Why, oh why?

Via BoingBoing: a Ford dealership in Mojave, California, is bashing atheists to sell cars.

But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians who believe in God, we at Kieffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don’t tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up.

Even leaving aside the silly assumption that everyone who professes a belief in God is a Christian, this is one of those things that makes life as a Christian among mostly non-believing collaborators and colleagues that much more awkward. It’s just embarrassing.

Here in Moscow, the closest we come to Kieffe & Sons is the Christian Reconstructionist Christ Church, the affiliated pseudo-accredited New Saint Andrews College, and an assortment of businesses run by church members, which are often marked by a window sticker bearing NSA’s logo. Although I’ve heard that a Christ Church-friendly coffee shop refuses service to homosexuals, I’m not aware of overtly bigoted advertising from these folks. And they’re Neo-Confederates. In both the case of the crazed Ford dealer and Christ Church, though, the best response by sane locals is simple: cringe, and take your business elsewhere.

[additional info appended 27 May 2008]
On NSA’s “pseudo-accreditation” – the college is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which originated to legitimize schools that teach Creation Science.


Les Francaise paresseux – ou brillant?

The Big Sleep – New York Times

Apparently peasants in France and Alpine Europe used to basically sleep all winter, which tradition they maintained to the end of the nineteenth century. Sounds farfetched, but also oddly attractive – between Moscow’s situation at the eastern edge of Pacific Time and its northerly latitude, daylight is barely long enough to make waking up worthwhile.


The “science” of criminal profiling

Malcolm Gladwell takes on criminal profiling in this week’s New Yorker, tying the discipline’s pseudo-scientific methods into a neat narrative knot. Gladwell directly compares the practice to the tricks used by fortune-tellers, but only after destroying profiling’s fundamental assumptions (i.e. that crimes encode information about those who commit them). It’s good reading.


Mole rat brains change with social status

A paper in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that the brain structures of naked mole rats, which live in ant-like colonies with many non-breeding “subordinates” working to support a few dominant “breeders”, change based on their social status. Mole rat subordinates taken out of a colony and offered a mate effectively become breeders, starting their own colony – and when this happens, certain regions of their brains get bigger. This effect is apparently larger than the difference between mole rat male and female brains.

Social control of brain morphology in a eusocial mammal (PNAS 104:10548-52)