Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Bottlecaps Don't Die, They Kill

Check out the pictures here to see what happens to discarded plastic. It doesn't quickly dissolve, break down, or disperse into tiny little harmless particles. It kills baby birds (and other animals, too).

There is a place out in the ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is composed almost entirely of plastic waste products -- bottles, caps, fishing line, etc. But don't worry, most of the trash in it is small and already starting to fall apart. Of course, when plastic disintegrates, it can also release lots of nasty, poisonous and nefarious chemicals into the water.

But these baby albatrosses didn't get the chance to fly over the Garbage Patch and see the damage to their environment for themselves. Their parents inadvertently fed them junk food -- literally. You see, birds can't readily distinguish a colorful piece of plastic from a colorful bit of edible marine life, so many of these young birds were force-fed trash until their digestive systems clogged and they died. It's not the mama bird's fault -- it's ours.

All plastic is human produced. All plastic trash is human waste. So all those dead birds (and turtles, otters, fish, etc) are our responsibility. So, how much wildlife have you killed today?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Who says Supreme Court Justices need to be unbiased?

I always thought the nomination of Supreme Court Justices was supposed to be based on a record of fairness, clarity and intellect, and that they were lifetime appointments so that the partisanship of culture and politics would not color or sway their rulings.

Unfortunately, we aren't lucky enough to have a full nine justices meet those standards. One of them (at least) is an outright bigot and ignorant bastard. Check out this exchange over the perceived meaning of a cross:

Judge: The cross doesn't honor non-Christians who fought in the war?

Lawyer: A cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity, and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins.

Judge: It's erected as a war memorial! I assume it is erected in honor of all the war dead. The cross is the most common symbol of . . . of . . . of the resting place of the dead.

Lawyer: The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemetaries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.

Judge: I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead the cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion!

Now, that's one confused and bigoted judge. Seriously, he seems unconcerned that the symbol he's claiming represents "all war dead" is a specific religious icon of a specific faith group. It's like claiming that no one should mind if he refers to all soft drinks as "Cokes", not even the Pepsi people. Or that the McDonald's golden arches are a symbol of all fast food restaurants, and ignoring the outcries of dismay from the Burger King's and Dairy Queen's of the world.

If this was some hick country judge from a century ago, presiding over some menial court case in the backwoods of the Ozarks, I probably wouldn't mind too much. Clearly, in such a situation, the judge's comments would be buried in the onslaught of history and never see any higher illumination than a few brief seconds in his own tiny community.

Unfortunately, the brilliant jurist and profound pundit who spouted such inanity was none other than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Yup -- one of the nine most important people in the nation, who are tasked with determining the constitutionality of law, the judicious application of fairness, and the blind eye of justice. There have been many claims that the Justices appointed by Clinton (and now Obama) are, or will be in the future, "activist".

I'm sorry -- let me clean out my ears. I must have missed the massive hue and cry from the religious right as Justice Scalia just shat on the idea of equality under the law and separation of church and state.

I'm sure Justice Scalia wouldn't mind, since the clear intention (not!) of the cross is simply to honor the dead and not single out any particular sect, if upon his gravestone we emblazon the Islamic Crescent -- after all, it's simply a symbol of recognition and honor to one who has served his nation well. Right?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Comfort-less Introduction

I was informed a few days ago that Ray Comfort's new "introduction" to Darwin's On the Origin of Species was available online, so I went and looked at it.

Well, I wasted 20 minutes of my morning reading it (GAHHHH!!!!!! THE STUPID!!!!! IT BURNS!!!!!!eleventyone!!!!!!)

Actually, the first 8 pages aren't too bad as a historical summary of Darwin's life and publication record. It wasn't great (I've seen far better books and articles that recapitulate his life in far more detail and accuracy), but at least it wasn't completely off-kilter and full of lies. Unfortunately, I can't say that for the remaining 86% of the "introduction".

Seriously, Ray Comfort is an idiot. Not just a little bit, but a full-blown, off-the-charts, willfully stupid and arrogantly unintelligent idiot. He's been shown dozens of times the basics of evolution, and where his "ideas" about it are wrong, and yet he continues to bleat out this mangled, inept, not-even-wrong version of crap. And the whole Pascal's Wager bullshit over the last dozen or so pages (convienently rewritten as being pushed out of an airplane at 10,000 feet) is so overblown and underthought, that one would think Comfort's head would be enough to keep one afloat at that altitude (he's definitely got enough hot air, and he's sucked way too much helium for even a dozen people to survive).

I'll admit, when I got to the section labelled "His Famous Student", I was actually expecting something about Huxley or Dawkins or Gould. Then I realized it was just a series of out-of-context quotes. Then I had my own "Uhh....wait.....what?...." moment (quite literally, actually) when I realized after the second quote from Darwin that he switched to quoting Hitler. Ummm... Poe's Law, anyone? And of course, there's no mention anywhere of the quotes from Hitler praising God, proclaiming his devotion to Christianity, and his emphasis on doing "God's work" throughout his life. Gee -- selection bias, maybe?

At that point, I almost gave up. Actually, I almost threw up (uggh... don't you hate that burning, awful taste of puke rising in the back of your throat, especially when you manage to swallow it back down? YUCK!!), but I managed to keep from yacking on my keyboard, and kept reading. Lucky for me, I didn't drink myself stupid last night, Ray's next few pages felt like it crashed my IQ at least 20 points. I don't think I could have survived the loss of that many brain cells twice in 24 hours.

AAAACCCKKKK!!!!! PPPPBBTHHH!!!! (Damn! Now I'm quoting Bill the Cat. A sure sign I'm a few braincells short this morning. Thanks, Ray!)

The bludgeoning of the transition from bashing Darwin to shoving Pascal's Wager down the pipe is simply breathtaking in it's absence of logic and rationality. Absolutely guaranteed to cause your synapses to misfire (not just a few -- all of them). In fact, I'm not sure I can even manage to stand up now -- I'm that overwhelmed by the stupidity. I think I need a drink (maybe a dozen or two) to restore my sanity.

What a maroon! What a fool! What a waste of time. I tearfully regret that I won't be able to regain the time lost while reading this crap, and I hope my wife likes wiping up drool, because I'm not sure how functional my brain is going to be from now on. It really is that bad.

Chatting with Jim...

On a whim, I invited the theists who regularly post over at Bill Tammeus' blog to meet me last Saturday evening for a discussion about Richard Dawkins' latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth. I first announced I'd be there on Tuesday of last week, so that anyone wishing to show up would have plenty of time to schedule it. I even specifically invited the "Master Debater" Jim Christensen (or at least, I told the kids he mentors to invite him). Given the aggressive and offensive nature of the juveniles posting over there, I wasn't surprised to see vitriol and insults.

Clearly, just the thought of meeting an atheist is frightening and worrisome to the youngsters. So when polite invitations didn't work, I tried challenging their courage. As expected, they declined, as only cowards and fools will do. I predicted over there that only Jim would have the balls to show up - and sure enough, he was the only one who did. All the kiddies ran away to Lawrence, instead. (I have to wonder about the ethics of allowing teenagers to go to a college fraternity on a Saturday night). Ho, hum. Too bad they didn't show, maybe they would have learned something about tolerance, ethics and genial conversation.

As it was, there ended up being quite a lively crowd at Borders last Saturday. I really wasn't expecting much (again). Instead, when I arrived I saw Cole Morgan, Iggy Dybol and Greg Swartz sitting waiting for me. "Uh, oh." I thought. I worried that Jim wouldn't come over to our table with all four of us sitting there. Glad to see I needn't have been concerned. A few minutes after I sat down, I was tapped on the shoulder by the man himself, Jim Christensen. A quick round of introductions and a trip to the coffee bar (I bought Jim his first coffee, like I said I would), and the conversation took off.

Of course, I was hoping to focus more on Dawkins, and less on the theological arguments of atheism and belief. For better or worse, Iggy and Jim started to go astray almost from the start. I was impressed by some of the admissions and concessions that Jim made -- he's not a Young Earth Creationist, but a "Gap Theorist". He does accept most of evolutionary explanations, he just thinks there must be a "guiding force" (Star Wars Jedi Masters, perhaps?). While I tried several times to get the conversation back to evolution and the evidence from the book, it was futile. Jim and Iggy (and the rest of us, I'll admit) had too much of a good time arguing atheism vs. theism.

I do have to wonder, though. Jim made several comments about ethics and whether we thought it was right to be posting on a blog (Bill's) where perceived threats and offensive language were used. Of course, he didn't have much to say when I pointed out that his "kids", Adam and Will, were also on there and posting insults, personal attacks and slander. I guess being unethical only applies to atheists, because a good Christian can always ask forgiveness, right?