What is 2 + 2?

Here’s an amusing video about what happens when we stop caring about giving a fact-based education to kids.

Laugh away. The schools aren’t teaching that “22” is an acceptable answer to the problem of “2+2”, yet. We’ve still got people insisting that evolution is false, though, and trying to expunge it from the curriculum…as they’re succeeding in doing in Turkey.

When children in Turkey head back to school this fall, something will be missing from their textbooks: any mention of evolution.

The Turkish government is phasing in what it calls a values-based curriculum. Critics accuse Turkey’s president of pushing a more conservative, religious ideology — at the expense of young people’s education.

It’s just the start.

“Among scientists, of course, we feel very sorry and very, very worried for the country,” says Ali Alpar, an astrophysicist and president of Turkey’s Science Academy, an independent group that opposes the new curriculum. A Turkish association of biologists and teachers’ unions have also expressed concern about the new textbooks.

“It is not only evolution. Evolution is a test case. It is about rationality — about whether the curriculum should be built on whatever the government chooses to be the proper values,” Alpar says. He also objects to how the government has converted many secular public schools into religious ones — Turkey’s publicly funded Imam Hatip schools — in recent years.

Ha ha. It’s just Turkey, going backwards, right? The levels of creationist ignorance in the US are competitive with those of Turkey, you know, and we have government officials supporting this one ignorant person, Ken Ham, and his flock.

He goes on to say

The fake news is this article stating, “Babylonian tablet that describes the story of Noah and the Ark, widely believed to be the inspiration for the Biblical story.” The real event of the actual global Flood that did occur about 4300 years…ago as totally accurately recorded in the infallible Word of God in Genesis was the inspiration for the perverted (fake news) version now found in Babylonian (and other) records from cultures around the world.

That’s just as bad as trying to tell kids that “2+2=22”.

Religion is a blight on the world

Aren’t you reassured that Rick Perry is writing up one-page rationalizations comparing Trump to Old Testament kings? That he, and many others, are willing to proclaim Trump to be the Chosen One of God, and that the fools of Fox News will sit around agreeing with him?

Apparently, you can be a corrupt, incompetent, narcissistic lecher, and all you have to do is spread the word that an invisible, inaudible god says he likes you, and people will fall in line.

Or look at this woman who declared that Matt Bevin had won the election for Kentucky governor just because she’d prayed on it and wanted it to be true.

It was becoming clearer as the night wore on, that Bevin would be unable to make up the margin of defeat in those areas.

“I ran into other people involved in the campaign process and they had similar things they were saying, trying to talk you into that he lost,” McDowell said.

Amid all these messages that she did not want to hear, McDowell turned to her frequent tool: prayer.

“I’m a praying woman. I just go into prayer. That’s what I do,” she said. “I took it to a spiritual level.”

She also took it to Facebook Live, a feature on the social media platform’s mobile app that allows users to broadcast in real time to their followers. She saw comments from followers supportive of a Bevin comeback.

“I just felt like it was a spiritual thing. It just seemed so strange. Everyone was acting really weird,” she said. “And so that’s why I prayed.”

Her thoughts drifted to “voter fraud”. “I felt it in my spirit. There was some kind of thing undermining the Bevin win,” McDowell said. “I just felt like that the entire time. It was such a dark feeling.”

Substitute “self-delusion” for “prayer”. It’s more accurate.

She basically worked herself up into a frenzy of belief that Jesus wouldn’t let Matt Bevin fail, and ran up on stage and lied to the crowd. She still thinks that was OK, because her faith justifies it.

As seen in a viral video distributed by Lexington TV station WLEX, which now has nearly 400,000 views, McDowell is seen coming on an empty stage with a mobile phone at her ear, trotting towards the open podium.

“Hey, we just got word,” she shouted into the mic. “Matt Bevin has won!”

The crowd, which had much to celebrate as the Republicans easily swept all the other statewide offices but were down at the prospect of Bevin’s pending loss, went from somber to jubilant in an instant.

The scary part is at the end of the article.

And she is OK, she said, and even plans to run for office again. “I will probably do it perpetually,” she said.

“I always pray about it. And Lord, if you want me to do something, I’ll get an idea to do it,” she said. “I’m wide open to politics. I’m pretty much always going to be involved at some level.”

And as she reflected on her viral moment from the GOP event in Louisville, she turned upward again.

“I did it for you, Lord.”

Goddamn. Ignorance is such a good motivator for political involvement.

I am a terrible person, with my own prejudices, but at least I’m not a cult member

For example, I saw this guy’s photo, and my brain immediately said to me, “Mormon.” I lived in Utah for 7 years, and got to know the type very well. Slight counter-evidence was that he was an elected official in Arizona, but that really didn’t matter much — the Mormon belt runs from Arizona up into Canada.

Then I read the summary:

An elected official in Arizona was suspended Monday after he was charged with running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then paid them to give up their children for adoption.

Aaah! My brain is running around screaming, “MORMON!”. This is a classic LDS move, since they spend a lot of effort proselytizing in the Pacific islands, and I knew a surprising number of islanders living in Salt Lake City.

Petersen completed a mission in the Marshall Islands, a collection of atolls and islands in the eastern Pacific, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He later worked in the islands and the U.S. on behalf of an international adoption agency before going to law school and becoming an adoption attorney.

Yep, Mormon. My Modar is still working. What this guy was doing was really deplorable.

Petersen, a Republican, has been indicted in federal court in Arkansas and also charged in Arizona and Utah with crimes that include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The criminal case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions, authorities said, with about 30 adoptions pending in three states.

Petersen is accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, court documents say.

Petersen charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption, prosecutors said.

Oh, right. Republican, too. Republicanism is an even creepier cult than the Church of Latter Day Saints.

The Gideons are on campus again

I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it’s heartwarming to see all the students spurning the offer of a testament. They’re very polite about it — this is Minnesota, after all — but watching the students wave them away or say “No, thank you” is pleasant.

On the other hand, I walked past three small groups of Gideons this morning, and they glance at me and look away, and never offer. How can they tell? Is it the lines of debauchery and degeneracy on my face that scream “Godless!” when they look at me? Do they really have a hot-line to God, who whispers to them “Never mind” when I walk by? Do I have Resting Atheist Face?

I hear that can be corrected with surgery now. I just need a blissed-out, dull-witted look stitched onto my face, I guess.

So much wrong in one little story

Here’s some smug sanctimonious Christianity for you, all inflicted on a helpless baby.

On Wednesday, Martina Obi-Uzom was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to an 11 month old baby boy. She was entrusted to look after the baby while his parents went away one weekend. During that weekend, she took the baby to London to be circumcised, in accordance with her own Nigerian Christian beliefs. She knew the baby’s mother did not want her baby circumcised. So she posed as the child’s mother, recruited a man to pose as his father, and convinced a Jewish circumciser to perform the procedure.

You are probably rightly horrified right now. Wait until you learn what happened to Ms Obi-Uzom.

She was given a suspended sentence of 14 months. She was also ordered to pay costs of £1,500 and a £140 victim surcharge, which seems paltry compensation for amputating part of a person’s genitals without consent or medical need.

Judge Freya Newbery said although the offence merited a prison sentence, “circumstances” meant she decided to suspend the sentence. The judge said she accepted that Obi-Uzom’s intention “wasn’t to harm the boy” and that she was of “impeccable character”. She also said she was a “professional person” and “highly qualified”.

I’m going to guess that the judge overlooked the mutilation of a baby because the perpetrator’s “impeccable character” consisted of being Christian. Anyone who took a knife to harm a baby for any other reason would be dealt with far more severely.

How many foreskins are you worth?

True story from 1 Samuel 18:25-27. This, of course, is the foundation of Judeo-Christian morality.

My wife is worth a lot more foreskins than that, but I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I went all serial killer and marched through Stevens County chopping off penis tips and bringing them back to her in a bloody sack.

Also, it would be like those obnoxious World of Warcraft quests. “Bring me X body parts from this animal!”, and then you go slaughtering and most of your kills don’t even have that body part. I still remember having to kill zebras for their hooves, and finding most didn’t have any.

Jesus is the excuse that never fails

Over the last few days, I watched The Family on Netflix, a five part series on this shadow cabal of fanatical Christians bent on shaping the American government. It’s horrifying. But then, I read the book, also horrifying.

It’s a kind of understated horror, though — it’s not sensationalist at all, and that might be a flaw in the documentary. These people march through the halls of power, and all they do is say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. They say nice things about the power of Christ, but they don’t push the Bible or fundamentalism, but only constantly invoke the name of Jesus to authorize their use of power…for anything. There are these interviews and recordings of smug, confident people asserting with unshakeable certainty that Jesus wants them to do the things that they do, and the evidence that they are exercising Jesus’ will is that they have power. Power itself is proof that God wants them to use that power.

There are little hiccups in their philosophy, like John Ensign, the former Senator who thought his title meant he could cheat on his wife and use his position for a coverup, or Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor who made “hiking the Appalachian trail” a synonym for having an affair. It’s funny how the personal peccadillos get them in trouble, but they apply the same attitude to everything, including acts of corruption and sedition. The laws don’t apply to them, because Jesus.

It’s a documentary that is also rather frustrating as an atheist, because it never engages with the lie at the heart of the Family. They don’t know Jesus. Jesus is not talking to them. Jesus is dead, and the godly prophet they imagine is a fiction. In a few places it tries to rebut the Holy Certainty of the Family by arguing that Jesus wasn’t that bad guy, that he also wanted to help the poor, for instance, but that kindly Jesus is also only in your imagination and is also another example of Holy Certainty.

You can use Jesus to argue for whatever you want, he’s never going to speak up and tell you you’re wrong. The only way to win that debate is to never engage in it — every time Jesus is your backup, it’s just your id and predispositions speaking, and don’t allow them to pretend otherwise.

The Jesus thing is also never ending. I hope our next president is someone who can say “no” to the National Prayer Breakfast, a creation of the Family, but I doubt that even the candidates I like will be willing to do that.

Wanna piss off Ken Ham?

The easiest way is to point out that his Ark Park was built on government handouts.

  • A tax-rebate program nets the Ark Park more than $1.8 million annually from the state. Under the plan, the state charges a 6 percent tax on the sale of tickets, food and souvenirs at the park. The funds are forwarded to the state, but once a year, all of that money is refunded to the Ark Park. It flows directly from the state treasury to Ark Encounter.
  • As bloggers William and Susan Trollinger have pointed out repeatedly, the city of Williamstown floated $62 million in junk bonds for the Ark Park to subsidize the building of the structure. (By the way, Williamstown officials did this because they bought Ham’s claim that the Ark Park would spur tourism in their town. But that hasn’t happened, and now Ham says it’s their fault because the community is too far away from the interstate.)
  • The Grant County Industrial Authority gave Ark Encounter $175,000 to offset the cost of land. In addition, local officials agreed to sell nearly 100 acres of land to Ham for the princely sum of $1.
  • The state spent $10 million on highway improvements on a road leading to Ark Encounter.

Ham will fire off angry letters to the local newspaper and flood Twitter with indignant tweets if you point out that his grand building-that-looks-vaguely-like-a-boat is a gross violation of church and state separation, and that he couldn’t have built it without suborning state and local officials to funnel tax money into his pockets.

If I said I was building a Spider Park in my lab that would be a phenomenal tourist attraction, do you think I could persuade the state of Minnesota to give me a million dollars a year? Or at least improve Highway 28 (or better yet, rail service) for better access to the University of Minnesota Morris?

Maybe if I set up an affiliated Church of the Spider God…