Archive for December, 2015

Dawkin’s Foundation
December 23, 2015

Hi ,
In the United States a ridiculously large percentage of people don’t believe in evolution (more than 4 in 10 adults). We have an interesting study that shows the “evolution” of strategies employed by those opposed to the teaching of evolution and other scientific truths. When the courts stand with settled science — as they routinely do — creationists adapt new ways to keep American students scientifically illiterate.
America’s Religious Right isn’t just trying to misrepresent science in the name of pushing Christianity. NPR explains how it tries to marginalize secularists and our unbending support for church-state separation by arguing that we are simply followers of a competing religion trying to foist our beliefs on others. Sigh.
Foreign Affairs magazine takes a long look at legal and political efforts to return Turkey to its modern secular roots and halt the practice of compulsory religious education of many of the country’s children.
Captive parrots in a United Kingdom wildlife park have startled and intrigued researchers by using pebbles to grind at seashells. Read the leading theory on what they are up to.
Finally, don’t miss our video of the week, a special Openly Secular tale told by a former nun, our Question of the Week asks you for your secular New Year’s resolution, and Richard’s Paragraph of the Week asks for your scientific knowledge, intelligence and wit.
Robyn Blumner
President & CEO
Richard Dawkins Foundation

Evolution Helps Track Pernicious Legislation

A researcher used the principles of evolution and his training in scientific sleuthing to trace the origin and spread of destructive legislation seeking to make it easier to question the validity of evolution, climate change and other principles of science.
Is Secularism a Religion?

As part of their continuing campaign to portray themselves as under attack for their beliefs, conservative Christians are using the argument that those trying to enforce the principle of separation of church and state are followers of a competing religion trying to stomp on their rights. NPR took a long look at this spreading bit of propaganda.
Openly Secular Video of the Week: Mary Johnson

As a nun, Mary Johnson had a long career that included serving beside Mother Theresa. However, she eventually realized that her life wasn’t based on fact or reason. Don’t miss her story of becoming Openly Secular.

News
Fighting Back Against Turkey’s Religious Public Schools

There’s a growing movement in Turkey to force the end of the practice of sending students who don’t make it into high-level schools to ones that put a heavy stress on Islamic education — even Jewish students. European Union courts and Turkey’s own high court have ruled that the practice is violating the rights of Turkish children. But the president is vowing not to stop it.

Science
Parrots Use Tool to Improve Nutrition?

A researcher observing captive greater vasa parrots at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom noticed the males doing something odd: They would rub pebbles against seashells. Clearly they were using a tool to grind the shells, but to what end? The leading theory is the birds need the added calcium to strengthen their eggshells. But then why the males?
Question of the Week — Special Holiday Edition

New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition. This year, Openly Secular wants to hear about your secular New Year’s resolutions! What will you do to make the world a better place from a secular perspective? Our favorite answer will win a copy of Richard Dawkins’ “An Appetite for Wonder.” The best answers also will be featured on Openly Secular’s website and over social media.

Last week we asked: When, if ever, is heckling a legitimate form of free speech? Are there speakers who are too inflammatory or controversial to speak at universities? Where do you draw the line?

The Winner is Phil.
Runners-up: Miriam, Dan.
Debate Richard’s Paragraph of the Week

Welcome to our new feature, Richard’s Paragraph! This is a chance to read, consider and discuss an idea that Richard has plucked straight from one of his books or from the book of a colleague, to spur exploration and debate. This week ‘s paragraph is from the second edition of “The Selfish Gene.”

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Dogs and Gods and Coexistance
December 9, 2015

I have a darling friend who has a darling car that sports a darling bumper sticker DOG IS MY COPILOT.

It makes so much sense. I mean you befriend and feed and house a puppy, who will grow up to be a  dog–loving and faithful– to help you safely navigate your way through modern-day life’s singular peculiarities.  ‘Specially if you’re driving a 2015 Toyota Prius Hatchback on Kauai.

Grown up and seated beside you in the bucket front seat,  with eyes searching the road as you travel, she’s happily  checking out the scene . It’s getting dark. The sun sets early.  You’re stuck in traffic. It’s a four  lane strip and a guy, in a  goofy big-wheeled rig that looks like its slumped through too many muddy cane fields to harvest too much illegal ganja, gives you the eye. The guy has  dingy greasy-blonde  hair.   He’s as fat and sloppy as his Kauai muddy  red-bottomed pick-up  and  snorting a joint and slurping a beer. Takes talent. Both hands are busy. Guess he’s steering with his knees. He likes your looks. He likes your car.  He doesn’t like your copilot who sticks her  shaggy wolf gray  head  out the window–which you’ve power rolled down allowing Verdi’s  Triumphal March from Aida  from your CD player to drown his heavy, harsh,  and savage  Home is Where the Hatred Is–and bares teeth that look long and sharp enough to do in at least one of those ridiculous over-size tires with the first bite. She has better taste then to bite this bugger in the butt.

You pull ahead.  He falls behind.  You wave and roll up your power window.

The point is: if God were seated in the bucket seat your buddy in the dirty rig couldn’t see Him–why is He always a He– I seriously doubt your most fervent prayers would save the day. Or the night. Or you or your Prius or even Verdi.

Don’t you just love The Triumphal March?

The domestic dog has the distinction of being the only known animal to be domesticated by humans prior to the advent of agriculture.  Dogs are not only man’s best friend,  but also his oldest one. Though the precise origin of dogs was a mystery in Darwin’s day, Darwin drew on them as an example of artificial selection that would be familiar to his readers, since the practice of shaping breeds over time was familiar to his audience.

Every dog today–mastiff or mini, pointy nosed or baby- faced, long-haired or short, floppy ears or perked, is related to the wolf and new breeds are still cropping up. Don’t you just love it? The mini-husky is the latest new breed of artificially selected dog worked up by an Alaskan native from 1970-1988 before it became a breed of its own. It has been considered an official breed by the UKC since 1997.

Everybody needs this kind of coexistence. ‘Specially if you drive a Prius on Kauai.

May dog be with you in 2016.