23 December 2008

Getting Started - SGU

As this blog evolves, I'm sure it will cover all the topics and subtopics that concern the sceptical community at large. I'll be making a list and hopefully get into the rhythm of regular postings.
I'm not sure what my "mission statement" is but it should become apparent as time goes on.
In the meantime to get the ball rolling, I'll share how I was introduced to the community.

As an amateur astronomer, I am a regular listener to the Astronomy Cast podcast hosted by Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Astronomy, beginner or expert. Each week they tackle a subject in a clear and easy to follow manner. Galaxies, Black Holes, the Moon etc. Over the last few years they've recorded over 100 weekly casts and are now producing two every week. The standard podcast and second one, answering listener questions.

Check them out in iTunes or at www.astronomycast.com

Back in the summer of 2007, Fraser and Pamela were guests on the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast and mentioned the fact on their podcast.
So I listened to that episode and compared to the very education orientation of Astronomy Cast, I found it a bit frivolous and light hearted.

I didn't listen again for a while until I heard some other mentions of the Skeptics' Guide and decided to give it a try. I started listening to the latest casts and eventually, once I'd become familiar with the "Rogues" I went back and listened to every episode from the beginning. Some 100 podcasts. Now I'm hooked and wait avidly for the Saturday morning upload.

I'll leave the review of the Skeptic's Guide to another day. Suffice to say that it was my Gateway Podcast. From there I picked up Skepticality and Skeptoid and from there Science Talk, Science Weekly etc.

There's now a Skeptics' Guide 5x5 podcast also. As the main podcast is regularly over an hour long, this is a bit-size 5 minute cast covering a particular topic or news item.

One thing that becomes apparent is that there is a larger community out there and most people are not aware that others share their outlook and view of the world. The podcasts are great for opening up the avenues and recommending resources such as books and websites.

As time goes on I'll review the various podcasts, books, websites etc.

Keep reading. Keep thinking.

Zero Albedo
23 Dec 2008

19 December 2008


I am a sceptic. I am an atheist.

It is with these words that I embark upon a new journey. It is with these words that I enter the fray.

I had planned to start this blog in the New Year. But tonight it struck me that the New Year is but the creation of man. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar to suit our needs. If I mean to begin, why not now? Why begin a task at an arbitrary number such as the 1st of January?

The use of time and calendars. The subject of a future blog entry? (I must start keeping a list)

Anyhoo, here I am. After a bottle of cheap wine, I decided that I would re-invent my blog from a collection of family photos (dogs and babies) into a proper sceptical, critical, secular, humanist, scientific, analysis of the world around us. I’ve been a by-stander for too long. A listener, a reader. Rather than be a consumer of podcasts, a reader of blogs, websites and the occasional book. Why not contribute something to the nascent conflict that is raging below the surface? I think this will become the theme of this collection. As the economic system collapses, as the new world order establishes itself, as the reality of our ecological dire straits becomes apparent, a larger shift in our affairs is about to happen, in my opinion.

The technology available to the average western person is beyond the dreams of our ancestors. We are no longer reliant on “The Media” for our news, education or entertainment. We are entering an era where the self-published opinion is all. We don’t have to wait for the established organs to produce a daily newspaper, a cinema newsreel, a lunchtime radio bulletin, a 9 o’clock news. The news is everywhere. Youtube, the blogosphere, podcasts. We can learn more about what interests us now. Immediately.

We can subscribe to the podcasts that cover our particular topic of interest. We can listen to the digital radio channels that play our favourite music. We can read the news aggregators that give us the headlines we want to read.

In essence, we are becoming worldwide communities of taxidermists, genealogists and phillumenists (look it up).

As the scope becomes narrower, the detail becomes more intricate.

So it is into this new medium I enter. It is my opinion that we are about to embark upon a new age. Next year, next decade, next century. It is inevitable that the human race will awaken from millennia of superstition and belief in the paranormal. As a species, we are detecting planets orbiting distant stars. We are unlocking the secrets of the conception of the universe. We are bridging the gaps in the fossil record to uncover how we evolved to this stage.

Thus I look forward to an age when we can, as a species, abandon forever the redundant belief in a magical supernatural being, who listens to our thoughts, answers our prayers, promises eternal happiness and provokes hatred for our fellow man. I look forward to an age when we can see the world and universe around us as the wonder of scientific, evolutionary and astronomical beauty that it is. I look forward to an age when we can appreciate the time we have on this planet, use it to achieve our potential and treat each other with the respect we deserve.

I presume the following entries won’t be as prosaic as this one. I hope to get into the details of why religion is past its sell-by-date. Why alternative medicine is doing more harm than good. Why we live at the pinnacle of human evolution, yet cling to mad superstitious beliefs in the afterlife that prevent us from achieving our potential here and now on this insignificant rock, orbiting an average star in an mediocre neighbourhood of middling galaxy in a universe that we don’t fully understand.

However you’ve found your way to discovering this blog, keep reading. Keep thinking. Question everything. I’m only stumbling through the darkness, trying to find some truth. But as we analyse the evidence, establish the facts, stand on the shoulders of giants and move forwards rather than backwards, if I persuade one person to think rationally and abandon a superstitious, dangerous, belief, then I’ve achieved something.

Zero Albedo
19 Dec 2008