Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Miracle Mary. . .Ya Hey Der!

This just in. . .well, actually from 1859...

It seems back in 1859 a half blind, Belgian farm girl named Adele Brise had some visions of the Virgin Mary (although the vision said her name was the Queen of Heaven. I imagine her saying that the way guys from Ohio State say THE Ohio State: "THE Queen of Heaven"! Like that). Anyway, Mary told her to teach kids about catholicism (eventhough it hadn't been invented in Mary's time) and that's what she did.

Fast forward to 2010 and the bishop says that these visions have been investigated and according to the bishop 'they are supernatural and "worthy of belief."' That puts this little area of Wisconsin (Cheese!) right up there with other such places where miracles never really occur like Lourdes or Wrigley Field.

From the article. . .

Ricken opened a formal investigation into Brise's visions in January 2009, appointing a committee of three Marian experts who followed guidelines issued by the Vatican in 1978 for judging apparitions and revelations. These committees typically consult experts in psychology, church law, Scripture, history, theology, and testimony from people familiar with the visionary.

In general, church investigators are more "History Detectives," than "Ghost Hunters," to use a television analogy. Supernatural events are almost impossible to prove, said the Rev. Johann Roten, who has served on committees assessing apparitions, so the church is more interested in the consequences of the vision

Oh my. . .where to start?

Let's look at who they are not consulting: scientists, Randi, skeptics in general. You're consulting an expert in psychology? How does that work? To see if it's possible for a non-crazy person to have a vision? Testimony? 1859!!! At this point it wouldn't even be 3rd person testimony it would be 5th generation testimony.

And, my favorite, Supernatural events are almost (but not quite?) impossible to prove. OF COURSE YOU CAN'T PROVE THEM. . . THEY'RE SUPERNATURAL WHICH MEANS OUTSIDE OF LOGIC.

Jeez some people are so thick.

This is a great example of wanting your cake and your virgin too. You want the world to be magical but you'd also like to prove the magic exists using logic but, hey, it's really a faith thing but, and, . . . The Bishop is for it!

I like this. . .

In general, the Catholic Church approaches stories of supernatural visions with a mixture of excitement and caution, scholars say.

Translation: excitement - "We could make a bundle with plastic statues". Caution - "What are the risk/reward numbers?

Once the visionary is dead and gone, if the pilgrimage site continues to have meaning and value for the church it becomes less risky," Britt said, "and even sometimes desirable for the church to offer its endorsement."

Of course it's less risky! You can prop up the half blind, crazy, milk maid as some kind of mother Theresa and no one can challenge that.

What a world. Internet, Mars missions, electric cars. . .and the Virgin Mary in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dead People Say Hi!

I'll put my snarky comments in RED

This by David Kessler on

( -- Throughout my years of working with the dying and the bereaved, I have noticed commonly shared experiences that remain beyond our ability to explain (remember this phrase) and fully understand. The first are visions.

As the dying see less of this world, some people appear to begin looking into the world to come. It's not unusual for the dying to have visions, (read on. . .you'll find it's about 4%) often of someone who has already passed on. Your loved one may tell you that his deceased father visited him last night, or your loved one might speak to his mom as if she were there in the room at that time.

It was almost 15 years ago that I was sitting at the bedside of my teacher, Elisabeth Kübler Ross', when she turned to me and asked, "What do you think about the deceased visiting those on their deathbeds to greet them?"

I replied quickly, showing my knowledge back to her: "You're speaking of deathbed visions, most likely caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain or a side effect of morphine."What's wrong with this suggestion?

She looked at me and sighed, "It will come with maturity." 4 healthy ways to grieve

I thought to myself: "Maturity? What did maturity have to do with anything?" Now, years later, I look at the events we still can't explain that happen at the end of life and realize what Elisabeth was saying.

It would be arrogant to think we can explain everything, (Unless you can!) especially when it comes to dying. My mother died when I was still a preteen. My father remained an incredible optimist his whole life, even when he was dying. I was busy trying to make sure he was comfortable and pain-free, and at first didn't notice he had become very sad.

He told me how much he was going to miss me once he was gone. And then he mentioned how much he was saying goodbye to: his loved ones, his favorite foods, the sky, the outdoors and a million other things of this world. He was overcome by sadness I could not (and would not) take away from him.

My father was very down-hearted for the next few days. But then one morning he told me my mother, his wife, had come to him the night before.

"David, she was here for me," he said with an excitement I had not seen in him in years. "I was looking at all I was losing, and I'd forgotten that I was going to be with her again. I'm going to see her soon." He looked at me as he realized I would still remain here. Then he added, "We'll be there waiting for you."

And this can't be because of lack of oxygen, etc. to the brain because it was YOUR father?

Over the next two days, his demeanor changed dramatically. He had gone from a hopeless dying man with only death in front of him to a hopeful man who was going to be reunited with the love of his life. My father lived with hope and also died with it. Why birth is not a beginning and death is not an end

When I started compiling examples to include in my book, "Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die," I was surprised by how similar they were. In fact, it was hard to pick which ones to use because they were all so much alike.

You know, we have 2 legs, 2 arms, spleens, hearts, etc. Why should it be surprising when humans have something in common?

Now I realize the very thing that makes them repetitious is also what makes them unique. As someone who has spent most of my life writing, teaching and working with the dying, I can't prove to you that my father's vision was real. I can only talk about my experience as a son and about countless other occurrences that take place every day.

I don't doubt the vision was real. I only doubt that real dead people were 'visiting'.

I used to believe the only thing we needed to alleviate was the suffering of the dying by providing good pain management and symptom control. I know now that we have more -- we have the "who" and "what" we see before we die, which is perhaps the greatest comfort to the dying.

Some interesting and unexplainable items about deathbed visions:

There's that word again. Unexplalinable? or Unexplained so far?

• Visions people experience at the end of life are remarkably similar.

already spoke to this.

• The dying are most often visited by their mothers. It shouldn't be too surprising that the person who is actually present as we cross the threshold of life and take our first breaths once again appears at the threshold as we take our last breaths.

Wow, how very scientific. First off, what's the sample size and how was the research done to allow for 'most often'. How about orphans? Who visits them? What about mothers who beat their kids. Do they still get to visit? And, what's with the flowery language there? Oh wait, this is from Next!

• Hands passionately reaching upward to some unseen force is witnessed in many deathbed encounters.

That's data?

• Visions mostly occur toward a corner of the room.

• Those family members at a deathbed are not able to see the vision or participate in the conversation.

• Visions usually occur hours to weeks before death.

• Visions don't seem to appear in other frightening situations where death is not likely, such as stuck in an elevator, lost in a foreign city or lost hiking.

• Unlike traditional healthcare, the law treats a dying person's last words as the truth.

I don't get this sentence at all. Help me. Using technology to get through tough times

If you find the concept of a dead loved one greeting you on your deathbed impossible or ridiculous, consider what I finally realized as a parent: You protect your children from household dangers. You hold their hands when they cross the street on their first day of school. You take care of them when they have the flu, and you see them through as many milestones as you can.

Now fast-forward 70 years after you, yourself, have passed away. What if there really is an afterlife and you receive a message that your son or daughter will be dying soon? If you were allowed to go to your child, wouldn't you?

I would. Wait, is the Bear's game on?

While death may look like a loss to the living, the last hours of a dying person may very well be filled with fullness rather than emptiness. Or not! Sometimes all we can do is embrace the unknown and unexplainable and make our loved ones feel good about their experiences.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Possible Responses and Tips

• There's really no point in telling your dying father you think he's hallucinating or that his mom has been dead for several years and can't possibly be there.

Of course not that would be mean but I'll tell you you're full of shit.

• Instead of disagreeing, try asking him, "What is your mom saying?"

• Say, "Tell me more about your vision." Perhaps Aunt Betty is telling your father that it's okay to die or maybe they're reminiscing about growing up together.

• Say, "It's great that Aunt Betty is here with you," or "I knew that Mother would come to meet you," or "I'm so glad that Mom is with you now."

• Denying their reality will only separate you from your loved one. So join and explore this profound time of life.

The saying goes, "We come into this world alone, and we leave alone." We've been brought up to believe that dying is a lonely, solitary event. But what if everything we know isn't true? What if the long road that you thought you'll eventually have to walk alone has unseen companions?

What if monkeys fly out of your ass? Jesus H. Christ! Anyone can write a bunch of drivel by saying 'what if' over and over again!

I would welcome those of you who have had an experience of your dying loved ones being comforted by those already deceased to share these stories here with others. In sharing our stories, we will see that the journey at the end of life is not a lonely path into eternity.

How about sharing stories of no visions. My mom slide into a coma after a long illness and died. Period.

Rather, it may be an incredible reunion with those we have loved and lost. It reminds us that God exists and birth is his miracle that carries us into life. A deathbed vision is his miracle that carries us though the transition of death into the next part of our eternity.

Now we get to it. The whole premise is based on the unprovable existence of (probably the Christian) God. Also, we never hear why the hypothesis of lack of oxygen to the brain is wrong. Nice piece Oprah. America is doomed.


Here's another website with the same kind of "research" in other words they ONLY look at dying people who DO see visions but they don't look at how many dying people overall see visions. That's not research.

Here's someone doing actual research. This doctor interviewed cardiac arrest patients as they are very near dead at some point with no pulse, etc. He found

Out of the 63 cardiac arrest survivors that Parnia interviewed, 56 had no memories of any lucid experience. Seven, however, did. Parnia narrowed these down to four who clearly met all the criteria.


For me, the biggest question is why no more than a few percent have the experience, given that the circumstances seem to be the same.

And Finally:

It is unlikely that many sceptical scientists will be convinced. The science writer Susan Blackmore has researched the subject, having considered many case histories, but says, 'All things considered, I can see no reason to adopt the afterlife hypothesis ... The dying brain hypothesis, for all its shortcomings, does a better job of accounting for the experiences themselves'. Because we do dream and (sometimes) hallucinate, it might seem hasty to posit an afterlife on the basis of these experiences if there is a simpler explanation.

Notice that the writing of reasonable investigations of this phenomena is lacking in the flowery prose of the article in Oprah. We WANT to believe so the writing panders to that need.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Heaven is Intergrated!

This just in from CNN.

Well, that's nice. Since heaven is integrated (according to the pastor) then churches should be too except there is no way to know what the pretend place called 'heaven' is like. We have a human need to think there is a better life after this one but not one shred of evidence on which to base such a way of thinking.

So good idea to integrate your church but maybe just do it because it's the right thing to do.

Heaven can wait!

Wiccan? Pagan?

Article in the Trib this morning about a Wiccan minister. He says the religion is getting more acceptance in the mainstream and why not?

Their beliefs are no crazier than any other religion. From the Trib. . .

"We honor the ancestors by casting a magical circle of protection and invoking the divine powers in the form of a god and goddess," said Larson, a white-haired 63-year-old with a professorial air. "And there's chanting to create and build energy within the group, and sometimes a bonfire."

Is this crazier than thinking a guy somehow died for you sins? Is it crazier than thinking you are eating his body when you have a cracker? Is it crazier than thinking that someone rose up from the dead? And, who doesn't like a nice bonfire?

Also from the Trib.. .

"There's no formal book or scripture that's considered divinely revealed," Larson said. "Pagans don't have to reconcile a creation story written millennia ago with the findings of modern science. Consequently most pagans are quite comfortable with a scientific world view including such specific ideas as evolution."

Well, that's cool. You know, have any crazy ass religion you want but just don't think you then have some moral upper hand and for Darwin's sake. . .DON'T RUN FOR OFFICE. WE'RE BUSY!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tony Danza?

So, here I am minding my own business watching re-runs of Criminal Minds and what comes on but a 'reality show' with that BIG star Tony Danza apparently being a REAL teacher in Philly (I can only hope he got booed). I watched a little bit and then turned it off. Like all "reality" shows, it's as real as it gets. . . with a fucking videographer, sound, and light man following you around!

Actually, I've never watched any teacher shows. Room 222, Coach, ok maybe a little Mr. Cotter but that was totally for laughs. I think most of my fellow teachers are with me on this. No teacher show has ever come close. It's like turning a novel into a movie. Always comes up short. Every year, the job of teaching is another novel.

The good news about the Tony Danza opening episode was how scared he acted. Not was but acted and that's ok. The point is how completely terrifying teaching high school kids is. I don't mean at some 'tough' high school in Philly. I mean just teenagers in general. I taught at a very nice high school in a Chicago suburb and I'd have friends or associates who weren't in the teaching biz come visit sometimes and just walk through the halls with them at passing period and watch their faces. Oh my. That's a lot of teenage bizness right there in your face. You'd see the fear in their eyes. It's just too much for the un-initiated. I'd stop and tease the occasional kid. Acknowledge the occasional greeting from a student. Stop and stare at kids swapping spit. It's all good. But oh my. . . if you're not of this world. . . well, it's really something.

And if you're not shitting your pants before your first day of teaching EVERY fall then for fuck's sake go get your realtor license and get the hell out of Dodge. This IS scary. This IS important. A great teacher has to really believe that the works of Plato, Galileo, Sarte, Jefferson, Euclid, Hemingway, ARE important. The parents are depending on you. The KIDS are depending on you because in the face of having a long list of boring teachers under their belts they, like Cub fans, always hold out hope that this will be the year.

Do Not Disappoint

Now you may think that that means that you have to be Mr. friendly or Mr. fun or Mr. Funny. . . probably not. A good friend that I taught with was being eaten alive, EATEN ALIVE, by lower level kids who had pretty much given up on school. After a semester of that he went out and bought several suits of clothes and ties. He became the Hitler of science education. He had crazy rules and stuck to them: NO one goes to the bathroom . . . EVER! GO IN YOUR PANTS! No one can cross this line. . . EVER. Homework is due or I'm calling your parents...EVERY TIME. And so on. And you know what? They loved him. It was the direction they had been looking for for maybe 15 years.

15 years! Are you listening to this?

I quit teaching physics because I wanted to go sailing but that's only partly the reason. I quit teaching because I realized that I couldn't quite do it to the level I wanted to do it at any longer. For whatever reason. Burn out? I'll never know. Schools change. Administration changes. Kids change and it was all just too far for me to stretch. I quit for the good of education in general and for my own mental health. I never wanted to be THAT teacher and I felt I might be becoming him.

What is the commitment of nation's current teachers? That's probably too big a question with answers all over the place. The lure of teaching will always draw some and always draw some of the best but are those numbers diminishing? As long as we evaluate students, schools and, now, teachers via the standardized test I think we'll get fewer and fewer 'good teachers'. You know, a 'good teacher'. Hopefully, we've all had one or two and if you think back to them do you think they were driven by test scores or by their own love for Plato, Galileo, Sarte, Jefferson, Euclid, Hemingway, and the rest of the gang.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Senate Republicans

This is an update on an earlier blog. I learn today from Phil Plait that EVERY republican senate hopeful is against taking any action on global warming. This is the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Why?


American is broken. When you have evidence in front of you confirming an important topic like global warming but you sense that your team can get more votes by appealing to stupid people, well then the great experiment in democracy is broken.

When your support group is basically people who don't accept evolution, think God lives in the sky, deny global warming, and basically suspect anything that is supported by data. . . well, that's a nice little scary political party you have there.

I'm sad.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baby Scientists

My daughter revealed to me the other day that young children and scientists are exactly the same. The same in how they go about doing what they do. A young child, say 1 year old or less, is constantly testing, trying, eliminating that which doesn't work, expanding on what does work, generalizing, hypothesizing, and then re-testing again and again. This is what science does. I know we are all supposed to learn the 'scientific method' in school (purpose, procedure. . . ) but I'm not sure any working scientist gives a hoot about it when she is busy testing, exploring, hypothesizing, etc. It's much messier than that and yet every bit as rational and logical in its approach.

I'm going to invent a pretend child who grows up being supported in their explorations by an experience explorer (teacher). As this child grows up they would gain knowledge about how the world works via the myriads of tests they perform every day and they would also become better explorers. They will take fewer turns down blind alleys and maybe suspect earlier on that a particular journey is going to bear little fruit. I know well seasoned physicists who can smell a rat in a proof (they've seen similar) way earlier than an apprentice will. The point is that if you ask reasonable questions, test possible answers, test again and so on, nature will 'teach' you naturally. It can do this because the workings of nature are based on repeatable, testable mechanisms. While they might be complicated they are always there waiting to be unraveled.

If you could let all that exploration with a qualified leader just go on and on would there be any point where the explorers would come up with God as an explanation to any phenomena? Understand that this explorer is my pretend person who has never even been given any idea about existing religions or the God idea. Their explorations would ultimately come up with all the laws of physics, evolution, DNA, the Copernican system, Big Bang, etc, but what phenomena would you unearth and come up with God. In what context would that happen? What would they be puzzled about and then go, "Ah. . .must be an invisible being living in the sky that caused this."

God exists in society because we teach it to very small children when they are too young to think critically. Even worse is that very small children's brains are wired to accept ANYTHING that adults say. This was a very key evolutionary trick to keep the kids with the herd. Using this wiring to infect kids with the God idea is, to me, a little cruel. This is key. You could NOT teach about god successfully to someone who was already thinking critically and skeptically to fantastic claims. They would keep asking annoying questions like, "Where is heaven"? Does God have a dick? Really? A virgin? How did that work? How does Jesus getting nailed to a cross do anything for me? And so on. . .

Understand that when people thought that God or the gods actually were the cause of everything from the origins of the earth to lightning, floods, and weather it would make sense to teach this to the kids. If God was your only idea of what caused things to happen, well, then might as well pass it on. But now we KNOW differently! We do because we are not ignorant shepherds any longer and yet we persist in teaching the God idea. Why do we do that?

Now you might say that as one explores one would naturally read the books of explorers that came before. One doesn't really have to sail around the south seas, re-tracing Darwin's journey to understand Darwin's theory and more importantly, one can read and understand that what is being claimed is testable and if one so chooses they can test the claims for themselves. Many have so chosen and THOSE findings can be read as well. So, you say, why can't one read the bible for it's lessons and learn about God from those that came before? Isn't that really the same thing? No. You can but nothing you read is TESTABLE. That makes a huge difference! What started out as the re-telling of lore and folk tales finally got written down at some point and became THE bible. This is a completely different document than any other investigative bit of writing. By its very nature the bible is to be taken as the true word of God because God (through man) says so. . . somehow.

As long as parents, and in most cases in an unthinking effort to be 'good' parents, drag their kids to Sunday school religion and the God idea will live long and prosper. You can put up all the billboards you like but I fear that you are preaching to the choir!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Republicans Have All the Nuts and none of the Balls

Is it just me or does it seem that all the nut-ball groups have gravitated (for those who believe in gravity) to the Grand Old Party? Why does is seem that the hysterical among us align themselves with conservative ideals, ergo, the Republicans. This must drive the reasonable among the Republicans (yeah, they have to be there!) crazy. In researching this post I find an exactly matching post with a better title...

Not all Republicans are science deniers but all science deniers are Repupblicans

Let's look at a few groups that tend to align themselves with the Republican party to illuminate my point

1. Evangelicals, like Terry Fox or the late Jerry Fallwell (do all their first names end in Y?) who preach the wickedness of abortion, evolution and homosexuality.

2. Global warming deniers. From that link. . .

Sen. Barbara Boxer had been chair of the Senate's Environment Committee for less than a month when the verdict landed last February. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," concluded a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries. Worse, there was now at least a 90 percent likelihood that the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is causing longer droughts, more flood-causing downpours and worse heat waves, way up from earlier studies. Those who doubt the reality of human-caused climate change have spent decades disputing that. But Boxer figured that with "the overwhelming science out there, the deniers' days were numbered." As she left a meeting with the head of the international climate panel, however, a staffer had some news for her. A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on. "I realized," says Boxer, "there was a movement behind this that just wasn't giving up."

And then there's this:

Every GOP NH Senate Candidate Is A Global Warming Denier

And from Phil Plait. . .

Every single Republican senate hopeful is against climate change action

Evolution: War on science: Alabama’s “True Republican” TV ad mocks evolution

Young Earth Believers - Yep Republicans again.

This is getting very depressing. It's one thing to just be uneducated. It's another to use that stupidity to get votes. A true denier has to deny actual scientific data a priori and WANT things to be different than they actually are. They have an ax to grind and by God they are going to fucking grind it! Individually they are harmless and equivalent to the flat earth society. But, to PLAY to the audience whether you are a denier or not in an attempt (which might be successful!) to get votes is bordering on evil. What is to be gained by your real or feigned denial except your own elevation to a post to which you are poorly trained and with which you cannot possibly do good.

And then there's the whore, Sarah Palin who truly doesn't know shit from shine-o-la and has demonstrated that on national TV. Depressingly her convincing act as a typical American stupid person has endeared her to. . .well, to the millions of stupid Americans who seem to all be in the Republican Party!

Here's the question: When did it get to be OK to have an OPINION about scientific data and results. You can have an opinion about abortion, say but you can't have an opinion about evolution. . . or fucking gravity. Do your own experiment. Publish in accepted journals. Everyone is free to do that but you can't just look at the evidence for the earth being 4.5 billion years old and say, "I just choose to not believe that". Actually you can. Who cares. Be stupid but don't make that your platform for running for fucking office! Sheesh.

Jesus H. Christ, is it so much to ask that we deal with national problems on a rational level and leave the religious and crazy rhetoric outside the meeting room?

I guess it is.

If you travel at all you'll find people chuckling at the things that America gets all stirred up about. They ain't perfect either but they mostly don't go around voting based on whether or not you BELIEVE in a well proven scientific theory.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stoning in Iran

This woman may or may not have already been given 99 lashes as the reports vary. I guess the lashes are to get her ready for the stoning which is a death penalty. Gee, with that it seems like they could skip the lashes but who wants to miss a good time like that.

She is being punished for not wearing a head covering (hence the lashes) and for committing adultry (death by stoning). Can you imagine any society based on reasoned thought and discussion coming to this conclusion? No. Only a backward society based on a distorted view of their own religion could make themselves think that a fellow human HAD to be stoned to death.

It's not that this particular religion is bad it's that forfeiting your reason in favor of ANY religion is bad. It takes you nowhere as a person and it holds society back in general.

There is no God. . . let's move on to problem solving PLEASE!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This post doesn't really fit here but I wanted to post it somewhere.

I was somewhat shocked and then not so much when I read this. . .

Players in Chicago's 60619 ZIP code played $26.6 million worth of lottery games for fiscal year 2008, and $21.7 million in lottery sales came from the 60628. This is the TOP lottery sales zip code in the state.

This zip code includes the Chicago neighborhoods of Chatham, Roseland, and Grand Crossing. The area is 90 percent African American and 50% of the men ages 16 and up are unemployed. A daily look at the newspaper will tell you what life is like in these south side neighborhoods.

I'm thinking that people from the neighborhood are buying the tickets and not tourists.

That's 48 million over two years IN ONE ZIP CODE. If all those people had put that money in a freaking bucket what might they have built for their neighborhood?

685 private security guards at $35,000/year
At 2% interest they could have MADE over $900,000 a year
How many abandoned buildings could have been bought and turned into parks?
How many tutors or teacher's aides could be hired
After school programs?
Music programs?
Art Programs?

Look, the lottery is a tax. You willingly go pay this tax but their is no promise that the proceeds are going to the area where you physically paid your tax. The lottery money you plunk down in Chatham could easily end up in a road project in Oak Park! If you're willing to tax yourself with NO guarantee of ANY return why not just form a citizens group, donate at the same rate of 24 million a year and get a guaranteed return for your neighborhood?

Besides, the lottery is a bad bet. People always say, "Well, someone has to win". Yeah, but it ain't going to be you! It's you against the FIELD! Hell, lots of time no one wins. The odds are that bad. If you laid a special square inch on the grass in the city block where the Petrillo band shell is, blindfold yourself, and whip a dart (no aiming!) into that square block field. You have to hit that special square inch to win lotto. Same odds.

Would it be possible to distribute Lottery proceeds in proportion to lottery sales? Of course this is possible. It's an easy math problem/programing problem. You think the politicians would allow this instead of their own pork barrel projects? The odds of this happening are the same as winning Lotto!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Sad Story from Lake Michigan

In the Chicago Tribune this morning. . . Two women were rescued from the lake this morning. Thy had been treading water for several hours after their sailboat drifted away from them while going for a late night swim. One of the men aboard drowned and the other is missing.

As a sailor myself I can't imagine letting the boat get away! Swim with a tether or leave one person on board. Or maybe not go swimming at 1 in the morning.

The part that interests me is this quote from one of the fishermen who rescued the women:

"It was definitely surreal," said another fishermen, Chad Wasson, a doctor from Naperville. "It really was divine intervention."

Well there Chad I guess that makes you God! YOU'RE the one who saved her. Oh, and was it also divine intervention that had you go out late enough to NOT rescue the two guys? The world of religion is FULL of cherry picking like this where you pick the event(s) that supports a kind and beneficial deity and ignore the unfortunate events. You know that ones that confirm that the lord does work in mysterious ways. . .

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our own Blago

The case against former governor Rod Blagojevich has gone to the jury. Here's what Rod had to say. . .

Blagojevich, with his wife Patti at his side during the brief news conference, said they have put their faith in the "judgment, common sense and decency" of the jury. "It's in God's hands."
-Chicago Tribune

WTF? It is clearly in the jury's hands. This is a good example of trying to sound pious. Makes you seem humble and spiritual and all that but it makes no sense. If it was in God's hands you wouldn't need the jury!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sarah Palin?

I'm currently reading A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jr. It's a wonderful view of a man that all Americans love but few know why they love him. I was certainly in that group. Part of Abe's popularity was his folksiness and ability to talk to anyone at any level. Behind that folksiness however there lived a voracious reader, thinker, and planner. He was completely self educated. What meager formal education he received growing up in Indiana (and formal in Indiana is with shoes on) is probably similar to what one receives in the Hoosier state today. Nothing.

Just kidding. . . go Notre Dame!

Lincoln could also be very theoretical and obtuse and he lost some audience when he was. The point is that as a lawyer and later as a successful politician (although he lost more elections than he won) it was his keen mind and intellect behind his folksy persona that made him the guy we love to name streets, delis, parks, and discount furniture stores after.

Now then. . . Americans ARE drawn to folksiness. We like people to sound like us if we're going to vote for them. Americans are VERY suspicious of intellectuals and are not fond of having smart people actually run the country. Americans just might pick someone who SOUNDS like them even though they don't have any clue what they are talking about (George W).

Or, Sarah Palin!

The only reason she is still in the news is because, A. Fox News keeps putting her there and B. She sounds folksy. I got news for you. . .sometimes folksy is a red flag for STUPID and not well read! Let's just use this as an example. . .

"Well, let's see. There's ― of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ―" --Sarah Palin, unable to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with other than Roe vs. Wade, interview with Katie Couric, CBS News, Oct. 1, 2008 (Watch video clip)

I'd like you all to compare that to this and ask yourself which one is more suited to the White House?

Wait... what's this got to do with skepticism, atheism, rationalism?

Sarah Palin is a poo head. (God, ( I mean Newton) I'm mature!)

More Prayer for the Gulf

Again from CNN. It seems the Foley Methodist Church near the gulf has always held services down at the beach.

“We’re down there praying every week," Moore told CNN's Belief Blog by phone on Thursday. "It’s important for us to pray every week, every Sunday since we’ve been out there since it has happened. Every day we’re down there, we’re praying for some relief.”

Lately they've been moved off the actual beach to make room for the relief workers. Of course you can pray from anywhere so they have continued to focus their prayers on the oil mess in the gulf. Since the cap is holding I'm going to say that this is a case where the prayers worked! Sure. They prayed. The cap held. What don't you understand about cause and effect?

So, to the Foley Methodist Church. . . thanks!

On the other hand, maybe you could have focused your efforts several weeks ago though so let's work on that. Or, here's an idea, why not get off of your holy asses and pitch in with the relief effort. Just an idea. . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Congress and the Bible

Is this weird? Story out of CNN about a congressman from Texas (shocking!) quoting the bible to try to come up with an appropriate position on illegal immigration.

But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers." [emphasis mine]

Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."

He also noted a passage from Leviticus: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong." This, he contended, does not imply that "foreigners should disregard civil laws to enter (the country) or that we should overlook it when they do."

Addressing a passage from Matthew 25 about caring for "the least of these my brothers," Smith contended that it "advocates individual acts of kindness (but) does not mandate a public policy."

"Americans need not repent for wanting to uphold the rule of law and provide jobs for legal workers," he said. "A truly Christian moral approach would be not to acquiesce to illegal immigration, but to work to end it."

Amazing to me how people love to cherry pick from the bible to find passages that 'clearly' support whatever you want them to support. Also amazing is just the overall idea that if it were in the bible that that would make something "OK". We don't get our medical advice from a 5000 year old book. We don't engineer bridges based on 5000 year old technology. We don't use ideas from 5000 year old astronomy theories either. Somehow when it comes to how we should treat each other or behave as a society we think the answers lie is this particular 5000 year old book. Why? Plus, there is also some very bad advice in the bible. Such things as selling your daughters and the idea wives being property of men. (Exodus)

Moreover, why didn't some other congressman shout this guy down in the name of separation of church and state?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

GOD! Stop the oil leak!

Yes, this is the advice from some corners such as on Beliefnet. Of course it is. Here's the prayer they recommend. I've highlighted some parts and comment below (misspellings are theirs!)

God, step in and stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico! We ask this because we don't know what else to do! We acknowledge that humans caused this problem, that our actions and inactions are now corrupting this beautiful and bountiful part of your planet. Forgive us. And then step in to act where we cannot. Give BP engineers supernatural wisdom to make the right, rapid decisions to remedy the leak. Give them stamina and creativity that is beyond their own capacity. Bless their technology so that it works even better than it is designed. Give governmental leaders, local, state and federal, unity and focus to deploy all their energies in the right direction. And beyond all this, please reach out your hand to protect the parts of your creation that will be damaged by this disaster. We humbly come to you to ask you for your grace. May the consequences of our stupidity, greed, laziness, and ignorance in this case be less than they should be! We know we should reap what we have sown, but here, we ask for a stay in your hand of judgment. We do not deserve your pardon here, but we ask it anyway! In Jesus name, fix this problem that we so pitifully cannot!"

We don't know what to do. . . Well, yet! What is the exact time line on fixing this leak? Has this problem ever occurred before? NO! So, it might not be surprising that it is taking awhile to solve it. Better yet, when someone comes up with the final solution how will we know it was due to prayer and not just due to diligence? I know. . . it was prayer that GAVE the diligence! Cute. The point is there is no way to know.

Supernatural wisdom That would be nice. What does it look like? How smart is supernatural smart? Again, how would you tell it from just run of the mill smart?

Bless their technology - I'm at a loss. Does a blessed machine operated differently, more efficiently than an unblessed machine? I would say only bless technology if it is a sneezing machine.

As to the effectiveness of prayer in general we have this from the Washington Post. about how a well run, controlled test of prayer's effectiveness on 700 heart patients showed a null result. Here's a paragraph from that article (my emphasis)

While skeptics of prayer welcomed the results, other researchers questioned the findings, and proponents of prayer maintained that God's influence lies beyond the reach of scientific validation.

So, I guess they're saying that prayer works but you can't ever see it work. Isn't that like not working? People who believe in prayer are more than just proponents of it they are going to believe it works in the face of evidence to the contrary. That's why it's no use trying to convince them that they are misguided. Like my dad used to say, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. You frustrate yourself AND you annoy the pig".

Monday, June 07, 2010

Blog Roll

Just a quick note. As you can see at the left I've added Atheist Blog Roll to this site. That's because they've added this blog to their list. Wow. . .look how many Atheist blogs there are to choose from and this is the SHORT list. If nothing else it gives some comfort to find you're not alone.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Spirtual but not Religious

Article at CNN about this concept. Apparently there is a growing group of people who consider themselves 'spiritual' but not connected to any organized religion. My question is, on what do you base your spiritualism? What clues does nature send you that leads you to believe there is some sort of 'other plane' besides the 3 dimensions (4 if you include time) we can actually sense?

I've written on this before. I visited a waterfall in Oregon over the weekend. Second tallest in the US! Spectacular. I keep seeing more and more spectacular images from various space telescopes that just blow me away. I've lived and sailed on the ocean and felt a full dose of life at sea and the beauty of the ocean. Many among us could go on and on. . . How is this world not spectacular enough for you that you have to invent a magical, non-existent plane, inhabited by pretend beings?

Forget religion. Forget 'spiritualism'. Get outdoors and look around!

Iran Could Plug Oil Leak

From Watching America:

A high-level manager at Iran’s national oil drilling company said that plugging the leak in the well is no big deal. Iran, he says, has already had considerable experience with that, especially in the wake of the 1980s war with Iraq, when its oil-drilling rigs were bombarded.

Hey, Iran. . . this leak is about a mile under the ocean which in case you didn't know, is NOTHING LIKE A FREAKING DESERT! So thanks but no thanks and you can just get back to lying about your nuclear program and abusing women.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sports and Religion

A common sight is it not? The player pointing to the sky (god lives there you know). The player who crosses himself before an at bat. The group prayer meeting before the game or after a touchdown. What is this?


An over abundance of pride or self importance. You see, the BEST way to draw attention to yourself is to praise god in front of thousands of people. This is a guaranteed way to get them to like you and to, perhaps, overlook your lack of skill.

See what I mean?

To think that the CREATOR OF THE FREAKING UNIVERSE is on YOUR side in a contest about a stupid leather ball is to insult religion which to me is almost un-insultable. So there you go!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jesus Christ vs. Lou Gehrig

As all baseball fans know, in 1925 the first baseman for the New York Yankees, Wally Pipp, complained of a headache and was replaced in the lineup by a young slugger named Lou Gehrig. Wally Pipp never played first for the Yankees again as Lou then played in 2130 consecutive games. It's a great story and a lesson for all who might let a minor headache keep them from work! Yes a great story indeed.

Except it's not true!

The streak actually started the day before when Gehrig had an at bat against the Senators. Also, three total players were benched that day as the manager was trying to shake things up for what was a pretty rotten year for the Yankees. At the time Pipp was hitting about .160 while everyone knew that Gehrig, while young, could hit the ball a mile. As to the headache, there is no mention of it in the writing at that time. The myth only grew later and who knows from where. Myths are like that. We like to embroider stories around our heroes. There's also the problem of the telling and re-telling of a story and everyone knows how this can twist a story in unpredictable ways. The story of Wally Pipp is only 85 years old. Imagine what kind of embroidery has been done on the life of (light hitting but good glove) Jesus H. Christ over the course of 200o years. You'd think that any story coming from so long ago with such grandiose claims would automatically be taken with a huge grain of salt or two. Instead, the stories are taken as beautiful things. Wonderful things. Miraculous things. An organized religion with all the trappings and ceremony has to declare the stories sacred and therefore untouchable. It has to be a sin to question the stories. The stories then move from mere stories to sacred fact. Unfortunately . . .

They're not true!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pascal's Wager

I see that the link I put on the sidebar is now defunct and I'll fix that. Later. For now I'll just offer this short version of Pascal's Wager and my take on it. Blaise Pascal (1600's) said that since you can't prove the existence of God you might as well believe in him. If your wrong and God truly doesn't exist you lose nothing but if he does exist you win all with eternal life.

There are many logical refutations on this line of reasoning so I won't go through the whole thing. Personally though I have a couple of ideas.

To accept Pascal's wager to me would seem to be a cowardly way of life. There is something very scary out there that we can't show you but it's really scary so you really should behave in this special way to cover yourself. I think I need a little more than that to truly commit to a particular philosophy. Is it so wrong to ask for a few particulars? You know, people ask way more incisive questions when it comes to buying a car than they do about buying into an entire world view.

My other thought is, ok, I accept the wager. There. I believe in God. Am I covered? Can I go on now with my life as it was before? Do I have to say it out loud? Can I just say it to myself? How many times do I have to say it? Do I have to mean it? How could anyone tell if I mean it or not? If I say but I don't really mean it have I sinned? What if I can say but I just can't make myself mean it? Am I then doomed? That seems mean.

Of course when people say they believe in God they usually mean that they believe AND they partake in the rituals, the giving, and the community of their church. So, is all of that required too or can one just believe?

If there were an all seeing, fire and brimstone type of God I don't think he would be impressed with Pascal's CYA version of belief so you'd be going to hell anyway. Since you're going to go to hell anyway, you might as well NOT believe. So, there's Pascal's Wager stood on its head!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Air Crash Survivor

(CNN) -- Some will see it as divine intervention, others a simple quirk of fate, fortune or physics, but one boy's cheating of death in an air crash in Libya this week adds another name to a small roll call of aviation disaster sole survivors.

I just love this. 60 some people die horribly but one lucky guy lives and they call this divine intervention. What about the dead guys? I've been down this road before but what the hell?

If it was divine intervention. . . how does it work? Why this kid? If it was divine intervention why did he have to have multiple breaks in his legs? Why not just have him walk away. I know. . .the lord do work in mysterious ways.

I'm so sick of all of this.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Still reading, Why Evolution is True and I'll have a final summary post about the book. For now just this one brief thought.

One of the hallmarks of a robust and working theory is that allows for predictions that can be checked. Over and over again in the book the author asks what would you expect to see IF there was such a thing as evolution. Observations and experiments ensue that support evolution. Asking that same question with Intelligent Design doesn't even lead you to a possible answer. What would you predict if God had made everything? What experiment could you predict the results of and then check? ID is (as the judges ruled in Pennsylvania) a thinly veiled attempt to get religion into the public school. That is ALL it is. No serious working scientist works in the pretend field of Intelligent Design because THERE IS NOTHING TO DO! ID is nothing more than a fundamentalist's statement of faith. . . blind faith if you will in the old testament.

I'm obviously not a man of faith but I could imagine that if you were one how you would have to be willing to adjust that faith in the light of new knowledge. You'd somehow have to back off from the old testament and somehow think that what they really meant in Genesis was about the big bang or about evolution.

Well then. . .


Either your faith is wrongly placed or God decided to write in really obscure metaphor. Why would he do that? To enjoy the thousands of years of confusion that have ensued? Or you have to imagine that all the scientists working in all the countries of the world are part of a vast conspiracy to rid the planet of God. Yeah maybe that's it. That sounds workable.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Why Evolution is True - part 5

There are two kinds of islands - Oceanic and Continental. Oceanic islands have always been islands. Hawaii is an example. It sticks up in the middle of the ocean and is volcanic in nature. Continental islands used to be connected to land but broke off during plate tectonics.

Now, lets look at the critters that live on oceanic islands. Better yet let's look at the critters that are NOT on oceanic islands. No fresh water fish, no mammals, no amphibians and no reptiles. On the other hand you do have such species on the continental islands.

What you do find on oceanic islands are species of birds and insects that are similar to their counterparts on the nearest continental land.

An idea from intelligent design is that creatures were designed exactly for their environment. So, you might think that somehow the oceanic islands are not appropriate for the critters that are not 'designed' for there. One might predict that when introduced into those environments the outsiders would perish. But the opposite is true. Goats and rats introduced to Hawaii thrived due to no natural predators. So. . .

Isn't it more reasonable that birds and insects were able to make the journey to an oceanic island and then proceed to evolve and broaden into a variety of species? Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are too large to make the journey to a far off oceanic island. Birds can make it with favorable winds and carry insects with them. Seeds can float or be carried by the wind as well.

Why would a creator put animals on oceanic islands (but not all) and then have them look like counterparts on the continents unless he wanted us to think that evolution was happening?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Why Evolution is True Part 4

I'm about half way through the book now and one recurring theme that I'm liking is that the author (Jerry Coyne) will ask, "What would we expect things to look like if life evolved from earlier forms?" When you ask this you often find that the answer is exactly as things are now! Some examples...

We'd expect to find that earlier, extinct forms of life to occur before later forms in the fossil record and we do.

We'd expect to see 'imperfections' in design or outright bad design as evolution has to deal with the current model as minor changes are made. Things that are not needed and other bad designs would continue to show up. This is exactly what we see with numerous examples.

We might not expect this one but how else to explain the fact that many embryos display the forms of their very early forms. Humans embryos go through a 'fish stage' with gills and all. And interestingly all mammals go through a fish stage but no fish go through a mammal stage. Why? Because we descended from fish, the first vertebrae, and not the other way around.

You can also ask what would you expect to see if everything were created at once and is as is and has not evolved.

You would expect to see wild varieties of creatures with few if any common features. But you don't.

You'd not expect to find extinct creatures that are clearly earlier forms of the current version Why would you? But you do.

You'd not expect to see examples of 'bad design' of which there are many but you do. (As Robin Williams put it - "Intelligent design? You've got a sewage treatment plant right next to an amusement park!")

The stages that the human fetus goes through is especially interesting. Two examples: At about 6 months along the fetus grows a complete coat of hair called lanugo giving evidence of our close kinship to the rest of the monkeys. This hair is shed about a month before birth. Chimpanzees grow hair at nearly the same stage but they keep it. Also, a brand new infant will strongly grasp your finger if you gently stroke its palm. This is a remnant of our past as infant monkeys have to be able to hang on to their mother's fur. Humans (with very few exceptions) have no need to grasp their mother's fur but the hard wired behavior remains.

Finally, for today, a recurring ID argument for all this 'bad design' stuff is that the creator created things that way for maybe artistic reasons or for reasons that we cannot fathom. But the only thing that makes any sense of these bad designs is if things evolved from earlier forms. This means that the creator must have had in mind to fool legions of biologists just for fun. Not to mention the fact that the "the lord works in mysterious ways" argument is getting a little tired I think.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Evolution is True part 3. . . 'theoretically'

Creationists (including good old Ronald Reagan) are fond of saying that Evolution is "just a theory". This they feel gives them the opportunity and the right to put forward any other theory as if they were then on equal ground. They're not.

Part of the problem lies in the various uses of the word, theory. This from dictionary.reference

1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.
2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
6. contemplation or speculation.
7. guess or conjecture.

The problem that people confuse numbers 1 and 6 or 7. The example they give, Einstein's theory of relativity, is a good one. There is NO question about this 'theory'. In this case theory means as it says in #1. It is coherent, it covers a wide variety of cases, it has been verified in the laboratory millions of times. For example, the GPS satellites are so accurate that they have to compensate for the slight fluctuations in time caused by general relativity. Relativity is not theoretical and we don't speak of it any longer as 'in theory'. It has moved to well established theory.

But language is funny and varied. We can also use the word thus: "In theory I could play in the NBA", or "Theoretically, I could get a date with a super model". Creationist like to cherry pick and use THIS form of the word theory when in fact it is not at all connected to Darwinism. The entire book, Why Evolution is True, goes on to give many concrete pieces of evidence that are the foundation, and proof of Evolution. It is a theory but it's not "just a theory".

Interesting that of all the well founded theories in science (gravity, DNA, the atom, etc.) creationist only have a problem with one of them - Evolution. I have a piece about that in an earlier post that may be of interest here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Evolution is True - part 2

Continuing my notes as I read Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne.

There are creationist and then there are the 10,000 Year-Old-Earth-Creationists. It's one thing to deny such a well established theory as Darwinian evolution it's really another level of denial- ism to deny radioactive dating.

To me to say that radioactive dating is somehow wrong would mean that we don't fully understand the nucleus. That would mean that machines based on our understanding wouldn't work. Things like hydrogen bombs, nuclear power plants, MRI, etc. But those machines DO work so what the hell?

10,000 year old earth creationist have a neat way out of this. The claim is that we are miss-lead in our calculating the age of things via Carbon 14 or U235 dating because we assume the half-life of these unstable isotopes is the same now as it was then. They claim that it was different 'then' and leads to scientists grossly over calculating the age of things.

Two comments: 1. Can you show some factors that affect the half-life of an isotope? Such things as temperature, pressure, humidity? Answer: No. There are no separate experiments that suggest that half-life of an isotope depends on anything. 2. From 1 then, this is backwards thinking like a lot of creationist logic. They are starting with the earth is 10,000 years old as fact and then adjusting the half-life accordingly instead of just asking, 'How old is the earth?'.

But this argument from the creationist keeps re-appearing. In "Why Evolution is True" we have a wonderful way to knock all of this down. What if there was an independent way to show the age of something separate from radioactivity that then agreed with what radioactivity predicted? That would not only nail down the age of that thing but also show that the half-life is a constant and did not have different values at an earlier time.

There is a type of coral that radioactive dating puts at 380 million years ago. However, this coral also keeps its own calendar independently of this. We know the earth spins around ever slower due to the friction of the tides. In other words are days are getting longer at the rate of about 2 seconds every 100,000 years. Doing the math you find that 380 million years ago the day would have been much shorter and that there would have been 396 days in a year since the earth goes around the sun at a constant rate making all the years the same length of time. Now, these corals leave a yearly ring just like trees do but they also leave a daily ring. All you have to do is look at these fossils closely and count how many daily rings there are between two yearly rings. What do you get? About 400 putting the age of the corals at around 380 million years just as the radioactive data predicted.

Slam dunk.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why Evolution is True

This is the title of the book I'm currently reading by Jerry A. Coyne. It is a wonderful book and rather than write a review after I'm done I think I'll jot down some of the more interesting things as I read them. Helps me to understand too.

First some depressing facts from the introduction:

"Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals." To this statement only 40% of Americans said it was true. The only country to do worse was Turkey with 25%. Turkey is rife with fundamentalism as is America. Europe in general answers about 80% true as they do in Japan.

1 in 6 US teachers believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form with the last 10,000 years.

Classification and the watch fallacy.

The watch fallacy from the 18th century Englishman, William Paley, is an old argument that goes like this: Let's say you're walking along the beach and you come across a pocket watch. Upon inspection (you take the back off) you find that it is finely crafted and perfect in every way for what it does. Clearly this was designed by some intelligence - a master craftsman - and didn't just pop up from prehistoric ooze. The observation that many animals are perfectly crafted for their environment suggests a master craftsman designing them and us.

Long before Darwin, scientist were busy classifying the flowers, trees, and animals. Many different civilizations did this and yet they all came up with basically the same classifications. You have things with backbones and things without. Inside the back bone guys you have things with fur or things with scales. Etc and so on. In other words there is a natural logic to the classification that is obvious to anyone doing the classifying.

If each creature were designed to be perfect for their environment then why are there so many common features between dissimilar animals and dissimilar environments? If each thing were a design separate from the other then the animals would be like a collection of matchbooks (the author's example). You might be able to classify the matchbooks by color, or size, or from where they came but all of these classifications are equal to each other and suggest no real logic.

On the other hand if we ask the question: What would you expect the classification of animals to look like IF animals evolved from earlier forms of animals? - you would get something exactly as we find it! This is true with the animal kingdom as we find it and continues to be true and is further supported by the fossil record of earlier forms of a variety of animals.

Not to mention, not all of the 'designs' are so perfect. Evolution has to work with what came before. It might be helpful for a turtle to have 6 flippers instead of 4 but evolution is stuck with making improvements on the quadruped now and doesn't start all over with every mutation. Why do men have breasts? Why do we have appendixes? Men's testes start up in their abdomens and move down through a tube at the age of a few months. This trip weakens that area of the body and is exactly why men are prone to hernias. This is a compromise. Keeping the testes cooler outside the body makes for more sperm production at the expense of making us susceptible to hernias. What master craftsman would make such a design?

Monday, April 19, 2010

So What?

This just in from CNN:

-- The two most senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have been killed in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation, officials announced Monday.

So what? Guess how much skill it takes to be a big shot in al Qaeda (hey, how about a 'u' in there?)? Guess how much education? All you need is to be zeolot for Muslim fundamentalism. This story is no big deal as the next knuckle head in line will take over and nothing will change.

No different than when a pope dies. Next guy takes over. No real skill involved (but probably a lot of back room politics in both cases).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

4 shot in Chicago

Four people including 2 kids shot to death this morning in Chicago. . .

The suspect had been arrested in Madison last fall for allegedly beating Thompson, according to records. Just last week, Thompson filed a paternity case against the suspect, records show.
And in recent days, Thompson said the suspect had been fighting because he wanted her to dress in Muslim garb, but she refused, according to Shirina Thompson, the older sister of Twanda Thompson.

The suspect had also been acting strangely, talking about "going to Allah," she said. A law enforcement source said the suspect believed Allah wanted him to bring his family to Allah.

There you go. There's crazy and then there's RELIGION crazy. Scary.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Evolution and the Afterlife

I think I get it. I think I get why some religious people are such vehement evolution deniers. To accept the well founded theory of evolution you have to give up human's special place on the earth. To wit we have souls and animals don't. I got that right from my Lutheran minister's mouth when I asked if old Shep was going to heaven.


To accept evolution (which is like accepting gravity) is to then ask the question, at what point did we also evolve souls? If we are separate from the animal kingdom how do you explain all the similarities with the animals? For example our DNA is 95% similar to chimp DNA. If we always had souls does that mean that there are Australopithecans in heaven? Java man? Lemurs? Fish? Where does the evolved soul begin? Maybe there are levels of heaven for levels of evolution? If Cro-Magnon man had souls how sinful were they to be extincted!?

And another thing. .. .I am so sick of people decrying evolution because they don't like the idea of us evolving from monkeys. WE DIDN'T EVOLVE FROM MONKEYS! We evolved from earlier versions of US and so did monkeys evolve from earlier forms of monkeys. Us and monkeys have a similar common ancestor way back in the evolutionary tree but we did not come from monkeys so stop saying that!

This speaks to the larger idea of throwing out ideas and theories because you don't like them or they go against what you already thought. To find truth you have to first have a truly open mind. That can be hard to do but to just dig in and deny, deny, deny is, well, boring and leads you nowhere. It is also the kind of thinking that leads a civilization nowhere.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


News recently of the arrest of several members of a 'christian militia' called the Hutaree. What the hell? I went to their website and sure enough there's a bible quote at the top right above a picture of a bunch of dumb asses in military garb. So if you're inclined to believe fundamentalist crazy talk you might be susceptible to falling into an organization like this. If you're a person who doesn't care for facts. If you're a person who likes tough talk. If you're a person who is under-educated.

I'm thinking, what would it take to get me to join some para-military group and go after policemen as these guys were planning to do. . . . (thinking) . . . There's no WAY! Without some nut spouting crazy as stuff from the bible to the susceptible there's no way to get people to join up for this sort of thing. You simply couldn't put a group of skeptics together in any kind of group this way. Skeptics ask too many annoying questions!

Would the world be a saner, safer and more peaceful place without religion? HELL YEAH!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


One of the qualities of the uneducated is holding on to beliefs that have no basis in fact. Or, holding on to a belief even after it has been shown to be untrue. I run into this commonly when trying to teach Newton's laws of motion. Nature tends to give us false clues as to what is fundamentally going on.

For example, it seems pretty obvious that it takes a force to keep something moving. If you stop peddling your bike the bike stops moving. If you take your foot of the gas the car stops. And yet, when I take away all frictional forces (on an air table for example) and ask, "What force keeps the puck moving?", consternation ensues. Words and hypothesis are bandied about until it finally dawns (as it did for Galileo and Newton) that once put in motion things keep going UNLESS a force stops them. It's our experience to almost always have some friction around that causes us to 'believe' in a different law.

To believe that all things naturally come to rest is to be slightly uneducated in physics. No big harm there but still it is what it is. To hang on to such a law in the face of examples to the contrary is to be ridiculously stubborn.

People used to think that when it lightninged and thundered that the gods were mad at them - that they were being punished for being sinful. As the work of reasonable investigators (Franklin, et. al.) proceeded, people slowly learned that lightning was a natural phenomena and disconnected from any godly intent. Well, most did.

To ignore the bushels of data and experiments that put lightning in the larger context of electrical phenomena and hang on to a godly explanation would be silly and one would just be showing their ignorance or their stubbornness.

So, how is it different when one chooses to ignore the bushels of data and experiments that confirm the general paradigm of evolution? How is this not considered just being silly and uneducated? Well it is considered just that by about anyone who has read a book about such things WITH AN OPEN MIND. If you have a personal ax to grind from the get go, well then no, you cannot be educated to see a bigger idea. You will remain uneducated.

And forced to live in Texas.

Now the closed minded theist will say that my belief in the experiment is just another religion. I choose to believe in science and he chooses to believe in a higher power. We all believe in something, right? There is a fatal flaw in that kind of thinking. The theist has no way to prove any of his assertions. His are truly pure belief or if you prefer, faith. I can have an idea and test it and people completely disconnected from me could run the same test. A theist could do it with the same results. A computer could analyze the data. When the results keep coming up the same no matter who runs the test then I think we've got something that is real and independent of whether I believe in it or not.

Mixing the two has always produced failure for the theist. Controlled test of prayer. Miracles at Lourdes. Mind readers. I could go on. More importantly, it seems for most theists conducting a rational experiment with, let's say prayer, sort of 'ruins' it. They might have a feeling in the back of their minds that 'this ain't going to work'. They know that prayer is not 'of the laboratory' and yet they desperately want it to somehow work too! This is the slippery slope that all believers in magical things have to walk. On one hand you want your beliefs to be of a higher plane than this old regular, boring world. On the other hand you want your magic to actually intersect this world when it suits you. That seems unthinking to me at the best and disingenuous at the worst.

If you pray because it gets you through the night or helps you get through tough times, well ok. But please try to not take that next step where you start thinking that what works for you should work for everyone or that it should be taught in school!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Death Sentence for Sorcery

Guess the country. . . CORRECT! Saudi Arabia. Our oil friends. Apparently some schmo used to have a TV show where he would predict the future for people. He got arrested by the 'religious police' for this act.

To get released the guy pictured above is going to have to cut him a break. That's King Abdullah. Does he look like he goes around passing out breaks?

From CNN: Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Sheherazade, a Beirut based satellite TV channel.

According to his lawyer, Sibat, who is 48 and has five children, would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

He gets death for this? Wow. As an appeal why not have him do a controlled test and see if he really can predict the future. If he can't (and I'm guessing he can't do any better than random chance) then his verdict should be reversed. You're not practicing sorcery if it doesn't work are you? Funny, you CAN be a practicing Christian even though praying as been proven to not work.

Well, I don't suppose anyone in the 'religious police' could ever stoop to testing things in a reasonable way. They'd be out of work!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Devil Makes us Do It

From CNN, Father Gabriele (Gabe) Amworth is the top exorcist in the holy roman church. Follow the link to the whole (short) article. Some excerpts follow with my sarcastic (but witty) comments.

"It's not my opinion: I'm saying that if you believe in the Gospels, you believe in the existence of the devil, in the devil's power to possess people," he said in an interview with CNN.

Hey, hold on, believing in the Gospels is in itself an opinion so belief in the devil is too. Nice try!

Amorth, the founder of the International Association of Exorcists, has performed more than 70,000 exorcisms in his career, he estimates.

Ok, first off I want to attend one of their conventions. What kind of wacky things do they do at the hotel after the meetings? They already have the crazy hats to wear. What booths are set up to sell things - Holy water squirt guns? Vomit proof vestments?

Now to the numbers. . .70,000? Really? This guy is 85. Let's say he's been doing this for 50 years. That's 1400 a year or 3.8/day EVERY DAY. Wow the devil is really keeping this guy busy! Hardly leaves time to buy candy for the choir boys.

"I have carried out exorcisms on some priests who had been molested by the devil," he said, without going into details.

Now there's a nice twist. The devil molesting priests. He didn't go into details but perhaps he shared the photos.

Well, there you have it. To the faithful, this guy is employed by the church and that means when you drop money in the plate some of that goes to him. Praise the Lord!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Calamities of Nature, irreverent webcomics by Tony Piro
See more comics from Calamities of Nature

Thursday, February 04, 2010

World Without God

I'd like to ask a reasonable theist this: You are darn sure that there is a God. A supreme being. You have faith that there is someone at the helm shall we say. OK, just for a moment try to imagine a world, a universe, that is devoid of such a creature and ask you what this world would then look like? How it would be different from this God filled world?

Now we're going to have to get around the problem of believing in a God that created the whole world. If you're going to hang on to that then there is no gedanken experiment because then you'll get to argue that to imagine no God is to imagine that the whole universe doesn't exist and then we're done.

So, is there a theist out there who believes in a God of people but understands that this may not be the God of creation and that God and the universe evolved somehow 'naturally'. If so, then I need this theist to just keep the universe evolving naturally but drop the idea about there also being a God of man. OK, let's say Bob is this theist I am imagining.

Bob, if that is your real name, since you believe in a universe with a God, can you imagine what this world would look like without him? Could it perhaps be a world where sometimes bad things happen to good people? Could it be that naturally occurring spectaculars like tornadoes or Oprah sometimes take the righteous as well as the sinful? Would it be a world were people die never to be heard from again? Where the sick are not healed miraculously. A world where greed coaxes people to do awful things and where decent people lend a helping hand without being asked? A world where most parents are good at it and some suck?

I obviously contend that this is already that world so why not just drop the whole God thing and let's get on to problem solving! Bob, where do you see God in this world? What God-thing is there that can't be explained by naturally occurring phenomena? Now, Bob, if you say, 'it's a faith thing', I just get to say, 'what do you get for that'? What actual phenomenon can you point to that is the product of your faith?

Now, if Bob gets peace of mind, a calming effect, a shot of energy or confidence via his faith and praying well I'm ok with that. We don't live all that long and if something gives us peace that's fine. But Bob really shouldn't step over the line and pretend that that good feeling is a 'real thing' and they everyone should be doing it. Bob shouldn't be voting based on his faith. Bob shouldn't raise his kids to somehow adopt what works for him necessarily and certainly he shouldn't present his faith/praying as a real thing to impressionable children. Bob nasn't think that he can be a shit in this life then ask for forgivness and get a reward in eternity. Bob shouldn't be tipped toe around nor should we mistakenly think that he is automatically a good guy for finding a way to calm himself. Faith like meditaion, sensory deprivation, and back rubs should stay in the area of personal, special time and not be moved into the general arena of public opinion, thought, or politics.

C'mon Bob, let me buy you a beer!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saudi Arabia Haiti Aid

As I suspected, Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world has sent NO aid to Haiti. Here's an article showing who has and who hasn't. OK, so there's no law that says you have to but I'm suspicious that the response might have been different if the earthquake had affected some Muslim country.

From the LA Times. . .

Saudi King Abdullah, meanwhile, has sent a message of condolence to Haitian President René Préval.

In an unrelated story we find that a 13 year old girl in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 90 lashes for a confrontation (admittedly physical) with her head mistress.

Hey! Saudi Arabia - nice little country you got going there. I was most surprised to read that you were even allowing girls to GO to school. When did that happen?

I guess what really bothers me is how America has to suck up to shit can countries like this and China. Nobody treats their people worse than China (except maybe Mississippi) but we HAVE to play nice because China now builds EVERYTHING that we used to build. Saudi Arabia? We have to suck up to them and not say anything upsetting about their creepy government because we need their oil.

When you 'outsource' so much of our own workforce you weaken the whole country.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Legion - Movie Review


I never walk out of movies. I would have walked out on this one but there were some large people between me and the aisle. Legion is easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Which is something!

The movie opens with an angel literally falling to earth (from heaven?). Although he seems to be a total bad ass we can tell right away that he's the good kind of bad ass. Apparently he has no super-powers as he begins his earthly visit by stealing about 100 rifles, bazookas, machine guns, and assorted hand guns. This is one pissed off angel!

Switch to a road house in the middle of freaking nowhere. I mean nowhere! This is a common Hollywood venue not unlike Petrified Forest or a loopy movie I really liked - Tremors! The lonely outpost where the good guys are going to have to make a stand against impossible odds. Camera shots show nothing in any direction for miles and miles. Makes you wonder how they get their electricity, phone, and gas. Well it does me. Of course they could run all of that on a generator and propane bottles but then the electricity 'goes out' at some point in the film and I guess that's due to the power company. Weird. Populating this diner is the owner (Dennis Quaid), his son, Jeep, (yeah, Jeep) who's main acting skill is to stare at people with his mouth hanging open, the 8 month pregnant waitress with a good heart who Jeep is in love with but who is not the father of the child but, still, he'd like to help.


And there's the good hearted cook with one hand. Why? Don't know.

Also, stuck in the diner is a mom, dad, and their angst filled daughter. Their car is broken and (ironically) Jeep is supposed to be fixing it but he seems a little preoccupied with having vapid conversations with the waitress and having his mouth hang open.

Finally there is another black guy who is lost and just wants to use the phone.

Enter a nice little old lady who suddenly snaps, says nasty things to the waitress that makes her cry, insults the family, and then bites the dad in the neck when he protests. A pretty good scene here as the other people run, shoot and battle the crazed old lady who can also crawl across the ceiling which is nice. She is finally dispatched by the young black guy (he's got two hands and, like all young black guys in the movies, a hand gun).

What the hell is going on? HA! This is soon answered by the arrival of the bad ass angle (Arch Angle Michael as it turn out). He unloads all his guns and convices the people that they are going to have to make a stand because, get ready, the waitress's baby is going to save the world so they will have to fight to the death to protect it.

"OK! I"ll take the roof! You board up the windows. . . " and so on. Wow, these people did NOT need a lot of convincing! 'Course I think they were still pretty unerved by the granny crawling across the ceiling.

Much gun fighting ensues as legions (get it) of zombie-like humans descend upon the diner. Luckily, as with most zombie movies, the zombies are really mean and ugly but they get around ok and can drive cars but they just can't seem to learn the trick about HAVING THEIR OWN FUCKING WEAPONS!

Well, shockingly the good people get picked off one at a time one way or another and these scenes are separated by really long and boring 'meaningful' dialog between father and Jeep, Jeep and waitress, waitress and Michael, mom and daughter, cook and black guy. Most of these actors were able make a tear come out during their little talks. Nice.

OK, well, I'm not too up on my bible but in this movie it seems that the main battle that the lowly humans find themselves caught up in to is between the angels Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel seems to be supporting God's decision to wipe out humanity because he's just sick of them. I mean let's face it, we can be tedius. Michael still has faith (more than God apparently) and is brave enough to oppose God and Gabiel and somehow knows that the baby is the key. Wow, what a magical, mythical battle this is sure to be. Of course the magical mythical creatures do kung fu type fighting. Michael uses all sorts of guns while Gabriel has this awesome bludgeon that spins like a giant dentist's tool. Wow!

Well, Gabriel kills Michael and that's sad while Jeep and the waitress and the baby (oh yeah she went into labor and spit out the baby in about 45 seconds!) escape in a car (its not a Jeep). Skip to the end where Gabriel is about to finish off baby and waitress and WHAT? You don't say! Michael is not really dead. He's back and with WINGS. He must have just gone to heaven, strapped on some wings and returned to earth to finish off Gabriel. But no, he shows mercy and both him and Gabriel fly up to heaven while the son, waitress, and baby are told to just "have faith".

Movie ends with the new little make-shift family driving down a long highway in a station wagon jammed full of guns.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Asking the Big Question

I'm going to use Haiti since it is current but you can think of any number of similar examples.

A woman gets saved (by other humans) after days of being trapped in a collapsed building. This woman then reports that she just prayed and prayed and thanks God that she was saved. If someone would point out to her that others who were praying just as hard (and maybe harder) perished and ask her how does she explain her own miracle I'm guessing she would say that she doesn't know about that (or care) but just 'knows' that HER prayers were answered.

A couple of things here. On one hand this sort of non-logic is just an example of our ego-centricity. "I prayed so I was saved and don't confuse me with any questions." We see the world in terms of me, me, me. This kind of thinking is along the lines of, "I jump up and down three times and it rained so jumping works".

I wish I could ask the following question of this person (but it would be rude): Tell me what you think the chaos of Haiti would look like or how it would look different if there was NO God instead of the one that saved you and ignored other's prayers? In a random world where events unfurl in a natural way can you imgine some people being found and others perishing? If so, how can you attibute your salvation to a god rather than luck?

Of course this all comes back to the neat loop that you CANNOT understand why some were saved and others not and this just PROVES the magic and incomprehesibility of God.