There is no B/13

Yesterday I got into a bit of an altercation with a student during a lecture on screenwriting. I was teaching about how the protagonist’s journey from one way of seeing the world to a completely different way of looking at the world essentially structures the plot of the entire movie. She wasn’t necessarily arguing with [Read More...]

The tyranny of the “reading list”

I’m constantly amazed by my wife (Heidi), who doesn’t appear to have any reading list at all. If she finds something interesting at the library or a friend recommends a book to her, she’s quick to pick it up and begin reading. On rare occasions, she even acts on my recommendations, the most recent being [Read More...]

Something funny for a Friday…

When I saw this photo, I simply had to caption it. [Read more...]

The Unbelievers isn’t a documentary, it’s hubris of the highest order

Let me begin by making one point clear: Unlike many of my peers, I really like the New Atheists. I’ve read numerous books and articles by them, watched countless talks and debates, interacted with some of them online (PZ Myers and Steven Pinker), and I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a couple of them in [Read More...]

Why having everyone agree with you would be the worst thing ever

One of the key ways we distinguish ourselves from the masses is through a definitive approach to life, whether it be trivial things like the way we dress, style our hair, the car we drive, or the music we enjoy; or more substantial things, such as the religious or political views we hold. Not surprisingly, it’s [Read More...]

How to criticize bad ideas

“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas–and Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.” While no rational person would disagree with the first half of Sam Harris’ statement, his depiction of Islam as a veritable gold mine of fatuous propositions nearly prompted Ben Affleck to go Batman on him during a recent episode of Real Time [Read More...]

Some resources to help you think through the Affleck/Maher/Harris “debate” over Islam

First of all, here it is in case you missed it. Sam Harris has written a lengthy blog post offering his perspective not only on his interaction with Ben Affleck but what he feels motivated Affleck’s hostile response. After the show, a few things became clear about Affleck’s and Kristof’s views. Rather than trust poll [Read More...]

We didn’t fall from Eden–we are slowly but surely crawling out of hell

“A loathing of modernity is one of the great constants of contemporary social criticism.” So says Steven Pinker in the closing pages of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker, and many others, see such angst underlying many contemporary movements, including environmentalism, religious fundamentalism, aboriginal rights initiatives, and even zombie apocalypse fantasies. [Read More...]

WWJB? Eleven years later, the shirt has worn out, but the question remains

Eleven years ago, in response to the second Iraq war, my friend Brad Jersak created T-shirts with the logo pictured to the left. I bought one immediately and wore it proudly wherever I went. One time it even got me into a bit of trouble when I (stupidly) wore it while getting onto a plane. Lesson learned. [Read More...]

Obviously, air strikes fix everything

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Have you fallen for the myth of pure evil?

In his book Evil, psychologist Roy Baumeister busts what he calls the myth of pure evil, the idea that evil is, the intentional and gratuitous infliction of harm for its own sake, perpetrated by a villain who is malevolent to the bone, inflicted on a victim who is innocent and good. We see depictions of this [Read More...]

Am I smarter than President Obama? I don’t think so…

In his his Sept. 24 speech to the UN general assembly, President Obama said, As an international community, we must meet this challenge [of religiously motivated fanatics] with a focus on four areas. First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed. A couple of minutes later, he followed this up with: [Read More...]

Is your utopian vision blinding you to reality?

In a recent piece written for the Huffington Post, theologian Stephen Phelps argues that the US political system is gridlocked over climate change due to “a confusion of climate change denial with so-called conservative values.” In order to help people pull their heads out of the tar sands, Phelps seeks to establish how the term “conservative” has [Read More...]

Frame or be Framed

Several years ago I worked on a documentary called spOILed, which takes a rather unique look at our relationship with fossil fuels. In the film, we argue that contrary to what we’re told by the anti-oil industry (a.k.a the environmentalist movement), fossil fuels are the cleanest, safest form of energy ever discovered, and that anyone who [Read More...]