In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Websites

My list of the worst offenders on the web in the promotion of scientific and factual misinformation. By Brian Dunning

Science is still struggling to understand what space and time actually are. Are they real physical entities or simply useful ideas? If they’re real, are they fundamental, or do they emerge from more basic constituents?


What does it mean for space to be empty? Does time have a beginning? Does it have an arrow, flowing inexorably from past to future as common experience would dictate?

Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos (via whats-out-there)

mindblowingscience:

The 5 Massive New Telescopes That Will Change Astronomy Forever

The biggest building boom in the history of astronomy is upon us. In Chile and Hawaii and in space, astronomers are getting powerful telescopes that dwarf the current state-of-the-art instruments. When the mountain blasting and the mirror polishing are all done, we will have the clearest and most detailed views of outer space ever.

This boom has long been in the works for years, as billion-dollar telescopes don’t just fund and plan themselves.Now, these telescopes are starting to break ground. “If it all plays out as expected and budgeted,” writes Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, “astronomers of the 2020s will be swimming in petabytes of data streaming from space and the ground.” Let’s take a closer took at what these billion-dollar telescopes can do for astronomy in the decades to come.

Read all about these 5 amazing telescopes at Gizmodo

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.

Social Psychologist John Jost (and fellow scholars)

(Source: alternet.org)

Michio Kaku on the "Hard Problem" of consciousness

What is a physicist doing weighing in on the mysteries of the mind? Tim Dean went to find out.

…David Chalmers, Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University in Canberra, puts it a different way. He draws a distinction between what he called the “easy problem” of consciousness, which is explaining how electrical impulses racing through a network of neurons can produce behaviour, and the “hard problem”, which is explaining how on Earth that network can ever produce something like the redness of red. Chalmers imagines a being that does all the information processing we do, and which can make the kinds of decisions we make, but doesn’t have any conscious experience, no “qualia”. If such a being is at all possible, then it suggests a complete theory of the mind needs to talk about more than just information processing and brains. It needs to talk about conscious experience too.

I ask Kaku about the conspicuous absence of consciousness in his theory and he hastens to dismiss the problem, borrowing another analogy from science. “It used to be that the question of ‘what is life?’ dominated and paralysed biology for decades. Now the question is irrelevant. We now know there are gradations – we have different kinds of viruses, different forms of life. So biologists no longer ask the question ‘what is life?’, because it turned out to be many layers of a continuum.

“It’s the same thing about ‘what is redness?’, ‘what is a sunset?’, ‘what is a sensation of ecstasy and thrill?’ or ‘what are qualia?’. Today that absorbs a lot of philosophers’ attention, but I think that just like ‘what is life?’, that will disappear.”

His counterpoint to Chalmers’ thought experiment of a thinking being without qualia is a thought experiment of his own. One day, he muses, “we will have a robot that understands red in ways a hundred times richer than any human. We will have a robot that can tell us the electromagnetic spectrum of red, that can give you all the sensations of red for different kinds of animals, a richness of red far beyond any human’s. And then the robot will say, ‘do humans understand red?’, and it will say, ‘obviously not’.”…

Ken Ham wants to end the U.S. space program because the aliens are all going to hell

45 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, creationism hits a new low

…Why? Well, according to Ham, who also runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there’s no point in spending money on finding extraterrestrial life for a couple of reasons: First, the search is a deliberate rebuking of God, and second because aliens are already damned to hell.

“I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote.

“Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!” Ham continued later in the post.

Ham does concede that the Bible does not specifically mention whether or not there is alien life. However, he is skeptical.

“And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel,” Ham wrote. “You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin — the Savior of mankind.”

A Universe Not Made For Us: Carl Sagan on Religion and Geocentrism/Anthropocentrism

The Obama administration still has not removed the most important impediments to embryonic stem cell research—allowing funding only for work on stem cells derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. Such delicacy is a clear concession to the religious convictions of the American electorate. While Collins seems willing to go further and support research on embryos created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), he is very far from being a voice of ethical clarity in this debate. For instance, he considers embryos created through SCNT to be distinct from those formed through the union of sperm and egg because the former are “not part of God’s plan to create a human individual” while “the latter is very much part of God’s plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others” (Collins, 2006, p. 256) There is little to be gained in a serious discussion of bioethics by talking about “God’s plan.” (If such embryos were brought to term and became sentient and suffering human beings, would it be ethical to kill them and harvest their organs because they had been conceived apart from “God’s plan”?) While his stewardship of the NIH seems unlikely to impede our mincing progress on embryonic stem cell research, his appointment seems like another one of President Obama’s efforts to split difference between real science and real ethics on the one hand and religious superstition and taboo on the other.

The truth has nothing to fear from inquiry. Be wary of anyone who would discourage questions.

The truth has nothing to fear from inquiry. Be wary of anyone who would discourage questions.

Within each species some individuals leave more offspring than others, so that the inheritable traits (genes) of the reproductively successful become more numerous in the next generation. This is natural selection: the non-random differential reproduction of genes. Natural selection has built us, and it is natural selection we must understand if we are to comprehend our own identities.

Robert L. Trivers. 1976.

(TitleThe Selfish Gene; Foreword to the First Edition)