Mr. Whuffkins

This post is a complete flight of fancy. I’m stealing the idea from Skepchicks and running with it.

A couple days ago one of the Skepchicks posed this question: If you could have any animal as a pet, and have it magically be domesticated and friendly, what would you choose?

Most people chose big cats. One person went with a Velociraptor. So I thought “Hmm…how can I take that to the next level? Oh *I* know! THIS  guy! http://bit.ly/4FdxYw : The Mapusaurus roseae.

This dinosaur was larger than the T-Rex and may have even been bigger than Giganotosaurus, the guy that took over the mantle of “Biggest Badass” from good ol’ T. In other words Mapusaurus rosae, or as I like to call him, Mr. Whuffkins, was longer than a four-story building is tall. So, yeah…big meat grinder on legs.

The question on Skepchicks included the word “friendly”. Sure, Mr. Whuffkins would be friendly TO ME and to people I liked. But lets have some fun here for a minute. If YOU had the biggest carnivore the world has ever seen at your disposal, what would YOU do? Personally, I’d have bullet proof armor and a saddle made for Mr. Whuffkins. Then I’d take him around to places like the Westboro Baptist Church where Fred Phelps hangs his hat. I’d explain to Mr. Phelps that when he says things like “God hates fags”, it makes Mr. Whuffkins vewwy sad. When Mr. Whuffkins gets sad, he gets hungry. He’s a stress eater, doncha know.

Voila! Instant social reform!

Don’t like the way things are going in Washington DC? Mr. Whuffkins and I are happy to go eat..er..greet a few Congressmen and Senators. I can see it now. Me and my pet wandering the world making change happen wherever we go. Barack Obama would have nothing on us!

It would be like the old children’s book “Danny and the Dinosaur”, just a bit, well, bloodier.

Unfortunately there would be a drawback to keeping Mr. Whuffkins as a pet. No, not the food bill. He’s magical so he wouldn’t need to eat. Except for those times I wanted him to, that is. The big drawback would be the fundamentalists and creationists claiming that me and Mr. Whuffkins are proof that people used to live side by side with dinosaurs and even ride them. After all Mr. Whuffkins would be “domesticated”.

And so, the dream dies.

It IS fun to pretend sometimes though. See? Even skeptics have vivid imaginations!




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Pat Robertsons on Haiti

This morning on the Christian Broadcast Network Pat Robertson made a claim about the reason Haiti has had so many troubles. He states it is because they made a deal with the Devil in the 19th century for their freedom from France.

It’s times like this when it is very hard not to be a cynic. A cynic would have followed that claim up with something like “WTF Pat? Are you stupid?? What kind of crack are you smokin’??”

Haiti should be very proud of its history. In 1791, their ancestors started the only successful slave revolt in human history. It was the first black-run country. They have a rich heritage that deserves to be celebrated. Their revolution is considered a defining moment in African history in the New World.

Pat Robertson isn’t necessarily full of crap though. At least not from certain perspectives. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Haitian revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Revolution), “Historians traditionally identify the catalyst to revolution as a particular Vodou ceremony in August 1791 performed at Bois Caïman by Dutty Boukman, a priest.”.”

At one point in my life I was a Fundamentalist Christian so I understand the “logic” behind Pat Robertson’s claim. From his perspective Vodou is devil worship. The priest, Dutty Boukman, called on demons and the Devil, by fundamentalist reasoning, to free his country. When an entire country is given over into the hands of the Devil, no good can ever come of it.

This is, of course, no longer my perspective. This is an observation and explanation on Robertson’s reasoning. It in no way is meant to support his argument by Appeal To Widespread Belief.

This logical fallacy states that because something is widely believed, that makes it factual evidence. This reasoning is fallacious. We used to believe the world was flat. We know better now because evidence has shown otherwise. A belief is not necessarily factual. In this case, there is no scientific, testable evidence of a Devil. There is no scientific, testable evidence that Vodou has been effective.

Haiti has simply had to deal with unfortunate circumstances.  The recent earthquake is one more instance in a string of natural occurrences. There is nothing paranormal about it. This country has simply been victim to a host of natural disasters ranging from flooding and hurricanes to disease and drug trafficking. These, along with a public that lacks education, are the things that keep Haiti impoverished.

I would urge you to go to redcross.com and contribute to the Haitian relief effort if you haven’t already.

Witch Hunts In Africa

Two days back I posted about a video I watched. The video showed five elderly people being beaten and burned alive in the western district of Kisii in Kenya. Why? They had been accused of witchcraft and/or sorcery and they were being punished for their crimes by being burnt.

After further research I found that I came a bit late to this particular party. The original video I posted appears to have first surfaced in April of this year. This is also not the only incident of people being burnt, beaten, ostracised or otherwise tortured for supposedly practicing witchcraft or sorcery. This is, according to this article by the BBC (http://bit.ly/WYaSP) is so common a practice that there are no longer any elders to consult.

In my previous article I spoke at length about how stunned I was that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. My husband reminded me that it isn’t really the 21st century there. In remote villages in Africa, it IS 200 years ago. Perhaps some of modern civilization touches these areas but not enough science and logical thought are being introduced to these cultures.

This article from the New York Times (http://bit.ly/3t7NkW)  blames apartheid for the burnings. The article further claims that these burnings have been growing steadily since the 1980’s. The Chief talks about the “ungovernability of the young” and talks about how the old ways are being lost. There was once a less violent way to handle “bewitchings”. Now the youth are taking things into their own hands and the police do nothing.

Another opinion posed by this article (http://bit.ly/2I7u0c) by the Associated Press blames the increase of Pentecostal churches. According to the reporter, the number of burnings have increased in proportion with the number of churches. “Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.””. Some parishioners who attend churches have taken the teachings back to their village where it gets mixed with African traditions. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Then there are those who let the power go to their heads. There are pastors who perform exorcisms and extort exorbitant fees from the parents for this “service”. Children have been hurt and maimed during these supposed exorcisms. The mere mention of certain church names is enough to cause a group of happily playing children mentioned in this article to become frightened.

Unfortunately this is a complicated issue and there doesn’t seem to be a solution. If you remove the churches, then you remove food and medicine that secular organizations simply can’t cover. I would be interested to know what, if anything, the UN is doing about this. Are there any human rights organizations addressing this problem? There is still research to be done on this and I will be talking about it further in the future.