Did you hear the news? There’s now a scientific study that claims to prove that marijuana causes paranoid delusions.
Of course, THEY would want you to believe that, wouldn’t THEY?
What more perfect cover for a conspiracy to control the possession of marijuana could there be than the belief that anyone who is in possession of marijuana is likely to tell deluded stories about conspiracies that actually don’t exist?
Inhale the New World Order, sheeple!
A new poll out by NBC and Marist shows, among voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, Hillary Clinton in the lead for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and Jeb Bush in the lead for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was shown to be far, far ahead of her nearest rival, while Jeb Bush was barely ahead of Rand Paul.
A clear loser in this poll appears to be meritocracy. Clinton, Bush and Paul all have had extremely powerful members of their families who made their consideration for the presidential nomination possible.
One glaring weakness in the poll, however, is that voters were only given one alternative to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side: Vice President Joe Biden, who couldn’t campaign his way out of a paper bag. More exciting potential Clinton alternatives, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, were left out of the poll entirely.
Why would NBC and Marist do that?
When it comes to a fair wage for federal workers, reasonable people ought to be able to agree: Don’t pay the workers too little, but also don’t pay them an extravagant amount. Pay them what most other workers of their skill, in their local market, are paid.
This level of pay is what’s called the prevailing wage. At present, it’s the amount that people working for private companies doing contracts for the federal government are paid. The Davis-Bacon Act requires it.
Yesterday, a collection of U.S. Senators introduced legislation that would do away with this standard. S. 2617 would repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, encouraging companies doing business with the federal government, using taxpayer money, to pay their workers wages that are lower than the prevailing wage for any given profession. S. 2617 would use public money to create an artificial drag on people’s wages, further depressing income in a time when real income is already trending downward.
S. 2617 would devastate local economies across the United States, giving workers less money to spend at local businesses, resulting in fewer jobs on worse terms. S. 2617 would create a short-term increase in income for a small number of investors, however, by temporarily boosting corporate profits before the negative impact of income depression would be felt.
The following are the U.S. Senators who have signed their names in support of this ill-advised scheme: Mike Lee, David Vitter, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, Jeff Sessions, Tom Coburn, Ron Johnson, John Cornyn, Marco Rubio, and Lamar Alexander.
Last week, Rowan created a visualization of Pew Research polling data on Americans collected from January-March 2014. When Pew asked respondents how they would feel about their children marrying athiests, members of the American Christian majority displayed a strong tendency to express unhappiness at the prospect.
Because surveys gather data from samples and not the entire population, any one piece of survey research might produce a pattern by chance alone. For this reason, it’s good to look for other research asking similar questions to see if the pattern holds. In more than 50 years of Gallup polling on atheists as presidential candidates, the pattern holds. In the American Mosaic Project’s research on atheists as marriage partners, the pattern also holds. In all of these pieces of research, atheists appear to be the most feared, loathed and rejected social group in the United States.
This week, Pew Research has released the results of a different poll that is also germane to the subject. Conducted in May-June of 2014, this poll asked American respondents to share their attitude regarding various religious groups using a “feeling thermometer”:
“We’d like to get your feelings toward a number of groups on a ‘feeling thermometer.’ A rating of 0 degrees means you feel as cold and negative as possible. A rating of 100 degrees means you feel as warm and positive as possible. You would rate the group at 50 degrees if you don’t feel particularly positive or negative toward the group.”
The following are the average thermometer readings given to religious groups and atheists, those without religious belief:
|Group Being Evaluated
||Average Thermometer Reading
This finding matches the pattern in the other research I’ve cited above: atheists are the group toward which Americans feel most antipathy. The only deviation from other research is the clumping of Muslims at the bottom with atheists; other research suggests that atheists are despised more than Muslims, with Muslims a close second.
Some might suggest that the low temperature reading for atheists reflects the attitude of a narrow sliver of American Christianity, namely the conservative evangelical segment. But Pew finds that negative temperature readings are nearly universal across the Judeo-Christian spectrum, with the relative exception of Jews:
|Group Evaluating Atheists
||Average Thermometer Reading of Atheists by Group
|White Evangelical Protestants
|White Mainline Protestants
We each may come to a different conclusion about what ought to be done on the basis of this trend, but to my eye it’s pretty difficult to dispute the existence of the trend: in the esteem of Americans today, atheists are at the bottom.
When you think of Urban Outfitters, what do you think of? I think of young people who want to wear clothes that will be designed by a known national brand, but will be just a little bit outside of what they would find at a suburban shopping mall. It’s a baby step toward hipster, but not at all really hipster.
I don’t think of Hindu gods.
Apparently, Urban Outfitters wanted to stretch its brand a little bit, so they posted some bed sheets for sale online, featuring a large image of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh.
When Hindus found out about it, some became very upset. Murali Balaji, director of education at the Hindu American Foundation, called the Urban Outfitters Ganesh bedsheets “hipster racism”, though it’s not clear how offending the religious sensibilities of Hindus is racist. The bedsheets didn’t depict people with ancestry on the Indian subcontinent in any negative way. The bedsheets didn’t communicate any message about human beings at all, but about a god that some human beings believe in.
When non-Hindus didn’t understand the controversy, Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, issued a code for the proper display of Ganesh: “You can put him in a frame and on the wall. That is fine, but not to be put on the bed, on which you lie and your feet will go on. That is very inappropriate.”
Even the Council for Secular Humanism, which claims to “defend the rights of those who reject religious beliefs”, has gotten in on the outrage, issuing a terse statement that “Urban Outfitters offends by commodifying Ganesh,” implying that there’s something wrong with commodifying religious images. Of course, Hindus sometimes commodify images of their deities themselves, including Ganesh, when they sell items showing the deities’ images. Is the Council for Secular Humanism against this commodification as well?
For that matter, when will the protests begin against Etsy, which sells Ganesh bedsheets that are manufactured by Lalit Rathi in Dehli, India? Is Mr. Rathi Hindu, or does he belong to one of India’s other religions? Is he, perhaps, an Indian atheist, a blasphemer defying the religious codes of conduct in his native country?
There are Ganesh bedsheets sold in many places, including Amazon, Cafepress, and Vision Bedding. When will the protests against these retailers begin? Will the protests continue until it becomes impossible to buy any bedsheet with an image of Ganesh?
Urban Outfitters has responded to the Hindu protests by removing the Ganesh bedsheets from its collection of products. That decision makes good business sense. Urban Outfitters doesn’t gain anything through the notoriety of having religiously controversial products. It’s not really a nonconformist brand.
But what about for the rest of us? How is the Hindu campaign against Ganesh bedsheets different from the campaigns by American Christians to censor depictions of Jesus that they don’t approve of?
Why should people who aren’t members of a religion be expected to follow that religion’s codes of conduct? Should we all be obliged to stop any behavior that anyone finds offensive to their religious sensibilities? Should blasphemy be banned?
Actually, there is some evidence that suggests that the practice of blasphemy may be socially beneficial. For example, a study recently published in the scholarly journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts found that, in a small Texas town, teenagers who read commonly banned books, many of which were considered religiously blasphemous, were more likely than their peers to volunteer their labor for local civic organizations.
September 30 is International Blasphemy Rights Day, an unholy day on which people celebrate the legal right to defy religious leaders’ attempts to restrict speech and artistic expression. I’m tempted to design a set of bedsheets carrying the images of Ganesh, Mohammed, and Jesus to mark the occasion.
Late yesterday afternoon, I stopped off on the way home from work for an extended break at the cinema, watching the movie Edge Of Tomorrow.
I’m sorry that I did.
The appeal of the movie is its supposed unpredictability. It features a main character who wakes up at the same moment, a few hours in the past, every time he is killed in battle. So, he lives the same day over and over again, but realizes that he has the ability to change the way that he lives the day, and becomes a better person in the process.
Actually, this idea is at least 21 years old, with an earlier incarnation in the movie Groundhog Day, in which a person lives the same day over and over again, realizing that he has the ability to change even within apparent repetition, and becomes a better person in the process. You could call Edge Of Tomorrow a remake of Groundhog Day, only with aliens and battle scenes.
So much for originality. Still, Edge Of Tomorrow is entertaining, for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, it becomes entirely predictable. The aliens give the main character visions of their secret vulnerability, but those visions turn out to be fake, used by the evildoers to manipulate the hero. That idea is old hat to anyone who knows a bit of Harry Potter.
Still, the lack of originality in Edge Of Tomorrow wouldn’t have been a serious problem, if it had been executed well. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
When characters are given an infinite amount of time to think, reflect, research and plan, there will be high expectations for the ideas that the characters come up with. Edge Of Tomorrow doesn’t deliver on these expectations. The main character’s plan is simply to find a way to kill his opponent, and to do so through technologies that were already old during World War II: Swords, guns, and bombs. The audience is led to believe that these are the only tools that can destroy the enemy, with only 30 seconds of a high-tech surveillance device thrown in for variety.
The moral vision of Edge Of Tomorrow is unsatisfyingly stiff and old-fashioned as well. Persuasion and talking are for cowards, the movie leads us to believe. Salvation of moral character, the movie preaches, comes when people march off into battle to fight to the death – the more fighting, the higher the moral character.
The idea that going off into bloody battle provides clarity and solid character is particularly daft, given the experience of our society with soldiers who went off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. More often than not, war messes people up.
Edge Of Tomorrow is supposed to be science fiction, so I’m willing to accept the reality-bending proposal of characters who can hop backwards in time. What I’m not willing to accept are characters who defy what we know about human psychology.
Edge Of Tomorrow thus manages to fail, simultaneously, to be imaginative and to be plausible. I think I might have had a better time watching the movie with the talking raccoon.
“What Global Warming?” — Investor’s Business Daily editorial, April 30 2014.
What global warming? This global warming:
NASA’s Goddard Institue for Space Studies has released updated temperature data to include readings through June 2014, readings taken from weather stations around the globe. These records indicate the following:
- Winter 2014 was the seventh warmest Winter for Planet Earth in NASA’s records, records that stretch back to 1880.
- Spring 2014 was the second warmest Spring for Planet Earth in NASA’s records.
- June 2014 was the third warmest June for Planet Earth in NASA’s records.
- Four of the five warmest Junes on record occur within the last ten years. Every one of the ten warmest Junes on record occurs after 1997, and every one of the twenty warmest Junes on record occurs after 1990.
- Every one of the ten coldest Junes on record occurs before 1918, and every one of the twenty coldest Junes on record occurs before 1930.
- There has not been a single June since 1980 in which global temperature readings fell below the 1951-1980 average.
In case you prefer to think about data visually, here’s a graph of global temperature readings by year, compared to the 1951-1980 average:
If global warming is a hoax, then I am the last of the black-footed ferrets.
First, the good news. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5029, the International Science and Technology
Cooperation Act. In terms of spending, it was a modest bill. If it is signed into law, it will barely result in any increase in federal government spending at all.
Still, the impact of H.R. 5029 could be substantial. It is designed to create an organization that focuses on identifying and supporting channels of international scientific cooperation. The active clauses of the legislation read as follows:
The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy shall establish a body under the National Science and
Technology Council with the responsibility to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation that can strengthen the United States science and technology enterprise, improve economic and national security, and support United States foreign policy goals.
(b) NSTC Body Leadership.–The body established under subsection (a) shall be co-chaired by senior level officials from the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of State.
(c) Responsibilities.–The body established under subsection (a) shall–
(1) coordinate interagency international science and technology cooperative research and training activities and partnerships supported or managed by Federal agencies and work with other National Science and Technology Council committees to help plan and coordinate the international component of national science and technology priorities;
(2) establish Federal priorities and policies for aligning, as appropriate, international science and technology cooperative research and training activities and partnerships supported or managed by Federal agencies with the foreign policy goals of the United States;
(3) identify opportunities for new international science and technology cooperative research and training partnerships that advance both the science and technology and the foreign policy priorities of the United States;
(4) in carrying out paragraph (3), solicit input and recommendations from non-Federal science and technology stakeholders, including universities, scientific and professional societies, industry, and relevant organizations and institutions; and
(5) identify broad issues that influence the ability of United States scientists and engineers to collaborate with foreign counterparts, including barriers to collaboration and access to scientific information.
That, and deliver reports on its work to Congress, is all that the small government committee created by H.R. 5029 would do. It’s not big government spending. It’s not ideologically-driven. Who could have a problem with this legislation?
41 members of Congress, that’s who. The following are the members of the all-Republican Scientific Ignorance Caucus, which they formed by coming together to vote against the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act:
Justin Amash, Dan Benishek, Mo Brooks, Paul Broun, Michael Burgess, Steve Chabot, Doug Collins, Ron DeSantis, Sean Duffy, Jeff Duncan, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Trey Gowdy, Tom Graves, Richard Hudson, Bill Huizenga, Walter Jones, Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador, Doug LaMalfa, Tom Massie, Tom McClintock, Candice Miller, Mick Mulvaney, Tim Murphy, Steve Pearce, Scott Perry, Ted Poe, Reid Ribble, Tom Rice, Tom Rooney, Keith Rothfus, Matt Salmon, Jim Sensenbrenner, Bill Shuster, Steve Stockman, Randy Weber, Brad Wenstrup, Lynn Westmoreland Rob Woodall, Ted Yoho.
When you visit the website of furniture and tchotchke seller Dot & Bo, this is what you see. At first glance, the Dot and Bo “splash” screen doesn’t look unusual — many websites that try to sell you something would like to have your Facebook account information and e-mail address, all the better to bother you with. But look carefully: there’s no little “x” in the corner of this window. You literally cannot even browse through the company’s products without surrendering your personal contact details. Try working around the barrier at the Dot & Bo website: visit a second-level page and you’ll get the same insistent demand. Try reading around the edges of the splash page and you’ll find out that even the prices are hidden until you surrender your Facebook account or e-mail address.
“Information collected is used to provide and maintain the Website and is used at Dot & Bo’s discretion. This Information can also be used to contact you to further discuss interest in our company, the services we provide, and to send information regarding Dot & Bo, its partners, its products and other activities such as promotions and events. You may be invited to receive email correspondence by providing an email address. Your email address and any Personal Information will not be distributed or shared with third parties unless it is to transact such business as you have contracted us to do, to comply with legal processes and/or law enforcement requests, or to conduct any business as Dot & Bo, in its sole discretion, deems reasonable.”
You can see the thought bubble: “well, yeah, actually, we will share your e-mail address, and we’ll do it for whatever reason we in our sole discretion decide is a good reason. Sucker.”
I have never encountered another company that requires you to surrender personal information just to look at their products, but I have a sinking feeling that Dot & Bo may be an unfortunate trendsetter. And no, Dot & Bo, just in case you were wondering, you get no SEO boost in this article: no link reward for you today. If you want that benefit you’ll have to give me your CEO’s bank account and routing numbers first.
Last night, a web site named Christian Today published a list of 10 Questions For Every Atheist, written by a guy named Robert Nielsen. The following are my answers.
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
I became an atheist the same way everyone became an atheist. I was born. Everyone is born an atheist. Some people become theists later.
2. What happens when we die?
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
If I’m wrong, and I’m irritable, I try to make excuses. If I’m wrong, and I’m in a reasonable mood, then I admit that I was wrong and try to figure out what my error was all about.
Oh, you mean what if I am wrong about there not being a Heaven, as in a place where people go after they die, but they’re still alive somehow, and it’s nice? Oh, and what if I’m wrong about Hell, too?
Let me deal with Hell first, because that’s easier. In Norse mythology, Hell is the name of the trickster god Loki’s daughter, who had a body that was half white and half black, and was the result of the impregnation of Loki by a stallion, after Loki became a mare. Actually, it’s spelled with one “L”. I don’t believe in this weird story, but, if I’m wrong, then… whoah, I’ll have to think about it for a while, and come to terms with a very very strange world.
Now, what if the Christian Heaven exists? If Heaven exists, and your god doesn’t let me into it just because I didn’t believe the Christians’ stories about it, well, that doesn’t make your god look very generous, does it? I mean, who would want to spend eternity with such a mean-spirited spirit?
I don’t bother worrying about this one, any more than I bother worrying about whether there really is a Bigfoot, or if there really is a tooth fairy, or if there really are giant robots on Earth disguised as cars, as The Transformers movies say. They’re all fun ideas, but not enough for me to shape my real life around.
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
I have decades of experience in hurting people’s feelings, accidentally and sometimes on purpose, and dealing with the consequences. I have lots of experience in getting my feelings hurt, too. I try to learn from these experiences, but I don’t always get it right.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
Of course we can’t do what we want. I would love to fly, and I used to have dreams that I could fly, when I was a kid, but I never really could fly in waking reality.
We are not free to murder and rape. These actions are against the law, and carry heavy penalties. Also, murder and rape are just plain nasty things to do.
Good deeds are sometimes rewarded, and sometimes not, but if we have a genuine understanding of what makes good deeds good, then when we take care to do good deeds purposefully, we always can get the satisfaction of of doing something worthwhile, and that is a reward in itself.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
If there is no god, then I can try to build meaning in my life on my own. It’s like how, if there is no divine poet, we can still write poetry. Human beings are very creative, and one of the conclusions I’ve come to is that there is deep meaning in pretty much everything that we do, even though we don’t always see it. Meaning seems to be the human way of interpreting the world.
7. Where did the universe come from?
I don’t know. I don’t even know what “the universe” is. Some scientists suggest that the universe may be just one part of something much larger, but there’s no proof for these ideas. I don’t think that they even count as theories yet.
8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
I’ve never seen any miracles, or any evidence that they exist.
I remember, when I was a teenager, a guy walked up to me on the street, and told me that I was an angel. Then, he told me that I was the Dancing Blue Bear from a Grateful Dead sticker. I think he was taking LSD.
People claims all sorts of things. Some people claim that there is a secret planet of doom called Niburu that will soon extinguish all life on earth. Some people claim that world leaders are actually reptilian overlords.
Sometimes, I think, these people are just pulling our legs to have fun, or to get attention. Sometimes, I think, these people are insane. Sometimes, I think, people are in the habit of believing in extraordinary things that they really don’t have evidence for, not because they’re crazy, but because they are afraid of dealing with the world as it is. Sometimes, I think, people speak of things like angels or “Jesus” metaphorically.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris have said what they have said. They think what they think. I don’t have to think what they think, just because I’m an atheist. I don’t let them lead me in any sense. I think they like attention, but then, there are many people who like attention, including many preachers.
I do like the book An Ancestor’s Tale by Dawkins very much. It’s a well-written summary of the diversity of life on Earth.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
Does every society have a religion? The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a society, and doesn’t have a religion. The Society For The Preservation of Natural History Collections doesn’t have a religion. The Society For The Study Of Evolution doesn’t have a religion. Even the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion doesn’t have a religion.
Also, this question confuses belief in God with having a religion. Not all religions include belief in God, which is a very Mediterranean and Near-Eastern cultural concept, though some religions from other places have hopped on the “God” bandwagon in order to try to communicate with God believers. Not all religious even include belief in gods, as a category of divine beings. Certainly, additional new religions could be developed in the future that have no concept of any god.
So, this question makes some fundamental presumptions that I don’t agree with.
Besides, what if everyone on Earth but me believed that the Christian God is real? Would that, in itself, make the Christian God real? I don’t think so. I don’t think that things become real just because many people believe in them. People have been wrong in the past. Remember your earlier question – what if you’re wrong? If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?
Nice questions, there. Now I’ve got a few for the Christians out there. 10 Questions For Every Christian:
1. What is your favorite color, and why?
2. Have you seen any good movies lately?
3. Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
4. How come there’s not a TV Show called Real Housewives of Nebraska?
5. What if you left your keys in the car?
6. What if Doctor Who was real? How would that change your life?
7. If there was no bacon, chocolate, or cheese, how could your lunchtime have any meaning?
8. If Christmas is Christian, then what part of the Bible does Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer come from?
9. What is your view of J.K. Rowling’s effort to write new stories in the Harry Potter universe?
10. Could you all just loosen up a little bit and allow for people to be different, and let people come to their own conclusions about things… and back off with all those Christmas carols about saviors this year?
Last week, Rowan created a visualization of Pew Research polling data regarding the rejection of atheists as marriage partners in the United States. The lesson was pretty clear: if you’re an atheist in the United States and you want to be accepted by your in-law’s family, you’re either going to need to be lucky, choosy or secretive. Members of the American Christian majority tend to express unhappiness at the prospect of an atheist marrying their son or daughter.
Even though Pew Research has a solid reputation as a social survey organization, one survey alone could be anomalous. Has a similar rejection of atheists as marriage partners been found elsewhere?
Yes. See research published in the American Sociological Review describing the findings of the American Mosaic Project’s survey on difference and rejection of various social categories of people in America; you can read a copy here. See Table 1 to get right to the point:
Table 1. “I Would Disapprove if My Child Wanted to Marry a Member of This Group:
—Atheist 47.6 %
—Muslim 33.5 %
—African American 27.2%
—Asian American 18.5%
—Conservative Christian 6.9%
While of course it is inappropriate of Americans to reject Muslims out of hand because of terrorist attacks, it is telling that even after the attacks of 9/11/01, Americans reject an atheist son or daughter in law more than they would a Muslim — and despite claims of a “War on Christianity,” far, far more than Americans would reject a conservative Christian.
Read on in the paper, and you’ll find out that while the conservative brand of Protestant most strongly asserts outright rejection of atheists (only 6.6% indicated they would approve of an atheist marriage partner for their child), non-conservative Protestants also very strongly reject atheists as a group for their child to associate (only 15.1% indicate approval). Overall, those who attend church services approve of an atheist marriage partner for their child at a meager rate of just 9.2%.
It is true that not all Americans, not all Christians, feel this way. But very large portions, even in “non-conservative” American religious persuasions, do.