Do You Think We’ll Find Life In The Next 20 Years?

I just finished watching a video with Bill Nye, who says he wouldn’t be surprised if they found life on Europa in the next 20-30 years:

And the reason we talk about Europa so often and so much in my little space community is because it has twice as much seawater as the Earth. And for years people who looked at Europa did not think it was good or well advised to plan a mission there because of the great expense. You would have to have a lander and then you’d have to have some kind of amazing drill to drill through, pick a number, 20 or 50 km of ice to get to this seawater. And so the surface of Europa is frozen. It’s a crust of ice, water ice, but below it is liquid water and it’s kept liquid by the gravitational or what we call tidal action of Europa’s orbit with this massive Jupiter.

And:

Astrobiologists have thought deeply about what it takes to be a living thing. You’ve got to have a membrane or a wall, something that separates you from what’s not you and you’d probably have to have a liquid, a solvent. And the best solvent anybody can come up with is water.

While I hope he’s right, I’m a little more skeptical about finding life on Europa. Maybe I’m just being cynical. I think it’s possible, and I think it’s worth the money to explore the possibility, but I wonder if it will just be a disappointment in terms of finding life.

Here’s a little more from Bill in a National Geographic article about the same topic:

Many of us think of alien life the way it’s depicted in science fiction—creatures that look quite a bit like humans in makeup and that all speak English with a non-American accent. These made-up aliens hail from distant star systems. But there’s a place right here in our own solar system that may be teeming with life. It’s Europa, a moon of Jupiter, one of the four that you can see with an inexpensive telescope, just as Galileo Galilei did.

One example of someone disagreeing with Bill:

On Earth, Hand says the basis of our food chain is driven by photosynthesis. But Europa’s ice shell is going to make photosynthesis out of the question. So Hand says “chemosynthesis,” energy derived from the interaction of Europa’s rocky seafloor and its ocean, may fill an entirely viable niche in an ocean beneath an ice shell.

One thing I will say is that I think it’s possible to find life and not even recognize it as life. We’re looking for the same kind of life we have here on Earth, but who knows how life might have (or have not) evolved on a place like Europa, with it’s 20+ mile of ice?

Either way, I think this is exciting news. Like Bill says in the video, if life is found, it will be the work of many different people, instead of just one or two individuals. Agencies are working together around the world.

Cue the Star Trek theme song.

Now tell me what you think.

DO ATHEISTS EXIST?: They Sure Do!

Logic_by_EdibleVegetableDo atheists exist?

Despite over 2% of the American population self-identifying as atheists, I guess some theists still try to pretend we don’t exist.

At least, that’s what one blog post and another ‘scientific’ article take a weak shot at trying to do. Here’s what I’m talking about:

This article begins by stating, “While militant atheists like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist.” And it goes on to tell us, “Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.”

While Vittachi concedes that “this idea may seem outlandish,” he explains that what we believe is not something we decide on our own, but lies somewhere in our “much deeper levels of consciousness.”  He asserts that scientists claim “we are born believers … pattern seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting.”

First off, you’re assuming that pattern seeking, karma or cosmic justice is the same as God belief. To be an atheist, you merely have to lack belief in God. That has nothing whatsoever to do with karma etc.

Second, even if we took this claim at face value and conceded that we’re born with the default setting of ‘God’, that in no way means you’re right about its existence. Hell, even if you were sure that God exists, you have no real way to distinguish which God is the correct one.

Vittachi continues by presenting evidence involving “invisible friends” – some person or persons with whom we all hold internal conversations – whether these are divine beings, spouses, near relatives or whatever.

There’s a huge difference between self-talk and believing your talking to a supreme, invisible being in the sky. Just because people talk out loud or in their heads doesn’t mean they believe in God. In fact, I’ve even talked to atheists who say they pray because it helps them sort through their thoughts, yet they don’t believe in God and they said they believed their prayers went nowhere.

But again, those things – spouses, relatives or whatever – with the exception of a divine being, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t an atheist. I could talk all day to my dead grandmother and that doesn’t mean I’m not an atheist.

Surprise! I still don’t believe your God claims or any other ones, either.

He relates how in social science studies, even those who claim to be atheist or agnostic, claim belief in some higher power.  Though he comes up with some attempts at evolutionary explanations we are still left with huge percentages of humankind who have some sense of purpose in the universe – even those who claim no religious affiliation.  He speaks of “the notion” of “an invisible moralistic presence” which motivates “religious folk.”

That’s because ‘higher power’ is a nebulous term that could mean almost anything. I could say I believe the universe as a whole is a ‘higher power’. Maybe I think black holes are a higher power. A ‘higher power’ doesn’t default to God.

Just because I’m an atheist, doesn’t mean I think my life or the universe is purposeless. It doesn’t take a magical being outside the realms of reality to make my life or the universe meaningful.

What the hell is an ‘invisible moralistic presence’ and which God is responsible for such a thing? I bet almost every religion claims their God handed down their moral strictures. What makes your God and your claims more credible? And even if (for arguments sake) I believed there was this invisible moralistic presence of which you speak, why would I jump to the conclusion that it was a supernatural entity and not a natural phenomenon?

One interesting argument he gives is that from literature.  There seems to be a “manifestation of cosmic justice in fictional narratives – books, movies and games.”  We’re told that “in almost all fictional worlds, God exists” – no matter what the “beliefs” of the authors.  “In children’s stories … the good guys win, the bad guys lose.”  The same goes for most adult stories.

So what!?

So if I write a fantasy novel that includes Gods, I’m no longer an atheist? Is someone going to drive by and yank my atheist card?

I could write all kinds of fiction that includes Gods, good vs. evil etc. and that wouldn’t mean I believe in God(s).

Atheists can appreciate those kinds of stories just like a theist. Should atheist children stories have bad guys that always slaughter the good guys?

I don’t get this argument. It sounds silly to me.

It would appear then that rather than to seek an explanation for belief in God as many professing atheists demand, we need to answer the question “where does atheism fit in?”

The article continues with much the same argument with similar data and concludes “…it might be wise for religious folks to refrain from teasing atheist friends who accidentally say something about their souls.  And it might be equally smart for the more militant of today’s atheists to stop teasing religious people at all.

Atheism fits in…all around you. We fit into the same places you fit in, you just might not know we’re there.

I don’t mind when religious people ‘tease’ me because I don’t usually get offended by teasing. Besides, if it comes to a debate, I have no problem defending my position. I don’t want to be one of those people that cry offense every time someone says something I don’t agree with or don’t like.

I also like deeper discussions like the ones typically spawned by talking politics or religion. I find them far more stimulating than talking about the weather.

As I implied earlier, these conclusions come close to, and even verify the biblical assertion that everyone is religious in some way or another, or at least has religious predispositions.

No…I beg to differ. They don’t come close to showing anything. At best, they show we’re predisposed to superstition. That in no way means belief in God. It certainly doesn’t mean atheists don’t exist. And it damn sure doesn’t make me religious.

By the way, I hope you look deeper than sites like All Gods People.com. I mean, they might have a vested interest in making it look like atheists don’t exist. I also read through your scientific article, and noticed two things.

  1. Despite making the bold claim that ‘scientists discover that atheists might not exist’, the article doesn’t provide links to these studies or any citations.
  2. The ‘science writer’ that wrote the article doesn’t seem to be an actual scientist or even have much to do with science. At most, he could be described as a science enthusiast.

Look, atheists exist. Just because we might self-talk, use religious language (bless you) while speaking, feel connected to the people, world and universe around us or like the same sorts of stories theists do, that in NO WAY makes us religious or means we believe in God.

We exist just like you do.

Speaking for myself, I won’t stop talking, writing about or examining religious claims or claims made by anyone else.

So you and every other theist might as well get over it and come to grips with the fact that atheists very much do exist.

 

Oral Suction Leads to Two Infants With Herpes

circumsionIs there any other context, other than religion, that someone could get away with cutting a piece off a baby’s penis, and then using ‘direct oral suction’, without seeming like a sick, twisted, perverted a-hole?

Imagine for a minute, you’ve just brought the newest member of your family home – a baby boy. Someone comes to your door with blade in hand and tells you that they’re required to cut a piece off his penis and then put the newly cut portion of the genitalia in their mouth so they can apply suction.

Would this ever be acceptable, especially since we have medical equipment and surgeons that could do a ‘better’ job of it?

Apparently, if you’re an Orthodox Jew, it’s not only permissible, but some parents feel obligated to put their children under the knife because…well…God.

Two New York City infants were diagnosed with herpes after undergoing a traditional Orthodox Jewish circumcision, NBC4 reports.

According to the Health Department, both babies developed lesions on their genitals shortly after having the metzitzah b’peh, a practice in which the mohel — a person trained to perform the “covenant of circumcision” — uses a direct oral suction technique to swab blood from the infant’s penis, was performed on them.

More than half of all adults carry the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) , according to Brian F. Leas, a research analyst in the Center for Evidence-based Practice at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. But the symptoms that present in those adults are oral lesions, or cold sores, and not life-threatening. In infants, however, HSV-1 can cause high fever and seizures — and in two cases since 1998, even death.

And like many other out-of-date religious practices, such as faith healing and exorcism, the child often pays for the poor decision making of its parents and clergy; in this case, two children now have herpes.

In my opinion, this practice should be outlawed. It’s dangerous and children need to be protected by law from superstition fueled clergy and parents. If someone wants to be circumcised, they can always have the procedure when they’re old enough to make up their own mind – unless it’s a medical necessity that someone get circumcised, in which case, it should be performed by a physician in a medical environment.

But even if you think circumcision is perfectly acceptable, the idea that clergy are more qualified than medical practitioners is absurd and clearly can have horrendous consequences for the child.

There is no way that priests should be sticking a baby’s genitalia in their mouth under any circumstances.

Women Tortured and Killed in the Name of Superstition

Just as ridiculous as other gods

Just as ridiculous as other gods

In India, thousands of women have been tortured and killed since 2002:

In places where superstition and vigilantism overlap and small rumors can turn deadly, nearly 2,100 people accused of witchcraft have been killed between 2000 and 2012, according to crime records gathered by the Indian newspaper Mint. Others placed the number at 2,500; others higher still. “Like the proverbial tip of a very deep iceberg, available data hides much of the reality of a problem that is deeply ingrained in society,” according to New Delhi-based Partners for Law in Development. “It is only the most gruesome cases that are reported — most cases of witch-hunting go unreported and unrecorded.”

Many of the killings go unreported. Some women are forced to endure eating excrement or are gang raped before they are put to death. Of course, most (if not all) of the accused women are from poor, powerless families:

“Witch-hunting is essentially a legacy of violence against women in our society,” wrote Rakesh Singh of the Indian Social Institute. “For almost invariably, it is [low caste] women, who are branded as witches. By punishing those who are seen as vile and wild, oppressors perhaps want to send a not-so-subtle message to women: docility and domesticity get rewarded; anything else gets punished.”

The article claims that while superstition is part of it, the other part is that sometimes women are accused of witchcraft so that others can settle a score or grab their land and possessions.

However, while something like this could certainly happen without superstition, their barbaric beliefs (superstition, caste system and religion) offer people an easy excuse to do what they want with these poor women.

Even the way they supposedly ‘suss out the witch’ uses superstitious nonsense:

According to Mint, an Indian publication which has written extensively on the subject, a witch is identified through various methods. The person who suspects witchcraft will often consult a witch doctor called an “ojha.” The witch doctor, who uses medicinal herbs, in part learned their skills to counter the darker powers of the witches, called “daayan.”

The ojha then goes about the business of sussing out the witch. This involves incantations, Mint reports, and possibly the branches of a sal tree. The ojha writes the names of all those suspected of witchraft onto the branches of the tree, and the name that’s on the branch that withers is condemned as a witch. Other times, rice is wrapped in cloth emblazoned with names. Then the rice is placed inside a nest of white ants. Whichever bag the ants eat out identifies the witch. Another method: potions. One Indian shaman in 2011forced 30 women to drink a potion to prove they weren’t witches. The concoction was made out of a poisonous herb, all women fell ill, and the shaman was arrested.

After a witch is chosen, they are either forced to do unspeakable things or tortured. “In many reported cases recently, women who are branded as witches were made to walk naked through the village, were gang-raped, had their breasts cut off, teeth broken or heads tonsured, apart from being ostracized from their village,” reported Live Mint. They “were forced to swallow urine and human feces, to eat human flesh, or drink the blood of a chicken.”

How ridiculous. In other words, a good witch must be used to ‘suss out’ the bad witch.

Come on, people!

This is why beliefs matter. This is why criticism and conversation about religion must be allowed. Without it, we end up with horrendous human rights abuses like this one. It’s another example of religion and superstitious belief devaluing  human life, particularly that of low-income women.

And let’s not forget how religion is used to justify the caste system. Imagine a system where you are born without hope. If you’re born poor, you will always be poor. It’s a soul crushing system.

Many of the ‘witch’ cases are not reported. I wonder how many more women and families have been beaten, tortured, raped and oppressed because of superstition, greed and poverty. We need to do more when it comes to reporting on these stories.

Awards

Over the last few days, I’ve been nominated for two awards. I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Diana, and The One Lovely Blog Award by monimorphism and Mia Bentley.

Thanks so much!

I’m honored that anyone would take the time to read my thoughts, let alone nominate me for a blog award. So thank all of you.

The bad news is that I don’t have time to follow all of the guidelines. Unfortunately, my work schedule has been super hectic and I need some downtime. I am going to follow MOST of the guidelines and I hope (pray?) that’s enough.

I will answer the questions for the Liebster Award and give you 7 random facts about me. I heard somewhere that people enjoy reading those types of posts so I’ll whip something up. I totally believe it because I enjoy reading personal posts about people, so here it goes…

liebster4

11 Questions

Here are the 11 questions asked by Diana:

If you had one wish what would it be?

The lead off question is a tough one. Should I go with the cliche world peace thing or the more selfish million dollar answer?

I would wish for the end of all suffering. That would encompass a whole lot of crappy things, such as war, violence, starvation etc.

If you could change one law, what would it be and why?

I would legalize marijuana. Not because I use it, but because I think it’s silly that so many people are incarcerated for a drug that is less harmful than ones already legal, such as alcohol. I think the ‘war on drugs’ is a dismal failure, much like prohibition was back in the day. I think the statistics back my position and I think too many lives are ruined over this horrible law. I also think police time could be better used.

What is your favorite movie?

Easy one!

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

What is your dream job?

I’m not really sure. I’ve never been overly motivated by possessions or wealth. I’ve always wanted a job that I could help people and I’ve already achieved that. I feel a great sense of accomplishment working with the deaf-blind so perhaps I’ve already found my dream job.

I also get bored quickly so maybe my dream job will change in the future.

If you could travel to a different time period, when would it be?

I’ll answer this one with a picture.

7138997533_40cfb504fb_z

I might die a few seconds later, but dinosaurs are just way too cool.

Do you love zombies, if not why?

Not really. They’re one of my least favorite monsters. I like monsters that can think.

However, I’m a huge, huge fan of The Walking Dead. I think that’s more because of the characters and story-line than the zombies though.

Who is your favorite actor/actress

Tom Hanks is one. Anyone who can pull off a movie with just a guy on an island has got to be considered one epic actor.

Do you now or have you ever had a nickname?

Several. In high school I was called ‘Bones’ because I was a skinny guy.

My wife calls me ‘a-hole’ now. Does that count as a nickname?

What would you want your last meal to be?

My mom’s lasagna hands down. It’s cheesy, noodly goodness.

What is your biggest fear?

Heights and needles. I’m not sure which one is worse for me. They both make me turn green.

Do you think im awesome? lol

Hells ya!

With that out of the way, take a break dear reader. Here’s a random picture of Dexter to take your mind off the boring shyte you just read about me and to prepare you for the next batch of boring facts about yours truly.

Dexter the Golden

Dexter the Golden

7 Things About Myself

  1. I’m the furthest thing from a handy man. Changing a light-bulb pushes my handy skills to the limit.
  2. My ‘art’ looks like stick people gone horribly, horribly wrong.
  3. I don’t like plants in my house…probably because I consider them more work than they’re worth.
  4. I think and daydream too much. At least that’s what I’m told. I’m still not sure how someone can think too much, but there it is.
  5. I’m an introvert. I can socialize, but I need alone time.
  6. Crowds make me lose my mind. My version of hell would be a packed mall that I could never escape. I literally get a migraine when exposed to crowds for long periods of time.
  7. I drink extraordinary amounts of coffee, yet rarely have a problem sleeping.

onelovelyblog

So there you have it.

Thank you to the people who nominated me for the awards. I deeply appreciate it.

 

Religion: Helping Make Kids Less Rational

Looks realistic to me...

Looks realistic to me…

A recent study shows that children exposed to religion make it harder for them to distinguish between fantasy and reality:

A study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science determined that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional — whereas children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”

Let’s face it; children rely on their parents and adult authority figures to learn. When we teach them that virgin births, talking snakes, flying horses, walking on water and other mythological stories are literally true, we set them up to believe other fantastical tales that don’t mesh with reality.

The researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.

The researchers couldn’t use just one more kid in their study? They had to go with the unfortunate number 66?

Anyways, I suppose you could make the same argument about other magical figures we as a society often tell our kids are real, such as the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause. You could probably make an argument that these stories also help make our children less skeptical and rational. Once you start accepting some magical nonsense, I think it becomes easier to accept other non-reality based stories as plausible.

The study would seem to indicate this as well:

This conclusion contradicts previous studies in which children were said to be “born believers,”i.e. that they possessed “a natural credulity toward extraordinary beings with superhuman powers. Indeed, secular children responded to religious stories in much the same way as they responded to fantastical stories — they judged the protagonist to be pretend.”

The researchers also determined that “religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal relations.”

One more reason to consider letting your children make up their own minds when they’re at an age that they can make a rational choice, instead of indoctrinating them with your version(s) of God.

However, I’d like to see a similar study conducted that uses more than 66 children. I’d also like to see a long range study done to map the long-term effects (if any) religion has on an individual. While this study seems to point towards religion making it harder for children to distinguish between fantasy and reality,  does that hold true into adulthood or just for their childhood years?

What are your thoughts on this study?

 

What a Ham

Halloween_costume_alien_chestbursterWhen a quack like Pat Robertson tells you to shut up because you’re making him look bad, you should probably listen.

On the Wednesday edition of his TV show, “The 700 Club,” Robertson indirectly implored Ham to put a sock in it, criticizing Ham’s view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

“Let’s face it, there was a bishop [James Ussher] … who added up the dates listed in Genesis and he came up with the world had been around for 6,000 years,” Robertson began. “There ain’t no way that’s possible … To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible.”

“We’ve got to be realistic that the dating of Bishop Ussher just doesn’t comport with anything that’s found in science,” Robertson continued, “and you can’t just totally deny the geological formations that are out there.”

“Let’s be real,” Robertson begged, “let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”

Unfortunately, Ken Ham didn’t take Pat’s advice (one of the few times you’ll hear me admit that Pat was right about something) and continued on making an even bigger fool of himself.

You see, Ken thinks we should stop exploring space because aliens are going to hell anyways.

But don’t take my word for it. Herte’s what Ken had to say in his own words.

I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life. Even Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” in our recent debate, happily gloated about tax dollars being spent toward this effort. And now, secular scientists are at it again.

Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!  The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!

Of course Ken is shocked. He’d rather that money be funneled into his bank account. Instead of funding space exploration, he probably thinks we should be buying his quackery DVD’s.

Roll it up, guys and gals. Ken Ham says we know everything we need to know. Simply read his one book and no more thinking is ever required.

Scouts honor.

You see, according to the secular, evolutionary worldview there must be other habited worlds out there. As the head of NASA, Charles Borden, puts it, “It’s highly improbable in the limitless vastness of the universe that we humans stand alone.” Secularists cannot allow earth to be special or unique—that’s a biblical idea (Isaiah 45:18). If life evolved here, it simply must have evolved elsewhere they believe.

Errr…no Ham.

I like green eggs and ham. I do!

Sorry…I’m a little tired and I went off the beaten path there.

Life doesn’t necessarily have to evolve anywhere. But considering it did here and there are billions of planets and solar systems to explore, we might as well see what else is out there.

Exploring isn’t a bad thing, Ken.

Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space.  I certainly suspect not. The Earth was created for human life. And the sun and moon  were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God.

What the hell is he talking about?

The sun and moon were created for signs and seasons?

He does realize that we humans made up signs and seasons…right? It wasn’t to declare the glory of God, either. It was so we could more easily classify the weather, seasons etc.

If God created the Earth specifically for human life, what’s the rest of the space for?

You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

It burns! And according to Ken Ham, so do the aliens and the whole universe.

I was just waiting for the fear tactics, and there we have it.

So let me get this straight. *puts tinfoil hat firmly on head*

This God of yours is supposed to know everything, yet he only made an escape plan for one species. The rest (if they exist) are going to hell.

That’s your hypothesis.

Call NASA. The guy is right. Let’s call off any further space exploration and dump the money into building an ark. You never know when one of those things will come in handy.

fear

The answers to life’s questions will not be found in imaginary aliens but in the revelation of the Creator through the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to die on a Cross to redeem mankind from sin and death that our ancestor, Adam, introduced.

Oh, the irony.

Please listen to Pat Robertson, Ken.

I also love his rebuttal to people quoting his work directly. It basically says everyone is lying and then quotes what he said, which everyone else had already done.

Brilliant.

You managed to do it, Ken. You managed to make Pat Robertson look sane in comparison.

I’m slow clapping.

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