Can you read my mind? Some people can.
This is our Open Thread. Speak Up!
Can you read my mind? Some people can.
This is our Open Thread. Speak Up!
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:
This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss intelligence, life, whatever you want.
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.
“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:
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.
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.’”
“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!
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.”
“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 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.“
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
And thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to life.