Friday, October 30, 2009

Mike's Birthday Puzzle - Main Clue

This is a continuation of the puzzle I talk about here and here.

I actually received this in the mail a while ago, but I wanted to try to figure it out on my own before posting it. Here's what I received in the mail from Mike (click for larger):I've already figured out a lot of it (and found some secret messages in the list of words)... but I'm not going to give any hints yet, so you guys can work together to figure it out. If it turns out inside knowledge is needed from me (I think it may be in a couple of places), I'll chime in in the comments. Have fun!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

lolmoms

While I was home last weekend, my mom showed me a card she bought for her friend's birthday. There was a black cat (like ours) sitting on top of a washing machine, saying something ridiculous and badly spelled - I don't remember what, but you know what I mean, lolcat speak. I laughed for a good amount of time, and my mom seemed surprised.

Mom: I didn't send you this one for your birthday because I thought you would just be confused, since it's kind of silly.
Me: I wouldn't be confused, I would be proud that you sent me a lolcat!
Mom: A what?
Me: *dawning realization that this is all an accident* You know, like l.o.l., laugh out loud?
Mom: Yeah, I know that...
Me: It's an internet meme...?
Mom: A what?
Me: ...It's this really popular joke on the internet to have a funny picture of a cat and then some poorly spelled joke around it.
Mom: Oh! I didn't know that!

I was mildly disappointed that her excellent choice in card was an accident, but I would have been tremendously shocked if she knew what a lolcat was. So once I got home I sent her a bunch of images of lolcats, which she seemed to appreciate. A couple of days later, I got this second birthday card in the mail:Okay, I'll admit "cumz" made me laugh for inappropriate reasons, but I definite give this an A for Effort! Or Epic Win of Effort, or something. Also, I think we need to start lolMcCatz as how parents interpret internet memes - guaranteed humor right there. I still remember the day I had to explain a Rick Roll to my mom, and her only response was, "Oh, but I like that song!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

H1N1 and Over Skepticism?

My parents are freaking out about H1N1. Every day the news reports a new case of some young person dying, and they say I better go get the flu shot Or Else. I personally feel that the media is overreacting just to have sensationalist, scary stories that grab people's attention. Most people who contract H1N1 have mild symptoms, and it hasn't really killed people any more than the normal flu does...the news just doesn't report normal flu cases. I understand that not many people have immunity so we're worried about it's future effects, but I can't really force myself to freak out about that right now.

Am I being too skeptical about H1N1? Is this something I should be shaking in my boots about? I have to admit, I fall prey to kind of woo-thinking when it comes to medical things. No, I'm not an anti-vaxer - I trust vaccines and understand their importance. But at the same time, I've never had a flu shot and I've never gotten seriously ill. The couple of times I've had the flu it was just like any other illness - you're mildly miserable for a couple of days, and then you're fine. I'm not inclined to change my practices that appear to have worked so far.

My problem is I trust my own immune system and the millions of years of evolution that went into making it a little too much. I don't take Advil unless my headache is severe, I don't take Tylenol until my cold becomes unbearable, I avoid superfluous antibiotics, I don't go to the eye doctor until my vision becomes blurry (actually still have to go, whoops). I know it's a horrible habit, but I've always had a "suck it up unless it's serious" mentality (or as my dad says for injuries, "Rub some dirt in it"). I feel like I don't want to build up a tolerance to medication so I can still use it when I really need it.

Am I being completely irrational? You won't hurt my feelings if you say so - I think we're all irrational about something. Are there other people out there who think like I do?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy 6012th Birthday, Earth

This is slightly belated since I was busy yesterday, but Happy Birthday, Earth! According to James Ussher's 17th century calculations, God created the Earth on October 23, 4004 BC. We had a mini birthday party at Wednesday's club meeting, and I made brownies:I promise that I omitted Asia and Australia due to a lack of planning, not some deep-seated hatred for those continents.

This is all fun until you realize people actually believe this stuff. Many dates from the Creation Museum were taken from Ussher's chronology. Because you know, one guy interpreting the Bible is so solid that nearly 400 years of scientific developments doesn't really matter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Killed Jesus?

Purdue has been full of events dealing with religion lately. Yesterday I ran into this group:
Some of my club members mentioned they were on Memorial Mall on Wednesday, so when I saw they were still there, I dropped by. One of my friends blogged about his reaction, which was different than mine since he grew up Jewish. He initially thought the event was going to be something anti-Semetic since Jews are often persecuted with the explanation that they're the ones who killed Jesus.

I ended up talking to some of the people there for about an hour. They were very nice and thoughtful, definitely not extremists or anything. I was kind of amused because a couple recognized me - they've read my blog (hello!). I assume this is because the pastor that's leading their Q&A session tonight (which is what this was advertising) is Brent Aucoin, who you might remember as the pastor who visited my presentation on the Creation Museum.

That being said, I still fundamentally disagreed with what they believed (big surprise, right?). Most of the stuff we discussed has been gone over a ton by other people already, so I'll just touch on what I thought were some of the more interesting points.

1. I really need to brush up on my philosophy/theology. Everyone has their area of expertise, and mine is definitely the evolution/creationism debate. I don't think someone should be expected to be an expert on everything, but I feel kind of stupid when I can't coherently discuss religion on the spot. I definitely feel more comfortable when I have a moment to reflect, which is why I like blogging. Not signing up for a debate any time soon.

2. One of their main points was that they don't believe that salvation is works based. The most important thing is to accept Jesus and believe in God, and once you do that you will live your life accordingly. Even if you're a good person, you would go to hell because everyone in a sinner and rejecting God is pretty much the worst thing you can do. Obviously I don't believe God even exists or that Jesus had any supernatural abilities (I doubt if Biblical Jesus even existed), which kind of makes the point moot, but let's just say they're right.

On one point, I agreed with them. You don't want people doing good acts just to be rewarded, or avoiding bad acts just so they won't be punished. You want people acting good for goodness's sake. But that's where the agreement stopped. I just can't imagine a God so full of himself that the most important thing in the universe - punishable by eternal suffering - is not worshiping him. In their point of view, God is awesome so that is awful if you don't see his beauty - but if it's so important, why does he even give you the ability not to believe in him? God gave us free will and the ability to do evil things, or to reason and come to the conclusion that he doesn't exist. He also knows everything that will happen in the universe, so he knows people will end up doing things that will damn them. So didn't God therefore do the damning?

tl;dr, free will and omnipotence makes absolutely no sense.

3. Another point they made was about how Jesus sacrificed himself to us. A member brought up an interesting point at our meeting on Wednesday, so I asked them. Is it really a sacrifice if there are no consequences for Jesus? Jesus is God and knows that when he dies, he's going to come back from the dead and ascend to heaven, so dying really doesn't matter. It's like this: if a policeman pushes someone out of the way of a bus and dies, that's a sacrifice. He saved someone else's life at the expense of his own. But if Superman pushes someone out of the way of a bus, there's no sacrifice because he knows he'll be totally fine.

Their answer was that the sacrifice wasn't death, but being pulled away from God. Jesus took on all of our past and future sins, and that brought him as far away from God as possible, which was agonizing to him. ...This still doesn't make any sense to me. Jesus is God, so how can he be brought away from himself? Even if that was somehow possible, he still knows it's all going to be okay, since he's God and all and knows the plan, so any agony is only temporary and not really a sacrifice. They then admitted the holy trinity doesn't really make sense to them, which was yet something else we could agree on.

While I don't agree with their beliefs or their reasoning, I was happy that they could intelligently talk about things. I've run into far too many people who belief something just because that's what their parents told them, and they've never given it any thought. These people are definitely thinking, even though I think they haven't reached the correct conclusions. They're promoting discussion rather than just talking at you, which is always a good thing.

I'm interested to see what they say at tonight's Q&A session - I'm guessing it'll be similar to the discussion I had with them. Unfortunately for you guys, I'm not going to be masochistic and sit through it for your reading pleasure because I'm going on a date (amazing, I know). Sorry - unlike Jesus, I only make so many sacrifices.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flying Spaghetti Monster Jack-O-Lantern

I'm very proud of what's adorning my balcony right now! My roommate purchased a nice sized pumpkin for Halloween - I drew the design, and she did the carving. I think it came out pretty nice!
Hurray for Flying Spaghetti Monster jack-o-lanterns!. His eyes are kind of falling apart, though. I blame the horrible infestation of lady bugs in West Lafayette (seriously, you can't walk outside without being covered in them) that are apparently munching away at His Noodliness. Blasphemy!

Mike's Birthday Puzzle - Clue #2

I just received an email from "Jnnfr Mccrght" - my name without vowels - from a gmail account that was obviously created by Mike. Here's the message, no edits on my part:
Subject: X

a congress has senators
a parlament, owls
sooner or later
you'll need to buy vowels
until that time comes
don't over-think it
if my puzle is a cocktail
i wouldn't yet drink it
but these index card clues
into your brain they're tearing
i have a fish in my ear
so i have trouble herring
but don't worry about them
if they make you bemused
in a few days or so
you'll be even more confused
so until that time comes
prepare for what it's in store
i should be a nice guy
but to confuse you some more:
i'm now eating my words
with a knife (not a fork)
wish you were here with me
in chapaqua, new york
Translated, I think it means "I think it's hilarious how all of you people are over thinking things, wait until I send you real clues." Of course, I'm still over thinking things, and noticing how Parliament is missing an "i" and puzzle is missing a "z." Hmmmm....

EDIT: Got a follow up email:
"In the 7th-to-last line, "it's" should be "is." It was a genuine grammatical error and should not be considered a hint toward anything (seriously, my friend).

--Mr. Puzzle"

Twitter trending backfires on Christians

Apparently many Christians on Twitter were repeating the saying "No God, No Peace; Know God, Know Peace." They were retweeting it to try to spread the word. Well, it became the top trending topic, but kind of backfired on them...
Yes, Twitter's algorithm made "No God" and "Know Peace" trending topics, much to Christians' chagrin. Whoopsie! Then I had to go start instigating things...
"Let's hijack the trending topic, shall we? There is probably No God, so get over it and enjoy your lives #atheism"
And promoting my fellow instigators...
"Know god, no peace; No god, know peace. #atheism"
But if you want a really good laugh, go take a look at the "No God" thread. It's mostly Christians freaking out that "No God" became a trending topic, even though it was their own fault. It's quite amusing!

Feel free to join in in the tweeting!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Move over Dan Brown - I have a better puzzle mystery

A couple of days ago I received a small envelope in the mail with unusual handwriting and no return address. Intrigued, I opened it and found the following note cards. Top note card was on the top of stack, left image is the front and right image is the back of each card. Click for larger images.
I think the initial reaction of most normal people would be, "What the hell, what insane serial killer sent me this?!" (okay, maybe not totally normal people). My first thought, on the other hand, was "Mike's Birthday Puzzle." I checked the stamp on the letter, and yep - from the town of his university. Nice try concealing your handwriting, but foiled by the United States Postal Service!

Mike is one of my best friends, and in addition to being hilarious and a brilliant mathematician, he's also a Puzzle Master. I think he's deserving of this title since he's full of trivia (go on Jeopardy already, Mike!), always carrying around puzzle magazines, and has created unique puzzles that have been printed in said magazines multiple times. During our sophomore year of high school, Mike decided (maybe out of boredom) to create a puzzle filled treasure hunt that would lead to my birthday gift. I would have to figure out one clue to find out where the next one was hidden - usually somewhere in one of our classrooms - until it led me to my present. It was so fun, for both him and me, that it started a tradition. Every October since then I start getting puzzles, so by the time November 2nd rolls around, I'll have found my gift.

Theoretically.

See, the part that I didn't mention is that Mike is way, way smarter than me. And while his puzzles seem to get better and better, I seem to get stupider and stupider. I generally have to resort to outside help and many hints, and I think he takes special glee in the fact that Mike's Birthday Puzzle is infamous enough to deserve capitalization and a certain amount of fear. But I have the upper hand this year, Mike! I have a blog! So fair readers, I present you with the first clue of many in the puzzle - the note cards - and I will update you with whatever other information I receive.

That being said, I have no idea what those note cards mean. I wouldn't put it past him if the whole thing is a red herring just to make me go mad. So if I have to go mad, you're going down with me.

Purdue's National Secular Service Day makes local TV news

The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University have yet again made it to the local TV news, this time for their participation in National Secular Service Day!



1. They managed to say Non-Theists correctly this time, huzzah! No more non-thesises.
2. I give up on getting people to pronounce my last name correctly (though I find it amusing that she also almost messed up "Jennifer"). Remember: McCreight is always right. It rhymes.
3. Props to my fellow members for standing awkwardly in the background while I was talking, hehe.
4. Speaking of me talking, jeez my voice sounds low. I had a cold, shut up!

The comments WLFI's website are positive so far, too!
Awesome, we need more people like him! (Jen's Note: Uhhh, him?)

Some of the fraternity brats should do this too.

You will never get these frat pigs sobered up long enough to pick up after their own drunken orgies, good luck getting them to clean up someone Else's mess. Thank you, society of Non-Theists, the world would be a better place with more good people such as yourselves!
Uhhh... okay, maybe not too positive towards the fraternities, but good for us!WLFI summarized what we were doing pretty well. Eighteen members from the Society of Non-Theists went around the Chauncey Village neighborhood from 9am to 12pm picking up trash from sidewalks and business area. We weren't allowed on the lawns of private property, unlike what the news cast said, which was kind of unfortunate. After Purdue's awesome defeat of Ohio State Saturday afternoon and the insane partying that followed, so many places were completely trashed with beer cans and red solo cups strewn all over the grass. We tried to clean up what we could without trespassing.
Yeah, it was kind of gross sometimes. We had gloves though!

Walking back from class today, I was surprised by what a notable difference we made. Usually the remnants of a weekend remain for a while, but instead it was surprisingly clean. I was able to enjoy the beautiful fall colors without seeing Keystone Light cans mixed in with the leaves on the ground. Yes, we got positive news coverage for non-theists, but we also cleaned up the community. That's what it's really about. National Secular Service Day isn't a publicity stunt - non-theists are always participating in some sort of community service, but no one ever hears about it and then they claim we don't volunteer. By all participating on the same day, we show that you do not need religion to be an ethical person.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Being gay is a choice, but religion is in your genes!

No, I didn't suddenly make a big discovery while working in my genetics lab - you can thank House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) for the insight:
In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics." ..."He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes," Smith continued.
What the hell, really? How many scientific studies do we need to throw at you ignorant bigots before you'll accept that homosexuality has a genetic basis?! This is not a matter of opinion - homosexuality is not a choice. That assertion is usually enough to make me want to bash my head against a wall, but coupled with the ludicrous claim that religion is immutable? Yes, because people never ever change religions, and adopted children always grow up to be the faith of their biological parents. Thanks for submitting that Christian gene sequence to GenBank, really interesting to know a single point mutation can make someone phenotypically Muslim!

Yes, I know - sexuality is fluid. There are definitely cases of people who once identified as straight as later identifying as gay and vice versa. There are bisexuals whose attractions skew back and forth over time. But immutability shouldn't be the sole deciding factor for what becomes a protected class. Even if people change their religion, gender, and sexual orientation, they shouldn't be discriminated for it. Regardless, it's obvious this man isn't talking about fluid sexuality - he's talking about homosexuality being a "choice," and that what annoys me so much.

It terrifies me that people like this get elected to public office.

(Via Pandagon)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Professor and the Hurt Ego

If you've been reading my blog from the beginning (which is only a small fraction of you), you'll be familiar with my book review of the Professor and the Dominatrix. For the confused, I typed up a review of what can easily be labeled as the worst atheist book ever written. The writing was poor, the story was uninteresting, the sex scenes ranged from boring to ludicrous, and the author managed to inadvertently offend pretty much every minority group I can think of (this description is pretty much the understatement of the century, and I encourage you to read my original review). I say inadvertently because Professor John Harrigan (yes, it's a bit of a Gary Stu) is not a Poe. How do I know? Well, he's replied to me multiple times, very upset that someone dare not fall in love with his novel. That was in April/May.

Guess who just left another comment? For full disclosure, here you go*:
This is from John Harrigan, alive and well, and you might say still uncomfortably cranky. I remain surprised that the bright people who totally accepted Purdue Jen’s roiling words ignored the introduction to The Professor and the Dominatrix by Roy P. Fairfield, for thirteen years an editor of the Humanist along with Paul Kurtz, the person who established Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, Prometheus Books, and CFI.. Doesn’t it seem unlikely that Fairfield would praise a poorly written, homophobic, anti-fem, and anti-black book?

The current issue of The American Rationalist contains a review of my book by G. Richard Bozarth, an experienced reviewer for free-thought publications (see Reviewer’s Bookwatch Sept.1). Some quotes: “The sexuality is pure vanilla, though I suppose a prude would be very offended . . . The cultural analyses, since they are based on Freethought and Secular Humanist philosophy, are often better than what is offered by many contemporary crime investigation authors . . . Chapter 4, Critical Thinking 101 succinctly hits many different Freethought and Secular Humanist nails squarely on the head . . . The Professor and the Dominatrix should be supported by us, and I’m certain many will be very glad they did.”

The publisher has corrected the sixteen typos and is by my request reducing the price to $21.95, effective in early November.
Oh, John Harrigan. While I'm glad I didn't give you an aneurysm, I don't think you quite understand how every time you say something, it just amuses me even more. I'm going to keep this short and sweet, since I've already spent far too much time and effort talking about your horrible book. Books can receive mixed reviews. In fact, that's the norm. Just because you have received good (not glowing, notice) reviews from two middle aged white males does not mean your book, as a whole, is an excellent piece of fiction. This is especially true when your target audience is the young and impressionable - and they are the ones who dislike your book the most. Or, the succinct version:

I thought your book sucked. So did others. Get over it.

Though I do have to thank you - that book review helped make my blog popular! I went from about 10 to 100 subscribers in a day thanks to a link at Pharyngula, and now I'm at 500 and counting. Thanks again!

Now, act your age and stop feeling threatened by some outspoken 21 year old on the internet.

*I tried to find Mr. Bozarth's review and failed, but if anyone can secure a copy, let me know.

Reaching the Unreachable Children: An Open Letter to Richard Dawkins

Dear Dr. Dawkins,

I had the great privilege of attending your talk at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN on Monday the 12th. I am the co-founder and current President of the Society of Non-Theists, a student organization for atheists and agnostics at Purdue University (we forgive you for speaking at our rival). The God Delusion played a major part in encouraging me to be outspoken about my atheism, and I thank you for that. I was also incredibly excited to hear you speak about evolution, since I will be graduating this spring with degrees in Genetics and Evolutionary Biology and then starting my journey towards a PhD.

I am writing you because I was lucky enough to ask you a question in front of the audience, but you never answered. Here, to the best of my knowledge, is what I said:
"I had the misfortune of visiting the Creation Museum this summer. While there were many scary things there, the scariest was how it was full of children. When you see kids like this or those who are home schooled or going to religious school, they're effectively being brainwashed. Is there anything we can do to teach them science, or are they a lost cause?"
You replied that the topic of brainwashed children put a bee in your bonnet, and talked for quite a while about how inappropriate it is to label kids as "Christian children" or "Muslim children." You talked extensively about this topic in the God Delusion, and I agree completely. But because this is such an important topic, you seemingly got sidetracked and went on to the next question without answering mine. Some of my friends suggested that you sidestepped the question because you didn't have a good answer, but I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and blame forgetfulness.

Usually I wouldn't be so adamant about getting an answer, but as a freethinker and an evolutionary biologist, this question is particularly important to me. The cynic in me feels almost doomed when looking at these sheltered children. We all know how impressionable children are. A study by Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner found that what students learned about evolution and creationism in high school was the most important factor in their future views on the subject. What young people are taught sticks, and it is very hard to undo such thorough brainwashing.

So what do we do?

We fight to keep creationism out of science classrooms in public schools, and we win our legal battles... but creationists just pull out their children. They sent them to private religious schools or homeschool them.

We promote evolution in museums across the country... but we can't forcibly take children there. Instead, creationists build their own "museum" full of propaganda and lies for the sole purpose of indoctrination.

We make science oriented tv shows... but we can't make them watch them. What would a creationist parent choose: Bill Nye (a personal favorite), or Veggietales? I know some religious families who don't even own televisions at all, for the fear that their children are exposed to the evils of the outside world.

We can make pro-science video games like Math Blasters or Number Munchers... but we can't make them play. The fact that I had such a hard time coming up with scientific video games isn't a good sign either - where are we in that market? Theists have Charlie Church Mouse Bible Adventure, Left Behind... what do we have? Spore? That attempted to be able evolution, but was effectively Intelligent Design - and still had angry theists calling it evil anti-creationism propaganda.

We write books upon books... but will they ever reach these children? When I heard you were writing a skeptical children's' book, I was excited and then sad. Creationist parents aren't going to buy that for their kids - its target audience is those who want to raise skeptical thinkers. Who knows if it would even be stocked in school libraries, or if a child would voluntarily choose it knowing his parent's beliefs. Who knows if that child is even allowed to voluntarily choose a book, what with their parents' constant surveillance. Look at Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, which actually included God and the supernatural, but was avidly boycotted because it spoke against dogmatism.

I guess I'm wondering if there's any hope at this point. Do we write these kids off as a lost cause? Should we focus our efforts on the fence sitters, the liberal theists, the people who sort of maybe accept evolution but with God's guidance or other types of woo? Or are we just missing some vital strategy, an approach we haven't tried yet? Short of kidnapping or mind control (neither of which I support*), I'm not sure what we could do. That's why I'm curious as to what you think - maybe with your experience, you're more creative than I am.

Thank you,

Jennifer McCreight
jmccreig(at)purdue.edu
http://blaghag.blogspot.com

---

In all honestly, I doubt I'll get a response. Even if he wasn't currently flying around on a book tour, Richard Dawkins is a busy man and probably receives far too many emails every day...but it was worth a shot. Feel free to comment and add your two cents. Do you think there's a solution?

*I hate including such ridiculously obvious disclaimers, but creationists absolutely love quotemining sarcastic statements. Actually, they'll probably do it anyway. Oh well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Christian group: I hate religion because...

No, this isn't some religious rant from me. A religious student group at Purdue, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, invited me and other members of the Non-Theists to an event they were holding today on Memorial Mall. They had a black board with "I HATE RELIGION BECAUSE..." written in large red letters, and invited students to write their opinions on the board.I ended up talking to some of them for a while (even though it was really cold outside, boo Indiana weather), especially the pastor who works with the group. He explained that they wanted to generate discussion about religion so they could learn from the different viewpoints and think about why some people dislike religion. Much like our Blasphemy Day event, they wanted to let people know it was okay to criticize religion - in fact, they encourage it. They don't want people to blindly accept what they may have grown up with, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, atheism. College is a place to question things and learn about different beliefs, and that applies to religion as well.

While they said no one was disrespectful, they were sad about some of the things written on the boards...not because they were mean, but because they were true about far too many religious people. Hatred of gays, lack of acceptance of science, judging others, being hypocritical...these are all things they concede that some Christians do in fact do. This group was more of the "Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, not organized religion, just love everyone and be a good person" thing. While I still don't agree with the supernatural aspects (we had a long discussion about my atheism*), I really don't mind these types of theists. They're all about being moral people and loving others, and recognize you don't need their brand of Christianity to be moral (and eagerly agreed that atheists can be moral).

Though, this one (temporary) counter protester amused me...
Why temporary?

Him: I actually came out because I thought they were those Non-Theists saying bad stuff about religion.
Me: I'm the President of the Non-Theists.
Him: ...Oh.

After his initial embarrassment, he was actually pretty nice to talk to. I tried to make a point that we can dislike some aspects of religion but still like religious people - that we're not just a bunch of cranky rabid anti-theists. I think I made my point, since he was friendly when I left.

EDIT: See that part that's scribbled out? Apparently a friend of mine wrote "It's okay to be gay" there, and the guy didn't like it so much. Yeah, great Christian tolerance there.

I made one comment that I think the event's organizers hadn't thought of, and they were intrigued by. When the Non-Theists do a practically identical event - actually, more innocuous because we didn't have "I hate religion because..." as the prompt, we just let people write whatever we want - people see us as hateful. "Why are those cranky, meany-head atheists going around criticizing religion? Can't they just leave us alone?" But when a Christian group does the same exact thing, they're praised for it. "Yes, we should definitely be critical of hateful, ridiculous things in religion! Speak up, question things!" It's a double standard that really shows people's biases.

If you'd like to see what people wrote, click the close ups of the signs below. Can you guess which one is mine?
*It always amuses me when I introduce myself as an atheist to religious people. 90% of the time there's a look of awe/confusion, then they ask me why I'm an atheist. I really need to come up with a concise reply, but there isn't one. My atheism, like most others, developed over decades and took a lot more thought than can be summarized in a short conversation. I generally try to explain my atheism as a null hypothesis, but non-scientists don't really appreciate that. I also had to explain how my atheism is not a faith, what purpose there is to life (none, more shocked looks), and the other general things you hear over and over again... At least they were very thoughtful about my replies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Science has never tasted so good

Or looked so pretty! Check out some of this nerdy food art by Kevin Van Aelst:

Karyotype:
Mitosis:
Periodic Table:Cantor set (or maybe also oogenesis? ha?):
He has a lot of other neat stuff over there - I suggest you go check it out!

(Thanks to Keely for the tip)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Richard Dawkins at Indiana University

Last night I attended Richard Dawkin's talk about his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Purdue, but still a good number (~50) of our club members made the journey down. The drive was fairly uneventful until we got on campus. Mark gleefully directed my attention to a bus that was parked at a stoplight. "Look, the atheist bus ad! ...Wait a second..." We realized it was actually the reply to the atheist bus ad - the "You Can Be Good Without God but You Can't Be Saved Without Jesus" slogan I blogged about a while ago. I guess they really did get printed. Thankfully we soon saw the real ad - "You Can Be Good Without God" - and we felt much better.

We parked and walked to the auditorium, and there were already two huge lines wrapped both ways around the building...and we had arrived an hour and a half early. Granted, our club had vouchers for reserved seats, but I was hoping to maybe get there early for a seat that was up close. Unfortunately the whole front of the bottom floor was filled once we finally got in, so we were sort of near the back. Not a huge loss since Dawkins was just talking, but oh well.I then snuck out before the show started to buy his new book. I had brought the God Delusion for him to sign, but I didn't want him to get cranky since this is about his new book after all (and I was going to buy it anyway). I kept running into all these people I have random atheist-y connections with. Saw Joel from Campus Atheists and Agnostics of IPFW, a bunch of people from the Secular Alliance of IU, and August from the Secular Student Alliance. Rob (who I met at the SSA conference) tweeted about seeing me rush by in a crowd, but I missed him (sorry!).

The auditorium, which seats 3,200 people, was filled to capacity: they actually had to turn away 500-1,000 latecomers. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed about Dawkins's talk itself - all he did was read excerpts from his new book for about 40 minutes. I'm going to read the book myself - it's only a smidgen better hearing it from Dawkins, British accent and all. It was interesting, since he's an excellent writer, but you didn't miss much - just go read his book.

They then announced that he would be taking questions at two microphones up front, and I literally dashed out of my seat and raced to be near the front of the line (though don't believe what my members tell you, I didn't... seriously harm my competition on the way down). I was finally close enough to actually see his facial reactions, which was pretty awesome. Whenever someone would ask a stupid or confusing question (which was unfortunately the majority of them) he would contort his face in the way that can only be described as "Richard Dawkins is confused by your inane question." For example (quotes summarized, couldn't write things down, sorry):

History Professor: Why don't scientists spend more time proving certain things of the Bible? That would make more people believe in science.
Dawkins: (after much confusion about what this guy was asking) Because the Bible was written by ancient Middle Eastern goat herders in a desert who knew nothing about modern science.

Guy: (In horrible attempt of a British accent) Goodday, I seem to have evolved a British accent during your talk!
Dawkins: ...
Audience: *audible groaning*
Guy: (normal voice) Anyway, do you see anything at all as legitimate to intelligent design or creationism.
Dawkins: *walks back to microphone slowly, talks a long drink of water, pauses, then leans forward* No.

Finally I got my chance to speak, and to my best recollection I said, "I had the misfortune of visiting the Creation Museum this summer." I actually got some random whoops and cheers from the audience at this point, not from Purdue people, which I'm mildly confused about? Anyway, "While there were many scary things there, the scariest was how it was full of children. When you see kids like this or those who are home schooled or going to religious school, they're effectively being brainwashed. Is there anything we can do to teach them science, or are they a lost cause?"

Dawkins said he was glad I brought it up, because indoctrination of children is the "bee in his bonnet" that always gets him riled up...and riled up he got. He went on a rant you'll be familiar with if you've read the God Delusion, that there is no such thing as "Christian children" or "Muslim children"; just children of Christian or Muslim parents. He went on for quiet a while, and it was a very good point...but then he went on to the next person and never answered my question! Gaaahhh! I was so upset that I finally got to ask Richard Dawkins a question and I didn't get an answer, especially since many people (some random, not just my friends) said it was a very good one. Mark thinks he sidestepped it since he didn't have a good answer, but I'm prone to think he distracted himself with his rant and totally forgot what he was originally supposed to be talking about. Sigh.

Oh, as a side not, I was also the only female to ask a question. Represent. The place was a giant sausage fest, like most gatherings of atheists.

There were other good questions (one about being an atheist but not being able to shake the fear of hell after years of indoctrination, which got him ranting again about child abuse) but since I wasn't jotting stuff down, I don't remember all of them. If you were there, feel free to add information in the comments. Thankfully, one of my favorite questions (and the closing one of the night, I believe that's one of my Purdue people!) was caught on video (even though people weren't supposed to be videotaping, oh well):



After the lecture we went to join the line for the book signing, which was massive. I was sort of afraid we all wouldn't get through, but I was going to try. At this point some of my members showed me what lovely book they had received...Ray Comfort's special edition of the Origin of Species! I kid you not. Some guy was outside the auditorium passing them out before the event, along with business cards talking about how evolution = Nazism, yadda yadda yadda. Wow. Two of our members right in front of me in line asked Dawkins if he would sign it, and he looked shocked and amused that they were being handed out, and ended up talking to them for quite a bit about the book. Then it was my turn!That's me nervously stammering something about how honored I am to meet him because I'm the president of a student group for atheists at Purdue.His response? A very cheerful "Oh good, well done!" Yay! Look, he's smiling instead of his previous "Bloody hell, how many more books do I have to sign?" look!

After that bit of glee, we all traveled to the Irish Lion pub for food and drinks with other atheists (no Dawkins though, unfortunately). We had the whole top floor of the place reserved, and there were probably a hundred people there. That was honestly the most fun part of the night, since it was either philosophical discussions about atheism or perverted humor (mostly the latter). We also happened to be at IU during their Nearly Naked Mile, where people run around in their underwear. We were all convinced there was, indeed, a god, especially after some random hot girl mooned us. Tell me again why I went to Purdue?

Meeting Dawkins was fun, and the talk was pretty good, but honestly I was most impressed by the turnout. Bloomington is far more liberal than West Lafayette, but it's still in Indiana. But not only did they fill the place and have to turn people away, but the vast majority of the audience were supporters. Whenever Dawkins made a crack at religion, the entire auditorium was rumbling with laughter. When someone who obviously supported creationism asked a dumb question, the auditorium would groan and you could see people rolling their eyes and giggling.

I'm not saying all 3,200 of these people were atheists, but they were definitely freethinkers and skeptical of religion to some extent. To see that sort of reaction in Indiana gave me so much hope for the atheist movement. When someone famous like Dawkins comes to speak, people start coming out of the woodwork and show we have so much more support than we might think. I had originally cynically stated that if Dawkins came to Purdue, no one would show up - but now I have to wonder. Would we also have seen support that is usually silent? The optimist in me thinks so.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Going to see Dawkins tonight!

In an hour I'll be leaving for Indiana University to see Richard Dawkins speak, woo! It's a two and a half hour drive but totally worth it. About 50 members of the Society of Non-Theists are going, so we should have a decent sized group invading IU. I'm still a little miffed that our rival got to host him and we didn't, but oh well. I'm bringing my copy of the God Delusion for him to sign, then going to a big pub gathering of atheists afterward. Should be fun!

Yeah, I really don't have that much to say about it - just wanted to rub it in. Neener neener. Will post photos/review tomorrow morning.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering about the GRE, I did fine. Owned the math and did average on the verbal - I guess I'm your stereotypical scientist. The verbal is effectively a vocab test, where if you don't know whatever obscure horrible word you're given, you're just screwed. Lovely. The hardest part of the whole exam was hand writing the paragraph in cursive about how you won't cheat. Seriously, I haven't used cursive since 5th grade - it looked like a 10 year old had written my statement!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

GRE study book on God's existance - failing at logical fallacies

So if you follow me on twitter at all, you have probably figured out that I've been cramming for the GRE (test to get into grad school). I'm taking the test tomorrow morning, so I've been reviewing one of those study guide books. I'm not too nervous, but I figured reviewing can't hurt, especially since I haven't done any math other than plugging in numbers for about three years (yay Purdue's science curriculum).

I think I'm pretty much golden on the writing section. The first part you have to be able to express an opinion, and the second part you have to analyze an argument and find errors in their reasoning. Yeah, I think I'm pretty good at the whole being opinionated and criticizing faulty reasoning. Regardless, I started reading the section of Logical Fallacies...and found this:

Shifting the Burden of Proof
It is incumbent on the writer to provide evidence or support for her position. To imply that a position is true merely because no one has disproved it is to shift the burden of proof to others.

Example: Since no one has been able to prove God's existence, there must not be a God.

There are two major weaknesses in this argument. First, the fact that God's existence has yet to be proven does not preclude any future proof of existence. Second, if there is a God, one would expect that his existence is independent of any proof by man.
Are you kidding me? This is in the section on how to think logically? My only gripe is that the sentence says "must" - I would lower it to "most likely" or "probably" because yes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But regardless, the explanation they give is itself illogical. One, the burden of proof should lie on those who make claims. An absence of something extraordinary isn't a claim - it's a null hypothesis. If you have absolutely no proof, what is supporting your argument? Secondly, it's effectively impossible to prove a negative (that something doesn't exist), which again leaves the burden of proof with those making the claims. Three, future proof doesn't hold any ground in current arguments. If I said that I might potentially eventually have proof that unicorns exist, would anyone take me seriously? If I said one day scientists may find that a diet of nothing but chocolate is good for your health, should we all eat nothing but chocolate? No, because it's not real evidence. And finally, the last sentence about God's existence being independent of any proof of man is a logical fallacy I like to call "Making Shit Up." Why is God's existence independent of any proof of man? What reason do you have to think that other than conveniently and arbitrarily defining God that way? Why God and not gods, or goddesses, or aliens, or fairies?

Logical fallacies when trying to teach logical fallacies. Thank you, book.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Atheism in Prison

Sean Bearden, a prisoner in New York, has written an essay on what it is like to be a nonbeliever in prison. I thought it was a very interesting read, so I wanted to pass it along. Sean was also a participant in the Freethought Books Project, which donates secular books to inmates, mental hospitals, and charities.

(Via Reed Secular Alliance)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Darwin Fashion Show

British fashion designer Alexander McQueen unveiled his new collection inspired by Charles Darwin's Origin of Species:
"Models with their hair teased into devil-like horns, strutted the catwalk in minidresses decorated with all manner of colourful, elaborate skins. Ruffled hemlines were frilled to resemble feathers, and vibrant fabrics were printed to resemble amphibian-like breastplates."
































Actually I have no idea what any of these costumes have to do with evolution, but I felt compelled to post them since they combined my biology love with my horrible fascination with America's Next Top Model. Aka, I like sparkly weird costumes. I guess this was a better idea than having all of the models wearing giant beards, or having each outfit gradually change over time. That would be a long, not so interesting fashion show.

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

Just one word:

Wow.

Discuss?

EDIT: Okay, more words since I am a blogger after all and I can't shut up about my opinion.

To the Obama Nobel Prize haters saying he hasn't done anything yet - inspiring hope in not just the US, but the entire world is an amazing feat. Making many nations stop utterly loathing the US is an amazing feat. Averting possible new wars is an amazing feat. He has been trying to do so much, but when stubborn, uncompromising Republicans do nothing but stop progress, what do you expect? If anything, receiving this prize will give him even more clout, and make the path towards the goals he envisions even easier. Remember, the Nobel Peace Prize isn't necessarily given out for successful accomplishments - it is also given to people with great visions who are working hard for human rights and democracy. It is used to help them achieve their goals.

Okay, continue discussing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tony Blair: Atheists as bad as terrorists?

The Times reports on Tony Blair's recent speech at Georgetown University, where he had some strong words to say about the irreligious:

“We face an aggressive secular attack from without. We face the threat of extremism from within.”

Arguing that there was “no hope” from atheists who scorn God, he said the best way to confront the secularist agenda was for all faiths to unite against it.

He said: “Those who scorn God and those who do violence in God’s name, both represent views of religion. But both offer no hope for faith in the twenty first century.”

Yet another example of "As long as you're believe in something, that's okay." It's troubling when such a prominent politician feel the need to attack non-theists and compare us to religious extremists. When's the last time an atheist has flown a plane into a building, or performed a suicide bombing? The only thing we attack is illogical, delusional thinking, and in that regard he's right - we're a threat. For a man in the running for the President of the European Council, you think he'd be a little more sensitive...you know, since Europe has a gigantic amount of nonbelievers.

(Via Gulf Stream Blues)

Colbert wants to be in the conservative bible, Conservapedia explodes

By now you've probably heard of Conservapedia's hilarious idea to edit the Bible to remove liberal bias. Because you know, gender inclusive language, using the word "comrade", and a lack of parables about free market are horrible things caused by the liberal media. While most people have been ridiculing this, they do have one strong supporter: Stephen Colbert. He supports it so much, that he asked his viewers to go edit Conservapedia so he can be a Biblical figure.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Conservapedia, Louvre & Honda Unicycle
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

His fans were so excited to spread the conservative gospel of Stephen Colbert that Conservapedia crashed within minutes of his request. Unfortunately, Conservapedia didn't keep any of their edits. How sad. I mean, Stephen Colbert as a biblical figure is just as accurate as what they plan to do with the Bible - why not let us help out?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Science, Boobies, and Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. There are all sorts of days and weeks and months designated to promoting awareness of worthy causes, but breast cancer is especially important to me since my mother is a survivor. She was diagnosed the summer before my senior year of high school, which would be a little over four years ago. My mom was very lucky in that she caught the cancer early because of her persistent self examination. She felt a lump, but the doctors didn't believe her - she nagged them and had more than one mammogram before they realized she did, in fact, have breast cancer. If she hadn't been checking herself and been so diligent, I'm afraid to think what would have happened to her.

I have to admit, at the time I wasn't really too worried. It was probably a combination of me being young and naive, and knowing that she had caught it early enough that her prognosis was good. My general mantra for dealing with bad things in life is don't worry about what may happen, just do your best to avoid it and fret when it actually does happen. To me, we just had to be level headed, get treatment, and hope for the best. If her status worsened, then I could start freaking out. Not only do I have an oddly unemotional approach to life, but my mom was a fighter. She tried not to let it show how sick the chemotherapy made her, or how sad she was about losing her hair. Instead she would buy trendy hats or talk about how maybe she'd be more stylish by keeping her hair short after her treatment.

She even said the cancer didn't upset her - the thing she feared the most is that she wouldn't be able to watch my senior golf season because she would be too weak (I was the captain of my team and one of the best players in the region). My mom scheduled her chemo and radiation around my golf schedule, so she would be sick on my practices and well enough to walk with my Dad and follow me during my matches and tournaments.

She would brag to the nurses how her daughter was going to go study genetics and maybe solve all of these problems. While I'm not in cancer research and there's not going to be some magical "cure" that works for every type of cancer, she still recognizes the roll that science plays in saving lives. I've said before that my mom is sort of a deist, but I don't remember a single time her asking for people to pray for her, or referencing religion in any way. What I do remember is discussing treatments, what certain chemicals do, how radiation actually works... How I was learning about cancer in human genetics, and she would ask me how exactly cancer starts, how likely you are to get it, if her cancer means I'll get breast cancer, if certain genetic tests were worth while... We talked about science.

Science saves lives, and it can only get better at saving lives if they have money and support. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation for information or to donate. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a good review on breast self exams, for those of you with boobies (or with girlfriends whose boobies you like to prod). For those of you in the twitterverse, you can participate in #boobiewednesday to show your support for breast cancer research by tweeting about it and changing your avatar to a photo of your chest (yet more incentive to follow me on twitter*)!

I know there are some feminists who hate boob campaigns, like selling shirts that say "I Love Boobies", because they say it reduces woman to their breasts. To an extent, I understand. Breast cancer research isn't about saving boobs, it's about saving women. If a woman has lost her breasts, that doesn't make her any less human. But I don't think these movements mean any harm. They're just exploiting people's infantile humor (omg boobies lol) in order to raise money for a good cause. It would be lovely if people would just donate money out of the goodness of their heart, but they don't...so the way I see it, let's milk boobie humor (haha, get it?) for all it's worth. In the end, it's saving lives.

*No, you don't get a bigger version of that pic. You'll have to live with 48 pixels.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jesus Camp shuts down

EDIT: Wow, blogging fail, guys. Apparently this article was from 2006. I blame trying to post this before hurrying off to class...and reddit. Damn you, reddit.

From Christianity Today:

The camp featured in the controversial documentary Jesus Camp will shut down due to negative response from the film, according to camp director Becky Fischer.

The documentary spotlights Kids on Fire, a charismatic summer camp where evangelical children are recruited to "God's army." The children who attend the camp are shown shaking and sobbing over abortion and praying over a cardboard cutout of President Bush.

The camp takes place at a rented facility in Devil's Lake, N.D., but Fischer said the owners of the campground asked her not to return after vandals caused $1,500 in damage in October.

Fischer told CT she would have made the decision to shut the camp regardless, because she is worried about people who would attend simply to disrupt the camp. Since the film's release, she has been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls.

"Christians go after me because of doctrinal issues, whereas the world is going after me because they think I'm another Adolf Hitler," she said. "They're accusing me of raising a Christian jihad."

I'm disappointed people have felt the need to vandalize the camp, and that they feel like they need to shut down due to fear of disruption. That is never a good way to handle situations, even if you vehemently disagree with them. However, I have to say I'm kind of happy this camp will no longer exist. If you haven't seen the movie (which you should), the indoctrination of children that goes on there is terrifying. This isn't just some Christian summer camp where they sing kumbaya and occasionally mention God...this is creating a Christian jihad.

Of course, it's probably only a matter of time before another one pops up to replace it...

Monday, October 5, 2009

One life or one hundred thousand?

I just finished watching House, and boy was that ending a doozy. I'll leave out any details/spoilers for those of you who haven't seen it yet, so don't worry. The entire episode was very morally gray, which is both thought provoking and discomforting. It makes you think, "What would I do?" and when you don't know, you get uneasy.

I'll present this dilemma since it's a common thought experiment, not exclusive to House.

As a doctor, you have the ability to end the life of one ill horrible man, an act which will most likely save the lives of a hundred thousand innocent people. If you let the man live, these people will probably die because of his actions. You will most likely not be caught for killing this man, but it's always a possibility. However, it is your duty as a doctor to save lives. What do you do?

Would your actions be different if you were 100% sure it would save lives, or 100% sure you wouldn't get caught?

I won't tell you what happened on House, but beware: read the comments at your own risks. Comments are allowed to contain spoilers about the episode. I'm also not sure what I would do. I may have to stew over it for a while, then I'll add my thoughts to the comments.

Another letter to the editor

Apparently my response to the student who called non-theists whiny brats actually did make it to the newspaper - it was printed today. I'm a little surprised, since they never called to verify that it was me who wrote the letter (which they usually do). I guess they just assume if Jennifer McCreight is writing in and defending atheism, it's probably be, haha.

There was another good letter in support of our protests too. Hooray!

Atheist conventions: Where's the support for young atheists?

Blogs have been on fire about the Atheist Alliance International Convention in California this weekend. Why wouldn't they be? Not only is it a gathering of freethinkers (which is always fun), but they have great speakers like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Daniel Dennett, Brian Dalton (Mr. Diety), PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Eugenie Scott, Sean Faircloth... It's an atheist celebrity extravaganza. But on top of the delight of meeting someone you highly respect, the convention is also educational and a great way to motivate atheist activists.

So why no attention for the younger atheists?

We are the next generation of atheist activists, after all. And many of us are already busy forming clubs, debating, and blogging, at an age where many of today's movers and shakers of atheism would have still been religious. I'm not saying we're completely ignored by the movement - the Secular Student Alliance is a fabulous organization that works enormously hard to help freethinking students, and even had their own conference. I'm talking about the huge conferences, like AAIC or TAM or the Global Atheist Convention. And I'm mainly talking about monetary support.

Where are the reduced ticket prices for students? I'm fairly well off for a college student since I'm lucky enough to have many scholarships, but I still can't just shell out $200 to $400 dollars for entrance into a convention. I would have to think about if it's worth it for a long time, but for most students it's not even a question. That money is next month's rent or food. That money might not even be in their bank account yet. Would it hurt too much to offer a discounted rate for students? Most likely, these individuals wouldn't be able to come without it, so you would be making a profit with their attendance.

Or looking at the model of other academic conferences, why stop there? The only reason I was able to attend Evolution 09 in Idaho and the American Society of Mammalogist meetings in Alaska was because I won awards that funded my trip. For Evolution, NSF actually sponsored the program, and I had my plane ticket, room and board, conference costs, and food entirely paid for. For ASM, they offered their own award that covered my plane ticket (the biggest cost when going to Alaska). Both were on the stipulation that I present my research.

I understand that the economy isn't at its best right now, especially for a relatively small movement like atheism... but there have to be donors or organizations somewhere that could pay for part of a plane or conference ticket. Make it highly competitive and so the future leaders of the atheist movement can apply. Make it 25 and younger to narrow it down. Make them contribute - tell us what talk you'd like to give at the convention, send a video of it, do something to prove you're a good speaker and you have a great story to tell. A younger atheist may not be famous like Richard Dawkins, but that doesn't mean they don't have something interesting to say. I think the movement can benefit from hearing the voice of a different generation.

PZ said it himself: "Along similar lines, I'm seeing more young people and more women in attendance; not enough of either, but still a good sign of a healthy, growing movement."

Trust me, there are plenty of us who'd love to come - we just don't have the money for the admission price, let alone the travel costs. Give us a little help, atheist organizations!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blasphemy Day Posters

Here are posters from Blasphemy Day. There are a lot of funny/insightful gems in there. Let me know what your favorites are! Click for larger images, and more are located under the break.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review of my Creation Museum talk at Ken Ham's blog

Ken Ham again is talking about my Creation Museum presentation over at his blog. He posted some commentary by Brent Aucoin, the pastor who attended my talk and has commented a bit here. I think Brent was pretty fair in his description, even though we ultimately disagree on the validity of the scriptures and the Creation Museum's message. I'm also glad that he's passing judgment after actually seeing my talk, rather than Ken Ham who called me a godless atheist (redundancy, anyone?) who presented that Christianity is bad. That's a whole other debate, and not something I discussed in my talk. I guess Ham was too busy globe trotting to read my email where I linked him to my blog and the video of my talk...oh well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fundraising fail

I just passed a table where a sorority is trying to collect money for their charity event. They're having a formal dance called "A Night to Remember." The charity?

Alzheimer's research.

I know their intentions are good, but I wonder if they realize the dark, twisted humor they've inadvertently created.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our Blasphemy Day gets positive press in student newspaper

I guess the Exponent is having a special Society of Non-Theists theme this week, because they covered another one of our events! Their article on our Blasphemy Day event was very positive and they managed to not misquote me this time:

Blasphemy Day posters garner attention

By Andrea Hammer
Assistant Campus Editor
Publication Date: 10/01/2009

Laura Hoffman | Campus Editor

Students gather around the Class of 1950 lecture hall Wednesday afternoon to exercise their right to free speech during the first International Blasphemy Day.

Students gathered yesterday outside the Class of 1950 building to exercise their right to free speech.

The first International Blasphemy Day event was held in order to promote free speech. Students were able to write freely on poster boards that were hanging on the pillars of the building.

According to a flyer from the organizer of the event, the Society of Non-Theists, the purpose was to promote free speech and stand up in a show of solidarity for the freedom to challenge, criticize and satirize religion without fear of murder, litigation and reprisal.

Jennifer McCreight, president of the Society of Non-Theists and a senior in the College of Science, said the event was being held at college campuses across Indiana and the nation. She said the group’s decision to have the posters in front of Class of 50 was in order to attract more students to participate.

“We thought we’d have more people see it (at this location),” she said. “We wanted a central location.”

Students wrote things ranging from “I like this pen,” to “I’m Christian, but I don’t believe in hell.”

Ryan Moore, a freshman in the School of Management, said he wanted to participate because he didn’t agree with some of the things on the posters.

“I support what they’re doing, but I just don’t agree,” Moore said.

Robert Winkworth, a graduate student, said he heard about the event on the GetInvolved Web site.

“I made several marks (on the posters),” he said.

Winkworth also said he thought the best thing that could come from an event like that would be more open dialogue between students.

“I don’t think we can ever have too much of that on a college campus.”

Man, if students thought us dressing as pirates was bad, I just can't wait to see the letters about this one...