The Pretzel God

Ham-Nye-debate-in-a-nutshell-via-exploring-our-matrixI found myself once again engaged in that never-to-be-solved conversation with a creationist, commonly referred to as a YEC’er (young-earth creationist). That such conversations are tedious is obvious. I never sought it, rather the usual folks just have to respond when you make fun of their favorite belief.

The other day I posted  a thing from Buzzfeed, which merely and perfectly objectively showed the “questions” that some YEC’ers would have asked Bill Nye after attending the “debate” at the Creation “Museum” run by Ken Ham. Ken Ham is either a silly lunatic who believes the nonsense that spews from his mouth, or he is a grifter. I’m not quite sure which.

Actually Buzzfeed, I now find, has answered these 22 questions, sometimes humorously, but always factually as far as my knowledge goes. My post was met by, not a reasoned response but the highly laughable video created by one Ray Comfort called Evolution vs God. In it Ray confronts a few professors but mostly students and demands that they produce a “change of kinds” that he can see, peppered with the now standard question, “were you there?” The upshot seems to be the rather bizarre notion that Ray has that if “you were not there, you can’t prove it happened.”

Now we already know Ray from his enormous boo-boo in the Banana Proof, calling it the “evolutionist’s nightmare. Here Ray tells us that the banana is clear evidence of something created by God just to fit the hand of the human being. We will skip his retraction when he learned about how the banana has been altered by humans and no longer resembles what it did originally and well, how monkeys of course seem to have hands that work pretty darn good too in eating bananas.

Now I did not watch the famous debate between Nye and Ham. Both sides undoubtedly have not changed their mind one whit nor anyone elses. Both sides will claim victory. That Ham, as I’ve been told, made lots of assertions without any proof such as “it is not proven that the earth is old”, when it clearly is, is par for the course.

The reality of all this is that the only real loser here was Intelligent Design. Actually I was a bit surprised to learn that the ID folks hate the YEC folk. See, the ID people actually in some cases are scientists, and they are trying mightily, though usually falling short, in bringing some actual science to the discussion. They, for instance, don’t believe at all in a young earth. They simply believe in a grand master God who created such things that they say are “irreducibly complex”–God is the designer of such things as the eye , and the blood clotting cascade. So Ham really screwed them  in their longed for resurrection from the damned which occurred in the case of Tammy Kitzmiller, et al vs. Dover Area School District, et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket no. 4cv2688).

The meme above gives voice to the real problem with these fringe fundamentalists. And fringe is what I do mean. While Ham and his cohorts often tout the “fact” that nearly 50% of all Americans believe in creationism, that is not at all accurate. As with all polling, how the question is framed matters greatly. When you get to the extreme of a Ham–the earth is only a few thousand years old, ditto the universe, and Adam and Eve were the original humans, and the bible (usually only the KJV translation) is the literal word of God–we are talking about something less than 10% of the population.

The problem is this: faith is a matter of belief. People who assert (and it’s always these ultra uber “Christians” or extreme fundamentalists who do) that they are “positive” “sure” “absolutely certain” that what they belief is true, are deluded by their own arrogance. Faith is belief. More clearly it is belief in the face of doubt. Some of the most famous of saints struggled the most with their faith–languishing for years in doubts and questioning. Ironically, if God were as the uber fundies contend–a god of judgment, they would fail. It is no great thing to believe what is proven. Faith is believing in spite of doubt. I suspect a god of judgment would favor the one who believes in spite of doubt rather more than the one who believed because he was convinced the proof was complete. Don’t the atheists do as much?

Worse, the YEC’er likes to claim that they “follow the word of God”, in other words, they do the bidding of God which is clearly set out in their translation. But this is false. For the bible is not something that is capable of one and only one meaning, not in its sum or in its parts. It is an interpretive document, informed by many other disciplines. For instance the word na ‘ar in Hebrew literally means “youth”. The word zaqen literally means “old”. However it would be a mistake to conclude that a youth is younger than an old person. For from learning about the sociology of ancient Israel, we learn that the term youth is attached to any male not yet head of a household, while old is attached to any male who is head of a household. Thus a na ‘ar can be older than a zaquen. (From Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, “Sociological Approaches: Toward a Sociology of Childhood in the Hebrew Bible” pg. 262,[Society of Biblical Literature: Atlanta, 2009]

Fundamentalists will deny all this simply because they truck in being able to discern the meaning of scripture by reading it. In that way it is they who believe in the “their own vain thoughts”, not the scholar who knows that the texts are not literal in nature, and that translation and context mean everything to meaning. God is twisted in the fundamentalist mind to fit what the mind needs Her to be.

My fundamentalist opponent dropped her side of the conversation after I produced any number of critiques of Ray Comfort’s silly video. That is the way of all such people, for in the end, they have no facts that they can articulate beyond scraps of talking points that they essentially don’t understand in the first place. She left with this parting shot, from Matthew 7:6:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast
ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them
under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Ironically, it is one of the more controversial passages from the Sermon on the Mount, and there is much disagreement of what it means. But I’m betting she is sure what it means. And that says it all.

The Funky World of Creationism

creationismCreationist people are funny. I mean that literally. It’s only fair, they take everything literally too. Well, sort of. It’s a well-known fact and easily provable, that creationists only take what they like in the bible literally–the rest, they ignore.

I continue to post really great stuff on Facebook, most of it from scientists who happen to also be believers. I spread it around. There are Catholics, and Lutherans, and Presbyterians, you know, mainstream religious folks. And they all point out the silliness of trying to claim that the earth was formed in six days.

Normal people nod their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about, since logic is a part of daily life you know. I mean if evolution were not true, then when the human genome project was completed, there would have been a hue and cry of world-wide proportions had the DNA not supported our evolution from “lesser”beings. As it turns out, we learned something we had not thought true–some homo-sapiens today actually have DNA from Neanderthals in their bodies, proof that a more primitive humanoid actually mated with those who would ultimately become us.

All this is beyond the average creationist of course, since they are unable to wrap their compartmentalized minds around actual facts. Life is so much simpler when you simply decide what would make you happy and then “make it so” in your mind. There are dozens of shysters out there willing to take you money in return for a good sounding story that meets your needs.

bothsidesOf course, such mindless ones are also prone to “doubt” anything else that they find troubling in their white-centric (and that is most always the case) world. They stout-fastly deny that the earth as portrayed in the bible is FLAT and that the “heavens” are a dome which keeps out the “waters” which surround everything. No, that doesn’t work for them, so literalism takes a flying leap off the edge on that one.

Since I was peppering the Facebook page with a lot of actual *gasp* science, one of our creationist types figured to “get enlightened” so on the advice of others of her myopic kind, she ordered her some books from a site that specializes in helping people remain god-awful ignorant of the truth.

And she read them.  Or at least tried to.

And then she told the Facebook crowd all about what she had learnt. It had to do with “if the earth was so old then we would all be buried under tons of cosmic dust”, and something about you know crab nebula only occurring once every 100 years, so where are they all? And if you count people the right way, and not the scientific way, somehow, it comes down to just 2 people some 6,000 + years ago. General junk like that.

Which proved that not only did she not think of any of this stuff herself, she didn’t understand most of what she read in the first place.

vignetta creazionismoAfter I had deciphered the “arguments” I went to the science. Most of the really good and big ones just have an archive of these silly assertions and a scientific proof to explain the errors.  (Talk Origins is great for this by the by should you get asked one of these “yeah so, explain this” questions).

Some of you may recall that there was a thing that ran around Facebook a few weeks ago about a test given to grade schoolers about “science” and most thought it a joke, until the school system (a Christian school) fessed up and said it was theirs. Anyway, at the end, was a question which tells you that this is all about indoctrination and not about actual science. The question was “And what do we say when people tell us that the earth is millions of years old?”

The answer is “Were you there?” Yeah that’s what crazy fundie parents are teaching our children to say in response to a scientific fact. And lo and behold that question also exists on the Talk Origins “creationist arguments”.

I found every single one of the lady’s “arguments” on Talk Origins. They are simplistic and easily dispelled. The offerer of course doesn’t understand a thing about what they just regurgitated. They aren’t meant to. They are happy to find somebody who agrees with them, who writes in a way that sounds all scientific-y, and is not understandable by them certainly. (This makes it likely to be true).

I cited scientific responses and the appropriate links to read the truth in full. (By the way NCSE is another great site for scientific responses and information on evolution and climate change).  Of course there was no response from the creation lady.

When I asked for her sources, since her arguments were not hers but something she admittedly read in a book, I got the stonewall. “You won’t read them anyway!” she whined. No of course I’m not going to line the pockets of a charlatan, but I will look up his name and read reviews of his book(s) and alert others where to go to read about his credentials.

But she won’t give them to me. Plagiarism is a darn sight less dangerous in her eyes than giving her sources up to scrutiny by others.

Truth is scary stuff to some.

I suppose next she will be telling me that Revelation is all about the Catholic Church being the beast. That seems to be the level where those of her kind end up.

What does all this mean?

Not much. It is just that willful ignorance of this sort is that voice that I hear that tells me that these folks shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and definitely not raise children. They should be set down on farms far away from normal people where they can engage in their fantasies without harming others.

But then that conflicts with the other voice that tells me that I don’t approve of limits to who can vote (heck given their level of duh, I figure we couldn’t go too wrong with letting chimps vote either), and I don’t think we want to go down the road of who can procreate either.

The nice thing is that the two voices conflict and I have to resolve the dilemma, something the fundie mind can avoid. So far I come down on the side of freedom, but if these people don’t stop annoying me with their nonsense, well, I might be persuaded to at least make chocolate unavailable to them. I mean it’s a treat they should be denied, just for being so darn goofy.


Reachin’ For Fireflies

I am not a good person.

I know that.

I took entirely too much glee in the Kansas win over Ohio State. Entirely too much.

I loathe Ohio State. It is not “THE” anything.

I loathe it because I am from MSU. I loathe U of M too. I dance on their graves.

I would root for satan in a match between them.

I am thrilled to squash their little heads in my hands until their brains squirt out.

I am not a good person.

But we all have our little quirks don’t we? :)

I believe in God. I have a worked out theology that I’m comfortable with. I fit in pretty well in most of the mainline Catholic, Protestant theologies. We quibble around the fringes. I consider myself sane and reasonable, and frankly normal.

Much as I admire the intelligence of Richard Dawkins, he would not return the favor. He thinks I’m nuts, and I frankly don’t appreciate it. I saw him on Chris Hayes Up a week ago, and found him as I usually do, just a bit too insufferably arrogant. The problem was put in a nutshell by Quinn O’Neill from 3quarksdailythe man cares more about eradicating religion than he does in keeping vacuous “creationism” out of school curriculums. And that is simply wrong in my opinion.

Dawkins actually now advocates outright, in-your-face ridicule of believers. He doesn’t differentiate between the knuckle-dragging fundies who believe the earth is flat and only 6,000 + years old and those who believe that the universe is the creation of a greater mind who nurtures life and encourages connection to a fuller life.

On the other hand, there are folks like Robert Wright, whose book I reviewed here, who take a very different tack. In his article at The Atlantic, Wright argues that such an approach is needlessly confrontational and creates enemies where none need be.

While I agree and have argued here, that the far far Right is unreachable by reason, that is simply not the case with a great many who hold anti-science opinions, simply because that is what they were taught at home and they’ve never had the need or reason to confront an alternative explanation. These people can be persuaded by real evidence, and that opportunity is missed when you come at them like a Rottweiler.

Both are worth reading.

Which brings me to art. Now, I am not what you call art savvy. I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I’m not impressed with experts on this issue, because I think a piece either speaks to you, or it doesn’t and that is the point is it not? It says something about life, the human condition or you simply love the colors and it matches the sofa. I am thusly a live and let live woman when it comes to what makes you swoon artfully speaking.

That said, I saw a segment on 60 Minutes about the pop art of the day, and the unbelievable prices for which the stuff goes. Some of it is crap, and I wouldn’t want it sitting at the end of my drive way awaiting the trash collector. Other stuff I thought “wow, I’d love to have that!”

Except that I can’t. These art fairs are singularly held in the playgrounds of the rich and famous, and while you make look, you may not touch, unless you have at least $250,000 to plunk down for that rusty faucet dripping water, or that hoe with an entangled bunch of hose and some flamingo boas entwined in what can only be described as  “I found a way to make a million exercising only 1/10 of my brain cells” chic.

Yes, I’m well aware that there are little known “local fairs” with a bunch of local artist wannabes and a few genuine original geniuses possibly to be found, but I can learn to throw a pot too ya know. So my question is still valid.

My question?

Yes. Is there no morality to art?

Meaning–where are the artists who so love their work that they want the little guy to have a chance to own a piece? Where are the artists who refuse to let their pieces initially sell for more than say $50 or at least no more than 20% over the cost of materials? Am I whacked for even suggesting it? Is art only the play toy of the rich and famous?

You tell me.

On a final note, a little help.

We are not looking for you to vote and decide for us.

But, we are entirely conflicted regarding our dog Bear. Some days we feel we should have him put down and bury him with Brandy, and at other times, he seems good to go. We don’t trust ourselves any more. It would be vastly easier to not take him. How much is this truth likely to push us in the wrong direction?

Here are the facts.

  • He is incontinent either through dementia or just not giving a rat’s ass any more. We have to cut him off from water by 8 pm or face a clean up the next day.
  • He is increasingly hard of hearing.
  • He has some difficulty on some days getting up and down the porch steps (he had his leg badly broken as a youngster).
  • He gags some days all day, a bit between gagging and coughing (which can be a sign of heart trouble or at least some growth)
  • He is in his 14th year and that is really old for a border collie.
  • He took Brandy’s death very badly and it took weeks before he pulled himself out of it. The trip would be disorienting and confining. He would be on a harness and leash for months.
  • He’s always been free to roam and this meadow has been his home for 12 years.

On the other hand:

  • He eats  fine.
  • He seems to eliminate fine.
  • He seems in no major pain, though we suspect he aches (he paces some nights)
  • He still likes to go for a ride, and experiences some interest in sniffing around, if only for a short time now.
  • He still seeks pets and affection.

We are thinking of taking him to the vet and having him checked out and let the vet guide us. Any other ideas we have missed ? 

Cul-cher-alee Speakin’

On Friday, or any other day that the mood strikes me, we hear at AFeatherAdrift (doncha love that “we” crap?), like to offer a more culturally mature post, directing you to the kinds of things that will impress your boss, your uncle Bart and the mail deliverer.

So grab a chair, belt up, and be prepared to be bedazzled with high-minded fare.

The New Atlantis has a nice long but very entertaining piece about travel in the age of GPS. If you are like me, you have had the experience of landing after a long plane ride, all of a sudden thrust into a wildly different environment, all peopled by folks who seem to take it as quite normal to be there.

The author muses about Kerouac, Odysseus, Huck, Quixote and others and how they would have found traveling in a world where “you are here” is a constant given. Good writing to boot. What more can you ask for?

It’s downright amazing how things just come to you. Ironic things, or sudden connections. Oddities and as “they” say these days, “ah ha moments.

Well, if you recall, Darwin was talking about changes the species over time caused, as we now know, by mutations. He posited that those species whose mutations led to their being better able to survive, did so at a greater rate than those that were not so fortunate. Over time, the better abled might well push out or “cause” the extinction” of the less abled.

Some (so they thought at the time) smart intellectuals (the very ones no doubt that the knuckledraggers of Trailer Town USA, so loathes today, thought it wise to slap Darwin’s species “survival of the fittest” onto ONE species, that of humanity. They posited that those humans most able would naturally rise to positions of power and wealth because of their superior survival abilities–abilities they believed were inborn.

Well, here is the ironic part.

The Republican intelligentsia  and their followers are to an inordinate degree not believers in Darwin per se. A goodly number agree with their uneducated mob that Darwin is an atheist nightmare and belief that we “came from monkeys” is some satanic plan to destroy us all. Darwin and his “theory” is only just that–a theory–a barely workable working hypothesis that is so full of holes and “gaps” that we can relax, read a much easier tract (read Bible), with a much much shorter story, and rest happy in our salvation.

Except that juxtaposed along side this treatise of idiocy lies their other chief tenet–survival of the fittest, which is nothing much more than the hidden framework for the much touted and Godly “Protestant work ethic.” You see, the reason that the likes of Rubio, Ryan, Perry, Bachmann, and all the other swill (read Republicans) are so against such things as social security, medicare, welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and so forth is because they think it makes us “weak” as a people. We aren’t striving to survive which is what insures our evolutionary dominance. Oops, did I say evolutionary?  

I wonder do they catch themselves making that mistake? How do they live with the contradiction? I mean I know how the masses live with it. They aren’t smart enough to either realize it or if they did, make any sense of it. But some of the Republican intelligentsia must get it. I suspect they do, but they aren’t really creationists either–just for the masses.

Ironic isn’t it?

Ever thought about walking? In our house it’s a topic of conversation now and again. The Contrarian is not a walker–he will get in the car to drive 100 yards. He saw nothing so awfully wrong in Chris Christie’s taking a limo to drive him the twenty yards from helicopter to baseball seat. 

I have a love-hate relationship with walking. I like to walk on flat ground, not so much uphill. We gotta lot of uphill crap here. I’m hoping for more flat in the neighborhood I will inhabit in Las Cruces.

Once upon a time, walking a few miles a day was fairly ordinary. I recall reading about Henry Ford walking from Dearborn to Detroit to work every day. I lived in both, so I have some sense of the distance. We see refugees on long marches across often inhospitable territory in the hopes of finding safety. They often walk for days, even weeks.

Walking is great for thinking. As one writer says, you need to walk because it slows down the brain. We need the time and space. Nothing else quite gives that to us.

We walk to get from place to place, and we walk to make statements, and to raise money. We walk for health, and for penance. We walk because we can. Do we walk as a reminder of one of the things that makes us unique in the world? We walk to discover that which cannot be seen or appreciated by driving or riding in some vehicle.

Sit down with this article this week-end. Not so long.

Ya know I noticed something the other day. The Contrarian and I were headed to the VA for his yearly check-up and we were on a main thoroughfare through the city of Cedar Rapids. One that once was probably a more pleasant and quiet neighborly street.

Near the urban center, the houses were large with two stories, and wide wide porches, open or enclosed. Some were clearly not being used, others had the obligatory furniture of chairs and plants, making the house look cheery and welcoming.

As we progressed farther from the heart of the city, the houses abruptly changed. Gone were the wide and long porches, and porches became nothing more than a small platform from which one launched to the driveway or into the house. One couldn’t fit A chair on the “porch” and still open the door.

I’d say the first section were homes built in the 30’s and 40’s, and the porchless houses were circa 1950+. Times change, nobody sat out on the veranda and chatted with neighbors passing by in the evening any more. By the 50’s socializing with a family affair, conducted out in the back yard, privately.

Funny, that I just noticed that very physical transition the other day.

Everything I Say is a Lie. . . .I’m lying

Note that the cartoon pictured at left carries the “Answers in Genesis” website. I believe that these are the same people who bring you the “Creation Museum” in Kentucky and are building the Noah’s Ark as their next “reality” project.

I am generally not a big fan of atheists, at least the mocking types. It’s all well and good to conclude that there is no proof of God and that you are content to let it be, living your life by perfectly good standards of conduct, without resort to any religious faith. I tend to be in agreement with atheists who take on the fundamentalists, because they don’t represent any kind of believing that I can understand nor accept and their actions are damaging for the most part.

I do tend to get rather pissy with atheists who lump all believers, of ANY faith into the same basket and make fun of them, such as referring to their belief in “faeries” and boogie men. It tends to belie your own faith in your own beliefs of “there is no God” when you are so insecure as that.

So, I’m not, generally speaking, a great fan of Richard Dawkins, though I certainly have no quarrel with his evolutionary statements. I find them compelling and utterly credible, as the entire field of evolution seem to be to me. But recently, Dawkins had some words for our new pal Ricky Perry and the field of GOPers who adhere to the “safe” haven of “it’s ONLY a theory.” (By the war, Al Gore points out in An Inconvenient Truth, that “it’s only a theory” is the intentional plan of attack of those who wish to confuse any issue, be it global warming or evolution.)

My thanks to Joe.My.God for the quote:

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.” – Famed atheist Richard Dawkins, responding to Rick Perry’s denouncement of evolution.

Speaking of evolution, there is a rather fascinating book published in 2010 about what the author calls RD or “renewed Darwinism“. Paul Lawrence area of expertise is in business, and he was near retirement from the Harvard Business School when he became dissatisfied with the “agency model” of business leadership, finding that it seemed to relate only to making stockholders happy. He began to investigate other fields and found in Darwin his answer.

Lawrence posits that man is evolutionarily driven to four things: acquisition, bonding, defense, and comprehension. We are, he suggests, constantly engaged in the activity of balancing these four things. He claims that things appear out of whack now because a “few bad apples with an outsized drive to acquire and no moral conscience” have prevailed, because they have no apparent need to bond.

So far, studies looking at Lawrence’s model of leadership tend to confirm it. Those companies who exhibit a healthy balance of all four things, tend to show good results, those that don’t, don’t.

I must say I’m good. I read this headline in my reader: “Perry retreat co-host MLK deserved no credit on civil rights.” Well, I knew it could be none other than our ubiquitous TeaNutz® faux historian David Barton. Yes, Perry continues to double down in his unity with all things wingnut crazy, alienating all non-Christians and not a few Christians, and now African-Americans.

It seems that Barton is of the belief, that while MLK is a deserves a “place” in history, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.” Barton is almost too stupid to attack. I mean, dude, seriously, your “analysis” is childish.

Barton and others have done their level best to rewrite history books for Texas schools, seeking to minimize such folks as Thurgood Marshall and César Chávez. This all in an attempt to glorify white Christians, to the exclusion of all others in the history of the US.

Ya know, Jebby Bush warned ’em when he was last interviewed on Faux Noise. He said, it’s fine to criticize the President’s policies, but hey, lay off challenging his motives. But of course, no, that would not be cool would it? The National Review, long since sunk in a cesspool of what else? poo, has decided that the President’s VACATION READING FARE is not appropriate! Angry Black Lady Chronicles has the story (Not sure if they got it from Think Progress?) 


Whatever He said. . . .I Say the Opposite

This is the GOP mantra, and has been since the day after the 2008 election. Whatever the President says or does or doesn’t do, they immediately say the opposite. It’s the last part that keeps getting them in trouble.

Latest case in point:

Newty (the garden slug) Gingrich just can’t make up his mind on what to do about Libya. When we were doing nothing, he was for the US to step in. When we did, he was against it.

He said we could take care of the whole problem with air-power. Until we used air-power then he said it was a typical politician’s error to think that air power solves all problems.

In the end, Newt admits that his answers to these questions are simply “responses to what the President does.”

Ya see Newt, when the president doesn’t do something, and you say he should, it’s really bad form to then say he shouldn’t have. And then before he has done something, don’t tell him how he should do it, because when he does it, and does it that way, you end up saying he should know better not to do it that way.

Is this an Alzheimer’s moment Newt? Or are you just the hateful vindictive, wannabe that we really think you are?

Help! Infection alert!

Decontamination areas are being set up all over Iowa in anticipation of the likely bacterial infection set to enter the state.

Tomorrow gadzillions (make that a few dozen) really creepy and crazy people are set to have a day-long conference in Des Moines about who should be the GOP candidate. All manner of sleaze is attending, including M. Bachmann (crazy eyes), H. Barbour (racism is behind me), H. Cain (uncle Tom’s cousin), N. Gingrich (garden slug), R. Santorum (wontcha love me again?), J. Bolton (the stash is my cash), and well others.

All rational humans are urged to get a shower and take the recommended dosage of Tylenol to forestall bouts of insanity. Symptoms include itchy skin, double vision and the uncanny feeling that you’ve been hijacked by aliens. See a veterinarian immediately if you have any of the above.

I just love ‘strict constructionists. You know who I mean, those folks that want our country returned to its Founding Father principles, the C O N S T I T U T I O N. Now what they actually mean by this is something you might not quite get, if you ain’t one of them.

Cases in point:

Bryan Fischer, AFA leader and all around hater of everything not white and fundamentalist, claims that the 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion, does not include any rights for Muslims, since the FF could not have had them in mind. Why we don’t know, but he says that we give them rights as a “courtesy” only.

David Barton, pseudo-historian and all around wacko nutjob who shleps for the GOP and it’s business elites, has explained that the Declaration of Independence is “nothing more than a list of sermons” which might surprise Thomas Jefferson. Further the Constitution was written directly out of the Bible, and that all leads up to the fact that Jesus was and IS against the minimum wage and well anything that corporate America doesn’t find conducive to racking up profits.

Sadly, people actually get in their cars, travel to auditoriums, sit their skinny butts in chairs, and listen to this drivel, rather than say, pop popcorn and watch Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I kid you not.

Texas has been in the business of late in revising the history of the US of A, to reflect whatever it wants to be the truth. This is not news. Bill Zedler, Texas Rethuglian legislator, introduces a bill to make it “illegal to discriminate against creationists.” Yes, and next he plans to introduce one that makes it illegal to discriminate against stupid people. In both cases that would be him.  [h/t to Crooks and Liars]

Discover Magazine has an interesting article, entitled “Does the Universe Need God?” This is an excerpt from a larger article, and there is a link to that. This is a thoughtful reasoned argument, not the usual atheistic meanness that we’ve come to see from to many. I don’t agree with the argument, but I find it cogent and worth considering.

Ever heard of William Cronon? I hadn’t. No reason I should. He’s a university professor at Wisconsin, and well-respected by his peers in his area of expertise, that being history. He recently did an op-ed piece in the NYTimes on the recent union issues in Wisconsin, and was critical of the Governor and Republicans who would try to take away long-standing collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin citizens.

Well, that pissed off the GOP, and it, the state GOP that is, has launched a legal action to get to his e-mails to uncover whether they can prove that he’s been active in protests. This all aimed to of course intimidate and discredit him. This is what I guess the GOP calls democracy. We call it Joe McCarthyism. How low can you limbo Wisconsin GOP? [h/t to Daily Dish]

I know you all read Moe at Whatever Works, and I’m stealing this “entire” post, but she posts usually several a day, so please don’t miss her stuff. She does a great job of keeping us all aware of all the nefarious goings on, everywhere. But this is precious and so true:

“Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray, vote, invest, educate our children and, now, die, Republicans have done a fine job of getting government out of our personal lives.”
                                                         – Editorial Page, Portland Oregonian 


It’s leftovers today!

Is It Child Abuse?

Not being a parent, I feel uniquely qualified to give opinion on the practice of homeschooling. At least I am good company, since in a significant number of states, there is zero regulation of the practice, and anyone can declare themselves “teacher.” So, like I said, I’m uniquely qualified.

The chart says a lot. In those states of white, there are NO regulations whatsoever. Thus it allows a mere high school graduate in a state like Michigan (and one’s competence varies of course as to the quality of even that status), to “teach” their children. In red states, the requirements are high, requiring at minimum licensed teachers, testing and evaluations done on a regular basis. Most of these are required in the orange states as well. Iowa for example, required a licensed teacher, and evaluations done periodically along with testing. It does however, exempt the Amish type communities from compliance.

My first experience with homeschooling came in something I read or saw regarding Alaska. Folks who lived deep in the wilderness had no access to schools; heck they receive their mail ofttimes by biplane. As I recall, the two kids, schooled by mom, placed at Harvard and tested well above their peers. Wow, I thought. How lucky. If I had only had well educated parents who could have led me on an independent study into all those places my regular school had no “time” for in the rush to meet the general “citizenship” requirements.

I often thought that homeschooling as an adult would be something I would deeply love–giving my child an extra boost toward college. I still agree, there are circumstances when homeschooling is better. The obvious is when there is no alternative such as living in remote areas of a state. Another situation is well known to many urban dwellers–inadequate and substandard schools in their area.

As the map suggests, homeschooling, as schooling in general tends to be, respects to an inordinate degree, the state and the parent. The differences between states seems wildly variant. This goes hand in hand with our general belief that the state should not exercise too much control over families. They are sacrosanct in some sense, and only a serious state interest should intrude upon the family. One can look at custody issues with in vitro and all the other methodologies of giving birth to realize how ill-equipped the courts feel in tampering with family issues.

So the idea that we should regulate and to what degree is important. I am forced to look aghast at any state that makes no regulation of such an important issue. Having a well educated electorate, and one that is poised to enter college or university on a level of equality with other students, is I would think essential. Our world becomes more and more complicated, and our youth must be armed with the clearest and best information available to compete and make wise decisions, both for their own lives and for the lives of humanity itself.

It seems that generally speaking religion plays a major part in homeschooling decisions. Something like 33% cited religion as their reason for homeschooling.  I ran into this first on a Catholic forum that is decidedly right wing. In fact, many of its posters are former born agains who have discovered the “true” church, but have brought their fundamentalist ways with them. They and other right wing evangelicals are near the largest segment of those who choose homeschooling.

And this seems irrationally wrong to me. These folks seem to object that our schools are too secular, and that they are, and by design. However, the answer it seems to me is not in homeschooling, since the science, math, and so forth are not impacted by religion. In fact the removal of religion from schools was imposed exactly so that information is offered as is, without editorial comment if you will.

The rightful place to indoctrinate kids (if you must) is at home. Kids should be learning biology unburdened by ideology. They can receive that at home, where no one can prevent it. One of my closest friends candidly explained to me how her children regurgitated the “answers” for tests as it related to evolutionary theory, but were at home told that such information was all a tissue of lies, since the good Lord set out all we need to know in one or both versions of creation in Genesis.

Why religious objections to secularized education is a reason for indoctrinating a kid in bad or no science, and splitting the brain into fragments, none of which can be reconciled, is beyond me. I simply object that it is wrong. It is child abuse. Said child is ill prepared for college for starters. Plenty of science professors in colleges and universities across the land gripe about the remedial education that must be given to these kids, and how some of them waste the class time arguing creationism. The vast majority of kids are there to learn evolution and thus prepare themselves for careers in science, not engage in a useless debate with a brainwashed kid.

We all know the consequences, either the child, too tied to parental control, keeps its head in the sand, and either flunks or engages in the repeat it but don’t believe it mode, or they crash and burn as now ex-believers, having had their worldview explode before their eyes in a torrent of actual facts. The former creates a non-thinking human robot, following blindly where no logic has gone before, and the latter becomes an atheist, unfortunate from a believer’s stand point at least.

I’m not against homeschooling, but I am against allowing minimally educated adults, who know not even as much as they are attempting to convey, all with an ideological bent which is demonstrably false,  to screw with the minds of our youth. It is bad enough that our educational system is now substandard to much of the world today, let’s not make it worse by continuing to drag it into the morass of myth and fairy story. A troubled world requires more.


Oh, and just for proof, look to Texas which has been screwing with textbooks and such, all designed to push a creationist agenda. The upshot is that graduation levels in Texas are lower than Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia. Now, no doubt some will quibble with correlations here, but I think that the more irrelevant we make education, the less we graduate. Kids seem to sense mediocrity I’d say.

Home Education Magazine has the state laws of Iowa and Michigan, as well as all other states at the bottom of each page of their website. See what the regulations are in your state.

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