Saturday, June 09, 2007

Animals r us

From CNN:

Debate evolves into religious discussion

Story Highlights

• Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, defends biblical creation narrative
• John McCain, an Episcopalian, says "the hand of God" made us what we are
• Sam Brownback, a Catholic, says religion and reason are not at odds

Reading further, we find that Huckabee went on to say that people who wanted to believe they were descended from a primate were welcome to do so.

He then contested the relevance of the question:

"It's interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president," Huckabee said. "I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States."

Even if we leave aside the question of whether a president of the United States should have at least an eighth grade education (humans are unquestionably primates, so what does he think he is?), these Republican debates expose an ignorance so vast that it qualifies as insanity.

The general belief system of Huckabee, a total moron, is shared by literally millions of Americans who have had at least a modicum of education and uncounted millions, if not billions, of poorly educated people throughout the world.

Science be damned. We’re gonna believe what the preacher says. We don’t need no stinkin’ books, not even the Bible, though it helps if you know how to read it.

Common sense tells us we didn’t descend from no apes. Common sense tells us an all-powerful being created the universe, us, and everything else. Common sense tells us we’re special.

And if common sense fails, we have John McCain:
"There's no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was in what we are today. And I do believe that we are unique, and [I] believe that God loves us."

Or Sam Brownback:
"I believe we are created in the image of God for a particular purpose, and I believe that with all my heart," said Brownback, a Roman Catholic. "I am fully convinced there's a God of the universe that loves us very much and was involved in the process.“

This common sense view that there is a super being who created the universe and has a special love for us humans (primates as well as Huckabees) is shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans -- liberal, conservative, and politically apathetic -- and most of the rest of the world as well.

Well-meaning people may differ on which God created the universe and how exactly it cares about our individual lives, and they can certainly disagree on how it did it, whether by evolution, incantation, a twitch of the nose or a nod of the head, but everybody simply must agree that common sense tells us that some all-powerful super being somehow, someway, did the deed.

But of course that belief is not common sense. With what we know about the vastness of space and time, as well as the evolution of life on earth, it is ignorant.

It is insane.

The universe we know is something like 17 billion years old. There are something like 200 billion galaxies each containing 200 billion stars. Our planet is what a grain of sand is to the Sahara, if that, in the big picture. Modern human history is more like a molecule in a grain of sand compared to the vast Sahara of time.

The idea that some super being set all that in motion, created the vast and incredible universe, then waited 17 billion years to focus on us as individuals represents stupidity on a scale nearly as vast as the cosmos. And that’s not even considering the fact that even if that were true, the all-powerful super being is an idiot who botched it badly. For billions of humans, this is a world of shit, with little peace, and less justice.

Common sense, based on what we know (science), tells us there is no God. Common sense should tell us that the continued belief in an all-powerful super being who cares is nothing more than primitive baggage from the early days of human evolution.

Beyond that, common sense also tells us that the fact that we still have serious contenders for presidency-- not to mention the president himself -- who believe such utter nonsense demonstrates just how close we are to our chimp-like ancestors.

And it’s equally, if not more disturbing to note that the major media refuse to accurately report the facts about religion and science. In this case, the reporter alluded to the fact that humans are primates, but failed to say so directly. The enlightenment is dimming. The future looks dark.

On a related note, this article in the Guardian argues that we should stop respecting religions and those who practice them, at least when it comes to public policy.

I’ll agree with that and suggest we go a step further and stop using the word “religion.” For what is religion if not a belief in the supernatural?

We have a word for belief in the supernatural. We call it superstition.

We also have a word for people who believe in the supernatural. We call them superstitious.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I know what you are, but what am I?

I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago when I was in high school, so I recognized that the Bush Administration was using Soviet-style torture techniques on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as secret prisons throughtout the world.

Reports of U.S. torture techniques also reminded me of a guy I new in Washington state. He trained U.S. Air Force pilots who could possibly be captured by the Soviets to cope with KGB-style interrogation. He was an American specialist in Soviet torture techniques. He seemed an okay guy, very well-read and thoughtful, really into hardcore punk, a bit harder than the rest of us, and he could be very intense. He described his job as fucked up way beyond my ability to imagine. He spent many days playing the KGB interrogator, torturing American pilots. They all inevitably broke, he said. He hated his job.

This article in the Times confirms that the U.S. does indeed use Soviet-style torture and refers to what I'm pretty sure is the Air Force program in which my long ago acquaintance tortured our troops. Yes, it's true. We are not only using Soviet-style torture, we are doing it consciously, by the book. How's that for nauseating absurdity?

Nauseatingly absurd, that's how. Or should be. At least for those of us old enough to remember the Cold War.

Of course a lot of people these days aren't old enough to remember the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 so pretty much everyone born after 1980, 1985 at the latest, did not grow up hearing about how evil the Soviet Union was, in large part due to their use of torture. Today's conservative kids did not spend their formative years being constantly reminded of how good the United States was compared to the Soviet Union, one of the important particulars being that we did not torture our prisoners. These younger folk were not constantly told that torture was morally wrong. Not only morally wrong but ineffective. And not only ineffective, but counterproductive. They were not told that the Soviet Union provided ample proof that torture was stupid on every level save the sadistic.

So the age thing may at least partially explain why the stupid right wing kids can so blithely condone atrocities that the United States stood against for so many years, but what about the older Republicans?

The older dead-end conservatives who still support George W. Bush and every single one of his war crimes are the same people who loudly denounced the Soviet Union for torturing prisoners in secret prisons during the Cold War. How can they forget just about every single principle they in which they believed?

Of course it's only speculation, but I'd guess they never held any real principles. Those 28 percent or so who support the conservative agenda no matter how criminally insane it becomes, are not principled people. They simply believe what they are told to believe. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it changes. Doesn't matter if it's the opposite of what they were told to believe the day before.

Talk about nausea. Since we now know that Bush & company actually are using the Soviet manual on torturing prisoners, what other manuals are they using? A lot of people have sarcastically suggested their playbook is right out of George Orwell's 1984. Perhaps it really is.