Thursday, January 13, 2011

Breaking News: Astrology Still Bullshit

Exciting news has rocked the world of astrology today.  This is sure to be the biggest thing to happen to astrology since, like, it was discovered that the earth orbits the sun.

There's a new zodiac sign, folks.  It's Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer (or snake charmer, depending on whom you ask).

You see, when the original zodiac was calculated by the International Astrological Union in ages past, it was mistaken.  For one thing, it's gotten a bit off since the earth has wobbled on its axis a skosh.  This sort of thing happens over a period of thousands of years, and the good guys at Hayden Planetarium assure us that it's nothing to worry about.  But in addition to the original charts-by-date being mistaken, the Babylonians (who were obviously Griffindors) refused to include Ophiuchus (obviously a Slytherin).  You see, it doesn't make for a nice mathematically creamy number to have 13 signs.  So they threw Ophiuchus out like yesterday's garbage and blazed forward without him, making such brilliant strides in the empirical science that is astrology.

In fact this news is nothing new either!  Astronomers have actually known about this for decades, perhaps longer!  But it's on the intertubes now, and the news outlets having such a slow news day (what with a funeral for a victim of a shooting that was attended by the President, another victim of the same shooting coming out of a coma, horrendous flooding in Australia and Brazil... there's just nothing to report!) caught wind of this and decided to really mess with John Q. Public's head by announcing the shocking, whirlwind report that astrology just might be arbitrary.

My personal favorite reaction comes from the comments at this report by the Christian Science Monitor.

That's right.  It's meaningless now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Epiphany.

It's taken a while to find the words to write this blog post. It's been a hard week, reading the news, and thinking of the lows to which humanity has sunk. I've felt the awful ice-in-my-heart feeling of depression creeping in, gripping hold.

And suddenly, I got it.

I really, truly, without question, understood in my heart just what it is that makes people need religion so desperately. The pain of realizing that so much evil can exist is beyond the measure of words. It's for someone far greater skilled than I, to try to write just how crippling it is to face that reality. How much easier to think it's something otherworldly that creates evil; how much more comforting to think that something greater and more eternal awaits those so heinously wronged in life.

The fact is, saying "Smite me, ya bastard!" is easy. There is no shortage of mockery of religion and religious beliefs, on the Net and off. What I do see a shortage of, is comfort. Someone to go to, when humankind just thoroughly disgusts every fiber of one's being. Someone to lean on when the world just doesn't make sense. A soft place to land, as it were.

And I think that's the direction I want to take CMAA in. I just don't quite know how, from here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This guy's safe...BUT FOR HOW LONG?!
I'm sure by now that we've all heard the news: Dead Birds Are Dead.

And of course news outlets are as helpful as ever, calling such things "unexplained" (which all too many people read as "unexplainable").  A quick Google News search for "dead birds" pulls up lots of fear.

Dead Birds and Dead Fish in Bible affiliated wih the demise of mankind?

Whoa, that's a scary one right from the get-go. I know here in the Pine Tree State we've got our share of believers in such things and the thought of it being real is enough to send a shiver up plenty of spines.

Now I notice that this first news article misses some of the very basic "five Ws" that I learned about in second grade. Actually it skips most of them and heads right into "Why". What I don't see is WHO is examining these birds, WHAT is really happening (how many birds, for example), WHERE exactly these instances are happening, or WHEN it is happening (for example, is it overnight, in broad daylight, over a period of days, or all in one go?).

At least it mentions some sources, including Fox News, a Bible website, and a 19th-century news article in the New York Times.

Animal, Bird and Crab Mass Deaths Spark Apocalypse Theories Online

Eep! MASS deaths!

Again, not a helluvalot of news here, just lots of speculation. Let's see who can give us some authoritative word on what's really going on here. Maybe, I dunno, an expert on birds, or epidemiology

Finally, some reason here! Here's a heads-up, journalists: if the former 80s teen star turned minister says that it's ridiculous to contact him instead of a scientist on this? It's ridiculous.

And finally, buried way down in the links, hidden below a list of conspiracy theory and gloom headlines, we have...

Scientists Offer Possible Explanation for Dead Birds Phenomenon

OK, here we have a scientist who didn't star in any sitcoms in the 80s saying this sort of thing is fairly commonplace and can happen for a variety of reasons.

But just so the conspiracy theorists and those who live in fear faith can still be validated, we've got this at the end: "Scientists have said however, that these conclusions are just theories, and can't be proven 100%."

Did you hear that?  Just a theory!  Like evolution, or gravity!

No speculation, rational or not, can be proven 100%.  Scientists are just honest enough with themselves and with the reading public to say so.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today's Word: BINGO.

In Which I'm Still Not Smited (Smote? Smitten?)

I can only assume a few things at this point.

  1. Someone's praying against my smiting.
  2. I'm being set up for a last-minute, unexpected smiting.
  3. Nobody's there to smite me.
Now, I could go through the whole mental gymnastics of "maybe it's XYZ".  I'm sure I could make up speculative conclusions all day long, if I had nothing else to do on my day off.  But let's just work with these for now.

Possibility #1: Someone's praying against my smiting.
I know that I have friends and family who are of various flavors of belief, from the dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist to the lax and liberal.  And they're people I really care about and I like to think care about me.  Therefore it's not altogether unlikely that one or more of them may be praying that their god NOT smite me.  That I get delivered from smiting, I guess, would be a particularly prayer-ful way of putting it.

If such is the case I envision it going something to the tune of, "Dear Lord, please show her the error of her ways [or that you're merciful, or that you exist] and show mercy on her by not smiting her.  She knows not what she says; forgive her her boastful ways and let her instead see thy love, Amen."

Here's the problem I have with that.  OK, there's more than one actually.   First off, if your god has a plan for each and every one of us, as many believers of various flavors are fond of saying, then really why ask the guy to change the plan at all?  Isn't that suggesting that the plan, by being alterable, is somehow flawed?  And that you have a better idea than the Big Guy of what the plan should be?

The other problem is this: "Prove you're up there by doing nothing" just isn't good enough for me.  Doing nothing is just as sound proof that there was nobody there to answer the phone in the first place.

So, God, if you're up there, if you're checking your voice mail, whatevs, then please do what you do best and ignore their pleas for mercy.  I think many readers here will agree that I got this coming to me.

Possibility #2: I'm being set up for a last-minute smiting.
Well that's just kind of cheating, isn't it?  I mean, we all die.  What's it prove if that smiting is years or decades in coming and doesn't happen until I'm old and withered?  What's it prove if it could be interpreted as anything else, such as old age, another person's malice (we have free will, right?  Believers, you agree with me on this one?), another person's bad driving, etc?  If this is going to be a prove me wrong type smiting, it really needs to be an absolutely crystal clear, no-false-interpreting-about-it smiting.

"Tamino" proposes a deadline, though I'm not so sure I'm the one who can be making such a decision.  But he suggests that since God was able to make everything in the space of seven days according to scripture, then a week seems like a reasonable amount of time to pull off a smiting.  Now, if we go by that, you'll note that the counter at the bottom-left portion of this blog puts me at about 3 days and change at the time of this writing.  But I'll keep it going, even after a week, just to see.

Possibility #3: Nobody's there to smite me.
I'm still leaning to this one.  Occam's Razor states that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation is the likeliest one.  And this one's about as simple and likely as it gets.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In Which I Call Out God

Smite me, O mighty smiter! (Cartoon: Gary Larson)

It started with a letter to the Bangor Daily News:

The evolution lie
The announcement by scientists that the first human remains were found in Israel should not be a surprise. That is where creation started, and where humans began, in the Garden of Eden.
How can anyone believe any science that belittles the Bible story of life? If they do, they have put themselves in jeopardy to receive God’s salvation at death.
Why must atheists get their way and remove God from our lives? The majority of people in the world believe God created life and not that humans evolved. Somewhere, sometime those that will not stop teaching the lie of evolution will pay for their error in judgment.
Charles Sykes
 What followed in the comments thread can only be described as a good old-fashioned forum style flamewar.  The sad news: there are more creationists reading the BDN than I'd previously thought.  The good news: there are also more rational thinkers reading the BDN (who don't take such things lying down) than I'd previously thought as well.