10/30/08

Atheist Charity - A Huge Success

In one single day a new atheist charity received donations of $80,000 from as many as 3,400 donors—and the donations keep rolling in (apparently from atheists). By day three they raised $113,000.

Who said that there were no atheist charities and or that atheists are not charitable?

And as for those of you who though that Prof. Richard Dawkins was an old fuddy-duddy he is more charitable than thou as he committed to match donations up to $9,300.

To read/Or not to read



But what is this hugely successful charity?
A homeless shelter?

A hospital fund?

A soup kitchen?

An adoption agency?

A disaster relief organization?

A gang intervention unit?

A drug and alcohol treatment center?

Relief for those suffering from the worldwide financial crisis?

Anything that will actually help someone in need?


Nay.

The “charity” is mean to fund a campaign to place ads on buses in London.

I am afraid that this comment will not seem charitable but I think that, at least on rare occasion, atheists should think outside of the box and not simply make statements with which their peers agree and chortle in unison.

The ads will state, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Ariane Sherine, chimed in with another well-within-the-box statement, “Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it.”[1] What is the answer of the theist? “Theists believe this is the only life we have, and that it continues beyond the material realm, and we should enjoy it.”

The Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Hanne Stinson, stated, “We wanted it to be a positive message.” I suppose that sometimes what you “wanted” to do does not turn out to be what you end up doing.

“Do, or do not.
There is no ‘try.’”
—Jedi Master, Yoda


Ariane Sherine, who conceived of the campaign, “said that ‘probably’ was included to ensure that the posters didn't breach transit advertising regulations, which stipulate that ads should not offend religious people.”[2]
Let us do the math here: if we take the sentence “There is probably no God” and we subtract the regulation required qualifying term “probably” we end up with “There is no God.” I guess this atheist does not understand atheism (or does not adhere to the tenets of the New Atheism).

Oddly, and unfortunately without further elucidation, the Associate Press reported that “Dawkins said that as an atheist he ‘wasn't wild’ about the ad's assertion that there was ‘probably’ no God.”[3] Apparently, he would have preferred the “There is no God” reading. His reaction may be again the regulations placed upon ads. However, either way he seems to be opting for the positive affirmation of God’s non-existence position. Although, this is quite odd considering that he titled one of the chapters in his book The God Delusion “Why There Almost Certainly is No God.” And I am not aware of any regulatory restrictions being placed upon his book. A Prof. Richard Dawkins inspired ad may have read thusly, ““There is almost certainly no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Furthermore, note that the ad is pretty mild, at least by New Atheist standards. However, never to be outdone by mild statements, Prof. Richard Dawkins chimed in and stated another atheist myth, “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion.”

I don’t know what to think about that. Although, Methodist Church Rev. Jenny Ellis stated, “We are grateful to Richard [Dawkins] for his continued interest in God and for encouraging people to think about these issues.”

“The religious think tank Theos said it had donated $82 to the campaign, on the grounds that the ads were so bad they would probably attract people to religion…Theos director Paul Woolley [stated] ‘Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity.’”[4]

Two donators donated the following statements along with their funds:

“Hoorah for the non-believers!”

“Spread the word, and consign this superstitious nonsense to the dustbin of history! America, are you listening?”

Just what are we supposed to think? “Yes, we heard you loud and clear from across the pond and can see that you are quite please with your quaint British wit but atheist’s urban legends are not the erudition which you claim them to be.”

Should ads be placed on buses responding thusly, “There probably is a God. I am not worried and my life is filled with joy. Please, stop wasting money publicizing your personal prejudice and help someone in need.

[1] Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless, Atheists Plan Ad Campaign On Side Of London Buses
[2] The Associated Press, Atheists Roll Out Message On Sides Of London Buses
[3] Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless, Atheists Plan Ad Campaign On Side Of London Buses
[4] Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless, Atheists Plan Ad Campaign On Side Of London Buses


Continue reading Atheist Charity - A Huge Success...

10/27/08

Sweet Home Chicago and Christians Studied

On the top of Sam Harris’ website’s current (at least as of 10-23-08) front page five articles are listed. One of them is Asking the Right God Questions by Gregory Rodriguez.

In a political season when we learn, as we have so many times before, that polls can be loaded so as to lean the results in a particular direction Sam Harris appears to have been impressed by the study discussed by Rodriguez as he writes:
“The fury of the debate between faith and atheism leaves little room for an inquiry as to why 90% of Americans say they believe in God or a supreme being and more than 40% say they attend religious services each week…

A new study out of Northwestern University…starts to provide data and insight…[about] why humans believe.
The study, by psychology professor Dan P. McAdams and researcher Michelle Albaugh, was aimed at finding out about the religious sources of political leanings. They interviewed 128 devout Christians in and around Chicago…

The study analyzes the results mostly in terms of political divisions…The political findings are intriguing, but not nearly as interesting as the way the question and the answers it elicited get at deeper, core issues. It appears that we do believe out of need, but it’s not, as Marx suggested, primarily because of material deprivation. Instead, it looks as if faith answers fear, and many different kinds of fear, which we can begin to delineate in some detail…”

The particular answers given to the questions are not the concern of this post—feel free to read the original article. Rather, what interested me is how this could even be considered a “study.”

“90% of Americans say they believe in God or a supreme being” and the study “interviewed 128 devout Christians in and around Chicago.” North Western University actually states, “The Northwestern University study sample included 128 highly religious and politically active Americans who attend church regularly.”

This is a study?

There are 305,482,700 Americans.

90% of that equals 274,934,430.

Thus, 128 individuals represent .00000004655655532120876966918950103532% (that is: point 00000004…) of the population in question (the 90%).

What about the 40% weekly religious service attendees?
40% of that equals 122,193,080.
Thus, 128 individuals represent .00000010475224947271973175567716273295%.

A more accurate percentage could be derived if they provided the number of Americans whom they consider “highly religious and politically active Americans who attend church regularly.” In this way the derived percentage based on the 128 number would be more accurate although it would surely still be statistically insignificant.

Not only does the sample group represent a stunningly insignificant percentage of the population (or of the 90%) but it is a sample from a very limited locality.

If the study is considered to have provided any results at all they ought to be kept locked away in a folder until vast amounts of more research is done with which to correlate them.

More fascinating would be to learn how much this study cost, I attempted to ascertain this but have been unsuccessful. A “study” by a psychology professor and researcher who interviewed 128 people!?!?!
They could have conducted the “study” in one night whilst sipping lattes at a coffee shop.

I agree, “we learn a whole lot more if we just keep asking ourselves—in as many new ways as possible—why it is that so many of us feel compelled to pray.” And let us not forget to ask, “why it is that so many of us feel compelled not to pray.” Paul Vitz has provided some fascinating answers in his book, “Faith of the Fatherless.”

Perhaps, the good professor McAdams can stand outside of a screening of “Religulous” and ask a sample group of 3 atheists what their deal is—I’d fund that study for a peso.

The article on the North Western University’s News and Information website is even blunter in its conclusions, “Political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness, a new Northwestern University study soon to be published in the Journal of Research in Personality finds.”

This, which appears to be the basic conclusion of the “study,” is a first-rate non sequitur: as Rodriguez puts it, “they asked their subjects to describe what their lives and the world would be like if they did not have faith” (whatever that means). Apparently, political conservatives think that it would result in lives/a world of chaos and absence of order and political liberals conceive operating out of a fear of emptiness. Yet, just because people believe that a life/would result does not mean that this is why they have “faith.”

Overall, I am simply not sure what the point is besides that highly religious and politically active Americans who attend church regularly are biting their fingernails off, and I am going off to become a professor—seems easy enough.

Continue reading Sweet Home Chicago and Christians Studied...

Excellent Anti - Evolution Resources

Evolution - Excellent Comprehensive Article

Creation Ministries International

Revolution Against Evolution

Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Creation Science

Anti Evolution Articles
Continue reading Excellent Anti - Evolution Resources...

10/21/08

Atheism’s Sales Pitch to Children

Once Philip Pullman attempted to popularize his books, and the movie based one of them, in the USA he realized that he was no longer preaching to the Euro-Secular choir and decided to slow his roll (as they say in common parlance). Thus, the New York Magazine article entitled, Philip Pullman Realizes ‘Killing God’ Not the Ideal Sales Pitch. His books include “His Dark Materials” and the movie was “The Golden Compass.”



To read/Or not to read



A shift in his sales pick to children is evidenced by the fact that first he denied that his works are “anti-religious” and stated, “As for the atheism, it doesn’t matter to me whether people believe in God or not, so I’m not promoting anything of that sort.”

Certainly, after all we are just dealing with mere fiction right? So what is the big deal? While the story is fiction the premise is Philip Pullman’s atheism spiked worldview,
“I was telling a story which would serve as a vehicle for exploring things which I had been thinking about over the years…Despite the armoured bears and the angels, I don't think I'm writing fantasy. I think I'm writing realism. My books are psychologically real.”

For instance, his writes of friendly daemons, homosexual angels and claims that “‘The Fall’ is to be celebrated as the defining moment of mankind, rather than the source of all worldly evil” (Steve Meacham, The shed where God died).
Speaking of dealing with mere fiction I cannot help but recalling Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame who stated, “How historically accurate is history itself?”[1] Dan Brown claims to have based his novel on historical facts. His substandard double standard appears to be that whatever point he wants to make against Christianity is historically reliable but any correction of his errors are based on inaccurate history.

Continuing the line of evidence of a shift in his sales pick to children, please note that he had previously stated, “I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,” and “Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil's work.” “Mr. Lewis,” refers to C. S. Lewis who was an atheist before becoming a Christian.

Furthermore, he had stated, “My books are about killing God.”

Speaking of killing God in children’s books—Philip Pullman was asked by an eight year old, whose class was reading “The Golden Compass,” how he came up with the concept of “daemons.” To which he responds that it “came to me very suddenly and from nowhere…this daemon idea just came into my mind.” He describes a “daemon” as “a companion to speak to and share things with.”
In a more presupposition mood I might wonder what a daemon is, if we remove the letter “a” from the word? Really though, why not refer to them by a takeoff of the term Oompa Loompa, for example (they are certainly the stuff of nightmares, and I mean the original Loompas not that CG multiplied guy in the new movie)? Why not say, “Well little child, I got the idea from the fact that I base my books on undermine the basis of Christian belief. By the way, say hi to your public school teacher and tell her that I will send her autographed copies of my books about killing God.”



But why rehash outdated press about The Golden Compass? Because this is not about one movie nor a set of books, but about Philip Pullman as author and atheist activist. He wants to teach children about atheism in the classroom:
“For the first time, pupils are to be taught about atheism as part of religious studies in a course devised by two of the UK's leading children's writers…authors celebrated for their work for children, Philip Pullman and Michael Rosen, have produced a course on atheism for schools.”

There are two points of interest for me at this juncture:
Atheists claim that atheism is not a religion (although some do, such as the atheist activist Michael Newdow). So why should atheism be taught in a religion class? It may belong in a philosophy, or logic, or history of ideas class but not religion class. Religion class is meant to teach about religions and not to pit one against the other.
Also, what would such a lesson look like? Inferring from what I am constantly told by atheists the class would last about two seconds and would run thusly, “Atheism is a lack of God belief, the end.” Or, “Atheism is not a worldview, not a belief, not a philosophy and oh, by the way—atheists are right and everyone else is wrong.”

Well, Philip Pullman draws a distinction between atheism and agnosticism, a distinction that many atheists deny,
“If we're talking on the scale of human life and the things we see around us, I'm an atheist. There's no God here. There never was. But if you go out into the vastness of space, well, I'm not so sure. On that level, I'm an agnostic.”


The UK’s The Independent noted,
“anyone who saw the stage translation of the books knows his appeal to teenagers…As the plays progressed, the average age of audiences at the National Theatre crashed to unprecedented levels.”

Atheists often appeal to children, teenagers and the youth in general because the youth are naturally rebellious and atheism encourages them to rebel against the ultimate authority—God. Moreover, atheism offers the consoling delusion of absolute autonomy and ultimate lack of accountability. Thus, Philip Pullman has produced a DVD entitled “Why Atheism?” which is geared towards children that are 11 years old and above. Elsewhere, I have chronicled that Prof. Richard Dawkins has also sought to push atheism into the classrooms: see Neo-Atheist Preacher.



One thing that I can agree with Philip Pullman about is the need for discussion and fair play understanding. For instance, he states,
“Science is not a matter of faith, and too many people are being allowed to get away with claiming that it is, and that my ‘belief’ in evolution is a thing of the same kind as their ‘belief’ in miracles.”

It is these sorts of generalization and misunderstandings that need ironing out. For example, it is far too generalized to state, “Science is not a matter of faith” since the term “science” ranges from observation and repeatable experimentation to mere worldview, or school of thought, based speculation (see my essay Scientific Cenobites for many examples of this). Likewise with the term “evolution” ranges from a bio-organism undergoing changes over time to the claim that life began when lightning struck a swamp and that God is therefore superfluous. When atheist activists, in the guise of scientists, make baseless claims such as that science leads to atheism it is no wonder why people begin to equate science with atheism (I mused on this topic in my essay Omni-Science). For example, PZ Myers stated that atheism and science are inseparable. Also, note that many atheist activists have snuck atheism into the back door of classrooms in the guise of science.

Sophie Kirkham (Atheism set to be taught in RE) reported,
“‘It is very much the intention that young people in the context of religious education should be studying non- religious beliefs,’ a spokesman for the QCA said [The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which regulates what is taught in schools].”

Yes, and they should do so in a class that is not meant to teach them about religions.
“The QCA’s proposals come as a left-wing think tank publishes a report tomorrow, calling for RE [Religious Education] to be renamed ‘spiritual education’ with less time spent on the life of Jesus and the Ten Commandments.”

Atheism would still not fit into the category (except, perhaps the Sam Harris sect).
Yet, ultimately and obviously, this is not about furthering religious education but undermining it. The attempt is to water down “religion” and “God” and to overemphasize non-religious and non-God beliefs to the level of spiritual. For example “…environmentalism should also be added to the school curriculum, it [The Institute for Public Policy Research].”
Moreover, “The think tank believes children as young as five should be told that there are people in the world who do not believe in God.”
Furthermore, “The think tank believes children as young as five should be told…that there are alternatives to marriage and that those children with strong religious beliefs could be urged to question them and look at the reasons for their faith. Instead of referring to God they should be taught that there is a ‘divine being whose moral judgments are significantly more reliable than ours.’”
Thus, this new course is not meant to teach about religion but it is mean to undermine religion and elevate atheism, environmentalism and alternate lifestyles.[2]



Professor Emeritus C. A. Russell (Emeritus Professor of the History of Science, The Open University and University of Cambridge. Writing in Atheism on the curriculum) notes:
“Topics like the proper evaluation of evidence, the skilful use of argument, even the critical analysis of allegedly historical propositions would surely be much more appropriate. Such questions would be welcomed by sceptics but also by faith systems which have nothing to fear at the bar of reason.
It is interesting that only a few days ago a step was taken in that direction by reinstating the Boyle Lectures at St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London. These have always been concerned with rational arguments about Christianity and its relationship with other knowledge, especially natural science. At a suitable level that kind of approach has much to be commended, even in schools.
However, lessons in atheism would be quite a different matter. They seem to me to be singularly pointless: lessons in nothing.”


The UK’s The Independent also noted, “What the pupils say...” and, perhaps unbeknownst to them, demonstrated just how faulty atheist propaganda is:
“Religion:
It makes it ‘them and us’, doesn't it? And once you can see yourself as separate from another person it's easier to inflict cruelty on them. Look at the British Empire. It was very much the tribesmen, they had their gods, while we were ‘civilised Christians’. And once you've got that, almost a way of believing that you're better than somebody because you believe in the right god and they believe in the wrong god, it's easier to justify your actions against them. Often powerful leaders use it as part of their way of getting into government or as a way of fighting their war, saying that you can kill but only for a just cause, and then they make that just cause their cause. So I think a lot of people can use it as a weapon for power and money.”

May one retort thusly?:
“Atheism:
It makes it ‘them and us’, doesn't it? And once you can see yourself as separate from another person it's easier to inflict cruelty on them. Look at the Communist Empires. It was very much the faithful, they had their God, while we were ‘civilised secularists’. And once you've got that, almost a way of believing that you're better than somebody because you believe in the right science and philosophy and they believe in superstition, it's easier to justify your actions against them. Often powerful leaders use it as part of their way of getting into government or as a way of fighting their war, saying that you can kill but only for a just cause, and then they make that just cause their cause. So I think a lot of people can use it as a weapon for power and money.”


What else is to be expected form an atheist activist? My only request would be to just come right out and be honest: do not pretend to write mere fiction when your goal is to discredit one particular religion and kill God. Do not pretend that atheism belongs in a religion class when its only purpose would be to criticize and claim to be the only truth. Quit attempting to smuggle atheism into the back doors of bookstores and classrooms, just come right out and be as honest in the USA as you are across the pond.


[1] Dan Brown quoted in Father Jonathan Morris for FOX Fan Central, Dan Brown Responds – ‘The Da Vinci Code’ — Part II
[2] The Times Online, Atheism gets the RE elbow, “Topics such as crime and the ethics of sex, wealth and poverty are now covered at GCSE, indicating a shift towards subject matter that is not religion-specific. And many see RE lessons as the appropriate place for ideas about citizenship and stewardship of the environment.”


Continue reading Atheism’s Sales Pitch to Children...

10/16/08

Christopher Hitchens - Suicidal Bombast?

With regards to the debate between Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath which Josh posted about, I wanted to quote one statement by Christopher Hitchens and simply open the floor to discussion:

“The suicide bombing community is entirely faith based.”


Continue reading Christopher Hitchens - Suicidal Bombast?...

10/14/08

BOBA Digest, part 3: Atheism’s Chihuahua

While this is not exactly a BOBA, as it does not necessarily deal with an argument per se, it did seem to qualify for entry into the BOBA Digest nonetheless.

Last night, on the Charlie Rose show, as Bill Maher and Larry Charles pontificated about their own brilliance in the face of those people—you know, the religious folk—I could not help but think that on the opening weekend of their atheism movie “Religulous” they came in far behind the number one movie “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

To read/Or not to read


Yes, that little pint-sized puppy scrapped with the big dog and showed him that a little nice beats a whole career built on expressing personal prejudice.

On its opening weekend the atheism movie Religulous’ box office rank was ten with Beverly Hills Chihuahua coming in at number one the “Christian movie” Fireproof came in at number 8 and a comedy that utterly demolishes the far left liberal movement, particularly Michael Moore, entitled An American Carole came in at number 9.



I would think, I would imagine, I would hope that both atheists and Christians are more than read to abscond from Bill Maher’s style of arguments from outrage and make attempts to engage in civil discourse.


from An American Carole

A more apt title for the atheism movie I could not imagine as the term “Religulous” so succinctly capture’s Bill Maher’s modis operandi and is a great appeal to the particular New Atheist sect of atheism which espouses belligerence over substance.



Bill Maher stated that he is getting email from people telling him that at the end of his atheism movie people actually clapped and he asked when the last time people clapped at the end of a movie. Well, let’s see…what day is it? Just last week when I went to see An American Carole people clapped when the movie was over. And yet, in both cases there sympathetic audiences—so what of it?

If you are interested in Bill Maher’s very many fallacious assertions please see the following essays:
Bill Maher’s Cinematic Endeavor

Bill Maher’s Errata

Bill Maher’s Sad Anniversary

Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher: The Dynamic Duo of Demonstrably Deleterious Delusion, Part 2



Continue reading BOBA Digest, part 3: Atheism’s Chihuahua...

10/11/08

A Quick Note on Politics

Normally I don't discuss politics, however I found some recent events to be kind of interesting. Many of you might have noticed all of the ruckus over a video of Sarah Palin making a speech in a church, in which she supposedly says that our military action in Iraq is God's will.

This of course got secularists all in a tizzy, since they are already worried that our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is nothing more than a Christian-Muslim religious conflict.
Expand/Dexpand


I myself, though I hadn't watched the video, was kind of wondering if Palin wasn't acting a little extreme based on all of the to-do. Then I stumbled upon this, which was rather enlightening, and which I thought our readers might appreciate as they (hopefully) educate themselves for the coming election.

There isn't much to say about that besides what Dr. Craig has already commented on, so I'll leave it at that.

However, on this same note, I would like to highlight a quote from Time Magazine which really struck me concerning the mindset of the voting public.

A woman being interviewed about her reasoning in this upcoming election was quoted as saying:

"Honestly, I don't know what to do. I really don't want to vote for McCain. You can tell he only cares about rich people. Sarah Palin wears glasses that cost $300. McCain's wife wears Gucci clothes. Which means they don't know anything about people like me." And continued with, "I hear that Obama's a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, that would be a problem, because the terrorists already attacked us." (source)

I'll start with the latter part of the quote. Notice first that this woman doesn't even know whether or not Obama is a Muslim (which he isn't), but is using this ignorance to counterbalance her desire to vote for him. Further, she then goes on to make the completely inexcusable mistake of basically stating that all Muslims are terrorists (by the way, they aren't).

Her reasoning for her distaste of the Republican ticket isn't much better. Palin wears $300 glasses? McCain's wife wears "Gucci clothes"? I won't speculate as to what this person might say if Sarah Palin, or McCain's wife, looked like slobs, but I'm sure you can imagine. Does she really think that there is no relatively wasteful personal spending on the Democratic side of the river? Furthermore, when the future of the country is (possibly) at stake, does it really matter?

To cut to the chase, I hope that people (no matter what side of the issue they fall on) are making more informed decisions than this. If you have time to browse the internet, and read blogs like this, you have time to educate yourself. Please, for the sake of others - if not yourself - take advantage of this.

It's rather disheartening to see people making decisions on these grounds, is it not?


Continue reading A Quick Note on Politics...

10/9/08

Professing Professions

I tend to forget to mention here when I post relevant essays elsewhere.

In case anyone is interested, I am posting a five part essay which serves as a, from the horse’s mouth, introduction to Atheism, Brights, Freethinkers, Humanism, Naturalism, Rationalism, Skepticism, Philosophical, Skepticism and Universism.

The posts will consist of a basic introduction, definitions, ethics/morals, science and concluding musings.

The posts begin here: “…Professing Themselves To Be Wise, They Became Fools…”, part 1 of 5
Continue reading Professing Professions...

10/8/08

A Finite Regress?

I was curious as to what, if anything, could be made of this:

Elsewhere, I made the point that the existence of the non-material is self-evident and that an example are the laws of logic.

Someone retorted that the laws were just ideas.

To read/Or not to read


May considering the laws of logic to be ideas result in the following conclusion?:

The laws of logic are ideas.

Are they human inventions or discoveries?

If they were human inventions they could not be objective laws and a wolf might find itself running through a forest and suddenly turn into a dyslexic shrimp (can you say, “improbability drive”?—sorry, a little Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy lingo).








Therefore, the laws of logic are ideas but were not invented by humans—they are not the product of the human mind.

Now we must ask: what are the laws of logic? Here I do not mean deductive, inductive, syllogistic, predicative, modal, mathematical, philosophical, etc. What I seek to ascertain by the question, and what I am rhetorically implying, is that the laws of logic are not objects, they are not material things.

The laws of logic are concepts.

What are concepts?

Concepts are ideas.

Where do ideas exist?

Ideas exist in minds.

Where does the idea of the laws of logic exist?

The idea of the laws of logic, like all ideas, exists in a mind.

Since logic was not invented by humans but existed before we detected it, it seems reasonable to conclude that logic is eternal. Any viable counterargument to this claim would have to demonstrate when logic began to exist.

It would also seem reasonable to conclude that logic cannot change. If logic ever changed, it would cease to be logic but would be illogic. Logic cannot be both logical and illogical at the same time and in the same relation.

Therefore, where has this argument taken us?

It may demonstrate that the idea of the laws of logic is an eternal and unchanging idea that exists in a mind.

The only kind of mind in which this sort of eternal and unchanging idea could exist must be an eternal and unchanging mind.

This eternal and unchanging mind could be referred to as God.

Continue reading A Finite Regress?...

10/6/08

Items of Interest

A few notables floating around on the internet:

The ever-interesting JP Holding reviews Religulous.

Debate over the meaning of "resurrection" in Paul's theology.

You may want to keep this one in your favorites; The staff at Notre Dame is leading the way with one of the first (and certainly the most prestigious) free online peer-review journals.
Continue reading Items of Interest...

10/4/08

New Dawkins Interview

I though I'd share a few thoughts of mine about the new Dawkins interviews making their way around the internet. I'll treat the five videos separately, starting with part 1.



+/-

Not a lot to note in the first part, but a little nit-pick on Ben Stein's behalf. Whatever you think of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Let me suggest that the reason Stein was surprised at Richard's answer to the question of intelligence was because he was apparently allowing something like aliens to be the designer and not a god. Furthermore, I have my doubts that he was trying to extend an olive branch to the ID people. I've seen a lot of his stuff on ID in books, articles, debates, interviews and website, and nothing leads me to believe that he is ever interested in peaceable relations.

On a more positive note, Richard spends most of his time here explaining clearly and coherently the roles or the important ingredients of genetics. He admits that much of this interview will be speculative, but it is interesting to get inside the head of a wonderful geneticist and science popularizer. He is obviously very creative and explains things like he is excited by it.

(Keep an ear ready for his final words in part 1)



And here we are, Richard's (in)famous philosophical argument against God's existence. Before I comment on this argument, please note I have mentioned that an argument offered by Dawkins is successful (in the sense I outlined in the post). I don't think this argument is very good, nor ought it be persuasive to any of those who have read the chapter in The God Delusion.

I take the following as the explicit core of his argument:

C) Any complex subject must be explicable by something not as complex.

Is (C) true? It may or may not be, but I will note that Dawkins does not provide much of an argument for it. Sure, we know that algorithm of evolution moves from simple to complex (in most cases) but that alone does not support a bloated metaphysical proposition such as (C). I mean, if (C) is true, why not (G)?

G) Any living organism must have a biological equivalent to the gene.

I see the same support for (G) as I do (C) and both appear to be false, in the sense that neither (G) or (C) would dictate what kind of thing God must be. They may be good scientific principles inside the universe, but I can't make sense of Richard's claim that these or logical principles which, ostensibly, apply to everything in the universe.

Even if (C) is true, it isn't altogether clear that God is such a thing that falls into the category of a complex being. Granting the traditional attributes of God, we know he doesn't have parts, isn't extended in space and is not contained in space. In what sense would he be complex?



I have mixed feelings about this part. On one hand, much of what Richard says is undoubtedly true. On the other hand, he makes questionable statements to the effect of our being here is explained by our being here. He then moves on to the highly controversial multiverse theory which, contrary to what Richard hints at, is related to the Many Worlds Interpretation. But he ends with the curious bit of philosophy that he is satisfied with a naturalistic explanation of our existence because of the anthropic principle. I don't understand why it would satisfy him anymore than thinking that a wet sidewalk explains the rain. The fact that we exist and can muse upon existence does not help explain why we exist; it just goes to show that we can't go about questioning our existence.



His exposition of skyhooks is quite clear and spot on. However, he suggests that everything must be explained, in which case we are off to the infinite races and nothing is ever really explained. His principle is good in general, but it is another one that I'd be very careful of bloating into the class of the principles of logic. I'll post the last video, but I don't have much to say about the Q&A session that followed.



I'll just note that he apparently believes that our love of music, poetry and mathematics (and probably consciousness) was just a lucky draw. Consider me skeptical.


Continue reading New Dawkins Interview...

10/3/08

Silly Walks, Salient Points...

There's been a lot of attempts (at least on my part) to remind everyone here that atheism and theism are both worldviews that depend a lot on your personal assumptions. More to the point, atheists are just as likely to choose that belief for irrational, emotional and selfish reasons as a theist is to choose theirs.

Leave it to a comedian to frame that with clever humor. Check out Cleese's spoof of reductionist materialism, especially the blue ribbon riff from about 1:35 on.


Continue reading Silly Walks, Salient Points......

“Galileo - A Story of a Hero of Science”

Please note that this essay has been moved to True Freethinker where it was posted at this link.


Continue reading “Galileo - A Story of a Hero of Science”...

10/2/08

A special place?

Though I have not read his works, Guillermo Gonzalez is an Intelligent Design supporter who wrote a book called 'The Privileged Planet'. The basic premise behind this book, as I understand it, is that the Earth holds a special place in the universe which makes it uniquely conducive to scientific discoveries.

There is a theory that explains the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion through a void of matter in our local region. According to this article, this theory thus far could not be distinguished from the dark matter theory by experiment, but that may change in the future.

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It is interesting to see how assumptions that we don't hold a special place in the universe can disrupt viable theories as much as assumptions that we do in all ways hold a special place. It was a mistake to think that the sun revolved around the earth, and we now know that what we observe is much better explained by a heliocentric model. But being mistaken in one (or more instances) does not mean we should always assume we are not in a special place. Nor should we always assume we are. I think the theist is in a unique position here. For the atheist, it would seem strange and improbable that we should be in an atypical place in the universe. For the theist, however, it is an open question. In some ways our location may be typical, in other ways atypical. We simply don't know until we look.

Important note: I'm not suggesting that the void explanation mentioned holds any value or merit over dark matter. It's just an idea for now, with no evidence that I'm aware of to distinguish it. I mention it merely as a springboard for discussion, and as an interesting look into the future directions astrophysics may take.


Continue reading A special place?...

10/1/08

Science and Philosophy

Some recent comments on here have piqued my interest in the relationship between science, religion and philosophy. Concurrently, friend, blogger and podcaster Glenn Peoples has released a new podcast on Intelligent Design (kind of) that explores this relationship, and I think it is well worth a listen.

Again, downloading it rather than streaming it would be appreciated.
Continue reading Science and Philosophy...