Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Solstice is upon us...

Actually, it was on the 21st, but let's not quibble over a few days. But it's also a full moon, so please excuse my cynicism...

National headlines for Melbourne, Australia, Christmas day, 2007...

Christmas road toll climbs to 13
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recalls his own father's road death in a plea for Australians to drive safely as the nation's Christmas holiday road toll climbs to 13.
Woman dies instantly in smash
No charges likely over death of child in car, police
The parents of a two-year-old Perth girl who died after being left in a car in 34-degree heat are not likely to be charged, police have indicated.
Haneef worried for safety in Australia
Former terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef says he needs reassurance from Australian authorities that he and his family would be safe in Australia before he can consider returning to the country.
Christmas spending to hit 10-year high
Christmas spending set to break 10-year record, with Australian shoppers splashing out $36.5 billion.
All they want for Christmas are safety, rain and cuddles
Christian leaders urge people to tackle poverty
Brumby won't rule out spending more on tickets
Victorian Premier John Brumby has not ruled out giving transport ticketing company Kamco more money to deliver Melbourne's new ticketing system dubbed myki.
Stolen guns used to commit more crime: report
Latest figures show about 1500 guns per year are stolen in Australia, and authorities fear many of them will be used to commit more crimes.
Aliens might be watching us on Earth
As astronomers scan the universe for signs of intelligent life, a group of researchers predicts other beings just might be looking at us.
Solomons set to deport Moti
Australian lawyer Julian Moti sacked as Solomon Islands attorney-general and could be deported to face child sex charges in Australia.
Meningitis-death boy farewelled
Family of boy, 8, sent home from two hospitals expresses anger at his funeral.
Qantas 'offers $100k to strike-breakers'
Qantas is offering its former engineers, some made redundant as little as a year ago, jobs as strike breakers with a $100,000 salary for just six months work, a union says.
Wanted man's mum makes Christmas time plea
The mother of a man on NSW's most wanted list makes an emotional plea for her "Johnnie" to make contact, as police warn the 60-year-old murder suspect could be in any state.
Only one in 10 reported sexual assults is punished
Just three per cent of people who believe they are victims of sexual assault find justice in the legal system, shocking new government figures reveal.
The year that was in Victorian politics
Victorians who have forgotten most of the state's political events in 2007 can be forgiven.
16,000 child-porn pics charge
Melbourne man nabbed at airport after allegedly importing images on laptop.
Sharp shock for stroppy slasher
Police use Taser on man who turned violent after refusing to stop urinating on shop window.

Hmmm... We should probably see if we can do better next year...

Happy Soltice everyone....

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Monday, December 24, 2007


Is it golden? Perhaps, but there's a reason. A new FPS...:)

"Soldier of Fortune - Payback" has not been released in Australia, but that hasn't stopped me. The game has been banned here because the violence makes it an over 18 type game and we, in our infinite wisdom, refuse to have a game classification for over 18's. So, if your game requires an older audience, you are not allowed to buy it or sell it in Australia.

But that's ok, I'm not selling it and technically I didn't buy it in Aus. But isn't it amazing what you can achieve with a bit of bandwidth...:)

So how was the game? Well, if you are a practiced FPS player you probably won’t want to bother with this one in single player mode, except perhaps to get used to the weapons and movement. It’s very lineal, only took me two days to complete and that was with a restart half way through so I could get a better weapon selection. I restarted at about 5:00 yesterday afternoon and was finished by 2:30 this morning, with a number of hours off in the middle. I stopped to have dinner and watch “Hogfather” for instance.

It’s a little “arcadey” at times, especially with the ultra hard to kill dude at the end of each level, which is something I found a bit lame, especially for a PC game. That sort of thing is normally reserved for the console but if you’re going to do it, do it properly. At each stage in this one you had to shoot an unarmoured person that just wouldn’t die. Lame as…

Graphically however, it was superb, perhaps even spectacular. It has some of the best texturing work I’ve ever seen, but there are times when you will find a tyre or a shopping trolley hanging in mid-air in the street and no, they don’t make for very good cover.

I’ve only had a quick look around online, but it looks good so far. The couple of maps I’ve played in look to be larger than their single player equivalents, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve caused some serious carnage before passing judgement on the online playability. So there you go, that’s why I’ve been quiet for the last couple of days. I needed to concentrate…:)

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm back...

Well that was interesting. All of a sudden everything started crashing, especially Media Player. An entire night of scanning for various problems didn't reveal any issues, so I decided a re-grind of Windows was in order. I had visions of needing a new video card which would have really annoyed me, but the rebuild seems to have done the job and everything seems ok so far.

As to the jibes about my online gaming exploits, rest assured that I wouldn't bother with fibs, I'd just go quiet. But it'll be a while before I'm back in action in that arena. I now have about 30gig of games to re-install, plus all the updates, mods and add-ons which I'd neglected to save anywhere... Sigh...

One thing I've changed though, I've moved to Office 2007. Now that's a bit different...

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I might be out of action for a bit. There seems to be an issue and I need to rebuild my computer. I'm hoping it's not hardware.......

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

A whale of a time

I don’t get it. When three or more countries are in accord, we’ll quite happily walk into someone else’s country, killing innocent people and stealing valuable resources, but when the whole world is in accord with only one notable exception, we can’t stop a goddamned whale hunt. Odd…

The solution as I see it is simple. The world gets together and agrees on the sea as it has in various meeting rooms, someone provides a couple of ice breakers, we gather just a small portion of the world’s sea going fire power, stock it with food, fuel and marines, find the whaling vessels, board them, take the pirates prisoner, sink the ships, hoist the “jolly roger” and head back to port happy in the knowledge of a job well done.

Then, when they cry foul, as they most assuredly will, tell them to shove it or we won’t give the prisoners back. Someone could make faces and say “ner, nerny ner ner!” too. They deserve it…

But seriously, I’d like to know why it is we allow those we elect to serve in the corridors of power to be so damnably stupid. Or is it that we allow ourselves to be duped into electing such stupid people? I can’t work it out, they seem reasonable enough on the hustings after all. Yet we allow international terrorism on a grand and almost global scale, but only where valuable recourses and commodities are at stake.

Lets face it, we all know that if we really wanted to do some good we could do something like help Africa into the 21st century. Perhaps the U.S. could take on Mugabe as they did Saddam. Now there’s a bloke that could use a lead enema, if ever there was one. But the way I see it, if the killing of a couple of hundred thousand innocent people is the trigger, then Mugabe and Zimbabwe should probably have been first.

But what’s in Zimbabwe that the U.S. could possibly want? Well it has some of the best farmland in the world, no doubt. But if they help to develop that, they’d create themselves a competitor in the world food market, not good for the average U.S. farmer, so strike that one from the list.

Or even at a diplomatic level, perish the thought, simply allowing African nations to burn coal or gas to make electricity would help. Currently, the WHO does not allow this. Oh yes, it’s perfectly ok for “developed” nations to pollute the world’s atmosphere while we smugly trade carbon points, and we can have energy, development, progress and a first class, “first world” civilisation, but Africa is not allowed to I’m afraid.

I don’t know. Sometimes our leaders seem so clever and strong but when you take a closer look, a weaker more lily livered bunch of cowardly and hypocritical sycophants you will not find anywhere else on the face of the planet. That’s not to say that governments and organisations like NATO, The WHO, The United Nation, etc have a monopoly on stupidity, oh no, but it certainly seems to be where the cream of the crop congregates.

There’s so much that could be being done to stop the killing, but at every stage we fail to take the opportunity. It’s probably because we’re way to interested in keeping and protecting our way of life; the partner, the kids, the house, the lawn mower and the family bloody barbeque. We use fossil fuels and guzzle energy at insane rates and rape and raze whole nations at the drop of a hat to protect it all and get more, but do we care? Of course not, so long as the killing and abuse is happening beyond arms length in another country on the other side of the world, why would we?

Personally I’m of the opinion that we should wake up to ourselves and clean up our act, but the kids just bought me a new wiz bang four burner BBQ for chrissy, so that’ll have to wait until next year now…

Thanks to Dikkii for reminding me that sometimes a good “rant” is just the tonic…:)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holy Smoke

Humans like smoke, there’s no denying it. From the production of food to the performance of ceremony, smoke pervades nearly every aspect of our lives. Carbon is produced on a daily basis, that serves no other purpose than to smell good or taste good. In fact, I’m burning incense as I type. Not because it helps me type, but because I like the smell. It’s amazing that we still allow it, what with all the hue and cry about carbon emissions. But carbon based carcinogens are tasty, so don’t expect us to give them up anytime soon.

But given the relationship that humans have had with smoke over the millennia, especially when you consider the flavoursome aspects smoke can bring to a meal, I ask you, is it any wonder that Raleigh decided to roll up a leaf, stick it in his gob, light it and puff on it? I think not! And kudos to the man for doing so!

Yes, I smoke and I enjoy it. The funny thing about smoking though, is that although I enjoy a product that’s perfectly legal and sold in every milk bar and convenience store across this country, I’ve become a pariah in my own society, the modern day equivalent of a leper. I’m relegated to the back alley where I must join my fellow lepers to puff away in blissful denial of the dangers of our actions while we complain vociferously about new legislation that ostracises us even further.

Oh for the halcyon days. You know, there was a time that I could smoke inside a moving train, not just on the uncovered section of the station platform. We even had “smoking” and “non-smoking” carriages. On the old “W” class trams, the bit in the middle that was open to the weather was the smoking section, restaurants had ashtrays on the tables and every bar in every pub had a foot rail and ashtray that ran the full length of the bar and I could smoke with impunity. Bliss…

We had ads too. Who could forget “Join the Escort club” or “Marlborough Country” or “Anyhow, ‘ave a Winfield”, classics all of them. The cricket was sponsored by Benson and Hedges, the sailing by Rothmans while Marlborough took care of the cars. It was a smokers paradise that knew no bounds.

But no longer… Over time, the companies have been legislated out of advertising spaces, the smokers into the dark and uncomfortable places that society sees fit to provide, rather than just make the product itself illegal and be done with it. But that won’t happen because about 70% of the price of a packet of cigarettes is tax. Consequently, the government (any government) wants for me to smoke and for you, dear non-smoker, to suffer mercilessly because of it.

So if you are a non-smoker and happen to be languishing in a “smoking” area (say the uncovered part of a station platform) when I light up, don’t complain. Instead, remember who’s idea it was that I should only be allowed to smoke where you’re waiting for your train and suck it up like a good little princess.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Science of Ology - Pt 1

“Space Opera as theology” or OT III, as they say in the business. It sounds a bit strange, but that’s what L. Ron Hubbard, one of the greatest pulp fiction writers of all time, called it.

At this point, some may take issue. I will extol you however, to put your thoughts of scientology aside for a moment (we’ll get back to that) and see the man for what he was in the early days. Let’s face it, “Battlefield Earth” was one of the greatest classic sci-fi novels of the 20th century and there’s very little denying it. If you’re a sci-fi fan like me though, you’ll also have read much of his contemporaries; John Wyndham, H. Beam Piper, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, E. E. Doc Smith, Phillip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Gerry Pournelle (together or separately), Patrick Tilley, Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Morecock and many more besides. You’ve probably also read some that have succeeded in matching that brilliance since; Ben Bova, Peter F. Hamilton, Gentry Lee, Timothy Zahn, etc, but ol’ Ron, he had it over all of them.

It all started - as the rumour goes - with a conversation with another author. Some say it was Phil, some say it was Bob, but most agree that it was one of that distinguished bunch above that forged the way for Science Fiction. The topic was the making of money and how much a “best seller” helps in that pursuit. As the rumour goes, Ron was of the opinion that although a best seller helped, if you wanted to make real money you needed to start a religion. Just look at the tax benefits! The rumour mill being what it is however, also says that the other party disagreed and money was laid on the table and a bet was made that he couldn’t start a religion and make more money than he could with a best seller.

Whether the rumour is true or not hardly matters. The evidence would suggest that Ron’s idea was sound enough and if the purported $5 bet actually took place, whoever it was lost their money, big time.

And so it was that “Dianetics” was born. A bigger load of clap trap you’ll never read, and I don’t care what you may think of the Bible or the Koran, Dianetics takes the biscuit, with icing. If there was an “Iced Vovo” award for stupidity that takes the biscuit, I’d vote for Dianetics. But as if that wasn’t enough, Dianetics grew and evolved. For those that have read Dawkins “The God Delusion” and can be bothered looking into the history of this, you’ll definitely find evidence of his “memetic evolution” here. Scientology is what Dianetics eventually became, and scientology is what it remains today.

Now it’s time to take a little look at OT III (pure Scientology that incorporates Dianetics) and to have a little poke at what it is these guys believe. The image below is authenticated by the church of Scientology to be in L. Ron Hubbards own hand. Believe it or not, this document is the underpinning of Scientology’s entire theology and is what the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta actually believe. So, meet Xenu:

Data (1) (1)
The head of the Galactic
Confederation (76 planets around
larger stars visible from here)
(founded 95,000,000 yrs ago, very space opera)
solved overpopulation (250 billion
or so per planet) -- 178 billion
average) by mass implanting.
He caused people to be brought to
Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H Bomb
on the principal volcanoes (Incident 2)
and then the Pacific area ones
were taken in boxes to Hawaii
and the Atlantic Area ones to
Las Palmas and there "packaged."
His name was Xenu. He used
renegades. Various misleading
data by means of circuits etc.
were placed in the implants.
When through with his crime Loyal Officers
(to the people) captured him
after 6 years of battle
and put him in an electronic
mountain trap where he still
is. "They" are gone. The place (Confed.)
has since been a desert.

Now you have to admit, that’s a pretty good start for a huge space opera. This is real “George Lucas eat your heart out” stuff if he ever gets rolling with it.

But this is no ordinary story. What he meant by “packaged” is that the soles of those unfortunates that Xenu slaughtered here on Earth, now inhabit us. Body Thetans (BT’s) is what they’re called and nasty is what they are. But not to worry because for a fee ($100,000 or more), that most charitable of organisations, The Church Of Scientology, will help you exorcise them, one at a time (yep, there’s a separate fee for each one and they tell you how many you’ve got).

Is it any wonder then that Tom Cruise jumps around on Oprah’s couch like a fool and giggles incessantly like a raving lunatic the rest of the time. But how does John Travolta manage to stay so calm, cool and collected with all that crap in his head? It’s a conundrum and no mistake.

Now it’s because of all this money and charging that’s involved that the poor buggers no longer enjoy the tax advantages of most religions. When you charge your members to join, then charge them separately at each “level” to be subjected to a peculiar brain washing process, then I guess you can probably expect your government to take a dim view if you don’t pay up on time. And so it was that a ship called “The Enchanter” was purchased (in 1967 I believe) and set sail with Ron on board so he could escape an investigation into his activities by the British authorities. It was also chased at various times by the CIA and the FBI, but they never caught it.

It still exists today though and houses a special group of scientologists called “Sea Org” where you can go to be a slave and learn about scientology all at the same time, but more about that next time…

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

More nuts to Mohammed

Well, it’s happened. The decision has finally been handed down.

The Age didn’t carry anything on the day so I looked further abroad for a different perspective. This is from The Washington Post

LONDON, Nov. 29 -- A Sudanese court on Thursday convicted a British schoolteacher of inciting religious hatred by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad and sentenced her to 15 days in jail.

She’ll serve 10 more days because she’s already been in custody for 5 days. That’s big hearted of them isn’t it? But, so it is that a woman is being punished for letting a group of 7 year olds name a teddy bear, and an educator has been jailed on religious grounds, once again. I feel for the kids because it seems they’ve lost a good teacher, and a caring one at that. Teachers like that are not always easy to find so the travesty is all the greater.

What’s more disturbing about this story though is the crowds that gathered in Khartoum, calling for the death penalty. Well, I said in my original post that it was “twisted”, but to call for the death penalty for the naming of a teddy bear is way beyond “twisted”, it’s completely insane.

But the article continues:

"This is unbelievable, a travesty of justice, a disgrace -- what planet are they on?" said Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a group that advocates greater Muslim involvement in the democratic process.

"Things like this make our differences seem like they are unbridgeable," Bukhari said. "If you don't really know another community, and all you ever hear is these outrageous, alien, unjust things they are doing, you are going to think, 'We've got nothing in common.' "

Mr. Bukhari makes an impassioned plea. It’s a plea for understanding and as amateurish attempt at an argument from ignorance and authority that I think I’ve ever seen. When you think how often you see and hear about travesties like this in the muslim world (or worse if the “criminal” happens to be an adulterer, a woman with a non-muslim love interest, an author or a cartoonist), you soon realise that in strict muslim communities, these are NOT outrageous, alien or unjust things, they are common occurrences and are simply the result of the law being applied.

I won’t be surprised to see an exodus of non-muslim teachers from the Sudan and other muslim countries that employ foreign teachers because of this too. I’d certainly be packing my bags. It will be a shame though and will only serve as a set back to education in those countries, but I doubt that anyone will take any notice. Ignorance takes precedence where religion reigns supreme…

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Here's trouble...

Well, my last post seems to have gotten me into a bit of trouble. That's fair I suppose, it was a crap article and badly worded, so I think I should quantify...

Bigotry. There you go. That's it, there's really nothing more. The problem with that story is that the bigotry sits on both sides of the fence and that's where my article fell down and completely buried itself. Notice how I absolved myself of any responsibility there? It's a bit like the car accident you hear about on the news where "the car tragically left the road and killed the driver", as if it's the car's fault, but no-one ever says anything about the dick-head behind the wheel that was so drunk he had to get help to open the car door in the first place. Sheez...

Anyway, the problem, I think, was in this passage here: The man obviously takes a very short-sighted view and seems to be looking on the wrong side of the fence for the bigots.

"Wrong side of the fence" was a very bad choice of words. "Both sides of the fence" would have been a better choice, although I doubt it would get me out of trouble here.

But as you can see from the example above, I take a fairly harsh view but realistic is how I like to think of it. But to continue the above example, let's say that the pissed idiot left some family behind. Of course, I can't help but think about how very sad it is that they've had to suffer that loss, but my next thoughts are that it's a good thing none of them were in the car with him, that he didn't take out any innocents at the same time and yes, that the roads are now just a little bit safer for the rest of us. That last bit is extremely harsh, but I also like to think that most people think this way. He didn't get me or anyone else, sorry for the family but hey, at least he won't kill anyone else. Very harsh indeed, but that's me.

And so it is with religious bigotry, except that it's much worse. When you bring religion into any argument the stakes are immediately raised because religion has the unfortunate effect of stifling rationality and common sense, we know this and we also know it to be unavoidable. It stifles these things so much in fact, that some are quite prepared to use their own children as weapons in the fight to bring their particular religion more prominence, and whether that fight is violent or subversive, whether it be in a country, a city or a suburb, makes little difference.

The subject of my previous post concerned the building of an Islamic school in a predominantly white, christian area. This time I'll make the race distinction because it makes little enough difference, I think. The local residents however, have complained and protested that they don't want it there. Mostly, as far as I can tell, the objections have been "because it's Islamic" which in Australia, is not what we call a "valid" reason. We are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of race or religion so the law says that the Islamic council can build their school in what passes for Christian heartland in Sydney, if that's what they want to do. As a consequence, a protest has gotten nasty and a criminal act has been perpetrated at the site of the proposed school. And please bear in mind that at this stage, it's still only proposed.

Now, I don't have a problem with the law putting in it's 2c worth, but I do have a problem with the narrow mindedness and complete lack of common sense that everyone seems to be exhibiting concerning this issue. If the locals are turning this nasty and distasteful before it's even built, what are they going to do to the kids walking, riding their bikes, being driven, catching the bus, to and from that school.

Think about it is all I can ask. In a democracy, the majority doesn't have to be right, it just has to be the majority and this this case, I think the majority makes a valid point, just not for the reasons it thinks it does. This majority is obviously so blinkered and bigoted that it makes sense - good common sense - to think seriously about whether or not a school should be built where the kids might suffer insult, and to also consider why any Islamic community would continue to want to build a school there where it's their own kids that might suffer the insult. Would you willingly do that to your kids? I wouldn't.

I also think the pigs heads make it pretty obvious what sort of bigoted idiots we're dealing with here too. I'm of the opinion that they are just the kind that will hurl hurtful insults at an innocent child. Not only that, but they'd do it for no reason other than race or religion and they wouldn't bat an eye at the damage they caused.

My quoting of the Koran was to lend a Christian perspective to the bigotry displayed in the protest. It doesn't really matter whether it's Mohammed or Jesus though, this sort of bigotry should, by now, almost be expected. They share the driving duties on the bus of religious rationalism and as it was for the driver in my earlier analogy, their bus appears to be giving them serious difficulty...

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Now who's telling porkies?

If it wasn't so serious it'd be laughable. More religious inspired madness due to islam from "The Age" but it's closer to home in Sydney this time. Actually, this one's probably more to do with kick backs and local government than it is to do with islam, but maybe I'm just being cynical, you decide.

Two pigs' heads have been rammed on to metal stakes and an Australian flag draped between them on the site of a proposed Islamic school in Sydney's south-west.

That doesn't sound to savoury, does it?

Officers quickly removed the offending items for forensic examination and established a crime scene.

But does it really warrant "forensics" and a "crime scene"? Last I looked, killing pigs wasn't an offence and if they try and make it one, I will protest most vociferously on the grounds that it would be a travesty for bacon and rib lovers everywhere.

But the reasons for this distasteful act become a little clearer as we move through the article:

Earlier this month, a thousand residents protested against it, with some saying the school would damage the area's social fabric.


The local council also received several thousand written objections during the planning approval process.

It seems that despite the protests of thousands of local residents, the council is keeping very quiet about its plans and the land is still “earmarked” for the school. The problem, I think, is that silence from the local council is so often seen as approval so the locals have finally gotten around to being a little more adamant in their protest. It‘s a bit harsh, I’ll admit, but if you ignore the letters and rallies, then you should probably expect trouble. There’s always a few that are willing.

But what really got me about this article was the comment from the Community Relations Commission’s Stepan Kerkyasharian:

The obsessive hatred of the mindless bigots who perpetrated this outrage is evidenced by their total disrespect of the ultimate symbol of our national pride, the Australian flag.

Every Australian Muslim would be offended by such a display, especially one involving the Australian flag.

The man obviously takes a very short-sighted view and seems to be looking on the wrong side of the fence for the bigots.

Of the unbelievers (which includes jews and christians) the Koran has many things to say, here are just few from Saura 2:

Verse 85: “God’s curse be upon the infidels!”
Verse 122: ”We shall let them live awhile, and then shall drag them to the scourge of the fire. Evil shall be their fate.
Verse 190-93: “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you may dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you. God knows, but you do not.

And those are fairly mild by comparison to some, but there you go. God says “Kill ‘em ALL, I know what's best!” Pigs heads sort of pale into insignificance against that sort of rhetoric I think.

And for those that have been following my last couple of posts, you'll be extremely saddened to hear that Ms Gillian Gibbons was formally charged last night, with "inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious belief." Punishments include 6 months prison, 40 lashes or a substantial fine:

"Khartoum north prosecution unit has completed its investigation and has charged the Briton Gillian (Gibbons) under Article 125 of the criminal code," the Sudanese news agency SUNA said, quoting a senior Justice Ministry official.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Double nuts to Mohammed

I had another one up here for a minute or two, but I've recently read this, at "the Age" again. What is it with all the nutbag stories there at the moment? The other one was about a protest over an islamic school in Sydney. Sheez..

Anyway, to the story at hand. You know how I made the assumption in my last post that Ms Gillian Gibbons was probably a pretty good teacher because she obviously had happy, confident students? Well it seems I was right not just about that, but also the circumstances surrounding it. It seems that Ms Gibbons used the teddy as a teaching aid. She'd devised a writing exercise where the kids took the teddy home and then wrote about what they did with it.

But it was young Mohammed that had the idea that they call the teddy bear Mohammed and now the poor kid seems to be a bit bemused and upset by the whole ordeal:

"The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy," the boy said shyly, his voice barely rising above a whisper. "I said Mohammad. I named it after my name," he added.

Just as I thought, kids being kids:

He said he was not thinking of Islam's Prophet when asked to suggest a name, adding most of the class agreed with his choice.

Well it's hardly surprising in an islamic environment that the rest of the kids would agree with his choice, they probably all have family members who are named Mohammed, if they aren't themselves, so where's the problem?

Mohammad said Gibbons was "very nice" and he would be upset if she never came back to teach. He added Gibbons had not discussed religion nor did she mention the Prophet.

"We studied maths and English and spelling," he said, rubbing his mop of short, curly hair.

So there you have it. A perfect lesson in how to remove a good teacher and traumatise the kids she teaches, all in one fell swoop. But kudos to Mohammed's parents for having the guts to come forward and protest.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nuts to Mohammed!

Either I have to stop reading "The Age", or religion has to go...

Just to show I'm not biased in my reporting of religious ridiculousness, how could you be, it's all ridiculous, here's one fresh from the Sudan:

A British primary school teacher has been arrested in Sudan, accused of insulting Islam's Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohammed, her school said yesterday.

Please note here that she did not name the teddy bear, yet she has ended up in jail.

What's happened here is that a teddy bear has turned up and being the caring teacher that she is she decided to let the kids have some fun and give it a name. Kids being kids, have all got together and decided that their favourite name is Mohammed, so that's what they'd like to name it. At this point, it's all good with lots of kids with big smiles which is just what any teacher worth her salt likes to see, the perfect result for the exercise at hand.

The next evening Ms. Gibbons was rudely interrupted by the police when she was arrested for having been accused of; "insulting the Prophet Mohammad". The media centre goes on to explain: It said charges were being prepared "under article 125 of the criminal law" which covers insults against faith and religion. You mean it hides the embarrassment you feel at believing in a ridiculously outdated, violent, bigoted, intolerant and lunatic concept such as islam, which is the only reason I can see for such laws existing.

Ms. Gibbons however, was only arrested because all of those kids went home happy and confident enough to tell their parents all about the fun they'd had that day. It was the parents that complained to the ministry and forced her to be arrested. Now think about that for a second and you'll see how twisted it really is.

Religion starts in the home. It was those same parents that took those same kids to the mosque and indoctrinated them with the name of Mohammed. It was those same parents that taught those same kids to revere the name of Mohammed. It was those same parents that taught those same kids that Mohammed is a hero and his life is the model on which you should build your own life. It is those same parents who will probably call their first born male child, Mohammed. Is it any wonder then that when a teacher says "what will we name this little teddy bear", that every kid in the class says "MOHAMMED!"

It's the parents that deserve the lashings here, not the teacher.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Nuts anyone?

From "The Age" 26/11/2007:

TONY Blair has sparked controversy by claiming that religious people who speak about their faith are viewed by society as "nutters".

Well, that's as it should be, so what's the problem?

The former prime minister's comments came as he admitted for the first time that his faith was "hugely important" in influencing his decisions...

Oh I see, he's embarrassed about it. Well, that's as it should be too. But it seems the poor boy doesn't want to be embarrassed about it...

Mr Blair complained that he had been unable to follow the example of US politicians, such as President George Bush...

Hang about! I thought he did a pretty good job of following Georgey boy around while he was ensconced at No. 10, at least he seemed to.

...in being open about his faith because people in Britain regard religion with suspicion.

Oh I see, he wants to be able to use his office to evangelise, or am I reading to much into this?

Peter Mandelson, one of Mr Blair's confidants, said the former premier "takes a Bible with him wherever he goes" and reads it last thing at night.

There you go. The man's a complete nutbag, so that pretty much explains it. He would like to evangelise, is using his current celebrity to do so, albeit in a circumspect manner and he would like to have been able to use his previous office to do the same thing, or so it would seem. Shame on you Mr. Blair and big well done to the British for having a general attitude toward religion that precluded him from doing so.

But the article continues:

His comments.....have been welcomed by leading church figures, who have warned of the rise of secularism pushing religion to the margins of society.

If that's true (I'm not a Brit, my mum is so I take an interest), another well done to the British people, please keep up the good work and set us colonials a good example. But I don't see any need for warning here, do you? A warning generally means there's some kind of danger, if lower crime rates, less teen pregnancy, less transmission of STD's, etc is the result (see here), then what's the problem? Well there's more:

The Most Reverend John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, said: "Mr Blair's comments highlight the need for greater recognition to be given to the role faith has played in shaping our country. Those secularists who would dismiss that faith as nothing more than a private affair are profoundly mistaken in their understanding of faith."

Give me a break. A greater need to highlight some completely sordid history of bigotry, state sanctioned violence, witch hunts, heretical crimes and the various torturous pass times of some of the "greatest" popes and kings? I don't think so. And I hate to have to remind the old boy but we don't so much regard it as a "private affair" as a complete lunacy.

Now I'm as reasonable as the next man and I'm quite happy to admit that when I became an apostate I felt just a little embarrassed at having been duped all those years, not mention a little annoyed at all the wasted time, effort and money, so I can understand Tony's dilemma. But let me reassure him, and any other bishops or clergymen that may read this, that the secularist community will welcome you without so much as a hint of scorn, there really is no need to be embarrassed at all. I can say from personal experience that there is only one group that will ridicule and insult you for your decision and it will include but will not be exclusive to, the congregation of the church you once attended.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bennelong time...

Since the incumbent Prime Minister has lost his seat in an election (see what I did? Damn I'm funny...). Nearly 80 years they said, so I thought I'd do a little digging and see if I could find the history and lo and behold, I learned something new.

The last time it happened was in 1929. The Prime Minister was Bruce, Stanley Melbourne, Viscount of Melbourne and he lived from 1883 - 1967. He was Australia's eighth Prime Minister, a decorated war hero and came to be Prime Minister in 1923, our second youngest at the age of 40.

It happened because after the 1922 election, Hughes couldn't form a majority and the Country Party had refused, yet again, to form a coalition so Hughes recommended Bruce for the job. Bruce was a shrewd politician and managed to concede 5 of the 11 portfolios to Sir Eagle Page who was then quite happy to see the merit of a coalition between the National Party (currently called the "Liberal Party") and the Country Party (later to become the "National Party"). So it was that the first priority of Bruce's incumbency was maintaining the coalition.

His entire incumbency was plagued by industrial relations issues though. He wanted to build a federal system of arbitration and he didn't like unions at all, so much so that he applied to have a few of them decommissioned. He had so much trouble in this area that the Nationalist premiers (his own party) got together in 1928 and agreed to "insist on the Commonwealth vacating the field of arbitration." His solution was a complete back flip and a bill to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which upset quite a few within his party so he offered to stand aside for Latham. Latham insisted that the bill go forward but the damage was done and on October 22 the following year (1929), Bruce ceased to be Prime Minister because he lost his seat.

So there you go Johnny. You should have looked a little further back, past Menzies which is obviously where you got stuck, and learnt a little about your own party's history. It looks to me like there's almost a correlation between draconian industrial relations policies and the current incumbent losing his seat.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Election Time

And I’m a bit annoyed about it too. Dikkii beat me to it with an excellent round up, so if you’re interested in Australian politics, part1 is here and part 2 is here and they’re well worth the read. But I’m gonna have my say anyway, despite that he’s done it better already! There’s one thing he didn’t mention for the international visitors though and that is our major parties orientations. In this country, “Liberal” means “Conservative” while “Labor” means “Socialist (almost…)”. So our Liberal party is the equivalent of the Tories or Republicans while Labor is the Labour or Democrat equivalent.

So, we are about to have an election in this country and if there’s one thing that really annoys me, it’s politicians blathering on about how good they are. Seriously guys, your professional lives are on the public record, we know it isn’t true!

But the hustings are a marvellous place. On any given day throughout the election proceedings you will be regaled with tails of woe and tails of joy. Generally though, it’s tails of woe which revolve around one of two things depending on who you are; the damage the current incumbent has done over the past umpteen years or the damage the opposition will do, should they gain a majority. I’m sure that anyone reading this, anywhere in the democratic world, is familiar with the story.

So for the past six weeks or so we’ve had to endure the likes of Howard, Rudd, Brown, Costello, Gillard, Abbot, Swan, etc, telling us all about how good they are and how bad their respective counterparts are. It’s a game of “tit-for-tat”; “We’ve done this (good) and they’ll do that (bad)” or “They’ve done this (bad) but we’ll do that (good)”. More often than not, it’s reminiscent of the school yard. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just have a farting competition and decide it that way. I reckon the result would probably be the same. Oh yeah I forgot, methane’s a green house gas...

So what are the issues? Well it doesn’t really matter where I live. I’m in the seat of Lalor (pronounced Lawler, for all you philistines out there) which is Labor heartland and Julia Gillard (bless her little cotton socks) will probably be returned with an even bigger margin than last time, if that’s possible, and I’ll be helping to make that happen. I also harbour a secret hope that she’ll become our first woman Prime Minister, but I think I’ll have to wait a little while now that Rudd’s got a strangle hold on the party, we’ll see. That said however, there are a couple of things I’ll touch on and “Workchoices” gets top billing.

Workchoices is an insipid policy that must be relegated to the dustbin in all possible haste. I’ve met many a worker at my local that has lost penalty rates and/or overtime and is now finding it difficult. Some have even stopped attending the local in favour of making the mortgage payment and some have lost their homes. Of course, the statistic those guys fall under is the “interest rate rise” statistic but make no mistake, in at least two cases I know of, interest rates meant nothing compared to the night shift penalties. As an example, my current penalty is 30% (I do 12 hour shifts, 24x365 which means I don’t get public holidays and I work 2 out of 5 weekends) but I could lose that at any moment should my employer decide to risk the fairness test, which they can’t afford to do so I’m pretty safe. But that’s a whole one third of my wage and if I lose that, I lose my house.

Education. Why the hell we don’t have a national standard is beyond me. I had a little email confrontation with Ms. Bishop (who has been very quiet during this campaign) not so long ago and she didn’t want to go there. That seriously disappointed me seeing as how she’d just waded into the debate with about $110million worth of funding. 25% of that funding went to the private sector too, which I happen to think is an absolute disgrace. Organisations run for profit should not be entitled to my tax dollars, especially when so much work is needed in the public sector.

But come Saturday evening, I think there’s going to be a major reallocation of seating arrangements in both houses (see Dikkii’s post for an excellent explanation of our parliamentary system). Hopefully the senate will end up with a Labor majority by preference of the Greens and the odd independent. The Labor party doesn’t allow it’s members to cross the floor and expels those that do but we need that ability, especially in the senate. I’m hoping that Family First and the Christian Democratic Party get what they deserve which is nothing, and I also hope to see the end of Pauline as a politician. She makes a much better celebrity I think and besides, she dances pretty well for an old tart.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Damn! And here was I all geared up to play some Call of Duty that's COD4, which is all new and better than good, and Sean goes and tags me. Oh well...

To the rules:

  1. Describe my earliest memory where the memory is clear, and where "clear" means I can depict at least three details.
  2. Give an estimate of my age at the time.
  3. Tag five other bloggers with this meme.
My earliest memory is getting told off for getting back in the pool after mum had gotten me ready to go out.

It was a canvas wading pool, set up under the clothesline and the clothesline had an old canvas tarp draped over it to keep the sun off the pool, or more to the point, off the kids that were in it. Mum dragged me out, gave me a right royal bollicking, got me dressed, again, then bundled me into our red and white FC Holden to go wherever it was we went. I was about 2 at the time.

I tag: Dikkii, Psychoatheist, Mister Jebs Blog (Tina), The Honest Doubter & Tomsheepandgoats

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ATB 2007

As I rode my bike today it occurred to me that I'd been remiss in mentioning this year's Around The Bay In A Day.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is a charity event for the Smith Family and you can do the 50km (31 miles), 100km (62 miles), the "Classic" 210km (130 miles) or the "Legends" 250km (155 miles), taking in the scenery around Melbourne, Australia's beautiful bay. The city is the starting point and you ride down one side of the bay or the other, to either Queenscliff or Sorento, catch the ferry across to the other side, then ride back to the city. We do the 210km and it takes about 8 hours.

Anyway, here's the crew (I'm second from the left in the front row). We're "Team INVESCO" because the company my mate works for, pays our entry and provides the gear we're all wearing and we get ourselves sponsored for the Smith family. We have to raise $250, so go here if you want to donate to my cause (my jersey number was 4755). Anyway, that photo was taken at about 5:30am, just before we embarked on our journey. No, I didn't forget my helmet this year, so we got there in time to be included in the team photo.

This journey can be a journey in more ways than one. Just because the Tour de France has a stage this distance almost every day, doesn't mean that this distance isn't totally gruelling for average cyclists like most of us.

We started out fresh and chirpy and made good time down to the Bridge, which is one of the really groovy things about this ride. It's the only time you get to ride a bicycle over the West Gate Bridge, so it's best to make the most of it. It's also an easy climb with a fantastic descent that just begs to be used for a coasting race.

The most amazing thing about the bridge this year was not the fact that I won the coasting race down the other side, that was to be expected because I've been working on my technique (I can lay on the cross bar without losing control now), no, it was the one legged guy we caught up to about half way up. He wasn't wearing a prosthetic either, just peddling away with one leg. How amazing is that? He made it around no worries too apparently, despite the heat. It doesn't surprise me though given the size of the calf muscle he was sporting. Methinks he's done it before.

Anyway, It was a fantastic morning and we had a fun ride down to Geelong. We weren't late so we stuck with the bunch, took our time and chatted with whoever we found ourselves riding with. A quick relief break at Altona and then on to Little River where I had to stop for a smoke. A man can only go for so long on caffeine alone after all. Then it was on to Geelong where I had to wait for my 15 year old niece who was with us this year. We had a nice long break there where we all topped up with some energy food (I use "Goo" with caffeine, or preferably 2x caffeine. I recommend the "Espresso Love" flavour) and then it was on to Queenscliff.

The day had started to warm up by this stage and my niece began having difficulty. She was carrying a knee injury and about halfway between Geelong and Queenscliff took avail of the "sag wagon" to get a ride back to Geelong and get picked up by her mum. Next year perhaps.

We eventually made it to Queenscliff where we stopped for a quick lunch and to wait for the ferry. It wasn't long before we were on it though (as you can see) and an hour or so later we arrived in Sorento .

Now Sorento's a lovely place, I know, I've spent many a holiday down there. But I have to tell you that the water is complete shite! It's very heavy water as it is so it has that stale taste anyway, but do they have to chlorinate the absolute crap out of it? I'm glad I had some Gatoraid to add to it to make it bearable.

After stopping at Dromana to replace the plain water we were carrying (along with every body else), we made it up Balcombe Hill, over the rolling hills to Mt. Eliza and down Oliver's Hill into Frankston. We'd been separated by a set of lights, so my two compardres were waiting for me in Frankston.

There we had a quick smoke then continued on to Mornington where I had to stop and fix a puncture because some fool had scattered drawing pins on the road. Once that was done it was onto Beach Road for the last hour home.

Now bear in mind that I'd been on the bike for 7 hours already and it was 31 degrees Celsius (88F). So it was at this point that the rest of my body really started to protest, along with my legs; they'd been at it since we climbed the hill. But this is what I meant earlier about it being a journey in more ways than one. This last hour is a journey of discovery for yourself. You know there's a sag wagon that'll happily take you home, and you know that it hurts. You also know that it won't kill you if you keep going and that the whole point of doing this thing is to do it all.

But I eventually rolled into town at about 5:00pm. We completed our 210km in about 8.5 hours, time on the bike. For pictures of me in action, go here...

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Affiliations

Join the best atheist themed blogroll!
There are two new affiliations you may notice on this page. Firstly, I've been accepted by Mojoey and have been added to the Atheist Blogroll. If you have an atheist/agnostic oriented blog and should want to get your name on there, click the image or the link and away you go...:)

image You may also notice a big red "A". That's for The Out Campaign. Basically it's a call for atheists to "come out of the closet", as it were. It's a Dawkins initiative and he maintains a blogroll. Once again, if you're blog is of that ilk, please join by clicking the link or image. Have a poke around while you're at it, it's all good...:)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I don't know!

Is it really such a difficult thing to say? I say it all the time. I have an issue with believing that something is true if I have no verifiable evidence on which to base that belief. Somehow it just doesn’t sit well with me. I guess I have a fear of being called gullible or something, but it seems to me that believing or saying that something is true just because someone else said so, is how innocent people get themselves into trouble.

But this need for evidence I have burns especially bright for any theory or hypotheses that seeks to explain my existence or to provide a reason for it, and there are two things that try to do this. One is an hypotheses, one is a theory. As you can see, they are very different things.

The hypotheses is God. In this hypotheses, it is postulated that a thinking, caring God of some kind is the ultimate creator, who created the universe and everything in it, as it is, in all it’s complexity. This hypotheses has enjoyed a very long and sordid history and at times has included such claims and ideas as the sun revolving around the earth, the planets being ordered in crystal spheres, that a vacuum cannot exist because God fills every space, and many others besides. Many of these ideas are ridiculed today by even the most ardent followers of the God hypotheses, and that is as it should be. Discoveries have been made after all, that leave no doubt that some of those claims have absolutely no grounding in any evidentiary fact, so continuing to believe them to be true, now that we can freely observe that they are not, is no longer an option.

The God hypotheses however, still enjoys it’s extremes; from those who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, to those who believe that the geological time scale of billions of years only helps to show God’s majesty and wonder. It also enjoys a vociferous movement formed from both extremes that believe that the complexity we find in the cosmos, on earth and in particular in biology, proves the existence of a creator or designer beyond doubt. And of course, there are some followers of the God hypotheses, few though they be, that disagree with this idea. In this respect it is just like any other form of academia.

But no matter which position is taken on God, this hypotheses tries to explain the reason for my existence in terms of me having a spirit or soul that has an eternal existence after the death of my physical body, spent in one of two places, rejoicing or suffering, depending on the choices I make during this life. It even goes so far as to call me unworthy, which is a question I find interesting. How do I attain something I’m unworthy of? Oh I see, through Jesus...

Anyway, I call this one an hypotheses because there is very little, if any evidence to support it. The bigger part of the body of evidence that exists for this hypotheses consists of a collection of very old books called “The Bible”. The individual books themselves were written at various times throughout history, with the earliest dating to around 650 - 635bce, the latest to about 96 - 120ce and they contain very little evidence that’s actually testable or verifiable. As a consequence of that lack (and my being unworthy), I find it very difficult to believe that this hypotheses has any merit at all.

The theory I spoke of is this thing called The Theory of Evolution. It doesn’t seek to explain exactly what might happen (or not) after our physical bodies cease to function as living, breathing, cognisant entities. It doesn’t even seek to explain about how life actually got kick started in the very first instance, but it does seek to explain, using a process called “Natural Selection”, how life came to be how it is today and why we are the way we are.

Basically, the theory of evolution says that anything can happen; that is that genetic mutation occurs in a random manner. Some mutations are good and aid an organism in survival, others are bad and do not. Natural selection ensures that only the good or workable mutations survive by ensuring that the bad ones die. It’s a very simple and elegant process, if seeming to be a little cruel.

That doesn’t mean to say that things don’t go wrong. In fact if things didn’t go wrong, evolution probably wouldn’t occur very often. It’s things like the introduction of a new competitor for a preferred food source, the introduction of a new predator, population pressure, etc, that cause evolution. When an organism senses pressure to adapt or die, it generally adapts. Syphilis is a good example. What, to a native American was a childhood disease consisting of a mild and fairly short lived skin irritation, became a deadly STD in Europe within a decade or two of Columbus bringing it back. That happened simply because syphilis could not survive on the surface of the skin in the European climate. So what did it do? It adapted and evolved so that it could survive in warmer, darker and damper areas of the body. Natural selection then ensured that in Europe at least, the skin infection version of the disease died out. It’s still the same organism though. So close to the original in fact, that if you’ve had the skin infection, you will be immune to the STD.

We know all this because scientists have applied some imagination and a lot of thought to the matter and verifiable evidence has been provided that proves the claim. The entire process of evolution, from the very beginning until now can also be easily explained in these terms.

So here we have a theory. It is a theory because it seeks to explain itself by providing tangible evidence. I don’t need to make any gargantuan leaps of faith and simply believe it because Charles Darwin or Richard Dawkins said so. No, I can take their claims and test them. I can go out in the field and dig up the remains of a primitive life form then look at it’s modern counterpart and see with my own eyes what changes have occurred over time. I can see, if I’m inclined to look, that the complexity of life I see around me came about quite naturally and by necessity. In short, I can satisfy myself that what we have here is a workable solution and a theory that has merit. Some may ask; “Don’t you think it’s a little unrealistic that all this has come about by chance?” to which I will answer “Yes, indeed I do.” There is no chance at all involved with evolution. You either make the right decision or you die, there is no middle ground and it is no accident that you live or die by your decision.

Another thing about this theory is that it makes no allusions to anything other than the physical world in which we live. What happens after our bodies cease to function is that we cease to be as individuals, and our bodies become fertiliser that helps nourish the next generation. So it seems that our sole purpose for being here and being as we are, is to procreate. Personally, I happen to think that the continuance of the species is a rather noble cause. Good enough to die for even… Eventually.

The very best thing about this theory however, is that it's a theory. It’s a theory that belongs to the scientific world, which of course is why it tries to explain the world in scientific terms. But being a theory means that it might also be completely wrong. That is as it should be, simply because it’s a theory. But in order to prove a theory as untenable, you need to have another, more tenable theory to replace it. As yet, no such theory exists.

Those that say that the God hypotheses is the real alternative, I think, are mistaken. God to me is a philosophical position, and to try and use a philosophical position to explain the world in scientific terms is pure folly.

Theology, which some might call the science of the God hypotheses, pretty much boils down to a human analysis of various stories, which in turn were written by humans, using no particular formula for that analysis. In these stories things often happen that seem highly improbable (and largely impossible) when the laws of physics are applied, yet we are extolled to “believe” that they are true. The words themselves are all that’s offered as proof, so how can I believe them when the very words themselves beggar belief?

There’s one other thing that really bugs me about the God hypotheses. There’s a book to tell you all about it, yet it seems that almost every single sentence in it needs interpretation. Theologians, preachers and laymen alike will quite often read you a passage of perfectly good English, only to tell you “Now what that really means is this...” and go on to say something completely different. It’s baffling. It seems to me sometimes that what christian theology really seeks to ask is this: “What if all the words that are written in the bible actually mean something else entirely?”

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Irony Of It All...

Alright, I'm back! And I was having such a lovely break from it all. It's all the fault of those so called Witnesses! This time they did more than just insult my intelligence, as religions in general are want to do. I'm used to that and it holds no surprise for me. No, this time they've also offended my sensibilities and outraged what scant intellect I have, which being as scant as it is, is not an easy thing to do. There will be no prisoners this time, and definitely no cake or bikkies when they come back for the promised cuppa, of that you can be assured!

What did they do to me, these dastardly practitioners and purveyors of woo? Well, some may remember the rant I posted as a birthday present to myself earlier this year. I complained at the time that the buggers never seem to come back after one of our little chats but I must stand corrected, apologise and take back everything I said on that score because earlier today, I answered the door to none other than the very same lady who was here my birthday last.

Today however, the conversation took a slightly different turn. She had another woman with her, her husband was nowhere to be seen, and this lady took a particularly haughty tone. But the tone of our conversation is not the reason for my chagrin. As I said, I'm used to that from your more religious folk (having been a particularly obnoxious one myself, I'm sure), nor is it the subject of today's missive. No, today's missive concerns a particular tract that was handed to me, which I reached for with trepidation, lest it be exactly what I thought it to be.

The picture on the little book she held up is awe inspiring. It's that wonderful Hubble image of the gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula (referred to sometimes as "The Pillars Of Creation") giving birth to stars. Spectacular stuff indeed. But then I saw the title and the way it was laid out:

"Is There a
Who cares about you?"

"EEK!" I thought. "Intelligent Design! And on my very doorstep! AAAaaarrrrggggghhhhh!!!" It was a near thing, I freely admit, but I managed to hold my composure and didn't run screaming from the scene, though I was sorely tempted to do so. No, despite the fact that they came in hard this time, firing questions and offering some of the best religious indignation I think I've ever seen in response to answers, I managed with polite indifference to refuse to entertain any more conversation concerning "ultimate truths", or that "fulfilled prophesy proves the bible correct" (that's the Charles Taze Russell version of the bible, not the original), and then invited them back for a cuppa and a chat in a week or so, once I've had a chance to review their little book.

So off to my office I went where I opened the book to an explanation of what an artist meant by the title of his painting, which of course by all accounts is nothing like the meaning the artist himself actually attached to it - Paul Gauguin "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?". After this though, we get to the inevitable quotes. We'll see if you can guess who this one belongs to. The clue is that as usual, it's out of context because they've conveniently reworded it and neglected to print the rest of it: "The man who regards his life as meaningless is not only unhappy but unfit for life." That's just way to easy. But then there's some stuff from psychologist Prof. Viktor Frankl, who during his stay in various concentration camps, Auschwitz included, extensively studied human suffering and how people manage to deal with it and survive it. He developed Existential Analysis and Logotherapy as a result of those studies and concluded that "meaninglessness can only be overcome by creating one's own values and meanings" which on the face of it, does not appear to have much at all to do with any god or creator. He was also fond of that previous quote BTW, the full and correct version, not the Charles Taze Russell version.

Anyway, once I felt that my affronted sensibilities had had sufficient time to cool and I had prepared myself for more of the same, I turned the page and found that tired old canard, the argument from irreducible complexity. There was no time for my sensibilities to be affronted this time, my scant yet feisty intellect quickly took over. "The universe is sooooo big and sooooo complex, there's no way that a chance explosion could have created all this out of nothing." I grieve for the current state of our education system when I meet people who can believe this drivel. It saddens me deeply.

Despite my grief however, the irony of my situation precludes my being to upset. Happily I've only just finished reading the chapter and researching the links in Richard Dawkins excellent book "The God Delusion", that deals with this particular argument and I am now quite familiar with it and it's stupidity.

So, for those creationists and other proponents of ID out there that still don't get it, here are just a few things for you to consider:

1. The premise of your argument is this: "Complexity REQUIRES design": Organisms that are complex enough that we cannot conceive how their individual parts evolved separately to form the whole - Where we cannot find intermediary steps that show a clear path of evolution - implies that the whole was created together and therefore, this MUST imply the intervention of an intelligent designer.

I'd contend that I could just as easily say "See? It must be magic" and be just as correct. But this is what I like to call a re-entrant conundrum. It means that the designer has to be complex enough to design the complexity which REQUIRES that he/she/it must also have been designed, which in turn requires the intervention of a designer, ad infinitum. As you can see, it isn't long before we observe the effect such as in a hall of mirrors, with creators stretching off in all directions, each into infinity. The presumption of an ultimate designer is an impossible and indefensible position and simply put, this is not a workable solution. Please see natural selection for something that actually works.

2. That the universe was created out of nothing by "the big bang" must be wrong. How can you create a universe out of nothing?

Well I know that I can't... But as we know, attempting to disprove a theory is not an issue. It is in fact a basic principle and a requirement of the scientific method, if the method is applied correctly. But in doing so, please try and understand at least some of the basic tenets of the theory you are trying to disprove or in this case, ridicule. Check the link above for a simple explanation of the theory that we call, erroneously I might add, "The Big Bang". Almost as soon as you begin reading you will discover that no one ever said anything about the universe being created out of nothing.

3. Science has no idea what went before "the big bang" or what exists outside the universe.

Correct! And as yet, we have no way of knowing, so what's the big deal? It seems to me that it's just to difficult for some people to say "I don't know". Besides, considering that we can only exist inside this universe, such as it is, it's largely irrelevant. But that's where pseudo-sciences like creationism and intelligent design really come into their own. Anything that seems sufficiently complex and which as yet has no provable or demonstrable explanation - or anything that is largely irrelevant - is where the god of creation, or more properly put, "the God of the gaps" does His best and only work.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Various Chariots of God

Busy, busy, busy. What with working 9 – 5 (I don’t know how you non-shift worker types handle the daily grind, it’s ridiculous) and trying to get through a bit of Sam Harris and the tangents that’s led me on, time for writing has been at a premium. Nonetheless, I think it’s time I penned a missive concerning one of my favourite hypocrisies concerning modern religion, especially where your more fundamental believer is concerned.

You see, the books that make up the collection that include the Torah, Talmud, Bible and Koran seem to contain many references that could easily be construed to be close encounters of one kind or another. Well, especially if you’re into that sort of thing, but more about that later. First I need to say that personally, I put UFOs and ET firmly in the same basket as God, which is to say that I’ll believe it when I see some firm and testable evidence. Unlike my attitude toward God however, I am at least prepared to admit that there’s enough evidence at this point to suggest that it is at least possible, if not as yet probable, that we are not alone in space.

That said - as it needed to be - I found some “stuff” by way of history that I thought you might find interesting. I was poking around at SETI and got sidetracked by this article by Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer there, that speaks about the theoretical number of planets we might find in our galaxy. Here’s another one that talks about a possible “earth like” planet that’s recently been discovered. It got me to wondering just how far back the whole UFO/alien thing goes and why the bible itself might seem to contain a few tales about such things.

Well, it seems that it goes back quite a ways indeed. Here are some images that have no words to accompany them so really, we can’t be sure. I think you’ll agree however, that some of them do bear an uncanny resemblance to what we would call “aliens” and/or “UFOs” today:

Here’s an image that dates back to about 10,000BCE. It hails from Val Camonica in Italy and is a rather amazing image. They could be wearing some sort of costume and carrying some kind of ceremonial or practical implements, as yet unidentified. Some might say however, that they look a bit like ET, which explains nicely why the implements reman unidentified, but little else.

Then there’s this one from Tassiliin in the Sahara, North Africa which dates to about 6,000BCE. This one’s just freaky! It may be ET or it may be a costume of some kind, who’s to say, but the classic disc in the upper right might just make you wonder.

From my neck of the woods (Aus.) we have the Wandjina petroglyphs from the Kimberly. These lads date to about 5,000BCE.

This interesting looking chap was found in Kiev and dates back to about 4,000BCE.

There are many more than just these, of course. It’s unfortunate that the sites that have the most images seem to be concerned more with conspiracies and what have you, but that seems to be difficult to escape when you go looking for “ufo history” or “ancient ufo”. Nonetheless, drawings and statues like these are found all over the world and date to all eras and as we know, rumours and stories continue to persist today.

Is it any wonder then that there may also be stories of such things, as there are images, that have come to us through the folk law of ancient cultures? Given that the phenomena of the humble UFO could possibly be as old as man himself, I don’t think so. It was after all, the ancient stories, artwork and monuments that led Erich von Däniken to draw the conclusions that he did, erroneously or not.

But then there’s some of the distinctly christian art:

We’ll start with this one by Flemish artist Aert De Gelder in 1710. A classic disc beaming light down on John the Baptist and Jesus. “Beam me up Scotty!” Hehe…:)

Here’s a fifteenth century painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494). Note the detail in the UFO, port holes and everything. One might wonder why so much time was spent on such a small feature, but there it is, plain to see.

This one’s my favourite though. "Glorification of the Eucharist" was painted by Bonaventura Salimbeni to commemorate the Christian Jubilee in 1600 but it does not appear to contain a UFO. It contains, of all things, the humble Sputnik, albeit with only two antennae. Now correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m sure that Sputnik wasn’t launched until Oct. 4 1957. Why then are Jesus and God respectively, each holding one of it’s antennae back in 1600? It’s a conundrum and no mistake.

But, and there’s always one of them, I think it’s an established fact that your more fundamental Christian is not particularly enamoured with the idea that we may not be the only intelligent and sentient beings in the universe. We are after all, supposed to be the pinnacle of God’s creation and the only one like it. “Unique in all creation”, as they say. I find this notion to be quite odd, especially when we begin to read the bible.

We’ll take a little look at Ezekiel here, just as an example:

1:4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north - an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal

1:16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.

This chapter has an example of just about everything we’ve invented names for today; lenticular clouds, spinning lights, ring lights, classic “flying saucers” zooming around, etc. It seems a bit weird to me now, but there was I time I’d read this and see it all as evidence of God’s power and all round mightiness. Now I find I’m turning the page in anticipation of a description of the resulting crop circle, which viewed from the vantage of that hill over there, bears an uncanny resemblance to King Jehoiachin, alas…

But as I said earlier, fundamental Christians do not tend to believe that ET is a possibility. There’s no room for it, you see. Once every spare nook and cranny is filled with Jesus, there’s just not enough space left for anything else, not even “common” sense, or so it seems. Even so, it does seem a tad hypocritical to me to ridicule someone else’s belief in ET while at the same time subscribing to a book that has no less than 362 descriptions of what in today’s language would be nothing more than first, second or third hand reports of UFO sightings and rather dubious ones at that.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fact Becomes Myth?

Every culture not only has a creation story of some kind, but they also share a myth or legend that concerns a great flood. Everywhere from the ancient stories of Scandinavia, through Egypt and Mesopotamia, China, Australia, North America, South America etc has one. Basically, name a place and you’ll find a similar legend. All these legends have another commonality in that at least one human being was somehow spared and managed to repopulate the race somehow. They all speak of purification of one kind or another and in every case it was caused by some god or gods, and it was these gods that saw the righteousness of certain individuals and saved them. Usually by getting someone to build a boat of some kind. Or, in the case of one story from China a couple just happened to find a canoe and managed to paddle around until they bumped into a mountain. Now how lucky’s that? The only real point around which some differ is that a few provide that a great deluge (an extended period of rainfall) was the cause, while most tend to lean towards the oceans rising or vast volumes of water coming out of nowhere. I think there is a good reason for that and that an historical case can be made.

Despite what some may think, the old testament as we know it is a reasonably good historical reference where ancient history is concerned, so using the old testament as an historical record rather than a spiritual one, science can prove that there’s absolutely no geological record to support that there was a great flood as written in the story of Noah. This is where we run into a bit of a problem, I think.

The general consensus is that there’s about 4000 years of human history tied up in the old testament one way or another. That means that Noah existed only about 2000BC. The problem I have with this is that we can only trace Yahweh back about 5700 years, which actually places Noah at about 1700BC. Of course, there’s evidence to suggest that monotheism of sorts (the God of Gods, Lord of Lords thing, the singular rules over the plural, etc) goes back much further than that. Every pantheon has it’s top god after all, but that doesn’t change the fact that around the time of Noah as it’s interpreted from the bible, things were pretty stable and there probably wasn’t any flood at all.

Given what we know of earth history though, this could also indicate that we may have made a mistake in estimating how old some of the old testament stories actually are. If that’s the case, and I think it is, then the reference in time we attribute to the historical data contained in the old testament is hazy at best, even though the data itself can be reasonably accurate. It could very well be that the stories were actually written down for the very first time about 2 – 3 thousand years ago, that seems to be about when written languages started becoming popular, but man has been around a hell of a lot longer than that. The problem with what we call pre-history is that it wasn’t written down, or if it was it’s been lost, hence the term.

We know that the earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years or so ago, via the interplay of astronomical forces, and that man is a relative youngster at about 400,000 years in one form or another due to evolutionary change and upheaval. Modern man however, we can say has been around for about 30 - 40 thousand years. We can also prove, via geological records and records locked in ice cores, that the earth suffers from an extended cycle of ice ages, with periods of major glacial activity where glaciers grow and retreat quite rapidly every 11,00 years or so.

The popular theory is that we are currently still in the grips of an ice age that began around 40 million years ago, or so the above records would seem to suggest. The problem with ice and particularly glaciers is that they scour the landscape and make interpretation of the data collected from the these sources difficult. We can’t be sure for instance, that the ice caps have ever truly disappeared once they formed for the first time, but that’s the benchmark we use to denote an ice age. One thing we can be sure of however, is that the last major glacial period ended about 11,000 years ago.

When the earth experiences a major glacial period, a lot of water is locked into ice, some land becomes uninhabitable but ocean levels drop markedly which causes other land, closer to the tropics, to be exposed. Naturally, when the glaciers melt, the opposite occurs but with some changes evident afterwards. Generally, what used to be high ground has been ground down a bit by the relentless action of the ice and the tailings of the grinding get deposited elsewhere, sometimes hundreds of miles from their point of origin.

The evidence that exists in cores and the geological record from both the start and the end of the last glacial period, would suggest that both events happened fairly rapidly by geological standards. 25 to 50 years for both events. This means two things: That the ice forms in about half a single lifetime when the freeze begins, and about 11,000 years later, water inundates the lower lying regions in less than half a single lifetime (once again, 25 – 50 years) when the melt occurs.

Evidence also suggests that sea levels rose 150 metres at the end of the last glacial period. So considering the size of the planet and the amount of ice and water involved, that much melt in that short a time will make for some very large and fast moving volumes of water that will spend very little time filling and devastating any low lying areas. Consider also that man has always felt the need to settle near water (for very good reason) and I believe we find the source of this particular and very common tale. Massive volumes of fast moving water are going to make for devastating floods in coastal areas all around the globe. The other result of course, what with all that moisture having been released in such a short time, would be that in some parts of the world, there’d be a hell of a lot of rain where there probably wasn’t much before.

What this probably means as far as the legends go is that Noah, Gilgamesh, Deucalion and his wife, the survivors from Samothrace and a myriad others are all one in the same. They are simply the survivors of the great melt that occurred in a very short period about 11,000 years ago and caused massive upheaval in many human settlements around the globe and the story itself I think, was just meant to serve as a reminder.

So in conclusion, I think it’s fairly obvious that the story of the flood is entirely plausible. I also think that science has proven the plausibility of it, just not in the biblical context and time frame that certain factions might have us believe.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Take the test

I just had a bit of fun over at Dikkii's Diatribe where I found this test. I was pretty chuffed with the result, so I thought I'd better post it here.

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule.
I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online.
They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics,
and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned
with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the
people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Spiritual Atheist




Apathetic Atheist


Militant Atheist


Angry Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Just don't ask me to do what it says I can.

I do like the 33% "angry atheist" though. It sounds like a good name for a band...:)

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

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