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Comments by steveb0503

Go to: Talking to people works!

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by steveb0503

I'm not convinced it does much good - I have managed to push one friend from increasingly ecclesiastical to still-believing fence-sitter and have another friend that, while he seems to have as many issues with organized religion as I do, still considers himself a "spiritualist"/christian, who apparently wants to believe so badly that as the strength of my arguments increase, so too does his ability to defend holding said beliefs (as Michael Shermer once said: "Smart people sometimes believe weird things because they are good at defending beliefs they have come to for non-smart reasons").

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 17:53:38 UTC | #950900

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by steveb0503

Not sure what advice to give you here - but let's just say that I threw the damn book down in utter disgust at how so many people could attach so much significance to such an obvious fabrication (and a pretty unimaginative one at that) after only 5 or so pages.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:31:59 UTC | #950831

Go to: Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 76 by steveb0503

What kills me about issues such as this, is the strawman aspect they usually seem to take on.

Because they dislike the idea of government mandated healthcare provisions (especially where they intersect with their belief systems), they re-brand the discussion as an issue regarding religious liberties so they can get more support - because it goes without saying that the government can't tell you how to "observe" your particular faith. Of course this draws attention away from the real issue at hand which is: the fact that a faith-based institution that employs people who do not hold to that same faith (in whatever color it happens to come in) shouldn't be allowed to hold those employees to the same "standards" of behavior they personally deem significant.

Wed, 01 Aug 2012 16:34:31 UTC | #950359

Go to: Darwinian Selection Continues to Influence Human Evolution

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by steveb0503

I'm a little surprised that tejas_gokhale01 is the only one that touched on this - where does our concurrent cultural evolution play into all of this (doesn't that constitute "environment" to which a population must synchronize - after all: natural selection evolves by way of stabilizing selection, sexual selection, adaptive selection and sexual selection, and neutral drift).

I believe this goes a long way towards explaining much of what I see going on in the world today in terms of population genetics - both in terms of; people doing the most breeding tend to be the least intelligent (with no great detriment concerning survivability of offspring due to their diminished critical thinking skills considering the generally enabling society - neutral drift) as well as certain social environments actually supporting the prolific reproduction of its members - adaptive.

I'm not sure if I properly conveyed where my mind's going on this, but I think we're screwed.

Fri, 04 May 2012 17:13:08 UTC | #939708

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by steveb0503

Just playing Devil's advocate here - but, all things being equal, it doesn't really seem all that dangerous (although fraught with all kinds of potential for things to go horribly awry). What I really object to is the kind of superstitious thinking behind this and other even more terrible practices.

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 23:19:37 UTC | #933779

Go to: Q&A for Sean Faircloth "Can Religion Justify Bullying Children"

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by steveb0503

I'm the one who asked how we can through to people who either don't accept such issues as anything other than extreme cases or try to get away with saying such things as "But my beliefs aren't like that."

Just thought I'd share.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 20:46:25 UTC | #933438

Go to: Robert Wright promotes accommodationism, disses Dawkins

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by steveb0503

My great hope is that if one of these "teach the controversy" bills go into effect, some teacher will take up the mantle of defender of TofE and presents both case - such as they are - and show how one holds up to scrutiny while the other simply does not. Then, for icing on the cake, ask the children to decide for themselves which one seems most likely.

Show these nitwits that it's a good idea to be careful of what they wish for - lest they get exactly that.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 17:38:41 UTC | #931950

Go to: The Thin Skin Rule of religious folk

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by steveb0503

I too find this a troubling issue - while on the one hand, I don't particularly want to offend people for not sharing my beliefs (or lack thereof), but it unfortunately comes with the package and regardless of whether or not we feel they are justified in taking offense - we must, in the interest of social grace, be mindful of the fact that they do.

I agree with the fact that it's not fair, but who ever said life was fair?

The only thing you can do is convey your lack of intention to cause offense by simply disagreeing with their cherished beliefs and hope they are willing to proceed with the dialog. If they insist on claiming offense, then you simply tell them that it is their choice to do so and make it clear that any further offense perceived by them is on them and you may then proceed guilt-free - but you should never feel obligated to "back down" as they cannot reasonably demand that you follow their rules and must therefore cease and desist.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 21:45:15 UTC | #928464

Go to: Chicago area event, Sean Faircloth, author of Attack of the Theocrats

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by steveb0503

Went to this event - want to know if there will be video available for it, as I would like to share this excellent presentation with others.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 15:53:15 UTC | #928088

Go to: Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by steveb0503

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

No, although the current political climate seems to show a strong correlation. However, there are exceptions - Libertarians often can be far more mindful of reason-based conclusions and not so wedded to right-wing party-line dogma. I consider myself to be amongst that particular constituency and feel I'm in good company with such other openly secularist individuals as Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer (neither one of which could reasonably called ignorant).

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 19:00:10 UTC | #927558

Go to: BBC rewrites history of science

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by steveb0503

Wow - was the writer of the narrative ACTUALLY unaware of heliocentricity?!?

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 21:42:12 UTC | #925472

Go to: Richard Dawkins March/April 2012 US Tour Dates

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by steveb0503

CHICAGO!!!! (please)

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 21:33:33 UTC | #925469

Go to: Santorum, Satan and the Fate of the Freeworld

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by steveb0503

Isn't it OBVIOUS? Label the one thing that might be capable of bringing a person out of the ideological morass that at least 84% of the population suffers from "EVIL" and you staunch the flow.

Why do I spend most of my time in state of overt frustration? Hmnnn - let me think.

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 17:56:34 UTC | #922505

Go to: GOP TEA PARTY's New Target (demonizing) The Girl Scouts of America.

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by steveb0503

Well, it's official - both biological AND cultural evolution are now working against improvement - oh, believe me, I understand how evolution works - but I'm not suggesting it's somehow going in reverse (that's impossible), it's just that the conditions that would encourage actual improvement have shifted in such a way as to confer the benefit to those who breed most (idiots), and cater to emotional considerations (ideologues) respectively.

We are SOOOOOO... screwed! (pardon my pessimism - but it seems warranted.)

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 17:48:44 UTC | #922501

Go to: Science and cinema

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 60 by steveb0503

I have been aware of this particular issue since reading Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" as well as Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's "Unscientific America" - The bottom line is: Scientists are portrayed in a poor light in the popular media (from the madness of Victor Von Frankenstein, the evil of Herbert West [The Re-Animator], to the social ineptitude of the entire Big-Bang gang).

The part I find troubling though, is the fact that when I point this out, most people act as though I'm simply trying to find something to bitch about - rather than taking it as a legitimate criticism against populist attitudes that should probably be different, considering that we are always moving further into an era in which an interest in the benefits and methodologies of a scientifically literate culture will become increasingly necessary.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 18:42:14 UTC | #920806

Go to: Ants turned into 'supersoldiers'

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by steveb0503

Damn, I was a little disappointed (after reading further) that it was only the re-activation of a dormant gene (an artificially-induced atavism) that they had achieved - I thought they had managed to induce the same developmental pattern that failed to limit a particular growth sequence by way of artificially-induced epigenetic controls.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 22:09:18 UTC | #908328

Go to: 'Coming Out in America' is a new film about atheists coming out

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by steveb0503


Can't wait to see this!

Mon, 10 Oct 2011 17:07:40 UTC | #879442

Go to: What do Intelligent Design advocates say about human toenails?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by steveb0503

I have found - from personal experience - that "the argument from stupid design" (as I like to call it) isn't really a very good one BECAUSE the same objections that are used against "the argument from the existence of evil" can pretty much be applied (how do we know WHAT God's intentions were for any feature of a living thing, or that we can comprehend God's presumably superior insight as to just what constitutes a "good idea" as opposed to a bad one). The only way to salvage the argument AT ALL, is to point out that the manifestations of "bad design" we find in the world conform EXACTLY to what we should expect from an evolutionarily informed perspective.

Mon, 10 Oct 2011 16:59:09 UTC | #879439

Go to: CA science center pays $110,000 over canceled showing of ID film

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by steveb0503

I once attended one of these "ID film and debate" events at a local community college and asked the ID proponent "How is this science, it's pretty much just saying God dunnit, and nothing more - it proposes no explanations, makes no predictions and attempts to answer a mystery with a bigger mystery."

He responded with some tripe about inferred design (apparently he could manage nothing more convincing than Paley's outdated argument) and assiduously avoided answering my query in ANY substantive way.

Obfuscation and inveiglement - a's best tools.

I freakin' hate religion and what it does to people's minds (and then proceeds to attempt to do to other minds).

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 21:29:45 UTC | #866049

Go to: [Update 9/13]-OCT 1&2 BOOK TOUR DETAILS - US Book Tour Schedule

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by steveb0503

I wish I understood what RD has against Chicago - I'd love to go see him somewhere (but am unfortunately too financially handicapped to travel) - besides, we could use a dose of rationality here as much as anywhere.

Just sayin'...

Wed, 10 Aug 2011 22:17:24 UTC | #859871

Go to: Fantasy's Spell on Pop Culture: When Will It Wear Off?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by steveb0503

Fantasy - and other flights of imaginative fancy - are ALL GOOD - the problem arises when you are unwilling (or unable) due to upbringing and/or herd mentality to separate the fantasy FROM reality.

Thu, 04 Aug 2011 20:10:26 UTC | #857960

Go to: Michigan J. Frog and the Road to Damascus

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by steveb0503

In response to comment 12 by Schrodinger's Cat

my 6 foot rabbit Harvey

Was that a Farscape reference? Talk about a voice in your head...

Thu, 21 Jul 2011 16:09:35 UTC | #852249

Go to: Antievolution bills on the New Hampshire horizon

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by steveb0503

It is my sincerest hope that some teacher in one of theses states that manages to adopt anti-evolution legislation (particularly those of the "teach both sides" ilk) takes up the ball and runs with it.

Why not fight fire with fire?

Teach evolution, and teach it WELL - then, teach the opposing "theories" (I know, hypothesis at best - but that's why I put the word theories in quotes) followed by a THOROUGH dissection of why those ideas simply do not cut the mustard and do it with no apologies (after all, you did teach "both sides" - you simply demonstrated why they are not equal in explanatory power).

Am I the only one who thinks this will work not only in a general way, but will manage to drag these piss-poor excuses for explanatory models (first of which, they emphatically ARE NOT - they are merely nuh-uh tactics, as I like to call them) kicking and screaming into the harsh light of day where they will die a quick death in a puff of smoke - not unlike vampires (another superstition based premise)?

The only problem I see with this idea is that most of the teachers out there probably don't have the first clue as to how to counteract the well-practiced rhetoric these intellectual midgets put up in defense of their position. I know many of them can present a good case FOR evolution, but countering every one of the so-called "evidences against evolution" I have ever heard (and I have heard nearly all of them) can be a daunting challenge at best. But, there has to be at least a few educators out there up to the challenge (or be willing to take up the challenge) - at least I HOPE there are.

Any thoughts?

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 17:14:57 UTC | #841963

Go to: How to find an athiest?

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by steveb0503

The approach I usually take is to try my best to ascertain whether an individual's knowing that I'm an atheist (if he reacts negatively) will matter to my livelihood (or reputation), and if not, simply be truthful, straightforward, and open.

For those whose opinion really matters, I've found that it's easiest to find out who's most likely to react negatively to the knowledge of my atheism (usually you have to feel your way to this point by using the "cover" of not being religious - usually a less "offensive" position), and withholding that aspect of my philosophy from them - although I do incur some risk by being open with most (but restrictive with others), I have strengthened my arguments in defense of my position to the level that I can rationally, and respectfully stand my ground against all but the most practiced apologists if pressed (it helps to have supportable reasons for what you believe - or don't - and why you believe them - or don't).

I don't know if ANY of this helps, but it seems to work for me.

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 22:22:50 UTC | #641438

Go to: A field guide to bullshit

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 52 by steveb0503

Good read - recommend this along with Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain", Robert Kurzban's "Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite", and Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works" (as a primer) if you want a to develop a good mental "picture" of the whys, wheres, and hows of belief and how we justify them.

Yes, I'm a book hog - but I figured I'd pass on my recommendations so others might benefit from my efforts as well.

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 21:47:14 UTC | #641430

Go to: David Barton's Revistionist History & Liars for Jesus

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by steveb0503

Was watching the Daily Show that particular night and yelled at the TV when I realized just who John was interviewing.

"How could someone who had enough insight to have Sam Harris on his show give this twit any airtime?" I wondered to myself.

And then the tragedy began. He had a genuine opportunity to eviscerate this guy AND his inanity on national television, but unfortunately (due to some apparently poor research on the part of either his staff or John himself) every time he tried to challenge David, or point out an issue where he was either clearly mistake (or flat-out lying), Mr. Barton managed to defuse the situation by doing nothing more substantial than uttering: "No it isn't" - and John, not being properly prepared, simply had to drop that particular line of questioning, giving David an undeserved air of credibility to the uninformed viewer.

It's time the people in this world who are doing everything in their power to distort the facts to promote their ideology are called out, shown wrong (or deceitful), and corrected for all those watching so that these insidious LIES lose their currency in the culture.


Can you tell I,m P.O.ed?

Fri, 06 May 2011 17:19:33 UTC | #623874

Go to: How to win at Gene Propagation.

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by steveb0503

Comment 4 by Schrodinger's Cat

Gene propagation isn't a 'game'. It either happens, or it doesn't.

Well said. That is one of the main points I always try to get across when I speak of evolution/natural selection, as it is a point not well articulated in most of the discussions or dissertations I've been a part of or are aware of. Even Richard's "Selfish Gene" analogy can be a bit misleading if you miss the central point - for if misinterpreted, it could lead one to believe that a gene's selfish "goal" is to get itself reproduced. No no no no no! It is entirely about contingency - that which contains whatever essential "recipe" it has for doing a better job of surviving to the point at which it does copy itself, as compared to all other competitors for resources in it's environment, will be that which will leave more copies of itself when compared to it's competitors, thus giving it a statistical advantage - no goal, ONLY succession.

Thu, 05 May 2011 18:07:45 UTC | #623414

Go to: New Atheism – A "commoner’s" perspective

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by steveb0503

I have been an atheist for about 20 years, I turn 40 this year and it’s only been since I read the God Delusion back in 2007 that I started to feel comfortable with thinking of myself as an atheist, let alone telling anyone. I now am comfortable with myself and with telling others, to the point of shedding my pseudonym online. I wouldn’t feel this comfortable if it weren’t for people like Richard and others giving me the confidence to be an atheist in this crazy mixed up world.

I just felt like chiming in and saying "Here, here!"

My "flightpath" shares some significant parallels - with the notable exceptions being age (45), tenure as an atheist (24), and the fact that while I wasn't so much uncomfortable with the "A" word designation, I often felt apologetic about it for fear of giving offense (still do - although to a considerably lesser degree now).

I too have found newly inspired confidence to "say it loud, say it proud" in the current "gnu", "New" (or whatever the hell you want to call it) atheism due to the efforts of "The Four Horsemen", P.Z. Meyers, Coyne, Pinker, Shermer, Stenger, Paulos, etc., etc., etc.

My only hope is that we really can make some kind of a difference - although my own efforts seem to be stymied by my apparently absolute inability to "de-convert" a single soul (despite creative and repeated efforts - much to the consternation of many who know me - on my part).

Ah well, all you can do is try - right?

Sat, 23 Apr 2011 16:33:57 UTC | #618491

Go to: Happy Birthday to Richard Dawkins

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 245 by steveb0503


And here's to many more!

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 20:08:11 UTC | #608010

Go to: Seduced by nature's beauty

steveb0503's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by steveb0503

I guess it's all a matter of perspective, because every one of the images in that video just manages to speak to me in a completely different manner - I am awed by the inter-relationships between the natural laws (whether geologic, biologic, physical, chemical, etc., etc., etc.) that allowed any of those things to occur. I am dumbfounded by both the knowledge I do possess regarding these relationships, but also by what I am manifestly ignorant of (or at the very least, haven't bothered to sort out).

I think the feeling it invokes is essentially the same, but it's particulars are obviously different.

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 19:48:31 UTC | #597349