Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sick

I've been thinking a lot lately about a realization about myself and my philosophical priorities I had during the first Salt City Skeptics meeting, which I hosted last Wednesday. I'm working on a post about it, so you'll have that to suffer through that shortly... Don't worry, I haven't become a born-again Christian or Scientologist... Or have I? (The answer is no. No I haven't.)

For now, though, I'm horribly sick. It's been a hellish couple of days spent in bed alternately shivering and sweating, sometimes both. My lungs feel like Dresden in February 13, 1945 and my head is... blah blah blah, enough milking for sympathy. When I'm back on my feet, both literally and metaphorically, I'll be hitting the blog again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blog Meme!

[via the Friendly Atheist]

Yay! It's a blog meme! I actually don't tend to do these, but, well... I'm doing this one...

How serious do you take your atheism? Let’s find out.

Copy and paste the list below on your own site, boldfacing the things you’ve done. (Feel free to add your own elaboration and commentary to each item!)

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
  3. Created an atheist blog. [you're looking at it!]
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. [I wouldn't say quite 'offended,' but I've corrected them]
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. [among other reasons, like the fact that Growing Pains is insuffereable]
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. [I reference the Skeptics Annotated Bible regularly]
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. [close!]
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. [I wouldn't say 'hid,' but I've heald my cards close to my chest sometimes]
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
  20. Attended an atheist conference.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school. [first meeting is tomorrow!]
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. [Hahah, it's true!]
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch. [Oh EWTN, aka the "Catholic Channel," is there no end to the amusement you can provide? Honorable mention: BYU TV]
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God. [to my high school paper, and it actually scored me an editor position the next year]
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” [Exhibit A, Exhibit B... Haven't made it to the Creation Museum]
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all. [But I might if given the opportunity]
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you. [I like Unitarians, but just don't feel at home in a church]
total score: 30

Monday, December 15, 2008

Congress Shall Make No Law, a play in one act

[hat tip to PZ]
Here is my new play, Congress Shall Make No Law: A comedic tragedy, or tragic comedy. I hope you all enjoy it.

CAST OF CHARACTERS
ME: Me
1ST AMENDMENT: The first amendment to the United States Constitution
HR487: House Resolution 487

ME: Good morning, First Amendment. Say, would you mind sharing your thoughts with me on religion? Specifically, what do you think the role of the U.S. Congress should play in the establishment of religion?

1ST AMENDMENT: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

ME: I must say, I agree. it's a good thing we have you in place to help protect our government from hijacking by any one religion. Oh, look! HR487 has joined us. I didn't even see you come in! First and I were talking about religion in our government. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

HR487: Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its Judeo-Christian roots;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

SCENE

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Atheism Song

This has been making the rounds... I really really want to not like this, and yet... I do.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Personal History, part 4

See the entire "personal history" series of posts:
  • Part 1 - Who I am now. why I'm an atheist, a skeptic, and a progressive liberal, and why I think that's a good thing.
  • Part 2 - I grew up in a Mormon family and community, but my parents always encouraged critical thinking.
  • Part 3 - As I became a teenager, I began having doubts about religion and the supernatural and began to reconcile that with a scientific viewpoint that increasingly edged out religion.
  • Part 4 - "Agnostic, leaning toward atheism"
____________________________________________

Part 4: "Agnostic, leaning towards atheism"
It's been a long while since I've posted an entry in my personal history series... The time has come, intrepid readers, for the next in the series.

In part three, I discussed my reasons for leaving the LDS church at a young age. So, what's a newly godless junior high school kid to do?

The answer: not much different than what I did before. I still had the same friends, I still excelled in school. The main difference is that I did not attend the daily seminary class as most of my peers did. For those not in the know, since Utah is dominated by the Mormon church, most middle and high schools have a not-quite-on-site "seminary" building, where most Mormon kids attend a religious instruction class for one period a day.

It was in fact my non-attendance at seminary that first made me realize how different I was from everyone else. In tenth grade, I'd sit outside my 5th period class, every day after lunch, waiting for it to begin along with a five or so other students. I'd struck up a friendship with one of these kids, until one day he asked me who I had for seminary.

"Oh, I don't have seminary."

"Why not?"

"I'm not Mormon." This was the first time I had ever said those words to anyone. I even felt a little bit like I was lying to him for saying it.

"What are you?"

"I'm agnostic."

"What's that? Does that mean you worship Satan?" These were his exact words. It is burned into my memory.

"No! What that means is that, to me, whether or not God exists is kind of irrelevant. I'm going to live my life the same way either way." I was formulating my personal philosophy, on the fly, for the first time. "As long as I live my life to the fullest and I try to do good if I can or at least do no harm, then I'm happy." I had stolen bits of that from the Dalai Lama, but it accurately reflected how I felt at the time.

"You're weird."

At this time, the teacher came back to unlock the classroom... But it was official: I was an agnostic.

I repeated a version of this little speech or anyone who asked me what religion I was for the next, oh, ten years. Sometimes, the response was thought-provoking, sometimes hostile, sometimes outright hilarious. I didn't understand why those with faith -- regardless of their faith -- found it SO hard to accept that I really, truly could feel this way:
  • Once, at a party, the conversation turned to religion, and it came up that I didn't believe in god. A friend was was shocked to hear that. "What do you hold on to in life?" she asked. I responded that I held on to the people and things that made me happy. "Well, cocaine makes you happy, so you'd hold on to that?"
  • My later-sister-in-law, about a year after I told her I gave her that above speech, asked me "So, have you decided what religion you are yet?" She herself was a Wiccan who would introduce herself to strangers by saying "I worship the goddess Brigid!" After asking if I'd found my faith, she then made a recommendation. "I think you would really get in to the Norse gods." (Yeah: the idea of eternal bloody warfare sure was my idea of heaven.) Wait, what? Even though you worship some modernized version of the Celt gods, you think I would do well with Thor? Don't both of these cosmologies have their own competing take on how the universe functions? They can't both be equally true.
  • At a late night outing to The Belgian Waffle (ah, the finest American cuisine one can find at 4:00 AM), one friend, a born-again Christian, explained how this philosophy doomed me to hell. "Why?" I asked. Wouldn't God care that I strove to be a good person, whatever failings I have? No, she explained, he wouldn't: "I have faith in Jesus Christ! I know that he died for my sins, so works have nothing to do with it! I know that if I were judged for the stuff I do, I'd go to hell, but since I believe in Jesus, I'm saved."
Oh, how perverse! Saying "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" gave her a free pass to do whatever she liked, to whomever she liked; while even the most moral, kind, helpful and honest person would be doomed to an eternity of the most horrific torture if he happened to not thank a Mesopotamian sky god for his mac n' cheese? Astoundingly, my friend answered that "YES HE WOULD!" Remember, Hell isn't some place where someone has to go for a couple of years of unpleasant conditions. It's not prison. Hell is a place where you are DOOMED TO BE HORRIFICALLY TORTURED FOR ETERNITY.

Do you have any idea how long eternity is? The Universe that you and I live in is currently estimated to be just shy of 14 billion years old. That's nearly an unimaginable about of time. 13,700,000,000 years. The current life expectancy for an American is about 78 years.
That means the universe has about 175,000,000 American lifespans under its belt... It's really difficult to wrap our minds around even THAT number... Now, think about 13.7 billion years repeated an infinite number of times. That is how long this "merciful god" thinks it is appropriate to unrelentingly torture someone who lives a perfectly moral existence, but declines to worship him.

Loving God my ass.

Telling people you're not religious somehow seemed to encourage them to trot out their most superficial reason for believing... In each case above, their religion was all about making them feel better about themselves. It wasn't -- not REALLY -- about having a deeper understanding of the universe. I don't doubt that many religious people do feel very connected to the universe and strive to understand their place in it, but it certainly wasn't the standard trope of your average religious person when I revealed myself as a nonbeliever.

Now, I know that not every religious person believes things like that, but a disconcerting number of them do. Indeed, it is a major premise of the evangelical movement. And why the disconnect? If the Bible (or any other religious text) is infallible and to be taken literally, then how could so many people have so many different takes? Either unbelievers were damned (Mark 16:16) or they weren't (no Bible verses to back up that perspective).

All the stuff was rolling around in the back of my head. As I said, I called myself agnostic, but if there WAS a god, it surely wasn't the god of the Bible. Maybe it was more of a Deist god... Of course, if you had forced me to choose one way or the other on the god proposition, I would have thought god was unlikely... But it was a hell of a lot easier, socially, to just say I was unconcerned about religion, rather expressing disbelief in what so many others held dear.

From the time I was in middle school up until just maybe five years ago, I continued to call myself agnostic. But I was always fascinated by religion. I read the Gnostic gospels, the Kalevala, the Bible, bits of the Qur'an. My college major was anthropology, in part because it allowed me to study evolutionary theory, and in part because it allowed me to study the history of religion. (One of my professors, Eva Wasilewska, wrote a book called Creation Stories of the Middle East which is very readable and very entertaining).

Every once in a while, I'd update my definition of myself to "atheist," but soon I'd go back to "agnostic." In part 5, I'll talk a bit about how I came to view myself decisively and confidently as an atheist, and my introduction to scientific skepticism.

Monday, December 8, 2008

War on Christmas II

I'm sick of the War on Christmas nonsense... So this is the last you'll hear from me on the subject, but I wanted to clarily and expland on what I said in my last post, as it was written hastily as I was waiting for some hard drives to finish reimaging. A friend e-mailed me taking issue with some of my points, so here's a clarification:

First, my bulleted list -- particularly the part about Christmas trees -- is just my opinion. Other atheists and secularists have other opinions on the matter, and quite reasonable ones at that (I'm sure that religious people have a gamut of opinions on this matter as well). It's just that I personally have no problem with X-mas trees.

Also, as for the Freedom From Relgion Foundatiuon's "religion enslaves minds" display: I'm with them on the sentimentm, and I of course support the right of the FFRF right to put it there. I stand by my assestion that religious displays or symbols should not be allowed on government space. If, though, any government property does sponsor a religious display of any kind (nativity scene), then in order to show that the government does not show favor to any one religion (Christianity), these displays need to be made available to any religious group, including atheists, and these displays should be allowed to express whatever sentiment that gorup wished to communicate.

My issue with the FFRF sign is that I think it's unfortunate that the sentiment they chose to express here only serves to reinforce the image of atheists and secularists as uptight, crotchety jerks.

Now, I don't think what the FFRF said is any more severe than, say, Christians saying "Jesus was born this day. And those who reject him will spend eternity being tortured in a fiery conflagration" (and this meaning is carried, for me at least, by anything including the word "savior"). Indeed, it's far LESS severe than that... But is this a game of escalation? Seeing which "side" can say the most offensive things?

Sure, this stuff makes the news, and lets people who might be questioning religion know that they are not alone. But those "fence-sitters" might be scared away from exploring those questions when the only image of atheism is this. I would love to see atheist displays that are a little more creative and welcoming. But that's just me.

Anyway, there is no "War" here. X-mas is certainly religious in origin (even pre-Christian), and though the word "Christmas" itself is surely religious, I consider it a secular holiday, all about family and presents and nutmeg. ("Gonna cover you in my nutmeg.") I would probably prefer to shop at retailers who use more inclusive terms, like "Happy Holidays," than "Merry X-mas," but only because of the Culture-Warization of the terms by O'Reilly et al. Frankly, if Bills Donahue and O'Reilly and their ilk hadn't made such a big deal out of "Happy Holidays," I probably wouldn't even really notice. If Christians would rather shop at Walmart because they use the word Christmas, then more power to them. Walmart's not getting my business anyway, so they may as well market to their audience of hillbillies and klansmen (talk about gross overgeneralizations!).

This "war" is manufactured by the right and sensationalized media (particularly, sensationalized right media).

And now, I'm officially done with this issue.. at leasyt until next year. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The War on Christmas

A few weeks ago, I was writing a long-ass blog post about the "War on Christmas," after hearing Bill Donahue criticize the signs put on DC busses that said "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness sake."

I ultimately decided that my six paragraphs of bloviating weren't worth the time I had already put into them. I just didn't CARE enough about a few asshats refusing to shop at Target because they were wished "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Now, though, the War on Christmas is on in full force. You may have heard about the Atheist sign allowed to be displayed along side the nativity and menorah in the Washington State capitol.

Well the sign was stolen. It was later found in a ditch and returned, but some atheist peeps are now saying that baby Jesus in the nativity scene is fair game.

WTF?

Okay let's just lay this out, so that everyone is on the same page here:
  • Christmas trees on government property = okay. They're pretty much a secular symbol now. And shiny.
  • Nativity scenes on government property = no. They are clearly and explicitly religious symbols.
  • If you must have a nativity, then other religious symbols or displays should be allowed. And pretty much any religious group that wishes to participate should be allowed. This includes atheists.
  • If you're an atheist group and you want to put up a display, don't make it a sign you made at Kinko's that's a big page of black text saying "religious people are a bunch of fucktards." First off, it's boring as hell to look at. Secondly it will be seen as an attack. It is an attack of course but still.
  • Seriously dudes! Do something creative like the Flying Spaghetti Monster statue peeps. Do something positive where instead of saying "These are the reasons religion is evil," say "Chekk it! We're atheists and we be luvvin life!" Only don't say exactly that. Maybe just have a nice, "isn't it great hanging with your friends and family this time of year?" thing with the scarlet A or something at the bottom.
  • If you are a Christian and don't think a given religious group has the right to display their sign on YOUR public space, well, now you know what it feels like to be an atheist or a jew or a pasafarian or a hindu when you see that nativity scene.
  • Don't steal other people's stuff. Period.
Are we all clear now? War is over if you want it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What is Skepticism?

[CROSS-POSTED FROM SALT CITY SKEPTICS]

Our world is awash with people making claims:
"My new homeopathic treatment will cure the flu!" "Dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago." "The world is flat." "God spoke the world into existence 6000 years ago." "The world is round." "I was visited by aliens last night." "Global Warming is a hoax." "Marduk created the earth from the corpse of Tiamat."
Not every claim can be true. But how does one know the difference? You might say common sense. This is true to an extent, but there are a lot of people whose "common sense" tell them a lot of unbelievable things.

To help determine the validity of a claim, you need to employ a process. In the sciences, that process is called the scientific method. Simplified, it goes like this: First, you form a hypothesis ("The world is round."). Then you make observations about your hypothesis (fly a plane around the world, send up a network of satellites). Your observations will either invalidate your hypothesis (your plane smashes into a wall at the edge of the earth), or they won't. If your hypothesis is invalidated, you modify it to fit the new data and repeat until you have a reasonably good model, or "theory," of the way things actually are.

In the strictest sense, no set of observations will ever "prove" a scientific hypothesis. But when there is a huge preponderance of evidence, we can basically accept the hypothesis as true. Very few people today (make no mistake, there are some!) believe that the world is flat because of a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that it is round.

Skepticism takes this same approach and applies it to everything. So, what is skepticism, exactly?

The word "skepticism" has a bit of a bad reputation. You often hear the word "skeptic" in the same sentence as "cynic." All skepticism means is that when people make claims, those claims should be open to testing and should be judged on the quality of the evidence. If the claim being made flies in the face of what we already know, then the burden of proof is on the one making the claim to demonstrate the truth of their claim.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
When you hear a claim, what do you feel is the likelihood of this claim being true, based on what we already know? If someone claims "I lost my keys," you probably won't require a great deal of evidence. People lose their keys all the time. It's not an extraordinary claim.

If, instead, they claim "I can walk through walls," most people will be a lot more skeptical. No one has ever been known to walk through walls before. Furthermore, if someone were able to do so, it would literally require physicist to rewrite their model of the universe from the ground up. It is quite an extraordinary claim. For the most part, claims like this can be dismissed out of hand. That said, a true skeptic will gladly accept such claims as true if the claimant can demonstrate their ability in truly a controlled environment (i.e., not susceptible to trickery or other methods of deception). For instance, the James Randi Educational Foundation, one of the foremost skeptic organizations, has a standing $1,000,000 prize for anyone able to demonstrate a paranormal ability in a controlled environment. To date, no one has claimed the prize.

Religion
Many skeptics consider religion off the table, arguing that people's deeply-held beliefs should not be subjected to scrutiny, and that the claims made by religion are not falsifiable (that is there is no way to test their validity) and are therefore outside the realm of science or skepticism. Other skeptics gladly tackle religious topics, arguing that just because a given claim was written down thousands of years ago, it shouldn't be exempt from skeptical scrutiny. I personally tend to side with the latter group. No claim, particularly any claim upon which people chose to base their entire lives, should be exempt from examination.

Resources
If you'd like to know more about skepticism, I'd like to share a few excellent resources:
  • Skeptics' Guide to the Universe - If you only have time for one skeptical resource in your life, make it The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. This weekly podcast covers the whole gamut of skeptical topics, from alternative medicine to the evolution/creationism debate... And it's seriously entertaining, too.
  • The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan's book is a superb primer to the world of skepticism and rationality in a world plagued with claims of the supernatural and paranormal. It's a quick read, very accessible and tremendously enlightening.
  • Skeptic Magazine - Run by Michael Shermer, who along with James Randi is one of the best known faces of skepticism in the public eye, Skeptic Magazine is a great addition to any Skeptical Tool Kit.
  • Skepchick - Run by Rebecca Watson, one of the host of the Skeptics' Guide, the Skepchick blog features a plethora of skeptical women (and one dude) who don't hold back any punches. Add Skepchick to your RSS reader! Now! For those of you wishing to mix your Skepticism with nudity, Skepchick outputs two pin-up calendars each year, featuring well-known and unknown "Skepchicks" and "Skepdudes" respectively. It's all in good taste and good fun. Skepchick also produces a sub-blog, Teen Skepchick, devoted to giving young skeptical women (including the bad-ass Splendid Elles) a platform to speak up and be heard.
There are hundreds of other skeptical blogs, podcasts and other media available. But that should get you started. Have fun!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top 10, Baby!

Ah, the interesting things you learn from search statistics... Did you know that thanks to this post, and this post, my blog is among the top ten Google results for both "Spying on your Neighbors" and "Proof of Alien Visitation?" Which is even funnier if you look at the alien visitation post with spying on your neighbors in mind.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

GoGreen18

GoGreen18 is my new hero.

She's a 19-year old YouTube vlogger who discusses her stances on atheism, religion, sexuality, environmentalism, culture and more. And she does so eloquently, stridently and inspiringly. She first came to my attention a few months ago after PZ linked to one of her videos from Pharyngula. It was brilliant:


After PZ sent his Pharynugloid horde her way (including me), some overzealous Christians succeeded in getting her videos pulled and her YouTube account suspended. I guess some people can't take any criticism. In the long run, everything got sorted out, but still...

Anyway, I learned today that Laci was raised as a Mormon. I just stumbled across the latest in her series on her deconversion from religion and Mormonism... Knowing the three people who read my blog, I thought you might be interested in hearing her story. I'm posting the first here.

If you want to hear more from her (and she has a lot to say!), check out her YouTube channel here or subscribe to her vids in your RSS reader. Now, on to the vids:

A Deconversion:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Salt Lake City Skeptics in the Pub - December 17

I just scheduled the first Salt Lake City Skeptics in the Pub event. The relevant details are at http://www.meetup.com/saltcityskeptics/ or http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=47999237304

Steven Pinker, Frans de Waal and more!

Cross-posted from SALT CITY SKEPTICS

Though not specifically about skepticism, those of you interested in the sciences have a great opportunity to hear some leading voices in science right here in Salt Lake.

Steven Pinker, one of the world's foremost cognitive scientist, author of numerous books (and a noted skeptic) will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy Forum (or as I like to call it, the TCNVHRA).

Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of several books (including one of my favorites, Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape) will also be presenting.

This three-day conference (entitled "The Evolution of Human Aggression") will be taking place at the University of Utah from February 25 to 27, 2009.

All lectures are free and open to the public, so feel to attend any that sound interesting. Other speakers include Sarah Hrdy, Margo Wilson, Martin Daly and Peter Turchin. (What's that? I'm giving undue weight to the anthropologists? Well tough. ;) )

Oceanside

For the last two days I have been listening to the Decemberists song "Oceanside" again and again and again. It's an early song, from their first disk, 5 Songs. I've heard it many times before and it never did much for me before. But for some reason, it struck me the other day. Now I just want to hear it again and again... and again.
Sweet Anabelle
As seen reclining on an ocean swell
As the waves do lather up to lay her down
'til she's fast.
And sleeping
Oh well
I guess I'm something of a ne'er-do-well
Who fell asleep at the pealing of the steeple bell
I'm on track and keeping

But oh
If I could only get you oceanside
To lay your muscles wide
It'd be heavenly
Oh.
If I could only coax you overboard
To leave these lolling shores
To get you oceanside.
Beautiful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I wonder how much this will cost...

So, I am having a little get-together tonight at my house. Last night I went out and bought some supplies, but realized a few minutes ago that the sour cream I had might not be... appropriate for company.

Sure enough! I was right, so I dumped the contents in the sink and rinsed the carton out to prep for recycling. Then I ran the disposal.

The ungodly racket that burst forth from the dark realms of the sink drain was deafening. I switched it off, ran the water for a bit, then poked into the disposal with a knife. There was something down there.

I stuck my hand down into the sink, and the disposal turned on of its own accord, destroying my hand... Okay, that didn't happen. Instead, I pulled out a rather large lump of glass. My first thought was "Oh my god! Some jerk-ass at the sour cream factory put a lump of sharp glass in the bottom of this carton!"

But I reached down again and found several smaller glass shards, one of which read "Salt La-".

It was a shot glass. Specifically, a 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games shot glass... I have to say, the heavy base held up pretty well!

But now, the disposal no longer runs... Great!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Elaine on Radio West!

My good friend Elaine (proprietor of 'The Other') was featured on this week's Radio West! I loves me some Doug Fabrizio, so I was excited to learn that Elaine was on the show.

Elaine was the primary organizer of the huge rally last weekend in Salt Lake in favor of gay rights and in response to the passage of California Prop 8. Sadly, due to about four pounds of crap in my sinuses and a taiko drum recital going on in my skull, I was unable to attend. But I am so proud of Elaine for pulling this together!

And she was great on Radio West. Elaine: you sounded like you've done a million radio interviews. :)

I do with the program had focused a bit more on the wider issue and a bit less on the few unfortunate and rightly condemned acts of vandalism against LDS property. Still, an excellent show.

Listen now!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Newsweek the Antichrist?

[h/t Slacktivist]

Newsweek has just published an article entitled "Is Obama the Antichrist?" The lack of integrity and skepticism in this article is alarming.

The author, Lisa Miller (I totally just had a News Radio flashback) profiles three or four people, whose opinions on the eponymous query run the wide gamut from "I can see why people think Obama is the whore of Babylon" to "Fasten your seatbelts! The End is nigh!"

This article is certainly not the first on the topic. And indeed, it's a legitimate topic worthy of journalistic investigation. There are plenty of interesting and insightful questions to ask about this phenomenon: How have religious fundamentalists fomented an atmosphere of fear and distrust, leading them to make such wild accusations? What does this say about the care with which the Obama administration must navigate in the coming years? Isn't is funny that the winning lottery numbers in Illinois were 666?

Unfortunately, none of these are addressed in Miller's article. I don't know what Ms. Miller's opinion on the matter is, but the tone of the article (seriously, go read it) borders on credulous. The implication is that that those who believe Obama to be the Antichrist are basing their conclusion on a rational analysis of the evidence. Not a single dissenting voice is anywhere to be found. Not one. There are no voices here to counter claims like "the spread of secular progressive ideas is a prelude to the enslavement of mankind."

The closest it comes to even acknowledging that some people might think this a controversial stance, to say the least, is the following sentence:
The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they're not nuts.
And it just goes downhill from there. Nice job, Newsweek.

[CROSS-POSTED]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Salt City Skeptics

I've started a new blog, and a new group, called Salt City Skeptics. All the relevant details are over there. Enjoy!

Join the Salt City Skeptics group on Facebook as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

WANT!

If anybody has been wondering what to get me for Christmas, I know just the ticket. Feel free to chip in with your friends, because at $10 million, I'm not really expecting anything else this year. Watch the whole thing:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Sandman

[hat tip: io9]This week marks the 20th anniversary of the first issue of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman's comic book series that (along with anything Alan Moore got his hands on) forever changed comics, allowing them to explore existentialism, sexuality, humanity, horror, history, religion and mythology without aid of muscled men in shiny tights and women with huge breasts and nipples that show through plate mail.

The Sandman also changed me. I came to the series quite late. I was, what, 14? Trying to find myself and my place in the world like everyone that age. I came to the Sandman quite late in its initial run, and quite accidentally.

I was wasting time at the mall and wandered into the comic shop. I didn't read comics. Neither did any of my friends. I had not bought a single comic book in my life. I browsed around and stared/drooled at Dawn and Witchblade covers and posters (I was fourteen, after all), but would have been too embarrassed to buy any of them (and rightfully so: they're dreadful)... But then my eyes were caught by the bizarre and iconic imagery of Dave McKean on the cover of Sandman #64.

This didn't look like anything else in the comic shop. I was intensely curious, so I decided to pick it up. I remember reading it on the bus ride home from the mall, and was awestruck.

My first issue put me halfway though "The Kindly Ones," the series' penultimate storyline, resulting in the title character's death. Handily, this particular issue began with a summary of "The Kindly Ones," so I was slightly less lost than I would have been otherwise... but before the bus dropped me off, I was ready for more.

That weekend, my family was going up to stay at our Cabin for a few days. Knowing this, I stocked up on as many back issues of The Sandman as the comic shop had, which was maybe 5 issues.

I immediately was hooked. The Sandman featured a cast regular people sturggling with birth, death, homosexuality, drug addiction, growing old, AIDS, faith and everything else we humans have to contend with. But among the mere mortals were others: Loki, Death (with a capital D this time), Shakespeare's Puck, The Bibical Cain and Abel, Lucifer (now running a piano bar in downtown Los Angeles), and the eponymous Sandman: Morpheus, the King of Dreams.

I then began consuming, in mass quantities, all of the back issues of Sandman subsequently published in collected editions. The art in the early issues kind of threw me off a bit (very "comic-booky" and very dated), but the story -- the story was too good. The Sandman was, and is, literature. Sure, Batman and Superman appear in a frame or two of an early issue (before it became the backbone of the "mature audiences" DC Vertigo line), but this is the stuff of Shakespeare. I was then, and continue to be, quite the rationalist. Despite numerous attempts, I can't get into mainstream fantasy fiction, and even most sci-fi I find not too my liking (fanboy Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica content on this very blog notwithstanding), but the Sandman helped me to appreciate the fantastic.

After The Sandman ended, not terribly long after I discovered it, I continued to explore the Vertigo line of comics for a time. Many of these were quite good (Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer, House of Secrets) and many quite horrible (anything involving Garth Ennis), though none caught my interest like the Gaiman's magnus opus, with the possible exception of Mike Carey's Lucifer (a spin-off series about the piano bar entrepreneur/former Lord of Hell mentioned above).

I don't really read comics any longer. A friend may lend me something he finds quite good now and then, and there are a few graphic novels I have become quite fond of; but in general, I have been disappointed in most every comic I have read since then. Nothing captured my imagination or my sense of wonder -- in comics or otherwise -- quite like The Sandman.

Thank you Neil Gaiman.

If you're unfamiliar with The Sandman and would like to get your feet wet, you'd do well to dive in with the first collection (Preludes and Nocturnes), but I might recommend A Game of You for first timers instead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Being Big Brother 101: Spying on your neighbors

Ah, the internet.

Have you ever wondered what your neighbors might be uploading to YouTube?

Neither have I, but thanks to Google Gears (required) and this page, I now know anyway.

It is with a mixed sense of reverence for technical ingenuity and crippling paranoia for the breaking walls of privacy that I present to you the following videos, all uploaded by YouTube users within a few blocks of my house. Kinda creepy, actually.

Howdy neighbors!

This is actually kind of a well done instructional video based on Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide.


John McCain and Hillary Clinton star in this noir thriller:


Ummm... Not sure what to make of this. It appears to be an alien criticizing Thomas S. Monson and the "LDS church," which it claims is a splinter group from the true "Mormon Church," to which this creature belongs. It seems to be equal parts humor and earnest conspiracy delusion, and clearly invokes Poe's Law:


This one makes me positively want to shoot myself. If you are above the first floor of your building at the moment, you may want to restrain yourself so you don't jump out the window before watching this:

Friday, November 7, 2008

O_o

Umm.... I think someone needs to up their medication just a bit. Also, someone needs to remove this child from this house...

Scary...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fox News, keepin' it classy as usual


I think the implication Fox News is trying to make is couldn't be clearer. Nice job on the fair and balanced thing guys!

Exuberance.

Okay, okay. I know I just had a glowing post about the next president.. Time to get back down to earth:

As PZ points out Obama is still quite centrist; that the right-wing noise machine is already working to delegitimize him (that didn't take long); that we still have to repair the damage done by Bush, and that he still has to work with a self-interested Congress, many of whom, including the Democrats, collaborated with Bush on his worst policies. Plus, Proposition 8 in California passed, showing that although we might be okay with a black president, as a nation we are still fearful of teh buttsex (and it is about the sex for the people who voted yes on 8, not about love or equality).

I'm going to retain some of my exuberance for now. PZ is right, though I perhaps a tad more optimistic. At the very least, we have a president who won't continue the momentously inane leadership of the last one. The shiny has not worn off for me yet, but we all need to temper our expectations. No leader, even if he wanted to, could live up to the standard we've set up for Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wow

Did anyone else see Obama's acceptance speech?

Time will tell, of course, but by all appearances, this guy is the real deal. I'm truly looking forward to the next four years.

The Best of [ liberté, egalité, trivialité ]

Welcome to new readers from the Atheist Blogroll. I thought I'd put together a list of the best, most interesting posts from the long and sordid history of liberté, egalité, trivialité carefully selected over the course of minutes by a panel consisting of me, the following posts will help you find your way in the world.

First off, check out out my personal history posts in which I document my journey from childhood to now with an emphasis on my evolving atheist, skeptical, liberal and scientific worldview. I have three parts so far with a fourth on the way and at least one more planned.
  • Part 1 - I talk about who I am now. why I think the way I do, and why I think it's a good thing.
  • Part 2 - I grew up in a Mormon family and community, but my paretns always encouraged critical thinking.
  • Part 3 - As I became a teenager, I began having doubts about religion and the supernatural and began to reconcile that with a scientific viewpoint that increasingly edged out religion.
  • Part 4 - "Agnostic, leaning toward atheism"
After that, enjoy a few select posts where I got in-depth into a topic:
  • The Joseph Smith Papers - I discuss the LDS church's project to compile all known texts written by Jospeh Smith, and why I am skeptical of the church's intellectual honesty in the project, based on their tendency to cover up and deny parts of thhe church's past it finds embarrasing, particularly when it come to Jospeh Smith.
  • For the Bible Tells me So - What started as a review on a documentary about how Christianity is supposedly not at odds with homosexuality turns into a discussion of religious moderation in general. That is, if one believes the Bible is the infallible word of god, how can one choose to ignore some passages? But, if one accepts that the Bible is fallible, why believe it at all?
  • I Made God Cry - I relate the tale of how I forced the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to hear about dildo(e)s and other sex toys. One of my proudest acheievements.
  • Denialism - I get a chain e-mail from a friend about holocaust denial in the UK. Turns out the claims made in the e-mail aren't true. I make the case that these sort of things actually aid denialists rather than help solve the problem.
  • Raccoons! - Does what it says on the tin.
  • McCain and Religion - Though this post will (hopefully) be irrelevant by the end of today, I think it's a solid -- if brief -- exploration of why religion should not be part of making public policy decision.
So there you go! I am also confident that this post will help boost my rankings for people searching Google for "Jospeh Smith Dildo."

Presented without further comment

Monday, November 3, 2008

Review of Oliver Stone's "W."

I saw W last night, Oliver Stone's new movie about the president of the same name. My review follows below:

meh.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Expelled! Experience! - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

My journey into the depths of inanity continues...

00:12:19 - Robert J. Marks III
This dude claims that the young people of today are having to suffer at the hands of "Scientism." Stein then narrates that after this. I'm also starting to realize the futility of my endeavors here, because the National Center for Science Education has already done a masterful job of fisking Expelled! at Expelled Exposed, including the claims made by Marks. I'm going to keep going anyway. I'm watching this alone, and I need to vent to SOMEONE about all of the stupid... and lucky you, you're the one!

00:13:05 - It's a Mad House!!!
A clip from Planet of the Apes... My god, it's come to this.

00:13:30(ish) - Guillermo Gonzalez
To people (like me) who are intellectual masochists and follow the developments of the evolution vs. creationism/intelligent design battle, Guillermo Gonzalez is the stuff of legend... Gonzalez, a physicist, says that he was denied tenure at Iowa State University after he published a book, The Privileged Planet, that argued for intelligent design. Which is exactly what really happened... Oh wait, except that it isn't. Gonzalez says the following: "I have no doubt that I would have tenure now if I hadn't done any professional work on intelligent design." I actually believe he may be right on that: before coming to Iowa State, Gonzalez did indeed have a "stellar academic record." But as soon as he arrived at ISU, his academic throughput dropped of precipitously (there's a chart at the link above showing this), to the point where he producing zero academic papers as primary author during the three years leading up to the publication of his book.

00:15:15 - Anonymous Silhouette Scientists
"When you say 'Intelligent Design,' they hear 'Creationism.'"

Well, yeah: Intelligent Design is creationism: [The Wedge Document] [Full text of the written opinion of Judge John E. Jones from the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial... really a great read in its entirety.]

00:15:50 - Cavalcade of Rationality
PZ Myers! Richard Dawkins! Daniel Dennet (huh. I always thought he was British)! Guy who may or may not be Christopher Hitchens but it's hard to tell because the camera shot was too tight! Three's a parade of short clips from leading scientists, scholars and thinkers offering their out-and-out dismissals of ID. Everything they say is quite true, but of course all you hear is a two second clip designed to make them look arrogant, not their analysis of why Intelligent Design is -- by definition -- not science, and not scientific. It should be noted that the producers of Expelled! obtained these interviews through deception.

00:18:00 - Eugenie Scott
Love you, but man you have a messy desk.

00:18:15 - "I'm Lost!"
Ben Stein spends an a full minute pretending to be lost in downtown Seattle. Seriously.

00:19:15 - The Discovery Institute
Stein tours the offices of the Discovery Institute, the preeminent ID think tank and advocacy group. Stein talks to Bruce Chapman, founder and director of the Disco 'tute, who claims that Intelligent Design is "not a religious argument." This, despite the fact that the Wedge Document lays out the goals of the Discovery Institute as including the following:
  • "reverse the stifling [scientific] materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.
  • "affirm the reality of God."
  • "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
On which freaking planet is this not a religious argument?

00:21:45 - Joke FAIL
Ben Stein attempts a visual joke. It is not funny.

0025:00 - "We'll pin him down like a butterfly on a... butterfly board."
Ben Stein spends a full minute pretending to be lost in Redmond, Washington. Seriously.

I'm running out of steam on this... There's nothing here in this film. Nothing... I think this will end round two... There MAY be a part three, but I won't guarantee it. How's THAT for commitment to my meager goals?

-----------------------------
UPDATE
Yikes. I had about 50 billion typos originally. Note to self: read your damn posts before you click "publish."

Friday, October 24, 2008

The whole ACORN nonsense...

First off, check out this brilliant article about ACORN at the Guradian. Why we have to check out British newspapers for reasoned analysis of American politics is frustrating beyond words... Anyway, this article does the best job of breaking down the disinformation and misinformation about this supposed "scandal" I've seen yet.

And now, for my thoughts.

Why the hell is our mainstream media helping to perpetuate a hoax by the GOP about ACORN?

That's a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is that because it's easy and it gets viewers. So much of "reporting" these days is repeating more or less verbatim what is read in press releases. There's good journalism out there to be sure, but SO much of what makes it to the average newspaper reader -- or worse, TV viewer -- is so devoid of any real substance.

Let's look at the ACORN situation. If you were to believe the GOP (and since the media has been remiss in presenting anything other than the GOP juggernaut of misinformation, many people do), you'd think that the largest instance of fraud perpetrated against the American electoral system was underway. Barrack "Secret Muslim" Hussein Obama, using his army of evil fraudster acolytes is going to steal the election! John McCain even brought up the ACORN "scandal" in the presidential debate. So it must be true, right? McCain even blamed ACORN, a relatively tiny community-oriented advocacy group, for the current economic meltdown. Ludicrous.

The problem is, this is no there there. There isn't even a there for there to be a there, if you follow...

The voter registration fraud -- and there has indeed been fraud -- has largely been committed against ACORN, not by it. Let's break this down. One goal of ACORN is to get out the vote among low-income communities to support the candidates it endorses, such as Barrack Obama. One method they use is to pay workers to obtain completed voter registrations. Some of the workers doing this work found that it was much easier to just fill out a bunch of forms themselves with names like "Donald Duck," or even, for the sake of argument "John Smith" (more on John Smith later). This is a legitimate problem, and perhaps calls into question the effectiveness of ACORN's strategy for gathering registrations, but that's an internal logistical issue, not a moral one.

ACORN is obligated, by federal law, to submit all voter registrations it receives. That means, If you're the guy at ACORN who sends off the Box O'Completed Registrations to the county offices and you see "Donald Duck" listed as a voter, you are committing a federal crime if you say "That can't be right, I'll just toss this one in the trash." They must turn in these registrations. Period. What ACORN has done, however, is flagged such registrations as fraudulent, giving the county workers a heads-up that this or that particular registration might not be valid. Nearly every instance of fraudulent registrations found originating from ACORN registration efforts was detected and flagged by ACORN in this way.

So, what about the case of John Smith, a hypothetical fraudulent voter registration with a real sounding name where fraud may not have been detected. First off, such fake registrations are, again, submitted to ACORN by people trying to make a buck. They're not showing up at the polls as John Smith to influence the election... But what if they were? Unfortunately for the Republican hoax machine, federal law mandates that a person be required to prove their identity when they vote for the first time, either with a photo ID, or with two forms of non-photo identifying material.

In instances where the worker creating fraudulent registrations has been identified, ACORN has complied with and supported their prosecution. Period.

So now on to the Barrack Obama connection to ACORN... ACORN has endorsed Obama for president. Not surprising, as ACORN does tend to support Democratic candidates. Obama's platform is very much in line with the objectives of ACORN, to be sure. During the Democratic primary, Obama's campaign partnered with an ACORN affiliate to help with their get-out-the-vote efforts. Also, during Obama's legal career, he once represented ACORN -- along with the freaking US Department of Justice -- in a case against the state of Illinois... And, that's it! That's all there is. Obama did not found the organization as part of an arcane cabal with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Snidely Whiplash and Satan. He didn't serve on their board. He didn't use mind control powers to force people to fill out fake voter registrations.

Let's put all of this together: Barrack Obama is not tied to an evil election-stealing organization. Furthermore that organization isn't trying to steal any elections and what fraud there has been was committed against them. Furthermore, even if they were trying to steal the election, they couldn't. Also, ACORN did not cause the financial meltdown.

So, why? Why has this become the cause celeb of manufactured scandals? All of this ACORN noise is not about voter fraud. It's about two things.

The first is poor people. The Republicans are doing everything they can to (1) discourage or disable poor, particularly poor and black, people from voting in this year's election, as they would strongly tend to vote for Obama.

Secondly, in the event of an Obama win (which looks increasingly likely), the Republicans are trying to call into question the legitimacy of the election results. This way, they can always complain that Obama isn't REALLY the president and derogate everything he does with this nonsense hanging over his head.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Expelled! Experience! Part 1 - Live-blogging the worst documentary ever.

How best to capture Expelled!? This horrifically divisive Ben Stein documentary that is less about creationism "Intelligent Design," and more about how biologists = Hitler.

I'd been thinking I wanted to capture my thoughts, frustrations, and rebuttals to this film. Why? Because I need a project... In any event, as soon as the incredibly manipulative opening credits began, I decided I was going to live-blog this mofo. So here it is, I'll be watching this dreck, and whenever something happens worthy of my comment, I'll pause and write about it here...

Oh, And I'm featuring lots of links within to people who have written more extensively on particular topics than me, particularly the NCSE's excellend Expelled Exposed page.


00:00:40 - OPENING CREDITS
HOLY SHIT! We're 40 seconds into this beast and I already want to scream! The opening credits superimpose film of the construction of the Berlin wall with the names of the film's crew. It's bleak, and though it doesn't show the holocaust itself, the shots shows are clearly meant to evoke the same sorts of reactions... The actual nazi imagery will come later. Remember: this is a movie about biologists and a model they've developed for understanding how species arise. This is outrageous.

00:02:38 - Montage-a-Rama
A few friendly faces: Dawkins, Dennet, PZ Myers, Australian mustache dude...

00:03:34 - BEN STEIN'S SPEAKS!
The first real scene in the film shows a large auditorium at Pepperdine University filled with people who have come to see Ben Stein talk about the evolution/ID "controversy." Some of these people look very much unlike the sort of people you would expect to be interested in hearing a minor 1980's celebrity, famous for his droning voice, talk about science and religion for hours... This probably due to the fact that the audience didn't show up to hear Stein talk, but rather, they showed up to get paid. They're extras, actors paid to appear interested in what Stein has to say. This is the first dishonest thing we see in Expelled!, but I assure you it's not the last.

00:04:45 Montage O'Science
Beautiful montage of all science has brought us in the last century... followed immediately by shots of police brutality with Stein's voiceover saying that "teh ebil scientists r taking away ur freedom!!!!1!1"

00:05:30 - Richard Sternberg
Poor guy. He lost his job with the Smithsonian and became destititute because he dared to publish a peer-reviewed pro-ID paper... Oh, except that's not what happened at ALL. The National Center for Science Education has put together a website called "Expelled Exposed," and this incident is addressed masterfully there. Check it out.

00:08:00 - Go Michael Shermer!
Go Michael Shermer!

00:09:38 - Go Dan Savage!
Okay, filthy-mouthed sex advice columnist Dan Savage does not appear and is not mentioned anywhere in this film... But the background music here served as the theme music for the Savage Love podcast for quite some time. Just think it's funny that the music the Expelled producers chose reminds me of frank discussions of anal fisting and pie fight fetishists.

00:09:53 - Caroline Crocker
Caroline Crocker was a professor at Geroge Mason University until she happened to mention Intelligent Design. As soon as she did, the University immediately hired her and she was blacklisted from working in any American university... Oh wait, except that's not what happened at all. My favorite part of this story is that there's a video featuring Crocker at Coral Ridge Ministries that tells a very different story, and even includes a bunch of slides from Croker's lecture where she touts creationism and ID... Also, when Crocker says her administrator called her into his office and told her "I'm going to have to discipline you," I got a little hot.

00:11:22 - Michael Egnor
Ugh. Michael Egnor. What a tool. Basically, he thinks that peeps in medical school don't need to learn about evolution, and pretty much everyone in the medical communiy disagrees with him, including some vocal bloggers. In this instance, that is indeed pretty much what happened. Anyone who follows developments in the ID movement will know of Egnor, so here's his Expelled Exposed profile.... Also, Stephen Novella, cohost of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (yay!) has made several eviscerating critiques of Egnor's postulations... Enjoy!

00:12:00 - "Darwinists"
Okay, seriously. Stop calling people "Darwinists." The other day, someone was talking about the revolution of the planets around the sun. I looked and them with spite in my eyes, said, "You god damn Copernercist!" and walked away in a huff. Also, that story is completely made up.

Okay, That's all I can take of this drivel for now. I'll return later with more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I will watch Expelled! so you don't have to

I'm currently illegally downloading (no way I'd pay for this shit) Expelled!, the creationist propaganda "documentary" sensation of the year century millennium.

Rest assured, dear readers, that I will offer a scathing review shortly of what promises to be unbearable dreck, so you won't have to suffer through it yourself.

Or maybe not. As Rebecca from Skepchick points out, it did receive 4-stars with an "I love this film!" blurb on the DVD cover... Of course, the blurb is from Ben Stein, who may not be an entirely unbiased review, seeing as he hosts the friggin' film. Not quite dishonest to put that on the cover, but it is desperate and disingenuous.

Keep on your toes, for the stupid is about to start rolling in.

She has sportscasting experience!

Ugh... nothing but a barrage of videos from me, lately... Oh well. Here is proof that Sarah Palin's qualifications for the VP spot stretch way back:


I have to give her credit, she did better than the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" guy:



Does my love of schadenfreude know no bounds? The answer, of course is no. No it doesn't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sigh...

First the vid:

Okay, I don't even know where to start. First, I suspect (though it is just a suspicion) that this horrible horrible woman is right about one thing: Obama may indeed be a lot less religious than he lets on. I get the sense that he's paying lipservice to religion... though he feigns faith a lot better than McCain does. Which is why MCain had to recruit a TRUE religious whackjob to his ticket.

Secondly, no. Just no. The last thing we need is a Huckabeean state based on "God's laws." That is what the people of these Muslim nations that this woman so fears have. True, the governments of those nations are built in the name of a slightly different version of the same imaginary sky god, but a true "Christian" nation would be no less scary.

Thirdly "I just can't imagine a president named 'Presdient Obama.'" Ugh... Reminds me of this winner:


And Fourthy: Should I really have spent so much time on this? The answer is no. These people of lame... End of story.

Obama's Radical Tax Agenda

So, I plan on writing more posts of real substance sometime soon, back like I did in "the day." Just been busy as usual...

In the meantime, brilliant post over at Sadly No! that lays out the ridiculousness of the latest attacks on Obama, labeling hima Socialist blah blah blah... The infamous "Joe the Plumber" says that Obama is a socialist because he wants to raise taxes on the rich a few percentage points, back to where they were before Bush.

Indeed, the tax rates for the most rich among us were, at various times in the last hundred years, MUCH higher than they were during Clinton or would be under Obama... For instance, at times when we were involved in wars consuming lots of our national resources, or, say, trying to recover from a massive financial crisis...

Blah blah blah, just check out the original post. It includes a chart that features Milli Vanilli, Cheney as Dath Vader, golf on the Moon, and Captain America punching Hitler.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A brief interlude on search statistics

So, my cute little blog here isn't exactly the most visited site on the internet, but I recently installed Google Analytics, so I could see what kind of traffic I am getting, and where that traffic comes from... I was looking at the most common search results leading to this site are, and am amused by at least one fo the results. The number listed is the percentage of people who reached this blog based on the noted search engine results:

25% "Bill Mahar Religiocity" (I'm guessing that these people were misspelling Maher's film Religulous)
11% "Joseph Smith Dildo" (uhhh.... No comment... 11%!)
7% "Just do it, as the Bible tells you so" (Nike's new slogan?)
3% "An account of when Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered"
3% "Difference between atheist and heathen"
3% "Doctor Who Silence in the Library watch"

I know I said no comment, but seriously... 11% of people reading this site are looking for something involving Jospeh Smith AND dildos... Now, granted, this is based on an extremely small sample size, but according to Google, they're each unique visitors with unique IP addresses... So there you go!

Spirit Academy

I hate reality television, and I'm not too hot on "psychics" either.

So when I saw the good people at Denialism Blog post a series of videos from a British reality series to find the "UK's Next Psychic Superstar," I clicked play, my groan reaction was queued up and ready to go...

Then I heard Patrick Stewart's narration, and my opinion of him plummeted. This was Captain Picard himself trying to get me to buy this bullshit? Had Professor X bought into psychic hokum? (Wait... Now that I think on it, Professor X was psychic. Never mind on that one.)

But I was quickly won over. I think Shirley Ghostman, the host of the show, may actually be the real deal. The scene where he channels Princess Diana made my heart skip a beat. Witness:




This is seriously the greatest show ever. :)

MINOR UPDATE: It appears that there are actually two different shows here, High Spirits, where Shirley Ghostman does a more straight forward TV psychic shtick, and the Spirit Academy reality show, wherein credulous participants unknowlingly make themselves look like fools for our entertainment... Check of the related videos for more fun... And can we get these here in the states PRETTY PLEASE!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In follow up to the last video I posted, here's this. Credit where credit is due: props to John McCain for helping to correct some of the vile, hate-filled rhetoric that has been dished out about Obama.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Prez and VP candiates and their education

[education details originally from a comment at huffpo]

Let's take a look at the education that the candidates for presdient and vice president have had:

Obama: Occidental College - Two years.
Columbia University - B.A. political science, specialization in international relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude, presdient of Harvard Law Review

Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 of 899

Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism


Now, education of course does not equal intelligence. There are many keenly intelligent people who do not have the opportunity for a prestigious education, or who simply do not feel as drawn to pursue a rigorous, standardized education as others do.

There are also many notoriously incurious people who, due to the circumstances of their existence (for instance, being the son of an oil millionaire congressman and later U.S. President), do pursue and achieve prestigious education. So, yeah. One's education does not equal their suitability for any profession, including the presidency of the United States.

But education is an indication not just of one's intelligence, but also of one's tenacity. Education does help prepare people for the challenges that will face them in life.

McCain, formal education aside, does indeed have a significant amount of political experience. (I totally disagree with his politics of course, particularly lately. Maverick my ass.) But for Christ's sake, the man chose SARA PALIN as his ideal choice for vice president. I am aghast -- AGHAST -- that the ghost of the "he's a president you can have a beer with" meme has raised its ugly head again, this time in the form of "She's a regular hockey mom!" Do we not learn out lessons?

Is Sara Palin a reasonable choice to stand for the "average citizen?" I would argue that her political stances aer a tad more extreme than the true average, but sure. She's more or less a regular person. Which is all fine and good... Except if you're on track to become the President of the United States.

I DO NOT WANT A REGULAR PERSON AS PRESIDENT. We went through this with Al "smug" Gore, John "Latte" Kerry and now with Barrack "Elite" Obama. Is Obama "Elite?" In some ways yes. Just look at the education record I posted above. He surely strove hard to attain what he became at Harvard, to become an "elite" student... But the whole "elite" epithet the GOP is trying to pin on him falls apart when Guiliani, for instance, makes fun of him for being a "community organizer." I guarantee you that Obama is far more in touch hwo to make thie country a promising place again fro the "average" American than John "elite" McCain.

So, this post has been a little meandering and directionless. Primarily because I started it over a week ago and am just now finishing it... So, I'm just going to declare it done. Right here: [end]

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(Note: Post edited at 3:45 pm because of an unacceptable number of typos.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008