There is a major historic site in Miami, called the Miami Circle. It is one of the oldest indigenous sites in South Florida, discovered during construction excavations. It is a circle marked with holes that once held 24 poles, suggestive of a clock, and it was found in association with many artifacts attributed to the Tequesta / Tekesta people who once inhabited this region of South Florida. Due to its highly urban location and the controversy surrounding whether it would be preserved as a historic site or built over as part of the property that encompassed it, the circle itself has been left underground and marked with informative placards. I’ve never stood at this site, but I have been on Miami River tours that went past it. Its riverfront location makes it obvious, as the only spot for miles where the buildings don’t edge directly onto the shore, even with the circle itself underground.
The classic Western-fantasy adventuring party, appearing across a wide variety of media and baked into what Dungeons and Dragons in particular expects adventuring groups to be capable of, consists of four very different characters. By default, there is a “fighter,” who wears armor and specializes in swordplay or another close-range martial art; a “wizard,” who is a combination mobile artillery piece, library, and miscellaneous magical toolkit; a “rogue” or “thief,” whose specialty is stealth, lock-picking, smooth-talking, acrobatics, and similar skills; and a “cleric” or “priest,” who provides the favor of the gods to their allies, usually in the form of magical healing and defensive magic.
That last person raises difficult questions about the overall shape of the fantasy universe, which every D&D setting tries to answer one way or another. It’s not difficult to imagine a fantasy world where the term “cleric” means something more like what it means in our world, and refers to someone an adventuring party might visit afterward for wound-tending and soul-cleansing rather than a steadfast and magical battlefield ally. Ivanhoe is probably the work of fiction most famously within this tradition. But most Western fantasy assigns clerics and other agents of the divine power well in excess of the demonstrated abilities of real-world religious figures, including the power to raise the dead on demand, instantly heal deadly injuries multiple times a day, and brandish holy symbols to disperse zombies. The deities of a fantasy world that is home to this kind of priest are, thereby, much more powerful than the god of Ivanhoe and any deity associated with real-world religious practice, and have far more direct and overt effects on the world at large.
Sociological concepts are controversial in the skeptic/atheist community. Many of its members don’t think of sociology as a “real” science, or otherwise dismiss the claims such a peculiar field makes as not holding up to the scrutiny expected in biology, geology, or physics. Criticisms of important sociological concepts like privilege tend to rely either on argument from personal incredulity or on hazy readings of introductory philosophy texts.
The funny thing is, philosobros who think they can undo sociological privilege with binary logic or harsh skepticism about the motives of other humans have only a few pages to flip before their own sources turn against them. Equally basic philosophical concepts and discussions underpin major sociological findings, and remind us to be aware of the limits of our own knowledge in other ways.
[Spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe follow.]
The moment that sealed Steven Universe into richly-deserved fame and a place in future discussions of the evolution of pop culture was the 52nd episode, ”Jail Break.” In addition to pointedly and thoroughly burnishing the show’s credentials as queer-inclusive and emotionally complex, it provided viewers with a beautifully-composed song-and-fight sequence, from the only one of the four main characters to have avoided a musical number until then:
The words of “Stronger Than You” are poetic and poignant, particularly these:
I am a conversation.
I am made
And it’s stronger than you.
The human brain has a great deal of real estate devoted to the tasks of recognizing faces and recognizing emotions in those faces. Neither of these tasks is foolproof: seeing faces where they are none is the most common form of pareidolia and has whole religions devoted to it, and prosopagnosia and difficulty reading emotions in faces are both common difficulties associated with autism. One of the most common malfunctions of this facial recognition module is treating animals as though their facial expressions and other behavioral signifiers mean the same things as ours. It’s from here that we eventually get snarling velociraptors in modern creature features.
A great deal of cruelty is had when people refuse to read animals for what they are saying, and instead read what they think ought to be there.
I am a scientist, and I am a leftist. To many, these ideas are starkly opposed, and a cursory read of each area’s maxims would seem to corroborate that opposition. But both modes of thinking are enthusiastically embraced by commanding fractions of the atheist community, often the same people, and there is a good reason for that, too. This is how this particular leftist scientist reconciles those ideas. Continue reading “Let’s Have a Shut Up and Sit Down”
The giant earth crocodile with mouths at all of her joints.
Giant ape-men with backward feet and hanging intestines that waylay travelers.
The plumed serpent of the sun, wind, and mercy, who raped his human-shaped sister while divinely hammered and still got to keep the “mercy” portfolio, and is also the planet Venus for some reason.
Feeding the sun with the beating hearts of thousands of sacrifices.
And you thought Revelation was sick.
One to be born with two teeth in his mouth
They will die of famine the trees stripped,
For them a new King issues a new edict.
Plague and new affront, to tourble the enclosure:
The fury will bite in Aix and the places thereabout,
Then those of Marseilles will want to double their evil.
Those of us born in the 1980s came of age in an interesting time, as the Communist governments of eastern and central Europe fell, one country turned into 15 and somehow stayed the largest in the world, and computers learned how to handle four-digit years.
And you’d better believe it was a big deal.