On the Morality of: Recreational Drug Use

Today's post on atheist morality concerns the use of natural and artificial pharmaceuticals for pleasure. This practice may be nearly as old as humanity - three-thousand-year-old Andean mummies have been found to contain traces of coca, and the brewing of beer may date back to the Stone Age. Today, the legality of such substances varies widely across the world: some religious sects consider psychoactive drugs to be a sacrament, while other religions, such as Islam, ban them altogether.Rather … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Mind of the Market

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A libertarian political tract disguised as a work of science.Michael Shermer's The Mind of the Market concerns "evolutionary economics" - the way that evolutionary forces have shaped human instincts about trading, value and exchange, and how those tendencies have played out in creating the variety of economic systems in the world today. There's enough material on … [Read more...]

New Post on Dangerous Intersection

I've put up a new post on Dangerous Intersection, "Barack Obama gets it right". … [Read more...]

We Need Nothing More

I recently received an e-mail from an atheist asking for advice:I've always been afraid of death, and usually I tell myself that it's pointless. But lately, I've started thinking about my existence and ultimately, my death. I was, and still am to some extent, horribly afraid of losing myself forever, which is quite irrational I suppose. I've cheered myself up, worked through this fear several times. I've made myself realize that life is short and that I should look at death as a reminder to … [Read more...]

An Open Letter to Ellen Johnson

I was away last weekend and came back to an astonishing story: Ellen Johnson, Madalyn Murray O'Hair's successor as president of American Atheists, has proudly announced that she didn't vote in the recent presidential primaries. Even more jaw-dropping, she's urged atheists not to vote in the general election either. Here's the video, which is still linked from American Atheists' homepage at the time of this writing.Friendly Atheist, Atheist Revolution, and others have discussed this story, and … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically VI: Bayes' Rule

You've just been to the doctor, and she has some bad news. There's a deadly new disease sweeping the population - one which strikes 1 out of 100 people and invariably kills everyone who catches it. Medical science has developed a test that is 95% accurate during the incubation period: that is, when given to someone who has the disease, it correctly returns a positive result 95% of the time, and when given to someone who does not have the disease, it correctly returns a negative result 95% of the … [Read more...]

February 2008 Science Updates

There's been so much important news pouring in this month that it's hard to keep up with it. But despite the flood of information, there've been a few especially significant discoveries that I think shouldn't be overlooked. There are three that I thought deserve special notice:• On February 13, astronomers announced the discovery of a new solar system that resembles our own more closely than any exoplanetary system that was previously known. The new system, given the unlovely designation … [Read more...]

The Aura of Infallibility

Religious beliefs, as a general rule, aren't based on evidence.I have little doubt that my fellow nonbelievers will agree without reservation, and equally little doubt that religious believers will call me arrogant and uninformed for so sweepingly dismissing the basis of their beliefs. But that's not what I'm trying to say. By this statement, I'm not referring to the question of whether solid evidence underlies the tenets of religion (although I trust I've made my views on that issue known). … [Read more...]

Conflicting Miracles

"Saint Jnanadeva is revered for his Bhagavad Gita translation and commentary in the Maharastrian language. Among several miracles that established this 13th-century saint's reputation, the most famous involved a water buffalo. Challenged by the arrogant brahmins of Paithan that he was not qualified to recite the Vedas, Jnanadeva replied, 'Anyone can recite the Vedas.' He placed his hand upon a nearby water buffalo, which proceeded to correctly chant Vedic verses for more than an … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Lot's Wife

Today's Poetry Sunday features Anna Akhmatova, one of the most famous and critically praised Russian poets of the twentieth century. Anna Ahkmatova was born Anna Andreyevna Gorenko in 1889; she started writing early in life, and took the surname of her grandmother after her father forbade her to sully his respectable name by publishing "decadent" poetry under it.Akhmatova was a prominent poet of the Russian Acmeist movement, which rejected symbolism in favor of clarity and immediate, vivid … [Read more...]


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