One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead

So I would like to point out that Charles Manson never:

  • poisoned Indian lands with a leaky oil pipeline;

  • invited and enabled the slaughter of elephants;

  • built cheesy gilded hotels and casinos;

  • ripped off the contractors who built his hotels;

  • voted for tax breaks for the obscenely rich;

  • conspired with the Russians to subvert elections;

  • got elected to congress;

  • appointed far right conservatives to the Supreme Court;

  • or was elected president.

I’m still glad the old monster is dead.

I expressed myself about Genesis: Paradise Lost


In case you don’t want to listen to a whole half hour of this, here’s my concluding statement:

Look. I’m an atheist. This stuff plays directly into my hands — if your religion demands that every statement in your holy book must be absolutely, inarguably true, and that your entire faith hinges on a complete lack of metaphor, poetry, allusion, and analogy in that book — that it is as dry and literal and factual as a table of measures in an engineering text — then I’ve got you. I am going to win over your children to my side, and you know it.

As an atheist, I’m often told that I don’t understand your religion. But I do. I understand it better than the fanatical literalists, anyway. Religion has a long history of struggling to reconcile reality and belief, to find humanity’s place in a largely unknown and complex and frequently hostile universe. If there is any saving grace in faith at all, it is that it is an attempt to find a rock of certainty in the unpredictable chaos of life — it is aspirational, a search for truth. As such, religion changes over time. It evolves.

Where it fails is when people like Ham and the Hovinds give up on the search and the struggle and decide that they have an absolute lock on an irrevocable and ultimate truth, one that will no longer bend to the evidence, that will no longer care about the nature of reality, but only the nature of one antique interpretation of the words of a book. They will not change any more. They will cling stubbornly to this one unmoving stone of dogma, and they will insist that everything else is wrong. They will close their eyes and grasp tighter and tighter to that one illusion of certainty as it crumbles around them. By refusing to bend, they commit themselves to someday breaking.

The movie goes on like this for another hour and a half: more tiresome and tired old creationist arguments interspersed with brief episodes of bad CGI accompanied by a slow, lugubrious voice of god. It ends with another 10 or 15 minutes of fast cuts between their cast members, all testifying and preachifying about the glory of god and how lovely Jesus makes them feel.

It just makes me terribly sad. These are lost minds committed to battling against the real world.

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.

It all depends on how you define “success”

Sergio Canavero has been blustering for years about how he’s going to do a complete human head transplant. His most recent shenanigans was the horrible two-headed rat, in which he decapitated a little rat, killed a big rat, and stitched the two circulatory systems together to allow the big rat’s heart to keep the little rat’s unconscious brain alive for a few hours. It was a stupid waste; the big problem is and always has been to reconnect a nervous system in a functional way, and he’s not even trying to do that.

But now he has announced that he has successfully transplanted the head from one human being onto the body of another. Successfully. What does he mean by that?

He has successfully transplanted the head from one human cadaver to the torso of another human cadaver. No word yet on whether the patient has recovered consciousness or how he is feeling.

Are you impressed yet?

What will impress me is when these gullible newsrags wake up and realize that Canavero is a fraud, and they stop giving him free press for every ghoulish act of necrophilia he commits.

To all you men: could you please stop embarrassing the rest of us?

Jen Gunter, gynecologist extraordinaire, had written an article about how a former boyfriend had tried to control her by constantly criticizing her appearance, which got picked up by the NY Post as a story about how she got dumped because of her smelly vagina…and then the men got ahold of the story. They assumed, of course, that the criticisms by the controlling, negging boyfriend were all true, so she got all kinds of mansplaining mail, which she has now written about in the NY Times.

And then the men came. They came to share their opinions regarding my vagina, writing on my blog and at me on Twitter. They flocked to my Instagram and my Facebook. One group of gentlemen, in at least their 40s, even decided that this story of me being dumped supposedly because of my vagina was worthy of a laugh on their podcast.

This rash bombarded me in both public and private comments. Men wondered if I had washed “that thang yet?” One man wrote that I “must be INTO smelly ones! How nice for you — we prefer FRESH as a daisy ones!” Another man warned me that “We men had a meeting, all 3.5 billion of us.” At the meeting they had apparently decided to “double down on calling out” my smelly vagina.

A man said I should call my ex and thank him “for alerting me to my smelly vagina.” There was also the #notallmen contingent, who felt it was impossible that my personal experience and 25 years as a gynecologist could offer any evidence that men ever try to control women by preying on insecurities. Obviously it was just my vagina that stank.

More men sought me out to explain vaginas to me. They gave me false information on how to clean and prep them (for men, of course), and told me how gross my vagina must be, and hurled insults that I cannot print here.

This has not been a good day to be male, but then, I guess it’s only fair — men have been making women’s lives miserable for millennia.

I was not invited to that meeting of 3.5 billion men, and I suspect most of us weren’t. It’s time to fire that committee chair and sweep the conference room free and get some non-assholes in there.

Crap, no, not Al

Now it’s Al Franken’s turn. He treated a broadcaster, Leeann Tweeden, with gross disrespect on a USO tour.

Then, on an airplane flight, Franken snuck up on her while she was sleeping and groped her breasts, she writes. Franken even had someone snap a photo of him doing it while he looked at the camera with a big smile on his face.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she writes. “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

Franken told Raw Story in a statement: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

I have some expectations of what ought to happen when someone is caught in this kind of behavior. 1) Apologize, 2) Admit that it was wrong and inexcusable, and 3) Explain what you’ll do to make amends and correct the behavior. Franken has done #1 and #2, at least, but #3 is just as important and remains to be done. Tweeden makes it clear that he treated her poorly multiple times, which is disturbing — are there going to be other women stepping forward with similar stories about him?

Does every man who comes into a little power immediately turn into a crude, abusive asshole? In my despair at this constant problem, I thought that maybe this means that we should only elect women…but then I remembered Ann Coulter and Katie Hopkins. And Margaret Thatcher. And Jill Stein.

OK, next election, write in a vote for A Bag of Spiders in every position. It can’t be worse. These hu-mans are not to be trusted.


You should also read Tweeden’s account. It’s distressingly awful.


And now…Leeann Tweeden takes the high ground and accepts Franken’s apology.