Showing posts with label Powerpoint Presentation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Powerpoint Presentation. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

War on Science Presentation for NYCA

Last night I presented a program on the war on science for the New York City Atheists. Note that I did not put the word "religious" before the title. This is not because we are blind to the combined vantage point of history and also the ignorance displayed in modern times as we watch the encroachment of religious faith into secular law, science, politics and our educational system. They're all visible for us to see and when a loss does occur in favor of faith-based living within the realm of the public square, it endangers both democracy and secularism.

Here is a link to the powerpoint from last night. You can also find it by going to my personal website and clicking the "presentations" tab.!presentations

To be fair and balanced, denial of science information is not wholly owned by those who would choose prayer instead of medicine, support Intelligent Design instead of Natural Selection, or who favor the biblical story of creation rather than modern cosmology, biology, geology and physics. In fact those who attempt to deny the civil and human rights of others based on interpretation of scripture appear to be on the losing end if the recent elections are any guide. Ultimately, it is their belief in total absolutes which makes faith and other dogma such a dangerous human construct when channeled into politics and secular governing policies.

There are multiple reasons why authority figures and those who hold or want power wish to outright deny or hope to delay what science information and the answers it can provide to humanity from being shared and acknowledged as rational  truth. Many times the reasons for denying science discovery deal with political, philosophical or economic realities and authoritarian dogma.

When secular science breaks the narrative of organized faith or other controlling influences, those influences have but three choices in response. They must bend and adapt to the new realities that the scientific information provides, they can ignore it and hope it goes away, or finally work to silence the information and those who provide it.

But regardless if the denial comes from the left, center or right; from governments or organizations, or from communities or school boards, the war on science is ultimately a war on individual and collective freedom.

This war makes censorship and the maintenance of the status quo dual and parallel initiatives to control the democratic rights of others to hold and express  ideas, use the tools of science to investigate and learn, and to have and make free inquiry. This restriction or supression of information ensures that those who have or seek authority over others will have their "truth" remain the pinnacle concept and remain everyone's truth. 

I did a post on the concept and dangers of thinking in absolutes some time ago and it remains one of the site's most popular reads. Absolutism in religious faith, that is the view that all is predestined or that all answers can come from one single book ultimately leads to censorship and other forms of torture, whether it be an attack on the human mind, body or spirit or its collective destruction of community, rationality and culture.

But one collective narrative is something that good science and most if not all scientists abhor. Especially if you look at how much science and all its allied fields have changed our human experience over the centuries  and most certainly within the last 100 years.

Science, because of its requirement for evidence, changes and adapts to gain an approximation of what we consider truth based on the current models we use to explore and understand our world and the universe. To put it simply, science changes and evolves to serve humanity like no other human thought process or physical enterprise could.

Comprised in this free investigation are our hopes for survival and shared well-being. So to deny science and discovery in favor of religious or other dogma is then antithetical to love and truth while at the same time it places human security below one's own biased beliefs. That is always dangerous and never has a happy ending.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

NYCA Powerpoint Presentation

Attached is the link to my website,

At the very bottom on the page, you'll see a link entitled, "NYCA Presentation, May 26, 2011."  Please click that link and it will allow access to my slides. 

Happy to share!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Transcript of my Talk @ the NYC Atheists Meeting, Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Librarian/Anthropologist Looks at
 Big and Little History
Thank you Dennis and Ken and thank you all for offering me an opportunity to speak with you this evening.  It has been a long time since I’ve felt so at home. Being amongst fellow free-thinkers, atheists and humanists, brings out the best in me since as a person who deeply believes in science and truly lacks religious faith, I feel as though I am with people who accept my worldview and set of beliefs. [PPT 1] These beliefs at their core are positive, a trust in science, the scientific method and our collective humanity, and a distrust of the god concept, religion and an afterlife, and those peddling such falsehoods.[PPT2]
The topic of tonight’s meeting is "BIG HISTORY". Or as Carl Sagan in his groundbreaking series "COSMOS" called it back in the 1970's, the cosmic calendar. [PPT 3] This history spans billions of years and fills the void of space with the random and accidental growth and eventual extinction of whole galaxies, worlds and species. You may ask, isn’t history just history? Perhaps it is if we wish to limit ourselves to a singular scholarly pursuit or time period. But big history is special because it can best be defined as the study of everything, time and spaces’ interconnectedness with our universe and the living world which we all share and have both a biologic and social interest to perpetuate.
If there is a BH, there must be something to compare it to. So yes, there must be Little History. LH, for the sake of this evening’s talk (and which is actually my area of specialty) can be considered the last 8 million years of life on the planet. As time permits, we'll look more closely at our own species eventual place in big history’s tapestry of evolution. [PPT 4].
And just a note of self-deprecation, [PPT 5] I freely admit that I am not the central authority on tonight’s topic of BIG HISTORY (Although I do warn you that I have a Ph.D. which gives me the authority to talk about any topic ad nausea).
But first a little about me [PPT 6] and how I came to Atheism. I began to question the god concept as an eight year old boy, asking the BIG questions that BIG and LITTLE history best answers. These questions were, if there is a god, why does he allow for suffering?  Why do religions all have different gods? Why have so many people been killed in the name of god throughout history?  What about the retired gods of ancient times?  Religion never had a rational or satisfactory answer. As an adult and as an anthropologist I can answer these questions very simply with no need for a drawn out philosophical or ontological statement.  The simple truth is, and what B&L history shows us is that man creates god in his image and not the other way.

As a librarian and library director, I seek to bring researchers information that is timely, unbiased, and truthful. This is done to continue a tradition going back several millennia, an even smaller part of little history. This way we can verify old truths or imagine and create new truths with information. Reliance on any one biblical text for truth [PPT 7] is not only anti-intellectual, but is a disservice to our kind, and will always lead to theocracy, dark ages, or some other religious despotism. If you don't believe me, ask Galileo, or in modern times those suffering under extremist religious governments across the globe today in Africa and the Middle-East.
As a professor of anthropology and researcher in the area of primatology and paleontology, I see that we are connected in ways that reliance on mythology and ownership of a personal deity can only tell a small part of our human history and through religion ever so poorly and myopically. I also realize that we cannot take B&L history for granted [PPT 8] because there are those in our nation who have to fight school boards and local governments for their children's right to learn history and science. Communities in states such as Kansas, Pennsylvania and as recently in Florida have all tried to force religion into the public square. See, despotism it isn't so exotic or that far away!
In these states and in others, evangelicals are waging war on big and little history, scientific education and scientific truth in our public schools and will sacrifice our children to the dogma of Intelligent Design. So that children will grow up knowing less, but will be obedient and easily manipulated. This is much like in Orwell's 1984, where the Newspeak dictionary removed, rather than added words. These folks understand that the less you know, the less you can imagine, and the less you can imagine makes you easier to control.  In this way, there is no big or little history, just the present.
Darwin knew big history  [PPT 9] even though modern biology wasn’t yet invented to prove him correct. He also knew the danger of those who would refute science and evolution’s role in shaping our humanity. He notes,  “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. Hence we have religious people, creationists and evolution deniers who attack secularists, see evolution as simply “theory” and rely on the bible for the truth of our origins.  They never seem to question the irrationality of faith but are happy to stop people from accessing or seeking knowledge other than what is biblical. I think they know deep down that one crack in the wall of blind faith lead will lead to a deluge of reason, a flood of big and little history so enormous, that even Noah wouldn't stand a chance!
What we've seen in our very little time in history, maybe our last 1.6 million years, and certainly within our current species and my lifetime, is that what frequently separates us is the non-acceptance of the other based on which mythical figure we accept as our personal savior and all the justifications in art, theology, philosophy, literature and culture that follow.
Whether by birth or through the ritual of being saved in some way, this idea of a special relationship with god is human narcissism that at its root creates most of the social, economic, philosophical and psychological barriers to building a bridge to a more just, moral and happy world.  Take god out of the equation and we are then forced to be here for each other as equals.
Replace the god concept [PPT 10] with science and we will have freed our species from bondage.  When we wake from the delusion, this stupor and understand that we have allowed ourselves to be slaves to god, that we are children to an unkind parent, that belief in god creates tyranny of the absolute, denial of fact and the objectification of the other.  We need to look no further than the placement of the foramen magnum of our ancient relatives and compare them to our modern primate lineage to see the truth (and dare I say somewhat subjectively) beauty of our evolution. That is the hallmark of both big and little history.
If I may digress a moment from tonight’s topic. I believe that atheists really do need to come out of the closet. We need the equivalent of a Stonewall, or ERA, or some trigger to excite and mobilize our forces. We have been stereotyped and in some cases marginalized for decades. But I have the sense that we are beginning to come into our own both socially and politically.  What we need to do right now is find both the creativity and intimacy to light a candle of wisdom and goodness and truth without the need for god.  As Eleanor Roosevelt wisely noted, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  If there is anyone in the audience or if you know someone who feels “shame, guilt or sin” for non-belief, tell them to shake off the old skin of illogic.  They are not alone in their non-belief and they should not feel sad or afraid.  They will be happier for your honesty, support of the truth and atheistic glad tidings.
So let’s begin our search for truth in science and see the truth in ourselves.  Let us focus on the topic at hand, the history of the universe and our place in it as humans. I think we need to get a bigger view of life.  A rational look at how we got here.  Not through a rib, but because as Carl Sagan notes, we are the stuff of stars. We are the cosmos and have billions of years of evolution to discuss this evening. Perhaps this is a daunting task, but certainly one that is worth the evening’s call for friendship and discussion.
The next part of our evening will look at big history as described by David Christian, a British/American Historian now at San Diego State University. The video is streamed from the TED website.  After the video, I will be taking us on a much shorter journey, a basic history through the last eight million years of our collective evolution and humanity.  After which, we’ll talk and enjoy each other’s company in a less formal manner for the rest of the evening.  Thank you.