Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Resurrection

OK, let's face it. They key piece to the whole Christian ball of wax is the resurrection. Without that there is no church, no molested alter boys, no Notre Dame football! So I can rant all I want about the virgin appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich but really it all comes down to the resurrection. Without that Jesus was just a good public speaker and others would come after him and all would have been forgotten. But, the aledged resurrection makes the whole religion machine work.

Here's an interesting site that goes into great detail PROVING that the resurection really happend. It's well written in it's own way by Josh McDowell and I've not got enough biblical nor historical knowledge to challenge this document outright but would like to comment on one paragraph.

Christians believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected in time and space by the supernatural power of God. The difficulties of belief may be great, but the problems inherent in unbelief present even greater difficulties.

Supernatural power. To me here is the weak link. You have to believe that there is such a thing as the supernatural in the first place to accept this argument. If Jesus rose bodily into heaven, not ghostly Jesus but the flesh and blood guy, then where did he go? Moreover, how does supernatural power work? If it is a real thing and the author of the site is claiming it is a real thing, then it must have a mechanism by which it works. As usual the theist wants it both ways. He wants magic in the world but wants it to be real as well. You can't have it both ways.

Additionaly I found this site: Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection by Richard Carrier which point by point nicely refutes each of McDowell's claims. Be warned if you go to the two sites I've linked to, both these guys are VERY wordy! Good stuff though for a rainy afternoon.

And another thing. . . The story is that God sacrificed his only son so that he (the son) could die for our sins. But Jesus didn't die. He got up 3 days later so how much of a sacrifice is this? Again, everybody wants it both ways. Jesus died for us. . . but he didn't die! Can't have both!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Well now. The Pope is going to start a weekend long 'Reading of the Bible'. That's nice. It's the word of God you know except that


So nice that the guy who is in charge of billions of Catholics is doing this. Let's not worry about how to feed those parishinors (who in the hell would even try to feed the masses?). Let's not even try to promote world peace. Naw. John Lennon was in charge of that apparently. While we're at it, let's tell indigent, undeducated, third world familiies that MORE KIDS IS A GOOD IDEA! Then let's sit back in our throne in the Vatican (The Popes on freaking COUNTRY) and contemplate how close we are to the lord. Finally, let's read the bible. All of it. How sweet.

[right here I threw up in my mouth a little]

I want to go on a multi-page rant about all the inconsistancies in the bible and what a waste of time to read it outloud but I've done that. Many before me have done that. Thousands of web sites are devoted to nothing but that. So without speaking to any of those inconsistancies specifically, let me just ask how you hang your faith on such a poorly written and full-of-holes document? I really want to know.

OK, Read on your holliness!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jesus Appears in Ceiling Tile

OK, I never tire of these stories. This one has Jesus appearing in a ceiling tile at a workout and tanning salon. Mysteriously, this appeared after a heavy rain. The link is a video that will certainly frighten you. I have my usual questions.

1. Why in the hell to TV people think they have to cover this kind of crap?
2. Please tell me that most people get that this is a water stain and that's the end of it. (Ok that wasn't a question.)
3. Remember, nobody actually knows what Jesus really looked like. All we have are artists who apparently all copied each other. So, if Jesus really did appear he might look like Henny Youngman* for all we know (which would be really funny). Not a question either. . .
4. Why do these stories always depress me?

Here are some other stories that TV did not cover. . .
  • Little Johnny Miller saw a cloud today that looked like a raccoon
  • A man bought a potato that looked just like Al Gore (actually they all do)
  • In Long Island bird poop on a squad car looked just like a map of Long Island!
  • A woman in South Bend sees Knute Rockne in her salad.
If you really dig this stuff here's a whole list of miraculous statues. Enjoy

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Sometimes things look like other things.

They're not though.

* If you like Henny Youngman, here's a collection of his one liners.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Money, Power and 14 year old girl

The pope arrived in the southwestern town of Lourdes on the second day of his visit to France after earlier celebrating an outdoor mass for more than 250,000 people in Paris, telling them the modern world had made idols of money and power.

Yes! The top man in the church famous for its vow of poverty flew in his own plane to Paris and later via his private limousine drove to Lourdes where dressed in white, red and gold vestments (and that crazy big pope hat) spoke to the unwashed masses about the evils of money and power.


How about just plain balls? Here’s one of the most powerful men on the planet. He controls the money and the thoughts of millions of catholics all over the world. He lives in his own COUNTRY for crying out loud. The value of the paintings alone in the Vatican is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. People are required to bow and kiss his freaking ring just to talk to him. This guy then has the enormous spheres to give a speech saying that we value money and power too much.

How about this guy? I mean if he really believed what he was saying he’d demonstrate it not just talk about it. How about he reads his own vow of poverty and drops all the golden vestments and just goes with the good old black shirt and dog collar. Sell the vatican. Work out of a more modern (and energy efficient) office building. Put the money to good use educating the poor (I mean REAL education like the Jesuits do just not more ways to pray), feed the hungry, help the infirm (didn’t some guy around year 1 do this kind of stuff?)

FALSE IDOLS At mass on Saturday morning in Paris, the pope told more than a quarter of a million people that the modern world had turned money, possessions and power into idols as false as the gold and silver statues worshipped by the pagans of antiquity. "Has not our modern world created its own idols?" he said.

Next time you get a chance go to a big catholic church and see how many statues there are of jesus and the virgin mary. THESE statues are ok I guess. Also see how much gold and silver there is lying about on the alter and in the vestments of the priest. THIS gold and silver is ok. When the church owns huge tracts of property it’s ok. When the church owns art and paintings in the millions THAT’s ok but individuals shouldn’t get all wrapped up in that sort of thing. Individuals should stick with the more spiritual things like putting money in the collection plate! What? Is the Catholic church afraid that someone will buy up too much of the stuff that THEY haven’t bought yet?

At Lourdes, Benedict prayed in the grotto where Saint Bernadette Soubirous said she had seen the Madonna 18 times in 1858, and drank water from a spring that believers say has healing powers.

In the past 150 years, the Church has recognised as "miracles" 67 medically inexplicable healings of sick pilgrims who visited Lourdes

Bernadette ‘said’ she saw the virgin 18 times. Anybody can SAY anything. If someone sees something and no one else sees it that’s either a miracle or someone is nuts. Three finger Mordecai Brown appeared to me and told me that this was the Cubs year. Am I nuts or a saint? As to the 67 inexplicable healings I’ll have to do more research, but my first question is 67 out of how many attempts? I know people go there in droves looking for a miracle cure. If only 67 of them got the cure, how miraculous is this place? Doesn’t it seem a little mean if the creator uses this place to occasionally cure someone. What about the others? The miracle is that with a batting average like that that people would still go. I bet it aint’ free either! Of the 67, how many had diseases that had the chance of clearing up by themselves anyway? When the church says ‘inexplicable’ how hard did they try to research what happened. OK, more research by me and we’ll see if there are any answers to the above.

Now for some ‘facts’ from the internet. Low batting average? I guess. Lourdes has been getting about 6 million visitors a year since the 1960’s. Up to 8 million this year as this is the 150th anniversary of Bernadette’s visions. Bernadette was 14 by the way and anyone who has worked with 14 year old females knows that they are never hysterical.
I’m sure that they weren’t getting 6 million people a year 150 years ago so let’s see. . . 6 million a year since 1960 is about 250 million. Let’s allow Lourdes another 250 million for all the years before that and put it at about 500 million visitors total looking for a miracle cure. There have been 67 ‘miracles’ out of 500 million! That’s a batting average of 0.000000134. Wow!

Also it looks like the healing water is free but along the road leading to the grotto are hundreds of shops selling every kind of virgin mary trinket you can imagine. Glow in the dark virgin (my favorite), Virgin on a plate, Chocolate Virgins, etc. So it’s ‘free’ but nearly everyone buys something. Lourdes is also great for the hotel and tour industry. The hotels in and around Lourdes are filled to the max every summer.

So, what about those 67 cures? Well, in a strange twist, the church tries to use extensive scientific research on claims before they are accepted as a miracle cure. For example there can be no reoccurrence of the ailment which is why it takes about 10 years for a claim to be verified. Also, you have to be off your meds before and after! Who quits taking their medicine and how can you be sure that the meds didn’t finally kick in? I guess I find it a little ironic that the church can’t figure out what a miracle is without using the power of science. That same science that many faithful would claim is not even a road to truth. So what of those 67 then?

Of course a real scientific test would be to do a double blind experiment where some people get regular water and some get Lourdes water and no one knows who is getting what. But that’s another story.

I don’t have documents on each of the 67 individually but one popular cure at Lourdes is for people suffering from cancer. On the other hand remember the batting average. Doctors have confirmed that in about 1% of cases cancer will spontaneously go away and stay away without Lourdes. That would be batting 0.010. Better to stay home maybe? On the other other hand consider this…

Two independent studies into spontaneous remission of cancer found psychological changes, occurring just before the physical disease began to improve dramatically, could be significant. Both found that resolving an existential crisis in the person's life, a dramatic change in life outlook and a reduction in anxiety and depression, seemed to occur just before the cancer started to resolve by itself.

So, if a visit to Lourdes can bring about this drop in anxiety this could in turn bring about the evaporation of the cancer. Nice, but it’s still a long shot and just so we’re clear this would mean that there is no god or virgin involved in magically curing anything. But a person’s belief that such things exist triggers the cure. But what the hell, the cured person is happy and so are the hotel owners!

Finally, Lourdes may be running out of juice. There have only been 4 confirmed cases since 1978. That may have prompted Jacques Perrier the senior cleric at the shrine to invent three classes of cures: These will include: 'unexpected healings', 'confirmed healings' and 'exceptional healings'. This is like reducing the size of the strike zone to pump up batting averages. That should help the old Lourdes batting average a little and keep them buses rolling in.

Hey get your rosary here! Ice cold rosary. . .who’s ready?

Finally, in a somewhat related story (and this might be dated) a half eaten grilled cheese sandwich bearing the likness of, you guess it, the Virgin Mary sold on e-Bay for $28,000. I have nothing to say.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Spiritual Side

This is a phrase I always wonder about. It is said so freely and so often I think people all assume that everyone more or less knows what is meant - ‘your spiritual side’. Or, the spiritual side of life in general. What does this mean? The dictionary tends toward two areas of definition. 1. True spirits, ghosts, the holy spirit and perhaps the belief in them as in religion etc. 2. Alluding to emotions, desires, true self, in the spirit of things.

Does nature itself have a spiritual side? It has a real side - a natural occurring and evolving side to be sure. The side that we can touch and detect and agree on our results afterward. If I go to a wonderful place for me like Quetico in Canada or a beautiful anchorage like where I am right now, do these places themselves have a spiritual side? If so, can it be detected? If it can be detected by two or more independent observers would they agree on their results? If so it would seem to put this spiritual side back in the area of the natural occurring. That would seem to indicate that people may have a spiritual side but external nature itself does not.

Let’s come at this from another way. Why do we as people value beauty? To what end? How did evolution pick beauty value-ers over others? It is right here where the theist gets a grip. He would say that beauty HAS no intrinsic value to our survival and only by allowing god to exist can we explain why we are more if you will than our monkey cousins.

Consider this. . . It happened that as we evolved we were first nomadic. No gardening. A place with a cool stream and plenty of game would also have wild flowers, trees, and options for shelter perhaps. This place would make a good layover place for the tribe. Barren places with dry ground, nothing growing, and no shade would be avoided. What we would now call beautiful places were originally useful places! We still have that in us. As our brains developed in crazy ways our ‘beauty’ lobe if you will was already in place and ready to expand to more intellectual and abstract ideas of beauty such as painting, music, etc. No god needed again!

So, when I go to Quetico the placid waters, shade, cool streams all click for me at a very fundamental level. Maybe I do have a ‘spiritual’ side then and maybe we all do but it has nothing to do with invisible beings or gods. Maybe it has to do with tapping into some of our most deeply embedded hard wiring. Things we would be hard pressed to put into words because they hearken back to a time before language itself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Big Bang

In my short lifetime as a scientist/teacher the Big Bang model of the universe has moved from conjecture to well documented scientific theory. A couple of students at University of Michigan (I wish it had been Notre Dame but you can't have everything) summarize Big Bang cosmology rather nicely. For those of you (yeah, like anyone is reading this besides me!) who are curious, there are some cogent facts that make the Big Bang a very solid theory (theory means we KNOW something. Hypothesis means we're guessing.)

1. In the 1920's Edwin Hubble, having given up his brief career as a prize fighter turns his black eye to the sky and discovers that all the galaxies are moving away from us. Moreover the farther away they are, and they are all really, really far away, the faster they are moving. That is the classic geometry of an explosion. Think about it. From his data you can run the movie backwards and figure out about how old the universe is. About 15 billion years.

2. In the 60's a couple of Bell Labs engineers, Penzias and Wilson, accidentally discover a microwave hum if you will coming from every direction in the sky. So they took a break in their quest for a micro-wave oven and asked what could be causing this hum. Now every 'hot' object will glow and emit radio waves of a particular wavelengh. If you ask what temperature/wavelength a 15 billion year old universe would be glowing at (2.73 degrees above absolute zero) you get exactly the radiation that Penzias and Wilson had measured.

3. Recently the COBE satellite did a sweep of the sky and showed how amazingly uniform this background radiation is except for small anomalies here and there. The anomalies are a big deal because if you had a perfectly smooth big bang there would be no way for 'chunks' to form. Those chunks are the galaxies, stars, and good old mother Earth.

Nice. There is no longer and serious controversy about the origins of the universe. Similarly there is no real controversy about evolution or the sphericity of the earth. All a theist who is glued to a literal interpretation of the bible has to do is create the illusion of controversy and they're home free. They don't even have to do experiments or present any other data. Pretending there is controversy is enough. You can observe this technique in action right now in monitoring the 'controversy' in global warming. This is a technique well learned from the tobacco institute.

So, why am I writing about the Big Bang? For one thing I'm sitting in a very nice coffee shop on Damen Ave in Chicago and, well, what else does your mind wander to when drinking coffee and sitting alone but the creation of the entire universe? Also, it always seems strange to me that the Big Bang is not mentioned in the bible. I know you can't read it literally for whatever reason but I don't think there is any way to twist the 7 days of Genesis into a cloaked description of the explosion of the entire freaking universe 13 billion years ago. I don't think numbers even went up to a billion back then did they? And yet, since it is VERY clear that the Big Bang really happened (read the above link) and it is supposed that the bible is the word of God, why no mention of it? I assume that if you are a semi-intelligent theist you accept the Big Bang as an event that really happened then you must be in a quandary about why the bible is so far off on this topic.

Or. . . the God of the bible was not the creator of the universe but only the God of people on this one planet. That's kind of like demoting Pluto from planet to an also ran. It's way more impressive to imagine a God that created the whole ball of wax.

Of course the fact that the universe has a definite beginning is more of a problem for our tiny brains than if it were infinite in time as it was presumed to be in pre-Big Bang cosmology. If there is a moment when the universe began can we even ask the question about what was going on BEFORE. Does the word before even carry any meaning if the Big Bang was the creation of space AND time? Also, you have to wonder if the Big Bang had a cause. But again, causality presumes that something happened and that caused something else to happen later. We're back to needing something to happen before time zero. Is that possible? Here's a very good discussion about the idea of 'before the start of the universe' by physicist Paul Davies. Enjoy

Ah well, maybe another free refill on my coffee. Maybe I'll ponder why do fools fall in love. . .

Monday, July 14, 2008


There's a picture in today's Trib showing some protesters on Chicago's south side. They are protesting the alarming rise in gun violence in their neighborhoods. OK, but, the signs many are carrying say, Our GOD is an awesome GOD.

Why is that the sign and what could it mean? The signs wording is a nice short phrase for many nagging questions regarding theism.

1. Ownership. " Our God" implies that there are others but this group has their own and he (or she?) is awesome.

2. Assuming that awesomeness is measureable, how can you tell your God is awesome. Awesome by his good deads or by the destruction that he wreeks?

3. Do the sign carriers not see the irony of believing in a powerful God (or at least awesome) and yet their kids are dying in the streets. Where is God's hand in this mess? Is he un-involved and so there is the violence and if so that's not so awesome. Or, is it His had that is involved in the shooting (although a pistol is really the devil's right hand - Steve Earle) which would be awesome in a way.

4. I'm so tired of empty phrases like this. Support our Troops. Moms are good. Smile. Cubs Suck. Sox Suck. It is especially hard with religious empty phrases because people get so indignant when you try to ask them what a phrase might really mean. 'Take Jesus into your heart'. I went round and round with a Jehovah's witness about this once as I claimed the phrase was devoid of true meaning. I think maybe it only means something (maybe) if you already believe in this stuff. Even then it doesn't really take you anywhere.

Well, I agree that something should be done on the south side and elsewhere where hand guns are so available. To his credit, mayor Daley has tried to get hand guns outlawed in Chicago only to get shot down (!) by the NRA and gun lobby. I guess there are a number of south side hunters that like to go after deer with their Glocks. Right.

Anyway, these people have a good case for protesting and asking for some action. So, what's with the signs?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Emily Dickinson

Who knew? I always have admired poets for their economy of words while managing to get big ideas across. Here's some very nice verse from a surprising atheist...Emily Dickinson. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Barking up the Religious Tree

Bark from Skokie holds religious message, some Muslims say

Markings made by insects allegedly show 'Muhammad' in Arabic

Something about the sound of the tree bark hitting the ground caught Assad Busool's attention, compelling the Islamic scholar to pluck the wood fragment from the pavement in front of his Skokie home.

I'm sure. After the fact this guy thought about it and, yeah, it sounded different. How different? Why would it be different? So, from all the tree bark this guy has heard hit the ground, this time it sounded different. Please.

What he found written on it has caused a minor stir among some members of his Muslim community, who view the engraving as a divine reminder of the existence of God. The word "Muhammad"—or rather the Arabic for the Islamic prophet's name—had been carved into the bark by insects.

"I was astonished," said Busool, 69. "I said, 'What is the meaning of this?' I have a holy tree in my yard."

Assad, I'm astonished too. Why couldn't this be a coincidence? Why can't you be muslim AND think this is a coincidence? Would any reasonable person be they muslim or not conclude that this 'writing' was divine?

Like Catholics who claim to have seen images of the Virgin Mary, some Muslims in Busool's community are interpreting the markings on the 14-inch-long bark chip as a sign from heaven, even though, like visages of Mary, it is mixed with other markings that open it to other interpretations.

"It's crystal clear, it says Muhammad," said Andala Mbengue, a cabdriver from Senegal who saw the wood after Friday prayers at the American Islamic College on Irving Park Road in Chicago. "Allah is always putting himself out there. Sometimes people ignore it, but he's always showing us signs."

I love this. These supernatural beings are omnipotent and decide to give us a message on overpass walls and INSIDE tree bark. Wow, that is subtle. As to the writing itself, would a disinterested observer conclude that the pattern on the bark matched the Arabic writing below? To me the two only look vaguely close. You have want this to be Muhammad to see Muhammad in the bark.

Sani Umar, a professor of religion at Northwestern University, said some sects within Islam would treat such findings with great skepticism. Other Muslim societies might be more accepting of the phenomena, he said. The most conservative sects would dismiss the sightings.

Not everyone greeted news of the bark chip with Busool's level of enthusiasm.

Unlike the tribune that publishes this crap every time it happens! It's like covering ground hog day!

Dr. Muhammad Sahloul, a physician and president of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, said mainstream Muslims "don't tend to overestimate the significance of these things."

And a colleague of Busool's at the Islamic college said he didn't see the word Muhammad the first time he looked at the bark.

"I guess it depends on how you look at it," said Ghulam Haider Aasi, chair of the Islamic Studies Department.

Of course it does. How do you even know you are looking at it right side up? Not to mention by what mechanism Alla would get the worms to do their work. I know - by magic.

While the Virgin Mary has allegedly appeared in towns such as Lourdes, France, and more recently as an image on the Fullerton Street underpass of the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, apparitions in Islam are typically in Arabic script, not human form, which is forbidden by Islam, scholars said.

What such sightings mean depends on a person's religion, experts said.

Catholics, for example, might interpret a manifestation of Mary as a rebuke of the modern world or an expression of sorrow at the state of the church, said Robert Orsi, a religion professor at Northwestern. But scholars of Islam said some Muslims would view such apparitions as mystical reminders that God is everywhere in nature, in the setting sun, in the clouds, in a blade of grass.

Look, if a 'sign' has to be interpreted maybe it's not from a higher being but just a natural phenomena. If an all powerful being wanted to communicate with us why not send an un-ambiguous sign? Rearrange the stars to spell Go CUBS. Vaporize all the water on the planet and then put it back. Turn Dick Chaney into a donkey. Something like that.

"Nature is a scripture that has to be read," said Ali Asani, a professor of Indo-Muslim languages and cultures at Harvard University. "So you find these phenomena in different Muslim societies, of people finding the name of God written on things."

In Kenya, Muslim farmers noticed the brown splotches on a newborn calf spelled "Allah," the Arabic word for God, Asani said. In Australia, Muslims found a tree inscribed with the same word. And in Senegal, a Frenchman caught a fish with markings that said "Muhammad" and another fish was found in Liverpool, England, marked with "Allah."

People find the name of god because they are looking for it. A critical observer just sees scratches. . . which is what they are. Me? I want a religion that is a little more upscale than showing up in 'brown splotches'.

How about this for a sign: I look around the universe and test this and test that. I find that every test so far shows the universe to completely reasonable and testable with no phenomena that need magic to explain it. Can I be in the newspaper too?

"The idea behind this is that God manifests himself in nature, and thus these phenomena are taken as objective proofs of his existence—and, by extension, the veracity of the religion of Islam," said Ruediger Seesemann, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern.

Busool, a Sunni Muslim and Islamic judge who rules on family matters, cites a verse in the Quran, Islam's holy book, to explain why insects might cut lines in wood to spell the word Muhammad. The verse teaches that every living being on Earth sings the praises of God in languages human beings can't understand, he said.

"They don't know Arabic. To eat the inside of the branch and make that writing, it's guidance from God, of course," said Busool, who assumed the insects were termites. (Local experts said the markings were more likely made by wood borers.) "The termites were worshiping God," Busool said.

Busool sees the hand of God in much of the tree's story. Last year, he considered chopping the tree down but held off after a Skokie employee determined it was healthy. Then, a few days before Memorial Day, he was watching squirrels run up the tree when he heard the bark fall with a loud crack—as though God were trying to get his attention, he said.

"I've never heard a branch make that much noise," Busool said.

I want to scream. Yeah, in all your branch listening experience. Idiot.

His wife, Ann, a Christian who doesn't read Arabic, said she hoped the bark chip might portend good fortune.

"Either we have some very intelligent termites out there or something else is going on—some kind of omen or wish," she said.

come on keep going: . . . or its just scratches and I'm putting what I want to believe on top of it.

For now, Busool has placed the bark in a plastic bag and enclosed it in a red felt box given to him by a friend. He bought a glass case for it, but still carries the wood in his briefcase wherever he goes, his wife said. So far, he has shown it to a couple dozen people at the Muslim Community Center on Elston Avenue, where he sits on the board.

OK, this guy is under educated an overly religious. Fine. But I wish this crap didn't make the papers every time it happened. It's the weight of stories like this one, the astrology section (of every paper), TV shows like Charmed and the like all together cause a background of belief that there must be something magical out there. Could be religion. Could be fortune tellers but something. The truth is that there is no evidence of ANYTHING magical in our world. There is no reason to interpret natural happenings as having divine origins until that is the only thing left to conclude. For the believers though it is not the last thing. It is always the first thing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quaran as Target

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.


Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond apologizes after a U.S. soldier admitted using the Quran for target practice.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."

An American staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader used a Quran for target practice on May 9.

The U.S. commander in Baghdad on Saturday issued a formal apology and read a letter of apology from the shooter.

The sergeant has been relieved of duty as a section leader "with prejudice," officially reprimanded by his commanding general, dismissed from his regiment and redeployed -- reassigned to the United States.

But the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which said it reacted to the news "with deep resentment and indignation" -- wants the "severest of punishments" for the action.

"What truly concerns us is the repetition of these crimes that have happened in the past when mosques were destroyed and pages of the Holy Quran were torn and used for disgraceful acts by U.S. soldiers," al-Hashimi said.

"I have asked that first this apology be officially documented; second a guarantee from the U.S. military to inflict the maximum possible punishment on this soldier so it would be a deterrent for the rest of the soldiers in the future."

Jeez-o-peet. Don't you wish the US could just say, "OH, go to hell". Quran, Qurshran. Big deal. How about trying to have a real government instead of a bunch of little bitchy, religious tribes. Why in the hell are mixed up with these idiots. Oil? Naw!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Space and Time

Any introductory physics class always starts with the basic measurements of time and distance. Seems reasonable that those two observations are fundamental to measuring other things about our universe. Things are where they are and are some distance from other things whether we measure that distance in feet or furlongs or leagues. The fact that things obviously move implies that time goes by and it’s arbitrary measure in seconds or months or leagues is a logical result. Time. We are born and we die. Seasons come and go. Day and night. The phases of the moon. Time is an obvious and necessary quantity to keep track of. We’re not high level thinking, obscure physicists when we measure these two things. We could be as simple as a shepherds or carpenters measuring out fields, deciding when to plant, or building a barn. We’d understand discussions of time and distance.

So then, as I understand it, the word of god was given to man via divine illumination or inspiration. . . or indigestion. They wrote it down as is was received from the creator and that’s the bible. To read what was illuminated is to believe that the earth is the center of the known universe (it’s not). That the earth is about 5000 years old (it’s not) and, moreover, that the earth IS the universe and the unreachable heavens are where the clouds are and where god and heaven are (way off). Look at any religious painting and you’ll see angels and demons hanging out in the clouds. Not on mars. Not in the Orion nebula but in the clouds.

So why all the misinformation from the creator? I know the faithful will say that those stories are just metaphor. But, why should they be? Why are they not the real thing if they’re so stinking real? Why couldn’t the creator just as easily have told the various shepherds and so forth who were put in charge of writing the bible, “Listen, the universe is way bigger than you can imagine right now. Imagine something really far that’s still to close”. And, the earth is way older than you can imagine (4.5 billion years!) and all of my creation (the entire universe ) is even older (13.5 billion years). A better question is why try to tell these ignoramuses anything! They’re not ready. Why not let us discover what we now know to be true and measurable about the nature of time and space, the size and age of the universe and then come down and say, “Yeah, I did that”! Although I beg my own question. . . come down from where?

And, what if. . . What if there are other intelligent creatures out there in the universe. Universe? Let’s stick with the galaxy for now. Not even Star Trek allowed missions to other galaxies. Our Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years in diameter. That means that a radio or light signal from one end would take 100,000 years to get to the other side. Imagine putting in a phone call! After 100,000 years your signal would get to the receiving party and then another 100,000 years for you to receive the response. And you got the machine! Ha! But there are millions of stars in our own galaxy and it is starting to look like lots and lots of them have planets. Some of those may be the right distance from their star and some of those may have the right mix of water and oxygen to support life. If so, some of them may be millions of years ahead of us in evolving. What would the theists do if an alien species came here and didn’t know what the hell we were talking about when it came to Jesus, god, and the holy ghost?

More significantly, doesn’t it seem a little outrageous that the creator of the universe would give such a skewed story about creation to some undereducated farmers from pre-history? Why no mention of the big bang?

As Jack Nicholson said in the movie of the same name, What if this is as good as it gets? What if the universe is exactly as it looks? Why would that be so bad? Life evolved here in a completely natural way. Humans survived by sticking together and taking care of their own and their tribe. We still do that. Magical appearances and disappearances of things, walking on water, coming up out of the grave, curing by touch. . . these things do not happen! They are stories from long, long ago and they are killing us literally and intellectually.

A possible out?

So, maybe the judeo/christian god is not the creator of the entire physical universe. Maybe he is just the god of people. Maybe god evolved as people evolved and he is an earth bound entity with no knowledge or interest in the rings of saturn or the Orion nebula. Maybe this god has no more idea about what caused the big bang than we do. Sounds good so far? Let’s keep following this line. . .

Does this god have power and what does it mean to have power? Can he affect events in the lives of people? Can he be petitioned by prayer? If so, how does any of that work? Did the power of god evolve as naturally as everything else evolved here on earth? Moreover, things evolve or not depending on their usefulness. What environmental conditions would support the evolution of a single god? The nature of evolution itself is that things come from simpler things. Did god evolve from simpler gods? What would that even mean? A proto-god who could make it rain but couldn’t smite thine enemy? I can see where he might be useful if there was any evidence that you could affect things by prayer but there is not one shred of evidence that this happens despite very carefully controlled testing. Why would nature support the evolution of a single entity that cannot be detected? To what end?

So it seems that a pan-universal god is illogical and an earthbound god is impossible. Then, what the hell are we doing? Could we please get about the business of feeding everybody and educating everybody to not make so many babies? Could we educate everybody on how to not foul their own nest so that our children and grandchildren might also enjoy the planet? And, could we please just drop all the religious rhetoric which would in turn stop 99% of all the wars?

But, god, if you’re there, could I please have a Cub world series win?