Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ah, Democracy!

Two days ago I got to fulfill my chance to work for Elections Canada at the one of polling stations in my electoral district. It was a long day, but an interesting one too.

One interesting part of my day was seeing just how bad voter turn-out actually is. I shouldn't say I was surprised by this, since the reality of poor voter turn-out is constantly drilled into our heads here in Canada during high school (or, at least it was when I was there) in order that we will all grow up and instantly become good, caring members of the demos as soon as we turn eighteen years old.

Of course this poor turn-out might not necessarily be such a bad thing: if one isn't even bothered to come out and vote, then it may not be unreasonable to assume they don't actually know that much about the issues that a given election is being held over. So perhaps it's better to make no decision at all, rather than an ill informed one.

Then again, our election hasn't generated nearly as much buzz as the American presidential race (and good for them! The amount of interest in politics that race will inspire in young, first time voters is a good thing), and it's easy to get distracted by the politics of our southern neighbour, since the decisions of their president can affect us here almost as much as our own prime minister's governance can.

After about 14 hours at the polls we all packed it in and finished for the night. The Liberal MP won his third term in my electoral district, and Mr. Stephen Harper still gets to be Prime Minister with his minority Conservative Party government.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bigotry at Home

Here is a bit of religiously inspired bigotry for you.

What shocks me isn't really what he said, since I've gotten used to the fact that religious fundamentalists sometimes spout biblically inspired hate speech ever since I started outing myself to people as an atheist. No, what shocks me is how close to home this is. Sudbury is basically my home town.

It's one thing to see this stuff on the CFI's blog or to hear about it from the Rational Response Squad or from, but to read about it in my own local newspaper was just odd...something I'm not used to at all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Life

Rather than continuing on with my feeble and futile struggle to blog about godless philosophical topics in general, I think that from now on I shall simply use this blog to tell you about my somewhat interesting, humanist know, the sorts of things that normal people blog about.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Science is Way-Cool

I love waking up in the morning to a new and exciting 'first-time' in science, like the one in this photo for instance:

This is perhaps the first extra-solar planet to be directly imaged! Scientists are able to see it because it is a hot, young planet. Even more massive than Jupiter, it is still cooling whilst orbiting a young, sun like star. The heat it generates allows us to detect it by infrared imaging. Full story here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Going to Church

Last Sunday I went to church for the first time in my life, upon the invitation of a friend of mine who is a regular at this particular church. Since I've never ever done anything like going to church before, and since my impressions of the occasion are still fresh in my mind, I thought it might be a nice idea to blog about it.

I'm a 'natural atheist'. I was never indoctrinated into a religion when I was a child, so going to church was a pretty foreign experience for me. Nevertheless, I knew the church we were going to visit this Sunday was also the church of a few of my friends from college, so I knew that at the very least, I would see some familiar faces.

In fact, the first thing that struck me about going to church was the social aspect: everyone was very nice, and many people introduced themselves to me by their first name. I recognized friends of mine, as I suspected I would, as well as a few regulars from work. This part of my adventure was very I think I understand why many people who aren't that religious still bother going to church at all: the sense of community is strong, and it makes you feel very welcome and safe.

After meeting a few new people, and after being introduced to the Pastor, my friend and I grabbed a seat in the middle of the centre column of pews. Then there was a prayer, followed by a few brief announcements and the circulation of the collection plates, which was in turn followed by a special guest who was a hokey player, and who had his own traveling ministry which was quite involved with hockey camps around the world. I have to admit that I couldn't shake the feeling of frustration over the indoctrination of eight and nine year olds as the guest gave his presentation...but needless to say I bit my tongue.

After the guest finished speaking, there was music played by a small band which had drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. One of my friends from college was the guitar player. The band sang about three or four songs. They weren't quite hymns...they were more like Christian pop songs. Devotional songs is what some people call them. During the songs people stood up, and some of the members of the audience raised their hands towards the sky. I'm not a crowd person, so at this point I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I stood up with everyone, but I didn't sing. After the songs were over the sermon began.

The sermon itself was actually quite short. Much shorter than I expected a church sermon would be...maybe fifteen minutes long at the most. It was about the doctrine of adoption. Specifically, the Pastor talked about the doctrine that we are naturally out of fellowship with God and must seek him as an adoptive father through Christ, and that if we do not have God as our father, then Satan is automatically our father for some reason (this part of the sermon pissed me off, pardon my language). Needless to say I immediately started going over the massive amount of problems with this view of the world in my mind. For example, how come the Devil is automatically our father if we are not 'adopted' by God? Why do we have to make a conscious decision to accept God, but our acceptance of the devil is tacit? Shouldn't it be the other way around? And why isn't God a nice guy who just forgives and forgets the whole eating of the forbidden fruit thing anyway? Vengeful God I suppose...the guy can sure hold a grudge (even though Adam and Eve never existed...but I'm pretty sure this was a rather fundamentalist church where the age of the Earth and origins of man are concerned). It's that whole original sin thing again...God is an asshole is basically what this worldview boils down to. But I digress.

After the sermon there were more songs, followed by one last prayer, at which time we were allowed to go. Many people hung around and spoke with me a bit more after the service was done. I tried to steer clear of any theological debates, so I spent a few minutes talking music with some of the members of the church's band. After that, my friend and I departed.

As I wrote earlier, the social aspect of church was quite inviting. I can see why people enjoy going every week since it must build one heck of a sense of community in the churchgoer and his or her friends. However I don't think I'll be converting any time soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Martian Soil Suitable For Life?

I came across this article on the Planetary Society's blog. Apparently Martian soil contains the right stuff for supporting life. Maybe one day Mars will indeed have life, our great grandchildren perhaps? (They could grow green beans in the soil!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Philosopher's Cloud

A long time ago, on a website far far away, there was something called The Philosopher's Cloud, which has now all but evaporated...

...but, there is a new Philosopher's Cloud, a place where one and all can come to contemplate life, the universe, and everything else with like and un-like minded people. Even if you who are reading this are not familiar with the first Cloud, you are invited to join in the adventure. You just have to have a facebook account.

The Philosopher's Cloud

Time to Reflect

There have been some big changes in my life over the past six months. I shall spare all of you the details, suffice to say that I've been forced to sit and re-think some things. That is why, as perhaps some of my readers have noticed, I am no longer on youtube. After thinking it over, there is too much drama, and not enough serious discussion. It's just not a very good place for me to philosophize, and that is ultimately what my video adventures into the conflict between faith and free-thought were for: philosophizing. Thus I wash my hands of all the drama and immaturity.

On the flip-side, however, I've been able to keep in touch with some of the friends I've made on youtube, outside of youtube. So it hasn't been a complete waste I suppose. Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say. I guess it is those friends who made it so that youtube was not a complete waste.

Anyhow, from now on any readers can expect the material discussed here to become much more diverse. I'm am still very interested in philosophical naturalism, humanism, science, and things like that. But I want to talk about more than just those things, since they are discussed so often, and so (varyingly) well and poor by so many other people on the internet that towards the end of my youtube tenure, I felt that I was not only beating a dead horse, but that I was in danger of becoming just another member of the crowd, and this, quite frankly, makes me sick to my stomach.

So, content will change. I am still a proud member of the atheist blog roll, but now I will hopefully bring a little more variety to the blog sphere.

Friday, June 6, 2008

LOL ...Scientology

It having been quite a long time since my last blog post, I decided it would be a neat idea to see if I had managed to maintain the number of visitors on this blog that I had in April. I went to check, and I stumbled across an advert for Scientology (which as we all know, are laugh out loud funny...always).

I've inserted my own commentary into the picture:

...I hope Tom Cruise doesn't sue me for this.

American Propaganda (or what)?

I found the link to this quite interesting piece on my history professor's blog.

Now that Hillary lost the primaries, it's sort of a rather dark way I suppose.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Self-Centred Beings

We take it for granted that the Earth is round, and that it orbits the sun, but believe it or not there are still some people who think otherwise:

Sometimes, I wonder if we really can be blamed for thinking such silly things, like that the Earth is the centre of the universe. After all, it doesn't feel like the Earth moves: if I drop an object it falls straight down, so anyone ignorant of Newtonian physics would think the Earth is stationary. We weren't able to observe stellar parallax either, so it seemed as if it was the the heavens which spun around us, rather that us spinning through the heavens. And until Galileo came along, we didn't know about the phases of Venus or the moons of Jupiter (which many denied for years after the discoveries), which spelled doom for the geocentricism of old.

...but then I think of Wittgenstein's words which went something like this: "Tell me, why do people always say that it was natural for man to assume that the Sun went round the Earth rather than the Earth was rotating?"

"Obviously because it just looks as if the Sun is going round the Earth," replied his friend.

"Well, what would it have looked like if it looked as though the Earth was rotating?" replied Wittgenstein.

Stellar parallax, Venusian phases, and Newton's physics aside, I think there is something magical about Wittgenstein's words.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

That's enough, China

With all the buzz that has been going around regarding the Olympic games going to Beijing despite a long list of gripes the West has with its human rights abuses in and by China, I wasn't surprised when I came across this article on my history professor's blog:

Chinese troops are on the streets of Zimbabwean city, witnesses say

For those who aren't in the know (and that's probably not a lot of you since this has been making big news recently), Zimbabwe has been plagued by controversy over its recent election. Current president Robert Mugabe lost by many accounts, but refuses to step down. He is also inciting violence between the black majority and the white minority, and apparently, has now called in the Chinese for a little 'help'.

I feel like I no longer understand our giddy anxiousness to go find terrorists, when we could be doing something to stop abuses of human rights in Africa and other parts of the world. Simply sending the Olympic Games to China isn't going to do the job, but education and an increased standard of living might.

So, what's the hold up?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is Jupiter a Ho?

I have been so busy with school that I've not had much of a chance to blog about anything worthwhile. But here is another bit of science-type humour in the mean time which I stole from a friend.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Aloof is My Middle Name

Here is something a little different than usual. This is a little story about how aloof and absent-minded I can be sometimes. It happened to me yesterday evening.

In my haste to attend a lecture presented by one of my professors about a certain video game of which I am rather fond, I decided to head up to the university a half an hour earlier than was necessary, in order to get a good seat.

I arrived outside of the classroom in which the lecture was to be given.

"Strange," said I to myself, "there are a lot of people in there . . . why do they all have the same book? Where is the prof? What are they doing here anyway?"

I looked around.

"There does not seem to be a professor lecturing," I mused silently to myself, "I guess all of these people came early just like me."

I spied one of my friends seated in the middle of the hall, so I entered the room and asked her what she was doing. I ignored the rather awkward silence that my entrance seemed to generate . . . I also ignored the laughter of a few of the girls seated towards the back of the room. Why would they be laughing at me anyway?

I asked my friend what she was doing there. She was in a lecture, it turned out, so I informed her that I was also waiting for a lecture to begin. Since this didn't seem to be it, I decided to leave.

I gathered from the silence I was met with upon my entry to the lecture hall, that the lecture my friend was waiting for hadn't yet begun: it was indeed silent in the room, and I saw no lecturer.

"Weird! If she's waiting for a lecture, it must start at 6:30 . . . but that's when the lecture I want to see is supposed to begin. I wonder if there has been some terrible confusion about the times of the different presentations."

I went to the cafeteria to buy a drink since I still had some time to waste.

"Yes," said I to myself, "that's it. There must be some confusion here. That's exactly it. Someone has bungled the scheduling of the presentation I am going to see. That is, unless . . ."

. . . unless the room I chanced to enter was actually a class that was already in progress. Unless those girls were laughing at the aloof stranger that just happened to randomly grace them with his presence. Unless the professor just happened not to be standing right at the front of the class, and was really standing off to the side somewhere. Unless that awkward silence was of my own inadvertent doing, caused by my sudden appearance in the middle of said class. Unless, indeed.

I wanted to apologize to the professor, but I was so embarrassed over what I had just done, as well as the fact that it took around 15 minutes for me to realize my blunder, that I just couldn't bring myself to face her.

Instead I picked a nice comfy chair and buried my face in a book as the last of the students and the rather surprised, but not enraged (so I am told), professor left the room.

If it were not for moments like these, I wonder, would my life be as exciting?

Friday, March 14, 2008


One of the focuses of my introductory philosophy class is on something called Transhumanism, which is really interesting stuff to be sure.

The transhuman period is the name which some philosophers and scientists give to the era between the human and posthuman eras. The exact times when each of these eras actually begin and end is probably not widely agreed upon, but this is not a new problem in history. The dates of other eras, such as the beginning and endings of the dark ages, the renaissance, et cetera, differ depending on which textbook you read, although there is a loose consensus among historians . . . but we can at least pin down what century the renaissance began in. Whether or not we will be able to do this with the transhuman age is still an open question.

The basics which we've been learning about transhumanism over the past few weeks in my philosophy class are that humans are on the verge on a significant step in evolution. We are slowly moving from 100% organic beings to animals which incorporate the synthetic. We do this to extend and enrich our lives. Of course, we've been doing this sort of thing for a while: we have added extra layers of skin for warmth and fashion, which we call clothes; we inject dead microorganisms into our bodies to give our immune system a preemptive advantage against foreign germs; we add synthetic components to out bodies also, either for aesthetic purposes (like breast implants, piercings, and tattoos) or for health purposes (pacemakers, hip replacements, artificial blood vessels, and so on). This is why it's not exactly easy to say when and how we begin this transhuman period. It's not as if we have already stopped being human and started being transhumans. Rather, if the transhuman age is to lead to any sort of posthuman age at all, it will be on a very slow gradient. It will be difficult to say when exactly we officially become something altogether different, if we do at all.

It has been interesting to speculate in class about what, if anything, we humans might eventually end up as (if we do not destroy ourselves first). Perhaps we will achieve significantly longer lifespans; perhaps we will finally conquer disease; it may be that we will be able to someday transfer human consciousness to some type of artificial brain, making the immortality of our minds a possibility (a la The Matrix); maybe we will become a race of cyborgs like The Borg of Star Trek; the possibilities are varied and interesting.

I can't wait to study this in a more in-depth fashion in my future years at university.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Rose

I hate valentine's Day...I mean, I really, really do hate Valentine's Day. But this picture of the Rosette Nebula managed to warm up my icy heart just a little bit.

Source here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

Today is Super Tuesday for all of my American chums. So, in the spirit of all that is good and American, here you go. I thought I'd share this with everyone =)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


This is the immense Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31.

So what's in a name?
We haven't always known that the Andromeda Galaxy was, in fact, a galaxy. But for all of recorded history, that fuzzy patch of light has been sitting within the constellation of Andromeda. Constellations are not just mere patterns of stars or shapes in the sky; they are well defined regions of the sky, just like states and provinces are well defined regions within a country. When we say something is in a constellation, we aren't just referring to the stars that outline a constellation's familiar shape. Instead, we mean everything within that patch of sky. The Andromeda Galaxy, although much more distant that the other objects which make up the constellation of Andromeda, is still within (behind) the stars in that patch of sky. Hence the name Andromeda.

But what about M31, what the heck does that mean?
In the 18th century, the French astronomer Charles Messier was compiling his list of Messier Objects, which he turned into a book, Nebulae and Star Clusters, published in 1774. The first edition of this book did not list all of the Messier Objects - Messier identified 110 deep sky phenomenon, this book listed only 45 of these.

Messier couldn't tell exactly what all of these objects were. Even with the telescopes of the age, we couldn't detect detail anywhere close to what we can today. It turns out that some of these Messier Objects, which Messier might have thought to be nebulae or small star clusters (and indeed, some of them were), were in fact supernova remnants, and immense swirling galaxies, millions of light-years away. The Andromeda Galaxy is one of those objects. In fact, it is the 31st object in Messier's catalogue. Hence the Andromeda Galaxy's other name, M31.

Original picture source here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

9/11 Conspiracy Theorists

Before I became interested in the growing internet grassroots movement of atheists "coming out," what I loved to talk about on-line were the ideas of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Before I write any more blogs about this, I'd like to clarify my position. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I believe it is reasonable that more in depth studies should be done on 9/11, since the 9/11 commission did such a poor job, and also since we stand much to learn as far as building safety and engineering go regarding the collapse of the three WTC towers. But that's about where my agreement with the Truth Movement stops. After that, it all becomes unreasonable, paranoid, conspiracy nonsense. Red herrings, straw men, arguments ad populum and arguments from ignorance abound...not to mention that a lot of the time, they simply make shit up.

I would like to blog about this in the future, but for now, here is a very interesting blog by an x-truther.

And here is the first part of a radio interview featuring 9/11 conspiracy website founder Richard Gage and demolition expert Ron Craig, made available on by one of my favorite youtubers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Funniest News Clip Ever

This is perhaps the funniest news clip I've ever seen.

Funny Kid Isnt Sorry About Huge Party - Watch more free videos

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tube Cloud

This is an interesting website for anyone who spends any length of time on youtube.

It helps generate community exposure for members of youtube. Users can use the site to promote other users which they feel have something interesting to say but which don't have many subscribers or who are not appearing very high on any of youtube's honour lists.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dude, where's my ἔρως?

Just a thought I had the other day...

The more I try to find philosophy in small, everyday places and events, the more disappointed I become. But this disappointment is most apparent when I am browsing the internet.

It really shouldn't be this way.

Plato described a form of love which he called Eros (ἔρως). It describes something like 'intellectual beauty'; a passionate, spiritual feeling one gets when one does philosophy. I don't use the word spiritual lightly (it being a very easy word to misuse, I think), but I think there is something to this idea of Eros; of a certain beauty in the love and pursuit of wisdom.

I used to think that there was a little philosophy to be had everywhere. I suppose that I still do think this, in a way. But lately I've been finding that the one place where real philosophy should be happening, on the world wide web, is almost devoid of real philosophy. There is a lot of 'armchair philosophy', which can be very good sometimes, but very bad other times. Even worse, there is pseudophilosophy; philosophy of the angsty teenager who smokes too much pot and doesn't go to school, or philosophy of the Deepak Chopra kind.

I suppose this can't be helped. Unless you have a little formal training in philosophy, or you are an autodidact, you probably don't know much about philosophy. You might not really know what philosophy is or what it's supposed to be for. I suppose this is a consequence of the internet, which is a shame because the internet is precisely the right kind of tool society needs for spreading real science and philosophy. Instead, pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy are rampant. Note: I say that society needs such a tool because I believe strongly that a good understanding of science and philosophy can help all of us live much happier lives.

So when I read these PHP message boards and discussion topics, I'm often disappointed. Granted, these are usually not philosophy message boards, but message boards for other things which just happen to have a philosophy forum - I would think that philosophy messageboards do not have this problem. But still, should I be dissapointed? Should I expect average Joe to have a true passion for the pursuit of of wisdom and scientific truth? I hope I have not been naive in my expectation that average Joe would indeed possess something like Plato's Eros when it came to the pursuit of science or philosophy...but given the abundance of pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy on the internet, as well as what I perceive as a definite lack in this Eros, sometimes I just have to wonder...

...Although, I was once fortunate enough to moderate a philosophy forum which was part of another website, long before I was seriously studying philosophy in school. To my delight, it was an exception to this whole problem; plenty of Eros, and lots of good philosophy (and philosophers!).

I would love to see this problem (I think it is an important problem) go away. To make this so, I think we will need more popularizers of philosophy. I could illustrate this issue to a layperson thusly; "Sir or ma'am, are you able to name 10 living philosophers?" Chances are the answer will be "No."

What we need are more philosophers who make their ideas public and interesting. We need a Carl Sagan of philosophy, that is, someone both good at philosophy and good at presenting the findings of philosophers to the public in order to show their importance. There have been many philosophers like this before, Bertrand Russel and Jean Paul Sartre in the early to mid 20th Century, and others like Robert Solomon in the late 20th Century. Richard Carrier is an excellent example of a contemporary philosopher who does excellent philosophy, and who is very good at communicating it to other non-philosophers.

If we begin to see more people like these, I think we will see a sense of Plato's Eros beginning to grow once again within the public audience.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I've added a feature to my blog which will allow any passers by to give my blog a plug on

So if you read something interesting on my blog, it will be even easier to share it now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Atheist Blogroll

I've just joined the Atheist Blogroll, a list of over 500 other atheist and agnostic blogs, which has been made possible by Mojoey.

I hereby extend my thanks to Mojoey for providing this service and the addition of my blog to the blogroll :)