Wrong Said Fred

It’s hard to believe that someone can imbue an eleven-paragraph essay with the quantity of ignorance that this asstard has. Hopefully he’s just raving for effect, something near and dear to me. But his convictions seem genuine.

I hate it when frigslappers refer to the “church” of evolution, spuriously likening an enormous number of well-established scientific facts to the blind faith and ludicrous nonsense inherent in creationist claims.

“If Pennsylvania wants to mention Creationism, or to require three years of French for graduation, it seems mightily to me that these things are the business of parents in Pennslyvania.”

Leaving aside the fact that one backwater town, not “Pennsylvania” as a whole, is involved in this skirmish: Facts are not subjective, something too many people refuse to accept or even understand. Science classes are simply not forums for the expression of any and all ideas. Those classses exist, so no one is being cheated if what’s taught in biology courses is limited to naturalistic material. But everyone is cheated if faith-based idiocy takes root.

The reason the courts get involved in these matters is simple — we’re a nation of abject morons that increasingly deserves to be carved out of the planet and fired in the general direction of Altair (which, come to think of it, would mark the Rapture and therefore make lots of fundies happy).

What if Pennsylvania wants to teach its students scientific “facts” about ghosts, the healing power of magnets, or the divine origin of natural disasters? What if they allow a vote in Georgia or Alabama as to whether re-segregating schools, or just lynching blacks outright, might be a good idea? What if Texas wants to make football mandatory for every male over the age of four? Lots of people believe in the utility of such shit; this is their birthright as Americans, but shepherding it into public schools is a different matter.

“I do not object to the content of Evolutionism. Some, all, or part of it may be correct.”

Good deal. How generous of someone who’s clearly and proudly a fifth-degree bumpkin to say that something 99.9% of scientists support might be correct. What makes objects tend to fall from the sky to the ground? Might it be gravity, or does the earth just suck?

Fred, like most Americans, can’t even distingush between abiogenesis and evolution:

“…an entertaining way to study the politics is to ask the Evolutionists questions that a scientist would answer…They are simple. (1) Has the chance occurrence of life been demonstrated in the laboratory? Yes or no. (2) Do we really know, as distinct from guess, hope, or imagine, of what the primeval seas consisted? Yes or no. (3) Do we know, as distinct from guess, pray, wave our arms, and hold our breath and turn blue, what seas would be needed for the chance formation of life? Yes or no. (4) Can we show mathematically, without crafted and unsupportable assumptions, that the formation of life would be probable in any soup whatever? Yes or no.

“…Of the Knights Templar of Evolution, none—not one—answered the foregoing yes-or-no questions. They ducked. They dodged. They waxed wroth. They called names.”

Evolution doesn’t touch the primordial seas or the chance occurence of life. Much remains to be discovered about the origin of life, but what’s known about evolution is as incontrovertibly true as anything can get. He doesn’t know fuck from phinola.

Victory by the good guys in the Dover trial seems all but assured, but what has recently happened in Kansas is a travesty. They should evacuate everyone with an IQ over 75 (which would only require two or three full-size school buses) and then nuke the goddamned place. (Admittedly, places like Oklahoma and Nebraska would probably not favor such a thing.)

Actually, the whole country is fast becoming a waste of space. Slack-faced, ponderous booger-eaters whacking their Bibles with one hand and dialing out for an XXXL pizza pie with the other. Again, they should be able to do exactly this and more if they like, but it’s not pretty to watch. Europeans — scientists and otherwise — are caught between titillation and horror when hearing about this ID garbage, to say nothing of our collective corpulence.

Other than these trivial things, two thumbs up to Fred’s essay.

The rhetorical Eephus pitch

I am sometimes asked — indirectly, in the form of angry outbursts from wounded parties — why I am so strident in criticizing the failures of religion. To hear believers tell it, as in this fine example (see the comments), they are all for hearing views from the god-free camp — as long as such views are not dismissive, straightforward, strongly worded, categorical or otherwise couched in such a way as to get their central message across without confusion. In other words, it’s okay to criticize faith as long as it comes off as something other than criticism.

I am obviously among those who believe that faith in the supernatural ought to be treated just as irreverently as any other idea grounded in high-grade horseshit, e.g., “psychic” consultants, astrology, fad diets and so on. That most people in America are religious to some extent doesn’t cow me, because it doesn’t take, well, a genius to grok that most people in the U.S. are stupid in one and usually numerous realms, usually in concert with their own particular “failures” (obesity, poverty, insecurity, and so on). I am among these unfortunates, as frequent lapses in judgment have established, but if nothing else I happen to have escaped the religious byrus.

Apart from this, however, I have an ulterior motive in being especially aggressive when it comes to taking on the assertions of the faithful. Part of the reason I do this is because I know that even if I begin gently, in accordance with the tacit demands of believers, I’ll ultimately wind up stating things in increasingly strong fashion until I reach the point of offensiveness I’m presently accused of adopting from the outset. In other words, I’m sparing everyone the preliminary dancing around. But my chief reason for acting this way is because doing so, in theory at least, puts the faithful in the seemingly strategic position of having a powerful motive for refuting my serves.

It doesn’t take a philosophy background to understand that the best way to defuse an opponent in debate is to prove his assertions false. Yet all I ever hear from goddists is that I’m intolerant, or pompous, or overly wordy, or operating on blind faith of a perversely religious variety — usually some combination of the above. As for why I am supposedly wrong, I’ve never heard the slightest focused argument. I occasionally hear appeals to “authority” such as the Pope, baldly relativistic nonsense about godlessness being just another fundamentalist religion, and, amusingly, figures about the prevalence of belief, as if a mass, institutionalized delusion compensates for the inanity of the whole charade.

In baseball, there’s a phenomenon known as an Eephus pitch. (I saw it demonstrated by Yankees reliever George Frazier back in the 1980’s during a post-season lost cause.) The Wikipedia background is here, but know that the basic idea is that this is a pitch that by all appearances is an easy target for batters, yet repeatedly stymies its victims. This is how I see challenges to religious doctrine. Give them something that provides every imaginable reason for shredding its originator, and the invariable result is that its recipients can only stammer, yammer and fumblefuck in circles. It wouldn’t even be considered a fair fight were it not for religion’s unfortunate stronghold on American politics.

Is the effectiveness of the rhetorical Eephus pitch telling? Well, only if you remain on the fence or unconvinced of the things I typically write. To me such hollow forms of backlash are entirely predictable, because people who have nothing to back up their belief systems other than belief itself have no forensic option other than complaining of their opponents’ tactics or personalities. Overbearing as I may seem, and overwrought as my writing may be, this isn’t the point; I could shed these qualities and become a wishy-washy, semiliterate religious skeptic instead, and if I did you can bet your ass I’d be criticized on the basis of these shortcomings instead of indicted for verbosity or recalcitrance. Ad hominems, of course, are all the faithful have. Well, that and the inevitable proposition that goddism is exempt from the ordinary burdens of evidence and demonstrable support because, well, that’s how God set things up: the unyielding value of observation, data, mutability and testability on this side, and blind, crass dogma on the other. He’s a tricky character, after all.

All this means is that goddists have every imaginable motive for putting people like me in their place. Yet they don’t. They withdraw from arguments on the basis of their opponents’ alleged uneducability, bitterness, and lack of proper exposure to the real side(s) of [insert religion], or occasionally feing disinterest even after days of back-and-forthing, but that’s pretty much the end of it. No in-your-face challenges of substance, no palpable reasons for why godless folks should just keep their “opinions” (which are no more worthy, supposedly, than those of blind goddies) to themselves. Just generalized retorts.

This is not surprising, given what it is believers are blindly and sadly representing. But it’s instructive from the standpoint of human psychology, as it demonstrates — not for the general good — that a mind selectively deprived of critical thinking properties at an early developmental stage remains irreversibly crippled throughout the lifetime of its owner.

Religious people don’t like me painting them in this light. This is understandable, and they’d surely feel this way even if they could somehow become cognizant of their own de facto lobotomies. But I don’t care, because for my part I don’t like the extreme ramifications of their non-surgical lobotomies, manifested to the discordant tunes of ID creationism, homophobia, opposition to useful medical procedures, and endemic embracing of fucktardation in every imaginable guise. If someone can explain to me the benefits of these solecisms I’m all for learning new things. The point isn’t that all believers embrace any or all of these nasties, but that without the pervasiveness of “faith” such things would recede in terms of incidence and impact. I may be asking the impossible, but remain an idealist anyway.

I look forward to people continuing to take their swings at challenges to shittery. Somehow, I’m not especially worried that I happen to not have brought a glove along, or that in fact there’s no catcher behind the plate. I know a three-pitch, the-whiffs situation when I see one.

The throaty cry of the Black Knight

Many Americans who believe in a Creator do so quietly, harboring as much scorn for their outspoken “leaders” as do the militant atheists allegedly taking over the nation. But the most visible and yammerprone Christians rail incessantly about the leftist American media’s failure to properly represent them, and as usual they’re campaigning against a phantom adversary. Today, finding media outlets supportive of one’s political stance, however paranoid or ramshackle, is not difficult; the Christian world view is scarcely a marginal matter, and every misshapen brainchild of the religious right’s singularly rancid collective consciousness is duly cast squarely into the mainstream.

For all their complaining, Christians prone to agitating for patently theocratic aims have done well for themselves in painting those decrying their bigotry and underhandedness as inimical to humankind. Any writer or philosopher who takes aim at religious superstition (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris jump to mind) is tagged intolerant; anyone who does it serially is called an “enemy of God.”

Even other skeptics often miss the point, which is never that faith in the supernatural itself — while inherently nonsensical — is necessarily destructive, but that faith used to leverage or justify gross political or social misconduct is a vile enemy in every imaginable dimension, because its proponents can justify virtually any solecism, burst of idiocy, or abomination on the basis of an unseen, powerful approbator. Americans forget this far too easily and at a time when it is especially dangerous to do so.

Presently, in the whole kingdom of vile and violent religions, Islamic fundamentalism, with its atrocities toward women, its continual parade of suicide bombings and its anti-Western orientation occupies the throne. But Christians, though less prone these days to outright bloodletting owing more to cultural circumstances than to an intrinsically more humanitarian or useful assortment of beliefs, exhibit no smaller degree of outright lunacy than do Koran warpers and literalists.

Like ultra-high-fidelity malware wrought of a diseased engineering revolution — the tour de Republican force’s astoundingly mindless 21st-century bullshit campaign — the sizable moron arm of America, which enjoys a near-complete overlap with its most ardently religious demographic, lays the blame for every one of its real and imagined ills at the feet of The Liberals. Despite the fact that Republican Party carries both houses of an unusually redneck-laden Congress in addition to occupying the Oval Office, despite the Plame and DeLay and FEMA scandals and the public revulsion to God-fearing conservatives insinuating themselves in full vainglory into the Terri Schaivo mess, these hapless, nonthinking, nonseeing haters of The Liberals believe that this strawman enemy, not reality, is to blame.

Why? For one essential reason: The Liberals won’t roll over and allow Christianity to have its artless, grunting way with schools, with private sex lives, with public policy from A to Zed. Committed Christians are quite literally unable to see what it is that they’re demanding, or that their demands conflict not only with constitutional law but with the most permissive of logical frameworks, and are devoid of anything resembling a “love they neighbor” bearing.

A corollary to this is the moron battalion’s steadfastly unawareness of the impotence of its own arguments. Its members unfailingly cast forth the gleeful fantasy that they have trounced the opposition even as they nominally choke on the shit sandwich that has just been rammed down their ululating throats. This illusion is easier to maintain in online media, where it is common practice to simply ignore items that damage, inconvenience or dismantle thoroughly any coherent points the morons may have tried to advance.

All of this brings to mind a memorable scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, wherein King Arthur, upon being denied passage over a bridge by the Black Knight, systematically dismembers his adversary with his sword, leaving the Black Knight first hopping on two legs, then one, and finally rendering him a bleeding, sputtering torso. Throughout the “battle,” the Black Knight maintains, loosing at the confrontation’s terminus a triumphant cry: “I’M IN-VINNNNNNNNNCIBLE!”

Remember, the important thing here isn’t that the Black Knight has been sliced to bits. It’s that he believes he has won. Any great satirist recognizes that the human capacity for self-deception is indispensable to his trade, and the creators of the Python cinematic series are no exception. And Christian “horsemen” — in arguing fervently against evolution, against non-Christian religious adherents, against “Nigers,” against liberals, and fundamentally against enlightenment, education, and palpable truth — have this one element on their side: conviction. Conviction breeds effort, and this assures that no matter how extraordinarily fuckheaded or odious or oppositional a given Christian cause becomes, they will stand solidly behind it, throwing into and behind it as much money and votes and force and they can. It’s the kind of wide-scale bullying that occasionally raises doubts about whether reality and truth will always prevail in the end, at least stateside, where history is seemingly on the side of the cognizant and the collected.

I’ll delve into specific examples later.

On the subjectivity of truth: part 3 of 3

So much for hand-wringing and pointed examples. The scary part? Regardless of the subject matter, to the terminally committed, beliefs that are sufficiently widespread and charged with enough demagoguery do indeed take on the relevance, importance, and power of truth. This might not matter if elected officials were above this grisly trend, but if anything they are especially susceptible, at least under the catastrophically backward ethos of the Bush administration. A superb example is Cheri Yecke, Florida’s brand-new K-through-12 education chancellor and an established shitwit who was ousted from a similar post in Minnesota, allegedly owing to a Democratic vendetta. Yecke, the latest in a long line of rowdily inept politicos from afar — such as the now-exiled Jerry Regier — who have staggered into the warm, welcoming arms of Florida Gov. Jebediah Bush, exemplifies the sort of state-sanctioned backwardness that has become de rigueur in recent years.

Yecke is a creationist who claims that her personal beliefs will not influence her policy decisions in Florida. Leaving aside the fact that a creationist is indisputably unfit for the post Yecke now holds, she’s left a clear trail of creationist machinations in her wake. If it’s not her personal beliefs that have driven her attempts to soak all children in her bailiwick in creationist bullshit, then what? A thoughtful examination of the evidence? Accepted NCSE standards? Yecke clearly has no problem substituting beliefs for facts, and in her case such tomfuckery carries dire implications for an already benighted state.

Now this is really disappointing to me. It doesn’t bother me that people believe in insensible, contradictory things if it makes them feel better and doesn’t interfere in the lives of others. However, there’s no such thing as a growing movement that keeps its collective idiocy to itself. And the more their solecistic chattering peppers airwaves, newspapers and the Internet, the more validity their quests appear to hold and the louder they squawk.

The motives of the belligerently incorrect are clear, but has this sort of thing always been so, well, okay? Is is a matter of the blogosphere giving voice to misguided opinions formerly limited to inane reveries and conversations with one or two kindred spirits? Is there a solution?

Eliminating bad beliefs would be helpful, but this is not feasible; it’s not difficult to suggest reasons for why they persist, so a better strategy is to simply treat them with all the “respect” (something their proponents claim, a priori, such befuddled histrionics require) they’ve earned. That is, mock them to the edge of the earth. No amount of iterating and re-iterating how howlingly wombat-shit-stupid these ideas are is too much. If this means making an otherwise “good person” not capable of viewing the world sensibly feel bad, tough shit. A rabid dog isn’t morally responsible for its destructive behavior either, but if it attacks you, you’re still obligated to beat it down.

At its core this issue is really very simple. I have no quarrel with Christians, fat people or joggers, or, for that matter, people who enjoy wanking to photos of syphilitic cartoon mules with strong NRA ties. But it rankled me when people squander their brains at the clear expense of the general ebb and flow of society. There’s enough calamity in the world without mixing in bullshit that cannot fairly be called, as some would have it, a “healthy exchange of ideas.” If your Christianity has you yelping inanely about what I should do with my penis, uterus, or petri dish and rushing to the courts in an effort to ensure that your archaic, senseless views are imposed upon others, then I’ll tell you you’re diseased and if I discover your blog I’ll litter it with incendiary rhetoric.

The most troubling thing for you is that I’ll be right. The most disturbing thing to me is that I’m outnumbered by decerebrates.

This is no call for a world devoid of fantasy, a universe populated exclusively by soulless, Spocklike organisms whose only purpose is the bland execution of rational acts. I’m as creative as the next person you’ll meet. Hell, I even enjoy making up words as I go along, rather like a Shakespeare without one one-thousandth of the skill or notoriety, but thrice the facility with profanity. I merely think that people should confine their lies to purely self-serving motives, as with philanderers aiming to keep suspicious spouses at bay or moneygrubbers on the run from the SEC or the IRS. No one needs to be fed bulshit about the natural world. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to take a turn at being correct, with the dullards among us being disproportionately but rightfully deprived of their chance to shine. Assigning equal value to every idea is intellectual welfare, which is inarguably bad policy.

I’m also weary of the people screaming about the inherent lack of morals and values in the god-free mind. That’s perhaps the biggest crock of shit of all. Atheists understand all to well how dear our time on Earth is, and are more troubled by the sheer unfairness of the deaths and ruination of innocent life than are the faithful because they do not self-indulgently place such goings-on in the context of sin and an inscrutable (yet certainly caring) deity whose morality — despite, of course, his very human distaste for homosexuality, atheists, and uppity women — is “unknowable to us.” More than anything alse, I’m just grateful no one tried pumping my head full of this bullshit when I was young. Better to be beaten regularly with a big-buckled belt.

Most people who believe in a divine creator aren’t fundagelical yammerbags, and most overweight people aren’t self-deluding haters of everything they’re not or fails to support their agenda. But the increasingly equivocal use of terms like opinion and the perceived interchangeability of words like evidence, thought, and faith and observation, belief and assertion does not bode well for anything or anyone, anywhere. The world has undergone considerable reformation throughout human history, but hiding from the truth has, I am sure, never proven fruitful or progressive.

On the subjectivity of truth: part 2 of 3

While religion may be the most prominent locus of shameless bullshit producton and dissemination, it’s not the only significant one. (That religious fervor has parallels in other wishful-thinking realms is instructive from the standpoint of viewing a belief in a conscious deity as nothing more than an easily rationalized outcropping of human psychology, but just try to get the afflicted to appreciate this view.)

We now live in a culture in which a mindlessly passionate subset of overweight people — whose numbers in the U.S. are swelling as quickly as bloatfolks’ individual waistlines — can, motivated by insecurity, rage and denial, sincerely dismiss the numerous well-established health risks of obesity as propaganda churned out by a murky, profiteering cabal comprising Big Pharma, the $40-billion-a-year weight-loss industry, and medical doctors themselves. Never mind that researchers were warning of the health risks of being fat long before opportunists such as Weight Watchers cropped up; set aside also the fact that, as a cardiologist friend of mine notes, “If I were really interested in just my wallet and not in my patients’ health, I’d not only tell them to get even fatter, I’d put cigarette vending machines in my waiting room.” But this kind of thinking doesn’t wash with fat activists, whose credo is all too famailiar: When a group of people is unhappy with their circumstances and cannot change either them or themselves, their best strategy is to simply shift the goalposts. Silly? Not in a culture in which it’s increasingly kosher to substitute sheer noise for knowledge.

Strident people of size do not comprehend what a colossal non sequitur it is to go from “Fat people are objects of unnecessary ridicule” to “it’s perfectly fine, health-wise, to be fat, even when the chief causes are inactivity and a junk-laden diet.” A glance at their bloggery demonstrates that they are not pro-fat so much as they are anti-everything else, including overweight people with the temerity to drop tonnage. As with ID creationism, all it takes is one or two glib spokespeople to serve as patron saints for a given cause — and obesity has a pair in author and crank extraordinaire Paul Campos, whose “debunking” of obesity’s medical implications has been rejected by scientists from coast to coast, and food-industry shill Sandy Szwarc; both know just enough to be dangerous — and that’s all those embracing a given chunk of mottled, moldering bullshit need. (Campos agitates for his cause against a pair of Harvard obesity researchers and rabble-rousing king Michael Fumento here.)

Fat people who have long struggled to lose weight and are well aware of society’s often harsh or at best bemused treatment of them are naturally going to lean toward a world view in which the problem isn’t obesity but everyone else’s rigid insistence on thinness. So the hand-wave and eye-closing techniques of dismissing evidence have become ever more popular, while angry law professors and portly shut-ins have managed, in their minds at least, to elevate their analytical acumen and medical insight to that of MDs and PhDs on the faculty of the world’s pre-eminent research universities.

The parallels here with the attacks on the work of investigators with doctorates in the biological sciences by “creation scientists” are striking and undeniable. There is nothing conventionally religious at stake here, but you’d never know it.

In a more sociologically localized vein, a great example of far-flung bullshit in distance running is the well-known “run-walk” method by which undertrained citizens strive to complete 26.2-mile marathons. There is certainly no mark in using this no-hurry strategy — most often credited to former American elite athlete Jeff Galloway — but only through egregious leaps of poor reasoning can one conclude that something sufficient to get people to the finish line in one piece is also the most efficient. Galloway, whose efforts have helped fill both marathon fields around the country and his own pockets, has at times been drawn into discussions in which he oversteps the boundaries of his so-called philosophy and finds himself unable to support his more avant-garde claims with anything culled from exercise physiology; at times, it seems he cannot even do basic math. Yet those free of other reference points who complete marathons thanks to this “method” are immediately numbered among his most ardent defenders. He does look more than a little like Jesus these days.

Of course, it’s not just right-wingers that close their eyes to truth if favor of the allure of queered notions of cosmic fairness. A fine example, this one also running-related, is the railing against the idea that certain East African peoples possess inborn traits that, on average, make them more talented distance runners. Beating the same equine carcasses over and over has its advantages, because I can quote myself:

…it’s helpful to keep in mind that people who refuse to acknowledge that innate differences in certain capabilities between people of different ethnicities exist harbor precisely the same intractable mindset as Bible inerrantists who refuse to acknowledge the lunacy of, among other things, embracing the fable of Noah’s Ark — to say nothing of the rest of the Book of Genesis — as an actual historical event. (Interestingly, the same people who would freely acknowledge the morphological differences between Northern Europeans, East Africans, and West Africans — after all, they really have no choice — bristle at the radical idea that some of these differences might translate into greater physical potential in certain sporting realms.) As with Bible literalists, facts do not sway practitoners of the liberal religion; if anything, their introduction into such discussions is regarded as an annoyance if not an outright attack. So it’s pointless for a realist to argue with them if the goal is to convince them of the validity of his position or the frailty of theirs; at best, the realist may amuse himself, and at worst he may grow frustrated. That is, the parallels between hardcore Christianity and the increasingly manifest liberal surrogate are nearly complete.

Finger-waggling social-science types make all sorts of noise about correlation not being causation and the unforgiviable but evils of slavery, but regardless of what we’ll one day discover about genetics and distance running vis-a-vis ethnicity, none of what they say ever applies. Like the hyper-religious, these screeching liberals are more concerned with what appears to be desirable (in thier view, that every ethnic group is on a genetic even keel in every possible way; to say otherwise opens doors to nastiness) with what is simply true.

On the subjectivity of truth: part 1 of 3

“There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate government action.”

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

— Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

In decades of yore, strategic, full-scale public deception was seemingly the sole purview of politicians, outright crooks, and a comparatively small number of shady businesspeople. Today, as science inexorably pushes back the limitations of technology and the number of available cable television channels expands like Courtney Love’s rap sheet, North America has become so overrun with lies and deception that the inevitable has happened: Absolute bullshit — as long as it placates someone or makes him rich — is afforded the same treatment as plain truth in almost every sphere of existence. Penn & Teller have parlayed this stain on modernity into an amusing program on Showtime, but even exposés like theirs fail to address the implications of the bullshit epidemic in general, global terms.

Most often, this brand of dishonesty takes the form of individuals quietly fooling themselves in an effort to allay the discomfiting ache of cognitive dissonance. Such maneuvers are sufficiently commonplace to have engendered snippets of charming idiomatic bullshit, e.g., “money isn’t everything,” “true beauty is on the inside,” “the meek shall inherit the earth,” and “everything happens for a [divine] reason.” Not that all of these are entirely frivolous, but it is useful to examine the circumstances and hence the rationale of those most often heard uttering such axioms.

Then there are the lucrative enterprises that feed this tendency: purveyors of penis-enlargement pills, abdominizer machines, get-rich-quick pyramid schemes, and similar hokum shown on television in the wee hours or distributed in unsolicited e-mails. But a shot of spam or an infomershill is a one-sided stream of blather, and owing to the media though which these niceties propagate, even the most unsupportable claims by definition can and do gush forth unchallenged. Even if 99 out of 100 viewers immediately smell the bullshit, the one holdout, if he bites and buys, provides enough cash flow to keep the offending company in the black. In fact, bullshitters of this variety, because they are rarely pressed directly regarding the alleged merits of their products, make no overt appeals to faux honesty. That is, unlike, say, warmongering government leaders, they don’t lie about their lies and are really outside the scope of this diatribe.

More fascinating — and pertinent — are the people who, in an open dialogue, can simply flat-out ignore facts even when essentially pinned down and forced to eat them. Many arguments do in fact address complex issues and not-easily-answered questions, but in the online circles in which I travel, disputes far more often occur between emotion-fueled and shallow-minded reactionaries on the one hand and their equally strident but fact-touting counterparts on the other. This may sound arrogant, overly simplistic, or both, but it’s true. The faith-based opinion that humans were created in a flash of heavenly magic is simply not as rationally useful as the evidence for natural selection and descent with modification. The private ends achieved by those who champion the supernatural have no worldly value.

Such stubborn assaults on facts by the proud emissaries of cherished beliefs provide an archetype of the sort of excoriating set-tos that have spilled into every cranny of daily life and consume both individuals’ time and energy and public resources (e.g., taxes used to fight objectively worthless lawsuits). The evolution versus intelligent-design creationism “debate” is a glaring example of how the power of widespread, lusty and giddily blind desire coupled with political and financial motives can propel an idea with no epistemical merit conceived by and for backwater zealots fearful of science (and of an honest education in general) into the mainstream, and, if they have their way, into the science curricula of American public schools. What with the way things are going in Kitzmiller v. Dover, it’s not looking like the creationists are going to score a legal victory anytime soon. But they’ve managed in fine fashion to convince a lot of previously disengaged Americans that evolution really is fraught with controversy, deception and gross uncertainties, and that incredulity over matters of complexity which are in fact both predicted and explained by biological models is a reasonable substitute for investigation and thought. I’m not sure how many people really do believe in a young Earth or a six-day creation, or in the sort of haphazardly evil and mentally compromised deity as exists in the Christian Bible. But whatever the number, it’s too many, and it’s not just the bumpkins holed up in trailers in future sites of hurricane or tornado wreckage.

Of course, religious wars — both those involving one sect versus another and those pitting believers against “secularists” both within and outside of workaday science — have been going on for aeons, and in a world in which successive generations are successfully inoculated with God despite mounting evidence that the Bible is not only really, really wrong, but way fucking really really wrong, they’re not about to stop; despite the categorical failures of an untold number of insane prophecies to be realized, chief among them the return of Christ himself, we really can’t prove that Christians have it wrong. That’s reason enough for all but a handful of them to toss out facts that are inconvenient while inventing or modifying others to suit. No one should be surprised when scientists and scientifically erudite persons become fed up with the incessant stream of anti-intellectual garbage spewing from fundamentalist mouths and into the pages of mainstream publications, which have never met controversies — legitimate or shitimate — they couldn’t sell.

Everything but a proboscis

In case you’re wondering what’s waiting in the shadows for America’s schoolchildren should the teaching of vapid non-theories such as Intelligent Design creationism be allowed in public schools, look no further than creationevidence.org. The progressives behind this operation have set up a special section for Web-savvy kids, featuring a trio of wall-eyed young scholars and a dinosaur named Muncher.

Standard disclaimer: This is not a parody site.

Note the typical references to “evolutionists” and their wrongful ways, along with a sketch of an addled Darwin with a halo of question marks around his head. That’s right — get ’em while they’re young. Ironically, the pressures of natural selection themselves are responsible for the extreme psychological plasticity of young ‘uns, who in almost all cases stand to benefit greatly from believing exactly what their parents tell or otherwise convey to them. In many cases, their very survival depends on such trust (“Don’t eat that nightshade ‘shroom; don’t feed the lions”), but of course religion — coupling as it does fear of retribution for not believing with a perverse promise of “salvation” in return for faith — fully exploits the same quality in a most reprehensible way.

It’s no wonder Bible-boppers indoctrinated at a tender age grow up viewing scientists not only as errant but as strictly adversarial. When I was learning the basics about dinosaurs and archaeology as a five- and six-year-old, and later as a schoolkid digesting the standard tenets of the life sciences as fed to me by the Concord School District, my parents and teachers never prefaced any of their lessons with defensive-minded innuendo such as “Despite the claims of creationists…” or “Fundies in their infinite loopiness are often heard to say…” Of course, they didn’t have to, and still shouldn’t. But with an already choked court system now forced to deal with the implacable backwardness of American fundagelicals in Dover, Pa. (you can follow the goings-on in that case here), Kansas, Cobb County, Ga., Utah, and elsewhere, a certain amount of battling incendiary palaver with inflammable retorts has seemingly become necessary. Politeness and simply waiting for the “obvious” truth to prevail has never worked, and with Christian extremists ever more emboldened under a galactically benighted President, it’s even less effective today.

It’s heartening that the ID folks appear to be getting their asses handed to them in Harrisburg; they’ve simply left too obvious a trail over the years that they’re nothing more than creationists under a flimsy guise, and thanks to the 1987 SCOTUS ruling barring creationism from American schoolrooms, this will likely kill them in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case regardless of what else is presented therein. The discouraging aspect is knowing that these misguided sentinels of God’s will are never going to give up. Swatting a dozen mosquitoes to death never discouraged hordes more from piling out of the wet underbrush and onto tender skin, and these clowns, driven by even baser appetites, are scarcely different.