Brent Rasmussen's picture

Bush Explains His Reasons For Not Talking To Cindy Sheehan

Offered without comment.

[link] "But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job. And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But, I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Human Face Of Charles Darwin

Carl Zimmer shows us Charles Darwin as a human being - and incidentally destroys those arguments which attempt to link his theories and hypotheses about evolution and common descent with "Social Darwinism" and the "might makes right" wackos. Premium writing from the author of the new book "Evolution".

[link] In 1849 three of the Darwin girls, Henrietta, Elizabeth, and Anne suffered bouts of scarlet fever. While Henrietta and Elizabeth recovered, nine-year old Anne remained weak. She was Darwin's favorite, always throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him. Through 1850 Anne's health still did not rebound. She would vomit sometimes, making Darwin worry that "she inherits I fear with grief, my wretched digestion." The heredity that Darwin saw shaping all of nature was now claiming his own daughter.

In the spring 1851 Anne came down with the flu, and Darwin decided to take her to Malvern, the town where he had gotten his own water-cure. He left her there with the family nurse and his doctor. But soon after, she developed a fever and Darwin rushed back to Malvern alone. Emma could not come because she was pregnant again and just a few weeks away from giving birth to a ninth child.

When Darwin arrived in Anne's room in Malvern, he collapsed on a couch. The sight of his ill daughter was awful enough, but the camphor and ammonia in the air reminded him of his nightmarish medical school days in Edinburgh, when he watched children operated on without anesthesia. For a week--Easter week, no less--he watched her fail, vomiting green fluids. He wrote agonizing letters to Emma. "Sometimes Dr. G. exclaims she will get through the struggle; then, I see, he doubts.--Oh my own it is very bitter indeed."

Anne died on April 23, 1851. "God bless her," Charles wrote to Emma. "We must be more & more to each other my dear wife."

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Pity The Poor Atheist

'Zactly. Heh.

[link] The God of the Crusaders sent them to kill Muslims. The God of the Catholics had them kill scientists. The God of the Puritans told them to kill witches. The Hindu god is OK with killing cow-tippers. The God of the evangelists tells them to kill pro-choicers. The God of the Islamists wants them to kill just about everybody else.

Pity, then, the poor atheist. With no god to tell him whom to kill, he can only practice peace on earth, good will toward men.

Lawrence Manes

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Pray For Play

Hank Fox exposes a new sports scandal - Christian athletes cheating by beseeching the help of the supreme, omnipotent creator of the universe! For shame!

[link] Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, in a prepared statement, roundly condemned the practice. "By asking the All-Powerful Creator of the Universe to intercede on their behalf, these Christian athletes are gaining an unfair advantage over non-Christian players. Americans who take their families to see a baseball game don’t want to hear later that their kids’ heroes won by prayer doping. This practice must cease."

One major-leaguer interviewed spoke only on promise of anonymity. "Forget steroids. This is pro sports’ REAL dirty little secret, and it’s invaded every level of play. I’ve known kids as far down as elementary school who have thrown otherwise honest games of kickball by praying."

Remember kids, Just Say No to God.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Basic Training

Alister E. McGrath is a Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, currently serving as Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford. He's the author who wrote the recent book called "The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World" (amazon). This is a smart guy. He holds degrees in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and theology. He started out his academic life as an atheist, but then converted to Christianity in 1971 after arriving at Oxford University.

Why you ask?

[link] In the midst of this growing delight in the natural sciences, which exceeded anything I could have hoped for, I found myself rethinking my atheism. It is not easy for anyone to subject his core beliefs to criticism; my reason for doing so was the growing realization that things were not quite as straightforward as I had once thought. A number of factors had converged to bring about what I suppose I can reasonably describe as a crisis of faith—or lack thereof.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

David's Law

Stephen Green is actually talking about religion, abortion, gun control, and evolution. Will wonders never cease?

[link] Evolution is a fact – species change over time. The fossil record demonstrates this beyond debate. Evolutionary theories attempt to explain how the fact of evolution occurs. Like all theories, they are subject to scrutiny, falsification, and peer review. No "theory" requiring a god or invisible intelligence or burning sage or nineteen-teated mythical bear can be falsified – and is therefore not science. It also therefore has no place in a science class. End of rant, end of debate. You will not change my mind, so don't even try.

The "David's Law" is a reference to one of Stephen's English teachers in college, a David Cantwell. David said to Stephen on the first day of class, "Write about anything you want, as long as it isn't abortion, gun control, or evolution."

Oops. UTI breaks David's Law every day. At least on the evolution thing. Good thing we never took Mr. Cantwell's class, I guess, or this would be one boring place. Heh. Maybe we need to start writing more about abortion and gun control?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Credulous And Damn Proud Of It

Iman Kurdi of the Arab News network comments upon the Duke University study done on the efficacy of prayer in which there was shown to be no benefit at all. He laments the fact that he cannot offer the skeptics any, um, real evidence, but basically says that it doesn't matter. So there. Nyah. *sticks tongue out*

[link] So often in my career I have come face to face with atheist or agnostic scientists who came close to accusing me of being stupid simply because I believed in something which could not be scientifically proven. But that is the essence of faith, you believe in something because you know it to be true, not because it has been scientifically shown to be true. Just as they saw me as weak for believing in something whose existence I could not prove to them, I saw them as weak for not being able to believe in something unless it could be proved to them.

Not stupid, but he is in fact blinded by the same type of superstitious nonsense that many of his fellow human beings are blinded with.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Our Doors Are Always Open*

(This post originally appeared on UTI on August 31, 2004.)

Okay. Someone help me out here because I am having a hard time figuring this thing out.

Christianity, and to a lesser extent other religions, have at their core an injunction to evangelize. That is to say that after the "love God" thing, their responsibility is to bring unbelievers into the fold - to convert them. I would think that all Christians would place a great deal of emphasis on this.

However, in the case of the BSA or Campus-based "Bible Clubs", we find that many of them are intent on restricting admission to those who already believe as they do. In other words, they are fighting for their perceived right to receive public funds so that they can "preach to the choir".

Why? It sort of places them in a hypocritical position.

If I were a Christian, fully versed in my religion's lore and dogma, with an injunction to save the unsaved, I think that I would throw the membership wide open and actually encourage non-believers to join my club. I mean, no one is suggesting that these clubs censor or adjust their message, they just want the clubs to avoid discrimination in their membership practices.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Secular Elephant In The Room

Father Lou Guntzelman is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He's concerned about the "secularization" of America because, well, secular folks don't take him and his religion seriously, darn it.

[link] Over many recent decades America has had its own elephant, and he's growing larger. His name is Secularism. We pretend he isn't here, but he is. And by his being here, and being unchallenged, a process called secularization has begun.

What is secularization? The Dutch theologian C.A. vanPeursen says it is the leading of people "first from religious and then from metaphysical control over their reason and their language."

Well, mercy me! Who am I to have the unmitigated gall to not want to have this mysterious "metaphysical control" over my reason and language. I would like to have control over my own damn reason and language, thank you very much!

I suppose we should all be thankful to be obedient little godbots so that Father Guntzelman can tell us what to think and say - all in the name of God, of course.

But his biggest beef seems to be with the disregard that a secular society like ours shows to his religion, and indeed to religion in general.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Google's Green Cheese

Well, yellow, anyway. Heh.

Need to know driving directions to the Apollo 15 landing site? On the Moon? Google Moon can help. Very cool. The detail is awesome.

[link] In honor of the first manned Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, we’ve added some NASA imagery to the Google Maps interface to help you pay your own visit to our celestial neighbor. Happy lunar surfing.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Fillet Of Soul

Jeff Kuecker of Zeitgeist vs. Nomos is afraid of what the emerging possibility of teleportation would do to his immortal soul. You know, the part that makes us us, according to him. Jeff goes on to state the un-evidenced proposition that these "souls" actually exist, and he states it as if it were a fact - suggesting in his post that souls exist in the same way that a sidewalk outside your home exists, for example. It is implied to be a concrete, unquestionable fact. This is not surprising, really, coming from a Christian like Jeff, because the very definition of the theistic position is the acceptance of concepts like "souls", the supernatural, and a god without any evidence whatsoever. However, I have to take issue with this underlying assumption. He tells us that the human soul is immaterial, non-physical, invisible, and undetectable.


[link] The problem is that we are not our bodies. We have bodies. But we, the things that make us us, our ego, self-consciousness, beliefs, memories, states of mind, all these things are not physical. They are part of our souls, the souls that animate our bodies.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Remote Sexual Healing

What exactly is one "portion" or "dose" of prayer? By what method does this mystery prayer energy travel? What is this prayer energy? If it cannot be weighed and measured, then why in the world is the government funding this sham "study"? How can you infer the effect of something that cannot be seen, measured - or indeed has not been shown to exist at all?

[link] "There are enormous methodological and conceptual problems with the studies of distant prayer," said Dr. Richard Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University in New York. "Nothing in our understanding of our universe or ourselves suggests how the thoughts of one group of people could influence the physiology of people 3,000 miles away."

But of course our government - being staffed with irrational religious folks who have a hard time thinking of themselves as childish idiots who need their religion and their Magic Man In The Sky because they are afraid of the dark - will keep pouring dump-truck's full of taxpayer cash into "research" looking for sparkly magic beams of God-power. They will continue to do this instead of, and in spite of, the boringly obvious results of this dreck passed-off as "science". What did the results of the studies show?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

"They are killing children. Why? Why?"

U.S. Soldiers were handing out candy in the east Baghdad's al-Khalij neighborhood. By all accounts it was a festive, happy scene, quite the type of scene that I would imagine that everyone would like to see amidst the environment of chaos present throughout the region and in the Iraq War in general.

Until the suicide bomber drove his car into the crowd of children, adults, and soldiers and blew himself and them to pieces.

[link] The suicide bombing occurred at 10:50 a.m. in al-Khalij, a mostly Shiite Muslim district adjacent to a U.S. military base in the Iraqi army's former Rashid Barracks. Two Army Humvees had parked in the street, and their crews blocked off a small area with razor wire and began giving gifts to children who immediately swarmed around them. A speeding Suzuki sedan plowed into their midst and exploded, turning a festive scene into one of carnage, witnesses said.

"The kids were laughing and playing with the solders when the suicide bomber drove his car bomb very fast into the crowd and blew himself up, killing all the kids who were around the soldiers, and some cleaners who were there," said a police officer, Ali Hussein.

alun's picture

A test post that I'd rather not appear on the front page

This is a test post that I wouldn't like appearing on the front page. I'm just looking at how Drupal copes with categories.

DarkSyde's picture

Fermi's Paradox - Where The Heck Is Everyone?

The Fermi Paradox is a conundrum proposed by pioneer physicist Enrico Fermi that questions the likelihood of Intelligent Extraterrestrial life. It begins with the Drake Equation or some derivative which guesstimates the possible number of intelligent civilizations in the universe, and then extrapolates expansion rates into the universe from a point location within the cosmos of that species or culture. The paradox concludes that there should have been enough ET's over the last 14 billion years that even if they moved at velocities achievable by human technology today, they could have swarmed over the galaxy, or even the cluster to which our galaxy belongs, many times over.

I think it's fair to say that we humans don't know enough about the universe to draw any firm conclusions from the paradox. Still, it's an interesting thought experiment; The galaxy is over 100,000 light years from rim to rim and contains perhaps 400 billion stars each of which could easily have, on average, a half dozen planets. The galaxy is perhaps 10 billion years old. If there were a single fledgling interstellar civilization in all that space and time, and it expanded away from it's planet or point of origin on average at the measly rate of one light year every ten thousands years, slower than the Voyager Spacecraft are traveling, and grew in all directions, it would take a mere one billion years to get from one end of the galaxy to another and completely fill it up along the way. Humans could begin constructing spacecraft that could move at ten times that rate right now if we put our minds to it. So if we could spread all over the galaxy, why hasn't someone already spread all over us? Once cultures started spreading like this it seems likely a ruthless sort of selection would kick in and favor the culture or the faction within a culture which does so the most aggresively, quickly, and successfully. It's hard to see what would stop it.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Cops Shoot Baby Used As Shield


[link] It was unclear who fired the shot that hit the girl, but officers were struggling with the thought that they killed a baby, McDonnell said.

"The officers are taking it very hard," he said. "Anytime you have a baby killed, it takes its toll."

I wouldn't presume to second-guess the officers involved in this, but again I say, "woah." How could you live with something like that, no matter how "justified" it was?

I think this makes a visceral case for non-lethal police weapons, myself. Are they practical at this time? I dunno, but I'll bet that the cops in this incident wish they were.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Anonymous Users Can Now Post Comments

Hi Folks,

For the time being I have turned off the requirement to register before commenting. However, if you register, you can use the avatar feature and you will be set up with a blog of your own. Our vote threshold is set very low right now, two votes, so if you can get two votes for your personal blog post it'll be automatically promoted to the front page.

What the heck have you got to lose? Heh.

DS and I will be rolling out the new UTI in the next couple of days in a public announcement. We are also creating some FAQ pages to guide new UTI users through the registration, personal blog posting procedures, etc.

To explain what happened - UTI's domain host went down, hard, about 10 or 11 days ago. After valiantly trying to recover the files on the hard drive that UTI was hosted on, our domain host sent us an email telling us that the files were irretrievably gone and could not be recovered.

So, I went out and got another domain host and started from scratch. In many ways it's good to have massive change - it forces an evolution (if you will - hehe) and makes us stronger and better than we were. The old UTI was becoming stagnant and I was looking to change it anyway before the disaster. As a result I was able to create a new community here using a stronger, more stable platform - both in my new host and the Drupal CMS software. It hurt like hell to lose all of that history (since January of 2001!), but now that the hurt is fading, I'm looking towards the future.

So, if you are looking for some of DS' old science and evolution articles here, you won't find them. Sorry. DS crossposted quite a few of them on Kos, though, so you may have some luck there. We're still scouring the internet for any cached copies as well. We'll post them as archives as soon as I can find a Movable Type > Drupal converter.

Please let us know what you think of the new blog, the new community, the new UTI!


Anonymous User's picture

Test Post For UTI Joe

This is a test post for the user called "UTI Joe" to test how the submission queue tool works in Drupal.

San Dimas High Football Rocks!

-UTI Joe

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Destroyer Of Magic Rainbows

I was talking to a good friend of mine earlier this week about magic and mystery. The conversation started because she overheard me explaining how a rainbow works to my six year old son. I explained about prisms, refraction and dispersion. I went on to say that water droplets in the air can act like millions of tiny prisms, refracting and dispersing sunlight to create these wonderful and beautiful displays for us to look at.

She was quite shocked. She told me that explaining things like rainbows "ruins the magic".

I replied that I thought that knowing how things like rainbows work only makes them more "magical", not less.

A lot of folks live in a very superficial plane of existence - where everything can be reduced to a symptom and only happens on the surface. They don't know, nor do they want to find out, how the magic happens.

That's very sad.

I'll take millions of tiny prisms over an unexplained rainbow any day.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

More On Vox Day

Austin Cline of About Atheism sent me this additional information about Vox Day/Theodore Beale from a post in his forums:

For those who read the article "The irrational atheist", you may be interested to see some of the "rational" ideas of the author, and to know his real name and what he does for a living:

A sample of his work: He rationally(?) writes (in 2002):

"The Israeli government must announce to the world a unilateral ceasefire, balanced by the deadly promise that for every Israeli soldier killed, 25 Palestinian police will die. For every civilian, 100 non-combatant Palestinian adults will be slain, and for every child, 1000 adults... In a fallen world, violence does solve some problems, and at times extreme violence is required."

His real name (Theodore Beale) can be linked to "Vox Day" here:

A quick google brings you to his website:

Interestingly, although he's written tons of stuff for WND, when he's interviewed on WND he's not identified as "Vox Day" in any way:

Beale is an interesting character, and well worth reading, but he's not someone I would look to if I was interested in judging that's "rational".

Hmnn. Interesting.

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