“It is a great socioreligious irony […] that when we consider the fundamental values and moral imperatives contained within the world’s great religions, such as caring for the sick, the inform, the elderly, the poor, the orphaned, the vulnerable; practicing mercy, charity, and goodwill toward one’s fellow human beings; and fostering generosity, humility, honesty, and communal concern over individual egotism - those traditionally religious values are most successfully established, institutionalised, and put into practice at the societal level in the most irreligious nations in the world today.”—
“Unlike [Zach] Dasher, who believes there is another existence – a better one — outside the temporal, atheists, humanists and freethinkers believe they have one life and one chance to do something meaningful with it. With no supernatural arbiter to fall back on, nonbelievers know it is up to them and them alone to promote justice, compassion and a fair society.”—
“I have a friend — or had a friend, now dead — Abdus Salam, a very devout Muslim, who was trying to bring science into the universities in the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because, although they were very receptive to technology, they felt that science would be a corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it… and damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive of religious belief. And it’s a good thing too.”—
Steven Weinberg, episode 2 of Jonathan Miller’s The Atheism Tapes (2004)
There are few women whose legacies have been more of a political football than Hypatia of Alexandria. She was not only the last scientist to work in the Library of Alexandria, but the first female mathematician in recorded history. She also was an expert astronomer, philosopher, physicist, and overachiever. Unfortunately, Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christian zealots in particularly grisly fashion, turning her life story into a point of contention for centuries to come. Let’s try and unwind this gordian knot after the cut.
Theologians worry away at the “problem of evil” and a related “problem of suffering.” On the day I originally wrote this paragraph, the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life. Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question that a writer on a London newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) framed this way: “How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?” The article went on to quote one priest’s reply: “The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would he no problem of evil or suffering.”
On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it:
For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.
“… the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”—
Emma Watson, UN speech, 20 September 2014 #heforshe
“I am disgusted by the behavior of those who claim to be promoting feminism by feverishly poring over sentence fragments to see if they can be parsed into meaning something that fits their narrative of suspicion. How any of them think they are actually improving anything for women by trying to convert the arena of ideas and debate into a safe room for infants is beyond me.”—
Grania Spingies, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, quoted by Michael Nugent
My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and—cod help me—Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there’s an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfilment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend… and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she’s obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.
And that’s it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.
I couldn’t agree more. I liked those films, but it would have been awesome if Peter Quill had been played more like Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. A P.O.V. character who only thinks he’s the protagonist.
Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website are pleased to present this online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Now, anyone with internet access and a web browser can enjoy reading a high quality up-to-date copy of Feynman’s legendary lectures.
“The dehumanizing idea that illness is connected to sin is a common feature of religious thinking about disease and sickness in general. Periods of crisis, like this one, may empower religious leaders to speak openly about the way that their traditions understand disease, but these explanations are not the product only of such exceptional moments of crisis. They are, rather, deep, long-lived, and fundamental aspects of how religious communities think about the sick among them. Both the leaders who present Ebola and other crises as divine punishment and the commentators who attribute this perspective to human nature under stress — and thereby excuse it — are participating in the perpetuation of a dangerous and destructive mode of thinking.”—
Joel Baden (professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School) and Candida Moss (professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame), “Ebola Is Not God’s Wrath”, Slate
“What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.”—
Charlie Munger, “Elementary Worldly Wisdom” (speech)
“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.”—
Because the [religious] moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there’s something good about religious faith. That there’s something good about bringing children up to have a faith.
Which means to believe something without evidence and without the need for justifying it.
They’re entitled simply to say, “Oh, that’s my faith, I believe it, you’re not allowed to question it and you’re not allowed to ask me why I hold it.”
Once you teach people that that’s a legitimate reason for believing something then you as it were give a licence to the extremists who say, “My belief is that I’m supposed to be a suicide bomber or I’m supposed to blow up buildings – it’s my faith and you can’t question that.”