Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Gettysburg Address

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." - Abraham Lincoln 11/19/1863

This is perhaps the greatest speech ever written and even though it was spoken about the civil war, many lines still ring true today as we remember all the men and women who gave their lives defending the freedoms we hold so dear in this great country of ours. I am forever indebted to their sacrifices because I know how powerful these liberties are. There are many countries today where having a blog like this one would mean a death sentence. Apostasy, being a non-theist or atheist or agnostic, questioning the foundational beliefs of theistic religions, and general heresy and blasphemy can be grounds for severe punishment and torture or death. I am truly grateful for the freedom to speak my mind and the freedom to not practice any religion and the freedom to not be harassed for holding these positions. My true wish is that some day the whole world will have these types of freedoms. Where no one would be afraid of persecution for what they believe or think or say. That being able to question church dogmas would not carry with it a death sentence. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are inalienable rights of all humans. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Please take some time today to reflect on what Memorial Day means for you as you visit family and enjoy barbecues, and be to sure thank your service members every time you see one. They are the true heroes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

But If We Evolved From Monkeys, Why Are There Still Monkeys?

A Lesson of Genealogy: Looks Can Be Deceiving

Scientists Find Route Across Key Brain Barrier

Electron Acts Like a Perfect Sphere

It's really amazing how each little step of scientific discovery or breakthrough advances our foundation of knowledge about the universe. You apply these little steps to the history of mankind and realize just how far we've come in spite of massive resistance and persecution along the way from religious zealots and war and conflict. We're still just ankle-deep in the ocean of knowledge of the cosmos but our depth of understanding has far surpassed that which can be understood from any "holy" book. It is our duty as humans to continue to advance the frontiers of knowledge at all costs. This is what drives economies, this is what makes the human experience that much more rich, this is what will ultimately be the eventual downfall of organized religions in the long run. Sane, sound, scientific, factual explanations for who we are, how we got here and the limits of where we can go... our place in the cosmos.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Political Roundup

Michele Bachmann Manages to Misquote Both Scripture and John Adams

Kansas Rep. Pete DeGraaf: Being Impregnated During Rape is Just Like Getting a Flat Tire

Obama's Faith Questioned by Minn. State Legislature Chaplain

Oregon Senate Votes to End Faith Healing Defense for Medicare

Get your religious views out of our government... this is not a "christian" nation. This is a nation for all people, regardless of which faith they attest to or choose to deny. This constant meddling by the christian right is hindering our ability to progress as a society. From faith based healing killing innocent children that we can cure with modern medicine, to positions on what health care women can receive and how homosexuals should be treated and of course the albatross in the room, how we deal with israel, along with countless others. This government was founded on the premise that all men were created equal and on the separation of church and state. These two fundamental truths are under attack and those of sound mind have to stand up to defend these liberties we hold so dearly.

In the words of President John Adams in the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the senate and signed by the president June 1797:

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

And here is President John Adams again in "A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88):

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

A government run by reason and senses, not by heavenly dictate...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Remember Your Leaders

Hebrews 13:7 
"Remember your leaders who first taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and trust the Lord as they do."

Hebrews 13:17
"Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit."

I'm just going to lump all these together because I will get angry talking about each one individually... let's just say they all get my vote for Douche of the Day...

Bishop Regrets How Diocese Dealt With Porn Case Involving Priest

Shock After Dutch Priest Endorses Pedophilia

Italy: Ex-Trainee Priest Arrested in Clerical Abuse Probe

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Surprise, Surprise! We're All Still Here

May 21 'Judgement Day' Believers React to Being Alive on May 22

You know, I have such mixed reactions about what transpired this weekend. Of course I'm elated that idiots like Harold Camping will get what he deserves over the next few days/weeks as a result of this. I was several drinks in when 6:00 pm rolled around so I could not help but celebrate in the demise of Camping and Family Radio. I'm also happy each time one of these prophesies comes and goes because it's just another feather in the atheist/agnostic crowd's cap. As much as people would like there to be a rapture because this world is evil and life is hard and such a fragile thing on this dynamic planet, the fundamental laws of physics can never be violated. People will never start floating up to heaven, bodies will not rise from the grave. Why can't people just accept that the bible is a work of fiction based loosely on some ancient historical events and people, passed down through millennia and expanded and edited and embellished with supernatural touches. There are some lovely passages and stories, epic tales of good versus evil, some good life lessons to learn in there but nothing more than what you can learn from Aesop's Fables or ancient greek and roman mythology. What people don't care to see are the many pure evil passages of the bible promoting hatred and bigotry and genocide and slavery and barbaric treatment of women and capital punishment and child sacrifice and genital mutilation. Vengeance and jealousy perpetuated by the god who is supposed to be all loving.

On the flip side, my heart goes out to all those poor idiotic sheep who chose to follow this man, destroying their own families in some cases, giving up their life savings and quitting jobs and school and leaving nothing for their and their children's own future. That is the real tragedy in all of this. These poor souls are so lost and now must move on with nothing while Mr. Camping and Family Radio are worth a cool $120 million. And the honest truth is that there isn't much difference in saying "the rapture will happen May 21, 2011" and saying "the rapture will happen someday soon".

Any Day Now

I hope this whole episode causes people to think more deeply about what they believe and why, understand what it is exactly that they cannot wait for and the ramifications of such a belief. I hope this also causes people to really try to understand the leaders of their own respective churches and parishes. Get an idea of where they stand on these types of issues and try to cut through all of the baloney to see their true purpose. I realize this is a pipe dream, but if anything may cause people to self-reflect it certainly could be something like this weekend that seemed to capture the attention of us all, one way or another.

Let's be sure to go after fools like Camping and call them out for everything evil they propagate to our species. Life is hard enough as it is, but you know what? We're still here and that is worth celebrating. The world will end one day. Our species will probably be long extinct by then, but the sun will engulf the earth as it burns through its last hydrogen supply and expands into a red giant star. This will truly be a catastrophic apocalypse, the likes of which mankind could never have even dreamt of and one that makes the wrath of the biblical god seem like peanuts in comparison...

List of Predicted Dates of the End of the World

Cops: Woman Tries to Kill Children, Self To Avoid 'The Tribulation'

Friday, May 20, 2011

Majority in US Now Back Same-Sex Marriage

Poll: Majority in US Back Same-Sex Marriage

Now this is some promising news that we as a culture and species are moving away from the discrimination and hatred preached from the pulpits every sunday. What's even more exciting about this new gallup poll is the fact that 70% of the 18-34 year olds surveyed support equal rights for all people... now we just need these old bigots to die off so we can make some real progress...

Is the Bible Full of Forgeries?

Is the Bible Full of 'Forgeries'?

More evidence that it is a book written and edited by men for men to control men...

NORAD to Track the Rapture

NORAD-Rapture Tracker

Apparently from the folks who brought you the santa tracker... NORAD has announced they will do a rapture tracker. If you've been paying attention, it's supposed to happen at 6:00pm in each time zone starting with the international date line in the pacific. This means that many of the polynesian islands and new zealand will go down first starting at roughly 2:00am EST 5/21/11....

Great article in the new york times yesterday. I can commiserate to an extent with these kids having grown up in a super-religious household myself. At least mine helped me with college tuition!

Make My Bed? But You Say the World's Ending

Via Galactica

Milky Way May Get An Extension

It's always a little hard to picture something like the milky way as a whole when the only view we have is from the inside, but cool article about the discovery of a spiral arm that shows how symmetrical our galaxy really is...

In a related article about the subject, light pollution from humanity is threatening our views of our own milky way. A shocking 2/3 of the world's population can no longer see the milky way in the night sky. A scary thought as this is our window into the universe, a way to gauge how we fit in to this complex system. As we become more dependent on electronics, we become less knowledgeable about the cosmos and the heavens. I grew up in the new york city/philadelphia corridor and can only imagine what the night sky must look like without all of that light pollution. I just love looking up at the stars and getting lost in the immensity and grandiosity of it all. I get so moved thinking about all the distances and ages and forces involved. thinking of all the infinite possibilities out there and if anyone is on the other side of the void thinking the same thing....

Photos Focus on Night-Sky Wonders and Worries

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Distant Planet in Goldilocks Zone

Exoplanet Near Gliese 581 Star 'Could Host Life'

Fun to dream about, but until we greatly increase our rocket capabilities this will remain a dream for the foreseeable future. Maybe with some massive telescope in the works like the TMT (thirty meter telescope) in hawaii we can get a better view of some of these planets.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sam Harris - Science Must Destroy Religion

Science Must Destroy Religion

Pulling one from the old vault, but a great article written by Sam Harris on the seemingly incompatible philosophies of religion and science. Great encouragement to not be content with religious tolerance, but a call for people to be proactive in calling out the fallacies of religious faith with hard evidence whenever possible (hence this blog).

"The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Melting Icebergs Fertilize Oceans

Melting Icebergs Fertilize Ocean

Very interesting findings that ocean algae actually consume iron released from icebergs; the flourishing algae and microscopic plants then absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while sparking a burst in these ocean ecosystems. Nature's way of self-regulating I guess.

Stephen Hawking: There is No Heaven

Stephen Hawking: 'There is No Heaven; It's a Fairy Story'

Heaven is a man-made idea. Not only is it man-made, but the people who thought it up were so primitive in their understanding of the the human body and mind, of the earth and universe, of the forces of nature that they needed to assign man-like attributes to their world to make sense of it all. This is why we've had sun gods, and sea gods, gods of wind and gods of thunder. After an all-out arms race of of deistic proportions we are now left with all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient, universal beings (who happen to look like us and get jealous and angry like us) Ancient peoples did not understand death. Even today, it is hard to grasp knowing someone so well and then one day they just aren't there anymore. It is a very pacifying feeling to think about someone moving on to a place of pure beauty and splendor after they die. The truth is, there is no way anyone can ever know this until they die. These vivid descriptions you read about the afterlife are just people willfully imagining what they hope it might be like to make them less fearful of dying. I am actually not as bothered by the human concept of heaven. If that makes you feel better in your life, then by all means believe it. I guess my real beef on this topic comes from the church when they say "believe like I do and keep my sacraments and pray to my deity only or you will go straight to hell in a hand basket when you die". Supernatural threats that prey upon our basic human fears of death and mortality are the most powerful and the most vile of all.

I say instead of throwing your hat in the ring blindly, let's continue to research what we call the human "conscience" or the human "soul". Try to understand the brain on a fundamental level as we take our last breaths. Are the "near-death experiences" just your brain synapses misfiring as it loses oxygen or is there something more subtle actually happening? This is where we should spend our time. In the laboratory. Not in the pew. No one knows what happens when you die. If someone says they know based on an ancient  book, they are full of it.

More Smoke and Mirrors From the Vatican

Vatican's New Sex Abuse Guidelines Don't Require Reporting

They should really just not put anything out until they have something of substance to say on the matter. This is literally a slap in the face to all those poor children who have been taken advantage of and all those mindless followers who uphold these pederasts as holy men. I wonder if the vatican can be brought up internationally on charges against humanity. This is a systemic issue that comes right from the top. I would not be surprised if half the clergy was involved in some form or another. Denying the human body sexual pleasure has caused these men to behave like predators. It's almost as if being a member of the clergy is an ideal occupation for a perverted child molester. It puts you right at the center of the action with no form of recourse or jurisprudence. All you have to do is pretend you are religious and perform your churchly duties and you are set for life. The worst they can do is move you to a new church with new children (wait, how is that a punishment for them?)

Science Saved My Soul

Beautiful clip from Philhellenes about the glory of the universe... enjoy!

'It's like the universe screams in your face "Do you know what I am? How grand I am? How old I am? Can you even comprehend what I am? What are you, compared to me?"... and when you know enough science, you can just smile up at the universe and reply "dude! I am you"...'

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ricky Gervais: Why I Do Not Believe in a God

Why I Do Not Believe in a God

Great perspective from a very clever man. Hits the nail right on the head in my opinion.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NASA's Next Goal:

NASA's Next Goal: Mars, Titan or Comet?

NASA Plans Test of Advanced Nuclear Power Generator

My vote would go to Titan, just for the potential to see if there is other life out there in the solar system. If we were to find microbial life in the seas of titan it would be a game changer for mankind here on earth. It would help spell the end to this geocentric belief that humans have been specially placed by god and are here for a greater purpose than just to survive on a hostile world. All 3 are intriguing targets but Titan could potentially provide the most important information to the history of mankind: we are not alone.

Christians vs Muslims

War for American Hearts and Minds Rages Over Islam

Christian Americans up in arms over the "islamification" of the country are such hypocrites. There are plenty of passages in the bible on the equivalent of "kill the infidel". If one decides to read the bible literally and take the words as decree from the supernatural to convert or kill all non-believers, you end up with something like the crusades or witch hunts. If you really look hard enough there is plenty to justify any type of hatred one can think of. Here are a few to ponder:

Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT) 

You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17 NAB)

If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives. (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. (Exodus 22:19 NAB)

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood. (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB)

While christianity has gone through some very rough times in the past, Islam seems to be going through it's own right now. All we can do is try to show how baseless in fact they both are to try to end the craziness before we all kill each other. Here's a great clip from the Daily Show last week:

Daily Show - Big Mohammed's House

Friday, May 13, 2011

Doppler Effect Detected in Quantum Mechanics

Cosmic Quirk of Physics Found in a Molecule

Pretty cool discovery of the doppler effect on the quantum level.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Neil's Cosmic Perspective

Neil Degrasse Tyson at Beyond Belief '06... Now this is what I call a sermon!

10 Days 'Til the Rapture

Only 10 More Shopping Days 'Till the Apocalypse

We all know the date... 5/21/11... This is the date "religious experts" have calculated to be the return of jesus and the rapture of all the "elects" or ones worthy of saving by god before the impending apocalypse. We've been hearing about it for years and in recent months it has gathered more media attention. You are starting to see lots of billboards and minivans with signs declaring the end of days and to repent. The unfortunate thing is people have been saying this for 2,000 years. Jesus was supposed to return during the lifetime of the apostles. Then when he didn't, they had to recalculate when they thought he would return. This has gone on for centuries with bigger spikes around the millennia (1000 AD, 2000 AD). In fact, most christians you talk to about it, generally believe this will happen in their lifetime. Why is this? It is a fascinating question into the human psyche that has been manipulated and honed by the church and its representatives since the beginning to keep control over their flocks. Take for example the poor Martinez couple in this article.  They believe this event to be impending so much that they literally will extinguish all their financials by saturday May 21st, with nothing left for sunday. They have a 2-yr old daughter and another child on the way and have no preparations for when it doesn't happen. Swindlers like Harold Camping are using these ugliest of manipulations to prey on the simple minded and easily persuaded to destroy their lives while earning millions and laughing all the way to bank... This is the purest form of evil.

Here is another take on the event from Richard Dawkins:

Science Explains the End of the World

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pastor Caught in a Movie-tale Lie

Pastor: My tale of being a Navy SEAL was just 'an ego-builder'

Yet another tale of some clergy showing that they are just like the rest of us. This "holier than thou" mentality that we bestow on these people for no reason other than because they went to college to study an ancient book of mythology. This supposedly gives them prestige in our communities and the titles "pastor" and "priest" and "reverend" are supposed to command a certain aura when in fact they are just merely job descriptions like photographer or camp counselor. The thing that gets me most upset by this story is the fact that he uses this prestigious title to command a flock of people who will then believe his every word because he is a "man of god". This is just one of those stories that makes you shake your head. at least there were no children involved...

Einstein Was Right

52 Years and $750 Million Prove Einstein Was Right

It's really amazing to think of the genius of einstein even after all these years. That he was able to see the space/time relationship in his head, that he knew he could describe the inner workings of the universe with mathematics. What struck a chord most with me about this article (aside from the fact that we now have the technology and capability to take the theoretical and validate it with physical evidence) is one of the most glaring fundamental differences between scientific discovery and religious revelation in that science is not only willing but desiring to always confirm with experimentation and observation the way the universe is. Science moves along, always refining the most current understanding of our situation, never afraid to disprove previously held beliefs with the discovery of new information. Theistic religions are so locked in to what they believe and they will go to any length to protect their "sacred" texts to show that they are the ultimate authority on the universe when in fact they have been left behind long ago... just think of how Galileo was treated by the church when he proved the earth was not the center of the universe anymore and see how similar the fundamentalists are with intelligent design in the classroom... In the great words of astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, "Science is a philosophy of discovery, religion is a philosophy of ignorance"

Monday, May 9, 2011

"The Earth is Where We Make Our Stand"

Epic words that still resonate from one of this world's true heroes, Carl Sagan, and an inspiration for this blog and my life...

Statement of Purpose:

Hello... this is a first shot at a blog, so bear with me as I get my feet wet with how it all works. I intend to use this as a place to post information and links I feel important with regards to scientific inquiry and religion and our human understanding of our place in the cosmos. I will start with an excerpt from something I wrote a few weeks back to show where I am coming from with this blog... 

the intent is not to offend but to open a dialogue about religion and it's roll in modern society.

I do believe that there are wonderful religious people out there with beautiful hearts and only the best intentions who are just trying to make sense of this world and our place in the cosmos and many who are just afraid of dying and what may or may not take place after that. These are fascinating questions that all of mankind tries to understand in one form or another. Can i ask an honest question? why is it so offensive to question one's own beliefs? if one is presented with valid information that may alter or disprove our current perceptions of the states of things, shouldn't we feel obligated to search for the truth as best we can? 

I came to a point in my life where what I was taught as a child just didn't mesh with what I was learning about the universe as an adult. After studying some of the other religions out there it became apparent that they were all trying to say the same thing. Being spiritual and at peace with the universe is an amazing feeling. Realizing that we were created from the stars and will give back our energy after we die is nothing to fear. The fact that we are alive at all, given the ridiculous odds, and that we have brains and can comprehend and understand the universe we live in is such an incredible gift. The universe is beautiful and glorious and we have been given the best gift to be able to experience it. There may be a "god" who created this whole thing, and our spirits may live on in some fashion after we die. But that shouldn't keep us from trying to learn as much as we can about our place in it all while we're here. 

The whole point of my postings is just to offer a rational scientific alternative to what we may learn in sunday school, or in temple, or at the mosque. To show that there are regular people out there who do question the ideas of faith and show that it doesn't have to be such a taboo subject. An honest, open discourse to show that we are all humans, regardless of which faith we were brought up in and that we have a common future that, in many respects, is in jeopardy from religious fanatics of one sect or another. I see fascinating articles of scientific discovery and I want to share them with my favorite people. I also find interesting tidbits about different religions that helps open my eyes and i like to share them with my friends and family because I feel it is important. We can piece together facts and information to help form a more clear picture of who we are, where we came from and where we are going. We may never fully know the why and the how, but the excitement is in trying to find the answers to these deep fundamental questions of existence.

I'm not saying i know all the answers, no one can. I just try to keep an open mind and let rational thought and inquiry drive my questions about the universe (the way it does about all other aspects of my life) and not be afraid of the answers I might find, one way or another. I intend to use this blog as a way to learn and share. This is not meant as an individual attack on anyone's specific beliefs, but rather a place to share information pertaining to science and religion and their impacts on our human civilization. I will try to filter and discern the most appropriate stuff to post that encourages free thought and challenges people to think rationally about these truly important topics that never get talked about. I hope you come with an open mind and enjoy the ride, because we are all in this together!