Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Humor, Neuroscience, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Gesundheit

Fred Ott's Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson)
Fred Ott’s Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When somebody sneezes, most people respond in an automatic fashion with a “Bless You”, “Gesundheit” or something along those lines. The person who sneezes does not say anything immediately  after sneezing.

As a noisy bodily function you could expect the person who sneezes to say “excuse me” as when one burps, but no.

We have made this response to a sneeze a part of everyday etiquette and do not pause to ask ourselves why we do it.

Where does this come from?

The response to sternutation has its origins in superstition. Long before germ theory, it was thought that our life was intimately connected to our breath, so when one sneezed, there was an increased risk of death. In other stories it was believed that the act of sneezing expelled a demon from the person’s body and the phrase “bless you” was said in an attempt to avoid the demon from reentering the person who had just exorcised himself through the power of the sternutation. Some believed that heart stopped when sneezing or that your eyes could pop out. Pope Gregory the Great during the 6th century ordered prayer for those suffering from the plague and a “God Bless You” for those that sneezed as a wish that they would not fall to the plague. And from this we acquired the custom.

This habit is so ingrained in society, that even though we know it serves no purpose and is rooted in ancient superstition, I find myself saying Gesundheit or an equivalent. Well, sometimes I can fight it back and remain silent.

All over the world there are responses to sneezing that relate to blessings or to health.

I think that the person who sneezes should excuse themselves, just as they do after a burp.

Sneezing is a bodily function that most times serves the purpose of expelling a foreign particle that irritates the nasal mucosa, other times it can be the manifestation of  an infection such as the flu or  cases like photic sneezing (“sun sneezing”), just the expression of a higher sensitivity to visual stimuli or rarer situations like snatiation or even sneezing due to sexual ideation or orgasm (take a look at this great post by Dr. Mark Griffiths called “Sneezy does it: Sex, sneezing, and sneezing fetishes”).

What one should really do  is face away from other people and sneeze into a handkerchief o tissue paper, if this is not available then into the pit of your elbow to avoid possible transmission of disease.

And in my profession sometimes I have to sneeze into a mask causing worry as what should be done. It is said that I should just sneeze into the mask facing the wound. And in light of this article, it seems the proper thing to do.

Some will think that wanting to change this bit of everyday etiquette is of no use and is an intrusion into other people’s customs. But this custom has no use, no reason to be. I don’t see many people throwing spilt salt over their left shoulder anymore and like that custom, saying bless you or Gesundheit to a person who sneezes is just acting upon superstition.

See you next time.

Posted in Coffee, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

The end of modern civilization

English: Coffee berries Polski: Owoce kawy
English: Coffee berries Polski: Owoce kawy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the past  weeks I stumbled upon a series of articles in the news that quite frankly were the harbingers of doom. Modern civilization is coming to an end in this century.

The Mayas missed the date, but it seems that in the later half of this century, civilization will come to a halt. At least in the way we know it today.

The articles all talk about climate change and how around 2080 wild arabica could be extinct. This does not mean that coffee per se will disappear, but it will be more difficult to keep up production of this variety of coffee.

Coffee production will not come to a halt, but we could be in for a change in the variety of coffee used in our blends. Reuters reported in an article called Analysis: Coffee roasters stick with less costly robusta that roasters are using more robusta in their blends due to cost and the possibility to maintain market share .  Consumers have switched to non-premium blends of coffee that contain a higher content of lower quality robusta.

The more resistant variety of coffee known as Robusta or Coffea canephora gives your coffee more bitterness, more caffeine and an unpleasant rubbery taste.  The best espresso roasts use primarily Arabica beans, which originated in Ethiopia, but have spread around the  world. In some blends Robusta beans are typically included in the blend because of their ability to generate crema. High quality Italian espresso blends such as Illy  use no robusta at all.

Robusta has on average half the flavour and aromatic oils compared to Arabica. These oils attack the foam and make it disappear. Less oil in your brew equals more foam – crema. But at a cost. Less oil equals less aroma, flavor and overall quality of your espresso.

COFFE REFLECTIONS

So let us reduce, reuse and recycle so as to limit our carbon footprint, lest we leave behind a world of low quality/high price coffee to those that come after us.

Here is the link to the article from PLOS ONE.

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Support the Atheist Census

After only 17 hours the Atheist Census page went offline as the result of a denial of service (DoS) attack.

There were  8,880 confirmed entries and another  2,300 pending according to the Atheist Alliance International site.

Looks like somebody does not want us to be counted. What are they afraid of?

I hope that the people at AAI get the site up and running soon.

Please support this effort through donations, reblogging, and above all by participating in the census.

Stand up and be counted. Let others know that they are not alone. Let others know that there are more of us than they think we are.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Did the Dalai Lama Just Call for an End to Religion? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...
Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama, is the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in India. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Photographed during his visit in Cologno Monzese MI, Italy, on december 8th, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did the Dalai Lama Just Call for an End to Religion? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Campaign for Free Expression: In Defense of the Right to Free Speech – YouTube

Don’t forget to visit the Center for Inquiry‘s Campaign for Free Expression .

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Everyday life, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

My morning read: Jill Tarter and Science

I was going through the latest edition of The Morning Heresy from the Center for Inquiry, which is as they state “Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities” . A very good way to catch up on many interesting topics. Reading this I  came across an excellent quote by Jill Tarter that I will share with you.

Jill Tarter at TED
Jill Tarter at TED (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Science isn’t a popularity contest. Science isn’t what you want to believe. It isn’t what anyone believes. Science is what currently is the best explanation for the data and evidence that we have at hand.”

Jill Tarter

Take a look at her 2009 TED talk on the importance of the  search for alien intelligence (SETI), it is inspiring and puts some perspective on humankind.

See you next time.