Year in review

I’ll hit the high points:

  • Rush Limbaugh said women who have ‘too much’ sex are sluts. Conservatives doubled down for some stupid reason.
  • NASA landed its rover. Everyone loved the guy with the mohawk.
  • The Olympics were okay.
  • Nate Silver used science and math and junk to accurately predict the election. Republicans ignored this devil magic, finding themselves hugely shocked the day after the election.
  • Speaking of which, that skinny fella won re-election, beating out that cliche bad guy character who, I presume, wanted to bulldoze a beloved children’s playground to make way for a strip mall.
  • I am in Argentina, so it’s actually the middle of the month as I write this (scheduled) post. I presume we saw a last minute deal on this fiscal cliff stuff. If not, I may just stay in Argentina.


So here’s a neat picture:


I don’t have much to add to this because there is already an excellent review of this creature, but I will note that our ancestors lived alongside these huge cousins of ours for about half a million years. Also, it is not Bigfoot.

Should we ask our politicians specific science questions?

Every time a politician is asked if he believes in evolution or how old he thinks Earth is, there is the inevitable complaint from the right: “It’s a gotcha question!” It’s as if to say the whole point is to make certain people, usually Republicans, look stupid during their run for public office. I’ve got to disagree, though.

I find these sort of questions to be valid for at least two reasons. First, it gives us a very general idea of the background of the person. Someone who says he rejects the fact of evolution is almost certainly a young Earth creationist, and I think that’s important to know. (It’s important even if he’s an old Earth creationist.) We expect just about every politician in the U.S. to express some religious piety (unfortunately), but it’s hard to believe at least a few them aren’t mailing it in. The ones who actively reject significant fields of science, though, are probably sincere. I want to know that so I can be confident in my vote against them.

Second, this can give us a general gauge on intelligence. Now, I’m not saying people who reject evolution or global warming or any other scientific fact are stupid. I wouldn’t be so clumsy as to play into such an atheist caricature. What I’m saying is we can get a grip on the scientific literacy of a person based upon some of these questions. Of course, this is sort of a one-way street: A person who reject science can be deemed to have low literacy, but a person who accepts the facts of a few key issues is not necessarily engrossed in science. Regardless, these questions do often correlate with other facts in a useful way. For a prime example, look up anything the likes of Sarah Palin has said about fruit fly research and funding.

I think people should have a pretty good idea about a lot of theses issues, such as evolution or the age of Earth, but even if they’re ignorant, that’s no crime. If someone running for office is asked how old the world is and he doesn’t know the exact number, it would suffice to say something like, “Millions or even billions. I’m not sure.” He would get corrected, but no one would make that big of a stink about it. The stink only arises when a politician starts spouting off things about 6,000 years and ‘no missing lin’k. There’s just no excuse for that sort of stuff.

Thought of the day

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: It delights me when theists attempt to call atheism a religion. It isn’t because it is – of course it isn’t. It’s because inherent in their attempt is an implied invalidation of atheism. Why, if I prove it’s religious in nature, then it loses credibility.

I fully realize that theists don’t intend to insult religion like that, but there’s no way around it. And I agree with what they’ve done. If something is religious in nature, if it’s underpinned by the odiousness of faith, then it does lose credibility.

The national debt explained

Merry Christmas

I mean, seriously. I have got to update this picture.

Christmas music

I admit it. I like Christmas music. Even the Jesus-y stuff. In fact, I think most people enjoy it, but it has become popular to get a few seconds of attention by making a big deal out of how much a person hates it.

Camp Sunshine donations (again)

Once again, this is a scheduled post because I’m out of the country, so I want to make sure I can be as active as possible about the fundraising I’m doing for a place here in Maine called Camp Sunshine. They’re there for children with life-threatening illnesses, so what they do is pretty amazing. Along with Atheists of Maine, I’m hoping we can raise a few thousand dollars by the time this is all said and done in February. (Incidentally, this whole thing culminates in a February polar dip off the coast of Maine.)

So if you can donate, please go here. Every dollar counts.

On the 2nd Amendment

Let’s start from the beginning:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

If one is to look at the history of the Second Amendment, there’s plenty of arguments on either side for ways to interpret it. However, I think the most compelling argument is that it went through numerous revisions specifically designed to emphasize its militia/military aspects. Here’s what that says to me: The right to own a gun has limits. I do not believe, as our modern courts have been hinting at, that the Second Amendment gives a citizen free reign over gun purchases and ownership. The government has a right to put forth limits on gun ownership; states and the feds can outlaw guns in national and other parks, cities can ban their sale, and background checks can be as big of a pain in the ass as a group of representatives or voters wish to make them.

All that said, I do happen to favor a fairly unfettered right to gun ownership. There are clearly weapons which serve no purpose other than to terrorize, but for the vast majority of gun purchases, I have no issue. People are often safer if they own a gun or if they’re in an area with an average law-abiding, gun-toting member of the NRA (the awfulness of that organization aside). However, there are limits to this argument: specifically, to the United States and similar countries. We already have prolific gun ownership and a thriving black market for guns. To attempt to curb it at this point will most likely just end up in a greater disparity between law-abiders and criminals who have guns – the line being skewed in favor of the latter group. After all, that black market isn’t thriving because it’s too easy to obtain a gun legally. However, on the flip side of things, I don’t think my arguments work in much of Europe. They have low gun ownership rates, strong gun laws, and a significantly reduced black market, all with the result of fewer gun crimes and deaths. Gun control is a success on that side of the pond. End of story.

So, while I do happen to be fairly in line with current mainstream, and especially conservative, view on the pragmatic end of this matter, I part in my basis. I favor liberal gun ownership in the United States, but I don’t think the Second Amendment gets us there.

Though of the day

This actually isn’t a scheduled post. As it turns out, I have WiFi here in Mendoza. So, two thoughts:

1) American Airlines is awful. It would have been nice if they mentioned that I needed to change airPORTS in Buenos Ares before I bought my ticket.

2) Mendoza is an incredibly nice city.