Science, religion, free speech and more….

Science and the public: I sometimes think that it is unfortunate that the untrained have access to science articles. :-)

For example: some scientists published a study which looks at the mechanisms of some of the cold-causing viruses; in particular it was interested in why the virus reproduces better in slightly cooler temperatures (that one would would find in the human nasal cavity) than in warmer temperatures (the core of the body).

So…wait for it…out comes an article (or two, or three) that tells you that yes, not dressing warmly enough when you go outside on a cold day might give you a higher probability of catching a cold. To see a reasonable response to this new research, go here.

We are freezing! So much for “global warming”

Yes, 2014 was a cold year for Illinois, the 4’th coldest on record. And yes, I am cold right now.

Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 8.12.12 AM

But as far as the rest of the planet: not so much:

Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 8.14.20 AM

See what is going on? Look at that patch of deep blue/purple …right where I live.

History and Religion
Was there a “historical Jesus” or only the Jesus of religious myth? I am not qualified to weigh in on that question, though I am qualified to roll my eyes at all of the miracle/articles of faith stuff. But some scholars doubt that such a person even existed to begin with, and they have ample reason to do so.

Now it has been my “it makes sense to me” opinion, based on little more than popular works, that these tales were based on the life (lives?) of some “holy man” of the period, but that is just the conjecture of a reasonably well read amateur.

Now, as far as morals go: there is no evidence that being religious makes one more moral than not being religious. The data sure as heck doesn’t say that anyway. And when someone says “well, what is to stop me from raping, murdering and stealing if I don’t believe in God” I’d ask: “do you really want to do those things and feel that religion stops you? I have no urge to do those things, and the rates of these crimes are LOWER in less religious countries (and US states!) than in the more religious ones! Of course, there is the correlation between education and religious belief (a somewhat complicated one) which might explain some of the cause.

So, as the article I linked to points out that being religious doesn’t make you less moral either.

Now, as far as freedom of speech and religion There has been a horrific attack on the offices of a French satire magazine; several were killed. Witnesses say that the attackers were Muslim extremists, though I’d caution about jumping to a premature conclusion. I’d also caution about demonizing large groups of people based on the actions of a few.

Yes, I’ll say it: if you believe that your religion should be protected from public criticism or that you have the right/duty to physically attack others for doing so, then you do NOT belong in the United States.

January 7, 2015 Posted by | biology, free speech, religion, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

what liberals fight about

Yes, people commonly referred to as “liberals” (e. g. people inclined to vote Democrat) often fight with each other.

Here is one such divide: blue collar vs. white collar:

Yes, I drive a Prius. :-)

Here are other places of conflict: we have the “free speech/free exchange of ideas” vs. “let’s protect the sensibilities of any oppressed group” debate. You see this in the “porn wars”; e. g. some feminists want porn to be outlawed because it “harms women”.

We have socially conservative “people of color” (e. g. Blacks and Hispanics) versus gays; for example, Black voters were a huge part of Proposition 8 passing in California.

Then, of course, there is the recent incident of a white lesbian couple suing a sperm bank because they weren’t given a white person’s sperm (as promised). Yes, they did NOT get what they contracted for. But they are also telling their kid that she is somehow…defective or inferior…not what they wanted. This opens a huge can of worms…what if, say, the sperm carried the DNA for some physically undesirable traits?

Then there is the recent dustup over Islam. Islam, as practiced by millions worldwide, is a classic, “patriarchy”, “governing from the top down”, “illiberal social ideas” religion. But to criticize this is to draw the wrath of well intentioned but logically challenged liberals. You see more discussion of this here.

Agonizingly, liberals grade on a very steep curve. Read what Nicholas Kristof says:

Third, the Islamic world contains multitudes: It is vast and varied. Yes, almost four out of five Afghans favor the death penalty for apostasy, but most Muslims say that that is nuts. In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, only 16 percent of Muslims favor such a penalty. In Albania, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, only 2 percent or fewer Muslims favor it, according to the Pew survey.

ONLY 16 PERCENT? ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME??? Imagine if 16 percent of Christians in the US had such attitudes! Heck, “only” 2 percent? In the US, 2 percent is 6 million people, or perhaps 4 million if you only consider adults.


You produce a cleric that says that Sharia Law calls for the death penalty for apostasy. Some liberal says “other clerics disagree”. Yes, others might disagree, but the fact that someone can present this as if it is a mainstream position (even if it isn’t the only one) is very, very troubling.

Put it this way: the positions of the Westboro Baptist Church would be moderate by Muslim standards; after all, they aren’t calling for blasphemers to be put to death.

I didn’t intend to weigh as deeply into this debate as I did. But you see the fault lines: we have liberal ideals vs. multiculturalism. The very idea that some religious ideas OTHER THAN MAJORITY RELIGIOUS IDEAS are toxic is just too much for the mind for many liberals to comprehend.

Hey, a position is not automatically wrong just because Fox News takes it.

October 10, 2014 Posted by | free speech, religion, social/political | | Leave a comment

Liberals, atheists and George Will?

My goodness, Mr. Climate Change Denying George Will is an atheist? I suppose so.

Liberals Islam poses a challenge for liberals. Sam Harris explains. Basically, the tenants of Islam are highly illiberal and many of the Muslim theocracies are highly oppressive.

But I should be clear about a few things:

1. Saying that a religion contains a lot of noxious and bad ideas is a condemnation of those ideas and not of the people who might belong to a said religion. As Harris explains: condemning communism for being a very bad idea is NOT a condemnation of Chinese or Russian people.

2. Nothing in this criticism justifies denying Americans religious freedom; an American Muslim should have the same religious rights that, say, Christians, Jews and Hindus have. The same goes for places of worship. The same goes for world events; no US Muslim should have to apologize for, say, the Saudi terrorists who attacked us on 9-11. True, the 9-11 attackers were, in part, motivated by religion. But, abortion clinic bombers are also motivated by religion and I don’t expect Christians to apologize for them.

3. Still, huge numbers of Muslims around the world have some very backward, noxious ideas. To pretend otherwise is to be blatantly dishonest.

4. I am tempted to say that people like this do not belong in the United States.


But are these people really any worse than those who want, say, campus speech codes?

It pains me to say this, but at times, conservatives stick up for free speech better than liberals do. For more on the United States and free speech, go here.

Of course, there are plenty of Americans who, at the core, really don’t like free speech unless they agree with it; many are my relatives (I am sorry to say).

October 8, 2014 Posted by | atheism, free speech, religion, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Right Wing Fantasies, Military, Amish, Football

Ok, what is that President Obama going to do NOW…something that takes away our freedoms? Well, look no further:

Can websites be forced to change to accommodate the disabled — by using “simpler language” to appeal to the “intellectually disabled,” or by making them accessible to the blind and deaf at considerable expense?


But now, the Obama administration appears to be planning to use the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to force many web sites to either accommodate the disabled, or shut down. Given the enormous cost of complying, many small web sites might well just go dark and shut down. The administration wants to treat web sites as “places of public accommodation“ subject to the ADA, even though they are not physical places. Courts used to reject this argument when it was made just by disabled plaintiffs, but now that the Justice Department is making it, too, some judges are beginning to buy it, opening the door to trial lawyers surfing the web and sending out extortionate demand letters to every small business whose web site is not accessible to the blind (or perhaps too hard to understand for the mentally-challenged).

As Atlas’s Alexander Cohen notes, “the Department of Justice may soon issue regulations on website accessibility. Jared Smith, an accessibility consultant, even urges businesses to use simple language for the intellectually disabled.” (Bye, bye, speech similar to Shakespeare or the Gettysburg Address, with their archaic or flowery language that violates supposed best practices about how to write.)

Hmmm, the last I checked bookstores still had quantum mechanics text books.

Us missile force
This isn’t good: some morale problems (“dead end for officers”) may have contributed to sloppy practices. We don’t need that.

Writing about what you don’t understand. Interesting: Rolling Stone talks about “rape in the military”. But they start with the case of a woman who clearly drove while intoxicated…evidently after having been drugged (by a drink) and raped. However the author of the article didn’t seem to get that driving while intoxicated is serious (and would lead to some severe punishments) and that toxicology reports showed no known date rape drugs in the system. They also don’t seem to get that people in the military (NOT necessarily the lady in question) will make stuff up to get out of things; hence investigators have to take a skeptical attitude toward charges that don’t have “in your face” evidence from the start.

The Learning Channel: I used to like The History Channel and TLC; now it mostly shows junk. Here is but one example. Note: yes, this is a Salon article and the title is misleading. The article is about the network making stuff up and NOT about it being bad to record someone leaving their religion and religious community.

NFL Ever wonder what happens to players a decade or so after they quit playing, when the body starts its “payback” from all of those injuries? Much to my astonishment, the NFL players union didn’t negotiate long term disability or long term (past 5 years) health insurance. Hence some of the guys end up in pretty bad shape and unable to find health insurance.

May 12, 2013 Posted by | civil liberties, football, free speech, NFL, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Freedom to criticize religion (and atheists too)

Note: I am finishing this half-marathon race about 9 minutes “faster” than the winners of the Boston Marathon ran the whole thing. They are literally almost twice as fast as I am.


As far as I am concerned: laws that ban criticism of religion are backwards and barbaric:

A court here handed down a suspended 10-month prison term on Monday for Fazil Say, an internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist and composer convicted of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in postings on Twitter.

Mr. Say, 42, who has performed with major orchestras in places around the world, including New York, Berlin and Tokyo, said during earlier hearings that the accusations against him went “against universal human rights and laws.” The sentence was suspended for five years, meaning that the pianist will not be sent to prison unless he is convicted of new offenses within that period.

In recent years, many intellectuals, writers and artists have been prosecuted for statements about Islam and Turkish identity, both of which the pro-Islamic government seeks to shield from criticism. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, however, have rarely figured in previous trials, although Turks are active users of the sites.

The messages cited in the indictment were Mr. Say’s personal remarks referring to a poem by a famous 11th-century Persian poet, Omar Khayyam, that poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife. The poem was sent to Mr. Say from another user before he forwarded it.

In another personal Twitter post, he joked about the rapid call to prayer at a nearby mosque, questioning whether the muezzin who made the call wanted to get away quickly for a drink.

“Religion of Peace”? Sorry: but the behavior of the Islamic republics does Islam no favors. Note: Turkey is supposed to be a “moderate” country.
People who can’t accept freedom of speech do not belong in the United States.

Boston Marathon Bombing
I don’t know who did it or what group did it. I have my prejudices (re: mostly “homegrown” nutbags or criminals is my “out of thin air” guess) but we will have to let the police do their work. But of course, when stuff like this happens, the conspiracy kooks and the “the godless are responsible” kooks come out in the open.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | free speech, religion, running, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

Cheers for science, boos for cold. :-)

Screen shot 2013-03-21 at 9.45.40 AM

I just walked out the door to go to the gym, saw the sunshine and said “oh bleep it, I am going outside”. But I bundled up:
underwear, bike shorts, tights, second pair of shorts
nylon shirt, long sleeve t shirt, sweat shirt, gortex jacket
mittens (heavy duty)
stocking cap.

And yes, my feet got cold; should have worn wool socks. I chose my 417 feet of climb course since the cold ALWAYS slows me a bit.


Time: 1:04:45 (51:17 for the 5.1 segment). It was only 10 minutes per mile but I still sweated up a storm. And I did enjoy the sun.

A West Virginia paper printed someone’s anonymous phone rant; it was filled with slurs and threats. My beef: it was anonymous. Had this person used his name/address and they verified that it WAS that individual, then, hey, go ahead and print it.


We have a more complete picture of the background microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang.

We also have a promising candidate for a leukemia treatment:

A treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer has, for the first time, produced remissions in adults with an acute leukemia that is usually lethal, researchers are reporting.

In one patient who was severely ill, all traces of leukemia vanished in eight days.

“We had hoped, but couldn’t have predicted that the response would be so profound and rapid,” said Dr. Renier J. Brentjens, the first author of a new study of the therapy and a specialist in leukemia at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The treatment is experimental, has been used in only a small number of patients and did not work in all of them. But experts consider it a highly promising approach for a variety of malignancies, including other blood cancers and tumors in organs like the prostate gland.

The new study, in five adults with acute leukemia in whom chemotherapy had failed, was published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Go Science!!!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | biology, cosmology, free speech, running, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Is Mitt Romney even trying? Plus: a free speech comment.

Workout notes
AM: 4 mile run (4.2 in 40:07; Cornstalk course) with a 8:44 last 1.03. It felt fine; no cars on the park loop, though it was dark.
I followed it by a 2 mile walk (Moss). Stretching and free squats after.

PM: lunch: 1800 swim (no Tracy today); 500 warm up (9:50), 10 x 50 on the 1, 10 x (25 side, 25 free), 4 x (25 3g, 25 free), 2 x (25 fly, 25 free).
I felt tired prior to the swim; better after. The water was nice and cold.

I like Randazza’s article about free speech and what a government run metro service can decline or decide to accept. I might take issue with his characterization of the groups in conflict; after all I can criticize the Bible without worrying that a Rabbi might to impose some death sentence for “being insulted”. Islam, as practiced in many parts of the world at this time in human history, is relatively backward.

But this isn’t to say that the other religions are at all reasonable; after all how much bloodshed has their been over parts of Jerusalem which, really, are not much more than a pile of rocks. And you have two groups of people of roughly the same size on one parcel of land, so the best solution is, well, rather easy…provided you take religion out of the equation.

2012 election
Today on Intrade: President O is at 75 percent.


One wonders if Mr. Romney is even trying to win.

Yes, he still might; a 25 percent chance is NOT a zero percent chance.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, Barack Obama, civil liberties, free speech, political/social, politics, religion, running, swimming, walking | Leave a comment

Perceptions, noxious speech and other topics…

Weekly address

Mr. Romney: quit lying:

But hey, some porn stars are backing Santorum? Really, they released a hilarious ad.

Noxious Speech
This is NPR’s interview with Randazza about the Cox case and how one fights bad speech with more speech.

Of course, free speech carries consequences, and the National Review canned the writer who wrote a very openly racist screed in an e-magazine. Of course, the National Review used to publish stuff just like this: (via here)

Here’s what NR had to say about the Birmingham church bombings after they occurred:

Let us gently say the fiend who set off the bomb does not have the sympathy of the white population in the South; in fact, he set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur — of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro.

And let it be said that the convulsions that go on, and are bound to continue, have resulted from revolutionary assaults on the status quo, and a contempt for the law, which are traceable to the Supreme Court’s manifest contempt for the settled traditions of Constitutional practice. Certainly it now appears that Birmingham’s Negroes will never be content so long as the white population is free to be free.

And, of course, there’s more. Lots more after the fold.

From an unsigned National Review editorial printed August 24, 1957, titled “Why the South Must Prevail” (probably by William F. Buckley Jr.):

The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes — the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists

So, with this in mind, it is no wonder why people are so divided on the Trayvon Martin case and why whites are so reluctant to condemn this murder.

April 8, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, Barack Obama, civil liberties, free speech, Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, racism, republicans, rick santorum | Leave a comment

Marathons, Hate Crimes and Auroras

Marathons: how long does it take to “recover” from one?
Answer: “it depends”. :) Check out this New York Times article.

1. Was it a running or walking marathon?
2. How hard did you go? After all, a 100 mile race has you doing almost 4 of these back to back.
3. How efficient are you? The more efficient among us do less damage to their bodies.

Civil liberties
Randazza links to an interesting article about so-called “hate crime” laws.

There was a case in which a college student put a video feed in his room and showed his roommate having gay sex…and he said some rather rude things about it. His roommate ended up jumping off a bridge and killing himself; this case went to court where the roommate was convicted and faces jail time and deportation.


THOUGHT EXPERIMENT NUMBER ONE: Let’s say that Clementi never jumped off that bridge, but everything else about the case remains the same. Do you believe that Ravi would have even been prosecuted for what he did, much less convicted by a jury and facing ten years in jail? More to the point: If you’d been on that jury, and Tyler Clementi was alive and appearing in court as the plaintiff, would you have felt compelled to put Ravi behind bars for up to a decade? I doubt it. Remember, Ravi’s awful behavior would still have been the same. But few people would probably choose to convict him in the absence of a corpse.

What does that tell us? It says that his actions only amount to a crime when there are certain outcomes that he had no control over. (It’s not like he handed Clementi a gun and advised him to shoot himself. And even if he had, that final deed would still be Clementi‘s choice, and no one else’s.) […]

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT NUMBER TWO: What if Ravi had spied on Clementi while the latter was making out with a woman? I’ll let The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen flesh that one out a bit:[…]

Surf to the link to read the rest.


Click on the thumbnail to see the spectacular photo with explanation.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | civil liberties, free speech, marathons, racewalking, running, social/political | Leave a comment

Neutrinos, Fox News Victim Card and Some Religion

Neutrinos: no, they don’t move faster than the speed of light. New experimental evidence is in.

Remember the FFF “hey lapsed or liberal Catholic: why don’t you leave the Church” ad that appeared in the New York Times? A similar “why don’t you leave Islam” ad was rejected by the Times.


Will it be religious freedom, freedom of speech, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or imams and their wrongs? Whose side are you on?

In light of the ongoing, ruthless, international jihad against non-Muslims, the 1,400-year record of institutionalized oppression of women, the 18,560 Islamic attacks across the world since 9/11, and the endangering of free peoples across the world, if you’re part of the Islamic jihad, you’re part of the problem.

Why are you aiding and abetting Islamic leaders who have repeatedly and publicly announced a jihad to subjugate Christians, Jews, Hindus, and all non-Muslims, and to deny the rights of all women everywhere, Muslim or not?

Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Islam’s antiquated doctrine that commands jihad and genocide.

If you imagine you can change the mosque from within — get it to lighten up on Jew-hatred, hatred of women, hatred of non-Muslims, hatred of gays — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Muslim,” you are doing “bad” to the rights of women and non-Muslims everywhere. You’re kidding yourself if you think the mosque is ever going to expunge the Qur’an of its violent texts that inspire jihad, or interpret them out of existence.

Your mosque hysterically claims that freedom of speech and the truth about jihad and Islamic supremacism are “an assault against Islam.” You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the mosque against human rights. A captured internal document of the Muslim Brotherhood declares that its goal in the U.S. is “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.” Is that an agenda you endorse?

Obama has compromised, but Islam never budges. Instead, it is fully embarked upon a stealth jihad, using the Justice Department to force businesses and educational institutions to accommodate Islamic law — the same Islamic law that denies the freedom of speech, mandates death for apostates, and oppresses women and non-Muslims.

Why put up with an institution that dehumanizes women and non-Muslims — fully 9/10ths of humanity? Ask your imam: Does he support Hamas? Hizb’Allah? The destruction of Israel? Does he condemn the slaughter of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq, etc. Does he vocally denounce Islamic honor killings, FGM, forced marriages, child marriage, polygamy? As a “moderate” Muslim, you tell yourself and the world that you have chucked out the violent doctrine and hateful, oppressive decrees of your religion, and yet you keep identifying with the ideology that threatens liberty for women and menaces freedom by slaughtering, oppressing and subjugating non-Muslims.

There is a more welcoming home for you!

Join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful and violent teachings of Islam’s “prophet.”

As a member of the “umma,” of an avowedly hateful, supremacist, and antidemocratic club, isn’t it time you vote with your feet? Please, exit en mosque.

Very truly,
Pamela Geller
President, Stop Islamization of Nations, American Freedom Defense Initiative
Robert Spencer
Vice-President, Stop Islamization of Nations, American Freedom Defense Initiative

The reason given: the ad, according to the Times, might put our troops in danger. In other words, backwards people who will riot when the hear stuff that they don’t like in effect have a veto over what we say?

Also from Friendly Atheist: a collection of various atheist posters and billboards.

Personally, I prefer the ones aimed at those who are already skeptical: “have doubts? You aren’t alone”, etc.

But one thing to consider: yes, young people are leaving churches. But the primary reason is NOT atheists (“New Atheists” or otherwise). Here is a blog post from a Christian blog on this topic.

My whole point of talking about these topics: I am not really out to convert anyone, per se. What I want is: I’d like to see religious myths taken out of public policy and science! I don’t want people thinking that some deity will protect us from the consequences of climate change or driving public policy decisions.

I sometimes talk about the intellectual aspects and what makes sense to me…and about what doesn’t make sense to me. But that isn’t about converting anyone else.

Fox News: victims. Jon Stewart says STFU.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | atheism, Fox News Lies Again, free speech, physics, religion, science | Leave a comment


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