Who’s Lying, Who’s Self-Justifying – Our Monthly Meeting on August 26, 2014

The program at this meeting moved away from topics associated with religion and atheism. We ventured into the sphere of skepticism and critical thinking in the difficult area of sexual communications. Claims of sexual assault are often embedded in a cloud of ambiguities and our reactions are frequently based on preconceptions and deeply embedded beliefs for which we seek confirmation rather than face conflicting evidence.The speaker was Carol Tavris who is a psychologist. She made her presentation at the The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas this summer.

The consensus was that this was a very good and thought provoking talk. Leave your impressions in the comment area.

Taking a Bite Out of Educational Television

Last year, the Discovery Channel stirred a firestorm–or maybe a Sharknado–of controversy with its docufiction “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” which kicked off last year’s Shark Week.  As the title implies, this fake documentary posits “evidence” that the Megalodon, a truly gigantic shark that grew to over 60 feet in length and fed on whales 28 to 1.5 million years ago, is still alive and attacking rental boats off the coast of Africa.  With help from doctored photos, misinformation and actors, Discovery convinced millions of viewers that the largest ocean-going predator ever to walk…um…swim the Earth was back with a tourist munching vengeance.

Not to be outdone, they topped themselves with two more docufictions this year, “Megalodon: The New Evidence,” which reminds me forcefully of Animal Planet’s “Mermaids: The Body Found” and “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” and “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine,” which focuses on modern folklore of a 30-foot great white stalking the people of southern Africa.

The docubullcrap on Submarine was particularly chilling.  As with Megalodon, they treated the whole thing as a serious matter, even when claiming that this particular shark had learned how to prey almost exclusively on humanity by teaching itself to breath while holding still (so as to beat our sonar).  As obviously fake as that is, they once again fooled millions into thinking a giant shark with the mental sharpness of Sir Isaac Newton was stalking Africa’s “Shark Alley.”

So what are the facts?  Not many: it isn’t impossible that a great white shark could grow to thirty feet–the longest on record being twenty-three, keeping in mind that we don’t really know how big they can get–but the odds of a shark getting that large are rather unlikely.  As for Megalodon, it died long ago.  A mixture of climate change, competition from the newly evolved pack-hunting orcas, and a sudden drop in its prey stocks led to its downfall.  The mockumentaries claim that it could have moved into deep water to hunt giant squid–similar to the sperm whale–but there is no evidence Megalodon could even survive the pressure of those depths.  What’s more; Megalodon’s hunting grounds were tropical shallow seas, it would have had to evolve, not only a different physiology to hunt like this, but another personality as well.

Even if it did, if giant squid routinely wash up on shore, there’s no reason to believe a 60-100 foot shark wouldn’t.

Why am I so angry over this?  Because it’s the fucking Discovery Channel!  I know I shouldn’t have expected much, this being the same network that’s been overdosing on motorcycle mechanic and nudist Survivorman shows, but I couldn’t help but hope that at least freaking Shark Week would be free of bull-crap.

Well, we lost the History Channel, Animal Planet only runs truly educational television (like “Big Cat Diary” and “Crocodile Hunter”) early in the morning, and now Discovery is unapologetically citing ratings as an excuse to run bullshit (did I mention they were defending themselves for this blatant lying?) so I guess I’ll just have to accept that educational television is dead; it was killed by the cable network god called Ratings and its loyal followers, dumbass Americans.

God and Evolution

PZ Myers has a post up regarding the question of the compatibility or lack thereof of God and science.  Give it a read.  Anyway, I thought I would pose the question: are God and evolution compatible?  I am not asking whether there are people who believe in God and accept the evidence for evolution, but whether, upon deeper consideration, they are truly compatible.

I am intentionally framing the question in a rather naive way, because I think doing so does not shift the discussion in too specific a direction.  I am really interested to see how everyone reacts.

So what do you think?

Fire and Straw

In preparing to teach European History in the fall I have been doing some reading about the Reformation era.  I found interesting Luther’s comments regarding the marriage of priests, which of course was and is prohibited by the Catholic Church.  His remarks are sexist and reflect a less enlightened time than our own.  He said that priests need housekeepers, and putting men and women together and expecting nothing to happen was like applying a spark to straw and expecting no conflagration.  Despite the sexism, it is hard not to think about the many sex scandals associated with the Catholic Church today.  Luther showed a greater understanding of human nature than the current Roman Church.  The vast majority of humans are driven to copulate, and priestly vestments do nothing to change that.  Expecting priests as a class to remain celibate is like expecting straw to remain impervious to fire.

Atheist TV

Here is the promo video for Atheist TV which is premiering on July 29th. It doesn’t say much about what will actually be on the program, how often the program will appear or how long episodes may be. However, you can find more information about this event by visiting the American Atheists web site at this location. While you can purchase a box that will connect to your TV and provide access to the programming, you can also just stream it from the web. According to the press release at the link above,

“… the real highlight will be new, exclusive content: Content creators will provide programming for the new channel, which will stream 24 hours a day, 7 days per week in addition to the on-demand content.”

It seems that it will take some time to learn what is on and when. It could be that there is a lot of content that has historical interest, but it isn’t clear how much new and original content will be provided. I’m guessing it will will be worth a look when it starts.

The Ultimate Question – Our monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seth Andrews is the originator and host of the weekly podcast, The Thinking Atheist. In addition to interviewing some of the major voices in the freethought community on his podcast, Seth is becoming a popular speaker at various conferences, conventions and meetings in the freethought community. His skills as a broadcaster and video producer make him a top choice when you want an articulate and passionate voice for a humanistic and secular perspective. The video below won universal praise from those attending the meeting. Seth provides humor, thoughtful observations on his own de-conversion experience and what it means to embrace reason, science and humanism.

The Thinking Atheist podcast occurs weekly on Tuesday evenings and you can listen to it live from the website. There is also an archive of previous shows (there are now 172). Seth recently participated in a mini tour with Matt Dillahunty and Aron Ra (they are all located in the Texas area), called the “Unholy Trinity Tour”. You can see a trailer about this series of talks here. I believe Seth arranged to have them captured on video and as soon as they become available, I may post one or more of them on this blog. At this point I have no idea what the content is, but all three of the members of the unholy trio are worth a listen. Check back for updates to the blog.

More on Wacko Bob Frey

Recently I posted on Bob Frey, who is a candidate for state representative in a district near the Twin Cities.  Ed Brayton is apparently tracking this guy, and after recounting his comments about AIDS being caused by an enzyme (that by itself is enough to give Frey a spot in the pantheon of right wing idiots), Brayton has now posted audio of Frey claiming that “dinosaurs have always lived with people.”  Yes, I saw one just yesterday.  Geez — just what we need — a young earth creationist running for the legislature.  And I just can’t help it — I’ll give everyone one guess which political party this guy belongs to.

Corporate Christianity

As I was wondering around through various blogs, sites, etc. this morning, I encountered a link via an email from Richard Dawkins’ site which conveyed the experience of someone who had worked for Hobby Lobby for a few months. The writer was commenting on the decision of the current SCOTUS to give some status to corporations wishing to assert religious “rights”.

The writer’s description of the work environment at Hobby Lobby was about what one would expect where it was already known that the business draped its g*d over everything. Prayers in the morning, bibles here and there, etc. and lots of expectations that employees express their certainty regarding all things to do with faith. It wasn’t clear why the author even considered a job at the place.

But then the discussion moved on to mega churches and all the things they do to get money and ‘loyalty’ out of their flocks. Some things were familiar like rock bands at services, childcare services not just on Sundays, but all through the week and overnight as well. From these sort of expected activities and ventures, it moved into things like oil changes for your car, various commercial products like gift items, home furnishings and more. The church was literally becoming more of a diversified business than a routine place of worship. And this is taking place while Hobby Lobby is become more a place of worship than a simple commercial enterprise.

I’m wondering if the two will merge into a single thing – a churchy business that makes its money by selling you a whole pile of stuff with some of it being salvation related and other stuff just being car service with a blessing or sanctification. Perhaps this is the only path that will preserve anything of the church in the future. At some point they might just give up the preachy stuff if it doesn’t really move enough product. Eventually the whole g*d thing will be so incoherent that no one will care if they are praying for their soul or their transmission.