Posts Tagged ‘ Neil deGrasse Tyson ’

Remember … The Dream? The Day It Died?

It’s that time again, Memorial day. A time to remember the dead. Those innumerable lives lost in the wars against ideologies, aggression, and often in aid of promoting ignorance and greed. We are far from being a pacifist race. We hairless apes like a good dust up. The more violent the better, right? MMA, Boxing, Roller Derby? Remember them?



The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers’ graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there. There is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia decorated soldiers’ graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, PA, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day. — Wikipedia


Celebrating and remembering the dead is the best you can do after you decided to send them off to die? It seems the decent thing to do, right? Just monkeys killing monkeys killing monkeys…


The value of war …


Remember the dead of wars

Nagasaki remembers…

We saw Hiroshima today — or what little is left of it. We were so shocked with what we saw that most of us felt like weeping; not out of sympathy for the Japs but because we were revolted by this new and terrible form of destruction. Compared to Hiroshima, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne are practically untouched … The sickly sweet smell of death is everywhere.

  — photographer Bernard Hoffman — September 3, 1945, to LIFE’s long-time picture editor, Wilson Hicks

Yes, remembering the dead is the best thing that we can do. There’s no point in thanking them silently before picking up and spending all the war money on space travel. There’s no point really in thinking their sacrifices are really worth something more than creating space between this war and the next. Lets not forget the past, lets live there. Lets not look to the future… it’s a daft and scary place. Just ask Neil:
Yes, remember the dead and what they died for. When we stop dreaming it will be all we have left to do.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

It’s Just Half A Penny! Get Me To The Sea!

My readers will generally know that I’ve been a fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. You’ll be relieved to hear that I still am.


Spread this one around. Every senator and congressional representative needs to see this, again and again.




As She Lay Dying

After Christopher Hitchens’ death, there has been the occasional post from atheists about death. I read them, glibly moved on to the next. It was interesting how people talk of their atheism and how they won’t turn to god in that moment when death hits them in the face with the cold steel of a scythe. How brave Hitchens was to the very end, what an inspiration he was and is.

We all look around for direction when we are thrust into the unknown. The vacuum of our experience is that one darkest place: death. Poetic, and with trepidation we tip toe our way toward it even when it is not our own. Taking care not to disturb it for fear it will be cranky and want more. As though we are skulking in a dark room, afraid to touch anything for fear it will harm us or that we’ll break something. Never curious, never exploring. This one mountain we all climb alone and never return to share the stories of the trip. A dream that does not end, perhaps. A door that will not open twice. Our meager dalliances here cannot distance us from that door. Each of us will walk through it, alone, ignorant, perhaps more alive than we have ever been.

Today I was told that my grandmother is in the hospital, probably the last place she will ever see. After more than 90 years her body is giving out.  She’s lived a long time. I hope to live longer. So there it is. I did not watch the door open. I was told about it from afar. I can’t say good bye. She’s already kind of checked out.

There are a few things to say about her as there should be about anyone.When I was young and decided that I was learning what it meant to be an adult, her life made an impact on mine. In a way she lives on through me. My desire to write and be artistic comes directly from her. I’m writing a short story inspired by her. She was and is an inspiration to me. As much as Hitchens was an inspiration, his life could not touch mine the way hers did. In 50 years she may not be remembered by anyone with a voice. She will be remembered not because people talk of her, but because she affected others and their lives have changed a little bit. As much as any human can affect the course of humanity she has, in her part of the world.

  • Through her I am listed in the DAR
  • She was taller than my grandfather and outlived him by 40+ years
  • She was a painter and artist
  • She made award winning sculptures (Bell Tower)
  • She taught art in a local college
  • She worked in a working historical museum, she could make lye soap, candles, can her own food
  • She was self sufficient in a man’s world, you didn’t want to be in her way
  • She worked in a library
  • She worked in a Goodwill store
  • She lived through the great depression and World War II in one of the poorest parts of our country
  • She had a strong sense or awareness of the changes the last 100 years have brought – I think is befuddled her at times
  • She wrote and published a book – A Story Of A Christian Woman
  • She always sent hand written letters
  • She “did not go gently into that good night
  • They had to confiscate her driving license
  • She buried one husband and tended the next as he slowly lost his mind to Alzheimer’s
  • She had thousands of pictures of our family, the curator of photos ( I wish I had them now )
  • She enjoyed flower gardens and grew very lovely gardens herself
  • She made good stone soup
  • Both she and my grandfather shared full names (first and last) with famous authors or academics or both
  • She could make a grand holiday event by rubbing two pennies together
  • She was a devout Christian woman, her son became an evangelical preacher
  • She told me of seeing his ghost/spirit visit her the night my grandfather died
  • She was fun to be with
  • Everyone counted on her
  • She loved to laugh and hear stories about her family, children, and grand children
  • She helped out a lot of people around her, giving more than you would think she could have in savings
  • She always had a kind word
  • She talked of her death 30+ years before it became remotely possible
  • She loved me honestly, the kind of way I wish everyone knew and experienced
  • She took me to Blennerhassett island for a day. We talked of history and our place. The history of the family and eventually visited the original family farm (purchased on immigration to the US). She had a strong understanding of her/our place in history and time.
  • She once arranged for musicians to give me a personal concert on three styles of Dolcimer. I still love the sound of the hammer dolcimer.
  • She stupidly gave money to televangelists
  • She saved S&H Greenstamps to buy me a guitar as a child
  • If there is a god, he’s up shit creek now. She’ll keep him busy fixing things for a very long time. She doesn’t like to be told no, or that it can’t be done, or that it will take too long.
  • It would not be out of character to hear her say something like “I don’t know much about transmissions, but if you’ll help me we can fix this old thing. Your grandpa left some tools. What do you say? Hang on, I’ll go get some gloves.”
  • As a child, I can tell you that she knew everything. I know she didn’t but she made us feel that way: safe, unafraid.

I look around the world today. I don’t see many women like her. I don’t think that they ever made many like her. Strong of character, strong of back, boundless energy, the kind of person that you knew almost instantly that you wanted to have on your side whether it was for kickball or petitioning the governor for new funds to fix the local streets. He eventually capitulated and got the streets fixed.

The world will miss her. I will miss her. I am certain that I would not be who I am today had I not known her.

If her only contribution to this world was to inspire myself and others, she out did herself. It wasn’t the only contribution she made. The seemingly unstoppable has finally come to rest.

Good bye Maxine

The Softer Side Of Mechanical Atheism

I didn’t quite get this one posted when I wanted, but these two videos popped into my world at the same moment almost. Everybody should know I’m a supporter of the work Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing and that I enjoy the way that he does it. Everyone from 5 years old to 95 years old can understand and learn from NdGT. More on that after the videos.

Naming Rights

This video is not for the mechanical atheist. Well, maybe it is. This is the feel good, nicely colored, aesthetic version of how I consider my world view. This is the emotional atheist side of my world view or at least some of it. Some of the important parts of it. The question of meaning, purpose, and peanut butter cannot be easily handled with mechanical explanations. They more often require the emotional explanation. This is a good one as far as that goes. Enjoy…

The Center Of All Things – not

No, NASA has not done anything special with peanut butter nor do I think it essential for humanity’s future. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t stop eating peanut butter, not by a long shot. I just think that there are things which cannot effectively be explained with the mechanics to every audience. Those were just three of them.

I’m not sure that the mechanical atheist point of view is all that palatable for many. Well, this is the emotional atheist side of the same coin. In case anyone was wondering, I like this side too.

Oh, okay… here’s the peanut butter reference

Damn those tricky theist scientists.

On naming things.  I kind of thought I had invented a term “mechanical atheism” and atheist etc. A Google search turns up an article about men long dead who appear to have used the term also. Well, na na na, I’m still going to use it as I have defined it here on this blog. It’s a short article, read it.

I don’t think that I’ve ruined the term at all though. Hmmm

Mechanism, in the sense of mechanistic philosophy as it is currently conceived, shares with its ancient roots the sense of power and ability. For according to this philosophy, the organization of the universe, including living things, is entirely explicable by the “mechanical” laws of physics and chemistry. As William Provine puts it,

the world is organized in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable. (25)

This Is Why…

This is why you should, at best, find religion a doubtful set of myths and superstitions.


Ask yourself why your pastor or priest is not telling you these things. Ask why your religion does not explain about the universe other than to say your creator god did it. Why doesn’t your holy text cover black holes, nuclear energy, electricity, and so many other things in your daily life. For all you know, driving in a car could be one of many unforgivable sins but they didn’t cover that in the holy text so you won’t know.

Oh sure, these are different times, but why didn’t the most powerful and omniscient being in the world see fit to explain some of the stuff from the future so as to truly be a guide to his special friends? He could have given them some useful stuff, like forks or perhaps better sailing ships, or maybe even an accurate depiction of the solar system and it’s place in the galaxy. There are millions of ways that such a deity could have improved the lives of those special friends he supposedly put on this planet. Yet your deity did none of them. Why is your church not telling you about this? What happened when you asked? Post in the comments about what the reaction was from your church.

Why is it that your pastor or priest etc. will not show this video before their Sunday preaching? Why? You might as well ask why your pastor or priest etc. doesn’t want you to ask the questions and doesn’t want to answer them if you do.

I challenge believers to present this video to their church leaders and ask them what their response is. I’d be happy to post those responses here or have you post them in the comments.

My World View – Atheism As A Label

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I support Neil deGrasse Tyson in a large way, even if this video has a point.



NDT stumbled into this argument by accident because … well, he isn’t concerned about the same things as atheists and hasn’t thought that much about it. He’s a busy man and doesn’t have time to view every possible news source for non-belief.

Atheist is a damned fine word. So is anti-theist. I’m one of those. The latter.

I speak for no other atheist, no other atheist speaks for me. Those who think the label implies a world view are wrong, not mistaken, but wrong. Unfortunately, there are enough such people that NDT has a point. Just as importantly, ZOMGitsCriss has a point too. The golf argument is wrong. The reason that there is a word for non-belief is exactly as she states. If only 10% of the world believed in gods, it would be a useless word. This is not the case currently, so the word does have a use; does have a meaning.

He will have learned this lesson by now. Deriding him for it is somewhat pointless, but I think this video does a good job of saying what needs to be said without being negative. What do you think?

Belief Does Not Matter

This post of thoughts comes to you via several hours working on my lawn. With my morning coffee I read a post by One World. Many Gods. In the post the author talks about the sheer inspiration at the immensity of the universe and the dumbfounding insignificance of humanity in that largest expanse of harsh uncaring existence.

To quote the post:

Every time I read this it sends chills down my spine.  I think very few people realize the significance of this fact and I don’t think I could put it in better words then Carl Sagan.  So I ask that you read this several times and let the gravity of   his words sink in.

From the video:

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

I have had a few things to say about Neil deGrasse Tyson in the past week so it is at this moment that I can think of no better time than to try to highlight what it is that he does so very well. Where Mr Sagan has stopped, Mr Tyson continues the journey as if he is simply the next stage in the rocket that is space exploration. If there are humans that can inspire us as much as the shear immensity of the universe, I think Sagan and Tyson are those kind of humans.

He worries. I worry with him. Vote wisely people. Our future depends on it.


In Defense Of Neil deGrasse Tyson

… and those atheists that are not the same kind of atheist as other atheists. To start, lets look at the video that Hemant Mehta wrote at When Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Start Using the Arguments of Christian Apologists?

Hemant, you’re wrong. If all your allies must be like you and think like you, you will have few allies. Not believing in gods and the supernatural does not commit you to any particular world view, rather it means you probably can’t hold certain world views in light of that disbelief. Clearly, not believing in gods or the supernatural does not make you an ardent atheist because you can also be an agnostic.  Tyson gives the right reasons for not being concerned about atheism and the secular movement. He *IS* a very busy man who is working hard to help fix the politics of science and promote science and NASA etc. His plate is full. Just see my post I Don’t Give A Damn to get some understanding of why those are good reasons.

Hemant, I don’t particularly like all that you do either and do not feel a need to run out and support the ‘atheist cause’ at every opportunity. While I might be criticized for not doing enough you absolutely cannot criticize Tyson for not doing enough. He is fighting the battles that  you can’t and doing a damned good job of it too. If being an atheist meant I had to side with you on everything and think the way that you do I’d become an agnostic too. Yes, you are off base on this one.  Atheism is not about conformity, it’s about not believing. That’s it. Everything else is something else. Yes, Tyson is probably an atheist and might say so when thinking about it more gets high on his to-do list. In the mean time he is on the side of rational thinking and sane behavior and above ALL else he is in support of science, the natural enemy of religion. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, even if they don’t actively appear to be your ally.

I’d say ‘cut the guy some slack’ but I’m not writing to tell you how harsh to treat him, I’m writing to tell you that you are wrong. You do no one a service by trash talking natural allies to your own cause. Shame on you.

%d bloggers like this: