Monday, January 28, 2008

The Stermy Awards for January 2008

This month was really tough, you bastards. There was far too much Exemplary Writing in the Atheosphere.

So to help me make my selections, I decided to amend a rule I came up with for the last Stermy ceremony. The original rule was:

  • No blogger may win more than one Stermy in any month, but a blogger may win Stermies in consecutive months. That would really upset my sensibilities, however, so it will happen only rarely, if ever. And the second month's post better be a real doozy.
So, of course, everyone from last month comes up with a real doozy. Thanks a bunch. Combining all the posts into one, it might have been called: A fishy-smelling, bullshitting Bush spins into the middle ground to have brilliant alien-controlled sex in public with iggy and Dick Funk. If anyone can actually write a coherent post with that title, he or she will definitely win a special Stermy next month.

Anyway, the amended rule is:
  • No blogger may win more than one Stermy in any month, but a blogger may win Stermies in consecutive months, provided that both months end in r.
Oh, gosh! Sorry!

Fortunately, there were some other real doozies, too. So here are this month's winners, in the usual alphabetical order:
Heather at Why Don't You Blog?
for Google this
Many are training their students for an imaginary academic career, as it would have been thirty years ago. They feel that students are workshy unless they put in the physical effort to search in libraries, pay large sums for course books and compete with other students for access to obscure library journals. Are these activities assumed to be “educational” by their very nature, just because the lecturers had to do them when they were students? Now, we have instant access to material from all over the world. Finding it quickly, judging its value and how it relates to other bits of information are the skills we need now.

KC at Bligbi
for Pretending to be guilty to please others
As a woman one of the most annoying things I can think of is the social expectation that women pretend to be guilty about something that we may not feel a bit guilty about. Of the things that are on that list, abortion is the most important. A woman who gets an abortion should not behave in a manner that says “I’m fine with this”.

The Lifeguard at The Meme Pool
for time to change: a rant on presidential politics
I'm sick of "change." No, I sure as shit don't want another four years of George W. Bush, but I am plain sick and tired of hearing politicians argue about who can best effectuate change. Tell me what changes you propose. Tell me how you will make better changes. Just don't argue about change as some rhetorical abstraction-- a meaningless marketing ploy you hope to use as a crowbar for separating yourself from the opposition.

ordinary girl at tales of an ordinary girl
for her series on Christian Education (5 posts)
I didn't expect evolution to be part of the curriculum. When I was in school learning under the Beka curriculum we had an English teacher who dared say that she believed evolution was a tool used by God for creation. She was fired for it. And now that I think back on the event I realize it was probably the fault of students like me who found her line of reasoning heretical because I'd been indoctrinated to a point that I couldn't even imagine anything apart from the literal interpretation of the Bible (when it suited the church).

sacred slut at A Whore in the Temple of Reason
for Beside the Point
Yet really, what is the supposed meaning that reunion with God provides? I have never heard anything coherent articulated on this point. If you consider impartially what "point" there is to any of those vaguely-envisioned outcomes - usually entailing some sort of nebulous, disembodied eternal bliss - the process of living seems more important than the end goal anyway.
Once again, I'd like to make my monthly plea reminding everyone to give me a tap on the e-shoulder if you see a post that might be Stermy-worthy. Please, though, if you notice that I've left a comment at that very post, chances are good that I've not only seen it, but that I've actually read it. (This may not always be the case, but it's highly likely.) However, if you stumble across exemplary writing that you think I might have missed, let me know. Thanks.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Understand that Aristotle Was a Riot

I’ve been seeing lots of really stupid debates between atheists and religionists lately. But, then, aren’t all debates between atheists and religionists stupid?

That last question is rhetorical: I don’t really expect an answer. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a response, but — and this is addressed particularly to any Christians who happen to stumble over here — do read the rest of this post before spouting any nonsense.

Why are all debates between atheists and religionists stupid?
You’ll have to figure this out for yourself. But here’s some information that might help. There will be a test — the next time you run smack up against a Christian troll. So pay attention.

The three musketeers of argument are Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

According to Aristotle, who knew a little something about rhetoric, those are the different kinds of appeals a person can use when debating.

... is an appeal based on “character,” or what we’d usually recognize today as “authority.” Aristotle thought it was the most important type of argument. In his day, an appeal to Ethos depended on the character, authority, and reputation of the speaker. Aristotle was qualified to make an argument about philosophy based on Ethos because he was Aristotle; Nicky the drunken cook in the Greek deli wasn't qualified to appeal to Ethos; nobody gave a crap what a drunken cook had to say. On the other hand, Nicky might have had more Ethos than Artistotle in a debate about how best to prepare spanakopita.

Nowadays, an appeal to Ethos can involve a transfer of reputation. For example: I know it’s true because Jesus said it in the Bible or I saw it on an episode of Nova, so I’ll believe it until I have good reason not to.

Obviously, both atheists and religionists make arguments using Ethos. However, they do not (usually) accept one another’s authorities as valid. It makes no difference to atheists how many people in the world believe in the supernatural. It makes no difference to creationists how many scientists accept evolution. Why would atheists care about what Paul wrote to the Ephesians? Why would religionists care about what Daniel Dennett said to Charlie Rose? Reputation is irrelevant.

So basing your arguments on Ethos will make for a stupid debate.

... is an appeal to the emotions. It can be a very effective trick for religionists who are trying to sway other religionists, because most of them love hearing whatever makes them feel comfortable, or happy, or wise in the ways of the lord. Pathos is also an extremely effective strategy for atheists to use among themselves, because — admit it! — we love to be pissed off. Man, do we like getting each other up in arms, and we do it very effectively, day after day after day.

If you'd like to see a master at using arguments based on Pathos — although she may get angry at me for giving her this compliment — go check out chappy. (By the way, her partner, deacon, is a damn good practitioner of this technique, as well.) Look at her latest post, although there are others that are similarly constructed. She starts with an example of an abuse by religion, often an anecdote based on something she has experienced firsthand. Then, in a logical sequence, she presents her oh-so-rational points, one by one. I suspect that if you asked her what kind of argument she was using, she'd tell you she was appealing through Logos. But for me, it’s not my intellect that first gets hooked; it’s my gut. Whenever I read about the evils of religion, particularly if there's any focus on the brainwashing of young children, I'm won over by my emotions. If the writer is someone I respect (there's that Ethos cropping up), I'm feeling rage and disgust at religionists long before I get to the syllogisms. Chappy, you had me at "hell."

Another good example of a fantastic appeal by Pathos is this:

Notice, however, that Pathos works best within a group. Atheists stir the emotions of other atheists; religionists stir the emotions of other religionists. The two groups don’t really affect one another much.

So basing your arguments on Pathos will make for a stupid debate.

... is an appeal using logic. How thick-headed does an atheist have to be to see that Logos is entirely ineffective against deluded people? In honor of Lewis Carroll, a rare rational theist whose birthday is tomorrow, here’s a dialogue from Alice in Wonderland. I’ve changed the names of the speakers, but the rest of the text is verbatim:

"But I don't want to go among mad people," the Lifeguard remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said CL. "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said PhillyChief.

"You must be," said iggy, "or you wouldn't have come here."

So basing your arguments on Logos will make for a stupid debate.

Stupid debates
Time after time, I see people I respect falling down the rabbit hole. I’ve been known to plummet down there, myself.

But look. We’re not going to sell evolution to everybody, so let’s stop trying. Those of us who accept evolution don’t need to have it explained to us over and over and over. (So please, for fuck’s sake, stop — unless you have something new to add.) And those who dismiss evolution aren’t going to change their minds no matter how many times, or how loudly, science-lovers try to teach them. That’s an ineffective appeal by Ethos. When two people speak different languages, as scientists and fundamentalists do, repetition and shouting are not effective tools for clarification. If a theist asks a question about science, and if one of us is well-read enough to give a cogent answer — then he or she should do so. (Evo did a very nice, succinct job of this here.) But really? Who gives a rat’s ass whether religionists “believe in” evolution. It’s not some magical phenomenon to be believed in; it's a natural process that needs no sanction from the ignorati — just as the Earth will continue to revolve around the Sun no matter how many idiots don't agree with that explanation. Our only “job” as atheists is to make sure that science isn’t squelched by superstition. But those redneck kids up the block who go to Bible school? They don’t need to know about Darwin.

Likewise, atheists shouldn’t spend so much time appealing by Pathos, trying to prove to religionists that some of us can be moral, or ethical, or charitable, or friendly, or .... Why should we have to justify our freedom from faith to anyone? I don’t want to be known as the “oh, he’s a good atheist” guy. That strategy isn’t what the Bill of Rights is about. Even the nasty guys are entitled to their rights. I don’t want to be held up as an example — good or not — of anyone other than myself.

Anger? No one can ever succeed in getting believers angry at religion. Oh, you can get Christians furious at Muslims, and Muslims furious at Jews, and Jews furious at Christians. You can incite Catholics and Protestants against one another, or Sunnis and Shiites, or pro-Israel Reform Jews and anti-Israel Chasidim. But one thing you can never do is get any religionist angry at religion, itself.

Finally, endless appeals by Logos get so tiresome. Pointing out detailed logical fallacies to a person whose entire worldview is generated by a huge illogical premise is an exercise in futility.

I’ve heard atheists whom I consider quite brilliant say something like:

Well, I’m not trying to change the mind of the person with whom I’m debating; I’m trying to influence the quiet people who are just listening in the audience.
But you know what? When you play with the inmates in an asylum, the spectators may not be able to tell that you’re not just as nuts as the rest of the team. As Alice found out, when you try to have a reasonable conversation at a mad tea party, you wind up sounding mad, too.

My recommendation therefore, is to avoid debating with religionists. If you find yourself drawn in, either because you're aiding a friend, or defending yourself, or you just can't resist, why not try using a fourth type of appeal?

... is an appeal to the funny bone. Yeah, it’s technically another form of Pathos. But it feels good, and it’s a fantastic defense against all other arguments. Many atheists need to learn to lighten up. Perhaps religionists must take themselves seriously in order to take themselves at all. But we atheists have the intellectual freedom to poke fun. So we should avail ourselves far more often than we do of perhaps the most powerful argumentation weapon at our disposal: humor.

As Mark Twain said: Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dear Athiest: Fan Mail from Trinity

If you've been following the great debates at JP's place (and if you haven't been, you probably ought to at least take a peek), you may have already met the person who sent me the following email earlier today.

Dear athiest, (on jps’ blog i called you the owel guy because i had trouble writing extremnater. sorry, i will write that if you want. but do you mind if i just call you the?. So hear goes.) Dear the,

thank you for agreing with me about iggy being a liar. so i decide to go and look at your blog. maybe im not as smart as some poeple but i dont understand a lot there. first you ask “Are you better off then you were 200 years ago?”. im sorry but that doesnt make any sence to me because we were all still dead 200 years ago.

then you said you were runing for presedant but i dont beleive you. you are not on tv. sorry if you are but i dont think you are because i watch a lot of different chanels and i never see you. sometimes i dont watch sprots or cooking shows (i hate cooking shows because why do we need them when their are good rest’o’rants???). so if you are running on tv, please tell me what chanel (even if its sprots or coking) and what time because i would like to see you. i dout that you really look like an owel. (that is a joke so dont be angry. i dont always tell them as good as the 3 stogges.) but if you are running you shoud definatly try to be on tv more. i dont think any presidant was ever illected who wasnt on tv at least on jay lenno or opra or ellin. i woud pick ellin because she is funny and dances and jay lenno and opra are not funny and dances.

if you are not runing for presedant why would you say you are runing for presedant and not? is this a good joke for athiests??? because sorry i dont get it. we all ready have alot of poeple runing for presedant. we have hilarie (but i herd a commidan say they should call her hilarous! dont blame me for that joke because im not that good). and that black muslem guy and that New York one from 7-11 and fred tomsin (used to but drooped out yester day) and Mitt Romny (you prabobly know all ready that he is a moron! but did you know they think there underpants are magic? im not kidding!!!) and Mike Huckabee (yay!). im for Mike Huckabee. he is the only ture Christian running (even you!)

i also looked at your blog other things you wrote. i dont want to critasize but did you know you speled Christian wrong? you wrote Quistian. theres no Q in the real word. just so you know, we get that word from Jesus Christ who is the one true savor who came to Earth with powers and abilties far biyond those of mortel men and was born of Mary a virgo and crossfied for us all to take our sins away from us and then He rose after the 3ird day and joined His Father God in Heave. even thouhg you dont beleive in Him (you are athiest rimember?) you should of speled His name right. the h is the hard part but the rest is just the way it sounds.

maybe you have trouble with the h on your key bored because i aslo see you dint spell Mike Huckabee right. you speled him with F instead of H. i bet you dint relize that you made a bad word there maybe you never heard it. but you shoud look up F-U-C-K and then youl be unbarassed. when you find out what it means youll be happy noone calls you F-U-C-K-E-R-M-I-N-A-T-O-R. (I coped that cair fully so i spelled it write except for the F-U-C-K part at the beginning.) (its really E-T-X, in case you didnt relize what i ment).

one other questoin for you. why do you have a line throuhg Gods picture. i dont think thats very nice. you dint put a line throuhg the owels picture did you? if you put lines throuhg pictures it shoud be fair, God AND owel.

heres another questin and then i will stop. this is not really a questoin but i hope you read it any way. i want to help you because you helped me with iggy. i allways like to help a nother Christian so why shount i help a athiest once and a while. exspeciall if he helped me with a liar like you? maybe i will show you why you shoud be a Christian. and then i would of helped a Christian not an athiest!!!

So heres six reasons. (you can read about them in the Bible) 1- Jesus turned the bread into wine, 2- Jesus saved the woman from stonning because she was an adult, 3- Jesus razed Lazeris, 3- Jesus made a lame person walk (just so you know. when the Bible says lame it is not like a lame joke or a lame axcuse. it is a person who cant walk and Jesus made him)., 4- Jesus heeled the leapers (thats a dissease where things fall off there body!!!), 5. Jesus gave the Surmon of the Month. 6. the crossifixation where he died for are sins.

so thats six reasons!!!

are you a Christian yet? (i know your not thats just a joke. im not that good at them. but think about it).

also sorry, but one last questoin. what is no more hornets mean? do you some times right about hornets? they are another word for bees, right? i looked but i coud not find any bees on your blog. i think if you are saying no more some thing there shoud be that some thing some where for there to be no more of. just a sugstion.

thank you for lissening and for agreeing with me agenst iggy.

your fiend,


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Are You Better Off than You Were 2,000 Years Ago?

Apparently, some of my readers think I’m kidding about running for president. But since none of the Democratic or Republican candidates have taken a stand against pandering to the religious wackjobs in the country, I am now officially tossing my hat into the ring, although I hope you'll consider voting for all my clothes.

Article VI of the Constitution says, in part:

... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
I believe that discussing faith as if it were a qualification is a violation of that clause, if not technically then at least in spirit. As a candidate, and as your president, I promise always to obey that Constitutional prohibition. I'm the only candidate of either party who has made such a promise.

Like many of the other presidential aspirants, I plan to end the war in Iraq, capture every terrorist in the world, work diplomatically with other countries unless we absolutely have to bomb them, ensure that all our citizens have health care or can at least afford to watch doctor shows on TV, raise the quality of our public education without actually forcing the schools to teach anything, end the recession, stop inflation, cut taxes, bring family values and child labor back to the American workplace, and go forward. I’m particularly interested in going forward, as backward seems like the exact wrong direction to head. But I’m willing to teach the controversy, and will work with both the Democratic and Republican leaders if they can make a cogent case for going backward.

Here's the rest of my platform:
  1. I will not take an oath of office at my inauguration. The Constitution gives the president an option to “affirm,” rather than “swear,” and that’s what I’ll do. I will not place my hand on a Bible, nor will I say “So help me God,” neither of which actions are required — or even mentioned — in the Constitution. If my public relations staff insists that I place my hand on some book, I’ll use my Facts-on-File Encyclopedia of Mammals because it’s the fattest volume I own and it looks really important. Plus, unlike the bible, a lot of the stuff in it is true. And if my staff thinks I should say “So help me ... someone,” I’ll fill in the blank with “Rhonda.”

  2. I will immediately disband all faith-based agencies funded by the executive branch. I will, however, start a new program of president-to-church outreach. Here’s how it’ll work: I’ll stand in the middle of the Oval Office and stretch out my arms. Any churches I can reach get government funding. Any churches I can’t reach, are out.

  3. I will not appoint judges who label themselves “strict” constructionists. That’s a meaningless term, since no judge would refer to him- or herself as an “inaccurate” constructionist. Instead, I will seek out those judges who have consistently refused to contort the Bill of Rights to fit a social conservative agenda. It also wouldn’t be bad if the judge knew how to throw a decent joke or at least a “fuck you” into an opinion once in a while.

  4. I will work tirelessly to pass the Render Unto Caesar act. Under RUC, there will be no more tax breaks of any kind for religious institutions. There’s no reason why families and corporations, both rich and poor, should have to pay taxes but churches should get a free pass. Taxing churches does not infringe on the separation of church and state; giving churches tax-free real estate and allowing them to accumulate untold wealth does. Whether RUC is enacted or not, I will change the name “Internal Revenue Service” to “Caesar’s Palace.” Goodbye Uncle Sam; hello Uncle Julius.

  5. I will not have prayer breakfasts in the White House. I will not have prayer lunches in the White House. I will not have prayer dinners, or prayer brunches, or prayer cocktail hours, or prayer snack breaks, or prayer milk-‘n’-cookie times. In fact, I will not associate a supernatural entity and food at all while I’m in the White House, except possibly by saying, “I hope the executive chef is not going to serve those GODdamned French-cut canned stringbeans again.”

  6. I will begin negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians to cede control of Jerusalem to the Walt Disney Company. Disney will have to promise to give up its nuclear capability before taking over. It must also provide plans for a proposed new ride, “It’s a Small Superstitious World.” Mouse ears will not be mandatory on yarmulkes and hijabs, although visitors will be required to wave happily at anyone with a camera.

  7. I will not be photographed with any religious leader whatsoever. These include the Dalai Lama, the Pope, Tom Cruise, and Joe Lieberman. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have any problem doing a short video with a young woman in a nun’s outfit.

  8. I will remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Not only that, but I’ll rewrite the entire thing. The new Pledge will say: “I pledge allegiance to this great country that doesn’t expect me to blindly pledge allegiance.” Reciting it will be optional. Also, I will remove “In God We Trust” from all currency. The new currency will bear the motto, “Warning: do not drive or operate heavy machinery after counting what’s left in your wallet.”

  9. I will not appoint anyone who isn’t a genuine scientist to a scientific advisory position. A “genuine scientist” will be defined as “anyone who can explain, so that even a layman can understand, why every high school student in the country has to dissect a frog.” I also will not appoint anyone who isn’t a real economist to an economic advisory position. A “real economist” will be defined as “anyone who has a couple of bucks to spare until I get to the bank.” And no one will be given a job in the Justice Department unless he or she actually believes in justice.

  10. I will keep an Executive Office dunce cap. That cap will be worn by anyone in the White House, including me, who says something that’s quoted with approval on the Fox News network. I will entertain bids from companies wishing to design and manufacture this dunce cap. Then, I’ll make those numbers public, so that citizens can decide for themselves whether it’s reasonable to pay Halliburton $87 million for a pointy hat.
I’m The Exterminator and I proofread this message.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two Quotes

I've never reached back into my own vault of posts before today. But Quote 1 below has been floating all over the Internet, as well as being repeated on TV and radio stations, and appearing in newspapers nationwide. Quote 2 has gotten absolutely no attention anywhere. Why is that?

Quote 1:

I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards.
Mike Huckabee, 01/14/08
Quote 2:
I would like to propose the following Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Anti-Ignorance Amendment
No person whose religious beliefs alone prevent him or her from accepting an overwhelming expert consensus relating to facts and data of science and/or history shall be eligible to the office of president.
The Exterminator, 05/04/07
I'm also going to reprint a response I made to a comment, just so we don't start with this nonsense again:
Yes, the Constitution argues against a religious test. But I'm not proposing one; the president should be free to practice whatever religion he or she chooses, as long as the Constitution is not endangered by his or her religious observance. (Remember: the oath of office requires the president to swear or affirm that he or she will "to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.") My proposal is for an intelligence test, which establishes a bare minimum capability for effectively doing what the president must swear to do. The founding fathers worried about a mob-ocracy, and put certain checks and balances, like the Bill of Rights, in place to keep a potentially ignorant majority from running the country. If the Constitution can insist that the president be a certain age presumably to ensure maturity there's no reason that it can't insist on some minimal intellectual standard.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quazy Quistian Question # 4

The format for today’s Quazy Quistian Question is going to be a little different than usual. I'm confident that most of you will be able to adjust, but, even if you can't, I’m gonna begin with a playlet. We can use my father’s barn to put it on if Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney will supply some singing and dancing.

(Scene: The comment thread following a post titled The Morality of Christianity on a blog called Christianity is Confusing. )

Michelle: Atheism is the belief system of the Communist Manifesto. More wars have been started from the Communist Revolution throughout the world.

TheDeeZone: There have many wars started by comunisist. The offical religion of communism is atheism.

The Exterminator: Michelle said: Atheism is the belief system of the Communist Manifesto. The Dee Zone said: The offical religion of communism is atheism. Could either of you refer me to some evidence on this, because I can’t seem to find it.

Michelle: I did a quick google of marxism + atheism and found over 800 published works. Keep looking. My source, you may not like, but I’ll give it to you anyway: A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer

TheDeeZone: My sources: Numerous history textbooks that I have either had as a student or taught from. My husband the historian. People I know that have been to, lived in or are from former communist countries.

The Exterminator: Michelle said: Atheism is the belief system of the Communist Manifesto. The Dee Zone said: The offical religion of communism is atheism. I asked for evidence. I didn’t ask for your sources. I asked for evidence. Acceptable evidence of Michelle’s statement would have to be found in The Communist Manifesto itself, since she specifically named that book. Evidence of Dee’s statement would have to be found in some official international communist document that applied to communism in all its manifestations, since she made a blanket statement about an “official religion of communism.” No offense, but one’s husband the historian is not evidence. Numerous unnamed history books are not evidence. Anecdotes from people who have been to or lived in communist countries are not evidence. A Christian Manifesto is not evidence. A Google search is not evidence.

Michelle: I’m not doing your research for you. The books are out there, read them. I’m not writing a paper on the subject, so I’ve not documented references. Sorry.

The Exterminator: Well, Michelle, you’re the one who made the assertions, not me. Either you can back them up with evidence, or you can’t. If you can’t, just say so. If you can, provide the evidence. Simple.

The Exterminator (after a few minutes): Michelle, I’m not being 100% fair to you, because maybe I haven’t explained clearly why the onus is on you to back up what you said. This information is for everyone here, not only Michelle. Let’s say that someone makes a statement: A miniature elf that no one but me can feel, sits on my shoulder and tells me what to do. Now, you and I doubt that. So we ask that person to prove what he says. He says: “No, you disprove it.” Of course, we can’t, even though intuitively we know that the statement is nonsense. But his asking us to disprove the statement is beside the point. He made the statement; the burden is on him to provide evidence. Otherwise, our natural response is to disbelieve it. If that were not the case, we’d all be walking around all the time trying to prove that the moon isn’t made of green cheese and that there isn’t really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And that there are no invisible, intangible elves on people’s shoulders.

TheDeeZone: Sounds like you have your mind made up & will accept no other opinion. I don’t have access to the textbooks I have taught from & can’t really remember the names other than World Geography & World History.

The Exterminator: I don’t have my mind made up. You’re free to change it any time. Just provide some evidence.
Yesterday, Philly and I spent a few hours arguing with a Christian who insisted, among other unfounded assertions that he pulled out of his ass, that there was no evidence for the existence of wind. Believe me, you don't want to read the comment thread at JP's blog unless you think the best way to get a haircut is by tearing it out in frustration.

In any case, since banging my head against the wall made my skull unattractively asymmetrical, I thought I might straighten it out by finding a reason to continue pounding on it. So, shooting for that appealing flat-top look, I moseyed over to the blog I cited above, and found my way to that post and comment thread. A few days ago, I'd left a request for evidence, not because I actually gave a shit, but just to be a wise-guy. I'm sometimes prompted to do mischievous things by the invisible, intangible elf that sits on my shoulder. Those of you who have your own elves know exactly what I'm talking about, right?

Anyway, you've read the result. Now I'm beginning to think that some Christians disdain all evidence about everything, not only religious matters. This might be a clever ploy, because if they admit that they accept evidence for anything, they'd have to at least wonder why there's none to support their silly beliefs. On the other hand, it might not be a clever ploy; it might just be stupidity.

Quazy Quistian Question # 4:
In order to justify their beliefs, must Christians dismiss the validity of evidence in all instances, even those that are unrelated to religious matters? Explain your response.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Read the Book While You See the Movie

Every now and then I get tired of the foofaraw in the Atheosphere and just like to relax my mind, not burdening it with any details. Yesterday was my birthday, so I didn't want to have to trouble myself with the usual atheistic minutia like how many fundamentalists can dance on the head of a pin, or what caused the strange disappearance of DaVinci (the blogger, not the genius).

Instead, Mrs. Exterminator and I spent some time reminiscing about the good old days. The good old days — which, really, weren’t that great unless you liked French-cut canned stringbeans — were back before the Atheosphere, back before the Internet, back before laptop and desktop computers. In those days, people found information by reading books. I’m not kidding. We turned pages with our — yuck! — fingers.

Of course, that’s an outmoded procedure nowadays, but Mrs. Ex and I are kind of outmoded ourselves. So, even though each of us can Google with the best of them, we still often find ourselves racing to our bookshelves whenever we’re in search of tidbits of information. You can’t teach an old dog new research methods. That’s why it takes us about a week and a half to get through a 90-minute DVD.

To be more precise about the reason it takes us so long: It’s because we’re Lookies.

The original Lookies were a couple of friendly question-mark-shaped children in the 1950s who urged kids to nag their parents for the World Book Encyclopedia. Their motto, as I remember it, was: "We never guess; we look it up. 'Cause we're the Lookies!"

I've been a Lookie all my life, and so has Mrs. Exterminator. Years ago, when we first combined living quarters, we sat our two reference collections down and promised that we'd show no favoritism. But now, ages later, we still don't trust each other's books.

"What does 'heuristic' mean?" she might ask, looking up at me from a magazine article.

"I’m not sure. Let's look it up."

"Use my dictionary."

"Mine's better."

"Well, it's my word."

Our Lookitude really flourishes, though, when we're watching a film. Like we were last night.

"What city is that?" asks Mrs. Ex, as the camera pans down on the opening shot.

"I'm not sure it matters to the story," I answer, scanning Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, an edition of which I always grab before pressing Play. You never know what kind of film-knowledge emergencies might come up.

"Of course it matters,” she says. “It’s not just some vague place. We're supposed to recognize those buildings. What does the book say? I see palm trees. It's probably Miami or L.A., don't you think?"

"There's a street sign," I point out.

"I missed it. Stop and hit reverse. Let's see it again."

Meanwhile, the film's narrator is telling us, "The sun rose that morning over ..."

"Stop that damn thing for a minute!"

"C'mon," I complain. "He just said it was Minneapolis."

"I don’t care what he said, but I think you’re hearing things. There aren’t any palm trees in Minneapolis. Even you know that, right? Go look up 'palm' in my botany encyclopedia."

"Maybe it was an unusually warm summer," I suggest. "Let's just watch the movie."

Mrs. Ex leans over and grabs the remote from my hand, frantically hitting pause. "Wait a second. Wait a second. What else took place in Minneapolis? I'm thinking of something but I can't zero in on it."

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show,'" I say.

"Oh, yeah, right." We both sing “Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take ..."

“You know when Mary Tyler Moore really made me smile?" Mrs. Ex gets up to walk over to one of our 3,000 bookcases. "I wanna find something in Total TV. Just bear with me a second. Go pee or something"

"I don’t have to. Can't it wait till after the movie?" I ask.

"This is gonna drive me crazy through the whole thing. When we were singing about Mary Tyler Moore, it reminded me of when she was married to Dick Van Dyke. And I suddenly can't remember their last name. Aha! Here it is! Petrie!"

"Yeah," I say, "like the dish we used to make gunk in during high school biology. Now you've got me curious. Who's that dish named for? You think it'll be in one of the desk encyclopedias?"

"I bet it's in mine."

"Mine's better. Hold on, while I check in my office."

“I’ll go look in mine.” Both of us call out, almost simultaneously, "J.R. Petri, German bacteriologist." Then, as she heads back to the living-room, she hollers, "OK, I'm ready to watch the movie now."

"No, no. Not yet," I holler back. "I wanna see something. I'm checking Nobel Prizes for Medicine in The World Almanac."

"What year?"

"I don’t know. I graduated from high school in '65, so it had to be before that. Just shut up and let me do some serious research here."

About fifteen minutes later, I march into the living-room, triumphantly.

“Did you find out if he won a Nobel Prize?” Mrs. Ex asks.

"No, I got sidetracked. But y’wanna hear something weird! We were just talking about Dick Van Dyke, and I was looking up awards given out in 1965, right?” She nods. “Well, guess who won the Miss America Contest in 1965!"

"No clue," she says.


“I can’t. Now you’re holding the movie up.”

"Vonda Kay Van Dyke!" I say. "Isn't that a strange coincidence?"

"What the hell kind of name is Vonda?"

"It's a variant of 'Wanda' and it means 'wanderer.' I knew you'd want to know, so I looked it up."


"In What to Name Your Baby."

"What are you doing with that?"

I shrug. "It was on sale at Barnes and Noble. I couldn't resist. You never know what kind of information ..."

"That reminds me," she says. "Remember ‘The Wanderer’?"

"Yeah, yeah. I figured you'd ask so I looked in The Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll. Dion sang it in 1962."

"Not that wanderer," she says. "A different wanderer. I was thinking of some opera character. Where's my opera handbook?"

"I'll go look in mine, too," I suggest.

Five minutes go by.

Siegfried," she calls. "By Wagner," I respond. "The Wanderer is Wotan," she calls. "Leader of the Norse gods," I answer.

"Yeah. By the way, my stylebook right here says not to confuse 'Norse' with 'Norwegian."

"You know who I picture when I think about Norwegians?”

“Garrison Keillor," she answers.

"Hey, that’s amazing," I shout. “Minnesota.”

"Minneapolis!" we both cheer.

Finally, having come full circle — at least for the time being — we head back to the couch to unpause the movie. And to breathe a sigh of relief after a job well done.

Nobody ever claimed that being a Lookie was gonna be easy.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Giving Evo the Bird

A few months ago, Evo was nagging me to adopt an avatar. Now that he apparently has forgotten, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it.

At the time, Evo suggested an image of an exterminator, which, no offense to him, seemed way too obvious. I mean, do I really need an illustration of my pseudonym for people who don’t know what it means? It’s the bug-spray person, f’cryinoutloud.

Next, I toyed with the idea of representing myself with a picture of John Adams. But if I were gonna use a portrait of an actual person who wasn’t me, I'd have to be crazy to choose somebody who’s not better-looking than I am in real life.

Then, I came up with the brilliant idea of using just a big red “X.” But that looked like I really wanted to be XXX, and wimped out.

Finally, though, I’ve happily picked a Great Horned Owl as an appropriate character to typify me.

I identify strongly with this guy. Here’s why:

  • He prefers to work and play during the night-time, and so do I. For me, the daylight hours are good only for banking and going to the dentist. Occasionally, I can be talked into doing something else while the sun is out, but there had better be a tasty breakfast or lunch involved.

  • We’ll both eat just about anything except French-cut canned stringbeans.

  • Owls are reputed to be wise, but, of course, he’s not. I make no comparisons here.

  • A Great Horned Owl is often successful attacking a Bald Eagle. The Bald Eagle, as we all know, is our national symbol — thanks to a suggestion by that very John Adams whom I don’t wanna look like. I strive to live up to the example set by my avian buddy. In my case, that involves attacking phony patriots who conflate Christianity with being American.

  • Unlike many owl species, he actually does say “who? who?” I’m proud to be represented by a critter who asks a lot of annoying questions.

  • Watch out, rats, reptiles, and skunks!

  • And finally, he looks really cantankerous. I just thought I’d point that out. Any conclusions you draw are your own.

Best of all, birders often hear a Great Horned Owl's call as “Who’s awake? Are you? Me, too.”

I like that as a slogan.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The "H" is for "House," not "Huckabee"

If you've missed the news about H. Res. 888, you probably haven't been cruising the Atheosphere today. The resolution's alleged purpose is:

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.
Now aside from the grammatical observations that (1) for clarity, a comma should have been added after the words "subsequent history" (yes, I know each comma costs American taxpayers $7 million), and (2) the final preposition "on" should have been "in," I've got nothing to say that hasn't already been said. Chris Rodda, who is far more knowledgeable than I am, has commented in great detail about the resolution's many historical lies.

The full text of the proposed resolution can be found both here and here.

So much for those faith-based atheists who fail to see this kind of clear evidence of a very dangerous national trend. Mike Huckabee's win in the Iowa Republican caucuses is not merely one state's aberration. Even Obama's victory in the Democratic caucuses there could reasonably be interpreted as a cry for "more religion." (Obama scores 9 out of a possible 10 on BeliefNet's God-o-Meter.)

If this resolution actually makes it to the floor, I urge all atheists NOT to spout lame excuses for any Democrats who vote "yea." Some freethinkers, including a few of my regular readers, did that previously concerning H. Res. 847. (If you've already forgotten that one — and shame on you if you have — see my discussion of it, and the follow-up comments, here.)


I'll now turn you over to Philly's post, in which he includes various links, including one that facilitates writing to your congressperson.

(H/T to commenter NaturalVision)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Breaking News: Fuckabee Hucks Up a Meme

As I've said many times before, memes are stupid. However, my good friend the chaplain has called me up to the altar, and I'm dying to have an opportunity to preach.

Here's her description of the meme:

The rules are pretty simple. First, I’ve been asked to select three members of my blogroll that I think constitute a unique combination that may not be found elsewhere. I may say as little or as much as I like about them; I promise to play nicely. Second, I must tag three people to continue the meme.
Now, to tell you the truth, I don't know what the hell the meme's instigator meant by "a unique combination."

Do I try to contrast the youngest blogger on my blogroll with the oldest? I'm pretty sure the former is Yinny, and I'm guessing the latter is that old fart, Ric.

Or do I look for fairly new atheists like JP and Lifeguard, and point out how they contrast with some folks who have been atheists for a long time, like Evo and Philly?

Maybe I should note similarities and differences among bloggers from the west (Mojoey), the south (Babs), the midwest (Hemant) and the northeast (SI)?

Hey, how about some godless women vs. some heathen women? Judging from what DaVinci has been into lately, I'm sure he'd enjoy that one.

But, I've just heard a report that the biggest moron ever, creationist Mike Huckabee, has been declared the Republican winner of the Iowa caucuses. In a country not ruled by the media no one would give a good goddamn what a nothing place like Iowa thinks. But here in The TV States of America, the ovine public might be talked into seeing that ignormaus as a viable candidate. For the next few days, we're going to be barraged with news about Pastor Huckleberry's "momentum." Journalistic crap like that could actually influence the primaries elsewhere, since the main criterion for presidential candidates seems to be something called "electability." Which has as much to do with real ability as an electric chair has to do with a real chair.

And so, since I'm unspeakably embarrassed to be an American right now, my pick for a unique combination of members of my blogroll contains three (actually four) furriners: heather and TW, from the (so far) more enlightened U.K.; C. L. Hanson, who wisely fled the Mormonism of our country (oh, yeah, that reminds me: Mittens came in second) for Europe; and Lynet, who lives on the other side of the world.

I tag no one. But if you're one of the enlightened few in this country and I've forgotten to give you a link, let me know and I'll do so while it's still legal.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I Resolve ... Not to Make Any Resolutions

Welcome, 2008. Despite the title of this post, I couldn't resist. That's one resolution broken already. Here are the rest of my resolutions.

  • Eat more Brussels sprouts and fewer Hostess Sno Balls. If possible, invent a way to fill Brussels sprouts with cream and cover them in coconut and marshmallow.

  • Be nastier to people who come to my door selling god. They're trespassing, both physically and psychically. Continue to respect their right to speak freely, but not on my property.

  • In elections, resist the strong temptation to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Anyone who mixes large doses of religion into politics is sufficiently evil for me not to want him or her in a position of responsibility. Our Democratic “friends” may turn out to be more insidiously harmful than our Republican “enemies;” at least we have our atheistic guard up when the latter are in power. If necessary, swallow hard and write in “The Exterminator” for every single race.

  • Don’t publish philosophical space-fillers on No More Hornets. Most philosoblogging, even that with which I agree, is mental masturbation masquerading as deep thinking.

  • Challenge other atheists whenever they make statements not supported by evidence. Also, challenge other atheists whenever they say stupid things. Expect to be challenged myself.

  • Keep away from situations that may “trigger” my urge to smoke. Look into renting a giant bubble.

  • Try to be more tactful. Oh, fuck that. Who am I kidding?
    Always be honest, because tact is overrated.

  • Don’t waste time reading modern screeds about atheism, by atheists, for atheists. Older books and essays are great for their literary value and historical interest, but no atheist writing being done today can make a difference in my own god-free life. I don’t need to have my atheism bolstered. Anyone who does need his or her atheism bolstered is a closet theist.

  • Now that I’ve stopped smoking, I should exercise once in a while. Exercise has many plusses in its favor: it’s good for my health, it helps clear my mind, and it gives me an excuse to buy more music for my iPod.
    Screw exercise. It's boring, and it uses up time that could better be spent snacking.

  • Remember what David Hume said: Truth springs from argument amongst friends. So I'll never shirk my duty to disagree with a pal. It’s intellectually dishonest to “play nice” all the time.

  • Find some way to earn a living through my atheist writing. Or through saying “fuck” a lot. Or both.

  • Remind myself often that blogging is fun. Despite what I’d like to believe when I’m in Grandiosity Mode, I’m not going to change the world through my rants on No More Hornets. I might get a handful of people to laugh once in a while, or to think about something in a slightly new way. That’s great. But I’m not posting because I have any compelling atheistic mission. So if the writing process isn’t enjoyable, why do it?

  • Do not, under any circumstances, post images or videos that I think are cute. “Cute” is antithetical to everything I stand for. However, do use more graphics.
I included that last resolution mostly to please Phillychief. I admit, though, that a picture is worth 1,000 words, especially if they’re all “tweet.” So here are two images of my favorite backyard bird.

Yes, he looks like he flew through a dye factory, but he didn’t. He’s a painted bunting, and I’ve got three males living in the botanical mess behind my house, and frequenting my feeders. (Five females or juveniles are also back there; they’re colored in various shades of green, and look something like pudgy parakeets.) If I were a religious person, I’d point to the painted bunting as a prime example of a godly creation with the sole purpose of giving humans pleasure. Because I think that’s a load of crap, I have to acknowledge that these bird’s don’t give a rat’s ass whether I think they’re beautiful or not. Their adaptations in plumage serve a purpose for them, not for me.

Still, their selfish genes, without any altrustic motivation whatsoever, result in my great joy. I’d like to share that feeling today with all my friends in the Atheosphere. So these images are my way of saying Happy New Year.