Archive for the '[Science in Society]' category

Ask-an-Atheist, sneezing, and much head-shaking.

Jan 26 2012 Published by under [Et Al], [Science in Society]

Atheist students on campus set up an Ask-an-Atheist table, presumably to increase awareness of other religious opinions and give people a chance to see that they won't be drinking the blood of your children anytime soon. Seems pretty straightforward, right? They're not looking to cause trouble, but to spread awareness. And cookies. Consequently my question was "can I have an Oreo"? This was apparently the most popular question of the day. Since I'm an atheist myself, I didn't see that we'd have much more to discuss anyway. Agreeing is sometimes boring.

One would think that maybe, just maybe, people on our campus are a little more enlightened than the general public and can at least cope with the reality of dissenting opinions, which is why conversations are cookie-centric. And you'd be right. Except for some of the staff, especially when they have no idea what my religious proclivities are but try to involve me in their clandestine passive-aggressive gripe-fest.

Me: *Sneezes*
Lab Tech: Bless you. Wait, can I say bless you?
Me: Huh?
Lab Tech: Well there's the Ask-an-Atheist table out there today, so I don't know if I can say that anymore.
Hyperreligious Office Support Staffer: *rolls eyes with her voice* Oh yeah, they're out there.
Me: Oh, ok. What difference does that make?
Lab Tech: Well I just said "bless you" but I don't know if that's ok. Do people have a problem with that? What do you say?
HOSS (self-righteously, as if somebody asked her opinion): I say "Bless you".
Me: *shrugs* I just say "Gesundheit". *walking toward copy room*
LT (getting smarmy): Well I just say "Bless you".
HOSS (getting exceedingly full of herself from the other room): I think that's just the right thing to say.
LT: I hope that's ok with you.
Me: I could care less, especially if you're the one doing the blessing.
LT: What do you say again?
Me: Gesundheit.
LT: That just means "God bless you in German". I took German in high school. Now THAT was an awful experience.
Me (who took French): Actually it means something more like "to your health", literally. "Gott" is German for god.
LT: Oh.
HOSS: starts to board the clue bus and wisely chooses silence

I refrained from adding "you know, Gott, like from the popular Third Reich phrase the Nazis had on their belt buckles? "Gott mit uns"? Or from pointing out that if they want to be snarky about it, they ought to keep in mind that probably 50% of the professors they work for in the science center's 5 departments are at least agnostic if not atheist, and definitely not Christian. I may not care much, but other people might think they're being rude.

The thing that blew my mind after I left the room- if you can't figure it out, why not just go out to the table and ASK THE MOTHERFUCKING ATHEIST?

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Brief moments in evolution conversations

Dec 01 2011 Published by under [Science in Society]

While discussing the merits and flaws of chimpanzee symbol acquisition studies and whether different evolutionary trajectories have made it biologically easier for bonobos to pick up language skills more readily than the common chimpanzee, one of my students stopped mid-sentence, looked up, and asked

"Are there really people who don't think evolution is relevant?  Because I had my first conversation the other day with a creationist and I was so dumbstruck I didn't know what to say."

Everybody else in the class agreed they hadn't encountered but maybe one or two people younger than their parents' generation who thought creationism was true.

I smiled a little inside.

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