« October 2009 | Main | December 2011 »

March 22, 2011

Too quick to hit post

No, Pepsi is not mounting a War!On!Christians! Ack, I hate when people repost anything on Facebook. "If you have a sister who is wonderful post this as your status" "If you're dog has ever licked himself repost as quick as you can" And ok, I get it, some people have fun with it. Fine. Freedom of speech Facebook.

But riling up the crazies with false information makes me crazy. So here ya go...here's the latest:

Don't buy the patriotic PEPSI CAN coming out with pictures of the empire state building. and the pledge of allegiance on them. Pepsi LEFT OUT Two little WORDS on the pledge "UNDER GOD" Pepsi said they did not want to offend any one. so if we don't buy them they wont be offended when they don't receive our money!!!!! that has the...words "...... ...In God we trust" on it!!! ...... how fast can you re post this??

Thing is that it is just a version of an email that went around years ago and it is blatantly not true. In 2001, Dr Pepper put a picture of the Statue of Liberty on their cans with the words "One Nation...Indivisible" over it. No pledge. No omissions. That was it. It was meant as a sign of solidarity after 9/11. But jump around and scream and pretend that we are attacking your religious rights while you attack the first amendment.

Oh, and please look up your history:
The Pledge was originally written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. The original pledge read, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the 'leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.
It wasn't until 1954, after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, that the words "under god" were added. It was added to separate us from godless communists. There are some interesting bits of information here regarding the history of the pledge.

When I say it, on the few occasions that I do, I leave out the words under god. They make me uncomfortable at the very least and while I don't protest or ask others to do the same, I at least think a little bit of history would go a long way. I am not waging a War!On!Christians! In fact, they waged the war. But it was recent and not a battle fought by the Founding Fathers. Check the dates. Have a look.

ETA: One of the comments on that post was "What America lets people get away with is disgusting!"

um, like freedom of speech? Yeah, let's squash that shit right now before god gets angry.

Posted by michelle at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2011

Mostly just a bookmark

Found this article and really want to give it a more serious read so I am putting it here so that I remember. Have a look. See what you think.

A Romp Through Theories on Origins of Life --NY Times article

A Romp Into Theories of the Cradle of Life
Published: February 21, 2011

* Recommend
* Twitter
* Sign In to E-Mail
* Print
* Single Page
* ShareClose
o Linkedin
o Digg
o Mixx
o MySpace
o Permalink

TEMPE, Ariz. — We’re not in the Garden of Eden anymore.
Enlarge This Image
Elwood H. Smith

RSS Feed
RSS Get Science News From The New York Times »

Darwin speculated that life began in a warm pond on the primordial Earth. Lately other scientists have suggested that the magic joining of molecules that could go on replicating might have happened in an undersea hot spring, on another planet or inside an asteroid. Some astronomers wonder if it could be happening right now underneath the ice of Europa or in the methane seas of Titan.

Two dozen chemists, geologists, biologists, planetary scientists and physicists gathered here recently to ponder where and what Eden might have been. Over a long weekend they plastered the screen in their conference room with intricate chemical diagrams through which electrons bounced in a series of interactions like marbles rattling up and down and over bridges through one of those child’s toys, transferring energy, taking care of the business of nascent life. The names of elements and molecules tripped off chemists’ tongues as if they were the eccentric relatives who show up at Thanksgiving every year.

They charted the fall of meteorites and the rise of oxygen on the early Earth and evidence in old rocks that life was here as long as 3.5 billion years ago. The planet is only a billion years older, but estimates vary on when it became habitable.

In front of a 2,400-member audience one night they debated the definition of life — “anything highly statistically improbable, but in a particular direction,” in the words of Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist at Oxford. Or, they wondered if it could be defined at all in the absence of a second example to the Earth’s biosphere — a web of interdependence all based on DNA.

Hence the quest for extraterrestrial examples is more than a sentimental use of NASA’s dollars. “Let’s go look for it,” said Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., who is involved with the Mars Science Laboratory, which will be launched in November.

The rapid appearance of complex life in some accounts — “like Athena springing from the head of Zeus,” in the words of Dr. McKay — has rekindled interest recently in a theory fancied by Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the double helix, that life originated elsewhere and floated here through space. These days the favorite candidate for such an extraterrestrial cradle is Mars, which was once a water world. Perhaps, some think, its microbes hitched a ride to Earth on asteroids — unless, of course, the microbes went the other way and what’s to be found on Mars are the dead remains of long-lost cousins of Earth.

“We’ve crashed more space probes on Mars than anywhere else — it’s that interesting,” Dr. McKay said.

The conference was sponsored by the Origins Project at Arizona State University in an effort to get people together who don’t normally talk to each other, said Lawrence Krauss, a physicist who helped organize the meeting.

Talk is indeed hard across disciplines and geological ages. John Sutherland, a biochemist at Cambridge University in England, said geologists and astronomers were more interested in talking and speculating about the origin of life than chemists were, even though it is basically a problem of “nitty-gritty chemistry.”

The reason, he explained, is that “chemists know how hard it is.”

The modern version of the Garden of Eden goes by the name of RNA world, after the molecule ribonucleic acid, which plays Robin to DNA’s Batman today, but is now thought have preceded it on the biological scene. RNA is more versatile, being able not only to store information, like DNA, but also to use that information to catalyze reactions, a job now performed by proteins. That solved a sort of chicken-and-egg problem about which ability came first into the world. The answer is that RNA could be both.

“If you want to think of it that way, life is a very simple process,” said Sidney Altman, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1989 for showing that RNA had these dual abilities. “It uses energy, it sustains itself and it replicates.”

One lesson of the meeting was how finicky are the chemical reactions needed for carrying out these simple-sounding functions. “There might be a reason why amino acids and nucleotides are the way they are,” Dr. Krauss said.

What looks complicated to us might not look so complicated to a piece of a carbon molecule awaiting integration into life’s dance. “Complexity is in the eye of the beholder,” said Dr. Sutherland, who after 10 years of trying different recipes succeeded in synthesizing one of the four nucleotides that make up RNA in a jar in his lab.

With the right mixture and conditions, complicated-looking molecules can assemble themselves without help. “When everything is in the pot,” he said, “the chemistry to make RNA is easier.”

Dr. Sutherland’s results were hailed as a triumph for the RNA world idea, but there is much work to be done, said Steve Benner, who constructs artificial DNA at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, in Florida. Nobody knows whether Dr. Sutherland’s recipe would work on the early Earth, he said. Moreover, even if RNA did appear naturally, the odds that it would happen in the right sequence to drive Darwinian evolution seem small.
RSS Feed
RSS Get Science News From The New York Times »

“Other than that,” Dr. Benner said, “the RNA world is a great idea for origin of life.”

Some others, including astronomers and geologists, have another view of biological inevitability. Life is a natural consequence of geology, said Everett Shock, a geophysicist at Arizona State. “Most of what life is doing is using chemical energy,” Dr. Shock said, and that energy is available in places like undersea volcanic vents where life, he calculated, acts as a catalyst to dissipate heat from the Earth. In what he called “a sweet deal,” life releases energy rather than consuming it, making it easy from a thermodynamic standpoint.

“Biosynthesis is profitable — it has to be; they live there,” said Dr. Shock, referring to microbes in undersea vents.

Some scientists say we won’t really understand life until we can make it ourselves.

On the last day of the conference, J. Craig Venter, the genome decoding entrepreneur and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, described his adventures trying to create an organism with a computer for a parent.

Using mail-order snippets of DNA, Dr. Venter and his colleagues stitched together the million-letter genetic code of a bacterium of a goat parasite last year and inserted it into another bacterium’s cell, where it took over, churning out blue-stained copies of itself. Dr. Venter advertised his genome as the wave of future migration to the stars. Send a kit of chemicals and a digitized genome across space.

“We’ll create panspermia if it didn’t already exist,” he said.

The new genome included what Dr. Venter called a watermark. Along with the names of the researchers were three quotations, from the author James Joyce; Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the building of the atomic bomb; and the Caltech physicist Richard Feynman: “What I cannot build, I do not understand.”

When the news came out, last year, Dr. Venter said, the James Joyce estate called up and threatened to sue, claiming that Joyce’s copyright had been violated. To date there has been no lawsuit.

Then Caltech called up and complained that Dr. Venter’s genome was misquoting Feynman. The institute sent a photograph of an old blackboard on which Feynman had written, “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”

And so his genome is now in the process of acquiring its first, non-Darwinian mutation.

Posted by michelle at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Sing-a-Long

Thank you Steve Martin!

cross posted at Ya Gotta Believe

Posted by michelle at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

Some things are sacred

Joss? You are going to try and throw Christianity up against Joss and get it to stick? No. You can and should look at Firefly and Serenity through whatever lens you would like--that's all well and good. However, to skew theories and concepts by cherry-picking out of context examples and trying to make them fit into Christian theologies when the point has clearly and repeatedly been made that the characters and the writer are not Christian is insulting and smacks of grad student over-theorizing.
Firefly and Serenity would make excellent examples of Post-Colonial theory or Gender theory, possibly dozens of others. I've often considered researching linguistic theory and changes to modern language that resulted from the pop culture phenomenon of Buffy. But Mal as a Christian? No. Citing that Mal makes moral choices does not make him Christian. In fact, I would argue that part of the point that Joss is making in the creation of a character like Mal, is that morality does not necessitate the existence of a "sky bully." Mal has a very strong, individual belief system--a moral compass. His actions are guided and driven by this code of beliefs and it is not in any way a religiously inspired value system. On the contrary, Mal points out over and over that he does not believe in religion or God.
Mal: If I'm your mission, Shepherd, best give it up. You're welcome on my boat. God ain't (The Train Job)
In much the same way, pointing out the existence of evil in its characters or premise does not provide proof that there must exist a deity that either created or condemns such behaviors or situations.
One of Joss' strong suits as a writer/director is that he creates characters that do not easily fit stereotypes--Joss forces people to see gray areas between good/evil. Is Mal a good man? Certainly he cares for his crew, he has a strong code that he follows, he does what he feels is right, he is not a self-centered character. We want to like Mal. The audience is supposed to like Mal. Now, carefully look at the those qualities and apply them to The Operative. He too cares for his crew, has a strong code that he follows, does what he feels to be right and is not portrayed as self-centered or acting for his own good or benefit. Joss' most frightening villains are those who believe unquestioningly in their purpose--those who do not question. Is Mal a hero? Absolutely but he is not necessarily always the good guy. He is, after all, a thief and an outlaw and we love him more for it.
Mal. Bad. In the Latin. — River, in The Train Job
Joss wants you to think. This is not theology. These are not biblical notions of good and evil. These shows would crumble in a second if they were hampered by such simplistic ideological bunk. These shows--and I will include in here, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr Horrible--all succeed because the characters are not simplistic. Of all of these characters, Buffy comes the closest to being a hero archetype and she was a female, teenage, often whiny, rebellious cheerleader. Angel? Spike? Echo? Mal? Captain Hammer? Dr Horrible? They are all more complex characters either for integrity of story, complexity of narrative or sheer campiness.

Back to Firefly--watch Jaynestown. Watch the interactions between River and Shepherd Book. Watch those interactions paralleled with the misguided worship of a "hero" by people who just need something to cling to when they are forced to live in an oppressive situation--when they are desperate for hope they will believe what they want in the face of evidence to the contrary.
If you are looking for good/evil certainly you can take away examples from Joss' work but it isn't always as black and white as it would appear and it isn't always the heroes that are good or the villians that are evil. This show is not a show that lends itself as a shining example of Christian ethics, beliefs and morality. Some things are sacred. Firefly is one of those things.

Link to the original articles (as referenced in Whedonesque) given in extended entry.


Posted by michelle at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2011

A thin line

The last viewing of Truth Project didn't go as well as the first few. Seems we have come to an impasse--to a place where we aren't arguing merits or facts but just relying on what we believe at a core level. There's no amount of debate that can change that. In either of our situations, from either of our perspectives, a change in belief system would require more than a set of proofs or persuasive reasoning. It would ultimately result in a complete paradigm shift. That point itself makes it much harder to foresee a change. When you then factor in traditions, cultures and heritage, it is never easy for someone to truly look inward and make such a significant change. This discussion is more of an exploration and an attempt to diversify the thought processes that have combined to mold the beliefs that we identify with currently. When you stop asking, when you stop learning, when you stop working on who you are and who you want to become, you just get tossed around by the currents and that is something that I don’t intend to do.
But now, watching is sometimes more upsetting than I thought it would be. I feel more defensive than I anticipated and more frustrated than I want to be. So we've come to an agreement that we'll watch only the ones that we think will lead to a good discussion and I will try very hard to not take notes so strenuously that I tear through the paper while it is going on.
I'm hoping we can still get through it.

Posted by michelle at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2011

Open Forum

I am seriously considering opening this blog up to a few select people with opposing views. I have always been serious that simply hiding your head and believing what has been handed to you without question is wrong. In that spirit, and a desire to have real conversation without accusation or derision, I may open this space up a bit. If I truly believe that questioning and learning is the only way to really come to the truth (and that's truth with a small "t") then this makes sense.

If you are interested please let me know. As always, the comments are open to any respectful discourse.

Posted by michelle at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

Why do I keep reading?

I mentioned that I was watching the Truth Project and I promise that I will post my thoughts and a detailed reaction soon. However, this morning I apparently feel the need to just repeatedly smack my head against the desk. I cannot for the life of me understand how someone can so purposefully and willingly twist and distort statistics, quotes and information to suit his own purpose. And more frighteningly than that, to do it in the guise of a kindly leader who hates to share such upsetting information with his followers but simply must.

And yet? I keep reading it. I read more and more until I can't stop wanting to scream--until I am so upset that people can willingly close their minds and listen to this without questioning or looking beyond the limited and skewed information that is being presented. I am not even asking that people change their belief systems or world view. That's not the point at all. What I do wish however is that they would question such subjective information, question, learn and think for themselves. At the end of that, if they still believe what they believe then they are stronger for it. Me? I cannot look at the information presented and say "I know it makes no sense but I choose to believe it anyway."
I choose to look further than surface information. The appearance of something does not make it so.

If you have a need to bang your head against something this morning here is the blog.

I am going to take a break. My head hurts from vigorous head-shaking, eye-rolling and general banging against the proverbial wall.

Posted by michelle at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2011

The Truth Project

I have been fortunate enough to be able to watch the first 6 episodes of The Truth Project with friends of mine. No, I haven't been convinced to change my world view. But that wasn't the point. The point was for me to share what they believed and share why and where we disagree or agree with this series.
I have to admit that I am occasionally surprised on where we agree and disagree. I am going to go over my notes and go through this in a more detailed manner but I am enjoying the discussions afterward.
I have only walked out one time with my feathers ruffled. Sometimes it is very difficult to watch an hour of someone teaching that you are a "fool" or "evil" or any of the other demeaning names that this condescending man is spewing. And I realize that this is a series meant to help Christians live the faith that they believe, to be able to stand up for what they believe and explain their beliefs when confronted. However, making the entire thing a polemic between right (the very narrow definition of what they believe) and wrong (the entirety of the rest of the world) seems a little less than Christian.
Those who don't believe what you believe aren't evil and espousing such beliefs while using out of context quotes and inaccurate or biased studies to back up your claims only makes things more divisive. Like it or not, there are many world views and you need to know and be able to live in a world that can contain them all.
Ok, I know this was a bit of a ramble but I was looking for a jumping off point. I will break it down more as I move forward. This week is historical accuracy of biblical texts and I am looking forward to seeing what they have to say on this topic.

Posted by michelle at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)