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You can also check out our photos, newsletter, podcast and MeetUp site.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dawkins interview with Randolph Nesse

Here's another uncut interview from "The Genius of Charles Darwin", a three-part documentary series by Richard Dawkins.

This one is with Randolph Nesse, author of "Why We Get Sick: The new science of Darwinian medicine"

Parts 3-5 will be uploaded soon. Check the Richard Dawkins Youtube Channel to find them and a number of other interesting videos.

Randi Speaks- Who Gets the Credit?

James Randi is a pinnacle of rational inquiry in the modern world.

If you don't know of him, or would like to know more about him, go to his website

In addition to the JREF youtube channel, the JREF produce the swift Bulletin (now the swift blog) and The Amazing Show podcast.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clearing Up Any Confusion

To help clear up any confusion about our position, please take a look at this wonderful website from our dear friend Dave The Happy Singer.

The website is Answers In Reality, a play on the abortion of a website Answers In Genesis.

Then, if you have any further questions at all about the fossil record, you can visit Transitional Fossil, where all your questions are answered.

Dinosaurs get it.

today i discovered you can't spell "sexist" without "exist". not really sure what that means though.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Christian Apologetics Need to be Revised

Christian apologists need to get with the program!

Christian apologetics are basically the strongest arguments that the Christians have to support their claims and beliefs. Apologetics is the branch of theology that attempts to rationalise the various aspects of the faith.

They do this through various means, including reinterpreting the bible (when it says seven days, it actually is referring of millions of years), trying to support the biblical stories with a variety of (mostly weak) evidence (Kirk Cameron, John Dickson, etc), emotional appeals (atheism leads to Nazism) and poorly reasoned/misinformed arguments (bananas, peanut butter and John Lennox). The remainder of their arguments seem to be based on incorrect definitions (atheists believe there is no god), outdated and previously debunked arguments (Pascal's wager1 2 3, fine tuning 1 2 3 and irreducible complexity 1 2 3).

The introduction of the internet has made it so easy to debunk such apologetic arguments (the search words 'debunking apologetics' got 37600 hits in google) that those who make such arguments are up against a wall of criticism, which they may not have encountered in their normal parochial activities, where they are more likely to just yabber on to an already convinced crowd about some poorly structured, loosely based and inadequately researched ideas that just came into their head on a Saturday night. Basically, it seems that there has been little or no internal fact checking and scrutiny for the most part for these religious leaders. Now we have a brilliant new technology that lets a fire hose of ideas burst upon any chink in the system, making any faults in the arguments presented obvious and causing the whole pile of rubbish to come tumbling down.

The main point that I am trying to get at here is that basically, there has been very little in the way of new apologetic arguments developed in recent times.
The creationists, nee 'Intelligent Design' crowd have repackaged their ideas in an attempt to convince some of the current generation, but they seem to be unable to resist the backlash of the switched-on online community.

I would like to see some new arguments from Christians.

All I can see at the moment is a blatant attempt to recycle ideas that were debunked by one generation and try to sell them to the next generation. I'm afraid that the christian community is suffering under the transparency afforded by the internet age and can't keep up. Why might this be? I suppose it is because they are fixed in using 'old methods' that have been tried and tested over the years, which are out of touch with the tech savvy youth of today.

I would like to see someone come up with a new proof of god, a new reason to believe, a new original idea. I really would! It seems that, for the religious skeptic, most of your time is devoted to fending off ideas whose faults were exposed over a hundred years ago 1 2!

Please, If you are a christian reading this, put forward your best arguments.

If there really is a god 1 2 3 4, how would I know this, how would I verify this and what would convince me that it is real?

Here are a few tips to save you from looking like a complete douche bag.

This in NOT a veiled attempt to try to act like I, or non-believers in general know everything. I GENUINELY would like to hear some new argument. I would like to have to work on a new idea that is proposed, I would like to be CHALLENGED by the arguments of a religious person and have to reassess the way I look at the world.

Please, if you have anything worthwhile, let me know and we'll see if there is anything worth discussing.

(Note: Apologists are not confined to Christianity. Basically, any person who attempts to defend an idea that is under scrutiny is an apologist. I understand that there are many faiths that apologists attempt to reconcile rationally, but I have focused on Christians because they are the most prominent in the society in which I live)

Friday, January 23, 2009

So you drink milk, eh?

I have been a lacto ovo vegetarian for almost 3 years, and have recently been considering the ethical arguments for such a position. Alan has almost finished Peter Singer's book "The Ethics of What We Eat", and I am making my way through it. Singer outlines the processes and conditions of factory farmed animals, pointing out that if abboitoirs had glass walls, there would be far more vegetarians. The processes and conditions that sentient animals such as cows, pigs and chickens suffer through is horrific, and at times just the thought made me feel physically ill.

Piglets are taken from their mothers, kept in concrete pens without bedding, fattened too quickly and treated as breeding machines. They are unable to walk, roll or turn around, suffer lameness, heart attacks and insanity. Six pounds of grain are used for every pound of boneless meat produced, putting stress on the environment. This is just the beginning.

Australia has a highly intensive factory farmed chicken industry, with the market dominated by Inghams and Bartter/Steggles. As the chickens near market size, the are unable to move without pushing through other birds, they are unable to stretch their wings at will, or get away from other more dominant and agressive birds, causing great stress. When you walk into a chicken shed, you will experience a burning feeling in your eyes and lungs, which is ammonia from the bird droppings. The birds are bred to produce the maximum amount of meat in the least amount of time, feeding on the least amount of food. This causes their muscles and fat to grow faster than their bones, leading to leg and joint problems, chronic pain and bone disease, paralysis from broken vertbrae, which leads to collapse and the inability to get to their food and water, everntually leading to starvation. This happens to 400 million chickens in Australia, and almost 9 billion in America.

At 6 weeks of age, the birds are caught by factory workers and put into crates, then on a truck to be slaughtered. Birds are grabbed by their legs (to increase efficiency, they are grabbed by one leg so four or five birds can be held in each hand) and flap and writhe about, often suffering dislocated and broken hips, broken wings and internal bleeding. Their feet are locked into metal shackles hanging from a conveyor belt that moves towards the killing room at the slaughter house. Approximately 90 to 120 birds are killed per minute, or 7200 per hour. Extreme cases of torture have been video documented of slaughter house workers who become immune to the nature of their work, which I am not going to write about here because it is too disturbing. For more information, I recommend Peter Singer and Jim Mason's book "The Ethics of What We Eat". There are also a number of websites with articles and videos.

Many vegetarians that drink milk and eat dairy products (including me until recently) argue that milk/dairy isn't actually meat, so is acceptable to eat. However, after doing just a small amount of research, I leaned alot about the dairy industry and was forced to confront issues I had never faced before. Dairy cows, like the chickens, are bred and injected with growth hormones to produce as much milk as possible, which causes considerable stress on the cow's body. The cows are atifically inseminated about once a year, as they only produce milk when they have given birth. Calves naturally feed from their mother for about six months, in which time a strong bond is formed. At dairy farms, calves are whisked away from their mother within hours (or less), and the mother's often display distressed behaviour, such as bellowing, roaming and searching behaviours, often at the last place the mother was with her calf. This behaviour has been known to last for up to 6 weeks.

Then another question really started to get me thinking... what happens to the male calves that are born on a dairy farm? If the female calves replace the culled dairy cows, what happens to the males? (Dairy cows are slaughtered between 5 and 7 years of age, even though their natural lifespan is around 20 years. This is because the cows are unable to continually produce the unnaturally high rate of milk demanded by the dairy industry). Well, male calves that survive are usually sent to auction before they have even learned to walk properly. If they are not slaughtered immediately, they are raised as "milk-fed" veal. For this, they spend the next 16 weeks of their lives confined in semi-darkness in a crate not large enough for him to turn around, tied around the neck to further restrict movement. Stressed from being separated from his mother, the calves are fed on a milk replacer, a diet which is deliberately so low in iron that he will develop subclinical anemia. This is desired as it means that the calf's flesh retains the pale pink colour and soft texture, as opposed to the normal healthy red colour of a 16 week old calf. For this reason, calves are denied hay or straw for bedding (because he would eat it, and it contains iron, hence changing the colour of the meat); the same reason for the wooden stalls and neck tethers - no iron fittings as the calf would lick them and get iron, and if he could turn around, he would lick his own urine in an attempt to satisfy his craving for iron.

I urge you to sit through and watch this video all the way through, and check out this website for some more info.

(Yes I am aware that PETA have done some very stupid and unethical things. However this is why it is so important to do your own research from a variety of sources and come to your own decisions about the choices you make).

Personally, I am convinced by the arguments (those mentioned here are only the beginning) and am giving a vegan diet a go. Initially, it was difficult to give up cheese and especially milk, however I have found a brand of soy milk that is quite nice. We have also found varieties of vegan cheeses and yoghurts that are very tasty. From my experience, people are often uninformed about the variety of alternative choices of ethically sourced food out there. It only takes a bit of consideration and research to improve this.

I am not evangelising and in no way fanatical about veganism or vegetarianism. However the betrayal that we do to ourselves when we choose to be ignorant is denying ourselves the opportunity to make informed decisions about our food choices and ethical decisions. I encourage everyone to do their own research and make decisions that are best for them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Freethinkers on the inaguration

So, you've heard lots of commercial news reports gushing over how amazing it is that a person with dark skin has become president of the USA. Ok... that's a landmark event, but the fact that Obama's skin colour is such an issue shows that we (by we I mean the whole first world) are still guilty of a racist mentality.

Racism is basically treating somebody differently based on the colour of their skin. "It's amazing that we have a black president" IS a racist thing to say. Didn't Dr King dream of a day when the colour of a man's skin should matter no more than the colour of his hair?

It does not matter to me that Obama is black. I am happy that he is in office because that means that a pathetic turd has been given his marching orders.

I'm not even 100% behind Obama. He sill holds some views that I object to and, because of the news focusing mostly on his race, I'm not even well informed about his political stances. But I am happy that Dubya is out. He just seemed to be the most idiotic president that I have ever heard of.

But this leaves me thinking "What is there to be excited about, now that Obama is in?"

For that, I'll pass you over to minds much srarper than mine. So here is what some players in the freethinking community are saying about Obama's inaguration:

What will Jan 20 do for Science-Based Medicine? by Peter Lipson
Reflections on the Inauguration by Evolving Thoughts
Catching up With the Event of the Day by Pharyngula
Today Makes me go WOOT! by Martin Wagner
Looking Ahead by Phil Plait
Something to Remember After the Inauguration by Pharyngula
The Highlight of Obama's Address by The Friendly Atheist

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sydney Atheists Blood Drive #2

Well, we've done it again.

The Sydney Atheists have potentially saved the lives of 27 people!

Saturday was the Sydney Atheists' second blood drive, bringing our total to 51 lives saved!

It's great to be able to do such a positive thing for the community and with each community outreach event, we do more to spread the idea that atheists can be positive, productive members of the community and we aren't just locked into the negative pursuit of sitting around mumbling about how we thing that there is no evidence of gods.

I can Imagine that our meetings would be a lot shorter and more repetitive if this were so. "Meeting opened. First order of business, have any gods revealed themselves?"
"Meeting closed."
It might not be the most interesting meeting, but on the plus side, there'd be more time for beer!

During the draining, as we lay there amongst a series of tubes, we could barely contain ourselves, as we heard the faint sound of a song nominated for the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards... yes, as we were donating blood WE WERE RICKROLL'D!

We took this as a divine sign that we are on the path to salvation and have decided to amp up our efforts. We will be donating again on the 4th of April, and would like to get at least 15 people this time. Please consider donating with us, it's the perfect way to give something vital to those who need it and to stand up for secular benevolence, showing the world that you can be good without god!

(Don't worry, the needle's not quite that big!)

Sydney Atheists Now On Twitter

The Sydney Atheists are now on Twitter, so follow us and keep up to date on the latest news and events!

Just click the link and click follow!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Clint Mansell!

Today is the birthday of Clint Mansell, film composer.

Clint has worked alongside Darren Aronofsky on all of his feature films so far, Including the Maths-based-psychological-arthouse-thriller film Pi, the hypnotic-nightmare-drug-trip Requiem for a Dream, the dreamlike-spiritual-tryptich The Fountain and the soon-to-be-released (9/1/09) The Wrestler.

Here are some of his works

From Pi

From Requiem for a Dream

From The Fountain

Watch Religulous!

Finally, after all the talk, we can actually sit down and watch Bill Maher's Religulous!

It has been getting some pretty good reviews and seems to be one of those films that you can't miss, if you're involved in the atheist/skeptical/freethought community.

I'm still hoping that a local independent cinema decides to run a Religulous/Expelled! double header... that'd be sooooo fun!

Having posted this as soon as the link became available, I can't offer any insight into what the film talks about, but you can find some discussions and reviews here:

Emancipate youself...'s thoughts on Religulous
Rolling stone review
Spout review

So, without further ado, tonight's feature film....



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Dawkins Videos

Richard Dawkins on The Big Questions - 28th Dec 2008
Description: The Big Questions BBC1 9:00 Sunday 28th Dec 2008 The Big Questions returns for a second series of topical live debates. Nicky Campbell is at Whitgift School in Croydon to preside over a panel including former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, Oasis Trust founder Steve Chalke, Queen's Chaplain the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, and evolutionary biologist and campaigning atheist Professor Richard Dawkins. Topics: Should unfit parents be stopped from having more babies? Is Britain a christian country? Are manners overrated? *PLEASE NOTE - Richard Dawkins is only called upon to actively contribute in parts 2 & 3 of the 6.

Richard Dawkins interviews Nicholas Humphrey
Description: This is the full uncut interview originally filmed for Channel 4's "The Enemies of Reason." Nicholas Humphrey is a Professor of Psychology at the London School of Economics. This video is brought to you free online by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. If you enjoy the video, please consider supporting our work by purchasing "The Enemies of Reason: The Uncut Interviews" (which includes 8 other interviews) through our website here:
More playlists by richarddawkinsdotnet

Sydney Atheists Blood Drive #2

It's time again to embody the message 'good without god' by giving one of the most precious and important things that we can give.

It's one thing to raise money for charities, volunteer for charitable means, but when you give blood you can actually save the lives of 3 people!

Blood reserves are always lower than they could be, which means that people in need may miss out.

Please come along and donate with us, you'll be making a real difference at very little cost (a bit of a pinch and a lie down)

We will be donating at the Clarence St Donor Centre THIS SATURDAY 10th of January.

Find out more and confirm your attendance on Facebook or Meetup

Monday, January 5, 2009

Critical Mass Podcast #3

The Critical Mass Podcast #3 is fresh off the presses, download it now before the ink dries!

On this months panel we have:
And the topics we cover include:
  • Exorcism in Western Sydney
  • Hindu rape shame
  • Calvinists beating Atheists at scrabble
  • and a whole lot of other stuff!

Download the show directly here (34mb)

Subscribe to the podcast rss

Or find us on iTunes

To dive a bit deeper into the subjects we cover, here's some links...


Lie correcting subtitles YouTube teaser

Download the lie correcting subtitles torrent and add it to your DVD to vastly improve it's quality.

You can still watch the movie here (sans lie correction though)

The Bethlehem Experience

Read our blog about it, or check out the flikr set

Hindu Rape story

News report here

Clean feed

Visit the no clean feed site or the no censorship site

Read about Dave the Happy Singer at the rally here

Exorcism in Western Sydney

The Mercy Ministries exorcism links:
‘Restoring the foundations’ pages photocopied
Curing anorexia with exorcisms
Exorcism in the suburbs
Exorcism books leaked here and here

Other Mercy links
>Nancy Alcorn Mercy Ministries (1hr)

Cynic Sage questions mercy ministries

Baby hammer kill:
Couple bit child more than 20 times in fatal exorcism here and here
Man charged with exorcism death should have been in jail