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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Humanist billboard vandalized in Moscow, Idaho

Recently, there has been a great spat of humanist and atheist billboards across the western world. Prior to the vandalizing the billboard read, "Millions are good without God." I am curious, was their grammar so bad that they could not have just spray painted the "out" portion so that it was, at least, grammatically correct?!




Donahue slams "The Simpsons"

A recent "The Simpsons" episode had this to say about the Christian rite of Communion"

"What kind of civilized people eat the body and blood of their savior?"

Donahue responded by saying, "Mocking the heart of any religion always crosses the line, and mocking the Eucharist does it for Catholics."

For the full episode head on over to the "Friendly Atheist" website.

Why we believe...

Are women more religious than men?

In my family I think it is safe to say the men are more irreligious than women: I am an atheist and my father is more or less an agnostic. On the other hand, my mom and sister are much more spiritual if not Christian. No one case study is ever evidence enough, but luckily a fully study has recently come out that suggests very much of the same.

In this study it is found that the number of nonbelievers that are male is skyrocketing while the number of women who are nonbelievers is holding back. Why the gender difference in faith? What makes these findings even more interesting is that all faiths favor men as not a single religion is headed by a women. The hierarchy in all religions is decidedly sexist.

As one researcher put it, "Belief relates more to how a person relates, interprets, and reconstructs the experience." It was found that when men and women had the same response on the brain it were the women that had a greater tendency to attribute it to an "out of body experience." This has led some researchers to conclude women are hardwired to believe. It has been hypothesized that the superficial kinship that religion provides might be more advantageous to a woman's reproductive needs. This would coincide with Michael Shermer's study where he found women to relate to belief with more emotional terms. In contrast, men relate to belief with more rational terms. For example, women feel an emotional connection to their god, thereby creating an emotional justification for its existence. Men justify a belief in god using logic such as "without a god there is no order or reason for living."

So, is this study sexist or accurate in your eyes?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicago Coalition of Reason billboard goes up

The Chicago Coalition of Reason has erected the billboard shown below. Here is some blog reaction to it.

Are humans still evolving?

According to a study, now in its 60th year, humans are most certainly evolving and we can expect to evolve at the same rate as other animals. It has often been thought that because of modern medicine and technology humans would be sheltered from the impact of evolution by natural selection. The Yale study followed a group of women and concluded that their offspring would be, amongst other things, shorter, bigger and have children at a younger age.

This is not the first study to come to the conclusion that humans are still evolving. This study suggests that human evolution is actually speeding up.

Lutheran Church fails



Richard Dawkins interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio

Texas man sentenced to death after jurors consult Bible in deliberations

Amnesty International has appealed Texas' sentencing of Khristian Oliver who is sentenced to die on November 5th. Recently, it has been revealed that jurors consulted the Bible with highlighted passages. Specifically, this one was read aloud
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Defence lawyers argued that jurors had been improperly influenced by the Bible, but the judge rejected the claim. In 2005, a Colorado judge overturned a death sentence because jurors had consulted the Bible.

While I fully support this decision to attempt to commute the sentence, I wonder how much influence the Bible would have had even had it NOT been in the room. If the jurors were so religious as to resort to finding guidance through religious text during a capital punishment case maybe they would have used religious reasoning even if the Bible was not present.

Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry demolish Catholic Church in debate

"I have just witnessed a rout" was the observation by journalist Andrew Brown of The Telegraph. The topic of debate was "The Catholic Church is a force for good." The debate was put on by the organization Intelligence Squared. Prior to and after the debate a tally was taken on how many people supported and opposed the proposition. After the debate 774 people had moved to the negative, against the proposition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

US scientist arrested for selling classified information

It pains me what I hear stories like this as it give science a bad name. Luckily, the number of incidents such as this are few and far between in the scientific community.

Stewart David Nozette was arrested by federal agents for attempting to sell secrets to the Israeli government. Since the mid 90s Nozette has been working with classified information and has recently developed a radar experiment that found water on the moon. If convicted he faces life in prison.

While I find what he has done as detrimental and undermining to US scientific progress, do charges such as this necessitate life in prison?

Another video from Symphony of Science - featuring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking




Jason at the website "Symphony of Science" composes this music and produces the videos. I find them inspirational and chilling. I hope you enjoy them too. For a second video of his go here.

Birds killed by trash on Midway Atoll

The photographer Chris Jordan has recently produced a series of photos that depict the impact of trash on Albatross populations on the Midway Atoll that is 2000 miles away from the nearest continent.

Argument from ignorance - Neil DeGrasse Tyson


DeGrasse clearly lays out the problem with eye witness testimony and the failure of argument from ignorance.

Symphony of Science- We are all connected



A song about nature's ability to amaze us. It creates a song out of interviews with some of the most preeminent scientists and thinkers of our time. Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse, Richard Feynman and even Bill Nye. Enjoy!