Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Upgraded Hubble Telescope

If you weren't aware, in may this year NASA/ESA sent a bunch of astronauts up to work on the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission was 13 days longs and they replaced several vital parts of the telescope to hopefully give us a better view of the cosmos than we've ever had before.
Just this month, some of the first images sent to us from the upgraded Hubble were released.

This image I put at the top of the post has become known as the butterfly nebula, for obvious reasons. It used to be a star about five times the volume of our sun, but it exploded.

If you're interested in more pictures like this (in MUCH higher resolutions) with more detailed explanations of what is happening in them, go and visit

The Greatest Show on Earth. Continued...

I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest book today 'The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution'. It was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to everyone. Whether you already understand evolution, or do not understand it (or don't accept it). The evidence is laid out pretty clearly, and most technical jargon is avoided so even a non-scientific mind can understand the evidence and mechanisms of evolution.
I especially recommend it to you creationists out there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

International Blasphemy Day

From Pharyngula

The Center for Inquiry will launch the first International Blasphemy Day on September 30, the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the Danish cartoons that so inflamed Muslims worldwide. Billed as a free speech event designed to oppose such things as a Muslim-sponsored U.N. resolution banning criticism of religion, the day has drawn the support of people like PZ Myers. Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota known for intentionally desecrating a consecrated Host, says the day was established to "mock and insult religion without fear of murder, violence, and reprisal"; he wants every day to be Blasphemy Day.

An important day in my calendar for sure.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Misconceptions about Human Evolution

A commenter requested that I make a post about evolution, so I figured what better place to start than to clear up some common misconceptions about the evolution of Humans, aka. Homo sapiens.

1) If we are descended from apes, why are there still apes around?

Firstly, we are not descended from apes. Not apes as we know them today anyway. Humans and apes share a common ancestor. Our ancestors broke off from the ancestors that developed into the likes of chimpanzees around 3 million years ago. The oldest bipedal (walks on 2 legs) ape fossils we have are what we call Australopithecus afarensis. All the fossils we have later than this slowly develop more human-like qualities over successive generations, until we get to Homo sapiens today.

2) Chimpanzee's don't give birth to Humans, dogs don't give birth to cats Therefore evolution is wrong!

I can't recall the number of times I've heard this faux-argument against evolution. I don't think the people who use it really mean it, but it just shows that they havn't grasped the concept of what evolution really is, and the timescales that evolution works by.
Lets take Hamsters for example.
If you take a Hamster today, and follow that little critters lineage backward, you wouldn't notice the changes through each generation, but very slowly, those hamster ancestors would progressively look less and less like a Hamster and more and more like the common ancestor that Hamsters share with other rodents. The change is so gradual that you couldn't tell the difference from one generation to the next, but if you skipped lets say 50 generations minor differences would slowly start to creep in. When you take a larger jump, say 1000 generations, the differences would start to become more obvious.
This gradual process can be likened to a child growing up. If you see a child every day as they are growing up, you don't notice them getting older much at all, because it is so gradual. Lets say then, you live on the other side of the country to a child, and you only see them once a year, or even more, the changes between when you last saw them and how they look now are much larger. This is the same concept as evolution, but on a far smaller scale.
My example of the Hamster can be taken and put directly onto the Human evolution family tree.
If you take Australopithecus afarensis and follow it generation by generation forward, you wouldn't notice the changes, but when you jump several hundred thousand years, the change in things like skull size, brow size, the shape of the jaw, tooth size and shape become more obvious, and more human-like.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

I just purchased this book yesterday, it was written by Richard Dawkins and I'm about to commence reading it shortly. The subtitle of this book is 'The Evidence for Evolution' and when I ordered the book online I didn't expect it to be as large as it is considering it is from the genre of 'Popular Science'. I'll try write a post doing a half-arsed review of it when I finish, which may take a while because I'm fairly busy with assignments and the likes over the next few weeks.

I was really impressed with how fast the book arrived. I ordered it at 10:30PM sunday night and it had arrived by the time I came home from class on monday afternoon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Argument from Ignorance

Another post about creationists sorry.. hehe.

I was bored this afternoon, so I was browsing through AiG looking for amusing things (I know, it's sad and pretty lame of me) and I stumbled upon this video called 'What is the Best Evidence God Created'. I had high hopes that they were going to have some great piece of evidence that proves the creation myth true once and for all. The first minute or so of the video was just the speaker talking about how he'd been preaching the truth about creation deceiving children for 20 years.
At 1:36 he said "You're able to look up into the heavens, they declare the glory of god".


Really? You make a video called 'What Is the Best Evidence God Created' and that's the first thing you mention? Sure, I realise that your speech was directed at people without any background in science, but come on, that's your best piece of evidence? It's not even evidence! It's just an outlandish claim, that because stars and planets exist, therefore god exists, and he it created them. That Mr. YEC is called a non sequitur.

Lets move on.

After giving the same old tired creationist argument for design about drawings in the sand, which has no bearing whatsoever on how the natural world works he brings up something new (*GASP* SOMETHING NEW ZOMG). He mentions the Weta, the New Zealand native insect. It is interesting to note that he doesn't verbally mention the fact that it is a New Zealand native, because this fact alone is evidence for evolution. 'Native species' are a product of geographical distribution, species that are separated for long periods of time evolve different characteristics to their predecessors, which is how 'native' species arise. It is no surprise then that he doesn't stay long about this detail of the weta. He moves on quickly to how amazing they are, and that they have been around for a long time. Then he mentions that there are many different varieties of Weta (evolution again....) and then says something about how the cave Weta can survive months of being 'frozen' up in the mountains and then boldly asserts "You tell me, how millions of years of random-chance processes is going to cause something like THAT to happen".


"You tell me, how millions of years of random-chance processes is going to cause something like THAT to happen".


This is what is known as an argument from ignorance. You can't get a clearer admission of it than this. This preacher deceiver knowingly admits that he believes the Weta was created because he can't think of how it could have happened otherwise. Not only does he admit the argument is based on his own ignorance, but he completely misunderstands how evolution by natural selection works, we know this by the way he says "random-chance processes". Anyone educated at all in the mechanisms of evolution know that it is not 'random chance'.

I stopped the video there, as I didn't need to hear any more of this guys 45 minute speech about evidence for creationism when his first two main arguments were based upon absurd logical fallacies, the first being a non sequitur and the second being an argument from ignorance.


One thing that has brought me great amusement over the past year or so is the idea that there were dinosaurs on Noah's ark. I can't even begin to describe how ridiculous this is, perhaps some of you already know.

The dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Noah's supposed flood was around 6000 years ago. The scale of this error is huge, and is equivalent to saying that the distance from Auckland to Wellington is 60 metres.

But the gargantuan error in dates isn't the only problem with this idea. The whole idea of a global flood is equally laughable. The people who create arguments trying to 'prove' these ideas are either mentally deficient or insidious liars (or both). Their blatant rejection of well established facts and their complete rejection everything rational is all too common among YEC's (Young earth creationists). The way they go about spreading their deceitful ideas is retarding scientific progress and is a step too far in the wrong direction. YEC's would have us taken back to the dark ages if we left them to their own devices.

They don't even have a good reason for believing these insane ideas. The only reason they have is "because the bible says so", but as I have demonstrated in previous posts, the bible is not only unreliable and contradictory but also immoral and barbarous.
So, because some uneducated desert wanderer wrote on some scrolls that the whole earth was flooded (sounds just as absurd as other ancient mythologies), and animals that had been extinct for 65 million years were held on on a large wooden boat by the last remaining human man along with his family and friends, they believe it whole heartedly.

I just cannot understand the dogmatic adherence to an antiquated text.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Child Sacrifice in the Old Testament

I thought this was an important piece of the bible to share with you all. Since many christians claim that the slaughter of thousands in the Old Testament was justified, because they were 'evil' people who committed human sacrifices and even child sacrifices, I figured that it would be relevant to share with you a god-ordained child sacrifice straight from the OT.

Judges 11: 29-38 (feel free to read the whole chapter if you think i've taken it out of "context")

29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

36 "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry."

38 "You may go," he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

There you have it. Jephthah prayed to 'god' that he would allow him to slaughter thousands of people, and if 'god' allowed him, he would sacrifice the first person that came to greet him out of his house when he returned. There is not much more I can say about this as it is just so blatantly abhorrent. Attempt to justify it all you like, but you don't get any better reasons than this that your god doesn't exist and that the people who wrote your holy book were sick, perverted, incestuous child sacrificers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Following Your Dreams

I've come to the bleak realisation that sometimes following your dreams can destroy them (sometimes). I went to music school with the grand idea that I would become a professional musician, but in reality all that it's done is drain my passion for music, and make me not enjoy jazz as much as I used to. Luckily though, I've been playing some other music lately and I've really enjoyed it, but I don't dream about becoming a full time professional musician any more.
If it happens, great... But I'm not counting on it, and I have plans to do a post grad diploma in something else and hopefully getting a job in that field afterwards.

Don't let me crap on your dreams though, if you really want to fulfil your dreams and 'live the life' you've always envisaged, go for it. It just hasn't happened the way I wanted for me...