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More Sam Harris

Sam Harris is making the rounds with public radio. His new book, "A Letter to a Christian Nation" seems to have struck a nerve. Good for him. Good for us.

Today Harris was interviewed on Talk of the Nation. Check out the interview here.

Again, if you've read Sam's book, you won't hear anything new. However, if you find yourself in conversations with theists of all sorts, it is great to have his language as part of your arsenal.


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Sam Harris Interview

Sam Harris was interviewed today on Day to Day (An NPR program). If you missed it, you listen Here.

If you have read "The End of Faith" then you've pretty much heard what he has to say. The difference is that Day to Day is a mid-day program aired nationally (not all affliates carry it however). Many more people heard Sam than have read his books.

I also got the sense that Madeline Brand, the interviewer, was a bit uncomfortable doing the interview.

Listen and tell me what you think.


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Time to say goodbye

The one "category" missing from the "science" terms above is "Global Climate Change." In my humble opinion, it is the most important issue facing our planet and our race.

It is this belief, based in good science, that I have decided to start a new business. In that business, I will be selling and installing photovoltaic solar panels and small wind electrical generation equipment in New England (MA, CT, RI, VT, NH, ME). Starting a new business means I'll be cutting way back on my blogging.

As many of you know, for 11+ years and up to quite recently (last Friday) I was a management consultant. I jetted around the country helping companies improve how they run projects and teaching professionals how to run projects more effectively. My customers were product development experts, engineers, and information technology people in Fortune 1000 companies. While I enjoyed the work, I got to hate the travel. And After 9/11 the travel got worse. So for the past five years I have been "resenting" any work I had to do out of state. Not a good mindset for a consultant.

It took me a while to figure this out and about a year ago, I told my three other co-shareholders that I wanted to do something different. Fortunately, they were of similar minds, so we hired a business broker and put our company on the market.

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The Christian Supremacy Act

In keeping with Brent's "Third Awakening" theme...

Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society. - D. James Kennedy

Over at DailKos, Troutfishing alerts us to House Bill H.R. 2679 with the Orwellian title of "The Public Expression of Religion Act"

This bill seeks to

The bill would bar the recovery of attorneys' fees to citizens who win lawsuits asserting their fundamental constitutional and civil rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

go read the diary. Then contact your representative. It is important.


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More on Faith

Rick U's diary on Faith (Here and just below this diary) has generated some excellent reader comments. Here is my own collection of rambling thoughts on the question of faith and a stand in for my "superstition of the week" post.

I, being a quote collector, particularly like No More Mr. Nice Guy's supplied quote

We believe in the power of man to solve his own problems and determine his own destiny, and the other side doesn't. - Sherwin Wine

Wine's quote suggests to me that putting faith in "god" is, in effect, giving up on humans.

Prayer, an outward display of faith, is in many cases, demonstration of this "giving up."

Do any of the god faithful see the paradox of their prayers?

Imagine three neighbors in New Orleans just before Katrina.

They each "deal" with the the looming disaster...

Neighbor One leaves their home and survives.
Neighbor Two stays, prays, and survives.
Neighbor Three stays, prays, and drowns.

Why did Neighbor Two survive and Neighbor Three drown?

From my perspective it's called "chance" but the survivor will credit "faith" and the observing faithful will never ask the question.

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First Amendment

Our high school is a First Amendment School.

This means that every year they have a "First Amendment Day," Because of my non-anonymous blogging (I can't very well tell you the address of my other blog or you might connect the dots :-), I have been asked to speak at our High School for an hour or so.

I can speak to 25 people or 150 - I get to pick the audience size and the topic.

I need some help. What should I speak about. Can you brainstorm with me?

If you had an hour to speak to 150 high school students about the First Amendment, what would you talk about?


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Superstition of the Week: Pray for Rain

Perhaps you have heard of Bob Park. He is a bright scientist and a wickedly clever commentator on all things scientific. I first discovered Bob through his book Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. In Voodoo Science Park describes bad science from Cold Fusion through perpetual motion machines. He also tells us what to look for in order to separate the good from the bad.

Nowadays, Bob writes a weekly newsletter. You can subscribe at his site BobPark.org. Every Friday afternoon, you'll receive witty and skeptical commentary on the public events in science and politics. It is a great way for a rational being to end the week.

This week, Bob points out the negative in the ethanol equation. That is, it takes more energy to produce ethanol than you get from burning it if you account for the energy used to make the fertilizer, transport the corn, etc. Since ethanol requires rainfall, This paragraph naturally led to the next paragraph regarding the superstition of praying for rainfall.

RAIN: GOVERNOR OF SOUTH DAKOTA CALLED FOR A WEEK OF PRAYER. Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, the state hardest hit by the severe drought in the plains, proclaimed the last week of July to be A WEEK TO PRAY FOR RAIN. Not a drop has fallen from the heavens on South Dakota since. The governor used the wrong technology. You pray to get out of Iraq, for rain you dance.

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Superstition of the Week: St. Joseph the Real Estate Agent

Today's Boston Globe points out just how much superstition has worked its way into our every day lives.

If you have ever sold a house, you have probably heard about the "help" you can get if you bury a St. Joseph statue in your front yard.

It appears that as the housing market slumps people are turning to St. Joseph. Supposedly, burying a little statue in your yard will increase the chances that your house will sell. At least one clever person has put together a kit for home sellers. The kit comes with a small statue and instructions. No doubt those instructions insist that you talk to yourself.

So let me start with some "dumb" questions.

Why not use the method during a booming market too? Why does the technique only become popular during slow markets? It would seem to me that if it really works, you would want to use it all the time.

Does anybody keep track of the unsuccessful sales when Joe is buried in the front yard?

This is yet another example of "random reinforcement" (a topic I wrote about here) coupled with our brains' ability to create patterns where there are none.

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Another Whack Job

Katherine Harris, Former Secretary of State in Florida has a number of accomplishments on her resume.

"Accomplishments that Show How Crazy I Really Am"

2000 Manipulated election process in the state of Florida to assure a George Bush victory.

2006 Received letter from Republican National Comittee telling me that they will not support me.

2006 Burned through three sets of campaign staff in my run for US Senate.

Well she's just added another entry to her resume:

If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin.

It was reported yesterday in the Orlando Sentinel

This statement is so incredibly stupid in so many ways, it reveals a damaged mind.


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Anti-superstition Begins at Home

It's ubiquitous. Superstition has worked its way into every day living. Here are some examples:

"Cross you fingers."
"Knock on wood."
"God bless you." (For sneezing)

The list goes on. What's an anti-superstitious person to do?

If you really are not superstitious why use these phrases at all. Instead, start using phrases that suggest your direct involvement or an expression that conveys randomness. So you must catch yourself before you you say these things then decide to not say them.

Here is an example:

Recently I was discussing the start-up of a new business and the sale of my old business. The start up of the new business depends on the sale of the old business (need the money). The sale is not quite complete so I said, "cross your fingers." Oops. Instead I should have said, "Should the buyer follow through on his commitments..." or "If I'm dealt the right cards," "with the luck of the draw" You get the idea.

Instead of crediting some unseen power, tie success either to the parties involved (when they can be identified) or pure chance.

Pure chance is one of those subjects that theists have a hard time with. But I think of pure chance as our inability to know all the variables (and their values) in a system. Not knowing these variables prevents us from making accurate predictions. "Pure chance" is really an "excuse" for not knowing everything. Theists, on the other hand, put their gods in the role of pure chance.

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Christian Baseball

Ed Fitzgerald, a little known blogger at Unfutz has a nice series on the Colorado Rockies.

It seems that the Rockies announced that they are a Christian Baseball Team. Ed, an avid baseball fan (and an atheist), wondered how that was working out for them.

We all know the answer, but check out Ed's site and his analysis. It would appear that there is a reverse correlation between baseball success and christian decision making.

Since I am a Red Sox fan, I guess that means I should start praying for the Yankees to win. :-)


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Cool Personality Profile

Hat Tip: Silly Humans

As far as I'm concerned, this is the best on-line profile I've found so far (not kidding). However, I'm a bit worred about my "deviously manipulative" side :-)

Check it out: Kingdomality

Your distinct personality, The Benevolent Ruler might be found in most of the thriving kingdoms of the time. You are the idealistic social dreamer. Your overriding goal is to solve the people problems of your world. You are a social reformer who wants everyone to be happy in a world that you can visualize. You are exceptionally perceptive about the woes and needs of humankind. You often have the understanding and skill to readily conceive and implement the solutions to your perceptions. On the positive side, you are creatively persuasive, charismatic and ideologically concerned. On the negative side, you may be unrealistically sentimental, scattered and impulsive, as well as deviously manipulative. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.

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Your Religious Chuckle for the day...

I don't know how many of you are regulars at Daily Kos. I am. In fact, I spend more time there than just about anywhere on the web. No offense Brent. :-)

Anyway, Every once in a while I find a diary worth recommending - not necessarily because of its great writing but more for the cleverness of the idea.

Today, for its cleverness, please check out If the wingnuts were right and dKos were a cult, what would our sacred text look like?

We might have the beginnings of a sacred book for the atheists.


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DHing for Alon

It is an honor to become an Associate blogger here at UTI. Thank you Brent for the promotion.

Alon you are a tough act to follow. At twice your age and half your intellect, I hope I provide a quarter of your insights. Good luck at school and don't let your masters thesis drag out... (been there, done that, not proud to say It took four years for me to get my t(hesis)-shirt)

Yours in Atheism,

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Who Killed the Electric Car

Point 1. This site needs some new categories because my post does not fit easily into any available. I'll get over it.

Point 2. I have seen the trailer for "Who killed the electric car" but I have not yet seen the movie. The trailer is quite compelling.

Watch it Here.

Here is a nice Huffington Post article on the subject.


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Mission Time

Some time ago, I posted here about a Mission trip I would be taking.
(read it here)
Well that time is almost here. We head for Northern Maine on August 20 or so and we will spend the weak helping the less fortunate.

Did you ever get invited to a friends house where most everyone there spoke a different language? Do you remember how weird you felt? I suspect that my trip, at least at first, will feel this strange - it will, of course, depend a great deal on how much "praying" the group does.

The pastor is not taking the trip, instead the women who runs the church youth group will be in charge. She's a nice lady but a bit superstitious :-).

I will keep a journal of the week and if anything interesting happens, I'll report it here. BTW we will not have computer access nor will cell phone coverage be all that great... I can feel the withdrawl symptoms starting already. :-) (looks like we will be just a few miles from the Canadian Province of New Brunswick)


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Welcome All DailyKos Readers

To all the regular Readers here at UTI...

DarkSyde has just posted an interview with Brent at DailyKos. DS, in case you didn't know, is a front pager at DailyKos.

This post means that there will be lots more traffic (at least initially) here at UTI.

SO, put on your best clothes, comb your hair, and smile for the tourists. Maybe some of them will stay.

To all the DailyKos readers - Welcome. Come in, and drink up the disagreement.


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Disturbing Statue

This photo is rather disturbing:

And no, it's not a photoshop trick. It is a statue built by some Christofacists. The photo appeared in yesterday's NY Times. Read the diary about it at DailyKos.

Happy Indpendence Day {chill down my spine}


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Stolen Election - More

Check out Mark Crispin Miller discussing “Fooled Again” at UMass Amherst on April 9. The recording is up at KPFA - Guns and Butter Archives. Miller’s passion is clear and he points directly at the fundamentalist religious energy behind stolen elections.Listen to the audio.

Miller makes it quite clear how a subset of the right is trying to build a theocracy. It is 40 minutes well spent and much faster than reading his book.

Tagged: mark crispin miller fooled again elections religious right election fraud

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Carnival of the ???

Blog "Carnivals" seem to be all the rage. There are many of them in the blogosphere. Here is a comprehensive list at Truth Laid Bear.

I'm thinking of starting yet another carnival. While Brent Carnival of the Godless has a nice hook, "writing from a godless perspective," It does not necessarily get to the irrationality of religion.

I'd like to read more about the irrational behaviors of people under the influence of faith. I like the name "The Carnival of the Dogmatic," with a tagline of, "Thinking" While Under the Influence... of Religion." (TWUI)

Please share your thoughts here or at my regular hangout, ARB.

Thanks, ARB

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