Is posting a Monday funny ok with everyone? I haven’t posted in so long, words… um…. you get the idea.
I can’t even get this video to embed. But it’s worth the click.
You know those bus ads in Britain that say, “There probably is no God”? Well, they are coming to Toronto and at least one evangelical leader is pretty pissed. The Globe and Mail reports the following, quite revealing, quote:
On the surface, I’m all for free speech. … However, though, these are attack ads,” Dr. McVety, president of Canada Christian College in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday.
Well, that’s the problem with surfaces, isn’t it? They’re so… shallow, so… damn superficial!
And does it strike anyone else as odd that to suggest something/someone doesn’t exist should be taken as such an afront? Let’s try replacing “God” with some other terms to highlight this curiousty:
Me: Your mother probably doesn’t exist.
You: Dude, what are you talking about, I just talked to her on the phone like two minutes ago.
Me: Oh, nevermind.
Me: Your car probably doesn’t exist.
You: What? I don’t even own a car.
Me: Um… yeah, that’s what I meant.
Me: Republicanism probably doesn’t exist.
You: NOOOOOOOO! You bastard! Stop attacking me!!!
Britain’s Ad-Board is apparently dodging their responsibility to create clear and accurate standards on the question of God’s existence. We will not be getting a definitive response on whether the claim that “God probably does not exist” is a factually true or false claim. According to the BBC:
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it would not be further investigating any complaints about the campaign, which was launched on British buses and the London Underground on the 6 January.
Although the watchdog acknowledged the content of the campaign would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause “serious or widespread offence”.
I’d really hoped we could put this whole question behind us — but alas, perhaps someday a better, more concerned, advertising board will take up this important question and settle the problem forever.
The mistakes W made don’t bother me much. They probably should, but they don’t. I’m not exactly sure why. I guess in general I’m a forward-, not backward-, looking sort of guy. I don’t spend much time blaming people and then getting upset about the people I’ve blamed. What bothers me about W, though, is that even with a 25% approval rating, 75 million Americans approve of the job he’s done — and worst of all, he hasn’t seemed to learn a thing.
In his farewell address W said, “Good and evil are present in the world, and between the two there can be no compromise.” Really? Is that still the way he sees things? Is he incapable of learning lessons from the past? Or maybe he didn’t pay close enough attention — maybe he wasn’t enough in the loop. Perhaps Nora Ephron is right to ask these few pointed questions:
- Who exactly was running the country these last eight years?
- What did the President know, if anything, and when did he know it, if ever?
- Was he capable in any way of even one sleepless night, much less the ongoing insomnia that any sentient person would suffer after so many wrong decisions and pointless deaths?
- Did he mispronounce the word “nuclear” 1) on purpose, in order to make himself seem folksy 2) because he actually thought he was pronouncing it correctly or 3) just to piss us off?
Well, regardless of what he knew (if anything), W’s worldview remains intact (or he desperately clings to it as if it is), in black and white — no grey — not even a hint of mulatto. He can tell what the “good” is. He’s ready to judge what is “evil.” And no matter what, “There can be no compromise” — I guess that means never, and it means in no possible way, forget it, it’s over — put a bullet in it.
Us or them. In or out. That is how he sees the world. You are with us, or you are against us. To my mind, that thinking is… how do you say… fucked up. I say villification is vile; I say that antagonizing and demonizing are not effective methods of diplomacy, techniques for bridging differences, ways to create a safer, more peaceful world. And I would say that W’s tenure proves that point. But it hasn’t convinced him — nor has it convinced 75 million Americans.
No, past mistakes don’t anger me, but I get a little annoyed/worried/confused when people can’t learn from them. I don’t look back, but when I look forward, I still see so many folks unable to let go their intransigent notions of goodness and righteousness and holy virtue — their intractable opinions about right and wrong.
But we have a new president, one who I suspect does not see in black and white, one who sees in color. I suspect President Obama can see the greys and, yes, quite clearly the mulatto. And I am looking forward to a leader who will not declare unequivocally and unconditionally, like a spoiled, pampered, rich teenager — “there can be no compromise.”
Last week Truth Is a Woman did what only 33% of blogs do — made it past the 6 month mark! Of course the real test is 1 year, so come readers and commenters and help Truth live! (at least for a year or so…)
Here’s a round-up of what we at TIW consider to be some of the more interesting posts or minor milestones had along the way…
First are two posts from our first month. “Because I Love Her” Is a Rational, Reasonable, and Logical Response is a look at the importance of emotion when making decisions. It is the first of many times the topic has come up around here, and it shows Truth’s commitment to climbing out of its logical shell… oh so like a woman! (please disregard the mildly chauvinistic overtones of that parenthetical comment).
A week later, the post Avampirism touched its bloggy toe into the definition of atheism and whether such a worldview should be considered faith.
The next milestone came in the form of a web-survey hosted by TIW. The survey probed how folks wear their religious labels and it was linked to by a number of bloggers. The results were linked to by several more. Although picking through the results can be bit tedious, they remain interesting: Our Labels versus Our Beliefs.
It was about this time our commenters became somewhat more active and we hosted The Best of Truth: The Very First “BoT” Award. The winner was Miriam — who has yet to be unseated because TIW editors have been too disorganized/disagreeable to pick the winner of the next round. Congratulations Miriam, you rule as a result of quarreling and dissension — just like so many South American dictators.
TIW was then featured in Evolution Blog’s Carnival of Evolution for this snazzy diagram illustrating the sluggish pace of evolution. That was nice for us since EB is a highly-frequented blog and Jason Rosenhouse is a pretty cool dude.
It was about this time that a Brain Skarpowsky and Roger Norling joined the editorial staff. Brain’s characteristic wit and charm is clearly seen in this probing assessment of a recent Supreme Court case: The Fuck You Elmo.
Roger, on the other hand, helps bring an international flavor to Truth. Around election time his post How Conservatives Are Liberals showed just how out of step American politics is with the rest of the world (or at least with the rest of the highly-enlightened and secular Scandinavian world).
And who could forget TIW’s election extravaganza! We not only live-blogged the entire day, It’s Election Day/Afternoon/Night, we also hosted a live chat from 5:00 til close. Of course the best stuff occurred in the chatroom leaving no trace behind in the post… but if you were there, it was memorable…
Since the election a few posts have managed to pique reader’s interest more than others, The “Vileness” of “Imagine No Religion”, inspired a healthy debate about the motivations of Atheist organizsations’ new get-out-the-message tactics.
And lastly, a pair of posts have have wound us down into some moderately philosophical depths. Knowing without Thinking revisits the importance of emotion and intuition when it comes to making decisions, and Do Unwritten Songs Exist? tries to tackle the age-old debate about the existence of anything that is not physical.
So that’s it! It’s been an interesting and fruitful 6-months here at TIW. We’ve posted 175 times and received over 1000 comments on them… so far. We’ve been averaging about 4000 hits per month, and that ain’t bad (for such a young blog).
Thanks for your eyeballs, your brains, and your clicks!
I really need to stop watching TV. I had a post loaded up and ready to go about a prayer keychain that was sent my way that had the following message:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, Amen.
I was prepared to talk about how God seemed to be the wrong subject to beg for any of the aforementioned qualities, but now, after another night in front of the idiot box, I find I may need to invoke that prayer to save me from the TV. Or rather to save the TV from being thrown out into oncoming traffic by me. (NOTE: TIW will have a live video feed if this ever happens).
The program — from a reputable TV institution watched by millions — that the idiot box spit out last night was about scary prophecies and the end of the world–which has been coming for some time. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that the world is coming to an end. At the forefront of the scary prophecies of doom and gloom, were the Mayans and their deadline of winter solstice 2012, AKA the “2012 Problem.” I was prepared to listen, because aside from being stunning astronomers, the Mayans have always had style. So sitting there on 126.96.36.199.16(Mayan Long Count) at approximately 9PM I was surprised to see the shows focus switch to the internet and something called “The Bot Project.”
Claiming to tap into the collective unconscious of the universe, this “bot” scours the internet for particular “end of days” keywords and attempts to make predictions. And it is coming back with an alarming number of scary prophecies. It used to make stock predictions and apparently when it got so accurate on that, they decided to turn the microscope inward to figure out how much longer we had until the hellfire engulfed us and perfectly respectful bloggers ran the streets throwing TV sets into oncoming traffic. In summer of 2001 it foretold that a major calamitous event would take place in the next 60-90 days. Out from the digital array of common words on the screen (marzipan, stock, TV, Britney Spears) the following 3 words are singled out in contrast: New York, wahabi, Fire in the sky…and there’s your 9/11 link.
At this point I nearly swallowed my tongue and Mrs. Skarpowsky had to restrain me from doing physical harm to both myself and the TV. I immediately went to my notebook and scribbled down: Marzipan.
How idiotic is this? Almost as idiotic as my blogging about it. But to take as your dataset, the Internet, and work it around into some sort of doomsday hypothesis is the epitome of begging the question. The internet is, after all, a creation of man: as much as the Bible, the Stock Market, or the Mayan Long Count. It would be lovely to see what sort of logic and parsing the bot had to do to predict 9/11 when our own government was unable to do so. The inaction of the bot to warn us adequately is another discussion. And the lack of loose Nigerian women in financial need showing up at my door with erection pills and fake Rolexes should be enough to disprove this bunk. At any rate, you should be scared, because…
Now the bot is lining up on the Mayan’s side, predicting a worldwide calamity in 2012–the alignment of ancient and modern technology. Nevermind the fact that it is in dispute that the Mayan event of 2012 is considered an impending disaster and moreso a coming of a new era. What does this have to do with Marzipan you may ask? Everything and nothing. Because for my money, it is as logical to pick that word out of the bot’s matrix, while we all sit huddled around our broken TV sets and waiting for the great unravelling.
Christmas is just around the corner, and I of course wish you a merry one. However, it makes me shudder when someone talks about the Christian christmas. Christoper Hitchens expresses some strong argumentns in a recent article The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas, and while I share the sentiment it is not entirely fair to condem it altogether. Not all details fall under the same category.
In the Christian tradition Jesus’ birth is of course the central event but lets look where the other traditions of a Winter-Solstice-type holiday come from. Most likely it orginates from the germanic pagan winter festival Yule (Jul in swedish) . In turn, Yule may have been influenced by the Roman winter festival Saturnalia where slaves and masters temporarily changed roles and gave each other gifts, although this is not confirmed.
The “Christmas” tree also orginates from Germanic pagan traditions and for this reason such trees are forbidden in some religious denominations. Santa Claus is a figure which has gone through many iterations, including early Christianity in Turkey and, of course, German folklore and pagan traditions. Contrast this with the Swedish tomte (losely meaning hob) which is much more sinister. A tomte is a “spirit” of the farm which helps the masters with the duties. But if you forget his rice pudding and snaps you are supposed to leave him on the yule evening, you can expect a bad year to come. Also, in Sweden christmas gifts have not always been given out of caring, but rather as crude jokes. Small logs with a note mentioning the intended receiver and the joke itself were thrown in after knocking on the door of the home in question.
The point is that Christmas is an evolved tradition which also differs slightly between cultures and countries. Christianity tries to get a free ride of instant an unquestioned respect — as it often does.
Another example is the blending of Halloween, a Celtic feltival, with All Saint’s Day, conveniently moved by Pope Boniface IV in 609 ad. So while saying Christmas is a Christian tradition is not completely wrong it is still somewhat dishonest.
I celebrate a secular christmas, one where you spend time with friends and family, eat good (and too much) food, and have a good time. Now, keep that religion away from me, thank you.
I was watching Richard Dawkins dialog with Aubrey Manning (approx. 50 minutes long) the other day and some of the points they discussed made me think.
Many of the traditions we practice have religious orgins, which of course needn’t be bad in itself. Obviously, tradition and ritual have a place in building solidarity and socializing individuals. However, it seems to me that the question many ask in an increasingly secular world is what will we have instead? As Manning points out, science is a human activity which has value in itself. It not only gives opportunity for wounder but also invokes both emotions of joy and dispare.
No science is too hard to understand, at least not on a principial level. One problem is that the papers submited for peer review obscure science from lay persons. Yes, there is a point to using certain kinds science-speak; however, scientists should be obliged to not only help us understand, but also to intrigue us and to appreciate their knowledge. Those school books with nothing but formulas and constants don’t do the job.
And this is why I recommend these videos. It is a Berkeley course called Physics for future presidents by Richard A. Muller. The emphisis is on concepts and an idea of magnitudes instead of formulas and specific numbers. In my mind it should have the title “Physics for Everyone,” and while it’s alot to watch (26 episodes of ~1 hour each) I consider it a duty.
Science is also an enterprise in which we all partake. Our current advancement in technology and welfare comes from science. We only need to take the example of penicillin. Before its discovery far more diseases ran rampant through our populations. Now one may say that science of medicine represents a moral good, whereas the science of physics does not. Yet I believe there is a moral component in simply getting closer to truth. In other words science should, indeed must, be central to a modern tradition.
In his book Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins wrote the following: “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.” We should celebrate our opportunity to be here, taking part in the world. Our means of celebrating should be through understanding — that is to say, through science.