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Beautiful Landscapes July 26, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Art.
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Over the past few years I have focused my energies on science education, and/or gaining knowledge from a skeptical perspective and generally have ignored the beauties of art. I have seen the error of my ways, and feel more well-rounded as a person because of this. Here is a beautiful picture by Marcin Sacha, to see more click here.

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     (These types of posts will be few and far between.)

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The Economist on “Fundamentalist Atheists” July 26, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Theism and Atheism.
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There is a new essay at, The Economist,  wherein Oxford’s Tim Garton Ash discusses the absurdity of comparing the “new atheists” (not that there is anything new about them) to religious fundamentalists.  Here is a section of the piece that hits the nail on the head:

First and most salient, as Oxford’s Tim Garton Ash writes, “there are no al-Darwinia brigades making bombs in secret laboratories in north Oxford.” Yes, sigh, many atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet are just as convinced that there is no God as Osama bin Laden is convinced that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger. On one hand you have faith that makes people fly planes into buildings, genitally mutilate young girls, murder abortion doctors (in church), stone adultresses, outlaw certain forms of consensual sex or even just make it impossible to buy beer on Sunday in some states. On the other hand there is the atheist “faith” that makes people write smug op-eds, put ads on buses (see photo), file frivolous lawsuits against nativity scenes on public property, and the like. Show me what harm in the world a prominent atheist intellectual has done. . .

Seriously, it is hard to imagine that there are adults out there who can genuinely make the comparison between the religious and atheists. Atheism is not a worldview, there are no bylaws, confessions, creeds, or any such standards that apply, it is simply the disbelief in the supernatural. Of course, generally most thinking atheists agree on many issues and many are secular humanists, but atheism is simple disbelief bottom line.

Thanks to Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution Is True for his post on this issue.

Here is an excerpt from AC Grayling’s article on the same subject, and is a must read (heres a snipet):

It is time to put to rest the mistakes and assumptions that lie behind a phrase used by some religious people when talking of those who are plain-spoken about their disbelief in any religious claims: the phrase “fundamentalist atheist”. What would a non-fundamentalist atheist be? Would he be someone who believed only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe – perhaps that there is only part of a god (a divine foot, say, or buttock)? Or that gods exist only some of the time – say, Wednesdays and Saturdays? (That would not be so strange: for many unthinking quasi-theists, a god exists only on Sundays.) Or might it be that a non-fundamentalist atheist is one who does not mind that other people hold profoundly false and primitive beliefs about the universe, on the basis of which they have spent centuries mass-murdering other people who do not hold exactly the same false and primitive beliefs as themselves – and still do?

 Can An Atheist be a Fundamentalist? by AC Grayling in The Guardian

 

 

The vestigial grasp of infants c/o Why Evolution Is True July 17, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Evolution.
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On Jerry Coyne’s blog, Why Evolution Is True (which is also the title of his wonderful book), there is a recent post on the vestigial grasp of infants that illuminates yet another beautiful aspect of evolution. This is a picture of my 4 month old son Ben, and his firm grasp of our Swiffer mop/broom contraption. He was actually swinging it around too! Click the picture for the blog post that will make this picture all the more interesting.

Ben showing off his primate ancestry

Ben showing off his primate ancestry

Long Life? Try Fewer Calories July 12, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Public Health.
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MonkeyEating

Ancient Shores On Mars July 5, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Mars.
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An ancient shore has been discovered on Mars, and the body of water has been compared to the size of the North American lake Champlain. (See pictures below)

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Lake Champlain (aeriel shot for perspective):

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The images of the ancient lake were taken by NASA’s Mars Reconaissance Orbiter. Researchers believe that the lake is around 3 billion years old, and this led them to conclude that this lake could have maintained it’s water 300 million years after Mars’ wet period was thought to be over. This is obviously the area to investigate traces of ancient life or bacterial life, but scientists say that is will be difficult to land a rover in such a precise area.

A Word From Our Founding Fathers July 4, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Politics and Religion.
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Here are a few of the American Founder’s views on religion: (Happy 4th!)

  1. “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787)
  2. “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.” Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason, 1794-1795.)
  3. The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind … to filch wealth and power to themselves.  [They], in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.
    Thomas Jefferson
  4. The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations.  The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious.  If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him.  They are always of two classes; fools and hypocrites.  To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.
    Thomas Jefferson
  5. …I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. George Washington, to United Baptists Churches of Virginia, May, 1789 from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover
  6.  Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religions. George Washington
  7. Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.
    Thomas Paine