Kent Hovind’s nemesis

Kent Hovind has a few people he frequently complains about, two in particular: SciManDan, a guy with a physics background who mainly debunks flat earthers, and Emma Thorne, a YouTube personality (she’s very nice) who made a reputation debunking multi-level marketing schemes, and just generally being a pleasant conversationalist (funny, isn’t it, how he doesn’t focus on evolutionary biologists…or maybe it’s just that Hovind hates British people). They made the mistake of rolling their eyes at the stupidity of Kent Hovind and Matt Powell, though, and now he has featured them on several episodes of his inane “whack-an-atheist Wednesday”. He’s looking a little desperate, actually. I think his world is crashing down on him from several angles, so bullying people on the internet is just his hobby that lets him vent.

Anyway, Thorne just put out a video in which she lets Kent and Matt have it with both barrels, exposing their hypocrisy, lies, and hate-mongering. It’s very entertaining and highly recommended.

Kent Hovind and Matt Powell are going to be whining for weeks about this. Good.

The LAPD is just the worst

After TheCrafsMan lifted your mood (I hope), now it’s time to come crashing down. The name of the young woman murdered by the cops has been released to the public.

Her name was Valentina Orellana-Peralta. She was 14 years old, shopping for her quinceañera dress. She was hoping to be an engineer someday.

The linked article also includes a video of the asshole cop in action, which I won’t be including here. The cop rushes in to the store eagerly with his rifle, turns a corner, sees the guy we assume had been attacking people with a bike lock, and pop-pop-pop instantly opens fire. The cops did not take any time to deliberate, to argue, to try to settle the problem relatively peacefully, and there was a whole mob of cops idling around the store who could have easily taken the alleged attacker down by physically jumping on him, or hitting him with their nightsticks. But no, that guy was marked for death from the instant the trigger-happy cop lifted his big gun out of his car.

Lots of people are noticing that.

Many critics of the police have expressed outrage over aspects of the shooting — the speed with which an officer opened fire on Mr. Elena Lopez although he did not have a gun, the fact that police officers did not ensure that the area was clear of bystanders.

“You guys don’t have the ability to just tackle him to the floor?” said Chloe Cheyenne Rogers, an activist who started the Justice for Valentina petition, which has nearly 5,000 signatures. “You can’t use any parts of your training to be able to take that person in a way that doesn’t include your assault rifle?”

The LA PD North Hollywood (@lapdnorthhwddiv) has now deleted their Twitter account. The police chief is calling it “a chaotic incident”. The ass-covering has begun.

TheCrafsMan is my new therapist

I’ve got a busy day ahead of me, so I’m going to start you off with something light. I just discovered this YouTube channel, “TheCrafsMan SteadyCraftin” (I spelled every word correctly, don’t give me any grief), and I found it immensely relaxing. It’s just this guy, the camera focused on his gloved hands, playing with little toys or kit-bashing or assembling stuff, all while having the most mellow, easy-going, and positive conversation in this odd New Orleans accent. It’s like watching Snoop Dogg make latex molds while talking about peace of mind. Oh, there’s also a puppet. Here’s a sample:

It’s therapy for nerds. It’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but I found it soothing.

Hell, definitely

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate should have been inscribed on the exit doors of the Phoenix airport. Tremble and weep in horror at this thorough description of the Turning Point USA conference.

‘Twas the weekend before Christmas when Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA hosted a massive, sold-out 4-day conservative youth conference featuring 10,000 teens and young adults screaming for Dennis Prager, the Fox News lineup, January 6-plotting politicians, a dancing James O’Keefe, and former active shooter Kyle Rittenhouse in Phoenix, AZ. AmericaFest was located in the same building where Arizona holds it’s yearly ComicCon and the layout was eerily similar. It featured an exhibitor hall filled with merch booths and meet-n-greets, except instead of getting a picture with Spider-Man one could get a picture with Jack “Pizzagate” Posobiec or accused child trafficker Rep. Matt Gaetz. Instead of buying an overpriced Street Fighter figurine, you could buy an $500 bedazzled gun purse or “invest” in Let’s Go Brandon cryptocurrency. Tickets for this mega conference reached up to $750, with people flying in from all over the country to see their favorite TPUSA-sponsored influencer preaching the benefits of white Christian American hypercapitalism. Hotels in the nearby area offered package deals so the entire downtown area was overrun with 20-somethings in blue and hot pink tailored suits and Trump hats for the entire long weekend.

Hate is as popular as comic books, I guess. You couldn’t pay me to set foot in that hall.

Religion, and more specifically Christian supremacy, was present throughout the weekend. Lining the street leading up to the conference, men with graphic anti-choice signs handed out pamphlets for AbortionNO. Turning Point Faith was a co-sponsor of the conference and had a large booth with free merch advocating for the merging of politics and religion, speeches throughout the weekend often spread a similar message. Creepy fetus dolls were on display and fetal development commercials played in between speakers, followed by “BUY GOLD! BUY SILVER!” Anti-choice activist Abby Johnson was a speaker, hosted panels on “how to fight abortion,” and also had a massive merch booth for her “Pro-Love Ministries.” Johnson has previously advocated for “household voting” where only the husband can vote and said that it would be “smart” for the police to racially profile her biracial son. Give Send Go, the Christian supremacist crowdfunding site that platforms white nationalists and other extremist groups also had a merch and prayer booth while the co-founder Jacob Wells joined a reception across the street with an organization with ties to neo-Nazis (more on that later).

Has white nationalism infected religion, or is religion tainting white nationalism? I can’t tell anymore. They’ve long been entangled, and this is just the emergence of a particularly virulent mutant strain of both.

Similar brochures were given out on “gender identity” but explicit transphobia was an ongoing theme from many of the speakers as well. Charlie Kirk took the stage multiple times during his event and demonizing trans people was one of his most repeated points. Dennis Prager lead the crowd in booing trans athletes and he rejected the term “transphobic” entirely, claiming it’s a “meaningless phrase,” implying that trans men, women, and nonbinary people do not exist at all. The one transgender joke conservatives have was repeated countless times this weekend. Nothing can truly describe the pure hate in the crowd any time trans people were mentioned. There were 10,000 young adults frothing at the mouth and scapegoating a tiny and extremely marginalized community for all of their perceived problems.

How transphobic is Charlie Kirk? This transphobic.

Horrible as that was, I’m going to have to nominate the Rittenhouse moment as the low point of the event.

Day three of the convention was noticeably the busiest despite being on a Monday. Charlie Kirk endlessly bragged about how the arena, capable of seating up to 10,000 was filled to capacity. Kyle Rittenhouse was going to take the stage and his appearance was the already the topic of conversation all weekend. The day before, in the snack line, I listened to two teenagers who were giddy in excitement over seeing Rittenhouse, talking about his recent appearance on Louder With Crowder. Rep. Lauren Boebert swooned over Rittenhouse during her speech and later appeared in a photo with him backstage. He was billed as “a VERY special guest” alongside Jack Posobiec, Drew Hernandez, and Elijah Schaffer. Before walking out, the three large screens played scenes from Tucker Carlson’s special on Rittenhouse. The crowd stood to attention and cheered as Kyle appeared on screen then booed and laughed when his victims, Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz came on, including the graphic images of their death and injuries. The clip of Rittenhouse crying on the stand was met with shouts of “we love you Kyle!” He took the stage to flashes of red, white, and blue filling the room as a Kyle Rittenhouse-themed rap song blasted. The screaming was deafening as they chanted his name. A young teenager behind me couldn’t stop repeating “based, based, based.”

They showed gory images of the dead and wounded…and the audience laughed about it? Jesus. There’s a crop of young men and women I don’t want to ever meet.

Is this America? Or is this Hell?

The Devil made Sam Harris’s friends do it

Sam Harris has an explanation for why some people (but not him, oh no, don’t accuse him of being so seduced by an all-encompassing bias that he would become an anti-vaxxer) would fall for anti-scientific ideas: the Woke made them do it. Wokeness is infuriating, don’t you know, so infuriating that it makes people abandon reason.

This, of course, makes no sense, but then many of Harris’s rationalizations don’t hold up to inspection. What is this ideology of wokeness that he is blaming for everything? It seems to be vaguely defined as a recognition that there is injustice in the world (patently true), and that systems of power tend to perpetuate that injustice (also true, but a more complex issue that may we could argue about nuances over). But blaming the people you disagree with for driving you into more extreme positions, of radicalizing you, is bogus. Your position is yours. You can’t blame others for it.

Would Harris accept it if an Islamic fundamentalist said, “The establishment has been captured by an infuriating ideology (secularism) which is contaminating even the most basic scientific and medical communication. So… now I will trust only my imam”? That logic takes extremism off the hook.

Or “The establishment has been captured by an infuriating ideology (atheism) which is contaminating even the most basic scientific and medical communication. So… now I will trust only my Bible”? We can play this game of opposites all day, constantly claiming that the contrary position made me do it. It makes it easy to take disagreement as affirmation.

Also, the purpose of this illogical argument is crystal clear. Harris himself is a member of an ideological tribe, these IDW conservatives, through which the disease of science denialism and anti-vax nonsense is sweeping. See Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying and Joe Rogan for examples, also note that Jordan Peterson has joined the party.

With all of his good buddies embracing the anti-science banner, poor Sam Harris is in the position of having to make excuses for the irrationality of his clique. Sure, the Woke made them do it!

Does he even realize how familiar this religious argument sounds?

What would we do if we discovered the world was going to end?

I think we already know, but now Netflix has turned it into a metaphor in this new movie, Don’t Look Up.

(I think the gag about the government putting a bag over your head is part of the metaphor.)

I watched it last night, and I liked it in a grim, cynical, we-are-so-fucked sort of way. The story in the movie is about our response to learning that a planet-killing comet is going to smash into the Earth in six months, which is a nice, sharp, discretely bounded example of a catastrophe, so it does differ from our current situation where the oncoming catastrophe is messy and slow. It makes no difference, though, since we’d probably react to either kind of disaster with ineffectual denial. (Probably? In the case of our current situation, definitely.)

Michael Mann appreciated the message of the movie.

McKay’s film succeeds not because it’s funny and entertaining; it’s serious sociopolitical commentary posing as comedy. It’s a cautionary tale about the climate crisis stitched together by McKay’s signature biting humor. That’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.

As we look toward the next decade — a critical decade from the standpoint of averting truly catastrophic climate change — we need more unconventional endeavors like “Don’t Look Up” to communicate the perils of climate inaction. Scientific research, on its own, will travel only so far (until scientists distill a 900-page report into a 90-second TikTok). Science isn’t finished until it’s successfully communicated.

As Beth Osnes, associate professor of theater and environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said, “Climate change isn’t a laughing matter, but sometimes you have to laugh at your pain to get to a solution.” So let’s stop to have a laugh or two. And then get on with the work at hand.

I think he’s right, but we also have to appreciate how hard it’s going to be. The movie made that obvious: even when our doom was obvious, when there was a comet hanging in the sky, there were still people scheming to use it for political gain or corporate greed. The signs and portents of our troubles are all around us, yet we still have conservative think-tanks denying the need to take action because it might interfere with corporate profits, and we have a political party that’s raison d’etre seems to be about disenfranchising the citizenry because they might vote against greed and exploitation. What is the work at hand? It’s not just doing good science, it also seems to require crushing a corrupt political party, replacing a negligent one, and dismantling all of capitalism. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

However, aggressive, forthright opposition also works

OK, so atheists shouldn’t take credit for a decline in religion, but I think science communicators and educators (which is not synonymous with atheism, I’m sure you know) have accomplished something: the gradual decline of creationism. More people are accepting evolution!

In the early years of this blog, way back in the 2000s, I felt a bit of frustration and despair because when I looked at the surveys, all I saw then was a flat line: less than half the population accepted a well-supported scientific fact, and 40% openly rejected it in favor of nonsense contradicted by all the evidence. And the statistics were flat-lined back into the 1960s, when the surveys began! It was all very discouraging, but also motivated a lot of us to get out there and do public science communication. It seems to have worked.

At least, I think educating the public helped. Another factor is that evolution has also become a tribal marker. If you’re a True Republican, you believe in bullshit and the American way; if you’re a True Democrat, you believe in evolution and science. Part of the reason for the growing disparity is simply growing polarization.

Antievolutionism remains a political force. The Republican party often panders to religious fundamentalism, and attitudes toward evolution are politicized as a result. Miller and his collaborators found that 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution in 2019, as compared to 83% of liberal Democrats. There is evidence that the politicization is increasing: in 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats accepted human evolution, but by 2013, the ten-point gap widened to a twenty-four-point gap, according to the Pew Research Center.

That tells me it’s just as important as ever to work to make sure citizens accept evolution for the right reasons. Because that’s what the evidence supports.

As our holiday season winds down, give thanks that America is destroying religion

We atheists really can’t take credit for it — years of shaking our fists at the churches and patiently explaining that religion was all bullshit did nothing. What’s finally killing the churches is the one-two punch of the pandemic (turns out prayer doesn’t cure disease after all) and the hateful ideologies of the far right that have corrupted the churches in a way no one can ignore any more.

I predict an unfortunate side-effect, however: it’s the good people who honestly care about their congregations, and the people who actually believe in those radical Christian ideals of community and sacrifice and helping the poor who are giving up. The libertarians and the fundamentalist fanatics and the con artists are doing just fine. The WaPo has some anecdotes about various clergy abandoning their churches.

Aldape is part of an exodus of clergy who have left ministry in the past couple years because of a powerful combination of pandemic demands and political stress. Amid fights about masks and vaccine mandates, to how far religious leaders can go in expressing political views that might alienate some of their followers, to whether Zoom creates or stifles spiritual community, pastoral burnout has been high.

The past few years have jostled and rocked the labor market overall, with many millions losing and changing jobs either by force, by choice or a combination of the two. But some research and anecdotes suggest this period is a crisis for American clergy.

A Barna survey of Protestant pastors published last month found 38 percent said they’d considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year.

I sympathize with the pandemic stress, I’ve been feeling it too. I think a lot of teachers are reconsidering whether this job is worth it. We’re generally spared the follow-up punch, though, since we’re fortunate to live in a bubble of the well-educated, where we’ve already filtered out many of the assholes who afflict the citizenry. I think churches tend to select the other way.

Gustafson found himself at odds with higher-ranking clergy.

“I felt like, if people care more about their individual rights than caring for their neighbor, then it’s a matter of discipleship,” he recalled. He was told to “focus on Jesus,” he says. Then came fall 2020, and President Donald Trump’s comment in a presidential debate to right-wing extremists that they should “stand back and stand by.”

Gustafson posted to his Facebook page that he was disappointed in Trump.

Soon, he said, he was getting pushback from some congregants and clergy. One told him, he said, that half the church members were Trump voters and that his problem was that he didn’t love them.

He put in his notice at the end of 2020 and left in March.

Now it’s just not the clergy, but some members of those congregations are abandoning the church. Those departures are usually unsung and unnoticed, unless the apostate happens to be really, really rich. Those are the lost souls that really sting the church.

An advertising-technology billionaire has formally resigned his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and rebuked the faith over social issues and LGBTQ rights in an unusual public move.

Jeff T. Green has pledged to donate 90% of his estimated $5 billion fortune, starting with a $600,000 donation to the LGBTQ-rights group Equality Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Green said in a Monday resignation letter to church President Russell M. Nelson that he hasn’t been active in the faith widely known as Mormon for more than a decade but wanted to make his departure official and remove his name from membership records.

That’s a good start, giving up on a repressive church and giving up most of his fortune (giving away 90% of $5 billion leaves him with $500 million, so he’s not exactly a modern day Siddhartha, but it’s commendable), and you have to appreciate his motivation.

“I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights,” he wrote. Eleven family members and a friend formally resigned along with him.

Oh, he noticed? My years of living in Utah made me highly aware of the pernicious influence of the LDS church. You meet so many women who have resigned themselves to a life of pumping out babies, some in polygamous relationships that glorify the men, and all you have to do is walk down the streets near the temple to meet homeless kids, many of whom were kicked out of their homes because the church demonizes gay people. Mormonism is good at putting up a straight-laced facade over a broken morality.

It’s not just the Mormons, of course. How can anyone fail to notice Catholic pedophilia or Protestant greed? It’s a testimony to the power of superstition and fear that any religion survives at all.