- I went in to a pet shop. I said, 'Can I buy a goldfish?' The guy said, 'Do you want an aquarium?' I said, 'I don't care what star sign it is.'
- The recruitment consultant asked me 'What do you think of voluntary work?I said 'I wouldn't do it if you paid me.'
- I went to the doctor. I said to him 'I'm frightened of lapels.' He said, 'You've got cholera.'
- I visited the offices of the RSPCA today. It's tiny: you couldn't swing a cat in there.
- I was reading this book today, The History of Glue. I couldn't put it down.
- I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, 'How flexible are you?' I said, 'I can't make Tuesdays or Thursdays.'
- I bought a train ticket to France and the ticket seller said 'Eurostar' I said 'Well I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin.
- I met the bloke who invented crosswords today. I can't remember his name, its P something T something R.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Not the war of course but a small battle. IMO this story shows a small piece of evidence for a shift in the US zeitgeist, atheists in Indiana sued the bus company who were bowing to discriminatory pressure from religious groups and won their case, yay, next Poland!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
For those of you wondering what this ritual involves I have included a photo of some Indians looking out for weather gods.. what?
Ah the thought of all those dusky maidens exerting their lithe young bodies as nature intended, the pearls of sweat rolling down the gentle curve of their…
It's enough to make you convert to paganism! anyway on a more serious note, starving can't be fun so I hope it turns out OK for them.
Everyone has probably heard of the Atheist Camp (its actually called "Camp Quest UK") opening in the UK this year down in Somerset; just about every newspaper and TV channel has had someone comment on it, the story even popped up in the USA FFS, like it's such a fecking difficult concept to grasp?
Anyway I was wondering what the moral majority was thinking about this and courtesy of PZ here are some reactions to the story from some of the followers of Christ that frequent the "Rapture Ready" forum. This is a site dedicated to the idea that Jesus is soon to return to Earth and whisk away his followers to heaven, presumably then leaving the rest of us in peace, sounds like a great idea?
Anyway, some of the comments peaked my irony detector up to 11, enjoy.
"What kind of boring atheist themed arts and crafts will they do?" – Probably ones that don't involve creating models of instruments of torture, or maybe little clay models of the pope to stick pins in?
"Very sad indeed.....Jesus is exactly what these precious children need, along with their parents...How tragic."
– How often does Jesus turn up to summer camps?
"Lets face it Atheism is bankrupt so they have to indoctrinate young children." – Ah the irony, it burns.
"What child wouldn't want to become a Christian after experiencing a summer of nothing but empty, hopeless thoughts. Despair can bring people to Christ, the Gospel has several recordings of it" – Yes, Christianity does seem full of desperate people
"Those in Great Britain need our prayers as they are slowly sinking, and I'd especially like to request prayers for Creationfest -- a Christian surfer/skater/music festival being held in Cornwall August 4th–10th. Hopefully, many young people of southwest England will get saved during that time" – Err "sinking", that'll be all those fat American Christians who visit in the summer, its only a small island you know.
"What will they sing about? Give peace a chance?!?" – OK, a Christian who has a problem singing about peace, something wrong with that picture surely?
Oh, those poor kids.
Girls, what are you waiting for, bag yourself an Atheist today!
Warning: Side effects may include, endless theological debates, irrational aversion to fox holes, an absence of purpose and lack of moral fibre, atheists may also contain nuts.
No, she lives in an Islamic theocracy; she is being punished for wearing trousers.
I must admit I have had occasion over the summer to think about corporal punishment for some of the things the programmers at my company have turned up to work in but what kind of God must these Muslims believe in that has the power to create the whole universe and sanction genocide at the drop of a hat, but gets uppity about the shape of the cloth that people use to cover their bodies, makes you wonder.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Many Americans seem to have no hesitation expressing their faith in public, tons of times whilst watching TV we had sports people and movie stars thanking the "lord" for their performances, ordinary people publically sharing their deepest convictions, presenters and politicians pronouncing their religiosity and thanking their God on behalf of everyone else. The first time we saw someone saying "praise the lord and god bless bla, bla" my son turned to me and shook his scrunched his face up in a quizzical look it was a picture. We just don't get that here; it would be seen as cheesy or bad form to blather on about your particular religious beliefs on telly (unless that was the subject of the program of course), this is especially noticeable with politicians. In the USA it seem mandatory for senators and officials to mention God, over here they would be considered slightly odd if they did. I'm not sure why this is so prevalent in the USA is it because people there are keener to "go with the flow", is religion more of a sensitive issue? Certainly Americans generally seem to be obsessed with team sports, competing and "winning" in a way that is much less obvious here but is this a desire to be "one of the team"?
I know plenty of Americans, who aren't religious at all even though they might not consider themselves Agnostic or Atheist, so why do so many outwardly vocal religious people seem to end up in the public eye? I've read many theories on religiosity in the USA some people think it's to do with an "immigrant" mentality and religion being a cohesive and familiar force for groups of people in unfamiliar and perhaps hostile surroundings. Some say it is to do with there being no state religion thereby freeing market forces to build an infinite number of businesses based on providing religion. It could be a side effect of Americans generally being more outgoing than Brits, I'm not so sure, clearly it is a complex question and many factors come into play. My own pet theory is that it's more to do with the value system in the USA, having worked for many US companies and seen how they operate and interact with society I think that being seen to be a "team" player, being positive and not rocking the boat are far, far more important social enablers over there than they are here. Of course we have the same elements here but they are much less polarised IMO.
Promotion of God is everywhere in the USA, you see it on billboards, on TV and on the radio, God really is big business over there in a way in which it is not here. It became a source of fun for us whilst in the car to flick through the stations where it seemed that every other channel was proselytising some flavour of Christianity or other; the kids had fun testing out their imitations of a Southern accent by repeating things they heard, like "Jayzus" as well as stuff on the country and western stations, my daughter now loves Dolly Parton of course :-(
I even came across these little pieces of graffiti at one of the theme parks, I can't imagine this happening in the UK it even strikes me as somewhat contradictory, isn't defacing a public building supposed to be naughty?
Another example of outward religiosity was whilst we were watching the shuttle launch, a little kid probably about 8 or 9 came over to us, I didn't really notice but he handed Jack a little business card who handed it to me very puzzled, it said something like "you can be on our team" on the front, on the back there was a whole splurge of stuff about being saved, going to hell followed by the contact details of a specific church, I wished I'd taken a picture of it but at the time I was inclined to rip it up and bin it immediately. How ridiculous, an eight year old child being used to proselytise to another eight year old child, I'd say that was pretty immoral.
I was pleased however to note that there was a lot more Atheist content being aired on some of the talk shows, Dawkins was mentioned a couple of times and some of the recent poster/billboard controversies (especially in Florida) were discussed, stem cell research was a reasonably frequent topic too. I concluded that the zeitgeist has definitely changed since I used to frequently visit the states, maybe that is because of Bush going or maybe some kind of backlash against the political meddling of the far right I don't know, it sounded like a positive step to me though.
Occasionally I get "challenged" (in a friendly way) someone has heard some question or other that they think I can't possibly address and to which the only logical explanation is God, they often take some measure of delight in confronting me with it in an "and another thing" manner. I find it fascinating to observe how mythology is so deep seated in some people even if they aren't religious, and the ignorance of even basic concepts of using rational thought to test ideas is surprising sometimes.
I thought I would share a snippet of one such conversation I had this morning, one of my pals burst into my office and asked me, "Did you hear the atheist camp thing on the radio this morning?", I hadn't but I knew what he was talking about, he went on to triumphantly say that the women representing the camp had done an awful job of representing "my side", he said the interviewer had asked some really deep and searching questions that had stumped her. This tweaked my interest so I asked what questions?
"How do you explain love and emotions", was the reply in a tone that suggested he thought the question to be unanswerable, biochemistry created by natural selection in order to facilitate a stable family unit for the purposes of successful reproduction, I said, otherwise you wouldn't be able to explain how chemical substances like alcohol and barbiturates alter our emotional state so much, its just brain chemistry. He seemed dissatisfied with this answer, and felt the need to pose another question, "yes but what about the big bang", how do you explain that, I don't know I answered, I'm not a physicist but there are several promising theories and the work at the LHC should help us figure out some of the finer points that the standard model doesn't address currently, he had an expression on his face like I was talking Greek. He went on, yes but now that the Catholic church accepts evolution and science can't explain how the first cell was created there must be a god, "ah" I said, the god of the gaps argument, he frowned, "what?", I went on to explain that religious people often fill the gaps in our scientific knowledge with God, i.e. wherever there is something we don't know they fill the gap with "god must have done it" as if "magic" is some kind of satisfying explanation. Over the years though the gaps have been getting less and less as the body of scientific knowledge has increased. It's a dangerous game to play I said, and somewhat pointless because it replaces something unknown with something even more unknowable, he looked indignant. I went on to explain that there are several promising theories regarding how the first RNA and cellular structures could have formed and we already know that the chemistry of the early universe was conducive to organic molecules forming spontaneously, but we weren't there so we may never know for sure. I turned the question back on him and asked; "If God created the first cell who did he think created God?", clearly he'd never thought about that.
I must admit it was far too early for such a heavy conversation and we hadn't even had our first cup of tea yet so we laughed and switched subjects to the business of the day, but I could tell the cogs had started turning in his mind; hopefully we can continue the conversation over a beer sometime it would be interesting to understand his perspective better.
An entire culture can be changed forever with a only handful of words.
Monday, July 27, 2009
For a venue I had chosen a spot along the Indian River in Titusville which is about 12 miles from the launch pad but offers a clear unrestricted view of it (the land is mainly flat there); all the information I had found suggested that you should turn up at least 3 hours before hand to ensure a good parking spot and take something to eat and drink etc. When the time came we both got in the car and drove out to Titusville stopping in a 7-11 to pick up some food (in the loosest sense) in the form of M&Ms, chips (crisps in English) and some sprite; all good geek fuel. It only took about an hour and I was pleased to find the place quite empty, apparently a shuttle launch isn't big news here anymore? Anyway, we got to our spot, a nice little wooded park with picnic tables and a boardwalk nestled in between two apartment blocks and we settled in to wait for the launch.
The view of the launch pad was great, and there was plenty of entertainment to pass the time, pelicans diving into the water fetching up shiny fish, the occasional dolphin playing in the waves and to our surprise a whole flock (if that's the correct collective noun?) of Ospreys darting between the trees behind us and the river, diving and catching their prey giving us a great view (alas way too fast to photograph) We also got talking to a few of the locals, really nice people, we covered the normal accent thing, then the vacation thing eventually getting onto the science part; most of them were armed to the teeth with "gear", radios, laptops, cameras with unfeasibly long lenses and lots and lots of food, they were really generous with all of it, letting us look through their cameras, read the top secret NASA blogs that they were monitoring and we listened to the commentary through various VOIP software packages, along with every flavour of Doritos imaginable.
The hours ticked down, 90, 60, 30 minutes to go, gradually a murmur of disquiet passed through the crowd, an ominous black cloud was making it's way across the peninsula headed for the pad (although the pad was still bathed in bright sunshine at this point); someone shouted out, "they've closed the hatches", we all stared intently forwards to the pad and then backwards to the cloud. 10 minutes to go, someone else shouted out "the tower has been retracted", excitement rose, then it started to rain on us.
T minus 6 minutes and the call went up, "its been scrubbed"; being a newbie to this I didn't want to ask the obvious question, we remained seated, eyes glued to the horizon. Unfortunately it was in vain, the launch had been cancelled, the thunder clouds too close to the pad and the risk of a lightening strike too great to carry on, bugger.
So close and yet so far, a great experience but a disappointment also; to rub salt into the wound the traffic on the way back to Orlando was horrendous, it took 4 hours to get back, we were exhausted. In the end we decided not to try for the rescheduled launches since it wiped out so much of the day/evening, the shuttle finally launched on Wednesday, we heard it from Orlando but couldn't see it because of low cloud. To compensate I took my son to the Kennedy Space Centre and the girls went to nearby Cocoa beach, we rode on the new shuttle launch simulator, it was cool but not as cool as the real thing…
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
You can read about it here.
What a backward and preposterous law, presumably since most religions are blasphemous to other religions the Irish police will arrest and fine everyone?
Welcome to the middle ages (strikes another country off the vacation list)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Whilst we're on the subject of creationism and evolution etc. anyone interested in the subject should take a look at a couple of recent Channel 4 programs to do with dissecting large animals. The series is called "inside natures giants" and is a four part program, so far there have been two episodes one on whales and another on elephants.
Now I know a program on cutting dead animals up sounds like a really bizarre thing to want to watch on TV, and perhaps it is, but boy can we learn a lot from looking at what we find inside natures giants. If you don't believe me read what Charlie Booker has to say about it (now he is a chap that isn't afraid to call it how he sees it, an ultra-sceptic you could say, and it receives the thumbs up!)
The whale program for example shows the gradual dissection of a fin whale that washed up and died in a bay in Ireland, utterly fascinating and spectacular; to see internal organs on such a scale was rather like looking at an exaggerated childish view of anatomy where everything had been made ridiculously large to aid observation.
The overwhelming evidence that hits you when one of these animals is dissected is how similar they are to us, in the case of the whale we can even see vestigial limbs, yes LEGS!, inside the whale showing a clear lineage back to land based mammals.
Any sincere creationists have to honestly ask themselves, why would God give whales legs?
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Following on from the story about creationism in British GCSE science exams I feel the need to illustrate what happens when science education is allowed to fail. Fortunately a fabulous example of scientific ignorance presented itself almost immediately. In the USA (Arizona) the state senator Sylvia Allen provides us with several points of supreme ignorance in a single statement, she asserts that the earth is only 6000 years old, even 6 year old children know there are trees older than this, its wrong on an epic scale. Then she goes on to say that there is no need for environmental laws, perhaps the good people of Arizona who have to live next door to this proposed Uranium mine would like to have a dig around in Ms Allen's back yard, see if they can find something toxic that might poison her loved ones. Then she says we won't even know the mine was there when they are finished, uh huh, strip mining has a clear and long track record of not impacting the environment, evidence old girl, evidence. Then there is the logical fallacy that because something is supposedly "old" that it cannot change, she states that because we haven't destroyed the environment yet that we won't destroy it. Unbelievable, jaw dropping ignorance, tell that to the Dodo!
The stooopid, it burns..
Whatever next, the "stork theory" of reproduction or perhaps the "cheese theory" of the moon?
Creationism belongs in RE, even the government acknowledges this; creationism is NOT science, just like astrology, crystal healing and tarot cards are not science. Putting mythology like this into science exams suggests that these ideas hold equal scientific weight to proper scientific theories which is like equating an egg cup with the space shuttle, a complete distortion of reality.
Religion is like a malignant virus, always there looking for a weakness, always ready to indoctrinate the unwary; like the plague bacilli that lies hidden in the ground for millennia it patiently waits. All it takes is for the rational and the secular to be distracted for a moment and BAM! It inserts itself into our collective consciousness undoing the hard won progress that our species has laboured for and stultifying our brains into subservient mush.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Kanal T TV a station in Turkey is going to run a game show along the lines of big brother except they will take 10 Atheists and expose them to the an Imam, a Rabbi, a Buddhist monk and a priest who will then seek (over a period of time) to convert one of these atheists to (presumably) one of the respective faiths. A team of theologians will vet the atheists before hand to make sure that they are genuine (I wonder what the collective noun for Theologians is?)
You may be thinking at this point what possible prize could be offered to the converter; well apparently they will be whisked away to the holy site of their chosen new faith? I'd definitely go for Buddhism since I've always wanted to visit Tibet, however apparently that's not the big draw of this show. The following inspiring quote is from the chief executive of the station a man called Seyhan Soylu, who said:
We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God. We don't approve of anyone being an atheist. God is great and it doesn't matter which religion you believe in. The important thing is to believe.
I wonder how they will establish if the conversion has been honest? certainly a tricky one for the theological "A team", I reckon it will almost certainly involve circumcision, bacon and squashing cock-roaches.
Anyway, I doubt if I'll be staying up to watch this but it's an interesting spin on Pascal's wager; apparently a few hundred people have applied to take part in the game, perhaps it should be called "the pious is right"?
Friday, July 03, 2009
The more mainstream comedians that point this stuff out the better; maybe we can get some kind of "Ratners" effect going.
PS The punchline is "he died of an overdose".
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Don't worry though Biologists have looked at it closely and discovered it is a colony of Tubifex worms, isn't nature wonderful.
The other astounding fact about this picture is that when the light and IR radiation that interacted with Herschel's sensors was first formed, humans didn't exist yet on planet earth, it has taken that long to get here (35 million years in fact!) so we are looking back in time as well as over an unimaginable distance. Of course this is just one of billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars each with possible exo-planets revolving around them.
Feeling insignificant yet?
Regular poster Oranjepan raised an interesting question yesterday on the subject of agnosticism and atheism, there are many types of "ism's" all meaning slightly different things so I thought I would post a little summary of what the main ones are and what I think they mean.
Atheist – Someone who does not believe any Gods exist, or as in most cases simply feels there is not sufficient evidence for any of them.
Agnostic – Someone who is undecided or feels there is not enough evidence to support any particular position
Deist – Someone who believes in a God or creator, but feels that having created the universe no longer interferes or cares about its development
Pantheist – Someone who believes that God is essentially "nature", i.e. a redefinition of the word God to mean "everything"
Panentheist – Someone who believes that God contains the universe, i.e. the universe is a subset of God and God is greater than it.
Monotheist – Someone who believes there is only one god, this group is dominated by the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism etc.
Polytheist – Someone who believes that there are many gods and all should be worshiped, like the Romans for instance
Henotheist – Someone who believes in one god but accepts the existence or possible existence of many other gods and they are equally true
Monolatrist – Someone who believes in one god but accepts that there are many other gods whilst denying that the others are worthy of worship
Different religions can also incorporate elements of these different positions, sometimes mixing them to support different theological arguments and dogma. Nothing seems to be straightforward, there seem to be as many different positions are there are people on the planet, which is one of the reasons Atheists often feel that religious positions are man made, i.e. the evidence seems to strongly support that.
It's a funny old game.