Exploding Pumpkin Demo

As someone who used to take physics demos around to elementary schools (as part of a majority-female, three-person team, I might add), I heartily approve of this. Although I do worry about where the bits ended up.

Via Jennifer Oullette.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Atheist Lies

Okay, I lied. No lies here, just fiction from my talented neighbors here at FtB.

JT is making angels scary (not that they weren’t already):

December 2nd, 2011, about five years ago by most calendars…that was when the first one appeared – a woman, just floating in the sky above New York City.  You would have loved the place.  It was so full of people you couldn’t walk outside without bumping into ‘em, and the buildings were so high you’d swear they touched the sun.  Anyway, this woman, the news networks couldn’t get enough of her.  News networks?  You mean nobody has told you about television?  Well, we’ll save that for another time…

Some people thought it was a gag, but after a day people started calling it a sign from heaven.  Some people called her an angel, which kinda made sense.  Hell, she looked just like one in the dress she wore, minus the wings.  Her expression was always the same and she looked so peaceful.  Others thought she was here to protect us, and most people started calling her our guardian.  We’d known about her for less than a day and already people were flocking to our city.  It was a right mess.

Three days later, that was the day that we adults have spent the last five years trying to forget.

[Read more...]

All Too Common

There’s this idea going around a (small and generally self-congratulatory) circle of people that in order to be “good skeptics” or “good freethinkers,” we must somehow doubt Rebecca Watson’s story about being propositioned in an elevator in the middle of the night at a conference after making it clear that this was not what she wanted. The idea that this would ever happen is somehow an extraordinary claim that requires signed, notarized affidavits or somesuch.

The problem with that line of argument is that there is nothing at all uncommon about guys who behave that way, as this report from this year’s World Fantasy Convention can attest.

[Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: The Nymph’s Child

Carrie Vaughn first came to my attention six years ago this weekend, when her publisher gave away copies of her debut novel at the World Fantasy Convention. Even with a relatively small convention, that’s an expense. As it turns out, however, it was an investment that paid off. Carrie is both prolific and highly readable, as this short story demonstrates.

She spit in his direction, a bloodied gob of mucus. Couldn’t tell if she managed to hit anything. “Bastard,” someone muttered.

“Do it,” Alan said in a low voice. “Tell him.”

“No.” Live. That’s an order. But he wasn’t the captain anymore if he didn’t have a ship.

Chains clinked—Alan straightening. When he spoke, his voice was clear, commanding. God, he was still the captain, damn him.

“My first officer cannot sign your confession, Marshal.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll tell you alone. Tell your men to leave.” The Marshal frowned, and Alan said, “For God’s sake, what can I do to you now? I give you my word this is no trick.”

The Marshal sent his men away, so the three of them were alone. And Alan told him.

“The name is wrong.”

“On the contrary, I have all Gregory Lark’s aliases listed—”

“Grace Lark. Her name is Grace Lark.”

She closed her eyes. It was all over now. They’d still kill Alan, but she would have to live. And remember.

Keep reading.

The Choice in Pro-Choice

From the Guardian:

When Ma Jihong became pregnant for a third time, she looked forward to expanding her family. So many neighbours had broken China‘s strict birth quotas she thought she could too.

But six months later she died in panic on an operating table after officials in Lijin, Shandong province, forced her into a late-term abortion, relatives have said.

Her eldest daughter, 14-year-old Yuyu, has not spoken since Ma’s death more than a week ago. Yanyan, aged four, cries for her mother but does not even know she is dead – relatives unsure how to break the news have pretended that Ma has left in search of work.

“We thought we had lost the child, but we did not know we had lost the mother,” a source close to Ma’s family, who asked not to be identified, said.

There is one of those “both sides” memes that has popped up among those people looking down on the abortion wars. It goes something like this: There is dishonesty in the labels that each side applies to themselves because being “pro” something good implies that the opposition is against it. Thus, it is incorrect to suggest that people who want access to abortion on demand are against life and incorrect to suggest that those who want to restrict access to abortion are against choice.

The reaction to this particular story supports half the meme. [Read more...]

Atheists Talk: Alex Rosenberg on “The Atheists Guide to Reality”

Many religions claim to hold the answers to life’s big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? From where do we get our morals? Some say it’s all because of God, and that leaves us atheists throwing our hands in the air.

But now Alex Rosenberg has written a book just for us. In The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, Dr. Rosenberg walks us through the science that succeeds in providing these answers without having to fall back on supernatural explanations. He celebrates scientism, embraces “nice nihilism,” and takes us on a fast-paced, wild journey through the physics, chemistry, and biology that explain our past, present, and future. He shows how science influences our politics, ethics, and how we think about ourselves and the world around us.

Dr. Alexander Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University, and the co-director of Duke’s Center for the Philosophy of Biology. His areas of interest include metaphysics, David Hume and causation, and the philosophy of economics, biology, and cognitive and behavioral science. He is a prolific author, with thirteen published books, contributions in two anthologies of philosophy and approximately 180 journal articles spanning from 1972 to the present.

Related Links:
Alex Rosenberg – Duke Faculty Page
Alex Rosenberg – Wikipedia
Boston Globe Book Review of The Atheist’s Guide to Reality

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

If I Wrote Rape Laws

I’m a bad feminist. I shall now be researched on the web and opposed wherever I do rape activism because I trivialize rape.

I know. It came as a shock to me too. But I know it must be true because a random commenter and self-proclaimed rape expert who has, you know, been looking into things since 1998 told me so.

My crime? Well, according to his post-flounce whine, I failed to answer questions he never came out and asked about what I want rape laws to look like. On a post that was about a change to how we count existing criminal reports, not about how we charge or prosecute those claims. In a comment thread that was as much an exploration of ethics as it was anything else. Apparently talking about rape at all, however, means that I had to lay out and justify my own positions.

Well, I’m going to that–despite the douchesplainer–because I think it’s an interesting topic. What do I want rape laws to look like?

[Read more...]

Matching Funds for the SSA

Yesterday, I asked those of you with Reddit accounts to help out the Secular Student Alliance, who were being drummed off the front page. It was a trivial thing, really, but it required only a trivial response. Thank you to those of you who gave the couple of clicks required.

Now the SSA has a bigger opportunity. The catch, of course, is that it requires a larger action on your part to help them. An SSA member has pledged funds of up to $20,000 to the SSA to match donations made between now and December 31. This includes both plain old donations of any size and memberships purchased during that time (which are also tax-deductible for those in the U.S.). Given that student memberships are only $10 and other memberships start at $35, this is a good time to swell their ranks.

Why? Because the SSA is there to support nonreligious students when, all too often, no one else is. In their own words:

We work to organize and empower nonreligious students around the country. Our primary goal is to foster successful grassroots campus groups which provide a welcoming community for secular students to discuss their views and promote their secular values. Though our office is based in Columbus, Ohio and our affiliated campus groups are predominantly in the United States, we do support affiliates around the world.

How We Support Student Groups
We support our affiliates in a variety of ways, including supplying literature and outreach supplies, group-running guides, hands-on assistance, discounted access to prominent speakers, and monetary project grants.

For individual students, we cooperate with other national nontheistic organizations to get discounted students rates for large events and provide travel grants to help the students attend. We hold regional summits and a national conference each year to give students leadership training and the opportunity to network and problem-solve with their peers.

The Secular Student Alliance devotes the majority of its resources to supporting its affiliate groups. We only offer this support to groups that further our mission. We have developed a set of standards to help campus groups determine if they should seek affiliation with us.

This includes high school groups as well as college, for a total of 314 campuses–and growing quickly.

So if you can, support their mission. Become a member or just give a little bit to help make sure someone else gives more.

And hey, whether or not you do that, they’re still looking for people to help them beat Campus Crusade for Christ in Facebook popularity. Yes, this one is trivial too, but again, it only takes two clicks.

Christian Redditors Trying to Hide the SSA

A post about the Secular Student Alliance made it to the front page of reddit today. Yay! Good news! JT says it helped a bunch of people find the SSA on Facebook. Whether they’re students looking for someplace to feel less alone or others willing to support the mission of the SSA, this is a good thing.

It’s a good thing that religious redditors don’t want anyone else to see, however. Once the post hit the front page, the downvoting started in earnest. Oh, those persecuted religious types, having to see that someone doesn’t believe. Poor puppies.

Right. Sarcasm aside, they don’t want to have to acknowledge our existence or the existence of the SSA, and they’re willing to make sure nobody else sees us either in order to make that happen. There are more of them than us, so this may be hopeless, but if you have a reddit account, won’t you please go use it now to help others find the SSA?