Ramblings & ephemera

The hard truths science reveals

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law […]

Totalitarian regimes adopt the trappings of religion for themselves

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): It has often been noted that the greatest horrors of the twentieth century were perpetrated by regimes – Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China – that while rejecting some or all of the teachings of religion, copied characteristics of religion at […]

4 sources of tension between science and religion

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): But if the direct conflict between scientific knowledge and specific religious beliefs has not been so important in itself, there are at least four sources of tension between science and religion that have been important. The first source of tension arises […]

Intelligent Design? How about a flat earth?

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): Contradictions between scripture and scientific knowledge have occurred again and again, and have generally been accommodated by the more enlightened among the religious. For instance, there are verses in both the Old and New Testament that seem to show that the […]

A homogenized religion for America in the 21st century

From Damon Linker’s “The Future of Christian America” (The New Republic: 7 April 2009): hat will provide the theological content of the nation’s civil religion now that the “mere orthodoxy” of the evangelical-Catholic alliance has proven unsuitable for a pluralistic nation of 300 million people? To my mind, the most likely and salutary option is […]

A history of the negative associations of yellow

From Allen Abel And Madeleine Czigler’s “Submarines, bananas and taxis” (National Post: 24 June 2008): Depicted in frescoes and canvases from the early Middle Ages onward in the robes of the betrayer of the Christ, “Judas yellow” devolved into an imprint of depravity, treason and exclusion. … By the 12th century, European Jews were compelled […]

The cochineal insect’s gift of red

From Allen Abel and Madeleine Czigler’s “Scandal, communism, blood” (National Post: 27 June 2008): The blood-red allure of lipstick is a gift of a parasitic insect that infests cactus plants, principally in Mexico and Peru. It has been known since Aztec and Mayan times that, when boiled, the body of the cochineal insect dissolves into […]

Social networks can be used to manipulate affinity groups

From Ronald A. Cass’ “Madoff Exploited the Jews” (The Wall Street Journal: 18 December 2008): Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad […]

A one-way ticket to crazyville

Image by rsgranne via Flickr Image by rsgranne via Flickr Image by rsgranne via Flickr From Dave Alan’s “Interview with Alex Christopher” (Leading Edge Research Group: 1 June 1996): Legend: DA [Dave Alan, Host] AC: [Alex Christopher] C: [Caller] … (Note: according to former British Intelligence agent Dr. John Coleman, the London-based Wicca Mason lodges […]

Hallucinating the presence of the dead

From Vaughan Bell’s “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased” (Scientific American: 2 December 2008): The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in our senses—as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences. Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to […]

Protected: Etymologies & the dictionary definitions of the f-word

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Denver International Airport, home to alien reptilians enslaving children in deep dungeons

From Jared Jacang Maher’s “DIA Conspiracies Take Off” (Denver Westword News: 30 August 2007): Chris from Indianapolis has heard that the tunnels below DIA [Denver International Airport] were constructed as a kind of Noah’s Ark so that five million people could escape the coming earth change; shaken and earnest, he asks how someone might go […]

The birth of Geology & gradualism as a paradigm shift from catastrophism

From Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Imagining Abrupt Climate Change : Terraforming Earth” (Amazon Shorts: 31 July 2005): This view, by the way, was in keeping with a larger and older paradigm called gradualism, the result of a dramatic and controversial paradigm shift of its own from the nineteenth century, one that is still a contested part […]

Transcendence, described by the East & West

From Steve Paulson’s “The disbeliever” (Salon: 7 July 2006): But it does raise the question, what do you mean by spiritual? And what do you mean by mystical? By spiritual and mystical — I use them interchangeably — I mean any effort to understand and explore happiness and well-being itself through deliberate uses of attention. […]

Religious moderates legitimize fundamentalism

From Steve Paulson’s “The disbeliever” (Salon: 7 July 2006): In perhaps his most daring rhetorical gambit, Harris seeks to undermine religion by denouncing not just jihadis and fundamentalists, but moderates. “Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world,” he writes, “because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural […]

James Jesse Strang, Mormon King of Michigan

From Geoffrey Gagnon’s “King James I, of Michigan” (Legal Affairs: September/October 2005): One letter that isn’t on display is the one that James Jesse Strang said he received from Smith just before the Mormon leader was murdered in June 1844. In the letter, which now resides in a university library, Smith bequeaths the nascent Mormon […]

Fundamentalism as limited reading

From Douglas Rushkoff’s “Faith = Illness: Why I’ve had it with religious tolerance“: When religions are practiced, as they are by a majority of those in developed nations, today, as a kind of nostalgic little ritual – a community event or an excuse to get together and not work – it doesn’t really screw anything […]

The great divider

From Richard Dawkins’ “Time to Stand Up“: It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say “Enough!” Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up […]

Respecting religion

From Douglas Adams’ “Is there an Artificial God?“: Now, the invention of the scientific method and science is, I’m sure we’ll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and that it rests on the premise that […]

The sky-god as origin of evil

From Gore Vidal, quoted in Richard Dawkins’ “Time to Stand Up“: The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is […]