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Archive for September, 2008

Archaeology Open House

Posted by dystressed on September 16, 2008

IPFW will be hosting an open house for the Archaeology Department on Saturday. Does anyone want to make this a group outing?

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Posted in Events, Science | 3 Comments »

Salem Witch Trials

Posted by dystressed on September 14, 2008

Review: In Search of History, the Salem Witch Trials

Before the United States began, Massachusetts was filled with a small cult of Puritans who fled religious persecution in Britain only to bring it to the American shore.

Because life was hard in the early days of the colony, disease and starvation claimed many lives. People feared nothing more than death because they were so perversely religious, they weren’t sure they were going to heaven if they died. Even though they lived pious lives and prayed ceaselessly, they thought they deserved all of the bad things that happened to them as a form of punishment from God.

Along comes a mystic slavewoman who entertains some of the children with stories of ghosts, spectres and witchcraft.

The girls she is entertaining become wild and uncontrollable, and they blame it on the people in the village who they don’t like, stating that they used witchcraft and were in league with the Devil.

On and on this goes, men and women are killed, even the village’s former minister, until rational people at a higher court ban the use of so-called “spectral evidence” i.e. (the spectre of so-and-so made me shake and convulse and swear). It also helped that they accused several wealthy and influential people of witchcraft.

According to the video’s analysts, the girls who accused everyone of witchcraft were thrilled to be doing something other than their chores and praying and became so drunk with power that they just couldn’t help lying about seeing this person or that person with the devil.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I think that this speaks volumes on the state of history and the power of preying on the fears of our neighbors.

Women have always gotten the short end of the stick in history, all they way back to the Myth of Adam and Eve. The girls probably couldn’t read, and had no other way to distract themselves from the death, drudgery and tyranny of 17th century Puritanical life.  When the literal power of life and death was thrust upon these pre-teen girls, they didn’t know what do do except keep making the lies grander and more elaborate.

The religious zealotry of Purtanism was self-perpetuating. Fear of God makes one work harder, Fear of death makes one fear God more. The poor villagers when confronted with these tales had to take action. They were completely dominated by fear.

Looking at the matter skeptically was not even an option for the villagers. When you live a life of a subsistence farmer and the presence of evil threatens that God will blight your crops or livestock, you’d probably want to kill the person supposedly responsible too.

It’s always a bad idea to be ruled by fear.

The biggest reason I heard for believing is that if I weren’t saved, I would surely go to hell. But it seems to me that a God who would send part of himself to die for the world wouldn’t let me be born just to die and go to hell. Belief logic always seems to break down at the most fundamental premise. The belief that there is a soul and that the only way to save it is to believe in something even more improbable is simply a self-perpetuating abstraction of a myth, much like saying Zeus is raining down thunder from Olympus.

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Humanist Symposium #25

Posted by Skeptigator on September 14, 2008

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Welcome to the Humanist Symposium News Channel brought to you by FreeThought Fort Wayne, I’m your host Skeptigator and I want to know, “How are you today?”.

Our top story tonight is the recent announcement that Matter is better than spiritualism coming out of Chromium Oxide Green. Maria Silva asks why the “supposed spiritual world is deeper, and extraordinarily more profound than this mundane world around us, that is composed of matter?”

But first in Technology news Michael Wheeler explores Utopian Neuroscience. He asks, “How happy do you want to be?”

In Education news, we have the recent editorial, Should Social-Emotional Learning Be Part of Academic Curriculum?, from Alvaro Fernandez of Brain Fitness an institute dedicated to creating sharp brains.

On the political front, Canadian talking head, Ian Bushfield of Terahertz, presents Toward Secular Humanistic Politics.

In legal news, the lobbying firm of This humanist is working to expand upon Humanism and Polyamory. Clare, the spokesperson for the group is quoted as saying, “Under law in the UK, polygamy is illegal, but so was homosexual marriage! If we can accept that marriage law concerning homosexuality is outdated and inappropriate, maybe it’s worth taking a second look at the issue of monogamy.”

After the break, we’ll find out what’s happening in Sports and Entertainment news.

Today’s broadcast is brought to you by the word Compassion a service offered by Elliptica, please call Lynet for more information.

Over at the Sports desk, Brian Jay Stanley reports on the latest Olympic news, We Were Gold Medalists in the Sperm Olympics.

Thanks Brian, I feel like a winner already. And now for Entertainment news, PhillyChief brings us the heartwarming story on the positive impact of the movie industry, “Buzz Lightyear got us through”.

Our resident DIY guy, Glowing Face Man, is doing some remodeling, let’s check in and see how he’s doing with A Modernized Version of the Lord’s Prayer.

In Charity news, our broadcast partner, Zach Alexander of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard tells us about, Humanist Relief Work: Children of the Border. And vjack of Atheist Revolution talks about A Different Kind of Atheist Outreach.

Sorry folks, we have to take another break to pay some bills around here. When we return, how to cut back on the Carbs and another edition of our continuing series called Biography.

For one night only, Dereck of I Will Not Die fame and Aaron Ross Powell are joining together for their blockbuster seminar entitled “Purpose and Growth”. Make sure to get your tickets early, Dereck will be giving his award-winning An Essay on Human Growth and Aaron Powell has been packing theaters from coast-to-coast with his What Atheism Offers: A Sense of Purpose Series. One Night Only, this Sat-Sat-Saturday!!! Two speakers, One low price.

The co-host of our on-going series “Biography”, Greta Christina, brings us the little known story of Del Martin, and What Makes a Life Meaningful. Greta’s co-host, Andy Welfle, explores his tell-all auto-biography in From Altar Boy to Atheist: A coming out story.

And now, “Have you been wanting to shed a few pounds lately?”, well LSG has a new diet strategy called, No Bread for Me, Thanks.

In tonight’s editorial piece, I wonder if Jyunri Kankei might have A Better Answer than Originally Given. Also, I stumbled across this piece from Andrew Bernardin from Evolving Mind, Religion as a Replaceable Raison D’être (Reason for Being): Part II. I have a question, “What happened to Part I”, is this like Leonard Part 6, because that movie is just begging for a series of prequels.

I see our producer, Phil for Humanity is giving me the Time is Our Most Valuable Asset signal. So we’ll leave you tonight with a piece submitted by a viewer, Dale, called Awe Sans God.

Please join us on October 5th where our Canadian sister station (with an amazing broadcast strength), Terahertz, will be bringing the 26th edition of the Humanist Symposium.

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Posted in Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

From altar boy to atheist: a coming out story

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 13, 2008

The Author

The Author

Hello, my name is Andy Welfle, and I’m an atheist.

This is my “coming out” story — how I transformed from a good Catholic boy who had dreams of becoming a priest, to the skeptical, cautious person I am today. Sit back, because, well, I can be loquacious at times, and I have a lot to say about this.

Like so many freethinkers in my generation, I went through a full decade in Catholic school — 12 years if you include pre-school and kindergarten. I credit that for my current worldview. I wound up going to Catholic school for a number of reasons. Primarily, though my mother taught at a different Catholic school, and although I can’t speak for her, I think she was caught up in the parochial agitprop that they were the last good, safe schools. Public schools are evil, rough badlands that make kids click up and join a gang to survive. Private, secular schools were too expensive for a good Catholic family, so the diocesan schools were about it.

(Since then, my mother has left the Catholic school system, and my sisters are happy in Fort Wayne Community Schools. They’ve never been mugged, raped, or otherwise maimed.)

Most of my elementary school life was spent in oblivious, pious bliss. I announced in third grade that I wanted to be a priest, and the pastor of the church thought it was great. I was a server (altar boy), and like everyone else in my class, I went to mass twice during the week, and then with my family on Sunday. It’s a wonder we ever learned anything.

Pedophile priest jokes aside, I remember the pastor (head priest) fondly. He was an intelligent, well-spoken guy, and except for the fact he took the vows and became a priest, he’s a respectable guy — he would never do anything like those priests you hear about in Boston.

I never had a problem in school, until eighth grade, when we had a letter sent home from our teachers saying that next week, we were going to have a special 2 hour session about sexual education. The letter said if parents didn’t want their kids to participate, please sign and return. My parents, being the liberal and educated people they are, didn’t have a problem with that.

So next Tuesday, the boys in the grade went to one classroom, and the girls went to another. I don’t know who led the discussion for the girls, but our pastor talked to us boys. That’s when I realized, “What could this dude, someone who pledged in front of God and everybody never to have sex, what could he possibly teach us about our sexuality?”

Please click through to read the rest below the fold.

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Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , | 112 Comments »

FreeThought Fort Wayne’s October Meeting

Posted by Skeptigator on September 13, 2008

UPDATE: The meeting location has moved to the Mad Anthony Brewing Co. located at the corner of Broadway and Taylor. We have reserved enough space for 25 hopefully we run out of room 😉

Check out their website for directions: www.madbrew.com

What: FreeThought Fort Wayne October Meeting
When: October  8th, 2008 7PM-9PM+
Where: Main Branch, Allen County Public Library, Meeting Room B
Desc: If you have any ideas or questions please feel free to shoot me an email below or post a topic in the forums. As usual the discussion will be moved to a local pub. Public is always welcome

For more information, contact@freethoughtfortwayne.org

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September’s FreeThought Happy Hour

Posted by Skeptigator on September 13, 2008

Due to the overwhelming success of the last FreeThought Happy Hour, we’re doing it again. The FreeThought Happy Hour is a purely social event, there is no topic or set agenda, just bring yourselves, your significant others or just a friend.

The next Happy Hour will be on Saturday, September 27th beginning at 7PM. We will be meeting at Curly Armstrong’s on Bluffton Road. Map

Please Note: This is a different day and a different venue than normal.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Irreconcilable differences?

Posted by Eye4Cards on September 12, 2008

Earlier I read an interesting article from edge.com called What Makes People Vote Republican? The author had a few good points along with some things that I either didn’t agree with, or would like to elaborate on, so I figured I’d break it down here and add my thoughts as you read along.  It’s a little lengthy, but well worth the invested brain cells and slight headache you will probably incur from the cerebral jumping jacks you will have to complete:

What makes people vote Republican?

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

So far so good.  Although I hate using sweeping overgeneralizations.  I also don’t believe the current Democratic party is as reasonable or free-thinking as we are led to believe.  Modern Republicans lean so far to the right of the political spectrum that Democrats have unwittingly slid right as well in an attempt to remain relevant in the eyes of mainstream religious conservatives.  Because of this, Democrats are at best moderate in general, and true liberals are now seen as extreme leftists.

Diagnosis is a pleasure. It is a thrill to solve a mystery from scattered clues, and it is empowering to know what makes others tick. In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the “war on terror” and repeal of the “death tax”) that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

Perhaps I seem more cold and calculated than your average Joe, but, the personal pleasures of the author’s profession aside, I see little pleasure in figuring out the bigger picture concerning Republicans and religious conservatives.  It is agonizing to me to see so many people unwittingly dedicating their lives to hollow, empty and detrimental pursuits that they believe are in the best interests of themselves and everyone around them.  I’ve also no need of righteousness, shared or not.  It is the most useless of emotions as far as I am concerned.  I actually consider myself a very emotionally deep person.  I love to live life and experience every range of emotions, even if this means having to know the horrid with the euphoric.

Please click through to read the rest below the fold.

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Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

How are you today?

Posted by Skeptigator on September 8, 2008

The following was written by my wife, you may see her from time to time on here as firstofall556:


I didn’t know when I was calling into my credit card company that I would make someone else’s day better by asking, “How are you today?”

I was checking up on my purchases for the month when I noticed a gas purchase that neither I nor my husband remembered making. So what do you do? You have to call the dreaded credit card company. I wasn’t at all looking forward to it. The long automated account center listing of all the possible numbers you can transfer to (that is supposed to make your life easier) and the never ending hold music. No wait that’s not right another automated voice cuts in to let you know that you are important to that company and to continue to hold. So you get through all of that and a real person gets on the other end……and you can’t understand them!!

The man was very cordial “Thank you for calling; how are you and how can I help you today?” I respond “I’m fine and how are you?”

This man had about 20-30 calls before me and I’m sure at least that many after my call had ended. I know this because he told me so. He said “Thank you ma’am. You are the first person to ask me how I was.”
I still have a hard time believing that I was the first person to ask a very simple question but a question that meant a lot to a man who lives in India who was working 3rd shift in customer service. If you have ever worked with the public you understand what that means.

He thanked me several times for my simple inquiry while he was helping me figure out why I was incorrectly charged. He was very helpful and very professional. Yes I had a little trouble understanding what he was saying sometimes but in the end I was very pleased with my service.

I doubt that the next time I ask that question the next person will be so impressed but I will ask again and try to make sure that I do every time even if it’s not a great situation for me because after all there is another person on the other end of that phone. Besides isn’t that who we want to talk to anyway?

So try to ask someone “How are you today?” to someone and see what a difference it can make.

Posted in Philosophy | 7 Comments »

Knowledge or Excuses?

Posted by Skeptigator on September 8, 2008

The Washington Post recently published the article Study Links Gene Variant in Men to Marital Discord. Recent research out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm shows that men with multiple copies of a particular gene variant, which regulates the hormone vasopressin, are more likely to have troubled marriages and/or dissatisfied partners than men with only one or no copies. In fact, they were roughly twice as likely, which is statistically significant. This latest research dovetails nicely with an earlier study which showed that when the hormone vasopressin was manipulated in animals that normally mated for life they became loners and vice versa.

This article reminded me of the recent podcast episodes (Part 1 and Part 2) from Point of Inquiry in which Michael Dowd is interviewed about the need to understand evolution and human biology. He speaks about research that found a significant correlation between extra-marital affairs and when men (and women) are promoted within a company or take a new higher profile position or are elected to office, local or national. The promotion or election appears to cause a surge in testosterone which in turn cranks up the libido. Michael Dowd retells the story of man who became a CEO and then subsequently carried on a series of affairs. Until the promotion he had been a devoted husband and the affairs eventually ruined his marriage and cost him his job. He thanked Michael Dowd because it finally brought this man some understanding as to why the apparently sudden need to run around on his wife.

The obvious caveat to all of this is just because we may have biological predispositions to a certain behavior doesn’t mean we are exempted morally from doing the right thing. “Sorry about that affair dear but you know how my DNA has an effect on me”, just doesn’t cut it.

Isn’t having the knowledge that something like a promotion at work could cause a surge of hormones of teenage proportions to go raging through your vains valuable? Could it help someone avoid a potentially disastrous decision? Have you ever avoided going out socially with someone because the Temptation Factor would be huge, especially where there will be alcohol? You can always abstain from drinking you unfortunately can’t turn off the horny hormones.

Speaking of hormones like a fire hydrant, this reminds me of the claims by abstinence-only advocates that if you teach teenagers about sexuality and safe sex you are implicitly condoning the activity. That somehow if you show a teenager how to put a condom on a banana you are giving them a license to have at it in the hallways. Doesn’t this information help give teenagers the tools they need to make good decisions? Or just permission?

Perhaps this is more stream of consciousness writing than anything that truly connects together. I guess if you are recently elected or promoted teenager you’ll be fornicating in the streets. Sorry sport, it’s your DNA.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Robert M. Price speech to FreeThought Fort Wayne (Video)

Posted by Andy D. on September 7, 2008

Robert M. Price spoke to FreeThought Fort Wayne about his book “Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today’s Pop Mysticisms,” and many other secular and religious topics in the Allen Country Public Library Theatre on August 6, 2008. It is followed by a lively Q & A section.

90 min

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