Archive for the ‘Science’ tag
churchgoers who are in denial about the descent of man:
Slate’s Phil Plait reflects on this stunning photo and the importance of taking the time to notice the soaring majesty that’s all around us:
This photo was taken by Kevin Ford, an astronaut on board the International Space Station. On Dec. 21, looking out a window, he took this picture of an approaching Russian Soyuz capsule containing three more astronauts: the crew of Expedition 35, which will take over command of the ISS for the next few months.
You can see the capsule almost swallowed by the canvas of black around it. Below, seemingly close in the picture but still hundreds of kilometers away, is the gentle blue curve of our planet’s horizon. And above, more distant by far, the half-lit face of the Moon. In this short exposure no stars can be seen; it’s just our planet, its one natural satellite, and one of many human-created satellites. The Moon above has no one on it; just artifacts left by a short visit decades ago and an uncrewed handful since. The Earth below is teeming with people, all living under that narrow blue arc of air. And in between, three more humans guided by the hand of Newton’s laws, headed for an outpost in space.
If there’s a better metaphor for the end of a year and the beginning of another, I’m not sure I know it. Humans are explorers. We’re a curious bunch, and we love to stick our heads into places unknown, moving from one thing to the next, learning about everything around us.
There’s a lot of everything to know. And we cannot possibly understand it with our eyes closed, our minds narrowed, our heads tilted down.
So look up! Because when we do, even for a moment, our view increases from here to infinity.
If you do one thing this upcoming year, just look up.
NASA has released a recording of some sound samples from Earth’s radiation belt, which are really plasma waves detectable using the agency’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes. Here is a video for more information:
And an audio sampling:
I loved the obscure references to fractal art in this clip (“infinite fractal recursion” and “iterated algorithm”) and the analysis of that silly One Direction song, “What Makes You Beautiful.” The Colbert Report and writers brilliant as always.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The 2012 People’s Party Congress of Charlotte – Youth Vote|
FYI, there are 36 bloggers at FtB, and most of them haven’t even commented on A+. There’ve been a few who have even written about why they do not support it, such as Al Stefanelli. It seems that there are about half a dozen there behind this.
I presume that Rilasciato was referring to two parts of that previous post. This passage:
It seems to suggest that this very small group of people (Free Thought Blogs and their supporters) are preparing to carry the banner of social justice for the rest of us, and for a group of people that inherently eschew cliques and in-groups and chafe at being told how they should think or act, this is contemptible.
On a final note, I think it’s telling that nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers, from Miller, Christina, McCreight to P.Z. Myers and others are all supporting each other, which to the rest of us, smacks of provincialism if nothing else and speaks to me personally that not one of them are capable of independent thought.
I have waded through all
36 35 Free Thought Blogs and have attempted, as best as I can, to surmise which bloggers support Atheism+ and which have either made no public statement about it or have voiced their opposition. I will admit here that saying that “nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers” may have been an exaggeration, but I think what I’m about to show indicates that a significant number of FtB’s (more than a dozen) have publicly hopped on the bandwagon. The number could very well be more if they had written anything about it. Two have spoken against it and a couple more were either vague or seemed to be on the fence.
For brevity’s sake, I did not attempt to sift through any comments that may have been left by the bloggers in response to readers that may assert support or opposition. I just stuck with their posts. For each individual page, I went back through the archives from Aug. 18, the date of McCreight’s original post (“How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism“) to today.
Someone may ask: isn’t this a waste of time? Why bother? Sure, but so is playing video games or watching movies. I put some effort into this because:
- I did make a serious claim that Free Thought Blogs was filled with people who hopped on the bandwagon, and I actually found that the figure appears to be more than one-third of the all bloggers at FtB. Again, the figure could be greater, but some either have remained mum or post so infrequently that it’s hard to gauge where they stand.
- Rather than speculate, I thought it would be instructive to throw out a more concrete figure.
- Since Atheism+ has become such a divisive issue the last few weeks, I thought readers would be interested to see a rundown on where the bloggers stand. Personally, I would like to see where all the Free Thought Bloggers stand on the issue because hell if the blowback from this thing can compel McCreight to quit blogging altogether, the public obviously has some strong feelings about it, even if some idiots who can’t tell the difference between blasting a person’s arguments versus demeaning the person.
That said, here is the format that I used. Again, this is a best effort on my part. Any corrections or additional information is welcome.
Name — Stance on Atheism+ with link showing support or dissent
Ed Brayton — Has made no statement that I am aware.
P.Z. Myers — a supporter but says he’s not an official “member.”
Chris Rodda — No comment that I am aware.
Stephen Andrew — No comment that I am aware.
Cuttlefish — Seems generally supportive even if not willing to adopt the label.
Reasonable Doubts — An infrequent podcast show; has made no comment.
Comradde PhysioProffe — Seems to be a supporter since he reposted part of McCreight’s original post from Aug. 18 with the title of his own post, “Skeptical D00ds Are Not Skeptical About Their Own Gross Misogyny,” included in the title is an apparent reference to Thunderf00t.
Assassin Actual — Hasn’t posted since Aug. 2.
Daniel Fincke — Supporter.
Deacon Duncan — Supporter.
Greta Christina — Supporter.
Hank Fox — Possibly a passive supporter. He speaks on the perceived motivations behind the ”movement” and about a “Beta Culture,” which seems to be a similar alternative.
Jason Thibeault — Supporter.
Jen McCreight — Inventor in chief.
Dana Hunter — Supporter.
Al Stefanelli — Not a supporter.
Martin Wagner — Supporter.
Brian Lynchehaun — Supporter.
Justin Griffith — No statement.
Kylie Sturgess — Not a supporter.
Maryam Namazie — No statement.
Blackskeptics — No statement.
Richard Carrier — Alientating, overly enthusiastic supporter.
Edwin Kagin — Seems skeptical about Atheism+.
Mano Singham — No statement.
Natalie Reed — Not a supporter.
Chris Hallquist —No statement, moved to Patheos.
Brianne Bilyeu — No statement.
Taslima Nasreen — No statement.
Zinnia Jones — No statement.
Ashley F. Miller — Supporter.
Cristina Rad — No statement. Only two posts since McCreight’s Aug. 18 introduction to Atheism+.
AronRa — No statement. Only three posts since Aug 18.
Still trying to improve the introduction and production. Feel free to leave your comments here or on YouTube:
I never really thought this would be the case in the first place, but as it turns out, not all females are buying into this whole Atheism+, hyper-sensitive, reactionary brand of "social justice" that folks like Jen McCreight, Rebecca Watson, P.Z. Myers and others are peddling over at Free Thought Blogs.
This is refreshing for many reasons, not the least of which is because it shows that quite a few members of the atheist community do indeed think for themselves and don’t just dive in head over feet into a “movement” because some influential atheists, and females at that, say they should. Further, this speaks to the fact that McCreight, Watson and Co., don’t speak for all women in the community nor should they. I’m sure there are many others, but I’ll quickly highlight three women who have provided a intelligent arguments against this “movement” for social justice, which is really just a repackaged version of humanism (See: On Atheism+ and humanism: part 2).
Here is Renee from over at Belief Blower, who seems to have a particularly sharp grasp of reality that seems to be woefully lacking in Atheism+ circles:
… What is more distressing and pertininent (sic) to women is that there are 3 women beind (sic) the "movement": Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, and Rebecca Watson.
Normally, I wouldn’t give 2 shits about these women or the movement. But they are actively and divisively stripping apart atheism and attempting to bring together a happy little club of women and sycophantic men under the guise of being more socially responsible. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women are simply angry that they’ve been slighted/harassed/sexed in some way, shape, or form and feel their best course of action is to create a "special snowflake" clique.
Ladies, I’m here to tell you that your tiny fucking "slights" or sexist remarks are part of the real world. Each and every one of you spend an astronomical amount of time on the Internet and when you aren’t chatting it up on your computer, you’re off talking to groups that have organizations *begging* you to be there and willing to pay for your constant mini-vacations. I would be happy to swap my childhood and early adulthood with *any* of you. I know what real sexism and misogyny is. All three of you are so quick to throw around the word "misogyny" and yet not one single one of you can correctly identify the true meaning of the word.
Let me clue you in – it means "hatred of women". Do you understand this phrase? HATRED of women. Not bullying, not chiding, not sexist and/or inappropriate remarks. It is the hatred of women.
Here are two YouTubers, BionicDance:
At the expense of repeating myself, I’ll take some time here to explore some of the other components, criticisms and responses to Atheism+ that were not covered in this post. I have wanted to write a follow up post on this for quite a few days, but it has taken awhile to gather my thoughts.
Here I will show in fuller detail why Atheism+ is not only redundant but why it’s actually corrosive to the legacies of atheists and freethinkers who have done important social work under the old banners and who did so bravely and under conditions that were far from friendly or accepting.
First, Greta Christina (“Humanism Is Great — But It’s Not Atheism Plus“) and Ashley F. Miller (“The difference between “atheism+” and humanism“) have suggested with all the fervor they could muster that Atheism+ is not secular humanism. In Miller’s case, she appears to be on board with Atheism+ because she feels the old label, atheism, suffers from an irreparable stigma. As she describes it:
There is a difference between a self-defined humanist doing something good for mankind and a self-defined atheist doing it, simply because of the massive amount of stigma associated with atheism. Proving that atheists care about other people and making the world a better place is important. I think that “atheism+” is a way to bring the philosophy of humanism more strongly to the fight for atheist equality, and vice versa.
Calling myself part of the atheist — +, humanist, or otherwise — movement is a meaningful political act, and one not worth dropping to join something incredibly similar, but different.
To make one point abundantly clear: atheism is not a movement, and it is emphatically not political. In the wake of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris and the like, one may easily come to think of atheism as a movement, and at one point, Hitchens even said he wrote his book as part of a “pushback” against religion, but it’s not as if the so-called new atheists met prior to writing their books and made some collaborative effort to produce a string of publications on the perils of a religion as a deliberate exercise. After Sam Harris published “The End of Faith” in 2004, these books and the subject matter just caught fire and the works began flying off the shelves. While the new atheism label may have been an unfortunate consequence of the new attention paid to atheism and freethought, “there is nothing new under the sun,” to borrow a line from Ecclesiastes.
Indeed, Tom Flynn traces the genesis of the “movement” that was never really a movement to begin with because, as I previously noted, atheism has hundreds of years, if not millennia, of thought and free inquiry behind it. Susan Jacoby’s excellent work, “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,” explores some of the heroes of American freethought, including Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Stanton and many others.
Flynn said that after the release of Harris’ book, “something new was afoot:”
… but it was only this: for the first time, uncompromising atheist writing was coming from big-name publishers and hitting best-seller lists. You could buy it at the airport. In consequence, people who had never before experienced atheist rhetoric got their first exposure to arguments that had formerly been published only by movement presses. One of these newcomers was Wired’s Gary Wolf. Encountering sledgehammer assaults upon religion that he had never seen before, knowing nothing of freethought’s rich, enclaved history, he thought he was seeing something genuinely new. And the New Atheism was born—out of ignorance, ironically enough.
But it was nothing new.
Flynn’s conclusion is so important to my point that it deserves a full mention:
The triumph of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hitchens was to take arguments against religion that were long familiar to insiders, brilliantly repackage them, and expose them to millions who would never otherwise pick up an atheist book. That’s no small achievement. But too many commentators lacking the requisite historical background have treated them as though the horsemen invented atheism. Not so!
That’s why I think it is important to recognize that there is no New Atheism. There are no New Atheists. There is atheism, and there are atheists. A spectrum of national atheist, freethought, secular humanist, and religious humanist organizaztions already stands prepared to serve unbelievers of many inclinations, without the need for any New Atheist group to hang out its shingle. Atheism and its companion life stances can be proud of roots that extend far, far deeper than (snicker) 2004.
The so-called Four Horsemen deserve admiration for exposing millions of contemporary readers to refutations of traditional religion that our movement has been burnishing for decades, sometimes centuries. We need to do a better job of sharing the rich literary and organizational history out of which these ideas sprang. At the same time, secular humanists need to do all they can to encourage people newly drawn to atheism to make the added journey to the fully rounded, exuberant lifestance we call secular humanism. (italics mine)
So, while the new atheist label was bestowed on Dawkins and Co., unwittingly, and while they, perhaps, adopted it to some degree, nothing new has actually occurred between 2004 and now. Atheism is just atheism, a disbelief in the existence of a god. It has no new definition and entails no new set of morals or principles, and indeed, no set of principles at all. For that, we need humanism, but more on that later.
The second point inherent in Miller’s argument is that “atheism” has become such a stigmatic and disgraced word in modern society (Or, maybe just in America; it’s not quite clear) that its image needs to somehow be repaired. Again, I don’t sense much of a grasp of history here. Atheists and freethinkers have been marginalized, persecuted, and in some extreme cases, killed for hundreds of years, and so long as religion persists, they will continue to be treated with a certain level of contempt and as subhuman in some circles, when, in reality, unbelievers are more alive than the most pious among us. They and we see the world without blinders and without walls. They and we see the world as it is and as it should be: no heaven and certainly no hell at the end of the tunnel; we see a marvelously wide and interconnected universe. We have no lights to guide our path but our own mind, our own consciences, our own sense of empathy for others and our human solidarity. No light; just life.
If others can’t accept that for what it is, it’s their loss. But for nonbelievers to now suggest that we need to change, or perhaps, evolve atheism into a “third wave” called Atheism+ that will address such things like feminism, ableism, racism, misogyny, etc., and “prove” that atheists “care about making the world a better place” not only does a disservice to the past freethinkers, like Ingersoll and Stanton, who did indeed prove it with the testimony of their lives that atheists can stand up for important causes and move society forward under the banner of humanism, it also kowtows to critics. Essentially, it is the pitiable admission that the very words “atheism” and “humanism” have become so defiled by dissent that there is no choice but to start again by making atheism seem more positive and socially acceptable to the layperson. This is an admission, in other worse, that we have lost.
This is also the part about Atheism+ that, I think, rubs many nonbelievers the wrong way. It seems to suggest that this very small group of people (Free Thought Blogs and their supporters) are preparing to carry the banner of social justice for the rest of us, and for a group of people that inherently eschew cliques and in-groups and chafe at being told how they should think or act, this is contemptible.
As for Christina, she attempts in her post to answer the question:
Isn’t ‘Atheism plus social justice’ just another term for humanism?”
She then explains:
Humanism is also more engaged with creating secular replacements for the rituals and structures of religious communities… and while many atheists are cool with this idea and are even engaged with it themselves, there are many other atheists who are profoundly turned off by it. And many humanists are actively hostile to the word “atheist.” It’s not just that they don’t choose to use the word themselves. They don’t want anyone else to use it, either. So that puts another damper on the whole “Atheism Plus is just humanism re-branded” thing.
She goes on to say that, in effect, atheism is a more “in your face” brand of nonbelief, while humanism is more subtle and that many people don’t even know what the term means. Later in the post, she discusses the necessity of keeping the word “atheism” alongside the “plus:”
We see value in it (atheism), and we don’t want to abandon it. We want to form a subset of it that makes it better: a subset that is specifically devoted to making atheism more welcoming to women, people of color, poor people, working class people, trans people, and other marginalized groups, and that is specifically devoted to doing work in the places where atheism and other social justice issues intersect.
Again, atheism needs no improvements or additions to make it better, and attempts to do so actually blacken the legacy of atheists who did work and are working to make the world a better place because of their love of humanity. A disbelief in a god does not include a moral or social stance whatsoever. Atheists are free to be kind and loving toward their brothers or they are free to be assholes and suffer the legal and social disadvantages of ridicule, isolation and chastisement. They are free to be Democrats or Republicans, prolife or prochoice, misogynistic or not, as long as they are willing to live with the consequences of their choices.
In all this, Christina never quite gets around the explaining the clear difference between Atheism+ and humanism. The best she can apparently do is this conclusion:
… And I can’t tell you how many humanists I’ve talked with who have been total douchebags about feminism: insisting that humanism is superior to and more important than feminism, that feminism is exclusionary and anti-male, that they “don’t see gender” and anyone who does is the real sexist, and that the best way to make sexism disappear is to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Humanism in theory is on board with social justice — but the practice can be very different indeed. If every atheist who’s sick of sexism and misogyny in the atheist movement picked up their stakes and moved to humanism, it wouldn’t make these problems magically disappear.
There is a great deal of overlap between humanism and Atheism Plus. They are very similar ideas, very similar visions. There is great value in both. I suspect that many people will call themselves both, and I look forward to the two movements working in alliance for many years to come. But I don’t think they’re the same. And I think it’s reasonable for some people to identify primarily as one, and some primarily as the other.
So here again, like Jen McCreight, we have a Free Thought Blogger relying on anecdotal evidence (“total douchebags about feminism”) to describe what is wrong with the humanists she has met and why Atheist+ is going to be so much different and better. She is, apparently, judge and jury.
If I have to point this out 10 more times for it to stick, I will happily do so. If a humanist is not concerned and committed to stamping out hate, racism, bigotry, misogyny, anti-gay sentiment and other social ills, he or she is not a humanist. Plain and simple. I consult the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry on humanism about active virtue:
The emphasis on virtuous action as the goal of learning was a founding principle of humanism and (though sometimes sharply challenged) continued to exert a strong influence throughout the course of the movement.
Here is Leon Battista Alberti from “Della famiglia:”
As I have said, happiness cannot be gained without good works and just and righteous deeds. . . . The best works are those that benefit many people. Those are most virtuous, perhaps, that cannot be pursued without strength and nobility. We must give ourselves to manly effort, then, and follow the noblest pursuits.
And Florentine humanist Matteo di Marco Palmieri:
… the true merit of virtue lies in effective action, and effective action is impossible without the faculties that are necessary for it. He who has nothing to give cannot be generous. And he who loves solitude can be neither just, nor strong, nor experienced in those things that are of importance in government and in the affairs of the majority.
And the last sentence from Britannica:
Endorsements of active virtue, as will be shown, would also characterize the work of English humanists from Sir Thomas Elyot to John Milton. They typify the sense of social responsibility—the instinctive association of learning with politics and morality—that stood at the heart of the movement. As Salutati put it, “One must stand in the line of battle, engage in close combat, struggle for justice, for truth, for honour.” (italics mine)
The idea of social justice, then, is built into the word humanism at the core. Regardless of who knows what humanism means or not is inconsequential. The word, the idea, the philosophy has existed for hundreds of years, and it contains within it everything, and in better and less provincial form, I might add, than what has been presented as Atheism+ thus far.
On a final note, I think it’s telling that nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers, from Miller, Christina, McCreight to P.Z. Myers and others are all supporting each other, which to the rest of us, smacks of provincialism if nothing else and speaks to me personally that not one of them are capable of independent thought. McCreight, Watson and others have some bad experiences with some brutish individuals, so McCreight decides to invent a new “movement.” And no one had the balls to say, “You know what, guys? This sounds really similar, if not the same, as humanism. It seems too similar to justify any kind of ’new wave’ of atheism. Maybe we can work within the framework of humanism to discuss our concerns.” But no. That’s not what happened is it? After McCreight’s original post, every single one of them cooed in agreement and passively followed like lemmings off a cliff. That’s not the moral courage, and that’s not intellectual courage.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.