Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dawkins and Krauss Go on the Road

A new film is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this week.  It's called "The Unbelievers," starring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss.  Apparently it is edited from various conversations they have held with each other and with diverse audiences around the world. 

Watch their television promos, thanks to the Jesus Saves ... at Citibank youtube channel.  I'm also  sharing two of their road trip videos below the telly appearances.  The two videos  come from the Australian leg of their road trip.  The first is Richard Dawkins vs. an Idiot Catholic Cardinal (Caradinal Pell).  The second is from the next day, with Dawkins & Krauss together in front of a less hostile audience.  They reference the appearance with Cardinal Pell during that video.

Toronto Television:

Dawkins & Krauss on CNN, with Dawkins not letting the interviewer get away with a last-minute nod to believers:

Dawkins vs. the Cardinal:

Dawkins & Krauss in Australia:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reading List

After seeing the shockingly bad reading list for the Ball State course purporting to be about the "boundaries of science" but being totally just ID/creationism, I started thinking of which books I would recommend as the counterbalance to his creationist/ID list for undergrads.  This is what I've come up with.  Any suggestions?

Coyne.  Why Evolution is True

Darwin.  On the Origin of Species

Dawkins.  The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

Dawkins.  The Selfish Gene

Festinger & Carlsmith.  "Cognitive Dissonance" (article)

Hawking.  A Brief History of Time

Krauss.  A Universe from Nothing

Mills.  Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism

Sagan.  A Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Shermer.  How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God

Shermer.  Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design

Sokal.  Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

Stenger.  God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist

Tyson.  Origins:  Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Richard Dawkins (Politely) Gives an Hour of Time He'll Never Get Back to a Y.E.C.

I don't know how he does it, or why he's called "strident" or "militant." He's waaaaay more polite than I would be toward this idiot (note that in the comments there's a debate over whether you can call the interviewer an idiot).

April 27 Links

ACLU tells Kansas school system to stop having mandatory assemblies for creationist crap.  I hope they win.

Salon asks if atheists secretly believe in God.  uhh NO!

Conspiracy Theory flowchart

Autism associations in Turkey bristle against an official's statement that atheism and autism are linked.  Yet there's some truth to it.  This study links autism and atheism.  Another links autism with a fear of God in Calvinistic denominations.

PZ Myers weighs in on the Ball State prof who teaches creationism as astronomy.

edited to add:  The press are being lazy or dishonest about the accountability of the West fertilizer plant and the collusion of Texas legislators in not protecting the public.   Oh, and the legislators who want the feds to cough up disaster relief money for this man-made disaster voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy.  Nice folk.

Video of the week: Neil DeGrasse Tyson on The Perimeter of Ignorance

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Creationism taught as "Science" at Ball State

Jerry Coyne, who wrote the book, Why Evolution is True, uncovered this "Science" course that's really a course in "intelligent design" and creationism.  He posted about it on his blog, and he confirmed it with the head of the Physics & Astronomy department.

Ball State offers a Ph.D. in Science Education!  How can they let a creationism course be listed as a science course???

The course is cross-listed as a science and culture course within the Honors College, but also as Astronomy 151.  The professor who teaches it also teaches Astronomy 100, possibly the only astronomy those students will ever get, and maybe the only science they'll ever get, and students from that class complain about his frequent diversions into Christianity.

Rather than rehash his post, I just urge you to go to the post for the details.  He even has the syllabus posted, with a reprehensible reading list.

I hope they fire the teacher and whoever has been allowing this prosletyzing under the banner of "science" to continue.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

I was initially going to review Ariely's latest book, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How we Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves, but this book inspired me to read his more popular book, Predictably Irrational.

We atheists fancy ourselves to be rational, and proudly so.  Dusty Smith's outro slogan is "Logic!"  The forum formerly attached to the Secular Web spun off and chose freeratio.org as its URL.  An online group calls themselves the Rational Response Squad.

But according to Ariely, we are hard-wired to behave in predictably irrational ways due to cognitive biases.  He turned a devastating burn injury into a burning question of how people make decisions.  Whether to remove bandages quickly or slowly was on his mind during the 23 hours between his daily changes of bandages.  What else did he have to think about?  Later, he studied how people make economic decisions, because economics is is about trading pain (loss of money) for benefits.

He put into words some of my objuections to the Ayn Rand libertarianism that is based on the assumption that people will choose to do what's best for themselves.  You can't plan for rational behavior in humans because humans do not behave rationally.

His book is sometimes a little dry, with summaries of various studies he has conducted, but each study reveals more and more about human tendencies.  The one that inspired me to blog about the book is his study of dishnesty and whether being reminded to be honest by seeing the Ten Commandments would reduce the amount of dishonesty in his subjects.  Despite what we atheists believe, it does indeed remind people to be honest.  Since he was interested in general tendencies, not religious tendencies, it isn't clear whether any kind of reminder will keep people honest, but it's possible.  People will cheat less if they believe they might get caught, so strong believers in a watchful Sky Daddy may feel that Big Brother effect.  But... his studies reveal that people's honesty is dependent on their self-perception more than what others will think.  When there's no chance of getting caught there will be cheating but not to a serious degree.  He also studied whether pledging an honor code would have equal results to the Ten Commandments, and it did.  I went to a college with a strict honor code and people still cheated, but I don't know how many of them would have cheated more, or whether more of us would have cheated.

I will read his further research because he is aware of the potential flaws in studying college students rather than prisoners, trailer trash, or us atheists... all of whom would be major cheaters according to stereotype!  I must admit that having grown up in poverty has made me a bit different from the majority in some of his studies.  I will do things (not necessarily cheating things) that middle class people wouldn't.  I see things slightly differently.

I read this book awhile ago so I can't review its contents in detail, but I want to recommend it to anyone who fancies themselves to be a rational person.  He will be attending The Amazing Meeting this year.  I can't imagine a better speaker for a group of skeptics.  (Also, he has a good sense of humor)
Here he is at Google headquarters explaining irrationality:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20 Links

Just a few links this week:

Atheist pianist in Turkey found guilty of blasphemy

I'm not sure I understand the metaphor exactly, but this People Who Can Eat a Bag of Dicks about the Boston bombing post saved the rest of us the trouble of monitoring the moronic segment of the population's twittering on twitter.  Media Matters also followed the lunatic fringe but they aren't as fun.

Alex Jones and his enablers.  What a bunch of nuts.

The Taliban kills 17 and wounds 60 then apologizes for hurting the wrong person.  Hello, if you want to kill just one person, don't use a fricking BOMB.  Apparrently the Taliban are not just wrong-headed they're empty headed!

Homeless Jesuss sculpture rejected by two churches

The Guardian reviews the History Channel's The Bible.  Headline: "History Channel's The Bible series is worse than reality TV"

Malala on the cover of Time in the Most 100 Influential issue

Poster of Internet Memes.  How many do you recognize?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I met some friendly atheists today!

The local university atheist student club had an "Ask an Atheist" table today and I stopped by to say hello.  We had a nice conversation.... and then I saw one of my fundy coworkers heading toward the table.... then veering away when he saw me.  I'm dying to know if he was going to ask a question!  He's a smart guy (for a Christian).  I hope he wasn't going to ask why they're so angry, or bring up Pascal's wager.

Baby with shit-eating grin added to post for no particular reason

Monday, April 15, 2013

Looky What I Got in the Mail!

This kind-hearted speaker is coming to my sweet little town to warn us about the Second Coming! Mr. Dwight Kruger is so popular that he needs a hotel for his presentations, not a measly church!

And they spare no expense! This 4-page glossy full-color brochure was sent to everyone in town. Boy howdy he must love Muncie!

There's next to nothing on the website: http://www.bibleprophecyseminars.com.  Yep, not a ministry, a seminar!   If you want to know when they'll be coming to an out-of-the-way fundytown near you, you just choose your state and you can see the schedule.   But if you don't live in the Midwest, or the deep South, you lose!   They only preach to the choir.

After a little googling I found that this Dwight Kruger is a Seventh-Day Adventist, and in 2009 he was pastor at three Indiana churches.  He's currently the pastor at the local Seventh Day Adventist church.  I wonder how he manages what with all his traveling around warning people to be afraid of tornadoes!  It's Spring in the Heartland.  God will whip up a tornado if you don't listen up!

(The tablet has 1776 in Roman numerals)

"Be Prepared for the Next Earth Shaking Event!"

Yes, there are four horsemen!

The small print:
 You will learn about these topics:
  • Israel in Prophecy
  • The Millennium
  • America in Prophecy

Monday, April 8, 2013

Richard Dawkins Interviews Dense Idiotic Creationist Woman

I am ashamed for my gender, but men have Ken Ham so I guess there's idiocy all around.

What I'd like to know is how Richard Dawkins can talk to her for this length without slapping her. He deserves a medal of honor. She only has a few points that she makes over and over: Eugenics, no fossils, eugenics, no fossils, eugenics, no fossils... each human is unique in their DNA (unlike every other animal on the planet?)

But don't take my word for it, see for yourself if you can take it:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6 Link Round-Up

Last weekend was the American Atheist's 50th Anniversary Conference in Austin.  I wish I had gone!  I used to live in Austin, and I missed it a LOT this winter!  Some videos:

North Carolina wants to assert states' rights over the Establishment Clause 

Man who defrauded Christians receives sentence of 65 months in prison.  No word on his time in Purgatory.

Apparently Christians are easy marks for Ponzi schemes.  The Foundation for New Era Philanthropy scammed $135 million in the 1990s.  Members of an Atlanta megachurch and other churches (including Osteen's church) were fleeced to the tune of  $11 million.  "He quoted scriptures!"  Well then of course he was trustworthy!  the term for this is "Affinity Fraud."  Let us prey!

Nevada legislator receives death threats after admitting she had an abortion as a teen.   If you threaten to kill someone are you still "pro-life?"

The Psychiatric Treatment of the Fundamentalist Patient in Medscape Today accuses psychiatrists of not being understanding enough of the benefits of religious belief.

50 Ways to be a Loser in Life (Note that reading blogs isn't one of them)

Get into your wayback machine and check out Frank Zappa defending music against censorship:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ISil7IHzxc  He mentions incest in the Bible and says the biggest threat against the U.S. is movement toward a Fascist Theocracy in 1986.  The conservatives are heated up over Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher."  The conservative resorts to Hitler, predictably.

And now for something completely different, your favorite Biblical characters do the "Harlem Shake"

The cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar" has way too much fun with "The Harlem Shake"

A Christian youth group jumped on the meme and they're finding out how sensitive their religion is now! 180 downvotes vs. 69 upvotes. Let's upvote the poor kids! They need encouragement.

Pentecostal Style!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ladies, Stand up and Be Counted!

According to the results of the atheist census so far, 75% are male!  Can this be true?  Or is it just that more male than female atheists have been counted?  I only just discovered the census this week, so maybe it's not getting enough exposure.  Well, I'm exposing it here:


Go get counted, whoever you are!  Fewer than 200,000 have been counted so far.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Acquire the Fire: Coming Soon to an Arena Near Me (and probably you too)

I'd never heard of this until it hit the local paper today:

Ball State to "Acquire the Fire" this Weekend

MUNCIE — Acquire the Fire youth ministry is back in Muncie this weekend, gathering thousands of young people in Worthen Arena for what its website bills as “a highly charged spiritual event.”

The two-day rally has become a repeat visitor to Muncie, using Ball State University as one of its many venues nationwide for years now.

Ball State, in turn, is happy to welcome Acquire the Fire each year, according to Dan Byrnes, director of sports facilities.

Worthen is primarily a sports venue, so it doesn’t bring in a lot of non-sports events such as this one, but Brynes called Acquire the Fire “a very positive event, full of energy, and we love it have it. We’re glad they keep coming back.”

Who are these wonderful people?  A few minutes on google, which is apparently more time than the author of this post was willing to spend, and I saw that it is a cultish Christian organization that has been profiled on MSNBC.   Acquire the Fire is a high energy rock concert that is a "ministry" though it seems totally for-profit to me.  It is the hook to reel in kids for their Teen Mania internships.  The internships cost $8,000 for a year of abuse and working as slave labor in a call center.  Teen Mania has (belatedly) dropped their ESOAL hell week ritual, which drew complaints for years, and was broadcast to the world on the MSNBC documentary and a local television news show (linked below).

ESOAL was modeled on Navy Seals training, but with one big drawback: no medical or psychological screening for the program.  Some kids graduated from their "internship" and claim it did wonders for them.  Others were traumatized and now need therapy for PTSD.

I am trying to decide whether to buy a ticket and video part of this or to paper all the cars with flyers about the cult they just supported with their allowance money.

These arena type things are harmless generally, with the rock concert experience culminating in an altar call, but this one in particular gives me the creeps.  Former Teen Mania victims are ambivalent about the event.  It's a happy time rah rah for Jesus weekend, but also the introduction to the abuse they suffered.

Inside Teen Mania from MSNBC (2011)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A local television station story on the abusive ESOAL program (2010)
Part 2
Part 3

Belated cancellation of ESOAL
 They are justifiably embarrassed but it took years of criticism for them to drop it.

Recovering Alumni blog
Recovering Alumni youtube channel

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Secular Leaders' Open Letter to the Secular Community

I'd have changed the title to communities because we agree on only one thing, or non-thing so we come in many stripes.  But otherwise I like this statement linked below:


Having experienced scathing incivility at a blog that's moderated by someone who thinks it's okay to insult people, I'm rather skeptical of the success of this statement.  Nice people will behave nicely.  The rest make us look bad as a whole, rather than representing only themselves.  They need to be reminded how to be civil.  This statement is a good start.