Archives for 2013

When Abortion Is the Merciful Option

Last week, voters in Albuquerque decisively defeated a ballot measure that would have banned abortion in the city after 20 weeks, by a ten-point margin. The failed ban, which made no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality, was the culmination of a months-long campaign by anti-choice groups in the city, including a grossly offensive protest outside the New Mexico Holocaust Museum and a truck bearing the usual gory fetus pictures.Since the bill was defeated by a solid margin … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Doctor Who

I'm mostly going to do book reviews for SF/F Saturday. But today's an anniversary that it'd be a sin to pass over!Fifty years ago today, a low-budget TV show debuted on the BBC in an unspectacular time slot. It was originally intended by the network to be a children's educational program, and even that modest goal was overshadowed by the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination the day before. That show was called Doctor Who, and its creators could never have guessed the cultural … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Labor Relations

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII"Well, it's like this, Miss Taggart," said the delegate of the Union of Locomotive Engineers. "I don't think we're going to allow you to run that train."Dagny sat at her battered desk, against the blotched wall of her office. She said, without moving, "Get out of here." [p.216]Yes, this chapter deals with Rand's views on the proper relations between labor and management. Strap yourselves in, folks, it's going to be a fun ride.The thing you … [Read more...]

Upcoming Debate at the Midtown Scholar

If you're in or near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on December 14, come out and see me! I'm going to be appearing at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore for a debate with the Christian author Andrew Murtagh. (This is my first public debate! You'll only have one chance to see that.)We'll be discussing the existence or nonexistence of God, the proper role of government, and whatever else people in the audience want to ask. I expect we'll have these questions all resolved within an hour or two, so if you … [Read more...]

Skepticon VI Impressions

This past weekend I was in Springfield, Missouri for Skepticon VI. This is my third year attending Skepticon, which is far and away my favorite of all the annual atheist conventions.I didn't go to all the talks this year, but the ones I did see were very good. Debbie Goddard told the funny and moving story of her deconversion (when she came to the conclusion there was no god, she was so excited she wanted to tell everyone, starting with her Catholic school teachers - with predictable … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Things That Don’t Exist in Randworld

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIIIAt the start of this chapter, Dagny is back in New York, working until well after midnight (of course) in the rotting tenement that's the official corporate headquarters of the John Galt Line:Her new headquarters were two rooms on the ground floor of a half-collapsed structure. The structure still stood, but its upper stories were boarded off as unsafe for occupancy. Such tenants as it sheltered were half-bankrupt, existing, as it did, on the inertia … [Read more...]

God Doesn’t Solve the “Who Sez?” Problem

I've finished reading Timothy Keller's book The Reason for God. It was a hard slog, especially the last section, in which he announces he's not going to argue for God's existence any more because everyone already agrees with him whether they admit it or not (yes, he actually says that), and instead devotes his time to writing theological fan-fiction about how happy and glorious and wonderful everything will be when Jesus comes back.I've addressed Keller's arguments regarding inherited … [Read more...]

The Sunday Assembly’s American Tour

Last Monday night, I attended a meeting of the Sunday Assembly in New York City. It was the first U.S. stop on their 40 Dates and 40 Nights tour, in which cofounders Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans are barnstorming across the country to drum up support and excitement for launching satellite congregations in, as they say, "every town, city and village that wants one".When I attended the NYC Sunday Assembly over the summer, it was at a midtown dive bar called Tobacco Road. It was a good … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 9

• Following the resignation of the previous team, CFI has announced the new hosts of their podcast Point of Inquiry, one of whom is my friend Lindsay Beyerstein. Congratulations!• This week's entry in the WTF Department: Richard Cohen, an awful columnist for the Washington Post, saw the movie 12 Years a Slave and was shocked to learn how bad slavery was. I wish I were kidding about that.• Three cheers for science! A new antiviral therapy can cure hepatitis C without a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Kim Jong-il Looking at Things

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII mentioned earlier on that Hank and Dagny will soon be having an affair, and this chapter has the first direct allusion to it. While Dagny is in Hank's office discussing her plans to live on site in Colorado and direct the building of the John Galt Line, he makes an offhand remark about whether she'll be safe there, to which she laughs and replies, "Why, Hank, it's the first time you've ever thought that I wasn't a man."A wedge of light fell across … [Read more...]