Thursday, April 26, 2007

Skeptic: eSkeptic: Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Skeptic: eSkeptic: Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

I particularly enjoyed this article. It deals not only with the Sitchinite mythology that I delved quite deeply into some time ago, but also gives me some much-needed context on the book I'm reading right now: Fingerprints of the gods, by Graham Hancock.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


After having read James Randi's weekly commentary for many months, and having heard him speak on many podcasts (I haven't read his books yet) I have become a really big fan of his.

This morning I had cause to submit an article to him I had found that I thought he might like to see. To my surprise, I recieved a personal response from Mr Randi himself, and not some designated flunkie.

I suppose I'm not really surprised. He seems like a very personable man, and the sort who would respond to his correspondence personally... I guess I'm just having a fanboy moment.

It's still pretty awesome though!

Friday, April 20, 2007

What the frack?!?!?

How in His Noodliness's holy fracking name could this travesty possibly have been orchestrated?

What travesty you ask?

Go to the the website of the Kwazulu Natal Provincial Government. Then view the page labelled Provincial Departments and glance through the list until you see what I saw: "Royal Household".

Here it is. Go on, I'll wait.

See it? Good.

Do you know what that is all about? Neither did I before I saw this article on IOl this morning.

Our motherfracking LEGITIMATE, DEMOCRATIC government is using OUR FRACKING TAX MONEY to fund an archaic, tribal FRACKING MONARCHY!

It's bad enough that we have to listen to the endless babbling on and on of those idiots over at the Traditional Leaders' Council or whatever they call themselves... but now we're actually financially supporting them?

If we're going to be supporting non-legitimate governments around here, I hereby demand a government grant in order to fund the Government of the United Federation of Planets!

Monday, April 16, 2007

In which I come out of the closet

It is a cause of much discomfort for people of my ilk (Brights, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists, heathens and non-believers in general) that a reality-based world view seems to be regarded by believers to be worthless.

Indeed, everyone with a point of view automatically believes that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is either stupid, ignorant or both. But when it comes to religiosity, true believers seem to subscribe to a sort of hierarchy of wrongness:

1. Joe is a Catholic. He therefore thinks that all other Catholics are right, and all non-Catholics are stupid and/or ignorant.

2. Since Catholicism is a branch of Christianity, Joe probably believes that other Christians are more-or-less right, and are probably not going to Hell, because what they believe is pretty similar to Catholicism.

3. Joe probably believes that Jews and Muslims are going to Hell, because they’ve got the entirely wrong idea about all of it, but at least they’re praying to the right god… sort of.

4. Joe probably thinks that Hindus, Scientologists, Buddhists, Deists, Zoroastrians, Mithraists and those sorts of people are definitely going to Hell, because they don’t pray to the right god. However they do believe in a “higher power” of some sort, so they’re probably not too bad.

5. When Joe considers the position of a non-believer, he thinks it contemptible and paramount to Satanism. To deny the very existence of God is blasphemy to Joe… a crime worse than treason and punishable by death. To Joe, there is nothing worse than an Atheist. Atheists must be evil people because, without God, how do they have any morals? A perspective shared by many believers, not just Catholics, or even just by Theists.

I’m not going to go into arguments for objective morality right now (read the Science of Good and Evil, Michael Shermer). My problem is that my belief system (even if it is an absence of belief) is regarded as contemptible by believers. They’re willing to tolerate each others’ mutually incompatible beliefs most of the time, but when it comes to having no beliefs at all there is suddenly a travesty.

I too think that believers (and even some non-believers who disagree with me) are stupid and/or ignorant. But despite that, I tolerate their beliefs. I have no choice but to do so. I reserve the right to be able to criticise the beliefs of others, as I respect the rights of others to criticise mine. I reserve the right to try and promote my worldview to others, as I reserve their right to do the same (although I try not to do so, especially when inappropriate).

The thing that really gets me riled up is when I am called a “non-believer” as if it’s an insult. Yes, I am a non-believer… or at least I aspire to be. It’s a worldview and a perspective that I have considered very carefully, and one that I have arrived at by means of a very long and difficult process of deliberate evaluation, investigation and introspection. To me there is no other perspective that makes any sense. It may not be correct, and I acknowledge that possibility, but it appears to be the best option available.

Not only has that position been thoroughly considered, but it is still something about which I still spend a lot of time thinking. I frequently ask myself whether or not I might be wrong. And I don’t always have an answer. This is not a comfortable state to be in.

If anyone thinks that it is easy to go from being a True believer to a Non-believer, they are sorely mistaken. It is a hazardous and strenuous journey: examining each of your most prized and cherished beliefs, and finding that most of them are false. Although there is comfort in knowing that ideas of vaporous substance have largely been eliminated from my world-view (through a process of looking at them long enough until they disappear), the uncertainty of having to construct a new world-view from the ground up does little to enhance one’s sense of security.

The path to freethought is not one that I would recommend to anyone. Unless you have friends or family who are already on it, my advice is to steer clear of that wretched and pitfall-ridden road. Stick to your beliefs and leave the truth alone. You will be isolated from your friends and loved ones. You will experience no end of guilt for wanting to share your family’s joy in their celebrations of their religious traditions of choice. You will be ridiculed and despised by those closest to you. You will be alone, fearful of allowing others learning your opinions.

Had I known how difficult it would be, I would have chosen this path anyway. I’m not the sort of person who can look for the better story. I refuse to live my life based on a lie. I am the sort who must find the truth… or if there is no truth to be found, to remain undecided.

I am an Agnostic Nontheist. From my perspective, it’s the only reasonable thing to be. Live with it. I have to.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy First Contact Day


Today is the minus fifty sixth anniversary of First Contact between Earth and Vulcan.

Live long and prosper!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Climate Change

I’m going to come out of the closet: I am a climate change sceptic.

I can’t deny the fact that the climate is changing… I don’t need a climatologist to tell me it’s getting hotter. What I am not yet convinced of is that human endeavour has had any significant influence in creating or aggravating it.

I’m not saying that I reject the hypothesis that humans have caused or contributed to climate change, just that I am not convinced of it yet.

All of the people I consider to be reliable scientific authorities have come out in support of the hypothesis. While that lends credence to it, none of those people are climatologists, so I don’t really know how much they can be trusted on the issue.

I keep hearing that there is “overwhelming evidence” supporting the hypothesis. While that may well be true, I haven’t seen much of it. What evidence I have seen seems to be circumstantial at best… hardly what I would call compelling.

Perhaps I’ve heard too many Chicken Little stories about killer asteroids, killer flu and killer bees to take it seriously when seemingly alarmist claims are made about the end of the world. Whenever someone starts going on about how mankind is causing its own downfall, my Bullshit Detector starts beeping like crazy.

I think the main reason I can’t overcome this doubt is that whenever someone starts spouting statistics about how much carbon dioxide we spew into the atmosphere and how much the average sea temperature has changed, the biggest piece of information seems to be missing: the baseline comparison.

It seems to me that things like atmospheric carbon content and average water temperature are the sorts of things that tend to fluctuate over time. What hasn’t been made clear to me is what would be a normal, “natural” amount of fluctuation. Apparently these things have fluctuated very little over the last few thousand years, which leads me to believe that we’re due for a change anyway.

Another problem is that there seem to be so many different proposed causes: carbon emissions, methane emissions, ice-cap albedo, solar flares, deforestation and so on. In my experience, whenever a zillion different causes are linked to one effect, those causes are usually all crap.

Before anyone has a panic attack, I do like to pursue, at least in principle, many of the suggestions put forward to help “combat” climate change. Not because I think I’ll be able to make any difference to it, but because they just make sense.

It makes sense to use fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones: they last longer and use less power, which means I save money in the long run. If everyone else did it too, it would allow us to make our limited resources stretch further… I’m all for efficiency.

The same goes for driving Hybrid cars… if they didn’t cost as much as two normal cars, I would seriously consider driving a Prius. When they become more ubiquitous and affordable I will buy one for sure. Again, it’s just a matter of efficiency.

Right, so: I challenge you Chicken Littles – convince me that I should be worried about climate change, but please keep it simple and straight-forward.