Religion and Atheism:
Jerry Dewitt was interviewed about his recent book, his past, and why he stays in his hometown of De Ridder, Louisiana.

Reasonable Doubts conducts a podcast with John Loftus

The NY Times reports an upswing in blasphemy cases in Egypt.

Recovering from Religion recently started funding for a Atheist Hotline where people who are questioning their faith can call and talk to someone. This was obviously going to come under criticism. Recovering from Religion reached their $30,000 funding goal this past week and are now opening up applications for volunteers. Hemant Mehta shows that William Lane Craig doesn't understand the intentions of the hotline.

PZ Meyers has another post of the series "An Atheist Goes to Church."

As many of us have heard, Exodus International closed it doors and a formal apology was issued. Here's what some prominent Christian leaders are saying. I also found the story of Michael Busse, one of the founders of Exodus International who left the "ex-gay" group in 1979.

Follow up:

The Colorado River was named America's most endangered river.

"The British spy agency GCHQ has secretly tapped more than 200 fiber-optic cables carrying phone and internet traffic and has been sharing data with the U.S. National Security Agency, according to a news report."

Chinese astronauts are giving lessons from space.

contributor at Discover Magazine takes on whether or not the niqab worn by women in Saudi Arabia has helped protect them from catching the MERS coronavirus.

Conye gives his take on Peter Tse's biological basis for free will.


The Western Black Rhino is declared extinct.

Vampire bats have evolved a really interesting venom similar to that of ticks.

The Weather Channel put together these 10 signs of Global Warming. Just to be clear, this is only the barest fraction of indicators.

The NOAA predicts a potentially record setting "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana. 


3D model of the Human Brain!

A new drug, Ibrutinib, helps fight leukemia when chemotherapy isn't an option and it does it really well.

Scientific American covers what the real cause of autism might be: pollution.


1,000,000,000 pixel view of Mars!

The Red Planet once had an oxygen rich atmosphere... 4 billion years ago.

Buzz Aldrin says we should be working towards a Martian Colony.


A lost Mayan city was recently discovered.

Did you know that there are cave paintings in the South East states one of which was dated to 6,000 years ago?

China's ancient history is being robbed for the antiquities market.


Apparently, it was just discovered that plants can do math and (possibly) use quantum physics.

Cult Thinking:

At the Friendly Atheist, Terry Firma looks back on Jim Jones and has a newly found video of the cult leader.

Mother Jones, in an article by Chris Mooney, discusses the "Science of Why We Don't Believe Science."

Learning: reviews and critiques Peter Gray's book, Free to Learn, which I would describe as a take on education as seen through the lens of evolutionary psychology.

National Geographicinterviews Gregg Treinish, who trekked the whole length of the Andes and founded a group which, "connects scientists with outdoor athletes who want to contribute to scientific knowledge."

Women and Violence:

"Three in ten women worldwide have been punched, shoved, dragged, threatened with weapons, raped, or subjected to other violence from a current or former partner. Close to one in ten have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner. Of women who are murdered, more than one in three were killed by an intimate partner."

A recent study in Jordan shows that, "Almost half of boys and one in five girls in Jordan's capital city, Amman, believe that killing a woman who has "dishonored," or shamed, her family is justifiable."

Kickstarter just had to make an apology for not getting rid of a "Seduction Guide" that advocated using force against women. It was only after comedian Casey Malone had a blog post that went viral that Kickstarter tried to do anything about it.

Just weeks ago, Facebook was in trouble for not removing pages that advocated violence against women and only did so after a campaign, "which attracted more than 60,000 tweets and hundreds of thousands of signatures to an online petition, was launched in reaction to Facebook pages such as 'This is why Indian girls get raped', 'Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs' or 'Raping your Girlfriend'."

Jerry Conye even found this strange mix of religion and BDSM called Christian Domestic Discipline. They try to say they aren't about domestic violence by saying:

Christian Domestic Discipline is not domestic violence. Neither is it abuse. It is an arrangement between two adults who share the belief that the husband is the head of the household and with that position comes the right to enforce his authority.

And on a somewhat related note, which I discovered through this video making the rounds in my Facebook circle, when some men see a woman in a Bikini, they, "showed no activity in the part of the brain that usually responds when a person ponders another's intentions."

On a Lighter Note:

The Onion reports on the world's largest communion wafer.

Edited to add in the Buzz Aldrin link, which I forgot.

Achievement unlocked: Failure to Proofread...

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Just passing this on:

Time Magazine's cover article on "How Service Can Save Us" has this great paragraph:

… there was an occupying army of relief workers, led by local first responders, exhausted but still humping it a week after the storm, church groups from all over the country — funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals — and there in the middle of it all, with a purposeful military swagger, were the volunteers from Team Rubicon.

Nice. I don't have a subscription to Time, so caught up with the article at The Friendly Atheist.

I did as Hemant requested, and wrote a quick letter to the editor:

Why was there a seeming need for slamming the secular groups in the United States? Being an atheist who has given up his own cash to help those in need from natural disasters, I find it appalling that the article in question casts aspersions on those who helped in their own ways.

Joe Klein writes, "funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals."

Well Joe, it's funny to me how far your head is up your ass. I guess no good deed goes unpunished. Sorry we didn't stick up a big sign for you to ignore. I take it that all the theists who sat on their asses wasting the world's air with their useless prayers are to be commended for their stupidity. Screw Time Magazine.

An apology for your self-serving text should be issued. Are you guys really clueless about how large this community is? I hope you'll soon find out.

If you're so inclined, go fuck with the bastards.

(excuse the language, just irritated).

Politely worded but extremely pointed email sent.

Yeah, I saw that too, but I have a personal and admittedly arbitrary rule about linking too many articles from one place. I try to keep it to no more than three. It forces me to be diverse and look elsewhere for more information and keeps me from being a parrot in my estimation. At the same time, it does mean that I'm not putting up all of the things that I find interesting.

As an FYI for everyone else reading this, if I haven't linked to something that you find interesting, then by all means feel free to post it in the comments either for the week or in the group.

I wouldn't say brilliant, but thanks. ;)

There was so much I could have put in that section, but it's hard to pick and the whole post was already long already. It's terrible that violence against women is just so prevalent, but I think one of the best things that can be done to to talk about it, that it happens, and figure out why it happens. If we gets lots of people to talk about it and in no uncertain terms condemn anyone who continues the behavior, then maybe we can get enough social pressure to prevent some of it from happening if not out right start to change the culture that propagates it.

I enjoyed/hated that short blog on free will. I always feel a bit nauseated when I think of free will being an illusion... but what little I read has pretty much convinced me. I'd like/hate to do more research on this. I've heard Sam Harris' arguments against free will, and I found those less convincing... maybe because what I read didn't go into enough detail.

Now I'm going to go cry because that's what my brain wants to do because it knows we're not in control. O_o

Yeah, I'm inclined to agree with the Conye piece above. If there is any indeterminacy, then it's at the quantum level. I'm not sure there's anything we can do to escape the cycle of cause and effect. What I'm really interested in is how this idea of "reweighting" of neural paths affects memory. We really don't understand where in the brain memories are stored nor the mechanisms for retrieval. We know which parts of the brain are associated memory formation, but the mechanics of memory are still a mystery.

When it comes to free will, I'm inclined to agree with the physicalists, but I'm not sure I can say that I agree without reservation until we fully understand how consciousness arises from the structure and working of the brain. It's kind of like abiogenesis. There's good evidence to show how life might have began, but without anything definite, the concept of panspermia is still a plausible alternative.

I like this: "I'm not sure I can say that I agree without reservation." I do still want the possibility of free will to be on the table. I realize this is totally non-scientific and based purely in my own desires to be a truly autonomous individual. I don't know why it's so hard to stomach knowing I'm NOT really in control of my thoughts and reactions... it's not like the fact would change how I interact with the world. I'd still *feel* I was making choices, and I would still *need* to prod my brain into making those choices... or, allowing my brain to prod me? Or... just being my brain and body all at once, both simultaneously deciding and feeling like I was making an active decision? Ha... whatever.

Anyway. I'd be relieved to know we weren't merely meat computers, but I don't want my desires to hinder me from knowing the truth. I think I've already said as much.

TA is the first place I've ever seen discussing free will, and I find the discussion fascinating. 

Here is my thought on the issue. The Earth is spinning around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. My entire lifetime will have no effect on that whatsoever. If we get closer to my "sphere of influence", where I live, who I meet, how I treat them, etc, distinctions can be made about what would happen if I did or did not do something. 

On a micro level, just the simple choice of what I eat has dramatic consequences as to what microorganisms live in my gut, and whether I live at all. My choices are limited, but I have choices. My brain chemistry certainly determines what choices I might make,  within parameters, but If I decided to stop eating altogether, my choices would self limit most quickly. 

As I travel this thought path more thoroughly, I can see a three page post, which is not my intention. So here is this, I think that I do have a choice, that my choices are limited by accident of birth, etc, but some things that I choose to do will mean absolutely nothing on the grand scale, potentially massive influence on the scale that I work and live and perceive in, and a range from potentially enormous to absolutely insignificant on a micro scale. 

So it matters what I do, so therefore free will. (IMHO) If it is only the incredibly humongous quantity of variables that allows me to feel that I make a difference, so what? Even if I don't, at the level I live and perceive in, my mind does make a difference. Perhaps I live in humble ignorance, but this is a Pascal's Wager I would take.

Great posts SH, thank you. 

The Mars billion pixel view was awesome!

Very informative links on violence against women.

A special thanks to The Onion for the hilarious article. Being a former Catholic, I loved it!

Thank you, Hawk, for the continued lessons! :)


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