Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories

Atheist Voices of Minnesota, to be available in September 2012

Freethought House, a new publishing company, has released its first pre-release of a release regarding the book Atheist Voices of Minnesota.

Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories will be a collection of autobiographical writings from 36 atheists living in or from Minnesota, available September 2012.

The book will be a unique outreach tool for atheism in Minnesota, which we hope will also provide a model for similar efforts in other states. Atheists are one of America’s most marginalized and misunderstood groups of people, with many remaining “in the closet” for fear of repercussions with their family, friends, or career. In Atheist Voices of Minnesota, 36 atheists openly share their stories with readers.

This book is the result of a truly collaborative, all atheist, and entirely volunteer effort. All net proceeds will go to support Minnesota Atheists (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) with authors, editors, designers, and other volunteers receiving no financial benefit.

The release is here, where you can see a list of contributors. The cover art is by my friend Lynn Fellman.

9/11 Coloring Book

We Shall Never Forget 9/11 Coloring Book – Graphic Coloring Novel is a coloring book for kids produced by Really Big Coloring Books Inc of St. Louis, MO. Their coloring books cover a lot of different topics, including African-American Leaders with this description:

African American Leaders celebrates the diversity, history, and accomplishments of African Americans in North America. Used widely in schools around the nation for educational purposes. This is a Really Big Educational Coloring & Story Book!

and Dinosaurs

Dino’s has 32 exciting pages of Dino coloring, including Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus, Seismosaurus, Pretty Jaw and much more. This book includes two pages of Dino cutouts, Dino plants, and a Dino forest. A Really Big Coloring Book!

But also Noah and the Ark ..

Noah and the Ark is one of the best known and most beloved stories of the Old Testament. In addition to telling the traditional story, the coloring book includes many animals for children to color. The Noah coloring book has been used as a teaching tool.

and Blessing of the Pets Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Custom Coloring Book, whatever that is, and Story of Creation and the Ten Commandments

This book describes to children the story of creation and lists the Ten Commandments. The commandments are all listed on one page and then each commandment is written seperately on 10 different pages. A Really Big Coloring Book.

But I digress.

Part of the description of the 9/11 book is:

The September 11, 2001 attacks on America are now commonly referred to as 9/11. It was a series of coordinated attacks by a radical Islamic Muslim extremist terrorist group who call themselves Al Qaeda. They were self-proclaimed Jihadists; many American people refer to them as homicide bombers. Their leader was a Saudi national named Osama Bin Laden. He and his men used hijacked U.S. airplanes as weapons. A total of 3,000+ innocent people from over 70 countries were killed. There were no survivors from any of the airplanes.

And it includes this picture of Seal Team Six killing Osama bin Laden and his family:

The Guardian reports that

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned the book as “disgusting”, saying that it characterises all Muslims as linked to extremism, terrorism and radicalism, which could lead children reading the book to believe that all Muslims are responsible for 9/11, and that followers of the Islamic faith are their enemies.

And, here’s the promotional video for it:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nJlk_Em7xY&w=500&h=311]

I have no comments at this time. But I will. I’m saving them up.

How birds fly (Book review)

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines is a book by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Patricia Wynne for, I’d say, Pre-Elementary School kids and first/second grade. This is a good book to read to a pre-literate kid. Then put it away for later when the first grade academic report on birds is due … it will be an excellent reference.i-ef9e18512105a401e2989534c1e754a0-Arnold_birds.jpgThis is a well done and highly recommended book. (more…)

The Vampire, the Church Lady, and the Wardrobe

i-6c1c8914932e4bee121c556a4f7a5b33-church_lady.jpgShe was a church lady. I could see it a mile away. Her hair cut, her clothing, her way of standing, and as I got closer, her way of speaking and, eventually, the things she said. I will call her Joan.It is not that surprising to find a church lady like Joan at Har Mar Shopping Mall. Har Mar is a unique phenomenon. From the outside, it is a strip mall, and from the inside, it is a regular “inside” mall. Some of the stores are only on the inside part, some open on both the inside and outside part. None are only outside. So you park, walk into a store in the strip mall, like into the LeAnn Chin’s Chinese Food place, and you go to the back of the store where the bathroom or emergency exit might be, and instead of a men’s room you find this full blown shopping mall. Like the cabinet in Narnia but instead of a fantasy world run by a big lion, you’ve got a kinda run-down but quaint Midwestern style shopping mall. (more…)

Hiaasen For Kids

I very recently reviewed Carl Hiaasen’s novels. Among his fiction are two books that are written explicitly for kids. Looking just at Hiaasen’s titles it may be hard to pick them out from the pack, so I’m making a special reference to them here. They are called “Hoot” and “Flush.” Details follow: (more…)

Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity

I have not read this book, but I’m interested in finding out more about it. Has anyone out there had a shot at it?i-95d0b06dd2fe529d10e0015468083781-creationism_book.jpg

Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity (Sather Classical Lectures)
Information from Amazon.com: Review“Sedley’s argument is subtle and expert. . . . The brilliance of this book is that Sedley lets the Greeks talk to us and, surprisingly, we can understand what they’re saying.”–NatureProduct DescriptionThe world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the “creationist” option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle’s celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant members–the atomists–sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics.From the Inside Flap“David Sedley’s treatment of ancient views on intelligent design will transform our current thinking.”–Thomas Johansen, author of Plato’s Natural Philosophy: A Study of the Timaeus-Critias”Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity has the qualities of a classic. Powerfully organised round an enthralling theme, it is singularly rich in execution. The author’s unsurpassed command of his material is matched by the clarity, originality, and imaginative detail of his arguments. The book is as accessible as it is authoritative. It speaks to everyone interested in Greek philosophy, and very many of its readers will go back to it again and again.”–Sarah Broadie, author of Aristotle and Beyond: Essays on Metaphysics and EthicsAbout the AuthorDavid Sedley is Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Plato’s Cratylus (2003) and The Midwife of Platonism: Text and Subtext in Plato’s Theaetetus (2004), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy.

Summer Reading

It utterly shocks me every time I make a reference to plastic alligators, Macy’s bags with poisonous snakes in them, a guy named Skink or my favorite Bass Lure …. the Double Whammy …. and people look back at me with blank stares. Like, don’t you get it? “To be or not to be” jokes or allusions to Sherlock Holmes are always understood. Or at least, people pretend to get them. But does no one read contemporary literature?i-063766bd3ece4fb038e4ba54e03ffd38-tourist_season.jpg (more…)

Home Chemistry: A New Guide for Hobbyists and Home Schoolers

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) is a new book by Robert Thompson. The premise is simple. The coolest thing in the world is a home chemistry set like this one from Gilbert, which combined both chemistry and microscopy:i-54957dded8a5e4cd3fd35e02810c78e4-ChemMicroSet.jpg

Chemistry Set Combine the sciences of Chemistry and Microscopy in one big laboratory set! Microscope has a magnification of 60 power, plus unique Polaroid device that shows the brilliant colors of specimens under the lens. Set includes “Fun With Gilbert Chemistry”, “Gilbert Microscope”, “Glass Blowing” manuals and dissecting stand. From the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop

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The Young Birder’s Guide: A Bird Book for the Middle Schooler

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Bill Thompson’s Young Birder’s Guide
The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (Peterson Field Guides) is a book that I highly recommend for kids around seven to 14 years of age. (The publishers suggest a narrower age range but I respectfully disagree.)This is a new offering written by Bill Thompson III and published by the same people who give us the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds and many other fine titles. The book includes excellent illustrations by Julie Zickefoose.
A birder since childhood, Thompson says he would have loved a book like this one when he was just getting interested in birds. Now a father of two, he spent many hours over a two-year period with his now eleven-year-old daughter’s class getting their advice on what to include in the book.Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, a bimonthly magazine with 70,000 subscribers and the author of Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges. He lives with his wife, author and illustrator Julie Zickefoose and their two children on eighty birdy acres in Ohio.

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New in Paperback Book on Permian Mass Extinction

i-10092cedc7be5d8a5cb3f10bec59f6b5-lifedied.jpgWhen Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time is a book by Michael Benton on the Permian Extinction now out in paperback. From the press release:

Today it is common knowledge that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact sixty-five million years ago, which killed half of all species then living.Far less well-known is a much bigger catastrophe – the greatest mass extinction of all time – which occurred 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period. In this cataclysm, at least ninety per cent of life was destroyed, both on land, including sabre-toothed reptiles and their rhinoceros-sized prey, and in the sea.After the event the Earth was a cold, airless place, with only one or two species eking out a poor existence. What caused destruction on such an unimaginable scale, and how did life recover?Michael Benton’s book about this catastrophe – When Life Nearly Died: the greatest mass extinction of all time – has been published in paperback this week. Michael Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol.James Lovelock said of the book: “Michael Benton’s book brings back to Earth Science a sense of adventure … it is both a wonderfully good read and a valued reference”.When Life Nearly Died documents not only what happened 251 million years ago, but also the recent rekindling of the idea of catastrophism, after it was seemingly extinguished in a great battle of ideas in the early nineteenth century. Scientists have at last come to accept that the world has been subject to huge cataclysms in the past. For the end-Permian event the killing models are controversial – was the agent the impact of a huge meteorite or comet over ten kilometres in diameter, or prolonged volcanic eruption in Siberia? The evidence has been accumulating through the 1990s and into the new millennium, and Michael Benton gives his verdict at the very end of this book.

Dawkins New Book

i-9b3a7244ee62c37e6ba53f6b270757a7-dawkins_book.jpgThe Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing edited by Richard Dawkins is now in pre-release state … so you can order it with a discount from Amazon. Publisher’s description:

Boasting almost one hundred pieces, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a breathtaking celebration of the finest writing by scientists–the best such collection in print–packed with scintillating essays on everything from “the discovery of Lucy” to “the terror and vastness of the universe.”Edited by best-selling author and renowned scientist Richard Dawkins, this sterling collection brings together exhilarating pieces by a who’s who of scientists and science writers, including Stephen Pinker, Stephen Jay Gould, Martin Gardner, Albert Einstein, Julian Huxley, and many dozens more.Readers will find excerpts from bestsellers such as Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach, Francis Crick’s Life Itself, Loren Eiseley’s The Immense Journey, Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us. There are classic essays ranging from J.B.S. Haldane’s “On Being the Right Size” and Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” to Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” and Albert Einstein’s famed New York Times article on “Relativity.” And readers will also discover lesser-known but engaging pieces such as Lewis Thomas’s “Seven Wonders of Science,” J. Robert Oppenheimer on “War and Physicists,” and Freeman Dyson’s memoir of studying under Hans Bethe.A must-read volume for all science buffs, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a rich and vibrant anthology that captures the poetry and excitement of scientific thought and discovery.

Jolly ol’England

Old books can be wonderful sources of information, ideas, and even inspiration. I collect them and sometimes even read them. Reading a 100 year old book in your field of interest is a challenge and can be a rewarding experience.It is a challenge because it is dangerous. I worry that I might accidentally learn something that is no longer true. What if I remember it at some later time, like at a cocktail party or while giving a lecture, but don’t remember the source: “… As is well known, flies spontaneously generate from certain forms of mud …” (more…)

Icons of Evolution

There are two books called “Icons of Evolution.” One is by Jonathan Wells. The best way to learn about Well’s Icons of Evolution is to watch Randy Olson’s Flock of Dodos. It is an anti science piece of dreck.The other is a more recently published is Icons of Evolution [Two Volumes]: An Encyclopedia of People, Evidence, and Controversies (Greenwood Icons), and it is an entirely different book. I have heard about this book, but not read it. Since it came up in a comment I thought I’d give you a direct link and a little bit of information. Info from the publisher:

Students and the general public are frequently confronted with contradictory and confusing claims about the people, ideas, and artifacts that were essential in the development of the science of evolution. Where can they find accurate and understandable information on these important concepts? Icons of Evolution comprises twenty-four in-depth essays on the most famous ideas, artifacts, people and places of evolutionary biology. Dinosaurs, Neanderthals, Charles Darwin, peppered moths, carbon dating, the fossil record, and more, are explained by some of the most respected scientists, historians, and philosophers of evolution in the world. Icons of Evolution dispels some of the myths and confusion about evolution and answers questions like:i-5dbc99f62455bf02583988df1d8466a5-icons.jpgWhat do all those horse fossils mean? Was Archaeopteryx the first bird?What is a missing link and is it missing?Did Peking Man really disappear?Where did the word fossil come from?What does ‘survival of the fittest’ really mean?Why does the idea of evolution seem to scare people so much? While written by technical experts, Icons of Evolution uses non-technical language that explains these icons for readers new to the field and for those seeking more depth. Taken together these icons tell a story that is sometimes fascinating, sometimes puzzling, always thought provoking. It is a story billions of years in the making, and one that everyone needs to know.

Icons of Evolution is listd at $175.00. Ouch.

Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design

i-5545603e6630aacbffde7a2ccceb8dd4-Forrest_Gross.jpgCreationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design is a must read for those interested in the Evolution – Creationism controversy. In particular, this volume is an essential part of the personal library of every science educator, for reasons that I will describe below. If you know a Life Science Teacher, this is a perfect birthday present. If you have a child in the public K-12 education system in the US, or the analog somewhere else, donate a copy of this book to the appropriate life science teacher!In this important book published by Oxford University Press in 2004, Forrest and Gross assert that there is a new strategy afoot among pro-creationists. What Forrest and Gross claimed four years ago is every bit as much true today. This strategy consists of …i-e1d1aec5e3a35b6a6524b75024658964-forrest.jpg

… a no-holds-barred commitment to particular, parochial religious beliefs about the history and fabric of the world … This variant has eliminated brilliantly the obstacle of rational opposition to ideology … The new strategy is wonderfully simple. Here is how you implement it: exploiting that modern, nearly universal, liberal suspicion of zealotry, you accuse the branch of legitimate inquiry whose results you hate, in this case the evolutionary natural sciences, of — what else? — zealotry! … Crying “viewpoint discrimination,” you loudly demand adherence to the principle of freedom of speech, especially in teaching, insisting that such freedom is being denied your legitimate alternative view…This bold strategy is working, not just with religious fundamentalists, who do not need to be convinced anyway, but with people who have no such fundamentalist commitment and who are in principle well-enough educated to see what is happening. …This lusty new variant of creationism is advancing rapidly by means of a strategy called “The Wedge.”

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Rare Birds Yearbook 2008

i-44fb61d67794ab3d4b746de27976cb63-rare_birds.jpgRare Birds Yearbook 2008: The World’s 189 Most Threatened Birds is, according to BirdLife International, proving to be a great success.

Last year’s Rare Birds Yearbook photo competition was a huge success with more than 1,000 images being submitted and the best were presented in Rare Birds Yearbook 2008, with each published photographer receiving a free copy of the book.The photo competition for Rare Birds Yearbook 2009 has just been launched and will run until 31 May 2008. This year sees a few exciting differences in the competition format.A new category, with a top prize of a travel-friendly Minox telescope, has been introduced for the best photo – or painting – of those species that did not feature with photos in the 2008 edition.There is a completely new contest for this year, a writer’s competition on the subject “My Encounter with a Critically Endangered Bird”. The first prize for this is a copy of the wonderful The Fifty Rarest Birds of the World. This leatherbound volume features stunning images painted by world-renowned wildlife artist Blake Twigden.An important objective of Rare Birds Yearbook is to create funds to save these Critically Endangered birds. That is why for every book sold £4 is donated to BirdLife International, to be used exclusively for the protection and conservation of these species.

Learning the Bash Shell

i-30a1e0366512a8ac50ae2cf969f02d73-learning_bash_shell.jpgFor the most part, computer operating systems all have a “shell.” When people talk about the “command line” … they are talking about the prompt in a shell. The concept of a shell, and the way we think of a shell today mostly stems from its implementation on Unix systems. A shell is a computer program that has a human interface and a number of built in or accessible functions (mostly other programs) that humans can invoke to make the computer do something. On ‘servers’ and on most computers back in the old days, the shell would typically appear as a prompt on a computer screen, and that would be all you would get. You type stuff in, and the computer types stuff as well, and between the two of you, stuff happens. On a computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), there is still a shell, but it looks different. The shell is less tangible to the human user, but the GUI itself is a program that provides the user interface, and it may either be the shell itself or it may be invoked automatically as the computer starts up by the shell. (more…)

Racy new novel with Homeschooling Theme

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Home School
A big chunk of the reading world is going to have a great time devouring a Home School, new semi erotic, not-very-family values novel by the very author that gave us The Graduate (which was made into that movie with Dustin Hoffman … one of the classics). This is ironic, because the book’s plot, which continues the original story of Benjamin and The Robinson’s, is advanced partly at the expense of the self-same self-righteous Homeschoolers that will be forced, due to a neurotic sense of shame, to ban the book from their own homes. (more…)

Truth, Lies and Public Health

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Truth, Lies, and Public Health: How We Are Affected When Science and Politics Collide
Truth, Lies, and Public Health: How We Are Affected When Science and Politics Collide is a new book exploring the interaction between science and politics in the public health arena. I have not read it and am not recommending for or against … just letting you know it is there.The editorial review reads as follows: The “politicalization” of research findings has become prevalent over the past two decades. Politics often prevents the implementation of policy supported by irrefutable science. Most of us understand something about how this is happening with stem cell research, but Cornell’s Madelon Finkel delves deep into the subject to make the issues clear, also revealing how ideology and politics are distorting, diminishing, and destroying scientific research results regarding topics from needle exchange to medical marijuana use and HIV/AIDS prevention. (more…)

New Book: Fins into Limbs (Evolution, Development)

Fins into Limbs: Evolution, Development, and Transformation by Brian K. Hall, Ed., University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2007. 459 pp.Reptile and mammal limbs and bird wings are all modifications of the original tetrapod limb that, in turn, arose from the fins of earlier fish. That original transition was complex with some parts of the original fin being incorporated in the new limb, others not. Subsequent modification of the tetrapod limb has also, obviously, been diverse, including the functional reversal that involved the forelimbs of the forms ancestral to whales, seals, etc. turning “back” into fins. (more…)

Review: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism

REPOST from gregladen.com

“Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method… When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole, they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.”

-Ardea Skybreak, “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism” (more…)

Creationists Can be So Funny

There was a time, not so long ago, when you could “Google” the terms “Greg Laden” and “Idiot” and get, well, besides the several thousand hits about me being an idiot and stuff, an Amazon.com page for “The Idiot’s Guide to Human Prehistory by Greg Laden”This is a book I never wrote. But the publishers wanted me to. However, there were complications. The first complication was that I found out (from an excellent source) that the owner of the company had “a problem” with evolution, and I came to believe it was likely that certain things would be changed prior to publication. In particular, the word “evolution” was not going to appear in the title. And so on…. (more…)

Preaching Eugenics

Brian Larnder, bless his soul, has written an overview (maybe a book review) of Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics MovementFrom Brian:

… the concept of eugenics found a very welcome home among the christian faithful of the day from the late 19th Century through the first few decades of the 20th Century. The American Eugenics society sponsored an annual contest for the best eugenics sermon of the year and apparently many clergymen participated, readily supplying biblical quotations to make the case for eugenics.

AHA! I say! (see)Go and read Brian’s post! He concludes with…

To blame it all on Darwin (and by extension all of modern biology) is ridiculous and deceitful. To take that a step further and insist that without Darwin, Hitler would never have carried out the holocaust is the absolute height of dishonesty.