Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another reason why I will never, ever vote for a Republican again.

I am unlikely to vote Democratic in the next election, because the Democratic Party has moved too far to the right,* but I definitely never will vote for a Republican ever again. That is a decision already made long since—the party went off the deep end quite some time ago—but I keep on getting reinforcement.

I have watched this stupid birth certificate controversy, watched even Republican citizens who I otherwise respect get sucked into at least a casual skepticism: why doesn't Obama just release his original birth certificate, instead of the legal short form that Hawaii always provides? Why, indeed, does the President of the United States of America not drop everything he is doing to dance around like a puppet for a band of fanatical, racist lunatics? Surely, he has nothing more important to do, nor would it be beneath the dignity of even a private citizen, much less the highest office of the nation.

Now, with the whole matter having reached a frothing pitch in the echo chamber of the Right, fanned by the complicity of an entire opportunist Party, the Presidency gets bent to the will of idiots and madmen. So, how does the RNC Chairman respond?
In a statement after Obama spoke, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the issue a distraction — and yet blamed Obama for playing campaign politics by addressing it.

"The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy," Priebus said. "Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy."
The Republican Party is a party of children. The United States is facing some very serious problems, and some of the correct answers are conservative answers, but nothing good will happen while children have a prominent place at the helm. The country needs adults.

* Not in itself always problematic, since half of my views are right-leaning, but I think the Democratic Party too often has shifted to the right in precisely the wrong ways, and I certainly do not respect a party that takes its own base so much for granted that it feels free to betray it willy-nilly (actually something that can be said about the Republican Party, too, come to think of it).

Update: And the stupidity continues.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pale Blue Dot

Via NASA's Image of the Day:

How beautiful and serene, viewed from out there. One would never guess what a horrid mess exists on its skin. We, of the skin, desperately need the humility and perspective born of the scientific view of the cosmos. Tell 'em, Carl:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Another transitional form unearthed

From the American Museum of Natural History:
Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences announce the discovery of Liaoconodon hui, a complete fossil mammal from the Mesozoic found in China that includes the long-sought transitional middle ear.
Reminds me of Yanoconodon allini. If I understand correctly, the chief difference between the ear structure of the two species is that Meckel's cartilage is still attached to the jaw in Y. allini, but has detached from the jaw in L. hui—a fine gradation indeed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How dare a student newspaper publish a photo of atheist students on their front page!!!!

Joe Geary gets completely bent out of shape over his school newspaper treating atheists like equal members of the student body. He also offers a couple of sophomoric moral arguments, which is sad, considering that he's a junior.

I appear to have landed the first comment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Evolution of the eye

Put together a new Defender's Guide article on the evolution of the eye, expanding on material moved out of a different article.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MS Republicans and interracial marriage

From Public Policy Polling:
We asked voters on this poll whether they think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal- 46% of Mississippi Republicans said it should be illegal to just 40% who think it should be legal. For the most part there aren't any huge divides in how voters view the candidates or who they support for the nomination based on their attitudes about interracial marriage but there are a few exceptions.
Palin's net favorability with folks who think interracial marriage should be illegal (+55 at 74/19) is 17 points higher than it is with folks who think interracial marriage should be legal (+38 at 64/26.) Meanwhile Romney's favorability numbers see the opposite trend. He's at +23 (53/30) with voters who think interracial marriage should be legal but 19 points worse at +4 (44/40) with those who think it should be illegal. Tells you something about the kinds of folks who like each of those candidates.
Perhaps not so WTF—but still, WTF?

I hope there's a serious flaw in this poll, or that it is a late April Fool's joke. I have for a long time now believed that beneath the veneer of civilized respectability that coats the United States, huge portions of our population still are so backward and medieval that they might as well have been coughed up from the blackest depths of Baluchistan. But I hate to be proved this right.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why do atheists bother?

New article posted to Why Do Atheists Bother?

Losing My Religion

Former LA Times religion reporter William Lobdell caught some attention in 2007 when he announced his loss of faith. In 2009, he turned his story into a book: Losing My Religion (New York: Harper, 2009) recounts Lobdell's conversion to Christianity, his early, enthusiastic work reporting on the best representatives of religion, his gradual discovery of the magnitude of corruption in the religious world, and his eventual turn to what he alternately describes as deism or atheism.

One can effectively trace Lobdell's trajectory by reading his brilliant articles, which he has conveniently assembled at his book's promotional website, but the book is so compelling, and so well-written, that I would not suggest passing it up. By all means, read both the book and the articles.

To give you a sense of his style, and his common-sense manner, here are a few of the many passages in the book that struck me:

On the hiddenness of God:

I felt angry with God for making faith such a guessing game. I didn't treat my sons as God treated me. I gave them clear direction, quick answers, steady discipline and plenty of love. There was little mystery in our relationship: they didn't have to strain to hear my "gentle whisper." How to hear God, love Him and best serve Him shouldn't be so open to interpretation. It shouldn't be that hard. (160-161)

On "miracles" wrought by God:

When a tsunami wiped out more than 225,000 people in Indonesia in 2004, the media featured several survivors who claimed God had miraculously answered their prayers and saved them. It made me want to scream. If He answered their prayers, why did He sit by and allow the killing of nearly a quarter-million people—many who were praying, too, as they were being washed away? (212)

On the comfort of believing in a random world:

At least now when I see injustice and suffering—my guitar teacher's beautiful boy, all of three years old, died of a brain tumor the day I'm writing this—the randomness is just that. A God in heaven didn't sit by while the little boy died. To simply know that tragic stuff happens is a much more satisfying and realistic answer. (277)

On what has taken God's place in his life:

So what has taken the place of God in my life? A tremendous sense of gratitude. I sense how fortunate I am to be alive in this thin sliver of time in the history of the universe. This gives me a renewed sense of urgency to live this short life well. (278)

People like Lobdell give me hope. Read the book.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More pre-pubescent, murderous rage in the Dar al-Islam

Twelve people murdered because someone completely unrelated to them, on the other side of the world, burned a book:
Stirred up by a trio of angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.

Update: Five of the twelve dead were demonstrators, hopefully among those who stormed the compound, and not anyone who tried to intervene.

Update: And the riots spread, and of course a large contingent of people are blaming Terry Jones for everything while saying hardly a word about the rioters themselves, or the mullahs or the Afghan President who incited them.