Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Bill Nye Takes Flack Over Creationism Comments

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

As you may have heard, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has been called a lot of nasty names and made the subject of a great deal of controversy after stating that creationism does not belong in US classrooms and that science should include teaching of the fact of evolution.

Here’s a video of Nye on a recent television newscast. It shows part of the original video and his explanation for the comments:

I’ve had the chance to meet Bill Nye and order a hamburger with him, and I can say, at least in my experience, he’s a pretty respectful and nice guy. Like all guests at The Amazing Meeting, he was only there to share his experiences and be part of the community – he was not getting paid for it. Bill Nye has been a popularizer of science and an advocate for strong science education.

He’s really not an overly confrontational type. Unlike some others who have been associated with the skeptic movement, Bill Nye never really goes out of his way to stoke the fires of controversy or get attention by making a scene. He’s usually pretty respectful. Unfortunately the fact of the matter is that creationist interests have been fighting hard against good science education in the US and there’s only one side that any competent science advocate can take.

Are Bill Nye’s comments controversial? Some would think so, although it’s sad. His stance that evolution is science and creationism is not has been stated by nearly every major scientific organization in the United States. Many have used uncharacteristically strong language in their rejection of the notion of creationism or “intelligent design” in school curriculum. Not only that, but creationism can’t be taught in US public schools – at least that’s what numerous courts have ruled. Numerous school boards and even state education departments have tried to worm it in, but every time it has been brought before a competition judge, it has been shot down.

The fact that this is still controversial is just beyond me. But if you have any doubts, just search YouTube for the recent video responses to Bill Nye’s comments. They are so stupid, I won’t even dignify them with a hyperlink!

The Reason Rally: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I just got back from the Reason Rally, a massive gathering of secularists on the National Mall in Washington DC. The event was intended to show support for separation of church and state and solidarity amongst non-believers. In general, it went quite well, but there were definitely a few things that I was a little put off by.

Some might think it a bad idea to attend something like the Reason Rally when running for political office. After all, atheists are not generally well received, especially in the Republican party. I certainly considered this, but in the end I decided it was worth the risk. I really need to raise money for my campaign badly and the Reason Rally was an opertunity to see a lot of politically active people with similar concerns for the nation. I also saw a number of people I’m acquainted with. I handed out campaign flyers and hopefully this will translate to some contributions.

As for whether it will hurt me with the more conservative members of the party back home, that is certainly a concern. I don’t intend to make a big deal of my attendance of the rally when I’m at more conservative committee meetings, but I certainly won’t deny it if I am asked. I’m not going to lie to win, so the fact that I’m a non-believer is not something I can really hide. As far as I am concerned, it’s really not a valid campaign issue.

The Good:

The rally went quite well overall. Despite rain, over 20,000 people attended. There were many great speakers, each of them offering a slightly different take on the importance of reason and maintaining a secular government. I didn’t entirely agree with every speaker on every point, but most of them I could stand behind. There were also a lot of people of different ages and backgrounds, which is great to see. Some had traveled a long distance to make the rally. Overall, I don’t think there’s any denying it was a huge success.

It was a very enjoyable event in general. The speakers were great, the attendees were generally in very good spirits and it was a lot of fun to walk around and meet people from all over the country and a variety of backgrounds. There wasn’t any bickering over who had the better seat or who might have cut in line to get refreshments or any of the other scuffles common at big public events.

There were some Christian protestors, as one might expect. They kept to the side. There were not many of them, perhaps a dozen. Their presence seemed to be larger than it really was because they all had very big signs proclaiming the need to worship Jesus, obey the bible and so on. They openly asked rally attenders to come over and talk to them and many did. The protestors were quickly surrounded by atheists from the rally, who took them up on their challenge ton debate.

There were no incidents at all. Some of the debates became spirited. On occasion voices were raised. I never heard any unrestrained name-calling, just a few arguments that got slightly loud, perhaps out of frustration. Nobody was threatened and nothing even approaching violence occurred. In most cases, the exchanges were entirely civil.


A Simple Observation of St. Patrick’s Day

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Snakes are a form of life that many people don’t like. I suppose it’s not that surprising. They’re not mammals, and therefore not warm and cuddly. They have a body shape that is much different than humans and seems strange and foreign. They’re slithery, scaly and cold blooded. They have a weird, somewhat creepy stare with eyes that don’t blink. They seem very creepy and cunning because they blend into their environment, hide in grass or are difficult to see as they climb trees. You might not notice that they are there until you step on one. They have a menacing hiss and a fork tongue that’s strange and scary looking. They have big teeth and produce a nasty bite. Many of them are venomous.

They may be the most hated and feared form of animal life for humans. This is not entirely universal, of course. Snaked do appear in a positive context in some mythology and religion, but in western religion, they tend to be seen in a very negative manner. In the Bible, the first evil entity introduced is Satan taking the form of a snake. Whether it’s the Biblical connotation of snakes or simply their unsettling appearance, snakes are often used as a metaphor for the sneaky, evil and dishonorable in Western society.

Yet, if you consider snakes more objectively, there’s really not much to dislike about them. A few species of snakes are venomous, but the vast majority of snakes are not venomous at all and are quite harmless. Of those which do have potentially lethal venom, most are shy and will try to escape if they encounter humans. There are a few varieties of snake which might be considered to be legitimately frightening animals, because they are both highly aggressive and venomous. But this hardly makes the entire suborder worthy of fear or dislike.

Moreover, snakes have quite a few major benefits to humans. The number one way in which snakes benefit mankind is by virtue of the fact that they primarily eat rodents. A population of field snakes can do a lot to keep the population of rats and mice down in an area. Rodents, of course, do harm human settlement quite a lot. They eat or contaminate food stocks and can be a vector for diseases like bubonic plague. In places like Northern Europe, rats commonly sought shelter in the poorly enclosed structures built by humans. They have historically been both a nuance and a major danger to public health.

It’s been said that Saint Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. To this day I’ve heard the Irish say how he did a great thing because Ireland is free of snakes. This is rubbish, of course. There are no snakes native to Ireland and the climate of Ireland is simply not suitable for snakes to flourish. If introduced to Ireland, a group of snakes might make it through a few seasons, but ultimately it’s just too cool and wet for snakes to make it. The climate of modern Ireland is what keeps it snake-free, not a saint who drove them away.


Dennis Markuze Arrested

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Click here if your browser does not support embedded videos to see the Yotube page.

Some Background:

You can also read more about this by searching Google News for the numerous stories this has generated.

If you are at all involved in the skeptic, atheist or science advocacy movement, there’s a good chance you’ve received some communications from a man by the name of Dennis Markuze. He sometimes goes by the name David Mabus and has been sending out various threats, hate messages and just spam for almost twenty years. Now 36, it seems Markuze started in the early days of the internet, spamming bulletin boards and mailing lists, before the web was even established.

His targets include anyone associated with skepticism, atheism or who he believes has somehow come out against his rather twisted belief system. He’s a rather big fan of Nostradamus who he seems to believe has predicted the end of Western Society. He’s also at least something of a doomsday “end-is-near” believer. He commonly talks about events like the attacks of 9/11 as being some kind of indictment against modern society.

His spam seems to come in waves on this site. He often will send dozens of messages. Most of these are blocked by the automatic spam guards, as mentioned here. He also sporadically e-mails me and sends tweets addressed to me. He does this to almost anyone who’s email address he can get and who he associates with skeptics or atheists. This includes prominent skeptics like Phil Plait, PZ Meyers and James Randi, but also people indirectly associated with them, such as James Randi’s former office manager and people who have mentioned these individuals favorably in blog posts.

He actually started spamming me after I wrote an article which was published by the JREF in which, amongst other things, I called Nostradamus vague and unimpressive. He didn’t like that, and upon seeing that I trashed psychics and other such phenomena on my page decided to go add me to his spam list.

Markuze’s basic belief is that he is part of some kind of propaganda war with skeptics and those who dismiss prophets and psychics. He believes he is a gifted prophet who has an important role in proving that Nostradamus and others are 100% correct. He believes those who speak ill of them are committing blasphemy and must be stopped.


May 21 Apocalypse Idiocy: It’s not all funny

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Sure, it was pretty easy to laugh at the idiots who thought the world was actually going to end on May 21. Unfortunately it’s not all fun and games. Some people actually believed it and had more to deal with than a lot of disappointment when it did not come.

Apparently one woman was convinced that the end times were really near. Due to the conflicts in the Middle East and the earthquake in Japan, she was convinced that judgment was approaching. When preacher Harold Camping stated it was to be on the 21st of May she took it seriously. She attempted to kill herself and her two young children.

Fortunately, she failed. After slitting her daughters’ wrists and throat and her own, someone found the injured trio and called for an ambulance before they all bled to death.

More info and video here

I don’t know what else to say to this. There are some people who take even the nuttiest religious claims very very seriously.

May 21 and…. we’re all still here

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

As mentioned on this site before…

It’s really no surprise. Aside from a few really really wacked out fundamentalists and the commenter named “anonymous” – who pretty much believes the sky is falling all the time, it would seem that predictions of the end days are not coming true.

Now to be perfectly fair, the 21st is not entirely over and they were a little vague on what time this would all go down. According to some sites it’s 6 o’clock PM, but others just seem to say it’s May 21. Then there’s the little issue of time zones. Obviously the world does not experience May 21 at exactly the same time. In fact, as of this writing, may 21 is already over for much of the Pacific, as May 22 dawns across the International Dateline.

According to Harold Camping, the old fool who came up with this idiocy it actually will follow the time zones.

Via the Times Union (quoting Camping):

I have learned that Judgment Day will begin in one part of the world, when they arise on May 21, about six o’clock Standard Time. And then every time another city or an area of the world comes to May 21, at about six o’clock, they will be in the Day of Judgment. And so the rest of the world that has not arrived there yet will know that it is occurring, many hours before it comes to their nation. On May 21, beginning at the International Date Line, the moment that first earthquake happens, the whole world will know that Judgment Day has come. It will follow the sun, from east to west.


Belgian Bishop: Weapons Grade Creep

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family. I went to church and Sunday school and had a first communion and confirmation and all that kind of thing. I don’t subscribe to religion, and some may be surprised to learn that I never actually had a bad experience with the Catholic Church. As a kid, the priests at my local parish were approachable, nice men who were always there to offer comfort to a family that suffered a loss or other problem. There was never any allegation of child abuse at any church I ever went to. The myths I learned in Sunday school (and I regard them as myths) tended to focus on admirable qualities and lessons nobody could take issue with: be honest, don’t steal and that kind of thing. I was never taught to hate gays or anything like that.

Still, I regard all that I was taught about god and the Bible as being mythology.

But I don’t have any grudge or ax to grind with the Catholic Church.

I certainly don’t delight in the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the church in recent years. It’s one of the most despicable and tragic things to ever happen to the Church (and this is considering that some pretty damn despicable and tragic things have happened in the past 2000 years.) There’s been a lot of talk about why it has happened to such an extent, whether it is because priests are made to be celibate or because of a culture that draws sexually dysfunctional men into the priesthood.

I don’t know and I don’t really care. Regardless of the reason, the Church should have immediately acted every time a priest was found to be committing abuse. They generally did not. It was not just once or twice either, but a massive pattern. It’s been exposed in the United States, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and elsewhere. Almost anywhere there is a sizable catholic population, it has happened.

One thing I find really amazing is how many have defended the Catholic Church. The fact that the Church committed these acts on such a large basis does not in and of itself undermine the basic beliefs of Catholicism (although I think those are BS anyway.) It certainly does not make every catholic a bad person or a pedophile and it does not change the fact that there are many priests who would never commit such an act.

Still, while the past can’t be undone it should not be excused, downplayed or diminished. The actions of the church were shameful and if people feel ashamed for what their church has done, then good. There’s a place for shame in the world (as the Catholic Church does often remind us) and if you let countless children be sexually molested, that’s a pretty damn good place for shame.

But none of the defenders of the actions of the Catholic Church who I’ve seen can hold a candle to this sicko. A Belgian Bishop had admitted to abusing children, including two of his nephews, one of whom was no older than five when it started. One would think that after admitting something so disgraceful that someone would want to retreat from public life. In this case, however, the Bishop seems to think what he did was no big deal, and he went on television to let the world know.

Yeah, that’s right. The guy thinks it was a “game” and somehow normal in a family. He thinks it’s okay because he didn’t actually have intercourse with his nephews. He just got in bed with them and fondled their genitals on numerous occasions over several years. Also, he seems to think that they were totally fine with it since he didn’t need to explicitly threaten them.

What the hell is with people like this?

And also, to the pope: If there was ever anyone who should be defrocked, I’m pretty sure this is the guy!

“Atheist’s Explanation for Earthquakes and Tsunamis” – Dumbest Thing I’ve Read In a While

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

This has got to be the stupidest thing I have read in a long long long time. I don’t mean to be the type who is constantly defending atheism or going after nutball Christians. However, I find this so ridiculously stupid I couldn’t leave it.

It’s from “Living Waters:”

It’s a frustrating time for atheists—they can’t blame God for tragedies, because they think there’s no evidence for God. Blaming Him would make as much sense as blaming Snow White for a snow storm.

I’m sorry I don’t see how that is frustrating. Earthquakes and snow storms just happen. I don’t feel the need to blame someone. Would it somehow be more satisfying to believe an all powerful God who we are supposed to love somehow got so pissed off at us that he decided to start causing pain for humanity?

But atheism would suggest that there is a good reason for Japan’s massive killer quake and the horrific tsunami that followed: it was nature making improvements. Everything is gradually getting better. People being crushed to death or drowned in a tsunami is just part of the work of nature.

No. Nature does not make things “better.” Nature just changes. It simply is. It has no intent or plan.

On the other hand, human civilization does often get better. It is because of this that less people died in this tragic event than would have had structures been built the way they were 50 years ago. Of course we can continue to get better, with better construction, better emergency medicine and better infrastructure. Hopefully the next time a major quake hits an industrial nation even fewer people will die.

Also, cancer, suffering, pain, and death are part of nature improving things through evolutionary change. It was evolution that improved nature when it gave the leap to the frog and the bark to the dog. It gave oxygen-enriched air to the lungs, wings to the bird, and brains to the nerd. It also gifted us with the four seasons, myriad colorful flowers, snow-capped mountains, cool running streams, music, love, and laughter. It all started with nothing, and over millions of years, here we are in this wonder called “life.†That’s evolution for you…making things better.

No. Evolution only acts on organisms, idiot.

Also, cancer and other diseases are just proof that evolution is not perfect. Evolution simply values a biological entity that usually lives long enough to pass on its genes. It does not require all aspects of that organism to function perfectly all the time. That’s why we have cancer.

Or did god just screw up while he was laying out cell biology?


Indian High Court Rules Astrology is Science

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Despite the growth of scientific and technical education and achievement in India, the country still has a food solidly in the dark ages, in part thanks to a government that seems to do more to encourage than discourage superstition. Ripe with healthfraud like homeopathy, Indians have suffered enormously due to the persistence of superstition-based scams in their country.

Yet even considering how bad things can get in India, I am left at a loss having read this news report.

Via the Times of India:

Astrology is a science: Bombay HC

MUMBAI: Astrology has been debunked by most world scientists including India’s renowned physicist Prof. Yash Pal. However, it is “science” in India.

The Bombay High Court reaffirmed this on Thursday when it dismissed a PIL that had challenged astrology as science.

The PIL was filed by an NGO, Janhit Manch that had sought action against ‘fake’ astrologers, tantriks, practitioners of Vastu shastra etc.

“So far as prayer related to astrology is concerned, the Supreme Court has already considered the issue and ruled that astrology is science. The court had in 2004 also directed the universities to consider if astrology science can be added to the syllabus. The decision of the apex court is binding on this court,” observed the judges.

Yeah, you read right. And I thought that law makers trying to get “intelligent design” into the curriculum were bad. Hell, at least they have been shot down by the courts. But apparently in India, the courts have ordered that astrology should be considered for inclusion in scientific instruction.

I can’t imagine how this must play with the various professors and scientists in India who actually are seeing a court order their institutions to consider astrology a science. Despite how boneheaded this court is, there are many very learned Indians and institutions of higher learning have been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. The frustration of having some idiot superstitious judge step in and try to undo it all must be maddening.

The judges also took on record an affidavit submitted by the Union government. The Centre had in its affidavit stated that astrology is 4000 years old ‘trusted science’ and the same does not fall under the preview of The Drugs and Megical Remedies Act (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

“The said Act does not cover astrology and related sciences. Astrology is a trusted science and is being practiced for over 4000 years,” said an affidavit filed by Dr R Ramakrishna, deputy drug controller (India), west zone.

“The said Act is aimed at prohibiting misleading advertisements relating to drugs and magic remedies. The Act does not cover and / or relate to astrology and / or allied sciences like Palmistry, Vaastu Shastra etc. In view thereof, a purported ban on practices promoting astrology and related sciences sought by the petitioner, which is a time tested science more than 4000 years old is totally misconceived and unjustifiable,” says the affidavit.

The (PIL) filed by Janhit Manch and its convener Bhagwanji Raiyani, along with his associate Dattaram Kumkar, had questioned the validity of predictions by many well-known astrologers.

The PIL, which ran into more than 100 pages pointed to several cases, including that of Indira Gandhi and Charan Singh becoming prime ministers, despite opposite predictions.

Representing the Union government, advocate Advait Sethna told the court that even the SC had accepted that astrology was a science and many universities had included it as a subject.

Advocate for Maharashtra government, Bharat Mehta too supported the stand taken by the Union government. Mehta submitted an affidavit filed by the food and drugs administration (FDA) department which said that necessary action is being taken against the guilty under the Drugs and Megical Remedies Act.

The PIL had urged the authorities to ban articles, advertisements, episodes and practices promoting astrology and its related subjects like vastu, reiki, feng shui, tarot, palmistry, zodiac signs and rashifal.

“Trusted science…for over 4000 years” Is that all it takes? The fact that something has been around for a long time and was trusted in ancient times makes it immune from ever becoming non-trusted?

I’ve got some news for Ramakrishna: There are lots of things that were believed thousands of years ago and are now considered hogwash. One thing about science is that it does not stand still and ideas that are found to be flawed are rejected regardless of their age. Not that this is a new thing, though, most serious scientists have rejected astrology for hundreds of years.

Maybe we should bring back bloodletting, witch burning, virgin sacrifices, geocentrism and all the other ideas that were trusted for thousands of years before we knew any better.

Finally, to the judges involved: you may want to reconsider your decision in light of your charts for the past day. Here’s your horoscope: The stress of the daily grind has been getting to you. Be careful about making big decisions. It would be better to wait until you’ve had time to relax and think them through. Now might be a good time to break from the routine by contacting some old friends and enjoying some activities you haven’t done in a while. Tonight: stay home and go f*** yourself.

Awesome Joke on Fundy Christian

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Okay okay, this joke is a little mean, but at the same time it’s also devilishly funny. A comment in a previous post made me think of this video I saw a while back.

The “Rapture” is an event which is supposed to happen before the end times, according to some fundamentalist schools of Christianity. It’s not in the Bible, although some believers claim that it can be inferred from various passages take together.

Supposedly before the end times, the true believers will be taken up into heaven. Not just their souls, but bodies too will be beamed up like Scotty does on Star Trek. Curiously, the process does not take clothing with it, but does take the other non-living things on the human body, such as tooth enamel, the outer layer of skin, finger nails an hair. Go figure. (Okay, there are some problems with this, obviously – like does hair also get beamed up off the barber shop floor?)

Despite the nonsensicalness of it all, some people take this all VERY seriously.

I wonder if this prank might actually make the poor girl start to re-examine her beliefs. Probably not.