August 17, 2008

Even an atheist would find the miracle in a pregnant woman dying

Thank you Mr. Daly for speaking for me.

The article starts, "Even and atheist would say some sort of higher power was at work..." and then describes a crowd of strangers who came together to lift a school bus off of a pregnant woman. And even a Jew would say Jesus were at work. Here we have the classic, flip side of the "no atheists in foxholes," cliche.

"From where?" the local man speculates about the origin of the ability of these people to all come together in an act of compassion. "We all know where, but we don't always speak of it." From the set up of this article, the quote implies that the man on the street is referring to God, but the rest of the quote casts ambiguity upon that conclusion; " Goodness, goodness and love." Goodness and love, two characteristics of human beings at their best, no higher power required, but sold separately to those convinced they need it.

This story appears to be the typical, "something bad happened, then people worked really hard and something good happened, sha-zam, a miracle occurred story but it's not.

First the rescue of the mother is not the actual miracle. She died! The actual miracle is that hard-working and skilled medical professionals saved the unborn baby, just like another baby of a killed pregnant woman had been saved 14 years ago. Is it really unusual for a baby to be rescued from a critically injured woman late in her pregnancy?

What an insult to the people who tried to rescue this woman and to the doctors who saved the baby. They deserve the credit. It's no "miracle" that the average person would be decent enough to help lift a bus off a pregnant woman. That is, unless you really think mankind is fundamentally evil, as many religious traditions do. (Or that you can't expect people in on "this corner" to be decent people.) As one of the commenters said, "No Mr. Daly, an atheist like me would say that someone's mom wouldn't end up under a bus, if a God ruled over the planet."

ETA- Read this article that argues how lucky this baby is because he wasn't one of the millions of babies whose mother isn't crushed to death by a bus before it was even born.

August 9, 2008

Against Ignorance: Science Education in the 21st Century

Moderated by Mark A. Kay of the Stanford School of Medicine

Cosponsored with the Stanford School of Medicine

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Memorial Auditorium

The rise of religiously motivated threats to scientific practice and instruction in American schools has motivated biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss to engage in a public dialogue on strategies for science education in the twenty-first century. Their open conversation concerning science literacy and related issues began in the July 2007 Scientific American and continues at this Aurora Forum event moderated by Mark Kay of the Stanford School of Medicine.



Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor in the Public Understanding of Science, at the University of Oxford, is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and popular science writer who first came to prominence with his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution and introduced the term meme into the lexicon, helping found memetics. In 1982, he made a widely cited contribution to the science of evolution with the theory presented in The Extended Phenotype that phenotypic effects are not limited to an organism's body but can stretch far into the environment, including into the bodies of other organisms. He has since written several best-selling popular books, and appeared in a number of television and radio programs, concerning evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. His many prizes include the International Cosmos Prize, the Nakayama Prize for Human Science and the Shakespeare Prize for Distinguished Contributions to British Culture. The author of The God Delusion, he is an outspoken atheist, secular humanist, and sceptic. In 2006 he created the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.


Lawrence Krauss, the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, received his PhD from MIT in 1982 and then joined the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Author of seven popular books, including The Physics of Star Trek, and dozens of commentaries for national publications, radio and television, he also lectures widely on science and public policy. Among his many scientific honors, he has the unique distinction of having received the highest awards from all three U.S. physics societies. A Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has been particularly active in issues of science and society, leading the effort by scientists to defend the teaching of science in public schools, and to help define the proper limits of both science and religion, as well as defending scientific integrity in government. An open letter he sent to Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, urging the pontiff not to build new walls between science and faith, led the Vatican to reaffirm the Roman Catholic Church’s acceptance of natural selection as a valid scientific theory. Most recently he has led the call for a presidential debate on science and technology.


Mark Kay, the Director of the Program in Human Gene Therapy and the Dennis Farrey Family Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics at Stanford University, received a PhD in Developmental Genetics and MD from Case Western Reserve University. Before coming to Stanford, he was at the University of Washington as Associate Professor in the Departments of Medicine, with adjuncts in Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Pathology. His research has lead to over 175 scientific publications in various leading journals. He is currently oversees a laboratory focused on gene therapy for hemophilia and viral hepatitis. His work has been recognized by many awards. He was on the founding board of directors of the American Society for Gene Therapy and served as the Society’s President in 2005-2006.

August 6, 2008

Scenes from an Atheist De-Baptism Ceremony

Scenes from an Atheist De-Baptism Ceremony
Posted in Friendly Atheist at 7:00 am by Hemant Mehta
How does one actually go about having an atheist de-baptism ceremony?
I attended one in Westerville, Ohio over the weekend and I can now tell you about all the ceremonial details.
It begins with some words from Acting President of American Atheists, Frank Zindler:
“Do you agree that the magical potency of today’s ceremony is exactly equal to the magical efficacy of ceremonial baptism with dihydrogen monoxide, and do you agree that the power of all magical ceremonies is nonexistent?”
Then, everyone responds with a booming, “Amen!”
There is no Baptismal pool here.
All that is needed is a blow dryer — in this case, the Blow Dryer of Reason — held by AA’s Legal Director Edwin Kagin:

Then, the masses form a line to take part in this joyous occasion:

One by one, they go underneath the Dryer…

And sometimes, the non-religious emotion overcomes you and you just fall (via jenigray2000):

Some people just can’t get enough!

Even President George W. Bush wants to get in on this action:

It’s not just for adults. This little girl can now see the light!

What do you get after you’ve gone through the whole process?
A nifty certificate.
This woman is positively thrilled:

What does that certificate say…?

And no de-baptism service is complete without stopping by the de-communion table, which holds the holy A&W Root Beer and peanut butter and honey de-communion crackers.

This raises an interesting question… what happens if you desecrate an atheist communion wafer?!
One brave soul wants to find out and is surely seeking the wrath of the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue…

His inbox is going to have *so* much crazy hate mail…

The media had a good time with this ceremony as well. Here’s a great article by Sarah Pulliam of The Columbus Dispatch.

Special thanks to event organizer (and good friend) Ashley Paramore for putting together a really kickass event.

August 4, 2008

Decency Deficit

The Roman Philosopher Seneca observed that the great source of anger within his realm was unrealistically high expectations. He noted that the nobility of Rome, with all their pomp and wealth, held unrealistically high expectations of others and of life; and were in turn destined to suffer in fury when things did not work out the way they wanted. His proposal was for us to adapt to our surroundings; that we should not expect precision and promptness in every event; rather, that we should expect delays, omissions, mistakes, accidents, and any other unintended occurrence that may or may not be avoidable. To spend one's time harping at every slight, every mistake, every little thing that one dislikes is not only a complete waste of energy; It has the opposite effect than intended. Pointing out the minor and insignificant occurrences we all make irritates; I often catch my mistakes as I make them, often correcting them, but I don't obsess over them.

Workplaces can be difficult to conduct oneself in a pleasant manner; Using retail as as example: It is expected that customers will bring whatever moods or problems they have into the store with them. The assumption that any employee of a store is required to behave as a subordinate to the customer is a mindset that too many people possess. I have had far too many exchanges with people who assume my job is to placate their every whim to pass it off as a few bad eggs. A simple search online of blogs by people in the service industry will tell you everything you need to know. I don't often make sweeping generalizations, but I will now; the American consumer is a pretentious asshole.

The solution, is easy to put in writing. Be forgiving. Be understanding. Allow for mistakes. Laugh off any nuisance. Don't harp on someone the second the mess up. I do these things. I haven't always, but I can say with complete honesty that for the last year I have made my surroundings a more pleasant place because of my commitment to this ideal.

What have I observed? Well, that I am for the most part alone. Women tend to be nicer. Younger people in general have better attitudes. Minorities tend to be one, or the other. Economic status plays a role; If you have a lot of money, or a little, you are more likely to be a jerk. The one politician I assisted was a very nice individual, although his daughter was quite unappreciative of the money he was spending on her.

What is my point? It's easy. Why should we not behave with decency towards other human beings? And why shouldn't that apply everywhere? Why do we not treat one another with respect, all the time? Why did I have to be told time and time again from the age of ten just how nice and polite I was? It has been clear to me for a long time that people simply do not expect much from one another.

I am starting a new tactic today. From now on, I will continue to be kind, helpful, courteous, and friendly to every single person I meet. And if they do not respond in kind, provided I am not at work, I will point this out. I hear all the time how unhappy people are with one another. Isn't it time to do something about it?