Our Local Meetup Group Makes the Local Paper

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species, the Antelope Valley Freethinkers had Dr. Matthew Rainbow present an overview of evolution for our members. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to an unforeseen family issue. The Antelope Valley Press covered the meeting and wrote an article about our group. I don’t normally post an entire article, but the paper usually removes the web version after a week, so I’m posting it before it is removed.

Locals look at Darwin’s book 150 years on

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press
Monday, November 23, 2009.
By JULIE DRAKE
Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER – This year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. November also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species.” The book introduced the theory that organisms evolve over the course of generations through the process of natural selection.

To celebrate, the Antelope Valley Freethinkers group scheduled a Darwin discussion and luncheon on Sunday for their monthly get-together. Club president David Dionne said they chose to celebrate the anniversary because Darwin’s book is one of the most important and influential scientific works in history.

Club member Matthew Rainbow, an AVC biology professor with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry, was the featured speaker. Rainbow said that in the history of science, Darwin is even more dangerous than Nicolaus Copernicus and the even more dangerous Sir Isaac Newton. He noted that Copernicus removed man’s home – Earth – from the center of the universe.

“Darwin ratcheted it up a little, he did an even more serious thing,” Rainbow said. “What did he remove from the center? Man himself.”

Rainbow said that Newton, who believed in God, reduced astrophysics to a series of laws, whereby God works through laws.

“What did Darwin do?” Rainbow said. “Darwin basically took the most important question in biology – how did living things get here – and reduced that to laws … Darwin explained how the origin of species themselves can occur through laws.”

Rainbow said the origin of life itself is misunderstood. The professor, who described himself as a card-carrying, flag-waving evolutionist who is an agnostic half the time and an atheist the other half, said that even he believes the first cells may have been intelligently designed by what could be called a creator.

“I think that if this creator exists, he or she or whatever it is, obviously wants to remain unknown, if he exists at all,” Rainbow said. “The evidence now tends to suggest that they were intelligently designed.”

But Rainbow said that everything else in evolution, such as fish into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles and ape-like creatures into humans, is all well explained by evolution. There are three steps to evolution: mutation to DNA of organisms; altered embryological development; and natural selection.

“Darwin knew almost nothing about the first step … much less what DNA was,” Rainbow said. However, Darwin figured out the third step, that organisms constantly change. They pass on their traits to offspring and organisms exploded in growth.”

Dionne said the Antelope Valley Freethinkers is a diverse group comprising agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and other religious nonbelievers. The club began as an affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Atheists United and became a local, independent nonprofit organization this spring.

There are currently about 60 members.

Dionne said the group’s diverse membership includes independent thinkers from all different backgrounds and occupations.

“I really like finding interesting stuff for us to do and to talk about,” he said. “To connect and build friendships with people with the same world view I have.”

Dionne said the evolution of the club has been organic in the sense that it grows based on what members want. For the Antelope Valley Freethinkers, Dionne defined a freethinker as someone who bases their world view on reason, objective evidence and compassion, and who tends to be skeptical about supernatural things such as the existence of Gods, angels and demons, and the afterlife.

Dionne said that they strive to make their meetings interesting and entertaining. Past events include barbecues, picnics, movie viewing, board games, karaoke, and presentations on science and history. Members also volunteer in the community by participating in events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. They also raised more than $300 for multiple sclerosis.

Antelope Valley native Erik Gunderson, the group’s secretary, said he became involved with a similar group when he lived in Knoxville, Tenn., a few years ago. He joined the Antelope Valley Freethinkers when he returned to the Valley about three years ago.

Gunderson said that he enjoys the social aspects of the club in that he looks for a combination of fellowship and something interesting to think about.

“You get out of your brain what you put into your brain,” he said. “We have a group where you have interesting, educated, smart people to talk with, sharing their knowledge, sharing their ideas, (it) makes you more interesting, smart and educated yourself.”

Johann Olivier, the group’s treasurer, said that he enjoys the intellectual stimulation you get as a member of the group.

“People are not constricted by dogmatic ideas of how the world should operate,” he said.

For details, e-mail the group at avfreethinkers@yahoo.com.

jdrake@avpress.com

I bolded part of the story above where there port quotes Dr. Rainbow saying “said that even he believes the first cells may have been intelligently designed by what could be called a creator.” I hope the reporter is misquoting Dr.Rainbow because I can’t see how someone who describes himself as an agnostic atheist believes in intelligent design. Perhaps Dr. Rainbow was describing Darwin’s views rather than his own and the reporter misunderstood.

Other than this nit, an excellent article about the Antelope Valley Freethinkers. Way to go Dave, Kelly, Eric, Johann and everyone.

The Twelve Steps of Christmas

I bought a box of Christmas cards at Target with the following on the front :

The 12 Steps of Christmas

  1. Admit you are powerless over Christmas, and that your life has become unmanageable.
  2. Believe that a power greater than consumer credit can restore you to sanity.
  3. Decide to turn your will and life over to Santa as you understand him.
  4. Make a searching and fearless inventory of your material desires.
  5. Admit to Santa, to yourself, and to another human being the exact nature of your size, color preferences, and taste in furniture.
  6. Allow Santa to remedy all defects of your bank account.
  7. Humbly ask Santa to payoff your mortgage.
  8. Make a list of everything you want, and be willing to read the instruction manuals.
  9. Cite model numbers and retail locations wherever possible, except when doing so would require an internet search.
  10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when you think of something else you need, add it to the list.
  11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with Santa as you understand him, praying only for knowledge of his gifts for you and the power to open them quickly.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, carry Santa’s message to friends and family every Christmas.

My personal favorite is #3. If I ever find myself looking towards a higher power, it will be Santa. Unlike other gods, Santa actually delivers. I actually find gifts under my tree every year.

Holy Piss, Batman

Pastor Steve seems to be really obsessed by Obama’s death, gays, and pissing against a wall. Well, girls can piss standing up too, Pastor Steve. So there.

And PZ Myers really nails this guy’s likely motivation.

Somehow, I get the idea that Steven L. Anderson, the flaming anti-gay pastor, has these dreams in which he stands shoulder to shoulder with a long line of men, and they all unzip and flip out their penises and spray a mighty stream forth, together, with pride and joy…and he feels good about these dreams. Glory!

Pastor Steve, you really need to get out of that closet. It’s not healthy.

And here’s more of Pastor Steve’s antics.

Creepy Christmas Tree Ornament

I get sale catalogs in the mail. HarrietCarter.com has this amazingly tacky Christian ornament. The ornament claims that spending the holidays with Jesus is better than with family. This brings up a few questions I have. How do they know that the holidays are better in heaven? How do they even know there is a heaven at all? How do they know Jesus is in heaven? How do they know Granny is in heaven? After all, perhaps she was a crack whore in her younger days. Or even worse, perhaps she mixed linen and cotton while knitting. Maybe she’s burning in the fiery pits of hell, being sodomized by demons. Perhaps HarrietCarter.com needs to sell an ornament for that.

Merry Chistmas from Hell … I love you dearly, Now don’t shed a tear, I’m spending my Christmas being sodomized by demons this year.

Had an Enjoyable Veteran’s Day

We had an enjoyable Veteran’s day to day. Appleby’s had free entrees for veterans. Both me and the hubby enjoyed our free lunches. We had to pay for the rugrats however. It was a very enjoyable meal. The restaurant was packed with both veterans and active duty military.

The Things You Find in A Christian Store

According to Aaron at Consumerist:

So I walked into my local Christian bookstore the other day, just to kill time while at the mall, and I see a rack displaying various Veggitales products. Having once worked in a church nursery, I know of the magical powers contained in those anthropomorphic carrots and cauliflowers. Imagine my surprise when I see this SEEMINGLY innocuous cookie cutter.

Innocent looking at first…but with a simple 90° rotation…..

It’s perfect for your kids AND perfect for bachelorette parties. It’s all about the frosting. Ya know?

Perhaps the Veggie Tales crew has a secret atheist working for them. HehHehHeh. And that bump, it scares me.