Friday, July 31, 2009

I think this is pretty much the best thing someone has ever called me

Occasionally I like to wander around the internet, checking out blogs that have linked to my posts. Well, one of those was The Good Kentuckian, which I'm 99.99% sure is supposed to be a Stephen Colbert-like satire (though one can never be to sure when it comes to Poes). My blog is listed under what is quite possibly the best group name ever: FeminiNazi Nation of Christ-Haters.

Yessss. I've made the big time! The only thing that could make that better is if the blog was sincerely conservative. But you never know with the internet. I've definitely heard real conservatives say stupider things than what they have in their posts.

PZ and Hemant are also listed, but I think my group name is still the best. Pharyngula made "America-Hating Blogs to Watch Closely" and Friendly Atheist unfortunately got "Atheists & Homosexuals - Evil Intertubes Run By Demons." Sorry Hemant, I guess you're giving these guys the wrong signals!

And while we're on the topic of blogging accomplishments, apparently my blog is blocked at someone's work for "objectional content." I'm not sure if it's the atheism, occasional swearing, or random discussions about sex, but I think this is hilariously awesome. Well, not awesome for the people trying to read my blog at work - sorry guys - but I'll consider it an honor!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh yeah? Well our atheist club has superheros for officers!

I finally got around to doing a little housecleaning around the Society of Non-Theists's website. Freshmen should start poking around for club information in a couple weeks, so I wanted to make it look like we actually do stuff (which we do!). And I finally got around to updating the Contact page with some officer bios so it looks like we're actually normal (well, relatively) human beings with actual personalities.

It amuses me to no end that we have a blonde, brunette, and red head. It's so delightfully stereotypical. I keep having images of Charlie's Angels or the Power Puff Girls or any superheroine trio. And having three women as officers is definitely going to help club attendance - girls will feel welcome, and boys well...yeah, I don't need to explain why boys will come.

Now if I can only convince my fellow officers that we all need matching spandex outfits...then club attendance would increase by 1000%.*

*If I hear about people contacting the officers in order to be creepy instead of real club business, I will smite you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What atheists wish would happen at the Creation Museum

What atheists wish would happen at the Creation Museum (I partially blame Mark for this insanity).

Click the images for a bigger image (it's so big I couldn't fit it as one comic).What did I learn from making this? ...It is impossible to draw Ken Ham NOT evil looking. I mean, seriously. Compare this comic to a photograph and you'll know what I mean.

And I know Cthulhu fhtagn is two words. My handwriting just sucks. Sigh.

EDIT: Shirts of this comic available in the store!

Science can cure disease and make things adorable at the same time!

A recent study by the University of Rochester Medical Center has found that the same chemical used to color blue M&Ms and blue Gatorade can also be used to heal spine injuries. The chemical, Brilliant Blue G (BGG) blocks P2X7, known as the "Death Receptor." This stops the signal that tells motor neurons to undergo apoptosis (cell death). When rats with spinal cord injuries were injected with BGG, they were able to walk again with a limp.

How awesome is that?

And BGG has the added benefit of making rats extra adorable. They go from this:
To this:Want. Now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Novel writing and dream crushing

I just received an update email from NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.

...Sigh.

You may have possibly noticed, or at least guessed, that I enjoy writing. I think you sort of have to enjoy writing to have a blog, unless it's entirely made up of videos or photos of lolcats. I don't claim that my blog posts are novel quality or anything - to be perfectly honest, I only give them a cursory proofreading before posting, which is why you see the occasional typo or nonsensical statement (heaven forbid). Here I write very stream of conscious-like, more like how I would talk to you then how I'd write formally.

I've always loved writing fiction stories. When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a kid who made a time machine out of a cardboard box and befriended a talking brontosaurus (based on a giant paper mache dinosaur we made...I should really find the picture of me standing with it!). In third grade I was writing my own variety of Goosebump books. In 5th and 6th, the story of me and my friends' Pokemon journey (a fanfic writer at an early age, I guess). Then in 7th grade I concocted The Story.

Why does this particular story get the infamous title of The Story? Because it started a trend that still annoys me to this day - starting to write a great story and then never finishing it. These stories aren't just a couple paragraphs scribbled on scrap paper as an idea - with my stories, I'll get 10,000 words in and emotionally invested in my characters. And then I stop, with my chapters just sitting on my computer, waiting for me to add something to them. Occasionally I'll feel a spark of creativity, or maybe just pity for neglecting my literary children, or maybe guilt for not being able to complete a project, and I'll go work on them for a while. Even The Story, which started as stereotypical ideas from a 13 year old girl, is still around today (granted, with many many face lifts). Why have I created so many abandoned stories?

I blame NaNoWriMo.

Okay, blame isn't entirely the best word. I know there are probably maybe reasons why I don't finish them. I don't have the time, I don't think they're good enough, I don't think anyone would want to read them, etc etc. But NaNoWriMo definitely has encouraged part of it. NaNoWriMo is an event where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The catch is you have to start from scratch - no adding to preexisting work. If you thought I was insane for doing Blogathon, then you have to be absolutely out of your mind to do this. Which is why I've participated in NaNoWriMo five times.

The reason why I have so many stories is that I've failed five times.

I had my classic fantasy adventure (The Story)(2004), a second failed attempt at the same fantasy (2005), the dystopian future of cloning and organ harvesting (2006), the Greek Gods humorously causing havoc on a modern day pagan and atheist (my favorite story so far)(2007), the corrupt religious scientists infecting a population with the "God gene" (2008).* All of them patiently sit at 5,000 to 10,000 words, waiting to be finished.**

And even with all my failures, I know I'm probably going to do it again this year.

It's absolutely insane for me to even consider attempting it. I'll be a senior with hard classes, a class to teach, research to do, grad schools to apply to, a club to run, a blog to update (don't worry, I won't abandon you guys) - and I still want to write a novel? NaNoWriMo is like an abusive husband that I can't will myself to leave. I don't know why I keep going back and getting slapped around. Maybe it's the hope that one year I'll actually have the motivation to finish. One year I'll plan ahead so when November rolls around, I'll have a helpful outline and solidified ideas. But really I think it's because I don't know when I'll ever have this sort of time again. College is hard, but the "real world" is harder. This is my chance to instill good novel writing habits, or I'll never do it. It's always been a dream to get a book published, but I kind of need to actually finish a book before I do that.

And now that I've typed all that, I'm really not sure why I did. Maybe for someone to tell me how crazy I am and dissuade me. Maybe for someone to wave the pom poms and tell me to do it. Or maybe I have a reader who has also been repeated raped by NaNoWriMo and can sympathize. All I know is if I do decide to do this crazy shit again, I need to start planning now, or I'm just going to be whining again come December.

*Dear lord these all sound horrendous typed out in uber-summarized form. I promise you they're better than they look. Really.
**And it's not that I'm unhappy with them - I like all of them, and I'm super proud of how the Greek God one started. I think I'm just too afraid to ruin it at this point.

Don't forget to make your donation if you pledged

If you sponsored me in the Blogathon, don't forget to actually go and make your donation! It would be a shame to have $530 pledged and only a fraction of that actually get donated. Click here to make your donation. If you don't remember the amount you pledged, go sign into your account at the Blogathon website. If you're still having trouble, let me know and I can look it up for you.

Please try to make your donation by this Friday! All donations are going to be matched until then, so you're effectively doubling your impact. Thanks again!

Creationism abroad

Hmm, this line of thought sounds very familiar:

"If their name is uncertain, however, their mission appears clear enough: to overthrow the Nigerian state, impose an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and abolish what they term "Western-style education".

In an interview with the BBC, the group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, said such education "spoils the belief in one god".

"There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam," he said.

"Like rain. We believe it is a creation of god rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain.

"Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.""

Oh wait! That's the same paranoid creationist garbage we hear in the United States! Except, you know, the US is one of the most advanced nations in the world and Nigeria is an undeveloped nation home to corruption and scandal and unrest and disease and and and...

Good to know the Nigerian Taliban isn't much different than our Fundamentalist Christian Taliban. Crazies no matter where you are!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Homeless Atheist leaves Millions of Dollars to Charities

There's a great story over at NPR about a homeless man who surprised them by leaving them $4 million dollars when he died. He had to money to live luxuriously, but instead he lived the simplest life possible:

"When Walters retired, he evidently retired from the world of material comforts. He didn't have a car.

"He just gave up all of the material things that we think we have to have," Belle says. "You know, I don't know how we gauge happiness. What's happy for you might not be happy for me. I never heard him complain."

Evidently, among his few possessions was a radio. Hence those announcements listeners hear now and again on NPR stations."
He also donated smaller sums of $400,000 to various non-profit organizations, including a Catholic mission where his best friend worked.
"Belle stayed with Walters when he was ill. She became his nurse and ultimately the executor of his estate — as well as one of the beneficiaries — despite fundamental differences between them.

"He was an atheist and I'm a very profound practicing Catholic, and I'd never met an atheist," Belle says. "And that just blew my mind that somebody could not believe in the Lord.""

I really love seeing stuff like this, but especially when it involves an atheist. It's only more proof that you don't need to be religious to be a good, charitable, self sacrificing human being.

And an extra special bonus? He was a Purdue alumnus! Go Boilermakers for producing the occasional awesome person.

This should be fun

So I was lamenting earlier about my failure to come up with interesting group activities for my atheist organization. The same member quoted in that post just came up with a great idea - a Photo Scavenger Hunt! Grouping up members and making them take photos of themselves doing silly things or in front of silly things before a time limit runs out. "That's not as awesome as an orgy!" you say. Well I disagree! Why? Because it's going to be a Freethinking Photo Scavenger Hunt! With wonderful items on the scavenger hunt list like:

- Depict evolution somehow
- Laugh/cry in front of a place of worship
- Act out your favorite ridiculous scene from a holy book

etc

Now all I have to do is finalize the list by Sunday...but I figure a lot of you here are even more creative/hilarious than I am, so I'm going to ask for your help. What do you want to see on that scavenger hunt list? Email me at jmccreig(at)purdue.edu.

DO NOT LEAVE COMMENTS WITH IDEAS IN THEM BELOW OR I WILL DELETE THEM AND SMITE YOU WITH A FIREY HEATHEN RAGE!
General comments about how awesome this idea is are okay, but I don't want club members getting a sneak peak at the list (especially since a lot read my blog). You'll probably get some of the best photos posted here, so put those thinking caps on!

A Victory for the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign

A while back I posted how the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign had their ad "You Can Be Good Without God" rejected in Bloomington for being "too controversial" even though the bus agency (owned by the town) had run religious ads before. Well, they've reached a settlement regarding their lawsuit! The transit will run their ads on as many buses for whatever length of time at the normal rate, and pay for part of the ACLU's legal fees. And they say it best:
"Let’s be straight here: this is a victory not just for atheism and secularism, but for free speech all around."
I'm crossing my fingers that West Lafayette is next. Maybe I need to go beg their organizer a little more...

Goddamnit Facebook

First my Dad friends me. Then my Mom's like, "Wait, why did you friend your Dad and not me? Friend me too!" Then I think my Prof/Boss friends me so I accept his request, only to find out his friendship was merely suggested to me by a coworker, so in actuality I sent him a friend request. Then a minute ago I get a friend request from a cousin who is Republican, Christian, and a fan of Fox News and Sarah Palin.

...

Why, why?!?!

It's a bit ironic because she comments on how the McCreights are bad at keeping touch and it would be a great way to get to know each other, but I have a hunch she would be appalled at most of the stuff on my facebook page. It really doesn't surprise me though. I mean, she's right, my dad's side of the family doesn't keep in touch at all, even though I have much more relatives there compared to my mom's side (which is unusual for Greeks...). But the one thing I know is that something went horrendously wrong politics wise in my family:Seriously, how do two working class Democrats produce 1 Democrat (my dad) and 3 Republicans?* What went horribly wrong?!? Maybe this is the reason why we don't keep in touch...

*The question marks are there because I seriously have no idea how many cousins or second cousins or probably third cousins (I'm the youngest cousin of the bunch) that I even have, especially because it seems like everyone has been remaried at least once or twice. The ones shown are just the ones I know the names of.** And my brothers didn't arise by parthenogenesis, they just have a different mother that I was too lazy to draw.
**Actually, it's kind of sad. I've done some genealogy stuff and I have an accurate family tree for the McCreights back to the 1700s (and for other branches back to the 1500s) yet I don't know my modern relatives.

New Blogs

Two of my friends just started blogs, so I figured I'd give them some pluggage.

My friend Mike is a political science major and a prolific tweeter who will now be blogging over at Politics and Pucks. Most of his stuff will be over politics, the interactions between politics and religion, pop culture, and hockey. Yeah, last part's a bit random, but who doesn't like some blogging randomness? Maybe there's a huge number of political hockey-loving atheists that I don't know about. I always enjoy Mike's political insights, especially after he's had a beer or two (hear that, Mike? Drunk posting!!).

And you guys have already met my friend Mark who did a series of guest posts for me during Blogathon, and humiliated himself with me in our Chop Suey karaoke video. I've known Mark since first grade, and I think he's funnier and more insightful than me, so I told him he should start blogging too - now he's over at The Internet Stops Here. Consider it a mathimatical sister blog to Blag Hag. It'll cover atheism and random nerdy topics, but instead of biology, he'll talk about math and his adventures in teaching. Oh, and his first post features yours truly being a giant dork, so that's extra incentive for you to go check it out.

Now go and say hello!

Ahhh, much better

I'm feeling much better now after resting. Took a five hour "nap" after making that last post at 9am. I could have slept longer, but I didn't want to completely destroy my sleep schedule. A friend I hadn't seen in five months ended up randomly calling me to tell me he was passing through town, which forced me to actually get dressed and stop being a cranky zombie. Was great to see him though, and human interaction + delicious middle eastern food woke me up. I then proceeded to sleep eleven hours last night, which put me at about the total necessary sleep for the last two days. Had insane Harry Potter dreams involving Snape running around crying with smeared eyeliner/mascara running down his face, me as Hermione being annoyed at people asking for my help in finding books in the library (Do I look like their wizarding Dewey decimal system?!?!), and me "off set" as Hermione joking with Daniel Radcliffe how I really should have been allotted a love scene with Snape...and then Alan Rickman walks by chuckling and I die of mortification. Hooray messed up dreams!

My left eye also seems completely unwilling to focus today, despite my being up for two hours already. I'd like to chalk it up to the messed up sleep schedule, but the whole inability to focus in the morning thing has been happening more and more lately. So have the headaches, the squinting, the... yeah, I really need to go see an eye doctor. Last time I went was four years ago, and he said I would need glasses sometime in college. Well, I'm about to be a senior in college, so I'm pretty sure I'm doomed. I really don't have anything against glasses* other than it will complete my transformation from Uber Nerd to Nerdica, Queen of the Nerds.
Hmmm...glasses may not be that bad after all.

*Contacts are right out since my eyes are super sensitive and just the sight of someone adjusting their contact freaks me the hell out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I MADE IT!

And the Blogathon is over! Ahahahaha, success! Not once did I fall asleep, and I'm sure I only humiliated myself a couple of times rather than constantly. And more importantly...

We raised $449.32 for the Secular Student Alliance!

Thanks to everyone who helped out: Everyone who donated money, PZ and Hemant and the SSA for spreading the word, my friends Mark and Vanessa for keeping me company and helping me with guest posts, and the commenters who helped keep me up with their wit and insights, especially Andre Vienne and Veritas, who were insane and wonderful enough to stay up all night and comment on every post.

But while my part of the Blogathon is over, yours isn't necessarily. You can still go here to pledge a donation to the SSA until Friday the 31st. Maybe you want to give a dollar for every post you loved. Maybe you want to give 68 cents so we're not dealing with decimals anymore. Or maybe you just know someone who would enjoy one of the posts - spread the word, and maybe they'll consider pledging!

Thanks again, everyone! Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go sleep for a very long time.

Suggested bloggy reading

Since I'm likely going to crash once this is over and be disgusted by the idea of blogging for at least a day or so, here are some of my favorite blogs you can peruse in my absence. Unless you're one of those people who saw my 49 posts, went "What the hell?", and didn't touch them. In that case, you have plenty of Jennifer material to work through! I suggest starting at the beginning. Some post refer to others without linking (yeah yeah, I got sloppy), but most importantly my most recent posts have been rambling nonsensical shit piles thrown up in a desperate attempt to speed up the flow of time so I could go to sleep.

Anyway, uh, yeah, cool blogs:

Skeptical/Scientific:
Friendly Atheist
Pharyngula
Why Evolution is True
Travels with Darwin

Humor/Entertainment:
Indexed
Psychotic Letters From Men
Not Always Right
Tiny Art Director

Almost...done...

This is post 48 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The disgusting breakfast of champions

And lunch, and dinner, and second dinner, and and and...

In the last 24 hour I have ingested what can only be 50,000 calories of food (please don't calculate it though, I rather not know). The problem with the blogathon was that I had no time to cook (and I had no ready-to-eat food available, whoops bad planning), so I depended on deliveries and friends bringing me food. What did I eat?

McDonald's sausage McBiscuitwhateverthehellitscalled
McDonald's hashbrowns
Medium McDonald's coffee
Potbelly big chicken salad sandwhich
Pepsi
Venti Starbucks iced coffee
Pepsi
Wendy's crispy chicken sandwich
Wendy's small fries
Pepsi
Glass of Bailey's/Kahlua/Chocolate Milk
Half of a large order of cheesy bread

When I lay down at 9:01, I'm probably going to die of a heart attack. It was nice knowing all of you. Thanks for your support.

Seriously though, I'm going to eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for a week, ugh. I feel disgusting.

This is post 47 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'll pray for you

From Mark:

Still alive, here's Guest Post #5!

The question was “How you feel when people say 'I'll pray for you' because something bad happened to you?”

In the end, it's a tough question to answer.

On one hand, the people that say these things to me don't understand that it means nothing to me whereas they firmly believe that their prayers (if they end up doing them at all) accomplish something that they obviously cannot. Of course, I would much rather they try to hire the best doctor/lawyer they could to help me out.

On the other hand, however, knowing that they are intending to pray for me to their god in a way that does not inhibit me from getting better means that they care. They certainly care enough to feel empathy for me in my time of need. It's not up to them to try to upgrade my situation on their own. They are not expected to pay my hospital bill unless it is their fault to begin with that I'm there.

So, while I would not like to have to deal with a chaplain coming to give me my last rites as I'm dying, I will appreciate every prayer, useful or otherwise, that people can spare. It may not do anything on its own, but I will be comforted by the fact that there is someone out there somewhere who cares about me in my hour of need.

This is post 46 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Favorite sleep deprivation memories

This isn't the first time in my life that I've pulled an all-nighter. Most just end with me being cranky and crashing. Others are more memorable. Once I had pulled an all-nighter for our Science Olympiad State competition (as did most of the team). On the bus ride home most of us went completely insane - not only were we exhausted, but we had basically eaten nothing but candy bars. Eventually everyone fell asleep on the bus, but after a little while I woke up screaming that my legs were on fire! ...because I had fallen asleep right next to the heater. It was hot, but probably not hot enough to flail my legs over my poor friend's head.

I also saw Team America World Police in theaters after pulling an all-nighter. At the time, it was the funniest thing in the world. I was constantly in tears laughing, and my friends were more amused with my insanity than the movie itself. Let's just say I didn't find it quite as funny the second time around.

Oh, and there was that one time where I made a bazillion blog posts in 24 hours. Yeah, that was cool.

Any good stories?

This is post 45 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

While we're on the topic of girls...

Some of my friends (both male and female) were giving me a hard time because a guy has never bought me a drink in a bar/pub/anywhere. Now, even though I'm a college student, I don't go out that often... and when I do go out, I'm not dressed (like every other girl) in a mini skirt and a shirt where my boobs are about to flop out. But they seem to think this situation is completely socially unacceptable, and that I need to try hard to flirt it up and get free drinks.

Really?

I mean, there's a tiny part of me that would like it, I guess, for a fraction of a second. It would be nice having a guy show interest in you, assuming he's not a total creeper. But then you realize the only reason he's doing it is to get in your pants, and all the charm goes straight out the window. That is the only reason, right guys? Or do the noble intentions of some get ruined by the devious intentions of others?

This is post 44 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The comment thread to end all comment threads

BOOBS

Discuss.

This is post 43 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Evil new technology

There are plenty new forms of technology and electronics that we love or want. I've been secretly hoping that my 3 year old iPod will spontaneously combust so I have an excuse to blow hundreds of dollars on an iPod Touch.

But new forms of technology do you hate?

- Blue tooth headsets that make it seem like people are talking to you, or having a neurotic conversation with themselves, when really they're talking on the phone. I'm sure these are amazing for business men, but they annoy me.

- Auto flushing toilets. I swear they were put on earth by Satan himself (or maybe God, to punish me). Most of them you move a half centimeter and it's going off, and the water pressure is usually too high so it makes a giant mess while you're still precariously perched. Thanks. And when you actually want them to flush, they don't do anything. Grrr.

- Uh...thingies. That I will think of once people start commenting. Um. Yeah.

This is post 42 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Conservative vs Liberal morals

Here's a wonderful TED talk by Jonathan Haidt on the difference between conservative and liberal morals. Watched it a while back in my Evolutionary Psychology class and thought it was intriguing.



This is post 41 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Pat Buchanan needs to learn his internet memes

Pat Buchanan wrote an article titled "Is Obamania Over?" You could go and read it, or you could just look at this:
This is a graphic Pat Buchanan made to represent the sugar-coated, wonderful hopes for the Obama administration.

...

Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Come on Pedobear, isn't Barack a little too old for you?

This is post 40 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Comic

May regret this one in the morning when I'm getting hate mail.

This is post 39 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Atheism is not a religion

Hey everybody!

Post #4 from Mark!

Beer tends to make me more introspective (Being that it is Blue Moon, I'm also incredibly happy.), so I'm going to dust off an old topic that SHOULD have been laid to rest years ago; but, unfortunately, still pops up around occasionally.

Comparing Atheism to Religion:

Let's begin with a very cliché opening statement:

re*li*gion

–noun

1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the
universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman
agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual
observances, and often containing a moral code governing the
conduct of human affairs.

2.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally
agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian
religion; the Buddhist religion.

3.
the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and
practices: a world council of religions.

4.
the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.

5.
the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

6.
something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter
of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

Neglecting 3, 4, and 5 because they are incidental to the argument, I want to go through and explain the rest of these. Surely you, dear reader, will agree with me that, assuming these are the only definitions of religion, if I can show Atheism does not fall into any of these categories (each statement, therefore, is conjoined by an “or”), I will have proved Atheism not a religion. Hooray Analysis classes! I wonder if I can re-write some of these definitions as actual mathematical statements.

Also, this is taken from Random House Dictionary. Credible source if I say so myself.

1. Let's start with “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief concerning the cause nature or purpose of the universe} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists regarding the nature of the universe} Then if Atheism is a religion, X ^ Y =/= emptyset

I think we can all agree that Atheism has only one actual concept associated with it: The disbelief that there exists such a thing as God. There is no universal belief as to how the universe was created, what it looks like beyond what we can see, and, especially, the purpose of said universe.

The rebuttal usually comes in the form of the following: “What about the Big Bang? It is generally assumed that if a person does not agree that a god created the universe, it began with 'The Big Bang.'”

Certainly. This is a commonly held theorem by many people. The concept of The Big Bang Theory (which is also a REALLY awesome show, by the way) is, indeed the best we have so far. Years and years of testing, measuring, and pondering have been done and this is the only theory that has stood the test of time. Also, this theory was first hypothesized by a priest. So, the church SHOULD be with us on this one. More importantly, Atheism has nothing to do with guessing at the origins of the universe. I'm sure there is at least one Atheist somewhere who is convinced that Aliens are responsible for some reason. Atheism and scientific thought are not necessarily synonymous.

i.e. Assume that X^Y=/= empty set.

But the infinite intersection of Ya, where a is a subset of A where a is contained in A= {All the atheists in the world} (A is the spanning set of Y where A is all the atheists in the world and Ya is the set of commonly held beliefs of all atheists regarding the nature of the universe)

Ya = {empty set} Therefore, X^Y = empty set.

CONTRADICTION.

“esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of

human affairs.”

I'm sure we can leave this as an exercise.

2. “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Again, because Atheism has no particular collection of beliefs, there is no set of beliefs to agree on.

Don't pull the kind of crap with me that says, “It takes FAITH not to believe in God.”

Pointing out that religions have no real case to prove that God exists is NOT a belief. It's merely an observation of a logic flaw.

The proof for #2 is nearly identical to #1.

6. “Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.”

Let me break this up into two sections starting with the latter first.

“A point or matter of ethics or conscience”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a statement regarding ethics} and Y = {God does not exist} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Atheism says the following: GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

This is not, and I repeat, NOT a statement regarding ethics in any sense.

i.e. God does not exist is not contained in X. Therefore X^Y = empty set.

Part 2:

Something one believes in and follows devotedly

I have never met an Atheist who has spent their life devoted to the thought that God Does Not Exist.

Our thoughts on the existence of a god does not rule our lives. It does not even, normally, play anything more than a tangential part in who we are. I am Mark and, yes, I am indeed an Atheist. HOWEVER, more importantly, I am a teacher, a musician, I have brown hair, I was born in September and I like long walks on the beach. I am devoted only to living my life as I feel it needs to be lived. The only difference in the way my life will be lived compared to if I weren't an atheist, is I'd be spending more time in Synagogue. Given the amount of free time I now have on Saturdays, I can live my life 3 hours more every single week.

Q.E.D.

This is post 38 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LOL CAT TIME OMG

I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE YOU. But memes. And caps lock, apparently.
A fellow Blogathoner's favorite:This lolrus made me laugh so hard that I cried:
To the mooooooon:
Ugh, shower time. Need to wake up.

This is post 37 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Where did you learn about sex?

People assume that parents or schools are going to be where you first learn about sex...but that hardly ever seems to be the case. When I was 11 I had many slightly older online friends thanks to a Pokemon forum (ha) who thoroughly corrupted me. By age 13 I was giggling at goatse, by age 14 I was the resident sex guru - before taking any official sex ed class. And I don't mean the kid who spreads misinformation about sex - I really knew what I was talking about. It was this fascinating area to me, and I couldn't stop reading every sex information and sex advice thing I could find online. I wanted to understand as much about it as possible in a scientific way - it didn't even cross my mind to start trying things out on a practical level for a few more years. It was just another topic to learn, just like history or biology. I didn't even quite understand how taboo it was in America.

I take great pride in that my Sexpert status has stayed with me - I still have people coming to me with their random questions.

Where did you first learn about sex? And how the hell is it that I somehow thoroughly educated myself using the internet, but your average American teen uses the internet just to learn stupid rumors (can't get pregnant on your period, etc)? Kids these days. Get off my lawn, etc.

This is post 36 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Meta Blogging - How do I wake up?

Throw away post, sorry.

I'm starting to feel the effects of sleep, and I still have at least seven hours of blogging left. Usually 2 am doesn't affect me like this, but I woke up at 7am and I've slept like crap the last three days. I think I can stay awake, but the hard part is actually coming up with coherent thoughts. Before I was ahead by a half hour, now I feel like I have about 15 minutes a post because I'm starting to move slower and slower.

So, suggestions? Caffeine? Running around to music? Giving up and letting my inner insanity take over my posts?

PS: Lost at the art contest, aw. Oh well.

This is post 35 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Porn? Too silly!

WATCH OUT boys and girls! It's late night with the Blag Hag! Aka, I've finally cracked and it's time to get to the dirty stuff. The rest of this night probably will be mildly NSFW, unless you don't have to worry about curious coworkers peeping over your shoulder.

Why don't women watch as much porn as men? I think someone finally got it right:
"For me, the real problem with most porn is its hokeyness — the ridiculous costumes, the awful cinematography, the ludicrous story lines, the terrible acting (not to mention how scary the close-ups sometimes look, how fake the boobs are, how some starlets really sound like injured animals...)."
One hundred percent agreed.

I'm not sure why it seems like guys don't have a problem with this - they are the ones watching the majority of porn, after all. But silliness in porn drives me nuts. Even at peak horniness, an ugly pair of socks (why the hell are you still wearing them?), unrealistic people, fake moans, funky disco music, or cats walking by in the background will just ruin it for me. It's not necessarily that I react in a disgusted way - usually it just distracts me. Sometimes it's so funny that I keep watching to laugh at it instead of enjoying it the way Aphrodite intended. I've even wished there was a blog devoted to making fun of the ridiculous stuff in porn. I'd do it myself, but I kind of don't want my name eternally associated with that.

So guys, enlighten me. How do you do it? Do you just not notice it in the heat of the moment?

This is post 34 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer

And like Beetlejuice, I appear out of nowhere magically! Along with the five billion other Jennifers.

It really bugs me to have such a common name. There always seems to be at least one other Jennifer in my classes. The laboratory where I work had three Jennifers in it at one point in time out of 20 people. Hell, in the Blogathon chat room 2/17 people are named Jennifer. It's gotten to the point where if I walk down the street and someone says Jennifer, don't even bother to turn because it's rarely ever for me. This annoys the heck out my friends who are actually trying to get my attention.

So one day I asked my dad, why the hell did you name me Jennifer? Why such a common name? Did it have some sort of significance for you?

Why?

Both of my parents are teachers.

When you have so many students, less common names always conjure the image of a specific student. Veronica? Ugh, sooooo annoying. Courtney was a nerd. Meredith? Not the brightest crayon in the box. But Jennifer? So many of them, no one student popped in mind!

So thank you mom and dad. I was named to be bland and unmemorable.

Just kidding, I think this is pretty hilarious. Better than just naming someone after a relative, I think.

This is post 33 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Drawing Challenge

There's a new challenge at the Blogathon for $5 - draw something related to Blogathon! Well, this is basically how I feel right now: going insane and jacked up on caffeine.
Though it's a bit of a stretch. I really only have a couple Pepsi cans surrounding me, and they're not ginormous. Unfortunately I didn't have to take too much artistic liberty with the deranged look on my face.

This is post 32 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Friendly vs Outspoken Atheism

Another guest post from Mark:

Now that I've had a little bit of booze in me... I don't know much about Christmas, but Bailey's, Peppermint Schnapps, and chocolate milk is fine by me.

My hat goes out to Jen here. I would not be able to blog every half hour. I don't have that many things to say.

That being said, here's Guest Post #3 from me!

I was asked by Jen to discuss the difference between the so called “Friendly Atheist” vs the so called “Outspoken Atheist.”

Here, I think, are the pros and cons of each at their most extreme:

The Friendly Atheist is sort of seen as the apologetic atheist. They are there to be a spokesperson of atheism to religion. As a result, these people tend to be less outspoken about their own atheism in hopes that they can act as ambassador to the religious.

On the other hand, we have the Outspoken Atheist. The Outspoken Atheist is out there to let people know that he exists and doesn't care about your shenanigans. If you say or do something stupid, they will let you know because they're Atheists and they are the guardians of logic and the path of scientific enlightenment.

I think it is possible to conserve the best traits of each. It is possible to be an Atheist who is quite staunch in his beliefs and not be a dick about it. Certainly you may come across people with stupid beliefs. However, in my opinion, if they aren't bothering you, it is perfectly fine to leave them the heck alone.

As a general rule, when I meet a person, I try to judge them on their merits. I am, indeed willing to ignore the faults of a person if I find they are a positive influence on my life.

For example, a very close friend of mine, “Barry,” is very religious. He went to a school system run by a Baptist church and is a very active member of his congregation and a very religious individual. However, as a person, he is an incredibly good one. He's a talented musician of many stripes, an incredibly intelligent person, and an all around good guy. As a result, I have no problem with him as one of my closest friends. Sure, we disagree on certain things, religion being tantamount among them, but that is a small part of our relationship. We recognize that we have an incredibly different opinion, and recognize that, in the end, we are unlikely to change each others minds...so we don't bother mentioning it. Incidentally, he helped to build the museum that we are going to in two weeks. (LOL *cough*)

It is possible to be an ambassador to other faiths without compromising your integrity just as it is possible to be outspoken without being intrusive.

When it comes to these two archetypes, I don't think they need to be different.

This is post 31 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Why do people have favorite colors?

Random thought time.

Why do people have favorite colors? It may be like having a favorite food, which I assume is basically chemical in food > taste buds > signal to brain > release of happy chemicals (very scientific discorse following my last posts). I guess a favorite color would go more like certain light waves > particular stiumlation > signal to brain > release of happy chemicals.

But is that really how it works? With food, I will pick my favorite over others, and I will go "mmmmm" when a delicious piece of cheesecake is in my mouth. But my favorite color is blue, and the sight of blue doesn't necessarily make me elated. I don't jump for joy when I see a blue car over a red car. My closet isn't just full of blue clothes - if I got a wonderful psychological reaction of of blue, you would expect it would be. But at the same time if you asked me my favorite color, I was not hesitate to say blue.

My guess is that having a favorite color is a cultural meme. We're asked at an early age what our favorite color is, and we're expected to have a quick answer. I wonder if younger children have to think longer about their choice than older children, or if younger children change their mind more and then their favorite color becomes permanent. I'm not sure how that initial color is picked - maybe it's the color of their room, their blanket, their favorite toy - or maybe it's completely arbitrary and then they stick with it. And from that point on, it starts reinforcing itself. I know blue is my favorite color because I said it was my favorite color. I like blue more because people start buying me blue things that I like (my mom basically bought me nothing but blue clothes when I was little). After a while I can't come up with a logical reason why I like the color blue - I just do. It seems instinctive. Yet I have a hard time believing my preference for blue has a genetic basis - but who knows, weirder things have been found.

Keep in mind this is arm chair speculation - it could be complete BS. But what do you think? Any hypotheses? Any sources I should have tried to find?

This is post 30 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'm a scientist! Pt 5

So the previous project I described is what I worked on most of my junior year and is in the process of being transformed into a paper (which I'll likely get to be first author on - huzzah!). What other lab work have I been doing recently?

This wasn't even meant to be a full project, but really started out of curiosity (like all good science does). One of my professors, Prof W, was doing some collection in the krat's breeding season (Novemberish) instead of our usual July. During his trapping he was lucky enough to discover some copulatory plugs.

What the hell are copulatory plugs, you ask? Basically it's a secretion the male deposits during mating that hardens into...well, a plug that takes time to remove. This makes it harder for the female to mate with another male later for obvious reasons. Or to steal a good analogy from Wikipedia, it's a biological chastity belt.

Most rodents and some insects use copulatory plugs but they're still a bit of a mystery. There's not much literature on them in rodents, and virtually none on kangaroo rats. So we thought, what the heck can we do these things? Hmmm, let's chop them up and genotype them!

We cut the plug into four segments, so one segment 1 would be the most internal in the female, and segment 4 would be the most external. We digested the plug and extracted DNA, then genotyped the DNA using various genetic markers. We then compared the results for these markers to the genotypes of the females we retrieved the plugs from. The tricky thing here is that you have a mixed sample, something they have to deal with a lot in forensic cases. Think of a rape case - you may have a semen sample, but it'll have DNA from the female in it too. How do you know which belongs to which when you're looking at something on a screen?

This is an example of what you would see (each number represents an allele):

Female: 130, 142
Mixed sample: 130, 136, 138, 142

You know that 130 and 142 most likely came from the female, and the new 136 and 138 came from the male. So the male is 136, 138 right? Well...it's a bit more complicated. Maybe there are two males, and one is 130, 136 and the other is 138, 142. Or maybe one is 136, 138, and the other is 138, 142. What if there are three males?

Thankfully, there are ways around this. One is by comparing the relative strengths of each allele (not going to explain that, sorry). Another is using multiple markers. Another is assessing the probability of the combination using statistics. And finally, you can use the exclusion principle - see what males absolutely cannot possibly have contributed those alleles, and see who's left and how the puzzle fits together.

I think you can imagine that this project is the ultimate puzzle. It can be a pain in the butt deciphering everything, but it's really rewarding once you crack the code. And what have we figured out so far? Well, we have a pretty good guess of what male contributed to the plug, and in some cases more than one male appears to have contributed to the same plug, with their contributions separated by location in plug. Aka, the male that got their first formed the most internal part of the plug, and the second male formed the most external.

And before I start talking too much about rodent sex, I'm going to leave the implications of that up to your imagination.

This is post 29 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'm a scientist! Pt 4

So what do I specifically study about kangaroo rats using genetics? Well, there's been a long standing debate in our lab if our two study sites are actually separate genetic populations, or geographic locations. They're separated by about 30 miles, and krats don't disperse that far in a year - usually 100 meters. However, the sites are connected by a valley that's full of kangaroo rats. If they're a single population, their long term population histories and genetic variation would be similar. If they're two populations, you would see some difference. That's what I'm trying to solve.

How do you look thousands of years back into the past using just the DNA you have now? You use a molecular clock. DNA mutations accumulate at certain rates in certain areas, and you count the number of mutations. For example, if you know in one gene you get one mutation every ten million years, and you see three mutations, that probably took 30 million years to accumulate.

I specifically use the control region of mitochondrial DNA. The control region is a noncoding region that accumulates mutations quickly since it doesn't undergo any type of selection. It accumulated mutations so quickly that you can see differences within individuals in a single population by just looking at a couple hundred base pairs of sequence data. For example, these may be two individuals:

krat 1: AATCGTT
krat 2: GATCGTT

Each variation of sequence is called a haplotype. You may know the term "genotype" - the main difference here is that since we're dealing with mitochondrial DNA, it's haplod (only has one copy). More than one individual usually share haplotypes unless it's a rare one. If the two populations are isolated, you would expect to see differences in haplotypes. We didn't see any differences, which indicate these two locations aren't as isolated as we may have thought.

There's some more in depth analysis going on, but I'm not going to bore you with those bits.

This is post 28 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Victory!

Shaming myself by posting that video of us singing System of a Down has paid off - we tied for first! Ten more dollars goes to the Secular Student Alliance. Oh, what I'll do for money. Er, I mean, charity. Um, just going to stop talking now.

Mark and Vanessa just went to get booze. I'm afraid.

This is post 27 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

15 Suggestive Photos of Nature

Sorry, the karaoke took a bit of time, so I need a filler post before I talk more about my research. Here, rocks and trees that look like naughty bits!

(Thanks Michael)

This is post 26 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Chop Suey for Charity

Not sure why none of you suggested this one, but I thought it was the most hilarious pick. Keep in mind I'm embarrassing myself for charity. Enjoy the silly singing and complimentary boob jigglage.

Thanks Mark for the backup vocals.

(Sorry it's not the full song...camera battery died right when it cut off =( )



This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Mark on Math

As many of you don't know...what with most of you just meeting me for the first time and all...I am currently an Undergrad in the school of Math at Purdue who is pursuing a degree in Math Education (because, frankly, it's running away from me and I really want to catch it.)

What this means, for those of you who are not both studying at Purdue OR in a secondary education major, is that I am a Math student who is forced to take six relatively perfunctory education classes in addition to nearly ALL the math classes.

As a result of this particularly rigorous number of math classes (and a few awesome ones I've taken just for the lulz), I've been given a very good understanding of what is necessary to come into these classes and not leave the room crying every day. Let's just say, I didn't have a very excellent background in Math before I came to Purdue and started off on my path to become a math teacher (after, of course, a year and a half detour through the Chemical Engineering department. *sadface*).

Granted, my Calculus and Trig. skills are fantastic, my Algebra skills are awesome, and my Geometry skills are...well, not awesome but I made it through the class and, by the end, had totally made up for the terrible beginning.

“But...but Mark!” You say. “Isn't that Math?”

Well...sort of.

Those things are the sum total of Math in the same way that taking baking soda and vinegar and mixing them together is chemistry.

Sure...these are things you do IN math and things that require math but what is missing is the theoretical aspect.

WHY do these things do what they do? Why does the Calculus do what it is supposed to?

This part of math is called “Analysis.” It mostly consists of “Proofs.” That is to say, the mathematic reasoning behind a given theorem.

The problem is that back in high school (and it seems most high schools nowadays) provide little to no actual analysis backing...specifically because of how state standards are set up. In order to continue functioning as a school, its students must score at certain levels on their standardized tests. As a result, teachers don't always have the option of including logical reasoning and proof as a part of their curriculum.

This is really freaking sad.

To me, this strips Math of all of its science! There is no inquiry. It's just become history with numbers.

This next semester, I will be teaching a class here at Purdue. MA 153 for those in the know and Algebra and Trigonometry I for those who aren't.

I fully intend to sneak in as much logic and reasoning as I possibly can. My students will not just know WHAT they're doing, but I'll actually explain to them WHY they're doing what they're doing and WHERE it comes from so they can understand HOW to do it on a higher level than they might were they just to get equations and algorithms thrown at them.

Until later, this is Mark signing off!

This is post 24 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'm a scientist! Pt 3

So what do I actually study?

Since I'm trying to milk this for all its worth, let's just start with my study organism: kangaroo rats!
Specifically I study banner-tailed kangaroo rats, Dipodomys spectabilis. They're nocturnal rodents that live in the Southwestern US and Mexico. Their entire diet consists solely of seeds - they don't even drink water. They've adapted to the desert life by being extremely efficient at conserving water. For example, their urine (when they rarely pee) is 24% salt - ours is 6%. How do they do it? Simply put, the path from their lungs to the outside air is long enough that the water vapor cools and condenses before it escapes the body - and they sniff it back up. This allows them to only lose 5% of the water we'd lose in respiration.

Oh, and they're adorable:That silver thing you see on it's ear isn't a staple of kangaroo rat fashion - they're ear tags. Each contains a unique number, and we use them to keep track of each individual. We trap them during the summer and we're able to tell if they've changed homes since last year, who they're living with, how much they've grown, etc. We also take small ear snips so we have tissue to do DNA testing with. There's really an endless about of studies we can do using this data, but so far most of the work has focuses on dispersal, inbreeding, and paternity.

Did I mention they were adorable?
Their main predators are coyotes (rarely), owls/hawks (commonly), and rattle snakes (frequently). I just because I was lucky to get the photo, here's one in action (the krat was less lucky):This is post 23 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'm a scientist! Pt 2

If you want to read some news articles about my lab's research, here are some links:

Scientists are learning more about big birds from feathers
Study shows animal mating choices more complex than once thought
Sex lives of wild fish: genetic techniques provide new insights
Random picks better than complicated process in gene indentification
DNA from feathers tells tale of eagle fidelity
Road losses add up, taxing amphibians and other animals
Study rules out inbreeding as cause of amphibian deformities
Genetically modified fish could damage ecology

Speaking of our amphibian road kill project...to give you an idea of how bad it gets, here's the carnage on a road in West Lafayette after it rains:The town literally has sweepers that come through and remove all of the frog bodies. Thousands die after a single rainfall.

This is why road planners need to talk to biologists before building a major road that bisects a marsh.

This is post 22 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Intermission: Karaoke!

Blogathon is going to have a new challenge: Videotape yourself singing karaoke. Because I'm on a caffeine high and have the sudden urge to embarrass myself, I'm going to let you guys suggest what I should sing.

Key word: suggest. If you all vote for some horrible song to annoy me, I have veto power =P

I have Rock Band 2 for Wii, which has a song list here. Here are additional songs I've downloaded:

All The Small Things - Blink 182
Buddy Holly - Weezer
Call Me When You're Sober - Evanescence
Dirty Little Secret - All American Rejects
Don't Speak - No Doubt
Hella Good - No Doubt
Hysteria - Muse
Just a Girl - No Doubt
More Than A Feeling - Boston
My Sharona - The Knack
Space Man - The Killers
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
The Kill - 30 Seconds to Mars
This Ain't a Scene It's an Arms Race - Fall Out Boy

So, any requests?

*I should have made this more clear: Your only choices are the Rock Band songs. Sorry guys. I will turn off the game's vocals, though.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I'm a scientist!

I figured I've been blogging long enough with vague references to lab work and research and biology conferences that I should actually tell you guys what my research is. I'm not going to go super in depth for two reasons: one, if you're not a biologist, you probably wouldn't know what the heck I was talking about, and two, we're still trying to publish my work, so I don't want to give it all away before it's officially out there.

So before I get into specifics, let me give you a little background information about what I do.

My official job title is not "Undergraduate Slave Technician" but a Forestry & Natural Resources Signature Area Fellow in Ecological Genetics (phew, try saying that three times fast). That's really just a fancy way of saying I get paid slightly more because FNR had a special fund for smarty pants undergraduates doing more than one year of lab work. I'm actually a student of the Biology Department, which is in the College of Science, while FNR is part of the College of Agriculture. The only difference? Ag gets better funding at Purdue. Genetics is genetics no matter what department you're in.

The laboratory I work in is pretty diverse as far as projects go. Most of our research is on ecological genetics and using genetics to answer questions about conservation. While a lot of labs have only one or two study organisms, we basically have everything. Birds (a ton of species from Hispanola, Eastern Imperial Eagles from Kazakhstan), amphibians (from Tiger Salamanders to whatever we find squished on the road), fish (Lake Sturgeon, my favorite sexually ambiguous fish), and mammals (hurray for Kangaroo Rats!). And our actual research is just as diverse: investigating long term population histories, genetic diversity and the effects of human structures, noninvasive ways to monitor population densities, discovering the genetic mechanisms for sex determination, the genetic basis for mate choice, dispersal...we've basically done it all.

When I started research, I have to admit that I really didn't see the point of conservation projects. I didn't know much about the fragile nature of ecosystems or why we need to protect our wealth of resources on earth, even at the very least for selfish reasons. After working in the lab for a while, I have a new appreciation for conservation. Personally, it's not the kind of research I want to be doing - I'm still a bit of a cynic about conservation, and I'm not passionate enough to devote my life to it. My cynicism doesn't make my the best spokeswoman for it, either. But regardless, I do appreciate the work done much more than I did before, and I'm glad I got what's going to be a diverse lab experience before I go devoting my life to human genetics or something (or who knows what).

This is post 20 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Married to a porn star? You're fired

A town manager in Florida was fired for his connections to porn - not making his own, but being married to someone who did.

Wait, what?
"Scott, who married Anabela in October, was fired at an emergency meeting Tuesday after the mayor and council members learned the nature of her employment. Scott, the town manager for 15 months, was unanimously voted out, terminated with six months pay.

The firing came after Anabela, who goes by the stage name Jazella Moore, was recognized by an editor of an online adult entertainment publication after a photo of the couple on the Fourth of July parade was published in the local paper.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker said, "Our issue is the situation town was put in in terms of how effective we can govern and whether or not it this was going to serve as a distraction for that, and we felt like it would.""
It would be wrong for a town council to fire someone because they had been in porn, but it sadly wouldn't surprise me. America has such Puritan values when it comes to sex, especially using sex to make money. But firing someone for being married to a porn star? Does any connection to porn automatically make someone unfit to perform his or her job? What if it had been Scott's sister; would he still be to blame?

If this is really all there is to the story, I hope someone offers this man a job.

This is post 19 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Hooray lab work

*Minor Harry Potter 6th movie spoilers bellow*

Thanks Mark and Vanessa for standing in for me with a couple nice posts. I don't thank you, however, for playing Rock Band in the other room while I must continue typing away. Sadness. I had to run to work for a bit to see if my DNA extractions were finished (they weren't, sigh). No PCR dance was done, but the night is young and I haven't yet reached my maximum caffeination level.

And if you want to know what working in the lab is like... For those of you who have seen the sixth movie, you know the first potion classroom scene? Where Hermione's hair comically gets frizzier and frizzier from the fumes and stress (until it's the level of frizziness it's supposed to be according to the books)? Yeah, that pretty much happens to me all the time.

...Real post next update, sorry.

This is post 18 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Rational people acting irrationally

Us nonbelievers claim to be highly rational and logical...but, well, let's admit it. Sometimes we do some pretty silly, irrational things. For example, the thing that made me make this post:This is my closet right now. Notice how the clothes hamper is on top of the giant pile of dirty laundry, rather than filled with it. Can I explain how the hell this happened? ...No.

I know I have other things I'm irrational about, and they bug me even more because I can recognize that I'm being irrational. If you've spent enough time around in my real life, you know I'm stubborn. I mean, really stubborn, to the point where I'll start irrationally defending my position and refuse to back down. It's weird because I know I'm doing it, yet I can't seem to stop myself.

I also have irrational body image issues, but I'm pretty sure that's 95% of females out there. I was a chubby, overly tall, awkward little kid who got teased a lot about her weight - and that's stuck with me, even though I'm not overweight at all now. Rational Jen can step back and see someone attractive in the mirror, but there are times when I just do not feel cute. This usually manifests when I need to go clothes shopping. I have a hell of a time finding stuff that fits because I'm not 5 feet tall and don't have A cups, and it drives me crazy. I know I'm skinnier than the average American woman, and I really love my boobs, but American fashion is enough to drive me into irrational "you're such a fatty" mode.*

What irrational things do you?

This is post 17 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

A Catholic Atheist

Hi everyone! My name is Vanessa and this is my first blog post that will be read by people other than my close friends. Hooray!

When asked to guest post, my first thought was to divulge all of Jen's dirty secrets, as I had been her roommate a couple years ago (and incidentally will be again in a few days). Unfortunately, I couldn't really think of a whole lot to share (though she does get quite a collection of dirty socks under her desk). So instead, I am going to share my atheist conversion story.

I grew up Catholic. My parents are Catholic and we went to church every weekend. I went to Sunday School (though it was never on Sundays) from 1st through 11th grade.I was baptized, confirmed, reconciled, and had my first Eucharist (eating the bread and drinking the wine, for you non-Catholics) all before I was 9 years old.When I was young, I was all into this. I mean, what else was I supposed to think? My parents told me this was the truth and I had no reason to believe that they were wrong.

It was probably around 7th or 8th grade, when I started taking serious science classes, that I began to question my beliefs. In high school, I became a critical thinker and started analyzing religion.Most of it didn't make any sense to me. But I wanted it to be true, so I tried to hold on. That didn't last long, however, because by 11th grade, I had given up on trying to make sense of religion. I remember watching the deleted scenes of Donnie Darko in which Donnie is talking to his therapist. She described an agnostic as "One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism." I decided that described me. That same year in English class, one of our spelling test words (yes, I actually had spelling/definition tests in 11th grade) was agnostic. The definition our teacher gave was "someone who doesn't care whether God exists or not." I was offended by that. I cared very deeply, because I was still trying to work out which side of the fence I was actually on. Incidentally, this was the same teacher that canceled our school's annual Haunted House because it promoted demons and Satan and the like.

When I got to college, I was still pretty firm in my agnosticism. I made friends with a bunch of other agnostics and some atheists. Being around them and not being forced to go to church every day, I realized that the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous the idea of a god seemed to me. So by the beginning of my second year at college, I began defining myself as an atheist.

That is where I stand currently, and I am proud of it. However, I can't bring myself to tell my parents or the rest of my family. I feel like it would greatly disappoint them. I feel like they would think they failed somehow in raising me. One day I hope to come out to them, but until then I'll just continue with my secret life.

This is post 16 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

A Jewish Atheist

Hey everybody, I'm doing a guest post or two while Jen goes and does some sciencey thing. Perhaps PCR?


Unlike Jennifer, I was born into a family with very specific, if not particularly stringent, religious beliefs. I was born into an incredibly Jewish family complete with a grandmother who escaped the Nazis. While we didn't spend a lot of time going to synagogue during the year, we celebrated each holiday with gusto and nominally kept kosher (while we didn't go out of our way to find explicitly kosher food or have separate sets of dishes, we didn't mix milk and meat together or eat specifically unkosher food (pork, shellfish, et. al.) as a rule.


Being the bright young mind I was, I tried to absorb everything I could...I started reading at 3, I owned a set of Childcraft encyclopedias. By the age of ten I knew more about biology and astronomy than people who graduated high school.


Religion, to me, was just another subject of knowledge...granted, one with a slightly more all-encompassing /something/ to it. By the time I was of Bar Mitzvah age, I knew more about MY religion than some of the older people in our synagogue. I was not only learning the requisite readings and prayers for my Bar Mitzvah, but I was studying, wholeheartedly, to be the Chazzan for the Musaf service on Saturdays.


However, throughout my time becoming more and more involved in Judaism, I began to hit more and more snags. I remember many situations in which many of the standard beliefs of Judaism began to conflict with what I knew about the world.


At Hebrew school one day, our teacher (the rabbi's wife at the time) was teaching us about some of the old stories. She told us that, according to the Torah, the world was created in 7 days. I raised my hand.
“That's symbolic, right?”
“No, Mark. That's really how it happened.”
“Huh. Kay.”


On Rosh Ha Shana (The Jewish New Year) the leader of the kid's service mentioned the world being 5759 years old. At the time, I thought he was joking. Sure, the jewish calendar was calculated from a different starting point...but that doesn't mean that's when Jews thought the universe had REALLY started...right? Uhh...Right guys?


As I got older, it was becoming infinitely obvious that Judaism did not have all of the answers...however, for the most part, I wouldn't bother it and it wouldn't bother me. I stopped going to synagogue, where I had been faithfully going every week with the excuse that I had a lot to do on Saturdays...school, music, and continued on with my life...still Jewish. Eventually I would be convinced to try a cheeseburger...and then bacon (actual, delicious pig bacon...) and then lobster and eventually I came to college. It wasn't until I put a word and some actual thought behind it that I really discovered I was an atheist as opposed to simply a Jew who didn't...er...DO anything.


Even through my atheism, there are still parts of my Judaism I have yet to, and probably never will, give up.


I will always have Passover, Hannukka, and a few other holidays even if I have to focus more on the humanistic aspects. The music I remember from my studies will always remain a part of me. I have no intention of giving up my Judaism...regardless of WHAT I believe.


This is post 15 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Where the magic happens

Blogathon put up a challenge to post your workspace and blog about it to get sponsored, so here's my beautiful (aka cluttered desk):
If you can't read my white board calendar, it says August. Yes, of 2008. I don't exactly keep it updated now that I got Sunbird. Also, wood paneling. I never said I lived in a trendy apartment. It's honestly the one thing I don't like about the place.

Let's look a bit closer:
The paper pile! Topped off with a photo of a kangaroo rat that was the final slide to my power point presentation, and a comic I'm going to draw later. Phone, growing money pile, Sims 3 crack, Advil (going to need that later), handy dandy calculator, and my savior for the night: Pepsi.Bars of soap, so I can always stay clean! ...Actually they're just extras from hiking in Alaska. Drawing tablet will get some use later. I like my peg board - a combination of family photos, postcards, and liberal propaganda.

It's like I Spy! ...Except not as exciting. Sorry guys, did you expect me to just keep my porn stash lying around on my desk or something?

This is post 14 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Scientists and Atheism

Jon: Of the New Atheists, most are scientists (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Myers). Is this trend meaningful? Does it simply signify that more scientists are coming out, or that scientists nowadays consider religion objectionable on scientific grounds? How can (should) non-scientists get in on this?

There are plenty of people who claim that this trend isn't meaningful, that science and religion are compatible. However, I'm with Dawkins and PZ in thinking science and religion are not compatible (which I sort of touched on in Defeating Creationism). The trend we see isn't just from atheist scientists coming out of the closet, but the fact that scientists are more likely to be atheists. An often quoted 1998 correspondence in Nature cited that about 72.2% of the members of the National Academy of Science did not believe in God, and 20.8% expressed doubt or agnosticism. That's pretty significant when you consider that only 16.1% of Americans list themselves as "unaffiliated," and only a fraction of that group explicitly call themselves atheists or agnostics.

Why do I think so many scientists are nonbelievers? Two things. One, the very basic necessity for understanding science is critical thinking. You need be able to observe things, test hypotheses, analyze your results, and draw conclusions in an unbiased manner. The scientific method inherently contradicts the "religious method": take a dogma that someone else tells you, make observations, come to conclusions that conform to your preexisting dogma. Where would we be if the answer was just "God did it?" We still think that the world was flat, that Zeus is throwing thunderbolts, that life was created in an instance rather than over millions of years ... whoops, people do still believe that last one.

And that leads to point number two. Science provides alternative, rational, tested explanations for things rather that supernatural explanations. As less and less is explained by religion and more and more is explained by science, people begin to wonder, "Well if that was wrong, what about everything else?" Science may not be able to explain everything, now or ever, but it certainly has a good track record. I know this point was particularly important for my atheism. I originally couldn't wrap my head around how so much diversity of life could occur through natural means until I really sat down and tried to learn evolution. Once I did, I had my reasonable explanation. I didn't need an unreasonable, supernatural one anymore.

This doesn't mean non scientists are going to be left out of the loop - scientists are just getting a head start because this kind of thinking and knowledge is required of us. But as our society becomes more and more invested in science and technology, even non scientists will be expected to have a better grasp of science. And even if science isn't for you, that doesn't mean you can't think rationally. I know liberal arts majors who are more logical than some of my fellow biologists. Heck, I almost majored in Fine Art, and look at me.

This is post 13 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.