Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up” Part II

Don’t look now, but Jed’s antiquated sexism is showing. Sure, he spends some time trying to rebut this before the fact in a previous chapter in a section called “Politically Correct” but even that reeked of sniggering gesticulation (p. 106-107). Readers might as well re-title that entire section “We Saw What You Did There.” Jed basically goes on about how the Political Correctness movement (which actually has nothing to do with these labels) could get people wrongfully labeled as homophobic or sexist for showing disagreement with mainstream mores. Well, okay, we can see that. Disagree with affirmative action and possibly get wrongfully labeled a racist. Display old fashioned traditional sensibilities with women and potentially get called sexist.

Many girls walk around campus braless and, on numerous occasions, to the delight of the boys, they have flashed their bare breasts toward me. No wonder there are so many rapes on college campuses. Those girls walking and jogging around campus with their shorts so short that their buttocks hang out are just asking for it. They might as well have a sign on their back saying, “Rape me, rape me, rape me.” (p. 114.)

Then, of course, there’s blatant showboating sexism. This, right after making craven veiled claims that his god “may be” condemning women to mastectomies and hysterectomies because of what he observes as today’s feminine immorality (p. 113).

“Masturbation is one of the first expressions of lust. Your masturbator of today is very likely to be your homosexual of tomorrow. Your homosexual of tomorrow could be your psychology professor of the next day. In fact, universities are graduating more queers than Ph.D’s.” (p 117.) Okay. So what? Jed certainly goes out of his way not to cite any sources, but it strikes me that this drippy “very likely” and “could be” language is just to cover up the baseless assertions that he’s trying to make. Although, I think that per capita a university must be graduating more homosexuals than Ph.Ds simply because of the sheer rarity of Ph.Ds and that—if a Ph.D is not statistically connected to homosexuality—there are therefore Ph.D graduates who are also homosexual. This entire paragraph was a childish appeal to ridicule.

Once again, Jed’s cherry picking reappears—this time in the reverse direction—he retells the story of Lot, instead of holding Lot on a pedestal, he’s attacking the people of Sodom. So now he brings up the rest of the story. “Lot had the same attitude, and he was vexed to the point of offering his own virgin daughters to a gang of sodomites.” (p. 118). This is part of the same story which Jed earlier used as an example of the Sodomites telling Lot not judge them; he portrayed the story as part of his illustration on using morals to judge behavior. This is Lot, after all, the only “good man” in all of Sodom and Gomorrah.

After further bad rhetoric and some poorly narrated stories about why he believes homosexuality is bad, Jed moves onto condoms. Here he has managed to cross the threshold from gibbering kook to outright jackass liar. “The AIDS virus is fifty times smaller than the tiniest pores of a latex condom. Using a condom to prevent AIDS is like using a tennis racquet to return B-B pellets.” (p. 122). This particular line of gibberish is brought to you not by a real misunderstanding of science done by the Center for Disease Control on the matter, but instead it’s a deliberately deceitful bit of propaganda forwarded by evangelists in 3rd world countries like Africa to preach against condoms—worsening the already horrible HIV epidemic in such places. George Smock is a reprehensible asshole for reprinting this lie.

“Most students may not realize that, when they use drugs, they are practicing sorcery. Sorcery comes from the Greek word ‘pharmakeia,’ which in English would be ‘pharmacy’ or ‘drugs.’ Anyone using drugs illicitly is practicing sorcery. ” (p. 124.) Firstly, this is a fallacy by etymology—secondly, he’s wrong: E. Sorcery comes from L. sors/sortis: fate, oracle. Perhaps he was confused by the meaning of AG. pharmakis or witch. Maybe he should have claimed instead, following etymology, that drug users were practicing witchcraft.

Part I | Part II | Part III

Should we let Creationism into science classes?

For many years now I have been a staunch opponent of teaching Creationism (AKA Intelligent Design) in science classes, but I’m beginning to question that stance, and I’d like to hear some other opinions on the subject.

So have I given in to the “teach the controversy” crowd? Quite the opposite! In the US today, with our majority Christian population and unconscionably high percentage of people who already don’t believe in evolution, it is almost inevitable that children will be exposed to Creationism in some way. Why let it be on the Creationists’ terms?

Instead I propose that we actually teach children about the Christian Creation Myth in schools, but tell the truth about it. Don’t tell them that there is a serious debate in science about whether life on Earth got to its present state by means of evolution or by creation in its current form. Instead tell them that we know evolution happens, that even many Christians including Pope John Paul II agree that it does, and then show them exactly how literal Biblical Creationism falls flat on its face as science.

This would be a great educational experience in critical thinking, and a fantastic demonstration of how ancient unscientific ideas are eventually overtaken by good science based on observable facts. We still see the layperson’s side of this battle going on today since Creationists are much more tenacious than doctors who thought that “bleeding” people would cure them, but people should know that this debate is limited to laypeople and a few fringe scientists who have a lot of faith but little or no training in relevant scientific disciplines.

Instead of ignoring Creationism in school and letting kids be confused by hearing a basic version of the truth about the history of life on Earth in science class and then hearing confusing Creationist lies at home, on the street and in church, often without any arguments presented against it, the common Creationist claims should be debunked and it should be shown for the outdated, disproven, cynical lies that they are. We know that the Creationists are presenting their case, weak though it may be, and bashing evolution and science in any way they can. Why not fight back?

As I have seen too often in children and adults who believe in the Biblical Creation Myth, this and other related religious beliefs can destroy their trust not only in evolution but in all of science, even in anything secular, and then all they are left with is their religion. If we let people become so disconnected from reality and society as a whole, we risk losing them as members of our society along with anyone they manage to convert. This is a real concern since many of these people are evangelical and believe it is their mission to convert people.

So let’s cut this off at the knees. We can give the Creationists part of what they want and put Creationism into the science curriculum, as Creationism and not the “Intelligent Design” pseudonym so no one is confused about what the real issue is. Then we can teach people about the current controversy between fundamentalists and rational people in the laity, and let them know that the controversy in the scientific community between Evolution and Creation is long over and that the Creationists lost decisively.

Bad Claims: The Recession of the Moon

 

 

Of course, some presentations of this are worse than others. In this one Thunderf00t lambastes a particularly bad example of the claim/argument, but he does cover rather tidily the issues involved.

 

 

And here’s one where Desertphile does an excellent job of explaining why the extrapolation based on no evidence is outright intellectually dishonest; he also goes into some of the evidence that makes the extrapolation obviously incorrect.

This bad argument has been floating around for some time. It’s a gross misunderstanding of astronomy promulgated by Answers in Genesis to the credulous and those with little scholarship in any of the sciences needed to comprehend it. The biggest problem with this argument—and it’s not really an argument; it’s more like an unsupported claim—is that it rests on a faulty premise: The moon has been receding from the Earth at the same rate since it’s inception.

Really? Do you have evidence that it has been receding at the same rate ever since whatever event generated our moon? The answer isn’t just a resounding, “No,” it’s a resounding, “There is evidence that the moon had been receding by much less in the past than it is today.”

There are a number of poorly framed arguments and bad claims made by Creationism that involve unsupported extrapolation in this manner. It’s a great deal like looking at how the temperature has risen by 20 degrees between 6am and noon—and then extrapolating that the entire universe must have been frozen solid a few days ago and that we’re all therefore going to die in a fire within a few days ourselves. Without either direct observation of the temperatures from midnight to 6am; or at least evidence to permit us to extrapolate those temperatures making claims that temperatures will continue to rise or had in fact risen from absolute-zero would be laughed at.

These claims and arguments are, of course, not being published in any peer reviewed journals on the very subjects of geology, astrophysics, or physics because they’re blatantly wrong and wouldn’t even make it past the editorial phase. Instead, they are being spread instead in the political sphere; taking a the low road of attempting to convince a credulous and unstudied population to make them “true.” They can’t make it with these claims in places where people will actually put them to the test.

When people resort to cheating and misrepresentation to make their point, it’s time to either take them to task or dismiss them.

The Recession of the Moon and the Age of the Earth-Moon System (Tim Thompson, 2000)

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 10th, 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 10th 2009 (when it goes up.)

I was out wandering the Ave for a little while before the Resistance made their appearance. The Mill Avenue evangelicals set up outside of the Post Office, primarily in the form of Al; and Shawn3 was also present with several others.

Joe made an appearance today with a staff made out of a saguaro rib; spent most of the night speaking with a boy who was in the 8th grade about subjects spanning almost every sinew of human knowledge. Unfortunately, a great deal of these subjects require years of different classes just to grasp the interesting basics of, or at least hundreds of hours of documentaries. They ranged from basic Big Bang cosmology, the synthesis of elements, the formation of the solar system, the formation of the earth and moon, the cooling of the earth, radiology, radiological statistical analysis, the composition of the solar system (and cosmos), gravity, gravitation, and finally it slammed right into linguistics! Talk about making some ridiculous and impossible to fully translate leaps.

Fun listening though.

One of the fundamental issues with the discussion is that in philosophical epistemology there is the well known concept of indeterminacy. There is no certainty. One of the questions that the boy had about the subject had to do with colors—I the linguistic concept of definition. Definitions are definitive not certain; in fact, it’s readily shown that definitions in language are arbitrary, used for the primary purpose of communication and agreement. Everything in both our daily lives and science works on a principal of “certain enough.” I am certain enough that my pen will fall if I let go of it while holding it above the floor to expect that it shall; I cannot be totally certain because I cannot predict the future. However, for the purpose of sheer practicality “certain enough” is more than good enough for me to not let go of my pen because I don’t want to have to bend down and pick it up again.

The evangelicals also appear to have brought some wacky posters with them that play with cognitive linguistic hacks to display something? I assume that they’re trying to show that the senses of the world are fallible, but every argument from illusion has long been put down by epistemology and empirical consensus of the world. Interestingly, an image of Albert Einstein is also prominent on the poster.

PARIS / IN THE / THE SPRING

BIRD / IN THE / THE HAND

ONCE / IN A / A LIFETIME

These words are set up inside triangles so that each line is below the other and expanding outwards. This relies on a particular linguistic scanning trick—in natural English language cognition the processing of the words does not actually read articles and particles, they are accepted as parts of the grammar and structure but do not affect the overall meaning of the sentence. In fact, articles are even less process intense than particles (i.e. “the book” is easier to read than “her book,” as my editor has pointed out numerous times.) As a result while reading aloud the person will tend to drop the second declarative article, reading instead the first line as: “Paris in the spring.” Without saying “the” twice.

Shawn3 also brought out a big sign of his own on the top of a PVC pole.

Shawn3 requested that I spell check the sign below before I posted it… I don’t know why, it wasn’t misspelled on his sign. The words were extremely simple—maybe he didn’t write it himself. (Either that or he knows of an incident with Brother Jed where he has a banner that it thoroughly misspelled.)

JESUS
DIED FOR YOUR
SINS
AND AROSE FROM
THE DEAD.

This particular sign espouses the Christian myth of the resurrection from the dead of the god Jesus (a common mythological structure of a lot of cultural mythologies of gods—although interesting events of non-resurrections are also prevalent like Baldr and Orpheus’s Eurydice.) The other side had some of the usual fear and shame rhetoric about sin and I didn’t see it long enough to carve out exactly what it stated. It was a giant black velum sign with yellow and white lettering.

They also had a brief visitation by a small group of teens who wore interesting outfits. Particularly, they were wearing green hoodies with enneagrams, within which a cross set atop a circle circumscribed an inverted T (like the old map of the world symbol) all surmounted by a crown. All done with simple lines.

The symbol inside of the ennegrams is basically a version of the Cross Triumphant, or in this case a globus cruciger, with a crown above it. It is the emblem of the Carthusian monks, whose motto “Stat crux dum volvitur orbus” (the cross is steady while the world turns.) It appears to be a common component of all the symbolism connected to the United Church of Christ[1]. This symbol particularly interested me because I recognize it as extremely similar to a pagan symbol of the same concept: a dominating line over the orb of the Earth. In fact, British royalty is sworn in holding this orb in one hand (see: Scepter, Orb, and Crown.[2])

It is questionable as to why this particular symbol is then circumscribed by the enneagram. The enneagram (or nine pointed star, in this case double-inverted, making it an arch.)[3] Occult usages of the ennegram happen to include the Kabbalistic traditions, including the Christian Kabbalah from the Renaissance. The combination of the enneagram symbol with the UCC glyph lends me to believe the full diagram may be connected to a Cabbalistic tradition or at least some group that is somewhat familiar.

Example of the unknown symbol on green sweater
Fig 1.1: Example of the unknown symbol on a green sweater. Click for larger image.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_church_of_christ
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb_and_scepter
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enneagram.svg

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 3rd 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 3rd 2009.

The night opened out with a blaze of heavy, shrill sound as Shawn3 (whom everyone met at the Art Walk the previous night) took up on a megaphone of some mighty caliber. The decibel range of the amplification was in fact so intense that it felt louder than a rock concert. Conversations were drown out, and I have a feeling that it would have competed with the blues/jazz singer who plays down the street.

The Resistance still managed to converse somewhat even with the extreme decibels but either didn’t have the same power of amplification or chose not to increase theirs to match. At least one person pointed out that not only did Shawn3 have an extremely overloud megaphone but he was shouting into it.

Tonight he was wearing wire-rim spectacles, giving him a particularly aristocratic look.

The extreme volume did attract some attention. Aside from causing numerous passersby to wince or walk on quicker than before a small picket of mounted police arrived to pause and watch. The tree cavaliers arrived at about 9:20pm, pointing their horses perpendicular to the sidewalk. Shortly after their arrival, Shawn3 stepped down and quit his preaching and position.

Minutes of hush came down over the entire area which had moments before been readily described as the “loudest corner on Mill Ave.”

Kazz took up his speaker and apologized that his sign was no longer quite applicable. The whiteboard that the Resistance use to deliver written messages had the words:

Obnoxious liar
Free all night
<–

At this point Jim Coleman took the mike to talk about anti-Evolution premises, mainly the “Saltiness of the Ocean” and “Recession of the Moon” arguments.

Kazz tried to keep off of the mike for most of the night because he had a rather bad sore throat. However, in spite of this, he did try to speak when he could; but as a result of this a lot of other people were taking to the microphone as well. Todd, Mike, and Vince all took turns on the microphone at different times of the night.

In particular, Vince had some fun talking to both Kazz and Todd—and through parts of the night he talked to Al on the evangelical mike. It’s always fun listening to Vince talk; he’s a Big Fish style raconteur, which means that he’s bloody good at holding an audience and producing an entertaining story. His main failings, however, are the same as any big fish storyteller, he makes a lot of exotic and wild claims that either cannot be substantiated or lack compelling evidence. He is also well versed in various Christian doctrines and some of their holy texts so he tends to bring them out when speaking.

A couple interviews with the Resistance shows that they like talking to him because unlike others he’s actually polite and conversational.

As the night’s candle burned on a well-dressed Southern Gentleman who reminded me a lot of the Mark Twain look wandered over and serenaded everyone. His name, he told me, is Pard. A poet by trade, but not a bad singer/songwriter a cappella.

Todd and others also had a chance to talk to two women who appeared to have come along with Shawn3 (not fully substantiated, but it seemed to be the case.) They are another nomadic evangelical group who live out of an RV, come down from Syracuse, New York. The one in particular that Todd spoke too wore a blue and white outfit consisting of an extremely plain-and-simple skirt, blouse, and sweater affair, and they tried to talk about the belief-vs-model misunderstanding of science in the context of evolution.

By in large the discussion wound around through some difficulties of jargon, some gross misunderstandings of what rational thought is, what a model is vs. a belief, and other transference problems that are common with people who attempt to apply supernatural logic to observations of the natural world. At one point, as funny as it is, the young lady said that no scientist had said something in particular—so Todd called Ben, a friend who is an evolutionary biologist, and had him tell her.

Mostly this had to do with some jargon misunderstandings about the scientific use of the words “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Especially in the context of the Theory/Fact/Law of Evolution. Although there is a certain appeal in the scientific community about the use of the jargon “law” to refer to observed facts and phenomena, generally people will say “fact” instead of “law” nowadays. All phenomena are split up into the facts of their evidence, the theories that explain them, and in some cases the laws that appear to govern their operation (which are actually phenomenological facts, just described in a way that gives them structure, e.g. the Speed of Light, Thermodynamics, Motion, etc.)

This poses a problem to lay people because the lay meaning of “theory” really means “supposition” and sometimes it means the same thing as “hypothesis;” and “law” generally refers to government and civil law. As a result weird miscommunication and silly misunderstandings happen when people discuss these things and often the misunderstanding party simply goes away further confused or wrongly certain.

I am singularly amused that Ben got called.

More than one person approached me to ask if I knew Omar Call—a sometime visitor to Mill Ave who also involves himself in protesting the street preachers. One in particular wanted him to know that he had, “Inspired me to be more open about my atheism and I’m glad there are people out there like him.” And another—Keith, a Mick Jagger lookalike with a leather cap, and a black guitar—wanted to speak with him about his hallucinogenic revelations and walks with Jesus, to discuss the mysteries of religion with him as a believer and an atheist. By in large all the messages to Omar about the article have been positive.

Although, I say this wondering if people would actually approach someone on the street with a negative message and expect it to be delivered.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 20th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 20th 2008.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (See Agents for Christ section.)

I actually got asked, “So, whose side are you on?” by some of the onlookers who had been drawn into the crosstalk between the Resistance and the evangelicals. With an amused wit, I replied that I’m on the people’s side, really, since I like people.

Also visiting the Resistance tonight were Spyral and Gina. Spy is an actual accredited anthropologist (opposed to my amateur) who joined into a bit of the conversations that were scattered about with her own thoughts. I really should have stayed and recorded her presentation when she spoke with Diana and others because she’s well spoken and comes from a different philosophy of thought than I do.

Bill

A twinkling funhouse of mirror-speak—right down to the vision warping, bent type. He started out the conversation with the obvious starter of asking what I thought was going on. This particular starter has always confused me a little, especially because after I notice that’s what they’re doing it makes the approach feel actually disingenuous—as if the person who is talking to me didn’t care that I was standing there personally and just set off to strike up this script.

He tried very poorly to use a watered down version of Pascal’s Wager asking me how it would go for me if the Christian god happened to be true—asking if I’d agree if it would go badly for me. I have never found this compelling as I generally ask if they actually have asked that question for every god that they’ve discovered? I mean, how would he feel if the Morrigan is actually real, and she’s not happy that he hasn’t been out in the field of glory killing and maiming for her.

If someone wants to play Pascal’s Wager why don’t they wage it with every belief system they meet? Easy answer: because it would take them forever to wager every god ever imagined.

His mirror-speech was just a series of propagandist and conversational tricks. Eventually he did go on to talk to Brian while he stood near the Resistance’s speaker on the stand, but I missed out on most of that conversation.

Diana and Danielle

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

The Agents for Christ

“I believe he is going to reveal himself to you. I honestly have no hard feelings,” Diana to Kazz.

The really interesting thing about Diana is that the holy book she was carrying was only the New Testament. After debriefing Kazz on his encounter with her I am told that she didn’t have a strong cognition of a lot of Old Testament phraseology and so on. I’m not sure what schism of Christianity that they belonged to, but I always thought that the entire Bible held some sort of significance for most of them.

With Diana were a number of younger children, who like children, tended to parrot back sound bites. Even once there was a mention of people being “expelled” for speaking about Creationism, which Kazz took as a mention of Expelled, the badly drawn propaganda movie by Ben Stein. A movie which has been by in large revealed to be a fraud by a number of watchdog organizations and roundly laughed out of the academic circles for citing people who had lost their careers not for Creationism but for being cheats and frauds. (One man in particular was shunned by his peers after he himself resigned because he skipped the process of peer review by reviewing his own work and inserting it into a journal; deliberately bypassing the rules is indeed a good way to get “expelled.”)

Some interesting messages came up which paraphrase down to, “So my son couldn’t stand up in a science class and preach about Creationism?” And really, Kazz replied that there is very little anyone can preach in a science class—in a very straight-up way, no students get to disrupt a classroom by choosing to shout at everyone in the middle of any class. An adult who disrupts a college class certainly would get removed by security and expelled from school; we treat children differently than adults in that we attempt to educate them as to classroom etiquette. If a student stood up during a biology class and started talking only about gravitation, it would create the same sort of disruption as making noises about Creationism, or social studies, or political science, etc ad nauseam.

There is an academic forum for science already.

I have received a card from Diana that I will get scanned and put into this document so that people can see it.

Diana tells me that her brother-in-law is the one who runs their little group. They came out to see the Way of the Master evangelicals because there was some e-mails that had gone out about Mill Avenue. As I said above, they live out of an RV and have a semi-nomadic life. Moving from city to city to evangelize at cultural centers.

Mill Ave is a good place for them to show up, therefore; and that way they’ll get a chance to talk to people like Kazz, Omar, and others who are compassionate and interested in presenting the case for atheism to even the evangelicals and would really like them to know that in spite of propaganda, people like the Resistance and atheists do not wish theists harm.

Hopefully they shall come out to Mill Avenue more often.

Kazz and Jim

Our friend, Jim in his wheelchair, stopped to talk to Kazz about some things.

Mostly it was a conversation about physics, studies, and probably a lot of things that Jim has brought from Answers in Genesis—a profoundly wrong propaganda website that spends a lot of time pretending at science but has never actually succeeded in getting a single article through peer review due to numerous failures in rhetoric, evidence, and process. I could bring up more about AiG (again) but why.

I wasn’t totally privy to the conversation but it is well know to me that Jim spends a lot of time trying to understand the world. It would probably help him some if he got away from AiG or at least looked at the lay descriptions from others in the community as to how AiG is misinforming people.

The most common type of misinformation that AiG delivers is a type of refutation that tends to go: “This is a wrench. It can be used to tighten bolts and it’s good at it; but here’s a screw, the wrench does a terrible job of tightening screws; therefore wrenches are bad tools.” A great deal of the AiG documents about dating methods run this pattern: they take a dating tool, pick a well-known and documented situation where that tool would never be used, and therefore isn’t used—like using a wrench to tighten a screw—and then suggest this means the dating tool is wholly inaccurate and useless.

I don’t see how this sort of abuse of lay people is really useful to anyone. It damages extremely good pursuits of scientists and the knowledge of the public about these tools. These disagreements promulgated by these lay sites about these tools don’t exist in the scientific community because they’ve already been hashed out. Scientists using these dating methods do not grab their wrench when the screwdriver would be required; or either when neither will work. And the reason why is obvious: they would be destroyed by their peers when they went to publish.

Lots of people are fooled by this. Why? Because they’re credulous lay people (who very much want to learn and grow and understand) who don’t live in academia and therefore cannot tell the difference between the wrench and screwdriver.

Vocab Malone and Vince

Vince got himself into a long winded discussion with Vocab Malone and a bunch of the people who hovered around him—also people who were good at the rapping that Vocab does. The discussion sounded pretty interesting, but I missed out on some of it because I don’t have a background in Christian history. I believe it revolved around some sort of theological discussion about the nature of the Christian god, YHVH. Specifically about how it changes through the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament.

I should be clear here that this conversation was mostly Vocab attempting to unwind and understand Vince’s concepts, listed below (also see comments) not so much a discussion as Vince elaborating–which is something he often does at extreme length–and Vocab querying. Here I’m trying to frame Vince’s explanations. Hopefully he might comment too at some point.

The premise stretched on about how YHVH is flesh and his holy (where holy means something like complete, mature, finished…) And that YHVH has improved over the journey of the Bible, matured from the entity at the beginning of the Bible to later on. It sounded almost like an interesting character study of the mythological character of YHVH. And Vince did mention part of the Flood myth that I recall where YHVH does promise never to destroy the world again with a flood.

The last part I mention because one of the Jewish scholars that I’ve spoken to about this promise is that it seems that the promise is only not to flood the world again. Not a promise not to murder everyone again with something else. Apparently the appealing inference from that passage seemed to be that YHVH promised not to destroy the world again, when in fact it may not have actually promised that.

Vocab eventually had to leave, but Vince stayed on speaking.

Later that night while the Resistance went on to do Cthulhu carols the group who remained behind from Vince’s discussion started to break out and stop people heading past and going to Borders (which had closed.) One of them attempted to rephrase the Good Person Test using the judge metaphor with a few stopped passersby as I watched and listened.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 6th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 6th 2008.

Ah, Art Festival how we love thee. It brings out numerous people, allows us broad forums to have discussions, and a great deal of cultural dialogue.

The Way of the Master evangelicals

They didn’t last long. The set up had Al, Lee, John, Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Sean, and others—most of them left the scene at about 10pm. However, Lee did remain behind with his speaker enough that Richard could arrive and use it and Vocab could use it to rap.

The evangelicals did some caroling before they finally melted away into the night by in large, leaving behind a different sort of crew to help last until near midnight.

I just wanted to mention Richard! I recall him from previous years and I’ve been somewhat concerned as to why he hasn’t been around ever since I arrived back on Mill. He is the dark skinned man with the tattoos, bald head, and short-thick beard and mustache that frame his mouth. He also has a strong voice and a ready clever intellect that he uses to respond to people asking questions.

He took the microphone and spoke with Kazz, Rachel, and Todd.

A point that I would like to make for Todd and others, that Omar brought up, is that it’s important not to be confrontational with people. At one point during the night Todd was starting to use a couple direct points against Richard or some other evangelical in a somewhat harsh manner. In some cases harshness may be required; but it’s probably not the best place to start.

After Omar asked people not to be confrontational, of course, Todd was kind enough to back off and let Omar take over the discussion.

Allie and Omar

For part of the night Omar got into a discussion with a woman named Allie. Obviously inebriated, Allie took directly to speaking about love for other people and one of the Christian gods, Jesus. She wore a blue blouse beneath a white vest fringed with fur and blue jeans. After she got the microphone the first thing that happened was a descent into complete rabble-rabble.

And I mean loud yelling all around. The noise level went through the roof and she started shouting—almost crying—and quickly the roar became almost unbearable. It didn’t take too long for things to calm down again and Omar and Allie got to speak to each other without too much white noise.

Some choice quotes came from their discussion.

“I love you,” says Allie.

“I love you too, just without Jesus,” Omar says. “My disbelief in Jesus does not change my love for you; just as your belief in Jesus doesn’t change your love for me. We do not need this belief for love.”

Allie and her husband apparently were visiting from Texas; this was their first foray to Phoenix and Tempe, and thus also Mill Avenue. So we all tried to welcome the pair to Mill Ave. Thus including Allie and her three margaritas.

Vince and Trevor

Just a little introduction to Vince, again. When I was originally out on Mill long ago his street name was (and still is) “Preacher Man.” Vince is well known for his Christian and Biblical views and he is very good at controlling mirrorspeech in other people and knows how to turn a person away from attempting to roll over him in conversations. He’s quite good at controlling conversations.

One of the problems with conversing with some of the Mill Ave evangelicals is tactics that take advantage of too demure or polite people who are not willing to confront being talked over or being dismissed out of hand. Vince doesn’t let this happen.

When Trevor got into a talk with Vince, however, it didn’t last long. As Vince had the speaker at the time and Trevor did not. Both of them Christian they had a strange conversation involving interpretations and thoughts on their various schisms. Trevor, we learn, is apparently Pentecostal; and Vince decided to bring up what the different types of Pentecostals are. To list the full taxonomy of all Christian schisms could take forever, I’ve discovered, which is why I don’t have time to identify the dogmatic and doctrinal difference between all of them.

Their conversation eventually ended when Trevor told Vince that he could give up the microphone. Which Vince didn’t so Trevor walked away.

Expelled

I think that I need to make a comment about this movie. For some reason, Ben Stein felt the need to insult Frankenstein in his ignorant screed against Evolutionary Biology in another gigantic misunderstanding and bad attempt to strawman the facts for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

What is Answers in Genesis and why is it actually a bad thing?

During the night, Sean was talking to a few passersby before the 10pm turned-into-pumpkin event. The two young men I didn’t get their names but they quickly wore thin talking to Sean because he couldn’t give them anything that corroborated any of his claims. So he offered them some pamphlets, which they accepted and at the end of it he told them to visit Answers in Genesis dot com.

AIG is a website promoting Creationism and it spends a bit of its time therefore attacking the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection mostly by way of bad science, outright falsehoods, and general rhetorical trickery.

I would like to direct everyone to http://talkorigins.org/ where many of the profoundly wrong information promoted by Answers in Genesis are refuted with factual, evidence based, and cited. Anyone who visits AIG will discover a number of claims, most of which are uncited and unsupported, the critters that run TalkOrigins have done a lot of research and time into citing and refuting a lot of the claims made my Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

AIG is just a bald faced front for Creationism and pedantic religiously motivated political propaganda.

If you are looking for resources specifically aimed at cultural criticism of Intelligent Design, TalkOrigins has a sister site http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/.

Remember: all of these criticisms come with numerous citations, factual examination, philosophy, and cultural dialogues. Be willing to actually examine things, you’ll probably find a lot of enlightenment looking at what humanity knows about the natural, manifest world. Creationism and Intelligent Design try hard to play in the manifest, naturalistic stage while trying to add the supernatural and unfalsifiable non-hypothesises as if they are meaningful in a respectful discussion.

Answers In Genesis doesn’t seek to have a dialogue, they seek to make uncited and uncitable assertions about how humanity understands the Universe. Take a class in college on propaganda and political rhetoric and the behavior of AIG becomes extremely clear—it’s just a front for political ideas and not at all for an empirical, evidence based examination of the Universe. It doesn’t present any hypothesis; it has no models; and it certainly doesn’t have any scientific theories with which to enlighten anyone.

http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/taxonomy_menu/2/7

Most people are actually pretty smart; they just don’t have enough time in their days to be up on everything that everyone should. There’s always these reports running around talking about how ignorant Americans are of many things. Acting like being able to recite all of the seven dwarves but they cannot name all the justices who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. We should be fair to them: the average American doesn’t have time to educate themselves about the fundamentals of the theory of evolution any more than they do about the theory of gravity.

It may be helpful to send people to see the criticism of websites like AIG whose behavior is easily highlighted by only a few key phrases and articles. While the people who run sites like AIG spread propaganda, sound bites, and political rhetoric—the only good way to counter this is by promoting critical examination of the facts, and there are so many when empirical analysis comes into play.

The Universe is empirical. It is manifest. Anyone who has ever stuck their hand into a fire or touched a hot burner knows how tests and certainty work.

Let’s not allow politically motivated religious propaganda and rhetoric stifle our continual advancement of the understanding of our own Universe.

Mill Avenue Resistance: Saturday, November 22st 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, November 22nd 2008.

The SFTS invited out some reporters from the New Times tonight to observe what they do and get some time to talk to everyone.

Tonight we saw a varied crew: Jim and his wheelchair, Edwin, Al, Suzanne and her daughter, even Vocab Malone (—btw, both of us missed each other because we don’t know what we look like, even though we stood within close proximity to each other several times!)

From what I observed the two who came out got photographs of many people. Spoke with Al, Jim, and others to get notes and quotes. I pretty much stayed out of their way. I tend to find my position on Mill Ave to be one as more an observer when it comes to the SFTS and the evangelists; I spend most of my intimate time with the Mill rats. It seemed to go well.

By and large very little happened. According to Kazz they moved from Borders at 8:30pm to the Post Office because Al had set up there. Shortly after they left (about 5 mins) Edwin set up amplification in front of Borders and started talking but that didn’t last long. Al also gave up the ghost pretty shortly and simply played some sort of tape of from his amplification that I couldn’t make out and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to ask him what it was about.

One of the best encounters of the night happened between Trevor (an evangelist I will go into shortly) and a Latina woman who started talking about the conception of Jesus. I may have misheard her initially but she seemed to start out by talking about the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a part of Catholic doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, was without sin thus that she should give birth to Jesus (i.e. a sinless vessel to bring their god into the world.) There is a Wikipedia article on this for those who don’t understand the terms in this paragraph.[1]

I probably did mishear her because Trevor immediately jumped on her for this because the Bible does not support this, from what I hear it is entirely Catholic doctrine and does not show up in the scriptures. An assumption based on passages readings, as it were. So, every time the conversation moved away from it, he brought it back up again, until she reneged on it (or basically said she hadn’t said that which could have been the case.)

Eventually Trevor came to talk to me and his disciplined mirror-speech was something profound.

In spite of the thickness of his mirrorspeech which was crystalline and sheer in quality, I was able to tease out some personality from him. According to him he’s been doing this about four years, ever since he went into Alcoholics Anonymous because of his lifestyle of party going and drinking and drug use—but he found the teachings of the AA to be “false teachings” because they suggested that people become gods unto themselves, or seek out some ambiguous higher power in order to drag themselves out of the hole their addition left them in.

“They hate Jesus there,” he said, “you start talking about Christ and they’ll throw you out.” I actually have never heard that, but I suppose that in a very important way the AA groups might need to keep themselves as even keel as possible and allowing highly controversial Christianity into their midst could destroy the fragile balance they have with helping people. I fear that he may have taken this as a form of persecution rather than the social protocol that it probably was.

However as much as I tried I could not determine the first time that he picked up a Bible or how he actually came to start doing what he does. He deflected or misunderstood every question of that vein, turning it into more mirrorspeech at every turn. I eventually gave up and just listened. It would have been nice to know how he came to decide upon Christianity, and his singular type of evangelism in particular.

His speech was steeped in strong metaphor as well. Saying that his heart had been stone and replaced with a heart of flesh—and that if I accepted what he did the same would happen. In trying to draw me into a discussion about religion he ran into my normal observations about mythology and made the lay-mistake of thinking that the connotation of “myth” is tied up with mythology. I tried a little bit to dance around talking about his mythology, though, as I don’t think that I could have educated him in the proper use of the term without him unthinkingly taking insult.

Eventually I told him about my work on Mill Ave. How I spend a lot of time observing and getting to know people. “I love people, they are wonderful—amazing creatures who make up our social landscape.” He wanted to tell me that if I wanted to study people that the biggest thing was their wickedness. He went on about how people were selfish, and horrible, and awful and into themselves, and so on.

Trevor, if you read this I want you to know that in a very powerful sense that you are drowning yourself in soot colored glasses when you do this. I tried to tell you last night, but you don’t want to listen to me: you want to sell your religion to me. I’m not buying. I observe people and I don’t see evil and horror and choking weeds ravaging the world; because that’s not what’s going on. You are strapping on an outmoded morality that demands good of people by comparing them to an arbitrary “perfect.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good. We will never be able to set a proper morality, nor love and embrace our fellow creatures if we set upon them such rigidified, uncaring, and unsympathetic strangling mores. By painting other people with a brush tarred in the differences you think are flaws and ignoring their triumphs, their adoration, their love, and the wonder in them you have condemned yourself to an extremely dismal experience. This kind of escapism will end only in your self-destruction as you asphyxiate in your own self-imposed bubble.

The biggest problem with all of this is that clearly you are aware of the world around you; you can respect and interact with other people; if you really do recoil from everyone you meet and think them horrible and awful then you are condescending everyone you speak to.

When I study people I do get the good and the bad, by leaps and bounds different metrics for “good and bad” persist—and few of them reach the scary “everyone is wicked” meme that you have injected into your blood and it will poison you. Instead of being the mouthpiece of rigid vulgarity maybe one day you can decide to be the amazing person that surely you must actually be.

(I love the word “wicked” by the way; it’s such a beautiful word, linguistically thorny, and anthropologically powerful—this is probably why evangelists are so in love with it themselves.)

At the end of our conversation he cheerfully offered me his hand and we shook where he asked me my name. As per usual I gave him my Crystalian name, which is also my street name, and handle. “Amerist.” Which he instantly took as exotic and expressed incredulity that it was my “real name.” By which, I think, he means my family name, but he’s using an old-hat linguistic trick to disenfranchise any other name than family names. Then he requested my birth name, which I don’t even have anymore—then tried to guess it, and he did really badly because my birth name is actually even more exotic than my street name.

Eventually he went away flustered at not learning my name; and even tried to tie some weird metaphor to my explanation of what my name means (“her [stone] purifying tears”.) I tried to explain to him that my name essentially is a variation of a name that meant “she who bears [away] the sorrows of the world.” To which I said fit in with my healer tradition, taking away suffering, helping and mending people. And click on came his mirrorspeech again—as I fully expected—“There is only one healer! And that’s Jesus.”

(I wrote a lot more about Trevor in my Mill Avenue Nights blog.)

Why are evangelists so hung up on your “real name”?

Psychologically names are powerful things; they are how we interact socially with other creatures, they become the labels by which we represent ourselves, they are not just our identity within the group, but they are also the handles by which others attain and attract our attention. Saying a person’s name is attractive to their mind—say a name in a crowded room and that person will likely take notice, turn their head—so I’d like to introduce everyone to what is basically a dirty trick.

It’s called false intimacy.

Salesman and flimflam artists are well versed in the false intimacy trick. It is a staple of confidence men and anyone who is attempting to convince you of something—or sell you something like an evangelist is. What they will ask you for is your name, generally your first name if you give them your last name. I would love to see some staunch British aristocrat berate someone for being rude by not accepting “Mrs. Strahan” and requesting a first name. By using your first name they are psychologically trying to put themselves on the same level as your close and intimate friends.

Mythology about “true names” isn’t too far off the truth. Names may not have metaphysical or supernatural power—but they do have psychological power. We are social creatures and are more likely to accept what our friends tell us without much corroboration (they are our friends, after all) and our friends use particular protocols of speech that acquaintances and strangers do not know. One of these things is our familiar name.

In the conversation a person endeavoring to gain your confidence will say your first name over and over again in an attempt to cause your social brain to link what they’re saying to something you should be confident in. Of course, if they’re your friend they will use a familiar name, therefore they must be familiar if they’re using that name—and if they use it over and over again they keep and rapt your attention to what they’re saying.

Listen to a used car salesman work sometime.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using whatever name you want in any encounter with any person; and it is good for you to be aware of how you control the various compartments of your life with your own identity. In our society we have at least two names to start with that we use on a general basis. A great deal of people find their family name “Mrs. Strahan” or such to be stuffy and enjoy being called by their first names. It is just important to realize that when a person attempts to use your name against you to listen to your instincts.

If you are an evangelist and you have received training in this sort of psychological hack, take a moment to realize that applying this is the razor’s edge of dishonest behavior.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_conception

Mill Avenue Resistance: Friday, November 21st 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, November 21st 2008.

Tonight there were only two preachers for the SFTS to face off against: Jim and Valerie.

I’ve been talking to Valerie for years now, but I don’t know quite enough to get into any gross detail about her. And Jim I am not familiar with. Therefore this will mostly outline my observations of their interaction with the SFTS.

They brought with them a little trolley to truck some props out to Mill Ave including a small little amplified speaker that looks like an electric-torch-cum-tweeter. The microphone worked out pretty well for them, and the SFTS didn’t bring their amplification so they didn’t have any. It didn’t matter much because everyone could hear each other just fine.

The only crowd that gathered was the SFTS which did an excellent job of locking up the evangelists the entire time. Not a single passerby actually stopped to listen to them, and both the evangelists spent most of the previous night handing out pamphlets so they had none to hand out when the stage show came on. As a result only SFTS tracts were handed out.

Between the ordinary religious memes there was an unfortunate amount of scientific and basic knowledge ignorance being bratted from the soapbox. Which, I fear, is just Valerie repeating known-bad propaganda from Answers in Genesis. Including several that I believe they have modified to say: Do not use these arguments.

I hope anyone reading this understands that there is absolutely no need for a God vs. Science dichotomy. Evolution and religiosity are not diametrically opposed nor are they contradictory unless someone has tied up their supernatural in natural explanations, which is exceedingly foolish as our knowledge of the natural expands and tends to discount or dismiss the supernatural as flimflammery. If a thing is actually immeasurable, don’t start trying to give evidence of it in measurements or you’ll get laughed at.

It may be extremely important to stop people and tell them that framing discussions as Evolution vs. Christianity is not truthful. Science is totally agnostic towards the supernatural, and by agnostic I mean exactly that: nothing in science attempts to provide evidence for or against gods or spirits or anything else supernatural. If evidence were to arise for the supernatural: it would then be natural.

If anyone ever tries to say, “Ah you, you guys are believe in evolution not god.” It is important to follow that up with, “Those two things aren’t related.” Don’t ever get drawn into a discussion of Evolution vs. God/Religion. It is not a real discussion, at best it’s spinning wheels, at worst it’s simply psychic masturbation for both parties.

The coelacanth is an embarrassment to scientists because it was named a ‘living fossil;’ since this would tend to disprove evolution because here is something that should have been long gone. A fish, growing legs.” I believe she’s confused the coelacanth with another fish—this line of fish descended from some well known fossils has never been seen to be growing legs. Yes, they are “lobe finned fish” which are believed to be the descendants of fish that eventually grew legs, but the coelacanth is a descendant of the lobe finned ancestor that did not in fact go that direction—their lineage did stay pretty much totally fishlike. So, really, she’s got it backwards.[1]

Finally, the “living fossil” reference is no embarrassment to anyone. Coelacanth are in fact one of the oldest direct lineages from a known fossil that we’ve seen today—the only problem with her speech was that she suggested that the modern coelacanth is the same fish as the fossils, which it is not. In fact, modern coelacanth are a different species from the fossilized fish and show distinct and notable morphological differences from the fossils. We have today a distant, distant descendant and not the original “fossil.” This is actually predicted by evolution.

[In reference to the Big Bang,] Scientists have never seen explosions result in greater order. Nothing has ever exploded and produced more information.” More failed memes. Primarily because this one uses a weird description of the word “information.” And, really, nothing stops a disorderly explosion from resulting in order after it has occurred. Detonate something in a gravitational field, eventually many of the particles will form into a very orderly ring, or join up with the gravitational mass, creating a fairly orderly object.

Worse: information is what we make of it. Take a safe that I cannot penetrate. I blow it up and whatever flies out is more information about that safe than I had before. When I heard her say the information phrase I wanted to tell her that some Particle Physicists would like to talk to her about her misapprehension of exploding things.

Finally—for anyone who doesn’t know this yet—the Big Bang was not an explosion.[2] People who refer to it as an explosion have listened to too much Kent Hovind or are repeating propaganda so ignorant of the cosmological theory that they are hopelessly lost in their own misunderstanding. The term “explosion” has a rather specific definition that does not fit the event of the Big Bang. In fact, the Big Bang is currently considered a cosmological fact—not as a cosmological origin, but as a current state: the observable Universe is expanding.

Since the Big Bang cosmological origin says: “In the beginning Space-Time rapidly expanded; and it’s still expanding today.”

A lot of these memes are directly from Answers In Genesis. Most of them flimsy or failed, steeped in gross ignorance that even a layperson could educate themselves about. The primary problem is that the AiG information is couched in philosophical wording and interesting metaphors that are attractive to people who do not really want to learn much about these things. They are fed them as if they contradict their religiosity, they want to be skeptical about them, but they end up instead swallowing poison and thinking they’ve learned something.

The worst part about it is that none of these theories and facts that they call out with special attention have anything to do with their religiosity. Science as whole is not concerned about the veracity of that which cannot be detected, that which does not manifest, or that which cannot have evidence.

A good deal of these failed memes include usages like:

Increase/decrease in information.” Gross misapprehension of what the word “information” means in scientific or even conversant contexts.

The origin of life and the origin of species.” A terrible misunderstanding of the fact of evolution and Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, both of which are agnostic as to the origin of life itself. Abiogensis is a totally different field of study than Evolutionary Biology. All evolution requires is living things, since they’re already here it’s good to go.

The origin of everything vs. the origin of species.” The most bizarre misunderstanding I have ever encountered: trying to tie cosmological facts and theories to the fact and theory of Evolution. The irregularity is so staggering that it’s hard to even respond to these types of conflations.

Really, the most unhealthy part of this propaganda is that a lot of the people who want to espouse nonexistent or totally debunked problems with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and the fact of evolution are specially pleading that evolution itself is wrong—while reaping the benefits of Evolutionary Biology every time that they take an antibiotic, or get a flu-short, or get their blood tested for a particular virus or protozoan.

Question for people

I also receive some tracts and things from the preachers when I go out to Mill. Normally I just collect these into yearly paleo-samples of the dialogues and manuscripts of their behavior—would anyone be interested if I dissected or gave observations on some of the tracts?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang

Large Hadron Collider Operational

Earlier today the first successful tests of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were conducted by CERN scientists.

The LHC is a 27 kilometer (16.8 mile) long particle accelerator — the largest in the world — which has been in development for decades. It was built to get as close as we can to studying the particle interactions that we believe took place at the birth of the universe.

Possibly the most important of the particles scientists intend to study is the long-theorized Higgs boson (popularized as the “God particle”). It is the only Standard Model particle which has not yet been observed, and it is believed to be the particle that imparted mass to the other elementary particles in the first instants after the “big bang”.

What does this mean to us non-particle-physicists? Basically, if the upcoming tests show that the Higgs boson is a real particle, we will have the best and most complete evidence we’ve ever had for the “big bang”. If it is not found, we will know that there is a fundamental problem with our current understanding of particle physics.

The first high-energy collisions are planned for late October, so expect to hear more and bigger news then!