When Rationalists Reinvent Religion

AlienPlanet

I enjoyed this story by Dylan Matthews on Vox about effective altruism, an idea I'm all in favor of and wanted to say more about.EA is the philosophy that we should use science, rather than warm fuzzy feelings or guesswork, to direct our charitable giving where it will do the most good. Compared to the enormous need in the world, the amount of money and energy available for charity is small to begin with, and too many of those scarce and precious dollars and volunteer hours have been … [Read more...]

The World in the Dark

Pluto

Human beings have always been explorers, and this week, we pushed the boundaries of our exploration one step further. NASA's far-roving New Horizons spacecraft has completed the most important phase of its mission, making the first-ever close-up observations of Pluto.New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006 (which means the mission is just a bit older than this blog!). It's flown a nine-year, three-billion-mile course through the solar system, making its closest approach to Pluto on … [Read more...]

The Pope’s Laudato: So Close And Yet So Far

AlienPlanet

Pope Francis has issued an encyclical, Laudato Si, which warns about the grave danger of climate change and calls on Catholics to take urgent action to combat it. Lest I be accused of ignoring something actually good that religion has done, here are my thoughts.I'm glad for this statement, I really am, and I want to say that without hesitation. Climate change is the greatest threat looming over human civilization, and it's heartening to see anyone with influence speak out about it. I've … [Read more...]

Debunking the Bible’s Gender Binary

Christian fundamentalists who oppose same-sex marriage, or who attack the identities of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner, tend to cite one biblical verse more than any other:"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."—Genesis 1:27 (KJV)Christians who cite this passage, like San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone or the Duggars' pastor Ronnie Floyd, use it to support their belief in separate and … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions: Electrosensitivity

WiFiZone

It's a fact that allergies are becoming a bigger and bigger problem in Western society. An ever-widening array of foods - milk, eggs, peanuts, shellfish - have become dangerous to many people, sometimes life-threateningly so. Even traditional societies that adopt a Western lifestyle start to develop allergies along the same pattern. It's unknown what's causing this, although one explanation is the "hygiene hypothesis": children who grow up in contact with nature are exposed to a greater variety … [Read more...]

#BeyondMarieCurie: Women in STEM & Medicine

In a bid to give women scientists other than Marie Curie the recognition they're too often denied, science editor Melissa Vaught asked for contributions to a Twitter hashtag, #BeyondMarieCurie, listing women with noteworthy achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Here's the first version of the list:[View the story "#BeyondMarieCurie: Women in STEM & Medicine" on Storify]I suggested a few other names that weren't already there:Some others: Annie Jump Cannon, … [Read more...]

When Would You Rather Be Alive?

Reading the news is always a marathon race between hope and despair, but that conflict has been especially sharp these last few months. While every era has its doomsayers, they've lately become a lot harder to dismiss.Europe remains slumped in depression and wracked by infighting over the future of its union, with no way out in sight. America is sweltering under political stagnation, fraying at the seams from breathtaking inequality and the brutal violence of a police state, and there's a … [Read more...]

Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

This column originally appeared on AlterNet.Neil deGrasse Tyson's new Cosmos series is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan's original. Following in Sagan's footsteps, Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the … [Read more...]

Anti-Vaccination Fever Rages On

After washing your hands, vaccination is probably the simplest and best medical advance in human history. But in spite of overwhelming evidence of its efficacy at preventing death and disease, irrational fearmongering is persuading people to skip shots for themselves and their children, and we're now paying the price.In the U.S., 2014 was the worst year for measles in more than a decade, due to an outbreak in an Ohio Amish community spread by a missionary returning from overseas. And 2015 … [Read more...]

Rosetta’s Comet Rendezvous

Rosetta2

The last few weeks have offered atheists and progressives ample reason to feel discouraged. Down on Earth, anti-rational fundamentalism runs riot, and angry, reactionary conservatism seems stronger than ever. But in spite of all this, in spite of the many obstacles that encircle us and limit us, humanity is accomplishing great things among the stars.The latest of our successful cosmic explorers is the Rosetta spacecraft, a mission of the European Space Agency. Launched in 2004 (!), Rosetta … [Read more...]


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