From Jonathan Gelbord, research associate in astrophysics at Penn State:
We always knew that Penn State football was like a religion. Now we know which religion.
Much better than the “JoePa to Notre Dame?” jokes.
I guess you realize this is an insult to Catholics. Your goal is to insult all Catholics?
Agree with Scott H. Steve, I’ve loved reading your blog for a while now, but, as a Catholic, I found this very insulting.
I am not a Catholic, but I do agree that this quote is a bit out of line.
For those being too defensive, it could just as easily have been a baptist church, since there have been some scandals with some baptist churches down south in the past. All things like the scandals in baptist churches and the catholic church prove is that there is evil in this world and sometimes it is hard to discern which is which. So, it is better to poke fun at our own failings and move on than to get too defensive.
Frankly, I have no idea what you’re all talking about…
Ok, I get it now. No, not an insult to Catholics. Just a terribly, terribly tactless statement about a serious social problem.
So what’s the joke? A famous coach got fired because one assistant coach told him he saw an ex-coach do something in 2002, and after 9 years of no one thinking that there was anything criminal about it, all of a sudden it is a great crime. I think that Paterno is being railroaded.
Paterno being railroaded? I assumed the Fighting Irish would charter a Concorde for their new coach.
This isn’t just about Paterno. Somebody in the Penn State football program saw a Penn State coach raping a 10-year old and did nothing (except tell others in the program, who also did nothing in the end). They just told the guy not to bring any more little kids onto the campus; what he did elsewhere was his own business, I suppose. So he went on doing it elsewhere. You can’t excuse that, any more than you can excuse the church’s cover-ups.
Yeah, when I hear about believers rioting I always think “Catholics” …
Which is funnier, the joke or those who don’t get it?
I don’t get the joke at all. Hopefully someone will explain it, once the funniness of the fact that some of us don’t get it wears off.
@Jonathan Campbell: Louis Armstrong expalined it best, “if you has to ask you’ll never understand.”
And no that’s not just a flippant answer, it really does address why the joke is funny, the mechanism of the joke as it were.
@Jonathan: A friend has prevailed on me to elaborate. “Krugman fans read the blog and they will need help.”
“Which religion” is singular, it indicates there is one and only one religion that can fit. In view of the hushed up child abuse AND the riots, is that true? Can a seemingly clear and unambigous statement be taken in two different ways? That’s amphibole.
See? once it’s explained it’s not as funny.
Scott, BCL, and David:
Note that he didn’t name any specific religion.
Reminds me of the old joke:
“There’s one member of the faculty who’s a complete nincompoop.”
“Hey, I resent that!”
I agree with Ken B (as usual). How is this an insult to Catholics? Steve never mentioned a specific religion, so it is only your own assumption that creates the insult.
Alan Gunn: Somebody in the Penn State football program saw a Penn State coach raping a 10-year old and did nothing
Allegedly. That is one guy’s story, and there is no corroborating evidence.
That guy who supposedly saw the rape and did nothing is being treated as a hero by the prosecutor, and is not being punished.
They just told the guy not to bring any more little kids onto the campus; what he did elsewhere was his own business, I suppose. So he went on doing it elsewhere.
The campus is not a day care center for little kids. It seems possible that there was insufficient evidence for any stronger legal action. Doesn’t anyone believe in innocent until proven guilty” anymore?
@Ron et al.
Do you read the news?
It would be like me describing the Catholic church as a college football program. Now we know what program.
In the context of current events how stupid would you have to be not to get Penn State there? Your protests about no one being able to guess the religion are asinine. Why would it be quote of the day if there was NO WAY to know what the guy was talking about???
Ok, I get it now. I was thrown off by Mike H’s claim that this was not an insult to Catholicism, so I thought there was something deeper. It now seems clearly to just be a joke about Catholicism. (And for those who say it could apply to any religion, if that were true, it would hardly be a joke).
And Ken B, I find your comment incomprehensible, as well as an indication that you don’t understand the joke. And I wasted about 30 seconds googling what appears to be a kind of mineral. If in the future you use words I don’t know, I’ll just assume you’ve misused them and not pursue them any further on the internet.
I’ve got another joke. We always knew that stories like the Penn State scandal draw lawsuits like flies to manure. Now we know which religion.
It appears I mispelt. Try amphiboly. It is not quite 100% clear though, and I cite this using the spelling I gave
and also this http://www.drbilllong.com/MoreWords/AmbiguityII.html
Since the root is Greek one would expect the -e ending but the -y ending does seem preferred. I amend. It’s amphiboly.
It seems to many of the rest of us to NOT be just a joke about Catholicism. Or a joke not just about catholicism.
Inspired by Jonathan Campbell I did some googling and some duckduckgo-ing. I have found several uses of amphibole spelt thus. Here ia another http://rob-lundberg.blogspot.com/2010/07/monday-morning-definitions-assumptions.html and another http://www.puritans.net/curriculum/logic.pdf and yet another http://www.rochester.edu/college/rel/faculty/wierenga/REL111/outlines/omnis.html
The common thread is that these seem to be references about logic (which perhaps JC’s being unaware of them). Anyway I am now convinced that the -y spelling is correct, but that in making this error I am in good compane.
@ Roger Schlafly
“Innocent until proven guilty” is a notion that applies in court proceedings. It makes no sense to apply it to questions of when to call the police. If you did that, you’d never call them, because people are innocent until proven guilty and why call the cops on an innocent person. (Same with hearsay, which I mention because a few people on other blogs have said Paterno had no obligation to report anything because he had only hearsay.)
The only “legal action” anybody expected Paterno to take was reporting this to the authorities, which he didn’t do. The coach who saw the rape might have considered trying to stop it, but he didn’t
@Alan Gunn: Good rejoinder.
There are three areas of modern life where people rush to make excuses: politics, religion, and sports. Since this post jabs at two of them you have expect more than the usual amount of denial and obfuscation.
Alan and Ken, I guess that you are saying that you believe Paterno is guilty until proven innocent. Or maybe you are trying to say that you would report nasty rumors about your friends to the police, even if you believed the rumors to be false.
Paterno did pass the info on to the authorities, his bosses at the university. That was his legal obligation, at most. We do not know that McQueary witnesses a crime, or that McQueary told Paterno about a suspected crime, or that Paterno believed that a crime occurred. We just have the story that McQueary decided to tell 9 years later, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It seems more likely to me that McQueary did not believe that a crime occurred, because he did not intervene and did not report it to police, even after careful consideration.
Ken B: Why don’t you get back to giddily explaining that the crux of this joke is that the phrase “which religion” is singular (and trying to make your point with misspelled words whose meanings you don’t know). That was more entertaining.
Ken: Right on the money.
People get angry about it, but evidence points that some areas of the Catholic Church and the Penn State football program have covered up significant abuses of children. Get angry all you want about it, doesn’t change reality.
I think you’ve already figured out that, ironically, Ken B. didn’t get the joke.
Look inward at your profession.
As for Jonathan C and Scott H, I suppose the ones offended by (part of) the joke are the ones unable to see how truly elegant and clever it is, killing two birds with one stone.
@Roger: I think I am guilty of believing what Paterno says about what Paterno did. Or did not do. He does not deny he failed to inform the police. But in any event the joke isn’t about Paterno, majestically alone, oddly unmentioned. There was a failure to report by the entire hierarchy (again this is admitted) and a seeming cover up; there was a riot by the followers of the “religion”. See again my two birds/one stone comment.
@Scott H: “I guess you realize this is an insult to Catholics. Your goal is to insult all Catholics?” You do realize you are asking the guy who made a post about how catholics think human flesh tastes like crackers, and human blood tastes like wine?
Ken B, only 2 officials have been charged with failing to report, and Paterno is not included. They have plead guilty, and have not admitted guilt. I think that it is unlikely that they will be found guilty.
The joke seems to be that you are prejudiced against Penn State in the same way as the Catholic Church.
Roger wants to talk about Paterno, and only Paterno, as a distraction from the fact that the whole hierarchy is involved. Anyway herwith some facts
McQueary told Paterno what he saw the next day, and the coach notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and the vice president, Glenn Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier. Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to authorities, as required by state law.
Both men, as well as Paterno, testified that they were told that Sandusky behaved inappropriately in that 2002 incident, but not to the extent of McQueary’s graphic account to a state grand jury.
The people that referenced as being sodomized in the previous post by the baptist church were in fact friends that had been victimized by ministers in the baptist church, when I was in high school. It was an evil act and had I walked in on it, I would have probably killed him. Instead, the man went to prison, was sodomized and murdered. I think justice was done, just as it will be done in the case of Sandusky, regardless of the outcome. If you go to prison on those charges, you are going to be meeting up with a lot of people keen to prevent you from every victimizing anyone again by any means necessary.
Obligatory reference – Louis CK learns about the catholic church:
For those who have made the observation that no specific religion was made — how does that make this ‘joke’ appropriate? Comparing the moral violations at Penn State to an unnamed religion with the audiance left to fill in the blanks is still neither amusing nor appropriate.
@David: Mocking the moral pretensions of such religions is appropriate and productive. Note the excuse making we have seen, the purblind denials, not just here but widely. Those denials do real harm, and they are legitimated by the bogus claims to morality and probity of the religions involved. Puncturing that unearned sanctity is a good thing.
Same applies to sports.
Scott H: yes I did realize that, that is quite funny.
Sigh. Here are 3 jokes. Which is funniest?
1. We always knew that Penn State football was like a religion. Now we know *which* religion.
2. We always knew that Penn State football was like a religion. Catholicism.
3. We always knew that Penn State football was like a religion. Islam.
I think this quote explains nicely why this joke can be considered hillarious:
“Steve, I’ve loved reading your blog for a while now, but, as a Catholic, I found this very insulting.”
In order to get the joke, this reader had to think something along these lines:
“Hmmm, they are talking about institutionalized child abuse, which religion could they talk about? They MUST be talking about the catholic church. I’m offended!”
In order to be offended by the joke you must first make the offensive inference yourself only to be angry at … youself (?!?), I guess – hillarious stuff.
Until I got to your post, I thought Ron was the only one who got it.
Why is the Penn State Football program suddenly in the news in a novel and ubiquitous way? Is the primary driver of the story child-abuse or student protests?
I guess when you are ignorant a lot of things can seem funny. However, ignorance is usually not considered a precondition for getting a joke.
@Scott H: Just a bit of advice: better to be funny with wit than laughable from anger.
Of course there is more attention on Penn state due to the child molestation. Who ever denied that? What has that to do with whether the joke turns on the careful lack of specifying the target of the comparison? Equally, is that the only POSSIBLE way to take the remark? If not, how can you be so sure?
OK, in your case we all know how you can be so sure, but in the general case …?
A waste, adding unnecessary insult to the injury
@Roger: “The joke seems to be that you are prejudiced against Penn State in the same way as the Catholic Church.”
The catholic church is prejudiced against Penn State?
You do have a point. The catholic church has been proven in court to have covered up and facilitated child rape on a massive scale, internationally, for decades. Penn State has not, and Penners have every right to be insulted at the comparison to the catholic church in this regard. That seems not to be the reaction of Scott H and several others here.
Here is just one case, quite an old one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_Inquiry
In your example case, 11 monks were convicted of abuse that allegedly took place in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The Catholic Church was not found guilty of anything.
Thought more about this. The person quoted and the person posting the quote here are saying something clever without saying it. In similar situations, to avoid or minimize offense to others it is customary to use ones own ethnicity or religion as the target. I have no reason to believe that the originator of the quote or the poster intend offense to anyone so they must be referencing their own religion.
@Roger: Not quite as you describe it. The Hughes Inquiry was a Canadian royal commission which concluded that officials had transferred offenders and covered up the sexual abuse at Mount Cashel. Those officials were officials of the Roman Catholic Church. This was a coverup, and the transfers had the effect of facilitating further abuses by moving predators to new territories where their proclivities were not known. In 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Roman Catholic Church was liable, and later the Newfoundland SC made a similar ruling.
That the events took place in the 50s, 60s, and 70s in no way diminishes them or reduces guilt. In fact it proves my claim that this was a decades long practice.
Interesting reading http://www.therecord.com/news/world/article/562599–fourth-report-on-catholic-church-coverup-of-child-abuse-in-ireland-blames-bishop-vatican Note that a church inquiry matched the finding of a coverup. Older still http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/06/eveningnews/main566978.shtml
Ken B, your claim was about the Catholic Church having been proven in court to be guilty of a coverup. In fact, no Church official in the case you mention was proved in court to be responsible for a coverup. A commission alleged it, but it was never proved.
It is significant that your best example is something that supposedly took place 50 years ago. Yes, a claim being that old does reduce its likelihood of guilt.
You also claim that the whole Penn State hierarchy is involved in the Sandusky case, but your evidence is just one guy’s claim about some 2002 conversations, and his claim is hotly disputed.
I think that you have some sick prejudices.
RandomWords: You seem to be arguing with people who say that this joke is offensive, yet all you argue that it is hilarious. Are you saying that since it is hilarious, it must not be offensive?
Many ethnic/racial jokes also likely employ the technique of requiring the listener to make the “offensive inference” — does that make these jokes not offensive? E.g. suppose there is a country, Alphastan, where there are 2 races of people, X and Y, who do not get along with each other at all. Also they drink different kinds of beer. Race X people only drink Rolling Rock and Race Y only drink Heineken. The country is fighting a deadly war against another country, Enemystan. Suppose someone of race Y says
“You know what, I don’t think our soldiers are being courageous enough in our war against Enemystan. We need them to be willing to die for their country. You know what I think we should do? Tell our soldiers that Rolling Rock is served in heaven. And come to think of it, that will solve another problem we have…”
You may or may not find race-based jokes offensive, and you may not find this to be a very offensive race-based joke, but it should be no less offensive than the (less funny) version that had the person simply say “we to trick our soldiers of Race X into being more willing to die.”
Like most humor, this one arises from a sudden change in meaning or interpretation. When we say supporting Penn is like a religion, we mean it shares properties with following all religions, not that it is like a particular religion. However, when the joke says “now we know which one”, the meaning is suddenly shifted to another interpretation – that supporting Penn is like a particualr religion. This was never the original meaning, and we have to do a bit of work to understand – then there is that sudden light bulb moment in the brain and we say “I get it – he has shifted the meaning! He has confounded our expectations. Ha ha!” It is funnier than saying “it is like a religion – catholicism”, because we have to work it out for ourselves before the realisation hits.
As to whether it is offensive, that is up to the individual, I suppose. Jokes can be offensive in part because they reinforce negative stereotypes. Does this one do so? Yes, clearly it does, even though there is just as clearly truth in the problems of covering up child abuse in the catholic church. Religion is a matter of choice, so religionist is not necessarily racist, although it can be if most members of a religion are from a particular race. Jews and Muslims come under that catagory in the USA, I am not sure about Catholics – presumably catholicism is more prevalent in descendents of Irish and Italian immigrants and among Mexicans. Therefore reinforcing anti-catholic stereotypes could easily have the effect of reinforcing racism, even if there was no such intention.
Personally, I find this joke a bit “edgy”, quite close to the offensive, but funny enough to get away with it.
Do I have to do everything on this site? First I’ve got to explain the joke to Ken B. Now I have to explain why its offensive and crosses a line? Btw… I can’t believe this task falls to an atheist.
Here we go. The joke does not insult the Catholic Church. It doesn’t insult the leadership of the Catholic Church. No, the joke points to the religion and therefore the Catholic faith itself. Not only that, but the insult is that the faith is somehow tied up in child abuse. As if it’s the religion of sexual child abuse. When you start targeting a faith, the followers can feel a little uneasy.
I turn this around for myself. If someone calls out or makes fun of other atheists, I really don’t mind. However, if they want to insinuate, because of other atheist’s actions, that atheism is the belief system of child rape… well, I’d begin to worry about where this is going.
Be it resolved: 1) This statement is offensive to some people. 2) It is funny to some people.
Some Catholics are offended by this? Really? The phrase “You are just as morally misguided…” springs to mind – sadly I can’t quote the rest, but you can listen for yourself. http://vimeo.com/11338327
@Roger: My ‘best’ example? No, just one that comes to mind as I am Canadian. For better examples look to Ireland or Boston. And again, the log period of abuse at Mt cashel proves the conspiracy was long term.
Bishops are officials of the catholic church.
Neil: great point but I think it misses the sense of the house which is more along these lines: 1) it is offensive to some people therefore 2) only sicko prejudiced people find it funny — which it is NOT NOT NOT NOT — and they don’t really get it anyway.
Better explanation for Ken B…
OK. I will go over this more completely. Amphiboly exists. However, one must have viable options for it to have any practical application. For instance, using your logic and that of RandomWords, when the Italian designer Galliano was caught on film saying “I love Hitler” he should have just come out the next day with this…
“Hey everyone, guess what. I didn’t mean Adolf Hitler, I meant William Patrick Hitler. It is well documented that WP Hitler repudiated all the beliefs of his Uncle Adolph. Haven’t you heard of amphiboly? It’s really funny. Anyway, the great part is that YOU had to make the reference yourself. Therefore, in order to assume that I was talking about Adolf Hitler you can only be mad at yourselves. Ha Ha. See? You are now the very caricature of the self loathing jew. That is funny too. Also, anything you say in your defense or against me can just be chalked up to people being emotional about their religion. Hilarious!”
Why is the statement above not credible? Because WP Hitler is not a viable option for amphiboly. In public discourse there is only one Hitler; no one would buy that line of BS. Similarly, no other religion is a viable option for Gelbord’s joke. Your Islam reference doesn’t even make sense. The protest links are weak, very weak. The best is could do is reach a totally ancillary level of consideration.
For a good treatment of the type of thinking necessary to evaluate this please go to any of Landsburg’s well written posts about (beyond) reasonable doubt. To convict someone it’s not critical to eliminate ALL doubt, just reasonable doubt. I can’t see the standard being beyond that to eliminate the defense of amphiboly.
@Scott H: “Defence of amphiboly”? I did an experiment. I asked someone I know which religion was meant. He answered Islam, citing the riots. I asked him if he thought it fit catholicism too. He said yes.
here’s a nice example for you. Scott H asks the Delphic oracle “what will happen if I rant about Hitler and amphiboly.” the oracle answers “One of the commenters will look foolish.”
What bothers me about this whole thread was not the ambiguous quote of the day but the comments afterwards describing it or insinuating it as a joke and being funny or hilarious. I personally don’t think child abuse is an amusing topic so I feel it’s insensitive.
@Al: Is it insensitive if it helps to achieve any of the following goals?
1. Make people aware of the denials and cover ups of a certain church I will shall not name
2. Strips churches of the sanctity they hide behind in cases like this.
3. Makes people reject the idea that such abuse can be justified by claims about some amorphouas greater good.
I think the mockery — which is aimed at the religions and their pretenstions not the abuse itself — does contribute a wee mite to those goals. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest you look at the other other offeneded posters here: they are offended not by child abuse but by the mockery of the religion. that suggests I am right.
@Paul Crowley: Great! Perfectly put.
@ Ken B.
n=1 experiment. Nice. I think I see the “one of the commenters will look foolish” link here.
Btw… your conclusion that there are people here not offended by child abuse is totally without base. Your posts show that you are missing basic reasoning (and spelling) skills. You roll out too many logical fallacies. I don’t care if your friends are also mentally challenged.
You know what they say about arguing with a fool… So, I won’t be posting on this subject anymore. Knock yourself out.
1 suffices for a counter example Scott.
yeah, Jonathan Gelbord, is a real card. Catholics and Baptists seem to be fodder for the clever bigots out there.
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