Arguing with evangelicals is like wrestling with a bollard

I hope you all have some fun with this conversation between the Knechtle evangelical group and some radical materialist named “Meyers” or “Meyer”.*

They were congenial enough, but I kept slamming up hard against their presumptions about what an atheist must think. No headway was made. I’m pretty sure that they’ll continue to assume that every atheist they meet is an amoral robot or is secretly imbued with the spirit of Jesus.

*I surrender. I have totally given up on correcting people misspelling or mispronouncing a name that is only 5 letters long.

You call them monsters?

Someone sent me a link to this page about using spiders in Dungeons & Dragons…as monsters. I am offended!

That’s right those creepy crawly bitey little buggers with all the legs and all the eyes. I hate them IRL [OFFENDED!], and will terminate any that cross over the agreed upon barrier into my home [<gasp> OFFENDED!]. Its a feeling alot of folks the world over share and that is easily exploited for your tabletop game. Which I suggest doing. Its amazing. So here we go – using spiders to torture your players in the best and most memorable ways.

First we have to establish a few things, the biggest of which are the types of spiders found in the game that can be used. Most people assume we mean either the tiny version or the giant version. There is however so~ many spiders that are all canon in 5e so don’t be afraid to mix and match them up to create more diverse encounters. For this blog we will just be talking about spiders not Drieders or spider demons, though I think those are also great things to add to the mix to spice it up. Below is just a quick list of those that can be found in the books. These are create starting points for an easy mix up to the normal spider.

  • Spider Swarm
  • Spider
  • Giant Spider
  • Giant Wolf Spider
  • Phase Spider

All right, if ever I were a Dungeon Master, first thing I’d do is replace all the player character races with that list. That’ll torture the players! Then I’d expand the list with more species of arachnids, and replace the Monster Manual with the Player’s Handbook.

Oh no! It’s another Argiope video!

For once, the YouTube algorithm is working in my favor. It’s currently saying “Oh, so you like big spiders, do you?” every time I check in, which is factually true, so I keep seeing spectacular Argiope behaviors.

This one tickled me because I have vivid memories of seeing my first Cicada Killer, the Most Terrifying Wasp in the World, as a child. It was perched on a tree branch in my back yard, and it was swiftly and brutally dismembering a cicada, the Most Obnoxiously Noisy Insect in the World, and it was mesmerizing. It would just tear into it sloppily with its mandibles, slurping down slimy crunchy bits, and scraps of chiting and fragments of body parts were raining down out of the tree. I swore I’d never go near one of those monsters.

Yet here’s Argiope, my hero, neatly turning a Cicada Killer into lunch.

The camera work isn’t great, but you can see how effective Argiope‘s web spinning is — she isn’t tying up her prey with single threads, but with these broad ribbons of silk. I’ve seen them immobilize a large grasshopper in seconds.

Why? I dunno.

I was asked by this fellow, Stuart Knechtle, to have a chat on his YouTube channel, so I guess I am. I’m easy that way, especially since it’s not framed as a debate. I don’t know if it’ll be live (it’s scheduled for 7pm Central tonight), I don’t know what they want to talk about, but looking over the channel it seems to be a pretty mundane evangelical Christian apologetics sort of place, so I don’t expect much. Tune in if you’re bored.

I’m going into this totally open to what they’re going to ask, expecting no surprises, and just willing to listen and express my opinion. Could be a soporific hour, so if you’re trying to get to sleep it might help.

When is violence acceptable in a civil society?

The murderers of Breonna Taylor have basically been acquitted — one cop is facing charges of endangering white people, because when he tried to gun down the black woman sleeping in her bed he missed, and bullets went into adjacent apartments. This was a decision that gave carte blanche to the cops to use violence against civilians and then claim it was justified.

The public has responded. Yesterday, two cops were shot in Lexington — the motivations have not been given, but the implication is that the protesters are escalating their tactics to shooting the police, although it’s not the case that protest organizers have been calling for such actions. I would not endorse lethal violence against cops, but I do think it’s far more warranted than the lethal violence currently being used against citizens.

It’s the reaction of Homeland Security that annoyed me more.

Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf condemned the shootings of police Wednesday night.

“Violence against law enforcement is NEVER acceptable in a civil society,” he tweeted, saying he was praying for the injured.

Oh. The police are inviolable, but violence against citizens is ALWAYS acceptable in a civil society? Someday I’d like to see the authorities insist on the principle of opposing violence against all people by their heavily armed police forces.

Of course, the two injured cops are out of the ordinary. The more typical news after these unjust court decisions is this: “Protesters take to the street in downtown Lexington, organizer emphasizes peaceful demonstration.”

Ditzy DNA and Black Holes at the center of the Earth

A commenter, BCWebb, mentioned this recent paper, which is mind-blowingly bad. It’s a combination of crackpot physics plus crackpot biology, so it should never have cleared review, but there it is in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences…oh, wait, which means it may not be peer-reviewed, although the journal claims it is. It has an optional peer review process in which the paper apparently gets published, but a reviewer can email comments that get added to it? I think? Anyway, the paper is titled “A Black Hole at the Center of Earth Plays the Role of the Biggest System of Telecommunication for Connecting DNAs, Dark DNAs and Molecules of Water on 4+N- Dimensional Manifold”. Oooeee, sciencey! Black holes and DNA! Here’s the abstract.

Recently, some scientists from NASA have claimed that there may be a black hole like structure at the centre of the earth. We show that the existence of life on the earth may be a reason that this black hole like object is a black brane that has been formed from biological materials like DNA. Size of this DNA black brane is 109 times longer than the size of the earth’s core and compacted interior it. By compacting this long object, a curved space-time emerges, and some properties of black holes emerge. This structure is the main cause of the emergence of the large temperature of the core, magnetic field around the earth and gravitational field for moving around the sun. Also, this structure produces some waves which act like topoisomerase in biology and read the information on DNAs. However, on the four-dimensional manifold, DNAs are contracted at least four times around various axis’s and waves of earth couldn’t read their information. While, by adding extra dimensions on 4 +n-dimensional manifold, the separation distance between particles increases and all of the information could be recovered by waves. For this reason, each DNA has two parts which one can be seen on the four-dimensional universe, and another one has existed in extra dimensions, and only it’s e_ects is observed. This dark part of DNA called as a dark DNA in an extra dimension. These dark DNAs not only exchange information with DNAs but also are connected with some of the molecules of water and helps them to store information and have memory. Thus, the earth is the biggest system of telecommunication which connects DNAs, dark DNAs and molecules of water.

Whoa. I’m going to have to stop you at the very first sentence. Really? NASA says there may be a black hole at the center of the earth? I had to dig deeper. In the intro it says,

Newly, some scientists who worked in NASA claimed that there is a black hole at the centre of the earth which is the main cause of the high temperature of the core and magnetic field around the earth [6].

What is reference 6?

6. Riofrio L. Scientist Claims Theres a Black Hole in Center of the Earth. 2019 May 3; https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019/05/scientist-claims-theres-a-black-hole-in-center-of-the-earth.

Umm, Houston, we have a problem. “Mysterious Universe” is a blog that posts articles about “ancient mysteries”, “ghosts & hauntings”, “cryptozoology”, and “conspiracy theories”. The article itself cites one source, a woman named Louise Riofrio, as a scientist who used to work at NASA, it claims, although no credentials are given and no specific role is mentioned. Thousands of people work for NASA. It sounds like she had a job there for a while and is now citing that vague experience as making her an authority, and using it to tint her wacky crackpot theory as having the imprimatur of NASA. It doesn’t.

Further, “Mysterious Universe” is citing a single source for Louise Riofrio’s idea: a YouTube interview with a site called “thirdphaseofthemoon”, another woo-woo UFO site, titled NASA Insider PROVES Time Travel Is REAL! Black Hole Discovered In Earth’s Core? 2019-2020. It’s just Riofrio babbling about her self-published book that claims her formula, GM=tc3, is equivalent to E=Mc2, and shows that the force of gravity is a function of the age of the universe (t) times the speed of light cubed.

She does not have any evidence that there is a black hole at the center of our planet. She only has kooky theories.

Well look at that. I only got as far as the first sentence of the abstract, and it has already sent me tumbling down a rabbithole to crazytown. I didn’t even get to the biology!

OK, just a little taste of the biology.

Induced DNA black brane interior of the core by imaging all DNAs on its meta

…we should design a model which explains the relationship between earth, water and life. To this aim, we can use ideas of scientists for the existence of a black hole at the centre of the earth. This black hole may be constructed from a DNA black brane with 109 times longer than the core of the earth which is compacted interior of the core. The number of excited states of this object is similar to the number of microstates of a black hole. However, its material is similar to the material of a DNA. This structure produces a temperature around 6000 K which is in agreement with the predicted temperature of the core. Also, this structure is the main cause of the emergence of the magnetic field around the earth and gravitational waves for moving around the sun. We show that DNA black brane of the earth is the biggest system of telecommunications which exchange waves with all DNAs and molecules of water. Also, we introduce a new type of DNAs called dark DNAs on the eleven-dimensional manifold. In fact, on the four-dimensional manifold, DNAs are contracted at least four times around various axes and waves of earth couldn’t read their information. However, by adding extra dimensions, the separation distance between particles increases and all of the information could be recovered by waves.

For this reason, each DNA has two parts which one can be seen on the four-dimensional universe, and another one has existed in extra dimensions, and only it’s effects can be observed. This extra dark part of DNA called as a dark DNA in an extra dimension. Waves of the earth’s DNA connect DNAs on four-dimensional universe and dark

DNAs in extra dimensions and act like topoisomerases in biology. These waves are different for males and females and also different from linear waves which radiate by electronic devices.

Perhaps you are curious about these different DNAs in males and females, and what this dark DNA is? Don’t ask.

We can write below results from our model and calculations: 1. Molecules of water are in related to dark DNAs in extra dimensions. On the other hand, dark DNAs have gender like normal DNAs.

Thus, molecules of water can have some properties like gender, and each molecule of water with the gender of the male can attract by DNAs with the gender of female and reversely, each molecule of water with the gender of a female can attract with molecules of water with the gender of male

I told you, don’t ask.

However, by adding extra dimensions to four dimensions of the universe, the separation distance between elements of DNAs increases and waves of earth could recover their information. Thus, each DNA has an extra dark part in extra dimension which we call them dark DNAs. These extra parts couldn’t be observed, however, their effects can be seen. DNA black brane of the earth’s core exchange waves with both dark and light parts of DNA and connect them. These waves are different for males and females and play the role of topoisomerases in biology.

On the other hand, our calculations and experiments show that these waves interact with molecules of water. However, the chemical structure of water (H2O) is very simple and cant store any information. This means that there are some extra dark DNAs on the 4+n-dimensional manifold which are related to molecules of water and play the role of memory for it. These dark DNAs have gender like other DNAs and give properties of gender to molecules of water. On the other hand, DNA black brane of the earth could emit some special waves to molecules of water and extract dark DNAs from extra dimensions. This means that the origin of life could be a system of telecommunication which is formed by DNA black brane interior of the earth, dark DNAs, waves and molecules of water.

Wow. So there’s a black hole spinning around the core of the earth, producing a black brane which encodes all this dark DNA, which no biologist has ever found, which is transmitted to life on the surface. There is no evidence for any of it, nor for the idea that water molecules are gendered.

Any physicist want to tackle the physics in this article? I gave up when I found the source, and lost all enthusiasm for addressing the bullshit biology.

Q Go Home…to that pig farm in the Philippines

The Black Death inspired the flagellants — it seems to be a common human response to extremes of stress, that they may fall into religious manias and magical thinking. Our modern American equivalent, in response to a threat nowhere near as severe as the Black Death, seems to be QAnon and the cult of Trumpism. The cult of Q emerged from an unlikely place.

Yet, a consensus of leading researchers and critics who study and debunk QAnon disinformation told ABC News that a key to identifying “Q” has been hiding in plain sight for years — on a pig farm south of Manila in the Philippines — at least until recently.

And now it’s growing fast.

At least 24 candidates who have “endorsed or given credence to the conspiracy theory or promoted QAnon content” — 22 Republicans and two independents — have secured a spot on the ballot in the 2020 congressional elections, according to the media watchdog Media Matters, though it remains unclear how many could actually win their races. Last month, one candidate who pollsters say is almost certain to win her heavily GOP district in Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, appeared to rescind her previous support for QAnon, telling Fox News that “once I started finding misinformation, I decided that I would choose another path.”

We also know who Q is now. It’s Jim Watkins.

This is the deranged conservative wackjob so many people have been following, hanging on his every insinuation, “prophecy”, and whisper. The cult is already doing real harm, beyond just seducing people into a loony religion. People have been murdered over this, crackpots have been threatening people, all over this nonsensical claim of “saving the children” from imaginary pedophiles. Most commonly, it’s been destroying families as individuals get lured into kooky conspiracy theories.

I think I’d prefer flagellants. If you’re a Q enthusiast, just go away right now.

The most tin-eared neo-lib proposal yet

Matt Yglesias, the latest sign that you are talking out of your ass ought to be that Glenn Beck agrees with you.

He has a new book out titled One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, in which he proposes that we set a goal of pumping out more babies to give us an edge in international competition.

From one of our foremost policy writers, One Billion Americans is the provocative yet logical argument that if we aren’t moving forward, we’re losing. Vox founder Yglesias invites us to think bigger, while taking the problems of decline seriously. What really contributes to national prosperity should not be controversial: supporting parents and children, welcoming immigrants and their contributions, and exploring creative policies that support growth—like more housing, better transportation, improved education, revitalized welfare, and climate change mitigation. Drawing on examples and solutions from around the world, Yglesias shows not only that we can do this, but why we must.

The book has a website where you can find out more, but it’s rather unpersuasive. It has a section on praise which includes endorsements from billionaire Mark Cuban, his Vox co-founder Ezra Klein, Catholic creep Ross Douthat, and David Leonhardt (who?). Douthat’s blurb is about as empty as you can get:

“Trump-era bestseller lists are dominated by ‘exposes’ that tell us the same things, and (esp. under pandemic conditions) better books can’t get oxygen. So if you enjoy an excerpt or interview, buy the book!”

Gosh. An author has to be desperate to include that.

I have not read the book, nor do I feel at all compelled to read it. It just sounds dumb.

  • Why is tripling the population of the country even a goal? I mean, the description says some good things: supporting parents and immigrants, better housing, transportation, education, and welfare, and working to reduce the impact of climate change. Those are the goals we ought to aim for. Maybe a population increase would follow, but that would be a side effect of building a better, stronger nation. Why are you making the side effect primary, especially when it can conflict with your path to achieving that better nation?
  • How, Mr Policy Guy, how? Was an alternate title for your book Make More Babies NOW, Women!? Because that’s what it sounds like. A major obstacle to that goal right now is the deep gender inequities in this country — women bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities, so you’ve set a goal that falls mainly on the child-bearing hips of half the country. You don’t even mention correcting the unequal distribution of labor in your list of uncontroversial improvements.
  • The biggest economic factor limiting the United States is the immense, and growing, wealth inequality here, driven by raging unchecked capitalism. This is a country where the rich have grown richer during a pandemic that has harmed the well-being of the majority of the population. Spawning more children is not the path to prosperity for individuals, although it sure does swell a hungry workforce that can be exploited to the advantage of the corporate class. Somehow, I suspect that dismantling capitalism isn’t one of your uncontroversial contributions to national prosperity.
  • A colossal increase in population is going to involve equally colossal shifts in the economy. We’re going to require far more appreciation of child care and teaching, positions that are currently undervalued and underpaid. It’s going to lead to a booming number of retirees and the elderly, with a concomitant need for more advanced health care (unless, as an alternative, we’re going to just let them die).

OK, maybe the book is a staggering work of genius that includes eye-opening revelations about how we can accomplish everything all at once and reach a utopia full of happy families facing a bright future, but somehow I think that would inspire more interesting conversation than a couple of vague, bland reviews from a friend, a billionaire, the New York Times, and a terrible conservative op-ed writer whose endorsement ought to be reader-repellent. Reviewers who have read the book describe it as a mish-mash of shallow ideas only loosely connected to its central thesis. But sure, go ahead and collect those endorsements from Glen Beck, Mr Yglesias!