The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 31st, 2015: Dogs and Cats

First, the dogs: From, “25 Uncommon Dog Breeds You Didn’t Know About” (I did know about some of them, as I’m sure many of you do.)

I love some of the (often minimal) breed descriptions:

Number 23, the Berger Picard: “French Shepherds, which date back to 800 AD, are a very rare breed.” [But their bloodline is continued into the 25th century, minus most of the hair, of course.]

Number 11, the Jade Terrier: “The Jade Terrier appeared between the two world wars.” [What, did it come through the Wardrobe from Narnia?]

Number 8, the Mudi: “About 100 years ago in Hungary, a spontaneous breed surfaced called the Mudi dog.” [A “spontaneous” breed? Another Narnian?]

Number 2, the Finnish Spitz: “This adorable breed was originally bred to hunt game like bears and squirrels.” [BEARS and squirrels? BEARS?!]

Number 1, the Otterhound: “These dogs are said to be [the] most intelligent carnivorous mammals in all of Europe.” [I’d have to agree that otterhounds are probably smarter than most human “carnivorous mammals.”]

Otterhounds (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Otterhounds (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Now, the cats: With tomorrow’s Super Bowl in mind, here’s “20 Things Your Cat is Thinking While You’re Watching the Super Bowl”, also from Not as funny as I had hoped, but some cute cat photos make it worthwhile. And for those who won’t watch football, there’s always Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl for tomorrow’s entertainment.

This is our daily Open Thread, brought to you from the frozen tundra of New York. Brrrr!

Music Night, January 30 2015

Honestly, this song was officially an “oldie” even in my day but it’s a doo wop classic and still makes me smile. I love the fact that the Penguins can still pull off the vocals after all these decades. And they still look sharp.

The Watering Hole; Friday January 30 2015; Ice Geese

We’ve had some weird weather here the last couple of weeks. First it rained, then it got cold, then it snowed, then it got COLD, then it stayed cold for a few days, then it got sunny and really warm. Most of the snow melted; the frozen lake stayed mainly frozen except for a few thawed spots along parts of the shoreline. On the warmest day, we took a couple of hours and a camera along with us on a leisurely walk around the lake. The local goose population was there in force, and was clearly enjoying the ice, the water, and even the sheltered corner where the ice was still snow covered.

Following are a few photos from that day, none of which need a caption or further description — they are what they are, sotospeak. Take a look, enjoy the view, and if you can, please explain to me how it is that any critter anywhere can stand for hours on the ice ON ONE LEG while sleeping. Me, I’ve decided not to try it, but still . . . 😀

Beckwith geese 775

Tree GeeseGeese and reflections 801

Geese on ice 798I’m thinking that being a goose is kinda cool. About the only hassle they have in life is the idiot with a gun — but I guess that we humans also have THAT problem. I do know a few folks who can stand on one leg in that yoga “tree” pose, but I’m not one of them, either.

Maybe in the next life? Nah. Prolly not. Life ain’t THAT fair!

Anyway, that’s all for today. Feel free to chatter away on whatever happens to tweek the imagination.




The Watering Hole; Thursday January 29 2015; God vs. Science – A Dialog

The (January 23) C&L post Guess What Sam Brownback Wants To Cut Now  brought forth — since Brownback is, at his center, a motivated wingnut Christian — a very lengthy dialog on religion, its impact on culture and its inevitable conflict with science.  I don’t very often get involved in lengthy weblog discussions anymore, but this was one I couldn’t resist, given this up-near-the-top premise comment:

CL Reader 101: Highly religious people like Brownback will cling to something they believe, in this case right wing tax cut cure all mentality. The mindset isn’t to think critically and reject ideas that are apparent nonsense but to have faith that your belief is true. When you’ve spent a lifetime believing in talking snakes (Genesis 3:13) and book full of fairy tales it shapes your thinking process in a way that doesn’t embrace factual analysis. We’ve recently seen the same thing when Jim Inhofe quotes the bible as proof that human activity can’t drive climate change. Electing people who rely on “magical thinking” isn’t a good thing for Kansas or the country.

— to which I responded thus:

Religious belief is anathema to logical and conscious thought, and is based on nothing other than ancient mythologies which have ZERO scientific (or even practical) evidential basis. Unfortunately, its influence over public policy and practice is immense, and far too often to the detriment of a functioning society — as Brownback and myriad other enthusiasts so vividly demonstrate.

That pair of comments sparked a whole pile of replies, mainly because there was one ‘believer’ involved, one of those who typically will accept nothing other than a concession to their own personal belief. I suspect we all know the type. In any case, below is a highly edited recap — to save space, I removed a whole pile of short and repetitive comments which were in agreement with the theses noted above, all without any attempt to diminish or accelerate the overall context. What remains is a ‘discussion’ of sorts, one that emphasizes the differences between faith-based and science-based premises. To wit: science is always willing to follow the facts and revise views accordingly; religion follows faith only, facts to the contrary are of no use and dismissible.

The conversation began with a ‘friendly’ comment by AnnG14, the ‘believer’; the rest are (selected) back-and-forths in the order they first appeared, screen names intact.

AnnG14 (response to frugalchariot): I completely agree with the separation of church and state. However, just as science can not prove there is a God. Science can not prove there isn’t a God either. And as far as the big bang theory that life was created by a big explosion and atoms crashing together, that is really not more logical than a sentient being having created the universe. By the way Einstein believed in the divine order of the universe as have many other brilliant people,

frugalchariot: Well, the Big Bang theory reflects the probable way that the universe came into being and has nothing to do with life as we know it — which evolved close to ten million years (on this planet at least) after the Big Bang.

Science also cannot prove either the existence or non-existence of the Great Spaghetti Monster, a factoid which doesn’t really bother me all that much.

Fact is, there is not a single shred of verifiable evidence anywhere that either a god or a Spaghetti exist or have ever existed. Further, the whole of the universe including black holes, dark matter, and even life itself are far more logically explicable if a “sentient being” is left out. We are finally getting a grip on the concept of the Big Bang’s singularity, but why build a god into the equation? Doing so only brings up the question, where did IT come from?

I suspect IT was a product of early human imagination — a means to explain the unexplainable, also a way to justify power and authority of the few over the many. Roughly the same as today, actually.

vonBeavis: That’s Flying Spaghetti Monster, you infidel!

frugalchariot: Actually I was referring to the Older Testament Spaghetti Monster, creator of everything. The Flying one is his son; his story’s in the Newer Testament.


I’ll take Einstein over you. He was a lot smarter than you and not so smug spaghetti boy.


And nobody cares what you believe…. But outright lying and trying to pass along that “Divine” order, “Einstein believed” bullshit in the context of any anthropomorphic “Gawd” is just pathetic.

in a 24 March 1954 Letter to Joseph Dispentiere, Albert Einstein wrote,  “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

Any competent “researcher”, retired or otherwise, would know that.

frugalchariot: Thank you. It might also be fair to note that Einstein died in 1955, long before the Big Bang thesis (originally proposed in 1927) became the accepted model of universal origin. In fact it wasn’t until the mid-sixties and the discovery of background radiation throughout the universe that the Big Bang overwhelmed the Steady State theory, to the point where today there is no longer much mystery surrounding universal origins (the discovery and confirmation of the Higgs Boson the latest significant VERIFIED evidence).

It should also be fair to add that throughout scientific evaluation and exploration of the universe, its billions of galaxies, star-birthing ‘places’, gravity-collapsed black holes, and now the as yet undemonstrated but theoretical dark matter — while immense amounts of verifiable evidence on all planes concerning the origins of everything have been collected, nary a single shred of scientific evidence that might even SUGGEST (much less prove or even indicate) the existence of ANY version of a sentient creator has EVER been found anywhere, Period.

As I suggested earlier, there is exactly as much solid evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as there is for any other variety of ‘god’ — but yet, even here in the ‘enlightened’ USA god’s bogus existence overlays and ‘inspires’ some of the most heinous efforts to mask and to hold back or halt completely human accomplishment that exist anywhere on the planet (or in the universe, insofar as we have yet been able to determine).

I should add that I care less what any person chooses to believe. All I ever ask is that they keep it in the closet and to themselves unless/until some verifiable evidence is uncovered, at which point there will be an audience willing to listen, myself included.

AnnG14 (to Pocatello):  A personal God is NOT the same as not believing in God.

“When the solution is simple, God is answering.” Albert Einstein

Nope you lie. Einstein said the universe was too orderly NOT to have been created by a sentient being. And the cheap shot was started by spaghetti boy. Why is it you atheists think YOU have the right to JUDGE everyone’s beliefs?

1Gary: I simply do not get your point? If Einstein believed in God that makes everyone else who does not believe in God wrong? How does that make any sense? Beliefs are not facts. They cannot be measure or weighted. It was once believed that the Earth was flat now we know it is not. You argument is not logical.

IronPyrite: “Einstein said the universe was too orderly NOT to have been created by a sentient being.”

And who, or what, created this “sentient” being that was capable of designing and creating the universe?

(and round, and round, and round, and round we go…)

AnnG14: God always was. If you want to believe that all life was created by a gigantic explosion and atoms crashing together you can. How was intelligence created in that scenario?

IronPyrite: So you explain what the big bang is and isn’t. I’m waiting for you to prove me wrong, but you can’t. I’m not your personal assistant and academic tutor. I don’t have to prove you wrong, as you have ALREAY proven yourself wrong by conflating the Big Bang  with “life”.

This, ON TOP of your abject failure to provide ANY evidence as to the existence of god.

AnnG14: And your abject failure to prove that God does not exist. Once again I will go with Einstein. And YOU should be able to prove what you say on the big bang theory. You can’t do that either. Neither can you answer a simple question, that I have asked you repeatedly: You say that God did not create life then how was life created? Still waiting.

frugalchariot: Life evolved. The ‘laws’ of physics and chemistry plus a multi-billion (earth) year time frame, plus liquid water and a reasonably benevolent climate and atmosphere allowed it. No need whatsoever for any divine guidance.

AnnG14: How did life START, PARTICULARLY INTELLIGENT LIFE? Almost everyone knows that life has evolved.

frugalchariot: Intelligence is a biological trait and evolved just as did every other life function. The human brain is larger than that of a mouse, therefore has more capacity for ‘intelligent’ function. Intelligence is simply a neuronal function, nothing at all mysterious about it. 

AnnG14: If God did not create life then how was life created? Why don’t you be honest and say you can’t answer an honest question. I have found atheists are all offense but can not defend/answer simple questions about their own beliefs.

frugalchariot: Life was not ‘created.’ Life happened; it is really nothing more than a curious assemblage of “star stuff” (thanks, Carl Sagan) which is different than other curious assemblages of star stuff. There is no magic needed to explain the origin of life’s curious assemblage, only chemistry and physics combined with enough time to become biology. And really, it’s just that simple.

Jim C: Speaking in terms of creation has no relevance when one understands the term ” eternity “, eternity doesn’t start and end anywhere . If you try and make the ” well, if god doesn’t exist then who created all this” route you must then ask the question , then who created god ?

AnnG14: No you don’t. No one created God. God always was.

I am not a fan of Huckabee or Chistian Fundamentalists or atheists for that matter. All of them think they could not be wrong and anyone who does not believe as they do is just stupid.

Regarding the big bang theory, who/what created the matter that exploded?

frugalchariot: The answer to that remains in the shadows, although with the confirmation of existence of the Higgs Boson (“the god particle”) the mystery of the singularity’s origin is one step closer to explanation. The origin of ‘the god particle’ will, however, likely remain elusive to scientific examination and eventual fact, but that’s different than the origin of god-the-sentient-creator thesis. The latter’s origin is clear: it emerged from the primitive minds of evolving humans, and then grew into the monstrosity it’s become because of the implicit power the concept grants to the most corrupt minds of the developing human species. And there it remains.

[. . .]

There clearly is no plausible way to discuss the obvious non-existence of a god with anyone who chooses to believe in a god-based mythology. It puzzles me, the vitriol of even self-described ‘tolerant’ god people, that immediately takes hold of any conversation with anyone who either denies or doubts their religious thesis.

I myself am not an atheist, I am, like Edward Abbey, ‘beyond’ atheism; non-theism. Atheists don’t believe in god; non-theists understand that there is no god to even NOT believe in.

IF confirmable evidence of god-existence should ever show up, I’ll willingly listen. Until then, no. And in the meantime I’ll resist any and all propaganda that attempts to induce belief in that vast intellectual (and most often subversive in intent) emptiness called religion.

Jim C: It shows insecurity I believe .

frugalchariot: Belief in a god has several motivations, I think;

First, it allows full and total explanation of that which is unknown, and no data, no evidence, no proof of any thesis whatsoever is ever needed. “God did it” suffices as an answer for every question the severely limited mind can come up with.

Second, belief in a god does indeed allow the fearful-of-everything “mentality” to gain the comfort implicit in eternal life in a mystical heaven where there is nothing ever to fear.

Third, those who willingly preach the god thesis to the fear-laden and susceptible minds gain a measure of control over the many; the sensation of ‘power’ is very satisfying to those with limited creative potential.

And fourth, the bigee: the truly-gifted godman charlatans find that their faux preachings eventually lead to widespread control of the ignorant masses. Imagine a pasture bull in the midst of a herd of cows and there you have it: religion defined. The mythical god has done its job.

 Jim C: All I can say is, yep.

So that’s the bulk of the ‘conversation’ which, I think it’s fair to say, once again ran into that unbreachable wall of blind faith, the belief in something which has no evidentiary verification whatsoever. Why is that? Why is empirical data so easily dismissed in favor of blind nothingness? Does it reflect the failure of science education, or does it point to the vast success of religious education?

But the beat goes on and on as evidenced by recent headlines, such as Bobby Jindal’s Prayer Rally Advocates Putting Christians In Control Of Government And All Aspects Of Society in which the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement reiterated their thesis which asserts that conservative Christians should take control of the seven main areas of culture and society: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.

What could possibly go wrong?





The Watering Hole, Tuesday January 27, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Polictics

Here’s something to chew on (pun intended). The conservative God made the earth in 7 days, and it is only about 8,000 years old, and Noah saved every creature one rainy morning (wonder how long that took?). Then there is the liberal version of God , so expansive in concept, taking no particular form, and creative as all get out, revealing mysteries to us every day if we wish to discover them. Take your mind off the kindergarten God and marvel upon this creation for a few moments.


The Watering Hole, Monday, January 26, 2015: We Can Thank Religion For These Horrible Ideas

It is an indisputable fact that there have been people throughout history who have been motivated by their personal religious beliefs, whatever they may be, to do good things for other people, even complete strangers. It would be nice if the majority of those acts were done out of pure altruism and selflessness, but that is sadly not the case. The religious motivation was often not in the form of a reward for doing good as it was a punishment for not doing good. (Modern studies confirm what astute observers of humanity saw long ago, that conservative people tend to be motivated more by punishment than by reward, and that stupid people tended to think conservatively. So if you want them to do what you say, you make them afraid to not do what you say.) And while you may say, “What difference does it make why they’re helping their fellow humans?”, it’s important to understand that the same source (Religion) that tells them to do good things for people (at least once in a while) also gives them some very, very bad ideas. Alternet’s Valerie Tarico outlines them in more detail, but in short the horrible concepts are: Chosen People, Heretics, Holy War, Blasphemy, Glorified Suffering, Genital Mutilation, Blood Sacrifice, Hell, Karma, Eternal Life, Male Ownership of Female Fertility, and Bibliolatry (Worship of Books.) Religion may even be responsible for the Rape Culture in which we live. I’ll let you read them for yourself, I just want to talk about why a few of these concepts are contrary to the American concept of Freedom.

I worry about self-described Christian Conservatives taking political power. I consider them as dangerous to our way of life as any fundamentalist practitioner of any religion because they are making up their religious beliefs. Jesus did not preach a conservative message, so you can’t call yourself a conservative and a follower of Jesus’ teachings. There are Conservatives who have actually said our nation’s laws should be based on The Bible (though they’re usually vague about which one.) In three of his first four terms in Congress, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL 4) introduced three versions of a bill called The Ten Commandments Defense Act. (105th, 107th, 108th.) This bill declared that displaying the Ten Commandments on state (or some lower government) controlled property is a right reserved to the States under the Tenth Amendment. The problem here is pretty obvious when you think about it. He wants Congress to declare that States don’t have to obey the First Amendment when it comes to the Ten Commandments, even though the First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law regarding establishment of religion. The very law he tried to have passed violated the First Amendment, because it was precisely the kind of law the authors of the First didn’t want Congress to pass. And even if you tried to say it was simply “enabling legislation,” it still amounted to establishment of religion. It has nothing to do with the alleged “Judeo-Christian” values upon which this nation was founded (because it wasn’t), it has to do with the fact that the Founders knew what happened to people who didn’t follow the official religion of a nation. They were forced to convert or face imprisonment or death. And there are nations in which that still happens today. The Founders thought that was wrong and that everyone should be free from government interference to practice their chosen religion, and that the worst way to let that happen would be to let the government declare a preference of one religion over another. And a federal law declaring States were free to do that to their citizens (who are also citizens of the United States, and under the Fourteenth Amendment afforded all their federal rights to their state citizenship) would be an Act of Congress that establishes a religion that supports the Ten Commandments. What bothers me more is that back then, his bill had 118 co-sponsors, some of whom have gone on to become US Senators. (And at least one who went to prison, but not for his involvement with this bill. Too bad.)

Another group of which you should be concerned are the Christian Reconstructionists. They have this screwed up view that God does not want governments to be involved in helping the poor. This is as good place as any to start describing why the Religious Right’s (or any other religious group’s) views on government should be null and void. This is the United States of America. Our government IS “We the People.” When we decide we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves, we institute government-run programs to do so. What makes government-run programs superior to private or religious charities is that the government is prohibited from discriminating against people! Private charities can find ways to make sure only the people they think deserve their help get it. If you truly believe people should be free from government interference to practice the religion of their choice, and if you believe people should be free to express any ideas they wish, then you can’t possibly also believe that the United States should be run according to any religious text. Any! The two principles are mutually exclusive. You can’t be free to practice your own religion when the government has decided that one religion is better than another. (I think all the monotheistic ones are bad, with the polytheistic ones not that far behind.) Because many monotheistic religions ban anyone from standing up and saying four simple words, “There is no God.” You would also not be allowed to say, “The entire concept of God is a flawed and silly one. Grow up and take responsibility for your lives here on Earth today.” They would put you to death. And it would be an Eternal Death because the idea of an Eternal Life gives people (especially conservative people, who are not inclined by their nature to want to help other people) an excuse to not live for today, to not live for making a difference to your planet’s fellow inhabitants today. It also lets the government (who is now running your life once they decided that a particular religious text trumps our secular Constitution) oppress you even more because, according to them, if you live a righteous life here on Earth today, no matter how much you or anyone else suffers, you will get your reward when you’re dead. And when they’re telling you that, take careful notice of how they’re getting their rewards today. Lastly, one of the absolute WORST idea Religion has given us is that women are property who must at all times be under some male’s control. This is the driving force behind all anti-abortion viewpoints. When they say it’s just a Biblical thing, they’re wrong. Life does not begin at conception (according to their own Bibles), it begins at the baby’s first breath. This not about “protecting the innocent unborn.” (Were people like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer innocent when they were in the womb? I’m more interested in how the religious right views things.) If you believe that all people are equal under the law (which is what our Constitution guarantees), then you cannot also believe that men have any right to control women’s bodies. Hobby Lobby’s argument came down to that – Men have the right to control women’s bodies. It had nothing to do with Christian principles, because if it did, they wouldn’t have their products made in countries notorious for their human rights abuses.

Take away these horrible ideas Religion brought us, and maybe there’s a chance Humanity can live in Peace with one another. Nobody was chosen by an imaginary Being to be Its favorite (which several different religions claim.) People who think differently should not be killed for those beliefs (which won’t kill the ideas, anyway) but should be shown in an intellectual manner why their reasoning is flawed. As Tarico points out, if War can be holy, anything can be. Blasphemy is as American as it gets in this country. Glorified Suffering is just masochism made holy. Genital Mutilation is never necessary, nor is it ever justifiable. Blood Sacrifice is just an excuse to kill. Hell is as ridiculous a concept as heaven, when you think about it. (Please do that. Think about it.) Karma is a pretty cynical concept, and a good excuse to do nothing. But if you believe Karma will get back the guy who did something horrible to little children, then you have to believe the kids he brutalized did something to deserve their fate. Are you sick? Eternal Life because Why Live For Today? Male Ownership of Female Fertility because deep down inside them, conservative men are afraid of women because the women might not give them sex if they had to give consent first. And worshiping books leads to censorship of books that don’t support the ones worshiped. None of these concepts is good for Humanity, and all of them are the result of Religion. Please, don’t try to tell me Religion is nothing but good. It is filled with horrible ideas, and the sooner we stop treating them as good ones, the sooner we’ll all be free.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Religion, Politics, the separation of the two, or anything else you wish to discuss.