Saturday, December 22, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Small minds in a small town
No human language exists that can adequately express the disgust and shame that I feel when I realize that I share an atmosphere with such an individual. That my county shares a border with his county is even more appalling. What he says isn't right. It's not even right enough to be wrong. Again, there isn't a word for it because it goes beyond wrong. I supposed the phrase "stunningly and embarrassingly ignorant" begin to describe it.
Where does he think gay people come from? Do they spontaneously appear? Are they created in labs? Or are they people who are born to heterosexual parents?
As for rounding people up and putting them behind fences, it's been tried. The parallels between Worley's suggestion and the Third Reich's "Final Solution" are all too obvious. I'm generally loathe to compare these nuts to Nazis but let's be honest, here. There is no other way to describe it.
Pastor Worley then went on to tell his congregation not to vote for Obama. Oh, he was careful not to mention names but it was more obvious what he meant. So if he's going to preach politics from the pulpit, he needs to surrender his church's tax exempt status immediately. He's in violation of federal law.
This man is spreading a dangerous message of hatred and intolerance. The fact that his congregation didn't walk out on him or correct him shows that a large number of Maiden's citizens are cut from the same cloth. If you watch the video, you can hear some cheering him on.
Before you go on about respecting a preacher, if he's saying things that are wrong, his parishioners have an obligation to correct him. I remember my grandfather leaping to his feet in church and shouting at the priest, "Rubbish, young man!" So it can be done.
On behalf of those in my state who actually use their brains for more than warming the insides of their hats, I apologize to the world. We aren't all like this.
Thursday, May 03, 2012
WHEREAS, the application of reason, more than any other means, has proven to offer hope for human survival upon Earth, improving conditions within the universe, and cultivating intelligent, moral and ethical interactions among people and their environments, and
WHEREAS, those who wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, the basic document for governing the affairs of humankind within the United States, based it upon principles delineated within the philosophies distinguishing the historical Age of Reason, and
WHEREAS, most citizens of the United States purport to value reason and its application, and
WHEREAS, it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Anthony R. Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte, do hereby proclaim May 03, 2011 as
Signed “Anthony R Foxx, Mayor”
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Nothing Succeeds Like Success
We all know those people who succeed at virtually everything they try. When I was in high school, there was the girl who won all the scholarships, was a cheerleader, president of every club she joined and wound up as co-valedictorian at our graduation. She was an accomplished musician. From what I know about her since, she has continued that trend throughout her life.
I wasn't quite the same kind of person. I had high aspirations but never seemed to succeed at very much. I knew that I needed to work harder on certain aspects of my life but for some reason, I always took the path to failure. It may sound strange but I think I was comfortable in my failure.
Looking back at it, I think that I may have been programmed to fail. My mother seldom approved of the things that interested me. I had an intense interest in astronomy and science fiction which she dismissed as my wasting my time on "that space shit." She didn't acknowledge my achievements in scouting and didn't even bother to attend my high school graduation. Whether I should succeed or fail, it was all the same to her and failure took a lot less effort. What I didn't realize was that I was actually laying down neural pathways that would cause me to choose the option most likely to fail.
My interest in the sciences was dealt a near fatal blow when my high school math teacher told me that I should consider another career path. She told me that I had "no grasp of mathematics." So there I was. I tried to study art (another interest) but dropped out of college after a semester.
Eventually, I stopped challenging myself and was resolved to spend my life doing unrewarding, low paying jobs. In my romantic life, at times, I wasn't as choosy as I should have been.
In all of this, there was one thing I was actually good at doing: crossword puzzles. I stopped peeking at the solutions as I started to figure out how these puzzles work. Soon, I abandoned my pencil and started working the puzzles in pen. Yes, there were some pretty messy puzzles but I kept getting better at them. The main challenge was to complete a Sunday New York Times puzzle. Now they aren't much of a challenge at all.
As an artist, I'd had a bit of success when I was asked to illustrate a book for a friend who was publishing through a small press. I started to produce more work, mostly for myself but I managed to sell some.
I stumbled into the planetarium field almost by accident. But I managed to get a job working at a planetarium at a small museum and really enjoyed it. One of my co-workers taught physics at the local community college and he encouraged me to go back to school. When I told him about my math woes, he showed me that I knew more than I thought I did. I took his advice and returned to college at the age of 29. My major? Physics. Now that was a challenge.
As all this was happening, I'd gotten involved with a woman who I thought was above me but far too interesting for me not to pursue. Fortunately, she found me interesting and we got married shortly after I started college.
I thought I'd have to fight my way through my first year but did really well and it was easier than I'd thought. I ran for student body president but didn't win. However, due to some misdeeds by the person who did win, I managed to get that job. I won some academic scholarships and was inducted into two different honor societies. Little successes started to build. New neural pathways were being built as well. Now I didn't feel comfortable with not succeeding. Success was like a powerful, alluring drug and I liked it!
After graduation, I decided to bide my time waiting for the right job to come along. I worked as a secretary in a department of sociology. I learned a lot but it wasn't what I felt I was supposed to do.
A job eventually did become available. I didn't think I was really qualified but I figured I'd give it a try, something I'd have never considered just a few years earlier. With my planetarium background, my degree in physics and the ability to produce artwork, I'd made an impression and was hired.
I've now been doing that same job for over14 years and love what I do. My wife and I are still together and about to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. Our two kids are in college and seem to have a fairly bright future ahead (although I'll continue to worry about both of them).
Although I'd never really needed validation from my high school classmates, at the 20th reunion, something happened that really showed me how far I'd come. We were required to tell who we were, where we lived and what we were doing. At the end of the evening, there was a small awards ceremony. One of the awards was for the person who most surprised you with their story. I was given this award and received a standing ovation.
As happy as I am with how my life has gone so far, I'm still looking for that next challenge. I'll give it my best effort and I won't stop until I succeed!
Sunday, April 08, 2012
The Reason Rally
But my view here has to do with our counter protestors. Naturally, Fred (God Hates Everything I Do) Phelps and his loonies were there thinking they were oh-so-clever with posters about gaytheists and fagnostics. There isn't enough space on the entire Internet for me to tell you just how despicable I find his particular stripe of Christianity.
When I was in the main tent talking with Troy Boyle, I heard him talking with two young evangelists about the origins of the universe, etc. Naturally, every atheist is supposed to be equipped with a full accounting of how the universe came to be despite the fact that even the most learned astrophysicists are still grappling with that question. I guess they figure if their book has it boiled down to two pages, everyone should have such a simple answer.
Even weeks later, I can't help but wonder why people were protesting against reason. Should we all be a bunch of blindly accepting, weak-willed nincompoops? Sorry, but my human brain just balks at that kind of thing.
I do have one thing to say about the Rally that might not be favorable. Far too early and far too often, our speakers resorted to swearing. I have nothing against the well aimed swear word and use them often myself. But in this venue, it was neither merited nor appropriate. It made some otherwise brilliant people come across as foul-mouthed, mindless nitwits. I doubt that was the image we were trying for.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Everyone needs a hobby
When I'm not ranting about narrow mindedness and willful ignorance (which I don't do as much as many people would think I do), I like to build and use telescopes. Tonight, I looked at Jupiter (pictured), Mars and Venus. It helps me realize what an amazing world we live on.
Now theists often use this as a jumping off point for talking about how this planet was made for us. But I see it the other way around. This unimaginably vast universe will, somewhere, have stars (or several) that are the right age and temperature so they don't fry their planets with radiation or explode and destroy their planets. Of the billions of planets orbiting hospitable stars, some of those planets will be at the correct distance to allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces. Organic chemistry takes over and life arises on at least one of them. For those of you who might think that the building blocks of life are simply too complex to arise on their own, please note that adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine have all been detected elsewhere in the universe. These are the four rungs of the DNA ladder. Yes, the stuff of life is out there.
In a universe as huge as this one, life is more or less inevitable. We know because we're here to witness it. A series of fortunate events spun this intricate web of life and we're simply a small thread. Any slight variation in the past and we might have never been. Maybe there would be another sentient form of life on this planet or perhaps sentient life might have never arisen.
The carbon in my cells, the iron in my blood and the calcium in my bones all formed inside the cores of stars eons ago. Those stars started as simple hydrogen but through the process of nuclear fusion, they built heavier and heavier atoms. When they died, those stars spilled those atoms into the cosmos. Clouds of these atoms coalesced, condensed and formed new stars and planets. One of those planets was Earth. Life arose on this planet. That life evolved into different forms over the millennia. Some of those forms went extinct. Those most capable of reproducing through some advantage (speed, stealth, agility, camouflage, etc.) gave birth to offspring that carried those same genetic traits for survival. Some of them took to the trees and developed stereoscopic vision. They were intelligent, fast and agile. Eventually, their descendants left the trees and started to walk upright, an advantage when trying to avoid predators. This freed their front limbs and they started making tools, Food became more plentiful which provided the fuel for bigger brains. They spanned the globe, developing language, art and culture. Finally, one of those cousins to the apes sat and wrote this blog.
I look to the stars and see my very distant cousins. I know that they're made of the same things I am. I know that eventually I'll die and, long after, this planet will die. The atoms that make up the Earth (and me) will return to the universe to form new stars and planets.
How wondrous, elegant and grand. Religions made up by humans pale next to this.
Monday, January 30, 2012
On the way there, I saw dozens of churches. In each of those churches, there were most likely the same people who've been attending them for years. The sermons were probably similar to the ones that have been heard time and time again. Collection plates were passed and, most likely, the take was about the same as it usually is.
These scenes were probably played out in churches around the nation.
I didn't hear of a single report that the entrance of a church was blocked by the government. Nobody was prohibited from attending because a law banned it. We didn't hear of lines of atheists locked arm in arm to keep believers from worshiping in whatever manner they saw fit.
So would someone please tell me how the removal of the prayer banner from the wall of Cranston High School West has had an adverse effect on anyone's right to worship?