Pharyngula

It must have been an act of god

I think this is my favorite newspaper headline yet: Priest attached to party balloons vanishes in Brazil. Now you know what to bring to the next party at your local church: a lawn chair, a bunch of balloons, and a helium tank. I am imagining a day when every priest in the world stands smiling beneath a great happy bobbing collection of many-colored balloons, and they all joyously loft themselves up, up into the sky, joyfully drifting away before the winds until they are just a tiny speck and then … gone. It will be a miracle.

This will be my new dream. It will bring a smile to my face as I fall asleep.

And as long as I’m dreaming, I’ll imagine myself with an ultralight aircraft and a BB gun, buzzing above a great Sargasso of wind-gathered balloons.

Comments

  1. #1 Nibien
    April 21, 2008

    It looks like the rapture has begun!

  2. #2 Cheezits
    April 21, 2008

    If it’s a dream, what do you need the ultralite for?

  3. #3 Glen Davidson
    April 21, 2008

    Really, I’m just sorry for the poor guy.

    A nice little party turns tragic, and a remarkable creature of evolution, ends up in the wrong element, likely with a very tragic end.

    I don’t know how this can be seen otherwise.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  4. #4 PZ Myers
    April 21, 2008

    I need the ultralight because we radical naturalist/materialists don’t violate the laws of physics even in our dreams.

  5. #5 Kevin Dorner
    April 21, 2008

    For shame… there’s only five years’ worth of this utterly unique element left in the National Helium Reserve. Being light and monatomic it reaches escape velocity in the upper atmosphere, and new helium only accumulates in the earth’s crust over millions of years of alpha decay. Most of the commercial helium is extracted as a byproduct from natural gas wells, but most don’t have enough to be commercially viable so the helium is not even recovered.

    So once it’s been wasted on party balloons, talking like the Chipmunks, unneeded blimps and flying lawnchairs, it’s gone for good.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    April 21, 2008

    It will be a miracle.

    or at least a successful fund raiser.

  7. #7 JasonC
    April 21, 2008

    that guy must have never watched webster before… poor lil’ fella.

  8. #8 Cay
    April 21, 2008

    Didn’t the Mythbusters bust that balloon and lawn chair myth? I have to go ask my kids.

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    April 21, 2008

    what I don’t understand is that since he had a GPS, and was transmitting his location via radio for hours…

    how is it that nobody started sending out the rescue vessels before he finally got out of range?

    let this be a lesson in not necessarily trusting your local Coast Guard, or it’s facsimile in whatever country you happen to be in.

  10. #10 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    I like what you do, but for me this was a bit over the line.

  11. #11 danley
    April 21, 2008

    You and I in a little toy shop
    Buy a bag of balloons with the money
    we’ve got
    Set them free at the break of dawn
    Til one by one, they were gone
    Back at base bugs in the software
    Flash the message, something’s out there
    Floating in the summer sky
    99 red balloons go by

  12. #12 Narc
    April 21, 2008

    I’m sorry PZ, but this post is not worthy of you. No matter what you think of the guy’s religious beliefs, the guy may very well not be found in time. The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked.

  13. #13 Charles Sane
    April 21, 2008

    You would think that someone with the sense to wear a thermal suit, bring a GPS and a Sat phone wold also wear a gps tracking device. I’m sure the money and hours of people and helicopter time in the search effort aren’t cheap. The story didn’t mention oxygen – these balloons shoot up quite high and then settle back down – might have become hypoxic on the way up, passed out and then not re-gained consciousness.

    I’ve often pondered that there should be an understood contract in society that it you suffer some ill fate from doing something clearly not very smart then you get the “budget” rescue effort.

    The thought of a ‘spiritual rest stop’ for truckers does bring some funny images to mind. I can even imagine some people on their knees.

  14. #14 Zeno
    April 21, 2008

    Is this like that Malcolm in the Middle episode where older brother Reese got religion and took to the skies in a lawn chair with helium balloons (wearing a white suit, no less)? He sang his own special version of Amazing Grace as he lofted skyward:

    Amazing grace
    How sweet the sound
    That saved a wrench for me!

    As for “that balloon and lawn chair myth”: Larry Walters would be hurt to learn that people doubt his 1982 lawn chair flight over southern California.

    Snopes: Up, up, and away

  15. #15 Wicked Lad
    April 21, 2008

    It’s Danny Deckchair!

  16. #16 Anon
    April 21, 2008

    I can only think of all those balloons, once spent, clogging the gut of sea turtles and albatrosses.

    And now to be reminded of the helium situation…

    *sigh*

  17. #17 FO
    April 21, 2008

    The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked.

    Neither should the pain and fear his kin inflicts on people all around the world. What? They don’t care? Then neither should we.

    Great post, PZ. I share your dream and look forward to the day we all can live without spiritual mumbo-jumbo (read: religion) and pseudo-intellectual baggage (read: theology).

  18. #18 bargal20
    April 21, 2008

    i saw a tv news co-anchor break down laughing while reading this story a few hours ago. Imagine the hate mail she’ll be getting from catholics…

  19. #19 J-Dog
    April 21, 2008

    If there is a god, the very next time someone is carried away into the void by helium baloons, it will be a Concern Troll. Or the Pope. Either one would be fun.

  20. #20 Jonathan Martin
    April 21, 2008

    #5: This is NO such thing as an un-needed blimp :)

  21. #21 Carlie
    April 21, 2008

    The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked.

    Neither is the potential danger and expense of the rescuers that now have to go out and find him. It drives me nuts to see rescue workers put in harm’s way not because of an unfortunate accident, but because someone was stupidly, idiotically, mind-numbingly, thrill-seekingly moronic.

  22. #22 Philip
    April 21, 2008

    Perhaps he found heaven

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    April 21, 2008

    The great irony is that this is a one way ticket to the Darwin Awards.

  24. #24 Andy James
    April 21, 2008

    What an idiot. That guy got exactly what he deserved.

  25. #25 Kevin Dorner
    April 21, 2008

    We’re going to have to paraphrase Denis Diderot now…

    “Mankind shall never be free until the last king goes ballooning with the last priest.”
    — PZ Myers (sorta)

    An uplifted priest named de Carli
    Thought lawnchair ballooning was gnarly.
    The priest’s disappearing
    Brought blogosphere jeering
    Which made seasoned commenters snarly.

  26. #26 wazza
    April 21, 2008

    Maybe this IS the start of the rapture!

    Everyone stay off the road until we can clear up all these empty pickups, ok?

  27. #27 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked

    Yes, a little compassion is not a bad thing, even for people who do stupid things, whether priests or not. And, for the record, I am not at all religious.

  28. #28 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 21, 2008

    If people do incredibly stupid things I don’t have a problem highlighting them and pointing.

    People are just a little too serious.

  29. #29 Dr. Moonbeam
    April 21, 2008

    If he’s found and rescued, that will certainly be hailed as an act of god in saving him.

  30. #30 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 21, 2008

    Maybe this IS the start of the rapture!

    very nice wazza!

  31. #31 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    Maybe the PZ post was meant as a joke or in a lighthearted way, but the tone did not seem so.

  32. #32 Bride of Shrek
    April 21, 2008

    I’m not sure he could technically be a Darwin candidate. The rules of Darwin awards say that to win you must remove yourself from the gene pool, either by death or by removing your ability to reproduce. As he’s a Catholic priest didn’t he already voluntarily do that? By that reasoning I hereby nominate all the world’s catholic priests for Darwin awards ( the irony in a religious person being ultimately associated with Darwin is not lost.)

  33. #33 Ichthyic
    April 21, 2008

    By that reasoning I hereby nominate all the world’s catholic priests for Darwin awards

    I find no fault in your logic.

    seconded.

  34. #34 Dan
    April 21, 2008

    The Catholics have really done a lot of damage in Brazil, so I can only think of this as an improvement. If you believe in God, you also have to believe that God had a hand in this man’s disappearance, don’t you?

    They should be happy. They should call of the search and have a parade.

  35. #35 FO
    April 21, 2008

    Yes, a little compassion is not a bad thing, even for people who do stupid things, whether priests or not.

    Nope, sometimes compassion just won’t do the job as well as dark humor.

  36. #36 Bad Albert
    April 21, 2008

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    Found maybe but not alive. However, you probably need a body to collect the life insurance so the search efforts will be worth it.

  37. #37 cynthax
    April 21, 2008

    As a Brazilian myself (paulistana!), all I can say is that our priests are a lot more fun than other priests! I’m trying to find more information from the Brazilian press. Last thing I read, he hadn’t been found yet, and the stuff they found belonged to some boat.

  38. #38 marcia
    April 21, 2008

    video of stellar liftoff
    http://g1.globo.com/Noticias/Brasil/0,,MUL419742-5598,00-HELICOPTERO+E+EMBARCACOES+PARTICIPAM+DE+BUSCAS+POR+PADRE+DESAPARECIDO.html

    This was playing on his IPod as he sailed off:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DQTs155nsA

  39. #39 PZ Myers
    April 21, 2008

    How can anyone possibly think this is a sad story? Didn’t you read the article? Do you have flies in your eyes?

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    He’ll probably have some horse chestnuts in his cheeks, too. Now if only we knew why the prostitute was hitting him over the head…

  40. #40 wazza
    April 21, 2008

    Rev, Nibien got to it first…

    I just riffed off the bumper stickers

  41. #41 wazza
    April 21, 2008

    But as a priest, he probably won’t be paddling towards Sweden…

  42. #42 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    Nope, sometimes compassion just won’t do the job as well as dark humor.

    I’m not so sure. Somehow the dark humor of relishing and orchestrating the death of other people, religious or not, eludes me. My boundaries are my own, however, and I suppose and PZ and FO have different ones.

  43. #43 craig
    April 21, 2008

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I DETEST this “Darwin Awards” bullshit.

    Not only is the sentiment behind it disgusting – getting a laugh out of the deaths of others, but it also gives the creationists more ammo for their claims of “Darwinism” being sick and immoral, and of atheists and scientists being ethically-challenged.

    The headline is indeed funny though the man’s likely fate is not, but the “Darwin Awards” stuff is just fucking sick.

  44. #44 brokenSoldier
    April 21, 2008

    To those posters who are rebuking PZ for his tone in this post, I offer a little counter-point that came directly from the article:

    “He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap.”

    This alone should absolve anyone who commits the “sin” of mocking this poor man. I wonder how many times, as a priest, he has admonished a member of his flock to accept the consequences of their actions, both forseen and unforseen. But in case you’re still worried, you should have faith, because his friends and family certainly do:

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    (I’m letting the obvious hilarity of the section of the statement I placed in bold, but suffice it to say it still amuses me every time I read it…) If they’re not too worried about it, why should I feel the least bit of sympathy? I mean, if you share his beliefs, then the worst case scenario places him squarely in his eternal paradise, doesn’t it? Either they find him and he lives, or they don’t and he “goes home,” right? All in all, it seems like a win-win for the guy.

    Just don’t ask me to feel sorrow for him, when his stunt is actually a potential life-threatening danger to others. I believe Carlie said it best…

    It drives me nuts to see rescue workers put in harm’s way not because of an unfortunate accident, but because someone was stupidly, idiotically, mind-numbingly, thrill-seekingly moronic.

    Posted by: Carlie | April 21, 2008 10:34 PM

    Well said, Carlie, well said indeed.

  45. #45 --PatF in Madison
    April 21, 2008

    Cay @ #8

    The Mythbusters actually showed that it could be done.

    However….

    The needed thousands of party balloons and only lifted a little girl a foot or two off the ground. Larry Walters, on the other hand, used forty or so heavy duty weather balloons that were four feet in diameter. They give a lot more lift.

  46. #46 Eulalie
    April 21, 2008

    As soon as I read the headline, my mind conjured up a Quentin Blake illustration.

    I couldn’t stop laughing for a long while after that.

  47. #47 Christianjb
    April 21, 2008

    I found a superb essay by The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee discussing Catholicism in the wake of PJPII’s death.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/apr/08/election2005.catholicism

    Here’s a tidbit to entice you lot.

    >Disgracefully, the European rich quietly ignore the church’s outlandish teachings on contraception without rebelling on behalf of the helpless third-world poor who die for their misplaced faith. Those “civilised” Catholics have as much blood on their hands as the Vatican they support. They are like the Bollinger Bolsheviks who defended the USSR and a murderous ideology that they could do much to change.

  48. #48 Colugo
    April 21, 2008

    Craig is right; the Darwin Awards have done more to drag the word “Darwin” into the mud than Expelled can hope to do.

  49. #49 karen
    April 21, 2008

    Darwin Award! was the first thought that came to my mind. I didn’t realize it also covered removing your ability to reproduce; thought it just covered offing yourself in a freakishly stupid accidental way. No matter, this guy still qualifies, IMO. As for compassion, how much is to be expected for someone launching in a balloon rocket? If someone goes over Niagara in a barrel, do you wail for him/her, or do you shake your head and say, “What an idiot!”?

  50. #50 Kevin
    April 21, 2008

    These balloons are a danger to turtles. They look like yummy jellyfish and then strangle the turtles from the inside to die a horrible death.

    If you ever see anyone blowing up helium balloons, take a knife and stab them.

    The balloons I mean. THen explain why.

    also maybe they are not too good for squid either?

  51. #51 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    April 21, 2008

    Zeno,

    If you read that Urban Legends page through to the end, I think you’ll find that the proper phrase is ‘would have been hurt’. And, yes from what we see of him in those quotes, I think you are right, he would have been hurt.

  52. #52 lytefoot
    April 21, 2008

    This reminds me of a joke…

    A rabbi, a priest, and a unitarian minister were discussing how they divide up the weekly collection take.

    The rabbi says, “Well, we draw a circle on the ground, stand in the middle and throw all the money up in the air. Whatever lands inside the circle goes to the needs of the local congregation, and whatever lands outside goes to god.”

    The priest says, “Yes, we do something similar. We draw a circle on the ground and throw the money up in the air, what lands outside the circle goes to the local congregation, what lands inside goes to god.”

    The unitarian minister says, “Well, we do something like that, too, but we don’t bother with any circles on the ground. We just throw all the money up in the air, and what god wants, (s)he can keep.”

    What does this suggest about the almighty’s affection for priests? Well, this does it, I’m converted.

  53. #53 Christianjb
    April 21, 2008

    Another great article came out today regarding Catholic opposition to birth control in the Philippines.

    Acceding to Catholic doctrine, the government for the past five years has supported only what it calls “natural” family planning. No national government funds can be used to buy contraceptives for the poor, although anyone who can afford them is permitted to buy them. Local governments can also buy and distribute contraceptives, but many lack the money.

  54. #54 LeeLeeOne
    April 21, 2008

    Sorry peoples – as one who did 100% volunteer search and rescue for years and years and years – this is one of those stories a volunteer S&R cringes at while out doing the search but laugh hysterically and recount as historical record (quietly) amongst the trainees — the final victim’s moment of realization of “Ohhhh, shiiiiiiit!”

    Purposefully putting yourself into a situation of danger where a whole butt load of total strangers are out there to hopefully rescue you when things go awry. Those rescuers and those who mock the potential victim have the right to “darwin award” the dumbasses.

    Play with fire, get burned by fire. Slam party all night, alcohol poisoning. Do a few lines and then think you can walk “the ridge”, the rescuers end up scraping bits and pieces of ears, kidneys, kneecaps, tendons and ligaments off the granite.

    It’s just so fitting this was an “Ohhhh, Shiiiiiit!” moment for Dog.

    PZ – thank you. I’ve never laughed so hard these past few days.!

  55. #55 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    If someone goes over Niagara in a barrel, do you wail for him/her, or do you shake your head and say, “What an idiot!”?

    I would not wail and may indeed say “What an idiot”, but I would not be gleeful about their death.

  56. #56 Brad
    April 21, 2008

    There’s nothing so serious it can’t be made fun of, and nothing so innocuous someone won’t be offended when you make fun of it.

    Re: Darwin Awards – should priests even be eligible? They are already voluntarily taking themselves out of the gene pool (but not irrevocably I guess). Maybe they should have a separate category, everybody gets a gold star just for showing up, like first grade art class or something. But no cheating!

  57. #57 Bride of Shrek
    April 21, 2008

    Who is being gleeful about his “death”. They themselves are confident they will find him. I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. We’re laughing at his stupidity ( and to a degree his arrogance), not his death, which has not even been thought to have occurred. Big difference.

  58. #58 Milo Johnson
    April 21, 2008

    Now THAT’S natural selection!

  59. #59 David
    April 21, 2008

    I’m always amused by the fake concern and compassion people show on message boards. I would think the priest would be happy that he brought more laughter into the world.
    And the Darwin awards have hardly dragged Darwin’s name down. At most they might make someone, who is already certain all evolutionists are going to hell, nod in satisfaction.

  60. #60 CAPMIPROP
    April 21, 2008

    There’s nothing so serious it can’t be made fun of, and nothing so innocuous someone won’t be offended when you make fun of it.

    Well, joking about eliminating (that is killing, even if in a nonsensical way) of any group of people as in the PZ post makes me uncomfortable. I would rather not be part of a group that considers this innocuous, even if they, like me, are ardent atheists. I have made my point so I will stop.

  61. #61 Colugo
    April 21, 2008

    The Darwin Awards are a misnomer, and we all know that. Someone who becomes incapable of reproduction can still aid the survival and reproduction of kin. An individual who dies without reproducing may also have increased the probability of his or her genes being represented in future gene pools, perhaps even due to the very act that resulted in their deaths. And those childless priests (though I wouldn’t assume that) had an important a role in maintaining the power of the Catholic Church, which had an organizing role in Catholic society (that included the brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces of those same priests), which are historically hardly lacking in fecundity or geographic mobility – both of which are not unrelated to Catholic doctrine. The genes of those childless priests are in continents all over the world.

    The Darwin Awards represents an Idiocracy-level (or Ted Rall’s “mensatocracy”) understanding of natural selection and veers close to the crudity and pseudo-naturalistic prescriptive ethos of Social Darwinism.

    I know, it’s not supposed to be serious; it’s all just a big larf. It’s a funny thing that the name Darwin has replaced Faces of Death in the pop culture genre of ‘amusement from the violent deaths of others.’

  62. #62 Person Z
    April 21, 2008

    Ugh, PZ, that’s just mean.

  63. #63 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    No no no, I think some of you have taken the (possibly) morbid aspect of this story too far. Obviously no one wants the silly old codger hurt (even if it was his own fault). It’s the beautiful imagery of this story which resonated in my mind, like Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’.

    Imagine a world where a great source of the hatred, violence, (misplaced) guilt and irrationailty, just floated away, out of our lives, never to be seen again.

  64. #64 CalGeorge
    April 22, 2008

    “Gallas said by telephone that the priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil’s second-largest port for agricultural products.”

    Risking life and limb to raise money is stupid.

    Look on the bright side:

    At least with a priest, there’s no family to leave behind, right?

    And the people in his church can console themselves that he is heaven bound, if dead.

    Everything’s cool!

  65. #65 ramiroquai
    April 22, 2008

    The priest has been found, efforts are underway to pry rubber balls from his dead cold hands.

  66. #66 Narc
    April 22, 2008

    If they’re not too worried about it, why should I feel the least bit of sympathy?

    You’re right. What this person should have said was, “No, we’re resigned to the fact that the area to search is so large and he’s so small that he’ll probably die an agonizing death of exposure and dehydration long before the rescue crews can find him. Or maybe he’ll get lucky and the sharks will take him out after the first few days.” I’m sure his friends and family would have loved that. So they’re holding out hope. Maybe they’re even in a little bit of denial. Is that really so wrong that it’s appropriate for you to laugh and point at them?

    If this had been some completely random guy trying to raise money for orphans with cancer I seriously doubt you would be so entertained by this story. But no, make it a religious figure, and it’s mock-worthy.

    I get no less pissed off than the next atheist when I hear some homo-bigot says that gays dying of AIDS got exactly what they deserved or when they blame some big natural disaster on the sin of the week, but this is exactly the same thing.

  67. #67 Milo Johnson
    April 22, 2008

    If you believe in foolish things like omnipotent invisible friends, you’ll believe a lot of other stupid things as well. This is funny for the same reason the republitard who died while dressed up in multiple wet suits, ball gag, and with a dildo up his butt was funny. If you don’t want people to laugh at your stupidity, don’t do stupid things. Yeah, it sucks for his family and friends, but so does death without such willful stupidity. I’ll save my sympathies for the ones who don’t select themselves out of the species.

  68. #68 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    If this had been some completely random guy trying to raise money for orphans with cancer

    But he wasn’t, his charity was for a trivial purpose. Do you think the brazillian taxpayer funded rescue operation will be more or less than the funds raised for this truckstop?

    You’ve put two provisions in your example, that the hypothetical gentlemen is simultaneously doing this action for a good cause AND an atheist.

    If Pope Benedict did something dangerous to raise lots of money for cancerous orphans, than I would applaud him, assuming he didn’t endanger anyone elses life.

    If an atheist did the same to…oh I don’t know-raise awarness of the dewy decimal system, than he or she would receive my condemnation.

    On the whole I don’t want anyone to get hurt! If you’ve never laughed at a politically incorrect joke or a black comedy than so be it.

    By the way, does anyone know how to use markups to quote text? I phail at comments :,(

  69. #69 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    *Then

    Damn you phonic empathy! *shakes fist*

  70. #70 E in MD
    April 22, 2008

    Didn’t the Mythbusters bust that balloon and lawn chair myth? I have to go ask my kids.

    Posted by: Cay | April 21, 2008 10:07 PM

    Actually it was confirmed: Larry’s Lawn Chair – CONFIRMED but Larry used weather balloons rather than party balloons.

    I’m sorry PZ, but this post is not worthy of you. No matter what you think of the guy’s religious beliefs, the guy may very well not be found in time. The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked.

    Posted by: Narc | April 21, 2008 10:17 PM

    “He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap.”

    His religion hasn’t a damned thing to do with it. Dumb is dumb.

    Pain and fear inflicted by someone on another person isn’t to be mocked. Pain and fear inflicted on someone by themselves because they know better but do something stupid anyway is called comedy. If some moron nails his testicles to a board when he knows it’s going to be excruciating then he deserves what he gets and we all get to point and laugh because we were all smart enough to know not to nail our testicles to a board. Why do you think Jackass is so popular?

    This guy knew precisely what he was doing. I hope he survives unscathed just because it’d be a hella tale to tell his flock. But I reserve the right to laugh at the sheer idiocy of it all.

  71. #71 Steven
    April 22, 2008

    Not exactly helping your cause with posts like that. At least wait until you know he is alive and well before you use satire. Timing is everything, and I think you jumped the gun in this case.

  72. #72 peezeepeahed
    April 22, 2008

    So murdering people is now an atheist value?

  73. #73 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    Posted by: Narc | April 22, 2008 12:24 AM

    I would rather not be part of a group that considers this innocuous, even if they, like me, are ardent atheists. I have made my point so I will stop.

    Posted by: CAPMIPROP | April 21, 2008 11:52 PM

    All that it would take to fulfill your above wishes would be to remove the Pharyngula site from your online routine. If you’d rather not be here, then don’t.

    Is that really so wrong that it’s appropriate for you to laugh and point at them? If this had been some completely random guy trying to raise money for orphans with cancer I seriously doubt you would be so entertained by this story. But no, make it a religious figure, and it’s mock-worthy. I get no less pissed off than the next atheist when I hear some homo-bigot says that gays dying of AIDS got exactly what they deserved or when they blame some big natural disaster on the sin of the week, but this is exactly the same thing.

    A) I doubt that any portion of my post will ever get to the family members or friends of this man who knowingly put himself in this position, so I have no reason to believe that my comments will in any way affect these people. And to answer your question, yes I do believe that I have the right to point and laugh at them, and if you think that is somehow morally wrong, then just as I have the right to express my opinion on the situation, you do not have the right to foist your morality onto me. Oh, and as a former Catholic I can tell you that in the Catholic doctrine – and many Protestant doctrines as well – part of the reward for gaining entry into heaven is to witness the eternal burning anguish of those consigned to hell. (Tertullian, if you feel like fact-checking) I fail to see how my amusement at this one situation even remotely approaches the evil of that kind of theological motivation for living a “moral” life.

    B) If it were a random individual that did this, I would certainly still be amused at the obvious planning mistakes made (no GPS tracking device, failure to recognize he was off course until too late, not to mention the sheer inanity of not taking into account the possible effects of winds at high altitude), and I would still be as irked about his disregard for the possibility that his stunt may put rescue workers’ lives in danger should they have to try to find him. And yes, the fact that he is a priest does make it all the more ironic, and therefore all the more amusing to me. Again, his failure to recognize the inherent danger and unpredictability of the situation he strapped himself into in no way necessitates sympathy on my part.

    C) The fact that you argue that the ideologically-driven and patently false claims of natural disasters being God’s wrath on sinners and HIV contraction being a just punishment to the homosexual community is somehow equal to me being amused at a man who straps himself to balloons and travels miles into the air, and then is somehow surprised that he doesn’t stay on course is ridiculous at best. The first two involve active bigotry and hate, while my amusement involves only observations of fact. Had this NOT been a priest, you would have most certainly seen it on one or many of the current television shows dedicated to showcasing humanity’s occasional lapses in good judgement. The fact that he is a member of the clergy is exactly what will keep him shielded from such mockery, and I in no way feel bad about commenting on the inherent stupidity of his actions. If you think I should somehow feel bad about that, then in this case, I’m not sorry to disappoint.

    To close, if one rescuer gets injured or loses their life in the attempts to find and rescue this man, then realize that in his attempt to make this trip, he will have harmed – and possibly killed – another human being through his actions. If you don’t see that as inconsiderate and immoral on his part, then in my opinion your morality is quite flawed.

  74. #74 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    my apologies….the “Posted by Narc” line should have been at the bottom of my last post — not the top

  75. #75 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    But no, make it a religious figure, and it’s mock-worthy.

    oh, no.

    a guy deciding to launch himself in a chair with balloons is ALWAYS mock-worthy.

    the religion issue just adds to it.

  76. #76 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    So murdering people is now an atheist value?

    Yes-along with having a sense of humour.

  77. #77 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    Ugh, PZ, that’s just mean.

    from “personz”

    alright, stop with the morphing and sockpupetry already, moron.

    you’ve logged on with at least 4 different names just today.

  78. #78 Sean
    April 22, 2008

    So murdering people is now an atheist value?

    I take it you aren’t at all familiar with how lawn chair balloon flights operate? In the original Larry Walters flight as well as the recent Kent Couch flight, BB guns were brought along to aid in safe controlled landings. Shoot *some* balloons and gently return to Ma Earth.

    I suppose a dark mind could possibly have misinterpreted PZ’s post to think he had murderous intent.

  79. #79 Sean
    April 22, 2008

    alright, stop with the morphing and sockpupetry already, moron.

    Speaking as one of the resident concern trolls in these parts, we have no need for a more crowded ecosystem. Move along.

    Besides, this is just plain funny.

  80. #80 Jim
    April 22, 2008

    Try hydrogen instead of helium. It’s much cheaper and if you pray hard enough, it might not explode.

  81. #81 AlanWCan
    April 22, 2008

    Initially, I was kinda with the concern trolls on this one, then I stared to think that of course, if he is found, at great expense and significant risk to the rescue workers who go out and haul his sorry ass back to civilisation, he will attribute the whole thing to a miracle and take it as evidence that god wants him to continue building his catholic choirboy trucker blowjob bar-room for Jebus or whatever he was doing it for blah blah blah.
    He’s a grown up. He strapped himself to chair tied to He balloons. He flew up up up into the sky and got lost. I say fuck him.

  82. #82 Andrew
    April 22, 2008

    Fantasising about the death of millions of people who don’t agree with you… That’s disturbing, more what I’d expect from their side.

  83. #83 mothra
    April 22, 2008

    Carlie and brokenSoldier have succinctly covered all the relevant moral issures here, all that’s left is to (hopefully) add to the humor. . .

    A linw from ‘Keeping up Appearances”: ‘So Vicar, what is the missionary position in Brazil these days?’

    ‘Paging Sally Field, paging Sally field.’

    If god had wanted priests to fly, they’d be filled with. . .never mind.

  84. #84 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    I’m all for a bit of black humour and I’m not agin P’s harmless fantasy. However, I could have predicted the response to his post even before I read down these comments.

    I used to get a similar reaction to my irreverent “when the Revolution comes we’ll line [insert name] up against the wall…” taglines. Sooner or later some puffed up little popinjay would come along and take me at face value, the fecker.

    Isn’t this where some of the ire against political correctness comes from? Annoyance at those self-righteous folk who would treat the merely black, off-kilter gag the same as the pointed, bigoted one? Can they not see the difference?

    Of course, all this is multiplied by that aphasic quality of the internet, where if you do not lard your post with a gajillion smileys and copious caveats explaining that no, you really don’t want to kill priests and it’s just a laugh, you’ll be accused of Nazism or worse. W.C. Fields and H.L. Mencken wouldn’t have survived the internet for a second without being Godwin’d.

    However, the humour police may have a point. Try going onto some of the right-wing sites where they do this thing all the time. They are happy to riff on bigotry and then, with a nod and a wink to the faithful, tell any visitor that it’s all just a joke, right? You can take a joke, can’t you?

    My response to rudery is to be ruder, and damn the torpedoes! Look at any public debate from age of pamphleteering–that analogue internet that served the British Civil Wars and the American War of Independance–you’ll find as much trash talk as on any blogging site of the 21st Century. It clearly served people well and the muddled, shouty mess begat a revolution in ideas about liberty, the state and religion.

    I have no idea where the fine line between black and unacceptable is. Maybe only I can draw that line and hope it intersects with that of most people. And if it doesn’t? I’ll weather the storm. Only… be mindful. PZ is not me. I’m a nobody and PZ is a more public figure. Do enough pieces like this and you give the frothers some ammo to play with. “He jokes about killing priests!” they’ll scream, alluding to some darker agenda. We can tell the difference. But can they?

    Anyway, that’s my share of concern trolling for the day. Anyone who dislikes it, or accuses me of sockpuppetry can feck themselves sideways, with a chainsaw!

  85. #85 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    He’s a grown up. He strapped himself to chair tied to He balloons. He flew up up up into the sky and got lost. I say fuck him.
    Posted by: AlanWCan | April 22, 2008 2:11 AM

    I absolutely love this post…the world needs more of this kind of brevity and clarity. Well put, Alan!

  86. #86 Hematite
    April 22, 2008

    Off Topic:

    The Expelled trailer has been linked on the front page of Slashdot, with a 1500 comment discussion. The usual rampant stupidity is afoot, so if you feel like beating up on some misconceptions about evolution you can go straight to the discussion here.

  87. #87 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    Somewhere in that post I missed mentioning the distinction between the merely black joke and the bigoted one as being one of intent. So consider this a correction.

  88. #88 craig
    April 22, 2008

    Dark humor is fine, laughing at the funny image of a priest flying into the air tied to balloons is fine.
    These things are abstractions in a sense.

    Awarding a “Darwin Award” and saying the person doesn’t deserve any sympathy is just sick. Certainly since he is a stranger to us all, he merits no more sympathy than any of the other millions of strangers to us who have died in the last week, but to say that by being foolish and presumably causing his own death he becomes a rightful target for disdain and mockery, that says something about any person making that statement.

    A lot of people have a flaw, an insecurity perhaps that makes them need to find excuses to feel superior to others. Some people use religion for this. Others use “Darwin Awards.”

    Some people are not as smart as others. Some people have mental illnesses. All people have lapses in judgment. If because of one of these things a person accidentally ends their own life, they somehow then deserved it?

    I don’t think PZ meant the post that way, and certainly many (maybe most) commenting don’t, but there’s something sick in those of you that seem to have a “good! got what he deserved!” attitude about this.

    Taking pleasure in ANYONE’S death is sick. It doesn’t matter if you feel they have done terrible things. I knew a serial killer – the man raped and killed many women. Despite their horrible deaths, despite the terrible things he did, I took no pleasure in his execution. The world is probably better off without him, safer. He himself even might be considered better off dead for his own sake, given the state of his mind. But his execution was no cause for celebration, it was simply the end of a long tragic story. Oh, and he left no children. Did he earn a “Darwin Award?” for his circuitous way of causing his own death?

    Yesterday we passed a car stopped in a traffic circle. The old woman inside had died… peacefully, quietly, she just stopped. She was sitting there upright, grasping the wheel, eyes closed. I don’t know her, maybe she was a wonderful woman, maybe she was a cruel child abuser who permanently damaged her children. I don’t know and never will. But I felt a little sad, and I’m still thinking about her the next day… even though she had a long life and died in as pleasant a manner as anyone could ever expect.

    And this is not because I have some unrealistic idea of death. We all die, life is finite, I accept that. I even see it as a good thing. I had to face and accept that earlier than many people have to.

    When I was 18 I was crossing the street and got hit by a speeding truck. Though I have no memory of the accident or several weeks afterward, I was certainly not being careful crossing. I was young and foolish, and that’s what I usually did.

    I didn’t die. Instead I am permanently disabled. If I had died, would I have deserved it? I was being careless and stupid. Would I have won a “Darwin Award?” Would it be fine for you to mock my death and say I deserved no sympathy?

    Though I had never touched illegal drugs before my accident, I had a rough patch adjusting afterward and was a drug user for a little under two years. During that time, stoned on pot and tripping on acid, I took a walk with friends across the highest railroad trestle in the east. People fall to their deaths from it. I was having trouble, and turned back.
    I was REALLY being foolish. If I had fallen and died, would I be a fair target for mockery? Would I just be a dead dumbass, inferior to you, deserving of my fate? Would the fact that emergency responders would have faced risk retrieving my corpse from the gorge make my death warranted? Would that mean any sympathy left for me should rightfully be replaced by scorn and glee?

    One of my friends on that trip later tried to kill himself. Swallowed a bottle of pills. I called 911. If one of the volunteer firemen who responded had been killed in a car accident on the way, would my friend’s suicide attempt have been a reason to hate him? Would you then think he deserved to die?

    Because of my disabilities I will never have children. I will never reproduce. Through my teenage carelessness I have removed myself from the gene pool. Seems I am eligible for a “Darwin Award” after all.

    Do I deserve it? Is that a good thing? I that something you get to feel superior to me for? Is it now OK for you to mock me, have no sympathy for me?

  89. #89 Milo Johnson
    April 22, 2008

    Fuckin’ waaaah. I don’t have to FEEL superior to some religious fuckwit that straps his to a bunch of balloons and dies for that stupidity, I AM superior to him.

  90. #90 Bride of Shrek
    April 22, 2008

    Craig

    “Taking pleasure in ANYONE’S death is sick.”. It no doubt is but will you phony symapthisers get off your fucking high horse and read what has been said, time and time again. The guy ISN’T DEAD YET. What I think is sick is you lot presuming he is before they’ve even found him, despite the fact the rescue organisation are confident of a positive outcome.

    And as for sympathy, sorry no I don’t have it for you, why do you expect it?. I may have empathy, I will not mock you but I wouldn’t be so fucking patronising as to feel sympathy for someone merely because they are differently abled to me. My brother’s a quad and he had the victim attitude where he wanted sympathy for maybe about a year post accident. Now he has a rich, full life with a wife and a child and would probably spit on someone who was so fucking rude to say they had “sympathy” for him.

  91. #91 MB
    April 22, 2008

    yes, “It’s the beautiful imagery of this story…” thanks Lightnin

    think of all of your problems (or just one of them) floating away… in PZ’s case, he thought of ALL of the priests, and how nice the world would be if they all (substitute your problems there) floated away…

    who’s wishing harm on anyone? the trolls who insist PZ was advocating harm to priests in this post are saying more about themselves than PZ…

    They’re SMILING and JOYOUS for Christ’s sake!!! They’re JOYFULLY drifing away! It will be a MIRACLE, praise Jesus!

    (the light aircraft and BB Gun are just to help them land softly – no, really! [image of a shower from the Expelled camp])

    If a biologist was stupid enough to do this to raise money to start a truck driver’s what, squid brothel? in the Amazon and Ben Stein dreamed of all of the scientists floating away on ballons, how many people would get this ruffled?

  92. #92 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    Posted by: Lee Brimmicombe-Wood | April 22, 2008 2:36 AM

    My response to rudery is to be ruder, and damn the torpedoes! …It clearly served people well and the muddled, shouty mess begat a revolution in ideas about liberty, the state and religion.

    I agree with every bit of this, and I think it makes a point that is worth expounding upon. The only barrier – in my observance – between these heated and sometimes vitriolic debates and actual societal change is the increased tendency in today’s society to use euphemisms to soften the language to a point where it avoids offending anyone. The problem with this is that if no one gets emotionally motivated to the point of speaking out themselves, then you never get a debate based on peoples’ actual, unadulterated feelings. And absent those, you don’t ever have the opportunity to get down to what really matters to people. All euphemisms and the political correctness they aim for do for us is sterilize discourse to the point where apathy overtakes the collective will to change society. They create an atmosphere in where the individual voter feels as though their single vote can do nothing, because they are herded into the idea that the only voice they have IS that single vote, when nothing could be further from the truth. If public opinion is pushed TOWARD government and media instead of the other way around, then the tables will be turned. Our votes will cease to be our only recourse for change when we realize that our democracy is intended to be run from the bottom up, with the federal government serving merely as the representative body responsible for carrying out OUR national will, and not a domineering organization with authority to dictate law and policy to US. Human emotion and reaction are what invariably brings about change in society, and the softening of our language actively aims to prevent such provocation of the intellect of the individual. Instead, we end up being a mass electorate whose wants, needs, and intentions are dictated to us in the media by polls that are based on ‘forced choice’ questions and prevent answers that do not fit into contrived, multiple-choice categories.

    Wow – I didn’t intent to go off on that long of a rant, but hey – when the spirit takes you, what else can you do but ride it out? :D

  93. #93 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    sorry craig, but if you can’t deal with dark humor, especially based on your own past, you have a rather horrid future ahead of you.

    dark humor is a means of dissociation. It does not mean those that employ do NOT feel for the victims of a tragedy, it means that there is always something to laugh at, and if the victim themselves provides the source of the humor, so much the better.

    I don’t mean to be harsh here, but are you seriously trying to compare jaywalking to tying yourself in a chair with helium balloons and trying to fly?

    seriously?

  94. #94 MB
    April 22, 2008

    Craig, you’ve really strayed off subject.

    If you were playing frogger in traffic to set a world record to raise money for a truck driver’s spiritual rest stop, you’d be subject to ridicule.

    If your friend swallowed a bottle of pills to set a world record to raise money etc. he’d be subject to ridicule and would be an even more complete cheese dick if a paramedic got killed going to help him.

    And if you were priests, you’d be subject to even more ridicule.

    You’re not suggesting there’s something wrong with cannabis and acid because of what you did while high, are you?

  95. #95 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    “I am imagining a day when every priest in the world…”

    Every priest, PZ? Father Damien? Martin Niemoller? Martin Luther King? Archbishop Tutu? The Dalai Lama?

    Or did you just mean Catholic priests? In which case, of course, the band of literalist bigots whom you deride would be whooping you on with rebel yells and “Praise the Lord!” They hate Catholicism, too, you know.

    Or did you just mean all Christian clergy? You’re in good company there, too. There’s “Christian” bigots from every sect who hate the clergy of all the other sects, and that’s not even to mention the religious fanatics from other religions who hate them, too.

    But – I speak under correction, of course – I think you meant all clergy of all religions, irrespective. This poses an interesting problem. To hate just some of them is bigotry and fanaticism, that’s plain enough. What is it called when you hate all of them?

    And why do you think that this indiscriminate hatred is in some way morally superior to the purblind bigotry that you rail against in others?

  96. #96 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    And why do you think that this indiscriminate hatred is in some way morally superior to the purblind bigotry that you rail against in others?

    *yawn*

    this thread sure is getting full of itself.

  97. #97 SJB
    April 22, 2008

    I like the cut of your gib, Mr Myers. I do indeed.

  98. #98 baley
    April 22, 2008

    Mythbusters showed you need more than your average party balloon to lift even a child!

    So that means the priest is most likely hiding …

  99. #99 thalarctos
    April 22, 2008

    Sorry peoples – as one who did 100% volunteer search and rescue for years and years and years – this is one of those stories a volunteer S&R cringes at while out doing the search but laugh hysterically and recount as historical record (quietly) amongst the trainees — the final victim’s moment of realization of “Ohhhh, shiiiiiiit!”

    LeeLeeOne, I think your “quietly” is the key word here–a few years ago in Seattle, some paramedics learned the hard way that while it’s quite understandable to blow off steam about their grueling work by sharing morbid pictures and adding funny captions, no good publicity comes from making a Web page of the same.

    If I remember correctly, I believe it was the picture of the old man with the shotgun still beside him, plus the added caption “What did you do in the war, Daddy?”, that drew the most public ire.

  100. #100 MB
    April 22, 2008

    so Dave Luckett, I heard a guy last night explaining the whole no sex until marriage thing. He said it meant you’re ok as long as you never get married. It’s those poor souls who get married who get in trouble with their gods.

    Where’s the hate in all those smiling priests floating away in PZ’s dream? Let’s see, I dream of a world without ignorance, which means religion has been relegated to knitting status, which means there really isn’t room for all of the clergy…

    you’re a pretty literal kind of guy aren’t you? so you’re having sex but not planning on marrying so you can still go to heaven? or are you the polygamous type that needs multiple wives to get into heaven?

  101. #101 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    Is it now OK for you to mock me, have no sympathy for me?

    It is unwise to challenge people in this way, for someone will take you up on it. You make yourself fair game.

    Sympathy? Yes, why not? You’ve had a rough life. However, that doesn’t mean you are protected from mockery. None of us have that advantage. We are all fair game.

    It comes back to intent. Mockery is always cruel–have you never mocked anyone yourself?–but beyond a laugh at your expense, none of us would dream of inconveniencing you or be mean-spirited enough to claim that you deserved your fate. Rather, I’d beware the true bigot who would say just that, and believe it. I find many Christians, particularly those of a Presbyterian predestinationary bent–those godly who regard themselves as the elect–to be just that.

  102. #102 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    And why do you think that this indiscriminate hatred is in some way morally superior to the purblind bigotry that you rail against in others?

    Because bigots act upon their impulses. PZ does little more than dream and has no intent of hurting a fly. The difference between words and actions is a profound one. As is the difference between tolerance and respect.

    PZ tolerates religion, but does not respect it. Which is why he dreams of a world without priests but would never, ever actually do anything more than ridicule them or outreason them.

  103. #103 davem
    April 22, 2008

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    Judging by the story, the guy should have got away with it – he was an experienced skydiver, BUT he’d never landed in water before, I’ll bet. Landing in water with a chute of any sort is death. People have drowned in 3 feet of water 15 feet offshore because the lines have wrapped around them, and the chute pulled them out to sea, even while others have watched them on the shore, unconcerned, not realising the danger.

  104. #104 Dave
    April 22, 2008

    Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high.
    There’s a land that I heard of Once in a lullaby.
    Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue.
    And the dreams that you dare to dream
    Really do come true.
    Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far Behind me.
    Where troubles melt like lemon drops, Away above the chimney tops.
    That’s where you’ll find me.
    Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow,
    Why then – oh, why can’t I?
    If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow,
    Why, oh, why can’t I?

    Don’t worry they will find him……….At the bottom of the ocean.

  105. #105 Steve Jeffers
    April 22, 2008

    ‘Every priest, PZ? Father Damien? Martin Niemoller? Martin Luther King? Archbishop Tutu? The Dalai Lama?’

    Would those people stop being good people if they stopped being priests? No. If it was scientifically proved (again) that God didn’t exist, would it change Tutu’s achievements? Would we have to reinstate apartheid (which was engineered by Daniel Francois, Protestant cleric and leader of the AP)?

    If we accept there’s no God, then we accept that God doesn’t beam goodness radio waves at them, infusing them with goodness.

    People are good, kind and generous because most people are good, kind and generous. It demeans the people you named by allowing a made up space pixie to take credit for their achievements and sacrifice.

  106. #106 Peter Ashby
    April 22, 2008

    This discussion of the feasibility of lifting things with helium balloons reminds me. A few years ago at the department xmas party we arrived at the venue to find a helium balloon tied to every chair for a festive feel. Well you can’t give scientists toys like that and not expect them to play. So on our table we wondered how many balloons would it take to lift a wine glass (slightly chunky, about 250ml). The answer iirc was at least 8, it took a couple more to lift it a couple of feet with something in it.

    The flying glass then did the rounds of the room being added to. Those brave/silly enough to sample the contents (PhD students abounded of course) were cheered to the rafters. I don’t as a rule enjoy these gigs, but that one is memorable. I should note that this was before we learnt of the helium shortage and we did not order the balloons ;-)

  107. #107 Liam
    April 22, 2008

    AlanWCan: “Initially, I was kinda with the concern trolls on this one, then I stared to think that of course, if he is found, at great expense and significant risk to the rescue workers who go out and haul his sorry ass back to civilisation, he will attribute the whole thing to a miracle”

    As far as I’m concerned this is spot on.

  108. #108 Mrs Tilton
    April 22, 2008

    Kevin @25,

    We’re going to have to paraphrase Denis Diderot now…

    Diderot himself was paraphrasing, if not plagiarising, Jean Meslier, who said, “Je voudrais que le dernier des rois fût étranglé avec les boyaux du dernier prêtre”. (“I would wish the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest.”)

    Meslier was an interesting fellow, not least because he was a priest himself, though at the same time a thoroughgoing atheist and anti-ecclesiastic. He was a sort of Dawkins of his day, though he kept his more scurrilous writings secret during his life, for understandable reasons.

    Broken Soldier @73,

    in the Catholic doctrine … part of the reward for gaining entry into heaven is to witness the eternal burning anguish of those consigned to hell. (Tertullian, if you feel like fact-checking)

    Quite so, but it won’t do to cite to Tertullian when arguing the point against the RC church, as (by the standards of that church) Tertullian ended his days a heretic. (“Of course he’d say that; he’s burning in hell himself!”) Much better to cite to Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, an authority that orthodox catholics will have a great deal of difficulty rejecting or explaining away.

  109. #109 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    “It demeans the people you named by allowing a made up space pixie to take credit for their achievements and sacrifice.”

    So it would, had I done so. But I didn’t, and there is no way to get from what I said to there. But to short-circuit this, I’ll state the contrary clearly: God is not responsible for their goodness, and only they are to be honoured for their courage, their achievements and their sacrifice.

    That you concede that they were or are good people is sufficient. That they are priests – well, clergy – is clear. But PZ said “every priest”. Every priest includes them.

    So I ask again: “Every priest”? Including them? Including all good people who are priests?

    See, I’m guilty as charged by MB. I’m a literal guy. Necessary implications, you understand. Even fantasies have necessary implications.

    One of the necessary implications of a fantasy like the one described in PZ’s last paragraph is the screaming on the way down. That gave me the creeps, and still does. Hate? To smilingly fantasize about doing something like that to someone means that you’d have to hate them, for mine.

    It’s not doing the act, true. It’s fantasizing about it and tacitly approving it. Of course that’s not in the same league. But it isn’t a good thing, either. Not because of what it might lead to; simply because of itself. Hate eats at the mind. Forget the spirit. I don’t have a clue about that. But I do know it’s not good for the mind.

    Oh, and MB, in answer to your questions, I could tell you that I’m actually a pagan polyandrist who has tantric sex with multiple partners and an absolute lack of guilt. Alas, it would not be true. I have been, in fact, married to only one woman for some twenty-five years, and despite this damaging admission, claim to be agnostic. Please do not feel that you have to tell me of your own status; for some reason I am unable to see the relevance of that data.

  110. #110 Liam
    April 22, 2008

    A priest, tied to balloons, floating into the sunset: a problem.

    A thousand priests, tied to balloons, floating into the sunset: a problem.

    All the priests, tied to balloons, floating into the sunset: problem solved.

  111. #111 Masks of Eris
    April 22, 2008

    (looks at the comments) Sheesh. Are there really this many people without a wide, dark, working sense of humor? How can they live?

    I’m with George Carlin: “I believe you can joke about anything. Anything.”

  112. #112 bitbutter
    April 22, 2008

    This post leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I was surprised to read it here.

    It’s a curious thing, reflecting on what other people find funny. I don’t think it’s something you can persuade one another about by argument.

    Here’s how I felt about it: The undeniable slapstick, harebrained aspect is more than nullified by the fact that this guy almost certainly died a pretty horrific death. I agree with other commentators who have noted that overlooking this fact, or finding the incident funny in spite of it seems to me like a failure of compassion. Stupid yes, funny no.

  113. #113 SEF
    April 22, 2008

    Speaking of turtles (at risk from balloons and stupid humans), Google is running a relevant “Earth Day” special:

    http://www.google.co.uk/logos/earthday08.gif

    It looks like quite a nice place to live – lots of interesting geology and biology etc and nary a priest in sight.

  114. #114 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    See, I’m guilty as charged by MB. I’m a literal guy. Necessary implications, you understand. Even fantasies have necessary implications.

    Only if you attribute malice where there might be none. Did Swift really mean to advocate the eating of children? That’s the thing about humour, it is often founded on the semblance of cruelty, but does that mean it is itself cruel?

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. A joke is just a joke.

    It’s fantasizing about it and tacitly approving it.

    And by this definition, Swift was a tacit cannibal and child abuser.

  115. #115 Dave
    April 22, 2008

    Oh my gosh, I just couldn’t help myself. Yes, I know it is of really bad taste but cooooome oooonnnnn. hrm on second thought maybe I did go to far, ah who cares

    Priest flies away parady

  116. #116 Dave
    April 22, 2008

    My link didn’t work this one should work if not copy link.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDh7qMDoAug
    or
    Priest flies away parody

  117. #117 bio teacher
    April 22, 2008

    give this guy a Darwin award!

  118. #118 Ted D
    April 22, 2008

    I’m frankly surprised at how many people are offended by joking about death. Now I’m admittedly a bit weird, but joking about it is how I handle death in any situation, especially if it’s close to me.

    And someone earlier mentioned the “lining them up against the wall when the revolution comes” joke, which I use frequently. It’s never even occurred to me that anyone could be so thick as to not get the joke, regardless of if it’s funny or not.

    A sense of humour. Some of you might like to try it sometime.

  119. #119 Dutchvigilante
    April 22, 2008

    “The undeniable slapstick, harebrained aspect is more than nullified by the fact that this guy almost certainly died a pretty horrific death.”

    A senseless death. a completly avoidable death, a death an expert like him should have seen coming a mile away. If it was someone who didn’t know any better, the humour would be harder to find (not impossible, though, I’d still chuckle). Guess I’m just a cynical bastard, though.

  120. #120 ConcernedJoe
    April 22, 2008

    Anyone who has read my ramblings knows I am sort of a militant atheist, and pretty hard on the RCC. But PZ I was shocked and saddened that you’d sink to that level of attempted humor. At human and intellectual levels I am offended.

    You do such good work with this blog, etc. You also seem like a caring personable moral chap, husband, father. I am sure you just got carried away. Unfortunately you don’t really have that luxury. Like or not you speak for our movement and hopes. That is how you’ve positioned yourself.

    If anyone is still reading I want to add my voice that I think we are fighting here for justice, reasoned laws, progressive scientific thinking, compassion that is real and effective, and to triumph over stupid (including superstitious) thinking and prejudices.

    And I think we judge people and respect them for what they do, and not what superstitions they might traditionally believe. Lot of priests do good work and put themselves in the line of fire especially in Central and South America. People including priests have value until they absolutely prove otherwise. I do not know this priest stands on the value scale but until I really do I have no right or just reason to demean or to not respect him as a human. I hope he’s OK and will feel bad for him and his loved ones if he is not.

  121. #121 Yenzo
    April 22, 2008

    I’m with #120 all the way. Plus, I re-read the article and still can’t see the humor, sorry.

  122. #122 allkom
    April 22, 2008

    If somebody cares to see the video of the “flying” priest here is the link : http://video.globo.com/Videos/Player/Noticias/0,,GIM818425-7823-PADRE+AMARRADO+A+BALOES+DE+GAS+DESAPARECE,00.html
    Most likely he is dead. Weather conditions were very bad, 60 km/h winds and 6 m high waves, at the most likely place of crash, besides deflated balloons already came ashore.
    I don´t think he deserves much compassion since what he did was more than stupid.

  123. #123 Holbach
    April 22, 2008

    I can picture the insane dolt attached to that ludicrous contraption, singing away “nearer my god to thee”,and then those stupid ballons start bursting and that damn intelligent designed gravity slaps him with realty and down he goes, yelling “my god, where are you, you’re supposed to help me as I am your deranged representative on earth”, and down the moron goes, a victim of natural reality and imaginary salvation. One less perpetrator of religious nonsense. Gee, where was his god?

  124. #124 Notkieran
    April 22, 2008

    What you really, really have to love is the fact that the news article _specifically_ mentions Lawnchair Larry himself.

    (the original Darwin Award is here).

    If a person is dead, you can’t hurt him with your humour and sarcasm any more.

    Logically, therefore, the people least likely to be hurt by being laughed at is dead people with no children; ergo, grave dark humour is less hurtful than bigotry and Ben Stein, and pointed wicked humour at the expense of a celibate man who removed himself from the gene pool is the least hurtful of all.

    (New here, but I’ve been lurking for months)

    Also, Lawnchair Larry:

    http://darwinawards.com/stupid/stupid1998-11.html

  125. #125 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    Jokes and humourous fantasies are, by their very nature, absurd. Complaining about absurdity is itself absurd, an age-old banana skin.

    In addition to which, the sick joke is common currency in society. The joke doesn’t imply malice; the motives behind it are more complex than that.

    Who here hasn’t heard a Challenger shuttle disaster joke? Who here hasn’t told one? Some of you, I suspect, have told these jokes and I reckon none of you did so with hate in your hearts. Responses to tragedy are complex and the sick joke may be inappropriate in some circumstances and acceptable in others.

    I’ve told King’s Cross fire disaster jokes, and I am a fortunate survivor of that holocaust. I clambered out seconds before the fireball. FYI, the joke goes:

    “What’s the difference between Cockneys and Smarties? Smarties don’t melt in the Tube.”

    No, I am not a hateful man. Silly, maybe. But not hateful.

  126. #126 wazza
    April 22, 2008

    Ted D: this incident means we won’t have to use a wall so long, a great saving in bricklaying costs

  127. #127 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    “And by this definition, Swift was a tacit cannibal and child abuser.”

    I know what Swift was satirising in “A Modest Proposal”. I know who was the target of his irony, and the irony is plainly apparent. He was telling the English that their policies in Ireland were barbarous, inhuman and atrocious.

    I don’t know who or what PZ is satirising, and I see no irony. So far as I can tell, PZ would actually approve of removing all priests and all religion from the world, so when he says:

    “I am imagining a day when every priest in the world stands smiling beneath a great happy bobbing collection of many-colored balloons, and they all joyously loft themselves up, up into the sky, joyfully drifting away before the winds until they are just a tiny speck and then … gone. It will be a miracle.”

    he is not being ironic. This is (metaphorically) what he would like to have happen.

    He goes on to remove the elements of joyousness in his last paragraph, and he says (again, metaphorically) that he would like to destroy them all. But this follows so seamlessly from the previous, which was not ironical, that it’s difficult to see it as irony. It reads perfectly straight.

    But if it is irony, what or who is being satirised? Excessively militant atheism? (“You militant atheists would actually go around killing priests, if you could.”) Maybe. Those who impute such wishes to atheists? (You religious nuts think us atheists would go around killing priests, if we could.”) Maybe. I can’t tell. Because I can’t tell, I can’t react to this as irony. And if it’s all a joke, why does the image presented produce only slight nausea in me, not mirth?

    And please don’t tell me it’s because I have no sense of humour. I keep one pickled in a jar on my desk.

  128. #128 Cathcart
    April 22, 2008

    PZ, I think this post is a real feather in your cap!

  129. #129 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    Shorter Dave Luckett: Athiests=Satanists. You cannot convince me otherwise.

    Now I think I know who wrote the second quote here:
    http://friends.portalofevil.com/sp.php?pi=1000725176

  130. #130 Moses
    April 22, 2008

    Didn’t the Mythbusters bust that balloon and lawn chair myth? I have to go ask my kids.

    Posted by: Cay | April 21, 2008 10:07 PM

    No, the myth is that a child gets a stack of balloons from a balloon vendor and is lifted away. Mythbusters proved that you can make enough balloons to pick-up a 60lb child, but it takes thousands upon thousands of them. Well beyond the 20-or-so that a balloon vendor is likely to have on hand.

    The actual engineering was quite impressive. The larger the stack of balloons, the smaller the incremental lift from each balloon due to the assembly/safety harness weight, plus the helium would slowly leak out reducing lift as well. Still, they over-came may design issues and got it done.

    But the stack of balloons was gi-normus and it took a full crew to keep ahead.

  131. #131 Peter Ashby
    April 22, 2008

    Lee Brimmicombe-Wood:

    I’ve told King’s Cross fire disaster jokes, and I am a fortunate survivor of that holocaust. I clambered out seconds before the fireball.

    My sister in law went through there about 2min before the escalator began to go up properly. Nice joke, and yes, you do have the right to tell it.

    I was about 16 and at school when the reports of the Air NZ flight that slammed into Erebus began to circulate. It was soon established that a student at the school had parents on the plane. Humour in NZ over the incident is dealt with by riffing on the report of the official investigation and jokes about Air NZ execs and their relationship with the truth (the bastards blamed the crew, but it was clear they got a bum steer).

    BTW I will happily fly Air NZ (they regularly win best wines in flight awards for one), because, eventually, they did learn the lessons of that episode.

    If you want really bad black humour hang out with Medics and/or emergency workers. For them of course it is a necessary safety valve allowing them to do their jobs. Some of it can be really funny too, but definitely not for concern trolls who miss the point. The idea is to laugh so you don’t cry so lets all look on the bright side of life huh?

  132. #132 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    Shorter Laser Potato: A while ago I couldn’t even spell “atheist” and now I are one.

  133. #133 DaveL
    April 22, 2008

    Add me to the list of people who aren’t comfortable laughing at this man. Shaking my head at the sheer idiocy, yes; laughing no.

    When someone takes a flying fall on the ice, I’ve always thought you shouldn’t laugh until you see him getting back up.

  134. #134 maureen
    April 22, 2008

    What’s your problem, Dave Luckett 127?

    It is perfectly clear what PZ is satirising …..

    1. Those who claim that their belief in god allows them exemption from the laws of physics and of meteorology – and from common sense.

    2. Those who believe that their personal claim to be doing something “in a good cause” allows them to put the lives of others at risk.

    3 Those whose hubris allows them to do 1 and 2 above.

    Got it now? OK!

  135. #135 Moses
    April 22, 2008

    The pain and fear he experienced isn’t something that should be mocked.

    Sorry, but you do stupid things, don’t expect sympathy. Not only do you foolishly risk your life, you risk the lives of others as you act the fool.

    My pet peeve are the ass-clowns that ride motorcycles without safety gear. Ride your motorcycle with no helmet and in t-shirt and shorts and spend two weeks in the hospital getting your extraordinarily painful road-rash treated, plus the two-years of follow-ups for skin-grafting, and I’m going to laugh at you. If you die because your head hit something and you got brain-swelling, I’ll feel sorry for those you left behind. But not you.

    I rode in leathers and full-face helmet every time. And I walked away (albeit on a broken leg) from an accident that would have killed your typical idiot who didn’t wear safety gear. Like this girl, who now sings a different tune:

    http://www.motortopia.com/blogs/view/t/garage/j/1666/i/extreme_roadrash_cause_effect_and_lesson_learned

    And I’m sure it’s not the tune she’d have sung at me, before her accident, when she saw me all dressed up in leathers while riding in 90+ degree weather.

    I’ve also got the same feelings for adult roll-over-crush victims who didn’t wear their safety belt. Idiots that shoot themselves with their guns, or their dogs shoot them, because they leave a round in the chamber while climbing fences or the guns are unattended.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,291687,00.html

  136. #136 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    “Shorter Laser Potato: A while ago I couldn’t even spell “atheist” and now I are one.”
    ????
    What are you babbling on about???

  137. #137 ConcernedJoe
    April 22, 2008

    Mean sounding humor when applied to an individual involved (victim, relative of victim, etc.) specifically, especially when delivered close to the occurrence of the tragedy is what most civilized people would call a cheap shot.

    There is a qualitative difference between a joke that has a layer of abstraction between it and the reality of the tragedy and that seeks to highlight the absurdity of it all e.g. (and I just made this up and YES I know I am NO comedian):

    Man on the phone 9/11 in WTC with the Bin Laden Group striking a deal when he interrupts contract discussion to say: ‘hang on a second; I think your representative just arrived’

    where in my clumsy and unskilled way I’m trying make point humorously about the small world interconnection of us all, as opposed to one that says something very specific about a victim that makes light of a very personal and real tragedy for that specific person by relying on the victim’s suffering to gain a chuckle or make a point unrelated to the actual event.

    I may be not cleaver enough to get the point across to some of you. However, I would hope that uncreative cheap shot humor is easy enough to distinguish from humor however raw that is barbing a boarder point and not a person who is real and essentially an innocent victim in a tragedy. If PZ had pulled that off I think more of us could have appreciated the humor.

  138. #138 Nadeen
    April 22, 2008

    Dave Luckett-

    I know nothing about deck-chair ballooning but some of the posts have pointed out BB guns are used to selectively burst balloons to effect a safe landing.

    Something to think about.

  139. #139 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    Oh, wait. Now I get it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Style_over_substance_fallacy
    Nice try. And by “nice” I mean “absolutely pathetic.”

  140. #140 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    Eeep, #139 was meant to be a continuation of #136

  141. #141 dkew
    April 22, 2008

    “A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.” — Carl Sagan
    Sagan likely never thought to add “and dangerous publicity stunts.”

  142. #142 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    ZOMG *Facepalm*

    Cry me some crocodile tears. And to those who really are troubled…

    It was a joke. It was funny because it involved dreamy, surreal, metaphorical imagery.

    I can’t speak for PZ, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t actually think the death of priests is funny, or condones their murder. If he does, I’m sure he can clarify later.

    Popping the hypothetical baloons of an imaginary plethora of floating clergy with a BB-Gun is not the same as saying lets pick up a shotgun, grab a couple of rounds of double 0, and head by the nearest church.

    I’m not commenting on those who have said, he deserves it, lets give him a Darwin award etc., maybe they are being horribly malevolent. But at least you can try to emphathise with the tone and purpose of PZ’s post, even if you don’t find the joke funny (which you are perfectly entitled to do).

  143. #143 Moses
    April 22, 2008

    Here’s how I felt about it: The undeniable slapstick, harebrained aspect is more than nullified by the fact that this guy almost certainly died a pretty horrific death. I agree with other commentators who have noted that overlooking this fact, or finding the incident funny in spite of it seems to me like a failure of compassion. Stupid yes, funny no.

    Posted by: bitbutter | April 22, 2008 6:05 AM

    There’s nothing particularly “horrific” about falling to death or drowning. Now, if you want to talk horrific, I’ve got some stories. Some real stories.

    I’d think getting machete’d to death would be far worse. Like what happened to thousands of Tutsi at the hands of the Hutu. Or hundreds of thousands burned alive at the stake, by the Catholics: heretics, witches and anyone they didn’t like.

    Hey, what about Columbus? There was a master of the brutal, horrific death. He bragged that he was so savage to the Arawak Indians on Haiti that you could (this is paraphrased) “take their wives and daughters and they’d carry you, back home, on their backs when you were done…” Columbus was such a butcher and brutal despot that entire Indian villages suicide to avoid his rule. Women would kill their infants and perform abortions on themselves so their children couldn’t be raped and tortured by the Spanish under Columbus.

    In fact, Columbus was so brutal, horrible and genocidal that that the slave trade, which he’d started from the Americas to other parts of the world couldn’t be sustained and the Europeans had to start-up full-scale, industrial slavery from Africa to replace the genocidal reduced Indian population. Columbus, through his governance and his European plagues, literally extincted the Arawak Indian tribe, though it was 10-million strong when he first met them. And all of this was endorsed by the Catholic Church.

    So, concern troll me about horrible deaths. Or mocking the religious, especially the Catholics. No minor mockery will make up for the horrors committed by priests and by their people. And any “horror” of falling to death cannot be, even remotely, as horrible as the deaths of those Indians.

  144. #144 dead santa
    April 22, 2008

    Yikes! A lot of people seem to have assumed PZ was laughing at this priest with a bad case of hubris.

    The only mention of the actual incident I see in PZ’s post is the headline: Priest attached to party balloons vanishes in Brazil. Then he fantasizes about all priests disappearing by floating away on balloons which he can fly around and shoot.

    Big surprise; PZ fantasizes about all religious fantasies disappearing.

    Any similarity with actual events is purely coincidental. Abstraction /= reality.

  145. #145 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    Nadeen: That’s a useful comment. It is indeed worth thinking about, and it hadn’t occurred to me. Thank you. It actually makes me feel better about the post.

    Spud, my boy, here’s a tip: Style is good, substance is better, but either makes neither look really dumb.

  146. #146 PZ Myers
    April 22, 2008

    You literal-minded people…no, it will be very sad if this foolish priest is dead. It will be a personal tragedy for a human being. I am just going off the tone of the news report, in which everyone is light-hearted and confident that the happy priest is merely bobbing in the ocean somewhere, waiting to be picked up.

    But as long as you’re here…

    A man is walking along a beach when he finds a bottle in the sand. He wipes off some of the grime on its side, and poof, a genie appears.

    “I will grant you 3 wishes, but I have to mention that my contract was written by some very sharp lawyers. Everything you get, every lawyer in the world gets two-fold.”

    The man thinks for a moment, and says, “That’s fine, I don’t begrudge them anything. For my first wish, I would like a million dollars.”

    Poof, a large briefcase full of thousand dollar bills appears at the man’s feet. The genie says, “Every lawyer in the world has also received $2 million dollars.”

    “Good for them,” says the man, “and now I wish for a Ferrari.”

    Zap, a beautiful bright red sports car appears next to the man. The genie says, “Every lawyer in the world now has 2 Ferraris.”

    “Fantastic,” says the man, “but now I’m feeling materialistic and superficial. I really should use this opportunity to do some good in the world. For my third wish, I would like to donate one of my lungs to a transplant program…”

    That joke must mean I want every lawyer in the world to die a horrible lungless death right now. Yeah, right.

  147. #147 Lynnai
    April 22, 2008

    It really is possible to feel sympathy and laugh your ass off at the same time, the world is a better place for it.

    My problem is now I have the song Popcorn stuck in my head and am picturing Yossarian on the flight crew of the ultralight. PZ when you land that fantasy please make sure to take the lawndarts away from him, you really don’t want those puncturing through to daydreams of your next vacation.

  148. #148 me
    April 22, 2008

    I want every lawyer in the world to die a horrible lungless death right now.

    And that would be a bad thing because…?????????

  149. #149 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 22, 2008

    Yes Dave, I’ve been wrong all along. Clearly an image of priests floating away means EXTERMINATE THE BRUTES! How could I not see that this is what PZ actually wishes? He honestly desires to strap every last priest into a balloon chair and launch them into oblivion.

    And when this pogrom is complete he will launch a land war in Asia…

  150. #150 Damian
    April 22, 2008

    PZ, you evil man. How dare you literally beg us to go out and kill the first lawyer that we find. This is an outrage!

    I love how those who see this as an outrage to their sensibilities (as well as their humanity…oh the humanity!) somehow believe that we are going to be persuaded by their lack of ability to understand the post and the dark humor within.

    It has become no more persuasive after the twentieth post expressing that outrage than it did after the first. And the reason is very, very simple. Different people react to different kinds of humor…well, differently. Am I supposed to pretend that I didn’t find it just an itsy bit funny simply because you can’t?

    And it doesn’t seem to have occurred to a single one of them that PZ wouldn’t mock death (which hasn’t even happened, as far as we know), so perhaps the problem lies entirely with themselves.

  151. #151 True Bob
    April 22, 2008

    Why do some people not understand morbid or graveyard humor? Overactive empathy gland, methinks. FWIW, my wife was in an accident caused by a woman of Veitnamese descent. The other woman was laughing and giggling. She was stressed out, and that was how she dealt with it. Laugh or cry, which will it be?

    I laughed at the end of Dave’s video. Am I evil?

  152. #152 Martin R
    April 22, 2008

    As Black Francis of the Pixies once put it,

    “This monkey’s gone to heaven”.

  153. #153 Dave Luckett
    April 22, 2008

    Good joke, PZ. I didn’t get the first one, but I got that.

    What, then, was different about it? Let’s see: it had fantasy elements – so did the first one. It had a painful end for a large group of (disliked) people – so did the first one. It had a humorous inversion…

    Wait. Run that one by me again. A humorous inversion. A sudden change in the way an idea, or a form of words, can be taken, revealing another aspect entirely – often by implication.

    The sense of humour that I keep in a jar on my desk says hi, by the way.

  154. #154 gerald spezio
    April 22, 2008

    Right Professor Hardnosel let’s shoot down all those dumb ass believing types who don’t know science, Darwin, and the trut when they are offered it.

    Death to the believers in the transubstantiation of priests!

    When it comes to attacking revealed religion, get out your gun and watch the the stupid bastards fall at 32 feet per.

    But If the priest & his parachute descend into your garden, don’t offer him a helping hand and some Gatorade.

    If you find him at sea, let the bastard drown.

    He is one stupid bastard and here is a chance to pummel his ignorant priestly head in the name of understanding, compassionate science, tolerance, and discovered trut.

    How could anybody feel anything other than contempt for the priest’s abject folly?

    If the priest survives, people may see his survival as proof of the Holy Virgin’s intervention in human affairs.

    If the stupid un-enlightened arsehole priest won’t join the ranks of enlightened, well-educated, kindly, and superbly intelligent beings such as we all are on Pharyingula, off with his dumb head and priestly frock in the name of science and tolerance.

  155. #155 spurge
    April 22, 2008

    I see gerald forgot to take his happy pills.

  156. #156 xebecs
    April 22, 2008

    He’ll probably have some horse chestnuts in his cheeks, too. Now if only we knew why the prostitute was hitting him over the head…

    You are too good for this lot, PZ, if I’m the only one who grokked the Joseph Heller reference.

  157. #157 gerald spezio
    April 22, 2008

    Yabut, if a lawyer landed in the sea near my boat, I would be sorely tempted …

    I could say that I was working for justice.

  158. #158 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    NO!
    I AM THE JUSTICE!!! NOT YOU!!!
    (BTW, spezio has been trolling Orac’s blog; keep an eye on him.)

  159. #159 gerald spezio
    April 22, 2008

    You don’t know nuthin, microwave potato.

    Hah, Scalia is the Justice.

  160. #160 Stephen Wells
    April 22, 2008

    We get the Orr reference but wouldn’t dream of actually saying so :)

  161. #161 CalGeorge
    April 22, 2008

    This post leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I was surprised to read it here.

    PZ read a headline about a disappearing priest, which led to a fantasy about ridding the world of all priests.

    Atheists fantasize about a religion-free world.

    The post is not about the fate of this particular priest, it is about “every priest in the world.”

    If the priest is dead, it’s too bad, but if he’s skydiving and flying around in balloons for no good reason, he probably had a death wish.

    There are ways to stave off boredom and get one’s kicks that don’t require risking life and limb.

  162. #162 Erik
    April 22, 2008

    Wow… Bloglines subscription removed.

    That was unconscionable, PZ.

  163. #163 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    @ Craig, #88

    As was noted in a previous post, you asked these questions, so I will answer them candidly, and with a little of my own experience mixed in, just so you know you’re not alone in having such difficulties in life.

    Posted by: craig | April 22, 2008 2:51 AM

    I had to face and accept that earlier than many people have to.
    When I was 18 I was crossing the street and got hit by a speeding truck. Though I have no memory of the accident or several weeks afterward, I was certainly not being careful crossing. I was young and foolish, and that’s what I usually did. I didn’t die. Instead I am permanently disabled. If I had died, would I have deserved it? I was being careless and stupid. Would I have won a “Darwin Award?” Would it be fine for you to mock my death and say I deserved no sympathy?

    Nothing in your description of what happened to you involved obvious stupidity or gross negligence, so therefore your situation not only does not seem to qualify for the Darwin Award you mention, it does not involve you being injured in even remotely the same manner as this priest, if he does turn out to be harmed or killed. So already, your situation does not equate with what is being discussed on this thread, and the only thing you accomplish by insinuating that by mocking him we are somehow mocking someone in your situation is a misleading at best, and completely disingenuous at worst.

    I was REALLY being foolish. If I had fallen and died, would I be a fair target for mockery? Would I just be a dead dumbass, inferior to you, deserving of my fate? Would the fact that emergency responders would have faced risk retrieving my corpse from the gorge make my death warranted? Would that mean any sympathy left for me should rightfully be replaced by scorn and glee?

    As to whether or not you would have been a fair target of mockery, the answer is yes. But the fact that someone may have mocked the manner of your death does not in any way mean that you have been wronged. If a pure humanist and good person dies in an idiotic manner, my opinion of his or her manner of death says absolutely nothing about my opinion of his or her as a person while they were alive. And if you had fallen off of that high trestle, and somehow been alive waiting for rescue, then yes, your actions would have put another human in danger, and I would have the same opinion as I expressed about the priest’s putting others in danger by his own actions.

    One of my friends on that trip later tried to kill himself. Swallowed a bottle of pills. I called 911. If one of the volunteer firemen who responded had been killed in a car accident on the way, would my friend’s suicide attempt have been a reason to hate him? Would you then think he deserved to die?

    This is a complete – and irresponsible – non-sequitur. The inherent danger of a fireman driving to a location where someone has ingested a bottle of pills is no different than any other situation other medical personnel face on any routine outing, so the two situations aren’t even remotely similar. If your friend had done this is an area that presented a great danger to anyone trying to get to him, then his actions would be reason to be angry with him for putting others in danger by way of his own act. But even considering that, no one on this thread had posited that what this priest did was reason to hate him. His actions and their intellectual vacuity are a separate issue – many people who posted here would have found sufficient cause to dislike him simply because he is an agent of a Church guilty of infamous and numerous abuses, but I doubt that means anyone hates him personally – and they would be wrong in doing so unless they have personal knowledge of him or any of his actions. And even if they do, that is their prerogative. In any event, the cases you bring up do not equate with this priests situation in the least way, and are irrelevant to the way in which we are discussing the priests’ situation.

    Because of my disabilities I will never have children. I will never reproduce. Through my teenage carelessness I have removed myself from the gene pool. Seems I am eligible for a “Darwin Award” after all. Do I deserve it? Is that a good thing? I that something you get to feel superior to me for? Is it now OK for you to mock me, have no sympathy for me?

    As I have already addressed the issue of your situation and the Darwin Award, I will not broach that subject again. I have already explained how your situation in now way equates to that of the priest, so smugly asking whether or not you deserve what happened to you is silly, to say the least. And asking us whether we think what happened to you is a good thing is a smug, arrogant question to which you already know the answer. I assume you were trying to insinuate that we assume that people who have been disabled either deserve what happened to them or that we in some way rejoice in their pain, which is patently false, and you most definitely know that. This priest is being mocked for his stupidity, not his injuries, and most of that mockery originates from the fact that he brought it upon himself completely, with no external mitigating circumstances involved in him strapping his ass into that chair connected to uncontrollable balloons.

    And to answer your question, I would have had sympathy for you and your situation had you not tried so disingenuously tried to use it to make me feel some sort of remorse for my mopckery of someone’s blatant stupidity. Either you truly believed that your situations were equivalent – in which case yopu are simpply lacking in observational skills, or you knew they weren’t – in which case you just displayed the worst kind of deliberate and false equivocation possible:

    1)the priest may have been hurt, and we mocked him;

    2) you were hurt, so we would mock you

    The reason your post generated so much ire within me is that I, myself, and permanently disabled, in ways that I would never go into detail about here on this board. And I would certainly never do so to condescendingly scold someone for expressing an opinion. Even if someone came on this thread mocking the injury and death of soldiers, I feel that I could adequately rebuke them in their inconsiderate conduct without haughtily trotting out my injuries and their circumstances in an attempt to make them feel terrible about themselves. The difference between that and the way you handled this situation is that, in this situation, you called most of the attention generated by your post directly to yourself, rather than providing extant reasons we should regret our treatment of this situation. I am in no way attempting to belittle or demean you in this post, so if you take it that way I am sorry. What I AM intending to do is express my disgust at your proclivity to trot out your own injuries in an attempt to rebuke the people posting on this thread, while retaining the ability to call them insensitive, inconsiderate, or otherwise somehow morally deficient should they try to dispute your arguments. I will not go into the extent of my own injuries, but I will say that they make life quite difficult for me, and I feel no regret or impropriety in letting you know that tactics in discourse like the ones you used in your post thoroughly disgust me.

    Again, do not take any of this as indication of my feelings or opinions toward you as a person, because I do not KNOW you as a person. I only know you as far as you have expressed yourself on this board, and my above opinions speak for themselves as to your preferred tendencies in discourse. Should you become angry because of this answer to your pposed questions, I believe another – quite accurate – post on this thread would be apppropriate for you to review.

    Posted by: Lee Brimmicombe-Wood | April 22, 2008 3:55 AM

    It is unwise to challenge people in this way, for someone will take you up on it. You make yourself fair game.

  164. #164 Richard Clayton
    April 22, 2008

    That seems unnecessarily harsh, PZ. The priest is possibly dead; there are probably people who know him and worry because he’s gone. Maybe his mother is crying tonight because she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her son again.

    This is a tragedy, and remains a tragedy even if you don’t like religion or those who make a living on it. Surely “hur hur hur, it’s a good start but not enough” is not the most enlightened response?

  165. #165 wazza
    April 22, 2008

    Xebec: I got it too

    let us bask in the glow of literacy

    As for the discussion: If someone does something monumentally stupid, no matter the outcome (including myself), my first instinct is always to laugh. You can laugh or you can cry, it’s really up to you, but if you choose to be sombre about this episode, how dare you laugh, ever, when children are dying in Africa and Asia? They had far less choice, are in far more pain, and bemoaning the death of this misguided man while ignoring the death of all those poor little ones is hypocritical. Berating others for not joining you is even more so.

    Not that I’m saying that if you laugh at this, you should also laugh at children starving to death. Unlike this priest, they didn’t choose their path, it has no absurd element, and it is preventable without curtailing their individual freedom. However, there are some aspects of this that make me utter a bleak chuckle, not least the six-figure salary common to US government representatives in Africa, or the fact that the state department budget in Iraq counts towards ODA.

  166. #166 Stephen Wells
    April 22, 2008

    Richard Clayton: if you read PZ’s post as “hur hur hur, good start but not enough,” then you have serious reading comprehension problems.

  167. #167 Strakh
    April 22, 2008

    RE#163 by brokenSoldier at April 22, 2008 9:57 AM:

    This post should be copied and delivered not just to every theist but to everything atheist as well. A more respectful, cogent, and concise response to Craig and his utterly loathsome ilk could not be delivered.

    Most well and truly said, BrokenSoldier.

    I salute you.

  168. #168 wazza
    April 22, 2008

    Anyway, who says these balloons in PZ’s dream still have priests attached? This might be post-rapture…
    :P

    Personally, I’d love to go balloon-hunting. Is there any way we could commercialize this?

  169. #169 Steven
    April 22, 2008

    There’s a joke about a flying nun just waiting to happen!

  170. #170 student_b
    April 22, 2008

    Let’s see, from the news report:

    “He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap.”

    So, here we have an adult, doing something stupid in full knowledge of the dangers inherent in it.

    Now something goes wrong. Others are placed in danger because of his reckless actions.

    And people are getting angry about a little joke PZ made about it? Mind you, the joke wasn’t about the death of the man, the joke was about the vanishing of priests vanishing in the sky.

    Really, there are areas where being sensitive about is a good thing. But there’s also concern trolling.

  171. #171 Nick Gotts
    April 22, 2008

    To all those complaining about the post. – FTFL! There is no reason to think the guy won’t be found alive and well; he wasn’t carried off unexpectedly, he was on a planned record-breaking attempt and was “fully prepared for any kind of mishap”!

  172. #172 Dawn
    April 22, 2008

    Wow. Just…Wow. I can’t believe the vitriol and people dropping PZ’s blog because of this post. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in hospitals and understand black humor. But I NEVER read PZ’s post as a desire to kill all priests. Nor do I think if this priest lands in Morris that PZ wouldn’t be among the first to help him if he needs help.

    The priest did something STUPID. Whether or not for a good cause, he didn’t plan well and has put himself and many other people (the rescue teams) at risk.

    It’s a FANTASY, people, based on a news report. Just because it doesn’t appeal to you (even as a joke), is no reason to fly off the handle the way you have.

  173. #173 eric
    April 22, 2008

    A Priest can’t just sit around?!

  174. #174 Damian
    April 22, 2008

    I am shocked — shocked I tells ya! — that so many people haven’t understood (in their self-righteous indignation, no doubt) that pretty much nothing that PZ has said in that post was about the actual story of the man going missing. He simply used the headline as the basis for his dream — that of there being no priests, because there is no longer any need for priests. It is both clever and funny, if you ask me….and, I feel sorry for the poor old chap. Here’s hoping that they find him.

    Honestly. Should I make a picture using colored shapes and plastic farm animals?

  175. #175 Erik
    April 22, 2008

    @Dawn

    Nice straw man.

    Maybe some people just don’t like the idea of joking about MURDERING someone. Ever think about that?

  176. #176 Pólo
    April 22, 2008

    You of all people should have known that this man was a scientist attempting to verify/replicate the ascension and the assumption, and he appears to have succeeded admirably.

    Perhaps the sanctimonious monsters should strike a joint medal for him (posthumously of course).

    I hope I don’t see a headline in the next few days saying they found the body. It would destroy my faith entirely.

    Keep up the good work.

  177. #177 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    I guess PZ now has to put 3×3 inch blinking gifs that say “THIS IS A JOKE” around his posts whenever he’s not being serious now. Jeez.

  178. #178 Sarcastro
    April 22, 2008

    Only way I’m going to heaven is on a pillar of fire baby!

  179. #179 Damian
    April 22, 2008

    Maybe some people just don’t like the idea of joking about MURDERING someone. Ever think about that?

    No. Maybe you’re just too stupid to understand the post in the first place. Ever think about that?

    Oh…carry on.

  180. #180 Erik
    April 22, 2008

    And the sheeple roar into action…

  181. #181 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    I even made the appropriate image.
    http://thumbsnap.com/v/Y4ba4ytw.gif

  182. #182 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    @ Strakh # 167

    Thanks! I appreciate the compliment.

  183. #183 SC
    April 22, 2008

    craig @ #88 writes:

    “I knew a serial killer…”

    Now there’s one you don’t hear very often.

    “the man raped and killed many women…The world is probably better off without him, safer.”

    Yeah, you’re probably right there, what with the raping and killing and all.

  184. #184 Damian
    April 22, 2008

    “And the sheeple roar into action…”

    Damn right, when you accuse people of advocating murder due to your own ignorance. That is far more offensive than anything that PZ has said, and particularly as you haven’t even understood the post in the first place.

  185. #185 Epikt
    April 22, 2008

    PZ Myers:

    How can anyone possibly think this is a sad story? Didn’t you read the article? Do you have flies in your eyes?

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    He’ll probably have some horse chestnuts in his cheeks, too. Now if only we knew why the prostitute was hitting him over the head…

    She was irritated because he keep taking apart that little stove, and rebuilding it. Over and over and over and over and over and….

    Maybe the guy will turn up eventually, but I think the searchers should be looking in Sweden.

  186. #186 Blondin
    April 22, 2008

    Paging Sister Bertrille!

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.
    – Carl Sagan

    One-way baloon trips works, too.

  187. #187 brokenSoldier
    April 22, 2008

    Craig @ #88:

    Also, a couple of your quotes in the same post strike me as a bit contrary to each other.

    We all die, life is finite, I accept that. I even see it as a good thing.

    I knew a serial killer – the man raped and killed many women. Despite their horrible deaths, despite the terrible things he did, I took no pleasure in his execution. The world is probably better off without him, safer. He himself even might be considered better off dead for his own sake, given the state of his mind. But his execution was no cause for celebration, it was simply the end of a long tragic story. Oh, and he left no children. Did he earn a “Darwin Award?” for his circuitous way of causing his own death?

    If you can recognize that in some cases, death is a good thing (i.e., beneficial either to the individual – for reasons of ending suffering – or beneficial to society – for preventing further damage the individual could cause), then how would you not view the death of an individual who makes a habit of raping and killing other humans as good?

    It seems that in the first quote, you were trying to affirm a humanistic, benign view of death in the spiritual sense, while in the second post you seemed to be impressing upon the rest of us the need to solemnly mourn death, even when it comes to someone as horribly evil as a serial rapist/ murderer. While these statements are not mutally exclusive, the speech acts behind them definitely appear to be contradictory. (Speech act is a linguistics term describing intent behind a word or phrase.)

    If I have somehow misread the intent behind each of those statements you made, however, I’m open to correction. That is simply the way they came across in the post.

  188. #188 aiabx
    April 22, 2008

    Maybe he just disappeared into a cloud, like Clevinger.
    Although the literary reference that first crossed my mind was Curious George, who also went for a balloon ride, but was fortunately saved by the Man with the Yellow Hat.
    And if that isn’t an outstanding metaphor for something, I don’t know what is.

  189. #189 Colugo
    April 22, 2008

    Black humor, as demonstrated by most of the commenters, is one thing. But some are venting pure hatefulness.

    “One less perpetrator of religious nonsense.”

    Should this one individual pay for everything all priests have done?

    There is a extremely reductive and sociologically simplistic tendency on SciBlogs to view religion as the source of all of the world’s evil and the clergy as the embodiment of that evil. And therefore, each member of the clergy deserves to pay. I’m not attributing that sentiment to PZ, despite his fanciful daydream. He enjoys throwing out red meat but he’s more sophisticated and humanistic than that.

  190. #190 CalGeorge
    April 22, 2008

    Another take (via Gizmodo):

    The second flight isn’t finished yet. Or at least, not officially. This time he had with him a GPS unit, which he planned to use to relay his coordinates to the ground.

    There was only one problem: he didn’t know how to use it correctly. Padre Adelir de Carli took off after a special mass last Sunday, at 1PM. The weather was bad, but he didn’t care. He wanted to fly again, this time to beat the record of flight distance with party balloons. And besides, he was sure his new GPS was going to provide him with some safety, a way to ask for help with his precise location in the case anything went wrong.

    The plan didn’t work out. The strong winds took him 31 miles into the sea, and a little bit later, frustrated, he requested help from people on the ground:


    I need to contact someone who can teach me how to operate this GPS, so I can give the latitude and longitude coordinates, which is the only way that people on the ground can know where I am.

    Sadly, nobody was able to explain to him how to do it correctly and, around 9PM–the time of his last contact–he disappeared. After a two-day search using military police helicopters, and the cooperation of local fishing boats, it seems Father de Carli’s flying dreams are not going to have a happy ending. The last thing that people found were fragments of balloons, next to the beaches of Santa Catarina.

    He didn’t know how to use his GPS!

  191. #191 Brad
    April 22, 2008

    PZ @146- re the lawyer joke, the way I heard it was the first wish was for money, the second was for nubile women, the third was for the removal of one testicle. Jokes evolve too.

    >And that would be a bad thing because…?????????

    I’m a farmer. Lawyers (priests, whatever) are like geese. Individually, they might be OK, you can stand having some around, they might even be useful. But if you get too many of them they can be a real pain in the ass. Doesn’t mean I want any of them extinct. (Mental image of hospitals shoveling piles of excess lawyers’ lungs into dumpsters a la PZ’s joke.)

    Humor is a way of dealing with often-unpleasant reality. I know, and know of, a number of people who have been killed in drunk-driving crashes. One I knew in school is in a long-term care facility and will be for his whole life. If I joke that he is still the same species but switched allegiance to a different kingdom, you may or may not think it’s funny, but there is a message there. Sometimes Nature plays catch-and-release, sometimes she reels you in and has a shore lunch. Don’t bite at every lure out there.

  192. #192 Peter Ashby
    April 22, 2008

    I hear you Moses! Back in the day when I rode we had a saying: you got a ten dollar head, wear a ten dollar helmet.

    In classes to learn to ride safely, after they advised me about vinyl melting onto your hands and I resolved to buy leather gauntlets, they told about a girl riding along a beach in a bikini, came off and spent months in a saline tank regrowing her skin. Or the guy riding in jandals/flip flops, needs to put his foot on the deck and ends up with the thong that goes between big and second toe jammed up against his ankle bone.

    I never rode in less than: helmet, padded jacket, leather gauntlets and steel capped, ankle supporting boots. The boots were tested on the road more than once, then I bought a better rear tyre and learned another lesson.

    I am still here and in one piece.

  193. #193 Bill from Dover
    April 22, 2008

    The strong winds took him 31 miles into the sea
    This guys obviously snark meat.

  194. #194 True Bob
    April 22, 2008

    Bill from Dover,

    Nice. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station used to test early cruise missiles, including one called the Snark. The sea offshore was referred to as Snark infested waters.

  195. #195 xebecs
    April 22, 2008

    We get the Orr reference but wouldn’t dream of actually saying so :)

    Oh, you can say that easily enough now, Mister “Wikipedia Is Our Friend”. But let’s see you consult Wikipedia next time you are floating over the ocean in a lawn chair!

  196. #196 Brownian, OM
    April 22, 2008

    Anyone seen those insurance commercials in which a scuba instructor or safari guide finds out that his charters are all insurance salesmen on vacation? In the safari one, he suggests that they jump out and go approach the lions on foot, making loud noises because the lions ‘really like it–get real close!’ In the scuba one, he points to a group of circling shark fins and tells his charters they should go ‘play with that group of friendly dolphins’ and then starts chumming the waters as they splash around.

    The narrator then intones, “Some people really don’t like insurance….” and explains why his company is better.

    Good thing it’s not a commercial for the clergy.

  197. #197 Richard Clayton
    April 22, 2008

    Re#166, Steven Wells wrote: “if you read PZ’s post as ‘hur hur hur, good start but not enough,’ then you have serious reading comprehension problems.”

    Oh? PZ wrote “I am imagining a day when every priest in the world stands smiling beneath a great happy bobbing collection of many-colored balloons, and they all joyously loft themselves up, up into the sky, joyfully drifting away before the winds until they are just a tiny speck and then … gone.”

    The “hur hur hur…” sentence was hyperbole, intended to illustrate that I thought PZ’s comment was uncouth. As a jibe at his comment, I thought it worked pretty well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the hand-wringing alarmists who equates PZ’s snark with “GO KILL EVERY PRIEST!” because a) I know that’s not his style and b) I realize it was just a joke.

    I simply felt the joke was in bad taste; it differs from “lawyer jokes” or the like because he’s joking about a real incident involving real people, not an abstract. I’m comfortable joking about abstract tragedies, but not real ones. (Your mileage may vary.)

  198. #198 lurker_above
    April 22, 2008

    The wind does not respect a fool.

    –Kahless the Unforgettable

  199. #199 rijkswaanvijand
    April 22, 2008

    god; Gotta love’em!

  200. #200 DavidCT
    April 22, 2008

    Even as a fellow athiest, I cannot share your ammusement at the sad end of a fellow human being’s adventure. I have met a fair number of priests who put caring for people way ahead of their official superstitions.

    That having been said, if it had been the current pope – bring on the ultralight and let me use a 410!

  201. #201 frog
    April 22, 2008

    Talk about dark humor — the mirthless commenters are a better punch-line than the original tale. Is humor deficiency in the DSM yet?

  202. #202 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    he didn’t know how to use it correctly.

    ah, well that answers my earlier question about how they could manage to lose him so easily.

    I can imagine how those communications between the priest and those listening went:

    ground: Where are you now, sir?

    priest: I’m not sure… I can’t see the ground, there’s lots of clouds… it’s dark.

    *sigh*

  203. #203 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    But let’s see you consult Wikipedia next time you are floating over the ocean in a lawn chair!

    will i get to have an I-phone with satellite linkup with me?

  204. #204 frog
    April 22, 2008

    Does this mean the donors get their money back, or did he by definition break the record?

  205. #205 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    or did he by definition break the record?

    well, I’d wager he broke something at any rate.

  206. #206 frog
    April 22, 2008

    TrueBob: “Why do some people not understand morbid or graveyard humor? Overactive empathy gland, methinks.”

    Bob, you’ve got it backwards – it’s the ones who lack empathy who lack humor. You laugh or you cry, and both understand each other. But the humorless sods who dryly complain have a moral manual in place of their empathy gland. The folks with the most morbid sense of humor are those who spend their careers in hospitals, fire-houses and ambulance.

    Even the Christians have a reference to this phenomenon – “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Ramen!

  207. #207 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    I’ve been thinking about the lawyer joke…

    the only problem i see with the analogy between the lawyers and the priests is that at least one can say that lawyers have proven their usefulness, regardless of whether individual lawyers have corrupted themselves.

  208. #208 Kergillian
    April 22, 2008

    God Hates Balloons

  209. #209 Interrobang
    April 22, 2008

    I have met a fair number of priests who put caring for people way ahead of their official superstitions.

    And so what? This guy was trying to raise money for a spiritual truck stop whatever the hell that is. The jokes practically write themselves. The only thing that could have made this weirder is if we’d found out he’d been wearing frilly pink lingerie and silk stockings and an Elvis costume underneath his hazard suit as he took off.

    Frankly, if I ever die doing something that incredibly dumb in a weird way, I fully expect people all over whatever passes for the internet then to laugh their asses off at me. Fair’s fair. I’d also expect my friends to come to my funeral anyhow, but that’s sort of a different matter.

  210. #210 Ktesibios
    April 22, 2008

    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 22, 2008

    An American Airlines 767 bound for La Paz, Bolivia, was forced to make an emergency landing here when one of its engines failed after ingesting what mechanics here described as “a priest, a lawn chair and a lot of balloons”.

    A source with the NTSB, which is assisting with the investigation of the incident, told our reporter that the pilots saw the approaching air hazard but were unable to take evasive action because “they were laughing too hard”.

    Passengers were transferred to other flights to La Paz. The crippled airliner will be repaired at the airport in Rio de Janeiro before being flown home.

    There were no injuries to passengers or crew. The cost of the damage is estimated at $2 million.

  211. #211 Ichthyic
    April 22, 2008

    The cost of the damage is estimated at $2 million.

    …the donations to the good father’s flight just managing to cover the damages.

    In response, American Airlines has painted a picture of the priest on the tailfin of the 767.

    :p

  212. #212 longstreet63
    April 22, 2008

    @189 “Should this one individual pay for everything all priests have done?”

    Well it worked for Jesus. I don’t see why the priest should have any complaints. He’ll be a saint in a few years, with a stack of miracles attributed to his martyrdom.

    Anyway, this guy is paying for what he himself did. If all the other priests want to go balloon riding, that’s fine with me. They will be operating on their own luck and skill and the consequences will be their own look out.

    Logically, since professional clergy have essentially given up their earthly lives in favor of their divine futures, It would seem that they’d be at the forefront of all suicidal ventures. In practice, they almost invariably find some poor schmuck to do the dying while they cheer them on.

    What was amazing here is that the priest only endangered himself.

    I wonder if the local peasants will commemorate the day by sending one of the faithful up on balloons every year, ala Filipino crucifixtions.

    Steve “Good for the tourist trade, though” Jaes

  213. #213 longstreet63
    April 22, 2008

    “In response, American Airlines has painted a picture of the priest on the tailfin of the 767.”

    Shouldn’t that be a silhouette on the nose?

    Steve “Four more and they make Ace!” James

  214. #214 Neil
    April 22, 2008

    Wow. That’s a lot of smug cunts.

    I’m sorry, concern trolls, but when I hear about a member of a destructive, genocidal worldwide cult taking such noble action for the good of mankind, I can’t help but smile. I didn’t know the priest personally, but based on this news I know that he must have been a good man deep down, dedicated to helping his flock in the only way he truly could. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear can finally know the true depths of their idiocy, thanks to this selfless hero.

    Loved the post, P.Z. I share your dream, and accept every criticism and negative connotation that anyone wants to hurl. I would love to see the day when every bible-weilding fool decided to just float away on the breeze. It would be even more magical than that trip to Disneyland when I was five, and just as pretty a sight. I think such actions should be remebered by all and encouraged among True Believers. If we play up the fearless macho image of risking one’s life for publicity, maybe we could get some baptist preachers into the lawn chair!

    And I’m spent! I will now fade off into a blissful psychedelic fantasy involving millions of pompous shamans floating away into the distance, while a song by the Animals is sung in chorus by those on the ground.

    “Sky Pilot
    Sky Pilot
    How high can you fly…”

  215. #215 Stephen Wells
    April 22, 2008

    @197: thank you for quoting the text that shows you’re wrong.

  216. #216 luis alexandre
    April 22, 2008

    Is the guy trying to win a Darwin award?

  217. #217 Elwood Herring
    April 22, 2008

    All this reminds me of a salient quote from Robert Heinlein from his book Stranger in a Strange Land:

    “I’ve found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts-because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting-of course it wasn’t funny; it was tragic”

    Read the full extract here.

  218. #218 Holbach
    April 22, 2008

    gerald spezio @ 154 I see no response to your comment in your blog,”when it comes to attacking revealed religion”. What the crap does this old religious warhorse mean? As “revealed” in meaning insane crap given to you by your imaginary god and believed by the deranged masses to be true because it was handed down by morons to each generation of morons and therefore legitimized by time and numbers? The only thing “revealed” is your delusional and complete insanity. There, the truth is revealed.

  219. #219 Bart Mitchell
    April 22, 2008

    The imaginary temperature in hell must have reached below 217 kelvin. I always thought it would be a cold day there when PZ would say “As long as I’m dreaming,I’ll imagine myself with a gun”

    I have to give credit where its due. I learned all my quote mining skills from reading creationist literature. Look for this gem when the NRA tries to demonize Dr. Myers.

  220. #220 Lightnin
    April 22, 2008

    Won’t somebody please, think of the children!

    I was completely shocked and saddened by this post PZ. I used to be an atheist, but after seeing this cruel “joke” of yours, a large part of me died on the inside. If PZ can think that explicit demand for murder is funny-what next? Rape? Genocide?

    Now I’m going to join the priesthood, and will pray everyday that you will repent for your sins. I call on all my fellow commentators to continually express just how grieved, personally insulted, and morally superior they are-for only then can we vanquish the demons within PZ!

  221. #221 Richard Clayton
    April 22, 2008

    #215: Lack of substantive reply noted.

  222. #222 Laser Potato
    April 22, 2008

    Shorter Lightnin: A Modest Proposal? Gulliver’s Travels? Satanic literature, I say!

  223. #223 John Phillips, FCD
    April 22, 2008

    Brokensoldier, from another partially broken soldier :) well said. Some of you need to get a life, or at least a sense of humour and not read into PZ’s post what he didn’t say.

    Craig: as to whether you deserved it or not. You did say that you didn’t observe where you were going when you got run over, didn’t you? So in that sense, you deserved it, after all, it wasn’t as if the vehicle jumped the curb and hit you, was it. I.e. however callous it may sound, the truth is that your own carelessness caused your injuries. Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t empathise with your situation, if only because I have plenty of scars and injuries acquired in part due to my own stupidity and carelessness down the years.

  224. #224 longstreet63
    April 22, 2008

    Revealed Religion = “God said you shouldn’t ask me any questions.”

    Steve “And that I’m in charge now.” James

  225. #225 Sarah
    April 22, 2008

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnP6A-5Qd8U

    This is a sad story, and as an aviator I feel for Mssr. Adelir Antonio de Carli. Yes, it was a stunt, yes it was dangerous,
    and still I am not on death’s side.

    Whatever you think about his motives and beliefs I’d expect something
    more than bad jokes about his probable death.

    I’m disappointed in PZ’s empathy & contact with reality.

    Get a grip people.

  226. #226 John Phillips, FCD
    April 22, 2008

    Sarah: The jokes, at least from most of us, weren’t about his death, but the stupidity of his actions. You don’t get a free pass simply because of your stupidity, whatever the result. Especially when we learn that apparently he compounded it by not even learning how to use the GPS that would have probably saved him.

  227. #227 Brian
    April 22, 2008

    I don’t know much about this, but according to the G1 coverage of this, the priest gave a mass at 13:00, and left even with bad weather (it was raining) and without knowing how to operate his GPS device. Total disregard to preparation, and I would flat out say that’s something very stupid for someone trying to break a record flying on helium balloons.

    People are already speculating where to look:
    http://www.carloscardoso.com/wp-content/2008/04/adzhmdqilost-copy.jpg

  228. #228 Dave
    April 23, 2008

    Wow this is great the video I made about the flying priest so far has 34,186 views in just 17 hours. My most successful video to date, Thanks PZ.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDh7qMDoAug

  229. #229 homostoicus
    April 23, 2008

    PZ, calls for death, death, death until the sun cries morning? Maybe you should listen to yourself a bit and decide if you really want to start down this dark road.

  230. #230 Maximinus
    April 23, 2008

    I just had to share this quote I found with everyone here:
    “Does it matter whether God is your co-pilot if you have no way to steer?”
    NP Posted

    It’s the best single-line summary of this incident that I’ve seen. Captures perfectly the futility of theism, specifically in the context of the priest’s flight. You’ve got to admit, though – his fundraiser’s had far more publicity than he would ever have expected…

  231. #231 j a higginbotham
    April 23, 2008

    I agree with CAPRIMOP(sic?) and others. The guy had good intentions and was trying to help others. Mocking his beliefs and rejoicing in his fate (as some posters) have done is entirely uncalled for.

    j a higginbotham

  232. #232 Erik
    April 23, 2008

    Damn right, when you accuse people of advocating murder due to your own ignorance. That is far more offensive than anything that PZ has said, and particularly as you haven’t even understood the post in the first place.

    I tried to read this respose, but all I could make out was “baaaaa… baaaaa… baaaaa…”

  233. #233 Katrina
    April 23, 2008

    Well, the rescuers still don’t seem all that worried about him. The latest news I found said:

    “Given his physical condition and the equipment he was carrying, I would say there is an 80 percent chance that he is still alive,” said Johnny Coelho, commander of the Penha Fire Department, which is searching for the priest.

    Di Carli, who has taken jungle survival and mountain climbing courses, was carrying enough drinking water and cereal bars to stay alive for at least five days, Coelho said, suggesting the priest may be adrift in the ocean or resting on a beach or forest-covered mountain along the coast.

  234. #234 Elwood Herring
    April 23, 2008

    Another brief Heinlein quote:

    “Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime: the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.” – Robert Heinlein.

    Also, from Terry Pratchett (one of my all-time favourite quotes):

    “Take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through with the finest sieve and then show me one
    atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet you act as if there were some sort of rightness in the universe by which it
    may be judged.”

    It’s tragic, it’s comic, but there you have it. That’s the way it is.

  235. #235 Stephen Wells
    April 23, 2008

    @221: you complained that PZ said something he didn’t, and quoted the text in which he said something other than what you complained about. Nothing for me to add. You’ll grasp it eventually.

  236. #236 Holbach
    April 23, 2008

    The latest news on the balloon papist: It was reported that this god aided gravity defier has gone down in the sea off Brazil and that his last words were; “Please come save me!” What the heck happened? Where was his god? And of course all those millions of fanatic Brazilians would never pose that question. god had a greater purpose for him: to feed those poor intelligent designed sharks!

  237. #237 Holbach
    April 23, 2008

    Forgot to include a bit of humor in that last post:
    Can you imagine several sharks witnessing this thing drop from the sky and landing in the water, and the sharks exclaiming, “Wow, look guys, a piece of meat embedded in hundreds of roe! Yum, ham and eggs!”

  238. #238 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    I agree with CAPRIMOP(sic?) and others. The guy had good intentions and was trying to help others.

    Posted by: j a higginbotham | April 23, 2008 1:15 AM

    It does not matter what he intended to do in this situation. What he has done is put a great deal of rescue workers in danger and caused the government to spend money to pursue his rescue effort.

    Am I alone in remembering that religion tells people constantly that the road to hell is paved with good intentions??

  239. #239 Elwood Herring
    April 23, 2008

    So to all those waiting for the “rapture” – this is obviously what you need to do. Meet god halfway and he’ll do the rest.

    And that’s obviously (to me anyway) what PZ was on about in his initial post.

  240. #240 j a higginbotham
    April 23, 2008

    brokenSoldier et al.

    How much riskier is what he did compared to the back country skiers, rock- and mountain climbers, junk food eating, Fossett etc people who need emergency rescue or attention each year?

    jah

  241. #241 thalarctos
    April 23, 2008

    How much riskier is what he did compared…

    Don’t know, j a higginbotham–to answer your question, we’d need relative rates of how many people engage in each activity per year vs. how many need rescuing.

    I have to confess I honestly don’t begin to know where to look for the rates of how many people hook themselves up to helium balloons and prepare for takeoff each year.

  242. #242 Eva
    April 23, 2008

    I love how when people don’t like someone else’s joke, it’s considered to be *them* who doesn’t have the sense of humour, rather than the person who made the “joke”.

    There are plenty of things I could come up with that I’m sure one of y’all wouldn’t find funny. Would it be that you just don’t have a sense of humour? Come off it.

  243. #243 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    How much riskier is what he did compared to the back country skiers, rock- and mountain climbers, junk food eating, Fossett etc people who need emergency rescue or attention each year?
    jah
    Posted by: j a higginbotham | April 23, 2008 5:04 PM

    The mountain and rock climbing and skiing you mentioned are widely practiced forms of recreation, and as such, its participants both have specialized equipment designed to keep them safe and are well briefed by the rescue apparatuses already in place in the many areas where people can go and embark on these sorts of adventures. (Conversely, the individuals that do not have the necessary equipment or knowledge deserve no more sympathy than I have shown the priest.) The rescue teams that support these people are entirely composed of avid participants in the respective sports, and perform their specific duties on a regular, mostly daily basis. They also have an intricate knowledge of the terrestrial layout of the area in which they serve.

    In the case of the priest, he went up in a lawn chair strapped to balloons, did not take the time to learn how to use the safety equipment he took along with him, and had very little – if any at all – prior experience in what he was attempting. (And before someone jumps in with his being an avid skydiver, this has absolutely no correlation with riding a lawn chair strapped to helium, and therefore provides no experiential support for his outing.) The coast guard (or the Brazilian equivalent) is undoubtedly well-versed and practiced in sea rescue, but this is the only aspect of the two situations that are remotely similar. The difference in this aspect is that the coast guard-style rescue units are always in a far greater amount of danger when they embark on the kinds of rescues they perform than their skiing or climbing counterparts around the world, because there are no terrestrial features or other distinctions on the sea – save for the characteristics of and structures on the ocean floor and the technological positioning equipment they use – to serve as familiarizing guideposts to make their rescue attempts safer. This is exactly why excursions that might require sea rescues are discouraged heavily, unlike the sports of rock and mountain climbing and skiing, because the rescues that they might require involve a far greater level of inherent danger.

    And I might have interpreted your question as a prudent, and even intelligent – inquiry had you not included the ridiculous claim that people who eat junk food place somehow require “rescue,” and that such “rescue” involves any danger at all to the individuals responding to their troubles. Just to make it clear, people indulge too much in junk food may eventually require medical attention, not rescue, and the amount of danger inherent in coming to these people’s aid is the exact same amount of danger we all face when we get into our cars and go anywhere at all. To insinuate different can’t even remotely be an honest mistake – it is such a vacuous claim that it can only be interpreted as entirely disingenuous and intentionally dense.

    So, in a concise answer just for you, the things you suggested have absolutely NO relation to the dangers that this inconsiderate placed his eventual rescuers in by performing this insane and unnecessary stunt.

  244. #244 j a higginbotham
    April 24, 2008

    For whatever reason, he went out over water instead of land. I don’t know how much of this is his fault. When some obese person has a heart attack and the ambulance gets in a crash returning to the hospital, that isn’t danger?
    Do Fosset and other balloonists who get into trouble suffer from your scorn as well? Certainly that is not widely practiced, although reports of balloon accidents needing rescue are not uncommon in the papers.
    Anyhow, the responses so far are rather long on words and short on facts and numbers.
    At least ID’ists et al are consistent in being illogical. I suspect many people here are letting their hatred/dislike/contempt for religion/idiots affect their normally rational thought processes.
    Not a pretty sight.

    “The rescue teams that support these people are entirely composed of avid participants in the respective sports, and perform their specific duties on a regular, mostly daily basis.”
    yuck

  245. #245 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    For whatever reason, he went out over water instead of land. I don’t know how much of this is his fault.

    It is entirely his fault, because he knew full well that going 6000 meters into the air strapped to helium balloons in nothing more than a chair.

    When some obese person has a heart attack and the ambulance gets in a crash returning to the hospital, that isn’t danger?

    You can continue to make some form of this argument all you want (a la the junk food idiocy you put forth in your last post), but the answer is always the same. If you can’t see the difference between the danger of driving in traffic and the dangers involved in conducting a wide search for one human amidst an entire segment of an ocean, then you’re not fit to understand a cogent argument, much less play like you’re actually making them on a board like this.

    Do Fosset and other balloonists who get into trouble suffer from your scorn as well?

    Fossett – just in case you didn’t know, since you keep mentioning him – was declared legally dead over a year ago when his plane was lost over Nevada, so it would be kind of difficult for him to anger me with any of his actions. But to answer your question, his actions evoke les anger from me than this priest’s, because in his actions, Fossett always ensured he had the proper equipment, knew how to use it, and because of the fact that he was a world record holder in most of the outings he attempted – exhibiting the fact that he had plenty of experience to back up his adventurousness. So no, he does not make me angry in the same way the priest does. And the other balloonists don’t either, as long as they’re using approved balloon, safety, and communication equipment. I still may not like the fact that they’re doing things that necessitate possible rescue, but as long as they’re within prescribed safety measure requirements, then they’re doing what they are supposed to do – this priest did not.

    Certainly that is not widely practiced, although reports of balloon accidents needing rescue are not uncommon in the papers.

    “Certainly that is not widely practiced?” Someone should tell these people that…

    http://www.hotairballooning.com/balloon-rides/
    http://www.hotairballooning.com/pilot.php

    The first link will take you to a locator where you can find balloon ride anywhere in the world. The second link provides a multitude of literature to guide someone along the path to becoming a balloon pilot. And just to make sure you realize how obtuse and completely faulty your comparison of this sport with the priest’s amateur, ill-conceived act really is, the FAQ of the above ballooning site will explain it for you:

    Since balloons don’t land where they took off, a chase crew follows along in a van or truck. The chase crew is in radio contact with the pilot, so they can be there when the balloon lands (or soon afterwards).

    After landing, the crew packs up the balloon, loads it back onto the chase vehicle, and everyone rides back to the launch site or other meeting point.

    Anyhow, the responses so far are rather long on words and short on facts and numbers.
    At least ID’ists et al are consistent in being illogical. I suspect many people here are letting their hatred/dislike/contempt for religion/idiots affect their normally rational thought processes.
    Not a pretty sight.

    The only manner in which my posts have been short on facts have been the manner in which you have chosen to read them, which is a fault that rests solely with you. As for my being “rather long on words,” that comment seriously – and quite negatively – affects my perception of your capacity for intelligent argument, which only goes further down when I hear you praising intelligent design proponents for consistency in their failure to apply sound logic when conveying their arguments.

    As for those individuals who frequent this board and post regularly, the great majority of them have shown themselves to be intelligent, logically sound, and infinitely patient, especially dealing with the annoyingly repetitive, deliberately unresponsive, and amusingly incoherent arguments from you and your fellow trolls who insist on bombarding this board with your failures in argumentation.

    “The rescue teams that support these people are entirely composed of avid participants in the respective sports, and perform their specific duties on a regular, mostly daily basis.”

    Posted by: brokenSoldier | April 23, 2008 9:08 PM

    yuck

    Posted by: j a higginbotham | April 24, 2008 1:11 AM

    I can only assume that you have submitted such an enlightened and descriptive argument (Bill Dauphin, if you’re reading this, I’ll admit I’m DEFINITELY being patronizing now…) in response to what you have bolded in my above statement, so I’ll submit in turn the reasons that your argument against the uses of these terms is unfounded.

    If you somehow think that ski and climbing rescue teams are not entirely composed of avid skiers and climbers, then I’d suggest you try to apply for one of those positions without the knowledge and experience that and avid skier or climber would have – I think you’d find that you would be quickly turned down for the job.

    And if you’re skeptical of the fact that these rescuers perform their duties on a mostly daily basis, then I’ll remind you that the – quite perishable – skill set necessary for such a job requires that such rescuers take part in the activity as much as they can aside from their rescues in order to stay proficient, ensuring their efficiency in their rescue capacity.

  246. #246 Glen Davidson
    April 24, 2008

    I posted this OT on another thread, but it should probably be here as well, for anyone who simply found this on the web or some such thing, and does not read much Pharyngula otherwise:

    Rescue workers today began scaling down the search for a priest who was carried off the coast of Brazil four days ago by hundreds of balloons.
    The Rev Adelir Antonio di Carli was last heard from on Sunday night, eight hours after he took off from the port city of Paranaguá harnessed to hundreds of brightly coloured helium-filled balloons. Strong winds had blown him off his planned route and out to sea.

    The Brazilian air force today suspended its search as hopes of finding him alive faded. The navy continued to patrol waters off the coast of Santa Catarina state, but it was considering halting operations, according to the Reuters news agency.

    “The chances [of survival] are increasingly slim and we are considering when to end the search effort,” Lieutenant Francisco Jose Cavalcante, of the navy’s southern search unit in Rio Grande do Sul state, told Reuters.

    Priest’s chances don’t look good

    One may laugh, I think, at these stupid stunts even when they end tragically, but perhaps prefacing them with some appropriate caveats would be in order, sort of like they do on the talk shows, like Leno does with touchy subjects on “Headlines”.

    Glen Davidson

  247. #247 j a higginbotham
    April 24, 2008

    BS,
    I could waste more time addressing your comments but I don’t see the point.

    You haven’t, in my opinion, demonstrated why this foolish behavior in a good cause, merits so much of your scorn when compared to all the risks others take in the pursuit of thrills, other than you disapprove of his beliefs.

    I can imagine why you don’t like creationists so much, since your methods of arguing so closely resemble theirs.

    And before you can be perceived as patronising, you need to demonstrate a better grasp of facts, as in the ICR case where you seem to confuse a committee recommendation with a final vote.

    jah

  248. #248 brokenSoldier
    April 25, 2008

    jah @ #247

    Neither of my last two posts – the ones made in direct response to your posts – mentioned a single statement about the religious beliefs of this man. I addressed only my disapproval of the negligence apparent in his poor planning and haphazard execution of his stunt, as opposed to the other cases of “thrill-seekers” who take the proper precautions to ensure that if they do need rescue, the situation for their rescuers is much safer than that of the men who had to go in search of the priest. (And I also made clear that those individuals who do not take the requisite precautions and do not prepare properly for their own stunts would get the same reaction from me that I have expressed about the priest.) While I am truly disappointed – in a purely humanist sense – that his actions resulted in his specific fate (it seems the heretofore unsuccessful search effort is dwindling), I am infinitely more satisfied in the knowledge that no other human lives have been lost in the efforts to find him. If you consider that position callous, there is nothing I can do about that. I have no desire to try any further, due to the fact that you have made it perfectly clear that no amount of sound arguments – and credible citation of external sources in support of those arguments – will even remotely budge your perception of these events and my viewpoint on them.

    I don’t make a habit of beating my head against a wall, but it is painfully obvious now that doing so would be preferable to trying to have a rational conversation with you — and as I won’t be head-butting any bricks anytime soon, I also won’t make anymore attempts at sound discourse with someone so impervious to facts and reason.

  249. #249 SteadyEddy
    July 30, 2008

    “We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean,” she said.

    Floating? yes… alive? not so much.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7532254.stm

    Friggin deluded idiot. At least the relatives will now have some closure.

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