Blog Archives

Article 1: Part 3

Another weekend, another chunk of the Constitution. I’m going to try to stagger these with other posts, because if I let this project dominate my blog too much I think I’ll just get frustrated and abandon the project, and I’m finally starting to write with some frequency again.

As usual, please don’t mistake me for any kind of expert. I’m probably learning far more than I’m teaching, here.

Okay, let’s get a little farther in.  Read the rest of this entry

Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer!

As promised, here are “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer!” along with my answers. Here is the source link, which I’ll be reading from instead of the Pharyngula post so that I won’t have to wonder if I would have said that before I read PZ’s answer. Hopefully writing the last post will have moved my mind in different directions enough to help with that for the questions I already read. Since the list is hosted on Today Christian, I will assume the context that the questions are being asked by some variety of Christian.

Read the rest of this entry

the pope on gender identity

So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century – the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light – are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; – in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.


This is the preface to my Kindle edition of Les Mis, which I was looking at in anticipation of seeing the movie on Tuesday. It seemed particularly appropriate to this article about that vile old tyrant, the pope, attempting to be relevant by discussing gender identity and trans people.

The article is written by one Deacon Keith Fournier, who does not feel at home with the idea of writing for clarity. The formatting is odd, broken into three pages for no apparent reason and with a footer on the second page that makes the article appear to trail off mid-sentence. I found it difficult to tell whose words I was reading at any one time, as Fournier frequently quotes people who are themselves quoting others and makes poor use of the tools language and html provides for clarifying such things. I mention this as a pre-emptive excuse in case I mistakenly attribute one party’s words to another, not to nitpick the superficial weaknesses of the article, as the substantial ones are quite sufficient.

The title of this article is “Pope Benedict XVI Exposes the Profound Falsehood of the Philosophy of the Gender Identity Movement”, and perhaps the pope does so in his speech, but Deacon Fournier felt no need to relay this information to us, the readers. At no point in the article is the philosophy of any gender identity movement or movements discussed, nor is any falsehood established therein. In fact, it consists almost entirely of other people’s words, with Fournier occasionally chiming in to bemoan these “new rights” he is being “forced” to “recognize”.

To which I accuse him of, as the preface says, “artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth”, because his wailing of the restructuring of society is because people who don’t easily fit into hetero-normative categories are insisting that they shouldn’t have to. Because the terrible burden they place upon him is their inclusion in anti-discrimination laws. Read the rest of this entry

On destruction, knowledge, and posting while drinking too much.

I have this tendency to think that I don’t like comic books. Then every so often I’ll wander the internet reading comics that I like… so clearly there’s nothing about the medium itself that I dislike. I suppose what I really don’t like is the sort of “comic book culture”, that’s grown around mainstream comics, mostly Marvel and DC.

Plus the superhero genre really doesn’t do much for me.

But there are comics that I like, and most of them are freely available on the internet. I’ve mentioned Girl Genius, probably my favorite, before, and another excellent example is The Order of the Stick, a Dungeons and Dragons based fantasy with a remarkably expressive style of stick figure art. There’s actually a surprisingly long list, and yet I usually think of myself as someone who doesn’t like comics. People are weird.

Today I’m thinking about the latest installment of Chasing the Sunset, another sword & sorcery fantasy with possibly my favorite title ever. It’s a poetic description of the plot’s quest, which takes the characters westward. I guess they’ll have to end the story before our heroes turn around to head home. Unless they circumnavigate the globe or find a new home elsewhere or something.

This is going to have some spoilers for the most recent subplot, if you worry about such things. I’ll try to keep it vague. Read the rest of this entry

Continuing on (and on) about homeopathy

Last post I dug out the common names for a bunch of homeopathic… I’m not sure what to call it. “Ingredients” sounds too optimistic, for reasons that should become clear shortly. Let’s go with “varieties”.

That’s all well and interesting, but so what? What is this homeopathy stuff anyway? Well, I’ll let the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy (henceforth IACH) explain it.

This system is based mainly on the principle that the cure for a particular disease is achieved through the use of pharmaceutical substances that, when administered to a healthy person, produce the similar symptoms as those of the disease in question.  For example, it is well known that Belladonna causes mydriasis , that is to say dilation of the pupil of the eye.  In a case of mydriasis the homeopathic doctor will probably give Belladonna, in a highly diluted potency, in order to restore the pupil to its normal state.

This is why Ipecacuanha is recommended for nausea and vomiting, the plant makes you puke, therefore the homeopathic version stops you from puking.

If you’re worried about how many of those ingredients are powerful poisons, you can relax. Homeopathic remedies are so diluted that there’s no active ingredient left. Read the rest of this entry

About Vaccines

In my morning internet wanderings, I found a couple of articles at Mothering about whooping cough. The first was by Lauren Feder, MD, and the second by Jay Gordon, MD. I have things to say about both of them, but right now I’m going to talk about the second one.

It’s not quite clear to me what Dr. Gordon’s goal with this article was. The entire thing seems to boil down to “there’s a lot of uncertainty and disagreement in the medical community, talk to your doctor.” For the most part it just seems to muddy the waters. But after reading it, and particularly these parts, I want to talk a bit about the how and why of vaccination programs.

If vaccines work—and I believe they do—then vaccinated children are not endangered by unvaccinated children.

…points out that vaccinated children have still contracted whooping cough. The reasons for this include the bacterium adapting to the vaccine and thus negating its protection… Read the rest of this entry

Love, Guilt and Hell.

The blog Pharyngula has an ongoing series called “Why I am an atheist” which consists of stories submitted by readers. You can probably guess the subject.

Saturday’s story really stands out, though, and I’ve been meaning to share it since I read it that morning. It’s author calls herself mouthyb, and it starts like this,

My childhood sounds like the word “jesus,” repeated until it falls into noise, and you realize that it never meant anything to begin with.

My mother used to repeat it in the car, on road trips. She spent twelve hours of reminding us of this: jesus said that he had no mother, no brother, and that no one would get into heaven but by loving him more than anything or anyone else.

It was okay that she didn’t love me, she said. It meant that she was going to heaven.

Read the whole story here.

It’s difficult to read, and yet I recommend you do. Read the rest of this entry

Forged in the heart of a star

In my last post I mentioned our connection to the stars and the universe, and I’ve been thinking about that some more. Consider for a moment that every atom that makes up your body was part of a star once. Think about some of the implications.

There’s a young Earth creationist group whose favorite tactic is the phrase “Were you there?” They train children to ask this question in schools, at museums, anytime someone talks about something happening millions of years ago. It’s every bit as childish and annoying as you imagine, all the irritation of a four year old repeatedly asking “why?” with none of the actual curiosity.

The thing is, from a certain point of view it’s a perfectly honest answer to say “Yes”. Yes, I was there when the dinosaurs died out, and so were you. The atoms that make up my body were already here, in the air, the ground, the oceans, and the plants and animals, even in the dinosaurs themselves. Scattered across the world, unbinding from one molecule and binding into another, and passing down through the ages until the time when, for a brief while, they would come together to form me. The same is true of you and everyone else who’s ever lived. Read the rest of this entry

In which I wander among many topics

Was looking over my site stats, as I do sometimes, and I saw a referral from Daily Pagan News, who promoted my post “Curses“. Thanks for the link!

One of the first things I saw from DPN’s home page was this.

Gave me a chuckle. It was sourced to another tumblr page called teenwitchwendy. I’m not going to check that one out just now, because that leads to link-jumping all night and I have stuff to do. But the name made me think.

When I was a teenager, I knew a lot of pagans. Some Wiccans and Druids, but most of them weren’t so structured and simply called themselves “Pagan”. They were a diverse bunch, happy to agree on the broad outlines of the universe and just sort of fudge the details.

More than once somebody, usually an older person who was kind but not really “part of the group”, expressed the opinion that this whole “alternate lifestyle” thing was just a phase and everyone would grow up and become conservative Christians just like them. Now I haven’t kept touch with most of those people, but as far as I can tell that hasn’t happened. Sure, we all grew and changed, but I’m not aware of anyone who actually did that. Read the rest of this entry

The evil addictions of Planned Parenthood!

I’m running into Poe’s Law here. I genuinely have no idea whether or not this is a parody. If it were just the videos I’d assume it was, but after looking over the website a little I find it hard to believe that anyone could work this hard on a parody. Here’s the video:

It’s just amazing, isn’t it? I saw this Monday on a post by Christina at WWJTD, who probably wrote more coherently about it than I will. Frankly I’m tempted to just point and laugh.

If you don’t feel like spending six and a half minutes of your precious life watching this shit, and I can’t say I blame you, it directly compares Planned Parenthood to drug dealers. Seriously. Saying that PP gets kids addicted to sex so that they can sell abortions. I am not making this up, it’s right there in the video. You see why I’m not sure whether they’re joking or not? Read the rest of this entry

The limits of tolerence

Natalie Reed is facing a problem that I’ve become more and more aware of in the last year or so. Natalie blogs about feminism, atheism, skepticism, and trans/queer rights (and may or may not be a magical unicorn) and she’s facing hostility, even outright bigotry, to each of these issues from people who are nominally her allies on one of the others. It’s almost as if they’re seen as “teams” and if not directly competing with each other, at least arguing over who gets to use the ball-park.

This bit jumped out at me:

A friend of mine once made the grim but terribly accurate observation (in the context of talking about trans women who dismiss the rights or genders of other trans women who are, say, non-op or lesbian) that people only tend to be exactly as tolerant as it takes to accept themselves, and maybe their immediate friends and family, but have a whole lot of trouble extending that principle beyond that circle, to people who they don’t understand, with whom they don’t share the same experiences or identities or priorities.

That feels very accurate to me, though still very confusing. I’m reminded that soon after I posted this I had an acquaintance discreetly ask me if I were intersex because it seemed so unlikely that someone who wasn’t would think to include them. Read the rest of this entry

Objecting to Science Education 2 (Religious Boogaloo?)

Ok, so we have creationists claiming that evolution is a lie and that their religion’s creation story is an accurate & factual account of the beginnings of life, the universe, and everything. Let’s talk a bit about some of the things that they do with this idea.

“Intellectual freedom” is a phrase found on many bills working their way through many state legislatures right now. Almost without exception, these bills are designed to either bring some form of creationism into classrooms or to muddy up science education by suggesting that evolution is somehow optional. (Evolution’s about as optional to biology as gravity is to physics.) The idea here is that teachers are having their freedom restricted by being expected to teach science in science classes.

I suppose in the strictest sense, that’s true. Teachers would have more freedom if they could teach anything they felt like without having to consider the truth or accuracy of their lessons. But I have trouble getting behind the idea of the freedom for state-sponsored institutions to lie to children. Read the rest of this entry

Home Sweet Home

Bad Astronomy featured this pic today, which came from the ESA spacecraft Rosetta.

Stunning image of planet Earth

Crescent Earth from 633,000 km away.

Breathtaking, isn’t it? For all the wonders of this vast universe, there are few sights as beautiful as our home. The little water world that’s named, with seeming irony, after dirt, and is home to all the life we’ve ever found. It’s lovely to see it as a place with phases like the moon, to challenge our usual perception. Read the rest of this entry

Beyond the supernatural

When I was very young I used to search for the supernatural. I’ve always been interested in just about everything, and I had this passionate need to know things. I’d read lots of folklore and heard so many stories, most of which were contradictory, and I wanted to know the truth behind them.

I remember thinking that being a parapsychologist would be a great job. Hunt ghosts and track down the truth behind myths and legends. I used to find occult books to read, talk to people who claimed to have magical powers, or try to get into haunted places. I attended several modern pagan rituals, and probably would again if invited because they’re a lot of fun. I studied religions, and psychology, tried tarot cards and runes and Ouija boards. I even went to a séance or two. I did all this because I wanted to know the truth.

It wouldn’t be honest to say that I never found anything, but I never encountered anything genuinely supernatural. Read the rest of this entry

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

Found this on Pharyngula, under the heading “Female genital mutilation has medical benefits?” and my first thought was “Oh how cute, those sick girl-cutters are copying a page from the sick boy-cutters and claiming bullshit hygiene improvements”. And at first it seemed to be exactly that, it started with some bullshit about secretions that accumulate causing an odor that leads to infections (odors cause infections? What?), but then I read this:

Circumcision reduces excessive sensitivity of the clitoris which may cause it to increase in size to 3 centimeters when aroused, which is very annoying to the husband, especially at the time of intercourse.

At some point during the reading of that sentence, part of my brain started screaming and hasn’t fully stopped yet.

The site is called Islam Question and Answer, and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a place to ask questions about Islam and have them answered by people who presumably know what they’re talking about.

Ok, first of all, listing the removal of an annoyance to her husband as a health benefit for her seems like a joke in very poor taste, considering the flimsy excuses abusive spouses use to justify their violence. Also it really suggests that the woman isn’t being considered a person in her own right, but rather a thing belonging to her husband, to be modified for his pleasure. My little fucktoy, or something. I want to emphasize that the part about considering a woman a person in her own right is more important than what follows, even though I’ll spend less time on it.

Second, I want a serious show of hands from any men in the audience who have ever been annoyed by a woman’s clit during sex. Seriously, as they say on Wikipedia, citation fucking needed! How is that even supposed to work? Read the rest of this entry

Who are you?

A strange one from the Daily Post today.

Topic #291:

What % of who and what you are is determined by genetics vs your own choices? Is it 50/50 or more or less of one?

Or should there be three numbers: your genetics, how you were raised, and your own choices (33/33/33 or 10/40/50).

Most times when someone talks about who you are, the context makes their specific meaning very clear. This is not one of those times. Honestly I’m not even sure what the question is trying to ask, it seems to be combining at least two different meanings of “who you are”. Read the rest of this entry

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