A Visual Representation of Sam Harris’ ‘Morality and the Christian God’

English: Sam Harris


A Visual Representation of Sam Harris’ ‘Morality and the Christian God’

Preview Image


By Hemant Mehta

A month ago, Sam Harris posted on his website an audio excerpt from one of his debates. It’s a popular excerpt, where he talks about the flimsy morality of God.


Harris gave his readers permission to turn that excerpt into a video and Devon Tracey came through with this very nice visual representation of a powerful speech:




Preview Image



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How bacteria create magnetic navigational aids

How bacteria create magnetic navigational aids

See image 1 for description.

By the time people began to look for viable routes on the ocean with the help of a compass needle in the 12th century, magnetic navigational aids had already long been in use by other living creatures. Migratory birds orient themselves with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field, but some unicellular organisms, called magnetotactic bacteria, do as well. They carry within them a chain of nanoparticles of magnetite, a magnetic mineral that functions as an internal compass. Details of how the microorganisms form the mineral magnetite from oxides of iron are being presented in two current publications by scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm, together with colleagues from France and the USA. According to the articles, the bacteria create magnetite nanoparticles through an intermediate step that is similar to that in higher life forms; however, they use a different protein, MamP, to control the oxidation of the iron.

When magnetotactic bacteria follow their internal compass, they are not seeking the proper route from north to south, but instead are seeking the bottom of oceans, rivers, or other bodies of water. This is because the microorganisms find the ideal oxygen-poor conditions for their nutrients a few millimetres below the boundary between the water and bottom sediments. They follow the lines of the Earth’s magnetic field there, which do not run parallel to the Earth’s surface when far from the equator, but instead angle downward toward the surface. The bacteria orient themselves with respect to the magnetic field with the help of magnetosomes: nanoparticles of magnetite encapsulated in membranes that line up in chains along the cell axes.

Two international teams, both including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, have now investigated more closely how the tiny iron oxide particles form. “Magnetotactic bacteria are excellent subjects for studying magnetic biomineralisation”, says Damien Faivre, Leader of the Molecular Biomimetic and Magnetic Biomineralisation Research Group at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam. “This is because their genomes are already decoded and there are enough investigative techniques with which we can genetically alter them.”

The way bacteria control the biomineralisation offers a great model for materials science In general, magnetite crystals consist of iron(II,III) oxide (Fe3O4) containing two different species of iron. The shape of the nanoparticle and thus the magnetosomes varies among different species of bacteria, though one species of bacteria always forms them with great precision in the same shape and size. The microbes are apparently able to control the biosynthesis of the nanoparticles in a unique manner, which has awakened the interest of not just biologists. “If we develop a better understanding of the underlying principles, new approaches and methods of producing magnetite nanoparticles in the future will certainly open up”, according to Damien Faivre. “If materials scientists were able to control the properties of synthetic magnetite particles as precisely as bacteria do, then new applications would be conceivable for the particles, such as contrast media for magnetic resonance tomography.”

In one of the recently published studies, the scientists chemically characterised how the magnetotactic bacteria formed magnetite using X-ray absorption spectroscopy at cryogenic temperatures and transmission electron microscopy. The unicellular organisms first create completely disordered ferric hydroxide rich in phosphate. This material resembles ferritins, i.e. a protein complex occurring in animals, plants and bacteria that typically stores iron. The magnetite particles for the magnetosomes are subsequently formed from nanoparticles of ferric oxyhydroxides or oxides.

“The astounding thing is that this transformation to magnetite is very similar to and resembles how the mineralisation in higher organisms works”, says Jens Baumgartner, one of the participating scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces. Pigeons also probably form magnetite using the same mechanism in order to deposit it in their beaks as a navigational aid. Since iron phosphates are present, it suggests that the biomineralisation of magnetite in bacteria and higher life forms proceeds similarly, even though these life forms are widely separated from each other from an evolutionary point of view.

Bacteria control the oxidation of iron through the MamP protein However, the bacteria are not just able to precisely control the shape and size of the magnetite particles, but the chemical composition of the particles as well. They create the exact chemical conditions for the oxides of the two different iron ions, i.e. the doubly charged iron(II) (Fe(II)) and the triple-charged iron(III) (Fe(III)), to be formed in exactly the right proportions. As the second study now shows, in which the scientists in Potsdam were also involved, a protein named MamP plays the critical role. This protein was found exclusively in magnetotactic bacteria and resembles cytochromes.

Cytochrome transfers electrons in redox reactions during cellular respiration and other biochemical processes. The researchers have now established that MamP oxidises Fe(II) to Fe(III). The bacteria therefore only need iron(II) in order to create the magnetite particles. By having genetically altered the protein, the scientists also identified the structural elements important for the iron oxidation reaction, among other results. These subunits of the protein are labelled magnetochromes.

“Until now, it was not known whether the bacteria started with iron(II) or iron(III) when forming magnetite”, explains Damien Faivre. “Our study has now resolved this question.” The answer also corresponds to what one would expect from the environment of the bacteria: in the oxygen-poor layer where the microbes live, iron is present in the more weakly oxidised form, i.e. that of iron(II).

Cover image: See image 1 for description.


Marina I. Siponen, Pierre Legrand, Marc Widdrat, Stephanie R. Jones, Wei-Jia Zhang, Michelle C. Y. Chang, Damien Faivre, Pascal Arnoux und David Pignol. Structural insight into magnetochrome-mediated magnetite biomineralization. Nature, online publication 6 October 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nature12573.

Jens Baumgartner, Guillaume Morin, Nicolas Menguy, Teresa Perez Gonzalez, Marc Widdrat, Julie Cosmidis und Damien Faivre. Magnetotactic bacteria form magnetite from a phosphate-rich ferric hydroxide via nanometric ferric (oxyhydr)oxide intermediates. PNAS, 10 September 2013. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307119110.

God Worried He Fucked Up His Children

God Worried He Fucked Up His Children

    The Almighty Father regrets spending so much time away from His children doing His work.

THE HEAVENS—Saying that maybe He wasn’t around enough and could have expressed His divine love a little better throughout the history of mankind, Our Lord God and Almighty Father expressed concern Thursday that He might have fucked up His children.

In a frank conversation with reporters, God said it’s not hard to see that all 7 billion of His children are “pretty screwed up” and that many of them are hopelessly maladjusted and unfit to live healthy, normal lives.

“I love my sons and daughters equally, but was I present as much as I could have been? Probably not,” said the Divine Creator, pointing to the human race’s emotional volatility, existential angst, and lack of any real direction as evidence of His failure. “Ever since I molded them in my image, I’ve tried to do right by them. I really have. But they’re just so dysfunctional that I’m starting to wonder if I’m to blame.”

God claimed that though He always made sure to provide His children with food, water, air to breathe, and an earth to live on, He was starting to realize that material things weren’t nearly enough. In addition, while God repeatedly said He loved his children, the Lord our Maker admitted He could have said it more often.

Moreover, God told reporters He was also beginning to regret His hands-off approach, saying that giving His children complete free will was probably a mistake.

“I always thought that if I let them stray from the path of righteousness and goodwill, they’d learn how to get back on their own,” the Eternal One said. “But maybe that was just laziness on my part. The truth is, I was so busy ruling the universe and controlling Heaven and Earth that there were times when I was basically invisible to my children. I know that now.”

“No wonder they are running around breaking every single commandment I gave them,” He continued. “They needed an Almighty Ruler who was really there for them, not some deadbeat Heavenly Father who would just appear in a divine vision from time to time and split.”

The Author of Our Eternal Salvation added that He had passed down a number of bad habits He was starting to see in His children, particularly a shared inclination for senseless destruction and unpredictable, violent outbursts.

“I haven’t been the best example at times,” said God, admitting that His propensity for flooding, disease, and famine have “screwed with [His children’s] heads” for centuries. “I’ve put my sons and daughters through some pretty traumatic events, especially recently, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes them act out in the first place. I mean, they see me destroy Indonesia with a tsunami or kill 6 million of my own children in Europe, and what do you think that does to them?”

“Probably fucks them up pretty good is what,” He added.

While God admitted He had made many mistakes in their upbringing that would no doubt leave them permanently scarred, the Supreme Being told reporters He wasn’t yet ready to give up on His flock.

“The fact is, my children only have one God, and it’s my responsibility to make sure they shape up and reach their full potential,” The Eternal One said. “Then again, a lot of them are so beyond screwed up at this point that there’s probably nothing I can do for them.”




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It Can Be Confusing to Find the One True Religion

It Can Be Confusing to Find the One True Religion
Many of God’s Rules Are Contradictory.  Help Us Lord!
— by Gad Saad, Ph.D.

I have often had conversations with religious people about their utter convictions that their religious narrative is THE correct one (as opposed to the narratives stemming from the other 9,999 religions).  Usually, the response is one that defines the meaning of a tautology:  “I know that it is the true narrative because my religion is the revealed truth.” Nice!

Suppose that a Martian had moved to Earth recently.  He is shopping for the one true religion.  Let’s see where this exploration takes him.  As a logical and rational Martian, he begins by asking a few basic questions to get the ball rolling.

Can I drink alcohol?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat prosciutto?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat some fried rice with shrimps?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I listen to music?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I turn on the computer to work on Saturday?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I have more than one wife?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I masturbate?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it to obtain a divorce?  It depends on who the true God is.

What should the punishment (if any) be for homosexuality? It depends on who the true God is.

Can one commit suicide?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I take prescription drugs if I am sick?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are particular animals considered sacred?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there one God or multiple Gods?  It depends on who the true God(s) is/are.

Does hell exist?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is premarital sex allowed?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the sun divine?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I be reincarnated?  It depends on who the true God is.

How should women dress?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is male circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is female circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Has the Messiah revealed himself?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I buy indulgences to “fast-track” my dead ancestors into Heaven?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it important to always be aware of where you are standing in relation to the Cardinal directions?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there a direct representative of God on Earth?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are atheists going to hell?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it for me to join your religion?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it blasphemous to have a tattoo?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there such a thing as a sacred river?  It depends on who the true God is.

Should I seek revenge on my enemies?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are we close to Armageddon?  It depends on who the true God is.

Do some souls reside on other planets?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the wearing of leather shoes prohibited on particular days?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are pilgrimages a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is apostasy permitted?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is evolution true?  It depends on who the true God is.

Teaching Creationism Is ‘Child Abuse,’ Says Prominent Physicist

Teaching Creationism Is ‘Child Abuse,’ Says Prominent Physicist Lawrence Krauss (VIDEO)
By Deborah Montesano


Big Think, the online knowledge forum, released a video on Tuesday of theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss speaking on the idea of teaching creationism. In it, Krauss asserts that the notion of creationism defies reality and teaching it to children is tantamount to child abuse. The video is in reaction to Senator Marco Rubio who, in December, declared in an interview with GQ that he didn’t know how old the earth is. In Rubio’s words:

“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians… I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

Wrong, says Krauss. Evolution is accepted reality, the basis for all biological sciences. For someone like Rubio, who is presumably both intelligent and educated, to take the stand that anything goes in education–that it’s okay for any belief to be taught regardless of reality–is a terrible error. In the following video, Krauss says:

“Allowing the notion that the Earth is 6,000 years old to be promulgated in schools is like teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error it is… The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it… To overcome a situation where a United States Senator can speak such manifest nonsense with impunity is vitally important to the healthy future of our society.”


Here’s the video:

Krauss isn’t the first person to insist that teaching creationism is a form of child abuse. Various atheist and rationalist groups have maintained the same thing. But people of faith, like Anglican priest and theologian David Jennings, of Leichester Cathedral, have taken that stand also. Last fall, when asked whether creationism should be taught in the schools, Jennings said in an open forum:

“There are some people who believe the earth is actually flat… But do we teach that, do we actually suggest that to young people?… Whatever people want to believe in the privacy of their own home, in the privacy of whatever religion they practice, they’re free to do that. But to teach young people things that we know are not true is tantamount to an abuse of young people.”

Last August, Bill Nye the Science Guy weighed in on the subject, also for Big Think:

“Denial of evolution is unique to the United States…I say to the grown-ups, If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we’ve observed in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future…we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

Here’s the video:

All of these men underline the point that we Americans are not only unique in our denial of science, but also in the degree to which that denial holds back our young people. As a society, we’re jeopardizing both our future and theirs. We battle over religious ideology–which seems to lurk behind every issue these days–rather than uniting to educate our young and insure that they maintain an edge when it comes to innovation and leadership in the world.

Anti-Science Mormon Kook Glenn Beck Declares The Earth Is 7,000 Years Old

Glenn Beck Decides: The Earth Is 7,000 Years Old
Wrestling with a controversial issue
Via:- Charles Johnson

Following Marco Rubio’s comments about the age of the Earth (“I’m not a scientist, man”), it’s been tragically hilarious — and sadly revealing — to watch the entire right wing wrestle with the issue.

Here’s Glenn Beck and his crew struggling to figure out whether the Bible actually gives an age for the Earth, because of course that would be the true age, never mind what those secular elitist eggheads think, they’re going to hell anyway.

Beck eventually decides that since each day for God equals 1,000 years, and God created the universe in 7 days, that must mean the Earth is 7,000 years old.

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New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the planet GJ 1214b, shown orbiting its star in this artist’s conception, is 6.5 times the size of Earth and composed mostly of water. Full Story David A. Aguilar

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Weak will comes from tired mental muscles

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Self-controlled people have better lives – but for the rest, lack of willpower is more like physical fatigue than moral failure, says Roy F. Baumeister

Scientists suing the FDA after covert surveillance

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Animals get arty

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$785 million to fight neglected tropical diseases

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Drone could soar through Titan’s skies for years

12:48 01 February 2012

Titan’s low gravity and dense atmosphere mean that a new radioactive-powered plane could soar across its skies for a whole year

Ivory traders may be benefitting from Arab Spring

12:12 01 February 2012

Egypt’s illegal trade in ivory is not dropping as fast as it should – political upheaval and Chinese tourism look like key factors

The yuck factor explained

11:51 01 February 2012

Psychologist Rachel Herz explores the spectrum from self-preservation to morality in That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the mysteries of repulsion

Orchid children: How bad-news genes came good

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The set of genes that help create our most grievous frailties may also underlie our greatest strengths – and sometimes the choice is settled in childhood

Wages up, jobs down – the latest graduate rollercoaster

11:00 01 February 2012

Soon-to-be-graduate Rebecca Campbell gives her take on the latest results from those taking the temperature of the graduate job market

Hayabusa’s asteroid-sampling mission, take two

23:11 31 January 2012

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe will use brute force to collect samples from an asteroid in an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of its problem-plagued predecessor

Telepathy machine reconstructs speech from brainwaves

THIS WEEK: 22:00 31 January 2012 | 4 comments

In what amounts to technological telepathy, neuroscientists are on the verge of being able to hear silent speech by monitoring brain activity

Whale acrobatics inspire a faster helicopter

20:28 31 January 2012

Inspired by the fins of humpback whales, engineers have built a helicopter with far higher performance than before

Today on New Scientist: 31 January 2012

18:00 31 January 2012

All today’s stories on newscientist.com, including: why you think your team is the best and self-portraits of a declining brain

Fossil DNA has clues to surviving rapid climate change

THIS WEEK: 17:31 31 January 2012

In the last ice age, organisms adapted fast or died. The stunning find of epigenetic changes to DNA frozen in permafrost may help explain their trick

Herd of ivory elephants reveals illicit trade in Egypt

17:27 31 January 2012

Ranks of ivory elephants in a Cairo shop show how the illegal tusk trade remains strong despite a 20-year ban

Lazy photon among the missing in exotic LHC roll call

17:12 31 January 2012

String balls, leptoquarks and lazy photons have yet to put in an appearance at the LHC, the world’s largest particle smasher

Look ma, no wings: Secret of great tit flight revealed

14:34 31 January 2012

Watch a slow-mo movie that shows a bird folding its wings to take a turn

Self-portraits of a declining brain

14:15 31 January 2012

An exhibition of artist William Utermohlen’s works reveal how his art was influenced by his Alzheimer’s disease

Software could spot face-changing criminals

01:36 18 January 2012

A facial recognition technique that focuses on features rather than a person’s whole face could nab criminals who have had plastic surgery


Vegetarian orang-utans eat world’s cutest animal

Image: Madeleine Hardus)” o:button=”t” o:spid=”_x0000_i1025″> ” src=”file:///C:\Users\TOPGUN!\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip11\clip_image015.jpg”>

05:52 17 January 2012

When fruit gets scarce for Sumatran orang-utans, some adopt an unusual coping strategy: they hunt slow lorises

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NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet

NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Artist concept of exoplanet Kepler 10b.

The discovery is based on more than eight months of data collected by the Kepler spacecraft (Source: NASA)

Hot stuff NASA has spotted a tiny, rocky planet about the size of Earth doing a speedy orbit of a star outside our solar system, the space agency has announced.

The exoplanet, named Kepler-10b, is the smallest-ever planet discovered outside our solar system, but its scorching temperatures are too hot for life.

The planet, which was located by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft findings, is described in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

It is about 1.4 times the size of Earth and spins around its star more than once a day, an orbit much too close for life to survive.

“Kepler-10b is definitely NOT in the habitable zone as we define it. The dayside temperature of the planet is expected to be higher than 2500°F (1371°C)”, says NASA expert Natalie Batalha. “That’s hot enough to melt iron.”

“It wouldn’t be a very nice place for organisms like those on Earth to live. Carbon-based chemistry wouldn’t thrive there. Molecules comprising RNA and DNA couldn’t stay intact in such extreme temperatures.”

The planet completes a full orbit once every 0.84 days, and is 23 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun.

Finding a ‘significant milesone’

According to Dr Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA, the discovery is promising even though no life could exist there.

“The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own,” says Hudgins.

“Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come,” he said.

The new planet has a mass 4.6 times that of the Earth, and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimetre, similar to an iron dumbbell, says NASA.

Batalha, a professor at San Jose State University and deputy science team lead for NASA’s Kepler Mission, says there is evidence of another potential planet in the same star system, but little is yet known about it.

“There is actually already a very compelling signature of another potential planet in this system,” says Batalha.

“There is a transit event that recurs once every 45 days and is suggestive of a planet a bit larger than two times the radius of the Earth.”

95-megapixel camera

Kepler is NASA’s first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.

It launched in 2009, equipped with the largest camera ever sent into space – a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices – and is expected to continue sending information back to Earth until at least November 2012.

The space telescope is searching for planets as small as Earth, including those orbiting stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.

NASA defines the habitable zone, in part, to have a temperature below the boiling point of water and higher than the freezing point.

Kepler is not equipped to detect signs of life, such as the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere, but mainly aims to locate Earth-size planets outside our solar system