Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Assorted Links

Hello from the Bay Area! I haven't yet had a chance to hit a San Francisco Atheists event, but I'm looking forward to expanding the San Diego New Atheists brand to NorCal. If you're an SDNAer visiting or living up here, drop me a line - mdcblogs@gmail.com.

In the meantime:

1) Here's a great TED talk about rationality as applied to political participation. Bad thinking often involves fixed beliefs related to group afiliation, whether or not those beliefs have a supernatural justification, and politics certainly fits the bill. Money quote: "...if you think that the community of experts on this subject are wrong, and especially if you think that while being unable to state their arguments, then you are almost certainly the one who's wrong." Also a nice list of irrationality telltates starting at 11m30s.

2) The Book of Revelations: magic pamphlet of prophecy, or coded commentary on political goings-on of the day? (Or heavy metal source book?*) An Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker gives the historical facts. It turns out that the famous 666 is actually just Hebrew code for Nero; I don't know if that makes it less metal. As cool as this is, it pales in comparison to the known facts of the language of Genesis - for example, that there are linguistic fossil traces of a polytheistic stage of Abrahamic religion, because "In the beginning the God*S* created Heaven and Earth." More on this and the evolution of monotheism here and here.

3) Teller speaks: the quiet half of Penn and Teller tells neuroscientists what's what by pointing out how magicians have been exploiting illusions and cognitive foibles since always.

4) The Bible is not a medical textbook. No kidding! Again the obvious question for creationists: where are the creationist biotech companies, out there crushing the market because they're unhindered by this foolish theory of evolution? Where were the creationists among all those brilliant nineteenth century European and North American pathologists who invented modern medicine? Almost makes you think creationism has zero value in terms of understanding the world and making good decisions.

*If you're now walking around humming Maiden tunes all day because you clicked on that, I deny all responsibility.

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