Why God? Why?

Smart people I know and love frequently pop out with some sort of “I believe in God” statement. If it’s not God, it’s some other gods or goddesses or numinous something-or-other(s), or an unspecified spiritual component to the universe. It’s like people can’t conceive of an existence without the supernatural.

I used to be that way. I have distant memories of that desire to find the entity behind it all, to relate to something far larger and smarter than me. I remember thinking I’d never want to live in a world without magic. I wanted to believe. Needed to. Desperately.

And then… I didn’t.

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Summer Reading That Will Give You the Secrets to Conquering Missionaries

I can’t wait for the Mormon missionaries to show up at my door again. Usually, I don’t have the patience to deal with people trying to sell me religion – I’ve got kittehs to play with, rocks to pound, posts to write, food to savor… Who wants to spend a glorious summer afternoon arguing religion with two scrubbed (in mind and body) young people when you could be lounging on the patio with book, cat, and drink?

Me!

After two books and a website, I’m eagerly scanning the horizon for those poor innocent folks. I might even invest in two extra patio chairs so we can lounge outside with the Book of Mormon, the cat (granted neither are allergic), and drinks (non-alcoholic, of course. See – I can be accommodationist, too!).

“Dana!” I hear you cry in my vivid imagination, “what can possibly lead to such a dramatic change?!”

I shall tell you. What’s more, I shall arm you with fascinating, often funny, reading, and questions guaranteed to make missionaries sweat more than the weather warrants.

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Someone’s Been Living in an Alternate Reality Again

Ho, hum, another day, another dumbfuck claiming atheists have no basis for morality. I see Avi’s given them a right proper fisking. Good thing he’s a good writer, because this shallow shite’s points look like they came off an apologetics-for-assclowns site. Oh, my heck, does our Avi have patience. I’d’ve chucked this garbage in the trash after the first paragraph. This is just so century before last – ooo, what’s this? [Read more…]

New Geokittehs Post – Plus Cute So Powerful It Could Result in Mutually Assured Cat-astrophe.

Another Saturday, another infusion of beyond-weapons-grade cute. You lot have no idea how hard it is to concentrate on an afternoon’s MMA fights* with a kitten reducing you to incoherent mush every fifteen seconds. But at least I can write it off as bidness: got a Geokittehs post out of Luna once again. She’s good at this stuff!

Luna doing her debris catalanche impression.

Luna doing her debris catalanche impression.

She even knows what my current project is. That’s talent!

It was nice to relax with happy kitties playing and sleeping, and athletes beating the tar out of each other, considering I’d been up until 3 in the ay-em working on research, and then up a further three hours because my brain refused to shut down. I suffer for you, my darlings. Look at how I suffer! [Read more…]

Not So Good For a Laugh, Actually

Skepticism matters, but it’s not enough. This is what happens when we stop at skeptical:

The other day in the break room, I got into a brief banter with coworkers about people who believe they can live without eating. One person brought up a guru in India who claims to have lived without food for decades.

That’s a fraud,” I said. “The people who claim that are always caught sneaking out for food.”

Which lead to laughter, and one person saying, “Yeah, but it’s still funny.”

“Not for the people who believe them and die,” I said.

Silence. No one had thought of that.

People are not plants. We're animals. Animals haven't got chlorophyll. You need chlorophyll to live off of sunlight and water. Therefore: don't try to live like a plant unless you want to die like a starving person.

People are not plants. We’re animals. Animals haven’t got chlorophyll. You need chlorophyll to live off of sunlight and water. Therefore: don’t try to live like a plant unless you want to die like a starving person.

Being a skeptic is a good thing: we should be skeptical enough not to get sucked in by patently ridiculous claims. But it’s not enough to merely point and laugh. When we stop there, we forget the cost. We miss the opportunity to prevent a fellow human being from losing their money, their family, their life.

Anyone who believes in that stuff is stupid, amirite? How often have we thought that? There’s a subtext of superiority, of “It can never happen to me, and fools get what they deserve.” But we can all be fooled. Give us someone who seems confident and sincere, in a situation where we don’t know enough about the subject to easily detect bullshit, and given information that, no matter how bizarre it seems, appears to be plausible, and we can easily become the fools. Do we deserve to get hurt because we were unaware? If you’re not skeptical enough about one thing, do you deserve to lose everything? Should skeptics who know the truth just point, laugh, and abandon you, or would you want them to make an effort to help you realize the truth?

It’s not enough to recognize erroneous and/or irrational ideas that are so factually incorrect as to be absurd. Sure, some dude trying to tell people he can live like a plant is funny – but stopping at a belly laugh without addressing the real harm such a person can cause does no one any good. We can point and laugh – but we should also be pointing out the harm. We shouldn’t be leaving those ideas unchallenged. We need to lift the curtain so everyone can see. We may not be able to rescue those who have already fallen too far into the bullshit, but we can prevent onlookers from stepping in it. And we can change this attitude so many seem to have, that these bizarre frauds are harmless, that we can just let them get on with being fools.

The world isn’t improved by smart people sneering at the duped. Skepticism can go beyond that. It must. And we can have a lot of fun teaching folks how not to get fooled. Everybody but the crook wins.

One Reason I’m Not Getting Any Bloody Work Done

So my darling Aunty Flow showed up right after I came over all optimistic and told you lot I’d be blogging moar. Also, reading a book that was a bit like a black hole. You know the kind of book. The kind that leads to this sort of exchange:

“Dana! The house is on fire! Flee for your life!

“Yeah, okay, after this chapter.”

Done now. Good thing the house never actually did catch on fire, because I probably would’ve forgotten to rescue the cat even if I’d managed to save myself and the Kindle.

And then, tonight, with dinner consumed, I schlep the folding table and mah chair into the bedroom, zip back out to the living room for my Coke, and:

Misha "helping" me blog.

Misha “helping” me blog.

Wretched wee beastie.

Then she wanted quality hair-tie time. Only toy she’ll play with, those. But of course, the moment I went to record her shenanigans for you lot, she up and left. Damn cat.

She’s gone now, and I’m settling in to begin work. So the drought shall end soon, cat willing. Until then, allow me to moon you:

Moon over basalt column fountain.

Moon over basalt column fountain.

Too dark to get a really good moonshot, alas – my camera was thinking it should gather as much light as possible and couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. Still. Pretty. The moon was ginormous and a lovely shade of orange. What do they call that – not the harvest moon, there’s another term for it, isn’t there?

Anyway. Shot through the trees that turned out somewhat interesting:

Moon through branches.

Moon through branches.

Kinda like that.

Anyway. Gotcher one post almost written that is a few thousand word monstrosity whichI think you’ll enjoy quite a bit, and we’re about to launch into some excellent geology, and if I can keep this silly feline from interrupting every ten minutes, I may even be able to actually post stuff for ye. I shall valiantly make the attempt. Thank you for your patience.

Discoveries and Delights, Including Kitten

Yes, I’ve been rather scarce over the last several days – a sorry state of affairs that should soon be changing, now that I’ve made a slight adjustment to my meds that allows me to stay awake for more than an hour at a time. Huzzah!

I missed FtB Conscience this year, but should this network pull off that insanity next year, I intend to take the plunge. By then, I should have Flood “geology” to talk about, and hopefully shall split your sides with laughter whilst teaching you how to read rocks in the apoplectic face of a creationist. Hee.

Haven’t lain idle this weekend, my darlings, despite the lack of blogging. I’ve been occasionally applying nose to grindstone, gone out for an adventure, and exercised ye olde upper body by swinging toys for kittehs. Even whilst laying idle, I haven’t been idle! Allow me to report: [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: Garnet Mica Schist! Plus Announcements

Sorry for the absence lately – between the black hole the kitten has created, research, work, field excursions, and the unending exhaustion caused by a new medication, I’ve been lax. But I did put together a delicious little post with some photos of the garnet mica schist we found at Icicle Gorge last weekend, and it’s got links to Elli’s awesome 3-part series on how garnet mica schist comes to be, so there’s something to make up for it!

Also, I just tonight finished preliminary work on a set of posts I think you’ll love quite a lot. Coming soon! Also coming soon, moar kittehs!

For those of you who never venture into the wider world of FreethoughtBlogs, we’re having our first-ever convention this weekend! Here’s a welcome from PZ, and Jason’s link to lanyards. Unfortunately, I can’t be there – see above excuses (especially kitten black hole), but there will be science galore, and thought-provoking talks, and you can torment me by telling me what I’m missing! I’ll catch up by watching it all on YouTube later, probably while editing 10 billion photos from this summer’s adventures.

Right. Off you go. Enjoy! And check back soon for moar kitten!

Beginnings: Where will you begin?

You can’t always see where things began. For instance, where did geology begin? In Greece, with Theophrastus and his On Stones? In Rome, with Pliny the Elder? He’s got some claim to it, with his work Natural History and his death by volcano whilst observing the eruption of Vesuvius.

Did it begin in the Islamic empire, with Abu al-Rayhan al-Biruni, who studied the geology of India? Or Avicenna (Ibn Sina), famous for other things, but who also speculated on mountains, earthquakes and other topics of geological interest?

Or China, with Shen Kuo and his ideas on land formation? He was a careful observer. He’d seen the seashells on mountaintops, and had natural explanations for them.

Did geology begin in Italy with the word, coined by Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1603? Or did it begin with Nicolas Steno, when, during his studies of the Italian countryside, he formulated the principles of stratigraphy: superposition, original horizontality, and lateral continuity?
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