Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


with one comment

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

Christian’s Religious Liberty is not Under Threat in the USA

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I’m getting really tired of certain Christians claiming that their religious liberty is under attack in the USA. Or worse, that they are being prosecuted for their beliefs. Right. The above illustration is Christians being persecuted for their beliefs. When was the last time Christians were rounded up and killed in the USA? Their churches systematically destroyed? Their faith being illegal to practice? Never. And no one has proposed anything even remotely like that, at least outside the lunatic fringe. The chances that a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian would start persecuting Christians is essentially zero.

Yet that didn’t stop certain quarters from claiming that, for example, the veto of Arizona’s anti-gay law was the “new Jim Crow” and telling Christians to “move to the back of the bus.” Let me see if I get this straight, a law that would have allowed Christians to discriminate against anyone they perceived as gay was about religious liberty? If one’s religion says don’t be gay, then don’t be gay. It doesn’t give one the “right” to define how other people live their lives, nor does it give one the “right” to discriminate against them. One’s religion may give one the “right” to be a bigot, it doesn’t give one the “right” to practise that bigotry in public commerce or enshrine their bigotry in public law.

And we are talking about bigotry here. Gay people are just that, people. The scientific evidence is in, and its overwhelming. As anyone who ever actually got to know gay people would know. Whether it is a lifestyle choice or biology  is irrelevant, there’s nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about being gay. There have always been gay people, there always will. The only difference now is that our society is maturing (we don’t burn witches, keep slaves, or sell daughters into marriage anymore) and gay people and their allies think it’s past time that they came out of the closet and enjoyed the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Gay people are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our siblings, our co-workers. Over a third of them have children. That’s right, 37% of gay people have children. And they want those children to have married parents like everyone else.

Frankly Jesus said that the Old Testament no longer applies, and he said nothing about gay people. So people who are selectively hating on gays because “the Bible says” are simply using the Bible as cover for their bigotry. The Old Testament also says that adultery, lying about virginity, eating shellfish, and working on the Sabbath all merit the death penalty. Yet the Biblical gay bashers don’t get all hot and bothered about these or any of the other few dozen things prohibited by death in the Old Testament.  And no, gay people are not out to “convert” anyone. In fact the only way a straight person could even think that was possible if they were gay themselves and in deep denial about it. Nothing could make me find men sexually attractive, I’m just not wired that way.

The so called Christians who are all about persecuting gay people and driving them back into the closet are on the wrong side of history. Gays want the same rights as everyone else, because they are everyone else. They are no more going to go back in the closet than blacks are going to agree to be slaves again. And this is a good thing. Sadly the Old Testament Christians don’t see it that way. They want to go back to an America where they got to define social institutions for everyone. In other words an America where Christians could freely persecute people they disproved of. That’s not Christian, that’s Satan doing his finest work in the name of Christianity. (It’s also an incredibly weak faith if the mere sight of people who don’t adhere to its Bronze Age proscriptions is a problem.)

And of course, what about God? Let’s see, Canada has effectively had gay marriage since 1999, and gay marriage in every respect since 2004. God has had over a decade to punish Canada for this terrible transgression against his purported wishes. Have plague, pestilence, and God’s wrath descended on Canada? Not that I’ve heard of. Have gays taken over, forced millions of Canadians to be gay, promoted paedophilia,  or outlawed heterosexual marriage in Canada? Again, it doesn’t appear to be making the news. In fact the only thing that has happened is that they don’t call it gay marriage in Canada any more. They just call it marriage.

Frankly these Old Testament selective moralists give me the creeps. I don’t mind them having their Bronze Age prejudices, but I’m damn sick of them thinking they still get to define morality for everyone by their own outdated standards. Hopefully most of them will get over their umbrage as the calamities God is going to heap upon us for marriage equality don’t manifest. At the very least they hopefully will be consoled by the fact that they won’t be forced to be gay married, won’t be forced to attend gay weddings, and just in general if they want to close their eyes, they won’t see gay people at all. Hell, the Duggar daughters already signal their dad and brothers so they can avert their gaze in case a pretty woman is on the street, now they just have to come up with a “gay signal” so that their dad and brothers don’t see some gay person on the street. Problem solved.

Tomorrow, the insanity of redefining marriage.

(The above image dates from the nineteenth century and is public domain under US copyright law. It’s called “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer” by Jean-Léon Gérôme 1824–1904. It’s a tradition that Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum, not historical fact. Some Christians have always been obsessed with martyrdom and persecution, I guess that natural for a faith that worships a dead guy nailed to a stick. Jesus wept.)

Written by unitedcats

March 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm

And the Winner of this Year’s Most Tasteless 9/11 Commemorative Message is: ALIPAC

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“The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America’s government! Let’s roll! —William Gheen and The ALIPAC Team”

Isn’t that just lovely? Let’s use the most terrible crime in American history to compare immigrants to mass murderers.  Yes that’s the message of the anti-immigrant group ALIPAC. Lovely, just lovely. It’s bad enough that 9/11 has been used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, strip us of our rights, support overseas wars, and the creation of a vast mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive police and security state … now it’s being used to foment racism in the USA! Merika!

Sigh. This is an example of why I’m having trouble blogging lately. The Religious Right in the USA is going further off the rails every day. If you aren’t a white, Evangelical Christian, heterosexual, male American … you aren’t really an American. That’s the platform of the Religious Right now, it scares me, it should scare any decent person. I’d write more posts about it, but it would just upset me more. People who want to keep up on the brain-dead antics of this formerly fringe movement should follow Right Wing Watch. A lot of it is the usual crap, trying to get religious teachings back into school, etc. Some of it is a lot worse. Tell gay couples to die on their wedding day, gays wear special rings to infect non-gays with HIV, Obamacare is designed to kill conservatives. The sort of stuff that used to be limited to flyers stuck under windshields is now mainstream fare. Jesus wept.

What does this have to do with 9/11? A lot, 9/11 really seems to have pushed a lot of right wingers over the edge. A friend of mine was calling for the USA to blanket Afghanistan with neutron bombs after 9/11. He came back and later admitted it’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of the country that day. Many kept right on going as evidenced by the Religious Right’s every widening gap between themselves and reality. The rest of the country is trying to move forward to an America with justice and fairness for all Americans, the Right wants to return to a day (that never existed) when American was synonymous with white Evangelical Christian. And I am most definitely talking about Republicans and the Tea Party, though there are plenty of conservatives who think it’s gone too far. They are being purged from the Republican party from what I can tell. This is the legacy of 9/11, Republicans have turned into a party of hatred and divisiveness.

Then there’s the whole war monger thing. Sigh. 9/11 was indeed blow-back from our murderous foreign policy, but few if Americans know that. The propaganda that 9/11 was purely caused by America hating religious nuts who only understand violence and can’t be negotiated with is pretty much stock-in-trade for most Americans. With the full and enthusiastic cooperation of most of America’s atheists too. Sigh. Again. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible thing. And we’ve used it to justify endless 9/11s against Muslim lands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as we set our military loose to “protect” America by murdering foreigners. And we wonder why foreigners hate our foreign policy, if “kill as you please” can even be described as a foreign policy.

The there’s the other 9/11, one that I didn’t even realize was a 9/11 event until recently. Yes, 40 years ago today with the full backing and aid of the CIA and USA government the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military coup, ushering in nearly two decades of repressive military dictatorship. I guess it’s only fitting that we used our own 9/11 to strip Americans of their rights and energize our efforts to overthrow governments overseas. It’s an American tradition now, like football, mom, and apple pie. And now due to Obama’s beneficent influence, even the Democrats are the party of foreign wars!

To me this is the greatest sadness and shame of 9/11. A terrible event that could have triggered a national debate and reflection on the role America plays in the world was hijacked by war mongers, war profiteers, and haters from the beginning; and we now have a country that wages war constantly abroad and spies on and restricts its citizens at home. We could have followed the Prince of Peace, instead we pledged our souls to Satan. To commemorate the loss of loved ones by killing foreigners and stripping Americans of their rights isn’t commemoration, it’s sick. America lost its way in 2001and went enthusiastically down the dark path Bin Laden wanted us to follow. Maybe someday we will wake up from the dystopian police state nightmare that has been evolving in the USA since then, but I’m not seeing many bright spots on the horizon.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and it is the best image I could find to illustrate my feelings about 9/11. I have no idea who to attribute it too. “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2013 at 10:42 am