Archive for March 17th, 2009
HIV/AIDS is possibly the worst health crisis to hit this planet. It’s also arguably the worst thing to happen to the African continent since white people were regularly kidnapping its inhabitants and trading them like farm machinery.
But the one hopeful thing about the whole situation is this: while there’s no cure yet, AIDS is easily preventable. Ridiculously easily preventable. Avoiding the sharing of needles & using contraception are the two most effective ways to avoid the long, tortuous, wasting death we’ve all come to associate with this horrendous epidemic. And if you’re not an intravenous drug user (or you studiously avoid sticking sharp, blood-stained things in your body), there’s 50% of your prevention pretty much sorted already.
So … how the hell are you supposed to react when the gold-robed, paedophile-protecting dictator-for-life of the Catholic Church continues to threaten people with eternal torment for using contraception during sex (based on a very, very, um, interpretive interpretation the Bible) and instead tells people “just say no” to sex? In this story (BBC) Pope Oberstumbannfuhrer Herr Kaiser Ratzinger (I refuse to use his picked-out stagename, he’s not Axl Rose for crying out loud) once again proves to the world that not only is his outlook anachronistic, unrealistic & laughable, it’s also flat-out fatal. To millions upon millions of people.
The writers on this blog are generally aware of the problems caused by population growth, for example here and here. But there is a movement in modern American Fundamentalist culture that puts the Catholic baby mill mentality to shame.
They call it the Quiverfull Movement. The idea is basically that a woman is a quiver full of potential babies, and therefore must produce as many babies as possible. Only when she runs out of eggs may she consider another career.
It began a generation ago:
Since 1985, Quiverfull has been thriving in the Southern and Sunbelt states. Although the conviction of “letting God plan your family” is not an official doctrine in many churches, there are signs of its acceptance in high places; the Rev. Albert Mohler, Theological Seminary president of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, argued, for example, that deliberate childlessness was “moral rebellion” against God.
It is mainly a propaganda campaign,
Quiverfull has gained exposure through cable TV’s fascination with extraordinarily large families, including the 18-child Duggar family. The Duggars, an Arkansas couple whose husband Jim Bob was a former Arkansas state representative, have appeared on several Discovery Health Channel specials about their immense brood and currently have a TLC reality show, “18 Kids and Counting,” that focuses on the saccharine details of large family life.
So the principle of outbreeding your opponents is now a conscious tack of the American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Thoughtful citizens of this world intentionally breed less. Therefore we are bound to be ever more seriously outnumbered with a couple of generations of this nonsense.
If the title didn’t give you a Clue, then I just have to tell you that I like metals. I like melting metals. And I finally did a video of metal melting.
Why? People are always asking me about how light titanium metal is. I was inspired by Theodore Gray and his Periodic Table Table to collect a set of samples of representative metal bars so as to show people. To let them feel for themselves.
I started with Tungsten, because it is as heavy as gold and the hardest one to shape. I then collected and shaped matching bars of aluminum, titanium, bronze (95% copper), steel (97% iron), and magnesium (lighter than carbon). But absent the lead, I can’t illustrate how much heavier tungsten (gold and platinum) are than lead. Pity I don’t dare use silver, gold, or platinum bars. They would be funexemplars, but I fear short lived.
But lead (Pb from the Latin Plumbum, as in plumbing, plumb-bob, etc) is now harder to get. This useful material has been in household use for almost 6,000 years. Children who likely drank from lead vessels gave us every advance in our civilization. But about a generation ago, it was declared toxic. So now it is getting hard to find outside of radiation labs, and expensive there.
So, I decided to cast my own piece of fresh lead plate from some crusty and oxidized 19th century lead pipe. To feel the pipe is to understand its utility as a weapon; heavy and rigid, yet soft.
Unfortunately, I didn’t set up my camera to show me chopping up the lead pipe. I used a hammer and chisel to get through the crustiest parts (hundred year old drain pipe, eww). But tin snips work well on 1/4″ thick lead. It cuts like cold butter. But shiny.
And the piece I ended up with evoked a geological feature I’d visited: Shiprock in New Mexico. Magma oozed up through a crack in the Earth’s crust forming a vane much like you see on my cast plate. An accidental demonstration in practical geology.
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Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, has spent countless hours defending his positions before lay audiences. What’s really impressive about Dawkins is the way he keeps his cool under fire (I was first impressed with Dawkins’ composure when I viewed this episode, involving Dawkins’ interview of the gay-bashing hypocrite, Ted Haggard).
Consider this condescending interview conducted 3/4/09 by Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio. You can listen to the entire one-hour interview here. At the beginning of this interview, Miller could barely hide her disdain for Dawkins. Many of the people calling the show to ask questions were much more open-minded than the host–they certainly didn’t pick up the host’s mocking tone.
Miller began the interview by branding Dawkins a failure because people weren’t running to convert to atheism, despite Dawkins’ hope (expressed in The God Delusion) that people reading his book would be caused to rethink their beliefs in religion. Dawkins explained that he did hope that people would rethink their beliefs, but that his book didn’t fail merely because people didn’t abruptly quit their religious affiliations. Here’s the hope Dawkins expressed when he wrote The God Delusion:
I hope to persuade . . . a substantial number of middle of the road people that there’s nothing wrong with a disbelief in God … there’s nothing outlandish about it. It’s probably what they’re like anyway, whether or not they admit it to themselves.
Miller then worked to corner Dawkins with a belief expressed by theist John Polkinghorne that there are no hard and fasts truths. Dawkins agreed with Polkinghorne on this general point, but advised Miller that this doesn’t mean that we have no understanding of anything.