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Project Steve
Entered on: June 16, 2004 10:41 AM by Ross
A few days ago I mentioned that I joined the National Center for Science Education out of frustration for Illinois' poor handling of biology education. So I was recently perusing their site, and I was reminded of Project Steve, a parody they're doing of this list of "scientists" that creationists have who claim to not "believe in" evolution. They use these tactics to try to impress ignorant school boards, to advance their cause in the classroom. Most of the "scientists" on the list aren't even in fields like biology, anthropology, etc. So what Project Steve does is assemble a list of PhDs and MDs who are all named Steve, who firmly "believe in" evolution and denounce creationism and "intelligent design." How many scientist, only named Steve have they gotten? About 5 times the number of people with any name, the creationists can find.

Also, it turns out that I know one of the Steves on the list; he was a friend of mine when I lived in Maryland. He now teaches at the University of Utah.

He is joined by many other highly reputable scientists on the list, including physicists Steven Hawking and Steven Weinberg.

NEWS 198 - 21 Comments
From: Ross Entered on: September 14, 2004 9:54 AM
Check this out, I found this on the church of critical thinking, pretty controversial for a comic strip:

If you feel like reading his take on it, click here.

From: Ross Entered on: October 5, 2004 12:24 PM
I'm not going to give any context for this guy's blog entry. Just read it if you have time, it's very entertaining:
A sampling of the author's wit:  
"Yet despite similar mockery and exasperation among true biologists, the idea of "creation science" persists owing to the sheer number of idiots who regard the Bible as a factual text and the Book of Genesis as an accurate historical account. Although alchemy fell by the wayside long ago, "scientists" claiming to have effected transubstantiation in a laboratory setting would surely be given more credence -- however transient -- than research chemists touting a new technique for synthesizing sweet crude oil from chewed bubble gum and llama spit even though these two scenarios are equally implausible."
From: Ross Entered on: October 5, 2004 1:15 PM
I feel the need to preach for a moment on the topic of religion, as I am often wont to do. Bear with me if you've heard this story already as I might throw in commentary that I didn't mention before:  
On Saturday, I attended the wedding of Heather's cousin David. He was marrying a girl of Irish descent, Vicki, and her family is Catholic, so this was a Catholic wedding.  
Never again.  
I have been to at least five Catholic weddings in my life, and three of them in the past couple of years. The ones from more recent times have left a decidedly nasty taste in my mouth. Not only are the ceremonies overly long, and well, cermonial, the priests always see fit to sermonize about the nature of marriage to us poor sheep. What I find particularly offensive about this is that he knows full well that this is not a gathering of his flock - there are bound to be plenty of attendees who are not Catholic, and dare I say, not even particularly religious. And yet he spouts his commentary on the nature of marriage - that it solely exists to glorify God, and that the result must be procreation, and that it's so obviously designed for one man and one woman, etc., etc. The idea that these are unquestionable truths are what grates on me most, not the fact that that's what he thinks.  
Furthermore, I was subjected to two explanations of the Holy Communion, for the benefit of "our non-Catholic friends." For those of us who don't know, True Catholics believe that when they put a small wafer of unleavened bread and a swig of wine in their mouths, it actually transforms (through a process called Transubstantiation) into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Wait, come again? You're telling the non-converted that one of the most important parts of your ritual is vampiric cannabalism? But that's exactly what it is. Lucky for us, nothing of the kind actually happens, as even a five-year-old could probably figure out.  
Even Heather's mother found it bit much and was guessing that I was having a hard time sitting through it. Was I ever: I almost left on three separate occasions. It would be like inviting over the religious to my house and giving them a lecture about utter nonsense that all us "believers" tend to find self-evident, when it runs counter to their sensibilities. I leave it to your imagination to come up with colorful scenarios.  
In any case, I'm done. I'm not going to another Catholic ceremony. If not for as long as I live, at least until the memory is so vague in my mind and the occasion is of such import that I would cause great damage by my absence.  
I told all this to my mom the other day while I was visiting in town, and she accused me of being "awfully intolerant." I countered that if religious people were to listen to an hour plus of my sermonizing on secular human values, most would undoubtedly storm out or not attend in the first place and no one would likely call them intolerant. Even so, she's right: it is intolerant. And you know what? I'm perfectly fine with that. Because I realized that even though we're taught in our society that "tolerance" equals "good", that's clearly also not true in every case. We don't tolerate murder, for instance. Now, I'm not conjecturing that religion = murder, but what I'm saying is that in my view, religion on the whole is a detriment to society. In all but the most lax sects, it advocates the suspension of reason at various times. At best, it wastes people's time with prayer and false hopes, but more importantly it sacrifices critical thinking and doesn't place the onus on humanity to solve humanity's problems. So no, I do not tolerate the advocacy of such notions. And I will not be a party to it, even insofar as attending cermonies that spout such garbage.  
When people spout the conventional wisdom that you should repect others' beliefs, they often fail to really think about the implications of what they're saying. Surely they don't mean respect EVERYTHING that all people believe. Lots of people believe in astrology, ghosts, speaking to the dead, etc, and most of us are perfectly fine with ridiculing them. And if you think about it, they're not REALLY even saying that you have to respect everyone's religious beliefs, either: suicide bombers do what they do in the name of their religious beliefs. In the US at least, no one thinks twice about calling those people bastards and saying that what they believe is false. When you frame it that way, you start to get an idea of how I think about ALL religions. I recognize that not all of them are as immediately threatening as the Taliban, but if you read your history you will see that anytime religion gets too powerful, you see horrific bloodshed and a complete suspension of reasoning across a populace. So I'm not making an apologies for my stance on this one. The way I reckon it, my odds of making any real difference by standing up against irrationality are slim. But even that slim chance is literally infinitely greater than the chance of changing things by staying silent.  
Don't let anyone accuse my mom of not being a good debater, though, because she then shifted to my choice of screening out only the Catholics. She herself was raised Catholic but in her older years choked a bit on the excessive dogma and has since moved closer toward a more deist outlook. However, I think she was giving them a bit more defense than they deserved. But it was a good question: why only Catholics? Well, the answer is both simple and impercise: Catholics tend to have the lengthiest and preachiest wedding cermonies in my experience. But couldn't some other group, say Baptists end up being just as offensive? Sure. Shouldn't it be all or nothing?  
The answer to this is interesting, as I've wrestled with this idea quite a bit in recent years. See, unlike the guy up on the pulpit telling you with certainty how it is, I do not have the luxury of knowing anything absolutely. I just don't always know the proper line to walk between celebrating the marriage of my friends and family and staying true to values that I hold very dearly when the two conflict. I have to make a judgement call and I can never be secure that I've made the right choice for the situation. So for now, this is the best I've come up with. I guess that if nothing else, I'll have to work on excuses for the times when I miss the wedding but show up at the reception. After all, as a godless heathen, I'm not above lying to serve the greater good.
From: Swerb Entered on: October 5, 2004 2:54 PM
You know, I've wrestled with similar feelings when attending what are essentially religious ceremonies - that even setting foot in a church is a compromise on my behalf. But I think there's a line of distinction to be drawn between Catholic weddings and others - not only are Catholic ceremonies long and tedious, but they're preachy. On the other hand, I recently attended an outdoor wedding that had some religious horseshit rhetoric about these two people being joined in the eyes of God, etc., and I found it silly (I rolled my eyes on a few occasions) but tolerable. In other words, I support your ban on attending Catholic weddings - a decision based on what is essentially a scientific process, having attended numerous weddings, finding "X" type of wedding more consistently offensive, and therefore reasoning that you won't attend any of that kind anymore. There's no way to predict ahead of time what the sermon will be like at other weddings, but that's the chance you take.  
I've been inspired to suggest what we should include in our wedding ceremonies: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the cold and empty vacuum of space to witness the union of two people following their biological destinies to a logical conclusion. Love is essentially a biochemical reaction that urges humans to procreate, and it's something that Heather and Ross are experiencing and celebrating on this day. They came together via a series of random occurrences, like two floating molecules bumping into each other, their alliance causing the release of energy..."
From: Ross Entered on: October 5, 2004 3:26 PM
From: The Bone Entered on: October 5, 2004 4:33 PM
Nice work fellas. A classic Bert Johnson rant - well written and entertaining as usual, followed by a neautiful piece of Swerb style prose. A welcome respite from the drudgery of a Tuesday morning.
From: Ross Entered on: October 6, 2004 2:45 PM
Anyone watch the debate last night?
Also, more seriously, Cheney really screwed up when he said that "" supports his defense of his behavior with Halliburton. First off, it's, and second, they don't exactly paint a rosy picture of the VP. Here's their critique of both candidates during the debate:
From: Ross Entered on: October 6, 2004 1:50 PM
More important political commentary from, by a woman who wrote an article I posted before as well. Everything she writes drips with incredible amounts of sense:

From: The Bone Entered on: October 6, 2004 4:56 PM
I listen to the last half of the debates on the radio. From what I could tell over the radio, both candidates did ok. I personally prefer both the vice presidential candidates to their presidential counterparts.  
I check this morning and was wondering why Cheney would site them as they seem to call out Bush/Cheney more than the Dems. I'm surpised Cheney hasn't had another heart attack yet.
From: BigFatty Entered on: October 7, 2004 9:57 AM
I hate Catholic weddings too, and choose not to attend them. Luckily most of my friends are married, so I don't worry so much. I used to ask what kind of cerimony it will be to prepare myself. I figure I can sacrifice an hour for the religious BS - if necessary. But, hell, I am there to celebrate their marriage, not participate in the ceremony, so I have no qualms showing up for the reception. If they are your friends, they can respect that. The only ones I HAD to go to were my buddy's. I was standing up in his catholic Bru-haha. But certain sacrifices you make for friends. Now for Heather's side - you have issues. She'll want you to be there with her - understandibly so. SO, you will have to work that shit out yourselves.........
From: The Bone Entered on: October 7, 2004 11:00 AM
My ceremony was acceptable because it was ministered by a Hawaian Kahuna. Unfortunately he was also a ordaned as some sort of non-demoninational Christian. It was at most 10 minutes long and 50 percent was in Hawaiian. It appeased the Hawaiian gods and also gave a shout out to the Christian myth as well. It worked out fine.
From: Ross Entered on: October 7, 2004 11:09 AM
Lucky for me, I have explained myself ad nauseum to her so she knows my position. And after that ceremony, the first thing out of my mouth was "never again." So she might not like it, but she's prepared for any eventuality of my non-attendance.  
And lucky for you, my wedding will be 100% secular as far as I know - there's always a small chance that our officiant will throw some bullshit in on his own but I've already told him we dont want it, and he doesn't seem like he is that way anyway.  
By the way, I just checked his site, check this out:

From: Creeko Entered on: October 7, 2004 11:32 AM
What's cool about Spain is that there's usually a bar next to the church, so those not interested in the the religous BS can kick back and wait while enjoying a frosty beverage until the newly-weds emerge from the church for the traditional pelting of the rice.  
Then everyone goes to get drunk and make a fool of themselves at the reception.
From: The Bone Entered on: October 7, 2004 1:13 PM
Is that your pad Bert? If so it's pretty sweet. If not, it's still a good pic of you and Heather.  
I'm all for the bar adjacent to the church. Secular or non, weddings are boring and I woulnd't mind passing the time with a cold frosty.
From: Ross Entered on: October 7, 2004 1:45 PM
It is indeed. Two of my friends that I've shown this to didn't even recognize it at first. It's a pretty sweet picture I guess. And that's one of my Sin City prints in the background, so it can't be anybody else's place. :)  
Note to self: have Heather hire a beer guy for during the ceremony...
From: Jackzilla Entered on: October 7, 2004 11:32 PM
Wow! That's some major TEXT up there, Bert!  
I have a question though: From your perspective, why get married? Why does an athiest want to get married? What is the advantage/point?
From: Ross Entered on: October 8, 2004 8:44 AM
Jack, are you asking me because you are actually confused and have no idea what I might say? To tell you the truth, I'm quite surprised you couldn't at least make a stab at what you would think my answer might be.  
It's primarily for legal reasons, of course - it makes raising children easier, for one. And if I die first, it makes it much easier for Heather to claim my assets, uncontested. And yes, if those reasons weren't enough, it would probably still be worth it just because it saves time having to explain to everybody in today's society (my future children included) why Heather and I AREN'T married.  
The point is that for many people there is a spiritual component and a governmental/legal component to marriage, and for nearly as many people (apparently yourself included), they make no distinction between the two. Obviously I reject the very concept of a spirit, and that leaves only the legal aspect.  
As to the next logical question of "why have a ceremony at all," I don't see how religion (or lack thereof) in any way affects the notion that Heather and I would want to publically proclaim our love for one another and our intention to spend our lives together.  
I could delve deeper into these issues, discussing my thoughts on monogamy, child-rearing, or the myth of marriage only being a sectarian institution, but I suspect you're not actually after anything more than the cursory overview I hope I have provided.
From: Jackzilla Entered on: October 8, 2004 10:56 AM
Bert - Thanks -- I guess I just wanted to hear your personal reasons for marriage. You say that you "reject the very concept of a spirit, and that leaves only the legal aspect" but I notice you also mention "our love for one another" as being a reason too. Fair enough.  
My reason for asking was just because everything I can remember hearing from you always pointed away from marriage (no spiritual reason, men are not naturally monogamous, etc etc) and it had me wondering.
From: Ross Entered on: October 8, 2004 11:51 AM
The legal reason is the primary one for me. The public proclamation is there, but it's more for her and our families' benefit and since it does me no harm philisophically or otherwise, I will go through with it. Many people would say that my reasoning is flawed but at the end of the day all such criticisms are based on traditional values or dogma that hold no favor with me.  
If society made it easy for Heather and I to raise children and take care of each other when old or disabled without being married, I'd be all for the status quo, to tell you the truth. If your question is whether I'm enamored with the concept of marriage, the answer is no. But that doesn't mean I oppose it, either. Given the fact that Heather, like most women, are very, very into weddings and that I plan to spend the rest of my life with her anyway, I see no problem with the formalized ceremony - just so long as it's on my own terms.
From: Swerb Entered on: October 9, 2004 10:01 AM
Bert, you and I feel exactly the same about marriage. I always used to say I'd never get married, because my dedication and commitment to my "life partner" has absolutely nothing to do with religion or the government - it's intrusion into my private life, as far as I was concerned. But I changed my tune because A) Like Heather, Stacy wants a wedding, and it's a compromise I'm willing to make; I essentially just see it as a celebration of our relationship in the company of friends and family, and 2) two words: insurance benefits.  
And no, "God" isn't invited to my wedding. If he existed, I'd tell him to go piss up a rope. Satan, however, may have a spot on the guest list.
From: Creeko Entered on: October 11, 2004 7:13 AM
I've been living in sin with my woman for 11 years. But now, after having a kid, I feel as though I have to get married for political reasons, which I guess can also be sold to those who want to think of it as a social marriage to appease their lack of understanding of why a couple doesn't want to get married.  
I haven't gotten married for some of the same reasons as Bert and Swerb stated above, but if I ever decided to leave Spain, being married would make it a whole lot easier to bring the wife and kid. Not to mention all the EU and Spanish benifits I'm not currently getting.  
Also for my daughter, if anything happened to Bea, her parents could get custody and I want to try to avoid that conflict.  


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