A delicate exercise

It must be tricky to critique flat Earth stories, which are risibly goofy and in defiance of the evidence, when you personally believe in young Earth stories, which are just as idiotic, but Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis tries. He attended a flat earth conference, and what’s remarkable about his essay is how gingerly he treads. Make no mistake, Faulkner does not believe in this flat earth crap, he gives a few specific criticisms of some of their rationalizations, and it is not currently the policy of Answers in Genesis to support flat earth claims (they say the Bible does not claim the Earth is flat), but give them time — if flat-earthers become numerous enough to be fleeced, expect even more niceness from AiG.

It’s just the irony of it all. Faulkner was getting a little taste of how loony these fringe Bible kooks look to the rest of us, with their weird claims that flout all the evidence, but are fervently held solely because they connect them to their religious beliefs. No, the Bible doesn’t flat out state that the Earth is flat, but it is a reasonably inferred part of the mythology, and there are all kinds of hints that the ancient authors modeled the world that way; it also doesn’t come right out and say that the Earth is only 6000 years old, but it is also clear that the ancient authors had no concept of deep time, and so AiG has inferred and imposed a set of interpretations on the Bible that bolster their preferred preconceptions. There is no difference between flat-earthers and young-earthers in their methodology or their biases or their abuse of science.

There’s also the lack of perspective. I’ve attended creationist events, and this is exactly what they sound like: disappointingly vague, reliant entirely on religious testimonies and that damnable Christian persecution complex.

I was a bit disappointed by the content of the conference. I had expected that I would hear and see information about flat-earth that I hadn’t encountered already, but that wasn’t the case. Many of the presentations largely were personal testimonies of how people had come to believe in flat earth. Hence, I didn’t learn much about the flat-earth model that I didn’t already know. However, I did learn much about the flat-earth movement itself. In conversations and in the presentations, I learned how people came to lose jobs, friends, and even family members once they, in their own words, “came out of the closet about flat earth.” Therefore, many of the people in attendance clearly viewed the meeting as a safe refuge where they could meet ostracized people like themselves. This clearly brought joy to many attendees, and I suppose the last thing these people would do would be to castigate someone in their midst who isn’t a flat-earther, provided that person behaved as a guest.

I’ve never seen a creationist talk that wasn’t thickly larded with personal testimonies about their religious beliefs, that didn’t end with pious ranting about Jesus, and that wasn’t full of offended indignation that those wicked seculars wouldn’t let them preach the Gospel in public schools.

If you want some real fun, Faulkner mentions this nice flat-earther he met, named Noel Hadley. He’s a hoot. He thinks Francis Crick learned about the structure of DNA from LSD-fueled sex parties, Peruvian shamans, ancient Egyptians, and snake myths.

But let’s not forget, the Egyptians also had a part in Crick’s discovery. Did Pharaoh not wear a cobra on his crown as a symbol of the divine word and third eye—the pineal gland—by which true hidden knowledge might be discovered to the devoted initiate? In his book, The Secret in the Bible, author Tony Bushby suggests the capstone of the Great Pyramid was once a clear crystal or glass that produced a visible beacon of light from its apex. He writes: “Whenever a light is shone down into a glass pyramid in exact scale or proportion as the Great Pyramid, a ‘Rainbow Serpent’ is created. The light provides a type of force or energy that, in turn, creates the vertical spiral of light, a serpent upraised, invisible in rock, but visible in a clear substance. That is what the Ancient Egyptian Priesthood meant when they said, ‘A serpent lies coiled in the Great Pyramid.’” Bushby’s conclusion is as you might now suspect. The Rainbow Serpent, directly referenced by the priesthood, was a double helix like representing Francis Crick’s strand of DNA.

Every continent seems to have a role in ancient serpent worship. Claude Lévi-Strauss writes of the Aztecs: “In Aztec, the word coatl means both ‘serpent’ and ‘twin.’ The name Quetzalcoatl can thus be interpreted either as ‘Plumed serpent’ or ‘Magnificent twin.’” Throughout shamanic religions, from Australia to Tibet and eastern Asia, back into Egypt again, throughout Africa, and finally North and South America, visions of “spiral ladders” or “braided ropes” cannot be overlooked either. Authors Mircea Eliade, Willard R. Trask, and Wendy Doniger write in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, “the symbolism of the rope, like that of the ladder, necessarily implies communication between sky and earth. It is by means of a rope or a ladder (as, too, by a vine, a bridge, a chain of arnyaw, etc.) that the gods descend to earth and men go up to the sky.”

Right. The guy who illustrated his article with this abomination knows a lot about DNA.

Danny Faulkner, meet Noel Hadley. You two are indistinguishably crazy twins, and you don’t even know it.

Quick report on the Genesis movie

As promised, I saw this crappy movie last night. I’ve got a pile of notes, and will provide a more thorough review this weekend, but just to quickly summarize:

  • There’s no story here. It’s built around the 6-day creation myth with a deep-voiced sonorous slow-talker telling the story of Genesis 1, but it’s almost like an afterthought. It’s a framing device that isn’t actually used effectively as a narrative structure.

  • The real story is that they interviewed a bunch of creationists, who sit alone in different rooms and who rant at the camera, saying stupid, familiarly tiresome things. They then sliced up these interviews into tiny snippets, interleaved them with each other and with some CGI, and then tossed them in a large mixing bowl with some vinaigrette. This is called “editing”.

  • The CGI is terrible. Seriously cheap. Everything from dinosaurs to humans has a kind of rubbery, plasticky surface in shades of brown — although Adam is a notably pale shade of brown.
    It’s very low rez, too. There are a couple of scenes where they’re showing off hominid skulls for comparison, and the detail is pathetic — they look like the kind of cheap plastic skulls you’d pick up from the Walmart Halloween decorating section.

  • They had a dodge for when the CGI was egregiously bad: defocus! They were constantly blurring everything, which I suppose they thought was artsy, but was clearly to hide the fact that they couldn’t render convincing detail worth a crap. They also did this with the creationist interviews: they’d occasionally blur the person, or slowly move the camera around, and then you’d end up with this segment of the interview where the subject was drifting off to the right side of the screen.

  • One of the reasons they’d move the subject out of the center was that they had these cheesy, 3-D animated titles that would rotate and also drift — so you’d start with camera on the subject, then you’d see these bronzey metallic letters appear on the left, like “ENCE”, let’s say, and you’d be wondering what that was about, and the camera would wander over to the floating keyword as the speaker was ignored, so that you could finally figure out that the magic word was “EVIDENCE” or whatever. It was painfully gimmicky.

I’ll go through some of the actual content this weekend, but for now, let it suffice to say that there was nothing new here, they were creationists making the same old tired assertions from ignorance that they’ve been saying since the 1960s — dating methods are circular, there are no genetic mechanisms for increasing the amount of information in an organism, we can explain all of geology with the Great Flood catastrophe, if you don’t accept Genesis then you’ll reject the Gospels and burn in Hell, you know, the stuff you can get in a Chick tract. It was nothing but old creationist arguments presented in a particularly incoherent manner with irrelevant computer graphics.

Oh, and it ends with so much Jesus. All the interview subjects babble on at length about salvation and God and Our Lord Jesus Christ and how God clothed himself in flesh in order to redeem our sins by dying a horrible, painful death, and that shit never makes any sense.

I know I’m going to regret this

But I’m going to The Genesis Movie tonight. I figure this is my only chance before it is relegated to church basements around the country. I’ll be at the Parkwood 18 theater in Waite Park if anyone wants to join me in misery.

Just so you know, though, I do follow the Prime Directive in these events — no interference with the primitive, crude, barbaric civilizations that put on these ignorant demonstrations. I’m there to observe; I might ask questions of citizens who are open to that sort of thing, but otherwise, only respectful behavior while I take notes on the foolishness on display. If your intent is disruption, no no no, stay away from me.
There is a good chance I’ll get thrown out even if I’m quiet and polite, so I don’t need need any assistance from rowdy compatriots.

Busy busy busy — #MnCOSE17 and #Skepticon

This day is just done. I’m at the MnSTA conference on science education today, speaking about the state of evolution education this afternoon (there is bad news, and there is good news, but the bad news is surprisingly manageable). Once I’m done babbling, I’m rushing off through rush hour traffic to catch a plane to Skepticon, sorta. In my quest for a cheap flight that was compatible with my awkwardly full schedule, I’m catching a flight to Baltimore (?), with a connection to Atlanta, and from there to Springfield, Missouri. This is too complicated. I’m already scheduled to not get in until tomorrow morning, and I have a feeling that something is going to break and who knows when I’ll arrive. Everyone will be all partied out by the time I drag myself in.

Anyway, you know the drill. Behave yourselves while I’m out of touch, spit venom at the trolls, and I’ll clean up the mess tomorrow morning.

Some people deserve to be pariahs

Ken Ham is one of them. He has been invited to speak at a homeschooling conference in Calgary, because homeschooling is infested with the rot of religious bullshit (yes, I know, some homeschoolers are dedicated to teaching well, but if you’re in it because you don’t like that there sekyoolar sciencey stuff, you aren’t qualified). He knows nothing about education or science, but he pretends to in order to sell more lies, and then he gets the unwarranted respect of mobs of ignoramuses.

It should also discredit the homeschool organization, which is demonstrating no sense of discriminating judgment or respect for science standards.

Calgarian Paul Ens says he walked away from his Christian faith after reading Ham’s creationist literature and started a YouTube channel dedicated to debunking Ham’s teachings.

“As a citizen of Alberta and a father, I’m very concerned that Ken Ham is being brought in on multiple levels — primarily that he is a science denier. He denies evolution, he denies the age of the Earth,” Ens said.

He says the fact Alberta’s Home Education Association has booked Ham to speak raises questions.

“It signals to me that this homeschool group is not serious about following provincial curriculum or proper science education for their children,” he said.

I think this person has the right idea.

Yes, atheists of Calgary, get out there and protest. I think, though, that this is also the perfect opportunity to cooperate with Christians and other religious groups to protest — Ken Ham is doing a phenomenal job of tainting the entirety of Christianity, so I would hope there are a lot of mainstream religious groups who ought to be eager to distance themselves from him. This is a situation where a united front to oppose bullshit would be advantageous.

Even if I felt like praying, now I’m too terrified to try

I was reading this thing by Hans Fiene — you know, this Hans Fiene:

Hans Fiene is a Lutheran pastor in Illinois and the creator of Lutheran Satire, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith.

He’s writing about the latest mass murder in which a gunmen slaughtered people in a church. He’s explaining that this is not the time to be criticizing religion for the failure of prayer to protect them.

However, we should all recognize that pointing to a couple dozen warm corpses and saying, “Fat lot of good your Jebus-begging did you” is an act of profound ugliness.

OK, OK, I can see his point. This is a tragedy, and it’s a little unfair to chastise the dead for the failure of their faith. I could agree that maybe this is an appropriate time for empathy, rather than mockery. But wait…that isn’t his point at all.

When those saints of First Baptist Church were murdered yesterday, God wasn’t ignoring their prayers. He was answering them.

Say what?

It may seem, on the surface, that God was refusing to give such protection to his Texan children. But we are also praying that God would deliver us from evil eternally. Through these same words, we are asking God to deliver us out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory, where no violence, persecution, cruelty, or hatred will ever afflict us again.

So those dead church-goers were praying for God to kill them? Dude, that is fucked up. If it’s bad for atheists to mock the sincerity of the faithful, it’s also bad to pretend that the deceased were praying for their demise, and God was being nice by sending a gunman to blow them away.

Next, he talks about how Jesus was mocked by the priests and then killed.

Yet God proved his son’s divinity by, three days later, lifting him up out of the death those men gave him. Despite the chief priests, elders, and scribes doing all they could to silence the one who claimed to be the savior of the world, God turned their hatred into the catalyst of the world’s salvation.

Twenty six people were killed on Sunday. So we can expect them to rise from the dead on, oh, Tuesday?

Despite the horror that madman made the saints of First Baptist endure, those who endured it with faith in Christ have received his victory. Although the murderer filled their eyes with terror, God has now filled them with his glory. Although he persecuted them with violence, God seized that violence and has now used it to deliver his faithful into a kingdom of peace. Although this madman brought death to so many, God has used that death to give them the eternal life won for them in the blood of Jesus.

Dude. Fucked up. Was the terror a necessary part of their ‘rescue’ into heaven? The blood and pain and fear? This Jesus guy is one evil, nasty character.

And, hang on, they had to endure it with faith in Christ to get this glorious reward of a terrible death. What about the ones with no faith, or who lost faith in this moment of unjust torment? If they’re burning in hell, then this was an awful and futile exercise. What about the people who weren’t delivered into heaven, and instead just watched loved ones die? Are the survivors hellbound and undeserving of the sweet, sweet release of a bullet plowing through their lungs so they drown in their own blood?

Those who persecute the church and those who mock Christians for trusting in Almighty God rather than Almighty Government may believe that the bloodshed in Texas proves the futility of prayer. But we believers see the shooting in Texas as proof of something far different—proof that Christ has counted us worthy to suffer dishonor for his name and proof that no amount of dishonor, persecution, or violence can stop him from answering our prayer to deliver us from evil.

We already know that God’s aim is terrible, but now you’re telling me someone could pray to get over their cold, and God will interpret that to mean he should deliver them out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory with a bullet to the brain? STOP PRAYING, everyone — you might be wishing for a puppy, and God will think you’re begging for bears to eat you.

Jesus, Hans. I hope the Lord answers your prayers soon, and that your ascent into heaven is preceded by truly majestic quantities of dishonor and violence. You deserve it. Keep on prayin’, buddy.

I hope your little essay about groveling before the savage cruelty of your god wasn’t more of your version of “satire”, though, because that ain’t funny or enlightening.

Halloween’s over, time to renew the War on Christmas

And here comes the heavy artillery: a new children’s book, Santa’s Husband, features a Santa Claus who is not only black, but is also gay, with a white husband — miscegenation! I’d like to imagine the religious right would just shrug and find joy in the fact that it’s about happy, loving people celebrating their religious holiday, but I don’t think it’ll happen — anyone remember Megyn Kelly’s insistence that Santa had to be white?

What next? Santa is a lesbian Asian woman? Would it make it OK if she was played by Cate Blanchett?

You know, I’m going all the way to Squid Santa.

Or maybe Cthulhu Claus.

Warning: They’re also polyamorous, two-spirit, progressive-anarchist socialists.