March for Science

2/24/17 from organizers:

Big things happening with the March for Science – Grand Rapids this week! We were approved to use the High School facilities so we officially have an indoor venue with accessible restrooms, four tables, and 30 chairs!
Donations are starting to come in as well. Domino’s on Pokegama is donating 20 pizzas and Caribou Coffee on Pokegama is donating five gallons of coffee plus various pastries! Paul Bunyan Communications is donating $200 to help with venue and supplies! A HUGE thank you to our sponsors for their generous donations in helping this march become a reality!
Finally, big shout out to Bonfire for working with me to create a unique design for the Rapids March (notice the red/norway pine forest 🙂 )! We now have merch for sale online and all profits go to paying for the local march so please check it out and buy a shirt (or two). Orders won’t be placed until we sell five so share the link with your friends and wear your shirts to the march!!

https://www.bonfire.com/mfsgrandrapids/

Join the March for Science-Apr. 22nd

I hope many GRAF members will be interested in joining the March for Science in Grand Rapids on April 22nd.

This is info about the event taken from the organizer’s Facebook page(which can be viewed by Googling it even if you are not on Facebook, like me):

We will meet at KAXE at 11 am to make signs and gather before the march. We will then walk to 169 and head North, go West on Hwy 2 and North at 38 to the High School where we will hear speakers, eat food, and mingle with people who share our passion for science!

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

ON APRIL 22, 2017, WE WALK OUT OF THE LAB AND INTO THE STREETS.

Volunteer to Pack Toys for Food Shelf-Dec. 17th (morning)

One of our favorite volunteer activities is the annual toy packing event supporting the Second Harvest Itasca Holiday Program. Our group is signed up to participate again this year. If you plan to come, please mark your calendar for Saturday, Dec.17th–location: Zion Lutheran Church. Last year packing began at 9:00am so we arrived at approx. 8:50am. If I receive word that the start time is any different, I’ll change the time on our Meetup site. So please check there to confirm the start time shortly before the event, or call me. Otherwise we’ll plan to arrive around 8:45am. The work should be completed before noon.

Our task that day is to select gifts for children ages 0-12 from big piles of new items, donated by our community, that have already been sorted by age and gender. The process is quite orderly and will be explained by the program coordinator before we begin. A few people also will be asked to work at the “battery station” or at tables where they check selected items to make sure they are an appropriate choice for the child identified on the gift tag (for example, we wouldn’t want to give a complicated board game to a toddler). After every child has been “shopped for” in this way, the bags are loaded up to be delivered with food boxes to families in communities throughout Itasca County.

In the past we’ve enjoyed gathering afterwards for lunch, but since this is on the same day as our (much-anticipated!) annual Winter Solstice party, I’m proposing a change in plans. Would anyone be interested in meeting for coffee beforehand, instead? I’m suggesting 8:00am at Caribou since it’s close to the church. Will put that on the Meetup site as well. Please feel free to join us at Caribou even if you can’t help with the toy packing, friends. All are welcome. 🙂

I hope many of you can make it to this fun and rewarding volunteer activity. It helps make the holidays a lot brighter for these kids and their families. Please call me if you have questions-Amy (#259-1476)

Blog Issues

The blog experienced some problems last week when I attempted to install some routine updates to the themes, various plugins and the basic WordPress program. The updates failed because the system was unable to remove the older versions that the updates would replace. There wasn’t any explanation of why the old versions couldn’t be removed and the consequences weren’t immediately obvious. Later the content of the public blog website went completely blank and this made it impossible to see any of the content or make any changes.

I contacted technical support and they worked with the site to restore the ability to see and edit the content. I’m not sure what the problem was, but it took more than a day for them to figure it out. This work was completed as of Thursday, April 21st.

When the blog was restored, some of the settings were not preserved and the main security plugin had to be reinstalled. So far this appears to have worked, but the appearance of the blog has been changed to a different theme and header image. I haven’t restored the original theme, but will try to do this soon. In the meantime, if you post a comment or create new content, things should work okay. If you find things are still malfunctioning in some fashion, let me know.

Presumptions

I was watching a show the other night called “Monster Quest,” wherein an impersonal team conducts searches for various cryptozoological creatures such as Champ, the yeti, or the Mongolian death worm.  This particular episode focused on the Ropen.

The Ropen is supposedly a large, leathery flying predator native to Papua New Guinea which sets itself apart from other creatures through a twenty-foot wingspan and bioluminescence.  Supposedly it greatly resembles a glow-in-the-dark pterosaur.

Part of the expedition was a representative of “Genesis Park,” a creationist organization that seeks to prove dragon-like creatures of mythology as proof that humans and dinosaurs lived alongside one another, a la The Flintstones.  In order to help push the asinine notion theory that pterosaurs still live in Papua New Guinea, something that was mentioned when someone pointed out that there’s no evidence that pterosaurs were bioluminescent, this particular man claimed that fossils don’t tell us the whole story and so we can’t possibly know that.

That claim is highly presumptuous.  It’s true, fossils simply can’t tell us everything, however, given what they can tell us–how the skeletons were put together, diet (teeth), muscle size and arrangement (imprints on the bones)–we simply can’t make wild guesses just because the fossils don’t specifically say “no.”  As I pointed out at Florio’s, I can claim that the fossil T.rex “Sue” was a devout Shinto, there’s nothing specific in her fossils that says otherwise, but I don’t get to complain when people point and laugh at me.

In case you’re curious, the Ropen is most likely a combination of folklore, hysteria, and misidentified hornbills, which are massive birds that have been compared to pterosaurs before.

Atheists celebrating Christmas

I really liked this recent post on the “Liberal House on the Prairie” blog:

“The War on Christmas
Fri, Dec 18 2015, 08:06 AM
As part of my annual “War on Christmas,” I submitted an entry for the local paper’s segment on Christmas Stories. From the paper’s website:

“The stories of Christmas have been a Dispatch favorite since 1988. Each year we get wonderful stories, some humorous and light-hearted; others are thoughtful, touching remembrances. Winners are published in the Christmas Eve edition of the Dispatch. Stories should be 300 words or less.”

My submission:

“I’m an atheist. But if you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I will tell you it’s Christmas. Hands down. No contest. For me, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I struggled with my utter devotion to Christmas for a few years after becoming an atheist. I felt like a hypocrite; rejecting religion on the one hand, while embracing a religious holiday on the other.

But after doing some basic research into the roots of Christmas, I was able to relax and enjoy the holiday for what it really is; a break from the cold days of winter. An excuse to bring some greenery and lights inside your home when it’s dark and gray outside. An occasion to get together with all of those people you may not see during the rest of the year. An opportunity to show your love through food. A chance to watch your children’s eyes light up as they open that present they’ve been begging for. A time to remember your own childhood, and reminisce with the ones you love. All of these things remain special and magical to us, even if Jesus isn’t part of our equation.

Your atheist neighbors aren’t out to wage a “War on Christmas.” Many of us love it just as much as you do! We just celebrate it our own way, with our own family traditions, and accept it as the cultural holiday that it is. When we say “Happy Holidays,” it’s not because we hate Christmas. It’s simply an acknowledgement that not everyone celebrates it. Because we know what it’s like to be part of the “out group,” and we don’t want others to feel the isolation that we’re so familiar with. So, from my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas!”
Guess we’ll have to wait until next week to see if I win! 🙂

Quotes about atheism

I was on Craigslist–of all places–and found this nifty series of quotes about atheism:

“It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science.” [Darwin]

“If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.” [Voltaire]

“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.” [Einstein]

“Faith means not wanting to know what is true.” [Nietzsche]

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul…. No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life – our desire to go on living … our dread of coming to an end.” [Edison]

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” [Lincoln]

“Religion is a byproduct of fear. For much of human history, it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?” [Arthur C. Clarke]

“Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.” [Thomas Jefferson]

“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.” [Kurt Vonnegut]

“Religion is based . . . mainly on fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. . . . My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.” [Bertrand Russell]