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Archive for October, 2008

Soldiers of Conscience

Posted by dystressed on October 19, 2008

[Author’s note: I debated this topic quite a bit with myself before writing this. I want to remind readers that this post reflects my personal beliefs, not necessarily those of anyone else associated with FreeThought Fort Wayne.]

Please understand that first of all, I support the troops who are serving now and in the past. I don’t agree with the principle of preemptive war, but I was convinced along with the rest of America of the need for it in Iraq. With the revelations about Iraq having no WMDs or a link to Al Queda, and the new politics of the current election, I have been trying to examine some of the aspects of this war and the military overall.

POV on PBS is a documentary film series. This week’s film entitled “Soldiers of Conscience” is all about the factors of why and how people rationalize killing in war. You can watch the video online here until October 23. The filmmakers focus on 4 concientious objectors (COs), one of whom was denied status and court martialed for dessertion.

In making the film the directors started with the thesis that during World War II, only 25 percent of soldiers in combat could fire their weapons at the enemy. This was actually a study commissioned by the military, which launched what a West Point professor calls “reflexive” weapons training. In this practice, soldiers are programmed to kill as a matter of instinct. Fast forward a few years and this new training brings the level of soldiers willing to fire a weapon and kill to around 90 percent in the days of the Vietnam War.

As a freethinker, I am non-religious, but I am also firm in my conviction that killing people is wrong. I am also skeptical of this military program that teaches soldiers to kill as a reflex, an instinct. If we have to teach people to kill, even to save their own lives, should we really be fighting in the first place? I understand the reasons for fighting, and I am eternally grateful for the chance to breathe free, but the methods of our military training seem suspect.


Posted in FreeThought, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

October Sunday Coffee Klatch

Posted by neuralgourmet on October 18, 2008

We thought we’d try something new in the way of activities. A lot of us have trouble getting to evening events and activities so we’d like to invite everyone to our first Sunday Coffee Klatch. This is just a relaxed, informal meet-up for the group to enjoy some fine coffee, good conversation and a little bit of camaraderie. For now, we’re planning on making this a monthly activity, but if there’s interest we’ll definitely expand it to biweekly or even weekly.

What:   October Sunday Coffee Klatch
Where: Mocha Lounge, 6208 Covington Rd (map)
When:  Sunday, October 26th, 2008; 10 am – 12 pm

Welcome Stumblers! If you’d like to meetup with FreeThought Fort Wayne’s members and share some good coffee, you can find our next Sunday Coffee Klatch here.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

Get the point?

Posted by JD on October 16, 2008

This is an interesting video I ran across that helps give perspective on string theory.  It is not representative of the current dominant theories, but I still found it interesting to think about nonetheless.  I wondered what everyone thought of it.

Posted in Science | 1 Comment »

You only think you need more sleep

Posted by neuralgourmet on October 16, 2008

Do you need more sleep? You might think you do, but sleep researcher Jim Horne says otherwise

Do you need more sleep? You might think you do, but sleep researcher Jim Horne says otherwise

I just had a nightcap and I was about to turn in for a good night’s sleep when I spied this fascinating article on sleep over at New Scientist. Everybody could use more sleep right? We’re all chronically sleep deprived. I know I believed that. And it seems a constant refrain in the media. Heck, my pulmonologist even told me that the night before my sleep study to determine sleep apnea.

But sleep researcher Jim Horne says it is indeed a myth.

ASK people whether they would like more sleep, and most will say yes. Does that mean they are not sleeping enough? The apparent desire for more shut-eye, together with oft-repeated assertions that our grandparents slept longer, all too easily leads to the conclusion that we in the west are chronically sleep-deprived. Adding to these concerns are recent claims that inadequate sleep causes obesity and related disorders, such as diabetes.

Plus ça change. Claims of widespread sleep deprivation in western society are nothing new – in 1894, the British Medical Journal ran an editorial warning that the “hurry and excitement” of modern life was leading to an epidemic of insomnia.

Even then it probably wasn’t true. The fact is that most adults get enough sleep, and our collective sleep debt, if it exists at all, has not worsened in recent times. Moreover, claims that sleep deprivation is contributing to obesity and diabetes have been overblown. My assertion is that the vast majority of people sleep perfectly adequately. That’s not to say that sleep deprivation doesn’t exist. But in general we’ve never had it so good.

While it’s hard for me to disagree with Horne’s studies, I’m not sure I agree with all of his conclusions though. For instance:

To gauge the respondents’ determination to make up their perceived sleep debt, we then asked, “If you had an extra hour a day, how would you prefer to spend it?” The alternatives were playing sport or exercising, socialising, reading or relaxing, watching TV or listening to the radio, working, sleeping, and “other”.

Only a handful of people opted to use their extra hour for sleep. It seems that wanting more sleep is not necessarily synonymous with needing more sleep, and that given a choice, people will happily forego extra sleep in favour of other leisure activities.

Before my sleep apnea was diagnosed and treated if I was asked what I’d do with an extra hour a day I’d definitely have said something like reading, or socializing. Yet I was most most certainly sleep deprived in a massive sort of way.

We’re conditioned in American culture at least, I think, to think that if we have extra time we should be doing something productive. Horne makes that suggestion too. So it seems only natural for someone to not admit to a need for more sleep. Still, this is an fascinating article that deftly dismisses several pop-cultural tropes about sleep and Horne gives us much to consider. I’ll be adding his book Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science Of Sleep to my long, long list of books to read. You know, that list I keep for the day I suddenly find myself not needing sleep.

Posted in Science | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Thank You Google for Finding a Topic

Posted by dystressed on October 14, 2008

I have been at a loss for words lately, but I thought that it would be nice to have something new on the blog, so I decided to do a Google news search for the term “atheist.” Of course I received a long list of results, but the one that really struck me was a post on a sports satire blog called Serious Sports News Network.

Apparently, an atheist (thanks Google) in Tampa is waging a protest against the name change of the MLB franchise, known today as the Tampa Bay Rays. They were formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Florida resident John Meyers is apparently so ticked off that he’s using nonviolent resistance to affect social change.

The heavenly rays

The heavenly rays

What’s creepy is that they are actually winning much more this year and Evangelicals are taking credit. A pastor in Pensacola wants all sports teams to get the devil out of their names.

Smithers also indicated that he thinks many other teams whose names don’t directly address Satan should still think about changing their name, like the Utah Jazz.

“Jazz is the devil’s soundtrack,” Smithers said. “Also, I have a problem with the name ‘Patriots.’ How can you love God if you love your country so much?”

I admit, I don’t know how serious any of these posts are, but the name change is true. It’s part of a major restructuring of the team who has never made it to the world series in its history.

Moreover, according to Wikipedia, the team has won 97 games this season. There may be something at work here, but it’s probably more closely related to better team management and training.

I did more Googling (because I know nothing of baseball). Today the Rays just beat the Boston Red Sox in game 3 of the American League Series. They now lead Boston 2-1 in a best of 7 series. Suffice it to say, I don’t know whether the Devil Rays will go all the way,  but it seems we probably should give credit to where it is due. Let the players win on their own.

Posted in Humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Cool video with TAM6 recap.

Posted by Andy D. on October 10, 2008

This is a fun short skeptical video.  I saw it on Phil Plait’s blog and it was on skep chick so I knew it had to be good.  It is.  Someday I hope I could duplicate half of those visual effects.

Posted in Skepticism, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by dystressed on October 9, 2008

Radar Magazine has a great interview with Bill Maher.

I’d like to put in a plug for these people because they do a really good job in discussing the problems with Scientology and they profiled the Rational Response Squad. They also take stabs at 9/11 conspiracy cults,  Kabbalah, and tons of other touchy subjects.

I think that this magazine has some great intelligence with it, so I think everyone should at least add it to your bookmarks. I have a charter subscription, but I’m not asking you to go that far.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FreeThought Fort Wayne Meeting Notes 10/8

Posted by dystressed on October 8, 2008

The meeting was held at Mad Anthony on Broadway beginning at 7 p.m.

  • Andy started the business discussion by saying the paperwork had been submitted for the Adopt-A-Highway program. Our first tentative cleanup date is 11/2 at approximately 2 p.m. (This is subject to change.) The rules will be e-mailed to those on the mailing list.
  • The next discussion was a solicitation for Great Zoo Halloween volunteers to pass out treats to kids on 10/22, 10/28, or 10/31. Contact Andy if interested.
  • A suggestion was made regarding a place in Yuku groups or some other place on the main site where other volunteer opportunities.
  • Next was a discussion of potential group activities. Andy W is hosting a “Haunted” Downtown Walking Tour through ARCH on 10/25.
  • Alan said he will check on prices for doing a Courthouse tour.
  • Following that, Andy moved the discussion back to the organization’s finances. Theo offered to take on the cost of hosting the site for a one year term. Then discussion moved to accounting. Andy, Skeptigator and Theo will discuss and open an account to handle the funds and will be the tentative co-signers on the account.
  • Next was discussion of the latest Enlightnement Show. Andy thanked everyone for their help and encouraged those who hadn’t seen it to watch it online.
  • Discussion then moved to the order of the meetings. For the next meeting, scheduled for 11/5 at the Library, there is a set agenda.
  • Meeting 11/5  Tentative Agenda: Mighty will open with 30 minutes of business discussion. The presentation on the Creation Museum will continue, followed by demonstration of StumbleUpon and other web tools to increase blog post readers.
  • Theo will have bumper stickers and bookmarks at the next meeting. This was followed by discussion of having a store on to sell FFW merchandise.
  • Skeptigator will add administrator privileges to blog posters, which will give the opportunity for posters to moderate comments and guard against Internet trolls.
  • Discussion concluded with tentative plans to see Roy Zimmerman in Indianapolis 10/19 and Richard Carrier on 10/26.

The meeting ended approximately 8:30.

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

The Enlightenment Show 2.0

Posted by Andy D. on October 6, 2008

Show Topics:

Church/State Separation and Sarah Palin

What’s The Harm in Astrology?

Deconversion Corner:  Altar boy to Atheist

FreeThinker’s Toolkit:  Burden of Proof, Occam’s razor, circular logic

Main Segment:  The Supreme Court and the Election.

This is our brand new format with multiple segments for an hour length with several people working on different topics.  My favorite new segment is Deconversion Corner.  Andy and Mark nailed it!  (Who’s next?)  We really have a talented cast and the show is better and more diverse.  By switching to segments, I can give the show a more professional look and sound.   It took a week to edit and post and thanks to Rae for helping select the music and SFX cues. PLEASE THANK everyone who worked on the show.  No one is getting paid for this and they do this to help our community and FreeThought Fort Wayne.   The credits list everyone.

(This show will air weekly all month on Access Two (Comcast 57, Verizon Fios 27 9:30-10:30 PM on Thursday nights)

For the future, I commited to Access Fort Wayne one show a month.  The times slots for Access will be either Wed 9PM, Mon 9PM, or Saturday 9PM on the 2nd and 4th week of the month.  The lottery for time slots is the end of the month.  Show sugestions and help are welcome at anytime.  For everyone, who is already on the Enlightenment Show cast, keep an eye on your e-mail for the next taping schedule and YOU ROCK!  Keep it up.  Thanks.

Posted in Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Religulous: better than I thought

Posted by Andy Welfle on October 6, 2008

Bill Maher, left, and The Dude. Er, a Jesus impersonator

A movie still: Bill Maher, left, and The Dude. Er, a Jesus impersonator

Last time I posted, I expressed concern about Religulous, a pseudo-documentary film by Bill Maher. (Read that post here.) Several commenters told me I should reserve judgment until I see the film. I don’t necessarily think that is required, since the film’ preview really exists for people to pass pre-judgment over any movie, but I did fully intend to see the film no matter what I thought of it.

I went to see it with my friend and co-hort in atheist crimes, Butter (the non-waffle half of our personal blog, ButteredWaffles). And his review of it is very similar to mine. It is posted in entirety (with permission from Butter, of course) below:

Religulous isn’t the boring Jay-Walking skit I feared it might be. It’s much better than that, and I wonder about the critics who say it wasn’t funny. I was laughing several times, as was most of the rest of the crowd, because of the absurdity of the subjects and because of the well-timed jokes that point that absurdity out. The jump cuts and fast editing are there, but they’re not malicious; they just inject context to what are usually one-sided, contextless conversations. And the targets are mostly frauds or idiots who have voluntarily put themselves in the public sphere, by getting a Rev. before their name, or opening a creationism museum, or being a Senator, or running to Iran and meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or running an ex-gay counseling service, or playing Jesus in the public shows at Jesus Land. Or claiming to be the Second Coming of Jesus personally.

There was a little Michael Moore-ish grandstanding, like when he got tossed out of the Vatican for barging in with a camera and wanting to talk to the Pope, but those moments were mostly tongue-in-cheek side jokes (unlike a Moore film, where they carry the weight of the whole polemic). And the über-trendy canted camera angles, like it’s some MTV special where the host is so cool that we’re presumed to want to see camera shots of him talking to some other camera, were just jarring and dumb.

But there’s enough meat there to overshadow the sparse bits of egotism and amateurism. He’ll give subtitles exposing the lies of the opulently dressed megachurch megapastor as the guy speaks; he’ll interview Catholic priests (including the Vatican astronomer) who giggle at the idea of hell and Creation and all the stuff their flock is goaded into taking literally; he’ll get the Senator to equivocate on evolution, he’ll hammer at the Jesus actor, past all the “God-sized hole in your heart” rhetoric, until the guy pulls out Pascal’s Wager; he’ll show you the salesman for the crazy kosher workless wheelchair—and he’ll do it with that affable, I’m-on-your-side schtick that disarms his opponent.

He delivers the goods, and he’s honest enough to speak directly to his target audience at the end, telling you to get off the fence and actively oppose superstition if you’re smart enough to find the preceding hour and a half disturbing. The film is clever enough, and chooses its targets well enough, to be funny even to someone who’s already an atheist and well-versed in the issues and the players in the debate, while still summarizing those issues and players concisely for a moderately intelligent but apathetic fence-sitter. It’s the Michael Moore populist-polemic-documentary genre done right—which really shouldn’t be too hard, when your targets are this pathetically easy to pick apart. I’m glad he did it.

Link to the original post.

I’ll agree with Butter. While my opinion hasn’t changed that Bill Maher is an ass, I will concede that he is a smart and funny ass. It’s reminiscent of a quote from the Big Lebowski:

Walter Sobchak: Am I wrong?
The Dude: No you’re not wrong.
Walter Sobchak: Am I wrong?
The Dude: You’re not wrong Walter. You’re just an asshole.
Walter Sobchak: All right then.

And he has the amazing ability to put someone down without them really being aware of it. Whether that is a good ability or bad is undecided.

There were some points in the film where I thought Bill and the crew took some hits on their credibility for a few laughs. For example, he was interviewing a Muslim imam who said that Islam is not a violent religion. The imam’s cell phone rang, and he took it out of his robe to answer a text message. The Religulous producers showed what they think he was typing on the screen:

> What r ur orders

> Kill the Jew Maher


Yeah, it was funny. But critics are going to have a field day with it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I think you should. It might turn out to be an important film.

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