Hey, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio!

What the hell is wrong with you, stupid hospital?

I just got an email from the parent of one of your patients. He reports that there are four bibles in the hospital room, and further, as an organization with a mind so open that the contradictions and conflicts blow breezily by with no actual interference with the substance of your brains, patients can also request copies of the Qur’an, Jewish holy books, or any other religious text they can imagine; further, the wireless internet available in the room allows patients and visitors to visit the Vatican website, or browse Pat Robertson’s pit of misinformation, or watch Kent Hovind’s videos, or cruise on over to Answers in Genesis or the ICR. How nice.

However, you’ve also put nanny filters on the web, and block access to anything in the category “Alternative Spirituality/Belief”, which, apparently, you get to define. The above listed loathsome lairs of liars are OK, but guess who gets blocked? American Atheists, and the entirety of Freethoughtblogs.

I suspect you’ve got some pious goon in your IT department. You might want to slap them around a bit and tell them that they don’t get to impose their religious bigotry on every patient in the hospital. Who are you to tell the patients in your hospital what religious beliefs, or in this case absence thereof, they are allowed to practice?

If you don’t watch out, I’ll have to sic JT or some of the other nearby SSA staff on you. Then you’ll be sorry. They’ll gnaw on you just for fun.

Last call for the Midwest Science of Origins Conference

The conference starts here in Morris tonight, with an opening lecture by yours truly on the evolution of creationism in the science auditorium on campus. It’s just the one event, so you’re forgiven if you only show up tomorrow for the main course — a day of science and philosophy, starting at 10am and continuing with breaks until about 7. All talks will be held in the science auditorium, except Neil Shubin’s at 2:00, which will be held at the elementary school gym (just a few blocks down the road from the university).

Then, on Sunday, we wrap up with Chris Stedman talking about community service or something.

Come on out! It’s going to be a grand couple of days, and we’d love to make the community wonder what’s going on by swamping all the local restaurants at lunch and dinner.

I’ve received questions about this: what if you haven’t registered? DON’T WORRY. SHOW UP ANYWAY. It’s entirely free, they just want you to register to help keep track of how many show up, and to get contact info for future events. You can also just show up for any one talk you want to hear (Shubin is in the Elementary School because we expect more will show up for that talk than the others). It’s OK — this is all casual and fun, the goal is engagement with the region and community, and we’re not going to force anyone to jump through hoops.

Why I am an atheist – Rod Chlebek

Religion didn’t seem to be very important in my earliest years. We didn’t pray or go to church except for maybe twice a year and then whenever someone died or got married. Strangely, I ended up in Catechism in preparation for First Communion. Somehow I botched that up and didn’t attend when I was expected but I got another chance at it when I hit 4th grade. That was the year I started to attend Catholic School. It was totally voluntary. I wanted to go because my neighborhood friends went there. I made it through First Communion that year being very skeptical about the whole body and blood thing. We were taught that “amen” means “I believe” and that when you receive Communion you are expected to reply “amen”. What bothered me more would have been being the only student who didn’t go through with this. Everyone else did it and believed. I must have been doing something wrong.

Sixth grade brought my third year of being an alter boy and also a heavy dose of science. This increased the amount of conflict I had in dealing with a resurrection, miracles, and the existence of God. Again, I went along with the duality because there’s no way that a bunch of adults could be wrong about this. For a short while, we had an occasional visit from Father John on Wednesdays. It was our opportunity to talk with him about God. I didn’t say much; I didn’t have to. The class asked every question that I had. It was like we had discussed what to ask him just moments before he walked in. He was calm and pleasant as ever, but I noticed something peculiar about his responses. The answers were a bit to the side. There was little that was a very direct from him.

I left Catholic school for 7th grade and returned back again for 8th because my naivety got me in trouble. I went through with Confirmation with the same result as Communion. I knew things were “all in His timing” so I just waited patiently afterward. I thought this was supposed to be a big deal, big enough that I should notice something happening but I didn’t.

High school came and went without any religious influence and I started getting caught up on all the secular things of which I had been unaware. When I finally left home at 20 I bounced around from church to church, from non-denominational to evangelical. I did some soul searching. I was convinced I was doing it wrong and really wanted to know Him. I asked Jesus into my heart. I cried. Nothing.

My wife and I got married at Silverwood Mennonite Chuch in 2000. We were both believers, and very minimal at that, but certainly not Mennonite. That was from her side of the family. I would probably still be a minimalist believer in the Christian god if it were not for another dose of evangelism. Some members of her family were a bit extreme. Religion wasn’t just a part of them, it was them. This created conflict. I never liked being unsure about things that should be so important, so I was forced to try it again. The exception this time is that I took a different approach. My research started with understanding the meaning of words, ones that i taken for granted such as belief and knowledge. The internet proved to be a wonderful tool for finally getting some objective answers. I was fascinated with the amount of knowledge out there. The more knowledge I gained, the less I believed in God. After a hard year of digging, my conflict was resolved. I came to the realization that I did not believe. I was atheist and I found it to be reasonable.

Rod Chlebek

Friday Cephalopod: They’re evolving wings!

Forget that goofy crocoduck. I want a cephalogull.

Actually, this isn’t an octopus growing bird wings. I have a whole series of violent photos of the event — it’s a very cunning octopus that oozed up to the Ogden Point breakwater in Victoria, BC, reached up silently with it’s suckered arms, and dragged a seagull down to a watery doom, and a tasty fowl dinner. If you were eating nothing but crab every day you might want to try something different too.

Also, take that, bird fans!

(Also on Sb)

The future of Republican health care

Here’s how it’s going to work. You’re a 68 year old black man with a serious heart condition, and a medic alert bracelet, just in case. You accidentally press it one night.

Don’t expect an ambulance with EMTs. The police will come to your door and demand admission.

You will say, “Please leave me alone. I’m 68 with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me? Can you please leave me alone?”

The police will tell you they don’t give a fuck. They will call you a nigger. They will force open the door as much as the chain allows.

They will taser you. You’re a 68 year old man with a heart condition, remember?

They will shoot you with a beanbag shotgun.

Then, they’ll shoot you dead with live ammo.

Sounds like some grim dystopian fantasy, doesn’t it? Nah, that could never happen. In what insane world would police, rather than doctors, respond to a medical alert, and treat it with deadly gunfire rather than medicine?

It happened in America, in White Plains, NY, last November. It happened to Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

What the hell is wrong with this country?

Parasitism pays, as long as the parasite smiles

This is a little bit like confessing to kicking puppies, or thinking flowers stink, or hating rainbows. But I have to be me.

I don’t like the Dalai Lama.

Not one bit. I’ll go further: I find him repulsive and creepy. Sure, he smiles a lot, and he acts like a nice guy…but the same is true of all kinds of con men and used car salesmen and televangelists. They’ll smile and laugh while they pick your pocket and knife your grandmother; just playing the role of the apparent nice guy wins no points with me. What has he actually done?

The Dalai Lama is founder of the Mind & Life institute for research on science and Buddhism. A series of talks he gave at Stanford University led to the creation of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which brings together scientists and religious scholars.

Not impressive at all. I looked them up: the Mind & Life Institute is full of babble about “the contemplative sciences”. They do things like fund retreats that “advance collaborative research among scientists based on dialogue and collaboration with contemplatives.” They hang out with guys going “ommmm”, in other words. It sounds extremely silly.

What really creeps me out, though, is that everywhere on that site they refer to this old guy as “His Holiness”. With capitalization. It’s very religious, and I don’t say that in a good way.

Then there’s the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education. I’m sorry, Stanford, you’ve been snookered; you’re promoting goofy dipsy-doodle New Age nonsense.

What makes it all particularly grating is that this mask of compassion and altruism and sweetness and light is draped over a smiling medieval theocrat, who believes he acquired his position by the magic of reincarnation, and who wants independence for Tibet (good so far), so that it can be re-saddled with patriarchal religious rule that condescends to women and treats homosexuality as an abomination. Ah, but he has great PR for yet another sex-hating celibate priest with delusions of grandeur.

And now he has won the Templeton Prize. They claim this wacky old priest promotes “serious scientific investigative reviews”. Bleh. No he doesn’t. He promotes himself and his bizarre religious views by pretending to be science-friendly.

Guess what? I don’t like the Templetons at all, either. It’s a perfect match of the odious with the devious.

How much worse could it be? The Discovery Institute thinks the Dalai Lama is just ducky, because his grasp of the fundamentals of evolution are about as pathetically bad as theirs. They quote a whole bunch of creationist gibberish from the Tibetan Twit approvingly.

Guess what? I also don’t like the Discovery Institute.

Cuttlefish and Ophelia have more.

I get email

This is the ladies-love-me edition of I get email.

Susan wrote to instruct me in my religion, and tell me about her husband.

My dear sir-you are not an atheist. You are quite simply “your own god”-and you worship at the altar of your intellect. I am married to your counterpart-also a professor-also a biologist-and I pray for you both.

It’s true. I have a little altar next to my computer, and I burn fruit flies on it to honor my intellect.

I’m a little confused, though: so she’s saying her husband is also an annoying obnoxious biology professor and non-atheist? I have a clone, maybe? It’s weird that a theist would stay married to such a person. I don’t think a true believer could possibly stand me.

Amanda also sends her best wishes, although I think she’d be better off sending a love letter to Kent Hovind.

I find it to be a fascinating fact that all people who try to spread the truth and are successful get thrown into jail or end up being highly debated and persecuted for it. Hmmmm… Ever stop and think about how the bible tells us this will happen?

Furthermore, if anyone thinks they are stopping Dr. Hovind from spreading the truth they are foolish to have the slightest thought of it. Because he is still spreading the truth and people are converting. . . yes even in prison! He has been put in the exact place of the type of people that Christ came to save in the first place and show his mighty power. So it’s not like you have stopped him. But only the ignorant would think so.

I am so sorry to say that men with your type of mental dementia are so blinded and hardened from the truth and the only people who believe anything you say are people of the same ignorance and make believe. There is NO evidence to support any of the other creation theories. They’re all guesses. I don’t hate, I feel pity. It is such a shame that people are so willing to fight the truth before easily accepting it. Which is another fact the bible states will be wide spread. People will fight so hard to disprove the truth when it’s so easy to see and let the testimonies and scriptures minister for themselves!

Tell me, if by chance the bible was a fake (which it is not), why is it so necessary to teach the world that there is no hope? That there is no meaning or purpose to life and that all the people you love who died are never going to be endured again… Why is it such a mission for you people? So you can encourage more people to see life as a fluke and not care about consequence? It’s sick. All you want to do is hurt people but it’s absolutely thrilling that the people who know God and the truth are not the least bit angered or affected by your lies. . . rather we pray for you to see the truth before you no longer have the chance.

Here’s a little challenge. Why don’t you set out on a mission to debunk the bible. Prove it isn’t true and that the word of God is fake. And in 3 years come back and tell us your findings. I can guarantee they won’t be the same conclusions and “theories” you have today.

Well gosh then! I hope Kent gets to spend many more years in prison, since even Jesus wants him there.

So nice, and so wrong

What do you do on airplanes? I usually devour a book or two, usually something popcorny and light, sometimes something I need to get read for work. On my trip home from Washington DC, I lucked out: I was handed a book the day I took off, and it turned out to be a damned good read.

Jason Rosenhouse is my co-blogger at Scienceblogs — he’s a mathematician, but he’s also neck-deep in the evolution/creationism wars. He was in town for the Reason Rally (wait: from the description, he left before my talk. Cancel the review, gotta pan him instead…nah, I guess I’ll forgive him this one time), and he gave me his brand new book, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line.

Jason regularly goes to creationist conferences. I often drop in on the small local stuff — creationists ranting in midwestern churches — but Jason goes to the big events, the major conferences with swarms of concentrated inanity babbling at large audiences who have made a special trip just to bathe in theistic lies. It’s a different environment; he just shows up, listens and takes notes, politely asks questions to make them struggle a bit, and then leaves…to write up the full story in his blog and now this book.

This isn’t the book where the scientist dismantles in detail every bogus argument the creationists throw at us. Instead, it’s a personal account of the audiences and speakers at this event, and there’s something that comes through loud and clear, that I’ve also experienced: they’re all so damned nice. They haven’t got a leg to stand on with the nonsense they’re talking about, but they try to make up for it with friendliness and manners and all these other psycho-social arts of persuasion. They don’t compensate for being wrong, but you can see how they manage to win over so many people who don’t know better.

It’s a valuable perspective to have. Know your enemy; don’t underestimate them, and don’t demonize them as evil. But be aware of exactly how they manage their image, how they cajole people into believing in ideas that are horribly wrong, and what they are precisely saying. Jason’s book is an essential personal view of our foes.

Also, we noticed that the cover uses a very similar minimalist design and color scheme to my book that will be coming out in the fall. Buy them both as a matched pair!

(Also on Sb)

I hate Thursdays

Mondays aren’t bad—I’ve had the weekend to get ready and get some of the backlog cleared away, so I can go into class prepared and confident. Wednesday’s pretty good, too, since that’s actually the day with my lightest teaching load. Tuesdays and Thursdays, though, my morning is effectively blocked out with nothing but teaching, and then there are the committee meetings, and to cap it all off, there’s a seminar class from 5 to 6pm…and worse, by Thursday all the momentum I had acquired over the weekend is exhausted, and I’m scrambling to do the prep work for my Friday classes.

Friday is Friday, and you’ve got to love Friday. But Thursday…oh, man, it’s the armpit of the week.

And today is Thursday.

Never mind me. I just had to get that gripe off my chest.