuable to the unscrupulous.

In slightly related news, Wired wrote up the latest incident, and did something irritating: they illustrated it with the stupid picture of Stein in short pants. I’m thinking I should break out my shorts and have my knobby knees in a counter-illustration.

Facebook is a Mecca for sin

What an awful story: a young woman is murdered by her own father for online chatting.

A woman was beaten up and shot dead by her father for talking online with a man she met on the website Facebook.
The case was reported on a Saudi Arabian news site as an example of the “strife” the social networking site is causing in the Islamic nation.

I don’t think it’s a web page causing the strife: I think it’s a hateful cockamamie belief system. Don’t blame our openness for your derangement, or our tolerance for your daughter-slaughtering monsters.

A leading Saudi preacher told that Facebook was a “door to lust” for women and called for it to be blocked to prevent social “strife”.

Everyone is rushing to sign up for a facebook account right now, aren’t you? Go ahead, I’ll be your friend. Just don’t look at my photo section if you’re afraid of that “door to lust”.

Daniel Dennett is coming to town

Hey, look at this: Dan Dennett is coming to Minnesota State University in Mankato this week. I hope he shows up wearing that pimpin’ hat.


Dennett, one of the nation’s most original and influential philosophers, will talk about “Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” on April 3 and “Evolution and Evitability: Free Will and Responsibility” April 4. His April 3 lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom. His second talk will begin at 9 a.m. the following day in CSU 253, 254 and 255. Both are free and open to the public.

I may have to swing out that way for the first lecture…if, that is, the weather cooperates. We’re in the early hours of a serious snowstorm here…6 inches of snow tends to chill the desire to go on road trips.

The hopeless inanity of Egnor

Michael Egnor, that neurosurgeon whose tenuous grip on rationality makes him so popular with the creationists, thinks he has a gotcha moment with some notorious atheist. That rude godless fellow, who is me, said this, which is accurate:

…greater science literacy, which is going to lead to the erosion of religion, and then we’ll get this nice positive feedback mechanism going where as religion slowly fades away we’ll get more and more science to replace it and that will displace more and more religion which will allow more and more science in and we’ll eventually get to the point where religion has taken that appropriate place as a side dish rather than the main course. And if you separate out the ethical message from religion — what have you got left — you got — you got a bunch of fairy tales, right?

Here’s Egnor’s foolish interpretation of that comment — and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of dogmatic Christians interpret it the same way.

In the midst of a furious national debate about intelligent design, Darwinism, and metaphysical bias and indoctrination in science education, one has to wonder why Dr. Myers would state plainly that the agenda of Darwinists is to advance atheism in the classroom. Why would Dr. Myers state unequivocally on film that a fundamental goal of science education is the suppression of religious belief?

The most parsimonious explanation is that he means it.

What nonsense. I did not “state unequivocally on film that a fundamental goal of science education is the suppression of religious belief.” I do not peddle atheism in the classroom, and am actually very careful, since I am a vocal atheist in the blogosphere, to reassure my students that apostasy is not required to get an “A” in my classes, and that they are free to hold whatever religious beliefs they want — the biology classroom is about evidence, not belief, and explanations supported by logic, not revelation.

I do think science erodes faith, but not because I hammer students with doctrinaire atheism; I don’t need to. Here’s a little anecdote I’ve told a few people that illustrates my attitude.

I was once in an argument with a staunch creationist (a not uncommon experience) in which he berated me, among a multitude of godless liberal college professors, for atheist indoctrination in the classroom…just like Michael Egnor. He was upset because, not unreasonably, people with his beliefs fear to send their children to those reputable colleges because they’ll come home changed and in doubt, and questioning the faith that they work so hard to instill. He thought the same thing, that our classes were places where we actively suppress religion.

I told him that I never criticize his religion in the classroom, nor do I push atheism. Instead, it’s like this: what he does with his religion is the equivalent of telling his kids that the sky is green, and worse, assuring them that this is a fundamental tenet of their religion and that the whole structure comes crashing down if they question it. They get in my classroom, and I don’t tell them their religion is wrong — I tell them to open their eyes and look up.*

That’s where science hurts religion. We have ideals of skepticism and empiricism that do conflict with most religions — I know, a bunch of you will tell me that your religion allows for those values, too, and I’ll argue with you a different time — and that’s where the antagonism arises. I don’t claim the fundamental goal of science education is the suppression of religious belief — the fundamental goal of science education is to question everything. It’s merely a side effect and their own damn fault that religion fares poorly when subjected to criticism.

*I wish I could claim that my crushing reply silenced my opponent and he rethought everything he claimed about science, but of course it didn’t — intransigent creationists never think. Instead, he tried to argue, “well, what if the sky is green, and your unspiritual eyes simply can’t see it?” Etc., etc., etc. And so it goes.

Airplanes make me cranky

I’m home. It’s been a very long day with horrible flight delays, and I’m grouchy. I must frog blast the vent core.

I was stuck on an airplane for far too many hours, and I wanted to get some work done — on my laptop. Have you noticed how tightly packed the seats are in coach? It was tight, but I could at least get started on some work, when the guy in front of me decided to recline his seat back and sleep. Suddenly there was a head rest aimed at my throat and the back of the guy’s head in my nose. I could smell his shampoo! (I think it was scented with sweat vinaigrette, with extra animal fats added for body). I tried to work some more, but the only way to do it was to partially open my laptop, rest the hinges on my thighs, and reach into the gap to type; it was like squatting by the tank at Seaworld, trying to do dentistry on a dolphin while squinting at the phosphorescent herring stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Airlines, please. If you’re going to squeeze the seats together that closely, could you please lock them all in one position? It just doesn’t work otherwise. And how about screening passengers for basic hygiene? By the end of the trip I was beginning to think that it would be a mercy if the hairball in front of me detonated.

OK, I feel a little better now.