Scott Lane on the Ra-Men

The summary of tonight’s podcast is that Scott Lane has a son in a Louisiana elementary school -“-where the state government fosters creationism and religious proselytization in schools.  One of the test questions asked [something along the lines of] “Isn’t it wonderful what the ______ has done?”  Lane’s son couldn’t have guessed that the answer might be ‘Lord’ -because he’s a Thai Buddhist. The teacher saw fit to criticize the child for that, telling him and the whole class that his religion was silly and stupid. The faculty in the office were no better, suggesting that Lane enroll his kids in a different school if they refuse to convert their religion.

https://plus.google.com/b/101347975184866858916/events/cq3ond20pc4meo65ier742n70a0

On this date, once upon a time…

I would just like to point out that 52 years ago, on October 15th 1962, my existence was documented in a small Arizona hospital that was later converted into a jail. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president of what was then the most scientifically advanced country – in world that still had not been to the moon. At the same time, interracial marriage was illegal.

We walked though airport security with our shoes on, and we didn’t need passports to cross any continental border. Children left home on their bicycles without helmets or knee pads, nor any means of tracking or communication, on the orders that they return home by dusk.

A brand-new Corvette only cost about $4k and only had about 300 horsepower. Gasoline was $0.35 per gallon. The minimum wage was $1.15 per hour, and they spent it watching the first movie about James Bond, or on records by Ray Charles, the Drifters, or the Four Seasons. TV only had a black & white screen that was 19” at most, but it had the Ed Sullivan Show, the Dick Van Dyke Show, the Andy Griffith Show, and the Twilight Zone.

MIT and IBM had just invented the first disk storage system and the first video game –for a computer the size of a small car, but with far less processing power than an average cell phone today.

That round screen is showing the dot-pixel game, SpaceWar!

There was one more species of tiger and one more species of dolphin than we have today, and the global population was twice what it was when my grandmother was born, but still less than half of what it is today.

Think about that for a moment.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy

I’m doing a movie review AFTER everyone else has seen the damned thing.  Can you believe, I couldn’t get anyone in my family to go see Lucy with me?  I finally saw it on my own alone at a dollar movie.

Why wouldn’t anyone see it with me?  Because it wasn’t remotely real.  We seem to have a double-standard when it comes to fantasy films vs science fiction. We saw Frozen and Maleficent as a family and we enjoyed both of those.  Fantasy doesn’t have to be plausible.  Science Fiction however does, and is therefore subject to severe scrutiny.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy, but I have to say I enjoyed bits of that movie.  If you have to stare at one woman for an hour-and-a-half, Scarlett Johansson is a pretty good choice. If you liked the way she whupped ass in the Avengers, you’ll like her in this too.  If you liked all that reality bending of the Matrix, this film could be a sequel to that.

No Kung Fu though.  Pity.  This film could have gotten away with a LOT of Kung Fu.

OK, I liked that it didn’t impose religious beliefs. It didn’t even acknowledge them!  I also liked that it showed elements of evolution and cosmology as eye-candy, because we experience “awe and wonder” -no matter what Oprah says.  But the movie got a lot of the stated facts annoyingly wrong.  Life didn’t begin one billion years ago. It was at least 3.8 Billion years ago.  Animals weren’t only around for millions of years, but for HUNDREDS of millions of years.  I even winced when Morgan Freeman (who I think should know better) said that humans were at the “top” of the “evolutionary chain”. Ouch!

For those of you not in the know: evolution isn’t a chain or a ladder, and there is no ‘top’ either.

Then Freeman’s character describes his scientific theory as an untested hypothesis, which sounds to me an awful lot like conjecture.  Scientific theories are not hypotheses!  They’re not guesses, educated or otherwise.  Aaaaggggg!  I hate having to re-explain that all the time!

Hey Hollywood, would it kill ya to have a science adviser when you’re making Sci-Fi?

Worst of all, of course is the premise of the film.  Lucy, (Scarlett Johansson’s character) is accidentally overdosed with a mystery drug called CPH4.  For some reason, movie producers never seem to know anything about the periodic table. (Remember Unobtanium in the movie, Avatar?)  Combining one Carbon and one Phosphorus atom with four Hydrogens isn’t that complex or mysterious.  In real life, it’s a metabolic enzyme called 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase, and it doesn’t have the properties the movie gives it.  The director insists he made up the name of the drug -to hide the real name of a real chemical which is naturally produced “in tiny quantities” about the 6th week of pregnancy.  He wants to keep the name of the real drug secret, because it might do what the drug did in the movie.  However biologists discussing this online say that chemical isn’t what the director says it is.

Anyway, because the director thinks the properties of this mystery molecule can’t be known, then maybe they could really cause the outrageous development of her activated intellect. We can’t prove that wouldn’t happen, right? So we take advantage of the ignorance of the audience so that anything sounds plausible.

The back story isn’t the real issue though.  The problem is the premise, the old (and erroneous) adage that “the average human only uses 10% of their brain capacity, so imagine what we could do if we tap 100%?”

When questioned about this, the director said: “It’s totally not true. Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true!”

Thus Science Fiction becomes Science Fantasy.

In the movie, a gargantuan dose of this drug is accidentally released into Lucy’s system, and she begins to access more and more of her brain’s total efficiency.  As she does, she acquires new powers; not just of perception or cognizance, but of psionics. She can visualize the fabric of the universe as if reality were an illusion constructed by the computers from the Matrix. And like that other movie, Lucy develops all the seemingly miraculous powers of Neo. She can even turn back time –manually. Consequently she becomes a sort of deity, complete with all the powers of Spock, the X-Men, and ET combined.  All of that is not even on speaking terms with reality.  But that’s still not my primary complaint.  As I said, my issue is the premise of this film.

I always knew there was something wrong with that old saying. We only use 10% of our brains? That can’t be right. It didn’t make any sense, either from a material nor a theistic perspective, unless brains are just really inefficient. Everyone seemed to believe that when I was in school, everyone. And no one could tell where that claim first came from.

So I’m sitting in my 2nd level college course of biology for science majors, and the lecture is on the brain. The basal portions regulate glands and bodily functions, process sensory input, enable motor control, and so on, but all our wisdom, intelligence, and personalities emerge from the ‘thinking’ part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, or ‘grey matter’. So we use our entire brain. There is no portion of it which has no known and necessary function.

Then the lecture mentioned that intelligence can be correlated with the number of neurons, and that our neurons represent only 10% of all the cells in the human brain, as if we only use 10% of our brain cells for ‘thinking’. Once I heard that, I thought, “THAT’s where that came from!”

Not that anyone cares, because of course people would rather believe that if you unlock the mysteries of your own imagination, then you can wield telekinetic powers. Faith promises much the same thing.

My schedule at the moment

I just confirmed my flights for the Unholy Trinity Down Under.  I tried to arrange an overnight stop in Los Angeles, but that would have cost another $800.00.  So when I board Quantas in DFW, I won’t get off that plane until two days later, once I’m on the other side of the world.  That will put me in Auckland New Zealand on March 9th.  I intend to stay there a couple days before I head to Australia.  I’m speaking in Sydney on March 14th, in Brisbane on March 18th, Melbourne on March 21st, and Perth on March 23rd.  There are more details of course, but we’ll announce those later on.

After that, I’ll be in Hawaii March 29th and 30th, because my daughter is stationed at the Naval base there.  Then I will take another direct flight from there all the way back to DFW.  I would have liked to stop off in San Francisco for a while on the way back, but once again, it would have driven the costs beyond my allowance.

This trip is being jointly-funded by the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Humanist Society of Western Australia.  They let me arrange my own flights, but I have to keep it under budget.

I was only on a dozen planes in 2014. This one trip alone would have been at least that many, if I could have broken up the trip a bit.  Who wants to sit on an airplane for 24 hours or more in one shot?  Especially when we’re flying WITH the rotation of the earth, because that takes even longer.

BTW, would any of you flat earth believers like to explain why it is that flying west to east is so much faster than flying east to west?  The last time I made this trip, Tuesday April 11th 2012 didn’t exist in my life. I jumped straight from the 10th to the 12th. But the flight back had me on a 48 hour Monday. I’d love to hear how the flat-earthers explain that. They’re still out there, ya know. They’re still posting on YouTube.

Texas Textbook hearing Tuesday Sept 15th in Austin

This hearing tomorrow, (Tuesday 2014/09/16) is a general hearing about the social studies textbooks that are up for adoption. Right now, there is a window where publishers can make changes to books prior to the final adoption/rejection that happens at the November SBOE meeting. For this hearing, it’s best as a strategy to first try to get changes made by publishers.
Even mainstream publishers have included changes which present a right-wing conservative Christian bias and even promote 19th century southern white racism.  Much of it qualifies as propaganda. They not only promote Christianity and denigrate other religions, but they also portray certain stories in the Bible as if they were actual historic events.  Read this article in the Washington Post for details.
Some of these changes in the textbooks also treat climate change as ‘questionable’.  Yes, the Social Studies textbooks are now tools of climate science denial.  You can read about that in the National Journal.
Depending on what gets corrected or does not, the secondary push later is for adoption/rejection of publications. No, the board cannot just start the whole process over. They’ve been working on this process for for almost 2 years. So they would never abandon the total effort because they will not believe it warrants that.
If you’re able to testify with us tomorrow, bear all of this in mind.  You’ll only have two minutes to make your case.

Duck Cage

I guess this is the star of Duck Dynasty. I don’t know; I’ve never seen the show. Anyway he says that atheists will be converted to end-times Christians if we watch the remake of ‘Left Behind’ starring Nicholas Cage.  Can it believe it took this for me to finally lose the last of my respect for Nicholas Cage?  To see him as the joke that everyone else has already seen for years?

I would say that this comment from the Duck Dynasty guy would have cost me my faith in humanity too -except that he is also the producer of this film, and we know how important money is when compared to anything else.

Irrational Rowlett – again

This video is from last April.

Last year, we had a bit of a confrontation with the city of Rowlett Texas, and the invocation that was illegal then, and for which they will not be held accountable. Now things have changed, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, and you’re about to read a demonstration of that.

Randy Word, one of my activist friends, has just relayed the following message:

The city of Rowlett has rejected our request for a local atheist resident to give an invocation at a city council meeting. They are now hiding behind Liberty Institute, a far right Christian pro bono legal entity, that defends religion sponsored by the government. This rejection flies in the face of the Greece NY vs Galloway Supreme Court decision last May that legalized sectarian prayer to open government meetings as long as there is no discrimination regarding who gets to give the invocation. Greece NY has allowed non-Christians to give the invocation including an atheist.

Metroplex Atheists and Metroplex Atheists Rowlett are calling for a protest at the city hall on 9/16 at 7PM which is 30min before the council meeting officially begins. The intent of the protest is to bring attention to the discrimination mentioned above and not the fact that the meetings are opened with an invocation. Resident Rowlett atheists will then speak to the council during the citizens input portion of the meeting.
We are inviting all atheists and anyone else who is against this type of discrimination to join us in this protest. We will have some signs but strongly recommend that you bring you own. Here are some ideas but if you make your own we recommend that you stay “on message” as described above. Please come to the next Metroplex Atheists bus mtg and help us make signs for the protest.

Rowlett – For Christians Only
Stop the Discrimination Now
Rowlett – Only Christians Allowed
Stop the Christian Bullying
Treat Your Citizens Equally
Stop the Hypocrisy
Your Policy is Anti-American
You Have Now Proven Your Discrimination, Exclusionism and Bias
Stop Hiding Behind the Liberty Institute
Greece NY Allowed an Atheist Invocation – Why Won’t You?
Stop Violating Your Own Invocation Policy
Rowlett – Non Christians Beware!

Another thing that someone could note in a public comment is that the Council has violated its own invocation policy in order to get speakers in the past. In 2012, Pastor Shane Pruitt of Connection Community Church gave the invocation five times (Jan 17, Apr 3, May 1, Nov 6, and Dec 4), in violation of the Council’s policy (see policy, page 5, #8). Additionally, for the Council meeting on June 7, 2011, the invocation was led by Senior Associate Pastor Clay Womack, First United Methodist Church of Garland. Though the First United Methodist Church may have “an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett, Texas,” the Pastor from Garland does not represent the local congregation. His inclusion therefore violated the policy (see policy, page 4, #4b). It also seems that the Council ends up giving the invocation itself more often than not. If the Council is this hard-pressed to fill its invocation schedule, perhaps that is an argument for being more inclusive.

Page 4 – 4b b The Congregations List shall be compiled by referencing the listing for churches congregations or other religious assemblies in the annual Yellow Pages phone books published for the City of Rowlett Texas research from the Internet and consultation with local chambers of commerce All religious Congregations with an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett Texas are eligible to be included in the Congregations List and any such Congregation can confirm its inclusion by specific written request to the Secretary Page 5 – 8 The Secretary shall make every reasonable effort to ensure that a variety of eligible invocation speakers are scheduled for the Council meetings In any event no invocation speaker shall be scheduled to offer a prayer at consecutive meetings of the Council or at more than three 3 Council meetings in any calendar year

Thanks

Ra-Men – Being progressive

I’m doing a new podcast. Mark Nebo of BeSecular co-hosts the show, and he acts as producer as well.  He wanted a title that had my name in it.  My sense of humor came up with the Ra-Men.

I want to do something different. Anybody can bitch about any situation and every solution anyone ever proposes. But just to be progressive, I want to talk to people who are not only proposing solutions instead, but who are actually implementing them; Even if we don’t yet know that it won’t work, so long as there is still reason to believe that it *might* work. Think politics, economics, technology, environmental issues, social issues, civil rights abuses, reforms or responses to oppression, opposition to certain legislation, moral obligations for the sake of humanity or the spotted owl, the advancement of science, education, or the distribution of drinking water, etc. Whatever. Any suggestions? Who do you see trying to do something to fix things that might actually make a difference?