Archaeologists in Nepal say they have discovered traces of a wooden structure dating from the sixth century BC which they believe is the world’s oldest Buddhist shrine.
Kosh Prasad Acharya, who worked with archaeologists from Durham University, said on Tuesday that the structure had been unearthed inside the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini.
The Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, is generally thought to have been born in about the sixth century BC at the temple site.
The findings were published in the December issue of the journal Antiquity.
Acharya said the traces had been date tested using radiocarbon and luminescence techniques. The archaeological team dug underneath previously known brick structures in the temple, and experts from the University of Stirling examined and collected the samples, he said. The team has been working at the site for the past three years.
Previously, a pillar installed by the Indian emperor Ashok with inscriptions dating to the third century BC was considered to be the oldest Buddhist structure, Acharya said. “This finding further strengthens the chronology of Buddha’s life and was is major news for the millions of Buddhists around the world,” Acharya said.
“Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition,” a Durham University archaeologist, Robin Coningham, said. “Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century BC.”
Each year, tens of thousands of Buddhists visit Lumbini, 175 miles south-west of Kathmandu. Followers believe Siddhartha, a prince, left his family and kingdom and meditated in the jungles of Nepal and India before achieving enlightenment. …
Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
Posted by Xeno on August 12, 2013
A Tennessee judge has ordered a baby’s first name changed from “Messiah” to Martin, saying that the only true messiah is Jesus Christ, a ruling the boy’s mother promises to appeal, a Tennessee television station has reported.
Vía Reuters: Oddly Enough http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/oddlyEnoughNews/~3/8deaYJCrLU8/story01.htm
Posted by Xeno on August 7, 2013
This is why you just have to love so much of what passes for right-wing thinking in 2013. Call it the Fred Flintstone Effect. Yesterday, Ken Ham, President of “Answers in Genesis,” a staunchly conservative Christian group, released a brief radio spot claiming that dinosaurs are being used to “indoctrinate children.”
As Mr. Ham sees it, this is part of a plan hatched by paleontologists to trick innocent youth into believing the theory of evolution.
Well, you may be able to fool some people all of the time, and other people some of the time; but you can’t fool Ken Ham. God, Ham insists, created all living creatures on the same day, “about 6,000 years ago.”
Fortunately, when it comes to all of America’s impressionable children, Ham is not alone in his position. Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) is also on the job. Until recently, in one of their most popular biology texts they noted:
“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the “Loch Ness Monster” in Scotland? “Nessie” for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
See how simple science is kids! If Nessie is real – and dinosaurs aren’t extinct – then, evolution is a myth. God, it all makes such perfect, right-wing sense…
Is it the paleontologists now? I thought Satan planted all of those bones to fool people.
Posted by Xeno on July 23, 2013
(Reuters) – Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed an atheist group to perform weddings this year for the first time, and the few people certified to celebrate them are overwhelmed by hundreds of couples seeking their services.
Vía Reuters: Oddly Enough http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/oddlyEnoughNews/~3/dGrBXA_ekpM/story01.htm
Posted by Xeno on May 29, 2013
The Springboro Board of Education is asking for trouble.
Board members are considering a policy that would require faculty to teach creationism in science class.
According to the Dayton Daily News, the proposed policy would require teachers to offer all sides of “controversial issues” such as evolution. Evolution is lumped in with other “controversial” issues such as sex education, legalization of drugs, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change, and sustainable development.
WDTN Channel 2 News reports that Board Vice President Jim Rigano is trying to downplay the impact of the policy.
“It’s about controversial issues and creation/evolution being one of those,” he said, “and the policy is being brought forward for a couple reasons. One is we don’t want to be indoctrinating students to any particular point of view. We want to make sure that all sides are being taught in a fair and balanced way and, then, also, we want to encourage critical thinking.”
We’re all in favor of “critical thinking,” of course. And my critical thinking leads me to believe that board members are on a religious crusade.
Evolution is not a “controversial issue,” at least not within the scientific community. Scientists regard evolution as the central organizing principle of modern biology.
The National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and other allied organizations have repeatedly insisted that science education must focus on science, not religion. Evolution is only controversial with fundamentalist Christians who want to teach their theology in public schools.
Many parents in Springboro are on to the obvious religious agenda the board is considering.
According to WDTN, David Bowman said, “I think this school board likes to play politics and likes to play games. This is merely a means for them to introduce their specific ideology. I don’t think they’re at all interested in teaching our kids critical thinking.”
The Ohio ACLU is on the case as well.
“In 2011, the Springboro school board backed away from plans to teach creationism under public pressure,” said ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Drew Dennis. “At the time, they claimed they were no longer pursuing the issue and called it a “distraction” from more important work. Less than two years later the district has proposed a series of policies designed to integrate creationism into the school curriculum.
“These plans are just as unconstitutional today as they were in 2011,” added Dennis. “And they remain an unnecessary distraction from the more important work of giving children the education they need to succeed in the real world.”
In these days of limited resources, it would be a huge waste of public funds to defend a school policy that is manifestly unconstitutional. The Springboro school board will be failing its duties to the Constitution and the children of the community if it proceeds with this reckless scheme.
Media accounts say board members are likely to vote on the policy at its next meeting June 4. Here’s hoping they do the right thing….
In my view the best evidence points to consciousness as a brain function:
- We can turn off consciousness and put people reliably into reversible drug-induced comas. The drugs make brain cells fire at the same time or otherwise disrupt different areas from communicating (so they aren’t listening to each other) and that makes people go unconscious … every time [link].
- Brain stimulation of the right angular gyrus can make someone experience leaving their body [link].
- Aspects of consciousness such as sensory perception, emotions, memory, language, complex motor skills and personality are all seen to be changed or removed when different areas of the brain are damaged.
Odds are high that you will not get a new perfect spirit body when you die. You will probably not go for long walks on the beach laughing with Jesus. You may actually experience an afterlife, however, as your brain cells are slowly winking out. Hopefully that last dream will be at least as enjoyable as this waking dream. While we are here together, have fun and keep it real. … And by “real” I mean factually verified as opposed to wishful thinking. You’ll live longer and help even more people with that philosophy, I believe.
But how do non-religious people deal with the fear of death? The same ways as religious folk, mostly. We think about it when it comes up and sometimes we feel uncomfortable, anxious or sad about it, but we try to make the best of our time here. If we keep busy, really large spans of time can go by where we don’t think about it at all. We do have hopes of continued conscious existence, but our hopes are somewhat more factually based (life extension, cryogenics, stem cells, tissue rejuvenation, transfer of consciousness to a quantum computer, etc.)
The time before birth was nothingness and I expect the same after death. Nothingness is not unpleasant. It’s just nothing. Imagine there’s no heaven. Whatever death is, we will most likely all ride that ride. Meanwhile, however, we should all be doing what we can to end biological death, which I believe to be a curable disease! Religion just distracts us from doing that. Donate some of that money to SENS instead of building temples to worship someone who might not have even actually existed in the flesh.
Very interesting and informative, but the ignorance about the evidence in the Roswell crash weakens his credibility at the end. There was a recovered disk reported around the world at the time of the crash not 30 years later as he claims. Embarrassing blunder for a scholar, but that’s what happens when you are biased to discount all conspiracy possibilities.
Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947, announcing the “capture” of a “flying saucer.”
Yes Major Marcel was interviewed by Stanton Friedman in 1978, but the “saucer” was first reported in a newspaper in 1947, 30 years earlier.
In 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft.
It may not have been an alien spacecraft, but it wasn’t just sticks and foil.
Posted by Xeno on May 29, 2013
Falling into a black hole may not be as final as it seems. Apply a quantum theory of gravity to these bizarre objects and the all-crushing singularity at their core disappears.
In its place is something that looks a lot like an entry point to another universe. Most immediately, that could help resolve the nagging information loss paradox that dogs black holes.
Though no human is likely to fall into a black hole anytime soon, imagining what would happen if they did is a great way to probe some of the biggest mysteries in the universe. Most recently this has led to something known as the black hole firewall paradox – but black holes have long been a source of cosmic puzzles.
According to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, if a black hole swallows you, your chances of survival are nil. You’ll first be torn apart by the black hole’s tidal forces, a process whimsically named spaghettification.
Eventually, you’ll reach the singularity, where the gravitational field is infinitely strong. At that point, you’ll be crushed to an infinite density. Unfortunately, general relativity provides no basis for working out what happens next. “When you reach the singularity in general relativity, physics just stops, the equations break down,” says Abhay Ashtekar of Pennsylvania State University.
The same problem crops up when trying to explain the big bang, which is thought to have started with a singularity. So in 2006, Ashtekar and colleagues applied loop quantum gravity to the birth of the universe. LQG combines general relativity with quantum mechanics and defines space-time as a web of indivisible chunks of about 10 -35 metres in size. The team found that as they rewound time in an LQG universe, they reached the big bang, but no singularity – instead they crossed a “quantum bridge” into another older universe. This is the basis for the “big bounce” theory of our universe’s origins. …
Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, have applied LQG on a much smaller scale – to an individual black hole – in the hope of removing that singularity too. To simplify things, the pair applied the equations of LQG to a model of a spherically symmetrical, non-rotating “Schwarzschild” black hole.
In this new model, the gravitational field still increases as you near the black hole’s core. But unlike previous models, this doesn’t end in a singularity. Instead gravity eventually reduces, as if you’ve come out the other end of the black hole and landed either in another region of our universe, or another universe altogether. Despite only holding for a simple model of a black hole, the researchers – and Ashtekar – believe the theory may banish singularities from real black holes too.
That would mean that black holes can serve as portals to other universes. While other theories, not to mention some works of science fiction, have suggested this, the trouble was that nothing could pass through the portal because of the singularity. The removal of the singularity is unlikely to be of immediate practical use, but it could help with at least one of the paradoxes surrounding black holes, the information loss problem.
A black hole soaks up information along with the matter it swallows, but black holes are also supposed to evaporate over time. That would cause the information to disappear forever, defying quantum theory. But if a black hole has no singularity, then the information needn’t be lost – it may just tunnel its way through to another universe. “Information doesn’t disappear, it leaks out,” says Pullin…..
If there are an infinite number of other universes, there would surely be one where “a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.”
Posted by Xeno on May 24, 2013
… Pope Francis lays his hands on the head of a young man on Sunday, May 19, 2013, after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square. The young man heaved deeply a half-dozen times, convulsed and shook, and then slumped in his wheelchair as Francis prayed over him. Photo: AP
The Vatican was more cautious. In a statement on Tuesday, it said Francis “didn’t intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him.”
Fuelling the speculation is Francis’ obsession with Satan, a frequent subject of his homilies, and an apparent surge in demand for exorcisms among the faithful despite the irreverent treatment the rite often receives from Hollywood.
Who can forget the green vomit and the spinning head of the possessed girl in the 1973 cult classic The Exorcist?
In his very first homily as pope on March 14, Francis warned cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel the day after he was elected that “he who doesn’t pray to the Lord prays to the devil.”
He has since mentioned the devil on a handful of occasions, most recently in a May 4 homily when in his morning Mass in the Vatican hotel chapel he spoke of the need for dialogue – except with Satan.
“With the prince of this world you can’t have dialogue: Let this be clear!” he warned.
Experts said Francis’ frequent invocation of the devil is a reflection both of his Jesuit spirituality and his Latin American roots, as well as a reflection of a Catholic Church weakened by secularisation. …
Sure, wouldn’t the highest ranking member of the church be the best exorcist? I have no doubt that this man was not possessed by Satan after the Pope did his thing. Good job. In fact, anyone who looks at this photo will be similarly not possessed by any demons, Satans, devils, evil spirits or ubermenschers. He’s that good.
Posted by Xeno on May 20, 2013
Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt was arrested February 16 by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office on two counts of lewd or lascivious battery on child.
Her mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, explained on Facebook that Kaitlyn began a “mutual consenting” relationship with a girl at Sebastian River High School who was about three years younger. The parents of the younger girl were upset by the situation and contacted police, she wrote.
“They were out to destroy my daughter, they feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay,” Kaitlyn mother’s said. “They are bigoted, religious zeolites [sic] that see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.”
The parents of the younger girl also pressured the Indian River County School Board into expelling Kaitlyn, she added. The teen is now attending an alternative school.
“Those parents have forced the State Attorneys office to go thru [sic] with felony charges and are trying to ruin my daughters life,” Kaitlyn mother’s continued. “This is insane. This should have never been a legal matter, it is a family matter. They are trying to send an innocent young girl to prison because they are full of hate and bigotry. These girls are teenagers in high school, who had ONE mutual consenting sexual experience. My daughter isn’t a criminal, she isn’t a predator.”
Kaitlyn has until Friday to accept or reject a plea deal of two years house arrest and one year probation, according to her mother.
In response to the incident, friends and family setup a “Free Kate” Facebook page and online petition in hopes of having the case dropped. Support for the young girl appeared to be strong. The petition had more than 27,000 supporters on Sunday morning. …
Free Kate…and her girlfriend.
Odds are the parents of Kate’s girlfriend have unresolved homosexual feelings causing them to be this hateful. That would make sense genetically if they had a gay daughter. Their hate could be self-loathing.
Attackers of gays turn out to be repressed homosexuals who hate themselves because their own closet gay patents spent so much time expressing hate toward gays.
Both gay people and confidently non-gay people (that’s most of us) don’t care if some people are gay.
Kate being terrorized with jail time by these people pisses me off. No one can make a daughter gay except the parents. It’s genetic. Well epigenetic, actually. Kate’s girlfriend’s dad didn’t have enough testosterone at a key time and that can’t be changed now.
The hereditary link of homosexuality has long been established, but scientists knew it was not a strictly genetic link, because there are many pairs of identical twins who have differing sexualities. Scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say homosexuality seems to have an epigenetic, not a genetic link.
Long thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, “erased” between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren’t erased — they’re passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study. …
“There is compelling evidence that epi-marks contribute to both the similarity and dissimilarity of family members, and can therefore feasibly contribute to the observed familial inheritance of homosexuality and its low concordance between [identical] twins,” Rice notes.
Rice and his team created a mathematical model that explains why homosexuality is passed through epi-marks, not genetics. Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn’t be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.
… First, evidence shows that homosexuality can run in families. Still, only 20 percent of identical twins are both gay, said Rice. Furthermore, linkage studies looking for a genetic underpinning to sexual orientation have not turned up any “major” homosexual genes, Rice noted. “This made us suspicious that something besides genes produces heritability that isn’t genetic.” Epigenetics fits the bill.
The model focuses on the role of epigenetics in shaping how cells respond to androgen signaling, an important determinant of gonad development. The researchers suggest that androgens are also important factors in molding sexual orientation, and that various genes involved in mediating androgen signaling are regulated by epigenetic modifications. These epigenetic marks, they argue, can be passed on between generations.
As an example of how androgens shape sexuality, the researchers point to girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), who produce very high levels of testosterone and often display masculinized genitalia and higher rates of same-sex attraction. But testosterone levels are sometimes the same in normally developing male and female fetuses—without masculinizing the females—suggesting that something else must be playing a role.
The answer, they hypothesized, has to do with sensitivity to androgens. There are a variety of proteins that can modify androgen signaling, and the researchers hypothesize that differences in sensitivity to these signals between male and female fetuses help mediate their sexual differentiation. Rice and his colleagues suggest that such sensitivity may be regulated by the acquisition of epigenetic marks that make girls less sensitive to masculinizing androgens, or make boys more sensitive.
Such epi-marks are typically accrued early in development, as cells are programmed to become specific adult cell types. … they could be inherited from a parent. Most epigenetic modifications are erased during development of germ cells and soon after fertilization so that cell lineages can be programmed with new epigenetic modifications. But if epi-marks that direct sexual development are not erased correctly, a mother could pass down epi-marks that direct female development to her son, resulting in an attraction to men, and vice versa for a father and his daughters …
They also expect that specific epi-marks will regulate sensitivity differently in the brain versus gonads, resulting in same-sex attraction even when normal genital development occurs, said Gavrilets….
Further research will tell, but this is the current most plausible biological basis.
Posted by Xeno on May 16, 2013
Tonight, while reading a thick secret Masonic book left to me by my departed Master Mason grandfather, who reached the 32nd degree (Master of the Royal Secret) on June 16, 1944, I became curious if I might be able to start a Science-Based Masonic lodge. It appears not… but things do change.
At this time in history, an atheistic Freemason must hide his true beliefs according to this:
I’m an atheist Freemason (they’d expel me if they knew)
Is it possible to reconcile being a confirmed atheist with participating in a religious organisation?
People usually think Masons are either a bunch of old farts with their trousers rolled up, or evil genuises bent on world domination. Dan Brown, in his otherwise execrable Lost Symbol, described us fairly and with a sneaking admiration (though in this country we don’t do anything like locking ourselves in cupboards with skulls). It’s a way of meeting people (well, men) on a basis of immediate friendship. It teaches a moral code: integrity, fidelity, benevolence etc. It raises a *lot* of money for charity. It offers a chance to perform ceremonies. Why does it need to be religious?
Every candidate for initiation is asked “Do you believe in a Supreme Being?”. When I was asked this, I replied “Yes”, and meant it – nothing further is ever asked or expected. At the time I was a wishy-washy not-quite-a-Christian, like many other members I’ve met. People from any faith are welcome, and oaths of secrecy and fidelity are taken on a bible, or other holy book if appropriate (requests for Darwin or Dawkins wouldn’t be well received!). Each meeting involves prayers to the generic “Great Architect of the Universe” to look favourably upon the organisation and its members, and to keep us steadfast in our oaths. I question whether any passing God would trouble Himself to shine His rays upon a bunch of men waffling on in coloured aprons, but this low-key interventionism is woven in. The secrets themselves serve no purpose other than identification, aren’t hard to find on google, and really aren’t interesting in their own right.
Moral teachings are a central part of the ceremonies, in which the “candidate” (new member) is taught various lessons about how to be a better man. There are some wonderful moments in these ceremonies, which are genuine once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I can honestly say that they’ve had a very real and positive effect on my conduct in everyday life. One key point they hold that I utterly reject is that God is the moral compass and fount of all goodness.
I derive a lot of enjoyment from performing the ceremonies. They involve learning large tracts of dignified, old-fashioned dialogue and monologue, and performing them in such a way as to give the candidate a memorable and impressive experience. Any frustrated actor would revel in this. Amateur pageantry is also an important part, and for anyone who enjoys watching the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding, military parade, or a high church service, this is good fun to take part in. Some of the buildings are nothing short of magnificent and it’s a privilege to use them. Alas, those small parts of the ceremony which reflect the religious underpinning engender in me feelings of hypocrisy; I’ve filled various offices which involve leading short prayers. It feels dirty – perhaps more so than mumbling the Lord’s Prayer at a wedding, though there is no logical reason for this to be the case. Is it any different from being in a church and not agreeing with the letter of everything being said? Maybe it’s the difference between being an atheist church-goer and an atheist priest.
Why do I do this? It’s fun. It fills a gap which I think church fills in the lives of the religious – community, morality, ceremony etc. I agree strongly with the intent of its teachings, even though I reject the jump from “being nice to people is good” to “God is good and He wants you to be nice to people”. Given the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy after the initial interview (religion and politics are taboo subjects on account of being too divisive), all that’s required is a certain amount of finger-crossing and keeping my mouth shut. It’s a price to pay, but the benefits (strictly non-pecuniary!) of membership far outweigh this price.
There’s no secular equivalent, alas – society is still to emerge fully from the assumption that all good people are religious, and all religious people are good, and Freemasonry is lagging far behind. In my opinion, the religion could be removed from Freemasonry to no loss, but I’m probably in the minority.
You may call me a hyprocrite, and you may very well be right. So be it. I’ve made a significant positive contribution to a number of lodges over a number of years, and they to me. I have every hope this will continue.
Of course, if I had successfully formed an Non-Religious Masonic lodge bent on proving that moral behavior is a human right, a human creation, and a universally human struggle, I couldn’t tell you about it.
My grandfather only said one thing about the Masons to me… Ever. It seemed totally random to me at the time because I didn’t know he was one. He said that if anyone ever tells you the Masons asked him to join, they were lying. You have to go to them.
Posted by Xeno on May 6, 2013
Creationism will be staying in the classrooms of Louisiana, for now at least. An attempt to repeal legislation that permits teachers to bring creationist textbooks into the classroom was defeated by a 3-2 vote.
The effort to eliminate the Louisiana Science Education Act was started by teenage activist Zack Kopplin. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson was also involved in the attempted repeal. Kopplin previously launched legal bids to repeal the Science Education Act in 2011 and 2012.
Kopplin is not giving up.
“For the past few months we’ve been organizing relentlessly and having people contact their elected officials to ask them to vote to repeal Louisiana’s creationism law,” Kopplin said.
“We lost again this year, but we’re making progress. We gained a second vote. And on top of this, it was clear that we will eventually win and repeal this vote. It’s up to the legislators to choose which side of history they want to stand on.”
Sen. Elbert Guillory had reservations about repealing the act. He said that eliminating it could “lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures.” Part of the reason he opposed repealing the law was because of an experience he had with a spiritual healer, the Inquisitr reported.
“Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man – in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed – if I had closed him off and just said, “That’s not science. I’m not going to see this doctor,” I would have shut off a very good experience for myself,” Guillory said.
The Louisiana Science Education Act certainly has its fair share of detractors, though.
“The LSE Act is a bad law, not because of its spirit, but because of its failure to provide the necessary restrictions, standards, and guidelines required in order for the original intent to be successfully realized,” said Tammy Wood, a teacher who won the 1991 Louisiana Presidential Award for science education.
I’m disgusted that superstitious politicians can require that children in an entire state be taught ideas contrary to factual evidence.