Sunday, December 13, 2009

How Observant Are You?

FYI This blogs picks on religion

Us science-ey, atheistic types get all sorts of arguments from religious people about why people "believe" something and one of the most common is they just know or they feel it etc, or that things have happened in their life they can't explain, which is really just a matter of the problem our human brain has with coincidences and the tendency to look for patters (which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective). But, what I really want to point out is that people in general, are very bad at observing the natural world and that we often selectively see what we want. This effects people's perspective - in fact many religions actively reject the idea of even trying to see the big picture by commanding that one not subject themselves to doubt or disbelievers etc....

This video isn't directed to religion in any way but it doesn't show how observant we really are (actually how bad we are). This is exactly why we need the scientific method (or maybe this is all just a social construct....oh another time) because trusting in our senses and observations alone fails most of the time. This also brings into question the reliability of eye witnesses as well, but thats another topic.



(PS and if you are wondering exactly how this relates to religion, it is that most religious people (especially fundamentalists) do not look at the big picture (compare their religion to others and seriously ask why one is better), they do not ask "what am I not seeing" that should be asked (evidence of biblical scholarship for example - who wrote what and when exactly), what evidence is there or not etc...)

For example most fundamental christians have no idea of the history of their own religion - like the actual date of Dec 25th for christmas itself which is related to a pagan holiday. In fact the details of christmas are a hodge-podge from the gospels since none of them give much detail, none tell what time of year, only one talks about a manger etc.... Not saying that theologists haven't tried to answer some of these - they have (although I think very poorly) but most people don;t even know the issues exist and are not even looking at the big picture.

In Fact, Bert Ehrman talks about the same thing in his book Misquoting Jesus, and Luke over at Common Sense Atheism discusses Ehrman's take on this.

Lets Sing Some X-Mas songs!

I found this over at Pharyngula and thought you might like it to start the season off right. Not overly anti-theistic btw:




Friday, December 11, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Global Warming

There is a good blog over at Tuibguy on the problem with all of the global warming deniers (especially after the whole email-gate) and how they screw up the math. This classic Abbott and Costello video is very similar.... and I like Abbott and Costello anyway...





For example, The Island of Doubt has a great little edit to a paragraph Sarah Palin's latest speech on the issue and "corrected" it, which is educational in itself for those of you not up to date. I liked it and figured you wold too so here is the main part from it:

"I will begin with this paragraph:

The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed [deleted copies of] records, manipulated adjusted data to "hide the decline" in global select North American temperatures [tree-ring proxy data that conflicted with observational records], and tried to silence [challenge] their [non-expert] critics' by preventing them from publishing [competency and the wisdom of allowing flawed papers to appear] in peer-reviewed journals. What's more, [T]he documents show that there was no a real consensus even within the CRU crowd. [While s]ome scientists hadstrong doubts about the accuracy of estimates reliability of temperatures [proxy data] from centuries ago [the last three decades, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate, [the observational data since 1850 only confirms the science behind anthropogenic climate change].

Hmm. On second thought, that took too much work for a single paragraph, and now it says nothing very interesting. In any case, I don't have the time to conduct a similarly rigorous edit of the rest of the essay. Sorry to get your hopes up. Recommend you start over from square one. An introductory course in climatology would be a good idea before tackling this issue again."

So I have to clarify, Palin wrote an article for the Washington Post (why they would publish and op-ed piece by probably the least qualified person to write about scientific issues in general, I have no idea) but several people have critiqued - see this piece in the Washington Post by lan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's about perspective

Some of you may have seen or head about Kirk Cameron and Banana guy giving out free copies of The Origin of Species with a note about the "problems" with evolution. The onion pretty much sums it up the best (I would love to actually see the media present it as it really is):







Wednesday, December 2, 2009

DNA Activation!

I gotta thank my friend kim for the link on this one - I almost went into my PhD Comprehensive exams with NO IDEA about the 12 levels of DNA that we have, or DNA Perfection. I mean sure, I am studying all about DNA and evolution, how it works, what the processes are, etc.... BUT I had no idea that:

In actuality, the Human Genome is arranged into 12 dimensionalized mathematical programs, each of which set the blueprint for one double-helix chemical strand. Each double-helix strand blueprint is composed of 12 base-magnetic "female" base codes and 12 base-electrical "male" acceleration codes.

or this:

Due to an unnatural sonic control program in Earth's grids, only 4 Vector Codes have been active in biological earth since 25,500 BC, making the chemical DNA of Earth life appear to be a "Base 4 Genetic Alphabet".

But especially this:

The Earth distortions in history have actually created a planetary DNA distortion that has made every living organism’s DNA on the planet to falsely appear as Base-4, with only 4 chemicals. Humans are supposed to have 12 chemical nucleotide bases. This would allow us to have 144 physical chemical chromosomes as well, whereas now we only have 46.

I would totally screwed up any questions on chromosomes for sure....whew!

for a measly $400 bucks you can get your DNA Perfected too - they take PayPal! Oh but make sure you read the fine print: Not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure dis-ease or illness, nor is it to be interpreted, in any way, as a substitute for professional medical, surgical or psychiatric care or treatment.

Im gonna impress my committee with this!

God's voice

I one asked my ex what the difference was between people who hear voices and those that hear god (and how do you know which is which)? Amazingly, they have done a study and guess what? God sounds just like the person hearing them and ironically god's opinion of various matters was, wait for it - wait for it - the same as the individual's opinion!!! WOW - you would think that if they are all hearing god, that some of them would hear opinions that are different from their own - statistically speaking of course. But nope - as PZ said it - god is a sockpuppet. They got one thing right, god is definitely created in one's own image....oh wait that's assbackwards isnt it....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Exactly

They must be watching me:








Sunday, November 8, 2009

I little cartoon 4 u -donate your organs!

A little summary of what I am up to for my family and friends: my comprehensive exams officially last thursday so I have 4 weeks to come up with a long essay and prepare to answer a few questions. I also have a couple grants due and a 45 min presentation to give this Thursday at the local Lethbridge Naturalists Society on my research which should be fun. I have also been practicing the ol' geetar and hoping to play at the local open-mic night in the next couple weeks (since JG et al. are still hosting)... we shall see.

I found this the other day at one of my favorite comic sites xkcd.com (thanks for the link deponius) and this one goes out to Bri and Red. For those of you that do not have your organ donation set up yet, please think about it and answer "why the hell not".




After I posted this, I saw that Hemant posted something similar at your Friendly Atheist, and he also pointed out that this is why most atheists don't fear death since we know we can make a difference even after we die" which I agree with. I am an organ donor - are you?

He also says something I completely agree with, as well:
"I think it’s selfish not to do that (or to donate your body to science). It’s not like we need our body after we’re gone."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Determine What Religion You Are

I especially love the "I f*cking love bacon" choice



Hat-tip: the Friendly Atheist


Monday, October 26, 2009

Useless Research

I was reading an article today that touched a specific nerve on the funding of "useless" research which I found linked at the RichardDawkins.net. The original article is in the Timesonline.UK and deals with the idea of creating a committee to review science projects based on economic value which is a STUPID idea. This touches home because several people have asked me what good my research is for or what will come of it and honestly right now there is nothing that will "come out" of my research that would be of any economic value. Chickadees aren't rare, this technology won't cure any disease, won't make any profit for Apple/Sony/Walmart etc..... but people really need to think about this. The idea that research has to have value beyond knowledge or some sort of profit/economic purpose is relatively new yet has permeated most of popular society. One of the commenteres at RD.net made a great point and referenced Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World (which is a great read btw):

"I think more people need to read Sagan's Demon Haunted World. He dedicates a whole chapter on exactly this subject, using an allegory in which the queen ordered Sir Maxwell to stop doing his useless research on electromagenetism but in stead build a device that can transmit pictures over distance... point being of course, that with Maxwell's research into magnetism, there wouldn't be TV, radio, fancy electronic devices, etc.

This is exactly the same thing. Look at what NASA and ESA have given to the world without every thinking about the economic impact: MRI, networking systems, teflon, fancy polymers, etc. None of that would have existed because the research that led to these fruits of science would have deemed unworthy
. "

Cited in the above Times article: "Over 200 chemists, physists and medics say the measures will mean universities will lack the cash to fund academics to undertake the kind of “blue-sky thinking” that led to the discovery of DNA, X-rays and penicillin."

I thought about looking up some more things that were discovered during the pursuit of "useless" knowledge but then realized there are probably way too many.... and I have work to do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Picture says it all



picture source: National Geographic

In the wheelbarrow is the body of Dorothy who died of natural causes and is about to be buried, while the rest quietly look on. I really wonder what they are thinking!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Redundancy

Do I really need to say anything? Just one question though - how do you tell the difference between "hearing voices" and religious "conversations/messages"? Don't get me wrong, I know that schizophrenia is a serious illness! Still, what would be the difference and how would you know?

epic fail pictures


Redundancy

Do I really need to say anything?

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

Redundancy

Isn't the second part a given?

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

cats!!!

I found this link at Skepchick and for all you cat lovers, just on more reason to like them I guess and now you can get therapy for free although I think this just shows how evil cats are and that they are just manipulating all of you into loving them in the first place (evil evil things!!!)


Is this still porn-O-graphic if it has science?


I found a link at Skepchick to a picture at College Humor and thought I would share: is it still nerdy or is it just hot?

In my opinion it's event better with the formula's LOL


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update

OK so I had a great Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and got a little work in while I could. It has been getting colder (-7C) at times and the days are getting shorter: sucks! My comprehensive exams start soon which means 4 weeks of hell but at least it will be over with. Up till now this semester I have been primarily working on getting my DNA sequencing to work and extracting DNA from the blood samples so lots of time in the lab which won;t end for another oh... 8 months!

Couple interesting links for your entertainment:

for those that think all morality and good deeds come form a god (i.e. all morality, empathy, altruism has a divine origin etc.,) I would like to know why this dog does this (Warning - a dog gets hit by a truck):


for those that think including religious ideas about the origin on life (intelligent design being a main one), you have to realize that ALL stories of origin without any real evidence would also have to be included in school curriculum such as the Norse story and this summary over at Pharyngula provides a good description which is entertaining, and no crazier than Genesis by the way!

OK I am off for a meeting....


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quick note and a picture

So I am slaving away at dna crap and wanted to just post a quick note: My buddy Rusty was kind enough to send a little reminder of "good times" that I thought I would post on this blog. You may have seen the scar but this is the day I took off the stitches!

OUCH - try to "hand, reef and steer" with that!
there is actually a video of us taking the stitches (24 total) out which I will post if I can get it

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Random Points

Alrighty, so after a few days off I am back now at school and ready to get back to it. I do have lots of things to start writing about and will get on that a.s.a. p. I am also starting my comprehensive exams soon so wish me luck!

A couple cool things I have found lately:

There was a good piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Man vs God with essays by Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins (for a great detailed write up go see Jason's at EvolutionBlog. Dawkins says it much better but basically evolution leaves the gods nowhere, with nothing to do - or gives them their pink slip and explains how the world trundles along according to the laws of physics without ANY violations, and god has become irrelevant. Armstrong argues that religion is [was] not supposed to provide "explanations that lay within the competence of reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no easy solutions and find an interior heaven of peace" or as PZ puts it "ignorance is bliss". She even argues that religions explains nothing and isn't supposed to which means what exactly? I have no idea. And, I don't know where she gets this from because throughout history religion was used to explain what we didn't know (where we came from, how it all got here etc.) and still is for many; just look up anything on Intelligent Design - it will end with something we can''t explain so "god-did-it" because we need SOME explanation) and I'm pretty sure that if you go into any major church service they won't like being told that "god is just a symbol" - even though she argues many have thought that before. Do you know anyone or any religion that that professes this.......

"many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call "God" is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart."

A close relative to my study species, the great tit apparently will go into caves and attack bats! This is a tiny bird that normally eats seeds, insects and fruits but when it goes through tough winters it becomes "a ruthless killer" which I think is really cool.

Just for my Canadian friends: states which do well educationally can blame, well... Canada! Razib Khan over at Gene Expression has a few blogs on how being close to Canada also prevents murder and increases life expectancy.

And finally, I liked this video and I think it's a good way to make a point -


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kentucky Watch Out!

I am finally back in the lab, working away and will start to write again more often now but wanted to throw out a warning to watch for god to strike down Kentucky who had the audacity to think that the motto of Homeland Security should probably not rely on the almighty! So watch: the next disaster in that state (and statistically we know there will be) will probably be attributed to god being pissed they took away his responsibility in the safety and security of the commonwealth! Oh but maybe if they have a long stretch disaster-free they will claim something like Florida: Prayer Saves Florida from Hurricanes apparently it is due to the Governor praying extra super duper hard.

Texas may redeem themselves a little but don't hold your breath. The Institute for Creation Research which if you will remember is an "outfit" that provides advanced degrees in science has appealed to the state board for being denied the ability to just make up what they think should be science degree requirements. The original appeal was 67 single-spaced pages of rambling that the courts told them had to be whittled down to 20 double-spaced which they did and filled it with:

"the word “herein” is sprinkled randomly throughout, rather like the way Miss Teen South Carolina sprinkles “such as.”It occurs four times on page 2 alone–including “venue herein,” whatever the heck that means. There are italics,boldface, ALLCAPS, and all sorts of different combinations herein, of course. There are delightful spelling errors (“advertizes”), rhetorical flourishes (“as if with a ‘scarlet letter’”), and neologisms (I can’t decide if “favoritistically” or “applicational bounds” is my favorite). Of course it quotes the Bible. It even has rhetorical questions! In a complaint!"

Quote the Bible in a legal complaint??? WTF??? For those of you interested, click on the link above for a much better summary at Panda's Thumb

Basically their argument is that the Master of Science Degree is like a title such as deacon or pastor and that the state can't regulate it. So basically they think watching Barney should allow an "institution" to give out advanced degrees in paleontology if they so desire!

Another note - A study reported that the reason for McCain's loss was not the economy and his break from the campaign but rather his announcement of Palin as running-mate. Apparently as soon as that was announced it was all downhill in the stats, which gives me a little hope that the general public has at least some common sense if they could identify her as a moron.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Update Aug 3

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still around! Finishing up in Colorado then off to Montana for a few days to catch gray jays, but then I get to go home. I have been taking notes and will have a lot to write about as soon as I get back to civilization and a regular internet connection so look for more creationism in the classroom (Texas just can't stop trying to be idiots), generators and ATV's at campgrounds, religion as a guide for morality why that is really a joke (yes you can be moral without religion and in fact most religious people do not use religion as their guide) , science blogging, great evolutions songs, some explanations of common fallacies given by religious apologetics etc... all coming soon!


Monday, July 6, 2009

People who make a difference

Everyone has that one influential person who opened their eyes to something new: that math teacher who showed you so much more about a cue ball and the 8 ball bouncing off each other and how you would use that later in life (maybe for more that just calculating how to throw a tangerine bomb at the correct angle to bounce off the peppertree limb to effectively hit your best friend – or maybe that was just me); maybe that history teacher that helped you envision a civil war battle or the signing of the Declaration in exquisite detail that brought history to the present and in doing so instilled a passion for the past; or that English teacher (in my case it was Mr. Kohler) who “forced” everyone to read, anything just read, yet at the same time found a way to share a vast ocean of literature (good and bad) that finally opened my eyes to why everyone I knew enjoyed a good book once in a while (in the case of my mom and dad all the time during my childhood it seemed); or the music/vocal/art teacher who played/hummed a tune, or gave a monolog that moved you to do want to do the same (that didn’t happen to me but I hear it does). Everyone has one of them, or more and listening to someone’s story about why they chose their career, or why they volunteer at the library, or just what they read recently and their opinions/thoughts has always been somewhat fascinating to me, and while I have been in the field this summer I have come to realize how much fun it is to listen to some of the people I meet talk about some of this.

For the longest time, when people have asked me why I didn’t become a medical doctor (for some reason, when you are a biology major that question comes up a lot), I have been touting that the main reason is I don’t like people! Which is partially true and besides the fact that I wasn’t great at chemistry, nor did I love it, and especially I didn’t do very well at physiology and I am pretty sure there is a lot of chemistry and physiology in the medical field – although if I had actually cared about those classes as much as most of my other required courses I may have tried a little harder…. I still think people are like cats (and little dogs for that matter – all dogs should really be bigger): individually there are many cats that are actually enjoyable and at times I have found myself particularly drawn to one that has a pleasing personality, rare but it happens, but as a group, I don’t like em! This is not just because they kill birds and I study birds (they do an NO it is not natural – no birds in North America evolved with the pet-type of cats as predators), which actually has nothing to do with it, and I had a few wonderful cats growing up (tabby, ben and seymore were all pretty good cats). This stems more from the fact that you don’t really ever have a pet cat, rather you have a cat that puts up with you I think, and that bugs me. But back to the main topic, people are like cats; as a whole I don’t really like them. As such, I have never been drawn to spending years of my life to get a couple degrees, which costs thousands of dollars and years of my time only to help a few ungrateful ignorant rude SOB’s….. just kidding but still, I would rather do all of that to watch birds instead!

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and I still don’t really know which is somewhat ironic seeing that I am back in grad school at 36, but it is the truth. Granted, the only thing I ever get really excited about is science (and the occasional fundamental religious display of idiocy that permeates the American culture), and I truly enjoyed teaching both during my master’s and after. So, after spending a few years as a consultant and realizing how much I missed learning something new about biology, here I am.

Now the whole point of this blog is to blame the right person for this situation that brings us back to how everyone has that one person. Well, mine started way back in the spring of 1994. I originally applied to Chico State because an ex-girlfriend was accepted to Humboldt, applications for Humboldt were no longer accepted and Chico was close by (only 150 miles or so of winding mountain roads - haaa it looked close on the map at least). Primarily Chico had a pre-forestry major at the time and all I knew was that I wanted to work outside and not at a desk for the rest of my life. Of course Jeanene and Phil were nearby so it wasn’t like I would have nowhere to go. The funny thing is that the relationship ended way before I ever heard back from Chico State; eventually I still moved away. The first class I had to take was botany and I almost quit the biology major right then and there(the whole class seemed like all we did was look at a slide and draw what we saw – and I am not a good artist). That all changed in the spring though when I got to take zoology. The lecture part was interesting but it was the lab that clinched it for me. Jay was my lab instructor and at the time I didn’t know much about him but would later come to the educated conclusion that he and Dr. Thomas (the vertebrate physiologist) were the best instructors not only in biology but out of all the instructors I was forced to, err had the pleasure from which I received instruction. Jay alone is to blame! If it wasn’t for the fact that Jay showed in all transparency how much he enjoyed teaching, his passion for pretty much everything biological and his ability to relate all of his knowledge to the student in the lab, I probably would have switched majors and who knows where I would be. Eventually, I became good friends with Jay and learned a lot more about the big guy like how great he is at the banjo, his hunting and fishing prowess (he taught me how to hunt actually and I don’t think I ever beat him at Eagle Lake fishing), his ability to hold on to fantastic colloquial sayings over years and bring out new ones again and again –which I won’t repeat but they are fantastic and personally if I know a good line I use it a.s.a.p. so I don’t know how he saves them), his overall breadth of knowledge in both biology and other areas which always presented a welcome challenge during discussions with him but I did get to correct him once in ornithology class about cuckoos, hehe (and I am ignoring his ability to assign nicknames or descriptors such as ”shrew-like”), and finally the fact that the big guy was single-handedly responsible for my current usual aversion to Hecho en Mexico (Cuervo negro). As a matter of fact, I finished my B.S. with a complete distaste for birds until I talked with Jay about grad work and he convinced me to take his ornithology, then waterfowl classes.

In fact, now that I think of it, if it wasn’t for Jay I would have never been interested in these GD birds, and suffering through mosquitoes, thunderstorms, snakes, bugs, ticks (I hate ticks), below freezing temperatures, claw marks, bill stabbings, leaky tents etc., and I wouldn’t be sitting here at a campsite in the mountains of Utah, after 6 weeks in Montana and Colorado, writing this dumb blog on people who have impacted out lives! So thanks a lot Jay! If it wasn’t for you I would probably be sitting back at my desk in the City typing away in a comfortable chair with temperature control, fresh coffee, vending machine, maybe some nice art on the wall and dreaming of being somewhere like the mountains of Utah instead! Thanks Jay.

Monday, June 22, 2009

update - June 22

Just letting anyone out there know I have not forgotten that I said I would write more, I have just been in the mountains with no computer access.

I just spent a week or so in the Rocky Mountain National Park area, but I decided not to get a permit for the park and of course everyone says that is where the Clark's nutcrakers and gray jays are so I may apply for one and come back. Otherwise, it is finally warming up here but it doesn't hurt dropping down in elevation a little as well. Last night was the first night I didn't need lots of layers. Well back to the bush and I hope to have a chance to write more in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Damn Gray Jays and Clark's Nutcrackers

I just wanted to post an update and vent on the fact that everywhere in Colorado that people have told me I can find these two species has been a lie! Well, not maybe a lie but I am tempted to believe that these people don't know how to identify a gray jay or Clark's nutcracker. I have been to a few places so far and struck out. The most recent location was Brainard Lake, which is a beautiful place and the road/gate was just opened today!



I think that maybe the campground/picnic areas need a couple days of people with food to attract the gray jays so we will probably head back up there after the weekend. We did however get one hairy woodpecker on the way back and found her nest (I just posted some pics on picasa). We couldn't get her to come down to the call so we moved the net into a flight path near her nest and caught her which goes to show that watching the net is a good thing because I never would have found the nest or the flight path if I wasn't sitting there watching the net for 20 minutes or so. Back in Golden and hanging out with afternoon thunderstorms, of course! I don't care what people here say but when it rains almost every day I have been in Colorado and they keep saying this isn't typical, I say they are full of it! We did have a pretty neat thunder and lightning show last night though and I was REALLY glad to not be in my tent!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Update June 8


My posting has been erratic at best I know, but I have new motivation now to write and will try and post every few days at least, during this field season. I met a man named Ed (who is a retired outdoors writer - more on him below) and have since been inspired to try and write on this thing more often.

Field season started the first week of May and we have been camping ever since. We first started in MT for a couple weeks to catch some birds I didn't get last year (damn woodpeckers) as well as some new species my adviser added, and then headed down to CO where we have been since just before Memorial Day. I have been catching lots of birds and overall having a good time but the start in MT was cold since it was still pretty much winter and below freezing at night. In CO so far we have had a lot of rain and thunderstorms but it is supposed to get to be more normal in terms of weather soon. I think we have about a week left on Colorado and then we are off to Utah. I have met some great people here in Colorado and one of them is a couple named Ed and Suzan Dentry; Ed is a retired outdoors writer for the rocky mountain newspaper who knows pretty much everyone who is anyone in the outdoors (hunting and fishing) scene over the last 40 years and is friends with many of the fly-fishing authors I have read and Suzan has an antiques website SuzanDentryAntiques.. Ed also covered the 1988 Yellowstone fires which he was nominated for a Pulitzer and has regaled us, more me though with some hunting/fishing and general outdoors stories which I have thoroughly enjoyed. They have also been kind enough to let us sleep in their guest room and couch so we have been out of the tents for a few days and loving the "normal" comforts (we also caught a number of birds at their place which is sorta important since that's required before we get to move on to the next destination).

We also ran into a few other people with bird feeders which makes it easier to catch birds and a few have been really kind to offer us home cooked meals. One of them was a couple in Boulder and the man was a retired psychology professor and incredibly good pianist where we spent the night after catching the birds chatting away and had a great time. Back in MT we camped on this older couple's land (Jane owns the local Birds and Beasleys bird store in Helena along with her daughter Sandy - both of which helped us out immensely; thank you both!) where we were for about a week since they had showers we could use, which is always a good thing.

Nothing too exciting to report really and with all the run-off I haven't had a chance to fish but soon! There was a sighting of a mountain lion and two yearling cubs here which is exciting and I hope to see them. No bears so far but we are planning on heading to another family's place to camp and they have a big black bear that regularly come around so hopefully I will see it (but not from too close up). Originally I was thinking of camping in their meadow/draw but then my field partner Karley reminded me that the bear is thought to be hanging out in that exact area so.... we are staying up by the house instead.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Sweet Gesture

So I met a couple in Montana where we banded a few birds at their feeder and saw something I really wanted to share. The gentleman suffers from a bad back and has an electrical stimulator for pain reduction and as a result has difficulty moving around a lot. He did make it out a couple times to look at a few of the birds we caught but that obviously took a little effort. The couple was fantastic and we hung out at their place talking and sharing stories while we waited for the birds (on a side note though I couldn't believe that we didn't get any woodpeckers at their place - it was perfect habitat! I have no idea where they went since apparently they are ALWAYS around: actually I think that woodpeckers in Montana just know when I am around and disappear just like they did last year and again this year at Joe and Sally's place where once again there was perfect beautiful cottonwoods etc., and NO WOODPECKERS!).

Back to the point; the man proceeded to walk on out to the meadow about 200 feet or so away from the house and walk around for about 45-60 minutes with his beautiful golden retriever, bending over and looking at the ground, then walking a little and doing it again. I was only half paying attention because of the birds in the net but eventually he came back to the house with a hat full of flowers (shooting stars, bird bells etc.), all of which were his wife's favorite, and he put them in a little vase for her. I don't think anyone realized that I even noticed, but for some reason witnessing this act brought about a huge flood of memories and feelings. The first thing I thought about was my grandparents (maybe because the couple were older, in general) and the many times I have witnessed both of them do things like this for each other ever since I can remember. I can think of so many times that my grandfather has made a comment or a little gesture declaring his love for his bride which he has said many times and which we always chuckled at but knew he was serious, the many times I have seen him and my mom over the years pick gardenias for my grandmother, mom or aunt etc., for example, which they love(d), or my grandfather picking oranges known from the backyard (these are by far the best the best valencia oranges in the world which were sometimes even delivered to far away destinations) for some fresh oj in the morning for my grandmother and others (maybe a little brandy in our oj?), or my mom and dad going out of their way to get to my brother's plays/shows when we were younger (which he still does today) or my soccer games, or especially my grandfather ordering enough olives in his beefeater martini for all of us and I mean ALL of us to have one - by the way I have started drinking these and it never fails to make me think of him and my family, great-grandparents/aunt included at Arnoldi's restaurant in Santa Barbara when I was a kid - this picture isn't Arnoldi's but it was all I had).



I know life and love is not all about just little gestures and I could easily write about how much respect I have for what my dad did for my mom while she was sick which I may do someday, but not today and probably not for a while, but I think the little things are important: the fact is that most people have many more opportunities for the little gestures than the big sacrifices. And this one moment brought back all of these little gestures I have witnessed by friends and family (I am leaving out most of them of course) and for some reason I wanted to write about it.




I think these are the best evidence of how people feel about each other, and they show who is conscientious of other people's wants or needs ,or even better maybe and to quote Maria, love is being able to fill out someone else's list of "my favorite things" and provide a few once in a while.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vodka

On a lighter side - Bakon Vodka...bacon flavored vodka??? who in the hell wouldn't want to try this? Bloody Mary? I can easily see pasta sauce with this in it... there has to be some more ideas out there.

Biblical Marriage

Since I blogged before on the "traditional" definition of marriage, I thought I would copy a good list of biblical marriages by over at Unreasonable Faith. The main point he makes, which is a good one, is that NONE of these are depicted as being better than any other anywhere in the bible - they are all valid and recommended by "10 out of 10" different versions of the bible.

"Here’s a summary:

  1. Polygynous Marriage
  2. Probably the most common form of marriage in the bible, it is where a man has more than one wife.

  3. Levirate Marriage
  4. When a woman was widowed without a son, it became the responsibility of the brother-in-law or a close male relative to take her in and impregnate her. If the resulting child was a son, he would be considered the heir of her late husband. See Ruth, and the story of Onan (Gen. 38:6-10).

  5. A man, a woman and her property — a female slave
  6. The famous “handmaiden” sketch, as preformed by Abraham (Gen. 16:1-6) and Jacob (Gen. 30:4-5).

  7. A man, one or more wives, and some concubines
  8. The definition of a concubine varies from culture to culture, but they tended to be live-in mistresses. Concubines were tied to their “husband,” but had a lower status than a wife. Their children were not usually heirs, so they were safe outlets for sex without risking the line of succession. To see how badly a concubine could be treated, see the famous story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19:1-30).

  9. A male soldier and a female prisoner of war
  10. Women could be taken as booty from a successful campaign and forced to become wives or concubines. Deuteronomy 21:11-14 describes the process.

  11. A male rapist and his victim
  12. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes how an unmarried woman who had been raped must marry her attacker.

  13. A male and female slave
  14. A female slave could be married to a male slave without consent, presumably to produce more slaves.

    and of course …

  15. Monogamous, heterosexual marriage
  16. What you might think of as the standard form of marriage, provided you think of arranged marriages as the standard. Also remember that inter-faith or cross-ethnic marriage were forbidden for large chunks of biblical history."


Friday, April 24, 2009

Is you housemate an ATHEIST???

I saw this cartoon and had to share (you can click on the picture for a larger version) - the irony is completely lost on the original author/poster and that the original intent of making fun of atheists completely fails and this is actually a parody of anti-atheists. Read his blog here if you have doubts as to the original author's need from some psychiatric help. (Thanks to Greg for sharing this email that was sent to him by the comic author)






Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Atheist's Ten Commandments

I found these over at Greg Laden's Blog and thought I would share for those that don't know his blog. (thanks Greg!)

These really should really apply to everyone!

  1. Thou SHALT NOT believe all thou art told.
  2. Thou SHALT seek knowledge and truth constantly.
  3. Thou SHALT educate thy fellow man in the Laws of Science.
  4. Thou SHALT NOT forget the atrocities committed in the name of god.
  5. Thou SHALT leave valuable contributions for future generations.
  6. Thou SHALT live in peace with thy fellow man.
  7. Thou SHALT live this one life thou hast to its fullest.
  8. Thou SHALT follow a Personal Code of Ethics.
  9. Thou SHALT maintain a strict separation between Church and State.
  10. Thou SHALT support those who follow these commandments.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This is stupid - Updated 3/13

For UPDATE see bottom of post:

Sorry but this is why the catholic church is wrong (and anyone else who says abortion is wrong for any and all cases):

Brazil girl, alleged rape victim, aborts twins:
The procedure on the 9-year-old girl draws complaints from Catholic church

The title says it all but the story says the girl is "alleged" to have been raped by her stepfather, she is 80 lbs and SHE IS 9 YEARS OLD!!!! and it isn't just one it's TWINS!!! In Brazil abortion is illegal except for specific circumstance (endanger the mother) and the the catholic church says she should carry it to term; it's the law of GOD - WTF???? They even tried to take legal action to stop it..."inconceivable" - it is the will of God for her to get pregnant and then if she dies carrying the babies to term...that's all on him too I guess and we should just let it go????? AND to top it off, get this, the Archbishop excommunicated the child's mother, doctors and others involved! I don't even know what to say to that.....

If you want a little more detail and a better discussion see Mike's blog at The Questionable Authority

UPDATE 3/13/09 - From PZ: "After all of this the president of Brazil took a public stand against the church's unjust decision. Now at last, we hear from the top of the Catholic hierarchy…and the Vatican sides with fetuses over children. No surprise there at all."

The stupid, it hurts. Sorry but I have absoutley zero tolerance for this! To say we should force a 9 year old rape victim to carry to term twins (that are her stepdad's....) NO WAY.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oh the irony, it hurts

So I am sitting at the Nature Centre here in Lethbridge watching my birds and listening to podcasts on my Ipod. I was listening to one from NPR Science titled Eyes in the Skies and Drying up Rainforests

Most of the podcast is about rainforests, global warming and CO2 sources/sinks but a portion of it is on in vitro fertelization and pre-implantation genetic haplotyping. A couple who had a child that died at approximately 8 weeks I think from a neuromuscular genetic disorder had decided they wanted to have more children but did not want to have another one with the same genetic disorder. The woman took hormone therapy for in-vitro and after harvesting 17 embryos and fertilizing them, all of them had one cell removed (at the 8 cell stage this doesn't do anything to the embryo really) for testing to make sure which ones didn't have the gene for the disorder. After all that, and having a lab identify about 10+ embryos without the disorder (any not implanted in the first round are frozen for future attempts if desired) the journalists asked the couple how many children they wanted and she said "however many God wants us to have"! Apparently it is all up to God and the lab personnel, her own active hormone supplementation, freezing embryos and then all of the extra stuff you do for implantation of the fertilized embryo(s) is all up to God and just God's plan (which correct me if I am wrong was an infant with the disorder?). Now don't get me wrong, I feel sorry for anyone that has to deal with the loss of a child at any age but especially so young but the irony of their statement vs actions is lost on this woman/couple, going through all of this effort/actions and still claiming it is all up to God! That just drives me crazy and I couldn't believe it just came out so naturally and without even the briefest pause from these people who are actively playing "god" regarding their own reproductive efforts but still clinging to this predetermined plan from their deity.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Darwin Song

This is great! These kids already know more about Darwin than many adults I know.



hat tip to Greg Laden where I found it, and Evolving Complexity

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Faith: can justify anything as from God

It amazes me how the "faithful" can attribute ANYTHING to God. If a plane crashes and everyone dies it was God's will, if a plane has a problem and lands on the Hudson safely it was God's hand, if a Hurricane or Tsunami hits it was God's will, if a new job comes along, a long lost relative calls when you think of them, you turn left instead of right and it was a good thing ..... etc. A believer can justify why either God or prayer works, fails to work, or explain a positive random event as the will of God or an answer to prayer. I wont get into the psychological aspect of the difficulties the human mind has with correlations or the natural tendency and evolutionary reason that the human mind looks for patterns which I will save for a future blog, but I will recommend reading this blog by Harry McCall on How the Human Mind Reasons which I think is really good. I am actually working on a similar blog regarding God's love and another on the effect of giving up the idea that you can control all of your life which when you fully accept that you can't, you need to accept life as it comes and enjoy it for what it, Which when do this removes a huge burden/weight and is a relief; it's just that believers attribute this to God (God's will or path they are willing to follow) and atheists attribute it to learning to accept life (such is life), but the end result is still the same! Sorry for rambling but I got work to do and just wanted to post real quick AND recommend the above blog posting: McCall's blog is interesting, especially the personal organ transplant story about his daughter!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rivals of Jesus

For those of you interested in this stuff here is a good little video on the rivals of Jesus before, during and just after his time. Jesus wasn’t the only messianic prophet in the ancient world — but he’s the only one most people remember. This National Geographic documentary presents some of the rivals of Jesus and Judaism like Mithras, Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Simon Bar Kochba, and Isis (Tip to Daniel for the post I noticed)



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Losing my Religion - the book

A new atheism book hit the stores today called Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace, which is about the author's journey out from under the spell of religion. He is a former religious writer for the LA Times who wrote a lot about the recent sex scandal of the Catholic church, a former evangelical and a former catholic.

He is not out to (de)convert religious people or to convince you he is correct but rather explains why and how he became an atheist himself. So for religious people this makes it a book that they can read without burning it or run screaming (and may provide some information that can strengthen their belief), and provide them with an understanding of why atheists don't believe. As I have said in a previous posts , I agree with a lot of what he says and plan on picking up a copy soon. He also has a blog worth checking out here

Excerpt from a reviewer (Malena Lot at Bookgasm):
"Another “revelation” for me in the book was the research and simple question we can ask ourselves about believers: Are Christians more moral than non-Christians? Do they divorce at a lower rate? Do they have fewer abortions? You may be surprised — but not shocked — to learn that no, Christians are not less likely to sin.

While reading the book, you will likely explore your own faith journey, no matter your age. I have often been amused that the people who claim to be the most religious are also the most close-minded and — at least from their actions — spiritual in word, but not deed. Why bother to ask “What would Jesus do?,” but then do whatever the hell you want anyway? You can argue all you want that it should be about God and not people, but who is the church filled with? Lobdell’s book focuses more on the people than the ideology, but there’s some of both in his true story."

Immnuizations

Sme people have been on an anti-vaccination kick and may not have heard that the main proponent of anti-vaccination (and the link with causing autism) Dr. Wakefield has been shown to be a incompetent, a fraud and a liar who was paid by lawyers to find aveidence against vaccinations and he made up the data and flat out lied. Many people have cited his work as the main support for antivaccine and ironically are still supporting him even after he has been shown a fraud (for those interested there is a good summary of the most recent anti-vaccine "evidence" and the real scientific evidence located here ). People that don't vaccinate are basically a parasite on the other responsible people who are smart enought to vaccinate their children. Incredibly bad diseases such as pertusus, diptheria, measles, and even polio just to name a few are fast on the rise in both the US and Great Britain (as well as others) because so many people have bought into crackpot science and famous celebrity claims (Jenny McCarthy is an idiot - no-one wold ask her what the best treatment for acute pelvic inflammation or early parkinsons but we let her, hell even invite her on major news/talkshows to spew massive amunts of rhetoric about a major "scientific" issue that she has no expertise in except for having child, which many people have listened to and we as a society will have to suffer the consequences - the re-education of adults who have bought her crap is just one small part compared to the potential lives that may be lost from having not recieved vaccinations).

A really good summary of "Why we immunize" can be found here and I thought I would direct people who may not know this information. This is a good summary of whatthese deseases do/did to people and why we should vaccinate (there is definitely some flexibility in when vaccines should be administered based on age and immune system development but overall when you look at what these deseases do most vaccinations should be a no-brainer).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Losing My Religion

I found this post over at Debunking Christianity and really enjoyed the response to criticism by William Lobdell. Lobdell is a former devout Christian and makes many statements about his de-conversion that parallel my own life/feelings. He has a book coming out and decided to respond to criticisms of his book ahead of time which I thought was interesting. I especially like the over-all accumulation of evidence/reasons to question as similar to my own experience. Christians always want to claim you never really believed (which is incredibly condescending) and is plainly just not true. This combined with discoveries in anthropology, in-group selection, natural progression of religious ideas that parallel social structure etc. (for example all religious people thin they are right and do not accept they could be wrong and obviously have never looked at the past "known beliefs" within Christianity - foir example John Loftus posted this nic short list of some core theological beliefs that were taken for granted in Christien Theology -these are no longer accepted yet ironically most Christians today are just as sure they are correct as people from the past probably thought - and peopl today do not see the irony:

From Loftus - "Christian theology has changed so much that one would not even recognize the Christianities of the first century or two.

Let me just mention some theological changes:

Creation - Not until around 200-700 AD did the church accept creation ex-nihilo.
Hell - From fire and brimstone to the absence of God to annihilation
Baptism - Probably from Immersion to sprinkling; from adults to infants.
Atonement - From ransom to satisfaction to penal-substitutionary to moral influence to relationship theories
Predestination - Possibly "mixed" to Calvinism to Arminianism to Calvinism back to Arminianism
Christology - From Paul to Chalcedon to Kenotic theories
Inspiration - From who knows what to mechanical to verbal-plenary to inerrancy to neo-orthodoxy.
Women - From servants who obey in quietness to teachers and ministers and professors
Slavery - From Paul (Philemon) to southern Slavery to abolition to anti-racism."



I definitely believed at one time but eventually there was just too much evidence against for me to continue to swallow twisted logic and bizarre interpretations to try and fit all of the facts.



Exert from Lobdell's posting:

"With the launch of my book a week away, I’m starting to read and hear an increasing amount of criticism–something I expected with a memoir titled, Losing My Religion. They have their opinion; I have mine. Fair enough. But I thought I’d take a stab at answering some of the most popular criticisms.

Criticism: You’re anti-religious or anti-Christian. I’m not. I miss my faith. But I can’t believe what I feel in my heart (and see with my eyes) is untrue. I believe I’ve found the truth, but have enough humility (and experience) to know I need to keep my eyes open for new information that could reshape my views. So far, in my three years as an out-of-the-closet atheist, the evidence has continued to pile up against a personal God who intervenes in my life. In the end, I’m anti-hypocrisy–especially when the hypocrites operate under the guise of God.

Criticism: You are trying to lead people away from God and/or Jesus Christ. Not really. This is just my story. I’m really hoping my journey will let folks know it’s normal to wrestle with doubts and also to get people to think more about faith and its shortcomings. Some of the biggest fans of my memoir have been pastors and other reformers who think the Body of Christ has grown soft and could use the wake up call. Christianity would make a whole lot more sense to me if Christians acted like they really believed the message of the Gospel.

Criticism: You’ve confused the sinfulness of man with a perfect God. This is condescending. In Christian theology, I understand the difference between God and fallen man. And I know that means Christian institutions, run by human, won’t be perfect. But the argument falls apart on several levels. First, despite man’s fallen nature, Christian institutions should behave in a manner morally superior than their secular counterparts. I didn’t see much difference. But that not even where I lost my faith. (this section definitely parallels my own experience - loopa) That fact only caused me to start questioning other aspects of Christianity: why Christians behave basically the same as atheists in terms of morals and ethics; why no studies show that prayer works; why God gets credit for answered prayers and no blame to tragedies; and why the Bible is filled with a litany of bizarre punishments (death for working on the Sabbath, for one), a wrathful God who wipes out whole populations; why Christianity would be the one true faith out of the 1,000 of religions past and present; how God could be both merciful and just (the notions are contradictory); and even why Jesus didn’t speak out against slavery (in fact, he only says they should be beaten less). Eventually, my faith collapsed under the weight of all the evidence against it. I’d say as a Christian, I had mistaken a man-made creation for one developed by a loving God.

Criticism: You were never really a serious Christian, so you didn’t really lose your faith, you never had it. I’d agree with half that statement. I didn’t really lose my faith in the sense that you can’t lose something that didn’t exist. But I indeed was a serious Christian for more than a dozen years. I went to church weekly. I was member of a small men’s group that studied the Bible. I went on retreats. I read the Bible daily. I prayed several times a day. I read scores of Christian books. I don’t see how anyone could argue that I didn’t take my faith seriously. I think it helps critics to paint me as a half-ass Christian because then I’m easily dismissed.

Criticism: You’re just trying to sell books. I do want to sell a bzillion books, but that doesn’t change my experiences or my de-conversion journey. I also find it funny that Christians never accuse Christian authors–who make a fabulous living off their books–of “just trying to sell books.”

Criticism: You’ve consigned yourself to an eternity in hell. Look, I’ve tried my hardest to hang on to my faith. I just don’t have it. If there happens to be a Christian God and, given the circumstances, he still sends me to an eternity in hell, then what kind of loving God is that? Does that make sense to anyone? What kind of person are you worshipping? More likely, if I’m wrong and there is a loving God, I imagine he would look at me and said, “Son, I know how hard you struggled to believe. I’m very proud of your effort. I love you. Let’s spend eternity together.” What would you do as a loving father?

I didn’t write this post to sway critics. I’m guessing they are locked into their beliefs. But I do think there are a lot of people in live in shades of gray. I at least wanted to give those people something to think about.

- William Lobdell"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why I don't believe!

This is the first of a 3,4,5??? part post of why I don't believe and I will be addressing different issues in each one. This first is about the initial issues that made me start to wonder (Hell, biblical accuracy and the bible as a moral guide). (Update Mar 09 - this was just posted on the topic of the truthfulness of the gospels by John Loftus and worth a read).


The very first thing/reason that hit me in my late teens is hell (and I found this good summary of what I think at Dwindling in Unbelief).

Hell is the core of Christianity; it is what Jesus came to save us from. We all deserve to go there, and there is only one way to escape: believe the right things (just what those things are depends on who you talk to.) And, if for whatever (and however good a) reason you should die without that belief, you will be tormented forever in Hell by the god who loves you. It is as simple, cruel and absurd as that.

Here is what Charles Darwin said about it in his autobiography:

I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.

It was Hell that did me in as a Christian. I, like Darwin, couldn't believe that my family and friends and billions of other nonbelievers (and religiously incorrect believers) would be tormented forever in Hell for their honest disbelief. It amazes me that anyone could.

My dad and I had many a discussion about isolated native populations that have never heard of christianity dying (2000 years worth of these people) and whether they went to hell or not. As an adult this expanded in my head to include such incredibly, humble and "saintly" people (like Gandhi for example) who would b punished because they are not the right faith??? (I mus point out that according to my father, there is "baptism by desire" in the catholic church which does cover for example unbaptized infants that die and people that don't know of christianity for example which does deal with native people to some respect - but this issue originally started me thinking about a loving god who would punish such people and lietral/fundemental interpretationists have a completely different opinion - "everyone who doesn't follow christ will go to hell" which to me makes no sense and my main point. There are also several people including my family members who believe that there are many ways to get to heaven and that other religions are not exempt - and that multiple religions worship the same god....).

Hell is indeed a damnable doctrine. Darwin, as usual, had it exactly right (thanks to Dwindling in Unbelief for writing most of that much better than I could have).

Next are biblical reasons that came up over many years of studying more and more of the bible.

Biblical accuracy and authorship - I want to know who wrote something and if it is to be trusted as a good source. The gospels themselves, their authorship, history, origin and internal inconsistencies are definitely am issue for me, as well as probability and evidence that Christ existed in the first place. The following is a summary of a more detailed and better discussion at Ebonmusings:

The first and most important point is that the gospels themselves are not written by any first-hand eye-witnesses but rather second-hand (maybe but more probably third or later) accounts of stories that the writer heard from someone who claims to have seen the events described; all of which begs the question why didn’t anyone write it down? The claim that the disciples were too busy makes no sense – god can inspire people 50-100 years later to write it down but not any actual eyewitnesses?

According to the New Testament gospels, Jesus' fame spread far and wide throughout his lifetime. He was known throughout Israel and beyond (Matthew 4:25), renowned not only as a teacher and wise man, but also as a prophet and miraculous healer (Matthew 14:5, Luke 5:15, John 6:2). Great multitudes of people followed him everywhere he went (Luke 12:1). He converted many Jews, enough to draw the anger of the Jerusalem temple elders (John 12:11) etc…..

If these things were true, it is beyond belief that the historians of the day could have failed to notice: but that is what happened. Not a single contemporary historian mentions Jesus. The historical record is devoid of references to him for decades after his supposed death. The very first extra-biblical documents that do mention him are two brief passages in the works of the historian Josephus, written around 90 CE, but the longer of the two is widely considered to be a forgery and the shorter is likely to be one as well (see part 2). The first unambiguous extra-biblical references to a historical, human Jesus do not appear until well into the second century. This extends to not seeing any real evidence in the authenticity of the new testament, the lack of any roman or jewish historians even mentioning Christ (the limited works of Josephus which weren't written until 90CE are questionable/probable forgeries as well as very limited in what he actually says, and nothing was said by noteable writers such as Philo of Alexandria, Justus of Tiberius, Seneca the Younger etc who lived and wrote about lots during that time YET don't mention Christ at all), the fact that the first unambiguous reference to Christ is in the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons, around 150 CE: all of which is very difficult for me to reconcile and accept as true history.

Not one single person who actually saw Christ do any of the things wrote one word about it? Not one contemporary historian wrote about the earthquake or the eclipse that was supposed to have happened during the crucifixion either???

The gospels cannot help in proving the historicity of Jesus, since the accuracy of the gospels is itself what is in question so everyone who just accepts the gospels as fact haven’t looked at the history of the bible. Not only does the lack of ANY corroborating evidence for the miraculous events of the gospel indicate the gospels should be questioned at least but the internal contradictions suggest that their authors were not recording historical events they remembered, but rather telling a story, changing events where they felt it necessary to make a point (and how can literalists continue to think that every word is absolutely correct???).

For examples:

Where was Christ’s first post-crucifixion appearance in In Galilee: Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7 or in In Jerusalem: Luke 24:33-36,49, Acts 1:4

Who did Christ first appear to?

the two Marys

Matthew 28:1, 9
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.... And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Mary Magdalene

Mark 16:9
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

John 20:11-14
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping ... and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Cleopas and another

Luke 24:13-31
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus.... And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? ... And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

Cephas

1 Corinthians 15:4-5

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

Are divorce and remarriage ever allowed?

No, never: Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18

Only when the wife commits adultery: Matthew 5:32

Only when the wife commits adultery: Matthew 19:9

Only when the unbelieving partner wants it: 1 Corinthians 7:13-15


Next is the issue of morality and the bible as a guide.

The issue of morality, and those that believe morality comes only from god have to really pick and choose (and/or come up with some extremely crazy scenarios) what part of the bible to look to (and you can't use the whole "the god of the old testament was different etc.." because what would a few thousand years be to the creator of time itself - he shouldn't be so capricious and should have known that exhibiting every human emotion such as jealousy, possessiveness, revenge, hatred, warmongering etc would cause some serious doubt on his existence.

here is just one brief example (from John Loftus) of the morality issue (especially for biblical literalists):

The Bible prescribes a host of detestable 'moral' guidelines. For example, if an Israelite man desires a female captive from war, he is permitted to force her to be his wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who is pledged to be married is raped but fails to cry out, she is to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who is not pledged to be married is raped and does not cry out, she must marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Psalm 137:9 touts the pleasure of dashing children against rocks, and full-scale genocide is proscribed throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16).

The judeo-christian god is clearly a hateful, racist, and sexist divinity. Though Christians rightly criticize militant Islamists for aiming to kill innocent bystanders, the only difference between these extremists and the biblical god is the desired target of murder. As Sam Harris notes, "it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. (for a much more detailed discussion see John Loftus's work her)