November 21, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Intelligent design, while real in the history of science, while real in the presence of sort of philosophical drivers, is none the less a philosophy of ignorance. And so, regardless of what our political agenda is, all you have to say is, science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.

November 19, 2007

George Carlin

The difference between left and right of center...originated in the French parliament. The people left of center were liberals; the people right of center were conservatives. Broadly speaking. And generally speaking, people on...the right of center, are interested in property values, property, property rights. The rights and the rights of property. And generally speaking again – it's all generalized – the left-of-center people are more concerned with humans and human beings and human concerns; to the care of humans, not the care and worry about property rights. That's generally been true. And Bush is pushing this country farther down the hill, faster than anyone has before.

What Is Freethought?

How do I define freethought?

To be a freethinker, one must be open to new ideas. Ideas that can be both exciting and terrifying, ideas that are unpleasant, unwanted, and downright ghastly to behold, albeit necessary. To be a freethinker is to accept that there is no black and white, nothing concrete, nothing to be broken down into this or that. Black and white are merely extremes of color; we do not live in a world that is black and white. Besides, reducing existence into such simplistic terms neglects the broad spectrum that we deal with every second of every day.

Freethought crushes dogma, undermines prejudice, vanquishes ignorance. There is no absolute to a freethinker. Any assertion is analyzed, interpreted, it's background checked, it's genesis traced, it's theory tested and, if found to be be true, accepted for what it is and no more. A lightning bolt is an atmospheric discharge of built up electricity, not a weapon thrown by a god, not an alien inspecting a new planet, not a direct consequence of global warming. Freethinkers do not assume the cheap and easy explanation for things.

Religion is an empire built by people who have had fear instilled upon them; the rulers live well, fed by the generosity exploited from below. Ignorance holds this institution together; dogma plays the role of sentinel. Religion opposes education and reason for the same reasons slave owners opposed education and healthcare for their "flock"; give the oppressed the instruments they need to break free, and they will. The religious fight science, reason, education, solely because they know that freethought will be the end of their reign.

The mind is the key. Control how people think, and you control how they behave. Religion has used this idea for millenia; I for one will say that much good has come from this. There has also been much evil. We no longer have any need or use for religion. There is so much more to be found in the world when you break yourself free of the mental restraints religion impresses upon us. Freethinking is freedom to see the world as it is; not as someone else tells you.


November 18, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Daniel Dennett

We alone can be wracked with doubt, and we alone have been provoked by that epistemic itch to seek a remedy: better truth-seeking methods. Wanting to keep better track of our food supplies, our territories, our families, our enemies, we discovered the benefits of talking it over with others, asking questions, passing on lore. We invented culture. Then we invented measuring, and arithmetic, and maps, and writing. These communicative and recording innovations come with a built-in ideal: truth. The point of asking questions is to find true answers; the point of measuring is to measure accurately; the point of making maps is to find your way to your destination. ... In short, the goal of truth goes without saying, in every human culture.

November 17, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Isaac Asimov

Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
"Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."

November 16, 2007

The Rise of the McChristians

The following is an excerpt from an article by R.W. Dellinger, taken from "Tidings"- a Catholic e-zine out of southern California...

--How did Jesus become pro-war, pro-American and pro-rich?
That's what novelist, journalist and screenwriter Dan Wakefield wanted to know when he began his newest book, "The Hijacking of Jesus."

"The Jesus of the Gospels ministered to the poor and to the outcasts, had no property or possessions, and famously told a wealthy young man that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven," the popular writer told members of the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace July 7 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

Curious about this drastic shift, Wakefield began researching the troubling query and was surprised at how far back the religious right's roots went.

The search led him to Senator Barry Goldwater's defeat for the presidency in 1964. Realizing they needed a wider base, he said Republican strategists saw that fundamentalists and evangelicals were a "virgin timber" voting block.

And soon a partnership was forged. "The religious right started with the Republican right," Wakefield reported, adding that along with this partnership, religious conservatives also forged a media empire, which today adds up to some 1,600 TV stations. Just one, "Focus on the Family," has 200 million watchers in 99 countries.

"One of the marks of the religious right I find is a kind of real nastiness," the former staff writer at The Nation said. "Pat Robertson asked, 'Why do I have to be nice to Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists? They are the Antichrist.' So tolerance has become a bad word on the religious right."

An official from the Christian Coalition told him that they were only intolerant of sinners, said Wakefield. But the author observed that it seemed a "very odd creed" for the group to call itself Christian, when it was Jesus who told a crowd that he who was without sin should cast the first stone.

He also talked about the divisiveness of the movement, whose faithful often attempt --- and succeed --- at driving deeper religious and political wedges between themselves and mainline Protestant congregations.

And he pointed out that religious right rhetoric is often filled with statements about war. It was no accident, he said, that born-again President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and his administration's entire Middle East policy "smells of Christian Jihad."

"That pro-war message hardly seems to fit with Jesus' teaching to love your enemy, bless them that curse you and be good to them who hate you, and pray for them who persecute you," he observed.--

November 12, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Friedrich Nietzsche

The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real. He says, for example, "I am rich," when the proper designation for his condition would be "poor." He misuses fixed conventions by means of arbitrary substitutions or even reversals of names. If he does this in a selfish and moreover harmful manner, society will cease to trust him and will thereby exclude him. What men avoid by excluding the liar is not so much being defrauded as it is being harmed by means of fraud. Thus, even at this stage, what they hate is basically not deception itself, but rather the unpleasant, hated consequences of certain sorts of deception. It is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth. He is indifferent toward pure knowledge which has no consequences; toward those truths which are possibly harmful and destructive he is even hostilely inclined.

November 10, 2007

Thomas Jefferson, Freethinker

"Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the spot of every wind. With such persons, gullability, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck."---Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822
"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of reason rather than of blind-folded fear. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences.... If it end in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others it will procure for you."--- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
"To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise ... without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence."--- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820
"If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God."--- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814, using the term atheist to mean one who lacks a god belief, not one who is without morals, as was a common use of the term in Jefferson's day...

November 6, 2007

God Threw a Snowball at Us

God threw a snowball at us, but he missed! Or it ricocheted off an asteroid.

--KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A comet that unexpectedly brightened in the last couple of weeks and is now visible to the naked eye is attracting professional and amateur interest.

Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, is drawing students to the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building for special viewings of Comet 17P/Holmes. The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies but can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. "This is truly a celestial surprise," Lewis said. "Absolutely amazing."

Until Oct. 23, the comet had been visible to modern astronomers only with a telescope, but that night it suddenly erupted and expanded. A similar burst in 1892 led to the comet's discovery by Edwin Holmes. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, along the lines of when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter back in 1994," Lewis said.

Scientists speculate the comet has exploded because there are sinkholes in its nucleus, giving it a honeycomb-like structure. The collapse exposed comet ice to the sun, which transformed the ice into gas."What comets do when they are near the sun is very unpredictable," Lewis said. "We expect to see a coma cloud and a tail, but this is more like an explosion, and we are seeing the bubble of gas and dust as it expands away from the center of the blast."

Experts aren't sure how long the comet's show will last but estimate it could be weeks if not months. Using a telescope or binoculars help bring the comet's details into view, they said.--

It is interesting to note that the presence of organic matter has been confirmed both in comets and in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites!


November 4, 2007

Quote(s) Of The Day


Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.

It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.

Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.