Still tilting at windmills

This Casciola case in Italy is still going on? I mentioned it a while back, with an ennui-laden tone, I’m afraid—suing the Catholic church to demand they provide evidence for the existence of Jesus is a futile endeavor, I think, and isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

He also seems to be a bit of a kook. It looks like Anderson Cooper might be doing a show on him, and this sounds wrong.

He says he has dedicated his life to bringing down the Catholic Church, and he’s spent years of his life researching his subject. He says there was, in fact, no Jesus, but a military man named John of Gamala who lived in the time of Christ. And, he claims, it was the gospel writers who turned that mere mortal into the character of Jesus, a figure powerful enough on which to base an entire religion.

I agree that the contemporary evidence for the existence of Jesus is completely lacking, but the evidence is going to be just as weak for this “John of Gamala” guy, and furthermore, the connection between a random John and Jesus is going to be extremely tenuous. He can’t simultaneously argue for the inadequacy of the historical information about Jesus while saying it is sufficient to justify his weird little hypothesis.

Of course, even a kook can be right sometimes.

He calls the Catholic Church leaders “con men,” and says “they take advantage of the popular belief.”

I don’t think it’s a very interesting story, but what is cool are the comments to the article, which give an interesting snapshot of the state of unbelief in this country. There are the usual apologists who insist that it is a matter of faith not fact, and a lot who insist that Jesus’ existence is documented in the historical record (it’s not—all the accounts significantly post-date his reported death. My favorite comment there is the guy who says, “My faith in Christ is based on rock-solid historical evidence…” O Irony!). But it’s much more encouraging that the comments are about evenly divided between the nonsense-spouters and people critical of religion. Either we freethinkers are getting more vocal, or there are more of us in this country than have been reported. Or maybe Anderson Cooper just has a godless fanbase.

Seminal influences

Zeno mentions a children’s book series that had some impact on him: Danny Dunn! Oh, man, I remember reading through every Danny Dunn book my library had when I was in first and second grade—but the excerpt Zeno includes tells me I shouldn’t try revisiting them, ever, lest my disappointment in their quality become even greater.

Other books I remember well from those kiddie days were the reference books of Herbert S. Zim (which also inspire unfortunate memories now), and of course, the usual suspects: Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Come to think of it, last time I looked at those author’s work I wasn’t much impressed, either.

I think I shall never clickOn a poem as lovely as Tiktaalik

I saw it first at Virge’s place, but Mike Snider is also on the blogroll and I would have gotten to it eventually…but hey, if you’re a fan of fossil tetrapods and poetry, here’s a treat: a Tiktaalik sonnet. You can also view some drafts of its construction, which is developmentally interesting, I think, and not quite as messy as chopping up embryos.

I think my title reveals why I’ll leave the poesy to the pros.

Pig pile on Robert Bazell!

Bazell wrote an irritatingly obtuse commentary on Intelligent Design creationism, and I dawdled about expressing my dislike for it…but Tara and Orac and John Pieret and even non-scientific humorists (and I’m sure there are others I’ve missed) have all chimed in now, so you’d think I could just let it pass. But no! This is the blogosphere! We will all shout out our condemnations!

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mturner turns his molasses-thick wit on me

A reader who has been stymied by TypeKey (I wish I could fix that bug) informs me that mturner, one of the creationists at the ARN message board, thinks he has rebutted my post on whale limb evolution, claiming that Thewissen et al. have actually found evidence for Intelligent Design creationism. It’s fairly typical nonsense from the ARNies, but it’s so amusing I had to rebut his rebuttal.

ARN is a weird place. There are several patient, intelligent people working it to correct the babble that the flaming idiots who dominate the board put up. I am not that patient, so I can’t stomach the fools who frequent it, and mturner is one of the nastiest and dumbest of the lot. You can read his comments at ARN, or just go below the fold here—I’ve put the full text in this post.

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