science

Republican lawmaker wants to criminalize aborting your rape baby because it’s “tampering with evidence”

I’d say it’s a new low for Republicans, but really, it’s their usual low:

A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” the bill says.

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

But don’t worry, Cathrynn Brown! I know you’re not a geneticist so this wouldn’t have occurred to you, but I have the solution to your problem. You can do paternity analysis using the DNA from an aborted fetus, the placenta, or (thanks to new technology produced from my very own department) fetal cells that are circulating in the mother’s blood. Why, you don’t need a live baby at all! It’s a win win situation. Women aren’t forced to give birth to and raise their rapist’s child as some sort of bizarre punishment for being raped, and evidence is still obtained to identify rapists.

I’m sure Rep. Brown will rescind the bill now that science has come to the rescue. It’s not as if this is actually some underhanded attempt to outlaw abortions, right?

Come see me at Nerd Nite Seattle!

I am living the dream: I’ve been invited to give a talk of extreme geekiness this Monday:

Pokébiology 101
There may not be a Pikachu Genome Project, but the unusual biology of the Pokémon Universe can teach us about biology in the real world. How do Pokémon species differ from species here on Earth? What does genomic imprinting have to do with breeding? Can an organism like Eevee actually exist? You won’t need to be a Pokémon Master or geneticist to catch the concepts, so come, have fun, and grab a beer – it’s super effective.

Nerd Nite Seattle
Monday, January 21st
7:30 Talks (Doors open at 6:30)
$5 Cover
LUCID Jazz Lounge

If you drop by, make sure to say hello!

The practical reason why atheists should care about diversity

I’ve long argued why increasing diversity if the right thing to do for ethical reasons – hey, we shouldn’t be unintentionally excluding people based on their race or ethnicity, right? But as those arguments don’t seem to work for some atheists, let’s turn to the numbers:

Within three decades, there will no longer be a majority racial or ethnic group in the Unites States according to new Census Bureau projections released this week. Among the other findings: the country is growing slower than expected.
Michael Cooper reports on the first set of projections issued by the Census Bureau based on the 2010 Census results. “The next half century marks key points in continuing trends — the U.S. will become a plurality nation, where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority,” the bureau’s acting director, Thomas L. Mesenbourg, said in a statement.

When I’m 55, I’ll be looking at a country that looks less and less like pasty ol’ me. And that’s fine! But this should give atheist activists pause. Our groups and organizations are already disproportionately white – I can usually count the number of black people attending a major conference on one hand. Our base of white folks is slowly dwindling, while the predominantly Catholic Hispanics and Christian African Americans are growing. Now we’re a minority within a majority, but we’re going to be shrinking even more.

Please, no racist fear-mongering that whites and/or atheists need to go pop out more babies. There’s a more reasonable and more ethical (whoops, ethics again!) solution. If we can make atheism relevant to racial minorities now, that will result in fewer children being raised in religious households down the line. It’s easier to get people on board now and watch the ripple effect, than wait thirty years and say “Hey, we’ve been ignoring you all this time, but you totally want to join now, right?!” And this doesn’t mean just standing around going “Well, we’re not actively discouraging minorities!” while discussing the History of European Freethinkers for the 39873th time. We need to address relevant issues like skepticism applied to drug laws and incarceration rates, or replicating religious community without the religion, or…well, maybe we should just listen to what they have to say without taking it personally.

My president has to remind us that “rape is rape”

It’s kind of sad that American politics has come to the point where Obama needs to state the obvious about rape:

President Obama has weighed in on Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) comments that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” During an impromptue press conference on Monday, Obama said, “The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people.” “So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians — a majority whom are men — making health care decisions on behalf of women,” he added.

Exactly. Though I wish Obama took one more sentence to point out that what Akin claimed has no scientific merit. Especially since Akin is on House Science Committee. A terrifying idea, indeed.

If you want to know the science behind rape, stress, and pregnancy, Kate Clancy has written a great post for Scientific American following this political kerfuffle. The short answer:

Yes, psychosocial stress is associated with fetal loss in some samples. That is not the same thing as saying that stress causes fetal loss. Some women are more reactive to stress than others, and this seems to be based on genes and early childhood experiences. As I pointed out in my post, it certainly isn’t something women have conscious control over. And so it is irrational to link the stress of rape, while awful and severe, to fetal loss, when we understand the mechanism of the stress response and its relationship to pregnancy so poorly, and when we know next to nothing regarding how variation in stress reactivity is produced.

Or instead of understanding the science, you can be like Rep. Steve King (R) and remark how you never heard of someone getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. Because if you’ve never personally heard of something happening, that means it must be true. It only took a minute of Googling for me to find a scientific paper showing 0.5% of women getting abortions had their pregnancy result from incest, and that obviously doesn’t address the women who didn’t get abortions. But it’s still greater than King’s claim of zero.

Atheism+: It’s time to walk the walk

Hundreds of you are excited about Atheism+. I’m excited about A+. This is our chance for a new wave of atheism – a wave that’s more than a dictionary definition about not believing in gods. This is our chance for progressive atheists to come together and deal with issues that we see as a natural part of our godlessness.

But we need more than just a catchy name and a logo. We need to get shit done.

This new wave of atheism isn’t about declaring “We’ve already achieved something better” or “We’re not like those assholes.” You don’t just get your shiny membership pin and get to say you’re done. This is about saying “We want to work TOWARDS something better.” We need to recognize that there’s still room for self-improvement and to address the root of why we’ve been having these problems in atheism and skepticism. We need to focus on actual change instead of prematurely crowning ourselves victorious.

We need a plan.

So consider this an open thread on what you would like to see come out of a new wave of atheism. What issues should we be addressing and how? What actions should we be taking? How can we prevent this from having the same exact flaws that worried us enough to call for a new wave?

To start us off, here are some issues I envision A+ addressing from a secular, skeptical perspective:

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Ableism
  • Classism
  • Ageism
  • Neurotypicalism
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental issues
  • Political issues (Health care, crime, drug laws)

And as I said in my original post, I had been brainstorming with people to start a secular social justice organization. Our original tentative name was the Secular Alliance for Equality (SAFE) but we could always go with Atheism+ since that seemed to organically resonate with people. We envisioned ourselves as an umbrella group like the Secular Student Alliance that could provide services that help other groups become more welcoming and progressive. Here are some practical actions we came up with:

  • Providing basic anti-harassment policies that can be adopted and adapted by secular groups
  • Providing “101” educational primers on privilege, intersectionality, proper language, etc
  • Providing guides for making your groups and events more welcoming, diverse, and accessible
  • Providing event planning resources and ideas
  • Providing a diverse speakers bureau
  • Encouraging conferences and groups to increase speaker and topic diversity
  • Holding workshops about social justice and diversity at conferences
  • Organizing national events around progressive issues (for example, getting as many groups as possible to participate in gay pride parades)
  • Working alongside other existing organizations that share our values (like humanists!)
  • Writing blog posts/press releases about relevant issues
  • Providing a safe, moderated community for discussion – Facebook, forum, blog comments, r/atheismplus (which already exists! check it out!)

I can’t stress how important it is that we actively work toward true improvement instead of patting ourselves on the back and declaring ourselves enlightened. I also desperately want to hear from people with as many different backgrounds as possible. As a cis, middle class, white person, I have my own privileges. I can’t unilaterally declare what would be best for a progressive atheist movement. So please – brainstorm in the comments so we can truly start to make change happen.

Atheism+

Yesterday I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I finally hit publish on “How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism.” The cynical part of me wondered why I had wasted five hours of my Saturday for the same torrent of hateful comments. How masochistic was I becoming? But the optimist in me hoped that just enough people would want to change this movement with me.

I can honestly say this is the first time that waking up to over 500 comments on a post that mentions feminism has filled me with absolute joy.

95% of the comments I’ve received have been overwhelmingly positive. That…that has never happened before. Usually if I can hit 50% supportive comments I feel like I’ve done well. But not only were you guys supportive, you were excited. I didn’t expect you to have come up with names and logos for the third wave…and I really didn’t expect you all to basically agree. We tend to be like herding cats, but not this time.

You called for Atheism+.

Logo suggestion by One Thousand Needles

Logo suggestions by Jadehawk

It’s perfect. It illustrates that we’re more than just “dictionary” atheists who happen to not believe in gods and that we want to be a positive force in the world.  Commenter dcortesi suggested how this gets atheists out of the “negativity trap” that we so often find ourselves in, when people ask stuff like “What do you atheists do, besides sitting around not-praying, eh?”

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

It speaks to those of us who see atheism as more than just a lack of belief in god. danielmchugh summarized how I feel perfectly:

Religion is responsible for generating and sustaining most of the racism, sexism, anti-(insert minority human subgroup here)-isms… it gave a voice to the bigotry, established the privilege, and fed these things from the pulpit for thousands upon thousands of years. What sense does it make to throw out the garbage bag of religion yet keep all the garbage that it contained?

I can’t help but see social justice as a logical consequence of atheism. I’m for getting rid of all the garbage.

As for the next steps on how to get rid of that garbage, I’ll make another post with my ideas soon. Feel free to use this post to discuss how you feel about A+. I don’t think it needs to be an official name – I want to improve the atheist movement, not create a splinter faction or something. But it’s fabulous marketing-wise and as a way to identify yourself as a progressive atheist, or whatever term you want to use. I know I’d love for people to start wearing A+ pins and Surlyramics so I know who I want to chat with.

EDIT: How could I forget to mention that commenter Pteryxx deserves the credit for the A+ idea? A bajillion internet points to you!

How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism

It’s been five years now since I first became involved with the atheist and skeptic movements. And for most of those five years, I felt like I belonged. When I started the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University, I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only atheist on my campus. So when I realized there was an even greater national movement, I was elated to become a part of it. I had finally found people who shared my passion and values. I was welcomed with open arms.

Until I started talking about feminism.

You see, my previous atheist activism wasn’t sullied by the f-word. People applauded me for starting an atheist group on a conservative college campus. For blogging about our events and getting local media attention. For volunteering as a board member of the Secular Student Alliance. And most of all, for creating Boobquake.

I’ve always considered myself a feminist, but I used to be one of those teenagers who assumed the awesome ladies before me had solved everything. But Boobquake made me wake up. What I originally envisioned as an empowering event about supporting women’s freedoms and calling out dangerous superstitious thinking devolved into “Show us your tits!” I received sexual invitations from strangers around the country. When I appeared or spoke at atheist events, there was always a flood of comments about my chest and appearance. I’ve been repeatedly told I can never speak out against people objectifying or sexually harassing me because a joke about my boobs was eternal “consent.”

So I started speaking up about dirty issues like feminism and diversity and social justice because I thought messages like “please stop sexually harassing me” would be simple for skeptics and rationalists. But I was naive. Like clockwork, every post on feminism devolved into hundreds of comments accusing me being a man-hating, castrating, humorless, ugly, overreacting harpy. Despite the crap I received, I continued to publicly support these movements and stress that the haters were just a tiny minority. I thought this flood of sexism I had never experienced before was just a consequence of me growing up and heading out into the real world, and had nothing to do with these movements in particular. I can’t count how many times I publicly stressed that the atheist/skeptical movement, while not perfect, is still a safer place for women and other minorities.

But now I recognize that I was trying to convince myself that this is true.

I don’t feel safe as a woman in this community – and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming, or hell, as a woman walking down the fucking sidewalk.  People shat themselves with rage at the suggestion that cons should have anti-sexual harassment policies. DJ Grothe, president of JREF, blamed those evil feminist bloggers for TAM’s female attendance problem instead of trying to fix what’s scaring women away (and then blocked me on Twitter and unfriended me on Facebook for good measure). A 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism and got a flood of rape jokes in return. The Amazing Atheist purposefully tried to trigger a rape survivor. Paula Kirby decided we’re all feminazis and femistasis. I’ve become used to being called a cunt or having people threaten to contact my employers because a feminist can’t be a good scientist. Rebecca Watson is still receiving constant rape and death threats a year after she said “Guys, don’t do that.” And mentioning her name is a Beetlejuice-like trigger for a new torrent of hate mail.

Groups of people are obsessively devoted to slandering Freethought Blogs as a whole because many of us have feminist leanings. They photoshop things to try to humiliate us, they gain unauthorized access to our private email listserv. And anyone associated with us feminists are fair game. People have tried to destroy Surly Amy’s business, and Justin Vacula has publicly posted her home address with a photo. One blogger who describes their blog as “rejecting the watson/myers doctrine” ridiculed skeptical teen activist (and feminist ally) Rhys Morgan for flunking his exams because he had severe physical and mental illnesses.

I now realize I was never truly welcome in this movement. I just managed to unwittingly sneak in before I opened my big fat feminist mouth.

I was exactly what a Boy’s Club wanted. I was a young, not-hideous woman who passionately supported their cause. I made them look diverse without them having to address their minority-repelling privilege. They liked that I joked about sex and boobs not because it was empowering for me, but because they saw it as a pass to oggle and objectify. But the Boy’s Club rescinds its invitation once they realize you’re a rabble-rousing feminist. I was welcome at TAM when I was talking about a boob joke, but now I’m persona non grata for caring about sexual harassment. I used to receive numerous comments about how hot and attractive I was, but when I politely asked for people to keep the discussion professional, the comments morphed into how I was an ugly cunt. I was once considered an up-and-coming student leader, but now I’m accused of destroying the movement.

Well, that last bit is partially true. I want to destroy the part of the movement that has privilege as its foundation, as Natalie Reed perfectly describes:

The creepy thought that the reason a lot of outspoken, committed, passionate atheists are choosing this as their arena is because they’re too selfish, too entitled, or too sheltered, to allow any other issues to really matter to them. That they choose this ONE civil rights issue to dedicate themselves to, because it’s the ONLY legitimate civil rights issue that actually affects them, secure in their absence of ovaries, melanin, exogenous hormones, medical devices/supports, welfare checks, track scars and rainbow flags.

[…]It seems that there’s some kind of weird psychological need that a lot of people, perhaps in response to feelings that their belief of their privileges being earned is under threat, valorize and mythologize themselves as valiant Robin Hoods who dare to speak truth to power and stand up for the little guy against the tyrannical… …. Jews? Blacks? Trans people? Atheists? Women? The theme is always the same, however.

And what I worry is how much Atheism might be offering a similar sort of feeling without requiring the same levels of divorcing oneself from reality and diving into some kind of Bizarro World inversion of actual social dynamics. That what atheism is offering so many middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men is the capacity to see themselves as these savvy, smart, daring, controversial rogues who are standing up against an oppressive dogma in order to liberate the deluded sheeple. They’re, like, totally against swallowing the blue pill, dude. And so they get to be the heroes of their own narratives, instead of a passive passenger adrift on social forces more or less beyond their control… social forces that happened to guide them into a relatively safe and comfy position.

No matter how limited your views, no matter how much privilege you have, when you prop yourself up against Christianity, you get to be clever, and you get to be the rebel.

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.*

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

Changing a movement seems like a mighty task (especially when you lack a witty name – the Newer Atheists doesn’t have a great ring to it). But the reason I’m not throwing my hands up in the air and screaming “I quit” is because we’re already winning. It’s an uphill battle, for sure – in case you’ve forgotten, scroll up and reread this post. But change is coming. Some national organizations accepted anti-harassment policies with no fuss at all. A lot of local or student groups are fabulous when it comes to issues of diversity and social justice. A number of prominent male leaders have begun speaking out against this surge of hate directed at women. I’m working with others to hopefully start an atheist/skeptical organization specifically focused on issues of equality. And although the response from the haters is getting louder and viler, they’re now vastly outnumbered by supportive comments (which wasn’t always true). This surge of hate is nothing more than the last gasp of a faction that has reached its end.

There will inevitably be people who use this post as evidence of some gynocratic conspiracy and will hunker down even more (for examples, check the comment section in a couple of hours – odds are good you’ll find some). There will be organizations, conferences, communities, and individuals that will never care about diversity or equality or social justice. There will be some that continue to devote their free time to harassing and threatening the rest of us instead of going outside for a walk or reading a book. Though these people claim to love reason, no amount of reason will ever get them to admit that they’re wrong. So to them, all I have to say is have fun as you circle jerk into oblivion. Keep unintentionally or intentionally excluding women, minorities, and progressives while cluelessly wondering why you’re losing members, money, and clout. The rest of us will be moving on.

If you’re ready for this new wave of atheism, now is the time to speak up. Say that you’re ready. Vocally support organizations and individuals that are already doing it right. Vocally criticize the inappropriate and hateful behavior so the victims of such actions know you’re on their side. Demand that your organizations and clubs evolve, or start your own if they refuse.

The Boy’s Club may have historically ruled the movement, but they don’t own it. We can.

*EDIT: I want to clarify that I did not mean the people and organizations involved with the official “Good without God” campaigns are the ones behind the rape and death threats. My intent was to show that if we’re publicly promoting atheists as good people, we need to deal with the not-so-good stuff that’s happening behind the scenes. I chatted with Greg Epstein specifically and he’s super supportive of the mission of A+.

Why you shouldn’t play the lottery

Watch this US Powerball simulator long enough and you’ll understand. Sean and I have now been “buying” two tickets a week for 350 years for a total of 36,400 games. We’ve spent $72,750 and made $5,417, which puts our rate of return at around 7 cents a ticket. We’ve never made more than $100 on a ticket.

Insert comment about the US education system’s failure to properly teach statistics here.

Flickr helps scientists discover a new species

This story on NPR is great. An entomologist was browsing insect photos on Flickr when he saw one he didn’t recognize. After talking to his colleagues, they confirmed that this was probably a new species:

A full year later, Winterton received an email from the photographer; Guek had returned to the region of the original sighting and found another lacewing with the same wing pattern.

“He told me, ‘I’ve got one in a container on my kitchen table — what should I do with it?’ ” Winterton says.

The specimen was sent to Steve Brooks, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Brooks confirmed that the lacewing was new to science. He also found a matching specimen that had been sitting in the museum’s collection, unclassified, for decades.

The new species was dubbed Semachrysa jade — not after its pale green color, but after Winterton’s daughter.

It’s pretty awesome that we live in a time where information is spread so rapidly that a random photographer and a bored scientist browsing Flickr can make a new discovery. What other scientific discoveries do you think social media can contribute to?

Thunderf00t’s unethical breach of our privacy

If you read any other blog on Freethought Blogs, by now you’ve probably heard of Thunderf00t’s despicable actions. FtB has a private email listserv where we discuss boring technical problems (“My YouTube video isn’t embedding properly!”), ask for feedback or discuss certain topics, promote posts or causes we care about, and talk about cats (or how much they suck, depending on what side you’re on). But we also frequently discuss things that are very private in nature, like what’s going on in our personal life, where we live and work, our medical conditions, gender transitioning, rape, abuse, and (for pseudonymous bloggers) our real identities. We do this in agreement that nothing will leave the list, and there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of every email:

“All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.”

Well, Thunderf00t has violated that confidentiality. Now, I was on a different continent with limited internet access when the original Thunderf00t drama went down, so I don’t even want to get into that. But being removed from the network was apparently enough motivation for Thunderf00t to breach our privacy. Ed summarizes what happened:

On August 2, a close friend informed me that a mutual acquaintance of ours had been forwarded messages from that private mailing list by Thunderfoot. A few hours later, I received an email from a longtime commenter on the site telling me that “your email distribution list is not secure. Take the time to verify that only the people who are supposed to be on the list are actually members, as messages have been leaked.” Prompted by those messages, I went into the admin panel of our mailing list software, did some checking and discovered that Thunderfoot had somehow managed to get back on the mailing list after he was removed from it on July 1, when the decision was made to close his blog and remove him from the network. I double checked to make sure that he had been removed from the list at that time and he was (I have email confirmation from the system at the time). I then had our site tech do some digging into the database and he discovered that Thunderfoot had used a security loophole (now fixed) to regain admission to the list only a few minutes after he was removed from it on July 1 and had been receiving all of the email traffic between everyone else from that moment forward, without our knowledge. When that fact was discovered, he was, of course, removed from the list a second time and the settings were changed to close the loophole in our security that allowed him that access; over the next half hour he tried multiple times to get back on the list again but failed.

Jason has the technical details, including logs for evidence, in case you want them. Thunderf00t has confessed to breaching our privacy, but of course he’s trying to spin everything to make himself look like some sort of Wikileaks hero against the Big Bad Evil FtB Bullies. He insists that he doesn’t “doc drop,” even though in that very post he releases private statements from the mailing list. And we already have outside confirmation of people receiving mailing list emails through him. Keep diggin’ that hole!

What’s incredibly ironic is that not even a year ago, Thunderf00t was threatened by Muslims that they would release his private information, including his real name. He blasted them for this violation of privacy and “doc dropping”…which is exactly what he’s doing right now. What a hypocrite.

Greta emphasizes why this violation of privacy is so serious:

There’s a reason these conversations are private. Among other things:

People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their jobs if it were made public.
People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their physical safety if it were made public.
People brainstorm ideas that they later decide are bad ideas, and don’t want to be held to.
People discuss private medical matters and personal family issues, which could hurt both themselves and others if they became public.
People hash out differences of opinion that they don’t want to turn into a giant public debate.
People talk about personal, emotional stuff that they don’t want to share with the entire Internet.

If you have ever said anything privately that you wouldn’t want made public — because you were thinking out loud, because you knew the people you were talking with would understand the context but the general public wouldn’t, because you were mad and said things you didn’t really mean, because you don’t want everyone on the Internet to have your home address and phone number, because some things are just private and you bloody well have the right to decide who to tell them to — then you almost certainly understand exactly how important this is, and what a terrible violation it is, and why. People need to be able to talk freely among their friends and colleagues, without parsing every word for public consumption. People need this — and they have a right to have it. That’s a no-brainer.

But if you want to hear from someone who’s privacy is probably on the line the most, read this post by Natalie Reed. Thunderf00t had previously threatened her with releasing private backchannel information before he… actually started doing it:

Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.

It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safetyfrom those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.

Natalie Reed is my safety net.

The e-mail address I had been using on the FTB list was not under this name. It was under my real one.

So, yeah. Thunderf00t scared me. A lot.

Thankfully I’m not in the same situation as Natalie – I don’t believe I have any personal information I shared on the backchannel that could really damage me. But I care about my fellow bloggers, and I care about Thunderf00t’s severe ethical violations and potentially illegal actions. He is a vile hypocrite who has lost whatever shred of credibility he may have had left. And honestly, it’s just fucking sad. How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?

Just fucking sad.

What if our family tree was still around?

Sometimes I wonder what our world would be like if our evolutionary relatives were still around. How would things be different with intelligent cousins like Neanderthals in the mix? Would we just be perpetually trying to kill them off, since that’s probably what helped them originally go extinct? Would there be nations of Neanderthals or would we intermix? Would their be stigma with interbreeding (which we know sometimes happened) or general species-ist stereotypes? Would there still be tension from the genocide we inflicted on them ages ago, with reparations to current Neanderthals or monuments to those who lost their lives?

Would less intelligent cousins who still had primitive language, like Homo heidelbergensis, be relegated to a lower class? How would we treat our even more distant cousins like Austrolopithecus? Would we grant them some special rights above other animals, like we sometimes do with intelligent animals like dolphins and chimpanzees? How would the ethics of genetic testing work when trying to get samples from our cousins who are not intelligent enough to consent, but are still more intelligent that what we currently research?

…This is what a human evolution researcher with a penchant for science fiction daydreams about. I guess I’ll add it to the list of “Books I should write but probably never will.”

Nazis, genetically modified babies, Mothman, and Jesus

I didn’t think those topics could be combined, but I’ve been proven wrong. No, it’s not the next hit superhero movie. One of the “perks” of being an atheist blogger is that I get signed up to all sorts of wacky mailing lists for creationists, woo peddlers, and conspiracy theorists. I suspect they think this annoys me, when really it usually goes straight to my spam folder to die with all the penis enlargement ads. But sometimes things slip through to my inbox, and sometimes their insanity is hilarious.

I present for your entertainment, “V Blast: THE BEAST REVEALS THEY CREATED GENETICALLY MODIFIED BABIES”

Those who are aware that conspiratorial practices have already wildly exceeded even the most fantastic speculations were not surprised to hear that scientists have now admitted that genetically modified babies have already been born. Although the mainstream, or the so called “ethical” medical community is now publicly acknowledging they’ve mixed genes from multiple parties to produce designer babies all the way back to the late 1990’s, the reality is genetically engineered babies were probably born as far back the 1940’s in one of Joseph Mengele’s Nazi laboratories.
Generally speaking, secretive “black” science significantly precedes the allegedly legitimate version, in which the mainstream commonly lags behind by decades. In fact, the recent mainstream media exposure in the Daily Mail periodical, reignited interest in a subject which was actually covered, albeit rather quietly, years earlier.
It turns out that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) clinics have been using a technique now for years that “rejuvenates” the eggs of women who are having trouble conceiving, by injecting components of another woman’s egg. This component is called cytoplasm, and it contains the mitochondrial DNA from the donor – thus making the resultant baby the product of 3 parents – the father, and two mothers.
It turns out this has been publicly known since 2001 and, by tracing the research (and the scientist who developed the technique), we learn that babies with more than 2 parents were born at least as far back as 1997. Once again, once such things go public, it virtually always means it’s been going on for quite a bit longer, and has gone much further than is generally acknowledged.
Time for a science break! It’s actually true that scientists are trying to develop methods that use a third individual’s mitochondria during IVF, but it’s not to make abominations or super babies. It’s to cure diseases caused by malfunctioning mitochondria. Mitochondria are the “powerhouse” of the cell, making lots of energy so your cells can actually function.
They also have their own genomes because they were once a separate organism! They were engulfed by another type of cell and the two formed a symbiotic relationship, and now every eukaryote (anything that’s not bacteria or archaea) has mitochondria. Mitochondria are passed from mother to child, not father to child. This is because egg cells have the room to store mitochondria, but sperm don’t.
So if you have a disease that’s caused by a mutation in the mitochondrial genome, you could technically suck out all the “defective” mitochondria and replace them with “healthy” mitochondria from another person. And people are going nuts at the ethics around this, because yes, technically you’d have a third genetic “parent.” If you want to learn more, read this great article in The Guardian.
For instance, there is nothing to indicate these maniacs have stopped at 3 parents, as they could have, theoretically, added the cytoplasm of a dozen women – each selected for what are perceived as desirable characteristics – i.e. blue eyes from mom #4, physical speed and agility from gymnast mom #5, a very high IQ from mom #6, and so forth.
Yeah, theoretically you could add all sorts of mitochondria. But mitochondrial genomes are tiny and don’t really contribute to any distinguishing traits. Things like eye color would still be determined by nuclear DNA (the ones egg and sperm contribute to).
To put it another way, this is the stuff the Nephilim were made of.
I’m not even going to touch that.
What happens if they try to splice in the mitochondria of another father is anyone’s guess, but such outcomes could look like something out of a horror film. And it gets worse.
Actually, nothing different would happen if you took the mitochondria from a man. The only reason mitochondria are transfered maternally is because eggs have the room to do so. There are rare examples of mitochondria being transmitted paternally, with no real consequences.
Now we’ve learned the key research embryologist who pioneered this technique left the fertility clinic work he was doing, and was hired by a US military medical institution. This chilling fact begs the question, is there anyone who seriously doubts the military establishment will seek to engineer a super-soldier, and will not be deterred by any of those messy moral or ethical considerations?
Christian Media, the ministry which fields the V Channel output such as the V Blast Internet letter, the Eclipse printed periodical, and the Exotica TV and radio show, has previously produced material on the efforts to create robo-soldier. In what looks like a Marvel Comics fiction, hardly anyone knows military scientists have already succeeded in growing (with spider DNA) a dense, Kevlar like compound, directly into the skin of solders, so they can withstand a bullet wound (see the Exotica TV episode on the subject).
Military scientists are talking about using spider silk to make structures that are stronger than Kevlar…but they can hardly hardly make enough with the current technology, and they definitely haven’t started breeding genetically modified soldiers. We don’t have that technology. We hardly understand how spider silk production works.
With such efforts, one can only wonder if these madmen will eventually produce a modern version of the mothman, replete with wings that can quietly transport the organic killing machine behind enemy lines. Furthermore, it is certain the Biblical prophets described just what is occurring.
Oddly this was probably the paragraph that offended my brain cells the most. Mothman? Not…you know, Spiderman? I…I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t go with the obvious if they were going to invoke genetically modified superheroes.
For instance, the prophet Joel described military men that were unstoppable in very scary terms:
 “a great people and a strong: there hath not been ever the like…A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth…and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses [centaurs]; and as horsemen, so shall they run. “They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; they shall march every one on his way, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded” (Joel 2:2-8)
For those unfamiliar with the prophetic texts, the manipulation of genetics is a primary theme found in the numerous descriptions of the end of the age. Jesus Christ said the last generation would be “…as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26)
The primary description of the days of Noah was focused on what is sometimes called the “first incursion,” wherein the fallen angels tampered with the genetics of men and women, and the offspring became “mighty men” – a population which was quickly catapulted into leadership within the old world order.
The book of Genesis tells us the whole world was “corrupt” and the LORD saw nothing but “violence” everywhere, so He purposed to destroy the world (Genesis Chapter 6). This is what Jesus used as a template for the last generation – a time of massive destruction, preceded by violence and genetic manipulation.
When coupled with the descriptions of world war, famine, and pestilence, to say nothing of the massive fraud of the so called pre-tribulation “rapture” in which millions of deceived believers “know not” that they are about to be “taken away” to the grave in a violent judgment (Matthew 24:39),  this tribulational devastation could occur at any moment.
— James Lloyd
Jesus blah blah blah.

The only other thing worth highlighting is their unique instruction on how to remove yourself from their mailing list:

Of course, if you have been convinced Christians should never send an Email to someone without permission (Did the Disciples of Jesus ask people for permission to tell them the Good News?), then we will cheerfully delete your name from our database.

Woah, gettin’ a little defensive there. Of course I want to stay subscribed! I love getting a good laugh at conspiracy theorists with no solid grasp of science.