In high school I had a great physics teacher, Doc Collins. I remember one day he had a strange contraption in his lab. It consisted of a bicycle wheel (with axle) and a spinnable stool. To operate the contraption, you held the wheel vertically in front of you by the axle, and sat on the spinnable stool. Then you spun the wheel. If the wheel was vertical, nothing happened. But if you tilted the wheel left or right, your stool would begin to spin, as if by magic. This really blew my mind at the time. A good science teacher does things like that. The question in every student's mind, upon sitting in the stool and feeling the spin, was, "How?"
Why is blasphemy an important issue for the non-religious? Why do we, of all people, care about promoting free expression? How is the defense of free expression a humanistic endeavor?
Join the discussion next Monday, September 9 starting at 9:00 PM EST. A live stream of the event (a live online Google Hangout with video) will be posted to the Google+ event page, where campus organizers Sarah Kaiser and Cody Hashman will be joined by student leaders and CFI Office of Public Policy director Michael De Dora to discuss International Blasphemy Rights Day, coming up on September 30, and how and why we can promote free expression.
Max Nielson, contortionist extraordinaire, and president of the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleston shares with us what the CFI On Campus affiliate at his school has been up to.
I am at a conference about formal methods in computer security. In formal methods, they use math talk to make proofs about systems. For example, cryptography is really important for computer security, and it would be nice if we could formally prove that a cryptographic system is secure. But the strangest thing always seems to happen. Some intrepid formal methods researcher will publish a proof about a cryptosystem's being secure, and then in a year or so some other intrepid researcher will publish a successful attack strategy on the system. So, what is going on here? How could the proof turn out to be wrong? That's been a big issue at the conference.
The arguments surrounding religion and secularism are many and varied. Most of you reading this are likely familiar with the arguments both for and against religion, gods, and the afterlife and if you are reading this are likely in the atheist camp. There is however, an argument in favor of religious belief that has great weight and which only the most belligerent of atheists would confront: the argument from personal comfort. I have often read and heard people go back and forth on this question and have always been quite assured in how I would react in a similar situation. I never would have guessed that the test of my ethos would come so soon.