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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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¶

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Check out Rambo playing with his new toy:

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Is that Heaven up there?

March 11, 2009

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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.

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Because of the profitable business model, banks prey upon the financially irresponsible. However, I don’t agree at all that debt ridden people are victims of greedy banks. Banks offer people terrible deals with confusing and picky rules that leave the consumers vulnerable to violating terms which opens them up to fees. However, regardless how bad the deal is, banks don’t force people to accept deals.

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I recently watched the documentary called Maxed Out which is all about the greedy banks. The movie shows Louisiana poor folk going through bankruptcy because they defaulted on loans. In one example, a loan officer had to show a poor and uneducated man how to sign his own name, the movie inferred this man was an innocent debt victim. It’s not the banks responsibility to determine your intelligence when doing business. Their jobs are to provide a legitimate service and make as much money as possible doing so.

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Whether or not you read them, banks terms are provided to you when you sign up. If you can’t read, maybe you shouldn’t be the one applying for a loan, but that burden is on the applicant, not the bank. Aside from nonprofit organizations, no business exist that cater only to the well being of others.

If I chose to open a restaurant, I did so because I enjoy interacting with people and I wish to get paid while doing that. To be clear, I don’t actually have my restaurant because I care about other people, I have it because this kind of business brings me pleasure. Therefore my business model is to earn money and pleasure. I would be no better then the greedy bankers. I tempt customers into my restaurant so I can exercise my business model on them.

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If someone doesn’t like mushrooms on their salad, then the burden is on them to either propose a counter offer to what’s on the menu, or to not order that particular salad. That’ it. If you can’t read the menu, then either find someone who can read it for you or just be ready to be flexible with whatever is the outcome. Unfortunately, most of the time finances aren’t very flexible, so just be informed.

Elrond vs. Enron

March 2, 2009

Today was the first legitimate snow day all winter long. This morning I watched Enron “The Smartest Guys in the Room” and later on Ashley and I watched Lord of the Rings: “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Both movies deal with absolute power and nothing thinking about the little people.¬† However, Enron never had a elf such as Elrond!

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He’s to be taken seriously.

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Enron was a fantastic scam, kudos!

My Stimulus Question

February 16, 2009

I have an economic stimulus question. Instead of bailing out companies, what if the government only gave a stimulus to individuals?   The money would pass through individuals and eventually get to the businesses that the collective people wanted to save.

Pretending that politics aren’t a factor, is there a practical problem with stimulating the economy this way?¬† It seems that pushing more money through the people helps those people and allows a more capitalistic way to bail out worthy businesses.

Ashley’s Valentine’s Day present to me was a trip to the Maryland Science Center.

It was Charles Darwin‘s birthday!

We enjoyed some 3D dinosaurs in IMAX.

Ashley was mesmerized by a faux tornado.

Reflexology isn’t actually science, it’s magic, so it’s too bad that it was found in the gift shop.

Check out this harp with laser strings.

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.

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.