Sunday, July 31, 2011

Headline Muse, 7/31

The verdict was certainly binding
But the pathways to justice are winding
Though “an eye for an eye”
Was the law to apply
Now the victim has pardoned a blinding

Headline: Iranian sentenced to blinding for acid attack pardoned

Ameneh Bahrami, after years of fighting for "justice" (read: for her attacker to be blinded with acid, as he had done to her), has pardoned Majd Movahedi, her attacker, at the last minute. She is still, quite understandably, seeking compensation for medical fees.
The state television website reported: "With the request of Ameneh Bahrami, the acid attack victim, Majid (Movahedi) who was sentenced for 'qisas' was pardoned at the last minute."

The Isna news agency quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying: "Today in hospital the blinding of Majid Movahedi was to have been carried out in the presence of an eye specialist and judiciary representative, when Ameneh pardoned him."

Isna quoted Ms Bahrami as saying: "I struggled for seven years with this verdict to prove to people that the person who hurls acid should be punished through 'qisas', but today I pardoned him because it was my right.

Rumor Has It

So, I’ve been hearing rumors. Rumor has it The Digital Cuttlefish will be part of a new blog network, freethoughtblogs, as of tomorrow. Actually, most of the rumors talk about the new network, but somehow leave my name out of it. For some reason, the rumors focus on Ed Brayton and P. Z. Myers.

But the rumors are true. Same Cuttlefish, different address. I am a very little cuttlefish in a big pond already, and this gives me the opportunity to be an even smaller fish in an even bigger ocean. I suspect that I am the smallest name among the new collective.

So, if all goes well, I soon will have successfully lured them all into a false sense of security, at which time I will spring my trap.

Or not.

Either way, I will be sinking or swimming (as a cuttlefish, it’s all the same to me) at a new address as of tomorrow.

And, once more as so many times in the past… I need your help. There will be (with a bit of luck) more eyes on my site than ever before, and I’ll need to introduce myself. You, my regular readers, are already the sort of people who read comments and follow links, or you wouldn’t have found me. But there are a great many people who have no idea what I do.

So I plan to post some of my old stuff over the next couple of weeks or so, to introduce myself to these new people.

My question is… which ones? Which of my oldies should I dredge up? I have my own favorites, which I know I will post, but what are yours?

This blog (the one you are reading right now) will not disappear. This one is home, for me. I love my readers, and owe them too much to raze the old joint. I hope to see you all at the new digs, though, as my honored guests. No… as my family.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Headline Muse, 7/30

Seems the picture that’s drawn is too hazy
Or my brain has gone summertime lazy
We could blame his religion
Which tweaks things a smidgeon
But, really: just “partially crazy”?

Headline: Ex-FLDS member: Warren Jeffs "partially crazy"

In an "objection" lasting nearly an hour, Warren Jeffs, polygamist and alleged child molester, threatened his prosecutors with "sickness and death". He wasn't making a threat; he was simply delivering a message he got from God.

God Is Love, Right?

The Old Testament god of the bible was liable
To torture and kill you, as if at His whim;
His ardent believers were therefore a scare for
The heathens who dared have doubts about Him

The New Testament hoped to appease us with Jesus
Whose death on the cross was the end to our fear;
Now Christians are always, while living, forgiving
Unless we say something they don’t want to hear

Yesterday's "Headline Muse" referred to the American Atheists' WTC cross case. It's a story worth keeping an eye on, for those of us who love reading commentary. As is often the case, the worst of the comments are censored before we can read them... but this time, some have been archived, and serve as testimony to Christian Love. (The ones that remain range from supportive to vile, but fall short of death threats.)

Now, I've received death threats--against me, and against my family. But these have been from a solitary, troubled individual. He needs psychiatric help, and he knows it; the more he threatens, the more obvious his illness is. These WTC threats appear to be quite different. These are normal people*, perhaps buoyed by internet anonymity, perhaps assuming they are in the company of like-minded individuals. This is far more frightening than a pitiable, pathetic spammer.

Oh, but clearly this is an extreme minority position; the vast majority of Christians would be horrified by such comments. If you find some examples of religious leaders decrying these comments, be sure to let me know.

* as an aside, I wonder whether the names attached to the comments are their real names. Google+ appears to be on a bit of a crusade against pseudonyms--if these are real names, then certainly horrible language does not depend on anonymity; on the other hand, if these are not real names, then the crime of pseudonymous writers is simply that they chose a name that wasn't normal enough for Google.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cuttlefish's Garden

I'd like to see
Ten types of bee
In the Cuttlefish's garden in the sun
See what I've found
Buzzing around
In the Cuttlefish's garden in the sun

Ok, enough of that.  So, these are onion flowers.  Each is about the size of a grapefruit (like grapefruit, some are larger and some are smaller) and made up of about a gazillion separate florets (very unlike a grapefruit).  I spent some time, the past couple of days, just watching them.  The amount of traffic these flowers get is remarkable; I counted at least 8 different species of bee or wasp, two species of butterfly, and some really fast things I could not identify, just on these onion flowers alone.  I have a really bad shot of 5 species on the flower at one time, but most are blurred with motion or focal plane.

So I thought I'd test my readers' insect identification skills--just hymenoptera today. I know some of the answers, but certainly not all! For now, the flower is your guide to insect size; if you need numbers or any other information I can give, just ask.


D (left) and E (right)


I, on Cilantro flowers
J, on Oregano flowers

Headline Muse, 7/29

At the site of a horrible loss,
The Memorial now holds a cross?
The community center
Was told “do not enter”—
Guess we know which religion is boss.

Four individuals, represented by American Atheists, are suing to either remove the Ground Zero Cross from the 9/11 memorial, or to force inclusion of non-Christian (including atheist) memorials of equal stature. As always, the fun reading is not in the article itself, but in the comments. I used to be astonished, now I am simply aware, that people have hugely varying ideas of what atheism is. And of what the First Amendment means. And, while it was important that a Muslim community center should not be built on 9/11 sacred ground because it would be special treatment for one religion, it is crucial (get it?) that the WTC cross remains, because it gave so many Christians comfort.

I am told that, as an atheist, my taking offense at the WTC cross shows that a) I am actually a believer, b) I am illogical, because I shouldn't care, since I don't believe, c) I am unamerican, since majority rules here, d) not really an atheist but an anti-theist, e) remarkably thin-skinned, f) pushing my beliefs onto other people (this last, without a trace of irony). In truth, I don't find crosses offensive; if I did, I'd have a rough go of it, since they are all around us.

I don't find this particular cross offensive, and think an argument can easily be made for its inclusion in the memorial--it is, after all, a huge part of the history of the aftermath of 9/11. The thing is, context matters. If this cross were, say, part of an exhibit demonstrating that religious extremism may have dire consequences, including 9/11 type events, it would be quite appropriate... but I suspect that many Christians would balk at equating their religion with [their perception of] Islam. If the WTC cross is venerated as a religious symbol, though, it is only proper (and constitutional) to demand equal treatment for other affected groups.

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on Christianity. They were an attack on America, and were politically as well as religiously motivated. American Atheists is not going to make a lot of friends with this move (judging from the comment threads), but they are in the right. Context is everything; the cross can stay (and American Atheists agrees), if it is not exhibited in such a manner as to elevate one belief system over others.

But hey, this is Headline Muse--your comments don't have to be about this story, if you have your own headline limerick!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Headline Muse

The requirements just get insaner,
Like a good triple twisting half-gainer
If you do a good dive,
You will surely survive—
If you don’t, then you’re “pulling a Boehner”.

(I'm trying out--subject to my time and other people's idiocy--a new occasional feature, kinda like Ed Brayton's "dumbass quote" and "badass quote" of the day. You are encouraged to add your own limericks in the comments. The rules are--look at the headlines of whatever news source you like, and write a limerick inspired by same. If your headline is local, small-town news, you might want to include a link, too.)

One Last Dance

When Johnny was little, he played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

But friendship is fickle in kids of this age
So he had the occasional fight
And names would be called, and fists would be thrown,
In a world that was pure black-and-white;
Johnny was smaller than some of the boys
And the target, sometimes, of abuse
He sometimes fought back, but too quickly he learned
That his struggles were never of use

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was lonely, and Johnny was scared;
He knew he would never be cool
He knew all the names of the popular boys
Cos they’d all kicked his ass after school
They called him a faggot; they called him a queer
And nobody cared if it’s true
Cos the summers are long and the summers are hot
And the bad boys need something to do

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny told teachers, and parents and more
That the bullies were out of control
But the teachers were fond of the popular boys
So they told him they’d pray for his soul
He heard what they said, and he heard what they didn’t,
And knew they were not on his side
He wondered if, really, they worried at all,
And would they be sad if he died?

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was tired of running and hiding
And wanted his troubles to end
Johnny might never have done what he did
If he only had talked with a friend
Instead, though, he talked with the school’s Parents’ League
(There were lies that they had to dispel)
They wanted the children to all know the truth—
That Johnny was going to Hell

They said he was sinful; they said he was wrong
They told him the things he must learn
They told him that God sends all sinners to Hell
They told him that that’s where he’d burn
When Johnny heard the things they said
He knew he had no chance
So Johnny got a length of rope
For one last, special dance

They told him they’d pray for the sake of his soul
They told him that, always, there’s hope;
But never again will he dance in the grass
Since he danced at the end of a rope, oh
Since he danced at the end of a rope.

Via PZ and others, a terribly sad story of Christian compassion, of anti-gay bullying, and the "Day of Truth" (at that link, you can see evolution at work--click on "", and you will be brought to the "day of dialogue" website). The "Parents Action League" (weren't they in The Incredibles?) had worked with local churches to provide t-shirts for the day.

Because of Despite the League's work, because of despite warning gays that they were bound for hell for their sinful lifestyle, it seems there has been an epidemic of teen suicide. Nine kids in two years, at present.

Oh, yes. This is in Michele Bachmann's district. You remember her--her husband lies about doing ex-gay therapy. Cos it's better to make people think they are ill, broken, or sinful, than to have them love the wrong person.

Oh--this poem is not about any one kid in particular. There were names that could easily have fit, but no way in hell am I going to do that to parents, siblings, friends, etc.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

One year ago today my brother died.

At his hospital bedside, I sang to him--music, I thought, affects so much of the brain, perhaps this will get through. A familiar song, a catchy song, one he had sung so many times. Maybe he'll open his eyes and join in on the chorus.

He did not.

If we live on only in the memories and actions of others, he's doing better than most.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Should I Be Cross?

I can’t really blame you; the pain is yet growing,
With so many horrible losses
But somehow it seems that your privilege is showing—
You seem to have mis-placed your crosses.

One of the reasonably local papers around Cuttletown had a political cartoon today that irked me a bit. Here's a link--I won't show it here because, well, I'm cheap. Basically, the cartoon morphs the cross from the flag of Norway into the crosses at the graves of the victims.

It's a clever concept, but it reinforces the position of privilege held by Christians (despite claims of persecution) in the US. The crosses represent the victims (reminiscent of Justice Scalia's view that crosses are "the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead"), which is all well and good, except that
According to Inglehart et al. (2004), 31 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 54 percent of Norwegians said that they did not believe in a "personal God." According to Greeley (2003), 41 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God, although only 10 percent self-identify as "atheist." According to Gustafsson and Pettersson (2000), 72 percent of Norwegians do not believe in a "personal God." According to Froese (2001), 45 percent of Norwegians are either atheist or agnostic.
(source: Phil Zuckerman's chapter, "Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns", in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism.)

Ah, but we do know with certainty that there was at least one Christian involved. The shooter. Yes, it appears his extremist political views, not his religion, was his motivation. I'm sure American cartoonists would make the same distinction for Muslim terrorists as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Marriage Is Gay Today

Half a lifetime ago
As chronologies go
I was married, in upstate New York
There were family, friends,
And some strange odds and ends
When we, husband and wife, popped the cork

But today it feels strange
As if something has changed
Though our vows are the same, to the letter
Because, as of today,
Why, “marriage is gay”
And equality’s oh so much better

When marriage was straight
And the church barred the gate
And kept part of humanity out
They tried to define
In society’s mind
What a marriage was wholly about

Though they struggled with words
Their whole view was absurd
And historically, simply untrue—
And sanctified bigots
Just opened their spigots
Letting sewage and prejudice spew

They poured this pollution
Into my institution;
My marriage was tarred by their brush
But—long story short—
I am glad to report
They are getting their long-deserved flush.

With this change in the laws
I feel better, because
I’m not part of a bigoted order
So today, let’s have fun
But there’s work to be done
Cos equality stops at the border.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bless This Mess

Rochester's Officers
Got themselves blessed
For enforcing the laws;

Didn't much care that it's
Nobody likes the
Establishment clause.

The other day, PZ ran a photo of a Sheriff's vehicle with a "one nation under god" bumper sticker. I suppose the silver lining is, it was probably a decision made by an individual--the Sheriff or another--and not an official position.

In the Live Free or Die state, where they take constitutional protection of liberties seriously, it's a different story. The second annual blessing of the police force and its fleet, specifically.
Chaplain Ron Lachapelle carried out the service, in which he emphasized the importance of the department's ability to work as a team for the betterment of the community.
Lachapelle, it seems, was previously a police commissioner, a 30-year veteran. I would imagine that members of the force couldn't possible have felt pressure to go along with the magic spell-chanting. After all, they're probably all good christian boys, wouldn't you think?

Friday, July 22, 2011


When Jen "BlagHag" McReight wrote, asking if I'd help spread the word about her annual blogathon, I only had one question:

"Does McCreight rhyme with “right” or “wait”... Or something else?"

This Saturday, I think it might
Be quite a slog for Jen McReight
Throughout the day, throughout the night
She’ll write, write, write, through dark and light

What will she write? I cannot say;
You’ll have to wait and see that day
She’s doing good—this is her way—
And you can help, so go and pay!

So grab your wallet, or your purse
And find some funds to thus disburse
Remembering, it could be worse—
At least she doesn’t write in verse!

So, yeah, go help her smash her previous record!

Dog Almighty

The biggest Dog had always been
The biggest Dog He’d known
He always barked the loudest
And He gnawed the biggest bone
He’d been the highest jumper, too;
He’d been the deepest digger.
He’d always been the biggest Dog…
And then He met one bigger.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Brief History Of Religion

The gods have taken many guises;
Fathers, mothers, monsters, friends,
Tricksters bent on their surprises
Schemers bent on selfish ends
That’s how we’ve known ‘em.

We’ve done our best to try to please ,
To understand as best we could;
For eons we had bent our knees;
Then questioned gods, then boldly stood,
And now, outgrown ‘em.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Words, Words, Words

Each step we take; each word we speak;
Each course we chart; each trail we tread
Each tender phrase or sad refrain,
And each unspoken

Each path we take; each love we seek;
Each faulty start; each sunset sped;
Each wide-eyed gaze or cry of pain
And each heart broken

We cannot take a backward step
We cannot choose to not have seen
We cannot wish another chance
We cannot sigh what might have been

Another step might be more sure
Another word might hold more sway
Another end, this choice might bring,
And I might miss one.

A different word might sound more pure
A different step, a different way
A million ways to say one thing
And I chose this one.

Over at NPR,, an interesting bit on an argument at a poetry conference (I doubt I'll ever be invited to a poetry contest; they look down on those of us who rhyme), which Robert Krulwich introduces with a lovely bit of video. The topic under discussion is whether using words helps our planet or hurts.

One view (held by Yusef Komunyakaa) was that language distances us from experience; it names things as not-us, and allows--perhaps forces--us to separate ourselves from a world we would otherwise be imbedded in. We may harm the earth, then, without harming ourselves.

Another view (Mark Doty's) is that "the more we can name what we're seeing, the more language we have for it, the less likely we are to destroy it." Naming each plant in a meadow, each star in the sky, each organism in an ecosystem, makes it more known to us, and more missed if it is gone.

Krulwich states that "obviously both sides are right", but ultimately comes down in favor of words. I don't think it is so obvious. I think Komunyakaa's assumption is faulty; I think if we remove the words, we do not remove the distance, but rather remove the thought.

It is true that choosing one word over another will bend the ideas of the reader or listener; politics gives us "spin", psychology gives us "framing", and used car salesweasels give us "certified pre-owned vehicles". It is as if there is a huge possible landscape, and these word-smiths are trying to show us one small corner of it, by focusing their flashlight beam very closely. The rest of the world is black.

Komunyakaa's view, if I have it, is similar to that of the night hiker. A flashlight, for such an explorer, is a limiting tool. The world closes around you, and ends where the beam of light ends. Turn off the light, and in a few minutes the world is vast again, and if the stars are out then you can see much farther than you could possibly see by day.

But that's the wrong metaphor. I was once in Mammoth Cave when the guide turned off the lights. I could have stayed there for hours, but would never have been able to see my hand in front of my face. Words are the light we see by; without them, we don't get the night-time sky, we get the utter blindness of the cave.

Yes, each word may act as a focused beam. Fortunately, we have more than one word. In science (which, really, is where the debate about "helps our planet or hurts" can actually be answered, and not merely argued), we may have different schools of thought which use different operational definitions and different measurements for very similar concepts (I would say "the same concept", but either choice leads you on a particular path; now, of course, you have two views). A scientific community does not (especially at first) need to agree on one definition, but may explore several before finding one or more to be more useful. A verbal community, likewise, will toy around with words--many shades of meaning for one word, or a spectrum of words for one concept.

This is why I think everyone should write poetry. (Except for me; I should write verse.) Being forced, on a regular basis, to spend time searching for just the right word, rather than using the first one that comes to mind, has got to be good exercise for the brain. If we want to see the whole world (and more), we have to be willing to try different lights and different lenses, and not just search where it is easy, where somebody else already shines a light and says it is trustworthy, or has low mileage, or is fair and balanced.

Words can separate us from our world, but the remedy is more words, not fewer. And certainly not none.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


"Dancing is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire"
(attributed to Robert Frost, George Bernard Shaw, and others)

Birds do it; Bees do it
Nematodes and water fleas do it

But if it’s all the same
I think it’s quite a shame
Cos dancing is more fun with two

Komodo chicks, without dicks, do it
Now we find Timema Sticks do it

But what a menace is
Cos dancing is more fun with two

To hold you close is such a treat
And when we let our gametes meet
That’s when I know you make my world complete
And life is sweet… life is sweet.

But if you find you have no need
You’re fine without a single seed
You’ve found a different way that you can breed
I must concede… indeed.

It’s been observed, boa snakes do it
Electric ants, for goodness sakes, do it

But if it’s all the same
I think it’s quite a shame
Cos dancing is more fun with two

Via the Beeb, a story of Timema stick insects and genetic research, a confirmation of perhaps a million years of asexual reproduction in this ancient species. This confirms that asexual reproduction is not just an emergency strategy, an artificially induced anomaly, or confined to social insects. Now comes the fun part; looking to see how this strategy has succeeded, while other species (including closely related stick insects) have found success in sexual reproduction. As the BBC story puts it,
The discovery could help researchers understand how life without sex is possible.
A line which I am so not going to touch.

Monday, July 18, 2011


A gecko walks up panes of glass
And even on the ceiling
But eating powdered gecko’s ass
I would not find appealing.

The ancient healers’ art, alas,
Needs gecko parts for healing
Among the superstitious class
With whom these folks are dealing.

Although I hear my views are crass,
I get a funny feeling
That watching where the dollars pass
Would likely be revealing.

And seeing how the funds amass…
It’s little more than stealing.

Ok, actually, it's quite a bit more than stealing. Stealing would be taking people's money for nothing. This is also lying, and killing lizards for no good reason.

NPR reports on a brisk, though illegal, trade in traditional gecko-based cures--significant enough that health officials in the Phillipines are actually issuing warnings. People are being told that gecko remedies can relieve asthma, or even AIDS.

I like geckos. Mind you, I would throw geckos under the bus if they actually did cure AIDS, for such time as it would take to identify the active compounds... but. There is no evidence that it does.

If any of my readers A)can read Chinese (Mandarin, I am assuming), and B) have PubMed access, please take a look at the NPR article--they link to a journal article that I would love to be able to read, but I am (alas!) American, and thus speak barely one language.

Oh, and I was going to post the picture of the gecko from the article, except that it is dead, dried, and mounted on heavy-duty paper clips. I prefer my geckos alive and eating bugs.

If traditional healers are to be respected, we must assume they are motivated by a desire to heal (thus the title), and not to profit without healing (they can profit while healing, of course). Healers who prefer getting paid to healing are known by other terms. If geckos can cure X, then let it be shown in trials, so that we can synthesize X as quickly as possible. If not, then dammit, true healers would look elsewhere. Those who foist snake gecko oil on their trusting patients are no healers. They are charlatans, and worse. They do not deserve respect.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Bornean Rainbow

Why are there so many
Species endangered?
For decades, they haven’t been spied
Some may be hanging on
But others departed
Despite how the scientists tried

So we’d been told
And we mostly believed it
Hoping we’re wrong, but we’ll see
And sometimes it happens
And everyone’s happy—
The Bornean Rainbow and me

Who said amphibians
Could go into hiding
And why should we go and look?
Someone in Borneo
Had someone believe them
And somehow that’s all that it took

It’s so amazing—successful toad-gazing
Without knowing what we might see
But sometimes it happens
And everyone’s happy—
The Bornean Rainbow and me

All of us wishing it well
To lose it again would be tragic

Had it been half-extinct?
Because of our choices?
I think it’s more than a shame
Is this the warning-bell
We finally notice?
Or will we point fingers and blame?

I’ve watched it too many times to be hopeful—
The odds are, we never will see…
But sometimes it happens
And everyone’s happy—
The Bornean Rainbow and me

Via MSNBC's Cosmic Log, we hear that an endangered toad, not seen since 1924, has been rediscovered--and photographed for the first time! Check out the photos at the link; this is one beautiful toad, the Bornean Rainbow Toad (aka the Sambas Stream Toad), the second of the "top ten most wanted" missing toad species.

(oh, yeah, for those of you who are still wondering, the verse is a parody of Kermit The Frog's "Rainbow Connection")

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

R.I.P. Methuselah The Galapagos Tortoise

One person’s report is
“Galapagos tortoise
Is truly a creature of God”
It’s made, or created
By God, armor-plated,
With shell-shapes distinct, which was odd

Why God’s work might vary
Made ministers wary—
Perfection is what was expected!
But with close observation
Of type and location,
Particular trends were detected

The shells of some creatures
Have saddle-back features
Where cactus to forage grow taller
Where food’s near the ground
Different features are found
Like a domed shell that’s quite a bit smaller

What these features disclosed
Is what Darwin proposed—
That selection means shell shapes evolved!
Though a biblical search
Left the church in a lurch
Thanks to Darwin, the mystery’s solved!

A sad report, on a few levels; NPR's "The Two-Way" blog reports that a 130-year old tortoise, a favorite at a South Dakota zoo, has died. Even for tortoises, this critter was old; grandparents showed it to their grandchildren, and told them of seeing it themselves at that age (Methuselah the tortoise was a respectable 73 when he arrived at the zoo).

But that's not really why I'm writing. I'm writing because the very first comment at the NPR blog closes with "They are awesome creatures. A great God created them." Which, frankly, is amusing given the tortoise's role in providing Darwin with the evidence of evolution. Fifteen different subspecies of tortoise, each on a different island--my, what a capricious god must have created them! Oh, wait--the tortoises have saddle-shaped shells where the food grows higher, and round shells where it grows lower; perhaps characteristics vary, and those that offer an advantage are selected for by the environment!

So, NPR commenter, you get an irony award. Not redeemable for cash, but you may wear it proudly.

Is There "Ex-Liar" Therapy?

To heal yourself from being gay
The clinic’s here—so call today
We’ll blame your mom, and pray and pray;
It’s therapy, the Bachmann way.

Of course, when asked, we’ll just deny
We care if folks are gay or bi;
There is one simple reason why:
A Bachmann cannot help but lie.

So it turns out that Marcus Bachmann's clinic does, after all, practice "ex-gay" therapy, which is far more religious than psychological. The full story is here at Truth Wins Out; a brief synopsis can be read here at Dispatches.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Hey, You! Hang Up The Car Keys!

It’s six in the morning, the start of your day,
But you’re all out of coffee, and just want a cup
It’s a ten-minute walk to the nearest café—
Oh, quit fucking whining, and just suck it up

You’ve got errands to run; you’ve got places to go
We’ve heard the excuses; we’ve heard all the talk
The store isn’t far—just a mile or so
So hang up the car keys and just fucking walk!

You’ve got classes this morning—that’s two towns away
The drive is annoying; the parking’s a fuss
The answer is simple, I really must say:
Leave the car in the driveway and take the damn bus!

You’ll be taking the car, and you always complain
The buses aren’t perfectly synched to your classes
Now cars will be backed up for miles, on Main,
So your peers can collectively sit on your asses

It’s not like I’m asking you too fucking much,
Like to live in a house that’s as dark as a tomb
Making way around furniture purely by touch—
Just turn off the light when you leave the damn room

There are so many things you could do, but you don’t,
That could cut your expenses, conserve you some power
They’re easy to think of, so how come you won’t?
Do you shut off your brain in your long fucking shower?

This isn’t too much to be asked, for fuck’s sake;
There are hundreds, or thousands, of things we can do
If you can’t look around and see changes to make
Then the world’s got a problem, and the problem is you.

Sharon, at Casaubon's Book, might just as well have waved a red flag at a bull, or red meat in front of a hungry dog. Fortunately, she already did it the hard way, with the repeated final rhyme, so I could just write this one.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Atheist For A Month

It’s good, sometimes, to see the world
Through someone else’s eyes;
To take another’s point of view
And try it on for size.

Be Muslim for a month,” perhaps,
Be Sufi, or be Sikh;
Try walking in their footsteps—
You could start for just a week.

You could try to be a Muslim
Or a Christian, or a Jew
But I’d like to see more people
Trying atheism, too.

Just try it for a month, or two,
Or maybe for a year—
Pretend there’s no use praying
Cos there’s no one there to hear

Pretend there is no god above
To save us from ourselves
Pretend there are no holy books—
Just leave them on the shelves

Pretend there is no heaven
And pretend there is no Hell;
Pretend we only get one life,
And try to live it well

And maybe, if you try it out,
You’ll like the you you find
Not member of a single tribe
But all of humankind

And maybe if enough of us
Can wear each other’s skins
We’ll understand our differences...
And everybody wins.

Via the Beeb (same link as above), an interesting piece on walking a mile (well, a month) in someone else's shoes. In this case, it's a bit like church camp, except that it is in Turkey, and the church is a mosque, and participants basically live life as temporary Muslims.

Given the ignorance about other faiths, and the animosity toward Muslims in particular, I think the "Muslim for a month" idea has some serious potential for good. Yes, it could be a worthless exercise, but it can't possibly be as futile as simply praying for peace.

Of course, after the 2006 University of Minnesota study, I personally think we could use this concept on a group that is distrusted even more than Muslims. Atheists are distrusted; atheists are misunderstood; atheists are demonized.

But it would be so easy to try to be an atheist for a month. You wouldn't even have to leave home. Wouldn't need to fly to Turkey, or to Israel, or Rome, or anywhere. I think (if memory serves) that Julia Sweeney's atheism began this way--just as a brief experiment, that proved successful.

It's actually easier than not being an atheist. No rituals, no hymns, no call-and-response, no nothing. Well, you do have to do one thing. You do have to think.

For yourself.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Pluralistic Ignorance

When the whole debate began, it
Was one people, on one planet,
Looking up into the night-time at the stars
Whether proximal or distal
Whether fiery gas or crystal
All they knew beyond a doubt was, it was ours
There were greater lights and lesser,
They were beautiful, but yes Sir,
It was evident they all belonged to us
Both the lesser and the greater
And of course, the stars’ creator,
Who’d decided we were worthy of the fuss.

Then it changed; the observation
Of a moving constellation
Showed a different sort of neighbor in the night
There’s a planet that’s between us
And the sun—we call it Venus,
And another planet, Mars, as well in flight.
Now our neighborhood’s gone plural
More suburbanite than rural
So we contemplate the details of God’s plan:
Did He give these planets Jesus?
Are they only there to please us?
Either way, we know His favorite is Man.

Tip of the cuttlecap to PZ, here.

(and no, this isn't technically an instance of pluralistic ignorance; that's when everyone in a group thinks that every other member of the group understands something, and each individual doesn't want to look like a fool admitting to being the only one who doesn't get it... Happens all the time. No, this is a rumination on the ignorance of pluralism.)