Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Surprise, More Religious Hate

There was a plane crash over the weekend in Montana. A tragedy where 14 people died. A number of them were Seventh-Day Adventist, which brings the events somewhat close to home for me, but isn't really motivation to blog about it. What is somewhat interesting is the ridiculous about of religious hate and self-superiority that has come in the aftermath. Some smug, self-righteous, sad excuse for a human in Hanford, CA (also a location that hits close to home) is reveling is the horrible loss suffered by one family in particular. Irving M. "Bud" Feldkamp III an Adventist Dentist and businessman lost 7 children and grandchildren in the crash. The trigger for the hatred was that Dr. Feldkamp may be the owner of a chain of abortion clinics. His ownership is alleged by those rejoicing in his misfortune, but I couldn't confirm his exact involvement by what I considered to be a reputable source.

This is one flavor of Christianity raging against another somewhat different flavor. Add this episode to your file, for when someone makes claims for religion's benefit to society.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TAM 6 Review: Dr. Novella - Dualism and Creationism

I've been meaning to do some TAM 6 blogs basically since last summer, and just never got inspired. But last night I wasn't sleeping or I was dreaming about TAM 7 in July so I guess I'm inspired now. Being the good little nerd that I am I took some pretty good notes during the talks last year, so I flipped through them and thought I'd recap Dr. Steve Novella's talk.

Dr. Novella is a neurologist and has spent a lot of time on his blog dealing with dualism. Dualism is a philosophy of the mind, that asserts that some properties of consciousness are not due to physical phenomena. This is known as Cartesian Dualism. Naturalistic Dualism holds that it is the brain that causes conscientiousness, but we don't know how.

Neuroscience supports the position that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.
  • there is no mind with no brain.
  • brain development correlates with mental development
  • if you damage the brain you damage the mind
  • different states of consciousness correlate with different brain states
  • able to provoke specific mental effects by stimulating the brain (MEG)
So far the material model of consciousness is working fairly well as a description of the mind. Dualism is basically a 'god of the gaps' type argument. It is invoked to explain uncertainties in scientific understanding of the brain and mind. The purpose of dualism like creationism is to provide ideological cover for a belief system not to advance human knowledge.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Just for Fun

If you are one of those people that is immune to detecting sarcasm, you
probably shouldn't follow this link to 50 Reason I Reject Evolution.
(yes, I stole this from pharyngula)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Last spring I was chatting with my buddy, Herb, who lives in Las Vegas. I hadn't seen him in awhile and wanted to visit. I also mentioned that I'd like to make it to a TAM someday. I was thinking it was just a wild idea, but Herb is better at pulling the trigger on those sorts of things than I am. I'm glad because attending TAM 6 turned out to be one of the coolest things I've done in awhile.

Now I'm looking forward to and making plans for this years TAM 7. This year's meeting will be July 9-12 at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. There is going to be a good mix of returning and new speakers. Dr. Phil Plait, Lt. Col Hal Bidlack, Adam Savage, Dr. Michael Shermer and Dr. Steve Novella are returning presenters and I couldn't be more excited to see them again. The keynote speaker this year is Bill Prady, creator of the TV show The Big Bang Theory. This should be good though it will be incredibly difficult to equal Dr. Tyson's talk from last year. Overall it looks like a great mix of scientist, educators, journalist and entertainers.

This year I'm looking forward to knowing a few more people there, being a shameless fanboi getting books autographed and maybe getting in on some more of the afterhours programs like the Penn & Teller show.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Everyone Should Read the Bible

For awhile now David Plotz has been writing a series for Slate called Blogging the Bible. From time to time I'd check in on it because I enjoyed his revulsion at some new atrocity that he had discovered. I also really like the honest searching that he, as a non-religious Jew, was doing into his heritage. I respected his hope for something noble to be found in the powerful cultural force that is the Bible.

Now that he has completed the project, he is releasing a book about it. Could be interesting. In the Slate article about the book, Plotz also makes a good argument for everyone reading the Bible. The Bible has had a profound and far reaching influence on western culture. It is
pervasive. We get everything form figures of speech "the writing on the wall" to a deep seated fear and loathing of homosexuality from the Bible. For those who are Biblically illiterate (this includes a huge number of nominal Christian) it could be enlightening to discover where these cultural features are derived from. If everyone was familiar with the details of the Bible it may even help to clear up the misguided notion that it is all beautiful, noble, lofty and ultimately moral.

This is one of the reasons that I don't resent my religious education. I'm no great bible reader, but I rarely come across something that I had no idea was in there. Because I spent so much time in church school I know the facts of the Bible better than lots of people who believe but have only a passing familiarity with what they say they base their beliefs on.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seventh-Day Darwinists

I found an entertaining blog post this morning. By entertaining I mean it consists entirely of the familiar rejection of science that I was raised around. Science is great as long as it isn't evolution. There are so many things that can only be true in the religious fantasy land that I won't bother to comment on them but I did find this interesting:

We see a significant number of professed Adventists denying Bible truth so foundational that nearly all Christendom agrees upon it.

Things like a literal six-day creation (seven if you count the Sabbath) or the literal worldwide flood of Noah's day.
I don't think that the majority of Christians these days are obsessed with a literal 6 day creation and world wide flood, and that is even for those who don't consider catholics Christian. This is a good sign that some realism is penetrating religion.

I did agree with the main point of the article however. I also think that Adventism and evolution are incompatible. I also agree wholeheartedly with his admonition to
Keep seeking with a fervent and honest heart
What I reject is the condition he put up on honest seeking for truth.
As long as you stick to the Bible (and Ellen White's books and articles) you will not go wrong.
I suppose if you already know the answer you want to get it is okay to limit the data you are willing to consider, but there is absolutely no way you can call that honest seeking. I thought I'd try to be unemotional about this post, but this pisses me off.