29 February 2008

Baby Bible Bashers

Caught this posted on a few of my regular haunts. What is incredible to me is the obvious intelligence of these children, particularly the first. He is so incredibly articulate for a seven year old and was also evidently brainwashed from a very young age (considering he gave his first sermon at the age of three) that he'll never use it for anything other than spreading dangerous myths and legends as truth.

The brainwashing thing what is so depressing to me. Many of the extreme right wing evangelical Christians with whom I disagree so strongly were taught what they now believe when lacked the intellectual capacity to defend themselves from it by parents who endured the same.

Living in a Dream

Great comic at Cectic today.

28 February 2008


Does anyone else ever just sit and stare at their fist and clench…unclench…clench…unclench?

I'm just thinking about everything that is involved in such a simple action: the oxygen required and the immense delivery system that gets it there, the bone structure, the muscles that move the bones, the neurons that tell the muscles how to move, and the complex workings of the brain that tell send the message down the neurons. To think that such a complex system evolved by natural selection over the course of millions of year…absolutely incredible.

Goods Sign for the Godless

Well, everyone has been taking a look at the latest Pew Report on American Religion which came out a few days back and which I've been too busy to comment on until now. PZ Meyers at Pharyngula offers a pretty good analysis of it here and I recommend you take a look if you get a chance.

I think the most encouraging thing is the fact that the protestant population is shrinking. This seems to be a common misconception among people I talk to. Most seem to think because of the recent (and fortunately failed…at least thus far) attempted takeover of American government by the religious right that evangelical protestant religions are growing out of control and going to take over America. What evidently is actually occurring is that the extremely religious that do exist are just getting louder. I would even contend that this is happening specifically because of the shrinking numbers of the protestant population. What we are seeing is a movement that is lashing out and using the typical scare tactics to stop the flow of people out of the pews. We saw this in the 17th and 18th centuries in response to the Enlightenment with the advent of the Great Awakenings.

I think this time though it's different. I think we are far better armed with scientific evidence and we can easily make the debate about that evidence. In the 1800s it was hard to counter any sort of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" nonsense. (The full text of which can be found here) That sort of thing pretty much scared the shit out of everyone and sent them into a frenzy. I think now we have made enough scientific advancement that we can refute empirically most all of religion's other claims to the degree that even the burn in hell stuff doesn't as many people as it used to, even if we can't empirically refute the idea that you're going to spend the rest of eternity in hell for not believing. Then again, the burden of proof doesn't lie with us, it lies with the one who makes the claim.

Anyways, this trend is extremely encouraging and I think it will likely continue into the future. The far right will scream and holler itself into oblivion in the face of rising evidence against its claims. Then again, maybe I'm being extremely and uncharacteristically optimistic.

Think a Moment Before You Turn on Your iPod

The professor for my Intro to the Modern Middle East class today asked us the question:

To what extent do countries, governments, or national & multinational corporations have the right to the resources of other sovereign nations?

and asked for us to discuss it.

The discussion was quite revealing of the huge conundrums you run into when you look at the practical application of the answer to that question. The answer of course, is no. A sovereign nation alone has rights to its own resources. This, unfortunately, is not the way it is. We here in the United States certainly have our own ideas on this matter. It reminds me of a bumper sticker a friend of my father has on his car which reads What is our oil doing under your sand?

I contemplated the subject a little longer on my walk home and the following little thought experiment sort of conjured itself up in my mind. I was listening to my iPod, and I started thinking about how much oil it took for that music to reach my ear through that iPod. It takes oil to manufacture the electronics. It takes oil to ship the electronics from the factory. It takes oil to ship the iPod to the store. When I turn it on, it takes electricity to make the music play in my ear. This electricity comes from a wall outlet, where I plug it in to to charge it up. The electricity from this outlet comes from a power plant, which most likely uses oil or coal, in which case the coal requires the use of oil to transport it to the station.

I go through this tedious list simply to point out how just how much oil it takes to listen to 15 minutes of music on my way home from class. Now, undoubtedly, we can assume that at least some sizable portion of that oil came from conflicted regions in the middle east. Essentially, someone died because of that oil. Hypothetically, if it were possible to know the figures, we could figure out how many gallons of oil it took for me to be able to listen to those 15 minutes of music. We could also figure out how many lives were lost over those particular gallons of oil and compute specifically the number of deaths I am complicit in simply for turning my iPod on for 15 minutes. Now think about all the things in your life every day that require oil. The numbers explode when you take everything in the whole day into account. Now think about a week, a month...a whole year? It quickly becomes rather horrifying. The number of murders I am associated with is simply boggling.

But next time I want to listen to my iPod, I'll likely take it out of my pocket, pause only a moment while thinking about some distant soul who lost there life senselessly so I could listen to John Paul George and Ringo, put the earbuds in and head on home to write a blog post about the senseless killing in the middle east.

25 February 2008

Out Campaign

Anyone who isn't aware of it should check out the OUT Campaign. It's an initiative run by Richard Dawkins to let closet atheists out there know that they are not alone and there are others like them all around. The truth is that there are far more atheists in this world than there are those who admit to it. Most are simply too scared of the backlash they will receive from their family and friends. I think it is essential that it be made known to the world (particularly America) that atheism is not some sort of obscure group of misanthropic nihilists but rather a vast shift towards the realization of reality as it actually exists and not as we have been brainwashed to believe it is. I display the scarlet A on the sidebar (for which I have been added to the OUT Campaign blogroll) and I wear my Out Campaign t-shirt proudly to let closet atheists out there know that we are here, we are good, moral people, just like you, and we hope that one day reason and rationality will be the guiding principle behind human society.

24 February 2008

About 'Where We Make Our Stand'

I feel it necessary to do an actual full explanation of this blog because my first post didn't do a very good job.


The name comes from a line out of a very long quote from Carl Sagan concerning this photo, the pale blue dot. The quote can also be read at the above link or watched right below:

This photo really says a lot to me, and I think Carl echoes my thoughts exactly right at the end there:

"...it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."


The fact that we as a species have survived ourselves this long is somewhat shocking in itself. Most likely we've lasted thus far because for the majority of our existence we simply haven't had the capacity to utterly and completely destroy ourselves such as we have now. We only get one shot at this, there is no reset button, no mulligans. Today's fast paced high powered world is already accelerating far beyond the bounds of what we are at the evolutionary level to handle. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, (hopefully one day I can though) but I think it would be safe to assume that we have not as a species undergone any very significant evolutionary change in the last two millennia. Think about where we what society was like when Jesus was "curing lepers" and "walking on water," and then think about what society is like now. We live in a world where the line between man and machine is being blurred incredible advances in nanotechnology and between man and animal by genetic engineering. Our mathematical understand of universe is already far beyond what our brains have evolved to understand. I am not saying this is not a good thing, not at all, but just that we are far past the point where our species can survive by adhering to bronze age superstitions and attempts at philosophy in order to understand the world around us. We must as a global society overcome our evolutionary limitations and work for the betterment of the human condition. That is why this blog will focus primarily on the advocation of reason and rational thought to solve the problems that confront us today. If we don't, and we continue to squabble over our petty differences and attempt to confront our problems with our age old superstitions, we simply will not make it.

This will not be the only function of this blog though, as that would get a little boring, both for me and for you. I'll also focus a great deal on politics, particularly because politics and religion's trespasses against liberal society seem to have become intertwined lately, and on any other random things I find interesting.


My name is Jeremy Jackson Berg. I am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a double major most likely in biology and religious studies. I am a chronic overachiever who has way more goals than are possible to accomplish in one lifetime and also a procrastinator (most likely when I write blog posts, it's because I'm procrastinating), so, as you can imagine, that works out really well. I am very into competitive running, and run cross country and track with the Wisconsin Track Club, because I haven't realized the glory days of high school running are over and was too stubborn to go to a school where I had a legit chance of making the team. I grew up in po-dunk little Marshfield, WI, where there just plain isn't much to do. To be fair, it's a great place to raise a family, but a terrible place to be seventeen years old.

I plan on living out the rest of my life on a college campus (or various ones) somewhere, as there really is no better place to be, learning for probably the next 8 years and eventually teaching at some point. I typically have strong criticisms of the way we do things here in American and a sort of delusion that I may some day just skip the country and head to a more civilized Europe. (It's a good thing I don't plan to run for political office as that would've just about killed any chances there, someone'll dig that up if I ever try.) That'll probably never happen though because there's just something about the familiarity of this mixed up country that would be hard to leave behind.

I think that's enough about me. This post will undoubtedly change in the future as I update it to reflect present conditions.

23 February 2008

I'm on the Atheist Blogroll

I've just been added to MoJoey's Atheist Blogroll. I've added it in scrolling marquee form on the sidebar and posts regarding religion and atheism will be forthcoming.

Late Night Browsings

I should be getting sleep because of my track meet tomorrow, but instead I'm watching this:

I Feel Like a Real Blogger Now

I've now have a total of one comment on one of my posts. I feel a hundred times more legit, thanks to "Anonymous". Although by reading it, I have a pretty good guess of who it is.

A Few Links to Some Interesting Stuff

Barack's story checks out: further failings of the pentagon to support our troops

Plagiarism? Puh-leeez

And Barack doesn't have legislative accomplishments?
Demonstrating that Hillary's purported advantage in "legislative accomplishments" is just that...purported

So, what your telling me is that one in 500 American citizens has terrorist connections?

And of course, the latest rantings of one of my favorite atheists

19 February 2008

Yes, Using Steroids to Recover From Injury is Still Cheating

I saw an part of an interview with Andy Pettitte tonight and I very strongly disagreed with something he said. It's well known that he used HGH only to recover from an injury, and not to "gain a competitive advantage." But isn't using steroids (and I use the term steroid to refer broadly to all substances not acceptable in competitive sports) to recover from an injury in essence gaining a competitive advantage? Some of us are bigger, faster, and stronger than the rest of us, and if I use steroids to become bigger, faster, or stronger by using steroids, that's cheating. Essentially, we each have a certain amount of talent, and using any method to alter or increase the amount of talent you have, is out of bounds. The very spirit of the competition relies on this difference of talent. If every player on the basketball court can play like Michael Jordan, the game becomes pointless. Now, lets look at the injury situation. As far as I'm concerned, injury is part of the game. No athlete is immune from it. If you twist your knee a certain way, you are going to tear your ACL, no buts about it. The rules don't suddenly go out the window when you get an injury. You aren't suddenly allowed to use whatever means you wish to recover from the injury as fast as you can. Some athletes will recover faster than others, and that is part of the game too. Sports are about pitting the fitness of your body and the sharpness of your mind against that of your opponents on the other team. Fitness of the body incorporates the intrinsic talent one possesses that I mentioned earlier. Some are more capable of recovering from injury at a faster pace than others, and that's the way it is. Andy Pettitte, using HGH to recover from an injury is gaining an unfair competitive advantage, and you are a cheater.

17 February 2008

My Letter to President Bush

Another thing I decided to do last night was write an email to President Bush. Hope no secret service show up at my door...

President Bush,
It seems to me as of late you have forgotten the role in the government afforded you by the constitution. I am speaking of course of the FISA legislation which the House has thankfully finally decided to stand up to you on. You seem to think that congress has failed to pass your law. But anyone who has read the constitution knows that the president does not determine or make the laws. Congress passes the laws, and you enforce them, not the other way around. If congress passes a law you disagree with, you are bound by the constitution, the highest law in the land, to enforce it. And if they do not pass a law that you want passed, you must respect that. I haven't even touched your blatant lying about the situation yet. How about we go there, shall we? You have claimed that failure to pass this law will inhibit the ability of the government to protect American citizens from the threat of terrorist attacks. Yet you refuse to sign it unless it includes retroactive immunity for the major telecom companies. If it was really the case that failure to pass this law would result in decreased safety to American citizens, you would have to sign it. You would not have a choice Mr President, because the alternative is unthinkable. The alternative is that because of our decreased ability to track terrorists, some major attack might occur on American soil. You, Mr President, would be responsible for that. History would look back on you and say "he could have made the compromise, he could have given up his demands, in order to do what was right and protect American lives, and he failed." And frankly Mr Bush, that is something that not even you could bring yourself to do. You have attempted (and failed) to build your entire presidency around your strong record against terrorism, and the one thing you absolutely would not allow is for it to become blatantly and irrefutably obvious that you failed miserably in the respect. Therefore Mr President, we are left with the undeniable fact that you are flat out lying to us, the very people you were elected to serve. Your conduct is inexcusable and unfortunately the political landscape in Washington is too rocky to allow a real chance of your impeachment, because that is what you deserve.

Jeremy Berg
Young American Citizen who's future you have spent away in Iraq

16 February 2008

I Love Madison

ok, i gotta break my vow cause the most hilarious thing just happened in the hallway, it went a little like this:

Random drunk chick in my hallway at 12:30 on Friday night/Saturday morning: Hey man...
Me: hey, what's up?
Drunk chick: 'dyou know Ben?
Me: Ben Shapiro? (who's room we are currently standing right outside of)
Drunk chick (who obviously either didn't know, or had forgotten Ben's last name): Ben. He's from Wisconsin
Me: Yeah, that's his room right there.
Drunk chick: 'dyou know where he is? 
Me: no, I don't
Drunk chick: you mean, like, you legitimately haven't seen him all night *looks for a moment as if about to puke*
Me: nope, sorry, don't know where he is
Drunk chick: (stumbles down the hallway hiccupping)

Hypocrisy at its Finest

Ok, last post for the night. (I'm telling ya, home on a Friday night is incredibly boring)

Bill Clinton came to town on Thursday (actually, just about everyone associated with the presidential campaign has been in town during the last week, save Hillary herself, who will be here Sunday) and said one thing during the hour that he talked that I really really agreed with (not to say there weren't others).  He was talking about nuclear weapons, and the ridiculous hypocritical positions that our government currently takes.  Few people ever question the authority of the United States to tell other countries whether they can or cannot have nuclear weapons, but the fact is that we have approximately 10,000 nuclear weapons ourselves.  In case your eyes didn't do a double take like mine did the first time I saw that number I'll type it again.  10,000 nuclear weapons!  According to Bill's speach yesterday (and I haven't researched this myself, so I can't claim to know that its true with certainty), the United States is currently attempting to develop two new varieties of nuclear weapons (my guess is something tactical, but I could be completely wrong).  To quote Bill "There's probably a better salesman than me in here, but I think that's a pretty tough sell.  We don't want you to have one of what we want two new of."  Aside from the wordiness and the fact that Bill was undoubtedly the best salesman in the room, that statement is completely true.  The idea that we in the United States somehow have the right to tell other countries whether or not they have the right to have nuclear weapons or not is preposterous.  And until we show some resolve to get rid of our own nuclear arsenal, which poses nothing but a threat to global security, we have no legitimate right to tell other countries what they can and cannot do with regard to nuclear weapons.

Concerning Candidates

Alright, my first actual post.

The current presidential race is obviously occupying a large chunk of America's time right now. In fact, that may be the understatement of the decade. And why shouldn't it, after the last 7 years we've had I think this country is desperate for something new, something different. This isn't going where you think. This isn't going to be a "Barack Obama is the only one who offers that change" type of rant. I think even John McCain would be a welcome change from what we've been stuck with lately. The thing is, with all the publicity this race has gotten, it's hard to know what's the truth about any of the candidates anymore. I can't resist being attracted to Obama. Listening to him speak stirs in just about anyone a feeling that we really can change the world. My question is whether he really plans to or not. I read a great article I found on onegoodmove that I really agree with. Obama has the sort of speaking talent that could convince half the country that giving naziism another go would probably be a good idea (seriously). So then why doesn't he use that talent to really take a hard progressive line on a lot of issues and really get something done. Then again, with the type of excitement he has created among liberals in this country, I think we all better get in line and see where this takes us. He has created the kind of following, and the kind of expectations of drastic change, that I think people will hold him accountable if he doesn't deliver. And that is exactly what we need to bring back to the oval office, accountability.

Clinton, on the other hand, just does not generate the same feeling. I feel that if she were elected President much of the grass roots excitement that Obama has generated would be absent from the movement and when things don't start looking up (as they might not, the next president has perhaps the tallest order in the history of this country save maybe FDR and Lincoln) the same mix of anger and apathy we have seen the last 7 years would return. Don't get me wrong, I think Clinton would make a great President, but I think that in this case the excitement that Obama has generated really is of consequence and ought to be considered.

*sigh* I wish Edwards had managed to move to the front...

15 February 2008


Hello all,
This is (quite apparently) my first post here. It's friday night, I'm sitting in my dorm room, and I've got a terrible cold. What use is attending the #1 party school in the nation if you're too sick to go out. Ah well, I guess there's always next weekend. Aside from the random angry outbursts such as the preceding, this will primarily be a place for me to talk about whatever more serious matter is on my mind for the day, whether it be politics, science, or its ever-present foe, religion.

Concerning the title, I initially wanted to name it "Pale Blue Dot", after the famous Voyager 1 photo, but more specifically the speech delivered by Carl Sagan (my hero) concerning the photo and its significance. Unfortunately, that name was already taken, as was the second choice that occurred to me, "Suspended in a Sunbeam", also from that speech (which can be heard here). So I settled on another snippet of that speech, which I find incredibly relevant to my feelings towards the overall situation the human race currently faces.

This is the only home we have, and whether it's the threat of global warming, or thermonuclear holocaust, we only have one chance. We don't get a do over when we make a colossal mistake and wipe out all the progress we've made. We need to stop killing one another in droves over who's imaginary friend is bigger than the other's (I'm talking about God(s) in case you missed that) and we need to start working together to preserve this little gem of a world from who's tidal pools we're lucky enough to have arisen. Things don't look too bright in that respect.

I think I'll end on that depressing note for now.