The story just broke recently where it turns out congressman Pete Stark doesn’t believe in god.

It’s about time. The majority of presidents lately have been christian, and the last Unitarian president I can recall is President Taft. I don’t think there has been a high ranking “infidel” (agnostic/atheist) since President Abraham Lincoln.

I hope this helps push more non-believing congressmen to feel comfortable coming forward and announcing their true beliefs. Statistically Atheists are 14% of the population (29.4 million as of 2001 by the American Religious Identification Survey), so it would make sense that proportionately there may be as many as 74-75 agnostic/atheists in congress (534 seats -house and senate- multiplied by 0.14)…

I think this sort of reveal could go a long way towards helping change the current American views on Atheism… Yes, atheists are the most hated and distrusted minority in the country, and we are considered by many to be a greater threat to America than terrorists.

Every study ever conducted on the subject has demonstrated that atheists/agnostics are actually among the most moral, upstanding people in a society (by far the lowest rates of crime/murder/rape, violence, teen pregnancy, abortion, stds, divorce, and other social problems).

This blog may be a bit rushed, but the point is that this may finally help push religious people to become more tolerant of the non-religious. Maybe then the non-believers won’t be so openly discriminated against.

And maybe, just maybe, we can follow the founding father’s ideals of keeping a high wall of separation between church and state.

Mike

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I’m sure many of you have already heard the story about James Cameron producing a documentary where they investigate a tomb uncovered in 1980 which some suspect housed the body of Jesus and his family (including his mother Mary, wife Mary Magdalene, son Judah, and Mathew – there are apparently 5 other coffins in a neighboring tomb yet to be identified). According to the film-makers this is supposed to be a celebration of the life of a great man, however christians have already begun a public outry, declaring that the film-makers are attempting to undermine christianity.

To be fair, if Jesus didn’t resurrect the game is over, that’s the core tenant of the christian faith – it’s understandable they’d be upset… IF the documentary made a good point. But we don’t know yet what points it makes! Of course we only know very little about the documentary, but this hasn’t stopped christians and alleged bible scholars from attacking it head on.

Yes this is an old find (1980), and one which has been covered before 11 years ago with a BBC documentary which proved ill-researched and not particularly well founded in science, archeology, or anything of that nature. Yet allegedly there is new evidence and new arguments to be made on this site.

And this is the key point. They claim to have enough new evidence to propose that makes this tomb worth investigating again. By all accounts this won’t be a retread of the defeated BBC documentary, but something challenging and new. Cameron assures us, “It doesn’t get bigger than this. We’ve done our homework; we’ve made the case; and now it’s time for the debate to begin.”

Of course already christians are trying to combat this, before the documentary has come out or even been seen by them. If you are an intelligent individual this should raise some red flags for you. If they haven’t seen this documentary, then how can they know all the claims forwarded and effectively combat them?

The answer is simple: They can’t. They’re making this shit up in a preemptive manner to discredit the documentary any way they can. Or they’re relying on what they do know of the Tomb to try and (mistakenly?) predict what the arguments will be and discredit those.

Bold words to be sure, but very probably true – the church does have a long and illustrious history of smear campaigns, misinformation, distortion of evidence, and so on… They are exceedingly efficient at it, the complete lack of understanding for evolution and the perpetuating of misconceptions being just one glaring example.

I will say this: Reading a book by its cover is the province of fools and the ignorant. If going in with an open mind will challenge your faith, then you seriously need to re-evaluate your faith.

Forgive me if I sound harsh, but these people are essentially laying a verdict on a movie before it’s release (with no pre-screenings either) or trying to debunk an argument that’s not even yet been forwarded. It is, in concept, utterly absurd.

As I’ve said before, religion thrives on misconception. To repeat a quote of mine that became popular among my debate team, “christian churches are made of straw” – of course referring to the Straw Man Fallacy (also known as the “Fallacy of extension.” And this seems to be what many of these religious scholars are actively doing. Misconceptions are already abound, spreading like wildfire among those who are committing much the same fallacy and not realizing that their concerns are apparently going to be specifically addressed. These misconceptions are as follows:

1. Those were all common names at the time – so what? It’s probably coincidence.

From what little has been revealed, the answer lies in probability. It turns out that those names weren’t as common as expected and when you factor in the specific combination it becomes much less probable. Andrey Feuerverger (professor of statistics and mathematics) recently did a statistical analysis based on how often each name appears during that time period, its frequency, and to be conservative he allowed for the possibility of the name being more frequent than we know. Even then the odds of all five of those names being together is at least 600 to 1 against. That means the probability of this being the correct tomb and not sheer coincidence is a surprising 99.84%!

Let me repeat that, the statistical odds of this being more than coincidence are 99.84%. Something of course glossed over (or somehow missed?) by those attacking the film.

2. What are they going to do with DNA testing? There’s nothing to test!

They are using DNA testing to examine the family relationship and see who is directly related to who. We know that they’ve determined Jesus and the one thought to be Mary Magdalene are not related – which indicates they’re a couple if not spousal. It should go without saying that this alone really changes the odds of this being coincidence with all things considered. They are not using DNA tests to compare with living persons, the shroud of Turin or other such farcical things…

Now I am not staunchly defending the documentary, nor am I taking a particular stand in either direction at the moment. What I am suggesting and really advising is that people hold off until they see the damn documentary before they go making arguments.

Personally I don’t necessarily agree with the ideas being forwarded (I’m rather of the opinion that he never existed, not even as a mortal human), but I am willing to go in with an open mind and see the evidence presented and make assessments based on that.

I encourage others to similarly wait, see what the arguments and evidence are, and THEN make your decisions.

For more information, please refer to these (mostly) unbiased articles:

Discovery’s article on the subject:
James Cameron discusses the film:

Here’s an example as to how journalists are falling into the trap of letting their personal believes affect the way they write and portray the story, look at this (note the absence of documentary claims but focus on the counterarguments):

Yahoo News article:

Or if you really want to see the bad, look to Fox News.

Again the whole point is to not jump to conclusions and listen to the morons defending faith without even seeing the damn thing. It may be easily falsifiable, but wait and find out.

Yours in reason,

Mike

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Evidently “some people say” that the Nintendo DS leads to child molestation… Ha!

You can see their actual report here.

Essentially their story goes like this:

– You are driving your child around and he or she is playing their DS. Fair enough.

– A pedophile or child molestor is driving on the highway near enough to you to glance over and scan your car for children. He sees your child playing a Nintendo DS. (improbable, but ok..)

– The child molester then whips out his DS and, while driving, begins pictochat to see if he can find your kid on pictochat. (Using a DS while driving would be a very difficult thing to do, especially pictochat which tends to require both hands – one to hold it and one to use the stylus).

– Your kid isn’t playing a game but is instead sitting already in pictochat mode for some unexplicable reason and just waiting for some random shmuck (who’s steering with his mental willpower at this point) to message him/her.

– When your kid gets the message he/she accepts the messages and the child molester uses his Jedi mind tricks to get the kid to tell him the address. “You want to tell me where you live.” (Again, the odds of a kid giving up his address so readily is very improbable. And a kid gullible enough to do it wouldn’t even know the address.)

– The pedophile writes down the address (balancing the DS and paper pad while writing and driving the car), seeks it out, breaks in and rapes the kid.

Uh huh, great job Fox.

This would be a great case study in sensationalist garbage.

The kid already has to be on pictochat (on the freeway which is very unlikely) and waiting for someone to message him for this to work. Most kids play games on the DS, it’s not really seen as a communication device among children except for friends and neighbors. Also it’s not like they’d have the sense to be quiet about it if they’re dumb enough to give away their address. They wouldn’t be at the age where they’d keep secrets from mommy because some random stranger said to. Plus, pedos are far more likely to reach kids online through IMs…

Just to address a comment in the report:

Granted they knew it was me sending the messages but they had only met me minutes before.

Really sherlock? I’m sure the fact that you were invited into their home, trusted by the mother, and already AT their address helped that. Oh and the fact that you’re a well known news figure and a trusted authority source was another factor playing into that. With the questions he was asking they probably thought it was a demonstration or test of the communication capabilities, not a way to test child readiness to divulge their address to strangers.

And wow, the DS can send a message more than 300′ away while they advertise only 65 feet, those must be evil deceptive bastards! Of course it’s probably fair to assume that the 65 feet is the range for the worst conditions and it’s safer to underpromise on this sort of thing, but how dare they allow such a long distance for gameplaying? I think that’s actually awesome and opens great possibility for multiplayer (what everyone really uses the wifi for).

Beyond that there’s the usual shallow propaganda techniques Fox is known for. It’s remarkable the kind of stories they will run know… are they just low on ideas?

Mike

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I just read this News story about this young woman who was raped and called the police. They responded to help her and found out she had an outstanding (very old) arrest warrant so they threw her in prison instead. The worst part is that a jail employee refused to give her the proper morning-after-pill within the right time frame in order to ensure she gets pregnant because of his religious convictions.

As messed up as it is for the cops to arrest her immediately after being raped for some old charge (they could have helped her and then arrested her at a later date once the rape had been resolved), and despite all the extra weight this is going to heave on top of the already significant emotional and psychological damage the poor woman is going through, people working the jail prevented her from taking a doctor recommended (and standard issue in rape cases) morning after pill.

I do not know wordpress’s regulations on cursing, but I have to say that’s fucked.

When people sometimes ask me, “Why should you even care about religion and what other people believe? Just ignore it.” my response is usually, “I can ignore their belief, but I can’t ignore or allow the idiocy and behavior that stems from their belief.” And this is a perfect case in point.

This man tried to ensure the rape victim would become pregnant from a rape because of his religion conviction. He is trying to force his own beliefs on the shattered victim of a traumatizing event. He obviously doesn’t care about the harm this would cause to her and everyone she’s connected with, he doesn’t care about the legal ramifications, he just wants the mandate from his ancient literature mythology to be carried out.

THIS is the problem I have with christians, they adamantly try to force you to live by their way, and their archaic sense of purpose that is wholly incompatible with modern society and life. How can this idiot think he has the right to force that fate upon a young woman he’s never met?

Of course the rape may not bother him since the bible actually promotes rape and gives instructions on how to kidnap a woman and force her to be your wife (I will provide bible passages if you doubt this). According to the bible, rape and murder and such are fine – just don’t interfere with conception.

I may be crude or sound hypocritical for this, but this man needs to be pulled out and beaten for his incompatibility to exist within human rights and the law.

At the very least the bastard should be fired.

I’m wondering if anybody else has comments on the issue?

Mike

As someone with a science background I tend to be quite skeptical of most claims, but this article is nevertheless unnerving.

Global warming: the final verdict

A study by the world’s leading experts says global warming will happen faster and be more devastating than previously thought

Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday January 21, 2007
The Observer

Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms – like the ones that battered Britain last week – will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.

‘The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document – that’s what makes it so scary,’ said one senior UK climate expert.

Climate concerns are likely to dominate international politics next month. President Bush is to make the issue a part of his state of the union address on Wednesday while the IPCC report’s final version is set for release on 2 February in a set of global news conferences.

Although the final wording of the report is still being worked on, the draft indicates that scientists now have their clearest idea so far about future climate changes, as well as about recent events. It points out that:

· 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;

· ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;

· glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;

· sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;

· cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

And the cause is clear, say the authors: ‘It is very likely that [man-made] greenhouse gas increases caused most of the average temperature increases since the mid-20th century,’ says the report.

To date, these changes have caused global temperatures to rise by 0.6C. The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an inevitable consequence.

Past assessments by the IPCC have suggested such scenarios are ‘likely’ to occur this century. Its latest report, based on sophisticated computer models and more detailed observations of snow cover loss, sea level rises and the spread of deserts, is far more robust and confident. Now the panel writes of changes as ‘extremely likely’ and ‘almost certain’.

And in a specific rebuff to sceptics who still argue natural variation in the Sun’s output is the real cause of climate change, the panel says mankind’s industrial emissions have had five times more effect on the climate than any fluctuations in solar radiation. We are the masters of our own destruction, in short.

There is some comfort, however. The panel believes the Gulf Stream will go on bathing Britain with its warm waters for the next 100 years. Some researchers have said it could be disrupted by cold waters pouring off Greenland’s melting ice sheets, plunging western Europe into a mini Ice Age, as depicted in the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

The report reflects climate scientists’ growing fears that Earth is nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible change to the planet. ‘We are seeing vast sections of Antarctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate,’ said climate expert Chris Rapley, in a phone call to The Observer from the Antarctic Peninsula last week. ‘That means we can expect to see sea levels rise at about a metre a century from now on – and that will have devastating consequences.’

However, there is still hope, said Peter Cox of Exeter University. ‘We are like alcoholics who have got as far as admitting there is a problem. It is a start. Now we have got to start drying out – which means reducing our carbon output.’

If it’s indeed true that this report was compiled by a wide array of scientists with all manner of different viewpoints, then this could be the most unbiased and accurate account of the possible dangers. It’s certainly worth considering. So far there seems to be a mountain of evidence in support global warming. The arguments against it seem soundly refuted from what I’ve seen and read, and the Michael Crichton novel (which probably deserves its own blog) has similarly been debunked as the fiction it is.

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist I’m starting to think we really should do something about this before it winds up being too late. It is better safe than sorry, and it definitely would be nice to clean up our act a bit and get some fresher air.

– Mike

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Well, as if the wiretapping wasn’t bad enough… Evidently President Bush quietly added a signing statement to a recent postal reform bill which grants him the authority to open American mail without a judge issued search warrant. This naturally flies in the face of every existing law and judicial precedent on the matter and contradicts the very bill itself which specifically reinforces the protections against unwarranted search and seizures.

Now this is an extension of presidential power that gives him leverage to violate some of our rights prescribed by the constitution. That he used “exigent circumstances” troubles me a bit, that’s a broad and vague requirement and open to any manner of interpretation. Basically it’s like saying he can look at our mail whenever the situation demands it… He can construe this to basically mean “anytime” seeing as the threat of terrorism is ever-present and we are locked in an unwinnable war against a concept.

Why does this bug me? Because I know my history, and I know this exact pattern has been seen before. The threat of terrorism and attack has been used before to justify the invasion of privacy and rights, and the often seen “If you have nothing to fear then you have nothing to hide” defense (which is actually a fallacy of the false dichotomy by the way) has been used before… Few people are alive who remember it, but it was a very common defense in 1938 Nazi Germany… Yes, it’s important to remember that Hitler was elected to power and he slowly dismantled the democracy in the interest of national security by doing many of the same political maneuvering that the US is doing now. The Nazis began giving themselves more power and invading the privacy and infringing on the rights of the citizens more and more wielding the defense of protection and security.

I’m not necessarily likening Bush to Hitler, but I am using the example to illustrate how important it is that we are aware of the possible dangers with granting the president power to void our rights or break the law in the interest of “national security.”

In any case, I hope nobody takes their rights for granted and will actively defend them against those who’d like to take them away.

Mike

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Since there are so many conspiracy theories out there I feel almost obligated to forward another one, one that’s so ridiculous that people will HAVE to believe it. The conspiracy is simple: Saddam Hussein wasn’t really executed, it was all staged.

Of course why would they do such a thing? Well, motives aren’t all that important to conspiracy theories, so let’s just say it was some evil corporation exerting political influence and pulling strings. Let’s go with Microsoft. No, that’s too cliche and expected… given some of the negative publicity for battery explosions let’s go with Sony. Sony sounds about right.

Did I mention recent investigation revealed that the Sony battery explosions were really an elaborate terrorist plot from Iraqis to harm businessmen and boil desktop surfaces? It’s all true – why would I make it up?

On to the alleged hanging of Saddam Hussein. I had a panel of top experts examine the video and they came to some stunning conclusions. They determined that a 69 year old dictator would not have the remaining muscle strength to jerk about as he did, that the muscle reflex behaviors would be impossible for anybody over the age of 30. They also believe that he could not have landed in his own footprints without external assistance. Some point out that the death was too quick considering Saddam had such a fat neck.

It must have been an imposter – a dedicated young man probably around the age of 25… No he was 16 – that way it sounds more dramatic and messed up!

Ted Bradley, a reputable agent and disguise analyst of the CIA (using an undercover name), says that the beard the Saddam imposter wore easily obscured his face and made it easy for most, less discerning people, to know who was actually being hung.

“The beard is an old disguise,” Bradley told us, “it’s a cheap and easy way to hide your face and real identity. However in this case our analysis indicates that the jawline, beard growth, and general face structure is inconsistent with our records of Saddam Hussein.”

“There was no hanging on Saturday morning”, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Information Minister, told authories, “There hasn’t been a hanging here since the American invasion when the US soldiers hung themselves in droves.”

“I can give you the utmost assurances that mister Hussein is not only among the living, but he is in better shape than he ever has been.” The information minister continued, “He is being secretly moved away somewhere and inside sources say he may become a cab driver.”

And here’s where it all ties together: The whole event was filmed by a Sony HD camera! Sony is using this staged death for incredible publicity (everyone in the world will know that a Sony camera was used to capture the last moments of the dictator) and a chance to bolster the sales of their HD-TVs and Blu-Ray format by offering special “Saddam Bundles of Death” where you get a copy of the video in Hi-def for free with any purchase!

Some experts are now suggesting that Saddam is largely responsible for Global Warming as well as the Bird Flu and they believe action must be taken to force the Bush administration to unmask the truth and kill the real Saddam before they unwittingly unleash catastrophes and destruction on humanity and the planet.

Calling the white house number yielded no results as Bush was either unwilling to comment or was just plain busy. However some sources inform us that Bush doesn’t even know how to operate a phone, rendering that line of inquiry fruitless.

Anyway, the hanging of Saddam was obviously a conspiracy by the government working in conjunction with Sony to sell more HD-TVs.

They can’t stop the signal,
-Mike

Disclaimer: If you couldn’t tell this whole thing was facetious and not to be taken seriously whatsoever. Sony isn’t in league with terrorists, there was no panel of experts who reviewed the tape, Saddam is most assuredly dead, I’m not really trying to cause trouble just to poke fun at conspiracy theories in general. I do think a few of the conspiracy theories are pluasible, but this one is definitely a made up and a farce.

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