I’m pink, therefore I’m spam

Cogito ergo sum

Fern dust detailDescartes’ dictum states that humans are conditioned to rationalize their experience … even to the point of maintaining ideas that contradict other accepted theories.

A case in point: fern seed. In earlier times, the fact that ferns did not appear to have any seeds was a puzzle for naturalists. They concluded, counter to all other experience, that fern seed was simply invisible. In the popular mind, this idea was transmuted into contagious magic, that possession of fern seed could make one invisible.

As one thief says to another in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part one:

Gadshill

We steal as in a castle, cocksure; we have the receipt
of fern-seed, we walk invisible.

Chamberlain

Nay, by my faith, I think you are more beholding to
the night than to fern-seed for your walking invisible.

(II, i, 95–98).

[Read more from A natural history of ferns]

Thinking fern seed was invisible was not an isolated incidence of bad science – history holds other examples of faulty reasoning, from the theory of phlogiston to the contemporary misguided attempts to pass off Intelligent Design as science rather than religion.

Pass note: It’s creationism with a college degree.
[Read more …]

Why attribute the wonder of the world to some greater being?

Isn’t it wonderful enough to consider the world as it is?

Fern dust reflection

The best thing about fern seed is that it can make great tattoos.

Castleton Gardens, Jamaica

Revival

On a vacant lot in Grants Pen, a big tent was planted and on Sunday night, the revival meeting held its first service. From a mile away we listened to the testimonials and the whoops of redemption. Then the storm clouds drew in and the night turned black. The rain swept in from the sea, blown almost sideways by violent gusts. Sheet lightning shot across the sky as the preacher’s voice rose in shrill exhortation. The first thunderclap was like a smack around your head. After that there was only the sound of the rain spatters and the wind howling through the louvre windows.

The next morning the tent stood abandoned under a louring sky. Only the faithful Volvo remained.

Volvo Revival Meeting

(Larger image here.)

With God on our side

As I mentioned on the night of triumph of the new leader of Jamaica, it is the only country where you will here a politician say,

God bless you, comrades!

However, the new Prime Minister has created more confusion with her more recent righteous-to-rass statements:

If I am appointed by the Almighty to be Prime Minister, then all of you Christians must give support to the appointment of the Lord. If it is not done, the whip will not be drawn against me, because I am going to be carrying out His will.

So stated Portia Simpson Miller, newly “annointed” Prime Minister of Jamaica, last week at the Rehoboth Apostolic Church in Portmore. If you substituted “Muslims” for “Christians”, then the Taliban would probably agree with her.

Read it again.

That first “if” is ambiguous. It is not a straightforward conditional; rather it is used rhetorically and could be replaced with “because”, thus suggesting that her divine appointment is in fact a given. As a consequence, all true Christians are obligated to support her as Prime Minister. If total support is not forthcoming, then divine retribution will follow, sparing only His Chosen One.

Very neat. Absolute power with absolutely no responsibility.

A few days before this commandment, our new Leader had instructed her Ministers to appoint pastors to either sit on or chair all new boards or government agencies. The response from church leaders was positive yet wary. Canon Ernie Gordon noted that “the separation of church and state has been an American phenomenon, not British, not Caribbean”, adding, “people who are chosen must not be appointed solely because they are clergy persons, but they should be competent and have a passion for the job ahead.”

Church leaders will therefore be chosen for their competency and passion in the subject. However, as opposition leader, Bruce Golding, pointed out, “in every parish there is a Spirit Licencing Board which licenses all the rum bars. There is also the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission and the Caymanas Track Limited” – which leaves one wondering how they will find enough clergy with the necessary competency and passion for boozing and betting.

I only hope the interventions of the annointed one will be more pragmatic than the prayer meeting held last weekend in Spanish Town that called for divine intervention to heal the former Jamaican capital of its bloody scars (21 murders in the last two weeks). “We believe that the old slave masters must have set some level of curse on Spanish Town as in the past it was a central point for the slave trade,” said Bishop Rowan Edwards at the meeting.

Do you still question why there should be a separation of church and state?

If not, stand ready for a national exorcism.

Sod ’em and begorrah

Following up Zinnia’s links on my earlier post, I found this mildly interesting article, I was born this way, from the Jamaican Gleaner in 2001.

More fascinating was the comments page.

There’s an initially amusing flame war between TT and Saleem and his girlfriend, before the online casino comment spam takes over. The page was still loading after 15 minutes.

However, what first struck me on reading the comments were the abusive ALL CAPS and PLANE IGNERNCE on display. People bashing the Bible trying to cite precedence without even being able to spell Gomorrah (Sodom’s easy).

Darn! Why couldn’t God’ve chosen an easier town to destroy, like … LA?

Let’s check out the scripture, shall we?

To bring you up to speed, God tells Abraham that he’s anxious about what’s going down in the cities of the plains. He says they’re doing bad stuff, sin and the like and that he’s going to send in a couple of divine messengers for a recce. The two messengers are met at the city gate of Sodom by Lot, who tries to convince them to take shelter from his brutal fellow citizens.

Genesis 19:
3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:
5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

The key word here, of course, is “know”. Most interpret it to mean “have sex with”, which will put a twinkle in your eye the next time you hear

Darling, do you know Mr Kawazumi, our new IT man?
How well do you really know someone?
Knowing me, knowing you, Ah-ha!

Elsewhere in the Bible, the sins of Sodom are more explicit.

Ezekiel 16:
49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

Oh dear. Not just the queers then.

The Babylonian Talmud, recounts even more specific examples of the wickedness of Sodom.

There were four judges in Sodom named Shakrai (Liar), Shakurai (Awful Liar), Zayyafi (Forger), and Mazle Dina (Perverter of Justice). Now if a man assaulted his neighbour’s wife and bruised her, they would say to the husband, Give her to him, that she may become pregnant for thee. If one cut off the ear of his neighbour’s ass, they would order, Give it to him until it grows again.

If one wounded his neighbour they would say to the victim, Give him a fee for bleeding thee [bloodletting was sometimes considered medically beneficial in those days; here the Sodomite judge ruled that if you are beaten until you bleed, you owe your attacker money for this medical service].

… they had beds upon which travellers slept. If the guest was too long they shortened him by lopping off his feet; if too short, they stretched him out …

If a poor man happened to come there, every resident gave him a denar [coin], upon which he wrote his name, but no bread was given [the store owners recognized such coins, and refused to accept them]. When he died, each came and took back his denar.

Sanhedrin 109a

Alrighty, we get the picture, but let’s get back to our latter-day hero, Lot, played by … I’m seeing Harrison Ford here.

What does Lot do, faced with the mob surrounding his house, baying for his guests?

And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

Niiiice. In the name of hospitality, throw your virgin daughters to the gang bangers. God’s truth.

Oy vey!

I had a dream

Last night I had one of those long, extraordinarily vivid dreams, where I can go off on tangents within the dream (the fabric of her robes and how she addressed the Ambassador), but I can always return to the strong central narrative. As often happens, the details began to fade as soon as I awoke.

However, I can remember the main idea. The new Pope was a woman. She was of French nationality but of north African origin. Her election was unchallenged and popular with non-Catholics. In her first speech, to dignitaries, she singled out the (also female) Ambassador of a communist or non-Catholic African country (the details blur here). I enjoyed the dream a lot. It was only when I woke up that I remembered she couldn’t be elected because there aren’t any female cardinals. Oh wait, there aren’t any female priests either. Duh.

It reminded me of a joke, originally about Jesse Jackson.

An African nun praying.

– Oh Lord, how long before we have an African Pope?
-Not in your lifetime
, replies God.
-And how long before we have a female Pope?
-Not in my lifetime.