Monthly Archives: April 2008

Is “Expelled” successful?

Science sighThe pre-launch promotion of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is over. But has the film been successful?

We can only be judge this in relation to the motivations behind the film. It is clearly just another step in the programme declared in the creationist document The Wedge Strategy. This declares the intention to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

The strategy goes further than an attack on science. It aims “to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.” In particular it sets modern Christianity as a target – aiming to impose a “traditional doctrine of creation” on “major Christian denominations.” It also seeks to get Christian seminaries to “repudiate naturalistic presuppositions.”

Putting aside the emotional arguments has Expelled been, or will it be, successful in it aims of undermining science and the “renewal” of society? We can judge this in three areas:

Continue reading

Psychological and religious abuse of children

Post Traumatic StressWe are very conscious of violent physical abuse of children because of the publicity around resulting deaths. However, neglect and psychological stress can be at least as important, or even more important, a problem as physical and sexual abuse. We also seem to be unaware of the long-term psychological results of child abuse.

Our ignorance of non-physical child abuse and its long-term psychological effects means we often don’t acknowledge the harm done to many children.

Child abuse survivors suffer from long-term post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive negative thoughts, low self-esteem, compulsive behaviour, anger, disturbed sleep, hyper-vigilance, shame, guilt, etc. are common.

Persistent psychological abuse of children can result from continual disparaging comments or continual exposure to physical and verbal violence between adult care-givers and parents. Psychological stress can also result from the controlling behaviour of care-givers.

Continue reading

Non religious in Australia and New Zealand

Australian-New Zealand CensusHere’s an interesting question?

New Zealanders and Australians have a lot in common. We think of ourselves as sibling nations. We often tell jokes about each other (I must say, however, that Australian jokes about Kiwis usually involve sheep and don’t seem funny to me).

But look at the figures for religious affiliation taken from census data. Why are the “no relgion” results lower in Australia than New Zealand? And the “Christian results correspondingly higher?

NZ Religion question

(OK, we may have jokes about this – but seriously).

Well, have a look at the actual census questions about religion asked in the two countries.

Notice that the “no religion” choice is at the top of the list in New Zealand question (number 18 – grey) but buried at the bottom in the Australian question (number 19 – orange).

Do Australians opt for a religion in their census answers because they don’t , at first glance, notice the “no religion” option?

Does the Australian census overestimate religiosity?
See also:
Christianity – a declining population.

Similar articles:
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
New Zealand supports evolution
God’s not as popular as we thought

Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion

RD Krauss

Richard Dawkins seems to be promoting a new form of public discussion with minimum moderation. This gets away from the adversary type of public debate which often provides more heat than light. At the same time it can allow for presentation of different viewpoints in a non-antagonistic way. The video on my post Richard Dawkins in Inverness is an example of how effective this can be. has now put up another inspiring example of this form of discussion. They are videos taken when Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss sat down for a public discussion at Stanford University on Sunday, March 9th 2008. The focus was on Science education, but the discussion also covered religion, physics, evolution and more.

Issues discussed include:

  • the question of utility or knowledge of scientific research;
  • Darwins place in science history;
  • quantum mechanics;
  • the issue of evolution teaching schools;
  • “teaching the controversy” propaganda;
  • the “seduction” apporoach of Krauss vs the “abrasiveness” of Dawkins;
  • incorporation of science into culture, TV and films, and
  • the intimidation of teachers into downplaying evolution education.

Two quotes I liked:

Dawkins’ response to “teach the controversy” ploy- “The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it.”

Krauss’ belief that in science education all students should have “an experience where a firmly or profoundly held belief is proved to be wrong.”

Discussion part 1 (23 min)

Discussion part 2 (30 min)

Questions & Answers (with subtitled questions because of audio quality): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Similar articles:
Richard Dawkins in Inverness
Debating science and religion
Can science enrich faith?
Most ideas in science are wrong!
Dealing with Dawkins
Changing your mind

Exercising your brain – physically

In a previous post (Exercising your brain) I listed 8 brain exercises providing novelty, variety and challenge. These exercises help maintain a healthy brain as we age. Most of these are aimed at providing a rich enviroment for brain stimulation. Only one dealt with the ned for physical exercies.

Having just listened to Episode 33 of the Brain Science Podcast I realise that more emphasis should be directed at physical exercise. This podcast is an interview with Harvard physician, Dr. John Ratey about his new book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

The podcast explores evidence for the role of physical exercise in helping the brain. Exercise stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, and helps keep these compounds balanced. Consequently exercise is very important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder. There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.

So, the lesson for me is that we should not see brain exercise purely as mental stimulation. Physical exercise is vital and should be maintained as we age. I may have got this right – I exercise regularly by walking and listen to stimulating music or podcasts while doing so.

See also:
Download podcast interview with Dr. Ratey
Brain Science Podcast Blog
Dr. Ratey’s website:
Blog for the book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Related Articles:
Exercising your brain
Using your brain
Why do we believe?

Humanist and anti-human trends in modern religion

PZ MyersPZ Myers, at Pharyngula, is always informative, often provocative, but always worth reading. I think his recent post (Sanctimonious monsters) is a classic – and gets right to the point. Within modern religions there are two trends – a progressive, humanitarian trend and a reactionary, anti-human trend.

“I am often told that religion is a source of morality. I’ve read the Bible myself; I can see that there were moral philosophers at work behind that book, that we have a tradition of law in the Old Testament, with a fellow named Jesus adding social justice and concern for the poor and weak in the New that are actually rather commendable. I also see a lot of myth and error and misplaced obsession with the supernatural that rational people are willing to set aside to focus on the core humanitarian message … or at least they do so in the best of circumstances.

Yet what I also see in modern religion is a re-prioritizing: the secular concerns that should matter, the egalitarian word of a religious tradition that valued the cohesion of the social fabric and demanded equal treatment for even the least of society is ignored, given a little lip service perhaps, but made subservient to the intangible theological nonsense of prayer, of an invisible god, of submission to dogma and hope in an unevidenced afterlife. It’s a religion that has shifted its eyes from a task to be done here on earth to an unearthly vision of a magical unseen world run by an ethereal tyrant who must be placated.”

I think that this subservience “to the intangible theological nonsense of prayer, of an invisible god, of submission to dogma and hope in an unevidenced afterlife” is at the root of so much that is wrong with religion today. It drives the anti-science hysteria of creationists (and some climate change deniers) as well as the murderous activities of some jihadist terrorists today.

Similar articles:
Should Dawkins have been Expelled?
Intelligent design/creationism and climate change
Crimes of Communism and Christianity

The Pope visits New York

This is an old joke but, I think, a clever one. And I am sure most Catholics, and indeed most other Christians, can appreciate it. When I first heard it the city was Atlanta. I guess New York is topical for the current visit.

In my version of the joke the limousine driver is an elderly African-American. I have in mind someone like the chauffeur (played by Morgan Freeman) in the film Driving Miss Daisy.

Seems to me this little detail adds to the humour.

Thanks to Institute for Humanist Studies:

The Pope Visits New York

The pope goes to New York. He is picked up at the airport by a limousine.

He looks at the beautiful car and says to the driver, “You know, I hardly ever get to drive. Would you please let me?”

The driver is understandably hesitant and says, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m supposed to do that.”

But the pope persists, “Please?” The driver finally lets up. “Oh, all right, I can’t really say no to the oope.”

So the pope takes the wheel, and boy, is he a speed demon! He hits the gas and goes around 100 mph in a 45 zone. A policeman notices and pulls him over.

The cop walks up and asks the pope to roll down the window. Startled and surprised, the young officer asks the pope to wait a minute.

He goes back to his patrol car and radios the chief.

Cop: Chief, I have a problem.

Chief: What sort of problem?

Cop: Well, you see, I pulled over this guy for driving way over the speed limit but it’s someone really important.

Chief: Important like the mayor?

Cop: No, no, much more important than that.

Chief: Important like the governor?

Cop: Wayyyyyy more important than that.

Chief: Like the president?

Cop: More.

Chief: Who’s more important than the president?

Cop: I don’t know, but he’s got the pope DRIVING for him!

Expelled for supporting evolutionary science

Have a look at this video about Christine Castillo Comer who was forced to resign as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science – her crime was to forward an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism.

This video is a part of the exposure of the creationist propaganda documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

The official Expelled Exposed website has now been launched. it’s full of information exposing the lies and distortions in the documentary. It also includes case histories of the individuals who claim to have been persecuted for the opposition to evolutionary science. It has a section on The Truth behind the Fiction and information on the documentary’s producers and their actions (Behind the Scenes).

A new expelled exposed YouTube Channel has also been launched and there will no doubt soon be other videos available.

Also have a look at the video Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 22) for a biting criticism of Ben Stein’s understanding of evolutionary science.


The people behind “Expelled” are angry about attempts to counter this propaganda movie with information. A press release from Expelled’s publicity agents are describing this information as “efforts to suppress free speech.” The film’s Executive Producer and Premise Chairman Logan Craft characterises the Expelled Exposed as:“opponents of our film are attempting to interfere with its important message.” The film’s Executive Producer Walt Ruloff talks about “intellectual thugs unwilling to accept any dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy.” And Denyse O’Leary from Bill Dembski’s Uncommon Descent blog has also taken to talking about “Darwin thugs.”

Isn’t this the same old whiny message, and opposition to freedom of speech, that the film itself promotes?

See also:
Expelled producers accused of copyright infringement
Will the public ever see Expelled?
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed–Scientific American’s Take
Michael Shermer’s Review: Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin
John Rennie’s Review: Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed
Science Talk Podcast: Expelled Explained
Roundtable Discussion with Mark Mathis

Expelled Exposed

Related articles:
Expelled – no integrity exhibited
Expelled Bingo
Should Dawkins have been Expelled?
So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled”?
Intelligent design/creationism and climate change
Expelled – the movies

The Darwinian behaviour of creationists

Global WarmingMore than 99% of all the species which have ever lived on this planet are now extinct. Sometimes this resulted from sudden environmental changes. For example extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have resulted from abrupt changes caused by collision of a comet with the earth. In most cases extinction was probably the result of the blind forces of Darwinian natural selection. The effects of overpopulation causing a detrimental environmental change leading the extinction.

Until now extinction may have been the inevitable fate for any species. However, human evolution has produced a species with a brain capable of planning and forethought.

Continue reading

Richard Dawkins in Inverness

Richard DawkinsI have just watched “Science and the God Delusion: A conversation with Richard Dawkins.” This shows Dawkins at his best (despite problems with his voice) working for the public understanding of science. I highly recommend it.

The presentation is an interview and discussion in the Eden Court Theatre, earlier this month. Professor Dawkins was interviewed on stage by Inverness resident Paula Kirby. Paula, who used to be a Christian and is now an atheist, talked to Richard Dawkins informally about the ideas that have informed his life and work. This was followed by an extended opportunity for the audience to put their own questions and challenges to Dawkins.

Continue reading