Civil unions in Rhode Island

The governor of Rhode Island intends on signing a just passed civil union bill into law:

State senators voted 21-16 to endorse the bill, about two hours after it was voted out of committee. The legislation, which already has passed the state House, allows gay couples to enter into civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits given to married couples under Rhode Island law.

It is now headed to Chafee’s desk for his signature. Ahead of the vote, the independent governor called the legislation an “incremental step” toward allowing gay marriage, which he supports.

It is true this is an incremental step. There will come a day down the road when all 50 states protect equality in marriage and we’ll all be able to point to the times today as being instrumental in achieving that goal. But we’ll also be able to point to these days as a time when ‘separate but equal’ arguments were allowed to exist once again. I think future generations will understand, but they will also ultimately be disappointed that there was ever such a struggle.

The rejection of science and confusion of morality amongst Evangelical Christians

Pew has put out a new survey in which it asks Evangelical Christians what they believe about life:

First, and probably of no surprise to anyone, is the result of the question regarding acceptance of the scientific theory of evolution. The survey posed the question:

Which statement comes closest to your own views?” – the options being:

1. Humans and other living things have evolved over time due to natural processes such as natural selection.
2. A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.
3. Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

In other words the choices are evolution, intelligent design of the Michael Behe variety, and standard creationism. It is important to note that the Pew foundation used a wording for the evolution option that, unlike some previous surveys, doesn’t specifically exclude a role for God: for instance, someone who believes that God set up the laws of nature and that biological evolution is just one of the consequences of these laws should answer option A.

What proportion of evangelicals accept the scientific theory of evolution?

The answer is 3%

In addition to this confusion over the underlying foundation of all of biology, many Evangelical leaders don’t seem to be so sure of what their little cultural god is telling them:

“A majority (73%) of the leaders from the Global North consider alcohol consumption to be compatible with being a good evangelical Christian. By contrast, a similarly large majority of the leaders from the Global South (75%) say alcohol consumption is not compatible with being a good evangelical.”

And there really is no way to resolve the issue. The Bible, written and changed by men, is like any other piece of literature – all interpretations of it are subjective. These divides amongst Christians – even Christians of the same subgroup, no less – amply demonstrate that fact. Furthermore, even where something is straight-forward and hardly ambiguous, it is still interpreted by humans, under human constructs, and by the human brain. It can’t help but be subjective. And unlike, say, science, it doesn’t have any methods which can remedy these facts in a way that works.

What’s more, there appears to be a marked difference in views on how women should be treated.

“Among U.S. leaders, 44% agree women should stay at home, while 53% disagree. Leaders in Europe, however, reject the idea of women staying at home by a more than two-to-one margin, 69% to 28%.”

and

“European leaders (62%) and North American leaders (54%) are especially likely to reject the idea that a wife must always obey her husband. On the other hand, upwards of 60% of leaders from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East-North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region agree that a wife must always obey her.

Even the “good” numbers (62% and 54% for the latter part) are awful.

I’m well aware that many fields today are dominated by men. That is often a legacy of past sexism as well as a problem of current, though undeniably reduced, sexism. It’s true of science, it’s true of atheism, it’s true of video games, and it’s true of so many other fields. But those areas don’t tend to attempt to perpetuate the worst of their legacies. That isn’t what we see with Evangelicals.

More liberal and/or more aware Christians have this habit of denying the nature of the fundamentalists within their religion. ‘Surely they aren’t as bad as everyone describes them, right?’ Wrong. This Pew survey pulls back the curtain and shows many of these people for what they are. And let’s not forget just how many people we’re talking about. Estimates of Evangelicals in the U.S. range from 25-30% of the population. That means, to put some of the results into real numbers, about 35 million people in the U.S. believe a woman should obey her husband. (And how many of those people ironically also describe themselves as libertarian, I wonder?) Only a few million of these people are willing to accept established and overwhelmingly evidenced science. And when we look at Evangelicals around the globe, they sometimes demonstrate a deep confusion over what their particular cultural god is telling them. (Yet how many claim that the Bible is objectively true or that they can objectively know something?) This all presents a very real challenge to the progress of the nation and the world at large. The delusions and confusions of faith-based thinking are holding back real knowledge and clarity of thinking, and that ought to make everyone nervous.

Thought of the day

Every once in awhile I’ll see someone at the gym in entirely inappropriate workout attire. Usually it’s jeans, but today was a polo shirt. However, that wasn’t what really caught my attention. What was interesting was that he had popped his collar. Mind you, not to be hip or retro or whatever bullshit reason people are giving so they can indulge in bad fashion. He was doing it for the sake of staying a little cooler. (A non-cotton t-shirt would have been a little more efficient, don’t you think?) But this got me thinking:

Let it be known here: Any man who wears a popped collar in any scenario not sufficiently similar* to the above described situation** is just your standard asshole. If his shirt is also pink, that makes him an ironic standard asshole.

*Sufficient similarity is to be determined based upon my whims.
**The guy really was wearing awful gym attire, though.

Dutch to Jews and Muslims: Stop abusing animals

I hope this becomes an enforceable law soon:

The Dutch parliament has passed a bill banning the slaughter of livestock without stunning it first, removing an exemption that has allowed Jews and Muslims to butcher animals according to their centuries-old dietary rules.

If enacted and enforced, religious groups say observant Jews and Muslims would have to import meat from abroad, stop eating it altogether, or leave the Netherlands.

When atheists and other reasonable people talk about the undeserved respect that religion gets, it is these sort of allowances we’re referencing. Why should Jews and Muslims, or any other religious group for that matter, be exempt from laws banning the mistreatment of animals? Because they think their acts are holy? Because they’ve been abusing animals for a long time? Has either group even bothered to give a rational reason?

Supreme Court: Video games are art

Siding with reality, the Supreme Court has ruled against California in a decision regarding the status of video games:

Video games are art, and they deserve the exact same First Amendment protections as books, comics, plays and all the rest, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday in a ruling about the sale of violent video games in California.

California had tried to argue that video games are inherently different from these other mediums because they are “interactive.” So if a kid has to pick up a controller and hit the B button — over and over again until he starts to get thumb arthritis — to kill a person in a video game, that’s different from reading about a similar murder, the state said.

The high court didn’t buy that argument, however.

I was reminded recently that this case was coming to a head and I wondered to myself how ‘Justice’ Scalia would rule. After a little consideration, I surmised he would come down in favor of the gaming industry. He often makes poor decisions based upon little to nothing, but this case was just too obvious for him to get wrong:

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

So not only does the interactive medium not make video games fundamentally different than things like music and literature (in terms of being art), it actually is a feature which helps to define it as art. Everyone has been telling this to California all along, but I’m glad the Supreme Court could articulate it so well.

And as much as I dislike Scalia, I’ve always thought he was a decent writer, sometimes even humorous. He doesn’t fail to deliver here:

That’s all well and good. But the most fun to be had in this potentially dry court opinion is when Scalia starts writing about how gory old-school stories are, too. He’s trying to make the point that stories have included violence for as long as there have been stories.

The examples are pretty hilarious:

“Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he writes.

Then there’s this:

“Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.”

And, finally, if that wasn’t enough eye-related violence for you:

“High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake.”

Well done, sir. Now excuse me while I go snipe some Elites.

The honey badger has no regard for any other animal whatsoever.

Why sports matter

Whenever a Boston team does well, my Facebook feed blows up. (I have good friends.) People celebrate, say how happy they are, and cheer on whatever team happens to be playing. When the Bruins recently won the Stanley Cup my feed was full of happy friends. And I certainly contributed to the celebration. It’s something special to see a favorite team win a championship.

But there’s always one or two people who have to be Debbie Downers. One update I saw was pretty typical: ‘It’s just a game, people’ (paraphrased). Or take PZ’s post about the Vancouver riots:

Some team in Canada won the Stanley Cup, which prompted happy revelers to…riot and destroy public property?

He eventually corrected his post to reflect the fact that Vancouver lost (How you like them apples, Luongo?), but such inaccuracy reflects the level of concern PZ has for sports. That particular post doesn’t demonstrate his indifference adequately, but anyone who follows Pharyngula knows PZ is not a sports guy.

And that’s fine. I happen to really enjoy sports – I can watch just about anything that isn’t soccer – but I don’t expect everyone to love them. To each his own, right? But what I don’t like is the dismissal of sports as unimportant.

Let’s go back to that status update. “It’s just a game” is the common refrain of those who believe they have the greatest of perspectives on sports. ‘Why, it’s just men running around trying to score goals or runs or whathaveyou. Who could care about such a thing?’ These people are missing the big picture.

Spending an entire season following a team is an emotional investment. It takes energy and devotion and it can even be draining. It doesn’t matter that it’s other people who are performing the amazing feats. It isn’t important that anyone can watch a grueling hockey game while devouring a pizza. And who cares that people who have never skated or never played an organized game on the diamond or done any of that stuff can follow the action? None of that changes the fact that it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the emotionalism of sports.

And there’s far more than that to it all.

My first professional sports experience was a game at Fenway with my dad in 1999. I didn’t watch sports at that point – which is ironic considering my dad’s occupation as a sports journalist – so I couldn’t appreciate the fact I was seeing Pedro Martinez pitch in one of his Cy Young years – a year when he won the pitching Triple Crown and turned in one of the greatest pitching performances ever. No, I hardly had a grasp on all that, but there was so much more to appreciate. I appreciated the Fenway franks. I appreciated the cheers of the crowd. I appreciate that I saw the Green Monster when it still had its netting (though the seats look great). I appreciate that I sat in a park, which now holds the record for most consecutive sell outs, during a time when it was possible to just show up and buy a ticket on the day of the game with ease. But one of the things I appreciate the most is that my first professional sports experience was with my dad.

It took me some time to realize it, but the point of going to that game was for the sake of the whole experience – father and son. I had asked my dad if I could bring a friend, fearing how much I would enjoy watching a game I didn’t understand. He told me he could only get two tickets, so the answer had to be no. I decided to still go, but it later dawned on me that he had also invited my brother. There had to be a third ticket available. My dad wasn’t just inviting me to a game for the sake of hopefully seeing a Red Sox win. There was a much more important reason he wanted me to go to that game – a reason that would only insult the reader for me to explain any further. (The Red Sox did win, by the way, 7-2 against Anaheim.)

To dismiss any sport as “just a game” is to dismiss all that comes with being a fan. Whether it’s the personal emotional investment – it’s difficult to understand the relief felt by so many Red Sox fans in 2004 – or a family affair, sports are important. They intertwine with the lives of many of us in ways that rise above a casual game of Monopoly or cards. They have an impact on us in ways that are value-heavy and memory-impressing. They have an effect on our lives that give meaningful experiences we often would not – or could not – otherwise have.

Sports matter for their ability to rise above being mere games.