Is the Pope a Dope? Nope? Then, what?

Recently, CNN ran a video provided by Vatican TV of Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joseph Alois Ratzinger) kneeling before the Shroud of Turin in an act described as ‘veneration.’

Really?  Venerating the Shroud of Turin? Why?  Oh, of course!  The shroud is “believed to be Jesus’ burial cloth” according to CNN.  Really?

For an organization that employs Nobel Prize-winning scientists and trains scientists at its very own Pontifical Academy, you would think that at least one of these scientisis would have mentioned to His Holiness Uncle Joe that back in 1989 a study was published in Nature – one of the most prestigious scientific journals in existence – pinpointing the age of the Shroud of Turin.  The research was conducted by three different laboratories using three different methods of age determination.  What were the peer-reviewed findings as published in Nature? Let me allow the paper to speak for itself:

“The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 – 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr).  These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval.

The results of radiocarbon measurements from the three laboratories on four textile samples, a total of twelve data sets, show that none of the measurements differs from its appropriate mean value by more than two standard deviations.  The results for the three control samples agree well with previous radiocarbon measurements and/or historical dates.”

Pope Benedict XVI, get up off your knees and turn to the congregation of the world and tell them that you are a liar!  You are deliberately attempting to befuddle the credulous by lying to them by omission!  By withholding the material fact that the Shroud of Turin CANNOT POSSIBLY be the burial cloth of Jesus, but kneeling before it in fake reverence as though it were, you are lying to the world and using the most pathetic sort of puffery to enhance the image of your so-called church for reasons that are blatantly transparent to the thoughtful and mercilessly opaque to the ‘faithful’ masses around the world who will NEVER have the opportunity to attend the Pontifical Academy or to have a Nobel Prize sitting on their mantle.

(And, don’t get me started on all the child rape and torture…)

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Secular Science vs. Religious ‘Non-Science.’

Proper secular science and dogmatic religious non-science are fundamentally incompatible.  And, like oil and water, the two can only equilibrate by each seeking its own level and remaining distinctly separate.  The former exists to move humanity forward on every front amenable to scientific inquiry, while the latter exists to stymie human progress and free inquiry by befuddling the credulous through obfuscation and deceit, and suffusing the joyously curious human spirit that is the (God-created?  Right?) wellspring for scientific inquiry with guilt, shame, fear, and dread in a process akin to the petrification of wood, one molecule of thought at a time.

As any student in a proper, secular public elementary school science curriculum knows, accepted scientific inquiry involves a series of ordered steps, the first of which  is to define a problem or ask a question that may be answered through experimentation.  Then, after developing a hypothesis and carrying out experiments that are designed to develop a data set that can be analyzed and from which conclusions may be drawn, the scientist may then either accept or reject the hypothesis based on analysis of the data.  Finally (and this is the best part), the scientific conclusions are written up in a paper and presented to the scientific community for review and comment.  This so-called ‘peer review’ is the hallmark of authentic scientific inquiry and is crucial to the integrity of knowing anything about the world around us by scientific means.

Religious ‘non-science’ is precisely NOT science for the simple – but incredibly important – reason that it turns the scientific method completely upside down, and is therefore BY DEFINITION NOT SCIENCE!

Take, for example, so-called “Creation Science” (or, its most recent machination, “Intelligent Design”).  Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?  Well, the first step in ‘Creation Science’ is to draw the conclusion that the complete and entire explanation for the creation of the universe and everything in it is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis.  Then, given this preconceived conclusion, the religious pseudo-scientist goes out into the world to collect data that can be ‘analyzed’ (read: spun) in such a way as to lend support to their already-declared conclusion.  To suggest that this endeavor has anything to do with proper scientific inquiry is the very definition of befuddling the credulous, and it strains the imagination to think that people who are engaged in this sort of chicanery can do so with a straight face, let alone a clear conscience.  Moreover, the entire body of work by these self-proclaimed ‘scientists’ (of course, everything about religion is ‘self-proclaimed,’ so why should their ‘science’ be any different?) is infused with this type of circular reasoning, which wilts under the slightest scrutiny by proper scientists and – in particular – by yet another judge in federal court.

The entire transcript of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case may be found here.  The following is excerpted verbatim from this website: (all bold emphasis is mine)

[This is the decision of the court in the Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al. case. Judge John E. Jones III, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, made a very strong ruling against intelligent design. He ruled that it is creationism and is not science. He also ruled that members of Dover’s school board lied under oath to hide their religious motivations. This archive also hosts transcripts of the trial. See the Dover index page.]

“The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.


Posted in Evolution by Natural Selection is a Fact. Get Over It!, Inaccurate Oxymoron (Oh sorry, I meant Intelligent Design), Secular Intolerance | Leave a comment

To two too-nice folks who gifted a space heater: “It’s nice to have its warmth in winter.”

This is another post concerning commonly misused words that, with a little thought and effort, could easily be used properly, thus conveying your ideas accurately, avoiding the embarrassment of being perceived as an uneducated rube, and beautifying and preserving our collective written environment.

First, there’s ‘two’. ‘Two’ (2) plus ‘two’ (2) equals four (4).  I don’t see much misuse of ‘two.’  But, when I do, it is (it’s) a jaw-dropping moment for me.  If you love America and pray for its future, please do not (don’t) EVER assert that ‘to’ (2) plus ‘too’ (2) equals ‘for’ (4).

Next, there is (there’s) ‘to’ and ‘too.’  It is (It’s) a sad fact of life that one extra letter, just ONE EXTRA LETTER! can make the difference between you making yourself look good and making yourself look like an uneducated rube, but it is (it’s) the truth.

Without getting bogged down in all that boring grammar, the best way to illustrate proper usage of these two words is by using an example:

Mary is going ‘to’ the store, and I am going ‘too.’

We went ‘to’ a buffet restaurant and I ate ‘too’ much.

To make this mistake more than two times is two times too many!  Moving on…

As you may have noticed, I have been illustrating the use of the contraction ‘it’s’ (it is) and the word (let’s call it a pronoun) ‘its.’  Again: one little apostrophe ( ‘ ) can mean the difference between lookin’ good and uneducated rube.

‘It’s’ good to love America and to pray for ‘its’ future.

As you can see, ‘It’s’ is used when you want to say ‘it is.’  Pronouns like ‘its’ are a bit trickier (Google ‘misplaced pronouns’ and see for yourself), but in the above example the word ‘its’ is used as a substitute for the word ‘America.’  It’s alright to say, “It’s good to love America and to pray for America’s future.”  But, using ‘its’ to stand in for the second use of America is what we are talking about here.

I hope this helps.  Please use to, two, too, it’s, and its properly and make us proud!

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You’re asking where your kids are? They’re playing with their toys over there.

This message is about one of my pet peeves. Namely, using the word ‘your’ when you really mean ‘you are’, and using the word ‘their’ or ‘there’ when you really mean ‘they are.’

I just want to say at the outset that, in my opinion (I’ll let you be the judge of just how humble it is), one of the fastest ways to make yourself look like an uneducated rube is to misuse the words listed above.  For me, it is like the difference between leaded crystal and lead.  And as far as a resume or cover letter is concerned, misuse of these words will cause your communications to hit the circular file (along with any hiring consideration) so fast it will make your head spin.

OK.  So first, let me make clear the grammatical construct known as a contraction.  A contraction is a single word formed by combining two words, discarding a letter or two of the second word, and using an apostrophe (you know, one of these: ‘) as a placeholder for the missing letter or letters.  Now, that may not be an Oxford dictionary definition, but it is (it’s) good enough for this discussion.

To the matter at hand.  The word ‘you’re’ is a contraction formed by combining the two words ‘you’ and ‘are’, discarding the letter ‘a’ in ‘are’ and replacing it with an apostrophe.

So, when you are (you’re) writing and you are (you’re) about to say something about, let us (let’s) say, your car, can you really say with a straight face: ‘you are car’?  Or, ‘you’re car’?  Of course not. That would sound really stupid. (Now, if you’re learning english as a second language, we can make an exception here.  After all, you’re learning the language and bully for you!  Keep it up!  You’re doing fine, and on your way to better writing!  But as for you native-born english speakers, for shame if ‘you are car’ sounds just as good to you as ‘your car’.)  If you are (you’re) having trouble with your use of contractions, the safest bet is simply not to use them until you get the hang of it.  Notice how the word ‘your’ simply indicates possession.  It is NOT a substitute form of ‘you’re’.  Don’t ever make that mistake again!

It should be obvious by now that ‘they’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are’.  I’m sure ‘they are car’ makes no sense to you when you really mean ‘their car’, which indicates possession.  Similarly, ‘the car is over they are’ is nonsense when you really mean ‘the car is over there’, which indicates location.  So, they’re sitting in their car over there, right? Right!

I hope this helps.  Please use you’re, your, they’re, their and there properly from now on, and go forth to make the world a better place…one contraction at a time!

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Baby Mammoths Say the Darndest Things.

A few months ago a friend of mine happened to be in Chicago while The Field Museum was hosting an exhibition of an item identified by the Archeological Institute of America as one of the Top Ten Discoveries of 2007.  I’m speaking, of course, about the one-month old baby mammoth discovered in Russia by a reindeer herder, and named after his wife, Lyuba (pronounced LeeYouBah).  Science has estimated Lyuba to have lived its brief life some 40,000 years ago.  Let me repeat: 40,000 years.

Having read about Lyuba in National Geographic some time earlier and being captivated by its story, my friend was determined to see this exhibit in person and was not disappointed.  So, when I received an email from her in which she exclaimed, “Behold Lyuba!,”  I was naturally curious to understand what all the excitement was about.  And, after some web surfing and reading, I, too, was saying to myself: Yes, Behold Lyuba.

Behold Lyuba!  An animal that lived forty thousand years ago, and descended from African mammoths that lived some five million years ago.  But, how could that be when some forty percent of the U.S. population (some 120 million of our neighbors!) believes in the literal interpretation of Genesis and Bishop Ussher’s “Begat” theory, which pinpoints the day of creation on October 23rd in the year 4004 B.C., or some six thousand years ago?

To what may we attribute this contradiction when science has at its disposal several established ways of measuring the age of organic and inorganic materials?  In his book The Greatest Show on Earth – The Evidence for Evolution, pp 91-107, Richard Dawkins explains ten different radioactive clocks – each with a different time scale – that science uses to estimate the age of stuff.  And, according to the most recent estimates, the age of the earth is approximately 4,540,000,000 (four billion, five hundred and forty million) years old.

So, what is the darndest thing that Lyuba is saying?  I’ll tell you. She is saying, “Hey!  You! Yes, YOU! You ‘Young Earth Creationists!’  Move in a little closer, I want to tell you something. Are you listening?  Good. Here goes:  YOU PEOPLE ARE MORONS IF YOU THINK THE EARTH IS ONLY 6000 YEARS OLD!  I MEAN, LOOK AT ME!  WHAT AM I, CHOPPED LIVER? (Well I suppose that could be an honest mistake…) BUT THAT’S BESIDE THE POINT!  I DIED WHEN I WAS ONE MONTH OLD, BUT I LIVED FORTY FRICKIN’ THOUSAND YEARS AGO!!! WHAT MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED THAT YOUR COCKAMAMIE IDEA THAT THE AGE OF THE EARTH CAN BE DETERMINED BY ADDING UP ALL THE ‘BEGATS’ IN THE BIBLE IS UTTER NONSENSE?  I was hoping that you humans would have become smarter in the tens of thousands of years since I drew my last breath. And, thankfully, many of you have.  But, am I ever bummed to learn that a whole bunch of you remain stubbornly, EVEN PROUDLY, as dumb as that rock that was jabbing me in my side for the last FOUR HUNDRED CENTURIES!  Whoo boy, am I depressed.  That’s it.  Thanks for stopping by, but I need some ‘alone’ time now.”

There, there, little Lyuba.  Rest easy now.

Folks, little Lyuba died and was resurrected to redeem you from your sin of willful ignorance!  Praise her!  Do not blaspheme against her message by saying the Earth is only six thousand years old. Nay!  Bow your heads in reverence and accept Lyuba as the One True Messenger of the age of the Earth: four million, five hundred and forty thousand, thousand years old.

Say amen.

Posted in Evolution by Natural Selection is a Fact. Get Over It!, We're Number One! (Really?), World-Class Stupidity (e.g., Young Earth Creationists) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Intelligible Glenn Beck may not be such an oxymoron after all.

I knew there had to be something intelligible about Glenn Beck’s kaleidoscopic message and the Tea Party following it has engendered, and this solid portrait of the oligarchic corporatocracy hiding behind a fictional façade of grassroots libertarianism explains a lot for me.  It’s also a stark example of just how corrosive to what is left of our democratic election process the Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate political spending is likely to be.   Even more unsettling, the religious overtones of the Beck/Palin rally may have  presaged (made public?) an unholy alliance between the “Tea Party” and Evangelical Christian Dominionists, a.k.a. the Republican Party. (C’mon folks, do your homework on this, starting here. I also recommend Chris Hedges, as one of the most accessible and contemporaneous of the many resources detailing the facts of this cynical, corrupt, corrosive, manipulative and anti-Constitutional historical relationship).

Sadly, I believe Progressive Democrats – from the Oval Office on down – simply do not have the critical mass to stand up to the combined bludgeoning by Tea Party libertarians and Evangelical Christian Dominionists and their Republican sock puppets.  (And, I really want to like President Obama.  But, that’s another story…)

Finally, I wonder if Tea Partiers knew how blatantly they were being exploited by corporate fat cats who can’t wait for the opportunity to throw them under the bus just as soon as they get the power they so desperately seek, would they still be so enthusiastic?  I feel sorry for them, really.  It’s like that sad, helpless feeling you get when driving by a bad car wreck.  Wake up and smell the hypocrisy, folks!  And remember the lessons of history when cultural despair goes in search of a “strong man” to pull us all up out of the morass.

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