An Appetite for Wonder


-Thanks to the RDFRS for the link 

“By all means let’s be openminded, but not so openminded that our brains drop out.” Richard Dawkins

Here is a beautiful video compilation of all that this wondrous planet has to offer. It also includes a voiceover by evolutionary biologist, writer, and  atheist firebrand Richard Dawkins.

I can find nothing more inspirational and uplifting to start the new year off. It’s like the perfect Happy New Year card ūüôā

Let’s throw away our supernatural delusions and start concentrating on the natural wonder that surrounds you everyday.

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Gender Segregation is Wrong!


2013-11-27

Image Originally Posted a@ WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE by Jerry Coyne

I came across this article a few days ago on The Guardian website. It covers a hot topic issue that I mentioned in my coverage of the debate between Hamza Tzortkis and Prof. Lawrence Krauss.  In brief, that event was being held at UCL and was promoted as not segregated.  Unfortunately, the religious dimwits who set up the event chose to do otherwise, going against university policy, and invited the ire of Lawrence Krauss.

Here is his original reaction and answer when questioned on it:

The UCL ended up banning that Muslim organization from conducting future events on their premises. I think it serves them right for bringing their archaic views to a place of knowledge and forward thinking. Unfortunately, Universities UK didn’t get the memo.

Universities UK, the representative body for universities across the UK, has seen it fit to produce a 40 page document which, essentially, grants external speakers the right to demand audience segregation. In other words, speakers now have the right to demand that men and women sit apart. That doesn’t sound too maddening. What if a speaker asks black people to sit at the back so the white people have a better view? How about asking one religious denomination to not partake in a lecture because they eat pork? What if a speaker separated gay people from straight people? Where do we draw the line?

Here is the excerpt from Universities UK:

“…concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system”. If “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

There have been multiple cases in the UK where such segregation has taken place, mostly at the behest of religious speakers. The problem here is that society in general is becoming too tolerant. We don’t want to allow ideas that could be seen as harmful or insulting to pervade the psyche of those we fear. Let’s keep everyone happy and not ask for trouble. Sadly, the trouble starts when you allows anachronistic ideas to gain footing because one party wants to honor and respect the wishes, no matter how ridiculous, of another. Really? Let’s be mindful of the religious beliefs of the speaker who thinks segregation is a bonafide idea? Fuck that.

On October 3rd (My birthday. Send gifts!), two Athiest students at LSE wore amusing t-shirts with a religious inflection to their message. The authorities (gung-ho campus security) was on them in an instant and they were told, not asked, to cover up their t-shirts for fear of offending others. So what? Fuck the others if they’re so offended. Life, and certainly hallowed halls of education, exist to challenge our notions and beliefs to create smarter, free-thinking denizens.

Here is a quote from the most gentle of gentlemen, Stephen Fry:

‚ÄúIt’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”

Let’s take a modern example: the world is fawning over how Malala has stood up to the persecution and violence that the Taliban have wrought on women in their campaign to keep them from the evils of education. Heck, she’s given speeches at British universities and been nominated for peace prizes. What if Malala was asked to sit apart from others for being a Muslim, or a women, at a university in the UK? I hope that you can see the point I am trying to make. She does not let anyone tell her that she cannot take part in education because of her race, creed, or gender. The fact that the representative body of institutions across the UK thinks it is ok for a speaker to do so is pathetic. Additionally, if you choose to partake in such a deplorable exercise, then you have already failed the first test of education and should stop wasting your parents money.

Once again, education is a supremely powerful tool. In fact, a lot of the bigotry and hate that has inflicted the world is because there is a severe lack of it in many corners of the globe. People resign themselves to the ideas and livelihood placed upon them by the cosmos or their families and leaders. That’s not how it should be. Personally, I hate the fact that religion is building a foundation in education across different countries. For instance, states in the USA are trying to get Evolution banned from being taught in school. Also, faith schools are cropping up in the ¬†UK where admission is based on your religious beliefs and staff are forced to wear headscarves or something equally asinine. What’s even more beguiling is that they are 100% state-funded. Yup, your hard earned money is being used to fund discriminatory education practices.

Where did we go wrong? When did finding answers for ourselves and revelling in our differences and the world become such an intolerance? When did we halt our dissent of ideas that fail to advance the ideals of an equal and educated society? When did we stop giving a fuck and start sanctioning bigotry and assisting persecution? Tolerance is a dirty word, and the fear of offending sensibilities should not keep us from speaking our mind.

I hope that universities will choose to uphold the ideals which they were founded upon and rescind the farcical document published by Universities UK.  Polly Toynbee sums up my beliefs perfectly in her piece:

“My own view is that religion is like any other opinion and deserves to be subjected to the same challenge or mockery as anyone’s political views, with no special respect or forbearance. Universities are the anvils for hammering out these ideas, not for setting religious sensibilities above women’s rights, and beyond challenge, trumping all other argument.”

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A Map of the Bible’s Contradictions


 

bible

 

This is an interesting one. If you know anything about religion and the various texts, then you know how many contradictions there are. Well, Daniel G Taylor has created an impressive visualization that covers 463 of the Bible’s major contradictions. ¬†This is how you read it:

“Each vertical blue line represents a different chapter, ordered chronologically. The red arcs trace each represent a question about a specific person or concept. These range from incredibly mundane (“Is it OK to use perfume?”) to the monumental (“Is God the creator of evil?”). Clicking on one of the red lines takes you to a list of every relevant quote from both Old and New Testaments.

This Comprehensive Map Traces 463 of the Bible's Contradictions

Taylor points out that ¬†“this website aspires to be a beautiful and interactive resource for skeptics and believers alike to explore some of the more negative aspects of holy books.”¬†It’s quite a piece of work to behold and it is easy to get lost in the depth. At the same time, it is expected to grow as others contribute.

Of course, this is isn’t localized to the Bible. All the major religions are man-made and contain all sorts of these contradictions and things rationally minded people would consider illogical. Of course, this doesn’t stop some people from surging ahead to take the top honors of stupidity. Consider the following results from a recent Gallup poll:

bibel 2

I still find it impossible to fathom how an educated person can believe the creationist viewpoint (25% of Americans with graduate degrees). The fact that 46 percent of Americans believe this nonsense is even more scary. This means religious bastardizations of scientific fact are gaining ground. My only wish for these people would be that they visit a natural history museum and realize just how wrong they are. The facts don’t exist to diminish your faith in God and you should not be scared to embrace them.

You can learn more about the project, see a full list of the contradictions, and gain some perspective through inspired reading materials on the website.

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My Brother The Islamist: Documentary


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****UPDATE**** The documentary is from 2011. In April 2013, Rich was jailed for 6 years for his part in a terror plot. Well that didn’t take long. Another life ruined because of people like Anjem Choudhary.

I was drawn to the documentary because it takes place in a city and country that was my home for 6 years. Born into a Muslim family in the UAE, I ventured to England to complete my undergraduate and Masters degrees. I also got a taste of the working life for two years at SEGA as my dreams of working in videogames came true. My time in England forced me to grow up quick and created a significant change within me. I viewed the world through lenses I had never seen through before. I consumed information, art, culture and knowledge like the Cookie Monster devours biscuits. I enjoyed freedoms, friends and moments that I will never replace or forget.

In other words, it was an experience of such perceptual vastness you literally have to reconfigure your mental models of the world to assimilate it.

Sitting here now in Canada, it pains me to witness the way this ignorant and poisonous form of Islam is taking hold in a ¬†country that I cherish so much. Just to be clear, I’m an anti-theist ( against all Gods)¬†and consider religions, deification and the supernatural to be collectively reprehensible and regressive. I only focus on Islam here because it pertains to the topic of the documentary.

I consider myself to be an open-minded individual. Also, I’m aware of the irony of that statement after I just banished the possibility of the existence of a supernatural creator. Well, there is open-mindedness and then there is sheer infantile lunacy. But I digress.

There is so much wrong with the Islam depicted in this documentary that I don’t even know where to begin my tirade.¬†

The central storyline of brothers caught on opposite sides and a family torn apart is certainly moving. At the same time, it does an excellent job of exposing this disgusting perversion of the merits and values of Islam. People like the infamous Anjem Choudhary prey on young minds searching for meaning and a path to rectify their past. It’s never clear what the tipping point is for these individuals. I can understand an Iraqi boy seeing his family slaughtered by a wayward US bomb turning to extremism, but how does it come about in a society such as the UK? Where did the country go wrong in tending to these youths?

Just listen to the preachings of this specious self-made prophet: he wants to install Sharia law and make Britain an Islamic state! Are you bonkers, man? What’s even more troubling is the fact that people who grew up in this society want to change it for the worst. They think¬†enslaving¬†women and chopping off appendages for crimes is the way forward for humanity. There is nothing wrong with converting to another religion or finding one, but going archaic with your beliefs is just plain undignified. If they have such a problem being surrounded by these¬†Kuffars,¬†then why don’t they fuck off to places where all their¬†wondrous¬†heavenly laws are enacted? Hell, the fanatical brother thinks that there are¬†egregious¬†misconceptions about Al-Qaeda as he tries to recruit a revert on the streets. Honestly, at times the guy behaves like he’s a made-man with the mob and owns the streets of Whitechapel.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these gents are as normal as you and I when they hang with their friends. Observe them breaking their fast on Ramadan and they look as innocuous as any regular Muslim. ¬†Some of them are trying to escape substance abuse or have just failed at life. But then things go awry. They¬†find meaning in the causes of extremism because they are now fighting for something. As one them so malevolently states, they have three options: peace, rule or fight.

You don’t need religion or any God to give your life meaning or to help you get over obstacles in your life. That strength comes from within you. The venom these people spew is the poison instilled within them by bastards like Anjem Choudhary. He is just a criminal no different from any other instigators of propaganda found throughout history. ¬†Why can’t they just kick people like Anjem Choudhary out of the country? All they do is spread lies and promote violent behavior. You might argue he has rights as a British citizen, but he doesn’t even want those rights in his flawed vision of human utopia.¬†Unfortunately¬† these youths are just ammunition and voices for Choudhary’s own agenda to upset the balance with Jihad and perpetuate the image of the West as the ultimate evil. Hey, every wannabe martyr needs an enemy, right?

Even Ben couldn’t escape being drawn into this world of extremism. He started out as a moderate convert because he wanted more out of life than¬†just¬†getting drunk. Well Ben, perhaps you should have tried education or a job. His mother is completely flabbergasted when he expounds his extremist views. Why doesn’t she slap some sense into him? No wonder he went and got drunk all the time.

Seriously¬†though, ¬†watching Ben fall under the tutelage of Rich and thinking that burning flags and demonizing the families of dead soldiers is all part and parcel of being a Muslim. In the documentary, the idiots think that England losing to Germany is some sort of sign from Allah for these sinners to reconsider their pact with the Devil. Bollocks! That’s just England being England at football.

Ben won’t even consider any other version of Islam unless it comes from a source trusted by him. He considers all who question the written word as “idiots”. Unfortunately, all those sources are extremists and The Independent is an Islamaphobic publication. This just goes to show how flawed and uneducated they are when it comes to their religion of choice. I wouldn’t expect much more from people who think that shaking hands with non-Muslims using the right hand is the equivalent of wiping your own ass. Yes, that’s in the¬†documentary.

A Sad State of Affairs

I feel sad for Rob and his family in the end. They lost someone they loved to an extremist ideology that teaches them to forsake all that they hold dear. For instance, Rich felt his Mother would shame him among his peers if she appeared on camera without a veil. I hazard to think any version of God would decry an individual from associating himself with his family, even if they have vastly different beliefs.

This is a serious issue even outside the framing of this documentary. Already there are signs of these¬†ideologies spreading throughout Europe.¬† I lived on The Highway, which is less than 10 minutes from Whitechapel. Walking through Whitechapel really is like walking into an entirely different realm. You instantly get the feeling that you have crossed the threshold into a close knit community of Muslims that rarely venture out of the area. Of course there are people from all walks of life and demographics living in the area peacefully. Then why does a certain group feel so disconnected from the¬†society¬†around them? Are they truly unable to function without creating an uproar or engaging in hurtful antics? What is the impetus for them wanting to¬†reorganize¬†Western society? ¬†They can shout until the cows come home about the wars and deaths in the Middle-East as their justification. The barbaric killers in Woolwich this week certainly did and they were a part of Anjem Choudhary’s class of extremist philosophy. I can assure you that even if tomorrow all Western forces withdrew they will still find a reason to advocate.

This brand of crazy is present in all religions and countries, and it has been since time immemorial. Everyone is welcome to their faith, but perversions of the truth you value should be castigated and expelled to obscurity. If it works for these nuts, then it can certainly work for the progressives and moderates. All religions have their good parts, and this is the only way to defend them from being usurped by renegades and their deceitfulness.

As for me, I would rather be dead and damned than abandon my mind to the madness of religion.

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You Should Be Watching VICE!


Have you heard of the hit new HBO show VICE? Well, now you have. Trust me when I say that this show is important. It’s also fucking nuts.

VICE is a fitting name because I’m hooked.

Each week I set myself down in anticipation of the awful truths the VICE team will reveal about our deranged planet. The premise of the show is simple. The team visits various conflict and hot zones around the world (e.g. Iraq and North Korea) and shows you a world you never knew existed and stories you’ve never heard.

Take for example the first episode where the team visited the¬†Philippines. This country takes politics to a whole new level. Candidates and their families are murdered left and right. Militias are formed and roam around in broad daylight. Guns are built and sold freely making America’s gun culture look like an¬†obsession¬†with BB Guns.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then VICE’s¬†expos√© on how children are being misled by Islamic fundamentalists into committing heinous act of terror will move you to your core.

I’m not naive to the fact that we live in an ugly world. Still, I find the show to be an edifying and humbling experience. Of course, there is a lot of shock value involved and this is not a sanitized experience. How many media outlets would show the freshly dismembered head of a suicide bomber laying in a pool of innocent blood? ¬†Images like this appear harrowing to us because our psyches are severely sheltered and our assessment of the world at large is underdeveloped. It is ironic that the¬†inter-connectivity¬†afforded to us by the digital age has in many ways disconnected us from the harsh and sobering realities of the world.

In an age where journalism is reduced to gossip, pandering and a race for ratings, I applaud VICE for taking risks and pushing journalism to extremes where so few dare to tread.

Still, I feel that at the heart of all this VICE is a story of human tragedies. Some are self inflicted and others brought about by interlopers and despots. There is the story of the girl who tries to escape North Korea only to end up being forced into ¬†life of prostitution. Equally heartbreaking are the malformed children who are destined to die because of the after effects of the war in Iraq. This is very real stuff. I refuse to run a comparative analysis on the plights of different individuals because we all have our cross to bear. However, from the comfort of my armchair it’s hard not to think that some are heavier than others.

You can check out VICE on HBO here

You can watch the first episode free below

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Islam vs. Atheism: The Big Debate


In This Corner…..

I invite you to watch the hotly contested debate below. It’s 2 hours long so settle in. No prizes for guessing which side I was rooting for ūüėČ

Let’s put the jokes aside and get serious. I had hoped for an intelligent debate concerning the topic : Which is more sensible? Islam or Atheism?.

Unfortunately, the room was full of Islamist cronies and the odds were clearly stacked against Professor Lawrence Krauss. Still, the man did an admirable job and he has an almost infallible patience. My real issue was with the his opponent ¬†Hamza Tzortkis’ approach to the debate.

Observations

  • Hamza is a bit of a celebrity¬†amongst¬†the¬†Muslim¬†youth and he is revered as someone who speaks the truth and speaks it straight. Moreover he is a strong raconteur.Sadly, he was out of his depth here in going up against Prof. Krauss with his minimal grasp of scientific concepts. For example, the professor proved to Hamza that a quantifiable infinite can and does exist (e.g. pi). This threw Hamza’s small brain into a tizzy and he outright refused evidence before his very eyes. I don’t have an issue with someone making claims of knowledge; however, Hamza should learn to accept error when someone with authority and proven answers shows you evidence to the contrary.¬†
  • I also thought that he was incessantly rude. For example, the professor caught him out at few points and Hamza, blushing like a naked baby, bluntly called those cheering the professor’s “slaves”.¬†Clearly¬† the response of an informed and values driven mind. How about all those cheering for you Hamza? Are they slaves? Well, they sure act like they are indoctrinated by your mounteback rhetoric because they are willing to cheer any absurdity you spit out as long as it praises Allah. Furthermore, he literally said the professor was being presumptuous and spreading crap. Of course, this was the real red herring to raise the profile of his followers and divert attention away from actual facts and towards the further befuddlement of the audience.
  • In Hamza’s defense, he correctly admits he knows next to nothing about science. He doesn’t even know anything about “nothing”,¬†as it is defined in Prof. Krauss’ book. So how does he challenge the professor? He starts babbling about the linguistic beauty of the¬†Quran and a tirade about¬†¬†inductive vs. deductive reasoning.¬†What¬†was even more bizarre was how all his arguments revolved around¬†interpretations of definitions and hollow examples (e.g.¬†temporal, causality and¬†infinity)¬†. How does any of this outline the sensibility of the Quran? It doesn’t and Hamza knows that . In fact, if you watch the debate closely you can see that Prof. Krauss is actually educating the crowd as he negates all of the points put forth by Hamza. He does this by¬†presenting¬†evidence, common sense and explanation. In contrast, Hamza resorts to cheap parlor tricks and his charm to play the crowd. Moreover, at many times he refuses to pay heed to the professor’s explanations and speaks over him and warps his explanations with ridiculous pseudoscience.
  • Hamza’s mission, similar to the mission of all these self-appointed defenders and authorities of faith, is to make an example out of the infidel Atheist. If he wanted to enter into a proper debate, which stayed on topic, then he would have brought proof and examples that speak volumes about the divinity and sensibility found with the Quran. Well, he didn’t. Instead, he danced around the questions Prof. Krauss challenged him with (e.g. Sharia law and homosexuality). He also reveals his folly by stating that homosexual people are not openly gay in the United States and that science requires testimony to be accepted, all of which is bollocks. The point is that all the science, laws, values, morality and concepts of the world found in the Quran can and have been disproved by the accomplishments of science and the advancement of societies. Additionally, many of the claims made in the Quran, especially concerning science, have been claimed by civilizations that stood long before Islam or any other of the current major religions. In fact, ¬†just because an Arabic/Christian/Buddhist scholar enlightens the world with an idea does not mean that the respective religion has automatic claim to it. Does Christianity claim Francis Collins’ work? Don’t take my word for it because you can find all this out for yourself by scouring reputable sources on the Internet and in your local library. All this shows is that religion is not unique, special or sensible. It is a highly fallible human construct devised to alleviate our fears of the unknown and to keep the impressionable under lock and key to restrict progress and education. Conform your beliefs to the reality and evidence that surrounds you.
  • I could go on and on but I think I’ve done enough to get my point across. I would like to give a special mention to the simpleton mathematician who during the Q&A sessions belittled Prof. Krauss’ book by calling it “an introduction to logical fallacies.” Well smart-ass, I can assure you that no one anywhere will ever read anything you put out because you couldn’t even comprehend the preface of the professor’s book. The idea that¬†nothing is something¬†is not difficult to understand. Simply put, it means that ¬†nothing,¬†as defined by the professor, is a real but intangible concept (i.e. something). Also, the book contains no actual mathematics (e.g. equations etc..). I know this because I’m reading the book. It contains diagrams, but they are used schematically to illustrate the points put forth by Prof. Krauss.
  • My final point is meant to address the segregation that had become a talking point of the¬†lecture¬†prior to its beginning. Essentially, the¬†organizers¬†of the event did not allow women and men to sit together in the auditorium. Not only is this against the UCL’s stipulations, but it is also reprehensible in the 21st century. Lawrence Krauss refused to take part unless the¬†organizers¬†removed this ridiculous law, which they did and the show went on. Rightly so, the¬†organizers¬†of the¬†event¬†have been banned from UCL. However, in the Q&A one girl felt the need to address this. My dear, a man arriving late and searching for a seat in a non-segregated event choosing to sit beside you is not imposing himself upon you. How does this affect your values? Are your values so fickle that they are harmed by the proximity of ¬†the opposite sex? Did he feel you up or belittle you in any way? ¬†Also, the example you provided of the same man coming uninvited and joining your girlfriends at a restaurant is not the same thing. They are two entirely different social situations. In the altter, you have every right to be offended and claw his eyes out. You can’t do that at an open public event.¬†Would you remove yourself from public because men are encroaching on your sacred values through their sheer proximity in public places, such as classrooms? No one is forcing you or anyone else to sit next to him because you are free to change your seat. You chose to be a part of a social convention in the secular and open society you were fortunate¬†enough¬†to be born into. Don’t take it for granted because I can assure you that people elsewhere would love to have a taste of the very freedoms you bemoan.