Wednesday 26 November 2008

Harun Yahya Essay Thread

You are invited to contribute to my entry to Harun Yahya's Anti-Darwin Essay Competition. Preference will be given to contributions that contradict their cited sources, that cite tertiary sources (e.g. Youtube videos, Conservapedia) as authority, or that contain cryptic insults or obscenities. Contributions may be added through the comments section.

Have at it!

Charles Darwin (1882-1809) was a British man who studied Christianity but never qualified as a scientist, though he collected beetles. Nor did he qualify as a Christian priest, though he came 10th in the exam because his lecturer helped him. In 1831, because he did not get a job when he finished university, his father paid for him to sail away on a boat called The Beatle. He was the "gentleman companion" of the Captain, but he later got married and had children, etc. The boat was a sailor-boat so it took 5 years to go all around the world. Maybe Darwin's "Theory" of Evolution happened because he was tired of being bored as a "gentleman companion" for 5 years. Even though Evolution can not add information, Darwin wrote a long diary about the trip, which proves Evolution is wrong.

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Thursday 26 June 2008

ID for the hard-of-thinking

The towering intellectual force that is Dr. Dr. W. A. Dembski recently published Understanding Intelligent Design, in which he bends his olympian faculties to explaining Intelligent Design in terms comprehensible by us mere mortals.

Why didn't he just ask me to help?

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Wednesday 21 May 2008

Eurovision for the Uninitiated

This Saturday we celebrate the annual FĂȘte de Fromage known as the Eurovision Song Contest. This pillar of our culture dates back to the 1950s when Europe’s governments, who always know what’s best for us, decreed that the wonders of satellite broadcasting should be used to unite us as brothers in song, thereby making war inconceivable. Astonishingly, nobody had thought of it until then.

Inspired by this noble purpose, Europe’s manly men and women-who-knew-their-place warbled songs that your grand-aunt (the nun) might have considered a bit trite. Nothing that didn’t require a symphony orchestra to back it had a chance of featuring, and lyrics typically sounded like a Pentecostal revival meeting, such was the proliferation of ‘sha-la-las’ and kindred tounguebabbling to fill the bits between ‘Moon’ and ‘June’ or their French, German, or Maltese counterparts. Imagine, if you will, what might have become of popular music if Mantovani and Mitch Miller strangled Elvis in his cradle, and proceeded to conquer the world. Now strip out all those controversial bits that you can’t sing with a grin like a coat-hanger stuck in your gob. Add two or three modestly swaying backing singers and you’re there .

Each country’s song was, until recently, chosen by a jury picked by and accountable only to the national broadcasting authority. Cynics who muttered darkly about casting couches must surely have been wrong, given the unimpeachably wholesome contestants that emerged. Women wore tasteful ball gowns, while the men, once allowed to discard formal evening dress, wore sharp suits. Italian lotharios who appeared without ties were, well, Italian you know.

The winning song is chosen by votes submitted by the participating states. This was always the best bit of the competition. In the grainy black and white days the presenter would talk to the national broadcaster of each country on the telephone to receive that country’s votes (which had been cast by the aforementioned unaccountable jury). These would be announced in English and French as they were added to the electronic scoreboard. As satellite broadcasting improved, a picture of a nice lady in a ball gown sitting in front of a shot of Rome or Helsinki by night replaced the crackly phone call.

Voting for or against neighbours is a time-honoured tradition. Greece and Cyprus invariably gave each other the maximum douze points, while France and Germany grudgingly gave each other a polite mid-range score. By virtue of entering some of the most wrist-slitting dirges ever heard outside a hormonal teenager’s bedroom, Norway frequently (some might say, traditionally) came last, once even attaining the coveted nul points for a tender chansonnette exploring the consequences of nuclear winter.

In the early 1970s a 17 year-old convent girl called Dana chirped an irritatingly anodyne ditty that won the prize for Ireland. Omigod, we had hit the big time, we were a serious player, a permanent seat on the Security Council, or maybe even a papal visit, was obviously imminent. These things really mattered back then. Dana wafted a soap-scrubbed air of doe-eyed colleendom that made Maria von Trapp look like a gin-raddled doxy hawking her wares in Port Said. And Europe had taken her to its world-weary sophisticated heart. Yes, Ireland, we had arrived.

But then some crowd called ABBA from socialistmaterialistabortionistcontraceptive Sweden (who probably approved of and practiced Sex Before Dinner Marriage!) won it. And one of them was actually holding a . . . a . . . an electric guitar! Appropriately, the song was called Waterloo. The barbarians were at the gate.

Not that things went bad all at once. The contest retained sufficient moral tone for Franco to bribe juries around Europe one year to ensure that a particularly awful Spanish entry won. (It beat the unspeakable Congratulations sung by the ever-virgin Cliff Richard). Ironically, a corrosively repulsive Portuguese song (E Depois do Adeus, if you must know) was used as a signal to start the left-wing revolution there not long after. Moving, patriotic stuff, however you look at it.

Then came the depressed 1980s. Reagan and Brezhnev waved their missiles at each other over our heads. Europe responded, as it always does when confronted by might beyond its own, with that uniquely irritating air of superiority we try so hard to make appear effortless. A favoured medium of response was, of course, the Eurovision Song Contest, which took on a sheen of irony and self-referential knowingness. (That neither the Americans nor the Soviets were even aware of the contest just underscores the smug superiority of its choice as a means of making Europe’s statement). The show’s presenters gave the audience a metaphorical wink to let us know that they were in on the joke: we all knew it was Quatsch, but wasn’t it fun? One presenter’s ankle-length dress ‘accidentally’ caught on a prop, tearing off to reveal a daring slit skirt underneath. You see? Even when we expose it for what it is, we still enjoy it. A whining Irish cabaret reject called Johnny Logan won in 1980 and 1987, the latter song fittingly named What’s Another Year.

After the annus mirabilis of 1989, something happened to make Ireland the capital of Cool. Europe being Europe, this also manifested itself in the cooly un-cool Eurovision, which Ireland won four times in five years. Interestingly, the only thing anyone recalls about those heady days is the 1994 contest’s interval act. This featured two Irish-American Irish dancers (still with me?), the male of whom sported a mullet and had replaced all his chest hair with baby oil. In fact, it was quite a spectacular dance number, but within a few months it metastasised into the monster we know as Riverdance and proceeded to trample and stomp over every city in the industrialised world.

In Eastern Europe, countries which had for so long been stuck in a 1970s purgatory of cheap bell-bottom jeans and Slavic lyrics interspersed with ‘Baby’ clamoured to join Eurovision. In a revolutionary change, they now could wear designer Italian bell-bottoms instead. Nobody ever paid attention to the words, so no change was needed there. However, the old rule requiring songs to be sung in their national language had been dropped, so the ‘Babys’ were now interspersed among Eengleesh lyrics. Turkey joined the fray with a truly bizarre number called Opera which is still cited by connoisseurs as the most outlandish performance ever delivered with a straight face.

A schism soon became evident. Western Europe (apart, of course, from Greece and Cyprus) voted for songs on merit – in other words, for Western European songs. Eastern Europe, unused to the responsibilities of freedom, persisted in voting for inferior Eastern European songs on patently partisan grounds. (Eastern European commentators have said something similar, but not quite the same). The breakup of the Versailles Treaty states gave the Easterners a numerical strength that began to threaten Western hegemony.

The West responded with a mixture of irony and camp. In a jaw-dropping parody of Ireland’s virginal first winner, an Israeli transsexual called Dana International won in 1998. The East’s response was to shrewdly treat the song as a mere adjunct of the performance itself. Ukraine stormed home with Savage Dances, featuring a pneumatic Xena-style warrioress bouncing around with pelt-clad bodybuilders thumping drums. Since then, the competition has ricocheted from one Easter European capital to the next, though politically (if not geographically) it returned to the West when the Finnish monster rock group Lordi won with Hard Rock Halleluiah. (This title, and the role foretold for the European Union in the Book of Revelations, allowed me to convince one American evangelical that the winning song became Europe’s national anthem for a year and was sung by government ministers at EU meetings. But I digress.)

Eurovision has come to have a new role as a cross between the Berlin Love Parade and the European Cup. We get to shout cheers and obscenities, screech at truly faaabulous outfits, snicker at the unfortunates who don’t realise it’s all a joke, howl in derision at uniformly terrible songs, and do so knowing that nobody outside Europe can understand what the hell is going on.

Looks like those wise, paternalistic governments in the 1950s might have got it right after all.

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Monday 21 April 2008

Father Jerome

Father Jerome grew up in the city. In school, he would explore the realms of perfection revealed by music and mathematics. He preferred the lives of the saints to the earthy exploits of his classmates on the sports grounds. He was a solitary boy but content in his world of ideas and abstraction. In the seminary he excelled in philosophy and theology, and a career as an academic, or maybe even the Curia, seemed to await him.

No one's surprise could have been greater than Father Jerome's when he was posted to a lonely parish in the wind-swept hills. Where was Aquinas when Father Jerome heaved one muddy boot after another to visit a sick shepherd in his hovel? What chance had Palestrina among jostling, mischievous choirboys who could scarcely read their schoolbooks, let alone music? But Father Jerome found strength in the faith that his great learning told him was true. The months became seasons, the seasons years, and Father Jerome grew to love his simple people just as they loved him. He smiled when they ploughed carefully around a patch in a field so as not to disturb the fairies who lived there. He blessed their lambs against the evil eye. He knew the Lord was a man who worked with His hands, who came from people like this, and He would understand. Even if the country folks' heads were full of magical creatures, their hearts remained open to God's love.

Father Jerome was walking to a dying woman's house when he first heard the voice. “I can see you, Father Jerome, but you can't see me”. Father Jerome was no stranger to pranks. How often had he left the school and found that a toad had taken up residence in his hat? He would join in the laughter and solemnly name the toad after the conspiracy's ringleader. But this was different. The speech seemed to come from everywhere but nowhere. It whispered with an aetherial hollowness as if it was the voice of the mist itself. His duties and the darkness precluded investigation, so Father Jerome continued down the winding track, a puzzled frown creasing his brow.

The old woman's struggle ended late in the night, and it was nearly dawn when Father Jerome returned home. When she arrived for burial two days hence, he would place her rosary beads around her rough cold fingers and pretend not to notice the three stones and a feather secreted in her mouth. Weariness overcame him and he sat down to doze before first Mass. But then that same voice: “I can see you, Father Jerome, but you can't see me”. Father Jerome sat up startled. No, nobody but he was in that still and austere house. Had he been dreaming?

As Father Jerome went through his day's work and devotions, the voice followed him. Anxiety seeped into his usually placid being. Was he ill? Why did nobody else seem to hear it? Was God taunting him, mocking some part of Father Jerome's mind that disdained the humble faith of his flock? Prayer brought no answer or respite, and Father Jerome began to despair at the thought of his torment continuing.

That evening, exhausted, he merely poked at his frugal supper and retired early. Despite his weariness, sleep eluded him as he waited, dreading the return of that voice. And return it did. Father Jerome closed his eyes, tried to turn his thoughts to the glories of high reason and not admit defeat to mere superstition. But the dark hours of the night can be Gethsemane for a soul thrown into doubt. Before he knew he was doing it, Father Jerome found himself speaking to something that all his learning told him could not be there.

“Who are you? Why are you tormenting me?”

A long silence filled the small bedroom. And then an answer:

“I have forgotten who I am. But you can help me be myself again”.

“I minister to the living and dying of this place” the priest cried, “How can I help one such as you?”

The chill and empty voice replied: “A soul can lose its body just as a body can lose its soul, holy man. Will you not help me to walk the earth as a body and soul again?”

Father Jerome sat bolt upright. “I am a priest, not a witch! You ask too much of me, spirit!”

“Then can you not ask Him who is almighty to do what you cannot?”

The sharp answer in Father Jerome's throat stopped short as he thought on what the voice asked. Surely God would never object to prayer? If it put to rest the spirit, or at least silenced it, well and good. And if it did not, what harm? So Father Jerome knelt down on the cold stone floor and began to pray.

As the long night wore on, Father Jerome pounded Heaven with prayer. He beseeched the Lord to hear his plea for the spirit who had visited him. He begged the Lord to forgive his arrogance and pride. He cast aside reliance on learning and books, and abandoned his very being to hope in his creator's unfathomable mercy.

As the grey tinge of the emerging day began to dispel the night, a euphoric calm settled Father Jerome's troubled breast. A profound, unshakeable reassurance touched his being, as if a strong gentle hand had caressed him. Was it a dream, or did he hear a deep voice that knew every fibre of his being say “Well done my son, your faith is precious to me”? And prostrate on the stone floor, Father Jerome fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

The insistent knocking of the village woman who cooked and cleaned for him woke Father Jerome. Startled, he stood up to answer the door, the night's events a confused collage of memories. But a sound made him turn around. Looking at the bed, not daring to credit what his eyes saw, he pulled back the thin blanket. And there, curled up in the golden light of the rising sun, was the perfect form of a boy, no more than twelve years old.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that concludes the case for the defence.

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Monday 21 January 2008

Irregular Verbs

I have an eye for detail.

You are a nit-picker.

He can’t see the woods for the trees.

I have faith in my fellow man.

You are naive.

He came down in the last shower.

I am willing to learn from others.

You are derivative.

He is a brazen plagiarist.

I am an epicurean.

You eat too much.

He would eat the tablecloth if his mouth wasn’t already stuffed with the napkin.

I am eloquent.

You are long-winded.

He has verbal dysentery.

I am attractive.

You are a shameless flirt.

She is two-bit whore on a discount weekend.

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Saturday 8 December 2007


On this quiet afternoon, I'll plant the last of the bulbs. I'll enjoy the worthy ache in my back. There's a sure solidity in the packed and raked earth. I'll wipe the soil from the dull steel spade. I'll hang it in the shed on the third hook from the left.

I'll sit in the corner of the room as the evening advances. I'll breathe in the smells of suppers down the street. I'll wait - then I'll shut the gate behind me, lifting it to avoid the squeak.

Into the quiet of the night he'll stumble from the pub. He'll be so deafened by the din between his ears he won't hear me pad up behind him. He won't see it coming. He'll drop, too crumpled and pathetic to be worth burying.

I'll lock the shed, retire to my room, and in April the bulbs will come up.

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Wednesday 28 November 2007

The Comte de Chiftie

It was only by the greatest good fortune that His Majesty survived. The lightning-swift rush by the sailor Lugwort, the almost imperceptible movement as he slipped the gleaming dagger from his jerkin – they still send a coruscating shiver through me. My own part in denying him his goal has, perhaps, been exaggerated - but we give thanks that the snuff blown into his eyes by my sneeze blinded him. I pray that the fourteen children of Mme. Beauvine find consolation in the fact that the blow that took their mother's life spared His Majesty's. I hear that her dress, though stained, may yet serve for one of the larger daughters.

Of course Lugwort, an illiterate whose tongue was severed in a bawdy-house brawl, could and would not name those behind his treason. Of no use to us, he was swiftly dispatched to justice, first in this world and then the next. But the agitation and frenetic demeanour of the Comte de Chiftie were plain enough to see. Word soon reached me that he had been seen the day before the assault, sketching the tunnels under the Guardhouse. He was denounced and put to the question.

Ah! The Comte, a man in thrall to those dangerous ideas so prevalent in today's young; vapid notions and dreams that would quite destroy the order and concord of the State. A vain and vainglorious man, but not without his virtues. He showed considerable fortitude in the Chamber of Answers. Though he soon laid bare his own part in those vile deeds – it was he who distracted attention from Lugwort's entry through the kitchen by dropping a live duck into a cauldron of boiling water – he refused time and again to name the conspirators. Zganov the Questioner used every repellent groat's worth of his skills, but to no avail. It became clear that, such had been the assiduity of Zganov and his acolytes, de Chiftie was not long for this life.

In all things the proper forms must be observed. To let de Chiftie expire in the dark squalor of the dungeon would have led only to his elevation to martyrdom. "Better to see him tried and sentenced for what he has admitted, and might yet admit to save his soul!" said the Duc de Scorreggio. One does not dispute the opinion of the Royal Chamberlain, so a trial was hastily convened. De Chiftie’s confession (as far as it went) was more than sufficient for their august lordships to confirm what the laws of Nature clearly decreed – the Comte slumped pathetically in the dock and grew visibly weaker during the short proceedings. Yet he refused to name his fellow plotters, even when the Archpatriarch himself elucidated the eternal torment his soul faced.

The grim business of execution was set in motion. The block, the axeman, the scaffold – the apparatus of despatch was assembled. A large and raucous crowd gathered to see the gruesome spectacle. Drums rolled, guards clattered swords and sidearms. The tumbrel carrying de Chiftie was pelted with the detritus of the fish market and other things I cannot bring myself to mention. It fell to me to offer him a last chance of saving his soul, if not his head, but he could merely snivel and twitch, and he did not name names.

The wretch! They placed his neck on the block and the wicked blade of the axe flashed as Zganov himself – sworn to avenge his one and only failure – raised it to the roared approval of the mob. If only I had not been half deafened by the infernal noise of the scene! Too late I saw the bruised lips and broken teeth of the Comte form the words "the Baron ..." – I heard no more as the blade cleaved its irreversible course.

And the moral of the story is: Don't hatch your Counts before they chicken.

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