Science is cool!

This…is a real animal. It’s called a Tardigrade, and it’s a (barely) macroscopic animal about half a millimeter long. It has eight legs and can survive exposure to hard vacuum. It belongs to a sister phylum to arthropods, though these guys technically aren’t arthropods.

This particular image comes from The Scientist, where it’s a finalist in their annual science image contest.

The next time you’re watching Star Trek and you see a supposedly ‘alien’ species that’s really just a white 21st-century human with a wrinkly nose, think about the amazing diversity of body plans right here on Earth, and then think about how profoundly unlikely that would be.

If homophobic Christians read the Bible, what would the world look like?

When i lived in the South, I will admit I used to eat at Chick-Fil-A all the time. I was dimly aware that they had some sketchy religious leanings or something, and they tended to hire only surrealistically white people to work in their restaurants, but hey, the sandwiches were good.

Well, not really good. But at least better than much of the mediocre fast-food stuff you could get at, say, Taco Bell or Burger King.

I wish I could say that I was surprised to learn that Chick-Fil-A has bought into the virulent strain of anti-gay nonsense that seems to have the self-described Christian conservative bits of society in such a frenzy, but I’m really not. Like I said, I was dimly aware that ther was some kind of right-wing religious something something at play.

But the media attention about Chick-Fil-A and gay marriage got me to thinking. Most self-described Christian conservatives base their opposition to gay marriage on two Bible verses. Leviticus 18:22 reads:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 says:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

The rest of Leviticus goes on to say similar things about cutting your beard, wearing clothes made of different fibers, eating shellfish, having sex with a woman on her period, letting different kinds of cattle graze in the same field, and executing women if their husbands cheat on them they cheat on their husbands (seriously, it’s there, Leviticus 20:10).

Most Christians don’t follow these rules, arguing that Jesus made them irrelevant except the ones about homosexuality because those are totally different from the shellfish ones because of reasons, and some will even quote a third Bible verse, Romans 1:26-27, to justify banning gay marriage:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

But the Bible, both old and new testaments, actually spends a whole lot more time talking about divorce than it does about homosexuality. Both testaments are very, very clear that divorce is never permitted, and that those who divorce and remarry are guilty of adultery, a sin forbidden by the Ten Commandments, and with the penalty of death according to the old testament…

Um, wait a minute, didn’t we recently see a serial divorcee running on some kind of pro-family, conservative Christian platform?

In fact, the Bible even claims that Jesus, who never spoke about homosexuality at all, had plenty to say about divorce, in Matthew 5:31-32:

And it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

The Bible has Jesus speaking the same message many more times, in Mark 10:2 and Luke 16:18, for example.

So I wonder…

What would the right-wing Christian pronouncements look like if they actually applied the same thinking on divorce to their supposedly “Bible-based” blatherings about homosexuality? What would happen if you took their hysterical anti-gay screeds and replaced the word “homosexual” with the word “divorce”? It seems a fair substitution; the same moral, Biblical justifications for opposing homosexuality even more strongly apply to divorce, after all.

I started Googling Christian proclamations about homosexuality, which…well, if you have ever felt the need to go trolling on a motorboat down an open sewer, doing that sort of Google search will give you a similar experience. And I took “homosexuality” and replaced it with “divorce.” The results were…interesting.

Clicky here to see what happens!

“But why aren’t we spending it on CHILDREN? Think of the CHILDREN!”

So for those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of days: Yesterday, something amazing happened.

No, I don’t mean the US soccer Olympic team beating Canada by one point in a dramatic overtime goal. I mean something really amazing. Something mind-blowing.

We took a one-ton nuclear-powered robot rover and threw it 350,000,000 miles, then landed it on the surface of another planet using cables from a flying rocket-powered robot crane.

And it worked. That’s the cool thing about science: It works whether you “believe” in it or not.

However, as always happens whenever NASA does something amazing, a bunch of people have trotted out all sorts of nonsense about how we shouldn’t be spending money on space exploration when there are so many problems back here on earth. I went to a Curiosity landing party at the local museum of science and industry, and sure enough, someone posted something on the Facebook page for the event something to the extent of “I wonder how many children will die from lack of clean water while we land a probe on Mars” or something.

Now, I have been told that it’s technically illegal to beat these folks. And I’m sure their hearts are in the right place; they’re not trying to be anti-intellectual, they just have little sense of the size and scope of the economy, nor how much money gets spent on space exploration, nor how much money we spend every year on things that we really could do without. And they seem to have an either/or mindset as well, as if to say that every dollar that goes to space exploration is a dollar that is taken away from needy children as opposed to being taken from, say, the Pentagon’s budget for paper clips.

Now, I think that doing things like, oh, finding out if there is life on other planets in our solar system represents a better investment of money than, for instance, buying T-shirts with pictures of NFL logos on them–something we typically spend about four times more per year on than we do on trying to learn about the universe.

So I spent some time doing a bit of research, and I’ve put together a handy-dandy chart that shows the cost of the Mars Curiosity mission, compared to the cost of some other things we might be acquainted with. The chart is a little lopsided, in that it shows how much we spend per year on other things, and the cost of the Curiosity mission so far represents seven years’ investment; to make things more representative, the bar for the Curiosity mission should be 1/7th as long as it is here.

Since we aren’t technically allowed to beat folks who complain about the cost of space exploration, hitting them over the head with this chart will have to do instead. (Figuratively! Figuratively! You can’t literally hit folks with it unless you, I don’t know, print it out and wrap it around something first. Which, as I mentioned, is technically illegal.)

So now when someone says “Why are we wasting money on space exploration instead of fixing problems here at home?” you can say “Why are we wasting even more money on Halloween candy, Christmas trees, or perfume, or football games?” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “We shouldn’t spend money on perfume when there are so many problems here at home.”

Because, you know, spending money on perfume is way more important than finding out whether or not there is life not on this world.