For Those Who Haven’t Seen This…


Still Alive


Yeah, I’m still out here. I know I haven’t posted in a bit. There are some good reasons, though.

First off, I was sick during the early part of last week. That was less than fun.

Second, my mom was in town after that and only left yesterday. Yes, I’m using my mother as an excuse for not blogging. Hi, mom!

Lastly, my new job starts tomorrow at 8:00 AM. So that’s been on my mind. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Once that new job starts, I’m not entirely sure what my blogging patterns will be like. We shall see.

We Live in a World Where This Exists…


Also, I’m terribly sick, and even typing this has made my brain hurt a bit. Back to bed!

Oh, Deepak…


So Deepak Chopra has weighed-in on atheism. He does make a few good points about religion in general, and belief.

If belief in God can’t stand up to proof, it won’t sustain a person through difficult times.

And…

What’s not rewarding is to base your belief or unbelief on secondhand opinion. Being a knee-jerk skeptic is as limiting as being a knee-jerk fundamentalist. In both cases, the mind is being conditioned by others.

This is absolutely correct, for a given definition of “secondhand opinion”. If someone who is an astrophysicist says there is probably no god, and certainly no proof for god, and I leave it at that, then I’m taking them at their opinion. If, on the other hand, they subsequently produce peer-reviewed documents backing up their position, and are willing to change that position when new information is produced, then that’s a very different thing.

But overall, ok, not horrible. Here’s what I roll my eyes at.

Atheism can do good by casting a skeptical light on cultural mythologies, but believing in nothing but the material world is cold comfort.

It is? I’m quite happy believing in only the material world. It’s the only one I have any reason to believe exists. I take a great deal of comfort in the idea that this life is all that I get, and so I’d best make the most of it.

Strong-minded, vocal atheists claim that God isn’t science and science isn’t God. But the implication that faith is irrational and only science knows the truth has no basis in fact.

“Science” doesn’t know everything, or indeed, anything. Science is a method, a way of accumulating, processing and using data to draw conclusions based on evidence. This is like saying, “Only baking knows the truth of food.” That’s just…bizarre.

What he’s trying to do is say that belief in something that cannot be proven and has, to coin a phrase, “no basis in fact” is also a valid way of perceiving the universe. It’s his way, sure, and perhaps valid in some ways, but certainly not, you know, accurate.

Some studies indicate that scientists actually go to church more than the general population.

[citation needed]

I can sort-of agree with what he ends with.

I feel for people who get stuck in any belief system, including rigid skepticism. They are signing up for the suppression of curiosity. As painful as it may be to question the faith you were brought up in, it’s worse to be stuck. The human story is about growth and evolution. That will remain true no matter who shouts loudest about God or the absence of God.

But you know…I’m skeptical about pretty much everything at first. Once I have a bit more information, and sometimes not even very much, if it’s from a source I trust, I go with it. My skepticism over many things isn’t hard to overcome.

The last two sentences are basically very true, though it is worth noting that while atheists might “shout” about the absence of God, we do so because our shout is a mere whisper compared with the god-obsessed society we live in. Also, I don’t know any atheist, and have never met any atheist, who would pass restrictive and oppressive legislation against people simply because they believe in God. That is certainly not a given when it’s coming from the other side.

How to Handle Indiana


So the other day, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R…but you know that, of course), signed a very stupid bill into law. Basically it says that if someone has a discrimination suit filed against them, they can use their religious beliefs as a defense. This means that if a gay couple is getting married and a florist refuses to sell them flowers because the florist hates money the florist’s religion hates gay people, then they may well be able to get away with it.

There has been much hand wringing and discussion over how to deal with this. My personal method? Ignore it and wait for it to implode on its own, which it will.

First off, I’m not 100% sure of the Constitutionality of this law. The Equal Protection Clause seems to potentially be a problem.

Second, just you wait. Just you wait until the first time someone refuses service to a black person, because their religion forbids mixing of the races. Or refuses service to a Jewish person because, c’mon, they’re Jews. Or imagine a Muslim refusing to sell things to a Christian. Hey, under this law, they can all get away with that, right?

Or suppose our money-hating florist up above (seriously! What kind of idiot turns down gay wedding flower money?), decides that he also hates mixed-race marriages, and won’t cater to people in that situation. Or mixed-religion marriages.

Don’t think any of this applies to you? Don’t think that any of this is realistically likely? Think again, because once the door is open to this kind of discrimination in any form, it’s open to it in all forms. It can and will apply to you and everyone else.

I know some people believe religious freedom should trump all, but please understand: once you decide to do business in the public square, you surrender certain amounts of freedom to do so, including religious freedom. You are not allowed to pick and choose to whom you will sell your flowers, or your wedding cakes, or whatever else. Don’t like it? Tough shit. Close down your business or sell it off. The Bible doesn’t require you to be making money, after all, and wealth was certainly something Jesus seemed to frown on.

So for those who are against this law, just wait. The courts and the far more ancient Law of Unintended Consequences will take it down.

A Viral Viral Video


This is a very good, very informative video. My only regret is that he didn’t cite a lot of examples, but I’m sure if you’ve spent more than fifteen seconds on the internet, you can think of a few.

Sci Transit Terry Pratchett – 1948 – 2015


AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

This one hurts.

I’ve written obituary articles on here for people like Leonard Nimoy, Elisabeth Sladen and Roger Ebert. And while all were important to me in certain special ways, none were quite as important, quite as interesting, and quite as enjoyable as Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett was born in the UK in 1948. From an early age he’d wanted to be a writer, and his first story was published when he was thirteen. Not bad. From there he drifted into a career in journalism, and eventually wound up as Press Officer for the Central Power Generating Board, which covered three nuclear power plants; something he found very amusing in the wake of the incident at Three Mile Island.

Things changed dramatically for Pratchett’s life in 1983 when he sold The Colour of Magic; the first of what would end up being forty books in the Discworld series. It wasn’t the best of his works, as he himself would later admit, but it was the start of something greater.

Pratchett’s writing career really took off with the publication of Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Not long after that, the Discworld novels took a turn with one of the best books in the series; Small Gods. It was around this time that he did the math and realized it was now costing him money to go to work, so he left the nuclear industry to write full-time.

And write he did! In addition to the forty main range Discworld novels, he also wrote Nation, a book about a young boy and a young girl trying to survive and rebuild a society on an island devastated by a tidal wave. There was also Dodger, a story about a sewer rat in Victorian London and how he rises up into the world. There were also other small series of books, like the Truckers series, and the Johnny books. He even ventured into non-fiction with The Science of Discworld and its sequels, as well as A Slip of the Keyboard.

In 2007, Pratchett’s world took a bit of a turn, when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was not a happy thing, to put it mildly, but he took it in stride, describing it as an “embuggerance”, and working hard to help Alzheimer’s patients throughout the UK and the world. It was an odd form of the disease, which left him with his memory, but severely impaired his motor skills. He also became an advocate for the “right to die” movement in the UK and worldwide.

I was fortunate enough to meet Pratchett twice. First was at a book signing in Seattle, where he talked about his love of Seattle’s chowder, and his record for the amount of time from landing at Sea-Tac to having his first bowl of that visit at Pike Place Market (something like an hour, which is fairly impressive).

The second time was here in Phoenix a couple of years ago. It was long after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, and it was clear that he wasn’t quite as vibrant and lively as he had been. Still, he related a story of getting his knighthood, which involved meeting the Queen. He said that while in Buckingham Palace, he’d noticed that the Queen and his own mother were about the same age and same build. He mentioned that he wanted to see if he could find the light switch and pull-off a bit of a swap.

One of my favorite quotes from Pratchett was this, “”It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.” I can think of few better statements about the man and his writing. He will be severely missed.

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