Saturday, October 31, 2009

Motorcycling: Observations on the Interstates

When I go on motorcycle trips, I am inclined to do a lot of driving and not too much stopping. One way to help beat the boredom on longer interstate (freeway) drives is by noticing bumper stickers, of which there are plenty in the USA. This is a "free speech" country, and the right to apply bumper stickers is probably covered by by the constitution. Sticker fashions do change with time. Back in '92 "Shit happens" was very popular. But then some real shit happened, and suddenly a lot of Osama Bin-Laden related bumper stickers followed, and the original "Shit happens" stickers all disappeared mysteriously. But that only went on for a couple of years before the Bin Laden stickers disappeared in favour of Saddam Hussein themed stickers. And for a while after it was a lot of "Bush country" (in Texas at least), and variations on "Support the Troops"

A few years ago while in Arizona I decided to put on my own sticker on the trunk of the BMW. "Warning: Rider carries less than $20 worth of ammo." I decided that would deter robbers, but I wasn't actually carrying any ammo, or a gun. It didn't seem to cause a problem at border crossings either.

I haven't been there for a couple of years, and with Obama in power, I assume many of the old Bush/Cheney stickers have now been removed. I was wondering what thought provoking stickers are on sale now, so here is a sample from the internet.

Right Wing Extremists: Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Me
Is this another person who forgot that Washington was the first president? And weren't there two Adams? The first Adams ran against Jefferson, so it couldn't be him. The second Adams defended the slaves on the Amistad, so he can't be right wing either. But at least the choice of Madison as a right wing extremist makes sense, because he invaded Canada.

Keep Working, Millions on welfare depend on you
Including the guy driving this truck, but which is he?

Speak English or go back to the sorry ass country you left.
This sticker would be more effective if it was any language other than English. In Canada, we think of things like that.

Except for ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, & Communism, war has never solved anything
Which war against Communism?

Bring Back Capitalism
The subtext is George W. Bush = Capitalism, Obama = Communism. One of the more subtle stickers.

Honk if you Voted for Obama, so I can give you the FINGER
Need help reading the Obama bumper stickers, eh?

Republicans Back by Popular Demand
Did I miss something?

Why Should I have to Press 1 for English
Because you're calling India.

Shut Up Hippy
This has got to be the world's slowest snappy comeback.

Can you think on your own or do you need the media to think for you?
This sticker could actually be conservative or liberal, you may need to judge by the licence plate and vehicle. Toyota Prius from California: any guesses?

Liberals have bumper stickers too, but not often seen unless you are on the West coast. I have no comments on these. I guess because they make sense to me.

Actually, guns do kill people

Get Real, Like Jesus would ever own a gun and vote Republican

Republicans are people too, mean greedy selfish people

GW Bush How dumb is too dumb?

Impeach Cheney first

War is terror

War is not pro life

Intolerance will not be tolerated

The picture is me and the BMW in El Rosario, Baja, Mexico in March 2004

Friday, October 30, 2009

Is There Enough Respect in Religious Debates?

This is something I remember reading many years ago, which some people may take as being disrespectful to religion.

"When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion."
— Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)

In religious debates, respect is asked for by religious people for their God. Unfortunately, it is not just normal good manners that are asked, but the kind of respect you would have if you were talking about their new fiancee. Is a fair debate possible under such circumstances?

Scientists and liberals, when debating religion, often are disrespectful of religious fundamentalists. So scientists seem to always talk down to them as if they were children. I think the problem of respect is caused by the subject matter of the debate.

I just want to give an idea here of why scientists may laugh at the story of creation. The biblical story of Creation starts with a God who creates a universe a thousand trillion times the size of the earth in order to create man, and then puts the tree of knowledge right where Eve can get it. And sure enough within a few days, all of this wondrous creation has an epic failure because Adam eats an apple. For the the rest of eternity, man, the thing that the entire universe was created for, suffers in agony over that event which could have been avoided by a bit of barbed wire or an electric fence. Even if this was only taken as an allegory, it is hard for a non believer to not laugh at the absurdity. But over hundreds of years, so many people have been burned to death for laughing at it, that it kind of dulls the humour.

Steve Pakin and Richard Dawkins on Respect for religion

Any discussion must have mutual respect, but some religions are not intended to be discussed or questioned, they are only to be obeyed unquestioningly. Furthermore, it appears that the more absurd the story, the better a test it is for your blind faith and obedience. And by the way, science is meant to be questioned, no matter what religious people might want you to believe. Science in this way is fundamentally the opposite of religion.

The biblical story of creation itself is a good example of a test of blind faith and obedience. You can hardly keep a straight face while talking about it. A scientist can hardly hold back the torrent of questions and “what ifs” that spring to mind as you hear the biblical tale told. If you compare it to some other stories from “pagan” religions, you will find even the pagan stories do not strain the bounds of reason as much. Many pagan stories actually work acceptably as an allegory, while the biblical story, even as an allegory is kind of twisted. One reason for this difference is that many stories of creation were passed on in oral tradition, and they might have improved with time, and at least stayed somewhat in step with the culture. A written tradition would freeze the story and with time would required greater denial of reality from true believers. Which in turn required greater atrocities and threats to make people believe in them.

Not that long ago religious leaders used to put people to some kind of slow horrible death for non believing. Imagine the queue of chained converts shuffling forward to the grand Inquisitor, who will decide their fate. Many people are being roasted alive right behind him. Each scared convert steps forward in turn to be questioned by the Grand Inquisitor about their faith. Even with all the screaming and the smell of burning human flesh, some can't suppress a giggle when they hear about the story of God creating Adam and Eve. They, of course are burned alive, and the line moves forward. Anybody else laughing?

As a test of faith, the biblical story of creation is a real challenge today. By the time of Jesus, I would argue the old testament bible was already starting to lose it's relevance, and Jesus did his best to inject some new ideas, but ultimately got crucified for it. And with cultural and scientific advances today, it's falling even further behind current knowledge and morality.

Respect is wonderful, but imagine your neighbour coming over to your house to show you his brand new car he just paid $80,000 for. You go over to see and it's a Model T Ford. Are you serious, you say before you begin to try to restrain a giggle. It's hard to be serious when he tells you it'll go 200 miles an hour (it won't) and get 400 miles per gallon (not that either.) It doesn't even have an electric start. Then he wants you to go an buy one yourself. You say no, thanks, you would prefer a Flinstonemobile. Then he gets kind of pushy, insulting your own car as being a pile of junk. This is starting to resemble a typical religious conversation isn't it?

The picture is from this website where you can order your own creation felt set of creation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the Bible Belt: The Theory of Evolution of Non Evolution

The acceptance of the Theory of Evolution began in the 1800's. However, even today there are a large number of churches that are opposed to the Theory of Evolution. Just driving through the southern USA, you see churches with strange names on every street corner. There are hundreds of varieties of churches. The members of these churches general believe that God created the animals as they are, and there has never been new species arise from an old one. And interestingly, each church also believes that their own beliefs have always existed in the perfect image of God's beliefs, without any change since the beginning of time. Meanwhile everybody else's beliefs that differ from their own are in error.

The Theory of Evolution of Churches
To deal with the proliferation of churches, I would like to see the scientific method applied to the origin of churches. I don't really have the space for this in a blog because it is what I would call a "Big Idea", and deserves a whole branch of scientific inquiry to develop around it but I just want to give a bit of an introduction.

I believe these churches were not created by God, no matter what their members would like to think. They naturally evolved from more primitive churches. It should be easy to figure out, as we have lots of written history to go by. Any historian could do the research.

The Scientific Categorization of Families Churches
I would like to see how a scientist would study religious evolution if we were lacking the history and only had living churches to study, plus the fossilized remains of some extinct churches. I would think the obvious place to start would be by listing all the existing churches, and classifying them into varieties by religious beliefs and practices.

The Family Tree of the Evolution of Churches
Once you have sorted and classified the churches, actually the same way naturalists sorted and classified species of plants and animals, you could then start looking for common ancestors. These would be churches that may have become extinct, or may still be viable. Each "living" church would have evolved from that older church. This is where, in the world of species, it would be like the appearance of a new species. Some churches are so similar that they are considered the same variety of church, where members are freely accepted back and forth between them. But at some point, a church can turn into an entirely new species of church, and suddenly no members are tolerated from the old church. Eventually I expect we could create a genealogical evolutionary tree of all churches.

A Scientific Inquiry into the Origin of Churches: Missing Links?
A church that breaks away from the fold, could be compared to a new species forming, where suddenly there is no interaction accepted between the original species of church and the new one. For this, we might need a theory that explains the origin of new churches. I would like to call it "the Religious Theory of Evolution", and ideally it would be done by a scientist publishing a book called "On the Origin of New Churches". I would also like an answer as to why there seem to be no "missing links" between churches in the fossil record. It seems almost impossible that one church would suddenly change into another without any transitional forms ever being discovered.

Natural Selection of Churches and the Survival of the Fittest
Another part of the theory would need to explain why some churches go extinct and some thrive. This is where the ideas of "Survival of the Fittest Churches" and "Natural Selection of Churches" come into play. Any church that has beliefs too restrictive, will obviously die out. Any church having beliefs that are too loose will break apart. Any church that discovers a good way of spreading and gaining adherents will have an advantage. Over the years, some of these methods of gaining converts have included using communication such as speech, the printing press, radio or today, even TV. Religions often grow with high birth rates, and indoctrinating children at an early age. Converts have been gained by the sword, and death threats, and promises of salvation and fellowship. Methods of keeping members from drifting away include threats of hell, threats of excommunication (i.e. burning alive), economic sanctions, public shunning, or kidnapping of children. Some churches grow quickly because they have a message that fills a need in society, such as the original Christians who filled a human need for peace and non violence during the times of the Roman Empire, or the Evangelical family of churches in the southern USA that filled a need for guilt-free violence and domination in the slave states of the southern USA.

Carbon Dating Fossilized Churches
You could actually date some churches by their beliefs, for example most southern Christian churches evolved between 1650 and 1860. This was the time when it was well known that the Earth moved around the sun, but it was not known that species evolved. So all these churches, naturally interpret their bible to take Genesis and Adam and Eve as the literal truth, but the part of the bible that says "the earth does not move" is taken poetically. This era could be called the "European Slavery Era" in a similar way to geologists naming the Jurassic Era, while archaeologists find which species evolved during that time.

There were also other eras, such as the Roman Empire, the Egyptian Empire, Cave Man, Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, and even earlier. We don't know much about religion in the older ones, but the first religion we know seems to date back at least 5,000 years.

Biodiversity of Churches, or Preservation of Favoured Churches in the Struggle for Membership
One of the most Biodiverse areas on Earth for religions is known as the "Bible Belt" in the southern USA. This area is the equivalent of the Amazon Rainforest for encouraging new species of churches.

On the naming of new churches. Churches do not seem to name themselves to indicate their origins or their beliefs. We will probably need to come up with a suitable scientific name for each new church, in Latin.

Just to give you an idea of the diversity of Churches, here are only the Churches starting with "F" in Omaha Nebraska.

Faith Christian Church - Saved through God's Grace
Faith Presbyterian Church
FaithWestwood United Methodist Church
Faithful Shepherd Presybyterian Church
First Baptist Church of ....
First Central Congregational Church - "God is Still Speaking"
First Christian Church
First Covenant Church
First Presbyterian Church
First United Methodist Church
Florence Christian Church - May God's Grace be with you
Fort Street Christian Church - At the Crossroads of Life
Fort Street Church of Christ
Freedom Christian Fellowship Church

Here are some websites discussing Church naming practices.

The Origin of Spirituality
And finally (for now) the origin of religion. We can assume that all religion gradually evolved from earlier religions, and we can then assume that this can all be traced back the the earliest religion, some proto-religion that was created out of a primordial soup of random thoughts and knee-jerk reflexes. But so far, researchers have not been able to create a viable religion in a laboratory setting. Yes, they have been able to program computers to simulate religion, by outputting hundreds of religious opinions in mere seconds, while simultaneously blocking all data input to the contrary. But they always had to be programmed to do that. So we will have to assume that one day, a computer spontaneously starts a religion all by itself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Motorcycling: Ontario's Stunting and Racing Laws

There is a new and very draconian (in my opinion) law in Ontario about driving. It's supposed to be about racing, driving and stunts. If you engage in these activities, you may have your licence suspended and vehicle impounded immediately without a trial right there on the road.

You are allowed to have a trial, but later, and you will still have to pay towing charges, (which could exceed one thousand dollars) and of course your licence cannot be reinstated retroactively if you are innocent.

The most positive aspect of this law is if it gets the crazy racers and stunters off the road and save a few lives. Many of those lives are innocent civilians.

The negative is that you may have cops who are having a bad day, interpret the most innocent acts as racing or stunting. Don't think it can happen? There are two rules that are universal. The first one is the "Hugh Grant Law" that no matter how sexy and beautiful a girl is, the guy who is dating her wants someone else. The second law which I will call the "Abu Ghraib Law" is that if you give guys unlimited power over other people, they eventually abuse it.

Here is the wording of the Racing and Stunting Laws

I was particularly interested by this one, as I had no clue what stupid dangerous act they were trying to prevent

"Driving a motor vehicle with a driver not sitting in the driver's seat."
So I decided to do a bit of research at the toll free 24 hour OPP help line at 1-888-310-1122, as they have always been courteous and helpful.

I said "I have a question about stunt driving. I think I understand how "driving while the driver is not sitting in the driver's seat" applies to a car, but not how it applies to a motorcycle."

She answered. "It means standing on the seat."

I said "So we're not talking about lifting your behind temporarily off the seat or standing on the footpegs?"

She said "That's right, stunt driving does not apply to that."

If my bladder stone is causing any pain, I lift myself off the seat going over a rough bump in the road. It is a safe practice, for me anyway, because I have a lot of experience standing up like a dirt bike rider. But I am still a little worried that somebody could misinterpret this poorly worded law and suspend my licence and take my bike, leaving me stranded.

Why not at least word it more precisely? What they are really talking about here is a motorcyclist riding while sitting on the handlebars, standing on the seat or somewhere else, or in the case of cars, the new craze of "ghost riding", of which there are hundreds of videos. Many of the videos are too stupid to even watch, but this one gives you the basic idea of Ghost Riding.

Propaganda: Where is the Line between News and Opinion?

What is the difference between news an opinion? News channels have "opinion" pieces to help us understand the "news". Every news program does some of that, and they clearly state that this is opinion, not news. That is so we can understand when we are getting real information, and when we are being browbeaten by some blowhard with an agenda.

The problem I have is when they try to blur the line between news and opinion. Going back to Fox News, Greta Van Susteren has a show that Fox News does not considered an opinion show. And yet, Greta may take a right wing character like Rush Limbaugh, and let him talk for 30 minutes interrupted only occasionally with a softball question. Actually, I would call those softer than softballs, more like a T-ball question. She sets it up, he hits it over the fence. That is a thinly disguised opinion show.

Look at this for a classic example of t-ball questions, where Rush gets to school Greta. Even Jay Leno had harder questions, and he's a comedian.

Here is for contrast, Greta Van Susteren's interview with representative Sheila Jackson Lee. But no teeing up the balls for Sheila to hit over the fence. Greta starts her off with "You better hurry up we don't have much time". Funny I didn't hear that with Rush. Also, Greta often interrupts, telling Sheila that her answers are too long, or she's not listening, or she is "profoundly" rude.

Even if you don't know or care about the issues, you can easily pick up on the dramatic contrast in body language, tone, and attitude toward the guest. (Jackson Lee happens to be a liberal and a Democrat)

Greta calls her show "news", after comparing these two, I would be inclined to call Greta's show an opinion piece. I did not cherry pick, these are honestly the first two interviews I looked at. I only wanted one Republican guest, one Democrat and I stopped there. I must be getting lazy, my new rule is called "two strikes you're out"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Motorcycling: The Rapture Poses a Threat

I am just reading a book called "Have a Nice Doomsday" by Nicholas Guyatt. It starts off with a close look at John Hagee's ministry. And already I have found a danger for motorcyclists in this doomsday scenario.

According to Hagee, and many Americans believe this, all true Christians will instantly disappear soon, at the time called the Rapture. Then the world will continue on for seven more years of strife before a vengeful Jesus appears to defeat the nonbelievers at Armageddon, in Israel (it's real place, and Hagee runs tourist buses there). Then all the ones who disappeared seven years earlier will return and live in a perfect world, along with anyone who converted or at least smartened up when Jesus reappeared.

But here is the hazard for motorcyclists. When the rapture comes, if you are not a perfect Christian at that time, say you happen to be lusting after a woman you just saw. This sin will be enough to ensure you do not immediately go to heaven, and you will still be riding your bike. Now you will be in serious danger from the now pilotless cars belonging to Christians who just disappeared all around you.

Some Christians have considered this to be a moral dilemma. That is, by driving a car, they are putting at risk the lives of other motorists, especially those on motorcycles. They think one answer might be to give up driving immediately. Another answer, of course is to immediately put on a warning bumper sticker (see picture)

I have a suggestion for them. Why not just switch over to motorcycling instead. I would much rather be dodging an oncoming riderless motorcycle than an oncoming driverless car with or without the warning label. Also the motorcycle has less momentum, and is less likely to kill the unraptured occupants of other vehicles.

I photoshopped the picture of two bumper stickers I found onto a picture of two cars side by side.

What is the UN?

There is the popular expression "unless you've been living in a cave" and its' variant "Unless you've been living under a rock". Each one means that you are ignorant of something that everyone else is aware of.

There are a lot of things that some people do not know about the United Nations. This week, Jay Leno discovered this on his usual Jaywalking segment.

Jay: Where is the U.N. Headquarters?"
Jaywalker: Switzerland.
Jay: How many countries are in the U.N.?
Jaywalker: Eight?
What interests me is not so much how Jay finds these Jaywalkers, but in how he keeps coming up with unexpected questions that reveal their lack of awareness of the world around them.

So the correct answers would be: UN Headquarters are in New York City, and there are currently 192 countries that are members of the United Nations. (Answers that would also have been accepted "1. America and 2. All of them") But actually, there are some sovereign nations that are not part of the U.N., Vatican City, Palestinian territories, and Western Sahara. Also some other "countries" are excluded because they are claimed by a recognized member of the UN. For example China says Taiwan cannot be accepted as a separate country, although it actually is.

Switzerland did not join the United Nations until 2002, when it became the 190th member.

Now here is a quiz to test your further knowledge, and hopefully to promote the cause of world peace through awareness.

1. Who is the Secretary General of the United Nations and is he the AntiChrist?
Ans. Ban Ki-Moon, and no.

2. Does the United Nations have a standing army, navy or air force?
Ans. No. The United Nation relies on member nations to provide peacekeeping soldiers and equipment under their own national command, to help monitor war zones where both parties agree to guarantee safe passage and recognize UN neutrality. When engaged in these operations, the "UN soldiers" wear the internationally recognized blue helmets. These soldiers are generally authorized to use force only for self defence.

3. How does the UN make decisions?
Ans. On peace and security matters, there is a "Security Council" consisting of 15 member states, of which 5 are permanent. The five permanent members are (at the present time) China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each one of the permanent members has a veto, no other members have a veto.

4. Are Israel and Palestine part of the UN?
Ans Yes and no.

5. Is the very existence of the U.N. a sign of the final coming of Jesus?
Ans. No. Although, to be fair, the prophesy was that the land of Palestine was to be parted (partitioned) by all nations before Christ comes (Joel 3:2). This was fulfilled May 15, 1948, when the United Nations divided Palestine between Jew and Arab. So, the longer answer is the UN is not a sign, but the partitioning of Israel was a precondition, according to the prophesy.

6. Did the Bible prophesy the UN?
Ans. No, unless this sounds like the U.N. to you:

Revelations 13: "And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”

7. Is the UN part of the Axis of Evil?
Ans. No, that would be Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Although they are all members of the UN, they do not really have enough clout to turn the UN to their own evil purposes. I also wonder if Iraq is still part of the axis of evil, since Saddam was executed.

8. Is the UN an enemy of the United States?
Ans. No. The US is a veto-wielding member of the UN, so unless the US abstains from a UN Security Council vote to declare war on America, it would be impossible for the UN to become an enemy of the United States.

9. Does the UN want to take our guns away?
Ans. No. The UN does not try to get involved in internal politics of member states, and the US has a veto anyway. This myth might have been started by the sculpture of the knotted gun barrel outside the Headquarters. The "Knotted Gun" Disarmament sculpture (Non-Violence), was created by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd and given to the United Nations by the Luxembourg government in 1988. Proving once again that Europeans are tone deaf to the National Rifle Association pro-gun lobby in the USA. The cowboy revolver was a poor choice of a weapon to tie a knot in, a better one would have been the Kalishnikov AK47, but maybe the Russians vetoed that one. Also the Russians supplied some UN "peace" art too, which may also scare some Americans.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Song for a Winter's Night

It's time to change over from the depressing subject I was on (Return of the Dark Ages) to one that is one order less magnitude, though still depressing (Return of Winter). I wanted to lead into Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night" because I think he is one of the greatest English Canadian singer/songwriters. But Youtube has pulled all videos with his original songs on them. So I started hunting around for a cover version. Sarah McLachlan did one, and it's good, but I don't actually like it that much.

Several others were not too bad, but I just didn't feel the same as I did about Gordon's version. Maybe it's really hard to do a copy of Gordon Lightfoot, possibly because of the tricky guitar picking. But most of the covers that I listened to tried to do it like Gord, and they fell a bit flat.

Then I found Lori Cullen-Song For A Winter's Night-Hugh's Room-Lightfoot tribute show- Jan.18,2009. The sound quality breaks up from time to time, but that's OK by me because I grew listening to pop music on a little tube radio trying to pick up A.M. music from a thousand miles away. And this arrangement was different enough that I didn't miss Gord's voice and the guitar in the background. But it still captured what I liked about the original.

Witches: Are they Real?

Just in case I managed to give the idea in my last blog, that witch-hunting is only in Africa, and there is no chance for it in America, I want to clarify. First my own position: I do not believe in witchcraft, or in the devil, or in voodoo or black magic. Every case is in my opinion, either false, or based on some fraud or a coincidence. There is nothing to fear from magic, although if a witch doctor decides to toss a hand grenade or use an assault rifle, obviously there would be the usual cause for concern.

I do not believe in miracles, the supernatural, and I don't even believe in borderline mystical things like acupuncture.

If somebody decides to become a witch, and then casts an evil spell on somebody, my answer is "this is harmless, forget about it". But a fundamental Christian's attitude might be "This is the work of the Devil, it may cause great harm, and must be stopped by any means possible."

Here is a fairly long article about the rise of witchcraft in the USA. It is written by Linda P. Harvey, editor and publisher of Mission: America, a quarterly Christian newsletter and Internet web site at To me, she seems right wing and conservative, from her comments. Not really a surprise to me.

Here is one quote

"Even back in our school days in studying colonial American history, we were drilled in the pagan-friendly line about Salem: that it was an example to America about the dangers of religious fanaticism. The whole story was seldom told, and witchcraft was dismissed as a mythical label goofy fundamentalists give to independent, enlightened non-conformists. A "witch hunt" has become one of the left's favorite epithets to intimidate the devout."

I have to object to this comment that leftists are trying to intimidate the devout with the the epithet witch hunter. I am only trying to intimidate the witch hunters. Stop hunting witches and you can be as devout as you like. I happen to believe in freedom of religion which is the opposite of burning witches at the stake. And yes, religious fanaticism is a problem.

I admit to dismissing witchcraft as mythical. Yes again to calling anyone goofy who believes real witches exist (meaning doing supernatural magic through the power of the devil). Do I think these deluded practitioners of witchcraft are "independent, enlightened, or nonconformist"? I would not use the word "enlightened" as that implies some kind of knowledge or wisdom. So I do not think witches are enlightened. But, I would allow "Independent and nonconformist", as you can be stupid and also independent and nonconformist.

There is also a mention of the Cassie Bernall case, which the author of this article comments

"Those who dabble in witchcraft can open themselves up to dangerous supernatural influences."

I would call the Cassie Bernall case coincidence at best, and more likely a complete fabrication. But the author of this article considers it supernatural. Just a quick recap, Cassie dabbled in witchcraft, then was converted to Christianity, and was martyred at Columbine High School. The killer posed the question to her "Do you believe in God" she said "Yes" and she was shot dead. The actual verbal exchange unproven.

There is one way I agree with Becky, the popular culture is encouraging the belief in witchcraft. Sad to say, some people are attracted by simplistic religions that promise magical answers. And for some reason this movement seems to be growing. I hope it's just a fad. Also we may need to cut back a bit on all the supernatural stuff on TV and in the movies, because so many people are gullible enough to believe it is real. When I was young we had "Bewitched" on TV of course, but I don't remember anybody taking it seriously back then.

I photoshopped the picture of Elizabeth Montgomery, star of "Bewitched" being burned for witchcraft. If you look closely you may see a marshmallow over her right shoulder, but I didn't put that in there, I missed it when composing the image.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who is Responsible for Witch Burnings in Africa?

I have often written before about how I'm afraid that the fundamentalist Christians are taking us back to the dark ages. Among their beliefs are torture, racism, and of course witchcraft. Now I'm not saying the fundamentalist Christians practice witchcraft. The very opposite! No, they believe witchcraft must be stopped. The way they stopped witchcraft in the medieval times was to burn witches at the stake, after torturing them for a confession.

We are not really close to burning witches in Canada yet. Maybe most Europeans got it out of their system burning thousands of witches for Christ in the dark ages. But in Nigeria, apparently it's a novelty that is gathering adherents. Apparently thousands of children have already been killed or mutilated for being witches, and Christian Fundamentalists' dogmatic belief that witches do exist is partly responsible for these atrocities.

For a start, we need to try to make the Christian fundamentalists stop preaching about the evils of witchcraft in Africa. How likely is that, however, given that the Fundamentalists believe in a lot of other non-scientific stuff and have not been convinced by mountains of evidence?

As far as I know, the Catholic Church does not preach about the existence of witchcraft, and they are very reluctant to endorse miracles/magic by God or the Devil alike. There are lots of other decent Christian churches out there, but the key thing is to not spread around accusations of witchcraft. Apparently since I was in Africa there has been a proliferation of these Evangelist/Fundamentalist churches that believe in magic (black and white) and are anti-science (except when it serves their purpose).

I personally would prefer that African development was left to secular organizations like CUSO, but I also recognize that some faith based organizations can help. But for God's sake, spare us the burning children alive for witchcraft.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Intergalactic Staycation

We have had a little bit of nice weather the last few days, so I decided I had to get out for a visit to my local area. First off to Port Dover by motorcycle on Sunday afternoon. Lots of bikes parked near Tim Horton's but the Apple Fritter Place was open, so I had to go there instead. While I waited for my half dozen apple fritters to fry, I drank a hot chocolate and learned from one of the local customers a bit more about Port Dover, such interesting facts as it costs $3500 each time the lift bridge goes up. Wow, that's three and a half times the cost of my sailboat to lift the bridge up to let my sailboat through. It would actually be cheaper for the Province of Ontario to sink my boat there and buy me a similar boat launched on the other side of bridge each time I came through.

Second interesting fact was that the Friday 13th application for the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest single day motorcycle event on Earth was disqualified because they did not count the motorcycles as they paraded past one single road check. (instead they got people in town to fill out tickets which were then counted)

Next one is November 13th 2009 and I hope to be there, but not if it's raining or snowing as it will also be very cold. I don't need two problems at once.

Today I stuck closer to home and travelled by bicycle. The last time I wrote about a staycation I mentioned that the entire world seems to come to Canada, so by visiting ethnic restaurants you can feel like you are anywhere on Earth. Today I was reminded that within this area you can also travel backwards and forward through time, explore other planets and the entire galaxy. Travelling to the past is easy, because near Waterloo we have horse and buggy driving Mennonites, who also plow the field with oxen or horses (not sure which, Mary Ann is the one who knows more about farming.) This morning as I was grocery shopping there was a Mennonite couple in front of me at Food Basics, dressed in a costume I'm sure dates back to the 1800's. Except it was not a costume, it was their clothes. Then this afternoon I decided to go for a bicycle ride. In the middle of Waterloo Square was a huge tent with a display put on by the Perimeter Institute, an institution of theoretical physics in Waterloo. It was free admission and I hope to go back before the show ends (I think Oct 25?). The displays that were most spectacular were the prototype (or full size mock up) of the Mars Rover that will be sent up in 2011. I was surprised to find it was the size of a car. Then there was a cloud chamber to observe radiation emitted from a radioactive metal, and some cosmic rays from the universe. Not sure I saw the cosmic rays, but I certainly saw radiation from the metal. Also there was a superconductive magnetic toy track that you could send super cooled magnets around, hovering in the air. They continued circling so long that you could almost swear they were self propelled, but the magnets were just coasting on inertia with no friction. Also there was a 3-D tour of the galaxy from the beginning of time to the end, with a trip through the Milky Way Galaxy to the centre, and a look at the Earth's ocean currents and wind currents in a tornado. The amazing 3-D effects were observed through polarized eyeglasses.

In case you are still wondering, I did not eat all six apple fritters from Port Dover. I ate three there, took four home (I got an extra one for free), Mary Ann woke up from being sick long enough to down two of them, then I finished the last two off.

Motorcycle Safety Disjointed Ramble

Cell phone ban in Ontario October 26

I am looking forward to this ban especially since I have nearly been run down twice just while walking, by a cell phone user driving a car. This morning on local TV there was a commentary about a driver stopped for using two cell phones at once while driving. I wanted to confirm it with Google, I couldn't find it, but I believe it.

This thing about cell phones is not the only danger motorcyclists face on the road. And just because there is a law does not mean drivers will obey. And even if they do obey, it may just free them up for some other nonsense that we don't have a law for. What have we forgotten? Reading books and magazines. Playing games of solitaire or checkers. Wrestling with your pet grizzly who is sitting in your lap. Letting the pet grizzly drive while you take a nap.

So let's assume the roads are not safe and will not be much safer after October 26. What is the most important safety insurance on a motorcycle? I think it is a rider who makes decisions with reason and logic more than emotions. That might cover just about everything. Of course everybody thinks they use reason and logic and it's the other guy who is is a raging hormone loaded maniac.

But let's try a little honest self examination. Everybody has emotions. I just can't help getting mad an ignorant act by another driver threatens my life. But as I get older I am finding it happens to me less than when I was young. Anger is an emotion, and this emotion was triggered by another emotion, fear.

I am afraid of going into a hospital trauma unit, I'm afraid of sustaining some kind of irreparable injury. Although I am also afraid of breaking bones, I know at least they can heal. But a damaged brain or spinal cord will not be repaired with our current medical knowledge. So now I wear a helmet and my jacket even has a spine protector in it (although I don't know how good that is.)

Actually, fear is a good emotion to have in riding a motorcycle, as long as it translates to paying attention and being cautious. But too often fear translates into anger, frustration or impatience. And of course if you have too much fear you won't ride a motorcycle at all. But then you will die slipping on the soap in your shower, something you actually had no fear of before it happened.

If I might make a suggestion as to how to become a more rational person, and thereby promote motorcycling safety. Do not listen to Rush Limbaugh's talk radio, or Fox News on TV. Don't read MacLean's Magazine, especially Mark Steyn articles. Instead watch Lloyd Robertson on the CTV, a model of rationality. If that doesn't calm you down, I don't know what will. I simply can't help falling asleep. By the way I do NOT mean watch Lloyd while driving! And don't fall asleep while driving either. The CBC has its own Peter Mansbridge, but Lloyd, according to Wikipedia covered the moon landing in 1969 for CBC, so he's really "Old School". Don't pay any attention when whippersnappers like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News tell you the are "old school", that's just ridiculous.

Here is another way to become more rational, and enhance your safety. Don't trust a guardian angel to protect you. Don't pray that God keeps you safe on your bike, don't bother to hang a St Christopher medal on your mirrors. That is not rational. Just pay attention, and be careful. Leave supernatural beliefs for church or walks in the park.

Here is a little commentary about a motorcyclist who could not turn the bike into a corner in Deal's Gap.

And the picture is not gratuitous like most of mine are. The girls are there to entice drivers wear helmets in Milan Italy. Here in Ontario, instead, you get some big ugly police officer who writes you a ticket. (Apologies in advance if I ever get stopped by a cute female officer)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What is Racism Really

With several recent cases in the US, it has become obvious that many people no longer understand what the term racist means, especially as applied to themselves.

One case was Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

Read more at Huffington Post

So he refuses to marry an interracial couple, but still claims to not be a racist. His definition of racist is that you hate another race, which he claims he does not.

I think it's time that people were forced to admit to their racism, because until you admit you are sick, you can't get better.

In the Bardwell case, let's start with logic. His defense is that he is not opposed to black people marrying each other, he just will not deal with a mixed marriage because (A) they don't last and (B) The children suffer.

If we go by logic, I could point out that Barack Obama is the president of the USA, and he is mixed race. So by any objective measure he is an example of a mixed race child who is not suffering.

What about the point that mixed race marriages don't last? That would be a generalization, based on race, that takes away the freedom of a person based on their skin colour. In other words, this Justice of the Peace believes your right to be married is based on your skin colour.

Since the "black" man who is marrying the white woman, could be mixed race already, (my picture is from another couple) this Justice of the Peace is setting up a situation where he could not marry a black woman either. That would also be a mixed race marriage. So just who could he marry? If you do not allow someone to marry that is not "equal" treatment.

The real problem is not about logic, it is with Bardwell's incorrect definition of racism. You cannot define it only as "hating the other race". That is a weak definition that lets almost anyone who is a good liar pretend to not be racist. It allows people who are in denial to convince themselves they are not racist. For an example you only need to listen to fundamental Christians, who claim to "love Palestinians" but support moves to eradicate them because they threatened God's chosen people in Israel. Apparently it is possible to profess love while simultaneously calling for extermination. I'm not going to call this attitude hypocritical, but it is a psychological reality we have to deal with.

It was also pretty easy for the slave owners to flog their slaves to death on suspicion of petty offenses, while claiming to love their slaves. So the definition of racism being "hate" has got to go.

A better definition of racism is believing that your race is superior. When you believe your race is superior, you don't want to see any mixed children, because now you don't know whether they are superior or not, and they threaten your entire racist world view.

Spreading hate about a race is also racism. This way, at least you cannot deny something in your heart, you can be judged on what you say about the other race. That's why Rush Limbaugh recently was denied ownership of an NFL club, not because of what he felt hidden in his heart, but what he openly said on television and radio. So spreading hate is a better definition of racism than feeling it in your heart, because it is based on behaviour and evidence. And even Rush thinks he is not a racist in spite of all his comments, I guess he also uses Bardwell's definition.

Just to clarify some of this stuff, lets have some examples. For example, Rush Limbaugh declaring that black kids are beating up white kids in schools. Or Christians sending around emails declaring that Moslems are taking over the world by higher birth rates. Both of those spread hate, whether the statements are true or not. In propaganda you can always find an isolated example or twist the definitions and statistics to sound scary. The act of spreading hate is racist.

If you simply make a statement of a fact that does not normally stimulate hatred in other people, you are not really acting as a racist. For example if you say that black people are generally over represented in prisons, that could be simply a fact and does not necessarily spread hate. If you note that Canadian First Nations people have a genetic trait that makes it hard for them to purge alcohol from the blood stream, that is a scientific fact that does not promote hate, it actually helps understanding of a problem.

The new term "Playing the race card" is an interesting replacement for the word "racism". The phrase suggests that racism is a hidden card that you can play to gain a winning hand. It implies that when it comes out then both side are permitted to use it. I don't think this phrase is very helpful in understanding racial problems. But it would be good if we could come up with a definition that makes sense before we try to eliminate racism.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Travel Can Help World Peace

When I go on motorcycling trips I don't like to think of myself as a tourist. A lot of tourists travel only to get pampered, or to go shopping. Now that's OK by me, and I have been a tourist myself plenty of times. But what I think is wrong is if tourists come back knowing nothing of the places they visited. For me the fun is learning about a place. Actually, it's more than just fun, it's kind of an obligation. Not just visit the landmarks, but be exposed to the problems too. That way people become more broad minded, and make better decisions about such things as "Should we bomb Lower Slobbovia?". (The answer is always no, if you have visited there and took the time to learn something about it and meet some people)

My very first trip anywhere bigger than Baie Comeau was to England. That definitely set my taste in travel experiences. I was ten years old, and I had never seen a city. We drove to Quebec City which included a few ferry rides and a lot of gravel, as the road was not really complete, but you could still get through. Then a couple of days in Quebec City, and a 7 day trip on an ocean liner.

My next big trip was ten years later, when I was a CUSO volunteer in West Africa. I think we were expected to learn something about our host countries. Even in the first interview they were asking me what I knew about Africa. So again it was not exactly like being a tourist. I stayed for three years, I had a job and a home there. Tried to learn some local culture. I found out that very few Muslims are suicide bombers.

It was in Africa that I got my first motorcycle and learned to ride. Although I never rode out of Sierra Leone, I did explore within the country. Returning to Canada, I developed a taste for motorcycle trips, to the point where I don't particularly like any other kind of travelling any more. Although I have been on some "tourist" trips where I go by plane and stay at a resort, and I go on guided tours and buy souvenirs.

When I travel by motorcycle, I think people are a bit more friendly. I especially like motorcycle rallies with tent camping, where you get to meet a lot of people. Some of my favourite motorcycle rides are with local people I meet at rallies. They always know the best local roads and places to go by bike. For example I was at one rally in North Carolina, and some locals invited me out for a ride. I thought, of course, we're going to do the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sort of, but not exactly. These people knew some of the "old" Blue Ridge Parkway that had been bypassed by new sections of the road. That was really a lot more interesting. And while we were there we stumbled on a film crew on the set of the film "Forrest Gump".

Meeting people is more interesting to me than stopping to see "The world's largest ball of twine" or "The world's largest crucifix" which by the way is in Effingham, Illinois. I've seen it from the road, but I don't have the picture myself, so I do what I usually do and Google one up. Whatever I've seen is probably on the internet multiple times.

So I encourage anybody who can, to go travelling. Avoid war zones, but if you do go somewhere that later becomes a war zone, I hope you will at least vote against bombing it back to the stone age.

The picture is my last trip to Port Dover, October 7th. No, I didn't meet anybody at all, but what can you do? At least I don't want to bomb it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

American News from Fox to the Comedy Network

The White House has engaged Fox News in a feud over their status as an impartial news network. The White House claims Fox is biased towards the Republican Party, not only putting Republican messages on the air as "news", but also doing research to aid the Republican party. On the other side. Fox claims to be fair and neutral, although they admit that they do ask hard questions of the administration to keep them honest, and they claim to have done the same for the Bush administration.

What is the truth of this? Maybe I can help by pointing out that Fox is not a Republican TV channel. They do admit to having a conservative slant, but to counter that, they claim that conservatism simply reflects the mainstream point of view of the USA. Fox News has claimed repeatedly that the other news channels have a Liberal bias, so Fox is simply representing the American people against the extreme leftists on the other channels.

I personally cannot agree with Fox about the other channels being liberal, but that's just my opinion. But I don't think anybody argues with the assumption that Fox is conservative, and pushes conservative points of view. It's just a question of "How hard to the right do they spin?".

There has been a mountain of evidence gathered about Fox News. Of course there are hundreds of video clips of biased reporting whenever a Fox news person is caught promoting a Republican point of view regardless of the facts. There are also surveys which try to evaluate the knowledge of Fox viewers, to see which "facts" have been absorbed contrary to the accepted truth. One example would be Dick Cheney saying there was a connection between Al Quaida and Saddam Hussein, then years later, he admitted there was no evidence. Fox News viewers were the last to become aware of the admission.

Another way to approach the subject is in personnel. For example, Tony Snow, one of the first Fox news people, had originally worked as a Republican speechwriter before coming to Fox News. And after he left, he went to be President Bush's press secretary. There are other examples, but Tony Snow is the most obvious.

Also, you have endorsements from the Republicans themselves. Dick Cheney was famously quoted as saying he spent most of the time watching Fox News because they were more accurate.

And finally, you can call into question times that Fox News actually stepped in and helped shape events directly. Such as being the first network to call a win for Bush in 2000. More recently, for helping organize the Teabag party protests against Obama.

So I don't think it's any surprise that Fox News leans toward the Republicans. It's just a question of how far.

It looks to me like Fox News plays it this way: they lean as far to the right as they can without losing their viewers or their status as a "Fair and Balanced" news organization. And, actually since there is no official standard for what is fair and balanced, the only thing that really matters is retaining the maximum viewers. And, of course not losing their sponsors. Some sponsors have already started avoiding the most biased programs, such as the Glen Beck Show, but that is not a loss to Fox News as a whole, they simply move those sponsors to different time slots.

If Fox came right out and said "We are not here to be fair, we are here to get the Republicans elected", they might lose some viewers. But it would not be the end of Fox News, as they are really close to saying that already, and most viewers would cheer them on if they did.

Fox wants to keep calling themselves fair and balanced, and nobody can really stop them from doing that. It gets more viewers. It doesn't really limit them or force them to be more truthful. And any attacks on them from the White House only helps them portray themselves as the victims of a left wing conspiracy.

Some people say there is no real left wing version of Fox News. To find a news program that balances Fox on the left, I think you would have to go all the way to the Comedy Network. "The Daily Show" starring Jon Stewart is a comical look at the news. Weirdly enough, it is one of the top actual news programs in the USA, with many people trusting it more than the regular (non comical) news shows. I always thought that they had won an Emmy for for doing the news, but actually they won seven Emmies for "Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series". On the other hand, they did win two awards from "Television Critics Association" for "Outstanding Achievement in News & Information". (They also won a couple of Peabody awards for News.)

So I guess that just about covers the whole spectrum of US television news.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Ways to Measure Gas Mileage

Any article that starts with "Americans aren't stupid." that is written by an American, is sure to attract my attention. But this article is interesting to me because it is about fuel efficiency, one of my favourite topics.

The article really has nothing much to say directly about how intelligent Americans are. But apparently it would be better for Americans if they measured fuel consumption in gallons/100 miles instead of miles per gallon. And that if they did, they could make better decisions about purchasing vehicles to get good fuel consumption.

A reasonable start, but then somehow everything gets fouled up. In the end you are left with the impression that you save more gas in a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid than in a Toyota Prius. Is this another propaganda piece complicating things, with the aim of convincing you to buy a big useless vehicle instead of a Prius?

So here is an analysis of the points of article:

- A question is asked, which saves more gas, going from 10 mpg to 20 mpg, or going from 33 mpg to 50 mpg? The answer is going from 10 mpg to 20 mpg will save 5 times as much gas.

- Next, we learn that 20 mpg is the mileage of a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, and 50 mpg is the mileage of a Toyota Prius.

- This in *no way* is meant to imply that the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid saves 5 times as much gas as a Prius. Of course not! It only means that the Tahoe saves 5 times as much as a vehicle that consumes one fifth of the amount of a Tahoe. And that a Prius saves hardly any gas compared to a Toyota Echo. But I'm pretty sure that some people, OK maybe only stupid people, are going to come away with the impression that the Tahoe saves 5 times as much gas as a Prius, even though right in the article he states:

"Yes, the Prius uses less gasoline overall, and that's absolutely greener. But like it or not, lots and lots and lots of Americans need large vehicles for their jobs, their families, and their lives."
My comment is that I see lots and lots of Americans who get a big SUV for 1. safety against other SUV's 2. To not get stuck in snow. 3. (and least of all) to carry lots of stuff. My estimate is that 99% of the time, an SUV is not doing anything that say a Toyota Matrix could not do. And the other 1% of the time, you really don't need that stuff anyway. The other two reasons are also debatable. So if a person was not stupid, and actually wanted to save gas instead of rearranging numbers, they might start by re-examining the faulty assumptions about needing the big vehicles.

But this is not about being smart or stupid is it? Americans are not worried about being called stupid, but they are really worried about being called something else for driving in a tiny car. And never in a million years is that kind of thinking going to change just by measuring gal/100 miles instead of miles/gallon.

This opinion piece is also being discussed in a 4x4 forum. Granted, they are not talking about how it proves the Tahoe has better gas mileage than a Prius. Also they are not Americans. But I can safely assume that "Road Dawg" would never consider driving a Prius.

Putting on the WInter Tires

Yesterday I decided to put the winter tires on our Toyota Matrix. The job takes about an hour, and all I use is a hydraulic jack and a socket wrench. I would much rather do it myself than make an appointment at a garage, and I'm hoping that I can keep doing it for many years because it's not really that hard to do, except for some bending over, and being able to lift a tire.

We are not required by law in Ontario to have winter tires, but the way I see it, they really don't cost anything. There is that initial investment of course, but when I talk about cost I mean "expense", or money out the door to never come back. An "investment" is using money to save money or even with the hope of making money. This makes a big difference to someone who might be retired but living on investments rather than a monthly pension.

The reason I call winter tires an investment is that they save me money on summer tires over the life of the car. They also have the potential to be cheaper than buying all season tires, because in the summer I can run my tires until they are down to the legal tread limit and so I may get an extra season out of them. When I use the same tires all year, I often need to throw away tires with a fair amount of tread left on them when winter storms arrive. When the winter tires are worn down so much that they are no good for snow and ice, I can save some more tire wear by leaving them on into the late spring.

Another way I save money with winter tires is by not buying a four wheel drive vehicle for winter. That saves both on purchase price and on extra fuel required on those vehicles. Frankly, I have never been all that interested in four wheel drive for winter, because it does nothing for braking and stability. Four wheel drive is mostly about not getting stuck, but I rarely get stuck in winter even with front wheel drive.

The big disadvantage with using winter tires is taking an hour twice a year in my driveway to switch them around, and then putting aside some space to store the off-season tires. The other, smaller problem is what to do if you decide to drive to Mexico or Florida in the middle of winter.

Many people have no problem driving in the winter with all season tires, and I did that myself from 1976 to 2006. Before 1976 I had a 1956 Chevy that needed snow tires on the back or it was undriveable.

Back in the seventies, they were called snow tires and they had a very aggressive tread which was rough and noisy on dry pavement. They were pretty good in snow with the deep open tread, but not much help on ice. "All Season" tires made their first appearance in the seventies, and for about thirty years that's what I used all year.

Today we have a new type of tire called "Winter" tires, and they are designed to run better than all seasons on dry, wet, snow or ice. They are not really "Snow tires", although I suppose some could be specialized for snow. Other than tread pattern, a difference between All Season and Winter tires is the rubber compound. A winter tire's rubber is designed to work better than an All Season tire below 7 degrees Celsius. The winter tire is not suitable to run at high speed in hot weather. But in cold weather, at normal speeds and loads, they are superior in every way except fuel mileage. With my tires I have not noticed a drop in fuel mileage, but that is because my winter tires are narrower and do not have a particularly aggressive winter tread pattern.

I was pretty much forced to start using winter tires because my new Matrix came with wide, low profile tires. While these tires are popular for their sporty appearance, they are not good for snow or slush. They aquaplane at low speed on slush, and spin helplessly in three inches of snow. If the car makers keep making the wheels wider new cars, it might force everybody (in Canada anyway) to use winter tires.

Important safety tip, on front wheel drive cars, you need four winter tires. Back in the days of rear wheel drive I recall that we often put the snow tires only on the back wheels. But those tires were only really good for getting unstuck in snow and had very little effect on steering or braking. Today, with winter tires and front wheel drive (another issue), the only way to go is all four tires.

Picture: On our trip to Labrador in February 2007, Mary Ann cleaning the car window. I don't think I would want to make that trip without winter tires. The rest of the photo album is here:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teach the Controversy: O'Reilly vs. Dawkins

I might have got some of the words of this interview wrong, so you can see it yourself at this link. However, you can see several jump cuts in the video, indicating that some words may have been left out. But Dawkins comes off reasonably well in spite of it, so everybody's happy.

The Interview
Bill: I believe in creative design, I believe in evolution, but I think it was overseen by a higher power, because you guys still haven't figured out how it all began.

Dawkins: There's a great deal science hasn't worked out, and we don't know how it all began, but it's warped logic to say that because science can't answer a question, you're going to throw in your lot with Jesus, and there's no evidence that He did it either, you'll never get any evidence from any of them. Throw in your lot with science, which at least is working on the question.

My Commentary: Dawkins is referring to the earlier interview between them in 2007, Bill said that he was "throwing in his lot with Jesus". Unfortunately, Richard Dawkins is quite naive here in trying to get Bill to throw in his lot with science, because Bill only throws in his lot with making money yelling at people on television. Bill does not care either about Jesus or about where man came from, only what channel they might be watching right now.

What does Bill mean by creative design? It sounds like a mishmash of creationism and science. If he is referring to Intelligent Design, then Dawkins could rebut with the Dover School Board case that ruled ID had no place in the science curriculum.

Bill: Here's the problem I have with throwing in my lot with science: Science does not advance the human condition in any moralistic way, and Jesus did. My thesis is that if everybody followed the teachings of Jesus Christ that we'd have peace on Earth, love your brother, everybody would love one another, and we'd almost be an idyllic civilization. Am I 100% sure that Jesus is God? No, but I'd choose to believe that because the man was so extraordinary and what he did in his 33 years on Earth still resonates to this day. That, I think is more powerful than your belief that "Hey, some day, we might figure it all out but in the mean time we're not going to believe in any deity."

Dawkins: Why would you muddle up the question of moral compass, which is important, with explaining the nature of the world, the nature of life, the universe. That's what science is about.

My Commentary: Where Bill actually muddled things up was by saying the word Science when he actually means Atheism. That is enough to throw Richard completely off, and it does take a bit of time to figure it out, even reading the text. Let alone in a live debate.

Now if Dawkins was to defend Atheism, he would have to come back at Bill that Christianity has not produced an idyllic civilization, and Atheism has come a lot closer, with the concept of "Religious Tolerance". The main example being the USA. I don't know if Bill is doing this muddling of words on purpose or just out of ignorance. But I'll bet a lot of his listeners think atheism and science are two words for the same thing.

Bill: OK I understand that, but I don't think that my belief system contradicts science. I do believe that there is a higher power. But what disturbs me about you guys, and I'm putting you into this category perhaps unjustly, is that you seem to look down on believers.

Dawkins: Well there is a problem when you say that because you believe what you do, because of the holy book and because of the way you've been brought up, therefore that entitles you to go into science classes and tell teachers what they can and cannot teach. You may think that God oversaw evolution, and that's a point of view that you could probably defend, but leave it out of the science class...

Bill: But it's not fair to leave it out of the science class if the science class is incomplete. And you, by your own admission say you don't know how it all began. So if the science class is gonna say "Evolution only, but I really don't know how it all started" that gap has got to be explored.

Dawkins: It is a remarkable piece of illogic to say that because science can't fill a particular gap, that therefore we have to turn to Christianity...

Bill: You don't have to turn anywhere, you just have to present it!

Dawkins: Will you listen to me and stop shouting at me.

Bill: Turn your earphones down, that's the way I usually talk. Go ahead

Dawkins: I know it is I've been warned about it.

Dawkins : Just because science has a gap in its knowledge, that does not entitle you to turn to any other particular alternative, pick on a better science.

Bill: That's fascism. For you to say that you can't, in a public school science classroom, talk about brilliant men, and I mean brilliant, smarter than you, who do believe in a higher power, who do believe that there was an overseer of the universe, you insist that you can't even mention it, that is FASCISM, sir.

Dawkins. What you call fascism, was my statement that if science can't answer something, that we must turn to Christianity?

Bill: Not "turn", "discuss".

Dawkins: If a particular scientific theory doesn't work, then do some better science.

Bill: No, you present in the science classroom all the alternatives that are legitimate. Now Adam and Eve, you don't have to do that. That's for the biblical portion of the theology class. But, as I said, there are more believers than non believers. And that should be presented. I'll give you the last word.

Dawkins: Science is unique is that it does base itself upon evidence, rather than upon superstition, or upon authority, or upon holy books, or upon revelation.

My Comment: Bill got his chance to call Dawkins a fascist, probably the only thing he really wanted to get out of the interview. He also mentioned that there were men smarter than Dawkins who believe in a higher power. I would like to know exactly who they are, Bill O'Reilly for sure is not one of them. And are they smarter because they have a degree from a Bible College? O'Reilly also casually mentioned that there are more believers than non believers. This situation has never held back American science or technology in the past, but is it going to start now?

Motorcycling: What is a Sport Bike?

Sportsbikes are controversial today. Many insurance companies charge a premium for sportsbikes, and sometimes blacklist them altogether. It was not always like this, as the definition of sportsbike has changed over the years.

Going back to the fifties, there was a divide between American machines which were big, large displacement engines, wide balloon tires. Then there were European machines, lighter, with narrower tires. The engines were smaller, but still had the ability to propel the bikes to about 100 mph. They were also better at cornering (taking corners at high speed). Their proficiency at taking on curvy roads was partly the smaller size of the bikes, which made the best of frame stiffness. Another big factor was higher ground clearance when leaned over, with parts tucked up so that they didn't drag on the road surface and upset the lean angle.

The difference between American and European machines was reflected not only in the motorcycles, but in the roads, where American roads tended to be straighter, and intersections involved traffic lights and stop signs rather than roundabouts. The difference, surprisingly also showed up even in bicycles, where American style bicycles had balloon tires, and European bikes had narrower high pressure tires. Cars were the same, with the original sports cars coming mostly from Europe. Racing also took different forms in Europe and the USA, with oval racing being the norm in America, and twisty road courses being common in Europe. And it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that most European drivers had a better appreciation of driving on a twisty road than an American driver.

Now getting back to the motorcycles. After the war, the British started exporting their bikes and sports cars to America, where more Americans were discovering the fun of driving as a sport, rather than a method of going from point A to point B. British bikes like the Triumph, Vincent, BSA, and Norton all became popular in America, competing with the home brand, Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson fought back by introducing the "Sportster", a lighter version with a similar seating arrangement to the European bikes. When the Japanese makers got into the fray in the sixties, they mostly produced bikes like the European bikes, and totally ignored the traditional heavy American style bikes.

As the seventies progressed, bikes started to become more specialized, and new types of bikes emerged. In one direction was the heavy touring bike for long distance riding. In another direction was the scrambler, for riding off road or on the street. And in yet another direction was the sport bike, which set new, higher, standards for speed and cornering.

In time the sports bikes came to resemble the top racing bikes, except equipped with lights and other on-road requirements. In Europe, they were called "race replicas". These bikes were so fast that they could have actually won world championships, if they were transported through time back to the fifties.

I have ridden only a handful of these newer "race replica" sport bikes. The first was a Yamaha FZ1000 from about 1990. I found a stretch of deserted open road and got it going as fast as I have ever ridden a bike before or since. Once I reached that speed, I backed off and got down to the speed limit. It was fun, but really I only wanted to do it once. On the other hand, when cornering, I found this bike not as stable and reassuring as my BMW K1100LT (more of a touring bike), but that could simply be lack of familiarity. It was definitely more uncomfortable for normal speeds. Race bikes (and also, of course, race replicas) place the rider head first into the wind, to reduce wind resistance. This means you lean far forward, placing a lot of weight on your hands, and you have to bend your neck back up to see the road. This is great for wringing the last hundredth of a second off your lap time, but not so good for an average rider over 30 years old who is putting along at the legal speed limit. Or even at only twice the legal speed limit!

There was another issue that developed with the new sport bikes a.k.a. race replicas. They were high and short. In the hands of an expert racer this was good, as it gave a lot of ground clearance for cornering. The disadvantage was that by accelerating hard you could easily stand the bike up on it's rear wheel, thus falling off or losing the passenger. Also, braking hard would cause the rear wheel to come off the ground and get out of alignment. A professional racer can handle these situations, but an average rider cannot.

But soon, this very dangerous characteristic of race replicas became an attractive feature, with some riders wanting the bikes precisely because they could easily perform awesome "wheelies" and "stoppies".

In America and Canada, these bikes can be ridden by anyone even with no riding experience. I don't have any actual statistics, but I've heard stories and I have no trouble believing they are true, about stunt riding on sports bikes.

I like bikes that have some performance potential. But I can do without wheels coming off the ground when I accelerate or decelerate. And I can do without the uncomfortable posture. There are lots of bikes that fill the bill for me, they are called "sport-touring" bikes. I can see the thrill in the wheelies, and I admire the skill that a good racer must have to ride one. I apparently have accidentophobia, which prevents me from having much fun on a race replica bike myself, especially on a public road.

Things have gotten crazy in Ontario, with huge fines, suspensions and impounding bikes on the spot without the right of a court trial for stunt riding and racing on a public road. And now that the cat is out of the bag, of course police officers are going to abuse their powers, after all they are only human. I would like to see a return to sanity before I get my license suspended and bike impounded for a simple case of lane-splitting.