Thursday, March 26, 2015

You, me, we don’t need a scriptural “God” - Knowing Evolution Is Enough!

This started as a comment at CenterForInquiry Forum but it ballooned into an essay and since it turned into a pretty fair presentation of my thoughts on this topic, I figure I'd post it over here.

Back to the original thought:
“When circumstances are terrible, certainly you will suspend your atheism.”

Why?  For what purpose?

Some put all this stock in Holy Books and people’s interpretations of those books along with the images we weave in our minds, created out of the desires in our hearts.  But that’s your/their god, a security blanket, and we all need our security blankets, I’m not knocking that.  It’s the arrogance and defensive super-natural Faith folks imbibe it with, (exemplified in that bold boast at the start of this essay), that’s over the top.

There are some who have gone through personal struggles and rebirths, folks who understand Jesus’s Passion for what it is, a guide (support and inspiration) for our own personal spiritual journeys - with it’s various personal trials and tribulations, for aid and support in transitioning through our own lives, from dependent, self-centered, selfish child, into balanced self sufficient adulthood and eventually beyond to wise person and adept societal matriarch or patriarch (metaphorically speaking) - according to each circumstance.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once one’s spiritual foundation grows beyond our mental images of God and Holy Stories (the Shadow Plays that help us glimpse a greater awareness) that awe gets transferred to the reality of our Mother Earth, the organism that created this world and each of us - 
and a totally different, much more solid, dare I say mature, type of spiritual foundation is formed.

Rooted in a deep understanding of Evolution's Pageant and its creation of ever more complex building blocks that drove yet more complexity.  The evolution of atomic particles and elements, gravity and star formation,  Ah, the stars, factories creating one element after another, up to Iron.  Then the wonder of exploding giant stars (Super Novas) that created all the heavier elements in a flash.  Thus making future complex worlds possible.  Fascinating.  Gravity and solar system formation and the wonder of our planet’s development.  Then that early addition of the moon, by way of a furious collision!  Don't that beat all in the Holy Books?

The close-in moon’s constant gravitational churning…

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Investigating China’s Smog, “Under the Dome” - Chai Jing

Considering that some are trying to censor this important video, I figured I should do my little part for international free speech… and honestly facing the world we have created for our children, and embed it over here.
Investigating China’s Smog, “Under the Dome” - Chai Jing

Under the Dome (Chinese: 穹顶之下; pinyin: qióngdǐng zhī xià) is a 2015 self-financed, Chinese documentary film by Chai Jing, a former China Central Television journalist, concerning air pollution in China. 

Chai Jing started making the documentary when her as yet unborn daughter developed a tumour in the womb, which had to be removed very soon after her birth. 

The film openly criticises state owned energy companies, steel producers and coal factories, as well as showing the inability of the Ministry of Environmental Protection to act against the big polluters.

Despite demonstrating the failure of China's regulations on pollution, the Chinese government at first did not censor the film. Instead, the People's Daily reposted the film alongside an interview with Chai, while Chen Jining, the recently-appointed minister for environmental protection, praised the film, comparing its significance with Silent Spring, the 1962 book by US environmentalist Rachel Carson

However, within a week, the Communist Party’s publicity department confidentially ordered the film to be removed. An employee of China Business News was suspended for leaking the order. ...

Chai Jing's: Under the Dome 
Investigating China’s Smog 
(full translation)

Published on Mar 1, 2015 | 1:43:55

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Watching Flames, Pascal Bruckner Fiddles, fanaticism of the apocalypse

Over at my WUWTW blogspot one of the most visited posts is  "Pascal Bruckner's "Fanaticism of the Apocalypse" - A Citizen's Response" dated June 18, 2013 which still receives a surprising number of regular viewings.  This prompted me to google his name and see if anything special was going on these days, doesn't seem to be, but I did read another article (ironically posted the day before my first critique) based on his book "Fanaticism of the Apocalypse" that I found disappointing and shallow.  Not a reflection of our real world situation at all.

Worst is Bruckner's seeming insistence that all this concern about what's happening to our climate is some frivolous fad and that all we have to worry about is our worries.  Most disconnected from the reality of global trends and quite frankly begging for a rebuttal, which I am providing, until someone with more intellectual horse power has the nerve, or interest, to take on the great French thinker Monsieur Pascal Bruckner.

I reprint the full text, neither having, nor asking for permission, because Pascal puts himself out there as a great thinker trying to influence the masses, also considering this was posted at The Chronicle of Higher Education, it seems only proper that they allow his words to be examined with a skeptical eye.

June 17, 2013
Against Environmental Panic

By Pascal Bruckner (4200words)

¶1  In Jesuit schools we were urged to strengthen our faith by spending time in monasteries. We were assigned spiritual exercises to be dutifully written in little notebooks that were supposed to renew the promises made at baptism and to celebrate the virtues of Christian love and succor for the weak. It wasn't enough just to believe; we had to testify to our adherence to the Holy Scriptures and drive Satan out of our hearts. These practices were sanctioned by daily confessions under the guidance of a priest. We all probed our hearts to extirpate the germs of iniquity and to test, with a delicious thrill, the borderline separating grace from sin. We were immersed in an atmosphere of meditative reverence, and the desire to be good gave our days a special contour.

¶2  We knew that God was looking down on us indulgently: We were young, we were allowed to stumble. In his great ledger, he wrote down each of our actions, weighing them with perfect equanimity. We engaged in refined forms of piety in order to gain favors. Regarded from an adult point of view, these childish efforts, which were close to the ancients' spiritual exercises, were not without a certain nobility. They wavered between docility and a feeling of lofty grandeur. At least we learned the art of knowing ourselves, of resisting the turmoil of puberty.

~ ~ ~ 
It seems such a cloistered background might create deep seated life long conscious and subconscious conflicts.  I know that some guidance counselors are so wrapped-up within their own struggles that they too easily transfer their own issues onto the 'client', never "seeing" their client's actual challenges - and I wonder if that may be going on here.  

It is fair to ask Pascal, to ask himself, how much of this missive might be his own struggles with early childhood resentments towards the church, only now transferring those internal struggles into the more lucrative realm of attacking science?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

¶3  What a surprise to witness, half a century later, the powerful return of this frame of mind, but this time under the aegis of science. 

~ ~ ~
What "powerful" are we talking about here?  Media tycoons?  Pundits?  Who?

Please note Pascal never defines what he's referring to "under the aegis of science" simply leaving it hanging in the air and returning to what's going on in the public dialogue.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Consider the meaning in contemporary jargon of the famous carbon footprint that we all leave behind us. What is it, after all, if not the gaseous equivalent of Original Sin, of the stain that we inflict on our Mother Gaia by the simple fact of being present and breathing? We can all gauge the volume of our emissions, day after day, with the injunction to curtail them, just as children saying their catechisms are supposed to curtail their sins.

~ ~ ~
Perhaps for a religious person "original sin" is as substantial as water - but they are mistaken.  Original sin is a plot point in a metaphysical myth, an imaginary construct just the same.

The Carbon Footprint is another kind of construct, one that has a very real physical component, namely a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide that a person or activity produces with the fossil fuels being burned for said activity.  It is substantive and it has a cumulative physical impact on this planet.  

In other words, Pascal doesn't seem to recognize the difference between the "substantial" and "insubstantial".
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

¶4  Ecologism,

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The "Global Weirding" project

I came across a new project that tries to present the many strands of known evidence as collected by the IPCC in an interesting and new way.  It consists of conservative projection of where current climate trends are taking our society and us.   The longer we collectively ignore, the harder it's going to hit.  I myself think this is over optimistic regarding the resilience of our complex society, but that's just me.  In any event, it's worth sharing, take a look:

Global Weirding
{glowb’l-wee-erding} noun

Describes how the rise in average global temperature leads to all sorts of crazy things — from hotter heat spells to colder cold spells, more drought and intense flooding, as well as slow-onset changes such as ocean acidification and sea level rise. Also includes oddball things such as jellyfish clogging up the pipes of nuclear power plants, forcing them to shut down.
Ready! {because it's begun!}

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The "What" and "Who" of the "Global Weirding"

This is a remix of the Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5), the most comprehensive report on climate change ever produced. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friends of Wolf Creek vs Village at Wolf Creek - The Game Is Afoot!

The Rio Grande National Forest has agreed to the Red McCombs Landswap offer and the future development of Alberta Park.  
For more information visit: 

Village at Wolf Creek Breaking News - 

RGNF Decides in Favor of Developing Alberta Park, 

near Wolf Creek Pass!

VWC Access Project "Final Environmental Impact Statement" index

Text of Draft index; and introduction; and background. 
"The publication of the draft record of decision in the Valley Courier starts a 45-day objection period. The final decision will be signed if no objections are received.RGNF
{By my math that makes it Sunday January 4th - excellent timing for the release I must say}

For the decision see:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Honest Liar - Considering James Randi

{Since first posting this, it's been in a state of evolution, but I think this may be my last edit Wednesday 11/19 
Thanks to Gail at the FCFP I realized I short-changed the heart of this review, the documentary and Randi's debunking career. 
I hope to have fixed that. 11/23 }

Last Wednesday {November 12} I learned about a new documentary concerning James “the amazing” Randi, it’s called "An Honest Liar". Unfortunately, it won't be out until early spring. What a shame, because though I'm no movie buff, here was one I wanted to watch.

You see, I grew up watching the "The Amazing Randi" doing incredible stunts on TV during the ’60s and ’70s, then in the 80s I started paying attention to his other career, that of the stinky eye ferreting out frauds.

That started earlier, as the young magician Randi got better he got sick of seeing others using his same tricks not to entertain, but to gain the confidence of innocents in order to steal hard earned money from then. His life long crusade began in 1964 with a thousand dollar challenge for anyone who could offer proof of the paranormal.  The prize went to $10,000, then to a cool million dollar challenge.

The media attention around his crusade was big and it trickled down to young adults such as myself. You know, we of the happy hippie generation, still in the afterglow of discovering and experiencing a wonderfully miraculous world all around us. Spiritual and chemical energy infused everything and there was so much to take in and wonder about. The spiritual and metaphysical seemed interwoven with everything and now science was starting to find supporting evidence.

Then came Randi to remind those of us who would listen about skepticism and turning a critical eye on amazing claims. While these exposures were sobering for many, they enraged just as many who resisted having their bubbles burst.  It’s telling that over a thousand claimants have failed Randi’s “Challenge” yet spiritual/psychic con artists are raking in as much as ever.

Still for many Randi’s interviews were teaching moments of rational critical thinking and he taught many how to recognize bunk. Skills that helped me navigate a world filled with too many predators hiding behind the smiling mask of the con artist.-But all that’s known to me from snippets, various articles and media stories I’ve read. I actually didn’t know much about the man himself. So, reading the synopsis of this documentary, I knew I wanted to see it.

Life is full of surprises. As serendipity would have it, I was reading the program the very afternoon of the evening "An Honest Liar" (Co-Directed by Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, Produced by Duane Andersen ) was being screened in Yountville, California as part of the Napa Valley Film Festival.

Now, I'm just a working stiff, in the area because of a lucky short job I landed and was heading home the next morning. The last thing on my mind was attending the fancy Napa Valley Film Festival, yet that’s were I found myself. Sipping on some Cabernet Sauvignon that proclaimed to me: Now you see? Taste me... look at me... swirl me and breath me in... take your time, savor the moment. Now you see wise guy… you see why some don’t mind dropping a Ben Franklin for a bottle, or a glass; if they can?

With that boisterous glass of wine in hand, I was ready as “An Honest Liar” began with a review of Randi’s career and fun old TV clips.  The film recalled the unmasking of Uri Geller the “psychic” spoon bender who was investigated by some gullible scientists that judged him legitimate, making him a media sensation, then a bust after Randi exposed his tricks.

There was also Reverend Popoff the minister with miraculous telepathic “gifts” - provided by his wife transmitting information gleaned off the prayer cards visitors filled out - into Popoff’s “hearing aid”.  Using that information he mesmerized his flock and proceeded to “heal” his hapless victims and rake in the donations.

It got fascinating when we learn of the various fictitious psychics Randi created. They managed to fool the world despite Randi liberally sprinkling hints.  When Randi wasn’t all hell and brimstone on frauds, he found time to help Alice Cooper create some on stage.

Then came the plot twists, for those of us who haven’t kept up with Randi’s amazing life. There was the surprise of Randi coming out in 2010 and publicly revealing his 25-year partnership with Jose Alvarez, a fascinating survivor and amazing fellow in his own right. Then, while still absorbing all that, we're hit with an even more startling revelation unfolding in real time, heightened by the dead seriousness of jail time and worse. 

After the film was finished, we were treated to a Q/A with Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, the co-directors. They surprised us by announcing a couple visitors, Randi and Alvarez in the flesh.-Watching Randi walk down the aisle, I couldn't help but think that he looks like Charles Darwin in his later years. That’s fitting, though Harry Houdini would probably deserve it more considering he's the grand-daddy of debunking spiritualists and con artists, as Randi acknowledges.

Taking questions, Randi responded to one with something I'd already jotted down in my notes as the single best line in the documentary, "People need to believe.” Later, I had a chance to shake his hand and speak with him. I asked: “OK, people need to believe. – what can we do with that? Where do we go from there?"

He looked at me with those deep intense eyes, shrugged and shook his head for a beat, then perking up: “Teach the young ones.”  Then he reminded me of his foundation and invited me to check it out: - James Randi Educational Foundation - 
in particular

After watching the documentary, I came to appreciate that Randi had given me more than skills to deal with con artists. He'd helped me learn that I was my own toughest challenge – falling in love with my own notions and refusing to acknowledge my own blindspots, being afraid to be proven wrong. Fabricating bubbles of contrived realities in order to justify rejecting contrary evidence, no matter how valid it is.
Those are each of our worst enemies.

And what of our allies? There's the passion to keep learning about this incredible world I inhabit for a short moment. Appreciating that no matter how much I think I may have learned or know, there’s more to learn. Besides, I could be wrong and need to remain willing to honestly listen to and digest new information – then base my belief on the strength of the evidence presented – not on my tender ego or desires. 

If I’m wrong it’s a learning opportunity and not an excuse to lash out against the bearer of better information.

In closing, what I thought would be an entertaining, informative movie about one of the interesting characters of my time turned into an enthralling, even compelling journey of discovery and reflection. It gets my thumbs-up recommendation, with or without an accompanying glass of fine wine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
For those that want to learn about James Randi's scholarly work, 
check out the Google Scholar search results:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Napa Valley Film Festival November 2014
Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature 
presented by Sullivan Vineyards goes to AN HONEST LIAR
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

“An Honest Liar was a highlight of what had been a very strong documentary program at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “

This week has four showings (Nov 12,14,15,16) up and down the Napa Valley during their Film Festival.

For more information about the documentary here’s the website for "An Honest Liar"

Out of a half dozen reviews I’ve read in the past couple days, the most serious and true to the spirit of the film seemed to me:  
Film Review: An Honest Liar

Friday, November 14, 2014

Honorable Senator Bennet, Why do you support Keystone XL Pipeline ?

Elections are over and it seems the first order of business in Washington DC is shoving the destructive Keystone XL Pipeline down USA's throat.  Another in a long line of self-destructive actions our politicians do too much of, without ever learning from mistakes.  KeystoneXL is a big issue and I've pretty much stayed away from it (only so much I can focus on) but now with a Senator I voted for in the middle of the storm, along with my pondering the how and why of people deliberately ignoring real, in your face, inescapable evidence.  I was inspired to write an open letter to Senator Bennet, and his colleagues, all told it included a couple dozen links to further information and support for the claims I make.  Most listed at the end of my letter.  It's an important timely issue, and there's always that hope, gotta at least try - So I'm reposting it here and invite others to pass it along, if you see fit.   ~ Senate vote is this Tuesday, November 14th ~  
The bill was narrowly defeated, with no help from Senator Bennet, who voted in favor !  

Keystone XL pipeline bill dies in Senate
WASHINGTON Tue Nov 18, 2014 8:50pm EST
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Senate Defeats Bill on Keystone XL Pipeline in Narrow Vote

Honorable Senator Bennet, I remember shaking my head back in March when I read the stories of you turning tail on your 2010 campaign talk.  

March 25, 2013, 11:23 am 
Senator Michael Bennet says yes, Udall says no in split vote on Keystone Pipeline 
~ ~ ~
As one of those who voted for you, it seemed to me during the 2010 campaign you sure sounded like you appreciated the destructiveness and shortsightedness of the Canadian Tar Sands project on general terms, which was reflected in your implied opposition to allowing Keystone XL pipeline to cut through the US. Now there's this: