It’s hard to distinguish two flavors of absurdity, though

This is just odd. From WorldNewsDailyReport, a clickbait fake news site (hence no link), comes a story a lot of people are repeating.

Petersburg, KY | A leading paleontologist claims he has found evidence linking homosexuality and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Anthony Othman, a renowned paleontologist and leading curator at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, firmly believes homosexuality, and not an asteroid colliding with Earth as is commonly believed, was the main cause of the disappearance of the dinosaurs more than 66 million years ago.

His evidence? He claims to have found a group of velociraptors that are all male, and to have selected for homosexuality in iguanas and found they lost all interest in heterosexuality in 3 or 4 generations. All made-up nonsense.

But here’s what I found odd. There are no leading paleontologists working at the Creation “Museum”. There is no one named Anthony Othman working there. The picture at the top of the page is this one, on the left; the one on the right is a photo of creationist Mark Armitage:

So even Answers in Genesis is targeted by fake news!

Also obviously fake because no AiG spokesperson would say the dinosaurs lived 66 million years ago (the Earth is less than ten thousand years old, silly), and while they might hate homosexuality as much as this imaginary guy, they know the dinosaurs disappeared in The Flood, except for the few that were on the big wooden boat, who went extinct when medieval knights hunted them down.

David Avocado Wolfe doesn’t care about the truth, anyway

Yvette d’Entremont might have pissed off David Avocado Wolfe with her article, DAVID AVOCADO WOLFE IS THE BIGGEST ASSHOLE IN THE MULTIVERSE, because he went on an angry Twitter spree against those damned people who think science works recently. Or maybe he just howls angrily all the time…I don’t know, it seems like that’s the latest thing for big assholes, just spluttering away on the Twitter. I wonder if historians will look back on this decade, wonder what people were thinking, and call this time the Twitting Twenty Teens (I’m kind of afraid there won’t be any historians looking back on the next decade, and if there are a few survivors, they’ll call it the Smoldering Wreckage of the Twenty Twenties.)

Anyway, Wolfe’s latest weird assertion is about lunar and solar eclipses.

You see, gold cannot ‘crystallize’ during a solar eclipse because, like Superman, it derives all of its power from the rays of our yellow sun (just to remind you, the nonsense about “wavelengths” and “vibrations” is common currency in nerd literature, as well as in the New Agey BS), while similarly, silver will not solidify during lunar eclipses, because obviously, it shares mystical wavelengths with the moon.

Wolfe does not explain how he knows this. He also does not give details; is it only in the track of totality during the brief period of the eclipse that gold and silver become recalcitrant, or is it worldwide? Do the metals just mold more slowly during a partial eclipse? Do dentists find that gold fillings set more rapidly if they make them in front of a sunny window than if they do them under fluorescent lamps? How does gold and silver ‘know’ what wavelengths are bouncing around in the room? Inquiring minds want to know, because we could actually test this claim. Woo-woo minds don’t want us to know, because we could actually test this claim.

It reminds me of the time back in the Dismal Nineties made the mistake of telling us that gelatin would not set during a void-of-course moon. He gave us all the details we needed, and since gelatin is cheap and easily available, so guess what a number of us eagerly did? We tested his claim!

It didn’t work.

The annoying thing, too, is that if Wolfe did give details, which he might do since he is the Biggest Asshole in the Multiverse, there are people who would waste their time while in the eclipse of doing the experiment of testing the physical properties of certain metals. There will be no change. And afterwards, like my astrologer, he’ll invent new excuses for why it didn’t work.

So don’t bother, people.

Demand that he demonstrate the phenomenon first, and document it. Or better yet, ignore him, because he is a big lying asshole.

So you think your religious beliefs are ancient, inspired truths…

There are some things I think I’ve said a few thousand times to try and break through the certainty of some devout evangelical Christians.

  • Young Earth Creationism is not in the Bible.
  • A “literal interpretation” is still an interpretation; “literal”, in this case, is empty of meaning.
  • The radical young earth interpretation of Genesis would have been considered heretical only a hundred years ago. This is not an eternal truth of Christianity.
  • The Bible is actually a messy, complex book full of contradictions and changing perspectives. You can’t treat it as the spiritual version of your car repair manual.
  • Christianity actually has a long history of trying to reconcile faith with scientific evidence; it’s only with this creationist nonsense that they’ve given up and resorted to outright denial.
  • Your Holy Book is not the Bible, but Whitcomb & Morris’s 1961 fan fiction, The Genesis Flood. Look it up. It’s a rationalization derived from Seventh Day Adventist prophecies.
  • You can be a solid Christian and still accept evolution; you just have to realize that the Bible (or The Genesis Flood) is not a science textbook. Quit trying to pretend it is.
  • Creationism seems to appeal most to people who only read the first page of the Bible and think they have all the answers. Surprisingly, most of the book says absolutely nothing about origins or evolution, and the core concepts of the faith are not found in Genesis 1.

(By the way, sometimes I have to remind atheists of these things, too.)

I never convince anyone with these lines of criticism, of course, because I’m a satanically inspired atheist. But there are a lot of theologians who will tell you the same things, and even more heretical stuff, because they’re far more familiar with the sausage-making of Biblical analysis and know where all the bugs and grit and organ meats have found their way into the grinder.

So sometimes you just have to admit that Christian Bible scholars can be more effective at dismantling the lies behind the weird cult that is Answers in Genesis.

This is what I find so fascinating about Ken Ham’s organization. Not only are all the “answers” they give actually not in Genesis (let alone anywhere in the Bible), but the answers they give are nonsensical in and of themselves.

Ken Ham likes to claim that he is a “biblical creationist,” but the fact is, he isn’t. It’s about time we stop letting him use that title. His claims about the natural created world are not biblical at all. Not only does he reject basic science, not only does he make up supposed biblical answers that aren’t actually in the Bible, but he ignores the historical and literary context in which Genesis 1-11 was written.

He is so obsessed with trying to prove Genesis 1-11 is a modern scientific description of origins, that he willfully ignores basic rules of biblical exegesis, rejects basic scientific facts, and comes up with completely impossible and incompatible claims that he doesn’t even take the time to recognize are impossible and incompatible…with each other.

Yeah. It’s all remarkable fringe garbage of poor quality, from dubious Protestant sources, yet somehow it has infiltrated itself into Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, and folk religion to the point where people actually argue that the nonsense of young earth creationism is a fundamental part of the Abrahamic faiths. All it really tells you is that most religious people don’t care enough about what their religion says to even try to study it, because what it really is is a tribal marker, nothing more.

A.N. Wilson: stale, unoriginal, banal, cliché-ridden hack

It was a good weekend for fools. Someone tried to claim that manspreading was an anatomical feature of the male skeleton; a biological anthropologist slapped that nonsense right down. The alt-right continues to express their indignation at the idea that the Roman empire was ethnically and racially diverse; no less an expert than Mary Beard splattered that one, with an amusing amount of politeness and incredulity. Against all that, the appearance of yet another loon declaring that Charles Darwin was a fraud and evolution is wrong is comparatively mundane and routine, but I guess I’ll take a poke at it.

It’s an article written by a guy named A.N. Wilson, published in the Evening Standard. Wilson also publishes in the Daily Mail, so you kind of know where he is coming from. He declares that he has spent the last 5 years working on a book about Darwin, which is less of a mark of distinction than you might think — he previously wrote a biography of Hitler that was panned scathingly.

Novelists (notably Mann) and literary scholars (such as J P Stern) have sometimes managed to use a novel angle of approach to say something new and provocative about Hitler, the Nazis and the German people. However, there is no evidence of that here, neither in the stale, unoriginal material, nor in the banal and cliché-ridden historical judgements, nor in the lame, tired narrative style; just evidence of the repellent arrogance of a man who thinks that because he’s a celebrated novelist, he can write a book about Hitler that people should read, even though he’s put very little work into writing it and even less thought.

I have no idea of his status as a novelist, but apparently he thinks he can write a book about Darwin that people should read, even though he’s put very little work into writing it and even less thought. We know this because his little op-ed is a steaming pile of ill-informed garbage. His research seems to have consisted of scouring the creationist literature.

Funnily enough, in the course of my researches, I found both pride and prejudice in bucketloads among the ardent Darwinians, who would like us to believe that if you do not worship Darwin, you are some kind of nutter. He has become an object of veneration comparable to the old heroes of the Soviet Union, such as Lenin and Stalin, whose statues came tumbling down all over Eastern Europe 20 and more years ago.

You know, evolutionary biologists will all tell you that Darwin was a smart man who had a remarkably powerful insight, but that he was born over two centuries ago, lacked the biological background we now take for granted, and made a few mistakes himself. We can appreciate the great contributions he made to science without granting him godhood. Yet it’s common in the creationist literature to claim that ‘Darwinists’ worship the man in the same way they worship Jesus.

It’s also a common creationist trope to tie the contemporaries Darwin and Marx together (they also usually include Freud) in a kind of sympathetic magic — they lived at the same time! Marx’s communism collapsed! Therefore, Darwin’s evolution will also collapse! Any day now. Just you wait.

That was his first paragraph, and he’s already got everything wrong and is basically lying about the science. How can it get worse? Someone, hold his beer.

Darwinism is not science as Mendelian genetics are. It is a theory whose truth is NOT universally acknowledged. But when genetics got going there was also a revival, especially in Britain, of what came to be known as neo-Darwinism, a synthesis of old Darwinian ideas with the new genetics. Why look to Darwin, who made so many mistakes, rather than to Mendel? There was a simple answer to that. Neo-Darwinism was part scientific and in part a religion, or anti-religion. Its most famous exponent alive, Richard Dawkins, said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist. You could say that the apparently impersonal processes of genetics did the same. But the neo-Darwinians could hardly, without absurdity, make Mendel their hero since he was a Roman Catholic monk. So Darwin became the figurehead for a system of thought that (childishly) thought there was one catch-all explanation for How Things Are in nature.

Darwinism is exactly science as Mendelian genetics are. Darwinism: a rough pencil sketch of the process of biological change, written out with a few examples, that was subsequently greatly expanded with a century of more detailed work. Mendelian genetics: a rough pencil sketch of the process of inheritance, written out with a few examples, that was subsequently greatly expanded with a century of more detailed work. Contrary to Wilson’s implications, Mendelian genetics is a great oversimplification, important for getting us on the right track, but one of the early arguments against it was that it didn’t seem to apply to most of the patterns of inheritance we see. Mendel made mistakes, too: I can give you exceptions to all four of his “laws”. Mendel did not finish all of genetics. Trust me, every year I get a crop of students who think that because they understand the terms “dominant” and “recessive” and can draw a Punnett square, they fully understand genetics.

The comparison of Darwin and Mendel is actually apt: two guys who had a profound insight that established a scientific framework for understanding an important biological process that led to an explosion of research that refined and expanded upon their early observations. Also, evolution is no more going away than is genetics.

As for the canard that we don’t like Mendel because he was Catholic…bullshit. I play up the importance of Mendel and specifically address the revolution in thinking about inheritance that he discovered to my classes, and I’m a goddamned atheist. Meanwhile, Darwin spent most of his life waffling on the god question, decided he was an agnostic, and simply avoided ever addressing it in public — and I tell my students that Darwin was not an atheist. Religion just isn’t a factor here, and is more of a personal complication than a key component of our interpretation of their work.

OK, Wilson, keep the nonsense flowing.

The great fact of evolution was an idea that had been current for at least 50 years before Darwin began his work. His own grandfather pioneered it in England, but on the continent, Goethe, Cuvier, Lamarck and many others realised that life forms evolve through myriad mutations. Darwin wanted to be the Man Who Invented Evolution, so he tried to airbrush all the predecessors out of the story. He even pretended that Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather, had had almost no influence on him. He then brought two new ideas to the evolutionary debate, both of which are false.

Evolution was an inevitable theory — both Wallace and Darwin came up with the idea, and it is true that there were predecessors who came close. But for someone who “wanted to be the Man Who Invented Evolution”, Darwin was awfully reluctant. Sitting on your marvelous idea (and he knew exactly how important it would be) for 30 years is not exactly a symptom of ambition. Also, being eager to be fair to Wallace and giving equal credit to him to the Royal Society doesn’t fit Wilson’s characterization.

But most of those predecessors did not actually identify the central principle of evolution: that it is a property of populations, not individuals. Most of those others saw evolution as the product of individual striving, rather than shifts in the frequency of kinds of individuals in a population. That’s the insight that had people smacking their foreheads and wondering why they didn’t think of it before, because it was so obvious once you accepted that frame.

But what, pray tell, are Darwin’s two false ideas?

One is that evolution only proceeds little by little, that nature never makes leaps. The two most distinguished American palaeontologists of modern times, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, both demonstrated 30 years ago that this is not true. Palaeontology has come up with almost no missing links of the kind Darwinians believe in. The absence of such transitional forms is, Gould once said, the “trade secret of palaeontology”. Instead, the study of fossils and bones shows a series of jumps and leaps.

Oh, please, this is another creationist trope: that punctuated equilibrium is anti-Darwinian, and that the “missing links” are missing. Gould and Eldredge were arguing that the pace of evolutionary change, and the infrequency of fossilization in small populations, would mean that most of the changes would be invisible to us. Every evolutionist groans at the words “missing links” because we don’t believe in them — every population is a gemisch of variation, speciation is complex and messy, and there is no single thread of change. The very idea is a betrayal of the key concept of evolution, of thinking in terms of populations.

When people talk of “missing links”, I just want to ask who, among the 7 billion people on Earth, do they think is the “missing link” to the population of Homo sapiens who will be living here in the year 2100? Do you think that if we dig around in 19th century graveyards we can find the skull of the missing link between Victorians and the Disco generation?

Hard-core Darwinians try to dispute this, and there are in fact some “missing links” — the Thrinaxodon, which is a mammal-like reptile, and the Panderichthys, a sort of fish-amphibian. But if the Darwinian theory of natural selection were true, fossils would by now have revealed hundreds of thousands of such examples. Species adapt themselves to their environment, but there are very few transmutations.

There are lots of transitional forms. Again, this is standard issue creationist bullshit, and blatantly so, of the type I was debating against in the 1980s.

And what is Darwin’s second grievous error?

Darwin’s second big idea was that Nature is always ruthless: that the strong push out the weak, that compassion and compromise are for cissies whom Nature throws to the wall. Darwin borrowed the phrase “survival of the fittest” from the now forgotten and much discredited philosopher Herbert Spencer. He invented a consolation myth for the selfish class to which he belonged, to persuade them that their neglect of the poor, and the colossal gulf between them and the poor, was the way Nature intended things. He thought his class would outbreed the “savages” (ie the brown peoples of the globe) and the feckless, drunken Irish. Stubbornly, the unfittest survived. Brown, Jewish and Irish people had more babies than the Darwin class. The Darwinians then had to devise the hateful pseudo-science of eugenics, which was a scheme to prevent the poor from breeding.

We all know where that led, and the uses to which the National Socialists put Darwin’s dangerous ideas.

OH GOD. THIS MAN IS WRITING A BIOGRAPHY OF DARWIN? Darwin did not propose that Nature was always ruthless. Darwin is the guy who also came up with the idea of sexual selection, and as Wilson has already pointed out, favored a more gentle, gradual pattern of incremental change (we even call it “gradualism” now). He was a man of his times, which were far more brutally racist than those ideas of Darwin’s — he was prejudiced, but he was relatively less so than many of his contemporaries. We can not excuse his biases, but when you call out the abolitionist and blame him for Nazism, while ignoring the whole damn edifice of Victorian-era colonialism and exploitation, I think you’re missing the mark.

Evolutionary theory did not lead to National Socialism — the Nazis despised Darwin, banned his books, and instead praised the church as a unifying moral force in the country. Look to Houston Stewart Chamberlain for a philosophical foundation of Hitler’s ideas — he hated Darwin. He loved Goethe.

Meanwhile, the Nazis admired the American policy of extermination of the Indians, which, unless you think Europeans waited until 1859 to begin the slaughter, was pre-Darwinian. Eugenics was only named by a Darwinian, but it had been practiced for millennia by farmers. This is just another creationist cliche that is anachronistic and wrong.

For a more balanced perspective, read Robert Richards’ Was Hitler a Darwinian (pdf), which is an excellent critique of this whole line of nonsensical thinking.

In order to sustain the thesis that Hitler was a Darwinian one would have to ignore all the explicit statements of Hitler rejecting any theory like Darwin’s and draw fanciful implications from vague words, errant phrases, and ambiguous sentences, neglecting altogether more straight-forward, contextual interpretations of such utterances. Only the ideologically blinded would still try to sustain the thesis in the face of the contrary, manifest evidence. Yet, as I suggested at the beginning of this essay, there is an obvious sense in which my own claims must be moot. Even if Hitler could recite the Origin of Species by heart and referred to Darwin as his scientific hero, that would not have the slightest bearing on the validity of Darwinian theory or the moral standing of its author. The only reasonable answer to the question that gives this essay its title is a very loud and unequivocal No!

Wilson apparently has not read any of the credible historical or scientific literature on Darwin, but that doesn’t stop him from scribbling up his biases into a whole book that someone is seeing fit to publish. This opinion piece is apparently an attempt to publicize that book (it’s coming out next month!), but it is bad PR for what is obviously going to be drivel. The good news is that Richard Evans will be able to change a few proper names and recycle his previous review of a Wilson book, which will make it easy: while some people could say something new and provocative about Darwin, “there is no evidence of that here, neither in the stale, unoriginal material, nor in the banal and cliché-ridden historical judgements, nor in the lame, tired narrative style”.

Don’t buy it, obviously.

Jen Gunter doesn’t just do vaginas

I’m relieved, I was feeling left out. Surely there aren’t any weird crank ‘wellness’ things for penises, are there? I’m not going to try and slide a jade egg up my urethra, after all.

But behold, there is something almost as bizarre. It’s Jiftip! It’s basically a piece of tape to put over the tip of your penis to prevent ejaculation.

Gunter explains why this was a bad idea, but I figured it out from the ad copy. It’s either very poorly written, or they’re hinting at horrors which will occur if you use this product. Or both.

Cover the tip and seal it tight. Nothing gets in or out until you remove it. Make sure and remove it in time.

In time for what? What happens if you don’t remove it in time? How do you know when the time is right?

An indoor penis party

IS IT SAFE TO HAVE AN INDOOR JIZZ-FEST-to hold everything inside? Feel safe-be safe requires you pull-out, remove the feel shield and ejaculate. That’s it, safe and worry-free. Oh, if she notices tears in your eyes, let her believe that it’s true love.

I’m already kind of squicked out at INDOOR JIZZ-FEST, but being safe requires that you pull out and remove the device? Again, what is unsafe about all of this? Will my penis explode?

And hang on there, I might cry after using it, and I’m supposed to lie to her about true love?

Ominous. I’m not liking this at all. Don’t read the testimonials.

The atheist dilemma

There is no evidence for gods. It really is that simple. That is not proof that there are no gods, but it does imply that we ought to be cautious and limited in our interpretations of supernatural explanations — do not multiply the number and magnitude of unevidenced entities in your explanations of observed phenomena. It is genuinely easy, in an intellectual sense, to be an atheist, while believing in any gods is outrageously difficult because it requires positing an extremely complex root cause for everything with no supporting observations at all (in an emotional sense, it’s the reverse: it can be comforting to short-circuit the difficult path to knowledge by simply saying that “God (whatever the heck that is) did it.”)

But here’s the problem: how do you get that across to the majority of believers? And even more fundamentally, why should you bother? The argument is that if someone believes in UFOs or Jesus or that the Earth is flat, they aren’t hurting anyone else, and we atheists, as human beings, also all hold personal beliefs that might not be true — are atheists who like Justin Bieber wrong? — but again, if they aren’t hurting anyone else, so what? Do we have an obligation to be silently tolerant, or do we have an obligation to speak out?

[Read more…]

The New Atheism is dead. Long live atheism.

I’ve been godless since I was a teenager, and have been vocal about it, too. Richard Dawkins was a life-long atheist, too, and he sat on the idea for The God Delusion for years, his agent telling him the time wasn’t right. Something changed in the early years of the 21st century, though, and rather abruptly, atheism became cool. All of us long-term atheists suddenly had growing audiences; we were mentioned in pop culture; our enemies became even more shrill; and we had this monicker thrust upon us, the “New Atheists”, against our protests, because we were all aware that there was nothing new about it. Maybe we were more aggressive, or maybe suddenly people were listening to us, but really, it was the same old atheism with a fancy artisan label.

And it took off. “The Four Horsemen” — weirdly inappropriate as it was (which one’s Death, which is Pestilence?), as bizarre as it was for four guys to basically declare themselves the inspirational leadership of an intellectual movement, it was a phenomenal PR move. Atheism became associated in the public eye with New Atheism and these four, turning into a vanity project, which was the worst thing that could happen to us all. Now all the flaws in those individuals transferred to how the public saw atheism.

There was the Philosopher, who has probably aged the best by staying out of the public eye to a large degree, and focusing on academic endeavors and ideas like the Clergy Project. If only the others had kept their ego as free of the atheism movement as he has.

There was the Scientist, who contributed so much clarity to atheism, but is now even more strongly associated with deplorably regressive ideas about feminism, and also leapt happily on the anti-Islam bandwagon fired up by his fellow Horsemen. Unfortunately, part of the growth of 21st century atheism was fueled by the burning of the Twin Towers, and we got sidetracked into damning Islam rather than promoting secularism as worthy in itself.

There was the Eloquent Polemicist, the guy with the confident turn of phrase, the certainty buoyed up with wit, who was on board specifically to chant for the neocon agenda, who wanted war, war, war with a third of the world. He was a brilliant speaker and writer, but he was also one of those responsible for turning atheism towards the darkness of ethnic hatred and misogyny. He had help, though…

There was the Dilettante, Mr Hollywood, the fellow who won over a horde of pre-Alt-Right fan boys by cloaking himself in the mantle of [motivated] Reason and doing his best to make racism palatable by saying it all in a mind-numbing emotionless drone. Read the summary. It’s not pretty.

This is how the New Atheism was shaped, by this handful of high profile proponents. I regarded myself as a New Atheist, too, for the longest time (heck, I’m even cited in The God Delusion, making me pretty damned New Athey, I would think), although for the past few years I’ve mainly been criticizing the direction it’s been taking. Too much blithe sexism, too much flirting with racism, far too much association with regressive conservatism, way way too much fucking libertarianism. The captains of the ship have been steering it into catastrophe while being too busy polishing their uniforms.

Symptomatic of the problems is the offense to reason du jour. We’re living in the age of Trump, when evangelical wankers rule the senate and the Supreme Court is being stocked with Christian conservatives. Planned Parenthood clinics are being shut down all across the country. Our president panders to the Evangelical Right by trying to ban transgender people from the military, and flirts with the war hawks by rattling sabers at Iran and North Korea. There are a million crimes that a movement dedicated to secularism, reason, and Enlightenment values ought to be driven to oppose, but no…what we’re supposed to be concerned about is that Richard Dawkins’ Free Speech was curtailed by a radio station deciding they didn’t want to host one of his talks.

Oh, please. If only we could apply some of that outrage to the case of every woman denied the right to control her own body because Bible-thumping fetus-worshippers hate autonomy. That would be an atheist movement worth following (I should mention that the FFRF, at least, does take a clear position on that).

So…this article by Phil Torres in Salon on the New Atheists. I have to say that Salon has a poor record on writing about atheism — they’ve published some awful crap, and seem to lack any editors competent to evaluate articles on religion or atheism — so I read it with some trepidation. But worse, the article turns out to be dead-on. Don’t you just hate it when someone effectively criticizes something you have been a part of? I’m actually going to have to recommend it, because it does summarize well all the problems with the New Atheism. I agree with it.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.

That version of atheism that is all neocon, libertarian, anti-feminist, and smug cult of personality crap? It has conveniently lumped itself together under the label of “New Atheism”. Reject it. Repudiate it. Scorn it as being soooo 2005.

I say this as a former proud New Atheist, but New Atheist no more.

But still an atheist. Man, that religion junk is so inane that I’m not leaping into its arms because I refuse to accept the baggage of the New Atheism — but you can still be a proud Social Justice Atheist, or SJA, without accepting any fragment of superstition and god-belief.

Surreally boring

This video from Kent Hovind starts out weird and then gets incredibly boring. Apparently he’s got a VBS class or something (I am so sorry for those kids), and then he tries something that might have been interesting. Each kid has a paper cutout of the face of some atheist or evolutionist (I’m one of them: skip ahead to 3:45), and he sets it up as if he’s going to debate us, via his students as proxies. It might actually be pedagogically useful, for whatever end you have, to try and have students take the role of a critic of the instructor’s position — It was strange to see my face waved around on a stick, but I was actually looking forward to seeing how they would present my views, especially since Hovind says he wants to debate me (ain’t happening).

But he does nothing with it. After mentioning the names of some evolutionists, he drops the whole game and just reads from the Bible for 20 minutes. That’s all.

This is just terrible teaching. It gave me flashbacks to my long-ago confirmation classes, in which I was supposed to memorize Lutheran dogma and repeat it back to the pastor. Eww, I just literally shuddered.

Come on, Kent. Your ideas are batfucking wacko, but I expect a little freaky dynamism to go with ’em, and you can’t even manage that.

Oh, good — someone else didn’t like The Keepers

I started watching this show on Netflix a while back — and it began in a way that sounds so familiar to anyone familiar with the abuses of the Catholic church. A young nun vanishes, and is later found dead, murdered. Who did it? It must have been one of the priests! And there were multiple killings! And all kinds of sordid sexual goings-on, with the accused priest being further accused of calling young Catholic school girls into his office and doing unseemly things.

But it started going all wrong a couple of episodes in. The accusations were becoming increasingly strident, the crimes ever more depraved. And then we discover that there is no actual evidence for this story (other than that yes, there were murders), and that the details are all coming from the repressed memories of Jane Doe, who was recalling all these terrible incidents decades after the fact. Or after the confabulation. Or something. None of it was unbelievable, and I gave up on the show.

Mark Pendergrast watched the whole thing, and also dug up additional aspects of the story that were conveniently left out of the show. Jane Doe (real name: Jean Wehner) has a whole elaborate mythology of incredible events that occurred in the 1970s.

Shortly afterwards, she began to retrieve her first memories of priest abuse, starting with Father Neil Magnus, whom she envisioned masturbating while he took her confession. When she discovered that Magnus was dead, Wehner switched to retrieving memories of abuse by another priest, Joseph Maskell, who had been her high school counselor. She eventually recalled vaginal and anal rape (sometimes with a vibrator), oral sex, enemas, him putting a gun in her mouth, and forced prostitution.

But Wehner’s sex abuse memories expanded dramatically beyond Maskell to include two policemen, three high school teachers, a local politician who practiced a political speech while she performed oral sex on him, three more priests (Father Schmidt, Father John, and Father Daniels), four religious brothers (Brother Tim, Brother Bob, Brother Frank, and Brother Ed), two religious sisters (Nancy and Russell), and another religious brother known only as Mr. Teeth, who read from the Book of Psalms as he had sex with her. Wehner also remembered that she herself killed an unidentified nun at her school.

Yet the millions of people who have viewed The Keepers did not learn many of these background facts. (Netflix is notorious for keeping viewer numbers secret, but Newsweek revealed that it had the top two streaming shows in 2016, both with over 20 million viewers.) What viewers see is that Jean Hargadon Wehner seems to be an attractive, sensitive, self-assured woman with a supportive, wholesome family, and that she claims to have recovered memories of abuse by Father Maskell and a few others.

None of this is how memories actually work, but it does tell us one thing: people are weird. Whether it’s lurid stories of rampaging priests or bizarre tales of pedophile rings in pizza parlor basements, people are capable of believing unbelievable things. Movie makers ought to feel some responsibility for addressing credible issues and dismissing the incredible ones, or they’re no better than Alex Jones.