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616 newsitems found. Page 6 of 62.
The Museum of Life
Just a shout-out to those who have the ability to watch the BBC.
The new series The Museum of Life about the Natural History Museum in London is very good.

I love the Natural History Museum. When I was a child we often went to England on our holidays. Whenever we were in London we would visit the Natural History Museum as I was a fiend for dinosaurs. I loved that museum, the bigness of it, the vast hall with equally vast skeletons and even more knowledge. This is as close to a spiritual cathedral as I'll ever get to a building if that makes sense.

My apologies for the very bad image below but it's the only picture I have of the Natural History Museum, plus it holds special meaning to me. My dad took it when he went on a study trip to London for a month and he sent this to me in one of his letters home (this was a long time ago when people actually wrote letters!). I just made a snapshot with my camera, hence the poor quality.

How I became an atheist - pt. 3
Roger Ebert: Jesus was a Nazi. So's your preacher:
"Nowhere does Jesus say, Hey, if somebody asks for your shirt, give your coat to the government and have the government give them a pair of slacks." Well, Beck has me there. It is quite true that nowhere does Jesus say that. Nor, for that matter, does he ever say, A wop bop a lu bop, a wop bam boom!

And that is why I am an atheist. It seems to me that a faith that has such wondrous things as angels (9 different kinds!), talking snakes, splitting seas, transforming water into wine, women made out of spare ribs and a whole lot of smiting and begetting should have a saviour that says things like "A wop bop a lu bop". It makes about as much sense as anything else.

Seriously, these guys are just making it up as they go along: The Nine Choirs of Angels. The people that believe in this kind of fluff have tremendous power over humanity, through institutions like the catholic church and religious politicians. That scares me. A lot. And what makes it even scarier is that somehow we have to engage these people on an equal footing and "respect" their beliefs and engage in a constructive dialog.

These people are batshit insane! I wouldn't trust them with my house keys, let alone trust them to do what's best for an entire country or the world.

Fireside hot chocolate
Today's Savage Chickens has the absolute best in Olympic demonstration sports, Fireside hot chocolate. Where can I sign up?

How I became an atheist - pt. 2
Seeing as I made part 1 of my series on how I became an atheist about music it is of course not surprising that I make part 2 about music as well. Yes, music did play a huge part of my life in my formative years, and I am taking this opportunity to relive my youth (heck, I am a few days away from 40th birthday so don't begrudge me this).

Part 2 is really not as easy to encapsulate in 1 blogpost so I'm going to link to the entire album Hammerheart by Bathory.
Read the lyrics and understand the following:
This is an album about the ancient vikings, who were living their lives and then got "converted" to christianity. It's a shocking example of how a proud race (with detestable morals, to be sure) got neutered.
Groooveshark has got a few songs from the album Hammerheart if you care to register.

Yes, as the songs testify to, the ancient Vikings had a religion before christianity but Christianity was forced upon them and this was not done by reason but rather by the power of the sword.

To get the whole context I suggest you read through the lyrics of the whole album Hammerheart and pay particular attention to part 7: One Rode To Asa Bay.

Here is the story of a proud race beaten down by force and the sword of Christ. The Christ of love and forgiveness!? Or so they tell us anyway...
Of course the morals of the ancient vikings are questionable in today's light, but is it much different from today's interventions in the middle east? Or the appropriation of the promised land in the late 1940s?
How many UN resolutions has Israel ignored in the past 60 years? And what consequences has it really faced?

My answer would be a lot and remarkably little, respectively.
The power of religion is all around us and it shapes our countries' foreign policies to a stunning degree. More so than many atheist would care to admit to.
One man rode the way through the woods
Down to Asa bay
Where dragon ships had sailed to sea
More times than one could say
To see with own eyes the wonder
People told of from man to man
The God of all almightyness
Had arrived from a foreign land

The rumours told of a man
Who had come from the other side the seas
Carrying gold cross around neck in chain
And spoke in strange tongue of peace
He had come with strange men in armour
Dressed in purple shirts and lace
Smelling not of beer but flowers
And with no hair in face

And the bold man carrying cross
Had told all one of Asa bay
The God of all man woman child had come
To them all save
And to thank Lord of Heaven
One should build to God a house
And to save one's soul from Hell
One should be baptised and say vows

A man of pride with the Hammer told new God
To build his house on own
And spoke loud of the Gods of their fathers
Not too long time gone
The rumours said the man with a beard like fire
And the Hammer in chain
By men in armour silenced was and by
Their swords was slain

Those who did not pay the one coin
Of four to man of new God
Whipped was twenty and put in chains then locked
By their neck to the log (To the log...)
And so all of Asa bay did build
A house of the cross
Every hour of daylight they did sweat
Limbs ached because faith does cost

And on the day two hundred
There it stood white to the sky
The house of the God of the cross
Big enough to take two dragon ships inside
And all of Asa bay did watch
The wonder raise to the sky
Now must the God of the cross be pleased
And satisfied

Just outside the circle of the crowd
One old man did stand
He looked across the waters
And blotted the sun out of his eyes with one hand
And his old eyes could almost see
The dragon ships set sail
And his old ears could almost hear
Men of great numbers call out Oden's hail

And though he did know already
Though he turned face towards sky
And whispered silent words forgotten
Spoken only way up high
Now this house of a foreign God does stand
Now must they leave us alone
Still he heard from somewhere in the woods
Old crow of wisdom say
...people of Asa land, it's only just begun...

[Dedicated to Mr. Dean Andersson]

Bathory - hammerheart (1990) - One Rode To Asa Bay

"it's only just begun..."

how true that is.

How I became an atheist - pt. 1
There's many paths to becoming an atheist, here's part 1 of my story. Though it's not really part 1 - I was a conscious atheist a few years before 1989 - but it's as good a place to start as any. I may or may not post further parts, depending on how I feel or on what enters my mind.

Oh instrument of God force -
Fed on ignorance and lies,
So blind and narrow-minded
That you cannot compromise.
Even the most foolish thief
Should know what he is taking -
Lest he find himself within a
Cage of his own making.
The Ways of Wyrd are many and
Our path you must decide,
For the secrets that you seek
Are all around you-
Use your eyes.
The threads cannot be broken
That have brought you here to me -
And bind two foes together
Like the best of enemies.

You gaze upon me -
I can tell what you see,
A simple man -
With simple thoughts and simple needs.
Superstition -
Preying on a mind filled with fear,
To all your 'enlightened' ideas.
Yet I will show you more than
You can comprehend,
Beware delusion is a
Dangerous friend.

Ask loaded questions seeking
Knowledge of a faith that
You wish to pervert -
All our values,
With hidden meanings
You try concealing your
Underlying wish to convert -
'heathen' souls,

To a faith that will doubtless
Send our Gods to the grave -
Mistake you're making overlooking
The fact that we might not want
To be 'saved'.

Fear is an old friend of mine,
We have met many times before.
(Drawn to these spirits like
Moths to a flame-
When there is no risk then
There can be no gain).
Death is a harsh fact of life
You cannot avoid or ignore.

The Life-force is as strong in
You as it is strong in me,
The difference is what you
Hold captive I set free.
You seek to subjugate all

Those who won't comply,
I'll take your prejudice and
Pride and show you why -
The values that you hold so dear
(all your laws and rules),
They hold no more sway here
Than the mutterings of fools.
Just look about you and
I'm sure that you will find -
Heaven lies within our hearts
And Hell is but a figment of
Your mind.

These teachings that you deem so
Sacred become words devoid of meaning,
When compared unto a faith that

Preaches something worth believing.
What is to become of us when
Truth is turned to lies,
Will none remain to wipe the tears
When Mother Nature cries?

Mother Nature cries!

Proceed with caution -
Subservient to all you survey,
Hidden dangers await us on
Each step of our way.
Do not falter -
For if you do you do you will fall,
Prey unto perils far worse
Than you've encountered before.
Compared unto the threats we face
Your devil seems so mild,
A relic from the faerie-tales my
Mother told me as a child.

Why do you carry your God
Like a weapon -
A dagger drawn ready to strike
At the heart of a foe when you
Don't really know the reason
That you fight? -
To replace our disgrace with
The 'loving' embrace of your Lord -
Can't you see that the plans
Made for me and my people
To us seem absurd.

Death is the only recourse
I require in my hour of need.
(Drawn to the spirits like
Moths to a flame -
When there is no risk then
There can be no gain).

Impassive it shows no remorse
For folly and greed.

Pre-emptive prejudice has
Dogmatised your life,
These blinkered views that once
Held true will no longer suffice.
For in my world there is no point
Where you can draw the line,
'twixt good and evil,
Saint and sinner,
Damnate and divine.
Shaven-headed servant of
An infantile faith -
By what right do you presume
To come and take my place?
If there is one grain of truth
Amidst your hoard of lies, 'tis
"Love your neighbour as yourself"

With this alone I can abide.

These teachings that you deem so
Sacred bcome words devoid of meaning,
When compared unto a faith that
Preaches something worth believing.
What is to become of us when
Truth is turned to lies,
Will none remain to wipe the tears
When Mother Nature cries?

Mother Nature cries!

When living your life
Like an arrow in flight
You must always accept that
The end is in sight,
Be grateful at least for the fact
That you knew you came to death -

He did not come for you.

You are like targets
Who sit and await -
Patiently suffer
The arrows of fate,
Saying "I am but mortal
And destined to die -
I can change nothing
So why should I try?"

Each morning you wake is an
'ember day' dawning,
Your penance for living in
Permanent mourning.
By erstwhile ideals your
Hearts are enslaved,
You crawl out of the cradle
Straight into the grave.
What reward is a banquet
Of red wine and bread,
When you hunger for life -

But on death you are fed?

Do not underestimate
The task you undertake,
Overcome your hopes and fears
And meet them face to fate.
These spirits aren't your enemies -
But neither are they friends,
Do not dare insult them lest
All nature you offend.
They who were here before us
Will remain when we have gone,
And though we're long forgotten
Still their memory will live on.
Perhaps one day mankind will see
The error of it's ways,
And in it's future glimpse
Reflections of our yesterdays.

Drawn to these spirits like
Moths to a flame -
When there is no risk
Then there can be no gain.

Lyrics from Sabbat - Dreamweaver (1989) - The Best Of Enemies as found on the internets and slightly modified by me for spelling.

Dreamweaver incorrectly attributed as Dreamweavers

All you need to know about DRM
One of my colleagues from a competing higher education library wrote a blogpost today which had a very revealing picture about DRM.
The article itself is in Dutch but the illustration is in English and tell you all you need to know about DRM.

The stupidity, it burns
Haha, the wedge idiots of Uncommon descent don't understand the 2nd law of thermodymamics.
No big surprise there, but the boldness with which they close the argument is beyond belief. You're no longer able to comment on the post "In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design" which is a crying shame as I have some thoughts on that.

I'll repost the final comment by Granville Sewell which is simplistic and stupid in the extreme:
“Entropy” is understood by physicists as a measure of disorder; so I define “order” to be the opposite of entropy, period. Thus where entropy is quantifiable, as in thermal entropy (or entropy associated with the distribution of anything else that diffuses), it is simply the negative of entropy. Where entropy is not so quantifiable, I still define it as the opposite, so that when entropy increases, eg, when a building is demolished, “order” decreases. I could have made the whole argument in terms of “entropy”, only used the term “order” because I thought it was less confusing to talk about order increasing than about entropy decreasing, but apparently that didn’t help. Go back and re-read, everywhere you see “order increases” read “entropy decreases” and vice versa, and it should be clearer.

But I don’t understand how you could think the “creation of a spaceship out of a lump of metal” would constitute a decrease in order, everyone else would consider this a decrease in disorder, ie in entropy.

What mr. Sewell appears to not understand (or refuses to understand given his first paragraph which is redundant to say the least) is the simple fact that spaceships do not appear out of nowhere simply by the input of energy (from the sun I assume). They are built by beings that use fossil fuels to extract, refine and smelt metals from the earth. These beings build upon scientific and engineering knowledge gathered throughout millennia to construct craft that are capable of interplanetary flight. Sewell's argument is akin to the blind watchmaker argument, which has been countered ages ago.

As The Panda's thumb states about this: [...]in a closed system entropy does increase, but the biosphere is not a closed system — it is utterly dependent on inflows of energy, mostly from the sun, and the entropy increase from the outflow of energy from the sun far exceeds the decrease of entropy by reproduction and by evolution.

How do you think fossil fuels got here? How do you think a spacecraft engineer fuels his/her metabolism and lifestyle (food, housing, ipods)? How do you think an engineer refines metals? How do you think (s)he evolved? Do you think that burning fossil fuels gives you a net loss or even an equilibrium of entropy? If so you should have failed basic physics in high school (or equivalent if you're not an American like I am).

Any step requiring energy constitutes a loss of energy and therefore an increase in entropy. Photosynthesis is stupendously, remarkably efficient, but there is still a loss of energy and thus an increase of entropy. Fossil fuels are created, ultimately, by photosynthesis so there's your first (and second) loss. Burning fossil fuels to first build and then power your spacecraft gives you another series of losses. Also you need to power the thought (and associated cost) that goes into building and piloting a spacecraft and before you know it less than 1/10.000th (I'm being optimistic here as I disregard the whole cost of life's history, if we accept that whole evolution thing,) of the energy of the sun put into plants is put into the construction of your spaceship. It's all of a level a high school student should understand to be honest.

By the way I am not the harold commenting (4th) on The Panda's Thumb thread, though I do agree with what he says as far as I understand it, he seems like a smart person, worthy of the name harold, though I would have written it with a capital H :).

I Aten't Dead
There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average lifespan was … 35!
Longing for a past that never existed

I was talking with some friends only a few days ago about this and other aspects of science. It was a most stimulating conversation.
I am slightly more than a week away from 40 as I write this, there is no doubt in my mind that without modern medicine I would have been dead by the time I reached 16 as that is when I had acute appendicitis. I remember it well as I had to take some exams a few weeks later and used my time in hospital to study. Of course 50.000 years ago I wouldn't have gone to school either and would probably have believed the sun was pushed through the sky by a dung beetle or something.
I do like beetles though...

The continuing winter is getting tiresome but Winter's Into Darkness/Eternal Frost album from 1992 is still insanely cool.

Grooveshark only has one song of this but it's one of the best: Winter - Into Darkness/Eternal Frost - Goden.

Edit: woops, they also have Into Darkness but sadly in horrendous quality.

Edit2: seems you need to have an account (free though) with Grooveshark to listen to the previous links I posted but here's a widget that should work for everyone:

Do Olympic athletes dream of lost worms?
Had the most stunning dream just before I woke up: line up about half a dozen worms and let 'em watch TV. See if they get bored. Write a paper and win the nobel prize.

On a separate, but slightly related, note Dutch TV is airing Lost season 6 and all I can say after seeing the first 3 episodes is:

What the FUCK is going on???

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