Presents for moi!

I just received a big ol’ mailing tube in the division office. The office staff made a little joke about how they’d rather I didn’t open it there, just in case (the Catholics will be so happy — they’ve managed to instill fear in uninvolved innocents), so they missed out — it was a beautiful print, all for me.

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Thank you!

I also received another present, a wonderfully warm hoodie with an exceptionally cute bit of art on the front. He’s squinking hearts! And aren’t I adorable in it?

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No name was on the package, and there was just a note that revealed that the source was from France. C’est magnifique! Un grand merci!

Do Republicans think at all?

The mayor of Fort Mill, South Carolina forwarded one of those stupid chain emails that throws around absurd accusations — in this case, the Bible predicted that the anti-christ would be a Muslim in his 40s, and that Barack Obama was therefore the anti-christ. There is so much wrong there; Obama is not a Muslim, the Bible doesn’t say such a thing (especially since it was written before Islam), and you would expect such a devout Christian to know this. But he sent it on anyway.

Now if he were somebody of normal intelligence, at this point he’d be saying, “oops, hit the wrong button, I meant to hit delete…”. But no. He’s making excuses.

Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk says he was “just curious” when he forwarded a chain e-mail suggesting Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama is the biblical antichrist. “I was just curious if there was any validity to it,” Funderburk said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up.”

Well. Think that one through. So Funderburk’s way to get to the truth of a scurrilous claim is to simply repeat it to a bunch of other people? And the kind of evidence he’d accept to debunk it is scriptural?

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My human lineage

This is a very simple, lucid video of Spencer Wells talking about his work on the Genographic Project, the effort to accumulate lots of individual genetic data to map out where we all came from.

I’ve also submitted a test tube full of cheek epithelial cells to this project, and Lynn Fellman is going to be doing a DNA portrait of me. I had my Y chromosome analyzed just because my paternal ancestry was a bit murky and messy and potentially more surprising, and my mother’s family was many generations of stay-at-home Scandinavian peasantry, so I knew what to expect there. Dad turned out to be not such a great surprise, either. I have the single nucleotide polymorphism M343, which puts me in the R1b haplogroup, which is just the most common Y haplogroup in western Europe. I share a Y chromosome with a great many other fellows from England, France, the Netherlands, etc., which is where the anecdotal family history suggested we were from (family legend has it that the first American Myers in my line was a 17th or 18th century immigrant from the Netherlands). Here’s a map of where the older members of my lineage have been from: Africa (of course!) by way of a long detour through central Asia.

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Hello, many-times-great-grandpa! That’s quite the long walk your family has taken. Howdy, great big extended family! We’ll have to get together sometime and keep in touch.

If you’re interested in finding out what clump of humanity you belong to, it’s easy: you can order a $100 kit, swab out a few cheek cells (just like they do on CSI or Law & Order!), mail it back, and a few weeks later, they send you your results. It’s not very detailed — they only analyze a small number of markers — but it’s enough to get a rough picture of where your branch of the family tree lies. And for a bit more, Lynn can turn it into something lovely for your wall.

By the way, Lynn and I will be talking about the science and art of human genetics in a Cafe Scientifique session in Minneapolis in February.

I am a very naughty boy

I’ve barred the doors — I’m sure that any moment now, a squadron of goose-stepping nuns will come marching up the street to wag their fingers at me and rebuke me for what I’ve started. It seems the Youth of Today are going on YouTube and…flaunting their disrespect for crackers!

People can find a video of almost anything on YouTube: babies’ first steps, Saturday Night Live skits, news clips, concerts and now – to the shock of Catholics everywhere – desecration of the Eucharist.

YouTube has long been a destination for Catholics seeking video clips of Masses, apologetics lectures or devotions, but now Catholic outrage is growing as the site has become home to a string of videos depicting acts of Eucharistic desecration, including flushing a host down the toilet, putting one in a blender, feeding one to animals, shooting one with a nail gun and more.

They don’t provide links, perhaps fearing that this could become even more popular. Here you go, somebody is having lots of fun with his crackers. Gosh, maybe more people will be publicly committing heresy now!

You can guess what the response is.

“I don’t know what to say,” said a stunned Msgr. C. Eugene Morris, professor of sacramental theology at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, when told about the videos. “I am outraged that YouTube is tacitly supporting this and giving this behavior an audience.”

Hey, Eugene! It’s just a cracker! Get over it — as long as people aren’t disrupting your services or pilfering chalices, there has been no interference with your religious freedom, and no harm done.

Thomas Serafin is president of the International Crusade for Holy Relics, an internet watchdog group of Catholic laymen. His group has been fighting online affronts to the Catholic Church, including the sale of the Eucharist and of relics of the saints online, for more than a decade.

“YouTube has to be held accountable and stopped,” Serafin said from Los Angeles. “If Catholics don’t take a stand right now, they can expect such outrages to continue.”

Serafin added: “The internet is, in many ways, a new world, and it is our duty to evangelize this world, but we have to speak up and be heard to do that.”

Thomas and his organization are more than a little creepy — death cultists oblivious to their own bizarrely morbid obsessions. They have a right to evangelize if they want, but others have a right to mock and laugh at them, too. These wackos are organizing now, though, to get YouTube to censor and blacklist anyone who visibly makes fun of religious beliefs. YouTube has not cave in yet, though, and I hope they hold out — it is absurd to say that Catholic videos of blood and bones are not offensive, while videos of demolished bits of bread are outrages that must be yanked.

Serafin said people should call or write YouTube to demand that the videos be taken down. YouTube’s public relations email address is press@youtube.com

People who think YouTube should not be in the business of prosecuting blasphemy should also write and let them know that you are pleased they are not the religion police.

Now whose fault is all this? Mine. I am so proud.

One name still making the rounds in YouTube and bloggers’ discussions on Eucharistic desecration is Paul Z. Myers, the University of Minnesota professor who asked his blog readers in July to “score” him “some consecrated communion wafers.”

“If any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare,” Myers wrote in response to the case of a University of Central Florida student who stole a consecrated host the previous month.

Myers later posted a picture of a host – which he claimed was consecrated and sent to him via mail – as well as pages from the Koran and atheist Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” in a trash can, underneath coffee grounds and a banana peel.

As for the current YouTube videos, Dominique cited Myers as inspiration for the video series.

This is great! Everyone should join in! It makes me so pleased to see growing, vocal opposition to the fundamental absurdity of religion, do keep it up.

Of course, the price we pay is a lot of complaints back at us, which is fine — annoying, but it’s their right. Since I just got back from a long weekend, I thought I’d peek into the eucharist auto-trash folder and see what’s dribbled into my email lately, and you’ll find a sample below the fold. I just grabbed the top 15, so it’s also fairly representative of the content.

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You are all godless heathens…

…and this site is fertile ground for those seeking to spread the word of Jesus Christ. The readership here is far more in need of the word than Egypt, Colombia, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Zambia, Togo, Austria, Pakistan or Iran. So, please, get a bible. They’re free, and if you don’t take them, they’ll be sent off to some poor innocent in some nice country like Egypt, Colombia, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Zambia, Togo, Austria, Pakistan or Iran, where they aren’t needed as much.

We’re all going to be rich!

No, that’s not right. It would be selfish for us as individuals to take advantage of this incredible windfall.

A controversial creationist who successfully campaigned for Richard Dawkins’ official website to be banned in Turkey has offered a multitrillion- pound challenge to scientists.

Adnan Oktar said that he has “issued a call to all evolutionists” that he will give “10 trillion Turkish lira to anyone who produces a single intermediate-form fossil demonstrating evolution” – a sum roughly equal to £4.4trn.

I had to look up the exchange rate. That’s $8,010,890,000,000. Eight trillion, ten billion, eight hundred and ninety million dollars. I could live reasonably comfortably on that.

Instead, though, I’m going to suggest something that will help out the entire country. The US government should immediately send a plane to pick up Mr Oktar, bring him to our country, and take him on a guided tour of the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History, accompanied by Niles Eldredge, Kevin Padian, Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, and the entire scientific staff of those museums. Afterwards, they can accept the check from Mr Oktar, run down to the local bank and cash it, and use one trillion dollars to resolve the current financial crisis, seven trillion can be sunk immediately into the American educational system, and they can send the change left over to me as a reward for coming up with this brilliant plan.

Unless…

You don’t think…

Adnan Oktar couldn’t possibly be lying about how much money he has, could he? And he couldn’t possibly by planning to weasel out of accepting any honest evidence, could he?

The Eleventh Commandment is “Thou shalt mess with this poll”

Let us stir up a little tempest in Tennessee. An internet poll asks, SHOULD A DISPLAY OF THE 10 COMMANDMENTS BE ALLOWED IN OUR COUNTY COURTHOUSE?. The currently leading answer, with 82% of the vote, is “Absolutely. The laws of our land are based on the 10 Commandments and anybody who doesn’t want to look at them (or read them) certainly doesn’t have to do so.”

This poll also has something sneaky. There are 5 possible answers, but they’ve just worded the same thing differently to split our votes. The intelligent options are “Such a display is inappropriate in any public building,” “No way. There needs to be a distinct separation between church and state,” and “No! Our government is prohibited by law from endorsing religion and this is clearly an endorsement.” To make this a bit more challenging, let’s elevate the percentages on all three to crush the two that basically say “Favor Christians in the law”.

Back home at last

I motored into my driveway at 1am last night, after a long day and a long flight from LA. And now you expect me to start blogging again? You people are so demanding.

Oh, well, it was a fun weekend, and you can see some of it already on the web. That wild man Scooter was there, and he made an audio recording of my talk at Libros Revolución. There was a good crowd there, including lots of Pharyngula regulars, and it wasn’t your usual ‘guy lectures at mob’ sort of thing — it was more like a comment thread here. People kept interrupting me and throwing out their own ideas. I’d come with a fairly long and detailed set of notes, and I ended up just throwing them away and mostly winging it to keep up with all the input. It was a blast — I wish all my talks would go that way.

And if you’re just so dang tired of listening to me all the time, Scooter also interviewed Sastra. She talks just like she writes, did you know that?