I received this email today and thought it might be interesting to those in the Madison area.
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This message is sent by The Brights’ Net as a courtesy to Madison Brights

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Pub Politico is a new monthly event in Madison, WI. Held the second Sunday of the month, the Pub is an opportunity for anyone to participate in discussions about current political issues with experts, legislators, and other concerned citizens. We’ll meet from 2-4pm in the cozy upstairs lounge (overlooking the State Capitol) at Brocach on the Capitol Square (7 W. Main St, Madison). Go to www.pubpolitico.org for detailed info and to register for email alerts for upcoming Pubs.

The first Pub, January 10th, features Shawn Francis Peters who will be discussing public regulation of religious behavior and the current debate in Wisconsin over state law that appears to exempt parents from criminal prosecution for the death of a child when they choose prayer and other faith practices over standard medical care. There’s a bill currently moving through the Assembly to remove the exemption ? AB590 sponsored by Rep. Terese Berceau. For a little background about the issue read Shawn Peters’ opinion from the Wisconsin State Journal – http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/76478192.html.

On February 14th, Tim Ewing ? Outreach Director of Fair Wisconsin, will be speaking on “Building a Fair Wisconsin”, and why the denial of marriage hurts gay and lesbian families who live in every county of Wisconsin. www.fairwisconsin.com

Future topics include privacy laws and the psychology of politics. Feel free to suggest topics and speakers for future Pubs.

See you at the Pub!
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Thank you,
Leslie
Madison Brights
leslie@officeoncallonline.com or madisonbrights@gmail.com

14. April 2009 · Write a comment · Categories: News

A picture of Pulsar B1509 taken by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray observatory. This “hand-like” shape spans 150 light years but it is caused by a neutron star that has a 12 mile diameter. Amazing.

Yet, what is even more amazing is that 5% of people (at one time it was as high as 43%) think it shows that hand of god (Daily News). Sigh. We definitely need more science education.

09. March 2009 · Write a comment · Categories: News

The American Religious Identification Survey for 2008 was released today. The results are good news for atheists but not so good news for religion in general. As the survey puts it: “The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion”. The “No Religion” group makes up 15% of the population, up by 6.8% from the 1990 survey. An additional 11% didn’t know what religion they are or refused to answer the questions. Only Catholics and Baptists have a higher percentage of the population (15.8% and 25.1% respectively). But even those groups have shown a decline from the 1990 data. Actually most religions showed a decrease in numbers or small gains of 0.5% or less from the 1990 survey group. Those who identify as Christians have fallen from 86% in 1990 to 76% in 2008, a drop of 10%. This correlates well with 24.4% of people who think there is no god or there is no way to be sure or there is a higher power but no personal god. Of the people who identify as Christian, 44.8% (34% of the population) believe themselves to be Born Again or Evangelical Christian. Interestingly, 18% of Catholics identified as such.

The No Religion group gained in all states, even in the deep south. The New England region, at 22%, has the largest number of people identifying as No Religion followed by the Pacific Region at 20%. The deep South states of AL, KY, MS, TN had the lowest number of No Religion respondants at 10% but even this number is a doubling of the 1990 value of 5%.

A table from USA Today gives a good summary of the data but I would encourage people to look at the actual report.

The survey was based on 54,461 adults and has a margin of error of less than 0.5 percent.

Today, Feb 12th 2009, is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and this year is the 150th Anniversary of the publishing of the Origin of Species. It isn’t hyperbole to state that the concept of the Evolution of Species by the process of Natural Selection may be the single most important concept in biology. It may also be the best supported fact in all biology and provides a grand unifying theory for looking at life on this planet. This Theory (not “just a theory” but a fact supported by many lines of evidence) also broke the church’s hold on the study of life and, as such, invites repeated attacks by various religious organizations. They rightly see that evolution is a dangerous idea when it comes to exposing their theology as simple myth and threatens to deprive them of the power they seek over the minds and hearts of their followers. This attack has come in the form of Scientific Creationism and, recently, the Intelligent Design movement both of which are scientifically bankrupt.

In order to help you get a good grasp on the wonder and excitement of Evolutionary Theory I am providing a list of brief list of basic resources. Enjoy!

Resources:

Origin of Species by Charles Darwin or download here PDF

Kitzmiller vs Dover Ruling (PDF)

The Devil in Dover by Lauri Lebo

Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne

Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Ten Major Flaws of Evoution – A Refutation by Steven Novella

National Geographic UK – Professor Richard Dawkins on Darwin (5 Parts)

Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed by John Rennie (Scientific America) There are additional links at the end of the article.

15 Evolutionary Gems (Nature, Jan 2009, PDF)

Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Young and Edis (eds)

UnIntelligent Design by Mark Perakh

On the lighter side of the news and just in time for holiday giving…

Reserve your spot in:

Heaven

or

Hell

They claim it’s 100% guaranteed! Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving. Hey, why take a chance with your eternal destiny. Just in case. You never know. It could be true. Do I sense a Pascal’s Wager coming into play here?

I think I would rather have a pet rock.

Faith-Based Politics, The Obama Way

If this article is true, I’m not that excited about this shift. True, it’s better than what we had under Bush, but why can’t we just leave religion out of politics? Why does every politician feel they have to drag their religion into the public sphere?

Kathleen Parker had a very good editorial in the newspaper today on Evangelicals are killing the Republicans. I think she gets it: “But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian.” I can only hope for the day when the political machinery of this nation realizes this too.

Is anyone else disturbed by the idea of “Faith-Based Pharmacies“? As the article says, several pharmacies across the nation are experimenting with the idea. The Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy in VA sells no candy, no sodas and no birth control, even if the person has a prescription for one. While this may be a minor thing to some, what happens if someone’s religion forces them to abhor homosexuality and premarital sex (or anything else)? What’s next? Do they refuse to dispense AIDS medication because the person may be gay? Do they refuse to give treatment for STDs if unmarried because that would just be encouraging premarital sex? What about vaccinating teens against HPV? What about refusing to dispense drugs to people because you don’t like they way they look or dress? Maybe you even refuse to serve anyone who isn’t your brand of Christianity? After all, refusing to sell birth control is basically saying all other Christians that believe it is ok are wrong and evil. Where will it stop? Maybe these are extreme examples and then again, maybe not. As early as 2006 a pharmacy refused to fill prescriptions for abortion-related antibiotics and pregnancy-related vitamins that was prescribed by a women’s health and abortion provider (http://archcitypundit.com/2006/04/12/pharmacy-refuses-to-dispense-antibiotics-vitamins-prescribed-by-abortion-clinic/). It will be a sad day when a pharmacy can legally refuse to fill prescriptions for people based on their “moral” standards. Is it more moral to prevent a pregnancy or bring into the world an unwanted baby? Is it more moral to prevent a person from dying from sepsis because she had an abortion or giving an antibiotic? And they say that morality comes from religion!

“Brother Richard” of Atheist Nexus and Life Without Faith has posted an open letter to “Pastor” Rick Warren of Saddleback Church regarding the Presidental “debate” held there a few days ago. It is well worth reading (http://lifewithoutfaith.com/index.php?/archives/69-An-Open-Letter-To-Pastor-Rick-Warren.html).

For those that don’t know, Rick Warren is an extremely influential evangelical leader who was made famous by the publication of his book “The Purpose Driven Life“. The book’s goal is to teach Christians how to live the Christian (purpose driven) life. Basically, there are no accidents, God is control of everything, and you have a divinely appointed plan made just for you. While it’s popularity is unmistakable, it’s full of drivel, cherry-picked scriptures, out of context biblical quotes, and really bad psychology. For a devastating critique of the book, see Robert Price’s “The Reason Driven Life“.

It’s sad that both presidential candidates felt the need to cater to this man and his church.