Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This Enceladus is no myth

Carolyn Porco is the team leader of NASA scientists who are involved in the Cassini mission to investigate Saturn and its moons. In her presentation at the Beyond Belief conference, she reveals that sometime last year the Cassini probe took extremely close-up photos of Enceladus (hovering just 175 km above that small moon of Saturn). Pictures taken by Cassini revealed that Enceladus has an icy surface, has an active geology, that its south pole has many fissures and that these fractures contain organic compounds. Moreover, the Cassini team discovered that the south pole is the warmest region of the moon. This, she says, is as remarkable as finding that the earth's Antarctic is warmer than the equator. But the most incredible find thus far has been the discovery of jets of fine ice streaming out of these fissures and shooting tens of kilometers into space, with the ejecta actually forming Saturn's outermost ring (known as the E-ring).

Porco enthusiastically tells us that given the presence of liquid water, elevated temperature, organic compounds, Enceladus probably has the conditions for sustaining biological life as we know it, and that there is a (slim) chance that microbial organisms are happily inhabiting it. If the latter is true, then it's also possible that these denizens are being launched (all freeze-dried I guess) into space courtesy of the plumes being created by the geysers. She goes on to say that if life is present in Enceladus then this would imply that the universe is almost surely brimming with life (knowing that two celestial bodies in one solar system have life vastly increases the probability that life in the universe is ubiquitous). Furthermore, such a finding would impact heavily on religions--not least Christianity.

Much as we would want superstition and mythology (aka religion) to be completely obliterated by the discovery of any form of extraterrestrial life (even unicellular), it will, on the contrary, spur faith-heads to dig their heels in even deeper. Faced with such undeniable facts and the consequent experience of cognitive dissonance, these religionists would crank the theology mill and run it at record speeds. And in no time at all we would be treated to a dazzling array of rationalizations and explanations (all without a shred of evidence and all nonfalsifiable, of course), all emanating from that wonderful human faculty called imagination (rather than empirical investigation).

There are to date some 200 planets that've been discovered outside our solar system. Thus far only Jovian-sized bodies have been detected. But as we engineer telescopes and instruments that have greater magnification and better resolution we will soon enough be able to pick out and see earth-sized planets that are not too close to their suns (else they won't be hospitable to life) . And who knows, in perhaps just two or three generations we may even finally stumble upon one that unmistakably bears the signature of life.

This may very well be wishful thinking on my part, but I can hardly wait for the day when the last human provincialism and centrism will be hacked--when we finally discover sentient, intelligent life out there. Discoveries over the centuries have already dealt a coup de grace to our various comforting egoistic, anthropocentric beliefs--our planet is not at the center of the solar system, our sun is not at the core of the Milky Way, our galaxy is just one in billions, Homo sapiens is just one terrestrial species and one with a long lineage, with humans sharing over 90% of their DNA with chimpanzees. Now that one last refuge of our narcissism is just waiting to be forever dissolved. What a thrilling disillusionment it will be when that day arrives.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Weinberg, Harris, Krauss

Spent midnight last night (or should I say this morning) viewing the first session of the Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival conference held at the Salk Institute some three weeks ago. The topic of discussion for the first round of panelists was the conflict between science and religion. The first speaker was distinguished physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Steven Weinberg who made no bones about where he stood on the issue. He noted how for him the conflict is paramount, more important than science education or environmental issues, even as he believed that the public was largely not antiscience. Weinberg was explicit and succinct about respect of religious beliefs--they don't deserve it. And I gather that this is so because, among other things, "so much of religious thought seems to be nothing else than wishful thinking." He ended with the following words:
I think the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief. And anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in fact in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.
That must be music to Dawkins. (And it certainly got the adrenalin going for me)

Sam Harris was another speaker in that session and as we know Harris is a staunch atheist (some may say extremist) who sees religion today as a very probable cause for what could be the downfall of civilization, or at the very least secularism and the scientific enterprise. I don't share Harris' paranoia, and I'm with Weinberg who sees Islam (rather than the world's religions as a collective) as the one to keep an eye on. In fairness, Harris is pretty clear that it would be a freezing day in hell before we see Buddhist suicide bombers, and that if there is such a thing as fanaticism in Jainism then the more fanatic a Jain is the more nonviolent he becomes (imagine one standing catatonically still for fear of stepping on tiny insects and hardly breathing for fear of inadvertently swallowing and killing airborne microbes). There is much in what Harris says about religion that we can only assent to. Any worldview that remains intractably anchored in Bronze and Iron Age mythologies must certainly be, at the very least, intellectually debilitating. I'm with Harris in underscoring the patently crazy beliefs that religionists have in their jam packed baggage. During the session Harris gave the example of someone waking up in the morning fully convinced that after chanting some Latin words over his breakfast cereal he was now about to dine on the body of Julius Caesar. Plain ludicrous, of course. Such a person would be rightly diagnosed even by a non-psychiatrist as suffering from a delusion. On the other hand, everyone who professes that a cracker similarly chanted over is the body of Jesus are deemed sane simply because these are Catholic beliefs. Yet both are delusions, only that the other has been institutionalized (won't we be relieved if it were in the other sense of that word). The problem Harris points out is that religious beliefs have been sheltered from criticism. It has been taboo to speak out and criticize religion openly. Needless to say, there is a difference between the free world and the Islamic nations where criticism and questioning of religion has pretty fatal consequences.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss also gave his opinion on the conflict. While being a person without faith, his stance on the conflict is closer to a proactive solution wherein he wants to teach and educate the public about what science is and share the discoveries of science. Ignorance of science for him is what needs to be addressed. Doubtless, education is crucial in waking people up. On the other hand, as Harris points out being scientifically savvy is sometimes just not enough. He gives the example of Francis Collins, the leader of the human genome project. I dare say Collins knows more molecular biology than Harris does. But Collins is completely head over heels over Christ and salvation. In his latest book Collins reveals he finally accepted Christ during one of his hikes up the mountain. When he saw this frozen waterfall he was completely awed by it and he then fell on his knees, broke down, and gave himself to Jesus (and he perhaps broke down because part of his grey matter accidentally fell out). Clearly, as Michael Shermer points out in Why People Believe Weird Things even very smart people (Mensans and those with PhDs) can fall for and adopt pretty strange beliefs (James Randi would split hairs here and say being highly educated is not the same as being smart). In Collins' case, his critical faculties vis-a-vis religion were swamped in part by the welter of emotions.


The nine Beyond Belief video files are huge--some 150 to 250 megabytes each. If you've got a broadband connection you can watch them via streaming video (the sessions last from 1 to 2 hours). If not, you can download the files as I did. In my case each file took 10 to 15 hours. I just love these types of lectures/talks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The war on terror

Were I to keep a test tubes of virulent and tenacious strains of anthrax, E. coli, and other pathogens, and casually told friends and family about it and authorities ultimately got wind of it, do you think they would simply shrug their shoulders and let me be? Given how dangerous and life-threatening such microorganisms are were they get they ingested or inhaled, it's of course insane to believe for a moment that I would be left in peace to keep these "pets" even if I had no plans of harming others or myself with them.

Why of course cops would in no time have my home surrounded. My neighbors within a hundred meter radius would be evacuated. My abode would be raided by a biohazard team and quarantined with plastic wrap. The vials of pathogens would be quickly confiscated and locked in hermetic containers. Needless to say, I would be carted away and suited up in layers of plastic to make sure I don't spread any of the germs that I may have on my skin and clothing.

Cultivating or storing such deadly germs is enough reason to earn myself notoriety. So imagine how I would be branded and treated had I intentionally released even a minuscule amount of such deadly pathogens into a city, if I had contaminated the water system of a school with a kilogram of E coli, or introduced trillions and trillions of anthrax microbes into the ventilation system of a building. Would I not be called a terrorist? Should I be allowed to have the freedom to commit such acts? Should someone who commits such acts on a global scale--someone who has willfully swamped and littered the world with infectious germs of all sorts, viruses and bacteria that in fact have killed people--be allowed to go unpunished?

These are rhetorical questions. But the thing is of course, why hasn't the FBI, Interpol, and other agencies cracked down on the one who first set loose these pathogens and biological hazards in the first place? The entity spoken of in the bible, Yahweh, is said to be the creator of every single pathogen--ebola, AIDS, E. coli, anthrax, dengue.... Name the germ and he was the one who created it and made it thrive on earth. Just read the audacity of this murderer:

I am the one who kills and brings to life. I smash and I heal. And none can deliver from my power. (Deut. 32:39)

I form the light and create the dark. I make peace and create evil--
It is I, Yahweh, who do all this. (Isaiah 45:6-7)

This is no less than an Osama pompously appearing in media and boasting of his powers of tyranny and destruction. Ostensibly, according to what some consider historical record, the supremo up above had no compunction at all in whipping up deadly bacteria, viruses, and parasites that have claimed the lives of untold number of humans throughout history.

So why isn't this guy No.1 on every agency's Most Wanted? Why aren't the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons denouncing him? Why have we not embarked on a sweeping and concerted effort to hunt down and finally put away or take down the mother of all psychopaths, the serial killer who's directly responsible for the deaths of literally billions (not even counting flora and fauna)? At the turn of the 20th century alone his influenza virus killed over a million in the span of less than a year. Today, its cousin--the avian flu virus--threatens to attack and destroy the lives of who knows how many thousands or millions.

Why the complacency? Why in heaven's name do we continue to let The Terrorist get away with such wanton murder on an hourly basis? Go to any hospital. Those who are afflicted with infections are his victims, victims of his unremitting biological warfare on the world. Look real close. Those are his microscopic soldiers eating away at the body of infants, children, adults, and the elderly. They do his bidding. He has programmed their DNA such that it's their nature to survive, breed and multiply by preying on us and ravaging our bodies.

But while the all-out war on The Terrorist hasn't begun, there has been for at least a century been a steady movement to defend ourselves from the Terrorist's assault. That movement bears the name science and medicine. Though it is too pollyannaish to believe that we shall eventually end the victor, the battles won have not been trivial. The worldwide vaccination campaign has all but wiped out entire divisions that once caused epidemics. Everyday, antibiotics stem the onslaught and save millions from unnecessary suffering and certain death.

But The Terrorist has been too shrewd. For instance while antibiotics have been life-saving, he has from the very beginning imbued his soldiers with the ability to mutate at a staggering rate and evolve defenses to render themselves immune to our weapons. Like the Borgs what kills one also makes future generations stronger by allowing those with inborn immunity to the poison to multiply and eventually become the norm, ensuring that no single antibiotic we come up with can have perpetual efficacy. While our arsenal has been mostly effective thus far, new battalions of his Borgs have adapted and can no longer be so easily overcome. Day in and day out they mock us with their mantra "Resistance is futile!" So the war rages, and our defenders--the scientists--must keep pushing the frontiers, developing new countermeasures to thwart the The Terrorist's ceaseless offensive.


Of course, the real Terrorist (granting ourselves license to personify it) is ignorance, or as a friend is fond of saying, benightedness. Theism is not in any way an avenue toward enlightenment. On the contrary, it is always a freeway to fantasy. Theology allows you to spin your wheels to your heart's content while never getting anywhere epistemically. There are no facts to speak of, no real, testable understanding to be proud of; just pure fantasy. Scientific reasoning and allied rational ways of thinking and empirically-based discoveries, on the other hand, do lead to edification and progress.

Obviously, made in Poseidon's image

The caption reads: "A Fathead (genus Psychrolutes) trawled during the NORFANZ expedition at a depth between 1013 m and 1340 m, on the Norfolk Ridge, north-west of New Zealand, June 2003 (AMS I.42771-001)."

(via Pharyngula)

Japanese unearths fairy remains

In the second chapter of Flim-Flam! James Randi convincingly shows how the fairies in the early 20th century photos taken by two girls were merely paper cutouts from some publication. It really is a pity that the creator of Sherlock Holmes had been taken in by the pranks of children.

Be that as it may it now looks as if Randi will have admit that fairies aren't fiction and myth at all (not that he'd have to part with his million dollars just yet). Archeology has just provided us with incontrovertible evidence that fairies do exist. Rocks don't lie. The following fossil record finally vindicates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's childish faith in flying nymphs.

(via Pharyngula)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why don't I hear the male doctors present complaining?

Dawkins protested when the producers chose to call the tv program Root of All Evil? The question mark was the only concession he received. Dawkins rightly clarifies that nothing is the root of all anything. But then he also follows that up saying religion has surely been the cause of various evils. The following must certainly qualify.

RIYADH - Women at a hospital in the Saudi capital, including doctors and journalists, were forced to leave a lecture about Islam’s stance on organ donation because they were women, reported Saudi- based Arab News on Wednesday.

The sheikh who gave the lecture, a university professor, refused to enter the room until it was emptied of women. In the beginning, some women protested but in the end they gave in so the man could give the presentation.

In the same tv program Dawkins tells us that some people are ahead and some lag behind in moral development. Given his behavior this Muslim professor obviously kept receiving an F in Ethics 101.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

No need to empty himself. He already is.

Was in the doctor's clinic yesterday. While waiting I picked up the Inquirer on the table and found myself drawn to the latest enlightening piece by Jaime Licauco. Apparently he had the privilege of interviewing one of Tibet's spiritual leaders last week. Most of the article is devoted to the Karmapa's replies. Licauco concludes with the following revelation:

Now even quantum physicists believe there is really nothing out there. Everything is maya or illusion. When we desire something of this world, we are desiring or pursuing what is not there.

Quantum physicists discovered that when they started probing the ultimate component of matter, there was only empty space. This has led to a rethinking of what really constitutes the material universe. It is consistent with Buddhist philosophy that everything is maya or illusion.

Yes, indeed there are in fact vast spaces between the nucleus of an atom and the electrons orbiting it. If the proton-neutron core were the size of a pea, the electrons would be circling some hundred meters away. And we can easily prove that even the hardest, densest rock is just empty space. Let's have Jimmy do the honors. Jimmy, kindly take a minute off from that next article you're firing off on your computer and climb to the top of the Inquirer building. Now jump off the roof. There! I'm sure you'll just go through the concrete parking lot and out the other side of the planet since it's all only illusory, only maya, all just empty space. Come to think what really makes this amazing feat possible is that your brain is 100% empty space. It finally makes sense why some people are described as "empty-headed."

When you hear non-science blokes talking about quantum physics, you can be dead sure they don't understand the first thing about it. And when you hear them (airy-fairy, head-in-the-clouds New Agers like Deepak Chopra) prefixing "quantum" to words left and right, you can be certain they're dumping nonsense on you.

Licauco just tirelessly keeps jamming his feet into his mouth and further and further down his throat. So how does Jimmy's immovable presence reflect upon the intellectual acuity/integrity of the Inquirer?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The true religion

If you're religious the following should paint a grin on your face.
They desire to extinguish God’s Light with their mouths. But God refuses to do other than perfect His Light, even though the unbelievers detest it. It is He Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the True Religion to exalt it over every other religion, even though the idolaters detest it.

Did that give you an adrenalin rush and renewed optimism?

Well, if you're Christian, the competition just had the last laugh You see the above comes from the Quran (9:32-33) and is talking about the ultimate triumph of Islam.

Guess we now know who will inherit the earth. My advice to Xians: better start learning Arabic and observing Ramadan asap. You are scared shit of hell, right?

For the birds!

Why people who claim to have had a "personal experience" of the supernatural (and paranormal, we might add) should take their anecdotes with a chunk of salt.
One of the cleverer and more mature of my undergraduate contemporaries, who was deeply religious, went camping in the Scottish Isles. In the middle of the night he and his girlfriend were woken in their tent by the voice of the devil--Satan himself; there could be no possible doubt: the voice was in every sense diabolical. My friend would never forget this horrifying experience, and it was one of the factors that later drove him to be ordained. My youthful self was impressed by this story, and I recounted it to a gathering of zoologists relaxing in the Rose and Crown Inn, Oxford. Two of them happened to be experienced ornithologists, and they roared with laughter. "Manx Shearwater!" they shouted in delighted chorus. One of them added that the diabolical shrieks and cackles of this species have earned it, in various parts of the world and various languages, the local nickname "Devil Bird." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, London: Bantam, 2006, p.87)

To realize that he invested his entire life partly because he mistook a bird for some demonic entity--my, that should really gnaw at him for the rest of his life. (And to think that that bird was the Good Guy's creation. A pretty mischievous trickster, don't you think?)

Remember the lady who heard the voice of God tell her, "Go throw your children into the San Francisco Bay," and faithfully obeyed? She's now on trial for murder. Do Xians believe her, that God had spoken to her? But why not? Why don't they believe those who hear God in their heads and obey by taking a knife and binding their children, when the father of the three great monotheisms claimed and did the very same thing? Why excuse Abraham, call him a man of God, and say he in fact is someone to whom an actual supernatural entity spoke, but then brand as crazy and criminal everyone else who claims to hear God tell them they should slit the throats of their children? Why are the LaShuan Harrises of the world described as delusional and their acts criminal, while Abraham and Co. and their deeds are not, and on the contrary are held up as (gasp!) role models?

Xian brains are so compartmentalized they have apparently lost the ability to think clearly. They are so biased and dualistic, and subscribe to double standards that their capacity for ethical thinking has been compromised. Theism screws brains big time.

Hate: verb, to dislike intensely or passionately

As you may know, the Jesus Seminar was a late 20th century quest for the historical Jesus. Among other things, the biblical scholars who participated in the Seminar sifted through the canonical and extracanonical gospels (e.g., Gospel of Thomas), discussed, and then voted on which passages are and are not attributable to the historical Jesus. The results of that were published in The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (Harper San Francisco, 1993), a work that documents all the words that the gospel writers attributed to Jesus (including those in the Gospel of Thomas--from the Nag Hammadi find) and rated according to how the Fellows voted on them.

The Fellows voted by dropping colored beads into a ballot box. A vote of red meant the Fellow concluded that "Jesus undoubtedly said this or something very like it." Pink corresponded to "Jesus probably said something like it." Gray signified "Jesus did not say this but the ideas contained in it are close to his own." And black meant that in the Fellow's judgment "Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition." Each color also had a corresponding numerical value: red = 3, pink = 2, gray = 1, black = 0. After voting on a particular Jesus saying, the points were added up and the weighted average computed. The result was then reconverted to a color code. This then was the final* color rating a particular saying received. (The Five Gospels, p. 36)

The Seminar also produced an entirely new translation of the gospels known as the Scholar's Version. One of the goals of the team of translators was to produce a translation that would come as close as possible to late 20th century English, but of course remaining true to the spirit of the original. While definitely sounding contemporary, this translation is reliable because it is based on ancient languages (Greek, Coptic, etc.), i.e., the SV uses ancient sources--extant texts as historically close to the originals as possible--as its basis.

With that background take a look at Luke 14:26, the following translation taken from the Scholar's Version.

If any come to me and do not hate their own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--they cannot be my disciples (ibid., 353).

This saying garnered a pink from the Seminar. This means that it probably is quite close to what the historical Jesus had uttered.

That's point number one. The more important thing I'd like to underscore is Jesus' use of the word hate, a word which also appears in other translations of this particular passage (e.g. the Net Bible). Here's the Seminar's commentary for this verse:

Hating one's family. This saying, which must have been offensive to Jesus' audience when he first enunciated it, has suffered the fate of other harsh sayings in the tradition. Matthew softens it by making the love of family subordinate to the love of Jesus. But Luke and Thomas retain the rigorous form: hatred of family is a condition of discipleship.

The severity of this saying can only be understood in the context of the primacy of filial relationships. Individuals had no real existence apart from their ties to blood relatives, especially parents. If one did not belong to a family, one had no real social existence. Jesus is therefore confronting the social structures that governed his society at their core. For Jesus, family ties faded into insignificance in relation to God's imperial rule, which he regarded as the fundamental claim on human loyalty. (ibid., 353)

Keep in mind that a majority of the Fellows are versed in Greek and the ancient languages in which the books of the bible were originally written in. When they concur that "hate" is an appropriate (if the not the best) translation then we need not bother entertaining such rationalizations as "hate" is merely figurative or that hating one's family simply means that we should love Jesus/God more. As the Seminar's commentary above already tells us, Matthew had resorted to such blunting of what Jesus actually had meant in order not to scandalize his readers.

So in this saying Jesus instructs those who wish to follow him to hate their parents, spouse, children, even one's own self. Hate them all. Let that sink in for a while.

Julia Sweeney in Letting Go of God aptly points out, "Isn't that what cults do? Get you to reject your family in order to inculcate you?" Jesus doesn't just say, "leave your family and follow me." Even that would already be asking a lot in itself. He goes one step further and orders his followers to hate their immediate family, to dislike them intensely. It is a call for complete dissolution of emotional, psychological, sociological ties to one's roots, loved ones, including progeny. The reason? That the person may devote her entire self, all his energy to the founder of the cult, his ideology and agenda. And to those who may argue that Jesus wasn't directing his followers to himself but rather to God, it escapes them that what/who "God" is is according to what Jesus says it is. Jesus is promoting and selling his own brand of religion, else why be his disciple?

And this call for hatred of course is corroborated by Jesus' own behavior toward his mother. Time and again he snubs her. At one point he instructs his disciples to send Mary home, for he no longer considers her family. This guy openly shows contempt for his own mother and explicitly orders his disciples to hate their loved ones. Try drumming that into your teenage kids. Let's see how they turn out. "Mom, get away from me! Jesus says I should leave and hate you!"

The sea of faiths is populated by schools and schools of loonies. And Jesus? Just another fish in that ocean of deluded denizens, albeit a star nutcase.



* "Final" here means nothing more than that it is the rating that was published at that time. Should another round of voting be conducted it is not improbable that the weighted average of some sayings may change due to various factors including the composition of the Seminar Fellows.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shermer on TED Talks

The TED Talks site has a host of audio and video recordings of past guest speakers including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Julia Sweeney.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I say it's mothman

While riding the ferris wheel in a South Carolina fair a mother and her sons took several photos with their digicam. They noticed the following figure only after they had gone home and reviewed their pictures.

My first reaction was moth, then bird.

But the mother identified it as something else.

"It looks just like an angel," Catherine says. "It even has a ray of light that comes from the bottom toward the body of the angel and it's centered right in the middle of the picture - and I believe in angels. It's just an angel."

Right, an angel. How about Pegasus?

The Bad Astronomer comments:

Look at the picture. It’s a bird! Maybe, just maybe I might be convinced it’s a moth. But I’ll take either one — both of which have heads, bodies, wings, can fly, and (and this is the clincher) are known to exist — over an angel.

Catherine's son Frederick had this to say: "It's got a head, wings, legs, and if that doesn't look like an angel, I don't know what does." Obviously, his teachers have been remiss in edifying him all about those organisms in nature that have heads, wings and legs, and that (surprise, surprise!) do occasionally make their abode in South Carolina.

Seriously, I'd like to work with more data. Why is the background so dark? Has this photo been enhanced? Has it been cropped and magnified? Can we please see the others photos they took? How about the various info their digicam recorded about this photo of theirs? Was it the onboard flash that illuminated this object?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A witch doctor

It's bad enough that there are doctors who advise patients and their loved ones to pray, but this one is totally bonkers.

A doctor at a family planning clinic told a patient that she needed an exorcism because there was something sinister moving around inside her stomach, a medical tribunal was told yesterday. Joyce Pratt, 44, allegedly told the patient, who was seeking contraceptive advice, that she might be possessed by an evil spirit and needed religious rather than medical help. She gave the woman crosses and trinkets to ward off black magic, allegedly told her that her mother was a witch, that she and her husband were trying to kill her, and suggested that she visit a Roman Catholic priest at Westminster Cathedral in London. During the consultation at the Westside Contraceptive Clinic in Central London the doctor was said to have told the patient that she had black magic powers that could help to alleviate the problem. (link)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jesus saves? Apparently not.

Not only has Jeebus not cured this devotee, the all-loving, omnipotent creator failed to keep him from slipping, falling, and sustaining fractures and head trauma. (Go watch the video.)

Alipio Acosta, climbed the 45-foot tall statue on Ocaca, Colombia, asking his savior to be cured of epilepsy. After several moments on top of the statue, the farmer started to climb back down.

Due to rainfall at the time, the statue's surface was slippery, causing Acosta to lose his grip and fall.

According to Freddy Morales, the doctor who treated Acosta, he had "Craneoencefalico trauma, he has his left wrist fractured as well as his left hip."

Craneoencefalico trauma is a cerebral injury caused by external force, which can produce a diminished or altered consciousness and, possibly, a deficit of cognitive abilities and/or physical function.

Two years ago, Acosta climbed the sculpture Cristo Ray for the first time asking for the same miracle.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Supernatural power corrupts

Why is the Supreme Court allowing this certified screwball to keep wasting its time and therefore wasting taxpayers' money? Judging by the latest activities in Dwarfland, his mental condition has taken a turn for the worse. For how long will the SC tolerate this nut?!

BEGINNING this Sunday, three dwarves will work their powers against 14 of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, a dismissed judge has warned as he filed his third motion for reconsideration for his reinstatement before the high tribunal.... In his appeal, Floro said his three dwarf-friends -- Luis, Armand, and Angel -- appeared to him last week and told him that the justices would suffer their wrath for dismissing him. Floro said the sufferings of the Supreme Court justices would start midnight of November 5, the eve of his 53rd birthday. Floro said he appealed to his dwarf-friends to spare one justice, which according to him had been put into a vote by the three. Floro did not name him. "Voting en banc with full authority, Luis voted negative, Armand conditionally positive, upon full appointment of Judge Floro to a higher or equal position by virtue of the eliminated magistrate, while Angel voted neutral," Floro said. Because the voting was a tie, Floro said Luis agreed to spare one justice if he would spread oil on any part of the justice's house before November 5. Floro said he would follow the dwarves' advice and start praying every Friday so that the curse on the justices would work. "I will devote my entire life, Fridays, until my last breath, towards the fulfillment, execution, and coming to pass of this curse. With absolute faith in Luis, Armand and Angel -- Angels of God, I will fulfill my destiny: spell and karma upon them, all their loved ones, up to the 4th generation," Floro said.

Argumentum ad baculum? A gun to their heads? Floro's ego has been so trampled upon by the Court's previous denials for reconsideration that he's now issuing an out-and-out threat (albeit a ridiculously crazy one) to coerce the justices to approve his third motion for reinstatement.

Back in September Floro doomed corrupt judges to plagues of sorts. Not content with leaving it at that he made sure punishment also awaits their descendants born in the coming decades and until the 22nd century! And now even the family of the SC justices have been damned. This lunatic truly has no qualms in punishing even the innocent and yet-to-be-conceived. If for nothing else, his inhumanity, his failure in ethical judgement, his warped sense of justice is enough reason to bar this looney from being reinstated.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rubbing it in

When gay hooker Mike Jones first came out and accused Haggard of regularly having sex with him over the past three years and buying meth (shabu), Haggard denied the allegations on radio and television, and even claimed not to know Jones. Shortly thereafter, perhaps realizing how the evidence Jones had in his possession (including voice mails left by Haggard) was just too damning, Haggard suddenly changed his tune and admitted to having in fact bought drugs and getting a "massage" from Jones.

An innocent back rub, not from his wife, not from a masseur in a legitimate health spa, but from a gay prostitute. And of course, Haggard bought $100 of meth and then promptly threw it away as he claims. Hey, we believe you, dear pastor! How can we six-year olds ever doubt the almighty, sent-by-heaven, immaculate-as-Mary man of God?

Haggard is one stinking, loudmouthed, bible-thumping, through-his-teeth liar.

From Haggard's own New Life Church:

We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard. Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.

You don't really know what to make of these self-appointed deputies and ministers of god. They slap The Book on you, they preach fire and brimstone for those who commit "abominations," and yet behind the scenes they're carousing with the devil.

Is it all just for show? Is it just a numbers game of beating the other guy in raking in the most number of old ladies? Or the bottom line? A scripted marketing ploy to clean out the congregation's purses? Do these harbingers from on high even believe any of the holier-than-thou, damn-you-fags drivel pouring out of them?

Haggard's closet

You might remember Pastor Ted Haggard as the asshole who scolded Richard Dawkins for being arrogant after talking so decisively about evolution during his interview with Haggard in Root of All Evil? When was the last time you accused your cardiologist of being arrogant because she spoke so authoritatively about cardiovascular disease? That's the same Haggard who drove up to Dawkins and the film crew and evicted them from his church's property and who even threatened to confiscate their footage.

Well, what do you know? Less than a year after that show aired on UK tv, Haggard has been exposed as having bought meth and having had a "massage" from a male prostitute.

One of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders admitted Friday that he visited a male prostitute for a massage and bought methamphetamine for personal use — though he said he threw the drugs away without using them.

The Rev. Ted Haggard denied the prostitute's allegation that the two men met for sex as often as every month for the last three years. But he did say that he had visited the prostitute for a massage and later called him more than once to buy methamphetamine — a drug used in some gay circles to heighten sexual sensation.

The Don must be really pissed. I think you better fess up Haggard, I mean spill it all. Or would you really rather He skewer, roast, broil, and burn you to cinders Himself?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Don't ever call him dumbo again

It may be too early to celebrate, but I am so thrilled that it looks like we're finding more evidence of mammals possessing cognitive abilities we thought were exclusive to humans.

Elephants can recognise their own reflection, showing self-awareness seen before only in humans, great apes and bottlenose dolphins, scientists say. US researchers made the discovery by studying the behaviour of Asian elephants in front of a tall mirror. One of the animals repeatedly touched a white cross painted on her forehead - a classic test used to assess mirror self-recognition in children and apes.... The mark could only be seen in the mirror, and the elephant ignored another mark made with colourless paint that was also on her forehead to ensure she was not merely reacting to a smell or feeling. While only one elephant passed the mark-touching test, the researchers note that fewer than half of chimpanzees tested typically pass this test.

Certified fruitcake

The Book of Revelation is, hands down, the Bible’s most deranged. It was written by the apostle John, and if his epistles can be seen as John on pot, then Revelation is John on acid

--Ken's Guide to the Bible

Nearly twenty years after the Satanic Verses

I think I'm still floating on cloud nine. Just listened to a most enthralling talk by Salman Rushdie on Point of Inquiry. Go listen asap. Go! Rushdie is so articulate. Among other things he talks about religion, freedom of speech and the right to ridicule religion, the niqab (women's veil), the Danish cartoons, multiculturalism and the inanity of cultural relativism, Islamophobia, and Kashmir.

When you wish upon the bible...

Sometimes you get what you want.

A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting ''I want Jesus'' was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital. (link)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Listening to religion may be hazardous tor your health

Leave it to religions like Catholicism to screw up the world. Here's part of the results from a study of over a million men and women from 59 countries.

[T]he countries where people have the most multiple sexual partners – the developed world – are those with the lowest incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies. These countries also have by far the greatest condom usage, [Kay Wellings at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine] explains. This suggests that social factors such as poverty, mobility and gender equality may be more relevant to sexual ill-health than promiscuity, she adds.


Religion is a real problem in reproductive health, says Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization. People are still having more children than they can afford to support and the lack of provision of contraceptives and safe medical abortion facilities is harming thousands of women, she said, citing Nicaragua’s proposed ban on all abortions, in particular, as a “huge threat to women’s health”.

But it is a mistake to lay all the blame on Catholicism and other major religions,” Phumaphi says: “The biggest problem is the many independent churches that have huge influence, and some very extremist views.

She points out the success of Brazil, a Catholic country, where risk factors such as multiple partners and low age of first sex, are coupled with low HIV infection rates. This is mainly due to "joined-up thinking" between various health agencies so that, for example, condom use is encouraged.

Euphemisms for ignorance

Hey, I thought nearly half of America believes the earth (or is it the universe) is less than 10,000 years old. Now another survey says a little less than half aren't sold on theism.
Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not "absolutely certain" there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

Among the various religious groups, 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews said they are "absolutely certain" there is a God while 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as "Born Again" feel certain God exists.

When questioned on whether God is male or female, 36 percent of respondents said they think God is male, 37 percent said neither male nor female and 10 percent said "both male and female."

Only one percent think of God as a female, according to the poll.

Asked whether God has a human form, 41 percent said they think of God as "a spirit or power than can take on human form but is not inherently human."

As to whether God controls events on Earth, 29 percent believe that to be the case while 44 percent said God "observes but does not control what happens on Earth".

The survey was conducted online between October 4 and 10 among 2,010 US adults.

P.Z. Meyers of Pharyngula has already nailed part of the problem with regards the gender of their deity.
How do they know he's male? Does he he have a penis? How big is it? What does he use it for?
Tsk, tsk. You really aren't up to speed, are you, Dr. Meyers? That supernatural entity's mission in life is to screw virgins. Ring a bell? For that you need a piece. Of course, how his superpenis could bore its way in, give Mary the big O, squirt a million tiny Jeebuses, and leave her still a virgin, well, that's a mystery.... Or maybe not. One mundane and more parsimonious explanation is that he has a supermicropenis, approximately a protein molecule in diameter. Never doubt god's omnipotence (or a theologian's creativity in writing fiction).

Getting back to the survey, let's also ask those who say their god's a "spirit" to tell us what the fuck "spirit" is. Please, tell us. I for one am all ears. Will it come as a surprise that they can't define/describe what it is, let alone provide a way of detecting and testing the presence/existence of this gobbledygook they tack the label "spirit" to?

Not content with "god" they pass the buck to "spirit." What next? "The Force"? Oh I know: "Mystery" aka, "Beats me; I have no idea." If ultimately they can't tell us what the hell g o d and s p i r i t are and what they refer to then what in tarnations are they really talking about in the first place? Why is it that faith-heads can't first get a handle on what it is they're so gaga over? (And if ever they do, ask them for evidence. That always sends them over the edge).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The emperor's clothes--and they're hardly new

I think it was Richard Dawkins who first jogged my brain and made me realize how vacuous the enterprise of theology really is. Indeed, what in fact is theology? What is it that theologians are experts in? Mental acrobatics perhaps? Imaginary Superfriends and Superfoes? Charons and River Styxes?

How can these faith-heads possibly talk about the nature, the deeds, the will, the mind of a deity--with doctrinaire certainty--when they haven't and can't even verify whether any of these are in fact true? Is there any theological "truth" that has been proved? Let's take the very fundamental "fact" of theology, for instance, a fact upon which all other theological claims stand. Is there a god? Since theologians claim there is, what and where is the evidence for the existence of this entity? What tests are there to evince its reality?

This entity is said to have stealth capabilities that the US military would commit genocide for. It cannot be seen nor detected in any way by anyone. Well, if that is so then by what means have theologians discovered its reality? Visions perhaps? Is this omnipotent deity of theirs so timid that it can't be distinguished from the oceanic feelings and ramblings of those who snort coke and acid, from chemical and electrical goings-on in the brain? Is there really no objective evidence for it, only subjective interpretations and hearsay?

Can we do experiments to the test its reality? Here's one right now. Up yours, Yahweh, up yours! May Satan broil you in his oven til you turn into charcoal, then use you to barbeque St. Gabriel, St. Michael, and the entire boys choir of heaven!

Well, I'm still alive. No lightning bolt, no heart attack, no stroke, no bullet to the head. Now if payback is supposed to be after I'm dead, what are theologians' evidence for that claim? ... Caramba! You mean there isn't any? That it's just an empty threat?

You see, faith-heads are wont to make claims and rationalizations that cannot be proven, that can't be falsified, those for which disproof is all too difficult or impossible. Why? Because that is the only way delusions can be kept intact. Disillusionment isn't a forgone conclusion when what is believed in can't be proven false.

But the claim that the Indian deity Ganesh (depicted as an elephant) exists isn't disprovable either. Nor is the claim that superadvanced invisible, undetectable aliens are at this very moment orbiting the earth and controlling our minds. In fact there are an infinity of things that are not disprovable. Any of them can be the object of delusion.

So theology isn't a subject at all. There is zero evidence for its basic premise, let alone for everything that follows from it However you look at it, it's all speculation. Theology is nothing but a house of cards.

So instead of churning out theses, treatises, doctrines, encyclicals, and tracts, theologians ought to switch employers to make full use of their creative talents. Hollywood, Disney Productions and Anime are the proper venues to express themselves.