The End Of Faith

Sam Harris writes about the danger of religion in End of FaithThe End Of Faith. From Books In Canada:

Given the danger that religious faith poses to all of us in this era of suitcase nukes and FedExed contagions, Harris demands to know why it’s so often given a free pass in our discourse. Why is “criticizing a person’s ideas about God and the afterlife impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics and history is not?” Why is the role that faith plays in, say, a suicide bombing discounted in favour of political or economic reasons? As he argues, a religious belief “is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life.”
Ultimately, Harris decides that faith is a mode of insanity that escapes such a designation because of its ubiquity. If a lone individual believed that Jesus Christ can be eaten in the form of a cracker for salutary metaphysical effect, or “that God will reward him with seventy-two virgins if he kills a score of Jewish teenagers,” his treatment would almost certainly include routine sedation, a monochromatic wardrobe, and scheduled walks in guarded courtyards. Harris strives to understand the curious partitioning that takes place in the human mind, where otherwise reasonable people require no corroboration for their theological convictions.

I haven’t read it yet, but it’s piqued my interest.

From what I’ve read, Harris doesn’t appear to be a fanatical, pessimistic critic out to make a buck from an obvious controversial subject; his intentions seem honourable. His educational background:

He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. Mr. Harris is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Yeah, he could still be a nut, but at least he’s an educated nut.

Sam Harris: The Truthdig Interview is an interesting read:

The thing to reiterate is that every Christian knows exactly what it’s like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims, for instance. Muslims have the same reasons for being Muslim as Christians have for being Christian. They have a book they’re sure was written or dictated by the creator of the universe–because the book says that it was written or dictated by the creator of the universe. Christians look at Muslim discourse and find it fundamentally unpersuasive. Christians aren’t lying awake at night worrying about whether they should convert to Islam. Why not? Because Muslims can’t really back up their claims. They are clearly engaged in a style of discourse that is just not intellectually honest. It’s not purposed to genuine inquiry into the nature of the world. It is a reiteration of dogma, and they are clearly committed to a massive program of self-deception. Every Christian recognizes this about every religion other than Christianity. So every Christian knows exactly what it is like to be atheist. They just don’t turn the same candor and intellectual honesty on to their own faith.

Bald Eagle Webcam

BALD EAGLEI won’t be the only one to post about this today, but you might want to bookmark this one: Streaming Eagle Cam. It’s a high-resolution webcam inside a bald eagle’s nest — with sound (when the eagle cries, you’ll hear it).

From the CBC News story:

Retired accountant David Carrick said he has been keeping an eye on the pair of eagles in his secluded property for 14 years. But about 18 months ago — with government permission — he got an even closer look, installing a camera in the nest while the eagles were away on their annual migration.

He said the eagles noticed the enclosed camera and “pecked at it” and then got on with their lives.

Two eggs in the nest should hatch by the end of the month.

Update (May 10/06): The eggs didn’t hatch. So they stuck a webcam close to a nest that does have baby eagles in it. It’s on the same URL as the old eagle cam. Worth a look.

Update (Feb 15/08): That webcam no longer works. Here’s an Alaskan webcam of an eagle instead.


While everyone in the American universe is pointing out that tomorrow:

…early Wednesday morning the time and date will be 01-02-03-04-05-06 points out:

No it won’t. It’s not the year 6, jackasses. It’s the year 2006. The time and date will be “1:02:03 4/5/2006.”

The American’s date format, MM/DD/YY, is stupid anyway; the proper way is DD/MM/YY, so the silly oddity doesn’t occur until May: 01-02-03-04-05-2006.

I Swear

Who gives a @#$% about profanity?

…a healthy 64 percent [of Americans questioned] said they use the F-word — ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).
“What we hear, it’s gross,” says Kramer, 67. “I tell them, ‘I have a dictionary and a Roget’s Thesaurus, and I don’t see any of those words in there!’ I don’t understand why these parents allow it.”


The article say 1,001 Americans were questioned. It doesn’t say where the people lived who were surveyed, which matters a lot, I think.

Stealing Air For Your Bicycle Tires

Automatic bicycle pump:

Fill your bicycle wheels with conveniently available pressurized air stored in automobiles.
Take your bike and go find a hummer (or some other overweight vehicle). Fold the hose in your hand so you don’t waste any precious energy. Attach one end to the automobile tyre and the other to your bike. When you unfold the hose you can hear a hiss. That is the sound of air flowing to your bike wheel and the world becoming a better place

I would never have thought of it.

(via MAKE Magazine)