Monday, September 29, 2008

29 ’Elul 5768: ‘Erev Ro’sh hashShanah


Worthy cause of the day: “Protest Unfair Pay for Women”.

I would like to note that starting this evening is Ro’sh hashShanah, the Jewish new year (or rather one of them; we have four).  Ro’sh hashShanah is the beginning of the Ten Days of Repentance, during which we are judged by YHWH.  As is appropriate at this time, I would like to apologize to anyone out there against whom I have sinned in the past year.  I am human and thus have human faults, such as being irritable at times or being too quick to judge, and thus I must humbly request forgiveness for my failings and strive to do better in the coming year.  And recognizing that my fellow humans are also imperfect, I extend my forgiveness to anyone who has sinned against me.  There are plenty of things wrong with this world, and there is no point in bearing a grudge over something that will not matter at all in the long term.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “What Is An “Islamophobe?””: In this article Brigitte Gabriel discusses Orwellian abuse of language in the terms “Islamophobe” and “Islamophobia”. The terms imply that anyone who hates Islam or Muslims is necessarily irrational and suffering from a psychological disorder, thus biasing argument against anyone opposed to Islam. In reality, people often do have something to rationally fear from Islam and Muslims; unlike most other major religious groups, Muslims have a nasty habit of reacting violently to any real or perceived opposition, especially when they have some political power.
  2. “Why Orthodox Youth Are Leaving the Fold”: Yes, there is a problem.  Thank you, Rav Boteach, for being honest and acknowledging it.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the UniVirtual Slide Rule Emulator. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy new year.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

28 ’Elul 5768: Gold Star Mother’s Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Way to go, matie!”: Something like this had to happen sooner or later: the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarians) has picketed the Westboro Baptist Church. The Westboro Baptist Church is a group infamous for protesting extremely offensively practically anyone else they consider evil, often on a theologically flimsy basis. It was only a matter of time before someone tried protesting the protestors. Someone remind me to explain the errors of both the Westboro Baptists and the Pastafarians when I have more time.
  2. “The X Chromosome and the Case against Monogamy”: This is just a reminder that “natural” should not be equated with “moral” or “ethical” (a logical fallacy known as “appeal to nature”). This article notes a study which found genetic evidence that polygamy was common among humans in the past. Please note that today polygamy is frequently considered immoral in the West, despite it being natural for humans.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Old watch-like navigation gadget from 1920”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, September 26, 2008



I just received word of this story: “McCain wins debate that hasn’t happened yet”.  Now, while one can appreciate to some degree the skill that goes into fraud when it is done well, posting an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal’s on-line edition proclaiming “McCAIN WINS DEBATE!” hours before the debate even happens is very obvious. Please, John McCain, if you cannot learn to be truthful, please at least learn to lie better.

(Tip of the hat to the Museum of Hoaxes for this story.)


26 ’Elul 5768: Love Note Day/European Day of Languages/National Pancake Day


Worthy causes of the day: “CONGRESS: NO BLANK CHECK FOR WALL STREET” and “Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Italy priest stabber inspired by "Da Vinci Code"”: No, I am not making this up, and I have no clue what the attacker was thinking. I have heard of people taking The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown much more seriously than it deserves—it is, after all, a work of fiction, not history—but this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone going beyond visiting the places depicted in the book and asking questions.
  2. “Pulpit Initiative About Freedom, not Politics”: Interesting perspective. Religions often have much to say that is relevant to politics, so it is logical to argue that trying to keep the pulpit apolitical under threat of withdrawing tax-exempt status is tantamount to infringing upon freedom of religion.
  3. “CAIR files FEC complaint: Obsession distribution a Zionist plot”: I was under the impression that even so much as a funny look in the direction of a Muslim was an offense in the eyes of Islam and liable to be labeled without the least shred of evidence as part of an insidious plot against Muslims. They’ll also probably come up with an insidious plot centered around Obama, too.
  4. “Pastor Muthee and Mayor Palin”: This article deals with a visit by Bishop Thomas Muthee to the Wasilla Assembly of God, including a video of it, where he blesses then-mayor Sarah Palin.  Muthee is worrying to some degree because some of what he says sounds like advocation of abolition of separation of church and state, including lack of understanding of what public schools are about.  E.g., public schools do not push anyone to adopt Buddhism or Islam, or Christianity for that matter.  What he wants is for Christians (possibly just of his stripe) to take over all aspects of society, including government.  He also buys into a stereotype of Jews as bankers.  But very disturbing is his worrying about witchcraft and praying for Palin’s protection from it.  Don’t believe it?  Watch the video:  

    Now, it is perfectly possible for someone to believe in witchcraft and yet be otherwise rational.  Unfortunately, this is not how Muthee has behaved.  One of the commentators mentioned in the article tries to excuse the witchcraft business as just a difference in culture, but a modicum of digging turned up a number of articles showing that Muthee has acted on the belief in witchcraft:  “Targeting cities with 'spiritual mapping,' prayer”, “Palin under fire over African pastor friend who waged witch-hunt against woman he believed caused car crashes”, “From basket case to boomtown without a dime of aid”, “Palin linked electoral success to prayer of Kenyan witchhunter”, and “Praying Down God's Power”.  These articles note that Muthee blamed the alleged witchcraft of the diviner Mama Jane for much that was going wrong in Kiambu, Kenya (such as car accidents), and so he and his followers harassed her until she left town, after which things in Kiambu allegedly got better.  Now, if Muthee really believes in witchcraft, it was incumbent upon him to justify why he believed Mama Jane was a genuine witch and responsible for everything going wrong in Kiambu—something every single article omits—before taking action against her.  On the other hand, if Muthee was just using Mama Jane as a scapegoat to rally the community together so that they would improve themselves, then he persecuted an innocent person, something I have trouble imagining Jesus approving of.  Either way, Muthee comes off as very disturbing.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “水の落ちる絵” (Google automatic translation:  “A painting of water fall”), which is described in English in “Water Painting”.

Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

25 ’Elul 5768: National One-Hit Wonder Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “What drives Ahmadinejad's combative rhetoric”: In summary: Ahmadinejad expects or acts like he expects the Mahdi to come soon. When one expects an immanent major change in the order of the World, one may logically act on it. E.g., if one knew that an asteroid would hit the Earth tomorrow and wipe out humanity, there would be no point in taking care of one’s health so as to be able to live a long life.  Ahmadinejad is accordingly making preparations for the coming of the Mahdi.  However, there is a big question as to whether the Mahdi really is coming soon, because if he is not, Ahmadinejad may be risking Iran for nothing.  Jihad may be important in Islam, but it is probably not practical for Iran to fight a jihad if Israel collectively feels threatened enough to bomb Tehran into the planet’s largest pile of rubble.
  2. “Ben & Jerry's asked to use breast milk”: (I know: Ew!)  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is at it again with another dubious issue, this time trying to get Ben & Jerry’s to use human milk in their ice cream.   To quote:
    PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman told WPTZ-TV her organization's suggestion is merely common sense.

    "The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," she said.
    Now, it is true that milk production originally evolved among mammals as a means of feeding babies. However: 1) Adult humans consuming human milk is extremely strange. I am not aware of any society where the practice is normal or considered proper. Humans are probably able to nevertheless do so, but it is probably not something they were naturally selected to be able to do. 2) Cows have been bred by humans to produce milk for them, and humans on much of the planet have been naturally selected for the ability to digest milk in adulthood. Cow milk is “meant” for humans at least as much as it is for baby cows. This whole business looks very much like a transparent attempt at animal rights activism at human expense.
  3. “Intellectual arrogance”: This is an excellent essay on why one should listen to experts, namely because they know what they are talking about. That may sound obvious, but there are people who overlook the obvious. Unfortunately, this is a problem which comes up in the study of religion.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The Periodic Table of Videos. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

24 ’Elul 5768: National Punctuation Day/World Day Against Software Patents


Relevant to one of today’s quasi-holidays: Stop software patents.

Worthy causes of the day: “Save Downpayment Assistance Programs” and “Tell the EPA to Stand Strong on the Carbofuran Ban!”

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the Interrobang (‽). I know, some of you out there are saying, “Aaron chose a punctuation mark for the weird thing of the day‽ Is he completely insane‽” But it is National Punctuation Day, and the interrobang is probably the most famous weird punctuation mark, barring emoticons. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

23 ’Elul 5768: Checkers Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Main Street before Wall Street”, “Open White Spaces for Everyone”, and “Tell the government to protect sea turtles from trawls.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Mean girl”: There is a lot of dirt on Sarah Palin and her exploitative, un-Christian behavior in this article, but the item I want to discuss is:
    Even though Palin knew that Stein is a Protestant Christian, from a Pennsylvania Dutch background, her campaign began circulating the word that she would be "Wasilla's first Christian mayor." Some of Stein's supporters interpreted this as an attempt to portray Stein as Jewish in the heavily evangelical community. Stein himself, an eminently reasonable and reflective man, thinks "they were redefining Christianity to mean born-agains."
    (Emphasis mine.) Palin is not alone in narrowing the definition of Christianity; a parody from a few years back, “Consumer report: Which religion is the best?”, considers Christianity and Catholicism to be two different religions.  It should go without saying that the claim of Protestantism or one section thereof as the One True Claimant to the Name of “Christianity” is untenable.  Everyone knows that historically Catholicism preceded Protestantism.  Orthodox Christianity, Syriac Christianity, Coptic Christianity, and Ethiopian Christianity also preceded Protestantism.  These older groups were what everyone referred to as Christianity long before Martin Luther.  Therefore, claiming that any younger group is the “real” Christianity is an attempt at changing the definition of the term and not legitimate.
  2. “Beyond the Israeli-Palestinian problem”: This is historical background for the Jihad. Note that the real offense of the Jews behind the Arab-Israeli War is that the Jews refuse to live by the rules that Islam sets for them, that they should be helpless second-class citizens.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Emily, is GIANTmicrobes. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, September 22, 2008

22 ’Elul 5768: Dear Diary Day/Elephant Day/International Dadaism Month/International Car Free Day


Worthy cause of the day: “No blank check for Wall Street.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Iran summons French envoy over anti-Islamic feelings”: To quote:
Iran's has summoned the French ambassador over what Teheran says is an increase of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe.

Sunday's report on state TV and the official news agency IRNA says an official in Iran's foreign ministry expressed deep concern over anti-Islamic sentiment during the meeting with the ambassador, Bernard Poletti.
Now, why is there anti-Islamic feeling in the first place? Does the fact that the Islamic world is engaged in a jihad against everybody else not endear them to everybody? Why would anyone be the least offended by Islamic terror? Who could fault the Iranian government for trying to build nuclear missiles and threatening to use them? Do not people enjoy Muslims not having to play by the same rules as everyone else? Do not people like some places in Europe being so Islamized that it is dangerous for non-Muslims to go there? Does not everyone want shari‘a law implemented?

Putting my sarcasm aside, if the Iranian government thinks the French government can simply force a love of Islam on its people without Muslims learning to work and play well with non-Muslims, they have to be completely bonkers.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Chance that the Printer is Working”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

21 ’Elul 5768: Women’s Friendship Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Speak out against Congress’s flawed overfishing proposal” and “Help Save Troy Anthony Davis' Life”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Avast, Ye Salty Dogs!”: Friday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This article notes that there are some conservative Christians are offended by this quasi-holiday. Arguably they are right to do so. Yes, I know International Talk Like a Pirate Day is completely unserious, but pirates are by definition engaged in illegal and immoral activity. Why is anyone glorifying and celebrating them?
  2. “Granbury resident sees something satanic in team's pirate flag”: I have no idea what said resident is thinking. It is not too hard to argue that the Jolly Roger is a symbol of evil, but calling it “satanic” is rather a stretch.
  3. “Iran: No hostility to Israeli people”: I cannot make this up. To quote:
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that while he opposes the state of Israel, his enmity doesn't extend to the Israeli people.

    Ahmadinejad made the remarks in defense of Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, Iran's vice president for tourism, who raised a furor among Iranian lawmakers and clerics when he said Iran was a friend of the Israeli people, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported Friday.
    Let us think about this rationally. Everyone knows Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to obliterate the State of Israel and is working on nuclear weapons to make this possible. Anyone who believes this is consistent with lack of enmity towards the people of Israel, stand on your heads. The obviousness of the contradiction is such that Mashai retracted this claim. (See “Iran VP retracts comment on Israelis”.)
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The Corpus Clock and The Chronophage”. Enjoy (or be scared or something) and share the weirdness.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

18 ’Elul 5768: International Dadaism Month/International Women’s Ecommerce Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Lose your home, Lose your vote?”, “Tell Congress: Untangle the Red Tape for the Kids”, and “Tell Harry Reid: Don't cave on offshore drilling.”

I would also like to promote the worthy cause of giving blood, which I did this morning.  It is an easy, safe way to save human lives, so if you may be eligible to donate (and many are who think they are not), please contact the Red Cross to find out where you can donate.  Thank you.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Evangelicals to UN: Indict Ahmadinejad”: They seem to be learning from the mistake of remaining silent that led to the Holocaust.
  2. Poe's Law: This is the very scary idea that fundamentalism can be indistinguishable from a parody of fundamentalism.
  3. “Sarah Palin, faith-based mayor”:  In summary:  As mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin foisted a philosophy of “character” (“Character First!”) on the city in her charge; said philosophy is supposedly secular, but in actually it is of the evangelical Christian organization the Institute in Basic Life Principles. That Palin would try to impose her values on other people is completely consistent with what I wrote on Monday about her assumption that she is perfectly right.  It goes without saying that this is a violation of the separation of church and state, even though “Character First!” is allegedly secular.

    Even if it were truly secular, she still would have no business trying to impose it on others.  Moral philosophies, unable to anchor its definitions (e.g., of “good” and “evil”) directly in objective physical reality, are matters of opinions.  Without a deity imposing one opinion as a standard, one opinion is as good as another.  Under such conditions, trying to make people accept that something is “good” makes as much sense as trying to make people accept that something is “delicious.”

    Also alarming are the values themselves.  While a lot of them sound generally acceptable, the definitions often do not fit how people usually use the terms, e.g., “truthfulness” is defined as “Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts” when it is normally defined without regard to consequences or what is being reported.  Keep in mind that arbitrary redefinition is a warning sign that someone is trying to be deceptive.  Many redefinitions take on an authoritarian bent, e.g., “meekness” is defined as “Yielding my personal rights and expectations with a desire to serve” and “obedience” is defined as “Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me”.  For those of us who have embraced freedom, the idea that we should defer to people who have been caught lying to us frankly makes very little sense.
Poll results:  This blog’s first poll is over.  There were a total of four votes on the question “Should this blog have a poll?”:  one vote for “No” (probably by Bobby Awesome), one vote for “If you ask that question, you deny your Buddha nature”, one vote for “42”, and one vote for “To get to the other side”.  My interpretation is that most of the people who voted were feeling goofy.

Today’s news and commentary:On 1 ’Adhar 5767, the weird thing of the day was “Charlie the Unicorn”. Today’s weird thing is the sequel, “Charlie the Unicorn 2”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

17 ’Elul 5768: Constitution Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Just ONE Question” and “Tell Congress to Support Education for All”.

I am happy to report that this coming Sukkoth (less than a month away) I will be able to use an ’ethrogh from a tree grown at home from a seed. (Thank YHWH!) This is the lucky fruit:

The other three ’ethroghim of this year’s crop are too blemished to used. If I am around the trees next year, I plan on putting bags around the young fruit so that they are less likely to get scratched, punctured, or nibbled on.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “'Creationism' biologist quits job”: I am not really surprised this happened. And, yes, the title of this article is somewhat misleading.
  2. “Good religion needs good science”: The thrust of this article by Rev Dr Malcolm Brown of the Church of England is that the Church’s early reaction to Darwin’s was unfair and that there is no conflict between Christianity and belief in evolution. While I believe he is correct to avoid looking at Scripture as a science textbook, something it was neither intended to be nor particularly useful for, I have to disagree with him on the notion that the Church of England owes Darwin an apology. All those who sinned against Darwin and owe him an apology are dead and buried. Those who comprise the Church of England today are a different generation. So long as they themselves do not sin against Darwin, they owe him no apology, for they are not guilty of the error of their ancestors.
  3. “Student Told Rosary is Gang Symbol”: I cannot make something like this up. I have no clue what these school officials are thinking.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Why English Teachers Die Young”. The list may be fraudulent, but it still makes for a good read. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

16 ’Elul 5768: National Play-doh Day/Collect Rocks Day/International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer/Wife Appreciation Day


NOTE: The poll is almost over. Please weigh in on the question of whether this blog should have a poll.

Worthy causes of the day: “Stop the Eleventh-Hour Assault on Endangered Species”, “Extend the Renewable Energy Tax Credit Before Month's End!”, “Urge Board to Reconsider Clemency for Troy Davis”, and “Speak out against Interstate I-3!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “The myth of al-Aqsa”: This is an interesting account of how the deliberate misidentification of the Temple Mount as “the furthest mosque” was originally done for intra-Islamic political purposes and how this dubious claim is pushed today for the purposes of jihad. The author is correct in concluding that Jews and Christians have no reason to perpetuate or participate in this fraud.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Sculpture Fun”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, September 15, 2008

15 ’Elul 5768: National Woman Road Warrior Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Add Your Voice” and “End the Financial Irresponsibility of the War in Iraq”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “The pastor who clashed with Palin”:  The dirt, both political and theological, on Sarah Palin keeps on coming, in this case further documentation of her clashes with Rev. Howard Bess, now-retired Baptist minister in Palmer, Alaska (near Wasilla) and author of Pastor, I Am Gay.  Palin is described as “a woman whose mind is given to dogmatic certitude”. Now, logically, if one is definitely right, anyone who believes or practices anything different must be wrong, so in this world view, everyone and everything is divided between the forces of good and the forces of evil with no middle ground.  Bess notes about people with such a world view:  “They view life as an ongoing struggle to the finish between good and evil. Their mind-set is that you do not do business with evil -- you destroy it.”  As such, Palin has acted to impose her belief system on others whenever possible, e.g., seeking banning of certain books and making it impossible to get an abortion in the Wasilla area.  This world view also explains why those who do not kowtow to Palin in everything are subject to feeling her wrath:  since they do not agree with her on something, they must be wrong and therefore evil, and evil is to be fought at every turn.  And since this is a war, practically anything goes in fighting the forces of evil.

    The problem with this world view is that it rests on the assumption that Palin is perfectly right.  Unfortunately for Palin, this is not justifiable.  Perfect certainty is only attainable in the world of pure mathematics, and then not in all cases.  (See Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, which is one long proof of this.)  In science and every study of our universe, we are limited by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as to what we can know, so perfect certainty there also is impossible.  Even in religion, uncertainty reigns; even though a deity who is not part of our universe may violate our laws of physics with impunity and thus know perfectly the true configuration of our universe, any information given to us by a deity has to be given through sensory experiences and words we can understand.  Human language is notorious for ambiguity and imprecision, problems which get worse when filtered through translation.  The idea that anyone can know perfectly the Will of God as presented in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament without having to worry in the least about misinterpretation, is not credible.  Therefore, Palin has no case for her behavior.  QED.  (I could write more on the virtue of tolerance, but I have other things to do today.)
  2. “Science lessons should tackle creationism and intelligent design”: I just know I will never hear the end of this if I do not mention this.  Basically, bioethicist cum Anglican priest Michael Reiss has proposed that science teachers should directly address creationism in science classes.  He has gotten a lot of flack about this already, but there is some sense to this.  As he notes, belief in creationism is often part of a larger world-view, and if that world-view is addressed it might be more effective in getting students to understand and accept evolution.  There is also the potential problem that many people who promote evolution have little or no understanding of theology, which if it holds true among science teachers also, it may make addressing the creationist world-view difficult.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the shockingly accurate “Tina Fey as Sara Palin on Saturday Night Live!!!”. (LANGUAGE WARNING FOR THE SENSITIVE!) The news has had fun with this, and I could not resist.

Enjoy (or be scared) and share the weirdness.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

14 ’Elul 5768: The Anti-Theft Lunch Bag


Worthy causes of the day: “Fill the Funding Gap” and “Employee Free Choice Act”.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the Anti-Theft Lunch Bag. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, September 12, 2008

12 ’Elul 5768: Video Games Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Safer buildings save lives. We can't have another 9/11.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Indian girl commits suicide over 'Big Bang' fear” (hat tip to Bad Astronomy): Summary:  Fearing that the Large Hadron Collider will destroy the Earth, a girl in India killed herself by drinking pesticide; thousands of others in India fasted and prayed to avert the alleged coming disaster.  This incident underscores the need for obtaining accurate information and critical thinking.  Anybody smart enough to build a particle collider is not going to be stupid enough to do anything potentially disastrous.  Chances for disaster are further reduced by their being lots of people working on this project, making it more likely that any errors that are made will be caught by someone.  As the late Douglas Adams wrote, don’t panic!
  2. An excellent question is why superstition (such as panic over the Large Hadron Collider) exists in the first place. “Superstitions evolved to help us survive” is a rather intriging answer.
  3. “Dutch Movie”: The movie under discussion is Fitna, which is highly critical of the Qur’an and Islam. Note the Muslim tendency to threaten, attempt to silence, and even murder anyone with good PR skills who criticizes their religion. That trying to supress criticism does not make it any less correct should be obvious. One also has to wonder about what someone is thinking when they threaten someone who claims they are intolerant.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The Antikythera mechanism”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

11 ’Elul 5768: Patriot’s Day/World First Aid Day


Worthy causes of the day: “END BIG OIL'S ENERGY PLAN”, “Protect Our Coasts”, and “Shed Light on McCain's Anti-Choice Record”. That last one I signed with a note that even though I am no fan of abortion, I do not want the government sticking its nose into the decision-making process when it may be necessary, and I detest political hypocrisy.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Jews for Jesus (1973)”: General rule about missionaries: Chances of their success are inversely proportional to the knowledge and intellectual sophistication of their would-be victims. I have a lot of fun with door-to-door missionaries who do not expect anyone who knows the Hebrew Bible better than they do. To this day, I have yet to meet a door-to-door missionary who has read the Hebrew Bible or New Testament in the original languages—or to whom it has even occured that this might be a good idea to understand what they actually say. Kudos to Yaakov Kirschen for his accurate portrayal.
  2. “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense”
  3. “Creationism Controversy: State-by-State ”:  Having decisively lost the debate in the world of science, creationists are trying to fight a battle they have no business trying to win in the world of politics, illustrated in this interactive map.  Questions of where we come from, in so far as they occur in our universe, are fairly addressed by science.  Science must ultimately put all its hypotheses and theories to the test by checking them against physical reality.  What is physical reality is not a political question.  Physical reality does not care what the president, vice president, or anyone in Congress have to say; it is what it is no matter what they think.  What is physical reality is also not a popularity question either, e.g., gravity does not grow stronger or weaker in response to how strong people want it to be.  As such, trying to shore up a failed hypothesis based on a misinterpretation of esoteric material by appealing to the government and people who do not understand science is inappropriate and illegitimate.
  4. “9/11 Rumors That Become Conventional Wisdom”: Summary: Many Muslims refuse to admit that Arab Muslims were actually behind 9/11, prefering to blame the US and Israel. Note that disbelief has done nothing to change any actual evidence.  Also note the absurdity of the conspiracy claims, which are nothing but claims.  Real secrets tend to get revealed, sooner or later.  (And I will be happy to tell people where they can find all sorts of secret information that mystics and occultists are not supposed to tell anyone, if they really want to know.)  The Bush administration, despite trying to clamp down on embarrasing information ever since Bush took office, has been leaking all sorts of reports of bad behavior, including the latest scandal, reported in “Scandal: Surplus energy? Inspector general faults improper "drilling" (ahem) at Interior Department”.  Trying to imagine the entire Jewish people or the State of Israel (both numbering millions of people) sucessfully keeping a secret is beyond credibility.
  5. “Swiss Primate Legislation Could End Some Brain Research”: This is animal rights gone overboard.  Yes, no one wants to cause non-human animals pointless harm, but effective bans on neurological research in primates is uncalled for.  What we have here is blatant hypocrisy.  Last I heard, no one (making any waves, at least) was calling for bans on killing animals for meat or leather, even though humans strictly do not need either for survival or good health.  Harm to animals in scientific research, on the other hand, does benefit humanity, both in terms of knowledge and saving lives, even though the benefits are not always immediate.  Why short-term selfishness should be any less offensive is beyond me.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Mythbusters - Fun With Gas”.
Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron, enjoying his Hebraicized system software

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

10 ’Elul 5768: Swap Ideas Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Congress: Don't Give a Dime to Cut Wildlife's Lifeline!” and “Help Save Troy Anthony Davis' Life”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Church obsessed with gays - Tutu”: Archbishop Desmond Tutu is right: religion has concerns other than just sexuality.
  2. Apparently I was wrong about the Church of Scientology being behind the DMCA requests to remove anti-Scientology material from YouTube—maybe.  “Alleged 'rights group' tries to have 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from YouTube” and “Bogus anti-Scientology DMCA notices sent to YouTube linked to Wikipedia user” make it even less clear who was really behind the requests; the group allegedly making the request does not exist, or at least is previously undocumented.  Maybe the Church of Scientology is behind it, seeing as they do sneaky things, but maybe it is just someone sympathetic to them.
  3. “Jews for Jesus”: Good grief! Am I the only person on the planet to have read the Book of Job? The whole point of the book is that bad things can happen to good people who do not deserve it. Therefore, one cannot ever be sure that something bad happened to someone because they did something wrong. Period.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The ORIGINAL Illustrated Catalog Of ACME Products. Enjoy and share the weirdness with your favorite coyote.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

9 ’Elul 5768: Wonderful Weirdos Day/National Grandparent’s Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Set the Rules to End Overfishing”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “What's the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Lipstick” and “Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview”: There is a lot of worrying material in these articles, largely centering on knowing God’s will.  God is not part of our universe, so mundane methods of observation cannot be applied to Him.  All the information one can have about Him ultimately must derive from prophecy.  Sarah Palin and Ed Kalnins, however, seem to be skipping a step.  They believe that God wants things like Alaskans to build a natural gas pipeline and America to fight the war in Iraq.  However, why they believe these are God’s will is not made clear.  If they believe these things are in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, they fail to source where they believe such matters are dealt with.  And if they believe they are prophets themselves—which seems to be correct for Kalnins, at least—then one has to ask on what basis they believe this.

Keep in mind that the Hebrew Bible demands we not blindly follow those who claim to be prophets.  Deuteronomy 13:2-6 gives the death penalty for anyone prophesying to worship gods other than YHWH.  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 gives rules for false prophecy, that false prophets are to be put to death and that those who deliberately prophesy anything other than what YHWH commanded them or whose predictions turn out to be incorrect are false prophets.  And ahead of his time was the prophet Gidh‘on (Gideon), who in Judges 6:36-40 empirically tested his own prophecy twice to make sure he had actually prophesied.  And if one wants to make the claim that Christians should not be worried about such strictures, note that Jesus in Matthew 7:15 also worries about false prophecy as well:  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”

Think about the fruits of following a false prophet.  Kalnins may threaten those who vote Democrat with damnation, but following a false prophet—something YHWH clearly does not approve of—is an even better way to ask to go to Hell.

Monday, September 8, 2008

8 ’Elul 5768: Star Trek Day/National Boss-Employee Exchange Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Demand Quality, Affordable Health Care for All”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Massive Takedown of Anti-Scientology Videos on YouTube”: Summary: The Church of Scientology threatens YouTube with legal action of material if anti-Scientology material is not taken down, allegedly over copyright violation of material belonging to other people; YouTube users make counter-threats and the material is largely back up. It should be noted that fighting free speech is a warning sign that a belief system is wrong. After all, a decent belief system should be able to survive in the face of fair criticism; that is a principle that science is based on. That the Church of Scientology would rather suppress information rather than give an actual defense of itself indicates that either whoever is in charge is incompetent with regard to public relations or they are incapable of justifying their actions.
  2. “Palestinian Crimes against Christian Arabs and Their Manipulation against Israel” and “Remembering the Forgotten Jews”: This is Islam in action: oppression of non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. This is nothing new, and little attention is paid to it. Note the Worldwide Christian failure to do much, if anything, about the suffering of Christians caught in such a situation. Also note it has taken about 60 years for the eradication of most of the Jewish communities in the Muslim world to garner a non-trivial amount of attention.  With so little attention being paid to the victims of Islamic terror, it is no wonder progress against the jihad is so sluggish.
  3. “Islam group urges forest fire jihad”: There is no wisdom in such actions. Devastating the Earth might work for planetary conquest, but who would want to be the ruler of a ruined planet? Then again, this sort of thinking explains a lot about why the Fertile Crescent is now largely desert.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The Long Now Foundation. Someone please remind me to register some theologically based predictions into their system. Live long and prosper.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Other worthy cause of the day: Don't Let Bashir Escape Justice


Today’s other worthy cause is “Don't Let Bashir Escape Justice”. Please sign and remind Bush that it is his duty to press for justice and make sure that one of the key people responsible for the genocide in Darfur is brought to justice. Thank you.


5 ’Elul 5768: Be Late For Something Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Urge Clemency for Troy Davis”, and “Stand up for community organizing”, and “Reject the Bush/Cheney Offshore Oil Scheme”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: I was disappointed with John McCain’s speech last night at the Republican National Convention. He started off sounding reconciliatory, even admitting some failure on the part of his own party. Unfortunately, he switched into the tactic of misrepresenting his opponent’s position, using a lot of fear-mongering. He also ignored that much of what is wrong with this country is blatantly the fault of his own party. In short, he lied. Not little white lies to spare someone’s feelings or to preserve the peace. Big lies. For his own advantage. As I mentioned yesterday, this is un-Christian, and there is something very hypocritical that McCain and Palin are doing this when they are trying to pander to the most right-wing conservative Christians, people who should be the most offended by un-Christian behavior.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “When Easter Eggs Hatch…”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

4 ’Elul 5768: Newspaper Carrier Day


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Palin calls Iraq war 'a task that is from God'”: To quote:
    Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God."

    In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."
    I find this rather shocking on Governor Palin’s part. Palin, so far as I know, has not claimed to be a prophet, so presumably she does not have privileged access to knowing God’s will. Furthermore, nowhere in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament does it say that it is our duty to fight in Iraq or build a natural gas pipeline.  Some clarification is in order on how she allegedly knows what God wants.
  2. Further disappointment with Palin:  Out of curiosity, I watched part of the Republican National Convention on TV last night, and I caught Palin’s speech.  For someone who is allegedly a good Christian (like almost every other candidate, it seems, these days), she was exceedingly untruthful about Barack Obama.  Now, it would be absurd to expect her to agree with Obama, and it is only natural to expect her to attack him (given the dismal state of American politics), but blatantly misrepresenting his positions (which John McCain has also done), especially on taxes, is not legitimate.  It says in the Decalogue, which despite the mainstream antinomian position of Christianity, Christians do seem to claim as binding, “You will not claim [anything] about your neighbor [as] a false witness” (Exodus 20:12).  Her lying about Obama is therefore un-Christian and requiring some sincere repentance.  The only excuse I can see is that Palin does not know Obama’s actual positions, indicating ignorance or stupidity, neither of which is desirable in a politician. Those interested in knowing the truth about Obama may wish to see’s data on urban legends about him; they also have a corresponding page on John McCain.
  3. “Floating church offers solace for traders”: Interesting approach.
  4. “Canceled Muhammad novel finds new publisher”: Thank YHWH! Down with the dhimmi mentality!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Making "The Fly" sing”. Enjoy (or be afraid, be very, very afraid) and share the weirdness.


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Tropical Storm Hanna


For your information:  The current projected track for Tropical Storm Hanna has it missing Charleston and mostly giving us wind and rain on Friday and Saturday.  I am therefore not anticipating to have to flee or anything else will disturb my posting schedule.  (Thank YHWH.)  However projections can be wrong, so if Bobby Awesome suddenly takes over posting, that’s why.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

3 ’Elul 5768: Skyscraper Day


Worthy cause of the day: “SMALL ISLANDS TO WORLD: S.O.S.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Above the law”: This is a commentary on morality or lack thereof in the fall TV lineup, complaining that shows have gone from exploring moral gray regions to embracing amorality. Considering there is a feedback loop between the media and society, each affecting the other, this is is a very disturbing notion. In an amoral world, there are no lines that may not be crossed and no penalties for doing anything. In such a world, nothing and no one is safe; everything and everyone is fair game for anything anyone may want to do. Is this the sort of world we want to live in? I don’t know about you, but I do not want to have to live in a fortress or to have to carry around a weapon and be ready to use it. I recommend that everyone who agrees with me boycott amoral shows; lackluster benefits for advertisers may give the networks some inkling that viewers want something better on TV.
  2. The What's the harm? archive at The Skeptic's Dictionary has been updated, listing some new entries of how irrationality, including religious irrationality, has hurt and killed people.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Cat Graph From Our Sister Site, GraphJam”, submitted by Barry. Enjoy and share the weirdness.