24 Nov, 14 > 30 Nov, 14
7 Jul, 14 > 13 Jul, 14
27 Jan, 14 > 2 Feb, 14
13 Jan, 14 > 19 Jan, 14
11 Mar, 13 > 17 Mar, 13
21 Jan, 13 > 27 Jan, 13
23 Jan, 12 > 29 Jan, 12
5 Dec, 11 > 11 Dec, 11
24 Oct, 11 > 30 Oct, 11
17 Oct, 11 > 23 Oct, 11
3 Oct, 11 > 9 Oct, 11
15 Aug, 11 > 21 Aug, 11
28 Mar, 11 > 3 Apr, 11
7 Mar, 11 > 13 Mar, 11
21 Feb, 11 > 27 Feb, 11
17 Jan, 11 > 23 Jan, 11
10 Jan, 11 > 16 Jan, 11
20 Dec, 10 > 26 Dec, 10
13 Dec, 10 > 19 Dec, 10
6 Dec, 10 > 12 Dec, 10
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
22 Nov, 10 > 28 Nov, 10
15 Nov, 10 > 21 Nov, 10
1 Nov, 10 > 7 Nov, 10
25 Oct, 10 > 31 Oct, 10
11 Oct, 10 > 17 Oct, 10
4 Oct, 10 > 10 Oct, 10
27 Sep, 10 > 3 Oct, 10
13 Sep, 10 > 19 Sep, 10
6 Sep, 10 > 12 Sep, 10
30 Aug, 10 > 5 Sep, 10
9 Aug, 10 > 15 Aug, 10
5 Jul, 10 > 11 Jul, 10
24 May, 10 > 30 May, 10
26 Apr, 10 > 2 May, 10
19 Apr, 10 > 25 Apr, 10
29 Mar, 10 > 4 Apr, 10
4 Jan, 10 > 10 Jan, 10
28 Dec, 09 > 3 Jan, 10
23 Nov, 09 > 29 Nov, 09
24 Aug, 09 > 30 Aug, 09
16 Mar, 09 > 22 Mar, 09
2 Feb, 09 > 8 Feb, 09
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
25 Aug, 08 > 31 Aug, 08
28 Jul, 08 > 3 Aug, 08
9 Jun, 08 > 15 Jun, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
5 May, 08 > 11 May, 08
21 Apr, 08 > 27 Apr, 08
7 Apr, 08 > 13 Apr, 08
17 Mar, 08 > 23 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
18 Feb, 08 > 24 Feb, 08
11 Feb, 08 > 17 Feb, 08
21 Jan, 08 > 27 Jan, 08
7 Jan, 08 > 13 Jan, 08
31 Dec, 07 > 6 Jan, 08
17 Dec, 07 > 23 Dec, 07
10 Dec, 07 > 16 Dec, 07
3 Dec, 07 > 9 Dec, 07
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
22 Oct, 07 > 28 Oct, 07
20 Aug, 07 > 26 Aug, 07
23 Jul, 07 > 29 Jul, 07
30 Apr, 07 > 6 May, 07
2 Apr, 07 > 8 Apr, 07
19 Mar, 07 > 25 Mar, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
26 Feb, 07 > 4 Mar, 07
12 Feb, 07 > 18 Feb, 07
29 Jan, 07 > 4 Feb, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
23 Oct, 06 > 29 Oct, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
2 Oct, 06 > 8 Oct, 06
18 Sep, 06 > 24 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
21 Aug, 06 > 27 Aug, 06
3 Jul, 06 > 9 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
12 Jun, 06 > 18 Jun, 06
5 Jun, 06 > 11 Jun, 06
22 May, 06 > 28 May, 06
8 May, 06 > 14 May, 06
1 May, 06 > 7 May, 06
10 Apr, 06 > 16 Apr, 06
27 Mar, 06 > 2 Apr, 06
13 Mar, 06 > 19 Mar, 06
6 Mar, 06 > 12 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
6 Feb, 06 > 12 Feb, 06
30 Jan, 06 > 5 Feb, 06
23 Jan, 06 > 29 Jan, 06
9 Jan, 06 > 15 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
12 Dec, 05 > 18 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
31 Oct, 05 > 6 Nov, 05
17 Oct, 05 > 23 Oct, 05
26 Sep, 05 > 2 Oct, 05
12 Sep, 05 > 18 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
15 Aug, 05 > 21 Aug, 05
1 Aug, 05 > 7 Aug, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
20 Jun, 05 > 26 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
23 May, 05 > 29 May, 05
9 May, 05 > 15 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
18 Apr, 05 > 24 Apr, 05
4 Apr, 05 > 10 Apr, 05
21 Mar, 05 > 27 Mar, 05
14 Mar, 05 > 20 Mar, 05
7 Mar, 05 > 13 Mar, 05
28 Feb, 05 > 6 Mar, 05
21 Feb, 05 > 27 Feb, 05
31 Jan, 05 > 6 Feb, 05
10 Jan, 05 > 16 Jan, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
22 Nov, 04 > 28 Nov, 04
1 Nov, 04 > 7 Nov, 04
25 Oct, 04 > 31 Oct, 04
2 Aug, 04 > 8 Aug, 04
19 Jul, 04 > 25 Jul, 04
21 Jun, 04 > 27 Jun, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
22 Mar, 04 > 28 Mar, 04
8 Mar, 04 > 14 Mar, 04
23 Feb, 04 > 29 Feb, 04
26 Jan, 04 > 1 Feb, 04
17 Nov, 03 > 23 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
13 Oct, 03 > 19 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
8 Sep, 03 > 14 Sep, 03
4 Aug, 03 > 10 Aug, 03
28 Apr, 03 > 4 May, 03
Saturday, October 22, 2005
 We are Just Seeing the Tip of the Iceberg

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
The Bush presidency is an absolute disaster. The worst part is that we actually have no idea how bad it really is. We have recently learned about the incompetence of Michael Brown as director of FEMA, but how many more Michael Browns are there still at work in the administration? We do know that George Bush has made more political appointments than just about any other president in history. He has put his friends and relatives into positions of power throughout the government and these people have no real experience or ability to do the jobs needed.

Even worse, however, are the competent people that he has put into government positions, for they have been busy dismantling and undermining our government institutions for the past 5 years. The Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example. This agency has been turned from an agency that is used to protect the environment into an agency used to help corporations exploit the environment at the public expense.

The budget deficits that have been reported are really nothing compared to the full extent of the debt that is being created by the Bush administration. The National Debt is now $8 trillion, and the 2005 budget deficit is projected to be $319 billion.

This doesn’t really tell the whole story though, because the Bush administration has completely wrecked the government, and the cost to repair the damage that he has done could easily be in the hundreds of billions as well.

This has been one of the most secretive, if not the most secretive, administrations in the history of the country. At the same time the Bush administration has engaged in the most significant restructuring of the federal government since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

Where is the oversight? There is none! The press? Yeah right, the press isn’t doing any investigative reporting, they just “report” on press releases. All the press does is sit there and wait for government agencies and corporations to send them information; they don’t go out and get any information. If the press is reporting on this government as good as they reported on Enron, as I suspect that they are, then we will be in for a huge surprise when a new administration comes in and pulls the covers off the works of the Bush administration.

Other government agencies? Yeah right, all of the dissenters are continuously silenced by the Bush administration.

No telling what kind of nonsense and destruction is taking place within our government institutions, and from the little we have been able to learn, what is taking place is ill conceived, poorly done, counter productive, or is an act of dismantling.

When Bush leaves office we will find that the government he has left in his wake is going to be one that is even more bankrupt than what anyone has yet reported.

What really needs to be done, aside from impeaching Bush for deception in leading the nation into war and incompetence, is that an independent audit of the federal government needs to begin right now! This won’t happen of course, but what will happen is that the next administration that takes office is going to face monumental challenges and will likely have to spend its entire time just repairing the damage done by Bush.

I honestly don’t see how the Bush administration can stay in power of three more years. The level of incompetence that has been publicly exposed at this point is extremely troubling, and what is even more troubling is that we are likely only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by at 7:30 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2005 10:51 AM EDT
Monday, October 17, 2005
 Regarding Good Night and Good Luck

Topic: Commentary
The Movie: Good Night, and Good Luck

I saw Good Night, and Good Luck last night and I was disappointed with the film. For one thing the sound track has a highly annoying background buzz that goes on throughout the movie, which is supposed to make it sound like an old movie, but to me it was just a complete distraction and created unneeded tension.

I don’t care for those types of techniques, because regardless of whatever artful quality there may be to it, its impractical. When art gets in the way of utility that’s a problem. There were many elderly people watching the movie and I can imagine that it made it quite difficult for them to hear and understand, especially when the talking was low.

Moving on to the screenplay itself, I didn’t care that much for the movie because I feel that it comes far short of being a good historical account of the McCarthy era, yet it also failed to have much of a dramatic storyline as well.

In other words, the movie is really only about McCarthyism, but it doesn’t really give a very full account of McCarthyism, so, to me, it was like the worst of both worlds. It was less informative than a documentary and less entertaining than a drama.

What caught my attention most in the whole movie was actually a small address from Eisenhower towards the end. What struck me, however, was the irony of the fact that what Eisenhower said was completely wrong. The statement Eisenhower made was the following:

"Why are we proud? We are proud, first of all, because from the beginning of this Nation, a man can walk upright, no matter who he is, or who she is. He can walk upright and meet his friend - or his enemy; and he does not feel that because that enemy may be in a position of great power that he can be suddenly thrown in jail to rot there without charges and with no recourse to justice. We have the habeas corpus act, and we respect it.

The statement was presented as Eisenhower saying the “right thing” and condemning McCarthy’s tactics by pointing out how “un-American” McCarthy’s tactics were themselves.

However, this statement reflects one of the biggest problems in all of American society - the American inability to honestly address or even comprehend our past. What Eisenhower said sounded good and noble, and when he said it he was doing so to condemn judicial injustice, which is a good thing, however it is not true that every man and women has known justice in America, and the even greater irony is that grave injustice existed in America at the very time he was making that statement.

To say that from the founding of the nation all men could walk upright and be proud of who they were and face their enemies is to completely ignore the reality of slavery and Native American genocide. As he made that very speech there were millions of blacks in America who were not walking upright and proud of who they were, and they were not able to face their enemies.

One of the major problems with white society in America has been the continuing inability to really understand the full history and full nature of American history and society. To reflect positively on American society of the late 1700s as if everything were well and good is to completely ignore that 20% of the population of the country were slaves at that time and that hundreds of thousands of Natives were being systematically disenfranchised and exterminated.

On a message board about this movie a self-described conservative was talking about how he supported capitalism and opposed communism because the Founders were capitalists, which isn’t even true. Capitalism didn’t even exist when America was founded and the Founders were almost all slave owners whose wealth was generated on the backs of slaves. I consider most of the Founders to have been good people in bad times, but for this conservative to idealize the economic roots of America only goes further to show how out of touch Americans really are with our own history and the realities of our own society.

I just found it ironic that George Clooney put the clip of Eisenhower in the movie to make a statement that the actions of McCarthy went against the “history of freedom” in “our great nation”, but in reality all it did was show how deluded we really are, because what was said wasn’t even true in the first place, it was just one more example of the depths of American mythology.

Posted by at 7:07 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 10:19 PM EDT
Saturday, October 1, 2005
 Evolution, Education and the Inquisition

Topic: Commentary
The "Intelligent Design" case currently being tried in Pennsylvania courts is being billed as Scopes II, but in reality it's more like the Inquisition because the trial isn't about the facts, it's about protecting certian beliefs. Just like during the Inquisition, even the defenders of evolution are trying to protect themselves by claiming that the teaching doesn't contradict "the faith".

Interestingly, the promoters of "Intelligent Design" claim that ID is not a religiously based view, and that it is a scientific "theory". In reality it could only be considered a scientific hypothesis at best, but nevertheless the questions and comments in the trial keep going back to religion anyway.

The climate is so religiously hostile, in fact, that the supporters of evolution are bending over backwards to present evolution as compatible with Christianity.

The Miami Herald reported:

Faith and reason called compatible
"An expert witness who has sharply criticized the teaching of the 'intelligent design' theory of life's origins testified Tuesday that faith and reason are compatible."

"'I believe not only that they are compatible but that they are complementary,' said Miller, who earlier told the court he was a practicing Roman Catholic.

Miller also backed off a statement in a 1995 biology textbook he co-wrote that said evolution was 'random and undirected.' Miller said he missed that reference by a co-author and that he did not believe evolution was random and undirected."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Court test is near for 'intelligent design'

"But Americans in general, and conservative Christians in particular, are much less convinced.

In a recent survey,... 64 percent - supported the teaching of creationism along with evolution."

"[Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State] said that for students to be told that 'evolution is true and your silly Bible stories are false would also be unconstitutional.' Religion, in either a positive or negative manner, has no place in a science classroom, he said."

"The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists who are Christians, does not support or oppose intelligent design, said executive director Randall Isaac. He said a false choice had been created in the debate over evolution, making it seem that one cannot believe both in evolution and in God.

'You don't have to pick between one or the other,' Isaac said. 'Evolution is very important to be taught in the schools. But we really need to ensure that a public school doesn't denigrate anyone's religion.'"

Actually, this is the problem with the American education system. The problem with American education is that we have taken the position that we can only teach in a way that does not contradict anyone's religious beliefs, yet the history of progress is the history of knowledge over religious belief.

America is now the most religiously diverse country in the world. People here hold all number of different, and often absurd, religious beliefs. To claim that our education system shouldn't "denigrate anyone's religion" is to completely give up on the purpose of education.

The purpose of education is to teach people what is true and help them understand the real world. If someone's religious beliefs contradict what we know about the real world (as virtually all religious beliefs in the history of mankind have done) then we have to be able to teach them, and be able to prove to them, how and why their beliefs are wrong. If we fail to do this then we fail to educate.

Indeed we have failed to do this in America, and this is the primary root cause of the demise of the education system in America.

After World War II the United States was able to become the world leader in education because of our vast resources and the fact that every other major country in the world was in turmoil. What we never did in this country, however, was provide our children with a consistent worldview. In America we teach our children a disconnected collection of facts, and we do it in a way that no real conclusions about life can be drawn from the facts. We actually go out of our way not to provide our children with a worldview out of "respect" for everyone's different and independent worldviews.

The result is that Americans are growing increasingly disconnected and feeling increasingly lost. Americans try to wield secular knowledge within a religious framework, and ultimately this results in not making sense of either the religious world or the real world.

Looking at the other countries of the world, however, we see a consistent pattern. All of the most well educated countries in the world are also the least religious.

A study released on September 27th showed that the United States of America is continuing to fall behind other countries of the world in education. CNN reported that top performers in education include Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium.

U.S. world position in education slipping

Below is a graph of the most atheistic countries in the world. As you can see, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium are also among the most atheistic countries in the world and America has the least atheists out of the top 50.

This isn't a coincidence. As science and human knowledge continue to progress the United States is going to continue to fall farther and farther behind in education unless Americans are able to embrace non-religious worldviews that correspond to the facts and reality of the world around us.

Furthermore, research has shown that the countries in which evolution is most widely accepted are also the countries with the lowest rates of social dysfunction. Crime, abortion, murder, poverty and teen pregnancy are all lowest in the most atheistic countries where evolution is fully accepted and people have atheistic worldviews. Not only do these countries have better functioning societies, but they are also advancing in education, technology, and understanding at rates that are leaving America farther and farther behind.

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

To contradict this fact many people will claim that America still has the most advanced research institutes and universities, however the fact here is that the majority of scientists in America are atheistic and the majority of grad students in the fields of science and engineering come from Europe and Asia.

Right now over half of the grad students in engineering in America are here on visas from a foreign country. America cannot produce its own scientists and engineers because we don't provide our children with either a school system or a culture that is capable of actually giving them the knowledge and understanding needed to excel in the sciences.

Posted by at 2:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, October 2, 2005 8:21 AM EDT
Monday, September 26, 2005
 Regarding March of the Penguins and the Conservative Interpretation

Topic: Commentary
March of the Conservatives: Penguin Film as Political Fodder

Having a degree in biology and a lifelong interest in the natural world, when March of the Penguins came out I immediately wanted to see it. I didn’t get the chance right away and ended up reading about “conservative” interpretations of the film prior to seeing it. Based on the conservative interpretations I assumed that the film was a Disneyfied inspirational pop-movie that glossed over real life and followed some kind of script.

Upon watching the movie I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was quite a good documentary. There were a few issues, such as the anthropomorphizing of the elements with statements about how the winter would “do everything in its power” to destroy the penguin’s eggs, which of course is not true because the “winter” is not conscious. The portrayal of sea lions and albatrosses as “the bad guys” misrepresented reality as well; both of those animals were doing just the same thing that the penguins were doing, acquiring food to feed themselves and their offspring.

Nevertheless, the movie was good overall. The more I watched it the less I could understand what conservatives saw in it and how anyone could interpret it as “supportive of intelligent design”. In fact, it was one of the best films I have seen designed for a popular audience that illustrates the concepts of evolution and survival of the fittest, as well as depicting the harshness and impartiality of nature.

According to conservatives, March of the Penguins is "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing."

First of all, the film clearly states that the penguins are monogamous for only one breeding season, which is hardly any surprise given the harsh conditions that they live in. Being monogamous for one season is barely being monogamous first of all, but secondly, the idea of looking to the animal world to affirm human values is a clearly un-Christian act. Indeed it goes against the entire Christian system to look to the animal world as a model for human life, that’s a major aspect of the Christian belief system - man is set apart from the rest of living things and our values, supposedly, all come from divine revelation.

Secondly, the movie demonstrates over and over again how social behavior is a product of the material conditions that individuals live in. The penguins are monogamous each season because of the need for a close bond to ensure that the many steps needed to raise the child are executed. This is a product of the harsh conditions of the environment. This is also why monogamous sex is much less common in more plentiful environments. This has direct implications for understanding American society in our land of relative plenty as well.

Thirdly, all life is about sacrifice and child rearing, of course. Duh. This is so basic an observation I have to wonder if these Christians have even spent much time outside observing nature. We all know that having children is a requirement of life; I think that’s pretty basic.

The Christians go on to say that the movie affirms the beauty of life and has a pro-life message. I find this particularly odd because clearly the majority of the mates fail to successfully raise a baby to maturity. This is the case in all natural systems. The vast majority of organisms that are ever conceived will die or be killed before they reach maturity. There is no compassion in nature. Nature “kills” the eggs by freezing them to death quickly if they are dropped for more than a few seconds. The babies die from exposure to weather, or if either of their parents dies or gets killed or gets lost or decides not to return, etc. The also babies get eaten by predators.

Yes some survive, of course, but the majority die cruel deaths. Is there any fairness to this? Where is the pro-life agenda exactly? Nature is deadly and harsh. If God designed this nature then why is it so harsh and deadly? We as human beings have done a lot to overcome many of the pressures that naturally kill our children, but we still have instincts that drive us to have sex in the same ways that we used to prior to our technological advancements. Yes, 200 years ago, and certainly thousands of years ago, people had to have sex on a constant basis just to have 10 or 15 kids with the hope that 4 or 5 would survive to adulthood to take care of them so they wouldn’t starve to death when they got to old and too worn-out to work themselves.

We no longer have those issues, and now, in fact, overpopulation is a growing problem. Why can’t conservatives understand this? It seems pretty basic to me.

Animals rarely limit their own births because nature is so harsh that most babies die before they grow up. Is this an example of “intelligent design”? Why did the all-loving God create a world so harsh that most organisms die before they reach maturity?

As for sacrifice and trials and tribulations, Christians claim that sacrifice is a path to heaven for people - that trials and tribulations are tests for our soul. But they also claim that only humans have souls and go to heaven, so why would the fact that animals have to endure sacrifice be an affirmation of God - it is a contradiction of Christian belief not an affirmation. Christians also claim that people have to sacrifice because of original sin, so why exactly are these penguins sacrificing then? "Maybe" sacrifice is a part of all life and a part of the overall struggle of life that all living things on earth, including people, have in common. Yes, and that’s a direct contradiction of Christian belief in the uniqueness of humanity.

The most astounding phenomenon documented in the film, however, was when a female penguin’s baby died and she tried to steal another mother’s baby. Upon attempting to take the baby from the other mother the rest of the group banded together to drive off the offending mother and protect the victim.

This is a direct example of the evolution of morality. Many people puzzle over so-called “morals” and the human “moral code”. Christians claim that our morals are a code that was given to us by God through divine revelation, yet here are animals exhibiting a primitive example of morality.

This is because morality is a social code. Morality has evolved among all social animals because behaviors that are detrimental to the social group are selected against through evolution. Groups that don’t take action against individuals that engage in behavior that is detrimental to the group will go extinct. Protecting others is a way of protecting the group and ensuring overall survival. This is how “morals” evolved, and the phenomenon documented in March of the Penguins is just one more example of social animals that display moral behavior - evidence against the Christian claim that only humans can be moral because we have a soul and that our morals were given to us by God through divine revelation.

It’s quite amazing that Christians would try to look to nature and animals as role models for human behavior. That is a distinctly anti-Christian view. This is what Christians killed millions upon millions of pagans for, yet here they go taking up paganism.

It’s even more amazing that Christians would try looking to animals to reinforce their belief in monogamy, heterosexuality and “intelligent design”.

Every mode of sexual reproduction imaginable exists in nature, from asexual reproduction (organisms that just divide without any sex at all), to the raw release of gametes into the open (like fish and some plants and insects and corals and others), to animals that have orgies, animals that have completely indiscriminate sex, animals that are semi-monogamous (like the penguins) and truly monogamous animals (which are very rare).

In the most human-like animals on the planet, the apes, there is no monogamy and there is homosexuality. Apes are known to engage in orgies, incest and gangbangs, as well as sodomy.

When it comes to homosexually, the behavior has been observed in practically every known animal that has been observed for any period of time. Amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all exhibit homosexual behavior. The claim that homosexuality is “unnatural” is completely without basis in fact. In fact there are even animals that change sex after they reach adulthood. Every bizarre freaky thing that people are into sexually is reflected in the natural world. There isn’t any sexual activity that people have engaged in that other animals have not engaged in also.

So, in short, unless these Christians all mistakenly saw a different movie, I have no idea how they saw March of the Penguins as an affirmation of conservatism. I saw the movie as a portrayal of how harsh the natural world is and how much we share in common with other animals due to our common evolutionary ancestry. It also reminded me of how little attention people pay to the lives of animals and how human behavior can so easily destroy animal life even though animals work so hard to survive. It also reminded me of how capitalism and the drive for profits can so easily lead to extinction and devastation when we don’t take time to learn about and care about the animals that we share this planet with. This movie spoke about nothing “conservative” to me; it was a complete refutation of the entire “conservative” worldview in every way, which is no surprise because I feel that way every time I come in contact with nature.

Posted by at 10:11 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (9) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, October 2, 2005 8:15 AM EDT
Monday, September 12, 2005
 A Historical Outline of Modern Religious Criticism in Western Civilization

Topic: Announcements
A Historical Outline of Modern Religious Criticism in Western Civilization

This article takes a look at the history of religious criticism in Western Civilization since the time of the Protestant Reformation.

Posted by at 7:41 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (7) | Permalink
Monday, August 29, 2005
 Regarding Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science

Topic: Commentary
A recent New York Times article, Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science, basically portrays non-religious scientists as a group without any answers to "life’s really big questions."

Little else can be expected from a popular commercial periodical I suppose. Indeed media that is market driven by consumer choice does not challenge those consumers on the part of their beliefs, it instead seeks to cater to the beliefs of the consumers and reinforce the notions that make the broadest part of the consumer base comfortable.

It is for this reason that we can never really expect a market driven system to impose reality upon a public that does not want it. In the market system the public gets what the public wants, and so when the public wants belief, belief they will get, regardless of the facts.

The most pernicious statement in this article, in good literary form, was saved for the last. The article offers as its parting shot the claim that science will never answer "the big questions."
But he said he believed that some scientists were simply unwilling to confront the big questions religion tried to answer. "You will never understand what it means to be a human being through naturalistic observation," he said. "You won't understand why you are here and what the meaning is. Science has no power to address these questions - and are they not the most important questions we ask ourselves?"

This statement is particularly galling perhaps because it is so widely believed, and so fundamentally wrong.

Over the centuries many different claims have been made by a variety of different religions. Time and time again these claims have been proven false. There is not any religion on this planet that has a track record for "being right" about anything.

At this point religions have been able to cling on to things which have not yet been proven, or which can never be proven because they are not testable claims.

The only real questions that people claim remain "unanswered by science" are what people call "the big questions."

The real question is, however, why would a system that has proven incapable of answering even the smallest of questions be trusted to answer the biggest of questions?

Yes, there are "big questions", that people have been asking for a long time. The "faith based" approach to answering these questions has been simply to shoot straight for the final answer, i.e. the ultimate prize. Its an undisciplined approach that basically tries to bypass all the intermediate steps and go straight for the "top".

What we have learned over the centuries, however, is that this approach fails to produce answers that can be validated as true.

Religion holds the false promise that you can answer a question without actually doing any work to discover information, but rather that you can just automatically know the right answer, or that the answer will be provided to you "supernaturally."

Hey, it takes a long time to answer "the big questions" right, and that may take many generations to do, so who wants to wait around on that? Religion provides instant gratification.

Science, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach. Science has taken the often slow, tedious, and hard work approach to answering questions, but the results are astonishing. Science has been finding answers to questions that no religion has even asked, much less answered.

In every case that science has come up with a different answer to a question than religion, science has been proven correct.

Is the earth round or flat?

Well, it took thousands of years to prove the answer beyond the shadow of any doubt, but when it was finally proven the answer was provided through naturalistic observation. Of course the Egyptians knew that the earth was round through naturalistic observation thousands of years ago, but this wasn't known by everyone, and they could only prove it indirectly, through measurements and mathematics, but when we made it into space and took pictures of the round earth, that was definitely the ultimate proof.

The Bible claims that the earth has four corners.

What is the nature of the universe?

Virtually all religions have claimed that "the Earth" is the center of the universe. Many religions have even claimed that the homeland of a specific people is the center of the universe. The vastness of the universe has been understated by practically every religion, because, of course, people were basing their religions on what they could readily observe at the time through careless observation. If they actually had divine wisdom they would have known better.

How can we cure disease?

Practically all religions, including Christianity, have claimed that disease and sickness are the result of evil spirits or are punishments sent from God to afflict the wicked. For this reason, as recently as 300 years ago, the Puritans and Pilgrims of the American colonies believed that sickness was a sign of immorality and indicated that someone has sinned. People were blamed for getting sick, as if it was something that they brought upon themselves. This was bolstered also by the fact that almost all of the Native Americans died of diseases so the Pilgrims and Puritans saw this as proof that they were vile heathens and that their death by disease was the work of God, killing the unrighteous.

"For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess."
- John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Likewise, Christians who believed in a world created for people, could not imagine that their God would create organisms that would plague and devastate humanity to such a degree.

Through naturalistic observation, though, we have learned that the religious beliefs about disease and sickness have all been fundamentally wrong. We have answered the question of why people get sick through science, and learned how to prevent it. Something that religion, in thousands of years of practice, never achieved.

What is the cause of hallucinations and strange behavior, such as uncontrolled spasms?

The "answers" provided by religions have generally been that this is caused by evil spirits or possession by "The Devil".

People who had problems like schizophrenia or Turret's syndrome were often killed or tortured by religious people in attempts to drive out the evil spirits or to simply to get rid of the evil host. Just recently a nun in Romania that had schizophrenia was crucified by priests after repeated attempts to drive the evil spirits out of her through years of torture.

Religions have taken hallucinations as "real" and meaningful. People with hallucinations have believed that they were ghosts or visions of God or visions of angels, or whatever for centuries. We now know how the brain works, and that what we perceive is really just a model of reality "inside our brain", and that this model of reality can be corrupted, i.e. it can include images that are not a product of the senses, like the images we see during dreams, except this can also happen while awake as well.

Religions used to tell us that people's behavior was governed by their soul. We now know that people's behavior is governed by the physical processes of the brain. If you introduce chemicals into people's brain it changes their behavior.

We have answered all of these questions through naturalistic observation, and debunked the beliefs provided by religion.

There may be some questions that cannot be answered through naturalistic observation, but why would anyone put faith in an ideology that has proven incapable of answering any questions at all?

The idea that the "religious approach" to answering questions is going to be right about "the big issues", when it has proven to be wrong about lesser issues, defies even the most basic reason.

Furthermore, no new answers are going to come from religion. Religion is what it is - it has made its claims. The only way that any "new answers" can be provided by religion is if there are "new" supernatural events, i.e. if God comes down to Earth and gives out some new wisdom. The basic premise of religion is that people can't figure anything out, we have to be told by God. So, in terms of answering questions, either they have already been answered by religion, or we are waiting until the next message from God.

The only other option that we have is naturalistic observation. Even the use of science to try to verify religious claims is still the use of science.

To say that naturalistic observation isn't going to provide anwsers means that the only way these anwsers could be provide is either by existing religious texts, which one would assume are based on "divine wisdom" imparted by God (meaning that we already have the anwsers), or by some new supernatural events.

Religious leaders have opposed the major achievements of science since the beginning, and claimed that anything that contradicts a claim made by religion will undermine the social order. When it was discovered that the Earth revolved around the Sun, instead of the other way around, the Church opposed this teaching, and claimed that it would make morality obsolete by "contradicting God."

Nevertheless, morality has actually improved since that time. We no longer deem is acceptable to torture and kill people because of their beliefs. We no longer strip women of equal rights. We no long deem slavery acceptable, and the humanity with which we treat people has increased, and we now think that everyone should be given an education and the opportunity to succeed (not just the priests and nobility).

Posted by at 10:57 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, August 29, 2005 11:11 PM EDT
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
 New Pope Points Fingers at Others (As Usual)

Topic: Commentary
In his a recent speech to a Jewish audience Pope Benedict XVI tried to strengthen ties with the Jewish community. He did so, in typical Catholic fashion, by first blaming anti-Semitism on the Church's traditional scapegoat: paganism.

The Pope stated:

In the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.... This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews - men, women and children - were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens.

It is quite preposterous for the Pope to claim that anti-Semitism is "born of neo-paganism". It is well documented that anti-Semitism is born of Christianity, indeed of Catholicism!

It is also impossible that any Pope would be unaware of the history of anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church, or be unaware that Hitler was raised Catholic and proclaimed himself a Catholic throughout his life, and that anti-Semitism had been a part of German society going back to the conversion of Germany to Christianity when the Catholics killed all of the pagans.

In case the Pope or other Catholics have forgotten, however, here are some reminders of the facts:

Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

This line in the Bible, when the Jews sentenced Jesus to death, has been used to justify the persecution of Jews since the birth of organized Christianity.

Jews had been persecuted by Christians in Europe for over 1,000 years prior to the Holocaust. The desire to "exterminate the Jews" was hardly anything new, and had no origin in paganism or neo-paganism. What is really so troubling is that the Pope was holding a talk to try to make amends with the Jewish community and he wasn't even able to do it honestly, he had to point fingers at the old Catholic scapegoat of pagans and blame "neo-paganism" for the origins of anti-Semitism, when he knew full well that the Catholic Church is the origin of anti-Semitism. Did he apologize for the role of Christianity in anti-Semitism? Of course not.

Its good that he wants to make amends and that he is speaking out against anti-Semitism, but it is horribly dishonest to put the blame for anti-Semitism on "neo-pagans".

For more information on the history of anti-Jewish activities see:

Jewish Persecution Timeline
Jewish History Timeline

Posted by at 10:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2005 7:39 AM EDT
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
 Regarding All Cultures are Not Equal

Topic: Commentary
There was an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times recently. Its rare for an Op-Ed in a newspaper to actually be interesting, so this one caught my attention.

David Brooks, the author of All Cultures are Not Equal, is a conservative in the fairly traditional sense.

The premise of his Op-Ed is that multi-culturalism is a failed ideology and economists, scientists and liberals don’t really understand much of anything about culture and society, because the multi-culturalism that many of them have embraced seems to be going nowhere and not bearing fruit.

His Op-Ed is interesting because it is as just as right as it is wrong. Interestingly, he does at least frame the problem correctly, despite failing to fully understand the implications of his observations himself.

He states:
Go into the field that barely exists: cultural geography. Study why and how people cluster, why certain national traits endure over centuries, why certain cultures embrace technology and economic growth and others resist them.

This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history - resources and brain chemistry - because that's what they can measure and count.

But none of this helps explain a crucial feature of our time: while global economies are converging, cultures are diverging, and the widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation.

Actually, this is a field of study that has dominated a certain school of thought for 150 years. That school of thought is Marxism. And, interestingly enough, David Brooks, the conservative, comes to the same basic conclusions that Karl Marx came to. Also, the scientsits are correct that material factors drive history. This has been proven time and time again. What does Mr. Brooks think that it is, the "hand of God"?

He goes on to say:
If you look just around the United States you find amazing cultural segmentation. We in America have been "globalized" (meaning economically integrated) for centuries, and yet far from converging into some homogeneous culture, we are actually diverging into lifestyle segments.

Not long ago, many people worked on farms or in factories, so they had similar lifestyles. But now the economy rewards specialization, so workplaces and lifestyles diverge. The military and civilian cultures diverge. In the political world, Democrats and Republicans seem to live on different planets.

Ahh... yes, indeed, and now we get to the point. What Brooks is discussing is one of the central points of Marxism. One of the primary objectives of the Communist movement was to create an economic system that preserved a common social structure, because Marx recognized that capitalism and its heavy focus on division of labor and marketing would drive society irreconcilably apart.

He concludes with:
People like Max Weber, Edward Banfield, Samuel Huntington, Lawrence Harrison and Thomas Sowell have given us an inkling of how to think about this stuff, but for the most part, this is open ground.

If you are 18 and you've got that big brain, the whole field of cultural geography is waiting for you.

Well, actually Karl Marx gave us a much better framework for “thinking about this stuff”, but the reason that we haven’t thought about “this stuff” in America for the past 50 years is because of the strongly anti-Marxist and pro-capitalist movement in America.

Capitalism and corporations are the central forces driving the breakup of the traditional social bonds. Indeed for the past 100 years in America the intellectual left has been denigrated as “cultural elitists” and rejected by both the Liberals and Conservatives, yet here is this conservative pondering the questions that “Cultural Elitists” have pondered and answered generations ago.

Leftists are not Liberals! Leftists are anti-liberal. Leftist are Cultural Elitists, just as Mr. Brooks is I can assume. It was Karl Marx and others in his camp who stated that class interests should transcend all other interests, and also that every society has its exploiters and its oppressive institutions.

It is the rejection of international solidarity and the movement to bring reform to societies around the world by Leftists that has led to the alternate embrace of “multi-culturalism”.

This is why we see Liberals today who amazingly champion the Muslims of the Middle East and oppressive societies in Africa. To many Liberals it seems that every society is good except your own. They fail to recognize a GLOBAL struggle, and they fail to come to the aid of the intellectuals and secularists in developing societies because they mistakenly believe that radical Islam is okay for “those people”. What about the people in Iraq and Iran and Saudi Arabia that hate Islam and hate theocracy and are oppressed by their own society?

Yes, all cultures are not equal, this is correct. We should recognize this and stop teaching multi-culturalism and instead teach rational secular society, which has proven through the past 200 years of technological, scientific and humanitarian advance that it is superior, and we should be helping to spread a culture of science, civil law, democracy and rationalism around the world.

But we haven't done that because its easier to exploit under developed people and take their resources at low cost.

We should be teaching our children to reject the obviously inferior cultures of religiosity and consumerism.

But, here’s the problem you see. The real reason that “multi-culturalism” has come to dominate our society is because #1 it benefits those that are in power economically and #2 its more acceptable than trying to come to terms with reality and define a culture.

So many Christians lament “multi-culturalism” , but the truth is that Christianity itself benefits from it. If we want to abandon the banner of multi-culturalism then we would have to really shine a strong light on what culture we would then embrace as “the best one”, and in truth, Christian culture could never stand up to that scrutiny. Multi-culturalism allows Christians to get by on bogus claims and baseless worldviews just like it does all of the other traditional, neo-traditional, and new-age cultures.

The Secular Left concluded that all cultures were not equal years ago. They were prepared to stand by rational secular democracy as the superior superior culture long ago, but the conservatives decided that instead of face extinction at the hands of secular intellectuals, they would rather hide behind multi-culturalism themselves. Now that the Secular Left has been fairly well defeated by the cooperation of the Liberals and the Conservatives, the conservatives feel strong enough to come out and try to proclaim their own superiority.

For more on the subject of social fragmentation see:

Division of Labor, Assembly Line Thought – The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism

Posted by at 9:14 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:31 PM EDT
Thursday, August 4, 2005
 The Ten Commandments, American History and American Law

Topic: Announcements
The Ten Commandments, American History and American Law

This article takes a look at the Ten Commandments and the history of Western and American law to uncover the truth about the role of the Ten Comamndments in American history.

Posted by at 12:53 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (6) | Permalink
Saturday, July 2, 2005
 Regarding Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Topic: Commentary
I saw the documovie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room at a local theater last night. Overall the film was very good, and I highly recommend seeing it. The film does a good job at examining the corporation itself, as well as illuminating the wider impact that the company had on the nation, including it’s contribution to the California energy crisis and it’s contributions to energy deregulation policy. The documentary also examined the close personal ties between the Bush family and Enron executives.

Most of all, though, the film showed just how many different institutions were really involved in the rise and fall of Enron, and how this corporation was able to profoundly mislead Wall Street and hundreds of major financial institutions to the tune of billions of dollars, and how the ability of Enron to do this exposed major shortcoming of our entire economic system.

While the film was very good overall, it still failed to make a few significant fundamental points.

There was a lot of criticism of Enron’s practices from an ethical or moral standpoint, however the film actually failed to give a full economic denunciation of some of Enron’s practices. In addition, even the critics of Enron continued to use the terms “earned money” and “made money” when discussing the incomes of Enron executives.

This really makes clear how deeply rooted misunderstanding of economics is in our society.

The very problem with Enron is exactly the fact that its executives were not earning or making money, what they were doing was acquiring money that they had not earned.

That is, fundamentally, the issue. If they had actually “made” the money then there wouldn’t be a problem; the problem was that they were transferring money to themselves that they had in fact not earned.

Despite the fundamental importance of this point, even the biggest critics of the Enron executives still said things like “these men were making millions of dollars, while the company was swimming in debt”, or things of that nature. No, they weren’t “making” millions, they were “taking” millions.

The film also failed to appropriately explain how Enron profited from the California energy crisis. There was a moral criticism of Enron’s role in contributing to the California energy crisis for profit, but what they failed to explain was the fundamental economic principles that Enron was violating in order to generate profits.

One way that Enron got money from the California energy crisis was that they induced blackouts by shutting down power plants in order to drive up the price of energy. This isn’t creating value, this is actually destroying value. What Enron did was profit from value destruction, a fundamental violation of the principles of economics.

As an “energy trader”, what Enron basically did was they bought energy at a low price when there was plenty of energy “on the market”, and then they created an energy shortage, at which time they sold energy at a higher price.

Enron wasn’t actually creating value in this process; they were destroying value by contributing to the crisis. All economic systems, from capitalism to communism, are predicated on the assumption that compensation is related in some way to value creation. Getting paid to make things worse, of course, is no way to develop a successful system.

Enron employees and executives actually legitimized their practices to themselves because of their fundamentalist “free-market” ideology. From the very beginning Enron’s business model was based on market manipulation and the use of fuzzy accounting to push numbers around on paper and “make money” without actually creating value. The California crisis was just the most extreme manifestation of their market practices.

Jeff Skilling was shown during several interviews stating that ideas and risk create value. This shows just how little he actually understands economics, and to what extent he and Ken Lay were able to manipulate their way to millions of dollars because, fundamentally, the leaders of all of our major financial instructions from Wall Street to banks have bought into these same beliefs. It is important to note that Key Lay has a PhD. in economics.

Risk does not create value. Sometimes it is necessary to take risks in order to develop new ways to create value, but risk itself does not create value.

On the whole, though, as was said, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, is a very worthwhile production that illuminates the story of one of the most aggressively right-wing corporate institutions of our time.

The most revealing aspect of watching this film in the theater, however, was the fact that it was only showing in one theater in the tri-county major metropolitan area, and there was only one other couple in the theater at the time. Some friends of mine had seen it the week before, the first week it played here, and they said that they were the only ones in the theater at the time.

While this is a documentary that should be playing on prime time television, the reality is that only a handful of people will ever watch it. The story of Enron and the other corporate scandals is a complicated one. This film at least puts the story into popular format, but when no one is interested in learning about the problem, even when it is presented in popular format, is there really any hope of solving the problems?

Posted by at 3:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

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