Sunday, December 26, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
The editors could have inserted stronger language in the Dickens subheading, considering that dead men don't normally visit talk shows, that is unless Oprah plans to go do some grave digging.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
1) Disorder and entropy are not the same - the second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy. There are no laws about things tending to “break down”. There are no laws about disorder as people normally use the word. The 2nd law is about spontaneous heat flow or, more generally, about the impossibility to perform useful work indefinitely. The twists put on it by creationists, including “organized complexity” are entirely fictional.
2) All systems do not tend toward decay and disorder - on Earth, there are many systems besides evolution that tend toward greater order. Some examples are ice crystals and snowflakes, cloud formations, ripples in sand and water, cracks in drying mud, streams sorting stones based on size, growing plants when “left alone”, and the development of a human from a single cell. These are clear examples of order arising on Earth.
3) Complexity can form from simplicity - take the example of hurricane formation. This is based on the idea of a pan of water with heat applied uniformly to its bottom developing a convection current that is more complex than the still water. Complex planetary ring systems arise from simple laws of gravitation. Complex ant nests arise from simple behaviors. Complex organisms arise from simple seeds and embryos. A good mathematical example of this is the Mandelbrot set which describes fractals:
4) Earth is not a closed system - our planet is not an isolated system. There is a constant input of energy from the sun. Without the sun, it is clear that no life would be possible on our planet. Sunlight (with low entropy) shines on the earth, and heat (with higher entropy) radiates off. This flow of energy, and the change in entropy that accompanies it, can and will power local decreases in entropy on earth.
5) Even in a closed system, pockets of lower entropy can form if they are offset by increased entropy elsewhere in the system - the second law *does* apply universally (to our universe). But it allows for a local decrease in entropy to be offset by increases elsewhere. Intriguingly, the maximum entropy of a closed system of fixed volume is constant, but because the universe is expanding, its maximum entropy is ever increasing, giving ever more room for order to form. Cool, huh?
6) Increasing order is not a violation of the 2nd law, even temporarily. A violation would be a decrease in entropy without a greater increase in entropy to go with it. Neither growth or evolution violate the 2nd law because both take advantage of local differences in entropy to get work done. Evolution requires only reproduction, heritable variation, and natural selection - ALL OF THESE PROCESSES OBVIOUSLY OCCUR. THEREFORE, THERE IS NO VIOLATION OF THE 2ND LAW - if anything, the 2nd law would need to be re-written to accommodate the reality of evolution occurring.
In short, order from disorder happens on earth ALL THE TIME. Creationists who claim otherwise are either deluded or being intellectually dishonest. I'm not sure which of those is worse.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Ok, sure, there are plenty of wonderful attributes to this city I moved to almost two and a half months ago. But for all the fuss about reducing my carbon footprint and using public transit, sometimes I need to still drive my car to get to far away places or locations that public transit doesn't connect.
Besides, San Francisco is one of the most dense cities in the US - the streets are lined with cars that need to be taken care of and also need fuel.
Enter the confusing and inept world of SF gas stations.
Statement of disclosure: I have only been to four different stations in the city so far. I know an n=4 isn't great, but it's enough to get my complaints!
#1 why do you advertise the CASH price and not the credit? Because you want to trick me to your station, then laugh when I don't have cash. I never knew there was such a thing as gas CASH vs. gas CREDIT price. I had NEVER paid for gas with cash until I moved to this city. For those who don't know, the credit price is 30 cents more expensive PER GALLON!
#2 Why must you have payment "islands" instead of letting me pay at the fuel pump like every other gas station? Everyone must crowd around a central computing unit, and there are a surprising number of old ladies and foreign nationals that are confused by the endeavor.
#3 Why have a fee for using a debit card? Credit cards already charge me 30 cents extra PER GALLON! And if you don't have cash, you must pay a fee to use your debit card. Is this more incentive to pay with cash? Is there a big financial benefit for you to do this?
#4 Why do you have flat screen TVs at the pump but now towels or fluid so that I can wash my windshield? I thought that was one of the main staples at gas stations across the country - apparently not in San Francisco.
These are just a few of my frustrations in dealing with SF gas stations so far. If you have the answers to these, or any other quirky questions about gas stations on the left coast, please let me know. Otherwise, I will let you know when I find the first all-organic gas station. Oh, wait a minute...
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Nevada is almost as beautiful as Utah (well, the northern part at least). The drive has been amazing and the mountain are majestic ... And annoying to drive over sometimes.
We made it to Reno and dad pointed out the historic whorehouse "Mustang Ranch". When asked how he knew about it, he said tv and friends ... Riiiight.
Actually, that is right. Dad watches lots of tv and has some risqué friends.
We're almost to California - yay!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
After 828 miles of Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada we are stopping for the night. I can tell you that my favorite state for scenery thus far is Utah.
The tiny pictures above do not do it justice. The first was taken after entering Utah from the desolate, barren Wyoming. Green was nice to see on the hill sides, and going downhill was a big plus too. The view on I-80 up to Salt Lake City was simply amazing. Then, we travelled through the salt flats of Utah. AMAZING. We had our first bit of rain over the approximate 100 miles of salt. Is this where Mormons search for souls? Maybe they take non-Mormons, give them some salt from here on their food, and it magically converts them. Or maybe it's what makes their women so fertile to grow the religion.
Either way, I'm pooped for the night. On to Reno and then San Francisco tomorrow!
Wyoming. Is. Big. After 180 miles of Nebraska to finish we took on all 400 miles of Wyoming. It is reported to be the least populated state - I have no trouble believing that at all. Trouble is, there's not a lot of different stuff to see, and what little there is is not green.
But we escaped to the utopic Utah! Mote on that soon.
Renewable energy anyone? Wyoming has brought lots of windmills and cattle ranches thus far ... as well as a transmission fluid pressure leak :-/ Dad and I are proceeding with caution and will let you know what's up after getting through Laramie - hopefully there will be no gay bashing while I'm visiting.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Almost ready to stop driving for day two. We've made it through indiana, Illinois, Missouri, a tiny bit of Iowa, and a hell of a lot of corn fields in Nebraska. Much of our scenery today can be summarized in the above picture.
After 860 miles today and a total of 1528 miles thus far, we have gone past the halfway point to the west coast. We will drive I-80 directly into San Francisco two days from now. Tomorrow will bring the Rocky Mountains so be on the lookout for some great pictures.
We recently crossed the mighty Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. Dad caught a picture of the gateway arch (above).
We're well on our way to Kansas City now and hope to eat some lunch on the way. Remember to visit my facebook page and see all the churches I've "checked in" at and blasphemed with my prsence on my way to the coastal city of Sodom, er, San Francisco.
Good afternoon from west of the Mississippi!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
While males have an endless supply of sperm due to a germline stem cell, females are only endowed with a limited set of germs that eventually mature or die. Once they're all gone, hormone levels change dramatically which facilitates the onset of menopause. Because men don't naturally run out of germ cells, they are not subject to these sorts of hormonal changes.
Thank goodness I'm not a girl.
Friday, August 27, 2010
In fact, the way in which blood drains from the testes is a bit different. The left testis drains into the renal vein which then connects to the superior vena cava. However, the right testis drains directly into the vena cava. This suggests that vascular differences might account for laterality phenotypes observed in the human population.
Now you know!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Many things I still want to keep: pictures with friends, awards earned, first piano books played from, greeting and personal cards from friends and family over the years.
Some things will obviously be thrown away: old school notes, college dorm room posters, connection cables to a camera that was lost years ago.
A few things will be thrown away with relish: reminders of bad relationships in the past, left-over Christian literature from a different time in my life.
One thing will be burned with ecstasy: Harun Yahya's creationist book, Atlas of Creation, which has served as coffee table book to gawk at with visitors. I remember it being sent to my mentor at Duke - she quickly discarded it and it wound up in my home as a point of hilarity among my friends and especially the Bettors. It's time to move on and that enormous monstrosity of a book will be good for warmth on a cool night and an excuse to get the Bettors together for some quality, heathen good time.
One thing will be kept, though my instinct was to throw it away or burn it: my journal from spring semester of sophomore year in college. The journal spans roughly eight months, surrounding my study abroad in Spain. This is back in the days when I dated girls and was a Bible-believing Christian. Reading the first entries of this journal were gut-wrenching. Such a stupid, silly young guy - confused about sexuality and even more confused by the universe. The beginning of that journal represented my thoughts unfiltered, yet imbued by the world-view of the small, conservative, hardcore Christian upbringing of my childhood. It pains me to see how lost I was then, and how the people I trusted were not the ones who would lead me out of the woods. After reading a few of the early entires I wanted to throw the journal away, and so I did. And I sat there. Then I picked it up out of the trash can and kept
reading - month three, month five, month seven. I changed so much over those eight months. I came out of the closet to my girlfriend. I started to seriously question basic religious and theological paradigms. Questions - by the end of the journal it is filled with questions. I found solace in quotes by Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, and Michael Shermer. The seeds of questioning had been implanted, and this journal represented the time of my life when those seeds were nurtured and fertilized. I cannot throw this journal away - I will keep it and cherish it.
One thing has been most difficult to throw away, but today it has finally landed in the trashcan: my teen study bible (see image). It has been packed away under my bed for the last five years - untouched, unused, but worn at the seams from the decade of use during my adolescence. It has been packed away because of some unrecognizable emotional connection to it the last time I came across it. Now the edges are shorn, and the margins are filled with thoughts, references to other verses, and prayers. Many selfish prayers, some unselfish prayers, few original thoughts. It represents a time in my life when I relied on the authority of others to answer the important questions, and a time when I often spoke out loud to an imaginary person (or persons - I could never quite figure out the trinity). One major difference between my bible and every other book I own, is the number of questions written in the margins. In fact, I cannot find even one question scribbled anywhere. I have many answers and references written inside, but no questions. It has bee
n many years since I last prayed (around five or six) and I realize now that any former ambition to read and study the bible was stymieing my personal and intellectual growth. It is of no use to me now, like a sock with holes in it. It is old, dirty, and I harbor negative feelings towards it, like an ex-boyfriend's toothbrush. It represents a childhood, fairy-tale belief. It is now in a place where socks with holes, old ex-boyfriends' toothbrushes, and imaginary friends belong: the garbage.
I recommend to any Christians out there still reading this that you take the only good piece of advice that your bible has to offer:
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
--1 Corinthians 13:11
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
By Gene Cherry
EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix edged out Tyson Gay in the former world champion's hotly-anticipated return to the 200 meters at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting on Saturday.
In the 110 meters hurdles, American David Oliver recorded the fourth fastest 110 meters hurdles of all time with a 12.90 second run.
Gay, who has been battling a nagging hamstring problem for seven weeks, ran his first 200 of the year in 19.76 seconds to finish just shy of Dix, who took control coming off the bend and stayed in front to win in 19.72.
"It wasn't bad, but I was a little fatigued toward the end," Gay said. "I tried to stay relaxed and bring it home, but it wasn't enough."
Dix, who won the 100 meters and placed second at the U.S. nationals last weekend, said his race experience had helped, "but I'm a little beat up, too."
"I was a little sloppy out of the blocks, but I was able to hold on," he added. "Tyson gave me great competition."
Oliver, the Olympic bronze medalist, equaled Dominique Arnold's national record with his second consecutive lifetime best. He ran 12.93 to win the U.S. championships last Sunday.
Only world record holder Dayron Robles (12.87) of Cuba and China's Liu Xiang have run faster.
"I didn't get a great start but I brought it home," Oliver said.
The American left countryman Ryan Wilson (13.16) well behind in second spot.
Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, the Olympic 200 champion, surprised a talented 100 field with a personal best and season-leading 10.78 seconds to leave her thinking she might double at next year's world championships.
Olympic 100 gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser trailed in 10.82, just ahead of American Carmelita Jeter (10.83).
Three other season-leading marks were set.
American world champion Christian Cantwell used a last-effort throw of 22.41 meters to win the shot put, and world indoor 800 meters champion Mariya Savinova of Russia clocked 1:57.56 to beat Olympic 1,500 gold medalist Nancy Langat of Kenya at the shorter distance.
Sudan's Abubaker Kaki added a fifth season-leading mark when he took the infrequently run 1,000 meters in 2:13.62.
Kenyan Olympic 1,500 champion Asbel Kiprop just missed another when he won the mile in 3:49.75.
Olympic long jump champion Irving Saladino of Panama pulled a mild surprise as he used a wind-assisted leap of 8.46 meters to beat U.S. world gold medalist Dwight Phillips (8.41).
Brazilian world indoor gold medalist Fabiana Murer also came out on top, winning the women's pole vault over Polish world champion Anna Rogowska. Both cleared 4.58 meters. U.S. world leader Jenn Shur failed to clear a height.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez/Ian Ransom)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I'm so proud to say that after four years of trying, I finally *look* enough like an atheist to get preached at like one by strangers. Thank you, Bojangles. Thank you, Durham.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Essentially it was a crash course for Christians in how to respond to skeptics of the Bible. The three subquestions addressed were 1) authenticity, 2) corrupt copies, and 3) canon. I really don’t feel like wasting my time re-sharing the tired old retorts that the Bible is real because it’s god’s holy word and that even mistakes over the years haven’t changed the overall message. Instead I want to briefly share with you why the speaker claims that the apocrypha (non-canonical gospels) do not belong.
“The gospels of Thomas, Peter, Judas, Infancy Gospel, etc. are not canonized because:
1) They are not self-authenticating
2) They were published later - 2nd century and beyond
3) They falsely claim apostolic authorship
4) They contain strange/comical ideas”
(The above part is verbatim from the handout that accompanied the lecture)
This list is absurd. My biggest problem is with the first point. The suggestion that something should be defined as true because it says it is true, is a basic premise that we reject everywhere else in our lives - so why not here? Because the Gospel of John claims to be the word of god, then we should believe that it is, and if other gospels don’t explicitly claim to be the word of god then they clearly aren’t. Hmmm - this reminds me of a strange Jedi mind trick … but I thought that was science fiction? I don’t really think I need to belabor this absurd idea - I won’t because I’m sure that you get how ridiculous this circular reasoning is as a criterion for inclusion.
The second point is not true. The first edition of the gospel of Thomas was written at the same time as the earliest letters of Paul, BEFORE the canonical gospels were written (^ a b Funk, Robert W., Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar. The five gospels. HarperSanFrancisco. 1993. “Stages in the Development of Early Christian Tradition” p. 128). John was possibly written in the 2nd century itself. The speaker’s second criterion is not being applied consistently.
The third point is absurd - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not have eponymous authors … ALL were written by other people, and attributed to them. How is that any different from the Infancy Gospels or the Gospel of Judas.
Lastly, the only reason the speaker thinks that there are strange/comical ideas in non-canonical gospels is because he didn’t grow up believing in them. A man who gets killed and rises from the dead after three days is pretty much a zombie, but Christians think that is a sane belief to hold because they’ve been taught it since childhood. A Jesus who brings clay birds to life or curses a live boy to turn into a corpse (Infancy Gospel of Thomas) is apparently absurd … rather “strange/comical”. In the book of Matthew, Chapter 21, Jesus curses a tree to die because it didn’t have fruit for him when he was hungry … this isn’t strange/comical??? As my friend Liz pointed out, wouldn’t it have been even more miraculous if he had blessed the tree to bear fruit instantaneously, or moments later, or a day later? Why did he destroy it? And why isn’t his decision to do this strange or comical? Simple because we’re used to the story.
As the speaker closed the session, Liz and I watched as the lights dimmed, the guitar was strummed, the drums began to beat, and voices were raised in song. Throughout the room of people who were mesmerized by the music, the feeling of fellowship, and the idea of a shared experience, I was left alone to my thoughts - pondering how deep a rabbit hole can burrow before running out of dirt to displace. Instead of stress and frustration, my mind cleared as a sharp realization gave me cause to smile, and while sitting amongst the believers I wrote the following in my notebook:
The joy of knowing that we are stardust, that our very material essence was forged in the fires of one of the most awesome powers the universe contains, overwhelms my disdain for those manifestations who choose to remain in stark ignorance. The irony that it is the universe itself, refusing to acknowledge its own consciousness, has not escaped my attention. I find solace in the knowledge that the fate they await is ultimately equal to mine: a dream, a death, and then a diffusion.