For Greta (Happy Birthday!)

Now that I get to rub virtual elbows with her on a daily basis, it was nice to take a look back a few years to the time when a newbie cephalopod blogger was noticed by one of the movers and shakers. So now, on the occasion of half a century of moving and shaking (I hit that milestone earlier this year, so I know nothing moves or shakes like it used to), I give you (with minor alterations) a reprise of a post subtitled “Worshipping Greta Christina”… after the jump: [Read more...]

Undecided? Still?

Slate.com has a story analyzing 12 kinds of undecided voters. They miss one motivation, though…

There was a voter, undecided,
Though I cannot fathom why;
Perhaps a faulty compass guided
Him, as days and weeks flew by.
Friends would prod, and neighbors chided
“Such an indecisive guy!”
With rapt attention undivided
All would roll their eyes and sigh.
The networks parked where he resided
(Never was he camera-shy)
The interviews that he provided
Kept the ratings climbing high.

Today, as news-mobiles collided
In his yard, I caught his eye:
“If I decide”, the man confided,
“All these cameras say good-bye!”

It’s A Miracle (Officially)!

The medical team was in a race
Against some resistant bacteria;
A colony found a young boy’s face
To treat as their own cafeteria

The miracle team investigates
Against some religious criteria;
The “promoter of justice” tries their fates
As they battle with strep or listeria

The desperate parents said their prayers
As conditions grew frankly horrific
They pleaded for help from the man upstairs
Whose germs were a bit too prolific

Operations and antibiotics combined
Broad-spectrum, as well as specific
Saved young Jake’s life, although we’ll find
The church is more unscientific

The search for answers sometimes leads
To a cultural bit of division:
A difference that comes from their separate needs
May find science and church in collision

A team of priests has been working for years
As a bishop provides supervision
And if adequate evidence really appears
Well… they won’t let that stop their decision

Well… I was right. (More after the jump: ) [Read more...]

Proof Of God?

Over at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus answers a question. Specifically, the question of “what would it take for you, an atheist, to believe in god?”, and the objection that in reality, our answers are all lip service, that we are closed-minded and unwilling to budge. You can go take a look at his answer, but mine is a bit different. For me, this is one of those questions better answered with another question: What would it take for you, a christian, to believe in someone else’s god?

The same evidence that should be sufficient to convince an atheist, will necessarily disconfirm some religions, given that they disagree with one another, and positively proving one of them may well violate fundamental tenets of another (come to think of it, it might support none; there may be a very real deity that every single religion gets wrong). Gods are intentionally fuzzily-defined; if they were clearly defined, they would be easy to disconfirm. Absolute proof of a specific God would be a believer’s worst nightmare! With so many options, the odds that their own god is the right one are better in the absence of evidence. Besides (he said, cynically), old habits die hard, and the habit of denying empirical evidence has a long history.

Can you imagine what the various reactions of atheists and believers might be, to the sort of evidence that would make PZ check himself into a padded cell? My version, after the jump: [Read more...]

The Predictable Comment

What a pointless waste of money!
What a frightful waste of time!
This is lame, disgusting drivel
And it isn’t worth a dime!
What a waste of a reporter
When this clearly isn’t news!
Your priorities are foolish—
Give us something we can use!
This misguided bit of effort,
Lacking substance, style, or taste,
And my time it took to read it
Are an utter, total waste!
That’s ten minutes of my lifetime
That I’ll never, now, get back,
Spent deciphering the writing
Of a clueless, brainless hack!
All this focusing on nothing
When there’s suffering and pain—
What’s the point in what you’ve written?
How does anybody gain?
You should give your unearned paycheck
To a charity, this week,
So someone else can benefit
From something, when you speak.
Editorial discretion
Means the choice was yours to make
But your choices are deplorable
This time, for goodness’ sake!
You must have though it worthy—
I, of course, must disagree
And even brain-dead idiots
Would surely side with me!

My time is very valuable;
You’ve wasted it, you know.
Without a trace of irony
I write to tell you so.

(more, after the jump–) [Read more...]

Believers, Or Story-Tellers?

Over on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos And Culture blog, a couple of recent posts caught my eye. Marcello Gleiser, theoretical physicist (which I add, in part, to show that his expertise is not in, say, psychology or biology) writes that “To be human is to believe“:

Humans are believing animals. Perhaps that’s even a way of defining our species: we are the high-functioning primates from planet Earth who have achieved consciousness and, with it, the ability to believe.

We seem to be incapable of living our lives without believing that there is something bigger than us, something beyond the “merely” human. Okay, not all of us, but clearly the vast majority of humans.

Barbara King, on the other hand (Biological Anthropologist), describes us as “Homo narrans: Humans as story-tellers (and listeners)“, emphasizing “the deeply ingrained human propensity for story-telling.” (The blog post itself is brief, but King joins in the comments, which are so far removed from “comments” on, say, Fox News, that I really think they are a separate species.)

Are we believers because we are storytellers? Are we storytellers because we are believers? I suppose, in part, it’s all chickens and eggs, and the origins of this aspect of humanity doesn’t fossilize (although King suggests cave paintings as the first illustrations to stories).

My musings, after the jump: [Read more...]