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Carl Sagan’s Foreboding

I’m fascinated by this quote by Carl Sagan from his book The Demon-Haunted World.

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

I couldn’t agree more. When critical thinking and scientific know-how give way to complacent acceptance of unverified (or unverifiable) declaratory statements, whether they be dogmatic or not, human existence starts to lose its luster.

Founded as a Christian Nation? No.

One of the common claims that tends to irk me more than some others is the claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation or based on Christian principles. This misconception has been refuted a multitude of times, but the refutations always seem to fall on the deaf ears of self-righteous, Christian ignorance.

The claim is usually made during political discussions, but the intellectual morose of the argument is evident regardless of context. I most frequently hear the statement from people who don’t have the information required to back up the claim and who refuse to acknowledge any evidence that threatens to penetrate their self-imposed cocoon of ignorance. For good reason, it seems, since if they did choose to acknowledge the evidence, their claim would be simply invalidated.

Looking at the text that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America used makes it unquestionably evident that a “Christian Nation” was not what they intended to create.

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Inhibiting Education

I was speaking with a co-worker this morning and she was telling me about her son’s recent experience at school. Every year, the school takes the seventh-grade students to a local community health center, divides the boys and girls, and gives each group a presentation on bodily changes (of both sexes) that will soon be happening (if they’re not already). Basically, it’s sex-ed biology… puberty, hormones, etc.

This year, evidently there were some parents who complained that they didn’t want their children subjected to that presentation. My co-worker didn’t know how many parents complained, but her son said that one girl is a (vocal) Christian and her mom complained. It’s probably a safe bet that any parents who complained did so because of their religious beliefs. Granted, there could potentially be other reasons, but it’s unlikely.

Because of the parental complaints, all the students were given a presentation on drug use instead of the planned “Your Developing Body” curriculum. While education about drug use is definitely valuable, it seems to be, given the age of the students, a second-rate substitute. Learning about puberty and the biological changes that they’ll be going through is more time-sensitive for that age group than learning about drug use.

I have two issues with this situation.

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The Ten Commandments: Why most of them aren’t even good suggestions (Part 1)

The source for the following essays is Deuteronomy 5:6-5:21.

How many times has the debate on religion begun, only to end in short order with the religious apologist arguing that what you say may or may not be true but you can’t argue that the TEN COMMANDMENTS weren’t a great contribution to out collective civility.

Wrong. I can. Lets take them one at a time. Over the next ten weeks I’m going to be discussing one commandment per week. Here goes.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

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Hitchens Debates Boteach

Christopher Hitchens is great in this debate with Rabbi Boteach about the (non)existence of God. He argues his point while Boteach spends 98% of his time trying to discredit Hitchens and evolution rather than answering the questions or addressing the topic.