When I posted Inaccuracy, Eurocentrism, and Antitheism in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos last month, it caused a bit of a stir among Carl Sagan fans (especially on Reddit). Not the least constructive of the criticism was the point that Carl Sagan was not even an atheist. Of course, I already know that he did not identify as an atheist, and in that post I never said he did. I suppose that people who used that as a rebuttal were assuming that one can’t be antitheistic without even being an atheist.Read more
The day after publishing this post, I feel I must add a small caveat. I’ve realized since reading the book and writing this review that Katha Pollitt is opposed to the usage of gender-inclusionary language surrounding abortion. While she did not use gender-inclusionary language in the book, I tried my best to use it in my review when I could. Pollitt goes further into her justification for this in this article, but I urge you to read this response article by physician Cheryl Chastine explaining why Pollitt is not justified in excluding non-cisgender people from her abortion arguments. Chastine did an amazing job. In giving cisgender women the right to bodily autonomy, we do not need to be erasing people with diverse gender identities from claiming that same right.
After owning the book for over two years, this week I finally stopped procrastinating reading Katha Pollitt’s 2014 persuasive powerhouse of a book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Ironically, my timing had nothing to do with the recent “heartbeat bill” in Texas, but the urgency that the bill caused definitely lit a fire under me to enthusiastically jump into the book. If you want the context around the pro-choice argument, then I can’t recommend Pro enough.Read more
This week, I stumbled upon a blog post by a pastor at a church from my old denomination, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The pastor, Duncan McLellan, wrote the post a few days after his church had hosted a “Genesis Seminar” in which “several experts in Creation Science and the Old Testament spent three days at the church, teaching and discussing the flaws with the Evolutionary Model and explaining many passages in the Bible that describe the Creation.” This post was particularly fascinating to me, because McLellan definitely did not come to the conclusion that one might think. But his attitude actually revealed to me a pattern in the LCMS’s views towards creationism.
“Whatever is inconsistent with the facts, no matter how fond of it we are, must be discarded or revised.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos Episode 13: “Who Speaks for Earth?”
Since first reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan one year ago, I have revered him. I admire his worldview and his way of expressing it. I’ve dedicated many blog posts to him and to the curiosity that he has inspired in me. I’ve shared dozens of his quotes, many of which carry the same sentiment as the one above. This dedication to the truth, this unwillingness to accept facts only because they were propagated by an authority figure, is what brings me to write that Carl Sagan was wrong.Read more
Evolution by natural selection is the amazing, vast, but surprisingly simple mechanism that explains the magnificent diversity of life on Earth. That’s why I love it. But through no fault of their own, so many people absorb misinformation about evolution in daily life, in and out of the classroom. I believe that evolution is a phenomenon which is only not accepted when it’s not understood. Even worse, many of us know it to be true, but don’t know enough about it to be able to defend it against someone who’s been wrongly taught about it.
That’s where this post will help. The good news is that most of the misunderstandings about evolution boil down to a handful of different objections which can be easily corrected with the right context. As you apply this advice in the real world, keep in mind that most people don’t choose to be misinformed. If you are polite and gracious in your explanation, it will go a long way.
Two weeks ago, I posted my review of Sasha Sagan’s beautiful memoir/humanist manifesto/love letter to the Cosmos For Small Creatures Such as We. I ranked it as one of my new all-time favorite books, and I recommended it as highly as I could, but still I feel that I can’t really put into words just how beautifully moving this book is. Only the book itself can do that. Hopefully my favorite quotes will give you a taste of what this book is really like!Read more
For most of the time I’ve spent as an atheist, I’ve also identified as a secular humanist. However, the label of “humanist” has spent most of that time in the backseat. Even though I was a humanist, I preferred to use descriptors like “skeptic” or “curious atheist”. While I am still all of these, I’m beginning to really embrace my identity as a humanist for the first time.Read more
If you’ve read Cosmos by Sasha’s father, and you’re wondering what the universe’s immensity and grandeur mean for humanity, then you will love this book. The title comes from a quote (from Carl’s novel Contact) written by Ann Druyan, Sasha’s mother and Carl’s wife. The quote says in its entirety, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” Cosmos explores the vastness. Sasha’s book explores the rest: how we, the small creatures, can use love to make it bearable. The subtitle, Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, gives us a hint on how to do that.Read more
Donald Johanson’s book Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind was what first made me fall in love with paleoanthropology. While I have learned about dozens more fossils over the last two years, I still have a special place in my heart for Lucy. So you can imagine how excited I was to defend her from the lies of the young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis! I once might not have known how to debunk their claims, but I now have the knowledge, the books, and a little bit of money needed to find so many errors in their articles.Read more
As I said in my last post, this week I am reviewing A Most Interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong About Human Evolution, a collection of essays by twelve anthropologists critiquing Darwin’s book on human origins, Descent of Man, chapter by chapter and telling us whether Darwin’s ideas have withstood the test of time over 150 years. I was particularly excited about this one, both because I got to see the Leakey Foundation’s promo livestream with panels from many of the authors and because the book serves as a shining example of scientists denying dogma in science.Read more