Riker's Mailbox

Friday, July 10, 2009


I hate the fact that I'm publishing so little original content lately, though I assure you I'm still generating it (mostly on post-it notes) regularly enough. Some day, I'll kick out another SATIETY, just... not in the foreseeable future. I worked for about 30 consecutive days last month, which makes a handy excuse for why I'm not blogging much.

The biggest contributor to my delinquency, however, is my recent decision to sign up for a Twitter account.

Keeping true to my past tendencies, I was plenty late to this latest incarnation of the social networking game... but once I tried it on for size, I found it to be a wonderous utility. Much like how I praised this very blog for encouraging me to improve my own creative writing, Twitter has reinvigorated this languishing hobby of mine. And it does so in a more accessible way. The problem with blogging is that it requires a pretty significant chunk of my time to write up an essay or article that I'm willing to unleash upon the public. It requires a good bit of revision and an even better bit of staring at my monitor like an idiot while I wait for yet-unspoken sentence fragments to clink into place.

Twitter, microblogging in essence, at once minimizes this time requirement and also introduces a new challenge by imposing its 140-character limit. It is much easier to write a 140-character tweet than a 500 word post, and yet it is much harder to get something entertaining and worth reading to fit into 140 characters than it is to barf out 500 words, hoping a few stick in the mind of the casual reader.

Twitter has made blogging fun again. It's encouraged me to share more of the dozens of interesting and weird things I encounter every day, and coupled with the raw communicative capabilities of my new jesusPhone 3GS, it's never been easier to share those experiences with a sentence, a picture, or a sound bite.

Follow me at @RITmusic2k Wink.

To take a more blasphemous turn, I just wanted to give a shout out to the wonderful Evolution 101 podcast, by Dr. Zack Moore. Newly liberated by my jesusPhone 3GS, I've taken to listening to music and podcasts at work, and I'm making my way through the archives of Evolution 101 again; I never forgot how informative and accessible the material was, but I knew that I'd forgotten much of the material itself, so it was a good time to listen to them once more.

It's easily found on iTunes, and also has a presence on the web:

Evolution 101

If you want to learn more about evolution and molecular biology than you ever thought you'd enjoy learning, try Dr. Zack on for size and thank me later for the recommendation. You'll find me over at #robotpickuplines.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Gay civil marriages ruin the sanctity of religious marriage to the same extent that gays eating crackers ruins the sanctity of communion. That is to say, inside the religious congregation it has no effect, and outside the religious congregation it has absolutely no effect.

While California is temporarily shading its eyes from the Enlightenment that has proven no trouble for the likes of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, I believe it won't be long before the California State constitution gets reamended* and every person previously denied the privilege will be able to wed the person they love.

There is a certain tack I'd like to see the state take in doing this. One of the biggest talking points of the Prop 8 scum** was that their churches would be obligated to recognize and marry gay couples if gay marriage were legalized. Nevermind the fact that this isn't remotely close to the truth, let's make sure that when we finally and permanently legalize gay marriage in California, we explicitly state the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. Let's emphasize that churches will retain the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a shirt, shoes, or who prefers genitalia that match their own.

We need to encourage them to disallow same-sex relationships within their congregations, and this is why:

Make them wear their bigotry on their sleeves. The more publicly their distasteful behaviors are presented, the sooner society will choke them off.

Let's hope that brave gay couples who want a religious wedding can stand up for themselves and leave congregations that won't support them, and move to more progressive and forward-thinking churches, or better yet, away from churches in general. Politically active religious groups feed on people, and need to be starved into submission and out of relevance.

* - unamended? remended? remedied? repealed? remodeled? role-modeled? Something like that.
** - a kinder word than I really wanted to type.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This one tripped off my irony meter.

Sham acupuncture works as well as real* acupuncture:

* - as in, sham.

Monday, May 04, 2009


I'm making my way through another blog out there, entitled 'The Everything Else Atheist'.  I was intrigued by her series of posts about the use of placebo, and had a thing or two to say in response to a couple comments left on her thread.

The original articles:

You may want to read the comments over at T.E.E.A. before proceeding.  Or, you can just take my word for it that what follows is my brilliantly-concocted and unassailable argument* against a commenter who disagrees with the use of placebo in modern medicine:
I'm going to chime in as a proponent of the use of placebo here. For one thing, treatment should not be judged or valued solely on chemical efficacy. Determine its validity by its results, not by its ingredients...

Otherwise, what do you suggest we do about all the therapists out there alleviating peoples' emotional (and in some cases physiological) problems just by *talking to them*? Both work by closely-related mechanisms, where the patient's own mentality is the primary vehicle behind their recovery. In one case it's a controlled activity: developing a trusting bond based in conversation with a trained professional, whose coaxing can yield significant results. In the other case, it's a trained professional engaging in the controlled activity of administering a physical remedy that takes advantage of the well-documented power of placebo.

I don't see a downside here, since at the absolute worst, it will provide no benefit. And it might cost some money. But if the idea of paying for sugar pills is what's so unappetizing, then the costs of their administration can be bundled with some form of therapeutic treatment, much in line with the author's suggestions above. You pay for treatment and it gets you sessions with your doctor and a pill, both of which work in concert.

The way I see it, the placebo effect is one of a thousand quirky evolutionary byproducts we've gathered up over time, in rank and file right along with such hits as the female orgasm... if it's a good thing, and it's ours, why deny ourselves of it?

The refusal to wield a useful and beneficial tool over thin moralistic quibbles is just one of the reasons we all rail against organized religion, after all. Let's not fall prey to the same tendencies.

* - I mean, I drew a link between medicine and orgasms, for Christ's sake... how can you argue against that?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Aaaaaaaaand another post!

There's sort of a trend here... while my blog post scratch pad still exists (call it a rough idea repository, perhaps), I'm not drawing from it lately.  To do so requires a concerted effort and time commitment to Write A Blog Post.  I'm generally busier than what would allow this on a regular basis.

But, I do still take time to read other blogs on related topics, and often enough I find a post or comment that gets my gears turning, and before I realize it I've penned an elaborate response.  A few seconds after I realize I've done it again, I say to myself, "Self, this belongs on Prose Justice."

The original thread was over at Homosecular Gaytheist.

And so it gets pasted here.  Oh well.  It's not mine from scratch, but it's CADAVER.

Here's the comment:

Some helpful clarification in the discussion:

1. Generally, Christians differentiate between Creator and creation. The latter would necessarily have a Creator, while the same would not be said for the former. This would explain why atheists who don’t accept this argument tend to cite the same argument ad nauseum (”Your creator must have been created too! PWN’D!) and why a lot of Christians, rather than showing a little forethought and knowledge of their argument, sit slack-jawed wondering what just happened.

The argument is not stuff comes from other stuff, until you get to the biggest stuffer ever. That is dumb. The argument is simply to highlight the distinction between creation and creator and show that creation highly implies a creator.

2. The second objection is actually one of the most honest objections that I find atheists make in various forms to religion and to God, which is just that in their eyes God is cruel, so why serve him. Christopher Hitchens was never more honest than when he said in his most recent book, that even if God existed, Hitchens would be a part of the devil’s party. And looking at the world and seeing that as how things were designed by God, I can’t say that I disagree with that conclusion, except for one little thing…

My religion, Christianity, teaches that the world is not as it is supposed to be. It is screwed up. People are screwed up. Relationships are screwed up. That is pretty much conceded, though there is some disagreement to the degree that sin has affected the world and not just people. The two views being either we (people) are the problem and the world would be “perfect” without us in the equation, and the view that we are the biggest problem, but sin has affected everything in creation as well (I would put myself in the second camp, by the way). So, the good news is that both atheists and Christians should find some agreement in saying, “Something ain’t right!”

That leads to the second issue in that objection, which is that God is therefore culpable for the misery that is in the world. The good news for believers is that the Bible does have an answer. The bad news is that it really is sin is our fault and not God’s, even though he is all-powerful. If you read the Bible, that is actually what it teaches - man is responsible, God is sovereign. Believe me when I say, Mr. Atheist, I feel your pain. That is a tough pill to swallow, and any sincere Christian should be the first to admit that that is a difficult teaching. It has actually led some to fashion an understanding of God that he is not all-powerful or that man is not a responsible agent, but ultimately the Bible teaches both.

So Christianity is not without its difficulties, but let me say this final thing: taking God out of the equation doesn’t make the situation any better. You still have a screwed up world, you still have evil and violence, but now there is no real solution. That is just the way the world is. At least with God, you have some hope that things will be fixed one day, while without him, you really have no reason to expect things to be any different or better ever. Why should you? Plus, it makes the idea of “better” a moving target, which is a problem in and of itself.

I am not even toying with the idea that this will satisfy everyone, but I do hope it at least allows people on both sides to understand the other a little better.

And here's my reply:

Trey, I'd like to address a couple points you brought up: "The argument is not stuff comes from other stuff, until you get to the biggest stuffer ever. That is dumb. The argument is simply to highlight the distinction between creation and creator and show that creation highly implies a creator." You've probably heard atheists disregard the 'creation requires a creator' argument as tautological and/or circular, but even besides that is the greater issue that when an atheist looks at your analogy and at the world, they conclude that what you call 'creation' most definitely does *not* imply a conscious creator. We can all see the fingerprint of a house's maker in a house because we all have great knowledge of houses, and we can see them being built by people. One can appreciate that houses are logically planned out. When you look at a planet, however, or a body, all the mechanisms at work that yield those end products are documented and understandable, and they show no real signs of intelligent planning. I wear glasses because my eyes are not perfect. People get cancer because their bodies are not perfect. Almost all planets are uninhabitable because their orbits are not perfect. So on and so forth. There's a very clear trail of evidence that explains this... basically everything about us, everything about our solar system is cobbled together by mechanisms that worked just well enough to persist... exactly as science verifies, and exactly not what a perfect creator being would have created. Your answer to this, is sin. But if this entire universe was created by your god, then sin is either a direct manifestation of his, or a creation of one of his creations. I can envision a more perfect god than yours: one that did not allow for imperfection in his creation. Your god is either unable or unwilling. If man is responsible for sin, then God is responsible for creating man with the ability to ruin all God created. That's a pretty complicated and convoluted explanation for the imperfection we all acknowledge as existing in the world. Science does a better job explaining it in far fewer steps, and without requiring any mental acrobatics. In response to your last point, "taking God out of the equation doesn’t make the situation any better. You still have a screwed up world, you still have evil and violence, but now there is no real solution. That is just the way the world is. At least with God, you have some hope that things will be fixed one day" We think it does make things better, because it removes the sense of complacency people have with suffering. Christians may sit around waiting for someone else to fix the problem, or they convince themselves that the problem is unfixable, and simply wait for their heavenly reward where nothing is ever going to go wrong. We atheists realize that there's nobody out there to take care of our problems for us, so it is up to us to do it. We have no overbearing force telling us not to bother. It's only up to us to learn enough about our problems that we can in turn solve them. Rational inquiry, not faith, is the mechanism responsible for every advancement of our society. It gets us 100 year lifespans and air travel and the ability to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere. It operates far better on far simpler rules. Perhaps most importantly, it makes no such atrocious claim that there is something inherently wrong with being human. We don't waste any time or energy apologizing for ourselves, which leaves us able to spend that time and energy improving the lives of real people all around us, people who just would not survive on faith alone.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


When it rains, it pours.  Or in my case, drizzles... but it's a drizzle in a drought, so don't complain :)

I just read Jerry Coyne's latest article lambasting the National Academy of Sciences and the National Centers for Science Education for their accomodationist standpoints with regard to the harmony of evolutionary theory and religious faith (he must've gotten the idea from me), and I gave myself another opportunity to think about the issue.  Here was my reponse:

I tend to see the posturing of the NAS and the NCSE as more of a logistical matter than anything else; these organizations need money to function, and they have to be sure not to alienate potential sources of funding. But then there's a side issue: they don't need to pander to us as naturalists/rationalists/atheists, because we're already on the same side of the fence. The people for whom those statements were written are those who might be *on* the fence. And the surest way to knock them back to their side is to require them to abandon a component of their belief system before we grant them admission. If a theist comes to the NCSE or NAS website, they're looking for encouraging words, not challenging ones. We should give them to them and let the merits of the science itself argue its cause. The NCSE and NAS have a tough enough job just promoting evolution in this religiously saturated country. But if you want them to take a hard line stance, then you're effectively asking them to incorporate the inordinately larger task of debunking religion. In our non-ideal world, they have to pick their battles. It might offend me that they have to speak disingenuously to do so, but I'm going to have to live with that.

So, I don't like it any more than I disliked it before*... but I acknowledge the rock to their left and the hard place to their right, and will let them play at this mild little version of fighting dirty** to gain a little ground on our tiring uphill battle.

* - I think that's a valid sentence
** - I mean, they're totally lying to their audience.  It's a classic bait-and-switch.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silly Popes and Slippery Slopes

The last two months have seen me get a year older, get even busier at work, move into a new house, and spend even more time on the car.  Hence, the 'not blogging' thing I've been trying out.  I just wanted to post this link in case it hasn't been seen yet...

If I afford myself some time between projects at the new place, I'll follow up with a critique.

Thanks for your patience!

And, I feel like I owe an apology for not making a 'BLASPHEMY - BIG WORD' title for this post.  It had to happen sooner or later.

Friday, February 27, 2009


My contribution from the bus slogan generator webpage:

That is all.

EDIT:  Dude!  I just realized that there's a real synergy between the contents of the bottom line and the colors used to render them - 'turn off that red light' is written in red, and 'kneel before superman' is rendered in yellow... like the light of the strength-enhancing YELLOW SUN?  Oh yeah.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A moderate Christian named Lyn posted a comment on a blog post at irrelgion.org earlier today, and the reply I gave deserves a space at Prose Justice, so I'm reproducing it here.  The original post features a youtube clip of President Obama being particularly level-headed* regarding the role of religious thinking in public policy.  It's worth a quick view.

So, without further ado:

Lyn Says:

I have a question, why do athiest need to form groups and organizations just so they can say they don’t believe in something? If in your opinion God doesn’t exist, then why this site? Why spend so much time fighting something you don’t believe in? Why fight a God and his followers if he is nothing more than a figment of believers imaginations? I know if I don’t believe in something I am not going to waste time fighting it. I myself believe in God and I saw on this site a little sketch about the earth being only 6,000 years old and we all know that can not be true. There is nothing in the Bible that confirms that. In fact it reveals quite the opposite in Genesis. But people, epecially ‘Bible Beating’ Christians never take the time to see what is actually being said and they also fail to understand that the Bible was translated from greek to english. This means that the meanings they have for word and phrases are different. For example, in the greek ’serpent’ meant ‘Shining One’ not snake as it means in english. Who is referred to in the Bible as the ‘Shining One’, Satan. Another thing that I saw was a comment on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath day can be any day of the week. I usually take mine on a Friday because I am free all day, no school or work for me. When people continually work everyday, all day they become shell of human beings. No one can function correctly unless they take a break. People will actually work themselves to death. They sentence themselves to death, just like drug addicts, alcoholics, etc. Is God doing this or are people doing it to themselves? I tend to go with the latter. As far as the war that is going on in the middle east, that itself can be traced back to the Bible. Ishmael and Isaac are still fighting til this day over their fathers land. They are feuding brothers who most likely will never be at peace. Like yourselves I am also irritated with some ‘Christians’. Irritated because they don’t take the time to actually examine the Bible and research it before they shoot their mouths off and say something that is not accurate. Feel free to hit me back with a response.

And my reply:


As you surmised yourself, we aren't spending any time attacking a deity we don't believe in. 

But when a majority population of Americans behaves as if a deity exists and has prescribed a particular standard of living, their actions and beliefs have a real and significant effect on all of us. That's what we're spending all this effort fighting. When the legal system and social architecture that govern over all of us is subjected to the massive influence of the religiously-minded majority, much of it succumbs and becomes compliant with (or at least tolerant of) religious dogma, and that scares the hell out of us. 

The words attributed to your particular deity have been successfully used to justify atrocious prejudices and to glorify willful ignorance in a time when it is very dangerous to do so. 

This is no longer a world in which a small tribe may only have to worry about a land quarrel against another almost indistinguishable small tribe around the corner. It is instead a world in which one high-ranking government official can make a single decision that ultimately results in the destruction of the entire surface of the planet in a matter of minutes. 

This society won't do well to live according to outdated and rudimentary ethical codes when thousands of years' refinement have given us much more effective and informative tools. We have to live with a level of responsibility, rationality and maturity that no ethical theistic religion can provide. We're fighting for our wellbeing on the personal scale, and for all our lives on a global scale. 

Religion's public influence is an impediment to that goal.

As I reread Lyn's statement, I realize that I just latched onto the first few sentences of it, and that's squarely where I aimed my entire reply.  I think I should go back there and address the remaining content; if anything, I'll have to thank her for her honest inquiry and clearly good-intentioned followup.

* - That's not to say that this level-headedness is atypical of President Obama.  Just atypical of a president.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Heh... this pleasant article on Darwin's birthday came from FOX News, of all places... 

I guess they're not all bad after all.  Good for you, FOX News :)

Monday, January 19, 2009



This place seems familiar.  Like I've been here before...  long ago.

I need to get this out of the way first:

Happy New Year, readers!*

...and also...

I'm sorry I don't blog much anymore!**

There is a medley of reasons why I'm not posting frequently these days.  A promotion at work bestowed upon me a whole new set of responsibilities, and I'm left with much less time at work to type as I ponder the greater mysteries and ideas.  

I got another new car, this time an even more special one to me, and I'm spending much of my free time scouring the enthusiast forums and other associated corners of the web for information I can use to keep her at her absolutely thrilling best.  Saab 9-3 Viggen, by the way.  Still gushing over it, so please pardon the enthusiasm.

But that's not why I'm here today.  I'm here to give you guys some CADAVER.

Believe it or not, I didn't stop posting because I ran out of ideas.  I actually still have a cache of essay stubs ready to turn into posts, and I've been jotting notes down feverishly in odd spurts; I have a pile of stuck-together post-it notes waiting to be rendered coherent.  It'll happen eventually.  I just ask, again and with a little shame, for your patience.

While I do have a handful of pieces of timeless VAP and vibrant atheist insight kicking around in the ol' noggin, I was inspired to post today by something that just happened to me.

I'm a facebooker, and a former Catholic.  That combination got me involved in a survey for present and former Catholics... probably for some college student's sociology class or something.  The questionaire asked a handful of questions about my opinions of the church, how much of my life is still influenced by it, and so on.  At the end I had the opportunity to write a statement in the 'comments' form, and as I filled it out, I realized it'd be a nice thing to share here.  So, reproduced from the survey, here's my closing statement.  Much of it is similar to things I've already written here, though it may be cast in a new light.  Check it, yo:

As a child of a family closely involved in and even employed by my parish, the church significantly influenced me during my formative years.

Unfortunately, I have to regard it as a trial by fire, rather than as an upbringing.  Discrimination against my mother by our pastor and other parish faculty resulted in a quite literal excommunication of both of us.  While the church as an intangible entity has always been good-intentioned in my mind, the engine driving the people who wield it as a tool has always been flawed.  I learned this after my experiences prompted me to take a more honest and critical look at Catholicism and competing spiritualities of all flavors.  

After years of inspection and introspection, I resolved upon the understanding that all the good times, all the learning experiences, all the camaraderie and education, and all the moral qualities I assimilated came at the hands of good people, not of church doctrine.  The people responsible for the positive aspects of my catholic upbringing would have been equally valuable to me without catholicism guiding them, and in fact the only times that people around me failed in their basic goodness was when a misunderstood or outdated christian ideal nudged them away from their natural compassion, in order to conform to obscure ethical confinements, and in some cases pardoning them for unfortunate biases.

This awareness, bolstered by a hard-earned scientific understanding of the mechanisms of this remarkable universe, affords me the ability to revere and respect humankind and all life on this planet without appealing to the double-edged sword of a deity who both created us and constantly hinders our ability to grow into a mature global family.

At the end of the day, I find that the church is simply a bad means of being good; one that gets in the way of its goals, and one that our species would be bettered by casting off its vestigial traditions and confinements.  Only after we grow out of religion can we achieve our true potential.

So yeah.  I think there were a couple sentences in there that hit points I've missed in the past.  And this little bit of sharing has stoked the fires a bit...  I can't say that I'm gonna make it back to weekly blogging, but I'm still here.  Still don't believe in God.

* - All three of you know who you are.
** - though the reasons I'm not blogging much are that I'm very busy enjoying some very fine times in my life.  So I'm not that sorry.