AiGbusted is dedicated to exposing creationist hoaxes, especially the leading organization, Answers in Genesis.
Friday, December 31, 2010
David Fitzgerald on Mythicism
Also, John Corvino's skepticon talk was posted on youtube. Corvino's talk is a great dismantling of anti-homosexual moral arguments, which makes it a great thing to pass on to that family member or friend of yours who needs to hear it. Here's a link to John's website. Also worth checking out is John's DVD What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sam Harris on the Wealthy and Taxes
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Problem of No Presents
I, of course, disagree with his arguments for Santa. Before I write about why those arguments are so wrong, let me introduce an argument which I believe conclusively proves there is no Santa. It's called the argument from no presents.
Santa proponents fervently believe that Santa is all-knowing (he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake). They believe that he is completely benevolent, that he is not evil in any way. They further believe that he has the power to create and deliver enough presents for everyone. And finally, they believe that Santa is a super-intellect (who else could orchestrate a trip around the world in a single night to deliever presents to children on every single content).
These beliefs are stunningly incongruent with the fact that many children the world over don't recieve presents on Christmas.
An ancient philosopher named Epic-Scrooge-us put it this way: Is Santa able and willing to give everyone presents? Then whence cometh the phenomenon of presentlessness? Is Santa willing to give everyone presents but not able? Then Santa would be impotent. Is Santa able to give everyone presents but not willing to? Then Santa would be malevolent. Is Santa neither able nor willing? Then why call him Santa?
Santa believers have come up with a myriad of excuses for this problem. Some say that those who didn't get presents were deliberately left off Santa's list because they were naughty. But surely that doesn't make sense. What about young, innocent four and five year olds who don't get anything for Christmas?
Philosopher Grinchard Swinburne suggests that Santa doesn't give some kids presents on purpose so that we will have the opportunity to donate to Salvation Army and buy them presents. It allows us mere mortals an opportunity to be kind, which is a good in and of itself. But surely this excuse doesn't make sense. There are more children without presents than we could possibly provide for, even if all of us were super-generous.
Other Santa propopents shirk the problem altogether by telling us that at some point in the future there will be an ultimate yule in which Santa gives needy kids more than enough presents to compensate for all the Christmases when they didn't get anything. Of course this doesn't explain why those kids are getting any presents now.
We have seen that all of these attempts to explain the phenomenon of presentlessness are bad, ad-hoc explanations. Dare the Santa believers embrace the truth: that the problem of no-presents means there is no Santa?
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Is the Bible More Violent than the Qu'ran?
"In the end, the scholars can agree on one thing: The DNA of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam code for a lot of violence. Whether they can evolve out of it is another thing altogether."
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
A Skeptic's Christmas List
That being said, here are some recommendations of mine:
The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God by Dan Barker
Penn & Teller Bullsh*t: Complete Sixth Season
Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception
59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books)
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
PBS Evolution Boxed Set
Cosmos: Carl Sagan (7 DVD Set)
Friday, December 3, 2010
I'm Done with Answers in Genesis
Besides, I've grown weary of seeing them use the same arguments over and over again. This article which I wrote a while back debunks about 95% of the material on the site, because they are so repetitive.
Sometime in the future I might organize an index of my finest posts on the subject, but other than that, I'm not wasting another second of my life on that website. However, I will still be blogging here.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Skepticon and More
On our very first day, the second speaker (David Fitzgerald) blew my mind, and apparently everyone else's too. His talk was on early Christianity (he is a proponent of Jesus mythicism) and the talk was vivid and enlightening. I think he implicitly addressed a few of my concerns about Jesus mythicism in his talk (I'll blog more on mythicism at a later date). Anyway, it's no surprise that shortly after the talk his book sold out (for those interested, it is Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All).
I got my very own copy of Flim-Flam! signed by James Randi. I got a chance to speak with both Richard Carrier and PZ Myers too, which was pretty awesome. And that's the thing about Skepticon that is so cool: All of the celebrity speakers are very approachable. If you're polite and have a question or just something normal to say, you can bet you'll have a chance to speak with whomever you want (even the elusive PZ Myers, lol).
Anyway, my summary of the talks won't do justice to them. You'll have to wait until they get uploaded to youtube (in a couple of months). Which reminds me, the past two Skepticon events are up on the channel. Watch 'em if you haven't.
Rather hilariously, our event was protested. I saw one protester holding up a sign saying "Don't think too hard!" and I felt the need to walk up and talk some sense to the guy. On talking to him I learned that he was actually just pretending to be a protester. Ha!
Seriously though, we did have some protesters. One was a guy who stood outside for several hours every day for three days straight offering people free prayers. There was also a group offering copies of Ray Comfort's "special" edition of Origin of Species. I politely referred them to my blog and told them about Comfort's shameless plagiarism, though I doubt I made any headway.
And finally, somewhat of topic: Eugenie Scott co-authored an article about how to answer the why-are-monkeys-still-around-question, which I think is quite good. And there's a very good article about irreducible complexity that I just recently stumbled across.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Principle of Dwindling Probabilities and the Kalam
"I think that this is part of what is perhaps the most fatal objection to Craig’s argument: Craig is continually forced to argue that this or that premise of his argument is more plausible than its contradictory. But often we find that his premises are, at best, only marginally more plausible than their contradictories. And so Craig’s argument falls on the horns of the Principle of Dwindling Probabilities.
"Because he must rely on several propositions which are open to MUCH doubt (infinities cannot exist, A-Theory of time is correct, your example, etc.) his conclusion necessarily contains as much doubts as all of the premises do. And the total amount of doubt is quite high. Indeed, it is high enough to completely sink the whole argument."
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Closer to Truth: An Absolutely Wonderful Site
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Penn Jilette on Religious Freedom
Friday, November 12, 2010
How To Take Down an Atheist in a Debate
OK, so you're a Christian (or some other variety of theist) and you want atheists to see the world the right way (your way). How to go about it?
First, take any and all arguments that you have for your position, and give them an honest evaluation. Break your argument down into a syllogism and evaluate each premise for its truth and then make sure the conclusion follows. Doubt your argument in every way imaginable. Be imaginative in your doubts. Make a list of doubts. And then make a point to figure out how you could respond to those doubts. If you come across a serious hole in your argument, then you should probably not use that argument. More than likely an atheist will be able to find that hole, and he won't be convinced, and then you've wasted your time. On the other hand, if you have seriously examined your argument, looked for possible objections, and come up with some ways to respond to those objections, you will appear very considerate and intelligent to your opponent in a real life debate.
Second, take some time to understand where atheists are coming from. Read a few atheist blogs. Read a few atheist books. Here are some good ones that share reasons for de-conversion:
Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary
Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity
Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists
And of course atheists and other secular folk have written books responding to pretty much every argument made for the existence of God. A good general survey can be found in John Mackie's The Miracle of Theism as well as Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up. And of course there are plenty of books that are specialized to take up arguments that aren't addressed in such general surveys; For example, arguments for the resurrection of Jesus have been addressed in such works as UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus and The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave and Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box?
Third, be honest and fair-minded. If your opponent makes a good point which you can't answer, simply say so and tell them you will think about their point (and of course follow up on that promise). When you do that it reflects much better than grasping at straws to save your position.
Fourth, I would suggest listening to debates found online and of course reading apologetic material. But a word of caution: Do NOT assume that anything and everything you hear from a Christian apologist is true. You need to research what they say for yourself so that you will know whether it is true. Some christian apologists make atrocious mistakes in their reasoning and in their fact-checking (that is, if they even bother with it, another reason you need to check behind them) and reading enough atheist material ought to prove this to you. And some Christian apologists (though not all) are blatantly dishonest, as evidenced by my catching Ray Comfort plagiarizing:
Anyway, back on track. What apologetic material would I recommend? I'd say you should start off with Lee Strobel's books, such as The Case for a Creator and The Case for the Real Jesus. Also, make a point to listen to debates online, or to download the debates as mp3 audio and listen to them wherever. If you listen to one or two debates a week, you can vastly increase your knowledge over the course of the next year. And later you can move up to somewhat more sophisticated apologetics, such as Letters to Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God, and later to the most scholarly, such as The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Again, as a word of caution, I do have major issues with all of these works. Nonetheless, these are the best that the other side has to offer, and so I would recommend them.
That's all the tips I think of for now, though I may write a sequel to this in the future.
As promised, I will reveal the reason I wrote this post. I wrote this post because most Christians that run into (online or off) simply don't know what they ought to know to intelligently defend what they believe. And not knowing enough just wastes everyone's time. When I argue with Christians I often find that they have never bothered to seriously question the stuff they're trying to make me believe. And so they don't make any headway with me. In fact, every time this happens I just become more dismissive of them. Maybe if one of them actually tried he could address the reasons I have for dismissing the Christian religion. And who wouldn't be grateful for such a revelation of the truth? On the other hand, maybe if he looked hard enough at his own faith he would realize that a solid grounding for the Christian faith simply doesn't exist. And then that Christian wouldn't be bothering me anymore, because he would no longer be one.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Eight Questions... (Part 3)
5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?
I suspect that Egnor is referring to the "Hard Problem of Consciousness." I think the Hard Problem can be solved fairly easily. Our brains are information-processing units. "Qualia" (a name for types of internal experiences that we have) are identical to perception, and perception is merely the process of our brains correctly reacting to incoming information. Here's a quote from an essay by Evan Louis Sheehan that illuminates the issue:
"Suppose an alien were to declare that “the hard problem” is determining what it is about those printed slips of paper that gives them their intrinsic value. Indeed, the value of pleasure may be no more difficult to understand than the value of a dollar. Just as a dollar has value only because we believe it has value, I’ll argue that a feeling of pleasure also has value only because we believe it has value. This simple realization allows us to model consciousness as merely a system of beliefs, and beliefs are easy to implement computationally.
"While we cannot imagine how to program a computer to feel pleasure, we can easily program a computer to have a belief system, and we can easily install a belief in pleasure that becomes true when certain circuits are active. We cannot understand how a thermostat could possibly feel cold, but we can easily understand how a computerized thermostat could hold a belief that it feels cold.
"We may easily validate this simple idea by realizing that one cannot feel pain without believing that one feels pain. And neither can one believe one feels pain without actually feeling it. It seems that a feeling of pain and a belief in the feeling of pain are intimately associated, if not identical. Consider also that a hypnotist can sometimes eliminate one’s feeling of pain by simply installing a countervailing belief. And consider that a psychosomatic pain can result from a simple belief in illness. It is even true that a psychosomatic pain can be reduced by a simple belief in the effectiveness of a pill that is in fact just a placebo."
I'd also like to point out that it is not as intuitive as you think to suggest that a physically functioning human being might be able to lack inner experience (somehow).
One author suggests a thought experiment in which we imagine someone who can see/hear/smell (in the sense that their sensory organs can take respond to sound/light/odor and their brain can register information from those organs) but has no inner experience of what it is like to see/hear/smell:
"You wake up one morning, open your eyes, and what do you notice first? That the sun is streaming in the window, that your alarm clock says 7:30, and that your partner is already getting dressed on the other side of the room — or that, despite registering all this in a moment, you can’t actually see anything? Or try a more radical variant, one that takes us a step back towards full zombiehood. You wake up one morning to find that all of your sensory modalities have blanked out subjectively (though you’re still getting all the information alright). Again, what do you notice first: the sunlight, the sounds of birdsong and of traffic in the distance, the smell of coffee brewing — or the total absence of sensory qualia?"
It's just not feasible to think that humans could lack internal experience, not even from a materialist point of view.
6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?
I'm not sure exactly how to interpret this question, but the best way I know how is to interpret it this way: How can you have mental states (like thoughts) about others things (your dog, your car, the weather, etc)? A thought is basically just a reminder, inquiry, observation, etc. that comes to your conscious stream. Thoughts are ultimately information exhanges inside the brain that are normally there to affect decision making. And sometimes those information exchanges are exchanging information that is intended to represent facts about one particular thing (and that is what it means for a thought to be 'about' something).
7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)?
The 'Moral Law' is an artifact of nature. If there were no sentient beings in the universe, there would be no moral facts in the universe, because morality is a set of abstractions concerning how we should behave if we value other sentient beings.
8) Why is there evil?
The universe is indifferent to human pain and suffering, and so as luck has it some events will lead to the suffering and death of sentient beings like humans.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Eight Questions (Part 2)
2. What caused the universe?
The universe has no cause. See my original post for more on this.
3. Why is there regularity (law) in nature?
At the quantum level things don't behave lawfully: sometimes one thing happens, sometimes another thing happens. Human beings only see things that result from millions of quantum events. The basic result brought about by large numbers of chance events is more predictable than any single chance event alone is. Casinos know this. What happens when any one person sits down to play is largely unpredictable. They may very well win some money. They may very well lose some money. But when thousands of people sit down to play, the casino knows the end result. And that's why we observe regularity in the universe.
4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?
Having had a look at the Wikipedia article, I will answer according to the definitions given there. All of these causes are real in many, though perhaps not all, situations. The final cause of a thing (ie its purpose) exists only when there is an agent who has made the thing with some purpose in mind, or when an agent uses something to achieve some goal. Things which are not made by an agent can't really be said to have a purpose unless an agent uses them for a purpose. Rocks don't have purpose unless someone uses them as a paper weight, or as something else. I was not created with a purpose, however, I can use my body and mind (which are ME) to achieve happiness in life, which is my goal. And that means that I have purpose.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Another Natural Explanation for Jesus' Alleged Resurrection
I think this man's suggestion about what happened is completely plausible. The only potential problem I can see for his explanation is that Christians are going to beat on the dead horse of the empty tomb. They'll say, "His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. And by the way, aren't you forgetting about the empty tomb? Explain it."
But all of this is really a non-issue. Kris Komarnitsky's book Doubting Jesus' Resurrection already shows that there isn't any good evidence for the empty tomb but there is good evidence against the empty tomb. My advice to the writer of this natural explanation: read Komarnitsky's book. You can take up his defenses and defeat any Christian in a debate over this issue.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Might get to give a few copies to the speakers, who might read it and review it, and a review would expand my audience.
Might get to sell a few copies, which would offset the expense of the trip.
Might get seen as a shameless self-promoter.
Might spend over 80-100 dollars and never see anything for it, if I'm not able to sell any copies or give them away.
Might be very awkward to find a way to sell the book. Do I just tell people that I meet about it or what?
So: What do you guys think? Should I do it or not?
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
One more thing: I realize that what I am writing today is very deep and hard to convey. To some people it will look like rambling, incoherent nonsense. Well, it isn't. It's damn difficult to understand or to write about in a clear way, but I did my best. Rest assured that my mind is still completely fine ; )
Here is the answer to the first question:
1) Why is there anything?
Something must exist.
To elaborate: What is the difference between things that exist and things that do not exist? We say that things exist when we can, at least possibly, interact with them in some way. Things that we cannot possibly interact with in any way are things which do not exist, or at least do not exist to us.
Let's do a thought experiment: Imagine that you "invent" your own universe. You write down the physical laws of your imaginary universe, and you work out the equations to figure out how it would evolve over time. Eventually your equations show that your universe develops planets and life at some point in its history. Further equations prove that intelligent, humanoid creatures would evolve in this universe. Working even more equations reveals that a pair of these humanoids are having a conversation about their universe, wondering why it exists. They are not troubled, or even aware, that their universe "doesn't exist." In their eyes, their universe does exist. It is quite real to them. Their "imaginary" universe seems just as real to them as our "real" universe seems to us. We have no way to tell what "exists" except our experiences. And yet experiences exist within universes that we would call "imaginary": For as our thought experiement shows, 'imaginary' beings in 'imaginary' universes still experience their universe as real. And therefore they have the same evidence that their universe exists as we have that our universe exists.
That leads us to the conclusion that there is no objective difference between real and imaginary universes. The only difference between our "real" universe and other "imaginary" universes is that we directly experience and interact with our universe, but we do not do so with things that are "imaginary". The inhabitants of "imaginary" universes also call their universe "real" and have every right to: It is real to them. Our universe is real to us. "Real" cannot be defined in any other meaningful way.
With that in mind: A completely objective and impartial judge would look at this universe (which would be called "imaginary" by those who do not live in it) as well as other universes (which we say are "imaginary") and would conclude that there is no fundamental difference between them. They are just as "real" (whatver that means) as we are, and we are just as real as they. And if that's the case, then our universe is truly are the same as imaginary universes.
Think about imaginary universes: How would we classify them? We could classify them as abstract objects. Extremely complex abstract objects. Since our universe is the same as they are, our universe is an extremely complicated abstraction. This seems strange at first, but think about it. Think of another imaginary object: for example, a pink room with ten aliens having tea. The room does not exist, yet you could say that the aliens do exist WITHIN the pink room. It's the same for us: our universe doesn't "exist" although we exist within it.
Think of how well this whole idea fits in with "I think, therefore I am." If I can think, I must exist in some sense. Beings in imaginary universes can also think within that universe. Therefore, they exist within that universe.
If this is right, then our universe is essentially just a complex abstract object. Those things "within" the abstract object "exist" (in the proper sense of the word) even if the abstract object itself does not "exist" in any sense of the word. All of this is very interesting, and has profound implications. Christian apologist William Lane Craig often talks about how the universe must have been caused by something immaterial, and that the only things which are immaterial are spirits and abstract objects. Craig says that abstract objects cannot cause things to exist, and so the only possible cause for the universe is a spirit. Yet my line of reasoning would throw Craig a huge curveball: The universe was not caused by an abstract object, it IS an abstract object. Abstract objects do not need to be caused. Therefore, the universe does not need to be caused.
And the implications continue: Abstract objects are not simply things that don't need a cause. Abstract objects cannot be caused period. If abstracts cannot be caused, and our universe is an abstract, then our universe cannot be caused.
God is defined as the cause of the universe. The universe does not and cannot have a cause. Therefore God cannot and does not exist.
Those who are perceptive and have followed this the whole way through will realize, without my having to our articulate, that the ideas presented here mean that there is logically no way at all that we could fail to exist. And our universe does not possess any status of existence which would require explanation. At long last the two ultimate questions of philosophy have been solved.
P.S. I must thank Gary Drescher for explaining the core idea of this post. He writes about it very clearly in the last chapter of his bookGood and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics (Bradford Books).
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Looking Forward to Skepticon
Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Stephen Hawking - The Grand Design
Looks Awesome. Here's an excerpt from amazon:
How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? Over twenty years ago I wrote A Brief History of Time, to try to explain where the universe came from, and where it is going. But that book left some important questions unanswered. Why is there a universe--why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?
It was Einstein’s dream to discover the grand design of the universe, a single theory that explains everything. However, physicists in Einstein’s day hadn’t made enough progress in understanding the forces of nature for that to be a realistic goal. And by the time I had begun writing A Brief History of Time, there were still several key advances that had not yet been made that would prevent us from fulfilling Einstein’s dream. But in recent years the development of M-theory, the top-down approach to cosmology, and new observations such as those made by satellites like NASA’s COBE and WMAP, have brought us closer than ever to that single theory, and to being able to answer those deepest of questions. And so Leonard Mlodinow and I set out to write a sequel to A Brief History of Time to attempt to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. The result is The Grand Design, the product of our four-year effort.
In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a "model-dependent" theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse--the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete "theory of everything." As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, "42."
Friday, September 3, 2010
The Amazing Atheist is on a Roll
Thursday, August 26, 2010
It's a response to Francis Collins' book The Language of God. It looks interesting and I may just read it. If you don't know: Francis Collins is a geneticist who is currently the head of the Human Genome Project, and he also dabbles in Christian apologetics to some extent. He argues faith and reason, as well as faith and science, are completely compatible.
Incidentally, the blog Daylight Atheism has been turning out some posts that review and criticize Collins:
Friday, August 20, 2010
On the Rocks
Well, it's that time again: I am now working two part-time jobs to make ends meet. I've only recently started the second job and have not recieved my first paycheck from them. Until I do, I will be getting eaten alive from the extra money I have to spend on gas, and food, for that matter.
Right now I need financial support. If you like this blog, and you can afford it, I'd really appreciate a little extra help. I can accept paypal payments through email@example.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
A Cartoon is Worth a Thousand Words
|Futurama||Thursdays 10pm / 9c|
|Preview - Evolution Under Attack|
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Distorting Darwin and More
Internet Infidels has recently published an article about the doctrine of Original Sin, and the thesis of this article is that Original Sin is a doctrine that is so absurd it cannot be accepted, but it is also so integrated into Christianity that to reject Original Sin is to reject Christianity. One good point the author makes: the fact that Adam is listed in the genealogies of Genesis means that the author of Genesis probably thought Adam was a historical figure, which creates a huge difficulty for those who want to interpret Genesis metaphorically so that they can consistently believe Science and the Bible. One other thing: the article incorrectly states that the church has always taught a literal reading of Genesis. That isn't completely true, St. Augustine (A fifth century Christian) was at least somewhat willing to interpret Genesis figuratively, even though he rejected the possibility of an old earth. Wikipedia sums that up here.
Turkish Physicist Taner Edis has written a new book:An Illusion of Harmony: Science And Religion in Islam. I'm very interested in it. Here's the amazon description:
Current discussions in the West on the relation of science and religion focus mainly on science’s uneasy relationship with the traditional Judeo-Christian view of life. But a parallel controversy exists in the Muslim world regarding ways to integrate science with Islam. As physicist Taner Edis shows in this fascinating glimpse into contemporary Muslim culture, a good deal of popular writing in Muslim societies attempts to address such perplexing questions as:
· Is Islam a "scientific religion"?
· Were the discoveries of modern science foreshadowed in the Quran?
· Are intelligent design conjectures more appealing to the Muslim perspective than Darwinian explanations?
Edis examines the range of Muslim thinking about science and Islam, from blatantly pseudoscientific fantasies to comparatively sophisticated efforts to "Islamize science." From the world’s strongest creationist movements to bizarre science-in-the-Quran apologetics, popular Muslim approaches promote a view of natural science as a mere fact-collecting activity that coexists in near-perfect harmony with literal-minded faith. Since Muslims are keenly aware that science and technology have been the keys to Western success, they are eager to harness technology to achieve a Muslim version of modernity. Yet at the same time, they are reluctant to allow science to become independent of religion and are suspicious of Western secularization.
Edis examines all of these conflicting trends, revealing the difficulties facing Muslim societies trying to adapt to the modern technological world. His discussions of both the parallels and the differences between Western and Muslim attempts to harmonize science and religion make for a unique and intriguing contribution to this continuing debate.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
First review on Amazon + More
I got a rambling comment on a blog post I made the other day which manages somehow to be both very funny and very sad at the same time. Take a look at what this dumbass wrote:
I have read over your blog and it appears to me that on your Aug.4 post in the beginning you use the word KNOW for the word NO. That is something a Christian would use to say that to KNOW GOD is to KNOW PEACE or NO GOD and NO PEACE. First of all I am a God fearing believing Christian, who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. My question to you is if all things were created by evolution and that means MAN would have had a hand in it right? Can you name ONE thing that man can make that God didn't make first? I tell you for 100% that there is a God and I KNOW that he has saved me and over years evolutionist have been trying to figure it out trying, always changing the story of how it happened the Big Bang Theory or monkeys or something else. Well one thing is true the Bible has never changed it’s the same today as yesterday and it will be the same tomorrow. The only thing that changes is translations so we may understand it better, but the meaning has never changed. God sent his only son Jesus Christ here to die for you and me to save us from a life of eternal hell and damnation, a pure and selfless sacrifice for all sinners. All we have to do is ask for it and you and KNOW for a 100% that there is a GOD too and never be 99% unsure about anything. I will pray for you that you will continue to search for the truth and that God will show the light. Seek and you shall find God will show you light if you let him. No one comes to the Father except through me Jesus Christ. Don’t give up you will find the answers to all your questions and the right ones. Many blessings and prayers are sent to you.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
High Probability Atheist
I'm actaully completely comfortable saying that I know there are know gods. The reason most people don't like to say that, is, I think, because they think that knowing implies knowing with absolute certainty. No room for doubt, ever. I don't see things that way. I'm comfortable saying that I know there are no gods for the same reason I'm comfortable saying that I know that evolution occurred. Neither one is known with literal 100% Certainity, but I think the evidence and arguments concerning both show that they are well over 99% likely to be the case. So I'm a high probability atheist: I don't say that there is certainly no god, just that it is really fucking unlikely.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Some Various Updates
Nick Matzke has posted a really cool blog post about dogs and evolution on Panda's Thumb. This post is a must for those of you who debate creationists. Bookmark it, you'll want to reference it later so you can thrash the creationists with it.
A little while ago I began writing a series called "Mapping the Fine-Tuning Argument." I plan to get back to that soon. However I wanted to make a note on that series: I read a series of criticisms of physicist Victor Stenger which reprimanded some of Stenger's criticisms of the argument (which I referenced in my series). Click here to read the first part of those criticisms. Anyway, I believe some of these criticisms of Stenger are valid, not least because Stenger himself seemed to implicitly agree with me when I emailed him about it (in the email Stenger said that his upcoming book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning would update his criticisms of the argument).
Richard Carrier has posted a blog update about his two upcoming books (which will discuss the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth). It's a welcome update for me as I am anxiously awaiting his book. I think the book'll kick ass. Carrier has also made a post about some secular organizations that he'd like us atheists and agnostics to help in one way or another.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Research Methods: How to Find Answers
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Foxes to Puppies and More
Here's an interesting article about why the flood story of the Bible is borrowed from earlier myths and also could not possibly have occured:
I recently stumbled onto a really cool video of a presentation put on by Teller of the magic duo Penn & Teller.
Speaking of P&T, they've already begun the eighth season of their TV show, Bullshit! Here's an episode guide. If you don't get Showtime, you could watch some of the new episodes on youtube, as I see they've been uploaded.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
More on the Problem of Induction
A poster had asked how the problem of induction can be answered. I referred him to a post I wrote a while back and quoted it:
"I believe that it is more parsimonious (or simple) to postulate only one kind of cause for every kind of effect, and vice versa, and since simpler explanations are to be preferred (a view which I defend on a priori grounds in my book Atheism and Naturalism) then it follows it is reasonable to believe that the effects of the past that we observe today were created by causes that create similar effects in the present day. Think about it: If we observe Cause A creating Effect B, and we reason that it is simpler (and therefore more probable) to suppose that Effect B is only created by Cause A, then in cases where we observe Effect B without having the benefit of being around to witness Cause A occur, we can still be reasonably sure that Effect B was created by Cause A.
"And that isn't the only justification for induction. Here's another one: Induction can be likened to the sample-taking done by scientists. Scientists will often take a very large sample of something, and then reason that what is true of the sample is probably true of the whole (of whatever they are sampling). For example, if I interview 10,000 random people, and 90% of them inform me that they will re-elect Barack Obama, I can be reasonably sure that this is true of the entire population of voters. It is logically possible that somehow my sample wasn't representative of the entire population. Maybe, out of the entire population, only 10% want Obama re-elected. But it is extremely improbable that my sample would be that far off the mark.
"Likewise, when we reason inductively, we observe something so many times (equivalent to taking a sample) and we assume that that sample is probably representative of all cases of that kind of event."
Click here to read his response to this and my response to him. I spent a lot of time on the post, and if you're into philosophy then this should be intriguing.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Ever have one of those "You can say that again" moments?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
AiG's 12 Arguments Evolutionists Should Not Use
Argument 1: Evolution is a fact
AiG says: "When our core beliefs are attacked, it’s often easy for humans to retreat to statements such as this: 'My belief is a fact, and yours is wrong.' That’s exactly why we cannot trust mere human understanding to explain the unobservable past—emotion and pride get in the way. Evolution is not a fact, no matter how many times evolutionists say it is. It’s a framework built on assumptions about the past—assumptions that will never have direct, first-hand, observational proof."
First, let's define evolution. Evolution can refer to two things: either (1) a change in a gene pool over time or (2) the common ancestry of all living things and how those living things changed over time. Creationists almost always agree that (1) occurs, so that's not contentious. What is contentious is (2). So the question is: Is common ancestry of all life a fact? I hate to be so tedious, but once again we have to look at our definitions. If by "fact" we just mean something that is practically certain (maybe not absolutely undoubtable, but still something well-beyond reasonable doubt) then common ancestry is a fact. If by "fact" we mean something that could not possibly be false, even in the judgement of a hardened skeptic, then that would lead me to conclude that the only "facts" that there are are things inside our DIRECT experience and things which are logically certain (contradictions cannot exist, etc.). And of course such a strict definition of the word "fact" could not include the theory of common ancestry because common ancestry is not a logical or mathematical certainty and it is not something we have directly experienced (we haven't literally been able to watch all life evolve from a single species in the same way we can watch the sun rise and set). Under such a strict definition of the word fact, common ancestry would have to be classified as an explanation of the facts or an inference from the facts. And under such a strict definition (and given all of the arguments for it) common ancestry would qualify as a highly probable, practically certain (like 99.99999% certain) explanation of the facts.
Argument 2: Only the uneducated reject evolution
I agree with AiG that this is false. Some very smart and very educated people actually do reject common ancestry (Kurt Wise, who studied under Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, is a prominent example). However, I would argue that those who reject evolution, even after becoming educated about it, do so because of errors in their reasoning process or because of irrational emotional fears, and not because of proper reasoning and examination of the facts. If I ever meet someone who can validly argue that common ancestry is false in light of all the facts scientists have collected so far, then I would renounce evolutionary theory. However, I have never encountered anyone who can do this.
Argument 3: Overwhelming evidence in all fields of science supports evolution
AiG says: "The irony, of course, is that for centuries prior to Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species, the majority of scientists found the opposite to be true: the 'evidence' supported creation. What changed? Not the evidence. Rather, the starting point changed (i.e., moving from the Bible, God’s Word, to humanism, man’s word). Creationists continue to see everything in light of God’s Word and all evidence as supporting the biblical account. In reality, there is no 'neutral' starting point; everyone—whether they acknowledge it or not—interprets the 'facts' according to a particular way of thinking (i.e., worldview)."
OK, so people once thought that fact X was best explained by theory A, but they later realized that fact X was best explained by theory B. It does not follow from that that theory B isn't really the best explanation of fact X. In other words, just because people changed their views about the best way to explain the facts does not mean that the new explanation is false.
Argument 4: Doubting Evolution is Like Doubting Gravity
AiG says: "Why does this argument fail? We’ll show you. Take a pencil or pen. Hold it in the air. Then drop it to the floor. That’s gravity. Next, make a single-celled organism—like an amoeba—turn into a goat. Go ahead. We’ll wait. . . . No? As you can see, there’s a fundamental difference between operational science, which can be tested through repeatable experimentation, and historical science, which cannot."
False. Evolution is testable and has been tested. And it passed with flying colors.
Argument 5: Doubting evolution is like believing the earth is flat
AiG says: "Ironically, the Bible describes the earth as round and hanging in space—long before this could have been directly observed (Job 26:10; Isaiah 40:22). The appeal of this claim is that it stereotypes creationists as stuck in the past, since the common assumption is that people once universally believed the earth was flat before science 'proved' otherwise (which wasn’t the case—only a few bought into the idea that the earth was flat). But even if this were true (it’s not), direct, repeatable observation shows us the earth is round and orbiting the sun. Evolutionary stories about fossils are not direct observations; they’re assumption-based beliefs."
I agree that flat earthism and young earth creationism are on essentially the same level of irrationality. No sane person should take them seriously. As for the claims about the Bible describing the earth as round: I've dealt with those in my book, Atheism and Naturalism. Isaiah 40:22 describes the earth as a circle (not a sphere) even though the Hebrews had a word for sphere. Job 26:10 (KJV) simply says "He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end." I have no clue how that indicates that the earth is round. I'd appreciate any suggestions on how that could indicate such.
Argument 6: It’s here, so it must have evolved
I can half-way agree that with AiG that this is a bad argument. The argument, stated this way, is circular. However, Richard Dawkins has argued that evolution by natural selection is the only known ultimate explanation for the origin of information (See The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion). That is, Dawkins argues that, although information can arise from design, design could never serve as an ultimate explanation for information because a designer would herself possess high information content. He further argues that other contending explanations (like Lamarckism) are failures and incapable of producing information. According to Dawkins, evolution by natural selection is the only contender left, and thus we should infer it as the probable explanation for the origin of biological information.
Argument 7: Natural selection is evolution
Of course natural selection isn't evolution! Natural selection is the mechanism by which evolution (a change in the gene pool) occurs. It is the primary mechanism used to explain the differences that have accumulated in different species since their last common ancestor.
Now that we have made the right linguistic distinctions, I think AiG does have a point. I've seen tons of youtube videos in which people have given examples of natural selection and/or changes in gene pools when asked for evidence of evolution. Of course, the change in the gene pool is one of the definitions of the word "evolution". But again, most creationists don't doubt evolution in that sense of the word. What they doubt is evolution in the sense of common ancestry, and so evidence of common ancestry is what must be provided. Change gene pools doesn't prove common ancestry.
Argument 8: Common design means common ancestry
I actually agree that at least some commonalities in body plans and bone structure are not (by themselves) evidence for common ancestry, since the commonalities could be explained by a "common designer" as AiG puts it. However, some types of commonalities (like vestigial structures, non-coding DNA [which I discuss in Atheism and Naturalism], etc.) are evidence for evolution over creation, and, more importantly, evolution can predict not only the types of similarities we see in organisms, but also the differences, as I've discussed here.
Argument 9: Sedimentary layers show millions of years of geological activity
Strictly speaking, this isn't argument only made by evolutionists. Any who believes the earth is old could make this claim, whether they accept evolution or not. In fact, old creationists often do defend such arguments. But enough about that: AiG's point once again seems to be that if we didn't sit and watch these sedimentary layers form over millions of years then we can't say it was formed over millions of years. Anything else would be just a subjective human opinion that carries no epistemic weight at all. Of course this is baloney. Determining the age of sedimentary layers involves ordinary inductive reasoning: that is, explaining the evidence with the causes that we have always observed to produce the effects we are seeing now. AiG's argument here is just as ridiculuous as a juror who refuses to convict someone of rape, even in the face of DNA evidence, because they weren't there to witness the rape and can't be sure if the same laws of biochemistry were operating when the alleged rape took place.
Argument 10: Mutations Drive Evolution
AiG once again hauls out the old canard that mutations cannot produce "new information" which is false.
Argument 11: The Scopes Trial
AiG discusses what they believe are common misperceptions about the trial. The Scopes Trial really has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of evolution, so I won't comment on it here.
Argument 12: Science vs. religion
Once again, it's difficult to see how AiG could think of the above (which appears to be a statement of a certain mentality) as an "argument." Their commentary on this simply says that "science" doesn't oppose religion, but that it is atheists and humanists who oppose religion, and then the commentator tells us that there would be no reason to do science if we didn't live in a God created universe (see here -- that's false). Of course I disagree. Many religions, especially Christianity, are subject to proof/disproof by what we observe in the world, which makes Christianity, at least in part, a scientific hypothesis. The fact that it is subject to proof/disproof only puts it in conflict with science when it makes predicitions which turn out false, which it has (the hypothesis that a perfect God created the world predicts a perfect world, but our world is not perfect, therefore God did not create the world).
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud Not Proven
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Dawkins and the Ultimate 747 Argument
I think his line of reasoning is similar to my own:
Although he has written in a much clearer and more concise fashion than I have.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Math, Breasts, and Christ
An article in Playboy looks at the trends in breast shapes we have liked through the decades. I'm an eighties man myself ; )
Mike Licona and Richard Carrier debate the resurrection of Jesus Christ again.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Good Counter To Pascal's Wager
A Good Way to Respond to it:
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Preview For my Book Now Available on Amazon
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Mapping the Fine-Tuning Argument: Why Intelligent Design Fails
Why is that? If we found something like a tractor on another planet, we would conclude that it was created by an intelligence (wouldn't we?). So if we discover fine-tuning in the laws of nature, shouldn't we conclude that it was caused by God?
No. Because for every possible state of affairs we can think of (a universe with only hydrogen, a universe with only three atoms, etc.) we can also think of some peculiar spiritual being who would desire exactly that kind of universe to be created. A creator who wants a life-friendly universe is therefore just as improbable as the life-friendly universe he is called on to explain. In fact, he is more improbable, given the facts I've outlined here.
People bring up a lot of challenges to this argument. For example, isn't this just asking for "an explanation of the explanation"? No, it isn't. When you truly explain something you have to provide an explanation that is more likely than postulating simple chance to explain event X. If you do not, then lucky chance is a more likely cause of event X than is your explanation, and therefore, we cannot accept your explanation.
Another objection is the following: what if we found tractors on another planet? Would people like you refuse to attribute this to alien intelligence? Couldn't people like you just say,
"For every possible state of affairs we can think of (a planet with only hydrogen, a planet covered in silly string, etc.) we can also think of some peculiar alien being who would desire exactly that kind of planet. An alien who wants a tractor is therefore just as improbable as the tractor he is called on to explain."
No, I couldn't say that. And here's why: In this case, there is reason to think that alien with the desire to build a tractor would not be equally likely to the other nonsensical possibilities. And that reason is that we have tractors on earth, we use them for harvesting food (which we, and certainly every other living being, needs) and this provides us with some backround knowledge that increases the initial probability that creatures on other planets will do the same.
However, we can't really extrapolate like this to God (or any other spiritual being that might exist). Our backround knowledge about intelligent agents means essentially nothing in regard to God and other hypothetical spiritual beings. And that is because we are physical beings who evolved, while God is not a physical being and did not evolve. Our desires and our ways of thinking were determined by natural selection. God's (or other spiritual being's) thinking was determined by... Well, whatever it was determined by it couldn't have been a process of evolution, and we don't really have a clue what could determine it.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Review: The Christian Delusion
Part 1 is entitled "Why Faith Fails" and I take it to be a refutation of the common notion that one needs no rational reason to believe Christianity to be true, you can just "take it on faith." It is amply demonstrated that "faith" (in the sense that is used here) is completely unreliable, due to, (among other things) the fact that people "have faith" in a wide variety of religions, and since only one (at best) can be true, it makes one's own faith very likely to be false if the faith has not been rationally scrutinized.
Part 2 consists of three chapters which argue that the Bible is not God's word. Ed Babinski convincingly shows that the writers of the Hebrew Bible were given no divine revelation about the world in which they lived: their writings reflect belief in a flat earth covered by a dome (the 'firmament') which was the sky, or heavens. These beliefs are extremely and inexplicably strange if the Bible was inspired by God, but completely to be expected if the Bible was simply a product of its time and culture and not inspired by God. Paul Tobin, author of the website and book The Rejection of Pascal's Wager, explains a few of the contradictions and failed prophecies in the Bible, and I have a feeling that his approach would be very persuasive to fundamentalist Christians. Tobin proves his thesis far beyond a reasonable doubt, to the point that anyone unconvinced that the Bible contains inconsistencies after reading his chapter would have to be in deep, deep denial. Indeed, they would have to be in pathetic denial. John Loftus wraps up the section by discussing the "failure to communicate" of the Biblical God. The problem, as Loftus explains, is this: if God actually inspired the Bible, then why the hell is that Christians can't agree on the meaning of so many passages, and even on the basic messages of the biblical books themselves? Loftus' point could be forcefully illustrated by the following webpage, which lists passages in the Bible that condemn alcohol consumption followed by some that condone it. At the bottom of the page is a list of Christian websites that believe the Bible condemns drinking... Followed by a list of Christian websites that believe the Bible condones drinking! Well, which is it? And if God wrote it, why didn't he make his message clearer?
I don't have the time to review the other parts of the book in such detail, but the highlights of the rest of the book include: Hector Avalos' chapter arguing that atheism was not the cause of the holocaust or the mass murders of communist regimes and Richard Carrier's chapter on the Resurrection (which forcefully and convincingly argues that such an event, given the poor evidence we have, is totally irrational-- even illogical-- to believe).
To sum up, this book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the case against Christianity.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Jesus' Resurrection Debate Done
Monday, May 17, 2010
Mapping the Fine-Tuning Argument: The Puddle Analogy and Misc. Objections
The 'Puddle Analogy' seems to me to be simple, funny, and somewhat unoriginal. What is its relevance to fine-tuning? The puddle, of course, fits its hole so well not because anyone designed it that way, but because the water it is composed of adapts itself naturally to whatever shape the hole takes. The analogy that this would have with fine-tuning would be something like the following: 'Life is adapted to the universe, and not the other way around, so if the universe had been different life would be too. In other words, a different kind of universe would have yielded a different kind of life.' If that's what the analogy means, then it is simply a funny way of putting the 'Other Forms of Life Objection' that we have examined previously.
The Anthropic Principle
Some have responded to the fine-tuning by simply saying, 'Of course the universe has to be just so to allow our existence. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be here to comment on it.' The logic used here is undoubtable correct: the universe must be able to permit our existence, since if it wasn't we wouldn't exist, and we do exist. But people sometimes take this tautology and mistake it for an explanation of the fine-tuning. And it isn't: Your existence is a result of the fine-tuning. It is NOT a cause of the fine-tuning. Your existence in no way caused the universe to be fine-tuned, so it cannot explain the fine-tuning.
I've heard people say that the fine-tuning argument argues in a circle because the very word 'fine-tuning' implies that one has already established that some agent did tune the universe. But that can't be assumed in the argument because that is the very thing to be proved: whether there was a conscious agent who rigged the laws of physics. I think this is a weak objection. It's a semantic point masquerading as something more. The phenomenon we describe as 'fine-tuning' could be described in less anthropomorphic ways: it could be called 'improbable life-friendliness' instead, for example. Nevertheless, the phenomenon we refer to as 'fine-tuning' or 'improbable life-friendliness' still requires an explanation, and we want to find the best explanation available. The best explanation could be a designer, or a more fundamental law of nature, or a multiverse, etc. And we will begin comparing these explanations in later posts.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Common Descent Proven
Unless someone can point out some statistical or logical error in this, then this study conclusively proves that creationism, and even evolution from two or more ancestral species, is false. It can't be said with literal 100% certainty, but it can be said with over 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% certainty.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
'Atheism and Naturalism' Now On Amazon!
Atheism and Naturalism
My book has finally made it to Amazon! I'm so glad. Anyway, if you've read it be sure and write a review for amazon.com. It'll only take a few minutes and it will help me out a lot.
Also, if you want to purchase it but don't have a lot of cash, I recommend signing up for swagbucks and doing daily searches until you have enough swagbucks to purchase amazon gift cards, and then you'll be able to buy it. If just start using swagbucks to search for things instead of google, you'll probably have enough to purchase my book in eight or nine weeks.