The Dragon In My Garage

The Dragon In My Garage
by
Carl Sagan

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle–but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floates in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative– merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.”

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons–to say nothing about invisible ones–you must now acknowledge that there’s something here, and that in a preliminary way it’s consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it’s not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you’re pretty sure don’t know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages–but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we’re disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I’d rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren’t myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they’re never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon’s fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such “evidence”–no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it–is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.
-Carl Sagan

P.S. (From the FCA) EXACTLY!!!!! For fucks sake.

PhysicsBot 5000

In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum’s swings.

Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

The research is being heralded as a potential breakthrough for science in the Petabyte Age, where computers try to find regularities in massive datasets that are too big and complex for the human mind.

via wired

Calling all lawyers, attorneys, Counsel, Barristers even!

It’s not that we need legal help at this time, sorry to excite you. But it would probably be smart to line something up now, just in case

If you are an attorney, and an atheist maybe you would like to pledge your support. Maybe we can send a little business your way, we love supporting atheist businesses. We won’t ask much of you, maybe a quick question here or there, but probably nothing at all.

So think about it. Tell your atheist attorney friend. Drop us an email

Saturday night

Submitted by: Pixel_Cat

Well, it’s Saturday night. I have been 28 for 2 official days now. I am writing this before I get started on a wild evening of drinking games and Rock Band (cue the nerd comments). If things go right….there will be people sleeping on my floor, the guest bedroom, and possibly the bathroom floor, but hey, who hasn’t been there. I have junk food out the ying yang, coolers are full, and a new play list is ready in the iPod. We’re good to go.

I reflect on my life, 28 whole years. I think about being 16 and just knowing I was never going to have kids, get married, hell, reach 23. Wow….Here I am, 2 kiddos, a great hubby, and closer to 30 than 23. I also reflect on the ups and downs, the fights I’ve had with people, the ones I won…..and the ones I lost. I reflect on my path to rational thinking.

I wasn’t raised in a religious household, hell, my mom claimed wicca while my father was ex-catholic. I grew up in a small Texas town, informed (for the first time) that I was going to hell at 8 yrs old, and painfully aware of dead deer heads as decorations. I love my little town tho, on the most part, people were nice, neighbors knew each other, and the kids played till the sun went down. Now when that sun went down, how do you prolong the playing? Sleep-overs, that way you can giggle all night and eat junk food. I could only have sleep-overs on Friday nights, why not Saturdays you ask? Well Sunday morning services of course.

It never failed that the well intentioned parent of my friend would say, “We can just take her to church with us in the morning.” My mom would say thanks but no thanks (so very Palin of her). I hated not getting that Saturday night of freedom, scary movies, crazy make-up, and boy talk. I remember thinking, I will totally go to church if I could just spend the night. In hindsight I say, “Thank you mom, thanks for sparing me that lil bit of insanity.”

Even tho I missed out on those Saturday nights, my life has been good, it’s been fun, it’s been informative. Do you want to know what makes it even better…??? The fact that it’s Saturday night and I’m having a sleepover. I can watch all the scary movies I want, talk about boys and S..E..X too. Damn, I might just break out the makeup. The icing on my birthday cake tho….. we can sleep in on Sunday. SAKE BOMB!!!!

when a child is born

By: Shoom

In the company I work in Serbia (I am not sure if it is about the state law or just corporate practice) I get two days of payed leave, and an additional day – for baptism ! Of course, probably some other similiar religious acts get this kind of treatment, but if you are an atheist, your child will be having you spent a day less with family, at home. So, it is something I do not want to make jokes about, first church of atheism has freed my mind ! I am was now legally able to use this extra day and spend my quality time wiht my family ! The least I could do is get ordained, and help myself and my family – and maybe even some other people …

Ministries…? Ordaining…? Ceremonies…? CHURCH?!

Dear people, congrats and all my respect for embracing reason over an Invisible Man in the Sky and a talking snake… but why in the world would you want to imitate a church? And perform ceremonies?

Seriously, not meaning to be a troll or anything, but I am really, truly baffled by all this. In my mind, all that you (well, or “we”, since by subscribing, I became a part of this) will accomplice is convince theists that “atheism is a belief”. Which, of course, it is not, it simply is a lack of one.

But I am curious to see how this FCA will develop, and I wish you the best of luck 🙂