Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER, FEBRUARY 2015

Durango Skeptics and Atheists       February 2015

“The religion that is afraid of Science dishonors God and commits suicide”.      (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882) 

Next general meeting,  Wednesday  February 18, 2015  Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango.     Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.  Meeting starts at 6:30.

This month, Adrian Tillery leads a discussion on the topic of Unexplained Phenomena!          Adrian says: “Everyone has had an experience that they couldn’t wrap their head around.  An odd feeling, the hair on the back of their neck stand up, an icy chill come over them at an auspicious time.  Coincidence is a bad explanation for occurrences that are so intense.  This week we will be sharing our personal experiences, the ones that took a step outside the explainable and left us with as many questions as they did feelings… “

Be sure to bring your own flashlight to hold under your chin while your relate your spooky anecdote!

Tom the Dancing Bug: You may have gathered by now that I am an unabashed  Fan of Tom the Dancing Bug.  So much so that I am a proud member of The Inner Hive.   Ruben allows us to reproduce his work in our newsletter and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  Scroll to the end of this newsletter to be entertained by, not one, but TWO cartoons this month.  Both are commentaries on hot current events topics…I couldn’t decide which one to use…good thing for me that ambivalence isn’t fatal…I hope.



Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris*

Mon, Feb 23, 2015 hosted by Adrian,  110 Clear Creek Loop, Durango (6:30PM)          (This book was nominated by Morgan)       Waking Up is part seeker’s memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—could write it.     Limited seating!  PLEASE RSVP AT MEETUP.COM  


Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist,   March 13, 2015

The Dove Keepers , by Alice Hoffman   April, 2015   Date TBA


Study Shows Meditation Could Protect the Brain from Signs of Aging     http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full               From today’s headlines comes validation for the thesis of this month’s Durango Skeptics and Atheist Book Club selection!  A recent study concludes:  “While overall life expectancy has been increasing, the human brain still begins deteriorating after the first two decades of life and continues degrading further with increasing age. Thus, techniques that diminish the negative impact of aging on the brain are desirable.  Existing research, although scarce, suggests meditation to be an attractive candidate in the quest for an accessible and inexpensive, efficacious remedy.”


Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast: Alienating Left and Right  http://www.salon.com/2015/02/15/faith_fueled_forces_of_hatred_obamas_religion_speech_was_troubling_but_not_for_the_reasons_the_right_alleges/       Echoing the sentiments of Pope Francis, President Obama observed in a recent speech that Freedom of Speech should be exercised with ‘civility and restraint’.   Salon wasted no time in taking Obama on for attending the National Prayer Breakfast in the first place and for saying that individuals should not abuse their rights to insult others, particularly minorities.


Horrific Punishment Update: Blogger Flogging Postponed for 5th Week           http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/saudi-blogger-spared-flogging-again-amnesty-international-says-1.2234894    Free Speech is far from free in Saudi Arabia.  In May 2014, the government of Saudi Arabia sentenced Raif Badawi, father of three, to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He was convicted of insulting Islam through his writings and on his website, which was set up to encourage public debate.  After enduring 50 strokes during the first flogging session (the 1st of 20 scheduled weekly beatings!), he was so badly injured that subsequent beatings have been repeatedly postponed.  Officially, no reason for the postponements were given.


Move Over, Saudi Arabia…Egypt’s War on Free Speech and Atheism

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/opinion/mona-eltahawy-egypts-war-on-atheism.html?_r=1&assetType=opinion   A 21  year old student sentenced to 3 years in prison for saying, on FaceBook, that he is an Atheist.  Even worse…his own father testified against him!


what the hell is it...kids looking at book

Submitted by Marc Masor

Science and the Scientific Method   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2649885/Has-big-bang-breakthrough-foiled-DUST-Researchers-claim-major-flaw-discovery-found.html        Although ‘belief’ in Science is often equated with the ‘belief’ of religious dogma, here is an example which clearly demonstrates the difference between the two.

Last March,  scientists using the BICEPT2 telescope breathlessly reported their discovery of a pattern in light waves that they attributed to gravitational waves.  This observation advanced their particular hypothesis about ‘cosmic inflation’ which deals with events thought to have occurred in the first billionth of a trillionth of a second after the ‘Big Bang’.  Their observations seemed to confirm their hypothesis…it was a thrilling and satisfying moment of triumph for the scientists, some of whom have devoted their careers to this research….but…

Their original excitement has now been tempered by the realization that galactic dust could have been the culprit that caused the appearance of the wave patterns.  And so the paper, published last spring, has now been revised and the scientists have gone back to their instruments to continue their hunt for the Truth about the origin of our universe.

This item is included in this month’s newsletter as an example of the Scientific Method, which looks something like this:

  • observations lead to an hypothesis which is capable of being falsified (e.g., the hypothesis can be tested- no taking things ‘on faith’);
  • experiments and observations are conducted to test the hypothesis (gut feelings do not count!);
  • in light of the results of the experiments and observations, the hypothesis is either advanced or disproved;
  • the original hypothesis is either revised to account for unexpected/new experimental results or it is abandoned altogether.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Science deals with verifiable/falsifiable concepts…’faith’ and ‘belief’ have nothing to do with it.  Religion, on the other hand, deals with concepts which cannot be falsified.  For example, there is no way to experimentally verify that Jesus came back to life after being crucified or that a Creator willed the Universe into existence in six days time.  The ‘faithful’ resolve conflicts between Science and religious dogma by going with their gut instead of their brains.  The religious answer to any challenge is ‘Just because’.  The scientists’ response to a challenge is ‘Let’s find out more’.

why science teachers don't get playground duty

Submitted by Marc Masor


At the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Politics: ‘President’ Scott Walker on Evolution http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/12/scott-walker-evolution_n_6671786.html     As a front-runner in the Republican field of Presidential candidates, a reporter asked newly re-elected Wisconsin Governor for his views concerning ‘evolution’.  Conservatives cried ‘foul’ and cited the incident as another ‘gotcha’ moment by the liberal press.

But with the ‘theory’ of creationism being actively taught as an ‘alternative’ to evolution in the public schools of both Louisiana and Tennessee (and being subsidized in other states by US taxpayers in the form of charter schools and school payment vouchers), the scientific literacy of a potential US President is relevant.  Even the Pope says he believes in evolution and human-caused gobal climate change…gotcha!


Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/science-doubters/achenbach-text      From National Geographic: “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.”


Atheist ‘Super Bowl Ad’ Was Awesome…Too Bad It Was a Fake    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORGyNo9H0GA     This link was passed around on FaceBook recently and it made Humanist hearts swell with pride at the depiction of Atheism that was alleged to have aired during this year’s Super Bowl.  And it IS a wonderful piece of work and it WOULD have been wonderful if it had been legit…but…

Turns out that the ‘commercial’ is really a re-edit of an ad for…wait for it…Scientology!   It aired in its original form during the 2013 Super Bowl.

Remember that It cost $8,000,000 dollars to place a :60 ad in the Super Bowl …this was the first clue that something didn’t add up!  It turns out that there is this guy named ‘Dusty’ who is responsible for the editing job…he changed the original Scientology ending to an ‘alternative’ Atheist ending, posting the fake on his YouTube channel…he expects it to be removed any day because it violates YouTube’s policies on copyright infringement…but as of now (Sunday Feb 15), the video is still available at the above link.  Dusty claims, correctly in my view, that no matter who produced the original TV spot, it was really an ad for Atheism all along  It IS a powerful statement…too bad it belongs to Scientology!  But wait…

…maybe now that we’ve paid for our Powerhouse Science Center brick, we should start collecting our nickels to place s genuine Atheist ad in next year’s Super Bowl…here’s an example:      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89E9tGCeLIY&feature=youtu.be&t=50s


HBO’s Scientology Film “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”      http://crooksandliars.com/2015/01/scientology-cultists-will-hate-movie-so-be      Speaking of quack religions, here comes an offering from HBO which is based on the Lawrence Wright book of the same name.   I can personally vouch for and recommend the book.   It promises to be an entertaining and enlightening film.  Premiere Monday, March 16 on HBO. How will the ‘Church’ of Scientology react?  That’ll be Act II.


Pope Watch:  Francis Slams ‘Narrow and Prejudiced’ Mindset of Religious Conservatives http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/15/pope-francis-homily_n_6687610.html       Pope Frank, takin’ names and kickin’ dogmatic ass!  From HufPo: “Since his election almost two years ago, Francis has pushed the church to focus less on denouncing the sins of others — especially on issues of sexual morality — and to instead to reach out more to the poor and social outcasts.  Throughout his 15-minute homily, Francis repeatedly slammed the “narrow and prejudiced mentality” of believers who cling to religious laws out of fear. They wind up rejecting the very people they should be ministering to, he said, which means anyone on the margins of society “who encounters discrimination.”


News of the Cool … and Really HOT:


Nothing short of SPECTACULAR!  Time-lapse footage of Sol, our very own sun, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory over the past five years of its mission.  Wow.  For this Atheist, this is the sort of thing that inspires awe…revelations of the majesty and mystery of our Universe beat the fables and tales of a Bronze-Age, middle-eastern tribe of nomads any day.

ALSO:      https://vimeo.com/117815404       If you have 45 minutes to kill, take a ride on a photon as it explodes from the surface of the sun to travel to the inner solar system… in real time!  Even traveling at the speed of light, it takes a while to traverse the span of our solar neighborhood.  Swallow a Cheeba Chew and strap in for a cosmic adventure!


News of the Stupid:  Child Author Recants His Story of Heavenly Tour         http://www.examiner.com/article/child-author-recants-story-of-heavenly-tour         A couple of years ago, six year old Alex Malarkey was severely injured in an auto accident.  He claimed to have ‘died’, gone to heaven and met Jesus (who was riding on a multi-colored horse).  His story was turned into a book which an un-skeptical American public gobbled up.  Well, guess what?  Young Master Malarkey made it all up!  Yes!  Who could have guessed?

News of the Silly:  19 Things that Haunt ex-Students of Catholic School    (Contributed by Maria Doucette)      http://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/things-that-still-haunt-people-who-went-to-catholic-schoo#.hydGqydB3      It seems that a majority of our Durango Skeptics and Atheist group self-identify as ‘Recovering Catholics’…myself included.   Laugh along with this abbreviated list of scars that we all carry!  Really, between all of us, there must be enough material to make a list of at least 100 things that haunt us, but we’ll start with just 19!

News of the Odd:  Crystal Children        http://www.starchildren.info/crystal.html       Have you heard about the Crystal Children?  Neither had I before two days ago.  Apparently, these super-children have been appearing on Planet Earth since the early 1990’s.  They are said to be wise beyond their years, to be able to make prophecies, to heal the sick (still no word on whether they can restore an amputated limb, though) and to perform all manner of miracles.  They are here, adherents say, “…to lead [human beings] to the next level in our evolution….”   This sounds like one of my favorites SF books…without spoiling the plot, all I can add is my recommendation that you read Arthur C. Clarke’s excellent classic, “Childhood’s End”.

News of the Hilarious: Interviewer is Stunned by Atheist Stephen Fry’s Answer    (Contributed by Kathleen ’Conner)  http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/01/30/atheist-stephen-frys-response-to-what-he-would-say-if-he-met-god-levels-this-interviewer-video/       This TV interviewer certainly didn’t anticipate the candor with which noted Atheist Stephen Fry answers the innocuous question: When you die and discover that there really IS a God, what will you say to Him at the Pearly Gates?


And here it is, your moment of Dancing Bug…

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug

Visit Gocomics.com to see more of Tom the Dancing Bug and hundreds of other great comics!  I also encourage you to visit 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 Maria, Adrian, Marc and Kathleen for contributing to this month’s newsletter!


3 thoughts on “Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER, FEBRUARY 2015

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