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Archive for January, 2012

A restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee refused to serve state Sen. Stacey Campfield, the man who sponsored the state’s “don’t say gay” bill, compared homosexuality to bestiality, and most recently told Michelangelo Signorile that it’s virtually impossible to spread HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex. “I hope that Stacy Campfield now knows what if feels like to be unfairly discriminated against,” the Bistro at the Bijou wrote on its Facebook wall on Sunday. The restaurant has received an overwhelmingly positive response. (HT:Michelangelo Signorile)

In a brief interview, Campfield confirmed to BuzzFeed that the restaurant’s hostess called him homophobic and said that he “hates homosexuals,” refusing to serve him. He argued that it couldn’t be true because he rents to gay people through his business. (HT: Towleroad.)

If only more restaurants, and more people in general, had this attitude towards bigoted homophobes in the US and the rest of the world!

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Why Atheism Will Replace Religion from The Human Beast blog by Dr. Nigel Barber.
Atheists are heavily concentrated in economically developed countries, particularly the social democracies of Europe. In underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists. Atheism is thus a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Why do modern conditions produce atheism?

First, as to the distribution of atheism in the world, a clear pattern can be discerned. In sub-Saharan Africa there is almost no atheism (Zuckerman, 2007). Belief in God declines in more developed countries and is concentrated in Europe in countries such as Sweden (64% nonbelievers), Denmark (48%), France (44%) and Germany (42%). In contrast, the incidence of atheism in most sub-Saharan countries is below 1%.

The question of why economically developed countries turn to atheism has been batted around by anthropologists for about eighty years. Anthropologist James Fraser proposed that scientific prediction and control of nature supplants religion as a means of controlling uncertainty in our lives. This hunch is supported by data showing that the more educated countries have higher levels of non belief and there are strong correlations between atheism and intelligence (see my earlier post on this).

Atheists are more likely to be college-educated people who live in cities and they are highly concentrated in the social democracies of Europe. Atheism thus blossoms amid affluence where most people feel economically secure. But why?

It seems that people turn to religion as a salve for the difficulties and uncertainties of their lives. In social democracies, there is less fear and uncertainty about the future because social welfare programs provide a safety net and better health care means that fewer people can expect to die young. People who are less vulnerable to the hostile forces of nature feel more in control of their lives and less in need of religion.

In addition to being the opium of the people (as Karl Marx contemptuously phrased it), religion may also promote fertility, particularly by promoting marriage, according to copious data reviewed by Sanderson (2008). Large families are preferred in agricultural countries as a source of free labor. In developed “atheist” countries, women have exceptionally small families and do not need religion helping them to raise large families.

Even the psychological functions of religion face stiff competition today. In modern societies, when people experience psychological difficulties they turn to their doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They want a scientific fix and prefer the real psychotropic medicines dished out by physicians to the metaphorical opiates offered by religion.

Moreover, sport psychologists find that sports spectatorship provides much the same kind of social, and spiritual, benefits as people obtain from church membership. In a previous post, I made the case that sports is replacing religion. Precisely the same argument can be made for other forms of entertainment with which spectators become deeply involved. Indeed, religion is striking back by trying to compete in popular media, such as televangelism and Christian rock and by hosting live secular entertainment in church.

The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and withgovernment safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people’s daily lives and hence less of a market for religion. At the same time many alternative products are being offered, such as psychotropic medicines and electronic entertainment that have fewer strings attached and that do not require slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs.

References
Sanderson, S. K. (2008). Adaptation, evolution, and religion. Religion, 38, 141-156.
Zuckerman, P. (2007). Atheism: Contemporary numbers and patterns. In M. Martin (ed.), The Cambridge companion to atheism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This book is not held by any U.S. Library.

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Here’s a brilliant photo essay written up by an atheist named Chris on how he became an atheist.

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Adam wants to tackle natural selection on the show?! Wow! I would kill to see that episode! It’ll be interesting to see how they go about it as they will most probably come at it from a biological point of view, that is, using one or more species of simple organisms to illustrate how natural selection works. However, they could also do it with computer programs or robotics I’d imagine. It’d be complicated to set up but I’m sure they could do it, though I’d probably just stick with organisms.

Furthermore, I hope they don’t just repeat some experiment in the scientific literature. There’re plenty of papers out their proving natural selection is a fact, but it’d be nice to see them come up with their own unique experiment that would hopefully strike home with 50% of the US viewers who don’t believe in evolution.

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This is a video of a girl who can say any word backwards within a few seconds of hearing it. It’s pretty mind blowing how the human brain can learn such interesting, though in this case pointless, tricks when practiced from a young age. This may also be a form of ambidexterity, as apparently as few as 1 in 10 million people are able to speak backwards. So it would be interesting to see if she can repeat and entire sentence backwards.

I have a cousin who I caught up with at a family party one year when he was around 12 years old and he’d learned how to solve the rubik’s cube over a period of a few days by memorising the algorithms. You could mix the rubik’s cube up without him seeing and he’d be able to solve it in front of you within seconds…

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Wow, I cannot believe this headline was published in a Tasmanian newspaper?! Hardly going to help alleviate the current tension between indigenous Australians and the government. Here’s a full image of the article if you want to read the entire thing.

Even though they may have burned the flag, who gives a toss. At the end of the day it’s a piece of cloth that was probably made in China. Clearly they want attention, they want their problems acknowledged and addressed. Whether you agree with them or not, racism isn’t justified and won’t help in any way.

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