I recently finished reading Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing while on vacation. A quick and easy read for those with a decent level of scientific literacy, it was graced by an afterward from Richard Dawkins. It’s unfortunate that Christopher Hitchens’ planned forward for the book was derailed by his illness; nevertheless, a book featuring two of the four prominent American scientist-atheists (joining Neil de Grasse Tyson and Dan Denntt) still provided quite a bit of umph to it.
I still intend to get around to doing a review of the book, but in the meantime I thought I would share this outstanding talk between the two authors. It was hosted by the Origins Project headed by Krauss at Arizona State University and featured a fine discussion on science in general, atheism and a bit on American politics.
This is no debate, as these two scientists share a similar world view and the audience also trended toward the science-focused, areligious types. Perhaps as a result, Krauss tends to earn some cheap laughs at the expense of the Republican leadership. That doesn’t prevent the video being well worth the viewing time for an intelligent discussion on abiogenesis, evolution and the exciting quantum physics discussed in “A Universe From Nothing.”
A constant reader of this blog or anyone who has spent time discussing the subject with me will probably be able to tell that I’ve gone through a religious journey of sorts in the past few years. More accurately, I’ve delved into the topic, weighing philosophical, historical and scientific texts to determine that I am perfectly capable of being good without god and that, as a non-believer, I am proud to call myself an atheist.
While at times there are elements of religion I cannot accept or respect, I generally consider myself (or at least would like to consider myself) to be happily respectful of others’ rights to practice their religions and hold their own beliefs. I only ask that those individuals do not attempt to establish theocracies or impose their religious mandates on others.
My coming out as an atheist has also accompanied a continuing desire to learn more about various other religions. This edition of TED Tuesday includes three religious figures presenting at various TED conferences. They include a journalist experimenting with living an orthodox Christian life, a pop-culture pastor talking about how each of us should live uniquely, and an imam who just happens to be that guy building the mis-labeled “ground zero” mosque.
I’ve been meaning to write a bit more and clarify my thoughts and feelings on the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a community center and mosque in lower Manhattan. Last week, I strung together a bit of a rambling post discussing how disappointed I am in the sweeping tide of anti-American behavior taken up in the name of “American values” throughout this nation.
The proposed Cordoba House is an uncomfortable issue for most and brings up conflicting feelings and desires to both defend American freedoms and empathize with the families of September 11, 2001 victims.
Part of my desire to discuss the topic more was the realization that I hadn’t articulated well exactly what it was that I found offensive and anti-American. So let me be clear, opposing the Cordoba House is not anti-American. It is merely the attempts to use the government or government means that is anti-American and, quite simply, unconstitutional.
While technically, the movement to have the former Burlington Coat Factory building landmarked was not specifically tied to the building of a mosque (and it would not have completely blocked the construction, but simply made the plans more difficult as the exterior of the building would have had to be preserved) and was, therefore, not relating to the establishment, promotion or obstruction of religious freedoms. Despite this, few would argue that the facts really hid the between-the-lines anti-Islam motivations thereunder. This would be no different than the post-Edwards v Aguillard move of creationists to remove overt religious references to religion or god in the newly revamped intelligence design movement. Everyone knows the motivation has no basis in science, but in religious ideology.
In the case of the Cordoba House, pushing to landmark and make more difficult the conversion of the building at the proposed site was a measure to use the government to obstruct the construction of a privately funded, otherwise legal religious building and institution. In other words, this move represented an effort to violate the Establishment Clause.
Mike Bloomberg marked the Cordoba House victory from Governor's Island (nee Nutten Island), where the Dutch first settled New Amsterdam.
This past week has seen two important victories for liberty in America. Yet somehow, the news accounts are all over the place. If you look at a Red station/website/paper (e.g., anything owned by Rupert Murdoch), the sky is falling. If you’re on Twitter or Tumblr, you’d think everyone had decided to sing Kumbaya and that all the world’s ills are over. Obviously, the reality is somewhere in between. And, at least in my eyes, these victories for liberty were but speed bumps that have not halted a harsh and brutal wave of oppression that ironically brandishes the name of freedom.
The victories of which I speak were both very important. The first came on Tuesday when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously against a measure to grant landmark status to the building that once housed The Burlington Coat Factory and now is planned to be torn down and replaced with a 13-story community center called the Cordoba House. The second was Wednesday, when a California jurist enjoined enforcement of a ballot initiative that effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state. While these two levees pushed back the waters of hatred and bigotry (of late, quite commonly in the name of fundamentalist Christianity), this country is leaking like a sieve elsewhere and that the victories were necessary at all is reflective thereof.
Any time you get a chance to see NdGT work, you're constantly drawn to make plans to visit the Rose Center.
While most of the time I’m going to embed videos from TED lectures, sometimes I’ll go with non-TED videos that drive home a similar concept of pressing forth knowledge while providing entertainment. In the field of science and astrophysics, in particular, there’s simply no one better than Neil de Grasse Tyson.
Tyson is the revered host of PBS’s NOVA magazine show and is the director of the Rose Center and Hayden Planetarium at New York’s Museum of Natural History. He’s also one of the most engaging folks when it comes to conveying enthusiasm for the sciences. Oh yeah, there’s also the whole Pluto thing (The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet).
I’ve linked a few videos for a reason, appearing after the jump.
A new feature I’m going to hopefully get going on the site is linking a couple of lectures from TED that I find worthwhile watching. First up is going to be a few pieces on Science, Free-thinking and Religion.
The subject was sparked for me by tuning in to a TED talk by Sam Harris two weeks ago on morality and religion, or rather taking morality from our understanding of science, instead of religion. Filmed at TED2010 in February 2010, Long Beach, CA.
I will admit that I’m not 100 percent on board with Harris’s talk. I think that the idea of scientific forces driving moral behavior has some validity, but it’s far from a universal truth. On the converse side, one can also equally argue that religion has been at the forefront of both acts of kindness and true villainy. Where Harris does hit home, however, is in the idea that science can guide what is good — or rather the affirmative answer to the question posed by Harris: can a fact about how reality is provide an idea of how something should be. Harris will lose some fans in that he is elitist and somewhat dismissive of the more religious of the red states.
In any respect, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Julia Sweeney, after the jump. Read more…
Although I took this to be only a joke, apparently women's groups are actually protesting the ad (though I think it's largely because of the unspoken message).
This blog’s post on TLOG? Not so much. In January, I wrote about Tim Tebow making a huge mistake by doing a pro-life ad for Focus on the Family (I also made a remark that irked some by calling it an anti-abortion ad, I apologized to those good folk). Anyways, the ad finally aired last night and it showed me I shouldn’t doubt the Lamb of God.
The ad was remarkably sterile and pretty boring. In fact, it was shot like a cheesy Match.com ad and contained zero controversy (other than naming Pam Tebow as the co-winner of the 2007 Heisman). Anyways, the Greatest Collegiate Footballer will live to fight another PR day and the ad certainly could not offend even the most pro-choice of advocates.
Here, Tebow is seen ascending above the field while playing the Barn.
There was, apparently, an eleventh commandment. That commandment instructed that Thou Shalt Not Doubt Tim Tebow. This was certainly true when the Chosen One was at Nease High and walking on water throughout the Swamp in Gainesville. On his way to two national championships and three appearances (and one win) at the Downtown Athletic Club’s Heisman Awards, Tebow always came out on top, both as a player and as a representative of his Evangelical faith.
Many have run afoul of this commandment throughout the years. Clay Travis became a pariah when he asked Tebow, straight up, if he was saving himself for marriage at SEC Media Days in Birmingham this past Fall. Opposing defenses were taught not to doubt the power of the jump pass and Les Miles and crew never quite learned. In 2008, defensive coordinators were shown you couldn’t try to stack the box against the Holy Moyel’s awkward passing delivery. And, in a modern day ascension to the draft, Tebow shattered noted headcase Vince Young’s BCS record for total yards in this year’s Sugar Bowl with 533.
Santa's red nose says he may have been drinking with Ted Kennedy.
We sure are fortunate to have brave elected leaders who are focused on the important things in life. The below attached legislation was introduced to Congress this week by Rep. Henry Brown of South Cackalacky and co-sponsored by several other Republicans. It essentially says that our pansy liberal country has been misappropriating Christmas and preventing people who observe Christmas from celebrating its true meaning.
Of course, Christmas, like Chanukah, is an observance of convenience and commercialism, and not really one of religion. If it were of the Christian religion, it would not be celebrated as a continuation of harvest and pagan festivals that preceded Christianity and surrounded the Winter Solstice.
CLICK THROUGH TO KEEP ON LETTING ME RANT Read more…
All 193% of Republicans Support Palin, Romney and Huckabee
Whatever, their math is still better than their science. You’ve got three different upcoming books out of that lineup a) Praying Yourself Thin, a Governor’s Tale; b) You Betcha: Creationism and other things which can only be explained by my stupidity; and c) Magic Underpants and Several Other Things I Totally Won’t Bring Up on the Campaign Trail.
Admittedly, this is a local Fox station’s InfoGraphic, and not from FNC itself. But it might as well have been.