24 May, 2006

Religious Belief = Intelligence?

There is a debate going on right now on "our" side, those that fight for the integrity of science and science education between "moderates" (theists and deists who see compatibility between science and religious belief) and "hard-liners" (those that do not). One of the comments equated intelligence and religious belief. See here and here for examples.

As an atheist myself, I personally do find it hard to understand why, given the vast amount of scientific knowledge - none of which has required any sort of supernatural explanation - people do still choose to believe in supernatural things. I do understand it to some degree from a purely emotional perspective but, not from a rational one.
  • Consider the staggering success that science has had in explaining the natural world around us and the utter failure religion has had in that regard.
  • Consider that nobody, anywhere, throughout the entire written history of humankind, has ever been able to produce one single, shred of independent, testable, verifiable evidence for the existence of anything supernatural.
  • Consider the many, many cases where scientific knowledge does directly conflict with specific religious beliefs. As you said, Ed, I will always choose the natural explanation over the supernatural one.
I simply see no reason to believe in any sort of deity. Do I know there is no god, of course not, that is impossible to know. However, I strongly suspect (and conduct my life with the working assumption) that there is no god or any other sort of supernatural anything.

I don't believe there is necessarily a correlation between intelligence and belief in the supernatural but, there could very well be a case made for education levels and belief in myth and superstition - especially where education in the sciences are concerned as evidence by the much larger percentage of atheists and agnostics in the physical sciences than in the general population. As one commenter said,
I don't believe that *people* who believe in God are idiots. I do believe that *belief* in God-myths is idiotic.
Very well said.

The War on Drugs

Ed Brayton posted on his blog, "Dispatches from the Culture Wars," an interesting comment about the War on Drugs. He is replying to this posting by Radly Balko on his blog, "The Agitator."
This post by Radley Balko is a must read about drug war. Not only is it a massive failure, it's costing us untold billions of dollars and destroying countless lives. The numbers are staggering. 55% of all Federal prison inmates are there on drug charges, their number quadrupling between 1986 and 1999, and half of those are there solely on possession, not trafficking. And that's not including state prisons, with a much higher population and about the same percentages. There are more non-violent offenders in prison today than the populations of Alaska and Wyoming combined, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year to warehouse them. But despite this massive increase in incarceration, the government's own data shows that recreational drug use has increased over that same time. Drug use will never, ever stop. It is as old as humanity itself. And it's about time we treated addiction as a health problem, not a felony.
Right on! Further, I would like to ad this:

I agree completely. I think drug use is a personal choice just as smoking and drinking are. There is one very major caveat to that however - your right to consume intoxicating substances ends at the point that you are impinging on other's rights. The perfect example is drinking and driving. You do have a right to drink but, you do NOT have a right to drink and drive. Likewise with smoking, you have a right to smoke in your own air but you do NOT have a right to pollute the air of others with your smoke. The same can be said for any other types of drugs - so long as you are not infringing on other's rights, you should have the right to take recreational drugs.

Now, with that said, there are some genuinely dangerous drugs that will physically addict you very powerfully and can and will kill you with only a bit of an overdose. I personally think one is a fool if they take such drugs but, hey, more air for me as far as I am concerned.

To that end, I do think that recreational drugs should be carefully regulated and monitored - some very strictly in the case of the really dangerous ones. I also think that ALL pertinent information about the very real dangers of some of these drugs would need to be heavily publicized to make sure the public is well informed about what they are choosing to put into their bodies.

The benefits?
  • We would, over night, simultaneously halve the prison population and put the very dangerous and violent drug cartels out of business. We would effectively shut down a whole black market from the street pusher on up to the drug cartel leaders.
  • We would open up a whole new revenue stream for the government in the form of taxes.
  • We would greatly lessen the burden on law enforcement so that they could concentrate on real crime such as rape, murder, assault, etc.
  • We would save billions of dollars on wasted "War on Drugs" efforts and wasted law enforcement efforts.

22 May, 2006

DaveScot = Blithering Idiot

I am somewhat reticent to give this guy even one hit of extra traffic to his blog but, I can't help it. He is such a blithering idiot that I just have to comment about him just this one time. His blog is Uncommon Decent, a blog owned by William Demski, one of the leading ding-dongs of the Intelligent Design movement. He often makes absurd and utterly false claims and arguments to attempt to bolster his argument for ID making himself look like a fool in the process. He often spews out intolerance and ignorance in the process.

Well, today, he got zinged real good by falling for a years old Web hoax in the form of a chain letter that claims that the ACLU is suing the US Marines to prevent marines from being allowed to pray. The idiot bought it hook line and sinker with total and complete credulity. Then, when he was shown that it was a hoax, he made a rather clumsy, Buster Keatonish attempt to talk his way around it by stating:
To everyone who’s pointed out that the ACLU story is a fabrication according to snopes.com - that’s hardly the point. The pictures of Marines praying are real. The fighting and dying to protect the interests of the United States is real. The request to pray for them is real. So I removed the fake names, noted the ACLU statement is rumor, and quoted a very real former Marine Sergeant’s sentiments instead. If anyone has a problem with that they can KMA. Google that.

HOO RAH! Semper Fi!

He then backpedals even further (while removing two of the critical comments) by stating:
The ACLU has certainly stood against prayer in public school even if led by students in extra-curricular settings like graduation ceremonies and football games. There is not one iota of doubt in my mind that the ACLU would love to do the same thing to prayer in the military. Prayers led by commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the Corps are common. The military builds and maintains chapels on military bases. They employ religious clerics whose job is spiritual counseling and leading worship services. Anyone that thinks the ACLU wouldn’t stand against that if they could get away with it needs their head examined. They simply know the American public wouldn’t tolerate it and the ACLU would be so harmed they might never recover as an organization. So they bite their anti-religious tongues in the interest of self-preservation.
This is but one example of just how much of an utter idiot this guy is. This is probably the last time I will ever mention this idiot again simply because I really do hate giving this guy any more attention than he deserves which is to say, none at all but, I had to just get my own opinion of the guy on the record.

DaveScot, you are a complete, utter idiot and fool. You make me laugh.

21 May, 2006

More Stupidity from the Religious Right

This one has really got my blood boiling. Just how stupid are these people anyway?

Merck cancer vaccine faces Christian-right scrutiny

Merck has a vaccine, Gardasil, which has been shown in clinical trials to be very effective, and could potentially wipe out much of cervical cancer – the types that are caused by the human papilloma virus, also responsible for 90 percent of genital warts. But, sure as the night becomes day, idiot groups like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council (Isn't it interesting how so many of these Christian Right groups use the work "family" in their names?) come out in opposition to making this drug part of the set of mandatory vaccinations that all kids must have in order to enter public schools.

Why? Because, as this idiot, Linda Klepacki from Focus on the Family said,

"This is a disease that is completely sexually transmitted," Klepacki said, unlike the mumps or measles, which can be transmitted by casual contact. "We believe that parents should have the final say on whether to vaccinate their children."

In other words, because it is a sexually transmitted disease, which implies that kids just might have sex, it should not be included because kids must might have sex. In the Christian Right world, nobody should ever be having sex unless they are married. They advocate "abstinence only" sex education programs despite the fact that such programs have been shown to be utterly ineffective. By their "logic," if you make a kid get a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer and genital warts that are caused by the HPV, then you are somehow giving them permission to go and have sex. This is the same "logic" by which these groups oppose teaching kids about condoms and contraceptives – by teaching them about such things, you are somehow giving them permission to go and have sex.

Here is the reality. Kids will have sex. Period. Kids have always had sex, kids will continue to have sex no matter what you tell then. Teenagers are crucibles of raging sexual hormones. In the past, it used to be that by the time kids went into puberty, typically around the age of 12-15, they were getting married off. In our industrialized society, who's moral rules were largely shaped by the Victorian era, we now say that you must wait until you are 18 before you can legally get married and have sex. While this age limit does have its merits – especially where emotional maturity is involved – it is artificially high as far as physical sexual maturity is concerned. Certainly by the age of 15 or 16, most kids are physically, sexually matured. They feel sexual, the look at each other sexually, and they explore each other sexually. It just happens. It is natural. And this is despite how much you tell them not to.

The reality is, the sex education programs that take a comprehensive approach, teaching them not just "don't do it," but, "If you are, here is what you need to know and do in order to protect yourself against disease and unwanted pregnancy," have been shown to be far more effective against spreading STDs and preventing unwanted pregnancies than have "abstinence only" programs. These are the facts.

It just angers me to no end that companies like Merck have to convince Christian groups to approve a drug like this before they are able to market them. This is about science and public health. Religion and religious "sensibilities" should be irrelevant in situations like this. Sadly, they are not. I truly do look forward to a day when the Religious Right oversteps their power and influence one too many times and people finally wake up to their undo influence and say "enough is enough" and put a stop to it.

19 May, 2006


As a 3D artist with Asperger's, when I find a 3D animation package I like, I like to stick with it. Change is hard for us Aspies. For many years, that package was Electric Image Animation System - the premiere 3D package on the Macintosh for many years. It was used widely by Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic for 3D matte paintings and "hard body" animation - things like flying space ships and the like.

Well, when I started at Screen Life two years ago, I had to move to 3d Studio MAX, a Windows only 3D animation package. At first I hated it with a passion. After a while, slowly but surely, I got used to it. After some time, I finally became comfortable in it and actually grew to really appreciate some features and aspects of its work flow. There were a number of annoyances that I never did warm up to however - not the least of which was the fact that it was on Windws with all of the crap that comes with Windows.

Well, having lost my job at Screen Life, I was back to square one. By now, I had very definitely moved past Electric Image which has fallen behind the rest of the industry. There are just too many things that EI does not do that I need a 3D package to do. So, I had a choice. There are several high-end choices, Alias (now Autodesk) Maya, Lightwave 3D, 3D Studio MAX, Cinema 4D, and SoftImage.
  • I have 3 Macs and 1 pc in my studio. Anything that is PC only is out, it has to run on the Macs. (I truly do hate working in Windows)
  • It has to have all of the high-end goodies such as fluids, cloth, fir, hair, etc.
  • It has to have a very good renderer
  • I have to like it.
That leaves MAX adn SoftIMage out of the equation. That leaves C4d, Lightwave and Maya.
  • C4d is just not up to snuff as far as being able to really access all of the parameters. It seems too limiting.
  • Lightwave is in some trouble as a viable product. Plus, its workflow is just too obtuse. I am a visual artist, I need a visually based user interface. It just could not get into it.
  • Maya is a hodgepodge of a user interface but, it is a visual interface. It has all of the high-end goodies - and they really work.
  • It has a industry standard renderer (Mental Ray) which is very good plus, its own renderer has gotten to be not bad.
  • I had also had training several years ago at Art Center and that training has stuck with me.
So, Maya it is. No to making that difficult transition from the package I know to one I am not used to. It has been a struggle over the past few weeks but, I am finally starting to get a handle on Maya. It looks like Maya is actually goint to work for me. One of my chief complaints with Maya was that it user interface is a mess with a huge number of menu items under a huge number of menus choices. Plus, the whole node thing is taking some really getting used to. But, I am doing it, I am getting over that first initial hump and it is startng to work for me.


17 May, 2006

Family Values Strikes Again

Oooh. Gotta love this one. Seems that a city council of Black Jack, a town outside of St. Lous, MO., doesn't think unwed couples with children should be allowed to live together. To ensure this, they deny such families occupancy permits which means they are not allowed to move into a home they have rented or purchased in the town.

First off, this is just plain old biggotry. More "morality policing" by cultural conservatives who insist on imposing their particular brand of morality on the rest of us.

Second, where on earth does a city get off on requring permits before you can move into a home? I have never heard of such a silly thing. At least I have never had to apply for a permit to move into a new home in a new town before.


OK. I finally figured out how to enable comments with Blogger. Call me an idiot but, it took me a few days.

Say what you will. I realize I am saying some provocative things but, please, keep the comments relatively cordial and on the point; no flames, pleadings/prayers for my soul, condemnations of my soul, preaching/prostletizing, or any other such ilk. It will fall on deaf ears if you do.

Comment away!

Smoke and Mirrors

This is my first comment on the pseudo-scientific theory of "Intelligent Design"

To say the least, it is far from being anything resembling a scientific theory. In fact, it is nothing more than theology in a lab coat; just another form of Creationism that has been dressed up in scientific language without any actual scientific content to support it as a scientific theory. The primary promoent of ID is The Discovery Institute, a Christian conservative think tank based (embarrasingly) here in the Seattle area and their offshoot, The Center for Science and Culture.

One of the tactics they like to use is what's called, an appeal to authority. They publish a list of 500 scientists who have signed on supporting a statement of dissent from Darwinism.
A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism
"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Yet, if you read the statement closely, you will see that it is indeed, only a dissent and a fairly weak one at that. It is not, in any sense of the word, a statement that supports Intelligent Disign as a credible theory of the origins of life. In fact, the statement does not mention ID at all. Also, it is important to note that, of the names on the list, roughly only half are actually Ph.Ds and of those that are, precious few of them are actually in fields of study related to Evolution.

Here is another list, the Steve Project that has a list of Ph.Ds, all in related fields of study, and all with the first name of some variation of the name "Steve," who support Darwin's theory of Evolution through Natural Selection and who have signed a statement expressly saying so. Kind of makes the DI's list of dissenters seem rather weak in comparison yet they continue to trumpet this list as if it were truly significant. So, if they want to play the Appeals to Authority game, we can play too and we will win - big time!

16 May, 2006

The Unites States of Jesus

Who is tired of this de-facto theocracy that has been imposed on us for the past five years? Who is sick and tired of being preached at by the various self-appointed morality police who then turn around and treat foreign nationals like this? I, for one, am.

I loved what the creators of The Simpsons did last Suday Night (14.05.2006) My only wish now is that other media outlets would start calling this creationist dog for what it is – crap!

Work Sucks

Work basically sucks. Not what I do – that I love – it's that I have to work for somebody else that sucks.

Last month, I lost my great job at a game company called Screen Life. They make a great series of games called "Scene It?" as well as some other titles. It was a great job for a while. I won't get into all of the gory details except to say that, as we Aspies know all too well, too often it is not the quality of the work you do, it is how you are perceived as a "member of the team." – or not. I did great work, better than most of my colleagues and was often told so by my bosses but, that was not enough. I did not really "fit in," was "not a team player." I tended to open my mouth and voice my opinion too often. So, after one too many times, I was called "insubordinate" and fired. Se la vie.

Well, today I went back to doing part-time contract work for a guy who does videos for law firms trying medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Not the most stimulating work in the world but, it is work. I do generally like working for the guy as long as it is not too much contact with him. He is kind of an odd duck like I am and there just seems to be some sort of basic understanding between us that we are both kind of alike in certain aspects. But, it is just part time and will never be more than that.

The bottom line is this: I hate working for other people. I never really seem to be able to get ahead. I see others around me who start at the same time I do or even after who move forward and upward while I eventually find myself out on my rear. I hate having to always be the low man on the totem pole where I do all of the hard work that is forever subject to somebody else's approval who, as often as not, trashes your hours or days of work on a whim, a matter of taste, opinion, utterly subjectively with no rhyme or reason other than their aesthetic sense is different than yours - or even worse, for purely political reasons.

I truly hate office politics. I don't understand them, I don't know how to maneuver in them, I always come out the looser at the end of them. I hate the whole dang thing.

I both enjoy and really hate having to deal with coworkers and managers on a daily basis. I hate having to pretend that they are interesting and enjoyable to be around. A couple actually are but, most of them, I could really care less. Just leave me alone to do my work thankyouverymuch.

I hate having to do the office social thing. My work life is my work life, my own time is my own; I don't want to have to socialize with those I work with. Maybe the occasional lunch with one other person but, that is about it.

I truly wish I could somehow find the money to become an independent artist making my own animations and films purely for the pleasure of it.

Oh well...

13 May, 2006

I am an Aspy

I am one of the, quite probably, hundreds of thousands of American adults with a form of Autism called Asperger's Syndrome Disorder. It differs in several important regards from "traditional" autism but the most important one is that we appear more or less "normal" to the rest of the world – more or less.

If you have ever encountered a seemingly normal person who has little or no social skills, keeps to himself most of the time, does not seem to function well with groups and crowds, is brilliant in very focused ways but seems kind of clueless otherwise; you may very well have encountered somebody with Asperger's. Asperger's shares many of the same traits with autism in that communication with the outside world is difficult leaving the autistic "trapped" inside their own head; its chief difference is that this inability to communicate exists but, it exists chiefly in the non-verbal, subtextual ways humans normally communicate with each other (body language, facial expressions). This leaves the Asperger feeling cut off, alienated, lost, confused and generally unable to connect with others in those elusive, non-verbal modes of communication that "neurotypicals" enjoy instinctually.

I am going to attempt in this blog to share my experience as a middle-aged man living with Aspterger's It is not easy much of the time. I have had very little success in my career due largely to my inability to fit in to work "team" situations despite my talent as a digital artist.

I am married for the second time. My first marriage was a disaster that should have never happened in the first place except that my self-esteem was so low that I married the first woman who would have anything to do with me. I had two beautiful children from that marriage, one of who has inherited my Asperger's (more in another post some day).

Throughout my entire life since early childhood, I always had problems socially. I spent much of my childhood friendless. Throughout my adult life, I had one, sometimes two friends. I have always avoided social situations, crowds, rowdiness, parties, etc. I even hate the sound of laugh tracks on TV sitcoms. I spend much of my time either with my wife or alone and frankly, am quite happy to keep it that way.

I have strong, narrowly focused interests in life, the rest of it I could really give a crap about. My interests include computers, technology, electronic music, science (physics and astronomy mostly), and science fiction (hard SF, not the fantasy crap). I have my quirkier fascinations such as trains, tunnels, earthquakes, explosions, and nuclear bombs. I also have a particular obsession with the ongoing culture wars – especially the fight over evolution vs. creationism in the science classroom, and the Religious Right's ongoing crusade to push their "Biblical Law" on to this nation.

So, that is a little bit of what being an Aspy is about.

First Posting

Welcome to my personal rants page. This is the space where you can find out what is going on in my life, what my thoughts are for the day, what pissed me off, what made me glad, pretty much anything that strikes me to write about.

To say the least, I am a bit of an odd duck. Kind of a nerd.

Well, my wife, Elizabeth has started her training as a massage therapist. Today is her second day of a nine-month program. The school she is attending, The Port Townsend School of Massage Therapy, is a legitimate trade school with a very good reputation. She got a stack of text books that range from "The Professional Massage Therapist" to books on anatomy and one on all kinds of pathologies she may run into. Fairly intense stuff. The school is not cheap, she took out a $12k student loan to attend the school. We purchased a $700 table and accessories.

Yet, despite all this, in the back of my mind is the rep of massage as being a cover for prostitution. I have no concerns Elizabeth will somehow become a prostitute just because she is a masseuse but, I do worry about the potential clients she may run into - guys (or girls) who may insist on trying anyway. I know she can handle herself quite nicely on her own but, still, I do worry that she could get into trouble of some sort.

I am also worried the investment will pay off. Since moving here to the Northwest, finding work and bringing enough in has been a real challenge. The idea is, between the two of us, we can bring in enough to get by. I just hope massage is the right course for her. Let's just hope is goes OK.


Yep, I am one of those "Evil Atheists" that the religious community likes to vilify so much. What does that mean?
It means:

  • I do not believe in any god
  • I do not believe in any sort of supernatural being, place or event
  • I do not believe in any sort of "spiritual" anything, not reincarnation, not ghosts, not spirits, not magic crystals, pyramids, rocks, rings, I do not believe in astrology, I do not believe in UFO crashes, sightings, visitations or experiments of a sexual nature.
  • I do not believe there is any "soul." When you die, you die. Since all thought, feeling, cognition, memory, your very sense of yourself is all contained within, and purely a function of, your brain. When you die, your brain dies. When your brain dies, it is lights out, the end. You become worm food. Nothing more.
  • I accept only a physical universe that exists only as energy, matter, time and space, governed by only natural forces that are identified and described as science does. There is no intelligence, no guiding mind, no god behind any of it.
  • God (and all things supernatural or spiritual) are purely creations of Man's own imagination, nothing more. In a very literal sense, man created God in his own image.
  • Evidence is king. Without hard, empirical, testable, verifiable evidence, you have nothing. I do not give one rats fart how many people believe in any given thing. I only accept what there is credible evidence for. Thus far, throughout the entire course of human history, there has never been one, single, verifiable, shred of evidence that supports any claim of any sort of supernatural being, place or event. Not one, nada, nothing, zippo, zilch, zero - nothing.
  • I feel belief in gods and spirits and all the rest is nothing but self-delusion, chosen ignorance. Those that choose to believe, despite the complete and utter lack of evidence that supports their belief—or even evidence that directly contradicts it (creationism and "Intelligent Design"— are those that actively choose myth and fantasy over reality.
  • I have very little regard for organized religion. To me religion is nothing but a social structure mechanism designed to control people's behavior. Religion has been the main vehicle with which to commit atrocities, cause destruction, shed blood and, commit mass murder throughout human history. Incredible cruelty, ignorance, intolerance and sheer stupidity is continuously committed in the name of religion to this very day.
  • As such, I believe a complete and strict separation of church and state is crucial to this (or any) country. When religion mixes with politics, only bad things happen. The current US administration (Geeeorge Dubya and Co) is a perfect example of why a strict separation of church and state is crucial. We have a simpleton in the white house who sees the world as "Us and them" where the "Us" are Christian Americans and the "Them" is everybody else. That attitude is rooted in his fundamentalist Christian beliefs. He is conducting his foreign policy based on that mentality. He is pushing his religious agenda here in the US via things such as his "Faith Based Initiative," and his systematic attack on science in general.
  • I have very little regard for ignorant people - especially those who are ignorant from their religious beliefs. People who reject science and knowledge are, quite simply, fools. Too often people like that insist on believing in myth and superstition over science and knowledge. Too often, they are intolerant of those "not like them" and vilify anybody who does not follow the same code they do. Too often, they demonize people just because they are different and somehow, immoral/amoral just because those people don't as they do. I call this, "The Aggressive Pursuit of Ignorance." I have no use for such people.

If this makes me "Evil" in your view, that is just too bad. Frankly, that is your problem, not mine.

Atheism for me means I am not bound and confined by the narrow, superstitious world view of any religion. It means I am free to pursue knowledge to where ever it may take me, what ever I may learn. It means I get to view and understand the this world and the universe as it actually is, not as some ancient book tells me it is. The universe is an an even more wonderous place when you understand the incredible time, distances, forces and energies at play and that it all happens naturally with no "guiding hand" behind any of it. It means I don't have to live in fear of some imagined punishment if I don't "behave just right." It means my own conscious is my guide to what is right and wrong, what is moral and immoral, ethical and unethical. Make no bones about it, I am very moral and ethical person - far more so than most theists I have ever met.

As an atheist, I believe completely that we truly are alone, there is not "Sky Daddy" watching over us. That means that, there is no bailout should we ultimately blow it. It means that we, alone, are responsible for our own destiny. I means we, alone, are responsible for this planet and all life on it.

I believe that the only hope the human race has to service in the long run is to learn to abandon myth and superstition and accept that responsibility for our (collective) selves. As long as we keep our heads buried in the sand, pretending that "God is behind it all," we will never learn to get along without killing each other, we will never learn to take responsibility for our role as part of all life on this planet, and that will spell, ultimately, doom for all of us.