Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogs to Follow

I know many of my followers run blogs of their own, and I try to follow as many of them as I can but sometimes I just miss some. So if you're following my blog and you want me to follow yours, then post the URL in the comments.

Here's the list of blogs I'm already following. Please check to see if yours is already listed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why We Fight

I have noticed quite a few messages in the comments to my posts lately. Some people seem to think the billboards such as "You Know It's A MYTH" or "You Know They're All SCAMS" are dickish and are making atheists look bad. Some even scowled at me for calling people delusional for believing that God created people in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. Why? Because it's disrespectful. In my humble opinion though, respect should never be automatic. Respect is to be earned, and when people believe something beyond all rational and logical meaning in the face of contradicting evidence, it IS a delusion, and it deserves NO respect. It's the God damn definition of delusion.

Why do we fight? Why do we to tell people they are myths and scams and put it up on billboards? It's because we live in a society where religious beliefs are so heavily respected that they aren't questioned, and they are often pushed into our laws and our lives without consequences.

Why so many anti-Christian messages? Am I just butthurt against Christianity instead of religion in general? The reason for this is because in our society, Christianity rules supreme, and is often not held to the same standards as any other religion. It is favored in so many cases where, if replaced by a different religious act, would be heavily attacked. A recent example of this would be Tim Tebow. In University he would wear references to bible verses on his face...

Once he graduated, the NCAA ended up banning eye-billboards.

Now, Tebow is a professional football player for the Denver Broncos. But since the NFL already bans eye-black messages, he has to figure out a different way to send his Christian bat-signal… and it looks like he found it!

Is he breaking the rules? Looks like it:
… NFL and NCAA rules forbid players from marking their uniforms…

The rule covers the helmet, jersey, pants, shoes, tape, wristbands, and headbands. No writing on any part of the body. Before each game uniform reps — former NFL players — prowl the sidelines looking for violators. When the teams go back into the locker room before the game starts, they are given a list of players who are in violation of the rule.
If they come out for the kickoff without removing the writing, they will be fined. According to Johnny Rembert, the uniform rep in Jacksonville and a 10-year NFL veteran, fines start at $5,000.
As far as I can tell, Tebow has been issued no fine. However, Kenny Britt of the Tennessee Titans was fined $5,000 because the towel attached to his uniform said “#10 VY” — a tribute to Vince Young. Britt accepted the fine and removed the towel for the second half of the game. Why is the NFL letting Tebow’s violation slide? How much do you want to bet if someone had "There is no God" written on their wrist, they'd be hit with that fine the moment someone spotted it on their HDTV. This is what we so often see in our little world. Christianity is accepted where everything else is strictly forbidden.

What else? Is that all I have? Some NFL guy writing on his wrist? That's a pretty weak argument, maybe people just didn't notice it or just didn't care because it's such a little thing it's not worth fighting over. Well I was reading the Chicago Tribune and I saw this letter-to-the-editor from Ed Leighton:

Eighteen months after graduating from a public high school, I had a chance encounter with Mr. Clark, my old guidance counselor. In what might have been a fishing expedition, he asked me who my most influential teacher was.
“Mr. Eitmueller,” I replied.
He then asked if it had anything to do with Christianity. It did.
I was a teenager in the ’70s and had succumbed to many of its temptations. As a student of Mr. Eitmueller, he was well-aware of the resulting changes in me, and it seems, of my potential. When he told me I’d be receiving a failing grade in his class, I asked if there was anything that could be done (you know, to fix that).
There was. If I agreed to read the Gospel of John that summer, he would agree to elevate my failing grade to passing.
Certain I had just made a great deal, I walked away quite pleased with myself.
As agreed, he passed me.
As agreed, I read the Gospel of John. By summer’s end, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.
Just imagine if Eitmueller had suggested reading any book about atheism…

Better yet, imagine a public school teacher telling a child who failed the class that he would change the grade to passing, but only if the student read the Koran.

There would have been an uproar then. The teacher would have been severely reprimanded if not suspended or fired. There would be an uproar now. Every Christian Right group would rightfully be after that teacher. Every administrator at that school would be inundated with emails calling for their heads.

But because it’s a story about Christianity, it gets a complete pass. Everything’s ok. The teacher is a role model. The letter makes it into the Sunday edition of the Tribune.

Anyone want to make a bet that the Illinois Family Institute has nothing to say about this story? How about any Religious Right group? Any church? Of course not. They want more exchanges like this to happen.

Christians also fight the hardest to get their beliefs into schools and laws. They come up with a pseudoscience and even though it's denied by the entire scientific community, they demand it gets equal treatment and be taught alongside evolution in schools. Don't believe me? Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen wants to introduce a bill next year that will hamper the teaching of evolution:
Senator Brecheen says children should be given all the facts when it comes to evolution.

The senator says he supports having creationism — the belief that God created the world without evolution — taught in public schools.

“You either remove both or you put both in,” he said.
In an op-ed he wrote last week, Brecheen called evolution, “a religion,” and says there are serious flaws in the theory that students ought to know.
“The main fallacy with Darwinian theory,” he argued, “is the sudden appearance at about 540 million years [ago] of fossil records. It’s like a guy standing at the chalkboard and saying okay here’s an atom [and then writing] question mark, question mark, human — here we are. But its fact, and there’s zero evidence to back it up.”
 What he's talking about is  the Cambrian Explosion, which has already been explained before...

Even the major universities have come out against this idiocy:
Oklahoma’s major universities including OU and OSU all agree that evolution is the best science and that alternatives such as creationism should not be taught in public schools.
This is what Brecheen wrote in an op-ed last week:
One of the bills I will file this year may be dismissed as inferior by “intellectuals” so I wanted to devote particular time in discussing it’s merits… I’m talking about the religion of evolution. Yes, it is a religion. The religion of evolution requires as much faith as the belief in a loving God,
As PZ Meyers wrote in an op-ed about this, "It's not a promising beginning when you're discussing a scientific topic and immediately dismiss intellectuals." If you would like to see all the fallacies in this man's statement about teaching Creationism in school, check out PZ Meyers' article, where he breaks it all down.

The faculty of Southeastern Oklahoma State University are covering their eyes in shame right now, since apparently this creationist-cliche-spewing plagiarist and professional imbecile managed to successfully graduate from their institution.

I would like if we could all just get along, if we could just do what's right for humanity instead of what's right for furthering our ideology. I ask that secularism be promoted so that nobody's ideology is favored. If we could do that, there would be no reason for billboards telling everyone that the nativity is a myth. People could believe what they want and keep it to themselves and live however they want. But when those illogical beliefs start to hurt our society, or individuals, then it's time to take off the kid gloves and get serious. Religious ideology should be treated the same as any other harmful ideology, such as homeopathy. Get serious and stop pandering to ignorant people. This is why we have to remind people that we live in reality, not a fairytale. This is why we fight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays

It's been a fantastic Winter. I don't know about you guys, but I've had a great Christmas. Just chillin back with my girl and enjoying some fine campaign in front of my new 32" LCD. Thanks to all you guys and gals who helped pay for it ;]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Importance of Failure

Today I'm taking a break from the usual posting of religious people doing something ridiculous. This video is really very entertaining and makes for a great life lesson. It's a bit long (45 minutes) but it's absolutely worth watching. If you're busy, you should come back to this later and watch it entirely.

During The Amazing Meeting 7 (in 2009), Adam Savage from Mythbusters spoke about the importance of his failures and how they shaped him. JREF has now put the video online:

On a side note, my blog has reached 666 followers! I give thanks to all my fellow heathens.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NASA Scientists Discover Arsenic Life Form

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It's capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything.
NASA is saying that this is "life as we do not know it". The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.
That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.

NASA Finds New Life (Updated)

According to Wolfe-Simon, they knew that "some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new—building parts of itself out of arsenic." The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding organisms in other planets that don't have to be like planet Earth. Like NASA's Ed Weiler says: "The definition of life has just expanded."

Talking at the NASA conference, Wolfe-Simon said that the important thing in their study is that this breaks our ideas on how life can be created and grow, pointing out that scientists will now be looking for new types of organisms and metabolism that not only uses arsenic, but other elements as well. She says that she's working on a few possibilities herself.
NASA's geobiologist Pamela Conrad thinks that the discovery is huge and "phenomenal," comparing it to the Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise crew finds Horta, a silicon-based alien life form that can't be detected with tricorders because it wasn't carbon-based. It's like saying that we may be looking for new life in the wrong places with the wrong methods. Indeed, NASA tweeted that this discovery "will change how we search for life elsewhere in the Universe."

NASA Finds New Life (Updated)

I don't know about you but I've not been so excited about bacteria since my STD tests came back clean. And that's without counting yesterday's announcement on the discovery of a massive number of red dwarf stars, which may harbor a trillion Earths, dramatically increasing our chances of finding extraterrestrial life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Glimpse Inside the Fish Bowl

Father John Trigilio has recently expressed outrage. The release of US internal diplomatic messages by Wikileaks is treasonous!


It can't be Assange who is treasonous since treason is an action taken against one's own legitimate government. The man who runs Wikileaks is Australian.
That rules him out.

We could lay the charge against whichever American released the documents to Wikileaks, of course, but therein lies the rub.

Can we assume everything our government does is legitimate?
In other words, are there occasions when government action should be brought to the attention of the world?

I am thinking of the numerous examples of US government sponsored testing of radioactive and biological agents on various sub-populations within US borders, the testing of these agents against American citizens. Would it have been treasonous to release that kind of information, even though that information release would destabilize a particular President or government party?

Or, try another question.
Was it treasonous to reveal who was behind the Watergate break-in?

You may argue that the President and his cohorts broke the laws, and therefore it was right to reveal their activities.
But now we are into a matter of judgement, for in order to make that assessment, we must, in some sense, be both trial judge and jury in order to determine what should be released and what should not. And isn't a citizen who acts as both trial judge and jury breaking the law, assuming guilt before a trial, etc.?

Notice, I'm not arguing against the idea that each of us must act as trial judge and jury in such a situation. I think that's a laudable thing for everyone to do.

Whenever a leak like this happens, it happens because someone feels the information being released should be more widely known in order to prevent some abuse. Whether that judgement is correct may be open to question, but that is generally the motive which drives the leak (it may also be the case that the person releasing the information is being paid to do so, which definitely would be treason, but let us assume the higher motives).