Posts Tagged ‘science’

Science, for Women and Guy(s)

August 28, 2012

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Is it news if it’s not reported?

August 24, 2012




Since corporate profits keep going up- showing that corporations are benefiting from the many services that our government offers- the fact that corporate tax revenue is decreasing seems relevant and necessary to our political discussions.

Does the very idea of those discussions happening strike anyone else as extremely unlikely?

Apparently so. (Note the third panel especially)


Chart found through Wonkwire. Comic through Political Irony.

A Call to Clean Energy

August 8, 2012

I’ve been reluctant to post about climate change recently, for a couple of reasons:

One is that it is getting so obvious that it seems like rubbing it in to climate deniers to point it out.

And the second is that the effects are so great and the widespread pessimism (“We must do something about this. But we won’t.”) so profound that it is depressing to think about.

But Bill McKibben makes an intriguing argument for a two prong attack on climate change: one being carbon taxes, and the other being  divestment from oil companies, similar to that which helped end Apartheid. I think that it could work, if we strongly support both.

I would like to add a prong though: building wind turbines.

Nearly every college and university the world over has engineers, wood shops, metal shops, and all of those institutions have energy needs. If we could organize building wind turbines for our universities and colleges, and then spread from there to libraries, statehouses, K-12 schools, nonprofits, homes and businesses-we could to a great degree reduce our energy overheads, increase the supply of clean energy, and reduce the demand on and price of oil. That last means more oil stays in the ground where it does no harm.

I’d love to start this, but I’m not an engineer: if anybody is an engineer or a Maker -or both- and can recommend designs which could be put together fairly cheaply for the energy output, I’d love to make one for the college where I work, and hopefully use it to inspire clubs on campus to make more.

Bill McKibben’s article found through Political Irony.

(Edited to add more examples of pessimism related to climate change, as I’m not trying to pick on anyone)

Military vs. Space: why the Mars Rover is a great deal.

August 6, 2012

The United States military budget was 711 billion dollars for 2011, more than the next 5 highest military budgets combined. Some of the projects that Congress supports are things the Pentagon doesn’t want. Such as 3 billion dollars for refurbishing tanks that the Pentagon plans to replace anyway: with a model that doesn’t have a glaring weakness to IEDs. Or the drones and ships that Congress is forcing on the Pentagon to the tune of 4 billion dollars.

And yet, the 2.5 billion dollars spent on Curiosity is described as “budget busting.” In contrast to the 711 billion dollars in military spending, the entire 18.4 billion dollar NASA budget seems downright piddling. If the entire United States Federal budget for 2011 was represented by a dollar, the NASA portion would be about half of a penny. And the rate of return? A study by the Midwest Research Institute concluded that “the $25 billion in 1958 dollars spent on civilian space R & D during the 1958-1969 period has returned $52 billion through 1971 — and will continue to produce pay offs through 1987, at which time the total pay off will have been $181 billion.”

Maybe the reason war has a reputation for being so good for scientific advancement and the economy is because during wars is when governments are willing to spend money on research and development. Maybe if we took that knowledge and used it for R&D for things other than weapons, we could advance without blowing each other up. After all, you can’t tell me that this didn’t require advances in our engineering:

More than the present engineering challenges though, space exploration is inspiring. Some of the kids who are in elementary school today, who stayed up late last night, the kids who are writing reports about the Mars Rover, who are going to be naming their next pet Curiosity… those are the kids who will go into science and engineering to follow their newly ignited passion. When we make advances into space… the excitement, the wonder, the joy of discovery creates the next generation of explorers.

And for those of you who think that international affairs are more important than space exploration, consider how much smoother diplomacy would go if these were the mental images associated with Americans:

NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute as seen by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

People watching the Curiosity landing from Times Square.

…rather than this:

Tell you what: If you are really paranoid, we could reduce our military by 450 billion per year and still be the number one military spender on the planet – and have 450 billion per year to put into science, education and infrastructure and to eliminate the deficit.

To follow Curiosity’s progress, here is its Twitter feed.

(Edited to correct a “m” to a “b” for one of those “illions.”)

Intelligent design – rejected by schools and Wikipedia.

July 8, 2012

Some creationists pretending to do science under the heading of “intelligent design proponents” are angry with Wikipedia, essentially because Wikipedia’s editors have standards too high for creationism in a lab coat.

Here are the words of the creationist making the complaint:

PLoS One has a highly technical study out of editing patterns on Wikipedia. This is of special interest to us because Wikipedia’s articles on anything to do with intelligent design are replete with errors and lies, which the online encyclopedia’s volunteer editors are vigilant about maintaining against all efforts to set the record straight.

Right, it isn’t at all because they are maintaining articles about science fact, and you are trying to advertise your Christ fanfiction.

Meanwhile, here is Wikipedia’s article mentioning “cdesign proponentsists.” But perhaps that’s not fair. Wikipedia is apparently run by a tyranny of the unemployed, what about the court of popular opinion? Urban dictionary gives this example of the use of the word:

Science says man evolved from other apes. Cdesign proponentsists say apes smell and prefer the scientific explanation “Goddidit”.

Ouch. Rational Wiki? Good luck there, creationism.

You know, maybe creationists should stick to editing Conservapedia, if they don’t want to deal with people pointing out nasty facts.

Found the story at Friendly Atheist.

This just in: Mermaids are NOT real, U.S. agency says

July 6, 2012

(Reuters) – This may not be much of a surprise, but mermaids aren’t real. No less an authority than the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has debunked the existence of the legendary half-woman, half-fish creatures.

Oh, goodness. The fact that a government organization felt the need to make this declaration is sad…

but I’m glad they are following a more sensible course than the U.K. National Trust.