Anyone else getting tired of all the admonitions to “not judge all Muslims by the actions of extremists” (ISIS)?

Before declaring Islam or any other religion to be peaceful and the “extremists” as obviously misguided, shouldn’t we scrutinize all the so-called holy books and consider the many instructions they actually attribute to their gods?

The Koran apparently has a great deal to say about what good Muslims should do to infidels. It’s not peaceful. And the Christian holy book does too. No need to single out Muslims just because the blood is currently running in France, Beirut, and Baghdad (among other places).  Here’s an offering from Deuteronomy 2, holy scriptures for Jews and Christians: “If there is found in your midst, in any of your [a]towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to [b]death. 6 On the [c]evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the [d]evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

FREETHINKERS, BEWARE, lest your neighbor take this to heart.

Thoughts? Other points of view?



Jurassic Park is the story of humans playing god and bringing extinct creatures back from Death’s chilly embrace.  As with all of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi novels, it doesn’t go well for us.  But it’s just that, right?  Science fiction, not a kernel of truth anywhere to be found.

Well, maybe not.  Jack Horner (the paleontological advisor to the Jurassic Park movies) has had a little pet project going on for a while now: reverse genetically engineering a chicken into a dinosaur.


Not as cool as we’d hoped.

Ok so it’s not a lawyer-munching Tyrannosaurus rex, but this chickenosaurus (as Horner is calling it) does have some exciting implications for the field of genetics.  Creating a dinosaur out of a chicken is, at least cosmetically, a surprisingly easy feat: teeth, arms and hands, a long tail, and a modified snout.  That last entry was actually achieved through experimentation of chicken embryos by Horner’s team.


A standard chicken, a genetically modified chicken, and an alligator.

You see, as dinosaurs evolved into birds, certain genes were modified.  By analyzing two genes involved in facial development, Horner’s team found that they behaved differently in birds than in reptiles.  By altering this behavior, their chicken embryo developed a reptilian snout as opposed to a beak.  Not done there, they found to their complete surprise that the embryo had also developed a reptilian palate (the roof of the mouth), a surprise find as they were only expecting to alter the outer structure of the beak.

This development is promising, but there are still unanswered questions.  Even if we were able to genetically construct a dinosaur from a chicken, would it work right?  There’s no guarantee that by simply reactivating the genes for reptilian features like snouts, arms and tails that the nervous system will wire itself accordingly.  The brain may not be able to communicate with these limbs.  What if the resulting creature possesses the body of a dinosaur but the absurdly misplaced instincts of a chicken?

There are many questions to be answered, but the first signs seem promising.  Through the power of genetics, even a “glow-in-the-dark unicorn” [Horner] is not impossible, but now ethics get involved.  To quote the Jurassic Park movie: “Your scientists were so concerned with whether they could, they didn’t stop to consider whether they should.”

Matt Dillahunty – Our monthly meeting for October 27, 2015

Matt Dillahunty continues as one of the regular hosts of The Atheist Experience TV show from Austin, Texas. However, he has also launched a new carrier as a “professional” within the secular community. He engages regularly in debates, makes presentations at many conferences and is producing a series of videos called Atheist Debates. In these videos he takes on one of the many arguments made by theists in defense of their faith. His goal is to systematically identify the weak spots in the arguments and show how they all fail. His comments are drawn from his long experience debunking faith on the TV show and the growing number of live debates in which he participates. Matt has become an increasingly effective and popular speaker.

The video we saw at this month’s meeting was recorded at the Gateway to Reason conference held in St. Louis, Missouri this past summer. It is based on one of his talks for the Atheist Debates series, but the video for that talk had audio problems so he decided to use this presentation instead. The issue he addresses in this one is the frequent use of personal experience as a defense of faith by believers. Briefly, claiming evidence for god and belief based upon some personal experience, known directly only to you, but similar to experiences others describe who share your beliefs. The fact that your private experience doesn’t constitute evidence that can be verified, tested, repeated, etc. makes it relatively useless as a defense of faith. But that doesn’t reduce its popularity. Here is Matt’s thoughtful and detailed discussion of reliance on personal experience as evidence for belief.

Volunteering: Food Shelf Holiday Program

Are you interested in participating in a fun service project that brightens the holidays for children in our community? GRAF members will once again be joining other volunteer groups to help pack the toys that accompany food boxes distributed by the Second Harvest Food Shelf in December.

It’s fun and doesn’t require any special skills or experience. Ellen Christmas, the program coordinator for Second Harvest, explains how it works before we get started. The annual project draws community-minded persons of all ages in a spirit of goodwill and holiday cheer. It usually takes about one-and-a-half hours. Last year our GRAF volunteers met for lunch afterwards; hopefully there will be interest in doing that again.

The event will be hosted by Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids again this year. It’s on Saturday, Dec. 12th at 9:00a.m. Please join us if you can! I put it on the Meetup site, but you don’t have to RSVP–you can just show up.

If you have questions, please e-mail or call Amy (#259-1476 or Hope to see you there!

Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar – Our monthly meeting on September 22, 2015

This meeting was devoted to hearing from a native of Iraq who now lives in the U.S. because it is too dangerous for him in the middle east. He was raised in a mostly secular fashion in an area of the world where this is rather unusual. He now is working to develop resources to help those in the middle east advance a secular agenda, secular ideas and values. He gives a brief talk about the problems in the middle east and then provides a lengthy Q & A for the audience. This is not the same video we watched at our meeting, but one that he made somewhat later with a bit of improvement in the presentation. While the Q & A is different, the content of his presentation and his responses to the questions cover most of the same ground.

Al-Mutar does not really agree with those who argue for a reformation in Islam. He argues instead that it needs to be modernized and offset by a large secular trend. Not clear how that might go.

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

Truer words were never typed.  Apart from being verifiable fact and the title of a popular book, these words offer context on how he can say such wildly inaccurate things while completely confident in how correct he is.

To wit: Rush Limbaugh has declared that NASA’s discovery of flowing water on Mars is evidence that they’ve been taken in by the Leftist global warming agenda.

While admitting that he doesn’t know exactly what it is, he “would assume it would be something to do with global warming.”  He speculates that the next discoveries NASA brings us from the Big Red Marble will be the “mass graveyard” of “an advanced civilization” that collapsed as a result of global warming.  Because he can never get enough of spreading the truth, Limbaugh went on to tell us how NASA’s been lying to us about the temperature of Earth, no warming for the last 18.5 years, blah blah blah miscellaneous global warming denial.

Not content with his psycho-babble so far, he defended himself the next day, claimed that Politico and Media Matters had taken his comments out of context (despite featuring transcripts from his own website which I will NOT link to here) and went on to say that NASA timed this “discovery” to support Matt Damon’s new movie (as if NASA gives a damn) and that Obama turned NASA over to the Muslims, because the man has obviously started digesting his own brain by this point.

I now ask a question to the fans of Limbaugh: how the hell can you take this man seriously!?

Poped Out?

I will agree that the current pope is better than many of his predecessors.  But the new media are treating him like he is Christ himself (whom of course does not exist).  Does the pope’s visit really merit the wall-to-wall coverage he is getting from CNN, MSNBC, and elsewhere?  Do professional journalists really need to get starry-eyed and sometimes even teary-eyed over the visit of the pontiff?  And yes, it is true the Francis has shifted focus to social justice, do we really need to laud him for that?  Shouldn’t the Church have been focused on these issues long ago?  And the pope remains very conservative on women’s issues.

In short, though he is a step up from some of his predecessors, by maintaining the authority of the institutional Church, the pope remains an enemy of free inquiry and unfettered rational thought.

At any rate, I am feeling a bit “poped out.”  I am sick of hearing ad nauseum about every trivial detail of the pope’s visit to the US east coast.

A Quote From Voltaire

I was just over at the “Positive Atheism” site, and I came across this quote from Voltaire, which appeared in a letter to an interlocutor following the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake, which killed thirty thousand people, with another seventy thousand lives snuffed out in the ensuing Tsunami:

“My dear sir, nature is very cruel. One would find it hard to imagine how the laws of movement cause such frightful disasters in the best of possible worlds. A hundred thousand ants, our fellows, crushed all at once in our ant-hill, and half of them perishing, no doubt in unspeakable agony, beneath the wreckage from which they cannot be drawn. Families ruined all over Europe, the fortune of a hundred businessmen, your compatriots, swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a wretched gamble is the game of human life! What will the preachers say, especially if the palace of the Inquisition is still standing? I flatter myself that at least the reverend father inquisitors have been crushed like others. That ought to teach men not to persecute each other, for while a few holy scoundrels burn a few fanatics, the earth swallows up one and all.”

Voltaire went on to write the moving poem “On the Disaster at Lisbon,” as well as his magnum opus, the novel Candide.