Thursday, January 21, 2016

Don't Fool Yourself. Anyone Can Be a Racist.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to other races."  Seems pretty clear and easy to understand.  And using this definition, everyone and anyone can be a racist.  People with light-skin, people with dark skin, people in between.  Everyone and anyone.

This has been the definition of racism for centuries.

As time has gone on, however, people active in the Social Justice communities began to reject this definition.  Instead, they have put forth a new definition.  The traditional, long-held definition of racism was relabeled "prejudice", and racism was redefined as "prejudice + power."  Now, on the surface this new definition does make sense, as it does explain broader societal examples of racism.  But problems arise from the fact that most people who began with the idea that "racism = prejudice + power" have come to conclude that this ultimately means "only white people can be racist."  And some of the people who came to this conclusion were scholars who supposedly know better than that.

Over the last several years, I've read a lot of so-called "scholarly works" that are based on this assumption, and they all suffer the same problem:  circular reasoning.  They begin with the assumption they seek to prove -- only white people can be racist because only white people have power -- and then go on to manipulate the definition of "power" so that people who aren't white cannot ever be considered to have any.

Power, that is.

I'll give you a for instance.

In order to deny that even the most wealthy and politically connected black people in the US have any power, and thus could, conceivably, fall under the "racism = prejudice + power" definition, the people manipulating the definitions argue that, since white people established the system within which the wealthy, connected black people operate, its actually the white people and not the wealthy, connected black people who really have the power.  Thus, white people can be racist, but no black person can.

Not only is this completely contrary to common sense, but this automatic linking of "power" to "white people" is a flawed idea almost by definition.  Sure, admittedly the history and current state of white supremacy and white privilege should not be ignored, but we simply cannot and must not ignore inter-minority relations as either being powerless or as originating from the white power structure.  This is especially true when we talk about foreign countries.  Although it is true that the world is now linked in a complex web of influence and power, there was in fact a time not too long ago when there were entire continents of people who were not influenced by white society.  Non-white people were -- and still are -- at the helm of power in such countries.

Furthermore, while white people might have more power than minorities in the United States, its not like there aren't any non-white people in positions of power.  If I might point out the obvious, but as I write this, there is a black man in the Oval Office.  There are three members of the US Supreme Court (one third their total number) who are ethnic minorities.  Twenty percent of the US House of Representatives are minorities, while eighteen percent of the US Senate are minorities.  Roughly one fifth of all Fortune 500 CEOs are minorities.

So the idea that only white people can have power, and thus only white people can be racist, is simply false.

Let's look at it intelligently, shall we?  If we rightfully assume that racism is a bad thing, then we should ask ourselves this basic question:  which is worse.  a poor white homeless man living in a cardboard box and eating out of dumpsters, who hates non-whites, or the multi-millionaire black chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security with connections to big business, the press, and other politicians, who hates non-blacks?

If we accept "racism = prejudice + power" as true, then naturally will have to say that the white farmer has less power than the black congressman.  Except that's bullshit according to the SJWs.

By arguing that minorities have no power with which to be racist, we forget instances in which minorities clearly do have power.  I am called to mind an article I recently read about the Roe v. Wade decision which began with the line "So these nine white men walk into a courtroom."  The nine white men in question being the nine justices of the US Supreme Court who made the Roe v. Wade decision.  Except -- and this is important, I think -- wasn't one of the "nine white guys" who made that decision Thurgood Marshall?  And wasn't Thurgood Marshall a black man?

Clearly, the writer of the article has bought into the idea that only white people have ever been in positions of power to the point that the real and important achievements of non-white people are being lost in the political rhetoric.  We shouldn't ever forget the struggles that minorities have gone through to achieve equality in this country, but at the same time, we shouldn't be overlooking their important contributions, either, especially if we forget in the name of maintaining the propaganda narrative.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is Evolution Satanic?

One of the basic arguments made by creationists is that evolution is a Satanic viewpoint, created by the Devil to deceive people into abandoning Jesus. Organized science, therefore, is nothing more than an atheistic, anti-Christian cult who -- through evil intent or na├»ve ignorance -- are dedicated to doing the work of Satan by spreading “evolutionism” and destroying decent Christian values.

The creationists are actually quite open about this belief, and will freely assert that evolutionary theory -- even so-called “theistic evolution” in which God is the planner and driving force behind the evolution of the various species -- is the work of Satan.

To quote the Reverend Doctor Henry Morris, “Behind both groups of evolutionists one can discern the malignant influence of ‘that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world’.”

These same people assert that the reason why the modern scientific community spreads the teaching of evolution is not because it has literal mountains of evidence behind it, or because its the best explanation of how species arrive, but rather because they -- the scientists that is -- are atheistic agents of Satan. John Morris, a “creation scientist” at the Institute for Creation Research -- a religious organization that doesn’t actually do much research to be honest -- flatly states that “most scientists reject God.” Creationist Jerry Bergman writes that, “The atheist belief structure is the norm for science. The fact is that the majority of leading evolutionists are atheists, or at best non-theists for whom God is irrelevant.” Henry Morris asserts, “Modern evolutionary astronomers and cosmologists have ruled out the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient God as creator of the universe” and concludes that evolutionary theory can only be accepted “if one categorically dismisses the existence of an eternal God.” Creationists have referred to science fiction giant -- and great scientific mind -- Isaac Asimov as “the atheist Asimov”, and repeatedly assert that astronomer Carl Sagan was “blind to the abundant evidence of God.”

In the mind of a creationist, every area of modern society is permeated with this Satanic conspiracy. Every area. Take, for example, Henry Morris’s opinion regarding Hollywood:

“That old Dragon called Satan had invaded Paradise and God had cast him out into the earth, where he continues to this day leading men and women to rebel against God and His word. ‘Paradise’ is translated directly from the Greek, which in turn was taken from the Hebrew word ‘pardec’, meaning park. Thus, it is no coincidence that Hollywood’s leading atheist producer, Steven Spielberg, chose to fill his “Jurassic Park” with a bestiary of revived dinosaurs. Once again, the serpent is loose in Paradise.”

Apparently, the existence and success of “Jurassic Park” is proof positive that Steven Spielberg is just another part of the International Satanic Evolutionary Conspiracy. Last I heard, Steven Spielberg is a practicing Jew who actually believed in God in addition to believing in evolution. Funny how that works.

The creationist notion that they are the victims of some vast Satanic conspiracy simply cannot be taken seriously. These people attempt to paint their viewpoint as the only Christian viewpoint, implying both that their theological interpretations are representative of Christianity as a whole, and that their interpretations are the only rational view on the subject, while all other viewpoints are the work of Satan.

Neither of these assertions are true.

The fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis followed by the majority of creationists are, in fact, a tiny minority within Christianity as a whole. Every mainstream Christian denomination flatly dismiss the idea that evolution is the work of the Devil. This was amply demonstrated during the Arkansas “Balanced Treatment” trial. All but two of the plaintiffs were representatives of mainstream religious organizations and churches, including the American Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Bishops of the Unite Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and African Methodist Episcopal churches, the head of the Arkansas Prebyterian Church, and individual clergy from the Southern Baptist church. One of the witnesses who testified against “creation science” was a Catholic priest who held a PhD in genetics as well as theology.

How do creationsts respond to the fact that nearly every mainstream religious organization in the United States rejects their theological viewpoint concerning evolution? By claiming that these religious organizations are themselves just another part of the Satanic conspiracy.

Can you think of anything more ridiculous than the idea that the various scientists -- in league with non-fundamentalist religious denominations and film director Steven Spielberg -- are engaged in a vast conspiracy to silence “the truth” that the Devil is actually behind evolution?

The very idea is the product of paranoid insanity. I’m serious. If this is what you really think, you are utterly insane.

Let's Take a Look at Noah's Flood

According to the Book of Genesis, the global flood took place when Noah was 600 years old. Now, if you assume, as the Christians do, that the world was created in 4004 BCE, this would place the flood at about 2400 BCE, give or take a decade or two. In other words, right about the same time that the pyramids were being constructed on the plains of Giza. In other places around the world, the dynastic civil war was settling just which one of four brothers would be king of the Akkadians in Mesopotamia, the first Great Kingdom was forming up to rule what would later be known as Korea, and the city of Lothal was being founded in India.

Lots of things happening, in other words. And in -- well, in wherever the Noah story was supposed to be taking place, the entire world got covered with water as it rained for forty days and forty nights.

I’ve always found it hilarious that the Christians claim the entire world was drowned under water, but the Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Chinese, Koreans, Olmecs, Celts and so on were all going about their business without noticing that they were supposed to be drowning under mountains and mountains of rainwater. You’d think they could hardly have missed such a thing, but apparently, they did.

Historical records from all those other civilizations show that at no time were their civilizations suddenly wiped off the face of the map by a global flood, or a slow repopulation afterward. Nowhere in the world is there any evidence of such an event. Not archeological evidence, not geological evidence, not historical evidence. Nothing indicates that a flood wiped out the world and drowned all the people on it except one eight-person family.

But “no evidence it ever happened” is only one of the multitudinous reasons to not think the flood of Noah, as described in the Book of Genesis, is actually true. Take, for instance, the problem of the boat itself. The Bible describes Noah’s Ark as being “300 cubits by 50 cubits by 40 cubits,” which translates to approximately 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet tall. Were this for real, the ark was four times as large as the largest wooden ship built by any civilization in the history of the world, and certainly out-sizes any other ship built by any other ancient civilization that existed during the second millennium BCE.

The stresses navigating the open ocean place on large wooden ships were severe, and the larger the ship, the greater the stresses. There is a reason why the ships built by Bronze Age civilizations were much smaller than those built by post-Dark Age civilizations. To be blunt, the technical advances later civilizations developed to enable a large wooden ship to survive ocean travel just did not exist in the Bronze Age.

In point of fact, no ship the size and weight that we are discussing was known to have been built and successfully sailed until the year 1900 CE. These ships, built as I note in 1900, were nine-masted schooners some 300-feet long (150 feet shorter than the ark). They were so long they visibly undulated with waves and required large diagonal braces made of steel -- a substance unheard of in 2400 BCE, a time when bronze was the new big thing when it came to metal -- to keep it from breaking in half. And even with these reinforcements, the stress regularly caused gaps in the ship’s hull; these schooners would leak like sieves and required constant bailing with automated pumps that ran -- quite literally -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And even with all this, these overs-sized schooners were never taken out of sight of land, because if taken out onto the open sea they’d be battered to pieces by oceanic waves. They were used for coastal traffic only.

The fact that these large transport ships had so many problems was one reason why the world’s navies turned to steel ships during the last years of the 19th Century and the years prior to World War I. And this was only 116 years ago, as I write this on January 17, 2016, folks.

Think about it. We’re supposed to believe that a ship 4000 years ahead of its time was built by Noah -- a man who was not a nautical engineer but a shepherd and farmer -- and survived the open seas during a catastrophic, raging flood. We’re supposed to believe that this 600-year old farmer solved engineering problems, all by himself and without the use of modern metallurgy, construction techniques, or physics knowledge, that every navy in the world could not manage to beat 4000 years later. And then, after the flood, the knowledge of how to build these super-ships was apparently forgotten because no other ship of this type would be built, ever.

So that’s the lack of evidence and the implausibility of the ship itself. Let’s consider the live cargo of the ark for just a moment. If we accept the most generous version of the Noah story, Noah was commanded by God to carry seven of every “clean” animal and two of every “unclean” animal on the ark along with himself and his family. But there was only so much space within the hull of the boat, and if you look at the list of known animal species, even restricting it to just two -- much less seven -- means that the boat would be carrying an awful lot of animals. (And it just gets worse if -- as logic dictates we do -- we include not just the animals that exist today but every species of animal known to have gone extinct between 2400 BCE and present day.) Its obvious that even in a boat with some 1,518,750 cubic feet of space (450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet tall, remember) the ark would simply not have enough space for all the animals.

Some creationists have gotten around this by arguing that Noah didn’t take two (or seven) of every species, but rather seven (or two) of every “kind.” And, they argue, after the flood the “kinds” would then vary and produce all the new species we see today.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they say. Let me quote from The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb: “For all practical purposes, one could say that, at the outside, there was need for no more than 35,000 individual vertebrate animals on the ark. The total number of so-called species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians listed in Mayr is 17,600, but undoubtably the number of original kinds was less than this.” (The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications, Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, p.69)

Thus, according to creationists, Noah didn’t have to make room for a pair of lions, a pair of tigers, a pair of leopards -- and so on -- on his boat. All he needed was one pair of a “cat kind” and things would be fine. (For now, we’ll ignore all the problems regarding the subject of “kinds.” I’ve got an entire other essay in the works on that subject.)

There are multiple problems with the creationist view. For example, its often assumed that aquatic animals like otters and seals and dolphins -- being aquatic -- wouldn’t be endangered by the flood since, you know, aquatic! Thus, they wouldn't need space on the ark. Unfortunately, if enough fresh water were to fall on the earth to cover it past the top of the tallest mountains, the salt-content of the oceans would be so diluted that no marine organism, be it fish, plant, mammal, or bird, would be able to live in it. Very few salt water animals can survive fresh water. Such creatures swell up, suffer tissue damage, and die when forced to abide in fresh water for two long.

“No problem,” say creationists. “The fountains of the deep must have sprewed sufficient salt to keep the salinity high enough for marine animals to survive.”

That just reverses the problem, though. Fresh water animals that have to abide in salt water dehydrate and die as the fresh water is leeched from their tissues by the salinity differential. Some creationists have tried to have it both ways by arguing that there were pockets of fresh water and pockets of salt water that were somehow kept from intermixing. How this took place while the churning flood waters were utterly destroying the surface of the earth is something creationists never explain. Whitcomb and Morris speculated that, “All fish must be adaptable to at least a certain range of salinities”, but don’t actually provide any evidence that this is so, or even give examples of what sort of fish qualify.

In any case, anyone with a home aquarium and no qualms about slaughtering your fish can disprove this nonsense. Just add a cupful of salt to your freshwater tank -- or a cupful of fresh water to your saltwater tank, whichever you have -- every morning in order to raise and lower the salinity. Then see what this does to your fish.

Anyway, back to the problem of space on the ark. Not only isn’t there enough room for the animals, there’s also the problem of food for each of these beasts and for Noah’s family. Large herbivores -- elephants, for example -- eat about 350 pounds of vegetable matter a day. Large carnivores -- tigers, for example -- eat about 75 pounds of meat per day. In addition to storage space, the food has to be kept fresh and edible for over a year -- and remember, modern refrigeration technology is the product of the late 19th Century. Naturally creationists have no explanation for these problems.

They also can’t explain what the animals ate after the flood. According to the creationists, there were two “cat kind” animals, two “antelope kinds”, and so on. Presumably, the cats got really, really hungry while on the boat, to the point that its entirely conceivable that the first thing they did when they got off the damned thing was immediately pounce on the antelopes and chow down. Thus, antelope kind would have ended in 2400 BCE, and we wouldn’t have gazelles, sprinkboks, oryxes, and so on today.

Now, its possible that the cats didn’t eat the antelopes, but rather ate the antelopes offspring. Okay, that’s a good thought. That would have taken care of the cats for about a week. Then what? Unless we were to assume that antelopes had a baby a week for a year, we have to assume that the cats -- and for the purposes of this argument, we’ll ignore the wolves, the wolverines, and the other predators -- either ate all the antelopes within the first day or else starved to death. And the same goes for the snake kind, the frog kind, the anteater kind, the owl kind, and so on. Obviously, creationists know little to nothing about the relationship between predators and prey.

Since they cannot admit the entire story of the flood is implausible, they have to try and present some explanation. And they do. They present the same old explanation they use for everything.

“God did it.”