This Weeks Reader June 8, 2008  

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Atheism
Atheism, Youth, and One Unicorn Drawing
I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of problems with the kids these days. Like, Paris Hilton. But, there are also a lot of problems with the olds these days. Like, Dick Cheney. And, there are a lot of good things going on with the kids these days, too. They’re not too embarrassed to march and picket and fight — they’re doing it every damned day, for peace in Iraq, for affordable health care, and yes, for freedom of (and from) religion. Has the editor missed the entire Anonymous vs. Scientology thing, which is entirely the work of teens and 20-somethings?

The Invisibility of The Black Atheist
The prevalence of Christian ideology in Black Culture creates a very difficult dilemma for a Black Atheist. Our skepticism must often remain hidden for fear of exclusion. When religion comes up we tend to stay mum or quickly change the subject. Those who are more vocal soon find themselves ostracized and isolated. When it comes to our relationships with the opposite sex we often find our choices limited by mates who are looking for a “good Christian man” or woman. Community activism, particularly Civil rights groups, tend to be dominated by religious organizations, making it difficult for an admitted atheist to even participate in any organized way in the betterment of the race. Politics, likewise, are dominated by the religious-minded. If you expect the Black vote than you had better be a Christian.

Comedy
Corn Fed Venison - It Looked Good On Paper!
The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED.


Games
Game reviews: the ugly path from publisher to publishing
It's not that there is much direct evidence that the system is corrupt, but when all the major players are this defensive about the process of reviewing games, and there is this much money at stake, it's important to read reviews critically and try to figure out what could have influenced that all-important final score. Gaming is one of the few art forms where being able to critically review a release is this political, and if people are becoming more distrustful of professionally-written reviews, that could be a healthy reaction. The publishers control the careers and fates of review sites in a very real way; with everything from ad revenue, to access to future games, and even your job being on the line, it's not surprising that high review scores are so common.

Government
While I Was Away
This is the stuff of dictatorships. And yes, some evidence does suggest that massive roundups of American citizens have been contemplated.

If the evidence against al-Marri is so damning — and frankly it looks pretty awful — then let him face a trial, just like anyone else. You say he planned to kill hundreds or thousands? So did Charles Manson. So did Jeffrey Dahmer. Timothy McVeigh did worse than either of them, and even he got a trial. What is so peculiar about this case that would justify throwing away centuries of legal practice?


Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less: Gingrich Leads Chorus of Simpletons
Populism meets American exceptionalism in this ludicrous "petition." Some people still think that they can change the laws of physics, economics, or geology by fiat, or–in this case–democratic tantrum. It’s funny how so-called "conservatives" just can’t understand concepts of "pay-as-you-go" when it comes to energy and the environment. Or deficits for that matter. I just love the little manipulative sympathy ploy for "hard-working Americans." As if other people around the world aren’t even more hard-working (without the comforts brought by Americas voracious energy consumption). But no matter. Americans–blue and white collar alike–can work and struggle as hard as they want, and it won’t change the physical reality. The world is running out of easy oil. Production is close to peaking globally. Deal with it.

Medicine
Vaccines and Autism Revisited — The Hannah Poling Case
Fourth, without data that clearly exonerate vaccines, it could be argued that children with mitochondrial enzyme deficiencies might have a lower risk of exacerbations if vaccines were withheld, delayed, or separated. But such changes would come at a price. Even spacing out vaccinations would increase the period during which children were susceptible to natural infections, giving a theoretical risk from vaccines priority over a known risk from vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases aren't merely historical: pneumococcus, varicella, and pertussis are still common in the United States. Recent measles outbreaks in California, Arizona, and Wisconsin among children whose parents had chosen not to vaccinate them show the real risks of public distrust of immunization.

Photography
June's Young Crescent Moon



Philosophy
Mixing Adults and Youths
Are they supposed these days to learn what they need to be a functional adult from Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and advertising? It seems to me we too often leave kids these days to be raised by the media.

Somethings we can only learn from another person. Things we cannot learn from a book, a movie, the television, popular music, or a video game. Somethings we must learn through our interactions with others. And some of those things that can only be learned through our interactions with others are very important. I discovered when I hung out with teens that many teens had what struck me then as a thirst to hang out with adults. I suspect they needed encouragement, insight into themselves, support, and affirmation, among other things. Those are not things we easily get from a book or movie.


Politics
The Authority of Shepherds
And thunderous applause echoed throughout the church. Yet no one really seems to be talking about this. Pfleger and Wright seemed to have become social scapegoats, helping those who support them both avoid the spotlight of moral responsibility. Of course they should be condemned for what they say, but really, what they say has absolutely no effect on society–unless people give it power.

And they’re giving this bullshit power with every single yelp and clap.

Why are we not calling out those members of the congregation who stood up and applauded? Why are we not calling out those who lend credence and authority to the bullshit these pastors spew? Why are we, instead, creating effigies of these racist and sexist notions that resemble these two pastors and burning only the two at the stake? Why are we not calling out those who allow this bullshit to continue?


Recipes
Crash Hot Potatoes
Anyway, I just love Australia. I just tried this side dish last night—it was sent to me by Trish, an Aussie reader, a few weeks ago—and I wound up absolutely loving it. Created by Australian food writer Jill Dupleix, it’s called “Crash Hot Potatoes” and has soared to the top of my Favorite Side Dishes to Serve With Big Ol’ Hunks of Beef.

They’re so simple, it’s terrifying. Well, not terrifying…but almost. They’re a lovely twist on the tired old baked potato, and they perfectly embody a quality I always strive to achieve in my cooking: Flavorful, Crispy Surface Area. I’ll go into that principle more in a separate post, but just know I’ll be pontificating about Flavorful, Crispy Surface Area soon. And I’ll make you a believer.


Religion
See You in Hell!
I can’t help wondering why Christians bother devising such hateful slogans. Are they concerned that the positive points of their religion are not attractive enough, so that it may be necessary, at times, to resort to scaring the hell out of nonbelievers rather than loving us into God’s Kingdom? Do they not realize that such scare tactics only reinforce the already supremely negative image of their “loving” God as a cruel, egomaniacal tyrant? Or, it may be the case that Christians find these threats humorous. Or, the blurbs may make them feel “special” because they belong to the “in” crowd, the right club, the group that’s assured of a place in paradise well away from the rest of us nasty infidels who undoubtedly “deserve” whatever the hell Jehovah has in store for us. It’s also possible that they are so afraid of hell themselves that they will take any measures they believe are required, regardless of how reprehensible said methods may be, to avoid that eternal fate themselves. They may be deathly afraid that, if they don’t work hard enough to Win the World for God, they themselves will be cast into the fiery pit with the rest of us.

In One's Own Words
Now, this should not be a remarkable situation. Every state in the union has educational standards for its public school students requiring that kids as young as 3rd-graders be able to paraphrase and/or summarize written and heard material in their own words. Being able to restate concepts, facts, and details in your own words shows that you actually understand what you’re talking about. On the other hand, not being able to put someone else’s thought into your own words shows that you really don’t get it.

Jesus Didn't Tap?
Here, however, I want to mention that one of the fighters I saw tonight had a company logo on his little banner called Jesus Didn't Tap. Now, for those not initiated into the dark art of beating someone senseless, one way for a person to win a bout is if you have your opponent in a hold (arm lock, choke, etc...) where they can't get out and are in too much pain to continue, they can tap on your leg, arm, body, floor to signify their giving up. That's the ref's cue to stop the fight and your cue as the winning fighter to let go.

So, that means that the whole Jesus Didn't Tap thing is retarded as a concept. Jesus, a possibly mythical character to begin with, was nailed to a giant cross and left to die a slow painful death. He probably cried. A lot. May have peed on himself. No one would blame the guy...geez, you're nailed to a fuckin' cross. Cut a brother some slack.


Can You Prove It Didn't Happen? Progressive Religion and the Standards of Evidence
There is, in fact, a very serious problem with holding a belief that isn't supported by any good evidence, even if it isn't contradicted by any. If your belief isn't supported by any evidence, how do you choose among the millions and millions of possible beliefs you could come up with that also aren't supported by evidence but aren't contradicted by it? How do you even choose between the hundreds and hundreds of commonly- held religious beliefs that actually exist?

And if you don't have any basis for making that choice -- other than the demonstrably biased, easily fooled, heavily- weighted- in- favor- of- believing- what- you're- predisposed- to- believe form of guesswork known as "intuition" or "faith" -- then why on earth would you base your entire life philosophy around that choice?


Science
Put a Little Science in Your Life
In fact, many students I’ve spoken to have little sense of the big questions those technical details collectively try to answer: Where did the universe come from? How did life originate? How does the brain give rise to consciousness? Like a music curriculum that requires its students to practice scales while rarely if ever inspiring them by playing the great masterpieces, this way of teaching science squanders the chance to make students sit up in their chairs and say, “Wow, that’s science?”

A Twisted Solar Eruptive Prominence



Girls are becoming as good as boys at mathematics, and are still better at reading
On average, girls' maths scores were, as expected, lower than those of boys. However, the gap was largest in countries with the least equality between the sexes (by any score), such as Turkey. It vanished in countries such as Norway and Sweden, where the sexes are more or less on a par with one another. The researchers also did some additional statistical checks to ensure the correlation was material, and not generated by another, third variable that is correlated with sexual equality, such as GDP per person. They say their data therefore show that improvements in maths scores are related not to economic development, but directly to improvements in the social position of women.

The Sacrifice of Admetus
The researchers set up identical conditions by which their Pan and Homo subjects observed an unfamiliar person stretching to reach an object just beyond their grasp. In multiple individual trials the researchers recorded the frequency at which each group of 36 subjects would offer their assistance by retrieving the desired object and handing it to the stranger. Contradicting previous studies of chimpanzee altruism, the researchers found no significant difference between us and our evolutionary cousins. This result was upheld even when the subjects had to put in some effort, climbing over a series of obstacles, in order to deliver the object. In a variation on these initial trials the researchers also offered the subjects a reward to illicit their assistance (toy blocks for the infants and bananas, of course, for the chimpanzees). In both cases the only significant factor was whether the subjects observed the stranger attempting to reach the distant object; a factor that chimpanzees and infants both responded to selflessly. Offering a reward for their assistance had no effect on this display of generosity. Service, it seems, was its own reward.

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4 comments: to “ This Weeks Reader June 8, 2008

  • the chaplain
    Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 1:39:00 PM CDT  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • the chaplain
    Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 1:40:00 PM CDT  

    Thanks for some great links. That potato recipe looks great. I think I'll try it with my London Broil in a couple of days.

    The article about the lack of interaction between different age groups was interesting. I had the joy of interacting with my kids' peers by being involved in the school band boosters. The band kids learned to interact with adults in respectful and engaging ways, and the adults learned to respect the kids and enjoy their energy and humor. Everyone benefits when people engage with others who are not too much like themselves.

  • suchlovelyfreckles.com
    Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:48:00 AM CDT  

    Thanks for another great reading list. :)

  • Ordinary Girl
    Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 10:24:00 PM CDT  

    Chappy: Her recipes are amazing. I tried the potatoes, but Matt wasn't so hot on them. I couldn't get enough and ate what he didn't. Mmmmmm...

    That last sentence really pinpoints the issue. Getting outside of your comfort zone is important. You may run into annoying people at times, but overall it's good for growth and for keeping perspective.

    SuchLovely: You're welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed the list. :)

 

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