ISP #25 – What the F#@K are we Talking About?

From last June! We’re so timely!! Here are the show notes…



Welcome to the Irreverent Skeptics Podcast. I’m your host, Jon Ownbey. Joining me today, on June 22, 2014, are Mike Bohler, Michael McElroy, and Brandi Mattison. Today we’ll be talking about whatever the hell we want. What’s that, little baby man? You wanted a structured discussion of a specific topic? Tough shit! We won’t be part of your system, man.

Main Topic: Potpourri!

McElroy: Lawrence Livermore/MIT researchers develop a substance as low-density as Aerogel but 10,000 times stiffer.

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and MIT have developed a new method for creating extremely-low-density metamaterials with unbelievable structural integrity. (A metamaterial is a manufactured material that exhibits properties not often found in nature, generally based on the physical structure of the thing the material is used for as opposed to the chemical composition of the material itself.)

As an example, per Wikipedia:

Aerogel is a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity.

Wikipedia has a photo of a 2.5 kilogram brick being supported by just 2 grams of Aerogel.

Now imagine a material with the same weight and density as aerogel – which itself is only about 1.6 times as dense as air – but the new material is 10,000 times stiffer. The researchers, who published their findings in a June 20 article in Science, used micro-scale manufacturing techniques to create complex 3D architectures layer-by-layer (like a 3D printer) that would have otherwise been impossible to make.

“These lightweight materials can withstand a load of at least 160,000 times their own weight,” said LLNL Engineer Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, lead author of the Science article. “The key to this ultrahigh stiffness is that all the micro-structural elements in this material are designed to be over constrained and do not bend under applied load.”

According to the team’s findings, because the properties of the metamaterial depend on the physical architecture of the substance and not the type of substance used, they can get similar results from a variety of different substances, including polymers, metals, and ceramics.

They built their structure by using a micro-mirror display chip to build the 3D structures layer-by-layer. The chip has an array of microscopic, individually controlled mirrors that reflect light onto the photosensitive feedstock, setting it in place on a variety of different kinds of structural lattices they designed. MIT professor Nicholas Fang, one of the project’s key collaborators, said that because of the way this technique works, it’s possible to “print a stiff and resilient material using a desktop machine,” and that it lets them “rapidly make many sample pieces and see how they behave mechanically.” They say that these and other similar materials could someday be used to develop parts and components for aircraft, automobiles and space vehicles.

TL;DR we can do magic now.

Bears & Bigfoots! (a.k.a. Jon’s goin a-campin)

  • Bear spray, bells, whistles, guns, or … ?
  • Play dead or run like hell?
  • Bear cans and camp invasion.
  • Everyone makes fun of Jon’s fear of bears…
  • ‘squatch sightings and blurry cameras.
  • How to attract/repel a sasquatch

Bohler: Those Crazy Illuminati Believers.

Attacks on the Enlightenment (Science – Reason)

The International Communist conspiracy.

Batshit crazy religious types. God and Jesus is God of the Universe – Satan (Lucifer) God of our planet.

Joshua Abraham


Ebola Outbreak ‘Tip of the Iceberg’, Experts Say

Damn nature, you scary!

Flying Spaghetti Monster, Meet Onionhead

From The Friendly Atheist: Onionhead is the fictional mascot for the Harnessing Happiness Foundation. According to this totally-not-a-cult’s website:

Onionhead is this incredibly pure, wise and adorable character [actually, he’s a creepy anthropomorphic onion with arms and legs] who teaches us how to name it — claim it — tame it — aim it. Onion spelled backwards is ‘no-i-no’. He wants everyone to know how they feel and then know what to do with those feelings. He helps us direct our emotions in a truthful and compassionate way [in a video where he constantly peels off layers of his own flesh]. Which in turn assists us to communicate more appropriately and peacefully. In turn, we then approach life from a place of our wellness rather than a place of our wounds.

(On a side note, despite saying ‘he’ repeatedly in this intro, they claim that Onionhead has no gender.)

But… as Hemant points out:

Onionhead is now at the center of a lawsuit. Employees of United Health Programs of America Inc. are suing their employers because, they say, they were forced to take part in religious activities related to Onionhead:

According to the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s] suit, United Health Programs of America, Inc., and its parent company, Cost Containment Group, Inc., which provide customer service on behalf of various insurance providers, coerced employees to participate in ongoing religious activities since 2007. These activities included group prayers, candle burning, and discussions of spiritual texts. The religious practices are part of a belief system that the defendants’ family member created, called “Onionhead.” Employees were told wear Onionhead buttons, pull Onionhead cards to place near their work stations and keep only dim lighting in the workplace. None of these practices was work-related. When employees opposed taking part in these religious activities or did not participate fully, they were terminated.

For fuck’s sake, seriously? An onion-mascot-related religion?

I wonder… when an onion-themed cult commits mass suicide, do they still use Flavor-Aid or do they guzzle poisoned onion juice?

The Bible’s Answer to the Problem of Sexism

This one’s a doozy. “Love Is An Orientation” is the blog of the president of the Marin Foundation, self-described as “a public charity working to build bridges between the LGBT community and conservatives”. Recently there was a twopart guest post on the blog called “The Bible’s Answer to the Problem of Sexism” that made it abundantly clear that the author, Jason Bilbrey, Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation, has no idea what the problem of sexism is itself, let alone how fundamentally stupid and wrong the bible gets things in what he claims is its answer to the problem.

In discussing the treatment of women in the bible, Bilbrey brings up Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which is one of the more infamous passages from the book of laws supposedly dictated for the Israelites by God to Moses. Quote:

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

There are two ways to look at this, as far as I’m concerned. The first way, oddly enough, is the way Bilbrey – a Christian himself – decided to run with in his post: which is that what we see here is a law given to people who lived in a culture where women were treated as property and valued only for their virginity. I say it’s odd Bilbrey looked at it this way because this is the view I take of the text as well. Bilbrey sees this as God giving a rule about something that he doesn’t approve of, but working within the context of the culture. (More on that later.)

The second way to look at the passage is how I would’ve expected him to look at it: as divine instructions given by a morally perfect God to teach his chosen people how to live sanctified, holy lives.

[note: all emphasis in the quoted passages is original.]

Bilbrey says:

There’s so much going on in this text, it’s hard to know where to start. If this reads like tacit approval of rape to you, I won’t argue. The powerlessness of the woman being molested is compounded by her powerless in the economic transaction to follow. One day she is the property of her father, and the next she is violently possessed and purchased by another man. Her value is in her virginity, which literally has a price: fifty shekels of silver. Of course, the woman isn’t paid any of it (as if she were the owner of her own body), and must live the rest of her life married to her rapist. This scenario is so bleak it’s easy to miss what the purpose of this law is, which is (and stay with me here) to protect women.

In a society where women are possessions, they can be thrown away when they lose their value. [In 2 Samuel 13,] Tamar losing her virginity outside this system of property transaction places her in a position of incredible economic vulnerability. And the story unfortunately verifies that risk, ending with Amnon’s refusal to marry her, and Tamar living the rest of her life “a desolate woman.”

Let me simplify it for you, Jason, because it really isn’t hard to know where to start. This law is not tacit approval of rape; it’s outright approval of rape. When you write laws, and you want to ban something, you ban it. If you want to ban rape, you don’t write a law that says (about a woman’s virginity) essentially “you break it, you buy it.” This isn’t a law against rape. This is a regulation of a practice that you expect to occur in your society. This is just like the bible’s take on slavery – God never says “don’t own people”, but he does tell you who to buy, how long you can keep them, how to mark them as your property, and so on.

So this is problematic for Bilbrey regardless of which of the two ways I talked about you use to approach the passage. The first way – the one that puts the law into its cultural context – gives us no reason whatsoever to regard the text as valuable. Any attempt to defend it would be as repugnant as trying to defend laws about returning escaped slaves to their masters, just because slavery was a fact of the culture at the time. If this is God telling the Israelites that he disapproves of rape, he has a funny way of doing it. If this is God saying that he values women as more than a sexual commodity, he has completely fucking failed!

The other way – the one that puts the law into its theological context – is even worse for a believer. God loses the excuse of “working within a cultural context”, since he’s supposedly making laws that will last forever. So why is it so hard for a morally perfect being to not be such a total fuckup? The eternal, timeless, perfectly good God somehow can’t just say “don’t rape people”? Keeping the Sabbath – apparently that’s important enough for God’s Top 10, but violent sexual assault never even gets its own “thou shalt not” so much as a “thou shalt have an empty wallet if you do.” And apparently, women being property is part of God’s eternal law!

But it gets worse for Bilbrey. He continues:

… If much of the Old Testament worked within this system of oppression to advocate for women, the New Testament works to dismantle the system entirely.

Yes, he is literally saying that by financially harming someone who takes a woman’s virginity, that’s “advocating for women.” The implication is that it’s sufficient to punish a rapist after the fact, and do nothing to prevent rape in the first place. What’s more, apparently “advocating for women” means giving reparations to her father/owner instead of doing anything to help her.

Moreover, in part 2, he says:

The same laws that […] were designed to protect women also propagated the system under which they experienced social vulnerability. Is this what God wanted? Is God negligent of women throughout centuries of patriarchy?

If it’s not what he wanted, what the fuck was stopping him from getting what he wanted – other than his own legislative incompetence? I don’t see any other all-powerful deities writing laws here. (And Jason: the answer to your second rhetorical question is yes, the bible shows God being negligent of women throughout centuries of patriarchy!)

Remember how he promised that “the New Testament works to dismantle the system entirely?” Well… he claimed he’d show this in part 2. Instead, we get shit like this:

Here’s the difficult truth: God loves subservience. We might assume Jesus came to subvert any notion of authority or submissiveness, especially in male-female relationships, but it’s not true.

Oh, okay. So the male-female hierarchy still exists under Jesus. He goes on:

The answer to sexism, according to Jesus, is not that women should be as powerful men, but that men should be as powerless as women. The kingdom of God Jesus taught and modeled is about the first being last and the last being first.

Ah, I see! Beyond trying to kill off any ideas of self-empowerment we might have, he’s cherry-picking the gospels and ignoring the rest of the New Testament. Because the NT isn’t nearly so progressive and equalizing as he wants us to ignorantly believe it is. Ephesians 5:24, for example, totally disagrees:

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

The cherry-picking continues:

For millennia, men have pointed to the creation narrative in Genesis when claiming their right to a position of authority over women. But the irony is Jesus identifies more with Eve than Adam.

Again, if you ignore the 23 books of the New Testament that aren’t the gospels, you might possibly maybe think Jesus identified with Eve. Except that in 1 Corinthians 15:45, Jesus is referred to as the “last Adam.” So there’s that.

The deception continues:

Those seating themselves at the head of the table of Christian fellowship are in for a surprise. Christ is seated at the foot. Yes, Jesus teaches equality. However, let’s not mistake equality with an absence of hierarchy. Jesus loves hierarchy. It’s not systemic hierarchy, where men are more important than women. It’s individualized hierarchy, where the other person is more important than you–whoever they are, whoever you are.

Really? While Ephesians 5:21 does almost support his viewpoint here by talking about “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God,” 5:22 immediately commands wives to “submit [them]selves unto [their] own husbands, as unto the Lord.” And husbands are never told to submit to their wives – only to “love their wives as their own bodies” (5:28).  Also, I cited Ephesians 5:24 earlier. Let me give you the verse that precedes it:

For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

Whoops! So much for your totally non-biblical quasi-egalitarianism.

Bilbrey goes on:

Let’s be blunt here for a minute. I’m a man. I’m a person in power, more or less. And I’m extolling the virtue of humility. If you have alarm bells going off inside your head, I don’t blame you. People like me have been saying stuff like this for years as a way of manipulating others and securing authority for themselves. Pastors especially.

In the end, if the answer to sexism is mutual submission, it must be voiced and adopted by men first. What does submission in love look like, not in one man’s relationship to one woman (within a opposite-sex marriage, say) but on a societal level–in all men’s relationship to (yes) all women?

Even when he’s talking about reforming society to overcome sexism, he’s still thinking from a worldview where men must take charge. Why not move forward together, rather than think our gender somehow confers us with natural leadership skills? This is like some fucked-up kind of chivalry going on here.

Love isn’t about submitting yourself to someone. It’s about giving yourself to someone. The two ideas are remarkably different. (Unless you’re into BDSM, maybe…)

The bigger picture here is that this is a common bullshit tactic I see from Christians who hold the Bible in high regard. They know that this book is supposed to be a fantastic guide to life, full of magic sprinkles and unicorn farts, but then they actually read the fucking thing and discover that – surprise! – an ancient tribe of barbaric warrior nomads had some kind of backwards ideas. So to salvage the book they respect so much, they insist that the book must actually be right, and it’s just their interpretation that needs to change. Except that half of the time the interpretation that they come up with isn’t all that fucking helpful! “Well, yeah, women were purchaseable objects whose only value was based on whether or not their hymen was intact… but God let rapists buy their victims from their families as a way of honoring the victim!” Are you fucking kidding me with this shit? Your brain has to be doing somersaults in your skull from all this cognitive dissonance. “The bible is always right, so if I find something bad, I just don’t understand it right!” No. Fuck you. The book is terrible.

Links and Attributions:

Lawrence Livermore, MIT researchers develop new ultralight, ultrastiff 3D printed materials

Wikipedia: Aerogel

Flying Spaghetti Monster, Meet Onionhead

The Bible’s Answer to the Problem of Sexism (Part 1)

The Bible’s Answer to the Problem of Sexism (Part 2)

Ephesians 5:15-28 (KJV)


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