Archive for June, 2010

Hey “William”- You’re Definately Not Helping

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Internet Etiquette, Personal, You're Not Helping |

 

Edit July 1, 2010:  William, the author of You’re Not Helping, has made a proper apology here.  I would like to add that I believe this apology to be sincere, and applaud William for his bravery in coming forward and clearing the air.  Thank you William.

I don’t get to do much blog watching on weekends and completely missed the climax of a story I had been following since mid-last week.

You’re Not Helping imploded before our very eyes this past weekend; effectively verifying accusations made by a couple of bloggers, most notably oedipusmaximus of The Buddha Is Not Serious.

After reading oedipus’ post and the comments last week, I was convinced something was gravely wrong with YNH (beyond just contradicting themselves on a post by post basis).  Facts came to light that eventually prompted “William”, the “brains” behind YNH to admit to creating a circle-jerk of sock puppets to congratulate one another on their brilliance and gang up on dissenters.  He does not, however, admit to being a religious Poe masquerading as an atheist to shame New Atheists; an allegation I leveled at YNH over on Camels With Hammers and still believe to be the case.

So “William”, it turns out, was several regular commenters on his own blog.  I assume he used this system to bolster his argument by creating false consensus, maybe hoping that a gang mentality would eventually take hold so that his sock puppets could be eventually phased out.

This post, though, is about none of those things.  Oedipus and Greg Laden and others have done a fantastic job of documenting the rise and spectacular fall of YNH.

This is about the last post on YNH, the one that should have been an apology to people who were attacked and villified by one person masquerading as many.  It should have been an apology; what we got instead was an admission and finger pointing.  It wasn’t even a good admission.  Admissions should involve some degree of humility, some indication that the author bears responsibility for both the actions and the consequences.

So to Will, what I want to talk about is that last post; the missed opportunity to make a bad situation better and possibly save what could have been a welcome voice in the blogosphere: (more…)

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What My Fridge Taught Me About Faith, Science and Progress

Posted on June 24, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Personal, Religion, Science |

I like analogies.

My brain doesn’t wrap itself around verbose logical arguments well.  For better or for worse, my mind functions best as an unending spool of metaphors, epigrams, and anecdotes; poetry is the mother tongue in my head.

So with that said I want to show you something:

WTF?

If you are like most people you probably have no idea what the hell this is.  Most of you don’t really care.  What this diagram represents though, is something each of us likely uses every day.  It is a wiring diagram for a fridge.  This post is about my fridge, and what it says to me about the prism through which we discuss faith and the lack thereof.

(more…)

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Andrew and I Have A Civil Discussion Pt.2-Physics and Biology Edition

Posted on June 17, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Science |

Note from George to the reader:

This post is a follow up to my previous post, Andrew Rosenberg and I have a Civil Discussion. These posts stem from an invitation by me and accepted by Andrew to answer questions he posed to PZ Myers by e-mail.  If you are unfamiliar with the background story, click here for my summary of what happened.  Also note that I am more than happy to accept comments and questions for Andrew, but I will not tolerate the ridiculous hatred and vile threats tossed at Andrew on other blogs, and I reserve the right to delete comments that are not in good taste.

Please read this part carefully:

I am not a physicist, nor am I a biologist.  In fact, any of the “facts” I state here could be just plain wrong.  If the reader has any problems with the facts I present, and can display accurate information to the contrary; I will happily amend this post and credit the commenter/author.  I will not be amending the post to accommodate science deniers, those who think their religion of choice has anything substantive to say about the science of our universe’s origins. I will however, happily direct you to sources where you can investigate those claims further.

Andrew,

First let me thank you for reading and responding to my first post.  I hope that you also took the time to read my follow up comments to you and have given them some thought.  I can tell that you are eager to learn about these topics, and I can only offer you a short introduction to both subjects.

(more…)

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Andrew Rosenberg and I Have a Civil Discussion.

Posted on June 16, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Internet Etiquette, Personal, Religion, Science |

Note from George to the reader:

This post and I hope ones to follow stem from an invitation by me and accepted by Andrew to answer questions he posed to PZ Myers by e-mail.  If you are unfamiliar with the background story, click here for my summary of what happened.  Also note that I am more than happy to accept comments and questions for Andrew, but I will not tolerate the ridiculous hatred and vile threats tossed at Andrew on other blogs, and I reserve the right to delete comments that are not in good taste.

Andrew,

First I’ll give you some background on what informs my point of view.

I grew up in an Anglican family, attended church regularly and read the bible.  My father came from a Calvinist denomination and switched churches when he got married.  He taught Sunday School and was active in the church.  My paternal Grandmother sent me to a Presbyterian youth group when I visited her in the summer where I was exposed to a very different Christianity than the Anglican Church I attended at home.

I tell you this because it was important for me to see that there were differences even within my own faith.

I was fascinated by religion as a teenager, and still am now.  I am positive that I was just like you at 18 years old; trying to make sense of a bunch of contradictory information and ideas.  I remained and even blossomed as a Christian until age 23, when a few experiences turned the tide the other direction:

  1. (more…)
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Myers v. Rosenberg- What an 18 Yr. Old High School Senior Can Tell Us About Misques, Mobs, and Melodrama

Posted on June 15, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Internet Etiquette, Religion, Science |

I read things.  The last few days I have been caught up in the Tempest in a Teapot that is Myers v. Rosenberg, a fascinating case of letting a smarmy 18 year old high school graduate get the best of you.

For those unfamiliar with PZ Myers (and that is admittedly a small group in the blogosphere), or those not up on the facts of Rosenbergate, I will offer a quick primer.

PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.  He also has a blog.  Pharyngula (so called, I presume, to prevent illiterates from thinking anything interesting will be found there) is what can generally be described as a good atheist slanted science/pop culture blog.  Its failing is that it is a victim of its own success.  Many posts receive comment counts in the several hundreds, many by Pharyngulites- a mob of loyal followers who sometimes appear to be in a competition to try to out-crazy each other.  Oh, there are some thoughtful comments- but you will likely scroll through a fair chunk of tripe to find a useful tidbit.

Enter Andrew Rosenberg of Racine, Wisconsin. Andrew is a self described 18 yr. old High School Senior who is “an intelligent individual, whose thoughts go beyond the typical 2010 senior’s tangents.

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Oil Spill Hilarity

Posted on June 12, 2010. Filed under: Humour, Science |

Too Funny!

And yet Sad at the same time.

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Atheist Disclaimers

Posted on June 12, 2010. Filed under: Personal, Religion |

Right off the bat let me caution that this post is not to be construed as a solicitation for religious witnessing.  I am now, have been for years, and will continue to be an atheist.  That I am some kind of waffling atheist has not been expressed, nor should be implied.

The nexus of this post is two separate posts that I read on Camels With Hammers, an absolutely fantastic philosophy blog written by Daniel Finke.  One of the posts I  commented on almost a year ago, and the other is an introduction to an interesting neurological concept.  The posts in question are here and here.

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Anthropogenic Global Warming and the Denial of Science

Posted on June 10, 2010. Filed under: Global Warming, Religion, Science |

First off, I need to declare my bias on this issue:

I believe with 99.99% certainty that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is both factual and occurring.  I also believe that to deny this fact makes you ignorant, impressionable, or an idiot.

I don’t make this statement lightly.  My brother, a university educated, irreligious, otherwise intelligent guy, denies the human link to AGW.  This really bothers me because of my declared bias above.  After many arguments with my brother, I fear that he is a bit of all three.  I’ll get to why I say that later, as well as his specific reasons for denying AGW, but first let me spell out the three general afflictions of climate change deniers.

  1. Ignorant- This is likely the most forgivable of the three afflictions.  Many people who deny the science of climate change just don’t have all of the information necessary to make an informed opinion.  I think most laymen can be forgiven for finding the subject a little overwhelming or boring or both, making it difficult to take the time to arm themselves with enough information.  They then default to the argument of “there just is not enough proof out there so I choose not to believe it for now.”  There are some really great tools out there for the layman to inform themselves with, my favorite being Peter Sinclair’s (AKA Greenman) Climate Denial Crock of the Week channel on YouTube.
  2. Impressionable- This affliction bleeds into the first one a bit but has some of it’s own distinct traits.  Many folks not armed with enough information to make an informed opinion start looking for information.  Where things go wrong is when they turn to the wrong sources to get their information.  Fox News is not a good source guide to global warming.  The mainstream media in general is not a good source guide to global warming.  Given the wrong information, many people start droning on about a Medieval Warming Period, or how in the 1970’s  scientists predicted an ice age or that it snowed in Washington DC this past winter.  These arguments are easily knocked down if one takes the time to do your homework.  This group of people are also the ones who say that scientists don’t agree on AGW, another great misrepresentation of the facts.
  3. Idiots- This is the classification that is going to invite some hate mail.  I reserve this title for those that don’t believe in AGW because they distrust scientists.  Alternately, they believe that a grand conspiracy by the tree-huggers and the “carbon credit industry” is driving the science of AGW.  If you believe either of these two premises, then you are most certainly an idiot.  Many of these type of people are not surprisingly also creationists.   I suppose when you are willing to buy into a worldwide conspiracy to undermine biblical literalism with evolution, or science being so unbelievably wrong about human origins; denying the science is that much easier.  It is equally likely that creationists desperately want the science of climate change to be wrong.  “If science could be wrong on AGW, it could be wrong on evolution.”  Most of us know the false logic in that kind of thinking, but you can see how tantalizing that possibility seems to the “goddidit”s.

This brings me back to my brother.  To summarize his argument:

  • The scientists are finding false correlations.  Ex: The lack of Pirates is just as likely a cause of global warming.
  • We still lack sufficient information to make conclusions, how can science know anything for sure?

This shows me that he is uninformed (ignorant) to the plethora of data scientists have available to them, misinformed (impressionable) as to the history of climate fluctuations, and chloroformed (an idiot) in that he honestly believes that science can’t really “know” anything.*

What keeps these AGW deniers going is that it’s harder sometimes to argue against idiots than the informed.

*This phrasing is borrowed (ironically) from an episode of City Confidential I once watched on A&E- the person quoted: Rev. Jerry Falwell.  See, even fundies can enrich us sometimes!

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Welcome to My Blog!

Posted on June 10, 2010. Filed under: Personal, Random | Tags: , |

As some of you know, I have a nasty habit of creeping around other people’s blogs and occasionally putting my two-cents in.  Well now that I have my own blog, I guess I can expand my thoughts a bit more and keep beating dead posts that I really didn’t think were finished on other blogs.  My first real post should be coming soon but I need some time to sort out my ideas.  Maybe to keep you busy I’ll just link to some stuff I think is pretty cool.

The pressure to be interesting is really too much to take……

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