They Lack Simple Human Decency

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to vote in an online poll thereby skewing the expected results of the organization that hosted the poll. The group that hosted it, the Minnesota Family Council, asked whether same sex marriage ought to be legal and I, along with many other people online, voted that it should be. This is, of course, despite the stated goals of this group.

Side note: I resent the fact that so many organizations that use the word “family” in their names teach hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, and scare tactics, which are most certainly not values I teach my children.

The cost of voting in the MFC’s poll, was my email address, and I have been receiving emails from them with some regularity ever since. In recent years, as same sex marriage has become legal throughout most of the United States (and with cautious optimism that the Supreme Court later this month will overturn the remaining laws later this month), they have shifted their rhetoric to opposition of other worthwhile topics, such as transgender rights, legalization of marijuana, and surrogate motherhood.

About a week ago, on June 11, 2015, I received an email that solidifies the notion that the people who communicate on behalf of their organization, have absolutely no human decency or any compassion. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: if the ideas they express are in any way reflective of mainstream Christianity, I can not possibly ever picture myself calling myself a Christian.

The email exists on their website, and I recommend that you read it here.

(Note that this came out before the Rachel Dolezal scandal, and they have since sent out a mea culpa not knowing that transracial is a thing.

But even before we get to their hypothesizing about other “trans{blank}” attitudes, we can see how disgusting they really are.

Without even getting into the issues that the transgender community has to deal with, here’s a little thought experiment: whether we like it or not, society asks us all to play certain roles in our lives. Some of those roles are a result of the accident of our birth, others happen with the normal passage of time, and others still are ones we find ourselves playing by virtue of choices we actively make.

That explains how we are given the roles we play. How much we feel those roles fit who we really are can vary from one role to the next. And some of the roles we might even be bold enough to say don’t apply to us, despite society’s expectations.

As specifically pertains to gender, there are no shortage of expectations that society places upon those of us who are considered “male” and others for those considered “female”. Very few, if any, of us, meet all of these expectations without regard to the gender assigned at birth.

So can you really blame someone — anyone — who might identify primarily as the opposite gender?

So when the MFC says this:

The push for “transgender rights” is based on the false ideas that you can divorce your mind and feelings from your body, and that however you feel you are or should be–that’s what you really are, regardless of the physical reality. And you should receive social recognition, honor, and legal rights based on your perception of who you are.

Or when they say this:

All along the way people who disagree will see their religious freedom rights trampled upon, people who truly need compassionate help and counseling won’t receive it and instead face greater turmoil and in some cases even fatalities, and the privacy and legal rights of others will be taken advantage of.

Or when they offer this advice:

Stand firm on the Truth, and be ready to run towards the cultural, media, political, and societal bullets boldly sharing the Truth and Hope you have in Christ, in love. Our darkened culture needs the Light YOU have so fear not!

They’re demonstrating how repulsive they really are. The LGBT community has asked for little more than tolerance of the fact that they’re different from the mainstream.

Tolerance is an exceptionally low bar if you think about it. All it really takes to be tolerant of something is to acknowledge its existence and not try to wish it away. It’s not acceptance of the concept and certainly isn’t embracing the idea or the people seeking tolerance. And you certainly don’t have to like it or even agree with it.

When you tolerate people, really all they’re asking is that you not want to destroy them.

These people are so completely devoid of human decency, it makes me angry. People can be excused for not understanding some ideas and concepts when they’re far enough outside of our own experience. But when the information becomes available to them and they cling to what they thought they understood, that’s when they need to be cut loose.

I’m glad I get those emails. It reminds me that there are truly awful people out there. And however much I’m reluctant to use the word, maybe even “evil” might be appropriate for — if not them, then at least their attitudes.

But I will be shocked if they ever take a position with which I agree.

Don’t Go to Cold Stone Creamery!!!

I will never go into a Cold Stone Creamery again. After I explain to you the horrible customer service experience I had with them, I hope you’ll do the same.

Before I get started, I should explain that I don’t like nuts. I like peanuts (which, you don’t need to lecture me, are not really nuts) but that’s about it. I’m not allergic like some people, but you won’t find me eating them all the same…

One more thing that is important to understand here is the layout of the Cold Stone Creamery nearest to my house. There is a long (maybe 20-feet long) counter that, as you walk in, you will pass the cash register, then comes the containers of the different add-ins and then, at the far end of the counter is the different flavors of ice cream.

When I went into the local store this past Wednesday night (June 3, 2015), there was no one else there, so I quickly walked to the back of the store and started staring at the choices amongst the ice creams, alternately looking at the choices and the board behind the counter that lists all of their recommended choices and prices for the different sizes (Like It — approximately 5 oz; Love It — approximately 8 oz, or Gotta Have It — approximately 12 oz).

I made it clear that I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted, trying a couple of taste spoons of ice cream before finally saying that I guess I’ll have a hot fudge sundae with cherry vanilla ice cream.

The girl behind the counter didn’t ask me which size I wanted and proceeded to make my sundae. I naturally assumed she’d give me a “Love It” size.

Then she started to spoon in the nuts. I immediately stopped her and said, “No nuts!”

She stared at me as though I was asking her to go out and milk a cow and churn the ice cream herself. Not only did she not ask me if I wanted nuts in the first place (the answer was an obvious “no”), but she also didn’t have a clue what to do next.

I asked her why she gave me the nuts and she pointed to a sign about midway down the counter which I hadn’t seen until that point, which had pictures of their classic cups — including a hot fudge sundae — and whose pictures contained nuts.

I ended up giving her a choice between scooping out the nuts — indicating via tone of voice that this was not the preferred option — or to make me a new sundae with no nuts.

She scooped out most of the nuts, put some whipped cream on top of it, and gave me about 3/4 of a sundae. I didn’t expect a cherry because she was so flustered and I didn’t specifically ask for it. Then she charged me $5.99 (plus PA sales tax) for the sundae, which was significantly more expensive than the “Love It” sizes of other frozen concoctions.

The experience I had ordering the sundae made it one of the worst sundaes I’ve ever had. And I occasionally spit out the nuts that the cashier couldn’t possibly have reached.

So I ate my ice cream, found the toll-free customer inquiry line on a sign in the store, and walked out.

I’m not sure the door had fully closed behind me when I called their customer service number. I related my story to the representative who took my call, and gave my email address and phone number and said that someone would get back to me. I wasn’t in a position to take down the inquiry number so the representative said she would email me with the details of their review.

I made it clear that the issue with the nuts is actually a safety issue. Forget me for a minute: what about customers who have allergies? Surely it’s wrong to assume that everyone who orders something will want the nuts — or anything else for that matter.

The following day, when I still hadn’t received an email, I called again and asked why. The representative I spoke with said that as a matter of policy, they don’t email in response. So I’m not sure if my email address is about to get spammed from Cold Stone or their affiliates.

I received a call back today in response to my complaint. The person I spoke with thanked me and said that they were going to start asking if people want nuts on their classic sundaes. I guess that’s good.

But then she went on to say that customers who order hot fudge sundaes expect that they’ll get what was pictured on the sign that I hadn’t seen until the girl pointed it out to me, and that the price is fixed at $5.99, and that it would be wrong to start asking customers who order hot fudge sundaes what else they want on it, because that’s what a customer expects.

I mentioned that if I went into a Friendly’s or other ice cream shop and ordered a hot fudge sundae, they’d ask what else (other than ice cream and hot fudge) I wanted.

The rep I spoke with today doubled down on her assertion that she shouldn’t do that. I said that she was acting as though her company had somehow trademarked the idea of a hot fudge sundae and she immediately responded by telling me that a trademark is a legal use of the name.

I stopped her and said that I know what a trademark is.

She reiterated that she would not instruct her staff to do anything other than ensure that the person who orders a classic sundae, knows that they want nuts but won’t validate what else the person does or doesn’t want, because that somehow is unfair to the people who go into the store and expect whatever on their sundaes.

No apology, no offer of a refund of the cost of my sundae, no coupons, nothing. So I told her that if she’s saying what I think she’s saying, then I’ll never go into a Cold Stone Creamery again.

At the end, she thanked me for my comments and added a procedure associated with the nuts but it stopped there.

So I’m going to keep my word: I’m never going into a Cold Stone Creamery again. And now I’ve decided to blog about it and share my horrible customer service experience with them. My advice? If you read these words, you should share this with your friends and never go there either….

The fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

I have a love/hate relationship with the death penalty. I have blogged about this point before. In its 1972 ruling Furman v Georgia, the US Supreme Court effectively banned all executions but reinstated them in 1977 with Gregg V Georgia. It might seem strange to say this, but the court was correct in both cases: in Furman, the question was about whether it’s right to execute someone, while in Gregg the question was about whether it’s consistent with the constitution.

And, to repeat my Politics of Death essay, yeah, it’s not wrong to execute certain criminals. Just like the fact that we simply don’t have to execute anyone. The arguments against the death penalty are much more compelling than the arguments for it. I honestly don’t know what message we’re trying to convey when we say that we want to execute a particular criminal.

It’s kind of like spanking an unruly child. A last resort and probably one that should be avoided as much as possible, but can we honestly say that we should never, under any circumstances, do it?

I’ll even admit it: there are some people throughout history who, in my opinion, deserved to be executed for their crimes. And I can even think of at last one person who was sentenced to death for their crimes, and I applauded the original sentencing despite it having been later overturned.

But I do believe that just because it’s legal for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for some criminals, the decision to hand it down should be a bit more stringent. I’ll never complain when a jury hands down life imprisonment instead of death, as has happened with some really horrible people.

So that’s why I have a lot to wrestle with now that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been found guilty on all 30 counts against him in the Boston Marathon bombing. It would be a very different story if his brother, Tamerlan, had survived to see his own trial. But the truth is, I don’t know if he should be executed.

It’s not uncommon that, when a defense attorney seeks to save his or her client from the death penalty that the prosecution is seeking (after a guilty verdict has been handed down), the argument about a that person’s childhood might come up. And, admittedly it’s a popular technique specifically because it works. At least some of the time.

As soon as we learned the name Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the fact that he was born in 1993, it was clear to me that he was named in honor of Dudayev, the leader of the Chechen separatists in their civil war with Russia. Dudayev could accurately be labeled a terrorist by most standards. So it certainly is an interesting observation.

But even beyond that speculation, the more interesting point is that Dzhokhar is a younger brother, who seems like he wanted to do just about anything to make his older brother happy. It’s an interesting dynamic between two brothers, and I, as a younger brother understand this from the same perspective as Dzhokhar. I see it in my two sons, too. It’s a similar dynamic that dictated the reluctance of David Kaczynski to reveal to authorities that he believed his brother was the Unabomber.

If you’re a younger brother, it’s common to want to seek the approval of your older brother, and it’s very easy to see how Dzhokhar might have done the horrible things he did, because Tamerlan wanted it so. And a lack of desire to speak up to his brother, only enabled it.

So yes, Dzhokhar was capable of making his own decisions and he made some pretty horrible ones. I just don’t know what the right punishment ought to be. Tamerlan, had he lived long enough to be convicted, would deserve the death penalty. Dzhokhar? I’m not so sure.

But then again, if we do decide we want to execute him, the question bears asking, why?

Just like everyone else we might want to put to death for their crimes.

Two Stars for Home

A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to take my kids to see a sneak preview for the new animated movie, Home.  A couple of days later, I received an email asking me to rate it.  I wrote a short review there (and was limited for space reasons) and gave the movie two stars.  I’m using this blog entry to write a longer, more detailed review of it.  

  

I make no secret of the fact that I generally don’t do 3D movies.  The technology behind them requires having two eyes whose relative vision are at least moderately close to each other, so my vision — my right eye is significantly worse than my left — puts me outside of the audience for which 3D currently satisfies.  But I’m willing to put aside this general distaste, especially when I’m not paying additional money for the tickets.  And, despite my vision issues, I can at least recognize those scenes where it’s supposed to be in 3D. 

Home is one of those movies where the 3D is completely unnecessary.  There was a very small number of scenes (fewer than five) where the 3D makes a difference over standard 2D film, the longest running of which followed a cat through a house.  Anyone who regards 3D movies as little more than an unnecessary gimmick designed not to improve film quality but instead to drive up ticket prices, will have his or her perception reinforced by this movie. 

But 3D or not, I’d like to talk about the movie itself.  My kids absolutely loved it.  A good kids movie also has a second layer that adults can appreciate as well, and there’s no shortage of movies in recent years that do this.  This movie is not one of those movies.  

In this movie, we’re introduced to an alien species called the Boov, and the main character who’s known as “Oh,” so named because that’s what everyone says when he tries to engage them in even the most basic of conversation. It’s hard to tell because so much of the film is shown from Oh’s point of view, but all outward appearances indicate that the Boov are somehow simultaneously social and antisocial creatures.  I’m no sociologist, but somehow this species has managed to survive long enough to figure out space travel, a fact that I still can’t figure out how it could possibly happen.  

Not that I can fault them for being antisocial.  The producers picked voice talent for the entire Boov race, that is either naturally annoying or very good at putting on an annoying voice.  Oh is voiced by Jim Parsons of the The Big Bang theory, a TV show I have never watched.  If his voice in that show is as cloying as in the movie, I’m glad I’ve never watched it.  Steve Martin, as the leader of the Boov, is equally annoying. 

But that doesn’t help the viewers gain sympathy for the Boov, even ones we’re supposed to like.  They come to earth to escape another alien race, the Gorg, at which point, they kidnap all humans and relocate us to Australia so they can live everywhere else.  Somehow they miss Tip (voiced by Rihanna) because she’s got a cat on her head.  Yeah, that doesn’t make sense either.  

Tip and Oh have a chance encounter and she forces him to take her to her mother.  It was cute the way Oh continually spoke of meeting “my mom” because that’s what Tip called her, but that’s one of the few bright spots in an otherwise uninspired, derivative, and thoroughly predictable script.  

The animation was solid.  I can’t point to anything in the animation that stood out, technologically.  I have said before that I think a lot of computer animation these days is an attempt to push the limits of what’s technically possible.  I didn’t see anything that pushed any new boundaries but I don’t think that this is what the producers are going for.  

In the end, this is a very mediocre movie.  A couple of nice laughs, but a generally uninspired script that follows a standard formula that has been shown to work in the past.  I might be a bit hardened because I’ve come to expect more from kids movies, but that’s all I’ve got to say.  My kids liked it, though, so that’s not too bad a thing, is it?

Greatest Songs, Again

I just noticed that I never wrote a follow-up to my blog post last August about last October’s fan-voted musical countdown on WXPN.

To summarize last October’s countdown, the theme was a revisiting of the 885 greatest songs of all time (same as ten years previous).

To nobody’s surprise, “Thunder Road” came in at number one. Again. Of the ten songs I voted for in the countdown, I kept three from a decade before. None of those three made the final countdown. Of the other seven, one of my votes did get played (“This Woman’s Work”, by Kate Bush).

We also voted for five songs to rank among the worst, played back in an 88-song countdown. None of the songs I voted for made the 88-song countdown, but “Roxanne” did make the best-of list. Unfortunately. Not that I’m disagreeing about “We Built This City” by Starship being the worst song of all time.

(And, now that it’s known, another song that I voted for as among the worst, “Everything Is Awesome” from the Lego Movie, got nominated for best song at the Oscars. Thankfully it lost. In fact, I’m also thankful that I started watching the Oscars late enough that I was able to fast forward through the performance of that song…)

So here’s the grid of all of the countdowns to this point. I’m not counting the worst songs countdown.

Year Topic What I voted For How many of my items made the list?
2004 Greatest Songs
  1. “Fallen Icons,” by Delerium
  2. “Idol,” by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Wicked Little Town,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  4. “Chimes of Freedom,” by Bob Dylan
  5. “Sniper,” by Harry Chapin
  6. “My Mistake,” by Marvin Gaye
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “I Don’t Like Mondays,” by the Boomtown Rats
  9. “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” by Tori Amos
  10. “Hard to Handle,” by Otis Redding
None of them
2005 Greatest Albums
  1. Emmet Swimming — Wake
  2. Poe — Haunted
  3. Harry Chapin — Danceband on the Titanic
  4. Phil Ochs — In Concert
  5. Delerium — Poem
  6. Beth Orton — Trailer Park
  7. Tori Amos — Under the Pink
  8. Nine Inch Nails — The Downward Spiral
  9. John Lennon — Plastic Ono Band
  10. R.E.M. — Lifes rich pageanT
Five (Poe, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, John Lennon, and R.E.M.)
2006 Greatest Artists
  1. Harry Chapin
  2. Tori Amos
  3. Delerium
  4. Phil Ochs
  5. Nine Inch Nails
  6. Portishead
  7. Idina Menzel
  8. Emmet Swimming
  9. Jen Chapin
  10. R.E.M.
  11. Marvin Gaye
  12. Def Leppard
  13. Alice in Chains
  14. The Who
  15. John Lennon
  16. Lennon Murphy
  17. Sarah McLachlan
  18. Hungry Lucy
  19. Hole
  20. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Thirteen

(Harry Chapin, Tori Amos, Phil Ochs,
Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, R.E.M.,
Marvin Gaye, Def Leppard, Alice in Chains,
The Who, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan,
and “Weird Al” Yankovic)
2007 Most Memorable Musical Moments I didn’t vote N/A
2008 Essential XPN songs I didn’t vote N/A
2009 Desert Island Songs
  1. “The Blue Tree,” by Silverman
  2. “There Only Was One Choice,” by Harry Chapin
  3. “Don’t Follow,” by Alice in Chains
  4. “Wolves,” by Josh Ritter
  5. “Bus Mall,” by the Decemberists
  6. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “Crucifixion,” by Phil Ochs
  9. “Crushing,” by Tapping the Vein
  10. “I Am the Walrus,” by the Beatles
1 (“I Am the Walrus”)
2010 Road Trip Songs
  1. “Daylight,” by Delerium
  2. “Out Here at Sea”, by Karen Kosowski (this includes the untitled hidden track after this song on the album
  3. “Glory Girl,” by Amanda Ghost
  4. “Danceband on the Titanic,” by Harry Chapin
  5. “Gimme Shelter,” by the Rolling Stones
  6. “River,” by Jen Chapin
  7. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  8. “Float Away,” by Marah
  9. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” by Sufjan Stevens
  10. “Idiot Wind,” by Bob Dylan
1 (“Gimme Shelter”)
2011 World Cafe Artists I didn’t vote, although I vaguely remember doing something about Fisher’s performance N/A
2012 Greatest Rock Songs
  1. “Love, Reign O’er Me,” by The Who
  2. “Filthy Mind”, by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Holiday,” by Green Day
  4. “Coma White,” by Marilyn Manson
  5. “Change (In the House of Flies),” by the Deftones
  6. “Breathing,” by Kate Bush
  7. “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company
  8. “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon
  9. “Crazy on You,” by Heart
  10. “No One Like You,” by the Scorpions
4 (“Instant Karma!”,
“Crazy On You”, “Piece of My Heart”,
and “Love Reign O’er Me”)
2013 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium
  1. “Love & Bandaids”, by Karen Kosowski
  2. “Confessions”, by Tim Minchin
  3. “Heaven Must Be Boring”, by George Hrab
  4. “Hurry Up Sky”, by Jen Chapin
  5. “Sing”, by the Dresden Dolls
  6. “When the War Came”, by the Decemberists
  7. “Gravity”, by Vienna Teng
  8. “Hasa Diga Eebowai”, from The Book of Mormon
  9. “Breathe Me”, by Sia
  10. “Float Away”, by Marah
1 (“Breathe Me”)
2014 Greatest Songs (again)
  1. ”When I’m Gone”, by Phil Ochs
  2. ”Swan Swan H”, by R.E.M.
  3. ”River”, by Jen Chapin
  4. ”hurt”, by Nine Inch Nails
  5. ”This Woman’s Work”, by Kate Bush
  6. ”Caught a Lite Sneeze”, by Tori Amos
  7. ”Serpents”, by Sharon Van Etten
  8. ”Sniper”, by Harry Chapin
  9. ”Haunted”, by Charlotte Martin
  10. ”Everything Alive Will Die Someday”, by George Hrab
1 (“This Woman’s Work”)

Do We Trust In God?

In Walt Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the python Kaa attempts to hypnotize Mowgli, thereby turning the boy into a meal fit for a snake. As he brings the boy into a deep trance, he sings “Trust in Me” in order to (at least try to) facilitate in Mowgli’s destruction.

I think of that song every time there’s a news report regarding the national motto of the United States, “In God We Trust.” In recent years, we have seen the 2011 congressional reaffirmation of the motto, the 2014 bill in the Pennsylvania assembly that would mandate its placement in every school and classroom in the commonwealth, and various town councils wishing to display the motto in their meeting halls. (Nikki Moungo of Ballwin, Missouri, recently convinced the town not to post such a sign.)

The bigger question at hand, though, is the meaning of the phrase itself. Let’s start with the obvious question: why the word order? We could also say, “We trust in God” to achieve the same net result. The answer is simple enough: poetry. The phrase appears in the fourth verse of the poem, The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key. Since the poem uses the phrase that way (even calling it a motto), that’s how we’ve known it ever since.

Side note: President James Madison, after he retired, lamented declaring a national day of prayer during the height of the War of 1812 on constitutional grounds. That makes it exceptionally ironic that this phrase as our motto can date to the same war.

There’s an interesting difference between saying “trust me” (or “trust someone”) and saying “trust in me” (or someone). If you say you trust me (or don’t trust me), you’re making a subjective statement, basically covering how honest a person you think I am. If you trust in someone, it’s more objective: you both think and expect that they will do the right thing; when the time comes that he or she might have to make an important decision, that they’ll make the choice that benefits you.

When you trust someone, you expect either honesty or an explanation for violating your trust. When you trust in someone, the betrayal is more palpable when they don’t live up to your expectations.

It doesn’t matter whether or not the god of the bible exists (but that is the god in which we trust according to the motto adopted in 1956). But this attitude can be quite dangerous and counterproductive when it comes to effecting real changes to secular policy. Recently Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), for example, blocked passage of reforms intended to curtail the threat posed by anthropogenic climate change because he doesn’t feel that God would allow such dramatic changes in climate to happen in the first place. Who knows how often improvements at a local, state, or federal level get impeded because someone in power feels that it goes against god’s plan?

Can we truly trust in God? Maybe, but we need to be mindful of the snake with the hypnotic eyes who really just wants to lead us to his dinner plate.

Let’s Count the Logical Fallacies!

About a month ago, I happened upon the Facebook page for the Institute for Creation Research, a young-earth creationist group that, along with groups like Answers in Genesis apparently believes that the average American IQ is just too damn high.

When I found that page, it gave me the opportunity to write a review their site / page, and I thought I was more than generous when I gave them one (out of five) star. My actual review was as follows:

It makes me sad when I see valuable financial and intellectual resources being wasted trying to either prove the unprovable, or trying to disprove reality as it actually exists. The anti-intellectualism exhibited by this group is little more than self-serving autofellatio that should be relegated to the dustbin of antiquated ideas and concepts.

Note that I wrote this review on the spur of the moment but I think it pretty accurately encapsulates what I think of their organization.

As I write these words, there have been a total of 643 public ratings of the ICR; mine is one of 103 1-star reviews. When weighted against the 485 5-star reviews, 30 4-star’s, 15 3-stars, and 10 2-stars, the average rating of this group is the appallingly high 4.2.

So it’s fair to say that my views are in the minority, at least on this Facebook page. It therefore shouldn’t be much of a surprise, then, that most of the comments received on my review, have disagreed with my perspective. Surprisingly, the reference to autofellatio in my review really hasn’t been (much) of a sticking point.

I would like to take some of the more interesting comments I’ve gotten, quote them verbatim (other than redacting the names of the posters and/or others they might have engaged in dialogue as a part of my posting), and address their arguments in this blog posting. Depending upon what might come up with future responses to my review, this could be the first of many blog entries. Who knows?

So, without further ado…

Actually Jim, it doesn’t require a lot of finances or intellectual resource to prove the existence of God. In fact, the existence of God can be proven with only one word…Israel.

I’m going to ignore the subtle anti-Semitism that I inferred from this comment. The geopolitical boundaries of any nation-state, even those whose borders might be in dispute (and without regard to which other countries recognize those geopolitical boundaries) are a human construct, pure and simple. There may be some who might argue against the rationale for the existence of any given nation and/or for modifying those current boundaries, but those, just like the processes that created those boundaries in the first place, is the work of men and women, pure and simple. No gods required or even expected.

Failure to recognize that for life’s complex order and design that there must be a Creator, is an obvious closed minded attitude that lacks the simplest acknowledgement or attempt at logic. I pray God will soften your hearts and open your eyes to this obvious reality. Whatever the reason for dismissing a God who loves you, is an attempt at holding on to the sinful ways of your existing life and failure at taking accountability for your own actions. I pray that you all will find your way home to our God’s open and loving arms. God bless!

Life is a lot of things, that much is true. It’s messy, dirty, and, quite frankly, pretty amazing. Yes, life is complex, but it’s not really very orderly and although it exhibits the appearance of design, that’s not the same as saying that it was designed. It doesn’t need a creator and that creator certainly doesn’t need to be capitalized. Natural selection is more than sufficient to explain this, as countless studies have confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt.

Additionally, what does it mean to “pray [that your] god will soften [my] heart… and open [my] eyes to this obvious reality.” This is something that keeps recurring in other comments so I’m going to say this now. There are two things that far too many Christians tend to do, both of which are far too detrimental to their greater cause. I am not, have never been, and cannot possibly imagine myself deciding to become a Christian if the faith even remotely requires either of the following attitudes:
— Focussing heavily on a story of appalling brutality and human sacrifice. A little bit over two years ago now I blogged about this very point
— Disguising their arrogance behind the mask of a false mask of humility. Don’t you love the subtle dig at me and people who don’t fall in lockstep with this writer’s attitude in the above quote? This writer wishes the best towards me and other posters who’ve agreed with me, eagerly awaiting the day when his Weltanschauung is somehow validated despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

Note that someone who agrees with me took that quote above and pointed out, accurately, that even if his presumption of a creator were true, that in no way means that the creator must be the Christian god. That person responded to their response and said this:

‘re free to have your own opinion and I respect that. Your statement is wrong, but I know what you mean. There hasn’t been thousands of Gods, just thousands of idols worshipped by those who are lost and haven’t been yet found. There is only one God and he’s not just mine but everyone’s. Something our God has given to us is the gift of free will. Even if our free will brings us to our demise. I’ll pray for you it doesn’t. If there’s no guarantee then what does it hurt to follow the doctrine of a loving God and the example Jesus Christ has set forth to us to emulate? Nothing. But what does it hurt to ignore our God and Father and turn our backs to him and keep living in sin? Everything. I’ll pray for you. God bless you brother.

Again we see more of that arrogance masquerading as humility. We can trace the evolution of belief systems at least as far back as human writings, and, knowing how different gods and goddesses carried over from one faith tradition to another, it’s a pretty safe bet that very little of the Bible, is completely original. It’s almost all universally borrowed from older texts and even the most remedial studies of the history of religion demonstrate this. To somehow think that your one particular religion is the only true one and all of the others, past and present, are fake, nonsensical, or otherwise misleading… man, talk about hubris.

Anyway, moving on…

If you say that Michele Anglo is not a real person, only a myth, the Sistine Chapels’ celling is a great mystery, and the statue of David, a great miracle.

This one just plain doesn’t make sense. No one argues that those works of art weren’t made by people. There’s no shortage of works of art that have some religious overtones. This is at least partially because churches paid money to the artists in the first place.

Stringing together cliches and ad hominems does not certify YOUR intellect. Real science isn’t about closing doors that might lead to a conclusion you have precluded for purely emotional and/or philosophical reasons, adamantly refusing to consider alternative explanations simply because you don’t want them to be true. Quit pretending to have a monopoly on reality. It doesn’t lend itself to intellectual credibility.

(Note that this one was directed straight at me after quoting select portions of my review above…)

Interestingly, I never said anywhere in my review that I don’t believe in the supernatural (even though I don’t). The accusations of ad hominem attacks fascinate me the most. Let’s back up and talk about what science is and is not. This commenter is correct that real science isn’t about closing doors that might lead to a preconceived conclusion. The whole of science is dedicated to demonstrating inaccuracies of other people’s hypotheses and not being afraid to follow the evidence where it leads, even if the place you end up isn’t where you expected to go or even where you wanted to go.

I am not a biologist or even a professional scientist. But I am sufficiently well-read on the topic of evolution to know that the theory of evolution is as close as you can come to established fact within the sciences. There may still be a few open debates about certain processes within evolutionary theory but I’m not qualified to be a part of those debates because, as I said, I’m not a scientist. It is therefore not an ad hominem attack to point out that those who attempt to rebut the most basic points of evolutionary theory (or worse, set up strawman arguments for what the ToE actually says, in order to rebut them), are wasting time, money, energy, and brainpower in their endeavors. If anything, it’s doing them a favor by suggesting that their efforts are better placed elsewhere.

I find it curious that I’m writing this after I saw a news article on Andrew Wakefield earlier this week. For those who either don’t recognize his name or recognize it but can’t place it (and don’t feel like following the link to Wikipedia I just posted, he’s the disgraced scientist who first wrote that vaccines cause autism in young children. The study he conducted to support this thesis serves an example of horrible scientific methodology start to finish and it was thoroughly debunked. Now I can forgive any scientist for conducting a bad study. It’s not an easy job and it can be more than a little bit tempting to cut corners. What I can’t forgive is what he did next: when his study was found to be flawed, he doubled-down and went after those who pointed out the flaws. Earlier this week, he was denied standing to sue for damages from those who debunked his study. So if he were to publish some other study, especially on the topic of vaccines, I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t pay attention to the study on the grounds that it has his name on it. That might be an ad hominem attack, but it’s also because his history is so well documented.

That brings me to the last comment I’ve received thus far on my review. I strongly recommend not drinking anything as you read this, unless you want to risk it coming out of your nose and possibly damaging your computer:

It can be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt that God the Creator exists, that the Bible is true, that alleged Bible self-contradictions melt away when historical context and chronology (when alleged contradicting passages were first written) are taken into account, that the Biblical history of Israel is the true and reliable history of Israel, and that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah who will one day return to rule this physical earth. More than one student and practioner of law has tried to prove the Bible false by using court of law (beyond a reasonable doubt) rules, and ended up becoming Christians instead. 2 of the most famous in the 20th century were Frank Morrison-author of Who Moved The Stone and Josh McDowell-author of Evidence That Demands A Verdict and More Evidence That Demands A Verdict. My main point is this: God hasn’t told us everything, but he has told us enough, so that unbelief is unreasonable. Believe me, I was not raised in church and used to be agnostic and or atheistic, so I know what I’m talking about. God has provided enough rope, so that if we “hang ourselves” by being unbelievers it is our own fault. I used to disbelieve because I accepted evolution over creation because Astronomy is my favorite hobby and Astronomy is ruled by the evolutionary thinking of the masses. You guys should understand what I am saying because I know you are smart.

I admit it, I’ve tried several times to count the sheer number of logical fallacies in this word salad, and I’ve lost track every time. The most glaring are the arguments from false authority and personal experience, with a little bit of goalpost shifting, false equivalency, and the argument from ignorance. So where do you begin with this one.

I’d start with the court of law analogy, I suppose. In a court of law, person A might accuse person B of having committed a given crime. In short hand, person A might say “He did it!” while person B responds with “No I didn’t!” The fact that person B is innocent until proven guilty means that, unless we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that person B is lying, we have to assume he’s not. If we extend this logic to the question of the existence of any given god of any religious tradition, person A is saying “This god exists” while person be is saying “No it doesn’t!” The burden of proof lies with the person making the statement in the affirmative, not with the person making the statement in the negative. If you need any more evidence that this is the right way to go, I recommend that you look up Russell’s Teapot, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even the Crumple-Horned Snorkack. And then tell me that you can be absolutely certain that none of these things really exists.

What about the predictions of the Jewish Messiah from the Torah to the New Testament? When one book predicts something that’ll be reported in another book, that more likely tells me that they’re separate works in the same greater canon. Kind of like how Lord Voldemort learned of a prophecy and chose Harry Potter to be “marked as his equal” and thus be the chosen one. But no one thinks that events predicted in the earlier Harry Potter books that actually happened in the latter ones, makes them any less fictitious.

(And besides, not everything that the Messiah was supposed to do, according to the book of Ezekiel, were reportedly done by Jesus in any of the gospels…)

Then we’ve got the writings of Frank Morison (note the tpyo in the quote above; if you’ve never heard of Frank Morison or his book, it’s only one R. Frank Morison was the pseudonym of Albert Henry Ross) and Josh McDowell. Just because two people came to that conclusion doesn’t mean that theirs is the consensus conclusion of others who’ve observed the same evidence. Both of them seem to delve pretty heavily into presuppositional apologetics. I’m a little bit too tired to get into the full flaw of this particular argument for the existence of god, and others who are far better at debating this than I am, have already done the necessary gruntwork. But the link provided here to the Iron Chariots Wiki is a great resource for debunking most apologetics’ claims of the existence of god. And it’s a site I enjoy reading when I have the time.

This commenter then went on to say “I was not raised in church and used to be agnostic and or atheistic, so I know what I’m talking about.” Actually, no you don’t. As I said before, I wasn’t raised in a Christian household and yet, somehow, I understand Christianity better than you do. When Greta Christina wrote her book on Why Are Atheists So Angry, one of the most important ones is the fact that atheists have to know the bible better than their faithful counterparts. And she was right.

The most interesting thing about these comments, I think, is that all of them presume that I don’t believe in any gods, that I’m somehow misled or misinformed, and that I’ve turned my back on their god.

I guess they don’t realize, then, that I proved the existence of god in a blog entry nearly a year and a half ago…

I guess the only real question that needs to be asked, is whether or not there will be a need for a second blog entry to address as-yet-unposted comments. Let’s wait and see…