Monday, October 25, 2010

Fantasy Football Update - Week 7

This week was an unexpected laugher.  I defeated the Phupped Ducks by a score of 110-64.  It is my 6th win in a row and I remain in a 2-way tie for first place in my division.  My division is very tough.  The other division is led by a 4-3 team.  I could have posted a much larger score had I stared Darren McFadden of Oakland.  He went off for 196 yard rushing/receiving and 4 touchdowns.  Had I started him in my flex spot instead of Ricky Williams, I would have posted a 149!  Fortunately, I did not need him this week, although it looks like his groin is fine and he had definitely established himself as the featured back in Oakland.  Carson Palmer finally had a big fantasy week for me as well.  400+ yards and 3 TDs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eight Christian Suicides

Normally, I refrain from posting too much from the ultra right wing websites that I see a lot of crazy shit material from.  They are so far out of touch with reality that I can't often read the crap to post about it.  Well, this one I've seen on several of the other blogs I follow and I have to blog about it because it is so incredibly stupid and hateful that it can not go unseen.  The post is called Eight Straight Suicides and is in reference to the recent string of suicides by homosexual who have been bullied, abused, outed, or otherwise had their lives made miserable enough to kill themselves.  The author is Mike Adams.  I don't know anything about him, but a little research shows that the site he has posted this on is a conservative opinion and analysis e-zine.  You must read it to believe it.  He starts out with the following (emphasis mine),
Officials on college campuses across the nation are alarmed at a wave of recent suicides involving Christians who have been harassed by homosexual activists. The main stream media isn’t covering the story so, as usual, I have taken it upon myself to do their jobs for them. None of the following eight cases have been covered by any of the three major news networks.
Wow, this is a very serious problem.  Anytime any sort of harassment takes place that leads to a suicide is very serious and needs to be taken seriously regardless of who the victims are or who the harassers are.  He then follows with little stories of the eight people.  Here is one of them,
Crystal was an administrator at a university in Ohio. She wrote an article for the local paper, which let homosexuals know that there are ways to escape the lifestyle that ends their lives prematurely. She told them they could find hope in God. But they were enraged. They demanded that she be fired from her job – even though her opinions were written and disseminated on her own time. They managed to get her fired. Later, she took her own life.
Certainly, losing your job over something is very devastating.  From the way it is written, you can assume that Crystal believes that homosexuality is a choice and may have been advocating things like reparative therapy.  Certainly, she was advocating turning toward God for answers.

Here is where it becomes vile and disgusting,
These eight cases are all true except for one thing: The Christians who were bullied by gays and gay activists are all still alive. Not a single one has committed suicide. That is because they have centered their lives around Jesus Christ, rather than their sexual identity. And no amount of bullying can change my mind about that. 
You have got to be fucking kidding me!  I can't think of a sweeter, kinder, gentler way to be as repulsive, hateful, hurtful, and ignorant as Mike Adams was with that closing paragraph.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sorry, But You're Not Christian Enough

Christians, especially the intolerant hateful kind, have taken up a new strategy in their quest to establish the American Taliban and American Theocracy.  You know, the concept that the Constitution of the United States is a Christian document and the Bill of Rights is inspired by the Ten Commandments.  Hmmm, ten amendments in the Bill of Rights and something approximating ten commandments (depending on which version you read).   I see the argument.

Well, the latest argument is best exemplified by the moronic citizens of Murfreesboro, TN.  Despite a long established and peaceful Muslim community, the citizens of the town are all up in arms about their desire to build a new mosque and community center.  Earlier this year, construction equipment being used to build the new mosque was set on fire.  Now the citizens of the community are claiming the whole building permit was done without public hearings and have rejected any freedom of religion claims because they say Islam is not a religion.  In other words, Muslims are not Christians and so, not in my backyard.  Christianity is the only true religion and that is what the Constitution protects, and only protects. 

In a similar vein, in a recent story out of North Carolina, a couple put their two sons into a cub scout troop sponsored by a local Presbyterian church.  After sometime, they volunteered to be leaders.  However, they were asked to step down as leaders when it was identified that they were members of the LDS Church.  The claim?  Mormons are not true Christians.

The hateful Christian-only rhetoric from the likes of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.  The complete and utter stupidity of Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, and Michelle Bachmann is nothing short of guanophrenic.  They have inspired a whole new class of angry, hateful voters, and for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

News Flash: The French are Crazy

I've been following this story for a few months, but it has just now gotten more attention in the news.  You see, when you are facing difficult economic times, the best possible thing you can do as a constructive member of society is to torch capital goods.  Whenever a foreign power would enter France, the first thing they would do is surrender first, then resist second.  It is the nature of being French I guess.  Anyway, what is it that has gotten the French all up in arms and angry to don masks?  Well, the French government has decided that in order to keep their national pension plan solvent, they must raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.  Yes, that's right, they are raising the retirement age to 62!  Man, that is one way to piss off a Frenchman.  Even the students are getting involved and they don't have to worry about this for 40 more years.  I think they need to teach more economics to these students for them to realize that if they don't raise the retirement age by a paltry two years, then they won't see any of it anyway.

I think my retirement age is 67 (maybe 68).  I have been in the workforce for 24 years (including high school jobs) and am fully vested in Social Security.  I still have another 27 to go.  Maybe, just maybe, with a little luck and planning, I can retire earlier.

The French are crazy.  Let them eat cake!

The Story of Grady and Dixie

Grady Gammage was the long time President of NAU prior to becoming the President of Arizona State College up until 1958 when he led a campaign to change the name to Arizona State University.  His wife, Dixie, was a former pupil of Grady's (the old dog) and very active in the development of Arizona State College prior to her death in 1948.

Dixie Gammage Hall on the campus of ASU was named in her honor.

Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium was named his honor for his work in getting ASU to full University status.  Gammage Auditorium is famous for being the last public commission of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It had a reputation of having some of the best acoustics of any performance hall of its time.

Back in April of 1994, my wife and I were at her parents house, for what reason, I don't recall.  Our friends, Caryn and Joel, stopped by after work and brought with them two kittens.  They worked for ASU Parking and were handing an event at Gammage Auditorium when the kittens wandered out into traffic.  Caryn picked them up and held them draped over her arm while she continued to direct traffic.

I had never had cats and really wasn't that interested, but my wife had cats and she wanted to keep them.  I said that maybe we will keep one of them.  Yeah, right.  Anyway, they were obviously inseparable and so we named them Grady and Dixie.  Grady was all black with three white socks and Dixie was patterned like a Holstein cow.

Grady and Dixie were our first children.  Then came Sparky, a Cairn Terrier/Pug mix, followed by a third cat, Hazel (who is now 14).  We then had real kids, Isaak and Emma, followed by another dog, Gaby.  Gaby was an adopted 10-year old Chocolate Lab.  Sparky and Gaby have since passed on.



Grady passed on about 5 years ago, and Dixie passed on last Friday.  She was 16 1/2 years sold.  This time, Dixie outlived Grady.  I can't find any e-pictures of Grady, but here are Hazel and Dixie.


Tom Petty Concert Review

I can't believe I didn't post this sooner.  Princess managed to beat me to it.  So, read her post first for all the details that I will omit...

Now that you're back...

I have to admit not having a lot of enthusiasm for seeing Chuck Berry.  He has never been on my bucket list of aging rock stars to go see.  In fact, prior to him being announced as the opener, I thought he was dead.  He was entertaining.  I knew very few of the songs but have heard a lyric or two here and there in years past.  He moved pretty good for being nearly 84.  There were a few mis-hits on the guitar, but nothing too major.  All in all, a good show.  At least I can say that I have seen Chuck Berry perform Johnny B. Goode live.

As for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the show itself was very good.  The sound was really good.  Not so loud as to distort, but loud enough to be crisp and clear.  Having a less than full house probably helped because they didn't have to plan on drowning out a bunch of crowd noise.  My only real disappointment was the length of the show.  It came in just under 90 minutes.  That is not a lot of songs for someone with his catalog.  I'm sure quite a few people went home disappointed at not having heard their favorite.  Maybe I'm a bit spoiled by Rush, who usually puts on a 90-minute show prior to taking their first break!

I'm glad to have seen him live, but I will probably save my concert dollars for some other acts should he come around again.

As for the new album, Mojo, it is kick ass.  I really like it.  Plus, you got the album download free with the concert ticket purchase, which was nice and added to the overall value of the ticket price.

Fantasy Football Update - Week 6

I won my fifth straight game and I am now 5-1 on the season.  I thought I was doomed last night when Vince Young went down early in the first quarter.  He is my backup QB and my regular starter was on a bye week.  I thought for sure I was done.  Fortunately, the Titans D came up big and ended up being my high scorer for the week.

One comment on this week's games.  The helmet-to-helmet collisions.  There were quite a few scary ones this week.  I was glad to see Rodney Harrison on the NBC telecast say the only way to stop this is to eject and suspend players.  I was disappointed to hear them, and the announcers for the Falcons/Eagles game to say that they weren't sure how a player was supposed to hold up.  I have one simple rule to determine if a hit is legal or not. 

Here is an image just after the impact.  This alone is not sufficient to determine if this was a helmet to helmet hit or not.  It also doesn't show if Robinson was leading with his shoulder.  What it does show you is the position of Robinson's arms.  They were at his side when he hit Jackson.  Now, I have not played football at any level, but I do know that if your intent is to actually tackle someone, you usually have your arms in a position to wrap them around the player to bring them down.  In this case, regardless of whether the hit was legal by NFL rules, the point is that it was still a hit and not a tackle.  I think any attempt to take down a ball carrier without any attempt to wrap your arms around them should be flagged as a penalty.  When you have your arms extended with the intent of tackling a player, even in mid-air, then your head is up and you are more likely to lead with your shoulder and not helmet.  Otherwise, the sole intent is to inflict pain and injury, and that should be illegal.

I Double Dog Dare You!

I was dared to write a blog post about this.  Dared I tell you.  I have a friend trying to sell their house.  They have not had much luck and through the miracle of Facebook, I get a blow by blow account of their escapes from the house for the last second showings.  Not much luck.

So, she broke down and bought a St. Joseph Home Selling Kit.

I facepalmed (poor grammar not my doing).



In this case, Joseph is the father of Jesus.  I guess he would be the stepfather since he didn't really get any enjoyment out of the whole deal.  Joseph was a carpenter, so what better occupation than that to be the patron saint of home selling.  The idea is to bury the statue in the yard and then offer prayers (prayer card, instructions, and protective burial bag included).  This will presumably sell your home quicker.

One has to wonder why a protective burial bag is included.  You would think through divine intervention that the statue itself would be immune to the effects of its burial.  However, since the intent is to resurrect the statue after the house sells, they figure you want to keep it in pristine condition so it can sit in your garage at the next house until you are ready to sell it.

I wish you the best of luck and I think your house will probably sell.  Not because of the statue, but just because.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Arizona Governor Race Turns Nasty

The race for Arizona Governor turned a bit nasty over the last couple of days.  Yesterday, while attending the SCAz kick-off event, Kyrsten Sinema told us that current governor Jan Brewer's campaign manager, a fellow by the name of Chuck Coughlin, put out a memo suggesting the Democratic candidate Terry Goddard was gay and that he should take a lie detector test.  This seemingly coincided with a recent tightening of the race between the two candidates.  I can't seem it find a news story that cites the lie detector test.  As it turns out, rumors had been floated the day before via the internet that Jan Brewer's health was in serious decline, which certainly raises questions of her ability to complete a full term as governor.

I don't know who you believe.  To Brewer's credit, she fired Coughlin.  In such a tight race, as this has become, it certainly shows the Brewer thought it was a classless accusation.  Coughlin has since apologized, sort of.  In a statement released by Coughlins's firm, he said that the accusation was only meant to prove a point.  That it was ridiculous that Brewer's health was even in question on internet blogs.

OK.  Lots of points to be made here. 

I think the health of an official running for office is important.  However, to post only anonymous rumors with no supporting evidence is uncalled for.  I don't question that. 

The counter-accusation by Coughlin was just plain stupid.  It utterly failed to make the point he says it was trying to make.  The health posts were anonymous.  Was Goddard, or his campaign behind them?  Maybe.  But at least they were smart enough to put some anonymity between them.  Coughlin just stepped right in it without even looking.  Stupid.

As for the accusation itself, the Goddard camp could have handled that better.  They called the accusation "abhorrent."  Not sure how to take that.  I would hope that in this day and age, being "accused" of being gay would not be "abhorrent."  It is sort of like me being accused of being black.  I'm not, but is that abohorrent?  It is uninformed.  A simple picture of me would settle the matter once and for all.  It doesn't take much to look at Goddard's wife and family to strongly believe that he is heterosexual.  I think for gay rights to be mainstream, even gay rights supporters should not be flinching at being "accused" of being gay.

Goddard's camp should have answered the question quite simply.  So what if he is.  It should not make one bit of difference to anyone whether a candidate for public office is gay, or black, or a woman, or an atheist, or a jew, etc.  What should matter is whether or not the candidate supports your position on the issues.  If you have issues with a candidate solely on whether he is gay or not, then you suck.

Secular Coalition for Arizona Kick-off Event

On Tuesday night I attended the kick-off meeting of the first state chapter of the Secular Coalition for America.  This was a first for me as I generally shy away from political events and crowds for that matter.  There were probably 100 people in attendance and we did a good job filling up the auditorium at the Scottsdale Library.  The guest speakers were Kyrsten Sinema, a State Representative for District 15 in Central Phoenix and currently running for State Senator of that district, and Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of SCAmerica.  I was actually quite surprised by the age differences in the crowd.  Honestly, I did not expect to see as many older people.  Talking to one older gentleman, he seemed quite happy to see so many young people.  I learned a lot from the two speakers and I will have some follow posts on a few of the things I heard once I can find some sources to link to. 

As for the Secular Coalition for America, their Advisory Board has a few names you may have heard of.  Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, and Julia Sweeney to name a few.

Check them out a http://www.secular.org/.  And, check out the Arizona Chapter online as well.

The Chiliean Mine Rescue

It has been quite a day.  Seeing each miner coming up through the shaft to daylight and freedom has been awe inspiring.  A great deal of praise is warranted for all of those who helped in the effort.

First, the miners themselves for finding a safe haven and staying calm while rescuers sought to determine their location.

To the first response rescuers who help drill the first bore hole to not only find the miners alive, but to provide a lifeline of much needed air, food, water, and communications.

To the mining company for bringing in experts from around the world to assist in the rescue, such as the NASA psychologists and doctors that helped rescuers interact with the miners.

To the Pennsylvania drill firm that heard the news about the rescue shaft not being done until December and saying we can do better and volunteered their services.

To the builders of the rescue capsule.

To the rescuers that went down first to help the miners for their trip up.

To the all the family, friends, and co-workers who assisted in the rescue.

But please, please don't praise God.  This is not a miracle.   This was a well organized, well coordinated effort by mere mortals.  There was nothing supernatural about what they did.  Nothing outside the realm of the laws of nature that would indicate any sort of divine intervention.  There just wasn't.

If you do want to praise God for the rescue, then do you also blame God for trapping them in the first place?  If not, why not?

Maybe, just maybe, there will be one honest miner in the bunch.  (As a side note, I think the depiction of the miners is uncalled for, they were obviously healthy looking and well groomed, but the message itself is good.)


Monday, October 11, 2010

Fantasy Football Update - Week 5

That was pathetic.  I had the third lowest score of all the teams that played this week.  Fortunately for me, I played the team with the lowest score for the week.  I beat the AZ Garanimals 59-32.  My week did not start out well.  Two of my three starting running backs were injured.  Run-DMC (Darren McFadden) was definitely out, but LeSean McCoy was questionable, but his team played Sunday night, so I had to make a choice.  I benched him.  Bad move.  I mean the guy had a cracked rib.  How was he going to be effective?  Effective for 19 fantasy points wallowing on my bench.  But, a win is a win.  I am now 4-1 and tied for second in my division.

I am an Angry Atheist and Happy About it.

When I first started the blog, the first two posts were asking whether I was an angry atheist.  The answer was yes.  I still am angry.  This expressed anger by many atheists, especially the "Gnu Atheists" as they are called, is not changing.  It is being asked if it should.  Should atheists be less angry?

Greta Christina has a fantastic blog post on the subject.  It is quite long, but well worth the read.  It is filled with all sorts of examples as to why atheists are angry.  She sets out to answer the three questions she outlines below.
I want to talk about atheists and anger.
This has been a hard piece to write, and it may be a hard one to read. I'm not going to be as polite and good-tempered as I usually am in this blog; this piece is about anger, and for once I'm going to fucking well let myself be angry.
But I think it's important. One of the most common criticisms lobbed at the newly-vocal atheist community is, "Why do you have to be so angry?" So I want to talk about:
1. Why atheists are angry;
2. Why our anger is valid, valuable, and necessary;
And 3. Why it's completely fucked-up to try to take our anger away from us.
So let's start with why we're angry. Or rather -- because this is my blog and I don't presume to speak for all atheists -- why I'm angry.
I mentioned a blog post from PZ Myers yesterday that talks about why accommodating religion is a bad idea.
I've been told to hush, there are good Christians who support science, and a vocal atheism will scare them away...and I have to ask, you question my support for science education, when you pander to people who you admit will put their superstitions above science if someone says a harsh word about Jesus? 

Yesterday, Jerry Coyne had an op-ed piece in USAToday about how science and religion cannot be friends.
The religious approach to understanding inevitably results in different faiths holding incompatible "truths" about the world. Many Christians believe that if you don't accept Jesus as savior, you'll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God's son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah. Which belief, if any, is right? Because there's no way to decide, religions have duked it out for centuries, spawning humanity's miserable history of religious warfare and persecution.
Why are atheists angry?  Because we know the truth and not because we were told the "truth," but because we learned it.  We worked at it.  We acknowledged when we were wrong and we learned from it.  When has religion ever learned anything?  It can't, by definition, ever learn, because learning would put you in conflict with belief.  Even by the most basic applications of logic, religion fails in every conceivable way, yet, we continue to battle its ignorance.  That is why I'm angry.

Why is our anger valid, valuable, and necessary?  I'm not sure I can do this answer any better than Cristina does,
Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world. The labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement in the Sixties, the anti-war movement today, you name it... all of them have had, as a major driving force, a tremendous amount of anger. Anger over injustice, anger over mistreatment and brutality, anger over helplessness.
You know what other movement has been driven by anger?  The Tea Party movement with a massive push from the dregs of the Moral Majority.  They are every bit as angry at the collapsing walls of their faith as they see their God pushed into smaller and smaller gaps of scientific knowledge.  Everyone has a right to be angry.  How you use it.  How you project it.  How you harness it, can make all the difference in the world.

Christians are angry as the Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center.  They are using that anger as political motivation without regard to the unconstitutionality of their cries.  They project it using fear, hatred, and demagogy.  They are trying to harness it with votes come election day.

So, don't sit there and tell us atheists that we are not allowed to be angry.  We will use it.  We will project it with laser precision, and we will harness it.  Perhaps that is why they don't want to see us angry anymore.

It's not necessarily about being angry either, but being told you shouldn't be angry, especially when you look at all the good things that have come from people becoming angry enough to take action. Then it becomes an issue of how you channel that ang...er for good rather than for harmful purposes. 9/11 was the result of Muslim anger. This has hurt their cause. As a result, Christians are angry and seemingly willing to throw away their own religious rights (if they actually understood the issue). This results in more recruitment material for the angry Muslims. This is definitely anger projected in the wrong way. Right now, atheists are just angry, but we take up those battles in school board meetings and courts of law. This is not to say that there aren't a few bad atheist apples out there (such as the guy that took hostages at the Discover Channel building several weeks ago) who project their anger the wrong way. It is a movement that needs to build momentum, how it gets harnessed will be the ultimate test. if you haven't done so, I would encourage you to fully read the linked blogs. They are far better writers than I am.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hundreds of New Species Discovered

There seems to be a story such as this every few months.  Biodiversity surveys of remote areas of our planet reveal thousands of new species every year.  In this case, 200 new species were identified in research trips to Papua New Guinea.  I can't help but think how these tiny frogs, rodents, and insects all managed to find their way to find refuge in Noah's Ark when they lived on an island in the Pacific Ocean, some 6000 miles from the ancient holy lands.  Surely they would have all drowned in the flood. 

A Sunday Sermon on Confrontation vs. Accommodation

This past week, PZ Myers attended the Secular Humanism conference.  He was on a panel discussing confrontation vs. accommodation.  He posted his statement to the crowd in that forum.  There is a lot of powerful and thought provoking thoughts in this statement.

I'm going to begin with where I entered this conflict — and make no mistake, it's a real battle — with my experience in science education, and specifically with the teaching of evolution. Biology has been a lifelong passion for me, and when I first began teaching way back in the 1980s, it was a shock to discover students who had nothing but contempt for the great unifying principle of my discipline, who were happily wallowing in self-inflicted ignorance and who outright denied plain and simple facts about science. And when I discovered that there were ministers who came onto our campus and lied to our students, presented half-truths and weird fantasies to substitute for evidence, I was outraged. We Gnu Atheists have a reputation for being militant, but make no mistake: we didn't start this war. If you want to place blame, put it on the backs of religious zealots who have been poisoning the minds of the young for a long, long time.
This is another theme in this conflict: Gnu Atheists are so dang angry. Damned right we are. The real question is why everyone else isn't. If you aren't angry about what's being done to undermine education in this country, you haven't been following along.
But we also respond rationally. My early incredulity about the nonsense being promoted by creationists was followed by a lot of fact-finding. You can do it too -- look up the history of creationism, and you find that we've been fighting this same battle for at least half a century, and dealing with the same inane arguments over and over again. Where once Duane Gish was the creationist dinosaur roaming the earth, he was replaced by Kent Hovind, and he is now superseded by Ken Ham and Ray Comfort and Eric Hovind. Nothing has changed but the names. We have had a succession of court cases: Epperson v Arkansas in 68, McLean v Arkansas in 82, Edwards v. Aguillard in 87, Kitzmiller v Dover in 2005 -- are they coming to an end? Did any of these trials diminish the influence of creationists? One flareup will be squelched, and next year there will be another. Similarly, we see a succession of politicians come and go, and nothing changes. Ronald Reagan becomes Santorum becomes Bush becomes another dreary chain of Republican know-nothings at every election cycle. It's 2010, and guess what: Christine O'Donnell is running for the senate, and I've still got a local fundamentalist pastor coming on to my campus every week to instruct my students in the video fables of Brother Kent Hovind.
We have been treading water for 50 years. In one sense, that's a very good thing: better to stay afloat in one place than to sink, and I am deeply appreciative of organizations like the NCSE that have kept us bobbing at the surface all this time, and please don't ever stop. But isn't it also about time we learned a new stroke and actually made some progress towards the shore? Shouldn't we move beyond just reacting to every assault by Idiot America on science education, and honestly look at the root causes of this chronic malignancy and do something about it?
The sea our country is drowning in is a raging religiosity, wave after wave of ignorant arguments and ideological absurdities pushed by tired dogma and fervent and frustrated fanatics. We keep hearing that the answer is to find the still waters of a more moderate faith, but I'm sorry, I don't feel like drowning there either.
There is an answer, and it's on display right here in this room. The solution, the only longterm solution, is the sanity of secularism. The lesser struggles to keep silly stickers off our textbooks or to keep pseudoscientific BS like intelligent design out of our classrooms are important, but they are endless chores -- at some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: religion.
That's where the Gnu Atheists get their confrontational reputation. We're fed up with fighting off the symptoms. We need to address the disease. And if you're one of those people trying to defend superstition and quivering in fear at the idea of taking on a majority that believes in foolishness, urging us to continue slapping bandages on the blight of faith, well then, you're part of the problem and we'll probably do something utterly dreadful, like be rude to you or write some cutting sarcastic essay to mock your position. That is our m├ętier, after all.
There is another motive for our confrontational ways, and it has to do with values. We talk a lot about values in this country, so I kind of hate to use the word -- it's been tainted by the religious right, which howls about "Christian values" every time the subject of civil rights for gays or equal rights for women or universal health care or improving the plight of the poor come up -- True Christian values are agin' those things, after all. But the Gnu Atheists have values, too, and premiere among them is truth. And that makes us uncivil and rude, because we challenge the truth of religion.
Religion provides solace to millions, we are told, it makes them happy, and it's mostly harmless.
"But is it true?", we ask, as if it matters.
The religious are the majority, we hear over and over again, and we need to be pragmatic and diplomatic in dealing with them.
"But is what they believe true?", we ask, and "What do we gain by compromising on reality?"
Religion isn't the problem, they claim, it's only the extremists and zealots and weirdos. The majority of believers are moderates and even share some values with us.
"But is a moderate superstition true?", we repeat, and "How can a myth be made more true if its proponents are simply calmer in stating it?"
I mean, it's nice and all that most Christians aren't out chanting "God Hates Fags" and are a little embarrassed when some yokel whines that he didn't come from no monkey, but they still go out and quietly vote against gay and lesbian rights, and they still sit at home while their school boards set fire to good science.
It's all about the truth, people. And all the evidence is crystal clear right now: the earth is far older than 6,000 years. Evolution is a real, and it is a process built on raw chance driven by the brutal engines of selection, and there is no sign of a loving, personal god, but only billions of years of pitiless winnowing without any direction other than short-term survival and reproduction. It's not pretty, it's not consoling, it doesn't sanctify virginity, or tell you that god really loves your foreskin, but it's got one soaring virtue that trumps all the others: it's true.
You won't understand what the Gnu Atheists are up to until you understand that core value. I have been told that my position won't win the creationist court cases; do you think I care? I did not become a scientist because I want to impress lawyers. I have been told that I must think promoting atheism is more important than promoting good science education; tell me how closing my eyes to claims of an imaginary deity using quantum indeterminacy to shape human evolution helps students better understand reality. I've been told to hush, there are good Christians who support science, and a vocal atheism will scare them away...and I have to ask, you question my support for science education, when you pander to people who you admit will put their superstitions above science if someone says a harsh word about Jesus?
I have to follow the advice of Tom Paine:
A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.
And I will insist that a principle worth holding is worth fighting for. We must confront untruths; letting them lie unquestioned is simply a way to allow them to fester and grow.
I have to quote something I recently read by Ed Yong, the science journalist who blogs at Not Exactly Rocket Science. He has an excellent post up asking, "Should Science Journalists Take Sides?", and while it's specifically addressed to journalists, it applies equally well to scientists, or humanists, or just plain citizens. To summarize it all, the answer is yes: journalists should take sides, and I'm going to generalize it and suggest that we should all take sides. Here's what Ed wrote:
A veteran science journalist recently wrote: "Reporters are messengers - their job is to tell, as accurately as they can, what has been said, with the benefit of such insight as their experience allows them to bring, not to second guess whether what is said is right". That's rubbish. If you are not actually providing any analysis, if you're not effectively "taking a side", then you are just a messenger, a middleman, a megaphone with ears. If that's your idea of journalism, then my RSS reader is a journalist.
Too many of the godless believe in something even more: to avoid rocking the boat, to refrain from challenging dogma, to deftly avoid the issue when someone raises some religious folly. If you think you're helping the cause with your cautious silence, then a brick wall is a public intellectual. Then Ed has this bit, which could have been written by a Gnu Atheist:
As I said earlier, this is about taking sides with truth. It's about being knowledgeable enough to make a decent stab at uncovering the truth and presenting the outcomes of that quest to one's readers, even if that outcome lies firmly on one side of a "debate".
It's about doing the actual job of a journalist, by analysing, critiquing, placing into context and so on, as opposed to merely reporting. It's about acknowledging one's own biases and making them plain to see for a reader.
In the end, this is about transparency and truth, concepts that are far more important than neutrality or objectivity. After all, the word for people who are neutral about truth is 'liars'. It shouldn't be 'journalists'.
I have to repeat that. The word for people who are neutral about truth is "liars". It shouldn't be "scientists". It shouldn't be "humanists".
Earlier today we heard Paul Kurtz speak, and while I have great respect for his contributions to this secular movement, he did mischaracterize atheists, and I have to call him on it. One of the most common canards applied to us, and especially to the Gnu Atheists, is that we're negative, that we lack a positive center that we stand for. This is completely false. When you look at the body of work that the prominent leaders of this movement have put together, when you look at the books of people like Dawkins and Harris and Dennett and Coyne and Stenger, you do not find them nattering on for hundreds of pages about how much they hate religion. Quite the contrary. What you find are authors who write about reason and evidence and science, where front and center you find an appreciation for a universe rich with natural phenomena that, with a little honest effort, we can reach out and comprehend. We atheists live a purpose-driven life, to steal a phrase, and that life is dedicated to deepening our understanding and learning about this world. Call us merely negative, or merely angry, or merely anti-religious, and you haven't been paying attention. You haven't been reading our books or articles for comprehension.
What may have confused some people, though, is that we also believe you can't love the truth without detesting lies. That an honest way of dealing with those lies is to confront them openly, head on, and unapologetically, and while some might rationalize accommodating unjustifiable distortions of the truth as a strategic option, there are a number of us who consider that principle to be one on which we will not compromise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Importance of Outreach

Here is a great blog post from The Friendly Atheist talking about coming "out" as an atheist.  There is a stigma associated with being an atheist.  Just the word "atheist" conjures up bad images.  You probably know more atheists/agnostics then you think.  They may the ones who say they are "spiritual" rather then profess to any one particular denomination.  I'd like to know who you are.  If you are Facebook friend of mine, send me a message.  I promise to keep it confidential.  Maybe you have some questions?  Maybe I can point you to some resources or just lend a sympathetic ear (or eyes in the case of email) to your comments and concerns.

Legos Rock

Yes, I am a Legomaniac.  I have somewhere just north of 10,000 pieces, including a 3-foot models of the Imperial Start Destroyer and Millennium Falcon.



 I also have the Imperial Start Destroyer.



Legos are great education tools as shown by this Lego stop-animation video of Great Microbiologists.



But, one of the greatest use of Legos I have seen in a long time and a most fantastic example of Poe's Law is the The Brick Testament.  A fantastic site of Bible stories using nothing but Bible verses for captions.  The story of Er and Onan is high comedy.

I am so happy to see my favorite childhood toy being put to such a lovely and blasphemous use and using only the words of the Bible itself.  Beautiful.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Has the Cat Got Clarence Thomas' Tongue?

Monday was the start of the Supreme Court's new term.  The new Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan, has taken her seat with two other women on the Supreme Court.  That is a somewhat historic event, so why is this worthy of a blog post?  Here is a paragraph from the story that I find quite humorous.
In the first hour, though, she was among eight justices who asked questions. The ninth, Justice Clarence Thomas hasn't asked a question in more than four years.
Yes, you read that right.  Clarence Thomas has not asked a single question in FOUR YEARS.  Really?  If he was a mute, or had a speech impairment, or something like that, I could understand not wanting to speak.  Even if that were the case, I would still imagine he could write a question down and have it read/asked by another justice or even an aide.  I'm sure that would be permissible.  But to be fully able bodied and not ask a single question in a Supreme Court case for FOUR YEARS?  Incredible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Republicans Scare the Crap Out of Me - Part III

What is the definition of Conservatism?  One definition is,
a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change.
Apparently, Senator Jim DeMint, prefers the tradition of the late 1940s and 1950s.  At a recent church rally, the following statement was attributed to him,
DeMint said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who's sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn't be in the classroom.
The Republican Party wants to be the party of a smaller, less intrusive government.  Then how is he going to know who is sleeping with who?  He doesn't want government in your business.  Only in your bedroom.

Fantasy Football Update - Week 4

I pulled out an easy win against Desert Hills Eaglemania,  73-39.  Yes he is an Eagles' fan.  Fortunately for me, he replaced his two bye week players (both Cowboys, go figure) with bench warmers.  Neither one saw action this week, so he got two big goose eggs from the Quarterback and Running Back positions.  Looks like I may have to bench Fitz and find myself a Tight End.  I've got Braylon Edwards from the Jets on the bench.  I'm just waiting to see if he gets suspended first.  I move to 3 and 1 on the season, one game back of the division leader.

Why Republicans Scare the Crap Out of Me - Part II

The questionnaire and its results that I will link are not intuitive (not that I would expect them to be since comprehension is not something Republicans want the rank and file to have.)  A group called RNC for Life sent out a questionnaire to Republican Congressional candidates to ask their opinions on various pro-life issues.  The first response in the questionnaire indicates whether the candidate is Pro-life without discrimination.  This means, quite simply, that a woman must proceed with the pregnancy, even if the pregnancy was the result of a rape, incest, or threatens her life.  No Exceptions!  78 candidates indicated that they are pro-life without discrimination.  Sorry ladies.  It must be your fault that you tempted that rapist, couldn't resist an incestuous family member.  Oh, and if you die, then I'm sure that is your fault as well.  Check out the list.  I hope your candidate does not have a star next to their name.  Bastards.

Why Republicans Scare the Crap Out of Me

Paul Broun is a Republican Congressman from Georgia.  He is a medical doctor.  He said the following at a town hall meeting (I wish I had a source for this),
I tell ya, we've got some new problems in Washington. Big problems. Just today, Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said people in America are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. They want to give all the power to the federal government to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables. This is what the federal, CDC, they gonna be calling you to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, every day. This is socialism of the highest order!
Are you kidding me?  This is demagogy at its finest, and worst.   He is a doctor.  You know, good nutrition all that stuff.  It's socialism I tell you!  Of the highest order!  Next thing you know, the government is going to push clean water down our throats!  Fucking CDC Nazi's!

Good grief.  I have more guanophrenic Republicans for later.

(From Dispatches from the Culture Wars)