(Slightly) NSFW image below the fold.
Jan 01 2013
Jan 01 2013
Virginians, this parade needs some bodies to march in solidarity. Why? To attach a human face to the word ‘atheist’ (or, humanist, secularist, freethinker, etc. – just be you.) Please show up and help normalize non-belief!
On Sunday, January 13th 2013, the Fredericksburg Secular Humanists (FSH) will be participating in a parade and ceremony to celebrate the Religious Freedom. The event is held every year in Fredericksburg to commemorate the drafting of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and later enacted by the Virginia Legislature. This act is one of the only three things Jefferson wanted on his epitaph, keeping in mind that he didn’t consider being President to be important enough to list. It is also one of the major cornerstones of the idea of true religious freedom, along with the charter of Rhode Island, that cemented the idea in the minds of Madison and the rest of Congress when drafting the Constitution and later the First Amendment.
The event, somewhat ironically, is being led by a joint committee of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights Templar, two groups not known for their support of freedom of religion beyond the confines of Christianity itself. On recognition of the value inherent in the larger principle, however, this will be FSH’s second year participating in the march, and atheists and Humanists are encouraged to lend support to the cause by being counted among those participating. FSH will be meeting at the Fredericksburg train station by 1PM, and the parade will kick of shortly thereafter. The parade route leads from near the station to a statue in town commemorating religious freedom, and is typically followed by a few speeches. The entire event usually takes less than two hours.
Virginians and D.C. area atheists are encouraged to RSVP here (which provides maps and more information anyway.)
Dec 31 2012
“Our Perverted Eternal Justice Warriors have been tracking JJ, who goes by the online handle gabrielles-ONE-FIFTY-ONE… He claims to be a religious man who follows his peaceful religion.”
Did you bring the bottle of 151 like we asked? Against alcohol now, too, are we? Unless you’ve got something else to say to the world, you’re free to GTFO anytime.
Dec 31 2012
What a year it’s been.
The Reason Rally. A hugely successful national convention in Washington. Billboard and outreach campaigns. Courtroom victories. Now, a landmark lawsuit that challenges the special privileges given to churches by our government and the IRS.
We need your help to keep going in 2013.
The support of our members is what keeps us going. Your generosity, your activism, and your passion are amazing and I look forward to working on the issues we all care about in the next year. The only way for us to do that is to rely on our members.
We all know that we’ve got a lot of work to do. But with your help and the dedication of our staff, volunteers, and members, we can do it. We can fight against the special treatment of churches by our government. We can ensure that atheists aren’t discriminated against just because we embrace reality. We can fight for our interests in Washington D.C. and all over the country by educating lawmakers and the public.
You’ve helped us become what we are today: the most effective and most visible advocates for equal rights and the separation of religion from government in the nation. I know that I can rely on you as we keep moving forward.
Please donate to American Atheists in the next few hours, while your donations are still automatically doubled. American Atheists sponsored the VERY FIRST atheist event on a military base, and it was a massive festival! We made history in 2012. If you couldn’t support us in person then, this is a great chance to support us now. - Justin Griffith
Dec 31 2012
Some of my fellow soldiers have said some pretty unscientific or unrealistic things. A lot of these things are based on sensationalized, hyped, outdated, misread, or otherwise incorrect science. Some of it comes from their own weird minds, but a frightening amount comes from regurgitating science-sounding ‘facts’.
“You only use 10% of your brain. Except Einstein, he used 12%.”
This is often traced back to a vitamin advertisement from the late 19th century. I’ve seen a few other explanations, too. Obviously, we use 100% of the brain. We may not always use it well, but it’s doing something. After a theist ranted about ‘proving god exists mathematically’ I found out that Einstein is commonly added to many myths as they evolve.
“You lose 50% of your body heat off the top of your head when you are cold.”
This myth is often traced back to a faulty military science test. I even had a soldier tell me that it was true, and that the military discovered it. The theory was apparently framed around the concept that ‘heat rises’.
“If you put a pubic hair in the [urinalysis] cup, you pass.”
There are all sorts of myths like this passed around by soldiers with very low rank. Niacin, cranberry juice, swallowing charcoal tablets, squirting soap in the cup, etc. These people may at best cause suspicious ‘error’ and spark a more closely monitored re-test. I’m sure there are plausible methods to avoid detection, but it’s funny how many non-scientific ‘truths’ are spread by stoners in the barracks.
“My baby is sick and I don’t produce milk, I need a sick donor-mother to give me her breast milk, for the yummy antibiotics.”
I hope this soldier isn’t reading this. She knows I like working with her… but wow this is an awful idea. If anything, you’re risking introducing a new sickness. Also, I knew what she meant, but there is a difference between antibody and antibiotics.
“You could mummify a body with a bag of Doritos.”
I traced this one back to a joke on Slashdot’s article about one of the guys who made Doritos. It popped up on my soldier’s facebook without that humorous context. She said it aloud in a matter of fact way, as if to say, “Hmm. Interesting fact!”
“I’m on a diet that starts with massive calories and junk food and then you slowly ween off over the next few months.”
Burn more calories than you consume. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, and some have an especially hard time at it. However, the ‘science’ part is simple.
“I don’t shave before exercise because shaving makes it grow back twice as fast (or thick).”
This is a ‘private excuse’ for not shaving. The regulations clearly say that males must shave before the duty day begins, which means the first formation (typically 6:30 AM). There may be some sort of effect that a blunt razor cut causes stubble to grow back somewhat more noticeably the next day, but certainly not any faster. Even then I’m dubious. Rather than debunk this myth, I usually just tell them to shave twice, and they just shave the once at the appropriate time.
“When I was in the National Guard, we used to give out tickets to see Noah’s Ark.”
This was actually said by an atheist, just being a little loose with her words. I quickly replied, “You know that’s not a real place, right?” Our supervisor thought I was being disrespectful but laughed too.
“I opened one bank account with 10% interest rate. But I’m smart. I opened a SECOND bank account with a 10% interest rate.”
To her credit, she was a really good sport about this when I explained to her that she could just put all the money in a single bank account. She is not an idiot, but this was pretty funny. She brought it up often and had a great sense of humor about it.
“Wearing more clothes / covering more skin actually keeps you colder, so I want to wear my long sleeve uniforms for exercises in the summer!”
I wasn’t going to correct this one, but then a few other soldiers standing around piped up in total agreement. I suggested that if they ‘really’ want to ‘keep cool’ in the summer that they might pile on 4 layers of uniforms, or even the burqa we keep for OpFor missions.
“Those wishing ponds at the mall that you throw coins in are a rip off”
This guy said the dumbest things I’ve ever heard, constantly. He wanted to build a tollbooth on a random road, to get rich. I told him he might die trying, but he insisted that his would be made out of steel and the cars wouldn’t harm him. This guy deserves his own post for all of the hilarious things he would say.
One time, he told me that there was a machine that baked all the igneous rocks used to landscape our commander’s building. I told him that it was actually a volcano, but he said, “No, dude, they have a conveyor belt take them out of the lava pit at different temperatures. That’s why they are different colors.”
Here’s a sample from his Facebook, “25 randoms things about me”
Dec 30 2012
…Well, since you brought it up, I don’t see it as odious (as some have) that I changed my mind about the field. Part of it involved doing more reading about it, and teaching it, but most of it I attribute to the fact that the early excesses of evolutionary psychology have been tempered as the field has started policing itself.
I think he’s got exactly the right attitude there. It’s no big deal to re-examine areas of science when presented with new data. That’s a healthy way to be! He then offers a gentle explanation explaining the discrepancy one would find in his statements from even a year ago. It seems that field has undergone some relatively recent quality controls, and that’s the main reason why he’s on board now.
For me, I always ask myself, “What evidence would I need to change my mind about X?” Then I try to find that evidence, or how my ‘opponents’ tackle the same question. Are they using logic, reason, facts, and science? Is the science peer-reviewed? Etc.
Dec 30 2012
I know everybody develops their own taste in art. Among anime nerds, it’s no different. The thing is, I don’t know if I’m really much of an anime guy. I find the vast majority of it to be reformulations of the “how are we going to use our powers this week” variety. Though there are exceptions, I don’t tend to like the comedies – and never the romances. I like the artsy-fartsy stuff, and I crave more of it.
Cat Soup (full)
This is my all time favorite. It’s a nearly wordless 30 minutes. It features a cat fighting a psychedelic war against everything from wizards, gods, time, and even death itself. Here it is in full:
By the time the 10 minute mark rolls around, Cat Soup begins to completely shift gears frequently. The whole thing is beautiful, and I’ve only seen a few animated shorts impress me this much.
This won an Oscar. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was challenged in court several times.
I Married A Strange Person (excerpt)
This is Bill Plympton’s 1997 break-through. Most of his stuff is worth checking out. This is a short excerpt, and the whole movie is an absurd adventure. The plot revolves around the powers that a guy suddenly got when a satellite accidentally bounced a strange signal off the back of his neck.
Rejected Family Learning Channel Advertisements (full)
Don Herztfeldt’s animation is wild and often immature. The way this thing wraps all the ‘rejected’ shorts together at the end proves that there is something beyond the idiocy of Happy Tree Friends (‘look it’s funny because it’s cute critters being violent’ – boring!)
Dec 29 2012
Recently, this article by Ed Clint prompted me to ask whether or not Evolutionary Psychology (EP) is getting a fair shake. I ended up writing about it a few more times, and each time somebody would bring up Jerry Coyne‘s scathing indictments on the entire field. That’s all moot now, with a recent flip of a Coyne.
I don’t blame them for quoting Jerry Coyne. It’s not necessarily a logical fallacy to appeal to authority, and it’s pretty much all a lay-person can do. In fact, that’s what I was attempting to do by reading the peer-reviews and citing the papers that seemed to reach uncontested conclusions. (E.g. the fear of spiders and snakes being stronger than the fear of deadly weapons.)
Robert Kurzban is an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and he contributes to the Evolutionary Psychology Blog. Professor Kurzban noticed that Jerry Coyne has recently done an about-face on the subject:
“In 2011, Jerry Coyne wrote:
Like the stories of the Bible, there’s no evolutionary psychology hypothesis that can be disconfirmed by data.
Here we are at the end of 2012, and Jerry Coyne now seems to take a decidedly different view,writing that:
…those who dismiss evolutionary psychology on the grounds that it’s mere “storytelling” are not aware of how the field operates these days. And, if they are to be consistent, they must also dismiss any studies of the evolutionary basis of animal behavior.
In this more recent post, he discusses the 2010 American Psychologist article by Jaime Confer and colleagues, and specifically identifies a number of research areas that he labels “interesting and worthwhile,” including incest avoidance, innate fears, greater choosiness for mates among women relative to men, and so on. He says that the Confer et al. piece is “an evenhanded exposition of the state of modern evolutionary psychology, how it works, what kinds of standards it uses, responses to some common criticisms (e.g., “we don’t know the genes involved”), and, for the critics, examples of evo-psych hypotheses that have been falsified.” One conclusion he draws is that:
If you can read the Confer et al. paper and still dismiss the entire field as worthless, or as a mere attempt to justify scientists’ social prejudices, then I’d suggest your opinions are based more on ideology than judicious scientific inquiry.
…” - excerpt via this well-sourced piece by Professor Kurzban
Dec 27 2012