Watch this set of clips from the HBO documentary “Questioning Darwin.” If the very first one doesn’t give you an incredible sad, I don’t know what to tell ya.

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Being gay IS in your genes, say scientists in controversial new DNA study

Let’s say it’s true, and that there is a specific and identifiable genetic marker for homosexuality (obviously it probably won’t be responsible for *all* homosexuality, but let’s say it’s an important factor). And let’s say that a test for those genetic markers is available… for in-utero fetuses (“fetii?” Not sure of the plural on that one). So… ten minutes after you find out you’re pregnant, you find out that Junior is likely to be gay. And since abortions are supposed to be easily accessed, convenient and, if at all possible, government funded and free…

The resulting storm of convoluted arguments, from leftie pro-abortion types who are suddenly opposed to abortions, to rightie anti-abortion types who suddenly think that some abortions are just neato, would be entertaining to watch. I think much good could come from the “debate:” simply duct tape a bunch of powerful rare earth magnets to the pundits and install them within copper coils. The electricity generated by all the spin would power several large cities.

Here’s your dumbth-filled website for today. The stupid… it burns.

Geocentricity trumps heliocentricity

I can only guess how painful it must be for reasonable Christians to read pages of gibberish that use the Bible to try to convince people that Earth is the non-rotating, non-moving center of the solar system and the universe.

凸(0_.)凸

Majority of young adults think astrology is a science

Fffuuu

This might prove both interesting and entertaining:

Mormon LDS Church President Summoned to UK Court on Fraud Charges

In short, it appears that since the LDS Church makes kind of a big deal about tithing being important, that sets them up to be put under legal scrutiny. The relatively recent British law ” Fraud Act of 2006″ prohibits lies for the purpose of getting someones money… false advertising and such, I’d imagine. Well, the Mormon Church has, as an religion does, various tenets, and since they want your money… those tenets had better not be lies.

Below is the legal paperwork laying out the tenets. Some of those are pretty legally questionable, I think… I believe the LDS church does not take a particularly hard&fast position on the Earth being only 6000 years old, for instance. But others, like the Book of Abraham being an accurate translation from Egyptian sources, have long since been proven to be false.

I have some difficulty in imagining that this legal action will actually get anywhere. It seems pretty loopy to me. But then, this is the British legal system. If it actually makes it to court, and the court finds that the LDS is committing fraud by teaching that Joseph Smith found and translated plates of gold… well, other religions had better watch out. Any religion that rakes in lots of cash from its believers (coughcoughcatholicismcoughcough) will probably be on the hook to prove their faith to be fact.

Granted, the LDS is *almost* in a unique position here. Most religions are old enough that the source documents are gone, that the evidence has been destroyed, that the claims made are now so lost in the fuzz of time that *everything* comes down to faith. But the Mormon church is a modern creation, and Smith made a number of claims that can in fact be proven wrong (such as Amerindians being a lost tribe of Israel). The LDS church is *not*, however, truly unique. There is another religion I can think of that would seem to fit into this legal action even better. A religion created within living memory, which seems to be *all* about raking in the cash, and which has made lots of nonsensical claims about aliens and volcanos and superpowers and whatnot.

 

 

monson-summons1

 

In order for the British court system to get its hands on Monson, he would either have to go their on his own or be extradited by the US government. And even with the current administration, I can’t imagine the US extraditing a feller for professing what his religion teaches.

 

Oy vey:

Don’t want to be hassled by creationist teacher? Give up Buddhism, Louisiana public school says

*IF* the story here is true, we’ve got a 6th grade public school teaching that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that if you don’t want your teachers berating you for being a Buddhist, then the cours4e you should set is towards conversion to Christianity. Why, yes, the ACLU *has* jumped into the fray. *IF* the facts are as the story describes them, here’s a time when I hope the ACLU tears ‘em a new one.

Fimbulwinter comes!

Is a mini ice age on the way? Scientists warn the Sun has ‘gone to sleep’ and say it could cause temperatures to plunge

According to the Daily Mail (yeah…), the sunspot cycle has apparently crashed, and we’re on our way to a Maunder Minimum like the kind that led to the Little Ice Age a few hundred years ago… when the Thames would freeze solid in winter. If true (*if*), it should provide some entertaining decades as planetary temperatures collapse and ecosystems shift.

Of course, it might also lead to armies of ice giants stomping across the polar parts of the world, and fire giants stomping around the equatorial bits. Then all y’all will better repent yer blasphemous ways and take up arms at the last defense and prepare to partake of your defeat and die  in good company.

Or maybe, y’know, it’s just one of them things.

Forty Five years ago today, the crew of Apollo 8 read a bit of Genesis to the people of Earth from lunar orbit.  No matter what your religious views, this was a pretty neat thing (unless you’re a bit of  a dick).

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As reenacted in “From the Earth to the Moon:”

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I’ve been hearing about this problem for a while now.

Bananas are something of a miracle of horticulture and human tinkering with what evolution done wrought. In their natural state, bananas are rather icky-looking squat things that require some considerable effort to make edible, but when most people think “banana” they think of the Cavendish banana, which first appeared on the scene in 1836 in the form of a single mutant plant. This was yellow and tasty and could be eaten right out of the peel. It was, in essence, pretty awesome. But there’s a problem: all modern Cavendish bananas derive from that *single* plant. Which means they’re all pretty much clones. Which means they would, in theory, be capable of being wiped out by a single plague… if one plant is susceptible to it, they all would be.

Good news, everyone!

Get ready for the banana pandemic to destroy your favorite fruit

Bananas have been struck by plagues before. Another strain, the “Gros Michel” type, was the standard-banana until the 1950′s. At that point, the strain was virtually wiped out by the “Panama disease.” It didn’t make the strain extinct, but it made it rare enough to cease to be economically meaningful, and was replaced -  after considerable effort and expense – by the Cavendish. Until relatively recently the Cavendish was thought immune to the Panama disease. Guess what.

Related: here’s a mutant fruit.

Raybanana

Here’s what this type of mutant fruit actually believes happened: dinosaurs with sharp flesh-rending fangs were actually vegetarians who lived less than 6,000 years ago and ate fruit that only appeared less than 200 years ago:

carnonanners

Think I’m kidding? Prepare to be disappointed.

I saw this painting linked at an article on io9.com:

Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Missionary Seeks an Alien Convert

A higher rez version is available on the artists blog.

08.18.2013-2

The painting was commissioned to illustrate an Orson Scott Card short story, but it shows something I find interesting in both its banality… and it’s more common absence: someone trying to convert an alien. Anyone who has ever been to wherever more than three humans gather in a two-mile radius has seen someone proselytizing. It’s just something humans do, and probably have done for the last 10,000 or more years. And I honestly can’t come up with any explanation as to why that practice would stop.

Whether you think religion is terrible, or religion in general is awesome, or one religion is awesome and all the others are terrible, I think most people will recognize that religion probably ain’t going away. Religion in the Western world is in a state of general decline… slow in the US, pretty fast in Europe, but nowhere is it going completely away. Past efforts by the likes of various Communist regimes to eliminate religion have proven dismal failures, and generally just tried to replace the extant supernatural religion with an all-new Communist religion, every bit as bloodthirsty and twice as stupid because they made testable claims that *repeatedly* failed. Humans are just plain wired for a belief in the supernatural *and* for a longing for some sort of ritual. And thus… religion.

It’s of course impossible to say if there is some Star Trek/Wars like collection of interstellar species out there that we’ll someday be a part of. I expect that several hundred years down the line will see humanity transformed, via genetics, cybernetics and Odin knows what-all, into something completely unrecognizable. But if we do in fact join the Federation, and have wacky hijinks with aliens that are at least nominally kinda-sorta like us in terms of motives, goals, sheer size and framerate, there will be humans out there who will not only have their own religions, but will make efforts to bring aliens in.

In modern TV & movies, this seems to be a virtually taboo topic (though certainly not in SF literature). Look at Star Trek: the original series in the 1960′s rarely even touched on the topic, but when it did, it hinted that at least some of the human crew were of some form of Judeo-Christian faith (the episode with Apollo, for example had, as memory serves, the aline superbeing Apollo suggesting that the humans needed a whole bunch of gods; Kirk responded with something like “The one we have is just fine,” or words to that effect). But by the time of Next Gen, it was written into the writers “Bible” (Ha! Irony!) that humanity had finally become all-atheist.

Ah… no. That’s bullcrap.

Oddly, while the Trek-humans were all uniformly non-religious, every *other* species out there was slopping over with religion. Usually, of course, it was one religion per species. But even so, this sort of cultural characterization led to the Bajorans and Klingons being just a lot more fleshed-out, not to mention interesting, than the humans.

This weirdness was not universal, however. The late lamented but nearly forgotten Babylon 5 not only had religious aliens, it had religious humans. Some had all-new sci-fi religions, but most were bog-standard entirely recognizable religions. The station had a passel of Fransiscan monks headed by Brother Theo, and while they only appeared a few times, when they did you knew some good stories were afoot. Christianity was, IMO, treated well, and came off well, with some interesting examinations of how some aspects of dogma would play into a sci-fi future (I’m looking at *you,* Brother Wormtoungue!). The sadly one-off attempt at a B-5 revival was literally swamped with Catholicism, and made some good points about how the Church would both fade after contact with alien cultures, and how it might survive and even thrive. And let’s not forget Vorlon ambassador Kosh rockin’ out to the beat of Puer Natus est, a scene that still gets to me.

But B-5  was kind of a voice in the wilderness on this topic. Battlestar Galactica, both versions, were heavily steeped in religion, but in clearly fictional religions (for reason that of course made sense in context). Star Wars did, until “Episode 1,” have something vaguely resembling a Jedi religion, but that got handwaved away.

If we get Out There, and have regular run-ins with Them, we are going to find our religions threatened, challenged and changed. But unless we get exterminated or reprogrammed, or meet up with a powerfully successful alien religion that simply swamps all Earthly religions, humans are going to keep their religion. Though not without some changes, of course; End Timers are going to be in a bit of a bind if humans spread throughout the stars and are no longer bound to one readily torched planet.

And so if there is a Federation or Galactic Republic out there that we can join, there will be missionaries like the one in the painting trying to convert some aliens. And why the hell not? Sure, it might be a nuisance to them… but on the other hand, so long as the missionaries aren’t dicks about it, it might say something good about us as a species that there are humans out there who recognize that the aliens are, fundamentally, of the same worth as humans. I’ll take a Mormon or Catholic missionary telling an alien that it, too, has a soul worth saving over an interstellar Klansman or Nazi who sees alien species as sub-human.

 

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