Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Blogging Skeptic's Atheist Christmas

Only 6 days till…well you know what. It’s Christmas! The awkward time of the year for atheists- the decision whether to celebrate it is a sensitive issue for many atheists. It is the balance between family, sentiment and personal objection to this religious holiday that many find difficult.  

Whilst some object altogether about celebrating this holiday there are others who celebrate what is becoming an increasingly secularised celebration. With atheist participation in Christmas it highlights and increases the awareness that this event is a somewhat secular holiday. Even if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas per se, why not celebrate the fact it is a public holiday. Or make up your own celebration- the birth of Richard Dawkins perhaps? Who cares if Dawkin’s was born in March it makes perfect sense to celebrate it in December, after all Jesus wasn't born in December!

Now onto Tim Minchin and his brilliantly crafted and intelligent exploration into a Christmas for non-believers. Although this song was released in 2009, it never ceases to fade in its magnificence and is still my number 1 Christmas song each year. The song portrays Tim’s feelings about how Christmas is still important to non-religious people and the sentient, along with sharing time with your family is important.

Whatever your views and whatever holiday you will be celebrating, Happy Holiday and Merry Chri...HOLIDAY!- From The Blogging Skeptic

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Derren Brown Part 2- Religious Experience

As promised, here is my response to Derren Brown’s ‘Faith’ show. The shows are still on 4oD if you wish to watch them.

In this programme Derren Brown demonstrates how a ‘religious experience’ can be induced on someone, in this case a stem-cell scientist and a strong atheist. It was a fascinating show because Derren was not presenting full conclusive evidence for the non-existence of God(s) but exploring that the belief in God could stem from our humanistic needs and is hard-wired into us.

The concept of a God was always going to be applied by humans to explain the world no matter whether it was true or not, centuries ago humans knew very little about the world around them and the need to be able to explain the world was essential to the basics of living. As Derren showed in this programme we are all susceptible to suggestions of a supernatural presence, in essence it is hard wired into every one of us. He used several experiments on members of his audience to demonstrate this. He performed a satanic ritual where the person read out a satanic rite declaring their allegiance to Satan, out of an audience consisting of mainly atheists, agnostics and skeptics only a few were willing to perform it- 11 out of 160. As Derren after this said “we are all born with an inbuilt hardwired tendency to believe,” and it was that niggling doubt in the back of their minds that made them not decide to partake.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Derren Brown Part 1- Placebo Effect

In this post and the next I am exploring Derren Brown’s ‘Fear and Faith’ shows. I am looking at part 1, ‘fear’ which examines the placebo effect. The first show was broadcasted on Friday 9th November, apologies for time delay. The shows are still on 4oD if you wish to watch them. 

In the programme, at first Derren Brown reveals a drug ‘Rumyodin’ that inhibits fear; it had been used within the U.S army and now they had the permission to use the drug on a clinical level for a select few members of the public. After several minutes he reveals that it is in fact a fake, the drug does not exist and it is simply an elaborate fa├žade for a placebo pill. Derren cleverly created the name ‘Rumyodin’ which is actually an anagram of ‘your mind.' After this it shows Derren leading several people into Cicero’s (the fake company) medical centre and the placebo effect has already begun with the professionalism of the trials and the medical centre.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Church of England's Opposition To Women Bishops

Last week the Church of England voted against the introduction of women Bishops. The General Synod requires a two-thirds majority in the three houses (Bishops, Clergy and Laity) to be able to pass a vote, in this case it failed to be passed because 122 out of 324 members voted against it- 62% voted in favour for this vote.

I read a Telegraph article on this topic that went by the title Swaziland has a woman bishop – why not Suffolk?’ It started with telling the story of how Ellinah Wamukoya became the first female bishop in Swaziland with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. People are bemused at how a country like Swaziland which does not have a particularly good reputation for being liberal is seemingly ahead of us in terms of liberal development. Though it does appear to be ridiculous, this comparison does really not have much relevance to the whole situation and it is probably fair to say that this is one of the only things in which Swaziland is more liberal in- though please do correct me if I am wrong.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Evolution vs. Creationism, Truths And Lies

I find it horrifically sad that in this day and age people are still being allowed to corrupt the educational system and brainwash children into believing in creationism.

Creationism is the belief that a supernatural being created Earth, there are numerous subgroups of creationism with further beliefs. I will be referring to the creationism that is being taught in the place of science that opposes the Darwinian theory of evolution.

In the words of Tim Minchin, ‘Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved.’ The whole concept of creationism is the denial of truth when evidence is staring them in the face and somehow they still find it a truthful concept to believe in without a shadow of doubt. Just like water flowing from a tap, evidence for evolution is abundant. I am no expert on Darwin’s theory of evolution yet I could easily reel off lists of what presents evidence supporting it: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, fossil comparisons, DNA genetic sequences, pseudogene, peppered moth evolution, the list goes on…

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Alien vs. Ghost

I sat down to watch the television several days ago only to find that a new series of ‘Most Haunted’ was on, despite my strong opposition to psychic mediums claiming they can communicate with the dead I decided to watch it. I never realised how much of a comedy it was!

Getting back on to the subject…I wanted to explore the believability of ghosts and aliens and ask the question which are more believable? Aliens and ghosts are two very ambiguous terms; I feel that when people hold a belief in aliens in this context they are referring to an intelligent life form and not merely the existence of single celled organisms. I would refer to a ghost as an apparition of something that was once alive, whether it is a person or an animal.

People like to believe in ghosts because they were once human and it gives them an explanation to the afterlife. It requires no effort to visualise ghosts because they represent the human form, whilst aliens require some imagination. This still applies today, but would have been more relevant in past before the portrayal of aliens in television and film.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Can Science Be Dangerous?

In society there are a large number of people who question the safety of modern science and the harm it can do. There are many reasons for this: one is rooted in television, film and literature, you only need to think of Frankenstein and how a scientific experiment can go ‘wrong.’ Some people simply lack the education and their opinions are based on what they see and hear from inaccurate sources. Media and history can have a significant widespread impact- for example fear on anything nuclear related is primarily due to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the events that happened in Chernobyl, 1986 and more recently the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Back to the question, people often misunderstand what science is, so let me first define it. For the purpose of this piece I have chosen a basic definition: “science is knowledge attained through study or practice.” So science is a body of knowledge, it tells us how the world is, based upon scientific research conducted. On its own knowledge is perfectly safe and has no moral value but the point at which science can become dangerous is when science (or knowledge) is applied through technology.

Technology means applying knowledge to create something and I think the beauty of science is often overlooked; science is not about creating a product or tool to achieve a purpose or solve a problem however it is the collecting of facts and data from a systematic approach which then leads to further knowledge and thus can be used to help create technology.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Death Through The Eyes Of A Skeptic

With these blogs I will not shy away from any relevant topics and today I have decided to tackle death and cover my views on death and the afterlife (or the lack of one.)

My views on death have been shaped through my atheism, skepticism and through science. My atheism does not command me that there is no afterlife, because what atheists share is the lack of belief in gods so it is therefore possible to have an atheist who believes in some form of the afterlife. But what primarily convinces me is due to the fact that there is no empirical evidence to suggest is it true.

A common misconception that believers in the afterlife think is that because non-believers hold the belief that there is not an afterlife, their life is somehow meaningless or irrelevant. On the contrary, in my view because there is not an afterlife surely life becomes more meaningful. Your existence has a time frame, it is not this never ending eternity we are taught about. This gives me the mindset that surely I should try and do productive things in my life and enjoy it as it is all I have.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A Warm Welcome & Introduction

Hello and I would first like to thank you for reading this post. Let me introduce this blog with a little bit about myself. I am a 16 year old who attends college and spends a lot of time thinking about the world. My understanding of the world is shaped through my logical, rational and skeptical thinking and I believe valid judgements can only be made with scientific and empirical evidence and not merely through the application of faith and religion. I am young, curious and still have a lot to learn, but I want to share my thoughts and views with as many people as I can.

As the sub title says this blog will cover topics on atheism, skepticism and science, these are extremely broad subjects which allows for an open and diverse blog. Each week I will post a blog discussing a question, topic, news piece or something which I feel is relevant and it will be available every Wednesday morning. I aim to make this blog not just simply me expressing my views but a community where everyone can share their opinions as well. So feel free to comment on posts, whether you disagree, want to share an alternative view or offer feedback, please do. I thought I would keep this post short and to the point but the weekly blog will have more depth and substance to it.  

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Start Of Something New

This blog will be shortly coming to life with interesting topics about atheism, skepticism and science. Feel free to comment on topics you would like to discuss or any contributions you would like to make. The weekly posts will be uploaded Wednesday morning.