My Impeachment Predictions

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump is underway, and I wanted to offer my predictions of the outcome. I have no crystal ball to make these predictions, but I’d like to think that I have some sense of the relevant actors at play.

First, the outcome. I’m going to say that I expect that Trump will actually be convicted, although I have no idea how long the trial will take (but I don’t actually expect it to be short.) Here is my reasoning on this.

McConnell is a guy who many other senate Republicans will look to in deciding how to vote. McConnell is also guy who loves power, but he’s sharing that power right now with Trump. This leads me to strongly suspect that McConnell would love to see Trump convicted, and never have a chance to run for any public office again. This would, at least for a time, cement McConnell in the position of leading the Republican party.

There’s a problem though: If McConnell appears too eager to convict the Trump supporting base would almost certainly see right through him, along with any other Republican senator who votes to convict. Those senators would almost certainly be at risk of a primary challenge when their next election cycle comes along..

So McConnell is in a bit of a bind. On one hand he likely wants to remove, on the other he can be too obvious about his intent. What does he do? Exactly what he’s doing now: Make the Democrats work hard to prove the guilt of Trump in inciting the January 6th attack, and do nothing to help them. If a compelling case is made I suspect that what will happen in that McConnell will signal that he intends to vote for conviction, and this will lead other Republican senators to join with him. For the old guard, of which I think there are still enough in the Republican party, they have a good reason to convict, and bring the party back from insanity. I full expect that there are a number of senators, like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who are complete write-offs, and will vote to acquit regardless of any evidence presented. I also expect that the end result will be close to the required 67 votes needed for conviction.

In the end, I think the best thing for the future of the Republican party is to convict Donald Trump, and start a purge of Trumpism. If this doesn’t happen expect to see Trump come back for another attempt in 2024, and who knows what will happen then.

What do you think? Do you think I’m totally off base with this prediction? Have a prediction of your own you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Turning Things Around

I have said, numerous times, on this blog that there are three things I would have to accept as true in order to believe that Christianity, the religion I was raised in and the dominant religion of North America, is true. All one has to do is establish that the following are true, or at least very likely to be true:

  1. Jesus is God
  2. There is an afterlife
  3. What I believe about Jesus has a significant impact on my afterlife

But I want to shift things around a little bit. To Christian believers, I have two serious questions that I hope somebody can answer, because you, at least presumably, already accept the three statements above as true:

  1. What reliable methodology did you use to determine that the those three critical propositions are actually true?
  2. What would it take to change your mind about those three claims?

Here are some things to think about while you answer these two important questions:

  • Was objective evidence the primary reason why you accepted those claims, or was learning about Jesus at your mama’s knee – your childhood indoctrination into Christianity – a primary reason for your belief?
  • Do you treat the status of your holy book like you treat the status of other holy books from other religions?
  • Do you give particular deference to the New Testament, and the claims within it? If so, are you aware that most scholars don’t actually know who wrote most of the New Testament, that only seven of the letters of Paul are considered authentic, and that the gospels were written at least 30-40 years after the events in question by unknown authors?
  • Have you ever honestly looked at the claims of your religion as if you were an outsider, and hadn’t been raised to believe them? Have you treated the claims about Jesus like you would treat the claims about Krishna?

Be honest with yourself Christians. What is the reason that you came to accept Jesus into your life? Is it because the evidence lead you there, or because of some other reason?

Creationists Confuse Me

In the news today I’ve read that:

South Africa announced on Sunday it would pause the deployment of the AstraZeneca vaccine after researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said it provided only minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the B1351 variant.

This new variant of the coronavirus is simply evolution in action. This particular variant isn’t any more deadly, but it is supposed to be around 30% more easily transmitted, and now represents the most prevailing form of the virus in South Africa.

By an evolutionary model, this is the kind of thing we should expect. “The variant is able to attach more easily to human cells because of three mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) in the spike glycoprotein of the virus” [1]. In other words, a mutation has changed the characteristics of how this virus operates on human cells, and is now better able to survive.

But, from my meager understanding, this is the kind of thing that creationists frequently tell us is not the case, yet a novel change in the genetics has now made the virus more effective at replicating, and this has lead to it becoming more prevalent than its ancestor variation. And, of course, B1351 it’s still a virus, because we don’t expect a virus to suddenly turn into a bacteria, as this would completely overturn our understanding of evolution.

According to my understanding of what many creationists tell me, all the genetic diversity was created by God about 6000 years ago, yet somehow a novel virus now has a novel genetic variation that make it more effective, but that novel variant must have already existed, because otherwise evolution would be true, so it must not be novel at all.

Actually, the truth is, I don’t actually have a farking clue what creationists are trying to tell me about why evolution doesn’t work. Whatever the reason, I’m sure it’s very complicated, and that’s why only creation scientists accept it.


15 Questions for Evolutionists

Creation Ministries International, a Christian group dedicated to proclaiming that Genesis is a literal historical book of the Bible, has a list of 15 questions for evolutionists. They claim that evolution is “the naturalistic origin of life and its diversity.” When they can’t even tell you what evolution is about, and get it this wrong, you know the questions are going to be horrible.

Now, I’m not going to answer any of the questions, because (and let’s be honest here) there are quite literally no set of scientifically acceptable answers that young earth creationists are going to accept. As far as they are concerned Genesis is a literal, historical, document describing how life came about. Until they are willing to set aside that preconception, and at least tentatively accept that the Genesis is not meant to be taken as literal, nothing is going to change their minds.

Looking over the list I see nothing that is particularly troubling, except for the deep level of ignorance it reveals about their understanding of evolution, abiogenesis, and the science behind both of these topics. Every single one of the questions can be looked up, and a reasonable answer from actual scientists can be found. But CMI don’t want scientific answers, they only want answers that conform to their starting conception. After all, their mission is dedicated “[t]o support the effective proclamation of the Gospel by providing credible answers that affirm the reliability of the Bible, in particular its Genesis history.”

My suggestion, if somebody wants you to answer questions like this, is to have a frank and honest discussion about what kind of answers they will accept. Find out if they’re willing to do their homework and find out what scientists actually have to say on these questions, and if those scientific answers will satisfy them. Ask them if they are willing to reconsider their position about the historicity of Genesis, and that it was probably never meant to be interpreted as a literal story? If their answer to any of these questions is “no”, then they aren’t worth engaging with. No amount of evidence will ever satisfy them because evidence isn’t the reason they reject evolution in the first place.

The idea of some type of evolutionary process driving the diversity of life has been around for a very long time, and even the ancient Greeks understood that humans must have come from other animals. If the rejection of the Theory of Evolution was discredited by real science then we should expect that most scientists would have certainly rejected it by now. That scientists don’t reject evolution, and that it has been accepted as a solid explanation for well over a century, means that this almost certainly comes down to creationists and their dogmatic assumptions about how the Bible is supposed to be interpreted. If they won’t remove their own stumbling blocks they’re going to fail no matter how hard you try.

What Is the Future of the Republican Party?

Holy explosive dumpster fires Batman, what a mess the US Republican Party has turned into. I don’t know if there is any limit to how insane the supposed “party of Lincoln” will descend to. They’ve got problems that are coming to the surface.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

What can I say about this right-wing nut job that hasn’t already been said by others. This fresh member of Congress is a complete loon, and a right dumpster fire of nonsense, yet has managed to win a seat in the House of Representatives. Apparently Republicans in one district in Georgia don’t care how insane their representative is as long as they have a (R) beside their name. Greene is a conspiracy theory touting wack-job who has spewed some complete insane shit, including:

  • A number of anti-Semitic conspiracies, include a recent one about Jewish space lasers starting forest fires in the US, and that there is a Jewish conspiracy to flood Europe with Muslims to overtake the white population
  • Support for the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory
  • That the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 was a false flag operation to attack the second amendment
  • Has stated support for QAnon conspiracy theories
  • Believes that there was election fraud and that Trump won the 2020 Presidential election
  • Has expressed that a number of prominent Democrats, including Clinton, Obama, and Pelosi, are guilty of treason and should be executed.

This woman has been sucked into the world of insanely implausible conspiracy theories, and I question her ability to distinguish fact from fiction. While she seems to be on the fringe of the Republican party, we really aren’t hearing Republicans admonish her, or her views, let alone expressing that she should be dealt with for her extremist views.

Greene is, quite frankly, fully deserving of expulsion from the House for her views. Unfortunately, Republicans don’t seem to want to keep their house in order, or deal with the MAGA hat conspiracies. Democrats simply don’t have the numbers on their own, we may have to live with her shenanigans for some time.

Greene appears to be what the red hat wearing MAGA voters want, and they’re turning congress into a circus. The bar for acceptable, in the Republican party, is very low indeed.

The party of Trump?

The Republican party stands on a virtual precipice where it can become the party of Trump, or it can become something else. If they continue down the road of allowing the party to be taken over by the likes of Trump and his supporters we’ll likely see dangerous times ahead as delusional, conspiracy theory touting, members take the party forward. The obvious risk is that if establishment Republicans move the party in a different direction from the red hats they risk alienating a large portion on their base that may simply stop voting for them, or even primary them when during their next election cycle. In close races this could have severe repercussions for their future.

In some ways the party is reaping what they’ve been sowing for a long time. They’ve gone after people in the margins in order to prop up their support, including evangelicals, gun nuts, along with Christian and white nationalists. Now that these people have embraced the conspiracy theorists it makes the situation look bad.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Republican party going forward. I have my doubts they’ll be able to navigate the turbulent waters that they’ve set themselves upon. I won’t be surprised if the party fractures significantly in the coming years. Much of what happens will depend on what senate Republicans are willing to do with Trump’s impeachment trial. Given that 45 senators voted at the outset that the trial was unconstitutional, I don’t have any confidence that they will ever do the right thing. The party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump, and that’s going to be hard to wrestle away. It’s actually kinda sad what the “Grand Old Party” has become.

Sorry Creationists, the Number of Dissent From Darwin Signatories Doesn’t Mean Much

When I engage Young Earth Creationists (YEC’s) one thing I’m frequent told is that there is a growing chorus of scientists who do not believe that the Theory of Evolution (ToE) can explain the diversity of life (although this doesn’t actually seem to be true.) They like to point to the list of signatories to the Scientific Dissent From Darwin, indicate that the list of signatories is growing, and offer that as “proof” that the consensus status of the ToE is on shaky ground. There are, of course, a number of reasons why this doesn’t work with me:

First, most of the signatories of the statement aren’t even biologists. I don’t care what some computer scientist, or astrophysics, thinks about the ToE. They aren’t biologists, and until they demonstrate that they have the relevant background knowledge to properly evaluate the evidence, their signature is simply expressing an opinion. I can do that to, and people should take my opinion on the ToE about as seriously.

Second, if we look at PhD’s with a relevant biology degree, we would have no way to know why they are expressing their dissension. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the biologists dissented simply because it conflicted with their religious convictions, rather than because of any scientific objection. If that’s the case then these people aren’t making an objective evaluation of the evidence, they’re simply going with their religious feelings and ignoring the objective evidence.

Third, let’s suppose there is some non-insignificant number of biologists who have looked at the evidence and don’t believe that the ToE can explain all of it. This doesn’t mean that common descent is false, or that the ToE is completely wrong. It most certainly doesn’t make the 6000 year old special creationism that YEC’s espousing any more plausible. Common descent is still a scientific fact, and at best there remain questions about the mechanisms involved. YEC’s still believe bullshit, and even if the ToE is shown to be wrong (or needs to be superseded) it still doesn’t suddenly turn their bullshit into gold.

Sometimes I wish for a special place in hell for YEC’s and their peculiar brand of willful ignorance fueled with religious indoctrination, but there is almost certainly no afterlife. Unfortunately the education system of the US is a mess with cracks so big that large numbers of people get though it remaining almost completely scientifically illiterate, even though the country is one of the largest producers of scientific papers in the world. The disparity is shocking when you think about it. The elites create the knowledge while the ignorant are happy to smash it all down.

Do Atheists Determine What Makes a Good Argument for God?

I found the following on Capturing Christianity’s channel:

One of our Bereans (supporters of the ministry) said this recently and I’m having a hard time disagreeing:
 “The best arguments for Theism are the ones that online atheists hate the most.”

Reading this immediately brings to mind something I hear a lot from online Christians: “You don’t believe because you want to sin.” As if belief is a choice, and that somehow not believing changes reality. The implication of this is that atheist hate the “best” arguments because they somehow show that God is real, and atheists hate those arguments because they show us how wrong we are.

The problem is that the beliefs of atheists shouldn’t be considered a reliable indicator of truth. The appeal to [un]popularity is just as fallacious as the appeal to popularity. Even if every single atheist hates a particular argument for God, it doesn’t make the argument good, or even sound. Bad arguments, even popular ones, are still bad arguments, regardless of what a segment of the population believes.

Whenever I come across an argument for God I inevitably find that there are some significant problems, usually some kind of god of the gaps. I end up hating the arguments not because thee argument is bad, but because those who keep trot them out refuse to listen to the criticisms that have been brought forward. Having to explain that a bad argument has significant problems, and doesn’t do what they think it does, gets frustrating.

If I had to pick the argument I hate the most it would almost certainly be the Kalam. It’s probably one of the most popular arguments, and one I see too much. As an argument it doesn’t even have God in the conclusion (so it’s not actually an argument for God on its own), and I’m far from convinced that either of the premises are actually sound. This doesn’t stop theists from using this argument as their go-to when they want to try to convince me that their particular God exists.

Frankly, the best argument for theism (it would only take one) would be the one this is valid in structure, where the premises can all be demonstrated to be sound, and where “[particular] God exists” is the conclusion. Until that argument comes along, I’m going to say that theists have utterly failed to meet their burden of proof.

A Quick Look at the 2020 Presidential Election

There are a lot of interesting things that can be looked at with regard to the 2020 Presidential election. The claims of election fraud start to look empty when you look at the following election map:

The image above represents the voter swing between 2016 and 2020. The darker the color the more the election swung to one side. What’s important to note here is that virtually every state saw Joe Biden increase his voter share compared to Clinton in 2016. This shouldn’t be surprising given how deeply unpopular Trump is, and how unpopular Clinton was.

If Biden increased the proportion of voters that voted Democrat in 2020 vs 2016, and Trump’s claim of election is true, then that would have to mean that there was actually significant voter fraud in just every single state. But then this data really raises a significant question about that alleged voter fraud. Why did Florida vote more strongly for Biden, and why did they not try to cheat in Florida? If Biden had won Florida there would have been no chance for Trump to come back. Why take the risk on a circuitous route by not going through Florida? This simply make no sense from a strategy point of view, and should be viewed as disconfirming evidence.

Just looking at the data that this map shows, it become incredibly difficult to believe that there was the kind of fraud that Trump and his followers express. It’s so much more likely that Trump was simply deeply unpopular with people, and because of this he lost a popularity contest. It’s a simple explanation given the data and requires the fewest assumptions.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point where data and reality don’t matter to Trump or his die-hard supporters, where everything is evidence of a conspiracy, no matter how absurd. I worry what Trump’s supporters, who don’t seem to care about empirical reality, are going to do to our society, and what effect these people are going to have going forward.

Jesus and Distilled Alcohol

I admit it. I have a taste for scotch whisky. I don’t drink too much anymore because it does no favors for my mental health. I do, however, still love the rich flavors and complex tastes that can arise from a seemingly simple liquid.

But what about Jesus? According to the story of The Wedding at Cana, Jesus somehow transforms water into wine. Impressive, sure, if it really happened and wasn’t just a folk talk, but did Jesus ever introduce people to distilled alcohol? The gospels never tell us, as there is no mention of this glorious liquid in the Bible, but it seems to me that if Jesus was actually God then surely Jesus would have introduced people whisky, or even something more incredible. But if he did, why is there no mention of this incredible thing?[1]

And what about a wedding gift for the stories couple? Giving people a couple of stone jugs of wine for their guests is nice and all, but I would have to think that an amount of some delicious foreign spirits could be the proverbial icing on the cake for the evening.

Alas, we’ll probably never know if the story is true, but it would seem that Jesus don’t hold aged liquor in the same high regard that I do. For that reason, I’ve become just a little bit more skeptical that Jesus was God.

[1] Yes, I realize this is an argument from silence, but if incredible wine is mentioned, why not incredible liquor?

Trump Lost. Deal With It

Dear Trump supporters, I hope this find you well, but I doubt that it does. You’re probably still upset that your man lost the Presidential election. You’ve believed Trump’s lies about election fraud because you believe everything he says, even though nobody has actually found and presented any credible evidence of such. You are, to put it lightly, in a state of denial.

I know that some of you think that Trump is the last hope for America, and that if he isn’t President come January 21st that America will fall and never be able to recover. Perhaps you even feel that the United States will descend into Communism, which is an idea so absurd I don’t even think it’s worth addressing. The reality is that Trump has not made America great. The only thing he’s done is enrich himself, along with his already rich friends, and made your country the laughing stock of other Western nations. Save America? I doubt he’ll be able to save himself from the Southern District of New York.

Trump has had his chances in court. Over 50 cases have been decided, and some have even had the Supreme Court weigh-in. Trump has lost all but one of these cases, and that “win” was a very minor victory over a ballot curing deadline. Every time Trump’s lawyers have gone to court they try to argue minor points, but never make arguments for the supposed election fraud that happened. Why? Because there really never was any mass election fraud. The whole fraud story was just sometime he made up, just like the many thousands of other lies that Trump has said over the last nearly five years. His attempts to use the courts to support his coup attempt have failed, just like everything else he has tried to do.

It’s time. It’s time that give up on this hopeless quest to keep Trump as President of the United States. At this point there is no legal path to victory. He lost, and all the crying in the world won’t change that fact. The electoral college meets this week and will elect Joe Biden as the next lawful President. Facing reality now, and accepting that Trump is done, will be better for you in the long run. Accepting that Trump’s trumped up claims of fraud are nothing but a self-serving lie meant to rile you up so that you donate to his “election defense fund”, and to soften the blow to his already fragile ego. It’s time for you to take the wool off from your eyes and see what Trump has done to try and subvert the constitution and the will of the American people.

Trump isn’t Jesus, and he most certainly isn’t going to save you from anything. Much like the many Christian prosperity preachers, Trump is exploiting you for his own benefit. He has never cared about you because he cares about himself and how he can make more money. Everything else is a cheap facade on a moldy old building. Some might call it lipstick on a pig, but I think that’s an insult to pigs.