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    I’m an opinionated Grumpy Old Man. I enjoy the intellectual give and take that goes along with that, but have very little patience for stupid people (Note: there is a big difference between “stupid” and “educated”. Some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met have a PhD…). Beside arguing, I like to build things in almost any media. Right now I’m mostly building in wood, Lego, and a bunch of different electronic media. I teach in a number of different venues - from preschool all the way through graduate school. Subjects range from talmud to neuroscience to engineering.

    For fun, I like to bash people with swords (OK, so they’re made of foam. It’s still fun). Although I spend a lot of my time in a wheelchair, I manage to keep pretty active (Like bashing people with swords). I am a libertarian, and have a hard time finding anything good to say about government or politicians. OK, politicians might make good sausage, but that's about as good as it gets.


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The New Dark Ages

I’ve been noticing a lot of similarities in some recent news and some not-so-recent history. The dark ages were a fun time: ignorance, poverty, disease, and war were the norm. A powerful christian government work hard to maintain ignorance, as literacy and rational thought were considered to be major threats to the mindless dogma preached by the church. By keeping the masses ignorant, the church was able to maintain power, and use war as a tool to continue that power. Poverty and disease are natural elements in an ignorant, uneducated population, and also served to reinforce the church’s stance (if you were poor, it must mean that god doesn’t like you,so you must have done something bad). A random walk through some of today’s news events shows a remarkable similarity.

Ignorance. The dark ages were rife with ignorance, superstition, and church doctrine. The general populace was not only discouraged from learning to read, but in many cases, it was illegal for them to know how to read. The dominant government (the christian church) decided what was fact, and what was acceptable for the peons to know. The idea was that all law came from the bible. Of course, if the peons could read, they would be able to figure out that most of what was being taught as church doctrine had nothing to do with the bible, so reading was reserved to the “right-thinkers” in the church. This was also a method of ensuring that the church maintained its position of authority – science and critical thinking would erode the church’s “we talk to god, so we know the truth” dogma, so the church did its best to keep people ignorant (this is the same church that threw Galileo in prison, and refused to admit that the Earth rotates around the sun until late in the 20th century). The church as an entity had an official policy of maintaining the ignorance of the populace. Among other things, it made it impossible to do any sort of business without church involvement (and taxation) – the church was the only agency that was allowed to write, so things like keeping track of shipping, sales, and land records was wholly under the control of the church. This provided a handy revenue stream to support wars against those pesky foreigners and heathens that didn’t buy into the church myth.

In the modern world, the church has much less official power – we even pretend in the USA that the church is just another social group. But if we take a look at what is going on, we can find “christian influence” (read: ‘christian ignorance’) in many places. One of the scariest is the influence that the church continues to have on education. While most of the first world laments the fact their children are not keeping up with upstart developing nations educationally, the church is working to continue to stifle knowledge and free thought. With amazing effectiveness. Depending on the surveys, as much as 30-60% of the people in industrialized nations continue to believe that creationism is as scientifically valid as evolution. The majority of people freely admit that most technology and science is little more than magic to them – it is simply beyond their understanding. Of course, in places like India and China, it is very common to find people who not only understand technology and science, but are using it to displace the “industrialized world” as the leaders of new technological developments. The first worlddoes still have the major educational institutions, but a visit to any hard science or engineering graduate program will make it clear that most of the students there are from second or third world nations. A review of the scientific and engineering primary literature shows the same thing. Take a look at journals from 40 years ago, and the vast majority of authors will have anglo-european names. Take a cruise through the journals today, and most of the names are asian, indian, or middle eastern.

Of course, the Dark Ages did end. The church was finally overthrown by internal divisions, and by the influence of educated free thinkers from other cultures – most notably Asia, India and the Middle East. In the modern world, we are faced with many dangers – a much hyped example is the militant extremists from the muslim left that kill a few people every day. A much more insidious danger is the creeping ignorance and denial of science that is so strongly supported by the christian church. So next time the bible-thumpers are at your local library or school board lobbying to get Harry Potter pulled off the shelves (it has witchcraft in it, and the bible says that witchcraft is bad), don’t just sit by and assume that rational thinkers will simply ignore them. Show up, and speak out. Make sure they know that we recognize their idiocy, and that we won’t tolerate it. When you hear or read about a school district that is buckling to the local moral minority, and is pulling evolution and science from their curriculum, go to the school board meetings and make some noise. At the very least, go read some history, and decide if you really want to live through another round of ignorance driven dark ages. We can hope that the developing world will save us from our own apathy and ignorance, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it ourselves?


Bible comics

In case you haven’t heard, R. Crumb the 1960s iconic underground comics guru is releasing a new comic book of (get this) the first book of the bible (Breisheit/Genesis). It is due out this fall, and apparently was started in the traditional Crumb style, but morphed into an “illustration project” using the complete text (not sure which version of the text though). Personally, I can’t wait to see it.

In the meantime, I also discovered (thanks to repeated pokes from good friends) Stoogepie, who also does a wonderful job of interpreting a few of the bible stories. Check him out here: http://www.stoogepie.com. Seriously, if you’re up on your bible lit, this guy has some wonderful points. If you’re NOT up on your bible lit, take a perusal anyway. You’ll see some of the bible that is usually kept pretty quiet.

Yeah, I know that this is a pretty tame post (at least for me), but these guys deserve some recognition for the hard work they’ve done.

Share and enjoy.

Christian Fundies and Evolution – how stupid do you have to be?

Intelligent design, creationism, magic, call it what you will, the christian fundamentalists are at it again (or more accurately:  still). The same folks that have finally admitted that the Earth revolves around the Sun ares till trying to convince folks that creationism is real science. And if they CAN’T convince people that their particular fantasy is real, they’ll do their best to legislate it into existence.

Turns out that there are STILL places where the Fundies swing enough political power to force schools to teach creationism instead of evolution. A few years ago the pope finally admitted that Galileo was right. I guess god has been really busy because it only took him 400 years to get the message to the pope (the pope does, after all, talk to god). That particular message must have gotten lost in all that other important stuff – like how to hide the fact that priests are regularly buggering their alter boys, while pontificating about the evils of homosexuality. Ya know, it takes a LOT of effort to keep that kind of hypocrisy under cover, and even god had his hands full keeping all those alter boys shut up. ( I could go on for pages, but its just too easy to find the many places that the fundies get it wrong, and then make idiots of themselves trying to cover it up or justify it, so back to evolution.)

So, anyway, it turns out that in March the Texas School Board approved a new set of “science ” standards that allows the fundies to teach that evolution simply can’t be real because (get this) it is too complex. Yep, after having been shot down in every rational venue they’ve tried, the fundies have fallen back on the “I can’t understand it, so it CAN’T be true”. Of course, the whole basis of christian fundamentalism is to simply accept what you’re told without any thought or reality checks, so I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, these folks just realized that the Earth isn’t the center of the universe. Of course, the fault doesn’t lie entirely with the fundies. The folks on the school board, those that elected them, and pretty much anyone that happens to live in the state of Texas holds some responsibility. Makes you wonder how Texas manages to survive – either the rational people have all fled, or they’re so scared of the fundies that they stay quiet. Course, when they’re competing with idiots like these, it probably also means that they’re rich enough to send their kids to private school (where they’ll get something that resembles an education), and let the fundies wallow in their ignorance. If this is allowed to continue, we have potential for a truly ironic situation: social evolution driving the fundies into extinction. Think about it. In today’s world, you need to be able to operate at SOME level of rationality. The fundies in Texas are forcing their schools to teach fantasy, so the smart families are going to send their kids to private school, leaving the fundies in the schools that teach the kids that ANYTHING they believe is real. After a while, those kids will grow up, and base their decisions on the stuff they learned in school. “Really, if I just pray hard enough, god will fix my hard drive” “god will find me a job” “Don’t worry Timmy, god told me it was OK, now just drop your pants and bend over”. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will be living in the 21st century, and the fundies will end up living in trailer parks waiting for the next tornado.

And they wonder why the rest of the world is laughing at them. Just god’s will, I guess.