“moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.” – Einstein

While working on my Go-Rilla VS. Elk Diablo comic I was catching up on old podcasts in my iTunes. Specifically I was listening to an episode of Science Friday titled “Balancing Science and Religion” in which Ira Flatow interviewed two scientists who were also religious. It was a really interesting listen but there was one quote at the end that was like a slap in the face to me and I would think to any atheist.

As I look about in the culture and world we live in, a world without the kind of noble intentions that arise many times out of people’s hearts in the consequence of their faith – a world that misses out on a Mother Theresa or an Oscar Schindler – a world where science has to go on in a completely materialist way – does not sound like the kind of world of wonderful humanity and nobility of humankind that I hope will be evolving over the many decades to come.

As if altruism and humanitarianism and “nobility” cannot exist in people who don’t believe in a higher power. Ridiculous, I say!

That made me wonder what famous humanitarians and generally celebrated people in history and modern times were/are also atheists. I googled “humitarian atheists” and before I found what I was actually looking for I found this:

Letter: Atheist actions can be selfless
by Letter to the editor
Thursday, March 27, 2008; 12:00 AM
I’m writing in response to the column, “Defending morality in an atheist’s culture is challenging” (CT, March 25). The author implies that a lack of faith in God translates to apathy toward others’ well being.

The author fails to understand the influence of society and evolution on altruism. It’s obvious that cooperation is the best method for progress — selfishness only works to a certain degree before everyone becomes selfish, benefiting nobody. Scenario-simulations show that cooperation always leads to the most success for groups. Just ask vampire bats, which actually regurgitate blood they’ve foraged during the night for a friend whose hunting was less fruitful. Next time, if the first bat gets no food, his friend can return the favor.

Giving up one’s seat and making sacrifices for another are explained through societal norms and evolutionary mechanisms. Society expects us to act a certain way, so it becomes ingrained into our minds to let an old lady have our seat. We make sacrifices for our kin because evolution wants our genes to flourish. If I die so that my two brothers survive, then there will be two sets of my genes, rather than just the one. My potential sacrifice for friends who are unrelated to me can be explained by my evolutionary triggers backfiring, which would encourage me to save everyone.

As for losing rights to atheist majorities, Norway was rated the most peaceful country in the world (the U.S. was 96th), as well as the least religious in Western Europe. In contrast, Hitler was Catholic, and Stalin Eastern Orthodox.

Finally, I argue that atheists possess stronger morality than theists. With no fear of God, our sacrifices are more selfless. Few of us believe in an afterlife, so we cherish the only life we get more. We put greater value on human life because, in general, we don’t think that any “soul” floats off someplace.

Andrew Shutterly
sophomore, psychology and Spanish

I don’t actually agree that “potential sacrifice for friends unrelated to me can be explained by evolutionary triggers backfiring” – I would expect that it has to do with the evolution of protecting your tribe and is completely natural (in the same way that the evolution of propensity towards religion was helpful for strengthening social bonds) but I agree with pretty much everything else that Andrew says.

Toren Falls Down (Again)

Toren Atkinson of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets talks about what happened at Cthulhupalooza, Second-Level Wizards, Saturday Morning Cartoon Party @ the Rio, Ghostbusters 25th Anniversary + video game, Anne McCaffrey, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, inspirations for “Theme to an Earthquake”, The World Wildlife Federation of Justice, and the big show forthcoming on February 7th with Bloodhag & The Bossmonsters @ The Bourbon.

Accompanying tracks include songs by: Ray Ellis, Dethklok, Bloodhag Three Inches of Blood, and of course The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets INCLUDING newly released “(We’re Gonna) Kill the Chupacabra (Tonight)” now available on the Child’s Play compilation CD with Freezepop & Johnathan Coulton.

All on CiTR’s “We All Fall Down” – download the entire hour of nerdly giggles at:
and visit Marielle’s blog

Hexmas Wish List

Christmas, a time for getting.

Now that Deanna made me get rid of all of my VHS tapes (she’s very cruel to me, at all times), this my Festival wish list, directed largely at her:

Home Movies: Season Four (1999)

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Vol. 6

All New Superfriends Hour Season 1 Volume 2

Ren & Stimpy – The Complete First and Second Seasons

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series

Robot Chicken: Star Wars

Tom and Jerry: Spotlight Collection, Volume One (1946)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Vol. 2 (2000)

Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein: Vol. 1

The Life of Mammals, Vol. 1-4

Tenacious D Complete Masterworks 2

And if anyone is still reading, I happily accept used DVDs. In fact I’d rather you get them from a thrift store than from WalMart or Chapters (do they sell DVDs at Chapters? I don’t know I never go in there.)


I’ve decided rather than put my clever T-shirt ideas on Dead Space God, which I don’t promote or update, I’m going to send them to Threadless where I have the chance of making a quick buck without doing any hard labour. My first idea “HASSLING SKATEBOARDERS IS NOT A CRIME” I submitted as a slogan entry and so far 67% like it.

Do You Believe in Facts?

So there’s been a very passionate argument lately in my post about the moon landing.

It seems to me that we are given a plethora (yes, I said plethora) of information in this crazy life – way too much for us to process, much less check up on. The question is what information are we willing to accept as factual and what do we reject as bullshit? I personally have never been to Africa. I have seen a lion. I’ve seen a map and a globe. But I’ve never said to myself “I’m going to do more research until I’m 100% sure that this so-called ‘Africa’ exists” and then book passage on a boat and try to stay awake the whole trip and monitor all the instruments (which may or may not be rigged).

If Africa doesn’t exist, a lot of people have been trying to mislead me (or us). The reason I choose to believe what I’m told about Africa, and in many other instances, comes down to this question…

(…and it is the question of the skeptic:)


How could it be that all sources of information about Africa are inaccurate? It just doesn’t make sense. Oh sure, some of the information will be bad, that’s reasonable to assume. One can, and should, parse and critique both data and its source.

But, as Joe says, there is such a thing as being so open-minded that you do yourself a disservice (I’m paraphrasing now). If you refuse to accept the testimony of experts, if you refuse to trust in common knowledge, if you refuse to rely on sheer reason, well…you aren’t going to have any African friends.

On a not-really related, but hilarious topic:

Comic Con of the Day

I went to the Comicon at the Heritage Hall today. I couldn’t stay long as I had a rehearsal for “The Summoning” at 4pm, but I did get another sketch of Rhinosferatu which I’ll upload soon.

In the meantime, I found out that Mike Mignola is going to be at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival this October, where a certain H.P. Lovecraft inspired punk band will be playing. I’m gonna pee my pants…while Mike draws a picture of Rhinosferatu for me, Yog willing!

I'm A Christmas Hippie

Well I think I found the perfect Christmas gifts. I’m going to donate my hard-earned cash in other peoples names to an organization that is working to protect the oceans and all those cool fish, squid and octopi that we all love to look at and sing about and which may have the cure for whatever disease you have but sadly due to our penchant for eating prawns and shark fin soup may be extinct before we discover it.

Option one:
The World Wildlife Fund has a number of Wildlife and Wild Space adoptions that come with cuddly toys for the kids. Personally I’m going to be buying the Adopt Our Oceans package with comes with a photograph. Each package is $40.
UPDATE! You can donate without a goodie in honor of someone else in ANY AMOUNT! See https://secure.wwf.ca/HowYouCanHelp/Donate/DonateForm.asp?appeal=IH101

Option two:
The Center for Ecosystem Survival has a few packages – you can send coffee or chocolates along with up to a full acre or rainforests and coral reefs in Palau. $25, or $50 packages are in my range. You can also forgo the goodies and just put the money towards reefs in the Dominican Republic or Komodo National Park in Indonesia.
UPDATE: Their ordering page is not secure!

Option three:
This one has no material goodies to go with it, which suits me fine. Oceana is working on stopping bottom trawling (as mentioned in the Thickets song “A Marine Biologist”) and saving sharks, among other fishy things, and you can donate in packages of $20, $35 or $50
UPDATE: Doesn’t seem to like Canadian currency – am waiting to hear back from them how to handle this.

If anybody doesn’t want to use their credit card online but wants to donate to one of these options I’ll happily take your cash and use my card and do the appropriate typing and clicking.

To Me, 'Traditional' is a Four-Letter Word

The next time your aunt tells you that she doesn’t know the scientific explanation of why her (traditional Chinese medicine/reflexology/crystal therapy/”alternative medicine”) works, it “just does,” you can tell her exactly why – because of the placebo effect. So as long as she knows that she can get the same effect from a sugar pill, she can stop funding her quack healer’s SUV gas bill, and curb the market that preys on endangered species like moon bears, sharks and seahorses.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of giving out sugar pills. The placebo effect can be very powerful, because it’s not just about the pill, it’s about the cultural meaning of the treatment: so we know from research that four placebo sugar pills a day are more effective than two for eradicating gastric ulcers (and that’s not subjective, you measure ulcers by putting a camera into your stomach); we know that salt water injections are a more effective treatment for pain than sugar pills, not because salt water injections are medically active, but because injections are a more dramatic intervention; we know that green sugar pills are a more effective anxiety treatment than red ones, not because of any biomechanical effect of the dyes, but because of the cultural meanings of the colours green and red. We even know that packaging can be beneficial.

From Dr Ben Goldacre (he writes a weekly column, Bad Science, in the Saturday edition of The Guardian newspaper’s daily science page, with expanded versions of the columns with reader comments on his website badscience.net. Devoted to satirical criticism of scientific inaccuracy, health scares, pseudoscience and quackery, it focuses especially on examples from the mass media, consumer product marketing and complementary and alternative medicine in Britain.)