Thursday, December 31, 2009

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights any person can have. It allows us to question without fear of persecution or judicial response. Unfortunately not everyone believes in such equality. Some people would have us punished for questioning. They would pass laws against our right to say what we will. These people are, by the very definition of the word, evil. The idea that someone else can only speak after they have cleared it through some sort of filter is abhorrent. The making of any subject not only taboo but unlawful shows a close mind and a desire to control others for the benefit of the so self deluded 'be-knighted' few. A law has recently passed in Ireland that makes it a crime to publish any form of blasphemy. This plays right into the hands of theists who wish to control the few of us who actually have awakened and see the world for the beautiful place that it is. Such things can never be tolerated. They must be fought on all grounds, ethically of course, but with strength and resolve. In defiance of this repellent law, a group of atheist Irish bloggers have published a list of twenty-five blasphemous quotes. By there permission, I have reproduced it here so that others may see and here about their plight. Such tyranny shall never be tolerated.

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name - The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy - he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities - how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”

10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”

11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine - but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good - and cares about any of it - to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”

19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”

20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”

21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

22. PZ Myers, on the Roman Catholic communion host, 2008: “You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university… However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel.”

23. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”

24. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.

25. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

He still has a job...why?

I recently came across a story about a justice of the peace in Louisiana who decided that refusing to marry an inter-racial couple was a good idea. Wait, it gets better...

His reasoning is as follows:

A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

I'll give you all a moment to process all of that.

For those of you who's mind has not imploded due to the density of stupidity exceeding the Chandrasekhar limit, we have to ask ourselves some very simple questions. No, not 'how did this moron end up a judge' (although that is a rather good one and hopefully the answer involves him losing said position) but 'how can someone say so much wrong in so little time' for starters.

After one is done pondering that (and hopefully not lost complete faith in the future of our species), we, unfortunantly get to look a little closer in what exactly is wrong with what he said.

First he starts off with the classic phrase used so often to try and explain away bigotry "think of the children!". But besides the normal idiocy of this phrase, it has a second hidden level of wrong waiting to be uncovered (kind of like those annoying 'magic eye' pictures that I can never get to work which leads me to believe that it is all a conspiracy by the optometrists to get us to stare at blurry images thus ruining our eyes). He is essentially insinuating that if two people do not get married then they cannot have children (perhaps this explains why his state has one of the countries highest rates of teen pregnancy). If I had known this secret (one that seems only to be known to the mentally deficient) then I would never have to again worry about contraceptives (no wait, I almost forgot I'm not an idiot there for a moment).

Those two stupidities alone are bad enough, but put them together and you get one grand unifying theory of stupid (think of it as his own personal TOE of fail). This is the idea that if there are no mixed race couples, then there would be no mixed race children and therefor less racism! ...Wait, I think someone is confused (and its not just me trying to follow his bigoted crazy). This is like saying that the best way to reduce racism is to let there be less of that very race in the first place... Ok, still not following him. Oh wait, I figured it out, he thinks that if we put our heads in the sand and pretend such people don't exist they will go away and life will go back to the happy all white 1950's suburb.

Before I start sustaining brain damage by trying to understand this, I'm going to move on. Surly he couldn't have packed in more idiocy, right? ...right?

His next line starts with "I'm not a racist, but...". Dear non-existent deity, stop with the cliches already. Anytime anyone ever says anything along the lines of "I'm not a 'insert kind of asshole here', but...", you know that this individual is most assuredly that very kind of ass. I don't mean the kind of ass that is annoying in passing but the kind that is so pervasive that it may just be possible to bottle their hate in a scent that would attract bigots from miles around. Just like the phrase "I don't mean to offend, but" it is a way to announce to the world exactly what you are and are about you really think. Have people like this judge really not picked up on this little tidbit?

Next we go from cliche abuse to a combination of confusing and disturbing. He says that he has "piles and piles of black friends". Now many kinds of things can be described as being in piles. You can have a pile of leaves, a pile of rags, you can even have a steaming pile (like what this man's entire defense really is). Humans, however, don't tend to come in piles, at least not when they are in the best of working order (and one would certainly hope not when ones 'friends' are involved). No, humans tend to get in piles when they are placed there (or when they decide to jump on one another in the absurd spectacle that is American football). These poor individuals, more then likely, do not (or even more likely, did not) think that this was a fun proposition, as such active humans will actively try to scurry away from any piling. This can making piling quite difficult and can only be rectified by preventing said pileable humans from doing any scurrying.

Now that we have learned that the judge is either a mass murderer or is about as skilled with the English language as a narcoleptic ape is at driving a vehicle. We are left with one final vexing question about the content of this man's response. What does his allowing his black 'friends' to use his toilet have to do with absolutely anything, especially about how supposedly not racist he is? Is there a hidden racism gauge out there somewhere with the line between racist and not being racist set at if you let someone of another race relieve themselves in your house? How does that thought even come into someones head? Isn't there at least one part of the judge's internal filtering mechanism working that could have picked up on this line of idiocy?

I give up, this man is, besides a bigoted ass, far to stupid to actually walk around not drooling on himself constantly.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I would first like to apologize. Despite my saying that I would try and update more I went for a bit without any word at all. The reason for this is because I have finally moved out from the middle of bloody nowhere and have moved into an apartment in what can at least vaguely be compared to civilization. It has certainly been a pleasant change for me.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is the concept of a purpose. One of the common critiques from theists on the atheistic standpoint is that it does not allow for there to be a purpose for ones life. It is a misconception that I come across time and time again. The only reason I think it still exists is a lack of imagination and drive on the part of the theists. They are used to having a worldview where their purpose and meaning are given to them on a platter. They do not need to work to attain it. They already think they have one. Granted they might not always know what it is, but to them the fact that it is there is all that matters. This leaves them as, if we want to reduce the idea down to its most basic form, nothing more then an automaton, working towards its predetermined goal even if that goal is invisible to the one who possesses it.

For those such as I without the belief in an higher guiding power, this preexisting reason can not possibly exist. Instead we are left blind to it entirely at first. To many of us (including myself for the longest time), this can be a bit daunting and bewildering. To think that we exist simply based on past occurrences and that any inherent purpose is not only lacking but a explanation that is contradictory to the evidence before us.

This point is generally when the theist gives up. They believe that if there isn't a preexisting reason then there cannot be any point for existence at all leaving one with a sense of hopelessness. But what they forget to look for is potential.

When a sculpture looks at a block of marble, they do not see a predestined design. In fact they cannot possibly do this as there never has been one. The marble is nothing more then a hunk of rock that was chemically and physically altered by intense heat and pressure. When the initial piece of granite was heated by the mantle, the Earth did not intend for it to one day be carved by the hands of a hairless ape with an imagination. It was simply processes causing other processes until two completely separate lines of events (the time line of the marble and the time line of the life of the artist) converge at a single moment in time. Nothing guided them to that intersection in time space. It just happened.

So then where does the purpose spring from if there was never even a place for it until that point? The purpose comes from the mind of the sculpture. He or she looks at the marble and envisions in their mind what it could potential be with just a bit of work. The see themselves picking up the tools, spending the energy and time to transform the haphazard stone into something of beauty or purpose.

The same can be said for our existence. When we look at our lives we can see all of our talents and desires. We can imagine what different combination of these could possibly achieve. In the end we create both our own purpose and the place to apply it. There was never a blank shelve were a purpose would fit perfectly, we create it all for ourselves based on our situations and capabilities.

For myself, creating a purpose was a long and arduous task. For the longest time I was never able to see my own self work or my impact upon those around me due to combination of chronic depression, physical disability and various other hurdles that were out of my control. But upon finally realizing what I am capable of, I was able to see what purpose I might have. In fact it was so clear it seemed to materialize out of my very existence as it is was intrinsic to my very being. Yet I know that it was not made for me, I formed it to suit me. I am the master of my purpose. I do not answer to it, but it to me.

This is an incredibly empowering idea. To think that my reason for existing is mine to own and control and that I am not set upon a preordained path. For this very reason I truly believe that the concept of a found purpose, a purpose we create ourselves, if far superior to those held by the theistic community. For they only believe they follow a path that exists for them instead of blazing their own. Any joy they get from theirs is a joy that is granted to them. For those who have made their purpose, the rapture they find in their own meaning is one they make for themselves. No one else has control over this. We make our own happiness, not depend upon some ethereal consciousness for it.

I would go so far to say that this is a more mature view point. I would compare the theistic concept of following a set path to that of a child following the commands of an adult. They are not trusted to make their own decisions in such important matters and must have their path lain before them. It gets to the point where the person walking that path won't even trust their own judgment any long and must hold the hand of their guide at all times.

On the other hand the one who has formed his or her own purpose is like the adult the child holds on to. We create our path from what is before us and what we have brought with us. We do not look to someone else to guide us along utterly defendant on their judgment and good will. We can trust in ourselves and do what we know to be right and proper. Yes, we will falter at times, everyone will, even the one who believes their path is set before them. But instead of wondering why we strayed from the path and hope to have our hands taken as we are walked back to it, we dust ourselves off and get right back on it ourselves.

Yet despite the usefulness of the analogies I have used, there is one simple problem with them. The problem being that the path that the theist has had layed out before them does not exist in the first place. It is fine to compare them to a child being guided by the hand throughout life. But the truth is that the path they believe they are walking and the hand they are taking does not exist in the first place. It is all an illusion created for their own comport. It is just a security blanket they have wrapped themselves in. Because of this they are even more lost then my analogy made it seem. If the path they are following is all imaginary then the are doing nothing more then wandering. There may be many times when something is accomplished or a destination reached. Yet it is because they did it themselves, even if they are to afraid to admit this and must attribute it all to their imaginary guide. It is sad that this must be so, that they must be so uncertain of their own capabilities.

More then just saddening it can also be incredibly dangerous. For if they believe the path is being created by another then there is absolutely no reason for them to take responsibility for their own actions. To them, what they are doing is the will of a wiser and more powerful being. As such it could not possibly be wrong and they have no reason to question it. This leads to someone who essentially has the personal reasoning skills of a child being granted immunity for the repercussions of the actions that are in fact their own. This is why the dangerous actions of religious extremists seems to alien to those of us who form our own purpose as we do not follow the same path of reasoning. This is one of the prime reasons people such as I speak out against theistic thinking such as this. We see the danger that is inherit and do not wish it to spread further then it has, to taint other minds and lives.

All of this was spawned by my discovering of my own purpose. Some may have wondered by this point what this purpose may be. What I have learned about myself is that I have the ability to aid others. Those I know have told me that I am someone that they can talk to about anything at all. That they know that I shall not judge them but instead put forth my own understandings to let them decide for themselves where they should go. If they wish me to guide them, but I won't condemn them. For that will only make them turn inwards, it will change nothing. These individuals also tell me that they see me as rather wise. That I can see to the heart of an issue and understand it with ease. Combine this with my a refined sense of empathy and I am able to connect with a person, give them a place to be themselves freely and grow without being threatened. All of this has led me to the conclusion that I possess the necessary talents to aid those around me. As such I strive to do this, to help when I can, connect with as many as possible and generally make this life a more enjoyable one.

For those of you reading, I would be quite interested to hear what proposes you might have found for yourself. What has led you to this realization. Many of us have taken very different roads yet each one has something that may aid others in their journey. As such I look forward to hearing how yours has gone thus far and where you see it going from here.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009


I hate misinformation. I do not mean I just dislike it, am mildly annoyed by it or that it grates on my nerves. I absolutely loath it. But what is even worse is when people spread it around like it is the absolute truth as if they were some sort of Typhoid Mary of wrong.

Whenever I first hear it, I first must resist the urge to bang my head on the nearest hard surface and instead calmly and politely explain to them that what they believe is utter crap. Sometimes the person will accept the new explanation and stop the contagion then. But other times they will adamantly stick by their inaccurate belief. To make matters worse, others may also chime in supporting the wrong info.

When asked how they know that they are right about whatever it might be, I often get one of two responses. The most common one is that it is 'common knowledge'. Common knowledge is notoriously utter nonsense (such as the often spouted bit about the sky being blue because they reflect the oceans). The second one is that they read or heard it somewhere. They can almost never name what this source is or be able to show it to anyone else (or if they do it is from some place that is equally full of wrong).

I bring all this up because today at dinner, both my parents brought up the old myth that Michael Jackson is now white because he bleached his skin. Right then and there I spoke up saying no, he had Vitiligo, potentially compounded with Lupus. In Vitiligo, the immune system attacks the melanites (the cells that produce melanin, the pigment in human skin), leading to a lightening of the skin and, in most cases, an eventual lack of melanin throughout the body leaving the victim incredibly light in skin tone. My parents response to this? No, he bleached his skin. No explanation for how it was known, just that it was and this was the end of it.

When I got back home I brought forth the data showing that A) the beaching myth is just that, a myth and B) that there has never been a case of a person bleaching their skin to any way that even approached Jackson's skin tone (and the only times of any skin bleaching period are dubious at best). When presented with this information I got a very simple response. Verbatim, the response was "I really don't care".

This nearly got my visibly agitated (which I rarely do). The fact that my family does not care whether the information they pass around as absolute truth is actually right or not confounds me. How can you not care whether what you say is right or not? Granted I really don't care about the topic, but the fact that the info was wrong was what pulled me in.

I am further curious as to how I am the only one in my family that actually seems to give a damn about accuracy. Yes the others will want accuracy in what they know well such as their profession. But beyond that, utter apathy at best and contempt at worst. I say contempt because I have been told many times from my family that no one cares how accurate something is and I should just stop being so elitist (I should note that I don't go around condescendingly telling people they are wrong just pointing out when something is wrong and the reason it is wrong, I never condemn the person for it). I wasn't aware that valuing knowledge and intellectual honesty made one elitist, I thought it was just being responsible.

I suppose this is just one more reason why I am not that close with my family, we simply see the world in ways that are so different as to be incompatible. I find beauty in knowledge. But to know that those I am kin to not only do not care about the beauty but actually think it is an ugly, bad thing, well, I find this quite sad.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Personal walk

Normally my posts here are about a specific topic that I focus on without revealing to much about myself, other then my personal feelings on one topic or another. Personal events are usually kept out of the discussion as I realize that they tend to influence things more then I would like. I much prefer to be as objective as I can be when writing about something. But at the same time I realize that this limits my quite a bit. So now I believe would be as good a time as any to begin throwing that concept aside (just a bit). I will still try to remain objective as possible, but this is a place for me to rant aimlessly, might as well not limit what those rants shall be about.

Anyway, after that pointless explanatory intro, I shall tell you what happens when I, Cyc, gets a stupid idea in his head and follows through with it. To start I'll need to set up some back story. I recently started taking a new medication to treat my depression (Double Depressive Disorder if anyone, like me, is nerdy enough to want to know). I know what some will be thinking, someone who can be classified as 'goth' is depressed? How shocking! Often inaccurate stereotypes aside, I was put on this new medication after my previous one made me break out in hives (nothing like body wide itchy welts to make you feel better about yourself). One of the side effects of this new one is impulsive behavior, and like all anti-depressants, the chance for suicidal ideations. Now add these effects with being stuck in a house alone with in the middle of bloody nowhere and things start taking a turn for the stupid.

Around this time I began having quite a high level of pain (yes, the previous post is from personal experience), I decided I needed to get into town to pick up some medication that I knew would help (note: you have lived in a rural area for to long when you call the closest thing recognizable as civilization as town). So I scrounged up some money and began walking.

Now this might not sound to bad (except for the pain part), but I also require a cane to walk and have Fibromyalgia. Two things that do not lend themselves well to long journeys on foot. I knew I would be in significant pain when I arrived but I thought with the infusion of a pain medication I would be able to make the return trip easily.

About a couple miles into my walk, I was doing ok, singing to the music from my mp3 player, able to walk relatively easily when I realized I was starting to get a bit thirsty. Now before I left I had set up multiple water bottles knowing I would need it for my walk. But at this moment I realized that I had forgotten my carefully layed out water. But I thought it was to late to turn back so I went ahead anyway.

After a while I stopped at some random persons house and asked if I might get a bit of water and the rather kind lady gave me two bottles of water to take with me. Anyway as I finished the first half of my journey I thought I was doing ok. I stopped in and saw a good friend who was working at a local restaurant and got some water to rehydrate while cooling down. Then I continued on with my walk. But about two miles into the return journey, I realized something was amiss. I had difficulty concentrating, was beginning to have mild hallucinations and a quite strong urge to lay down and go to sleep.

While my mind wasn't at it's best, I immediately recognized this for what it was, the first stages of heat stroke, and I still had a good ten miles left to go. At this I turned back and tried to make it to my friends restaurant. About this time I was cursing myself in multiple languages for being such an idiot. Thankfully a friend was able to come and get me and take me back to my house, for which I am incredibly grateful for heat stoke is no where near as fun as it sounds.

When I finally got home, I began taking off my clothing and found that my socks were especially difficult to remove. I had walked so far that the blisters had popped and the interstitial fluid had bound itself to the fabric (once again, no where near as fun as it might sound). But I have since made quite the recovery despite it still being a bit difficult to walk and use the arm that I hold the cane in.

The key point to all of this is simple, something I could have said in a couple paragraphs and be done with it (but where would the fun in that be?). While the medication did help push me towards the action, I know quite well it was not the sole cause. It was also a test of myself to see how much my body had degraded, to see if I could still do what I could before if I pushed myself hard enough. While some would say walking twelve miles one way in 90-100+ weather is an accomplishment in itself, I know I could have done better before my body began to fail. So while I may have done better then some would think, I still see this as a failure. I wish I would have been able to push myself further, but at least now I know my limits. Limits that I am anything but grateful for, but at least it is not to the point where I am no longer able to walk at all (aided or otherwise).

In the end, the key to this post is simple. If you decide to challenge yourself, talk it through with someone who knows you well and cares for you before you do it, as there is a good chance you are simply being a moron and will end up hurting yourself. I am a good testament to this, I am back in my cool home only thanks to a friend, had I had one of my seizures (oh yes, I have those too) on my way it could have been much worse. Pushing your limits is good, as long as you aren't an idiot about it like I was. Now I'm going to relax my blistered feet with a bit of cherry vodka to relax away the day. Oh and for the American readers, enjoy your 4th of July, I plan to make random explosions that have no connection to the Revolutionary War as well later tonight (what can I say, explosions = fun).
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Monday, June 29, 2009

The problem of pain

The human body is one of the greatest examples of how evolution has a policy of just good enough. Evolution does not care directly about the comfort of the organism, only that it is able to reproduce successfully. After that point, after the reproductive age has passed, we, as individuals, are expendable as far as evolution is concerned. If we still lived as our ancient ancestors did, if we 'broke down' to a certain point, we almost certainly would die, often without passing on our genes. Granted our social nature (which has greatly increased our species survivability) would often have the group care for a disabled individual, but their reproductive status was reduced as well. They would often become evolutionary dead ends. But since evolution only cares about survivability of the species, errors still come up. Most of these are more annoyances then life threatening (usually), lower back pain, common headaches, most kidney stones and a myriad other things that pester our species constantly.

Now these and many other reasons are some of the best examples of why the idea of humans being created or even having our evolution guided is utterly absurd. But there is one other reason that is often barely touched upon or ignored all together. This is the concept of pain.

Now pain makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint. It tells us to avoid actions that harm us. It is natures way of telling us to stop being a moron and get our hand out of the fire. But when looked at from the standpoint of creation or theistic evolution quite a few problems start to arise.

The first is the simple fact that pain hurts. Now this seems like an absurd statement, but consider it for a moment. A caring deity could make the signal be one that simply told us that we were being stupid and to stop it. It could be nothing more then an over riding urge to stop the current action. If such an entity did create us, it would not have to have stooped to tormenting us with such an unpleasant stimuli (unless you are coming from the standpoint of the Abrahamic deity(s) who seemed to delight in torturing us pesky humans).

The next reason is the wonderful effect of chronic pain. Evolutionarily this can be described, more or less, as shit happens. Mistakes in the genetic code or in that giant tangled mess known as the central nervous system explain it perfectly. But when the idea of creation or guided evolution comes in, you are faced with a whole new set of problems. The first is the obvious one of why. Why make a person suffer needlessly over an extended period of time. A suffering that in absolutely no way benefits the individual. I'm sure some theists would say that suffering makes a person stronger. Now if this were true, then about half of chronic pain suffers would not have depression as a co morbidity (in almost all cases, as a direct result of the chronic pain and not vice versa).

Chronic pain suffers would also not have a suicide rate of two to three times that of those who suffer from depression (about five times that of average individuals, although these statistics may be larger as only a select few studies have been made from very limited data pools).

On top of all this, those who suffer chronic pain would not have to endure an increase in their pain level over time. Despite the common held belief that, over time, a person can learn to block out the pain, the opposite begins to happen. The neural pathways the pain signal travels along transform from a backwaters road into a superhighway. Any time a set of neurons are fired frequently, the pathway is reinforced. The neural inhibition levels decrease (the synapse between neurons fires off the second neuron only once a threshold of neuro-transmitters is reached, this inhibition level is decreased as the pathway is used more frequently). So while an individual may be able to 'function' with levels of pain that most would not be able to stand over time, at the same time the level of pain the person endures increases. This also weakens the persons ability to tolerate the pain and is seen as a sharp decrease in pain tolerance compared to the rising levels before this peak is reached.

This concept is completely incompatible with the concept of any deity save one fueled by pure malice or utter indifference to the universe around it. But such indifference is no different then having no deity at all as it to requires the known evolutionary explanations. While the one spurred on but such hatred is both a horrific idea and one that does not fit the facts. For it seems rather absurd that such an entity would happen to use just the evolutionary paths that would be expected had it not existed in the first place. Either direction you are left with one logical conclusion, there is no deity that intercedes in the affairs of the universe, which as I said, is no different then no deity at all.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A question for Catholics

I was just reading a post over at the blog Pharyngula about the Catholic ceremony of the Eucharist when a question popped into my head that I can not quite resolve. If a Catholic who whole heartedly believes in the processes of transubstantiation (the communion wafer and wine actually turning into the body and blood of Christ (not to be confused with consubstantiation, where only the 'essence' becomes Jesus bits)) happens to be a vegetarian? Granted this question is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it does make you wonder. If the person truly believed what they are eating has become the flesh and blood of their deity and the person is disgusted at the thought of consuming flesh (granted not all vegetarians are disgusted at the thought, but it sounds better here), then how would this work? I would imagine a true believer would make an exception but the thought has to be there in the back of the mind somewhere.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

My encounter with a creationist

First off, I would like to apologize for my utter lack of posts lately. I have a very bad habit of starting a project and letting myself slack off. I have also had a great deal of my time lately consumed by a musical I am in. However, I recently had an event occur that spurred me to attempt to breath this blog back to life. I was invited to sit in on a presentation by a creationist and debate him.

This man claimed to have believed in evolution until he was presented with a creationist argument upon which he decided to devote his life to spreading the word. Now for those freethinkers out there that have heard this line before, I'm sure you soon found out that such claims are dubious at best (to be clear, I am not claiming that this person was lying). The caricature of evolution he presented was almost laughable if not for the fact that many people have and will buy it.

Before he started his presentation, we agreed that I would be able to interject any counter argument or corrections as they appeared, so I did not try and derail him or blind side him with questions. In fact he was told about me a week in advance so he knew I would be there and openly questioning him.

Some of the erroneous data he presented were things like evolution creates no new information, evolution can not explain morality, irreducible complexity and many more of the typical talking points. In fact it sounded like anything put out by the Discovery Institute. Although one bit of misinformation that he put forth was one I hadn't heard before and I found quite confusing. Apparently he believed that the continents were formed before the oceans. Where he heard this, I have no idea as it is quite well known that the continents formed later. He also did not shy away from the famous creationist tactic of quote mining, which I called out much to his chagrin.

Each time an erroneous bit was presented I not only corrected it but explained why it was incorrect. I brought with me a few things for this such as a basic Cetacean evolutionary lineage, the workings and types of radiometric dating techniques and the book Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin for its great diagrams on embryology.

The way he countered any of my points can be summed up rather easily. It came down to either mocking the concept (I can't possibly see how such an absurd notion could ever be believed) or just ignoring it entirely. I was always respectful and never came to anger (although I did ask him quite a few times to stop talking over me and allow me to finish my point). I found him to be quite irritating for both his terrible inaccurate 'argument' and for what came down to essential blatant disrespect.

Although despite this, I had multiple people come up to me afterward who were quite interested in my points and showed interest in having me explain more to them at a future date, so it was not a complete lose. If I get just one person who was there interested in evolution, I will be quite proud.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

No, I'm not dead yet...

Yes, despite the hiatus, I am still somewhat alive. Classes have once again started up so I shall hopefully have a bit more inspiration to write instead of staring at a blank page with an equally blank mind.

This semester I am going to try a few thing that will hopefully keep me at the whole writing thing a bit easier. One thing shall hopefully become a weekly event. As I've stated before, nearly all of my friends are Christian and as a result I have found myself spending time at the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries) building. One thing I found interesting was to go to their weekly bible studies as it gave me a chance to ask my friends questions around topics they would bring up. Granted, nearly ever answer dwindles down to one word, faith. But I do find it interesting to see how their minds can try and rationalize some of their beliefs. What I hope to do is after every session, write about it, what it revolved around, what my stance on the belief is and the stance of those also attending.

Another possibility will come from my zoology class. Due to this regions conservative nature, I will be looking forward to my other class mates reaction to evolution during the class. I am hoping that the reactions will generally be positive, but I am a bit of a cynic, so we shall see.

The final possibility will be mostly a random rant time for me based on the upcoming college musical and my work in it (and subsequent lack of sleep).

Hopefully this shall lead to more posts in the near future.
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