Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2016

“Interconnectedness requires exploration. Nothing is impossible. Today, Science tells us that the essence of nature is awareness. Ego is born in the gap where nature has been excluded.”

– Computer-generated ‘wisdom’ from the New Age Bullshit Generator (see below)


Next general meeting:

Wednesday  January 20

Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.  Discussion starts at 6:30


Discussion topic for this month “Guns and America” 

guns in America

  1. Do you think there is a Gun Problem in the US? Why or why not?
  2. Is gun ownership a ‘sacred’ right, as the NRA claims? (See Discussion Notes, below)
  3. Is the Constitution, as wrtten 250 years ago, also sacred? If so, are we prohibited from regulating guns?
  4. If you hold the Constitution to be ‘sacred’, how is your sentiment different from a theist who holds the Bible to be sacred?
  5. If you agree that guns in America are a ‘problem’, do you have any solutions to suggestions?




Polling on the Issues: Pew Research

http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/12/why-own-a-gun-protection-is-now-top-reason/  Americans’ opinions are all over the map…unsurprisingly, there is a large divided between political parties and gun owners vs. non-owners. If you love statistics, this is your site!

From the Council on Foreign Relations: “U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons” http://www.cfr.org/society-and-culture/us-gun-policy-global-comparisons/p29735


The NRA, Self-Proclaimed as ‘Freedom’s Safest Place’   www.home.nra.org   Welcome to the home pages of the NRA. One thing that caught my atheist eye immediately is the conflation of gun-ownership and religion which is then expressed as the ‘God-given right of gun ownership’. Among the many, many (VERY angry and apocalyptic) articles on the NRA site is a prominently-featured six minute video decrying the ‘unholy arrogance of atheists’. In the NRA’s words: “Dana Loesch exposes the global alliance of elitists, media activists, Hollywood celebrities, campus radicals and political power mongers who have openly attacked sacred American values and the people who cherish them with ruthlessness, contempt and downright hatred. She calls out these Godless Left saboteurs for sharing the same fanatical fervor to tear apart the foundations of America as the terrorists who threaten our very survival.”    See it here:  https://www.nranews.com/series/commentators/video/commentators-the-godless-left/episode/commentators-season-5-episode-17-the-godless-left

Wayne LaPierre’s ‘Truth About Background Checks’.  https://www.nranews.com/series/wayne-lapierre/video/wayne-lapierre-the-truth-about-background-checks/episode/wayne-lapierre-season-1-episode-5-the-truth-about-background-checks

Guns Equal Freedom: What the Left Just Doesn’t Get  http://www.conservativedailynews.com/2015/09/guns-equal-freedom-what-the-left-just-doesnt-get/    “…Liberals just don’t understand why our Founders wrote the Second Amendment in the first place… As Mao Tse-tung observed, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’…”

The Libertarian Party Postion: America’s Millions of Gun Owners ‘Are People Too’  https://www.lp.org/issues/gun-laws      The official Libertarian Party line equates ‘gun control’ to the failed policy of alcohol prohibition. “The primary victim of these misguided efforts [of gun-control advocates] is the honest citizen whose civil rights are trampled as frustrated legislators and police tighten the screws…” 



When Did ‘Freedom’ in the U.S. Become Synonymous With ‘Guns’?http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-schwartz/six-thoughts-on-guns-and-freedom_b_6688940.html    Here is an un-apologetic response to the NRA position which the author calls out as “…a bizarre, frenzied religion…a cargo cult that worships the smooth barrel of a gun, a false idol, with its prosthetic, prophetic promise that we can blast our way into heaven…”

Freedom and Control-Control    http://www.guninformation.org/freedom.html   The government has an obligation to protect people’s fundamental rights such as the right to live. Thus the government has an obligation to place more restrictions on individual gun ownership if doing so leads to more lives being saved.

Why Is It So Difficult to Find Reliable Statistics About Gun Violence in the U.S.?   There’s a very good reason you’ve found it hard locate comprehensive studies about gun violence in America. It’s because, since 1994, Congress has blocked and de-funded all attempts by the federal government to collect and assess gun violence statistics! Researchers who persist in trying to uncover the facts about guns in our country are harassed and threatened with elimination of funding. Read about it in this “History of the Federal Funding Freeze” researched by the American Psychological Association:   http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspx

‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers: 5% of Gun Dealers Sell 90% of Guns Used in Crimes Across U.S.   http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/crime-and-justice-news/2015-11-bad-apple-gun-dealer-report 

50-State Study: More Gun Laws = Fewer Gun Deaths http://www.cbsnews.com/news/50-state-study-more-gun-laws-fewer-deaths/  Overall, states with the most laws had a 42 percent lower gun death rate than states with the least number of laws… [however], it’s likely that gun control measures are more readily enacted in states with few gun owners — a factor that might have more influence on gun deaths than the number of laws. 

Ringing in the New Year: The Final Mass-Shooting of 2015  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/california-dad-killed-by-his-son-after-argument-over-washing-machine-leads-mass-shooting-1535719   He was a chronic drunk with a huge arsenal of firearms. His daughter-in-law was using the washing machine which, for reasons we’ll never know, angered him so greatly that he shot her dead. His rage unabated, he then finished the job by shooting his invalid wife and a family friend to death. His son wrestled the gun away, shooting and killing his drunken father. He is now charged with murder. Thus ended 2015 with both a bang and a whimper.

New Year! Happy?


Bring your ideas to next week’s meeting and take your best shot….but no live ammo, please!

BTW, These 10 Countries Have the Highest Murder Rate  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/worlds-highest-murder-rates_n_5125188.html     Hint: the U.S. isn’t one of them!

Map of World Murder rates



Book Club




Do You Like Your Bullshit to be Computer-Generated? Then This is For You!   It’s the New Age Bullshit Generator, located here:    http://sebpearce.com/bullshit/     Founded on the notion that a computer that spits out buzz words in random order cannot be distinguished from the sayings of a New Age guru such as Deepak Chopra, this website provides pages of BS for whatever use you can imagine.

Also, see http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/   for random, fictitious quotes which are computer-generated from the actual vocabulary used by D.C. …

Deepak Chopra

And remember, “Experiential truth arises and subsides in the door of possibilities”

Fox’s Atheist: O’Reilly Hates Him, Hannity Reviles Him  http://www.salon.com/2015/12/20/meet_the_fox_news_atheist_the_man_bill_oreilly_calls_a_fascist_and_sean_hannity_thinks_is_evil/  (Contributed by Marc Masor)    Meet David Silverman, President of American Atheists….he believes in taking the battle directly to the enemy….david_silverman-620x412


January Jeopardy Quiz:

Answer: ZERO      Question: How many fatal marijuana deaths occurred in the US last year? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marijuana-deaths-2014_56816417e4b06fa68880a217

AP Poll: Religious ‘Rights’ Important For Christians…For Other Relgions, Not So Much  http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:de486b3d64154d0baae9f04fba0a4094WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of the protections, according to a new survey. Republicans and Democrats alike view Muslims as less-deserving of protections under the US Constitution.

Ben Franklin religious quarrels quote


That’s One, Small, Step for a Uterus… http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2015/12/23/federal-judge-upholds-california-reproductive-health-info-law   On December 22, a federal judge in California upheld a soon-to-take-effect state law (AB 775) that requires crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion, among other things…The law requires the centers to post notices saying reproductive health services, including abortion, are available to pregnant women and may have government funding.

Pregnancy counseling logo composit


U.S. Women Lag Behind the World in Human Rights Says U.N. in ‘Myth Shattering’ Report  http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52797#.VpA2EPkrJQJ    While praising the current United States administration for its commitment to women’s equality, United Nations experts warned today that the extreme polarization of US politics is “profoundly” affecting the Government’s ability to guarantee women’s human rights, and even to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.UN Gender Equality report


Justice For Dr. Chandra   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/disgraced-researcher-ranjit-chandra-stripped-of-1989-order-of-canada/article28084791/   (Contributed by Marc Masor)   Follow-up on the saga of Dr. Chandra who was the subject of a Member Talk given by Marc a few months ago: ‘Disgraced [medical and nutritional] researcher Ranjit Chandra was stripped of his membership in the Order of Canada which was awarded to him in 1989. Removal from the Order of Canada has only happened in a handful of cases since the honor was established in 1967…’


And Then This Happened in Politics 

State Republicans Remove Press from Virginia Senate Floor     One week after Missouri state Republican leaders voted to ban reporters from that state’s Senate floor, Republicans in Virginia voted to do the same thing.  http://pilotonline.com/news/government/virginia/senate-republicans-remove-press-from-virginia-senate-floor/article_65025825-eb3d-5b94-b879-bcb294be015e.htmlRichard Saslaw, Charles Colgan, Emmett hanger Thomas Norment, John Watkins

State Senators, Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, right, Charles Colgan, D-Prince William, back to camera, Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, left, Thomas Norment, R-James City County, second from left, and John Watkins, R-Powhatan, second from right, discuss proceedings during a break in the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In that Missouri case, state lawmakers last November demanded the firing of a professor at the University of Missouri who tried to bar student journalists from an on-campus protest. “Freedom of the press” and “freedom of access” were cited at the time. Apparently the irony is lost on the legislators in the Show Me state whose banishment of reporters will take effect this March. Here is a link to the Missouri story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/melissa-click-letter-missouri_568e93b2e4b0a2b6fb6efcb1


Hillary Clinton Thinks Gun-Control is a ‘Winner’ for 2016 http://time.com/4101947/hillary-clinton-guns-democrats/     In 2008, she campaigned as a strong Second Amendment supporter, beating up on Barack Obama for his supposed hostility to gun ownership. This time around, she’s changed her tune, favoring gun-control measures that surprise even some Democrats. Hillary and NRA composit

Clinton Positions on Gun Issues, Then and Now http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Hillary_Clinton_Gun_Control.htm


Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA): Obama Can’t Cite Bible Because “GOP Owns Christian Tradition” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/01/congressman-obama-cant-cite-bible-because-gop-owns-christian-tradition/   No, it’s not our imagination…some members of the Republican Party actually claim exclusive ownership of the Christian tradition! The link between the GOP and Christianity was made explicit this week when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who defeated Eric Cantor in an upset election last year, spoke on American Family Radio. Referring to President Obama’s comments about taking in Syrian refugees, Brat said: “…[Obama] is using the Christian tradition and trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible. It’s almost a comedy routine on what compassion and love is. He’s mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love…”.Dave Brat owns Christian Tradition Brat went on to say, “….[the Conservative movement] needs to reeducate its people that we own the ENTIRE [my emphasis] tradition [of Christian love, because liberal professors] have rejected natural law [and religious ideas]…”. In addition to reading about it, the above link includes a link to the audio recording of the interview.

Planet Watch 

U.S. Takes Action to Protect Africa’s Lions https://www.takepart.com/article/2016/01/03/canned-lion-hunt-america   9 out of every 10 African lions killed, lose their lives at the hands of American hunters in ‘canned’ hunts where the animals are trapped in a fenced-in area.lions


Nothing to Look at Here…2015 ‘Only’ the Second-Hottest Year on Record https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201511    Lots of actual/factual information about global climate to be found here.



Lighter-Side: News You Don’t Need, But Which Might Amuse….

 Last Month It Was Stopmasturbation.org …Now It’s Christwire.org! http://www.christwire.org/     Over the past month, I’ve spent ‘way too much time reading the links and the many, many articles contained the ‘archives’ at www.stopmasturbation.org    I can’t stop laughing…mostly at the fact that many (if not most) of the site’s visitors have a hard time deciding if the site is ‘serious’ or ‘satire’. Isn’t it a sad commentary on today’s public discourse, with so many fringe ideas getting wide and uncritical exposure on the web, that it’s tough to tell the difference between lunacy and genuine advocacy?

Into the fray comes another site that muddies the waters even more…this time, it’s www.christwire.org (‘Conservative Values for an Unsaved World’) dishing outlandish stories and opinions to confuse and outrage its readers. A sample headline: “Obama is Infecting Christians with Ebola to Destroy Jesus and Start a New Age of Liberal Darkness”. The readers’ comments run the gamut from anger at Obama to anger at the site’s administrators for not stating clearly “THIS IS A SATIRICAL WEBSITE” in the masthead.

Christwire photo compositAnother article at christwire.org poses this earnest question: “Is it OK for a White Christian Cop to ‘Gently Beat’ His Black Citizens?” The author’s slogan is ‘Bringing back morality, one kneecap at a time’. The readers’ comments are hilariously off-the-mark…both comic and hilariously sad…and just a little frightening.


A Quick Refresher Course in Atheism  http://youtu.be/PUzExsAJLmI   Touch base with reality …hear from Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, Christopher Hitchens, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others in a restorative 9-minute Atheist booster shot!

definition of atheism


And now, your moment of Dancing Bug…x2!

Tom the Dancing Bug


Tom the Dancing Bug


Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.

Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Read the funnnies…you may even decide to join the TtDB Inner Hive!

Finally, here’s a Fun Fact:

Apparently American taxpayers are subsidizing cattle ranchers to a degree that would make Ronal Reagan’s imaginary Welfare Queen blush. Cattle graze on our public land for around $1.20 per head per year. To graze the same cattle on private land costs in the range of $20 – $25 per head per year.

Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter December 2015

Opinions, when expressed, are solely those of Larry Bollinger and do not necessarily reflect those of Durango Skeptics and Atheists…so chill.

“In retrospect, this magazine’s coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided…Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon?…As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence…Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their field better than, say U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if political or special interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong.”

          -Sarcasm from the Editors of Scientific American

read the entire piece here:   http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/okay-we-give-up/

Next general meeting,  Wednesday

December 16, 2015 

 Irish Embassy, 900 Main St. Durango

Dinner from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30


The topic for this month’s discussion:

“Recent Mobilization of Anti-Science Factions: The Strategies and Tools at Their Disposal, presented by Marc Masor.   The first half of this month’s Newsletter is taken up with articles that are intended to help provide background for this month’s discussion. The  information is divided into four sections to make it easier for you to find some aspects of the subject that are of particular interest to you. The four segments are: Introduction; Science, Politics and Funding of Research; Science and Education; and Science and Society.



What Science Is…How and Why It Works


Sister Neil Explains composit


Science, Politics and Funding of Scientific Research



Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA)  Broun was a Member of The Committee until his defeat in 2014    “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” Broun added that “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old.”

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) Former Chair of The Committee, has suggested that climate change is the product of a mass global conspiracy of scientists — the overwhelming majority of whom have concluded that burning fossil fuels cause warming — to obtain grant money. In 2011, he told National Journal he didn’t believe climate change was man-made because “I don’t think we can control what God controls. I’m really more fearful of freezing,” Hall said. “And I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us [climate scientists are] not basing it on real scientific facts.”

James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) Former Chair of The Committee, believes that climate change is a “massive international scientific fraud,” and in December 2009 declared, “There’s increasing evidence of scientific fascism that’s going on.” Sensenbrenner famously suggested in a hearing that “dinosaur flatulence” might explain historic warming patterns.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Former Vice-Chair of The Committee. “Just so you know, global warming is a total fraud and it is being designed by – what you’ve got is you’ve got liberals who get elected at the local level want state government to do the work and let them make the decisions. Then, at the state level, they want the federal government to do it. And at the federal government, they want to create global government to control all of our lives. That’s what the game plan is. It’s step by step by step, more and bigger control over our lives by higher levels of government. And global warming is that strategy in spades…. Our freedom to make our choices on transportation and everything else? No, that’s gotta be done by a government official who, by the way, probably comes from Nigeria because he’s a UN government official, not a US government official.”

Lamar Smith (R-TX) Current Chair of The Committee.  “It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades,” he said in a statement. “The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made.”  http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/11/republican-feud-opens-other-value-some-us-research-science    Also see the article below: “BATTLE OVER SCIENCE FUNDING IN CONGRESS” 

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Ranking Democratic member of The Committee http://democrats.science.house.gov/sites/democrats.science.house.gov/files/Ranking%20Member%20Johnson%20Letter%20to%20Chairman%20Smith%20on%20NOAA%20Subpoena.pdf    Responding to Chairman Smith’s unilateral subpoena of NOAA documents, calls the effort a ‘fishing expedition’. The Washington Post wrote, that Smith’s subpoena as “.an invasive fishing expedition in search of a pretext to discredit [research scientists].”

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (From the Washington Post article headlined “Jim Inhofe Embarrasses GOP and the US). ”Mr. Inhofe delivered a Senate floor speech about the “hysteria on global warming” last week with two conspicuous props. One was a blown-up photo of his family standing in front of an igloo labeled “AL GORE’S NEW HOME.” The Inhofe clan constructed it following a 2010 “snowstorm that had been unprecedented, it set a record that year,” Mr. Inhofe explained. “In case we had forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” Mr. Inhofe continued, reaching for a plastic bag next to his lectern, “I ask the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, just from outside here. It’s very, very cold out.”


Battle Over Science Funding in Congress

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Congressional cuts, along with the across-the-board reductions known as sequestration, from 2010 to 2013 resulted in the largest overall decrease in a three-year period since the end of the space race. Seen from a longer perspective, federal spending on R&D as a share of the gross domestic product has been in a long, slow slide from the 1970s, when it peaked above 2 percent. The AAAS puts the fiscal year 2014 figure at 0.78 percent. 

Lamar Smith goes after ‘frivolous research’… http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/battle-over-science-funding-gets-fiercer-in-u-s-congress/

 The Association of American Universities Fights Back    http://www.aau.edu/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=15678

 R n D as percent of budget

Where does the monehy go


Pew Research Poll: Views About Government/Private Research Funding

“I think Government investment in scientific research is essential”                          2009 – 60%         2014 – 61%

“I think private investment is enough”   2009 – 29%    2014 – 34%

“I don’t know”    2099 – 11%           2014 – 5%


Who Pays For Science? What Will Science Research Look Like in the Future?    In Four Parts

Part 1: According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the federal government pays almost $140 billion a year for research and development, down from a 2010 peak of about $160 billion, in constant dollars. Since the 2010 apex, cuts to discretionary spending have clipped R&D funds by 15.4 percent in inflation-adjusted spending, although nondefense R&D has declined only 4.9 percent.http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/funding-for-scientific-research/


Part 2: Truths and Half-Truths An ecologist, an estuary and a case study on communicating climate change.   http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/communicating-climate-change-research/

Part 3: Cracking the NIH Code: Amid Science Fundings Grim Realities, One Group Is Making It Work  http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/kotton-wilson-ikonomou-lab/

 Part 4: Too Many Post-Docs, Too Little Funding  http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/helping-young-researchers-find-jobs-outside-academia/




Science and Education



Dismissing Darwin

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/04/creationism_in_louisiana_public_school_science_classes_school_boards_and.html  Louisiana has its “creationism law,” which allows teachers to sneak religion into public school science classes by using materials that criticize evolution. Seventy-eight Nobel laureates and many other prominent scientists and educators have joined me in calling for the repeal of this law, officially known as the Louisiana Science Education Act, and tens of thousands of people have signed petitions against it over the past four years, but so far we’ve failed. Louisiana teachers can still bring religion into public school science classrooms, legally. 

Confessions of a Creationist Kid: “I Was Determined Not to Learn About Evolution  http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/05/creationism_and_evolution_in_school_religious_students_can_t_learn_natural.html

Public Schools Where Taxpayer Money is Used to Teach Creationism  http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/01/creationism_in_public_schools_mapped_where_tax_money_supports_alternatives.html A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs.

Creationism where it's taught

Creationism vs. Evolution: Science, Religion and Public Education https://www.au.org/resources/publications/science-religion-and-public-education  Americans United for Separation of Church and State sums up the battle for the minds of the nation’s students. “A well-organized and well-funded campaign is underway to undermine the separation of church and state in America’s public schools. Aggressive religious pressure groups are pushing school boards nationwide to change the curriculum to conform to their doctrines. Battles have erupted all over the nation, and your community may be next…”


Teaching In the Science Classroom: The American Federation of Teachers Weighs In  http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/berkman_plutzer.pdf  “With increasing politicization in our society of astronomy (Big Bang), health (vaccines), and earth science (climate change), controversy could become the new normal for K-12 science.”


National Science Teachers Association’s Position Statement http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/evolution.aspx  (from the Introduction): “The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be emphasized in K–12 science education frameworks and curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy needed to be well-informed citizens and prepared for college and STEM careers. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.”



Science and Society

Citizens and Scientists See Science Through Different Lenses http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/   New Pew Research Center surveys of citizens and a representative sample of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) show powerful crosscurrents that both recognize the achievements of scientists and expose stark fissures between scientists and citizens on a range of science, engineering and technology issues.

Opinion differences between people and scientistsCRAZY SCIENTIST

perceptions about consensus on various major science topics


Whoa! Dissonance!  Pew Study Finds Highly Religious People See Little Conflict Between Science and Religions  


Are Atheists wrong when we assume that most theists are anti-science? This Pew poll points in that direction. Although 60% of respondents think there is a conflict between Science and Religion, a breakdown of the results shows that while 76% of non-religious respondents find conflict, only 50% of those who regularly attend church services see it that way! Scratch your head while reading all about it at the above link.


Michael Shermer on Why Christians and Conservatives Should Accept Evolution 


In an article originally published in 2006, Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, outlines 6 good reasons why evolution makes sense for theists as well as rationalists.


creationist composit

Is Evolution via Natural Selection Finally Winning Over Creationism?

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/11/polls_americans_believe_in_evolution_less_in_creationism.html    At least among young people, the Theory of Evolution is starting to make sense. A Pew Research poll indicates that 73% of American adults under the age of 30 expressed at least a limited ‘belief in’ Evolution, up from 61% in 2009.






Watch Richard Dawkins Near Apoplexy As He Debates the Merits of The BiblE (Contributed by Ruth Olmsted)     This link will take you to an edited version of the ‘debate’ which was recorded in April, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTXN5nOstRs

And here is the link to the full, unedited intellectual slug fest:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbVA4 

Here’s a taste – Dawkins: (To a room full of mostly theists) “Well, what about the New Testament? Here we have a god who wanted to forgive mankind its sins, including by the way the ‘sin of Adam’ whom He knew perfectly well never existed, nevertheless he wants to forgive Man’s sins…WHY didn’t he JUST FORGIVE HIM … why was it necessary to have a human sacrifice – to have His Son tortured and executed in order that the sins of mankind should be absolved? Is that not the MOST DISGUSTING idea you’ve ever heard?” [Scattered applause]. “Why did god have to sacrifice a scapegoat?”   In answer a fellow panelist offered this weak tea: “It is not God sacrificing His Son, it is His Son in His obedience to the Divine Will of His Father….it is His obedience in the context of a corrupt society that leads to His death…it is His sacrifice that restores that which is broken between God and mankind…there can be no forgiveness without cost…” [applause].

Honestly, I love this stuff!

Richard DAwkins

Richard Dawkins with Ariane Sherine, originator of the Atheist Bus Campaign


Holy Smoke! Sarah Palin Says Legalization of Weed Hardly Worth Talking About!    http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/sarah-palin-on-legalized-marijuana-no-big-deal/   Alaska legalized pot last year and on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, the host challenged Palin by asking,“What happened in Alaska? What are you people thinking there?” Palin’s surprising response? “We’ve got that libertarian streak in us, and I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal anyway. It was absolutely no big deal.” She went on to say that government has ‘more important issues to worry about’.
Sarah Palin composit


The KKK’s Aniversary…A Very Unhappy Birthday To Yooouuu!  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kkk-failed-comeback_5654a4dee4b0258edb331a2d   100 years ago, the KKK attempted a comeback after a 40 year hiatus …KKK propagandists worried that immigration would  “…mongrelize the citizenship of the United States”, but for the past century, immigrants have only made us stronger.

KKK rally compositKKK rally and parade, Washington DC 1925

Oscar the Grouch composithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBKuMHwFe5Q


Catholic Visionary: “It’s Time For Us to Listen to the Animals”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sister-joan-chittister-osb/listen-to-the-animals_b_8510390.html     An excerpt from Sister Joan Chitister’s Book, Two Dogs and a Parrot: What our Animal Friends Can Teach US About Life.  An interesting little essay about (among other things) how the physical placement of the first two books of Genesis created our society’s domineering attitudes towards animals and our environment.

Some-people-talkSeduced by a theology of superiority and domination, sure that the world and everything in it had been made for human consumption and human control, the narrative of human relationships with animals has a very mixed and sad history. Only the findings of science concerning the intelligence, feelings, and place of animals in the human enterprise, and the realization that we are all made of the same stuff, have begun once again to reverse the story of human-animal relationships and return it to an earlier cosmology.” 


Climate Change Watch 

What’s Good For The Conservative Goose is Good For The Liberal Gander: An Environmental Sting Video http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/08/greenpeace-exposes-sceptics-cast-doubt-climate-science   Environmental undercover operatives from Greenpeace, masquerading as consultants for the fossil fuel industry, approached two prominent climate skeptics offering to pay them to write reports that tout the ‘benefits’ of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and to praise the use of coal as an energy source. The point of the ‘sting’ was to demonstrate how information, bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, can be placed into the public sphere without anyone knowing the ultimate source of the funding.

Money-Handshake composit                     Again, if you haven’t read Merchants of Doubt: you should seriously consider doing so.  As Mark Twain may or may not have said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” True, no matter who said it!

From the Paris Climate Conference: A Warning About ‘Climate Change Refugees’ http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:a44a24b89e314bc99a2bb4cea92ea2cd    International migration officials want a global climate accord under discussion to address the growing risk of migration because of extreme weather.

climate change refugee compositThe director of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacy Swing, said the planet is seeing more forced migration today than any time since World War II, and seeing what he called “unprecedented anti-immigration sentiment.”

The First ‘Climate Change Refugees’ in the U.S.?  http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:e20428eb10bc4b2cab9a789bca506eb6    “The islanders in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay could be among the first U.S. ‘climate change refugees’ in the continental United States as rising seas claim their historic fishing village…”

Chesapeake Bay


PBS Guide to Every Candidate’s Position on ISIS and Refugees http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/presidential-candidate-proposes-islamic-state-refugee-crisis/

PBS refugees


Baby (Zombie) Jesus? Uproar Over Nativity Scene in Ohio http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/us/zombie-nativity-scene-cincinnati.html?_r=0    If you think about it, the story of Jesus’ resurrection is a rip-roaring zombie tale…especially if you add in the biblical accounts of the graves around Golgotha opening up and the dead issuing forth at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion…see http://biblehub.com/matthew/27-52.htm

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that someone built a nativity scene using zombie figures in place of the traditional sheep and shepherds. The city tried shutting it down on the basis of building code violations, but that didn’t go very well…

jesus as zomie baby

Irate neighbor’s letter: ‘Jesus is NOT a zombie’.


jesus as zomie baby 2

The visitation of the Wise Zombies



Icelanders Feel Taxed By State Church…Rebel By Worshipping Sumarian Gods!  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/08/new-icelandic-religion-sumerian-gods-tax-rebates-zuism   (Contributed by David Stariha, via Ray Polidori)Iceland church



Just Kidding…I Think…  (Contributed by John Weihert)   This might be more appropriate for the Easter Edition of the Newsletter, but I couldn’t wait…

Masterbation prevention device (credit to John) 

And then there’s this…

masterbation straight jacket

I’ve save you the trouble of typing the URL…here’s the link:  http://stopmasturbationnow.org/  where you can find out about Fappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin’s arrest and other news of interest leaking  from the Self-Raping Community.


Worst. Christmas. Card. Ever.

Christmas Card

http://freedomoutpost.com/2015/12/las-vegas-assemblywoman-michele-fiores-pro-second-amendment-christmas-card-setting-gun-grabbers-hair-fire/ Here’s a link to the story in freedomoutpost.com where the biggest national worry is that the ‘gun grabbers’ will get you!



And now, because you’ve (probably) been nice (enough) and not (very) naughty…Your Moment Of Dancing Bug x3!

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug


Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.
Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/



Thanks to: John Weihert , David Stariha, Ray Polidori, Ruth Olmsted, Rueben Bolling, for contributing to this month’s Newsletter


Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER – NOVEMBER ADDENDUM

Opinions, when expressed, are solely those of Larry Bollinger and do not necessarily reflect those of Durango Skeptics and Atheists…so chill. 

Our general meeting on November 15 featured a spirited discussion about the current refugee crisis and the role that the U.S. does/should play in ameliorating it.

Since the meeting several members have found interesting sidebars to the discussion and that is the reason for this ‘addendum’ to the November Newsletter – to bring these items to your attention.

Syrian refugee montage

EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Home of the Brave is being subsumed by insidious and poisonous Fear that is peddled by our political leaders at every turn.  And Americans are eating it up.

  • A single case of Ebola in Texas sent the U.S. into hysterical convulsions and demands that we ‘close’ the border.
  • The (now negative) flow of immigrants across the US/Mexico border is imagined to be an overwhelming influx of rapists and criminals who are hell bent on destroying our ‘way of life’.  Again, frantic calls to ‘close the border’ and to ‘build a wall’ to keep us ‘safe’.
  • Consider that, although we are bristling with arms of all sorts from the man on the street who ‘open carries’ to our death-dealing drones in the skies, we cower at the thought of a 3-year old Syrian refugee living next door.

So, when I saw the syndicated op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof headlined “The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame”, I could only sadly shake my head as I agreed. If you haven’t yet read it (it was in the Herald 11/24), here is the link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/the-statue-of-liberty-must-be-crying-with-shame.html?_r=0

One of the striking comments Kristof makes is the following: “…Then again, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations there’s maybe a 100-times greater likelihood that, say, a Floridian will turn out to be a murderer over a 10-year period than that a refugee will attempt terrorism. So if we’re willing to allow Floridians free entry into other states, allowing Syrian refugees shouldn’t be a problem.”

 Yes, gun deaths in the U.S. amount to around 30,000 dead Americans each year, including homicides, suicides and ‘accidents’   http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm . That is one ‘9/11’ every five weeks or so. But not a peep from our leaders (or from us!), except hollow words to assure us that our precious Second Amendment ‘rights’ are worth the carnage. This is a topic (which I consider to be one of American’s greatest moral failings) for a future group discussion that I will moderate.


But the point in raising at this time is that the average American on the street risks being a victim of gun violence at the hands of a gun-toting fellow citizen much more than she risks violence at the hands of a ‘terrorist’, Islamic or otherwise. CNN reports that for every American killed by ‘terrorism’ in the US and worldwide, there are in excess of 1,000 deaths caused by firearms within the borders of the U.S. Think that over for a moment while I pull up the next graphic….


Ah, here it is:


As you can see, the threat of gun violence dwarfs the threat of ‘terrorism’ … but what is really striking is that American eating/health habits are vastly more deadly to U.S. citizens than the threats of guns and terrorism COMBINED!

Americans are far more likely to be killed by their automobiles than by terrorist actions!

Not to put too fine a point on it, BUT: CDC numbers mean that you, the average American Atheist, are

  • 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack.
  • 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from terror attacks.
  • We are all more likely to die from medical errors than terror…5,882 times more likely.
  • And on and on.


You Are More Likely To Be Fatally Crushed By Furniture Than Killed By A Terrorist    Marc Masor sent this link to an article in the Washington Post   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/11/23/youre-more-likely-to-be-fatally-crushed-by-furniture-than-killed-by-a-terrorist/?tid=article_nextstory


In addition to citing stats that show ‘terrorism’ to be a negligible threat to the US, the article points out that the fear threshold in people has to do with the amount of ‘control’ they feel they have over a situation. You, driving your car or eating a double-fudge brownie, feel that you are controlling events…at least nominally. This contrasts with terror events which are ‘terrifying’ precisely because you lack the ability to control when/where such a thing might occur. Fear, according to WaPo, is a matter of perception.


Sweden’s Rape Rate Under the Spotlight     Do immigrants bring more crime, such as rape, when they come to a new country? At our meeting, someone raised the issue of dramatically increased instances of rape in Scandinavian countries as a result of the influx of Muslim immigrants. Maria Doucette posted this link on FaceBook   http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19592372  Statistics don’t tell the whole story of crime in a particular country…countries differ in the way that crime is reported and recorded. Statistically, Canada and Australia are the two countries leading in the category of ‘kidnapping’. Columbia and Mexico, by comparison, are statistically ‘safe’ in that same category…yet the public’s perceptions color our opinions in ways that are not, statistically, justified.

Hating Refugees is as American as Apple Pie http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hating-refugees-america_564c8fdbe4b06037734bc8a0

Jews, Catholics, Mexicans, Syrians…we hate ‘em all equally. It’s America

This addendum to the Skeptics and Atheists of Durango Newsletter will now end, as they all do, with cartoons. Not all hilarious, but all on-point for the discussion of immigrants, refugees and our national self-image at this Thanksgiving holiday.

By the way, if you are cheering on the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, how would you feel if the American Indians took up arms and demanded their unlawfully-seized territory returned to them? It’s a question that occurred to me more than once as I selected these cartoons …

Have a HAPPY(and thoughtful) THANKSGIVING!

  • larryb


DOCTOR SEUSS? SAY IT AIN’T SO!Dr_Seuss_World_War_II_Political_Cartoon_16


I LOVE THE BOW OF THE SHIP! SUBTLE!hebrew shipping lines




Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2015

Opinions, when expressed, are solely those of Larry Bollinger and do not necessarily reflect those of Durango Skeptics and Atheists…so chill. 

“I figured out early on that I wasn’t cut out to be a neurosurgeon or fighter pilot. So I kinda aimed low my whole life. It worked for me. Sure, the world needs some ambitious people. But it’s worth noting that ambition has given us products like New Coke, men like Donald Trump and war after war. Ambition certainly doesn’t seem to make the ambitious particularly happy. By definition, they cannot be content with who they are and what they have. And the world seems to encourage them to inflict their desire for advancement on the rest of us. So to all of you ambitious folks out there: Enough. I’ll gladly concede that you all ‘win’. Just leave the rest of us alone.”

  • Jim Perskie in the Washington Post, as quoted in The Week Magazine

Next general meeting,

Wednesday  November 18, 2015


Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM. 

Discussion starts at 6:30


The topic for this month: The Syrian/Iraq refugee crisis: is it an overwhelming catastrophe, depressing calamity or unsolvable horror? How should we respond? Is our (the U.S.) response to the emergency adequate? Is there a moral imperative for us to do more? What are the issues driving the problem and what can be done to resolve it? Bring your reflections, perspectives, observations, and ideas to the discussion!Syrian refugee montage

What is the US response to the refugee crisis?http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/09/the-us-response-to-syrias-refugees/404728/

Is climate change a factor in the refugee crisis?                               YES:   http://time.com/4024210/climate-change-migrants/                 NO: http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/09/09/for-the-last-time-no-the-syrian-crisis-was-not-caused-by-climate-change

Oxfam urges G20 leaders to take action on climate change, refugees and tax reform   http://www.oxfamamerica.org/press/g20-spend-over-15-times-more-subsidizing-fossil-fuels-than-developed-countries-spend-helping-poor-countries-adapt-to-climate-change/ 

How to help refugees: 6 groups doing important work http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-09-03/5-groups-doing-important-work-help-refugees-you-may-not-have-heard 

Scorecard (A+ – F) for charities providing emergency services to the people of Syria   https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-hot-topic/syrian-humanitarian-relief/4


Tom the Dancing Bug by Reuben Bolling at the very end of this month’s newsletter!  I know you’re anxious to see the TWO classic full-length Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons this month, but you’ll have to wait until you reach the end of the newsletter. Oh, O.K., here’s a quick taste to hold you over:Tom the Dancing Bug 1052 sfpc90 forrest green


Legacy of the Merchants of Doubt: U.S. Cigarette Smoking on the Rise

Americans are lighting up again! A victory for the Merchants of Doubt!    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-06/u-s-smoking-hints-at-rare-comeback-after-decades-long-decline

  “For the first time in more than a decade, Americans appear to be smoking more. A confluence of factors – from a better jobs market to cheaper gasoline to reductions in government anti-smoking programs – are driving a months-long pickup in cigarette sales, analysts say. If current trends hold, 2015 could mark the first year since 2002 that sales volumes increase.” 

If you are reading this after Sunday November 15, you missed the Book Club discussion, but there’s still plenty of time to read this one on your own…and you should!

merchants of doubt

Members commented on Merchants of Doubt:

Mike Berry and Berit Palmer said,It’s a must read to understand how willful ignorance and active science denial have been with us for a long time. Oreskes continues the fight against the anti-science obstructionists and deserves our admiration…an excellent choice”

Clint Kearns adds: “Excellent choice … particularly after the recent climate change presentation.  Here is a link to [Naomi Oreskes] TED talk, June 2014    https://www.ted.com/talks/naomi_oreskes_why_we_should_believe_in_science



Upcoming Showtime Special – The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs


bush CIA showtime combo”Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”


It’s astounding (to me, personally, not necessarily reflecting the position of S&AoD) that Jeb! Bush is trying to peddle the notion that his brother ‘kept us safe’.


Existential despair has got white Americans down


http://durangoherald.co.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=5eae1420b  Paul Krugman via The Durango Herald

“…mortality among middle aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause.”


The War on Xmas…I Mean, Christmas


Belen NMhttp://bigstory.ap.org/article/a014659946f64fa08b0ed3f00ca0de1d/new-mexico-town-belen-fight-keep-nativity-scene

Concord Nativity scene w texthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fox-news-war-on-christmas_56173417e4b0082030a1ef79

And now, along comes the Starbucks ‘controversy’…a tempest in a paper coffee cup. This year, for any who have been off-planet for the past two weeks, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist solid-red design for their holiday coffee cups….while rival Dunkin’ Donuts went with the word “JOY” surrounded by a wreath.

Dunkin vs Starbuck cupsThe lack of snowflakes, Christmas tree ornaments or other symbols on the Starbucks coffee container has driven the persecution-minded Christians of America into a frothing rage…some, like the man pictured below, are celebrating the birth of the Savior with a grimace and a gun….

starbucks guy with gun

Here is a sampling of the CupGate commentary:

Starbucks and grampa simpson“It’s not just about a cup”, evangelist and radio personality Joshua Feuerstein said to the WaPo, “The cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country”. So, now it’s not a war just on the Christmas holiday, but a war on Christians in the USA”.

Feuerstein’s solution? Tell the barista that your name is “Merry Christmas” and ‘trick’ them into writing that greeting on a cup…then post a selfie on line to show how clever you are!

Donald Trump Starbucks quote

Bill O war on xmas

But if you’re in a hurry, here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

  1. The word ‘holiday’…Bill O was the first to pounce on stores that try to be more inclusive of other traditions.
  2. Banning stuff that no one is actually banning. Bill O again, saying a school district in Texas banned students from wearing the colors red and green because they were ‘Christmas colors’. Bill O called this ‘fascism’. And it might have been, had it actually happened…but it didn’t
  3. Bill O again. (Do you see a developing pattern here?) “If Jews don’t like it, they should move to Israel”, according to the Sage of Fox News.
  4. The ‘secular, progressive agenda which includes “legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion on demand and gay marriage”.
  5. Jon Stuart (see #3)
  6. Fox News. GASP! During Bill O’s show, Fox ran a promo wishing viewers a ‘Happy Holiday’.
  7. Free Speech. Fox’s Gretchen Carlson said on Fox and Friends: “I am tolerant. I’m all for Free Speech and Free Rights… just not on December w25th.
  8. Satanic monuments such as the Festivus Pole (from Seinfeld, a sitcom that is 30 years in our rear-view mirrors)
  9. Non-white Santa Clauses. The horror.

However, not all Christians are upset

happy christians…at least not upset at Starbucks…some Christians have counter-punched against their fellows in faith. One such opinion is from Heather Simpson in an essay titled “The Red Starbucks Cup Is Not Persecution”.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-simpson/the-red-starbucks-cup-is-not-persecution_b_8512032.html

Some choice quotes: “News flash: Jesus died. You can handle a blank red cup.” And “Starbucks is a business. In a fallen world. A world that we live in and that Jesus lived in. So what do you expect? For Starbucks to honor your unpopular Christianity? Is that really why you signed up to be a Christian? So that everyone will honor you and make sure not to offend you?”


‘Young Earth’ Creationists Make $90M Full-Scale Ark to ‘Bring the Bible to Life’

 (contributed by Ray Polidori)  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/12/kentucky-creationists-full-scale-ark-bible  Reserve the date: the entire month of July, 2016. That’s the expected completion date for Ken Ham’s 510’ replica of Noah’s Ark which is being constructed in Kentucky. It will be open for 40 days and 40 nights when it is finally completed next summer. Ken Ham, you may recall, is responsible for the Creation Museum where visitors can gaze on replicas of human children playing in the Garden of Eden with (vegan) Dinosaurs and other unlikely wonders based on The Holy Bible.

ark underconstruction artworkAnd, yes, Ken Ham is furious about the ‘War On Christmas’ and the ‘war’ on Christianity in general. If only our kids were forced to pray to Jesus in public schools, everything would be O.K….right? Damned atheists.


If you happen to be a Sumerian, the whole ‘Noah and the Ark’ thing might bring about a feeling of déjà vu…and for good reason! The Hebrew authors of the story of Noah borrowed heavily from the writers of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh which was written around 2000BCE.

UtnapishtimThe original flood story tells of angry gods determined to wipe out mankind via a world-wide flood, a hero (Noah/Utnapishtim) who is beloved by the god(s) and who is saved via an enormous boat with which to ride out the storm. There are scads of websites which are operated by creationists which minimize the similarities between the two stories … their motives are obvious. But if one searches for ‘Gilgamesh Flood Myth’ you’ll find some which are academic, not proselytizing, in nature. This  http://www.123helpme.com/assets/15837.html seems to be a straightforward, side-by-side comparison of the two myths without the pushing of any agenda

Noah cartoon

And from a contributor to theimmoralminority.blogspot.com there is this:     “You know if you read the Bible as it was intended to be read, as a book of allegories which teach religious lessons, that is fine with me, and I would probably never say anything negative about it or challenge its accuracy.
However many Christians take the Bible as being LITERALLY true, and use it to make decisions about how to view the world around them, how to vote, how to think, and who to trust.
Creationists of today use the story of Noah’s Ark as the linchpin for their argument against Evolution, and use it to explain away everything from the different layers of strataevidence of fossils, and even the extinction of the dinosaurs.
In fact when it comes to arguing against science, Noah’s flood is their “go to” Biblical resource.
Of course as illustrated above the entire premise of the story is too fantastical to ever seriously entertain, much less use as the basis for rejecting scientific evidence.
It is not only Noah’s age that should make reasonable people reject the myth, it is also the ridiculous idea that Noah could have gathered two of EVERY land animal that we see today from all over the world, that the Ark would have been large enough to hold them (About 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Not even close!), that Noah could have brought along enough food to keep them alive for 40 days and 40 nights, and that wild animals would have responded to a human and remained docile for 40 days and 40 nights. I mean please!
It is a tale for children, and as a child we can all enjoy it right along with the 12 Labors of Hercules, and Aesop’s Fables, but as rational thinking adults we should be able to recognize that children’s stories can no longer be used to explain the world around us. 

For that we look for evidence, and let that evidence guide us toward a greater understanding of our universe and our place within it.”

POSTED BY GRYPHEN ON theimmoralminority.blogspot.com

Noah's Ark - After The Flood Hd HD Desktop Background


homeopathy-water-620x350-590x333Medical ‘Study’ Proving Efficacy of Homeopathic Drugs Does No Such Thing

(contributed by Marc Masor) http://www.medpagetoday.com/Blogs/KevinMD/54629  Homeopathic drugs have been explored in past Skeptics and Atheists of Durango forums. It seems pretty obvious that homeopathy is a ‘quack’ remedy that relies on the bogus premise of using extreme dilutions of herbs, minerals and other substances to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.

homeopathy-cartoon-2small The theory, called the ‘law of infinitesimals’, states that the greater the dilution, the more powerful the effect. This, of course, is the exact opposite of the dose-response relationship that modern pharmacologists live by. A 30C dilution  would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.

However, homeopathic drugs continue to be popular and the study referred to in the above link may be one reason why. A bogus study in a bogus medical journal helps keep the quackery alive and well.

And speaking of bogus medical research studies….  

Dr. Chandra Saga…

Marc Masor gave a Member Talk a few weeks ago about the scandal surrounding a medical researcher and the numerous drug studies that he fabricated. Marc adds this: “The British Medical Journal just retracted one of Chandra’s studies.  Attached is an article written by a BMJ staffer covering the story as well as the investigative report done by Memorial University that became available during the trial.”

Below are some links to Canadian news coverage.

CBC coverage:  http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV%20Shows/The%20National/ID/2677998810/ 

A Globe and Mail article.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/journal-retracts-study-by-canadian-researcher-citing-scientific-fraud/article27023169/ 




Perspectives on Global Climate Change, Exxon Mobil and the Year 2015 

  • 2015 On Track To Be Hottest Year Since Record Keeping Began in 1880   According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month, September 2015 was the hottest September, by a considerable margin, since we began keeping records in 1880. August was the hottest August, July 2015 was the hottest July…in fact, only January and April of 2015 failed to break any records.

Hottest yearEl Nino (which, this year, has the potential of being one of the strongest in recorded history) is thought to be largely responsible…this link   http://www.vox.com/2015/10/22/9591986/2015-september-record-temperatures takes you to a good description of El Nino and its historical effects on climate 





Religious Upbringing Linked to Less Altruism, Study of Children Suggests

(contributed by Marc Masor)  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105121916.htm

kids and religion FFA study conducted by the University of Chicago compared the attitudes and temperaments of children raised in religious vs. non-religious households…the results will surprise many! “Children from religious families are less likely to share with others than were children from non-religious families, a new study suggests. A religious upbringing is also associated with more punitive tendencies in response to anti-social behavior, researchers find. 




Roundup Herbicide Ruled ‘Not Likely’ To Cause Cancer by European Regulators

(contributed by Marc Masor)   http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Glyphosate-is-unlikely-to-cause-cancer-says-EFSA/?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13-Nov-2015&c=bWa7RqFnO%2F34Z8DPywsaxi6xf4Z6pVlI&p2

Marc says: “Glyphosate is Roundup, the herbicide that is effective against weeds, but Roundup-Ready soy and corn are protected from.  This is notable because the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) is generally extremely conservative, and usually errs on the side of safety”.

Glyphosate-is-unlikely-to-cause-cancer-says-EFSA_strict_xxlRead the details of the EFSA’s findings at the above link. And then let the controversy continue.


Fun With Religion…In Four Parts

  • Part 1: Wait…What? 

The religious crowd outside an Ohio abortion clinic recently weren’t protesting the clinic’s operation…quite the opposite. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights is a pro-abortion rights coalition made up of leaders of a variety of religious faiths and organizations. They gathered to ‘bless’ the Cleveland area clinic to ‘….show the staff and [patients] and the community that there are people of faith who do believe in abortion…and that it should be done in a safe, dignified way without shame”.

abortion anti protest abortion anti protest2In a prepared statement to the crowd, Rev. Harry Knox, the president of the RCRC, declared to the crowd, “I’m here today standing alongside my fellow clergymen and clergywomen to say: Thank God for abortion providers,” the Dispatch reported.


  • Part 2: Pastor: Better to Drown Your Children Than Let Them Read Harry Potter   

http://ringoffireradio.com/2015/11/10/wingnut-pastor-better-to-drown-your-kids-than-allow-them-to-read-harry-potte/  Apparently the problem is that big, gay wizard Albus Dumbledore. Oh, and How to Train Your Dragon is just as problematic in that it also subtly indoctrinates young viewers into the dark and sinful world of homosexuality. Although, honestly, I’ve watched ‘Dragon’ with my grandsons many times and I can’t, for the life of me, understand what the fuss is about. Here’s a bit of what this pastor had to say:      “Parents, it would be better for them [their children] that a millstone be hanged around their neck and they be drowned at the bottom of the sea”, railed Pastor Kevin Swanson in the same speech in which he called for death to all homosexuals in the presence of three Republican Presidential candidates.

millstone child 02

  • Part 3: Mormon ‘New Rules’ Target Gays and Their Children…Backlash Grows

 http://bigstory.ap.org/article/043bc64f8be54d5d85dc032c5161ab3d/mormon-lgbt-policy-change-triggers-widespread-backlash   New rules recently announced by the Mormon Church bar children who are living with gay parents from being baptized until they reach age 18…and even then, they must disavow same-sex relationships before the water pours.

Mormon Gay backlash

More than 1,000 people attended a ‘mass resignation’ in Salt Lake City on Saturday, 11/14 to publically leave the Mormon Church over this issue.  http://kutv.com/news/local/group-holds-mass-resignation-from-lds-church-in-slc-saturday

  • Part 4: Anti-Gay Bride Fires Wedding Photographer Because He Supports Same-Sex Marriage…His Response Is Right On The Money! 



A wedding photographer from Florida recently found himself out of a job when a bride-to-be fired him upon learning he supported gay marriage. But fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

Clinton Brentwood Lee, owner of Brentwood Photography in Saint Petersburg, FL, received a text message from a client after she went on his went on his website and discovered that he had photographed same-sex wedding ceremonies.

“Greetings Brentwood,” the text began. “We would just like to inform you that we will NOT be using your services for our wedding.

You can only hope that if you were faced with a similar situation, that you would react as brilliantly as Clinton Brentwood!


Even MORE Fun …With Politics

ben carson on Easter Island


From The Onion this week: Socialism vs. Capitalism in one, easy graphic.  “As the democratic presidential race heats up, many people are questioning Bernie Sander’s self-proclaimed socialist leanings, a designation that some are concerned is at odds with America’s capitalist tradition. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two political systems:”

socialism v capitalism

And now, the climax – the denouement, the payoff, the finale, the culmination – of this month’s Newsletter: Your Moments of Bug!

Tom the Dancing Bug 94 asteroid collision

Tom the Dancing Bug 465 kid in gorilla cage

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.
Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/



Are there any announcements, activities, opinions or other news items you’d like your fellow Skeptics and Atheists to know about? Drop an email to larrybollinger@comcast.net with your information so that it can be included in the next newsletter! 

Thanks to Marc Masor, Rueben Bolling, Carolyn Bollinger, Ray Polidori, Lori Golden and, of course, ‘Uncle Bob’ for contributing to this month’s Newsletter   

– Larryb


Durango Skeptics and Atheist NEWSLETTER October 2015

Opinions, when expressed, are solely those of Larry Bollinger and do not necessarily reflect those of Durango Skeptics and Atheists. 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I don’t feel frightened by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell”. ― Richard Feynman, Nobel winning physicist (1918-1988)

Next general meeting is

Wednesday  October 21

Irish Embassy, 900 Main St.

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30

Topic for discussion FF


Don’t forget to check out Tom the Dancing Bug by Reuben Bolling at the very end of this month’s newsletter!

I’m again posting TWO TtDB cartoons this month just because I can.

In September, Fox and National Geographic merged in a deal that was worth $750,000,000 to Nat Geo’s endowment.  Fox will own 73% of Nat Geo properties such as the National Geographic Channel, National Geographic Magazine, maps, books, etc. Cartoonist Ruben Bolling imagines what the cover of the newly re-tooled National Geographic Magazine might look like.

Also a glimpse behind the scenes of God as cartoonist!


merchants of doubt bookclub announcement ff




Ten Commandments monument removed from Oklahoma Capital grounds


A Ten Commandants monument is seen in a fenced-off section of Oklahoma State Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz

A Ten Commandants monument is seen in a fenced-off section of Oklahoma State Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz

Last June, OK Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. On October 6 it was removed from the state capitol grounds. Governor Mary Fallin (R) vows to find a way to return it to the capitol.


Follow Up #2

Gluten Free/Casein Free Diets Not Effective Against Autism


CELIAC FFSeveral months ago, Marc Masor hosted a member talk about celiac disease and the advisability of maintaining a gluten-free diet for those who do NOT have the disease. REMINDER: Such a diet is not recommended for anyone who is NOT suffering from this specific disease. Now Marc notifies us of a new study, just released last month. “Gluten-free, casein-free diets have become popular complementary treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder, but a rigorous study at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) found that eliminating these foods had no effect on a child’s behavior, sleep, or bowel patterns.Results of the study, which was the most tightly-controlled research on dietary intervention and autism to date, were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders earlier this month.


Follow Up #3

Where Are All the ‘Good’ Muslims’?


Indian Muslim cleric Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, right speaks with Islamic students at the Ajmeri Masjid in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling that condemns the Islamic State and calls the extremist group's actions "un-Islamic, Misbahi said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Indian Muslim cleric Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, right speaks with Islamic students at the Ajmeri Masjid in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling that condemns the Islamic State and calls the extremist group’s actions “un-Islamic, Misbahi said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling that condemns the Islamic State and calls the extremist group’s actions “un-Islamic.”


Follow Up #4

Kim Davis and the Principle of Religious Freedom


This is an interesting essay by a law professor at U of Chicago which explores the nuances of what is and what is not a violation of a person’s ‘freedom of religion’. “Davis is the moral equivalent of the elevator operator in a government building who, for her own religious reasons, refuses to let gays and lesbians ride in “her” elevator, which is the only one in the building. This, quite simply, she cannot do.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office’s refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)


Follow Up #5

Vaccines. Vaccines. Vaccines. Vaccines

(Contributed by Marc Masor)


A NEW STUDY   In a recent trial involving flu and pneumococcal vaccines, no increase in febrile seizures in children were found to result from vaccination whether the vaccines were administered together or on separate days. Here is the link:   http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/4/e848.abstract 


CAN VACCINES PREVENT STROKES IN CHILDREN?      http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/30/us-health-stroke-child-infections-idUSKCN0RU2O320150930  Based on 700 children across nine countries, researchers linked having had a recent illness like bronchitis, ear infection or “strep throat” to a six-fold rise in stroke risk. Having few or none of the routine childhood vaccinations was tied to a seven-fold rise in risk.

WHAT MOTIVATES ANTI-VAXXERS?    http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/four-types-non-vaccinators   ” Falling rates of vaccination have opened the door to outbreaks of diseases long eliminated from those parts of the world with strong health systems. However, the reasons people are failing to vaccinate their children vary. A paper published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences provides a taxonomy of non-vaccinators, along with ideas on the approaches most likely to change the minds of each.”

anti vacc

NO LINK BETWEEN VACCINES AND AUTISM    https://www.upworthy.com/the-results-of-the-latest-study-about-vaccines-and-autism-are-in-and-theyre-not-surprising?c=huf1   The rumors persist linking autism to childhood vaccinations despite being debunked time and again.  A study which began in 2003 seeking to prove that vaccines cause autism came up with a surprising (to anti-vaxxers) conclusion.


“The evidence against a vaccines-autism link is so overwhelming that even a study funded specifically to find such a link was unable to find one…. 2013 study in the Journal of Pediatrics  found no evidence supporting a vaccines-autism link. Neither did this 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nor did this one from 2011. This one also found none.”



Follow UP #6

Climate Change: LA Times Report on “What Exxon Knew About Earth’s Melting Arctic”



Permafrost melt is changing the Arctic landscape.

Documents reveal that the company was making preparations in the early 90’s to position the company to deal effectively with a warming planet even while they publically sought to downplay the certainty of global warming.



Then and Now   


In 1955, groceries for a family of 4 cost $10/week. In 2010, it cost $150, a 1400% increase.

In 1955, gasoline cost $0.27/gal. In 2010 the average price was $3.23 an increase of 1096%.

In 1955, the average new home cost $15,200. In 2010 it was $213,900, a 1300% increase


Are You ‘Cultured’ by 1950 standards?  Um, probably not.  




Most Americans Agree With Ben Carson: No Muslim President



“The American public remains resistant to the idea of a Muslim president. 57% in total agree with what Carson said about backing a Muslim candidate. The perspective is shared by the vast majority (83%) of Republicans as well as four in ten Democrats.”



Fair and Unfair to discriminate based on religion




Supporters of Republican presidential candidates want to see fundamental structural change in how we fund elections as badly as Democrats do!

election funding

A majority of Bush and Trump voters would be happy if they came out and supported a new, opt-in system of citizen funded elections. The poll demonstrates to Republican candidates that a majority of their voters believe the system is rigged, and more importantly, they want politicians to act.




Just 158 U.S. families are responsible for over ONE HALF of all political campaign contributions! That amounts to $176,000,000 contributed as campaign seed money in the opening phase of the 2016 Presidential season! Although both parties are the beneficiaries of this largesse, Republicans are taking home the lion’s share of the loot.

Election funding Rs vs Ds FF




Americans are (mostly) united in despising the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision that equates ‘money’ to ‘free speech’.

citizens united


“Americans are divided on the justices’ decisions on gay marriage, health care and abortion. BUT, not on campaign finance reform”.


Backroads and Sights to See

Colorado’s Alpine Loop Scenic Byway….Not


Alpine Loop map

Carolyn and I have wondered about the ‘Alpine Loop Scenic Backcountry Byway’ between Silverton and Lake City for quite some time. Earlier this month, we decided it was time to tackle the notoriously difficult ‘road’. We certainly had the weather for a late-fall drive in the mountains: gorgeous blue skies with a spray of white clouds made it a postcard day. Officially, the 63 mile loop can be accomplished in 4 – 6 hours. But in the real world, where the rubber meets the rocks, it’s a different story!

East of Silverton looking to the westEast of Silverton, looking west

East of Silverton looking to the eastEast of Silverton, looking east

The pavement ends just east of Silverton, turning into a wide, dusty gravel road that winds up the river valley. It gradually narrows to a one-road-with-turnouts that soon turns into a very rough rocky track clinging to the hillsides as we gained altitude through 10,000’. We were two hours (with frequent photo stops, I’ll admit) and made it just 7 miles before we turned out trusty Honda Pilot around and headed back to Silverton. We were making about 3MPH, skirting significant craters in the road, creeping over some intimating rocks as we waited to hear the screech of our oil pan being ripped to pieces. Even the ORVs and Jeeps were crawling along at a walking pace or slower. At that rate, it would have taken nearly 24 hours of constant driving to complete the loop!

Somewhere between Silverton and Animas ForksSomewhere between Silverton and Animas Forks

Near headwaters of Animas RiverNear the headwaters of the Animas River

To do this drive successfully, YOU MUST have a high clearance vehicle or an ATV or some sort. Bring food. Lots of food.

Back at the Silverton Visitor’s Center, I inquired about the advisability of taking on the Alpine Loop in our Pilot, gesturing out the front window to our car in the parking lot. “In THAT?” she laughed disbelievingly. “NO WAY”! According to her, the road has become very much more difficult to drive in the last decade due to rains, rockfall and lack of maintenance. Officially, she advises visitors to buy postcards and save the wear and tear on their vehicles. Unless you have a particularly high clearance vehicle, off-road tires, a large cache of munchies and lots and lots of time, you should probably stick to looking at the photos other brave souls have posted on the web.

Time to turn aroundTurned around and headed back to Silverton. It was too much for the Pilot (or the Pilot’s driver) to maintain headway as the road continued to deteriorate (not pictured, btw). The road continues into the backcountry, climbing the hillside on the center/left of the above photo…

If you have any favorite drives or haunts that you’d be willing to share with the group, please send a description of the drive and a few photos to larrybollinger@comcast.net for inclusion in a future newsletter. Don’t everyone crowd my inbox at once!

Tom the Dancing Bug 1255 national geografox

Tom the Dancing Bug 1255 national geografox

Tom the Dancing Bug 451 god-man - cartooning tips

Tom the Dancing Bug 451 god-man – cartooning tips

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.

Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER September 2015

Opinions, when expressed, are solely my own. 
They do not necessarily reflect those of
Durango Skeptics and Atheists…so chill.
                      -Larry Bollinger

”Among the many things…that our ancestors created and established under divine inspiration, nothing is more renowned than their decision to entrust the worship of the gods and the highest interests of the state to the same men – so that the most eminent and illustrious citizens might ensure the maintenance of religion by the proper administration of the state, and the maintenance of the state by the prudent interpretation of religion.
― Cicero, On His House,  (57BCE)

 Next general meeting:

Wednesday  September 16, 2015 

Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.  Discussion starts at 6:30

Baby boy (3-6 months) looking at camera, portrait

The discussion topic for this month: Mat Robbins will lead a discussion on the topic “Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?”  Mat explains: “We will look at several possible angles of inquiry, paying special attention to religious explanations, the anthropic principle, the axiarchic principle, and the explanatory framework offered by ‘possible worlds’ theory. I will present arguments regarding some of these, discuss their shortcomings, and welcome whatever further lines of discussion we choose to pursue. Hope to see you there!”

why is there something rather than nothing 002 why is there something rather than nothing 003


Cartoons for this Month: Tom the Dancing Bug by Reuben Bolling at the very end of this month’s newsletter! In fact I’m posting TWO TtDB cartoons this month to make up for missing August!  I just can’t resist re-printing an episode that features Hollingsworth Hound (a millionaire tycoon who was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple) vs. Lucky Ducky (a down-and-out duck who always manages to scrape together a little something for himself despite H.H.’s best efforts to keep him down). Reuben Bolling also managed to find something funny in the tragic killing of Cecil the Lion…I hope you enjoy them both!



Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters At The End by Atul Gawande  (Recommended & Hosted by Joyce and Lou Fontana)Being MortalJoyce n Lou bookclup datesBook Summary: In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.


Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway (Recommended by Ernie O’Toole)

merchants of doubtMerchants of Doubt time-location

Book Summary: Merchants of Doubt was one of the most talked-about climate change books of recent years, for reasons easy to understand: It tells the controversial story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. The same individuals who claim the science of global warming is “not settled” have also denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it. 

Do you have a favorite book to recommend to the group? Attend a book club meeting or two and then nominate your favorite ‘read’!


Member Talk by Sebastian Pivnicka Well-Attended

Sebastian gave a presentation on the topic of global climate change to a group of about 20 members at Himalayan Kitchen on Thursday, 8/27.  His effort (and that of his wife, Jacqueline Teasley-Pivnicka, who operated the Power Point presentation as her dinner, ignored and unattended, congealed at her place) was much appreciated by the attendees.  Global climate change (GCC) is a complex and vexing issue…many attendees urged action to address humankind’s dependence on fossil fuels irrespective of its effect on GCC which would ameliorate problems like air pollution, depletion of finite resources, acid rain, etc.  Topics discussed included:  the effects of environmental actions to combat GCC on the ‘poor’ and on developing nations; geologic records of historic climate change; positive aspects of global warming; hidden agendas behind the controversy.

Global WarmingSebastian's comments

I wrote my own (Larry B.) personal response to the presentation which is posted at http://durangofreethinkers.com

Personally, I feel that the evidence and the preponderance of scientific opinion points to human activity as the main ‘force’ behind the rapidly changing global climate. To me, the issue seems as settled as the issue of evolution by natural selection…but evidence to the contrary would certainly cause me to reconsider this position.

climate selfishnessAre You a Climate Skeptic? Read On….                                                    If you are undecided about the anthropogenic root of global climate change, a member of the Durango Skeptics and Atheists has recommended http://climatedebatedaily.com as a website that provides links to ‘both sides of the argument’.  The site does provide a welter of essays and opinions, both climate-alarmist and climate dissenter, in an unfiltered barrage of purported facts and uncompromising opinion. I found it difficult to assess the validity of much of this avalanche of information both in terms of authorship and veracity/relevance of the data.  (Do the tree ring samples taken from the Himalaya really show that the earth warmed in the 14th century when there was a lower concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? I don’t know). My Inner Skeptic wonders about the motives behind this website. Is it generating the kind of smoke-screen of pseudo-science that the Book Club will be reading about for November’s selection (See the book review for Merchants of Doubt, above)? If we know who is funding climatedebatedaily.com, it might shed some light as to its ultimate purpose.  See footnote below*.

As an alternative to searching the web, I recommend an offering from Intelligence2 U.S. It is an interesting and well-moderated debate, conducted by actual scientists (for the most part) discussing the actual issues (for the most part) of global climate change.  All sides of this debate are well represented and vigorously defended.  The running time is 1:43:00, but is well-worth the investment of your time. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-28qNd6ass

*FOOTNOTE: climatedebatedaily.com is underwritten by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) which touts itself as the ‘conservative answer’ to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (ie, U.S. PIRG, NYPIRG, et al). CFACT co-organized the Copenhagen Climate Challenge (with the help of the producer of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program), a counter-conference for climate change skeptics timed to coincide with the 2009 COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen.

CFACT is a private entity which is not required to reveal the sources of its funding. However, a little digging reveals that partial funding in the past has been provided by ExxonMobil in the amount of $542,000. In the middle of the last decade, Exxon cut funding to CFACT and other climate-denier front groups because their positions had become too extreme saying, “ …[these groups have] positions on climate change that could divert attention from the important discussion [ about the world’s energy future]”.  CFACT has also gotten significant underwriting from the far-right Sarah Scaife Foundation and from the Carthage Foundation ($1,280,000). Scaife/Carthage Foundation(s) also underwrite the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Foundation on War.

CFACT’s President David Rothbard, who is a longtime political operative for the oil industry, has direct links to The Cornwall Alliance. The Cornwall Alliance, in turn, is responsible for a campaign called “Resisting the Green Dragon” which is billed as a “…Biblical response to one of the greatest deceptions of our day…”. The Cornwall Alliance claims that the entire climate change movement is a “false religion” and a nefarious conspiracy to empower eugenicists and create a “global government”.  Read articles authored by CFACT President David Rothbard here:  http://townhall.com/columnists/davidrothbard/  Sample essays by Rothbard written in the past three months include: “EPA’s Next Wave of Job-Killing CO2 Regulations” , “The Doha Wealth Redistribution Process Moves On”, “Saving the Planet – Or Protecting Power Grabs and Cash Cows?”.

climate denier cartoon chicken littleSkeptics: Know your sources!


General Mills Commits to Reducing Its Ecological Footprint to Fight Global Warming   https://www.generalmills.com/en/Responsibility/~/~/link.aspx?_id=3B4EED9F61AA446EB83041A539465B6C&_z=z                                  The food giant, General Mills has made an ambitious commitment to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce their energy and fuel use. From the General Mills website: “General Mills has long been committed to being part of the solution on climate change. Since 2005, we have reduced our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent within our direct operations. Furthering this commitment, we announced a new goal in August 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our entire value chain – from farm to fork to landfill – over the next 10 years. Our goal, developed using science-based methodology, is an ambitious one: a 28% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025Additionally, our long term aspiration is to achieve sustainable emission levels in line with scientific consensus by 2050.” 

general mills

See this link for more facts and figures:  https://www.generalmills.com/en/Responsibility/~/link.aspx?_id=B1D9A7B031F74EDEB0645890BF5435F1&_z=z 

and this: https://www.generalmills.com/en/Responsibility/~/~/link.aspx?_id=3B4EED9F61AA446EB83041A539465B6C&_z=z


On Another Contentious, Old Topic: Genetically Modified Foods….   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7iLPJMEkiU&feature=youtu.be                                                       It’s another Intelligence2 debate, this time about GMOs, their safety and efficacy.  It took place last December in NYC. It’s a good debate and well worth watching…the audience was polled before the debate and again after the debate to judge which side ‘won’.  SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs reveal the answer to the audience poll…you’ve been warned!

But first, here is a summary of the debate (from Huffington Post and Popular Science), including comments from Bill Nye (The Science Guy) who was in the audience: Last night, about 450 people packed into New York City’s Kaufman Center to hear a genetics professor and Monsanto’s chief technology officer debate against researchers who are against the use of any genetic engineering technology. Among the audience members were writers for environmental magazines, a well-known biologist who had invented major genetic techniques, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. It was a sold-out show.

iq2-gmo-debateOn Stage at the Debate   © Samuel Lahoz Photography

The “for” side argued there’s strong scientific consensus, including statements from organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the U.S.’ National Academy of Sciences, that genetically engineered plants are safe to eat. Society can’t afford to toss out this important technical tool. “GM is sometimes uniquely able to deliver a useful trait, like crops that are more resilient to climate change,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist at the University of California at Davis who accompanied Fraley on the “for” side. “The benefits of GM are too great to vote anything but yes for GM tonight.”

The “against” side argued there haven’t been enough long-term studies of GMOs’ food safety. “I’ve read essentially all of the statements by various bodies,” said Charles Benbrook, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Washington State University who argued against GM crops. “Most of the recommendations for better science, more careful risk assessment, and post-market surveillance that have been made for more than 15 years, in these reports, have not been acted upon.”

In addition, Benbrook’s partner on the “against” side, Margaret Mellon, argued that over the past 30 years, genetic engineers haven’t made that many useful crops, except pesticide-resistant ones, which now suffer from resistant weeds. (Here at Popular Science, we think GM technology has created many beneficial plants.) “We need to be clear about what genetic engineering can’t do,” said Mellon, a founding scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program. “We’ve got other technologies out there. They’re far more powerful than genetic engineering.”

The Vote: At this debate, and others put on by host Intelligence Squared U.S., the most fun part is that before the debate, and again after, audience members vote whether they’re for or against the debate topic. Whichever side gains the most support wins. This time, one side had an unusually large win.

Before the debate, 30 percent of the audience said they were against genetically engineering crops, 32 percent said they were for it, and 38 percent were undecided. In the end, 31 percent were against—and 60 percent were for, a gain of 28 percentage points. The average winning margin in the last ten Intelligence Squared U.S. debates was around 18 percentage points. The final vote also contrasts with what national polls say about how American feel about GM foods.

bill-nye-robert-fraleyBill Nye with Robert Fraley     © Samuel Lahoz Photography                                  Science show host Bill Nye talked with Monsanto chief technology officer Robert Fraley.

“The ‘for’ people were just so much more on point than the ‘against’ people,” Nye told Popular Science after the show. Nye himself worries that genetically modified crops aren’t studied for a long enough time for their environmental effects before they’re planted on farms. Crops get about five years of testing before they’re sold in the U.S., Monsanto CTO Robert Fraley says.

“I’m still not satisfied, as a scientist, as a voter, that five years is enough,” Nye says. Still, in terms of the debate itself: “The GMO people were much better spoken.” If Nye were in charge of drawing the line, he would draw it at combining ova and sperm in a lab, not at engineering pieces of genetic material into plant embryos.


Next Member Talk: Marc Masor, September 20    6PM     at Himalayan Kitchen   Mark has an interesting story to show-and-tell!  Marc says: “In June I testified on behalf of the Canadian Broadcasting Company to defend them against charges of libel and invasion of privacy brought against them by Dr. Ranjit Chandra, a researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland, for the investigative report they aired in 2006, The Secret Life of Dr. Chandra, which revealed a pattern of fraudulent research.  I was interviewed in that program as I had been in charge of a study that Ross Laboratories that I did with Chandra when I worked as a research scientist there, and had become suspicious of his research during the course of the study.  The trial concluded on July 24th when the jury delivered their verdict that the CBC was truthful and had not invaded his privacy.” 

Dr. Chandra 003 Dr. Chandra 002 Dr. Chandra 001

Marc continues: “I will show the 3-part series, The Secret Life of Dr. Chandra, and then lead a discussion about what questions this case raises about the accuracy of studies published in scientific journals, and the responsibilities of peer reviewers for scientific journals, universities whose faculty researchers publish, and pharmaceutical companies who set up studies with researchers outside the company”. 


We Ain’t Comin’ Back: Catholics Who’ve Left the Church Won’t Return   http://durangoherald.co.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=06212c635    From the Durango Herald a story from the Pew Research Center that surveyed active and former Catholics about reconciliation with The Church, Pope Francis, birth control, priests marrying and other fun stuff.

recovering catholic 04 recovering catholic 03


wordplay 03

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1.         Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially
impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2.         Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
3.         Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your
money to start with.
4.         Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5.         Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from
penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the
near future.
6.         Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7.         Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
8.         Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9.         Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10.       Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11.       Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?
And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
12.       Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that
are good for you.
13.       Glibido: All talk and no action.
14.       Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at
you rapidly.
15.       Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked
through a spider web.
16.       Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in
the morning and cannot be cast out.
17.       Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.


Even more…wordplay

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1.         Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2.         Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3.         Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4.         Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5.         Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6.         Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7.         Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8.         Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9.         Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by
a steamroller.
10.       Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11.       Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12.       Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13.       Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14.       Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15.       Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets
stuck there.
16.       Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.


Backroads and Sights to See

I wondered aloud, in the June Newsletter, if any of our members had favorite places that they like to take out-of-towners…backroads, favorite destinations, that sort of thing.  Since no one responded, I’ll post another weekend adventure that Carolyn and I had last week. But seriously, my dear atheists, if you have any favorite drives or haunts that you’d be willing to share with the group, please send a description of the drive and a few photos to larrybollinger@comcast.net for inclusion in a future newsletter.

Carolyn and I have been meaning for some time to take Old Lime Creek Road which travels the original road/trail that led from Animas City and Durango to Silverton in the 1800’s. We finally did it in late August!OldLimeCreekRoad mapThe road follows the gorge and main drainage of Lime Creek. Back in the day, it was used by the Utes for hunting and by prospectors as they searched for gold and silver. To get there: exit Hwy. 550 about 28 miles north of Durango at the bottom of the hill leading to Coal Bank Pass. Look for the brown forest road sign (FS 591) on the right.  About 12 miles (and 2 hours later) you will re-join Hwy. 550 south of Silverton. As 4X4 roads go, it’s an ‘Easy’, but there are some big rocks, deep ruts and very narrow two-way portions with steep drop-offs that, at points, would be difficult to navigate unless you have a high-clearance 4X4 vehicle. We did it in a Honda Pilot. This would not be a good road to drive when muddy or snow-covered. Lime Creek provides some spectacular  world-class kayaking for EXPERT boaters…most of upper Lime Creek offers Class V+ rapids with some waterfalls thrown in for an extra adrenaline rush (see photo below). ORVs and mountain bikes also share this little road. You can hike, fish or snap a picture while enjoying a staycation a half hour from home.

Here are a couple of photos we took and a few I stole from that new-fangled interwebs thing that all the young people are talking about:

Old Lime Creek Road NarrowsREALLY!?!!?!  It’s already too narrow for two bicycles to pass comfortably. We found the other drivers sharing this tiny road were very courteous and friendly…be prepared to pull over to let the other guy pass safely. Happily, no one was coming around the corner as we inched our way around the bend…

Old Lime Creek Road Panorama1Where the rocks in the road come from….

lime creek  06 lime creek  05 Spud Lake

lime creek  04Adrenaline Falls

lime creekLime Creek


Kentucky Clerk Who Won’t Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couple Has Divorced Three times and Married Four Times. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/01/kentucky-clerk-fighting-gay-marriage-has-wed-four-times   The Bible-thumping county clerk who is defying the US Supreme Court by ‘following God’s law’ knows a little something about marriage herself. Like many who proclaim that they believe in the ‘sanctity’ of marriage, she has been divorced and remarried a number of times, ignoring the New Testament’s injunctions against such wanton behavior:

  • ”And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9.
  • “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. Luke 16:8
  • “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32
  • Also Mark, John, Letter to the Ephesians, Letter to the Corinthians, Acts, Revelation, etc.

The Old Testament also contains a trove of admonitions to avoid divorce:

  • ”For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.” Romans 7:2
  • “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”
  • Also Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Genesis, Proverbs, Exodus, etc.

More on this developing story:

Conservative Churches Confront New Reality of Gay Marriage http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2015/06/28/conservative-churches-confront-new-reality-on-gay-marriage

Kentucky state bill: Catch trans student in the wrong bathroom and win $2,500 http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/16/kentucky-bill-catch-transgender-student-in-wrong-bathroom-win-2-500

GOP lawmakers in South Carolina and Texas threated to punish pro-gay public officials who recognize gay marriages http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/15/pro-gay-no-pay-bills-would-punish-officials-who-recognize-marriages


New research finds a way to reverse children’s racial stereotyping http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2016/aug/children-racial-stereotyping-082415.html    Babies acquire unconscious racial bias at a very, very young age. Researchers at the University of Delaware have found that a simple exercise can undo these racial biases by exposing babies to photos of faces which represent the spectrum of ‘racial’ features.

Paul Quinn, professor of psychological and brain sciences, researches how infants form ideas about objects and process visual information. Pictured here in his Wolf Hall lab, professor Quinn is investigating how early in their development infants begin to perceive differences in race. Professor Quinn is being assisted in his research by Laurie Yarzab (Research Associate I) and undergraduate students Kate Cramer and Jennie Lowe. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

Paul Quinn, professor of psychological and brain sciences, researches how infants form ideas about objects and process visual information. Pictured here in his Wolf Hall lab, professor Quinn is investigating how early in their development infants begin to perceive differences in race. Professor Quinn is being assisted in his research by Laurie Yarzab (Research Associate I) and undergraduate students Kate Cramer and Jennie Lowe. – (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)


Arkansas Legislature OK’s 10 Commandment Monument on State Capital Grounds…Atheists Join Hindus in Asking For Their Own Monuments    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/arkansas-capitol-monuments-atheists_55e9e43ee4b093be51bb6dea             The Arkansas legislature passed a bill this year to permit a privately funded monument to the 10 Commandments to be built on the state capitol grounds. Now, Hindus, Satan worshippers, Vegans and Atheists want in on the deal.  In a letter, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor tell Arkansas governor Asa Hutchison that “most freethinkers find the Ten Commandments to epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the bible as a book of morals.” They then request that they be allowed to fund their own statue at the capitol, which would display the following text:


There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Freedom depends on freethinkers


Presented (add date) to the State of Arkansas on behalf of the membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in honor of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This is a link to the full letter written to Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas by the Freedom From Religion Foundation: http://www.scribd.com/doc/278466779/FFRF-Letter-to-Arkansas 

And here are photos of some of the other proposed monuments:Satanic Monument Vegan monumentSatanic Monument                                      Vegan Monument

Hanuman of India

Hanuman of India           Hindu Monument


And now, your moment of double bug!

Tom the Dancing Bug 948 lucky ducky - baseball stadium

Tom the Dancing Bug 1250 cecil the lion

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.    Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Are there any announcements, activities, opinions or other news items you’d like your fellow Skeptics and Atheists to know about? Drop an email to larrybollinger@comcast.net with your information so that it can be included in the next newsletter!


Reflections on the Recent Member Talk Regarding Global Climate Change (GCC)

We owe Sebastian and Jackie a big ‘thank you’ for their presentation last Thursday night. The turnout was impressive and the food was great, as usual. And it was a pleasure to meet the new members to our group: Clint and Susan, Barry and Roz, and Nate who just moved to Durango within the month! The discussion following Sebastian’s remarks was very engrossing, as members offered many different observations. As usual, members of the Skeptics and Atheists of Durango displayed a wide range of opinion!

Reflecting on the presentation, I want to offer a few observations of my own. In retrospect, I wish that we had polled the group in more detail about our personal perceptions of the extent to which human actions are the prime mover of global climate change (GCC). While no one present at the discussion believed that GCC was 100% natural or 100% the result of human action, everyone did agree on a mushy middle that a combination of human activity and natural cycles must underlie the phenomenon. I would have been interested to know who felt that the underlying cause is MOSTLY man-made…say, 90% human caused and 10% natural. I am not a scientist (ha!) but this is my belief.

In support of the above I refer you to the Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  IPCC is a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world, under the auspices of the United Nations, which concluded there’s a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.  Specifically, the industrial activities of our modern civilization have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in just the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there’s a better than 90 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years.

The IPCC has concluded that the rate of increase in global warming due to these gases is unprecedented within the past 10,000 years or more. The panel’s full Summary for Policymakers report is online at  http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf

Supporting the IPCC report, NASA has this to say on its ‘Vital Signs of the Planet’ website http://climate.nasa.gov/ :

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that [in the past 150 years], large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.3 

hockey stick graph

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

As Clint pointed out, the graphs shown last night depicting historic wide swings of temperature are not relevant to the GCC discussion. Yes, the Earth has experienced many different climate conditions over the course of millions (billions) of years, BUT the question of GCC has to do with climate’s impact on HUMANS, NOW. That the Earth was much warmer in the distant past than it is today does not matter since the spikes in the graphs, for the most part, pre-date the existence of homo sapiens and our ancestors. As an example, the Earth was a molten hell-scape 4 billion years ago, but that that has no bearing on the climate issues we face today. There is no question that the Earth, itself, will continue to exist…the Big Question is whether human kind will survive in the long term.

I am also troubled by the graphs we saw during the presentation because the time-scale changed dramatically within single graphs. In the same graph, the scale for the modern era showed time scales in increments of decades/centuries but the time scale for earlier eras showed millions of years…the result was a graph that visually distorted the record of climate change throughout Earth’s history. The effect was to visually equate changes that occurred over tens of millions of years with the changes that have occurred over the past 150 years. Granted, had the graphs used a consistent time-scale, the graph would have cumbersome – an accurate graph would  probably have wrapped around the room. I am not claiming that the intention was to deceive, but the end result was exactly that.

NASA (not a liberal, green bunch of hysterics I hope all will agree) cites the following alarming facts:

  • SEA LEVEL RISE: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century
  • GLOBAL TEMPERATURE RISE: All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • WARMING OCEANS: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
  • SHRINKING ICE SHEETS: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • DECLINING ARTIC ICE: Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • GLACIAL RETREAT: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • EXTREME EVENTS: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
  • DECREASED SNOW COVER: Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.

Natural Causes? As to the possible natural causes of the extreme temperatures that we are witnessing in the past 150 years (this is the time frame that is often referenced since we only started to keep comprehensive meteorological records), here are some facts.

Is the variability of the Sun responsible for heating up the Earth?NASA says this:  It’s reasonable to assume that changes in the sun’s energy output would cause the climate to change, since the sun is the fundamental source of energy that drives our climate system. 

Indeed, studies show that solar variability has played a role in past climate changes. For example, a decrease in solar activity is thought to have triggered the Little Ice Age between approximately 1650 and 1850, when Greenland was largely cut off by ice from 1410 to the 1720s and glaciers advanced in the Alps.

But several lines of evidence show that current global warming cannot be explained by changes in energy from the sun:

  • Since 1750, the average amount of energy coming from the sun either remained constant or increased slightly.
  • If the warming were caused by a more active sun, then scientists would expect to see warmer temperatures in all layers of the atmosphere. Instead, they have observed a cooling in the upper atmosphere, and a warming at the surface and in the lower parts of the atmosphere. That’s because greenhouse gasses are trapping heat in the lower atmosphere.
  • Climate models that include solar irradiance changes can’t reproduce the observed temperature trend over the past century or more without including a rise in greenhouse gases. 

Are volcanic eruptions to blame? It was mentioned that volcanic activity, such as the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the early 90’s, affects climate and resulted in a cooler global temperature for the year following the event. That is true. But according to the US Geological Survey (again, not a hysterical ‘green’ outlier group), the cooling was a result of energy-reflecting micro-particles and ash which were launched into the atmosphere by the eruption, not CO2 or any other greenhouse gases (GHG).

Volcanoes do release significant volumes of GHG. The USGS estimates volcanoes release CO2 in the range of 0.13 gigatons to 0.44 gigatons of GHG each year. A gigaton is equal to 1,000,0000,000 tons…that is, 1 billion tons. That seems impressive until you compare it with the amount of CO2 that is released annually from human activities: 35 gigatons of GHG per year.    Read more about it here: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/climate.php     and here:  http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/archive/2007/07_02_15.html

In summary, to say that human activity dwarfs natural sources of GHG is a vast understatement…the USGS notes that natural sources produce less than 1% of the volume of GHG produced by human activity.

Is there a ‘hidden agenda’ at work, driving the discussion using fear-mongering?  Is the science of GCC ‘not settled’ as some members claimed at the Member Talk? An objection was raised during our discussion about  the often-quoted figure of ‘97% of scientists’ who are said to agree that GCC is human caused. The objection is that the figure is inflated and/or skewed because scientists who have no standing to comment on climatological issues and theories have nonetheless weighed in on the topic.

So where, exactly, does the 97% figure come from? The website ‘Skepticalscience.com’ addressed what they call ‘the myth’ that there is no scientific consensus regarding GCC with ‘The Consensus Project’:   “…A Skeptical Science peer-reviewed survey of all (over 12,000) peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject ‘global climate change‘ and ‘global warming’ published between 1991 and 2011 (Cook et al. 2013) found that over 97% of the papers taking a position on the subject agreed with the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.  In a second phase of the project, the scientist authors were emailed and rated over 2,000 of their own papers.  Once again, over 97% of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.”

I offer the following list from the Governor’s (CA) Office of Planning and Research of 197 international scientific organizations who have determined that GCC is: a) real, b) human caused, c) is a threat to human life in the near-term…

  1. Academia Chilena de Ciencias, Chile
  2. Academia das Ciencias de Lisboa, Portugal
  3. Academia de Ciencias de la República Dominicana
  4. Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela
  5. Academia de Ciencias Medicas, Fisicas y Naturales de Guatemala
  6. Academia Mexicana de Ciencias,Mexico
  7. Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia
  8. Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru
  9. Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
  10. Académie des Sciences, France
  11. Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada
  12. Academy of Athens
  13. Academy of Science of Mozambique
  14. Academy of Science of South Africa
  15. Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS)
  16. Academy of Sciences Malaysia
  17. Academy of Sciences of Moldova
  18. Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
  19. Academy of Sciences of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  20. Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
  21. Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  22. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
  23. Africa Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science
  24. African Academy of Sciences
  25. Albanian Academy of Sciences
  26. Amazon Environmental Research Institute
  27. American Academy of Pediatrics
  28. American Anthropological Association
  29. American Association for the Advancement of Science
  30. American Association of State Climatologists (AASC)
  31. American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
  32. American Astronomical Society
  33. American Chemical Society
  34. American College of Preventive Medicine
  35. American Fisheries Society
  36. American Geophysical Union
  37. American Institute of Biological Sciences
  38. American Institute of Physics
  39. American Meteorological Society
  40. American Physical Society
  41. American Public Health Association
  42. American Quaternary Association
  43. American Society for Microbiology
  44. American Society of Agronomy
  45. American Society of Civil Engineers
  46. American Society of Plant Biologists
  47. American Statistical Association
  48. Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
  49. Australian Academy of Science
  50. Australian Bureau of Meteorology
  51. Australian Coral Reef Society
  52. Australian Institute of Marine Science
  53. Australian Institute of Physics
  54. Australian Marine Sciences Association
  55. Australian Medical Association
  56. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 
  57. Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
  58. Botanical Society of America
  59. Brazilian Academy of Sciences
  60. British Antarctic Survey
  61. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  62. California Academy of Sciences
  63. Cameroon Academy of Sciences
  64. Canadian Association of Physicists
  65. Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
  66. Canadian Geophysical Union
  67. Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
  68. Canadian Society of Soil Science
  69. Canadian Society of Zoologists
  70. Caribbean Academy of Sciences views
  71. Center for International Forestry Research
  72. Chinese Academy of Sciences
  73. Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
  74. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (Australia)
  75. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
  76. Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences
  77. Crop Science Society of America
  78. Cuban Academy of Sciences
  79. Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters
  80. Ecological Society of America
  81. Ecological Society of Australia
  82. Environmental Protection Agency
  83. European Academy of Sciences and Arts
  84. European Federation of Geologists
  85. European Geosciences Union
  86. European Physical Society
  87. European Science Foundation
  88. Federation of American Scientists
  89. French Academy of Sciences
  90. Geological Society of America
  91. Geological Society of Australia
  92. Geological Society of London
  93. Georgian Academy of Sciences 
  94. German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina 
  95. Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
  96. Indian National Science Academy
  97. Indonesian Academy of Sciences
  98. Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
  99. Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
  100. Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand
  101. Institution of Mechanical Engineers, UK
  102. InterAcademy Council
  103. International Alliance of Research Universities
  104. International Arctic Science Committee
  105. International Association for Great Lakes Research
  106. International Council for Science
  107. International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences
  108. International Research Institute for Climate and Society
  109. International Union for Quaternary Research
  110. International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
  111. International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
  112. Islamic World Academy of Sciences
  113. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
  114. Kenya National Academy of Sciences
  115. Korean Academy of Science and Technology
  116. Kosovo Academy of Sciences and Arts
  117. l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
  118. Latin American Academy of Sciences
  119. Latvian Academy of Sciences
  120. Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
  121. Madagascar National Academy of Arts, Letters, and Sciences
  122. Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology
  123. Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts
  124. National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina
  125. National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
  126. National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
  127. National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka
  128. National Academy of Sciences, United States of America
  129. National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
  130. National Association of Geoscience Teachers
  131. National Association of State Foresters
  132. National Center for Atmospheric Research 
  133. National Council of Engineers Australia
  134. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, New Zealand
  135. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  136. National Research Council
  137. National Science Foundation
  138. Natural England
  139. Natural Environment Research Council, UK
  140. Natural Science Collections Alliance
  141. Network of African Science Academies
  142. New York Academy of Sciences
  143. Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences
  144. Nigerian Academy of Sciences
  145. Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters
  146. Oklahoma Climatological Survey
  147. Organization of Biological Field Stations
  148. Pakistan Academy of Sciences
  149. Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
  150. Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  151. Polish Academy of Sciences
  152. Romanian Academy
  153. Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
  154. Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain
  155. Royal Astronomical Society, UK
  156. Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
  157. Royal Irish Academy
  158. Royal Meteorological Society (UK)
  159. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  160. Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
  161. Royal Scientific Society of Jordan
  162. Royal Society of Canada
  163. Royal Society of Chemistry, UK
  164. Royal Society of the United Kingdom
  165. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  166. Russian Academy of Sciences
  167. Science and Technology, Australia 
  168. Science Council of Japan
  169. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
  170. Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics
  171. Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  172. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  173. Slovak Academy of Sciences
  174. Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  175. Society for Ecological Restoration International
  176. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
  177. Society of American Foresters  
  178. Society of Biology (UK)  
  179. Society of Systematic Biologists
  180. Soil Science Society of America
  181. Sudan Academy of Sciences
  182. Sudanese National Academy of Science
  183. Tanzania Academy of Sciences
  184. The Wildlife Society (international)
  185. Turkish Academy of Sciences
  186. Uganda National Academy of Sciences
  187. Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
  188. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  189. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  190. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  191. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  192. World Federation of Public Health Associations
  193. World Forestry Congress
  194. World Health Organization
  195. World Meteorological Organization
  196. Zambia Academy of Sciences
  197. Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences

In fairness, I will also present the following list of scientific and research organizations which do not believe that GCC is human-caused and believe that GCC poses little or no threat to human civilization:

  • there are none that I can find.

However, there are a number of fossil fuel advocacy groups (which differ from science-based institutions which, unlike advocacy groups, presumably have no agenda beyond uncovering facts) that are in the ‘denier’ camp. See if you can spot the pattern:

  • Americans for Prosperity (funded by the Koch Brothers)*
  • American Enterprise Institute (funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries)*
  • American Legislative Exchange Council (ExxonMobil and Koch)*
  • Beacon Hill Institute (Koch funded)*
  • Cato Institute (founded and funded by Koch Brothers)*
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute (ExxonMobil and Koch)*
  • Heartland Institute (ExxonMobil and Koch)*
  • Heritage Foundation (ditto)*
  • Institute for Energy Research (ditto)*
  • Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (ditto)*
  • Information Council on the Environment  (Created by the National Coal Assn, the Western Fuels Association, and the Edison Electrical Institute.  ICE collapsed following the disclosure of their PR firm’s memos directing the ICE media blitz to target “….older, less educated males (who do not actively seek information) and younger, lower income women”. Ads compared belief in human-caused climate change to Chicken Little and Flat Earthers…another ad stated “if the earth is getting warmer, why is Minneapolis getting colder?”

*Source:Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/fight-misinformation/global-warming-skeptic.html#.VeDLKflViko

If I were concerned about anyone pushing an ‘agenda’ it would be the above listed groups.

We Can’t Stop Building Fossil Fueled Energy Plants Because It Will ‘Hurt The Poor’.   One interesting tactic for people and organizations that wish to minimize or deny the anthropogenic nature of climate change is to cite the damage that mitigation of GCC would inflict on ‘the poor’. This argument was raised during last night’s discussion and is a talking point frequently used by many of the above listed groups. I think we should reject this attempt to seize a moral high ground by those wishing to minimize the threat that GCC poses. Bottom line: while there will be plenty of pain for many humans as we stumble in our attempts to avoid ecological disaster, the degradation of the environment hurts all of us in ways we can’t always imagine…for one reason, because of our absurdly short life spans in contrast with the glacial (ha!) pace of nature’s forces.

Our discussion Thursday evening also touched on the fact that the term ‘poor’ is lacking a universal definition in the context of GCC. Someone who is ‘poor’ in an American context might be considered as fabulously wealthy in a third-world context as Nate pointed out.  So, I propose that a better metric would be to consider ‘food security’ for the world’s population in the era of dramatic climate change. Sebastian mentioned that among  the advantages of living in a globally warmer climate would be the possibility of a longer growing season, the addition of arable land in the higher latitudes (estimated to be around 160 million hectares with the biggest gains in Russia and Central Asia – see link below) and increased biomass as plants thrive in the higher concentration of CO2. While these assertions may be true, it is also true that land in the lower latitudes are expected to become less productive or non-productive (estimated loss of land 110 million hectares, the biggest loser being Africa-see link below). Also consider that many plants (cereals and forage crops), while growing bushier, show lower protein concentrations under elevated CO2 conditions – see link. This is a complex issue…more details are to be found at this link:   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2148361/

What to do about global climate change?

As a start, how about:

  • Transition from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
  • Upgrade the energy infrastructure to be able to make use of solar and wind power
  • Protect forest land…stop the destruction of the world’s rain forests
  • Conserve limited energy resources such as electricity and fossil fuels
  • Conserve water

What about the cost/benefit of mitigating GCC?   Is it ‘worth it’ to try to mitigate the impacts of human activity on the environment? Some in the discussion that followed Sebastian’s presentation suggested this as a metric to consider when weighing the pros and cons of taking ameliorative action against GCC.

Some members argued for taking no action until there is a definitive answer to whether or not GCC is real and is proven to be a threat. Others expressed the opinion that we have plenty of good reasons to limit our future use of fossil fuels even without the worry of global climate change. I confess that I am sympathetic with the latter view.

So what is the cost/benefit calculation? It’s so overwhelmingly complex that I don’t know that it is even possible to make such a calculation. But here is one educated guess made about ten years ago:

cost of climate change vs no action

Sources:  http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.43084.de/diw_wr_2005-12.pdf

And    http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29337/m1/1/

Finally a few closing quotes from institutions and organizations who do have standing to comment about global climate change:

American Association for the Advancement of Science  “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” (2006)3

American Chemical Society  “Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem.” (2004)4

American Geophysical Union  “Human‐induced climate change requires urgent action. Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes.” (Adopted 2003, revised and reaffirmed 2007, 2012, 2013)5

American Medical Association  “Our AMA … supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant.” (2013)6

American Meteorological Society  “It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide.” (2012)7

American Physical Society  “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” (2007)

The Geological Society of America  “The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s.” (2006; revised 2010)

International Science Academies Joint statement:

“Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001).” (2005, 11 international science academies)

U.S. National Academy of Sciences

“The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” (2005)

U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES –  U.S. Global Change Research Program

“The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases. Human ‘fingerprints’ also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice.” (2009, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies)

INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODIES – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”

“Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely* due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

*IPCC defines ‘very likely’ as greater than 90 percent probability of occurrence.

Source citations for the above quotes are available here:  http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/


We’ve debated this issue for the last two decades and more…today, the Science appears to favor the view that global climate change is something that we urgently need to address. It’s one thing to be skeptical and it’s another thing to refuse to believe the best evidence science can provide us today.

I hope that this additional information is helpful to you when you ponder the issues surrounding global climate change.

Larry Bollinger, 8/28/2015