Paper Man (2009) -quick film review

quick review:  


3/5 stars.  decent movie. i really like the genre of quirky introverted personalities trying to figure out the meaning of life (aka “how to be happy and help others in this too”).  this movie started off very confusing and things start to make sense only near the end.  before then it isn’t known why a grown guy is wanting to hang out w/ a teen at his house (later it is shown that he didn’t really know why either at the time).  So throughout the movie i felt it deserved 2 stars (which i rarely rate a movie).  at the end there was enough meat in the dish to bite off, chew on for a minute and digest.  since i was able to take something away from the movie (some morsels of knowledge about human relationships) i bump it up to 3 stars.  in netflix i gave it four just so that it won’t shy from suggesting more movies of this ilk my way.  and that, is the reason for this post- it was inspired by the fact that i didn’t feel quite right rating a movie higher than it deserved and then not explaining myself.

Quotes Roundup- Fall- Winter 2010

Anatole France:

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.


Reality has been around since long before you showed up. Don’t go calling it nasty names like “bizarre” or “incredible”. The universe was propagating complex amplitudes through configuration space for ten billion years before life ever emerged on Earth. Quantum physics is not “weird”. You are weird.

Steven Novella:

Questioning our own motives, and our own process, is critical to a skeptical and scientific outlook. We must realize that the default mode of human psychology is to grab onto comforting beliefs for purely emotional reasons, and then justify those beliefs to ourselves with post-hoc rationalizations. It takes effort to rise above this tendency, to step back from our beliefs and our emotional connection to conclusions and focus on the process. The process (i.e science, logic, and intellectual rigor) has to be more important than the belief.

Arthur C. Clarke:

Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.

Carl Sagan:

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.


Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them, while on the other hand to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new.

Goethe, 18th/19th-century German poet, novelist, playwright and philosopher:
You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

Thomas Paine:

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

Martin Gardner:

Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals – the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.

Randall Monroe (Author XKCD):

You don’t use science to show you’re right, you use science to become right.

Mark Twain

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Bertrand Russell

There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

From Sara Robinson, explaining perfectly the entire reason for the faux controversy over the “ground zero mosque”:

Conservatives can do without a god, but they can’t get through the day without a devil. Their entire model of reality revolves around the existence of an existential enemy who’s out to annihilate them. Take that focal point away, and their whole worldview collapses into incoherence. This need is so central to their thinking that if there are no actual enemies around, they’ll go to considerable lengths to make some (or just make some up).

Sir Winston Churchill:

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

William Osler:

One special advantage of the skeptical attitude of mind is that a man is never vexed to find that after all he has been in the wrong.

Fred Brooks:

You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you’re forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality.


The best substitute for brains is silence.

John Cleese:

The really good idea is always traceable back quite a long way, often to a not very good idea which sparked off another idea that was only slightly better, which somebody else misunderstood in such a way that they then said something which was really rather interesting.

kim hebert:

homeopathy is like paying to watch your body heal itself.

Samuel Butler

The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore.

PZ Myers, on burying his bible:

And so I have. I have treated my copies of the Koran and the Bible with greater respect than they deserve.

Right now, the pages swell with moisture, the fibers separate and the chapters turn into pulpy masses. Bacteria bloom and their colonies expand; fungi flourish and their hyphae infiltrate and convert cellulose into spores. The ink runs as nematodes writhe over the surfaces, etching the words with slime and replacing the follies of dead men with the wisdom of worms. The roots of flowers and grasses will fumble downwards to embrace the decaying leaves, and the roots of trees will impale the volumes laterally. Given only a little time, the madness will be reduced to compost.

At every instant in this gradual process of degradation, the books are being improved and given greater value. And with my decision to discard the poisonous symbols of past ignorance, I became a little more free.

J.B.S. Haldane:

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

Quotes Roundup- Spring-Summer 2010

friends, these are my most recent biannual quotes i have read and enjoyed; please comment if you also enjoy.  🙂

Thomas Paine (via froggey):

Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.”


Nothing is worth more than this day.

Peter Walker:

The supreme arrogance of religious thinking: that a carbon-based bag of mostly water on a spec of iron-silicate dust around a boring dwarf star … would look up at the sky and declare, ‘It was all made so that I could exist!

H.G. Wells:

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”

Bertrand Russell:

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Neil deGrasse Tyson:

The stars in the universe far outnumber all the words ever uttered by all the humans who have ever lived.

Aldous Huxley:

At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas.

Brennen McKenzie:

If you try to picture a pack of Chihuahuas bringing down and savaging an elk, the impact of thousands of years of artificial selection is obvious.

John Cage:

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

Bob McCue (oh, how i heart mister mccue):

The most satisfying aspect of parenthood so far has been witnessing my children come into their own as adults. Becoming friends with these surprising human beings is as fresh as life gets. In this and so many other ways, life is sweet. I am a lucky guy who spends most of each day feeling grateful.

R. Feynman:

Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.

Gerald Massey

They must find it difficult, those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.

Arthur C. Clarke (in his Third Law of Prediction):

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

John Erskine

Music is the only language in which you cannot say a mean or sarcastic thing.

Richard Dawkins:

Hydrogen is a tasteless, invisible gas – and if you give it enough time, it will turn into people.


Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of Capitalism.

something to ponder on the fourth of july

Which of the following is more inclusive and better represents the ideals of maximum freedom as outlined in the US constitution? (h/t)

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under the gods, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under no God or gods, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Interjects that the person must adhere to a monotheistic belief system. Interjects that the person must adhere to a polytheistic belief system. Interjects that the person must not adhere to any theistic belief system. Does not interject any presuppositions about religion. The person is free to believe whatever they want.

Happy Independence Day, y’all. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

I invite you to read that quote 1nce more. Have fun today. 🙂

Global Warming Resources

the science is too complicated to understand, unless you are a climatologist, so we need to put our trust in where the scientific consensus is at right now.  and the consensus is that ever since 1750[1] there has been a constant yearly increase of man-made global warming.  other questions about GW such as predicting the effects and future ruin of the earth is not known and one can have their own opinion about that part of the issue.

many articles here are authored by dr. steven novella, of the sgu.  he is my favorite science educator and skeptic on the planet.  he’s the closest thing to a “prophet” for me here on the earth.  i recommend listening to his podcast weekly.

articles on climate change:

“And in the end we have to trust scientists that they were able to detect a global warming trend of 1.5 degrees C since 1880, on the backdrop of all the local and short term fluctuations. I do trust the consensus (NASA can send out a probe and hit Saturn, so they have earned some trust) and I have not heard any arguments that I find compelling to distrust it. But I also understand why many in the public find it difficult to trust.”  (from article:  NASA – Last Decade Warmest on Record)

Scientific Consensus, Climate Change, and Vaccines


Dylan Ratigan vs. Glenn Beck good explanation of climate change

Bill Nye:Those who think Historic Snowstorm disproves Global

other great links showing the consensus amongst climatologists:

Is there a scientific consensus on global warming? (probably the best site with quick-access info)

Scientific Consensus on Global Warming | Union of Concerned Scientists

Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?


The Climategate Fiasco

hope that helps!

1.  IPCC. (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis (summary for policy makers), IPCC.


Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
John Gee speaks to FAIR Conference audience on “the Larger Issue” pertaining to the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Click for bio of FAIR Conference speakers

While critics of the Church often challenge the authenticity of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, they attach more importance to it than Church members do themselves, a Latter-day Saint Egyptologist said Aug. 6 at the annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).

Such critics lose sight of “the larger issue,” said John Gee, an associate research professor of Egyptology at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

“The book of Abraham is true,” said Brother Gee, author of A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, at the end of his presentation. “I think it can be defended. I think it should be defended. But it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of either apologetics or research or the scriptures.”

Brother Gee said that in many cases the argument about the Book of Abraham has become so complex that even some of the sharpest critics lose perspective and fail to be consistent in their contentions.

“We cannot afford to lose sight of the big picture,” he said.

He offered a few rules for “apologists,” a word that in this context means defenders:

First, it is not necessary to refute every statement by a critic. “The critic may be wrong about a point, but if it is not central to the argument, one can often let it slide.”

Second, not every argument or point is worth defending. “Even widely held opinions do not need to be defended if they are mistaken,” he said.

Third, truth is not well-served by a bad argument. “We apologists make no claims to perfection, either in ourselves or our arguments, so it is simply better to let go of bad arguments.”

Fourth, though God knows everything, “we do not and cannot,” he said.

“So if what is most important needs to be defended, what are some of the things that need to be defended?” he asked.

He suggested six: God exists; Jesus Christ is His Son; God talked and still talks with men through the power of the Holy Ghost; Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world; the Atonement is available to those who trust Jesus, turn from sin, make and keep sacred covenants, and follow the course throughout their lives; and the Book of Mormon is true, an authentic record of God’s interactions with actual ancient people.

“Now, we may be called upon to defend smaller points than these, but if these six things are not true, there is no point in the rest,” Brother Gee said.

“Now where is the Book of Abraham in this?” he asked. “It isn’t. The Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Christ.”

To illustrate, he said that of all the scriptural citations in general conference since 1942, the Book of Abraham has been cited less than 1 percent of the time. Most of those citations are the seven verses in Abraham 3:22-29, which tell of the pre-mortal existence.

“This is what we as Latter-day Saints care about,” he said. “It is what is important.”

The critics may regard that as vain superstition, he said, “but they seem to deem it not even worthy of attack. What they attack is simply not important to the Latter-day Saints.”

He said that is not to say Church members can or should forego the Book of Abraham, “but simply to give an idea of its relative importance. It is more important than some things and much less important than others.”

Brother Gee gave these summary points:

“First, the arguments about the Book of Abraham have become so complex that even the best and brightest of critics end up arguing unwittingly in favor of the LDS position. “The Document of Breathings made by Isis is not the Book of Abraham, and most Latter-day Saints have never claimed it was,” he said. “Can we agree on that issue and move on?

“Second, the critics do not deal with the issues arising from the Book of Abraham that Latter-day Saints care about. In that sense, their approach is legerdemain and bait-and-switch.

“Third, how the Book of Abraham was translated is unimportant. The Church does not stand or fall on the Book of Abraham.

“And fourth, regardless of how the Book of Abraham was translated, it is a remarkable document that tells us more about Abraham’s day than Joseph Smith could have known.”

He concluded: “These larger issues overshadow the often petty issues that we deal with as apologists, and it is high time we paid attention to the larger issue.”

where did we come from, why are we here, where are we going?

Correspondence between me and my auntie ____ (9 feb. 2009).

From my auntie:

Markii, I was thinking about you over the week end.  I have 3 questions I’d like to ask you and am looking forward to hearing from you!

One.  With your new knowledge I was wondering
.  What do you believe you were doing or where were you before your sojourn on earth.

2.  What is your purpose on earth?

3.  Where do you believe or think the human race will go when we die?

Thanks  love you so much.  Auntie ____

My response…

thanks for the e-mail, ____.  i’ll do my best to answer below…

One.  With your new knowledge I was wondering
.  What do you believe you were doing or where were you before your sojourn on earth.

that’s a great question!  many people have tried to solve it, but i think it’s unsolvable.  i do not know where i was before my sojourn to earth.  i don’t know if i even “was”, or existed.  it is possible that our consciousness we now enjoy only recently matured and came to be as our minds physically developed during childhood.  i find this to sound more plausible than the idea that we are hundreds or thousands of years old human beings with that many years of learning and education behind us and yet here we only know that which we learn here.  is our older and wiser self sitting dormant in our mind while the two-year old biological self now learns to eat food and drools applesauce out of his mouth/nose?  and a middle-aged person who was mentally fine can have a car accident or disease in the brain and lose many motor and thinking skills, and many times even having a complete change in their personality and habits [click link to left, and ‘save as’, to hear mp3 on this] as a result?  a car accident or mental disease affects the tissue and neurons in the brain which then change how a thousand year-old sentient behaves/acts?  to me it seems more logical that there is a machine, but no “ghost in the machine”. Continue reading

How to: Report on a “boring” science news story

watching the local tv nighttime news, there was a 90-second story on the spirit being stuck.  they continued saying it’s been stuck for about a year.  they said they’re going to let the solar panels charge until the weather warms up and then give it another go to free it.

this left my friend laughing at nasa’s news update: “wow, so the news is that spirit is stuck…and that it’s been stuck for a year?  …umm ok, thanks for the update, nasa!”.

i told him that i thought mainstream media just doesn’t get science news items done right, and that there’s probably a clearer, more interesting story behind the announcement.

well today i checked phil plait’s blog feed and wow!  my man knows how to take a science news item and make it easy for the layman to understand.  and instead of leaving us confused (like the news report), he leaves us excited for more!

spiritIn a press conference yesterday, NASA and JPL scientists announced that the Mars rover Spirit is stuck. The little-spaceprobe-that-could has been trapped in the sand near a crater called Troy for almost a year now, and for that time has been doing little or no science; instead, engineers have been trying to figure out how to get the rover unstuck. After all that time, NASA has decided to throw in the towel. Martian winter is coming for Spirit, and they are now focusing on getting it positioned so that it can survive the coming drop in temperature.

Three notes:

1) This doesn’t mean Spirit is dead! If they are able to get it set up to survive the winter (mainly by tilting it toward the Sun so the solar panels can collect energy) then once its revived it will still be able to do plenty of science from where it is. After all, it’s a laboratory sitting on another world. I imagine there’s lots of stuff the scientists can do with it.

2) Emily Lakdawalla, as usual, has the details of all this on The Planetary Society blog, including some evidence-based speculation that it’s NASA calling the shots here and not JPL, which controls the rover.

3) We have to remember something rather important: when the two rovers (Opportunity is the other, which is still running fine on the other side of the planet) landed on Mars, they had a planned operational lifetime of 90 days.

That was in January 2004.

In other words, Spirit has been on Mars for over 2200 days, and even counting when it first got stuck, it still ran well for more than 20 times it’s nominal lifespan. Cars these days have a standard warranty for 7 years; how’d you like yours to run for 140 years?

So for me, while this news is not great, it has to be put in context: Spirit is one of the most successful NASA missions of all time. And its sister, Opportunity, is still running like a champ. I hope I’ll be doing as well when I’m 1400 years old.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Quotes Roundup- Fall 09

Dwight D. Eisenhower:

In preparing for battle, I have found that planning is essential, but plans are useless.

Kail Nielson:

A man who says, “If God is dead, nothing matters,” is a spoilt child who has never looked at his fellow men with compassion.

Robert Green Ingersoll:

This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.

Dan Christiansen, BYU Student:

As a child, it seemed so simple;
Every step was clearly marked.
Priesthood, mission, sweetheart, temple;
Bright with hope I soon embarked.
But now I have become a man,
And doubt the promise of the plan.

For the path is growing steeper,
And a slip could mean my death.
Plunging upward, ever deeper,
I can barely catch my breath.
Oh, where within this untamed wild
Is the star that led me as a child?

As I crest the shadowed mountain,
I embrace the endless sky;
The expanse of heaven’s fountain
Now unfolds before my eye.
A thousand stars shine on the land,
The chart drafted by my own hand.

Sam Harris said that the timing of when young Earth creationists claim God created the Universe:

… is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. [Link goes to The Onion]

Robert Ingersoll:

Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind.

quotes roundup- SUMMER 09

every season i put out the best batch o’ comments that i’ve found in the last few months.  this edition may be my best yet!

Kirk Wilson

To say that the earth is only 6,000 years old is the mathematical equivalent of saying its radius is only 28 feet.

PZ Myers on an evolution-inspired school t-shirt:

Evolution is not a religion, no more than sky-is-blueism or gravityism or medicine or mathematics or their shop class. Would they shut down an auto repair class if an Amish family decried their heathen English ways? Pollitt is a pandering moron.

John Remy (from this personal, well-written post on his LDS ex-communication ritual):

Hopefully we’ll see each other as complex humans, worthy of compassion.  [there’s a lot of wisdom in these words!]

George Hrab:

Is sex with your clone gay or just extroverted masturbation? Continue reading

Multi-Level Marketing

today i was doing some research on Multi-Level-Marketing companies (e.g. MonaVie, Noni, Isagenix, NutraSkin, etc.).  living in utah county, (the most MLM-dense county in the USA) we’ve all been presented with MLM pitches- and we may have even signed up for some.  last year i met an older couple who had made tons of money in Vegas through a MLM they had done in the past.  The secret, they told me, was that the company marketed them as their golden couple and stuck dozens and dozens of people below them in their “down line” so everyone could see an exemplar of success.  they were very up front when they told me that they could not recreate those same earnings when they tried to do it on their own, after the successful MLM went bankrupt (as most do).  they even knew all the tricks of the trade and had experience- but it went nowhere when their only potential down line suddenly shrunk to the small number of friends and family they personally knew.

Note:  please use caution when sharing anything with someone who is involved in a MLM.  they very much act like “true believers” in the sense that they have faith in the potential of their MLM, are motivated more by feelings/personal testimony rather than hard evidence, and may take criticism very personally.  so proceed w/ caution when sharing with others- or don’t share at all.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by requiring “independent” distributors to sell at the low price) and making exaggerated income claims.[16]

The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as “pyramiding”.[10] In April 2006, it proposed a Business Opportunity Rule intended to require all sellers of business opportunities—including MLMs—to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers to make an informed decision about their probability of earning money.

Another criticism of MLMs is that “MLM organizations have been described by some as cults (Butterfield, 1985), pyramid schemes (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997), or organizations rife with misleading, deceptive, and unethical behavior (Carter, 1999), such as the questionable use of evangelical discourse to promote the business (Hopfl & Maddrell, 1996), and the exploitation of personal relationships for financial gain (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997).” [18]

MLM’s are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western culture.[19] There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses:[20][21][22] “The vast majority of MLM’s are recruiting MLM’s, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLM’s is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company.”[20] In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further “recruit people to compete with [them]”[23] leads to “market saturation.”[24]

Similar claims regarding profits have been stated by The Times (“The Government investigation claims to have revealed that just 10 per cent of Amway’s agents in Britain make any profit, with less than one in ten selling a single item of the group’s products.”[25]), high level “Emerald” Amway member Scheibeler (“UK Justice Norris found in 2008 that out of an IBO [Independent Business Owners] population of 33,000, ‘only about 90 made sufficient incomes to cover the costs of actively building their business.’ That’s a 99.7 percent loss rate for investors.” [26](case referred to is BERR vs Amway (Case No: 2651, 2652 and 2653 of 2007) which does list this as one of the points of objectionability: “c) because of the requirement that an IBO pay a joining and renewal fee and the likelihood that an IBO would purchase BSM there was a certainty that the Amway business would cause a loss to a large number of people (to the extent that out of an IBO population which exceeded 33,000 only building their business).”) and Newsweek (where it is stated based on MonaVie’s own 2007 income disclosure statement “fewer than 1 percent qualified for commissions and of those, only 10 percent made more than $100 a week.)[27]

hope this might help in some way!

quotes roundup- winter 08- spring 09

a little late in posting this, but here goes!:

stephen hawking, der spiegel (17 october 1988):

we are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. but we can understand the universe. that makes us something very special.


A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.

Gerry Spence:

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

fred doyle:

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

Tri-fecta of doubt….

Carl Sagan:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Marcello Truzzi:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Pierre-Simon Marquis de Laplace

The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.

Paul Bert :

Modern societies march towards morality in proportion as they leave religion behind.

Louis Pasteur

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.

Charles Richet

I never said it was possible. I only said it was true.

Jean Rostand

I should have no use for a paradise in which I should be deprived of the right to prefer hell.

Jean Rostand

In order to remain true to oneself one ought to renounce one’s party three times a day.

Publilius Syrus:

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.

Dale McGowen (author of Raising Children Beyond Belief):

Much of the protest over “nonbeliever” is that it defines us in terms of religious believers. I care about this no more than the fact that “nonsmoker” defines me in terms of smokers and “non-idiot” defines me in terms of idiots. You don’t find many non sequiturs up in arms about being defined in terms of the hated sequitur, nor are the nondescript or noncommital often irate about comparisons to the descript and commital.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. seemed not to find their advocacy of nonviolence diminished by the lexical negation of violence. Nor does Nonviolent Peaceforce, the nonpartisan, nonprofit NGO (that’s “non-governmental organization”) for which I work. For each and all of these terms, the prefix is a non-issue.

So why do we continue to waste our pique on such terms as “nonbeliever” and “nonreligious”? I find them both useful and economical. Pile on your polysyllables and modifiers as you wish. I have things to do.

Jean Rostand

Kill a man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conquerer. Kill everyone, and you are a god.

Jean Rostand

Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.

Jean Rostand

The divine is perhaps that quality in man which permits him to endure the lack of God.

Jean Rostand

When a scientist is ahead of his times, it is often through misunderstanding of current, rather than intuition of future truth. In science there is never any error so gross that it won’t one day, from some perspective, appear prophetic.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.

He was as great as a man can be without morality.
Alexis de Tocqueville

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.
Alexis de Tocqueville

Slayer (lyrics):

Holy man open up your eyes
To the ways of the world you’ve been so blind
As the walls of religion come crashing down
How’s the ignorance taste the second time around

Tell me how it feels knowing chaos will never end
Tell me what it’s like when the celebration begins

Welcome to the horror of the revelation
Tell me what you think of your savior now
I reject all the Biblical views of the truth
Dismiss it as the folklore of the times
I won’t be force fed prophecies
From a book of untruths for the weakest mind
Join the new faith for the celebration
Cult of new faith fuels the devastation

[Read the complete lyrics]

New Hominid 12 Million Years Old Found In Spain, With ‘Modern’ Facial Features

Nicknamed Lluc.  Scientific name:  Anoiapithecus brevirostris.  link:  artist’s reconstruction:

“The extraordinary resemblance does not indicate that Anoiapithecus has any relationship with Homo, the researchers note. However, the similarity might be a case of evolutionary convergence, where two species evolving separately share common features.”

anti-satanic reader comment

i encourage you and you and you (any and all who may be taking a sunday stroll across my blog) to take a gander at the most recent comment posted.  it was a response to a request i had made months ago on how to go about doing a satanic seance in such a manner that would insure the highest possiblity of attracting supernatural and evil presences.  i’ve since not really been too intrigued or interested in the possibilities (nor am i of the potential consequences of saying bloody mary 3 times in my bathroom mirror), but here is one reader’s comment- for everyone to enjoy.  i invite you to either 1) count the punctuations included in the long-winded paragraph, or 2) try to read/imagine where one would take a breath in between pseudo-scientific/fairy-talk rantings.

ok that was harsh but here it is in all its fear-mongering glory:

Lie to Me- Skeptics’ Take

i’m sure the skeptical/scientific community will add much more insight into the TV show “Lie to Me”, until then, here is what i was able to find in my short research (the following is in the format of a conversation between me my friend Keldwud):

some info on the show:

some people can tell when people are lying slightly better than others:

women are supposedly better than men at detecting lies in one’s face.  the information in those links still doesn’t show that the guy’s abilities in the movie can be seen as science-based, but it may be possible to some degree.  remember, though, that polygraphs are not based on science and can be fooled.

hope that helps!  as i get more info about that from the skeptic community i’ll share it with you.

he replied, and i then replied to his comments (see how hard this is to follow so far?  well i don’t have the time to edit it- i’m already spending precious saturday night time so deal with good luck with the format  🙂 :

On Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 10:09 PM, KELDWUD> wrote:

Thanks for the links 🙂
Yeah, I was figuring they were basing a lot of it off of real studies
but the way they were spinning it made me wonder what parts of it
*weren’t* real. A lot of it is plausible and then they make a good
case by showing famous people with the same expressions as proof that
they are all experiencing the same emotion.

yes, and as you and i both suspect they may be committing a post-hoc fallacy where you have lots of data (lots of pictures of faces) and you match these faces with what you’re looking for to support your theory.  many celebrity faces are shown in one scene’s example (some 20 or so i think) but how many thousands of pictures of celebrities lying were not shown?  it sounds too much like quote-mining Nostradamus in order to get an ambiguous quote that sounded like he predicted 9/11 or something else after the fact.  the book The Bible Code commits this fallacy as well:

…The only thing that it is missing is when people show those
expressions and they *don’t* mean what the others are feeling when
they show those expressions.

Wondering how effective his technique is in real world scenarios and I
am betting that his technique would produce valid hits more often than

What do you think?

this is another very good point as to why even when someone may be generally better at telling when someone is lying, they will not be able to read many people who react differently when they lie.  at best, i think someone may be good at telling if people are lying if they are already familiar with the person (like in a family/friendship), or if they are women (like i said, it’s been shown that they are slightly better than males at detecting deception.from Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil, page 176 (emphasis mine):

To the extent that lie detection through the observation of body language and facial expressions is accurate (overall not very), women are better at it than men because they are more intuitively sensitive to subtle cues.  in experiments in which subjects observe someone either truth telling or lying, although no one is consistently correct in identifying the liar, women are correct significantly more often than men [source: Myers, David G. Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, p. 119].  […] People who are highly skilled in identifying “micromomentary” facial expressions are also more accurate in judging lying.  In testing such professionals as psychiatrist, polygraphists, court judges, police officers, and secret service agents on their ability to detect lies, only secret service agents trained to look for subtle cues scored above chance.  Most of us are not good at lie detection because we rely too heavily on what people say rather than on what they do.  Subjects with damage to the brain that renders them less attentive to speech are more accurate at detecting lies, such as aphasic stroke victims who were able to identify liars 73 percent of the time when focusing on facial expressions (normal subjects did no better than chance).

I think it’s kind of a mixed bag, but one thing i think must be on the bullshit side are the cute little face gestures he teaches as being indicators of dishonesty.  this black/white methodology sounds to simple to be true, too learnable that it would easily taught and widely used today in all of the professions listed above.  it seems that the aphasic stroke victims most likely used intuition and nothing that could be listed or depicted in a textbook (ie “this curl of the lip here suggests…”).

FWIW, that’s the info i could come up with so far… hope it helps someone else out in pointing them in the right direction.  good luck!  if you’re from San Fransisco, you can attend this on the subject as well:

evolution in 2 minutes…

i’m more excited to see the results of this contest than the return of Haley’s Comet!  this following challenge is the challenge i would extend to every media team, documentary maker, science teacher, etc.  make it happen, make it impactful, make it convincing!

Can you communicate the most important idea in biology, and one of the most controversial ideas in our society, in a mere 120 seconds? Think you can convince even the most hard-headed creationist that Darwin was right? If so, show us—and that creationist—how it’s done.

Your task is to create a video of no more than two minutes that will get the idea and significance of evolution across to an educated lay audience. Along the way, you can touch on points like how evolution works, how we know it to be true, the evolution of humanity, and the future of evolution.

i was convinced in a very short amount of time of the truthfulness of evolution while attending a biology class.  problem is, no one in xtian america will give science any more time than 2 minutes to convince them.  but the evidence is so extremely overwhelming that i am sure this is about all one needs if they are somewhat edumacated.  😉

thanksgiving heretic

this question was posed on the skepchic blog:

When you spend time with your family (direct or distant) for the holidays, do you have to temporarily change anything about yourself, skeptical, religious or otherwise?  Do you find yourself acting differently either for the sake of harmony or simply because that’s how you’ve always related to them (no pun intended)?  Is that good or bad?

yesterday was thanksgiving, and thus i was around much of my family. running late for dinner, i threw on a shirt out the door we fly to mom and dad’s.

i did not read what was written on my random shirt, however:

Rebel of Faith

it’s a cool-looking t.- a slim-you-down black, painted with those ruby-red heretic words. problem is, the ruby red caught everyone’s eyes. first was my dear 80-year old mormon grandmother’s. her eyes were better than i had imagined: “rebel of faith?”, she inquired.

“yes, it means rebel FOR faith”. i quickly responded. i was lying, and i was proud of my apostasy, but not to my grandma. not when she has lived a long life FOR faith. so deep was her belief in her holy fairy tale for all of these years that the very neurons and connections in her mind can never again be unwoven. critical thinking and skepticism will not squeeze through the plaque and cholesterol polluting her mind’s neural tubes.

it’s over. SHE’s almost over. i say go with the flow. leave her happy. let her leave happy. when i noticed i had an extra shirt in the car, i changed it for her. and by the look on my mom’s face, i could see she felt relieved as well.

it was just a random shirt from my closet, without any agenda meant by me. i am proud of my heresy, and proud to be a “rebel of faith”, but thanksgiving this year was of a much higher quality leaving religion aside and focusing on family.

[here are some great links on thanksgiving]:

Quotes roundup- fall 2008

John Remy has this gem on Mormons and profanity:

When it comes to my English-speaking Mormon friends, few things amaze me more than their aversion to the use of profanity.  Some will spend hours patiently defending systemic racial discrimination or a father’s attempt to slit his son’s throat in God’s name, but will recoil at the use of a common word for excrement.

Ernestine Rose:

It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are
atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would
remain so.

Bart Simpson saying grace:

Dear God: We paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing. Continue reading

gay parenting

hurray for an obama campaign.  boo to the propositions that were passed in a few states taking away the rights of same-sex couples.  today i watched 30 Days (with Morgan Spurlock).  the episode was on same-sex parents.   it can be watched on hulu or you can google elsewhere to find the episode.  i had to write this quick post because i never cry (very rarely, at least), but tears streamed down my cheeks several times as i watched this.  i cried when i saw how loving the two fathers were with their kids.  i cried when i contemplated people wanting to take away their right to parent.  i cried when i saw one of their younger kids brushing his teeth and it made me sad to think some would have him taken away from them.  i cried when i saw this woman (who was living in their home and against gay adoption rights) as her mind was torn left and right in order to deal with the cognitive dissonance caused by seeing these great parents.  i cried when i saw two adults who were raised in foster homes, as they showed what it was like to live in that environment and how much they would have loved to have had a home, even a gay home, to call home.  i cried when i realized what a noble thing these two men were doing as they adopted special needs kids and others without a home to go to.  i cried when i contemplated the millions of people that voted in favor of taking away gay rights.  there are far too many foster kids as it is now, and if gays cannot adopt that will only increase the number of kids who may never, ever have a home.  that saddens my soul and sickens my stomach.  i also cried as i saw this woman never change her beliefs even though she wanted to. she wanted to.  but she couldn’t go against her faith as it had been taught to her that she should champion a faith-based belief over empathy, knowledge and experience.  lastly, i cried because the woman was a mormon and she represented the unshakable bigotted ignorance of the LDS church and it’s primary involvement in supporting proposition 8.  i rarely cry but this is a sad day.

ps:  please take the time to watch the episode while it’s still available.

safran vs. exorcist- true or false?

hopefully you’ve checked out all of the safran vs. god episodes (all 8 of them).  they’re great!  lots of laughs and religious skepticism.  but the last episode, safran actually gets possessed.  it’s a trip to watch and safran has never cleared up what happened.  he actually believes it may have been real, as do his camera crew.  watch the video:

so what happened? well i think i’ve figured out something plausible… first of all, this is most likely just hypnotism, or in other words a mutually agreed upon play between the exorciser and the “possessed”. in order for suggestive hypnotism to work, the receiver must be highly or moderately suggestible. i believe safran is quite suggestible: in watching all 8 episodes of safran vs. god you see safran being OPEN to new religions and worldviews. although he maintains a skeptical outlook during his experiences, he DOES want to experience “the spiritual” through drinking peyote all night, and in another episode says “i hope i really do get possessed tonight” while attending a Voodoo ceremony and seeing others dance and writhe on the ground. Clearly he was open, susceptible and suggestible. as far as i’ve read, any interviews after this video took place show safran actually believing what happened was real.*

in addition to safran’s suggestive demeanor, he gives himself over to the services of an extremely professional, intimidating and psychological bully. this seasoned mindfucker plays on safran’s fragile feelings of guilt and filthiness**, while feeding him fear of satan and christ. add to this how scary it would be to be commanded to keep looking into this crazy dudes eyes as he slaps you around with a bible and your done. i felt intimidated, threatened and scared just watching this, imagine now if someone controls not only what you are seeing, and thinking, but also controls your body movement by holding you down? your mind can freak out and will play along if the exorciser paints the hallucionoginic picture well enough.

any other thoughts/explanations?


*although not accepting any particular theology over another.
**remember the catholic father episode where he repents?

Keith Olbermann on palin’s hypocrisy and idiocy

recent videos on tina fey’s personal god-send, Sarah Palin:

…where she begs the question: “is she smarter than a 3rd grader?” here sarah kills the joke as she reiterates her previous “attempt at humor” as she describes her super-senatal powers as queen vp:

…OH, OH, the hypocrisy! who’s PALIN around with terrorists now?

dayum, you got schooled, p. and by the way- why don’t obama and anti-gay biden start throwing the feces back at her like olbermann does?

the potter and the clay

When I once looked into the heavens
And into the starry lit sky
I thought I could see your wonder
And thought I could never deny

That you were the Rock of Ages
The potter, and I the clay
That you were my creator
For whom I could only obey

That on the Cross you suffered
Died and rose again
My burden was yours to bear
The sorrow, the grief, the pain

But despite all that you did for me
I still could not see your face
In the shadows you remained hidden
From every conceivable place

I then cried out to you
I gave you my soul, my all
But all you gave me was silence
Silence to my desperate call

When I now look into the heavens
And into the starry lit sky
I now know you are not there
Looking down from up high

For you do not live amongst the stars
But only within my mind
For I shaped you in my image
Within my head you are confined

Because I now know the truth, Yeshua
And I’m sorry to say
That I am in fact the potter
And you, are in fact, the clay

By Kevin Parry


my inquiry into the economic crisis:

i get this odd feeling of security as i look around my apt. and see my xbox 360, big screen tv, my cars in the garage, computers, etc.  i get this strange sense of security as i just can’t get myself to fathom sitting in a soup bowl line while at the same time having more than my humanistic share of luxuries at home.  now i know this comment is shotgunned with logical fallacies, but i think at the heart of it it seems like we (and other countries) have pumped the US nation full of assets and resources (albeit many unnecessary ones like my gadgets) and that that richness of “crap” has somehow set us much much further away from the ’29 generation (which i innocently imagine as generally owning only that which is close to their basic needs).

to further explain:  look in your kids’ (or a nearby kid’s) rooms.  way overboard on the toys, etc.  compare this to what it was like even in the 80’s (yes even i can taste the logical fallacies seething through my teeth once again).  but what i mean is that the US has been such a consumer, “buy buy buy”, “gottahavit”, “holiday junkie” “shop-til-you-drop” nation that we’ve stored up a plethora of this junk (and other real assets) and that all may somehow convert into having more than enough of our needs if we were to go through a 10 year depression.  somehow that’s gotta set us apart from the ’29 depression, right?  am i even making sense?

i guess really it comes down to looking at one’s personal savings, their assets, job skills, and future continued job opportunities to see how one would really fare compared to the ’29 era depression.

to end, i’ll add what “my perception of the 29 crash was”:  some stock traders jumping out of windows, cars on cinder blocks for lack of money to maintain or drive them, soup lines and unemployment for many many americans.

thanks for the input, it’s hard to publicly display the sad extent to my ignorance but i find this blog interesting and respect your opinions.

i realize the dumbassedness of my question but i’m just looking for some answers, ya know?  any input from a reader out there?

by the way, the Long Run Blog has had some excellent blog posts recently on the situation of the economy.  they are “members” of the skeptical community (the blog was setup from the skeptic’s guide rogues), and attempt to apply critical thinking and skepticism to all things economics.

Qu0tes R0undup- Summer 2008

Happy Autumn Equinox!

every three months i post a lump of good quotes i heard/read during the season (click on the category ‘quotes‘ on my sidebar to see my on-going collection). so, here are the quotes i’ve rounded up during this year’s summer season!

Dr. Perry Cox:

Lady, people aren’t chocolates.. Do you know what they are mostly?  Bastards.  Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling.  But I don’t find them half as annoying as I find naive, bubble-headed optimists who walk around vomiting sunshine.

Woody Allen:

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

Joh Stewart:

Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.

Barack Obama:

If you get a federal grant you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.

Richard Dawkins

What are all of us but self-reproducing robots? We have been put together by our genes and what we do is roam the world looking for a way to sustain ourselves and ultimately produce another robot child. Continue reading

Dark Matter Explained

first of all, this video is blowing up on the net right now.  it explains the Larg Hadron Collider (the largest scientific experiment ever!)  The original mp3, lyrics, and vocals for remixing can be found here.

More on dark matter:

Quotes Roundup- Spring 2008

oops!  i’m a little late on this one, but…

every three months i post a lump of good quotes i heard/read during the season (click on the category ‘quotes‘ on my sidebar to see my on-going collection). so, here are the quotes i’ve rounded up during this year’s spring season!

the first bunch came from mike‘s blog:

Bart Simpson:

Phew I’m glad we came to our senses and worship a 2.000 year old carpenter.

Bill Hicks:

If I thought the Jews killed God, I’d worship the Jews.

Woody Allen:

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.

Homer Simpson:

Suppose we’ve chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we’re just making him madder.

Homer Simpson:

I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, save me Superman! Continue reading

results: secular humanist

taken from belief-o-matic religion quiz.  i ranked a hard-core humanist, and a soft-core nontheist- which sounds just about right to me.  i also took this quiz two years ago- right when i had started to really deal with doubt.  it’s interesting to see secular humanism jumping up to the top (from 73-100%); U.U. dropping a little; Buddhism staying strong in the top 6; and my LDS/Mormon beliefs dropping from a score of 49% all the way down to 26%.

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (92%)
3. Liberal Quakers (78%)
4. Nontheist (72%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (69%)
6. Theravada Buddhism (68%)
7. Neo-Pagan (67%)
8. New Age (58%)
9. Reform Judaism (54%)
10. Taoism (52%)
11. Mahayana Buddhism (48%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (44%)
13. Bahá’í Faith (41%)
14. Scientology (41%)
15. New Thought (39%)
16. Sikhism (38%)
17. Jainism (35%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (34%)
19. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (26%)
20. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (26%)
21. Islam (25%)
22. Orthodox Judaism (25%)
23. Hinduism (19%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (17%)
25. Roman Catholic (17%)
26. Seventh Day Adventist (17%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (7%)

Barack Obama on His Secularist Mother and Religious Upbringing

taken from the chapter on faith:

my mother, even with all her professed secularism, was in many ways  the most spiritually awakened person that i’ve ever known.

she had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity and love.  and spent much of her life acting on that instinct.  sometimes to her detriment.  without the help of religious texts, or outside authorities, she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many americans learn in sunday school.  honesty, empathy, discipline, delayed gratification and hard work.

[…] most of all, she possesed an abiding sense wonder. ar reverence for life and its precious transitory nature that could properly be described as devotional.  she saw mysteries everywhere, and took joy in the sheer strangeness of life.

he continues about how he did not have “a vessel for his beliefs”, nor a community for beleif, and thus he has embraced christianity.

listen to excerpt here:

father’s day 2008

happy father’s day!  i would like to say that i’m with my daughter right now but her grandma has taken her from me!  for three hours.  to church.  …so i’ll see her in a few hours.  anyways, here is some cool stuff to check out:

today, steven novella (pres. of the skeptic’s guide to the universe), has revealed his definition of a modern skeptic:

A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

he continues on as to why he, sagan, and shermer have adopted this term to describe themselves over other terms.

skepchic has some funny drawrings of the do’s and don’ts of parenting (i saw this book at sundance the other day coincedentally).  there is also a new video by brian dunning (skeptoid) on critical thinking, called Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking.

check out these great shirts on teaching the controversy.

dallas r., on this issue of the new yorker: Continue reading

cool linkx

stuff i’ve found well worth the movement of a mouse, followed by a click:

limericks about time

Time’s an illusion, you know
And lunchtime, of course, doubly so–
It so rapidly passes,
Or slow as molasses,
And where did my yesterday go?!?
The telling of time is an art
Take, for instance, the time we’re apart:
That time is not reckoned
By hour or by second,
But measured in beats of my heart.
I remember when days used to last,
And a year was impossibly vast;
It seems yesterday morn
When my children were born–
How the hell did they grow up so fast?
My days, though to say so seems trite,
Seem to pass at the speed of–well, light.
If I only could see ’em,
I’d carpe each diem,
But they so quickly pass out of sight.