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Comments by HardNosedSkeptic

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 18 by xmaseveeve :

(A little humor can go a long way sometimes!!!!!!)

Not with religious fanatics, as poor Red Dog's story proves. It reminded me of the Pope email and the 'weasel' in Glasgow...

Ahem. It wasn't Red Dog's story. It was mine.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 22:16:20 UTC | #948701

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 8 by Red Dog :

You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to understand that someone doesn't want to mess up their work environment by introducing an un-necessary conflict. And when confronted with a surprising and uncomfortable situation, staying silent and thinking through what if anything to say is a very rational response.

Yes, exactly.

I think we all know how annoying open displays of religiosity like that can be, especially in the workplace. But before you respond LIEBORE, you need to think carefully about the wider implications of your actions. I think it was PZ Myers who said: “never underestimate how sensitive religious people can be”?

To illustrate this, here is a little “religion in the workplace” story of my own. I work for a UK company that does a lot of business in South Africa (which is a much more religious country than the UK). Many of the emails I see coming from South Africa have footers containing religious messages; things like “Trust in the Lord and You Shall Want for Nothing”, and other such nonsense. One day, I was dealing with an email which ended with the following:

Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

I was completely fed up with seeing perfectly good bandwidth wasted like this, so before I sent the email on, I decided to “improve it”, and so I changed the footer to:

Seven days with prayer makes one weak-minded.

I thought (silly me) that this was just a bit of harmless fun, but you can guess what happened next. The original sender found out somehow, and he complained about how his email had been “vandalised” and how he had “felt personally violated by this” (I know, groan).

I ended up being told off, and forbidden from doing anything like that again, which could have been much worse I suppose. You LIEBORE, of course, risk far more than that where you live. Rising to religious stupidity might make you feel better at the time, but it can come back to haunt you, so I hope that you will be very careful.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 20:57:43 UTC | #948653

Go to: Moral compass: a guide to religious freedom

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by HardNosedSkeptic

I think that was a very clear and helpful discussion of the issues, se well done to Kenan Malik for writing that.

I have a comment about Point (2):

Many believers point out that faith plays a unique role in their lives. That is often true. Those atheists who dismiss belief in God as no more credible than belief in Santa Claus or in fairies miss the point. Religion is more than an intellectual exercise or a matter of logic; it often has, for believers, a vital social and spiritual function. But acknowledging the vital and unique role of faith in the lives of believers does not commit us to providing it with a privileged position in society.

Atheists miss the point do they? Not by as much as certain kinds of religious people I think. I don’t care if religion plays an important or “unique role in their lives”. That doesn’t mean it should play any role in my life or in other people’s lives. What I say to theocratic bigots is it doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about it and it doesn’t matter how passionately you believe it, at the end of the day your religion is only your opinion, and there is no reason why it should affect anybody else’s life apart from your own.

Sat, 23 Jun 2012 21:55:34 UTC | #947980

Go to: We Are Viral From the Beginning

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by HardNosedSkeptic

That primordial sphere produced the ten trillion cells that make up each of our bodies.

Really? Not all of them surely? What about the trillions of microbes that live on and inside our bodies? There are at least 10 000 different kinds of them. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the part they play in helping us to survive.

Human Microbiome Project reveals largest microbial map

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 19:50:33 UTC | #947615

Go to: Search for truth leads to rejection of religion

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 6 by Stafford Gordon :

I've been waiting for about two hours for my comment to appear. Has anyone come across it I wonder?

Have you tried closing and re-opening your browser? Or even just closing the tab and opening the website in a new one? That often works for me (in Internet Explorer anyway).

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 20:30:27 UTC | #947107

Go to: The first time I spoke out in defense of atheism in public.

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 2 by Grimace :

I commend you for speaking out DMR88. A word of warning though, I worked for a Student Guild (union) for a few years while I was at university and a part of my job was doing academic appeals. I'd advise you to beware of the wrath of an academic who believes they've been wronged.

It was my experience that some academics could be extrordinarily petty and malicious towards a person who they believed had wronged them, even if that "wrong" was petty or minor.

Tell me about it. I was an academic in the eighties and nineties. During that time, I met some of the finest people I have ever known – and also some of the worst.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 23:05:53 UTC | #945774

Go to: The first time I spoke out in defense of atheism in public.

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by HardNosedSkeptic

I admire you for doing that DMRA88. As VrijVlinder says, it is quite wrong for teachers to be “injecting their religious agenda” into science classes. Whenever that happens it should always be challenged, and I’m glad that you’ve resolved to do that from now on.

I’m quite proud of my brother (who is also an atheist) in this regard. When he was an A Level student at a college in Wales, he had a lecturer who insisted on bringing his christian religion into the physics lessons. My brother often challenged him on this point, reminding him that there is no evidence that God played any part in setting the laws of physics, or even that he exists at all for that matter. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in his classroom!

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 22:59:37 UTC | #945773

Go to: The Common Hand - By Carl Zimmer Illustration by Bryan Christie - National Geographic

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by HardNosedSkeptic

Thanks for starting this discussion Alan. I liked the article as well, and I thought those X-Ray photographs were fascinating.

I think it’s worth pointing out that our hands are pretty dexterous and versatile even compared with other great apes. The reason for that is probably because we do not have to walk on our hands, like the other great apes do.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 22:21:03 UTC | #945772

Go to: School Challenge

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by HardNosedSkeptic

The icing on the cake was that the school accidently put him in for the R.E. exams anyway. He got a C having not attended a single R.E. lesson in over 2 years! Most of the other children who attended all the session only got D & E's...

That doesn’t say much for the standard of teaching at your son’s school does it? (In R.E. anyway.)

I’m glad it worked out well for your son and you in the end. Best wishes for the future.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 21:54:32 UTC | #945769

Go to: Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss Tribute to Christopher Hitchens - 2012 Global Atheist Convention

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 9 by uuaschbaer :

Wonderful. Makes me all the more worried about the fact that "thefilmarchive" is no longer on youtube and we're missing hours of C-SPAN videos with Christopher Hitchens.

It might be a nice idea if the Richard Dawkins Foundation considered setting up its own “Christopher Hitchens memorial website”, so that the vast amount of Hitchens material could be preserved and collected in one place? I think it could be a wonderful resource as well as a fitting tribute to him.

Sun, 27 May 2012 20:46:39 UTC | #943849

Go to: Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss Tribute to Christopher Hitchens - 2012 Global Atheist Convention

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by HardNosedSkeptic

I thought those were three great tributes to Christopher. Many thanks to Richard and Lawrence for their contributions to that.

I, too, am still missing him. I wish I could have given him a piece of my life as a gift.

Sun, 27 May 2012 20:33:22 UTC | #943847

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 90 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 48 by ConsciousMind :

Comment 46 by Tyler Durden :

Comment 39 by ConsciousMind :

Do you know that over 99.9% of all claims in science has been wrong?

Do you know 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

I do not respond to non sequitur.

That is not a non sequitur. Tyler is merely pointing out that statistics can often be misleading, inaccurate, irrelevant, or just plain phoney. Will you please answer Michael’s question (re. Comment 49), i.e. will you please provide a source for your claim that “over 99.9% of all claims in science has been wrong”?

By the way, are you sure that you know what a ‘non sequitur’ is? Your posts seem to be full of them, so if you won’t respond to Tyler’s comment on the grounds that you (mistakenly) think that it is a non sequitur, they why shouldn’t we ignore your posts for the same reason?

EDIT: I have only just seen Richard’s post (Comment 89), so perhaps there is no need for mine after all? Well explained Richard.

Sun, 20 May 2012 14:27:59 UTC | #942441

Go to: "We Believe" Todd Stiefel speaking at the Reason Rally

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by HardNosedSkeptic

So there were some protesters at the Reason Rally (see about 04:55)? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Why would anybody want to protest about reason?

Sat, 12 May 2012 14:13:45 UTC | #941183

Go to: Mathematics: stupid and clever questions for people who understand

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons :

Quine, please tell me how you did an actual pi!

You can include Greek letters in your posts by making use of HTML entities. These are strings of characters which are interpreted by the browser as a single character. They always begin with an ampersand symbol (&) and end with a semicolon.

For pi (π), simply type π

You can include lots of mathematical and other symbols in the same way. For example, to include a “squared” symbol (e.g. 3x²) type ².

See here for a comprehensive list of HTML entities. I cannot guarantee it will be possible to use all of them on this website – you will have to use trial and error to a considerable extent.

Mon, 07 May 2012 21:56:03 UTC | #940432

Go to: Coming Out Campaign

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by HardNosedSkeptic

I think your link is broken. I have reported it to the moderators.

Did you mean this one?

Mon, 07 May 2012 20:00:40 UTC | #940379

Go to: Cardinal Brady will not resign over 'abuse failure'

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by HardNosedSkeptic

I think the most disturbing thing about this story is it involves a cardinal. Cardinals are not just any old priests are they? They are the inner circle of archbishops who vote in the papal conclave and have the ear of the pope. It’s outrageous.

Wed, 02 May 2012 20:51:24 UTC | #939138

Go to: Cardinal Brady will not resign over 'abuse failure'

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by HardNosedSkeptic

Cardinal Brady said he accepted he was part of "an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church".

An unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church?

Excuse me, but I think that he can make that just "culture of deference and silence in the Church”. It’s pretty clear from the evidence that the RCC was carefully covering up the behavior of its clergy. As soon as wider society found out what Sean Brady and his friends had been doing, it was appalled.

Wed, 02 May 2012 20:36:25 UTC | #939134

Go to: Richard Dawkins on Beautiful Minds - BBC Four Wed April 25

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 135 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 130 by debonnesnouvelles :

... can't help wondering about this dubious title "evangelical spokesman for atheism". I mean, militant, strident and shrill are now pretty much regarded as compliments. But evangelical?

That doesn’t surprise me at all. Richard Dawkins doesn’t have a holy book, but that doesn’t stop people calling him “fundamentalist”. Nor does he have a dogma, but that doesn’t stop people calling him “dogmatic”. So Richard is evangelical now is he? Only if words can mean anything you want them to.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 20:09:20 UTC | #937543

Go to: 'Extreme Universe' puzzle deepens

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by HardNosedSkeptic

From the original article:

…perhaps neutrinos are not produced in the numbers that physicists expect.

Maybe another possibility is that the right numbers of neutrinos are being produced but their energy is somewhat lower than expected? That might account for the lower than expected detection rate, because the IceCube detector is only sensitive to the very highest energy neutrinos.

Remember also that there are three different “flavours” of neutrinos. The detector is much more sensitive to one of the neutrino flavours than the other two.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 20:32:48 UTC | #937077

Go to: 'Extreme Universe' puzzle deepens

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 1 by zengardener :

I thought the rain of cosmic rays was less than light speed. wouldn't that make it difficult to tie together the neutrinos, and cosmic rays from the same Hypernova? Wouldn't the two particles arrive at a particular place, separated by an ever increasing amount of time?

In this study they were trying to detect neutrinos (not cosmic rays) that coincided with Gamma Ray Bursts. Since neutrinos and gamma rays both travel at the speed of light, there would be no time lag expected.

They were hoping to detect neutrinos coming from Gamma Ray Bursts because, had they done so, they could have inferred that cosmic rays were also produced in the same GRBs (because neutrinos are though to be produced when the gamma rays interact with the cosmic rays). Tying the detection of cosmic rays to GRBs would of course be very difficult, because of the time lag (as zengardener says).

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 20:02:46 UTC | #936791

Go to: Imagine: No religion

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by HardNosedSkeptic

I thought it was good. You obviously put a lot of work into it. What are you hoping to achieve by this though? Who is your ‘target audience’?

By the way: Slide 117 - “Cohesive to children”. Don’t you mean “Coercive”?

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 14:14:53 UTC | #936692

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 39 by QuestioningKat :

Now that we have proven that atheist have a brain, let show a little heart. The solution is simple, do not toss babies out the window --- because making babies cry is just being nasty. They have no choice in the matter.

Comment 40 by xmaseveeve :

Comment 39, Kat,

The solution is simple, do not toss babies out the window

Ha. My thoughts exactly!

Of course ladies. But I have said as much myself, and Zeuglodon said in his last post that “the fact that the babies are clearly in distress is justification in itself for discontinuing the practice”. So you must be fair on us. I think we all agree that the practice must stop, but persuading people to stop is easier said than done.

The point behind the physics was not to show that atheists have brains – we knew that already :-) The idea was to see whether (in addition to being very upset) the babies might also experience pain when they are caught by the blanket, or perhaps even be injured. I think that, at an impact speed in excess of 30 miles per hour, there is a good chance that this is so. Hopefully that might influence some people?

Fri, 13 Apr 2012 12:48:10 UTC | #934390

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 34 by Zeuglodon :

I don’t think we’ve derailed the discussion. I thought at first we might be over-analysing the issue a bit, but I’m not so sure now. Maybe the speed does matter? They wouldn’t be able to design modern safety devices like child car seats properly without some idea of the speeds involved.

A velocity of 13.5 m/s is the same as about 48.6 km/hour or 30.4 miles/hour, i.e. just over the legal speed limit in the UK (in a built up area). Can a baby always be safely brought to rest from this speed by a blanket? None of the babies in the (very short) YouTube video seemed to be injured, but maybe the impact is painful for some of them anyway? Even if it is not, the experience is clearly very distressing for many of the babies.

I don’t care very much want people believe, or what silly and pointless things they feel that their beliefs compel them to do. I just wish that they would leave children out of it.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 13:07:49 UTC | #934126

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 32 by Zeuglodon :

I understand the point Vorlund is making, but I think that there must be an error in his calculation. I think the baby would hit the blanket at just under 13.5 m/s. In order to hit the blanket at over 20 m/s, I think the baby would have to be thrown down at about 15 m/s. If anyone wants to see how all of this is worked out, feel free to ask.

Yes, please. I understand the formula involves the gravitational acceleration of the earth and the distance covered, but it's been years since I did this sort of thing, so I can't remember if there were other factors involved.

But this might be over-analyzing it just a tad? I would have thought the main point is that it’s a cruel practice that causes unnecessary suffering.

It is the main point that it causes unnecessary suffering, but there's not really much you can add to that.

I shrug. Might as well chuck in a physics lesson while we're at it.

Seeing as you insist...

It is a simple mechanics calculation using one of the equations of uniformly accelerated motion. Specifically, we use the equation relating the distance traveled (s) by an object undergoing a constant acceleration (a) and it's initial and final velocities (u and v).

        v² = u² + 2as

In this case, a is the acceleration due to gravity (g), so we have:

        v² - u² = 2gs

To a good approximation, g = 10m/s². Also, we know the distance traveled (s) is 9m (see the article), so we have:

        v² - u² = 180     (i.e. 2 x 10 x 9)

Assuming the baby starts from rest (i.e. u = 0) we have:

        v² = 180

Which makes v about 13.4m/s.

That's significantly less than 20m/s of course. In order to hit the blanket at that speed, the baby would have to start with an initial velocity u > 0. We can work out what u would have to be as thus:

        v² - u² = 180

i.e.    u² = v² - 180

For v > 20m/s, we have:

        u² > 220     (i.e. 400 - 180)

Which makes u at least 14.8m/s. In other words, in order to hit the blanket at Vorlund’s speed of 20m/s, the baby would have to be thrown downwards, with a starting speed of about 15m/s! As if simply dropping the baby from that height is not stupid and dangerous enough already.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 22:22:28 UTC | #934016

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 30 by Zeuglodon :

Comment 27 by Vorlund

A quick calculation indicates the child is going to hit the blanket at over 20m/s.

Call me lazy and ignorant, but where'd that number come from? I need to see your working.

I see what you mean Zeuglodon.

I understand the point Vorlund is making, but I think that there must be an error in his calculation. I think the baby would hit the blanket at just under 13.5 m/s. In order to hit the blanket at over 20 m/s, I think the baby would have to be thrown down at about 15 m/s. If anyone wants to see how all of this is worked out, feel free to ask.

But this might be over-analyzing it just a tad? I would have thought the main point is that it’s a cruel practice that causes unnecessary suffering

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:48:30 UTC | #933962

Go to: Religious "Baby Throwing" in India

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by HardNosedSkeptic

I completely agree that this disturbing practice needs to be ended straight away. There is no rational reason to believe that dropping a baby 9m from a balcony will “bring good luck, prosperity and health” in later life. I might be prepared to believe that it could give rise to an irrational fear of heights, but that’s about it.

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 20:16:27 UTC | #933740

Go to: People obsessed with numbers

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by HardNosedSkeptic

The authors of the Old Testament may well have been influenced by neighbouring cultures.

Numbers like three, five and seven were considered mystical by several of the ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East, not just the Hebrews (see here for instance). The number seven was so important to the Babylonians that they considered each seventh day to be a “holy day” (sound familiar?). The book of Genesis was written while the Hebrews were under captivity in Babylon, so you being to wonder whether it is more than a coincidence that they have a seven day week as well.

Why was the number seven was so important to so many ancient Middle Eastern cultures? I think the answer may well be found in astronomy. One possibility might be because there were seven ‘planets’ known to them (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun and the Moon – both the thought to be ‘planets’ in ancient times). But I think the answer is more likely to be something to do with the phases of the moon. The moon goes through a complete cycle every 28 days. So it takes 7 days for it to do a quarter of a cycle (from half moon to full moon say).

The ancients believed that the sky was where their Gods lived, as many people still do today, so it’s no wonder that any number that came out of patterns that they observed in the sky attained a mystical significance.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 22:12:07 UTC | #930454

Go to: The spectre of militant secularism

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by HardNosedSkeptic

Comment 13 by njwong :

Comment 2 by Richard Dawkins :

This is a text version of the excellent speech that Nick Cohen gave when presenting the awards at the National Secular Society's 'Secularist of the Year' lunch in London. Peter Tatchell, recipient of the main award, also gave a very good speech.

Richard

I just found Peter Tatchell's speech on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiQ712vtFis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDsbONI9Fys

The video is out of focus, but the sound quality is okay.

Thanks for posting those YouTube links njwong.

That was indeed a very good speech by Peter Tatchell, as Richard says. Peter Tatchell has suffered threats, intimidation and violence and it has not stopped him from campaigning for the rights of others, so he thoroughly deserves not only this award but also our deepest respect.

By the way, at the end of the first part of the speech (at about 9:40), the camera briefly swings into the audience. Do my eyes deceive me, or can you see Richard for a few seconds?

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:45:16 UTC | #928748

Go to: Westboro Baptist Church to attend Reason Rally with special message for atheists

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by HardNosedSkeptic

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no god...” Psalm 14:1

I think I agree with that. The heart is only a muscle. All the heart really does is pump blood, so you are indeed a fool if you think that your heart ‘says’ anything at all to you.

It’s our brains that say things to us. My brain tells me not that “there is no god”, but rather that there is no compelling evidence that the god of the bible (or any other god) is real. See the difference Mrs Phelps-Roper? That’s probably what your brain would tell you as well. If you used it.

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 22:31:40 UTC | #926531

Go to: The "So" meme

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by HardNosedSkeptic

Richard,

There was an article about this meme by Anand Giridharadas a couple of years ago. He says that it seemed to appear in Silicon Valley in around 1999 or with Microsoft employees. There are numerous comments following the article, some with links.

I hope you find this useful.

Sat, 03 Mar 2012 23:46:07 UTC | #924193