Tag Archives: culture war

Prelude to Cosmos: Neil deGrasse Tyson interviewed by Bill Moyers

Cosmos featuring neil degrasse tyson

Tonight is an exciting night of television for anyone interested in discovering how the universe works. For those of us committed to sharing our understanding of the universe, it is particularly exciting and trepidatious to think about turning on the telly at 9:00PM tonight—tuning it to the Fox network (or National Geographic) of all places—for the reboot/revival, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, of one of the most successful science documentary series on television ever: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

You can watch that whole original epic series on youtube now, in case you are of a younger generation who missed it entirely, or if you (like Salman Hameed at Irtiqua) want to relive the moments of your youth when Sagan lit that luminescent candle in the dark, and perhaps changed the course of your life. I can but hope (with no little trepidation) that the new Cosmos lives up to that legacy, and indeed takes it further to light up a whole new generation (of Fox TV watchers, no less) to the wonders of science.

If Neil deGrasse Tyson was able to excite Seth MacFarlane—the “creative engine” of juvenile, puerile, sexist comedy (making a ton of money) for Fox, who came up with the boob song (for Oscar 2013) which still makes me cringe—into putting his considerable wealth and clout into producing this Cosmos reboot with a lot more showbiz whizbang, and getting Fox to broadcast it (alongside NatGeo), then there is hope for many of us already excited about science but frustrated by increasing public ignorance of, and hostility towards science. But I don’t want to burden Tyson, or one show, with too many expectations – just… take me on an astonishing ride. That is all I ask! And that is what this trailer promises, so buckle in:

As you wait for the series to premiere tonight, you might also want to revisit this recent in-depth three-part interview with Tyson by Bill Moyers, which aired last month, and ranged widely, tackling not just the show and a cosmic perspective:

… but the nature of science, its increasingly irreconcilable relationship with religion, and Neil’s relegation of God to “an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance”:

… to the dark politics of the US which has held back this country from remaining the leader of science in the world:

Join me, and enjoy the ride starting tonight!

“God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance” (Sorry HuffPo!)

Hmm… in case you (like me) haven’t heard yet, HuffPo, that popular source of much pseudoscience and woo (especially Choprawoo), has finally decided to add a HuffPost Science section! About time, eh? But, wait, what do they start with? Ms. Huff herself holding forth on how unusual it is for scientific equations to have emotional impact (unlike, apparently the Iowa caucus results! Sigh…), and on the “false war” between science and religion. Because, you see, those battles are apparently all “misguided, outdated”! Really? Been to a school board meeting in Texas lately, lady? Or notice how the leading candidates in the Iowa caucuses chose to run away from science and retreat into religious ignorance?

Instead, we are urged to follow the model of those (like Ken Miller) with “inquisitive minds that can accommodate both logic and mystery” – as if we don’t get into science precisely because we are captivated by nature’s mysteries, and want to use logic and the scientific method to solve them! We are told that (paraphrasing Miller) science is “the key to understanding our relationship with God.” Why, yes, on that point: science has indeed given us many keys to understanding nature, and shown us over and over that “God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance” as Neil de Grasse Tyson puts it so elegantly in the video below! Of course, he was responding to Bill O’Reilly’s ignorant remarks about god and the tides – but they apply equally well to the woolly-headed thinking pervading the liberal-left. Let’s hope Arianna runs into Neil one of these days, gets a good glimpse into his soul of a nerd, and learns something worthwhile about the real beauty of science. For now, though, the grand opening of HuffPost Science does not look very promising. Let me leave you, instead, with Tyson’s words:

Of Pandas and Texas and standing up to the “experts” – again!

Here we go again. The never-ending game of creationist-whack-a-mole continues, with an old head that had been hammered (even in court) popping up once again. Where else, but – in Texas, of course:

CREATIONIST GROUP PUSHES ANTI-EVOLUTION MATERIALS IN TEXAS SCIENCE CLASSES

Texas SBOE Asked To Consider Materials from Fringe Anti-Science Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011

In a move that should not surprise anyone, a well-known creationist/“intelligent design” group appeared on a list of publishers that have indicated an intent to submit science curriculum materials for approval by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) later this spring. The formal inclusion of this creationist group means Texas will once again be ground zero for creationist attacks on 21st-century science, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

“In 2009 the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that opened the door to creationist materials in Texas classrooms. Today we saw that one prominent creationist group intends to walk through that door,” Miller said. “Getting their materials in public schools has long been a top priority for creationists, and it’s clear that they intend to make Texas their flagship. Teaching inaccurate information rejected by the scientific community would be a huge disservice to Texas kids and a major setback for science education everywhere.”

Among the dozens of publishers who notified the SBOE of their intent to submit science materials for approval was a Richardson,TX-based group called the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE). Approval of materials published by FTE, a self-described promoter of “intelligent design,” would create several serious problems for the board, including:

  • FTE’s troubled legal history – FTE published the “intelligent design” textbook (Of Pandas and People) that was ruled to be unconstitutional for use in public schools in the landmark decision Kitzmiller v. Dover (PA).
  • FTE’s well-established record of religious proselytizing through its textbooks – As recently as 2002, the group described its mission on IRS tax returns as “promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective of academic studies.”

The actual materials submitted for approval by FTE and other publishers will not be available to the public until March. The State Board of Education, however, has already begun appointing review panels – made up of citizens, educators and scientists – that will evaluate all materials for conformity to the state’s new curriculum standards as well as for factual accuracy.

There will be a public hearing on these materials at the board in April. The board will take a final vote on approval or rejection of these science materials at the conclusion of that April meeting. All materials approved by the board are available for purchase by local school districts for use in science classrooms.

Sounds like a good time for this documentary:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/OrlandoWood/standing-up-to-the-experts/widget/video.html

Click on the kickstarter link if you are able to (and want to) contribute towards the completion of this documentary – if you care about the nature of science education, that is! 

Hope you survived the very zombie holidays even without these instructions

Although I didn’t find this instructional video until now, I did survive the zombie holidays. As I hope you did too. But better bookmark this for next year!!

The Queen’s Hankey and a tradition full of crap in a world with no toilets

Is this wonderful Catalan tradition, which has to be more authentic than the nativity story, because while scholars may dispute long into the holy night about whether there really were three wise men chasing a meteor that night, we can be absolutely certain that somewhere probably not too far away from that mythical manger there was somebody very real squatting behind a tree or a rock…

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Do click the BBC link to view the lovely video report in which I love how the BBC’s camera is coy about the Queen’s clay derrière…

…is it the origin of this more recent tradition?

Meanwhile, all over the world, real people, in this 21st century, continue to have to squat in the fields and the woods, so that tradition continues to be very real – but can you imagine this?

Or are you, like so many in America and elsewhere in the developed world with our fancy and water-wasting toilets, more enamored of different, more polished and shinier crap (including, if you’re a tourist in Catalan, clay figurines of Queen Elizabeth II, shiny gold crown on her head and Mr. Hankey under the royal behind), buying which has now also become synonymous with the nativity?

So in keeping with these age-old-yet-still-fresh traditions, let me wish you all a Very Crappy Christmas!! After all, whatever we know or don’t know about the savior Jesus, we can be absolutely sure that that is one bodily function he shared with the rest of us mortals. Unless you want to suggest that God and his Son are two eternally constipated dudes… which would not make for a very spiritual experience!

 

A small basket of treats for my atheistic friends… ’tis the season! Ho! Ho! Ho!

As the now annual tradition of the heartwarming War on Christmas started heating up again, several weeks ago I shared a carol sung by none other than that bastard Python Eric Idle on my facebook wall. And even proclaimed it to be my new favorite. Some of my friends didn’t like me sharing it though, and others thought it uncharacteristic of me to share such things. So here it is again – what do you think?

A little too much, coming from a normally unthreatening (despite the facial hair), softspoken little Indian? Well… that’s what all this Xmas cheer will get you, so back off!!!

Don’t like it? So how, then, about this carol?

Still too much? I should actually be scared promoting that one though, because, it turns out: Santa is real!! For reals!! Them physicist have done proved it too:
Santaisreal-pt1
Uh-oh!

So to prove my goodness this season (just in case, Pascal’s wager on Santa has to count for some presents at least), I must share a few other goodies with you, my friends, to tide you over the break:

Just today I have discovered the wonderful atheistic writings of Greta Christina! How have I missed her work until now? If you aren’t familiar with her writings, start with her latest Alternet essay on Why Religious People Are Scared of Atheists. Hell, yeah! Do you often find yourself beset (as I was upon posting some of the above links) by well-meaning religious folks who insist upon dragging you into arguments about why their kinder/gentler/spiritual version of religion isn’t as bad as the fundamentalists’ – and then feel hurt when you reject their version too… you know this kind of argument, right? Well, next time that happens, you’ll want this URL in your backpocket: Greta Christina’s brilliant analysis of why some believers feel compelled to seek an Atheist Seal of Approval! Come to think of it, maybe I should just carry around an actual seal, with that url on it, so I can just stamp it out…

Still facing questions about why you don’t believe in god, and where you get your morals from (mine were handcrafted in this little boutique…)? Ricky Gervais will cheer you right up with a holiday message: Why I’m an Atheist. Lovely piece that. If you’re not inclined to read another essay by a comedian, how about a video where he explains how Jesus is an unpaid babysitter for the working class?

Here’s a bonus treat, Gervais reading Genesis:

Everyone loves to count down the days to Christmas, don’t they (especially the merchants)? Even as a Hindu growing up in secular (well, equal opportunity, really, when it came to holidays, rather than secular) India, I knew that! So how about counting down this now crassly commercialized holiday with the 12 Days of Parasites?

Alternatively—you knew this was coming, didn’t you?—here’s a desi version of that countdown:

Happy Holidays!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas (why Jon Stewart gives me hope in a world torn apart by religion)

 

Something to be grateful for this sorry season: the continuing sheer brilliance of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show crew… this must rank among their best works. Along with this entry in their new field guide for extraterrestrials visiting our planet, Earth – a Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race:

 

Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion

 

Actually, its these guys who give me hope for humanity in this world torn apart by religion.