Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Agenda 21 and the Americans who think the UN is coming to take their women…or something…

(while we’re waiting for Mr. Rogers to show how wrong I am, I thought I’d return to a more political bent) 

In my line of work, I’ve come upon the “UN is evil, with black helicopters” crowd.  People in central PA (and all over the US), are *sure* that the UN is going to take us over as soon as they hear about a law they don’t like.  And yes, if you know about the UN, you know how damn funny that is and how that it would never happen.  These people have watched Red Dawn too many times (oh yes and they did remake it with, wait for it, North Korea invading). 

Scarrry!

Scarrry!

For my international viewers and folks younger than me, this was a horrible movie made in 1984 in the fevered Reagan years.  The plot was that the Soviets, Cubans and Nicaraguans invaded small town America.  No nukes at all, we have soldiers too inept to fight teens parachuting into Colorado. It’s like watching stormtroopers on Endor. This movie is a wannabee’s wet dream to the nth degree; those folks who are all sure they would be just great soldiers, but golly, they can never find time to actually join the military. It’s just too hard to be that responsible and ”grown-up”.  

The most recent eruption of this silliness is the idea that something called Agenda 21 is going to end the American Way. As always, all of this is dependent on willful ignorance and ginned up fear.  Agenda 21 is a VOLUNTARY and NON-BINDING way to plan for sustainable development.  It is not to return everyone to subsistence farm standards, not to make them give up all of their possessions or to make them pool their money together so they must live communistically (recognize this? 🙂 ).  It is a plan that has four parts: dealing with the poverty and inequity in developing nations; protecting the environment; supporting the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples and local authorities; and supporting the spread of useful technology and knowledge by education. 

Now, all of this sounds good to anyone who wants people to have an equal chance at life.  It sounds like poison to a lot of Americans (many self-identified Tea Partiers) who are sure that Agenda 21 will take their stuff!  They are desperately afraid of the “government” coming to take their land and telling them what they can do on it.  Well, if they’ve been paying attention (not), they know that this happens already.  We have eminent domain, we have regulations on where certain types of business may locate (no slaughterhouses beside schools, no bars near schools) etc. They do not realize that Agenda 21 does no such thing. It advocates a fair and just world for everyone, and no it doesn’t force it on *anyone*.  These people who are afraid of the UN and this Agenda 21 think they want absolute and unfettered freedom but when it comes to their house, they sure don’t want a tannery in their backyard or a lawless society.  They are, like many willfully ignorant people, hypocrites.  

They are indeed fearful but against no actual threat, just baseless claims and lies.  There are those who want to keep them fearful and that fear nebulous.  Much like religion, the far right wants people to be scared of “them”.  It’s a great way to keep people under your thumb.  Make “there” too scary to go to visit, make “them” less than human and out to get “you”, etc.  A lot of these people want to believe what they are told.   

Why?

I personally have the hypothesis that it’s mostly people who grew up thinking that the US was some kind of “chosen people” and when that was proven not the case, their fantasies of exceptionalism sickened into classic paranoia(thinking that others are out to get you and that you are important enough for them to do so).  These people have of course infected others.  And it doesn’t help that these people want to be told what to do, supposedly to get back to that delusionary “eden” they imagined the 1950s to be.  I think many of us who were born in the late 60s saw just how screwed up our nation could be and never bought into that idea.   

Bob Altemeyer, a professor from the University of Manitoba (he got his degree in PA at Carnegie-Mellon) did an excellent work on authoritarianism (not only Americans fall victim to it.) I definitely recommend reading it.  It does a great job on showing why some people are like these anti-Agenda 21 folks. I feel this is a great basis on showing why there is such a negative reaction to anything that isn’t “us” for those people who glom onto things like Agenda 21 as the evil menace.  Authoritarianism needs an “other” to hate.   For all of their claims of libertarianism and freedom, many Americans are just more authoritarians, nothing “special” just very human. 

Postscript – Professor Altemeyer has also done a review of the Tea Party movement in the US. It is very well-done.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A Pastor’s observations and my reply

I just love Harley.

I just love Harley.

Mr. Bob Rogers, a pastor with the Southern Baptist Convention, has commented on my post about the new History Channel mini-series “The Bible”.  Rather than allowing his comment and my response to languish in commentland, I thought I might post it here as an example of some other common Christian approaches to atheists.

“Oh, my, what a bitter tone we read here. So sad. I’d be glad to respond to some of your distortions if I thought you really wanted to listen, but I gather that there is a deeper issue here. Did a Christian hurt you? If so, I’m very sorry for that. Not all of Jesus’ so-called followers listen to His words to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).”

I’ve seen theists claim that atheists have to be bitter, sad, lonely, angry, hostile, stupid, ignorant, rebellious, etc.  I will more than happily admit to occasionally being angry and hostile.  I get that way when folks try to lie to me or about me and trie to cause harm based on an imaginary being.  I am not always angry and hostile and I also don’t think that theists always lie and always cause harm.   The assumption that atheists are only emotionally hurt is often used and I would argue is intended to devalue the atheist’s reasons.  Some atheists are indeed angry at Christians and upset that their former god doesn’t exist.  That’s not why I am an atheist. 

We also have the usual claims about what “real” Christians are.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know what I think of those claims.

And for your delectation and amusement, my response:

Hello Mr. Rogers. Welcome to my blog. I see you are a pastor. From my perspective, your post does nothing to show that Christians are any better than anyone else, not even the professional ones. I am not bitter, though I’m sure you do desperately hope I am. That would be one of the few ways you could convince yourself that you are better off than me. I am also disappointed that you must make baseless assumptions that there is some “deeper issue” here and assume that I’m an atheist “only” because I had a run-in with a “bad Christian”. Nope, I’m not that dumb and if there were a god that was what is claimed, one bad apple certainly wouldn’t spoil the bunch. I know that people who happen to be Christians are often very nice people; most of my relatives are that. Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – the “History” Channel and its new mini-series The Bible

Only thing missing is the sandy hair that my graduation bible JC picture had.

Only thing missing is the sandy hair that my graduation bible JC picture had.

Oh my, the History Channel is putting on a mini-series about the bible, all with “reenactments”.  Well considering that none of the essential events of the bible have been shown to have occurred at all, this should be like watching “re-enactments” of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and the tar baby.  Their Jesus sure is northern European Caucasian and has the long hair that a Jewish man wouldn’t have had during that time.  You know:  “27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”  Leviticus 19 has a whole lot of the crazy laws in it and some actually coherent ones.    

One would think that the executive producers would be a bit more concerned with reality, but since one was the “angel” (she cast herself as the Virgin Mary) from Touched By An Angel, the sappy and soporific Christian fantasy television show, no wonder it looks to be complete drek.  The other producer is the guy who has brought you such “reality” shows as Survivor, etc complete with ginned up drama from very ignorant and silly people.  The History Channel can add religious myths to its line up of aliens, Nazis and lunatics who think we didn’t land on the moon.  How pitiful that it’s going down the same path The Learning Channel has, becoming a freak show where it’s okay to ridicule people from the politially safe spot at home on a couch.  A note: this mini-series is supposedly using the NIV and NRSV as the bibles of choice. Now what will our KJV-onlyists do? 

But if we have to have such a thing, there could be some great moments of cinema if we select the right parts. Parts that our “reality” TV guru would appreciate, if he wasn’t trying to hide behind the skirts of respectability. 

First, we have the good ol’ description of a prostitute lying with men with “emissions the size of donkeys”. (Ezekiel 23) No, this god couldn’t just say he’ll tear down cities, nope, we get bestiality porn and rape fantasies.  Continue reading

From the Bar – Stonekeep Mead and a review of our local garden show

tasty fat-filled goodness

tasty fat-filled goodness

Here in central PA, we are known for the Pennsylvania Farm Show which is in January. Essentially a state fair in buildings, people bring their award winning farm animals in for judging, there are huge displays of the latest in farm equipment and the food is famous.  Of course, the reason it’s famous is that people aren’t paying attention to the fat content. There is a reason that milkshakes that have full fat milk and full fat ice cream taste *so* much better than anything else.  They go through around 10,000 gallons of milkshake mix in 8 days. 

The Farm Show is housed in a big complex of buildings to the east of the city that contain it and many other events through the year, most with a agricultural theme, from cow shows, to equestrian events and some other things thrown in like car shows, dog shows and this garden show.  The thing is huge with enough space in some of the arenas to have tractor pulls, etc.

This year, feeling definitely spring-feverish, my husband and I attended the garden show.  In one of the large areas (ceilings are probably around 25’, 7.5 meters or so), close to a dozen landscapers brought in dirt, rocks, trees and many bricks and liners to make life size dioramas of what they can do.  All were gorgeous and many had outdoor fireplaces with pergolas and shelters to allow one to live out side quite graciously.  My big favorites were the outdoor wood fired pizza ovens.  I just wish they weren’t so crazy expensive.  I guess I’ll have to be happy with my chimenea. We have a large cast-iron one.   Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – Some time killers for a Friday

While I’m sitting here listening to the soundtrack of Rocky Horror Picture Show (my husband introduced me to this when we first were dating), let me show you some cool links.

Awesome photos of the tunnel projects in New York City: http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/news-nyctunnels/?cid=hero_media

Planetary romance webcomic of the same genre as “A Princess of Mars: http://www.perilsonplanetx.com/archives/comic/coming-soon

Hard-boiled noir webcomic: http://www.gravediggercomic.com/?comic=welcome-to-gravedigger

Steamfantasy webcomic: http://www.ineffableaether.com/2011/07/11/ch01s01-2/

Crowd sourced research: https://www.zooniverse.org/  (alas my computer at work is too old to do this anymore)

How to drink like a gentleman – H.L. Mencken

And as a reminder, always lovely pictures here.

 

 

 

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 10 – and I’m done …. for now

fireworks-clip-art

It is finished!  In this last installment of addressing a particular TrueChristiantm’s claims, we have some of the most ridiculous claims.  I’m not sure if he thought this was the best he had and he wanted a “strong” finish or if it’s just coincidence.  Again, here is the pdf truechristian post 19-23

(EDIT: 02-21-13- our Christian guest has now said that he had put up his original post a “very long time ago” on one of his multiple blogs: http://ryftkohiahpapers.wordpress.com/29-2/  Well, a “very long time ago” isn’t quite true and he has altered his post from the original as expected[alas he still gets things wrong], but what’s one more bit of nonsense? )

I would like to welcome my new blog followers, including some Christians and other believers in the supernatural!  Please feel free to comment. I have no problem in approving comments that may disagree with what I’ve posted. 

Today we have the claim that fossils aren’t arranged by complexity and it’s just a conspiracy by textbook illustrators to put the trilobite at the near bottom (Cambrian, where cool things like the Burgess and Emu Bay shales are).  For it has the “most complex eye structure ever in the world”!  First, for this to even have a small chance of working, one has to pick a trilobite; the little buggers were around for 270 million years in many different species. Then, you define what you mean by “most complex”.  As it stands, the mantis shrimp is in the running for most abilities shoved into an eye.  And even in the Cambrian, the anomalocaris had much better eyes than the trilobite.

Compound eyes like the trilobites are good at seeing motion but not much else. There is nothing to suggest they are the “most complex eye structure in the world”. They aren’t even more complex than humans. Humans have blind spots but other benefits. Octopi eyes don’t have those.   

Eyes are very useful, but are not necessary as we see in beasties that lose their usefulness when living in caves. (nice scientific paper on the subject; and a slightly less technical article.)  There are some critters that haven’t gone beyond eyespots, that only determing light vs dark.  Planaria (the cute little guys that can be made to grow two heads), are just doing fine with eyespots.  They simply do not need anything more effective in the environment they exist in.    

More false claims continue but now we’re in the later eras.  We are asked if we know that there are dinosaur remains found with humans, that human remains have been found under dino remains.  Our TrueChristiantm mentions the KBS tuff. This is a layer of sediment (mostly compacted volcanic ash, that’s what “tuff” is)  that contains human remains in northern Kenya. I can find no reports of evidence of dinosaur remains in this layer at all.  Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 9, the second half of #19, limestone, coelacanths and circular reasoning

Part 2 of the entry for #19  We’re at the penultimate post for addressing all of this nonsense! 

Precambrian rabbit

Precambrian rabbit

Next are mentions of limestones, living fossils and polystrate fossils.  Oh and a quote from Dawkins, whom creationists are sure that all atheists worship.  The quote is “”Creationists are fond of saying that there are very few fossils in the Precambrian, but why would there be?” asks Dawkins. “However, if there was a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found.”  This is a paraphrase of the Precambrian rabbit quote from Haldane.  The idea is that one out of place fossil would destroy evolutionary theory.  And as we can see in the link to the rabbit quote, it isn’t necessarily true.  It would surely show a major problem with it, the thought that the Precambrian is the era of some of the simplest creatures, but all of the current evidence for evolution wouldn’t be shown wrong.  We still have adaptation to environment still demonstrated in the fossil record and still going on. 

Despite what it might look like in your driveway or on a gravel road, limestones are very diverse and not all come from fossils. They are also not often pure calcium carbonate.  One of my early tasks as a geologist was to identify a bunch of them.  Here in central PA, we have lots of limestones and we were doing a lot of drilling into them when setting wells to monitor pollution.  The limestones could be identified by their chemical make-up and that required some of the nastiest chemicals you can buy, including some wickedly toxic mercury compounds, hydrogen cyanide, etc. By that we can know the environment where they formed. We can date them, by radiometric dating, etc.  Since they do not always have fossils, they are not always dated by fossils. Other ways to date are date the rocks above and below and the ones between are between the others in ages, which can happen with limestone, when you might get a coal layer showing up or a volcanic ash deposit that can be dated easier than the limestone. 

One other thing that limestones do to creationist claims is make them ridiculous since the time to build up foraminifera enough to make a layer is far more than their silly 6000+ year time line.  And when simply chemically precipitated out, well, we get poached Noah again. Continue reading