31 July 2006

The Collateral Damage of Holy Wars

I met Major Paeta "Wolf" Hess-von Kruedener on December 31, 2005 at an opulent New Year's Eve party at CFB Kingston. The party was a formal affair with military officers in full-dress uniforms and their civilian friends in suits or tuxes, all enjoying a night of buffet-style fine dining followed by dancing (as best we could with our bellies bursting). My wife and I attended, as well as my father; my father is friends with the organizer of the party.

Our group ended up sitting at a table with Wolf and his wife, Cynthia. He was a large man, exceedingly friendly, happy, and warm. He was career military, but had in recent years dedicated his work to UN peacekeeping missions, trying to make the world a better place by being the watchdog that ensures ceasefires are upheld and human rights are not violated.

We listened intently as he told us stories about his career: how he was stationed in the war zones of Cyprus, Zaire, Bosnia twice, and, most recently, in Lebanon, to observe the ongoing battles between Israel and various middle-eastern military groups, each dedicated to wiping the other out. When I asked, he said his most frightening moment was when he and his team abandoned their jeep, taking cover in a ditch, as mortar shells, thousands of rounds of bullets, and a few RPGs criss-crossed overhead from Israeli and Hezbollah forces fighting each other from either side of the road.

He was only in town for the holidays, and was shipping back to Lebanon in a week or so. I remember when we had left, my wife and I discussed it amongst ourselves and agreed that Wolf was a pretty cool person. So why am I telling you about meeting this man who I only talked to for a few hours between mouthfuls of shrimp and prime rib?

Major Hess-von Kruedener was one of the four UN observers killed on July 25th, 2006 when the Israeli airforce mistakenly bombed a UN base while trying to get at Hezbollah.

When I heard this, I felt like my stomach sank. I felt queasy. Other people I had known in life had died, including the grade 9 religion teacher I talked about here, but all were from illness and age. I had never known anyone who was killed suddenly in an act of violence or in an accident, and that Wolf was an admirable person made it that much worse. It is a life lost not because of nature, but because people choose, directly or indirectly, for it to happen.

I have my opinions on friendly fire deaths and how military organizations can seemingly condone reckless actions so as to encourage bloodlust; this is not the forum for it here. Wolf also told us that he was sickened by the mismatch of the fighters: on one hand, zealously dedicated, highly-trained would-be martyrs; on the other, too young conscripts, hastily trained and outfitted with the most modern technology available. All too often, it's the young Israelis dying in ambushes, so it's understandable that when the opportunity arises to use 1000 lb bombs and heavy artillery on the enemy, the Israelis use it indiscriminately, often with extreme collateral damage. This was likely the case here, as Hezbollah was probably using the UN post as a shield; the IAF repeatedly tried to make a precision shot and missed, with tragic consequences.

It's understandable, but hardly right.

It takes a special kind of people to repeatedly kill civilians and UN peacekeepers in attacks against an enemy whose territory you are currently occupying. Simply, the impetus was biblical.

How many times do we see in the Old Testament God commanding genocide? The repeated killings of women and children, bystanders, and anyone trying to maintain human decency all have precedents in the Bible.

Even more fundamental than Holy wars, all this boils down to the one of the worst concepts in human history: righteousness. Apparent in all religions of the Judeo-Christian system, being righteous is a status claimed by those who have the faith, meaning that they in right-standing in the eyes of God. Righteousness is basically a blank cheque to do anything: You are right; you are holy; in everything you do, you are vindicated by God.

Political considerations aside, this sense of righteousness is where the whole conflict started. The people who created the new state of Israel felt that they were promised that land by God and the claims of the other people who have inhabited that land for ages are immaterial. Even the name "Israel" itself can be translated as "upright with God."

Similarly, the local inhabitants, Muslims primarily, had the same sense of righteousness in denying Israel the right to exist. Understandably peeved about a bunch of Jews coming in and taking their land, the extent of the hatred goes beyond that, as many Arab countries not geographically affected by Israel have joined in the conflict. Hezbollah means "Party of God."

It is righteousness that makes you think you can impose your will on your neighbours. It is righteousness that encourages terrorism and suicide bombing. And it is righteousness that allows you to repeatedly neglect the tremendous harm you cause when you kill hundreds of noncombatants in your campaigns.

You can almost hear leaders on either side of the conflict: "The deaths of noncombatants is unfortunate but we are not sorry. We are doing God's will."

So what of his family? In the hours after the attack while her husband's status was still unknown, Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener and her family appealed to Canadians to "pray for his safe return" while accusing Israel of targeting a United Nations base housing unarmed observers. Indeed, some critics have suggested the IAF targeted the base to dissuade further international involvement, though I don't think this was likely.

The prayer? Well, God certainly didn't answer it. I have to wonder what rationalizing his family is doing regarding God's will and Wolf's death.

He leaves behind two teenaged children.

For more information:
Major Hess-von Kruedener's report to CTV news on July 18th

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27 July 2006

What you need to believe to be a Republican

I got this from Smijer:

....What You Need To Believe To Be A Republican :-D
1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is a impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

13. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

14. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

15. Supporting "Executive Privilege" for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity.)

16. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

17. Support for hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

Feel free to pass this on. If you don't send it to at least 10 other people, we're likely to be stuck with more Republicans in '06 and '08.

Friends don't let friends vote Republican

Awesome :-)

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Pirates 2 - Too Bad

We went to see Pirates of the Carribean 2 last night. I must say that I was underwhelmed.

It was amusing, but it was very, very busy. Lot's of fights and action and visual humour with absolutely no point whatsoever. The whole adventure in the first half of the movie is some nonsense about Turner trying to find Capt. Jack who has been appointed the sacrificial god of some local tribe, and their subsequent escape. This is completely irrelevent to the plot and drags on way too long.

Lots and lots of needless deaths later (I thought this was a family film), the plot finally emerges about the octopus-like Davy Jones and his heart, but even this is nebulous and unsatisfying as a driving force for the movie.

And worse, it's one of those movies where nothing is resolved at the end (kind of like the disappointing 2nd Matrix movie).

After all the fighting and special sea creature effects, I got the feeling I wasn't really watching a movie. Despite being a mind-numbing 2.5 hours long, I really didn't get a sense of the main characters. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightly hardly have any meaningful lines, nor did anyone else.

Johnny Depp has a great entrance yet again, though. See that part, everyone.

Anyway, I'm glad I saw it, and I will see the conclusion, but it's not a movie I would ever watch again.

Sorry, PZ, the cephalopods looked great, but the film sucked.

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Blogger Pissing Me Off

Blogger has been acting very badly recently. Most of the time it doesn't even load. So posting may not be all the possible until the problem is sorted out.

Annoying thing is that I'm trying to read the most recent Tangled Bank, but it's being hosted on a blogspot.com blog, too, so it doesn't work half the time either.

Technology is great (when it works)...


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26 July 2006

Essential Aardvark

Welcome to Essential Aardvark. This is where the best of King Aardvark's writing is archived in an easy to find form.

What constitutes Essential? Whatever I feel exemplifies my best stuff. In many cases, these will be posts I've submitted to a blog carnival, like Carnival of the Godless, or the Tangled Bank. Other times, it a post about me that I want to share, or something that didn't fit into a theme of a blog carnival that I think is good anyway.

Essential Aardvark
Thou Shalt Not Golf (CotG #47)
Dawkins Would Be Pissed...Or Not
The Collateral Damage of Holy Wars (CotG #46)
Church Proud of Brainwashing 140 Children Aged 4-9 (CotG #46)
Memories of My Highschool Religion Classes (CotG #45)
Songs of Faith = Injustice Against Music

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24 July 2006

Carnival of the Godless

Hey, I just realized that Carnival of the Godless #45 is up at Beware the Dogma. I read this carnival quite a bit (though only for the past month or two), but this one is special: my post on my highschool religion classes is in it!

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Evolution Software

I've always been intrigued by software that models evolution. On Good Math, Bad Math, there is a link to software called Breve Creatures, and on Pharyngula, PZ discusses this software, plus the comments list another bit of software called Framsticks. I'll be checking those out in the near future myself.

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Church Proud of Brainwashing 140 Children Aged 4-9

In contrast to the wonderful secular summer camp, called Camp Quest, PZ mentioned on Pharyngula, I have a rather sad story about an Evangelical summer camp that took place at my wife's church a week or so ago.

My wife's church just wrapped up a week-long program where children are introduced to Jesus at a summer camp. These kids are from families who have just started to take Christianity more seriously (ie. Usually the mother starts becoming more than just "Christian in title only" and starts attending church regularly, then she enrolls her kids in such a program to "bring up the children right.") So these kids, who have only some very basic level of Christian knowledge, come in and are indoctrinated with Christian juju. In this case, it's called Fiesta, and is Mexican themed. (Not really wanting to pile-on here realizing full-well that this is just a week-long kids' program, but, from the PowerPoint slide-show, "Mexican-themed" seems to mean just giving every 3rd kid a sombrero.)

According to the announcement the head organizer of the camp gave at church this week, God blessed the program because they could accommodate 140 kids only. God was so wonderful that even more children than that tried to sign up so a couple dozen had to be turned away. Seems to me that if God were really blessing the program, exactly 140 kids would have signed up, no more, no less, but that's beside the point.

The point is, at the end of the week, each child was given a white paper cross, and told that, if they accepted Jesus as their friend and saviour, they could colour in the cross whatever colour they wanted, write their name on it, and put it up on the board. And the head organizer was really proud that every single child coloured in the cross and accepted Jesus.

Now what really grates me is the ages of the kids involved. The program is a summer camp for kids from junior kindergarten to grade 4. These are young, impressionable kids. They are a captive audience. They are doing fun camp activities. And when the camp leaders insert "Jesus loves you" into every other sentence, then ask the children if they "want to accept Jesus as their friend forever", the church organizers have no right to claim to be blessed by God when every single child says yes. These kids are less than 9 years old! Nine year old kids will regurgitate and believe anything you tell them if you make it sound good. Most of them still believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, for crying out loud!

You tell them that not only will they have a friend forever, get to live in heaven, and avoid hell, but that Jesus is associated with fun camp activities, plus you have the peer pressure of having everyone else do it, so of course they’ll agree with you.

These little kids aren't being convinced of the existence of the loving Christian god by the logic of the arguments presented. They certainly aren't being directed by the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus, as the head organizer believes. They are being brainwashed by the church, and at that age, they have no intellectual defense against it at all.

Additional (31 July, 2006)

-By the way, the secular Camp Quest "minimum age" of 8 roughly coincides with the Christian camp's "maximum grade" of grade 4, roughly age 9. That sure allows these poor, brainwashed little kids the ability to critically-think about Jesus, eh?

-If it makes anyone feel any better, during the organizer's announcement, the power went out in the church for about a minute. Of course, they praised God when the power came back on, but didn't denigrate him when it went out in the first place.

Additional (4 August, 2006)

-At least this Fiesta camp isn't as bad as the fundie camp PZ mentions here.

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21 July 2006

Memories of my High School Religion Classes

Today I'd like to take a trip in a time machine back to ... The mid 90's [Duh, duh, DUH!!!]

My family is a-religious and I went to a public elementary school, but I went to a local area catholic highschool for the simple reason that my area public highschool was old, run-down, smelled like urine, was farther away, had low educational standards, and was filled with hicks. To give you an idea how bad the public highschool was, my grade 8 public school teacher recommended going to the Catholic school. So, for the sake of my education, away I went the land of horrible school uniforms with itchy pants and drab colours...

... and much to my annoyance (though not to my surprise), I found that religion courses were mandatory for grade 9 and grade 10. Of course, it wasn't really "religion" so much as it was "Catholic doctrine." The grade 9 class was taught by a Sri Lankan priest, while the grade 10 class was taught by a math teacher with incredible armpit stains who always rested his hands on top of his head (yikes) and accused us of mentally goofing-off ([snarly]: "You look like you're all paying attention, but I know that you're all mentally goofing-off!").

These classes were weird beasts, full of strange indoctrination and nonsense. We recited the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary, we read New Testament stuff, plus scant Old Testament stuff (namely the 10 Commandments, where our teacher reworded each of the "Thou shalt nots..." to the more positive "Do...", as in "Do respect the life of your fellow man"). We had some hokey stuff, too, like coming up with ad campaigns to promote Catholicism, including drawing posters (Garfield, with the slogan "We put the 'cat' back in 'catechism').

The Catholic church hasn't really done much in recent times to dissuade scientific teaching, and our school taught evolution as fact. But these classes introduced some concepts that were just silly and ridiculous to me. In grade 9, we were taught creationism, including the creation of Adam and Eve, the Garden, and the Fall, though it was never made clear if it was intended to be Young-Earth, Old-Earth, or just allegorical. We were then taught something called The Ladder of Being. This is an old conception of the classification, or ranking, of entities created by God, starting with God at the top, followed by Angels, then Humans, then Animals, Plants, Rocks, etc.

One day, we had a quiz on what we had learned. I quote (to the best of my recollection):
Today, we will have a quiz. Write down what you believe [pause] about how the world was created. It's not supposed to be a hard quiz. Just write something, as much as you can, about the creation of life and all the things we've gone over. Remember, I'm interested in what you believe. I'll give you 15 minutes or so, and include sketches if you can. {Emphasis his.}
Of course, being a science-minded atheist, I took my 15 minutes writing about the big bang, billions of years of stellar evolution, and the evolution of life on Earth, including drawing a very lame sketch of tetrapod evolution from a lobe-finned fish. I didn't mention God once.

Of course, after picking up the quizzes, the teacher took an informal survey and asked, "Who wrote about Adam and Eve?" and everyone other than me put their hands up. "Who drew the Ladder of Being?" Again, just about everybody put up their hands.

I knew I was in trouble.

Later on in the week, everyone got their quizzes back, graded based on how much stuff they had included from the class. Everyone, that is, except me. My quiz had mysteriously disappeared. The teacher ignored it without a word.

Another time we discussed goodness. A scenario was presented where three people are each tempted to steal something but don't, each for a different reason. The first doesn't because he fears getting caught. We all agree that he is not a "good" person. The second person is much better because he follows the golden rule, and decided not to steal because it's not nice to others; he is deemed to be good. Our teacher then tells us the third person is the best yet, because he remembers that God says stealing is wrong and to love your neighbour, so he doesn't steal. I asked, but it was never explained why doing the right thing because you are afraid of God is better than doing the right thing because you are afraid of mortal authorities. The teacher merely said it was because he recognized God's love.

In grade 10 we talked about more topical subjects, like abortion and homosexuality. I say "talk" rather than "debate" because dissent was discouraged and rarely did anyone voice arguments for non-Catholic views. The topic that stood out the most was euthanasia. One student actually went against the official Catholic stance and spoke in favour of euthanasia. He told a sad story about how his grandfather had an excruciatingly painful tumour that was slowly killing him. Near the end of his life, he was in so much pain that he repeatedly requested to be overdosed with painkillers; his requests were always denied, and he suffered for many extra months before he died.

I'll never forget the callousness of the teacher's response: The student was coldly admonished that he needed to "do more research."

Fortunately, this fascist mentality toward teaching didn't extend to the other classes at school, and I was able to survive those years despite my lack of belief.

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20 July 2006

Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Bill

Ugh. For someone who used his veto to kill a bill that "would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush sure likes having people killed. The dumb thing (other than him) is that these embryos are already there and will just get dumped in the trash sooner or later anyway.

In one of his press conferences, he had a group of children and their families with him. Each of the children had been "adopted" as embryos left over from fertility treatments by parents who bore them. He used this as evidence that each embryo is a life that can be realized.

This is a poor argument. By this reasoning, everyone should be making as many babies as possible, and our medical researchers should be putting tonnes of effort into saving the roughly 50% of embryos that are spontaneously aborted naturally. And for those of you saying that it's okay to let those embryos die because it's natural, let me remind you that we try to save people from deaths from natural birth defects all the time.

An embryo is just a collection of cells. It has no brain, no thoughts, no feelings. They have human DNA, but they are not human beings. Let the research continue.

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19 July 2006

Stupid Answers to Snappy Questions

Over at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus has posted Some Tough Questions for Christians. I'm an atheist, but I'm gonna take a crack at the first one. The list of questions is just too long, and John has already tackled some of the later questions in the links on his own posts.

1.) Can God be surprised? Surprise is the basis of laughter. Can God laugh?

No, God knows all, so he can't be surprised. He can probably laugh, though. Not all humour is based on being surprised; some is based on experiencing something that is out of the ordinary, that doesn't jive with what normally happens, and you can appreciate that without necessarily being surprised. I still think that a particular South Park episode is funny even after the 6th time watching it.

God is also omnipotent. Even if it was impossible to shock his sensibilities enough to make him laugh, he could just snap his fingers and make himself laugh. If you were in heaven, and told a joke, and everyone else there was laughing, I'm sure he would laugh along, too. At least to fit in and not make anyone uncomfortable.

And if that doesn't work, I supposed you could always tickle his feet.

On the other hand, have you ever heard of anyone laughing piously in the bible? Whenever someone laughs, it's always misplaced laughter (ie. laughing at something God claims he's going to do because it's sounds so impossible) or contemptous laughter (laughing at your defeated enemies). Look it up on BibleGateway. Maybe laughter is a sin, and humour doesn't exist in heaven.

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18 July 2006

What do Theologians DO?

From Butterflies and Wheels:

Theologians don't get special technical training that enables them to find God (how to use a special kind of microscope perhaps, or a special microtelescope), they don't learn research methods and equipment-use that no one else knows, nor do they learn magic tricks. So it's just bizarre to say that scientists have nothing to say about God while at the same time pretending that other people do have something to say about God. That involves pretending there is some kind of expertise or special knowledge that scientists don't have. There is no such expertise or knowledge. That box is empty.

I had a friend in engineering in university. She was possibly the smartest person in the program, and always had the highest grades. Near the end of undergrad, so almost decided to pursue a master's degree in theology. She wisely decided not to, then got an engineering job before bailing out and going into teaching highschool science (she always had a difficult time deciding what to do; she broke up with a guy twice before finally marrying him).

The question is: Given that what Ophelia on Butterflies and Wheels said in the above quote, what is it that theologians do? I can picture a lot of reading old religious documents, but other than that, what is there to study? What are your options for a master's thesis? Is it essentially a master's in literature, but instead of studying the small "t" truths handed down by wise dead writers, you still study the small "t" thruths handed down by dead guys but pretend they are actually big "T" Truths handed down by God?

Let's put it this way: For my master's, I built innovative full-scale building components out of concrete, steel, and fibre-reinforced polymers, broke the crap out of them, and analysed the results so I could build a computer model of the component for design purposes.

You can't attach strain gauges to God and test him in a hydraulic actuator.

I guess I just don't get what theologians do. So I'm going to look it up.

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17 July 2006

King Aardvark's Library

I read too much, I thought we should kill ourselves.
She doesn't read a thing; she believed me.
"Are you really the messiah?"
"Yes, I am.... Believe it."

- Highway Girl (Double Suicide version), The Tragically Hip.

King Aardvark is an avid reader, reading much, especially non-fiction. Reading is done anywhere: at home, on the job, on the beach, on "the throne" (read: the bathroom). Much reading gets accomplished sitting on the can. Don't call it gross; it's called multi-tasking.

So in order to give something back to the peasants from the multitude of works of literature I've read, I will start posting my reviews of books that I have in my library. Detailed reviews of each book will be linked from the table below once I post them. I mostly read non-fiction, especially science (mostly biology and cosmology) and history (mostly war, science, mediaeval, ancient, and classical civilization). Sometimes I read lighter works, or fiction, or something my wife wants me to read, such as self-help relationship books. All are fair game.

I will then review each work on a scale of 0 to 5 aardvarks, a subjective rating on how I liked each book. In addition, the top books, those receiving 4 or 5 aardvarks, receive the honour, by royal decree, of being named a "Crown Jewel of King Aardvark's Library". Those receiving 0 or 1 aardvarks receive the dubious distinction of “Ant” status; a book so bad that it deserves to be eaten and turned into a very small amount of poop out my regal backside.

Books Reviewed in Royal Library
Book TitleAuthorScore
The Case for a CreatorLee Strobel1/5
The Last Three MinutesPaul Davies5/5
The Ancestor's TaleRichard Dawkins5/5
Creation: Life and How to Make ItSteve Grand4/5
After ThoughtJames Bailey1/5
Destruction of the BismarckBercuson&Herwig3/5
Europe: A HistoryNorman Davies4/5
Fly: An Experimental LifeMartin Brookes4/5
Lost Civilizations of the Stone AgeRichard Rudgley3/5
The Dragons of EdenCarl Sagan3/5
The Demon-Haunted WorldCarl Sagan4/5
Eco HomoNoel T. Boaz3/5

(Note: books that score 0 or 1 aardvark are listed as “Ants” while books with a rating of 4 or 5 aardvarks are, by royal decree, listed as Crown Jewels of King Aardvark's Library).


Case for a Creator review coming

I read too much. In the coming little while, I intend to start doing reviews of books that I'm reading or have recently read, so that I can give back a little to other avid readers. I read mostly non-fiction (science and history mostly), but there are going to be exceptions. The first exception is going to be The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Towards God (2004) by Christian apologist Lee Strobel. The so called "scientific evidence" is almost exclusively fiction. I'll also look at more sensible books, like The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, which I'm currently reading, and The Last Three Minutes by Paul Davies.

Now, you're probably wondering why I would read a book such as The Case for a Creator when I'm an atheist. Well, I was asked to by my wife who thought it would be a good way to try to open my mind toward accepting God. Instead, it just showed me that the best Christian apologists can come up with are just empty philosophical comments and some outright fabrications.

I then wanted to see what other skeptical readers thought about the arguments, in the same vein as the Talk Origins reviews of Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution or Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box. But the only one I could find was this one, by Paul Doland of Internet Infidels, so I've decided to do my own series looking at the arguments, each chapter in turn. Look for that in the future as well.

In the meantime, check out the Wikipedia article for The Case for a Creator (link above), which I wrote and organized a lot of, just to get a feel for what's involved in reviewing this book. Note that the article has to be carefully NPOV and general, so I can't tear into it the way it deserves.

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13 July 2006

Blogs I linked to

I just added a bunch of blogs and other webpages on the sidebar that I want to promote. These are all great resources on science, skeptical thinking, and even some freethought stuff. It's remarkable how easy blogger is to use. I should have started this ideas landfill of mine earlier.

One thing you'll notice is that I didn't divide the blogs into "Science" and "Skepticism", but rather lumped them all hodgepodge together. I did this for a couple of reasons: 1) several of the blogs, such as Pharyngula, are both about science and athiesm, and 2) Just like PZ Myers on Pharyngula, I feel that the thought process for science and for athiesm are one and the same.

Or I could just be too lazy to sort them :-)


Songs of Faith = Injustice against Music

For my first post with content, I would like to look at at contemporary Christian music. First off, I'm an athiest. I'm also a classically-trained pianist of moderate ability (I played seriously for 8 years), so I know music pretty well. I know that in the good ol' days of the Baroque period, church music was at the pinnacle of compositional achievement, with Bach, among others, writing powerful, uplifting, and complicated holy music. Personally, I find most Bach to be overly technical, but a lot of people like him. Second, my wife is a happy Christian who loves popular Christian music that she hears in church: she sings it in the shower, buys CDs of the stuff, and feels that it is very uplifting. You know what else it is? It's crap.

I'm not knocking the content (well, I could), rather I'm knocking its musical value. These songs are just plain awful. There is one song she has on our computer that sounds like it was a rejected ensemble song from an awards show, with about a hundred people singing, "Ce-le-brate ... Je-sus ... Ce-lebrate!" over and over again to repetetive and obnoxious John Tesh-style synthesizer music. Speaking of which, John Tesh is one person I'd seriously like to have kicked in the nuts.

The songs at the church we go to aren't much better. Since this church is fairly modern, they invariably play uplifting, peppy music. The styles vary, but what doesn't vary is their lack of musical complexity. Sometimes it's fluffy pop music, sometimes it's the new fashioned "wimp rock" (you know, that style of stuff that airhead teenage girls listen to when they want to rebel against Britney and her ilk, that only has three different guitar chords that are each played repeatedly for two measures, forming no melody whatsofreakinever), or sometimes it's adult contemporary, like Kenny G but with vocals. Regardless, there is no musical soul.

Now, I know there are some excuses, like the music and lyrics need to be easy so people can sing along. And I understand that. But I've noticed that it seems to extend beyond church singalongs as well. I know that this is unscientific, but in my experience, a lot of Christians tend to listen to fluffy crap music outside of church as well. My wife listens to pop and dance music, and prefers Britney (who can't sing) to Christina (who can). My religious friends in high school and university also listened to music of dubious quality, mainly country and pop. My non-religious friends tended to listen to Metallica or the Tragically Hip: music that without a doubt contains more talent and creativity.

Could it be that turning off your skeptical, critical mind when it comes to religion results in turning off those same skills when it comes to music?

I don't know. What I do know is that it still sucks, and I heartily recommend the South Park episode where Cartman forms a successful Christian rock band by taking pop-rock songs about love and replacing the words "baby" and "girl" with "Jesus."

In closing, there is a Christian song where the singer sings the line, "I can sing of your love forever," for the entire second half of the song (about 3 minutes). He doesn't really sing of Jesus's love forever; it only feels that way.

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Hi. Welcome to my blog. Don't track mud on the carpet. I just had it cleaned, dickwad.

Anyway, this is just a place for me to vent ideas about topics I'm thinking about. That's all. I don't intend for it to be too deep or well thought-out. I'm far too lazy to do adequate fact-checking, cite sources, etc. I'll try to be coherent and logically/factually valid though.

About the name? I just think it's funny when people get kicked in the nuts. The junk. Dangly-bits. Happy sack. Da boyz. You know... In that regard, my hero is Eric Cartman.

In closing, GET A JOB, HIPPIE.