#0035 RRS Newsletter for July 26, 2007
I am introducing a new feature today, and I need YOU all to participate! The section is called the "Rational Response Column", any essays or experiences you would like to share with the world. For now we are interested in hearing your "deconversion" stories. For the first addition to this new section, I have posted the Deconversion story of Kelly, one of the Co-founders of the RRS. Depending on the response I receive, I may not have this in every edition, but hopefully at least once a week.
I would also like to direct your attention to the Community section for the details about the death one of the most influential psychologists in the feild. He has been credited as the #2 most influential, in fact, beating out even Frued, that man was Albert Ellis.
Table of Contents
The great big request for submissions WIN PRIZES!
****UPDATE 7-22-07 CONTEST EXTENDED. GREYDON SQUARE CATEGORY ADDED. OTHER CHANGES AND PRIZES AWARDED. PLEASE REVIEW AGAIN AND SUBMIT SOMETHING!!!****
NOTE: DUE TO ERROR IN LINKS AND LOW SUBMISSIONS, THIS CONTEST HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MARCH 15TH, 2008.
IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION READ EVERYTHING FIRST, CLICK LINKS! COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS SHOULD BE POSTED PUBLICLY IN THIS THREAD FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL PARTICIPANTS! PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THE INFORMATION OF THIS SUBMISSION DRIVE FREELY.
The Rational Response Squad is proud to announce a call to action for content submissisions. We have been blown away by the positive feedback we've received from the freethinking community. Thanks to everyone who has placed a banner, or our player on your website and helped spread the word in some manner. We've received many great written submissions of thoughts and views, but had no place to put them, so we've created a guideline to help you, help us. The categories in which we need submissions are listed below, send us your best material. Your writings will be added to our library of articles, essays, and debunkings. We're hoping to build one of the largest and diverse free libraries of rational thoughts on the internet. Please post everything publicly on our forum so it's there for all RRS members to access who are working on this project. In addition to hosting everything in a free web archive, we may also compile views into a free e-book or a book for sale to generate money for activist projects. Not that you need a reward to share your views with others, but as a thank you we'll be awarding prizes to as many of the top participants as we can. Prizes will be awarded based on effort put in and quality of writing.
We've put the categories in order of need and may alter the order later as submissions come in.
Prizes will be awarded MARCH 15TH, 2008, but you can continue to submit content well after MARCH 15TH, 2008.
For more info on this and other RRS sponsored contests go to the thread HERE
The first monthly meeting of RRS MII have decided that I will host monthly RRS MI meetings and/or outings in an effort to build a better sense of community. These will be held on the last Thursday of every month. This means the first one will be held on July 26th, and we will be watching the movie "The God Who Wasn't There". If you all have seen this, please let me know, we can choose another, but I thought it fitting to start with that one, and I WILL start the evening off with a group discussion on where and what we would like to see come out of this local chapter (something that was never really talked about in depth at the last meet). Other activities under consideration are things like scientific exhibition outings, protests where needed, and possibly the planning of political activism as our state is concerned.
Ancient Sumerian Astronomy
Um, this is a theory I've not heard before, weird.
Scientists unveil the 'face' of newly encoded memory
Washington, July 25 : Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have made a breakthrough in the fulfilment of a century-old dream of neuroscientists to visualize a memory by capturing, for the first time, images of the changes in brain cell connections following a common form of learning.
The researchers used newly developing microscopic techniques called restorative deconvolution microscopy in their groundbreaking research, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.
They have found that synaptic connections in a region of rats' brains critical to learning change shape when the rodents learn to navigate a new, complex environment.
They say that the rats stopped learning upon the use of drugs to block those changes in the course of research, an indication that the shape change plays a significant role in the production of stable memory.
'This is the first time anyone has seen the physical substrate, the 'face,' of newly encoded memory. We have cleared a hurdle that once seemed insurmountable,' said Gary Lynch, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at the university UC Irvine and leader of one of the two research teams involved in the studies.
The research has shown that markers related to long-term potentiation (LTP), a physiological effect closely related to memory storage, appear during learning and are associated with expanded synapses in the hippocampus.
Since the size of a synapse relates to its effectiveness in transmitting messages between neurons, the new results indicate that learning improves communication between particular groups of brain cells.
The new findings have raised hopes for mapping the distribution of memory across brain regions, which is one of the greatest objectives of the life sciences.
UC Irvine researchers are now planning to set up a consortium of laboratories directed at producing the first maps of memory.
No Diamonds in Uranus' Skies
Irene Klotz, Discovery News
July 25, 2007 — Given enough carbon, pressure and time, diamonds can form — but apparently not everywhere, say researchers who developed new modeling methods to parry the notion that small diamonds could spontaneously form in the skies of giant gas planets like Uranus and Neptune.
The discovery three years ago of a white dwarf star with a solid diamond core bolstered theories that the carbon-containing atmospheres of the large outer planets were celestial diamond factories even closer to home.
"Our simulations indicate that it is extremely unlikely that diamonds could ever have nucleated from the carbon-rich middle layer of Uranus and Neptune," a team of Dutch physicists wrote in paper to be published in Physical Review Letters.
The scientists discovered that carbon atoms in the planets' atmosphere would be much more likely to line up in triangular arrangements, which would yield bits of graphite, not the straight lines more suitable for diamond crystallization, said James Riordon with the American Physical Society.
"People assumed that there were going to be certain combinations that would be suitable" for diamond formation, he said.
Instead, the team from the University of Amsterdam and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands found just the opposite.
"There is a wide range of conditions where diamonds could form in principle, but never will in practice," the scientists wrote.
Through advanced computer modeling, the team found that the concentration of carbon needs to be at least 15 percent for diamonds to form.
"Such conditions exist in white dwarf (stars), but certainly not in Uranus or Neptune," the researchers said.
In 2004, scientists discovered a white dwarf star 50 light-years from Earth with a diamond core 2,500 miles in diameter. The cosmic gem is the remains of a star that was once much like our sun.
After expending its nuclear fuel, the star, which is located in the constellation Centaurus, cooled and contracted, leaving behind a jewel weighing about 5 million trillion trillion pounds. In another seven billion years or so, our sun should look quite like it.
Mastodon mitochondrial genome is sequencedLEIPZIG, Germany, July 24 (UPI) -- A team of German, Swiss and U.S. scientists has announced the sequencing of the complete mitochondrial genome of the mastodon.
Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues said the sequence of the extinct relative of elephants was obtained from a tooth dated to 50,000-130,000 years.
The mastodon is now only the third extinct taxon for which the complete mitochondrial genome is known, joining the woolly mammoth, and several species of Moa, a giant flightless Australasian bird.
The researchers said the sequence showed mammoths are more closely related to Asian than to African elephants. The researchers also determined the time of divergence of African elephants from Asian elephants and mammoths occurred about 7.6 million years ago and the time of divergence between mammoths and Asian elephants about 6.7 million years ago.
The researchers note those dates are strikingly similar to the divergence time for humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, raising the possibility that the speciation of mammoths and elephants and of humans and African great apes had a common cause.
The findings appear in the open access journal PLoS Biology.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.
James Randi explains why he examines paranormal claims
James Randi on John of God and the media's reports
The Great delusion - Why we must continue to fight religion!
Deliver us from Evil
Deliver us from Evil:
Texas is DOOMED!Via the DefCon blog comes that news that Texas governor Rick Perry has appointed a creationist to head the Texas State Board of Education.
I’ll give you a moment to clean off your screen. Yes, you read that right.
At first I thought, "No, not even a politician in Texas could possibly do something that dumb, that contrary to reality, that horrifying to their kids. DefCon Blog must have gotten it wrong!"
And then I did a few searches. DefCon Blog got it right. According to the Dallas Morning News:
"Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller … noted that in 2003, Dr. McLeroy was one of four board members who voted against proposed high school biology textbooks because he felt their coverage of evolution was “too dogmatic” and did not include possible flaws in Charles Darwin’s theory of how life on Earth evolved from lower forms."
That is straight out of the creationist tactics notebook. In case you’re not sure, the article goes on to quote McLeroy:
“It is wrong to teach opinion as fact,” he said.
Pssst! Someone needs to tell him it’s also unconstitutional to teach religion as science.
Vendor Arrested For 'Impeach Him' Buttons
CBS News Interactive: Bush Presidency
(CBS News) KENSINGTON, Md. A 74-year-old retired mathematician who sells anti-Bush buttons at a Maryland farmers' market has become a symbol of free speech to some people. Others say Alan McConnell is a nuisance.
McConnell was at the market in Kensington as usual yesterday, selling buttons that say "Impeach Him" He has sold the $1 buttons for months; he told The Washington Post he uses the money earned to pay for "Impeach Them Both" yard signs.
Town officials had previously warned McConnell about peddling his political wares at the market (he is accused of being "aggressive" in his pitch), and had cited him for selling merchandise without a proper permit.
McConnell was also warned that he would be arrested if he returned to the market, even though it is public property.
McConnell showed up this weekend, when police arrested him and forcibly carried him to a squad car. A crowd of about 40 McConnell supporters booed the arrest, chanting "Free speech!"
McConnell was charged with trespassing; he faces 90 days in jail and a $500 fine
Officials said kicking him out has nothing to do with politics but with
fears that the atmosphere fostered by McConnell and his supporters would create a safety hazard. (Mayor Peter Fosselman even cancelled last Saturday's market.)
But while some critics say talk of impeachment in the halls of Congress merely impedes the nation's business, some vendors at the market say the hype surrounding McConnell may have helped improve business for them.
"The excitement has certainly brought a lot more people here, but not all of them are buying," merchant Keith Voight told the Post. "Hopefully, the protesters today will come tomorrow to buy."
McConnell's buttons might have some more takers in nearby Takoma Park, Md., whose city council will vote tonight on a resolution calling for Congress to impeach both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Also today, activists including Cindy Sheehan, will march on Capitol Hill to the office of Rep. John Conyers, asking that articles of impeachment against the president and vice president be introduced.
Meanwhile, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a critic of the Iraq War, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wants Congress to censure President Bush for launching a war without adequate military preparation and for lying to the public, and for what he deemed the administration's continuous assault against the rule of law.
"This administration has weakened America in a way that is frightful." said Feingold.
Bad Bills On The Hill: Church-State Wall Under Fire In New Congress
If you thought that changes in Congress would mean a near cessation of attempts to weaken the principle of church-state separation, you should think again.
Since the new Congress convened earlier this month, bills have been introduced that would mandate public school prayer, allow houses of worship to endorse political candidates and stifle the federal courts' ability to resolve disputes over church and state.
The so-called "We the People Act," introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), claims that the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower federal courts have made decisions on "religious liberty, sexual orientation, family relations, education, and abortion" that have "wrested from State and local governments" the final say over these issues.
H.R. 300's impetus is clearly to gut the ability of federal courts to overturn legislation or government actions that violate church-state separation and other constitutional protections. The measure states that all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, "shall not adjudicate" cases involving religious liberty and other social issues.
If it were to pass and be signed into law, citizens would not, for example, be able to seek a court order to stop a public school teacher from leading students in prayer or a city council deciding to adorn all public buildings with religious symbols and statements.
Another equally egregious bill in the 110th Congress is one that proposes amending the U.S. Constitution to allow for organized prayer in the public schools. The measure has been championed for years by former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), who retired last year to run for governor.
In mid-January, however, thanks to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), H.R. Res. 13 was re-introduced. The proposed amendment allows public school officials to include prayer in "official ceremonies and meetings." If added to the Constitution, citizens would not have a First Amendment right to prevent the public schools from turning into religious academies.
We also must continue to contend with a bill long championed by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) that would essentially permit houses of worship to act like political operations but retain the tax privileges of non-profits. That bill has never made it out of the House in previous years, but now it has finally been introduced in the Senate.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the euphemistically dubbed "Religious Freedom Act of 2007." S.178 would re-write federal tax law to treat religious non-profits a lot differently than non-religious ones by permitting religious groups to endorse politicians for public office but retain tax breaks. Secular non-profits would still be expected to remain non-political to retain their tax privileges.
These measures may not stand a chance of advancing in either chamber – at least, we hope they don't — but they serve as reminders that a new Congress does not mean all is secure on the battleground to preserve the church-state wall.
By Jeremy Leaming
THIS is why Dennis Kucinich is behind in all the polls
How are we going to get OUR votes to count when most of America is not exposed to ALL of the candidates??!!??
Atheist Blood Drive
In an attempt to show the world that atheists are every bit as charitable as the religious of society, and that we need no "divine warrent" to be so, the RRS has set up a daughter organization called Atheist Volunteers. We hope you will all chip in. The most prominent of it's projects is the Atheist Blood drive.
Albert Ellis dies at 93
Albert Ellis, 93; modern psychology icon delivered his advice in blunt fashion
By Elaine Woo, Times Staff Writer
July 25, 2007
Albert Ellis, the provocative icon of modern psychology who helped bring psychotherapy to the masses by urging people to examine their problems rationally and to quickly take control of their feelings, died of natural causes Tuesday at his New York City home. He was 93.
Ellis' death was announced by the Albert Ellis Institute, which he founded in 1959. He lived on a top floor of the midtown Manhattan institute, which was the site of legendary therapy sessions that the influential psychologist held weekly for four decades until 2005, when the institute removed him from its board of directors amid reports of an internal power struggle and financial worries.
Ellis was later reinstated by a judge, but controversies continued to swirl around one of psychology's most colorful figures.
The author of 78 books, including such bestsellers as "Sex Without Guilt" and "How to Control Your Anxiety Before It Controls You," Ellis was voted the second-most influential psychotherapist in history in a 1982 poll of 800 clinical psychologists.
Carl Rogers, the father of humanistic psychology, was No. 1, and Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was No. 3.
Ellis was recognized because of his rational emotive behavioral therapy, also called cognitive behavioral therapy, which emphasizes quick results and an active role for the therapist. He directly challenged the protracted protocols of Freudian analysis, often remarking that success is contingent upon forgetting "your god-awful past."
"He opened the door to the therapy room for thousands and thousands of people," said David B. Baker, director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron.
By developing techniques that were relatively easy to learn and institute on a wide scale, Ellis brought about "a sea change in the practice of psychotherapy in America at midcentury," Baker said.
As a therapist, Ellis was not merely active: He was confrontational.
No matter what the trauma — a terminal illness, an abusive past, the murder of a loved one — his response was essentially: Stop complaining and deal with it.
One of Ellis' favorite words was "awfulize," as in don't awfulize an upsetting situation. He taught people to view their problems rationally and separate their sense of identity or self-fulfillment from the source of their unhappiness. He delivered this message in language that was often unprintable and always blunt.
"Why can't you understand that some people are crazy and violent and do all kinds of terrible things?" he once told a woman whose sister had been killed by a drug dealer. "Until you accept it, you're going to be angry, angry, angry."
When something bad happens, "you can easily upset yourself, but you always have a choice to feel sorry, regretful, frustrated, annoyed and not depressed, anxious and despairing," he told National Public Radio in 2004.
While seen as brutal and superficial by some, Ellis' methods won wide acceptance, with 1 out of 4 psychotherapists in a recent survey identifying themselves as sharing his cognitive behavioral approach.
"Someone has to come along and forcibly shake up the status quo, and that person needs to be powerful, innovative and largely unbothered by most colleagues' negative criticisms early on. Al Ellis did that perfectly with cognitive therapy," John Norcross, a past president of the psychotherapy division of the American Psychological Assn., once said.
Ellis' style of therapy evolved from personal experiences. As a teenager, the Pittsburgh-born, Bronx-raised psychologist was painfully shy around women and devised a program to change his behavior. He spent much of one summer by a bench at the New York Botanical Garden. Every time a woman sat down alone at the bench, he forced himself to speak to her. Within one month, he had spoken to 100 women.
The experiment was life-changing. "Nobody vomited and ran away. Nobody called the cops," Ellis recalled in a New York Times interview a few years ago. "I completely got over my shyness by thinking differently, feeling differently and, in particular, acting differently."
He attended City College of New York, earning a bachelor's degree in 1934. He worked various odd jobs, including assistant to the president of a wholesale novelty gift company.
At the same time, Ellis was writing novels and plays, but none were published so he switched to nonfiction. He wrote about love, sex and marriage, and before long, friends began consulting him about their sex problems. His success helping them overcome their hang-ups led him to enter the clinical psychology program at Columbia University, where he obtained a master's degree in 1943 and a doctorate in 1947.
Psychoanalysis was the rage then, and his first published book — "An Introduction to the Principles of Scientific Psychoanalysis" (1950) — capitalized on it. He opened a full-time psychoanalytic practice in New York a few years later.
Ellis soon became known in his profession for his sexual liberalism. He knew pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and explored sexual behavior in his next books, including "The American Sexual Tragedy" (1954) and "Sex Without Guilt" (1958).
At the same time, he was growing impatient with psychoanalysis as a form of treatment, largely because it took so long for patients to arrive at any insights. And unlike Freud, he did not believe that sexual issues were the cause of all their problems.
He began laying down the framework of rational emotive therapy, which he wrote about for the first time in "How to Live With a Neurotic" (1957).
At the end of the 1950s, he founded the Albert Ellis Institute to offer training and therapy. Soon he became famous for his Friday night workshops, held in the former dining room of the townhouse that was home to both him and the institute.
Open to the public, the workshops attracted 50 to 100 people each week and featured live therapy, with Ellis choosing two volunteers from among the participants. He spent about half an hour on each person, subjecting them to his alternately profound and unruly counsel and inviting audience members to put in their two cents. Sometimes he broke out in song to lighten the mood, singing his own lyrics to famous tunes and giving them humorous titles, such as "Love Me, Love Me, Only Me" and "I'm Just Wild About Worry."
He once described the sessions as his way of "curing every screwball in New York, one at a time."
The workshops were abruptly suspended in 2005, when he became embroiled in a dispute with the institute's board of trustees. The trustees ousted him from the board and sought repayment of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Ellis' medical bills. He battled a series of illnesses in recent years, including a near-fatal gastrointestinal infection in 2003 that led to the removal of his colon and a bout of pneumonia last year. A lawyer for the board told reporters that the payouts were jeopardizing the institute's tax-exempt status. Ellis sued the institute, which was forced to reinstate him after a judge ruled that he had been improperly removed.
Legal battles on other issues may continue, according to executive director Robert O'Connell. Among the lawsuits Ellis filed was one alleging age discrimination.
Legal issues aside, "we owe him a great debt," O'Connell said Tuesday. As a progenitor of the self-help philosophy that propelled figures such as Wayne Dyer and "Dr. Phil" McGraw to celebrity, Ellis urged people to "take responsibility for their own actions … and moving on with life," O'Connell said.
"He said you can't get stuck in the mud of your past. He lived what he preached," O'Connell said.
Ellis, who was twice divorced, is survived by his third wife, Debbie Joffe.
Theism is irrational (duh)
The Case Against Religion
Before we can talk sensibly about religion—or almost anything else!-- we should give some kind of definition of what we are talking about. Let me, therefore, start with what I think are some legitimate definitions of the term religion. Other concepts of this term, of course, exist; but what I am talking about when I use it is as follows.
According to Webster’s New Word Dictionary, religion is:
"(1)belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshipped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe; (2) expression of this belief in conduct and ritual."
English and English, in their Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms (1958), define religion as "a system of beliefs by means of which individuals or a community put themselves in relation to god or to a supernatural world and often to each other, and from which the religious person derives a set of values by which to judge events in the natural world."
The Columbia Encyclopedia notes that "when a man becomes conscious of a power above and beyond the human, and recognizes a dependence of himself upon that power, religion has become a factor in his being."
These, then are the definitions of religion which I accept and which I shall have in mind as I discuss the religious viewpoint in this paper. Religion, to me, must include some concept of a deity. When the term is used merely to denote a system of beliefs, practices, or ethical values which are not connected with any assumed higher power, then I believe it is used loosely and confusingly; since such a nonsupernatural system of beliefs can more accurately be described as a philosophy of life or a code of ethics, and it is misleading to confuse a believer in this general kind of philosophy or ethical code with a true religionist.
Every Atheist, in other words, has some kind of philosophy and some code of ethics; and many Atheists, in fact, have much more rigorous life philosophies and ethical systems than have most deists.
Bill Hicks- face down in the mud in Afghanistan '04 elohel
Bill Maher - The Decider
The Deconversion of Kelly
Alright - I was inspired by utopian to hunt down my deconversion/coming-out story from another online forum. There is a little back story--we were in a debate about ID vs. evolution and I realized that my knowledge of evolution was insufficient to properly debate the topic, so I asked for some recommendations and read a whole bunch, and when I came back after a few days, people were confused as to my change in attitude, but anyway...here it is:
Sorry for the confusion. I will try to explain. This is requiring a great deal of humility, as I hate admitting when I have been mistaken, and I even considered abandoning this board altogether, but I'm forcing myself to be honest. In my desire to better understand evolution, I read many books and articles. Although I never found "exactly" what I was looking for with regard to mutations, there was a point at which a light bulb went on in my head, and suddenly the creationist arguments were revealed for the clearly-grasping-at-straws fallacious argumentation that they are. So, that compelled me to search out other areas in which the biblical account may be mistaken. I discovered many interesting things, not the least of which is the complete lack of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, no to mention the uncanny similarities between Jesus and earlier pagan gods. Once again, being well acquainted with the christian apologetics that have attempted to "prove" the historical reliability of the gospels, I found their arguments entirely unconvincing in the light of this new information. That, of course, has led me into another type of inquiry as to the existence of any kind of supernatural being. As of this point, i must align myself with an atheist standpoint, in the sense that no compelling evidence for a belief in god has been presented.
I'm sure that Eric is currently laughing with hilarity at this, but I realized finally that I was taken in by emotionalism and irrationality. In order to continue being a christian I would need to shut off my brain entirely. "Faith" is of limited usefulness when all of the other information is contradicting that belief. I guess that is why christians feel such a strong desire to isolate themselves and their children. They are literally afraid of what they might find out. At any rate, yes, I am still going to homeschool my kids. But, other than that, I might as well have been kidnapped by aliens and somebody else is now in my place. Welcome me back to the world of the thinking.
The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.