Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

h1

Lumpers, Splitters and Noah’s Ark

19 August, 2010

One of my father’s frequent pithy comments, one of his stock phrases, was, “The world is made up of two kinds of people:  lumpers and splitters.”  And palaeontologists are no exception.  Actually, they may be the definition of lumpers and splitters.

Scientists in almost every discipline are, whether they choose to admit it or not, are natural splitters.  Every (well, almost every) budding palaeontologist is a splitter.  Why?  What better way to get one’s name noticed, to get that elusive grant or, even better, teaching position, than to have your very own genus chalked up on your wall of fame?  This means, of course, that species are sometimes described based upon flimsy evidence.  One of the most famous was Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus.  Othniel Marsh, one of the true giants of early palaeontology, described Apatosaurus ajax based on a very incomplete fossil in 1877.  Then, two years later, he described Brontosaurus excelsus  based on six skeletons and part of a skull.  A quarter century later, the species, which had been split, was lumped back together by Elmer Riggs.  Of course, Brontosaurus is such a beautiful name that we continue to use it, though it is a junior synonym. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

From The Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen

29 June, 2010

Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

By Atheist Ireland | Published: June 29, 2010

The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.

We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:

  • We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
  • We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
  • We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
  • We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
  • We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
  • We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths.  We oppose state funding for faith schools.
  • We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.

Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.

Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.

So how many American politicians would be willing to sign on to this?  Even part of it?  Atheists, nonreligious, freethinkers, rationalists and agnostics make up around 15% of America’s citizens.  I would hazard a guess that less than 1% of our elected representatives would agree with even a few of these rather common sense affirmations.

h1

Fearing the ‘Other’

25 March, 2010

I strongly suspect that (((Wife))) and I scare the shit out of many extremely religious people.  I bet dollars to donuts that my best friend does, too.  Why?  We’re boringly normal.   Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

American Jihadists? Yee-Fucking-Ha!!

3 March, 2010

I have been asked, through email and through comments, why I, as an atheist, give a flying fuck about theists — about what believers do, or think, or believe.  Why do I blog about religion and belief in god(s) if I am an unbeliever? 

There are many reasons I blog.  I blog to help me understand who I am.  I blog to poke fun at political and religious absurdity.  And I blog because I am scared abso-fucking-lutely shitless about the radical right. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Panties in a Bunch Over Pink Ouija Boards?

6 February, 2010

One of the toys that we three kids played with when I was younger was an Ouija board.  Oddly, no matter what question was asked, or by whom, the answer usually matched the thoughts of the oldest of the three.  Not little (((Billy))).  Harmless fun.  Well, for me, annoying.  For my older sisters, fun.

Years later, I discovered that Ouija boards were not viewed as harmless fun.  They were, according to one local preacher (local (at this time) being Western Maryland) decried the boards as a gateway to Satanism.  As marijuana leads inexorably to opium, so Ouija leads directly to Satanic cults, orgies, human sacrifice. atheism, Darwinism, voting Democrat, alcoholism, divorce, and viewing the Bible as allegorical.  Apparently, Christians (the specific subset of literalist Christians (and selected others)) are so insecure that they think a children’s game — a boring children’s game — is a threat to their belief system. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Criminalizing Miscarriages?

1 February, 2010

On of the things I admire* about the radical religious right wackos is their ability to get you coming or going.  First, they fight tooth and nail against any possibility of teaching our children actual facts about reproduction, sex, and all of the various ways to prevent pregnancy (abstinence, condoms, birth control pills, sponges, aspirin, IUDs).  Then, if a girl and boy do what teenagers do and (because they have been lied to about the effectiveness of birth control) she gets a little bit preggers, they make it as difficult as possible to get a legal abortion (by intimidation (of doctors, nurses and patients at women’s health clinics) or violence (up to (and including) murder).

Out in Utah (a bastion of progressive thought), a new law has just passed out of committee.  The “bill tightens the definition of what an abortion is and removes a legal immunity for women if they intentionally try to have an illegal abortion.” (this (and all others (except where noted)) is from KCPW‘s website).  Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

An Overheard Conversation

24 January, 2010

I both love and hate cell phones.  I hate the damned things because, when I had one, I couldn’t get away from anything.  Boss has a question?  He can call me while shopping.  Or driving.  Or whatever.  I hate the damned things because I find it extremely rude when someone interrupts a conversation with a living, breathing, and present person to talk to someone who isn’t even there.  I love the damned things because some of the conversations (or half-conversations) I overhear are funny as hell.

On Friday, (((Wife))) and I were walking into an overstock store (Marshalls or TJMaxx or some such (don’t laugh — I can get some good spices cheap)) to pick up a disposable pan (all my pots and pans are Calphalon, non with non-stick coating;  I like having one cheap non-stick for certain situations and, when it is no longer non-stick, I just toss it).  As we walked across the parking lot, I overheard one half of a hilarious cell phone conversation: Read the rest of this entry ?