At first glance, I thought this story was good news: Oklahoma is going to build a Christian prison! About time, I thought, I can think of a few Christians who deserve a few years for faith-abuse. But no…it's a prison to be administered by Christians to give Christian criminals special privileges. Not quite as appropriate, but more in line with what we've gotten used to from our dominant faith tradition.
We're getting more of the same from Congress, too. Religion is being given permission to intrude on science once again, with the sanctimonious Orrin Hatch (abetted by a pair of Democrats, Kerry and Kennedy) sponsoring a provision in the mangled health care football to allow prayer to count as medicine. It's specifically a sop to Christian Science, that nonsensical superstition that believes that medicine is a betrayal of faith and that wants to charge sick people money to pray over them…and also get reimbursement from the government. Let the Christian Scientists get a foot in the door and official recognition of mumbling to Jesus as a billable service, and you know the Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses and Amish and Mormons and, of course, the Catholics will be surging through to take advantage of the opportunities.
I may just have to convert to Catholicism under this bill so I can charge the US and my insurance provider to cover my near-sightedness treatments at Lourdes. And the French Riviera.
You laugh. But look at the absurdity of existing loopholes.
Karen Armstrong has once again published a pile of meaningless twaddle in defense of religion. In this mess, she takes a series of statements about god that she says need rethinking…but as always, her "rethinking" is merely a reworking of apologetics for maintaining the status quo. It's almost as if she thinks it is a new and brilliant idea to just keep going to church and accepting Jesus into your heart. It's not.
Here's her little list of truisms that she aims to puncture.
"God Is Dead."
Armstrong says this isn't true, and points to fundamentalist upheavals as evidence that "God has proven to be alive and well". I think it means she doesn't understand Nietzsche.
Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute has published an opinion piece in the Boston Globe in which he makes a rather anachronistic argument for ID: Thomas Jefferson was a supporter. I knew the creationists were sloppy scholars and had a poor grasp of history and science, but this is getting ridiculous.
Here, I have to help them out.
|Writes the Declaration of Independence|
Ends his term as President of the US
Writes the quote Stephen Meyer will find so appealing:
The old fossil is Pat Buchanan, who has published a freakishly antiquated diatribe against Darwin. It's extremely old school — he uses arguments straight out of 1960s era "scientific creationism", trying to tar Darwin with guilt by association with Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler. He is apparently inspired by a "splendid little book," The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold, by a creationist crank named Eugene G. Windchy. You can get an idea of Windchy's level of scholarship by this quote:
That Darwinism has proven "disastrous theory" is indisputable.
"Karl Marx loved Darwinism," writes Windchy. "To him, survival of the fittest as the source of progress justified violence in bringing about social and political change, in other words, the revolution."
"Darwin suits my purpose," Marx wrote.
John Lynch has rebutted this claim; I rather doubt that Marx could love someone as bourgeois as Darwin, a prosperous landowner and investor, a fellow who thought his greatest success in life was his talent as a businessman, and I can be fairly confident that any affection would not have been returned. And please, don't even mention the false claim that Marx wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin.
It's not enough to link Darwin to Marx; Windchy also has to turn Hitler into a committed Darwinist. You'd think he'd stop to marvel at the idea that Darwin could have inspired two such antagonistic philosophies, but Windchy and Buchanan aren't quite that thoughtful.
Darwin suited Adolf Hitler's purposes, too.
"Although born to a Catholic family Hitler become a hard-eyed Darwinist who saw life as a constant struggle between the strong and the weak. His Darwinism was so extreme that he thought it would have been better for the world if the Muslims had won the eighth century battle of Tours, which stopped the Arabs' advance into France. Had the Christians lost, (Hitler) reasoned, Germanic people would have acquired a more warlike creed and, because of their natural superiority, would have become the leaders of an Islamic empire."
Charles Darwin also suited the purpose of the eugenicists and Herbert Spencer, who preached a survival-of-the-fittest social Darwinism to robber baron industrialists exploiting 19th-century immigrants.
For being a "hard-eyed Darwinist", Hitler certainly seems to have failed to make much use of the theory. Read Mein Kampf and you will find nothing about Darwin or evolution, but you will find much about God. And don't his strange notions about an Aryan Islamic empire simply mark Hitler as a crazy crackpot, and say nothing at all about Darwin?
They do make some outrageous accusations against Darwin: he was a thief and a liar who stole his whole theory from Wallace.
Darwin, he demonstrates, stole his theory from Alfred Wallace, who had sent him a "completed formal paper on evolution by natural selection."
"All my originality ... will be smashed," wailed Darwin when he got Wallace's manuscript.
Unfortunately for their thesis, Darwin's writings are preserved to an amazing degree — the history of his idea can be traced almost to the day. We know that he was putting together an outline of his theory within a few years of returning from the voyage of the Beagle; we have an early draft of his thesis written in 1842, well before the contact with Wallace; we have his correspondence where he bounced these ideas off his colleagues. He didn't steal his theory at all, but had it well formulated before Wallace wrote his fateful letter, triggering him to finally publish.
I'm warning you. It's a disaster waiting to build: when the newspapers start reporting creationist versions of stories without questioning them, without providing explanations of the fallacies, and without even bringing in authoritative scientific voices to knock their claims down, all you do is feed the confidence of the creationists. It's even worse than "he said she said" journalism. That's exactly what the BBC has done, though, with a piss poor story about attendees at Ken Ham's preposterous creationist "museum".
I'm going to be charitable and assume the author intended to hang the creationists with their own words; the quotes from the people going to the "museum" do make them sound like ignorant hicks. In particular, one pull quote — Why is Darwin buried with kings at Westminster Abbey? He's not a king. — is a great big flashing idiot light, and will be especially noticeable in the UK (hint: they don't just bury kings in Westminster…unless, of course, Isaac Newton and Herschel and Lyell and many other scientists were crowned when I wasn't looking).
But still, look at the article as a creationist would. It's going to go in a scrapbook or on a wall of reviews at the "museum", and the gomers will stroll through, read it, and nod approvingly. Those quotes affirm their own beliefs; all they'll see is that the BBC approvingly quoted sentiments they share. And there will be readers in England, even, who will be oblivious to the very understated sarcasm, and will be cheered further in their support of creationism. And other reporters will see that as a perfectly reasonable way to write a news story, and the plague of bland reporting will spread.
Oh, how I despise PETA. Now they're putting up new billboards in Kansas —can you guess why?
Lindsay Rajt, campaign manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the billboards were prompted by the recent shooting death of abortion doctor George Tiller, who was killed Sunday at his church.
"The discussion of the value of life is front and center right now in the public conversation," Rajt said today. "We think we would be irresponsible if we don't talk about how we're all guilty of extreme cruelty to animals every time we sit down to a meal that includes meat."
They have two billboards: one that says "Pro-life? Go vegetarian" and the other says "Pro-choice? Choose vegetarian". PETA reminds me of the undertaker in Yojimbo: a town is tearing itself apart, and the only one prospering is the ghoul who's happily selling coffins to both factions. I can only hope their ham-handed campaign repulses both sides.
Grim tales are emerging from an investigation of the Irish Catholic Church. For years, they've been running reform schools which sound more like hellish work camps, where sadistic priests were given free rein. I found it ironic that some of these workhouses were used to make religious paraphernalia, like rosaries, that were sold to the faithful. I wonder how many hail marys have been said on beads assembled by child-slaves who were raped or beaten as a reward? It does add a rather sinister gloss to Catholic prayers.
A quick summary of the findings:
a history of official cover-ups of pedophiles within the church since the 1930s.
a pattern of beatings, abuse, and molestation in church-run workhouses.
molestation and rape were "endemic" at the boys' workhouses.
ritualized beatings and personal abuse and denigration.
Santino is my hero. He was kept imprisoned in a cage, and his response was to throw rocks at his obnoxious captors. He'd scavenge the prison yard at night for whatever loose stones he could find, and he'd cache them for the morning. When there weren't enough rocks, he'd pound the concrete retaining wall to knock loose chips of stone. Then when the jailers would show up, zip, zip, zip, a rain of stones on them. You have to respect that kind of defiance and planning.
Santino is a tough guy. Santino is also a chimpanzee.
Doesn't that make you wonder a bit? Chimpanzees fight back at being caged, and they do so with forethought and resourcefulness. I imagine our ancestors felt the same way at every obstacle to their life, from marauding leopards to bad weather, and they stoked a bit of rage to fight back (which was probably ineffective in dealing with a thunderstorm, requiring slightly cleverer strategies). It's a start; it's a way of using your brain to resist, and I think it's a very human approach to a problem.
It's an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office.
These laws are archaic and unenforceable in principle -- they were all ruled unconstitutional in 1961 -- but of course they're still in effect across all 50 states in practice, since public opinion makes it almost impossible for an atheist to get elected to high office.
Now, though, a representative in Arkansas has submitted a bill to amend the Arkansas constitution and remove the prohibition of atheists. This could get very interesting, or it might not. If the Arkansas legislature does the sensible thing and simply and efficiently removes an old law that can't be enforced anyway, I will be pleased, but there won't be much drama.