Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

THE EVANGELICAL RIGHT AND THE GOP, THE REAL CANCEL CULTURE

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So much in the news about the left’s so called “cancel culture.” Much hue and cry about it from the right. What, exactly, is the left cancelling? I’m not exactly sure, the examples in the news are generally trivial, misrepresented, or both. A few old books that no one reads anymore are pulled from publication? A few people who have said horrible things have lost their jobs? I guess some speakers have been discouraged from speaking at some colleges? How, exactly, is this impacting the lives of people on the right? As far as I can see, other than being outraged by what Fox news and others tell them, it doesn’t seem to affect the average American in any way. It’s like the so-called “war on Christmas,” there’s no there, there. Americans remain completely free to celebrate Christmas any way they like.

On the other hand, there are things the religious right is working assiduously to cancel. They want to cancel about a million marriages for starters. They want to wreak havoc in a million households, imagine being married, and the government simply outlawing your marriage. To say that would impact people’s lives negatively is an understatement. I don’t see anyone on the left calling for conservatives marriages to be annulled, let alone actively pursuing that goal in the courts.

The evangelical right not only wants to cancel women’s access to health care, they are doing a good job of it. And doing a good job of it by closing down Planned Parenthoods’, appealing to the Supreme Court: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. 682 (2014,) and fighting against birth control and sex education. Yes, they want to cancel the very things that prevent abortions, so this isn’t about saving babies, it’s about cancelling lifestyles they don’t approve of. Hell, rafts of bills designed to prevent women from accessing health care, sex education, and birth control are passed by the GOP regularly.

And of course they want to cancel transgender people. They did manage to cancel them in the military, though Biden has reversed that. They have done everything they can to prevent them accessing health care, participating in society, etc. The fact that transgendered people have always existed and always will exist because human’s biological gender/sexuality exists over a broad spectrum doesn’t matter to the evangelical right. Male/female dichotomy, heteronormality all the way for them.

Hell, not just women having their access to health care cancelled. The evangelical right wants to give health care providers the right to refuse to treat people because they don’t want to treat certain people whose lifestyles/identities they don’t approve of. Imagine telling firemen they could refuse to fight a fire if they didn’t like something about the owners/occupants of a building. Again, no one on the left has proposed anything like this, let alone made it central to their political philosophy.

Speaking of political, they also want to cancel people’s right to vote. The GOP has been passing “New Jim Crow” laws for decades now, bills designed to make it harder for poor and black people to vote. Or democracy itself in the case of rampant GOP gerrymandering. And lately it’s getting worse, a law has been proposed in Arizona to allow the legislature to simply overturn the people’s vote for president! All in the name of fighting non-existent widespread voter fraud. And if there was widespread voter fraud, making it harder for people to vote isn’t fighting it, it’s making it harder for people to vote. There is no logical connection here.

Still, America is a country where huge numbers of people accept that killing 200,000 old men, women, and children “saved lives.” No one has ever explained to me how that works without the use of magical thinking. Moving right along, some on the right have followed this type of thinking to its “logical” conclusion, and simply want to cancel Americans who disagree with them. Yes, they are making the case that Biden voters “aren’t real Americans.” New Claremont essay reveals how Republicans are rejecting America:

“Most people living in the United States today — certainly more than half — are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term,”Glenn Ellmers, the essay’s author, writes. “They do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people. It is not obvious what we should call these citizen-aliens, these non-American Americans; but they are something else.”

So many things sick and wrong with that sort of thinking, I don’t know where to start. Crazy times. Have a safe Easter Weekend everyone, celebrate it (or not,) as you want. It’s still a free country. Sort of. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A forest in Indonesia cancelled by a volcano, public domain image from Wikipedia. I hope it doesn’t come to that in America, literally or metaphorically.)

Written by unitedcats

April 2, 2021 at 8:23 pm

TRIBES

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Caitlyn is often annoying, but sometimes she is very on point. The idea that the west gives a flaming hoot about oppressed Muslim minorities doesn’t pass the laugh test, but here the US is, leading the sanction charge against China. I could provide examples, but those that see the point don’t need them … and those that don’t will rationalize them away. People are loyal to the world view of their choice, and will reject out of hand any facts that contradict it by one means or another. Is this what Colonel Kurtz meant when he said “Everyone is loyal to the nightmare of their choice?” Maybe. I’m pretty sure it’s what “The map is not the territory” alludes to.

So I want to write endlessly about what is going on in the world, but how do I do so without a 12 volume preamble explaining that everything most people know about the world is mass marketed crap designed to make them support the status quo and the powers that be? When Marx said “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” he kinda meant it literally.  The Trump/GOP cult is the current major local manifestation of this, but the Dems are not really better off, just different.

By about 1900, 1950 at latest, it was easily possible to provide everyone on Earth with food, shelter, education, health care. Modern machinery could do the work of countless humans, a steam shovel or tractor could do the work of dozens or hundreds of men and horses. And factories, oh my. Everyone on Earth could have their basic needs met, with plenty left over for those that wanted more. So why aren’t we doing this?

And that dear readers is why I blog, trying to figure out why when humans live in Eden, they create societies based on systematic inequality. I think it comes down to tribal thinking. Most on the left have no problem recognizing that there are “religious” leaders whose only goal is exploiting religious people’s faith to get rich. What they don’t understand is that for every faux religious leader cashing in on the credibility of their believers, there is a faux ecologist, faux animal right’s activist, faux liberal politician, etc. doing the same thing.

Once one has decided one’s tribe is the “good guys” and other tribes are “bad guys,” all possibility of a worldview based on reason and science ends. It’s the logical fallacy that is destroying our future. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think reason and science hold the key if there is such.

And on the basis of all that, my blog format is going to change. 3-5 nights a week I’m just going to pull the most interesting links/events out of the day’s news and comment upon. I just don’t have what it takes to make dedicated posts now. And the world we live in is in huge flux, despite the voices of normalization running amok. The world we all knew did die at the end of 2019, the new world is still unfolding. Better yet, thick and thin blogs are easy and fun to write. Stay safe everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Found on Facebook, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

March 27, 2021 at 8:30 pm

SPREAD THE PLAGUE FOR CHRIST!

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behavior

Well, we’re one big step further towards living in an Evangelical Christian Theocracy. The new SCOTUS struck down Covid-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. It’s claimed as a blow for religious freedom. It’s nothing of the kind. The Constitution protects one’s right to believe as one wants, the government can’t outlaw certain religions. It has nothing to do with people’s behaviour. One can’t act any way one wants, then claim it’s a religious practice. If that was the case sacrificing one’s neighbors to the Gods would be protected. And that’s pretty much what the SCOTUS just did, it said holding Covid-19 superspreader events in the midst of a pandemic was protected as a religious activity.

OK then. Many many people will die because of this ruling, it goes without saying. Sadly many of them won’t even be the people choosing to attend these “Spread the plague in the name of Christ!” events. People will get infected at these events and spread it among the community. All because an organized religion wants to control America. The Evangelicals are not shy about their desire to turn America into a “Christian Nation,” where their interpretation of the bible is the law of the land for all, Evangelical Christian or not. This isn’t religion, this is organized religion; organized religion has a history drenched in blood, and our nation’s founders very much wanted to prevent that here, a nation where government wasn’t in any way run by organized religion. They are spinning in their graves at SCOTUS rulings like this.

Speaking of spreading the plague, today is Thanksgiving in America! Wait, what does that have to do with plague? I’ll get there. I’ve had increasingly mixed feelings about Thanksgiving over the past few years. On the one hand, a fall gathering of loved ones to be thankful for the good fortunes of the summer, sure. People have been holding holidays like that forever. It’s the attachment to the Pilgrims that is problematic. The Pilgrims’ relationship with the natives was hardly as portrayed in the usual Thanksgiving narrative. Moreover the original Thanksgiving Holiday was explicitly celebrating a giant massacre of natives. Yikes. Only in the last century or so was the “feel good” version of Pilgrims and natives promulgated. Read about it all here.

So I’m not celebrating that. I am thankful for my good health, friends, and family. And skol to all celebrating with me in this regard. As for plague connections, two. First off, the arrival of Europeans unleashed terrible epidemics into the new world, tens of millions died, entire native nations were essentially wiped out. And while there is no evidence for Europeans deliberately spreading disease, nonetheless when one’s uninvited “guests” arrive with horrible contagious diseases, it’s nothing to celebrate.

And in contemporary America, where the Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst level ever, an American dying every 37 seconds now, over 2,000 a day … people getting together for Thanksgiving is going to just add gasoline to the fire. Way too many Americans still don’t understand how serious Covid-19 is, thanks to all the leaders and influencers spreading misinformation about it, so as I am typing this a nationwide superspreader event is underway. Jesus wept.

I’m still baffled daily about how we got here, a nation not divided by two ideologies, no, a nation where half of the nation has their own (imaginary) reality. Global warming is real, and caused by human activity. Covid-19 is real, and the worst new infectious disease to come along in a century, if not a millennia. And Donald Trump soundly lost the election. These aren’t debatablebateable, they are established facts. Yet Trump and his followers reject all three and insist their imagined reality is true, despite all evidence to the contrary. A mystery for the ages, here is an interesting take on it: The Rotting of the Republican Mind. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, but at its core, propaganda and advertising are sciences now, and daily more effective as a result.

Science, the thing mostly responsible for all the marvels of the modern world, is powering forces that may well destroy it. It’s one of the lines of argument that makes me wonder if ultimately intelligence such as ours is an evolutionary dead end. I always like ending on a bleak note. Stay safe everyone, comments, likes, shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Found on Facebook, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 26, 2020 at 9:19 pm

IGNORE THE CDC AND OTHER HORRIBLE RANDOM NEWS OF THE DAY

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Random notes today. A friend of a friend died of Covid-19. 44, good health. He actually was hospitalized, went home, and took a turn for the worse and died. One would think that as more and more people die, the deniers might start waking up. We’re approaching the point where one out of every one thousand Americans will have died of Covid-19.  The election campaign is more surreal all the time. Trump is now claiming that Biden is controlled by secret forces. “People in the dark shadows” and “people that you haven’t heard of” are working to get Biden elected. WTF is he talking about? No one knows. (Well, the Q-anon people no doubt think they know.) Conspiracy mongering at its best.

Having a president who is a science and reality denier is problematic at the best of times. During a pandemic, more than problematic: It Has Come to This: Ignore the C.D.C. Trump has basically forced the CDC to offer testing guidelines that are based on Trump’s desire to reduce the number of Covid-19 tests given, I guess he’s still thinking fewer cases make him look better. Yes, perception management as opposed to actually dealing with Covid-19.

Progress is being made on understanding Covid-19: A Supercomputer Analyzed Covid-19 — and an Interesting New Theory Has Emerged. Basically Covid-19 does seem to be a vascular disease, and science is starting to get some idea how it travels around the body wreaking havoc. Ain’t no freaking flu, that’s for sure. The other good thing is that this study suggests that some already FDA approved drugs might be helpful fighting Covid-19.

The Sturgis Motorcycle rally is now a Covid-19 test and trace nightmare. It’s believed that participants returned home to at least 60% of US counties. IE a one week rally was the equivalent of an outbreak in a major city in terms of its spreading potential. We’re not really an intelligent species when it comes right down to it. I think I want that on my gravestone. Anyhow, it was predicted: Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far.

Speaking of which, Betsy deVos, the lady Trump put in charge of privatizing America’s public schools, says that the pandemic has been good for the US educational system. Yes, yes she did: Betsy DeVos is now arguing COVID-19 pandemic is ultimately a “good thing” for U.S. public education. It’s not really clear to me what exactly she means, she seems to be claiming it changed things. Strikes me as being akin to saying World War Two was ultimately a good thing for air travel. I guess, but pretty sure we would have developed jet airliners without World War Two. Just more of Trump’s efforts to play down, minimize, distract from the out of control pandemic happening on his watch.

And in some final weirdness, an Evangelical group’s efforts to have a fiberglass dinosaur removed from a McDonalds has come to naught: Christian Group Seeks Removal Of Dinosaur From Tucson McDonald’s. (I hate it when people conflate evangelicals with Christians, the majority of Christians have no problem with science. If anything science has proved that God’s creation is vastly grander than the Iron Age creation myths in the Bible.) Apparently they believe dinosaurs were a hoax made up by scientists to discredit the Bible. 23,000 people liked the Facebook page before it was taken down. The McDonald’s franchise in question said no way, it’s been a local landmark for near 30 years.

Let me guess. They’re Trump supporters. I used to wonder if people like this group were serious. Dinosaurs a hoax, really? By about 1830, nearly 200 years ago, it was irrefutable that Earth was at least millions of years old and there’s never been a global flood. Yet here we are in the 21st century, and about one third of Americans believe stuff that is patented hogwash. This is why we got Trump. And why what was once the most modern country on Earth is sliding backwards. Utter hogwash promulgated for votes and ratings.

Stay safe everyone. My plan as a young person was to go to Mars. Maybe I should have stuck to the plan. Stay safe everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #UtMelioremPeiusAnteTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Walt Kowalski in the movie Gran Torino. I feel like that some days. A great movie that really tried to make important points about racism and how to overcome it. Painfully wrong in some ways, but their base message, racism is BS and people can work to get past it was refreshing. Credit: IDK, used without permission. Hopefully I can be forgiven because I’m plugging and highly recommending the movie, here’s the trailer: Gran Torino. OK, Clint does sing in the final credits, hopefully that will be removed in the director’s cut. Rumor has it he lost a bet.)

Written by unitedcats

September 1, 2020 at 8:07 pm

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

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I ran across a story about some mesolithic deer masks now on display in England. Pictured above. Found at the Star Carr site in England, dating to around 11,000 years ago. The mesolithic means they were no longer stone age hunters hunting big game, but had started to settle down and utilize a wider variety of food sources. So villages, houses, fishing nets, textiles and pottery even, but no agriculture. That’s the neolithic, which started about 5,000 years ago in Europe. These were very much modern humans though, just as smart as anyone today. And they had language, but no written language.

And while their scientific understanding of the world would be lacking, they would have had remarkable knowledge about the various plants and animals in the natural world around them. What was edible, how to prepare it, medicinal herbs, the seasons … to a depth and detail that would be breathtaking to one of us, raised cocooned from the natural world. I’m not trying to make a noble savage case, just trying to point out they were different from us, but not primitive in any meaningful lifestyle way. If a hundred of us and a hundred of them had to contest naked for possession of an island, they’d be feasting on the last of us in no time.

So yes, the deer skull masks, they were what got me here. They were found at Star Carr, a remarkably preserved mesolithic site in England. Usually from 11,000 years ago all we have are stones and bones, often only stones. At Star Carr we have tons of those, plus all sorts of wood artifacts preserved too. So it’s a wonderful snapshot of life in the mesolithic. However, since they left to written records, there are some big gaps in our knowledge. While we have a pretty good idea what the useful objects we find are for, what non useful objects were for is still a mystery.

And this is where we get back to the deer skull masks. What the heck were they used for? No one as yet has come up with a practical use for them. One suggested they might have been used (with hide still on them I suppose) for camouflage when hunting deer. There has not been a chorus of approval from other archeologists, who question just how stupid a deer would have to be to be fooled by a human in a deer mask. It’s reaching in other words. No, the mainstream view is that they were ritual objects, masks to wear during some sort of religious or spiritual purpose.

I guess. There’s certainly plenty of evidence that modern hunter-gatherers use ritual objects. On the other hand I wonder if the modern puritan streak in our culture colours people’s perception. By that I mean the idea that life is full of practical stuff, and what isn’t practical is religious. Humans now spend all sorts of energy doing impractical things. Even modern hunter/gatherers only spend about 20 hours a week on essential stuff like procuring food and shelter. (Wait, only 20 hours a week, why the hell did we invent civilization with 40 plus hour work weeks? Good question.)  1,000 years from archaeologists are going to find we spend enormous amounts of time and money building football stadiums. Will they think our stadiums are cathedrals? Few today would consider football a religious activity, with the exception of New York Jets fans.

So I dunno, I think there’s lots of non-utile possibilities for a deer mask. Games, sports, plays, telling stories to kids, stand up comedy sketches, anything. The possibilities are as endless as the human imagination. Granted half the reason I wrote this post is I think the masks are cool looking. Hell, that might have been the only reason they were made. And as well just how amazing it is that modern science is able to uncover how our ancestors lived. For more Star Carr pictures and information, this link is pretty good.

Coming soon, slaves and Roman fathers. Hope everyone is having a good week. I’m getting over Dick’s death. At least he left his mark. It’s right there on the highway, a big burned spot I will be driving over for years.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: One of the deer masks found at Star Carr. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. I found it on a number of sites with no attribution, and Pixabay. So I’m guessing it’s public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 20, 2019 at 6:19 am

DEATH, LIARS, JEFFREY EPSTEIN, AND GOD IN SCHOOL

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After my old friend Connie died last week I was chatting with another friend about how many people we had known who died the past few years. It’s been grim for the both of us, the price of growing old. I joked that it’s not safe for people to become friends with me now, they are getting knocked off so regularly. So I am a little creeped out that a fellow I met just a few months ago was killed Friday night.In fact he’d just been by my house Friday morning to talk to my housemate. She still has a note in her pocket from him. She’s pretty upset, she knew him better than I. And he was good friends with the lady who lives across the street, so lots of sadz going around. I know it’s just a horrible coincidence, but still definitely creeped out by it. He managed to kill himself driving the wrong way on a highway, which adds a whole other layer of wrongness to the whole thing. He might have had a few, the police haven’t revealed anything yet. Still, if one saw the weird way the freeway is connected there, it could easily have just been a careless mistake driving at night.

So RIP Richard, I’m sorry I never had a chance to get to know you better. You were quite the character and had an active varied life till the end, you will be missed and mourned. My housemate Elle is out now trying to find a live tree to plant in your memory. And next lifetime dude, wear your damn seatbelt. 

Speaking of death, guess what, Jeffrey Epstein is still dead! The rise of the conspiracy theories about his death is … interesting. I know people who are 100% convinced Epstein was murdered, not debatable in their book. Somehow they make the leap from “suspicious circumstances” to “murder,” without the benefit of evidence. Sorry people, but where there’s smoke … sometimes it’s just smoke.

The aspect of this that I want to propound on is something a lot of people seem to not understand. In every field of human expertise, there are individuals with zero scruples. IE there are experts who will happily take money to promote any viewpoint. In this case a famous forensic pathologist Michael Baden came out publicly stating he thinks Epstein was murdered. The fact that he has a history of propounding controversial opinions and was paid by the Epstein family doesn’t seem to matter, Epstein truthers have seized on it as “proof” Epstein is murdered. No, it’s proof that some people will do anything for money.

Russiagate, 9/11, global warming denial etc. all have a handful of experts touting their line, just like the tobacco companies had no trouble finding doctors to claim tobacco was safe. So because an expert is parroting some conspiracy theory is proof of nothing. Other than the aforementioned proof that some people will lie through their teeth for money. Proof requires actual evidence, not “my expert opinion says this is so.” That people place so much stock in such people is evidence we need to teach critical thinking in schools.

Not that that is going to happen anytime soon in America. In fact just the opposite, a bill has been passed in Ohio, a law called “The Ohio Student Religious Liberty Act of 2019.” The title is deceptive (deliberately so obviously) as it has nothing to do with religious liberty. It’s about letting Christian instruction into public schools. The evangelicals have never given up since the SCOTUS ruled that schools have no business conducting religious services in public schools. Send the kids to private school or Sunday school if one wants them to get religious instruction. Worse, this law at first pass at least would force teachers to accept religious answers from students as the equivalent of the actual science.

Sigh. No, creationism and evolution are not equivalent, one is a religious myth and one is a solidly established scientific fact. Forcing teachers to accept them as equally valid isn’t religious liberty, it’s Christian tyranny. Even scarier now that SCOTUS has been packed with Christian apologists, this law might pass constitutional muster. And America will be that much closer to emulating the theocracies in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Jesus wept.

I got a new patron (Woohoo!) and the odds are against anyone else I know dropping dead soon, so I plan on a great week myself. Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Road, Sunset, Horizon. Credit: Beeki, Pixabay. Pixabay license. Free for commercial use, no attribution required.)

Written by unitedcats

November 18, 2019 at 5:40 am

PROOF OF GOD?

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Some people put a lot of stock in proving or disproving the existence of God. Atheists in particular seem gung ho on the topic. It’s a fascinating debate from a number of perspectives. I guess. I have no pigeon in this race or whatever that idiom is. I’m an ignostic Episcopalian. Ignostic means I have never heard a definition of the word ‘God’ that made sense, ‘God’ makes no more sense than ‘Fod.’ It’s a magic ritual word. I’m Episcopalian for personal reasons, I don’t actually see any evidence for supernatural agency in the Universe.

And I don’t care what other people believe in, as long as they don’t scare the horses. By that I mean I’m all for freedom of religion, I think people should be free to practice any faith they want. However, and it’s a big however, I don’t want laws or social policy based on any faith. I don’t care what someone else believes, but I don’t want their beliefs enshrined in public law. Blue Laws are a great example. Someone thinks their business should be closed on Sunday for religious reasons, no problem. Laws prohibiting any business being open on Sunday for religious reasons, no thanks. And that just a really innocuous example, there are much uglier ones.

That being said, here are my three favorite arguments for the existence of God. And by God, I mean some sort of conscious supernatural agency ‘behind the curtain’. Arguments supporting the idea there’s a ghost in the machine, the Universe being the machine. I don’t think there’s any original thinking here, this is just for fun and debate. Thinking aloud. And I suppose, upon reflection, only one of these is an argument God. Two of them are arguments for God … or advanced aliens. Or maybe proof we are  living in an artificial reality, Take your pick.

The first is that we have free will. Can I prove I have free will? No. It just appears to be the case. And it looks like everyone else does too. That means humans have agency. If we are more than just machines, it implies the Universe is more than just a machine. By some schools of thought, it means the Universe has agency. Yes, I know, this is just a variation on First Cause arguments, or a fancy way of saying the Universe exists, therefore God. It’s not a compelling argument, but it’s not wrong. And I can see why many people find such arguments compelling. In any event, this is the weakest of my arguments. Or the hardest one to put into words. Those often go together. (Good save Doug.)

Secondly, the evolution of language. I don’t know how Ken Hovind missed this one. Or maybe he didn’t, I don’t spend a lot of time in ‘Answers in Genesis.’ Language appears to have only evolved once in Earth’s history, but according to our current understanding of how evolution works, it should never have evolved. This is because of lying, it’s easy to lie using language, so organisms that ignored language should have been selected for. Well, that’s my simplistic take on the problem of deception. That aside, the fact that exactly one of the countless billions of species of animals has evolved into a language using animal. What are the odds?

My last argument is the clincher. Cats. They are simply too perfect. Perfect size, temperament, utility. I mean they live in our homes and protect us from rodents, humanity’s worst enemies. And bury their scat, I’ve had employees who had trouble with that one. And on top of that they are adorable cuddly little scrunch muffins. Like tribbles but actually useful. I mean, honestly, what are the odds something like that just happened to evolve? And scientists know it took three simultaneous mutations to make cats non aggressive towards humans. Just for starters. It’s exactly as if trees grew packs of cigarettes and beers.

I rest my case. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Just look at that. Look at it! Credit: Copyright © 2017 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

October 4, 2019 at 5:35 am

Posted in Cats, Religion

THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE

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East-Hem_1200ad

The Children’s Crusade, 1212. I’d always half wondered about it, and got around to looking it up. Oh dear. Then I looked up what was going on in Europe then. Oh shit!  So, we’ll start with the background. Europe was at war. Various crusades had taken place over the preceding decades, Richard the Lionheart battling Saladin in the Holy Land was one many readers will have heard of. He died in 1199. In Occitan he was known as ‘Oc e No’ (English: Yes and No) because of his reputation for terseness. I didn’t know that. Occitan was a forerunner of French, spoken in Southern France at the time. Most of the european languages and nations we are familiar with didn’t exist or were in formative states then, as even a quick glance at the map above shows.  Note also the New World had yet to be discovered, and while China was known, Marco Polo was just a twinkle in his father’s eye in 1212. Australia being discovered and even circumnavigating Africa were centuries away.

Couple of big events in 1204. The Normans conquered England in 1066, many might be familiar with the Battle of Hastings where England’s King Harold was hacked to pieces by William the Conqueror’s Norman knights. And from then until 1204, the Normans basically ruled England and much of France. Well, in 1204 France conquered Normandy. Presumably around then the king and nobility in England realised it was time to learn to speak English. The map above is from 1200, so this is not represented. The Magna Carta would be signed in 1215, the first stirrings of the idea of a constitutional monarchy.

The big event though was in Constantinople. One of the world’s greatest cities at the time, the capital of the Roman Empire for nearly 1,000 years, and wealthy beyond imagining. Called the Byzantine Empire at this point.  And then in 1204 at the Byzantine Emperor’s request, the Fourth Crusade arrived at Constantinople’s gates. And due to a series of untimely royal deaths and misunderstandings, the Crusaders looted the city and burned it to the ground. It was a disaster from which the Byzantine Empire would never recover. Ultimately leading to the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1454, and subsequent Ottoman invasion of Europe. The Ottomans’ high water mark was the Siege of Vienna, or sieges, there were two of them. In 1528 and 1683.

As for the common people of the time, life under feudal monarchies was tough, but at least one knew one’s place. Most people were serfs, there was a small middle class, and an even smaller royal class of knights and above. Windmills had just been introduced to Europe, as well as the horse collar. The horse collar was one of the great inventions of the Middle Ages, allowing horses to be far more widely and efficiently used, spurring trade and innovation. The printing press had not been invented, but most people couldn’t read anywise. Clocks hadn’t been invented yet, so the hourglass or sundial were the only ways to mark time. Gunpowder was just around the corner, but it would be a few hundred years before it changed warfare in a big way. The Catholic Church was pretty much it in Western Europe, Martin Luther and protestantism being centuries away. Still, times were slowly changing for the better, money economies were growing, the Medieval Warm Period was still going on, allowing expansion of agriculture.

So that’s our setting. In 1212 a prophet started the Children’s Crusade in France and Germany. About thirty thousand children set off for the Holy Land. They were going to peacefully convert the Muslims back to Christ with their innocence and piety, since western knights had failed to beat any sense into the Muslims. It wasn’t really a very good plan, as I am sure wiser people pointed out at the time. They made it as far as Italy where they were given passage on helpful ships. Then taken to Tunisia and sold as slaves to the Muslims. The others died in shipwrecks. None made it to the Holy Land, and few ever made it home.

That’s the story as it was commonly believed for centuries, and still believed in some quarters no doubt. Interestingly enough, the story doesn’t have a whole lot of sources. There are about fifty reasonably contemporary accounts, and they are all brief. A few lines to a page or so. And what came into widespread belief was derived from later, less reliable, sources. Today’s historians have carefully re-examined them. Turns out there wasn’t really a children’s crusade. There were two crusades, one from France, one from Germany. One was inspired and led by a child who had visions. The crusaders though, they were people of all ages. Later chroniclers conflated and embellished the two stories, and turned crusades led by children into a crusade of children.

The first one was started in June 1212 by a 12 year old Shepherd named Stephen of Cloyes, who said Jesus had given him a letter for King Phillip II. Why Jesus couldn’t just deliver the letter himself would be my first question, but frankly theology is a mystery to me. Stephen wandered around northern France gathering about thirty thousand followers, a great many of them children. When he got to Paris, Phillip II was unimpressed and refused to meet with him. And basically had them encouraged to just go home. Many did. After some dawdling and preaching, Stephen led his ever dwindling band to Marseille, where they survived by begging. And then vanished from history, presumably many or most of them eventually heading home. See, not too bad. The next one is where it gets ugly.

So, here we go. Germany, same year, led by a silver tongued shepherd named Nicolas. He led again about thirty thousand followers over the Alps to Genoa, where God would part the sea, they would walk to the Holy Land, and peacefully convert the Muslims to Catholicism. About 7,000 made it to Genoa, the rest mostly died or went home. God failed to live up to his sea parting promise, Nicolas led an ever dwindling band south, where him and a handful met Pope Innocent III, who exhorted them to return home. Nicolas did not survive the Alps the second time. A few of his followers made it to southern Italy, none are known to have made it to the Holy Land. Back home, Nicolas’s father was hung by people angry that his son had led so many of their friends and relatives to their deaths. The Middle Ages were a tough time.

Any lessons here? Not really, just storytelling. Proves that in 1212 there were at least thirty thousand really gullible people in both France and Germany. Though even that’s a bit unfair. It was credulous times, and people fall for silly stuff in great numbers to this day. And I strongly suspect most if not all of these “Crusaders” were desperately poor if not homeless/orphaned. And this could sure seem like a way to a better life. On the plus side, none of them got sold into slavery.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Political map of the world in 1200. Credit:Thomas Lessman, see here for copyright details.)

Written by unitedcats

August 16, 2019 at 5:30 am

Posted in History, Religion

LIBRARIES CAN BE DANGEROUS

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Public domain Image from Snappygoat.

I was in the library the other day, as is often my wont, minding my own business. Which consists of wandering through the shelves looking for interesting books. And, well, keeping an eye open for interesting women, one never knows. I digress, books though. I am scanning the new books shelf. And I see a book. “Replacing Darwin, the New Origin of Species.” A scientific illustration on the cover. A bunch of quotes by people with alphabet soup after their names on the back cover. Lots of technical science illustrations inside. 2018 book. OK, new developments in evolutionary theory, could be interesting. I check it out along with my usual eclectic assortment of books.

I get home. I open “Replacing Darwin.” Within minutes I realize I was terribly terribly wrong about this book. While it is filled with scientific illustrations and jargon, and to all outward appearance is a science book, it’s not. Not even close.  This book is a religious tract disguised as a science book. The word “evolutionist” was the first big clue, but it didn’t take much review to find stuff where I was like, wait, what? I didn’t read “Replacing Darwin, and am not going to read it, but this actual scientist read it twice, and here’s what he had to say.

Before I get into just why I find this book so disturbing, a brief deconstruction of a few paragraphs I came across, just to illustrate how intellectually dishonest this exercise in evolution denial is. Basically page 190 of the second printing. It starts off with a few pictures of fossil fish, one giving birth, the other eating another fish. Then makes the claim that fossils of such events must have been created by some cataclysm, the odds against them settling to the bottom without being scavenged etc are astronomical. The dishonest part is that paleontologists don’t claim fossils just form after animals die and settle to the bottom, fossilization is extremely rare, and often does result when an animal is quickly buried in a landslide or volcanic eruption. That the occasional animal is killed and buried suddenly is normal, no global cataclysm required to explain such, or any, fossils.

The next paragraph claims such fossils present a problem for geology and paleontology. Um, no, they don’t. And then mentions that some rock layers in the Grand Canyon once thought to be deposited in deserts now appear to be oceanic landslide deposits. Um, so what? That’s how science works, it is constantly correcting itself and improving our understanding of the world. Because science corrects its mistakes doesn’t imply some problem with the scientific method.

The book then goes on to state that a flood at Mount Saint Helens after the 1980 eruption cut a 100 foot deep canyon through new layers of volcanic ash in one day, and that the Grand Canyon could have been made just as quickly in a big enough flood. Um, volcanic ash is very soft and water easily erodes it away. A mile of freaking solid rock is in no way, shape, or form comparable to 100 feet of ash. No matter how big a flood is, it’s still going to take millions of years to make something like the Grand Canyon.

“Replacing Darwin” then goes on to make the sweeping generalization that the world’s fossils had all been made by catastrophic forces in the recent past. And the author trots out the soft tissue found in some dinosaur bones as “proof” of this. I guess if one already believed in a 6,000 year old Earth, this page must seem like a convincing argument. It just neglects to mention the literally nearly two centuries of evidence that the Earth is billions of years old. Basically the scientific debate about the age of the Earth was over in the early 19th century. The very Christian scientists of the day, people who had confidently thought that science would prove Genesis true, reluctantly realized that the evidence showed the Earth was at least millions of years old, and there was no evidence for a global flood. And no, the soft tissue found in some dinosaur bones is not evidence for a young Earth.

I could go on, but in a nutshell this book pretends that the scientific debate about the age of the Earth and the origin of species is ongoing. And carefully cherry picks all sorts of out of context scientific facts to use as windrow dressing that appear to support its position, while ignoring nearly two centuries of evidence and experiment that show beyond any reasonable doubt that the Earth is billions of years old and evolution is a fact. The book  also reinforces the creationist trope that science is basically opinion, and scientists more or less make stuff up to support their atheistic outlook on the Universe. Thus the term “evolutionists” to imply that belief in evolution is equivalent to a belief in creationism. No. Scientists study the evidence and follow where it goes. Creationists start with a conclusion then search for “evidence” that supports it. Big difference.

The sad thing is that a lot of people will fall for this book, and use it to “teach” children about a “controversy” that doesn’t exist, and worse, to promote the idea that there is scientific support for creationism. Basically if one wants to believe a God created Earth 6,000 odd years ago, then for whatever reason God created an Earth that appears to be about 4 ½ billion years old down to the finest detail. Not sure why a God would do that, but theology isn’t an interest of mine. Want to make up sciency props to support one’s beliefs that are contravened by evidence, one is not only insulting science and logic, one is admitting the weakness of their belief. If Young Earth Creationism was supported by the geologic and fossil record, there would be no need for fake evidence like this book or the Creation Museum. There would be plenty of science books and museums devoted to teaching it.

Myself, God’s not a problem. If a God did make me and the Universe, they did so via the Big Bang and Evolution. Generations of very smart people used the brains God gave them to figure that out. Pretty sure that’s why God gave us brains, to figure out the amazing Universe he has been creating for billions of years. Not to memorize and regurgitate Iron Age myths.

Have a great week everyone. God bless.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

Written by unitedcats

May 22, 2019 at 11:03 am

Posted in Religion, Science

IT’S FRIDAY!

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East_and_West_Shaking_hands_at_the_laying_of_last_rail_Union_Pacific_Railroad_-_RestorationPhotographer: Andrew J. Russell Public Domain under US copyright law.

A BBC presenter, Danny Baker, has been fired for being a racist poopy head. He tweeted a picture of a British royal couple with their child … the child being depicted as a chimp. Baker apparently missed the memo: Depicting POC as monkeys is racist, no exceptions. He did his best to weasel out of it with the ever popular “It was just a joke!” line. So not only he is a racist, he thinks people who point it out to him are stupid enough to fall for that? No, Mr Baker, it wasn’t a joke, it was a racist troll cartoon, exactly what you intended. And you got what you deserved.

And another “What the hell is wrong with our society and when are we going to fix it?” story repackaged as a “feel good” story: Colorado School Shooting Victim Died Charging Attacker. Thank you mainstream media for helping us feel good about living in a country awash with guns and the attendant senseless gun violence. Don’t worry, nothing will be done, so stories like this will keep coming. Jesus wept.

Denver, CO, voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, aka magic mushrooms. Good, it’s a remarkably safe drug that doesn’t cause any social problems I am aware of. Long past time to treat recreational drugs as a medical and social issue on an individual user basis; prohibition is a strategy that not only failed, it actually makes the situation worse. Made a lot of corrupt cops and corporations very wealthy though, welcome to America.

Oh man. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, speaking to the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Wednesday,  insisted that US troops should stay in Afghanistan “As long as an insurgency continues.” I am assuming it takes years of special training to say something like that without smirking or giggling. 18 years in, the insurgency is worse than ever, and no one had a clue how to defeat it. But “stay there forever” is what the Pentagon wants. See last sentence of previous paragraph, replace <cops> with <soldiers.>

In the “Who does he think he’s kidding?” file the Pope has made it mandatory for clergy to report sexual abuse and cover-ups to the church. Wrong on so many levels. If someone discovers criminal activity in their organization, especially something as horrible and criminal as sexual abuse … they call the effing police. Child sexual abuse is a crime, there is no other acceptable course of action. Letting the church hierarchy decide how to respond to such allegations is how the church became a haven for pedophiles in the first place.

Speaking of medieval, in the “Are time travellers from the Middle Ages among us?” file we have a state representative from Texas checking all the hate boxes in his profile. Hates gay marriage, thinks marital rape is OK, adamantly opposes the ungodly evils of vaccination. OK, I understand the twisted interpretation of Christ’s teachings that lets people hide their obsession with other people’s genitals under religious concerns. I get it, you see a married couple, their genitals don’t match your religious preferences, so it’s icky. So, you know, Christ must have been against it. And marital rape, the Bible says it’s OK in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Granted there are other Bible verses that say otherwise, but hey, if I know anything about bible worshipping Christians is that it’s their God given right to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to obey.

How Mr Stickland got his anti-vax views from the Bible, that’s a mystery to me. Pretty sure Jesus had nothing to say on the topic. In fact safe to say the Bible has nothing to say on the topic, being as vaccines weren’t around 2,000 years ago. So somehow this life saving medical treatment is bad, but other stuff doctors do is ok? Basically we have a political leader urging citizens to deliberately spread disease in the name of his God. The Muslims got nothing on our Christian crazies.

End rant. I have nothing against religion, being Episcopalian and all, but people using Our Saviour to spread hatred and lies, yeah, I have problems with that. Today’s post is an extemporaneous post, as the post I was writing Thursday ran aground so to speak. I probably have dozens if not hundreds of abortive posts. Preserved forever on the Interwebs for future historians to mull over.

The picture, yes. 10 May 1869. The USA’s first intercontinental railway was completed in Utah. 150 years ago today. What a great picture. There’s almost certainly people alive today who would have known people in this photograph. This is the sort of stuff I think about. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

May 10, 2019 at 5:32 am