Well, that’s another year done and gone. This year has been a big one for Australians. We have a new Prime Minister and government and I am eager to see how they will act in the coming years. Although I am pleased that Howard is no longer our PM every cloud has a silver lining and it seems as though we have replaced one religious apologist with another!
Recently there was an article that was originally published in the Herald Sun about a certain branch of Christians, Catch the Fires Ministries, blaming the drought on godless sinners. (special thanks to CJ’s Skeptical World for bringing this article up in his podcast. The article can be found here. His podcast is in my blogroll so have a click and check it out.)
While this is ridiculous in it’s own right what is a whole lot more ridiculous is the people that support this group. While it is almost elementary that John Howard was a prominent supporter of this group it is shocking (only slightly) to find out that Mr Kevin Rudd has links with this ministry and even sent a personal video message to one of their congregations at Festival Hall.
All I can do when I hear this is sigh. What are we in for in the next four years? No doubt another four years of a continued religiously apologetic climate and another four years where increasing fundamentalism will be encouraged. I wonder if we will ever be a secular country, my hunch is that we won’t for some time to come.
On a lighter note, the coming year has a lot of exciting things to offer us. Hopefully we can win a few battles against dogmatic nonsense and crazy pseudoscientific claims which batter us everyday. Good luck in the New Year everyone and may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you with his noodly appendage
Imagine standing on the summit of a mountain 12 kilometres high. From this point you can see the vast red landscape of dust and rock beneath you. High speed winds beat against the metal armor of your transport and every gap is rapidly filled with fine flecks of dust. If you were to step outside of your warm vehicle you would surely be frozen solid in a matter of seconds, and if not, you would probably suffocate. You are on top of Arsia Mons.
As you look out below you, 12 kilometres down you can see tornadoes ripping across the surface of the planet, each is 8 kilometres high and about as wide as 5 football fields and at the base of each is a brilliant blue light. You can clearly see the potency of the electricity crackling beneath the tornadoes and you are glad that you are safe up on your mountain. You watch as these dust devils skim across the surface of the red earth whipping rocks high into the air.
You look away from the weaving dance of the dust devils towards the north. There is a huge canyon 6 kilometres deep there and from this vantage point you can clearly see the immense scale. Far in the distance beyond the canyon you can see fluffy white clouds above the polar cap of the planet and you wonder what could be over there.
This is Mars.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about this place. It truly is exciting that one day we could be there walking on the Martian surface, perhaps discovering life or ancient life long gone. What’s even more exciting is that this could all be happening within my life time, in the next 40 years or so we may have the first missions to Mars. Not to mention our return to the moon.
I was wondering, if asked, would you go to Mars? I know I certainly would. Even if there were no chance of coming back. I’m not trying to sound emo here but let me rationalize it for you. In my thinking, what could be more exciting, interesting and life fulfilling than going to another planet let alone the moon! Nothing you see there will be the same as Earth, everything will be new and beautiful. I cannot think of anything on Earth that would give the same feeling.
So, if a scientist came to you in 40 years and asked you to go to Mars, Would you?
At the beginning of this year I was going through a rough patch(that has thankfully ENDED). I had been living in Sydney for two years, I had a wonderful girlfriend and a reasonably good job. After two years of this I decided that it was time to move back down to Ole Melbourne town and get on with my life. So I did!
After a few months of being back home I was still fairly “depressed” (I don’t think for a second I was clinically depressed I just use that word to convey that I felt “sad”) and it was during this time that I received a call from an old family friend who was “concerned” with my depression. This guy ran workshops that were basically full of new age mumbo jumbo ie. Fire-walking, humming, meditation, group-hugging, homeopathy, Applied Kinesiology . You know, Woo. So anyway, back at this time I was slightly partial to the Woo so I seriously considered going to this workshop which was apparently about confidence.
One thing that did run through my mind during this time was “Why is this guy calling me now if he is so concerned with my mental well being? He hasn’t spoken to me in three years!”. So this was a major warning light for me. Oh, that, and the fact that I had to pay upwards of four hundred dollars to attend this workshop. (I was told I could pay it in installments, Yay.)
I’ll come clean now, I have been to some of these workshops when I was younger with my father as a bonding thing. We did some fire walking and a “magical” test of our confidence and trust where we snapped an arrow on our throats. The tip of the arrow pressed into the little gap underneath your Adams apple and the end of the arrow in a wooden board that is held by a partner. You then step towards you partner and then the arrow breaks (hopefully), fairly nerve racking at the time. I’m not sure if my dad payed for this workshop but I have a feeling we got this one for free.
Anyway, this guy called me about 3 times in a month trying to rope me into his workshop until eventually I told him I wasn’t interested. It’s very important that you stand up for yourself when it comes to these sort of situation. I am sure that someone of lesser conviction would have given in and attended the workshop and in the process lose $400+.
I guess the reason I bring this incident up is because I wanted to warn other young people out there who don’t know how to say no or don’t know that this sort of workshop is basically bullshit! I understand that these workshops seem to help people. But at what cost?
Keep your eyes, ears and mind open and really question someone’s motives if they come to “aid” you in hard times.
On Friday I took a trip to my local cinema with a good friend to see a new film called The Bee Movie. I’m sure you have heard of it. Aside from it being highly amusing with the comedic genius of Jerry Seinfeld as Barry B. Benson the premise for the film was surprisingly relevant to the current bee situation that is currently in the media in the USA. I could get caught up in discussing this with you all but that’s not the reason I mentioned this film.
It was after the film that my friend and I walked into the foyer of the cinema that she said something quite interesting. Here is what she said to me.
“Hm, it’s pretty interesting actually, that film really made me see that everything is invented for a reason.”
Now I’m sure that you can see the issue with this statement. My friend isn’t a scientist and I’m fairly positive that she doesn’t take time to see things critically but this sentence worried me quite a bit and reinforced my views that the youth of Australia are not scientifically literate. I asked her what she ment.
“Invented? What do you mean? Bee’s evolved from a common ancestor of all insects 10’s of millions of years ago.”
“Oh…Evolved? But WE were invented right?”
I stopped walking and stood their stunned for a moment. What part of high school science did she miss? Or did she erase it from her mind completely during the years after? I am assuming she is religious to some degree and believes in creation from her cultural background but I am not sure. Either way there is something wrong here.
The reason I bring this incident up is because over the past year as I have got more involved with the skeptical scene I have noticed more and more of these sort of statements, not just from people I don’t know, but my close friends. What did these people miss that I didn’t? Is it because they go to a “Christian values” school or is it something else?
This is scary. These people are our future. This is the immediate future. These people are 18 – 22 years of age. I don’t know about you guys but I’m hoping that the new government we recently voted in does something about this complete lack of scientific education (likely?).
This is my first blog ever and I intend to make this a regular thing. Let me start by telling you a bit about myself. I’m 20 years of age, live in Melbourne, Australia and I am very interested in web-design and scepticism. I am a huge fan of James Randi and anyone who promotes Sceptical thinking and the scientific method. Currently I am in the process of designing a site for Australian Skeptics promoting sceptical thinking to young Australians. All going to plan this should be up and running by the end of 2008.
I am also currently enroled at a college where I study web-design and multimedia. This is a new calling for me that I just discovered I loved this year.
Anyway, enough about me lets talk about the blog. I intend to discuss mainly sceptical issues that I come across in the paper and online, but I will generally use this blog to rant, whinge and basically vent my frustration with the current state of the world. So if you want to come along for the ride and have a whinge too then feel free to comment or email me or what ever!
Thanks for joining me