Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sol, Sun, and Son

Religion, science, and the solstice
This a fine editorial about Yule by James Carroll of the Boston Globe, I first saw over at DailyKos:

...Religion and science occupy separate and opposed spheres, no? Not to our distant forebears, from whom all of our illumination festivals derive. They could not afford the facile dichotomy between the sacred and the profane that defines thinking since the Enlightenment, when people of the West sought to free themselves from the bane of superstition. For most of history, though, religion was not taken to be a flight from rationality, but a mode of it...

Is it me, or have there been less articles this season about the phony 'War on Christmas', and more like the one above? I hope so. Carroll wishes for a peaceful resolution between two parties that are often at odds in our society:

When mystical wonder was walled off from measurable observation, science restricted its range, and religion anathematized critical thinking - disasters both. But the festivals this week, sparked by this morning’s dawn, call to mind the age-old spaciousness of informed imagination. Happily, it remains so. Knowledge is holy. Season’s greetings.

Happy Yule, everyone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

God Found! He's in your genes

The Evolution of the God Gene

There have been a couple of shots-across-the-bow directed at the neo-Atheists and others who delight in kneeling at the altar of reason. The above article points up the growing evidence that religion and spirituality have imparted an evolutionary advantage to our species:

...This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

Here's the part that will sting the biological determinists (oops, I mean neo-Atheists):

...For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

But don't feel so self assured, devout monotheists:

...For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

Now Pagans, Rejoice :

...But the evolutionary perspective on religion does not necessarily threaten the central position of either side. That religious behavior was favored by natural selection neither proves nor disproves the existence of gods...

Carl Sagan was right when he said in "Cosmos" that the interior of the cell nucleus housed the 'holy of holies'. But I've quoted too much from this excellent article by Nicholas Wade. Please give it a read. There's also Karen Armstrong's book "The Case for God":

...The time, in other words, is ripe for a book like “The Case for God,” which wraps a rebuke to the more militant sort of atheism in an engaging survey of Western religious thought. Karen Armstrong, a former nun turned prolific popular historian, wants to rescue the idea of God from its cultured despisers and its more literal-minded adherents alike. To that end, she doesn’t just argue that her preferred approach to religion — which emphasizes the pursuit of an unknowable Deity, rather than the quest for theological correctness — is compatible with a liberal, scientific, technologically advanced society...

Amen! Er, I mean--Amon! Armstrong argues for a point of view which many Pagans are familiar with (and something I've discussed here and on other blogs):

...Both modern believers and modern atheists, Armstrong contends, have come to understand religion primarily as a set of propositions to be assented to, or a catalog of specific facts about the nature of God, the world and human life. But this approach to piety would be foreign to many premodern religious thinkers, including the greatest minds of the Christian past, from the early Fathers of the Church to medieval eminences like Thomas Aquinas...These and other thinkers, she writes, understood faith primarily as a practice, rather than as a system — not as “something that people thought but something they did.” Their God was not a being to be defined or a proposition to be tested, but an ultimate reality to be approached through myth, ritual and “apophatic” theology, which practices “a deliberate and principled reticence about God and/or the sacred” and emphasizes what we can’t know about the divine...

What we do, or how we act, is more important than what we believe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pagan Temple under attack

On Oct 3rd of this year, I had the pleasure of attending a Pagan Pride event sponsored by Maetreum of Cybele, a pagan convent in Upstate NY in the town of Palenville. I vended at this event and attended an open circle. I had a great time. Unfortunately, the Maetreum is finding itself under attack:

...Not long after we purchased the property a local slumlord addressed a town meeting calling for us to be run out of town by way of zoning and building inspection harassment. While most of the people in town rejected his call and welcomed us, nevertheless over the course of the next several years we weathered continued harassment, vandalism, threats to “burn us out” followed by harassing and illegal inspections...

You can read more of the letter over at WildHunt.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Secret, 2012, and Heaven's Gate (UPDATED)

A while ago, I saw the "The Secret" DVD with a friend. My impression was that it was ridiculous on it's face. Where can I begin? How 'bout the hokey 'scientists' lending an air of credibility to pseudo-physics? Or maybe the incessant mantra of self-help speak mouthed by the participants? Best of all, if you were masochistic enough to sit till the end, came the requisite selling of cheap merchandise! A few months later, someone in our coven wanted to have a group "Secret" viewing. I noticed that at least one other group near me had a similar get-together.

I wish people in our community would do a better job calling out bullshit when they see it. You don't have to be mean about it, or try to make people feel small or stupid. But we can't ignore the tragic deaths that just occurred in a poorly constructed 'sweat lodge', sponsored by the charlatans behind the "The Secret". (For those wishing to read more about this, Jason at Wild Hunt is doing an excellent job covering the story, here and in his "Pagan News of Note, here.)

Does anyone remember "Heaven's Gate" and that cult's sick fascination with the arrival of comet Hale-Bopp? (If you want to read my rants on the subject, I blogged about it here). As bad at it is, at the point I'm writing this, only two people have died. But it could have been much worse.

The latest bunch of hooey to wash by the gutter is this "Mayan 2012" calendar stuff. It reminds me of the End-of-Days stuff spouted by Dominionist Xtians. I'm old enough to remember the "Jupiter Effect" nonsense from the 1970's. All sorts of calamities were suppose to ensue due to a rare planetary alignment. The fact that astronomers told us this alignment was indeed not going to happen, and even if it did would have virtually no effect on us, did little to stem the sale of "Jupiter Effect" books.

The people behind such things as "The Secret" and "2012" are parasites trying to make a buck off the gullible and weak. It wouldn't be so bad if it was only money at stake. But people getting involved in such things can be lead terribly--and sometimes tragically-- astray.

(UPDATE: A third person had died. The sheriff's dept, is treating the incident as a homicide. Details here.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carolyn Porco meets Marcus Aurelius

Two weeks, there was a piece in the NYTimes about Carolyn Porco and her remarkable contributions in imaging the outer planets of our solar system. A protege of Carl Sagan, she is credited as being the model for the character Dr. Ellie Arroway in the book/movie "Contact". Definitely an interesting read.

But today there was an interesting letter called "Eyeing the Cosmos"in the NYTimes, inspired by the article:

...In pondering the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos, Dr. Porco echoes yet another august figure in her ancestral patrimony, Marcus Aurelius: “The entire Earth is but a point, and the place of our own habitation but a minute corner of it...

If you have not read Marcus Aurelius, I highly recommend the recent translation by Gregory Hays, "Meditations: Marcus Aurelius" This book belongs on the self of every well-read Pagan/Wiccan/Atheist.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saxon Hoard Found

Amateur with Metal Detector Strikes Ancient English Treasure

A dedicated hobbyist, who was often made fun of for his passion, makes major archeological find:

LONDON — For the jobless man living on welfare who made the find in an English farmer’s field two months ago, it was the stuff of dreams: a hoard of early Anglo-Saxon treasure , probably dating from the seventh century and including more than 1,500 pieces of intricately worked gold and silver whose craftsmanship and historical significance left archaeologists awestruck.

Terry Herbert, the 55 year old discoverer of the find, sometimes offered up an intention when he started one of his explorations with a metal detector:

...He said that on the day of his discovery he reworked a mantra that he regularly used for good luck. “I have this phrase that I say sometimes — ‘Spirits of yesterday, take me where the coins appear’ — but on that day I changed ‘coins’ to ‘gold.’ I don’t know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening.”

This is a significant find:

...experts described it as one of the most important in British archaeological history. They said it surpassed the greatest previous discovery of its kind, a royal burial chamber unearthed in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk. That find shaped scholars’ understanding of the warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of 1,300 years ago that ended up as the unified kingdom of England...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clash of the Gods

Has anyone been watching "Clash of the Gods" on the History Channel? The show has been rather good. So far, episodes have covered Zeus, Hercules, Hades (the place and the God) and The Medusa. Most recently, 'Part I' of Odysseus aired. You can view some of the past episodes on the History channel website, above.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Darwin and the Pythoness

No U.S. distributor for Charles Darwin movie because of fear of fundamentalists

Many of you will remember the Xtian angst that ensued when the Monty Python movie "The Life of Brian" was released in the USA. At that time, I was friendly with a married couple who ran the a 'mom & pop' size theater in my college town. They were fans of Python, and dearly wanted to show the film. But they had received a very pointed threat against them on their answering machine, if they decided to show the film. They agonized whether they should show the film. In this case, this threat of terrorism had the desired effect. One of the owners told me that although someone defacing one of their movie screens would be covered by insurance, the loss of revenue would ruin them. (This was before studio owned megaplexes dominated the market). They decided not to show the film.

Well, it looks like the factually challenged have won the day again. The 'good' news is that theater owners will not have to sweat the decision to show the film or not, as the film now has about zero chance of finding a distributor in the US. From Crooks&Liars:

...Good God, what is this country coming to?

It seems the film Creation, a major-production biopic about Charles Darwin starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, won't be seen in the United States because no distributor with the guts to stand up to the religious right in this country can be found...

The producer said:

"...The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Venus and crescent Moon

Space Weather News for Aug. 16, 2009

For those getting up early, there's a cool site in the sky Monday morning:

MONDAY MORNING SKY SHOW: Set your alarm for dawn. On Monday morning, Aug. 17th, Venus and the crescent Moon will gather beautifully close together in the eastern sky. For many observers in North America, the International Space Station (ISS) will make an appearance, too. It's a fantastic way to begin the day. Check http://spaceweather.com for a sky map and ISS flyby predictions.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Amazon, or the Ministry of Truth

Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle

The ironies here are obvious. Of all "books" for Amazon to erase from Kindle, it's ones by George Orwell! All I can say is thanx, George, for showing how stupid it is to buy into such a dubious vehicle for the printed word. The old ways are best, folks. Stick with the printed word. At least when they want to burn your books, they gotta go through the trouble of breaking your door down, not just click an menu selection:

...In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them...Digital books bought for the Kindle are sent to it over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices — and apparently to make them vanish.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Queen of Entomology

Spider Lady of the Liverpool Albert Dock’s Bugworld Experience spins web of love for eight legged friends

Here's a lady after my own heart:

...Jenny’s hungry housemates include 40 tarantuas, a clutch of huntsman spiders, 20 scorpions, a colony of Madagascan hissing cockroaches, assorted giant millipedes and six hermit crabs....“I’m the spider lady,” jokes Jenny, 26. “I haven’t been away since going on a family holiday with my family because I couldn’t ask anyone to come in and feed them. But I don’t mind. They’re my life...”

I'm in love! Jenny manages the living exhibits at "Bugworld Experience". How cool is that! She even gets to take home some of her charges, ones that need special care, when exhibits are being worked on:

...But she and her fiance – who plan to marry at Chester Zoo – chose their home with their menagerie in mind...

FIANCE! Damn, why are all the good ones taken?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day at the Museum

Scientists study foes' ways at Creation Museum

Scientists are visiting the 'Creation Museum' in order to learn how they are portrayed:

...The real purpose of the museum visit is to give some of my colleagues an opportunity to sense how they're being portrayed," said Arnold Miller, a professor of paleontology at the University of Cincinnati, which is hosting the conference. "They're being demonized, I feel, in this museum as people who are responsible for all the ills of society...

I'm glad he used the term 'demonized'. That's the way most Dominionists and Eliminationists characterize anyone who does not subscribe to their myopic world view.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another "Stonehenge" discovered

Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via "Crop Circles
It's hard to believe that another Stonehenge-like complex has remained hidden all these years. But aerial photography of some peculiar 'crop circles' has revealed just that:

...For such a site to have lain hidden for so long is "completely amazing," said Wickstead, of Kingston University in London. Archaeologist Joshua Pollard, who was not involved in the find, agreed. The discovery is "remarkable," he said, given the decades of intense archaeological attention to the greater Stonehenge region. "I think everybody assumed such monument complexes were known about or had already been discovered," added Pollard, a co-leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dinosaur speaks!

Antediluvian politician Eye-of-Newt Gingrich took a moment from his 24/7 foaming at the mouth quest for power to utter this gem. From DailyKos:.

...I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism...

I have to hand it to the jackass, it takes a lot of scraping to get to our level of the barrel. I mean, I was starting to wonder if we had lost our relevance or something, as he's pissed-off just about every other sentient entity on this planet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did Alexander do it?

Skeleton 4,000 Years Old Bears Evidence of Leprosy

Where leprosy came from--and how it entered Europe--has been a mystery. Now, evidence from a bear skeleton points up a possible link with an important historical figure:

...The skeleton, about 4,000 years old, was found at the site of Balathal, near Udaipur in northwestern India. Historians have long considered the Indian subcontinent to be the source of the leprosy that was first reported in Europe in the fourth century B.C., shortly after the armies of Alexander the Great returned from India.

In addition, ancient religious texts now demonstrate some medical significance:

...The authors say their find confirms that a passage in the Atharva Veda, a set of Sanskrit hymns written around 1550 B.C., indeed refers to leprosy, a reading that had been doubted because until now the oldest accepted written accounts of the disease were from the sixth century B.C.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Burn'em all, let Allah sort them out.

Iran arrests 104 "devil worshippers": report

Now, I'm assuming this warrants the death penalty:

...The Islamic Republic, which bans alcohol and narcotics, last year said it would launch a crackdown on "indecent Western-inspired movements" such as rappers and satanists...

One Inquisitor, er, I mean investigator said:

"... a Guards intelligence unit launched an investigation into the all-male group about one year ago, leading to their arrest Sunday evening..."The group's aim was to promote irreligious behavior," Hamedi, adding they had posted footage of their parties on the Internet."

Damn that Internet!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dragons do spit fire!

Chemicals in Dragon’s Glands Stir Venom Debate

As if the Komodo Dragon could not get any more fascinating (and terrifying), some scientists are claiming that they are poisonous:

...a provocative paper to be published this week, an international team of scientists argues that the Komodo dragon is even more impressive. They claim that the lizards use a potent venom to bring down their victims...

The fact that these lizards can bring down large prey, such as pigs and water buffalo, has been attributed to their highly infectious bite. After biting a large animal, all the lizard would have to do is play a morbid waiting game. The prey would stagger off, later to keel over sick, then succumb to infection. However, some scientists have always questioned that scenario. Recently, an examination of the heads of several Dragons that died in captivity was revealing:

...The researchers found the second set of glands in the Komodo dragon heads, and inside they found venomlike proteins. Tests showed that one protein keeps blood from clotting. Another one relaxes blood vessel walls...

These scientists are claiming that this one-two punch--rapid blood loss and drop in blood pressure--is what causes prey to collapse soon after a bite. But some scientists are not so sure, as one points out:

"...I guarantee that if you had a 10-foot lizard jump out of the bushes and rip your guts out, you’d be somewhat still and quiet for a bit,” he said, “at least until you keeled over from shock and blood loss owing to the fact that your intestines were spread out on the ground in front of you...”

Heh! Point well taken. I think the jury is still out as to whether this Dragon spits fire.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wow, meteors from comet Halley! From SpaceWeather.com:

...Space Weather News for May 4, 2009
METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, May 6th, with as many as 85 meteors per hour over the southern hemisphere. Rates in the northern hemisphere will be less, 20 to 30 per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hour before local sunrise on Wednesday morning. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and details...

In the Northeast, we are completely rained in. Maybe some of my southern readers can catch a few meteors Wednesday night!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama at NSA

Obama speaks before the NSA today (here's the link to his speech). Some interesting bits.

And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined
and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance
predetermined ideological agendas.

...We know that our country is better than this.

That is why I have charged the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that
federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased
scientific information. I want to be sure that facts are driving
scientific decisions – and not the other way around...

On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear
message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a
back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation
– and our values as a nation – are rooted in free
and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to
undermine our democracy.

In reference to the importance of space exploration and the American moon landing:

The scientific community rallied behind this goal and set about
achieving it. And it would lead not just to those first steps on
the moon, but also to giant leaps in our understanding here at
home. The Apollo program itself produced technologies that have
improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors
to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials;
and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers.
And, more broadly, the enormous investment of that era –
in science and technology, in education and research funding
– produced a great outpouring of curiosity and
creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.

Here's a bit that will enrage flat-earthers, young-earthers, anti-evolutionists,
and the teabag crowd:

Fifth, since we know that the progress and prosperity of future
generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next
generation, today I am announcing a renewed commitment to
education in mathematics and science

That is why I am announcing today that states making strong
commitments and progress in math and science education will be
eligible to compete later this fall for additional funds under
the Secretary of Education's $5 billion Race to the Top program.

I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in
math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs,
upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the
use of science and technology in our classrooms. And I am
challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training,
and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to
better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our

Cool. Here's the link for the full transcript.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cleopatra's Tomb may be found

Cleopatra's Tomb Believed To Be At 1 Of 3 Egyptian Archaeological Sites

A find of coins bearing Cleopatra's image and a mask of Antony my point the way to the famous lover's tomb:

...Archaeologists looking for the tombs of the celebrated queen of Egypt and the Roman general will begin excavating three sites at a temple where tombs may be located, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

Always the defender of all things ancient Egyptian, Zahi Hawass chimes in, attacking a recent reconstruction of Cleopatra by a British team:

...Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, said the Cleopatra statue and coins _ which show an attractive face _ debunk a recent theory that the queen was "quite ugly. The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm ... and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive," said Hawass, according to the statement.

The British scientists based their reconstruction on Roman coins, which may have portrayed a less than flattering image of the Queen. But I'm with Hawass on this one: Cleopatra was HOT!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I saw this gem at HuffingtonPost (direct link):
DOBSON POINTS TO CULTURE WAR DEFEAT.... James Dobson delivered a farewell speech to the Focus on the Family staff, and conceded that the culture war he helped start hasn't turned out well for the agents of intolerance. Indeed, Dobson almost sounded resigned to defeat...James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family -- one of the largest Christian groups in the country -- and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff...

Said Dobson:

"...We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles."

The hieroglyph above is "Rejoice, exalt, support". In other words, 'Weeeeee!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Trespassing: Violators will be eaten

Komodo dragons kill Indonesian fisherman

I don't mean to make light of a personal tragedy, but these animals have killed a number of people (mostly tourists) over the years:

(CNN) -- An Indonesian fisherman has been killed by Komodo dragons after he was attacked while trespassing on a remote island in search of fruit, officials said Tuesday.

The article mentions a particularly hair-raising account of stranded scuba divers who had to fend off the reptiles before they were rescued.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I genuflect at their geekitude

Getting Their Kirk On

Trek fetishists have a new toy:

...Serious Trekkies have long fashioned copies of their favorite costumes and props, and, back in the ’70s and ’80s, a few even put together homemade knockoffs of the captain’s chair, using reference materials like the “Starfleet Technical Manual” and “U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge Blueprints...”

Big deal, who has not done that? But it gets better:

...But lately fans like Mr. Veazie have been building or buying...sophisticated versions of the command module from which James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, ordered “Ahead, warp factor six.” Moreover, they are making them the centerpiece of their homes, thus conquering what is for them a final frontier of domestic décor...The spread of digital video also helped the cause, allowing hobbyists to freeze-frame shots of the chair and scrutinize it from every angle. On message boards like Dewback Wing A.S.A.P.: A Site About Props, they swap and compare screen grabs, measurements, schematics and spare parts...

Wow! This is weapon-grade time-wasting here! But what good is the chair, some clueless people might think it a useless dust gatherer. Oh Ye of little faith:

...Some watch TV in theirs, or simply loll, and some seem to find the chair an empowering place from which to deal with others. “When we have a little family powwow — I have four children — I sit in it to lay down the law,” said Mr. Boyd, the auto parts manager.

You see, there's a spiritual aspect to all this! And this fellow is really following his bliss:

“...You sit in the chair,” Mike Paugh said, “and you’re watching an episode and pushing buttons and you find yourself saying, Fire photon torpedoes or whatever, and you’re making the sounds yourself because I don’t have the sound effects yet...”

But for some, it's a tougher path. One guy's wife just does not get it:

...To his regret, he must strike those poses in his home office. “My wife is not big on it,” he said. “I’ve actually been threatened with divorce if it comes into the living room...

I can see it now:

"You brought THAT into the living room," she shouts, "It's over! I'm out of this nuthouse!"

"But honey," he says, "if it's over, if you're out of here..."

"I want a DIVORCE!"

"If you're out of here, if it's over...if we GET A DIVORCE...!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mythical creature questions authority

A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors

Anyone having any doubt about the power of myth has not met the "grass-mud horse". This mythical creature has caused a sensation in China, presenting a headache for the country's heavy handed internet censors:

...A YouTube children’s song about the beast has drawn nearly 1.4 million viewers. A grass-mud horse cartoon has logged a quarter million more views. A nature documentary on its habits attracted 180,000 more...The grass-mud horse is an example of something that, in China’s authoritarian system, passes as subversive behavior. Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that. It has also raised real questions about China’s ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet...

Oh Grass Mud Horse, we could have used you during the Bush years!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hail Pachamama

Bolivian Constitution Mentions Earth Deity

Is Bolivia a trendsetter? If you are going to include religion in your constitution, at least embrace early as well as later gods:

...Bolivia has eliminated any mention of the Roman Catholic Church in its new constitution, and instead recognizes the Christian God and Pachamama, the Andean earth deity...

Roman Catholicism is out, but "the Christian God" is in! Not only that, but now the constitution is shared by "Pachamama", a deity I'm sad to say I've never heard of.

...Adoption of the governing document was celebrated in El Alto, one of Bolivia’s poorest cities. Festivities included a military parade and a ritual by an Aymara priest, who burned a llama fetus as an offering to Pachamama (or Mother Earth) to invoke divine protection for the charter.

Maybe this is where my rituals have been going wrong: I've not burn any llama fetuses! Heh!

President Evo Morales adds:

“...I believe strongly in the rites and in Mother Earth (Pachamama). But, of course, I am a Catholic and an admirer of Jesus Christ...”

This certainly is an interesting example of a local culture's expression of traditional religion, as well as their embracing and interpretation of later Christianity. Seems very polytheistic to me. After googling around a bit, I found a 'Pachamama Alliance' concerned with rain forest issues. Cool.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Witches burned in Kenya

Five suspected witches burnt to death in Kenya

More horrifying murderous persecution:

NAIROBI: Five elderly people suspected of practising witchcraft were burnt to death in western Kenya, police have said..."They include four women and a man in their 80's who were accused of having abducted a child," Kisii deputy police Commander Manasseh Musyoka said yesterday.

Besides the hideousness of this, I can't help but think it should give pause to all the well meaning scholarly Pagans out there who deny or trivialize the 'Burning Times'.
(thanx GreenGhost, for sending me the link)

Stop tracking mud in here!

Prints Show a Modern Foot in Prehumans

In a recent comment to this blog, in regards to a post about fossils, Riverwolf asked:

"I realize there are exceptions, but i was discussing this with a friend about how some Christians say these "discoveries" are all lies mention to destroy belief in God. What? Like, someone has enough money to go around creating fake bones and burying them??..."

Dammit! He's onto me! Yes, I fess-up. I'm the one who's been doing it. I hope Riverwolf and all you other lost/dammed souls appreciate my last effort:

...Footprints uncovered in Kenya show that as early as 1.5 million years ago an ancestral species, almost certainly Homo erectus, had already evolved the feet and walking gait of modern humans...An international team of scientists, in a report on Friday in the journal Science, said the well-defined prints in an eroding bluff east of Lake Turkana “provided the oldest evidence of an essentially modern humanlike foot anatomy.” They said the find also added to evidence that painted a picture of Homo erectus as the prehumans who took long evolutionary strides — figuratively and, now it seems, also literally...

OK, that's enough stomping around in the Antediluvian mud right now, I gotta go wash my feet...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer on his way to Riverworld

Philip José Farmer, Daring Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 91

One of the Greats has died:

...Philip José Farmer, a prolific and popular science fiction writer who shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and challenged conventional pieties of the genre with caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising, died Wednesday. He was 91 and lived in Peoria, Ill...His official Web site, pjfarmer.com, announced his death, saying he had “passed away peacefully in his sleep.” ...Mr. Farmer’s blend of intellectual daring and pulp-fiction prose found a worldwide audience. His more than 75 books have been translated into 22 languages and published in more than 40 countries. Though he wrote many short stories, he was best known for his many series of multiple novels. These sprawling, episodic works gave him room to explore the nuances of a provocative premise while indulging his taste for lurid, violent action...

Along with many short stories, his Riverworld series is the most famous.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It Came From La Brea

Los Angeles Tar Yields Mammoth’s Skeleton

Another creature has emerged from the famous La Brea Tar Pits. This time, it's a rather complete Mammoth:

...LOS ANGELES — The excavation for a parking garage near the La Brea tar pits here has yielded the site’s first intact mammoth skeleton as well as a trove of other bones that could double the size of the site’s already large collection of fossils from the last ice age...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Of Darwin, Dover And (Un)Intelligent Design

In order to honor Darwin's birthday, I'd like to post some snippets from the latest issue of Church & State Magazine, the zine of American's United. Please check out the above article, which is an interview with Kenneth Miller, who was a star witness in the landmark 'Kitzmiller v. Dover' case. Dr. Miller is one of the heroes who helped prove--in court--that 'intelligent design' is nothing but a scam:

Q. Religious Right activists would have us believe that all evolutionists are atheists. Is this true?

A. Of course not. Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the great evolutionary geneticists of the 20th century, was a professing Christian, as are scientists like Francis Collins, who directed the Human Genome Project. The tired stereotype of science vs. religion is often used as a weapon against the teaching of evolution in our schools, but it makes no logical sense. A recent survey of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest scientific organization in the United States, showed that fully 40 percent believed in a God to whom one could pray, expecting an answer.

Q. As a Christian, do you ever find there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and your scientific work?

A. Certainly not in my own work. If faith and reason are both gifts from God, they should complement each other, not provoke conflict. To a person of faith, science is the activity of applying human reason to explore the work of God, and religion should support it completely.

Q. Are you optimistic that this battle can be won?

A. If I wasn’t an optimist, I wouldn’t be a scientist. Science is built around hope and faith – the hope that new discoveries and new ways of understanding are possible, and the faith that the world will be a better place as a result of that. If we apply those values to politics and popular culture, I am convinced that the American people will choose science every time. The outcomes of recent elections in states like Ohio and Kansas convince me that we can win the contest for public opinion – but only if we take our case directly to the people.

Well said! But it'd be nice if some Pagan scientists would speak up from time to time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Green Comet

Green Comet Approaches Earth

It would be great if this comet becomes visible to the naked eye. But even if it does not grow into something special (that catches the traditional media's attention), it probably will be amazing to behold in a small telescope or binoculars:

...The comet makes its closest approach to Earth (0.41 AU) on Feb. 24, 2009. Current estimates peg the maximum brightness at 4th or 5th magnitude, which means dark country skies would be required to see it. No one can say for sure, however, because this appears to be Lulin's first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Surprises are possible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Zeus, where were you when we needed you!

Charles H. Schneer, Sci-Fi Film Producer, Dies at 88

My favorite film director, Charles H. Schneer, has passed to SummerIsle:

...Charles H. Schneer, a noted film producer who for a quarter-century helped the Oscar-winning special-effects wizard Ray Harryhausen lay waste to Washington, San Francisco, Rome and many other places, died on Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 88...

With Schneer directing the live action, in close consultaion with Harryhausen animation work, we have some of the best Cult/Psychtronic/Mythic classics of all time, such as:

...“Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956); the Sinbad trilogy, comprising “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1974) and “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (1977); and “The Three Worlds of Gulliver” (1960). Their last film together was “Clash of the Titans” (1981), which, despite a cast of titans including Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith and Ursula Andress, had a lukewarm reception...

Yes, perhaps 'lukewarm' reception, but to this day people come up to me relating their warm fuzzy feelings for "Clash of the Titans". Yet, for me the best film was "Jason and the Argonauts":

...Their most famous collaboration was “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), a retelling of the Greek myth that featured an army of walking, swashbuckling skeletons, memorably animated by Mr. Harryhausen...

This part from the obit was pretty funny and interesting:

...A hands-on producer, Mr. Schneer contributed enthusiastically to the story lines of his films, Mr. Harryhausen said on Monday. He scoured the papers for accounts of the paranormal, of which there was no shortage in the 1950s. He accompanied his crews on location, and at least once helped stave off an embarrassing anachronism...The film was “Jason and the Argonauts,” shot on the Italian coast. In one scene, the script called for Jason’s ship, the Argo, to sail around a bluff and into view. But as the cameras rolled, to everyone’s astonishment, Sir Francis Drake’s galleon the Golden Hind sailed by instead. It had been launched by a British film crew also shooting in the area. As Mr. Harryhausen recalled in an article he wrote for The Guardian in 2003, Mr. Schneer rose to the occasion at once. “Get that ship out of here!” he cried. “You’re in the wrong century.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scientists weep with joy

Scientists Welcome Obama’s Words

President Obama's statement that he will “restore science to its rightful place" brought joy to scientists thought the US government. Although many scientists (and science policy experts) realize it will take years to repair the damage of Bush's antediluvian rules and regulations, many are optimistic:

...Still, many scientists were exuberant. Staff members throughout the government’s scientific agencies held inaugural parties on Tuesday, and many reported being teary-eyed with joy. “If you look at the science world, you see a lot of happy faces,” said Frank Press, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former science adviser to President Jimmy Carter. “It’s not just getting money. It’s his recognition of what science can do to bring this country back in an innovative way.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

This does not compute!

Damn, the fellow who played the Robot in Lost in Space has crossed over to SummerIsle.

LOS ANGELES — Bob May, who donned The Robot's suit in the hit 1960s television show "Lost in Space," has died. He was 69....May's robot was the Robinson family's loyal sidekick, warning them of approaching disaster at every turn. His line to one of the children, "Danger, Will Robinson," became a national catch phrase.

Keep a friendly eye on Dr. Smith, loyal Robot.
(Thanx, Green Ghost, for telling me about this.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A very bright Goddess

Go out and enjoy the planet Venus. She is amazingly bright right now. From the Jan 14th edition from spaceweather.com:

...HOURS OF VENUS: Today and for the rest of the week, Venus is at maximum elongation (greatest apparent distance) from the sun. This means the silvery planet is "up" for more than three hours after sunset. Go outside after dark, face south, and take a long look. Venus is so bright it outshines city lights and even pierces thin clouds. The view through a backyard telescope may surprise you. Check http://spaceweather.com for images and more information.

Yewtree sent me an interesting link about the "ashen" light of Venus. Keen observers have noted this phenomena from time to time.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Suspected Witch Burned Alive

Woman suspected of witchcraft burned alive


...(CNN) -- A woman in rural Papua New Guinea was bound and gagged, tied to a log and set ablaze on a pile of tires this week, possibly because villagers suspected her of being a witch, police said Thursday...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tree Lobsters make great pets

Tree Lobsters!!
BugGirl has an amazing item about the rediscovery of "Tree Lobsters", a previously thought-to-be-extinct species of Phasmid (that's 'walking sticks' to all you non-bug geeks people out there). The original article is in German.

BugGirl humorously suggest maybe people should develop a taste for these critters, therefore insuring their survival via farming. Yum! But captive breeding has worked for certain invertebrates, such as tarantulas and tree snails. Thankfully, there is group now formed, TheFriendsOfThePhasmid, that's focusing on the survival of these fascinating insects.