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Richard Dawkins

I went with our friend Mike down to Bloomington to visit our friend Joe and to see Richard Dawkins speak at the IU auditorium last night. He was there to read from and discuss his newest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.

I don’t have the book and haven’t read it, but the lecture was interesting enough that I’ll pick it up. Dawkins is a compelling speaker and like anyone who regularly engages in scientific inquiry, he rigorously examines his own ideas and lays out premise and conclusions well (unlike, say ME). An excerpt from chapter 2 the book:

We can turn to the example of dogs for some important lessons about natural selection. All breeds of dogs are domesticated wolves: not jackals, not coyotes and not foxes. But I need to qualify this in the light of a fascinating theory of the evolution of the dog, which has been most clearly articulated by the American zoologist Raymond Coppinger. The idea is that the evolution of the dog was not just a matter of artificial selection. It was at least as much a case of wolves adapting to the ways of Man by natural selection. Much of the initial domestication of the dog was selfdomestication, mediated by natural, not artificial, selection. Long before we got our hands on the chisels in the artificial selection toolbox, natural selection had already sculpted wolves into self-domesticated “village dogs” without any human intervention.

Only later did humans adopt these village dogs and transmogrify them, separately and comprehensively, into the rainbow spectrum of breeds that today grace (if grace is the word) Crufts and similar pageants of canine achievement and beauty (if beauty is the word).

Coppinger points out that when domestic animals break free and go feral for many generations, they usually revert to something close to their wild ancestor. We might expect feral dogs, therefore, to become rather wolf-like. But this doesn’t happen. Instead, dogs left to go feral seem to become the ubiquitous “village dogs” — “pye-dogs” — that hang around human settlements all over the Third World. This encourages Coppinger’s belief that the dogs on which human breeders finally went to work were wolves no longer. They had already changed themselves into dogs: village dogs, pye-dogs, perhaps dingos.

I’ve had a copy of The God Delusion since I saw Dawkins speak on the Bill Maher show in 2006, but haven’t read more than the first few chapters. I have to admit I put it down a few weeks ago because as I was reading it, I became depressed about the fact that there is no afterlife and that this life is all there is. Terrifying to me. And terrifying that the idea of an afterlife is so strongly comforting to me that I was willing to put down a book and turn away from critical examination of an important subject out of fear. The childhood indoctrination of religious belief has a powerful effect on rational thought.

I’ve written critically about organized religion on this blog, and particularly on the religion of my family – Roman Catholicism. All of that writing has been reactionary in nature (like almost everything I write, I admit) in response to news stories and I haven’t explored the topic of religion in any depth – in truth because I haven’t done that for myself outside of the context of blog writing.

I guess there’s no time like the present, is there? (Especially if this is all the time we have.) I’ll pick The God Delusion back up and complete it, and do the same for Dawkins’s new book as well. And hopefully I’ll have something intelligent to say about them after.

A few thoughts on visiting the IU campus – wow, college students are young, given the questions they asked Dawkins after the lecture. Many of them gushed to him and about him because he’s famous, and it seemed to me that few of them had read his books or even had a clear as picture of what they were about. It’s odd that they’re on a college campus surrounded by the tools of learning and yet they’re so full of not-fully-formed thoughts. And yet they get to have Urban Outfitters on campus, and trucks that do “to your door” cookie delivery. How unfair.

2022-03-13 Update:
Didn’t Dawkins turn out to be misogynist Mother Fucker? I unlinked his books. I did finish The God Delusion and as far as religion goes, I agree with him. But not on much of anything else.
Continue ReadingRichard Dawkins

DJ Shiva’s Take on Obama and Warren

DJ Shiva wrote an excellent blog post on Obama’s decision to pick Rick Warren to do the inaugural invocation, which I’m just going to quote the whole thing of, since it’s awesome. But go read her blog regularly; it’s good.

fuck you, obama.

i was gonna write a long-winded piece about how hard gays and lesbians worked on your campaign, and how we were already smarting from the clinton administration pissing on us the last time around only to feel the hit again from the results of prop 8. i was gonna write about how inviting a guy who compares our love and relationships to fucking PEDOPHILIA to start your presidency off makes me want to fucking scream and cry and throw shit.
i was gonna write about the fact that it’s one thing to know someone who talks a lot of shit, but it’s quite another to invite them to stand at the door of our nation and claim to speak for the spirit of our country. i was gonna write that we are a part of that “main street” you keep talking about. i was gonna write a lot of things.

but right now, all i can say is that i don’t like you very much. and while i hope you can make something good happen for our economy, and get us out of iraq, and all the other things that were reasons for our votes, i feel like i have been punched in the gut. i feel like my life has been spit upon.

and i feel like no matter how much you want to claim to be an ally of the gay community (your unwillingness to stand up for gay marriage already made that alliance a shaky one at best), that you really do not get it. it’s like inviting goebbels to a bartmizvah and claiming you really care about jewish people. it’s bullshit, and it doesn’t fucking wash.

i have never been one to hope for ANYTHING from a politician, but for some fucked up reason, i trusted you. not further than i could throw you, but still…for me, even a little trust of a politician is a big fucking leap of faith.

and once again, i find that hope, in a country whose very origins and success were based on the subjugation of human rights, is as empty as a poor man’s wallet.

thanks for the reminder, obama. i won’t make the same mistake again.
i coulda said a lot of things, but the one thing i want to keep saying is:
fuck you, barack obama.

Continue ReadingDJ Shiva’s Take on Obama and Warren

I am disagreeable

Obama had this to say today regarding the angry reaction gay people and feminists are having at his choice of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation:

I am fierce advocate for equality for gay and — well, let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

What I’ve also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.

Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue, I think, is a part of what my campaign’s been all about, that we’re never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery — who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues — is also speaking.

It’s very easy to ask us to “disagree without being disagreeable” when it’s not you who’s asked to drink at a separate water fountain — or more accurately in the case of gay equality, to not be allowed any water at all.
Other than breathing and wearing clothes, the amount I have in common with Rick Warren is exactly zilch. He presents himself as a moderate, but he is certainly radical right. He’s offensive to the core.

I recognize a shit sandwich when I see one, Mr. President Elect — I’m sorry, I’m not going to eat this one.

UPDATE: From the comments at Wonkette: “Fine they can “disagree” on issues. Now give me All of my fucking rights.”

And here’s another good comment at Wonkette:

“Sorry – inc1usivess doesn’t include asshats. That’s dumb relativism being it’s dumb, illogical self. If I thought Obama was a relativist, I wouldn’t have voted for him. Inclusiveness isn’t about not making judgments, it’s about making the right ones with respect to humanity. Anyone who includes inhumanity with humanity is just going to be running in useless circles all day. There. Sermon over.”

And another great comment from Melissa McEwan:
“Human dignity and equality does not have to come down an either-or proposition. Symbolic equality is nothing without substantive equality, and substantive equality paired with symbols of oppression is not full equality at all.”

Continue ReadingI am disagreeable

Rage and Frothing at the mouth

According to CNN, this lovely shit-sandwich, delivered right to my plate, courtesy of President-Elect Obama:

President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony will feature big names like minister Rick Warren and legendary singer Aretha Franklin, the Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced Wednesday.

Warren, the prominent evangelical and founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, will deliver the ceremony’s invocation. The minister hosted a presidential forum at his church last summer that challenged both Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain on a host of faith-related issues. Warren did not endorse either presidential candidate.

His public support for California’s Proposition 8 — the measure that successfully passed and called for outlawing gay marriage in the state — sparked the ire of many gay rights proponents, who seized on a comment in an October newsletter to his congregation: “This is not a political issue — it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.”
But Warren has long sought to broaden the focus of the evangelical agenda to include issues like the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.

Also included in the inaugural program are cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the United States Marine Band, and other performers.

It’s not mentioned that Warren, in addition to enraging gay people, has kicked both women and Jews in the teeth thousands of times by equating the right to choose with the Holocaust. If Obama wanted to pick one guy that would piss off a large chunk of the progressive movement in America, Warren is the guy.

Thousands of religious figures in America that Obama could have chosen to deliver the inaugural invocation that wouldn’t have been an absolute slap in the face to large swaths of oppressed people. But no, he couldn’t go that route. He had to pick a guy that was all risk and no gain to anyone. Lovely.

As Melissa points out — “addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis” is not an acceptible “get-out-of-jail-free card for homobigotry.”

Continue ReadingRage and Frothing at the mouth

Real Biblical Marriage

Passed along from a friend via email

If we were to create a constitutional amendment defining marriage based on the teachings of the Bible, it would look like this:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Continue ReadingReal Biblical Marriage

You may be a Unitarian Universalist if:

  1. You think socks are too formal for a Summer service.
  2. You know at least 5 ways to say “Happy holidays!”
  3. Your idea of a guy’s night out is going to a N.O.W. rally.
  4. Unleavened bread is part of your Easter Brunch.
  5. You refer to construction paper as “paper of color.”
  6. The name of your church is longer than your arm.
  7. You find yourself rewriting a church survey, rather than taking it.
  8. You call up your minister in the middle of the night, panicking because you are starting to believe in God.
  9. To explain your personal theology, you have to use interpretive dance.
  10. You take your day planner to church instead of the Bible.
Continue ReadingYou may be a Unitarian Universalist if:

Indiana teacher suspended for giving students a book

Showing up on CNN yesterday, this Indiana story:

Perry Township teacher Connie Heermann a 27 year teaching veteran, was suspended from her job at Perry Meridian High School for a year and a half without pay, for giving her high school English class the book Freedom Writer’s Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.

Apparently, the book was objectionable to the Perry Township school board because it contains swear words.

Yes, swear words. Oh, my stars and garters. Heavens to Murgatroid.

In addition to said swear words, it also contains inspirational stories of how inner city kids from very poor circumstances were inspired by their teacher’s introducing them to first-person journals from Anne Frank and others to write journals of the poverty and suffering around them, achieve in school, and go on to college. A very worthy book, it seems to me.

I guess not to the Perry Township school board.

Heermann attempted to get permission to teach the book as a textbook in her class, and the school board dithered at length on whether or not to allow it, because it contained the aforementioned swear words. While she waited on an answer, she sent home permission slips to the students parents, and 149 of 150 parents approved the book. So she passed it out in class, and stuff hit the fan.

The Perry Township School Board has taken refuge in the idea that they suspended her for “her disregard for policy and procedures and not working within the confines of the system she’s agreed to work in and support” claiming that they’re not “banning a book” but disciplining a teacher for not following the rules.

I am not fooled. This is a book banning.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this showed up on CNN just now, when the school board vote to suspend Connie Heermann occurred in March, but I’m glad it did, since I missed the story the first time around.

I’d also like you to take note that I used absolutely no swear words in writing this post, owing mostly to the fact that the CNN reporter said “blank” as he read the offending passages aloud, and the only word I could figure out was mother-fucker. Oops. Damn.

Continue ReadingIndiana teacher suspended for giving students a book