The Ear of the Wise – Introduction / Mr. Fischer’s Founding Fables: Part I

Hi, my name is Ben and I’m an addict.

Don’t worry, I won’t be twelve-stepping all over your good time with any jackbooted “Higher Power” mumbo jumbo, but I do have a legitimate problem. Apparently I’m addicted to being really pissed off, and recently I’ve become particularly fond of catalyzing my anger with a specific strain of psychoactive stimulus. My mood-annihilating weapon of choice isn’t a drug, but, according to the tales spun by its insidiously unscrupulous peddlers, it makes heroin’s promise of euphoria sound like a mall kiosk chair massage.

That’s right. I’m hooked on the Word of God.

Okay, so that’s not entirely accurate. My real obsession is Godcasts. That is, podcasts and radio shows of the fundamentalist/evangelical/creationist/all-of-the-above orientation. Seriously. I can’t get enough of ‘em, and I want others to join me in heaping ridicule onto the glistening brain turds that I come across while enjoying my favorite shows, but the people closest to me can only take so much, and no culturally significant cocktail party conversation has ever started with, “You won’t believe what Eric Hovind said the other day.”

That’s what brings me to Crocoduck. I need an outlet for my anger and vexation, and you, the reader, want to revel in the societal nightmares being propagated by rabid theists taking themselves way too seriously in front of microphones. Right? Okay, good. Here we go. [Read more…]

Ben Affleck VS. Sam Harris and Bill Maher

Ben Affleck is enjoying some social media flattery after butting heads with Sam Harris and Bill Maher last week.

This is the kind of conversation that I actually have a difficult time taking sides on. I definitely don’t have the stomach to support Affleck’s wide-eyed version of reality, where mainstream Islam preaches gender equality and tolerance. That’s just not the case.

But I also have a hard time with westerners foisting their value system on other countries. So, it bothers me when people like Harris and Maher argue that we need to promote change within another country’s society.

That being said, I would probably end up sitting on the Maher/Harris side of the table.

At the end of the day, Maher and Harris are arguing for human rights and Affleck is simply calling everyone racist, which doesn’t really address the issue.

If you think I’m an idiot, let me know in the comments. Seriously. I’ll happily change my stance if the argument is solid.

Creationists Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo, whom the creationists are rather proud of because he has a real live PhD (in kinesiology), has placed a bet against we evolutionists: Prove before a judge that science contradicts the literal book of Genesis, and you can win even odds on $10,000.

I’m pretty tempted to do it, though not positive where I’d come up with $10,000 for the pot (maybe my dad would loan me some of his retirement fund?). Creationism has failed in US courts no less than six times: Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), Daniel v. Waters (1975), Hendren v. Campbell (1977), McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005). The odds of it succeeding now are pretty much negligible, making this the safest 100% ROI you’ll ever make.

Frankly, I’d feel sort of bad taking the guy’s money so easily, but I’d obviously put it to better use than he would. I’d probably give a big chunk of it to the Against Malaria Foundation, for instance. A lot of scientists will balk at giving this guy any more attention, but come on; he’s going to spend that money supporting Creationist things if we don’t take it from him.

Mastropaolo has really set the bar pretty low here. Any scientist in any discipline will do (probably so he can include himself), and all you have to do is prove that the literal account in Genesis is unscientific. You don’t have to disprove the Bible; you don’t have to undermine Intelligent Design; you don’t have to prove evolution is true; you don’t even have to prove Creationism is false. All you have to do is show that the literal book of Genesis is not science. You could literally cite Papal Encyclicals to that effect; you wouldn’t even need science books. I’m thinking maybe just reading a couple paragraphs from each of about a hundred science textbooks, stacking them all up in the courtroom.

There is one bad sign however: He’s said he’ll do this before, and hasn’t gone through with it.

Susan B. Anthony on Distrust and Desires

Susan B. Anthony

Gore Vidal: Theology And Sanity

Gore Vidal On Theology

Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals

Yoga is evil.

Kid YogaIt’s always fascinating to me, as a person who was once immersed in the bible-believing American subculture, to witness the highly-selective (and decidedly intermittent) embrace of the separation of church and state by certain religious folks.  For decades the separation of church and state has been dismissed by the religious right as a liberal lie. And those doing the dismissing are the same folks who routinely respond to everything from school shootings to hurricanes with a chorus of blaming the left for kicking God out of our schools.  Every so often, however, they sing a different tune.

Such is the case in California right now, as a religious group is challenging a voluntary elementary school yoga program, on the basis of separation of church and state.  To hear them tell it, the notoriously evangelical Hindu contingent is attempting to circumvent parental authority in order to steal these innocent children away from Jesus and their parents.  (Okay, technically, they’re not just blaming the Hindus for this.  They’re asserting that this yoga program is rooted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and “Western Metaphysical religious beliefs and practices.”  But still.  They’re all big-time evangelists, right?) [Read more…]

Cardinal Turkson Thinks Being Gay Is A “White Thing”

Peter Turkson

This man is, apparently, one of the top candidates to become the next Pope. So, it seems only appropriate that we run him through the ringer.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana might make history by becoming the first black pope. Ironically, he doesn’t seem to understand segregation. Being gay, for example, is just a white thing according to Turkson. I guarantee that if a white cardinal said “being meek is a black thing,” then we’d have Jesse Jackson appearing on CNN faster than I could find the power button on my remote.

In a recent interview with CNN, Turkson was asked about pedophilia in the Catholic church. His answer came in two parts:

  1. The pedophile scandal is really just a gay scandal.
  2. It’s a white thing, so Africa won’t have a problem. Because, again, being gay is just a white thing.

This is the same person who defended Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill, which is often called the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Wait, if being gay is a white person’s problem, why do we need an anti-homosexuality bill in a country populated primarily by non-white people?

Also, Turkson mentioned that hatred toward homosexuals is rooted in African tradition. I guess it’s important that we stick to our roots. Though, I bet he wouldn’t defend tradition so heavily if America re-instituted its tradition of enslaving black people from Africa.

I honestly don’t know what to exactly make of this mess. The church does an excellent job of ignoring that “loving your neighbor” stuff that Jesus was always talking about, but Turkson seems to be completely ignoring all of the racial hate and segregation that we’ve spent centuries undoing.

Recently it seemed like we were making forward progress when it came to the church. Obviously, it wasn’t happening quickly, but still. Pope John Paul II was completely outspoken in his opposition of apartheid. Even Pope Benedict XVI said that the usage of condoms by male prostitutes could help reduce the “evil” in the act. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like “I don’t agree with condoms, but it might help reduce the risks of sex when these damn kids engage in the activity.” And now, when a black Pope may be elected, we take this gigantic step back. There’s no digging for hidden agendas or interpretations in these words. It’s pretty clear what Turkson is saying.

What a shame. I actually started to have some faith in the Catholic church for a change. Just goes to show you what happens when I start to trust the church.

Creationism Has Merit

Jesus Creationism

I’m always a little confused when I run across a reasonably intelligent human being who also believes in creationism. Today, for example, I found an article by Ed Reep, a senior at Rutgers University. Rutgers is a good school, right?

Either way, Reep argues that, by providing evidence for god, he can set the stage for an easily-proven case for creationism.

In order to show the merit of creationism, I must first show that belief in God has merit, which is a far easier task. God’s existence, after all, is the best explanation for any supernatural phenomenon that might exist, so in order to reasonably demonstrate the existence of God, all I would have to do is reasonably demonstrate the existence of supernatural phenomena.

Wait. What?

How do we know that god’s existence is the best explanation for supernatural phenomenon? And which god are we even talking about? I have a preference for Jove, the Roman equivalent of Zeus, but I somehow doubt that Mr. Reep is talking about my beloved Jove. [Read more…]

Geology Professor Dispatches With A Discovery Institute Flunky

Callan Bentley, an assistant professor of geology at Northern Virginia Community College, gave us the most romantic Valentines Day gift: the transcript of a recent email interchange between himself and Andrew McDiarmid, a Discovery Institute lackey.

McDiarmid contacted Bentley to request the publication rights for an image that had been posted on Bentley’s blog:

I am in the process of looking for photos for his book and came across your set detailing a trip to the Burgess Shale. I am writing to see if you are open to giving him permission to use one of your photos, a picture of Emerald Lake and the Burgess Shale landscape. You describe the photo on your AGU.org <http://AGU.org> blog as:

“Emerald Lake and its gorgeous alluvial fan coming off the Presidential Range and filling in the basin.”
<http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/files/2011/08/burgess26.jpg>

I’d like to offer you $100 and a complimentary copy of the book in return for permission to use the photo. The book will be published in June 2013 by HarperOne Publishers San Francisco. If you agree to do this, can you please forward me a high-res version of the photo and your preferred wording for credit?

Bentley politely declined the offer, but closed his email with this little gem:

Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you.

Of course, the interchange didn’t end there. Bentley has written a pretty exhaustive play by play on his blog. You should probably check it out.