Brunching Skeptically: 7/6/2014 at Schenley Plaza


Where: Schenley Plaza (4100 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213)

When: 7/6/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/177090232/

Come meet some like-minded folks of all ages and have a great brunch at the same time. This month, we are doing an outdoor meetup in Schenley Plaza in the heart of Oakland.  We will meet under the big tent.

Before joining the group, you should buy your brunch at one of the local vendors in the plaza (or bring your own).  Recommended are the Conflict Kitchen, which only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict (Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, etc) or Waffalonia.  There is also Asia Tea House or Opa Gyros.  You could also consider carry-out from The Porch, but the wait would be a little longer.  See menus for the Kiosks at http://www.pittsburgh….

Brunching Skeptically is brought to you by the Steel City Skeptics, which is part of the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason. For more information on these groups or our other events, go to: http://unitedcor.org/…

Pittsburgh, PA 15213 – USA

Sunday, July 6 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/177090232/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A New Proof for God?


An astronomy club friend, Richard (Dick) Haddad) presents a novel proof for the existence of God in “No Sign in the Sky: Mediations on the Problem of Evil,” a book  that even an atheist can appreciate. It is well written, honest, and original. It also is reason based. Dick has this to say to readers who would argue that the question of God’s existence should be decided by faith alone: “As I said earlier, I would be very glad to have had the gift of faith. But for better or worse, I am one of those (and our name is legion) who find it difficult to accept as truth assertions which do not appear to be consistent with reason. . . . I believe it is likely (or at least possible) that logical reasoning can establish the existence or non-existence of God, and it seems to me that both the religious and the non-religious should welcome any attempt to do so, since each side . . . . should believe that the exercise of honest logic must necessarily prove its position. Such reasoning ought to begin at some basic and unarguable point, grounding itself in self-evident truth, and to proceed from there to a necessary conclusion.”

Great. I’m on board . . . . . However, the ensuing proof is hard. Despite its grounding in cosmology and the fact that I am an amateur astronomer, I realize I am not qualified to assess it. It has something to do with infinite versus finite time, and whether everything that could happen will happen in infinite time, and the fact that we do not see “Heat Death” (when the universe decays to just radiation), which is where the universe should be by now if time is infinite. Hmmm . . . I almost follow the argument. However, I suspect there is a flaw in it somewhere.

Here are the outlines of my own intuition as to why there may be a flaw: Let’s say for the sake of argument that time is infinite. If so, isn’t it strange that I am alive NOW!? Well, no. . . . it’s not strange. There is no other moment I could be experiencing. Perhaps time just is an illusion and in actuality everything exists at once, like an equation for the whole universe, or computer program. The only way a conscious entity within the program of the universe would be able to experience anything is going “forward” along the arrow of time. If so, it is no wonder that the part of the program that is “Ann” is experiencing “now” as 2014, just as the part of the program that is Benjamin Franklin experienced now as 1706 to 1790. And no part of the program is going to be able to experience “Heat Death” (when the universe turn to all radiation).

So to summarize, “No Sign in the Sky,” is a worthy exercise. I hope someone more qualified than me will assess Dick’s mediation. However, for myself, I no longer engage deeply with these sorts of arguments and here is why. As the example above illustrates, the only arguments for the existence of God that are not easily dismissed are extremely difficult to follow. So we know that whatever kind of God is being proved by them, it is not the kind of God who is trying very hard to show himself. No kind of God is trying hard to contact me. Like Dick, I “lack the gift of faith.” If God’s message is so important, why is it so hidden?*

Also the Gods that are proven through these exercises are always perfect, just, and consistent (a huge improvement over the gods recommended to me by actually existing religions), but this also means they can be safely ignored. Their perfection means that they are not needy for praise or demanding my adoration. They are not constantly changing their minds or their universe by intervening with tiny miracles. They are not doing much of anything other than giving “Good” rather than “Bad” their official seal of approval. (Of course they cannot approve “Bad” and still be perfect.)

But “Good” is already better than “Bad.” If “God” has nothing more to say to us other than the tautology that “Good is Good,” do we really need him?

Philosophical God (the God proved by philosophy), if he exists, is goodness itself and requires nothing more from me than to be good. To go farther than this we must turn to “Revelation.” Dick mentions revelation as a way to learn more about God, but to his credit, he does not pursue it. This may be because the gods of purported revelation are temperamental and even genocidal maniacs. They are self-contradictory in many ways and, as such, do not appeal to people who like logic (or just common sense). These almost certainly fictional characters do offer a few gems of wisdom mixed with the nonsense, but nothing so special that I can’t find it elsewhere.

Dick’s philosophical God wants us to balance the principles of 1) living in harmony with the universe and 2) surviving and prospering. Dick has described our moral predicament perfectly, drawing on the greatest thinkers (philosophers and scientists) who have ever lived (I am looking at this impressive bibliography).

It does give me pause when a secular philosopher says there may be something to that ontological proof for the existence of God. If the smartest people in the world ever do manage to prove a god who has something important to say, somebody please call me.

 

(The book “No Sign in the Sky” by Richard Y. Haddad (2003) published by World Association Publishers is available at Amazon.)

*In the “Afterthought” Dick admits this point (that the difficulty of proving God, even if it can be done, is somewhat troubling): “But now, having at last arrived at the conclusion of my long search, I find I have certain reservations, not about the validity of my reasoning nor the truth of my conclusions . . . but about the usefulness of all this to people in general . . . It has become plain to me that at almost every step of my proof a reader will require some familiarity with words that have depths beyond everyday connotations, and with concepts that will require some study to see clearly. People are unlikely to be acquainted with all the scraps of information from various disciplines that have been advanced during the course of my argument and it is my feeling now that to grasp the full weight of the logic, it is necessary to make specials studies. Not everyone is inclined or has the time to do that. . . . At the beginning of my search I more or less took for granted that if I presented a logical proof of the existence of God, I would be giving an answer sufficient for questions about the matter. I was mistaken.” The author concludes that the exercise was at least useful to him and perhaps will be to others.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

2014 convention planning meetings: 7/5/2014 at Panera Bread


Where: Panera Bread (3401 Blvd Of The Allies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 7/5/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/189196072/

The purpose of this meeting is to help with the planning of the PA Atheist/Humanist Conference at the end of August.  Look for us in the meeting room, but if it has been taken by another group, we will most likely be in the open room in the back of the restaurant.

It is a business meeting rather than a social event, but newcomers that want to help with conference are welcome to join us.

Pittsburgh – USA

Saturday, July 5 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/189196072/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SCOTUS Okays Psychological Torture of Sluts


Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down Massachusetts’ law creating safety/buffer zones around abortion clinics and women’s health centers. This law was intended to protect women choosing to use the legal services that these facilities offered from harassment and intimidation by protestors and other anti-choice activists – usually religious zealots.

Thankfully, they did not completely strike down the whole concept of safety zones as the anti-choice zealots wanted, but they did enough damage that it ensures that millions of women can be psychologically tortured with the Court’s blessing. It seems that what the Court has said is that as long as you are pretending to be civil and are not shouting, you can torment and psychologically abuse women who have made the agonizing decision to terminate their unwanted pregnancy. Because, of course, as everyone knows, any woman/girl who finds herself pregnant (when she did not intend to be) is a slut – because the patriarchs of a primitive tribe of ancient goat-herders said so. And slut shaming is good for society – just ask Rush Limbaugh and the abstinence-only crowd.

Personally, I think allowing the so-called “counselors” full access may be even more insidious than the protestors screaming at their victims. Since they approach their victims pretending that they want to help them, and then betray that trust by abusing them psychologically, it is even more damaging than having to deal with the shouts and slurs of the known enemy – the loud-mouthed protestors. Just ask any child victim of sexual abuse – it is the betrayal of trust that does as much or more damage than anything else.

So yesterday was another bad day for women’s rights and generally rational attitudes toward human sexuality. The unfortunate thing is that we’ve had way too many of these bad days recently.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

CFI Social Night: 7/1/2014 at Sharp Edge Bistro


Where: Sharp Edge Bistro (922 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

When: 7/1/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/189218362/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the Center For Inquiry’s monthly social night, held every first Tuesday of the month at the Sharp Edge in the Cultural District downtown.  Come and socialize with like-minded friends.

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accomodations.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222 – USA

Tuesday, July 1 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/189218362/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2014 convention planning meetings: 6/28/2014 at Panera Bread


Where: Panera Bread (3401 Blvd Of The Allies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 6/28/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/187883002/

The purpose of this meeting is to help with the planning of the PA Atheist/Humanist Conference at the end of August.  Look for us in the meeting room, but if it has been taken by another group, we will most likely be in the open room in the back of the restaurant.

It is a business meeting rather than a social event, but newcomers that want to help with conference are welcome to join us.

Pittsburgh – USA

Saturday, June 28 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/187883002/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CFI Monthly Lecture and Movie Night!: 6/25/2014 at First Unitarian Church


Where: First Unitarian Church (605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213)

When: 6/25/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/184324222/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to CFI’s monthly lecture and movie night series! 

Each month we alternate between a lecture and a movie. Both feature a variety of topics from science to skepticism to humanism and beyond.  We often have time for great discussions or Q&A sessions afterward, too.

This month we’re kicking off the start of a new school year with episode four of the 1978 BBC documentary series Connections by James Burke!  We watched the first three episodes back in January and August of 2013 (each episode stands alone).

Connections is a documentary devoted to showing how the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events–that the interplay of many isolated events is what drives history and innovation. Read more about Connections here.

See you there!

P.S.  We usually head to Ali Baba’s on nearby Craig Street at 5:30 p.m. for a pre-lecture or pre-movie dinner. Please leave a comment below if you are coming to dinner so we can include you in the reservation. Thanks!

P.S.S.  In cooperation with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, we are collecting nonperishable food items every month at this event. Please consider bringing an item to place in the collection box. Thanks!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accommodations.


Pittsburgh, PA 15213 – USA

Wednesday, June 25 at 7:00 PM

Fee: Suggested Donation: USD 5.00 per person

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/184324222/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Science & Skepticism Book Discussion: Do You Believe in Magic? by Paul Offit\, MD: 6/22/2014 at Biddle’s Escape


Where: Biddle’s Escape (401 Biddle Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15221)

When: 6/22/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/179658442/

Note: we may change to an outdoor venue. We will notify you if there is a different location.

The full title of the book includes “The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.” Paul Offit is a pediatrician and professor of vaccinology and co-developed a rotavirus vaccine that has saved hundreds of lives. The review (see link) says “Offit is a wonderful storyteller who makes his message come alive. Each chapter is a story that grabs the reader’s interest and holds it. http://www.csicop.org…

Pittsburgh, PA 15221 – USA

Sunday, June 22 at 2:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/179658442/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Joy of Ice Hockey


If, as seems to be the case, we have only one life to live, it makes sense to play ice hockey. Hockey is a way to fit maximum fun into any finite space of time—typically an hour, but sometimes a luxurious hour and a half, if we’re playing the last game of the night and the Zamboni driver isn’t in a hurry to get home. A Christian minister I knew once argued that hockey is like a prayer. Hockey is NOT like a prayer, but I can guess what prompted her to say it. One is totally in-the-moment while chasing a puck. Time slows to a crawl. Every move, is a slow-motion reel: an exhilarating hyper-reality hitting all the senses at once.

Oddly pains seem to disappear for the length of the game. It is often only later that one discovers the bruise from blocking a shot. One can perform impossible feats and survive spectacular spills and crashes while wrapped in all that padding.

And then there is the camaraderie. Oh yes, there are the rare fights, and the meltdowns, and the people getting thrown out of rinks. But in the broad sweep of it, I mostly feel a closeness among friends and strangers all in on the secret of how much fun this is. Opposing teams all united in the thrill of the competition. Sometimes even a LOSING game will leave a team exhilarated such that we’re still replaying the heroic moments and congratulating each other the next day on Facebook.

I have met people in hockey I never would have otherwise: friends of every age, rich and poor, left- and right-wing, men and women, gay and straight. The only common denominator: these are the sort of people who at some point heard that hockey might be fun and were willing to give it a shot. In other words there is almost no common denominator. However, adult hockey does weed out the tentative and those who only do what everyone else is doing. There is NHL diversity ad: “If you can play, you can play.” For recreational hockey in Pittsburgh, we could add “And even if you can’t.” Pittsburgh recreational hockey welcomes beginners, and old people (like myself) who will never rise above E or D levels.

And what’s all this have to do with atheism? Nothing at all. What’s it have to do with Christianity? Nothing at all. And that’s the beauty of it.

There was a time in my life when every component of my life had to be justified as part of my overarching Christian worldview. Either something was a gift from God or it was a distracting temptation. I’m sure the “Hockey is a Prayer” thesis came from such a place. It is a place of anxiety. It is the “brain-in-a-jar” lost in abstractions several steps removed from reality.

But now I’ve escaped those confines. Now, when I sit on that bench, cheering and shouting to my teammates, waiting for the switch, to jump over the boards and onto the ice, if I have any other thought at all, it is that I am so lucky to be alive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2014 convention planning meetings: 6/21/2014 at Panera Bread


Where: Panera Bread (3401 Blvd Of The Allies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 6/21/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/186685592/

The purpose of this meeting is to help with the planning of the PA Atheist/Humanist Conference at the end of August.  Look for us in the meeting room, but if it has been taken by another group, we will most likely be in the open room in the back of the restaurant.

It is a business meeting rather than a social event, but newcomers that want to help with conference are welcome to join us.

Pittsburgh – USA

Saturday, June 21 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/186685592/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment