Archive for February, 2009

Myka Fox makes me laugh

I was looking at Myka Fox’ blog today (she’s a comedian). There were some pretty funny bits in there – assuming you laugh at inappropriate things. Admittedly, she sounds like she could use a therapist. A few bits that made me laugh – hopefully, you’ll find them as funny as I did:

Social Tip #18 – Respecting Superiors

I used to wear a shirt that read MY FATHER DIED IN A BAKING ACCIDENT. It’s a line from a play I was in during high school, everyone who performed in that play got that shirt.

I wore it to work, and my boss asked me what the shirt was about. I told him that a bunch of them were handed out at my father’s funeral. There was a terrible oven explosion that took his life, but he had a wonderful sense of humor and would have seen the irony in his death. He would have loved the shirt.

My boss said, “Oh, I’m sorry about that.”

I said, “I’m just kidding. My father is a dentist. He is still alive.”

My boss said, “My father died from cancer.”

I said, “Oh, did you get a shirt?”

Social Tip #11 – Mormons

The other day I met a fellow comedian while waiting backstage to perform. He told me that his life had changed a lot since he moved from Utah. Then I did this:

Me: Man. That must have been terrible. Performing for Mormons? Those people are nuts.

Comedian: (polite laugh) It wasn’t so bad.

As he said this it dawned on me: goofy face, blond hair, horse teeth… this guy was a Mormon. By the time my brain processed his Mormon-ness he had already left to go on stage. I turned to the other people in the room.

Me: That guy’s a Mormon, isn’t he?

Other People: Yeah.


The Mormon comedian bound back in from the stage, flaunting his Mormonosity. Here was my chance to make amends.

Me: Hey. Great show. I’m sorry about what I said about the Mormons, you’re probably a Mormon, aren’t you?

Comedian: Yeah, I am. It’s fine.

Me: No, it’s not fine. It was stupid of me. Of course you are Mormon, why else would you live in Utah? I really didn’t mean to offend you.

Comedian: Don’t worry about it. There is nothing you could say to offend me.

Nothing I could say to offend him? what kind of Mormon garbage is that? His faith prohibits my words from entering him as though they were caffeine or homosexual thoughts? If he can believe a stupid book then he can believe a live thinking human. How dare he assume that I am not creative enough to offend him!

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FOX News Fearmongers

There’s a good article over at Salon about a fearmongering on FOX News. (Click here to read it.) It begins:

Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 gave rise to the American “militia movement”: hordes of overwhelmingly white, middle-aged men from suburban and rural areas who convinced themselves they were defending the American way of life from the “liberals” and “leftists” running the country by dressing up in military costumes on weekends, wobbling around together with guns, and play-acting the role of patriot-warriors…

I won’t bother getting too much into the article, since you can just go read it. It’s basically about FOX News fearmongering – now that Obama’s been in office for a month, I think they finally feel that they can start playing the ‘fear’ card without disparaging George Bush. They’re talking about the collapse of governments, a Mexican “narco state” (ruled by drug-dealers), Muslims overrunning Europe, Iran invading it’s neighbors, gangs and “motorcycle marauders” taking control of US cities, etc. Basically playing up the strong nationalism, strong military, the world around us is evil paranoia that drives conservatives.

At the bottom of his article is a couple of embedded videos from FOX News. Here’s a couple screen-captures. Take a look at this incredible display of fearmongering:

Tagline: “The Year 2014: Survival Skills Become Vital?”

Tagline: “If the US collapses, what nations will fill the vacuum?”

While he says these are all just “hypothetical” scenarios, he then says many people think these are “light scenarios” – that things could get far worse. Apparently, FOX News is trying to capture that highly desirable anti-government/pro-militia/end-is-near viewer. (Get your guns and run for the hills everyone!) Here’s a nice little bit of subliminal suggestion – watch the words appearing on the monitor on the right side of the screen:


Words: “Enemies Within”, “Civil Unrest”, “God” (Wait – “God”??? Maybe they’re just trying to play up their commitment to religion. Maybe they’re suggesting the apocalypse.)



Wow. Just wow. And keep in mind that everything being shown in the background was specifically chosen by someone. Someone was sitting at a computer, trying to figure out what graphics and words needed to appear in the background during this show. They thought, “Hmm, I think I’ll display ‘destruction’ on the screen, and have some police running in the background. And on the other screen will be Muslims burning an American flag.” All so calculated to inspire fear.

These guys have credibility? It’s amazing to think how high FOX’ ratings numbers are.

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Conspiracy Theories

Out at the coffeeshop last night, I happened to be sitting next to a man (40ish and Muslim) and a woman (30ish and Muslim) talking about conspiracies. The man was enthusiastically pointing out details on the dollar bill – talking about the secret symbolism on the dollar, saying how American presidents were all in some secret (Masonic?) group, and that the bloodlines of world leaders were just continuations of ancient monarchy bloodlines. I don’t know how people get all mixed up in believing these kinds of conspiracy theories, but I had heard once that conspiracy theories were appealed to a person’s sense of control – that even if they can’t control the world, they understood the forces “truely” at work beneath the surface. It also “explains” why some people are successful, while they aren’t.

At first, I thought the woman was just humoring him, but she started agreeing with him. He was talking about how he had read about all of this stuff in a book – and, so it was all completely true. (As if lies cannot be printed in book form.) It was kind of fascinating to hear the bizarre theories. At one point, the woman said that she had a group of Jewish customers, and in the months before the election, they didn’t seem concerned about who would win. She concluded that the Jews were all part of the conspiracy – they knew, well beforehand, that Obama was chosen to win the US presidency. (You know: all the millions of Jews in the world are in on this whole global conspiracy – they all have a front-row seat, and never tell any of their non-Jewish neighbors.) At one point, she remarked how evil these conspirators were (and, and since she thought the Jews played a major role in it, she must’ve been vilifying Jews in general). I couldn’t help but think that conspiracy theories end up confirming people’s pre-existing beliefs about the world. As muslims, they probably didn’t think very highly of Jews to begin with, now the whole conspiracy idea “confirms” their ideas that Jews are wicked and evil.

The man talked excitedly about how Obama’s mother was actually part of the ancient royal bloodline, that facebook and google were in on it to – these websites weren’t created by a couple guys (how absurd to think a couple guys could create these sites). Rather, they were obviously created by the government and used to track our personal relationships and figure out what information we were reading. According to him, capitalism and communism were always under the control of the global conspiracy. (Apparently, the whole cold war was just an elaborate stage play.) Underlying it all was the belief that Allah would punish these people in the end. I couldn’t help but notice that they were vilifying everything (the US government, capitalism, and communism) and, presumably, leaving Islam as the only true refuge against this global conspiracy. It was a rather ‘interesting’ set of ideas.

As a side note regarding the whole bloodlines thing: every time there’s an election, it seems that someone makes some claim about how candidates or presidents are related to royal blood several centuries earlier. For example:

Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, but took his stepfather’s name as a teenager. Clinton’s ancestry can be traced back, on his mother’s side, to King Henry III who ruled England from 1227 to 1272. He is descended from King Robert I of France.

I don’t know how true these claims are, but considering that people have more and more ancestors each generation backwards, I would think that everyone has royal blood somewhere in their ancestry. For example, I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. The number of ancestors doubles every generation backwards (ignoring inbreeding, of course). This means I should have 16,777,216 ancestors if I go back 24 generations (and 24 generations is only 600 years, assuming 25 years per generation), plus another 16 million ancestors in the intervening 23 generations. This means I’m probably related to every Dutch person alive in the 1400s, and a decent portion of the Western European population at the same time. It’s pretty unremarkable to have royalty in your ancestry.

Oh wait, I get it now – we’re ALL in on the global conspiracy. I can’t believe I was a part of it this whole time! (Gosh, it’s like I’m suddenly in that scene in the Sixth Sense.)

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Forecast 2012

This what the forecast will look like in 2012:

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Size of the Universe

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Miscellaneous Post

Just a bunch of things that made me laugh recently:

Rob Cockerham predicts that the price of gas will fall below $0 in March.

Devil Pope?

Church Bot!

Speaking of church bot, Gov. Mike Huckabee was in the news recently:

In an e-mail that was also posted on his blog ahead of the Senate’s passage, Huckabee wrote: “The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: It is anti-religious.”

The former Republican presidential candidate pointed to a provision in both the House and Senate versions banning higher education funds in the bill from being used on a “school or department of divinity.”

No tax dollars for religious education? Wow. That is anti-religious. (I’m sure Huckabee would feel equally offended if tax dollars didn’t also go to Muslim religious schools.) It’s almost like Huckabee is saying, “Fund my religion with tax dollars, or I’m going to accuse you of being anti-religious.”

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Sometimes I worry about humanity.

In Japan, you are what your blood type is

In the year just ended, four of Japan’s top 10 best-sellers were about how blood type determines personality, according to Japan’s largest book distributor, Tohan Co. The books’ publisher, Bungeisha, says the series – one each for types B, O, A, and AB – has combined sales of well over 5 million copies.

As defined by the books, type As are sensitive perfectionists but overanxious; Type Bs are cheerful but eccentric and selfish; Os are curious, generous but stubborn; and ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable.

All that may sound like a horoscope, but the public doesn’t seem to care.

Matchmaking agencies provide blood-type compatibility tests, and some companies make decisions about assignments based on employees’ blood types.

Children at some kindergartens are divided up by blood type, and the women’s softball team that won gold at the Beijing Olympics used the theory to customize each player’s training.

Not all see the craze as harmless fun, and the Japanese now have a term, “bura-hara,” meaning blood-type harassment.

And, despite repeated warnings, many employers continue to ask blood types at job interviews, said Junichi Wadayama, an official at the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry.

Wow. All of those blood type personalities are so totally me.

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I listen to a lot of podcasts. I was looking around for some new ones when I stumbled on some podcasts by How Stuff Works. One of the podcasts tackled the question “Fact or Fiction: Could Noah’s Ark Really Have Happened?” Curious about what they might have to say, I gave it a listen. They hit on some criticisms I’ve heard before — like if there really was a vapor canopy above the atmosphere, as the Bible suggests, that the increased atmospheric pressure would make human life impossible, and that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to enough water on earth to cover all the land.

They talked about the fact that flood myths appear all over the world (suggesting that it might be true), and the possibility that the flood myth was just an exaggerated account of a real flooding. Overall, not a very through discussion about the plausibility of Noah’s Ark.

But, then, right at the end it got weird and non-committal:

Also, as you mentioned, it’s just impossible – atmospherically, meteorologically – for the water to have risen to the point that [it covered the] top of a mountain … [Robert Ballard] went diving at the bottom of the Black Sea to see if he could find any remains [of the Ark], and he didn’t. But, that’s not to say that the Ark didn’t exist, and it was never built. It could be simply that it wouldn’t have sunk into the Black Sea. Perhaps there was a different locale. And, so, really comes down to a question of ‘how much evidence do people really need?’ It sounds like it comes down to question of faith … So, if you want some empirical answer to whether or not the Ark existed, you could simply say, “the wood disintegrated”. Or skeptics could say, “It never really did happen.” But, we know for sure that there was the possibility that the world could have flooded based on the annual rise and fall of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, or there could have been an ice-cap. Whether or not anyone built an Ark to withstand the flood is a question that I think people have to answer on their own.

I see this all the time with popular magazines and television. They present a little bit of information – hopefully, stuff that people haven’t heard before so that they look knowledgeable and informative – and then retreat to a totally bogus non-committal conclusion so that they can please everyone, and not anger the religious people who actually think the flood was a historic event.

First of all, it’s obvious non-sense that the annual flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates or an ice-cap could cause a global flood. Maybe she meant that those things could’ve caused a local flood that was greatly exaggerated, or maybe she was looking for anything that could superficially justify “we know for sure that there was the possibility that the world could have flooded”. Based on the editing of the clip, I had to wonder if management forced them to go back and sound more conciliatory towards global-flood believers. (I can only imagine the kind of hate mail they would receive if they actually said that Noah’s Ark was fiction.)

How do we know that Noah’s Ark didn’t happen?

There are already a bunch of arguments out there about Noah’s Ark that I’m not going to discuss because they’ve already been discussed to death. They include:
– Could a person in 2350 BC build a wooden ship 450 feet long that was sea-worthy? (The only known wooden ship approaching this size was the USS Wyoming. It was 450 feet long, completed in 1909, and the water tended to flex the planks in high seas so water seeped in and had to be pumped out.)
– Could Noah fit all the world’s animals on that boat, including space for food?

Instead, I think the bigger problems for Noah’s Ark are:

(1) The Bible goes into quite a bit of detail about ancestral lineages, and how old people were when they gave birth to the subsequent generation. This allows us to calculate backwards and figure out when the global flood supposedly happened. According to the Bible, the date of the global flood ends up being around 2350 BC. This date is simply not realistic. Ancient civilizations go back earlier than that. Egypt, for example, has a series of dynasties leading back to 3000 BC. (See my post “Creationism versus Archeology”.)

(2) If the 2350 date were correct, then human civilization would’ve had to undergo an extreme population explosion in the millenium following the flood. According to Biblical sources, there would have been millions of Jews leaving Egypt, so assuming a global population of 40 million around that time (~1350 BC), and comparing that to global population estimates later in history (an estimated 200+ million by 0 AD), would require an incredibly high population growth between 2350 BC and 1350 BC (5,000,000 fold increase in 1,000 years), and a much lower population growth after 1350 BC – usually less than 5 fold population growth within any 1,000 year period between 1350 BC and 1800 AD.

(3) The distribution of animals is not what we would expect if there were a global flood killing all life. If all life was limited to the top of a mountain in the Middle East in 2350 B.C., then how to explain the distribution of animals across the world? All the kangaroos on the Ark went to Australia? How did the animals get to the Americas? If they crossed via an ice-bridge in the Bering Strait, then the Americas should be limited to animals that are warm blooded and capable of traveling hundreds of miles across snow. This means no reptiles, no spiders, etc. Yet, the Amazon contains a wide variety of animal biodiversity. And why didn’t American desert animals stay behind in the deserts of the Old World? (See related post: “Creationism versus Animal Biodiversity”)

(4) Genetic evidence shows that human beings are far to genetically diverse to be descended from a single family in 2350 B.C. If Noah’s Ark were true, then all men alive today would’ve gotten their Y-chromosomes from Noah, and all human mitochondrial DNA would come from Noah’s wife and the three daughter-in-laws. Studies of the human Y-Chromosome show that you’d need far more than 4,300 years to accumulate that many mutations. Human beings could not be descended from a single male in 2350 B.C. What the studies show, instead, is that, in order to explain the number of mutations in the human Y-Chromosome, you have to allow for roughly 60,000-90,000 years. Similarly, human mitochondrial DNA requires roughly 160,000 years to accumulate that many mutations — showing that Eve could not have lived 6,000 years ago as the Bible says. (See Carl Zimmer’s article on Y-Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve.)

(5) If the entire human race were repopulated from a single family in the Middle-East in 2350 B.C., then we would expect the highest levels of genetic diversity to be in the Middle East. Populations who moved to Africa, Europe, Australia, etc would carry only a subset of that genetic diversity with them. In reality, the highest levels of human genetic diversity occur in Africa. For example, the Khosian (in South Africa) have some of the most diverse genetics. If the Bible predicted Noah’s Ark landing on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, genetic diversity would at least align with the Biblical story. Unsurprisingly, humans appear to have arisen in the same location as our closest genetic relatives – chimpanzees and gorillas. (See National Geographic’s Genographic Project, which uses genetics to trace the migration paths of humans over the past 200,000 years.)

I suppose young earth creationists could side-step issues two and three by invoking miracles. For example, they can say that God miraculously allows a population explosion, and God miraculously moved animals back to their original locations (after miraculously moving them to the Ark in the first place — afterall, it’s not reasonable to suggest that Noah gathered all the world’s animals). Flood-believers already have to invoke a whole series of miracles (God sending enough rain to cover the earth, God talking to Noah, God removing the excess water from the earth after the flood, etc). Of course, if you add enough divine miracles to your story, nothing is “unreasonable”. However, it would be odd to say the other three can be cleared up by invoking a miracle — it’s not understandable why God would want to do a miracle in those cases (unless he was trying to deliberately obscure that a flood happened).

So genetics and archeology show that Noah’s Ark didn’t happen. Some Christians, Jews, and Muslims might suggest that Noah’s Ark did happen, but it was more than 4,400 years ago (i.e. the Old Testament is wrong about that detail). It still causes problems because you’d have to push back the date tens of thousands of years in order to allow for that level of human genetic diversity.

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