Saturday, July 26, 2008

21 Congressmen are Nontheists

Today I went to a lecture by Lori Lipman Brown at the New York City Skeptics. Brown, a former state senator from Nevada, is director of the Secular Coalition For America and the first Congressional lobbyist expressly representing nontheistic Americans. In her lecture, Brown detailed her lobbying efforts on behalf of nontheists and emphasized the overlap between Secularists and Skeptics.

One of the more interesting facts that came up was that the Secular Coalition For America has asked 60 congressmen what their religious views were (it was a decidedly biased sample, i.e. they did not ask Senator Brownback). Of these senators and representatives, 21 professed to be nontheists, but requested that they not be named since on account that they feared they would not be reelected. To date, only one congressman has had the fortitude to stand up and state his true beliefs: Rep. Pete Stark of California.

Another highlight was buying (yet) another Darwin/Evolution t-shirt.
Afterwards, I headed downtown to the South Street Sea Port to check out Bodies: the Exhibition. The exhibit was fascinating (albeit a little creepy because all the cadavers were Chinese).

There is actually this disclaimer:

This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons. This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

Nonetheless the exhibit was well done. Having butchered numerous amphibians in high school anatomy, I cannot imagine the effort it must have required to dissect these cadavers so exquisitely. Especially interesting was the blood vessel exhibit. Here a preservative was pumped into the vessels, and everything else was dissolved with a corrosive leaving jus the vessels. Kidneys and other important organs were amazingly dense nets of vessels. The exhibit is a little pricey (~$30), but hey you would spend that in one hour in any NYC bar.


  1. I saw this exhibit a couple of years ago when I was in London. It sure beats the formaldehyde-soaked cadavers in anatomy class!

  2. I have grave misgivings about the possibility of executed prisoners being included. But that extends to Americans as well -- for example, the famous Visible Man project's fine-scale 3D database of the anatomy of an otherwise healthy dead human was made from a man executed in Texas.

  3. I saw such an exhibit 2 months ago here in my home town Manchester UK. I ended up going alone as my partner and friend decided it was too morbid! I found it really interesting and bought the book. At least any chinese prisoners involved made a positive contribution towards society in the end even if they never knew of it.
    BTW I really like your blog and read it every day. regards, Sarah