This season, from the people who brought you ‘The Early Bird Get’s the Right Size‘ (catapostrophe intended) we are treated to an exciting new adventure in language mangling with their wholesale invention of the word ‘giftorium’. So confused and befuddled by this word was I, that I had to look it up just to make sure there was no obscure Latin usage with which I was not familiar. This is typical of about the first hundred Google hits:(i)

Oh my fucking absinthe-addled maiden aunt. This should be a crime against humanity. Think of the poor children.
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Footnotes:

  1. There’s nothing quite like seeing all these search results in one long stream to help you understand how marketing press releases get used in the wild… []

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The person who has just been appointed to the head of Australia’s once(i) world-admired science organisation, the CSIRO,(ii) believes in magic.

Yes dear Cowpokes, Dr Larry Marshall, a man whose scientific credentials barely cast little more than a dim glow from within the deep shadow of his business escapades, and whose tumbling grammatical trainwreck of a biography uses expressions like ‘leverage’ and ‘serial entrepreneur’, wants to create water dowsing machines.

Larry says he would…

…like to see the development of technology that would make it easier for farmers to dowse or divine for water on their properties.

“I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said. “When I see that as a scientist, it makes me question, ‘is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?’

You know what, Larry? When you see that – as a scientist – you should actually ask yourself why no real scientists believe, for even a nano-second, that dowsing works.

You have no idea how they do it? My suggestion is that you look up the ideomotor effect and watch this video. Several times, if you don’t get it on the first run through.

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Footnotes:

  1. I say ‘once’ because, like everything else in this country lately, it seems that the idiotic buffoons who aspire to be some kind of ‘government’ here, are hell bent on making it the laughingstock of the educated world. []
  2. You know WiFi? The CSIRO invented that. Yeah, WIFI! []

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Back in November 2006, a writer named Gary Wolf first coined the term New Atheism in an article in Wired. It is truly irritating that he did so,(i) since it has these days become a kind of target at which religious apologists of all flavours seem to very much enjoy taking aim.

Let’s reflect on it for a moment: the conjuring of an idea like a ‘new’ atheism logically demands, of course, that there must be a corresponding concept of an ‘old’ atheism. The vehemence with which many religious writers attack the so co-called New Atheism – as if it’s a ‘thing’ – carries a subtlety that I think a lot of people miss: that it is somehow different to, and less desirable than, the old version. What we have here is a tacit acceptance in modern religious thought that atheism was actually preferable in the old days.

Which is weird, don’t you think?

So, what, exactly, has changed?

It’s all about voices. For millennia the Church(ii) has had the loudest voice in town(iii) but in recent times, the voice of atheism has become louder and stronger, and more people are hearing it. Religions really don’t like that. They preferred it when atheists were meek and quiet and stayed in their university cloisters (because that’s where they mostly were) and weren’t heard by too many. The objection here, then, is not to atheism itself, but instead to an atheism that people know about.

To this end, religious apologists find it advantageous to make a differentiation between ‘old’ and ‘new’ atheism and so they set about characterising the New Atheists in unpleasant terms. In other words, they contrive to make an old adversary, who was comfortably tolerated and conveniently insulated, into a different one: a newbie who is disagreeable, loud-mouthed and crass – and therefore, by inference, someone with little credibility and who you shouldn’t like. This has nothing to do with what atheists are actually saying, of course, but more to do with painting an unflattering picture of them.(iv)

New Atheists are, then, brash, opinionated, militant (whatever that means),(v) narrow-minded and intolerant. Of course the majority of atheists don’t see themselves like this, so the term is viewed among atheists as completely daft. People like myself, who have identified as atheists for decades, don’t consider themselves as ‘new’ anything. We continue to hold the views that we’ve always held, and speak about them in the ways that we always have.

The significant difference, of course, is that now we have the internet we can quite easily circulate those views, make them public(vi) and share them with others. But hey – so can the religiously convinced! So what then is the problem – status quo reclaimed, right?

Not so much.

What’s happening to religion at this point in the 21st century, is exactly the same thing that’s happening to all those institutions that control the conduits for the dissemination of intellectual property. I’ve talked about other contexts for that previously on the Cow, and this is no different. A record company or a movie studio or a newspaper controls the conduit for their intellectual property in order to make money out of those who comprise their audience. Religions control the conduit because this is how they perpetuate propaganda and stop adherents from getting information from elsewhere – information that just might conceivably make more sense than that which they themselves are peddling. That’s a massive risk for religion, because in the same way that this unfettered access to information is thoroughly wrecking the old edifices of intellectual property, it could (and probably would if given sufficient time, I think) completely disintegrate the stranglehold of religion on humanity.

To put it simply, religions are losing ground when it comes to controlling how people think. Since the Devil is kinda out of fashion these days, they desperately need somebody they can blame for this horribly destabilising state of affairs. No wonder they’re so keen to find a way to make us look bad.
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Footnotes:

  1. But probably inevitable that a term like it would have arisen anyway. []
  2. When I say ‘the Church’ in most contexts on TCA, you should take it to mean ‘all conventional kinds of religion that command large numbers of followers’. []
  3. Well, possibly second to money, but hey. []
  4. You will have spotted this as a very common logical fallacy: make people look bad so that you can make it seem that their point of view is bad – Poisoning the Well. []
  5. From the first time I heard this adjective applied to atheism it really pissed me off. What the actual fuck does that mean – that atheist have guns and an army? It’s a highly coloured term that has one purpose and one purpose alone: to conjure up images of organized aggression, intolerance and domination by force. None of these objectives are ever promoted by the atheist community. []
  6. As I’m doing right now. []

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Google Search’s synopsis for the IMDB entry on the forthcoming Jurassic World seems oddly similar to the plot of another imminent movie. And nothing at all like I was expecting…

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