Tag Archives: skepticism

Seven Ways a Black Hole Can Kill You

One of the few things that most (and let me stress, most, not all) freethinkers have in common is a love for science.

Science is the tool that allows us to understand the universe. It’s the process that has allowed us to communicate over vast distances by typing into these little magic boxes (computers, I think they may be called). And, quite simply, it’s just really cool.

Obviously not everyone agrees with me. My own 11 year-old self absolutely loathed going to science class in school. But it can help to capture your attention if the particular scientific subject being discussed is entertaining or interesting. And there are few things as interesting or entertaining as contemplating your own morality and the destruction of the planet. Am I right?

If you think I am, check out the video below. Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy and president of the JREF, gives an hour long talk about 7 ways in which a black hole can kill you.

So enjoy. And try not to panic.

Advertisements

The false wisdom of religious myths

‘Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way,…and few there be that find it.’ When a modern religion forgets this saying, it is suffering from an atavistic relapse into primitive barbarism. It is appealing to the psychology of the herd, away from the intuitions of the few.

This is a quote from the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, from his Religion in the Making. To some it might sound like a promotional phrase from a local Christian organization, in that it might be interpreted such that it demonstrates how so many seem to miss God’s word, and only the few will accept it. But, knowing Whitehead a little better than that, I can say that it means something quite different.

Whitehead’s use of the term “few” is interesting and perhaps misleading. He does not mean that few will attain or choose this straight and narrow, but rather that few will comprehend the complexity in order to navigate it. The issue of religion in all of its philosophical, psychological, and sociological factors is much too complex to be comprehended in simplistic dogma handed to us as the “truth.” Thus any religious group that gives answers to the difficult questions of life in a way that hordes of people can understand and try to follow has severely, I believe, oversimplified the matter, and acts as a stumbling block to true wisdom. True understanding takesr genuine effort.

For those that would respond by saying that it is through belief that we will understand, I say bullshit. Our minds are plastic enough to rationalize something nonsensical which we accept, but this does not ean it will stand up to more objective scrutiny. Socrates is credited with saying “I know that I know nothing,” which made him wise in the eyes of many both ancient and contemporary. Many of those you will find preaching the “Word” today might claim a similar ignorance in saying that we only have the wisdom of man, while there is a wisdom of God available to those who choose to accept it.

But how is our “flawed” human wisdom to recognize divine wisdom without a divine point of view on our parts? This would not be a problem for a theoretical God-man, but it is a serious problem for any fully human receiver of that message to be able to recognize that the messenger or the message is legitimate without access to the divine wisdom in question. (Can anyone say circular reasoning?)

Our wisdom is indeed limited, and we each have much to learn in order to understand the vast universe. But this reasoning is not sufficient to conclude that our wisdom is so inferior that we should capitulate to dogmas and doctrines about the universe that offer a simplistic solution to difficult issues. The fact is that most people will never understand the world or themselves sufficiently in order to approach religious notions with serious comprehension. Yet some will. It is for the more rare mind that the social and psychological constructions of religion become clear. Many others, the “herd,” adhere to simplistic ideologies and beliefs in place of truly comprehensive understanding of religion either because they lack the time or energy to do so.

Religion in our culture has become so watered down, so common, that even someone uneducated in critical thinking, religious history, and philosophy can claim the supremacy of the “Word.” This is not to say that religion is without merit or significance, as there is much to religious thinking that is wonderfully deep and philosophical. Unfortunately, most are unable to appreciate this. And when they do appreciate it they utilize religion’s philosophical depth in order to argue that the simplistic notions epiphenomenal to this depth to are valid in themselves. In other words, they use the wisdom hidden behind the superficial myths to validate the myth.

As a Zen master once said, once you have used the finger to point out the moon, you no longer have use for the finger. So, if you find something useful and wise in the depths of religious traditions, wonderful. My suggestion is to throw away the simplistic dogmas that are promulgated as a lure for the masses in order to truly understand what is important in religious thought for the pursuit and love of wisdom. After all, the few are so few only because the masses don’t try hard enough, don’t care, or are too defensive or stubborn about their beliefs to challenge them.

Adam Carolla: Freethinker, Atheist, Comedian and Modern Philosopher

Many of you have probably never heard of Adam Carolla.

Of those of you who have heard of him, you probably associate him with being one half of a sophomoric television show called “The Man Show”.

Sadly, not enough people know Adam Carolla as the deep thinker he is. He has spent the last 14 years on talk radio, and only last week had his show cancelled. In an attempt to ‘fill the void’ (his words) he has decided to podcast a daily show on his own.

Why should you be interested?

Although he does, admittedly, have a brand of humor that is considered sophomoric, he is also a very intelligent and deep thinker. He spent 11 years on the hit radio show “Loveline”, dispensing serious relationship advice to severely disturbed callers. Doing that and keeping it entertaining is no small feat. Occasionally, he would wax-poetic about atheism, rational thinking and the craziness of the religious.

If you want an ‘atheist’ show, Adam Carolla’s podcast may not be for you. But if you’d like to listen to a master of minutiae, there is absolutely no one better. So please, give support to a fellow Freethinker. You may just thank me for the recommendation.

You can find his new podcast at CarollaRadio.com

Conversations with Fundamentalists

I wanted to post a quick reference to a couple of blog posts from my own corner of wordpress that are relevant here.  While perusing wordpress, I found a blog by a gentleman who had some comments about atheism, so I read his latest (at the time)  post and replied to it.  Here is a link to the post

My comment to his post has not (as of now) been allowed, but I fortunately have a subsequent post of my own that follows the subsequent email correspondence.

Here

And here

Highlight:

My point is this: you are going around in circles, as am I; however, I am allowed to be circular in my reasoning, whereas you are required, because you claim ultimate authority over knowledge, to get behind an original thought and break the circularity of your reasoning. But you cannot do this because you always come back to your presupposition “God does not exist,” as if this is a priori, but it is not.

Several times in our correspondence I reminded him that my proposition was not that god does not exist, but rather that I simply didn’t see any reason to believe one did, and several times (including the one above) he ignored this.

This conversation, linked above in its complete form, is a prime example of apologist’s argument tactics, led by projection, straw-men, and special pleading.

The hypocrisy of anti-criticism

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this old canard about how those who criticize others should not do so.  We, after all, are permitted to believe what we want and it is not the place of people like me to criticize them for their ideas, they’ll say. My immediate response is to ask them whether their criticism of my criticism is hypocrisy or not.

But beyond this is the notion that we are supposed to tolerate the views of others in general.  Is this really true?  Are we simply supposed to accept whatever others believe, no matter what, without challenge?  I think this is problematic for two reasons.

The first is that some people’s views are simply incorrect, and can be easily shown to be so.  The views of creationists who want to teach about Intelligent Design (or whatever the Discovery Institute is calling it now) in science class are simply untenable, and many have rightly stood up against such views.  Similarly, the idea that a god exists is untenable, and people of this blog and others rightly argue their points.

But the more interesting reason is that what happens when someones opinion is that one should criticize other people’s beliefs.  What happens when our naysayer accosts me for my criticizing others’ views and I follow up with my view that one should criticize others’ views.  For them to disagree would be to criticize and thus be a hypocrite, and to agree wold be to disagree with their own view.  Quite a quandary, eh?

The bottom line; if one claims that people should not criticize, they are either allowing the possibility of rampant stupid ideas to go unchallenged or are a hypocrite.  Or is this one of those both/and situations….

Tim Minchin & A Few Hundred Virgins

I don’t want to become the one contributor that just writes a paragraph and then links to a video he finds amusing…but I can’t resist doing it at least once more. The FSGP blog certainly needs some levity thrown in from time to time. And if that becomes my place, so be it!

If you’ve never heard of Tim Minchin, then you’re certainly missing something.  He’s a pianist, a singer, a songwriter, a comedian, a poet, a skeptic and an Australian.

That last bit, while lovely, unfortunately means that those of us in Philadelphia have yet to see Tim perform live. Which is why I’ve spent the last few days rampaging through YouTube to get my hands on every Tim Minchin video I could possibly find. Maybe one day he will grace the states with a visit.

Until then, enjoy his song about anal sex and god.

Not safe for work. Depending on where you work, of course.

A welcome and a call for contributors…

Hello, and welcome to the official blog of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia!

Forgive the mess. We’ve only just begun.

At the moment, there’s only one blogger. Myself. My name is Chris Morse, and in addition to being a member of the FSGP I write my own blog called Suddenly Atheist.

I look forward to contributing my work here. But I hope I won’t be alone.

The FSGP is looking for a group of writers to regularly contribute to this blog. As we are a freethought society we look to cover a variety of different topics, including but not limited to atheism, religious freedom, skepticism, philosophy, science and pseudo-science.

If you’re interested in contributing, please send an email to fsgpblog@gmail.com with a writing sample or a link to an existing blog that you write for.

And while you’re at it, check out the FSGP site and think about becoming a member. (They’d yell at me if I didn’t include that.)

I hope to work with many of you soon.

philly_freethought-5