Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Using OpenID for comments

I added the option of using OpenIDs to comment on this blog, per phydeaux3's blog post. So it should now be possible to leave comments using AOL/AIM, LiveJournal, TypeKey, WordPress or other OpenID logins.

Phydeaux3 also has instructions on how to alter the settings on to allow this on Blogger.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What should I be?

According to the Beliefnet Believe-O-Matic I should be a Unitarian Universalist (but then I knew that already).
1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Secular Humanism (92%)
3. Liberal Quakers (92%)
4. Neo-Pagan (81%)
5. Reform Judaism (73%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (73%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (73%)
8. Mahayana Buddhism (69%)
9. New Age (69%)
10. Jainism (67%)
11. Sikhism (63%)
12. Taoism (61%)
13. Nontheist (60%)
14. Bahá'í Faith (58%)
15. Scientology (51%)
16. Hinduism (51%)
17. New Thought (48%)
18. Orthodox Quaker (47%)
19. Islam (43%)
20. Orthodox Judaism (43%)
21. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (36%)
22. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (24%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (24%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (23%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (17%)
26. Roman Catholic (17%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (14%)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

John Angus Campbell and the North Mason School Board

Several weeks ago I blogged about the fact that Discovery Institute Fellow and intelligent design advocate John Angus Campbell was running for a seat on the school board in North Mason County, Washington. Not just that, but Campbell was running as “John Campbell”, and appeared to be hiding his connection with intelligent design and the Discovery Institute. A new blog, the Belfair Report, has started up to address this issue.

It turns out that there is more to this story. [Read the rest of my post at John Angus Campbell and the North Mason School board Part II]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Visiting Lucy in Houston

We took a trip down to Houston this weekend to visit the Lucy exhibition. There had been controversy over the tour, given the irreplaceable nature of the skeleton and its frailty, I figured that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Regardless of whether I thought it a good idea for her to travel or not, she’s in the neighbourhood. So we took a trip down to see her. Lucy is the name given to the most famous Australopithecus afarensis skeleton in existence, which was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.

I found the display fascinating. Abbie wasn’t thrilled with the long religious history of Ethiopia that preceded the palae- stuff, but I quite enjoyed it (after all, I’m fascinated with history, and there were some pretty cool artefects in there). But it paled in comparison to the main display.

[Read the rest of my post at Visiting Lucy in Houston]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Intelligent design and archaeology

One of the arguments repeated over and over by intelligent design advocates is the assertion that archaeology is a search for design. Like intelligent design, they say, archaeologists assume design once they have ruled out other possible causes, so why shouldn’t IDists? I have always found that analogy annoying - after all, it fails to take into account that archaeologists are working with known designers and known mechanisms. But I never really thought the whole point through. Luckily for me, archaeologist Christopher O’Brien has done just that in an excellent blog post (one of many, based on a quick look at his posts).

[Read the rest of my post at Intelligent design and archaeology]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Conservative Heroes

Perfectly phrased.
I already have many copies of pictures of my conservative heroes. They're all blank, white, and hanging from a roll in my bathroom.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Group Of Intellectuals Negating Godless Atomism + Generic Atheism

James McGrath has launched a new movement dedicated to defeating “godless atomism” called Group Of Intellectuals Negating Godless Atomism + Generic Atheism.

All around the world, children are being indoctrinated with a godless philosophy in what should be science classrooms. Instead of learning true chemistry that agrees with sacred Scripture, children are being taught atomism. This has become possible because very few parents and concerned citizens today are aware that atomism is in fact not a true science, but a philosophy with its roots in the teachings of Greek philosopher Democritus. His teachings gave rise to Epicureanism, which shows they are fundamentally antithetical to religion, piety, and ethical behavior.

I have decided to commit myself to the movement and get a second Ph.D. in another field that isn’t chemistry, and charge groups $5,000 to come and talk about the subject. [Copied from my main blog]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Parity

Larry Moran of Sandwalk pointed out that today, for the first time in 30 years, the Canadian dollar was equal in value with the US dollar. I remember discussing that, back when it happened. Maybe not when the Canadian dollar first slipped below the US dollar, but soon enough after. It was something that the adults were talking about. It was something that made me feel both a little offended and somehow less secure. Strange thoughts for a seven-year-old, and while it wasn't a topic of conversation that I raised, I clearly remember discussing it with my friends.

While it may not be the best thing for the Canadian economy, it somehow has a feel of a wrong set right. The child, waiting for this one little thing to be set back right in the world, has finally seen the wish fulfilled.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Google Ads

Google Ads select ads based on the content on your page. In general, you could rationalise that into being a good thing - you're actually helping your readers find the products that they want (though, of course, if you really believe in that then you probably should go for one of those 'pay per post' services...you're getting paid to post about products you actually believe in, or something like that). Regardless of how you think about it, sometimes it can go very wrong. Last time I looked (over there, in the corner...No! No! Don't look!) there was an ad for a creationist website called Y-Origins Connection: Intelligent Design for Everyone. (Just take my word for it, don't look because I told you, only look if you would have looked anyway - you aren't supposed to draw the attention of people to your ads who would otherwise not be interested.) So, alongside my criticism of Dembski, I am advertising for creationists. Lovely.

Dembski and the flagellum

In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe takes evolutionary biology to task for failing to explain the evolution of biochemical pathways within the cell. From this he developed the idea of “irreducible complexity” - that there are systems that are too complex to have arisen by (known) evolutionary processes. From there, he makes the jump to an “intelligent designer“…in other words, failure to come up with an evolutionary explanation is proof of God. Of the the central “icons” of intelligent design is the bacterial flagellum. Despite the fact that far more is known about the evolution of the flagellum than was known a decade ago (when Behe wrote his book), ID proponents still cling to it as a pillar of their anti-evolutionary arguments. In his talk at OU on Monday, one of Dembski’s main criticisms of “Darwinian evolution” was the fact that it failed to provide a “complete, fully articulated path” of evolution for “molecular nano-machines”.

[Read the rest at Dembski and the flagellum]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dembski at OU

I saw William Dembski talk last night at the Meacham Auditorium in the University of Oklahoma Student Union. The title of his talk was: Why Atheism is no Longer Intellectually Fulfilling: The Challenge of Intelligent Design to Unintelligent Evolution. He spoke for over an hour, dancing around a number of topics, but the theme that seemed to jump out post at me was: I wrote a book. Not only did the cover of The Design Inference flash across the screen at least three times, he also showed a screen shot of the OU library webpage card catalogue entry for the book. (I suppose he was trying to refute the assertion that intelligent design proponents don’t publish their ideas in peer-reviewed math and science journals. The truth is, there is no research into intelligent design. There is no research programme, although Dembski did lay out a ten-point plan; skipped it in the talk, flashed through it in the Q & A. Not holding my breath for that to come to fruition).

[Read the rest at Dembski at OU: Why Atheism is no Longer Intellectually Fulfilling]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oddly fascinating

I recently discovered a blog called Religion Clause, subtitled: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... --US Const., Amend. 1". Written by Howard M. Friedman, an Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Toledo, the blog presents summaries of cases and rulings related to the religion clause. Unlike most blogs, Friedman simply presents the information, he doesn't say "this was a good ruling" or "I disagree with that ruling". He simply presents the facts.

I find it oddly fascinating. In many cases I have no context in which to interpret the information - it is simply data. It's almost like reading a string of numbers and trying to decide if you should try to figure out what they mean, or simply enjoy their beauty. Read enough rulings an motions and I think you learn something, but I'm not sure what I have learned.

It is, I must say, oddly fascinating.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Puzzled...and bummed

My WordPress blog was suspended for a ToS violation. Huh? I have no idea how I am supposed to have violated the ToS. I have no idea what I did wrong. And that has me incredibly bummed. Just when I was starting to get a little traffic to the site...it's gone. Together with four months of blog posts (apparently you can't get your content back when your account is suspended).

I have no idea what next. Is there an appeal process? Will I at least find out what I did wrong? It really feels like a part of myself was ripped out. I put a lot into those posts. Oh well...it's a free service. Sucks.

Update: It's back. Yay. Apparently it was deleted "by mistake". I should be annoyed, but I'm too relieved.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Discovery Institute Fellow runs for school board as “Darwinist”?

Nina Shapiro of Seattle Weekly reports that a retired college professor by the name of John Campbell is running for a school in North Mason County. Shapiro reports that:


A retired communications professor, Campbell says he has the skills to foster a more civilized dialogue, “restore trust,” and “establish transparency.”

Although campaigning on “trust” and “transparency”, she notes that he fails to disclose that he is John Angus Campbell, a Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture (formerly Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture), the creationist arm of the right-wing “think tank”, the Discovery Institute.

[Read more at my main blog]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Anniversary of the Coup

On Friday July 27, 1990, the Jamaat al Muslimeen attempted to overthrow the government of Trinidad and Tobago. A six-day siege ensured, with the Jamaat leadership holed up in the Red House (where they held the Prime Minister and most of Parliament hostage) and in the headquarters of TTT (then the only television station in the country) and Radio Trinidad (one of two radio networks, located next to TTT).

This year the anniversary falls on a Friday. In the seventeen years that have passed, there has been no inquiry into the events. The guilty parties are free and have never been called upon to account for their actions. The two major political parties, the PNM and the UNC appear to wish that the events would just go away, but there are still open wounds in society. Carson Charles, leader of the NAR, which was the governing party during the coup attempt, has called for a probe into the events, but the government is uninterested.

“There must be some kind of investigation, some kind of impartial investigation and report of what took place. Something dispassionate, something removed from the politics with the emphasis on what lessons should be learned from what took place,” Charles said.

The government is uninterested in any inquiry into the events

Questioned yesterday on the matter, senior Cabinet member Energy Minister Dr Lenny Saith indicated there was no change to the Cabinet’s previous decision of holding no enquiry.

Some politicians though, agree that this is important

Congress of the People Chief Whip Ganga Singh, the existing Caroni East MP, who was not a member of Parliament in 1990 agreed with Charles.

Singh said that instead of a Commission of Enquiry, the country needs the local equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the Government of South Africa.

“I think as a society, I think we should really confront this issue and not go into self denial as if it never really happened,” Singh said.

Seventeen years have passed, and nothing has been resolved. The memorial will be “low key” - neither the President nor the Prime Minister is attending. But these things don’t just “go away”. The memory of what happened is still burned into my memory.

At the very least the victims should be remembered.

From the Trinidad Guardian

* The 1990 Coup Attempt — Through the Eyes of a teen Born in the midst of chaos

From the Trinidad Express

* No work on July 27
* Low key ceremony at Red House today
* ‘Fireworks’ in Parliament
* Call for probe
* Death remains unsolved

From the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

* Why no coup inquiry?
* COP remembers 1990 Coup

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Assault on Reason in 90 seconds

This summarises Al Gore's new book pretty well


It's rather chilling, either in long form or in summary.

H/T Madhu at Reconciliation Ecology.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

God

While I consider myself Christian, I have an awfully difficult time with the idea of "God". Before reading Spong's Jesus for the Non-Religious the idea of God was just one of those very troubling ideas that I couldn't wrap my mind around, so I didn't. It's actually remarkably easy to just put the idea of God aside and realise that definitions aren't all that important. It's easy, but it isn't really satisfying. The question, and the fact that you don't have an answer comes up - both when you are faced with people who actively reject the idea of a God or Gods, and when you are faced with the more religious types and their questions about "do you believe in a personal God?" Actually that isn't the hardest question - it doesn't mean that you have to be able to define God. Still, the lack of a God language was problematic - I wasn't comfortable with the God language (or God ideas) that I had been given my the church, but I had no alternative. Which is one reason why I love Spong's book.

The "theistic" understanding of God as a being, external to the world, which intrudes from time to time (or doesn't, I suppose, for a deist who uses theistic language). The "Spongian" understanding of God - that you reject the supernatural, external characterisation of God - is terribly useful to me. And while it doesn't leave me with an answer to the "what is God" question, it leaves me with a set of skills that may be useful for me to formulate my own definitions. It's also nice that these definitions or understandings are just my own conception...they don't represent any sort of an objective "truth". And I find that idea remarkably comforting.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Clemency, writ large

In a general sense I am all for clemency - if a person has been given an unduly harsh sentence for their crimes, then clemency is a good thing. But if someone failed to be moved as he signed 152 death warrants, it would seem that they are strangers to ideas like compassion and clemency. If someone can send a mentally retarded man to his death, if someone can mock the pleas of a woman who turned their life around while on death row...it would seem that "clemency" is not, to them, a virtue.

So why, after all that, does Bush turn around an commute part of Scooter Libby's sentence? Was he suddenly moved to clemency? Or was he, as Joe Wilson suggested, participating in obstruction of justice? It seems far more parsimonious to suggest that Bush is merely acting to protect his administration than it is to suggest that he suddenly and coincidentally discovered that "compassion" was something more than a campaign slogan. And does this mean that Bush will engage in further acts of clemency? Is he going to spend the rest of his term in office studying the convictions of other criminals, to make sure that the sentences imposed are not "excessive"?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Updates

At my Wordpress site

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sleeping in the library

One of the strangest phenomena at OU is the way that people sleep in the library. Now, the idea of people falling asleep hunched over a book is pretty normal to me - been there, done that. It's a little bit weird to see, but part of student life. But what's really odd is the way people do it here - the lie down on the couches, put a jacket or something over them, and sleep with the abandon of people at home in their beds.

It takes a great deal of trust for total strangers - after all, when you are that deeply asleep, you're pretty much helpless. I just can't imagine doing such a thing, and even after all this time, it has never ceased to be very strange.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Benny Hinn update

I had never heard of Benny Hinn before he came to Trinidad and talked about the large number of "demons" there (which most people took as an insult directed at the Hindu population). He also went on to praise then-Opposition Leader Patrick Manning. Richard Bartholomew at Salon blogs has some choice quotes from Hinn's TV show:

..."Years ago I was in Trinidad...this man was sitting on the platform and I said... you will be the next Prime Minister and he is till now. I was in his (Manning) office a few months ago... he brought with him a very foolish woman who called herself a prophetess.

"He came to the room with this woman and said "I have a gift for you". So he looked at me, said this is the woman, she has a word for you... I was not happy and when I am not happy people will know it.

"He (Manning) said I want her to pray for you and give her the word, I take her with me everywhere he said (Manning).

"God speaks to me through her. She has been a great blessing to the Government. I'm thinking you foolish man.

"This woman reaches out to touch me and I grab her hand in mid air, 'don't touch me' I said. Shaken, I said Mr Prime Minister, I honour you but I don't know who this woman is...nobody will lay hands on me and I walked out of the room. Whether it is the Prime Minister or President, nobody lays hands on me. I don't know what spirit is in her. Don't let people touch you."
Bartholomew also managed to find some articles from the TT press - notably Sat Maharaj's comments and a Newsday story about Manning's "prophetess".

Anyway, since I was only really aware of Hinn in relation to the nonsense he did in Trinidad, it was interesting to know that he did similar nonsense in Uganda. Only there, he cast demons out of a local pastor, which have now infected a heard of pigs. Looks like people will have to call on a witch doctor to remedy Hinn's work.

The willingness of people to believe in televangelists is both shocking and sad. (H/T Ed Brayton)

On the other hand, if he called Manning a "foolish man" he can't be all bad, right? ;)

American televangelist Benny Hinn has told millions of TV viewers that he thought Prime Minister Patrick Manning to be a "foolish man", after an incident which occurred during his last visit here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Updates

At my Wordpress site

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From my other blogs

At my Wordpress site
and finally

Monday, June 11, 2007

Liberal progressive Christianity in Norman, Oklahoma

As Oklahoma goes, Norman is hotbed of liberalism - between the election of Cindy Rosenthal as mayor and the passing of a recycling initiative, we are cutting edge. But as liberal progressive Christianity goes, I was only aware of St. Stephens UMC. However, googling around led me to Dr. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and host of "Religious Talk", an AM radio talk show. In 2004 Frederick Clarkson featured him in a post entitled Blogging the Christian Left (in which he also features "Pastor Dan", who was then blogging at Faithforward (and now, primarily at Street Prophets, a site I really wish I read more).

I'm rather curious about Prescott - Clarkson reported that he had two blogs: Mainstream Baptist and Christian Democrats - the former appears to be active, the latter hasn't been updated since September 2006. I'm curious about the wider world of progressive Christianity in Norman.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Crossroads

I'm at a bit of a crossroads with respect to what to do with this blog. Somehow or other, I ended up with five separate blogs:
* this one
* my wordpress blog
* my plant news blog
* my fish blog
* and my livejournal
In every case, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but as a result of an experiment at the wordpress blog, all the archives of this blog are now present over there. That would seem like a pretty good argument in favour of shuttering this one...after all, it's pretty much inactive. So why keep it? It isn't for the hordes of loyal readers.

I started the plant news blog for just that purpose - to write about plants in the news. Although I have not updated it in a long time, it's probably the blog with the most potential. The fish blog probably generated the most concentrated posting, but I ran out of steam. The wordpress blog is good for posting about religion, science and politics. The livejournal (which I only created because Carol's blog is now private) is useful for personal stuff, journaling. So what does that leave for this blog? I'm really not sure, but hopefully over the next few weeks I will figure out a purpose for it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris Yeltsin

It was something of a shock to hear that Yeltsin died today. Josh Marshall said:
[I]t's hard for me to see where he won't be one of those figures whose positive moments, even if brief and episodic, were profound enough in their importance to outweigh the longer periods of lassitude, corruption and drift.
I think that sums it up pretty well. I have no way to judge his overall contribution, I don't know whether he tried to set Russia on a good path, or whether he is the one responsible for putting the gasngsters and oligarchs on the path to power...but I can never forget the coup in 1991, I can never forget him standing up against the military. Whatever came after, my opinion of Yeltsin was formed on those actions, and whatever came after was always seen through the filter of that day.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fish blogging

Linz got me an aquarium for my birthday, and now I am totally fish-obsessed. I kept talking to anyone who would listen (usually Carol on msnmessenger) about my fish, my plants and water chemistry...and I'm sure she's pretty sick of it, so I decided to switch to a blog. I probably won't be much better keeping it up to date than I am with this blog or the plant one, but hey, if I'm that interested, you never know, I might actually write. (And, like with the plant blog, the link is in the title of the post).