Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dying for dirt

I don't often have cause to point out Hindu inspired stupidity on this blog, this doesn't mean there isn't any of course it's probably more to do with the fact that there is so much Christian, Muslim and Jewish stupidity to keep me busy. Anyway, I came across this story today, it's about a long standing dispute between Muslims and Hindus regarding a small piece of dirt about 130ft by 90ft square in the city of Ayodhya which is in Northern India. Now when I say "long standing" I mean that one of the key points of contention is whether a temple was demolished on the orders of Mughal emperor Babar in 1528. Since then and in modern times more than 2000 people have died because, put simply, both sides of the dispute claim that this particular patch of turf is "magic". In the most recent round of violence Hindus tore down a mosque in 1992 (leading to much bloodshed) claiming that one of their deities, called "Rama" was born on the spot, ironically Rama is revered for his unending compassion. Adopting their usual "flexible" stance (not!) the Muslims seem unwilling to move their mosque, do I detect a trend emerging here?. In case you are wondering who Rama is, here's a picture of him (obviously I'm not allowed to show a picture of Mohammed or I'll get my throat cut by the followers of the "religion of peace").. a colourful character I'm sure you'll agree although if you ask me he looks like he could do with a session in a hyperbaric chamber..

Today, an Indian court has ruled that the site must be shared (because sharing religious shrines has a good track record of success...) one set of magic will be in force from Monday to Wednesday lunchtime and then will switch over to the other set of woo-woo over the weekend (or something...) trouble seems to be brewing as troops move into the area.

My solution would be to save a few lives by levelling all religious buildings on the site and then building a school, or maybe a hospital for everyone regardless of what myths they were indoctrinated with as children; I'm sure the Gods would approve.

Tony Curtis

I read today that Tony Curtis died in his sleep aged 85 at his home in Nevada. Unlike classic film fans who will probably know him best from movies like "Some like it hot" and "Spartacus" my most lasting memory of Tony Curtis was as Danny Wilde in the TV series "The Persuaders". First aired in 1971, (showing my age there) I used to love that series as a kid, Aston martins and Ferraris, what more could you want at the tender age of 9! It was a big hit here in the UK however never really took off in the USA, its only claim to fame is that it did launch Roger Moore into the James Bond role and the title music for the persuaders was even done by John Barry (of 007 theme-tune fame).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Science map

Check this out

A map of famous scientists all linked by subject showing how intertwined the different strands of science are and how today we stand on the shoulders of giants, I love the way the big names like Newton and Darwin are like major intersections on the map. Another outstanding effort from Crispian Jago

*Follow the link at the top of the post and then hover over each node to see a pop up that shows information for each scientist..

Isn't God amazing

This seems familiar..

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red Ed faith head?

I'm not sure about Ed Miliband yet, he seems OK from what little I've heard of his speeches but then again Blair sounded OK in the beginning. In the press today he claims to be taking Labour down a new path, away from the Blair-Brown era; a new generation, new thinking, new politics, but then they all say that. What intrigues me is that according to the Guardian he's a "Jewish Atheist" which I assume to mean an Atheist of Jewish heritage (although why that would be different from a non-Jewish Atheist I'm not sure?) and he's the first party leader who's a father but not married, this is encouraging, he clearly doesn't pander to tradition.

What with Clegg and Miliband officially non-believers and Cameron only paying it lip service that's 2 out of three of our top politicians batting for the rational team and one on the fence, all this and not a goose step, Gulag or cultural revolution in sight, how strange?

The hight of cool?

We watched a really fascinating program last night on BBC2, it was about a new surgical technique that essentially involves cryogenics, i.e. the body of the patient is cooled down so that the heart stops, all the systems of the body shut down and brain activity reduces to zero, you could say that the patient is effectively dead, certainly by our current definition of what dead means. By cooling the core temperature of the patient in this way it gives surgeons a window of opportunity to perform vital repairs to major organs like the heart, in the example on the program last night the guy was effectively dead for about 40 minutes before being warmed up again and revived; he appeared to suffer no ill effects from this.

During the program the presenter also described an incident in Norway where a skier had fallen through some ice into a fast flowing river, her heart stopped and she was effectively dead for about three and a half hours before she arrived by helicopter to hospital where they warmed her up again and successfully revived her. This story and others like it provided an incentive to investigate this phenomenon for medical purposes.

I wonder if any of these dead people noticed any pearly gates, angels or bright inviting lights, oh come on you were thinking it too!

At least Atheists know what they don't believe

Interesting article in the New York Times today, it describes the results of a Pew survey on religion in America, 3,400 people were phoned and asked 32 questions about religion. The conclusion of the survey was that Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people but are also deeply ignorant about religion. Most people only got 50% of the questions right, most also flunked questions about their own religion.

The statistic I found most interesting was that the group of people with the best scores, i.e. those that knew most about religion were the atheists, yes, it seems that the best way to make an atheist is to give her a Bible or a Koran to study. This sounds about right to me since atheism and certainly the atheists I know are more often than not born out of an open minded and rational inquiry into the subject rather than via faith or by sticking rigidly to the dogma of the culture they happen to be born into.

Here are a couple of sample results,

- Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

- Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

What can we say other than, "C- could try harder"...

Monday, September 27, 2010

The birds and the bees

I read an interesting article on the BBC web site today it's about a recent trend in America that has seen an increase in parents attempting to ban certain books and other learning materials from their children's schools, essentially reflecting an increased desire to censor what children are allowed to see and read in school over and above the filtering already implemented by their teachers and the schools themselves. The New Humanist magazine also had a more detailed assessment of this trend.

Most of the objections centre around sex of course, occasionally it's something more tangential like politics or offensive language but generally the article points a finger at our biological impulses as the root cause of most disputes. Another interesting comment is about how the systems in the USA and the UK are different, apparently these kinds of objections are much more common there than they are here. This may be to do with the more fine grained control that US school boards have over local schools than local constituents do here, it is almost unheard of that people object to particular books etc. in the UK. Religion too must presumably play a big part in this, primary motivator probably, the UK is much less religious than the US even though the US have an enviable clarity of separation of church and state. Evolution remains a religious bone of contention in some parts of the USA, although hopefully that trend is going in the right direction now.

So what is the "right" time for the birds and the bees conversation? As a father of youngsters myself it's a topic that seems like an imponderable, when an advert appeared on TV featuring a naked man in a car showroom my 9 year old son recently looked at me quizzically (of course there was always something covering his modesty like a cactus or a loaf of French bread etc. which was the joke) he asked "but Dad why is this funny and why won't they show his penis?" I felt like a giggling schoolboy whose teacher had just told him to grow up, it's only a naked person! Times do change, when I was his age I probably used see half a dozen feature films a year, now he sees that many a week, even innocuous things like Indiana Jones have "adult" themes in certain scenes and anything that's remotely interesting and challenging has the odd swear word or two. I always think that if parents make a big deal of these things they become so much more attractive; as soon as my kids realise that their parents know all about something and can explain it rationally in a mundane matter of fact way then they seem to loose interest quite quickly, it's a theory at least.

In the beginning..

Friday, September 24, 2010

How shrill of us!

This picture shows some 20,000 (est) people protesting against the state visit of the Pope last week; a really great turn out; unfortunately mostly ignored by the British media, we mustn't be rude to religious people by standing up to their intrusive and dogmatic superstitions after all.

Of course the Catholic apologists scream religious intolerance at this kind of thing but as usual deliberately avoid the real point; this rally was not about secular society denying Catholic people their beliefs or a voice (as a minority group) in the public square, it was about pointing out the harmful affects these beliefs have when they intersect with a majority secular society, for example these things (among others):

  • The Pope used a STATE visit primarily to proselytise and promote his own organisations narrow political views, no one has a problem with him visiting the followers of his religious sect in the UK to do that, but why should the rest of us pay for it?
  • The Catholic church and the Pope specifically has not properly addressed the criminal issue of systemic abuse of children under the care of the Catholic church, both in the UK and Ireland and also around the world. This will continue to be the case until all relevant documents are released to the police and all priests accused of abuses are removed from the protection of the Vatican state and handed over to the relevant authorities.
  • The Catholic church wishes to discriminate against homosexuals, as a legal right.
  • The Catholic church wishes to discriminate against woman by denying them equal employment opportunity and by diminishing their opportunities to control personal fertility, as a legal right.
  • The Catholic church impedes scientific progress for no other reason than pre-scientific superstition in areas such as stem cell research, obstructing potentially life saving research.
  • The Catholic church actively spreads scientific falsehoods regarding HIV and condom use in Africa, indirectly leading to the suffering and unnecessary deaths of countless thousands of people.
  • The Catholic church places tradition and authority (their authority) above evidenced based rationality in education, teaching children that they are born into sin (their definition), the only salvation being to submit to the dogma of the Catholic Church. This "sin" is of course the original sin of Adam, a mythical figure that the Church themselves (now accepting evolution) must agree did not exist!
See, not a single angel or pinhead anywhere!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I want that tee-shirt..

Before I forget, I have to mention a t-shirt I spotted in Wokingham the other night, it said: “More people have read my t-shirt than your blog”.

I swallowed my chuckle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cabbage patch killer still on the run!

This little story made me chuckle today, it's about some naff computer rendering of a suspect's face that was published by Hampshire police; you can see it for yourself below, it simply looks like a bloke with a lettuce on his head, you'd think they could do a little better, it looks a little, how can I say, tossed together?

Unsurprisingly no one has come forward to "help police with their enquiries" yet, and the police are blaming their software, but according to a recent leek CID are still looking for the cereal killer who they hope will turn over a new leaf..

Cranes all the way down

After reading about the depressing ignorance of certain US senators yesterday I was reminded of a rather nice analogy for the process of evolution that the American philosopher Dan Dennett came up with, it kind of redressed the balance for me, here it is (I tweaked it slightly, hopefully he won't mind)
  • Proteins and DNA are not alive, living spirits are made from lifeless stuff.
  • Souls can be made from things that don't have souls, brain cells often make souls.
  • To make something complex you don't need something even more complex, that lives in the clouds.
  • Evolution has cranes that lift things from the floor, cells, sex, language all cranes lifting us to higher places 
  • Cranes all the way down, with solid foundations anchored to the ground, no magic sky hooks in sight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dunce gets elected..

Republican Senate nominee for Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, recently showed how ignorance is not an impediment to achieving political success in America and as usual religion and superstition is at the heart of it. Ms O'Donnell outlined her feelings on evolution in a recent article, and that's exactly what they are, i.e. "feelings" and most certainly not knowledge or even informed opinion. All the usual, long ago demolished, canards are here, "evolution is only a theory", "carbon dating is inaccurate", "the Earth is only a few thousand years old", oh my, I wonder what her insightful feelings on masturbation, gays and witchcraft might be?

I can't prove this as a fact of course but I do have a theory, Ms O'Donnell is a few cherries short of a credulous fruitcake.

Most unfortunate album cover of all time?

You have to laugh...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Godwin's Pope

Following on from the Pope's remarks about Nazi's being guided by atheism (and therefore by the power of Greyskull (aka. wish-thinking) Atheists are obviously very bad people) I came across these little ditties written by actual Nazi's describing the kinds of books that were "verboten" at their little party; it's interesting because they are the opposite to what you would expect if the Pope were in any way, shape or form right.

"Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (H├Ąckel)."

"All writings that ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy to the healthy sentiments of the Volk."

So Darwin is out and criticism of anything to do with religion is also off the list; so Dawkins "The God Delusion" would have been straight onto the pyre but all those Christian flea's writing books like "the Dawkins Delusion" and "The Confutation of Dawkins" would have been saved from the shower blocks, how ironic! As we can see the Pope seems to have been puffing invisible smoke out of his chimney on this; perhaps the perfect illustration of an "extremist Christian" attempting to build an "extremist Atheist" out of straw for his stultified pack to savage.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't let the Pope get you down

Forget about the hypocritical nonsense being spouted by the Pope and the pathetic fawning being shown by the apologetic British media here's something light-hearted for Friday.

The folks in our office just celebrated getting a big new deal today, with pizza and champagne (diet of kings!), not much work getting done this afternoon :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spinning up the spin..

I was interested to read the transcript of the Pope's welcome address, given when he arrived in the UK today, one particular section caught my eye,

"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime's attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a "reductive vision of the person and his destiny"

Equating things you don't like (i.e. Atheists) with Nazis is a well known debating tactic of idiots and hucksters commonly referred to as Godwin's law, a complete fallacy of course, it is a historical fact that the vast majority of Germans at the time of WWII were Christian (Ratzinger was one of them). Hitler himself was notionally Catholic (although clearly not devout) and there are hundreds of mentions of "God" in his many writings and speeches on political and social policy (i.e. "Mein Kampf"), but strangely nothing at all about Atheism.

It's true that Britain stood up to the Nazis, on the other hand the Catholic church took a somewhat different tac, "collaboration" would be too strong but "opposition" is not the right word either, but we'll probably never know what secret deals were done in those dark days between Hitler and the Pope, "cover ups" are their speciality after all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Irony seeping from every pore

I just loved this story on the BBC today; its about the "Presbyterian Moderator" some bloke called Dr Norman Hamilton (in case you're wondering, yes it's a theology degree) apparently Mr Hamilton has refused to shake the hand of the Pope or be presented to him when he comes to the UK. He claims that the reason for this is "troubling differences" regarding how the Vatican is dealing with the issues surrounding past child abuse cases in Ireland, he doesn't sound very "moderate", anyway fair enough I suppose. The issue is an important one and it's a long way from being settled in Ireland and elsewhere so a little protest aimed at the leader of the organisation responsible for these things seems reasonable, what tickled me was the response to this from Chris Patten (the man appointed to be the personal representative of the Pope while he is here).

Patten said,

"I am strongly of the view that the Christian churches should work together and should shake one another's hand rather than behave as though we were living in the depths of the 16th century,but perhaps some people are more comfortable in the 16th century than they are living in the 21st."

Woah! hold on a minute this is the organisation that took 400 years to agree that the Earth revolves around the sun and still performs exorcisms! So much for Catholics being a little contrite for all that suffering caused by members of their sect and just a little kettle calling the pot black if you ask me.

I predict a lot of this kind of thing over the coming days...

What could possibly go wrong?

We all occasionally look at what other people do and think "why?" Take Frenchman Alain Robert for example, aka. the "human spider", he likes nothing better than to scale the outside of tall buildings with no safety rope or harness just his muscles to hold him up, completely free. A fairly unforgiving activity by any reckoning, but he must enjoy it and the sense of self motivated achievement and finely developed expertise is clearly intoxicating for him.

In the debate between religion and science you often hear the question "science can't tell us the purpose of life?" usually this is raised as a counter to the idea that science might one day "know" everything, this is probably unlikely in the lifetime of anyone reading this post but is it even a valid question? I think it is, but only in retrospect and Alain provides us with a clue to the real answer, we make our own purpose and sometimes people even make science itself the purpose of their lives.

Why spend your entire life following someone else's "purpose"? When it comes to living a life no one can meaningfully predict what will happen next so in my view we should all take a leaf from the human spider's book you never know what's around the corner!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Got a light?

More on the pastime that seems to becoming very popular among religious people at the moment, book burning; Not wanting to be left out, an Atheist in Queensland Australia has burnt pages from both the Koran and the Bible on a youtube video he made; Brisbane lawyer Alex Stewart claims he was conducting an experiment to see which particular holy book burned best, in a pragmatic Australian tone he added, "It's just a book, who cares," According to the story in the Brisbane Times the answer to his question is that his employers care! Mr Steward has been placed on "extended leave".

Now, wanting to burn any book seems like a fairly pointless ambition to me, but why would Mr Stewart's employers (Queensland University of Technology) regard this act so seriously as to question his employment with them? No law has been broken so presumably they are concerned about something else?

Perhaps the problem is one of "offence"? But simply believing in Evolution notionally offends 1.1 billion Muslims, supporting a pro-abortion policy offends 1.3 billion Catholics and eating cows offends a billion Hindus, supporting state funded healthcare offends millions of Republicans, supporting Manchester United offends everyone else! It simply is not possible not to offend anyone with any deliberate, premeditated action or opinion, so why is this different? Could it possibly be that like the religious believers who object to this peculiar act of arson that the University of Queensland believe that these books are magic books?

In free societies, religious people are able to treat any inanimate object they like with whatever reverence and ritual they like, no one is preventing them from doing so, but should they also have the right to insist that everyone else believe those same objects are magic too? To an atheist these (physical) books are "just paper". I don't respect one physical piece of paper any more than another and therefore I don't respect copies of the Koran or the Bible (as distinct from the people that hold those views) any more than any other book; if my house was burning down and I only had time to grab one thing from the bookshelf it wouldn't be a Bible or On the Origin of species, more likely it would be a family photograph (would that be offensive?)

Should anyone have the right to prioritise my treatment of my own possessions?

Miracles r us

So, the Pope arrives in this green and pleasant land on Thursday this week, many secular people are planning their own little protests countered no doubt by many Catholic apologists planning to saturate the media with the good stuff (or at least what they believe is the good stuff). It will be interesting to see how the trip pans out with such diverse points of view battling it out in the public arena, shame we don't have a referee for such outings, if we did at this point he would be saying "now I want a fair fight, no scratching, biting or hitting below the belt...", hopefully we'll see some passionate yet rational argument from the secular side, and no doubt we'll see a mountain of straw from the faith based contingent.

One slightly bizarre component of the Popes visit is that he is expected to beatify (a step toward sainthood) someone called John Henry Cardinal Newman. Newman was someone who lived in the 19th century and became a well known literary and religious figure throughout the 1800's he famously converted from the Anglican religion to Catholicism and busied himself increasing the footprint of his organisation in England and Ireland. Recently, in 2001, a Catholic called Jack Sullivan claims to have been cured of a debilitating back condition after chancing upon a TV program about Newman whilst bed-ridden. To become a saint you need the Catholic x-factor, where x means miracles! Luckily for Newman the Sullivan "miracle" has popped up at just the right time for him to move onto the next stage of the competition, beatification, however for full saint-hood Newman will need at least another miracle to his name. No doubt the Pope's production team is searching the populous right now for the right kind of supernatural act to seal the deal.

Newman was undoubtedly a smart guy, after all, he worked his way up from humble beginnings to become a mover and shaker in a very powerful and large organisation called the Catholic Church, but as an atheist I would rather put Sullivan's recovery down to the skill and dedication of the surgeon who performed his laminectomy than supernatural intervention. Unfortunately for the secular community though a photograph has just been discovered in the Vatican archive of Newman actually speaking to Sullivan on his mobile, so not only is Newman omnipresent across the time dimension, with his patented "prayer grip" he also demonstrates (miraculously) how to correctly avoid those annoying dropped calls because of a faulty antenna on the new iPhone.

What'a guy..

A jab in the dark..

Homoeopathy is in the news again today, it seems that some practitioners in Scotland have been giving patients homoeopathic substitutes for vaccinations, as a result these people will now be unprotected from some rather nasty diseases like measles, rubella and mumps. Apparently these preparations are made from "diseased tissue", i.e. they grind up human flesh from people who have had these conditions and dilute it so there is nothing left but water and then get suckers to take it. You have to wonder if people were properly educated about the hard evidence for the efficacy of homoeopathy (i.e. there is none) whether they would continue to support it, but then given the plethora of woo-woo on offer these days and hoovered up by credulous people perhaps not.

A spokesperson for the Homoeopaths involved said,

"I'm not advocating that they do not take the vaccination, I am providing support for those who choose not to by giving them an alternative."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, when you are claiming efficacy then a choice between something that works and something that doesn't is not an "alternative", it's fraud and puts children's lives at risk. Measles is not the same as a common cold, as soon as the line between trivial conditions and life threatening conditions is crossed you no longer have a "harmless" self inflicted placebo you have a communal health risk!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

World irony record shattered..

For those familiar with the cult of "Jehovah's Witnesses" (JW) you will know that they publish a regular little magazine called "Awake", it's a simplistic publication aimed at conveying a childish message of part Biblical literalism and part  messianic doomsday cultism, I've read a lot of them. Years ago I used to work with a JW he was a lovely chap but had been suckered into the cult in his youth and couldn't shake it off. He used to leave these pamphlets lying around on his desk and occasionally use them as "argument" fodder for his hopelessly delusional world-view.

We used to debate evolution and science frequently, he never had a convincing argument against any of it, he even admitted to being swayed to the point of seriously questioning his faith, but the hooks were in too deep, the cultural ties too difficult to unravel; dissenters were viewed as outcasts by his "flock". It was with some degree of nostalgia that I came across a recent edition of the Awake magazine recently, it reminded me of those times and tweaked my interest nerve even further when I noticed that they were talking about me!

It's organised as a series of short pieces about various topics, the first one reflected the subject of the headline, addressing the rise of the "new atheists" (or gnu atheists as we like to be known) it starts off by saying,

"A new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves. Rather, they are on a crusade, “actively, angrily, passionately trying to persuade the religious to their point of view"

Now bear in mind this is from a Christian cult who's claim to fame is that they send people door to door interrupting your Saturday morning to "tell you the good news" (hint: it's neither good nor news!). Here they are complaining that Atheists have the temerity to actually state what their views are, clearly and with conviction, whatever next? the Pope arrested for colluding with paedophiles?

The edition goes on to parrot many centuries old and long debunked arguments (as it always did), the argument from design, eyes can't evolve by chance, Hitler was an Atheist, the Bible is inerrant, morality comes from religion and so on, the list is a classic who's who of stupidity. After all those failed prophecies and universal ridicule for their wacky beliefs it's hard to believe that JW's fall for this rubbish any more, but they clearly do. In my experience, and probably like most cults honesty and facts are not important to them, they seem to thrive only because of peer pressure, fear and most of all blind, ignorant faith.

Burn baby, burn..

I guess everyone has noticed the bone headed retard of a pastor in the USA who is announcing to the world than he's going to burn a Koran on 9/11, there are a ton of stories about it floating around the place at the moment. The whole thing has been blown out of all proportion of course, who cares what this dolt thinks or does, in reality he is an international irrelevance. Clearly if the flow of publicity was stemmed he would wither and fall from his host like all blood sucking parasites do.

Personally I don't think anyone who hasn't passed a basic intelligence test should be allowed to burn any book, however, if the feckless reverend feels he must destroy something he could at least show some concern for the planet by pulping a Koran instead of burning it!

It's sad to see that the only way Muslims in places like Pakistan and Indonesia feel able to protest about this is to burn American flags or Christian symbols, the irony is clearly lost in translation (rolls eyes); but then from the point of view of an Atheist this whole clash represents the mother of all irony. A dispute between two sets of ignorant bigots arguing over who has the biggest invisible friend by burning bits of paper and cloth, you couldn't make it up.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Pope paradox

The New Humanist magazine has an article which poses the question, "if you were given an audience with the Pope, what would you say to him?"; then it got a dozen or so well known people to supply their answers.

My own personal favourite is Philip Pullman's reply, but then I have a weakness for time paradoxes; Pullman asks,

"I would like to ask the Pope to imagine that he was taken back in time to Jerusalem in the last week of Jesus’s life, with the power to save him from the crucifixion that was rapidly approaching – perhaps by magically transporting Jesus to a distant city such as Athens or Baghdad. Would he use that power, with all its consequences for the future of the Church, or not? And if he wouldn't, if he would just stand back and let the crucifixion happen, how does that make him any different from Judas?"

Neat I thought, but then I guess that's why he sells so many books!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Does God make you rich?

Here's an interesting chart, the data comes from polls carried out in various countries and plots the importance people place on religion (y-axis) against GDP (x-axis); the implication is that richer countries are less concerned with religion. Deeply religious, poor countries will appear in the top left and rich, godless countries will appear bottom right, I'm glad to see the UK firmly in the latter quadrant (click to see a larger version) as it seems like all the countries I'd rather not live in because of poverty, repressive governments or on-going conflicts etc. aren't in our square, maybe religiosity is negatively correlated to morality and peacefulness as well as wealth?

There is one strange outlier though, the USA pops up in the upper right quadrant, does this mean that they have  picked the right God to worship or that they simply just live with the cognitive dissonance that must be produced by residing in a modern (scientific) society and being very religious at the same time? I'd love to see this animated over the last 100 years to see what the movement trends are.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Periodic woo-woo

I think this is great, combining science and criticism of woo-woo all in one superbly thought out re-working of the periodic table of elements; a fabulous effort and most enlightening (click to enlarge)

Kudos to Science, reason and critical thinking.

Nature is enough

I'm really glad that Stephen Hawking has finally cleared up the much quote-mined sentence at the end of his now famous 1988 book "A brief history of time". In that book he signed off with the words, "if we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God." Of course people that know him have always said that he's referring to "God" here in the Deistic sense, i.e. meaning "Nature" or the Universe but never the less religious fundamentalists and creationists everywhere have used this sentence to make half-baked assertions along the lines of "famous scientist believes in God" This is about as likely as me killing my children because I say things like "if you don't stop arguing with your sister you're not going to reach your tenth birthday!". Language is such an imprecise way of communicating ideas and feelings.

In a new book titled "The grand design" Hawking says (more clearly this time) that "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going". New ideas and discoveries in physics strongly suggest that because of physical laws like gravity Universes can and will create themselves from nothing and develop completely naturally, including the evolution (and descent by natural selection) of sentient beings such as ourselves in suitable environments. Since 1992 (and mentioned regularly here) we are discovering exoplanets and other features of the universe which make the assertion that our existence is somehow special or necessitates a divine (supernatural) spark of some kind redundant.

Sounds like an interesting book;

PS if you want to see a live debate between Ruth Gledhill and Richard Dawkins about this topic then you can watch it (live) here. So far, nothing new from the theist side, just the usual ontological diversions about "purpose" and x might be true or y might be true, science can't prove (insert Deity of your choice) doesn't exist. Celestial teapots in spades and god of the gaps ad nausea, let's hope she comes up with something more convincing or I predict the usual post coital excuse of "I lost the debate because Dawkins is so shrill, oh yeah and what about all the charity, therefore God exists".

Jesus bugs your calls..

Jesus showed up again this week, this time he struck a suitable pose on a telephone pole in Louisiana USA. 

Now what would Jesus be doing on a phone pole? the only possible explanation I can think of is that he wants to earwig on all the phone calls and internet data passing through the cables, so,watch out when you're looking at something you shouldn't be on the WEB or spreading malicious gossip about your neighbours, Jesus is listening in!