Friday, February 29, 2008

Twelve Lunar Eclipses

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN )

Explanation: Welcome to the extra day in the Gregorian Calendar's leap year 2008! To celebrate, consider this grid of lunar eclipse pictures - starting in leap year 1996 and ending with February's eclipse - with the date in numerical year/month/day format beneath each image. Mostly based on visibility from a site in Turkey, the 3x4 matrix includes 11 of the 13 total lunar eclipses during that period, and fills out the grid with the partial lunar eclipse of September 2006. Still, as the pictures are at the same scale, they illustrate a noticeable variation in the apparent size of the eclipsed Moon caused by the real change in Earth-Moon distance around the Moon's elliptical orbit. The total phases are also seen to differ in color and darkness. Those effects are due to changes in cloud cover and dust content in the atmosphere reddening and refracting sunlight into Earth's shadow. Of course, the next chance to add a total lunar eclipse to this grid will come at the very end of the decade.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Benny Hinn exposed

In the news: Hinn turns over material to Senate panel

“The enemy is not going to steal what the Lord has won through this ministry, and he is not going to use this attack to bring harm to the rest of the churches and ministries in America!”

NBC Dateline investigated Hinn a few years ago, and this show aired on December 27, 2002. I had not seen it until now.

Ever wonder what televangelists do between their globe-trotting conversion crusades? This NBC Dateline special reveals the dubious financial dealings of prominent Christian evangelist Pastor Benny Hinn, uncovering an extravagant lifestyle that would put most true Christians to shame. Reporter Bob McKeown explains what happens to some of the millions of dollars sent to the Hinn Ministry by his devoted followers.

So many suckers…unbelievable that so many can be fooled by Hinn and others like him. It's hard to feel sorry for people who are so gullible.

Diocese of Little Rock is urging its members not to donate to a breast cancer foundation

Saw this in the news this morning and it really burns me up. On one hand the Catholic church is quite reasonable and even supportive of medical science and research, then they stand in the way of it at the same time:

Catholics asked to stop Komen donations

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Diocese of Little Rock is urging its members not to donate to a breast cancer foundation known for its fundraising races across the globe because the group supports Planned Parenthood.

The diocese says the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which has invested about $1 billion in cancer outreach and research, gives money to Planned Parenthood to hold breast exams and offer education to women in its clinics.

“Donors cannot control how an organization designates its funds,” a diocese statement reads. “Therefore, money donated for a specific service … directly frees up funds to support other areas of an organization’s agenda.”

Marianne Linane, director of the diocese’s “respect life” office, said those other agendas includes abortions and contraceptive services. The Catholic church’s policy is that abortion is wrong in every instance.

[But allowing women to die from breast cancer is ok?]

Linane said the Little Rock diocese, which oversees all churches in Arkansas, used the same statement sent out by the church’s St. Louis diocese last year. However, the end of the Little Rock letter included addresses of Arkansas hospitals parishioners could donate to that would eliminate “the administrative funds for a middle broker.”

Monsignor J. Gaston Hebert sent the statement to parishes and Catholic schools this month and planned to send out a follow-up letter, Linane said. Hebert did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Little Rock follows other dioceses in raising concerns with the foundation. In 2005, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston abandoned its support of the foundation, while in 2006 the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix took issue over Komen’s Planned Parenthood funding.

Rebecca Gibson, a spokeswoman for the Komen foundation, said the group invested $69.6 million in more than 1,600 community-based education and screening programs during 2007. Planned Parenthood received less than 1 percent of that money, she said.

“It’s insignificant in relation to all of the funding we do,” Gibson said. “I think it’s just really unfortunate undue attention is being shed on organizations that are providing vital services in those communities.”

The diocese’s decision comes as northwest Arkansas prepares for its running of the Race for the Cure on April 19.

Officials estimated Little Rock’s running last year brought out more than 43,000 participants and raised more than $1.65 million.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics on religious affiliations of inmates.

The following are total number of inmates per religion category.
Note that atheists,being a moderate proportion of the
USA population (about 8-16%) are disproportionately
less in the prison populations (0.21%).
Federal Bureau of Prisons report

Response Number %
---------------------------- --------
Catholic 29267 39.164%
Protestant 26162 35.008%
Muslim 5435 7.273%
American Indian 2408 3.222%
Nation 1734 2.320%
Rasta 1485 1.987%
Jewish 1325 1.773%
Church of Christ 1303 1.744%
Pentecostal 1093 1.463%
Moorish 1066 1.426%
Buddhist 882 1.180%
Jehovah Witness 665 0.890%
Adventist 621 0.831%
Orthodox 375 0.502%
Mormon 298 0.399%
Scientology 190 0.254%
Atheist 156 0.209%
Hindu 119 0.159%
Santeria 117 0.157%
Sikh 14 0.019%
Bahai 9 0.012%
Krishna 7 0.009%

Sunday, February 24, 2008

NGC 4676: When Mice Collide

Click on image to enlargeCredit: ACS Science & Engineering Team, Hubble Space Telescope, NASA

Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as " The Mice" because they have such long tails, each spiral galaxy has likely already passed through the other. They will probably collide again and again until they coalesce. The long tails are created by the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. The above picture was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys which is more sensitive and images a larger field than previous Hubble cameras. The camera's increased sensitivity has imaged, serendipitously, galaxies far in the distance scattered about the frame.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lincoln and Washington on religion

“Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any Church, nor did he believe in the divinity of Christ, or the inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense understood by evangelical Christians.

When a boy, he showed no sign of that piety which his many biographers ascribe to his manhood. When he went to church at all, he went to mock, and came away to mimic.

When he came to New Salem, he consorted with Freethinkers, joined with them in deriding the gospel story of Jesus, read Volney and Paine, and then wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he reached conclusions similar to theirs.”

-- Colonel Ward H. Lamon (a religionist and Lincoln's longtime friend), Life of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 486, 487, 157 (1872), cited by Franklin Steiner in The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiment in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination, so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

-- George Washington, letter to Sir Edward Newenham, Oct. 20, 1792.

Better believe or else . . .

This is the basic message of Christian evangelists, isn't it? (And also Islam.) My husband's Christian co-workers couldn't help but smile when he showed it to them, and they could not dispute it. It's what they believe so what can they say!

Warning - video contains profanity (for Christian lurkers who are easily offended.)


Despite what American Atheist president Ellen Johnson is encouraging, intelligent people need to get out and vote so we don't have this happen again.

(My son's recent masterpiece.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

The kid's probably sorry he asked . . .

I’ve been going back and forth with Christians for quite some time now about this free will thing. I say a deity who gives humans free will and then punishes them for using it makes humans mere slaves to this god (and makes this god nothing more than a big dick). Many Christians are quite imaginative when it comes to making up little stories and scenerios when they are put on the spot and don’t have answers. They just invent the answers which are anything from amusing, to ridiculous, to utterly absurd.

I was surfing the net on the topic of free will and came across this site where Christians can write in questions they want answered. A mother wrote and asked, “My son wants me to explain to him how the bible says we have free will but if God already knows the choices we will make then this is not free will. I don’t know how to answer this.”

First of all, I would sarcastically ask, “why don’t you ask your god to explain it to you?” But we all know why she doesn’t…she would hear nothing but white noise. Do these people go seek answers to these questions themselves? Do they stop to really think about the question the child is asking? No intellectual pondering, no questioning, just follow like sheeple and when they don’t know something they go to the shepherds who will show them how to brainwash their young lambs.

Here is Timothy James O’Hearn’s of Riverside Church of Christ in Albuquerque NM response to this woman:

This can be a difficult question to answer. Does the fact that God knows something will happen/has happened cause it to happen? Can we change what God knows? I can understand your difficulty.

One possible way of explaining it, if your son is of an age to know computers (and what child isn’t these days) relates to memory. A computer stores input. That input is knowledge. At any given time a computer knows a lot of things. If it is a computer used for inventory for a business one of the things is may know is that Company A has a standing order for 1,500 units of a certain item. Company A decides that they want to increase their order to 2,000 units. They make the choice (free will) to change their order. Now the computer knows that Company A has a standing order for 2,000 units. Depending on its programming it may also know that the order has changed, and what the old order was. Free will has changed the knowledge in the computer.

This is not a perfect example, of course. God’s knowledge is more complex than any computer. However, it gives some idea of how free will affects God’s knowledge. What we choose affects what God knows. He may know equally well how things would have occurred if we had made a different choice.

Interestingly, the same example can be used to show God’s forgiveness. He knows all about our sin. Nevertheless, when we are buried and begin our new life, God hits the delete button and runs a “clean sweep” program to totally and irrevocably remove that sin from his memory banks.

The boy will probably think it will be better to just keep his mouth shut and stop asking questions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A cynic's guide to academic departments

I stole this from Secular Outpost.

Mathematics: Mathematicians get to make up anything they want as long as it's consistent. They therefore have a tenuous connection to reality and tend to be susceptible to crank notions.

Statistics: Supposed to be about nothing in particular: a statistician can tell you how to analyze data gathered from any field of inquiry. This works exactly as well as the notion that you can manage a company without having to know anything about the industry it operates in.

Computer Science: There is some interesting math concerning the basics of computers. Too bad computer science is largely devoted to tasks such as improving accounting databases and data mining for government surveillance of citizens, and therefore inherits some of the smallmindedness of its applications.

The dishonest science. Physicists love talking about black holes and quarks, about the beauty of distant galaxies and the power of equations. They do this to distract themselves and everyone else from the fact that most funding comes their way in hopes that it will lead to better electronic gadgets or more devastating weapons systems.

Chemistry: Better living through chemistry—an eminently practical science that gives clear-cut results in the lab, which can be directly applied to tangible uses. In other words, its risks being intellectually unambitious and sometimes rather boring.

The science that explores the wonders and beauty of life itself, seeking understanding of plants and animals in their intricate complexity. Biologists mostly investigate life by looking at dead things under microscopes, and performing excruciatingly dull biochemical experiments with bits and pieces that are too small to see under microscopes.

Used to be on the cutting edge of intellectual life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Agricultural science:
The smelliest science. Its mission is to remove all traces of taste from food.

Engineering: You build things. There's lots of money coming in. This leads some engineers into delusions of grandeur. Since they are the ones engaged hands-on with the real world, they figure they know something deep about the universe and can tell everyone else how to do their jobs. The worst cases are engineers who become part of political movements who want to order human society along "rational" lines.

Psychology: Clinical psychologists try to help disturbed people, often basing therapies on theories that sound like they were jokes made up by authority figures to see what they could get away with. Experimental psychologists find this disreputable, preferring to run tests on college students to gather real data. They then use powerful statistical techniques to help them overgeneralize.

Sociology: Sociologists collect lots of numerical data, even if it's often in terms of orderings rather than genuine magnitudes. Then they do statistics with this data, mainly because there doesn't seem to be much else one can do. This occasionally leads to policy recommendations that are much more expensive to produce than by flipping a coin, but with much greater levels of false confidence.

Political science: If "science" appears in the name of a discipline, this is very often because it is not a science.

Anthropology: Since our global so-called civilization has wiped out the way of life of most "primitive" societies, anthropologists these days have less opportunity for old-fashioned fieldwork. Many have to make do with wringing hands about how impossible it is to understand The Other without an insiders perspective.

Archaeologists can look forward to a career using toothbrushes to uncover ancient garbage. They then try to compensate for all the tedium by trying to derive profound conclusions about lost civilizations from well-brushed potsherds.

Known as the "dismal science." This description is half-right. Economics is the astrology of the modern era. Except that it's much better funded, and it's powerful enough to make billions of people miserable.

The art of gazing at Aristotle's navel. Philosophy is full of opportunities to ask Deep Questions from armchairs, and to conjure up theories about them without worrying about pesky reality tests. It is the field with the highest ratio of self-importance to actual intellectual accomplishment.

Religious studies:
Theology disguised for secular universities. The object is not to study religion but to come to a happy affirmation of all faiths, provided they can be tagged as supernatural or transcendent in some fashion. The great benefit of having religious studies departments is that it keeps the different religions from fighting amongst themselves.

History: A really good field to specialize in, if your horizons are limited to trying to write a 900-page book on "Early conceptions of the metaphysics of head lice and mothers-in-law among late teenaged Swabian goatherders, 1234-1246."

Used to have an evolutionary rationale, via the handicap principle. You advertised your superior social position and financial security by the fact that you could afford to have studied such a useless thing as long-dead languages. Classics suffers from neglect in less aristocratic societies.

Students get interested in studying literature because they like interesting stories, or because they're no good with math. By the time they get their doctorate, they will have turned into zombies devoted to the production of verbal diarrhea associated with the latest fad in literary criticism.

Linguistics: It's hard to say anything nasty about linguistics. Which can only be because linguistics is such a dull, inconsequential backwater that it's impossible to find anything to satirize about such a gray nonentity. But that would be an incredibly nasty thing to say. Interesting paradox.

This seems to primarily involve journalism or public relations. Under the suspicion of being professional liars, in either case. The PR people get paid much better.

Theatre: Some skills, like math or science, probably have to be learned and practiced in an academic setting. Having departments of theatre just seems like a case of the need for having academic credentials attached to everything.

Art: Art departments are an indirect way to subsidize art. The more interesting question is, where do people learn how to write the pretentious gobbledygook on the labels in art museums?

Music: Dedicated to the preservation and study of dead forms of music that have lost the capacity to entertain large audiences. Would have even less of a constituency if not for the high middle-class demand for material suitable for snobbery.

The main intellectual use of business schools is to highlight the hypocrisy of political conservatives. They love to complain about the leftish ideological orientation of humanities departments, while business schools, whose missions explicitly support the interests of the business classes, command much higher levels of funding, students, and influence on the modern campus.

Accounting: It's impossible to say anything about accounting without taking a cheap shot. Accountancy is its own punishment.

Finance: Also known as the department of conjuring, dedicated to the art of creating the illusion of economic value by the shuffling around of paper.

Marketing: Sort of like Communications, except that they're more honest about the fact that they're all about trying to sell you a bill of goods.

Education: The most idealistic, selfless students want to give back to the community by going into teaching. They get punished for their naivete by being condemned to herd indifferent teenagers in environments of minimal intellectual stimulation. Education departments are there to ease the transition into hell by deadening any intellectual spark that remains in aspiring teachers.

Pre-professional departments:
People have to learn their trade somewhere, and presumably a university is as good as any other setting. The Arts and Sciences departments are grateful for the presence of pre-professional students, since they can impose various distribution requirements on those students, justifying the employment o numerous faculty and graduate students in the Arts and Sciences.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Praying for me to find god? Don't waste your time

There are some religious folks who are working and praying for us “evil atheists” to find their god in 2008. No thank you, Xian folks! Your god is a psycho character from an ancient mythology and we are doing just fine without him. No hard feelings, just have your god beliefs and I will remain an atheist. Thanks for your concern, but it's really unnecessary.

Pat is awesome.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

California Pastor’s ‘Death Prayer’ Campaign

Vjack at Atheist Revolution has written a post bringing attention to this latest news story about controversial Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake urging his followers to pray for the deaths of staff members at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This isn’t the first time this radical Christian has been calling on his “heavenly hit man” (as Americans United executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn put it).

Last August, Americans United filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about Drake’s use of church letterhead and a church-based radio program to endorse presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Federal tax law forbids tax-exempt groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

In a Feb. 5 letter, the IRS notified Drake that his First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park is being investigated.

In response, Drake issued a Feb. 14 e-mail appeal to followers to engage in “imprecatory prayers” (curses) against Americans United and three of its staff members.

In agreement with Barry Lynn, “There is more than a whiff of the Taliban in this action”

The Age of American Unreason

Last night I watched the 2004 Bill Moyer's interview with Susan Jacoby on PBS about her book, The Age of American Unreason, which I have added to my ever-growing reading list.


From PBS: "In 2004 author Susan Jacoby appeared on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS and discussed her alarm over the growing role of faith in politics.

"It's of alarm first of all because it's such a very dangerous thing when patriotism and religion become equated. So often the kind of religion which is melded with patriotism and not only in America - we see the horrifying implications of it throughout history - becomes nationalism and militarism and a complete intolerance for any other point of view. I think it's dangerous to - the God is on our side thing is extremely dangerous."

And from Jacoby's website:

"This impassioned, tough-minded work of contemporary history paints a disturbing portrait of a mutant strain of public ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism that has developed over the past four decades and now threatens the future of American democracy. Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a culture at odds with America’s heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern knowledge and science. With mordant wit, the author offers an unsparing indictment of the ways in which dumbness has been defined downward throughout American society—on the political right and the left. America’s endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by a popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic."

I'll have more on this after I read the book.

Blaming the atheists

NIU Tragedy

It always makes me angry when Christians blame the atheists when bad things happen, like the recent shootings at NIU here in Illinois on Valentine's Day. Being a Christian or any other variety of god believer does not make one immune to committing violent acts such as this. Just look at the believers who murder their infants and children, consider the pastors' wives who murder their oppressive/abusive husbands. What is the basis for their decisions? A demon jumped out of an atheist and made them do it? The fact is that the Abrahamic religions are based on some of the most violent text ever written and our society is based around those beliefs that are based on this awful book. How can one find hope when surrounded by religious people who are obsessed with death and afterlife and all the negativities of humanity and the world in which we live. Some god believers think they can never be good enough, so what's the point. God believers and news reporters who cater to the religious never bring up this fact.

Let's sort this out. I think Christians need to examine what they believe and why they choose to believe it. Christians can't even come to an agreement amongst themselves what it is exactly they believe concerning your own god beliefs and Bible interpretations, much less get into what the atheist believes.

When their god doesn’t show up, the easiest thing to do is blame the atheist. It both amuses and pisses me off at the same time to see the prayer vigils AFTER things like this happens. Isn’t it a bit late to try this praying and mystical incantations? If your god didn't listen to your loved ones' prayers for your safety to begin with, what good is praying after the fact going to do for you? People come together and support one another. Flesh and blood humans, not some invisible puppeteer in the sky.

My sons went to NIU for a couple of years. NIU is known as one of the biggest "party schools" in the state. Ironically, the school also has a large number of Christian students, many of whom like to drink, party, etc. If Christians want to blame based on lack of faith, well...maybe they should look at themselves. They never question that their god might be angry with their hypocrisy, they never consider the possibility that a shooter might actually be a troubled Christian who was pissed off about the Geology professor teaching that the world is older than 6,000 years. There are many possibilities, most likely that this young man had severe psychological problems and his actions were the result of him stopping his medication.

Yes, blame the atheist, but never themselves for believing in an imaginary friend who does absolutely nothing to “protect and guide” them. Not even in their own sanctuaries and holy places many times.

IMO, the real reason Christians are angry at us is that we represent what they know in their hearts to be true…there is no godly superhero to watch over them.

It's easier to blame it on the atheist than to examine their "faith".

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US military accused of harboring fundamentalism . . . again

Here is yet another news story about fundies in the military who will stop at nothing to transform the United States military into an army of God.


WASHINGTON (AFP) - Since his last combat deployment in Iraq, Jeremy Hall has had a rough time, getting shoved and threatened by his fellow soldiers. The trouble started there when he would not pray in the mess hall.

“A senior ranking staff sergeant told me to leave and sit somewhere else because I refused to pray,” Hall, a 23-year-old US army specialist, told AFP.

Later, Hall was confronted by a major for holding an authorized meeting of “atheists and freethinkers” on his base. The officer threatened to discipline him and block his re-enlistment.

“He said: ‘You guys are being a problem and problems can be removed,’” Hall said. “He was yelling at us and stuff and at the very end he says, ‘I really love you guys, I want you to see the light.’”

Now Hall is suing the major and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, accusing them of breaching his constitutional rights. A campaign group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is waiting for the Pentagon to respond to a lawsuit filed in a Kansas federal court on Hall’s behalf.

Happy Valentine's Day

Click on image to enlarge
Long Stem Rosette
Credit & Copyright: Adam Block (Caelum Observatory) and
Tim Puckett

Explanation: The Rosette Nebula (aka NGC 2237) is not the only cosmic cloud of gas and dust to evoke the imagery of flowers. But it is the one most often suggested as a suitable astronomy image for Valentine's Day. Of the many excellent Rosette Nebula pictures submitted to APOD editors, this view seemed most appropriate, with a long stem of glowing hydrogen gas in the region included in the composition. At the edge of a large molecular cloud in Monoceros, some 5,000 light years away, the petals of this rose are actually a stellar nursery whose lovely, symmetric shape is sculpted by the winds and radiation from its central cluster of hot young stars. The stars in the energetic cluster, cataloged as NGC 2244, are only a few million years old, while the central cavity in the Rosette Nebula is about 50 light-years in diameter. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three Little Pigs 'too offensive'? WTF?

Now we have to start rewriting our childrens' traditional fairy tales so as not to offend a bunch of people and their own fairy tale beliefs? This is just totally ridiculous. When are rational people just going to jump in here and speak up and say ENOUGH ALREADY!

As bernarda says at GifS "The wimp Brits cave again to multiculturalism." Let's hope we here in the USA don't start doing the same. I think if they start trying to push this stuff here many people would be in favor of inviting them to one big national Pig Roast. LOL!

LINK: A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been turned down by a government agency's awards panel as the subject matter could offend Muslims.

Here are more things that "offend" muslims.

Union Jack

Britain's Union Jack offends Muslim because it is comprised of the heraldic crosses of three Christian Saints: St. George - patron saint of England since 1270, St. Andrew - patron saint of Scotland and St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

British banks are banning piggy banks because they may offend some Muslims. Halifax and NatWest banks have led the move to scrap the time-honoured symbol of saving from being given to children or used in their advertising, the Daily Express/Daily Star group reports here.

Winnie The Pooh

Politicians in British West Midlands banned the display of toy pigs and other pig-related items in municipal offices as a result of a single complaint from a Muslim. Among the banned items were piggy banks, novelty pig calendars and a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.

Porcelain Salt & Pepper

Police in central England seized a collection of porcelain pigs from a house's window sill after Muslims complained that they were offensive.

BLT Sandwocj

In Orlando, Florida, a Christian employee of a business owned by a Muslim was fired for eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

Three Little Pigs

Some British schools have also removed or restricted the following 'anti-Muslim' children's books...
The Three Little Pigs, Charlottes Web, Babe:The Sheep-pig, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Olivia Saves the Circus, Animal Farm."

Crusader Pig

Crusader Pig

Enough Said

From Davidstuff


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A Global Celebration

"Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born on in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin -- the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor. More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.

The Darwin Day Celebration website provides resources and publicity for individuals and institutions across the world to celebrate science and humanity every year, on, or near, February 12, Darwin's birthday. In addition to information about the life and legacy of Charles Darwin, this website provides practical examples, advice and templates for organizing and publicizing Darwin Day events. It also provides a directory of events where you can find celebrations taking place near you or register your own event for others to find.

Recognizing science as an international language accessible to all individuals and societies, the Darwin Day Celebration provides a new global holiday that transcends separate nationalities and cultures. Darwin Day can be celebrated in many different ways: civic ceremonies with official proclamations, educational symposia, birthday parties, art shows, book discussions, lobby days, games, protests, and dinner parties. Organizers may include: academic societies, science organizations, freethought groups, religious congregations, libraries, museums, galleries, teachers and students, families and friends. In Darwin Day, we are able to recognize the diversity among us, while celebrating our common humanity and the universal understanding we share.

Click here for more on Charles Darwin as the symbol for a global celebration of science and humanity."

It’s like I said . . .

Mel did it for the money and is a liar. Mel didn’t make the “Passion” for the luv of Jesus. Mel found a group of suckers who he could take advantage of and they all fell for it. The sadder part is many Christians probably don’t care as long as their violent, bloody story was told.

Screenwriter sues Mel Gibson over payments for ‘Passion of the Christ’ script

LOS ANGELES - A screenwriter sued Mel Gibson and his production company on Monday, claiming he was misled by the actor-director into accepting a small payment for writing “The Passion of the Christ,” and was refused extra money when the film became a blockbuster
Benedict Fitzgerald claimed that when he was asked to write a script about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Gibson told him the movie would cost between $4 million to $7 million, according to the lawsuit filed in Superior Court. Fitzgerald also alleged Gibson promised he wouldn’t receive any money from the film and any profit would be distributed to people who worked on the movie.

Gibson stated he didn’t want “money on the back of what he considered a personal gift to his (Roman Catholic) faith,” the lawsuit said.

Fitzgerald, who shared screenwriting credits with Gibson, claimed he agreed to a “a salary substantially less than what he would have taken had he known the true budget for the film,” which the lawsuit claimed had an estimated budget of $25 million to $50 million. The 2004 movie went on to gross several hundred million dollars.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify how much Fitzgerald was paid for his services.

An after-hours call to Gibson’s publicist was not immediately returned.

The suit claims fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified damages. It also names Gibson’s Icon Productions company as a defendant.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looks like fireflies

Click on image to enlargeAbell 2218: A Galaxy Cluster Lens
Credit: Andrew Fruchter (STScI) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation: Gravity can bend light, allowing huge clusters of galaxies to act as telescopes. Almost all of the bright objects in this Hubble Space Telescope image are galaxies in the cluster known as Abell 2218. The cluster is so massive and so compact that its gravity bends and focuses the light from galaxies that lie behind it. As a result, multiple images of these background galaxies are distorted into long faint arcs -- a simple lensing effect analogous to viewing distant street lamps through a glass of wine. The cluster of galaxies Abell 2218 is itself about three billion light-years away in the northern constellation of the Dragon (Draco). The power of this massive cluster telescope has allowed astronomers to detect a galaxy at redshift 5.58, the most distant galaxy yet measured. This young, still-maturing galaxy is faintly visible to the lower right of the cluster core

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New atheist billboards

From FreeThoughtAction For a Rational America. This billboard was placed on I-95 along the New Jersey turnpike. "The point of the billboard is to let nontheistic people, such as atheists and agnostics, know they’re not alone," explained Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

Quote: "With all the endless God talk from preachers and politicians you might think you're the only nonreligious person in America.

Not true! Tens of millions of your fellow Americans are not religious. In fact, the number of secular Americans has doubled over the past ten years while the number of religious Americans has actually dropped. Nonreligious Americans now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons combined."

Then there is this one from Freedom From Religion Foundation:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics, unveiled what is believed to be one of the first nontheistic billboards in Madison, Wisconsin back in October 2007.

And we have just begun to come out of the closet. Atheists and agnostics are no longer hiding in churches, no longer keeping quiet, no longer keeping their "freethinking" to themselves.

As stated at the FreeThought Action site, " Together we can help America evolve into a more rational, less superstitious society."

ADDITION: h/t to vjack at Atheist Revolution for this one . . .

. . . . with a very maddening story attached which demonstrates just what we are up against. While freedom of speech will work in some areas, other areas this freedom is apparently guaranteed only for some, and businesses will go with the lemmings if their profits are threatened.

I am sure down south these billboards m
ight go up in flames. But a lot of people will see them before they are taken down or destroyed by "loving and patriotic" Xians" who have little respect for the par t of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech to ALL people. Eventually, they will have to accept the fact that this is a diverse nation of many beliefs, and the fact that there are many of us who have no beliefs and that it doesn't make us any less American.

Please help support FreeThoughtAction, Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the local atheist organization in your area. Information about donation can be found at these websites.

Saturday funnies

It's annoying when god believers say "I am right and there is nothing you can do or say to change my mind."
click on cartoons to enlarge
and how many times do we hear this one? "I'll pray for you"
Pray for what, exactly . . . pray that I will go to a place called Heaven filled with bunch of self-righteous, annoying people all kissing up to a god whose violent nature can only be appeased by creating a son for himself to be tortured and killed? Sounds more like Hell to me! (People really need to open their minds and read some ancient mythologies . . . a light bulb might go on in their brains.)

The idea of a god who creates people with free will, but hides himself, and then sends them to a place called hell for using that free will is quite absurd .
When god believers who say they will "pray for you" are asked difficult questions, like "where is the evidence for this god?" they recite like robots from their ancient mythology book that is written by flawed humans....and when asked more difficult and shown the absurdity and contradictions of their Bible, they run away, shouting "I'll pray for you!" over their shoulder. What kind of prize do they think they are going to win by telling people this crap? If we do go to hell, they won't know it anyway because they will be too busy being slaves to their Skyboss to even know it . . . so what is it to them what we believe or don't believe? I have said this many times before, it is because the more people they can get to believe, the easier it will be for them to keep deluding themselves.

Atlantis on Pad 39A

Click on image to enlargeImage Credit: NASA, Kim Shiflett

Explanation: An intricate network of lighting plays across the 130 foot high Rotating Service Structure (RSS) in this dramatic night view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. Seen here after rolling back before Thursday's shuttle launch, the RSS provides pre-launch access to the orbiter and its payload. For this mission, STS-122, to the International Space Station, Atlantis' payload is the European Space Agency's Columbus science laboratory. During the mission, three space walks are planned to attach the Columbus lab. Atlantis is expected to dock with the space station today.

Important find for evolutionists

Brazil finds fossil of "missing link" to crocodile

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian paleontologists said on Thursday they had found the fossil of a new species of prehistoric predator that represented a "missing link" to modern-day crocodiles. The well-preserved fossil of Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi, a medium-sized lizard-like predator measuring about 5 1/2 feet (1.7 meters) from head to tail, dates back about 80 million years to the Late Cretaceous period.

"This is scientifically important because the specimen literally is the link between more primitive crocodiles that lived in the era of the dinosaurs 80-85 million years ago and modern species," said paleontologist Ismar de Souza Carvalho of Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi, an agile terrestrial predator of the Peirosauridae family, had different habits from today's crocodiles but it was similar in form and structure despite having longer limbs, scientists said.

The fossil was found near the town of Monte Alto in Sao Paulo state and is named after the place and the local scientist who dug up the fossil in 2004 -- Arruda Campos.

The new species is one of a number of important finds by paleontologists in Brazil and Argentina over the past few years.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

God of the gaps

I don’t normally make a habit of commenting on fundie blogs, but beaj (The Atheist Jew) lured me over to Apparently So. Here is Craig H’s "Seven Arguments for Intelligent Design". Craig and his fundie friends provide an excellent example of how to use the God of the gaps. When they don’t know something, or can’t explain something, they simply say “God did it”.

God of the gaps means:
* There is a gap in scientific knowledge.
* The gap is filled with acts of a god (and therefore also proves, or helps to prove, the existence of said god).

I will leave this here for you to pick over.

Craig writes:

1. The Big Bang has been proven by astronomers. The five proofs spell the word SURGE: S – The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves energy had to have a beginning because there is not an infinite supply. U – The universe is expanding. If so, it had to begin somewhere (and at some point in time). R – Radiation from the Big Bang itself can be observed. This was discovered in 1965. G – Great galaxy seeds. Think of ripples on a pond, radiating out from a stone’s splash. Scientists can measure this in our universe. E – Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Einstein proved that time, space and matter are co-relative. In other words, you can’t have one without the others. From this, the mathematical equation shows a beginning point. The Big Bang proves God exists because the universe had to have a cause. God is that cause. God, on the other hand, is uncaused. (He is outside the time, matter and space of the universe.) That is difficult to grasp, but it means God is eternal. Our choices are either an uncaused universe (which is impossible), or an uncaused creator outside of it. (Which is difficult to understand, but not an impossibility.) God spoke the cosmos into existence and we call that the Big Bang.

2. There are fossils that demonstrate transitional features, but there is not one undisputed fossil in the record that proves macro-evolution. There should be thousands if Darwinian Evolution is true and Darwin himself said so.

3. A mouse trap will not work if you take any of its parts away. Cells function the same way. Someone took a mouse trap and modified it to work without one of its parts to prove this wrong, but it only worked because of intelligent intervention, which is exactly what I believe in the first place. The point here is that lesser parts could not have joined together to form cells. Therefore, cells were designed.

4. Darwin knew nothing of the DNA code when he wrote his theory. We now know that every one of the trillion cells in our bodies has a DNA strand containing a code more complex than an encyclopedia. Never has a complex computer code ever written itself. Only intelligence can write complex code. To me, this is an open and shut case for an intelligent designer.

5. Darwinian Evolutionists basically believe lightning struck the mud and made life. Scientist tried to duplicate this empirically in a lab, but they had to manipulate the atmosphere to the point that life could have never begun to get any results. You don’t hear much about this anymore. Now, some actually say aliens must have brought life here, because they simply have no natural explanation for how life began.

6. Life is so incredibly diverse and complex, the only logical explanation is a remarkable creator. The fine-tuning of the cosmos, the symbiotic relationship of all living things – it boggles the mind to think it is all a freak of nature, or even that natural selection caused it all.

7. Only humans can write songs, books, blogs, stories, and fairy tales. Some monkeys and elephants can express themselves in art, but it pales next to my ability to write this column. Only humans can express their questions about the meaning of life. Only humans can invent complex machinery and technology. Our self-awareness cannot be explained by natural selection or any other natural cause. Clearly, we were created and designed to seek our maker.

So, which designer? Because of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus, the God of the Bible is the clear choice. We can have a faith that is supported by the evidence, not only of the scripture, but also the world around us.

As maggie, a seemingly more educated and open-minded Christian at Craig’s site wrote:

“I will say that I think intelligent design is philosophy masquerading as science”

ID is a belief, a theological philosophy not a science. The lack of scientific knowledge about an unexplained phenomenon does not mean that it is an act of God, but rather that scientific research has not yet found an answer.

And for your amusement, here is episode #7 of The Atheist Experience - Tina on Evolution