Gummi Bears

April 13, 2009

Ashley sent me this interesting article which included Gallup Polls illustrating the decline of Christianity and the rise of Atheism.

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athesim-is-rising

This Easter I got a new drivers hat, slippers, gummi bears, and a Jungle Book singing toothbrush.

I ran out of gummi bears already ūüė¶

gummibears

Check out Rambo playing with his new toy:

Is that Heaven up there?

March 11, 2009

potato

Lying in bed last night, about to fall asleep, Ashley asks about how I want to handle magical issues (mainly heaven) regarding our future child. ¬†Assuming a hypothetical death of hypothetical hamster, do we explain the reality of the situation to the child or do we allow the comforting thoughts of heaven? Ashley’s already assured me that she’s using heaven.

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Following the hypothetical death of the hypothetical hamster, the kid would more then likely move on and not think about the hamster all that much as time went on, leaving hamster-heaven back in childhood along with Santa Claus. ¬†However, what would happen if we had to explain the death of a person. ¬†Let’s pretend I die, (can’t kill the wife off in hypothetical examples) the emotional intensity of picturing a parent in heaven will most likely last far beyond childhood. ¬†That would seem more real then hamster-heaven did. ¬†Now our child has a predisposition for being religious. Whatever our child ultimately believes is up to them, but I would hate for them to fall to magical thinking simply we intentionally misled them.

Understanding religion is very important, but how do you teach your child about religion without just teaching religion? ¬†I really don’t know how I feel about this and I don’t know how helpful the thought of heaven truly is.

ENRONm Onesheet2q5

A few days ago a watched the Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Enron ran a naive and sketchy business, resulting in desperate money-making schemes like flicking power plants on and off. When looking at the big picture, the entire enterprise looks like a legitimate and documented conspiracy. Enron worked congress to get the energy business deregulated, which led to the ability to lie about the company value, which led massive earnings, which brought other banks into their schemes, which resulted in the financial rape of their shareholder, customers, and the general economy.

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As Ashley pointed out to me, a common argument against conspiracy theories is that “too many people would have to know in order to pull it off.” So if we can believe this publicly documented event which involved countless people, then why not believe a faked moon landing, intentional 9/11 strikes, or the NWO?

Forgive the clich√© Nazi comparison, but the Nazis too were a large group who ran an unethical operation. We must remember, like the Nazis, Enron was extremely unsuccessful in their big picture goals. These organizations were so large, and their effects were had such an impact, that they did not survive. “All the people who knew” were either out of a job, imprisoned, killed, etc.

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Enron had countless participants, the Nazis too was a large organization, as in these examples the number of participants alone does not mean that they are incapable of doing harm. It is the scale of an organization, along with diminished individual responsibility that paves the way for potential ruin. What the Enron situation does not have in common with other conspiracy theories, is that it’s members all suffered by everything from job loss, prison time, and suicide, which the media has all documented. All those peope did know, and look what happend to them.

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For many conspiracy theorists, traditional conspiracy theories by nature can not be disproved because lack of available evidence can be seen as evidence of a cover-up, so no matter what the findings, theorists claim proof of a conspiracy. I guess one could argue that the Enron situation didn’t measure up to the severity of the moon landings or 9/11, so the same level of cover-up wasn’t required. Or maybe, Enron was prosecuted so that the institution could show the people that they don’t cover-up. This way the people will stop looking for the real conspiracies, tricky, tricky!

Not being able to disprove a conspiracy theory, is not supprting evidence for it’s plausability.

Listentoyoutube.com

February 25, 2009

Recently Ashley and I went on an extensive road trip. Before leaving I wanted to fill up my iPod with some Tim Minchin, the Australian musical comedian. For one reason or another, Tim Minchin music doesn’t seem to exist in the US.

In my desperation to get my fix I found this really cool website that allows you to pull music directly from YouTube. The website is www.listentoyoutube.com. You simply copy a YouTube video’s URL into this site and it rips the audio from any video and then makes it available to download. The site is free and efficient.

ltyt

Singularity University

February 8, 2009

I¬†just enjoyed¬†a new episode of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe¬† to enjoy while I ate some lunch.¬†¬†

The first bit of news on the show today was a discussion about Ray Kurzweil and his joint venture with Google and NASA: The Singularity University.¬† This uber-prestigious university is designed to groom really smart people (with lots of money) to solve major world-wide problems with ridiculously awesome technology.¬† In the video on their website, they provide the example of fighting world hunger with AI.¬† How exactly you do that, I don’t know, but I guess if you are cool enough to go to the Singularity University then you will.

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I’m so happy that the Skeptic’s Guide finally discussed their Skeptical view of Kurzweil.¬† I had requested through their website that they talk more on him, and I’m just going to pretend that today’s episode was for me.¬†

Ray Kurzweil predicts computers to surpass the sum of all human intelligence by sometime in the 2040’s.¬† He takes about 230 vitamin supplements a day to try and live forever.¬† He’s like a rock star he’s awesome, but totally wacko at the same time.¬† Steve Novella described him as today’s Nikola Tessla.¬† ¬†Basically, the SGU deemed him extremely optimistic on his time-frame, and downright foolish with his vitamin mega dosing, but in the end, he has an awesome brain and is worth listening to.¬†

I’m still desperately awaiting the The Singularity is Near Movie which is supposed to be out “early 2009.”

Social-Networking Atheism

January 21, 2009

I know what I believe, and I feel very strongly about it.¬†¬† I really believe that when things matter to you, honesty is the best policy. In the past year or two, I’ve morphed into a hardcore Atheist. Having been a guilt-ridden Christian all my life before prior, Atheism is so exciting to me. Imagine, coming to the realization that one of the most important things to you, all your life, was wrong, It’s life-changing.¬† It’s inspired me to question everything, to be skeptical. With the loss of religious faith, I have gained excitement about the world I live in.¬† Learning is a wonderful thing instead of a dangerous thing.

I’m super excited about my new look on life and I want to be open about it.¬† However, my openness has exposed me to my parents. My Mom joined Facebook and thus the cat was let out of the bag. Side note: I’m super proud of my Mom for being hip with the kids on the coolest social-networking site ever. However, I feel so sad for her.¬† I know how Christians see Atheists and it’s not too good.¬† I imagine that she’s very sad about it, and for that I feel terrible.

However honesty is the best policy.¬† I am passionate about my beliefs, and I also love my Mom. If I chose one over the other, then both would be diminished.¬† If I’m honest then I can trust my Mom fully and believe how I want.

Karma

January 19, 2009

In a nutshell Karma is the Buddhist belief that your current actions will be the cause for future events. We are the result of what we were, we will be the result of what we are. Generally speaking this sounds like a good idea. ¬† It’s empowering, the individual has direct control of the quality of their life to come by acting either good or bad.

No scientific evidence exists on the existence of Karma.  It would be completely impossible to measure.  People only know about Karma by searching for the reasons for life events.  If people understand why things happen, they then can control them, feeling in control is a comforting feeling.   So very quickly Karma changes from a method of understanding the world, to a tool of trying to control the world.  Often people fall victim to confirmation bias and assuming that correlation equals causation.  Confirmation bias is drawing attention to the hits, and ignoring all the misses.

Confirmation Bias:
HIT: “I was a nice person, and then someone acted nice to me.”
MISS: “I was a nice person, and nothing happened.”

Correlation does necessarily equal causation:
“I took headache medicine and my headache went away.”
EFFECT: Headache went away
CAUSE: Medicine worked or headache simply wore off

The idea of Karma is very similar to The Law of Attraction or more popularly known as The Secret.¬† Karma states that your actions dictate your future, The Law of Attraction states that your thoughts dictate your future.¬† The problem with both is that once someone takes on all responsibility for things that happen upon them, they then take responsibility for their own health.¬† It’s not fair to assume that your health is strong or weak due to your moral actions. It leads to guilt and even more dangerous, non-medical treatments.

Instead of either of believing in Karma: Just be a lawful person so you don’t get thrown in jail and be nice to people so you have friends.

Hudson River Maricle

January 18, 2009

So many people (i.e. Bill O’Reily) are saying passengers of the Hudson River place crash, were saved as an act of god. What I don’t understand is why didn’t god skip a step and the loss of property, by using his power to keep the birds from flying into the engine into the first place? Most be one of the god-works-in-mysterious-ways things. I guess god allowed the plane to crash so he could then demonstrate his love by working through the pilot and cause him to act heroically and thus safe the passengers. I guess having a assuming that the pilot was simply a good pilot faced wasn’t a possible scenario.

The Grey Area

January 14, 2009

I believe that all questions have a black and white answer. So-called “Grey areas” are times when we either have an incomplete logic system, or are not fully abiding by the one we have. However hypocritical, I seem to have fallen into a grey-area. What’s the value of life? Is exploiting animals okay? Currently, I’m in favor of all the advantages brought to us by exploiting humans as well as other creatures. I think abortion is okay, and I’m okay with the death penalty. What I’m unsure of is, should our goal be to eventually wean ourselves off of the exploitation of animals? My current logic corners me into an unclear answer.

With the understanding that there is no god, and therefore anything living or nonliving must be judged as relative to everything else. The value of animal life according to humans must be decided by humans based upon out selfish best interests.

In society, we protect ourselves by not allowing humans to kill other humans, this way an individuals vulnerability goes down which makes us all better off. When it comes to animals, we typically aren’t faced with any of the same dangers that exist when someone commits murder. An animal doesn’t seek revenge, doesn’t form gangs, doesn’t start wars, people are intellectually superior (which then also means we are physically superior) without too much personal risk. Okay, so from a survival of the fittest viewpoint, animal exploitation it’s okay.

But it still doesn’t feel right. Are people reduced to be compassionate solely because we feel empathy towards other living things? If a spider had a more familiar face and If I could see it, would I then not stomp on it when it creeps across the floor?

Okay, a spider doesn’t contain the same level of intelligence that a dog does, so is the value of life measured by how intelligent something is? So what’s the value of intelligence? Intelligence means that you have the ability to learn and therefore carry out more complicated tasks. So if we want to use animals to do beneficial work for us, we could also benefit from animals by exploiting them to death.

Animals work their way they live, they work our way they die.

Our way, we get what we want.

Their way, we get more living neighbors.

We don’t need neighbors, we need what we want.

So I guess it’s okay to exploit animals, logically it looks to be okay, but it still feels like a grey area.

The God Who Wasn’t There

January 11, 2009

The God Who Wasn’t There, this movie was very disappointing. Several reliable sources online gave it good reviews; Amazon, IMDB. The intention of the movie was to:
1. Compare the story of Jesus to other mythological characters
2. Discuss the violence of Christianity and how the religon scares people into belief

Richard Dawkins (a.k.a. Darwin’s Bulldog) is one of the most well respected evolutionary scientists. He recorded a commentary track for this movie. Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) made the statement: “If atheists had a pope it would be Richard Dawkins.” I can’t think of a higher quality endorsement for a movie challenging Jesus and Christianity. It’s so depressing that this movie can’t live up to its potential.

This movie reminded me of Internet conspiracy movies like Zeitgeist and Loose Change. It has the punching techno-rock music underneath some cheap looking graphics while a narrator debunks “The Greatest Story Ever Told” being ironically dead-pan. Religious belief is completely illogical, but the people who believe don’t see it that way. In their heads, they are doing what’s right, they’ve had a lifetime of training to think this way. This film maker came across completely arrogant downright bratty. I don’t mean to pander to the religious, I’m not concerned with offending them. What does upset me is the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ tone this movie takes on. It’s like the creator wasn’t mature enough to to the subject proper justice.

Atheists profess their devotion to logic and reason. It’s unfortunate that in this movie those rules were broken for shock and awe. To exemplify a few monsters that Christianity has created, the movie profiles Charles Manson, some mom that killed her baby for god, among others. This ad hominem attack makes no evidence for religion being dangerous. One could just as easily say that being a white person can lead to committing crimes (all of the provided examples were white people). It goes on to suggest that the blood and gore in The Passion of the Christ is evidence that modern day Christians get off on death and suffering. This is an example of post hoc reasoning;¬† just because a bloody movie has a Christian theme and does well commercially, does not in and of itself mean that Christians currently find pleasure in suffering.

I think it’s also fair to mention the pitiful camera set up. I realize that documentaries get somewhat of a free pass on camera work when in the field. However this movie had it’s camera problems during sit-down interviews. The exposure was either blown out or under exposed. The white balance seemed to be somewhat optional, some shots were extremely blue, or very red. Overall very unprofessional.