Happy Darwin Day!

birthdaydarwinBy pure accident, I published my first blog post on Darwin day back in 2009; 6 years ago today. So, for readers who may not know much about Charles Darwin or Darwin Day, Let me point you to some resources.

First, let’s start with the website dedicated to Darwin Day itself, DarwinDay.org. Here, you can find all sorts of things, such as local events, including this, happening in Philadelphia tonight at National Mechanics–which I may decide to pop into (if I have time after the laundry that really needs to get done). There are also educationalactivism, and news resources there, so take a look.

There’s also a Facebook page for Darwin Day.

darwinQBut there’s also a plethora of excellent resources all over the internet about Charles Darwin.  I will not even try to summarize them all, because they are too extensive. There are, of course, organizations and site dedicated to misinformation, misunderstanding, or outright opposition to Darwin and to the theory of evolution itself (it does pain me to post those links…).

Among my favorite evolution/Darwin specific websites is the Understanding Evolution website hosted at Berkeley. There’s a series of articles about the history of evolution, which includes some details about Darwin which start here. among my least favorites would be places such at Answers in Genesis, whgich is a group dedicated to the Biblical “truth” of creation. Hacks, and idiots, really.

Darwin_Small_mediumLet’s not forget that you can get all sorts of bumper stickers, decals, and other DarwinFish to put on your car, forehead, or computer screens. They are a good way to show the person driving behind you in traffic that you are educated in the scientific method, understand at least some of the complexities of the concepts within evolutionary theory (such as natural selection), and that you will not submit to bronze-age pseudoscience or creations myths.

That, or you really love your fish named “Darwin.”

I will not even begin to try to summarize the influence of Charles Darwin myself, mostly because I’m not an expert but also because there are already so many good resources on this subject. I’ll simply say that reading the Origin of Species was a positive experience, and what I do understand about biology is both fascinating and often beautiful.

darwin-change-201x300If you don’t know much about Charles Darwin or if you just want to know more, take a look at some of the links here. Or, if you just want to celebrate his birthday with some like-minded people over beers, food, or just conversation, check out the events page and find some local people.

Happy birthday Darwin!

I hope you don’t rise from the grave as a zombie to eat all of our brains, because that wouldn’t be very nice. So, let’s not do that.

On accidentally coinciding anniversaries and possible futures

So, today is Darwin Day.  That is, on this date in 1809 Charles Darwin was born, and so every February 12h many scientifically-minded people, including many in the skeptical and atheist community, celebrate the life and works of this man.  And while I have some reservations about elevating Darwin to some quasi sainthood, which seems (Perhaps unconsciously) implicit in doing such, I am glad to have a day to remember the extremely important impact of his ideas on our view of the world.  In many ways, evolution and the mechanisms which underlie it were a serious blow to the explanatory role of theology, which lays sick and holding dearly onto life as we speak.

Well, many of us know its already really dead, and merely being propped up and puppeted—poorly!—by those still intoxicated on the putrid fumes of theology.

But I allowing myself to be distracted.  See, there was something else I intended to talk about today….  Oh, right!


Happy 3rd anniversary to this blog!

That’s right, folks! On February 12th 2009 (which was the 150th anniversary year of The Origin of Species, as well as Darwin’s 200th birthday!), I posted my first words on this blog.

And since then much has changed.  I have gone through some pretty awful times, lived in Atlanta for a while, had some more awful times, and then met my future wife before moving back to Philadelphia.  I have covered topics as wide ranged as the history of religion, commentary on culture and atheism, polyamory, sex, and (of course) philosophy.  I doubt that will change much, but I will talk briefly about what kinds of things I have been thinking about recently which will turn into blog posts in the future.

In the next year, I want to start focusing on what I see as an interesting phenomenon from my point of view.  See, I have been part of the atheist community for about 10 years now.  I know many people within it (although many of the newer and younger contributors have slipped by me since I have not been financially secure enough to go to any conventions recently), and I follow what is talked about in the bloggosphere (I read like 30 blogs), on youtube, and behind the scenes much more than I talk about here.  In many cases, I don’t comment on issues that arise because others are already doing so.  So, for example, when the kerfuffle with the Amazing Atheist came up recently, I sat back and watched others tear him to pieces (I always thought he was a douche bag though).

But one thing I have been noticing recently is that the struggle that the atheist community has been through, the relative attention it is now receiving, is something that those in the polyamory community will have to deal with in the future…probably.  I have already seen pieces of this recently, both in my writing and elsewhere.  Many of the same cognitive biases, types of arguments, etc which atheists have long (and repeatedly) responded to from theists or their accommodaters, I sometimes see in response to polyamory–even from skeptics!  There are exceptions (JT Eberhard, for example), but in my opinion if sexuality, relationships, and our emotional issues surrounding them were to receive the same skeptical treatment that religion has, more people would not only be accepting of polyamory, but they would internalize many of the lessons it has to teach.  This does not mean everyone would (or even should) become polyamorous, but it should mean that the unhealthy, sex-negative, cheating over sharing mentality of our culture would decrease, even if many people would still find themselves content and happy while being actively monogamous.

I want to create a rhetorical platform for polyamory.  I want to foresee the social implications of its collision with mainstream culture, anticipate the reactions from people of all kinds (the conservative Christians will have a field day saying “see, told you! We allowed homosexuality and now this!”), and use what I have learned from the atheist community to help people understand polyamory (much like how Greta Christina taught us how the atheist community could learn from the gay community).

But more broadly, I want to start connecting the dots between skepticism, sexuality, and the default status of exclusivity in our culture.  I want people to be more educated about their sexuality, emotional issues related to it, and about better ways to communicate with people around them. I want people to have what they want without hurting other people to get it.  I want the monogamous and cheating culture to gradually transform into a culture which values sharing ourselves as emotionally mature and authentic people.

Yeah, I’m an idealist.  Sue me.

So, I’m probably not going to get all of that, I know.  But perhaps we can make some inroads, create a few more skeptics in the world, and bring to light the related issues of both religious belief and sexuality.  And maybe, before I die at a ripe old age after a happy life with people I love, I can see a world where cheating is not seen by most as morally preferable to sharing.

Oh, and no religion too!

So, here’s to another year, and thanks for reading, everyone!

Darwin Day

I just returned from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. There were some games, free cake, skulls, and even a couple of live specimen to gawk at but the largest draw was the teach-in, where a number of scientists talked about Darwin’s life, geological time, dinosaurs (rawr!), etc.

But what struck me the most was the human evolution exhibit that was not specific to the event, but I had not previously seen. What stood out for me was the direct approach that it took. As you walk in, there is a panel on the wall that has some description of apes, and then it simply said “you are an ape” (or something very similar). This was interesting to me because knowing that there is a significant percentage of the US population that would be completely insulted at this proposition, yet it is overwhelmingly supported by the facts. It is nice to see it spelled out so unambiguously.

I found myself trying to imagine myself in the mind of a creationist walking through this museum (let’s assume they were kidnapped, tied up, placed in a bag, thrown in a white van then driven there and forced to walk through it to escape) and seeing the words and cast bones and skulls on the wall. I simply cannot figure out what is going on in the minds of people who deny that evolution is a fact when the theory of evolution is supported as well as any other theory–say gravity.

I think what it comes down to, for most people, is mere ignorance of the nature of the theory as well as the evidence that supports it. The fact that so many charlatans exist to keep “goddidit” alive doesn’t help this either. Fear is a contributing factor, I would guess, but nobody should be surprised to find ignorance and fear in the same explanation.

But it was good to see that so many people attended. It was good to see children interested in the exhibits and being genuinely excited to be there, and not merely dragged by parents who are at least trying. At least there is that.

Happy (belated) 200th birthday Charlie Darwin!