Showing posts from July, 2012

Knowing what you're paying for

I'm a guitar player. And I've noticed over the years that guitar players have a tendency to really fuss over elusive, high-priced gear. Hand-wound pickups, hand-wired "boutique" tube amplifiers, and USA-made guitars.

So recently, on a forum, I spied this sexy custom Jackson seven-string:

Like, damn. Clearly this is a very unique and beautiful axe. And if you think the price tag on this guitar would probably be a smidge high, well, you'd be right. Custom Jacksons, even with relatively simple appointments that aren't much different than their production guitars, can easily run $3500-$4000. I have no idea what this fellow paid (it belongs to Chris Letchford of the band Scale The Summit), but I think $5k would be a reasonable, possibly even conservative estimate.

Richard Muller on climate change

I remember some time back I read a post by ol' creationist/conservative/evangelical Jack Hudson where he claimed that Richard Muller of UC Berkley was a skeptic of man-made climate change. In the comments section, I pointed out that Muller had conducted his own review of the data and subsequently retracted his skepticism. Jack's response:
[Y]ou are reading what I wrote with your Al Gore glasses on. I am agreeing with him that a reasonable response is necessary, not the typical left-wing radicalism you favor. Destroying our economy by tying it to global treaties which don’t solve the problem is insane. Jack was pulling this out of his butt, since I never said anything at all about what kind of environmental policy I favor, and Muller wasn't saying anything about policies or treaties either. The issue at hand was whether human beings were causing climate change. I'd encourage you to read the whole post and the subsequent comments, because I think it's clear as day…

A few thoughts on Intelligent Design

I was perusing the algorithmically-generated recommended videos on Youtube the other day when I found a creationist video that claims to be a refutation of Richard Dawkins' "best evidence for evolution video". Turns out this chap has his own blog, called The New Creationist, which is an Intelligent Design advocacy website – which basically means it criticizes evolution all the time, since ID basically amounts to "evolution can't explain it, ergo the best explanation is Goddidit".

As a layman, I'm reasonably well-versed in physics. Which is to say that I've read several popular science books on physics by people like Lisa Randall, Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking. I've read lots of stuff by Sean Carroll at his blog Cosmic Variance, and I've read many articles in Scientific American over the years. In every case, these are people who have achieved prestigious academic positions and whose work is rigorously peer-reviewed. But that doesn't m…

A quick thought on Chik-Fil-A

I love that the Jim Henson Company withdrew their toys from the restaurant after the CEO's bigoted, idiotic remarks (and how Chik-Fil-A was caught red-handed lying about it). I love that people are protesting and, y'know, not eating there.

I'm not really a fan of mayors or other government figures interfering with free commerce. If someone wants to open something like, I dunno, The Klu Klux Klan Steak Soup and Sandwich Co., they have every right to do that. And people who have a problem with their viewpoint do not have to support them.

I think that it may be lost that Chik-Fil-A, to my knowledge, does not require its employees or managers to affirm their opposition to gay marriage in order to be hired. Most people who have such jobs are probably just normal folks trying to make ends meet. The personal politics of the CEO really aren't anyone else's business. That's not to say I don't think that his remarks warrant a boycott by conscionable people, because th…

People see an angel in Aurora

KOKH FOX 25 in Aurora, CO, is reporting that there has been a huge response to a picture they posted of the theater where the shooting occurred, with many people saying that they "can see the outline of an angel in the clouds above the theater."

Okay, so, here's the image:

Yup, that's clearly an angel. Or the Eye of Sauron. Or... some clouds.

This is yet another fine example of how dumb people can be when they're up to their ears in religious delusions. Hey, maybe instead of hovering over the place in the clouds, that angel could have gotten off his ass and stopped the shooter before he killed a bunch of people.


Jeff Foxworthy to host a Bible-themed gameshow. Seriously.

Jeff Foxworthy, who apparently is a comedian by trade (who knew?), is going to be hosting a show called The American Bible Challenge. The slogan? "If you don't know the Bible, you haven't got a prayer!" Here's the exciting trailer...

Wow! This has never been done before! OR HAS IT...................

A quick thought on William Lane Craig's forthcoming lecture in Tulsa

I want to go, but I don't really want to pay $30 to see a guy who has gazillions of videos on Youtube, a podcast and a free website. Plus, FreeOK was only $10. But that's okay – I'm pretty sure I already know what Craig is going to say. From the article in the Tulsa World (emphasis mine):
Craig will speak in Tulsa on what some atheists have called the Achilles heel of Christianity: how can a good God allow suffering?

He said he will argue that "the suffering in the world is neither logically incompatible with the existence of God, nor does it render God's existence improbable."

"The atheist has to say, when he sees suffering, that it is highly improbable that God could have a morally justifiable reason for permitting this to occur."  This is a perfect example of how thick the sophistry is with Christian apologetics. This answer really amounts to nothing more than: "The Lord works in mysterious ways". Craig is saying that the athe…

William Lane Craig will be in Tulsa

My favorite apologist punching bag, William Lane Craig, is coming to Tulsa. He'll be speaking on God and suffering as part of a two-day conference at a local church. I had to chuckle at the quotes from the article in the local paper:

Craig, who will speak in the Tulsa area next weekend, in recent years has debated the so-called "four horsemen of the new atheism" - Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens.

"In each case," he said, "they were not able to effectively argue for the truth of their view, nor were they able to respond to criticisms of their position. ... They've been surprisingly weak in responding to criticism."
Errr... I'm pretty sure he hasn't debated Dan Dennett (who, being a philosopher by trade, would probably make a formidable opponent). And he hasn't directly debated Dawkins. But anyway, I gotta love how self-congratulatory he is. According to himself, he's soundly de…

A little meme I made in response to Rick Warren's tweet on the Aurora shootings


Rick Warren says Aurora shooting is because we teach evolution

The Onion's article proves true again (see previous post) with another stupid quote from a religious nut. This one is from Rick Warren, author of the Christian bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. This is his Tweet:

Sigh. I could go off on this one, but I already saw a great response from Youtuber Evid3nc3, via his Facebook page:
The theory of evolution in no way diminishes the differences between humans and other animals. It is easily verifiable that humans are substantially more intelligent, empathetic, and thoughtful than other animals. Just because we share a common ancestor with vicious animals in no way means we have to act like them.

To the contrary, it is precisely because we have evolved larger brains than vicious animals that we can recognize this behavior as destructive to our future survival. And survival is what evolution is all about. I would also add that, as Frans De Waal has often said, most species survive through interdependent group living, not through …

How to prevent shootings: Jesus and guns

It had been no more than a few minutes after I read this priceless piece over at The Onion...
Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting's Aftermath Will Play Out ...which contains this great line...
"The nation's citizens also confirmed that, any time now, some religious figure or cable news personality will say something unbelievably insensitive about the tragic shooting." ...when I read this....
Louie Gohmert: Aurora Shootings Result Of 'Ongoing Attacks On Judeo-Christian Beliefs' ...which contains priceless quotes like this:
"People say ... where was God in all of this?" Gohmert said. "We've threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present. And this one which (I think) is from former Rep Ernest Istook of my …

Update, and a talk from Sean Carroll

I apologize for the slow going lately. It's a combination of being slammed at work and being totally smitten with a fantastic woman. The free time I have left has been spent practicing guitar, which always takes precedence over blogging.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be back in the groove soon as work settles down, but in the meantime here's an outstanding talk from Sean Carroll. First he contends that our understanding of the universe doesn't leave room for spirits or higher purpose and meaning; then he explains how we can still find purpose and meaning. It mirrors my own thoughts on the subject almost exactly, but he's a way smarter guy than I am.

What is secularism?

Yet another superb video from QualiaSoup. There's a lot of stuff about religion in the UK, but it's still a great discussion of the meaning and implications of secularism and why it is just as important for the religious as it is for the non-religious.

Foundation Beyond Belief members raise tens of thousands for charity

I remember reading some time back  that believers are supposedly more charitable givers than non-believers. If that is indeed the case, I suspect that most of the discrepancy lies in the fact that church-based charities are so commonplace and readily accessible. It may be a little tougher for non-believers to get involved with communities that give them easy access to secular charities. You know, herding cats and all that jazz.

But, we're getting more organized. One of the cool things is that it's getting easier for non-believers to find various secular charities. So yesterday Hemant Mehta had some encouraging news: Foundation Beyond Belief members have raised over $42k in just the last three months – for a variety of charities.

I strongly believe that religious people who give to charity do so the vast majority of the time not out of some sense of religious duty, but out of their sense of human solidarity – nothing more than a desire to help others because it makes us feel g…

Heavy metal is Satanic witchcraft music

... and if you listen to it, you will go to hell!

Whenever I see stuff like the video below, in this day and age (as in, not the 1980s) I keep thinking it's gotta be a joke. Surely no one is really this deluded. But yes...

The anthropologist Pascal Boyer, in his book Religion Explained, contends that it's a myth that people believe in religion because it gives them comfort. The reason is that religious beliefs themselves function by fabricating a pathology, and then offering a cure from their own disease.

Think about Christianity: its fundamental doctrine is that you are corrupt. You deserve to burn in hell for all eternity. And it's not necessarily anything you did – you were simply born this way, as a fallen sinner. There's nothing you can personally do to change your fate – no good deed or life well lived can save you; only by accepting Jesus as your savior can you be saved from the horrible fate you were thrust into simply because of your mere humanity.


George Will on climate change: "It's just summer"

According to political analyst and, apparently, climate change expert George Will, the hot weather we're experiencing is "just summer" and we should "get over it".

Right, except for the fact that 16 of the last 17 years have been the hottest on record.

Michio Kaku on the possible Higgs discovery

One of the constants of the science of physics (well... all science, actually) is that it has a way of doing away with religious claims about the nature of reality. Because let's be honest... religious claims are just tales that primitive people made up. Science is actually based on, y'know, evidence. Here Michio Kaku talks about how the Higgs Boson will allow us to peer where Pope John Paul II once warned Stephen Hawking not to peer – before the big bang, before the so-called "moment of creation".

An interesting perspective on fine-tuning

I really just wanted to re-post this from Debunking Christianity, where a user by the moniker D Rizdek had a great comment on this thread. It's a unique perspective on the old fine-tuning canard that I've never heard before, and I'm only going to add to it with a little topical self-promotion. Anyway, here's the quote:

Fine tuning only makes sense if there is no god. If there is no god, then it is quite remarkable that all the universal constants seem to be "just so" such that matter/energy comes together in atoms, then molecules, that gravity is "just right" so that planets and suns form that give off light that nurtures life, blah blah. But that's only remarkable if there's no god. But of course that indicates there's no god.

If there IS a god, then it's all mundane. It's all arbitrary. Matter and energy can behave anyway this god wants it to. There need be no universal constants at all, or they can be ANYTHING th…

On the Thunderf00t debacle at Freethought Blogs

I thought Freethought Blogs was a stupid idea when I first heard it, because I knew it would just encourage a groupthink mindset... you know, the kind of thing that we self-proclaimed "free thinkers" generally desire to stay away from.

Thank you, PZ Myers, for proving me right. As if you hadn't gone downhill enough already during 'Elevatorgate'.

And this once again shows that for whatever reason, dissent of any kind on topics related to 'feminism' – even if it is simply misperceived – turns certain people in the atheist community into raving idiots who just shout past each other. I'm extraordinarily disappointed in the behavior of PZ, Greta Christina, and countless commentators who laced the posts with bitter vitriol and straw-man arguments. This whole charade has shown that "Freethought Blogs" is really nothing of the sort, and anyone with a modicum of common sense who is still blogging there should run for the hills.

Da Fourf

I think it's kind of odd that we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence instead of the end of the Revolutionary War. The war ended some seven years after the Declaration was signed, so if we'd lost the war it would have been... I dunno, kind of embarrassing maybe.

Anyway, this is what I did for the fourth. If you pay attention, you can spot me for like two seconds. - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

More anticlimactic Higgs hype

Honestly, the whole "We think we may be close to finding the Higgs boson!" or "We had data that indicates we may have found it!" stuff is getting old.

What was announced today is not that the Higgs has been found. According to an article over on PBS,
ATLAS and CMS won’t find the Higgs itself, though; it disappears too quickly, decaying into other subatomic particles. It’s those particles that we’re looking for in the ATLAS and CMS data. Depending on the true mass of the Higgs boson, it could decay in several different ways. Seeing an excess of these decay products is an indication that we might have discovered the Higgs. And that’s what we found! In the shrapnel of the LHC’s powerful collisions, the CMS experiment detected more pairs of photons and Z bosons than we can explain without some new kind of physics appearing.
Don't get me wrong, that's definitely exciting... well, in a massively nerd-tastic sort of way. But come on. Umpteen blogs and news …

Sloppy science reporting on spanking

Just for the sake of disclosure, I'm going to make my stance on spanking children clear at the outset: I'm against it in all forms and all circumstances. There's no evidence that it's effective, and plenty of evidence that it could be harmful. Spanking is fine among consenting adults, and that's pretty much it. Perhaps the only reason it persists is because of dogmatism that holds the Biblical adage "spare the rod, spoil the child" above actual scientific research. The American Academy of Pediatrics is abundantly clear on spanking:
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. If a spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They also might apologize to their child for their loss of control. This usually helps the youngster to understand and accept the spanking, and it models for the child how to remediate a wrong.…