Category Archives: Science, Scepticism, and Religion

Under God

(Originally posted on 2007-10-07 as /archives/110)

By daveynin from United States (Pledge of Allegiance plaque) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Many people don’t realize that the pledge was originally inclusive of all beliefs.  Here it is:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Kay sent me a link to Jon Meacham’s New York Times editorial: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation.  Jon is the Editor of Newsweek, which has become very open to discussions about faith under his watch, and the author of American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.  Here is Jon’s Newsweek article about the subject: God and the Founders.

Here is a quote from Anna Quindlen’s: Indivisible? Wanna Bet?

So let’s go to the history books, as citizens of this country so seldom do.  The Pledge of Allegiance started in 1892 as a set piece in a magazine, nothing more, nothing less.  It was written by a man named Francis Bellamy in honor of Columbus Day, a holiday that scarcely exists anymore except in terms of department-store sales and parades.  The words “under God” were nowhere in it, hardly surprising since Bellamy had been squeezed out of his own church the year before because of his socialist leanings.  His granddaughter said he would have hated the addition of the words “under God” to a statement he envisioned uniting a country divided by race, class and, of course, religion.

Those two words went into the pledge nearly 50 years ago, and for the most deplorable reason.  It was the height of the Red scare in America, when the lives of those aligned or merely flirting with the Communist Party were destroyed by paranoia, a twisted strain of uber-patriotism and the machinations of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, after whom an entire vein of baseless persecution is now named.  Contrary to the current political argument that “under God” is not specifically devout, the push to put it in the pledge was mounted by the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic men’s organization, as an attempt to counter “godless communism.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill making this law, saying that the words would help us to “remain humble.”

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Hee Haw and Waterspouts

(Originally posted on 2016-01-27 as /archives/10705)

Punta Gorda waterspout

So here I am, this kid, in an IHOP, in the Keys, on a beach, (1980?), listening to some musicians that used to be on Hee Haw, (but were now busking for change at IHOP), and there are freaking tornadoes just out the window. “Shouldn’t we do something? What about those tornadoes out there?” “Oh. Those are just water spouts. They break up when they get to the beach, so they aren’t dangerous.” Sure enough, the moment that any of them got close to the building, they would stop spinning, and dump everything they picked up (mostly water) onto the beach, right next to the window.

Quadruple Waterspout Summerland Key June 5, 2009


Three waterspouts Kijkduin

I asked my brother Michael about the musicians, and he had this to say: “I had silver dollar pancakes,” and “I remember it was a man and woman but no idea their names .”

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The Price of Atheism

(Originally posted on 2007-08-07 as /archives/73)

If this bigotry had occurred in [insert arbitrary name of state here], then I wouldn’t think twice about posting it without an explanation, but it occurred in Oklahoma, and I used to live there.  I met some good people in Oklahoma.  Have no doubt that I respect them.

When people say things like, “This is a Christian nation.  92% of Americans believe in God, so atheists should be quiet” they are saying a hateful thing.  If you don’t recognize that as hate speech, then try this version on for size: “This is a [insert arbitrary skin color here] nation…”

“Now the argument that America is a ‘Christian nation’, created by Christians for Christians and traditionally, therefore rightly, dominated by a Christian majority, could just as easily be extended to calling America a ‘white male nation’ and a demand to once again disenfranchise women and minorities. I’m sure we could find a biblical basis for that, as was done in the past, as well as plenty of precedent in law, so long as we went back before the 20th century for our rhetoric” … “No difference in the basic bigoted impulse, or the structure of the argument.” – Bruce Springsteen, Lawrence KS,

SOMA listserv, 2007-08-06

My interest in this video is not religious; if it inspires anyone to recognize and confront their own prejudices, then that is a very good thing.

So, with all that out of the way, “enjoy” the film.

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The Real "An Inconvenient Truth"

(The top part was originally posted on Dec 21, 2007 as /archives/131, and the lower part was originally posted on Jan 7, 2009 as /archives/1939)


I don’t know how many times I see green=biodiesel. No it does not. Perfect combustion produces C02 and H2O. Bio diesel is very inefficient, but even at its most efficient, it would be adding more CO2.

CO2 is required by the photosynthesis process. Breathing and burning put more CO2 in the air, plants take the carbon out of the air, and return the Oxygen to the air. Burning is done to provide things to animals. Both processes that add CO2 (burning and breathing) are done by, and for, animals. The only natural process that removes carbon is done by plants (animals get the carbon by eating the plants). If you assume that global warming is real, then the only logical conclusion is too many animals, not enough plants.

The real cause of rising CO2 levels?  Population growth.  Not even Al Gore is willing to talk about that, but that’s what it is.  Al Gore showed us those sharply-rising graphs in An Inconvenient Truth, he even showed the corresponding population growth graph, but he didn’t suggest that we lower the population.

We need less people:

  • Let’s say you lower your CO2 production by 50%, but you also have children, (“All right: you lower your CO2 production by 50%, but you also have children.”) and your children have children, and so on.  So, you divided your CO2 production in half but you potentially are responsible for creating 100 times (or… pick a number) that amount of CO2, because you created descendants, that created descendants, and so on, and they all use energy.
  • Why aren’t folks talking about this?  …because it means telling people not to have babies, and people will not stop having babies.
  • Read Maybe One.

Plants breath CO2: yes, that “evil” carbon footprint is potentially good for plants. The natural carbon-sequestration solution isn’t all of this sci-fi, it is more plants, but more plants means less room for other things that people want.   Raising livestock uses more energy than raising plant-produce.  If we raise less livestock and more plant-produce, then the plants will be sequestering CO2, and less energy will be wasted creating food.

I love electric cars, and I would really like an electric motorcycle. I have been replacing our crazy Lutron switches (these things give new meaning to the words “poor user interface“) with ones that are compatible with CFLs, and using the CFLs.  I would rather get electricity from wind, solar, and hydro.

Carbon dioxide is not toxic though.  It’s a natural part of our world that is absolutely essential for life on earth. No CO2 means no plants.  No plants means we all die.  Admittedly too much of anything can be bad for you, but I don’t want to hear about my “carbon footprint” from people that aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to change their own.


Many people think that ethanol is OK, because the CO2 that gets put back into the atmosphere was removed from the atmosphere, so there is no net gain, but that is true for ALL fuels.  ALL CO2 came from the atmosphere.  Besides, it takes more than one gallon of oil to create the nitrogen based fertilizer needed to create less than one gallon of ethanol, let alone the energy used to transport it, process it, etc.   …and ethanol has a lower energy content than gasoline.

I love properly designed electric vehicles.  Powerful electric motors move diesel trains, so they can sure move an automobile, or a motorcycle, but electric vehicles are still much more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Who killed the electric car? You don’t need a movie to answer that question. The batteries would have cost more than a new car to replace, yet needed to be replaced too often. Did the movie mention that? No? (I actually got to see GM’s electric car, the EV1,  before it was unveiled. I worked at the GM Powertrain Engineering Center in Warren MI.)

I like wind farms, and solar, and geothermal, but technology is not enough.

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Great Photos of Margaret Hamilton: a Computer Programmer and Rocket Scientist

(Originally posted on Aug 9, 2015 as /archives/10518)

WIRED magazine recently published a story about Margaret Hamilton (2015-10-13).

I was born in the 60’s. Since then we had the space age. Then we had an information age. Now biology is where science is making the big leaps. It is sad that people are denying all-that-we-know about the foundation of that science.

Here are photos of Margaret Hamilton. “She eventually became the director and supervisor of software programming for Apollo and Skylab.” So there you go: great photos of a computer programmer, and rocket scientist. Cool.

Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the actual Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) source code.
Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the actual Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) source code.
Hamilton during her time as lead Apollo flight software designer.

License: NASA-created images are in the public domain.

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You Too Can Train Your Cat

(Originally posted on Feb 12, 2016 as /archives/10756)

Kay trained our cat. The trick is simple; only pack animals respond to punishment. So? Don’t use punishment to train your cat. Use positive reinforcement instead.

When I describe how to do this, people get upset as if it’s manipulation, especially with regards to teaching children. The thing is: we are always using operant conditioning. You can’t not. The difference is: are you going to do it well, or haphazardly?

With regards to humans: over-permissiveness is wrong, but you can maintain control without hitting.

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NASA’s Apollo Archive Is Free To Use

(Originally posted on 2015-10-15 as /archives/10563)

The entire NASA Apollo Archive has been uploaded to a Flickr account. The images are public domain, and there’s lots of room for improvements. Have fun post processing those photos.

Maciej Winiarcyk has done the best work so far (that I am aware of). He’s been photostitching digital panoramas of the moon. Here is an example:

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