Pharyngula

It’s almost December

And that means you’re going to have to get your holiday greeting cards mailed off soon, if you want them to arrive before the Reason for the Season…Isaac Newton’s birthday. Now I don’t want to hear anyone waging war on the true meaning of the holiday in the comments, either, unless it’s to point out that it is also Squidmas.

Comments

  1. #1 kamaka
    November 29, 2008

    Grilled squid for xmas… yummm

  2. #2 'Tis Himself
    November 29, 2008

    And a Merry Isaacmas to all!

  3. #3 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 29, 2008

    Any artists here?
    At a cool dollar a card
    I can be Hallmark!

    The reason for Christmas is bigger than Jesus;
    It’s bigger than even a God up above.
    The reason we gather together this season
    With friends and with family, simply, is love.

    The stories they tell of a wonderful heaven,
    The myth of a savior’s miraculous birth,
    Are mere consolation for leaving behind
    All the love we encounter in one life on earth.

    More precious, more rare than the greatest of treasures
    This life we are living–each one, we know, ends;
    I wish you a love even greater than Christmas
    And hope you will share it with family and friends.

  4. #4 Paper Hand
    November 29, 2008

    I say we start protesting the Christian War on Newton’s Birthday

  5. #5 kamaka
    November 29, 2008

    Screw xmas, I’ll probably go shoot rabbits…rabbit stew, yummmmm…

    You want GOOD holidays, the local scientific materialists (all four of us) have rockin’ parties planned for Darwins 200th birthday Feb. 12, and the better celebration, Nov. 24, the 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of Species”. Xmas= stupid and boring. “The Origin of Species”? Blaze the music, pour the champagne, dance like a monkey, eat squid.

  6. #6 chuko
    November 29, 2008

    You know, you’re right, Paper Hand. Why, it’s getting such that you don’t hear people greet each other with a cheery “Happy Newton’s Birthday” anymore!

  7. #7 ggab
    November 29, 2008

    Cuttlefish
    I’m in!
    I can Knock out greeting card illustration in no time.

  8. #8 abb3w
    November 29, 2008

    What do you have against Agnostica?

  9. #9 Happy Trollop
    November 29, 2008

    Gooooooo, Cuttlefish! If you and ggab use your collective will to create some squidmas, War-On-Christmas or Saturnalia cards, I will throw money in your general direction. Srsly.

    I’ve had it with cute Santas on the beach, kangaroos pulling sleighs and koalas in xmas trees (I’m Australian, obviously) in my quest for a year’s-end greeting card I can send to my friends. Year after year I search for something new and that doesn’t get spoilt by the inclusion of that Jebus character and I think I’ve used up everything in this hemisphere.

  10. #10 Colin
    November 29, 2008

    The reason is my wife’s birthday. ‘Happy Juliemas’ which has a sort of Roman ring to it.

  11. #11 Happy Spirochete
    November 29, 2008

    Don’t forget that for all his genius, Newton was a bit of a mystic and religious zealot…

  12. #12 Maria
    November 29, 2008

    Hm, the 25th is the birthday of Newton, Karl Rove, Rod Serling, and Louise Bourgeois. So we can celebrate religion, science, science fiction, sculpture, and war. We might as well just celebrate nothing in particular.

  13. #13 Podblack
    November 29, 2008

    Hey, get Digital Cuttlefish’s new book for Isaacmas!! Or Squid-mas.

    http://www.lulu.com/content/4725658

  14. #14 ekzept
    November 29, 2008

    Alas, I was about to order the Isaac Newton cards, but found PayPal as the only option. Given that I got taken with someone fraudulently using my PayPal account once upon a recent time — even if the story had a happy ending — I’d prefer another payment form, like Amazon payments.

  15. #15 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 29, 2008

    Oh, hush now, Podblack
    This is not an ad campaign
    This is PZ’s blog

  16. #16 Screechy Monkey
    November 29, 2008

    Almost time to fetch the Festivus pole out of the attic….

  17. #17 Podblack
    November 29, 2008

    Yah… is PZ’s blog
    But I still must admit – it
    Lasts longer than card.

    *shrug*

  18. #18 Podblack
    November 29, 2008

    Hey, is there a way to feature potential designs for Squidmas somewhere, for Cuttlefish’s poem? Somewhere that hosts them? I’ll go poke around, see what can be set up… especially somewhere that doesn’t require Paypal, necessarily… and since I’m in Australia too, be nice NOT to have koalas on them, I’m with you there, HT!

  19. #19 Bronze Dog
    November 29, 2008

    I’ll stick with Decemberween. After all, The Popular Vote has a nice present waiting for us that’ll kick in about 1/20/09.

  20. #20 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 29, 2008

    Oh, g-g-a-b
    you have no contact info
    so… stop by my blog?

  21. #21 SC
    November 30, 2008

    It’s almost December

    Starting to get the feeling someone doesn’t want me to have an award…

  22. #22 ggab
    November 30, 2008

    Cuttlefish
    Your wish is my command.
    I’ll dig up a couple samples for you in the morning.
    Goodnight goodgodless.
    Dream of the inevitable damnation.

  23. #23 Atheist Chaplain
    November 30, 2008

    to Cuttlefish and my Aussie brethren, I have several gig of web space available if the need arises and would happily donate it to such a worthy cause, and as it only cost a few dollars to set up a domain, if we all put our heads together, we can come up with a suitable name, I can then purchase it and donate it for the good of the group. Let the cards of Squidmas begin to spread its tentacles around the globe Muhahahahahahaha …..……….

  24. #24 Jimminy Christmas
    November 30, 2008

    Wait…I thought this was Wintersolsticemas. I just put up the damn tree and everything! Fuck! What’s an evil immoral atheist to do???

  25. #25 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 30, 2008

    ALL of the fancy make-up is GARBAGE. It’s all about the WINTER SOLSTICE (the shortest day in the northern hemisphere). That tradition is older than all of the others. A 26,000-year precessional gyration to the Earth’s rotational axis has shifted the timing of it around a bit, but that’s the thing people were paying close attention to nearly as long as humans have climbed to higher latitudes (at least a dozen such excursions over the course of the few hundred thousand years humans have colonized higher latitudes): the correlation between what could be seen in the sky and seasonal climate variation and – especially – the attendant availability of food for a hunter-gatherer species (migratory game and fruiting vegetation etc.) is what captured their attention.

    Civilzation and it’s attendant cultural (= major lunatic religious) distractions have since then done a bang-up job of arresting our attentions on two main aspects: 1. the arbitrary association of a birth-date of some “messiah guy” from a far-away land to the south who lived in a climate in which the inhabitants could live an entire lifetime without experiencing snow, and 2. a commercially-profitable “Black Friday” = the day after another lovely tradition was instituted almost single-handedly by a single lady over a 50-year period, between 1827 and 1877, to wit:

    “The holiday came about through fifty years of relentless promotion by Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine. She promoted it in columns and stories in her magazine until President Abraham Lincoln finally bestowed it national recognition.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117220543.htm

    The point is this: it’s no secret that specialized competence is ancient. 10 or 100 thousand years ago the average north-hemisphere-inhabiting tribe member didn’t know or understand what the sky-watching “shamans” knew from studying the sky over the course of a lifetime. It didn’t matter whether the average member understood what was going on: for them all that mattered was that there was a robust correlation between what the shaman-expert predicted and what actually happened. There is no need to exert one’s mind onto another problem when you can simply consult the shaman and find out what she says.

    The cultural apparatus in those those long-ago tribes were set up to encourage a credulity for authority, no matter how mysterious their “power” seemed. (Sound familiar?) Today: the cultural apparatus is set up to encourage a credulity for authority…no matter how mysterious it may seem, EVEN in the face of a growing scientific awareness that banishes supernatural agency. But today? As well? For those who are NOT so trained, there’s absolutely nothing qualitivately different between the mysterious competence of a shaman who was adept at watching the sky 25,000 years ago and that of a scientist who works out the molecular basis of evolution or development of organisms like themselves, or the even weirder scientist sort who insist that, for example, time crawls to a halt for those you observe to be speeding away from you at the speed of light or stops as they encounter the event horizon of a black hole.

    The “original Christmas” was, of course, an entirely “pagan” tradition, a ritual in which people were trained to pay attention to serious seasonal variations, whatever the cause. Anybody who looks at the evidence and has a gram of sense can easily conclude that the “Christmas holiday” that is so entrenched in the culture today is a hybrid that is actually heavily weighted in favor of pagan traditions. Why else is there such a thing as a Santa (“SAINT”) Claus? He is nothing but a holdover of Odin, “King of all gods”, reduced to a jolly little bearded bastard dressed predominantly in red and commanding a sleigh that flies through the sky under a team of reindeer, who utilizes this capacity to bestow gifts to kids…who in turn happen to be especially enamoured of stories told by adults that promise and explain gifts. Even Wednesday is named after him (Woden’s day). Christians of every stripe in this country don’t even realize how utterly DISCONNECTED they are from what Jesus’ desciples themselves might have adjudged to be authentic “christiantity”. (Not that they had any coherent crystalization of a clue as to what it should be in the FIRST friggin’ place…but more than a few of the more literate amongst them who managed to “write a gospel” certainly had an appreciation of the potential power of propangandistic larceny).

    I have celebrated a VERY HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE annually for over the last 3 decades, with no ill effects. Saturnalia??? Blegh. That’s not NEARLY primitively relevant enough.

    As an artist and a physicist (yes, the art CAN come first), I even enjoy the spectacle of a “christmas tree” adorned with very pretty lights, BECAUSE I CHOOSE to regard it as a kind of cosmological model of the universe. I am delighted to enter a room of friend or family member so adorned: there it is: a light-cone representing the expansion of the universe (future-time running down from the top), festooned by myriad lights, I imagine, as luminous quasars stationed within populous galaxy clusters (if one squints during a dedicated survey of the tree, it very much enhances in the appreciation through illusion) topped off by a very fine representation of the big bang singularity at the tip of the light-cone tree of “ever-branching ramifications”…as long as it’s not some horribly obnoxiously anthropmorphic angelic fugure. (I once was introduced by a friend to the one of the creepiest things of any kind I had ever seen: a battery-powered “angel” that slowly moved and flexed it’s wings; to be sure, it was very VERY well done and engineered…but the effect was overwhelmingly CREEPY. But I have always most admired the more (traditionally popular European) crowning ornament at the pinnacle that spires off to a decently needle-like point: a fine representation of a cosmic singularity pointing to nothingness. And the ornaments? They are lovely representations of additional bubble universes that have been custom-designed by advanced technological civilizations that don’t give a hoot about what critters as collectively stupid as humans are are up to.

    I also have an alternatively symbolic way of looking at the cross: whenever I encounter a crucifix – whether there is representation of a human hanging on it or not – I simply regard it as “X Marks The Spot” – the common mathematical shorthand variable “x” extended symbolically to represent the endpoint of lives. On that system “asterisks” suitably represent birth. (Anybody remember the opening of the old Ben Casey series, with the symbols drawn on the blackboard?).

    BTW: Cuttlefish? Yes, an artist I be, and I’ve been entranced by every one of your marvelous poem-posts! A very MERRY WINTER SOLSTICE to you! But I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks and offer a deep bow of appreciation to PZ, especially, and to all of his many stout-hearted friends and stalwart defenders of truth all, likewise, for having provided me with a valuable source of information and delightful diversions throughout the year, on my heart, I wish upon you all, a Happy Solstice!

  26. #26 currie jean
    November 30, 2008

    Just bought some. Awesome. :)

  27. #27 Reynold
    November 30, 2008

    I prefer Agnostica myself:

    Agnostica is the only truly secular winter celebration. It is a celebration for the scientist in all of us, celebrating not some contrived story written thousands of years ago and translated seventeen times over until the Hebrew word for “rope” gets turned into “camel,” and then inexplicably the whole deal is replaced by consumer-frenzy dictated to us by a fat child-labor mogul in a fur-lined red suit, but rather of ourselves, the perfect self-defining nature of the universe, and of being proud of the human intellect.

    It includes such traditions as:
    It’s up to you, of course, but the following help:
    A theme of dressing as your favorite scientist of yore
    Glögi
    A Schrödinger Box
    Mobius Chains
    Mystery Punch
    A Random Bag of Fun

  28. #28 Jared
    November 30, 2008

    I actually mail out Summer and Winter Solstice cards as well as Spring and Autumn Equinox cards. Harvest cards are also done occasionally…

  29. #29 Mystyk
    November 30, 2008

    I second Reynold @ #27. I came in this thread to post pretty much the same thing.

  30. #30 Leigh Williams
    November 30, 2008

    Thank you, Arnosium Upinarum. I enjoyed reading your post.

    The holiday is the Winter Solstice. Almost everything that symbolizes it in the general culture . . . the evergreen tree; the holly, mistletoe, and evergreen hangings; the yule log; the feasting, especially the ham; Santa and his reindeer; even the ringing of bells . . . comes from Solstice celebrations.

    I am myself a Christian, so the holiday has additional significance to me. But that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s a special time for everyone, not exclusively for Christians.

    I’m a big fan of “Happy Holidays”, myself. It seems to me that greeting is more in tune with the notion of “on earth, peace, goodwill to men.”

  31. #31 Reynold
    November 30, 2008

    I prefer Agnostica myself:

    Agnostica is the only truly secular winter celebration. It is a celebration for the scientist in all of us, celebrating not some contrived story written thousands of years ago and translated seventeen times over until the Hebrew word for “rope” gets turned into “camel,” and then inexplicably the whole deal is replaced by consumer-frenzy dictated to us by a fat child-labor mogul in a fur-lined red suit, but rather of ourselves, the perfect self-defining nature of the universe, and of being proud of the human intellect.

    It includes such traditions as:
    It’s up to you, of course, but the following help:
    A theme of dressing as your favorite scientist of yore
    Glögi
    A Schrödinger Box
    Mobius Chains
    Mystery Punch
    A Random Bag of Fun

  32. #32 Reynold
    November 30, 2008

    Whoops. Bloody double post. Sorry. It didn’t go through the first time, then I went away from the computer for a while and forgot about that.

  33. #33 negentropyeater
    November 30, 2008

    In French, we use the word “Noël” for Christmas.

    Now here’s an example of a word whose etymology was actually changed by the Catholic church.

    The real etymology comes from the pagan Gaulois words noio hel which means new light and signifies the winter solstice.
    Note that the etymology from noiohel to noël is direct.

    But of course the Catholics had to give it another meaning and went up and cook a perfectly ridiculous etymology with the words natalis dies (day of birth).

    Still to this day, most French dictionaries refer only to the second etymology, the fake Christian one, and ignore the original pagan one !
    Who would have thought that the Church could possibly have changed the meaning of words ?

  34. #34 JackC
    November 30, 2008

    @negentropyeater #33: “Who would have thought that the Church could possibly have changed the meaning of words ?”

    How about anyone that reads Snopes, understands how and why dictionaries come about, or knows that most languages on Earth are not quite like Latin – and are living?

    Words have history, not meaning. When an influential body “decides” things mean one thing and not another, history manages to, if not change, then at least become distorted.

    Yeah – it upsets me too. But there it is.

    JC

  35. #35 Christoph Zurnieden
    November 30, 2008

    […] the Hebrew word for “rope” gets turned into
    “camel,”[…]

    No, it was Greek (The “New Testament” is all Greek, at least to me and a lot of others here, as it seems):
    καμιλως = anchor rope
    καμηλως = camel
    It’s a difference of only one stroke of the pen, so it’s pardonable this time, I think.

    CZ

  36. #36 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 30, 2008

    –Arnosium Upinarum @#25–

    [front]
    As we battle our way through the line at the store
    And think to ourselves “there has got to be more”
    And wonder where “Christmas of long ago” went,
    When the meaning of Christmas was what it first meant…

    [inside]
    It was stolen by Christians from heathens, of course–
    From Greeks and from Romans, from Celtics and Norse–
    Why, Christmas is pagan, from yule-log to tree
    To mistletoe waiting for you and for me

    The meaning of Christmas–the good stuff, at least–
    The ornaments, stockings, and “rare Who roast beast”
    Has nothing to do with a Son of God’s birth
    But rather the changing of seasons on Earth

    The nights now grow shorter, the days will grow longer,
    The rays of the sun (and our spirits) grow stronger!
    So celebrate Solstice, rejoice in the season,
    And love one another whatever the reason!

    more at
    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/11/atheist-holiday-cards-part-one.html

  37. #37 Christoph Zurnieden
    November 30, 2008

    grrrrr!
    these omegas should be omicrons of cause, sorry!
    καμιλος = anchor rope
    καμηλος = camel

    CZ

  38. #38 Diego
    November 30, 2008

    Another savior was born on the 25th as well. This latter day messiah of steel drums and drinking songs is still with us today. Praise Jimmy Buffett!

  39. #39 Robin Zebrowski
    November 30, 2008

    I’ve been celebrating Newtonmas for years. Eventually I’ll get around to setting up Newtonmas.com, which I registered a year before I started my dissertation. I’m told eventually professorial life calms down so I’m sure I’ll be getting to it soon!

  40. #40 Splatador
    November 30, 2008

    It’s funny because Newton would have considered this completely blasphemous…

  41. #41 Kaydon_the_dinosaur
    November 30, 2008

    No, Mithras is the real reason for the season! And also the celebration of Saturnalia! All these johnny-come-lately religions can fuck off!

  42. #42 tsg
    December 1, 2008

    @Happy Spirochete #11

    Don’t forget that for all his genius, Newton was a bit of a mystic and religious zealot…

    Don’t forget that this was also over 300 years ago when very few people weren’t mystics or religious zealots and managed to be a brilliant scientist anyway.

  43. #43 squidflakes
    December 1, 2008

    Wooo! Its Squidmas time again! I plan on celebrating the 10 days of Squidmas with good food, good drinks, good friends, and good stories about how that one time, a squid stole my dive knife.

  44. #44 Ann
    December 1, 2008

    What the hell is this non-sequiturial “camel/rope” sub-conversation about? You can’t just toss out a random and bizarre piece of info like that and not explain it–unless you’re just begging for attention. OK. I’ll bite. In what context was “rope” turned into “camel” and what’s the significance?
    And Arnosium, just rehashing info–at length–that most of us know already is kind of dickish.

  45. #45 Christoph Zurnieden
    December 1, 2008

    What the hell is this non-sequiturial “camel/rope” sub-conversation about?

    - isn’t “There’s somebody wrong on the internet!” reason enough?

    - Arthur Schopenhauer used that quote in “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung” (1843) with ‘rope’ instead of ‘camel’

    - it’s an obvious typo and/or shows some sense of humor in some of the translating and/or copying monks

    - it was a good chance to link to a silly piece of software without attracting much of attention

    - you cannot hang yourself with a camel

    And last, but far from least:

    - somebody was wrong on the internet!

    CZ

  46. #46 hery
    January 25, 2010

    Anybody who looks at the evidence and has a gram of sense can easily conclude that the Christmas holiday

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