Saturday, April 10, 2010

55% of Americans Still Clinging Proudly to Scientific Ignorance

 In the latest poll conducted by the NSF to assess Americans' knowledge of basic scientific concepts, the results of two key questions were left off the final report; questions regarding knowledge of the theories of evolution and the big bang. Click the link below to read the full article from ScienceInsider.

As I was searching the web for more information on Americans' knowledge of science (or shameful lack thereof), I also found this short 12 question quiz. It had some fairly good items, including some requiring knowledge of current events in science, but interestingly enough, it also contained no questions about evolution or the big bang. However, it did have one question about stem cells, so maybe they weren't trying to deliberately avoid questions perceived to be controversial to some groups.

Not to toot my own horn, but when I took the quiz, I got a perfect score, which placed me in the top 10% of scores for people taking the quiz (the statistical accuracy of this figure is a bit odd, but....ok). To put this in a clearer perspective, my 11-year-old son also took the quiz, and got 9 out of 12 correct--which placed him in the top third of respondents. In other words, of over 1000 individual adults who took a very basic science quiz, 2/3 knew less than a sixth grader, whose primary interest is NOT in science--unless you consider the evolution of Pokemon a field of science.

What does this say about our nation's future prospects in the fields of science and technology? Already, it seems we import our scientists just as surely as we import our material possessions.

The link below will take you directly to the quiz and allow you to compare yourself to a 6th grader, high schooler, college attendee, and/or graduate.

Quote of the Day:

"Living creatures arose from the moist element as it was evaporated by the sun. Man was like another animal, namely a fish."

--Anaximander (c. 610-546 BCE)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Atheist Delusion

Yesterday I finished re-reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Just like some religionists read their holy books over and over, I also like to revisit my "holy books" in the same way, deriving both smug self-satisfaction and comfort from the words contained within. (Please note that I am being completely facetious here.)

Anyhoo, I came across this video on YouTube which tickled my funnybone. Sadly, if you read the comments at the bottom of the actual YouTube site, you will notice that there are some atheists out there who just don't "get" the message. Who says theists have the market on dim-witted adherents cornered?

Quote of the Day:

"That 'religion is inherently irrational' is surely true. Why one set of beliefs that are offered without argument or evidence rather than another?"

--Noam Chomsky

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Atheist's Commandments

Most of us who consider ourselves nontheists, consider the Ten Commandments of Judeo-Christian faith to be mostly useless when it comes to providing a framework for law and/or morality. It is for this reason that I am offering my own set of 'commandments', borrowing heavily from Richard Dawkins and others, for the verbage, if not the actual ideas.

An Atheist's Commandments

1. Treat others (fellow human beings, living things, and the world in general) with the respect, honesty, faithfulness and love you would want to receive in return.

2. Question/test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

3. Always strive to learn something new; and live life with a sense of joy and wonder at what you discover.

4. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

5. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

6. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.

7. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race, or (as far as possible), species, and in all things, strive to cause no harm.

8. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.

9. Strive to leave the world a better place than you found it.

10. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own. (Some Native American tribes go by the rule of thumb of the 7th generation. Find one that suits you.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pope Vows to get Church Pedophilia Down to Acceptable Levels

Another great article by The Onion. To access the actual article and others, click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Pope Vows To Get Church Pedophilia Down To Acceptable Levels

April 5, 2010 | ISSUE 46•14
Pope Benedict XVI explains which types of slow, deliberate touching the church deems inappropriate.

VATICAN CITY—Calling the behavior shameful, sinful, and much more frequent than the Vatican was comfortable with, Pope Benedict XVI vowed this week to bring the widespread pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church down to a more manageable level.

Addressing thousands gathered at St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, the pontiff offered his "most humble apologies" to abuse victims, and pledged to reduce the total number of molestations by 60 percent over the next five years.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Pope Benedict said. "It seems a weakening of faith in God has prevented our priests from exercising moderation when sexually abusing helpless minors."

"And let me remind our clergy of the holy vows they all took when they entered the priesthood," he continued. "They should know that they're only allowed one small child every other month."

The pope said he was deeply disappointed to learn that the number of children sexually abused by priests was almost 10 times beyond the allowable limit clearly outlined in church doctrine. Admitting for the first time in public that the overindulgent touching of "tender, tender young flesh" had become a full-blown crisis, the Holy Father vowed to implement new reforms to bring the pedophilia rate back down to five children per 1,000 clergy.

"The truth is there will always be a little bit of molestation—it's simply unavoidable," Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "But the fact that young boys have gotten much more attractive over the past few decades is no excuse for the blatant defiance of church limits that have been in place for centuries."
"The majority of priests don't want to molest kids at all," he added. "But for those who do, we must make sure they're doing it at a reasonable rate."

Following the pope's speech, the Vatican released a statement outlining its plan to reduce pedophilia. Starting next year, specially trained cardinals will make unannounced visits to inspect and observe random churches in order to ensure they are not going beyond diocese-wide molestation caps. The inspector-cardinals will grade each parish based on long, private interviews with altar boys in darkened church basements, and careful observation of priests' sexual activity.

These senior officials will also have the authority to enforce harsh punishments for any clergy member violating his allotment of pedophilia.

"If a priest goes even one child over the limit, there will be hell to pay," said Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops Giovanni Battista Re, explaining the Vatican's new "Three Strikes, You're Out Rule." "After the third offense, the offending priest will immediately be moved to another parish. This will give officials time to investigate the case, and will act as an effective deterrent since it usually takes months for priests to gain the trust of the new children."

As a "goodwill measure," Cardinal Re said all churches will also be required to display a sign next to the altar showing the number of days since the last molestation.

Criticism of the pope's new plan has already begun to emerge from within the Catholic Church itself. Rev. Walter Moore, a pastor at St. Peter's in Chicago, questioned the Vatican's methodology in calculating the molestation rates, saying the church's inconsistent definition of pedophilia may have skewed the numbers.

"Is it technically pedophilia if the child's clothes are fully on the entire time? What if he's asleep when it happens?" Moore said. "It's time we had some clear guidance from Rome on this issue. For instance, the church counts it as one incident regardless of whether the child is molested multiple times by the same individual or by two priests at once. That's just plain wrong."

"Plus, if it's supposed to be a special secret between the priest and the boy, is it even any of the church's business in the first place?" he added. "Maybe Brandon is just trying to get attention."

The Vatican would not release details of the pope's upcoming world tour, in which he plans to clear up any confusion on the matter by personally demonstrating what constitutes molestation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Just in Time for Easter

This is a very well-done and informative video on the basis of the Easter holiday. I thought I was quite well-informed myself, but I actually learned quite a lot of interesting things.