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Dawkins: Evolution ‘no comparison’ to Genesis

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It really is an enormously exciting thought that we are cousins of all living creatures, that we have a history of 4 billion years of slow gradual, evolution — just think about 4 billions years — of slow gradual history. That’s not something that we can easily take on board, but the effort of doing so is well worth it. It’s such a beautiful thought that we are the heirs of 4 billion years — maybe 3.5 billion years of evolution — and that we are cousins of all living things. When you put that against the measly, piddling little ideas that are in Genesis, it’s just no comparison, and it’s a sad and diminishing deprivation of a child’s opportunities to be denied that knowledge.

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Written by Jeremy

June 26th, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Top 50 alternative bands of all time: 20-29

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Click here to see picks 30-39.

20. The Flaming Lips

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face/Do you realize we’re floating in space/Do you realize that happiness makes you cry/Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes let them know/You realize that life goes fast/It’s hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn’t go down/It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize/Do You Realize/that everyone you know/Someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes let them know/You realize that life goes fast/It’s hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn’t go down/It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face/Do you realize

21. Weezer — Weezer blazed onto the scene as a band that still had that metallic punch of guitar distortion and fuzz, but without all of the angst or pensiveness of some of their contemporaries. While the self-titled “Blue Album” and “Pinkerton” are beloved fan classics, the band still enjoyed with acclaimed success the “Green Album,” “Maladiot” and “Make Believe,” selling a total of more than 9.2 million albums in the United States and about 17.5 million worldwide. “Make Believed” reached number two on the U.S. charts and number one in Canada. And, of course, all those accolades aside, they brought geek rock to the mainstream:

22. The Replacements  No top alternative list would be complete without The Replacements, and they just edge out Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets for their sheer longevity and influence on the industry.

23. Depeche Mode  Not to overstate matters, but Q Magazine has listed Depeche Mode as one of the 50 bands that changed the world, and “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known.” At more than 75 million albums and singles sold worldwide, Depeche Mode is one of the most successful bands of all time. Enough said:

24. The Offspring  One of the highest selling punk rock bands in history, The Offspring’s third album, “Smash,” sold 20 million by itself, with the breakout tracks, “Self Esteem,” “Come Out and Play” and “Gotta Get Away.” After the mediocre offering, “Ixnay on the Hombre,” The Offspring enjoyed its greatest mainstream popularity to date with “Americana,” with the songs “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright.” The band had another standout track in 2012 with “Days Go By.”

25. Arcade Fire  With just four albums under their belts since the release of “Funeral” in 2004, Arcade Fire has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, basically skipping over the sophomore slump phase and going straight to cult status as one of the most innovative, diverse acts of this generation. Among their many accolades, the band won the Grammy of the Year award for their album, “The Suburbs.” Their most recent offering was “The Reflektor, which “Rolling Stone” named the top five release of 2013. Here they are performing the French cover, “Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son:”

26. Sonic Youth  Sonic Youth has been around for as long as R.E.M. and is an influential as any other band on this list. With their experimental and ferocious guitar style, they came to define alternative grunge before grunge was a thing, releasing five albums before 1990s. An idyllic photo of band member Kim Gordon walking across her bass tells the story of “disaffected youth” like no band before them could. And one only has to listen to the opening seconds of “Kool Thing” to hear the inspiration behind songs like Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” and many others.

27. Coldplay  To say that Coldplay has, at least temporarily, abandoned their roots is probably a mild understatement here in 2014 with the release of the squeaky clean, synth-pop, lovefest known as “Ghost Stories,” but the band was once an influential rock act in the same vein of Oasis, Radiohead and U2. While I personally enjoyed parts of “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” (not the least of which was a tune that didn’t even make it onto the official cut, “Life in Technicolor II“), I view “X&Y” as Coldplay’s last true rock album. The rest of it — well, let’s just stick with classics: “X&Y,” “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and “Parachutes.” That’s really all the Coldplay you need to put them in the top 30 on this list.

28. Bush  Bush’s “Sixteen Stone” was one of a handful alternative rock albums in the 1990s in which almost half the record became a radio single. Off the strength of singles, “Everything Zen,” “Come Down,” “Glycerine,” “Machine Head” and “Little Things,” the debut album sold more than 10 million albums in the United States, although the band didn’t enjoy equal success in their native England. After 1996′s “Razorblade Suitcase,” the band fell out of the mainstream until 2011 when their new album, “Sea of Memories,” hit number 18 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

29. Meat Puppets  Like Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, The Replacements and The Flaming Lips, Meat Puppets influenced countless bands coming out of the early 1990s alternative rock scene, including Nirvana, Sound Garden and Dinosaur Jr.:

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Written by Jeremy

June 25th, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Who deserves to sit at the ‘adult table?’

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I really wasn’t going to comment on the recent disagreement that seems to have erupted among folks in the online atheist community. It stems from this tweet from Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manuel for Creating Atheists:”

Taylor Carr has chimed in in sharp disagreement, calling Boghossian the “Deepak Chopra of Atheism:”

Many of the most devastating critiques of religion have come from philosophers of religion. The field may have a majority of religious believers in it, but there have been quite a few notable atheists published in philosophy of religion journals, too, such as J.L. Mackie, Paul Draper, Ted Drange, Graham Oppy, Erik Wielenberg, Stephen Maitzen, and William Rowe. Theistic philosophers have also done their share of worthwhile criticism of theistic arguments, among which would be Tim and Lydia McGrew for their attack on fine-tuning, as well as Wes Morriston for his work against the cosmological argument.

These philosophers who Boghossian would exclude from “the adult table” are far more deserving of those seats than Peter and (many of) his New Atheist buds. I say this not just because of Boghossian’s childish behavior, but also because each of them writes on an academic level that just is miles above the others. Many of the arguments against god proliferated in atheist circles today are owed to these philosophers of religion. Dr. Boghossian frankly doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and his principal objection seems to stem solely from the fact that “religion” is part of the philosophy of religion name.

I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook calling Boghossian “our version” of young earth creationists, saying that he almost seems like a viral marketing gimmick for the God’s Not Dead film. To this I’ll add that he’s like the Deepak Chopra of atheism. Chopra is a new age ‘guru’ who spouts wisdom that’s eaten up by his followers, yet is less wisdom than it is gibberish. In similar fashion, Boghossian plays to an audience that he knows, one that disdains anything and everything remotely connected to religion. These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion, while little things like arguments, facts, and honest dialogue take a backseat.

And Ed Brayton, from Free Thought Blogs, reposted parts of Carr’s post in agreement.

On the flip side, former pastor John Loftus has written a blog post in defense of Boghossian (so has Chris Hallquist). Loftus concluded:

I’ve spoken with Peter and he stands by what he said, although he didn’t exactly say why. Let me try to be charitable with him.

The only reason the philosophy of religion exists is because there are people who believe without sufficient evidence and seek to defend by logic what doesn’t have sufficient evidence for it. The only reason why atheist philosophers enter this discipline is because, as C.S.Lewis said, “Good philosophy must exist because bad philosophy must be answered.” In other words, if no one accepted anything based on insufficient evidence this discipline wouldn’t even exist.

When talking he and I agreed that we have no respect for a scientifically uninformed philosophy, or a scientifically uninformed philosophy of religion. But look at what this does. Any scientifically informed philosophy of religion authors worthy of the name are atheists, and they only enter in the field because of bad philosophy, the kind that Peter is writing about. So people who do bad philosophy of religion without sufficient evidence should be disqualified to sit at the proverbial adult table, and if this were to take place then the discipline might not even exist. After all, if there was no bad philosophy then good philosophy wouldn’t have to exist (per C.S. Lewis above). What we would have instead is neurology, physics, astronomy, psychology, etc.

Now, that’s the most charitable explanation of what Boghossian is saying. If I understand him correctly there is more meat to his tweet than first meets the eye. You can still disagree with him, of course, but his point is deeper than an uncharitable understanding might lead some people to conclude. At the very minimum he’s being a provocateur, which is good enough. At the most he’s calling for an end to scientifically uninformed philosophy of religion, perhaps in the same way as Dr. Hector Avalos has called for the end of biblical studies in his book on the subject. I fully support Avalos’s project so why wouldn’t I also fully support what Boghossian is probably saying? I do.

Now, I could be missing something in all of this, but are they all just arguing about semantics? The philosophy of religion is part of most, if not all public university philosophy programs in the nation, and as Carr points out, plenty of atheists are published in these studies, which obviously doesn’t just include theology, but the study of world religions, biblical scholarship, etc.

Why didn’t Boghossian just say “being published in theology should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table,” although I don’t know that I agree with either, but that would have at least avoided the confusion, if that’s really what he meant.

Simply dismissing people like William Lane Craig (or other theological “scholars” or whoever he had in mind) as “children” with childlike ideas, as Peter has implied, isn’t going to make them stop disseminating their faulty ideas to the public, and it’s highly unlikely that a tactic like that is going to lead anyone away from the fold or from faith. In fact, it seems to feed this perception that atheists are arrogant and hostile to people of faith, when we should be exuding a humbleness and willingness to engage in respectful dialogue.

How are we to convince anyone of the virtues of living a life free from faith if we begin with such an attitude? Further, Boghossian in his book suggests that his “street epistomologists” should engage with and challenge people’s ideas and not attack people of faith as individuals. But isn’t implying that adult believers are approaching the most important questions in life from a child’s perspective a form of insult? I fail to see how taking this approach is going to help people begin to question faith; I posit that it will only lead them further away from atheism, since it supports what religious leaders often erroneously tell them about nonbelievers, that we are insufferable, scathing, arrogant, know-it-alls.

Of course, as Loftus points out, if people did not see faith as a virtue, religion would not exist all, and the world would be a better place for it. But this is not the world in which we live, and we can only react to reality. It would be great if cancer did not exist, either, but we study cancer to try to figure out how to eradicate it. Likewise, an appreciation of world religions helps us understand the terrible mistakes mankind has made throughout history and hopefully ensures that the various human rights violations committed in religion’s name never happen again. Nonbelievers can also study religion and apologetics to get fuel for any discussions they might have with believers. Further, studying religion also exposes students to the numerous positive contributions that have been made in music, art and literature. Slavery was a terrible blight on mankind too; do we denounce American history professors as not being worthy of sitting at the adult table just because they teach students about the record of racism and oppression in this country?

I dare say that the world would be a slightly dimmer place without the graceful, museful pens of John Milton or John Donne. I, for one, can’t imagine a world without the majesty of “Paradise Lost.” In short, we can appreciate the music of Handel without believing in its message. We can marvel at the beauty of the Sistine Chapel without believing that angels are hovering in our midst. We can study religion, as many nonbelieving scholars do every single day, without being advocates for it.

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Soccer to Americans

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Call me uncultured. Go ahead.

soccer

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Written by Jeremy

June 17th, 2014 at 12:39 am

Gravity’s just speculation

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Via http://zerobs.net.

Credit: http://zerobs.net

Credit: http://zerobs.net. How to beat gravity: a religious guide. Step 1: Have faith. Step 2: Jump in the air. Step 3: Watch that you don’t fly into buildings. Enjoy your trip and praise the lord for giving you super powers. Step 4: Come back to Earth and tell everyone that gravity is only a theory.

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Written by Jeremy

June 16th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

A win for religious freedom

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Religious freedom supported in the heart of Dixie? Who woulda thunk it? Of course, religious people, even those in antithetical outgroups like Muslims in America, are less hated than those who believe in nothing at all. At least Muslims, believers might say, believe in something, which for some reason is viewed as better than not believing in anything, although both Christians and Muslims believe in their something without any supporting evidence.

Oppressing-religious-freedom

Tolerance and acceptance of atheism in the South will be the last fig leaf to fall. And it will. It’s just a matter of when.

***

Haynes: Religious freedom trumps Islamophobia

By Charles C. Haynes

 

After four years of protests, lawsuits, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat, American Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tenn., can finally celebrate the power of religious freedom to triumph over hate and fear — at least in the courts.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to a lawsuit filed in 2010 challenging the permit issued by Rutherford County for construction of an Islamic Center near the city of Murfreesboro. By declining to hear the case, the High Court let stand a Tennessee Court of Appeals decision in favor of county officials. Opponents of the mosque — convinced that Muslims are a threat to their community — had tried various tactics to halt construction of the Islamic Center. In a last-ditch legal maneuver, they filed suit, charging that the county had given inadequate public notice of a meeting to approve the site plan for the Center.

Now the Supreme Court has put an end to the legal drama — and the Islamic Center is in Murfreesboro to stay. A remaining lawsuit — this one challenging the right of the Islamic Center to build a cemetery — remains to be resolved. But supporters of the mosque are optimistic that the courts will soon dismiss this final legal challenge.

Of course, history teaches that court victories don’t change minds and hearts overnight. Muslims in Murfreesboro have their new Islamic Center thanks to local officials doing the right thing, but they still face prejudice from those convinced that Islam has no place in America.

What’s heartening about this saga, however, is how local government officials stood up for religious freedom. Despite strong public opposition, members of the county planning commission voted to treat the building application of the Muslim community like applications from any other religious community.

That took courage. At the height of the conflict, political candidates and anti-Muslim activists worked hard to whip up opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro and beyond. Even televangelist Pat Robertson weighed in, suggesting that county officials may have fallen victim to Muslims’ “ability to bribe folks” and warning of a future Muslim takeover of the city council.

But through it all, county officials stood firm. Moreover, many local religious groups rallied in support of the Muslim community. Students at Middle Tennessee State University helped form Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom, a grassroots effort to counter anti-mosque protests. And the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — one of the nation’s most effective defenders of free exercise of religion for all — provided legal support.

Despite this good news out of Tennessee, Islamophobia remains a national problem thanks to a cottage industry of anti-Muslim groups working to conflate terrorism and Islam in the minds of the American people.

“Anti-Sharia bills” are pending in at least 10 state legislatures — all of them motivated by anti-Muslim bias and based on a distorted understanding of both Islamic and American law. (For an accurate understanding of Sharia in America, see “What is the truth about American Muslims?” at www.religiousfreedomcenter.org.)

If past is prologue, however, Islamophobia in our country will fade as American Muslims become more visible in places like Murfreesboro. We have been down this road before. Not so very long ago, anti-Catholic hatred was at its height in Murfreesboro — and across America. As described by Bob Smietana in the Tennessean, in 1929 angry residents of Murfreesboro marched to the courthouse trying to block the construction of the town’s first Catholic Church.

Today some 2,000 families are members of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Murfreesboro. Religious freedom trumped anti-Catholicism 80 years ago — and religious freedom, if we work at it, will trump Islamophobia today.

We may have a distance to go, but we have come a long way. Consider that six of the current nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court — the very court that put an end to the fight to against the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro — are Roman Catholics.

Only in America.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C.

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Sounds like a plan

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treadonme

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Written by Jeremy

June 13th, 2014 at 12:45 am

Life on the fringe

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For at least five years, ever since the Tea Party’s primordial stew was being swirled and mixing into something resembling a coherent platform, I have been highlighting the various ideological inconsistencies with this movement’s noxious approach to politics.

Back in April 2009 when the Tea Party supporters were anachronistically parading around in Thomas Paine uniforms, I highlighted the “idiocy of this generation” and foreshadowed things to come. As I said at the time:

And here we come to the hang of it all: the very reason why the Republican ideals of personal liberty and small government married to notions of moral uprightness do not work. Many on the right attempt to coerce folks in leadership or pray for them or lobby them or whatever on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, hoping federal or state governments would, indeed, solve our problems. They believe federal and state governments can and should solve what they perceive to be our social ills. Government should preserve the institution of marriage. It should uphold certain moral codes that would prohibit heinous dabblings in abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Government should get drugs off the streets and prosecute drug dealers to the fullest extent of the law. State laws should keep the sabbath holy by disallowing the purchase of alcohol on Sunday (and in some states, disallowing even retail purchases before 1 p.m.!) Government should more fully represent our moral values, they say.

And in the same breath, what do we see? The same folks turn an about-face, and speak out against gun control, against big business regulations and against taxes. Thus, they favor big government in some areas and those of moral or social concerns, but not others like taxes or gun control. But they can’t have it both ways, and the logic just does not add up. Small government taken to its fullest end would mean this: the legalization of controlled substances, the continued or even a relaxing of gun control laws, allowing states to decide gay rights, relaxing regulations on abortion and stem cell research and some states disbanning their ridiculous blue laws. True, big government would mean the opposite. But both Dems and Reps want to pick and choose which causes they will champion.

Unfortunately, this idiocy has only continued and has even been amplified in some ways, as Tea Party politicians in Washington have now framed the political discourse between themselves, always on the right side of history of course, and establishment, insider Republicans who they say have a tenuous grasp about the will of the American people and do not have the nation’s best interests at heart. While all of this bickering among officials within the same party is highly entertaining in one sense, and deeply disappointing in another, this toxic atmosphere has engendered all sorts of kookery, not the least of which is politicians calling for the evisceration of the public education system and other federal offices to would-be politicians, like Oklahoma House of Representatives Tea Party candidate, Scott Esk, who has claimed we would be totally justified, on license from the Old Testament, if we started stoning gay people, noting on his website:

I look forward to applying Biblical principles to Oklahoma law.

While it’s fortunate that Esk is only running for a state post and not a seat in the federal government, firebrands like Sean Hannitty, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin are partially to blame for creating the type of anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-government far-right wing of the Republican Party that emboldens Esk and his ilk, but it is the easily-led, fearful, spineless American voters who are to blame for allowing it to flourish.

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Written by Jeremy

June 12th, 2014 at 9:59 pm

The fall

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Written by Jeremy

June 11th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Religion and Philosophy

Tagged with ,

How Congress ‘used’ to operate

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These days, seemingly the only thing that can bring Congress together in a bipartisan fashion is veterans. Lawmakers, especially Republicans, trip over themselves to come out in support of helping veterans, but routinely fail to risk their own political capital to assist nearly all other segments of the population, including sick people shackled with medical debt, immigrants, women, gays, etc.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell admitted as much when recently speaking about a bipartisan health care bill for vets:

We have a bipartisan veterans bill negotiated the way we used to do business in the Senate, with members of both parties, ready to go.

“The way we used to do …” Enough said.

Read more here: House, Senate move to improve health care for vets.

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Written by Jeremy

June 11th, 2014 at 8:14 pm

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