Archive for January 2010

One Born Again Every Minute

January 27, 2010

Archeologists said it was a fraud. Sculptures said it was a fraud. Why did people believe it was real? Because it was proof of the Bible. Therefore, anyone that spoke negatively about it was just a poopy head. Sound familiar?

It’s the Cardiff Giant!

The Cardiff Giant, a statue carved out of gypsum and set up in a tent for people to see (at 25¢ a head), was often touted as proof that people “in Biblical Days” could get as large as Goliath.

Ah, yes, “In Biblical Days”, “In Days of Yore”, “In the Time of Legends”: phrases that make it possible to believe the unbelievable.

Paul Veyne wrote a great book called Did the Greeks Believe Their Myths? And he came to the conclusions that they did very much the same thing. They were very aware that the stories of Hercules and Perseus were fantastic in nature. But, since they happened during “heroic generations”, it was possible to believe that they really did occur even if the events would unbelievable in the present. Ah, cognitive disconnect. I think Terry Gilliam’s film Time Bandits did a fantastic job showing this concept. The bandits travel across many historic periods, but the last place they travel to is the Time of Legends in which giants and ogres exist. Great film.


The Messiah Has Returned

January 26, 2010

And he is the man that shot the old Pope.

THE Turkish man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981 said he wants political asylum in staunchly Catholic Croatia, where he plans to write a new Bible.

Agca recently said in a written statement that he would prove he was the Messiah through Vatican documents.

Very interesting. Can’t wait to see what happens. Of course, some may be skeptical of this revelation.

Rambling letters from prison fed suggestions he was mentally disturbed.

Well, that doesn’t sound nice. I think we should respect his religion. There is, after all, “more that one way of knowing”.

Spartacus “Curse” Claims Another

January 26, 2010

The curse attached to the classic film Spartacus has taken another: actress Jean Simmons has died at age 81. Since the film’s original release in 1960, the curse has taken* many great talents from us:

Charles Laughton, died 1962
Dalton Trumbo, died 1976
Laurence Olivier, died 1989
John Ireland, died 1992
Kirk Douglas, stroke 1996
Stanley Kubrick, died 1999
Howard Fast, died 2003
Peter Ustinov, died 2004
Jean Simmons, died 2010

And now the fates are being tempted again with a new Spartacus television series. The curse appears to have already taken effect since it will be broad cast on the Starz network.

*As the curse on King Tut’s tomb has shown us, there is no time limit on curses, and decades may pass from one death to another. Howard Carter, the lead archeologist on the dig, died 17 years after the tomb was opened and his death is frequently cited as being caused by the curse.

I Bet Somehow He’s Being Persecuted

January 25, 2010

John Freshwater, the Creationist teacher that was suspended for burning crosses into his students arms (which he claims was a science experiment) is being evaluated to determine if he will be fired (Link to article). There are some odd comments defending the teacher at the end of the article. Some claiming the mark was an X, even though the picture shows it was clearly a cross (straight up and down, longer supporting leg), or that the marking wasn’t painful (marking underage children without their parents consent doesn’t need to be painful to be wrong), or that he never handed out religious questionnaires to children, even though they found completed copies of it in his office.

Some parents have voiced outrage that the teacher allegedly handed out surveys to students asking how important religion is to them. Freshwater initially denied it, but when he was shown two of the completed surveys during the hearing, he responded “it appears like you have gone through my room and taken some stuff,” the paper reported.

Sounds like a pack of lies to me. They have burned students, they have completed religious questionnaires. Whether he taught that homosexuality is a sin sounds like it’s still debatable, but the rest we have hard evidence for. I think he should be charged with lying under oath, as well. People complain about legal cases and the amount of money lawyers make, but besides accumulating evidence, getting past people’s lies is the major cause of our bloated legal system. Not to mention, it makes you into a doofuse.

So, would this even be a case if he was burning “Ozzy Rules” on kids? Me thinks he would have been dismissed the same day.

I, somehow, made it through 12 years of science classes in primary and secondary school, plus college without ever having a teacher burn things into my arms. Why is this asshole being defended by anyone? It’s good to see some religious people on the comments supporting getting rid of him. Sharing views with someone is not a valid reason for defending in-defensible behavior.

God of the Week: Isis

January 25, 2010

God of the Week 01/25/10: Isis

Isis originated as an ancient Egyptian goddess. She was the wife/sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus. Her worship was widespread and many purposes were applied to her:

Her attributes and epithets were so numerous that in the hieroglyphics she is called “the many-named,” “the thousand-named,” and in Greek inscriptions “the myriad-named.”
-James Frazer, The Golden Bough, Chapter 41, Isis

She probably originated, though, as a grain and fertility goddess as early as 3,000 BCE. There is a myth of her being the discoverer of barley, making her the goddess of both bread and beer.

Isis had a strong appeal to foreign cultures as well, and the Greeks and the Romans quickly adopted the worship of her, bringing it back to their homeland. Her worship there quickly became one of the most popular of the Mystery Religions.

Isis became the closest thing to a universal deity achieved by the ancient world, claiming that all gods and goddesses were really expressions of herself. She became the most widely popular divine figure of the first two centuries CE.
-Earl Doherty, article The Mystery Cults and Christianity, Part One

Unlike many female goddesses of the ancient world, Isis was more than just a personification of sexuality and fertility. She was a powerful and alluring object of veneration that promised peace of mind and eternal life to millions of followers.

And however the religion of Isis may, like any other, have been often worn as a cloak by men and women of loose life, her rites appear on the whole to have been honourably distinguished by a dignity and composure, a solemnity and decorum, well fitted to soothe the troubled mind, to ease the burdened heart. They appealed therefore to gentle spirits, and above all to women, whom the bloody and licentious rites of other Oriental goddesses only shocked and repelled. We need not wonder, then, that in a period of decadence, when traditional faiths were shaken, when systems clashed, when men’s minds were disquieted, when the fabric of empire itself, once deemed eternal, began to show ominous rents and fissures, the serene figure of Isis with her spiritual calm, her gracious promise of immortality, should have appeared to many like a star in a stormy sky, and should have roused in their breasts a rapture of devotion not unlike that which was paid in the Middle Ages to the Virgin Mary.
-James Frazer, Ibid

Book Review: The Moral Animal

January 23, 2010

I am sorry to say but I simply cannot recommend this book. Perhaps this book is just too dated to be relevant anymore (it was written in 1990), but I suspect the author just has too many old hat ideas he can’t let go of. There is some good science in this book, but too often good science and flawed or outdated science get intermixed.

The example I will give is Wright’s apparent obsession with the Victorian era. While romantic, social science that if focused on a single culture cannot be used to draw conclusions about human beings. The only conclusions about human nature that can be drawn from a study of (upper class) Victorian England is how humans will act when put into the social norms of upper class Victorian England. Any meaningful study of human behavior must be studied across cultures in order to reduce cultural bias.

Wright focuses on the Madonna/Whore dichotomy quite a bit. The Madonna/Whore dichotomy states that a man desires an ethically irreproachable woman, most likely a virgin,  as a life partner but prefers a tarty skank for a sex partner. The social morays and artificial constraints of Victorian England , in which this concept was constructed, would have had, of course, a substantial influence on the theory (at the time, women enjoying sex was often considered mental illness) and any modern science writer bringing it up as anything more than a part of the history of psychology can only hope to confuse the reader.

Incredibly, Wright also says very little about morality in this book. He does not mention compassion, sympathy, or behavioral modification as a means of achieving a peaceful social structure. He does not even ponder much on what morality even is, though he does talk of utilitarian ethics a bit.

His notes on homosexuality at the end serve as a further example of a bizarre mixture of science with antiquated social ideas when he states that various genetic or environmental circumstances is what “impels them toward a lifestyle” rather than determining their orientation. Is Wright “impelled” toward a heterosexual lifestyle?

I just don’t know about Robert Wright. The topics he chooses to wright about are very interesting topics that, unfortunately, have very few books written about them intended for a general audience. However, I still cannot recommend anything by him. His conclusions about his topics can only serve to muddy the waters, giving newcomers to the field a distorted view of science. No wonder there are so many people confused about evolution. Go read something by Jared Diamond instead.

Review: Poor

Eddie Izzard on Religion

January 20, 2010