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Tim Minchin ~ St. Andrews Hall on Friday, September 30th

Tim Minchin is an iconoclast.  He’s a secular comedian and musician, and a favorite entertainer amongst skeptics due to his way of ridiculing religious and tradition dogma, and elevating science and reason.  If you’re not familiar with his work, there is an extensive catalog of his various comedic routines on youtube.  Inflatable You, If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out, and Religion are just a few bits that I particularly enjoy.

Minchin will be playing at St. Andrews Hall on Friday, September 30th.  You can purchase tickets here at LiveNation.com.  Tickets are about $45 each.

Is butanol our next biofuel?

Dependence on fossil fuels, increasing global energy demand and concerns of greenhouse gas emissions have led to an interest in alternative fuels produced from domestic renewable sources. In recent year, interest in bio-butanol has increased due to its perceived advantages over the traditional gasoline substitute, bio-ethanol. Here I will discuss the current state of bio-butanol and the challenges and possible solutions to making bio-butanol.

1-Butanol (butyl alcohol or n-butanol) is a four carbon straight chained alcohol with a molecular formula of C4H9OH (MW 74.12) and boiling point of 118 ºC. 1-Butanol is an important chemical precursor for paints, polymers and plastics Most 1-butanol produced today is synthetic and derived from a petrochemical route. Synthetic butanol production costs are linked to the propylene market and are extremely sensitive to the price of crude oil.

Renewable 1-butanol is produced from the fermentation of carbohydrates in a process often referred to as the ABE fermentation, after its major chemical products: acetone, butanol and ethanol. The ABE fermentation is a proven industrial process that uses species of bacteria called clostridia to convert sugars or starches into solvents. Biobutanol is an attractive renewable liquid transportation biofuel with superior properties to bio-ethanol. Bio-butanol is compatible with existing fuel infrastructure, has a better energy density, higher octane rating and less hydroscopic than ethanol and can be made from more sustainable feedstocks than bio-diesel. Therefore, if bio-butanol can be made cheaply and on renewable resources, it can readily replace ethanol and bio-diesel in the biofuel market estimated to be worth $247 billion by 2020.

Commercial production

The ABE fermentation process was first developed in the UK in 1912 and was quickly adapted for commercial production during World War I and II; first to produce acetone for ammunitions and second to produce butanol for use in paint lacquers. Butanol is now the preferred solvent since it attracts a higher price in the chemical market. By the 1950s, a synthetic route was developed and the renewable solvents were no longer cost effective. Today, research into the ABE fermentation process may make bio-butanol a new competitor in the bio-fuels market.

China leads efforts to re-commercialize the ABE fermentation process by investing over $200 million into six major corn starch-fed plants with plans to expand production capacity. Traditionally, most plants operate in a semicontinuous fashion with each fermentation lasting up to 21 days. The reactors consist of a cascading series of fermentation tanks that convert seed cultures and fresh feedstock into solvents. Conventional distillation is then used to recover the acetone, butanol and ethanol. Most plants are next to ethanol plants to reduce utility and operating costs. The butanol and ethanol plants can share treatment facilities to process the aqueous waste streams produced from anaerobic fermentations. Biogas produced as a bioproduct is used for heat and power.

The challenges for ABE fermentation

In general, to make the ABE route profitable, there is a need for cheaper feedstocks, improved yields, and more efficient solvent recovery and waste water recycle. Feedstocks contribute most to production costs, typically over 75% of the total. Biobutanol profitability is extremely sensitive to any price fluctuation in the price of feedstocks. Therefore, transitioning to a cheaper (non-edible) feedstock offers the greatest opportunity for cost reduction and improved sustainability.

Butanol titer and yield

The butanol titer (concentration) and yield (fraction of feedstock converted into butanol) of the ABE fermentation is largely a function of the microorganism. Performance can be improved by inducing mutations using chemical mutagens and selecting for improve traits, specific genetic manipulation or a combination of both. There are four main solvent producing strains that have been used industrially with Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824 being the best studied and manipulated strain (the others being C. saccharobutylicum, C. beijerinckii and C. saccharoperbutylacetonicum). Research into manipulating these strains has been helped through the publication of their genomic sequences. Significant progress has been made in genetically manipulating C. acetobutylicum while the progress to genetically engineer the other strains has lagged.

Feedstocks

Currently, biobutanol is economical if it is sold as a chemical commodity instead as a cheaper biofuel. For it to be sold profitably as a biofuel, the cost of feedstocks must be reduced. If cheaper waste streams (such as corn cobs, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse, wheat straw and municipal solid waste) could be converted into feed stocks then biobutanol could compete on price with ethanol for the biofuel market.

Solvent recovery

Currently, distillation is used as a robust and proven process to recover butanol from fermentations but the process is energy intensive. Improvements can be made to make the conventional distillation process for energy efficient but the biggest reduction in energy use can only be achieved by development of nonconventional means. Since butanol is toxic to the ABE strains, online removal of butanol from the fermentation will result in higher yields. Methods like gas stripping, pervaporation, reverse osmosis, vacuum fermentation, and aqueous two phase separation are being researched for online butanol removal.

What’s Michigan Doing?

In April of this year, Cobalt Technologies and American Process announced an agreement to build the world’s first industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol. A plant is currently under construction in Alpena, Michigan. By April 2012, the Alpena Biorefinery will produce 470,000 gallons of biobutanol annually, which will be pre-sold to chemical industry partners.

Conclusions

The clostridial ABE fermentation is an old, but proven, industrial fermentation process that has be re-established recently. The clostridial ABE fermentation process is relatively simple and existing ethanol plants can be retrofitted fairly easily to produce butanol. In order to penetrate the larger biofuel market, biobutanol needs to compete on cost with ethanol despite its superior fuel properties. Reduction in feedstock cost offers the best opportunity especially since clostridia are well suited for sugars derived from cellulosic material. Further advances for both 1-butanol are likely to come from the deployment of continuous culture, especially when coupled with in situ methods for solvent extraction and recovery. The application of advances in biotechnology and engineering to the clostridia ABE fermentation process will drive down the cost of 1-butanol production.

The September MISkeptics Get Together. Now with Creationists!

Atheist comic
This will be fun.

The September Get Together is This Saturday, the 10th, and this month we have a special treat. Our special guest will be James Kjellin, and he would like to talk to us about god.

No, Seriously…

James Kjellin is a 38 year old disabled soldier. He Served in the Army Infantry from 1993 to 1997 during Somalia and also in the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetery He has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice. James has been a Christian since 1997, became a backslider for 2 years and returned to Christianity. He’s been involved in just about every religion and studied philosophy.

He is coming to meet with us to present “proof of god” to us.

So be sure to read up on the creationist arguments. I want to be able to counter every “proof” they offer.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary. You can RSVP at our Meetup group and on our Facebook Event page.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Dominionism: Conspiracy Theory or Actual Movement?

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

With the rise of the Religious Right in this country and the temporary liberal backlash that was seen in the election of Barack Obama, which led to a similar backswing right back to the right in the election of many Tea Party freshmen to the House of Representatives. There has been a rise in religious undertones in this country. There has also been a large increase in the number of people that publicly subscribe to conspiracy theories and what many mainstream people would outlandish ideas.

Take for example the Moon Landings. A Poll done in 2009 by The Institute of Engineering and Technology in the UK showed that 25% of the people surveyed did not believe men landed on the Moon. Many people cite anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, much of it appearing to be simple rumor, as the reasoning for believing it was faked. Despite hard facts that seem obvious to most of us, they will hold fast to their beliefs. But what happens when no hard facts are available? What can be believed?

Late last night Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast/Newsweek published an article which ties Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry to Dominionism. In the article she links both of them to prominent Dominionist organizations. Before we look into the evidence let’s go over what Dominionism actually is.

Dominionism, at it’s most basic element, is the belief that all forms of rule, leadership, authority should be Christian. Something the New Apostolic Reformation called the “Seven Mountains.” The entire basis for Dominionism comes from a single passage from the book of Genesis in the King James Version

Rick Perry
Rick Perry

of the Bible.

Genesis 1:28 – “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

The most common interpretation of that passage is that humanity has responsibility over the earth. The idea of subjugation is a new one. Originally Anthropocentrism, the idea of Dominionism arose from that. It originally started in the late 60s to early 70s by R. J. Rushdoony. He had created a branch of Chrisitanity called Christian Reconstructionism. He is also responsible for the movement of Christian Homeschooling to avoid secular public schools. The New Apostolic Reformation (The Pentecostal version of Christian Reconstructionism) began in 2001.

The tenets of Christian Reconstructionism are:

  • Calvinism
  • Theonomy (Old and New Testament law should the be the only law)
  • Postmillennialism (God’s kingdom began at the first coming of Jesus Christ, and will advance progressively throughout history until it fills the whole earth through conversion to the Christian faith)
  • Presuppositional Apologetics (Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought)
  • Extremely limited Government and unregulated economics.

For those of you keeping score at home. Slavery is allowed under biblical law. It even details just how much you can beat your slaves.

The social structure advocated by Christian Reconstructionism would have the clergy, laity and government, individually and corporately, to be in ultimate submission to the moral principles of the Bible, including the Old Testament, while retaining their separate jurisdictional spheres of authority and roles in society as inferred from principles of biblical law, both Old and New Testaments. (from Wikipedia)

According to Sara Diamond, as she wrote in her book Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right:

[The concept of Dominionism is] that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

So it’s safe to say that Dominionism in at least some form exists. But what does Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann have to do with it?

According to Michelle Goldberg,

[…]we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences. Writing about Bachmann in The New Yorker this month, Ryan Lizza spent several paragraphs explaining how the premise fit into the Minnesota congresswoman’s intellectual and theological development. And a recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”

On August 6th, Perry held “The Response.” A Christian only prayer rally at the Reliant Arena in Houston. The leadership team of The Response consisted of leaders and self-proclaimed prophets from The New Apostolic Reformation movement.

As for Bachmann:

The Bachmanns (herself and her husband Marcus) have detailed that seeing the video series “How Should We Then Live?” by the evangelist and theologian Francis Schaeffer.

Schaeffer, who ran a mission in the Swiss Alps known as L’Abri (“the shelter”), opposed liberal trends in theology. One of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the nineteen-seventies and early eighties, he has been credited with getting a generation of Christians involved in politics. Schaeffer’s film series consists of ten episodes tracing the influence of Christianity on Western art and culture, from ancient Rome to Roe v. Wade. In the films, Schaeffer—who has a white goatee and is dressed in a shearling coat and mountain climber’s knickers—condemns the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Darwin, secular humanism, and postmodernism. He repeatedly reminds viewers of the “inerrancy” of the Bible and the necessity of a Biblical world view. “There is only one real solution, and that’s right back where the early church was,” Schaeffer tells his audience. “The early church believed that only the Bible was the final authority. What these people really believed and what gave them their whole strength was in the truth of the Bible as the absolute infallible word of God.”

The first five installments of the series are something of an art-history and philosophy course. The iconic image from the early episodes is Schaeffer standing on a raised platform next to Michelangelo’s “David” and explaining why, for all its beauty, Renaissance art represented a dangerous turn away from a God-centered world and toward a blasphemous, human-centered world. But the film shifts in the second half. In the sixth episode, a mysterious man in a fake mustache drives around in a white van and furtively pours chemicals into a city’s water supply, while Schaeffer speculates about the possibility that the U.S. government is controlling its citizens by means of psychotropic drugs. The final two episodes of the series deal with abortion and the perils of genetic engineering. (via the New Yorker)

Michelle herself has said of the series,

That also was another profound influence on Marcus’s life and my life, because we understood that the God of the Bible isn’t just about Bible stories and about Bible knowledge, or about just church on Sunday. He is the Lord of all of life. Every bit of life, including sociology, theology, biology, politics. You name the area and walk of life. He is the Lord of life. And so, as we went back to our studies, we looked at studying in a completely different light. Not for the purpose of a career but for a purpose of wondering, How does this fit into creation? How does this fit into the code and all of life that is about to come in front of us? And so we had new eyes that were opened up as we understood life now from a Biblical world view.

In 1979, Michelle enrolled at the O. W. Coburn School of Law, at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was in the first class as it had just opened that year. Ironically, it closed and moved to Pat Robertson’s Bible-based college in Virginia in 1986. Which is the year she graduated. The first issue of the school’s law review, Journal of Christian Jurisprudence, explains the two goals of the school: “to equip our students with the ability to bring God’s healing power to reconcile individuals and to restore community wholeness,” and “to restore law to its historic roots in the Bible.”

There’s much more that can be detailed here but we’ll leave it at this. All the extra evidence is superfluous. It’s safe to say that there is at least an effect of Dominionism on the Christian Right. But we can’t really know the extent of the effect.

The unfortunate problem with all this evidence is that it’s anecdotal. They point to her character and to her life but any lawyer in any courtroom (even ones that graduated from Oral Roberts University) can tell you that it does not provide a “smoking gun” that either of them are die-hard Dominionists. There is no record of her saying that she is going to institute biblical law and make this a christian nation.

Though for many people it’s still a very daunting thought that if one of them were to get elected that they would try to make this a christian nation. It won’t happen though.

That’s near impossible to do when you consider the amount power or influence a group would have to acquire to make that happen. The Constitution would need to be ammended. That would require a 2/3 majority on both the House and the Senate. Then it goes to vote in the states and have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. Note that the President has no authority in the amendment process at all.They can only give their opinion on the matter.

Next consider trying to make a law based on the bible in Congress. You would need a super majority for both House and Senate and then signed by the President. After that the Supreme Court would have to somehow agree that the law does not violate the constitution.

So the only way they are going to institute their “Seven Mountains” capture is by way of revolution. And I REALLY don’t see that happening. Even though knowing that we are safe from biblical law. The thought of either of those two becoming the next president, keeps me up at night.

The August MISkeptics Get Together

Our monthly Get Together is coming up!

We’re meeting on Saturday, August 13th at 4:00 PM. We’re located in the back room of Ginger Restaurant. The address is:

8465 N Lilley Rd. Canton, MI 48187

Arlene-Marie of Michigan Atheists
Arlene-Marie will be joining us this month as our special guest.

This month our guest is Arlene-Marie.

Arlene is the Michigan State Director, American Atheists and Affiliate Director Michigan Atheists. She has been with the organization as an Atheist activist for over forty years. Arlene regularly travels border-to-border attending American Atheists conventions and special events. She has picketed many miles defending separation of state and church, including picketing the Pope and the White House in Washington DC.

Arlene has been producing the annual Michigan Atheists State Convention for over a decade and in 2003 she was Chairperson for the first ‘Godless March on Lansing,”

She is the Co-founder/Incorporator of Camp Quest of Michigan , Inc now under the directorship of Jeff Duncan. She is the General Manager of the monthly TV show Michigan Atheists Speak Up with Marty Maier, Executive Producer. Her brain child is Detroit Coalition of Reason, with Ruthe Milon , Organizer.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Space is filling up! Please be sure to RSVP at either our Meetup Group or our Facebook event.

And don’t forget, next month we will have James Kjellin. Who wants to prove the existence of god to us.

The Drunken Skeptics Episode 10: Redux

It’s time for another episode of the Drunken Skeptics!

Beer mug with the MISkeptics logo
Frost your mugs, it's time for another episode!

Episode 10: Redux

In this episode, we are doing a News Roundup. We have selected several news topics that we think are important for both the Michigan and the Nation. Everything from science to politics, with some alcohol thrown in for good measure.

You can find our show notes here.

Remember, Keep Thinking.

Free Energy!

Okay, not quite. But certainly free-er in the sense that it could let you make do with other’s energy scraps. What the heck am I talking about? (Don’t worry, sometimes I wonder too.) The point of this particular rambling is a new device that captures ambient electromagnetic energy to power small electronic devices. Some folks have recently found a way to tap into the energy transmitted by power sources like radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks, and satellite communication systems. This energy has become more and more pervasive as our devices have proliferated, and it now looks like we may be able to use the spill-over from all of this broadcast energy to power our device’s microprocessors and communications chips.

Manos Tentzeris, a professor at Georgia Tech, is leading the research and says, “There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it. We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability.”

And the coolness doesn’t stop there… Tentzeris and his fellow researches are using inkjet printers to combine sensors, antennas, etc. on paper or flexible polymers. The devices can capture energy, convert it from AC to DC, then store it in capacitors and batteries. They can so far take advantage of frequencies from FM radio to radar (100 MHz to 15 GHz or higher.) Once I can start printing this kind of thing, the price of the ink I keep having to put in my printer might start to seem worth it.

A presentation on this technology was given on July 6th, at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium in Spokane, Washington.

This was actually a fun few weeks in science… in other news, it turns out that Polar Bears are Irish.

Invitation from CFI Michigan for the Secular Summer Retreat

CFI Michigan is having their annual summer retreat next weekend.

Jennifer, the Assistant Director of CFI MI, asked me to pass on the information to our readers as you are invited to attend as well! I personally have not been able to attend any of their events but I have many friends that say this retreat is a great time and recommend it for everyone. One of these days I will be able to get over to the left side of the state and meet Jennifer and Jeff in person but until then please go in my stead and tell me how much I missed out.

BTW: This is very short notice. Registration closes tomorrow so make sure that you register right away!


Long Lake Larue
"Tranquil Spot" at Long Lake, Courtesy of Charles LaRue"

Join us for the Fifth Annual Secular Summer RetreatFriday-Sunday, July 22-24, 2011 at the Long Lake Outdoor Center! There are nearly 90 people already registered for the retreat and cabins are filling up fast – so don’t forget to register ASAP!

Register - RedButtonSetRegistration Ends July 15th
Spots are filling up fast – Register Today!
Friends of the Center save 10% (full weekend price)

MystopherSpecial guests Mystopher & Family will provide magical entertainment with a skeptical twist throughout the retreat. Don’t miss the magic show and a chance to learn about magic and mentalism with hands-on activities for all ages!

Then enjoy bonfires by the peaceful lake, delicious freshly-prepared (and mostly local) food, canoeing and kayaking on Long Lake, hiking and biking in the adjacent Yankee Springs Recreation Area, swimming at Gun Lake, and great discussions with friends from our CFI communities.

There’s so much to do the weekend isn’t long enough!

Full details are available on the Secular Summer Retreat Information Page.

We look forward to seeing you at the retreat!

Event Details

Fifth Annual Long Lake Summer Retreat

2009 Summer Retreat GroupFriday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 2011

Long Lake Outdoor Center
10370 Gun Lake Road, Middleville, MI  View Map

Meals, lodging, activities & facility rental are included in registration. Vegetarian/ Vegan meals are provided. Other dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice.

Cabins are assigned based on registration order – Register today to get your favorite! A variety of small (4-6 beds) and larger group cabins are available.

Retreat activities include: group activities for children & adults, games, various sports, canoeing/ kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and of course socializing and great discussions with your freethinking friends.

Full details are available on the Secular Summer Retreat Information Page.

If you have any additional questions please contact Jennifer Beahan: [email protected] or 616-698-2342.

Registration Information

[object Object]Register - RedButtonSet

2011 Registration Prices
Registration Ends July 15th!

Adults: $65 (FOC $60)
Students (12+ & College): $50 (FOC $45)
Children (4-11): $45 (FOC $40)
Infants/ Toddlers (0-3): Free

Friends of the Center (FOC) save 10% on full weekend pricing. Join Today and Save!

Can’t come for the whole retreat?
Join us for the day on Saturday: Adults $20 and Children/ Students $10. (Include meals & facility rental fee)

Visit the Online Registration Page to register today. Credit/Debit payment required.

Cash/ Check Registration Form & Instructions (PDF).

Financial assistance is available on an as needed basis – Contact us for information.

<img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/11606.gif" border="0"></span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p></td></tr></tbody></table><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; color: rgb(68, 68, 68);"><u></u>&nbsp;<u></u></span></p><table style="width: 435pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: 1pt solid lightgrey;" border="1" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="580"><tbody><tr><td style="border: medium none; padding: 15pt;" valign="top"><div align="center"><table style="width: 100%; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td style="padding: 6pt;"><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 6pt; text-align: center; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;" align="center"><span style="font-size: 16.5pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Have you Registered for the Retreat?<br>Registration Ends July 15th – Don't Forget!<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt; text-align: center;" align="center"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13031.jpg" alt="Long Lake Larue" border="0" height="202" width="425"><br><em><span>"Tranquil Spot" at Long Lake, Courtesy of Charles LaRue"</span></em><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Join us for the <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=w5TKTPOGZdIf6rABzALrgQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Fifth Annual Secular Summer Retreat</span></a> – <strong><span>Friday-Sunday, July 22-24, 2011</span></strong> at the Long Lake Outdoor Center! There are nearly 90 people already registered for the retreat and cabins are filling up fast - so don't forget to register ASAP!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13496.gif" alt="Register - RedButtonSet" align="left" border="0" height="40" hspace="10" vspace="5" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"></a></span><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Ends July 15th</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br><strong><i><span>Spots are filling up fast&nbsp;– Register Today!</span></i></strong><br><em><span>Friends of the Center save 10% (full weekend price)</span></em> <u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/Mystopher-headshot-cards-sml.jpg" alt="Mystopher" align="right" height="230" hspace="5" vspace="10" width="175"><u></u><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Special guests Mystopher &amp; Family will provide magical entertainment with a skeptical twist throughout the retreat. </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Don't miss the magic show and a chance to learn about magic and mentalism with hands-on activities for all ages!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Then enjoy bonfires by the peaceful lake, delicious freshly-prepared (and mostly local) food, canoeing and kayaking on Long Lake, hiking and biking in the adjacent Yankee Springs Recreation Area, swimming at Gun Lake, and great discussions&nbsp;with friends from our CFI communities. <u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">There's so much to do the weekend isn't long enough!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Full details are available on the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=kVVYl-bOBxaP9NkHiqbqpw.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Secular Summer Retreat Information Page</span></strong></a><strong><span>. </span></strong><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">We look forward to seeing you at the retreat!<u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Event Details<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><b><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Fifth Annual Long Lake Summer Retreat<u></u><u></u></span></b></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13115.jpg" alt="2009 Summer Retreat Group" align="right" height="188" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="250"><u></u><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Friday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 2011</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Long Lake Outdoor Center<br>10370 Gun Lake Road, Middleville, MI&nbsp; <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=A9qXXo9WGpXLtuIzYO6lJQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">View Map</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Meals, lodging, activities &amp; facility rental are included in registration. Vegetarian/ Vegan meals are provided. Other dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Cabins are assigned based on registration order - Register today to get your favorite! A variety of small (4-6 beds) and larger group cabins are available.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Retreat activities include: group activities for children &amp; adults, games, various sports, canoeing/ kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and of course socializing and great discussions with your freethinking friends.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Full details are available on the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=dQx1LFXdtu-xIymgStOCog.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Secular Summer Retreat Information Page</span></strong></a><strong><span>.&nbsp;</span></strong><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">If you have any additional questions please contact Jennifer Beahan: <a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">[email protected]</span></a> or <a href="tel:616-698-2342" value="+16166982342" target="_blank">616-698-2342</a>.<u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Information<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13111.jpg" alt="[object Object]" align="left" height="188" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="250"><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13496.gif" alt="Register - RedButtonSet" align="left" border="0" height="40" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"></a></span><b><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br><br><br><br><strong><span>2011 Registration Prices</span></strong><br></span></b><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Ends July 15th!</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Adults</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">: $65 (FOC $60)<br><strong><span>Students (12+ &amp; College)</span></strong>: $50 (FOC $45)<br><strong><span>Children (4-11)</span></strong>: $45 (FOC $40)<br><strong><span>Infants/ Toddlers (0-3)</span></strong>: Free<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Friends of the Center (FOC) save 10% on full weekend pricing.</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=8MCx-9L4nL7lukixzCcIuA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Join Today and Save!</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Can't come for the whole retreat?</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br>Join us for the day on Saturday: Adults $20 and Children/ Students $10. (Include meals &amp; facility rental fee)<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Visit the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=ceIrZEuXt6H7rK52qsymvQ.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Online Registration Page</span></strong></a><strong><span> to register today. </span></strong><em><span>Credit/Debit payment required.</span></em><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><i><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=MqH5L2nMNKd7XnnMl4idqQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Cash/ Check Registration Form &amp; Instructions (PDF)</span></a>. </span></i></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Financial assistance is available on an as needed basis - <a href="mailto:[email protected]?Subject=Retreat%20Financial%20Assistance" target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Contact us for information</span></a>.</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">About CFI Michigan<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Mission Statement<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">The mission of <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=HmRMjmSX5KiOo1MbEvq4KA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Center for Inquiry | Michigan</span></a> is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Get involved!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=Haes953twrEEMS9RHBTDAA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Volunteers</span></a>&nbsp;are vital to the success of CFI Michigan. Learn more about <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=RKGGxmAgHY5JOD-nnSOF7Q.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">how you can help</span></a>.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Membership<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;<a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=wxc0PkiwQcV07rLpnoTAag.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Friend of the Center membership</span></a>&nbsp;entitles you to benefits including free or discounted event admission, 15% off Prometheus books, and a CFI window decal. <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=OeUoBGlYQQP_0QuTLLVlBA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Join now!</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Donations<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13011.png" alt="CFI Donate Button" align="left" border="0" height="47" hspace="10" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"></a></span><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Please <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=YApyaTwRsh-vcBpzODpwiA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">make a donation</span></a> today! Your financial help is crucial to support science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values right here in Michigan. <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=Avt52NSz9apZ4CJtgAJqrw.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Learn about our goals for 2011</span></a> and how your donation will help us achieve our mission and goals.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lgQEK8VjtezvWB5Zm7K3tg.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; text-decoration: none;"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/12819.gif" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" height="44" width="144"></span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/PixelServer?j=FA0T13cD49BAjOSDAa2utA.." border="0" height="1" width="1">

Help the Atheists of Reddit Win $50,000 for Charity

Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist, and a fellow Reddittor has posted about a charity drive that is happening over there.

Help Reddit Atheists Win $50,000 for Awesome Charities

Posted on July 13, 2011

You don’t have to donate any money for this, but a few clicks could help the Reddit Atheists win $50,000 for a variety of charities, including:

  • Secular Student Alliance
  • Doctors without Borders
  • Center for Inquiry
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Foundation Beyond Belief

What do you have to do?

  1. Click this EXACT link.
  2. Sign up under “Start Your Foundation” and check “I agree to the GiveBack Terms…” (I would uncheck “I agree to receive email communication…”)
  3. Verify you’re a human. Don’t bother filling out the optional “Name Your Foundation” information. Just click on “Save Changes” at the bottom of that page.
  4. You’ll get an email. Click on the link in there to verify your registration.

That’s it! (A fantastic visual explanation of all that is right here.)

Once you register, 50 points will be awarded to the Reddit Atheists for your work. We’re currently in first place, but we need to maintain that spot to win the money. Whoever has the most points on July 17th will be declared the winner (so sign up before then).

Tell your friends to do it, too. It takes a couple minutes and it could help a lot of really wonderful groups.

Who are these people that are trying to win this money? The project is called Atheists Give Back.

We are a group of atheists (primarily from Reddit) who are participating in an 100 day competition on Giveback.org with a prize fund of $50k to donate to charities. To win, we simply need to have the most people sign up to the site under our specific referral URL

Whether you are an Atheist or not, these charities are helping improve our world and could really use the donations. So would you please take 2 minutes of your time and sign up so we can win that money?

Thanks for the help!

Scientists Discover Biomarker for Autism

Siblings of people with autism show a similar pattern of brain activity to that seen in people with autism when looking at emotional facial expressions.

ScienceDaily reports that Scientists from the University of Cambridge have identified reduced activity in the part of the brain associated with emotional facial expression which could be a marker for familial risk of Autism.

Dr Michael Spencer, who led the study from the University’s Autism Research Centre, said: “The findings provide a springboard to investigate what specific genes are associated with this biomarker. The brain’s response to facial emotion could be a fundamental building block in causing autism and its associated difficulties.”

The Medical Research Council funded study is published on the 12th of July, in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Previous research has found that people with autism often struggle to read people’s emotions and that their brains process emotional facial expressions differently to people without autism. However, this is the first time scientists have found siblings of individuals with autism have a similar reduction in brain activity when viewing others’ emotions.

The problem with the potential biomarker they found was that it was ephemeral, meaning detection of the marker was temporary. Further adding to the problems is the fact that the marker is what is called a BOLD Signal. Which is a measurement of blood oxygen over a period of time. Biomarkers are usually extremely concrete things like a protein or a gene. A bit more or less blood in this-or-that part of the brain at this-or-that time is a much fuzzier thing.

The articles do not go into detail about the exact nature of the BOLD signal they discovered. So we don’t know if the signal is repeatable or somehow more clearly detectible than a normal BOLD signal.

The scientist remain enthusiastic that this will lead to greater discovery and possibly lead to causes and or cures for autism.

Professor Chris Kennard, chairman of the Medical Research Council funding board for the research, said:

“This is the first time that a brain response to different human facial emotions has been shown to have similarities in people with autism and their unaffected brothers and sisters. Innovative research like this improves our fundamental understanding of how autism is passed through generations affecting some and not others. This is an important contribution to the Medical Research Council’s strategy to use sophisticated techniques to uncover underpinning brain processes, to understand predispositions for disease, and to target treatments to the subtypes of complex disorders such as autism.”

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