About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Michael’s Picks

by Michael De Dora
* Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which has one writer asking, “is this what pro-life means?”
* New rules issued by President Obama on contraception have stirred a debate over the so-called “conscience clause.” More on the new rules here
* Can skeptics judge religious claims without having a background in theology? You bet they can
* The Rev. Barry Lynn argues that the public should not pay for upkeep on churches. 
* Perhaps it’s a sign of just how bad things are when a conservative group criticizes Texas for its education standards. 
* South Dakota lawmakers proposed, but have now shelved, a bill to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing someone in the defense of an unborn child.
* Minnesota State Rep. Mike Beard says we shouldn’t fear running out of natural resources because God wouldn’t allow such a thing
* The walls of the Board of Supervisors chamber for Kern County, California, will apparently soon be adorned with “In God We Trust.”


  1. As much as I am for separation of church and state, I would try to find some compromise solution for real historic building. Its value exceeds structure's role as housing for congregation.

    It, however, should not amount to freeing church itself from paying for its own needs. It is tricky, but maybe matching grants will work.

  2. "Government" money always comes at the expense of liberty. It is never in the best interest of any private enterprise, religious or not, to accept such an endorsement. If a church cannot stand on its own merit, then it like all small businesses, should concede ownership to an executive structure that can. In the event that a historic building is improperly maintained or is left vacant as the result of failed business model, assuming that the surrounding populous desires the perpetuation of the structure, then and only then should a local governmental entity (i.e. a city planner) get involved.

  3. Look at this Obamacare exemption loophole for Christians if you want an establishment clause eyebrow-raiser: http://tinyurl.com/4ge8zy7

    If Muslims got this loophole, the sharia law loons would be out in force.

  4. "God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable,"

    Not capricious? Dynamically stable? Could he possibly be referring to the same being that (theoretically) left all these huge rocks and balls of ice floating around the solar system? Perhaps Mr. Beard should have a look at the pictures of Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter and reassess his conclusions.

  5. What would we do without the "gas giants" and their large gravitational fields? Which, as we all know, behave as inner planetary vacuum cleaners, continuously sucking up huge rocks and balls of ice.

  6. @Thameron, doncha know that the purpose of the asteroids is to kill off the dinosaurs so mammals could get their chance? We wouldn't be here without them, you ingrate! Laudate dominum.

  7. I prefer movishly still to dynamically stable. It's less stuffy.

  8. ianpollock said...
    doncha know that the purpose of the asteroids is to kill off the dinosaurs so mammals could get their chance?

    That there sounds like heretical evolutionese talk that does. Don't you know that people were created just as they are six thousand years ago?
    We know that cuz some old book and and some old guy readin' it said so and y'all know old guys and old books iz never wrong and they never ever lie. Nosiree. Not even once.

  9. The only thing more entertaining than an evangelical trying to prove that God exists is an intellectual trying to prove he doesn't. While I do not possess a respect for dogma, I am not so full of contempt, as to overlook the brilliance of Genesis 1:1; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
    This statement was understood by the masses a millennium ago, it's understood by the masses today, and it will be understood by the masses a millennium into the future.
    We like to pretend our science is infallible, but i doubt we ever create words so convincing as to compete with the authors of religion, let alone prove them wrong.

  10. Appreciating the ancient works as poetry is one thing. Accepting them as an explanation for cosmology is quite another.

    If you are suggesting that one should accept as true all that cannot be disproven then I hope you have a wide throat because you are about to swallow a nearly infinite set of exceptionally pungent undisprovable ideas.

    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

    So there were two beings there at the beginning then? God and some unnamed observer watching the action and writing it down? If it was dictated later is God in the habit of talking about himself in the third person like Bob Dole?

    It makes perfect sense as a story because people like to tell stories. It makes no sense as an explanation of existence, and if one accepted it as that then that is the end of the line God did it, case closed. Whereas if you start with the question - where did all of this come from? and then apply the methods of science to reach the answers then that is the beginning of a voyage of discovery.

  11. @Thameron,

    I could not have said it better myself. By no means do I wish to return to the dark ages where contradicting the theocratic leader meant being burned at the stake. I was simply stating the fact that a biblical verses such as:

    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and God said let their be light… and God divided the light, the light he called day and the darkness he called night, and thus was the first dusk and the first dawn of the first day."

    will always have more sway over the impressionable masses than the scientific version:

    "In the beginning there was an infinitely dense singularity, that destabilized and began to expand, resulting in a perceptively abundant amount of heat and energy. From which hydrogen atoms were derived in such mass as to distort the fabric of space causing a "gravitational" collapse and subsequent fusion of the molecules into more complex atoms such as hydrogen and helium. After a few billion years the fusion reactions died out and the energy released was not enough to support the surrounding structure, resulting in a catastrophic collapse called a supernova that propelled the new molecules from the inside of the mass out into space. The concussion of the explosion interacted with gasses in the surrounding nebulae and caused large amounts of gas to be pushed together thus once again distorting the fabric of space and creating another star, around which an accretion disc containing the more complex molecules subsequently formed. The radiation and energy of the star on the accretion disc caused the materials to be pushed into heaps that distorted space and resulted in a large rocky planetary body that later would be called earth. The star emitting photons with "particle" like properties were only able to react with one half the surface area of the rocky inner planetary body due to it's perfectly spherical shape. However due to the Newtonian laws of inertia and the way the planetary body came together, the spherical body was rotating on its axis, and thus was the first dusk and the first dawn of the first day."

    The thing is, as we measure the red shift of the surrounding galaxies, and form mathematical representations of the depreciating density of the cosmos, we speculate that if we were able to travel back in time we would see a universe that got more and more dense, until it became an infinitely dense singularity. As of today, there is not a viable scientific experiment that can prove the existence of such a thing. In fact the observance of "evaporating" black holes seems to contradict the primes. Other theories include a "unified" energy that permeated infinity. This energy somehow destabilized and broke down into the weak/strong nuclear, gravitational, and electromagnetic energies we observe today. There also appears to some to be a dark energy causing the ever increasing expansion rates.

    The bottom line is, we [scientists] are not coherent nor are we understandable to the masses, nor will we in all probability be. The authors of religion, long ago, were and their message seems to remain so with the passage of time. Therefor I give them their do credit for accomplishing what we [scientists] seem to be incapable of.

  12. @Thameron,

    In two weeks The Savvy Time Saver will be posting a lecture called, "The dark side", in which, the mostly forgotten, yet still dangerous, art of applying logic to religion will be explained.


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