Field of Science

Remember the Alamo, unless it contradicts Christian orthodoxy

Really you must go here and read about what's going on in Texas.

Im particularly concerned/pissed off about what is happening in Hicksville Texas, because Texas buys their K-12 textbooks as a state not as a local school district (like every other state). So Texas has a huge effect on the textbooks that are written and essentially control textbook publication for the entire country. Thanks Douchebags for taking your education duties so fucking seriously.

Ray Comfort. Clever? Maybe, but horses protest

In case you are new to this whole science-religion clash going on, by and large behind the scene, in this country, you may not have heard of Ray Comfort. He is slightly infamous for a particular argument he made in 2001 regarding bananas, which has culminated with him earning the title bananaman.

Lorax's Points of contention:
1. The banana numbnuts has is not a wild god-manufactured item. It is an artifically selected beast derived from something akin to this:

2. Based on Bananaman's rationale, it seems like the banana is specially designed for another purpose, although the non-slip feature could be problematic.

3. Yep, the pomegranate. What the hell was bananaman's god thinking when he pulled the pomegranate out of his omniscient ass?

Now the reason I bring bananaman up is that he "writes" books. I use the quotes, because I use write loosely. Its better than a roomful of monkey's with keyboards, but I think that's mostly because of all the bananas. Bananaman writes books and has a blog. Much of his points are based on clever (again I use that loosely) arguments, you know like the banana one above. Anyway Bananaman wrote a cute little blog post called The Atheist Starter Kit. Its 10 important things all atheists need to know before getting started. (By the way, I won't link to bananaman's blog directly, but anyone that can break away from the awe inspiringness of a banana can find it with no problems). I am still under the gun with real life writing, but I thought I could keep my foot in the blogosphere by hitting on these 10 things in a series of posts.

So without further delay and in no particular order

If you are a beginner atheist, there's a belief system you should embrace and a language you should learn, or you will find yourself in trouble. Here are ten suggestions for the novice:

Suggestion 3. When you hear that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose (the pleasures of Heaven, and the endurance of Hell) by obeying the Gospel, say "That's just the old 'Pascal wager.'"

Well in fact it is Pascal's wager/gambit. Since you have everything to gain and nothing to lose you should just go with the god exists hypothesis. Despite the blatant absurdity with this approach, I wonder how bananaman feels about the fact that Pascal thought there was no evidence to support the god hypothesis and thus no rationale to believe it either. However, if you think its a win-win deal, you should hedge your bets.

Is it a win-win? As stated you have nothing to lose, nope nothing, not 10% of your income, not time, not energy. If you go Bananaman's way you don't have to give up ignorance or a sense of foreboding and confusion about the world around you. Just go back into your cave being afraid of the thunder and don't walk too far or you may fall off the edge of the world. Hmm, that doesn't sound too win-win to me.

Also, dont use Bananaman's response "That's just the old 'Pascal wager,'" go with "You're Right, Damn, why didn't I think of that! All Hail Mohammed! I mean Odin! I mean Yahweh! I mean Shiva! I mean.....oh crap. Bananaman, do you simply wager on all the gods? Because they all tend to be jealous insecure little pricks." Indeed theologians in other religions have made similar appeals.

Finally, if you are simply hedging your bets and paying lip service to Shiva, wouldn't Shiva kind of figure out you were full of shit? I mean this is a god we're talking about right? Of course I have failed to consider the hypothesis that when people refer to omniscient gods, they really only refer to omniscient in regards to your sexual habits otherwise they are kind of clueless. Dawkins has actually suggested a counter-gambit that if there is a god(s), maybe it would reward a striving for learning and knowledge. It may reward those who try to understand the universe or the moral and good people. Maybe those into blind ignorant faith or live lives of asocial superiority and hatred of their fellows are going to piss god off royally.

Update: States that have problems with science

Mississippi has a sticker campaign. Current status is "dead in committee"

Missouri Academic Freedom Bill
Oklahoma Academic Freedom Bill, (+2 based on Richard Dawkins coming to town, see Oklahoma house resolution 1014 and 1015)
Alabama Academic Freedom Bill
Iowa Academic Freedom Bill
New Mexico Academic Freedom Bill
Florida No longer Imminent Academic Freedom Bill

Texas Science Standards and Creationism

NCSE has much up-to-date information on current legislation as well as a plethora of additional resources.

Stimulus money for NIH

$200,000,000!!! Isn't that awesome?

Well it is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but how good is it? First, the grants are for 2 years with a $1,000,000 maximum, so expect that the vast majority of submitted grants to be for $1,000,000. That would allow for the funding of 200 new grants, w00t!

But realize, there are 50 states in the union, so that works out to 4 grants/state. or
NIH has defined 15 challenge topics for the funding, so that works out to 13 grants/challenge area. or
NIH has defined 207 specific challenge topics for the funding, so that works out to <1 grant/specific challenge area!

Again that was < (LESS THAN) 1!

I would have preferred many fewer challenge areas, say 100 or less, and more resources devoted to developing these areas. Its better having 4 individual labs taking different approaches towards a problem, than 1. One concern is that only the biggest most popular labs will get the money, and not the best science.

I realize this money is not for science per say but for job creation. However, I am not sure how successful this use of funds will be in that regard. If I get a grant funded, I will hire someone, although most lab heads will likely be retaining people they would otherwise let go because of the difficulties in getting and maintaining long-term grant support. But in two years without a continuing influx a money, those people hired will all be fired. Maybe the point is a short-term solution with the hope of an improving economy that will solve the longer-term problems. However, two years is an extremely short period of time and I wonder how much real improvement we will see.

Ah well, better get writing...

Science versus Religion: can't we just get along?

Science and religion are often seen at odds. Currently in the US, the political party that cloaks itself in the most religious terms is also the most anti-science. Compared to the general population, scientists are more likely to be atheists. For example see this letter to Nature 10 years ago (subscription required). In the table, below, it is apparent that a belief in a personal god dropped dramatically over the last century among scientists.

So, are these two approaches to understand ourselves at odds or is this simply a matter of perspective? Well, first we have to realize that we are dealing with words (science, religion) that mean different things to different people. So before we answer this question let's define our terms.
Science: a natural philosophical approach to understanding the universe and all that is in it. The underlying supposition of science is that the universe can be understood without appeal to supernatural mechanisms. (The way in which science is done is well well well beyond the scope of a single blog, much less a blog post!)

Religion: a belief system that encompasses faith as an approach to understand the universe. The underlying supposition of religion is that the universe can be understood by revelation. (Revelation contains personal revelation, revelation from a church leader, and revelation from religious texts.)

Alright, we have some terms (admittedly both are superficial, but they serve to basically hit the main points). Are these compatible? Well, the short answer is no. Actually the longer answer is no as well, just with additional points. Now I am not saying that one cannot be a scientist and religious. I would never say that, and if I did I would be proven wrong immediately and emphatically. However, I do think that the only way someone can be completely rational (and no, I am not completely rational, Im only 1/4 Vulcan) is to NOT be religious. I need to stress that I am not making value judgments with these statements. One can be a great human being and do great things for society and be a deeply religious person. However, and I need to stress this, the converse is true as well: One can be a great human being and do great things for society and be an atheist. (Those who think this is completely wrong can now take a flying leap along with your psychotic lackeys like Sarah Palin.)

So, I have stated for the record that being religious or an atheist does not necessarily have anything to do with a person's role in society, why then do I think there is a problem between science and religion. Well, the problem comes from the fact that religion requires revelation and this is anathema to science. Just because Darwin wrote it doesn't make it true, the fact the we can observe it, make predictions and find that these predictions are correct, etc makes it true. Maybe it would help to think of it this way, if Darwin never wrote On The Origin Of The Species or even never existed, evolutionary theory would exist today pretty much as it is. If the Bible had not been written, there would be no Baptists today. This is the difference, the "truth" established by science can be determined independently by anyone (exceptions apply), but the "truth" established by religion does not exist without someone saying it does. this is why there are moral people in the before the presence of and in the absence of Christianity. Not killing other humans in your society can be considered a natural morality not a religious mandate.

Now I realize the human brain is outstanding in its ability to compartmentalize conflict, so rational people can easily go to church on Sunday and hang with their homies givin' it up to god and what not. That doesn't mean religion and science are compatible simply that people are odd odd creatures. Since we are so good at compartmentalization, does it matter that science and religion are not compatible?

ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY!!! See here, here, and here for a few reasons why. This is a problem inherent with religion because it requires this appeal to revelation. If Pope Louis the π/2 said it, David Koresh said it, Sir Loin of Beoff said it, then it must be true. Of course it may not be true, now its up to the individual to decide where faith ends and reality begins and that my friends is the problem. When push comes to shove it is in fact a fight between faith and reality! Reality! Not some philosophical approach to knowledge, REALITY!

Why was it wrong for the Manson family to kill Sharon Tate? The killers had faith, no different than any other believer.
Why is it wrong for fuck-head islamic fundamentalist to behead prsioners? The fuck-heads had faith, no different than any other believer.
Think we are any different? If you support or supported the wars in the mid-east, tell me that you never justified them in part based on the differences in religion between them and us.

Why is it wrong to teach creationism in schools?, Why is it wrong to teach that the earth is 6000 years old?, Why is it wrong to teach the earth is flat? All of these questions are equally supported by faith and completely overturned by REALITY.

No, religion is not the cause of all of our problems, but it is an intellectual maelstrom that allows and justifies the causes of many of our problems.

-Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, Nature 394, 313(23 July 1998), "Leading scientists still reject God," doi:10.1038/28478.
-Leonardo da Vinci’s "Vitruvian Man"
-Michelangelo's "La Creazione"