A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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God’s Protection or Selective Memory Loss?

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

The Miami Herald asks, “Is God protecting Fla. at Gov. Crist’s request?”

According to the story, Crist claims he’s sent little prayer post-its to the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year since his election, and lo and behold, no hurricanes have hit Florida since! Is this proof of the power of prayer?

Hardly.

First, Crist actually says that his first note went to the special holy wall in 2007. Florida’s last major hurricane strike came in 2005. How does he explain 2006’s lack of major strikes? Was it just a coincidental off year (or was the request retroactive)? Yeah, ponder that a moment before buying into this purported cause and effect of prayer/no hurricanes.

Second, let’s look at what the governor actually sent on his little indulgence requests and match it to reality. In his own words, he’s sent the exact same note every year, and it reads, “Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie.”

Ok, so Charlie didn’t exactly ask for “no major hurricane strikes”, did he? No, he begged relief “from storms and other difficulties”. Is that what happened? Not exactly.

More below the fold.

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Donna Hughes and the War Against Whores

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

What do anti-sex crusaders and the sellers of creationist bullshit have in common?

I mean besides quotemining, deliberate conflation, obfuscation, and general disregard for reality. Well it turns out they’re both examples of scum sucking dirtbags.

Look, two academics squaring off against other academics, including one who HAS been an actual supporter of sex workers, and one who does listen to what we have to say, over what, you might ask? Prostitution in Rhode Island.

Read the rest at Renegade Evolution, because I don’t even want to repeat the fucking dishonest, disgusting, filthy garbage that Donna Hughes put out. I just don’t have the stomach to print that pile of shit, so read it at Ren’s.

Dear Moderate Christian

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Dear Moderate Christian,

I’d like to take a moment to address some of your remarks about how the tactics of “New Atheists” are just too uncivil. I appreciate that you’d like to have a quiet, intellectual conversation regarding the current state of  religion in America, and the marginalization of those of us who don’t believe there is an invisible zombie who lives in the sky. I understand that you’d like me to respect your beliefs, and not shine too much light on their ridiculousness. I applaud your geniality in this matter. It’s refreshing, after so many years of listening to your representatives demeaning and demonizing pretty much everyone who doesn’t bend their neck and genuflect to them. A polite, intellectual conversation about religion in America sounds perfectly lovely.

But at this point in time, I have to say

(What I have to say continues below the fold)

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The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim

The Unlikely Disciple

The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose

In the very unlikely event you haven’t heard me squawking about it all over the universe, I’ve got a book review up at Carnal Nation.

“The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim” is my review of Kevin Roose’s Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.

An excerpt from my review:

Inspired by a research trip to Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, Brown University sophomore Kevin Roose, raised a liberal Quaker, decided he wanted to know what it was like to live in the world of the fundamentalist Christian. Rather than do his research from the outside, Roose took the extreme measure of going undercover and transferred to Liberty University for a semester. He lived in the dorm, attended the classes, and immersed himself in the student subculture. His research trip takes place in the Spring semester of 2007, and he was there during the shootings at Virginia Tech, and there for the death of Falwell himself. Roose even managed to finagle a one-on-one interview with Falwell for the school paper, just a handful of days before Falwell’s fatal heart attack. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University is his story of that semester.

When Chris Hall first asked me to review Unlikely Disciple for Carnal Nation, I was ecstatic. I’d heard about it and read a few short reviews before then, and was anxious to read it myself. I never suspected that by page fifty I’d be slogging to the bathroom with the dry heaves every few pages, wishing I’d never heard of this book. Roose’s account has given me just a glimpse of what trigger warnings are all about.

Read the rest at Carnal Nation.

Carnival of the Liberals, Number 91 – Eine kleine Nachtlesung

Carnival of the Liberals, Thinking Liberally

Carnival of the Liberals, Thinking Liberally

Following Quiche Moraine is a monumental and intimidating task. The collaboration of writers they have over there is a top notch, first rate bunch of folks. I’ll do the best I can to fill their shoes, rather than wind up the mess on the bottom.

Let’s start with a little humor, move through some more serious stuff, and see if I can send you off to your bed with a liberal dose of sex that will have the NeoCons pulling out their hair, and you pulling out… something more interesting.

Pointing out the bizarre nature of Republican logic is often an excursion into the ridiculous, but it’s rarely been as toe tappingly funny as The “We Did Nothing Wrong & Nancy Should Have Stopped Us” song. Now you see why Kane is quite Mad.

And Kilroy_60 seems to have discovered an important clue as to why. Send in the Clowns? They’re Already Here. Boy, does that explain a lot.

Johnny Pez has uncovered the Secret Hope In Time that the Republicans have been waiting for. Turns out they have an ace in the hole. Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, they’re going to get direction from their glorious past, and all they have to do is wait Inside the Time Vault.

(The rest of this edition of CotL lies below the fold.)

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A Brief History of Moonbats

Lou FCD

Lou FCD headshot by Ben Zvan

Last Thursday evening was a pleasant one. It was mild and welcoming, a good night for a drive to Wilmington. I had been by the University of North Carolina campus there, but hadn’t yet been to visit. I’ve been meaning to head down there to look around for a while now, as that’s where I intend to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. The reason for this trip was mildly ironic given my intentions, as my son James and I were headed there to hear an anti-science advocate speak.

Dr. Michael Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He’s also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a well known creationist think tank whose purpose is to disguise religious doctrine as science in order to avoid the Constitutional ban on promoting religion in public schools. It was Behe that we were heading down to see.

Along the hour and a half drive, I gave my son the highlights of the full history of the Intelligent Design Creationism Hoax, parts of which he’s heard before. (Bear in mind here that I was driving, and not working from notes. I’ll be filling in details as I go that he didn’t get during our conversation.) I began with some background on the history of scientific discoveries in biology since Linnaeus. Carolus Linnaeus was Swedish doctor, a botanist, and a zoologist, who set about categorizing life’s varied forms in his long-evolving work, “Systema Naturae”, first published in 1735.

I touched on William Paley’s rehashing of Cicero’s water clock, and the the obvious logical flaw contained therein. In On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero’s character Balbus, a fictional follower of Plato, posited that because a sundial or a water clock has an obvious purpose, we can then infer that it was designed by some intelligence. Balbus went on to argue that because of the complexity of nature, we can therefore infer that the universe is also designed by some intelligence. Balbus concluded that the universe itself was divine, or possibly that the universe had a divine spirit, a sort of mono/pantheism (Collins 187 – 193). Paley bastardized the assertion in 1802, altering the water clock to a watch, and the deity in question to the Christian god (Paley 5 – 13). He failed however to remove the glaring logical flaw that we only perceive complexity in contrast to simplicity, the watch on the background of the heath. One cannot then use the complexity of the watch to argue for the complexity of the heath without undermining the original argument that the watch is itself complex and inherently different from the heath. This was important for what was to come, and I was later quite glad I had taken the time (we had plenty on the ride) to discuss it with James.

(continue reading below the fold)

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