George, difficult to see, the future is.

January 20, 2011
George Lucas
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Okay, I debated whether or not to talk about the George Lucas rumor going around because right now its just unsubstantiated gossip, I’m only hearing the story second-hand, and because I respect George Lucas a lot. The man was involved in some major capacity in at least 5 movies in my list of top 30 films of all time, including my the top 2 films on that list. And no other filmmaker has been a bigger influence on me. But it occurred to me that had this been a celebrity I didn’t care about, I would write about it, so I can’t play favorites.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the story. Seth Rogen claims that he met with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and that during that meeting, Lucas revealed that he was a big believer in the alleged Mayan prophecy that the world would end in 2012.

According to Rogen:

“George Lucas sits down and seriously proceeds to talk for around 25 minutes about how he thinks the world is gonna end in the year 2012, like, for real. He thinks it.“He’s going on about the tectonic plates and all the time Spielberg is, like, rolling his eyes, like, ’My nerdy friend won’t shut up, I’m sorry…’

“I first thought he (Lucas) was joking… and then I totally realized he was serious and then I started thinking, ’If you’re George Lucas and you actually think the world is gonna end in a year, there’s no way you haven’t built a spaceship for yourself… So I asked him… ’Can I have a seat on it?’

“He claimed he didn’t have a spaceship, but there’s no doubt there’s a Millennium Falcon in a garage somewhere with a pilot just waiting to go… It’s gonna be him and Steven Spielberg and I’ll be blown up like the rest of us.”

And now everyone’s talking about it…which I guess is a good thing because the overwhelming public sentiment seems to be that no intelligent person should really take this 2012 doomsday thing seriously and perhaps a little mockery will change Lucas’ mind on the thing if this story is legitimate in the first place.

Now it’s not that I seriously think Rogen would make up a story like this out of thin air to get media attention now that he’s got a movie out in theaters. I think he comes off as a really genuine guy and seems like he’s almost certainly a big fan of Lucas’.

So I don’t think it’s made up. But it’s possible that Lucas and maybe Spielberg were having fun with him and Rogen didn’t pick up on it. Of course it’s also possible George Lucas really, truly believes the world will end in 2012. Though his actions over the past few years don’t seem to suggest that is the case. Then again, I find most believers in these sorts of impending doomsday ideas tend to live lives inconsistent with that belief just like religious people who believe death will bring them to paradise seem to go as out of their way to avoid death as any atheist. So it’s possible there’s a compartmentalization aspect to this where he’s kind of obsessed with reading books on the subject and is buying into some of it without really acting in a way that’s congruent with that belief.

I don’t want to get into absurdity of these beliefs now. That’s been done to death. Contrary to what we hear from the delusional, in most ways the world is actually getting better. To quote Nerdfighter Hank Green:

In the last 100 years the human lifespan has increased by over 35 years. 100 years ago the average lifespan was only 45 years. Now it’s almost 80. And that number is increasing every year. If it keeps increasing at that same rate, the average lifespan of a child born in 2008 will be 98 years old.
Teen pregnancy, smoke, and drug use have all decreased significantly since the 1990s.
Rates of cancer have decreased steadily in the U.S. for 20 years and it’s not just because people aren’t smoking as much, though that’s certainly part of it. It’s also because new screening techniques that can detect pre-cancerous lesions in the colon and also because of the HPV vaccine which prevents the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Small Pox once killed millions of people per year; now it has been completely eradicated. It literally does not exist anymore.
Since 1990, global poverty rates have decreased by more than 30%. And they’re on-track to have decreas 40% by 2015.
Divorce rates are much lower than people assume, and have consistently dropped since the 1970’s in America. Only 20% of people who got married in the 1980s got divorced.
Violent crime rates dropped 5% between 2007 and 2008. And violent crime rates have been dropping consistently every year since 1993
The Red Cross collects 15 million blood donations per year. No one is compensated for those donations, except with cookies and juice. People just like helping other people.
In 1970 there were only 400 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles left in America, but the Endangered Species t effectively saved the species. There are now more than 10,000 breeding pairs. During the same time Whooping Cranes returned from a much more serious 50 birds total in the entire world. There are now over 500.

So in guess you were thinking that boy was our last hope, Yoda was right. There is another.

[UPDATE 1/23/11 – reported that Lucasfilm, via email, said Lucas’ comments were a joke].

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Rational Giving

August 10, 2010

Atheists and rationalists of all kinds are often accused of not being charitable. Now I’ve blogged before about how atheists groups dominate Kiva, a site that allows anyone to loan money to those in need but this past week, I’ve seen other great examples of giving among secular humanists.

1, For instance, atheist billionaire Bill Gates this week convinced 40 other billionaires to publicly pledge to give half their fortunes to those less fortunate:

Together with Warren Buffett, their “The Giving Pledge” project nabbed Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), George Lucas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Barry Diller from IAC (an internet media company that owns, Bloglines, Vimeo, and others), along with many others.

2. Then I learned that popular atheist YouTuber dprjones is organizing another charity drive with other popular atheist YouTubers to benefit Medecins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors without Borders):

3. Lastly, and certainly the most controversial of the bunch, atheist Robert W. Wilson has recently given $5,600,000 to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

“Most of what the Catholic schools teach are the three Rs,” said Wilson, 83, in a phone interview, referring to reading, writing and arithmetic. “And they do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools.”

Wilson began making donations to the New York archdiocese in 1997 with a gift of $10,000, and he continued at that level for several years. Then Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, asked him to consider giving more money to the schools. Wilson responded in 2007 with a $22.5 million gift to the archdiocese’s Cardinal’s Scholarship Program. He later saw a need for a better alumni support network.

Now regular readers will know that I’m no fan of Catholic institutions, but I have heard from others that some Catholic schools do actually provide a solid education and I don’t know the detail behind this particular case. Certainly, I’d rather see that money go to New York City public schools but regardless of where I personally would rather see the money go, it’s inspiring to see an unbeliever being so giving, especially to an religious organization in which they don’t even belong.

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