Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Proof Positive

      The quote "Extraordinary Claims demand extraordinary proof" has widely been attributed to Carl Sagan, a key contributor to the modern skeptical movement.  However, this thought precedes Sagan by a couple of centuries.  Daniel Loxton in the Skepticblog post, "Wonderful Phenomenon demand wonderful evidence," Dec 11, 2012 traces it back to David Hume (1739) and Pierre-Simon Laplace (1814).
      Religious and paranormal history is replete with claims of miracles.  However, such claims have become significantly fewer in modern times when the ability to make controlled examination has advanced beyond mere anecdotes from biased observers, who often have become hypnotized by their desire to participate in the phenomenon. 
      Often, yesterday's miracles have evolved into today's scams.  A corollary to the above might be the adage, "If it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fun Political Quotes

''Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.''
—Ambrose Bierce

''As Americans, we must ask ourselves: Are we really so different? Must we stereotype those who disagree with us? Do we truly believe that ALL red-state residents are ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying roadkill-eating tobacco juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks; or that ALL blue-state residents are godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving left-wing communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts?''
—Dave Barry

Political Page Launched

With the following quote we launch our Political Page

All ideologies are idiotic, whether religious or political, 
for it is conceptual thinking, the conceptual word, 
which has so unfortunately divided man.
Jiddu Krishnamurti
Initial topic is Conservatives vs Liberals

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Mother's View of Morality

      Deborah Mitchell's essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform. Lots of people disagreed with her. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her.
      As iReport reaffirmed, if you want to bring out the "crazies" just post an essay about non-belief in God. Comments are frequently harsh, hateful, and demeaning.  
      Ms Mitchell is a rarity in that she presents her opinions in a soft motherly way and consequently her blog deserves permanent reference on our Religion Page.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Americans Love a Good Apocalypse

Over the last five decades I have read prophecies of colossal doom for the human race. We have had catastrophic warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, ozone holes, acid rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow disease, killer bees, sex-change fish, HIV, and climate change.  They all have one common feature -- their prophesy of ultimate doom never happens.

We have had these notable prophets of doom: Thomas Malthus, Al Gore, Racheal Carson, Bernhard Ulrich, Laurie Garrett, Richard Preston, Margaret Chan, Paul Watson, William and Paul Paddock, Harrison Brown, and now Rajendra Pauchuri.  They profitably stroke American's desire for a good scare story. 

Matt Ridley a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the author, most recently, of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves has a more realistic perspective.
Humanity is a fast-moving target. We will combat our ecological threats in the future by innovating to meet them as they arise, not through the mass fear stoked by worst-case scenarios.
To read his view in more detail click here 

A Deluded Narcissist Responds

Our narcissist acknowledges:
- Millennial Generation, Generation Y or Generation Desperately Seeking Attention
- Famous millennials Tweet like it’s their job. 
- Simply the product of a fast-paced, media saturated, fame obsessed culture that covets exposure.
- A vicarious life on the Internet where self-worth is measured by numbers of “followers.” 
- Seek self-validation via Facebook and Twitter.
- "I Facebook, therefore I am."

She goes on to recommend schoolds should offer a course in "Think before Tweeting 101: A Way to Save Yourself Public Embarrassment and/or Loss of Employment."  She misses that time when personal lives were personal.

Gun Violence

Everyday a Republican legislator opens his/her mouth and advances the party’s march to extinction. In interviews when asked which of Obama’s 23 Exec Actions do they agree with, their response is “None of them.” I thought these actions must be bad so I searched them out. See below.

Over 90% of Americans support enhanced and universal background checks. Isn’t it about time the Republicans start working FOR America rather than constantly AGAINST America?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why I Raise My Children Without God

The essay referenced in this POST appeared in CNN.  It was prefaced by a warning that it might contain inappropriate material.  I read it and thought, "Inappropriate to whom?"  I assumed I would see vulgar or violent comments or I might see overly exuberant rants that sometimes accompanies anti-religious essays.  But nothing like that.

CNN PRODUCER NOTE     TXBlue08, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. She said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because 'I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'
When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories... Like most parents, I love my child so much that ... I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But ...I would have to make stuff up...I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense.  One day...he would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa...I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer... 
Read the entire essay at

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Study Thoroughly Debunks (man-made) Global Warming, Will Media Notice?

I was recently sent an article with the the title on this blog post and asked to comment.  I chased down the source as for those who wish to read it.  My reply was . .

I think it is important not to let personal biases cloud one’s judgment of the science or not to let the misguided exuberance of such people as Michael Mann or James Hansen or ignorance of Al Gore detract from the actual science.  As I continue to read reports on both sides of this argument, it evident that neither is addressing the valid issues.  As often the case in such political discourse, the combatants are talking past each other.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Generation of Deluded Narcissists

. . FACEBOOK certainly highlights what many people suspect, we are raising a generation of narcissists.  Do people who post several status updates daily really believe they are that important?  Probably.  These narcissists also have TWITTER on which to share an infinite stream of 140 words of wisdom to an adoring following.
. . For the past 47 years the American Freshman Survey has been accessing 9 million college students and find them more likely now to consider themselves to be gifted and success-driven, even though their test scores and studying time show no evidence of that.
. . Lead psychologist Jean Twenge has found the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.  He said, "This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories."

Read more:

In the past generations children earned their keep. They did not feel entitled to allowances; they worked and often contributed to the family income.  Back in the "horse and buggy days" children never expected to be GIVEN a car at age 16 and often a vehicle better that their parents were driving. They got a job and bought what their meager wage could afford.  These children expected to move out of their parent's house after graduation and start the a life for which they had been training.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team warns, "We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape.  Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Separating the Gold from the Dross

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams dated October 13, 1813 said:
In extracting the pure principles which he [Jesus] taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.
Jefferson cut out the superstitious parts of the Bible, and it was sent to new Congress members for over 50 years. Now the American Humanists Association is continuing the tradition by sending a newly revised "A Jefferson Bible for the 21st Century" to the 113th Congress.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Climate Model Status

The last and fourth report by the IPCC was in 2007.  They are getting ready to issue their fifth report in September.  The major question is how well have their models and hypotheses matched actual temperature anomalies.

Likewise, several climatologists that disagree with claims of the IPCC have made projections of their own.  How well have they done?  The following article answers those questions.

The bottom line is -- models based on CO2 as a primary driver are fairly accurate.  Those based on other drivers, such as sun spots, have failed rather significantly. 

Religious Intolerance in America

. . According to a Gallup poll released in June, only 58% of Americans would vote for a “generally well-qualified” Muslim candidate, and only 54% would vote for an atheist. (This is the first time that number has been above 50% for an atheist candidate.)  By contrast, 91% would vote for a Jewish candidate, 94% for a Catholic and 80% for a Mormon.
. . This year, Congress welcomed the first Buddhist senator and first Hindu elected to either chamber of Congress, and the Pew Forum noted that this “gradual increase in religious diversity … mirrors trends in the country as a whole.” But Pew also noted one glaring deficiency: Religious “nones” were largely left outside the halls of Congress, despite one in five Americans now saying they don’t affiliate with a religion.
. . Since 2008, the percentage of Americans who identify as religious "nones" has grown from 14.6% to 17.8% in 2012, according to the Gallup survey. That number grew nearly one percentage point every year from 2008 to 2011.
. . The Gallup study also found that 27% of Americans age 18 to 29 identified as religious nones, making that group the largest subgroup in the study. It is consistent with other studies on religious nones, which have found the the most notable growth among the religiously unaffiliated has been among these young adults.
. . Maybe we are on trend to see the end of the social intolerance of the Religious Right and its associated hypocrisy and ignorance.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Limits of Science

. . The Scientific Method requires falsifiability of a hypothesis, but recent "theories" in Physics are introducing concepts outside that requirement.  On the large scale physicists talk about multi-verses that can't be observed.  In the smallest scale physicists argue multi-dimensional string theory which also can't be validated through experiment.  Why? Because that is where the mathematical formulation of the theory of everything seem to be heading.
. . The problem is human inability to visualize the infinite -- both the infinitely large dimension of the universe in which humanity resides and the infinitely small dimensions that goes on immeasurably past sub-atomic particles.
. . Science seems to be on a course to merge with religion which accepts based on faith alone and does not require falsifiability.  

High Cost of Pork

More Congressional hypocrisy for spending cuts (see link below).
Why do the majority of Americans support Tax Reform?  Because that equates in their simplistic logic. That SOMEBODY ELSE will pay the bills, certainly not them. 

Don’t get caught up in all the finger pointing as to who is “not leading.” Its more hypocrisy from a Congress that totally lacks such leadership within its ranks.  It is Congress that decides what gets spent and on what.  It is their responsibility ALONE to rein in that out of control spending.

Why is Boehner having such difficulty controlling his caucus?  The answer is simple.  The House Republicans have agreed not to “buy votes” with earmarks and other forms of pork.  It’s a discipline that the Senate Democrats have not yet seemed to have learned.  The Senate’s Sandy Bill is reported to have 35% pork!

God Fearing

. . Based on what priests who claim to have insight into the "nature" and the "personality" of God, whom would you believe would be more welcome into "heaven"?  Those who do good without belief or those those who do good because they expect to be rewarded and avoid doing bad to avoid punishment.
. . "Being God-fearing" is lauded by the faithful as a positive attribute identifying a good person.  That should clearly be a worrisome quality for a person that is not by nature trustworthy. 
. . What are the chances of a non-Christian, especially one that can't be identified as "God Fearing," be elected to high office in America? It is hard to believe that the militant intolerance of the Religious Right did not contribute to Mitt Romney's loss in the Presidential election?  Why was it even an issue?  EVERYTHING in his life indicated he was an exceptional moral man.
. . Can anyone imagine the outcry if noted atheists and philanthropists Warren Buffet or Bill Gates chose to run for high office?