Ken Ham and Beer

I recommend Ham on Nye with Beer. The only possible way to engage in the recent debate is to start early in the morning with beer and all other substances allowed, available, or at hand. After five days of self-loathing I decided to crack a couple for breakfast and watch all 2 hrs and 45 minutes.  Usually, I like debates but this specific topic left me nauseous, not wanting to see modern humans humiliating themselves with inane arguments.

Startling in its complacency and civility, should I say social morbidity, I was left less revolted than I expected but nevertheless quite terrified. It is difficult for me in my wildest imagination to believe a 6,000 year old Earth can be taken seriously by anyone. In a normal world this would be suspicion for sanity having lost a firm grip on reality. After Ham one understands…denying man landing on the moon, the previous inhabitation of the planet was by aliens, the Earth is really flat, or Deepak Chopra claiming his Deep meditation caused a seismic earth quake–all seem more plausibly sincere. We can imagine anything!

Usually, crazy people have a harmless outlet. They become the Forest Gumps, the Chances (Being There), the common idiot-wise person from whom we learn acceptance and insight from low sight. Sometimes simple cuts through the noise. But these are exceptions. Without doubt it is better to be well educated, well trained, and accurate in observation. I want to go to Australia and demand accountability from Ham’s teachers!

Listening to Ken Ham I am left amuck that he thinks 6,000 years is a lynchpin in his creation model and the cornerstone of the bible. Ken is paradigmatic of the failure of education. How is it possible to be educated today and think the world is 6,000 years old? It is such a deep disconnect that I cannot help but wonder if it is not mendacious. The kind of mind-boggling stupidity that allows other to feel good about themselves because after all there is at least one person out there who is way more stupid, and yet who can speak a coherent sentence. Yet, I have sat with others and been told that the chair I am sitting on doesn’t really exist. I have also been told that I can do anything including be president of the United States. I have been told that I am actually a Native American or a Woman in a white western dude’s body.

All Catholics and the vast majority of other Christians long ago realized the Earth was more than 6,000 years old. Nye’s arguments of geology were repeated almost daily in the news way back in the 1800′s when geology was exploding as a field and our geounderstanding of the Earth was growing by orders of magnitude.

There are probably better examples of this debate in the records of the various museum and science institutes of the Victorian era–or the literature and public debates that arose from the Scopes trial.

The difference between inductive and deductive logic seems to elude Ham who espouses two types of science. What we see now and what we can’t see in the past. This is effectually a kind of radical empiricism where unless you sense it it doesn’t exist. So I suppose as history rolls along suddenly our knowledge of the past switches dramatically. In particular the time warp and the matter warp. But an all powerful god can do anything, right, even speed up eons to be days? We could all be in the Matrix too? Were you there? The problem is Ham is stuck in early science fiction while the rest of us kept reading and watching.

Ham continued on with the “two sciences” which has become prevalent and spent no time (the popular were you there? argument) on the design aspect making  a lot of Christians angry as they see that as the main proof that some design must have occurred. An intellectual wedge that allows them to continue with if there is design it must be this designer and this bible. What about the other mythologies of creation? It would have been good to have a panel with maybe a Native American and a Hindi and a Buddhist to better circumscribe the mythology of creation.

Yet, the bible is mostly inference with very few statements that are said to be the literal word of god. While Ham does speak about how some parts of the bible are poetic, parables, historic, etc Nye doesn’t know enough to actually pin point those parts of the bible and how they relate to a creation myth. Indeed why does Ham not follow the some 600 laws Jews follow. Because he discounts the old testament where useful. God says not to eat Pork but that doesn’t count as something that must be followed?

Nye counters that Ham belongs to a very small group of people. Perhaps, young-earth creationists are the smallest of all sects. The Genesis museum is going broke and expansion to save it costs money and may not work. Ham could be out of a job soon and the debate may rustle up enough money to keep him and the museum going.

What’s important socially to the public is the spectacle. If science and reason are so effective, why can’t it cut through this insane BS? Where is the effectiveness of the rhetoric in science?

I don’t agree that debates further entrench people’s views and no one changes their minds. They do in many ways. Just not in that “aha, you must be right, thanks for telling me” kind of way. It doesn’t take a radical view to get how opinions become cement that needs to be chipped away, because dynamite is both illegal and destroys the speaker(s). Idiocy this deep takes time.

What scientists don’t get is how to debate. Most scientists didn’t take humanities and arts classes where the rules of social engagement and even professional proof are different. Bill Nye and others are changing this but it’s really anathema for scientists to abandon plain spoken evidence and talk about argument, structure, and aesthetics of conversation. They hate that looking good, speaking trivialities, and being casually social has more effect than the content of the words, the evidence at hand. Nye tries it with a few jokes and allegories (the bow tie story) but it’s not a comfortable style for him and he has to warm up to the debate.

At one point I was reminded of how children arrive at either a disbelief of Santa or not. How does Santa get down the chimney, make so many gifts, and travel the world in a night? You can either respond with I don’t know, magically, or shut it all down with it’s a myth. Most people can’t stand to throw to all out.

In strong favor of the debate, a friend for the first time in years listened to a secular-oriented program. In trying to talk about this touchy subject to a religiously accommodating friend it became clear that she agreed it was an issue of religion itself and not the institution of religion.

My daughter who loves Bill Nye is finally getting that the argument between religious and nonreligious people is not politically trivial. Up to now, age 13, my daughter has tried to allow everything. Everything and everyone is correct. Part of what Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard–always praise what’s good and ignore what’s negative. It hasn’t worked work well in therapy–though it is an antidote for  hypercritical people seeking balance in anger management–and it hasn’t worked in science.

Some commentors noted the appeal to authority is really the lynch pin of religion. Scientists should not let this pass as being support of their egalitarianism. The astounding and absolute authority of scientists to the scientific process is no less absolute than asserting the bible is the final authority. What is being confounded is the changing aspect of truth and wisdom as we learn more versus the process scientists insist we must use period. It is not that reality is changing it’s our understanding of it. Cutting open a body to see what’s inside may change the view of what a body is (it’s got organs and tissues and other cool stuff, not solid) but it doesn’t change the body. It certainly doesn’t change the insistence that a body be cut open to know.

Biblical absolutists change their authority. How many different bibles are there? How many different sects? How many different versions of a story? What is different here is hero worship. Religions enshrine animals, people, and gods as being the special delivery of magical truth. Science enshrines a process of observation, verification, and consensus. Both change their minds. The bible is full of people and a god that changes his mind just as science seems to change its mind as discovery progresses.

The conflation of science and religion in enlightenment scientists is more easy once you realize they saw science as evidence of eternal truths which were godly. They saw no disagreement with religion and science to the point of discounting religion, yet. They blamed a pope, a preacher or a church, and not the veracity of their work. God was directly accessible and if he was puzzling so be it.

Now that the evidence so strongly disagrees with  particular creation myths the compartmentalization becomes a caricature. It used to be that being holy consumed every aspect of one’s life–you can’t so easily tease apart science from myth in forager societies.

The two times Ham insisted that people just need to let God’s word reveal itself to them and they would know, Ham looked beatific, happy, fulfilled. That was the argument right there. You don’t sell the steak you sell the sizzle.  Be like him and you can be as happy. This closure of dissonance must be nourishing. There are no contradictions, all is for the best, and it’s all about us.

Jim n

Pussy Riot, Hello Kitty Activism?

The reception of exPussy Riot members  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina after their release from jail has been the most bizarre event. First, it seems much of the public thought they were musicians and not political activists or performance art activists. Since they are both attractive women who embrace western cosmetics they have been treated like activists-lite or since they have been called girls, sexual, and such, Hello Kitty activists. Tolokonnikova was a philosophy major with work in theater and performance art.

Pussy Riot a radical feminist, separatist, anti capitalist, anarchist group is sufficiently strident that if two male members had rushed the church, been jailed, and released the public and news would have displayed them  differently. Masha Geeson contextualizes  them within prison activism.

Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, by Masha Geesen, is an instant classic, destined to take its place with Solzhenitsyn’s writings about the Gulag, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, and Jacobo Timerman’s Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without A Number.

The most ludicrous moment in the book, however, occurs not in Russia but in the West, when musicians like Sting and Paul McCartney bestirred themselves for the few seconds it took them, or more likely their personal assistants, to tweet their disdain for Russia’s behavior.

How great the courage gap between Pussy Riot on the one hand and the fat and happy rockers who tweeted their moral outrage and then went back to their delightful lives.

The sexualization of  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina is wildly entertaining. What activist wouldn’t get thrills on multiple levels yet be dismayed. Do they need to growl and spit to look scary and real?

Tolokonnikova: Well, if I am a sex symbol, it’s certainly not in the classic sense. I’m opposed to the traditional image of a woman’s role. But if someone finds our Spartan and combative performances sexy, like the one in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, that’s just the way it is. No one can claim that our protest in the church coincides with the classic image of women.

SPIEGEL: You make a point of looking good. Even in the Plexiglas cage in the courtroom, you were always wearing makeup.

Tolokonnikova: So? Men should also pay attention to their appearance and occasionally use cosmetics. I support equality. Everyone should feel free to live out the parts of their personality that correspond to the classic male or female image.

Tolokonnikova protested in a church over religion but she is not an overt atheist.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe in God?

Tolokonnikova: I believe in fate. And in the depths of my soul, I am an Orthodox Christian. I think the New Testament is especially important. What Jesus and his disciples preached and did was a great thing.

They were protesting the collusion of church and state.

At the time, I was determined to do something against the alliance between the Kremlin and the church, and in our opinion the Cathedral of Christ the Savior seemed to be the best place for that.

Imagine a legal trial where you can’t mention a name.

Yet during the trial all mention of Putin was suppressed, making it clear whose name was really not to be taken in vain.

Colbert has the only decent interviews (part 1 & part 2 on Hulu) so far. It’s a better Colbert interview–he met his match.

Jim n

What’s a Selfie in East Baltimore?

Whether “selflies” are indulgent or the modern portrait is too distant in “Too Poor for Pop Culture” where D. Watkins shows money is access to popular culture. As the middle-class swoops down to new depths be prepared to return to radio, dumb phones, crap comfort food, and disinformation. You won’t know what you’re missing.

“A yo, Michelle was gonna beat on Barack for taking dat selfie with dat chick at the Mandela wake! Whateva da fuk a selfie is! What’s a selfie, some type of bailout?” yelled Dontay from the kitchen, dumping Utz chips into a cracked flowery bowl. I was placing cubes into all of our cups and equally distributing the vodka like, “Some for you and some for you …”

“What the fuck is a selfie?” said Miss Sheryl.

“When a stupid person with a smartphone flicks themselves and looks at it,” I said to the room. She replied with a raised eyebrow, “Oh?”

It’s amazing how the news seems so instant to most from my generation with our iPhones, Wi-Fi, tablets and iPads, but actually it isn’t. The idea of information being class-based as well became evident to me when I watched my friends talk about a weeks-old story as if it happened yesterday.

Money make the difference between participating in popular culture or not.

Dontay cleans nonstop. Roaches sleeping in the fridge, roaches relay racing out of the cabinets carrying cereal boxes, purchasing homes, building families, slipping through cracks for fun and weaving in and out of death — Dontay bleaches them all. Dontay doesn’t take handouts from us and won’t go on government assistance. He couldn’t contribute to the chips and vodka that week so he’s cleaned for Miss Sheryl and would clean for Miss Sheryl even if there were no chips and vodka.

“Chips and Vodka” Everybody just trying to get away. Better chips and vodka than a smartphone or iPad. If you wonder why…

Eventually the mass death of my close friends caused me to leave the drug game in search of a better life. Ten-plus years and three college degrees later, I’m back where I started, just like my card-playing friends: too poor to participate in pop culture. Too poor to give a fuck about a selfie or what Kanye said or Beyoncé’s new album and the 17 videos it came with.

I bought Beyonce for the sake of research and it weirdly rocked me for several days of indoor food preservation work while dealing with cold weather and holidays. First time I have bought an album within a week of its release–just hit “Buy” in iTunes. I didn’t even write about it, yet. That album is three days of chips and vodka. Listening to “Drunkin Love” or “Flawless”  doesn’t do the same thing

You can’t even comment on your own existence much less hear of others when chips and vodka poor. Urban Amish. Urban neoluddites  unable to break apart the machines taking their jobs away–or know what the hell a luddite is. I’ll send them a selfie of one.

Jim n

Checking Out Dudes in the Shower

Jonathan Vilma, is afraid a gay team mate would check him out in the showers? Are you freakin kidding me? This guy goes out and pounds people into rubble and is afraid he’ll be looked at for sexual reasons? This is why, this is the cataclysmic reason to bash and exclude?

Vilma represents that male population most likely to treat women like shit in sexual objectification and abuse–ok, that’s why. He knows what it is to give it and doesn’t want to get it.

It would be good for him to be in a team of boy-boy gay football players where he is only one of a couple of hetero’s, the other closeted.

Better yet maybe if he actually had male friends he’d get over the sex and nudity thing. If relationships create bridges then his best bet is a boy buddy. Once he’s trained, umm, had a relationship, he can stay or go back.

Jim n

I Can’t Watch the Debate

I just tried again to watch the debate… I got past Ham and got to Nye and that was it. It was either continue and throw up or stop.

I haven’t felt such a visceral effect since reading Nausea where Roquentin is overwhelmed by the portraits objectifying him and the world in their opressive stares.

It is a personal choice to engage in a debate.

We need communication on all levels.

This is really scary.

Jim n

German Bishops Pine for Obedience

In a Monty-Python inspired movie about a rabbit that kills people, the current pope puppy is most charmingly deferential, as if all can come to church. Well, yes but only come to church. The Eucharist, Heaven, Christ’s Presence? I don’t know, are you divorced? Have you had an abortion, use birth control, are gay, philander, or simply not willing to voice Christ is your savior?

German bishops are concerned too. The pope is sending the wrong message.

Since his election last March, Pope Francis has hinted at possible reform on divorce and at a more welcoming approach to homosexuals. But he has stressed he does not want to change core Church teachings such as the ban on women priests.

Hell, any of those are show stoppers for me but no women priests? Why would anyone care–rather women must be able to speak in this venue! Does this inanity of tradition have to be survived as Oprah says about racism in some?

The German bishops suggested the Church should move away from what it called its “prohibition ethics” of rules against certain acts or views and stress “advisory ethics” meant to help Catholics live better lives.

In a so-Catholic rhetoric the bishops say to advise not prohibit. I can almost hear William F Buckley softly hiss those words out as a pean to genteel and properly-educated charity, as hiding a really big stick.

The Trojan Horse was a beautiful sight. It inspired the eyes and hearts of those who knew not the wily ways of Greek warriors. Trojan leaders saw the hollow, wooden statue full of Greek soldiers as charity and recognition of superiority. Trojan people loved the beauty, grateful for peace…

Jim n