Skepchick Quickies 4.5

Jen is off saving the world from a plague of psychic anti-vaxxer hamsters, so I’m filling in for today.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I’m not a faerie in real life, but I do play one in Second Life.

    Trust me: us faeries are on Elton’s side. You can take my word for it.

    Nobody listens to those Mayan faeries anymore anyway. They’re always so standoffish in their hot jungles, never wanting to go out and play. I wouldn’t worry about them.

  2. The catholic church is just about as bat-shit crazy as it can get now. They never stopped being evil – they just stopped being potent. Now they practice their evil on more helpless victims.

    Also, I am so tired of religious nut jobs telling me that atheism is a religion, and that we “secretly” know god exists and rules the world, we just want to rebel!

    On the other hand, killing the whole world with hooch is the next best thing to a zombie apocalypse!

  3. “It’s about our determination as human beings to have our own way, to make our own rules, to live our own lives, unfettered by the rule of God and the right of God to rule over us,” [Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen] said.

    He makes it sound like we just want to do whatever we want, therefore we reject God, but our reasoning is the opposite. Once you accept that no gods exist, the natural consequence is that you’re not going to be controlled by the dictates of a Bronze Age mythological being.

    “What we’re really seeing, once more [is] an example of the contest between human beings and God over who rules the world.”

    Actually, what we’re seeing is a contest between people who want to construct a society based on empiricism and rationality, and people who who want to construct a society based their faith in the dictates of primitive, ancient people.

    “Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships – all promoted by state-imposed atheism,” he said.

    This guy can’t come up with anything new, can he? The foundation of most atheists’ / secular humanists’ worldview is empiricism, rationality and skepticism — qualities that were/are severely lacking under Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Potism, and North Korea. Despots have never ruled by being too open and self-critical. They silence opposition the way the Church traditionally did. With respect to how we use our minds and make decisions, Nazism, Stalinism, etc., have always been closer to authoritarian religion that to atheism / secular humanism / skepticism.

    Stalin being an atheist says nothing about how the vast majority of atheists want to construct society, just as Hitler being a vegetarian says nothing about how most vegetarians want to construct society.

  4. Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen:

    “What we’re really seeing, once more [is] an example of the contest between human beings and this imaginary dude in the sky over who rules the world.”

    There. Fixed it for you.

  5. The story of the near extinction of us all by gene modified bacteria seemed a bit too scary to be true. Now cracked.com isn’t my number one source for reliable science information, but this one had sources! A quick search though shows that there are lots of sites making the same claim with the same sources, a few sites with fairly damning attacks on those sources, and no follow-up research to back up the doomsday scenario.

    Here are a few cites for those looking for reassurance:

  6. I try not to gloat when christian leaders say something stupid. I mean, I see atheists write stupid stuff every day, and don’t want to have to defend their stupidity. So I won’t be using it to argue against religion any time soon, but I can’t but hope the bad press helps “our side” a little.

  7. Wow! As a secular jew, atheist and Elton John fan, I was personally offended by at least three of these articles. And the last one horrified me.


  8. “Pol Pot-ery”

    The angry bishop-man made a punny!

    Is that like when your kid makes you a nice clay ashtray in art class, gives it to you, causes a household rebellion, and forces you to work under harsh conditions in a collective farm?

    Cuz it sounds totally like that to me.

  9. I don’t know. On one hand, claiming the faeries are upset about an Elton John concert is a bit on the crazy side. On the other, I might concoct some kind of crazy story too to keep Elton John from playing in my town. :~P

    As another secular jew, I’m mildly put off by the atheism attacks but only mildly given how transparently silly it is. I find the whole comparing criticism for child-abuse to anti-semitism thing utterly offensive – that makes sense only if you postulate the either the acts of child-abuse aren’t real or that the anti-semitist propaganda used against the jews was (and is) factually accurate.
    (Not to mention the irony of the whole “anti-semitism” whine is coming from an organization that until fairly recently held the jewish people as a whole guilty of deicide…)

  10. Just as alchemists with lead poisoning are apt to draw dumb-ass conclusions about chemistry; theologians with irrational fabricated views of reality and human motivations are more likely to come to dumb ass conclusions and say dumb-ass things when called to account for protecting fucking child rapists!

  11. Is it just me, or does it seem like its come into fashion if you are on the losing side of an issue to liken your struggle to that of WWII Jews?

    I mean, it makes perfect sences, being on the business end of an egomaniacally’s genocide is just like being argued at by facts and figures. You can’t tell one from the other.

  12. Chichen Itza “is no scenery for an artist to show off…

    I was at Chichen Itza about four months ago – you cannot walk between the ruins without passing dozens of tables of artists pushing souvenirs on you. The same souvenir / touristy stuff you can buy just about anywhere. We visited three different sets of Mayan ruins (Chichen Itza, Tulum and Uxmal) and Chichen Itza was the *only one* that allowed sovenir sales right beside the ruins.

  13. So, reading the article about the churches slamming atheists on good friday – why (and this is an actual question) am I getting the clearest picture of an old guy on a mountain trying to ward off an oncoming glacier?

  14. When will people stop calling atheism a religion? It’s such an intellectually lazy claim, and it’s patently false, so please, Peter Jensen, stop saying it.

  15. @Gabrielbrawley: You are not.

    Despite how often Christian apologists try to argue that Adolf Hitler is an example of the evil caused by atheism and secularism, the truth is that Hitler often proclaimed his own Christianity, how much he valued Christianity, how important Christianity was to his life, and even how much he was personally inspired by Jesus – his ‘Lord and Savior.’

    Most Christians (in the US) seem to be completely unaware of the degree to which Christians in Germany threw their support behind Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. If they did, they might be less likely to pretend that the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis can be traced to atheism or secularism.

    I could go on.

  16. @Garrison22: True, true. I’ve encountered it on numerous occasions. It goes something like…

    “Well, those Germans who supported Hitler were not *real* Christians…blah, blah, blah.”

    My answer: “Okay, if it makes you feel better, dear. But the Jews still control the banks and Hollywood, right?

    “Oh, of course.”


  17. I blogged about the bogus analogy of criticizing the Catholic Church hierarchy for its unacceptable response to pedophile priests and Antisemitism too.


    I see it as narcissistic injury. The Catholic Church Hierarchy has had their self-image so damaged by the legitimate criticism of their criminal negligence that they do feel as if they had been the victims of a Blood Libel. Unfortunately for them, legitimate criticism for actual bad behavior is not actually comparable to the false Blood Libel against the Jews that the Catholic Church was responsible for.

    The Catholic Church is a zero-sum social power hierarchy. At the top is God, then the Pope, then the Cardinals, then the Bishops, and so on. A given level is only answerable to those higher in the hierarchy. Advancement in the hierarchy only occurs by moving someone else down, or out (as in by dying).

    The whole point of the hierarchy is to move up the ladder and get more social power. The purpose of some of the prohibitions, like sex before marriage, is to move people who do it down the ladder. That was what the Blood Libel against the Jews was for, to instill hatred, so the Jews would be moved down the ladder enough that they no longer register as human and so can be killed or mistreated at will with no consequences to someone higher than them in the ladder.

  18. The biotech company very probably didn’t almost kill the world. The doomsday scenario requires that the engineered bacteria out compete their wild counterparts. The wild bacteria are very highly optimised – the chances that a version with some extra human-added genes would do better is very low.

    The problem of turning waste plant matter into ethanol is very hard, even when we have full control over the process in vats, with carefully checked bacterial strains to ensure they haven’t mutated in an undesired way. What are the chances that it would keep working in an uncontrolled way in the wild?

    If producing alcohol did give a big advantage to these bacteria, chances are they’d have figured it out themselves by now.

    I’m not an expert in this field, but I have some background in evolutionary studies. I have only read the Cracked article, not the sources. I am not advocating lax standards on releasing GE bacteria into the wild.

  19. Gabrielbrawley: Actually hard to say how much Hitler believed in christianity and how much he just played the part for political reasons. I’ve even heard he planned to replace christianity with worship of himself.

    And don’t forget he was very into alot of pagan beliefs, and believed in a time when the aryans ruled pre-christian europe.

  20. @Filias Cupio: Just a couple points. The GE wouldn’t have to outcompete the wild bacteria, just do as well. The question is how the bacteria spread to new plants.

    As to the bacteria evolving alcohol production on their own, they may not have been able too. Naturally occuring evolution is constrained by the genes that are present.

    Idealy, the bacteria would evolve to a form that wouldn’t produce enough alcohol to kill the plants, as that would kill the bacteria also. But how long would that take? And how much damage would have occured in the meantime?

  21. Gabrielbrawley: Actually hard to say how much Hitler believed in christianity and how much he just played the part for political reasons. I’ve even heard he planned to replace christianity with worship of himself.

    And don’t forget he was very into alot of pagan beliefs, and believed in a time when the aryans ruled pre-christian europe.”

    Regardless…the people running the camps were mostly Christian.

  22. @Filias Cupio: “What are the chances that it would keep working in an uncontrolled way in the wild?” – I guess that’s the million dollar question. The article doesn’t really talk about the real risk, just that in a “realistic” scenario the plants died. Also, It’s on cracked.com so yes, it’s a bit sensational for the entertainment value. I’m going to have to check out the references (thanks Bjornar)

  23. About the apocalyptic bacteria. Would they spread very rapidly? I mean if they´re so deadly, wouldn´t they just die out with the plant population as they killed them?

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