Thursday, December 25, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer's hemisphere. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days.This simple result of orbital physics is marked by festivals celebrating rebirth in the religions of most cultures. The most pervasive and obscene for its displays of materialism is Christmas. Others holidays include: Amaterasu, Beiwe, Deygan and Midvinterblot.
So, while it is easy to get caught up in the hype of parties and shopping and desecrating nativity scenes, we should not forget the true reason for the season. That science has given us the ability to observe, predict and understand the changes in the seasons and that we can move beyond ritualistic appeasements to ill tempered divine figures so that they will cause the spring to come again.
Monday, December 15, 2008
“I found it very exciting, and I called up that fellow to tell him so,” said the Rev. Don MacKintosh, a Seventh Day Adventist televangelist in California who contacted Dr. Beckworth a few weeks ago after hearing word of his paper from another preacher. “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”Organized religion is ready and waiting to use the misfortune of others to their own ends. I guess I'd have to agree with Rev. MacKintosh. Greed and fear are religion's most effective tools.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
- life is meaningless without god to give us purpose.
- Darwin is wrong because evolution does not account for the origin of life.
There is nothing new to see here. We all know that life's purpose is what you choose for it to be. And the theory of evolution does not pretend to describe the origin of live. Not that the origin of life is a fruitless area of study. These standard talking points were accompanied by the usual anti-intellectual lies. As we learn more the theory of evolution is weakened. Louis Pasture proved that life cannot originate from non-life. These are either the result of willful ignorance or deliberate prevarication.
The thing that bothered me the most was a quote from George Wald. The only place I could find the quote online was from conservapedia. Which means authenticity is questionable.
When it comes to the origin of life, we have only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility...Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved one hundred years ago by Louis Pasteur, Spellanzani, Reddy and others. That leads us scientifically to only one possible conclusion -- that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God...I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution." - Scientific American, August, 1954.
Assuming this is even an accurate quote, and I have my doubts since Wald has been quote mined in other fora. There are even several permutations of the quote sourced to the same article in Scientific American in on the conservapedia page. That is enough to convince me that some one has messed with Wald's words. This could ultimately be resolved by looking up the article. But as I said in my last post, one man's opinion is inconsequential to the theory of evolution. It doesn't matter if he won the 1967 Nobel Prize for Medicine. But just to give Wald the benefit of the doubt, the article he wrote for Scientific American in 1954 also includes this passage:
In other words the common conception of what is impossible is different from what can be understood scientifically. Based on this quote it would seem that Wald is not arguing for life originating spontaneously despite the evidence, but that the fact that there is life means that it must have happened at least once.
When one has no means of estimating the probability beforehand, it must be determined by counting the fraction of successes in a large number of trials.
Our everyday concept of what is impossible, possible or certain derives from our experience: the number of trials that may be encompassed within the space of a human lifetime, or at most within recorded human history. In this colloquial, practical sense I concede the spontaneous origin of life to be "impossible." It is impossible as we judge events in the scale of human experience.
We shall see that this is not a very meaningful concession; For one thing, the time with which our problem is concerned is geological time, and the whole extent of human history is trivial in the balance.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
An Adventist co-worker and Walla Walla classmate, sent around a snarky email comment on a recent news article regarding the recent sequencing of the kangaroo genome. He is aware of my pro-science and pro-reality worldview, but copied me because he thought it would be hypocritical not to which I appreciate. I briefly replied, to question him on a few of the more egregious distortions. I was curious to see what he really thought and what was for the sake of humor. Turns out he has just watched a presentation by Shawn Boonstra called Out of Thin Air. I remember hearing about this when it came out as a satellite broadcast last fall. I remember wanting to avoid it then because I knew I'd get too riled up. I'd don't care for Boonstra's style and I was quite certain that the content would be hopelessly twisted if it even bothered to contain anything factual. Now my friend has kindly offered me the opportunity to borrow the video. I've accepted the offer because, I'd hope for similar open-mindedness should the opportunity arise to suggest some source of information to him. If not I at least have the high ground of looking at the opposite position, and knowing the dissenters will refuse to do so honestly.
From the little bit of a description I have of the program, it seems that one of the main points will be quotes from
early evolution scientists where they blatantly stated that the facts didn't support evolution, but the were choosing to not believe in God and thus had to come up with something else.I'm not sure who this is attributed to and am skeptical about the authenticity. Fortunately, the who and what is completely irrelevant. The alleged "early evolution scientists" are not prophets. The theory of evolution stands on its own merits based on hard evidence. Science has moved on and improved on the research of the "early evolution scientists." Finding a few quotes that make creationists feel good won't change reality.
Anyway, that is the preview. Look for a report coming in next week or two.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
He refers to Phil Zuckerman's research that shows the most godless societies are safest and most progressive. The difference is the community. In a mostly irreligious community atheists are not the denigrated minority. This could explain the results of the US study.
I don't mind people having their opinions, but the ignorance and arrogance is disturbing. I have to say that Lori has been very cool in attempting to have a rational discussion with this guy. She sent him a link to expelled exposed. To his credit he at least clicked the link. He even seemingly read as far as the first half of the first paragraph. At that point he seemed unable to deal with the term 'anti-science propaganda' and gave up.
This is someone form Lori's past, so I don't feel like getting directly involved in the discussion. It has been amazing to see Lori exposing the errors in his thinking though. She isn't putting up with any of his distortions. Sadly, this guy is a text book true believer, so I doubt rational discussion will last too long.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Again, we want to give a word of caution. Such data connot be considered unassailable or proof worthy. But at worst, such a fortuitous configuration in the sky at the assumed time of Christ's death cannot be considered less than incredibly amazing!In the end it boils down to more post hoc rationalization. He ignores heavenly bodies that were unknown before modern times, but is careful to point out the inaccuracy of modern secular astrology due to precession of the earth's poles which makes the dates of the horoscopes not align with their constellations.
In fact, his debunking of astrology begins by applying arguments that are well know to skeptics.
1. Thousands of people are born every day and have very different destinies.
2. Twins can be very different in personality.
3. Predictions made are very vague and deal with common occurrences.
However, he refuses to employ his true 'science' of biblical astro-chronology make predictions.
It will naturally be a temptation for the inordinately curious to consider if the future can be unveiled by a study of the heavens. For instance, should we search for confirmation of the time of Christ's return? I strongly recommend that no such theories be suggested or promoted. . . . God has never given us permission to rely on such methods.This is not science if it can't be used to make predictions.
The first half of the book deals with dating events of Jesus' ministry, his birth and his death. The second half deals with the more distant topics of dating the flood of Noah, the fall of man, creation, and then tries to justify the dating techniques with a known significant date - 22 Oct. 1844.
Here is a sample of the positions of various heavenly bodies on the evening of the great disappointment:
First of all we find the sun between the constellations, Libra, the Scales, and Virgo, the Virgin. Because of the timing of this configuration, the sun already resides it he area of the heavens known for centuries as being associated with the Day of Atonement and biblical seventh month.
There are several mansions and decans in the constellations of Libra and Virgo. However, the sun on this particular date is positioned at the foot of the woman. What is interesting is that the sun is at the very place indicated in the lunar mansions as 'Caphir, the atonement.'
My overall opinion is that is sounds a little forced.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The exhibit was really well done. There was information on how fossils are formed, how they are dated and how they are excavated and reconstructed. There was even enough hands-on touch-and-feel stuff to almost entertain the boy while I read every display. (Lori was super nice and kept him out of trouble so I could take my time.) The part I liked best (other than Lucy) was the progression of reconstructed skull casts showing all the known possible human ancestors. Another thing I enjoyed was the family trees comparing the state of knowledge in the early '70s when Lucy was discovered with what is known now. Huge progress has been made in our understanding of our evolutionary heritage.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
This week I've been reading The Torah of the Heavens by Steven E. Behrmann, or as I've always known him - Uncle Steve. Despite the family connection and common religious background, this book has exposed me to something I'd never been aware of before. Apparently the constellations in the night sky tell the story of God's plan of redemption and Jesus' death on the cross to save us from our sins. Also, this is scientifically proven fact. The starting point for this line of thought is Psalms 19.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;From here the reader is told that each constellation of the zodiac together with its individual stars and sub-constellations is a visual summary of the great controversy. This is not to be confused with astrology which is " evil …" Maybe that is why this was all new information to me. Adventism shies away from divination in any form. This 'gospel in the stars' is probably not mainstream because of the apparent similarity to astrology.
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
I did a little outside reading and this is what I came up with on Biblical Astronomy
"The mission of Biblical Astronomy is to study and research signs in the heavens that are relevant to Biblical prophecy and make the research available for others to study and consider. In the next few years, there are many rare celestial events which clearly portray the "Great Tribulation" written of in the Holy Scriptures. If the events written of in the prophecies concerning the end times from the Holy Scriptures, particularly "Jacob's Trouble", unfold at this time, remains to be seen. Though earthly events seem to be heading rapidly in that direction."
It seems to me to be a bizarre mixture of Judeo-Christian prophecy myths and astrology. The names of the starts and the constellations are considered to have actual meaning in and of themselves. For example Virgo is literally the virgin that will bring forth a child. Or if a star has a name that can be translated as 'branch' that is actually a astral representation of Jesus himself, by reference to biblical imagery. I'm not real sharp on astrology but this seems like a simple remapping of symbols to have an apocalyptic Christian meaning rather than the standard astrological meanings.
Then there are all of the post hoc explanations rationalizations. Remember, biblical astronomy asserts that a star's or constellation's name has important meaning. If that stars modern name fits the preconceived notion (such as branch = Jesus) the ancient truth has been preserved. However, if the modern name makes an analogy difficult, that means that "they have been blurred and greatly adulterated by the heathen of every culture over the centuries." There is conveniently no way to lose if people agree to play that game. Never mind that the constellations are completely arbitrary patterns and differ from culture to culture. There is no truth about the future of humanity that can be discerned by all this flailing to interpret the archaic pictures in the stars.
One closing point from a paragraph of the book:
In many cases the formations of the stars do not in any way look like the person, animal or object they represent. But the symbol was intended to relay a message, and this message should not be lost or compromised. Unfortunately, these pictures are usually very poorly expressed, and it greatly damages the glorious figuratism intended. The artwork available is either crude, or even immoral, and is drawn largely fro the fanciful realm of astrology. This, unfortunately, is all we have. Therefore we are doing the best we can in what is included in this book, but recognize that the illustartions are significantly inaccurate to the task. The best illustrations should be formed in one's own mind, and this is exactly how God probably intended it in the first place.
That's right. The arrangement stars themselves don't actually look like the symbols historically assigned to them. You have to use the traditional drawings to know what they are supposed to look like. And some of those might have boobies (oh noes !!11!!!1) in them so they won't be shown in this good Christian book. (remember Christians are scared of boobies, vaginae, and women in general) It is much better if you just imagine you can see what you are supposed to see.
From what I've learned about this 'Biblical Astronomy' I'm wishing I had Christopher Hitchens' gift of blistering insult. The whole affair is completely blind and brain-dead.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
the oldest, most complete, and best preserved adult fossil of any erect-walking human ancestor. The 1974 discovery of this famous 3.2 million-year-old hominid yielded a new species, Australopithecus afarensis, and continues to have a major impact on the scientific understanding of our human origins. Through additional artifacts spanning over 200,000 years visitors will also experience Ethiopia, Lucy's homeland. With eight locales on the World Heritage List, Ethiopia is rich in history and culture and it holds a unique position in the study of paleoanthropology.Lori said she is taking me to the exhibit for my birthday present. I could not be more excited. We decided not to go opening weekend, but I hope we'll get there soon. There was some controversy in the scientific community over exhibiting these fossils. Some people thought they were just too valuable to risk transporting them. I can understand that, but since they are here I glad I'll get to pay her a visit. A huge positive side to the exhibition is the amazing opportunity for science education. The Seattle PI has been running a series of articles, and there is a lecture series sponsored by the Science Center and KCTS/9, the local Public Broadcasting Station, are scheduled. This event promotes good science and displays the facts of human evolution. I'm hoping that by visiting the display I'll have a good conversation starter. Maybe evolution will be harder to deny when the evidence is in full view just down the street.
Cool it looks like my blog has been spammed by Answers in Genesis. (10/9/08)
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Since Tim clued me in about Ron Numbers, I've been keeping an eye out for mention of him. And here on the day for the Vice-Presidential debate, he has posted a nice article about Sarah Palin's creationism. As much as I enjoy some inflammatory blogs and heated discussion, I think Ron Numbers uses an approach that is much more practical in real life. If you are actually hoping to persuade someone to examine your position with an open mind, you probably need to leave off the mocking, and ranting. Even if it is entertaining.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I try to avoid political discussions here, but part of Lori's conversation with her client intersected with some religiously motivated events that have been lighting up the blogs the last few days. I like to write about things that have a personal connection and this was it.
Lori's client has family in a swing state. They are also Democratic voters. During the previous week in this swing state there was included with the daily newspaper a DVD of violent anti-Muslim propaganda. It also made the outrageous and now tiresomely common far right assertion that Barack Obama is a Muslim. The clients family was very upset and spent a great deal of time on the phone with the newspaper trying to find out who had paid for this documentary. Turns out it was sent out by something called the Clarion Fund. A group that supports McCain, but whose source of funding is still not clear.
But it gets better. It seems this vile little movie is allegedly spawning violent reaction against Muslims. Some Christians, filled with the love of Jesus, gassed the daycare of a mosque. I know this is painting with broad strokes, but this is what happens with religion that embraces ignorance. These people are terrified of anything that is different from their narrow view of the world.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I've fallen a little behind on my Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcasts. This morning I was listening to the Aug 26 episode with the Richard Saunders interview. This interview reminded me of something really important about being a skeptic. It is important to have the right attitude.
Skepticism is about a positive state of mind. It is about curiosity and open mindedness. It is about excitement and joy in the way the world works. I'd guess that most people don't see skeptics that way. I think that skeptics have a reputation for being fun wreckers. Boring, analytical, joyless and always contrary. I'm sure that some people that claim to be skeptics have earned this reputation. But my idea of skepticism is different. For me being skeptical means when you hear a claim that sounds fantastical, you obviously have doubts, but you don't stop there. You say, 'How cool would it be if that were true?' Then you ask for the data. You look at the evidence. Have your doubts, but don't have your mind made up. Be excited for the chance to learn something new and unexpected.
That said, I think one of the reasons that skeptics sometimes get a bad rap is that they often feel isolated and out-numbered. When you are the lone rational voice, it is important to be clear and unambiguous. People don't like to have their irrational beliefs questioned, so they label any well reasoned opposition as harsh. I'm not sure that reaction can be helped. So, be positive, curious, and open minded, but strongly defend the position that the evidence supports. That is being a skeptic.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Ron Numbers, who is a former Adventist and now a big name inThe interview is excellent, mostly focusing on creationism in the U.S. but mentioning this EG White book as well. I may have to add that book to my list.
history and philosophy of science at the University of Wisconsin at
Madison. He has written a book on EGW that got him kicked out of LLU
then more recently the major work on the history of creationism. Both really
good. I enjoyed them anyway. His EGW book was just re-issued, and I
found this interview referenced in the context of a shorter one he gave
I was reminded of the interview when PZ posted that Ron Numbers was speaking tonight.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As feeble as my understanding of how the government and politics work, I am desperately trying to educate myself, especially in the issues that directly influence and affect me and my family. There is one classic buzz-phrase that I have been acquainted with my whole life, and that is, "Separation between church and state". As a kid, this term was used to entice fear of the impending Sunday laws...a time when the government would tell us when we had to go to church and, essentially, if we didn't abide, we'd be hunted down and....
During the past year I have mostly shed the remaining charred skin of those beliefs and cleaned up my belief system. However, the phrase "Separation between church of state" still grabs my attention, but for a differently reason now. Instead of fearing that the "correct Sabbath", ( the Seventh Day Adventist belief of worshiping on Saturday, a distinct and core value and that sets them apart and makes them feel that they are Biblically "correct" and contain more "truth" than other religions ) was going to be the end of my time on earth, I now am interested in protecting myself from the conservative, fundamental Christian sect that wants to make their religious views and values into law.
Frightening, isn't it? I mean, if you tend to be sensitive to my attacks on fundamentalism, just step back and try to put yourself into a a free thinker, liberal, or non-religious persons' shoes. What if the government wanted to make animal sacrifice a required family practice? Or, circumcision of women imposed on all baby girls? Radical, yes, but taking away a young rape victim's right to end a pregnancy when she is incapable of caring for a child because someone believes that her act of an abortion is "sin" is also disturbing. In the case of government, choice is always best, no matter what YOU believe.
In the book Parenting Beyond Belief-- On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion, edited by Dale McGowan, Dr. Ed Buckner makes 4 very strong points as to the logic behind the Separation of Church and State.
1.) "Not all U.S. Citizens hold the same opinions on religion and on imporatant matters related to religion (like whether there is a God and, if so, what god's nature is; or, how or when or whether to worship God; or what God says to us about how to live). Everyone thinks her or she is right when it comes to relgion. But, not all citizens have the same beliefs on the important religious matters."
2.) "Human judgement is imprefect. For Cathlolics, the Popes is sometimes considered an exception with regard to officala matters of doctrine, but even Catholics, like all the rest of us, don't believe that human voters and human legeslators always know what God wants us to do. The Bible is quite clear on this point: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Mt 7:1) Most other books held sacred by followers of different religions also make this clear. The question is not whether God's judgement is perfect--only whether man's is. "
3.) " Relgious truth cannot be determined by votes or by force. In the United States, neither a majority of citizens nor the government acting on the majority's behalf can make relgious decisions for individuals. Anyone who might disagree with this idea should consider this question: If a nationwide vote were taken this fall, and 99 percent of U.S. voters disagreed with you on a religious matter, would that change your mind? If 99 percent of the citizens wanted this country to adopt Catholicism or Methodidsm or Islam or atheism (***though please note that atheism is NOT a relgion***) as the "Right" relgious point of view, would you accept ther decision? Woud that convince you? And it's not just the voting, it's the law itself, the power of government, in question here. One need only consider the poor guy in Afghanistan who was almost convicted and put to death in 2006 for the "crime" of chaning his religious beliefs. "
4.) " Freedom, especially religious liberty, is worth having and protecting."
To touch on a side issue, it is for these reasons that teaching Creationism, or excuse me, Intelligent Design, in public schools is kind of against our country's idea of keeping religion out of schools. Creation is not a science based theory. It is a folk myth taken from the modern religion of Christianity. If that makes you uncomfortable, it is probably because this is a religious issue, and a core religious believe to conservative Christians, making my point about it being a religious and not belonging in the classroom, especially the science classroom very strong.
When the elections roll around, though we are given so few options, and voting for someone requires a leap of faith in their character, please consider what makes us free, not what makes us more moral by someone else's standards. You can still have your morals and be free. But, taking away freedom is not a very moral thing to do.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I'm an electrical engineer not a scientist. So, while I'm not overly qualified to argue evolution and cosmology, I try to do some civic duty by cultivating an interest in green energy. What specifically interests me is solar power and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles. Naturally this article in the Seattle PI caught my attention. What I wasn't prepared for was the link to the Discovery Institute. (Seems I'm getting caught off guard a lot lately.) I'd never snooped around the DI site before. I thought I knew enough from their involvement in the Intelligent Design garbage. Now I'm worried that they are going to be putting some unscientific taint on conservationism. On the other hand they are based in Seattle, and there is the slightest chance that the Cascadia Center is legit. I'm skeptical, but I'll have to do some more looking around.
Monday, September 8, 2008
This is where the stories gets good.
My buddy comes back with a response that included "the religion of Darwinism" and "absolutely no evidence for creationism or Darwinism" and "after 150 years there are no transitional fossils." I was halfway through a can of Joose, so my social filters weren't at their normally restrictive levels and I laughed out loud. This may not have been an appropriate response, though I'm still not sure if he was sincere or playing for a laugh. It was a perfect example of Poe's Law. In a matter of seconds he hit the three main bullet points of the uninformed evolution deniers. I'm used to seeing these kinds of comments shredded on various online discussions, but I was totally unprepared to encounter them in person. Sadly, I'm thinking that he was sincere and parroting the talking points of creationism. I must admit that is much easier than having to question and support your beliefs.
I was ready to stage an intervention right there, but I was out numbered. The conversation moved on to strollers and hardwood flooring. I'm not sure exactly what to do next, but I can't let him off the hook that easily. Maybe I should send him a link to the child theory of development. At least next time this comes up (and I think I'll make sure it does) I won't be shocked into laughter.I think the best thing to do is to come to some sort of agreement with him. If he really is past being open to evidence, I won't try to discuss it with him. I'll have to move on to someone who has a hope of an open mind. Until then I'll keep hoping he is open to evidence.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
In my reading this week I came across a great website. Edger is a student initiative run through the Center for Inquiry.
Edger presents hard-hitting and reasoned news, views, and event promotion on issues pertaining to secularism, atheism, science, humanism, and the cosmos, and actively promotes and celebrates international freethought activism. Written in a youthful tone, but mature in content, Edger is sure to be a driving force in the new intellectual enlightenment"
I haven't completely explored the whole thing yet, but there is lots of commentary on current events, news items and opinion pieces. I especially like the Events all around the World sidebar, listing upcoming events and activities. This is a wonderful presentation of freethought, secularism and skepticism that really breaks out of the nerdy stereotype. I think this would be the first place I'd send some one looking for more information on a godless world view. It seems more accessible than some more strictly scientific based sites. I'm adding Edger to my list of favorites.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
This last weekend I attended my first non-Christian funeral. It was for a kid in his 20's that died in a tragic accident. I had never met him, but was an acquaintance of his mother. Even though I didn't know the person it was a horrible loss and it did affect me emotionally. I can be slightly emotional and being a parent has accentuated that. At another level though I was curious how non-religious people would conduct the ceremony.
The ceremony turned out to be not that exotic. There were lots of wiccans involved, so I had imagined more ritual and pageantry. One thing I did find very nice was all the time spent telling stories. Stories about how one life impacts and brings happiness to another. In that sense it was a celebration of the person that was gone. I thought there was a lot of emphasis on how the happy memories could help deal with the crushing loss felt by those who knew him. There was grief and laughter. It was sad and funny. It felt therapeutic.
For me this was a contract to a lot of Christian services that I've attended. True there are often segments of sharing and memories, and rarely totally drab and dreary affairs. However, there is a element of denial at Christian funeral. The hollow reassurances that 'this is not the end' and 'he's going to a better place'. This doesn't seem healthy in working through the process of grief. There is also something darker. An unspoken implications that you had better appease the sky daddy so that you too can go to that better place. Rather than celebrate the a life and a memory, you leave burdened with guilt, fearing death and more firmly in religion's grip. Just the way it was designed to work.
While I was working through my thoughts on the topic of death this beautiful essay on death and the soul was posted by Danio over at pharyngula. I remember the fear of death was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I was coming to terms with my atheism. I already knew I didn't believe in any gods, but I didn't like what that left me with. There is so much I want to learn to see to experience to express. Life seems too short. Eventually I reached a level of acceptance, expressed well in this quote by Mark Twain:
"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."
What's more, the idea of immortality may seem neat on the surface, but it doesn't hold up to further scrutiny. Eternity is a long time. It is appealing to think about having time to explore all your interests, but really eventually the boredom would drive you insane. What will you do after you've skied every mountain in the universe a billion times, or had sex with every other life form a couple or trillion times? What will you do after you've experienced every possible thing so many times that you'd rather die than do any of them again, but you can't because you have eternal life? Not so appealing when you think about it that way.
So, I've come to accept that life is short and we are lucky just to be alive considering all the possible people that never did live. I do not really fear my own death other than the possibility of suffering, but I do fear the death of those who are close to me. My family and friends. I don't want to lose them. Unfortunately that is a fact of life, but it sure is better than eternal hell.
Friday, August 8, 2008
So a few people have pointed out a news story to me. It looks like Focus on the Family wants to wreck Obama's speak at the Democratic National Convention. They are encouraging people to pray for rain since the event will be held outside. This got me to thinking about the power of prayer.
I've come to the conclusion that even the True Believers and Focus on the Family don't really think prayer is worth much. A little research tells me that afternoon rain showers an pretty normal for Denver in the summer. They are just playing the odds. The expected rain falls at some point during the day in question and they get to shout, "Look our prayers work, God hates Barak Obama."
And really, if prayer is so potent, couldn't they be focusing on the big picture a little better? What about genocide in Darfur? African drought and the resulting starvation? No, these petty and immoral nut jobs would rather have their jealous god piss on the democrats shoes.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
At first I thought I'd just breeze through it and then disregard it based on the reviews I'd already seen, but after further consideration I realized that wasn't a good skeptical approach. To reject the book before even considering it would be as dogmatic as any fundamentalist. So instead I read it carefully and took pages of notes for the purpose of writing a little book report.
First off Anthony Flew was a philosopher. I'm completely unqualified to read and understand philosophy, so I'm sure I missed some subtleties. On the other hand the book was written for a general audience so hopefully what I was able to understand most of what was going on.
The preface was written by Roy Varghese. In my opinion he overstates Flew's significance. Yes, he was an atheist philosopher for a long time and wrote lots of books. He wrote more books than Bertrand Russell. Not a strong argument to my mind. He then proceeds to quote mine Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and uses those distortions question the quality of the reasoning employed by the "new atheists". He wraps up with two familiar assertions: Einstein believed in God and atheism is a religion. Of course what Einstein believed about a god is irrelevant. He had no special ability or information to base his belief on. And atheism is a religion like baldness is a hair style.
The first three chapters of the book deal with Flew's career and antitheological writings. He chooses to highlight three problems for theists. 1) How is god to be identified 2) How positive terms can be applied to god and 3) The problem of evil. He also asserts that the burden of proof for a deity is on the one making the positive claim - that there is a god. The theists should be the ones supplying evidence of god. Not expecting everyone to believe until proven otherwise. This is all pretty reasonable. Then things start to get a little off track. He finishes the section with a several familiar arguments against a naturalistic universe. DNA is complex therefore god. Monkeys with typewriters trying to duplicate Shakespeare. These are a result of flawed methods or poor understanding of biology.
Overall I found the first section rather dull. Lots of book titles and philosophical name dropping. No real discussions or arguments to be found.
Chapters 4-10 contain the arguments for theistic belief. They are built around "three dimensions of nature that point to god". These dimensions are 1) nature obeys laws 2) life exists and 3) there is something rather than nothing.
Flew begins by noting that the universe appears to obey laws, and claims that this requires an author of those laws. Related is that the universe and the laws of nature seem fine tuned for the kind of life we see in the universe. This is unconvincing. The fine tuning argument is dealt with nicely in this quote by Douglas Adams.
. . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.From the 'fine tuning' issue Flew moves to abiogenisis. This is where the god of the gaps is in full force. His claim is that since science as yet has not developed a good theory for the origin of life, it must have been god that started it all. There is no evidence for this position and science is not static. It is impossible to predict the future of science, but odds are on science to fill the gap and force theist to find another gap for god to fill.
Finally we get to the question of why there is something rather than nothing. The discussion here is essentially personal incredulity. The origin of the universe may always be a mystery. There are ideas like quantum vacuums and zero net energy. But those don't don't seem like satisfactory explanations to Flew. He doesn't find it compelling or he doesn't understand it. This doesn't make it wrong. Since this is a place where science hasn't come to definite conclusions, Flew says that makes it a philosophical problem rather than a scientific one. I think that is a bunch of garbage. Philosophers can sit around all day and wonder about hard questions, but they won't gather any data to answer those questions without doing science.
From here the rest of the book is lots of philosophical talk that sort of didn't mean anything to me.
Overall there was nothing new in this book that I hadn't seen before. A few weak god of the gaps arguments, and a bit philosophical hand waving. Not the kind of thing you'd hope for in a book that is supposed to make a convincing stand for the existence of god. What would be convincing for me might be some physical evidence or hypothesized mechanisms for how a god could answer the questions posed in the book.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The difficulty I've had getting a routine gym schedule going this summer makes me wonder how I managed to put in the time before my show. I'm sure part of it was the motivation of having a goal I was working toward. I've definitely felt a drop off in desire and intensity now that I don't have anything concrete I'm trying to achieve.
I've also not felt the urge to try another show lately. That means another show this fall is not in the cards. I'm sort of thinking that trying to diet twice in the same year isn't the healthiest choice either. I've put on about 28 lbs over the last three months, so I'm weighing in just a hair under 170 these days. I don't know if any of that is quality muscle mass or if I'm just packing on the body fat with the summer ice cream I'm eating.
I'm starting to open my mind to other fitness pursuits, though I won't ever give up on the weight lifting. Seeing Lori do her triathlon was very inspiring as was the whole atmosphere of the event. I could see myself trying that once, but I'm still terrified of the swimming. I'm not the leanest guy around but I don't really float without a wet suit on. I guess we'll see where I end up. For now I'm enjoying shorter workouts and I'm playing around with my training splits. I've split my leg training up so I lift legs twice a week. The idea is that big muscles stimulate the release of more HGH than small muscles. Theoretically the whole physique an benefit from the extra leg work. That might not work for me. My legs are pretty small.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I some times feel like the only thing this blog is good for is condensing pharygula down to the parts that are most interesting or entertaining to me. However, I do actually have a life of my own. I even managed to find out that Lucy was coming to the Pacific Science Center before PZ posted it . I just happened to be at the PacSci last weekend, and saw the posters advertising the Lucy exhibit. So, I do do thing other than read blogs.
However, the last few days on pharyngula there has been some stuff too good not to shamelessly steal. I just can't pass up reposting the ongoing uproar over the communion crackers. Some one walked off with a wafer from a mass in Florida. And then PZ's post about it got some people very upset. I must say I'm very entertained by it all.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Well, this last Friday (June 27) we were home and tuned in to see if there was some feel good fluff to watch and instead we find "The Law of Attraction: Real Life Stories".
From the Oprah web site:
Acclaimed author Louise Hay is considered the mother of positive thinking. She is back to continue the conversation about the law of attraction, which is the basis of The Secret. "The law of attraction is that our thinking creates and brings to us whatever we think about," she says. "It's as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us."
I'm all for having a positive outlook. If you do, you might even be a little more daring try some new things and improve your life or at least enjoy it more. But this garbage about the universe listening and responding? I'm surprised they didn't try to use quantum mechanics to "prove" the "theory".
And of course if it doesn't work for you they have the ever present Cover-Your-Ass Clause.
So why is it that some people still don't get what they want? Cheryl Richardson, life coach and author, explains that negative energy could be the cause. "I think sometimes it can be exactly what Martha said—that we're asking from a place of desperation," she says. "When you put desperate energy out into the world, you don't get back what it is you want."
Oh, and don't forget the universe gets to decide the right time too
Cheryl says the items on your list may not come to you right away. "I know that there's something called divine timing," she says. "Some of the most amazing things that have occurred to me in my life took longer to occur than I wanted because I needed to grow as a woman. I needed to evolve in some way."I suppose Oprah does try to do some good things. There is even a chance that she means well. On the other had, she may just care about ratings. This latest episode has just strengthened my belief that she is a menace to society for giving wide spread and uncritical coverage to woo-woo stuff like this.
Still this I found entertaining. Looks like Washington State republicans are trying to shed the stink of the neocons and theocons by not admitting to being republican on the state ballot.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
My first post-TAM weekend is approaching, and I'll be getting a chance to hang-out with some of my local friends. I found before leaving for TAM that several had basically no knowledge of what a skeptic is or that there was a skeptics movement. I'm thinking I'll use this blog post to organize some of my thoughts in anticipation of some questions about TAM and skepticism. If any one has suggestions, leave me a comment.
I guess I've already written about TAM, so I'll start on the skepticism. Basically skepticism is about encouraging good science and promoting clear, rational and critical thought. It is about finding the truth based on evidence. Skeptics provide a community service by exposing hoaxes, scams, and purveyors of snake oil. There are plenty of scammers that make money by preying on the uninformed. There are frauds like Uri Geller and Sylvia Brown that exploit loop holes in human brain function to convince people they have supernatural powers.
Then there are things like homeopaths and psychic healers that harm the credulous by telling them they can cure diseases by doing what amounts to absolutely nothing and discouraging the application of science based medicine. The skeptics mission is to resist the dangerous influences of these scammers and fraud. Some skeptics like James Randi expose the liars directly (like outing Peter Popoff on the Johnny Carson show). Others exercise skepticism by educating about science, logic and rational thought.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I'll admit that leading up the the conference I wondered if two days of lectures were really going to be worth the time and the money I was spending to be there. Then, on Thursday morning on our way up Herb and I passed Jay and Steve Novella from the Skeptics Guide to the Universe in the mens room. I got all giddy and star struck and I knew I was going to have a blast.
Herb and I had bought books by most of the speakers, and our goal was to get autographs and as many photographs as possible. All the celebrity scientist and entertainers (Penn & Teller, Adam Savage, Neil deGrasse Tyson, PZ Myers and of course the host The Amazing James Randi) were so accessible and willing to interact with the fans is was great. Herb and I were even in the right place at the right time for Randi to include us in a mentalism demonstration which was very cool. He didn't clue us in on the trick though.
The next day the lectures started and I was just blown away. I took two notepads full of notes so I might discuss some of the content later. All I can say is that they were all excellent, entertaining, educational, funny. Richard Wiseman showed us the talked about is quirkology videos and had Teller come up and teach the 900 member audience how to do spoon bending. We did a mass spoon bending demonstration that should end up on YouTube sometime.
It was a great time. Now I better go before blogger eats my post.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
My cousin who is an MD, visited us for dinner last night. We were having an interesting conversation about vaccination and the pseudo-science of the anti-vacctionationists. Lori mentioned the case fo Hannah Poling which my cousin was not familiar with. As a happy coincidence, when I pulled up Neurologica this morning I saw Dr. Novella's post about a new review in the NEJM . It gives a nice history of the US government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The VICP was created by the government to protect companies that produce vaccines from lawsuits. As a result of several lawsuits in the 1970's and 1980's fewer companies were production vital vaccines. The government as a public health issue is clearly interested in having everyone get vaccinated to promote herd immunity . It is also true that vaccines have a certain small percentage of bad out comes. The VICP therefore was intended to provide compensation to those legitimately injured by vaccines. According to the NEJM article, it seems like the justification for some recent payout (including Hannah Poling's) were shaky.
Furthermore, the Hannah Polling case was sensationalized by the media as supporting the bogus link between vaccines and autism. Hannah Poling suffers from encephalopathy that was caused by a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. The result was some cognitive deficits similar to autism. An important point to remember is that autism is a clinical diagnosis. You can't just get a blood test for autism. It is therefore possible to twist the facts in the Poling case because the symptoms resemble those of autism even though they have a completely independent mechanism.
On a related note a good take down of Jim Carrey, Jenny Mcarthy and their so called "Green Vaccine" movement.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
On a related note I just finished Sean B. Carrol's "Endless Forms Most Beautiful"(review). I've been working on improving my understanding of biology/genetics. I thought it was an excellent and informative read.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Monday, May 5, 2008
Now a week removed from the event I'm somewhat uncertain about how I want to proceed. On one hand I have a NPC card that is paid for and good until the end of 2008. Which makes the Nov. 8 show in Olympia tempting. On the other hand is the fact that I was too tall for lightweight and I weighed 141, which is bantam weight, and I still needed to be leaner. I'd look like a beanpole next to a real bantam weight. Which makes taking a year or two off from competition to see if I can add some mass to my back and legs, seem tempting. I think I will get out the measuring tape and get some baseline measurements after vacation. Then come the end of Aug. I'll see if I've made any gains. Then I'll make the call on another show for this year.
Even though I didn't do as well as I'd hoped and I didn't look as good as I could have, I don't regret the experience. This quote popped up on my Google page today and I thought it applied.
The follies which a man regrets most, in his life, are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity.
- Helen Rowland
Monday, April 28, 2008
I have been eating completely with complete lack of restraint for the first time since Xmas, and it has been wonderful. I started with Thai food right after pre-judge. Finished the evening after the night show with Pizza Hut. Then pancakes for breakfast and party food with a beer in the afternoon. The only things I'm haven't indulged in are Mexican food and ice cream.
I know some people were worried that I'd have GI tract difficulties once I started eating regular food again. I was never worried based on talking to other competitors. And true to my instincts I've had nothing but joy in my reckless eating. Jalapeño poppers, BBQ, pizza no problems. The only problem is the fear that I won't be able to stop the binge. I've told myself that I won't worry about my diet much for the next 3 weeks until I'm back from vacation (cruise link), but I don't want to have gained back 30 lbs. either. I'm hoping to stay within 25 lbs of bantam weight until I figure out my future plan. So unless I'm packing on the muscle I need to be in the 170 lb. ball park. I know I've put on at least 15 lbs. since Saturday morning, but I hope the next few come a little slower.One horribly depressing side effect of eating again. . . My abs are gone already. I'm crushed. I was hoping they'd be around for at least a week or two. Hard to take.
Well, it is over. I made it through my first bodybuilding competition. I say 'my first' because I'm certain I will do it again. I'll probably have several posts about the experience as I have time to think and reflect on the whole thing.
First thing I guess would be the facts. I placed 6th in a class of six, also known as last. Hey, somebody had to be at the end. I comfort myself with the knowledge that the judges said it was a tight class outside of the top 2 spots, even though I got straight sixes on my score card. I weighed in at 141 lbs. Making me the tallest and the lightest guy in my class. I asked one judge, Gordon Myco, for some details after pre-judging. He said he could tell I was a first timer, and that I could stand to gain some muscle (my legs are small for sure), work on my posing, and most importantly I need to be leaner.
On the bright side, I got some encouragement from Brad. He said that I'd do well in a show that had a bantam-weigh class. He almost had be convinced to do the Bend OR show this weekend. I also learned a lot. I didn't get enough color on in for the pre-judge, so I was the palest guy up there. I also learned how much weight I can really loose. I lost over 40 lbs. on the diet and water drop. If I'd believed that I could loose that much weight a few months ago, I would have entered an event that had a bantam weight class to start with.
I think I've learned about some of what I did wrong as well. I was stupidly concerned about loosing too much weight. Once I was down to the 154 lb light-weight mark I started tapering off on the cardio work even though I was not lean enough yet. I knew deep down that I still was holding some fat, but I thought that maybe the water drop would bring out enough definition. When I dropped my water I didn't notice much changed at all because of the extra 2% body fat that I should have burned off on the treadmill the last two weeks.
That is why I know I need to do another show. Knowing I didn't do everything I could have done will bug me until I do. I can get into better shape now that I know a little more about what to expect. I can get some help and learn to display myself better. And hopefully I can add some size. Even a little would help. I really need thicker legs and a wider back. I'm under no delusions about my genetic potential. I'm trying to make my body do things that are against its natural inclinations, but I guess that is part of the fun.
I get asked a lot why I would want to be a bodybuilder. Why would I put myself through this. The main thing is I like lifting weights, but after all the years I'd been in they gym I needed a goal for some extra motivation. When I started out I never thought I could be a bodybuilder. I've always been skinny. But I managed to bulk up a little over the years and met a few competitors at the gym and got excited by the idea. I enjoy the challenge of making my body respond and grow beyond its natural inclinations. I like exerting the self control to stick to the diet and the cardio (both of which I hate). I love seeing the results. It is satisfying to know I'm in control of what is going on. I may not have many genetic advantages in this sport, but to me the sport is about what I can make myself do, how I can shape my own body. It doesn't bother me that I might be sharing the stage with guys on steroids and growth hormones. It might mean I'll never get a first place trophy. That doesn't matter. I don't need to compare myself to those guys, I compare myself to where I was before. I've made personal progress. I've learned things. I've experienced things. I've accomplished something that is hard to do. That is why I'm a bodybuilder.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I'm doing well with my water drop. The day is almost over and I've only had about 20 oz. I did eat broccoli and cucumbers which upped that a little. Tomorrow is 20 oz. maximum.
I'm excited about tomorrow though. I get to eat rice cakes and and jam and sweet potatoes and yam. I weighed in at 150 lbs. this morning so I get to carb up. I'm sick of chicken and broccoli 7 times a day. I know the rice cakes are not that exciting, but it is a change. About 36 hours until I can eat a real meal!
Monday, April 21, 2008
My weight to day was closer to 152 lbs. I may get to eat some carbs after all. I'm getting really excited for the show. The week can't go fast enough. My enthusiasm was tempered a bit when I remembered that lots of guys from the Emerald Cup will be coming over for the Empire Classic since it is only a week difference. Could be stiffer competition than I was hoping for. I guess we'll see who shows up.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Yesterday morning I went to the Emerald Cup, to see Brad my friend/mentor compete. The Emerald Cup is the biggest show in the region and there were lots of quality competitors. Brad has usually owned his weight class at the there, but there were two other guys who were in amazing shape. I haven't heard how he did yet. The expo was great too. I came away with a bag full of free samples. That alone was worth the price of admission.
Seeing a real show again was definitely inspiring. I'm very excited for my own competition now. I managed to pick up a few tips on the posing and get some advice on my last few days of dieting. I came home and worked on a few things with my posing before bed. I felt really good about it for once. I'm usually discouraged after posing. The key may be the lighting. I posed in a different room with less intense direct light from in front.
I'm a little concerned about my weight again. I'm stuck at 153.5 lbs. I'll make my weight class, but I need to drop a little lower if I'm going to carb up. I think the water drop will take care of that. I had some carbs yesterday too, and didn't do cardio so dropping the carbs and some more cardio sessions should get me back on track.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I've dropped a little more weight. Now I'm at 155 lbs. It is looking like I'll drop out of the 150s. Something needs to happen. I'm not really happy with how I look in this weeks pictures. I hope I look better on stage. Any way here they are. I'm off to do some posing research. I'm really liking some routines by Milos Sarcev. And since I can't seem to get the hang of a 3/4 back pose I need some new ideas.
I wanted to add a few more lines to this post now that I have a little more time. I spent the last week laying in my stockpile of distilled water for the flushing phase of the diet. I think I'll be switching over from tap water on Saturday afternoon. The idea is no minerals means nothing to encourage the body to hold the water. I have been drinking between 2 and 3 gallons of water a day. Hopefully when I stop suddenly, the I'll keep excreting the water at a high rate. I've also started supplementing with the dandelion root extract to encourage my body to shed water.
I'm not sure if I'm not sleeping well, fighting a cold or just feeling the lack of carbs in my diet, but I have been dragging so far this week. I carbed up on Sunday for my leg workout (which went well), but since then not much energy in the afternoons. I get through my workouts with some peanut butter, but posing practice afterwards is hard. No excuses though. I'll keep working on the routine.
Looking ahead, I need to figure out when to apply my ProTan, and a few other last minute hygiene things. Not much back hair to worry about, but I'll need help to make sure that is all in order. Then, drop my carbs, drop my water and hit the stage.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
My parents and elementary school did a pretty good job of giving me chances to visit zoos, aquariums, and museum despite the fact that we lived pretty far away. I hope Lori and I can do even better for Jamie, since we are located in an area with lots of opportunities. Part of my personal philosophy on parenting, is to do my best to raise a well rounded and educated kid. I think frequent positive experiences with our educational/scientific resources is the best way to produce a love of learning and critical thinking. At this point all Jamie can do is point and squeak at the fish in the tank, but soon he will have questions to be answered. I can't imagine a more fulfilling feeling than seeing him curious about animal at the zoo or an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center; wanting to know more than I or the plaque on the cage can tell him and following up with a trip to the library for more research.
I don't know yet if Jamie will be that kind of kid, but he has the potential. I intend to do my best to encourage that curiosity in him. We'll be back to the zoo before long I'm sure, and to the Seattle Aquarium when the weather get wet again. After he is a little older there is the children's museum, the science center, the EMP and the Museum of Flight maybe we'll get to Sea World some day too. Sounds like fun to me.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Dropped a few pounds again over the last week. I'm in the 157 range now and have been for a few days so it should be legit. I need to start getting the water out though. In the next few days I'll be switching to distilled water for drinking and I had the last of my multi-vitamins this weekend. I should be cutting the lunch time carbs by the weekend as well.
An item of interest: my wedding ring doesn't fit well any more. It fell off in the shower this afternoon. Didn't think I had fat fingers before.
Also got a few words of support from the owner of my gym. That was nice. He also said I can expect to grow like crazy once I start eating extra calories again. He thinks the first contest diet is as good as steroids for gaining some mass. I'm excited by that idea.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I really must be obsessing about this bodybuilding stuff. I'm sure it is normal for a first timer to spend a lot of time thinking and planning and researching, but now I'm dreaming it too. Last night I dreamed that I was in a show and I was supposed to do an individual posing routine (something that has been on my mind a lot this week). The problem was I thought we were doing mandatory poses so I just stood there waiting for someone to tell me what to do next. Also, I'd forgotten my posing suit and was wearing some spare underwear instead. Interestingly, I got second place because another guy just walked off before the end.
I know I say this every time I post, but I need to spend more time with my posing practice. Maybe then it will be automatic and I won't be wasting dream time on it.
Monday, March 31, 2008
On Friday I finally got down to doing some number crunching on the diet. I probably should have done that weeks ago. Any way now is the time where I need to keep close watch on my carb intake so I started counting. The good news is my intuitive seat-of-the-pants method had me eating about 150 grams of total carbohydrates a day based on the numbers from nutritiondata.com. Which seems to be a wonderful resource for calorie counting and such. The bad news is that might be a little low for everyday at this stage. I'm going to be doubling my carbs a few times a week (like on legs day) to keep the metabolism running fast.
I weighed in at a comfortable 160 lbs. today. I'm no longer worried about making the 154 lb. light weight class. Now I just have to worry about being in good shape. I still have a little squishy around the waste. I am stressed about the individual posing routine. I don't know why that has popped up all of a sudden. It isn't likely to influence my scores, but it does involve being a little bit creative. That part always gets me concerned. I need to spend more time on my posing overall. I'm sure that will help the anxiety. Oh yes, I've also managed to narrow my choices of music to 2 selections which I have edited to 60 seconds and burned 2 copies of. That part of the planning is finished at least.
With that here are the 4 week photos that turned out.