Mythic Mondays – Reading in Dreams. Batman was wrong!

When I was in early highschool Batman the Animated Series was the shiznet. Everyone I know watched it. Mind you, I also lived in the boondocks and there was a limited selection of what we could watch. Three channels on a good day!

It was well written and very ‘adult’ for a kids show. I tended to take a lot of what they said at face value because of the way it was presented. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Here’s an example: You cannot read in a dream because it’s a function of the left side of the brain. Dreams are a function of the right. This is how Batman broke out of the ‘Inception’ Dream within a dream episode where the Mad Hatter creates a never ending dream world to keep him imprisoned. Apologies if the video below makes you go to Youtube to see it, it was the only copy I could find.

I believed this was true for years. I repeated it to others and helped spread this misinformation. Batman said so! When did Batman ever lie? Well, first of all he mixed up the two. The left side of the brain is the one that’s always been associated with logical tasks and the right side is the one associated with raw creativity. So there’s that.

Then there’s the fact that…I read in my dreams all the time. Signs, newspapers, books, whatever. They have all appeared in my dreams and reading them was no big deal. Ermahgerd! I’m a freak! Only, not really. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest reading in dreams is not at all uncommon.

Anyhoo, the truth is that we don’t really know where dreams come from. Not with any certainty. There hasn’t been very much serious research done on the subject. Researchers in Switzerland produced a paper in 2004 that suggested that they had found one possible location for the formation of dreams. This happened by chance when a 73 year old woman had a stroke affecting that area of her brain. Side effect of stroke: Her dreams stopped. REM sleep continued as usual, but her dreams were absent according to brain scans. REM sleep and dreams are connected, but they are not the same thing and they originate in different parts of the brain. This had the unexpected side effect of busting another popular myth : That humans will die if they can’t dream.

“How dreams are generated, and what purpose they might serve, are completely open questions at this point.”

Dr Claudio Bassetti, of the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland

During dreams, and the rest of the time too, brain activity isn’t localized on one side or the other. The brain just doesn’t work that way. The left side/right side explanation of brain activity has some basis in reality but is wildly over simplified. There are specialized areas of the brain, which work with other specialized areas of the brain and everything between hemispheres is interconnected through the corpus callosum. And hundreds of millions of nerve clusters. There’s a whole lot of communication going on between both sides of your brain. All the time.

“Sure, we have two hemispheres that operate fine independently and have different abilities, but they are massively interconnected and work together as a seamless whole (providing you have never had surgery to cut your corpus callosum).”

Dr Steven Novella, Academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine

We’re not dolphins. We don’t sleep with one side of the brain at a time. And the functions of our brain are not neatly segregated into conveniently coloured portions of the brain. The whole thing is a mess. A mess we haven’t completely figured out yet. But from what we do know, there’s no reason why one shouldn’t be able to read in one’s dreams.

Damn you, Bruce Wayne.

Speaking of Gun Control…

In the wake of the theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado there are been a revival of the heated debated for or against gun control. Being an evil-godless-socialist-left-leaning-hippie-feminazi I’m sure you can guess where I stand on the issue. But that’s neither here nor there.

This morning the National Post had an interesting article that didn’t lean one way or the other but had this nifty graph that shows the correlation (or lack thereof) between gun ownership and shooting homicides. I myself am a very visual person so I like when things are laid out for me visually. Click the link below to see, because I’m not stealing their copyrighted graphic.

Graphic: Gun Ownership Around The World

It’s a good source of information for those of you planning to jump into internet arguments about gun control on this fine Sunday afternoon.

Interestingly, it doesn’t really show a correlation between number of guns and gun killings. Some of the highest number/per capita killings are in Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala. The countries we ignorant folk in more privileged countries tend to think of as ‘Cartel Countries’. Yet those countries have very few guns per capita. While the countries with the highest number of guns per capita were the U.S., Switzerland, and Finland in that order.

The Olympics Is No Place For Equality

The comment section at the Globe & Mail really is a cesspool of woman hating trolls today.

There’s an article in the commentary section of the Globe & Mail today in regards to the difference in the way male and female athletes are being treated. It’s called : ‘For female Olympians, it’s 1960 all over again

Case in point, the entire Q&A period for the British Beach Volleyball teams focused on whether the women were going to promise to wear bikinis in the rain. While the men’s team wasn’t asked any questions. Women’s sports aren’t about athleticism, afterall, it’s all about titillation. Training regimes and strategy? Not important. The important thing is whether or not we’re gonna see cleavage and the possibility of wardrobe malfunctions.

There’s also the example of male athletes getting first class tickets on airline flights while the female athletes have to ride in coach. How do you even defend that one?

The story of several media sources body snarking about a multi-medal Olympic Swimmer. Seriously, who calls an Olympic athlete fat?!? Well apparently, this is a thing now. Fucking fat lazy uber-athletes. How dare they pack on muscle and not be a size 0? /snark

Those are just a few examples from the article.
The commentariat of the plebes was about what you’d expect:

– Who’d even watch women’s sports if there were no bouncing boobies?

– There’s no such thing as sexism now STFU and get back in the kitchen.

– Bitches don’t know anything about sports.

– You’re just lucky men LET you compete at all.

You know, ‘well reasoned’ commentary from people who totally aren’t misogynist scumbags. And by ‘well-reasoned’, of course I mean: The stupid! It burns!

Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

This blog is called Canadian Heathen. This is because I identify as an atheist. Also because maple leafs and socialized healthcare are awesome! The majority of my blog posts have not, however, been primarily concerned with atheism. Or…Mounties. At first glance this may be confusing (or annoying) to some.

For me, my atheism and feminism stem from the same place: rationality and skepticism. Belief in gods is irrational. Sexism is irrational. Often the first leads to the second. There’s a strong correlation between religious belief and lack of women’s rights. Both of these things affect me. As a woman, the sexism is often the more noticeable for me. Also the more likely to piss me off. Because it’s all up in my face and it’s not something I can ever escape from. Once you see…you cannot unsee.

It’s also sometimes more baffling for me. Sexism doesn’t just come from the religious folks. I wish that were the case. It’s really easy to dismiss a stupid statement coming from someone who truly believes a snake tricked a woman into eating an apple. Unfortunately, there’s a nice heaping helping of unreasoned sexism that’s coming from fellow atheists and skeptics and this is something that I just don’t understand. How can you let go of one set of irrational beliefs while clutching desperately to another? More importantly, why would you want to?

I’ve been an internet forum warrior. Hell, I’ve even been a troll. I’ve clashed with religious fundementalists over the basic tenets of their beliefs with varying degrees of success. I remember years ago being on a forum arguing against religious fundementalism with a muslim dude. The muslim dude was ill prepared, as he was throwing some of the most common theistic arguments at us. The sort of thing that’s been debunked again and again. Pascal’s Wager and the like. Suffice it to say that he was floundering. Then one of my ‘allies’ piped in with : ‘you’re getting beaten by a girl, you know. What does that say about you manly muslims?’ I was completely derailed and flustered.

Really, random-internet-dude-who’s-suppose-to-be-my-ally-here? You went there? To score points in a flame war you tossed aside all reason and taunted his manhood by insulting half the population and in particular one of your allies. How exactly was I supposed to respond to that? Laughing along with him would be tacit agreement that I’m a second class citizen. I remember that what happened was that I turned my ire on the atheist and asked him what the hell his problem was. His response was something like : ‘But look how mad it made muslim guy’. Mine was : ‘And look how mad it made me. Do you really want to ‘win’ this fight by alienating half of your potential allies? Don’t knock me down in order to get a shot in at some random internet idiot.’ I got a sullen :’sorry…’ and he withdrew from the conversation.

This last anecdote is a mild one. There’s far worse things going on within and without the atheist community at the moment.

There’s the infamous Elevatorgate scandal, which all things aside (and whatever you happen to think about being propsitioned in an elevator at 4am in a strange country), taught us that if a woman speaks up about something that bothers her, she will get threatened and harassed mercilessly…for years! Or a condescending ‘Dear Muslimah‘ letter from one of the most respected members of the atheist community.

There’s are numerous situations where a rape survivor has mentioned that joking at the expense of the victims is not funny…who then promptly receive rape threats, because apparently that’s the go-to silencing tactic when calling a woman a Bitch doesn’t work.

The backlash that Surly Amy is getting because she’s a woman…because she’s a skeptic. Because she has opinions. Read that link, it’s a pretty horrifying example of the sort of shit that women who are atheists have to put up with…from their supposed allies! Among other things another atheist laments that Amy won’t be setting herself on fire anytime soon.

There’s a highschool girl sharing her gotta-make-you-smile story of how her very religious mother gave her a Carl Sagan book for Christmas…and then the rape threats that followed. And seriously, this girl is not even an adult yet.

So, above and beyond the fact that as an atheist I must fight against the religious right trying to lobby to take away my rights as a person, and as a woman, I’ve got this secondary fight going on. One where I need to give my apparent allies the side-eye from time to time and wonder if they really have my back or not or whether they’re waiting to throw me under the bus to score points in a frikken flame war. This is why so many of my posts have focused and will focus on feminism. To me, it’s all part of the same picture. In this case, the more uncomfortable part of the ‘good fight’.

Mythic Mondays – Leprosy

The other day I was watching an episode of National Geographic’s Taboo. It was the episode about outcasts. One of the segments was about modern lepers in India. There was a montage of interviews with random people on the streets of what I assumed were European/North American cities. You know, western, supposedly educated people. They asked the question: Would you touch a leper? The interviewees seemed horrified. One woman flatly states that she would never touch a leper because she knew leprosy was contagious.

This caused a deep sigh to start within me. Accompanied by a slow rolling of my eyes back into my head. The irrational fear that still exists today over a disease which has a cure, and which most humans are naturally immune to, annoyed me greatly. 2012 and we’re still cringing from lepers. How depressing. So I thought that an interesting exercise for myself would be to try to pick a common misconception/myth/urban legend and make an effort to debunk it. Or at least scrape together some information about it in what is hopefully an easy to digest manner. I’m going to call these posts: ‘Mythic Mondays’ because I’m all about alliteration and this gives me a deadline of sorts.

Found in the Public Domain here : ‘http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart27.htm’

Leprosy

Leprosy is a skin/nerve disease that causes noticeable disfigurement and nerve damage if left untreated. The very word ‘Leprosy’ is a word which for millenia has inspired fear and loathing for those afflicted. This fear was/is so great that lepers were/are often cast out of civilization and forced to subsist in leper colonies. Leprosy was seen as an affliction that was wrought by the wrath of God ™ as a punishment for the wicked. All of that is well documented. Ancient history, however, is not what interests me about this disease. What I want to focus on is the misconceptions that still surround Leprosy.

First of all, while Leprosy is a contagious bacterial disease, it is very difficult to contract. It requires contact with saliva (not disfigured limbs or rashes) and it turns out that 95% of the human population is already naturally immune from this bacterial infection. Currently something around 150 people in the US contract this disease annually according to researchers at the National Hansen’s Disease Program. Hansen’s disease is another name for Leprosy, and one that doesn’t cause such negative and visceral reactions. “Leprosy is a rare disease and will remain a rare disease,” says Richard Truman, Ph.D.the Chief of microbiological research from that same program.

The cure for Leprosy was discovered in 1981. Turns out that Leprosy is just another bacterial infection and can be cured by pharmaceuticals. In this case, a multi-drug approach using Dapsone, Rifampin and Clofazimine. It takes six months to a year to treat a patient but they are no longer contagious after a few doses. Unfortunately, the treatment does not reverse any disfigurement that has already occurred. And more unfortunately, in places like India and China people will often hide their symptoms so as not to be marked as a Pariah. So that by the time they are treated irreparable damage has already occurred. And considering that even in 2012 there are people who have knee-jerk reactions to the word leper, you can hardly blame them for thinking that they will be shunned.

And you still deny religion rots the brain?

Recently there has been a string of sexual assaults at York University in Toronto. One Muslim cleric’s response is, of course, to take away the rights of women and force harsh penalties on those who ‘dress provocatively’. Whatever that means.

The entire letter to The Toronto Sun is so full of stupid that it burns. Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana, the street cleric in question, is not what you’d call…a thinker. But I’m a glutton for punishment, so let’s go through it anyway!

I wanted to mention that the reason why these sex attacks are continuously happening is because the Canadian laws, which gives too much freedom to women, are the cause of these sex attacks.

You hear that? Women having freedom is causing men to rape them. If only we punished women more, rapists wouldn’t have to intercede on behalf of Canadian Law and do it for us. The rapists are doing a public service. Damn you, Canadian Legal System, for not caring about women enough to persecute them relentlessly! Never mind the logical acrobatics one needs to make in order for this line of reasoning to make sense. Not oppressing one group sufficiently is apparently going to lead to that group being attacked.

Also, the grammar nazi in me would like to point out that the attacks are not continuous. That would imply a never ending string of events with no break whatsoever. Like, not even bathroom breaks.

The reason why a woman gets raped is because of the way she dress. Women dress so provocatively so much that they receive too much attention for themselves and that attention at times leads to death.

It’s not because she was attacked by a criminal. No. It’s because she received too much attention that might result in death. The fact that there no evidence to suggest that a woman’s choice of dress figures in to rape statistics and that rape is about power rather than animal lust (as this cleric and others like him seem to suggest) mean nothing.

It’s sickening how little respect these idiots seem to have for men as a whole. In their world view men cannot control themselves sufficiently not to attack or kill just because they saw a little cleavage. That would make them extremely weak minded and pathetic. And even after acknowledging that they believe men are rutting pigs without the ability to reason or control themselves they still somehow believe that men are better equipped to be in positions of power. Baffling. There’s that logic fail again. Anyhoo, let’s take in some more wisdom from cleric dumbshit, er Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana…

If the law enforcements and the Canadian politicians were very serious about solving this problem, they would introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively in the streets.

Define Provocative. Are we talking boobies(Being topless in public is legal in Ontario)? Or two inches of calf? Depending on where you are either or neither of these are provocative. But yes, what this comes down to is again: Canada, if you loved your women, you’d spend more time oppressing them.

However by arresting sexual predators is not going to solve the problem because as long women continue to dress like this there will always be perverts and rapist who will continue to remain on the loose.

No need to punish the criminals. Boys will be boys, afterall. Men can’t be expected to control themselves when confronted with the sight of a woman’s calf. And that’s her fault. The important thing is that we blame the victims and use violence against them as an excuse to heap more ridiculous rules and restrictions on them.

Why is it that Rapists and sexual predators only target women that dress so provocatively?

Citation please. You’re not going to get stats on that, of course, since Shariah Law doesn’t acknowledge that rape happens. It’s simply called adultery and she gets stoned to death for it. Unless she has four male witnesses to the crime…and then she just gets killed by her family. You know, so they don’t lose honour. Or it’s called marriage. Even when a woman is kidnapped and married by a mullah against her will and then raped…well, that’s not considered rape either.

And as a bonus, here’s a list of rape myths from the University of Minnesota.

As an aside, is a street cleric the same thing as those religious doomsayers who hold up signs that the ‘End is Near’ when they’ve gone off their medications for too long? That might explain some of his ‘advice’.

Burning Her Face Off

We are more abused, harassed, exploited, kidnapped, raped, trafficked, murdered by our lovers, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, or men we know well than by strangers. Whatever happens to us, we never stop loving men.

Taslima Nasreen

It’s not very often that a blog post takes my breath away.

This one did that. Our men throw acid in our faces, destroy our lives but we never stop loving men. Warning: Violent images

It is NSFW and you should be warned it shows some pretty disturbing graphical images. It’s horrifying and it’s revealing and it’s so very sad. And it’s so important people know about this. See these images. So that we can all do what we can to stop this nightmare from happening again.