August 28, 2009

Campus Freethinkers

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:50 pm by fuckyourfavoritedreams

I am now officially a Washington University in St. Louis student! Well, I have been before (during high-school), but I am now living on campus full-time and classes started this week. That is why my blog has been silent for the last 2 weeks. It is a beautiful campus with far more people at my level than my hometown. It has amazing architecture, a wide variety of classes with some of the best professors in the world, and a disproportionate amount of christian group presence to atheist presence.

That last part is really the only thing about WashU that bothers me. I couldn’t find an atheist organization on campus, so I emailed the Student Union and asked about it. Here is their reply:

Hello,
There is no officially registered club. However you can try to contact a club that was started last year *********@gmail.com
good luck.

This news was deeply disheartening. An undergrad school with 6,000 of the nation’s brightest that barely acknowledges the existence of its secular humanist/freethinking population? I couldn’t believe it. So I emailed the address and got an immediate response back. Apparently, there are about 70 people in the group’s Facebook group. They call themselves the WashU League of Freethinkers (WULF). Since they are not officially registered, that means that it’s going to be infinitely more difficult to acquire funding to do anything. Their logo has Epicurus in it, which is awesome.

Despite my tiresome schedule, I will be doing all that I can to support WULF. For starters, encouraging them to get active and get registered will be important. There are advertisements for christian organizations in several places on campus, and I hope that WULF can start to compete this year.

August 13, 2009

Why aren’t your eyes pointy… or slanted?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:43 pm by fuckyourfavoritedreams

This is extremely lulzy, but I’m sure that it isn’t a Poe, and that is terrifying. It’s also one of those videos where I don’t know whether to rate one star, because the poster is a piece of shit, or five stars, because it’s hilarious.

Populist Rage: Shouting Down Health Care

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:01 am by fuckyourfavoritedreams

The term “populism,” in my mind, always brings forth thoughts of an unwieldy, tyrannous, uneducated public demanding something illogical from their representatives. It reminds me of the AIG bonus scandal, with people shouting for the names and addresses of the employees. It’s scary, it’s irrational, and it’s violent. It is the core of the human id*, manifested. The recent town hall “debates”/debacles are populism.

Though debate has never been particularly valued by the majority of Americans, but the recent town hall meetings have been a particularly poor example of the art of debate. Fox News has painted this as an uprising of unhappy citizens (and the government had better comply or things will get violent). People are shouting their opinions and not listening to the rebuttal– instead they are threatening violence. Fox News is then taking the angriest of these people on their shows and making them the new image of the health care debate.

There was a segment on the Colbert Report with instructions on how to make your argument sound more threatening at a town hall. Sit near the front and shout. Cry if you have to, just make the representative feel like shit. After all, you pay for their salary. Shout whatever you can to keep him from talking. It really frustrates me that this could even be considered as “debate” or even “dialogue” by any human being. Debate thrives on be rational, calm, and non-personal. Town hall meetings are none of these things.

And if anyone gets kicked out of these meetings for any reason, it becomes a talking point for Fox News. They say that the representative is “hiding” from his/her constituents. They don’t want it kept civil, because if it is kept civil, the democrats win. If there are any real points made, the democrats win.

Because the truth of the matter is, health care, by all means, should be a right. If one asks themselves that honestly, then the answer is obviously yes. Health care is the reason that humans live past 30 years old. It is extremely vital to our existence. It is something that has been ignored for far too long. As one of the conservative protesters said:

“I see nowhere in the Constitution where health care is a right…. I want to hear it from Obama, I want to hear it from Pelosi, about how this is about ‘We the people.’“

The argument falls flat, obviously, because the constitution is an imperfect document that should not limit our rights, but rather provide as much of a base for our concept of rights as possible. Our Bill of Rights is an amendment to our Constitution, and there is a reason that we can make more amendments. In fact, the ninth amendment protects our rights that were unmentioned in the Bill of Rights.

Other first-world countries have already surpassed our health care in quality and breadth considerably, and have deemed health care as an inalienable right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes health care, and it is a shame to see the United States fall so far behind the precedent that others are setting for us.

*I use this term metaphorically. I’m not a Freudian and I don’t like his unfalsifiable remarks about the human psyche.

August 12, 2009

Maximum Wage In The United States

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:52 pm by fuckyourfavoritedreams

Maximum wage wasn’t a concept I had put too much thought into before I heard Jello Biafra mention it on one of his spoken-word albums. Apparently, he debated about it on national television at one point. On the other hand, any attempt I have made to discuss maximum wage ends up with the other person saying something along the lines of, “Excuse me? This is America*. Maximum wage is communism.” Though I am not sure that I agree with the idea of maximum wage, I greatly dislike the fallacious arguments some use to disparage the idea.

Maximum wage has been implemented in America before. In fact, there was some form of maximum wage in America from 1942 to 1964, because of regulations passed by Franklin Roosevelt. That’s well over twenty years. Regan largely did away with the rest of maximum wage and it has been forgotten about in the last 20 years. According to the NY Times, a salary cap was placed on CEOs in July this year. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the concept of maximum wage, maximum wage and America go hand-in-hand.

Earlier this year, America was appalled by the actions of AIG, a corporation that spent a lot of government money on giving bonuses to their top employees. If a maximum wage law had been in place at the time, AIG would not have been able to spend so frivolously and the American taxpayers would be better off. Interestingly, the common man seems to be both outraged at the concept of AIG’s big bonuses and at the concept of maximum wage.

Does the common man have some sort of idealistic compassion for large corporations? It seems to be un-American to regulate business. To do otherwise would be SOCIALISM**. Ironically, no one seems to be upset about other business regulations– the recent bans on smoking, minimum wage, laws about strikes and unions, etc etc. The average man has no problem letting the government regulating businesses when it benefits the workers in some way. Maximum wage, on the other hand, seems like a sort of punishment on people who have worked their way up the ladder.

Maybe it has more to do with that. Everyone dreams of working their way up the ladder and becoming a big hot-shot CEO. Most people will probably never even get remotely close, but maximum wage threatens their greed within their imaginary world. If they were in that position, none of them would want to have their hard-earned money taken away from them and given up at taxes.

Here there is a discrepancy between what is good for the national economy and what is good for top earners. One must consider which is more important– the person freedom of making over $300,000 per year or the economic freedom of having a well-run economy. It isn’t an easy question, but it is one that must be considered.

Here’s what I know: I will never make that much money. I will never be a CEO, nor will most people. If I were that rich, I would like to think I would have retained the knowledge of the importance of giving. Maximum wage would drive down inflation and put money into our economy that isn’t in a very good place right now. It would be another regulation on how businesses are run and it would be another step towards SOCIALISM.

I dunno.

*This is especially strange, since they have been on internet forums with members from all nationalities.
**Imagine horror movie orchestral hits as that word is said.

I swear I’ll update with something that’s actually in the news later tonight.

August 10, 2009

Ken Ham Tackles the ABC Creation “Museum” Article

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 11:38 pm by fuckyourfavoritedreams

I did not get to go to the Creation “Museum” with SSA, PZ Myers, et al., though as a Kentuckian I feel deeply ashamed that such nonsense is harbored in my state. If it had been any further from my college departure time, I would have made an attempt to be there. I have been following the blogging about it, and even ABC News* did a piece on it.

Of course, Ken Ham is still up in arms about this, acting like the atheists acted horribly in his amusement park sham of a “museum.” Furthermore, he accuses the ABC article of misrepresenting his viewpoints. There are a couple of strange things that he says that I would like to discuss.

We do have replicas of Darwin’s Finches in the exhibit on Natural Selection where we discuss genetics and speciation, not God’s will!!—and we do talk about floating log mats after the Flood, but certainly nothing about “mankind spread from continent by walking across the floating trunks of trees knocked down during the Biblical Flood.”

Not God’s will, huh? That sounds like a weird thing to say for someone from AiG. I understand what he is trying to get across, but he does it very poorly. “Genetics and speciation” makes me laugh, too. If the finches differentiated through genetics over a prolonged period of time, that’s evolution. I’m sure if he were to be confronted about this, he would give the same old “microevolution” tripe, but evolution is evolution and the cognitive dissonance must be massive for him.

The next thing is the “log mats.” How does that sound any less ridiculous? So the logs were all compressed into mats of some sort, and all of the people and animals on the art redistributed by walking across them. They weren’t tree trunks, though. That would be insane. If I have what he believes stated incorrectly, someone please comment and tell me what he actually believes. I’d never heard anything like this before the ABC article and I’m sure his view is equally ridiculous.

Sometimes I wonder if the writer has just heard distorted information from others, has read information too quickly and just jumps to conclusions or just makes it up to try to make the Creation Museum (and those behind it) sound ridiculous!

Just another reminder to always be careful when reading news reports on the printed page or the web!

Holy shit, I’m not Freudian, but I call “projection” on this statement. Distorted information, jumping to conclusions, making up bogus evidence? Does that sound like anybody you know? Yes, you had better be careful when reading news reports– they might just be factual and representative of an empirical reality.

I’m not even sure if Canned Ham realizes how much his floundering around after the whole thing makes him look like the irrational one. He could have benefited, or at least marginalized the damage, had he made any effort to be eloquent and civil. Though, I suppose that is too much to ask for anyone at AiG.

*They originally misrepresented the “offensive shirt” as saying “There is probably no god, so get over it.” I sent them an email asking for a correction, and I’m sure many others did, too. I am very glad they did the honest thing and corrected their piece.

Autism and the Anti-Vax

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:27 am by fuckyourfavoritedreams

For some reason, fear of vaccinations seems to affect a lot of people, even some with otherwise logical belief systems. I guess that on a basic level it is understandable. Shots are scary. They alter our bodies and the average person could not tell you the ingredients in an MMR vaccination. Sometimes there are side-effects. There can be allergic reactions and in rare cases, death. One of the things that vaccinations do NOT cause, however, is autism. I am speaking specifically of autism in this post because it the argument that I have been dealing with most recently on forums.

When I was a child, my mother took me to the doctor for my vaccinations and had what I consider a healthy, though uninformed, anxiety about having me vaccinated. Like a good patient, she talked over these anxieties with my pediatrician, Dr. Bruce. According to my mother (I was way too young to remember), he seemed noticeably perturbed at the notion that the risks could even begin to outweigh the benefits of having a child vaccinated. I was successfully vaccinated and did not develop autism.

A perusal through wikipedia’s pages on autism basically leaves one conclusion: scientists mostly agree that autism is entirely a prenatal pheonomenon– perhaps a combination of tricky genetics and the prenatal environment. It is not, however, a product of postnatal environment. Everything that the anti-vax crowd has claimed at one point as a cause of autism– MMR shots, mercury, etc, is based on shoddy research, the most popular study of which, did not even contain a control set.

Autism is also very tricky because it isn’t just a “disease.” It is a full spectrum of social disorders, very similar to ADHD. There are “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” autism patients. Some aren’t even diagnosed until later in life. There isn’t even a definite line between what is normal and what is considered symptoms of semi-autistic behavior. The lead singer of the Strokes found out that he has Asperger’s Syndrome a few years ago, after successfully living his life for a long time. As physicians become more adept at spotting autistic behavior, the “rate of autism” will appear to rise. That isn’t because more children have the syndrome. It is because more are being diagnosed with it.

So why do some skeptics believe the anti-vax hype? Do they consider the medical industry as something else to be skeptical of? It should be obvious how this differs from the average skepticism of religion. Medicine can be tested with a variable and a control and such experiments can be published in scientific journals. In fact, they often are. Medicine is held up to the rigorous standards of science, whereas religion is not. I am not saying that medical industry always has the consumer as the highest priority over making money, but they are intensely regulated so that medication says what it says it will and nothing more or less. It is very disheartening to see people like Maher spew such nonsense about how “Big Pharma” is going to kill us, while at the same time making a film like Religulous.

If you like reading and thinking about stuff like this, I highly suggest the blog Gullibility Is Bad For You.

August 9, 2009

WorldNutDaily: MEDICAL MURDER

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:36 pm by fuckyourfavoritedreams

You know it’s legit because of the alliteration in the title and the full capitalization, right?

"Credible. Independant. Fearless." Really?

"Credible. Independant. Fearless." Really?

WorldNetDaily is a prime example that there is still a market for fear among the conservative ranks. this article, “MEDICAL MURDER,” says that Obama is saying in his speeches that he will deny health care to anyone over 65 because they aren’t worth the expense. I don’t know where they picked up this sentiment, but it has been repeated all over Fox News as well. It is geared to scare old people into turning against the health care reforms. This leads to some questions.

How do we get people who believe things like this to listen to logic and reason? How does the president get more people behind his health care program if conservatives continue to see everything democrats do as an attack on them?

Talking to people who believe that Obama intends to kill old people seems rather futile. That would obviously be a terrible PR move, and he probably wants to be reelected in 3 more years. Furthermore, he is a compassionate human being with empathy for other people. It is obvious that MEDICALLY MURDERING anyone would be difficult for a rational human with a sense of empathy.

The article says that it would save a lot of money. Obama says it will cost a trillion dollars over the next ten years. Conservatives say that raising taxes to pay for this is a terrible idea and that if we all pay more taxes to help people get health care, socialist dragons will feast on our young and communist flies will lay eggs in our stomachs, etc. They seem to be the ones concerned about how much this is all going to cost. Wouldn’t conservatives be the ones to suggest cutting costs and denying health care to baby boomers?

Whatever, this article won’t convince anybody of anything. It exists so that paranoid conservatives can read it and say “I knew it!” and get back in their bomb shelters until the Obama administration is gone.

While I was on WND, I also stumbled across this image:

“Inspired by Thomas Paine”? If Paine were alive today, he would absolutely hate Glen Beck!

Don’t Believe in God? Don’t Buy a Bus Ad!

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:09 am by fuckyourfavoritedreams

This little image has been the subject of an internet clusterfuck as of late, so it feels befitting for me to make my first blog comments on it. It’s possible the most innocuous comment that I have ever seen. “You are not alone.” It’s a pretty obvious statement, and nothing for anyone to get alarmed over

So, of course, people are alarmed over it.

The DART Board (seriously?) said that the ads weren’t supposed to air in the first place and that the ad was offending people to the point that they were getting off the bus. Confusingly, THAT’S WHERE THE AD WAS!

This sounds like some poor backtracking by the DART Board to make this seem like they somehow weren’t involved. I have no idea why they couldn’t just say that made the decision and later regretted it. That’s stupid, but at least it’s honest.

They are obviously doing what is best for their money– not what is best for their customer or for the ideals of free speech. As a capitalist society, one should expect that but definitely not defend or encourage it. I feel that some of the blame for this clusterfuck is to be placed on the people of Iowa for causing such an uproar that the DART Board had to cover their asses. Luckily, Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers had yet to pay for the ads, so maybe they’ll get out of this with a little disappointment and not an empty wallet.

DART’s contact info is listed on their website, if you would like to comment directly to them about how they are subverting free speech while simultaneously alienating a non-profit organization that offered them money for a service that they never got.

UPDATE: So, of course, when I decide to make a blog post about this affair, DART decided to put the ads back up. They obviously did this so that I would look ridiculous in my very first blog post.

Hello!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:53 am by fuckyourfavoritedreams

Hello. My name is Dylan Griggs. I am 18 years old and I will soon begin my college experience as an aspiring chemistry major at Washington University in St. Louis, where I have a full scholarship. Besides chemistry, I am very interested in juggling, body modification, and folk music.

I am making this blog to talk about atheism.

I have been a atheist since I was 13 or 14 years old. It was only a couple years ago that I began to try to learn as much as I could about the world around me, and the empirical reality around us versus what the majority of people believe to be true. I live in a small KY town of under 30,000 people. Living as a bold “New” atheist isn’t very common or accepted. Nevertheless, my friends slowly began to agree and support me.

I am the clear, thoughtful one of my group of friends. Whenever there is a vocal theist within earshot, they want me to confront them and demolish their arguments. I sometimes do, though I often find it futile. I am making this blog to spread my opinion to people who are more willing to listen. People on the internet are more informed and more likely to be my target audience than people in Paducah, KY.

I’ll try not to copy Pharyngula too much, I promise.

Enclosed is a picture of me and my cat, Sparkplug, in order to make this introduction a little more personal.