Workout notes I got a call from my yoga teacher at 5:20 am; she wasn’t going to be able to make class so I led. We got a nice sweat going. I then walked 4 miles (indoors) in 48:33; 12:20, 11:37, 10:46, 13:48 (cool-down). I was going to jog a couple of more miles, but my legs felt like rocks, and this is a rest month for me. I wish I could say that the 10:46 was “easy” but it wasn’t. 😦 Oh well; it is going to take a while to get into shape. I can say that the track is really 7.85 laps to the mile, and I was counting 8 laps as a mile, but that is just an excuse.

The track wasn’t overly crowded, but there was the usual contingent of “dorkusmaximus”; folks who walk 3 abreast on a 4 lane track at 20 minutes a mile. It isn’t uncommon to see folks strolling while talking on cell phones, drinking a fountain soda, or even doing both.

But what the hey; some would say that walking hard (or running) is really a conservative thing to do; others would say that it is not an appropriate activity for a conservative. I am more political than most, but I never thought that an athletic activity would be viewed as being political:

The sight of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, jogging — often wearing his favorite NYPD T-shirt — has fired up a tempest in a Reebok in France and Britain this summer. Sarkozy’s running is an un-French, right-wing conspiracy, suggests Paris’ left-wing newspaper Libération. In response, British commentators gleefully conclude: The French have lost their minds, again.

On the primary state television channel, France 2, Alain Finkielkraut, a leading French intellectual, recently demanded that Sarkozy give up his “undignified” exercise. Not only did he imply that exposing the boss’s naked knees is something that never would have occurred in the time of Mitterrand, much less Louis XIV, Finkielkraut claimed strolling is the proper activity of the thinking person, from Socrates to the poet Arthur Rimbaud.

“Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade,” said Finkielkraut. “Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.”

Sarkozy has fueled a French suspicion that running is for self-centered individualists like Americans, reports Charles Bremner, Paris correspondent for the Times of London.

“Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness,” Bremner writes. […]

“The Sarkozy jog, say his critics, is a sad imitation of the habits of American presidents, and a capitulation to ‘le défi Américain’ (a phrase that was the title of a book published here as ‘The American Challenge’) as bad as the influx of Hollywood movies,” writes Boris Johnson, a British member of Parliament and confirmed jogger, in the Telegraph.

“I am not deterred . . . by the accusation that jogging is right-wing,” he says. “Of course it is right-wing, in the sense that the facts of life are generally right-wing. The very act of forcing yourself to go for a run, every morning, is a highly conservative business. There is the mental effort needed to overcome your laziness. […]

Meanwhile, the readers of British press Web sites are piling on. “No decent conservative would dream of jogging. It’s a vulgar, untraditional form of self-advertisement that might frighten the horses. What’s wrong with croquet?” posted Ian Morrison on the Telegraph Web site. “Had it been a spot of extracurricular horizontal jogging instead, je pense que ze political classe wouldn’t have batted an eye,” posted Nixon McVicar. […]

Hmmm, perhaps there is a religious angle to running/walking/swimming? After all, some of today’s top marathoners are deeply religious:

Former marathon word record holder Khalid Khannouchi (who finished 4’th in the recent US Olympic trials despite being in his late 30’s) is a devout, practicing Muslim.

A Muslim, Khannouchi prays after each race. ”Practicing my religion is what made me a strong man,” he said.

The U. S. Olympic Trials winner, is a devout Christian.

Dang, maybe that is what is wrong with me? Oh wait, Lance Armstrong is an atheist, or “at most” an agnostic.

Hmmm, I guess that my ineptitude in endurance sports is a combination of my genetics, mental weakness and cowardice, and nothing to do with having the favor (or not having the favor) of some deity. 🙂

Ok, what do I believe? I’ve actually been asked this question. This quote (from Bertrand Russell) about sums it up for me:

Are agnostics atheists?

No. An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not. The Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial. At the same time, an Agnostic may hold that the existence of God, though not impossible, is very improbable; he may even hold it so improbable that it is not worth considering in practice. In that case, he is not far removed from atheism. His attitude may be that which a careful philosopher would have towards the gods of ancient Greece. If I were asked to prove that Zeus and Poseidon and Hera and the rest of the Olympians do not exist, I should be at a loss to find conclusive arguments. An Agnostic may think the Christian God as improbable as the Olympians; in that case, he is, for practical purposes, at one with the atheists.

Emphasis mine. So, yes, I don’t say that deities don’t exist. I say that I am skeptical; that is why I am such a fan of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I do think that having places where like minded people can get together can be a good thing; that is why I support continued tax exemptions for churches, so long as churches, ethical societies, free thinking groups, fellowships, mosques, synagogues, temples, and what-have-you are treated the same.

So, I suppose that among atheists and agnostics, I’d be considered a humanist. I think that there are some wise religious people who have useful tips to live by (prayer and meditation are useful to me) and there are wise life lessons (e. g. “yes, having consensual sex with that attractive lady that you are married to WILL damage your marriage, no matter how you try to rationalize it; people have tried that through out the ages and it hasn’t worked for them either”) But I see no reason to posit the existence of a deity.

I see much wisdom in these quotes (and some that I disagree with too).

But to me, religion is personal; I will always object to being held a captive audience to someone else’s religious beliefs. And I will always object to people trying to force religion on science; science is inherently naturalistic. Period. When one stops seeking a natural cause for something, one ceases to do science. Who says so? The people who have had success at science say so!

What do I call “delusional”? Here is the type of thinking that I simply do not respect (yes, I realize that many theists don’t think this way either, but many do):

(note: I am not going to say who the author is, as it is NOT my attention to attack this person but rather his ideas; letter to the editor, 11 December, Peoria Journal Star)

God never guarantees the outcome of our prayers to be 100 percent in the affirmative, but does command us to pray and guarantees He will listen. Sometimes the answer comes in the negative.

No good parent says “yes” to every whim of their children. Just as parents in their imperfect knowledge do what they think best, how much more will God in His perfect knowledge do that is best for His children?

Does Micheletti know that Peoria’s crime rate may already have been reduced by those prayers? Or that crime may have been much higher had those people not prayed? As to her final questions – “Suppose . . .that the crime rate greatly escalates . . . Will God be trying to tell them something? If so, what?” – yes to the first and this may be the answer to the second: God clearly tells us in Isaiah 55 that His ways and purposes are far beyond our finite minds. Stop striving! I’m in control! Rest in Me!

One could tie his finite mind into a pretzel trying to wrap it around His infinite plans. Why bother? […]

Emphasis mine. Of course, the crime rate may have been reduced by my praying to a jug of milk; or maybe crime didn’t go up by as much as it would have, or maybe the milk jug said “not now, I have something better”?

What about political leaders? Again, it they use their religion to help themselves, fine. That is their business. But when someone bills themselves as a “Christian candidate” (as Hucakbee does), then their beliefs DO matter, and those beliefs can be disqualifying. If Huckabee were to say: “on things like evolution, I will defer to scientists”, the fine. But he is not doing that. He is a woo.

So, how do others view us? Not too well. 🙂

People in the United Statesview atheists very unfavorably and would be far less likely to vote for us. Hat tip to Stupid, Evil Bastard.

Larger version here.

Note: the Pew study was more about Romney than anything else.

Other topics

Hat tip to Friendly Atheist!

Some other cool articles: one of the best “links to cool articles” blogs I’ve found is 3 quarks daily.

Here is an article from Scientific American which refutes the notion that most people who were ever alive are alive now: that is not even close to being true.

For most of history, the population grew slowly, if at all. According to the United Nations’ Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, the first Homo sapiens appeared around 50,000 years ago, though this figure is debatable. Little is known about this distant past and how many of us there might have been, but by the time of the agricultural revolution in the Middle East in 9000 B.C., Earth held an estimated five million people.

Between the rise of farming and the height of Roman rule,population growth was sluggish; at less than a tenth of a percent per year, it crawled to about 300 million by A.D. 1. Then the total fell as plagues wiped out large swathes of people. (The “black death” in the 14th century wiped out at least 75 million.) As a result, by 1650 the world population had only increased to about 500 million. By 1800, though, thanks to improved agriculture and sanitation, it doubled to more than one billion. And, in 2002 when Haub last made these calculations, the planet’s population had exploded, reaching 6.2 billion.

To calculate how many people have ever lived, Haub followed a minimalist approach, beginning with two people in 50000 B.C.—his Adam and Eve. Then, using his historical growth rates and population benchmarks, he estimated that slightly over 106 billion people had ever been born. Of those, people alive today comprise only 6 percent, nowhere near 75 percent. “[It is] almost surely true people alive today are some small fraction of [all] people,” says Joel Cohen, a professor of populations at the Rockefeller and Columbia Universities in New York City.

Note: we started about 50,000 years ago; to put this in perspective, the common frog evolved about 200,000,000 years ago and hasn’t changed all that much. How much have we changed?

Homo sapiens sapiens has spread across the globe and increased vastly in numbers over the past 50,000 years or so—from an estimated five million in 9000 B.C. to roughly 6.5 billion today. More people means more opportunity for mutations to creep into the basic human genome and new research confirms that in the past 10,000 years a host of changes to everything from digestion to bones has been taking place.

“We found very many human genes undergoing selection,” says anthropologist Gregory Cochran of the University of Utah, a member of the team that analyzed the 3.9 million genes showing the most variation. “Most are very recent, so much so that the rate of human evolution over the past few thousand years is far greater than it has been over the past few million years.”

“We believe that this can be explained by an increase in the strength of selection as people became agriculturalists—a major ecological change—and a vast increase in the number of favorable mutations as agriculture led to increased population size,” he adds.

Roughly 10,000 years ago, humanity made the transition from living off the land to actively raising crops and domesticated animals. Because this concentrated populations, diseases such as malaria, smallpox and tuberculosis, among others, became more virulent. At the same time, the new agriculturally based diet offered its own challenges—including iron deficiency from lack of meat, cavities and, ultimately, shorter stature due to poor nutrition, says anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, another team member. […]

“Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes,” Hawks notes, because that gene—OCA2—had not yet developed. “We are different from people who lived only 400 generations ago in ways that are very obvious; that you can see with your eyes.”

Comparing the amount of genetic differentiation between humans and our closest relatives, chimpanzees, suggests that the pace of change has accelerated to 10 to 100 times the average long-term rate, the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Not all populations show the same evolutionary speed. For example, Africans show a slightly lower mutation rate. “Africans haven’t had to adapt to a fundamentally new climate,” because modern humanity evolved where they live, Cochran says. “Europeans and East Asians, living in environments very different from those of their African ancestors and early adopters of agriculture, were more maladapted, less fitted to their environments.” […]


December 11, 2007 - Posted by | creationism, politics/social, science, walking, yoga

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