Thursday, April 30, 2009

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design: An idea whose very name proves there is a God, and that He is hilarious

Originally, I was just going to start this post with "Creationism is fucking retarded," but decided that maybe I was being a little unfair. There’s no reason that someone can’t believe that the earth was created in six days, or that dinosaurs may have existed at the same time as humans, or even just that humans have no relationship whatsoever to monkeys — no, that’s cool, enjoy believing that... just as long as I’m allowed to believe that my overdeveloped leg muscles permit me to run through time, solving mysteries and helping the lonely find love. Worship however you like.

The part that pains me in the pants is where people want to refer to their religious beliefs as "science," and teach the things they believe in our public school science classes. That shit burns me up — at a time when we’re singing the blues about China’s and India’s industrial and technological ascent, and the bleeding off of our jobs to foreign countries, a time when we are as a country so completely undereducated — we’re now officially trying to teach less science in science classes. That way, high school graduates will know — and care - about less shit than ever before.

Read about the Kansas department of education hearings. They are actually debating whether or not science classes should include "alternatives" to evolution that "look at all the evidence," and let the "chips fall where they may." I put these snippets in "quotes," because "all" of them were "actually said by people."

Yes yes, it’s so completely unfair. We are being persecuted, they wail. Asshole scientists, elitists who require observation and the gathering of evidence in order to prove their outrageous theories, are pissed at the notion of introducing pure, 200 proof fairy-tale bullshit into their science courses and have had no choice but to unleash stinging clouds of unbridled facts into the faces of their adversaries.

OK seriously though — Intelligent Design? Did you really think that people would let you get away with this shit? "Oh, it’s not creationism, see, it’s Intelligent Design, which is different on account of the words in the name." Listen, I’m not saying it’s insane to want to talk about creation, at least not in the same way that chocolate-covered calamari would be insane; but I am saying that philosophy is more the venue for this. Right? It’s the only wide open place for discussions about how it all started, why we’re all here, and how you are responsible for the murder if you witness it and don’t prevent it and modus motherfuckin’ ponens. But not in the science classes, dammit, because you can’t prove a single fucking thing about Creationism, and public school science is supposed to teach kids how to learn about their world through observation and gathering evidence.

And don’t even fucking try and throw the Founding Fathers at me either (In these Church/State arguments, The Founding Fathers are like a pistol sitting on a bar stool between two opponents, each of them flailing to grab it before the other one does), because I own you with that shit. This is so clearly one of the main reasons the Founding Fathers would have pressed for church/state separation; too many of them had a notion of what it was like to be on the ass end of the official State church, and would want there to be as little endorsement or incorporation of faith in government as possible.

Anyway, I get pretty pissed off about it. You should read a little bit about this, it’ll piss you off too. Read both sides — science and creationism – see if you notice anything different about how the two sides argue. One side requires that claims be backed up with evidence while the other side requires belief; creationists attempt to divert debates away from arguing points of evidence, instead appealing to emotional and philosophical triggers. And in some places, unbelievably, that has provent to be an effective way to subvert public policy.

Michigan is looking to pass a law that allows doctors to refuse treatment to someone because they are gay. Some nice pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception. Where do these people get the sac to disgrace their professions, take away the ability of adult citizens to decide about their own lives and then run away from the tougher, more mature ethical responsibilities that someone with their job carries? Faith, that’s where.

Despite my ballbreaking, I really have nothing against the notion of God, religion, or spirituality. I have my own questions, and my own internal debate about matters of spirit and universe and all that fooferaw. The shit that scares me is the fact that people of extreme faith, people who need to take some aspects of their beliefs literally, are extremely easy people to manipulate and almost impossible to reason with. Sorry, but it’s true. Pat Robertson continuously says the most odious, hateful shit you are likely to hear on a mainstream news show. But so what? His viewers consider him to be the closest guy to God, so he knows he can say whatever the fuck and they’ll be right there on the couch where he left ‘em. People like Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, they don’t fuck around. They want as many people — poorly educated but deeply religious — as possible, and they’re working pretty hard at making "faith-based" society a reality.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins:

A delusion that encourages belief where there is no evidence is asking for trouble. Disagreements between incompatible beliefs cannot be settled by reasoned argument because reasoned argument is drummed out of those trained in religion from the cradle. Instead, disagreements are settled by other means which, in extreme cases, inevitably become violent. Scientists disagree among themselves but they never fight over their disagreements. They argue about evidence or go out and seek new evidence. Much the same is true of philosophers, historians and literary critics.

But you don’t do that if you just know your holy book is the God-written truth and the other guy knows that his incompatible scripture is too. People brought up to believe in faith and private revelation cannot be persuaded by evidence to change their minds. No wonder religious zealots throughout history have resorted to torture and execution, to crusades and jihads, to holy wars and purges and pogroms, to the Inquisition and the burning of witches.

[Note: I realize that the rambling, sputtering post above is a shabby example of dilapidated B’Afflesque prose, but I don’t care and I’m not changing it. ]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Peaceful coexistence with nature and the Earth

Why do these people always talk to me?

On my lunch break today I decided to take a quick ride to the stream to collect some small river-rocks and pebbles for my planted aquarium that I’m building for my dad. Unfortunately, the plant order I placed did not arrive before Father's Day, but it's not a big deal. The choice location is under a train track bridge, which usually does not get any foot traffic at all. But with some recent rain showers, the paved trail was muddy and a few people decided to bypass the trail via the riverbank. As I'm walking around looking for flat, round stones and pebbles with reddish hues, this guy walked up to me – sans shirt, with man-breast and spandex shorts - and asked what I was doing. Naturally, I told him about my little project. Then he started talking about how some construction company was taking truck loads of river rocks from the site for years until they were fined by the DNR. That's great you notice the small pebbles in my hand?

The conversation then began to open up when he asked about my job and he told me about his subscription to Mother Earth News. Keep in mind we're under a train track bridge and there're both metro and commercial trains going through. This guy continued to talk about how houses build these days aren't as good and about alternative building methods. When the next CSX train passed through, he switched conversation to how well train engineers were getting paid, and how the train company no longer has lookout towers to ensure everything is functioning properly – basically ends with his statement "that's why they have all these accident now...and terrorism". I failed to bring up the point on automation and computers. After a semi brief period of train talk he was back to construction and development. He started to relate weather into the topic of conversation. No doubt in my mind this guy meant well and was genuinely concerned about responsible environmental management, but he should've limited the conversation to only one topic. According to his prediction, there will be more severe storms in the near future, including a line of multiple tornadoes that will wipe out this area similar to what happened in Texas a while back. There was some pseudo-science thrown in his reasoning, but nothing groundbreaking or substantial. The images from that horrible movie Day After Tomorrow crept back into my head as he continued to explain tornadoes to me. According to that guy, the native American Indians must have been aliens and they were trying to impart their "religion' or belief in a peaceful coexistence with nature and the Earth because that was the only way change was to take place...through religion, no joke. Was that a run-on sentence? Anyway, I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to ease myself away from talking to this guy...mainly because he wasn't very good with maintaining personal space. I didn't really mind the crazy talk.

At some point he ran out of things to say about environmental catastrophes, and started talking about this awesome girl he met that he once knew twenty years ago. But, it turns out that she’s a stripper now and she doesn’t want to see him anymore because of her job. What do I say? "Daddy fugged up and now his little girl is dancing on a pole?" Except this dude is a 47-year old Italian and she is around 40. Thankfully, my Nextel radio beeped with an incoming call. Hurriedly, I told the guy I had to get back to work and he sped off jogging...breast flapping. Guess I have to get back to the stream tomorrow since I only collected a few rocks.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Experimental Ebola vaccine

So the Washington Post, in addition to boasting a slick new 20th Century-style Internet Homepage, also has the week's most unintentionally hilarious article. It seems that NIH has developed an experimental new Ebola vaccine; and although there are literally dozens of people in America, the National Institutes of Health have only been able to find TWO people willing to give it a test drive. I guess they are looking for an alternative to the old vaccine, which came in the form of a small metal tablet, or "bullet," that you would put into a gun -- the idea was that you would use it to shoot yourself in the brain, thus giving you a 100% effective defense against dying of Ebola.

But listen, I'm telling you, this article is brilliant from top to bottom. One of the two volunteers is a registered nurse (who has some of the best quotes in the article), and the other is a landscaper who basically had to be completely bullshitted in order to agree to coming in. The quotes are great -- from the doctors, who are all like "christ, it's just horrifying ebola hemmorhagic fever with a 70-90% mortality rate, i don't know why everyone freaks out about it so much," to the picture of one of the volunteers, who is looking at his newly-Ebolafied arm with an expression that says "I can not fucking believe i just did that. Welp, now I'm going to die." Oh -- and then there's my favorite part, where he discusses the consent form:

"There's nothing in there about 'You could end up bleeding to death,' " he said. "It's not like the polio vaccine," one version of which causes polio in rare cases instead of preventing it.

I'm laughing my ass off as I write this, and I can't imagine a reporter in the world who wouldn't be doing the same thing. This guy read the consent form, didn't see anything in it about a danger of exploding into a fine pink mist, so he was like "aiiight! Hook me up!" That is awesome. But if he had any sense of humor at all, he would have started faking symptoms within minutes of taking the know, like wiping his face with an olive oil-soaked rag, falling down, mashing a handful of maraschino cherries into his mouth, letting frothy drool spill down onto shirt, whatever, then leaping to his feet shouting "siiiike!!!"

Now I know this is question is going to produce a disgusted "uhh, doyyy" from anyone who has actual training in biology or virology, but how the hell do you test to see if the Ebola vaccine actually worked on the human subjects? Do you blast them in the face with a Super-Soaker filled with Ebola-fied seltzer? Do you give them one injection of Ebola vaccine, followed by an injection of Ebola? Or do you figure that if the vaccine doesn't kill them, then they're probably indestructible? I don't know, man. Leave me alone.