Thursday, November 30, 2006

Know your Bible!

I find this guy's illustration of bible verses kinda funny, but some of them are highly disturbing/NSFW. You have been forewarned.

It's something that makes you think about how absurd taking the bible literally is by pairing pictures with the verses.

A look into what them Scientologists do

I've been a bit fascinated with Scientology as a religion. As a relatively new religion, it's interesting to see how it is spreading & growing. If this is what they really go through, how is Scientology attractive to anyone? (I can't get the google videos to clip right into my blog... I'll have to figure out what's wrong with that.)

These drills are supposed to be for communicating with people, but it would seem to me rehearsing communication would tend to make any communication in-authentic.

I'd never want to join a club that would put me through these kinds of drills. Especially because there is no rationale behind any of it. It reminds me of busy-work, but with more of a goal of breaking down one's personality. I got bored just watching this! I can't imagine actually experiencing these trials. I'd quit pretty damn fast.

I dunno how Scientology got to be a religion, I guess it's just because they believe some crazy supernatural things, and enough people joined to bump it above cult status. Their orientation video doesn't provide me with any desire to become a member of their craziness. As far as I can tell, it's just a system for selling crap books... there are plenty of Christian "churches" who are more than happy to sell you their crap books/materials as well. I'm very wary of any group (religious or otherwise) that, in order to join/move up the ladder, has me buy their crap.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does religion in school promote rejection of religion?

This is the sort of thing I really wish I had statistics on. Do kids who had religious education as part of their school curriculum grow up more likely to abandon that religion as adults?

I was not aware that kids in England had mandatory Religious Education in schools. And I am not certain about how most Christian kids get their religious education, thou I have seen parts of the Jesus Camp Documentary:

& Reviews of it:

Does this making Jesus/God fun for youth, instead of just educating them about their religion, make these kids more hard-fast in their beliefs? (Aside from the obvious brain-washing some of these kids are experiencing.)

I went to Catholic school. I was educated about my religion. Religion class was about memorizing prayers and a work-book with a smiling, very anglo-looking, cartoon-Jesus. We didn't sing rock songs; we went to mass on holy days & sang old-time hymns. It wasn't exciting in the least (except when one of the boys made fart-sounds with his shoes mid-mass, and we'd all try not to giggle). And since Religion was part of my education, I felt compelled to actually think about it. Religion wasn't fun/games, it was serious stuff, with lots of rules to follow, lots of formality.

Would I have stayed religious if it was more fun? Would I have thought less about religion if it wasn't taught in classes in school?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Watch some Creation Science Evangelism

They take the Bible literally & try to debunk evolution using the Bible.

Really, watch it. This is what people believe. Many listen to Dr. Kent Hovind. (This guy's been avoiding his taxes.)

Watch, listen to his "evidence" and at the same time read along for explanations of his lies.

First, you can tell they just don't like the idea that humans aren't special:

I don’t know why anyone objects to having evolved from simpler life forms. Creationists are always making fun of great-grandparents being monkeys, or here; soup. What's wrong with that again? My body is made completely of chemicals that are found in the earth. By this point in my life my body has replaced my entire skeleton at least once, and my skeleton is made of calcium... gee... lots of rocks are made of calcium. Every other chemical in my body got there cuz I ate it at one point or another. I eat the cow, the cow eats the grass, the grass grows from nutrients in the ground.... ok, so I'm a more complicated rock with chemical processes going on inside. What's wrong with that?

They claim the earth isn't over 6000 years old (because if you add up everyone's age in the bible, that's around when Adam shoulda been born):

Today's estimates of world population extend to at least 8000 BCE. The population boom we currently are experiencing is due to technology; better medicine & better food. Even 100 years ago many more women died in child-birth, many more children died of diseases we now get vaccinated for, and many more adults died from things doctors now cure with routine procedures. It took almost all of the 6.5 million years humans have been around for us to move beyond hunter/gatherer. (And agriculture might not be the best idea for human nutrition anyways, but that's a different topic.)

So the charts he presents as a time-line are not accurate and therefore prove nothing.

They claim the earth isn't over crowded since there's 6 billion square feet in Florida:

But it's not about how much earth one can stand on; it's how much earth (farmland) it takes to feed a person. Sustainability. Most of the open land he talks about is either 1) barren or 2) already used as farmland to feed those billions. Only 13% of the land on earth is suitable for growing crops. And crops like corn, potatoes, and rice, don't have true nutrition variety. The world’s oceans were once full of nutritious stuff to eat, but we know that's not going so well these days. And this guy obviously hasn't ever stepped foot in India or Beijing... just telling people to move isn't the solution when these people can hardly afford to eat (half the world's population live on than less $2 a day) let alone to pack up & move themselves & buy land elsewhere. Global estimates of the number of squatters (people who don't own or rent; just occupy their living space) over one billion people, with 200,000 added every day.

So these Christians beliefs are more than just anti-evolution; they are anti-population-stabilization & anti-environmentalists. They think their god is telling them to keep breeding, he will provide (with government subsidies). It's very scary, and as far as I'm concerned; very selfish. What's so wrong with a world of better people instead of just a world full of more people living insufferable lives, waiting to die of starvation & disease?

(He briefly brings up vaccines, with links to where you can buy his books on the subject;, I think I'll avoid that subject for right now.)

Then he moves on to space & galaxies. This is going to get more complex than I can explain decently. Talk Origins does a LOT of debunking. The above is just what was easy enough for me to discover on my own. I may take the easy way out for some of these though & reference Talk Origins where I can, since I'm not even 20min into the video at this point.

He thinks spiral galaxies should loose their shape. Not true. (Note also he is quoting scientists from over 20 years ago; science has progressed a lot in the past 20 years, he should take the time to read some updated books, but I'm sure he's just used to the bible that hasn't changed in the past 2000 years)

He questions novas/super novas. "If the universe is billions of years old, how come there are less than 300 super nova?" That's just wrong. Astronomers find between 300 & 400 supernovae a year! And of course that's only the ones we have seen out of the ones we can see from earth.

Then: stellar evolution. Even thou it's referred to stellar evolution; only living things truly evolve. Stars are chemical processes and a single entity. True evolution involves living beings (plural) and evolution isn't losing or gaining; it's becoming better equipped to the environment. (Plenty of animals that now live in caves or deep waters once had sight but evolved to no longer have eyes because they were unneeded.)

He specifically refers to Sirius being a white dwarf, because it's color being disputed. This is probably because stars were only seen with the naked eyes until the 1600s. Why does he quote ancient astronomers who had no telescopes? And how do old accounts of a single star prove anything?

Now on to the planets!

First; all the planets are still cooling off, they started off really, really hot, and totally cool is 0-degrees Kelvin; nothing ever gets that cold. Further explanation on the cooling of Saturn & Jupiter at Talk Origins.

Saturn’s rings don't have to be as old as Saturn itself.

What's up with the distance of the moon from earth? Oh yea, the moon doesn't have to be as old as the earth either. (Note, he accepts that the moon goes around the earth... so he doesn't think the earth is flat... despite a few bible references one could find that might suggest such.)

What's about comets? (He even admits that short-period comets have a life of 10k years... isn't that more than the 6k he thinks the world has been around?) Well, some of them are old, and Oort's cloud isn't out of the question. (Oh yea, and a proposal isn't the same as a prayer/hope/wish in the least. I hate when people make-up or ignore definitions.)

By the way, how far into space can we see?

"The Hubble Space Telescope can see out to a distance of several billions of light-years. A light-year is the distance that light travels in 1 year. Since light has a speed of 186,000 miles per second (light can travel about 7 times around the entire earth in 1 second!), light travels about 5,865,696,000,000 miles in just one year. You can attach 9 more zeros to the end of this to get 1 billion light-years and another one for 10 billion light-years. The farthest that Hubble has seen so far is about 10-15 billion light-years away. The farthest area looked at is called the Hubble Deep Field."

(To me, this in/of itself proves him wrong & the universe is BILLIONS of years old. If the universe (everything god supposedly created) was only 6000 years old, we would only be able to see 6000 light years around us.)

Here's Matson's web arguments for anyone interested (Which probably do a better job than my own, but I still like my own arguments too.) And here's where the specific quote by Matson is taken out of context from. He's not shifting the burden of proof; he has proof for his cause so therefore creationists need to provide counter-evidence.

The earth's magnetic field? It's just fine the way it has been going, but it does wander a bit.

Why is Pangea smaller than today's land surface? Oh yea, because the earth might have been warmer then... more of the ice was water... so the sea-levels were higher.... and there's that problem of earth's plates shifting over/under each other & up thru the earths surface giving us them damned mountains everywhere.

A 14hr day isn't a problem a few billion years ago... ya know, before life? And I'm sure single-celled animals didn't have a problem with it for a few billion years. By the time land-dwelling animals came along 400 million years ago, the day was probably around 22hrs 45min long.

The Sahara isn't the oldest desert on earth, but it is 2.5 million years old, but the Namib Desert is 80 Million years old.

What about oil? It actually does squirt outta the earth on it's own sometimes. And it can be made faster by man, but not by the earth.

What about the pilots buried under the ice? Yea, they were on a glacier, in a different part of the world, which isn't the same as a stable ice-field, much farther north.

Why isn't the full Gulf of Mexico full of mud by now? Partially because the delta used to be further inland (that's why Louisiana sticks out some)... plus the Mississippi is actively being maintained where it is by man. Naturally it would change it's course thru history.

Why isn't the ocean saltier? Minerals settle at the bottom & fresh water keeps pouring in.

And then he goes on & says there isn't a big leap between fresh & salt-water gators... but you can't mate them together; they're different species & that's what evolution is; developing of new species. Spread out such small changes from one species to another over several hundred million years & sure enough evolution works out.

Stalactites & stalagmites grow at different rates in different caves... different amounts of water & different amounts of minerals.... Stop comparing them!! Arrrgg...

Does the Ground ever fall up? Well, nothing falls up, but earth-quakes & volcanoes sure as hell bring the earth up from below. It's called Plate Tectonics. As earth falls into the ocean, earth is being pushed up & over & all around.

Why were the first known languages so complex? Oh, cuz nobody could write down the simpler ones; they had to develop a good spoken language before someone figured out how to write it down. Same reason for calendars; nobody could write down what year it was until they figured out how to write. There are many simple languages still in existence, many of which didn't have a written form until the past several hundred years (I think of Native-American languages off hand).

And example of brainwashing is really a brain-teaser. When people aren't given all of the information; they will do their best to figure out a solution with the given facts. Sometimes they can be misled if they have made the wrong assumptions in the beginning. This is where critical thinking comes into play and we learn to question our own assumptions. This is why people question the bible. Children's books say lots of things that children don't always grow up to believe. In the end, even if teaching children is a form of brainwashing... how is his rhetoric less brainwashing?

Questions I'd have for him about this flood of the bible:

Where did all of this water come from & where did it go back to so suddenly?

If almost all the animals on earth died at once in a flood, wouldn't there be an awful smell?

Wouldn't we have found conclusive evidance of something that catastrophic?

When everyone got off Noah's boat; what did they eat?

Where did all the land plants come from? Noah wasn't told to have plants/seeds on the arc.

In general; how did people/plants/animals spread across the earth so fast?

And how come almost all of the marsupials are in Australia? (And other animals wound up in highly specific locations.)

How did native people get to North America if they didn't cross the land-bridge during the last ice-age?

And where did all the human races come from?

Etc. etc. etc.

Maybe I will have to look up some of these questions on Christian sites. I'd love to know their excuses answers

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is it really about "god"?

"Why...are the enlightened so conspicuously up in arms these days, reiterating every possible argument against the existence of God? Why are they indulging in books — Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell,” Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation,” and Richard Dawkins’s “God Delusion” — in which authors lampoon religion or rail against the devout under the banner of a crusading atheism?"

Entire article from Richard Shweder, NY-Times

I do understand that the battle against religion that is being waged by many atheists these days is a bit more than just about the "god" issue. In order to actually believe there is no god, one must be more than slightly educated. It doesn't take much education for one to find truth in bible stories, and most of us want to believe in them. But turning those stories on their head is science, and science isn't something that's as easy to understand, and it doesn't provide us with easy rewards. This adds to the feeling that many deists have that atheists talk down to them.

I was reading some-one's rant on vegetarians, and it made me think that maybe it's not so different with Atheists. There is a general smugness felt from vegetarians, whether they give it off, or it's just assumed because I know they're kinda right, is hard to say. They have to do more work for their food, but I really do feel if we all ate the way they ate, the world could be a better place. It's healthier, it takes less energy to feed a vegetarian than to feed a cow to feed a herbivore like myself, there's that issue of how animals are treated.... And the more one educates themselves about how their food gets from the farm to their plate, the more likely one wouldn't want to eat some of that food.

I'm not a vegetarian myself, but I think about it a lot. Somehow to me, the idea of god never tasted as good as a thick juicy steak, though I'm sure I could live a healthier life without either.

Scientists Talk About Religion: Part II

A few days ago I had a post about a forum for Scientists to talk about Religion. At you can watch some of the presentations. I haven't gone through them all, but they are absolutely wonderful. They definitely give me a lot to think about, and there are opinions from all sides of the issue.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wonderful telling of Bible stories

What would someone tell their children if they took all of the bible literally?

Although Beth was a good girl who said her prayers every night and always paid attention to her elders, she still found many things in life confusing. It was during these times of puzzlement that Beth sought a warm seat on her mother's lap. There, teased by smells drifting out from the kitchen, she would listen her mother's soft voice dispensing wisdom and kindness and love.

And so it was that Beth came home from school one day with a question for her mother.
"Mother," Beth said, "one of the kids at school told me that way back a long time ago people used to be monkeys. Is that true?"
Her mother smiled gently down at her, caressed her golden hair with one hand, and spoke in a soft, comforting voice. "Of course not, Dear One," she said. "That's a silly idea. People don't look much like monkeys, do they?"
"Well, no. But then where did people come from?" Beth asked.
"The Bible holds all the answers, Dear One. All you need to do is listen to its words and not ask too many questions. Come sit on the couch with me and I'll tell you a story from the Bible that will show you what I mean," said her mother....

Read on.

Dawkins Answers Questions

He handles questions on everything so nicely.

Swedes trust Ikea more than church.

I have to say, in the past year I've been to Ikea more times than I've been to church (weddings). And Ikea has some good cheap food too!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Polygamy bothers me.

Just reading this story by a Mormon sister-wife irks the heck outta me. It's just really depressing to me to read this woman's story; while she says she loves being a sister-wife, she doesn't seem really happy. To live in a house where the husband has to spread his limited attention between his wives plus his children I would think no one would feel satisfied and it would just be an atmosphere to breed jealousy. To hear them say that it's their religion, and they have no power, makes it even sadder.

Polygamy these days seems to mostly be practiced in this world for religious reasons.
Earlier this year TLC aired "My Husband's Three Wives," which I found absolutely fascinating (a bit of a summary here), but it wasn't about religion for those people (the husband wound up with 2 wives because he cheated on the 1st & got the 2nd pregnant). And while officially the Mormon church doesn't allow polygamy, many off-shoots support it. I have not seen the HBO show Big-Love, which center's on a Mormon-polygamist family, but being a written show, I don't expect it to be realistic. I've read other stories of polygamy online as well.

Marriage is not just a religious ceremony. Monogamy & polygamy and even abstinence & promiscuity are sexual aspects of the natural world that we, in all our wisdom as humans, try to formalize & rationalize. Religion just adds another layer of attempt at rationalization of love, telling people how and when and who to love. Mating for life with one individual, or mating with a whole bunch of people, both have their evolutionary advantages. None of the other great apes are monogamous; why would humans be?

I try not to be bias, but I can't accept the idea that polygamy is a good thing. I'm not sure if it's just my upbringing, or if it's really a genetic thing, but I cannot imagine living a non-monogamous life. Would it be different if I grew up in a large family or a house where I had several mothers? My father was/is not the most faithful man, would he have been more faithful to several wives? I have romantically loved more than one person in my life, but not at the same time. I'll admit that my feelings for one person may have strayed in the past, but now being married to one wonderful person who completes my life, I just can't imagine living any other way. If we were to invite someone else into our marriage I would feel lost and lonely without undivided affection. I also can't imagine having sex in front of other people, or not being allowed to satisfy myself now and then, as the woman in the article says they live their lives. Marriage is about compromise; not power. You win and lose together in a married couple, and that's hard enough, I can't imagine the amount of work to create a winning team.

I'm not sure if I object to polygamy as an atheist or just as a person. Maybe it really does work for some people even thou I don't understand it. But to know that people are brought up in a society where it is taught to be god's will, and that there aren't any other options for them, is what I must truly object to.

Stop saying "god Particle"

I commented on the search for the Higgs boson the other day, and here's someone else's objection to calling it the "god particle."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Scientists talk about religion

At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. a forum was held featuring scientists such as Steven Weinberg, Harold Kroto, Richard Dawkins, Carolyn Porco, and many more. They discussed science & religion, and if there is an in-between.

I admire Richard Dawkins a lot, but I do acknowledge his hostility towards religion as being very hard to swallow by many. I feel it is necessary to have a figure with such a point of view to counter the extremes of religion. It is difficult to prevent that love of science & reality from seeming just as fundamental. Religious fundamentals are often called to testify their faith to everyone; so is it an atheist's duty to testify the truth as well?

Is it an issue of luring flies with honey vs. swatting at them with a rolled up newspaper? Do we want complete conversion of believers in religion to reality? Or can we accept a belief in god in the end?

I took the Atheist test....

Ray Comfort (from the banana video) has for sale an Atheist Test. I think it's one of their pamphlets. I have decided to entertain it, despite the obvious that it's not a test. It's a list of questions with A)B)C) answers, and someone who doesn't think outside the box could, potentially, get tripped up by them.

First, it compares a Coke can to a banana, stating that both must be designed. This is of course true; man designed the Coke can & man designed the banana.

The person who thinks the Coca Cola can had no designer is:
___ A. Intelligent
___ B. A fool
___ C. Has an ulterior motive for denying the obvious

They don't give an answer, but you can tell they bait you to answer B or C. They then quote scientists out of context to kinda make you think these scientists believed in a creator.

The first is a quote from Charles Darwin's origin of species: "To suppose that the eye...could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." Of course this quote is missing words & out of context. Darwin continues "Yet reason tells me that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to it's possessor, can be shown to exist...then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection... can hardly be considered real."

He says if you use reason, it's not difficult to believe in evolution.

The quote by George Gallup is pointless; with a universe of billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars & billions of planets, and billions of years to play with; life as we know it isn't that unlikely to occur randomly.

Einstein also said "god does not play dice [with the universe]," but he did not believe in a personal god; he used the terms spirit and god very loosely.

A. Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder?
___ YES ___ NO

B. Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter?
___ YES ___ NO

C. Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker?
___ YES ___ NO

If you answered "YES" for any of the above, give details:

Here's my answer
A: Yes; caves. Many people & animals live in caves.
B: Yes; the sky, the mountains, flowers, etc. These things all influence those painters who use ink & canvas.
C: Yes; horses! Cars were once called "horseless carriages" so before auto-mobiles there were horses.

Am I cheating with my answers? Perhaps. For A, in my mind I replace "building" with "dwelling," since building implies "built." *tsk* baiting. For B, for the same reasons, in my mind I replace "painting" with "artwork." And again for C I'd replace "car" with "mode of transportation."

So when he goes on to ask if he dropped 50 oranges onto the ground, and by chance they'd fall into ten rows of five oranges; I'd say if you dropped them a few billion times, it'd probably happen.

A. From the atom to the universe, is there order?
___ YES ___ NO

B. Did it happen by accident?
___ YES ___ NO

C. Or, must there have been an intelligent mind?
___ YES ___ NO

D. What are the chances of 50 oranges falling by chance
into ten rows of five oranges? ______________________

If you answered "YES" for any of the above, give details:

A) No... or we're not sure. When you get down to what atoms are made of, some strange stuff goes on; random stuff. This is why a unified theory of physics hasn't happened yet.

B) Did the universe or the atom happen by accident? The universe I'd say yes, but atom; no. The atom formed due to the physical laws of this universe.

C) No. (And this shouldn't be an "or" question. Baiting.)

D) *shrug* That's not really something one could calculate & put numerical odds to, but I understand it's not likely if I did it. If everyone on earth did it, maybe one of them would have the oranges fall like that. What's the point again?

While saying "there is no god" may sound absolute; you cannot be made to prove a negative. In science you form a hypothesis, which is a positive (There is a god), and then test it & come up with a conclusion. This makes test 4 pointless;

What do I need to have for that statement to be true; "There is no gold in China."
A. No knowledge of China.
___ YES ___ NO

B. Partial knowledge of China.
___ YES ___ NO

C. Absolute knowledge of China.
___ YES ___ NO

They say "C" is the correct answer, but the question is wrong!
The testable hypotheses is; "There is gold in China."
The answer then is; go to China & look for gold where you'd be most likely to find it. If gold exists in China (aside from jewelry stores), using geology & science, we'd probably find it. So while I can't say that there aren't any ghosts or dragons in China, I'm fairly certain no one's ever found any.

Then they bait you some more; "If you are reasonable, you will have to say, "Having the limited knowledge that I have at present, I believe that there is no God." In other words, you don't know if God exists, so you are not an "atheist," you are what is commonly known as an 'agnostic.' You are like a man who looks at a building, and doesn't know if there was a builder." Then they move on to:

The man who sees a building and doesn't know if there was a builder is:
___ A. Intelligent
___ B. A fool
___ C. Has an ulterior motive for denying the obvious

Basically the same as question 1. So they want you to think that if you're agnostic; you're a fool. (a=b, b=c, therefore a=c)

Someone saying "I believe there is no God" does make them an atheist. If they say "I dunno" then they're agnostic. Not being able to prove there isn't a god doesn't make anyone anything.
But wait! The confusion tactics continue:
"...we have faith in plenty of things we don't understand. Did you understand the mechanics of television before you turned it on?" Er, turning on a TV isn't faith! If I try to turn on a busted TV, just believing it will work doesn't make it work. (I think that really is an insult to faith.) And saying god is like TV waves would probably be kinda insulting to god, if there was one.

The last test is the 10 Commandments; if you don't believe yet, let's guilt you into believing in god. I'm not about to post here which commandments I've broken. That's a personal thing; between me and whoever I hurt, no one else.

So, after all that, their argument is that you should just stop thinking. "Please, forget your arguments, repent and put your trust in Jesus and be saved from God's wrath."

Why did your god give me a brain if I'm not supposed to use it?

The Church of Reality!

After reading up on the Church of Reality, I like their principals. They openly admit to having a hidden agenda. But I think their 2nd "hidden agenda" is to get people to become Unitarians, but that's not all bad.

They bring up Unitarian Universalists several times. I've been to a Unitarian service once before, and while I enjoyed the service, I did think they were a little too accepting (they had ppl there who talked about Reiki, and Wiccans, and I'm just not for the supernatural crap), but that's part of their thing; everyone is welcome. So while right now I don't feel the need, I think that if I ever have children I would take them there on Sunday mornings. They promote teaching children what you believe while exposing them to other beliefs. It is a place for learning, while still providing that feeling of community, and I think the children who spoke there had a better grasp on religion overall because of what they learned & discussed. I didn't see Unitarianism so much as a religion as a learning opportunity and a community.

A promotion of learning & an inclusive community is not something to be found in most of the religious world.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Are atheists getting more popular?

Atheism has gotten a bad wrap recently, with that poll a few months ago showing that Atheists were more distrusted than any other group in America.

But these days, Atheism seems to be gaining a bigger crowed, with Scott Adams commenting on the new popularity of atheist characters on TV, and at the very least this poll showing how many people acknowledge the evils of religion.

Scott compares Atheism to the boom in popularity of gays, so who knows if we'll soon be seeing shows renovating the lives of religious people entitled "Clear eye for the Fundi-Guy."

Science is a Passion

Richard Dawkins always has good fodder for commenting on, and this article on why he is hostile towards religion is a good example. Fundamentalist Religion is always the easiest to pick on simply because it never changes; never allows for anything new to be learned because new could contradict with the old, and the old is what is right. Science is always looking for the new and the right.

He also presents an example of a personal struggle between science & religion, where Kurt Wise threw away his potential career in geology for his belief in the bible.

While I still reject the belief in the super-natural, there are times when I don't think religion is all bad. There are examples of people who have the strength to change their religious beliefs. This American Life had a great story of a Reverend who decided he no longer believed in hell, and what happened when he told his church. If all religion was a little more like his church, preaching inclusion, the world probably would be a better place, and religion would be a little easier for me to get along with.

Science searches for "god particle"

This "god particle" is better known as Higgs boson. I think articles like referring to it as the "god particle" thou because it gets a bit more attention that way. My first thought reading the headline from digg was "what's this now? Somehow god got a particle?" The name was given to indicate that this particle was somehow what tripped off the universe into existence. I believe it received the name "god particle" through the book of that name from 1993 by Leon Lederman.

The big bang is still quite a mystery, and while I understand a desire to understand it's beginnings, I think calling whatever initiated the universe the "god particle" is a bit of a misnomer. It does get people's attention, but I just think it's a tad in-appropriate.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's Bananas!

I'm sure almost anyone who might find their way to my site has seen this clip before:

It's been around a while, but I saw it somewhere recently and realized something; that's not what banana's look like in nature! Banana's have been genetically modified to look like that. Just like corn didn't come in the big ears we are familiar with from the super-market. Corn & bananas didn't get to be the foods we know & love until man started messing with them, breeding the biggest & tastiest ones together. Bananas have been cultivated for thousands of years, god didn't make them the way they are; man did. Check out how some bananas look in nature.

Most of the things we love to eat; chickens, sheep, cows, pigs, corn, rice, potatoes, cucumbers, etc. are essentially man-made & genetically modified. Not in the sense that someone spliced their gene's in a dish, but in the same way dog breeds have been developed over the centuries. Selective breeding is genetic modification, and selective breeding is a process of man, not god.

Banana's we eat are Cavendish bananas and they CAN'T grow in nature because they don't have any seeds. Not many years ago, people at Gros Michel bananas, but they were overcome with disease. And there are debates over whether the banana as we know it will go extinct do to this lack of genetic variety, just as the Gros Michel did.

Anyhow, I don't know why I didn't think about it that much before when I saw the video. If it wasn't so sad, it might be humerus how people make up stories for things they could (especially in this day & age) do a little research on to find out the truth. People like Ray Comfort should be ashamed for perpetuating ignorance!

How not to argue

This link is just as much for myself as anyone else.

A List Of Fallacious Arguments

It's a good reference.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

People Who Believe in the Easter Bunny Shouldn't Be Running Things

It's an interesting article about White House Interns and the college most of them attended.

I can see that comparing belief in the Bible to belief in the Easter Bunny could be considered offensive by some, but I don't see much difference between the two. What if instead of telling a child that the Easter Bunny didn't exist, parents told their child that the reason the Easter bunny stopped coming was because they weren't good enough, but one day, if they were good enough, the Easter Bunny would be back! Consulting with other children, the child might figure out that the Bunny never was real to begin with, or that child might continue to believe his parents well into adulthood, and his parents might encourage the belief because it kept their child well behaved. And that child might one day pass on the story to his own children as "truth," and where would they stand?

I also felt the urge to leave a comment on the original article. It's just so irresistible when I see other people's comments, I need to say something in reply! Ok, so maybe that does make me a little bit arrogant. Is anyone who's sure they're right not just a tiny bit arrogant?

What the 10 commandments would be like without god?

George Carlin has me thinking about the 10 commandments. I like his comments.

And it's kinda got me thinking what the 10 commandments would be like without god?

I'll start off by noting that there is no definite agreement on which rules are the 10 commandments. There's a lot of rules in the book of Deuteronomy.

So, how would we divvy up the commandments if we took out god?

I'd have to combine the first three to:

1.) You shall not make for yourself any idols to worship.

The next isn't a bad idea, I think it's good for sanity's sake. I'll keep it.

2.) Take one in 7 days off from work; use that time to relax.

Like George says, Honor is earned, not outright deserved. And I think if one kept up with the rest of the commandments, you'd be honoring/respecting other people, including your parents, anyhow. So we'll toss out that one.

Now this one:

3.) Do not commit murder.

could technically be combined with stealing as far as I see it; you're taking some-one's life. But we'll leave it because some people need that spelled out for them. (I really don't even want to get into when life begins, or when someone wants to take their own life. I'm not sure how to address that in a simple manner.)

How about adultery? I kinda feel that's a little more complicated, again, I like how Carlin said it, because faithful implies more than sex. Be faithful in all relationships, and uphold your promises. But faith implies the supernatural and "always be true" would be covered under not lying, plus I'd like to put something in there about "thou shall not rape," so I'll revise it to:

4.) Sex shall be reserved for loving relationships.

We can keep this one almost as is:

5.) Don't steal.

I also like Carlin's idea of turning some of these into positive actions, instead of a whole list of "don't"s.

6.) Always be honest with yourself & others.

I also don't feel that "don't covet" is quite right. Living in the capitalistic society of America, "I want it" drives the economy. Wanting things can drive people to work harder. I gather that the true reason to avoid coveting is to avoid the temptation to just take what's not yours. It also can really great on one's mind to want what we can't have. And I'd really like to add "Do not over-indulge," but what is too much? Big meals, big cars, big egos, these are things I see wrong with society today, but how to make a statement about them that would apply to everyone, everywhere, every-when? So lets change it up, make the language so that it's easier for everyone to understand:

7.) Don't be selfish or wasteful; don't take more than you need, share what you have.

So, we have 3 to play with. Lets throw in the golden rule.

8.) Do unto others as you'd have done unto yourself.

So what now? I want to keep it at an even 10, it's easier marketing that way. Everyone loves a top-10 list.

I really think this top-10 list needs some sort of earth-conscious reminder. We only get one planet & fucking it up will kill us all, and then no body is happy. Again, taking care of the earth would probably fall within not being selfish & treating others well, so I feel it needs to be spelled out, but how? Clean up your own mess? Keep your environmental footprint small? Treat all life with respect? Maintain a balance with nature? The best I can come up with is:

9.) Utilize the earth efficiently, so that it may always treat all life well.

And finally, I feel there is need for the mention of not perpetuating belief in the supernatural. While this would be lying, I think our world needs it yet again spelled out: there's no magic, no miracles, no voo-doo. "Obey the laws of nature" isn't right because it's impossible not to. And we can't tell people to not believe in things that haven't been proven because where would technology be without a belief that we could create new things? So the best solution is:

10.) Reject the supernatural.

Ok, I think that's a more complete 10. Lets re-arrange them in an order that flows best, and make the language easier to memorize:

1.) Act towards others as you'd wish them to act towards you.
2.) Utilize the earth efficiently, so that it may always treat all life well.
3.) Don't steal.
4.) Do not commit murder.
5.) Reserve sex for loving relationships.
6.) Always be honest with yourself & others.
7.) Share and don't wasteful.
8.) Take one in 7 days off from work.
9.) Reject the supernatural.
10.) Don't worship or pray to anything.

I'd like to think no one could argue with the above, but I'm sure that's not true. It's hard to be concise while imagining the ways definitions of words can be spun. What is "well"? What is "waste"? What is "loving"? What is "work"? What if I'm into pain & wish others to hurt me? What about mind-altering drugs? The line can be grey in many areas.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Science in the News

What do Creationists think about science & evolution when they read it in the news? Lame-stream-media doesn't often have qualms about presenting the evolutionary point of view.

I got to thinking about this after reading "Early human relative ate prehistoric smorgasbord" from Reuters.

And a recent TIME cover was "What Makes us Different?" about the [tiny] differences between human and chimpanzee DNA & how that makes all the difference. And the current TIME cover is God vs. Science.

Science News is included as part of Reuters, CNN, Fox News, BBC News, and the NY Times, but I found that The Washington Post actually has a religion section, with no obvious science section in the index of of their website. (Thou after some hunting, I found it.)

Does this say something about who is reading the news? Does it say something about the goal of news-sources to give us the truth? If anyone has sources of any kind of Christian rebuttals to science articles, or the overwhelming amount of news favorable to evolution, I'd love to link it here. I may do some more searching on my own as well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Go Deep....

Ok, not that deep. Couldn't we have just discussed if Batman would really be happy if the Joker died?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Joined The Atheist Blogroll!

I'm on the list at bottom right as "The New Atheist." Take some time to explore the others on the list!

Revisiting Morals & Altruism

In a previous post I related that science is finding our morals to be inborn. Here I've found a youtube clip, it's actually a profile of Richard Dawkins, but the first clip has some comments about the altruistic nature of animals and how that still can benefit evolution.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Views on Buddhism?

There was a post on a Christian blog that caught my attention a week ago, and I've since been having an interesting back & forth in the comments:

I try my best not to pick a fight, but I'm worried I come off that way sometimes, and sometimes it's too damn tempting. I really do want to understand where people's opinions about their own religion and other religions come from.

It's interesting how much movies & pop culture affect peoples opinions, especially people who don't open themselves up to different ways of thought. Not taking the time to educate one's self is a big mistake made by believers & non-believers alike. Not that any of us have time to read everything on every subject, but I feel it's an obligation to ourselves to answer our own questions as honestly as possible, even if the truth is painful or goes against what we've been taught.

Trust in Science= lack of faith.

I liked this article:

and left my own comment there, but I think to sum-up the way I feel is: if you trust science, and science deals with the physical, natural world, then you can't also have faith in a super-natural world. The universe is either natural or super-natural; if you have faith in the super-natural, then you can't also say you trust the natural-nature of our universe.

If you have faith, why would you trust in gravity if you believe god could change it up?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Religion is for the Childish

Watching this clip from a Richard Dawkins video has me thinking about the childish nature of religion.

I'm not quite sure where this problem originated. I'm in my mid-20's, I see friends my own age all around me avoiding their adulthood; living at home, playing hours of video games, drinking nightly, pot-smoking, avoiding the responsibility of the "real world." I like to avoid the "real world" every now and then myself, but this is not a daily goal for me. Perhaps I have a bit of delusion about what the world was like 50 years ago, but I am under the impression that personal responsibility was more highly respected than it is today.

Adults are now often called upon to hang on to our youth for as long as possible. Surely if you watch enough TV you could convince yourself that, with the right combination of pills, makeup, & surgery, one could stay young forever! All one needs to do is add in some irresponsible actions to complete the illusion.

I was listening to an interview on the radio with a woman who was the mother of a soldier in Iraq. She referred to her son & his fellow soldiers as "kids of 22 & 23 years old." Didn't boys used to go into the army to become men? At what age will children stop being coddled in this way? Does continued referral to her son as a "kid" help her maintain her own illusion of youth?

It may seem that I'm going off on a bit of a tangent from Atheism there, but not too much so. Atheists are often called out for being "arrogant" & intellectual, but isn't

I feel that this trend of childish behavior in America will be our downfall, and Religion is a huge part of it. America is becoming a country of perpetual-childhood, with Religion and Government acting as parent, and the masses lapping it up. Many religious people give up their personal responsibility by giving their lives to "god's will."

I am not saying that I am the most personally responsible person on earth, I have plenty of faults, but I am more than willing to have those faults presented to me and I will blame no one but myself. My problems are not my parent's fault, are not god's will, and will not be solved by a pill or surgery from my doctor.

Taking responsibility for one's own life to me also means saying god isn't involved in it. Prayer and good-intentions aren't going to solve the worlds problems. Gathering together every Sunday to ponder our responsibility to an almighty power and asking for his forgiveness does nothing for the greater good of the world. If as many people who went to church every week instead spent that time & effort devoting themselves to worldly actions like feeding the homeless, teaching their children, or asking a friend they may have wronged for forgiveness instead of talking to god about it, so much could be accomplished.

We must teach our children to be good adults; to take responsibility, to think for themselves, to help one another, & make their own path in this world instead of relying on god for it all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You don't have to be Religious to have Morals.

I've never believed that god, in the form of a burning bush, gave 2 stone tablets to Moses. Way back when I was in Catholic school the bible verse that states that those commandments were written on our hearts (Romans 2:15) really meant something to me. My mind reasoned that of course we all know the 10 commandments, even if we've never heard of them. In some form or another, rules for how to live within a community have existed.

So it's not hard for me to believe that now Science might have found an evolutionary benefit to morals. It's so common sense, and I've always seen the bible reinforces our morals, instead of handing them to us.

So much of the "law" in the bible is really etiquette that had a place & time where it was appropriate. Pigs aren't really great desert creatures, so it kinda seems natural that people in the Middle East would find them repulsive to eat just as many Americans find insects repulsive to eat. If the bible was written today, it may very well include public-restroom etiquette.

But the golden rule, "love one another" is found everywhere.

And on a side tangent, this article states that "many evolutionary biologists frown on the idea of group selection," based on that only an individual can pass on genes. I have no problem with the idea of "group selection" since I thought evolution was not just the survival of the fittest, but the death of the least fit.

Considering that, I feel one obvious argument for group-selection of moral behavior has been overlooked in this case: punishment & weeding out. Being ostracized from a community based on inappropriate actions definitely reduce one's chance of reproducing. And "groups" are actually often "family," with similar genetic structure.

People more naturally do contribute altruistically to people related to them, but two unrelated grandparents would be encouraged to contribute to each other for the sake of their ability to take care of their mutual grandchildren. And in turn it is of a benefit to take care of the elderly because of the information they can pass down (Memes), which can benefit every one's survival. If you're nice to your neighbor, he might show you how he made that nifty stick that gets the tasty termites at the bottom of the mound. Give a man a boat, and he will teach you how to fish.

Being altruistic is most beneficial to an individual if everyone in a group is altruistic. It's a tit-for-tat relationship, and this allows specialization. If one member of a group is really good at getting berries from the top trees, and another is really good at sniffing out mushrooms, and they get along socially, they can share and both benefit from the additional nutritional value.

Our society has blossomed into an extreme of this example. We go to college to study to be engineers, fire fighters, nurses, teachers, tailors, etc. Almost none of us could live on our own, and we all live better if we share in the wealth produced by specialization.

Cross Out god.

Here's something I never thought of before: cross out god. That's right, take a look in your wallet, pull out those bills, grab a red pen, and start crossing out "god."

Its simple, it's easy, and it's not intent on making currency unusable, so it's not technically illegal. I've seen plenty of dollars with lots of stuff written on 'em anyhow, and I've used the penny-press machines at more than one national monument.

It's not like our dollars are issued by the government anyhow, they're issued by the Federal Reserve. Even without the "in god we trust" it isn't honest money, they're a rip-off. But that's not an atheist issue so much as it's an American problem.