Wednesday, August 31, 2011

James Madison for Separation of Church and State

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments - James Madison 1785

A beautiful piece written by one of the great founding fathers, James Madison. Virginia was trying to pass a bill that would tax all individuals for the explicit purpose of christian religious teaching over other religions. In a blatant disregard for separation of church and state, Patrick Henry pushed to have christianity established as the religion supported by the state. James Madison wrote his remonstrance with 15 reasons against this bill, which luckily never passed.

"What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another."

Here is the bill as it was proposed by Patrick Henry:

A Bill Establishing A Provision For Teachers of the Christian Religion - Patrick Henry 1784

This bill was ultimately passed in Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson:

The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom - Thomas Jefferson 1786

(James Madison)

Earth, 6 Million Miles Away

Jupiter Probe Looks Back At Earth

Amazing picture snapped by the Jupiter space probe, Juno, on its mission to the gas giant. From 6 million miles out, the earth and moon look pretty small next to the immense vastness of space. Cherish what we have here.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Church Posts Atheist Billboard

Mansfield Church's Billboards Draw Wide Attention

Now the christians are doing the advertising for the atheists. This is a new one! In what can only be called a huge gaffe, a local Ohioan church has sponsored billboards that read "There Is No God. Don't Believe Everything You Hear." You can't ask for a better atheism plug than that, and paid for by the church no less! Awesome.

The church billboards caught the attention of Mid Ohio Atheists, a local group of atheists in the Mansfield area, who in a news release to the News Journal said the group has had people contacting them extending congratulations for the billboards. Mid Ohio Atheists president Ron Stephens made clear the billboards are not the group's doing.

"We earnestly thank the McElroy Road Church of Christ for advertising our thoughts," he said.

National Atheist Registry

Pastor Proposes National Atheist Registry To Better Track Godless Citizens

Not that this guy has any credence or legitimacy, but this goes to show how serious some people are about destroying the very freedoms that this county was founded on. A national registry of atheists, you know because they are the potential terrorists of this world, they are the criminals overflowing our penitentiaries. I mean, when was the last time you heard of a religious person committing a crime or an act of terrorism? The atheists are trying to destroy this world and can't wait for armageddon... oh wait, it's the other way around isn't it?

See-through Brains

Japanese Researchers Develop a Way to Turn Biological Tissue Transparent

Wild and a bit freaky, but definitely a breakthrough for scientists trying to understand the inner workings of  the brain. This new reagent allows the tissue to become transparent so they can see through it without having to dissect first. They are still working on something that would work on living tissue, but this can allow researchers to analyze the brian like never before.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gravastar - Space Time Super Fluid

Physicists Simulate the End of Time in a Maryland Lab

Is Space-Time Actually a Superfluid?

Gravastar - Wikipedia

Are we actually inside of a black hole right now? Truly fascinating and mind-bending theory of the universe (thanks to my sister for sending me the link!). In these articles, scientists try to explain how the universe really behaves as a superfluid that was blown out of the other side of a forming black hole. In this theory, the "big bang" as we have come to know it was really the result of the creation of a collapsing star in another universe as time and energy and matter all changed phase at the singularity. They contend this theory can account for the big bang, dark matter and dark energy although much still has to be proven. As we all know, the race to find a theory of everything is driving theoretical physicists all over the world and getting quantum mechanics and general relativity to mesh seems near impossible. With the Gravastar/Superfluid theory, the normal breakdowns of general relativity at the event horizon of black holes and the big bang can be accounted for and make this a very interesting theory to test out. Very, very cool theory and fun to let your mind be blown away by the possibility!

Supersymmetry Struggles

Latest Results From the Large Hadron Collider Do Not Look Good For the Supersymmetry Theory of Everything

In the quest to understand the universe (why there is more matter than antimatter), scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider have yet to find sufficient evidence for supersymmetry. This leaves the string theorists to go back to the drawing board to look for other avenues of supersymmetry or to really brainstorm for some new ideas.

Monday, August 29, 2011

That's No Moon

NASA: Space Station May Be Evacuated By Late Nov.

After the russian re-supply rocket failed to reach orbit last week, the situation is looking a little more hairy for the members of the international space station. They have enough fuel and supplies to last a while longer but if the russian rockets cannot be functional by November, the station will need to be evacuated for the safety of the crew. Maybe russia can pay for the shuttle to make one last trip up until they can get their act together.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Frickin' Laser Beams

Solar Cells Could Get Quantum Boost

New advances in quantum optics have led theoretical physicists to believe they can produce more powerful Photovoltaic solar collectors. Using very precise lasers and effect known as quantum interference can makes electrons more powerful to then be harnesses into electricity. I would like to see if this is possible in the real world. Until now, most PV systems are between 15-20% efficiency, compared with 30%+ for hot water systems. If we can get PV systems to 30% efficiency, you will finally start to see people making the switch from current electric sources in greater numbers.

Hero Knows No Orientation

Fallen 9/11 Priest Emerges As an Icon For Gay Catholics

Great story about Father Mychal Judge, the NYC Fire Chaplain who raced to the towers that fateful morning and was killed by falling debris. Rev. Judge was braver than most could ever dream to be by rushing to help others during such a horrific attack on the city and the country. His memory is forever honored by all of the firefighters and people of New York who knew him. All Saints Church will be honoring his memory with a statue of that gut-wrenching moment in time when five firefighters carried his body away from the tower wreckage. Their hope is to preserve his heroism and promote good will between gay and straight, as Rev. Judge was gay. This goes to show that anyone at any time can truly be great and make a positive impact in our brief time here.

Dust To Dust

Asteroid Dust Confirms Meteorite Origins

Japanese scientists have confirmed that most meteorite fragments that land on earth are from a very specific type of asteroid, called and S-type Asteroid. The Japanese mission Hayabusa was sent to the asteroid Itokawa and has returned with samples of dust from the surface. After analysis, the dust was confirmed to have the same characteristic signatures as meteorites collected on earth, thus confirming what scientists had long believed but had never been able to prove.

The Gays, The Girls and The Godless

Potomac Falls Woman Removed From Son's Boy Scout Troop

Truly heartbreaking story for a woman who gave her all to her son's boy scout troop, who went above and beyond as a troop leader and never once pushed her sexual orientation on anyone else. This is the work of a petty, hate-filled man. I understand the boyscouts is a private institution and for some reason have an exemption for their bigotry from the government, but her sexual orientation is none of their business and does not preclude her from being an exemplary leader and positive force for these children. Sad state of affairs that people can still get away with this type of discrimination.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bio-Fuel Bugs

Bug Turns Newspaper Into Fuel

Scientists and students from Tulane University have turned an existing, naturally-occurring bacteria into a newspaper-recycling machine. This bacteria, Clostriudium TU-103, was collected and isolated from feces at a zoo and put into a tank with wet, shredded newspaper and began to create butanol, a bio-fuel considered more useful than ethanol. Very cool.

Coldest Star Found

NASA's Infrared Explorer Spots a Room-Temperature Brown Dwarf, the Coldest Star Ever Found

Pretty exciting news in our quest to understand the universe. Astronomers have detected the coldest star ever found, at roughly 80 degrees F. Not sure what the real difference is between a brown-dwarf and a gas giant planet as neither are capable of nuclear fusion. I guess size and whether it orbits another star could have a lot to do with it. Pretty cool discovery though.

Bait and Tackle

The Bait of Christian Fundamentalism in Africa

Very moving story from someone who lived in Africa and was witness to the kind of shady dealings these missionaries are involved in. Food and water and supplies to survive in exchange for your eternal soul. I particularly liked this quote:

When I was in Standard Three (equivalent to third grade in the U.S.), we were studying the biblical story of Cain and Abel. According to the lesson, Cain went to a land called Nod after he killed his brother. He got married and had a son called Enoch. Trying to understand the story better, I asked my C.R.E teacher whether Cain married his sister, because I assumed they were the only family on earth at that time. Instead of an explanation, my teacher caned my bottom and accused me of being an agent of the devil. "Who did you think you are to question biblical facts?" she yelled between thrashes. Reflecting back now, this is probably where I began questioning the veracity of Biblical literalism.

It was something I always wondered as a kid too. Where did those other people come from so the early humans could reproduce? Or was it incest and they didn't bother to mention? Genesis is so confounding sometimes!

The author sums up his impression of the African religious aid situation quite strongly with this:

many right-wing religious organizations deserve credit for prevalent humanitarian initiatives in Africa. But the problem with their altruism is that it usually involves proselytizing. To illustrate how Christian fundamentalists' altruism works in Africa, it's as easy as pointing to the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies. One of the characters in the film, Davy Jones, finds sinking sea-men who are in despair. He offers them the opportunity to live, but under his brutal, perpetual servitude. Responding to a humanitarian crisis, e.g. famine, by "converting" the victims as you help them, would be no different. It would be predation at its best and it would violate the Kantian Categorical Imperative of treating human beings only as an end and not as a means to an end.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Galileo Moment

Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve

Quite a development in the evangelical seminary/theological community. Some scholars are now coming out and saying that the literal account of genesis can no longer be true, with all of the information obtained in the last half-century of the human genome, the geological studies and fossil findings have all been shedding light onto this subject. Some of these scholars are now beginning to see the light as their "Galileo Moment", a moment in their religious history where they can accept fact and adapt their beliefs and interpretations of the bible's meaning, or they can resist and find themselves on the wrong side of history and truth. Needless to say, the Adam and Eve story is one of the foundations of the christian religion and without this story, the whole point of everything begins to break down.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, says that rebellious choice infected all of humankind. "When Adam sinned, he sinned for us," Mohler says. "And it's that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior. Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam's original sin. "Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul's description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament," Mohler says.
"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."
I think this is going to be a pivotal point in Church history," he says. "Because what rests at the very heart of this debate is whether or not key ideas within Christianity are ultimately true or not." But others say Christians can no longer afford to ignore the evidence from the human genome and fossils just to maintain a literal view of Genesis. "This stuff is unavoidable," says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. "Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have." "If so, that's simply the price we'll have to pay," says Southern Baptist seminary's Albert Mohler. "The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."
Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels.

The Whole Shack Shimmies

Small Quake Has Big Reach

Yes, I felt the quake too. Being a lifelong east-coaster who has never felt an earthquake before, it was quite an experience. I never felt unsafe, but it certainly was a bit unsettling when you start to realize that it's not your chair that's wobbling, it's the planet under your feet. That is a powerful expression of the earth. I am well aware that the west-coasters are mocking us right now and that's understandable, since it was only a 5.8. But, they have to realize that from Washington D.C. to New York City, when something very strange starts to happen, unfortunately your mind briefly goes to "terrorism" until you realize that it's not. In that brief moment, there is a sense of dread and that can really account for a lot of the initial excitement and hysteria. Once that passes, the thought of "wow, that was an earthquake! I've never felt an earthquake before" settles in a there is a different rush of spreading the word, asking if your friends and family felt it too, where they were and what they thought of it.

Something like this is a rarity on the east coast because we have a far more ancient fault-line. The Appalachian mountain chain was created hundreds of millions of years ago and as a result, the mountains are now very soft-rolling in appearance (compared to the rigid high peaks of the rockies which are far younger), but the crust and mantle itself is much older and harder and colder than along the San Andreas fault line. Because of that, the "ringing" vibration of this earthquake was felt through the bedrock from Atlanta to Toronto. Nearly a fifth of the United States felt that quake, even if it was smaller, and that makes it newsworthy. So, laugh all you want California, but we are now part of the brotherhood and thankful it wasn't bigger and more catastrophic. I can't even begin to imagine the magnitude of what hit Japan earlier this year. Whoah!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tramps Like Us

Born, and Evolved, To Run

Really interesting article about studying the evolution of the human head and the human foot and how they are actually related in a way. I have heard that the cause of the human brain being so large was the reduction in the force of the jaw bite. They are apparently directly related with all primate species, force of bite vs size of brain. We are seeing newer health issues that never used to plague ancient humans due to our processed food and shoe-wearing. I am also noticing more and more of these low-profile shoes and webbed shoes for running. People are trying to get back to their "roots" as far as running is concerned, that padding isn't necessarily a good thing. The human foot was designed for endurance running without shoes.

When I am on my runs, I sometimes let my mind wander to think about what it might have been like to be an ancient human on a run to wear down a beast for dinner. I usually run without music as well, it helps me feel a little more "one with nature". I pick up the sounds of the birds and the insects, I see the cloud formations up above and feel the breeze and see it in the motions of the leaves on the trees. I sense the rhythm of my breathing and my feet pounding the earth, I feel gravity and the strength of my muscles fighting each other. I feel the warmth of the sun's rays on my skin and the cool droplets of rain that refresh and energize my body. I really almost start to feel like an animal, it feels very communal and ancient. I almost start to feel relaxed as I take in nature and become part of the ecosystem (then, I get tired). It's very liberating to unplug for a while and just be submerged in your physical surroundings, you pick up on so much beauty that normally seems faded into the background of our daily lives. I highly recommend running for that reason alone, plus you will feel better and burn off all those calories :)

God is a Word For Human Experience

Dutch Vicar Tells His Congregation: This Life "Will Probably Be the Only One You Get"

Rev. Klaas Hendrikse, a reverend in the Dutch Protestant Church, apparently is taking a very modern, scientific approach to the supernatural, telling his congregation that this will probably be the only life that you get. He sums up his unique philosophy here:

"Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death. No, for me our life, our task, is before death. When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."

Very interesting angle he is taking, and not one that will be spreading like wild fire through the ranks of the protestant church, but nice to see some religious leaders start to get a grip on reality and tell it like it is.

Massive Changes

Changes to Roman Catholic Mass Will Surprise Majority in the Pews, Survey Says

Come Sunday, Nov. 27th, those usual memorized responses will be changed and will probably surprise a few catholics when they aren't expecting it. Here are some examples:

"When the priest says, 'The Lord be with you', the congregation now responds, 'And also with you'. But come November, the congregation will say, 'And with your spirit'. 
When reciting the Nicene Creed, the statement of faith, Catholics now say that Jesus is 'one in being with the Father'. Soon, they will say that Jesus is 'consubstantial with the Father'. 
Also, Jesus will no longer be 'born of the Virgin Mary', but 'incarnate of the Virgin Mary'.
The acclamation 'Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again' is being removed from the Mass entirely because it was never in the original Latin version."

Purely semantics one might say, but there are some definite changes here that require some thinking about. 

Consubstantial means "of the same substance", which is similar to "one in being with the father"
Incarnate means "invested with bodily and especially human nature and form", which is quite different from just being born. 

They are really pushing the supernatural side here as opposed to the human side. It will be interesting to see how many are prepared for the switch and how many will be caught off guard come Nov. 27th. and again on Dec. 25th when most "catholics" actually go to church. I always hated the monotonous responsorials of catholic masses. It just felt like there was no passion behind it, no emphasis like they meant or even understood what the were saying. It felt like you were saying it just to say it because it was time to say it. Maybe this will cause some of the parishioners to actually think about what they are saying.

Birth of Krishna

The Birth of Krishna: When God Came to Earth

Very interesting article delving into the Hindu faith, their holy book, the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna, their god (avatar). Yesterday was Krishna Janmastami, the Hindu holiday celebrating the birth or decent of Krishna to earth. It is good to learn more about the various faiths of the world and hinduism has one of the largest followings. If you read this article and think about how fanatical and impossible it seems to have been even remotely true, stop and think about your own religion and how people of other faiths may perceive your religion in the same way. When you think about it, most people are atheists of all the multitude of gods in the world and all of the infinite gods who once existed in man's mind but have long been forgotten or have been banished to mythology, except for their own personal god. Why is this? Why is it so easy to dispel the holy books and stories of everyone else's religion but believe so surely in your own as truth? Is it because of indoctrination by your parents/family a child? Is it geographic in nature? Is it community-driven? Fascinating questions into our very fragile human psyches...

A Good Planet is Hard to Find

A Good Planet is Hard to Find

Nice op-ed piece here by Lucianne Walkowicz on what it's like to hunt for earth-like planets orbiting around other stars. The Kepler mission has been finding tons of new planets and these astrophysicists now have very precise ways of identifying a planet, the size and distance from the star and it's chemical makeup in many cases. Very exciting field of science as we search for other life and other habitable planets for humans as we venture out into the stars.

Here is just a sample of some of the orbiting planets found so far in transit in front of their host stars:

Lockheed Martin Tests Deep Space Capsule

NASA Tests Deep Space Capsule for Launch and Landing

NASA is still busily at work on exciting, bold projects down the road. In conjunction with Lockheed Martin, they are conducting tests of the Orion-MPCV capsule on launch and landing sequences. The capsule is being re-designed to be used in long-distance human missions to asteroids or to mars from its original intended use as part of the Constellation program to return man to the moon in the 2020's (since discarded). After these tests, engineers can refine their models to get more accurate predictions of how the vehicle will handle in these types of scenarios.

Believe Also In Me

Preacher Accused of Raping Women Behind Church

Yet another sick story of a religious leader behaving quite badly (innocent until proven guilty, I know), but what gets me here is the reaction of his congregation. Those who are so quick to judge others sure are slow to judge this man for the possible heinous crimes he has committed in this community against women. I will be keeping an eye on this story as it develops.

More support for this guy's book I guess:

Where Did You Dig Up That Old Fossil?

Team Claims it Has Found Oldest Fossils

Geologists in the western deserts of Australia have discovered what could be the fossilized remains of ancient bacteria-like creatures that must have fed on sulfur. There was a lack of oxygen and a run-away greenhouse gas effect without plants having evolved at that time, so sulfur and methane would have been dominant. If proven true, these fossils would be around 3.4 billion years old and will help us to understand how early life developed on a savage planet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pandering Pope

Church Extends Authority to Absolve Sin of Abortion for Papal Visit

Well, that's awfully convenient of B16 while he's in town to let his virgin army* hear the confessions of some women who no doubt went through a very trying time in their life only to be excommunicated from their church. Seems like a publicity stunt to generate some more interest in the church's lies and to get women, who may feel guilty enough as it is, to show up and repent and join or rejoin the church. Seems like the numbers game is wreaking havoc on the catholic church, so much so that they are willing to lower their standards (again) to get people to come back.

You are a wretched sinner, scum of the earth. Committer of the most vile crime we can name, so we sent you away... but repent to us! Come back to the church and we will absolve your sins and you will have eternal life (because we know for sure where you're going when you die and it doesn't look good right now without us in your life). But don't forget to tithe 10% when you come. Oh, and bring your children too! thanks!

Spain is actually paying the Pope to be there too! That is beyond absurd. Doesn't the catholic church have enough money? This seems like something they should want to do for free, to participate in World Youth Day, and write it off as a recruitment expense. It is a shameful tragedy that all these people get caught up in such a scam. It doesn't help them either, that the Pope looks like the evil emperor from star wars.

*not necessarily true if you account for pedophilia

We Stopped Dreaming

Look at That, You Son of a Bitch

SpaceX Expanding

SpaceX Looks for an Extra Base

SpaceX looks to launch another Dragon Capsule to space in November, this time one that will dock and resupply the international space station. Also in the works is a 3rd launching site for the company purely for commercial space travel. SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, also thinks that within 3 years they will be capable of human space flight, which doesn't seem so bad considering all of the ho-hum news about the end of the space shuttle program. I am always excited to see such enthusiasm from Musk and SpaceX about their future. It is an exciting time in space travel and I think before too long we will see men back on the moon and going to Mars.

Lack of Divine Intervention

Man Somehow Overcomes Alcoholism Without Jesus

The Onion is so great... :) enjoy

Cyberdyne Systems

IBM Unveils Chips that Mimic the Human Brain

Computing will get unbelievably complex and small in the next few years (like it hasn't already been doing that). With an advancement such as this though, possibilities can be truly endless. As we continue to understand the workings of the human brain, the most complex computer we know of, and master materials science, the computational capacity and the ability to learn through experience and have more complex cognitive abilities will lead these new computers to be faster and smarter than we could ever hope to be, all the while avoiding all the other issues that comes with human brains (forgetfulness, disease, false interpretation based on poor information receptors -our senses-, and a whole host of other issues). In a very short while, we will see computing skills surpass that of our own mental abilities and from there on the game will change.

Doomsdayers will see the rise of A.I. that will destroy or enslave man, but I see a different future. I see a future of our physical bodies meshing cohesively with "machines" that will seem more biological in nature than mechanical. I see a future where our brains and supercomputers can function effortlessly together to store and retrieve information and to process complex procedures and systems. I see us truly becoming a super-race of humans that, along with upgrading our brain power, will soon also have the ability to modify our own body cells to stay alive much longer, maybe even indefinitely. This will allow us to truly become star people. To wade into the infiniteness of space and travel to other star systems and galaxies, to explore and spread around the universe as a seed to plant the foundations of a truly self-aware universe. One can dream at least :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Theme P"ARK"

New Noah's Ark in Ky. Aims to Prove Truth of Bible

After the semi-success of the Creation Museum, Answers in Genesis, a christian ministry aims to remake Noah's Ark to scale and build an ark-themed religious theme park in northern Kentucky. Other attractions will include the tower of babel and an old-world style village. I get so frustrated with these people who continue to push the bible's literal truth. I honestly physically cannot understand how they would go to such lengths to remain ignorant of the truth versus the myth. If they just do a little homework before diving blindly into their faith, they would see plainly how these kinds of stories are the work of legend.

In my humble opinion, there actually is a good chance there may have been some kind catastrophic flood in ancient times in that part of the world. It has been written about in many accounts and even in other legends, like the Epic of Gilgamesh (which Noah's Ark and the Garden of Eden stories were plagiarized from, but it also influenced Homer's Odyssey and other ancient texts). The Epic of Gilgamesh preceded the ark account of the flood by several hundred years (around 1800 BC compared to around 1400 BC).

The fact that there may have been a great flood, the result of a tsunami or other natural disaster, has no bearing on whether the account of the ark story is true. It is a story exaggerating the real history of that event but with a tale to always be prepared for such disasters. To never take what you have in this world for granted, that at any time, some major catastrophe can take it all away from you and you should have a plan in place to get you and your family and all that is important to your survival to safety. If you think of it in those terms, it is actually a great story. And kids love it because there is a boat and all kinds of animals. But, there are many parts of the story that physically cannot be done by just a handful of people in that short span of time and it's funny that god would take his wrath out on all the creatures of the land, but not affect the myriad of creatures in the sea at all... doesn't seem like a fair punishment against the wickedness of the world.

When these types of ministries come out to prove the truth of the bible, all they have to show for it is what's written in the bible. They have no other evidence, no other way of verifying that these accounts could be true. Try to hold it up in a court of law and it would be thrown out before opening statements could be finished. Let's hope this theme park is a tremendous failure, and that they don't use public monies to develop and construct this monstrosity and celebration of human ignorance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Multiverse Study

Physicists to Conduct First Observational Test of the Multiverse

Physicists are now on the prowl for evidence in support their multiverse theory, the theory that our universe is just a bubble in a sea of bubble universes, all with different laws and components and potentials. They will apparently be focusing their sights on the cosmic background radiation for disc-like patterns, which they say could possibly indicate the presence of other bubble universes pushing against ours. It's a wild theory to think about and will be interesting to see if they finding anything to support it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shooting Star From Above

Astronaut Catches a Falling Star

Quite possibly the coolest angle of a shooting star captured on "film", NASA astronaut Ron Garan snapped this pic from the international space station of a rock hitting the atmosphere in glorious fashion.

Earthlike Treats

White Dwarfs Gobble Earthlike Treats

Astronomers have detected the chemical signatures of rocky, earthlike planets that have been consumed by their dying stars. These white dwarfs once were red giants, consuming the inner planets of their solar systems. This will be the ultimate farewell for our earth one day as our sun will become a red giant and engulf the inner planets, possibly including our own planet. One cool thing this finding shows, is that inner rocky planets are more probable now across the galaxy and the universe than previously thought. Our solar system may be more run of the mill tat we used to think. There may be many other systems like our with inner rocky planets and outer gas planets.

Politics Fix

The Christianist Takeover

It is now quite apparent that the GOP is dominated not by fiscal conservatives anymore, but by social conservatives and the evangelical right. Mitt Romney, whose lead is now perilous to Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, seems to be the odd man out here. Romney is the most centrist of all the leading republican candidates for president on the total political spectrum, but Perry seems to be most centered of these three on the GOP half of the spectrum. Most people seem to agree that Bachmann is a lunatic and has no real shot at the nomination. Perry and Bachmann have very scary views on the role of government and religion in the lives of americans. I try not to get into too much politics with this blog, but it is imperative to know the positions of the people who are trying to become the leader of the free world.

Here's another great article on Bachmann and Perry and their Dominionist tactics:

A Christian Plot for Domination?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thou Shalt Pick and Choose

A.J. Jacobs, a writer for Esquire Magazine, the went through a year of living biblically, living the bible literally. He came away with some very interesting conclusions and some very real world applications of what we should take away from reading the bible and other holy books...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Origins of Nonsense

Creationism: That (Not So) Old Time Religion

Interesting article here delving into the history of the creationist, fundamentalist christian movement. I don't have much to add to the author's comments, but it's fun to get a little behind the scenes timeline on the movement to get creationism or intelligent design, as it's now called, taught in the classrooms. Luckily it has failed as miserably as it did for William Jennings Bryan with the Scopes Trial back in the 1920's. The book of Genesis and the fundamentals of science can not be reconciled.

"In place of science or insightful theology, creationism's primary achievement is a waist-deep rubbish pile of misrepresentation and deceit."

Life, Liberty and Blasphemy

United Nations Affirms the Human Right to Blaspheme

Great news here, as the democratized world takes a giant step forward for free speech. The right to speak freely, including blasphemy, is an inalienable human right. Anti-blasphemy laws can no longer be tolerated in civil society. This new statement is legally binding to all 165 members of the UN, including Pakistan, which currently has very severe laws against blasphemy. Here is the unedited version of General Comment No. 34:

General Comment No. 34

Points of note:

Paragraph 2:
Freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person. They are essential for any society. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society. The two freedoms are closely related, with freedom of expression providing the vehicle for the exchange and development of opinions.

Paragraph 3:
Freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realisation of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Paragraph 7:
The obligation to respect freedoms of opinion and expression is binding on every State party as a whole. All branches of the State (executive, legislative and judicial) and other public or governmental authorities, at whatever level – national, regional or local – are in a position to engage the responsibility of the State party. Such responsibility may also be incurred by a State party under some circumstances in respect of acts of semi-State entities. The obligation also requires States parties to ensure that persons are protected from any acts of private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of the freedoms of opinion and expression to the extent that these Covenant rights are amenable to application between private persons or entities.

Paragraph 24:
Restrictions must be provided by law. Law may include laws of parliamentary privilege and laws of contempt of court. Since any restriction on freedom of expression constitutes a serious curtailment of human rights, it is not compatible with the Covenant for a restriction to be enshrined in traditional, religious or other such customary law.

Paragraph 48:
Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Such prohibitions must also comply with the strict requirements of article 19, paragraph 3, as well as such articles as 2, 5, 17, 18 and 26. Thus, for instance, it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.

The Tiger is Also a Catholic

Stephen Colbert poking fun...

Man Creates New Building Block

This Worm is the First Animal Engineered to Produce Biological Blocks Not Found in Nature

In another stunning advancement in modern science, researchers at Camridge claim they've created a worm with artificial information embedded in its DNA sequence. The result is the creation of an entirely new and man-made amino acid never before seen in the real world. It won't be long before we are creating all sorts of new biology with this unbelievable knowledge of the building blocks of life. It is powerful and scary at the same time. We truly live in an amazing time with scientists unlocking more of nature's secrets faster than ever before. We are really beginning to understand life and chemistry and material science on truly fundamental levels and this will usher in a new age of creation never before seen. wild!

Soft Wired

This Cool Tattoo Can Read Your Brain Signals

Really amazing breakthrough here. An ultra thin, soft, flexible membrane with circuitry weaved into the structure that can analyze brain and heart functions as well as current electrodes can but is much less obtrusive. It can stick to the skin without any adhesive and is also capable of transmitting information as well as receiving it. I'm sure they will find all sorts of applications for this technology, but it is really quite an awesome display of ingenuity.

Perceiving the Perseids

Make the Most of the Meteors

I had the opportunity to check out the Perseid Meteor Shower early this week while still on vacation. We were down at the shore and had a pretty optimal, clear night to see the shooting stars light up the night sky. Far from the big city and with a dark expanse of ocean on half of the horizon, the show on wednesday morning was quite amazing. I woke up around 3:30 and headed out to the 2nd story deck. The first thing I noticed was how many stars I could see! I almost forgot how beautiful the night sky can be, away from city lights. I could actually see the "milk" of the milky way and it was incredible! The peak observance of the shower was apparently this morning and again tomorrow morning, but there were still a fair amount of meteors on wednesday for us to enjoy. What a way to wake up! It brought back such fond memories from my childhood when my father would wake us up and we'd all go outside on the front lawn with blankets and lay on the ground, huddled together and just look up at the stars. I remember first seeing a shooting star as a kid and being so totally blown away that I just about teared up. That was the first time in my life I remember being in love with the cosmos, being in awe of the natural wonder of the universe... I still am.

Lost in Translation

Scholars Seek to Correct 'Mistakes' in Bible

In Jerusalem, a handful of scholars are busy at work, compiling the most "authoritative" edition of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. In their work they have uncovered many changes in wording and phrasing and meaning of passages, and many other sections completely added as to appear that prophecy had been fulfilled. The core text these scholars are basing their work on is from an 1,100 year old version of the Hebrew text along with other ancient writings like the dead sea scrolls, which are believed to be from the first or second century BCE. It's amazing to think how much these stories could have changed in this many years, all the while going through so few hands until only very recently in our past. One could see how easily it would have been to manipulate the text a bit here and there to make it say what they wanted it to say. Not to mention all of the books that never got canonized into the bible in the first place. If they were also god's word, shouldn't they be included as well? If this doesn't make you stop and think about the bible being the literal word of god or not, then I don't know what would.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Continuum of Humanity and Life

Hey Everyone, thanks for being patient while I was away on vacation. I am back and ready to keep the blog going. One thing I do need to mention is that I did figure out the comments settings so now anyone can post comments on my entries (not just blogspot members), so this should hopefully be easier for that.

Anyways, I was eating lunch and reading the New York Times today and I was struck by something I read in the obituary section, of all places... Here is the link:

From the brief obit, it really seemed like this guy figured it out before he moved on to wherever people move on to. A guy who started a huge corporation and became extremely wealthy in the process, Anderson had an epiphany later in life after reading 'The Ecology of Commerce' by Paul Hawken. After that, his whole mindset changed from typical corporate greed to something a lot more environmentally friendly. He became an ambassador to the big corporate industry about increasing environmental awareness. Some quotes from the article that I particularly enjoyed:

In his speeches, Mr. Anderson credited that book, “The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken, with changing his perspective. He described reading it as a “spear in the chest experience.”
“I read on and was dumbfounded by how much I did not know about the environment, and the impacts of the industrial system on the environment — the industrial system of which I and my ‘successful’ company were an integral part,” he said in a 2005 speech.
“A new definition of success burst into my consciousness, and the latent sense of legacy asserted itself. I got it. I was a plunderer of Earth, and that is not the legacy one wants to leave behind. I wept.”

and this one at the close, loved it...
In one of his first speeches after reading Mr. Hawken’s book, Mr. Anderson told an audience of business executives: “We are all part of the continuum of humanity and life. We will have lived our brief span and either helped or hurt that continuum and the earth that sustains all life. It’s that simple. Which will it be?”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New 'Cosmos' Series in the Works

'Family Guy' Creator Part of 'Cosmos' Update

Hearing this news just made my day. The enchanting 'Cosmos' series narrated by the timeless Carl Sagan will be given a facelift and will explore the more recent discoveries and current understandings of the universe and will be hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Neil is the perfect choice to carry the torch of scientific understanding to the masses and be the new narrator for this series, which will air sometime in 2013 on Fox. Seth MacFarlane, creator of the popular 'Family Guy' tv show among others will help produce the show along with Sagan's widow, Ann Dryan, who contributed in the original series. This will be fantastic and the reason the show will be on Fox as opposed to something the science channel or discovery channel is that, as with the original 'Cosmos', they are trying to appeal to a much wider audience to generate more interest in science and astrophysics and the universe. What a fantastic idea and I will be waiting impatiently to see the new series when it comes out! I can think of no better tribute to one of our world's most incredible ambassadors, Carl Sagan.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bible and Nukes Don't Mix

Air Force: Bible and Nukes Don't Mix

Wow, I can't believe this isn't a bigger story. This is really almost beyond belief. The people who are put in charge of the most dangerous weapons on earth are also briefed heavily by fundamentalist christian doctrines that, among many things, teaches that holy war is a good thing. I am speechless. Thankfully some officers spoke up and the program has been suspended. It ran for almost 20 years! Great job by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on their swift efforts.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation Website

Flowing Water on Mars?

What's That on Mars? It Just Might Be Saltwater

Strange lines recently found on Martian soil may the unique characteristics of flowing water. Scientists were alerted to the anomaly after a student from the University of Arizona noticed the changes on the surface from an algorithm designed to identify subtle changes over time. This is an intriguing possibility that liquid water main contain microscopic or bacterial life. We know that there are ice deposits in various places and it has long been suspected that liquid water once existed, but the idea that there may be small amounts of liquid water currently on the planet is very exciting! awesome video of the evidence:

Warren Jeffs Guilty

Polygamist Leader Found Guilty in Child-Rape Case

Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two underage girls, fathering a child with one of them. Sentencing is still pending for Jeffs, who could receive some serious time behind bars. He didn't put up much a defense, choosing to defend himself instead of hiring lawyers. Apparently, he didn't say much in the time allotted him for defense and he submitted the entire book of mormon as evidence. He is a sick man and I can't help but feel sorry for those poor children prevented from experiencing the real world and indoctrinated with the worst values imaginable by predators like Jeffs. It's nice to know that many of the church leaders have also been found guilty of various charges. Is there any hope to save the children from such mental abuse?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Match By Religion

How Races and Religion Match in Online Dating

Really interesting results from a couple of years ago on how well people are likely to get along. These dating sites have a treasure trove of data from people that, in general, is bias free and really can shed some light on people's personal preferences when it comes to other's races and religions. Fascinating findings.