Situational Values (a.k.a. Religion)

At the risk of further abusing a decayed and desiccated equestrian cadaver, I’ve had it up to here (crap—you can’t see my gestures through text. Bah, just imagine it) with the “contraceptive coverage violates my religious liberties” argument. Here’s the latest one, courtesy of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s twitter feed:

The Obamacare HHS mandate takes effect today that requires Americans to violate their religious beliefs to implement the president’s health care law. The mandate compels religious employers to pay for and refer women for abortion-causing drugs, birth control, contraception and sterilizations.”

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the absurdity of the notion of an “abortion-causing drug” and—oh nevermind, let’s not. This one’s so stupid, it needs its own paragraph. What is an abortion?

a·bor·tion   /əˈbɔrʃən/
1. Also called voluntary abortion. the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.
2. any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.

And contraception?

con·tra·cep·tion   /ˌkɒntrəˈsɛpʃən/
the deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation by any of various drugs, techniques, or devices; birth control.

Abortion is an intervention, either surgical or medical (85% and 15%, respectively, per the CDC), to terminate a pregnancy. Contraception, by definition, cannot be abortion because abortion can only occur after impregnation. An abortion can be done, realistically, at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, all the way up to the final (ninth-ish) month of pregnancy, although third trimester abortions are exceedingly rare (91% occur in the first trimester, and most of that remaining 9% in the second). Contrast this with the notion of “abortion-causing drugs,” by which the author is presumably referring to ella, a “Plan C” pill that a woman can take up to five days after sex to prevent pregnancy (it also triggered a good deal of outrage in the wingnut lobby). It should be obvious—but apparently it isn’t—that swallowing a pill is radically different from undergoing an invasive surgical procedure. One cannot merely swallow a pill six months into her pregnancy and consider the whole ordeal over. The implication that these drugs are fundamentally equivalent to a surgical procedure is at best a gross misrepresentation of the facts (and is more likely a deliberate distortion intended to compel people with more emotion than sense to yell vociferously). Comparing abortion to contraception serves only to demonstrate an unwillingness to engage in rational discussion. It is a red herring, meant only for deception.

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The Sound a Duck Makes

Hey, you know what’s bullshit? Aromatherapy.

“As a holistic practice, Aromatherapy is both a preventative approach as well as an active method to employ during acute and chronic stages of illness or ‘dis’-ease.”

No, sticking nice smelling things in your nose on on your feet or chakras or whatever other nonsense is not preventive medicine. It’s just perfume for newage hippies.

“It is a natural, non-invasive modality designed to affect the whole person not just the symptom or disease and to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils.”

Hey guys, guess what! If you use vaguely sciencey-sounding words like modality, people might not notice that you’re completely full of it! Yay!

The body is not some discrete entity that gets sick because it’s not “vibrating at the right level.” It isn’t full of an invisible, intangible* energy web that controls physical well-being. We get sick because either 1) foreign invaders are thriving inside of our bodies by killing off the native fauna and too rapidly reproducing; or 2) because some of the organisms comprised by “the body” are themselves damaged. The body is a microcosm of cooperating and competing life forms. Our brains give us the illusion of selfness, but we are, each of us, a multitude.

It’s a bit funny, I think, that both sides of the political climate use the same ridiculous argument. On the right, “evolution is just a theory.” On the left, “germ theory is just a theory.” Seriously guys, science has got this one covered too.

* How strange that only newage woo-meisters are capable of detecting this "energy!" There's one
group that really profits from the placebo effect. And people accuse Big Pharma of immorality...


I get really confused and depressed when people misunderstand evolution badly enough to use the word microevolution. Creationists often love to fall back on the old “microevolution is real, but macroevolution is a lie!” trope. I don’t get it.

Microevolution is macroevolution. Evolution is evolution! What creationists call macroevolution is just evolution taking place over relatively long periods of time. What does that mean, “relatively long?” It means “long enough for populations to deviate enough from one another that we perceive them as different species.” The only part of that definition that differs from what they call microevolution is time.

Whoa there, I’d best back up a bit. What is microevolution? Well, according to biologists, it’s a bullshit word made up by ignorant creationists. According to those ignorant creationists, it describes changes that occur within a species, such as different breeds of dog. The reason I call these creationists ignorant is that this is evidence for, not against, the theory of evolution.

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The Sin of Pride (or On Being Wrong)

Anyone who knows me ought to instantly recognize something strange with the title of this article: I basically never use the word sin—not outside of mockery, anyway. The very notion of sin as a thing is deeply deserving of a thorough lampooning. It is a manufactured, illusory disease for which the only cure is said to be a treatment, equally illusory, administered by the ecclesiastic—it is nothing more than the adult version of cooties.

Thanks to contemporary culture, however, sin has begun to take on a secular meaning of “any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse,etc.” I generally prefer to avoid using even this meaning of the word, but today’s topic justifies a break from this tradition. When it appears in the form of hubris or conceit, pride is a truly reprehensible state.

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