Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I couldn't say it better.

I'm practically speechless.

This better illustrates why I hate religion than I could possibly express.

Shirley Phelps-Roper on Hannity & Colmes.

If you don't know who she is, then I suggest you read up a little on the Westboro Baptist Church.

This isn't insanity, this is the result of actually believing and following what Christianity teaches. The sad part is, she's still falling a bit short of God's commandments! She'll have to actually start murdering people to really obey "The Lord Her God". The only reason modern Christians don't do this, and make no mistake, they were still doing this even 150 years ago, is because they have learned that a whole lot of the bible is simply bullshit and have ceased paying attention to it. The only reason the religion is any good at all today is because people don't follow it! And that's not saying that it's really any good anyway.

Just watch the video. Yay religion.

*sheesh* :(

(I've been posting tons of verses from the bible to illustrate this stuff on another forum lately... so I'm a little heated about stupid religious people right now. As a matter of fact, this video was linked to by a guy Merlin that I've been arguing about tolerance for Islam with.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Ok... I was a little drunk, sleep deprived and upset last night...

With a little sleep and introspection, I found a quote I'd saved that seemed quite fitting in light of the events of the past few days.
"So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution."
   - Alexander Hamilton - Federalist Papers no.1
Nothing more need be said.

You'll never guess what happened. ;)


All my posts locked.

The children maintain their power structure and avoid threats to their religious beliefs... even though in the end it was just a number of intelligent people discussing M-Theory, String theory, Super Massive Black Holes, Adaptive Optics... and *gasp* Pascal's wager etc.

I expected it, but it's always aggravating.

But what do you expect with cowardly Christians in power whose main goal is to supress dissent with ample evidence (by which I mean, dissenting and showing ample evidence for said dissent... not them having any evidence for supressing dissent by themselves showing any evidence. I feel I must be very clear on that). ;)

Luckily I've saved copies of the threads... so that I can post excerpts etc if I'm so inclined. There were some very interesting discussions.

Just one more reason to finish Phreadom.com where, like this blog, I welcome dissent and arguments etc... even "stupid" ones... and even Anonymously (and I've explained my reasons why in past posts).

I feel that any real debate brings about something positive in some sense or another... even if only to grant an insight into why someone believes something that you don't.

Moving on... as usual. ;)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I'll let the following exchange stand on it's own. ;)

This is some of what I've been dealing with the past day or so in my discussions/debates on this forum. While this is admittedly the worst, the rest of my detractors haven't been much better.

Thankfully there have been some mature and/or intelligent people to carry on discussions with. :)
can some one ban him
If you don't like the thread, don't read it.

Quit whining.

"Someone is saying something I don't agree with! Because I'm incapable of making an intelligent argument against what he's saying, BAN HIM!"

Real mature there. *cough*
i dont even know what your talking about just sounds like aload of shit
So how about you either ask for an explanation of what you don't understand, or you stop reading it if all you're going to do is complain?

I mean, if you actually had a valid reason why you didn't agree with something I was saying, then at least you could have some constructive input to the conversation. I don't have a problem with intelligent constructive criticism. This is the reason why I don't just say "you're a fucking idiot", I give referenced examples illustrating my point and explanations that hopefully everyone can understand and learn from.

There's a big difference between just saying "you're stupid" and actually taking the time to write a detailed response with a listing of reference material to give an in-depth breakdown of the shortcomings of a person's particular beliefs etc.

As I've often said in the past "you calling me an asshole, and even me being an asshole, doesn't make what I'm saying wrong. you not liking facts doesn't change them."
all i saw was you riping into cgal because she is a christian. im not a christian but i dont go say bullshit about christianity, its what they bleave in so just leave um to it. TWAT
I only saw you attacking cgal because she is a Christian. I'm not a Christian, but I don't denigrate Christianity. It's their personal belief, so just let them have it in peace. *childish-expletive*

There... a little help for you.

Anyway... that little bit of banal tripe aside.... I believe I already covered in detail exactly why I didn't agree with the mantra of "let them be, they're not hurting anyone", and gave examples as to why etc.

I fear I'm going to have to stop bothering to respond to you... it's getting tiring having to point out that I've already posted things which render your subsequent comments invalid, but you post them anyway because you either cannot comprehend what I've written, or you're just too lazy to actually read a post before you bitch about it. I would hope for your sake you're just a lazy prick and not as retarded as your previous few comments would lead me to believe.
i dont even know what half the words you say mean, and there to long and full off bullshit to bother trying to find out what the fuck they mean so no i dont bother reading your posts.
I think that sums it up quite nicely. Thanks. :D

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An example of this Ostrich complex.

See if you can't pick out the problem with her head in the sand approach.
No need to thank me. I have said it before and I will say it again....My God is an awesome God and NO ONE or NOTHING I read will EVER change my mind about that. It has nothing to do with courage to say it, well maybe it does in a sense, but it comes from my heart when I say I love my God and I am NOT ashamed to admit it!! I will not even attempt to change or convert anyone, and I will not get in a debate over religion, and I will NOT allow others beliefs to sway my own personal feelings.
Thanks allsix, those were nice words you spoke to me.
She somehow feels that by her saying this, that her beliefs are beyond reproach.

Sadly it just makes her a stupid stubborn idiot, incapable of learning or growing and progressing as a knowledgeable human being.

Fucking Sheep. Gah... I swear.


So I'm in a bit of a debate over on another forum...

There's a thread about Noah's ark on there... in response to CNN running an article about an anomoly in the snow on Mt.Ararat.

As usual, I had to step in and try to talk a little sense... but given the general mentality of the people on that forum, I wasn't as diplomatic as usual... *cough* ;)

One of the moderators made the comment that she believed in God, and someone else commended her for her courage in stating that belief... to which someone else responded that in the US, it was ridiculous to say that it took courage to state your belief in God. A very good point.

Before I got around to replying to that comment though, I had saw some comment from another moron about using the Bible as a guide for morality or something... to which I posted my usual list of fun ways to murder friends and loved ones per God's commands in the bible... with the relevant bible verses, so that they could read along.

Someone else said something about the Ark itself, and about fitting 2 of each animal in it for 40 days or something... to which I left a scathing comment about actually reading the bible and seeing that the whole story is much more in depth than that... it's 7 pair of every bird, 7 pair of every clean animal (for food), 2 of all the rest, food for all the animals, enough for the entire trip, plus samples of ALL food at the time, to reseed the earth, as they spent about a YEAR under water deep enough to cover the highest mountains on earth by over 20 feet. And then they repopulated the earth from just Noah, his wife, and their 3 kids and their wives. Little incest action populating the world for the SECOND time, according to the bible... if you again ignore the fact that Adam and Eve weren't the first people on earth for the first time... but this second time leaves little doubt that we all are supposedly descended from less than 10 individuals, seeding the entire earth, in just a few thousand years.

Sorry... I'm getting off on a rant because the BULLSHIT is getting so deep in here... it just gets me fired up.

I told the jackass to go learn his own fucking religion.

I told the moderator that she was a fucking idiot, and that rather than run off and avoid the topic, why doesn't she even make a tiny attempt to defend her ridiculous beliefs against the flood of damning evidence straight from her own bible that I'd presented. And that courage wasn't what she'd done, stating her belief in God in a nation whose motto is "In God We Trust", I said that COURAGE was what my post was... standing up in this Christian country and stating that you don't believe in the man in the clouds just because everyone else says they do. Courage is being an open unbeliever in this day and age.

The last thing I covered (before that last part actually), was the fact that the same guy that had commented about how it wasn't courage for her to state a belief in God in the United States today, that he didn't have anything against her faith etc.

I made the point that if you believe someones beliefs are fucking retarded, but that they have a freedom to believe those things, that somehow you don't have the right, or shouldn't state that their beliefs are stupid. I said what was the fucking point then? If someone has a right to believe something stupid in this country, then let's not forget that we also have the right to tell them they must have been sucking on a tail pipe or something to be that stupid.

It's not just the religion that's the problem here, it's the faith in that stupid religion, and we need to start holding people accountable for believing fairytale nonsense that wouldn't remotely pass the test of credulity in ANY other aspect of their lives! This faith, which is in conflict with the very cognitive functions that enable a person to live the rest of their lives outside of religion, corrodes a persons ability to think rationally... it creates the mental partitions, the lack of critical thinking skills... the inability to grasp certain concepts because of the self-induced short circuiting of their reasoning skills in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance of conflicting ideas... within one's self even.

I've covered all this shit before... suffice it to say, people need to be held accountable for ridiculously childish and ignorant, if not downright stupid, beliefs in regards to their religion, the same way we would if they believed that Black people were descended from Mud, and therefor were not human... or that the Holocaust of the Jews didn't happen at the hands of the Nazis... while some people certainly believe those things, the vast majority of us don't even give them the time of day... we see the body of historical and scientific evidence that completely crushes any rational notion of entertaining those ideas as remotely true. How is it so difficult to carry that same thought process on to this other area of ridiculous belief?

Hell, I even went on to talk about how pathetic it was that people would argue for the infallibility of their bible... of the inerrant word of God that could not be questioned... and then have them try to worm out of killing their friends and family and numerous other people as God very clearly COMMANDS them to do in the bible. They are all about trumping up the perfection and power of God's word when it suits them to need that type of contrived authority... but when it comes to actually obeying what that God commands?... that's when you hear the hemming and hawing... "well... those aren't really serious... and Jesus died for our sins, so we don't have to obey those anymore.."... Oh really. So you don't have to obey the Ten Commandments? Or you get to pick and choose which of God's commands to obey? And what makes one be absolutely binding, but in the very next verse, you just brush over it? And let's not forget that Jesus was very specific that you had to STILL obey ALL of God's law, until the end of time! Every Jot and Tittle. Your own bible very clearly refutes your pathetic excuses. You can't have it both ways... which is the very reason these people end up with muddled thought processes... they have to allow this area of their lives to be riddled with contradictions and stand in stark contrast to the rest of their lives... they have to numb themselves to the irrationality of it in order to maintain a belief in it. And the reward for this shutting off of their faculties is the feeling of being loved and safe... that they'll go to heaven when they die and that God loves them no matter what etc. Those warm fuzzy feelings, which are nothing more than a result of their own imagination and are scientifically understood, are the reinforcement they need to continue believing this way.

I'll have to track down some of the studies on the neurobiological effects of religious belief. Simply put, it's about the same as falling in love. Same chemical reactions in the brain. Positive reinforcement through basically having your brain dope itself up.

Fun times. *grumble*

Sunday, April 16, 2006


I feel so hip.

I just bought my first song on iTunes.

"The Sun - Romantic Death"

I'll admit that I tried to find it on-line for free... but failing to do so, I really couldn't argue with the $0.99 price to buy it.

I feel that I'm now a part of some young hip iPod generation or something... who knows what crazy things will happen now that I've taken the first step.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

'Gospel of Judas' Tells His Side.

I've heard this type of discussion before, and had seen mention of it recently, but I just happened to actually read the article that described it.

For an in-depth look at the gospel, please read the "Gospel of Judas" article on Wikipedia.

For background on what is meant by "Coptic" in the article, please see the Coptic Christianity article on Wikipedia.

For more related information, see the article "The Lost Gospels" on the National Geographic website which covers this along with several other related works.

The biology of near-death experiences.

Near-Death Experience: Find Out if You’re a Candidate.

I read about this on another link a few days ago. Interesting. ;-)

Another follow-up.

My earlier post "Case in point" dealt with the idea of "missing links" etc... I've just run across another related story that I'd like to add to that vein.

Catfish Hunt on Land

I think when we're comparing the amount of scientific evidence against the lone argument that "if we add up the ages of the people listed in the bible, starting at Adam, we get 6,000 years or so... so that is the age of the earth!"... I think it's pretty obvious who comes out in the lead. Not to mention that even the bible itself states that Adam and Eve were not the first people. When they, according to the story, left the Garden of Eden, Cain went out to the land of Nod after killing Abel, where he married and bore a son etc. (Genesis 4:14-17)

Hell, for a very entertaining and enlightening take on the story of Genesis, read the story We Are the Other People. The author is a little strange... but I found the story hilarious, especially given that it's taken directly from Genesis.

Nice summary of Creationist crushing news.

Ouch! Creationists Take A Beating…

Three stories are linked here, only one of which I've previously covered (at the beginning of my Case in point post).

Join me in pointing and laughing at the Creationists. :-)

(And for good measure, a direct link to the story the third part of the above link refers to: Fossil Find Improves Knowledge of Human Origins)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Visual timeline of evolution.

You have to see this.

Evolutionary Timeline

I tried to illustrate this a few posts ago (in my post entitled Case in point ) by describing the second hand on a clock... but this is way... WAY better.

Go. Look. Now.


Why extinction is bad.

Why a spider hanging from its thread does not rotate.

This illustrates one of the many reasons that extinction is a bad thing. "Mother Nature" has been at this for millions of years and there are a multitude of such cases where "she" has already came to a much more elegant solution than we have. We can learn a lot from simply studying the biosphere around us.

Treatments for illnesses, new materials with amazing properties, alternate forms of communication... the list goes on and on. Not only can we draw inspiration from such things as echolocation in bats and dolphins, but also from actual biological functionality in such things as spiders and their silk, "Lightning Bugs/Fireflies" and their bioluminescence (which, along with many undersea creatures, fungi and worms, led to the creation of Organic Light-Emitting Diodes and other "cold light" innovations), and many others.

Remember kids... extinction is bad. :-)

I actually find it incredibly fascinating to look at the fossil record and see the kinds of life that have come and gone through the ages... strange branches on the evolutionary tree that died out or were wiped out in one of the many mass extinctions since the dawn of life... it's amazing to ponder what other forms of life might now be dominant on earth, or what me might look like if life had taken even the slightest detour millenia past.

It's things like this that really make me reconsider what I want to do in life.


World’s Strongest Glue! Available Only From Nature!

Follow-up to the previous post...

I posted a "quick" response comment to the previous post on "Religion: Blight on Humanity?"... and a short follow-up to that... and figured I'd post them here for good measure.

I wouldn't call religion a mental illness per se, however I would say that it causes mental failure.

Religion requires a compartmentalization of thought to enable one to simultaneously believe drastically different or contradictory things. For instance, a man or woman in their daily lives will generally require just as much proof of an amazing claim as any other person would. But when it comes to their religious beliefs… even the most outlandish claims, which are in direct violation of the physical laws of the daily world we live in… and are wholly self-contradictory etc… they take these without question.

This type of cognitive suppression and compartmentalization, which enables them to essentially overcome cognitive dissonance, has numerous ill effects. Its symptoms include such things as a complete inability to even entertain that any notion that in any way conflicts with their religious belief might have any validity. It causes them to oversimplify complex issues that might conflict with their beliefs if studied too deeply. It causes them to treat people of other beliefs as sadly wrong individuals… or to do such things as treat homosexuals as abominations who are going to burn in hell… while usually at the same time being polite to their faces. They don't understand that them telling a person that they're perverse and evil and abominations could have negative repercussions in that persons life. They believe that God hates gays, so they feel 100% right in sharing that view. They believe that the bible teaches certain things, and therefor they have a right to legislate those particular morals onto everyone else, even when others might not share their personal beliefs.

This type of detachment from reality… and from critical thinking… the oversimplification of issues, the outright willful ignorance of matters that might threaten their beliefs… these things do harm to society. When you have people that willfully make themselves ignorant of scientific facts and medical and scientific progress etc… and practice rote memorization of religious dogma and use it to try to fight scientific progress and hold humanity back as a whole while violating the basic rights of other individuals in society, while being largely painfully ignorant of the facts and complexities of the issues at hand as a result of the very belief system they are trying to maintain… this, as a whole, has a negative effect on society at large.

People unaware of sexual education because of the forced ignorance of the subject, leading to STD transmission and early pregnancies etc… or discrimination against gays because "God says so" rather than any real world reasoning… or teaching bigotry against people of other cultures if they don't share the same beliefs etc, because any other belief must be wrong if it's not Christianity, and other cultures entail different beliefs on non-religious ideas as well… but being different is also seen as dangerous to the conservative status quo in the cultural sense… so you have a general misunderstanding of people like Muslims etc… and rather than addressing the real foundations of the problems with Radical Islam today, you have such ignorant mindsets as that all Muslims are towel headed lunatics who hate life so much that they just want to kill us while they end their own miserable lives out of depression, hatred and jealousy of our Freedom… when this is entirely wrong! This leads us into wars where hundreds of thousands of lives are lost and whole countries descend into turmoil.

People fail to understand that the problems we have with terrorism today are generally the direct result of Religious Fundamentalism… and while this terminology is bandied about as the latest buzzwords… people utterly fail to grasp it's implications. The problem with Religious Fundamentalism is merely in people actually doing what their religion teaches them, even commands them to do! The only reason the rest of the religious aren't following suit is because of a combination of things… failure to understand their own religion fully, and a failure to obey it's teachings. This along with the scientific and cultural secular advances of the past 2,000 years have led to a society, especially here in the U.S., where a majority of people claim to be religious and will steadfastly and vehemently defend their beliefs, but generally have a very poor knowledge of those beliefs and a very poor concept of how those beliefs interact with and even contradict their own daily lives, beliefs and actions. This being another result of the aforementioned compartmentalization of thought that enables them to function from day to day while maintaining a belief system that contradicts the world around them, and the knowledge that enables them to function in it. (dying is bad. if you walk off this bridge, gravity will make you fall and die. certain diseases will kill you. the dead cannot come back to life. etc. bob cannot be 2 places at once. your biological mother cannot be 2 different people. praying will not pay your bills.)

I have seen many times over the results of this compartmentalized mental disconnection from reality… and while many apologists would like us to believe that religion is a good thing, they fail to understand that the kind of "good religion" they're referring to is nothing more than a rather large failure of actually being religious, and mostly following the secular wisdom of the past few thousand years in violation of and in contradiction with the religions they claim to wholeheartedly believe in and steadfastly support. And they do this while denouncing the people on both ends of the spectrum simultaneously… those who are against their beliefs, or do not believe them at all…. and those who share their beliefs, but believe them 100% and obey them in accordance with that belief.

How hard is it to understand that there is a problem when the only way your beliefs are a good thing is when you don't really believe them or follow them fully? And how can you claim their infallibility while at the same time saying that some of them are not relevant or don't need to be followed? (hint: the compartmentalization I talked about earlier). How can you say that Gods word is infallible and must be obeyed, but then ignore all the things he absolutely commands you to do? How can you claim someone is evil or wrong and justify retribution toward or denigration of such people, when you yourself invalidate the very words you claim as your authority? compartmentalization of thought… willful blindness of contradictions… willful ignorance of complex situations… refusal to even acknowledge any error in logic relating to your beliefs.

I could go on and on about this… but I'm not the best writer by any means, and I would hope that my explanation so far has shed a little light on this.

After reading back over that comment, I noticed some things that I failed to clarify, which I felt were rather important, if not vital, to the point I was trying to make... so I added another reply:

I suppose that I should clarify something...
When I stated that "This type of cognitive suppression and compartmentalization, which enables them to essentially overcome cognitive dissonance, has numerous ill effects.", I should have clarified that the real danger with this is the fact that this same set of mental self-induced disabilities and dysfunctions follows through into their daily life... so that when faced with real life cognitive dissonance, they resolve it internally in the same manner. They ignore contradictions, they willfully maintain ignorance of ideas and knowledge that might contradict their preconceptions... and while these are all traits we somewhat share... they are also much more likely to simply completely fail to see even the most obvious contradictions, or to be able to use any real level of critical thinking skills or logical reasoning ability etc.

As these self-induced shortcomings spill over into their daily lives, this is when the damage really starts being done. At this point it is no longer simply a harmless fantasy that affects nobody but themselves, at this point they are failing to understand the world around them and using their own self-induced ignorance of concepts and it's resulting painfully flawed understanding of the world as motivations to force their beliefs onto other people by passing laws against them, or supporting wars against them, or simply spreading hate about them, while completely failing to see what they're doing for what it really is. They see what they're doing as perfectly right and perfectly good as extensions of God's perfect will.

If these types of people really did just have a fantasy that harmed no one but themselves, I wouldn't really care... I'd have little problem letting them run around and spend their lives as simpletons. I'd just pity them a bit and ignore them. But when we have them directing national policy and law because of their ignorance en masse... and when my life is personally detrimentally effected by their disassociation with reality and inability to think rationally etc... I have a problem with it.

Although Jefferson made his comment about it neither picking his pocket or breaking his leg... I think even Jefferson would understand that egregious violations of personal freedom in the name of religion is just as heinous... if not even more so.

(The closing comment about Jefferson refers to the following quote from Thomas Jefferson, taken from the Notes on the state of Virginia (1781-1785): "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.", which was made in the context of Separation of Church and State.)

Evolution follows few of the possible paths to antibiotic resistance

Contact: Steve Bradt
Harvard University

Bacteria gain resistance from only a handful of 120 possible five-step mutational paths in a key gene

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Darwinian evolution follows very few of the available mutational pathways to attain fitter proteins, researchers at Harvard University have found in a study of a gene whose mutant form increases bacterial resistance to a widely prescribed antibiotic by a factor of roughly 100,000. Their work indicates that of 120 harrowing, five-step mutational paths that theoretically could grant antibiotic resistance, only about 10 actually endow bacteria with a meaningful evolutionary advantage.

The research is published in the journal Science.

"Just as there are many alternate routes one might follow in driving from Boston to New York, one intrinsic property of DNA is that very many distinct mutational paths link any two variants of a gene," says lead author Daniel M. Weinreich, a research associate in Harvard's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. "Although this fact has been recognized for at least 35 years, its implications for evolution by natural selection have remained unexplored. Specifically, it is of great interest to determine whether natural selection regards these many mutational paths equivalently."

Weinreich and colleagues generated a series of mutants found along all 120 possible mutational trajectories involving the gene coding for the enzyme beta-lactamase, which in altered form can serve to inactivate antibiotics including penicillin and cefotaxime. Analyzing how well each variant protected host Escherichia coli cells against treatment with various concentrations of antibiotic, the scientists found that only a very small fraction of these pathways confer ever-increasing resistance in pathogenic microbes, and are therefore relevant to natural selection.

Resistance-granting mutations of beta-lactamase occur in a five-step process, with the 120 possible mutational paths representing all the possible ways in which these five point mutations can occur. Fully 102 of the 120 trajectories are inaccessible to natural selection because they create intermediates that are no more fit than the original gene, and of the remaining 18 Weinreich and colleagues observed that only about half actually had a significant probability of evolutionary occurrence.

"To be followed by an evolving population, natural selection requires that antibiotic resistance increase with each mutation," Weinreich says. "In contrast, most mutational paths of the enzymatic variant we examined fail to continuously increase resistance. Importantly, this is not a reflection of the fact that many more mutations reduce biological function than improve it, because in the present case each mutational path is composed exclusively of mutations known jointly to improve resistance."

Weinreich argues that this finding likely applies to most protein evolution, not just the beta-lactamase enzyme.Although many mutational paths lead to favored variants, only a very small fraction are likely to result in continuously improved fitness and therefore be relevant to the process of natural selection.


Weinreich's co-authors on the Science paper are Nigel F. Delaney, now at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., and Mark A. DePristo and Daniel L. Hartl in Harvard's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Interesting article from "Neural Gourmet".

Religion: Blight upon Humanity?

And for those of you who are too lazy to read the article, I'll give you the summation:
In short, I think that, based on this data, drawing any conclusions based on what religion actually does for societal health is foolish at best. However, I think this study helps illustrate what religion does not do: namely, that theism is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a healthy society. Whether or not theism is actually a blight upon humanity, well…that’s a question that deserves further scientific investigation.
But really... don't be lazy, read the article. You'll find out that, among other things, the United States is by far in the worst shape in regards to societal health out of all 18 countries that are prosperous democracies and were part of the study.

Food for thought.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Case in point.

Discovered: the missing link that solves a mystery of evolution.

Quirky "fishapod" crawls onto our family tree. (Thanks Jen!)

Let's see how many creationists want to talk about this. ;-)

(Not to mention Archaeopteryx etc...)

It should also be pointed out, as someone else commented, that there really isn't such a thing as a "missing link". This terminology was invented by creationists trying to find a way to argue against science. It takes a rather in-depth ignorance of the subject to think that evolution is a single chain from *poof* having life begin, and *tada!* having us as the end of the evolutionary chain. And that is putting it -very- nicely.

Starting with the concept of "life", which is something religious wackos have essentially no real grasp of... we have something that is actually a progression of proteins, molecules etc... those which "work", stay. Those which don't... don't. For instance, the protein that causes mad cow disease (and mad deer) isn't a living thing... although it acts like one. It's simply a protein that has found a way to travel and reproduce as such... where does this fall?

Religious nuts like to think of "life" as this magical gift from god that just starts... magically... at some point... when God chooses to give you a soul or something... (explain plants? explain bacteria? are they alive? how about viruses? where do you draw the ARBITRARY line?)

In actuality, those with any real scientific understanding know that "life" is an arbitrary classification we give things that portray certain characteristics. For instance, let's look at the criteria listed on Wikipedia's Life page:
Although there is no universal agreement on the definition of life, the generally accepted biological manifestations are that life exhibits the following phenomena:
  1. Organization - Living things are comprised of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
  2. Metabolism - Metabolism produces energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (synthesis) and decomposing organic matter (catalysis). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
  3. Growth - Growth results from a higher rate of synthesis than catalysis. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
  4. Adaptation - Adaptation is the accommodation of a living organism to its environment. It is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the individual's heredity.
  5. Response to stimuli - A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism when touched to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. Plants also respond to stimuli, but usually in ways very different from animals. A response is often expressed by motion: the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun or an animal chasing its prey.
  6. Reproduction - The division of one cell to form two new cells is reproduction. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth.
I don't see any mention of a magical gift from God... or a soul in there... do you? I do however, see a set of scientifically testable criteria. Funny that...

Moving on...

From these beginnings, fitting the theory of "Survival of the Fittest", as atoms followed the laws of physics and molecules formed... and proteins etc... and these continually followed the mantra of the best "surviving" and the imperfect ones failing... we grew. "Life" grew. There was no magic moment when Life BeganTM. Things simply progressed... and this progression, from the start... was as a tree with a multitude of branches... ever growing. Not a single chain... but each "offspring" having it's own offspring... and essentially all of them slightly unique... and as these branches grew... some grew ever further apart from each other as each found different traits beneficial to survival... either through reproductive traits... or survival traits.... depending on geography, habitat, "food", mate availability etc... any number of different factors... and so we progressed from organic compounds... proteins... single celled organisms... multicellular organisms... towards things like primitive plants and animals as the first "major" branches of the tree of life started diverging in more dramatic ways. (See Wikipedia's article on "Evolution" for another thourough explanation.)

Many of these branches exist simultaneously, in similar forms. Some reach essentially efficient stable forms and remain unchanged for millions of years, such as Sharks. Some have been merely a twinkle in the eye of time... some have held sway over the earth for millions of years... only to be eventually unseated by a different form... such as the transition from the dinosaurs to mammals as we now know them as the dominant life forms (leaving out insects and such, who ridiculously outnumber us).

But back to what I was saying... as someone earlier said... as much as such a "missing link" is a transitional life form... which essentially all live on earth is... then we must not forget that we are simply a transitional life form between our more ape like ancestors and relatives, and some future "super-human" form. We are a chronospecies... one that will inevitably cease to exist simply due to the passage of time. Any real study of the fossil record will demonstrate innumerable species that have changed so dramatically over the course of time, that if you took the animal now, and one of it's ancestors from millenia past... they would not be able to interbreed, having changed so dramatically in the interim.

I have no problem addressing these complex issues scientifically, and adjusting the models as evidence and data requires... but oversimplification and rote denial of mountains of factual data and scientific evidence in pursuit of elevating a belief, based on ignorance, to the level of supposed credibility... I have a rather serious problem with that.

For instance, there has been an issue of an evangelical nutcase archaeologist who claims to have discovered organic "tissue" inside T-Rex bones etc... while I think that she is a nutjob, given many of her public statements... I won't discount her findings over it... I simply want to see more research done along those lines. If the models of biological material decay were wrong, address them... if there really is some other problem with the models... address them. Failure to address an issue when it doesn't fit the expected guidelines, out of a fear of what it might mean, is to completely fail the goals of science.

(Read this article about the T-Rex, from the perspective of some Creationists, to get an idea how ridiculous these people's beliefs are. For instance, take every living species of animal alive today, and take a single male and female from each (not to mention that the bible specifies that SEVEN of every type of clean animal and SEVEN of every type of bird... AND food enough for themselves and every single animal... aside from "every kind of food"... or the fact that the waters were so deep that they covered the entire earth COMPLETELY, 20 feet deeper than the tip of the highest mountain on earth... or that all mankind was killed except for Noah, his wife, their 3 sons, and their wives... and all of humanity is supposedly now descended from those 8 people... or maybe more, as polygamy was accepted in those days... the list goes on and on and on...) and see if you can fit them all onto a single boat of the size Noah built. Not to mention ignoring the fossil record and archaeological evidence concretely dating when these animals lived. Or ignoring the fact that due to inbreeding, almost all of these species would die off etc... it's simply scientifically ludicrous bullshit... but that doesn't stop these nutjobs from throwing mountains of science out the window, while clinging to straws... even scientific ones... to try to prove they're right.)

We have creationists scrambling to cling to this issue as supposed proof of young earth theory etc... and others denying the evidence outright, without even looking into it, for fear that it might give the young earthers ground to stand on.

(Let's not forget that the bible explicitly lists the animals created during creation; cows, birds etc... and fails to mention the kind of life we know actually came about, billions of years after the formation of our planet, which in turn came billions of years after the beginning of the universe as we know it... to put this a little more clearly for you... sit down in front of a nice old analog wall clock, and starting at midnight, watch the second hand sweep around... second after second... as it travels around the face of the clock 1,440 times over the next 24 hours... and just before midnight, 24 hours later, as the second hand ticks off that one final second... that single second, in relation to the previous 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, represents more time than cows as we know them, and ourselves, have existed in relation to the age of the universe as we know it.)
Please see my later post Visual timeline of evolution that has a link to a much better visual example then my clock metaphor. (Evolutionary Timeline)
I think it's pretty safe to say that fundamentalist Christians are broken in the head... but let's not let our fear of their delusional rantings prevent us from addressing what could be shocking findings about fossilization and such. Keep our eyes on the truth for the sake of the truth, the whole truth, wherever it may lead us.

Good science, stupid interpretation.

Eighth Medical Organization Acknowledges Abortion Breast Cancer Link

I think I can sum this up fairly succinctly with my subsequent comments in #phreadom:

<phreadom> I do agree with their whining about abortion having a link to breast cancer risk. the medical evidence sounds compelling enough.
<phreadom> I still don't think that gives them any right whatsoever to legislate their own morality onto what other people can do with their bodies.
<phreadom> no different than making it illegal to smoke. "there's a cancer risk, therefor we're going to make it illegal to prevent you from hurting yourself."
<phreadom> and alcohol... *cough*prohibition*cough*
<phreadom> wouldn't want to hurt your kidneys and liver and put yourself at risk for cancer, as moderate alcohol consumption releases chemicals in your body which promote vascular growth that can lead to accelerated tumor growth etc.
<phreadom> or how about tanning... that can lead to skin cancer. you're no longer allowed to go out in the sun. we're going to ban being outdoors.

I have no problem with addressing sound science... and it would seem childishly simple to understand that when you get pregnant, your breasts start to grow new lobules in preparation for milk production... and that early in the pregnancy, these lobules are a type that are cancer prone... and that later in the pregnancy, they mature into cancer-resistant types... and that by terminating the pregnancy early, you are left with more cancer-prone types. Simple enough, right?

Ok... and how does this justify you legislating your personal moral beliefs onto another woman and controlling what she can and can't do with her own body?

That's what I thought. Grasping at straws.

It reminds me of some other articles and books I was reading that cover the idea of how Christians are so quick to hold medical science up high when it very occasionally seems to back up their own beliefs... but spend the vast majority of their time vilifying scientific progress because it threatens their ignorant delusion based belief system. It's rather pathetic actually.

I actually had a discussion about this with my mother once... I asked her why if she didn't trust doctors and scientists to have an intelligent opinion about evolution and the human body, human sexuality and such... then why did she trust them with her health care? I tried to get her to acknowledge the dichotomy between her faith in medical science in relation to religious aspects, and to real life.

Like talking to a brick wall. (which as I've said before, is actually more productive than talking to Christians a lot of the time...)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Comments on a Waco documentary.

<largo> interesting to watch a special on the "Waco tragedy".
<largo> to listen to the wording they use... calling Koresh "insane" and "a psychopath" and referring to his group as a "non-traditional religious group" etc.
<largo> so... having religious views that don't agree with yours makes him insane and a psychopath... and being "traditional", makes your religion real and ok?
<largo> *sigh*
<largo> and they compare the Freemen standoff to Waco and praise the fact that nobody was killed... however, while both groups disliked the government, this grievance was, as far as I know, for different reasons... and I wasn't aware that the Freemen were religious.
<largo> so you have a group of political dissidents trying to stand up for libertarian ideals versus a group of apocalyptic religious fundamentalists....
<largo> I can see a difference where, while both groups might perceive government persecution, only one of the groups believes in supernatural forces and the imminent end of the world according to biblical prophecy.

Those were my comments in #phreadom just after finishing "The Final Report - Waco Tragedy".

Odd also to consider the definition of tradition, and to somehow believe that "time honored" makes something infallibly correct. Or that something non-traditional is somehow bad or wrong, just because it's new. Where would the past 2,000 years of scientific advance be? Would we still be believing the Sun revolved around the Earth? That the Earth was flat? Human and animal sacrifice? How about Zeus and Apollo? Or even for that matter, Christianity, which broke ranks with the time honored traditions of Judaism... or Islam, which subsequently broke ranks with Judaism and Christianity? The list goes on... basing the validity of something solely on it's value as tradition is simply preposterous. And to imply that something non-traditional is inherently bad as a result of nothing more than it being non-traditional is just as preposterous.

I also wanted to quote a few lines from "The End of Faith" that I found rather eloquent:
Ignorance is the true coinage of this realm -- "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29) -- and every child is instructed that it is, at the very least, an option, if not a sacred duty, to disregard the facts of this world out of deference to the God who lurks in his mother's and father's imaginations.
And at the end of a section on causality...
As long as a person maintains that his beliefs represent an actual state of the world (visible or invisible; spiritual or mundane), he must believe that his beliefs are a consequence of the way the world is. This, by definition, leaves him vulnerable to new evidence. Indeed, if there were no conceivable change in the world that could get a person to question his religious beliefs, this would prove that his beliefs were not predicated upon his taking any state of the world into account. He could not claim, therefore, to be representing the world at all.
He also describes in great detail about how believing something to be true without any evidence, no matter how good it makes you feel, doesn't make it true. For instance, I could honestly believe that Nicole Kidman was deeply in love with me... and FEEL it... and have it make me feel wonderful and warm and fuzzy inside... but would any of that make it true? Of course not.

And I'll finish it up with this last quote that made me smile:
Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything -- anything -- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.
Oh, I also forgot to mention another point... it seems almost funny to me that taking the bible seriously is looked on as a bad thing, taking it moderately is a good thing, and not listening to it at all is, again, a bad thing. Religious people like to just pick and choose bits of the bible to believe in... and don't much care for the literalism... they actually don't like dealing with it much at all. They don't want to follow all the rules, they don't want to face the contradictions and moral dilemmas... they just want to feel warm and fuzzy... they want to believe that they have a daddy in the clouds that loves them and will let them come live in a castle in the clouds for eternity... in paradise with all their loved ones. And they will detach themselves from the reality of their religion as much as need be to fulfill that delusion to gain that comfort. So anyone that actually follows the letter of the law in the bible is labeled as insane... for following what they themselves swear is the absolute infallible word of God... and anyone who doesn't believe in the supernatural authority of the story in the bible is considered a heathen and inferior to themselves.

It's easy to see, and not even very difficult to understand... but it is almost impossible to get religious people to understand the dichotomy between reality and the compartmentalized delusion they subjects themselves to in order to maintain their belief.
Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.
I have a hard time believing that my father could sit down and seriously read this book, and think about what it says, without coming away from it with doubts about his religious beliefs. But unfortunately, I know from experience that the emotional discomfort that comes from that doubt will drive him straight back to his religion for reassurance to make the discomfort go away... the safety of the "known". I've covered the psychology behind this in the past... cognitive dissonance and the like.

Enough to think about for now. A little more studying and then I'm off to bed.

Oyasumi nasai.