Try not to think Catholic thoughts today, if you can help it

I know, it’s Thanksgiving in America, and I’ve already been curmudgeonly enough for you—but I have to do you the favor now of ruining your appetite with this tale of institutionalized child abuse in Ireland. It involves the Catholic Church, of course (and isn’t that unsurprising ennui just another indication of Catholicism unsavory reputation?).

Authorities enjoyed a cosy relationship with the Church and did not enforce the law as four archbishops, obsessed with secrecy and avoiding scandal, protected abusers and reputations at all costs, the report said..

Hundreds of crimes against children from the 1960s to the 1990s were not reported while police treated clergy as though they were above the law.

In a three-year inquiry, the Commission to Inquire into the Dublin Archdiocese uncovered a sickening tactic of ”don’t ask, don’t tell” throughout the Church.

”The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities,” it said.

”The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up.

There is one bright spot of common sense.

The inquiry, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, said the hierarchy cannot claim they did not know that child sex abuse was a crime.

That’s good to hear. The spectacle of a gang of gruesome old sanctimonious virgins looking befuddled and trying to claim, “We had no idea that buggering children was a bad idea, your honor” would be a bit much to take.

Reality is a liberal conspiracy

By way of the endless thread, I have discovered this marvelous quote from Andy Schlafly.

There’s a broader point here. Why the big push for black holes by liberals, and big protests against any objection to them? If it turned out empirically that promoting black holes tends to cause people to read the Bible less, would you still push this so much?

Forget that math and physics stuff; the universe is actually a giant propaganda piece for liberalism, and the only reason scientists huff and puff about what’s actually out there is to get you to stop reading your Bibles.

Happy Wary Vigilance Day!

Sorry, I don’t believe in Thanksgiving Day.

This whole notion that one should have vague and aimless feelings of gratitude for the nature of one’s existence is just too weird, and the bow-your-head-at-the-table and radiate-blessings-at-the-cosmos tradition is pointless and silly. Don’t get me wrong: I can be appropriately and happily grateful to people who have gone out of their way to do good for me — Mom will get a phone call, and my wife will get a hug, and they really are appreciated — but for the most part, our existence is not the product of selfless altruism, and there is nothing out there that can be aware of just how glad you are to be alive, no matter how fawning and fulsome you may be.

The universe is cold and uncaring. You may be grateful that you weren’t vaporized by a meteor falling out of the sky this year, but there’s no agent out there who will feel pleased that you noticed, and the fact of your general relief that your existence continues will not be a factor in the motion of space rocks in the next year. I am happy that the microbes didn’t turn me into a pile of putrefying goo yet, but it wasn’t an act of thoughtful kindness on their part, since the little bastards are doing their best to get past my defenses all the time, and all that’s keeping them at bay is my constant expenditure of energy to keep my immune system at readiness. And they’ll also get me one day, for sure…unless that meteor vaporizes me into a cloud of inorganic molecules with minimal nutritional value first.

We’re all doomed. We are currently survivors by luck, sustained by selfish processes, and I don’t thank luck, because she (if she were an autonomous self-aware agent, and she isn’t) will turn for me or against me without concern for my feelings. Nature is not appeasable, get over it.

That poor bird that most of you will have on your dining room table is a perfect metaphor. It went through its life dumb and mostly content, getting its feed shoveled in front of its face every day, and then last week the machineries of profit began to move, and it found itself trussed on an assembly line. Then a gang of people who were mostly concerned with trudging through another day and making a living wage decapitated it, gouged out its guts, stripped off its feathers, and wrapped it in plastic so you could thoughtlessly stuff fragments of its carcass into your hungry maw. The universe did not rotate about that bird, and neither does it spin about you.

If you’re eating tofurkey, you aren’t off the hook, either. Think of the soybeans!

So don’t sit at your table and think you’re being good by warmly thanking an indifferent universe for whatever. It doesn’t care. Don’t beam happy thoughts at the farmers who stocked your larder — they can’t hear you, and they did it for their own personal profit anyway. Above all, don’t be hypocritical and radiate gratitude at the corpse of the turkey, since it’s dead and during its brief life would rather you hadn’t fueled the market forces that led to its execution.


It would be far wiser to sit at that table and contemplate the threats to your existence, and scheme about how you’re going to get them first.

Oh, and you probably do have people who have done good things for you, at personal cost, and without carrying out the calculus of profit. If you want to have a day of thankfulness, thank them personally. None of this nonsense of bland, undirected, unfocused, smug gratitude. Share human feelings with other human beings.

Also, gods don’t exist, so they haven’t done squat for you. Don’t waste your time praying to them, either.

Some people seem to be misreading this, and think I’m telling everyone to have a bad day. Wrong: have a grand old day off, I know I am. Just forget this silly business of feeling blindly thankful. Gratitude is to be shared between sentient beings.

If you’re feeling this strange sensation of being grateful for existence or for good fortune, though, I wonder…would you be resentful of nonexistence, or place blame for random bad luck?

Greg Epstein is a very nice fellow

I’ve met him a few times, and that’s the impression I get in person and in his writings, and I certainly can’t object to that. I haven’t yet read his new book, Good Without God, but I’m pretty sure I’ll come away from it as I would from a heaping plate of marzipan and sugar cookies and chocolate truffles — a little nibble is plenty, and it’s all sweet and lovely, but I sure wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. And it can get cloying fast. But someone will like it.

There’s a very nice article about Epstein and his book in the Boston Phoenix (See? Again, every time, “nice” is the word that comes to the tongue). I think his message is fine for the people who want the tensions and edges blurred out, and I trust that many will be receptive to his book. But, you know, the journalist asked for my opinion, and I summarized it fairly well, I think.

“I think it is very, very nice of Greg Epstein to want to ape religion, and maybe there will even be some people who find his ideas appealing,” Myers tells the Phoenix via e-mail. “However, I’d remind him that just as we can be good without god, we can also be good without rituals, good without sacraments, [and] good without priests and chaplains. … I can appreciate that he’s offering a small step away from the old superstitions, but we can go so much further.”

Epstein can offer an itty-bitty votive candle wrapped in the form of familiar rituals, and I can appreciate that he is trying to bring a little light into the world. I prefer the lightning, and the carbon arc lamp, and the laser, myself…and the kind of illumination that sends the cockroaches of old dogma scuttling off to hide.

I get email — and create a contest!

Want another reason to avoid debating creationists? It’s like giving a mangy, limping, scab-encrusted starving fleabait cat a saucer of milk — you’ll never be rid of the whimpering dependent. Ross Olson of the Twin Cities Creation Science Association has taken to pestering me and Mark Borrello with his plaintive demands, and unfortunately I can’t just stuff him into a carrier and drag him down to the humane society or the vet.

Here’s his latest missive. He cuts right to the chase and Godwins with the very first word.


Dr. Myers,

The most emotional audience response in the debate came to the charge that
evolution influenced Hitler.

Actually, there is a strong case that it did, as shown in the linked

Would you be so kind as to respond directly? We will certainly post your

Also, your claim that evolution increases complexity needs evidence.



PS I still think that you should use your influence to rein in your most
vehement supporters in the blog — it resembles mud wrestling and is
probably an embarrassment to serious evolutionists and atheists.

The linked article is on the Answers in Genesis site, and is authored by none other than Cap’n Squirrely himself, Jerry Bergman. It is truly awful.

I thought about giving him a short, pithy answer — after all, it’s transparently obvious that development and evolution lead to increases in information, and the claim that evolution influenced Hitler is both trivial and misleading, since we could also say that evolution influenced creationists with as much truth. But then I realized something…

I have a mud-wrestling pit!

So here, I take two questions, 1) Was evolution a significant and essential factor in guiding Nazi thought? And 2) Can natural processes produce an increase in complexity? I throw them down into the alligator-infested pit of churning chaos, and I leave it to you to produce an answer.

The rules: answer each question separately in less than 500 words (as it is, that will strain creationist attention spans), and leave it as a comment in this thread. Be sure to leave a valid email address (which I will see, but no one else will) in the comment header.

Judging: I will be the final arbiter, so the two winners will be determined subjectively and arbitrarily. Other commenters can cheer on their favorites, though, and perhaps I will be swayed by popular acclaim. I’ll also get the Trophy Wife’s™ opinion, which will probably sway me even more than popular opinion. As long as it isn’t overlong, length won’t be a factor; an effective single-sentence answer can win.

Deadline: Let’s say…Tuesday, 15 December. I’ll declare the winners on 16 December.

Rewards: I have stacks and stacks of books, and what I will do is reach into the pile and extract something that I can send to each of the winners. It could be something wonderful, it could be some weird-ass crap. It will be a surprise to all of us.

I’m not going to rein anyone in, that’s for sure. I’m confident the seething maelstrom here will produce answers better than anything Prissy-pants Olson can churn out.