Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Quote Of The Day

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. -- Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, 1796

I Am A Cynic

You Are 64% Cynical

You're a full blown cynic... and probably even skeptical of these results.
You have your optimistic moments, but most likely you keep them to yourself.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Carnival Of The Godless #43 Is Up!

Michael Bains of Silly Humans sends us down the old COTG boardwalk, and gives us some really good food for thought in the process. Go check out Carnival Of the Godless #43.

Quote Of The Day

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Quote Of The Day

Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit. -- Edward R. Murrow

Amazingly Stupid Law

Maybe my interests are a little abnormal, too, because I agree with DuaneSmith. This would be an amazingly stupid law. Not to mention dangerous. Every time I think the Religious Right has pushed things as far as they can, they come up with something even more outrageous. And we're suppoed to be the "liberals" that want "change." Let's hope this dreck dies a quiet and lonely death.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Friday Ten - Busted Knee Edition

I did myself a mischief on my knee sometime late Wednesday night / early Thursday morning at work, so I'm playing hooky tonight. Here's my Friday Ten - Busted Knee Edition.

1. Older - They Might Be Giants
2. Running On Faith - Eric Clapton
3. They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo) - Sting
4. Abracadabra - Sugar Ray
5. Jolly Mon Sing - Jimmy Buffett
6. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls & Busta Rhymes
7. Need You Tonight - Lost Prophets
8. Hey Jude - The Beatles
9. Love Me Tomorrow - Chicago
10. Breakdown - Tantric

Quote Of The Day

Skepticism is our minds’ immune system. -- Phil Plait

Beautiful Bun-Bun Pic

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Perserverance Pays Off

Ever have one of those days where it seems like nothing you do helps? A day where it seems that no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to come out like you want it to? Well, this guy shows you that perserverance can pay off in the end.

It's a little long, at just over 8 minutes, but well worth the time. And it's work-friendly, too! Heck, I could show this one to my grandparents! Be sure to have the volume up. The syncing is nice.

Ann Coulter's Skin

I just had to link this prediction about the cover of Ann Coulter's next book. Careful, it's not work-friendly.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Flexibility In A Godless World

I am an unrepentant asshole. I'm actually kind of proud of it. My father, whatever differences we may have, taught that to me at a young age. And I've never forgotten it's value or correctness.

Perhaps I should explain. You see, I know what I know, and if you want me to change my mind, you'll have to prove it to me. But then, as my friend Philoman likes to say, if I didn't think I was right, I'd change my mind.

Profound, isn't it? I always thought so.

But relevant, believe it or not. You see, you can change my mind. About anything. Any time. Anywhere. All it takes is proof. Evidence. Heck, sometimes I'll take decent logic all on its own, although I'm hesitant about that. After all, Kettering's Law is accurate: "Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence."

And that mental flexibility is important to the godless. Not that all the godridden are calcified non-thinkers, but at some point, the mental flexibility of all True Believers breaks down, or stiffens up, as the case may be. After all, they believe something with no solid, corroborating evidence. That is an unassailable position, when you get down to brass tacks. How do you change someone's mind about something they've decided upon in the total absence of evidence? You can't. Thus the old saying about politics and religion.

But not me, baby! And not the bulk of the godless community, either. You show us that we're wrong about something, and a completely revolutionary thing occurs.

We. Change. Our. Minds.

I recently had a conversation that made me appreciate this ability more than ever. An associate and I were discussing, and by discussing I mean arguing over, religious views and their impact on politics. (I know. I know. I just mentioned that old saying. Shoot me!) Somewhere around hour three, he came up with quite a little chestnut of an observation. I can't repeat it word for word, unfortunately, but it went something like this:

Me: Okay, so poke a hole in my logic, if you can.
Him: The problem with your logic is that it's man's logic.
Me: As opposed to what? (As if I didn't know!)
Him: God's logic. You see, man's logic can be flawed.
Science changes all the time. But God's logic never changes.
Me: Can you show me this logic?
Him: No.
Me: Can you write it down for me? Or just explain it to

Him: No.
Me: So, what you're saying is that we should ban gay marriage and
acquiesce to the Religious Right based on a set of conclusions that you can't explain, codify or even show me?
Him (with typical $h!t-eating grin): Well, yeah.

Argh! This kind of thinking is truly beyond me. I don't expect anyone to believe me unless I can back myself up. I may ask for temporary agreement until I can produce the proof, but that's just to keep the "conversation" moving along. But that's because I can change my mind, and I expect others to have the same capacity.

I know, it's silly of me, but I still have high hopes for the bulk of humanity.

On alternate Saturdays of months with blue moons.

See, that kind of inflexibility just seems dangerous to me. I love to be proven wrong! Oh, it stings, and more than stings. Sometimes I downright howl with the pain, writhe in anguish and gnash my teeth at the indignity. But the pure joy of increased understanding of the universe, the unadulterated feeling of coming closer to complete understanding of a thing, heck, that makes all the ego-pain worth it. Sometimes just barely, but worth it, nonetheless.

I wasn't always this way. My friends can tell you, and probably will, at length, that I'm a hard man to convince on some subjects. There were times I would get all worked up about something and there was no convincing me otherwise. There are still hints of that about me. I've had to work really hard to overcome those knee-jerk "I'm right! I'm right! I'm right no matter what!" spells. I am, as my father once put it, not cocky, but convinced. But that just makes it even sweeter these days when someone actually gives me the evidence I need to change my mind.

For example, Philoman and I have had a long-running argument over the nature of color. Yes, I said color. I've always taken the stance that a certain wavelength and frequency of light will give a certain light at a certain intensity. It was always just physics to me. Philoman, however, took a much more experiential view towards color, and frankly, I thought he was being a little mushy over it all. But I was flipping through the most recent SciAm, and came across this article about the evolution of color vision in mammals and birds, and how it differed. It's really cool. Birds see in the ultraviolet. That's awesome! And the article was great in other ways. It explained the whole color-as-experience thing to me in a way that made everything Philoman has been saying finally click. I found the part about how a weak light in a certain wavelength and a strong light in a different wavelength can actually stimulate the same light receptors and appear as similar colors especially convincing!

Woof! I was wrong. Philoman was so right, he was almost left. My very first thought was, "I need to let him know I finally understand what he means! I need to tell him he was right!" It didn't even occur to me until much later that I might have been upset about being wrong. I was so happy to finally understand this thing we've been wrangling with for so long that I was euphoric. I only wish all my conversions were this painless.

The beauty of this story is that it shows the flexibility of a non-dogmatic world-view. I was holding on pretty tight to my (false) ideas about color. But when faced with good evidence to the contrary, I flipped my views. The god-ridden like to point to this and call it a weakness. They pat themselves on the back and yammer about their "unwavering faith". In things for which they have no proof. Like that's a good thing.

The wonderous thing about the flexibility of the godless world is that it allows us to forever achieve closer approximations of "correctness." I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather be wrong and then be corrected. The other option means I run the risk of being unwaveringly wrong forever.

Other entries in the Godless World series: Loss, Purpose and Reason.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sad, But True

Sadly, I hear about things like this all the time from Aradia. The letter that Coturnix posted was apparently from a middle school teacher. The high schools aren't any better.

(Via Pharyngula, via Coturnix)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Profile Change

Take a gander at my new profile pic. It's a cutie.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Purpose And Reason In A Godless World

When the god-ridden run up on some stressful event, one of their stock phrases goes something like this: "Everything happens for a reason." And I don't disagree in the least.

Everything has a cause. There is no event since Universal Time Zero that hasn't had a cause. And every single one of those causes is completely and totally physical. Causality is a pretty easily understood concept in our everyday lives, even if it is difficult to justify philosophically. So, in a very real sense, there is a reason for everything that happens.

But what the god-ridden really mean, I do believe, is something more like this: "Everything that happens, happens with a purpose." And this, not to put too fine a point on it, is utter bullshit. I am constantly trying to get some god-ridden goob to explain how you have a choice in something if Skydaddy already knows what's going to happen. If you watch a DVD twice, is there a chance something different's going to happen the second time through? Not unless you have a really bizarre DVD player.

No, purpose is something that is only imparted by intelligence. Things only have a purpose if someone assigns it to them. Think of all the interesting uses to which a spoon can be put. Go ahead. Think about it for a second. I'll wait.


See what I mean?

Purpose is an applied property of actions and objects. Reasons are just causes. My grandmother died of lung cancer. Saying there was a reason behind that event is perfectly accurate. She died of lung cancer because she smoked cigarettes for several decades, and developed a yellow slick of nicotine-laced mucus on her lungs and a lump in one of them the size of a goose-egg. Harsh reality, but true nonetheless. I wish she had never picked up a cigarette, because she was a very warm and wise woman, and there are a lot of people who could benefit from her talents, myself included.

But to say there was a purpose to her death is sickening, at best, and infantile, at worst.

That's one of the beauties of being godless, be it atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinker, what-have-you. The godless know that our actions are our own. Every mistake I've ever made is mine. No one else's. I'm not proud of those mistakes, but they help to define who I am. No mischievous spirit with horns and a tail prodded me on to make them. I screwed up six ways from Sunday on my own. And I'd like to think that I learned a few things along the way. Heck, I'm still screwing up, and trying to learn.

But the flip side of that is also true. We, the godless, know that every triumph is ours and ours alone. My wife and I didn't buy our home under the auspices of a benevolent deity. We bought it under the auspices of hard work and good planning. My recent promotion didn't come along because I fall to my knees in praise of an invisible spirit. It came along because I try to maximize my opportunities and use my talents judiciously.

In other words, I condescend to my lab partner because I'm still more cocky and arrogant than I should be, but I got a raise and a new title because I'm at least close to being as good as I think I am. Neither of those things occurred because there are cosmic beings warring over and through my actions. Neither of them has cosmic purpose.

But they both have real-world reasons, and far-reaching consequences, most of which I can't even begin to foresee. But neither can anyone else. And I like it that way. The idea that some god knows what's in store for me just makes life seem safe, secure, bland and boring. It's much more exciting to think that what comes next is completely unknown, if not unexpected.

Other entries in the Godless World series: Flexibility and Loss.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Atheists And Fundies Have In Common

I believe it's safe to say that fundamentalists take religion very, very seriously. The Muslim versions are willing to do things that boggle the minds of Westerners of every stripe. The Christian versions certainly boggle my mind, and those of my fellow atheists, agnostics and secular humanists (AASH).

Think about it. If you're godless, and you're not one of the fortunate few who grew up in an AASH household, then that means that you had to make a concious decision to walk away from religion. Which, in turn, means you had to sit down, at some point, and put some thought into religion in general, and your particular myths in specific. In other words, you had to take religion seriously.

Most religious people, in my experience, can't make that claim. Most seem to just cruise through their religious devotions on automatic, never really putting any thought whatsoever into their beliefs. At least fundies put some effort into their relgion, if not reasonable thought.

Now, I'll admit that a lot of so-called mainstream Christians run up on some sort of crisis of faith at some point, but it's usually an emotional one, not a rational one. It seems to center around death or some other trauma. And any thought they put into the issue is usually focused on rectifying their emotional distress with their faith, and rarely is any effort expended on examining the faith itself.

There is a second form of so-called crisis, of course, that usually comes about when they get out and start meeting people who hold other verisons of their own myths, or even different myths. This tends to be a more intellectual type of crisis, I think, and it's outcomes are a lot more varied. You get everything from an acquaintance of mine, who's a Republican Catholic that uses contraception and believes in a woman's right to choose, to me, a secular humanist. (My views are pretty well documented here, so I'll not reiterate them.)

And I know that I'm oversimplifying a very complex situation here, but I believe it's in a good cause. It points out that Atheists and Fundamentalists have at least one thing in common: we both take religion very, very seriously.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Snake On A Plane!

I never dreamed I'd be linking to Fox News in any favorable manner whatsoever, but this is just too good to pass up: Snake On A Plane

And it was in West Virginia, to boot!

Someone contact Samuel L. Jackson about a sequel!


"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu