Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Holidays!!!

Courtesy of Matt. Thanks for thinking of me buddy. Multi-faith holiday party.

Stop doing what you're told!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Developing a Sense of Place

Knowing that I have a rather limited readership (John, Dann, Kayla, Mitch, Peder...did I miss anyone?) I'm still thinking that you few might be the correct resource for this question. I'm teaching an Environmental Science class at the Red Lake Tribal College. Many of the students seem altogether too disconnected from their surroundings. I don't think this is unique at Red Lake. I think it is ubiquitous among college freshman. I would like to help them, through the class, develop a more complete sense of place. So, the question is: How?

Initially I had planned to develop a "Sense of Place Lab." I still might, but I don't feel like a single lab is going to have any real sort of impact. I'm thinking more along the lines of a semester long project that will get them outside and paying attention to their surroundings. I thought coming up with something would be easy but it's really difficult finding something that will "connect." So, if you have any ideas please post here or shoot me an e-mail.


Wasted click, sorry.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Feeling Small?

You are. This will make you feel even smaller. It's beautiful and humbling...and far cooler than an invisible man in the sky.

I'm back, sort of. Summer is winding down so hopefully I'll have a little more time to post. I know my anxious reader has been waiting.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Homeopathic Christianity.

I realize that it's been a while since I've posted. I'll blame it partly on my being busy, and partly on a high level of stress (although blogging is supposed to help that so it's kind of like a headache preventing sex). Mostly it's because I had a conversation with someone lately regarding my rather aggressive stance against religion. Not the position I take against muslim extremists, or against christians that hate gays, but the position I've taken against her. She is an extremely thoughtful, very level headed individual that doesn't do any of the bad things I've taken to blaming on religion. She supports gay marriage, she's not racist in any way that I can tell, she doesn't think I'm going to hell, and as far as I remember (lots of wine was involved) she supports the teaching of evolution.

She asked me a very simple question.

Why do I care?

Not, why do I care about what the catholic church has done lately? or why do I care about muslims in another country? or even why do I care that gw is an evangelical christian? Those are all easy to answer. But why do I care that she, a truly good hearted person who doesn't participate in or support any of the bullshit that I'm so against and who happens to take comfort in the idea that jesus is real and there is a god calls herself a christian? Why do I care about that?

When you get right down to it, I guess I don't. I can think of discussion points. Does her religious affiliation affect who she votes for? What will she teach her kids about spirituality? What will she teach her kids about me? But none of this is cause for me to change her mind about there being a god. In fact, she is exactly what I want every religious person to become.

I want everyone to be what I call a watered down christian. A "Homeopathic Christian" if you will. This is the christian that lives their life in basically a secular manner. They don't push religion on others, they don't pick and choose bible verses to justify their hatreds, and they don't use religion to get money from gullible people. They accept that the earth is 4-5 billion years old, evolution is a fact, jesus in not coming back, god did not cause nor could he have stopped any tsunami, he also did not magically find them a parking spot, and he doesn't care who's football team wins the superbowl. He is simply a comforting thought that they would rather not question too deeply lest the comfort disappear.

I don't believe that we will ever rid the world of religion. I'm not even sure that I want to. I know that most of my friends and I have spent some serious time contemplating morality, ethics, and religion. Most of the world isn't willing to put that time in. If we strip their religion from them but don't give them a replacement and don't get them to take the time, are we really going to be in a better world? I don't know. I'm not buying in to the fallacy that religion is the basis of morality. It's more that it's the easy version and people are lazy. The easy version will not be replaced with secular humanism. Too much time is invested in coming to the conclusion that this is where you stand.

So I wonder, will my blog, my letters to the editor, or my big mouth do any good? Am I actually hurting my own cause by being so vocal about this stuff? Some days I'm afraid the answer has been yes. I've upset people in discussions many a time. I've even made people cry (unintentionally). I've also received thankyou letters from people. One was hand written and signed only with a first name but thanked me for letting someone know that she was not alone in her thinking and that people with her beliefs actually have a name, deists.

I think in the long run, whether I do some good or some bad, I'll have to keep yapping like I always it's optional.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Congratulations Vermont!

Vermont joins three other states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Iowa) in legalizing gay marriage. I suspect it will be another 10 years before the rest of the country opens their eyes. I wonder who christians will decide to hate next? Nah, I already know.

The atheists.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Healing Touch??? WTF is Healing Touch?

And why is it endorsed by BSU? The CRI (Center for Research and Innovation) is sponsoring a continuing education course for Registered Nurses Healing Touch Level I for only $300. Why would this be acceptable for continuing education of nurses? Can I study the magic and calling continuing education for aquatic biology? I think not.

So, what is healing touch? Well, according to a random Google search that landed me in, oh fuck, it landed me in Wootown, MN, which just happens to be located at the U of M. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! This shit is everywhere. Where are the earmark Nazis now? Anyway, here is what they say healing touch is:

Healing Touch is an "energy therapy" that uses gentle hand techniques thought to help re-pattern the patient’s energy field and accelerate healing of the body, mind, and spirit. Healing Touch is based on the belief that human beings are fields of energy that are in constant interaction with others and the environment. The goal of Healing Touch is to purposefully use the energetic interaction between the Healing Touch practitioner and the patient to restore harmony to the patient’s energy system.
Here is the link if you'd like to suffer through more. Damn, they must have some really top notch research backing this stuff up if it's being studied at the U of M. Oh wait, it was debunked by an 11 year old named Emily Rosa in 1998. And it's still supported by major universities? I suspect the reason is NCCAM. My already low opinion of BSU's academic standards has just gotten lower. At least it's not part of the Biology program.

It might not be all bad. Maybe I can study magic.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jenny McCarthy Body Count.

Though not 100% responsible for each and every non-vaccinated preventable death. Jenny McCarthy has definitely contributed more to the dissemination of vaccine misinformation than anyone I can think of. So, I find it very appropriate to name this body count after her. Thanks Orac.

I really hate you Jenny.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ray Comfort...An Intelligent Person's Nightmare.

I just posted the infamous "Banana" video. Apparently Ray feels that atheists have misrepresented him by removing the coke can from his original video. The reason atheists shortened the video is that it's boring and the relevant portion is the discussion of the banana as the "Atheists Nightmare." I'll post the the whole thing here so that if you really want to suffer through it you can. His argument is ridiculous on so many levels but it is entertaining and relevant to the recent "Purpose of Purpose" talk by Dawkins. So, for all you Ray Comfort fans out there:

Ray, you are an ass clown.

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The Banana Video.

It has come to my attention that there are still people that haven't seen the Ray Comfort "Banana" video. So, for your viewing pleasure.

This video (the Ray and Kirk portion) is not meant to be a joke. This is the guy that wants to debate Dawkins.

Obviously not the original but I like the improvements.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

I Saw Dawkins Too!

Peder has a great post over at Two Gits about his experience during the Dawkins talk last week. I have to agree with his overview. There was not much substance. It was very much a talk presented for the layperson. However, it was entertaining and I don't regret attending. I do regret not knowing that Peder and Nils would be there. Next time guys.

I think Peder describes the Archi-, Archae-, or Arche-, and Neo-purposes more succinctly than Dawkins himself.

For the type of purpose that we can see in nature, the unconscious selections that nature has made through the survival of better adapted individuals and the passing on of their genes, he uses the term “archi-purpose”. The word “archi” being Greek for first or principal, it can also mean the earlier version, so all definitions apply here, I think.

For the type of purpose that we can see in human invention, deliberate creations that were meant to accomplish a goal, he uses the term “neo-purpose”. The word “neo” being Greek for new or recent.
He also poses some questions for Dawkins that he didn't get to ask. Since I doubt he's going to answer them, I thought I'd take a stab at 'em. Just for conversation's sake.

Do we as humans, having subverted archi-purpose, exist outside of natural selection?
Yes, and no. Certainly there are a number of situations in which we are able to avoid natural selection. Sick people that would die without medical care are able to survive and reproduce fairly regularly. However, it seems inevitable that we will run up against something that our technology can't conquer on it's own. We may find that we need to evolve or go extinct. As far as subverting our archi-purposes goes, those may be driving factors in natural selection. Our drive to eat fatty foods no longer serves us well. We are overweight, unhealthy, and die sooner because of the decisions we make based on this particular subversion of purpose. Will it result in less reproduction for those that have the greatest drive to eat high calorie foods? Maybe.

If not, what is the next step in human evolution?
Let me hope that the next step is that those of us that are able to find solace in reason and seek peace (assuming these things have a genetic basis) outbreed those that find it all too easy to murder in the name of imaginary friends (more subversion of purpose). Unfortunately, educated non-religious people seem less willing to reproduce. This really doesn't seem to be helping the cause from the view of natural selection.

If evolution is a scientifically provable, it means we should be able to model or predict future steps in the ladder; what traits will be favored in future human species?
I think that this may be theoretically possible but with very little accuracy. In reality there are just too many factors. I'm running into similar challenges in ecology. We can't even figure out why shallow lakes turn green and you want to know what the next step in human evolution will be? Good luck.

With out sounding like a fan of eugenics, does it look like we are headed in a positive direction? Can we do anything about it?
Ahh, eugenics. It's not a swear word but it sure feels like it. My personal opinion is that approached reasonably some of the ideas behind eugenics are both feasible and beneficial. I may open this can of worms another day. So, are we headed in a positive direction? That depends on what you consider a positive direction. Can we do anything? Yes. Will we? Not likely.

How about other species?
That's a bit broad. Maybe you can be a little more specific (get it?) and we can continue this one later.

Does the potential environmental disaster we are causing equate to any of the mass-extinction events in the earth’s past?
Wow. That's a great question. I would say that currently it's not even close. Will it get there? Well, I don't have a lot of faith in mankind. I don't think we'll stop until it's too late. This is another question that warrants an entire post with much discussion if you're interested. I'll bring friends too.

Just because we are content living within our epoch, where nothing has changed much in our cultural memory, doesn’t mean that things can’t go completely haywire. Assuming we don’t nuke the planet down to molten rock, and even if we do, won’t the earth’s myriad species just adapt with time and move on–with or without us?

How do you deal with theist family members (Nils’s question)?
I'd really have liked to hear how Dawkins responded to this one. I'm struggling with this myself. Some relatives are just fine with the fact that I'm an atheist. Some are worried. Some are upset. None understand it though. I just had a conversation with my mom last night about what an atheist is. I've never discussed it with my dad and doubt that I ever will. It's really varies between people. Let me know when you find a fool proof answer to this one.

It would be fun to continue this conversation if anyone is interested. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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Obama and Science.

So far, so good. It appears that today will be the day that the ban on stem-cell research is lifted. More importantly, Obama appears to be working toward a government that actually considers scientific evidence on science issues. He's going to sign a presidential memorandum that will protect scientific decisions from political (thereby religious) influence. This is definitely a step in the right direction. I expect some serious but veiled resistance from NCCAM, the ID folks, and the climate change denial crowd (are they still a crowd?). Now my question is, does the presidential memorandum have teeth?

Here's to hoping.

More links:

National Post
The Daily Star

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Happy Birthday PZ!

What are the odds that of the 365 days of the year, today is PZ's birthday? And what are the odds that out of the over 70 million blogs out there, I chose to go to Pharyngula today and see that it's his B-day? Let's see, using creationist (AKA John Clayton) math that would be 1 in 365 times 1 in 70,000,000. By god, that's 1 in 25,550,000,000. It must have been god guiding me to his blog on this day. Perhaps I'm the chosen one. Let's try it using regular, plain old, boring, scientific, no magic man in the sky math. 1. That is the probability that I will go to PZ's blog on his birthday and find out about it. It happened. That means it has a probability of 1. Anyway, happy birthday PZ.

52 candles are on your birthday baby eh? I hope it's delicious.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dawkins on MPR.

We're headed to his talk tonight but for those of you that can't attend he was on MPR this morning. Give it a listen here if you have time. Kerri Miller (sp?) was kind enough to interview him. However, she seemed not to be as objective as I'm used to. I think she was offended and was a little bitchy in my opinion. Perhaps someone else should have conducted the interview. Dawkins handled himself well as usual.

Shane is a 6.8.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What if god disappeared?

I've stolen this PZ. I hope he doesn't mind. If he does, I'll buy him a beer tomorrow night.

If you watched that and didn't get the joke, please see Poe's Law.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mr. Darwin, a Gift to You.

Mr. Darwin, as our gift to you the United States of America would like to present this victory for science in a public court. Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! You may not realize how rare an occurrence this is. And to have it happen only days after the wakefield fiasco (here and here) is just the icing on the cake. Your birthday cake. Which I will eat for you if you do not show up to enjoy it.

That pussy Sanjay Gupta commented on the findings with his usual "fair and balanced" approach. Look, if one side is wrong you don't need to give them equal time dude. Stand up for the scientific and medical community (not to mention the evidence). You are supposed to be a doctor. If you were interviewing Hitler and a couple of his youth summer camp attendees, would you make sure he got to state his side of the argument? He really didn't write anything all that bad. He just doesn't have any balls. I suppose he wants to get jenny mcarthy on his show or something.

Please let this be the end of andrew wakefield. Unfortunately, I know it won't be the end of the vaccine debate. Oh well.

Happy birthday Chuck!

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Happy Darwin Day!

So pull out your geek hats for a day and remember how much fun biology can actually be. Or, just check out some of the Darwin Day material on the good old intertubez like this, this, or this.

Unfortunately, I'm out of town and unable to throw a Darwin Party this year. I've been looking and can't find anything going on in the Chicago are either. I guess I'll be celebrating with a well-aged er...highly evolved steak that's way out of my price range. I also plan to watch Dawkins on Darwin and have a few beers in the old fella's honor.

Happy D-Day.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Top Atheist/Agnostic Blogs

Courtesy of Unreasonable Faith. This is mostly for my benefit but take a look if you're interested. I'd like to look through these blogs and see what I'm missing. I've read about half but the rest are new to me. So many words, so little time.

I'll hyperlink them as I check them out (they are linked at unreasonable faith too).

1. Pharyngula
2. Friendly Atheist
3. Cynical-C
4. Debunking Christianity
5. Atheist Media Blog
6. Atheist Eve
7. Atheist Movies
8. Atheist Revolution
9. Bad Astronomy
10. Bad Science
11. By the Book Comics
12. Daylight Atheism
13. Derren Brown’s Blog
14. Dwindling in Unbelief
15. Edward Current
16. Evangelical Realism
17. Greta Christina’s Blog
18. Julia Sweeney
19. Mid-West Humanists
20. Negligible Knowledge Base
21. Religion Comics
22. Richard Dawkins
23. SkepChick
24. Skeptic Blog
25. Skeptico
26. Slacktivist
27. Panda’s Thumb
28. Primordial Blog
29. Why Won’t God Heal Amputees Blog
30. William Lobell

I need a loyal following like PZ has to read these for me and forward the good stuff.

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All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dysfunctional Serial Killer?

Not necessarily. But this article in Scientific American reminds us of the importance of "free play." I think it might be important for adults too. I think it also indirectly points to the importance of siblings. I can't count how many "only children" I know that have social issues, including myself. I think I've become more of normal (whatever that means) social creature but I'm certain that the lack of constant contact, disputes, and resolutions with siblings resulted in some of my past social ineptitude. I certainly had plenty of time for free play though. In fact, most of my early childhood memories are of free play. Climbing trees, pretending to be superheroes, challenging my cousins to cross the river on logs, and other outdoor adventures come to mind.

According to the article:

“Free play,” as scientists call it, is critical for becoming socially adept, coping with stress and building cognitive skills such as problem solving.
It makes intuitive sense. In an organized sport, there is generally an adult in control. Rules exist before we even show up. And everyone already knows what they are there to do, except that one weird kid that was always there (I think that may have been me at least some of the time).

In free play, especially with little supervision, there are no rules except those that are laid out as play progresses by the players. This seems rather important. With no particular authority figure setting the rules up, kids have to learn to organize the rules themselves. They learn through interaction what kind of behavior is appropriate and what isn't. If one kid is too pushy or too bossy, they aren't very likely to be invited to play next time. Hopefully, they learn from this. If one is too timid, they might not have any fun and in theory would learn from this as well.

Creativity is certainly nurtured during free play far more than during organized play as well. You get to be whatever or whoever you want during free play. Development of useful manipulative social skills comes in during free play quite often. If you want to play fairies and I want to play GI Joe (or vice versa) you'll need to convince me to play your game instead of mine. Or, maybe the two of us will agree to play each other's games as an exchange, thereby learning to share. Of course, we're learning to share because it will get us something in return instead of "just to be nice" but as adults, whether we admit it or not, that generally is why people share. That's a discussion for another time.

Here is some more info on free play.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The latest holocaust denier bullshit.

Apparently the vatican has demanded that this statement by Richard Williamson be recanted. It's good to see the catholic church doing something right. No Rant...don't have time.

No mas.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm back.

What? You didn't even miss me? I've been in Guatemala for a month and no one even noticed? Hmm...perhaps my blog is not as widely read as I thought. Unfortunately, I'm still playing catch-up at work and in life so I won't be blogging much for the next week or so. Here's a quick recap:

Guatemala rocked, except the chu chos (feral dogs) and the shits (shits). I'll do a more comprehensive post later. I watched The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou this week...twice (I probably shouldn't admit this while I'm claiming I don't have time to write). This is one of the best films I've ever seen. I can't explain it. Just watch it. You'll probably hate me. I'm strangely ok with that. Oh, and Obama is our new Prez! I missed the inauguration because I was on a 12 hour bus ride across Guatemala but I'll be here for the next 8 years, which will be important part. I'll be back soon. Hold your breath.

No mas.

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