It's all the creationists' fault

Pharyngula mentions a letter in Science which talks about how a creationist motivated an unmotivated high school student to become an evolutionary biologist. This struck a chord with me: it was creationism that turned me into an atheist.

There was a time during my teenage years when I was a Christian. I tended to take things in the Bible literally, although I did allow for words being mistranslated or fudged. As I always had an interest in science, I even tried fitting the known history of the universe to the first creation narrative in Genesis. This all changed when I read Henry Morris' Scientific Creationism. Even to my teenage mind, so much of the book was just so obviously wrong that it finally occurred to me that not everything anyone says is the truth. This made me dig into the evidence supporting religions, and I found out that religions ultimately had nothing more than just "someone said so" backing them up, which was rather pathetic as evidence.

While I doubt I would have grown up to be a fire-breathing fundamentalist Christian, I think I would have been a liberal Christian or a deist if it were not for creationism. The funny thing is that I had never read any atheist literature nor heard any arguments advocating atheism until many years after I had become an atheist. Until some time during university, I had not even really known what "atheist" meant besides that it was a type of person some people disliked. Incidentally, this is why I prefer saying that I am not religious, which is clear in its meaning, rather than that I am an atheist, which might face the sort of ignorance I once had.

The moral of the story could be: If you lie for Jesus, some people might realize that Jesus is a lie.

Contradictions out there

It's no surprise that politics make people say contradictory things in the same breath, but it feels like the cognitive dissonance is reaching epidemic levels these days. Or maybe I'm just suffering Golden Age syndrome. Here are some recent weird stuff said by people that gave me pause:

  1. Torture is illegal. We will not prosecute any high-level official from previous administration (who sanctioned torture).
  2. I hate socialized medicine. Leave my (government-run, socialized) Medicare alone.
  3. I don't want no bureaucrat determining my healthcare. Leave the current system (where bureaucrats determine my healthcare) alone.
  4. The healthcare bill encourages living wills (through an amendment proposed by a Republican, where I could easily say to not disconnect the machines until I'm really, really dead), so it is a secret plot by Democrats to kill old people.
  5. We should not encourage development of alternative energy because people want cheap energy. Remember the pain of $4 per gallon (non-alternative, carbon-emitting) oil?
  6. Socialism is bad for quality food production. Monsanto (a huge agricultural corporation) is an example of such socialism.
  7. I made a huge mistake. But I should be forgiven and not resign, since God (who turns people into salt pillars for taking a peek, kicks out people because they took a bite out of a fruit, and burns people for eternity) is so forgiving.
  8. I'm quitting. It's because I'm not a quitter.
  9. We need Hispanic votes. I will vote against a Hispanic candidate because I have to blow out a minor comment all out of proportion.
  10. Why does he not show his birth certificate (which he already did last year) to me (whose birth certificate the public has never seen)?

Kepler can detect planets

Kepler's field of view
Kepler's field of view

The Kepler Mission is a spacecraft that stares at the same 100,000 stars. This is all for the sake of discovering Earth-sized extrasolar planets by detecting variations in the brightness of a star with periods that can last over a year. It would be impossible to allocate years of telescope time for observing just a single star, and even if an astronomer manages to get that time, the star might not even have a planet, which is why Kepler observes 100,000 stars all at once. Not to mention that thousands of planets could be discovered this way at once, instead of praying that the single star you are observing has a planet.

Given Kepler's goals, it would be nice to make sure that it could actually detect planets. And as reported at Bad Astronomy, Kepler has managed to detect the known planet HAT-P-7b, an extrasolar planet that orbits its parent star with a period of 2.2 days. Now that Kepler has been shown to be able to detect known planets, we can be much more confident that it could indeed discover new planets, hopefully including those that are as small as our own Earth, without having to twiddle our thumbs for years wondering if Kepler would even work.

Scientia Pro Publica #9

I maintain Science Gossip, which could be thought of as a newspaper covering science news with links to blog posts written by other people. But if you prefer science magazines over science newspapers, covering not only science news but also including general articles on science with a slower release schedule, then the blog carnival Scientia Pro Publica might be for you.

The ninth edition of Scientia Pro Publica is now up at Pleiotropy. I have the impression that there is much more blogging for biology than in other fields, and this is borne out in this edition of Scientia Pro Publica with articles about birds, maple seeds, sexual reproduction, and more. Those who prefer more sterile sciences need not flee, as there are also articles about paintings, earthquakes, scientific literacy, etc.