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.'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).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hickory Humanist Alliance statement about the change in invocation policy in Lincoln County

Yesterday the Hickory Humanist Alliance released the following statement...

The Hickory Humanist Alliance (HHA) has been notified by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners that invocations will no longer be given at their meetings following the adoption of a new "moment of silence" policy on Monday. We commend the Board for taking this action, and we hope this experience serves as a blueprint for other municipalities and concerned citizens dealing with the contentious issue of religious invocations at government meetings.

While the Supreme Court has ruled that sectarian prayers at government meetings are sometimes permissible, the recent experiences in Rowan and Lincoln County demonstrate that the practice can be discriminatory, divisive, and distracting to our communities. HHA believes the best way to both protect our religious freedom and preserve the separation of Church and State is to keep sectarian religious prayer out of government meetings. However, if invocations are allowed then they must be open to all. That's why we had planned to deliver this solemn and respectful humanist invocation at the next Lincoln County meeting per the inclusive policy they adopted in May:

As this Board convenes to do the important business of local government I ask you to lift your heads, to open your eyes, and to open your hearts. We are reminded that in our differences there is great strength. We do not all agree on everything. Yet we are linked by our common humanity and our shared origin. When we work together to move our community forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about ourselves. There is one thing on which we all agree: We share the goal of making this community the best place it can be. I call on this Board to unite here today around that noble aim and common purpose, and I appeal to you to take care to ensure that all of your decisions are inspired by compassion and guided by knowledge.

In honor of not delivering our invocation on August 17 (6:30 - 7:30 pm ET), we encourage everyone to use the meeting time to do some good for someone other than yourself or your clan. Join our event if you need a reminder. And if you need some ideas for what to do, please consider a charitable contribution through Foundation Beyond Belief. We'd like to thank Commissioners Alex Patton and Cecelia Martin for proposing the "moment of silence" policy, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, and the Secular Coalition for North Carolina for their valuable assistance. We also want to extend our warmest thanks to the secular residents of Lincoln County that supported and encouraged us in this effort and to Duston Barto and Tony Brown, as well as the entire Foothills Interfaith Assembly. We hope that Chairman Mitchem's inflammatory comments denigrating Muslims and atheists, and his fellow commissioners, are not what everyone remembers about the last few months in Lincoln County.

Instead of coming to hear us deliver an invocation, please consider using this time to do some good for someone else....
Posted by Hickory Humanist Alliance on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is."
- A. Philip Randolph
Our fervent wish is that you take a few minutes to do some good for someone else on August 17th. Please join and share our Facebook event to show your support.