Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Why I am not an atheist

Jk u guize. Technically I still am an atheist. I don’t believe in any supernatural beings, homeopathy, telepathy, alien conspiracy theories, etc. When I say I am not an atheist I mean that I no longer identify as a member of the atheist movement.

I often wonder if people wonder “whatever happened to that blogger girl who was gonna change the world and make it a more rational place?” For quite some time I’ve even anticipated somebody asking me why I quietly just stopped one day without a word (insert T. S. Eliot reference). I never check my old e-mail accounts but to my knowledge no one has ever tried to ask me why.

Still, in anticipation I’ve often contemplated the answer I would give and I think the best way to sum that answer up would be this: I just grew out of it.

It’s not intellectually useless to contemplate the existence of a god, or to really think about how we know what is true really is true. Back in the day it was delightful fun to be introduced to scientific concepts like natural selection and ideas like moral relativism and I certainly grew from being a part of a community of learners who also loved to share that learning.

Simply put, however, I now find such a narrow focus on the topics I used to write about almost absurd. You can only repeat the same arguments so many times. There are only so many varieties of pseudoscience you can poke holes in. Once I knew all these arguments about why there probably is no god so well I… still needed new stuff to learn so I lost interest.

That’s not the sole reason either. I confess to some embarrassment when I look back on how, well, mean I could sometimes be about the gamut of things that annoyed me and became the subject of my rants, crucially how mean I could sometimes be toward the people who believed them. With age I began to recognize that many atheist activists were also just plain mean and were more concerned with making fun of the bullshit people believed in than real education. Worse, I simultaneously learned to recognize that cruel and unproductive tendency within myself. Silently watching how we treated each other during the elevatorgate debacle only reinforced my disinterest in becoming involved in atheism again (generally I sympathize more with the social justice-y Atheism+ thing and I draw a parallel between my personal outgrowth with atheism and the needs the + seeks to fill).

On the bright side, I feel like the experience of being around us atheists sharing the burdensome trait of being poor communicators has helped me learn how to be a more effective communicator, though I am now humbly aware of just how much further I need to improve my communication skills.

In fact, I err more towards diplomacy now than I like to admit and I think I can learn a thing or two from that fiery adolescent I used to be who would call out anyone’s bullshit and not give a fuck how she did it. Too often these days I keep my mouth shut in the interest of getting along with friends who have different views from me, and though I’ve certainly come to appreciate the value of getting past silly differences like beliefs and liking people for who they really are, I still believe there is an objective harm from some beliefs (though not as much moderate religion, but things like the anti-vax movement are plainly fucked up) which I don’t call out often enough. I just think sometimes I went about things in a bit of a misguided way…

But hey, I was just a kid, though people on the internet for some reason always found that remarkable.

Also, you guys thought I was a good writer? Gosh, -nervous laugh- I’m flattered, but looking back on my writing, seeing all the errors and passive voice, I’m a bit bewildered that people used to think that about me.

If anyone’s interested, some things are still the same. I’m majoring in biology and I tentatively  plan to study paleontology (evolution is cool!). I still have an inkling of ambition to become the next Carl Sagan/Neil DeGrasse Tyson/Richard Dawkins/Mrs. Frizzle. The unofficial mission statement of my new college (New College) is “that the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder, that we should never settle for less!”.


Grammatically Poor, Semi-Chronological, but Hilarious Review of New Moon

Note: Contains run-on sentences and general grammatical confusion which I have no desire to fix.

The redeeming feature of the Twilight Saga is that it’s so bad that it’s a satire of itself. Thus, it actually does make it worth it to go see it and laugh at it, and what’s the most hilarious night to go watch the latest installment of the series? Opening night when all the fangirls scream every time Robert Pattinson takes his shirt off!

So here’s a list of my favourite moments from New Moon and if you can make sense of what I’ve written here then perhaps there is hope yet for stuff that I write under sleep deprivation. Continue reading

Facebook Friend Stats and Gender Ratios of Skeptics

Only a cold-hearted scientist can take their friends and turn them into numbers. Courtesy of the Friend Facts Facebook app, I have the following statistics regarding my Facebook friends:

Gender breakdown: 33% female / 67% male
Relationship status: 57% single / 43% taken
Political breakdown: 97% democrats / 3% republicans
Geographic distribution: 12 countries, 24 states
Most common zodiac sign: Aries (20 friends)
Favorite music: Pink Floyd (16 friends)
Favorite TV show: House (17 friends)
Favorite movie: Fight Club (12 friends)
Favorite book: The God Delusion (21 friends)
Favorite activity: Reading (23 friends)

Now, my Facebook friends are pretty much entirely comprised of skeptical people because they come seeking me because I’m mildly Internet-“famous”. Of course, these are mostly skeptics who like me (there are some who don’t) so it’s biased in that way, but humor me for a little bit.

I’m unsurprised but highly amused by the most common activity, book, and TV show. I’m mildly surprised by the political distribution although I’d have suspected it. However, since this app does not take into account the Libertarians I must be friends with, I’m going to go ahead and assume I generally only piss off the socially conservative of the fiscally conservative population.

But I suspected all along that you shifty Aries were more disposed towards skepticism of astrology!

What’s really bothering me, though, is the gender ratio. From what I’ve heard, TAM 7 (or was it 6? I’ve forgotten already) also had a similar ratio. Most skeptics were saying that was only because women aren’t as inclined towards going to conferences and that outside of the conference the ratio was more balanced, but I didn’t meet all these people at TAM.

Seeing that I’m a blogger, however, perhaps it is true that the number of skeptics in general has a balanced gender ratio but women are less interested in skeptical activism.

But, of course, this is just my Facebook and I’m but one person. I can only speculate a little.

Now, this isn’t very scientific, but I’m just a little bit curious. I’d like anybody reading this with a Facebook to use this app and post your stats in the comments.

The Future of Elles?

I suppose in making this post my purpose here is to simply mark a time of ambiguity in my blogging career.

In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t blog very often any more. At least, not as much as I used to.

Most of this I attribute to the fact that school keeps me increasingly busy nowadays so I don’t keep up with stuff as much, anymore. Part of it I attribute to my Twitter account. Instead of posting articles I find and my commentary here, I usually just put it up on my Twitter and sum up my likes  or dislikes in less than 140 characters. And, there’s also the matter of Teen Skepchick, which I know I can cross-post stuff from there onto here, but I try to keep content rather separate, so when I do have something to write about it usually goes there.

But sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I’m sick of repeating myself. How many times can you refute the same tired old creationist question of “if humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys”?

Yesterday, I realized that I have been posting slightly more regularly on Teen Skepchick than on this blog, and I kind of feel like the reason I’m doing that is it seems a more important project to me. So what if I stopped posting here altogether? Well, I dunno.

Apparently, I’ve also just changed my blog name from Splendid Elles to Plain and Simple Elles on a whim. The “plain and simple” bit is a reference from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which I’ve been watching a lot of, but I won’t go into a description of the particular scene because it’s not that important. I think it’s because I, Elles, am many things, not just “splendid”, and I want people to think about me as a complex whole that is Elles, and not just “The Splendid One”. I may change the name back, we’ll see.

Advice is welcome, but I promise you that when I do have time, and when I do see misinformation in the media, in creationist propaganda, or anywhere from an Internet chatroom to a lunchtime discussion, I’ll be here to call “them” out on it.

In Which I Use Foul Non-Age-Appropriate Language at the Prompting of Other Youth

But maintain enough decency to stick a “more” tag in…

Continue reading

Adventures from “East” of the Pacific

So… yeah… I’m in China.

Thought I’d just share a few adventures that I’ve had in this foreign land.

Not only does China block all of WordPress, but these days I also can’t access Facebook, Twitter or Skepchick without a proxy. Apparently these three websites have the power to overthrow the Chinese government and give Taiwan and Tibet independence and we’re just not using them to their full potential. I wonder if Rebecca Watson knows she’s that capable.

Ironically, I’ve been able to access without a hitch.

The twelve hour plane ride across the Pacific was spent reading Bonk by Mary Roach, which I’ve truly been enjoying a lot. At one point the kid sitting next to me (also going to the summer language camp in China I’m at) looked over and the first word he saw was “vulva” which made him freak out. Upon reading the cover he said “I have nothing to say about that book.”

Upon arrival in China health officials made us wait on the plane to individually check the temperatures of everybody on the plane. They were actually quite speedy about it and we didn’t have to wait more than five minutes, but it just goes to show that the Chinese government is more paranoid about swine flu than anybody in the US I know. When I got to the Chinese language camp they would also check our temperatures daily, and take anybody with a fever to the hospital. I still find it kind of weird seeing nurses stationed at the doorway every morning.

By not getting any sleep on the plane but still managing to stay up ’til 10:00 pm China time I was able to avoid jet lag entirely for the first time in my life. The sleep deprivation, however, made everything all the more interesting.

The next two days were spent going out of the campus we were staying on and visiting sights around Beijing. We visited the lovely Summer Palace, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and pandas in the Beijing Zoo.

Theoretically we would have gone to Tinanmen Square and the Forbidden City on the third day had it not been confirmed that 8 kids in the camp had swine flu. They quarantined the campus for the whole day which made me LOL.

The next day the camp dispersed in subgroups to other provinces and I’m currently writing from a hotel near the Shaolin Temple.

In fact, we just got back from visiting the Shaolin Temple which was overall awesome. They also let us pray to the “God of Wisdom.” It was interesting learning the Buddhist way of praying involving incense and such, but I walked away thinking how ironic it was to be praying for intelligence.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Hopefully I’ll be back to skeptical blogging soon… maybe… actually I probably won’t have time… But whatever.

Also, screw you Great Firewall of China! I should not have to go through a proxy to read my own blog.

Update: Partial fail on my part. This is what happens when you don’t write posts all in one sitting. Halfway through writing I cam up with the above title and I was going to go back to the beginning and link to this so that it would all be “funny” or some sort of subjective value like that. Of course, I was pulled away temporarily before I could move my cursor up and forgot completely about it before returning to my computer.

Still can’t believe Wazza’s the only one that commented on that thus far.

Also, for those that asked, I was in Shanghai for the eclipse and was able to see the sun for the first quarter of it… and then it started raining because Shanghai is the Seattle of China. I was able to see the whole city plunged into darkness.

The next day I heard two women chatting about the eclipse in Chinese. Their conversation went something like this:

Woman 1: What did you think of that eclipse?

Woman 2: I don’t think it was that great. All that happened was the sky went black.

Yup. All that happened was the sky went black as night in the middle of the day for five whole minutes. Let’s continue going about our daily lives, shall we?

Look to Norway!

Today this comic showed up on


Well, yeah, it’s funny, but something here caught my attention and made me flex my Google muscles and that is…

Norway is ranked first in the world in life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living.

Hold on… Norway has the highest life expectancy, literacy rate, education, and standard of living? Well… let’s take a look at a few links.

Well, it’s not actually first at any of the things listed in the comic so it’s not exactly honest, is it? But yes, that is damned good, and it shows that nations can be just as good as the U.S. with a primarily atheistic population…

But might I point out one thing? Canada ranks higher in life expectancy than Norway, ranks equally in literacy, is in first place for most educated, and is also among the top ten countries with highest living standards. The U.S. also doesn’t do too shabby with a life expectancy of 78.06 (so Norwegians get one or two more years), a shared literacy rate, second place in education, and also has a place on highest standards of living.

I’m going to go ahead and say, though it’s not as secular, statistically speaking…

Canada > Norway

Update: I present a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

If there is anyone who still wonders why this war is being fought, let him look to Norway. If there is anyone who has any delusions that this war could have been averted, let him look to Norway; and if there is anyone who doubts the democratic will to win, again I say, let him look to Norway.

You know what this means? FDR had the foresight to know that Norway would be the cause of the Iraq War! Another reason why Canada > Norway!