Trump says he’ll accept election results—if he wins

My CNN feed tells me that Trump has proven himself dumber than I thought by effectively mocking the democratic process:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says that he will accept the results of the general election next month — if he wins. [JAC: watch the video at the site to see some complete insanity.]

“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, his first comment since the final presidential debate Wednesday.

After pausing for effect, he said, “… if I win.”

Trump was widely panned by Republicans and Democrats alike after the debate during which he refused to pledge to accept the results of the election, regardless of the winner.

After Election Day, nobody in this country will take Trump seriously any more.

The anti-Semitism of UNESCO

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem contains at once some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Besides being the historical site of the Jewish Second Temple (Herod’s Temple) and possibly other temples (confirmed by archaeological evidence), and the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, it’s reputed to contain the stone on which Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. (I am not, of course, saying I believe these myths, but the presence of early Jewish temples is undeniable.) This makes it special to Christians and Jews. It also has two very holy mosques, including the Dome of the Rock (deliberately built on the holy site of “earlier” religions, since Islam is the “final truth”), which contains the Isaac Stone (unviewable by Christians and Jews, who are denied access to the mosque. Since 1967, access of Jews and Christians to the Temple Mount has been severely restricted by the Israeli government, and Jews are not allowed to either wear religious garb on the Mount (save a yarmulke)  nor pray there. It is a contentious place where three religious groups vie for access, and where a resolution of the competing claims seems impossible.

Two days ago, the members of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, with 195 member countries) adopted, by an overwhelming “yes vs no” vote (with many nations abstaining), a resolution denying the connection between Judaism and the holy sites on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and basically designating it as a Muslim holy site alone (you can see the full resolution here).  This is what the Palestinians have been trying to accomplish for many years. The implication is that Jews (and Christians) should have no access to the Temple Mount or even the Western Wall.

As the New York Times reports (see also here, here, and here):

PARIS — UNESCO’s executive board on Tuesday approved a resolution that Israel says denies the deep historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem — and that has angered Israel’s government and many Jews around the world.

The resolution is not expected to have concrete impact on Jerusalem itself, but it aggravated diplomatic tensions around the city and within UNESCO, which is also facing a dispute between Japan and China that threatens funding.

It’s the latest of several measures at UNESCO over decades that Israelis see as evidence of ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. Israel’s concern has mounted since UNESCO states admitted Palestine as a member in 2011.

The resolution, titled “Occupied Palestine,” lays out rules about the preservation of holy sites in Jerusalem, and uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The site includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount. Muslims refer to it as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary, and it includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The board adopted the resolution by consensus Tuesday at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. A draft form of the resolution had already been approved by a commission last week.

Here’s the vote. 24 nations, including many Muslim-majority countries, voted for the resolution, only six against (including the UK and US), and 26 countries abstained because they were too cowardly to take a stand.  The cowards include France, India, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.


Given the historical evidence, this kind of vote cannot be seen as anything other than either anti-Semitism or catering to Muslim desires to keep the peace (there’s not much difference there given that Jewish claims to the territory are rejected). But it goes along with the UN’s recent anti-Israel stand. As Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted (and I’m just quoting his quip, so don’t go off on the man for other things):

One more quote from 12 years ago:


h/t: Malgorzata

Question to women readers: have you been assaulted or violated?

One of the only good things that came out of Trump’s candidacy (for me) is my growing realization that women are groped or physically assaulted far more often than I would have thought.  I know about catcalling, as I’ve seen it often, but there’s been a spate of women reporting unwanted touching, fondling, or other kinds of physical assaults on their person.  Yesterday I asked one woman friend if she’d ever experienced anything like that.  She responded that she’d never been “groped” by a stranger, but that one of her supervisors at work asked her to tie his tie for a formal dinner, and then grabbed her breasts when she did so. In the state where this happened, that counts as fourth-degree sexual assault. (She didn’t report it.)

This kind of assault—for that’s what it is—is described by Freedom from Religion Foundation co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in an email from the FFRF called “Religious hypocrites grope for excuses for Donald Trump groping.” It doesn’t seem to be on the FFRF website, but was reproduced on Hemant Mehta’s site, The Friendly Atheist.

First Annie Laurie took a survey of her co-workers:

Motivated by the headlines, I conducted an informal poll at my workplace. I approached the 11 other women staffers who happened to be in our offices on Monday at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to ask about whether they’d ever experienced the kinds of gropes several women have testified they endured from Donald Trump.

Ten out of the 12 (including myself) have been groped or had similar unwanted experiences.* The two others had experienced sexual street harassment. One, a runner, said the intimidating catcalls and jeers are constant. I suspect this unscientific survey would be borne out as par for the course nationwide.

She then gives several of the women’s accounts, which are grim, and reports two times when she herself was groped. Annie Laurie then calls out the religious right for supporting Trump while defending “family values” and “morals”, and finally points out that the Bible sanctions sexual assault and abuse, and even the Old Testament God turns out to be a groper and an abuser:

The biblical deity repeatedly denounces women as filthy whores (Ezekiel 16:36-45, among ad nauseam references) and sexually vilifies them (see Proverbs throughout). Most shocking, the biblical deity sexually gropes and abuses women himself (Isaiah 3:16) or threatens to (“I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,” Jeremiah 13:26).

I’d like to take an informal poll like Annie Laurie’s, but among the women readers here. So I ask what she did: “Have you ever experienced the kind of groping some women said that they’d endured from Donald Trump?” If you want to give details, feel free to do so, and also weigh in if you haven’t been groped in this way so we can at least get an idea of the proportion of women who have ever been violated. (Yes, I know there’s sampling bias.)

If you’d like to post under a pseudonym but usually don’t, go ahead, as I’ll approve these “new” posts.

I’m asking because my informal poll was only one woman, but she reported a legal assault, and I have a feeling that this kind of stuff is pretty common.

Trump has lost. Can we move on now?

I didn’t watch the debate last night, keeping my record of avoiding political bombast intact while retaining my own equanimity. But by all accounts I’ve read, Trump not only didn’t evince any semblance of a Presidential (or even rational) demeanor, but rather refused to say he’d honor the results of the election, and claimed that millions (yes, millions) of people were registered to vote who weren’t qualified. He also continued to claim that he’d build The Wall at the Mexican border, and blamed the recent accusations of sexual assault against him on Hillary Clinton.

For several days Trump has, effectively, conceded defeat before the election, trying to find someone to blame for his impending loss. But his meltdown and striking decline in the polls is due solely to him.

So can we stop going after him all over social media and concentrate on a more important issue: the Senate, which has the power to ratify Supreme Court justices? Clinton will appoint at least one, and probably more since Ruth Bader Ginsburg will surely retire soon. This is the first chance in years we might have a liberal court. A Democratic Senate will also help break the legislative/executive logjam that occurred during the Obama Presidency, when nothing was done because Republicans have become the Party of Obstruction.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Keira McKenzie from Oz continues her series of gorgeous flower photographs, with lagniappe: a photo of Plushie, her beloved black cat. Keira’s captions are indented.

These images are the various presentations of what are known as Granny Bonnets (Isotropis cunifolia, not to be confused with columbines).  The backs of this tiny flower are more spectacular than their sweet little faces.





Fringe Lily (Thysanotus multiflorusthey have edible and apparently yummy roots).  A startling pink, I have seen photos of white ones.



This one is especially for you, Jerry.  Commonly known as a cats paw (Anigozanthos humilis), it is, quite obviously part of the kangaroo paw family, but it’s low growing and its colour is just gorgeous.


The common name for these are ‘pixie mops‘ (Petrophile linearis). the mages should be looked at in order. First, the cone, all fluffed up and getting ready to open,





Completely open with the tiny coloured flowers at the ends.  Such an astonishing flower.  Apparently some people call them ‘spider plants’ because of their appearance when they first open, and yes, it does look like one of those huge furry spiders with the big furry feet!


Blue devils (Eryngium pinnatifidum).  The bud:




Open.  The last image makes sense of the common name: ‘blue devils’.  Such an astonishing flower.


The miffed madam pictured is miffed because, having successfully lost her collar, i.d. tag and bell, and running nude for a night, I surprised her with new collar, bell and i.d. this afternoon.


Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on October 20, 2016: a day that promises to be overcast but not too cold (highs of 14°C, 58°F in Chicago). It’s National Brandied Fruit Day, but we can ignore that. For on this day in 1803, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson’s Big Buy from France. At a cool 828,000 square miles, the purchase nearly doubling the size of the U.S., and at a bargain price of only 4¢ per acre! It also included bits of what are now two provinces of Canada:


In 1973, this date saw an event I remember well, Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which he fired U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus as punishment for their own refusal to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork, who was later rejected by the Senate after Ronald Reagan proposed Bork as a nominee for the Supreme Court. Things didn’t look good for Nixon, then, and of course he eventually resigned.

Those born on this day include Patrick Mathew (1790), who came up with a rudimentary but largely ignored version of natural selection in the appendix of his book Naval Timber and Arboriculture; Arthur Rimbaud (1854); John Dewey (1859); Jelly Roll Morton (1885); Joyce Brothers (1927); Bobby Seale (1936); and Ken “Ark Park” Ham (1951). Those who died on this day include Eugene V. Debs (1926), Herbert Hoover (1964), Paul Dirac (1984, you can see one of his lectures on quantum mechanics here), and Paul Kurtz (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Crooked Hili is once again lying about her motivations:

A: Hili, you are on my desk chair again.
Hili: I’m guarding it so Cyrus will not lie down here.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, znowu jesteś na moim fotelu!
Hili: Pilnuję, żeby Cyrus się tu nie położył.

Reader Ed Suominen sent a photo titled “Who says cats are worthless?” This one, Ed’s own, is serving as an iPad stand:


And reader Taskin from Winnipeg sent a lovely picture of an imperious Gus with the caption:
“I have the most beautifully trained staff of any cat I know.”
Either that or Gus smells Autumn in the air…


FIRE gets huge Templeton grant

An old Jewish joke, which I’m allowed to tell because of my background, is this: “Jewish dilemma: free ham”.  But this dilemma is even bigger, at least for me. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is an organization I’ve long admired, for its mission is to preserve free speech and civil liberties on American campuses. To that end it provides legal and advisory help for students, rates college campuses for their compliance with Constitutional free speech (the University of Chicago gets the highest rating), gives talks on campuses throughout the U.S., and helps file legal suits when freedom of expression is curtailed.  They do good stuff.

So imagine my shock when I saw this on their homepage today (click to go to article):


Templeton! And FIRE! Indeed, on the John Templeton Foundation website you can see the announcement of the grant to Robert Shibley (FIRE’s executive director) and Greg Lukianoff (FIRE’s President and CEO):


This is a big shot in the arm for a good but financially strapped organization (and of course I mean FIRE).  If I could find anything to carp about, it would be that the money is being used not for direct activism, but for surveying campus attitudes, so that in the end the money will produce a bunch of reports. As Templeton says:

These efforts will result in reports, articles, resources, events, activist networks, media, and more. In the end, FIRE aims to generate knowledge and spark activism, ultimately creating the momentum necessary to restore respect for free expression on campus.

And the FIRE site advertises the jobs created by the grant, which look a bit, well, academic-y:

With today’s announcement of SOAR, FIRE is also opening the job application process for nine new positions. FIRE is seeking energetic applicants who are entrepreneurial and passionate about its mission to fill the following positions by January 3, 2017:

Although I’d prefer more activism here, the grant does include an “outreach component” that will make FIRE’s mission and activities more widely known.

Whenever Templeton gives out a big grant like this, I ask myself, “What’s in it for the Foundation?” After all, their mission is ultimately to answer the “Big Questions”, melding the scientific with the numinous, and Big Questions are indeed identified in the Templeton announcement—but they’re purely secular ones. I hope I’m not so churlish that I won’t acknowledge it when Templeton money goes to good uses that don’t seem to promote their agenda of free-market capitalism and the empowerment of religion; and this appears to be one of those. But I’d prefer to congratulate the good folks at FIRE for getting the money, and I’ll still be keeping my eye on Templeton.

The University of Florida warns its students about their Halloween costumes.

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means: the University Costume Police are getting ready to tell us all how we can and cannot dress. Here, from the Gator Times, is a notice from the University of Florida telling students they’d bloody well think hard about what they’re going to wear on Halloween, and should be careful about social media, too.  Note as well the generous availability of the Bias Education and Response team “to respond to any reported incidents of bias” and “to educated [read “‘indoctrinate’] those that were involved.”

h/t: Gregory


Readers’ comments on Nature’s accommodationist piece

On September 20, the prestigious science journal Nature published an article by Kathryn Pritchard, “Religion and science can have a true dialogue“, which I found not only lame, but inappropriate for a science journal (see my post here). Pritchard is identified as someone who “works with the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Archbishops’ Council in London and with St John’s College, Durham”; and she was touting a “Science in Congregations” program in which scientists went into churches to educate the faithful about science. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Pritchard also called for the a respectful and mutually fruitful dialogue between science and religion:

Despite what the popular narrative might have scientists believe, there is a genuine hunger in the church to address the questions that contemporary research asks of religious belief. Our projects express the conviction that science and theology — at the church, cathedral and local-community level — can illuminate one another to the benefit of all.

As I’ve always maintained, what is touted as a fruitful dialogue is really a fruitful monologue: science tells religion what is true about the universe, and religion either rejects those truths or modifies its theology in their light. In contrast, religion has nothing to contribute to science.

Pritchard also neglected to mention that the “Science in Congregations” program is funded by a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. In effect, then, Nature was advertising a Templeton project.

I wrote to Nature asking to write a counter-editorial (ca. 900 words—the length of Pritchard’s piece) detailing the incompatibility between science and religion. That idea was rejected, and they urged me to write a shorter response of about 300 words, which they’d consider as a “Correspondence” piece responding to Pritchard.  I did that, but that piece, which I’ve put below, was also rejected with the suggestion that I add it as a “comment” below Pritchard’s piece.

I’ve now done that, and you can see all 55 comments, both laudatory and critical, on the page with Pritchard’s original piece. There are two that I want to highlight: mine and Alan Sokal’s, both rejected by Nature. (Recall that Sokal, a physicist, perpetrated a very famous hoax on a postmodern journal.) Our comments and letters are very similar:


Like Dr. Sokal, I sent a letter to Nature that the editors decided not to publish:

In her essay on religion and science (see Nature 527:451; 2016), Kathryn Pritchard promotes a “true dialogue” between these areas, arguing that they are not, as often believed, in conflict. Her examples of dialogue include outreach projects in which scientists visit churches to talk about their research. This kind of interaction, says Prichard, helps the faithful answer questions about “human origins, purpose, and destiny,” and helps science and theology to “illuminate one another to the benefit of all.”

Yet despite Pritchard’s insistence that the relationship between science and religion is harmonious, the two remain at odds in important ways. For example, 43% of Americans are young-earth creationists. Belief in a literal Adam and Eve is also common, though the idea is clearly nonsensical from a genetic perspective.

Both science and religion make claims about the Universe, and sometimes those claims conflict.  Confronted with such a conflict, whose claim do we accept?  Scientific claims are both reliable and testable – our species arose through a gradual process of differentiation within the great apes, as revealed by genetic and paleontological study—while religious “truths” are unevidenced and, crucially, differ among faiths. (J. A. Coyne, 2015, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible; Viking/Penguin 2015). According to Abrahamic tradition, for example, we are descended from Adam and Eve, with Adam created in the image of God, while many Hindus believe that males and females arose de novo from a god that split into two parts.

The “true dialogue” espoused by Prichard is impossible. Rather, we have a monologue in which science reveals features of the Universe, and liberal religions must evolve to accommodate these findings. In contrast, religion cannot usefully inform the practice of science, for science succeeds only when ignoring the supernatural. As Laplace supposedly replied when Napoleon asked him where God was in Laplace’s great work Méchanique Céleste, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”

Jerry Coyne
The University of Chicago, Illinois, USA


Here is the Letter that I sent to Nature, which the editors decided not to publish:

To the Editor:

Kathryn Pritchard’s irenic call for a “true dialogue” between religion and science (Nature 537, 451; 2016) artfully evades the central issues that have divided the Church(es) from the scientific community for more than four centuries.

If all Pritchard seeks is “to give a higher profile to science” within her own Church of England, more power to her; no scientist will object. And if she wants to prod her fellow Christians to grapple with possible challenges to their belief posed by the discoveries of modern science, that is purely an internal church matter.

But her assertion that “science and theology … can illuminate one another to the benefit of all” is unsupported by any argumentation, and constitutes in fact a serious danger to the practice of science. Pace Pritchard, there is a unbridgeable methodological and epistemological gulf between science and religion: namely, science is founded on the rational evaluation of publicly available evidence and the search for purely naturalistic explanations, while religion goes beyond this to invoke the authority of purportedly sacred texts (even if those texts must sometimes be interpreted figuratively) and divine revelation.

My apologies for being a party-pooper, but science has nothing to learn from theology.

Alan Sokal
Professor of Physics, New York University
Professor of Mathematics, University College London


I love Sokal’s last line about being a party-pooper!

But not all the letters are as critical of Pritchard’s stance. When I sent the link to a science friend, who read all the responses to Pritchard’s article, I got this response (redacted for family viewing):

“But f*ck me, the quality of the thought in most of those comments makes the folk who go on the Guardian website when there’s an article about climate change look like Einstein.”

I’ll put up but one of those letters (I’ve refuted the premise of “science is based on faith” in a Slate article).


It seems to me that scientists have faith. They have to, otherwise they wouldn’t even bother looking for a cure for cancer, or peering into the stars for the unseen.
And religionists benefit from discoveries made through science on a daily basis. You can believe I appreciate travel by airplane rather than covered wagon or boat, all of which function according to laws supported by science.

Both science and religion have a track record of blunders and harmfulness, only because its human beings at the helm. We just aren’t that smart and science and religion in and of themselves have no power. But most of us are trying, trying to improve and learn and get those pesky questions that plague us answered. Why not do it with respect toward one another? Kudos to the author for attending a science conference if she previously had believed she couldn’t.

We are all different and not everyone is cut out to be a scientist or religionist.

The conflict isn’t between science and religion, but between human beings who think they know everything.


What’s the upshot? It’s that Nature has published a long op-ed extolling the comity between science and religion, but won’t publish an op-ed of equal prominence denying that comity. By this action, they are taking an editorial stand in favor of religion and religious accommodation with science. Further, that op-ed is a thinly disguised ad for a project sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. Finally, one has to ask why Nature published Pritchard’s piece in the first place. What is an article about the supposed harmony between science and religion doing in a science journal? If they must publish tripe like Pritchard’s editorial, the least they can do is to give equal space to the many scientists—perhaps most of us—who feel that religion and theology have nothing to contribute to science.

I’m frankly surprised that Nature, which comes out of secular Britain, is so soft on religion. But that seems to have been true for a while. All I can say is that by publishing Pritchard’s article but relegating the counterargument to mere comments, Nature‘s editors are practicing lousy science journalism—and giving credence to fairy tales.


The death of journalism: Slate becomes HuffPo

A friend referred me to a video on Slate about Trump, ISIS, and Islamophobia (you can watch it right below the “white undershirt” post on Slate’s front page reproduced below), but when I went to that page —for the first time in a long time—I was shocked.  Half of the page is in the screenshot below.

It seems that only about two years ago, Slate was a respectable website, though I may be misremembering. As opposed to Salon—always a bastion of Social Justice Warriorism and atheist-bashing—Slate was more reasonable, more sober, and had more gravitas

No more. Check out the front page (click on the screenshot to go there), which is apparently undergoing evolutionary convergence to PuffHo. This is evident not only from the obsessive articles about Trump and the endless worship of Hillary , but also from the presence of a cat-training post in big type (don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but I don’t want to see them on the front page of the New York Times), as well as other clickbait like articles on white undershirts, pizza, and personal problems. Further, there’s the use of annoying Generation Y-isms like “crushing it” (they mean that Domino’s revenues are up), and “70 Nobel Laureates who believe in science [seriously, “believe”?] endorse Clinton because, you know, she does too.” YOU KNOW?  And what, exactly, are the “sick burns” that Trump is collecting?

Slate is still a lot better than HuffPo (I don’t dare look at Salon), but give it time. All Left wing aggregator sites will, I predict, eventually converge to HuffPo, at which time Leftism will implode as, you know, a totally bogus ideology.


Are there any webdites besides those of major newspapers that aren’t slanted and rife with Regressive Leftism?