left biblioblography: January 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slaughter Of The Dissidents – No Blood, No Guts, Just Whining…

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!slaughter_dissidents_w

Pursuant to a thread at Pharyngula, a particular book was mentioned. So Googling it up, I found this wonderful bit of folderol:

By now you've probably heard about that infamous movie so many people are talking about called EXPELLED, starring Ben Stein. No? OK, so if you haven't seen it yet, you should. This film played for a limited engagement in theatres across the USA in 2008 (but don't go rushing out to buy the video until you've visited the offers from our partners at the "Order Online" tab above). If you missed the movie (or just want to read up on what others are saying about it) you can check out another movie trailer here, and read some reviews and commentary about it here.

‘Limited engagement’ actually translates to ‘invitation only’ across a limited amount of showings, and I’m sure we’re all up on this non-issue that Stein tried to stoke a non-fire in the intellectual underbrush.

So why am I even mentioning this movie? Because the book Slaughter of the Dissidents (SOD) picks up where the movie "Expelled" leaves off. If you thought Expelled was mind-blowing, then this book will educate you even further about this important issue of repression of freedom and discrimination currently playing in academia today, along with many case studies of expelled scientists and educators (some of the SOD case studies also focus on some of the "Expelles" introduced in the movie).

I thought it was mind-blowing that Stein imagined he even had a controversy, let alone a point.

"Expelled" has taken many Americans by surprise. Suddenly, a growing number of people are wondering: what is this discrimination against Darwin skeptics all about? What do you mean we kick people out of academia just for asking questions about evolution! Is this really true? And just how bad is it really.

Like all empty incendiary rhetoric, it’s really not all that bad. Nobody’s been ‘slaughtered’, either physically or metaphorically. It’s simply scare-mongering, is what it is.

Well, in a word, the treatment of Darwin skeptics in our culture (scientists, educators, and students) is very poor. Many of them endure incredible humilation and eventual loss of their jobs. But even worse, being a Darwin skeptic for many of these people is a complete career-ender. Of course, there are many who try to argue against such claims, as you can see by visiting sites like "Expelled Exposed." We plan to provide some rebuttals to those arguments at some point in the future. But for now... SOD will serve as a starting point.

You won't believe some of the reasons many educators have lost their jobs, and how they often get blackballed from academia, or why some students failed to get an otherwise earned degree. This pernicious form of discrimination is not only widespread in the U.S. but is also nauseating to most Americans. SOD goes into great detail about how and why it occurs, and provides you with scores of actual case studies. As you read this book you'll discover that one of the most precious things we own is at risk, right here in America. What is that?

In a word,


The price you pay for going against the scientific consensus (and especially on a topic that has been proven up and down and sideways to Muskogee) is…well, ridicule is something you’ll have to endure, especially when you don the martyr’s cap and cry ‘poor me!’ when you propound twaddle.

Freedom to disagree about some aspects of evolution without losing your job or being denied an earned degree. Freedom to tell people you dare to question any aspect of evolution on scientific grounds - without referencing any religious text.

Either the author doesn’t understand the definition of ‘aspect’, which is:

1. appearance to the eye or mind; look: the physical aspect of the country, 2. nature; quality; character: the superficial aspect of the situation, 3. a way in which a thing may be viewed or regarded; interpretation; view: both aspects of a decision. 4. part; feature; phase: That is the aspect of the problem that interests me most. 5. facial expression; countenance: He wore an aspect of gloom. Hers was an aspect of happy optimism. 6. bearing; air; mien: warlike in aspect. (6 will do for now), or he’s being deliberately misleading about the ‘any aspect’ phrasing. Either one wouldn’t be a surprise.

And also the freedom to let others know what you personally believe outside of science without having such an utterance turn into a rabid witch hunt.

That’s utter nonsense, otherwise notables such as Ken Miller and Francis Collins would be pilloried in accordance with this ‘logic’.

Do you know it has reached the point in America where, on this subject at least, if you are an educator and you opine that you have reservations about any aspect of evolution based on scientific evidence, you are often immediately labeled as "religious" (whether you really are or not), and you are (often) immediately determined to be 'unfit' to teach science or get a science degree?

Unmitigated crap. Maybe a biology degree, but this ‘any aspect’ accusation is ridiculous.

And speaking of religion, it looks like we live in an era where freedom OF religion has been twisted to mean freedom FROM religion. Some groups supporting this type of discrimination proclaim that "Freedom depends on free thinkers," unless, of course, you happen to be 'religious'.

I don’t think I need to go any further with this. Of course, you can’t have freedom OF religion unless you have freedom FROM religion. This isn’t ‘discrimination’ – this is fact. It’s an equal playing field now – and this is the standard argument from martyrdom, except that we are all now familiar with the lies the Christians tell us, the lies they believe and will fight for, against all odds and evidence.

In addition, I might add that this execratory bit of work has an introduction by none other than “Dr.” D. James Kennedy. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular fuckwit, he was that same idiot who made the repugnant ‘documentary’ titled Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, which has been debunked and repudiated (but is still for sale!). Also, a hardcore theonomist.

One can only hope that this disorder we term religion will wilt away, that the human race can move onwards to greener pastures.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Family Guy And Religion

One of the funniest atheists around is Seth McFarlane, and his brand of humor probably wouldn’t have cut it twenty years back, but it sure does now:

And of course, the Brian Becomes An Atheist episode:



Monday, January 25, 2010

My Dinner With PZ Myers…

…okay, it was actually pizza and beer with approximately 20 other people – I was kinda going for the ‘My Dinner With Andre’ motif.

On Sunday January 24th, I drove down to De Anza college (about 9 minutes away from where I live) to see the good professor speak on Creationism And Complexity. And a good time was had by all. PZ spoke at length on a variety of topics dealing with creationism, deftly illustrating how they tend to cherry pick selected highlights to cast evolution in a poor light. One such example was the Stickleback fish – it turns out that there’s an off/on switch (yes, I’m simplifying it here) in the genome that activates whether or not they have the protective spines. Meyer and Behe dismissed this as ‘breaking and neutralizing’, not realizing the profound significance of this achievement.

The good professor also discussed the Banana Man (Dis)Comfort, and the word  ‘obtuse’ was used profusely on that topic. He also addressed the ‘no missing link’ argument, illustrating the many, many transitional fossil forms (including the seemingly unquestionable proof of whale evolution). He spoke on complex molecular models (at this point, unfortunately, the post-lunch drowsiness started to seep in, and I had to shake the glaze out).

PZ Myers handles his subjects well, both topical as well as audience. He speaks in that calm authoritative manner that comes from years of public speaking and being an educator, and it’s hard to picture him as the fire-breathing dragon his detractors portray him as.

The Q&A was interesting. One fellow brought up the concept of ‘using the bible to defeat the bible’, which I wanted to interject on (because when you tell a believer “The bible says it’s okay to kill this guy” or “the bible okays stoning disobedient children”, it comes out “The bible says it’s okay/okays blah-de-blah blah”), but I held my tongue. One fellow stood up, and asked a 5 minute question that, by the end of it, lost us all, and PZ had to ask what the question was. It boiled down to “What do you want US to do?” (Like we’re soldiers in an army, and PZ’s the general.) I asked him for a 15 to 30 second elevator speech for a response to the creationist trope, “how is the cell so complex?” The professor offered to sit down for an hour on the topic. Darn. I think elevator speeches are a distinct possibility for use, inasmuch as long involved talks aren’t really an American habit – we do so love sound bites. There were other questions to be sure, but they were mostly from the front row, and I was up in the 15th, and crane as I might, I didn’t catch them all.

(I’m doing this all from memory, so apologies if I’ve missed anything or in error.)

The turnout was somewhere in the vicinity of 50 people, and it was a nice mix, there was more older people (some snow on the mountain, and a few were missing shrubbery on the top), but there was enough young people, students, who attended.

We adjourned to B.J’s in Cupertino, a sports bar during a football game, perhaps not too strategic (a lot of roaring going on), but it wasn’t too bad. I introduced myself, adding that I’m also the Krystalline Apostate and mentioning this blog, to which the professor said (diplomatically) “Oh, yeah, sure.” Like he keeps track of everybody on the internet. (Facepalm)

I sat at the end of the table with 2 other fellows, and PZ gravitated over to us, probably because we were telling jokes and laughing uproariously (most of the rest were engaged in some somber discussion). I was corrected at least once, and I likely made a bit of a fool of myself  more than once (which is par for the course). We did talk of many serious matters as well, and the fellow who sat next to me spoke quite passionately about ‘spreading the word’ (my phrase, not his), and PZ addressed the popularization of our particular worldview. We spoke about Richard Dawkins for a while, his new children’s book, and other things.

In summation, I had fun. It’s nice to rub shoulders with people of like mind, and take the time to press the flesh (like in the picture, no smarmy comments please), and I need to go out and do this more often.

As a side note, for a liberal professor, PZ’s got some grip on him.

Thanks, professor.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Plagiarism Of The Diaspora – The Purloined Chapters Of Proverbs


Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Make holiday, don't weary of it ! Look there is no one allowed to take their things with them, and there is no one who goes away comes back again. – Lyric from the tomb of King Intef VI

It is no surprise to those of us who have studied religious history with an ├╝ber-critical eye – the Semitic tribe of Israelites borrowed heavily from their neighbors or whichever society they happened to be living in the middle of. Obvious Genesis was a generalized copy of Sumerian/Babylonian mythology, the flood was lifted almost in toto from Gilgamesh, and I’m sure some of our gentle readers can likely extrapolate other various cases of direct (or indirect) ‘borrowing’ of or from mythologies in the Middle East.

The example today is about the Instruction of Amenemope:

Instruction of Amenemope (also called Instructions of Amenemopet, Wisdom of Amenemopet) is a literary work composed in Ancient Egypt, most likely during the Ramesside Period; it contains thirty chapters of advice for successful living, ostensibly written by the scribe Amenemope son of Kanakht as a legacy for his son. A characteristic product of the New Kingdom “Age of Personal Piety”, the work reflects on the inner qualities, attitudes, and behaviors required for a happy life in the face of increasingly difficult social and economic circumstances. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of ancient near-eastern wisdom literature and has been of particular interest to modern scholars because of its relationship to the biblical Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs, in fact, is probably the least insane of the books of the Bible.

Amenemope belongs to the literary genre of "instruction" (Egyptian sebayt). It is the culmination of centuries of development going back to the Instruction of Ptahhotep in the Old Kingdom[. but reflects a shift in values characteristic of the New Kingdom's "Age of Personal Piety": away from material success attained through practical action, and towards inner peace achieved through patient endurance and passive acceptance of an inscrutable divine will.The author draws an emphatic contrast between two types of men: the "silent man", who goes about his business without drawing attention to himself or demanding his rights, and the "heated man", who makes a nuisance of himself to everyone and is constantly picking fights with others over matters of no real importance. Contrary to worldly expectation, the author assures his reader that the former will ultimately receive the divine blessing, while the latter will inevitably go to destruction. Amenemope counsels modesty, self-control, generosity, and scrupulous honesty, while discouraging pride, impetuosity, self-advancement, fraud, and perjury—not only out of respect for Maat, the cosmic principle of right order, but also because "attempts to gain advantage to the detriment of others incur condemnation, confuse the plans of god, and lead inexorably to disgrace and punishment."

One can very easily subtract all the supernatural ingredients, and still take most of the advice in that last sentence.

Though all extant copies of Amenemope are of a later date, the work is thought to have been composed in the Ramesside Period, during which the tribes of Israel first became a unified nation.Egyptian influence on Israel and Judah was particularly strong in the reigns of Solomon and Hezekiah during Egypt's Third Intermediate Period; as a result, "Hebrew literature is permeated with concepts and figures derived from the didactic treatises of Egypt", with Amenemope often cited as the foremost example. Even in his first brief publication of excerpts from Amenemope in 1922, Budge noted its obvious resemblance to the biblical wisdom books. He amplified these comments in his 1923 and 1924 publications, observing that the religiously based morality of Amenemope "closely resembles" the precepts of the Hebrew Bible, and adducing specific parallels between Amenemope and texts in Proverbs, Psalms, and Deuteronomy.  Others soon followed his lead.

There are (as there always is in the realm of Egyptology) disputes as to which came first, but the majority of scholars have ruled otherwise:

By the 1960s there was a virtual consensus among scholars in support of the priority of Amenemope and its influence on Proverbs. For example, John A. Wilson declared in the mid-twentieth century: "[W]e believe that there is a direct connection between these two pieces of wisdom literature, and that Amen-em-Opet was the ancestor text. The secondary nature of the Hebrew seems established." Many study Bibles and commentaries followed suit, including the Jerusalem Bible, introductions to the Old Testament by Pfeiffer and Eissfeldt, and others. The translators of the Catholic New American Bible, reflecting and extending this agreement, even went so far as to emend the obscure Hebrew text of Proverbs 22:19 (traditionally translated as "I have made known to you this day, even to you") to read "I make known to you the words of Amen-em-Ope."

There are of course text comparisons, and they tend to be startling. In the interest of brevity, I’ll only quote three:

(Proverbs 22:17-18):"Incline thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, And apply thine heart to my doctrine; For it is pleasant if thou keep them in thy belly, that they may be established together upon thy lips"

(Amenemope, ch1):"Give thine ear, and hear what I say, And apply thine heart to apprehend; It is good for thee to place them in thine heart, let them rest in the casket of thy belly; That they may act as a peg upon thy tongue"

(Proverbs 22:22):"Rob not the poor, for he is poor, neither oppress (or crush) the lowly in the gate."

(Amenemope, ch2):"Beware of robbing the poor, and oppressing the afflicted."

(Proverbs 22:24-5): "Do not befriend the man of anger, Nor go with a wrathful man, Lest thou learn his ways and take a snare for thy soul."

(Amenemope, ch10): "Associate not with a passionate man, Nor approach him for conversation; Leap not to cleave to such an one; That terror carry thee not away."

While some may say that plagiarism is too strong a word to use (ancient peoples did borrow from one another copiously, and without attribution was likely a foreign concept back in the day), the vast majority of the content can be directly or indirectly attributed to older cultures and mythologies.

Go figure.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Messin’ With Sasquatch

I find these particular commercials hysterical, but I still don’t eat jerky.

If Bigfoot (AKA Sasquatch) actually existed, you can bet there’d be idiots just like those in the commercials, messing with the beast.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

When Disaster Strikes, The Lunatics Come Out In Force…

Cross posted @ God is 4 Suckers!

By now, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you are all aware that Haiti has been struck down by a powerful earthquake. And no doubt most of you know that religio-fucktard Pat Robertson (shown in the video above) has attributed the tragedy to a ‘deal made with the devil by Haitians to oust Napoleon’. I think everyone’s sick of this asshole, I know I am. Pat’s media career is fraught with some seriously stupid commentary, such as: we (the US) should send in assassins to cap Chavez, Katrina’s the result of dawg’s wrath, fighting the ERA, blaming 9/11 on everyone who wasn’t Christian, advising karateka not to ‘inhale demons’, claiming that Sharon’s stroke was divine intercession, claiming Islam isn’t a religion™, and claiming that the lawd sent him a vision of a terrorist attack in the US in 2007 (which of course didn’t happen, he just probably sucked down a bad milkshake or something).

Easy to discount him as a crazed loon? Well, tristero points out (and is frighteningly accurate) that Pat Robertson is not one to be discounted:

Dear Friends,
You can sneer all you want at Pat Robertson. You can condemn him all you want. And I'll join right in. He deserves everything you care to say about him, and much, much more. He is a seriously disturbed man.
But you dismiss and ignore him at your peril. Remember: this man used to call up the fucking president of the United States. And he got through. And the president listened to him.
You ever had that kind of access to power? Got it now? Thought not. Me, neither. You got his hundreds of millions of dollars? Got millions of fans giving you hard-earned- bucks? Nope, I don't have them either.
Sure, go ahead: Repeat the obvious: Of course, it's a sad state of affairs when an ignorant, moral degenerate like Pat Robertson is so influential to the most powerful men - and yeah, it's basically men - in the world.So what? Don't ever forget he had that access, and still has access, to far more powerful men (and the occasional woman) than you can even imagine. So...

There oughta be a law.

This is perhaps the most persuasive argument for taxing churches:  churches can remain tax exempt, on the condition that they keep out of politics. That folks like Robertson, Dobson, or any of these other clowns can swing votes or call the president and perhaps influence our society, but are tax-free, is a sign of a broken system.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Curb Your Enthusiasm

This is one of my favorite shows, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David is tremendously hilarious as a Jewish Hollywood producer, who’s mystified by the culture he lives in. The show pokes fun at a lot of the nonsenses we take too seriously in this country.

This clip is titled, ‘Larry Eats Jesus:



Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bombs Away! More Muslim Madness – Fanatics With Heat In Their Pants

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

By now we’ve all heard the news - pants-bomberUmar Farouk Abdulmutallab AKA the Christmas Crotch bomber tried to blow up a plane on the holiday.

Reports of these kind of people make me…well, crotchety. And hopefully, the irony is not lost, that he was some Muslim fanatic who packed his jockstrap with explosives, and his religion is one of many that try to control their slave’s genitalia until their slave is married.

Investigators on both sides of the Atlantic were last night urgently investigating the background of the would-be plane bomber, as international attention turned to al-Qaida's stronghold in Yemen.

Scotland Yard and MI5 want to establish how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalised and by whom, and whether he had accomplices in the UK or the Arabian peninsula. He has told US officials that he met al-Qaida operatives in Yemen who gave him the device which almost brought down Northwest Airlines flight 253 to Detroit and taught him how to use it.

Yesterday it emerged that after attending university in London, the 23-year-old had dropped out of a postgraduate business course in Dubai, telling his family he had gone to Yemen to study Islam. He then cut off contact with them.

And somehow, wistfully, I wish I could be surprised by these events, but sadly, they’re all too prevalent. Another freak tried to blow up an airplane, this time a Bosnian, but apparently he wasn’t as creative as Umar, so now his fellow Al-Qaida-ian isn’t receiving quite as much press.

And I use the term slave in its purest sense, that is in definitions one and two:

1 : a person held in servitude as the chattel of another
2 : one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence

Because that is for the most part what most religions do. They slap metaphorical shackles on their sheep, and use fear and promises of eternal love (in this case, likely a bevy of ephemeral virgins) to enslave the hearts and minds. And the enslavement becomes multi-layered, an onion of tears and scars that smear the life and keep it pilloried, preventing the individual from living a brief life to its fullest.

And while I’d like to claim that education would be sufficient to level these blind shambling monoliths that wreak havoc and wreck lives, that would be insufficient. There were (and are) many educated Muslims (as well as Christians and Judaists) – education alone is not enough. We cannot blame poverty – the men mentioned were not poor, and the 19 zealots who flew the fateful planes on 9/11 came from well-to-do families. Courteous debates are a fool’s dream, as many here can attest. Courtesy is always misinterpreted as either A. weakness or B. the possibility that the other side’s superstition is getting through. Violence begets endless vendettas, a cycle of blood rivers.

So we are left with logical mockery – we point, we jeer, we mock, and using ridicule and logic, we wage a war of metaphorical and rhetorical attrition, so that someday, some way, critical thought will pierce the thick skulls of the religulous. We can only hope.

Let the double entendres and euphemisms now ensue.

Till the next post then.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Suffer The Children – Child Sacrifice. More Reasons For The Death Of Superstition

It’s enough to sour the stomach and bulge the eyes.

Witch-doctors reveal extent of child sacrifice in Uganda

A BBC investigation into human sacrifice in Uganda has heard first-hand accounts which suggest ritual killings of children may be more common than authorities have acknowledged.

One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.

Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners.

The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice.

He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth.

"They capture other people's children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming," he said.

Africa is still the dark continent – not only are children sacrificed, but witches are still lynched.

And of course, the Catholic Church, that den of iniquity and superstition, one of the last vestiges of that barbaric anachronism known as religion, is actually warning people about witchcraft.

Pope warns Angola of witchcraft

In a Mass celebrated in Angola's capital, Luanda, he said Catholics should reach out to those who believe in witchcraft and spirits.

Human rights groups say many children in Angola have been abused after being accused of possession by spirits.

The pontiff, who arrived in Angola from Cameroon on Friday, is on the last stop of his week-long African tour.

He will later meet youths at a city football stadium.

On Friday, he made a powerful attack on corruption, which analysts say is rife in oil-rich Angola.

The climax of the visit will be on Sunday, when two million people are expected to hear the Pope address an outdoor service.

Thanks, asshat. Instead of repudiating any of that occultic garbage, you reinforce your own fairy tales.



Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Police Squad

I have an admission to make: despite all my posturing as a sophisticate and an intellectual, I simply love slapstick and low-brow humor. So I love movies like Airplane! or Scary Movie. That being said, here are some clips from Police Squad:

The epilogues were especially hysterical:



Saturday, January 02, 2010

Evolution, Evolution, Everywhere, What Is A Fanatic To Think?


Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Humanity's penchant for denial is no exaggeration, as  Stardust’s recent post illustrates. But, as the old X-Files TV show’s motto said, “The truth is out there”, and I’m not talking about left field either.

A ten-year-old study from Harvard illustrates speciation in the E. Coli bacteria, for one example. Ten years later, another study on E. Coli not only verifies this, it lists the mutations as…beneficial. (Collective gasps are heard in the revival tent.)

And along a similar vein, it turns out that bacteria can actually influence speciation in wasps, by repairing damaged sperm. (Shouts of “Blasphemy!” can be heard from the audience.)

And an old hoary chestnut has been roasted on the fire – yes Virginia, there are indeed pre-Cambrian fossils of microbes.

And of course, there are 29+ evidences for ‘macroevolution’ – ranging in scope from morphological intermediates to cetacean atavisms (and human babies with tails). This also extends to vestigial molecular structures. The typical creationist response is that many of these items are predicated on scale, and they scramble desperately to muddy the waters when the evidence is presented.

One of the more amusing stupidities cited by the creationist, is this quote from the Origin of the Species:

    Firstly, why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?
    But, as by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?
    Lastly, looking not to any one time, but to all time, if my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed.
    Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.

Darwin was no geologist: relatively little was known about the formation of fossils, how difficult it was to become one, what with scavengers, tectonic plate shifts, highly alkaline soils, erosion, weather, all the variables that prevent ‘insensibly fine gradations’.

And evidence abounds. From genetics to paleontology, from anatomy to geographical distribution, it seems incredible that anyone would raise a fuss about something so fundamentally obvious.

What do you call someone who rejects evidence in favor of warm fuzzy feelings and mythology? Supply a punchline, and discuss amongst yourselves.

Till the next post, then.