It’s my blogiversary!

Today marks seven years since a scientifically inaccurate description of evolution in Canada’s self-styled National Newspaper inspired me to create a blog and point out their mistake: “Caricature of evolution in discussion of Homo floresiensis.” Science triumphs and blunders and scientific progress have kept me going ever since–kept me looking out for science news and kept me learning. I even attended the 2009 Science Blogging Conference in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Science has become part of my education and more part of my life than I ever expected when I gave up my science career and went to work in IT.

P.S. Any blog posts dated earlier than 29 October 2004 were back-dated to document older events.

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Christopher Hitchens appears

Christopher Hitchens came to the Texas Freethought Convention in early October to accept a Richard Dawkins Freethinker of the Year award. He took the time to recommend a reading list for a young girl who asked what she should read.

The life of Bill Broderick

Humanist Bill Broderick lived in Belleville, Ontario, secure in the knowledge that there is no eternal punishment after death. He was a member of the Quinte Secular Humanists. Mr. Broderick, after a long and productive life, died at age eighty.

Sex abuse in Scouts Canada

Yet another organization proves to have feet of clay. The CBC’s Fifth Estate found 340 children abused by active scout leaders. There are many fine leaders in Scouts Canada. But child abusers go where the children are.

Posted in people. Tags: , , . 1 Comment »

Are secular people more ethical?

Spiegel Online asks, Does secularism make people more ethical?. Then it veers off into talking about numbers. Hilmar Schmundt notes: “Non-believers are often more educated, more tolerant and know more about God than the pious.” A study at Boston University finds

  • They are more commonly opposed to the death penalty, war and discrimination.
  • They also have fewer objections to foreigners, homosexuals, oral sex, or hashish.
  • They are better educated.
  • Even when their higher education levels are factored out, they are better informed in matters of faith.
  • They tend not to humanize non-human factors.

Secularists make up some 15 percent of the global population, or about 1 billion people. As a group, this puts them third in size behind Christians (2.3 billion) and Muslims (1.5 – 1.6 billion).

Pie chart showing No Religion as the third-largest group

No Religion is the third-largest group


(Figures from adherents.com)

Barry Kosmin is the director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Connecticut, U.S.. He says

many believe that the US population is steadily becoming more religious — but this is an optical illusion. Many evangelicals have simply become more aggressive and more political.”

The article continues, “This heightened public profile may be contributing to the shrinking numbers of religious believers. Churches in the US are losing up to 1 million members every year.” Secularism is spreading from the more to the less educated, just as quitting smoking did.

In the former East Germany,

Nearly 67 percent of eastern Germans have no religious affiliation, compared to just 18 percent in the West. This trend isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future, since children who grew up with non-religious parents are almost certain to remain secular. The mother’s beliefs have an especially significant impact on the children’s belief systems.

When the GDR ended its period of religious repression, no process of re-Christianization occurred. “After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of a church presence in the east actually sped up,” says Detlef Pollack, a professor in the sociology of religion at the University of Münster.

But the secular are not organized. Barry Kosmin tells of a meeting of secular groups last year in Washington. They were planning a big demonstration:

“But they couldn’t even agree on a motto,” he says. “It was like herding cats, straight out of a Monty Python sketch.” In the end, the march was called off.

The chambered nautilus isn’t protected?

Silly me. I would have thought that the unique biological status of the chambered nautilus as the irreplaceable last example of the shelled cephalopods that cruised the Devonian seas would have given it protection. I was wrong. Our penchant for making beautiful ornaments out of its murdered shells is soooo much more important! Loving the chambered nautilus to death. I mean, hell! There are all of six known populations.

Death by Hantavirus in Saskatchewan

One person has died in Saskatchewan from a Hantavirus infection. It’s a severe, flu-like illness that is spread by rodents. In Saskatchewan, deer mice are the usual culprits. People can breathe it in if they disturb, i.e. sweep up, mouse droppings.

I would read this right after I cleaned out the dustiest corner of my basement.

Hantavirus was first noticed around the arid “four corners” area of the U.S. It’s one of those emerging diseases that we really don’t want to allow to get going.

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