Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
I was just reading about the replication of the Milgram experiments, which show that people are surprisingly obedient to authority. The majority of subjects will deliver painful shocks to others when a researcher instructs them to do so. This of course has broad implications in any situation involving authority figures, particularly in regards to all the torture controversy of late - who is really responsible?
A couple of thoughts came to mind.
I would love to see a follow-up, similar to my suggestion for acupuncture research, to study whether the obedience to authority is any weaker for subjects who know about the Milgram experiments. I'm not so naive to think that I'm fundamentally more benevolent or resistant to authority than average, but I would like to think that in the same situation, knowing about the Milgram experiments would help me overcome the effect. My guess is that it would, in the same way that knowing about common logical fallacies, susceptibility to illusions and false pattern recognition, etc. help me avoid falling for pseudoscience and hoaxes.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
(via Oot and Aboot)
To make up for the dearth in posts here recently, I've done this crap!
Are You a Hardcore Atheist?1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett,Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
3. Created an atheist blog.
4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.
9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins.
15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
20. Attended an atheist conference.
21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. Better, I donate it while I'm alive.
25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. Doesn't count - I'm Canadian. UPDATE: I found an American single and completed this one.
30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Or any oath to God or country.
31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch.
34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. I have a dysphemism, in order to be more offensive. I'm counting this one.
36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically becauseyou wanted to argue with them.
43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.
31-40: You are the 5th Horseman! Congratulations!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I'm watching the Richard Dawkins interview with George Coyne right now*. 'Father' Coyne comes across, as many Catholics do, as quite sophisticated and scientific in his treatment of evolution. There's a particularly pernicious kind of dishonesty there though - it's often seen in supposedly liberal Catholics who purport to be rational and scientific.
Certainly evolution by natural selection is the best scientific explanation available for the origin of all the various forms of life on earth, I wouldn't dispute that. What I take issue with is the scientist's presumption that there is nothing more to humanity than chemical reactions. Simply look at the glorious works of art, music, and emotion, blah blah blah, there must be something more. That is all I am proposing, and if you allow, I prefer to call that something 'God'.
Monday, December 8, 2008
An Australian judge has ruled "that an animation depicting well-known cartoon characters engaging in sexual acts is child pornography."
I wonder if Australia will use this ruling to ban books like Lolita. The rationale for the conviction was
...that the animated cartoon could "fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children,"In that context, is the distinction between text and image that important?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Penn Jillette has a question for religious people:
If your God (however you understand him/her/it to be) communicated to you (in a way that you clearly understand) a command to kill your own child, would you do it?If the answer is no, he says, you are an atheist. If the answer is yes, stay the fuck away from me and my family.
I like it. I can't really imagine a situation where it wouldn't apply. I suppose there could exist a non-benevolant God, but on what basis could a true believer question its motives or disobey its commands?
Anyways, here is an example of a true believer. This guy is what he says he is, and at least I can respect that. He's clearly insane, profoundly mistaken, and a danger to society, but he's morally consistent and honest. Which is more than can be said for most "religious" people I've met.
Jesus, I missed this at first. Read the ridiculously ironic lines from the idiot sherrif's office:
"God must have been with [the victims], 'cause any other time, the severity of this crash, it would have been a fatal."Then the last line of the article:
A psychiatric evaluation has been ordered for [the] man.I don't have to point out the irony do I?