Isis got adopted

Isis, one of the remaining two kittens in the litter of five that contained the world-famous Jerry Coyne the Cat, has just been adopted.  It was very sudden. leaving Gayle Ferguson bereft. There’s only one kitten left now: Hoover.

Here’s Isis’s page from Gayle’s adoption ad, but the cat is much older now: 14 weeks:

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Jesus shows up on a pancake—on Good Friday!

The Ground of Being (GOB) is notoriously shy to show Him/Her/Itself to his/her/its worshipers—indeed, since he’s nothing like a human, we might not even recognize him were he to show up. After all, he could look like a painting by Rembrandt, a spring daffodil, and, verily, even our own minds when we do a bit of algebra.

That’s probably why The GOB had to send us Jesus, who, although part of God, had a recognizably human form. But Jesus came back only once, about 2000 years ago. Since then, for reasons known best to The GOB, he’s returned only back as various patterns on tree trunks, on tortilla, and now, just last Friday, on a pancake!

CBS2 in Los Angeles has the story, plus a great video that I can’t embed, so go see it.  The story:

Karen Hendrickson, the owner of Cowgirl Café, said a server initially noticed the biblical figure show up in the breakfast favorite on Good Friday.

“He’s got a mustache and a beard, and it looks like he’s got a receding hairline here,” she said.

Hendrickson said the night before the pancake showed up on the grill, she asked God for something.

“I said, ‘Dear God, please just continue to look over the Cowgirl Café,’” she said.

Employee Edgar Ceja also sees the image of Jesus.

“I did see the face. To me, it’s impressive because it was on Good Friday, and I don’t really see that very often,” he said.

While some people see Jesus, others think the face resembles other figures.

“Some people can see Jesus. Some people are saying it looks like Abraham Lincoln or a hillbilly. Some people are even saying it looks like Charles Manson,” Hendrickson said.

Regardless, the pancake is being saved in the freezer.

“He’s still on the same plate he was when he was put up on the window,” Hendrickson said. “I plan on keeping Jesus on this plate and preserving him so I can share him with everybody.”

By “share,” I presume they don’t mean “douse with maple syrup and tuck into him,” even though Catholics do something similar every Sunday. And they really shouldn’t keep the pancake in the store, for it could be stolen. Remember that Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich fetched $20,000 on eBay! (See below.)

Picture 2

Actually, he looks a lot like Charles Manson to me:

manson

Here’s a short video of religious historian Lisa Bitel showing other examples of Jesus and his family on food items. Note that there’s another Jesus-in-a-flapjack. It’s replicated, so it must be real.


More dangerous woo from Whole Foods

I was horrified when I went to Whole Foods a while back and found them purveying homeopathic remedies, which is the first inkling I’ve had of a connection between the left and woo (okay, call me naive: I thought the left was smarter!).  Then, I discovered the same kind of quackery being sold to the Birkenstock Set at the famous Davis Food Co-Op in California.

Now another indictment of Whole Foods has appeared on Science-Based Medicine:  a piece by Jann Bellamy called “What Whole Foods Markets doesn’t tell you.” I am hellishly busy today and can’t dilate on it, but that’s okay: it’s short and you can read it for yourself. The gist is that the store sells a magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, that is loaded to the gunwales with alternative medicine, photon therapy, unsupported herbal and vitamin therapies and, worst of all, “natural” cures for cancer that won’t work, in effect contributing to your death.

Does Whole Foods really want to promise their customers health on some aisles and illness and death in others? I don’t think so. I, for one, won’t patronize them any more, and neither, so she says, will Bellamy. I know some of you do, too, but do you really want to fund this kind of nonsense?

Bellamy does add a bit of humor, reproducing a mocked up cover of that horrible magazine taken from The Quackometer:

What-quacks-dont-tell-youh/t: Amy

David Bentley Hart responds (poorly and arrogantly) to Adam Gopnik on God

Somehow, in my evening perusal of the Internet, I came across a piece in The American Conservative by Rod Dreher, religionist, former Templeton flack (he ran the “Big Questions” site for a while), and author of some of the most mean-spirited pieces I’ve seen. (In one piece, for example, which has since disappeared from the Templeton site but remains in snippets on my site, he rebukes Chrisopher Hitchens for being blind to Jesus while he, Hitchens, was dying of cancer.) Unable to control my anger, I called Dreher a “contemptible little worm” for that piece. And, apparently, he remains an annelid.

At any rate, Dreher was touting a new column by David Bentley Hart called “Gods and Gopniks” published in the religious journal First Things. As you may remember, Adam Gopnik recently published a critique of Sophisticated Theology™ at the New Yorker called “Bigger than Phil,” an analysis of New Atheist arguments and the theological response. I thought Gopnik’s piece was pretty good, but, in a post on this site that got a surprising number of comments, faulted Adam for his “belief in belief” and his notion that we atheists are, at bottom, sort of religious because we have emotions and humanity and—here he singled me out—have affection for things like cats and Motown songs.  Gopnik considered such affections a form of “irrationality” equivalent to that promoted by religion, thus discerning common ground between belief and non-belief. But Gopnik failed to discern the huge difference between ailurophilia and religiosity. Cats may think they’re gods, but we don’t see them as divine.

Gopnik did, however, call out Hart for his lack of specificity and failure to engage with religion as it is practiced by normal humans. Gopnik used Mel Brook’s analogy, as the “2,000 year old man,” of worshiping a guy named “Phil” as an explanation of the universe:

As the explanations [for why God resides in the gaps of scientific understanding] get more desperately minute, the apologies get ever vaster. David Bentley Hart’s recent “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss” (Yale) doesn’t even attempt to make God the unmoved mover, the Big Banger who got the party started; instead, it roots the proof of his existence in the existence of the universe itself. Since you can explain the universe only by means of some other bit of the universe, why is there a universe (or many of them)? The answer to this unanswerable question is God. He stands outside everything, “the infinite to which nothing can add and from which nothing can subtract,” the ultimate ground of being. This notion, maximalist in conception, is minimalist in effect. Something that much bigger than Phil is so remote from Phil’s problems that he might as well not be there for Phil at all. This God is obviously not the God who makes rules about frying bacon or puts harps in the hands of angels. A God who communicates with no one and causes nothing seems a surprisingly trivial acquisition for cosmology—the dinner guest legendary for his wit who spends the meal mumbling with his mouth full.

Well you can imagine how that would get Hart’s knickers in such a twist, and it was published in such a widely-read magazine! Hart couldn’t let it stand, and so has answered.

But Hart’s answer is lame, asserting merely that Gopnik didn’t understand his argument, that Adam is not a scholar (the implication is “he’s not as serious as I am”), that modern atheism is devoid of content, and that no discourse is possible between believers and nonbelievers. By “discourse,” of course, Hart means “Discourse centered on my own arguments.”

It’s hard to convey how arrogant Hart’s piece really is. You must read it to get the full effect of his spleen and pomposity. Above all, Gopnik is a man who tries to be measured, and even when promoting non-belief (something he doesn’t often do), he tries to be fair—and even took a swing at atheists like me. Gopnik could never be described as mean-spirited. But Hart’s response is simply to dismiss the seriousness of Gopnik’s argument because Gopnik is a mere—journalist! 

Hart begins with what he considers a bon mot, but is really just nasty. He’s trying to come off as humorous, but, as he often did in his book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, comes off as a puffed-up and pompous windbag, full of deepities as substantive as cotton candy. Here he is on Gopnik:

Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose. At least, that is its purest and most minimal essence. There are, of course, practitioners of the trade who possess talents of a higher order—the rare ability, say, to produce complex sentences and coherent paragraphs—and they tend to occupy the more elevated caste of “intellectual journalists.” These, however, are rather like “whores with hearts of gold”: more misty figments of tender fantasy than concrete objects of empirical experience. Most journalism of ideas is little more than a form of empty garrulousness, incessant gossip about half-heard rumors and half-formed opinions, an intense specialization in diffuse generalizations. It is something we all do at social gatherings—creating ephemeral connections with strangers by chattering vacuously about things of which we know nothing—miraculously transformed into a vocation. . . Still, it seems fair to me to note that what a journalist does for a living does not, in itself, require him or her to be a scholar, an artist, a philosopher, or even particularly good at sorting through abstract ideas. And, really, it is hard both to meet a regular deadline and also to pause long enough to learn anything new, or waste much time even following one’s own arguments.

(Please note that Dreher is also a journalist! Note also that Christopher Hitchens described himself as a journalist.)

Now what is the point of that, except to impugn Gopnik’s credentials from the outset? It’s mean-spirited, and in fact it’s wrong. Gopnik can be quite thoughtful at times; what Hart is doing here is acting like a lawyer, going after Gopnik for irrelevant reasons simply because they’re on opposite sides and Hart wants to win. 

Before getting down to his own defense, such as it is, Hart bemoans the lack of serious discourse in modern arguments about belief vs. non-belief. As we hear so often, he decries the lack of Serious Modern Atheists compared to our supposedly lugubrious predecessors like Camus and Sartre (but what about Russell and Mencken? Was Mencken more “serious” than Sam Harris or Dawkins?).

Hart:

Simply said, we have reached a moment in Western history when, despite all appearances, no meaningful public debate over belief and unbelief is possible. Not only do convinced secularists no longer understand what the issue is; they are incapable of even suspecting that they do not understand, or of caring whether they do.

Which he continues at the end:

Nothing is happening here. The conversation has never begun. The current vogue in atheism is probably reducible to three rather sordidly ordinary realities: the mechanistic metaphysics inherited from the seventeenth century, the banal voluntarism that is the inevitable concomitant of late capitalist consumerism, and the quiet fascism of Western cultural supremacism (that is, the assumption that all cultures that do not consent to the late modern Western vision of reality are merely retrograde, unenlightened, and in need of intellectual correction and many more Blu-ray players). Everything else is idle chatter—and we live in an age of idle chatter. 

. . . What I find so dismal about Gopnik’s article is the thought that it represents not the worst of popular secularist thinking, but the best. Principled unbelief was once a philosophical passion and moral adventure, with which it was worthwhile to contend. Now, perhaps, it is only so much bad intellectual journalism, which is to say, gossip, fashion, theatrics, trifling prejudice.

This is not an argument; it’s a grumpy old man telling kids like Gopnik to get off his lawn, and longing for an age that never existed—an age when atheism was far more “serious” than it is now.

In fact, Hart’s real defense against Gopnik is both brief and thin. In essence, it’s this:

Excuse the sigh of vexation; I cannot help it. Setting aside the nonsense about desperately minute explanations, which cannot possibly be relevant to any argument of mine, the God described in my book is the creator of everything, who communicates with all persons in a constant and general way, and with many individuals in an episodic and special way. Whatever originality I might claim for certain aspects of my argument, its metaphysical content is entirely and ecstatically derivative: pure “classical theism,” as found in the Cappadocians, Augustine, Denys, Thomas Aquinas, Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra, Ibn Arabi, Shankara, Ramanuja, Philo, Moses Maimonides . . . well, basically, just about every significant theistic philosopher in human history. (Not to get too recherché here, but one can find most of it in the Roman Catholic catechism.)

Well, excuse me, but that’s a bit of a distortion, for I’ve published quotes over the last week showing what Hart considers God, and it’s hardly a God who communicates with “all persons” constantly (perhaps Hart means that God is there in the beauty and rationality and consciousness we all have and perceive, but that we stupid atheists can’t perceive it), and “many individuals in an episodic and special way.” What Hart means by the latter is opaque to me, especially because he refuses to say what he thinks about miracles. The kernel of Hart’s argument, which Gopnik did discern (Hart has the temerity of claiming that Gopnik didn’t read his book), is that the essence of God, distilled from all religions, is that of an ineffable Ground of Being that doesn’t have any anthropomorphic traits. (If that’s true, how does he “communicate in an episodic and special way”? Isn’t communication of that sort a human quality?) What Hart pushed in his book was not “classical theism,” but deism, or rather pantheism.

And even if we take that as Hart’s only message, do we need to waste our time debating it as the “proper conversation” about religion and atheism? Frankly, if Hart wants to find a common essence of God in all faiths (and, not being acquainted with all the world’s religions, I’m not sure that he has), more power to him. That doesn’t get us very far for one reason: all the world’s religions also have add ons to that abstract Ground of Being, and that includes theologians like Aquinas, Augustine, Whitehead, and Alvin Plantinga (sensus divinitatis, anyone?). That is what Gopnik was harping about in his piece.

If we’re going to engage belief, we should engage it as it’s practiced, and Hart’s “essence of god” is only a tiny fraction of what believers (including theologians) take to be true.  Even Hart himself believes more: he’s an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and that means he accepts a lot more than the Ground of Being. But what that is he doesn’t say.

I see no point in arguing with Hart’s pantheism, for it’s like trying, as they say, to nail Jell-O to the wall. If we’re going to engage with belief, let’s engage with belief as it is believed, including the various Gods with their add-ons like the resurrectd Jesus, the Trinity, the strictures of the Qur’an, the reincarnation of Buddhism, the sequestration of menstruating women in Orthodox Judaism, the strictures against gays in Islam, and so on ad infinitum. Is that not a serious endeavor? Believe me, those are the beliefs worthy of engagement because those are the beliefs that have real consequences in our world. The battle against religion is not a rarified argument over sherry about a Ground of Being.

Note, too, Hart’s reference to the Roman Catholic catechism, and how that also contains his God. But is he kidding? Not only is that Catechism pure theism, with lots of factual assertions, but it hardly paints the picture of God as a ground of being (have a look at the catechism here.) I’d accuse Hart of changing his argument, but he’ll just claim that I didn’t understand him in the first place.

Finally, Hart fulminates against materialism, giving a list of scientists who were also religious. The point of this eludes me, since many of those scientists lived in a time when nearly everyone was religious, and today the majority of good scientists are simply garden-variety atheists. To go after materialism, Hart first quotes Gopnik’s perfectly reasonable claim:

“[Unbelievers have] a monopoly on legitimate forms of knowledge about the natural world. They have this monopoly for the same reason that computer manufacturers have an edge over crystal-ball makers. . . . We know that men were not invented . . .; that the earth is not the center of the universe . . .; and that, in the billions of years of the universe’s existence, there is no evidence of a single miraculous intercession with the laws of nature. We need not imagine that there’s no Heaven; we know that there is none, and we will search for angels forever in vain.”

and then Hart responds in this ugly way:

Did Gopnik bother to read what he was writing there? I ask only because it is so colossally silly. If my dog were to utter such words, I should be deeply disappointed in my dog’s powers of reasoning. If my salad at lunch were suddenly to deliver itself of such an opinion, my only thought would be “What a very stupid salad.” Before all else, there is the preposterous temerity of the proprietary claim; it is like some fugitive from a local asylum appearing at the door to tell you that “all this realm” is his inalienable feudal appanage and that you must evacuate the premises forthwith. Precisely how does materialism (which is just a metaphysical postulate, of extremely dubious logical coherence) entail exclusive ownership of scientific knowledge? Does Gopnik think he can assert rights here denied to Galileo, Kepler, and Newton? Or to Arthur Eddington, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Paul Dirac, Anthony Zee, John Barrow, Freeman Dyson, Owen Gingerich, John Polkinghorne, Paul Davies, Stephen Barr, Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and (yes) Albert Einstein?

Yes, all of those scientists, as far as I know—save Einstein—were or are religious, but I doubt that Einstein abjured materialism or naturalism.  If you read Hart’s book, you’ll know that he, along with many modern theologians, goes after naturalism and materialism as incoherent on philosophical grounds. What he doesn’t realize is that the pantheon of scientists he lists made wonderful discoveries about the universe using only the assumptions of naturalism and materialism. They didn’t need, or use, God as a hypothesis. Just because Francis Collins and Simon Conway Morris mouth the fictions of an ancient book on Sundays does not somehow constitute a criticism of materialism.  For if the rejection of materialism, and the acceptance of revelation and deism, were a route to knowledge, we’d know a hell of a lot more about God than we do now. Hart is Eastern Orthodox. How does he know that the tenets of his faith are right, and that those of Islam and Judaism are wrong? Regardless of what he says about God, even the God he himself worships is more than a Ground of Being.

Hart’s tactic of distilling the essence of God from all religions, and then insisting that we talk about that, is equivalent to distilling the essence of “politics” from observing Western democracies, and then insisting that we talk not about Obama’s policies, or about the Republican denial of women’s rights, but about the nature of “politics” itself. It’s a useless, scholastic endeavor, suitable for an arrogant fellow like Hart to discuss at teatime, but not one that’s of much relevance in our world.

Finally, in his own piece, Dreher, champing at the bit, can’t wait for Hart to eviscerate me:

I do hope that Hart will not wait quite so long to have the fatuous atheist critic Jerry Coyne for lunch.  The rigidly ideological Coyne is one of the least-interesting critics of theism, precisely because he routinely gives scant evidence of understanding the position of his opponents (see Edward Feser on this point). His New Republic piece dismissing Hart’s book is on par with Gopnik’s, except that Gopnik, to his very great credit, is a marvelous prose stylist and a generous human being, and does not write as if he were delivering his message while standing on a bench in Hyde Park.

Really? Do Hart and Dreher routinely give evidence of understanding the New Atheist position, particularly the part about lack of evidence?  Why do I have to discuss the matter on their turf? Why not do it on mine: the turf of evidence. At any rate, Dreher’s criticisms of my prose aside, I’d respond in this way to both of these goddies: “Bring it on!”

One thing I’ve learned from this (as if most of you didn’t know it already): Christians may try to emulate Jesus with kind and saintly behavior, but the minute their faith is questioned they turn into grouchy old men chasing the atheists off their lawns. Deprived of the racks and thumbscrews they once used to keep their critics in line, they now resort to insult and invective.

A Case of You

Without conscious intention on my part, this seems to be turning into Joni Mitchell week. (I suppose that was determined by the laws of physics weeks ago.) Well, one could do a lot worse. And Canadians will like the oblique reference to their national anthem.

Here’s the song that many consider her finest, from the “Blue” album (I couldn’t find a comparable live version):

This song shows what can be done with only a transcendent voice and three instrumentalist. The other player, besides Joni on dulcimer, are James Taylor on acoustic guitar (the other male of our time that could match her in singing, songwriting, and proficiency on his instrument), and Russ Kunkel on drums.

Encomiums (and covers) from The American Songwriter:

That respect from her performing peers is one of the reasons that Mitchell’s songs have been so often covered. Her website lists 211 different artists who have covered “A Case Of You,” ranging from the sublime (Prince) to the ridiculous (Frank Stallone.) Graham Nash, whose breakup with Mitchell is often cited as the inspiration for many of the songs on Blue, took a crack at it. Diana Krall’s solo piano take is a showstopper, and the song continues to inspire, as evidenced by James Blake, a rising star in Great Britain, doing a faithful version in 2011.

Still, not one of these covers beats the original. It all goes back to the honesty and fearlessness of Joni Mitchell’s performance of “A Case Of You,” which, when combined with the beauty of the song itself, is intoxicating in every way.

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Chicago: evening

Last night at about 7 p.m.

Chicago

Thursday: Hili dialogue

Hili is becoming quite philosophical. . .

A: What do you see there?
Hili: Ding an sich.

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In Polish:
Ja: Co tam zobaczyłaś?
Hili: Ding an sich.

Karl Giberson debates Stephen Meyer about evolution

Over at The Daily Beast, Karl Giberson reports on a debate he had with Intelligent Design (ID) advocate Stephen Meyer in Richmond, Virginia: “My debate with an ‘intelligent design’ theorist.” (For some reason the article is headed by a picture of Sarah Palin.)

The topic of their debate was “Should Christians embrace Darwin?” and of course you already know which positions were taken by Giberson and Meyer. (You can read the IDer’s own take on the debate over at Evolution News and Views, though I hate to give them clicks.)

You have to hand it to Karl to go up against a fellow Christian in public, but what he should have realized, and finally did after the debate was over, is that this isn’t the way to resolve the conflict. After all, if you’re debating what Christians should do, presumably in front of a Christian audience, is touting the evidence (something that Karl apparently did) going to change people’s minds? I’d suspect that to do that, one would have to convince Christians that evolution doesn’t have the dire implications they think it does. The problem is, of course, that it does have those implications: naturalism, evolved moral tendencies, humans aren’t special, natural selection is wasteful and painful, there’s no evidence for a human “soul,” and so on. End of story.

According to the Evolution News and Views account, Meyer used an ID version of the Gish gallop, something guaranteed to flummox his opponent, and refused to engage Giberson’s presentation of the fossil evidence—evidence that is, of course, very strong:

Steve clarified the several definitions of evolution and put common descent to one side as a “secondary argument” and not the focus of the debate. Then he described some problems with neo-Darwinian theory. He told about Francis Crick’s revelation to biology in the 20th century and presented the origin of biological information as the central mystery to be explained. He discussed the combinatorial problem for the selection/mutation mechanism, sharing Douglas Axe’s work on the rarity of functional proteins in sequence space. He explained epigenetic information — the information beyond DNA and stored in cell structures — that plays a crucial role in the formation of animal body plans.

Now what audience is going to understand stuff like that, especially if Meyer avoids confronting the tough questions? Karl notes the same thing:

I have no idea how Intelligent Design theorists explain humans with tails. And apparently Stephen Meyer doesn’t either, as he completely ignored this point. In his book, Signature in the Cell, he offers a “prediction” that all such examples of bad design will turn out to be “degenerate forms of originally elegant or beneficial designs” (p. 491).

To be sure, Karl did make some telling points, but they appear to have gone over the head of the audience. As he recounts:

The many interesting examples that dominate the ID discussion—the little tail on the bacterium, our eyes or our blood-clotting mechanism, the explosion of new life-forms in the Cambrian period—are just snapshots of things in nature. They are not “evidence” for anything and won’t be until the ID theorists develop a theory of how their “designer” works. Once they provide a well-articulated version of their central claim, we can decide whether or not our eyes—or our tails— support their theory.

I mentioned in the debate that I thought this difficulty—acknowledged as it was by other ID theorists—was the deepest and most interesting challenge facing ID. But Meyer assured me that this is no longer an issue and that they now had a theory, although whatever it is appears to remain a well-kept secret. I objected that, as a physicist with a Ph.D who had studied some real theories—quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism—ID did not remotely resemble any other theory in the natural sciences and was thus hard to see how it might work. The response was that ID was under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of the scientific community for what a theory should look like.

And right there, to a scientist, is the huge failure of ID. They have no predictions (only criticisms of accepted evolutionary theory and facts), and they have no theory. The statement that “ID was under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of the scientific community for what a theory should look like” is an explicit admission that intelligent design is not science.  It doesn’t have to make predictions, it doesn’t contain a coherent group of propositions about how the designer operated—it doesn’t have to play by the rules of science. If the audience had its wits about it, at that point they should have realized why ID can’t win in the courtroom.

But the debate wasn’t about which “theory” was right, but about what view Christians should accept. And to many, that means accepting what they find congenial, and then rationalizing it. Here’s one example of that from the Evolution News and Views article:

A few interesting questions came up in the Q&A afterward. One audience member asked both speakers how they thought life began. Giberson was frank in saying he doesn’t find any presently available explanation satisfactory. At some point, someone will find the answer, he mused. Meyer suggested making an inference to the best explanation, given what we do know about the origin of information.

I wonder what that “best explanation” is? Could it be. . . God? 

Karl’s summary of the debate is sad. He seems to have truly hoped that this debate would provide an opportunity for some interesting scientific questions to be addressed objectively. Instead, he appears to have been steamrollered by Meyer’s slick and dismissive arguments. But what did Giberson expect? If materialism (the despised heart of Darwinism) is at issue, Karl, Christian or not, is going to be thrown under the bus. And so he left Richmond, a sadder and wiser man. As he says:

And so we see why debates accomplish so little. The Virginia audience left that night having learned little about ID, as Meyer’s presentation was very technical, although anything but “chock full of evidence.” My rather serious claim that ID had no theory and thus no evidence at all was dismissed, not addressed. The ID folk are now assuring their readers that their guy won; my defense of evolution was apparently pitiful: “Where was the new evidence?” the reviewer asks. “Where were the cutting-edge studies supportive of [my] view?” Such questions seem profoundly irrelevant, given that evolution has been an established scientific theory for many decades. The theory is long past needing new evidence and new discoveries are never presented as offering new “evidence” for evolution, any more than new photographs of the earth from space provide “new evidence” for its shape.

I could have told him that. Meyer is under no obligation to address Giberson’s issues: creationists always put their opponents on the defensive. That, plus the inability to resolve complex scientific issues in an hour on stage, the overweening influence of rhetorical abilities, and the issue of giving creationism unwarranted credibility by engaging them, is why I and many other evolutionists simply refuse to debate these folks. Yes, evolution is true, and Giberson is welcome to present that evidence to Christians in his own talks and writings. That might work a bit, as it has for me, but what won’t work is telling evangelical Christians to accept evolution because it’s compatible with their faith.

Ceiling Cat help us: Guns everywhere in Georgia

This country is going nuts: Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal signed a really, really dumb gun bill today. From The Hill (you can see the bill at the link; my emphasis):

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed sweeping gun legislation on Wednesday that some have described as unprecedented.

Licensed gun owners will be able to carry their firearms into public places including bars, schools, churches and government buildings, among other areas.

The NRA called House Bill 60, The Safe Carry Protection Act, “the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.”

Georgia’s legislature passed it at the end of this year’s session, and Deal told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it had support from both Republicans and Democrats.

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“There are always opportunities for people to use any piece of legislation as a political tool if they don’t like it. But there was bipartisan support for the bill,” he said.

State Sen. Jason Carter (D), grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and his party’s gubernatorial nominee, voted for the bill and told MSNBC last week he believes he helped “make the bill better than it was when it first started.”

Two proposals that did not make it into the bill include a provision that would have legalized the carrying of guns on college campuses, and one that would have required houses of worship to allow guns unless leaders ban them.

Bars, schools, and government buildings (which presumably include courthouses): that’s just where you want a bunch of people with guns.

And, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it gets worse: the cops aren’t allowed to stop anyone carrying a weapon to see if they have a permit. (Apparently they can ask the person to show up later in court to show the permit, but that won’t keep someone without a license to wreak some havoc before their presumed court appearance.)

I don’t understand the mentality that can favor something like this—guns in bars and schools, for crying out loud—and am deeply disappointed that Carter’s grandson favored this insane legislation.

Cats (and other animals) on sports fields

by Matthew Cobb

Jerry noticed this nice photo from Liverpool Football Club’s ground, Anfield, which was originally posted on Retronaut about 18 months ago, and for some reason has just popped up again on Tw*tter. The photo was taken in 1964, and shows a rather fine-looking cat running towards the stands.

The photo is as interesting for what it says about English football as it is for the cat. The young boys are all down at the front of an all-standing terrace – they would be pushed down there, where it was safer and they could see better. And several of them have retro ‘rattles’ which you’d whirl round to make a noise. These have started to make a bit of a come-back. And there are no women that I can see and the crowd is 99% white – women now make up a substantial minority of spectators, and the ethnic composition of Liverpool has changed substantially since then.

Anfield apparently has a tradition with cats. In 2012, a match against Jerry’s beloved Spurs was interrupted by a rather battered tom running onto the field.

The cat instantly acquired several Tw*tter accounts, one of which @AnfieldCat, is still going strong with some rather tiresome sexist tw**ts and 56,000 followers who like that kind of stuff.

The cat was taken to a stray cats’ home, named Shankly after Liverpool’s most famous manager (let’s hope he wasn’t an Evertonian), was cleaned up, had the snip, and was eventually rehoused:

 

Other animals also get involved in sporting events. This squirrel came onto the US Women’s Tennis Open:

 

This Swiss fox steals golf balls (to be honest, the golfers are chez lui, so they get what they deserve):

 

And just to prove that Switzerland is a dangerous place to play football, there was the famous pine marten incident with footballer Loris Benito (there’s a bitey mammal joke there but I’ll leave it to you):

The moral of that story is fairly obvious: don’t try picking up a frightened mustelid with sharp teeth…

 

D*gs appear so regularly on playing pitches that they aren’t worth remarking on.

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