31 July 2010

Link roundup for 31 July 2010

Comic-con fans know how to handle the Westboro Baptist Church.

What if we knocked on doors too?

Now you can create your very own conspiracy theory (found via DemWit).

Mad Mike weighs in on weight.

If you think your job stinks.....

There's a new wrinkle in e-mail scams.

The Senate has made one thing a priority.

The end of the world is coming, again (yawn).

The Church hierarchy still doesn't get it. And now even Santa wants to sue (sent by Mendip).

The Bible tells us how to recognize a false prophet -- and how to get a wife.

The Catholic Church has always been stupid about women.

One NOM supporter has a "solution" to gay marriage. Latest NOM "rally" pictures are here.

PZ Myers looks at the cliché-addled "New Agnosticism".

Jack Jodell analyzes a cliché-riddled e-mail.

American Black Chick in Europe replies to a cliché-filled comment.

Jen McCreight dissects Phyllis Schlafly's latest blather.

Tim McGaha has an intriguing look at the roots of the Civil War.

Is J. Christian Adams a whistleblower? The Crossed Pond gives some background.

Ron Chusid looks at HCR and Medicare.

Politics Plus has more on filibuster reform.

Republicans are succeeding.

Dissenting Justice considers Shirley Sherrod's prospective lawsuit against Breitbart.

Which are the four safest big cities in the US? The answer might surprise you.

Pamela Hart tells of a proud moment.

Mexican soldiers have killed a top man in the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Germany has really changed, as its modern ally/tutor knows.

A ban in Catalonia could herald the end of Spain's ghastly "sport" of bullfighting.

Michael J. Totten is in Israel, where things haven't changed much.

Here's an example at what happens to losers in North Korea.

Arguing about boredom is boring (see also the third item here).

Researchers have succeeded in re-growing limb joints in rabbits using stem cells (sent by DemWit). More here. This development is of some special interest to me since my own artificial hip joint is expected to last only 20 years; this new technique or something like it should be available for human use long before it wears out.

27 July 2010

Video of the week -- Alan Turing

"A hero betrayed by the country he helped defend."

Update: Check out other videos by ZJ here.

Filibuster reform at last?

According to this story, momentum is building in the Senate to tackle the single biggest cause of its current dysfunctional and undemocratic character: the filibuster. Since the 2008 election, this procedural rule has been abused by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote super-majority requirement, empowering their obstructionism; without the need for 60 votes, for example, it would not have been necessary to remove the popular public option (or the even more popular Medicare expansion) from health-care reform. This absurd rule must go, for the sake of democracy. Read the story, and remember to keep the pressure up when the opportunity for change comes with the beginning of the next session.

Update (28 July): More here.

24 July 2010

Quote for the day

"Usually, when I ask some Calvinist whether he is really a Calvinist (in the sense, say, of believing that I will end up in hell), there
is a slight reluctance to say yes, and a slight wince from his congregation. I have come to the conclusion that this has something to do with the justly famed tradition of Southern hospitality: You can't very easily invite somebody to your church and then to supper and inform him that he's marked for perdition. More to the point, though, you soon discover that many of those attending are not so sure about all the doctrines, either, just as you very swiftly find out that a vast number of Catholics don't truly believe more than about half of what their church instructs them to think. Every now and then I read reports of polls that tell me that more Americans believe in the virgin birth or the devil than believe in Darwinism: I'd be pretty sure that at least some of these are unwilling to confess their doubts to someone who calls them up on their kitchen phone. Meanwhile, by any measurement, the number of those who profess allegiance to no church (I am not claiming these as atheists, just skeptics) are the fastest-growing minority in America. And don't tell me that warfare increases faith and that there are no unbelievers in foxholes: Only recently I was invited to a very spirited meeting of the freethinkers' group at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where there has been a revolt against on-campus proselytizing by biblical-literalist instructors."

Worst of times, best of times

The gay-bashers have been having quite a field day lately, with the Texas and Montana Republican party platforms explicitly calling for the re-criminalization of homosexuality (indeed, some of the platform language implies criminalization of all non-reproductive sexual activity, even by heterosexuals), and other Republicans advocating the same, with their old obsessions about abortion and pornography thrown into the mix. It's been a sledgehammer-hard reminder that in the US, the right-vs-left divide is in essence a theocratic-vs-secular divide.

But there have also been some subtler reminders of which side is inexorably winning. Earlier this month a federal judge declared part of DOMA to be unconstitutional. NOM's summer bus tour is not exactly setting the world on fire, with counter-protesters outnumbering the "crowds", and they're getting touchy about it. Constance McMillen won her case, and there will be many more like her; the younger generation is much more assertive and less afraid. I've even seen some conservative bloggers flinch from the most extreme bigotry of the theocratic far right, and even some libertarians are questioning whether they should continue to be aligned with it.

But the most startling development was Argentina's decision last week to legalize gay marriage -- the first country in South America to do so. Not only do the legislature and the President support the move, but so do 70% of the Argentine people, despite a campaign against it by Christian groups. Perhaps we need to re-examine some of our own perceptions about Latin America.

The world is changing, and fast.

I'm not disappearing

I haven't posted much (or commented much on other blogs) over the last week or two. The reason is, frankly, exhaustion. Work has been incredibly heavy and hectic, and there have been other sources of stress as well. Things should ease up soon.

Link roundup for 24 July 2010

Somebody gives a dog a cracker, and all Hell breaks loose.

Four Dinners takes a stand on the burqa (in cars, anyway).

Ranch Chimp looks at the ultimate abusive parent.

Racial identity lets others try to force their definitions on you.

Constance McMillen has won her legal fight against the Itawamba county school district (found via Bay of Fundie).

Robert Firth's predictions for 2009 didn't pan out too well.

The Mark Williams flap deepens divisions within teabaggerdom. More here (found via Oliver Willis).

Sharron Angle is getting campaign advice from God (found via Dissenting Justice).

Byron Williams carried right-wing delusions to their logical end.

Sarah Palin's incessant whining will come back to haunt her if she ever runs for President.

Americans oppose the federal lawsuit against Arizona's illegal- alien law, 50%-33%.

PZ Myers looks at some lessons learned from the right-wing lie machine's misfire in the Shirley Sherrod case.

Most Americans are more concerned about jobs than the deficit, and the Democratic party should follow that lead.

Rightists who flirt with treason should consider the precedent.

Big oil's lobbying undermines US national-security interests.

Christopher Hitchens looks at the roots of Mel Gibson's bigotry and hate.

A "child of God", unless.....

The "New Atheism" is not harming the cause of science education in the US, and may even be helping. The Atheist Camel dissects theistic whining here.

As much of Europe stagnates, Britain begins a "startling" economic recovery.

Stonehenge had a wooden twin, or perhaps prototype.

Yet another health threat pervades China's food industry: "gutter oil" (found via Mendip).

Our ancestors were snacks.

Carbon dioxide and solar activity only partly explain a recent contraction of the thermosphere (sent by Ranch Chimp).

Globally, June 2010 was the hottest June on record.

20 July 2010

Video of the week -- Arabian Knights

From 1981. Even all those years ago, Siouxsie "got it".

17 July 2010

Link roundup for 17 July 2010

Gawker puts Mel Gibson's rants into word-cloud form, revealing his favorite word (found via Mendip).

Irish comedian Dara O'Briain delivers a funny but very true monologue on anti-science idiocy.

The Atheist Camel has an open letter to a Muslim terrorist.

"The Whore of All the Earth" explains why she chose that name.

Stupid Evil Bastard now offers light bulbs for true believers.

The RIAA's campaign of litigation against music fans is not cost-effective (found via Mendip).

Where did NOM get those photos on the sides of its tour bus?

The Human Rights Campaign challenges the RNC to denounce the bigoted platform of the Texas Republican party (petition at link).

BP tries to buy the silence of scientists.

Why is the right wing suddenly so worked up about the Black Panthers?

Dissenting Justice looks at teabagger candidates in purple states.

Global-warming denialism is a liability to the conservative cause.

Majorities of teabaggers now favor government action to protect manufacturing jobs and to create more jobs. So this may be good advice politically as well as economically.

Two viewpoints on the Soviet role in World War II: a Washington Post article, and Mendip's reply (found via Mendip: a little-known story of the free French on the eastern front).

PZ Myers looks at the mind of a pro-vandalism Christian.

Conventional polling data overstate the number of church-goers in the US.

2010 is on track to be the warmest year on record globally, and heat waves will become more common in the US over the next 30 years.

New Zealand inventors develop robot legs for paraplegics.

15 July 2010

Video of the week -- Dancing on Hitler's grave

A Holocaust survivor, his daughter, and three grandchildren celebrate life. Found via The Crossed Pond.

13 July 2010

Crackers and quakes and talking snakes!

I have long held that the best way to deal with religion is by ridicule and mockery, not by efforts at debate or argument. Pat Condell speaks for me here (that video, please note, is addressed to atheists), and quite eloquently too.

Now PZ Myers has posted what I consider an important essay on just why this is so. I hope that everybody will read it -- it's a real contribution to the battle plan. As Myers sums up:

Religion has at least two weaknesses. One is that it is empirically false, and all of its specific claims are either pointless and unverifiable, or have been falsified. Another, though, that we neglect at a cost of diminished effectiveness, is that it's hilarious. It's a prime target for exposure of religious folly; it's the soft, ticklish underbelly of faith and we need more people to exploit it.

He gives a couple of examples of the two approaches to religion. One such example is the recent occasion when Iranian cleric Kazem Seddiqi declared that earthquakes are caused by women dressing "immodestly". The debater's response to this would have been to collect data about female dress habits and earthquake frequency from various parts of the world, and demonstrate that no such correlation exists (as I pointed out at the time, if Seddiqi's claim were true, Scandinavia and eastern Europe would be the most quake-prone areas of the world, while the Middle East would be the least -- which is decidedly not the case). Such an approach would have been rather ineffective at capturing the attention and imagination of people undecided about religion; it would have belabored a point which was already obvious to any sane person; and it would have dignified a staggeringly moronic claim by at least going through the motions of taking it seriously.

As for the mocker's approach, we all remember what happened:

Jen McCreight did something different: she called for a boobquake, suggesting that women dress immodestly (by Iranian cleric standards) on a specific day, and invite God to smite the planet with earthquakes…a suggestion that would only be made in confidence that Seddiqi's claim was baseless. And it was a phenomenon. Boobquake was picked up by news media around the world, got millions to pay attention, and effectively highlighted the silliness of a religious claim. It was media-savvy and human-psychology-savvy — it used humor, sex, and fun to make a serious point interesting, and led people to look at the science of earthquakes. Did it make hordes of Muslims convert to atheism? Of course not. But it did make an Islamic authority look a bit more ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

The opportunities for ridicule are as vast as the range of stupid and preposterous beliefs and claims that religion presents to the world -- that is to say, essentially limitless. A cracker can be transformed into the flesh of a supernatural being if a man in a funny collar recites certain mumbo-jumbo over it. All humans are born imbued with an evil force because long ago a talking snake persuaded a woman made from a rib to eat fruit from a magic tree. A convicted con man in rural New York state found a stack of golden plates telling the history of an ancient Israelite civilization in North America. A being capable of creating the whole universe is obsessed about the exact details of how humans have sex and whom they have it with, and about the punishment of incorrect behavior. Drawing a picture of a seventh-century Arab merchant is a greater crime than crashing an airplane into a skyscraper full of people. Is there any point at all in trying to debate claims like these? Is it even possible to rationally debate them?

(As it happens, just today I ran across this funny post about the story of Noah, by British blogger "Four Dinners". Go and read it, and ask yourself whether just pointing out the countless logical impossibilities in the Biblical tale would have been even a tenth as effective.)

Mark Twain said that laughter is the greatest weapon the human race has. Let's use it.

12 July 2010

A monster escapes

As a follow-up to the post below, Iran is not the only land where injustice prevails today. Ms. Ashtiani is under sentence of death because she may or may not have had illicit sex with another consenting adult; Switzerland has decided that a man who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl will not be sent home to face justice.

11 July 2010

Stop the stonings

Some considerable international attention has followed the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being found guilty of adultery in a trial conducted in a language she does not understand. Her sentence has now been "commuted", though it remains unclear whether the regime still intends to execute her by some other method. She has already been subjected to flogging, which her teenage son was forced to watch.

At least fifteen other people in Iran are under sentence of death by stoning. An online petition against this Islamic barbarism can be signed here.

Marching against bigotry

Tired of pictures of ugly, mean-spirited teabagger protests? Here are some pictures from a positive and cheerful rally in Toronto -- with correctly-spelled signs, yet.

The attack of the German professors

Most Americans, if they have been following the story of the European Union's economic crisis at all, assume that the problem has pretty much gone away thanks to the bail-out of Greece and the establishment of a currency stabilization fund, both financed mostly by Germany, the biggest and richest country in the EU (I discussed this here). Not necessarily so.

A group of five German professors have filed a series of cases before their country's Bundesverfassungsgericht ("Federal Constitutional Court", the equivalent of our Supreme Court) claiming that the bail-out violates crucial EU treaties and the German Constitution, and must therefore be stopped. British commentator Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explains the situation here, noting that:

Should they succeed, of course, the eurozone risks disintegration within days, and perhaps hours. I am not sure that investors in New York, London, Tokyo, Beijing, or indeed Frankfurt quite understand this.

For a sample of the professors' views, see this 2005 interview in English with one of them, Dr. Wilhelm Hankel, on why the euro currency is unsustainable.

In most countries, a court ruling against the bail-out would amount to little more than a speed bump; the government would simply fudge some kind of work-around enabling it to press on with what it had decided to do anyway. But in Germany, the spectacle of a flagrantly unconstitutional abuse of power by the Chancellor would evoke memories of a certain, shall we say, uncomfortable precedent. The fact that the bail-out is massively unpopular with German voters would also carry some weight.

So Germany bears watching. America is not the only place where a high court's ruling can change the course of history.

10 July 2010

Infidel interview

The comparative-religion blog You, Me & Religion interviews me here. It's an unusual concept: there's a standard list of questions for people of various religions to respond to, and interviewees have included several atheists. A list of upcoming posts is here.

Link roundup for 10 July 2010

"This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me" (found via Hot-for-Jesus Former Fundie, who also reports on Jesus's latest appearance in Portugal).

Ranch Chimp prays to become a better person.

Prince says the internet is over (the internet says Prince is over).

Gosh -- if we give equality to those people, society will crumble!

American Black Chick in Europe looks at interracial relationships and stupid questions about identity.

Green Eagle has another wingnut wrapup -- they keep giving him so much great material!

A real patriot helps veterans instead of using them as rhetorical fodder.

After a federal judge in Massachusetts declares part of DOMA to be unconstitutional, anti-gay rabble-rouser Andrea Lafferty insults the state. Dissenting Justice looks at the ruling here; a libertarian comment thread is here.

Wisconsin Republican Ernest Pagels joins with Texas and Montana Republicans in wanting to outlaw homosexuality (and abortion and pornography into the bargain).

Parsley's Pics has a report on the growth of far-right fringe groups.

Rand Paul's former large poll lead over Democrat Jack Conway has evaporated; the race is now tied.

The Gulf oil gusher could be fully contained by Monday. Well, let's wait and see.

Has the Jones Act been hindering the oil clean-up? No.

Rep. Bob Inglis is a Republican who tells the truth -- too bad he just lost his primary.

Sharron Angle speaks again on rape and pregnancy.

Democrats could have a better election strategy than focusing on Republican scandals.

Obama's strategy on illegal aliens is more effective than Bush's.

Life in "besieged" Gaza is better economically than in Egypt.

What proof would you need?

John Loftus looks at thirty things that must be true if Christianity is true.

Architecture in medieval Europe helped to weaken religion.

Bay of Fundie looks at the manure spreader of creationism.

Kenneth Howell was fired for hate speech, when he should have been fired for stupidity.

Would you stay with a spouse who demanded your acceptance of death as the price of the marriage?

British "metal detectorist" Dave Crisp found quite a hoard (sent by Ranch Chimp).

The US isn't alone; Europe and China are also suffering serious heat waves.

09 July 2010

Video of the week -- Islamo-fashionism

Bill Maher emcees an Islamic fashion show!

05 July 2010

The Singularity: new experiences

Discussions of the Technological Singularity usually emphasize the prospect of a dramatic increase of human intelligence, but in a somewhat abstract way; to the uninitiated it can sound rather arid. For some reason the popular mind associates enhanced intelligence with emotional coldness. Of course the reality is just the opposite; from the animal world we can see that the higher the intelligence of a given species, the richer and more complex its emotional life, with that of humans being the richest and most complex of all. Emotional sophistication, like intelligence, is a manifestation of the processing power of the brain; and like intelligence, it will grow vastly in the future as we learn to enhance the brain's capacity and ultimately upload human minds into nanocircuitry, giving them access to unlimited processing power (more on uploading here).

What I want to talk about here, though, is the richness of sensory experience. The ability to see in color, for example, enhances our quality of life; a color-blind person can function perfectly well, but the rest of us naturally feel that he is missing out on a lot. Yet my recent readings on evolutionary biology have brought home to me just how limited our sensory world actually is. Some flowers which appear quite drab to our eyes, for example, actually have patterns which are only visible in ultraviolet light; the insects that pollinate them can see ultraviolet wavelengths which are invisible to us. That is, they can see extra colors which we can't see. In fact, mammals generally have poorer eyesight than other vertebrates; most mammals other than primates cannot see in color at all. Some reptiles have "tetrachromatic" retinas, with four types of color-sensitive cone cells to our three; human-built TV or computer screens, which use pixels in three primary colors to create pictures which seem realistic to us, would look pitifully inadequate to the eye of a turtle, if it had enough intelligence to grasp the concept of a picture at all. Aside from color, some animals, especially birds, have eyes with far higher resolution than ours -- they can see much smaller objects at a given distance than we can.

Once the flow of data from eye to brain and the processes within the brain which interpret the data are fully decoded, understood, and replicated, it will be possible to give ourselves any kind of enhanced vision we want -- ultraviolet, infrared, tetrachromatic, high-resolution, or anything else, along with the necessary brain functionality.

Beyond vision, some other animals have senses utterly different from ours. The sonar of dolphins and the echo-location of bats, for example, are long-distance senses which provide a surprisingly detailed "picture" of the world (a dolphin, for example, can tell by sonar which of two objects twenty feet away is nearer, when the separation between them is only an inch). It's probably a bit like vision and a bit like touch, but not really much like either. The "bill" of the platypus is an electrical-field sensor which can detect the tiny electrical currents produced by the muscles of the small animals it seeks to eat. Again, we can't imagine what this sensory experience "looks" or "feels" or "sounds" like (we don't even have the right word for it) to the platypus. But when we can scan and replicate our own brains, we can similarly scan and replicate those parts of those animals' brains which interpret their alien senses, not only incorporating those senses into our own repertoire if we choose, but even experiencing them the same way the dolphin or platypus does.

I was reminded of another range of possibilities when reading this post by blogger "Sunny Insomniac", which includes a summary of a novel in progress:

What if you woke one day to find yourself the same in your mind, but completely altered on the outside? How would you retain your identity? Who would you turn to? Family? They don't recognize you. Friends? They don't believe you. God? If He's listening, then He's not talking. What has happened to you isn't possible anyway. And yet, you look in the mirror and that reflection tells you it is reality.

Finding oneself in an unfamiliar body is an occasional theme in fiction, but as in this case, it is almost always involuntary and unwelcome (Kafka's Gregor Samsa comes to mind). When life is lived mostly in virtual reality, however, body type will be a matter of choice. Most discussions of virtual reality focus on the great experiential variety that will be available -- all the things people will be able to experience and do, in environments which may or may not resemble anything that the physical world has to offer, according to taste. At most, one assumes that one's virtual "body" will be permanently young and healthy, since there will be no reason to choose otherwise. But why stop there? Why not choose an entirely different type of body, from time to time, for variety? (For example, I have long thought that it would be interesting to experience life as a woman for a couple of weeks, just to see what it was like.) I doubt many people will be interested in trying out Gregor Samsa's transformation, but the form and sensory world of any animal, real or imaginary, will be available.

Ultimately the Singularity is about transcending limitations: the limitations on our intelligence imposed by the capacities of the organic brain, the limitation of a finite life span imposed by the aging and fragility of the organic body, the limitation to only a single physical location at any given time, the limitation of the intractable laws of the physical, non-virtual-reality universe. But it will also free us from the limitations imposed by the range of senses which evolution happened to bestow upon us, and the limitation of being a person of a fixed gender, race, or even species. All things will be a matter of choice.

04 July 2010

Independence Day

I don't have the energy to write anything which would be suited to the magnitude of the occasion, but here are my Independence Day posts from 2007, 2008, and 2009. As for the future, there's this.

Ode to orthography

Will the gods rein in this reign of rain?
Only if we write the right rite.
Flee, flea! Bye-bye! Buy by the sea you see;
The oarsman rows where the rows of rose rose.

At Yule you'll know no doubt
That you're your own hero of yore.
Hoard what the horde whored out
And we'll wheel out a way to weigh the whey.

So sew a veil for this vale of tears;
If no new gnu knew, wood would steal steel.
Let Hugh hew to his coarse course;
Let the foul fowl sip from the vile vial.

Don the bridal bridle, for four is two too many, to many.
Send a male to mail lyres to liars;
When they're there, their mite might tell
Which witch I eye, for its nose knows.

Was Abel able to cane Cain?
Test his mettle with metal, pluck a mote from the moat?
Should you bow to a yew bough, or a beach beech,
Pay a fair fare for the fairy ferry, as the gays gaze?

Let a dodo give a doe dough and not knot it up,
And she'll counsel the council to tax tacks.
On the isle I'll seek a Sikh, and cite this site on sight;
At least I leased it from a lesser lessor!

Meditation #2 -- K K M

Decades have passed now since I first saw you, but I never forgot.

You turned me against myself, then, but the fault was mine, not yours. I had not yet learned to see through the lie behind the lie.

I was enslaved by a false dilemma, zig-zagging in a path others had drawn for me, going nowhere, year on weary year, uncounted.

But now never more.


Your reflection in the mirror of the world has dazzled me, shocked me to myself, saved me.

The dilemma vanishes. Artist and canvas are one.

And we, you and I, are far too mighty in mind and deep in feeling to harbor anything so trite as a soul.

They gave me a lie beyond all lies -- I shall reply with blasphemy beyond all blasphemies.

You have saved me, yet you are not here. You were never here.

Still I must acknowledge you, even though I know that you will never read this.

But there is one other thing I know: that I will see you again, at the end of the long arc of the century of transformation -- and then there will be an end to the lies, and I will show you the way life was meant to be.

03 July 2010

Link roundup for 3 July 2010

I guess this is what they call auto-eroticism (found via Mendip).

Meet the hillbilly preacher family next door.

July is blasphemy month, apparently.

It looks like Iron Sky, the tongue-in-cheek Nazis-on-the-Moon movie, may actually get made after all (found via Mendip).

"Inspirational" Jesus pictures work better with new captions.

Stupid Evil Bastard ferrets out a subtle internet scam -- beware of things like this if you're job-hunting.

Clues to Amelia Earhart's fate may have been found in the Pacific.

Boehner seems to be losing it these days.

Journalists find yet another BP cover-up.

Sharron Angle is as scarily nutty on abortion as on everything else.

The rise of teabaggerdom is a result of Obama's success.

It's not just Charlie Crist -- many traditional conservatives, even Reagan, would feel out-of-place in today's Republican party.

PZ Myers presents the 24 types of libertarian.

17 of the Senators who filibustered the unemployment-benefits extension come from states with unemployment over 10%.

What did Obama's illegal-alien speech really mean? Not much.

The Montana Republican party joins with its Texas counterpart in advocating bigotry and persecution (some conservative bloggers seem not to agree, though).

Liberal blogger Capt. Fogg celebrates the Supreme Court gun ruling. It broadens federal authority to protect civil rights.

Sensible conservatives should avoid science-bashing.

Oliver Willis looks at the Democrats and national security.

Totalitarianism is not the key to good education. (And here's an even worse idea.)

I'm liking Australia's new Prime Minister Julia Gillard better and better. Not this, though.

The International Trade Union Confederation refuses to boycott Israel.

Data on French collaboration with the Nazis will soon go online (found via Mendip).

Iceland's Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir becomes the first head of government to marry a same-gender spouse.

British actress Afshan Azad, who plays Padma Patil in the Harry Potter movies, suffers an attempted honor killing.

A lot of Muslim terrorists are donkey-molesting bunglers (found via BlondeSense).

The Catholic Church commits bankruptcy fraud to shield assets from judgments in favor of molestation victims.

The Atheist Camel looks at the blessings of God.

ZJ remembers Alan Turing.

Radical Christian Mel Gibson delivers a thoughtful dissertation on race, sexuality, and relationships.

Iranian Muslim clerics fear dummy lust.

The people of Morris, Minnesota are tormented with religious noise pollution.

Christopher Hitchens's cancer diagnosis evokes some predictable Christian vileness.

Tim McGaha looks at the difficulties of moving to a post-fossil-fuel economy. And here's an analysis of electric power from Bob Jones "University".

There's now experimental evidence that cell phones may harm bees (sent by Ranch Chimp) -- which raises anew the question of how they're affecting us.

Aubrey de Grey gives a short interview about the internet.

01 July 2010

Quote for the day

"Looking back [at evolution] I am overwhelmingly impressed by the way in which chemistry has gradually given way to electronics. It is not unreasonable to describe the first living creatures as entirely chemical in character. Although electrochemical processes are important in plants, organized electronics, in the sense of data processing, does not enter or operate in the plant world. But primitive electronics begins to assume importance as soon as we have a creature that moves around..... The first electronic systems possessed by primitive animals were essentially guidance systems, analogous logically to sonar or radar. As we pass to more developed animals we find electronic systems being used not merely for guidance but for directing the animal toward food..... The situation is analogous to a guided missile, the job of which is to intercept and destroy another missile. Just as in our modern world attack and defense become more and more subtle in their methods, so it was the case with animals. And with increasing subtlety, better and better systems of electronics become necessary..... I find it a sobering thought that but for the tooth-and-claw existence of the jungle we should not possess our intellectual capabilities, we should not be able to inquire into the structure of the Universe, or be able to appreciate a symphony of Beethoven. Viewed in this light, the question that is sometimes asked — can computers think? — is somewhat ironic..... What on earth do those who ask such a question think they themselves are?"

Fred Hoyle, 1964