Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Expelled" From The Garden?

I used to really respect Ben Stein but his newest fiasco, the movie Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed is more than just embarrassing, its a thinly veiled wolf-pack of lies dressed up in pseudoscientific sheep's-clothing that we've seen once or twice before.
It's a rehash of an attempt to have the junk science of Creationism taught in schools again in the guise of Intelligent Design. The whole thing leaves me deeply saddened.

It would be nice if any of the accusations of a conspiracy of Science to "hush up" Intelligent Design in general were backed up by even the most meager of facts but unfortunately, there's not a one.

Their main point that intelligent design is under systematic attack by the Scientific Community, who won't recognize its scientific validity because of a previous commitment to atheism and materialism, is both laughable and unbelievable in the extreme.

The facts are that the arguments of intelligent design have been examined by the scientific community and found to be lacking in practical usefulness or confirmable truth. The Scientific Community declines to accept intelligent design because the purveyors of intelligent design haven't performed any research, tests or theory-building required by the Scientific method...nor do they want to, regardless of the fact they want intelligent design to be called science.

This movie also contains some of the most base and sad propaganda against scientists themselves, portraying them uniformly as atheists with an agenda, no better than Nazi eugenicists, whereas many scientists have no problem leading spiritual lives and can somehow manage to keep religion firmly separated from the empirical, testable, repeatable scientific truths of the universe we live in.

Evolution itself is portrayed as some sort of religion instead of the underlying and unifying principal of modern biology, genetics and biochemistry. Even a first year biology student could refute these so-called facts with ease and show conclusive, testable, repeatable evidence to all but the most pigheadedly ignorant that evolution is a fact and can be measured and quantified showing changes in mere generations or tracing the telltale trail of mitochondrial DNA down the human path to ancestors like Lucy and beyond.

The so-called scientists that are trotted out are the same crackpots we've seen time and time again as well as people with no or dubious accreditation.

Its a shame that some people will cling to this vapid propaganda for comfort or allow it to replace real knowledge in schools or, worse yet, drum this crap into the heads of our children at home.

The type of people creating this propaganda are attempting to weaken the Constitution in an effort to promote their brand of spirituality as science. It's not good science and it's pretty shallow spirituality.

This world is becoming a demon-haunted rest stop on the way to the reward of the Afterlife for many ignorant people instead of the joyous celebration of the wonderful mysteries of Life and the Universe we are all part of. A society that turns its back on reason in favor of ideology is ripe for a theocratic take-over, and not necessarily an overt one. I find that terrifying in the extreme.

Here's a couple of interesting videos aimed at clarifying some of the issues - the first video is especially telling:

Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists

Of Pandas and People: Intelligent Design in Schools

Of course some of the best resources are found with the Union of Concerned Scientists and The National Center for Science Education.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Canal 22

Another fun image I've been working on for a while. This started out as a digicam image of a foggy alley I took a few years back. Through judicious use of a pressure-sensitive tablet and stylus, I've "painted it into" something quite different:

Becoming Empty

To identify with and connect with The Universal, to "become empty enough to be filled" is, to me, one of the highest attainments possible in this mortal coil.

This practice requires the annihilation of the illusory self each of us has created and reinforced with our habits of thinking and living - The interior dialog, that little voice in your head, the reels of memories, the worry, the fear, the images flashing by, the melodies, the constant thinking. Anything that distracts from becoming empty, becoming silent, must be quashed.

There are myriad components of the Self: The Thinker, The Creator, The Worker, The Poet, The Grouch, The Singer, The Hedonist, etc...
You must become only The Observer, the one that watches all these others, the one who is only Being.

There are myriad paths to this goal. The key is to stop the restless brain from thinking and achieve an internal silence or emptiness. One might simply begin quieting all the internal voices by denying each thought that appears in one's head by simultaneously affirming its opposite and thereby annihilating both.

The Zen breathing exercise of Zazen or the chanting exercises of Mantra Yoga are even better methods. Other disciplines and meditations will work as well or better, depending on the proclivities of the individual. The scientific method must be implemented to find the vehicle which works best for each of us and, most importantly, has repeatable and consistent results.

The travel on this path is arduous, mined with the distraction of the Body and the Brain. The eye cannot "see" itself and is itself unnoticed in use - the Universe is like this as well, suffusing us completely but completely unnoticed and unseen. Once the distractions are quieted, ordinary temporal worries become less important and the path becomes more visible with each step. Epiphany in the form of personal identification with the Universe itself is the reward.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I've noticed a tendency many people have that is interesting in the extreme. People tend to turn each other into "mirrors" without thinking - almost on a subconscious level. Mirrors in the sense that, in the back of their minds, people think others have the same set of beliefs, values and morality as themselves. When pressed or in acute conflict people will state otherwise but by their actions and words they betray their belief that other people are just like themselves and when there is evidence to the contrary it's just an aberration and the rest must surely be equivalent. The other party will surely come around to the "correct" point of view.

If the evidence to the contrary persists then the mirror shatters and the US/THEM paradigm is embraced. This tends to amplify the tendency of people in the "US" group to turn each other into mirrors. Of course all those awful people in the "THEM" group must all be "wrong" in some homogeneous manner as well. ;)

Blankets like Politics and Religion are prime fields for this behavior.

Tendencies like "mirroring" that encourage the transformation of groups of individuals into a homogeneous Mob should be subdued while those that allow individuals to celebrate each others differences (as well as similarities) should be reinforced. The cultural pressures all seem to pull us in the opposite direction and it is up to us to see something more than just our own reflections around us.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Assumption

This is a piece I've been working on for some time now. The actual print will be about 26" on the long side. The title is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Roman Catholic iconification of Mary as she was always shown in blue.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reclaiming the Universe

The subject of the existence or nonexistence of the "spirit" or Soul is a prickly one for most people, throwing them into strictly black and white camps. To my mind it all boils down to how you define Soul. Some view the Soul as a non-material "self", others as the "Ground of Being", others as "wishful thinking" powered by the fear of nonexistence...to me it is none of these things.

For a man like myself, once branded a Secular Humanist by zealots, once called a "Spiritual Atheist" by a friend, it's a tricky proposition. Just because I'm a secular humanist doesn't mean I'm not spiritual. I'm of the manifest understanding that the Universe of time/matter/space/infinity is itself sentient, though not a Deity by any means, it just is what it is...more like a Mind, if you prefer - though this Mind is as beyond ours as our mind is beyond a Praying Mantis. I believe that "religious experiences" of "Universal connection" or "Universal equivalence" or even more mundane epiphanies are junctures where we participate in this Mind, or Soul, for a frozen moment and the illusory self we cling to is momentarily overcome.

We are fractal fragments of that Mind, or Soul, our patterns reflecting those of the larger whole - the Universe itself. Another applicable analogy would be that of a hologram. Like a shattered hologram, each piece shows the original image but with less detail. This Soul we are all component parts of is in no way connected to what we mistakingly perceive as Self - the collected chemical baggage of opinions, attitudes, beliefs, memories, hopes and fears encoded in our brains during our brief series of cycles around the sun.

We are the concious, self-aware expression of the Infinite, dancing at the bottom of a gravity well, blind to who and what we are - the Universe itself - our heritage, birthright and Soul.