To See The Stars, To Know One’s Mind
August 26, 2012

I’m normally a pessimist regarding global warming, the depredations of the human race, and the big issues. And with justification, I think. Civilization is coming to an end because we screwed with the laws of physics and as a species we continue to demonstrate that we simply don’t understand the laws of physics and that they apply to us. So, civilization is over. Mass extinction is underway. Our intent, as a species, is to hasten it.

But this morning, while the sky was still dark, I went out on the porch and looked up. A bright planet to the east, I think Venus, sat like a jewel among the stars. So many stars, yet only a small fraction of what I could see if the lights of the town and the neighborhood were off. Even so. So many. So bright. So far. It was wondrous to look at them, to realize what they were, to understand how they got there, how they came to be, how they work. And equally wondrous to know that there is so much we don’t know about them, and how much we can learn.

That’s a feeling the religionists cannot have. To them their god made the stars and planets. Not for them the understanding of the subatomic processes that keep the stars glowing for billions of years. Not for them the incredible processes of a nova, a supernova, a stellar collapse. God did it. Religion, religious belief, god: those stunt the mind, weaken the intellect, narrow mental and emotional horizons, undermine the human species, and now, hasten life toward extinction.

Perhaps that is pessimistic, to think, to believe that most of life in this biosphere will soon disappear. On the other hand I’m not afraid of it, no more than I am afraid of my own death. Because I am an atheist the religionists tell me I will burn in eternal torment once I die, while they will go to some place of eternal bliss, such place usually described as one of the most inconceivably boring, dull, terrible places imaginable, where one’s whole being must spend eternity worshipping some hugely narcissistic being. I’ve always said that given the choice I’d take the torment because the really interesting people and interesting ideas would be found there. Religious people tend to be boring even in this life: apparently their idea of bliss is eternal boredom and enslavement to a narcissistic being, and their idea of hell is a ferment of ideas and questioning and seeking after facts and evidence and truths. They have much to fear, and much to torment themselves with.

I have none of that. I think it sad that we are so incompetent as a species that we are willing to destroy life on earth in order to satisfy the whims and stupidities and fears of our weakest minds, but I know that the laws of physics will operate no matter what we do. By understanding and following them, we might save the biosphere. Unfortunately, and in large part due to religious ignorance, willful ignorance it must be said, and human stupidity and greed and selfishness, we choose to ignore physics. Nonetheless I take comfort in the fact that the laws of physics do work, that they aren’t subject to the caprice of invisible beings, and that we can understand them. That knowledge gives me a sense of optimism, a sense that though we will extinguish most life, including our own, in time life will rise again on the planet, and it is to be hoped that it will be devoid of the flawed intelligence evolution gave us, intelligence that cursed the world.

As for the theists and the rest of the superstitious crowd, frankly I do hope they get to their heaven of eternal worship. I can think of no greater curse to call down on them while I drink my morning coffee and gaze at the stars.

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Mothers, don’t let your children grow up to be Tennesseans… ‘cause they’ll grow up stupid
April 20, 2012

No, this isn’t about the law down in Tennessee that will sneak religious fairy tales into science classes. Not directly anyway.

NPR’s Takeaway program this morning featured a discussion on the Tennessee law. On one side they had a representative from a national science organization. In the middle they had the usual not-too-competent interlocutor, John Hockenberry. And representing Tennessee they had a seventh grade science teacher.

Okay.

And then Hockenberry says the science teacher doesn’t believe evolution is true.

Think about that for a second. A certified science teacher, teaching seventh graders, who believes one of the most fundamental theories of science isn’t true.

The State of Tennessee certified this guy to teach science. To children. A guy who doesn’t accept the Biblical flood of evidence, of fact, of research, that support evolution.

This same State of Tennessee wants to make it okay to teach Biblical fairy tales in science classrooms. Or rather to protect teachers who want to do so. It’s all a little ambiguous, no doubt designed that way to cover its sins.

And during this little colloquy did Hockenberry ask the teacher to explain why he didn’t believe evolution is true? Barely in passing, and getting the answer, “There’s some problems with it,” which Hockenberry just brushed past. I should note that Hockenberry has had a distinguished career in journalism, but on this show he inserts his opinion too often, asks questions that roll on forever, and ignores key items, i.e., why was this guy certified to teach in Tennessee, and what the hell was Tennessee thinking when it certified him.

There’s about a dozen states trying to pull this off. It’s a little fluid, but the states where this is going on or has gone on (it never goes away) include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Indiana. And that’s likely not an exhaustive list.

What we’ve got here is a case of severe stupidity being enshrined in law and education, and in children’s minds, by the state, where citizens have chosen to elect incredibly narrow-minded, ignorant religious fundogelical freaks to their legislatures and state offices.

Never mind ‘America the Beautiful’. A more accurate song would be titled ‘America the Backward’.

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Libertarian Fish Killers
January 10, 2012

As much as I dislike President Obama, the politician, I can’t countenance one of these Republicans getting in. Nor can I understand why anyone would find them attractive or qualified for the office. I suppose with the intense polarization it’s to be expected, and with the weak press, and the weak-minded electorate, what can you do?

The right have sold too many people on the nostrum that government is the problem, and the left hasn’t come back with an answer that resonates. Somehow the right think that they’ll be able to manage everything that needs managing in the country without any sort of central government. They don’t want to pay taxes, but they expect everything to run smoothly, they expect things to get fixed when broken, and they expect to be safe in their homes and persons, all apparently for free. They denigrate struggling teachers and worship multimillionaire basketball players. They ignore critical issues like infrastructure, the environment, education, and the like, and focus laserlike on trivia such  as including the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance, as if saying the pledge, with or without those words, will magically ensure the success of the United States and guarantee them a safe and wealthy life. They don’t want politics and reasoned compromise, they don’t want intelligent thought and reflection, they don’t want realism. They want magic. They want voodoo. They want to dance around a fire in their cave to propitiate their gods, occasionally throwing a virgin on the coals to make things right with the heavens.

Yesterday, during a radio interview in New Hampshire, some woman rattled on and on that government has gotten too big, had no right to tell her how to live, and that she should be able to do whatever she wanted. She of course extended that to everybody, but gave not one bit of thought to community, to the idea that if she just did whatever she wanted, how would people react when her actions impinged on their freedom to do whatever they wanted. That seems never to occur to these so-called libertarians. They don’t want to pay for government, they don’t want courts, they don’t want a political process, they just want to do what they want to do. And the irony is that they pretty much already can do whatever they want to do, except when their actions infringe on the common good of the community. You want to build on wetlands, filling them in so you can build your house? If you do that, you contribute to the destruction of offshore fisheries because the young fish are hatched and grow in those wetlands. So if everybody fills in the wetlands, the fishery dies, and the fishermen, who may be your neighbors, or may live and operate their boats a long way from where you live, lose their livelihoods, and the ecosystem is disturbed when the fish that depend on the fish you exterminated are deprived of their food source. But the right object to government agencies and government scientists putting facts in the way of narcissism, ego, and greed.

The right want to eliminate government agencies like the FDA, but when some company that the FDA now regulates no longer faces oversight puts poison in a bottle and kills your kid, what are you going to do? Shoot somebody? Go to court, putting your thousand dollars in savings against a megacorporation that doesn’t give a damn about you or your kid because nobody holds them accountable? They’ll crush you with their suites of million-dollar lawyers and they won’t even notice the cost.

Don’t want the EPA? You’d rather breathe coal-soaked air, drink water full of the byproducts of gas fracking, visit oil wells in national parks, see the Grand Canyon honeycombed with uranium mines, watch rivers become so polluted that they catch fire like the Cuyahoga did before the Clean Air Act (signed by Nixon, by the way)? That’s your vision of a better America?

Government is not perfect, and it is at the moment broken in large part because rich people like the Koch Brothers want it broken, which is why they finance the Tea Party and encourage the sort of mindless libertarianism that runs rampant today in Congress and on the right generally. When you see the big money boys supporting the minimalization of government you had better start asking yourself why. It’s nothing high-minded, you can count on that. They just want to do what they want to do without anyone calling them to account or holding them responsible for their actions. They don’t want government. They want to rule. And they’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars to get their way.

Your dollars, by the way. Not only do you support their actions when you buy their products, you pay their taxes for them because they cut deals with politicians that allow them to pay either nothing or a pittance in taxes. You make up for what they don’t pay. How’s that for doing what you want to do without government interference?

You cannot make government good by eliminating government.

If you want to live in a country of three hundred and fifty million people, and live in peace and follow your bliss or your dream or whatever it is that you want to do, you have to come to terms with the idea that governance is required, and that such governance is complex and complicated and messy, and that it requires your thoughtful, educated attention. To want to have everything your way is childish, it is ignorant, it is thoughtless. But if you insist then it is best you go live alone somewhere, perhaps up in the northern wilds of Canada, if they’ll have you, and while you’re there perhaps you can breathe in the methane and other greenhouse gasses releasing from the melting permafrost, courtesy of the mindless politicians on the right, the deregulators, the obstructionists, the whores of uncontrolled capitalists, in the Republican Tea Party who insist there’s no such thing as global warming and we certainly don’t want the government interfering even if there is such a thing.

Don’t bother sending a post card home.

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Surgeon General As Useful As An Inflamed Appendix, According To The Surgeon General
July 11, 2007

In a story in the Los Angeles Times today, Dr. Richard Carmona, the first surgeon general in the current Bush ideologic dictatorship, says the Bushies corrupted the office of the surgeon general.

“Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized, or simply buried.”

And this:

Carmona said he was told to stand down from playing an educational role [in stem cell research] because a decision had already been made. He also said administration appointees who reviewed the text of his speeches deleted from them references to stem cell research.

Likewise, on the issue of preventing teen pregnancy, Carmona said he was not allowed to deviate from the administration’s position that abstinence was the best approach. In fact, he said, he believes a variety of approaches are needed, including contraception for sexually active teens. The administration did not want to hear the science, but wanted to preach, Carmona said.

Yeah, we can’t have science and facts and evidence screwing up the Neanderthal ideology of President Monkey Boy and his minions.

But it gets more interesting. In two days a Senate committee will consider the Monkey Boy’s nomination of Dr. James W. Holsinger, Jr., to succeed Carmona. Holsinger is famed for his anti-gay views. I suspect that soon after his accession to the post of SG he will hand down a ruling that homosexuality is a disease that can be treated by a vaccine to be invented sometime in the future by an enlightened religious fundamentalist. In the meantime try not to breathe the same air as anyone you suspect is gay.

Anyone out there remember what Hitler and the Nazis did to science and reason? Beginning to look familiar?

Let’s get those mythical Halliburton detention centers open, dudes! Get those Muslims and gays and retarded and liberal and evolution-believing  folk into them before America is destroyed.

Oorah!

More on this at TPM.

Creationist Crazies Strike A Blow for Ignorance
May 27, 2007

Tomorrow the Christian evangelicals, having spent $27 million dollars, will open their Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The goal of this monumental waste of money is apparently to convince visitors that the Biblical Genesis creation story has scientific support and is based on scientific evidence. And the real miracle is that these people intend to do this without offering a single shred of scientific evidence. They can’t. There isn’t any. Except what they make up.

But the Bible says it’s so, so it must be so. Therefore the universe was created in six days and the earth is six thousand years old. And it only costs $19.95 for an adult and $9.95 for a child to step into this Christian fairyland of falsehood. Why that’s only about $3.325 a day for the whole creation! What a bargain! I wonder if they got their price structure from the Bible too.

But the real crux, the real guts of the matter – well, here’s what the head of Answers in Genesis, the group responsible for this expensive joke, Ken Ham, has to say about Christians losing faith in the literal interpretation of Genesis: “You’re then telling the next generation they can reinterpret the Bible. Then what we’ve lost is Christian morality. If there is no absolute authority and we’re just animals, why not do what you want to do?”

Wow, how these people just love kneeling to ‘absolute authority’. God forbid they should think for themselves. God forbid they should take responsibility for their own lives. God forbid they should seek actual facts and evidence about the real world they live in. These people will be good little Nazis when the next Nazi clones come along and ask for volunteers.

The really sickening part? In what is supposed to be one of the most educated and intelligent countries in the world, the United States, half of Americans agree with this crap.