You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded.
To the question, “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, “Why not?”
Atheist: Natural Morals, Real Meaning, Credible Truth

27 June, 2010

Sunday Sacrilege: So alone

Sunday Sacrilege: So alone
"But here's the wonderful revelation. If you're a well-adjusted person, once you've discarded the unhealthy fictitious relationship with a phantasm, you can look around and notice all those other people who are likewise alone, and you'll realize that we're all alone together. And that means you aren't alone at all — you're among friends. That's the next step in human progress, is getting away from the notion of minions living under a trail boss, and onwards to working as a cooperative community, with no gods and no masters, only autonomous agents free to think and act."

I've been seeing bad decisions being made with faith-based "reasoning" involved. Their need for a father figure and patriarchal social system drives decisions that seem to counter efficient social systems. The fear of socialized medicine is the prime example. That goes directly against the grain in a patriarchal system. God, nation, men take care of the family, not social systems where we work together. Republicans and tea-baggers are all about individualism and independence yet beg and pray to the imaginary father figure in the sky. Why not break the chains of subservience to masters? The chief master being the imaginary god?

19 June, 2010

Reluctance to Let Go

Reluctance to Let Go
"There’s a movement afoot to frame science/religion discussions in such a way that those of who believe that the two are incompatible are labeled as extremists who can be safely excluded from grownup discussions about the issue."
"What troubles me is how much our cultural conversation is being impoverished by a reluctance to face up to reality. In many ways the situation is parallel to the discussion about global climate change. In the real world, our climate is being affected in dramatic ways by things that human beings are doing. We really need to be talking about serious approaches to this problem; there are many factors to be taken into consideration, and the right course of action is far from obvious. Instead, it’s impossible to broach the subject in a public forum without being forced to deal with people who simply refuse to accept the data, and cling desperately to the idea that the Earth’s atmosphere isn’t getting any warmer, or it’s just sunspots, or warmth is a good thing, or whatever. Of course, the real questions are being addressed by some people; but in the public domain the discussion is blatantly distorted by the necessity of dealing with the deniers. As a result, the interested but non-expert public receives a wildly inaccurate impression of what the real issues are."
"Over the last four hundred or so years, human beings have achieved something truly amazing: we understand the basic rules governing the operation of the world around us. Everything we see in our everyday lives is simply a combination of three particles — protons, neutrons, and electrons — interacting through three forces — gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong nuclear force. That is it; there are no other forms of matter needed to describe what we see, and no other forces that affect how they interact in any noticeable way. And we know what those interactions are, and how they work. Of course there are plenty of things we don’t know — there are additional elementary particles, dark matter and dark energy, mysteries of quantum gravity, and so on. But none of those is relevant to our everyday lives (unless you happen to be a professional physicist). As far as our immediate world is concerned, we know what the rules are. A staggeringly impressive accomplishment, that somehow remains uncommunicated to the overwhelming majority of educated human beings."
"... understand the reluctance to let go of religion as the lens through which we view questions of meaning and morality. For thousands of years it was the best we could do; it provided social structures and a framework for thinking about our place in the world. But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on.

Rather than opening our eyes and having the courage and clarity to accept the world as it is, and to tackle some of the real challenges it presents, as a society we insist on clinging to ideas that were once perfectly reasonable, but have long since outlived their usefulness. Nature obeys laws, we are part of nature, and our job is to understand our lives in the context of reality as it really is. Once that attitude goes from being “extremist” to being mainstream, we might start seeing some real progress."

We know so much now and can explain in many better ways how and why we are here. Religion fears being replaced by new facts and makes the noises necessary to keep itself relevant to the world. Keep the people ignorant of new truths and meanings, keep a wall between science and perceived non-science. If religion can't do that, then it will become irrelevant to the public.

12 June, 2010

Hedges: The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger


The rise of this Christian fascism, a rise we ignore at our peril, is being fueled by an ineffectual and bankrupt liberal class that has proved to be unable to roll back surging unemployment, protect us from speculators on Wall Street, or save our dispossessed working class from foreclosures, bankruptcies and misery. The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated.
and the Tea Baggers call Obama fascists. I need to spell out fascism and make a side by side comparison of what Tea Baggers represent and what the left represents. I am quite disappointed by what progress Congress and the President have achieved since 2006 when the left has started to take power.

11 June, 2010

Aides Taking Flight!

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Liz and I took her classroom aides to the Watsonville airport and did some flying! Lots of smiles and no airsickness. :-)

Autism and the search for simple, direct answers

PZ Myers has a review of a paper on Autism that helped me better understand what the current thinking on what Autism is.

A large study of almost a thousand autistic individuals for genetic variations that make them different from control individuals has found that Autism Spectrum Disorder has many different genetic causes: there isn't one single gene responsible for ASD, but a constellation of hundreds, each with the potential to affect the development of the brain and cause the symptoms of autism. They don't know exactly how each of these genes contributes to the disorder, but they have found that many of them are involved in growth and cell communication and the formation of synapses in the brain.

The bottom line is that there are many different ways to cause the symptoms of autism, and it's a mistake to try to pin it all on single, simple causes. Any hope for amelioration lies in understanding the general functional processes that are disrupted by mutations in various pathways.

[amelioration: the act of relieving ills and changing for the better]

08 June, 2010

Home sweet home!

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Liz and I are home owners again! The deal is done. We start moving in sometime in July and have to be done before the AEHF launch.

05 June, 2010

Flying Kids

We flew about 55 kids today with about 10 pilots and planes. Very nice day at Watsonville, no fog, very warm (~80F), light winds. We always bring them back in one piece but sometimes a little scrambled.
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03 June, 2010

No Ghost in the Machine

"Our understanding of how the brain works, when it is completed, will come from a complete picture of how all its systems function and interact. There's no magic to it - our sensations, feelings, understanding, appreciation of beauty - they are all outcomes of these systems. And there will still be people like RLC who will sit there, uncomprehending, and complain that we haven't explained anything, saying,

"But how can chemistry and physics be about something?""