Important events on this day in history

378 years ago today, Galileo was convicted of heresy for the crime of contradicting Catholic teachings about geocentrism with his heliocentric model.

56 years ago today, Jonas Salk’s Polio vaccine was declared to be safe and effective, ensuring the safety of infinity billion children.

50 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight in human history, dipping humanity’s toe into the ocean of space. He is quoted as saying while in orbit, “I looked and looked and I didn’t see God” (commonly mistranslated as “I see no God up here”).

Some unspecified number of years thereafter, I was born.

COINCIDENCE!?

No, but seriously, happy birthday, me.

AC Grayling’s “The Good Book”

Here’s an interesting endeavour, something like a methadone clinic for the heroin addicts of religious dogma. AC Grayling, noted “velvet atheist” (in quotes in much the same way I always quote “New Atheist”, because these subcategories are ridiculous), has written what he calls “a lifetime’s work”. He’s compiled some of humanity’s greatest philosophers’ and thinkers’ works into a single tome with a narrative flow and dense language comparable to the Christian Bible. In fact, he’s gone so far as to crib some of their layout and structure in doing so, to ensure that people who feel those aspects necessary are comfortable with this end result.

Determined to make his material accessible, Grayling arranged his nearly 600-page “Good Book” much like the Bible, with double columns, chapters (the first is even called Genesis) and short verses. And much like the best-selling King James Bible, which is celebrating its 400th year, his book is written in a type of English that transcends time.

Like the Bible, “The Good Book,” opens with a garden scene. But instead of Adam and Eve, Grayling’s Genesis invokes Isaac Newton, the British scientist who pioneered the study of gravity.

“It was from the fall of fruit from such a tree that new inspiration came for inquiry into the nature of things,” reads a verse from “The Good Book’s” first chapter.

“When Newton sat in his garden, and saw what no one had seen before: that an apple draws the earth to itself, and the earth the apple,” the verse continues, “Through a mutual force of nature that holds all things, from the planets to the stars, in unifying embrace.”

The book’s final chapter features a secular humanist version of the Ten Commandments: “Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous: at least, sincerely try.”

“Be informed”. How terribly elitist!

While I appreciate the effort to keep religious folks comfortable and to offer a fully formed, coherent synthesis of scientific knowledge and humanism, picking all the best parts of what humankind has had to offer in the past to serve as a guidebook for the future, I can’t help but wonder if the religious folks’ primary comeback will be “see, you had to rip us off to write that!”

The natural comeback is, of course, to cite just a fraction of the prior art for much of what’s “good” about the Bible.

In MI, does CFI stand for Center For Incivility?

Oh boy! More blogosphere drama!

I’m a big supporter of skeptical groups and any other sort of outreach effort from the scientifically minded community, as I’m sure you know. Center For Inquiry‘s Michigan branch has an e-mail newsletter and an online calendar, which they use to promote science talks in the area. They host talks as well on occasion, but the event in question was not an event CFI sponsored or held in any way — they simply added this entry to their calendar.

Friday, April 8, 2011, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Join members of Evolution for Everyone (“E4E”) to hear a lecture on “Sexual Coercion and Forced In-Pair Copulation as Sperm Competition Tactics in Humans” by Todd Shackelford, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Psychology at Oakland University.

Dr. Shackleford will present a talk on the competing theories of rape as a specialized rape adaptation or as a by-product of other psychological adaptations. Although increasing number of sexual partners is a proposed benefit of rape according to the “rape as an adaptation” and the “rape as a by-product” hypotheses, neither hypothesis addresses directly why some men rape their long-term partners, to whom they already have sexual access.

[Read more…]

Gundersen on NRC, nuke industry, TEPCO wagon-circling

Closing Ranks: The NRC, the Nuclear Industry, and TEPCo. Are Limiting the Flow of Information from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Working on another post right now that probably won’t be published at least til tomorrow. I thought this deserved some attention in the meantime. When people present facts, and those affected most closely by those facts start circling their wagons, my antennae twitch.

The reactors at Fukushima may very well have melted down and reached recriticality, given the evidence we’ve seen. The specific vector that the inconsistencies between the parties’ stories have taken just lead me to suspect they’re either trying to control information for damage control purposes, or they really honestly don’t have a damned clue what’s going on themselves and are succumbing to wishful thinking.

River Glitchy Ransom

When I was a kid, River City Ransom was probably my favorite game on the NES. I had picked it up at a yard sale, and still have the instruction manual kicking around someplace — in tatters, with notes on where to get some items and how to do some sweet (and crazy) moves. Easily the best $5 spent during my entire adolescence. Check this video out — this is a demo video “speedrun” aimed more at showing off how diverse the engine was, than in beating the game at all quickly. Aside from some of the more crazy “disappear and warp all over the area in a hundred pieces” type glitches, every one of these moves is not only possible but likely to be seen in a real session.

Oh, to be a kid again. Hey, wait… they make these things called “emulators” now… hmm…

Huckabee wishes Americans were converted to Christianity at gunpoint

How else can you interpret this “joke” about David Barton’s communicating about religion? And this from a crowd that’s convinced — CONVINCED — that educating children about science is, in effect, indoctrination.

Stephanie Zvan comments extensively on the matter. And this Huckabee character is one of your more serious contenders for President!

“In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”
some guy who never amounted to anything important in his life

Hmm. There’s an election coming up. I oughtta ignore American politics for a bit and focus on Canadian politics, given how short our election cycles are, huh?