Oct 23, 2010

A debate between Aristotle's Muse and a creationist.

This page is a chronological documentation of an ongoing debate on facebook between myself and creationist Ejobi Joe.  I apologize for the sometimes sub-par writing structure.  I didn't write these to be posted on a blog, only as a quick post on some random facebook wall.

If you ever find yourself wanting to observe a creationist get veritably bitch-slapped with logic, this article is most definately for you.  Conversely, if you ever find yourself wondering why atheists get so frustrated when speaking to Christians, this should put to rest any and all questions you may have on the subject.


What should I say when an atheist sneezes?

The world of social dynamics is a very convoluted and complex phenomenon.  Sometimes, a very mundane everyday occurrence can have seemingly odd consequences, especially when dealing with people of differing cultures or beliefs.

It may seem strange to some, but many moderate Christians often have a moment of confusion or even mild panic from something that most of us would consider very arbitrary... when an atheist friend or collegue unexpectedly sneezes.

"Should I say "god bless you"? Should I say something else?  What should I say?",  or sometimes, "Why are they offended if I say 'god bless you'?  After all, it is a positive sentiment.  I'm only trying to be nice!"
Medieval depiction of disease 
(e.g. demonic posession)

The custom of saying "god bless you" after someone sneezes comes from the medieval belief that during a sneeze, your soul is momentarily thrown from your body, leaving you susceptible to demons entering you and causing problems like sickness or the plague.  This was Christianity's answer to why it is that the onset of disease often follows a period of frequent sneezing.

Demonic possession was christianity's explanation for disease of both body and mind.  For instance, Christians thought that an epileptic seizure was the result of demons entering, or seizing, your body, hence the root word "seize". 

Saying "god bless you" was supposed to be preventative of sickness by essentially putting a magical spell of god's power on you that seals out demons until your soul has time to return.  (Christians may find the use of the word "spell" offensive when used to explain a fascet of their religion, but in form and function, that is exactly what it is.)

Of course this is ridiculous. Demons don't cause disease as the bible explicitly suggests. Microscopic organisms cause disease, as is described in the Germ Theory of Disease (yes, it's only a theory). Saying "god bless you" is a vestigial remnant of dark age superstition that stems from the mythology of a bronze-age nomadic tribe of middle eastern goat herders.

That's why we don't like it. Not because we "hate god" or because we are evil and don't want god's grace to somehow damage us (as has been suggested to me), or that atheists are inherently negative people.  No, it is because we don't want to have a hand in propagating antiquated superstitious beliefs or practices.  It is for the same reason that we don't want our fortune told, or our tarot cards read, or for fraudulent "psychics" like John Edwards to be televised, or for astrological predictions to be printed in the newspaper.

Why don't people say "god bless you" when you yawn, or cough, or hiccup? I'll tell you why. Because demons aren't trying to possess you when you do those things.  And neither are they when you sneeze.

So why say anything at all?

Oct 21, 2010

The 600 year old Prague Astronomical Clock gets it's dues with an astounding light show.

This last Oct. 13th, Prague celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Prague Astronomical Clock. Those in attendance were awestruck by an elaborate and gorgeous high tech light show. (video after the break)

Prague's Astronomical Clock is one of the oldest and most elaborate clocks ever built. It has two main dials (clock faces), one directly over the other, and numerous wooden figures which are animated when the clock chimes the hour.

The main dial of the clock looks nothing like a modern clock. It is packed with information, giving not only the time but the positions of the Sun and Moon as well. The clock was originally intended purely to provide astronomical information. The rest of the clock was added much later. The dial features the following:

  • Around the outside of the dial are two circles of numbers. The inner circle is in Roman numerals; the hours as we know them are marked around the circle. All 24 hours of the day are marked, with 12 noon at the top and 12 midnight at the bottom. An hour hand points to the current time. There is no minute hand - people didn't worry about such small units of time in 1410. 
  • The outer circle is inscribed with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc up as far as 24). These show 'Old Bohemian Time'. This is the number of hours since sunset. Since the time of sunset varies during the year, this circle of numbers rotates relative to the fixed Roman numerals, a fact which is not obvious when one is looking at the clock. 
  • Mounted on the hour hand is a smaller dial that displays the 12 signs of the zodiac. A golden Sun and a silver Moon show the positions of the Sun and Moon against the stars. The Moon is painted half black. It rotates so that it always shows the correct phase of the Moon. 
  • The main dial is painted in blue, red and black, representing day, twilight and night. The position of the Sun against these painted areas shows the current state. Also on the main dial are lines dividing the day into the hours of 'Babylonian Time'. These lines divide the daylight into 12 hours. Because of this, the hours themselves vary in length with the seasons. 

The clock is an amazing feat of engineering even by todays standards. A grand celebration is nothing if not appropriate for the 600th anniversary of such a technological marvel.

Oct 20, 2010

The Invisible Dragon In My Garage (Can evolution and religion co-exist?)

This post is a copy of an exchange between myself and an agnostic friend online.  I am posting it in hopes that it will help to shed light on what it is to be an atheist in contrast to an agnostic.  I have cleaned up some the grammar to make it more readable.

Agnostic friend:

Do you think [it is possible to] believe in god and evolution? or is [it] god OR evolution[?]

Galileo Galilei was finally 
pardoned by the catholic 
church in 1992 for the 
heretical claim that the earth 
revolves around the sun.
If there were a god, it would need to be compatible with evolution. Evolution does not disprove god in any sense. It simply disproves much of the book of genesis. Just because evolution disproves a chunk of the bible shouldn't make it stand out. Other theories such as the germ theory of disease and the heliocentric theory of the solar system do it as well, as do many other known natural phenomena.

None of these things disprove god, only scripture.  However, gods can be anything men can dream up, so of course they can be compatible.

That doesn't mean that gods are at all likely to exist however.

Agnostic friend:
Well, God is simply a higher, 'more powerful being', for most people after all. One does not have to be Christian or Buddhist, for example, to believe in God. Why can't one believe in evolution, and in God?
Evolution, after all, is pretty much the best thing we could lean on. Based on all the facts. Of course it's a theory, but it's a damn good one. but God can represent, for some people, a power in faith. for some people (even the most intellectual ones, who believe in the theory of evolution) God has to exist, simply because he may guide them. to a better life, or a sin-free life.
I, myself, believe in evolution, and not so much in God. But i don't deny God. even if i say that God is part of fiction, That would still be just an opinion. most religious people don't follow every single thing in the bible. And I'm sure a large chunk of religious people firmly believe in evolution too.

The invisible dragon that lives in my garage.
I would say most religious people believe in evolution to a certain extent. However, I would also say that the very large majority of people are intellectually lazy in that they never put any real effort into learning much about either evolution or religion.  For example, the scientific term theory is a term entirely independent of the word theory of common usage.  A scientific theory is the very highest level in the hierarchy of science.  It's not a guess, it's a fact.  Don't forget that gravity is also "just" a theory.

People have always been driven to explain the unexplained. That's what makes us so successful as a species. However, our minds are not structured to process "we don't yet know" as an answer. Instead, it squeezes in the seemingly most plausible explanation at the time. Why are there rainbows? God made them to show he would never again destroy the world with water. Where does disease come from? Gods vengeance smiting us for our sins. Why do various peoples speak different languages?  Because god needed a defense against the dangers of us building another tower of Babel to sneak into heaven... by climbing into the sky. The list goes on and on.

Other religions serve the same purpose. Talismans to ward off evil spirits that make us sick. Gods throwing down lightning and thunder from the heavens. People performing ritualistic dances to bring the rain.

That's just the way our minds work. Don't know how it happened? God did it. There! Patched that hole up quite nicely!

It serves also as a pacifier to help us deal with the devastating losses associated with death as well as the permanency thereof. Eternal life in paradise makes death easier to handle, especially historically when life was violent and people died young.

Religion also served secondarily as a means to band a group of people together. To create a stronger sense of community. This has many evolutionary advantages for a tribal society, but when you maintain this dynamic in a global society like we have today, what you end up with is airplanes flying into buildings and suicide bombers.

Religions of today can be traced through their history to reveal how they emerged and how they evolved. Religions intermingle and influence each other. The religions of today resemble very little of what they were 2000 years ago. We no longer sacrifice bulls at the alter on a wedding night or execute brides who are found not to be virgins. However this is demanded of us in the bible. There are dozens of gods that predate Jesus Christ whose mythology includes much, if not all of the following; was born on Dec 25th- of a virgin mother- in a manger or cave surrounded by animals- whose birth was attended by 3 wise men/shepherds/merchants who came following a new star to give gifts to the new "king" of their people- had 12 disciples- practiced the holy Eucharist of bread=body, wine=blood etc.- was executed- resurrected 3 days later- and will return some day to judge all mankind.

Dozens of previous gods. Dozens.

This specific example applies only to Christianity of course (and the passages in the Qu'ran that reference Jesus) however, all religions are no different in their tendency to borrow mythology from one another.

The very fact that there are so many different religions and that they all came from shared stories rather than real historical events goes to show that spirituality and superstition is an ancient function of the human mind evolved out of necessity. It's a vestigial remnant of tribalism.

There is no need for a god to explain all that is. It is an unnecessary step. Nearly all things can be, and have been, explained through rationality, logic, observation, and experimentation.

Is it possible that there is a god and that it is compatible with all natural phenomena? Yes, in the sense that it exists in an intangible plane and can therefore not be verified or detected. However, it is unnecessary and unlikely. It can be shown however that if there is a god (or gods), it has absolutely no influence on the universe or its inhabitants, or at least so little influence that it is undetectable. Either to us personally or throughout the entire course of observable natural history.

So yes, god is possible. Just unlikely. Exactly as unlikely as an invisible dragon living in my garage.

Logically we atheists must all call ourselves agnostics, because one cannot absolutely know with 100% certainty. However it would be misleading to brand ourselves with a word that indicates any significant amount uncertainty about the subject.

Oct 19, 2010

Something is amiss in American politics.

There is truly something amiss in the hearts and minds of a large portion of the American people. Something that a large chunk of America may be turning a blind eye to simply because they do not want to oppose someone who so wholely supports the very model of the universe that they fervently subscribe to.

This Tuesday, Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnel attacked her opponent, Chris Coons, for not supporting the teaching of religious creationism as fact in public schools in a debate.  (Video after the break) Mr. Coons said that public schools could not teach intelligent design, a.k.a. creationism because it is “religious doctrine” rather than science.

Ms. O’Donnell likened Mr. Coons’s position on evolution to those of “our so-called leaders in Washington” who have rejected the “indispensible principles of our founding.”

When Mr. Coons interjected that “one of those indispensible principles is the separation of church and state,” Ms. O’Donnell demanded, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?”

The audience exploded in laughter.

Mr. Coons began reciting the first amendment; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", prompting Ms. O’Donnell to exclaim, “That’s in the First Amendment?”

Here is someone who not only baselessly rejects the very foundation of biology, e.g. evolution, but also believes it is proper for tax payer's money to be used to teach disproven religious doctrine as fact in America's schools. Someone who not only lacks fundamental knowledge of the constitution, but also thinks that masturbation constitutes adultery and should be abolished. Someone that thinks that condoms are "just going to further the spread of AIDS" and who has "personally dabbled into witchcraft".

It would be funny if it weren't so terrifying.  Terrifying because this person beat out nine-term U.S. Representative and former Delaware governor, Mike Castle in the primaries on September 14, 2010; thanks largely to endorsements and financial support garnered from the Tea Party movement.  This person may very well be the next senator of Delaware.

A very vocal religious uprising is stirring in the ranks of American politics, and I don't think it would be too difficult to see how disatrous it would be if they were to gain high public offices.

Americans in general have, and have always had, an aversion to criticizing christianity.  It's proponents have benefited from hiding behind a sheild of the taboo of religious scrutiny.  The lack of public action (or even attention) against a plague pedophilic Catholic priest child molestors being the first example to come to mind.  Perhapse it's time that policy changed.  Perhapse it's time Americans start holding people's feet to the fire regarless of whether or not they are representing christianity.  It seems our very constitutional rights may be depend on it.

Oct 12, 2010

PLEA FOR JUSTICE: The family of an Indianola teen shot to death is speaking out

James Doyle's family says the justice system is failing them

"There's no justice here. That's what were asking for is justice for James."

The family of an Indianola teen who was shot to death last summer says the boy charged with the crime is getting off scott free. Fourteen year-old Daniel Nadler was originally charged with first degree murder for the shooting death of 16-year old James Doyle.

The charge has since been lowered to second degree murder, and a plea agreement could lower it even further. That possibility isn't sitting well with Doyle's family.
Police say this all started with an argument over religion and ended with the death of one teen and the arrest of another. A Warren County judge denied the prosecution's attempt to try the case in adult court, leaving open the possibility of a sentence of a few months in a juvenile detention facility.

"This child was murdered and taken away from us by another human being. That human being is getting just a smack on the hand," says Bobby Morse, James Doyle's uncle.

Morse is infuriated that now fifteen year-old Daniel Nadler won't see the inside of a prison cell for allegedly killing his nephew. He says the boy committed an adult crime and should be punished as an adult.

Prosecutors say that's what they tried to do, but a judge's ruling means Nadler will at most remain in custody until his 18th birthday.

"There are different levels of punishment for adult crimes and the point is to punish people. In juvenile court it's technically for the benefit of the child, to rehabilitate the child before they become an adult," says Warren County Attorney Bryan Tingle.

In juvenile court there are no mandatory minimum sentences, meaning a person convicted of first degree murder could serve the same amount of time as a person convicted of involuntary murder. The judge will make the ultimate decision.

-This is a repost from whotv.com

Please help out by contacting:
Judge Richard B. Clogg richard.clogg@iowacourts.gov
Prosecuting attorney: Brian Tingle attorney@co.warren.ia.us

Oct 6, 2010

Jesus Tapdancing Christ!

Jesus Christ’s name, if he ever existed at all, was not Jesus Christ.
When the English rendered the Latin IESVS from the Greeks who translated the Semitic name Yeshua, they came up with Jesus (Yehoshua became Yeshua became Iesous became Jesus), and that name stuck. But his real name in his own language was Yeshua. Translated into English as Joshua.
Christ was not his last name either. The “Christ” was the Hebrew word for the messiah that was prophesised to free the Jews from Roman occupation. He claimed he was the Christ during his life, as did thousands of hopeful prophets in the era. (It was a genuine profession at the time, much like a Guru is in India today.) Ultimately however, he did not free the Jews. He was in fact executed by the Romans. The prophesised Christ destined to free the Jews never came and they remained under Roman rule.

This is, of course, if he ever even existed at all; which is debatable.
So any time you exclaim “Jesus Tapdancing Christ!” you are not blaspheming, because that name was never used by any man claiming to be the son of "YHWH" a.k.a "Yahweh" a.k.a "The God of Abraham", a.k.a “God”.
Isn’t history fun?

Oct 5, 2010

It's time to fight back against death threats by Islamic extremists

Earlier this year, after Comedy Central altered an episode of "South Park" that had prompted threats because of the way it depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris proposed an "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day."  The idea was, as she put it, to stand up for the 1st Amendment and "water down the pool of targets" for extremists.

The proposal got Norris targeted for assassination by radical Yemeni American cleric Anwar Awlaki, who has been linked to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight and also to several of the 9/11 hijackers.  Last month, after warnings from the FBI, Norris went into hiding.  The Seattle Weekly said that Norris was "moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity."

There is currently no federal law making it a crime (or permitting victims to sue for damages) to threaten people exercising their fist amendment rights in such a way.  Even if there were such a law, I find it highly unlikely that it would do much to curb the amount of death threats directed at such people, especially if made anonymously.  Anonymous being the key word.

This is my take on the situation; The Qur'an includes the books of the Old Testament just the same as do the holy books of Judaism and Christianity.  Therein, it is clearly expressed on many occasions that it is forbidden to worship idols or other "false" gods.  According to Muslims, creating a depiction of Muhammad would constitute idolatry in that it creates a vehicle for people to worship an inanimate object representing a prophet rather than worshiping the god of Abraham, A.K.A. Allah, himself.

Their religion forbids them from doing those things.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  If someone were trying to force Muslims to create depictions of Muhammad themselves against their will, I would do everything in my power to stop it as that would be an affront to basic human rights and would truly be a despicable thing.  When Muslims start forcing their bronze age Islamic laws on others and backing up it up with threats of violence, murder, and even genocide however, I have a real problem with it.  It's their religion, not mine.

If we are hindered by the anonymity of those who would hope to control us through violence and fear, why couldn't one counter with the same tactic?  If one is unknown, how can they be targeted?  The internet is the first thing one thinks of when they think of utilizing anonymity, and indeed, there has been a proliferation of depictions of Muhammad online.  However, those depictions are largely isolated to places where people opposed to such things seldom frequent.  I think I may have a solution.
Muhammad (NOT the prophet!) just some guy. sticker
It's easy, cheap, effective, and most importantly, anonymous; and therefore safe.  If people were to secretly place stickers or other non property-damaging depictions of Muhammad as a happy stick figure in public spaces and en masse, the point would be made and nobody could come to any harm.

I can imagine this taking off in major cities worldwide, which would be ideal so that extremists couldn't target any one single government or people.  If it were a worldwide phenomena, there would be nothing for them do do but accept that they cannot always force their religion on others through the exploitation of violence and fear.

It's only a smiling stick figure after all.  How can that be such a bad thing?

Oct 3, 2010


The blog is in the middle of a redesign.  Sorry for the funky look, we'll be back up to spiff in no time.

The Aristotle's Muse store has also gone through a complete overhaul.  Click here to see the all new look!

Oct 1, 2010

Fuck off Justin Bieber

I think there is a growing disconnect between modern popular music and artistic integrity.  There have always been shallow teeny bopper acts leading hordes of screaming prepubescent female dimwits, but recently, there seems to be a palpable decline in emerging bands with real substance.  Thankfully, somebody summed up my sentiments very nicely in the form of a .jpg image.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Fuck off Justin Bieber.