Friday, February 26, 2010

Good ideas in government are hard to keep:

Good ideas in government are hard to keep:

There was a time when our congress thought facts were important enough to have reliable experts on hand with whom they could consult... Hmmm.  That's not the case today.   The Office of Technology Assessment is no longer funded thanks to Newt Gingrich and his 1995 Republican congress followers.

There's little doubt that our elected officials, no matter how smart they may be, are less than versed on all aspects of science and technology.  Having experts to turn to for advice and understanding on complex subjects made good sense.  Gosh! What happened?

Concerned scientists are now asking for a return to those better days of reason.  They want to help.  They want the Office of Technology Assessment funded once again and I hope congress is wise enough to recognize that help from science experts is needed - really needed!

I stand with the concerned scientists on this, and I'll take a parallel step on a related issue... history. 

There's a heck of a lot of "history twisting" happening today; almost all of it revolving around  questions of "American Christian heritage".  The actual facts of history (as it is with the actual facts of science issues) seem unimportant to those congress men and women who are currently waiving the American flag in one hand and and the Christian cross in the other.

We need an Office of Historical Assessment as desperately as we need to reestablish the office of technology.  It's time to set BS aside, folks.  Let's all get behind truth and give it a shove in the right direction... Tell congress we want them to have the facts.  They can keep their opinions and their skewed musings for Sunday meetings if they'd like - its their right - but when it comes to law-making, facts are what matter. 

The good of America depends on reason.  Let's have more of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do dinosaurs buy bull?

Do dinosaurs buy bull?

There's a terrific book series out for preschoolers and brand new readers.  Its the "How Does a Dinosaur..." collection by Jane Tolin.  If you've got kids or grandkids, buy them every one written.  The books teach good behavior by showing examples, good and bad, and they do it in a fun way for kids.  I'd put this little readers book series at the top of the heap all by myself even if it hadn't already won the honors from every legitimate book award critic out there.

While I don't suspect we'll be seeing the title "How do dinosaurs know what's not Shinola?"  coming off the author's desk at any time soon, the need is certainly there - for sure.

Behavior is one thing but learning to discriminate wisely is quite another.  If Jane Tolin doesn't expand her series to teach critical thinking, somebody needs to fill in the gap.

Carl Sagan offered his "Bologna Detection Kit" to adults - a way to see all the way through bad science and the loads of other bunk ideas we each encounter on a daily basis.  Simply put, Sagan's system is a very polished version of how one can easily know the difference between shit and Shinola - its excellent - yet it's unfortunately something that's out of reach on a skill level way above the understanding of  those who need it most of all - little kids.

I hope our atheist and secular community will seek out its most thoughtful childrens book authors and promote the messages, good values and lessons they have to give.  Kids need their own "New Atheist" authors... Let's all help find them. 


Bigger and bigger and bigger:

Bigger and bigger and bigger:

Occasionally its good to take stock.  Atheism and the secular movement in America have come a long way and that's good for everyone.

What once seemed like cat herding has been getting to be an easier task... the cats are finding comfortable front porches all by themselves.  Put up a sign - "Freethinkers meeting" - and new atheists are willing to flock to it like cats to the smell of fish heads. One after another, cities and towns are coordinating.  National organizations are finding it easier to pay the bills and change for the better is happening.  But we're not done yet.

If you aren't part of an on-the-ground group, join one.  If your nearby group isn't near enough to join, start a new one. 

Become an activist for social change and help keep religion out of government.  We are today's patriots.  We are "liberty and justice for all".

Now, everyone, let" get cookin'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A+ for group involvement:

A+ for group involvement:

Tampa Bay, Florida, has a brand new social service. Its the brainchild of Ellenbeth Wachs, an atheist activist and a very,very busy lady for her state. Take a good look at this:

SOS is an alternative recovery method for those alcoholics or drug addicts who are uncomfortable with the spiritual content of widely available 12-Step programs [like alcoholics anonymous]. SOS takes a reasonable, secular approach to recovery and maintains that sobriety is a separate issue from religion or spirituality. SOS credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own sobriety, without reliance on any "Higher Power."

Its a catchy name, SOS... much better than AA.  And you can bet I'll be passing this little gem around to all the group leaders in my home state; I hope they'll all follow Ms. Wachs' lead.

There's very little room for doubt on this issue: secular groups (atheist or otherwise) are good for the future of America and where this particular social service is concerned, it's long overdue for drug and alcohol abusers to be rescued out of the hands of religionists.  I look forward to hearing that a new crop of SOS programs across the country gain full recognition and the official nod of approval to receive government financial support and carry on their services - secular style.    

Go ahead.  Start an SOS group.  What are you waiting for...??  help from the gods?

Hurray for you, Ellenbeth. You've climbed way high-up on my personal ladder of citizen heroes.

Addendum message from EllenBeth: "Thanks so much for the publicity and the kudos,  Randall!  Though I can't take credit for the idea, just the Chapter.  SOS has actually been around for 25 years and was founded by James Christopher in CA.  Each chapter is, however, its own entity and is run autonomously and has its own personality. "

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Plan A"

"Plan A"

I really am impressed by the innovative ideas young people come up with, like one I've just been introduced to through my niece's high-schooler... an "A" shaped folded dollar bill.  I've dubed it "Plan A" and its purpose is very simple.  It's an attention getting  portable atheists-welcome sign.  Here's a quickie video to show you how it's done:


Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's the Discovery Institute up to...?

What's the Discovery Institute up to...?

Fayetteville Arkansas and the University of Arkansas campus were paid a visit this evening by a member of the Seattle based creationist group, Discovery Institute. ID staffer Casey Luskin almost took us by surprise.

Stumbled upon just by chance, an alert member of NWA-United CoR sounded the alarm.  It was just in the nick of time; only one day before the scheduled film and lecture event, dubed The Positive Case for Intelligent Design and Why It’s Being Expelled From Academia. It would have be on the university's launch pad and ready to soar under the radar at an unassuming student population without challenge if our heads-up atheists hadn't come along. 

The Discovery Institute, one can only guess, has its sights set on rekindling the embers and spreading the word (and the misinformation) for its thinly disguised creation theory, Intelligent Design; the Institute, as measured by the tone of its speaker and his urgency to pitch his version of science, seems hot to make a brand new bid at seeing creationism taught in science classrooms everywhere. (Their dreaming, right?) Judging by this meeting alone, ID appears to be desperately running down a path toward a retrial of the Dover Pennsylvania court decision.  They want it and they want it  NOW.  It appears that ID's heavy hitters, like Casey Luskin, are currently hard at work to set a whole new public stage.  Be on the lookout Freethinkers.  They may be headed for your town next.

The event program, in addition to subjecting audiences to a seat numbing 90+ minute long screening of Ben Stein's video movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," (a film that's been debunked again and again,) Casey Luskin followed up by talking as fast as he could to deliver even more numbing doses of misdirection info mixed with plenty of cold BS in the form of a very, very long long-winded and divisive Powerpoint lecture... And all of that came before Lufsin finally yielded to answer a few audience questions.  And surprise, surprise, surprise... Mr. Luskin's version question-answering is: talk 'em ta death.  For even the most common yes-or-no and either-or type of questions, Luskins launches a new mini-lecture response.  He skips over opportunities to be direct but rants on into entirely new (and typically ten minute-long) rambling explanations; it was brain-numbing on everyone right down to the bone.

But enough... What was good about this surprise visit?  It was this: The small auditorium rented from the University wasn't quite small enough.  Only 54 people (by accurate head count) occupied the 250 seat room at any time throughout the program.  And guess what? Nine of them were good fiends of mine. All members of our community atheist groups.  Additionally, most of the young student types I observed, visited just long enough to quietly and wisely opt for the exit door. Smart!

The bottom line...? Be on the look out.  Creationist wolves are on the prowl and stalking fresh meat on a campus near you.
Addendum:  This little gem of a rebuttal to the film "Expelled" was sent in by Leewood Thomas.  Thanx Leewood.  Read: Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know...

Atheism: Leading the way back to liberty

Atheism: Leading the way back to liberty

There are no two ways about this: atheist national organizations and our local freethinker and skeptic groups are leading the way back to "liberty and justice for all".  We're the modern-day American patriots.

That said, we need all the organizing we can stomach... That's right!  Our states and regions must now concentrate on the things that turn grassroots movements into solid bodies with political clout.  Improving communications between group leaders is tops on the list.

Here's another online tool that can help:  It's an easy to use five-minute audio message recorder with oodles of possibilities for getting the word out about atheism and its concerns.  Click for a quickie sample.



Monday, February 8, 2010

Group tip 101 - A Tool for Organizing

Group tip 101 - A Tool for Organizing

There are times when distance and travel make meeting up and organizing locally (or even on a grand scale) take second place to doing nothing at all.  Here's a tip that can help solve the problem.  Dimdim.

Taking a page out of the big business corporate world handbook, groups can easily coordinate meetings through online video/voice conferencing just as the the big boys do.  (Move over Microsoft, Belkin and Boeing.)  Organizing group-to-group, statewide, region-wide or locally within a group no longer means that anyone has to travel that extra mile (or that extra hundred miles) to meet-up for planning and shareng their talents.  Leaders from groups in the far reaching corners of even the largest state can take part regularly in what's happening at the Capitol city.  This is an awesome reality.

Dimdim offers a public license open source program that's got all the bells and whistles of the high priced video conferencing services like Cisco's WebEx... but it's basic program is absolutely free.  No crazy downloads that are impossible to install... no limited time trials... no extra software or equipment... (  Still, I'll be purchasing a higher-end pro package - no doubt! )

The basic package is FREE.

Take a good look at this excellent organizing tool and learn to use it to improve your group's communications, event planning and collaborative projects.  It even makes a nice "substitute meeting" when bad weather threatens to close in on your regular face-to-face meetup.

Try it... you'll be glad you did.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Group tips 101 - groups-within-the-group

Group tips 101 - groups-within-the-group

Most atheist groups have a regular meetup time, usually just once a week to "meet-n-eat" or "meet-n-drink" ... that's not enough!

The trouble is often on the part of the group leaders for trying to keep the group together and focused on a single set of ideas.  Better leadership knows a better way.

Find the groups-within-the-group. For example, identify those who are interested in reviewing books or those who are interested in broadcasting a cable TV program, or those who like to coffee-clutch with friends, etc. and get them turned on to doing the things they like best.  Cut them loose to meet on separate days however they need to and let them do their thing.  Don't worry group leaders.  Your little group will continue to gather with the bunch; and when they do give them room to tell about what they've been up to. 

No group has a single personality or a single primary interest - that's a fact.  The way to get the most out of a group is for the leaders to recognize this and to assist organizing clutches and clusters from within the group.  The groups-within-the-group will be glad for being recognized as valuable and the greater group will grow because of it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

On-the-ground groups at work:

On-the-ground groups at work:

Some groups are really getting into the game.  They're writing alerts and letting their voices be heard.  And that's what on-the-ground groups are made for.

Since the recent news that a federal judge ruled Forsyth Co. N.C. was in violation of the US Constitution for opening their meetings with sectarian prayers, our on-the-ground atheist groups have gotten busy.  Here's what they're doing and here's how your group can make a difference.

City councils who are suspect of violating prayer-at-meetings law or those who employ regular non-sectarian invocations need to be called out.  Taking a page from a heads-up group near my home town in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I'll pass on what might be just the thing for your local group.

Most city councils meet only a few times a month, but even so, it would be a difficult job for any single atheist activist to monitor every meeting held... Team up!  Dividing the task of attending meetings "to watchdog" your public officials will make the task of discovering wrong-doing a great deal more efficient.  Additionally, since all council meetings are public, a record in one form or another is kept of each one.  Whoa...  Those records are public property and they can be checked at leisure for evidence that church/state prayer violations have occurred.  Once again, team up!  An entire year of record searching would be quite a burden for a single activist, but a group can do it in no time at all.  Ask for volunteers.  Happy hunting.

"Take a bite out of crime."  Organize the watchdog volunteers from your group.  The law is on our side.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

National Prayer Breakfast: Who should attend...?

Who should attend...?

The National Prayer Breakfast, an event that was initiated by Reverend Billy Graham and has taken place since the early fifties, is scheduled to happen again ... the bacon is on the grill.

I'm opposed to this kind of public display of Christianity by our nations leaders and I've sent the following letter to President Obama.  Perhaps you should send one, too.

Dear Mr. President,

I urge you to take the right step with regard to the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast.  Please disassociate yourself and your high office as our nation's president from taking part in this event.  It is clearly bias in favor of Christianity and it neglects the non-religious community entirely.

Our nation must depend on you to set an example showing that church/state separation is a seriously important matter and one that needs to become a strictly held-to policy in the minds and actions of all public officials.

Please refuse taking part in the National Prayer Breakfast.

Thank you.

I have given you every trust with my vote.

Readers, I ask you: What would you think of a Nation Chant Breakfast...?  Act now.  Email your opinion to President Obama (


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