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The Bullet List I’m Not Embracing

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Department Of Things That Make Me Want To Slap Somebody

Aka: Don’t you hate it when those you admire use the same tactics as those you loathe?

IMHO everyone, sooner or later, needs to realize that their idols have feet of clay. Easy for me to say, since I have no idols.  I do have people whom I admire, including he-of-the-many-slash-attributes, British evolutionary biologist/professor/writer Richard Dawkins, for his science advocacy, even as I have not overlooked his, shall we say, weaker points.  [1] But a recent social media posting of his…

 

 

 

On January 2, Dawkins’ Foundation For Reason And Science posted a bullet list on Facebook. Using what I took to be a riff on a New Year’s resolution list, eight declarative statements were posted under the heading:

Embrace conclusions based on evidence.  Still true in 2018!

 The statements included several of what should be no-brainers, including

* Homeopathy is water
* Humans are causing global warming.
* The earth is not flat

But I was shocked to see this one as #4 on the list:

* Organic food is not healthier

WTF ?!?!?!?  Really ?!?!?!? Organic food is not healthier.

That was the statement, in its entirety.  And it frosted my entire butt.

Healthier than or as compared with…what? And “healthier” defined as/in terms of…what?

There is no exposition in the Foundation’s list, which seems written to be eye-catching, sound-bite worthy, pithy, gotcha proclamation. But that tactic, when it is employed by creationists and other anti-science/pro-woo/religious conservatives, is rightly criticized by Dawkins and other pro-science advocates, who point out that their opponents speak in generalizations, do not define their terms and use reductionist, simplistic reasoning.

I am p.o.’d at both Dawkins and the Foundation, who advise folks to embrace conclusions based on evidence and then make such a dick, evidence-ignoring statement as, Organic food is not healthier.

 

 

 

beanhuh

They said what?

 

 

 

I’ve seen videos/read transcript excerpts of science advocates taking on, say, climate change deniers, in debates or other public forums, and one of the first things they – or any rational debater – will do is to insist that the participants define their terms.

Organic food is not healthier…for ___ whom? For me? For my allergy-prone Aunt Erva? For silicon-based life forms? There is an unstated object in that declaration. And, Healthier”  – to what aspects, measures and scales of health and does this declaration infer?  Having previously encountered similar organic food soundbites by (self-described) rational thinkers, I’m guessing/assuming that the Foundation’s use of healthier refers to a food’s specific nutrient content; e.g., an organically grown plum tomato contains no more lycopene than a “conventionally” grown plum tomato; an organic strawberry has no more Vitamin C than a conventionally grown strawberry.

A momentary digression, if you will:  [2] how odd to use that label, as it is only relatively recently in the history of agriculture that conventional refers to plants grown with the aid of non-organic/synthesized fertilizers and pesticides.  Despite its name, today’s “conventional” agricultural methods have only been in development since the late 1800’s and did not become widespread until after World War II.  [3]  What was once conventional – farming and ranching sans non-organic/synthesized fertilizers and pesticides  – is now called organic.

So, where were we? An organic strawberry has no more vitamin C than a conventionally grown strawberry (with its residue of up to 45 pesticides residue, as per by the USDA).

That is a true statement.

It is also a narrowly-focused, blinkered, missing the fucking point/ignoring the evidence statement. For either and all you s, organic food is “healthier,” for us all, even for those who’ve never eaten an organic strawberry, in so many ways that have nothing to do with nutrition/RDA content.  A Foundation whose name touts “reason” should know about the plethora of reasons, based on evidence, why organically raised food is healthier, for us all.

Neurological disorders, contaminated drinking water, nutrient-depleted habitats and global warming don’t give a rat’s ass about Vitamin C content.  Fuck the Vitamin C content.

 

 

astonishedspock

That would seem to be an anatomical impossibility. Nevertheless, I am interested in your arguments.

 

 

 

Defining the terms, once again:

Conventional agriculture = farming systems which utilize synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides.  Organic farming (aka sustainable agriculture or permaculture) = farming which relies on crop rotation, animal and plant manures as fertilizers, some hand weeding and biological pest control.

Food produced under the latter system, aka organic food, is healthier for you, in many ways and with regard to many factors, including but not limited to:

* Runoff and leaching from non-organic farm and ranch lands pollutes rivers, streams and groundwater, contributes to habitat disintegration for trout and salmon and other aquatic species, and contaminates our drinking water supply.

“Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
(What Is Farm Runoff Doing To The Water? Scientists Wade In, NPR, All Things Considered)

 

* There is no Plan B – or rather, Planet B – when it comes to where we live. The “environment” is our home. What would you think of someone who shat in his kitchen sink and then used the sink to brine his Thanksgiving turkey?  [4]  The environmental costs of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides include:

“… wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and even coastal areas, as these synthetic chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.”
(How Fertilizers Harm Earth More Than Help Your Lawn: Chemical runoff from residential and farm products affects rivers, streams and even the ocean,
Scientific American)

* Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides and fungicides) are a public health concern.  Synthetic pesticides are known to cause poisoning, infertility and birth defects, as well as damage to the nervous system. Some are known carcinogens.

* The use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides poses dangers to humans working with or in proximity to the same, via exposure through the pesticides’ application and the harvesting and handling of the plants to which the pesticides are applied.

Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and, illnesses than any other workforce in the nation.
(Pesticide Safety, Farmworkers Justice)

Parkinson’s Disease, anybody? This devastating, progressive and incurable neurodegenerative disorder has multiple suspected causes, one of the strongest links being pesticide exposure.

“The data confirm it: farmers are more prone to Parkinson’s than the general population. And pesticides could be to blame. Over a decade of evidence shows a clear association between pesticide exposure and a higher risk for the second most common neurodegenerative disease…”
(Parkinson’s Disease and Pesticides: What’s the Connection? Scientific American),

Even without direct consumption of pesticides – let’s say I diligently wash and peel my carrots and never lick an unwashed, Thiabendazole   [5]-dipped apple, pesticides still have many routes of introduction in to human and animal tissues.

“Within a human or animal body, pesticides may be metabolized, excreted, stored, or bioaccumulated in body fat. The numerous negative health effects that have been associated with chemical pesticides include…dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects.”
(Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture, Frontiers in Public Health, US National Library of Medicine)

* The production, and distribution and use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides contribute to and exacerbate global warming.

Some pesticides produce volatile organic compounds that pollute the atmosphere when they react with other chemicals. This reaction produces tropospheric ozone, which…traps in heat….The base chemicals that are used to create pesticides can be harmful to the environment even before they are combined with other chemicals to create pesticides. For example, nitrogen oxide is a gas that blocks sunlight and traps heat. The legislature body of Roxbury declared in its laws, “Nitrogen-based fertilizers release unnatural amounts of nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect which results in further global warming.”
(The Effects of Pesticides on Global Warming, greenscience.com )

 

 

DUH

Don’t make me cite even more face-palming evidence.

 

 

“Embrace conclusions based on evidence.” – Yes, that would be nice of you to do so. Organic food is healthier, for us all.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Have Her Permission To Post About This

The joys of listening to your children babble in a post-surgical,  [6] pain-medicated, happy voice are not to be underestimated. How MH and I wish we’d thought to record son K on his ride home from the oral surgeon’s office, those many years ago.  We remembered to do so when it came Belle’s turn to have her wisdom teeth removed, and although she had some random non sequiturs of note, at least (to our knowledge) she did not propose to her nurse:

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve discovered that opportunities for the gathering of anesthesia-induced babbling memories do not fade with age, and are perhaps even more enjoyable when your children are young adults. Last Friday afternoon, Belle underwent a procedure which required general anesthesia. After MH and I were allowed to see her in the post-op recovery room, I did not record her ramblings (Belle was with it enough to object to that), but did manage to take a few notes. There are some gems I know I missed, mostly because, I just wanted to be present to enjoy the stream of conscious moments caused by her brain only partially connecting with her mouth.

* “Is there boob PT? (After MH and I told Belle that the upper floors of the building she was in were dominated by Orthopedic surgeons and PTs -Psychical Therapists.)

*   “It stays on for THREE DAYS.” Belle pointed to the anti-nausea patch the anesthesiologist had placed on the side of her neck, then lowered her voice to a solemn whisper. “That’s a lotta days!”

* Belle said the nurses told her she was talking about bear heads (“Let me tell you about the grizzly bear head…”), and that they don’t get many people who talk about bear heads.   [7]

* “Do you remember when people were, like, in the future, everything will be chrome? It didn’t happen. I think they meant stainless steel.”

* Belle: “I’d like to be Spider-Man.”

moiself: “But you don’t like spiders.”

Belle: No sir, I do not. But, I appreciate spiders.”

*  “Seth Meyers is like a marshmallow, with good hair.”  [8]

While waiting for the nurse to remove her IV, Belle began to describe to MH and I, with great seriousness, how the cycle of banana mitosis and meiosis indicates that bananas can tell time. The morning after her surgery, I asked Belle if she remembered doing that. She said she didn’t, but that it’s no surprise because, “Actually, I talk about that a lot.”  [9]

 

 

 

carmen

Why carry a watch when you can just ask the banana on your head what time it is?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of But I Did *Not* Ask Her Permission To Post *This*

Dateline: Sunday eve. MH was out of town, so it was friend LH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself who comprised our  “movie” awards  night party, a family tradition (previously mentioned several times in this venue, including here and here) consisting of watching an entertainment awards show on TV (but only the “biggies” – the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and Tonys) whilst dining on “movie food” (defined as hot dogs,  [10] popcorn, nachos,  Skittles and Junior Mints and Red Vines licorice and/or your favorite movie theatre candies and snacks, washed down with liberal amounts of a sparkling beverage).

After enjoying marshmallow man Seth Meyer’s witty opening monologue, we watched as the cameras focused on Nicole Kidman’s table when she rose to accept an acting award.

Belle (commenting on the person sitting next to Ms. Kidman) – “Wait, that’s…her husband? I thought it was a girl.”
Moiself: “That’s Keith Urban, her husband.”
Belle: “Keith who?”
K: He’s a country singer.”
Belle: (snorting in disgust and disbelief): “Nicole Kidman is married to a country singer?!”

 I began to explain why that might be so far-fetched, seeing as how Mr. Urban is a fellow countryman of Ms. Kidman’s.

Moiself: “Well, he’s Australian…”
Belle, interrupting: “Like that makes make it any better?”

 

*   *   *

May being Australian always make it better;
May you embrace conclusions based on evidence; even so…
May you never have to rely upon a banana to tell time;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Including his defending the “mild pedophilia” (physical and sexual abuse) he experienced at boarding school, and his combative and provocative social media comments .

[2] And I obviously will.

[3] see: Green RevolutionW

[4] Or maybe you’re not afraid of dining with my relatives?

[5] Research shows this commonly used fungicide can penetrate apple peels.

[6] This is contingent upon having surgery for something relatively minor, ala wisdom teeth removal.

[7] This one makes sense to me, and probably was not the non sequitur the nurses thought it to be: Belle has prepped stuffed and mounted a grizzly bear head in her work as a docent for her college’s natural history museum.

[8] I likely sparked that comment by mentioning that Seth Meyers was hosting the Golden Globe Awards show.

[9] She’s a Biology major.

[10] Mine vegan, but still….

The Hat I’m Not Talking Through

Comments Off on The Hat I’m Not Talking Through

Why doesn’t my washing machine have a spam cycle?

My email’s spam cycle – if there be one, arrrrrrr [1] – is difficult for me to discern.  Not so long ago, days and even weeks would go by with but one to four messages in my spam file.  The last three weeks I’ve been greeted with sixteen or more when I log on. And the content has changed. I never thought I’d be nostalgic for requests from fraudulent Nigerian bankers and Enlarge Your Manhood peddlers, ah, but now I yearn for those simpler times.

It seems the Tea Party’s mental health committee and/or conspiracy theorists have taken over the e-waves. I don’t know what else would explain the fact that so many of my e-spams have a common theme of social media paranoia.  Someone has been talking about YOU, the messages proclaim.

OHNOO

“The public knows the truth about you. Bad Things From Your Past Have Been Posted Online. Is what they say you did really true?  Swift action is necessary if you don’t want EVERYONE you know seeing this awful information, r(___@______) ! [2]

Yesterday evening, a new favorite spam enticement caught my eye: Why are all these celebrities eating this fruit?

It did pique my curiosity, but not in the way the sender likely intended. Instead of following the link to the miracle fruit product (I assume) they were hawking I did a search for “celebrities eating fruit.”  Of all the images the search produced, this was my favorite.

can you name the celebrity armpit that looks like fruit?

which celebrity is…uh…anticipating licking her fruity armpit?

*   *   *

horn tooting

Shameless self promotion, the continuing series

“Porches have a way of evoking early memory — connections that linger, sounds and images of the moon, dream-lit faces, lightning bugs, voices, and song.  Porches, a place where people gather with relatives, friends, and lovers to party, protest, shell peas, knit, play cards, talk and disclose secrets…where stories collect and unfold.”
(Maureen A. Sherbondy, Editor, Voices from the Porch).

My short story “Requiem” is being included in the anthology, Voices from the Porch, to be published by Main Street Rag. The anthology is available for advance ordering .

BookPorchesAnth

*   *   *

MH, Belle and I will be attending the upcoming FFRF Convention in the organization’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.  As always, those wacky Freethinkers have scheduled a variety of thought-provoking, riveting and crazy-ass hilarious speakers, including Savage Love advice columnist, author, and It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage, and SNL veteran comedian/actor/author/playwright Julia Sweeney .

Last year the convention was held in Portland, which was great fun and oh-so-convenient for us. One of the 2012 convention highlights was keynote speaker Richard Dawkins. The distinguished professor, author, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion appeared to accept the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. [3]

In his acceptance speech (titled, “On Mormons & Metaphors“), Dawkins had a jolly good time informing an American audience, prior to our 2012 presidential election, about the misuse of metaphors in religious and political language, and why politicians’ religious beliefs should be up for discussion, just as are their views on economic theory and foreign policy.

Emperor

The US Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That’s very different, Dawkins noted, from saying voters should ignore candidates’ beliefs when deciding who to vote for:

“I wish that presidential debates were more gloves off when it comes to the religious beliefs of candidates.  Why does Mr. Obama limit himself to criticizing Mr. Romney’s taxation policy, medical policy, foreign policy and so on? Why does he ignore the elephant in the room, which is that his opponent is capable of holding beliefs which, in England, we call barking mad, and here, you might call batshit crazy.”

Dawkins then listed an amazingly brief summary (considering the subject) of some of the absurdities of Mormon “revelation:”

* – Joseph Smith, whom Mormons revere as the prophet/founder of their faith, said he was guided by an angel to dig up some golden plates upon which were written characters of an ancient language which Smith called “reformed Egyptian” (a language unknown to any linguists or archaeologists, by the way)

* – Smith placed a “seer stone” in a hat, buried his face in the hat, looked at the stone and translated the Egyptian scripture that he said appeared in the stone; [4]

* – Smith’s oral translations were written down by a scribe, who was seated behind a curtain so he couldn’t see what Smith was doing….[5]

“Everything about the Book of Mormon reeks of fake.  Joseph Smith was an obvious charlatan. [6] That’s not an interesting fact in itself. There have been numerous charlatans down the ages. The point is that Mitt Romney, candidate for the job of most powerful man in the world, with his finger on the nuclear button, is a gullible fool who believes Joseph Smith.” 

I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence.”

"Ollie Ollie oxen free!"

“Ollie Ollie oxen free!”

Of course, others  have pointed out that almost all political candidates profess religions which have more ancient origins than Mormonism – religions that also make absurd claims that do not stand up to the scrutiny of logic, reason, or science. Due to the numbing effects of familiarity, these religions don’t always come under the same scrutiny. Isn’t, for example, Obama’s Christianity just as ridiculous?

True.  However….

You can argue that the Hebrew and Christian bibles, the Quran, the Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, can get something of a pass in that they are Iron Age writings and teaching that have been passed on for historical and cultural as well as religious reasons. There was no discipline of science to investigate the claims nor investigative  journalism to report the goings-on when those ancient tales were collected.  And then, there is the matter of Dawkins doubting the authenticity of Obama’s public religion:

“I think there’s an excellent chance that Mr. Obama is not a Christian….. But in any case, the fact that he professes Christianity means absolutely nothing. He’s an elected American politician. And if you are an elected American politician, that has to mean that you pretend to be religious. There’s no other way about it. [7] So that doesn’t really mean anything. 

“But I think the evidence shows actually Romney does believe it. He was a Mormon bishop. There are records of his excommunicating people. He excommunicated a woman because she left the Mormon Church…. And it’s really much more recently that he, I think really rather obnoxiously, posthumously baptized his atheist father-in-law. If he were professing religion for reasons purely of political expediency, instead of saying he’s a Mormon, couldn’t he say he sort of believes in spirituality or something vague like that? I think it’s pretty clear Romney is a definitely strong-believing Mormon…” 

romney_mormon_underwear

“Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient. The language of its alleged translation is ludicrously anachronistic  [8] . It contains absurdities, scientifically demonstrable absurdities, about the origin of Native Americans,  [9] about people of African descent. [10] “ 

“It’s an absurd piece of work. A man who seriously believes it, it seems to me, cannot be trusted to have the sort of acumen, the sort of critical mind that you need in a leader of a great country….”

“For many Americans, the sticking point is whether the candidate keeps his religion separate from his politics. This was the Kennedy defense, [11] and it has a lot going for it. But I actually want to go further. I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence…. 

“Maybe people here wish to argue the case that if religious beliefs or disbeliefs, about the stork theory or whatever, are private, we have no business intruding upon them. I’m offering my alternative view, which is that we don’t only want to know what the candidate’s policies are, we want to know whether he has the kind of mind that you can trust to take reliable decisions under difficult circumstances.”

imagine the even sillier religious teachings that could have come, had Joseph Smith translated this hat.

imagine the even sillier religious teachings that could have come, had Joseph Smith translated this hat.

It was a thought- and discussion-provoking speech; you can read the transcript on the FFRF site. I’m afraid you’ll have to use your own hat for translations.

Until next week, let us all meditate upon the progression of humankind….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Talk Like a Pirate Day flashback. Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry.

[2] (my name and email, usually misspelled)

[3] The award is reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and “tell it like it is”—about religion.

[4] The idiomatic “talking through your hat”  (which linguist say arose ca. 1880) means to speak utter nonsense.

[5] Before any of this happened, Smith had built up a track record as a psychic diviner of buried treasure. He claimed to be able to see underground, to see treasure by talking through his ass looking through –  you guessed it – that amazing hat of his.

[6] And was convicted of fraud in 1826 in a suit brought by a treasure-seeker he’d swindled.

[7] When Rep. Pete Stark “came out” as atheist, Woody Kaplan (Secular Coalition of America) interviewed 60 “likely suspects” in Congress and got 20 to admit – only if Kaplan promised total anonymity – that they were also atheists or non-religious. US politicians feel they cannot be truthful about their beliefs because, unlike the rest of the developed world, the non-religious are viewed as unelectable.

[8] Mark Twain’s many unflattering opinions on Mormonism (“Evidently one of the least difficult things in the world, to-day, is to humbug the human race.”) and  the BOM include: “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.”

[9] Mitochondrial DNA lines show that Native Americans are of Asian extraction.  The BOM teaches that American “Indians” are descendants of Jews who migrated to America from Israel before the birth of Christ, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a large, ark-like ship. No shit.

[10] Blacks were the cursed descendants of and bore the “mark of Cain” as a punishment for their failures in the pre-existence. Dark skin was a sign of the curse, lighter skin a sign of god’s favor.

[11] While running for President JFK assured the Catholic-phobia American public that he would not be taking orders from the Pope:  “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute….”