Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To Kill or Not to Kill?

It's time to speak of war. Or, if you wish, "sactioned killing." Warring, is, of course, older than civilization, and intrisic to most life-forms on this planet. Whether we speak of the hummingbird battles on my back deck (where, although feeders are everywhere, my little hummers spend half their energy "defending" the feeder they've chosen as theirs!) - Or whether we speak of Iraq, Afganistan or Darfur - war is still the primary way that the denizens of Earth resolve their disputes. Humans have created an Art Form of it, perfecting strategies and weapons with immense skill, ever escalating the stakes.
We now possess the ability to destroy the entire earth ten times over, and still we press on, tirelessly working to surpass both our enemies and our friends in the ability to annihilate the mostest the fastest.
Why? Because there are evil forces out there, threatening our very existence (as if we don't ourselves?) who can only be stopped if we slaughter enough of "them" to bring them to their knees. Of couse, plenty of our own get slaughtered in the process; nearly all of them our youngest, healthiest and brightest - who die on the battlefield, or limp home, wounded in body and soul, a permanent drain on the medical resources of the country and unlikely to ever make the contributions to their families and their society that they might have.
So; I must ask - when do we become civilized enough to realize that there must be (or, must be) a better solution than war?

Powder keg

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Back from the Wars

I'm sorry for the long silence! Actually, I've been on what we'll call medical leave; several surgeries to correct some increasingly debilitating problems. It was long, tedious and a bit grueling, but I'm well on my way back to life as it should be. The summer is waning; at least here in the high country, where Labor Day signals the beginning of autumn. My hummingbird count is around fifteen, busily draining the sugarwater from my five feeders. The Rufouses (named for their rusty-redness) have made their late-summer appearance; they are aggressively territorial and greedy, so the deck is now often the scene of whirring hummer-wars. Quite amazing little creatures; they are unendingly delightful to watch.
I suppose we could call this post a "soft re-entry" - perfect for such a splendid, sunny summer morning. I'll get to more serious topics later!


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

My days, lately, have been much too full, to give my blog the time it deserves!
But, on this significant day; if you are amother, I hope you feel loved and apprciated. If you have a mother, make sure she feels that way.
I'd like to share an excerpt from Khalil Gibran's "The Profit" which pretty much sums up my feelings about motherhood.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,

even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

Finally, if you're not a mother, and don't have one, either, call somebody else's mother and wish her a happy day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Feeling Like a Bit of Fluff?

George Smoot, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, explains that our view of the universe has become exponentially more complex in just the past decade. Smoot's work is part of a revolution that has forced cosmologists to confront a universe wholly unlike any they've ever known - one where only 4% is the kind of matter we have always assumed it to be; that is, the kind that makes up you, me, all the planets and stars in our galaxy, and in all 125 billion galaxies beyond. Let me repeat that; 4%. The other 96% is . . .?
Cosmologists refer to it as "dark" - meaning unknown for now, and possibly forever.

Here's what that means: we are not at the center of anything. We're not even made up of the same stuff as most of the rest of everything.

Lawrence Krauss, a theorist at Case Western University, put it bluntly; "If you got rid of us, and all the stars and all the galaxies and all the planets and all the aliens and everybody, then the universe would remain largely the same. We're completely irrelevant."

So, how important are you feeling right about now?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Thought for March

Whatever you are,
be a good one.
A. Lincoln

Have You Googled Yourself Lately?

It helps to have a slightly uncommon name, but in any event, it can be quite an experience to see what googling your name elicits. One thing that mystifies me; I usually get differeent results. I've published numerous articles in periodicals, and posted several requests for genealogical leads, and sometimes quite a few of them pop up. Other times the stuff is quite different. Of course, my name isn't that unusual; I've found quite a bit that pertains to total strangers. But the most intriguing is that my name shows up on German (at least Germanic) porno sites. I don't even want to delve into that one.
So, go check up on yourself - it might be a real eye-opener.

Powder (Puffily!)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So Much for Proofing

The following post should have been: "What I'm Talking About" - of course, maybe, subconsciously I meant "Taking"!

Powder (Puff)

What I'm Taking About

The following, from a brochure by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is an excellent introduction to the concept of Freethinking. It isn't a position you are necessarily expected to embrace, but, if you follow my blog, you need to at least understand the position behind my thoughts (at least the philosophical ones.)


What Is A Freethinker?
A Freethinker is a person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established Belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and ratio­nalists.
No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker revelation is invalid and orthodoxy is no guaran­tee of truth.

What Is A Freethinker's Basis For Knowledge?
Freethinkers are naturalistic. Truth is the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality. Reality is limited to that which is directly perceiv­able through our natural senses or indirectly ascertained through the proper use of reason.
The scientific method is the only trustworthy means of obtaining knowl­edge. For a statement to be considered true it must be testable (what repeat­able experiments or methods confirm it?), falsifiable (what, in theory, would disconfirm it, and have all attempts to disprove it failed?), parsimonious (is it the simplest explanation, requiring the fewest assumptions?), and logical (is it free of contradictions or non sequiturs?).
Arguments based on faith, authority or ad homonym character attacks are unacceptable.

Do Freethinkers Have A Basis For Morality?
Freethinkers accept human life as the primary basis for morality. That which enhances humanity is "good"—that which threatens it is "evil." There are no cosmic absolutes. Given our existence in the universe, life must be the basis for values. Hence, most freethinkers are humanists. This usually embraces a respect for the welfare of our entire planet, including the other animals.
An ethical choice is rarely a simple "right and wrong" decision. Most moral questions involve a conflict of values, requiring a careful use of reason. Obedient conformity to the dictates of another mind is supremely immoral and very dangerous.

Do Freethinkers Have Meaning In Life?
Freethinkers know that meaning must originate in a mind. Since the universe is mindless and the cosmos does not care, you must care, if you wish to have purpose. Individuals are free to choose, within the limits of humanistic morality.
Some freethinkers have found meaning in compassion for needless suffering, social progress, the beauty of humanity (art, music, literature), personal happiness, pleasure, joy and love, and the advancement of knowledge.

Doesn't The Complexity Of Life Require A Designer?
The complexity of life requires an explanation. Darwin's theory of evolu­tion, with cumulative nonrandom natural selection "designing" for billions of years, has provided the explanation. A Divine Designer is no answer because the complexity of such a creature would be subject to the same scrutiny itself.
Freethinkers recognize that there is much chaos, ugliness and pain in the universe for which any explanation of origins must also account.

Why Are Freethinkers Opposed To Religion?
Freethinkers are convinced that religious claims are false—they have not withstood the tests of evidence and reason. Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacri­fice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition.
Most freethinkers consider religion to be not only untrue, but harmful. It has been used to justify war, slavery, sexism, racism, mutilations, intoler­ance, and oppression of minorities.

Hasn't Religion Done Tremendous Good In The World?
Some religionists are good people but they would be good anyway. Reli­gion cannot take credit for actions which are just as easily accomplished by freethinkers.
In fact, most modern social and moral progress has been made by people free from religion—including Clara Barton, Margaret Sanger, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, H. L. Mencken, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Robert Burns, Percy Shelley, Johannes Brahms and many others whom we honor today for their contributions to humanity.
Most religions have consistently resisted progress—including the aboli­tion of slavery; women's right to vote and to choose contraception and abor­tion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific under­standing of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the use of light­ning rods; and the American principle of state/church separation.

Do Freethinkers Have A Particular Political Persuasion?
No, freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position. Freethought today embraces adherents of virtually all political persua­sions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives. There is no connection, for example, between atheism and communism. Some freethinkers, such as Adam Smith and Ayn Rand, were staunch capitalists; and there have been communistic groups which were deeply religious, such as the early Christian church.

Is Atheism/Humanism A Religion?
Atheism is not a belief. It is the "lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion.
Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a su­pernatural realm, deity, faith in "holy" writings and conformity to an abso­lute creed.
Secular humanism has no god, bible or savior. It is based on natural ratio­nal principles. It is flexible and relativistic—it is not a religion.
Isn't A Plurality Of Ideas Unsettling To Humanity?
Yes. That is the only way we will have progress. A multiplicity of individu­als thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, dis­carded or adopted. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes chokes progress.

Why Should I Be Proud To Be A Freethinker?
Freethought is reasonable. Freethought allows you to do your own thinking. Freethinkers see no pride in the blind maintenance of ancient superstitions or self-effacing prostration before divine tyrants known only through primitive "revelations." Freethought is respectable. Freethought is truly free.
From the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Back from a Sabbatical

Sometimes one goes away for just a moment, and that moment goes on far too long. If I've been missed, I apologize. Several things have kept me busy; most importantly, stumbling upon a group of Freethinkers, with whom I shared much. Many of the conversations have been thought-provoking, a few have been downright rewarding.

If "Freethinker" is a term you are unfamiliar with; it generally embraces those who either have significant doubts about the existence of any god(s) or who are quite certain that supernatural beings do not exist. The accurate term for the latter is "athiest" which is by no means ominous or dangerous; non-theist more or less serves the same purpose. Whatever.
Which term makes most sense to you, it describes me. I don't accept the naive notion that we were created by, and exist at the pleasure of, any god.

I find nature sufficiently wondrous without assigning it to a Creator - particularly the one the bible describes. I have explained my position in the most straightforward terms I can, so that you can choose to explore this arena with me, or turn tail and run. If you are terrified and repulsed by the very suggestion that your treasured myths may not be fact, then it's time to scamper on home. Otherwise, you're more than welcome here.

Powder (keg)