Monday, June 30, 2008

the Godless Federation

[thanks to Hemant Mehta]

When I was growing up, I was -- I'll go ahead and admit it -- a Star Trek fan. I totally lost interest in all things Trek YEARS ago when it became rote and unwatchable (some might argue that happened about, oh, forty years ago, but for me it was about 1996).

Still, I can stand by some of the things Star Trek was all about: tolerance, acceptance, science, exploration and the triumph of human ingenuity. One thing Star Trek was always known for was its neutrality when it came to (human) religion. Rarely, VERY rarely was God or religion mentioned at all. It wasn't explicitly atheist, but it surely didn't drag religion into things at all...

Which is all fine and good, except for this guy:

WOW!!! Just... wow... The fundamentalist geekery! It's just all too much! Talk about getting worked up over nothing! My favorite part is that the first three minutes are him showing off all his cool Star Trek schwag! heheheh... I bet Wil Wheaton will be posting on this one soon enough. :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bill Maher has crossed the line!

I posted about Bill Maher's new documentary, Religulous, recently.

The studio releasing Religulous has just put up a new website,, a reference to

Good stuff abounds here: lots of tongue-in-cheek (and not-so-tongue-in-cheek) criticism of the Big Important Religions; some fun being poked at the fun-poke-worthy Raelians; and meaningless polls (that you don't seem to be able to actually answer, but oh well).

Unfortunately, this site crosses a line! Check out the following image from the "Miscellaneous Faiths" section. What do you see:
Don't see it? Look closer...

That's right! Maher and his team of antireligious apologists have lumped the Flying Spaghetti Monster into "Miscellaneous Faiths." According to, the world's one true faith is just as made up as Heavan's Gate, Scientology, Satanism and the Church of the Subgenius!

Can you believe this!? I hope that one day, Maher will see the light and be touched by His noodly appendage!

But anyway, my favorite is the list of links to REAL religious websites entitled "You won't believe what people believe."

I'm starting to get really excited about this movie...

BONUS: How many of the misc. faith symbols can you identify without looking it up? I got them all but the first two (though the first one, clearly, has something to do with THC).

[ht to Friendly Atheist]

Friday, June 13, 2008

Religiocity Survey

[via PZ and Richard Dawkins]
Do you have a spare 30 minutes? Go take this survey, part of honest-to-goodness scholarly scholarly research. I'll be curious to see what the end results of this study are.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fox News: Officially a parody of itself

Right on the heels of Fox News implying that Barack Obama was showing off a his "terrorist fist jab"*, Fox News shows its true colors again.

I don't know the context of this screen capture, but the caption here pretty much speaks for itself. Can you imagine the outrage, OUTRAGE I TELL YOU, that we'd see on Fox News if, say, MSNBC had something equally rude about McCain's wife, how it was inappropriate, uncalled for and just plain rude?

Oh, and who can forget THIS wonderful piece of "fair and balanced" commentary, where she not only confuses Obama and Osama, but then says that we should assassinate them "both if we could." Sigh...

It's going to be a long election season, and I'll be both horrified and entertained with the follies of Fox News in the coming months.

Here's the video of the terrorist fist jab, for anyone who's missed this story. First off, nice job with the sly little implication that the presidential frontrunner is a terrorist... Secondly, this whole segment is clearly a thinly-veiled scare piece about how OH MY GOD, OBAMA IS GOING TO BLACKIFY AMERICA!!!! And lastly, how out of touch can you be? "Is that sort of a symbol young people get ." Come on, it's 2008. What the hell kind of "body language expert" is unfamiliar with this COMPLETELY MAINSTREAM gesture?!!?! Good Christ.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lots o' politics lately

Wow, that's a lot of politics posts lately. Coming up later this week: Part IV of my personal religious history series, plus a book review, review of the latest Doctor Who, and (let's be honest here) probably some more rants on politics.

Compare and Contrast: McCain and Religion

As I was writing that last post, my wife said I should read Obama's books before posting it. Surely, an excerpt of one speech is a remarkably incomplete picture of a presidential candidate's stance on religion. There is much more to the story than that, and she's right: I should read his books.

But for me it comes down to this: whatever a person's private prejudices may be, religion should not dictate policy, and I am DELIGHTED that Obama acknowledged this: even if God tells your neighbor Abraham to murder his kid doesn't mean you shouldn't call the police when you see a knife at poor Isaac's throat.

Let's contrast for a moment what Obama said with McCain's take on the role of religion in public policy.

But first, let's debunk the claim that McCain makes in this video. McCain claims that the "Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

This is simply FALSE. Indeed the Constitution makes no mention of Christianity, Jesus or anything vaguely Yahwistic. The Constitution does make a brief and oblique reference to a "creator," but there is zero exposition on the nature of that creator, which was surely an intentional choice on the part of the Deist drafters of the document.

Indeed, there is -- and this is important -- just one official government statement on the role of Christianity in the U.S. government made by the "Founding Fathers." The Treaty of Tripoli (whose main purpose it was to stop North African Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean from attacking U.S. ships) states the following:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
This treaty was signed into law by President John Adams in 1797. The treaty is not a founding document, but it far more powerful a sign of the intent of the founders of this nation than anything the "Chritian Nation" people have been able to dig up (which is to say, no supporting evidence).

Anyway, here's John McCain on the role of religion in making our public policy...

Obama and religion

Barrack Obama is clearly a man of faith. I am not. I do not believe that Obama is pretending religion for votes, something that I do feel other candidates do. My wife has criticized Obama for some of what he says in his one of his books about nonreligious people. I have not read his books, so I can't comment about those statements.

The video excerpt below [via PZ] is from an Obama speech in 2006, in which O speaks on faith and its place in American politics. This short clip does two things.

The first is that it shows exactly what O is good at: he takes complex, controversial issues (as he later did with race) in which most people have a vested personal interest. He acknowledges the difficulty of addressing the issues, not just by saying it's controversial, but by explaining the controversy, why both sides feel their side is justified. This is something I don't see any other major American politician do. Barrack Obama is just one hell of an eloquent, elucidating speaker, the kind of clear voice we have not had in a president during my lifetime.

The second thing he does here is that he tells, pretty conclusively, why people of faith, however deeply felt their religious convictions may be, should never base public policy on their religion. Obama expresses that the nonbelievers have a right to be heard. This is a big step up from George Bush Sr.'s "atheists shouldn't be considered citizens" statement. And Even if we were a "Christian nation," whose Christianity should we teach?

Anyway, I won't belabor the point. Here's the video.

Look who popped up in the latest This Modern World:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Then and now...

It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.
Those eloquent words are from the introduction to The Best and the Brightest [via C&L], the historic book that told the story of America's folly in Vietnam. That introduction was written by a U.S. Senator and POW during that war, a man who knew first-hand how "a great and good nation can lose a war and see its worthy purposes and principles destroyed by self-delusion."

The man who wrote the above words, John McCain, once wrote so beautifully and soberly on the dangers of unwise, poorly executed, unsupported and elective wars has changed his tune... What does he have to say now?

This isn't the only time McCain has contradicted his earlier statements...


I can't wait until this comes out! Bill Maher, you rock! Looks like he stopped by the Salt Lake temple for this. Can't wait to see what he did here in SLC. We should organize an outing to this!
[via Splendid Elles]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Just saw the trailer for Alan Ball's (American Beauty) new film, Towelhead, and it looks very excellent.

The movie is based on Alicia Erian's novel of the same name. I've read Erian's short stories (in her collection The Brutal Language of Love) and I find her to be a formidable writer. I think I may have to read Towelhead before the film comes out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blogroll Part II

Not to demean the importance of my post from just moments ago, but I have another Blog I'm adding to the new blogroll.

In a naked, blatant bid to get THIS blog added to Abbie's blogroll (per this post), I'm adding ERV to mine, effective... now. Abbie, the baroness of Endogenous Retrovirus is a humble grad student studying, well, endogenous retrovirii (viruses, whatever)...

But by night, she is ERV, scourge of creationists everywhere, more despised by ID cranks than PZ or Dawkins, more powerful than David Horowitz and his evil HIV-denier army. Defeater of pseudoscience, ravisher of anti-science. Behold, ERV, and her trusty sidekick Arnie (pictured below).

But seriously, go check out ERV. She's recently moved to a new blog space at ScienceBlogs, so check out this (fairly recent) introduction to the awesomeness that is ERV.

Obama 2008 - Let's get started!

[via just about everyone, but I'll link to Wil Wheaton of all people. That's where I saw it first.]
I'll have more to say on this in the coming weeks. Something more reasoned, something acknowledging the few items I do take issue with with this candidate, and something less... I don't know... less call-to-actiony.

But for now, let me leave it at this:

WOOOOOO!!!! Yeah! OH YEAH!!!!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!!!1!! .... !

It's not official official until all the delegates cast their votes at the Democratic convention... But as of tonight, Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for president. He's been my choice for a LONG time. As with ANY candidate, I'm not 100% on track with him on absolutely EVERYTHING he says and stands for, but more than any viable candidate in my recollection I am truly and wholly EXCITED to have Obama to vote for. I do feel that, more than just representing me, Obama can help this nation regain its head and its heart. Go O! (I can call him O. We're tight like that, O and me.)

Hillary Clinton supporters: take a week to feel disappointed, angry and disheartened. You deserve it. I always preferred Obama to Clinton, but she was a great and formidable candidate. After one week, we need everyone behind Obama. We have a historic opportunity to take back this country.

McCain has been gaining traction as the Democratic candidates have been duking it out between each other. We cannot afford four more years of Republican, war-monger, secretive, of-the-rich, by-the-rich, for-the-rich rule. This country cannot afford it. The world cannot afford it. The planet cannot afford it.

And lets all campaign for Obama. Those of you in Utah, I know it may feel like your vote doesn't count here, but the more we fight, the more we raise our heads and our hands and demand to be heard publicly, the more we can make the indifferent among us take pause and think about what what this nation needs in a leader, and realize that another Republican who has promised the continuation of the worst of Bush's policies cannot be tolerated.

And then, in November, let's all go VOTE!


At one point in time, I had a blogroll over on the panel to your right.
(Here: --->)
I listed all the blog of my friends, family and internet acquaintances... But then everyone made their blog private, because my core group of friends (and that's probably you, since few others read my blog regularly) has a tendency to be a little TOO honest on their blogs, later realizing, "OMFSM! Did I really post THAT on the series of tubes for all to see!?!!"

So, I took the blogroll away.

But I've decided to resurrect it. I'm being pretty selective with the blogs I choose to include, and I'll try to avoid (for the most part) extraordinarily popular blogs, focusing on lesser-known ones that offer a unique perspective, whether its on politics, religion, entertainment, books or any other topic that strikes my fancy.

To start off, I've included links to Skepchick and the Friendly Atheist, two well-known blogs (you know, the ones that just one sentence ago I said I wouldn't be including). Both of these are superbly written. The Friendly Atheist does what it says on the tin. Hemant Mehta is openly critical of religion's excesses, but is also devoted to allowing people to believe what they want to believe and working to better understand those among us that have faith.

Skepchick is written by an all-girl (well, and ONE guy) team of superhero kick-ass skeptics led by Rebecca Watson (also check out Rebecca on the brilliant weekly podcast The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe). Skepchick is my favorite blog, period. I consistently look forward to insightful posts on critical issues, snarky criticism of pseudoscience, and engaging discussions in the comments. Also, one of my posts (this one) was the subject of a post at Skepchick, so they obviously know what is what!

Next up is The Other, Elaine's blog. Elaine's a good friend, and reading her posts is always a breath a fresh air, whether she's talking about discovering the purpose for a teacup saucer (foreign readers: remember, Utah is a weird place) or relating her frustration with trying to communicate the concept of a shadow in a language she doesn't yet know fluently.

And last but not least, we have Moonlight over Essex, a wonderful blog written by Chris Black, a recent commenter here. Chris included a link here from his own blog, and I've enjoyed reading his posts on UK politics and other sundries. Thanks Chris!

I'll be adding more to the blogroll over the next bit, so if you feel slighted, fret not. Also, if you're a new reader here, post your links in the comments and I'll most likely add you to the roll. :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Is there anyone NOT on this list?

[via PZ]
I mean, I myself have, at one point or another, been at least 13 of these... And really, sports fans? Some of them are jerks, but if being a jerk got you into hell, the guy holding this sign has some problems. Is there some bible verse condemning spectator sports?

Also, does he mean REAL psychics, or just people who PURPORT to be psychics. The latter seems like it's covered by "Liars."

Bonus: Who can name the 13 things I'm guilty of? (Hint: I'm not a lesbian)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Doctor Who - Silence in the Library

Geekery abounds in this post. You have been warned. Note that since most of the people who regularly read my blog are Who beginners, I'm writing this post with that in mind...

From as far back as I can recall, I loved Doctor Who, the longest running science fiction television show in history (its original run lasting from 1963 to 1989). Doctor Who, for those not in the know, is the story of a sort of Samaritan hobo (known only as the Doctor) who travels around time and space in a broken time machine, occasionally picking up some bewildered earthlings (often -- okay, usually -- nubile young women [1,2,3(NSFW),4] as he, you know, saves the earth from destruction and occassionally gets killed. (Don't worry! When they die, his species can "regenerate" into a new form, meaning that the BBC can hire a new actor to play the same character! Brilliant!)

I remember watching the half-hour reruns on the local PBS channel every weekday evening at 5:00. Later, they they moved it to Saturday night, with two hours of nonstop Who goodness each week. As a kid, there was nothing better than watching Tom Baker take on the Master, or Jon Pertwee's fey Doctor reversing the polarity of things. My favorite doctor was Sylvester McCoy. (Though it might be a little more accurate to say I liked Ace, his punk-rock companion... She knew how to kick some Dalek ass (or eye-stalk) like none other! Oh yeah!) The original run was knows for its clever plots and brilliant characters right along with its cheap sets and cheesy special effects. Very much part of the popular culture of the UK, Doctor Who has been the inspiration for at least one burlesque show [mildly NSFW] and at least one porno [extraordinarily NSFW].

The show ended in 1989 and I missed Doctor Who as I grew up. The lame-ass Fox TV movie in 1996 did nothing to make the situation better (what a waste of two hours!), but when news of the new BBC series came around in 2005, I was jumping for joy (not literally... as far as I recall),

The new series, picking up right where the last run left off, has proved to be generally exceptional. There have been a few moments of lameness and cheesiness [exhibit A, exhibit B], but overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The new Doctor Who is sexier, more fun, more clever and edgier than ever before. (I imagine Captain Jack Harkness*, the Doctor's omnisexual companion that will "dance" (i.e., have sex with) with just about anyone, would have gone over like a ton of bricks in an earlier era. The revived series' creator, Russell T. Davies, was previously best known for creating Queer as Folk, and he's not been afraid to push the boundaries on Who. Also, Davies, openly an atheist, inserts a skeptical slant into many of the storylines... Plus, Richard Dawkins, whose wife starred on the show in the 70s and 80s, will be appearing as himself in an upcoming episode!!! Nifty!

* Aside: Captain Jack Harkness became the star of a spin-off series, Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who, and the subject of one of my recent posts). Torchwood is a sort mix between Who and the X-Files, only with swearing, lots and lots of sex, and the occasional naked bum. Overall, I've found Torchwood to be just shy of a great show, but I think it's wonderful that treats sexual diversity as just part of the human experience, with every one of the main characters of Torchwood at least experimenting with bisexuality (though sometimes under alien influence), and it's cool to see a weekly sci-fi series with a queer lead...

Anyway, there have been a few moments of sheer brilliance in the new series. One of those, was last season's Blink. Blink, for my money, is one of the best hours of television ever produced, period. It was creepy, scary, mind-bending, and used time-travel in a unique way as part of the plot, rather than just the way the characters got to the plot. Blink featured the main characters for probably less than 5 minutes of screen time, which allowed us to see this story from the perspective of some random person who just happened to be caught up in the story. Truly a brilliant piece of storytelling.

This week's episode, Silence in the Library, was also one of those brilliant episodes. It begins with a young girl in what appears to be a 21st century living room. She's being interviewed by her psychiatrist and father about her imaginary life, the life she sees when she's not drawing or watching cartoons. After the opening credits, we see The Doctor and Donna (who I find much less annoying that I thought I would) are headed to the beach in the TARDIS, but end up in a 51st century library containing every book ever written, many reprinted in special editions just to be put on the shelves. But the library is vacant. There is no one anywhere to be found. Seeing how these two seemingly unrelated storylines begin to connect is fascinating, and I can't wait to learn more in part two! This episode does a perfect job of drip-feeding you enough information to keep you intrigued, but not blasting you with a firehose of so many details that there is no suspense, which has occasionally been an issue with the new series.

Both Blink and Silence in the Library were penned by Steven Moffat, who was recently announced as Russell. T. Davies' replacement as showrunner when he leaves the series next season. I'm excited to see how Moffat takes the series to even greater heights.

In a search for the fabled Jo-Grant-naked-with-a-Dalek picture linked to in the second paragraph, somehow the Google image results gave me
this decidedly NSFW link. Transformers Porn. The world is doomed.