July 2008

A guest blogger on Crooks and Liars writes about the Unitarian Church shooting:

I am a Unitarian.

That should be such a simple, insignificant statement of fact, nothing more than just another box on a census form to tick. Today, however, it feels more like a war cry.

This is a difficult post for me to write because my emotions are so knotted it’s hard to make sense of what I feel. I am ashamed to admit that my first, overwhelming emotion was intense anger – not so much at Jim Adkisson, the man who walked into a Unitarian church in Knoxville and opened fire on innocent people, killing two and injuring eight more. That happens, unfortunately, with all too frequent regularity in America these days, and for a depressingly repetitive litany of reasons – depression, frustration, confused anger and overlooked or ignored mental illness. The Adkisson killings is not an uncommon event these days.

What is, however, was his target – Unitarians. Members of a church renown for its pacifism, compassion and tolerance. We welcome anyone – men and women of any colour and nationality, of any religious or ethnic background, or sexuality. We even welcome conservatives.

My anger instead is concentrated on those people who callously use such vulnerable people, stirring up their bigotry and discontent, egging them to acts of violence. People like Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh who have made lucrative careers out of liberal-bashing. People who write things like “Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder”, “Let Freedom Ring,” and “The O’Reilly Factor,” – all literature found in Adkisson’s home after the shooting. People like Ann Coulter who advocated attacking liberals with baseball bats. The hate-filled spewage from the right-wing media mavens is and should be held accountable for inciting such acts of violence and murder, those heartless, soulless, conscienceless opportunists who have gleefully participated in encouraging the Adkissons of America to take out their anger and hatred and frustration on liberals.

Read the full post

This may turn out to be an interesting show:

From the History Channel website:

They are one of evolution’s most useful and prevalent inventions. Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes and they exist in many different forms. Learn how the ancestors of jellyfish may have been the first to evolve light-sensitive cells. Discover how dinosaur’s evolved eyes that helped them become successful hunters. Finally, learn how primates evolved unique adaptations to their eyes that allowed them to better exploit their new habitat, and how the ability to see colors helped them find food.

Schedule (Check local listings):
Tuesday, July 29 at 10:00 PM
Wednesday, July 30 at 02:00 AM

From the New York Times:

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Read the full story.

MC recommends the book What Happens When People Think by Gene Korienek, Ph.D. and Tom Wrensch, Ph.D.

From the book website:

We wrote this book as a collection of short stories about a group of people who hang out in a coffee shop. The stories take place in the Pacific Northwest because that is where we live. Besides getting up too early and drinking too much coffee, this group talks about the issues that confront all of us every day of our lives.

It is our desire—our mission—to make some of the most effective thinking tools and techniques available to everyone interested in thinking more effectively and more successfully in our fast paced and often overly complex culture.

We did not invent or ‘make up’ the techniques we talk about in this book. They are not new. Most of them have been around for decades, some for centuries. They come from many sources, most notably the fields of psychology, computer science, engineering, philosophy, and mathematics. Many of these techniques are taught only in advanced undergraduate or graduate level university courses. Some are not taught anywhere. The people who use them have acquired them from other people through conversation and by observing them being used by other practitioners in their field. We take these tools and techniques, strip them of unnecessarily technical jargon, and translate them for your day-to-day use.

The other part of our lives—the other force that drove this book—is coffee. We, and others like us, can be found in coffee shops all around the country drinking cappuccinos and talking with people about issues that are important to us all.

Fortunately, the two go together rather well. Coffee shops are a great place to think. Maybe it’s the caffeine, maybe it’s snatches of overheard conversation, or maybe it’s just a habituated response to the environment. Whatever the reason, some of our best ideas were born in a mix of steamed milk and hot espresso.

Read more and find out how to purchase the book here.

And be sure to check out MC’s own recently released book, Sideways in Sarasota.

Some alarming statistics from vistabay.com:


The “War on Drugs” certainly isn’t working.

From LiveScience.com:

One of the greatest mysteries in science is how life began. Now one group of researchers says diamonds may have been life’s best friend.

Scientists have long theorized that life on Earth got going in a primordial soup of precursor chemicals. But nobody knows how these simple amino acids, known to be the building blocks of life, were assembled into complex polymers needed as a platform for genesis.

Diamonds are crystallized forms of carbon that predate the oldest known life on the planet. In lab experiments aimed to confirm work done more than three decades ago, researchers found that when treated with hydrogen, natural diamonds formed crystalline layers of water on the surface. Water is essential for life as we know it. Also, the tests found electrical conductivity that could have been key to forcing chemical reactions needed to generate the first birth.

From the Pew Research Center:

A July Pew Research survey found 12% of Americans continue to say Barack Obama is Muslim, virtually unchanged from 10% in March. This misperception is not limited to voters who oppose Obama. Identical percentages of Republicans and Democrats (12% each) think he is Muslim, and 37% of those who think he’s Muslim intend to vote him. A quarter doesn’t know, but significantly those who have heard different things back McCain (48% to 33%) while those who just don’t know back Obama (48% to 33%).

Read the full story

From Scientific American:

The recent medical controversy over whether vaccinations cause autism reveals a habit of human cognition—thinking anecdotally comes naturally, whereas thinking scientifically does not.

On the one side are scientists who have been unable to find any causal link between the symptoms of autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal, which in the body breaks down into ethylmercury, the culprit du jour for autism’s cause. On the other side are parents who noticed that shortly after having their children vaccinated autistic symptoms began to appear. These anecdotal associations are so powerful that they cause people to ignore contrary evidence: ethylmercury is expelled from the body quickly (unlike its chemical cousin methylmercury) and therefore cannot accumulate in the brain long enough to cause damage. And in any case, autism continues to be diagnosed in children born after thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999; today trace amounts exist in only a few.

Read the full article

From The Atheist Experience blog:

When I first recognized I was an atheist, I hadn’t read any atheist literature. I studied and came to my own conclusions about god after being brought up as a fundamentalist (and for many years accepting the Bible as the inerrant word of god). After a few years as an atheist, visiting atheist forums and debating and dialoging with atheists and theists alike, I stumbled upon ACA in my community. I had already begun drawing Atheist Eve–a character who reflected my own perspective of what I saw as problems in my own past “logic” and who also voiced my assessment of current Christian doctrines and trends.

Read the full post

From Slate.com:

How blind salamanders make nonsense of creationists’ claims.
By Christopher Hitchens

It is extremely seldom that one has the opportunity to think a new thought about a familiar subject, let alone an original thought on a contested subject, so when I had a moment of eureka a few nights ago, my very first instinct was to distrust my very first instinct. To phrase it briefly, I was watching the astonishing TV series Planet Earth (which, by the way, contains photography of the natural world of a sort that redefines the art) and had come to the segment that deals with life underground. The subterranean caverns and rivers of our world are one of the last unexplored frontiers, and the sheer extent of the discoveries, in Mexico and Indonesia particularly, is quite enough to stagger the mind. Various creatures were found doing their thing far away from the light, and as they were caught by the camera, I noticed—in particular of the salamanders—that they had typical faces. In other words, they had mouths and muzzles and eyes arranged in the same way as most animals. Except that the eyes were denoted only by little concavities or indentations. Even as I was grasping the implications of this, the fine voice of Sir David Attenborough was telling me how many millions of years it had taken for these denizens of the underworld to lose the eyes they had once possessed.

Full article

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