Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Gem from the Internet

The definition of Theology courtesy of day2night.

"Theology is a field of study designed to keep dangerously incompetent people in Universities away from moving machinery and sharp objects."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Same Sex Marriage in the US

As of today there are now 18 states that allow gay marriage as neither Oregon nor Pennsylvania is going to appeal recent court opinions. Illinois will become number 19 on June 1st.

Seven states are pending the appeal of court decisions declaring laws or amendments prohibiting gay marriages unconstitutional.  Two more states have been ordered to recognize out of state same sex marriages.

Basically the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA has opened the flood gates and in the final analysis it will be up to the Supreme Court to either (a) shut them again, (b) leave them open for the long painful process of fighting the battle state by state or (c) put an end to all gay marriage bans.

In order to shut them again the Supreme Court would have to rule that State Constitutional amendments or laws banning gay marriages are constitutional.  They could allow the long painful process by simply refusing to review the question and they could end all gay marriage bans by declaring amendments and laws that prohibit gay marriage unconstitutional.

When the question finally gets there, what are they going to do?

Either (a) or (b) results in an ongoing state by state fight but (a) gives the advantage to the forces of darkness while (b) gives it to the forces of light.

Does John Roberts REALLY want to be remembered as being on the wrong side of history? Hopefully not and the court will go with (c) or at least (b).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Operation American Spring

In case you don't know what Operation American Spring (OAS) is, allow me to tell you. OAS was organized by right wing Tea Party activists to flood Washington D.C. and bring the city to a halt until Obama left office.

Organizer Harry Riley said they were expecting 10-20 million people and guaranteed a minimum of 10 million.

Organizers claimed that "militias all around the country are mobilizing" and that if the movement's objectives weren't met then things could turn violent.

They said that OAS was "bathed in prayer" and that God was on their side.

They intended to forcibly remove Obama from office and install a tribunal led by GOP figures such as Ted Cruz and Allen West.

Less than 100 people showed up.

The right wing is delusional. They are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and reality. If they can think of it, and they can think of some pretty weird crap, and it meets their warped view of the world, then it must be true.

Clearly these morons have no concept of what it takes to organize a rally of even thousands of people never mind millions.

They also overlooked the small problem that what they said they were intending violated the Constitution of the US as well as federal law. If anyone in the government saw any reason to treat them as other than a joke, they'd all be in jail right now.

Even crazies like Cruz and West know better than to get involved in nonsense like this.

Oh yeah, God didn't show up either. I can only assume he had better things to do such as creating a universe without right wing lunatics perhaps.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Agree with Pat Robertson

Someone needs to check whether or not hell has frozen over because I find myself in agreement with Pat Robertson.

The other day, on his CBN show, Robertson said that you had to be "deaf, dumb and blind to think that this earth that we live in has only 6,000 years of existence."

You got that one right Pat. In 2009 I wrote an entry about Ray Comfort talking to Pat Robertson where I expressed the opinion, based upon the look on Robertson's face, that he was humoring Comfort but thought he was nuts. I suppose I was right.

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis and the Creation museum, isn't taking kindly to this and claims that Robertson's comments were "beyond ignorant," that Robertson was "undermining the authority of the word" and "any attack on the word is an attack upon the person of Jesus Christ who is the word."

Now Robertson is not well versed in science and some of his remarks, in particular talking about carbon dating and millions of years, did display some scientific ignorance. But that doesn't change the fundamental accuracy of his main point, YOU DO HAVE TO BE DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND TO THINK THE WORLD IS ONLY 6,000 YEARS OLD.

As for an attack upon "the word," I'd like to point out to Ham the Ignorant that NOWHERE in the Bible is the claim that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Something that I'm sure Ham knows very well.

The number is based upon a calculation by  Bishop James Ussher that creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday October 23rd, 4004 BCE.

He arrived at this number by (1) adding up the ages of the supposed unbroken male lineage from Adam to Solomon and then (2) from Solomon on, cross referencing the events in the Bible to other known rulers, events and cultures.

It is in fact a fairly impressive calculation based upon the facts and assumptions that were known at that time.

However in history as in science one must be willing to re-evaluate one's conclusions when new information becomes available. I absolutely guarantee you that if Bishop Ussher knew then what we know now from natural science, history and archaeology, he would discard his 6,000 year conclusion.

Even based upon Ussher's limited knowledge there are several glaring faults with his calculation especially the part related to adding up the ages of the males from Adam to Solomon.

1. The classic assumption is he is assuming the "days" in Genesis were consecutive 24 hour days when there is no real justification for that in the actual Hebrew. Most Christian Bibles give the distinct impression of counting with "the first day," "the second day," "the third day" and so on but the actual Hebrew is different.

In the actual Hebrew text the word "yom" has no definite article so better translations would be "one day," "a second day," "a third day" as in most Jewish translations and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). So there is no guarantee of the length of the day OR how much time may have passed BETWEEN the days.

2. He is assuming that the ages in the version of the Bible (which I assume was the KJV) he used are correct. The fact is that different Bible versions give different numbers. For instance the Septuagint apparently gives ages that add 1500 years. I suppose that's why you hear some hedging by Creationists about the age of the earth.

3. He is assuming that every male in the lineage is listed and he has to be assuming the age of the father at the birth of the son because that isn't always specified.

4. How can he possibly know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden before getting booted out?

Of course we now know, with pretty much absolute certainty, that Ussher's calculation of 6,000 years is wrong just as we know that Lord Kelvin's calculation in the 1890s was wrong. Kelvin calculated that the earth was between 20 million and 100 million years old based upon the thermodynamics of a cooling solid earth. Kelvin's calculation was wrong because he didn't know about radioactivity, which generates heat, and his assumption that the core of the earth is solid was wrong. It's actually molten.

While Kelvin never issued a retraction of his estimate he did concede privately that radioactivity made some of his assumptions unworkable. Even the best scientists can become dogmatic and dig in their heels when a favorite conclusions of theirs is attacked. That's why there are no authorities in science and peer reviews are so critical.

OK, I went off on a bit of a tangent there. The point is, if you believe in evidence, and if it matters to you what the truth is, you cannot escape the conclusion that the earth is something like 4.5 billion years old.

Robertson is right and Ham, as usual, in my opinion, is delusional.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The NFL Draft

Well, the soap opera that the NFL draft has developed into is over and the final picks are in. How well did my predictions go? About as well as usual. In other words, I'm in no position to quit my day job.

The big question on everyone's mind was where would Johnny Football end up? Would the Texans take him at #1 or would they take DE Jedeveon Clowney? For the last few days there had been growing rumors that the Cowboys were maneuvering to draft Manziel and would either trade up or wait and hope at #16. In response the Giants indicated they would consider Manziel if he was still on the board at #12.

Oh the intrigue of it all.

The Texans did in fact go with DE Jedeveon Clowney at #1. The Rams grabbed OL Greg Robinson at #2 and then things began to go haywire which, for the NFL draft, is pretty much expected by now.

The Jaguars surprised a lot of people by taking QB Blake Bortles at #3. Most "experts" thought they would take Johnny Manziel if Houston didn't.

Then Cleveland traded its 4th pick to Buffalo for pick #9 this year and a first round pick next year. Buffalo drafted WR Sammy Watkins. That brought up Oakland who also was thought to be interested in a QB but the Raiders passed on both Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and took LB Khalil Mack. Khalil takes the prize for coolest name in the draft. It's Arabic for friend.

Atlanta took OL Jake Matthews at #6 which brought up Tampa Bay which also had been rumored to be looking for a QB. But the Bucs took WR Mike Evens. Then Cleveland traded the #9 pick it got from Buffalo to Minnesota for the #8 pick.

This didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense other than perhaps exchanging a draft pick so they could draft Manziel while leaving the Vikings with Bridgewater. But the Browns drafted CB Justin Gilbert and the Vikings, another team linked to a QB pick, took LB Anthony Barr.

The next three teams were the Lions, Titans and Giants. The Lions and Giants were set at QB. No one was taking the Manziel threat from the Giants seriously. Would the Titans go for Manziel?

As it turned out the Lions took TE Eric Ebron, the Titans OL Taylor Lewan and, to the surprise of many people, the Giants drafted WR Odell Beckham Jr. Most thought the Giants would take T Zack Martin or DL Aaron Donald. But, then again, no one thought Beckham would still be around at #12.

That left only three teams between the Dallas Cowboys and Johnny Manziel, the Rams, Bears and Steelers. None of them were likely to draft a QB in the first round and none did.

So, El Momento de Verdad had arrived. The Cowboys were on the clock and Johnny Football was on the board. The seconds ticked away. The numbers turned red as the clock went under one minute. The internet held its collective breath waiting for Jerry Jones to pull the trigger.

It's still waiting. Calmer heads prevailed and the Cowboys drafted T Zack Martin. As Jones explained the next day, they're committed to Tony Romo and, while drafting a QB to groom as Romo's replacement is not a bad idea, Manziel, with his star studded celebrity reputation just didn't fit that mold. As soon as anything went wrong, the pressure to go to Manziel would be a disruptive force, so the Cowboys passed on Johnny Football.

Then there was some speculation that the Jets at #18, despite having drafted Gino Smith last year, might go for Manziel because nobody really knows what the Jets will do or, Chip Kelly might surprise everyone and take him at #22.

As it worked out the Jets drafted S Calvin Pryor and the Eagles traded pick #22 to the Browns. I was beginning to get a little dizzy watching Cleveland bounce all around the board.

Finally the Browns drafted Manziel at #22. Bridgewater ended up going to the Vikings with pick #32 which they got from the Seahawks in order to prevent the Texans from possibly grabbing Bridgewater on the 1st pick of the second round.

The Texans came that close to potentially getting both Clowney and one of the top three QB prospects. Of course as to whether they would actually have drafted Bridgewater we'll never know.

While Cleveland was experiencing Manziel-mania, the announcement came from the NFL that their star WR Josh Gordon had been suspended for the year for substance abuse.

So, how will Johnny Football do in Cleveland?

Cleveland has been a death trap for QBs, In the last five years a number of high draft picks, selected with high hopes, have fallen victim. Brady Quinn (pick #22 in 2007), Colt McCoy (pick #85 in 2010) and Brandon Weeden (pick #22 in 2012) all met their Waterloo in Cleveland.

Did you notice that Johnny is the 3rd QB chosen at #22 by the Browns?

Hopefully Manziel can work his magic in Cleveland and break the jinx. Magic in Cleveland? Who am I kidding?

Aaron Donald, predicted as a Giants 1st round pick in many mock drafts, went to the Rams at #13. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the runner up for best name in the draft, went to Green Bay with pick #21.

The first openly gay player in the draft, Michael Sam, also went to the Rams in round 7 at pick #249. Whether Sam can make the roster is another issue. He's what is known as a "tweener" in NFL slang. He may be too small for DE and too slow for LB. His NFL Combine workout was also apparently underwhelming. I'd put his chances at about 25%.

The title of Mr. Irrelevant, the last player taken in the NFL draft, went to S Lonnie Ballentine of Memphis.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Arrogance of Conservative Christians

In North Carolina a group of ministers along with the United Church of Christ church have joined same sex couples in challenging North Carolina's constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

The twist in this challenge is the clergy are arguing that because the law states that it is a misdemeanor to marry someone without a state license, the same-sex marriage ban violates the religious rights of clergy that wish to perform such ceremonies.

Now, you have to admit that's a fairly creative position.

Of course Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council disagrees. That's his right but WHY he disagrees is a real eye opener.

According to Perkins there's a "test" for "true religious freedom." Apparently it's only a freedom that's based upon "orthodox religious viewpoints."

So, who is it that's supposed to decide what constitutes an "orthodox religious viewpoint" you twit? According to Perkins "You cannot point to the Christian faith and say that same sex marriage has been a key teaching of the church."

Which "church" Tony?

The Episcopal Church has an approved liturgy for blessing same-sex marriages. The Evangelical Lutheran Church allows individual congregations to recognize and bless same-sex unions. The Unitarian Universalists and The United Church of Christ both support same-sex marriage.

Either everyone has freedom of religion or no one does. If you reserve a "freedom" to a subset of the population it becomes a "privilege." 

That's really the bottom line. What Conservative Christians actually want is "privilege." They want the privilege to decide what's right and what's wrong and then they want the privilege of forcing everyone else to abide by that decision.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Jesus's Wife, Greece and Mississippi

Ok, so the Jesus's wife manuscript may NOT be authentic.

Less than a month ago I reported that the scrap of papyrus appeared to be authentic rather than a medieval forgery. Since then it appears that many scholars have attacked the scrap as a fake and Harvard University has apparently stopped defending it.

In the Greece New York, case about prayer at town meetings, the Supreme Court has decided that prayer is OK because it is a "tradition," I might point out to the five twits that voted that way that slavery was a "tradition" too.

Finally, the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act – which is to take effect July 1 – and mirrors one passed on a federal level during the Clinton administration, is designed, in part, to protect business owners who don't want to do work to promote homosexual activism.

In response to passage of that bill, owners who want the business of homosexuals are now posting blue, circular window stickers that incorporate the rainbow colors typically associated with homosexual activism.

This is driving the American Family Association, a major supporter of the bill, totally crazy. They're now screaming that somehow businesses stepping into the breach and welcoming gay business is intended to "trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture."

No, you can go ahead and refuse the business but other firms are perfectly happy to step in and take it. And that includes the business of heterosexuals who think discrimination sucks.

This is the old right wing attitude that they're allowed the "freedom" to say and do what they want but no one is allowed to disagree with them. In other words EVERYONE has to accept their opinions.

To all American Conservatives I say, here, check out the lovely shape of my middle finger.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Claims and Assertions

I must be missing something.

If you want to make a claim then it's usually a good idea for it to be of the form "John is cruel BECAUSE he tortures puppies."

Now we have your justification for claiming that John is cruel and we can move on to the EVIDENCE that John actually does torture puppies.

The point being is that you have at least established WHY you believe John is cruel. You believe he is cruel because you believe he tortures puppies.

Notice how much more illuminating this is than simply saying "John is cruel." An assertion with no justification is known as an "unsupported assertion."

It's been my experience that Conservatives rarely provide justifications. They simply provide "unsupported assertions."

A perfect example of this was David Horowitz yesterday on the Steve Malzberg radio show where he said "Obama is a dangerous, dangerous evil man" and a "neo-communist" that wants to "take down" the United States." Lots of assertions, but no justifications.

This is one of the reasons I find it hard to take them seriously.

WTF is a "neo-communist" anyway? Interestingly enough it's a new breed of communist that rejects totalitarianism while claiming to remain true to Marx's original concepts.

Given the way income inequality is going, this may not be a bad thing. Of course there's no way of knowing if that's what Horowitz meant because he didn't provide a justification for his assertion!