We are not Geoffrey Beene’s Kids!

Jerry Lewis, the comedian, hosts a yearly telethon to raise money for children with muscular dystrophy. I find it entirely unwatchable, because it comes across as patronizing and condescending, and seeing Jerry Lewis mug for the camera and present himself as the loving, maudlin hero trying to save these pathetic, pitiful wretches makes me want to kick him in the balls. I think he means well and he does want to raise money for a worthy charity, but by turning the ill into their disease he diminishes them. And by talking down to them and referring to people with muscular dystrophy as “Jerry’s Kids”, he doesn’t make them look better — he holds himself above them and trivializes the human victims of the disease. It also backfires; the term “Jerry’s Kids” has become an insult. Just ask the Urban Dictionary.

Jerrys Kids is a derogatory reference to the the socialy retarded, mentaly challenged, inbred looking, trailer park hilbillys that appear on the Jerry Springer or individuals of simular appearance show. taken from the Jerry Lewis chairitable telethon.

(Whatever incompetent wrote that, by the way, makes himself look like that which he describes. It isn’t even a good description of a muscular wasting disease.)

Dignity isn’t something that can be bestowed on another, it can only be taken away. And Jerry Lewis has been stripping away people’s dignity for a long, long time.

Marty Robbins has exposed a similar campaign on behalf of scientists that can similarly only harm. The Geoffrey Beene Foundation had the well-meaning but entirely awful idea of trying to help the image of scientists by having them pose with a collection of third-tier or has-been rock stars. Oh, look at these sad, uninteresting nobodies who never do anything exciting. How can we help them? I know! We’ll let them get their picture taken with Debbie Harry or Jay Sean…that’ll add a little glamor to their dull, drab lives.

It sends a message. Scientists aren’t interesting in their own right, so they can be lofted out of pitiful obscurity simply by snapping their photo with someone who is really accomplished, you know, a pop star who can look pretty while rhyming. I’m sure it was very sweet for Heart and Elizabeth Blackburn to pose together, but it is incredibly condescending to think that a frickin’ Nobel Prize winner needs a photo op like that to enhance her reputation. She doesn’t need celebrity endorsements.

Yes, I know: Americans are stupid, they don’t know a thing about telomeres, but they admire Dolly Parton’s bust, so you could argue that we need to bootstrap science into the public consciousness by first appealing to what they do know. I actually think that’s a reasonable idea. But running ads in GQ magazine is a bad way to do it. There is no connection made between interesting people doing exciting science, no attempt made to communicate science in a way that people could understand — instead, we get a throw-away gimmick of having smart people stand next to popular entertainers, as if glitz were infectious.

How does this work? Do the scientists win when one gets to appear in a Lady Gaga video, when Angeline Jolie adopts one, or when P. Diddy lets one into his entourage? Being associated with pop stars does not improve science education one whit unless what makes them cool is their science, not their association with a famous non-scientist.

I’m not alone in feeling that this is futile and patronizing. Other scientists are reacting the same way: ERV doesn’t like it, and Jerry Coyne is unimpressed. Ophelia Benson thinks it is superficial, and she’s right. The only people who think this is a winner of an idea are the rockstars of accommodationism, who’ve always been light on the substance anyway.

Try again, Geoffrey Beene. You’ll get praise for your work in popularizing science when you can let scientists shine by their own light, instead of merely reflecting the dim luster of a few remote stars.

P.T. Barnum was right

There’s a sucker born every minute, and you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

The Creation “Museum” is expanding and building a theme park. It’s simply a fact that Ken Ham’s Institution of Ignorance is doing business like gangbusters — it is well-attended and successful, has low-brow appeal, has negligible operating expenses (unlike a real museum), and is drawing in crowds of rubes and doing a great job of separating them from their money. I’m not at all surprised that Ham is rubbing his hands together and calculating new ways to fleece the flock; it’s what his kind does.

It’s a bit embarrassing having this gigantic, growing symbol of the failure of American education metastasizing in our midst, but it’s not their fault. The way we’ll fix it is not to shut down the stupid place, but to teach people that creationism is foolishness, so that Ham’s flock shrinks.

Otherwise, though, there’s also the hope that this may be a fatal attack of hubris. There have been other cases of evangelical Christians building theme parks, and they don’t end well. Balancing on that thin line between preachiness and fun isn’t easy, and I don’t think the thin-skinned and frighteningly dour Ken Ham can do it.

So, how did Hitchens do?

There was a debate in Toronto yesterday, between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on whether religion is a force for good in the world, and I think readers here properly predicted the results: Hitchens was dynamic, clear, and forceful, while Blair was a simpering, weak, maker of feeble excuses. It is resolved: religion is wrong and evil.

You can get full accounts from the BBC, the Guardian, and the New Humanist.

From the crazy part of Minnesota

Minnesota State Representative Tom Hackbarth is a Republican. How can you tell? By his deranged behavior.

A security guard at a St. Paul Planned Parenthood clinic called the cops last week after he spotted a Republican state lawmaker with a loaded gun in the parking lot. But the pol says he was only “checking on” his online girlfriend, who he thought may be on a date with another man — a claim police have not been able to corroborate because the man did not have a phone number or address for the woman.

Because that’s how married (but putatively in the midst of a divorce) Republicans look for their girlfriends: by hanging out in Planned Parenthood parking lots with a gun. It’s totally charming that he didn’t know her address and phone number, since they were just “online” friends — I guess he was just bringin’ the real by stalking her with a gun.

I am really amused by his disclaimer.

“I was not a jealous boyfriend,” he said. “I was just trying to check up on her. It’s totally a misunderstanding.”

Yeah. Just checking. With a gun. That’s how we all monitor our wimmin.

Are you surprised that his district overlaps with Michele Bachmann’s?

This is not a cephalopod, part 1

Enough. Everyone is describing this new species of deep sea worm as squidlike. IT IS NOT. It’s segmented, it swims with undulations of bristles, it’s got appendages on its head, not its foot, that it uses to trawl for food.


It’s a lovely beastie, but how can anyone mistake it for a squid? What’s next, is the Guardian going to cover a sheep-shearing in Scotland and talk about all the four-legged squid gamboling about?

Blair v. Hitchens poll

Tonight, Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens will debate on whether religion is a force for good. I’d love to hear Hitchens on that subject, but Blair? That’s almost as comical as having Hitchens debate Bush on the subject. The newspapers are relying on two tools to promote the event. Hype:

Together, Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens are two of the great British thinkers on religion.

Wait, Blair…isn’t he the simpering me-too former prime minister who was our American lackey in the UK? The one who converted to Catholicism, an act that clearly marks him as mentally deficient? Hmmm.

Oh, well. The second tool is the online poll:

Is religion a force for good in the world?

Yes 17%
No 83%

They haven’t even had the debate yet and Hitchens is already winning!

Not this again!

What is wrong with people? It’s just a frackin’ book!

A 15-year-old girl has been arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English-language version of the Qur’an — and then posting video footage of the act on Facebook.

No. It is obscene to start jailing people for destroying their own books, simply because some oversensitive wackos think it is magical. Apparently, this girl burned it on school property, though — call her on creating a fire hazard. But not for contradicting someone’s delusions.

And the kooks defending the arrest aren’t helping their own cause.

Catherine Heseltine, chief executive officer of the Muslim public affairs committee, said burning the Qur’an was one of the most offensive acts to Muslims she could imagine.

Oh, really? Ms Heseltine’s imagination is not very impressive.

How about digging up their grandfather’s body, sawing off the top of the skull, and using it for a dog food bowl? Or how about walking up to their mother and pissing on their burqua?

Or hey, how about cruising over a Muslim country with a Predator drone and opening up on suspicious-looking crowds with Hellfire missiles? Would it be more offensive if the missiles had Bible verses painted on them?

It really diminishes the quality of their outrage when they have tantrums over such trivial and harmless offenses. Man, if I hadn’t already buried my only copy of the Qur’an, I’d be taking it out back right now and setting it on fire.