I don’t think I’m autistic, but I am feeling demonic

This is the message a school sends to parents. It’s a Christian school, so it’s substandard bad education, and packed with the baggage of a wicked ideology, but that doesn’t excuse it.

The day before Easter, Pastor Matt Baker of the Trinity Christian Academy in Lake Worth, Florida, emailed the school community to inform them that he was canceling Autism Awareness Week because “the teachings and actions of my Jesus are fully able to do all that this program intends to achieve and so much more.”

“Anything that teaches our children to have their identity in anything other than Christ is idolatry and demonic,” he declared, as first reported by WPTV.

Baker wanted to make sure there was no room for doubt regarding his edict.

“Let me repeat myself just so I am not quoted out of context: any philosophy, teaching, or program that teaches our precious children that their identity is found in anything other than Christ is idolatry and demonic. Period.”

Go to your hell, Matt Baker. Is my identity as a husband and father also demonic? Is everyone who is not a Christian also demonic? Can you demonstrate the existence of demons at all?

Here’s another example of a Christian pastor in Missouri demonizing autistic kids. At least this one got compelled to resign.

Matt Baker is still poisoning minds.

I don’t know why these “schools” are allowed to exist.

The Dawkins Apologists crawl out of the woodwork!

I knew my recent criticisms or Richard Dawkins would enrage the usual crowd. I’m used to it and I knew it was coming. Also unsurprisingly, the noise is coming from Jerry Coyne, who is always willing to praise the hierarchy of atheism.

But the main error of both her [Rachel Johnson, Dawkins’ interviewer] queries as well as Myers’s article is to claim that because there are bad behaviors inspired by both Christianity and Islam, they must be equally bad. And if you say that, you’re a bigot. The error, of course, is the neglect of the real issue: how often do bad behavior promoted by the two faiths occur? Further, says Myers, both the Bible and Qur’an promote some bad behaviors, so the two faiths again must be pretty much equally bad. Here I’d disagree, maintaining that the Qu’ran is full of more hatred, animus, and oppressive dictates than is the Bible. (Yes, I’ve read both.) But that’s really irrelevant to the question at hand, as most modern Christians don’t follow the bad parts of the Bible, while the Qur’an hasn’t been equally defanged.

The problem with that complaint is that I haven’t claimed that Christianity and Islam are equally bad. To the contrary, I think that Christianity and Islam are equally complicated; there are people in each faith who use their beliefs to motivate good social behavior, and others who use it to justify horrors, and that the bigotry lies in treating all members of a religion as the same. Here, Coyne is giving Xians the benefit of the doubt, and claiming that most have denied the “bad parts of the Bible,” while implying that most Muslims are accepting every jot and tittle of the Qur’an. Christianity has been defanged! Except, presumably, the ones in the Republican party that want to institute an American theocracy. We’ll just close our eyes and pretend they don’t exist.

Is he even aware that the US is on the edge of a precipice? That our next election could be our last, if a certain madman and his delusional, evangelical followers get their way? I’m not claiming that they are worse than Jihadi terrorists, but that they’re pretty awful, and that the majority of Muslims have no desire to perpetrate the terrors that bigots like to smear all followers of Allah with.

He also conveniently forgets that Dawkins said this:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

I haven’t. I agree with that, actually. I’m not the ones making excuses for Christianity: the god of the Bible has not been re-written, but suddenly some former New Atheists would have us think Jehovah has reformed, and now Christianity is just pretty Christmas bells and cathedrals and lovely parish churches, and they’re making that argument entirely because they want to make sure we don’t compromise in our hatred of those evil Muslim terrorists, who know nothing of beauty and peace and art and science. The bigotry lies in the insane polarization that is being promoted. If only Islam could be defanged, so they could have beautiful cathedrals, too!

Here Myers makes the two mistakes I mentioned above. First, he sees no difference between the proportion of bad stuff in the Bible and the bad stuff in the Qur’an. I do see a difference (I presume Myers has read both, as I have), but, as I said this is really irrelevant.

Except, of course, that I don’t make that claim (which is irrelevant anyway, he says, despite making that the bulk of his argument.) Both religions contain archaic horrors and bad ideas. The reason he and Coyne are bigots are that they pretend that the cherished traditions of their familiar religions are better and more important than the comfortable happy traditions of Muslims, and that Christianity has been “defanged” while Islam is a nest of evil. Remember, Dawkins’ first complaint was that he didn’t want to hear that Ramadan was promoted instead of Easter. What’s wrong with Ramadan? I don’t care. I celebrate neither Easter nor Ramadan, and I don’t worry that Christianity or Islam are using their holidays to cloak heinous, barbaric practices.

He has one final gotcha for me.

The main question is where one wants to live: in a Christian or a Muslim country, and whether Islam has more pernicious effects on the modern world than does Christianity. Which religion promotes behaviors that lead to a better, more desirable society?

Oh, that is easy. I’d rather live in a secular country, but since he’s made it a binary choice, I’ll pick the country where my native language, English, is spoken, and where nobody is trying to bomb me into a bloody paste. That narrows my options down to primarily Western countries, which are mostly Christian. I think it would be wise to avoid living in countries that have been wrecked by colonialism, like, say, anything in the Middle East, or that have been crippled by sanctions or brutal, American-led wars.

If we want to identify religions that have had the most pernicious effects on the modern world, we really ought to focus on evangelical Christianity, which dominates in the most powerful nations, and which is now endorsing genocide of Palestinians, and which has dispatched missionaries to various countries in Africa to legislate for death penalties against gay people, or which is striving to demolish American democracy, or which is actively trying to inject anti-scientific nonsense into educational curricula. A Christian sneezing in America has a greater influence in the world than a Muslim preaching jihad in the ruins of Iraq.

Oh, but I forget — I’m supposed to reduce the history and culture and humanity of entire peoples to just their religion, where Christianity gets a pass on any flaws while Islam is a monolithic univocal monster. Sorry, only bigots do that. QED.

Banality and bigotry

Well, well, well. Richard Dawkins declared himself a “cultural Christian” on Easter, which is no surprise and no big deal. He has been saying how much he likes Christmas and church bells for years, so this is absolutely nothing new. I could say that I’m a “cultural Christian,” too, being brought up in a functionally Christian country with Christian traditions and a Christian history, but I’m defined more by my atheism, and my rejection of many of those beliefs. It’s meaningless and trivial to say that we have all been shaped by our environment…although, of course, many Christian believers think that this is a huge deal and are acting as if Dawkins has renounced his unbelief.

He has not. What he then goes on to do, though, is to declare his bigotry, and that is what I find disturbing.

He likes hymns and cathedrals and parish churches — fine, uncontroversial, kind of boring, actually. But then he resents the idea that people would celebrate Ramadan instead of Christmas. Why? They both seem like nice holidays, that some people follow a different set of customs shouldn’t be a problem. Then he goes on to say that Christianity is “a fundamentally decent religion, in a way that Islam is not.”

How so? Because Islam is hostile to women and gays. He goes on to talk about how the Koran has a low regard for women.

Jesus. It’s true, but has this “cultural Christian” read the Bible? I don’t see any difference. The interviewer tries to bring up the record of actual practicing Christians, and he dismisses that as only those weird American protestants, as if jolly old England has no gay baiting, no murders of young women, and as if JK Rowling were just an open-minded, beneficent patron of the arts. Many American Christians are virulent homophobes who treat women as chattel, but his equally nasty culturally English Christianity has people and organizations that are just as awful.

70% of women teachers in the UK face misogyny. The British empire left a legacy of homophobia. The UK is so transphobic that some people are fleeing. Cultural Christianity does not seem to have made Great Britain a kinder, gentler place, but Dawkins must have some particularly rosy glasses that he wears at home, and takes off when he looks at any other country.

Dawkins has come out as sympathetic to Christianity, but only because it justifies his bigotry. At least he’s being open and honest about both biases.

For all the debate bros

Here’s a hard-earned lesson from years of debating Christians and creationists, all summed up in one lovely cartoon.

“I’m not interested in proving you wrong. Just in shutting you up.”
Oglaf

The zealots don’t care about logic and reason, they just pretend to care, for the rubes. You’re not going to be able to logic your way past their arguments because they’re not founded on logic in the first place. Their goal is to put on a show for their fellow travelers, to distract you, and eventually, to acquire the power they need to silence you.

Don’t be like the heretic in the cartoon, only realizing their game when they’ve got you tied to the stake.

I join the non-engineers in solving engineering problems!

There was a terrible accident at a bridge in Baltimore — it was struck by a container ship and collapsed horrifically. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to the discussion. Minnesota had a terrible bridge collapse back in 2007, but that was a consequence of neglect and failure to maintain critical infrastructure. This event seems to be completely different.

But then I looked at the news and noticed that a lot of idiots are throwing out explanations. Hey, I have no engineering expertise, know nothing about bridge construction, but have ridden on a ship a few times, therefore I’m just as qualified as the Fox News team or Victor Davis Hansen, or some guy who has appeared on Ancient Aliens, therefore I should opine.

You should look at how they’re explaining the crash.

A non-exhaustive list of things that are getting blamed for the bridge collapse on Telegram and X include: President Joe Biden, Hamas, ISIS, P Diddy, Nickelodeon, India, former President Barack Obama, Islam, aliens, Sri Lanka, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, Wokeness, Ukraine, foreign aid, the CIA, Jewish people, Israel, Russia, China, Iran, Covid vaccines, DEI, immigrants, Black people and lockdowns.

The Francis Scott Key truss bridge actually collapsed when the MV Dali cargo ship collided with one of the bridge supports. Six construction workers, who were filling potholes on the bridge at the time, are presumed dead. The ship is owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd, and the 22-person crew were all Indian. The ship was on route to Colombo, Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

This did not stop people from “asking questions” about the incident, a frequent conspiracist response to major events. And though conspiracy theorists are having a hard time pinpointing exactly what conspiracy caused the collapse, the one thing they do agree on is that this incident is a “black swan event.”
The term “black swan event” has been around for decades, and is used to describe a major global event (typically in the financial markets) that can cause significant damage to a country’s economy. But in recent years, the term has been co-opted by the conspiracy minded to explain an event triggered by the so-called deep state that would signal an imminent revolution, a third world war, or some other apocalyptic catastrophe.

Man, a lot of them blame DEI, which seems to be the go-to excuse on the right wing for everything. I don’t get it, though. This ship was crewed by Indians, and the bridge, the victim in this collision, was crewed by immigrant labor, so we can’t blame the magic word “DEI” for that. Fortunately, I, a non-engineer, am here to explain the problem and how to fix it.

The bridge was clearly under-engineered. It crumpled so easily with a slight bump! Clearly, those pilings (or whatever bridge people call them — you know, the bits sticking up out of the water holding up the road) were flimsy and inadequate, and need to be built back stronger. As it is, they probably wouldn’t hold up if they were slammed by a 6-ton wrecking ball, so it’s back to drawing board, and they need to be built with the goal of standing up to the force of a 100,000 ton wrecking ball traveling at 8 knots. Easy, right? I am also not a physicist, so I will leave it to the smarter people here to calculate the amount of force it needs to resist. It’s something like , where you have to multiply and divide and solve for F, way above my pay grade.

So, yeah, just build bridges that are that strong.

I’m not sure where Wokeness or P Diddy or vaccines fit into the equation. We might need to recruit some social scientists to work on the bridge redesign team, and I’m definitely not smart enough for that stuff.

Or I could stand back and let competent people find solutions, which probably don’t involve impossibly strong structures or firing people with the wrong skin color, but where’s the fun in that?

Synchronicity! Convergence! It must be significant.

I’ve been seeing more examples recently of theists pointing at the ‘miracle’ of solar eclipses. It’s amazing the the diameter of the moon as seen from Earth is almost exactly the same as the diameter of the sun, as seen from the same position. That couldn’t possibly be by chance — it must be a sign from a god.

Except…sorry, this kind of thing is exactly what can happen by coincidence. It’s a neat phenomenon, but not at all persuasive of the existence of a deity.

But here’s another miraculous coincidence: both Adam Lee and Gregory Paul have written about this same event, and both are saying it’s not evidence for a god. A miracle! So unlikely.

Both Lee and Paul explain the physical basis for eclipses, and suggest it’s nothing but chance. Lee points out the fallacious reasoning behind thinking this is causally significant.

Creationists love talking about the “rare Earth” idea: the argument that Earth is specially and uniquely fine-tuned to support life. It orbits in the habitable zone, not too close or too far from the sun, which is a stable star without massive flares. We have a regular day-night cycle, a mostly stable axial tilt, a magnetic field that screens out cosmic radiation, and so on. The creationists claim that this is evidence of God’s special favor.

The fallacy of the rare-Earth argument is that it’s an inference based on incomplete data. Just as you can’t compute the probability of a particular hand of cards unless you know what’s in the deck, we have no basis for proclaiming how common Earthlike planets are. Our sample size is too limited (although it’s growing all the time).

Paul wonders why a super-powerful cosmic being who can juggle stars and planets is trying to impress us with a meaningless, illusory light show.

Wrapping this up by looking at the really big picture, it’s important to understand that the beautiful total eclipses should be seen as compelling evidence of God thing is part of a greater cover-up conspiracy. It is a use of a wowzer but trivial item to help divert mass awareness away from the far larger issues that tell a very different tale about the state of our existence. Theists have long been working to get us to focus on the supposed sheer existence of a creator via the beauty of our Lord’s creation. That’s because they don’t want us to pay due and necessary attention to the deeply dark underside of the proposed super intelligence. The universe may be pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is correspondingly arbitrary, and can cover profound dysfunction or evil. Far from the universe being truly fine-tuned for intelligent life, it is in many respects hostile to it, to the degree that Earth is a toxic blue dot so infested with lethal microbes that diseases have killed off half of humans born, to the tune of fifty billion dead children (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 and see part 2 too). There is nothing pretty about that.

Let us assume the following. That children are immune to diseases, so that few if any kinds die young. Rather than the 5,000 that will die around the globe on April 8. Such a world would be pushing happenstance way beyond its logical, natural cause limits. Such benign protection of the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent would not only constitute solid evidence for the existence of a truly intelligent designer of immense power. It would demonstrate that the entity really is ethical and in fact cares about the free will of humans. As it is, we dwell on a kid-killing planet that, regardless of its awe-inspiring aspects including total eclipses, is fully and far more compatible with amoral natural origins than with loving design, and there is nothing trivial about that terrible fact.

Yeah, I wonder too why a god would rather play shenanigans with the lighting than actually do something about all those suffering, dying kids. It’s not a good look, God. It makes you look like a clown in the cancer ward, tossing kids out the window.

I’m not going to indulge in the spectacle. I think we get about 60% totality here in Minnesota, and that’ll have to be good enough for me. It’s all going down on a school day, you know, and I’m not traveling to some ungodly place like Indiana or Texas for a brief period of darkness.

The end of UAPs? Not likely.

The Defense Department’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) released a report that will finally end all that UFO/UAP nonsense. Just kidding — nothing will end the human capacity for self-delusion. But it’s a start.

AARO found no evidence that any USG investigation, academic-sponsored research, or official review panel has confirmed that any sighting of a UAP represented extraterrestrial technology. All investigative efforts, at all levels of classification, concluded that most sightings were ordinary objects and phenomena and the result of misidentification. Although not the focus of this report, it is worthwhile to note that all official foreign UAP investigatory efforts to date have reached the same general conclusions as USG investigations.

  • Although many UAP reports remain unsolved or unidentified, AARO assesses that if more and better quality data were available, most of these cases also could be identified and resolved as ordinary objects or phenomena. Sensors and visual observations are imperfect; the vast majority of cases lack actionable data or the data available is limited or of poor quality.
  • Resources and staffing for these programs largely have been irregular and sporadic, challenging investigatory efforts and hindering effective knowledge transfer.
  • The vast majority of reports almost certainly are the result of misidentification and a direct consequence of the lack of domain awareness; there is a direct correlation between the amount and quality of available information on a case with the ability to conclusively resolve it.

I thought this was an amusing comment on the quality of the evidence.

Another program brought to AARO’s attention, Kona Blue, was alleged to be a Homeland Security Department effort “to cover up the retrieval and exploitation of ‘nonhuman biologics,’” the report found. In other words, alien bodies.

The origins of those suspicions, investigators found, traced back to some of those earlier Pentagon researchers, backed by Reid, who had strayed into studying UAPs.

When the Defense Intelligence Agency canceled that effort in 2012 “due to lack of merit,” its supporters proposed that Homeland Security fund a new version to investigate paranormal research, including “human consciousness anomalies,” the report found. The program, which they proposed calling Kona Blue, also would reverse-engineer “off-world spacecraft that they hoped to acquire.” The Kona Blue backers assumed that biological evidence of aliens was already in the government’s possession, the report found.

They proposed to study aliens and spacecraft that “they hoped to acquire”. Cool. What are the chances of my getting funding for my NSF proposal to study spiders from Mars that I “hope to aquire”? I’m sure, though, that we’ll be hearing about the unauthorized, unsupported, imaginary Kona Blue project for years to come. The only thing you need to do to captivate the Ancient Aliens crowd is to invent a catchy, enigmatic name.

In related news, you may recall that Avi Loeb claimed to have scraped tiny molten balls from an exploded UFO in the ocean off New Guinea. He launched his expedition years after the fireball was observed, and claimed he had mapped the location from real scientific data, seismographic recordings that caught a little jiggle at the precise time of the supposed crash.

Except it wasn’t. He was chasing a trivial seismic glitch.

In January 2014, a meteor scorched its way through the atmosphere, a brilliant ball of fire over the Pacific Ocean.

Before it plunged into the sea, strange sound waves were picked up by a seismometer in nearby Papua New Guinea.

Could it have been an alien signal? Perhaps a desperate SOS?

Sadly for UFO fans, it was not. The sound waves were actually from a truck, distinctly Earthly in origin, trundling along a nearby road.

‘The signal changed directions over time, exactly matching a road that runs past the seismometer,’ said Dr Benjamin Fernando, a planetary seismologist at Johns Hopkins University who led the research.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter. It never does. I’m going to see Loeb’s grinning, gnomish face popping up on web pages for the rest of my life, aren’t I? It’s of no importance that he has zero evidence, his thesis is ridiculous, but he wields that fading authority of Harvard, so every kook in the world will lap up his dribblings.