Tuesday, September 1, 2015

McCrory confirms he's doing what 'The Response' organizers say they aren't doing?

Update: Sept 2 - The ACLU has now filed a public records request to determine whether any public funds were used here.

A spokesman for Governor McCrory says he "accepted an invitation from the event organizers and will attend to talk to the audience about underage drinking, substance abuse and other issues … important to the values of North Carolinians."

But according to the FAQ from the group sponsoring the rally, the "gathering is not about a political party, church or ministry.  There will be no sermons, speeches, endorsements, or political statements – only an appeal to Heaven through prayer, fasting and worship."

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Photo: Charlotte Observer

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Andrew Wakefield's Vaccine Misinformation Coming to Charlotte, NC

A retired local pediatrician wants you to know something important about vaccines.

Andrew Wakefield has other ideas. He will be the keynote speaker for an upcoming conference at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, N.C. Also speaking at the conference: Greg Brannon, who is fighting for “the rights of parents to refuse or delay vaccinating their children.” The most appropriate response? Join the Secular Coalition's campaign to eliminate non-medical vaccine exemptions in North Carolina...

Put Kids First
Join the campaign now!
And maybe protest?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Afterlife

As a skeptic, I'm sometimes asked what I think about the afterlife or what happens to us after we die. So...here's my opinion.

The afterlife is...

Not True

Belief in an afterlife (our consciousness survives death) is almost certainly a myth (a widely held false belief), because it simply isn't possible.

Not Possible

Based on everything we know today, it just isn't possible for the mind (psychÄ“, life, spirit, consciousness or soul) to survive without the brain. Mind is simply what the brain does. We know this because we can change the mind by changing the brain.

Not Desirable

There's No Exit. It's like a celestial North Korea: "But at least you can fucking die and leave North Korea" (Christopher Hitchens).

There also appears to be a correlation between belief in an afterlife and violence (9/11) and apathy (climate change).

Not Fun

Forever in paradise with everything you want? Sounds very boring. Burning in hell? No thanks.

Not Comforting

Sorry, but you can't always get what you want: "Our lives here are not dress rehearsals. This is the act. This is the one performance that we get" (Sean Carroll).

Lacking a belief in the afterlife, atheists are sometimes hounded by loved ones who are afraid we're going to hell. So belief in an afterlife can cause discomfort for both atheists and believers.

Not Learned

Belief in an afterlife may help us cope with our fear of death, and it's certainly encouraged by religion. But it looks like it is actually an instinct (intuition). And like with geocentrism, we can recognize that our intuition is mistaken.

Related Topics: Transhumanism, Life Extension, and Mind Uploading

We live longer than our ancestors, and our descendants will probably live longer than us (possibly centuries instead of decades). But there's probably a limit to biological lifespans, and I'm not holding my breath that we will become immortal as physical beings or upload our consciousness into a machine (or something in between). And I don't think immortality would be desirable any more than an afterlife would.

So what do I think happens to my consciousness after I die?

Consciousness is probably an emergent property of brain similar to how fire is an emergent property of the combination of combustible material, heat, and oxygen. At death, our brain dies and consciousness (the flame) simply goes out. Our body then goes through various stages of decomposition (and eventually and ultimately return to whence it came - star dust), but our mind no longer exists - in the same way that it didn't exist before we were born.

But against all odds, I won the lottery of life. "Because it’s not forever — being alive is a profoundly beautiful thing for which each of us should feel deeply grateful. If we lived forever it would not be so amazing" (Sasha Sagan). So enjoy your life. "We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself" (Carl Sagan).