Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Issac Newton

He was born on Christmas day, 1643 (by the calendar in the works then . . .actually Jan 4 now). No shepherds came. No star alerted the masses. No wise guys. No frankincense nor Murray. But we do know that he was born on this day. Records show it. We have his school records (not so hot either!). And of course we have all of his work published in The Principia. We have eyewitness accounts of his lectures and his letters. We have his journals including the entry about the apple (which did not hit him on the head).

All in all Newton was undoubtedly a real person and we’re thankful for his work which has given work to all those teaching introductory physics for centuries after his death.

On the other hand there is NO record of Jesus having been born on December 25th. The story with the manger and the no room at the inn is pure myth. No eyewitness accounts. No letters from Mary. No love notes from Joseph (well that’s probably understandable). No mention in the historical records of the time in question. Jesus left us no writings of his own (which seems strange) and the ‘eye witness’ accounts of his lectures were actually written years after his alleged death. Who knows how much the writings of Paul, John, and Ringo were massaged over the years by a church struggling for survival.

So happy birthday Isaac. For me your work and your life are more real and hold much more importance than the passing on of a popular myth for the perpetuation of those creating and supporting the myth.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NOW pray for me

Police think Claire Davis, 17, was a random victim -- in the wrong place at the wrong time when a gunman opened fire at her Colorado school. Her friends and family are asking for prayers.

OK I'm in. There I just prayed. I just prayed to the same god that let her get shot in the first place. The same god that let the kid buy a shotgun.

It's the same after every disaster. People want to pray to a god who is all powerful without asking why the same god let the event happen in the first place. Why doesn't the whole process just seem stupid on the face of it like it does to me?

I guess I lake faith.

I did pray though...Really. Does it count when an atheist prays?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Not Dead Yet!

Here we go again. Another round of 'journalists' investigating near death experiences. In reading (ok I skimmed) this article from CNN I find once again people who claimed they 'died', saw their bodies, talked to a couple of saints, but then returned to life.

Except they clearly weren't completely dead because they're alive now. Let's talk about chatting with the saints, and looking down from above after you've been dead for a least a week or two.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Born Again

I saw a section on CNN about famous people who were 'born again'. I didn't care since I hardly knew who any of these 'famous' people were but it did start me thinking about the concept of 'born again'.

Here are some ways that being 'born again' changes a person (on Wiki). Of course it's different for different types of people of which apparently there are only 3.

  • Its effects vary with the type of person involved:
  • rebirth is expressed in a new alignment of the will
  • to the breakthrough of a "vision"
  • With others it leads to the discovery of an unexpected beauty in the order of nature
  • they develop a direct and personal relationship with God.
Notice the abiguity of all of this? The last one is the one you hear so often but what does it mean? I'll state right now that I myself have a direct and personal relationship with God. Prove that I don't.

To be born again you apparently don't have to do anything. It just happens to you and then you too can be a prosylitizing asshole! No school. No orals (well except for the Catholics). No tests of any kind. How smarmy. "I'm born again". Now you must gaze upon me differently. You see me on a different plane from you don't you?

Try going to a major university and say, "I'm a physicist because I thought about it real hard and hoped I could be one and now I am one. Where's my office? Do I get a window?

Not Going To Fly.

That brings me to the fourth one on the list - discovering the unexpected beauty in nature. Unexpected? I can tell you that my study of physics has led to some unexpected levels of appreciation of nature. Take the rainbow for example. Is it not MORE beautiful to me in that like anyone else observing the rainbow I get all the color and symmetry that it presents plus I get to see a demonstration of some properties of nature that I'm familiar with. I know 'why' the colors are in the order they are in. I know why there are colors there in the first place. I know why the rainbow forms an arc that is 42 degrees around my shadow. I love seeing all this at once. I love seeing that there is a mechanism and reason behind the phenomena of the universe. To me this is MORE beauty and a fuller appreciation than the throw away phrase, "God made it".

And, in the case of the rainbow 'God made it' as a promise to not go on a planet wide killing spree again. I'll take my explanation (and it's verifiable by independent observers) over a promise from a serial killer any day.

So to say you're born again or to say you or somebody is a very spiritual person might just be a way to get some mojo for yourself without really doing anything. Look at Tim Tebow (look quick though as he is quickly moving WAY off the radar). Big guy, somewhat coordinated, can't play in the NFL. AT ALL. But with his none to subtle proselytizing he became . . . what? A lightning rod for others who can't do things so well but who also wear their spirituality on their sleeves. A behavior that takes absolutely no skill.

People say they like church because they like the community that it provides. But at what cost? This might be considered a community of people who are so insecure about their own abilities that they have to join a club of others whose only skill is to say they are born again and they love the baby Jesus. The community supports this view and by everyone agreeing with everyone gives the impression that they really got something there when in fact all they have is vapor. Vapor that is dispersed (vaporized?) at the slightest reasonable question. 

Well, I guess I'll have to be satisfied by just being born once. I'm pretty sure once was enough for my mom!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Cherry Picking

“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas. (CNN)

This in from an article about the southern baptist (southern letting you know that they are even stupider than normal babtists) church kicking the boy scouts out now that they have 'the gay'. The issue I want to discuss though is how these bigots  cherry pick a phrase from the bible to use for their own hatred. I think you have to use them all then right? If the bible is the word of god and needs no interpretation well then let's have at it!

How about the role and treatment of women?

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed." (Exodus 22:18-20)


When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.  (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

Evolution? OK, don't even get me started! 

How about Murder?

Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.  Such evil must be purged from Israel.  (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

The point is that on one hand you claim to have a document that is true and perfect by definition because it somehow came from the creator. On the other hand you find some really horrible things in there. How do you pick ONE and not apply the others? Try cutting off a woman's hand for helping her husband and see how that flies in court! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Well there you have it. I was going to write a piece about congressmen and senators who believe in creationism over evolution. The first link I hit said that 46% of Americans believe in creationism.

So, fuck it.

I guess if we are a government of and by the people we should expect to have representatives who are just as stupid as nearly half the general population. I don’t blame the schools. Ideas that are inserted into very young children are almost impossible to dislodge. You can run the most logical, well constructed, and evidence supported argument you like and you’re just going to get a blank look in return.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. You frustrate yourself and you annoy the pig.

And, it’s not only that they choose to believe in something that is completely impossible, full of discrepancies and self-contradictions. It’s that this is just the tip of an entire anti-science, anti-logic world view. Why study science or math? It’s all laid out in the bible (but oh so badly and only if you cherry pick!). Why devote tax dollars to pure research (and we’re not)? What for? Who needs it?

This world view is soooooo  handy too. It allows you to deny anything because you refuse to understand or appreciate a logical argument or an argument supported by evidence and experiment. Now you can deny global warming if you like. You can claim we never went to the moon if you prefer. Uncomfortable with the Holocaust? Deny it!

America cannot continue to lead (if we even are) with this mentality being so prevalent. Notice the LHC is NOT in America. The best physicists in the world are working in Switzerland. If this keeps up then in 100 years we’ll be a tiny backwater of the planet with our guns and our bibles. People will certainly leave us alone because we’ll still be devoting 80% or more of our resources to our military. But invention, innovation, creativity and zest for exploration will be happening somewhere else.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Wow, this guys true story about going to heaven has been on the best seller list for 27 weeks! Hmmm...

Well, who doesn't like a good story! If you take solace in this or as affirmation that heaven exists then good for you. I'm not against anyone finding a little peace when thinking of the long, long sleep.

Of course all the popular accounts of people going to heaven are from people who are alive. So. . . there's that. Don't you really, really have to die to go to heaven? Better evidence of heaven would be a visit and first hand account from, say, Abe Lincoln. Or Einstein. Someone who is completely dead.

I'll be waiting for that and in the meantime I'll stick with what I told my daughter when she asked me what it was going to be like when she was dead. I told her it would be as good or bad as the year 1965 was for her (she was born in 1979). Were you miserable when you didn't exist? No. So, get ready to not be miserable again!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pray for . . .

I recently got linked on face book for "everyone who gets this" to pray for a kid with a tumor. Now I feel bad for all kids with tumors. Hell I feel bad for kids with skinned knees. But . . .

After numerous research projects to try to do controlled experiments on the effectiveness of prayer the results are what you'd expect. No real measurable effect. Sometimes there is a positive effect. Sometimes negative. Tests have been done where the subject being prayed for knew they were being prayed for  and sometimes not. Strangely the ones who knew tended to do a little worse than those who didn't. But no matter, there is not real measurable effect.

More importantly if there was an effect why wouldn't it be 100%? If it works it works. If you're being ignored you're being ignored. but the mish mash of results coincides with prayer being completely disconnected from reality. Some people are going to do a little better and some a little worse in the normal course of events. When you try to match this up with people praying or not of course at times you're going to get a positive correlation and sometimes negative. Of course. You're matching up things that are completely disconnected. It's like trying to make a connection between people dying in car crashes and stock market change that day. You'll find a positive correlation some days. . . .some days not.

And ALL of this speaks to my big drum. What would the world look like if there were no god? Would some good things and some bad things happen every day? Of course. It's a big world and that's how things would naturally go statistically. So to any of my remaining thiest friends: Where do you see god?

And no fair waxing metaphorically! Give me something I can sink my teeth into . . .not a freaking communion wafer!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spare Change

It occurred to me the other day that I hadn't written anything lately in this blog. Then it occurred to me that maybe there's nothing new to write. Since religion doesn't change, is against change, and is designed to NOT change it is entirely possible for me to have written everything I want to say. I guess I can just stand by and wait for the various Virgin Mary sightings in various food products in various southern states. I can keep writing about creation "science" but those guys are so boring and transparent that I lack anything new to say. Except. . .

Imaging a field of science where no new discoveries were not only not possible but not even allowed. It's all been explained already - GOD DID IT. And they want the word 'science' in what they're about. As a scientist I'd be insulted but they're all too stupid to even consider. 

So, I'm not folding up my tent but I'll be standing by just in case Jesus H. Christ really DOES make another appearance . . . and not in a plate of mashed potatoes at Denny's (that would be the Tampa Bay Denny's).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Take This . . .

This story out of Tanzania (sounds like one of those Three Stooges countries when they'd show a map.. . Moronica, Imbecillia. . . .)

AFP - Attackers collecting body parts of albinos for witchcraft have hacked off the hand of a seven-year old boy in Tanzania, the latest in a series of bloody assaults, officials said on Sunday.
"The boy was attacked on Saturday by three people as he walked home with his four school friends," said Apolinary Macheta, the local government leader in Tanzania's southwestern Milepa district.
The boy, Mwigulu Magessa, is recovering in hospital, Macheta added.
The attack came just days after an albino mother of four had her arm chopped off by machete-wielding men, with police on Saturday saying they had arrested five men after discovering the decomposing limb hidden in a field.

In Tanzania, albinos are killed and dismembered due to a widespread belief that charms made from their body parts bring good fortune and prosperity.

So these crazy bastards think magic will happen to them if they use body parts from albinos. Jeez that's crazy. The Catholic church on the other hand... (from wikipedia)

According to the Catholic Church, when the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest at Mass, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. The empirical appearances and attributes are not changed, but the underlying reality is. The consecration of the bread (known afterwards as the Host) and wine represents the separation of Jesus' body from his blood at Calvary; thus, this separation also represents the death of Christ. However, since according to Catholic dogma Christ has risen, the Church teaches that his body and blood are no longer truly separated, even if the appearances of the bread and the wine are. Where one is, the other must be. This is called the doctrine of concommitance. Therefore, although the priest (or minister) says, "The body of Christ", when administering the host, and, "The blood of Christ", when presenting the chalice, the communicant who receives either one receives Christ, whole and entire— "Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity".

OK.. .

My bold is "underlying reality". It struck me because it is a phrase I often use when teaching physics! Yes. For example, when you drop a steel ball and a piece of paper most people will say that the ball will hit first because it is heavy. The ball does hit first and it is heavier than the paper but that is not WHY it hits first....there is an underlying reality. The difference between my underlying reality and the church's is that mine can be checked. I ball up the paper into a tight ball. I make the point that the paper is the same weight as it was before. I drop the steel ball and the ball of paper again and this time they strike the floor together. The underlying reality is that things fall to the earth with the same acceleration but air resistance clouds this issue. When we strip it away (as the astronauts on Appolo 15 did so nicely for us) the underlying reality is revealed!

The church claims that the bread and wine are not changed but the underlying reality is. Prove it! What does it even mean to say that basically no measurable quality of the bread and wine is changed but reality itself is. What do we have to our reality except appearances and attributes?

This is a bold claim and one wonders that coupled with such claims as this, is this why the church must embellish itself in all the hoopla, latin, pointy hats, gold crosses, magic water, etc. The claim is outrageous but look over here at all the shiny stuff and don't think about it.