Monday, May 5, 2008

Almost back...and a little something to infuriate you

Well my computer was not happy with the move, and is refusing to run properly, freezing up anytime I open a major program. Not that I can complain. After six years of clogging the thing up with internet porn and illegal music downloads, I'd say it has served me about as well as it could.

Anyway, my new iBook is on its way, so once it gets here I should be back online full time...and boy, is there a doozie of a faith/medicine/prayer/parental rights story developing in my neck of the woods (Milwaukee, WI).

The short of it is that an 11-year-old girl died of treatable diabetes symptoms because her parents believed soley in the power of prayer and refused to take her to a doctor. The parents are now being charged with second-degree reckless homicide, and are appealing to a Wisconsin statute that protects parents from abuse or neglect charges, "because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing." This has not been extended to homicide charges, but that's what the parents and their attorneys are going for.

Read about it in more detail here, and let me know what you think. For all I know, this could have broken into the atheosphere already. If not, it needs to. It probably is going to set the precedent for future cases involving faith and medicine, at least in Wisconsin.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Be Back in May

I am currently in the process of moving into a new apartment and am temporarily without any kind of internet connection, which is why my blog has effectively died. I anticipate this problem lasting a few weeks at least, so I'm just going to go ahead and shut it down for the rest of the month. Although I'm sure any interest I was able to stir up has been subdued, I will return in May and attempt to regenerate that interest. Til then...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Raising California: The rights of a parent

When I wrote about the private Kansas school that would not allow a woman to ref their basketball game, I went on a brief rant about a parent's supposed right to teach their children whatever they want. I promised a more in-depth look at this issue, and here it is.

I was reminded of this issue, and spurred to write about it, by a story out of California about the legality of home schooling. For all the details, you can read the story in the San Francisco Chronicle or the L.A. Times. The gist of the story is that a California appeals court ruled that parents without teaching credentials had no constitutional right to home school their children.

On the story itself, I am not sure what side I fall on. For those of you who don't know, I was home schooled from first grade through high school. While I was certainly deprived of a solid education in science and biology, and generally found my high school education to fall well short of that of my peers, my early education was much better than anything I would have received in a public school. Since I was the only student in my grade, I was able to move at my own pace in math and reading and other basic studies. With no other students to hold me back, I was usually multiple grade-levels ahead of my peers in these areas. So there are certainly potential benefits of a home school education (I knew some home schooled kids who fell way behind in math and reading because their parents were more interested in having them do chores or because they focused upwards of 90% of their schooling on religion, but the majority of my home schooled peers grew rapidly in their early years of education).

Furthermore, I found this statement from the judge kind of frightening: "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

When I hear the words, "patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation," I hear a veiled promotion of prejudice, but once again, I'm going to have to save that topic for another day.

Ultimately, I think my feeling is that parents who want to home school their children should be allowed to do so as long as they can show that their kids are getting a good education in all areas. I think this would lead to a lot of parents being forced to put their kids in school at some level, once the level of education is too high and specialized to be taught by an individual parent. After all, you wouldn't expect your high school science teacher to be able to teach you Spanish, and you wouldn't expect your math teacher to be a very good english teacher. At a certain point, the benefits of home schooling give way to the benefits of having several teachers who are experts in their varios areas of education. That's my tenative resolution, but it's not at all what I want to write about in this post. The reaction that I found even more disturbing than the judge's statement was from this home school parent, quoted in the L.A. Times:

"I want to have control over what goes in my son's head, not what's put in there by people who might be on the far left who have their own ideas about indoctrinating kids."

The first part of this sentence, "I want to have control over what goes in my son's head," sends a chill down my spine. If he were talking about not allowing his 14-year-old son to watch a violent movie, or read a raunchy novel, that would fine. But he's not. He's talking about planting his political and religious beliefs in his son's mind, and completely sheltering his son from any opposing opinions.

This begs the question, "How much should parents be allowed to control what their children learn?"

When people talk about tolerence, a common concession goes something like this, "You're allowed to teach your children whatever you want, just don't try to force your beliefs on me or my kids." My contention is that this is conceding too much. But before I go any further, I should give a brief look at the nature-nurture issue.

Recent research of genes and human development has shown that "Nature vs. Nature" is actually a false dichotomy. It is much more likely that nature and nurture work one through the other, in an infinite loop. We are certainly born with natural tendencies, but our nature is only shown in how we react to our environment. Since we are interracting with our environment from the moment we are born (and even before that), it is very difficult to distinguish nature from nurture. Now that's just a crude summary of the theory. For a more accurate, more elegant summary, see "Nature via Nurture," by Matt Ridley.

There are two points to take away from this: (1) Every child, no matter how young, is an individual person with a unique personality and a seperate consciousness (or "soul," if you prefer) than everyone else, (2) Because parents have the most control over a child's environment, they are in a powerful position to affect the child's beliefs and opinions.

Like any position of power, the power of parenting brings with it a responsibility to use it only when necessary. Children are people too. This may seem a tired statement--this is certainly not the first time you've heard it--but it is rarely recognized for what it really means. No person is the property of another person, and since children of all ages are persons, this includes them. But many parents are eager to make the jump from "My kids are my responsibility," to, "My kids are mine." Since children are too young to make important decisions for themselves, legal responsibilties are often passed on to the parents. This further promotes the idea that they are our property: we have to sign release papers in order for anyone else to use them. But responsibility for a person does not mean that you own them and are free to control their lives in any way you see fit.

When I graduated high school, I wrote an open letter to all the home school parents in our home school group. Since I save just about everything I've ever written, I have a portion of it here:

Here is what I think about home school parents: I believe you truly care about your children and you want the best for them (you’re agreeing so far). You also remember when you were young, and all the bad decisions you made; you don’t want you’re sons and daughters to make any bad decisions. Your solution: don’t allow them to make decisions. If they can never be alone with someone of the opposite sex, they can’t make the bad decision to have sex. If they aren’t ever around anyone who would possibly have drugs or alcohol, they can’t make the bad decision to get high, or drunk. As long as you are always watching them, you can always jump in if they’re about to make a bad choice. Wake up. You’re over-controlling. Are you proud that you can say your child has never had sex, drank alcohol, or smoked anything? If someone is never offered a joint, does this mean they have chosen not to smoke weed? If a girl is closely watched every time she comes within ten feet of a guy, does this mean she has chosen to remain a virgin?
Think about this: you can’t watch your child forever. They will eventually escape you’re vision. Sooner or later, they will make decisions for themselves. You say you’re waiting for them to mature enough to make the right decision. Here’s a fact: maturity is accomplished by messing up. Some people only make a few, little mistakes. Some people make huge mistakes. Some people continue making mistakes and never mature. But by sheltering your kids from making their own decisions you are only delaying their maturing process. Earlier, I said I am starting to mature. Do you know when this started? When I was given more freedom to make my own choices. To no one‘s surprise, I’ve made bad decisions. I have learned from them. I won’t do them again. Not because my parents say I can’t, but because I’ve gone through it, and now my conscience tells me I can’t. By the way, while a conscience can always be there, a parent can‘t. If you’re kids don’t make any of there own decisions until they’re away at college, what happens when they do make a bad choice? You, the parents, won’t be staying in their dorms, so they will have to deal with their mistake without your help. All that is assuming that there’s still someone there who will tell them they’re making a mistake.

This is one of the few things I wrote when I was 17 that I still agree with whole-heartedly. This particular letter was written to a specific group of home school parents, but parents in all kinds of situations make the same mistakes I wrote about. We do it out of genuine love for our children, because it is painful for us to watch them make decisions that we know are going to hurt them.

Likewise, it is hurtful for us to imagine our children disagreeing with us on beliefs that we hold close to our heart. If I imagine my son growing up to be deeply religious, a Reagan-conservative Republican, an avid fan of Ben Affleck, and a lover of country music, I want to bang my head against the wall. But I'm not going to use my powers of parenthood to prevent that from happening. I wouldn't say, "I've failed as a parent." I would say, "I can't believe how different my son is from me."

I can understand why parents want to shelter their kids from opposing opinions, especially if their kids start to show signs of being persuaded by those opinions. But this is a blatant abuse of your parental responsibilities.

To me, my job as a parent is to allow my son to discover what makes him happy and who he is. It is my duty to provide basic needs, of course, provide him with the best education I can afford, help him accomplish the things that he wants to accomplish, and perhaps most importantly, how to think for himself.

I also see it as my duty as a human to make sure that other children receive the same freedom to develop without any hinderences from their parents or anyone else. In our culture, a garuanteed way to make people uncomfortable is to talk about getting involved in the development of other people's kids without the parents' permission. Yet, I have never heard a convincing argument that the only people that should be involved in a child's development is that child's parents. That's just the way it's always been, which is a good indicator that the status quo is flawed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Attacking faith: The impossible siege

When I put an end to my last blog, I explained that I no longer saw any value in trying to convince theists that they were wrong and wanted to go in a slightly different direction. Here, I'd like to expound on that a little bit.

The Impenetrable Wall of Faith

Any major religion that has stood the test of time has survived for good reason, and made the appropriate adjustments in order to accommodate cultural changes throughout history. This is the basic idea of a meme.

If a religion were easily penetrable by skepticism, it would have collapsed a long time ago. Specifically, if a religion's followers were easily convinced to leave that religion, the religion would no longer be with us.

So it is no surprise that religious people are not persuaded by what atheists consider to be irrefutable evidence that God does not exist. As an atheist, you can argue until you're pulling your hair out, saying, "How can you not see this? How can you be so blind? It's so obvious!" Believe me, I've been there.

So why can't they see? Are Christians inherently dumb? Absolutely not. They have a very good reason to refute every argument a skeptic can muster: "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted." - John 12:40

This verse is all the evidence any Christian needs to ignore our arguments. God exists. That's a fact, and anyone who claims otherwise is either blind to the truth, or in denial (If you're a non-believer, I'm sure you have had someone tell you matter-of-factly that you really do believe in God--you're just denying his existence so you can do whatever you want).

Any argument coming from a non-believer is thus discredited before it begins: "Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." - 1 Timothy 6:20-21

Our desire to debate is, in fact, a surfire sign that we are corrupt and conceited: "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." - 1 Timothy 6:3-5

The Bible is chucked full of verses that make it clear that all non-believers are evil, selfish, conceited, blind, lost and even stupid. For a few (hundred) examples, just do a quick search for the word "understand."
If, despite all of these warnings to tune us out, you are able to break through and get a believer to admit a logical flaw in their faith (such as the trinity, the incompatibility of omniscience and omnipotence, the immovable mover, etc.) there is the powerful final line of defense: "We cannot understand the nature of God."

Christianity has built a powerful wall to defend every believer's faith. When a believer puts up the defense, it is simply impenetrable.

Therefore, the only way for faith to be defeated is if believers willingly open themselves up to skeptics, seeking honest answers to their doubts. But these doubts have to come from the inside. And for those internal attacks, religions have also devised some pretty crafty defenses.

Defending Against Internal Attacks

Some people are more than willing to accept something on blind faith, and for these people a religion only needs to provide the above-mentioned defenses from external skeptics. But other people are naturally inquisitive, and while they may be invulnerable to external skeptics, they will eventually begin to ask their own questions.

If you're like me and have abandoned a religion after once being a believer, it is painfully obvious to you that no major religion stands up to honest doubt and objective inquiry. For a religion to survive, then, it must have an effective way of stifling these doubts and questions.

There are two very effective ways to do this. The first way is to demonize doubt itself. Islam uses this path almost exclusively--to doubt Allah's existence is to commit blasphemy. Christianity condemns doubt to a certain extent as well, but more often uses a second method of deterrence. When a Christian begins expressing doubt, they will usually encounter a response like this Christian's advice, whose essence can be seen in this paragraph:

"In my own earlier struggles as to God’s very existence, it really came down to realizing that my struggle was against unseen evil spirits that were constantly saying, "Has God said?" In other words, it was the same old lie that the devil gave to Eve in the garden. It worked then, and it works now. But, there is no basis of truth in it! The bible is both logical, verifiably accurate, and true in every aspect of life. In short, there is nothing in it that should make us doubt. The real problem is the whispering of the devil(s)."

Christian counselers are less likely to condemn you for doubting. Like "Brother Dean" here, they will assure you that doubt is human. We are weak, and easily tempted. Evil forces pounce on this weakness, and we must pray to God for strength.

Many Christians will even claim that their doubt brings them closer to God, precisely because they have to call on him for the strength to get past their doubts. This should make perfect sense to an outsider: the more doubts you squelch by writing them off as a test, the more reason you have to believe that God exists. After all, if your faith is strong enough to overcome Satan's lies, you must have a pretty good thing going.

While doubt is not directly condemned by most churches, persistent doubt will punch you a one-way ticket to Hell. If you begin to find yourself doubting your faith, that's okay, you're only human...but you better make sure you rid yourself of that doubt as fast as you possibly can. Whenever I questioned my faith as a teen, I was told that I needed to pray for God to lift that doubt, and if my prayers weren't working that meant that something in my life was creating a sort of spiritual barrier between God and me. So doubt itself wasn't a sin, but it meant that there was some other sin in my life. In an indirect way, as long as I was living in doubt, I was living in sin.

I'm sure that I am not the only person who has been taught this reasoning. It was thoroughly convincing to me in high school and I was a smart kid. I cringe when I hear atheists call Christians stupid or gullible, because I understand just how strong the defense against external and internal attacks can be.

What's Left For Atheists?

Assume for a second that I'm completely right, and the only way to "deconvert" from Christianity (or any other religion) is for the individual to bravely embrace doubt and begin a personal search for Truth. Is there still something atheists can do to combat the destructive force of religion? Damn right there is; enough to keep us busy for several lifetimes.

First and foremost, I am not suggesting that people stop making logical and scientific arguments against religion. When believers embrace their doubt, they will seek answers, so those answers better well be out there. Personally, I started doubting God's existence a few years ago, but it wasn't until I read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion that I became confident in my non-belief (weird as it seems, I first proclaimed myself an atheist less than a year ago). With each succeeding generation, there seems to be more and more genuine doubt. Christians see this as the corruption of society; I genuinely see it as an opportunity to save humanity (that seems extreme, I know, but it's how I see it). But the arguments that have convinced me and so many of you need to be readily available for every skeptic to come.

While I think that dedicated believers' faith cannot be changed, public policy based on those beliefs can and should be attacked. As skeptics, it is our duty to keep religion (especially creationism and ID) out of our schools and governments, fight for equal rights, and promote unhindered scientific research.

When you think about it, we are lucky to have minds inquisitive enough to break the spell, to borrow Daniel Dennett's phrase. We really are not very different from many adament believers other than our nature to ask a few more questions. Going public with our non-belief and continuing to live our lives is probably one of the strongest moves for change we can make. The more public atheists become, the more evident it becomes that we are not hopeless, immoral heathens who find no meaning in life.

In fact, we might even find that we all--believers and non-believers--have a lot in common. If we embrace a human community, there will be less of a need to form religious communities. But yikes, that's getting into a whole other topic...for another day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My conversation with God

ME (coming to in a haze): Holy shit, am I dead?

God: You’re not dead. I just needed to talk to you.

ME: Who the fuck are you?

God: I’m God.

ME: Really? I mean…really?

God: Yes, you were wrong. I exist.

ME: Oh, fuck me. How is this possible? There’s no way…

God: Look, I’m not here to convince you that I exist. I’m sitting right in front of you, so that should do the trick.

ME: I must be dreaming…

God: Your not dreaming. Here, I’ll use my powers to convince you (folds his arms and bops his head).

ME: Wow, I’m not dreaming. You’re real.

God: Real as Jonah living in the belly of a whale. Now we’ve got some things to talk about.

ME: What kind of things?

God: Well, you’ve been convincing people that I don’t exist. I’m not too happy about that.

ME: Okay. Point taken. You exist. My bad.

God: Well, I’m glad to hear you so readily admit that. Now go and preach my word.

ME: Hold on a second. Can I ask you a few questions?

God: Hmm, all right, a couple. Don’t take too long though; I’ve got a cancer patient to cure.

ME: Well, it’s just…why all the pain and suffering?

God: That’s your own damn fault!

ME: Who, me?

God: Well, all of you humans. You shouldn’t have sinned.

ME: But you created us. And since you’re omnipotent, you created us knowing that we were going to sin. So how is it our fault? I mean, if you already know everything that’s going to happen ever, how do we even have free will?

God: HA! You humans and your logic. You think that your logic reveals the truth of the universe?

ME: Well, I can’t see any other way. I mean, you created us this way…

God: Your logic is flawed. It’s designed to lead you to lies. Reality does not conform to human logic.

ME: Well, no offense, but why did you create us with a mental system that would lead us to conclude you don’t exist?

God: Because the only way you can be truly saved is through faith.

ME: Why?

God: What do you mean, why? That’s just the way it is.

ME: But you’re god (er, God)…couldn’t you have made it different? If you really want us all to be “saved” couldn’t you have made the path to salvation a little bit more within our nature?

God: Again with your logic…I’m telling you, logic only works when you are deciding which car you should buy…and even then, it’s not so good.

ME: Well in your illogical universe, how is killing babies and raping women okay? Because you supposedly told your people to do that. Is there any way you could explain the rationality behind that decision to me?

God: Oh, you go to Hell.

ME: That’s another thing! You’re the all-powerful god (er, God). What’s with the eternal suffering and gnashing of teeth and all that? I mean, conceivably, you could just discontinue the existence of non-believers. Wouldn’t that be a more reasonable-

God: I wasn’t kidding! You go to Hell, NOW!

(God zaps me with his lightning-bolt fingers and I fall into the depths of Hell)

ME (as I’m falling into Hell): God’s an asshoooooooooooooooole!

I actually went on to have quite a pleasant life in Hell. The place has gotten a lot of bad rep, but then again, so did Milwaukee and I loved it there. Satan’s a pretty cool gal (yeah, Satan’s a chick). She got sick of God calling all the shots and generally being a dick (who wouldn’t?) so she decided to bail. She’s turned Hell into a five-star resort, let me tell you…our minds are completely free here, we smoke the best pot and have better sex than you can possibly imagine. And EVERYONE in baseball uses steroids here, so the playing field is leveled out (at a much higher level).
Those suckers in heaven are slaving away for some jerk, and I’m down here having the time of my life. God existing is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

Digital Reading (The Amazon Kindle)

It's been four months since the Amazon Kindle was released (and four months since I read about it in Newsweek) and I am still completely torn on whether I will buy one once the price goes down a bit. I know that in the long run it would save me a ton of time and money, since I buy books like a junkie buys dope. Thus, every reasonable bone in my body says it would be a great investment. But I have my doubts on whether it would be worth it.

Of course, like just about every other bookworm, I am worried that I will not be able to "curl up" with a Kindle, and reading just won't be the same. And it's depressing to think of a life without trips to the bookstore, sampling endless authors' minds while sitting on a leather couch and sipping on chai tea. I enjoy shopping for books almost as much as I love reading them.

But the biggest reason I can't see myself owning a Kindle at this point is that I know it would become my most valued possession by far. That is a scary notion for me because I have never valued any posession all that much. When I was asked the common question, "If your house was on fire and you could save just one thing, what would it be?" I never knew how to answer since "my library" doesn't count as one thing. My things just aren't worth that much to me. The only possessions I have ever valued have been my books. And my indifference for my possessions has always been a source of great pride for me.

If I owned a Kindle, it would be worth slightly less than my son, and if it were lost, broken or stolen, I would be devastated. I would cry. I would stop eating. I would be an absolute mess.

Now, I don't know if Amazon has a backup of your purchased books; I'm sure they do, or that they will create one. That would eliminate some of the above-mentioned problems, but the Kindle itself is still an expensive piece of equipment, and in order to retrieve your books you would have to buy a new one.

So just be careful with it, right? Well, that creates even more problems. Books are not meant to be handled like fine jewelry. Books are meant to be carried around in your back pocket. Books are meant to be left on coffee tables, constantly in danger of becoming the victim of a spilt drink. Books are meant to be lost in the covers when you fall asleep reading them. You know a book is good when it's littered with coffee stains and the cover is reattached with scotch tape.

So, personally, I can't see myself ever owning a Kindle, despite how much money it would save me. This doesn't mean it won't happen, because I change my mind about all kinds of things all the time. But at this point in my life, I don't see the value in owning one.

All of that said, I think it's a wonderful invention. Hopefully it will motivate a new generation to re-discover the book.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You're not perfect, and neither is your brain

First, let me apologize for my recent absence. I have been having problems with my internet connection, and realizing just how lost and disconnected I feel without it.

The plus side of my internet-less-ness is that I have been able to read books at an even faster pace than usual. (By the way, I found a new favorite fictional writer, Haruki Murakami). Two books that I have recently read have been stuck on my mind: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson; and Predictable Irrationality, by Dan Ariely.

The basic premises of these books, respectively, are that our brains instinctively justify bad decisions, foolish beliefs and hurtful actions and that we are not nearly as rational as we like to think we are.

The overriding thought that has stuck with me is that our brains are not the flawless, reliable machines that we often view them as. Whether it’s being suckered into paying $3.00 for a cup of coffee after years of paying 50 cents (an example in Predictable Irrationality) or falsely convincing yourself that you are a holocaust survivor (an example in Mistakes Were Made), our brains deceive us pretty frequently.

The more I understand how my brain is flawed, the more I realize the importance of this realization. Our brains evolved according to what was advantageous in our environment. But with the rapid change in environment brought on in the past few thousand years, a lot of our brains mechanisms are simply outdated.

The best example I can think of is our love for sugar and calories. In our hunter/gatherer days, the rare source of sugar provided a much-needed boost of energy and we learned to pack in as many calories as we could when they were available because we never knew when our next meal would be. In today’s first world countries, food is overly abundant and we rarely have to worry about where our next meal will come from. Yet our love for sugar and calories persists, and as a result we’re fat as hell and dying of heart diseases, diabetes and an endless list of other health complications due to our inability to curb this evolutionary addiction.

Now this is just my personal experience and it may not apply to everyone, but I have found that the best way to resist this temptation is to understand why I am so drawn to Snickers bars and fried chicken. By understanding that my desire for these things is irrational, and understanding why that irrational desire exists, I am much less likely to succumb to those desires. Of course, every once in a while I still break down and devour an entire pizza by myself, but I understand that I am succumbing to an outdated addiction and make sure that it is only occasional.

But this post is not exclusively about dieting tips. This mentality can be applied to just about every aspect of our lives. Don’t be so quick to dismiss someone’s story of events just because you remember it differently; our personal memories care very little for truth. Question whether that PlayStation3 is really worth $400 to you, or if that same money could be used for something that would make you happier (or someone else happier!); we have no internal gauge of value except in relation to other things. Question your actions from a third-person view, instead of your biased opinion; our brains will do anything they can to convince us that everything we do is right.

One of the most universal everyday goals of people is to make good decisions. We are constantly making decisions, and the more good decisions we make, the better we end up. I am absolutely convinced that one of the most vital tools to making good decisions is realizing that our brains are not perfect and taking its flaws into consideration in every important decision we make.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lessons of parenthood (part 1)

This is part 1 of a likely endless series about my personal experiences of being a father. It is also an excuse to post pictures of my son and brag about how cute he is. My son, James Dillon, was born on June 15th, 2007. I took him home on Father's Day and the next day, my first full day with him at home, was my 23rd birthday, so it was an all-around pretty special (and exasperating) weekend for me. I won't go into how "wonderful it is to be a parent," but it has provided me a unique perspective on life that I could not have had otherwise. The following are the effects of being a parent.

In the past month, James Dillon has learned how to get up on all fours, drink out of a cup, eat chunks of food, and lure cats into his grasp, just to name a few of his newfound talents. The point is that, as a baby, he is rapidly developing new skills, discovering new things and becoming more aware of the world around him.

As his father, I find this challenging. Baby or not, I am a competitive son of a bitch, and I want to be growing and learning at a faster rate than he is. Of course this is impossible, but it does keep me motivated to continue growing.

Imagine if babies just decided, "You know what? I'm happy where I am, with my ability to crawl, drink milk and liquidy solids, and babble incoherently. This is good enough for me." Well obviously the human race would not last long if this attitude were widespread among babies. That's why we are so obsessed with learning and growing at a young age.

The problem is that a lot of people seem to reach a plateau that they are satisfied with, somewhere from 14-24. This is not only accepted, but anticipated. In high school, I remember thinking that I had until the end of college to build myself up to a certain point of knowledge, and then coast through life from there. This idea is perpetuated in our culture, which commonly views your 20s as the peak of your life. A lot of this comes from our obsession with physicality. The most popular role models, athletes and actors (especially female actors), usually peak in their twenties and once they hit 30, "it's all downhill from there." We mistakenly equate our bodies' peak with our personal peak.

I almost literally get sick to my stomach every time I hear someone say that college is where you "discover yourself." This idea is the result of two problems: parents dictating who their children are before they become independent, and our own willingness to stop growing once our formal schooling is complete.

We often view life as a collection of segments: childhood, high school, college, working life, retirement. We partially define ourselves by which point we're at, and assume that we won't change all that much until we enter the next stage. Of course, the working life stage is becoming increasingly long and lasts at least 40 years. To expect, and accept, that we won't dramatically change in that time deprives us of most of our lives. If I reach my late 50s and find myself essentially the same person as I am now, I will probably become suicidal. Not to worry though, because my son is constantly challenging me to grow.

I don't know the intracacies of babies' minds, but my eight-month-old son's mind seems to be working non-stop, taking in new information all the time and learning from it. When I see that, it's hard for me to justify wasting my time playing solitaire or watching some Seinfeld re-run for the umpteenth time.

A year from now--when James Dillon will be walking, talking and recognizing himself in a mirror--I want to be able to look back at my 2/25/08 self and confidently say, "I am a better person than he was."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

This is our country

If you regularly read atheist blogs, you probably heard about this story: A religious high school in Kansas refused to let Michelle Campbell ref a basketball game because she does not have a Y chromosome. The story broke about a week ago, and atheist blogs were quick to bring it to light, and the responses on those sites were understandably disgusted.

Well yesterday, the story made it into the biggest sports spotlight, Unlike atheist blogs, which are largely read by free thinkers who are more likely to see the prejudice in this story, ESPN's "Sports Nation" is a good representative of the average American.

So I couldn't resist checking the comments, and the results were saddening but not surprising. There was only one "woman, get back in the kitchen!" post, which was most likely a poor attempt at humor. But what was more off-putting was the more subtle sexism that several people saw as reasonable.

The common arguments were as follows:

"Well I'm a democrat (loath the clown in charge) and I'm from a blue state, but I would be irritated if a female official showed up to call a game in which I was playing. I would also think a fair number of male players would not take the female official seriously. The men's game at all levels is much faster and more physical than the corresponding female version. Most officials played the game at one point in their lives and it stands to reason that very few, if any, female officials would have an accurate point of reference to judge the men's game (especially the physicality)."

This was a sentiment that was echoed by a few people, but look at the way this guy opens his comment. He's a democrat, hates Bush and is from a blue state. Okay, there's no way he can be sexist. Now let's move on to his reasonable argument: Women shouldn't officiate because (a) guys aren't comfortable with it, and (b) they are inferior refs. Just like men aren't comfortable having a female boss, and besides, females don't make good leaders. Just like white students weren't comfortable having classes with black students, and besides, black students don't make good students. Just like heterosexuals aren't comfortable with homosexuals getting married, and besides, homosexuals don't make good parents.
And the argument that females aren't familiar with the men's game because the game they played was different ignores the fact that most refs--especially at high levels of play--never played high level basketball, if they played at all. This is a clear case of males trying to justify their prejudice, even though this guy admits that he's just not comfortable with women being refs.

Another version of this argument:

"i'm not saying a woman refereeing a boys game would change the outcome, but it would be on the mind of every person in the gym and it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already. you can't win if you're a woman ref in this situation. so let me reiterate that i am not sexist, but i can understand where people would have a reasonable case not wanting the lady to ref, and i can completely understand how the lady ref and others would be offended."

If you're like me, you just about jumped out of your skin when you read "it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already." We don't want to face our prejudices (and we all have prejudices) because it makes us feel icky. So let's just ignore this whole thing.

The other most common argument was summed up by this commentator:

"A private school should be able to make any rule they want concerning their students if they believe its' in the kids' best interest. It is a private entity and if parents, would-be refs, teachers or any other potiental employee does not agree with the schools' ideology, then, by all means, have nothing to do with the's a free enterprise."

The first thing that gets to me about this position is that it is disguised as tolerence. I'm sure this guy (I'm assuming all these commentators are guys for obvious reasons) would claim to live by the "Live and let live" philosophy, but this is a horrible philosophy to take when it comes to a "private entity" practicing blatant discrimination or any other form of injustice.
But what really, really gets under my skin about this particular claim is that it fuels the ideology that parents have free reign to teach their kids anything they want. This is a touchy issue, and I want to post on it in depth in the near future, but it makes me want to scream whenever anyone says anything to the effect of "The parents can do what they want. It's their kids, and none of our business." It bugs me because it treats kids like possessions instead of individual persons...but that rant is for another day.

One more guy that thinks he's being tolerent:

"We are SO OVERLY SENSITIVE in this country it's sickening. No one can have opinions or beliefs without them coming into question from some jack### with an agenda. Spare me your phony outrage and moral high ground about equality, people. Many of those who preach tolerance need to learn what the word means and practice it themselves."

This is an all too common misstep in logic from tolerating someone's personal beliefs to tolerating their outward actions based on those beliefs. If you want to believe that your toaster talks to you, fine. That's your business. But if your toaster tells you to blow up a school, or even to steal a candy bar, then it's someone else's business. And that someone else has a right to react to your actions.
And when your beliefs result in continual unjust actions or inactions(this same school was in the news before when they refused to play a football team that had a girl on its roster) you're damn right we have a right to question those beliefs.

A lot of Americans point proudly to the fact that we've come a long way in equal treatment of all people. But the process is painstakingly slow simply because people are unwilling to question long-held beliefs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The value of human life without "souls"

One of the hardest things for people to accept in a godless universe is the realization that we, humans, are made up of the same ‘stuff’ as everything else. When I talk to people that are scared of a godless universe, more often than not the core of that fear is not the absence of god itself, but the absence of souls.

I have often heard people claim that atheists don’t care about human life. The arguments go from “If there is no purpose to our lives, there is no value to our lives” to “If you are an atheist then you must believe that walking into a bus and opening fire is no different from shooting empty aluminum cans.”

Of course, these arguments are absurd, and people who are accused of such views quickly dismiss them as absurd. But precisely because it’s so absurd, I haven’t heard too many people really explain why human life is still valuable without a god. So I would like to briefly show that you can be an atheist without necessarily being a nihilist.

If you gave me a pile of plastic, metal, some wire and rubber, I would probably throw that heap of junk in the trash. But when those pieces are organized in a way that makes a computer, all of a sudden I have a valuable tool that allows me to communicate with you, play solitaire, or watch endless amounts of porn. The internet is not a physical thing; it is the result of a lot of physical elements arranged in the right way to create a worldwide communication device. I don’t really know how it all works, and I don’t care, because I don’t have to understand how it works to use it.

We are the same type of sum of the parts. No single part of a computer can be called a computer. Similarly, there is no single atom or cell that holds consciousness. But a particular collection and arrangement of atoms brings consciousness into existence. So is an atom that is part of me any more valuable than an atom that is part of a snowflake? No. Even if you chopped off my hand, I would not be sad for the physical hand that will decompose without the rest of my body. I would be sad because of the pain it causes me, both physically and psychologically. The physical aspect of a human body is not what we value. What we value is consciousness, which some people call the soul. What we have learned from neurology is that this consciousness is a result of a completely physical process. The mistake that some people make is to then claim that consciousness is purely physical, and thus unimportant. But consciousness itself does not exist as a physical thing. Consciousness is what is created in the non-physical world when certain physical elements are perfectly aligned.

This is what makes human beings special. It’s not one physical aspect of humans, but the sum of the parts that creates consciousness. And consciousness is not the only non-physical phenomenon that should be valued. On the level of single atoms, no one is any more important than another, true. But this does not mean that everything is meaningless.

There is no objective way to define ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ but I don’t think anyone would disagree about the inherent value of certain feelings and interactions. Love is good. Hate is bad. Human connections, cooperation, justice, knowledge, understanding…all of these things are inherently and inarguably good things. Like consciousness, none of these things physically exist, but are instead a sum of the parts.As an atheist, these are the things I fight for. I don’t find value in physical things, but in the non-physical things that physical things can create. My goal is to increase the amount of these things in the universe. So I seek to increase these things in my own life, but also in other people’s lives. My physical being is valuable only in its ability to create these inherently good, non-physical occurrences.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Oops, I accidentally got drunk. Since I have a strict policy of no drinking and posting, there will be no post tonight. I will get my post up early tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The inherent problem with "Rational Christianity"

Today I went to my favorite place in the world, the bookstore. I went there specifically to pick up a copy of Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell," but I ended up also buying "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin and "Predictable Irrationality" by Dan Ariely. But my impulsive buying is not the point.

The point is that on the book racks in the front of the store, where just a couple months ago I saw books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, was an abundance of Christian books proclaiming to defeat modern anti-theistic arguments. And I think that's good. Any debate needs input from both sides.

I don't want to close myself off to people that I disagree with, so I made a point to read many of the introductions and flipped through some of the chapters of these books. Some of them made intriguing points, some of them did not. But there was one thing that they all had in common, which made them flawed: all of their arguments were ex post facto.

A wonderful professor I had in college once told our class that the most important thing you have to learn in grad school was what you didn't have to read, because you can't possibly read it all. And if something is fundamentally flawed, you shouldn't waste your time reading it. So when someone is arguing ex post facto, I simply feel no obligation to read what they have to say.

So of course, I did not have time to read the entire books. I would gladly read one or two of them in their entirety if they were lended to me, but I will not spend my own hard-earned money on these books, because they are fundamentally flawed in their arguments.

This is the basic problem with "rational" arguments for Christianity, or any other religion. Just as the church has retrospectively determined that the Bible actually doesn't condone genocide, infanticide, slaverly, sexism, and in some more liberal churches, homophobia...just to name a few, there is no attempt in religious rationalism to start from scratch.

I cannot and will not accept any argument that begins with the assumption that God exists and then tries to prove his existence through reason, because you are beginning with a basic logical fallacy of assumption.

The other thing I noticed in these books, from what I read, was that they never gave a hypothetical situation in which God's existence would be falsifiable. If a theory is not falsifiable, it is worthless.

I have no problem with Borders promoting such books because both sides of a debate should be given a voice, and Borders is not promoting one side as better than the other. But the (non)reason used in these books should be pointed out as actually proving nothing other than the necessity of blind faith in religion.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The flawed moral sense

“I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” – Ernest Hemingway

There is a dangerous idea out there that is being promoted by theists and atheists alike. That is the idea that we have an in-born, natural sense of right and wrong and thus a natural sense of morality that we can rely on to make moral decisions. Whether that sense comes from a magical apple or billions of years of evolution is beside the point, to me, because the statement itself is false; there is no point to discussing the origin of something that does not exist.

Many people see their “conscience” as a voice in their head that speaks up whenever we encounter a moral decision. Some people see it as the voice of God, some people see it as a naturally developed sense, but people from both sides often view this “voice” as flawless.

Of course, when we hear about someone who bombed an abortion clinic or kill their family because they heard God tell them to do it, most of us say, “That person is insane. He should have known not to listen to that voice in his head. It sure as hell wasn’t God.”

And that’s good to think that because those people sure as hell are crazy to listen to any internal voice that tells them to kill people. But there is a more subtle, and more common, belief that as long as we are not mentally ill, we can tell right from wrong, even if we might do the wrong thing every now and then—but when we do something wrong we know it’s wrong and feel guilty because of it. And I’m not hearing this argument from religious people; I’m hearing it from people who are generally non-religious that claim there is a natural, objective morality that has developed in humans for the benefit of our species. After all, without some sense of morality, society at large would be impossible. If everyone was just looking out for themselves, we would never have escaped the stone age, or even made it that far.

I’m not disputing the claim that we have an innate sense of morality and justice. But I am disputing that a perfect sense of morality could, hypothetically, be achieved if we were just willing to listen to that natural voice in our head that tells us what is right and what is wrong. I’m disputing the idea that our selfishness is the only thing keeping us from a perfect, or near perfect, sense of morality.

The problem with claiming that God installs a sense of morality in us is that if God created it, it has to be perfect. I find it ironic that Christians in this country claim that without religion, subjective morality would take over and “people would do whatever they felt like.” I find this ironic, because it is exactly what most Christians do themselves. Many born-again Christians are convinced that they can communicate directly with God. When they have a difficult decision to make, they can simply ask the God voice inside their head what they should do. How many times do you hear Christians talk about praying for guidance? And in the end, who is actually making the decision? Them, based on what they feel is right. Because the Bible is surprisingly vague on today’s “moral” issues like abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty, people have to rely on what their internal God tells them, and both sides can find plenty of scripture to back up their conclusion. But in the end, they’re just listening to the supposedly flawless voice inside their heads.

But Christians aren’t the only ones who do this. Just substitute “self-reflection” for prayer, and the process works just as well without any god. When it comes to making moral decisions, most people rely on what they feel. And as long as someone’s moral opinion doesn’t stray too far from the norm (like someone who feels like child molestation is okay), we are not supposed to criticize anyone’s moral decisions.

On one hand, we desperately want to believe that there is an objective moral code so that we can say definitively and objectively that rape, murder and theft are immoral. But when it comes to our personal lives, we feel like we are equipped to make the correct moral decision if we just stop and reflect on whether something feels right or not.

This is a mistake, because the tools we are equipped with are flawed. Evolution is a sloppy process that cares about one thing and one thing only: survival. I’m not sure whether morality developed as a direct benefit to human survival, or if it is purely a side-effect of our ability to understand another being’s thoughts, which leads to empathy, which leads to morality. I tend to lean toward the side-effect theory, but it’s beside the point in this case. The point is that just because morality developed and has proven beneficial does not mean it is perfect, or anything close to perfect. Relying on what we feel is right and wrong is a perfect way to allow ourselves to justify our immoral acts. Cold hard reason has to be a (big) part of our morality if we ever want to get anywhere close to living in peace.

Take racism, or any other kind of prejudice, as an example. While culture certainly plays a role in prejudice, there are underlying, natural, aspects of our brains that make us discriminate—mainly the need to categorize, which is necessary to our ability to comprehend the world and make decisions. And how is something like racism diminished? There wasn’t a generation that suddenly said, “We no longer feel good about treating someone differently because of the color of their skin.” It was the realization that “they” bleed, sleep, age and feel the same way that “we” do. Racial relations have been helped tremendously by proving scientifically that we share the same genes. On a personal level, the best way to conquer prejudice is to form relationships with people with different skin color, sexual orientation or social status. When you actually get to know people as individuals, you realize you aren’t all that different and can begin to chip away at your prejudices. One way or another, logic plays a role in overcoming the natural tendency toward prejudice.

Of course, even though we have a tendency toward prejudice, many of us still feel bad that we are prejudiced. So you could argue that there is still an overriding natural moral sense that has to battle with the separate natural sense of prejudice. But our moral feelings (the guilt or empathy that make us feel icky or good) do not always fall in line with what logically seems moral.

When our morality fails

Imagine that you were walking to work in your brand new $500 suit when you see a man lying in the street, bloodied and unconscious, but clearly still alive. There is a semi driving down the street toward the man, and it is obvious that the driver will not see the man in time to avoid him. You have plenty of time to drag the man out of the way, but you certainly do not have time to undress or try to wake him up. You do not save the man because you do not want to ruin your new suit with bloodstains.

Now imagine a second scenario. You are watching TV and a commercial comes on that shows pictures of starving children in Africa and a phone number you can call to sponsor a child for just five dollars a month. You continue to watch television and do not call the phone number.

In these situations, are you acting immorally or morally? If you are like 99% of people, you would say that in the first scenario you are acting immorally, but in the second scenario, you are not acting either immorally or morally.

But what makes these situations different? In both situations you have the opportunity to save a stranger’s life at your own expense. Why is inaction immoral in one case, and not in the other? You can say that in scenario one you are the only person that can save the man, while in scenario two you can rest assured that those children will be saved by someone else. But come on, you know that’s a lousy excuse. There is no shortage of starving children in the world, so even if 3,000,000 children were saved from other peoples’ donations, your donation would mean that 3,000,001 children were saved. You can try to come up with an excuse, but if you’re honest with yourself, the moral judgments of the two scenarios should be the same.

Because indirect contact with other human beings (through letters, telephone, email, webcams, etc.) is relatively new to us, our empathy does not translate very well to people we cannot physically see. It’s not completely absent, and in fact we often get angry that these sponsor-a-child programs play on our empathy by showing pictures of miserable children. But that feeling is not strong enough for us to actually save those children’s life. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have never personally donated to any of these causes myself. So I’m not getting on my high horse here; I’m just as guilty as anyone).

Should I feel guilty every time I go to the movies, since that money could save someone’s life? Well no, that kind of guilt would be crippling. But is it immoral for me to go to the movies when that money could save someone’s life? As uncomfortable as it makes me, it’s hard to say that it is not. In fact, I will say definitively right here that going to the movies or buying a four-dollar cup of coffee are immoral acts.

Of course, this sets a moral standard that is impossible for anyone to live up to. The idea that I can never be perfectly moral, no matter how hard I try is uncomfortable. But just because something makes us uncomfortable does not mean that we should deny it against all reason. And I just cannot come up with a reasonable argument for why I should not consider the mentioned cases immoral.

Even upon realizing this, I do not find myself in a constant state of guilt and shame because I am not giving every penny I earn to humanitarian causes. When I sit down and really think about it, sure I feel a little guilty, but just like I’m not continually baffled by my self-awareness, my feelings of guilt in these cases are not instinctive. If I steal money from my brother, as I did sometimes when we were kids (sorry Jordan), I instinctively feel guilty about it. I don’t have to sit down and consider that what I did was unjust, because my moral sense naturally activates feelings of guilt. This feeling of guilt will not go away until I justify my immoral actions, or make up for them. People that are constantly committing immoral acts are usually very good at quickly justifying those acts.

With the starving children on the other side of the world, however, my moral sense falls short. I have to consciously convince myself that my inaction is immoral before I feel any sense of guilt, and that guilt disappears immediately.

So what?

So what can we do about it without driving ourselves into poverty and starvation? Well, for starters, we can recognize that our moral sense is imperfect, and that we need to apply reason when it comes to making moral decisions; just because we don’t feel guilty about doing something does not mean we are doing the right thing.

The man in the road and child in Africa examples are extreme situations of when we do and don’t feel a moral responsibility to help someone, but most situations fall in a gray area. A lot of people have siblings that are significantly less or more fortunate than they are, but few people feel bad about buying a new Mercedes while their brother is living paycheck to paycheck and falling behind on his bills. If anyone suggests that you should feel guilty about not helping your struggling sibling, there are all kinds of justifications you can fall back on: “I earned this money, and my brother’s lazy,” “He’s not starving to death. He’s fine,” “If I give a handout to him, then everyone’s going to want one.”

Since my personal situation is a lot closer to the struggling brother, it is hard for me to criticize the inaction of the well-to-do brother. The common reaction is, “You’re just looking for a free handout. You just want people to give you something for nothing.” But I am just as guilty when I buy a $10 t-shirt instead of donating that money.

I am not attacking particular actions that I think are immoral. I am suggesting that we reevaluate how we define morality. Perfect morality as I have defined it is unattainable, but that does not mean we should not pursue it. A perfect understanding of the universe is unattainable, but we do not stop pursuing that. Like any good counselor will tell an alcoholic, admitting our shortcomings is the first step to recovery. We have to admit that our moral sense is incomplete. We cannot continue to insist that immoral actions will reveal themselves through our guilt, and moral actions will reveal themselves through our happiness, because this is not always the case. It may be uncomfortable to expand our definition of immorality, but our descendents will thank us. We are a long way from a peaceful existence, but I am confident that harmony is possible if we take the appropriate steps. And I believe that including reason in our moral decisions is an important one of those steps.

Sorry Hemingway, but you’re wrong.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mind undergoing improvements: please bear with me

"Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death." – Albert Einstein

Okay, I have been trying for hours to come up with a coherent post, because I promised one a week. I tried writing about consciousness, then morality, then something that didn’t even have a main point…everything ends up in incoherent rambling, and I’m just not confident enough in anything I’ve written to post it here.

Instead I want to talk about my rambling mind, because I think it is an important topic. My writing is all over the place because that’s where my mind is right now: jumping from tangent to tangent, unable to settle anywhere long enough to finish a thought. It makes it nearly impossible for me to communicate my thoughts to anyone else, which is frustrating, but I have come to realize that this incoherence is a good sign, and a necessary part of intellectual growth.

I have been vigorously stirring my mind (largely in part to a new, wonderfully thought-provoking book that I am in the middle of reading) so that all of my beliefs and opinions are swirling spastically like pulp in orange juice. While they are swirling, they are completely vulnerable to be shot down.

This is a vital process for any independent thinker. No matter how objective you think you are, you will always have a tendency to try to prove yourself right. And more than that, it is important to have some kind of base beliefs (beliefs that you have reached through evidence, reason and skepticism). If you absolutely doubted everything all the time, you would go crazy. You have to have some confidence in some things, some of the time.

But from time to time, I think you have to enter a state of complete uncertainty. That’s where I am right now. Of course, the beliefs with the most evidence (there is no god, for example) fall back into place pretty quickly. But my opinions on morality, consciousness and other complicated issues are undergoing some heavy internal fire, and hopefully I will come out with a better understanding and some intriguing thoughts on those issues.

But for the time being, I have very little confidence in any opinion I might express, and I cannot bring myself to write an opinion that I myself am not confident in.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Introduction to Very Special Monkeys

“Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah and his party didn’t miss the boat.” – Mark Twain

It is often noted that humans are not nearly as superior to other animals as we like to think we are. There is certainly an abundance of negative traits that are uniquely human. Our existence is not beneficial in any way to our environment, and we seem to care very little that we are actively destroying the planet we call home. Defending the human race is a near impossible task. But I’m trying to be an optimist, and I genuinely think we can justify our existence if we utilize the positive traits that are uniquely human.

Through the clumsy process of evolution, we have stumbled upon some wonderful gifts—reason, a sense of justice, and the desire to understand the universe—that could prove to be the tools we need to save our species.

“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.” – Bertrand Russell

Without question, religion is one of the biggest hindrances to human progress, especially moral progress. Religion promotes willful ignorance and blind faith over skepticism and reason. Religion undercuts the potentially unifying traits of humans because it proclaims itself to be sheltered from reason, and different religions have polarizing beliefs that make peaceful coexistence impossible.

I am an atheist and damn proud of it, but Very Special Monkeys is not meant to be a direct attack on religion. It is a direct attack at the broader problem that makes religion—but also several other human errors—possible: irrationalism.

Irrational thoughts are a trap for all people. And it’s not always bad; the emotions that we value (and the ones we detest) are results of irrationality. But when we are searching for Truth, and in order to find a way to peacefully coexist, we have to be able to put our own self-interests and subjective points of view aside.

The things that make us uniquely human allow us to experience happiness that goes far beyond any physical pleasure. Very Special Monkeys is a celebration of this ability, but more importantly VSM is a call to end the irrational thoughts that are keeping us from crossing the threshold that Russell spoke of. Sometimes I will make attacks on widespread irrational thoughts. Other times I will make attempts to advance contemporary explorations of reality. At all times, I will implement reason, logic and most importantly, skepticism.

Because I am somewhat of a perfectionist (I challenge you to find a grammatical or spelling error on my blog), my posts tend to take a long time to construct and usually end up rather lengthy because I do not want to miss any of the thought’s potential. In my blogging experience, this has meant a lot of large time gaps between posts. So to make it easy on my readers, I will simply promise you a new post every Wednesday night. If you need something substantial to chew on after a long week of your mindless job, check in every Friday morning and I’ll have you covered. If you only have time on the weekend, stop by then. The point is, I’ll make sure I have something fresh for you every week. I may make additional posts depending on newsworthy events, but the meat of my thoughts will go into my weekly post.

During the rest of the week, check out the other blogs I have linked, most of which make much more frequent posts. I promise they’re all good, but I have no problem telling you that my personal favorites are Atheist Revolution and Greta Christina’s Blog.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts of this very special monkey.