Thursday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Welcome to another glorious Towel Day! You can keep up with the other hoopy froods here or by following the hashtag #TowelDay on Twitter.

496 years ago on the history front, the Diet of Worms was still dragging on (Jerry was still in New Zealand when we last visited that era), and today in 1521 the Edict of Worms (yep, still cracking up about the name) was issued declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

1842 Christian Doppler presented a lecture on his work (On the coloured light of the binary stars and some other stars of the heavens), now known as the Doppler Effect, to the Royal Bohemian Society in Prague.

In 1925 John T. Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. In 2012 SpaceX Dragon rendezvoused with the ISS, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to do so.

Oh, and in 1977 Star Wars was released in cinemas, which is as good an excuse as any for linking to this tweet.

On the same day in 1977 in China, William Shakespeare was un-banned, bringing the long and brutal Cultural Revolution to a close. This is a good opportunity for me to push the Kenneth Branagh film version of his play Much Ado About Nothing. It has an outstanding cast: Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, and Kate Beckinsale. It’s hilarious, visually gorgeous and is guaranteed to put a grin on your face for the rest of the day. Branagh’s particular talent with Shakespeare is that he genuinely understands every single word on the page, and coaxes performances out of his actors that transform the centuries-old words on a page into witty, fast-paced banter.


Hili is also in an ambitious literary mode today. We wish her all the best of luck with her new endeavour. She’s gonna need it!
Hili: Hurry, we don’t have a moment to lose.
A: What happened?
Hili: I haven’t read “Ulysses” yet.
Hili: Szybko, nie mam chwili do stracenia.
Ja: Co się stało?
Hili: Nie czytałam jeszcze “Ulisesa”!

Lagniappe found by several folks, including Matthew: interspecies love between a felid and a wild deer.

First Lady and First Daughter refuse to cover their heads in Saudi Arabia, but do so before the Pope

I got an email from reader DrBrydon that said the following; I’ll quote it rather than just paraphrase his words:

Looking at the new first thing this morning, I saw photos of Donald, Melania, and Ivanka with the Pope [JAC: see below], and was immediately struck by the fact that both women were wearing head coverings. I was pleased that the Trump delegation did not kowtow to Saudi dress codes for women, but to turn around and abide by Vatican ones strikes me as being incredibly disrespectful to the Saudis, and to Muslims in general.

Only a few news outlets seem to have noticed, including The Telegraph. And I hadn’t realized that Michelle Obama did the same thing.

Melania and Ivanka in Saudi Arabia:

In contrast, with His Popeness:

This of course is a form of hypocrisy: kowtowing to Christianity—seen by many as the Official United States Religion—while slapping Islam in the face. If I had my way, no leader of a secular state would wear religious garb on any official state visit—UNLESS they’re visiting a religious site, in which case I have no big objection.  But if you’re going to osculate the rump of one faith, you’ll have to osculate the rumps of all of them.


UPDATE by Grania

Donning some sort of veil in Vatican City when officially meeting the Pope appears to be a choice. Some women don’t, thank goodness. That’s the former president of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese in case you don’t recognise her.

It seems to be favored by the wives of Republican presidents, but even Michelle Obama wore one when she met her first Pope, but as you can see below, she decided against one second time around.

Is creationism on the wane in America?

Every year or two since 1982, the Gallup Poll has surveyed Americans for their attitudes toward human evolution. (Note: it’s not evolution in general that’s surveyed by the question below, but human evolution. It’s entirely possible that more Americans would accept evolution in general if it’s construed as applying to all species except humans—in fact, that’s exactly the position of the Catholic Church.)

For 35 years the results have held pretty constant, as the graph shows below, 40-50% of all Americans have over time been young-Earth creationists when it comes to human evolution, 30-40% are “theistic evolutionists” who accept some form of teleological, god-guided change, and the “natural evolutionists”—those who accept human evolution as a purely natural and unguided process, as scientists think it is—have hovered around an abysmal 10%.

The latest survey, however, gives us some hope, as the graph below shows

Young-Earth “human creationsts” have dropped to their lowest level yet—38%—a figure identical to “theistic human evolutionists”, which is pretty much in line with the past. The big news to me is the steady rise of those accepting naturalistic evolution as an explanation of humans: it’s gone from 9% in 1982 to 19% in 2014 and 2016: more than a doubling. One in five Americans now thinks we got here in the way science tells us! Yes, compared to Europe that’s dreadful, but it’s still an increase. . .

Do remember, though, that of all those people who do accept a role for evolution in human origins, only 33% (19/[19 + 38]) think it’s natural evolution. 67% of evolution-accepters still see a hand of god on our origins, which makes them quasi-creationists. We have a long way to go.

Although the data aren’t decisive, I will predict that this is part of a longer-term trend of Americans beginning to accept the truth of evolution.  Why do I think that? Because America, like Europe before us, is becoming more secular, and with increasing secularity comes an acceptance of evolution. As I’ve always said, I know of only one evolution-denier who isn’t motivated by religion. (That’s David Berlinski, and I have my doubts about him.) But why is America becoming less religious? Well, read my Evolution paper to see my hypothesis.

Gallup also shows. as it has before, that acceptance of evolution rises with level of education, is lower among those who are believers than those who have no religious preference, and is negatively correlated with church attendance:

As Gallup notes in a sort of wishy-washy summary:

Most Americans believe that God had a role in creating human beings, whether in their present form or as part of an evolutionary process over millions of years. But fewer Americans today hold strict creationist views of the origins of humans than at any point in Gallup’s trend on the question, and it is no longer the single most popular of the three explanations. Creationism still ties for the leading view, along with the view that evolution was guided by a divine hand. Fewer than one in five Americans hold a secular view of evolution, but that proportion has doubled since the start of this millennium.

. . .There has been an increase in the percentage of those holding the secularist viewpoint in recent years, which aligns with the scientific belief that has been prevalent in public school teaching since the Scopes Monkey Trial. This push and pull with creationism will undoubtedly continue, as this debate about where humans came from rages on.



WEIT censored on Twitter?

UPDATE: This seems to be a case of Twitter “shadow banning, me” which I’ll try to fix. In the meantime, if you’re on Twitter you can fix it, according to reader Jack, by adusting your Twitter settings:

To remove them I had to change settings under the Safety section of twitter.

unchecked: Hide sensitive content
checked: Display media that may contain sensitive content

But Lory, “sensitive comments” don’t include turtle pictures and birthday wishes!


I got this email from a reader, and another one like it:

For two days now, every tweet you’ve posted has been censored in my feed. It says, “This tweet is not available because it includes potentially sensitive content.” I’m wondering whether others are experiencing this issue. Perhaps your enemies have been flagging your tweets as offensive?

I don’t see this on my feed, but perhaps others do. Could you weigh in below, giving the country where you live? The feed is here.


Indonesia flogs 10 people for violating sharia law; two gays get 83 lashes each before jeering crowd

Apologists like Reza Aslan always point to Indonesia as an “enlightened” Muslim country, and it is less repressive in some ways than places like Saudi Arabia. Still, the country has a blasphemy law, which Wikipedia characterizes like this:

Indonesia prohibits blasphemy by its Criminal Code. The Code’s Article 156(a) targets those who deliberately, in public, express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religions with the purpose of preventing others from adhering to any religion, and targets those who disgrace a religion. The penalty for violating Article 156(a) is a maximum of five years imprisonment.

That article gives lots of examples of punishment for blasphemy; here’s one:

On 28 June 2006, the Polewali, South Sulawesi state court sentenced Sumardi Tappaya, a Muslim and a high school religious teacher, to six months in prison for heresy after a relative accused him of whistling during prayers. The local MUI declared the whistling deviant.

As for homosexuality, it’s legal in most of the country but not in the province of Aceh, which has officially adopted sharia law (the preferred law of Linda Sarsour). From the Times of London:

Two gay men were among ten people flogged in the Indonesian province of Aceh yesterday in an atmosphere of growing religious intolerance.

A crowd of 1,500 people jeered as Muhammad Taufik, 23, and Muhammad Habibi, 20, were each given 83 lashes of the cane in front of a mosque in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

Eight others were also punished under the sharia codes that apply in Aceh. Among them was a heterosexual couple; each received 27 lashes for extramarital relations.

The punishment was administered by hooded men wielding 3ft rattan sticks who took it in turns to deliver blows to the back of those convicted in shariah courts. The two men convicted of homosexuality grimaced but did not cry out.

They were tried and convicted last week after a group of vigilantes broke into their rented room and attacked them in an incident filmed and posted on the internet. Their assailants were not charged.

Those were only two of ten people publicly flogged; the others included that heterosexual couple.  All told, 336 people were caned in Aceh in 2016 for violations of “morality”. The Times adds that non-sharia regions also have some morality policing:

Homosexuality is not illegal elsewhere in the country but in Jakarta this week 141 men at an alleged gay sex party were arrested under loose laws against “pornography”.

This month the governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy, an unexpected verdict that represents a huge victory for conservative Islam. Basuki Tjahja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian best known by his nickname Ahok, announced yesterday that he was dropping his appeal against the sentence, which stemmed from a speech he gave last year.

Finally, the New York Times reported that extremist Islam seems to be spreading in Indonesia, as it is in Turkey (my emphasis):

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that has formally adopted Shariah, and homosexuality is legal in most of Indonesia.

But a nationwide campaign by conservative civil society groups against homosexuality culminated in a major case now before the country’s Constitutional Court, which will decide whether sex outside marriage should be banned throughout Indonesia. A ban on sex outside marriage would effectively ban homosexual sex, as gay marriage is illegal in Indonesia.

It is not known when the Constitutional Court will issue a ruling, though there have already been numerous hearings for the case, including one at which a witness suggested that an increased focus on gay rights was the result of a Jewish conspiracy.

. . . Until this year, the national government had the right to unilaterally cancel discriminatory local legislation, but the Constitutional Court took away that power this year, arguing that it was excessive.

Activists say the court decision will make it much more difficult for the national government to repeal discriminatory local laws like ones in Aceh.

The Indonesian government granted Aceh a special right to impose a legal code based on the Quran in 2001, as part of a long-term effort to make peace with the leaders of an Islamic insurgency there.

Does anybody really think that the demonization of gay and transgender people in Muslim countries (the only countries applying the death penalty to homosexuality) has nothing to do with Islam? Is that just a coincidence? Or, if you’re going to maintain that this isn’t religion, but simply cultural opprobrium, then at least you can’t lay it at the door of the West. It’s shameful that some gays. transgender people, and feminists continue to support Islam and those Muslims who follow or advocate sharia law.

Here are some photos of the gay couple. This one’s from the NYT, which adds:

News reports said that vigilantes had caught the two men naked in bed, and that the two had pleaded not to be reported to the Shariah police. The two were then beaten, an attack recorded on video, and were later taken to a local police station.

“So you don’t like women? Not interested in them anymore?” Marzuki Ali, chief investigator for the Shariah police, asked the men, ages 20 and 23, shortly after they were taken to the police station in March. Cameras recorded his comments.

From the NYT: Two men accused of having sex with each other faced trial in a Shariah courtroom in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday. They were each sentenced to 85 lashings. Credit Hotli Simanjuntak/European Pressphoto Agency

And from the British Times:

From the Times: A crowd of people watched and jeered as the two men were flogged ULET IFANSASTI/GETTY IMAGES

Now some of you may say, “well, maybe it didn’t hurt much, and they weren’t killed“. But imagine the shame attached to the public flogging, and the lifelong ostracism that these two men will face! They’ll surely have to leave Aceh.

It is reprehensible to outlaw sexual behavior between consenting adults: it hurts nobody except the “feelings” of those adhering to a medieval code of conduct. But that’s religion, Jake.

What do you say now. Dr. Aslan?

It is Grania’s birthday!

I just realized that today is Grania’s birthday. I know she’ll hate my posting this (and she didn’t mention it in the Hili Dialogue she wrote this morning), but it’s a chance for me and the readers to thank her for her service to this website. She has never refused to keep the site going during my numerous absences due to travel, and for that I’m immensely grateful. Not to mention the numerous posts she contributes herself.

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the Qur’an

Today’s Jseus and Mo strip, called “glory”, was clearly inspired by the Manchester bombing, and came with the email message: “The Koran is surely the most overrated book in the history of literature.”

There’s nothing to say here except that maybe Dawkins was wrong: perhaps it’s Allah, not the God of the Old Testament, who is the most odious character in fiction.

Readers’ wildlife photographs

It was World Turtle Day yesterday, and I asked if any reader had turtles. Well, Mark Richardson did, and sent us some photos in an email titled “I haz turtles”. There were also photos of non-turtles. Mark’s notes are indented.
You noted on Hili’s dialogue this morning that it was World Turtle Day, and you asked if anyone had turtles.
I have three Red-Eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) in a large turtle pond I built in a greenhouse. I was actually in the greenhouse 2 days ago taking photos of some plants and the turtles. I’ve attached some of the photos. They aren’t really wildlife photos, so I understand if you don’t want to post any. [JAC: Posted!]
The first two are of the turtle named “The Middle One”. It received that name because it was the second of three turtles I got from a local pet store in Washington. She’s around 15  years old. The third photo [below] is of “Big Mama”. I’ve had her since 1996. She was probably around 10 at the time, so she’s in her thirties now. I have a male slider as well, but he’s skittish and won’t stay basking if he sees me. His name is “Stubby” because his tail got bitten off when he was young. He’s only 5 and still really small compared to the females.
I’ve also attached some flora that is growing in the greenhouse. First there is a photo of a Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) flowering.
Next is a New World pitcher plant in the family Sarraceniaceae.
The last two are of a flowering succulent and cactus respectively. I have no identification for either, but the succulent flower is really striking. It looks like a cherry life-saver and the flower feels like plastic.[JAC: can readers ID these?
And as long as we’re doing urbanized wildlife, here’s a photo from reader Christopher Moss, which arrived in an email labeled “Bandit!”:
Early this morning I put out the squirrel feeder and a few minutes later I had a reminder of why I put raccoon-proof catches on the lid:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

by Grania

Jerry is sleepful in Washington DC, so I get to do the morning Hili greetings.

I declare today a Day of Music.

Today is the birthday of Bob Dylan b. 1941, a singer and song writer whose voice I did not appreciate much when I was young. As I get older though, I appreciate his remarkable talent as a composer more and more, from Blowing in the Wind to Mr Tambourine Man to Knocking on Heaven’s Door (ruined for me by a billion cover versions by people with the musical aptitude of a pot plant) to The times they are a-changing.

My favourites are Like a Rolling Stone:

and The Ballad of a Thin Man,

It’s also the 61st anniversary of the Eurovision Song contest. It’s mostly a cacophony in spandex and metallic lamé; but on occasion it produces some pleasing experiences.

The first winner was Lys Assia – “Refrain” in 1956; which was a start fraught with ominous foreboding of things to come.

It was the event that catapulted ABBA to fame with “Waterloo” in 1974. Trigger warning: Original 70s perms, glitter and unabashed cheesiness

It also unleashed Céline Dion on an unsuspecting world in 1988 when she won for Switzerland singing “Ne partez pas sans moi“. No, I don’t know how a Canadian ended up singing for Switzerland. But if she could get away with it, so can you.

This year’s winner was rather more tasteful than most offerings, the Portuguese “Amar pelos dois” sung by jazz artist Salvador Sobral, composed by his equally talented singer-composer sister Luísa Sobral.

If recent offerings on the music scene leave you cold, it is the birthday of Giovanni Battista Martini (nothing to do with the drink); Italian friar and composer who lived from 1706 to 1784. Much of his work remains unprinted although in his day he was much admired by his contemporaries, including the Mozart family.

Finally, back to the future, it is the birthday of Nigel Harrison, bass player in Blondie. Their smash hit Heart of Glass really sounded different in the 1975 demo version; but here is the version that made the group famous.

There is melodrama of the domestic kind from Poland today, one of those rare occasions when Hili might be in the proverbial dog-box.

Hili: I don’t want to see, I don’t want to hear.
Cyrus: What?
Hili: What will happen when they see that I’ve knocked over the vase.

In Polish:

Hili: Nie chcę widzieć, nie chcę słyszeć.
Cyrus: Czego?
Hili: Co będzie jak zobaczą, że przewróciłam wazon.

And there is a question from the Most Serious Of Cats on one of his country rambles.

Leon: What do we need hawthorn flowers for?

Lagniappe: A well loved “Studiokatze” interrupts a German weather report (h/t: Barn Owl):

Roger Moore 1927 – 2017

by Grania

British actor Roger Moore has passed away at the age of 89 in Switzerland.

He was best know for his role as James Bond, but will also be remembered as the eponymous Saint in the 1960s TV adaptation of Leslie Charteris’ novels.

He was my favourite Bond because he played the rather ridiculous character with a Fourth Wall-breaking sense of humour. My Bond experience did not improve on reading the original novels by Ian Fleming, he’s a fossil of a character, but Roger Moore made him likeable.

With Peter Sellers

Of course, none of this matters in the end. What matters are the people you meet, and how you touch them, even if only briefly. Here’s a charming story from a fan who met him at a young age.

Expanded below: