Way More Americans Probably Are Atheists Than We Thought

❝ After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

❝ We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

❝ The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Interesting article. Interesting methods. Having figured out I knew enough science to be an atheist by age 13, a philosophical materialist by age 18 – the questions are moot. If not boring. But, then, I don’t know anyone following my personal blog who’s older than me either. 🙂 Sorted these questions a long, long time ago.

Americans are a small measure less chickenshit about such questions, nowadays. Small.

3 more years, every Chinese coal plant will be more efficient than every US coal plant


Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China has gotten tired of this — Trump says it will Make America Great, again

❝ President Trump and his administration have claimed that the Paris climate accord is a “bad deal” because it requires much more of the US than of China. This reflects an enduring conservative paranoia that the Chinese are getting one over on us…

In support of this position, conservatives point to the fact that dozens of coal plants have either recently been built or are in the planning or construction phases in China. This, they say, gives the lie to the country’s promises.

❝ It can be difficult for the average news consumer to sort out this dispute. The Chinese government is notoriously opaque, the situation is developing rapidly, and most of what reaches US media is shallow he-said, she-said coverage.

Happily, the Center for American Progress is on the case. It recently sent a team of researchers to China to investigate its energy markets, analyze regulatory and plant construction data, and interview Chinese coal miners and coal plant operators. It sought to answer a simple question: What is China doing about coal?

The result is a report — authored by Melanie Hart, Luke Bassett, and Blaine Johnson — that offers the clearest picture yet of the big picture on coal in China. And a closer look, it turns out, utterly destroys the conservative argument. Far from sitting back and coasting while the US acts, China is waging an aggressive, multi-front campaign to clean up coal before eventually phasing it out — reducing emissions from existing plants, mothballing older plants, and raising standards for new plants. Unlike the US, it is on track to exceed its Paris carbon reduction commitments.

In short, while the US dithers along in a cosmically stupid dispute over whether science is real, China is tackling climate change with all guns blazing. The US, not China, is the laggard in this relationship.

RTFA. You ain’t seeing this side of the topic in news-as-entertainment newspapers or TV coverage. Since our extended family includes a couple of geeks who’ve actually earned our respective livings working for a portion of the matrix of US energy producers, the discussions can be interesting.

Yes, we’re convinced that coal, nuclear fission, natgas [in a while] can and should be left behind. Cost as well as having a healthy planet being the deciding element. Which points out even further the corruption of so-called fiscal conservatives who support backwards crap like coal-generated electricity.

All [Robot] Hands on Deck!

❝ Autonomous ships will be great. Doing away with sailors will make the high seas safer and cleaner.


No humans neededGlyn Kirk/AFP

❝ It sounds like a ghost story: A huge cargo vessel sails up and down the Norwegian coast, silently going about its business, without a captain or crew in sight. But if all goes as planned, it’s actually the future of shipping.

❝ Last week, Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, a Norwegian maritime-technology firm, and Yara ASA, a fertilizer manufacturer, announced a partnership to build the world’s first fully autonomous cargo containership. Manned voyages will start in 2018, and in 2020 the Yara Birkeland will set sail all on its own. It’s the beginning of a revolution that should transform one of the world’s oldest and most conservative industries — and make global shipping safer, faster and cleaner than it’s ever been…

By one consultant’s estimate, moreover, carrying sailors accounts for 44 percent of a ship’s costs. That’s not just salaries: crew quarters, air-conditioning units, a bridge (which typically requires heavy ballast to ensure a ship’s balance) and other amenities take up valuable weight and space that might otherwise be used for cargo. And that dead weight contributes to a bigger problem: Maritime shipping accounts for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Barring a radical change, those emissions are set to surge in the decades ahead.

❝ All this explains why eliminating a crew and its costs has been a long-time goal for companies and governments around the world. The most advanced effort so far has come from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which rolled out a virtual-reality prototype of an autonomous ship in 2014. According to the company, the ship will be 5 percent lighter, and burn up to 15 percent less fuel, than a comparable vessel with humans aboard.

All the questions required of industries capable of full automation, essential automation, apply. They must begin with what is to be done to aid the human beings made redundant by the qualitative change which – after all – makes this industry more profitable, less expensive to operate?

The capitalists of Europe will probably follow guidance from enlightened geopolitical segments within their borders. Nations with at least a social-democratic bent. I would expect the same from China and those Asian nations with the courage to follow…perhaps, even lead.

Here in the United States? Silly question, eh? We live in a nation led by a political caste almost completely under the control of the least caring profiteers in the world. Short-sighted and arrogant, they really don’t care a rat’s ass about anyone fitting the broadest definition of proletarian. If you don’t own industry, you shall be politically subservient. From church to Congress, the Free Press to teachers who think they’re a 19th Century guild, obedience is the construct that counts. And Americans are, if anything, obedient cogs in the economy.