Life, the universe, and everything (or, I’m An Atheist And So Can You!)

I feel the need to warn you right now, this is going to be an extremely long post, and I earnestly hope it spurs some honest and frank discussion amongst you, my loyal few readers.  And I’m going to try not to make the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy references too prevalent.  This all started on reading an interview with Richard Dawkins, prominent author and noted atheist.  Read it if you want, but it’s long too, and I’d prefer you read me first.  I worked hard on this!

In this post, I’m going to do something that, normally, I dislike, when I am on the receiving end.  I’m going to proselytize.  I will try to turn your fundamental beliefs regarding the nature of the universe on their ear.  I am going to attempt to convince you that you are an atheist.

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Angry Astronomer on Stellar Formation, and arguing with a creationist.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy linked to this discussion on Angry Astronomer recently, and boy howdy, is it worth a read.  I haven’t even finished the thread, but I’m sure it’ll provide with much-needed distractions and chuckles throughout the day tomorrow.

And possibly into sometime next week.  What a wall of text!

The length and breadth of the discussion kind of reminds me of the discussions I have on occasion with “Bob”, only minus any sense of logic or rational thought.  If you can make it through the entirety of the thread and discussion on one sitting, and without caffeine or other recreational pharmaceuticals, you’re a better man than I.  Or woman.  Though it’s not hard to be a better woman than I, I just can’t fill out a negligee all that well with my manly physique.

Update: I made it through the entire thread and still don’t understand “Anonymous’” problem with science.  And, being prompted by Clifton throwing his two cents in, I broke down and posted, as well.  To wit:

I have a friend with whom I occasionally argue about evolution. Once in a while, the conversation devolves to the point where I’m accused of relying on faith in science. This is true to an extent. I am no polymath. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I depend heavily upon others to have made discoveries that I cannot independently verify. I have faith that the scientists that have set down what they believe to be the rules by which the universe works, know their stuff, didn’t fudge the math, and are open to accept evidence against their own hypotheses, otherwise their theories and rules and laws would not have gained the publicity that they have — e.g., someone out there would have cried foul and presented evidence to the contrary, at some point or another.

As science is much like the open-source software model, wherein individual changes are contributed to the body of existing work and incremental improvements eventually lead to a larger oeuvre that can stand alone, I trust that science operates in a meritocratous fashion. Likewise, religion is akin to the closed-source software model, wherein one authority creates the entire body of work, and anything that falls outside the body of work is either heretical or evil. This monolithic authority system is likely what provides comfort to those that have faith in their religious dogma — it is comforting to know that even if you don’t know everything about the universe, you can simply say “God did it” and congratulate yourself for a job well done.

This implies that religious folks are incurious. This doesn’t seem to be the case in all cases, sadly, or we wouldn’t get trolls on science blogs of the ilk of our illustrious Anonymous poster in this thread. (Either they aren’t incurious, or they’re out amongst the heathen looking to convert. Not terribly palatable, and something like tilting at windmills around here, I’d wager.)

I just don’t understand what it is about the pursuit of science that raises the hackles of these types. Why is it that you cannot reconcile the idea that the universe works a certain way, with the idea that “God did it”? And has anyone ever suggested to you (as I saw in a Youtube video recently) that perhaps the Bible was actually created by God specifically to test humankind’s ability to believe in “his creation”, as opposed to creating the universe in an incredibly deceiving manner where 99% of it is a lie intended to fool you into believing the universe is a certain way, to test your faith in the book?

Bah. I don’t usually post my rants on other people’s blogs. I usually save them for my own. Apologies for my compatriot’s earlier cheap plug, by the way.

Dude.  I said “oeuvre”.  I guess I automatically fail.

Conservative hate radio influenced UU Church shooter

Unbelievable.  Simply unfathomable.  Eight people were shot, one dying immediately and another dying later in hospital, when a man with a grudge against, well, liberalism itself, decided to unload several shotgun blasts into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s production of Annie.  The rest of the injured are in serious or critical condition presently.

While liberalism is normally accused of creating radicals (an image it got, rightly or wrongly, due to opposition to the Vietnam War), we have today people setting fire to and bombing abortion clinics, destroying government buildings in revenge for the Waco Massacre, and now some jackass who was mad about “gays and liberals” supposedly taking jobs (THEYTOOKOURJOBS!) and preventing him from getting one himself decided to take matters into his own hands and went on a bloody rampage.

This time around, though, the media actually seems to be getting the fact that this guy was a radical conservative, whose Required Reading list included such philosophical giants as Bill-O The Clown, Michael Savage (born Michael Alan Weiner — I honestly can’t blame him for his pseudonym), and Sean Hannity.  The problem being, nobody’s going to call for these idiots to be banned from the airwaves for creating radicals — that particular tactic is generally only employed by conservatives, for starters.

He specifically picked the Unitarian Universalist church (which, by the way, if I had even a smattering of religious tendencies in my body, I’d happily convert to) because, though it finds its roots in Protestantism, it has a non-dogmatic approach to spirituality, and it is open to all walks of life, including (and prominently advertised on the sign outside its doors) homosexuals.  Don’t forget, gays “tookhisjoerbs”.  Of course he has to go shoot up a church full of good people because it’s tolerant of homosexuality.  That makes perfect sense, in such a xenophobic mind twisted by the conservative pundits’ Two Minutes Hate.  And because of the lies these pundits spewed, two people are dead, and six more are hanging by a thread.

I can’t wait to see how O’Reilly and Hannity (I don’t often get much exposure to Savage, being that he’s radio, moreso than television) try to spin this.  Well, no, actually, I don’t.  Anything they say short of apologizing profusely for categorically spreading fear and hate will likely make me vomit in my mouth, and you know as well as I do that they’re going to express their “heartfelt sympathies” for the victims of the tragedy, ignore completely their part in creating this monster, then turn back to their Two Minutes Hate of the day.

Wherein I try my hand at moving and carpentry

Sorry I’ve been mostly quiet this past week.  I spent much of the week building a proxy server to use at work, then having a higher-up (not my boss, but the “network architect” for the company) smack me down for doing so despite a “corporate solution” already being in place.  Forgive me for wanting to build a server locally without costing the company a cent, as opposed to piping all our internet traffic out through a VPN connection over the public internet to a site in Ontario, then having it piped back through the same VPN.  Can you say “slow as ass”?  Anyway, so that was most of my work week (and time off as well — I can get pretty OCD when I get onto a big project), and it was all scuttled in the end anyway.  I plan on discussing the options with my boss when he’s off his vacation, and before I go on mine.  Maybe I can convince him that this “corporate solution” isn’t so good a solution without major infrastructure upgrades for cross-site bandwidth.

Packing is progressing slowly.  Our dining room is now overrun with boxes, and most of the decorations and such are all down.  Yesterday I helped ReformedYankee’s family move not one, not two, but three families’ worth of stuff yesterday — on top of moving his family’s stuff to their new house, I had to help his parents move out, and his sister got a bunch of appliances out of the move, so we had to figure a way of getting the things down into their basement down a very thin flight of stairs.  It was muggy all day, so it was a very sweaty move.  By the time I got home, I smelled something fierce.  And I’m paying for the strain today — I haven’t been this sore in a while.  It’s a good kind of sore, though.  (I hope.  For my back’s sake.)  It also means I have one guaranteed committed helper for my own rapidly-approaching move.

I also did some creative furniture alteration yesterday — I cut off the side display case from our big entertainment stand, so the remainder will fit better in our new environs once we’re all moved in.  I might chop up the old upright closet as well, to use it to rebuild the display case as a separate unit.  It’ll probably need a paint job if I do, though, since the veneer is different.

It’d be nice if I had a circular saw.  Or at least a sawhorse.  I’m not much of a carpenter, but I know that putting the board on an exercise step and kneeling on it while you use a jigsaw to cut an almost-straight line according to a pencil crayon mark, isn’t the preferred method of carpentry.  One of these days, I’ll build myself an arcade cabinet, like I’ve been dreaming of for years and years.  When that day comes, it’d be nice to have decent tools to do it with.

We’re planning on having a housewarming party on August 23rd.  Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll e-mail you the details (Jodi even made up a flyer with a map).  Don’t worry, I already know all your e-mail addresses — well, at least I do for those of you who are signed up, and those of you I communicate with regularly — so you don’t have to put them in your comments.

Weekend update with Kevin Nealon

(He was the only Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor I could ever stand.  Well, of the ones I got to see, anyway.  I’m not that old, y’see, to have seen Dan Akyroyd.)

While Jodi was out for the weekend at a belly-dancing conference thing, I got to packing my basement.  I’ve packed ten boxes of books, media, computer bits, etc., so far, and there’s no end in sight to what still needs to be packed.  Boy do I hate packing.  With the intensity of a thousand suns.  This’d better be the last time I have to do it.

The mortgage officially came through, so all our ducks are lining up in a neat little row.  On Tuesday we have an inspector going to check things out, and though I doubt there’s going to be anything wrong with the place, enough people have nagged at me that I’m getting a family friend who’s qualified to go inspect the place.  Honestly, I would have been inclined not to bother despite all the nagging, save for the seller’s repeated and somewhat suspicious insistence that it’s absolutely unnecessary.  One of those cases where the more protest you make, the more likely I am to want to follow through.

I also tried out Sins of a Solar Empire.  As real-time sims go, excellent.  Probably better as a multiplayer game, though.  There wasn’t a single player campaign so I’m not really drawn to continue playing it.  That’s okay, because in packing my basement I rediscovered my “40 Years of Spider-Man” boxed set of CDs — PDF scans of the first 40 years of The Amazing Spider-Man — which will keep me occupied for a while.  I’d read it up til 1983 before I got distracted by other stuff my first time through, so I’m picking it up from there.  Of course, reading it sequentially leaves out a few story arcs, given that the Spider-Man series actually had more than one title running concurrently — Amazing, Spectacular, Web Of… and probably a few others.  I dunno.  If I had to multitask, juggle, that many ongoing villain clashes all at once, I would get out of the hero business in a hurry and do something more productive with my life, personally.  There’s a hell of a lot you could accomplish with super-strength, agility, and the ability to stick to walls.  You could build a house, for instance.  Or lift one.  Or climb onto the roof and do a little tap-dance.  Okay, so they wouldn’t all be productive, I guess.  But they’d be a hell of a lot less stressful than having to fight the Kingpin, Sandman, Electro, Kraven, and the Hobgoblin all simultaneously.

Anyway, yeah.  Productive weekend.  I didn’t get a hell of a lot of sleep though.  I haven’t been sleeping well lately, and I know it’s not because of the heat.  Stress, most likely.

Did I mention I got a raise on Friday?  No, I didn’t.  Mention it I mean, because I actually did get a raise, and it wasn’t just a cost-of-living increase like it’s been in the past.  Don’t look at me like that — I know exactly how unlikely what I just said is the truth.  But hey, there’s a first time for everything.

Also, Dr. Horrible was everything I hoped it would be.  My favorite song was the last one in Act 2 — “You’re Gonna Die.”  The Evil League of Evil is awesome, as well.  I was fully expecting Bad Horse to be a real horse, and of course of course, he was.  Too bad you only get to see them all (including Fake Thomas Jefferson, Dead Bowie, Snake Bite, Fury Leika, and Professor Normal — hopefully they get an actual role if there’s ever a sequel) for a full five seconds in the denouement of Act 3, when Dr. Horrible ascends to his rightful lot in life.  I will definitely be getting the DVD when it’s out.  For those of you who didn’t get to see it, you can get the three acts on iTunes (for a nominal fee), or of course they are available through less savoury channels, but I’d prefer that Joss Whedon et al get their just deserts for their sheer awesomeitude.

So yeah, that was my weekend.  How was yours?

You have until midnight.

You’ll have until midnight tonight to see his evil plan unfurl for free.

Starring Nathan Fillion (Mal from Firefly / Serernity) as Captain Hammer, and Neil Patrick Harris (DOOGIE!) as Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a Super-Hero Musical in three fifteen-minute acts, will officially be taken offline tonight.  All three acts are available for free right now, and if you’re anything like me, once you see the first five minutes of it, you will be champing at the bit to see Act 3 and pray that that miserable bastard Captain Hammer gets his pretty face besmushed.

After tonight, when the acts are taken down, the only way you’ll be able to see it is illegally, or on DVD.  I plan on buying it myself, as soon as I get a little spare coin.  The extras are bound to be awesome.

WordPress 2.6 is cool.

And by cool I mean totally sweet.

WordPress 2.6 is now installed, and has some neat features, such as revision control for posts, theme preview, word counts, management interface improvements, integration with Google Gears if you have it installed (and if you’re any kind of geek, you’ll go install it now), and all sorts of other stuff that you’ll probably never get to see unless you decide to open your own WordPress based blog.

Which you should consider doing.  So I can link you.

Uh, guys. It’s a cracker.

You may or may not have seen this already.  It’s been several days since this particular outrage hit the net, but I just hadn’t gotten around to writing about it until now.

Recently, a student by the name of Webster Cook at the University of Central Florida attended a Catholic mass on campus.  The man was evidently not a Catholic himself, and attended to see what his tuition money was paying for (as the university was allocating $40,000 a year to this on-campus church).

In either case, when given the Eucharist, which is a small yeast-free cracker that the priest is supposedly capable of “transsubstantiating” into the body and blood of Christ (yes, the blood too, even though the wine is also supposed to be the blood), simply by casting some sort of magic spell over it at the altar.  Webster did not swallow the cracker, but instead took it out of his mouth and kept it, as a keepsake I suppose.

This then caused an uproar in the Catholic community the likes of which no sane person is capable.

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