The Watering Hole, Monday, December 8th, 2014: Keep Watching the Skies

I’m totally depressed.

My fucking Jets blew it yet again after raising my hopes.

This month is the tenth anniversary of my parents’ deaths, flashbacks started before Thanksgiving.

Our company’s holiday party is tonight, I dread going – I hate the fact that Adam is not here, flashbacks there, too.
.
I hate the “Holidays”.

This country is going crazy and descending into a chaos that could, IMO, result in a violent “civil” war.

I fucking HATE people.

So here’s a nice slideshow of 100 Hubble photos, courtesy of weather.com. At least the human mind brought us the Hubble to show us so many marvels. At this point, I feel that space is the only thing that holds promise and hope for the future. Hopefully some alien species will learn from our human fuck-ups.

Star V838 Monocerotis

Star V838 Monocerotis

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, just go ahead and talk about things.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 29th, 2014: Intelligent Life…Please?

Although I’ve only been back online since the beginning of the weekend (my home computer crashed early last week, and access from the office was hit-or-miss, too), my search for intelligent life in American politics found little. So for today’s post I’m turning to the infinite wonder and majesty of “space, the final frontier”, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, there could be a civilization out there that isn’t aiming to destroy itself through its own arrogant stupidity.

The following are just a few of the more recent Hubble Deep-Space images from a photo gallery that I found at space.com:

"All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream"

“All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream”

"A Selection of Hubble's planetary nebulae"

“A Selection of Hubble’s planetary nebulae”

"...two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg."

“…two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg.”

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss intelligence, life, whatever you want.

The Watering Hole; Friday September 12 2014; Carson v. Dawkins

Yesterday I posted here a link to statements by Dr. Ben Carson in which he pointed out that evolution is a myth because “God Can Create Anything At Any Point In Time.” Carson is a former neurosurgeon who has emerged today as a Wingnuttistanian Republican, a potential presidential candidate. Carson’s religious philosophy represents the dream of the religious right because of his pronouncements that it is human arrogance which allows some to believe that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything. Carson also states unequivocally that when it comes to the earth’s age, “no one has the knowledge. He further maintains that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.” It’s also Carson’s thesis that the “complexity of the human brain” essentially disproves evolutionary theory because when “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

“Promiscuous biochemicals”? Really?

Such grossly unscientific views are, these days, not at all uncommon, particularly amongst those who belong to — who essentially have come to define – the religious right in the United States. As a political movement, they are also all too often left unchallenged when on full display in public forum, a reality many of their opponents have long felt to be an unfortunate trend given that virtually all religion-based theses of origin are so easily dismissed by scientific fact. In that vein, I present herein a series of quotes on the matter by one Richard Dawkins, the well known English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer. These are quotes that I somehow managed to collect/accumulate over the last decade or two, and though I didn’t record specific dates or source attributions, they are, each and all, Dawkins’ verbal refutations of such nonsensical mythology as spoken by Ben Carson (and many many others), as cited above.

Richard Dawkins:

“People brought up to believe in faith and private revelation cannot be persuaded by evidence to change their minds. No wonder religious zealots throughout history have resorted to torture and execution, to crusades and jihads, to holy wars and purges and pogroms, to the Inquisition and the burning of witches.”

“For a long time it seemed clear to just about everybody that the beauty and elegance of the world seemed to be prima facie evidence for a divine creator. But the philosopher David Hume already realized three centuries ago that this was a bad argument. It leads to an infinite regression. You can’t statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you’re still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing. Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that’s because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.”

“There is just no evidence for the existence of God. Evolution by natural selection is a process that works up from simple beginnings, and simple beginnings are easy to explain. The engineer or any other living thing is difficult to explain but it is explicable by evolution by natural selection. So the relevance of evolutionary biology to atheism is that evolutionary biology gives us the only known mechanism whereby the illusion of design, or apparent design, could ever come into the universe anywhere.”

“A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence. Religion is scarcely distinguishable from childhood delusions like the “imaginary friend” and the bogeyman under the bed. Unfortunately, the God delusion possesses adults, and not just a minority of unfortunates in an asylum. The word ‘delusion’ also carries negative connotations, and religion has plenty of those.”

“The beauty of Darwinian evolution is that it explains the very improbable, by gradual degrees. It starts from primeval simplicity (relatively easy to understand), and works up, by plausibly small steps, to complex entities whose genesis, by any non-gradual process, would be too improbable for serious contemplation. Design is a real alternative, but only if the designer is himself the product of an escalatory process such as evolution by natural selection, either on this planet or elsewhere. There may be alien life forms so advanced that we would worship them as gods. But they too must ultimately be explained by gradual escalation. Gods that exist ‘ab initio’ are ruled out by the Argument from Improbability, even more surely than are spontaneously erupting eyes or elbow joints.”

“Most scientists use the term God in the way that Einstein did, as an expression of reverence for the deep mysteries of the universe, a sentiment I share.” 

“Within 50 million years, it’s highly unlikely humans will still be around and it is sad to think of the loss of all that knowledge and music.”

“‘Religious’ physicists usually turn out to be so only in the Einsteinian sense: they are atheists of a poetic disposition. So am I. But, given the widespread yearning for that great misunderstanding, deliberately to confuse Einsteinian pantheism with supernatural religion is an act of intellectual high treason.

“The first cause cannot have been an intelligence – let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.”

“Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born.”

“Natural selection is so stunningly powerful and elegant, it not only explains the whole of life, it raises our consciousness and boosts our confidence in science’s future ability to explain everything else. Natural selection is not just an alternative to chance. It is the only ultimate alternative ever suggested. … Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step.”

“[E]volution is a predictive science. If you pick any hitherto unstudied species and subject it to minute scrutiny, any evolutionist will confidently predict that each individual will be observed to do everything in its power, in the particular way of the species – plant, herbivore, carnivore, nectivore or whatever it is – to survive and propagate the DNA that rides inside it.”

“We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin’s principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious. Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.”

Not much else I can add save for perhaps a single word:

Amen.

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole, Tuesday July 22, 2014 – Special Report

The first person I ever knew who had AIDS was a professor of Special Education at Temple University. He died a few months after being assigned to the facility where I was working. He was too weak to teach in the classroom anymore.This was in 1981, when the epidemic was just being discovered. Here we are, 33 years later and perhaps we have now found a cure. Fingers crossed.

Health: Temple University Researchers Successfully Eliminate HIV Virus In Human Cells

Open thread.

 

Sunday Roast: Supermoon? Settle, people.

My boyfriend…er, personal astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is frustrated with the “Super Moon” talk.

The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle,” DeGrasse Tyson said at the time. “Sometimes it’s closer, sometimes it’s farther away. Every month, there is a moment when it is closest. Occasionally, that moment when it is closest coincidences with a full moon. People are calling that a super moon, but there’s super half moons. Every month one of those phases is the closest. I don’t hear people saying like ‘super crescent, super half moon.’”

And…

There is something called a super moon,” Tyson responded. “I don’t know who first called it a super moon. I don’t know, but if you have a 16 inch pizza, would you call that a super pizza compared with a 15 inch pizza?”

Well, I would — if it were really good pizza!!  But I digress…

“Supermoons” are not rare, but for some reason, they’re a thing right now, and I guess they’ll continue to be so, until we find out spaghetti & meatballs are a great hair conditioner, or another movie star gets embarrassing plastic surgery, or the President persists in trying to do his job.

Really people, stop upsetting my boyfriend.  Yeah that’s right, I said it.  ;)

This is our daily open thread — Get some star-gazing done this summer!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday June 24, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics

Study links pesticides and pregnancies with increased risk of autism:

“Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, according to a new study.”

Another reason to go organic

New study shows link between bald eagle deaths and lead ammunition

“Endangered California condors have been the poster birds for calls to get lead ammunition out of our environment, but they might have to make some room for our nation’s most iconic raptors thanks to a new study showing how lead ammunition is also harming bald eagles.”

The NRA isn’t going to like this one.

Oppose the DARK act.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced a bill in Congress that would block states from enacting GE food labeling laws and make “voluntary labeling” the law of the land. Big Food is trying to kill your right to know if the food you’re eating is genetically engineered.

The food giants want to control the debate.