Let's see how Purdue handles this…

Our student newspaper, the Exponent, had a special low rate for clubs advertising their callout. We decided to take advantage of it, and the ad ran today:


I think it looks pretty snazzy – they added the color. If you can’t read the fine print, it says “A student organization for atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, or anyone who lacks religious or supernatural beliefs.” I’m curious to see if there will be any negative reaction to this – maybe an angry letter to the editor? The Exponent has gotten letters about less controversial things in the past.

Can’t tear this down!

Let’s see how Purdue handles this…

Our student newspaper, the Exponent, had a special low rate for clubs advertising their callout. We decided to take advantage of it, and the ad ran today:


I think it looks pretty snazzy – they added the color. If you can’t read the fine print, it says “A student organization for atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, or anyone who lacks religious or supernatural beliefs.” I’m curious to see if there will be any negative reaction to this – maybe an angry letter to the editor? The Exponent has gotten letters about less controversial things in the past.

Can’t tear this down!

More school drama – flyers

The Society of Non-Theists has had a particularly bad time putting up flyers at Purdue. I’ve had events where 75% or higher of the flyers were torn down after 24 hours, and I had to constantly replace them. We only put them where they’re allowed to be, but that doesn’t stop students from tearing them down. Purdue used to allow you to tape flyers to the ground (no longer do, it was an eye sore), and even those went missing. I actually caught someone in the act and tried to stop them, but since he and his friends were very large males and weren’t being too kind to me, I decided my well being is more important than a flyer and backed off. And if the flyers aren’t being torn down, they’re being written on – stuff like “Jesus loves you” and “You’re going to hell.” Interesting dichotomy there, no?

Anyway, we have some new flyer drama developments. I was going to LILY to relax in the library, but instead I got all riled up. Why? Of our five flyers on the main for, two were torn down and replaced by a Fraternity’s flyer, and the other three were directly covered by that Frat’s flyers like so:

These poster boards had plenty of space for the flyers to go, and the only other group that had a flyer perfectly covering it was the Queer Student Union:

Coincidence? I think not.

My first instinct was “Grrrr Delta Pi Rho!!! You’re a minority frat! Shouldn’t your members know better than treats other minority groups’ flyers like that?!” But then I looked at the flyer set up again. None of them completely covered our flyers, which had been the case in the past. They all made sure to include “Atheist?!” or “God?!” or “Big Gay.” What do I think is really happening? Some jerkface probably thinks it’s funny to slur Delta Pi Rho by calling them gay atheists by rearranging the flyers that way.

And you know what? That probably makes me crankier than if Delta Pi Rho themselves had just been acting like jerks. The fact that “atheist” is used as an insult really illustrates how most of America (especially conservative parts like Purdue) view nonbelievers. It’s a dirty word and a slur. What’s worse than being an atheist or gay?

I usually could care less when rival frats play pranks on each other (which is probably all this is), but at least do it without making some of the largest minority groups in America the butt of the jokes.

Trying to find God – could he at least yell "POLO!"?

I don’t get too many overtly religious comments on my blog, but since I read all the comments you guys leave, I do read the occasional “you’re wrong, love Jesus” remarks. I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I say – I don’t pretend to be infallible or anything. But recently someone commented with a religious remark that I hear all the time and is a big pet peeve of mine (emphasis mine):

“…See the whole picture. There is plenty of proof there is a God, but you need to see what you see and believe what is clear. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” So… there is evidence… look for it and you will be satisfied. ...

The old “you’re just not looking hard enough” idea. It drives me nuts, particularly because I hear it over and over. They don’t claim God is making it difficult for me to believe in him or anything – I’m just too lazy or in denial to see the truth. One, it’s an ironic statement since it usually comes from the very same people who deny scientific facts in order to support their faith, and make no effort to actually understand said science. The vast majority of people who don’t believe in evolution don’t even know how to define it.

But the main reason it bugs me is because it implies atheists haven’t tried. Most atheists were at one point religious, and many of them had religious experiences that theists would say were evidence for God. They, however, realized such experiences were just their mind playing tricks on them or pure human emotion, not some supernatural force. And often those people take a long time to actually become atheists because there’s a period where they investigate their faith closely and look for proof of god. And you know what? They don’t find any. Are they really not looking hard enough?

I would even hazard a guess that many life long atheists have tried this at one point. I know there was a time in my life where I really wanted to believe in a God. I asked for all sorts of signs for evidence, I hoped beyond hope, and I got nothing. You know why my prayers weren’t answered? Not because I wasn’t trying hard enough, not because I hated God and I didn’t want him to exist – but because he doesn’t exist. I was talking to no one.

The idea that atheists aren’t trying to find truth is mildly insulting, honestly. We’re not sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming “LALALA GOD IS DEAD” every time someone tries to present religious “evidence.” No, we listen, think about it, and then (so far) come to the conclusion that it’s all bunk based on reason and facts. I say “so far” because I, like others, am open to the idea of God if given real proof. Our lack of belief isn’t based on faith or hope. We aren’t wishing that God doesn’t exist, or going around ignoring all these pieces of “evidence” theists claim to have.

On the contrary, this is exactly what most theists do. The commenter said it himself: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” It’s not based on truth, it’s based on your desires. If you desire a God, your mind will start creating “evidence” to support your position. That doesn’t make the evidence true or real. Think of it like flirting. Sometimes you’re so infatuated with someone, that you interpret every smile to mean that they like you back. It’s because you desire that they like you, and you start looking for things to confirm this – not necessarily because they actually do.

So Christians, we have been trying. Maybe your God isn’t too keen on giving us any evidence, but until I see it, I’m remaining an atheist. What does he have to do for me to be convinced? I don’t know, but if he’s all-knowing, he can surely figure it out.

Trying to find God – could he at least yell “POLO!”?

I don’t get too many overtly religious comments on my blog, but since I read all the comments you guys leave, I do read the occasional “you’re wrong, love Jesus” remarks. I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I say – I don’t pretend to be infallible or anything. But recently someone commented with a religious remark that I hear all the time and is a big pet peeve of mine (emphasis mine):

“…See the whole picture. There is plenty of proof there is a God, but you need to see what you see and believe what is clear. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” So… there is evidence… look for it and you will be satisfied. ...

The old “you’re just not looking hard enough” idea. It drives me nuts, particularly because I hear it over and over. They don’t claim God is making it difficult for me to believe in him or anything – I’m just too lazy or in denial to see the truth. One, it’s an ironic statement since it usually comes from the very same people who deny scientific facts in order to support their faith, and make no effort to actually understand said science. The vast majority of people who don’t believe in evolution don’t even know how to define it.

But the main reason it bugs me is because it implies atheists haven’t tried. Most atheists were at one point religious, and many of them had religious experiences that theists would say were evidence for God. They, however, realized such experiences were just their mind playing tricks on them or pure human emotion, not some supernatural force. And often those people take a long time to actually become atheists because there’s a period where they investigate their faith closely and look for proof of god. And you know what? They don’t find any. Are they really not looking hard enough?

I would even hazard a guess that many life long atheists have tried this at one point. I know there was a time in my life where I really wanted to believe in a God. I asked for all sorts of signs for evidence, I hoped beyond hope, and I got nothing. You know why my prayers weren’t answered? Not because I wasn’t trying hard enough, not because I hated God and I didn’t want him to exist – but because he doesn’t exist. I was talking to no one.

The idea that atheists aren’t trying to find truth is mildly insulting, honestly. We’re not sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming “LALALA GOD IS DEAD” every time someone tries to present religious “evidence.” No, we listen, think about it, and then (so far) come to the conclusion that it’s all bunk based on reason and facts. I say “so far” because I, like others, am open to the idea of God if given real proof. Our lack of belief isn’t based on faith or hope. We aren’t wishing that God doesn’t exist, or going around ignoring all these pieces of “evidence” theists claim to have.

On the contrary, this is exactly what most theists do. The commenter said it himself: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” It’s not based on truth, it’s based on your desires. If you desire a God, your mind will start creating “evidence” to support your position. That doesn’t make the evidence true or real. Think of it like flirting. Sometimes you’re so infatuated with someone, that you interpret every smile to mean that they like you back. It’s because you desire that they like you, and you start looking for things to confirm this – not necessarily because they actually do.

So Christians, we have been trying. Maybe your God isn’t too keen on giving us any evidence, but until I see it, I’m remaining an atheist. What does he have to do for me to be convinced? I don’t know, but if he’s all-knowing, he can surely figure it out.

Photo Scavenger Hunt Results

So a month ago I mentioned that our club would be having a freethinking photo scavenger hunt, where they had to take photos of various atheism and science themed things. I finally have most of the photos from people (still missing some good ones, but I give up) so I’m going to post some of my favorites. Feel free to do this event at with your group too!

1. …your team spelling out a word related to science or atheism. (Bonus point for each stranger you get to help you)
Lipid! Randomly ran into an old high school friend who helped us.
2. …physics in action.
3. …someone NOT in your group playing chess, go, sudoku, or other strategy/puzzle game
4. …a teapot.
5. …a scientific statue.6. …the oldest scientific apparatus you can find.
7. …a man with a Darwin-like beard.
8. …an atheist stereotype. (The best was one of my secretary with a stuffed Devil on each shoulder, but no one sent me that one! Boo hiss!)
9. …the oldest copy of “The Origin of Species” you can find. (Bonus: Team w/ oldest).
10. …the silliest version of the Bible that you can find.
11. …evolution.
A classic.
12. …natural selection.
Josh is about to be removed from the gene pool.
13. …a scarlet A.
14. …a mutation.15. …someone in a lab coat.
16. …as many places of worship as possible in the background (Bonus point for each extra building).Mine had a Christian, Jewish, and Mormon place, but I think we counted six churches in this one.
17. …someone NOT in your group who was reading an atheist/science book
18. …your group smiling with a theist wearing some sort of religious clothing (Bonus: Awesomeness of outfit. For example, cross necklace = +0, Pope = +infinity).
19. …an endorsement of a religion in a public place where such an endorsement shouldn’t be or just seems silly.
Ah, the Indiana “In God We Trust” license plate. No brainer there.
This is the artwork you see when you walk into Lilly, the biology building (where I basically live nowadays). Yes, those are the hands of God creating all life on earth. In the biology building. All of the biology professors hate it, and it’s been vandalized and removed multiple times since its been put up.
20. …a dinosaur.
21. …a mythical creature.
22. …the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Some people need religion

Yesterday was the activities bonanza, an outdoor event where student organizations try to get the attention of random passers-by. Overall, it went very well for the Non-theists. We had 35 people sign up for our mailing list, many more people who were interested, and some religious people who talked to us and reacted very positively.

There was one exception, though, and of course the person came when I was in class. Though this is the basic conversation I was told happened:

Old guy: Why don’t you believe in god?
Student: Well, we don’t have enough proof.
Old guy: I have proof. He healed my peg leg.
Student: …
Old guy: How can you be moral without religion?
Student: Would you rape and murder if you found out there is no god?
Old guy: No, but I’m a molester in my heart
Student: …

Needless to say, that was kind of a conversation stopper. What do you say to a guy like that? The people who openly admit that they need religion in order to not do horrible things? I’m all for rational thought and atheism – but buddy, you go right ahead and keep believing in Jesus.

My hilarious run-in with CRU

I was originally going to come home and rant about how shitty and busy my last three days have been. To put at least today in perspective for you, I had to wake up at 6 am in order to set up a bacteria culture, had classes, work, and homework constantly, and then my four hour laboratory class ended up lasting 6 hours because our gel kept mysteriously failing, so I wasn’t done with that until 7:10 pm. I was sleep deprived, frustrated, and frumpy by that point – imagine Hermione’s potion scene from Harry Potter 6, and you’ll understand how I felt. But then I remembered I needed to slap up a couple of heathen callout flyers in that building, and I figured I’d do it on my way out.

I go to a lone poster board and pin up flyer design number 1 – “Atheist?! You’re not the only one.” There was a guy next to me hanging up the annoying MCAT flyers that take up every inch of every poster board, and he stopped.

“Atheists? Really?” he asked somewhat disdainfully.

“Yeah. Something wrong with atheists?” I replied politely.

“No…I just…well let’s say I don’t agree.”

“Agree to disagree, then.” I smiled and moved onward.

My main target were the four giant poster boards outside of the largest lecture hall in LILY. Not only are tons of science classes held there, but people have to wait in the hallways to get in, so the flyers there are effective. I’m about to walk to the poster boards and and I pass three girls in pretty dresses. I figured they were there for a sorority callout or something.

The red-headed girl said, as I was walking by, “Hey, coming to the CRU meeting?” For those of you who aren’t up to date in campus evangelism, CRU stands for Campus Crusade for Christ, one of the biggest, wealthiest, and most organized Christian groups across the nation. Members often joke that CRU is our arch nemesis, partly out of distaste (one of their main goals, listed in their constitution, is to convert students to Jesus) and partly out of jealousy (they have so much freaking money they’re always holding huge block parties with free food and putting ads on the side of buses here). If that’s not enough to annoy you, they seem completely oblivious as to why we think the word Crusade in their name is a bad idea.

Anyway, I’m one of those friendly altercation-avoiding atheists, so I just smile. “Ah, uh, no.” I move to put up more flyers, but she keeps going.

“Really? I swear you look familiar.”

She looks vaguely familiar, possibly from a biology class, but I have no idea. I flip my flyers over to show them the giant “ATHEIST” plastered all over the front. “Well, I run the atheist club, so maybe you know me from there,” I say jokingly.

Her two friends giggle, but the red-head’s face turns completely sour. “I wouldn’t be going to atheist meetings,” she scoffs. Sneers. Honestly, it was so stereotypical sounding, insert whatever disdainful adjective you want.

“Oh, I dunno, I thought maybe I’m infamous or something,” I say with a big grin, obviously joking. Her friends smile back, but the red-head looks mildly terrified or disgusted to be talking to me. I then finally moved on to put the rest of our flyers – including “You can be good without god” and “God?! We don’t think so, either” up while more and more CRU people shuffle in, all dressed in their Sunday best, staring at me incredulously.

Some may consider that just even more crap to put up with, but it made my day. I’m weird like that.

Thoughts about school

Well, the first day of school is over, and I’m pooped. Mondays are going to be hell for me – class 10:30 to 5:20 with no breaks for food, and TA meeting at 5:30. I survived, but I’m tired. Have to run from LILY to PHYS in 10 minutes, when it’s really a ~12 minute walk (and I usually walk quickly anyway) and then run back to LILY immediately after that. Nothing like being in a hurry to notice every annoying trait of the people around you. People who walk super slow, people who travel in large herds or while holding their significant other’s hand so you can’t get around them, people who smoke while walking so you have to inhale their shit the whole way to class, bicyclists who are manically swerving amongst the pedestrians…ugh.

BIOL 500 (the protein lab) will be…interesting. It’s only four weeks long, but in that time period we have three papers, two exams, two 4 hour labs a week, and a whole bunch of coming in extra. That’s always super annoying about labs. I already have to come in at 7:30 am on Wednesday so our stupid bacteria are fresh. Sadness. Thankfully I have a friend in the class who I’m partners with, so that makes things soooo much better. Nothing worse than having a lab partner who’s a jerk/doesn’t know what they’re doing. Oh, and Prof. Wang produced this lovely quote in one of the first few slides of her Power Point (verbatim):

“What if a protein can not doing its job?”

The grammar Nazi within me died a little. But to be honest, she doesn’t have a thick accent and I can fully understand everything she’s saying, so I won’t complain. I’ve had TAs and Professors where I had no idea what they were saying the entire semester, so…yeah.

Physics was boring as hell, as predicted. Sigh. I mean, the professor explained everything well and had demonstrations and everything, but she was just so…bland. Monotone. Unexcited. I can understand that once you’ve been teaching the same things for so many years it becomes a bit rote, but it equals automatic teaching failure. All of my wonderful teachers were animated and excited and genuinely interested in what they were about to teach us – not that they just wanted to fulfill their requirements and get back to research. I want a teacher with some personality – someone who actually, you know, uses inflection in their voice, laughs, jokes, acts like a human being. Is that too much to ask?

Speaking of which, I really like the Professor who teaches the lab that I’m going to TA. He’s not super animated, but he’s funny in the deadpan delivery/wry humor sort of way that I appreciate and a lot of students don’t get. Anyway, for that lecture I basically sat all the way in the back and ate my lunch while getting a refresher on amino acids. There has been one change in that class since I took it two years ago, though. Before my junior year, Purdue decided to be evil bastards and implement an optional +/- grading system (profs can decide if they want to use it or not). I personally hate this because it helps mediocre students and hurts A students like myself. Why? If you’re taking hard ass biology classes and get an A-, that’s a 3.7. But if you get an A+? Still just a 4.0, nothing extra. So there’s absolutely no incentive to do extra well, but you get hurt for just making it. Not to mention certain classes are easier As than others, as are certain majors, yadda yadda whine whine… but this Prof’s solution?

He has $200 dollars. Whatever students in this class of 400 get an A+ get to split the $200. Last year only two people got A+s, so they each got a hundred bucks.

My immediate reaction was “Kickass! Damnit, I would have tried harder for an A+ to get some cash!” But then I stepped back a bit, and my reaction scared me a little. I would actually try harder for a small short term reword, but not for a big long term reward? I guess that’s human psychology – we’re more motivated for things in the present. But it saddened me that even I thought that way. Yes, if all my classes did this, I would probably put forth the extra effort for some money. There are many times where I didn’t bother studying for a final because I was effectively locked into an A, and a 93 was no different from a 99. But is this just unethical bribery, or should we do it in order for people to try harder? Would it just result in more cheating and more cut throat competition for a prize, rather than your own evaluation? I guess there are some parents who would give money for As on a report card – mine didn’t because they would have gone broke, grumble – but I wonder if that method actually works?

School's no longer out for summer

School starts Monday here at Purdue, so I’ve been trying to get organized. I’m still mildly terrified that this is my senior year. The last three years have gone by so ridiculously fast, and the idea that by December I will be done applying to grad schools is scary…especially since I’m still not sold on any particular places (If anyone knows great scientists studying the genetics and evolution of humans, let me know). Anyway, let’s focus on the present. Here’s what I have in store this semester:

BIOL 500 – Protein Expression (2 credit)
This class has two four hour labs that meet twice a week for six weeks (first third of the semester) and a one hour lab prep on Mondays. I believe all biology majors who needs lab modules have to take this specific one first. Proteins aren’t really my thing, but maybe doing something other than genetics will be novel.

BIOL 542 – Animal Cell Culture (1 credit)
This is another lab with the same format that meets that last six weeks of the semester. Unlike the previous one, you get to choose your other lab modules, and this has a lot to do with gene transfer and making mutant lines, so it sounded pretty neat. Oh, and since I got the lab for DNA Sequencing waived (since I’ve kind of been doing that for the last two years in the lab I work in), I don’t have a lab module the middle six weeks! Hooray!

BIOL 597 – Sex & Evolution (3 credit)
I have been waiting to take this class since I arrived at Purdue four years ago. It’s offered every other year to upper-class men, so that’s why I’ve had to wait so long. Evolution of sexual reproduction? Sexual selection? Mating systems? Human sexual behavior? This is going to be the best class ever. Not to mention it’s with a professor I absolutely love. I also accidentally signed up for the Grad student Recitation, but he told me to stay in there because I would like it better. Yay!

BIOL 441 – Biology Senior Seminar in Genetics (1 credit)
So, I honestly have no idea what’s going on with this class. It has a conflict with Sex & Evolution, and the prof (who I also like) said we could work something out to make up for missing the seminars. What I’ll be doing, I have no idea. I’m talking to him on Tuesday.

PHYS 221 – General Physics, Electricity & Magnetism (4 credit)
I apologize to all the Physics people out there, but – ewwww, physics. Sorry, but I’m really not a fan. Physics was okay in high school – I got A’s, but I found all the math parts insanely boring – but god is it bad at Purdue. It’s one of those huge classes with thousands of students where they don’t really care if you understand anything because they’re just going to curve it 30% at the end so the required amount of people pass. It’s ridiculous. It’s horribly boring and tedious the way they present it. I want to make it clear that I think theoretical stuff ala Elegant Universe is absolutely fascinating, but doing busy-work math problems is not interesting at all. Sigh.

BIOL 498 – Biology Teaching (3 credit)
Like I’ve mentioned way too many times (excited!!) I’ll be teaching a lab class this fall, Cell Structure & Function. Like all intro biology courses at Purdue, the name really doesn’t correlate to what you actually do in lab. It’s a hodge podge of proteins, genetics, evolution, anatomy, and random science skills. Oh, and lots and lots of gel electrophoresis. Lots. My first class is Tuesday, andI have to look over all the information I received about teaching the first lab. Oh, and ironically, my Grad student TAing partner (the two of us teach it together) is also a member of Non-Theists and works in our club advisor’s lab. Small world! Well, maybe not so much in the Biology department.

That’s only 14 credits, which is amazing. I’m usually at 16 to 18, and some of the credits this semester aren’t even taking place all at once, so I hopefully won’t go totally insane like usual. Of course, I’ll have other stuff to keep me busy:

1. Society of Non-Theists, woo! We’re having a ton of events this year, but those are always fun to organize.

2. Research. Trying to finish up two projects and have them submitted to journals before I apply to grad school. Will start working on my Senior Thesis and basically whatever else I can cram in before I graduate.

3. A fun development that I think is awesome – I was suggested by both of the Biology counselors (yay) to a Professor who’s creating a new class. It’s going to be a lab class for honors biology freshmen that gives them real hands on experience with research and teaches them how to think like scientists, rather just go through cookbook experiments to learn the required skills. This semester I’m getting paid to help develop the curriculum, and next semester I’ll be TAing the class! I am super excited about this. I want to be a professor someday, so this is perfect for me. The freshmen labs also need a lot of improvement, so hopefully I can help to make them a better experience.

Still, the fact that this is an easy semester for me should really illustrate what an overachiever (aka, how crazy) I am. Don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging away. I consider it a break from the insanity. Oh, and I’ll be hanging out with friends and stuff…right. Have to remember to actually have a social life. I bought season football tickets mainly so I go out and do something every couple of weeks – I could care less if Purdue wins or loses. Yeah. …I think this post pretty much illustrates why I’m probably not going to have a boyfriend for a while.