Daily Archives: September 30, 2012

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin Audiobook

Have you read The Autobiography of Charles Darwin? Do you read, er, listen to audiobooks? If so, did you know about this one?

Read by Greg Wagland:

This work, unsurprisingly, offers invaluable insights into the life and times of Charles Darwin, his personality and the formative influences that made him what he was, for here we have his own words and ‘voice’ at the close of a prodigiously productive career. He tells of his childhood, his student days at Edinburgh and Cambridge, his love of beetles, shooting and geology and of his grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood. He talks at some length about his meetings with the great scientific men of the age, his attitudes to his critics, to religion and of his theories of evolution. He also discusses his scientific methods and the background to the publication of many of his works including ‘The Origin of Species’ and ‘The Descent of Man’, and how he came to join ‘The Beagle’ as naturalist. This is an indispensable work for any student of Darwin, of evolution and conceivably, creationism. It is undoubtedly the autobiography of a great man.Greg Wagland reads The Autobiography of Charles Darwin for Magpie Audio. Note: This is the version authorized and edited by his son, Francis. Francis Darwin and Charles’ wife Emma censored and excised some passages, in part to limit references made to his home life.

Here’s the audiobook.

Which is more likely to be real, Ghosts or Martians?

Do ghosts really exist?

Is there life on Mars?

Despite what one might think, what with large class sizes and the homogenization of culture caused by TV and Fast Food, the fact remains that clumps of high school students organized into classes can vary widely from one another. Each year has its own characteristics, and each classroom-sized bunch of them, taking a particular course together, can be very different from the next. A teacher I know has ended up this year with a science class with a large proportion of students who believe that ghosts are real, and while they are at it, they also seem to think there is a high probability that Bigfoot is real, and probably the Loch Ness Monster and most conspiracies one might care to mention. I don’t think it is the whole class, just a half dozen students or so, but enough that the existence of ghosts has become a background theme in the patter that accompanies the usual classroom activities such as arriving at the beginning of class, asking permission to go to the bathroom during class, and leaving at the end of class.

From "Mars Attacks" which, if you have not seen, you must see.
So the other day the question of life on Mars came up; a student had pointed out the discovery of mysterious globe-shaped objects on the surface of the distant planet. During the ensuing conversation the teacher noted how exciting it would be to discover evidence of past or present life on Mars, and further noted that such a finding is well within the range of possibilities.

“Wait a second … You are telling us that you don’t think Ghosts are real but you believe in Martians?” Continue reading Which is more likely to be real, Ghosts or Martians?

What Halloween Costume Is Best…

Arrrrrrgh.
… for science-oriented secular skeptical people like you?

Halloween is when the really scary things make their appearance, mostly in the form of the Halloween Costume Industry. This is when we learn about all those latent adult sexual fantasies involving school children, for example.

But more insidious and damaging, if not just plain annoying, is the janus-faced monster of jack-booted gender policing and Disney/Pixar marketing. Little girls should be princesses or some other girly thing, and little boys should be race cars or some other boyish thing.

Huxley will be wearing this costume.
But Halloween is also an opportunity to make a point. Some people I know have suggested handing out science-oriented or skeptical literature along with or instead of candy. Little miniature “Origins of Species” tied to a candy bar, that sort of thing. I object to that. I object because I know that there is already a small but non-zero number of people handing out churchy literature and I don’t like that, and I know that if handing out polemic literature became more common on this particular holiday, the churchy people would totally kick ass and the skeptics and scientists would be looking at yet another channel for insidious anti-science and religious literature to be flowing into the lives of our society’s children.

So just don’t do that, please. You’ll lose and you’ll bring the rest of us down with you.

There are dino costumes for all sizes and ages, some are pretty cute.
But you can dress in, or more likely, dress your cute little children in costumes that gently and subtly promote skeptical, secular, or scientific values. Obviously, you can make a Flying Spaghetti Monster costume. I don’t know if you can buy such a costume ready made, but you can get a pirate costume such as this one … If you want to avoid participating in the gender police state, perhaps you would get this one for a little girl, not a little boy.

This is cheaper of the two Dalek costumes I found. The other (the link in the text points to it) seems to be a very high end product. Seems to me that a paper bag and some magic markers would do the trick.
Instead, the little boy may be better dressed in what is probably a non-gendered costume, such as a primate or a a dinosaur. This is not to say that dinosaurs and primates are not “gendered” … the original creatures certainly are, being highly sexually dimorphic in many cases and all. But, the costumes per se do not automatically fall into the usual Halloween stereotypes of little girly princesses and tiny boyish warriors and such.

Scooby Doo. Almost always skeptical, except that one movie with the Voodu Zombies.
Or, one could pick a theme that is skeptical, sciencey, or at least, popular among nerdy geeks who lean towards skepticism, such as Scooby Doo or Dr. Who. There are some nice Dalek Costumes and a full range of Scooby Doo related alternatives.

And to add to the science oriented theme, this year, maybe everybody should hand out Mars Bars!?!?