August 8th, 2007


the power of suggestion

Oh, no, this is a good thing tonight. My fellow atheist Mensans are, well, trying to stage a small coup of the Annual Gathering next summer. The problem is that many of the speakers are in what the Program Chair is calling a "metaphysical track". I'm sure you have an image of what this is right away... astrology, new-agey crap, UFOs, ghosts and other nonsense. There is also a "science track", but the intrepid leader of our Special Interest Group has apparently been rebuffed on at least one occasion by the powers that be that a person who was supposed to come speak about science was actually an atheist in disguise, or some other similar nonsense. Clearly, a coup of some sort is necessary. I mean, if my choice is a lecture on ghosts or board games, why should I bother driving two days there and another two back? So she was asking for suggestions for folks to invite to speak about reality rather than fantasy.

Several suggestions were made. Personally, I'd love to get Phil Plait(bad_astro), 'cause, well, I like astronomy best of all. But in discussing this, I also mentioned a certain PZ Myers (pharyngula)... It seems that PZ has agreed to come! Now, biology isn't really my thing, but how cool is that!? Somehow, we have to defend ourselves against the tarnishing that Scott Adams is doing to Mensa's good name with pieces like this.

I claim none of the credit for this success, of course, since it was our great, fearless leader Linda who got the "yes" out of PZ. She wasn't quite as successful with Phil, but she sent the powers that be after him... and maybe PZ will be a little enticement? ...or maybe not.

But now it looks like I have to plan a drive to Denver for next summer since, obviously, I can't suggest such a cool speaker, get him to go, and then not go myself. Anyone know of any good routes to get there from Columbus, in say, less than 26 hours, without taking the horribly dull I-70 corridor through Kansas? Been there, done that before; don't need to do it again. If you've seen Kansan wheat fields once, ya know... I'm sure I can come up with something if I look on my big map, or talk to AAA, but I don't have that in front of me right now. 6 days next summer... could this maybe even be called a vacation?!
before the light

The Book of Mormon (Part 4)

I think I'm still listening to 2 Nephi, and I really "love" the part where Nephi talks about how the the book will be revealed from the dust by an unlearned man, and the man will say, "I am not learned.". Ha. If that's all it takes...

And again, a section about how only one person can read and translate the book, and no one else may even see it. That seems awfully convenient; actually, it reminds me of a charlatan. I have special knowledge which I cannot teach you, and can't reproduce, and I can't reveal how I know. How long do you think that would go over in math class?

It's also a little strange that the Nephites are supposed to be favoured of god, and yet they were utterly destroyed. Rather contradictory, considering the old testament. Of course, for those of us familiar with the standard bible, it's a little surprising at just how incredibly non-factual this is... Even more than what I'm used to. This book makes factual claims that are clearly falsifiable, like the alleged genetic relationship between Jews and Native Americans, and only 2600 years separated.

Something else interesting, is that this book also talks about how there should be no "priestcraft" as it is a way for one man to take advantage of others. Is this passage telling me there are no priests/ministers of Mormonism? That doesn't seem likely. Who keeps the temples and does marriages and all that? So you have to be a prophet? But then after Nephi dies, Jacob, in his book, speaks immediately of priests...?

Jacob 4 starts out hysterically... How many verses about how much effort it is to write are consumed by whining about how he can't write all his words on plates because it's so hard to write on plates?!

Oh, I almost forgot, my fave part from the drive in was when in 2 Nephi, Nephi was foreseeing the destruction of the Nephites. He speaks of using people as logs on a fire, and that the people will turn on each other and eat each other and then eat even the flesh of their own arms... Lovely imagery. The follow-up parable of the vineyard in Jacob 5? Strikes me as being connected to the proceeding prophesy, and I question it's biological veracity. I mean, really, if you are going to use parable to say something profound, don't you think you should at least get the biology right?

I've noticed something curious about the sections where prophesy is made: there are often little asides that refer back to the book of Isiah. This is a clever tactic to try to transfer whatecer respect a Christian might have for the old testament and its "predictions" of Jesus.