Thursday, April 30, 2009

Support religious freedom

This is the best video I've seen defending gay marriage.

Physics guy running for a local Texas school board.

The local school board doesn't have influence on curriculum matters, but it can't hurt to have someone with a Physics background near the kids. Seems like a reasonable bloke judging from his website.

Best of luck to Joel Walker and anyone helping him out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Apologies on the comments.

Experiencing some issues with IntenseDebate comments displaying on my old template. I took the opportunity to pretty-up the blog a little bit.

All I did was change the CSS definitions for a couple of elements on one of the standard blogger templates. Comments will be re-installed shortly. Hopefully I can restore all original comments.

The graphic on the header is a digital sculpture of Prometheus by Scott Eaton.

EDIT: Sorry, IntenseDebate doesn't import back old comments. I've decided to go back to the old blogger comments system. It's clean and fast. ID is a little too buggy for my tastes at the moment.

Monday, April 20, 2009

When is faith not necessary?

Secularists would agree that we should all endeavour to minimise the influence of faith in our lives. After all, faith is the belief in things unseen, belief without measurable physical evidence.

When a belief is presented for examination, the bar that needs to be cleared is Falsifiability. As Karl Popper originally put it, “it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience”.

Falsifiabitlity has been a ridiculously successful test on the validity of any belief/explanation. The success of which is evident from the usefulness of the scientific process, as opposed to the comparatively negligible amount of knowledge gained from metaphysics and religion.

This criterion humbly acknowledges that none of us are in extraordinary communion with the forces of nature. There is no revelation.

But what if we were to apply the scientific process to every part of our lives? Should we force our friends to go through various tests to certify their loyalty? Should we secretly and repeatedly conduct experiments on our partners’ to measure their fidelity? Should we not wake up from our beds in fear that our senses could be deceiving us on the existence of such a bed to wake from?

Even scientists receive their zeal and hunger for knowledge on the faith that the external world behaves un-arbitrarily, and eventually nature is fully understandable using reason and empirical knowledge alone.

Faith permeates our daily life and reason does not illuminate a great swathe of decisions that we make. Faith is necessary in maintaining relationships, keeping hope, taking courage, and simply getting out of bed.

So to what extent is faith acceptable? Is it really just a matter of degrees? Are we ‘enlightened’ rationalists merely on the same spectrum as the fundamentalist flat-Earthers, albeit slightly less laughable?

Surely there is a quantifiable demarcation as to when we should abandon faith. When is it necessary to act on faith alone, and when is it harmful and against our self-interests?

Some cool Minority Report gadgetry

via John

Science is hot


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flowchart: The Scientific Process

This flash driven flowchart by UCAL's Museum of Paleontology is an invaluable resource. This should be shown to every high school science student.

Science is not just a body of facts.


Atheism or Secular Humanism

Over at the Eye of Polyphemus, the blogger differentiates between straight up Atheism and Secular Humanism:

There is a simple way to decide whether one is an atheist or secular humanist. If you think the world would be a better place without religion, you are a secular humanist. You may call yourself just an atheist, but you are not. You have gone beyond a non belief in deities to a set of arguably cultish beliefs.

Leaving aside his claim of Secular Humanism being a cult, that differentiation is quite interesting.

I am a secular humanist, and I wish everyone else was too. Intellectually I understand the position that someone who believes in the supernatural cannot be trusted to make sound moral decisions in complex situations. The fact that there is even a stem-cell debate is evidence of this.

We are all aware of the ill-effects of religious belief, but there are also benefits. Is society on the whole better off without such superstition? Are we overestimating the rational capacity of humans?

I have personally witnessed someone very close to me seeking solace in religion when her child was seriously ill. Without her belief she would not have had the continual strength and hope to battle on through the great many hardships that were presented to her. Having seen such evidence of the benefits of faith, it is rather difficult for me to indulge myself in the righteous zeal of the Anti-Theists.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Interesting Presentation

I like this format. You turn the page by going to the corner and flicking the mouse down.

Content is accurate, but a little one-sided.

So much for all that.

What happened to bi-partisanship?


Despite all the good the new administration has done, we cannot excuse this:

Happily this violation has shown that the many Bush critics are not shy of criticizing Obama for the same mistakes. Can the same even-handedness be expected from O'Reilly, Olbermann's counterpart at FOX?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

People not Krugman

Simon Johnson,former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund and professor of Entrepreneurship at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Q&A on the Geithner Plan by Brad DeLong, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist, professor at Columbia University. recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.

Adam Posen
, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.