Tag Archives | Religion

The loneliness of the long-distance drone pilot

Aaron Sankin via The Kernel:

Bruce Black had been preparing for this moment for most of his life.

Growing up, he always wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from New Mexico State University in 1984 with a degree in geology, Black was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. He spent years as an instructor pilot before quitting to join the FBI, where he specialized in chasing down white-collar criminals, but the pull of military was too strong. He eventually found himself in the air above Afghanistan.

Black flew constantly. Once, in the spring of 2007, Black’s job was to serve as another set of eyes high above a firefight happening on the ground. An Army convoy had been patrolling near a site of a previous strike and gotten ambushed by Taliban fighters while returning to base. Black was acting as a crucial communications relay, sending life-and-death updates back and forth from the men and women on the ground to the Pentagon and a network of support staff located around the world through the military’s version of the Internet.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Is pot the new gay marriage for the GOP?

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

Jonathan Topaz via Politico:

Marijuana is shaping up to be the new gay marriage of GOP politics — most Republicans would rather not talk about it, except to punt to the states.

But when it comes to the 2016 presidential race, a series of legalization ballot initiatives — and a certain outspoken Kentucky senator — could make it harder for the Republican field to avoid the conversation.

When asked to articulate their positions on recreational marijuana, several potential GOP 2016 candidates have tried to strike a tricky balance: stress the downsides of pot use and the upsides of states’ rights. Some have indicated their openness to decriminalizing pot, at least in their state, but none favors outright legalization.

For instance, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who took steps toward decriminalizing pot in his state, declared last year: “I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Rollerball Amerika 2015

rollerballdvdVia Philip A. Farruggio – World News Trust:

You must see or revisit Norman Jewison’s 1975 film Rollerball, starring James Caan as superstar player Jonathan E.

In it, we see a world no longer made up of countries, but of corporations that control every bit of life for the people. There are no longer wars, just a complacent populace who “go along to get along.”

A very select few are chosen by the corporations to become executives, giving them elite status. It seems everyone loves the violent sport Rollerball, which is like our current NFL football on steroids.

Jonathan E. is their Michael Jordan or Lebron James superplayer who is revered worldwide, even by the fans of opposing teams. He has everything a man could wish to have: a fine sprawling ranch, with servants and horses, and gorgeous female companions chosen for him by the Energy corporation that rules Houston and the surrounding areas.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Living Bits: Information and the Origin of Life

Image: Flickr user Tau Zero, adapted under a Creative Commons license.

Image: Flickr user Tau Zero, adapted under a Creative Commons license.

Via Chris Adami at PBS.org:

What is life?

When Erwin Schrödinger posed this question in 1944, in a book of the same name, he was 57 years old. He had won the Nobel in Physics eleven years earlier, and was arguably past his glory days. Indeed, at that time he was working mostly on his ill-fated “Unitary Field Theory.” By all accounts, the publication of “What is Life?”—venturing far outside of a theoretical physicist’s field of expertise—raised many eyebrows. How presumptuous for a physicist to take on one of the deepest questions in biology! But Schrödinger argued that science should not be compartmentalized:

“Some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them—and at the risk of making fools of ourselves.”

Schrödinger’s “What is Life” has been extraordinarily influential, in one part because he was one of the first who dared to ask the question seriously, and in another because it was the book that was read by a good number of physicists—famously both Francis Crick and James Watson independently, but also many a member of the “Phage group,” a group of scientists that started the field of bacterial genetics—and steered them to new careers in biology.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Man of science, man of faith: AP obit reveals both sides of Charles Townes

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915) via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915)
via Wikimedia Commons

Via Jim Davis at getreligion.com:

Whenever we play a DVD, watch a light show or have a clerk scan our groceries, we may not think of a religious thinker. Yet those modern marvels and many others are possible because of Charles H. Townes, inventor of the laser – and an eloquent believer.

We can thank the Associated Press for its obit reminding us of this man of brilliance and goodwill,who converged both parts of his life as well as he synchronized light beams.

And AP gets to the point right after the lede:

On the tranquil morning of April 26, 1951, Townes scribbled a theory on scrap paper that would lead to the laser, the invention he’s known for and which transformed everyday life and led to other scientific discoveries.

Townes, who was also known for his strong spiritual faith, famously compared that moment to a religious revelation.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Forcing the Will to Believe

vivek jena (CC BY 2.0)

vivek jena (CC BY 2.0)

Richard Pimentel writes at Philosophy News:

“Should a civilised, tolerant society get into so personal a matter as the religious conviction of its citizens? After all, what is so perverse about conversion? If you exercise your fundamental right to preach and propagate your religion and someone, convinced by your arguments, comes over to your side how can anyone object? We are told that such changes cause unrest in society. But in public life we do not allow the unrest argument to prevent individuals from changing their loyalties or ideologies.”

These questions were posed by Michael Pinto, vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, in an editorial that he wrote in the Times of India back in October. The purpose of his article was to address the persecution of Christians in the states of Orissa and Karnataka in India, but especially the most recent episodes of violence in Orissa which has been going on since August 2008.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Dualism vs. Monism in a Nihilist Context

Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Via Spinoza Ray Prozak at American Nihilist Underground Society (Anus.com):

This world may be a simulation. We may be figments of the imagination of a daydreaming god. We may be pure mathematics, or data in some cosmic computer. Or we could be physical beings, or some combination of the above. However, if this world has one characteristic to rely on, it’s this: it creates the same response to the same causal impetus.

That means if you pick up a ball and hold your arm up away from your body and drop the ball, it will fall — every time. Even if a friend sneaks a hand in there to catch it, it will begin falling first. If you put a support table under your hand so the ball doesn’t drop, the effect can be observed that the instant the table is removed the ball drops.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Embracing Paradox Helped Me Discover That Religion Is a Neurological Disorder for Which Faith Is the Only Cure

fra-angelico-the-annunciation

Frank Schaeffer writes at Patheos:

My kaleidoscopic beliefs are fickle and motivated by desire, wishful thinking, and wanting to fit in with my family and community and to make my marriage work. My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I’ve ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty made things simple, gave me an answer to every question and paid the bills.

With the acceptance of paradox came a new and blessed uncertainty that began to heal the mental illness called certainty, the kind of certainty that told me that my job was to be head of the home and to order around my wife and children because “the Bible says so.” Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.

These days I hold two ideas about God simultaneously: he, she or it exists and he she or it doesn’t exist.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

If There Are Gods, They Are Evil

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

Via Reason and Meaning:

Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. 

Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death. The key is the suffering.  If the suffering was not necessary, then it’s wrong to allow it; if the suffering is necessary, the baby’s going to heaven doesn’t explain why it’s necessary.

It doesn’t make sense to say that a baby’s painful death will be good in the long run, and that’s why the gods allow it. For that is to say that whatever happens in the long run is good; since if something happened it was allowed by the gods, and it must therefore be good in the long run.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

Via Lawrence M. Krauss – The New Yorker:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

Read the rest
Continue Reading