Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Catholic Church in spotlight again over child abuse

An inquiry has been instigated into numerous reports of sexual abuse in Ballarat and other areas of Victoria by members of the Catholic Church (surprise, surprise.). More evidence of the widespread problem of pedophilia in the Catholic Church and how they always, without fail, work their arses off to cover it up and keep it under wraps. Apparently doing right by your flock comes second to doing right by your shepherds...

As a result of these terrible acts it's believed 30 or more men have committed suicide. To my shock, the majority of cases occurred in Catholic Boys schools. Are we ever going to hear the end of these sorts of stories...?

Jedi joke is over! Mark 'no religion' on this year's census!

With the upcoming census on the 9th, just one more reminder to all those non-religious, agnostic, atheist people out there to be sure to mark 'no religion' on this year's census. Over 70 000 people marked Jedi as their religion on the last census.

"If you put down Jedi, you are marked no response and all you are doing is handing religion your power over yourself," says David Nicholls of Atheist Foundation of Australia.

The same goes for 'Pastafarians'. So let's stop giving more tax payer's dollars to religious organisations than they deserve!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Why I have such distaste for religion

Just one more example on the pile of those good people who are forced to do terrible things in the name of their religion.
"The winning picture of the World Press Photo of the Year shows Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, who fled back to her family home from her husband’s house, complaining of violent treatment. The Taliban arrived one night, demanding Bibi be handed over to face justice.
After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi’s brother-in-law held her down and her husband sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Bibi was abandoned, but later rescued by aid workers and the American military. After time in a women’s refuge in Kabul, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery. Bibi Aisha now lives in the US."

Once she arrived in the US she was given reconstructive surgery to give her back her face :D

Ricky Gervais is pure gold

Apparently this was submitted by Ricky Gervais for a Rolling Stone cover (says I haven't checked if it's true.). Either way, funny as hell! Almost funnier than his take on Easter where he has a similar idea for a card.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Atheists have better sex!

A study carried out by psychologists Darrel Ray and Amanda Brown from Kansas University has found that atheists have better sex than the religious. Not that this is surprising, or was ever a secret. However, at least now we have the empirical to wave in their faces! Muahahahaha.
Both groups of people admitted that they carried out the same activities such as masturbation, watching pornography, having oral sex and pursuing affairs.
But followers of religion did not enjoy the experiences as much due to the stigma created by their belief systems, the study found. It left them with intense feelings of regret after they had climaxed 
Darrel Said: 'Our data shows that people feel very guilty about their sexual behaviour when they are religious, but that does not stop them: it just makes them feel bad. 
'Of course, they have to return to their religion to get forgiveness. It's like the church gives you the disease, then offers you a fake cure.' 
 Some really interesting findings in this article so definitely go have a thorough read if you're interested.

Beautiful 'stampede' of dolphins!

What else needs to be say, just have a watch! It's absolutely amazing. Every time I see dolphins or whales swimming they beat their tail and their back bone moves exactly like a terrestrial mammal when it's galloping/running. A clear give away at their ancestral form.

Brilliance's arch nemesis is arrogance

All I can do is laugh at this clearly very clever but moronic David Cecil who's an unemployed truck driver turned self-taught internet hacker who was brought down today. Police smashed into his house and apprehended him after 6 months of watching his hacking exploits online, most recently of internet company Platform Networks. He'd been openly boasting on online social websites the entire time too... What an idiot. Who are the best hackers in the world? We don't know. They don't boast, they don't openly talk about what they do and they don't get caught. Haha arrogance fail.

Poor Bernie

Poor prize winning bull Bernie has been trapped on a recent hilltop turned island in the middle of Lake Buloke in Victoria, Australia. He's been stuck there for 6 months even though he's only a mere 1km swim from 50 cows waiting for his.... prized genes shall we say! On your boat mate!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Should South Park touch the Norway massacre?

A Norwegian cartoonist and writer has sent an open letter to the creators of South Park encouraging them to create an episode on the recent and tragic killings in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik. What do you think, and how soon is too soon? Or is it a necessary task to disintegrate the iconisation of this right-wing, bigoted murder?

Catholic church says sorry again, again, again...

It seems like we're getting apologies from the Catholic church on a monthly basis these days, almost as often as John Farnham announces his final tour again, again...!

Sorry for the past sins of Catholics,
Sorry for the church's involvement in the african slave trade,
Sorry for inactivity during the holocaust,
Sorry for what happened to Galileo and the inquisition,
Sorry for not accepting evolution sooner,
Sorry for injustices against women,
Sorry for the conquest of Mesoamerica by the Spanish in the name of the church,
Sorry for the execution of Jan Hus in 1415,
Sorry...  Sorry... Sorry...

All of the aforementioned apologies are only from a single pope too, Pope John Paul II.

In the latest news here in Australia the Catholic Church has issued a national apology via Catholic Health Australia after ABC decided to investigate into claims and abuse in Newcastle. It's been estimated that 150 000 women had their babies stolen from them by some Catholic churches in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. They were then subsequently given to families deemed better able to take care of the children.

From what I saw on ABC news tonight it seems like most of the women were young and a large portion were probably wanting an abortion. Clearly the church would never have let that happen, instead forcing them to have the children and then taking them without the parents' consent. I've heard too about the disgusting treatment of women patients wanting abortions while in Catholic hospitals and being flat out denied, sometimes not even being informed about the option (I'll attach a speech on the issue at the bottom from Leslie Cannold).
Psychiatrist Geoff Rickarby has treated scores of affected women, and says it is a stain on Australia’s history. “It sounds like some totalitarian country somewhere hundreds of years ago, but in fact it’s Australia only 35, 40 years ago,” Dr Rickarby said. 
Martin Laverty, chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, says he's sorry for what happened, though he didn't even know about the wrongs committed by the Catholic Church until after the practices were brought to light by ABC's investigations.

Surely someone knew about all of this the entire time. The fact that it was so wide spread around Australia, not just in Newcastle, for decades means that someone high up the chain must have been giving the order, or at the very least turning a blind eye to the goings-on in numerous churches. How many more skeletons will we have to discover in the future? How many more apologies are we going to receive? The word is really starting to lose meaning guys, and saying sorry only when you're caught on something is incredibly transparent to say the least. I really wonder why congregations are starting to dwindle. Hopefully the trend continues!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

First same-sex marriage in New York!

The first same-sex marriage too place today between two women Connie, 85, and Phyllis, 77, in New York (there's a video of the ceremony via that link). They had been together for 23 years and after recent same-sex marriage laws were enacted in the state they were finally allowed by law to be wed! Congratulation to them and I hope Australia follows suit soon with such a basic human right all same-sex couples deserve.

Should God be banned for all athletes?

Today, when competing at a high level in almost any field our athletes are expected to stay drug free. They're screened prior to and after big events to make sure they are drug free. They get tested for all sorts of substances from steroids, stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, even alcohol and cannabis are a no go (though how being under the influence of either of these substances would help you win anything other than heads down thumbs up I don't know...).

Every time you see an American win at any sport, at any level, it's almost a certainty that while being interviewed afterwards about how they got themselves to the top they will mention faith in God and praying to Jesus for success and to win. Is this fair? What about all those religious athletes who don't selfishly pray, or the atheist athletes, who rely solely on training hard to win. Assuming there is a God, as most Americans do at least, if they were right would it be fair of them to ask for an advantage over everyone else simply because they put more prayer time into it? I mean, if you are allowed to ask your almighty God to help you beat everyone else via supernatural means, but you're not allowed to use chemicals to beat others via natural means, how does that work?

I think it's only fair, just in case all us non-believers are wrong, that all athletes from now on have to take a prayer piss test prior to and after competing. Anyone found to fail the prayer piss test should be disqualified and given as much disrespect as dopers. We need to make sure it's a level playing field for everyone! If we're going to be ok with prayer, we should be ok with doping. If you Jesus helps you win, what have you got to be afraid of steroids for? There's a thought, pitting a highly steroid dosed football team up against some pray-happy Christian team. I'd pay good money to see that game! However, I bet Christians and atheists alike would know which team would win... funny that.

Christian gives kind review of Australian Book of Atheism.

A surprisingly objective and respectful review of Warren Bonnett's 'The Australian Book of Atheism' by a seventh day adventist. Very interesting to hear their perspective on an atheist book.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Science fiction needs a facelift

I can't deal with it anymore... I love it, I hate it, I love it, I hate it! IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY!

Movies and series alike; Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate (SG1/Atlantis/Universe), Farscape (finally no 'star' in the title), the Alien movies, the Predator movies, Avatar, Battlefield Earth (an abortion of a film that on second thought shouldn't even be mentioned here), District 9, Cloverfield, Signs, etc. I love most of these films and series. However, I'm starting to get sick and tired of this genre as it seems to have gotten stagnant. Maybe it has been for a long time, in fact I'm sure that's the case.

I imagine you'll think I'm taking the whole genre too seriously and that it's Science Fiction not Science Non-Fiction. I know this, but for me the best Sci-Fi is that which is most plausible and incredibly hard to find holes in. What do I mean?

Alien double mouth
I'm sick of every fucking alien being bipedal for one. Wow, Alien had a mouth within a mouth and a few extra digits, same with Predator... Wow, every alien in Star Wars was humanoid but with different appendages on their head... This pattern is repeated again and again and again in every Sci-Fi movie and series that is released these days. Surely I can't be the only one noticing this?

Until recent years every bloody alien spoke English, often with no explanation as to how they acquired the ability to do so. Exhibit A, B and C. - Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate. And every bloody planet has the same North American pine tree forests covering it... ah, but with a more intense green hue, or maybe purple for this world! Clever... Really though, what a monotonous universe we inhabit. Same languages, same humanoid alien forms, and same fucking animals!

Stargate forest on alien world
This is the thing that annoys me most, all the unimaginative life forms on so-called 'alien worlds'. Little to no thought or imagination is ever afforded alien life forms all across the Sci-Fi board. Most of the aforementioned as well as being guilty of portraying all sentient aliens as humanoid bipeds, all of their other life forms are always total rip-offs of our animals. Granted, where else are we going to draw inspiration from? Still, one could at least try to come up with something unique and really push the boundaries. Every beast always has two legs, two arms, a head with epic teeth and eyes. Might as well have put a dog on steroids and shaved the hair off it.

Avatar did a brilliant job of creating alien animals by cutting Earth animals in half and smooshing them together. A horse with the head of an anteater, ah, but with an extra pair of front legs and trachea that exit through the chest... wow nice. A pterosaur with a velociraptors head... clever. All of the life forms that lit up in the jungle being based upon jelly-fish, ascidians and other marine invertebrates... really nifty? NO... cheap... seriously, any future Sci-Fi writer or producer reading this, and I know there will be 100s of you doing so, please, please, PLEASE, take a subject in biology. Better yet, hire an evolutionary biologist for helping out with alien life form design. They will undoubtedly be able to come up with something more unique, intriguing and plausible than what has been previously, and still is currently, on offer.
Avatar anteater-horse
Don't get me wrong, a lot of imagination still goes into these projects. Stargate has always blown me away with how plausible the technology can appear at times, though most of the time you realise fairly quickly it's complete rubbish. The point is that at least for a moment you are tricked into thinking "WOW, is this possible? Could it be possible one day?!". To me that is the whole point of GOOD Sci-Fi, and we definitely require a lot more like it.

I want to be intellectually stimulated, tested, tricked, made to think outside the box and question what I believe to be possible or true. The predictable is good the first time, but becomes oh so boring the second, third... hundredth time. And the more I see the predictable in every film and show chucked together today, the more I feel I'm being ripped off. Like the experience has been cheapened and that only enough imagination has been pumped into each project to acquire sufficient profits.

As an evolutionary biologist myself maybe I expect too much. However, it does feel like we've given up and are doing only what's good enough as opposed to the doing our best. Time to think outside the box and give Sci-Fi a decent facelift. Really go all out Demi Moore face-lift on the bastard and give it a good look again.

I really hope someone comes along soon and we see a huge shift in the boundaries, like we saw in the mid-1900s once space travel became a possibility, challenging the imagination of everyone. We can do it. We can make Sci-Fi hot again!

Friday, 22 July 2011

'2011 Norway attacks' already has a wiki page

I can't believe the speed at which this wiki page on the 2011 Norway attacks has been put together. There's a huge amount of info on there already and it's just over half a day since the attacks themselves occurred!?

Social media has also come an incredibly long way with regards to spreading news on incidents around the world. I heard about these attacks probably within 30 minutes of them having occurred late last night (Aus time) from my girlfriend who was in France and told me over the phone. I googled the issue and there were absolutely no news stories on the issue anywhere. All I could find were forum posts from Norwegians who had uploaded photos of the buildings and told of their subjective experience.

I jumped on AFA forum, Rationalia and Rational Skepticism and the information about what had happened had hit them at the same time if not earlier than the first news stories uploaded onto the internet. Speaking with friends and other atheists from around the world on Facebook, including Norwegians, a great deal more information was spread around very quickly.

So again, I'm absolutely amazed at the speed at which news travels around the world these days. It really seems like the news of any big event can reach all corners of the globe within 1 hour of happening today. In contrast with 100 or more years ago when the same news may have taken days or weeks.

It's great to see the amount of solidarity in the global community too in such tragic times. Our thoughts are with you Norway.

Messed up times in Norway....

Man arrested over bombing and shooting spree

Here's one of the best articles I've managed to find, which has a great deal on the guy who's been apprehended after he executed up to 87 people at the youth camp in Norway just after the two bombings.

Now the question is was he acting alone, could he have been that well organised...? Absolutely abhorrent and sickening... My thoughts are with everyone in Norway.

Bomb attack in Oslo, Norway

Within the last hour a large explosion was set off within a Government building in Oslo, Norway. Here's another article that's just been published on the incident.

It must undoubtedly be related to the al-Qaeda bomb plot thought to have been foiled last year. There're already stories of injured people in the street, but let's hope that no one has died in this awful event.

One of the articles reads:
A powerful explosion, believed to be caused by a bomb, rocked central Oslo on Friday afternoon, causing extensive damage to government offices and injuring numerous people. Large clouds of smoke rose from the area after the blast, which shook downtown buildings, and caused widespread panic in the streets. The offices of VG, Norway’s largest newspaper, also appeared to be severely hit. 
Shortly after 4 PM, more smoke could be seen and a cloud smelling of explosive gas was hanging over the city. Curtains could be seen flying from broken windows in the main government highrise. Police was busy cordoning off a large part of downtown, while buses were taking injured people out of the area. 
According to the Norwegian news agency NTB, prime minister Jens Stoltenberg was in a safe location.
We’ll be following the story.


At least one person's now confirmed dead... It's expected to most likely be a Kurdish Islamist group after Norway charged the founder with terrorist charges and the minister was then threatened (apparently this happened Tuesday).

Two more bombs have been found, people are being evacuated.

Busy-body Christian fruitcake. I don't want a slice!

Is anyone else sick and tired of right-wing Christian prudes dictating what the rest of us are and aren't allowed to do, view, drink and consume? "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" is no longer a valid argument that can be used to get whatever you want banned. Stop trying to be a pious hero and start looking after you and yours and let the rest of us ADULTS decide what is and isn't good for us and our children.

If I want to drink, I'll drink. If I want to play R18+ rated games, I'll bloody well do so. If I want to lock myself in a dark room and masturbate while viewing 80s gay porn on the internet, I WILL DO SO! If it's not hurting you or anyone else then you have no right to have any say in what I do, when I do it, how I do it and with whom I do it.

You may have to use your religion as a way of restraining your own personal desires, and those of your fellow sheep, but the rest of us are grown, mature, responsible adults who can take care of ourselves. Mind your own GODDAMN business! (Pun intended)

A little more volcanism may be a good thing

All this volcanism of late may in fact turn out to be a good thing in the long run. Even if you have to hang around at the airport for a few extra hours until the ash cloud clears, or a few extra days in some cases... The thing is that these volcanic eruptions spew a great deal of sulfur into the atmosphere. When it gets up into the stratosphere, sulfur even at low levels can reflect a great deal of sunlight. This in turn reduces temperatures on earth.

While this is obviously not a permanent solution to global warming and climate change bio-engineers are looking at the feasibility of injecting small amounts of sulfur into the stratosphere. There are numerous ways of this being done, such as using a big balloon to hold a light-weight tube several kilometers long up into the stratosphere to release sulfur. Artillery has also been suggest as a possible high atmosphere sulfur injection method.

Other ways of increasing levels of sulfur in the atmosphere and thus decreasing global temperatures include man made volcanoes. EPIC! Though I fear the repercussions from any such action would undoubtedly have the potential to pose a greater threat to people than climate change if actions aren't thought out with all risks considered.

In the meanwhile, let's pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for a supervolcano to appear somewhere unpopulated. Antarctica maybe, or Utah...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Pseudo-scientists irritate me...

I was reading this article today on the New Scientist website regarding a so called "deaf-mute frog". It's an interesting article on a cool charismatic little frog from French Guiana in South America. However, the frog in question is not mute as the article eventually professes.
"Males make two kinds of call: an aggressive one to defend territory from other males and an advertisement to attract females. Calls had an average volume of 72 decibels at a distance of 1 metre, which is pretty feeble: most frogs that size manage 87 to 113 dB."
Nor is it deaf, as many of you would gather if the males are calling. If they're doing so to defend territory and attract females, clearly both sexes are able to hear as well. Again the article goes on to contradict it's own title.
"Boistel took a close look at their ears and found that they are pretty bad at carrying sound from the skin to the sensitive cells within.
He thinks there must be a second pathway by which sound travels to the inner ear. Some frogs absorb sound through skin and lungs – maybe this toad is one of them. The bones of its skull might also help carry the sound."
You don't need ears to hear. If you can pick up vibrations of any kind this is in a 'sense' hearing (mind the pun). Snakes have no ears but can hear, through their lower jaw. Funnily enough, the lower jaw bones differentiated in our ancestors, separating and migrating into what are today are our tiny ear bones. 

I was also a little annoyed to read statements such as:
"Stubfoot toads belong to the South American genus Atelopus, known as the harlequin frogs despite actually being toads. 
At this point, the central coast stubfoot toad starts to look like an evolutionary mistake."
This is not true. There's not taxonomical differentiation between frogs and toads, they are all frogs. It's an entirely arbitrary distinction that people use for frogs they decide have leathery skin and 'warts', etc. 
"A distinction between frogs and toads, though common in popular culture, is not made in taxonomy..." ref.
Evolution doesn't make mistakes. Anything that has the potential to become a 'mistake' doesn't survive, and if it had the ability to survive just as well in its environment it wouldn't be a mistake would it? Evolution is a blind force, it is passive, objective and has no personal goal or end point.

I know I'm probably being a bit of a stickler for scientific correctness. I'm not trying to ruin xmas for the children by telling them santa isn't real, but I do get annoyed at misinformation, jazzed up, distorted and sensationalised in an attempt to gain interest. A lot of the time this doesn't need to be done as the real story when stripped back to its reality is just as interesting.

To be honest, I expect a lot more from such a highly respected science magazine like New Scientist.

Well and truly time to rethink drug laws

I'm glad these sorts of stories are coming up more and more. It's not good when it comes to the poor people who get prosecuted and feel the force of the hypocritical and unintelligible laws. However, it is more evidence that our criminalization for possession of drugs such as cannabis, MDMA and acid is a total joke to say the least. These drugs have been shown time and time again to be much less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and have countless medicinal uses we could be benefiting from. (I point you to this doco ranking the worlds 20 most dangerous drugs as a more palatable reference, it's a good and surprising watch. Here's a graph of their ranking.)

Jimmy Carter once said;
 “When the legal side effects of a substance cause more harm to a person than the side effects of the substance itself, we have an injustice!"
I think this is becoming more and more the case when you have 800 000 people a year in the US getting a criminal record, and even lengthy jail time, for simple possession of substances like cannabis. When you get a criminal record relating to cannabis it becomes impossible to get a Government loan for tertiary education, though if you murder, rape and torture someone you can still get one. In some states you can go to jail for life, FOR LIFE?!?!?! if you commit a felony 3 times. That has occurred to people who've been caught with cannabis 3 times, no matter what the amount, and they get life in jail...

It's calculated that 4% of the adult population of the world, 162 million people, use cannabis annually. It's obvious to everyone that the war on drugs has never worked, thus it's 'high' time we sucked it up and did what needed to be done, even if it isn't easy. We need to legalise and regulate all drugs.

I know the majority of you will flip out, but hear me out.

When I say legalise and regulate all drugs, that's not to say chuck them up on the shelves at the local supermarket for anyone to grab by the bucket load. To the contrary, it's to say take control! Take it back from the organised crime gangs who are taking advantage of the fallacious "war on drugs". Take it back from our children who can acquire cannabis, ecstasy and acid more easily than they can alcohol or tobacco. Few drug dealers, probably not a single one in fact, ask for ID...

Outlawing these substances has never made them go away. It has just turned anyone who used them into a criminal where originally they weren't one. This is especially important regarding commonly used drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, which are less harmful than "legal" and "good" drugs like alcohol and tobacco. 

People have always wanted to use drugs, a substantial portion of all populations no less. The legal issues surrounding them has never quelled the numbers, and those people who do wish to use these substances responsibly definitely have a right to do so. They also have a right to be able to do so in the safest possible way. 

When you have bike riders die on the roads, you increase the safety and effectiveness of the bikes themselves, of the helmets and clothing people wear, of the lighting they have to use. You give them private bike paths, lanes on the road, you widen the lanes on the roads, you slow the car speeds on the streets. However, you do not outlaw bikes... Why? Because that would be moronic and not solve anything. People would still want to ride bikes, and rightly so. The same should be the case for all recreational drugs. They can be dangerous, but that's not reason enough to outlaw them. It's reason enough to improve the safety of the drugs themselves and their use. 

Portugal decriminlized illicit drugs in 2001 I believe. Here's a graph illustrating the substantial effect this had on decreasing all drug usage in their high school children.

Handguns are legal in Australia for fuck sake. You have to get a license, have a background check, use it only at a specific location, keep it in a safe separate from ammunition. Why could we not put the same sort of legislation in place for recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin? Surely they can't have more potential for danger and harm than a hand gun? I don't own a handgun, in fact I've never seen one in real life, let alone fired one. I'm sure the same would be the case if heroin or cocaine were legalised and regulated in this way. People always fear that everyone would drop everything if that happened, all civilisation would come to a halt as we hit the stores and stocked up on cocaine and heroin. People would be lined up in the streets injecting heroin behind their eyes and putting cocaine under their foreskins. Surely nothing could be further from the truth? Who are all these people who would suddenly go crazy for such drugs if they were legalised tomorrow? Surely anyone of that attitude would have already got their hands on the substances long long ago. I know I wouldn't bother... I'm educated on the drugs, I know what they do and that they can lead to addiction. I can thus make the educated and personal decision to not use them. Though I don't think others should be forced to conform with my personal preference. I wouldn't surf Bell's Beach because I'd fear injury or shark attack, but I'd never insist it was therefore too dangerous for anyone else to do so. 

The argument that they're dangerous and thus need to be banned is complete crap. Sky diving is dangerous. Cutting up vegetables is dangerous. Driving to work is dangerous. This is not about whether or not they're dangerous, that's just the guise the Government uses to justify outlawing these substances. More people die from being hit on the head by coconuts each year than they do from cannabis, acid or ecstasy use. More people die from car accidents each year than all combined illicit drug deaths. This was never ever about how dangerous these drugs were. It was about misinformation, fear, lies, control and the religious right being anti anything that makes one feel good that isn't worshipping God (masturbation anyone?). I guess when it comes down to it the Governments aren't to blame, they're just capitulating to what the public want. So it's our own fault, but it's something we rectified asap, as we did with the prohibition of alcohol back in the 1920s-30s. That was as much a failure as is today's prohibition on drugs.

Here's a graph of annual deaths from drugs in the US, who's at the top? I reiterate that this is and never was about potential for harm!

It's about time we afforded those who would use *insert illicit drug* in a responsible way, as many people do so a great deal more responsibly than others using legal drugs like alcohol. How many people high on cannabis or acid have gone home to bash their wives, held up a corner store, or raped someone? 

Yes punish anyone using them inappropriately. Yes punish anyone buying them or giving them to children, the same as you would with alcohol or tobacco. We only have things to gain. Better quality for those who want to use them, thus leading to less overdoses and less deaths, and healthier users. Better education for users. The regulation of highly addicted substances in such a way that rates of addiction to them lessened. Take money and power away from organised crime, and give governments numerous more items to tax and spend the money on education/health/whatever..! Most importantly, it will make them less available to our children.

We need to stop punishing the majority for the mistakes of the minority. Control and education will always be a better alternative than fear and ignorance. Especially when it's people like this woman below who are suffering the full force of the law.

David Hicks' book proceeds in Aus Gov's sights

David Hicks
For those of you who don't know who David Hicks is, he's an Australian who converted to Islam and was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11 where he'd been training with the Kosovo Liberation Army. He was moved to Guantánamo Bay soon after, and only in 2007 was he transferred to an Australian jail after signing a pre-trial agreement regarding his "material support for terrorism".

So clearly he's not the kind of dude you should chuck on a pedestal and worship, but that said, our Government did absolutely fuck all while he was detained and most likely tortured in Guantánamo Bay for 5 years. All the while he went through numerous kangaroo courts, being played around with by both George Bush and John Howard.

He released a book about his ordeal named Guantánamo: My Story in the past year or so and apparently our Government have set their eyes on acquiring the proceeds. The case is going to be heard next month under Australia's Proceeds of Crime Act, which lets the Government claim proceeds from the "commercial exploitation of the notoriety gained from committing an indictable offense". In other words, those who commit crimes and are found guilty in a court of law can't later receive financial gain from things like writing books about their story (and the crimes of which they were found guilty).

I think the main reason for this law is so that rapists, murderers and drug dealers can't later write about their crimes and then make money from them. Though they do anyway, which makes this all the more bizarre while our Government chases after some but not others (I'll get to this in a minute).

The only problem is that David Hicks signed the pre-trial agreement and was thus not prosecuted in a court of law, whether in the USA or in Australia, and thus wasn't found guilty of his "crimes". So it seems a little ironic and just plain wrong that our Government now, after ignoring him all the while he was in Guantánamo, that not being enough, now they're chasing him for any of his proceeds from his autobiography. The dude did 5 years in one of the worst prisons in the world and the Government wants to take any money he's made from book sales, probably amounting to a few thousand dollars.

What a joke...! This is clearly a vindictive action and is going to get very messy, and for what? To make a point? To whom? And if it's justifiable why have our Governments ignored convicted criminals turned autobiographers such as: Chopper Reid, Howard Marx, Roger Rogerson & Lord Jeffery Archer.

I'm so over the inconsistencies of our Government. We ban some drugs, but allow the most deadly to be legal. We complain about the 'boat people' who number in the few 100s a year, while then signing an agreement with Malaysia to take 4500 of their immigrants into the country (the majority of illegal immigrants arriving in Aus do so by plane I might add). We force plain packaging on cigarette companies, stealing their intellectual property, while still allowing them to be sold readily in shops. We chase after the proceeds of the non-convicted and allow the convicted to write books and make movies about their murderous exploits. What the hell kind of message are they trying to send? Show some bloody consistency... All or nothing. So that at the very least all confusion is cleared up and we can get on with life.

It's really all a no-brainer.
Actor Eric Bana as Mark "Chopper" Reid in the movie Chopper.

What Iran (Persia) was like before the Islamic revolution

This blew my mind. Forgive my ignorance any older readers who were around pre-1979, I was born in the 80s and in my naivety believed Iran had always been an Islamic stronghold. I'm sure like me the majority of people think that all corners of the world is in a constant process of opening up and becoming more 'western' and liberal. Clearly that's not the case at all, which is such a shame. 

I think Egypt is probably on the way to where Iran is today. I saw an interview with an Egyptian woman recently saying that 30 years ago you would never see anyone wearing a hijab in public, let alone a burka or niqab. Nowadays, she was saying any Egyptian woman seen in public not covering their hair, at the very least, receives a great deal of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. 

Hopefully one day we can take the clock back in countries and peoples held hostage by Islam.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

I love the smell of irrefutable evidence in the morning

There must be no other explanation, especially considering they'd just been to church AND spoken about Jesus! What are the odds!? Miracles happen people....

If you look hard enough he seems to appear in many other house utensils and foods. What could this all mean? Is is God's latest form of communication with his 'perfect' creation, or merely the faithful seeing what they want to see in everyday items. The latter is undoubtedly the safer bet if you're a gambler.

Check this out! This young girl found irrefutable evidence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in her dinner!

I was down at the local beach the other day and would you believe it? I found irrefutable evidence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn!

The human brain is a powerful organ that plays tricks on us all at times. It's programmed to see patterns in everything, as evolutionarily this was a great benefit to our ancestors. Daniel Dennett discusses this in length in his book "Breaking The Spell". I recommend this to anyone interested in having a further understanding of why we believe in the supernatural and what's lead to people seeing Jesus in their toast, among other things.

An interesting trip to the dentist

I went to the dentist today, again, for the third time in three weeks. Today, however, things got interesting and I managed to stay awake in the chair.

So I sat down in the chair and copped the usual oral penetration from my dentist. Why they always use those early 19th century metal barbaric syringes to administer the anesthetic injects I will never know. They must scare the crap out of nearly everyone who sees them. I lay back and waited while the right side of my face lost feeling and listened to my dentist telling me about his collection of fine wine and how Murdoch's a rich wanker. He also got onto the topic of his Christianity briefly too.

All of a sudden the dental nurse comes in, and instantly I see her hijab. I note to myself "that's a first. I've never been treated by an islamic nurse." She was really cheerful and chatty, which surprised me a little. It became pretty apparent that she was one of those very moderate muslim women who'd grown up here in Australia since birth.

The dentist was still yacking about his wine collection and how his favourite hobby was pairing different wines with foods. He mentions pairing a french sauvignon blanc with goat's cheese and prosciutto, and asks the nurse if she's ever tried it. I could barely control my laughter but had no choice while I had numerous sharp metal implements in my mouth... He had no idea muslims didn't drink, nor ate pork (not sure on the goat's cheese). Withholding my laughter wasn't made easier when she relied "it sounded good until you mentioned the wine and pork."

My atheism came up in topic during a respite between being drilled, and so began the most interesting conversation I've ever had at the dentist. I'm sure some joke must start with "an atheist, a Christian and a muslim are at the dentist's."

While being the most interest conversation I've ever had there, it became one of the most infuriating while I was being butchered in the chair with my mouth held wide open. I was constantly bombarded with comments to which I had a million responses. Here are some of them:

Christian dentist:
"Most self acclaimed atheists aren't really atheists, they're agnostics. They don't know if there is a god or not. Atheists are those who preach to everyone there's no god no matter what."
"There's more evidence that Jesus was a real person and did what he did than there is to suggest Julius Caesar was a real person. There are so many 100s of documents and references to him, it's without question he existed. It's whether or not he was who he claimed to be, that's the real question."
"All religious books preach the same thing, the golden rule. So it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe."

Muslim nurse:
"I watched a doco the other day on 9/11 and it proved that Osama bin Laden didn't carry out the attack on the twin towers. It was all the US government so that they could go into middle eastern countries for the oil. They used 9/11 to defame Islam and all muslims."
"Those muslims who do terrible things aren't really muslims, they're not reading the Koran right. Killing is against the laws of God."
"What happened with the Bali bombings? Was that because of muslims?"

All the while I was sitting there unable to speak, to reply to any of these comments. I think I almost had a stroke several times, especially while being lectured on what an atheist is and isn't by my dentist ("all atheists are really agnostics"). To my surprise, the dentist generously offered me a beer in the future and to have a further chat about things when I could actually reply to his questions and statements. I might take him up on it, but so much of what he said was nonsense I think I'd be talking to a brick wall.

What a day...

Someone recently showed me this article on a Geelong dentist who started spouting fundi-Christian nonsense in an attempt to convert a patient during a consultation... wow....

Google speaks my language!

Stumbled upon this earlier on today on the Google homepage, but I only just had a closer look at it when I saw it in a on the Why Evolution Is True blog. Props to him!

Can anyone else see what this is??

Monday, 18 July 2011

An elite new college called New College

Interested in another university degree and can spare £18,000-a-year? Richard Dawkins and other big names like AC Grayling, Lawrence Krauss, Ronald Dworkin QC, and Steven Jones among others are heading up a new private elite college unimaginatively named New College.

That price tag is twice the cost of the most expensive public university fees, with a number of people fearing it will only be available to those with the deepest pockets and not necessarily the best minds. However, they're going to offer 1 in 5 people scholarships for the first cohort of 200 that begin, and want to bring that ratio to 1 in 3. 

I've mixed feelings around the idea, especially as the main shareholders are business tycoons. However, at least this group of brilliant minds are making their skills available to others all in one epic degree. Wish I had the time and money.

Blog Set Up for Book

Hey guys, for those interested in the book I'm putting together, Atheism Without The Grey Hairs, I've set up a blog for it where I'll put up any information and announcements relating to it. Hopefully it'll be easier to keep up to date with everything that way.

I'll post up something soon regarding proceedings of the book as well as who else is involved.

Anyway, here's the link

Cheers for your time and interest everyone.


Sharia law imposed on Australian muslims

I'm getting so sick and tired of hearing about muslims in Australia, let alone the rest of the Western world, imposing Sharia law while breaking the laws of the country they're in. The latest story I saw on Channel 7 News tonight where a newly converted Australian muslim man had several large muslim men come into his home, hold him down and beat him with a cable 40 times over 30 minutes.

The men decided to impose Sharia law on the victim after it was discovered that he'd indulged in several alcoholic drinks one night, which is against Sharia law. Last time I checked in australia it's still legal to drink as much as you like irrespective of your personal faith.

There are numerous muslim children found to have had female genital mutilation (FGM) carried out on them every year in Australia. I read somewhere the figure was in the 100s of children discovered at the Royal Melbourne Children's Hospital each year.

There're also a handful of cases each year in the US alone of honor killings and suicides. These instances normally involve a young muslim girl who has 'dishonoured' her family by going clubbing, drinking, getting in a relationship with a boy, getting pregnant out of wedlock. They are normally convinced to kill themselves or are murdered by a member of her own family, often a young boy under the age of 18 so he won't go to jail.

I'm not a racist person. I have no issue with muslims immigrating to our country and living hear peacefully, as the majority do. However, I think it's abhorrent and disgusting that a large portion of the muslim community decide to bring their own 'religious laws' to our countries, and apply them to others. If you want to live in our country, especially after being persecuted in your own countries often under dictator regimes that rule with Sharia law, don't bring those ancient and barbaric laws here with you.

Update (19/07/11) -
Justice is served to the offender who decided to put Sharia law above NSW state law and gave a 31-year-old muslim man 40 lashes.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Atheism Without The Grey Hairs

Atheism Without The Grey Hairs
A Younger Generation’s Rise to Atheism

Dear all young non-theists! I am Pete Darwin and I’m an avid secular humanist atheist and have been all my life. I’m currently completing a Masters of Science at the University of Melbourne in the area of evolutionary genetics and zoology. Anyway, I am working at putting together a book of essays regarding the younger generations’ rise to atheism.

The idea for this book was brought about when I decided I wanted to tell my story about how I became an atheist, as well as share a bit about my personal life with religion and numerous fundi family members. It’s been a bumpy and interesting ride to say the least. However, while reflecting on my own history with religion and atheism I knew there must be numerous other interesting, amazing, scary, and even heartbreaking stories out there that should also be told.

The majority of what one reads, views or hears about atheism comes from an older generation. They are the authors of books, speakers at conferences and hosts on documentaries, and they do an amazing job at it too. However, I think the voice of the younger generations of atheists and their experiences and stories would be a great addition to the scientific, sceptical and non-theistic realm!

I want to provide a book that younger generations of theists, non-theists and agnostics alike can read, more easily digest, and hopefully connect with on a deeper level. I want to show what kind of person your average atheist is, and present an argument to show that the gap between atheists and theists is much narrower than assumed. To show that we atheists just have a different take on life that is based on scientific evidence and fact. Atheists are the least trusted minority according to US polls, when things couldn’t be further from the truth.

So I think it’s incredibly important to create a book that illustrates who and what the average atheist is like, as well as why, when and how they became an atheist.

I hope the book gives theist readers a better understanding of atheism and atheists in general, and not to fear or hate them as all too many do today. I hope it reassures and strengthens other atheists who read it, and that it gets fence sitter agnostics into the right paddock. I also hope that people in the process of losing their religion, or even those who just starting to question things, with something to connect with and provide a little support and guidance. 

What is required of essay authors?
  • To write 2000-5000 words
    • Firstly, on their rise to atheism (the when, where, why, how), and any other interesting personal stories with religion or supernatural belief.
    • Secondly, on the role atheism plays in your life.
    • Thirdly, on at least one thing that brought them to atheism or solidifies there position there.

For the third section I’d like to cover as many areas as possible, which reinforce one’s stance as an atheist or a sceptic (if it’s about supernatural beliefs like astrology/homeopathy/psychics, etc).
  • Examples: any area of science: evolution, archaeology, geology, history and inaccuracies in the bible, philosophy, issues with morality, Christ mythicism, 
So one would introduce that topic and then explain how it is in direct contrast with theism or supernatural beliefs and affirms their atheism. With any personal stories relating to the topic added in if one chooses.

It doesn’t have to be that exact formula, but the main idea is to have a personal story about how one became an atheist and why one remains an atheist with reference to a specific reason/topic. People are welcome to add in anything extra, and go outside of the word limit if they need.

I will be getting in contact with a number of renowned atheists to be involved with this book, and will hopefully have space for 15-20 essays from average Joe young atheists of all shapes and sizes. I have to just quickly mention that all essays may be edited or asked for editing to be made, and that there’s no assurance that all essays will be published in the book. The best 15-20 will be chosen. Anyway, thanks for your time and keep fighting the good fight my friends!

I might also add, the cut off age will be 40. So anyone 40 years old or younger is able to write for this book (sorry anyone 41+ years old, I had to put the line somewhere). I'm yet to work out organise a publisher and issues surrounded proceedings from the book, but hope to have this sorted in the coming few weeks. Stay tuned. Cheers for your time guys!

Contact me at


Genetic diversity losing out to overfishing

Here's an interesting article about a study by Stanford University that looked at the genetic diversity of fish species. It essentially found, with no big surprise, that those species that we currently overfish have had a big decrease in the species' overall genetic diversity (~18%), compared with lightly fished species.

I'm surprised it took us this long to get out there and examine this effect as it seems to be a no brainer. If you kill or remove a substantial portion of a population of individuals it will result in a loss in genetic diversity. At worst, it can lead to a bottleneck where the species loses most of its genetic diversity and will be faced with extinction.

Why is loss in genetic diversity a bad thing you may ask? Well populations that are more diverse stand a much greater chance at adapting or evolving to cope with changes in their environment, whether they're minor or major changes. If a population's genetic diversity is reduced then it's ability to cope with any environmental changes may be hindered at the very least.

For example, Giraffe have a number of different colour morphs that will suit a number of different habitat types. If their preferred habitat type is grassland, the lighter coloured Giraffes will do better than the darker ones, though the darker ones are still present in low numbers. By having this amount of variation the species can adapt when the environment changes. So if the grasslands all died out, or burned in a bushfire, or were cut off to the Giraffes by some event. They'd be forced to move into elsewhere for food. If they moved into woodlands or forests, the darker individuals may have an advantage for camouflaging and hiding from predators, whereas the light coloured ones would stick out like an albino gorilla in a coal mine. Pretty quickly the light coloured morph would lose numbers and the darker morph would become the most common one. The species survives because it is now able to hide well in it's new habitat. However, if the species had had lower genetic diversity, say it had no darker morphs, it may have not been able to adapt to the new environment and be faced with extinction.

When it comes to fish, we've been attacking the most evolutionary robust species in the ocean first. They are the species that are very numerous and found everywhere. Once they're gone though we'll only have the less robust and diverse species to sustain us if we're not careful, and they won't be able to handle anywhere near the same sort of fishing abuse that other species have in the past.

So it's incredibly important we try to conserve as much genetic diversity in all species in the world, not just fish species. Especially in the face of global warming where species will need all the variation they can muster in order to deal with sudden environmental changes world wide.

Go to for more information.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Keating roasts Abbott

Past PM Paul Keating gave Tony Abbott a mild roasting on his carbon 'tripe' in an interview with ABC. Couldn't agree with him more. While Tony Abbott thinks paying the biggest polluters to change their ways will solve anything, I'd have to agree with Paul Keating. Taxation, or a price on carbon/ETS is a better option by miles.

You should never pay someone who's doing the wrong thing to improve. You should 'punish' them in a sense, or at least have them foot the bill if they don't change their ways. 

I watched a doco on a similar example recently where children in the US equivalent of year 9 were offered $50 a month, plus being in the draw for 500 every month, if they could improve their grades and keep them above a C average. Some kids did well, but overall there was no real improvement. Why? Because the children had nothing to lose. Their lives weren't going to change if they didn't do well and get the $50 a month. It could've been $1000 a month and the result would've been the same. However, I bet if they had a negative incentive to do well, whether it be losing money, that would've made a difference. 

Think about it. If you have two people competing for something, whether it's a mark on an exam or climbing mount everest. If one's offered $100 000 if they win, and the other faces being shot in the head, who do you think will put everything they have into it? That's a rash example, but it represents the same point.

Unless the big polluting companies have something to lose by not improving, they will not improve well enough soon enough. If offered money, yes they may do a little, but at the end of the day they can still not bother, ignoring the Gov bonus, keep polluting and making huge profits. 

When it comes down to it we the tax payers have to pay anyway. Whether it's to use a product that becomes more expensive as a result of the companies being taxed (even though the Gov is putting in place legislation to prevent the companies passing on costs to consumers), or whether it's our tax dollars going straight into the pockets of CEOs of these companies as their yearly bonuses. I would the tax dollars I'm paying either way go towards seeing real change from these companies.

The world is moving towards a greener, cleaner, healthier economy and it's about time we realised this and got onboard now so that we're at the front of the leading pack. We only have bucket loads to gain from doing so, and countless pickup truck loads to lose from ignoring the fact.

Wake up Abbott.