Archives May 2009

Taxon Bingo

Okay, so I’m a geek. When I saw a story in the
Washington Post Maryland
RSS feed with the headline
“Chesapeake Beach Can’t Raise Taxon Bingo Machines”

RSS Headline

I wondered what
Bingo would look like, and had to whip this up:

Taxon bingo card

(The headline has been fixed in
the full article,
but remains in the RSS feed.

Original image from
Wikimedia Commons.)

Disco ‘Tute Fails Some More

The latest new project by the Disco Tute’s Center for
the Renewal of Science and Culture is

Evidently the new creationists are feeling threatened not only by their
traditional enemy, outspoken atheists like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers,
but by people like Ken Miller and Francis Collins, who are not only
outspoken devout theists, but are also respected biologists who aren’t
shy about pointing out that ID is a load of dingo’s kidneys.

About” page says:

According to noted biologist Richard Dawkins, Darwinian evolution makes it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. According to Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, evolution is perfectly compatible with his Christian faith. Who is right? And why does it matter? This website is designed to help you find out.

Which leads me to wonder whether they’re being disingenuous as usual, or
whether they’re so stupid as to miss the point that Dawkins’s and
Collins’s views don’t conflict with each other?

Positive Atheism gives a
fuller version
of Dawkins’s “intellectually fulfilled atheist” quotation:

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume:
“I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that
God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody
comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position,
though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied,
and that although atheism might have been logically tenable
before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled

— Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, page 6

I think that’s pretty clear: you can be an atheist without
understanding how life evolves. But the theory of evolution answers one
nagging question.

I don’t have a similar quotation summarizing Collins’s views, but
judging by the jacket blurb of The Language of God, it
seems clear that he’s able to reconcile Christianity with evolution.

It seems pretty clear to me that the two are orthogonal to each other.
If you’re an atheist, science can help answer questions; if you’re a
Christian and like being one, that doesn’t mean you have to reject
science. Understanding evolution allows you to go either way.
So the DI’s site is setting up a conflict where none exists.

Stupid, ignorant, or deceptive? Hm, tough choice.

(Update, May 29: Fixed thinko.)

Activist Judges Uphold Prop 8

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the California Supreme Court
Proposition 8, which took away gays’ right to get married in that
state. This sucks, which obviously means that it constitutes judicial
activism. (Update, May 27: Yup: BillDo
the suit as “homosexual radicals sought to do an end-run around the
democratic process and have unelected judges overrule the express will
of the people.

Okay, I realize that the question before the court wasn’t “should gays
be allowed to marry?”, but something more narrow, about whether the
referendum was phrased properly, in a way that doesn’t require the
legislature to intervene. I know nothing about California law, so I
can’t comment on whether I agree with the court on this more narrow

While the court was debating this, of course, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and
Maine moved to legalize gay marriage, and DC voted to recognize
marriages from other states. So I’m pretty confident that California
will follow suit soon enough.

Meanwhile, in Bizarro World the Weekly Standard, Sam
a novel argument against gay marriage. And by “argument”, I mean
“words and sentences furiously and randomly strung together in the
despearate hope that some of it might form an argument.” I can’t even
summarize it. Though if I had to, it’d probably be “`gay’ means happy,
and married people shouldn’t be happy”.

The fact is that marriage is part of a
much larger institution, which defines the particular shape and
character of marriage: the kinship system. […]

The first [effect of marriage within the kinship system] is the
most important: It is that marriage is concerned above all with female
sexuality. The very existence of kinship depends on the protection of
females from rape, degradation, and concubinage. This is why marriage
between men and women has been necessary in virtually every society
ever known. Marriage, whatever its particular manifestation in a
particular culture or epoch, is essentially about who may and who may
not have sexual access to a woman when she becomes an adult, and is
also about how her adulthood–and sexual accessibility–is

This most profound aspect of marriage–protecting and controlling the sexuality of the child-bearing sex–is its only true reason for being, and it has no equivalent in same-sex marriage.

That’s right, folks: if you’re a woman, and you marry another woman,
you’re not allowed to tell your wife that she’s not allowed to sleep
around. Glad that’s settled.

Second, kinship modifies marriage by imposing a set of rules that determines not only whom one may marry (someone from the right clan or family, of the right age, with proper abilities, wealth, or an adjoining vineyard), but, more important, whom one may not marry. Incest prohibition and other kinship rules that dictate one’s few permissible and many impermissible sweethearts are part of traditional marriage. Gay marriage is blissfully free of these constraints. There is no particular reason to ban sexual intercourse between brothers, a father and a son of consenting age, or mother and daughter. There are no questions of ritual pollution: Will a hip Rabbi refuse to marry a Jewish man–even a Cohen–to a Gentile man? Do Irish women avoid Italian women? A same-sex marriage fails utterly to create forbidden relationships.

Oh, noes! If teh gays are allowed to marry, we might get Irish and
Italians marrying! The horror!

Now to live in such a system, in which sexual intercourse can be illicit, is a great nuisance. Many of us feel that licit sexuality loses, moreover, a bit of its oomph. Gay lovers live merrily free of this system. Can we imagine Frank’s family and friends warning him that “If Joe were serious, he would put a ring on your finger”? Do we ask Vera to stop stringing Sally along? Gay sexual practice is not sortable into these categories–licit-if-married but illicit-if-not (children adopted by a gay man or hygienically conceived by a lesbian mom can never be regarded as illegitimate). Neither does gay copulation become in any way more permissible, more noble after marriage. It is a scandal that homosexual intercourse should ever have been illegal, but having become legal, there remains no extra sanction–the kind which fathers with shotguns enforce upon heterosexual lovers. I am not aware of any gay marriage activist who suggests that gay men and women should create a new category of disapproval for their own sexual relationships, after so recently having been freed from the onerous and bigoted legal blight on homosexual acts. But without social disapproval of unmarried sex–what kind of madman would seek marriage?

(emphasis added)

Do I detect someone with unresolved issues?

Few men would ever bother to enter into a
romantic heterosexual marriage–much less three, as I have done–were
it not for the iron grip of necessity that falls upon us when we are
unwise enough to fall in love with a woman other than our

Oh, and guess who’s going to be sleeping on the couch tonight:

Every day thousands of ordinary heterosexual men surrender the dream of gratifying our immediate erotic desires. Instead, heroically, resignedly, we march up the aisle with our new brides, starting out upon what that cad poet Shelley called the longest journey, attired in the chains of the kinship system–a system from which you have been spared. Imitate our self-surrender.

(emphasis added)

Believe it or not, there’s even more where that came from. As far as I
can tell, Schulman’s point is that marriage means something, and
people who choose to get married aren’t allowed to decide what their
marriage means or should be like, because… well, he doesn’t really
say. History, presumably. Or maybe quantum.

Furthermore, marriage is an unhappy affair, and gays should feel
relieved, rather than discriminated against, that they have been
spared it.

(via Tom Smith
and Sadly, No.)

Typical Evasion

Back in the stone age, when I was a student, there was this thing
called Usenet, which had a newsgroup called, where
creationists and evolution proponents argued.

I saw a pattern emerge: the evolution side had a number of people who
produced data to back up their claims, like experimental results,
pictures of fossils, and so forth. The creationism side, on the other
hand, seemed to have a surfeit of people providing excuses why the
evolutionists were wrong, and why creationism couldn’t be tested the
way the evolutionists said.

For all the IDists’
that ID isn’t just Creationism 2.0, it seems they haven’t changed
their MO all that much.

Case in point:
forwarded a video
that challenged creationists to come up with a gene that doesn’t have
evolutionary precursors.

at UD is entirely dismissive:

So, has Myers indeed stumbled upon a true significant challenge for ID? Or, has he simply stumbled, as he so often does, over his own misconceptions and metaphysics? I vote for the latter.

There are a lot more words in that post, but they all boil down to:
no, ID can’t be tested that way. No, we’re not going to tell you how
to test ID, and we sure as hell aren’t going to perform any
experiments of our own. But you should still take us seriously because we say so.

More Catholic Idiocy

While in Israel, pope Benny

“Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews – mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends – were brutally exterminated under a godless regime.”

Yeah, “godless”.

Nazi belt buckle with the inscription "Gott mit uns": "God with us"
Now, I’m no historian, and my knowledge of religion in Nazi Germany
comes from such places as
The Straight Dope,
and it looks as though the situation is about as clear as mud: yes,
there were people like Martin Niemöller, but there were also Catholic
priests and bishops who didn’t seem to have a problem with the Nazi
regime. And Hitler certainly paid lip service to religion a lot. And
as far as I know, no one was ever excommunicated for participating in
the Holocaust.

Oh, and, of course, there’s the matter of Benny’s own membership in
the Hitler Youth.

At any rate, the situation is certainly nowhere near as clear as “Nazi
Germany was a godless regime.” In fact, one could easily make the case
that Nazi Germany (and the Soviet Union) had a lot of the uglier
aspects of religion: cult of personality, adherence to dogma, sworn
fealty to the authorities, and so forth.

But maybe The Ratz is simply using the word “godless” as synonymous
with “evil”. In which case, I hope he won’t mind if I use “Catholic”
as a synonym for “pederast”.

Irony meter
On a lighter note, Jesus and Mo
informs us
that Catholics have
(aka magic massage):

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine in late March dismissed reiki as superstition incompatible with Christian belief or scientific teaching, and said it is inappropriate for use in Catholic institutions, including hospitals, retreat centers and schools.

From the Catholic Committee on Doctrine’s
Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy:

[F]rom the time of the Apostles the
Church has interceded on behalf of the sick through the invocation of
the name of the Lord Jesus, asking for healing through the power of
the Holy Spirit, whether in the form of the sacramental laying on of
hands and anointing with oil
or of simple prayers for healing, which
often include an appeal to the saints for their aid.

[A] Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating
in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith
nor science.

(emphasis added)

Clearly, “faith” here means “the good kind of superstition”.

Foreign Word O’ the Day

The English language desperately needs the word “Backpfeifengesicht“,
meaning “a face badly in need of a fist”.

(from, item #7.)

PS: Yeah, I know UD says “slapped” instead of “fist”, but what the hell do they know?