2/28/09

Board to Tears

I certainly wish that I could stop posting about such things but as long as Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (hereinafter FFRF) are joining the ranks of the sorts of atheist who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, time and energy during a time of worldwide recession not in order to help anyone but in order to advertise just how clever they think themselves to be, it must be noted—yet again.

Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
Indeed bumper sticker level atheist adds are back in the form of billboards, “compliments of the Freedom From Religion Foundation”; read as compliments of donated money, compliments of the FFRF is tantamount to stating that the government is funding ___________ (fill in the blank) the government does not fund anything, we do through our taxes. Likewise, people are donating money to spend on adds, yet again.
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
One add will feature a quote from Prof. Richard Dawkins who from the safety and comfort of countries whose societies are based on Christian principles made the narrowly prejudicial comment, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
From the with friends like these, who needs enemies? files the following quotation was selected from Clarence Darrow, “I don't believe in God, because I don't believe in Mother Goose.” Imagine making such a statement and having the FFRF plaster it in billboards. This statement registers as not even qualifying for the label Sunday School Atheism in its lack of erudition even in an area as generic as natural theology.
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
Emily Dickinson weighs in with a typical, typically fallacious, falsely dichotomous statement, “‘Faith’ is a fine invention, When gentlemen can see, But microscopes are prudent, In an emergency!”Butterfly McQueen, made a statement that, at least as quoted, is just generic enough that I do not know any Christians who would disagree with it, “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.” Being the ancestor of slaves myself and having witnessed the scourge that is “religion” I offer a hearty AMEN!!!Mark Twain’s quote is as clever as he ever was but very, very short on accuracy, “Faith is believing what you know ain't so.”
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
Katharine Hepburn’s quote is succinct enough and offers a baseless, yet admirable, moral assertion, “I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe that there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.”Thus, there you have it, good money, time and energy gone to waste, yet again.

Co-founder of the FFRF, Annie Laurie Gaylor, stated “We'll need to see the same outpouring of support from U.S. freethinkers, because to make an impact in the United States is a lot more challenging.”

It must be very difficult to make an impact in the US where atheist can make their living by filing lawsuits, giving lectures, writing prejudicial books, becoming celebrity activists, give interviews on the radio and TV, found organizations that spend money on themselves, etc., etc.
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality
By “the same outpouring of support” she means the UK atheists who wasted money, time and energy on bus adds. The FFRF actually has quite a history of wasting money on expressing prejudice. Their first add was placed in 1983 and read, “The Bible: A Grim Fairy Tale.” The next year they placed another, exclusively anti-Christian, add depicting the mother of Jesus running out of the stable stating, “It's a Girl!”

Perhaps, just perhaps, someday they will be able to consider the annals of atheist statements and come up with something, anything, that is positive, something, anything, besides “‘religion’ is bad, bad, bad!” Yet, such does not appear to be within the scope of the personality of the FFRF founders or members.
Atheism bus ads, atheism and morality

I recall that when I was first getting interested in atheism I would watch the American Atheists’ TV show and episode after episode after episode after episode thinking “Surely, one of these days they will talk about atheism.” Yet, that day never seemed to come. Rather, every episode was a prejudicial rant by very angry people.

Sadly, controversy and prejudice sell and are attention getters and people who crave attention do not seem to care if that attention is positive or negative. Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, et al, make their living from outrage and so, as odd as it may seem, it seems to work for them.[1]


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Gleaning from my previous posts on likewise subjects regarding Dan Barker—

Dan Barker and Neo-Pagan Atheism

Addendum to “Dan Barker and Neo-Pagan Atheism”

—it seem appropriate to revisit what the billboards would look like if they quoted Dan Barker:







[1] All quotes taken from Trina Hoaks, Woo Hoo! Atheist buses are coming to the US!, February 12, 2009

Continue reading Board to Tears...

2/27/09

Anglican Cathedral Opens Doors to Atheists

No, not in the way that one would traditionally understand such a sentiment: reaching out, inviting them to hear the gospel, feeding and clothing them, dialoging, etc.

I would have thought it enough that some atheists are attempting to establish an atheist religion. Now you can all but forget the whole issue of atheist wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars during a time of worldwide recession advertising their self-professed cleverness[i]: now an Anglican Cathedral will be tolling the praises of activist atheists seeking proselytes.

Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral will be tolling John Lennon’s song Imagine on its church bells. That virtually every adherent of the New Atheist sect of atheism has quoted and or alluded to John Lennon’s song Imagine should be a clue to the church of what it is that they are promoting.

“Lennon famously described himself and his music as ‘anti-religious.’” As I have said time and time again with thousands of Christians behind me: Amen to that and so am I!!!!

John Lennon stated sentiments that have been proclaimed for 2,000 years and often by people much more powerful and influential as he:[ii]

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

Yet, the song goes beyond besmirching “religion” and is a call to conversion “I hope some day you’ll join us” and only then “the world will live as one.”



“The Anglican Cathedral claims they have taken into consideration the feeling surrounding the song and believe the public should focus on the lyrics which promote peace.A spokesman said:
‘The proposed performance will be thought-provoking as it yearns for peace in a broken and troubled world.We anticipate it will be a very moving and spiritual experience and will engage all people in worship.We took into consideration sensitivities surrounding the song's lyrical content and feel the message of bringing people together in harmony is very strong.’”[iii]

Yet, it promotes peace through the radicalizing of atheism. The utopian song calls for conversion to its particular, and peculiar, view and also misunderstands and fails to note the various motivators of the very turmoil which it seeks to remedy.[iv]

[i] Some relevant posts of interest are as follows:
Atheist Charity - A Huge Success
Another Atheist Charity – A Huge Success
Atheism Board News
American Humanist Association (AHA) and Purity in Charity
Charity - Secular Liberals vs. Religious Conservatives
[ii] Interview with Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Standard, March 4, 1966
[iii] Nick Webster, Controversey [sic] as Liverpool Anglican Cathedral set to peal John Lennon's Imagine, Fri 27 Feb 2009
[iv] Such jejune notions were promulgated by Prof. Richard Dawkins for which he was spanked by Michael Shermer in Arguing for Atheism


Continue reading Anglican Cathedral Opens Doors to Atheists...

2/26/09

Scientific Cenobites, part 6 of 9

This is part five of a nine part essay which merely seeks to present what scientists have to say about science and scientists.
Atheism and science

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Stephen Jay Gould; teacher of biology, geology and history of science at Harvard University:
“Science…is supposed to be an objective enterprise, with common criteria of procedure and standards of evidence that should lead all people of good will to accept a documented conclusion…But I would reject any claim that personal preference, the root of aesthetic judgment, does not play a key role in science…our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology. Historians and philosophers of science often make a distinction between the logic and psychologic of a scientific conclusion—or ‘context of justification’ and ‘context of discovery’ in the jargon…

The myth of a separate mode based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling a public to regard us as a new priesthood, but must ultimately prove harmful in erecting barriers to truly friendly understanding and in falsely persuading so many students that science lies beyond their capabilities…the myth of an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists….T.S. Kuhn referred to the shared worldview of scientists as a paradigm (see his classic 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Such paradigms, in Kuhn’s view, are so constraining, and so unbreakable in their own terms, that fundamentally new theories must be imported from elsewhere (insights of other disciplines, conscious radicalism of young rebels within a field) and must then triumph by rapid replacement (scientific revolution), rather than by incremental advance.”[1]
Atheism and science
The editors of American Scientist made the following comments about Hannes Alfvén’s Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist:
“Alfvén’s anecdotes remind us how personalities influence ideas, and his irreverent comments about peer review are as relevant today as they ever were.”

Following are some of Alfvén’s comments:
“Contrary to almost all astrophysicists my education had taken place in a laboratory…Instead of treating hydromagnetic equations I prefer to sit and ride on each electron and ion and try to imagine what the world is like from its point of view and what forces push them to the left or to the right. This has been a great advantage because it gives me a possibility to approach the phenomena from another point than most astrophysicists do, and it is always fruitful to look at any phenomenon under two different points of view.
On the other hand it has given me a serious disadvantage. When I describe the phenomena according to this formalism most referees do not understand what I say and turn down my papers. With the referee system which rules US science today, this means that my papers rarely are accepted by the leading US journals. Europe, including the Soviet Union, and Japan are more tolerant of dissidents…

What is more remarkable and regrettable is that it seems to be almost impossible to start a serious discussion between E [a very strong Establishment] and D [a small group of Dissidents]. As a dissident is in a very unpleasant situation, I am sure that D would be very glad to change their views as soon as E gives convincing arguments. But the argument ‘all knowledgeable people agree that…’ (with the tacit addition that by not agreeing you demonstrate that you are a crank) is not a valid argument in science. If scientific issues always were decided by Gallup polls and not by scientific arguments science will very soon be petrified forever.”[2]
Atheism and science
But what was Alfvén’s crime against science? Was he one of those creation scientists? Was he one of those intelligent design proponents? No, the issue was cosmic rays and whether they were a galactic phenomenon or subject to heliospheric confinement.
Atheism and science
Sir Arthur Keith and Professor Raymond Dart regarding the Taung fossils:
“For some reason, which has not been made clear, students of fossil man have not been given an opportunity of purchasing these casts; if they wish to study them they must visit Wembley and peer at them in a glass case,’ he snorted. ‘Yes, I know that Keith was very cross about that,’[3] Dart now recalls.”[4]

“although [Henry Fairfield] Osborn was the chief public defender of evolution in the United States , it was not Darwin ’s evolution he was defending: it was a very aristocratic view of the world, and of humans in particular. The whole system, he said, was driven by effort, whose reward was progress and in the end a clear superiority for a few. As a result, an immense gulf separated humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom, and no small gulf divided the ‘superior’ from the ‘inferior’ races of humanity…Racism of a peculiarly pure, intellectual form was a persistent theme of American and British anthropology of the time, and not surprisingly Osborn was a leading figure in the eugenics movement.”[5]

“At the great Darwin Centennial in Chicago in 1959, C. H. Waddington, a convinced Darwinian, conceded this:
Natural selection, which was at first considered as thought it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a statement of an inevitable although previously unrecognized relation. It states that the fittest individuals in a population (defined as those which leave most offspring) will leave most offspring. One the statement is made, its truth is apparent.

We must agree that its truth is apparent, but how little that means! If a man says that A equals A, it is hard to dispute his accuracy but the statement is empty, vacuous.
The latest witness is R. H. Peters of McGill University, who asserted in 1976:
Analysis of a number of popular ecological tenets, including natural selection, competitive exclusion, and parts of succession, species diversity, and spatial heterogeneity, reveals that they lack the predictive and operational qualities which define scientific theories. Instead they consist of the logical elaboration of certain axioms. Consequently, they must be termed tautologies.

Darwinism has failed in practice. The whole aim and purpose of Darwinism is to show how modern forms descended from ancient forms, that is, to construct reliable phylogenies (genealogies or family trees). In this is has utterly failed. Every evolutionist knows this, hence it is necessary to quote only three particularly vigorous statements.
J.T. Bonner of Princeton says: ‘In the case of phylogeny our textbooks are little help; in fact they are, as a rule, a festering mass of unsupported assertions.’
M.T. Ghiselin of the University of California says: ‘It is true that many works on phylogeny do read like imaginative literature rather than science. A disproportionate segment of the literature seeks to fill gaps in the data with speculations and nothing more.’
L.C. Birch and P.R. Ehrlich say:
If ecological studies were to depend on a knowledge of the evolutionary history of the species,…then most ecological studies would be halted, for this information is denied us for most species. Indeed, we know nothing whatever of the antecedents of most species for thousands of years. Perhaps these dismal facts account for some of the strangely unsatisfying ‘explanations’ of the evolutionary ecologists.

Evolution is finished. It is commonly agreed that specialized forms do not generate new types. They can evolve a little further in the same direction, or remain unchanged, or die out; but they cannot produce new species. If we add that all existing forms are quite specialized, we must conclude that there will be no more evolution. This may be surprising, but it is well attested.
The late Julian Huxley stated the proposition tensely:
There is no certain case on record of a line showing a high degree of specialization giving rise to a new type. All new types which themselves are capable of adaptive radiation seem to have been produced by relatively unspecialized ancestral lines….evolution is thus seen as a series of blind alleys.

The morphologist E. S. Russell is even clearer:
Existing species represent the terminal twigs of a vast process of differentiation; each is stamped not only with its own specific character but with the characters of the genus, the family, the order, the class to which it belongs—the characters, that is to say, of the branch and trunk from which it has sprung. It may proliferate further twigs, producing new species and possibly even new genera…but there is no possibility of its producing new branches. That new types of organization, even minor ones, can be evolved from the specialized end-products of the great evolutionary tree seems a rank impossibility.

Darwinism is not science. Almost all modern scientists subscribe to Karl Popper’s dictum that the scientific status of a theory depends on its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability. It may be correct, but there is no way of knowing whether it is right or wrong and therefore it is not in the realm of science.
Birch and Ehrlich apply this dictum to Darwinism:
Out theory of evolution has become, as Popper describes, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science’ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us part of our training.

Peters is equally harsh:
I argue that the ‘theory of evolution’ does not make predictions, so far as ecology is concerned, but is instead a logical formula which can be used only to classify empiricisms and to show the relationships which such a classification implies. Similar criticisms are then made of several ecological concepts. The essence of the argument is that these ‘theories’ are actually tautologies and, as much, cannot make empirically testable predictions. They are not scientific theories at all.”[6]

Atheism and science
[1] Stephen Jay Gould, “In the Mind of the Beholder,” Natural History, 103(2): 14, Feb. 1994, pp. 14-16
[2] Hannes Alfvén, “Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist,” American Scientist, 76(3):251, May-June 1988, pp. 250-251, reprinted from Early History of Cosmic Ray Studies, ed. Y. Sekido and H. Elliot, pp. 421, 427-31
[3] Interview with the author, Philadelphia, 23 May 1984
[4] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 52
[5] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 54
[6] “A Third Position in the Textbook Controversy,” The American Biology Teacher, Nov. 1976, pp. 495-496



Continue reading Scientific Cenobites, part 6 of 9...

2/24/09

The Quadripartite Equine Riders, part 9 of 11

This is part nine of an eleven part essay in which is a review of a conversation that took place between Prof. Richard Dawkins, Prof. Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Strident, Arrogant, Vitriolic, and or Shrill?
Part 3: Amazing Perplexity and Anonymous Confession of an Atheist Clergyman
Part 4: Tri-Theism? Nice Try
Part 5: Faith, Evidence and Doubting Thomas and It’s Absolutely Relative
Part 6: On Scientific Authoritarian Faith
Part 7: Cosmology and the Pathetic Bible
Part 8: On Cosmology, Theology and Eternal Regress
Part 9: Dennett the Mesmerist and Atheism is Humbler and Holier Than Thou
Part 10: The Universe is All About Me
Part 11: On Jihad and Abortion
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
Dennett the Mesmerist
Prof. Daniel Dennett uncovers an interestingly odd plan to hypnotize theists, in a manner of speaking:

“I think, what I would love to do is to invent a memorable catchphrase or term that would rise unbidden in their minds when they caught themselves doing it, and then they would think oh, this is one of those cosmic shifts that Dennett and Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens are talking about. Oh! right! and they think this is somehow illicit, just to create a little more awareness in them of what a strange thing it is that they're doing.”
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
I do not mean to belittle Prof. Daniel Dennett but I find this adorable. Not only is Prof. Richard Dawkins singing the praises of natural selections ability to raise our consciences and, as we shall see below, Sam Harris claims to “spread the light of criticism,” but now Prof. Daniel Dennett wants to act as our conscience, our guiding light of absolute materialistic reason. I term this the DHDH Meme (for Dennett-Harris-Dawkins-Hitchens).
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

"These are not the droids you're looking for"
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Atheism is Humbler and Holier Than Thou
Sam Harris states,
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

“You raise this issue though, of whether or not we would wish the churches emptied on Sundays. And I think you were uncertain whether you would, and I think I would agree. I would want a different church. I would want a different ritual, motivated by different ideas but I think there's a place for the sacred in our lives, but under some construal it doesn't presuppose any bull****. But there's a usefulness to seeking profundity as a matter of our attention, and our neglect of this area, I think, as atheists, at times makes even our craziest opponents seem wiser than we are.”
atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
In this regard I will simply direct the interested reader to my essay Atheism is Holier Than Theism, in which I provide various quotations that go beyond atheists claiming to be more logical, and even more moral than theists, but holier as well.heism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Continue reading The Quadripartite Equine Riders, part 9 of 11...

2/22/09

Quentin Smith's Two Ways to Prove Atheism

I've been looking around for material to comment on, and stumbled across some of Quentin Smith's writings over at at the Internet Infidels. Mr. Smith is a thoughtful, intelligent atheist that I have respect for. So if all goes well, I intend to critically examine a few of his articles which attempt to positively assert that atheism is true.

In this post, I intend to examine his article, entitled Two Ways of Proving Atheism. In this post, I will show that his proof that God does not exist because of the existence of "gratuitous suffering" fails as a proof. I will not be commenting on the cosmological argument for atheism as stated here, because it's too technical. Plus, after a recent discussion I had with someone on this blog, I've lost confidence in my ability to communicate thoughts on certain abstract subjects.


Gratuitous Evil

I think there's a second, separate argument that decisively refutes theism, based on the ordinary logic of induction that we use in our every day lives.


This is a strange note to begin on. Recall that these are proofs of atheism, which are "decisive". It's curious then that Smith wouldn't rely on deduction, which would allow us to come to certain conclusions, instead of the more-or-less tenable conclusions of induction.

This issue is all the more problematic because we're not talking about concrete objects in our physical reality. Quentin Smith wants to move from abstract moral values, which may or may not have objective existence, to the nonexistence of God. This should be an early red flag that we're not getting what we were promised: a decisive proof.

One of the reasons Mackie [found belief in God absurd] is that Mackie found it obvious that if there's evil in the world, no all-powerful and perfectly good being could have created the world.


This is precisely the problem. What may be obvious to one might not be obvious to another. It might just as well be obvious to me that, if God exists, He must have a perfectly good reason for allowing moral evil in the natural world. How then are we supposed to descriminate between either option in an assured, decisive manner?

Suppose God is all-powerful and is capable of killing the Spanish influenza virus before it killed off twenty million people. Why didn't He? Is it because He's not perfectly good? Because He does not care enough about human beings? That is no god. Sounds like more an evil being governs our universe. So that's just one example of many gratuitous evils in the universe.


This statement is presented as if the only possible answer to the question of, "Why didn't an all-powerful God prevent gratuitous evil?" is, "Because He's evil himself!" In the absence of a conclusive argument to the contrary, we can conclude that it might be the case that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing suffering. In case God does have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil, we aren't forced to conclude that God is evil for allowing evil. Neither are we forced to conclude that God isn't powerful enough to put an end to evil.

Of course, Mr. Smith anticipates this repsonse - sort of.

So how do theists respond to arguments like this? They say there is a reason for evil, but it is a mystery.


Mr. Smith has nearly correctly stated the standard response to the question of evil. I say "nearly", because I don't think that any thoughtful theist would use the word "mystery". It simply leaves too much room for interpretation, and brings to mind thoughts of magic. Which leads to criticisms like this:

Well, let me tell you this: I'm actually one hundred feet tall even though I only appear to be six feet tall. You ask me for proof of this. I have a simply answer: it's a mystery. Just accept my word for it on faith. And that's just the logic theists use in their discussions of evil.


Before I can point out the illogic of this statement, here is how the theist should reponse to the question of evil: God may have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil. As Craig would say, if this is even possible, then we aren't forced to conclude that God does not exist if evil exists.

Now, what is the problem with Mr. Smith's statement? It's little more than apples-and-oranges. When Mr. Smith claims that he is 100 feet tall, we have a way of verifying his claim. After verification, we may conclude that he's either a liar, or insane.

This doesn't apply to the theist's claim that God might have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil. We cannot put a moral ruler to God and prove that He doesn't measure up. In the absence of some way of verifying the claim that God isn't as morally-tall as theists would like to think - like say a deductive argument - this simply fails as a counterargument, not to mention as a proof of atheism.

At this point, the argument becomes probabalistic at best. That is, we might conclude that because of evil, God probably doesn't exist. However, as a strict, decisive disproof of theism, this doesn't hold water. Further, the theist has overriding reasons to believe that God does exist, whether it be physical evidence, arguments, and so on. Therefore, the theist is reasonable to ignore the probabalistic form of this argument as "too little, too late".

In fact, there's a strict disproof of theism that uses the ordinary logic of induction we employ in our everyday lives. If we have evidence that something exists, we say it probably exists. If we see dark clouds approaching, we say it will probably rain. But if we no evidence for something, we admit that it's merely possible that it exists, even though it probably does not exist.


This seems to me to be contradictory. How can you disprove the existence of something, and then conclude that it possibly does exist?

Also, I'm not sure how this arguments fits into the greater tapestry of the article. Is Mr. Smith trying to imply that, unless we find a reason for gratuitous evil, we have no reason to believe that God exists? Are we simply to ignore arguments in favor of God's existence? For instance, any possible physical and historical evidence that might verify God's existence? I don't see why an inductive argument, which seems so weak to me, should cause me to discard the other reasons I have for believing in God.

If God exists, a being who is all-powerful and perfectly good, then this being must somehow ensure our world is perfectly good.


This is really just a baseless assertion. As I've already pointed out, it might be the case that God has a reason for allowing evil. If that's the case, then He has no obligation to ensure that our world is "perfectly good". Worst yet, I think there are problems with Mr. Smith's concept of a perfectly good world. Take a look:

The only way He can do this is to make all of the apparent evils we see in the world into means to a greater good. For example, the pain of a vaccination is in itself bad, but is a means to a greater good.


It seems to me that Quentin Smith's idea of a perfectly good world involves any apparent evil being done for the greater good. However, how can a perfectly good world contain evil as a means for good? Wouldn't a perfectly good world lack evil altogether?

Furthermore, this highlights all sorts of epistemological problems. A child may not understand the "why" of a vaccination, but despite the pain of the needle, isn't the vaccination still for the best? Why should we be so sure that the pain of this life isn't for the best?

Either way, this doesn't matter, because Mr. Smith has not explained why it is necessary that God should make our world perfectly good.

Now the theist might respond that there may be some greater good we don't know about. But notice the theist says, "there may be some greater good we don't know about." Well sure there may be some greater good we don't know about. Anything is possible.


Good so far.

It is possible there is an elephant stomping through my house. It is possible that Elvis Presley is alive and is doing the twist on the dark side of the moon. But the fact that something is possible does not show it is the least bit probable.


If the notion that God has a sufficient reason for allowing evil is really as absurd as these examples, then I suppose I won't argue that we might as well conclude God does not exist. However, the theist has other overriding reasons for believing in God, so that I don't think this argument holds sway on inductive grounds alone.

At least, as an inductive argument, this reasoning cannot qualify as proof of the nonexistence of God. There is a big difference between me concluding that Elvis probably isn't tapdancing on the moon, and proving that Elvis isn't tapdancing on the moon.

Continue reading Quentin Smith's Two Ways to Prove Atheism...

Ecce Homo’s Commandments

The New Atheists claim that atheism is holier than theism. Dan Barker, of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, declared that “Darwin has bequeathed what is good.” Being hard a work concocting a neo non-religious religion Professor Richard Dawkins has thus bequeathed “The New Ten Commandments.”[1]

Atheism and morality
Behold, The New Ten Commandments, of Which There Are Fifteen:

1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
2. In all things, strive to cause no harm.
3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
6. Always seek to be learning something new.
7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
10. Question everything.
11. Always devise your rules as if you didn’t know whether you were going be at the top or the bottom of the pecking order.
12. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.
13. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
14. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
15. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

Atheism and morality

Atheism and morality
Numbers 1-10 were copied and pasted by Prof. Richard Dawkins from a random website.Number 11 is what Prof. Richard Dawkins imagines John Rawls would have said if he had been asked to make a statement on this matter.Numbers 12-15 are Prof. Richard Dawkins’ own invention.Atheism and morality
What Prof. Richard Dawkins did is type “New Ten Commandments” into an internet search engine, copied the first thing he saw, and purposefully looked no further (the very definition of modern day skepticism, by the way). He then imagined the 11th and concocted the last four. But why did he do this?
“The whole point is that it is the sort of list that any ordinary, decent person today would come up with. Not everybody would home in on exactly the same list of ten.”[2]
Atheism and morality
In keeping with the new anthro-commandments, we will now test and question them since they appear to be in serious need of commentary, interpretation and elucidation.Atheism and morality
Interestingly enough, as outdated and irrelevant as some New Atheists think the Bible’s commandments to be A. J. Jacobs, editor at large for Esquire, published a book entitled “The Year of Living Biblically.” Jacobs, who is an agnostic, set out to live according to biblical precepts for a year. Some of the results are very interesting:
“His biggest challenges? ‘That’d be no coveting, no lying, no gossiping. They’re little sins, but they’re killers. My year made me realize just how many of these sins I committed every day. And refraining from them for a year was really hard but completely transforming.Biggest lesson? ‘Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.”[3]

Atheism and morality
Considering Each In Turn:

1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

Considering that atheists are forced by their amoral worldviews to borrow morality from theistic systems, it is not in the least bit surprising that the first new commandment is a dyslexic version of an old one.Known as “The Golden Rule” this first anthro-commandment is most readily recognizable as being derived from the Bible.

“whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them (Matthew 7:12).“as you desire that men should do to you, you do also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

The anthro version merely requires not doing something while the Biblical versions are proactive and call us to do: we are to actively treat people well and in doing so we will also not treat them badly.Atheism and morality
Some have pointed out that the golden rule does not originate from the Bible but can be found in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. Yet, some questions ought to be asked about these other occurrences such as:
How do we know that Zoroaster, Krishna, Confucius, Lao Tzu or Siddhartha Gautama even existed?
When were such things spoken by them?
What is the time of this event to the time of the writing?
Who wrote it?
What is the time of the writing to the time of the earliest manuscript?
How many manuscripts do we have?
How do the compare?
Why should we believe that they accurately reflect what was spoken?
Etc., etc., etc.
These are questions that modern-day-pseudo-skeptical-New-Atheist would never even imagine asking.
Atheism and morality
But, if they did state such things why should this not be so? After all the Bible tells us that God has written His law in our minds and hearts (Jeremiah 31:33 and Romans 2:15).Interestingly enough the original author of the first ten, “The New Ten Commandments” made the following comment,
“The first thing to notice about this list is that there are no ‘Thou shalt nots’. That time-worn phrase is too dogmatic, too authoritarian; it conveys all too well the idea of a stark list of laws chiseled in stone.”[4]

Atheism and morality
Oddly enough we only have to read as far as the first one to find a “Do not do” statement. I do not wish to get sidetracked into the whole issue of semantics but “Do not do” is merely updated English for “Thou shalt not.”Atheism and morality

2. In all things, strive to cause no harm.

This statement appears to be derivative from a lineage dating back to Aleister Crowley, the most infamous occultist of the twentieth century, who stated, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The Wiccans seem to have attempted to subdue the statement in their Rede which states, “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.” Prof. Richard Dawkins seems to have taken one step back since he does not state “cause no harm” but “strive to cause no harm.” Give it the 'ol college try chaps.
But what does it mean to “harm”? The answer is not as simple as it may seem. We learn an important lesson here which is that the very moment that someone asks “What does that mean?” behold, an interpretation has been born. And so the new ten commandments will have to, by necessity, grow by the addition of interpretations and commentaries.The Bible states, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
Atheism and morality
3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

This is certainly a commandment that we ought to request that Prof. Richard Dawkins model for us considering that he is famously, or infamously, voluptuously belligerent towards his fellow human beings—where’s the love?The Bible states:

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I [am] the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).
Atheism and morality
“‘Honor your father and [your] mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 19:19).Atheism and morality
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).Atheism and morality
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).Atheism and morality
“For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if [there is] any other commandment, are [all] summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).Atheism and morality
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).Atheism and morality
“If you really fulfill [the] royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8).


Atheism and morality
4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

In other words act just like the Bible states:

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22 ).Atheism and Richard Dawkins
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:33-34).

Atheism and Richard Dawkins
5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder. And6. Always seek to be learning something new.

These are pretty straight forward although #5 is a bit too ethereal for me except to say that it is commanding us to enjoy life—done! I generally state “Learn something new every other day—take a day off.” But seriously, generally it would be difficult to find anyone anywhere who does not always seek to learn something new whether it is reading a newspaper, having a conversation or studying a new subject—“knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).

Atheism and Richard Dawkins

7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

Someone calling themselves “Liberal Eagle” posted a fascinating comment to this commandment in a post entitled “We’re smarter than God” the Eagle wrote,

“This one wins the award for most diametric opposition to Yahweh’s whole ‘believe with no evidence, or I’ll let Satan torture you for eternity’ thing.”


Certainly, one is tempted to state something to the likes of “How could someone compress so many fallacies into one sentence?” Yet, it seems immediately noteworthy to point out that the very verbiage “Test all things” is a direct quote from the Bible, “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good” (1st Thessalonians 5:21). The Eagle may also be interested in learning the following verse, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18).Atheism and Richard Dawkins

8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

The Bible praises the Bereans who would not simply believe but researched whether what they were being taught was true:

“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 11:10-11).

Atheism and Richard Dawkins

It is hard to believe that Prof. Richard Dawkins reproduced this one since he is a consistent breaker of this commandment. Please pardon our lengthy circumlocution but a few rejoinders come to mind. A creationist group called Answers in Genesis interviewed Prof. Richard Dawkins in 1997, eventually this interview was included in a video entitled “From a Frog to a Prince” Much controversy has ensued form this event—Prof. Richard Dawkins’ point of view can be found here and Answers in Genesishere. For the moment, let us grant Prof. Richard Dawkins’ retelling as it appears in ch. 2, essay 3 of his book of essays entitled “A Devil's Chaplain.” In part he wrote:

“In September 1997, I allowed an Australian film crew into my house in Oxford without realizing that their purpose was creationist propaganda…they issued a truculent challenge…only a creationist would ask…it was the point I tumbled to the fact that I been duped into granting an interview to creationists – a thing I normally don’t do, for good reasons. In my anger I refused to discuss the question further, and told them to stop the camera. However, I eventually withdrew my peremptory termination of the interview, because they pleaded with me that they had come all the way from Australia specifically to interview me.”


Clearly, censorship and cutting off dissent are Prof. Richard Dawkins’ modis operandi. But he did claim to have “for good reasons.” Before getting to those reasons, perhaps he should have edited the commandment to read, “Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent, unless you have a good reason for doing so” (read the qualifier as “A self-serving and convenient reason”) in which case the commandment is null and void.
Atheism and Richard Dawkins

But what are those good reasons? Prof. Richard Dawkins has answered that question in, Why I Won’t Debate Creationists. In this article he encourages all practitioners of “real science,” those who have “a passionate conviction that such wonders [the wonders of the natural world] deserve nothing less than a purely natural explanation.” I must admit that I am not quite sure what passion and conviction have to do with science. The long and short of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ reason is encapsulated in his following remark, “Look at me, I’m having a debate with one of the big boys. Doesn’t that just prove that creationism is being taken seriously in the universities?”
Atheism and Richard Dawkins
Incidentally, he was specifically referring to Philip Johnson who is not a creationist (surely such factual accuracy is beyond Prof. Richard Dawkins’ concerns although they did share some correspondence in which Philip Johnson virtually begged Prof. Richard Dawkins to fulfill his duties as Professor of the Public Understanding of Science).
Atheism and Richard Dawkins
Referring to himself and Steven J. Gould reference was made to “our refusal to engage in public debates with creationists,” and they seek to encourage others to censor and cut off dissent, “we don’t do debates with creationists, and encouraging other scientists to refuse for the same reason,” they “encourage others to refuse all debating invitations from pseudoscientists avid for publicity.”Atheism and Richard Dawkins
It may be of interest to refer to the 1986 Oxford Union Debate between Prof. Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, A. E. Wilder-Smith, and Edgar Andrews (the audio of which is found on Prof. Richard Dawkins’ web site. Again, much controversy has resulted from the debate and its mysterious outcome (some background can be found here and here).
Atheism and Richard Dawkins
That some have made likewise statement and yet, proceeded to debate, notwithstanding. What Prof. Richard Dawkins, et al, want is for judges who are trained in law to decide what is and is not valid scientific pronouncements. Or they may opt for written debates, perhaps in biased peer-reviewed journals.Atheism and Richard Dawkins
But we digress.Atheism and Richard Dawkins

9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

One can only wonder if we are being asked to blindly follow this commandment. Consider the following scenario: what would happen if you form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience while not allowing yourself to be led blindly by others but you end up formulating beliefs with which Prof. Richard Dawkins disagrees? As we know very well, Prof. Richard Dawkins will take it upon himself to break his very own commandment number 3 and besmirch you and what you believe.Atheism and Richard Dawkins
The apostle Peter stated, “we did not follow cunningly devised fables” (2nd Peter 1:16). See our essay The Apostle Thomas: Patron Saint of Scientists? where I discuss Prof. Richard Dawkins’ erroneous presumption that all of the apostles, except for Thomas, relied on blind faith for their belief in the resurrection.
Atheism and Richard Dawkins

The Bible makes the following reference to Dr. Luke’s research methodology:

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:1-4).

Atheism and Richard Dawkins

10. Question everything.

Indeed, and don’t forget to question the commandment to question everything (see Acts 17:11 for this advise 2,000 years ago).Atheism and Richard Dawkins

11. Always devise your rules as if you didn’t know whether you were going be at the top or the bottom of the pecking order.

This one is very humane and expresses the Bible’s view of fairness in treatment, law and empathy:

“You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).Atheism and Richard Dawkins
“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).Atheism and religion
The LORD “administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

Atheism and religion

12. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.

Here Prof. Richard Dawkins runs headlong in the fallacy of presuming that sex is a private act between people who have consented. This is a fallacy because even if it does take place in private and those engaged in the act did consent, the results of the copulation or fornication rarely (if ever) remain a private matter between the consenters.
Atheism and religion
It appears that we again ought to request an extended explanation of what “damages” means. Just as with the term “harm” in #2, this commandment will have to grow by the addition of interpretations and commentaries.


Does sex between a 65 year old and a 12 year old constitute damage? Ah yes, the issue is really consent. Two (or more) people can engage in any sexual act as long as they consent. But surely, a 12 year old could verbalize some form of consent. How would Prof. Richard Dawkins gage the viability of the child’s consent? What about bestiality? How will Prof. Richard Dawkins gage the viability of the animal’s consent? Moreover, when two (or more) people consent to engage in any sexual act that they wish the consequences of their actions have a very high potential of finding its way outside of the consenters. How is that? Further examples are that sexual copulation or fornication results in personal pleasure indeed but what else? It can lead to the birth of children or the abortion of children or the adoption of children. A child may be born to parents, or a single mother, who consider it to be a mistake, a mere accidental biological byproduct.


Is it not damaging to have only one parent because the other one disappeared after copulating or fornicating?
Is it not damaging to have even two parents whose only relation was a one night stand which forced an innocent child to live out of a suitcase as they are caught between two adults in enmity with each other?
Is it not damaging to be brutally aborted?
Is it not damaging to be put up for adoption?
Is it not damaging when, as the Jan. 29, 2009 Washington Post reported, that in the USA President Obama’s stimulus package includes $400 of tax payer money to go towards dealing with sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, money is being taken out of my wallet and away from my provision for my family in order to provide for people who thought that they were consenting to a private act—private no more.


Lastly, we should ask it is truly humane and none of our business to simply turn a blind eye to consensual sexual practices that are sure signs of psychological problems.See my upcoming essay “Too Sexy for My Theology? On the New Atheist Obsession with Sex” for more on this issue.Atheism and religion

13. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.

The Bible beautifully expresses this sentiment:

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).
Atheism and religion“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Atheism and religion

The Bible teaches that all of humanity are related, having been derived from Adam and Eve.As far as the reference to species it should be mentioned that Prof. Richard Dawkins literally takes this “as far as possible”:

“if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer – though all suffering is deplorable – it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any stage suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage.”[5]

Atheism and religion

This is certainly as far as possible since all suffering is deplorable—the suffering of a beautiful, healthy, innocent and defenseless human baby who is brutally murdered is on the same level as that of a cow or sheep embryo (see my essay On Abortion, Tadpoles, Rape, Cows, Murder and Sheep).Atheism and religion

14. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.

Would it be simply capricious to state that you should only indoctrinate your children to think for themselves, evaluate evidence, and disagree with you? On a serious note, I have written on this issue at length in my essay Daniel Dennett’s One Way Street of Censorship (Or: On the Hoodwinkification of Children).Atheism and religion

15. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

Fair enough, clean up after yourself.Atheism and religion

In Conclusion

Simply stated, Prof. Richard Dawkins had stated that the whole exercise in producing the new ten commandments, of which there are fifteen, was that “it is the sort of list that any ordinary, decent person today would come up with.”[6] Yes, and who ever said that they could not?
However, it is of the utmost importance to point out that the Biblical ten commandments have been a guide to human civilization for millennia, they have had cultural norms based upon then, they have guided lives, they have been the foundation upon which countries are built.
On the other hand, the new ten/fifteen commandments are nothing but words on a page and the very foundation upon which they are based is belittlement, belligerence and besmirchment of the original Judeo-Christian Biblical ten commandments.Atheism and religion

After having bequeathed the new ten/fifteen commandments let us see just how Prof. Richard Dawkins deals with moral issues:

“There is no logical connection between what is and what ought. Now, if you then ask me where I get my ‘ought’ statements from, that's a more difficult question. Firstly, I don't feel so strongly about them. If I say something is wrong, like killing people, I don't find that nearly such a defensible statement as 'I am a distant cousin of an orangutan'. The second of those statements is true, I can tell you why it's true, I can bore you to death telling you why it's true. It's definitely true. The statement 'killing people is wrong', to me, is not of that character. I would be quite open to persuasion that killing people is right in some circumstances.”[7]
Atheism and religion
“[Nick Pollard: ] Suppose some lads break into an old man's house and kill him. Suppose they say: "Well, we accept the evolutionist worldview. He was old and sick, and he didn't contribute anything to society." How would you show them that what they had done was wrong?

[Prof. Richard Dawkins: ] If somebody used my views to justify a completely self - centred lifestyle, which involved trampling all over other people in any way they chose roughly what, I suppose, at a sociological level social Darwinists did - I think I would be fairly hard put to it to argue on purely intellectual grounds.
I think it would be more: ‘This is not a society in which I wish to live. Without having a rational reason for it necessarily, I'm going to do whatever I can to stop you doing this.’ I couldn't, ultimately, argue intellectually against somebody who did something I found obnoxious. I think I could finally only say, ‘Well, in this society you can't get away with it’ and call the police.
I realise this is very weak, and I've said I don't feel equipped to produce moral arguments in the way I feel equipped to produce arguments of a cosmological and biological kind. But I still think it's a separate issue from beliefs in cosmic truths.”[8]
Atheism and religion
[Justin Brierley (JB): ] “If we had evolved into a society where rape was considered fine, would that mean that rape is fine?”


[Prof. Richard Dawkins (RD): ] I, I wouldn’t, I don’t want to answer that question. It, it, it’s enough for me to say that we live in a society where it’s not considered fine. We live in a society where uhm, selfishness, where failure to pay your debts, failure to reciprocate favors is, is, is regarded as [I could not understand this word, perhaps it was a Britishism]. That is the society in which we live. I’m very glad, that’s a value judgment, I’m very glad that I live in such a society.


[(JB): ] When you make a value judgment don't you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it's good. And you don't have any way to stand on that statement.

[(RD): ] My value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past.

[(JB): ] So therefore it's just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.

[(RD): ] You could say that, it doesn’t in any case, nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.

[(JB): ] Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we've evolved five fingers rather than six.

[(RD): ] You could say that, yeah.[9]


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), pp. 263-264
[2] Ibid., p. 264
[3] Carol Memmott, “Agnostic cloaked himself in the Bible for a year,” USA TODAY, Life, Section D, Monday, October 8, 2007, 1D
[4] The New Ten Commandments - A decalogue for the modern world
[5] Dawkins, p. 297
[6] Ibid., p. 264
[7] Nick Pollard talks to Dr. Richard Dawkins (interviewed February 28th, 1995 published in Third Way in the April 1995 edition [vol. 18 no. 3])
[8] Ibid.
[9] From, Dawkins Interview with Justin Brierley (this is a link to the audio) the whole interview is very worth listening to; I picked it up at 4:56 into the interview

Continue reading Ecce Homo’s Commandments...

2/20/09

Scientific Cenobites, part 5 of 9

This is part five of a nine part essay which merely seeks to present what scientists have to say about science and scientists.
Atheism and science

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Atheism and science
With regards to Skull 1470:
“One point of uncertainty was the angle at which the face attached to the cranium. Alan Walker remembers an occasion when he, Michael Day, and Richard Leakey were studying the two sections of the skull. ‘You could hold the maxilla forward, and give it a long face, or you could tuck it in, making the fact short,’[1] he recalls. ‘How you held it really depended on your preconceptions. It was very interesting watching what people did with it.’ Leakey remembers the incident too: ‘Yes. If you held it one way, it looked like one thing; if you held it another, it looked like something else. But there was never any doubt that it was different. The question was, was it sufficiently different from everything else to warrant being called something new?’”[2]
Atheism and science
Referring to Lord Solly Zuckerman:
“His Lorship’s scorn for the level of competence he sees displayed by paleoanthropologists is legendary, exceeded only by the force of his dismissal of the australopithecines as having anything at all to do with human evolution. ‘They are just bloody apes,’ he is reputed to have observed on examining the australopithecine remains in South Africa.”[3]

“When American anthropologist Ales Hrdlicka asked in 1927, ‘What is the actual, precise, evidence for human evolution that science now possesses, and upon which it bases far-reaching conclusions?’ (my emphasis [Lewin’s]),[4] he was in fact posing a question that has no answer. Not because there is no evidence for human evolution, but because3 no science works that way. No science—least of all paleoanthropology—is as objecting as Hrdlicka implies here or as is often portrayed in the philosophers’ idealized view of science…

preconceived ideas shape the progress of all sciences, but nowhere else to the degree that occurs in the search for human origins. And yes, personalities are important in the flow of all sciences, but, again, in the science of man emphatically so. Le Gros has an answer: ‘Undoubtedly, one of the main factors responsible of the frequency with which polemics enters into controversies on matters of paleoanthropology is purely an emotional one. It is a fact (which it were well to recognize) that it is extraordinarily difficult to view with complete objectivity the evidence for our own evolutionary origin, no doubt because the problem is such a very personal one.’ Ernst Mayr, one of this generation’s most prominent evolutionary biologists, concurs: ‘Human beings seem quite incapable of speaking about themselves and their history without becoming emotional in one way or another.’”[5]
Atheism and science
Regarding the Taung fossil:
“Lacking large segments of the anatomical jigsaw puzzle, Smith Woodward had to make some guesses as to how the pieces he had might relate to each other. Apparently misidentifying some minor anatomical landmarks on the interior of the cranium, he assembled a skull that not only was erroneously small (just over 1,000 cubic centimeters) but also appeared to have certain primitive anatomical features. This reconstruction deeply impressed Elliot Smith. Sir Arthur Keith, however, challenged the accuracy of the reconstruction and did one of his own, eschewing the errors Smith Woodward had committed. Keith’s version not only was much bigger (about 1,500 cubic centimeters), but also lacked the primitive features erroneously present in Smith Woodward’s…

‘Why did not [Keith’s] correction immediately raise suspicions of the authenticity of the Piltdown fossils?’ asked Le Gros Clark. ‘Because of its personal nature the controversy [between Keith and Smith] certainly clouded the issues and befogged the atmosphere of scientific discussion…
In his day Elliot Smith’s authority carried great weight (and rightly so, for he was a very eminent anatomist), so that not only did he persuade himself that his original interpretation of the skull and endocranial cast had been fundamentally right, he also seems to have persuaded biologists in general that this was so.’[6] But in spite of their differences of opinion, both Keith and Elliot Smith continued to accept Piltdown Man as a vindication of their own ideas, each for his own different reasons. Keith, who viewed the skull as essentially modern in form, saw it as a confirmation of the antiquity of modern types of man. At the same time, Elliot Smith claimed the cranium to be distinctly primitive in form.”[7]

Ales Hrdlicka is the founder of the American Society of Physical Anthropology and for many years was the editor of the society’s journal, “from which positioned wielded substantial power over what was acceptable to the establishment and what was not…Hrdlicka, he [G. Edward Lewis] says, ‘thought he was the anointed and elect prophet who had been foreordained and chosen to make such discoveries and demolish the work of anyone else.’”[8] Lewis had interpreted Ramapithecus as a hominid but Hrdlicka believed it to be just an ape and so he “tore into Lewis’s work,”[9] although “Hrdlicka’s paper was somewhat self-contradictory, and, says Simmons, ‘scattered with blunders and naïvetés that a really good professional simply would not have made.’”[10]
“Even a causal examination of this paper is sufficient to show that it bears all the evidence of being a controversial and non-objective contribution,”[11] “amateurish,”[12] “It looked to me like someone coming into something he didn’t know much about, with preconceived ideas.”[13] Lewis wrote a rebuttal to Hrdlicka’s criticism’s of his work but the editors of the American Journal of Science refused to publish it, “because they said Hrdlicka was an important man, and I was a young man.”[14]
Hrdlicka had attempted to discredit Lewis’ position based on the evolutionary concepts of the time whereby “To have the first hominids appearing in the eastern part of the Old World was therefore simply unacceptable. ‘So he did a hatchet job on Lewis’ work,’[15] says Spencer.” Lewis had discovered Ramapithecus but not long after this clash with the authority of the time he “left Yale and never really made another important contribution to paleoanthropology.”[16]

“Some people even admitted that they were giving their fossil a new genus and species name so as to call attention to how important they thought it was. Everyone who had a fossil come into their hands for description wanted it to be something new—perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously—for the purposes of self-aggrandizement.”[17]
Atheism and science
Regarding various descriptions of Ramapithecus’ anatomy and habits:
“Here then, was a very complete picture of an animal—not just what it looked like, but also how it lived. And all based on a few fragments of upper and lower jaw and teeth…‘What we saw in the fossils was the small canines, and the rest followed, all linked together somehow. The Darwinian picture has a long tradition, and it was very powerful,’”[18]
“Pilbeam and Simmons managed to maintain their support of Ramapithecus [as a hominid], however, mainly by adjusting their lines of argument in concert with the shifting evidence,”[19] “Pilbeam began to realize that the fossil material then available simply wasn’t adequate to support the kinds of sweeping conclusions that had been made,”[20] “before the decade was out Rama’s ape would be just that—an ape.”[21]

“An unfortunate tendency has developed of late,” Bernard Campbell observed, “for anthropologists who are mainly engaged in university teaching, rather than in actual field studies, to start lengthy discussions and criticism on the basis of preliminary reports, often without even viewing the original specimens, or casts thereof. This sort of controversy, often accompanied by dogmatic pronouncements, must be deplored.”[22]

“The character of the KBS Tuff controversy was in large part colored by the combination of these two factors: Fitch and Miller’s solid adherence to their original figure, despite their inability to replicate it adequately; and Leakey’s unswerving loyalty to these two men and their contentions. Each party had very good reasons for acting the way it did. In addition, Leakey clearly had a vested interest in the older date, if for nothing else that because the claim for the oldest Homo, oldest stone tools, and so on was good for fund-raising.”[23]

“Richard [Leakey] ran an expedition and as joint leader and main operator of the practical side he felt that he had a right to loyalty from the expedition members. Inevitably that meant agreement with him on all important factors associated with the expedition…if you did not agree on important issues you could either back down or leave. Most of us backed down a few times and then eventually left…Despite this, my own preference would be to work for an expedition run by Richard.”[24]
Donald Johanson, “acknowledges that the search is often spiced by hopes that are not always strictly scientific. ‘We have a passion to find the oldest, the most complete, the biggest-brained, the most enigmatic fossil,’ he recently told an audience at a public lecture at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.[25] Many anthropologists feel like this, but few are candid enough to express it publicly.”[26]

“Michael Day anatomist, “Nine-tenths of your importance in this field comes from your finds…There is a tremendous bias towards finders. And with this goes an unwarranted weight on their opinions…I can easily be accused of sour grapes,” [27] which he states because he is not a finder.

“With the emotional elements of adventure, sacrifice and reward all compounded in the discovery of a new fossil, together with the soul-stirring aspects of ancestor worship, it might seem that the odds are heavily stacked against an objective analysis by the individual who by custom has the right of first pronouncement. Earnest Hooton, a prominent Harvard anthropologist of the 1930s and ‘40s, recognized this trap as ‘the psychology of the individual discoverer and describer.’ He wrote that ‘The tendency towards aggrandizement of a rare or unique specimen on the part of its finder or the person to whom its initial scientific description has been entrusted, springs naturally from human egoism and is almost ineradicable.’”[28]

“The individual lucky enough to have first access to a particular specimen is therefore likely to ‘leave no bone unturned in his effort to find new and striking peculiarities which he can interpret functionally or genealogically, Unless he is very experienced, he is prone to discover new features which are partially the creations of his own concentrated imagination.’”[29]

“But [Earnest] Hooton identifies an even greater danger. This is ‘the psychological conflict in which the discoverer or describer is torn between his desire to find primitive, unique, or anthropoidal features which will allow him to place his specimen nearer to the apes than any previously recorded, and his equally powerful urge to demonstrate the direct and central position of his new type in the ancestry of modern man.’
When the former impulse is in the ascendancy, says, Hooton, ‘the author is likely to blow the dust off his Greek and Latin dictionaries and perpetrate some horrid neologism in creating a new zoological species, genus or even family, thereby committing simultaneously mortal sins in both philology and taxonomy.’ When the latter impulse succeeds, the describer ‘may seize upon metrically or morphologically insignificant features common to both [modern man and the fossil under study] as evidence of their genetic relationship.’
In other words, on the one hand you exaggerate the difference between your fossil and modern humans, thus getting for yourself a nice, ancient, discrete ancestor. And on the other, you overlook the differences and exaggerate the similarities, thus setting your fossil on the threshold of the noble Homo sapiens.”[30]

“If all this were not bad enough, Hooton warns that ‘in addition to the frailties inseparable from the enactment of the role of original describer, one must also discount the author’s previous commitments on the subject of fossil man, the ghosts of earlier opinions which rise to haunt him in the interpretation of new evidence.’ A dispassionate analysis of new fossil evidence is possible, he says, ‘only when one awaits the reworking of the material by persons not emotionally identified with the specimen.’ Even then, an independent analyst, while not potentially blinded by emotional attachment to a fossil, will still have a particular set of preconceptions against which he will judge it. So dispassionate it may be, but totally objective it can never be.”[31]

Le Gros Clark “‘Probably nothing has done more to introduce confusion into the story of human evolution than the reckless propensity for inventing new (and sometimes unnecessarily complicated) names for fragmentary fossil relics that turn out eventually to belong to genera or species previously known.’ Instead of filling gaps in the story of human ancestry, this habit tended ‘to produce gaps that did not exist.’[32]
This problem has in some part been eased in the half-century since Hooton made his pithy remarks. But it remains inescapably true that applying the correct label is astonishingly difficult, not least because such labels are in a sense arbitrary abstractions, and especially so when the material on which the analysis is being done ins fragmentary and eroded. ‘It is one so difficult that I think it would be legitimate to despair that one could ever turn into a science.’”[33]
Atheism and science
[1] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 160 citing an interview with the author, Potomac, Maryland, 5 Aug. 1984
[2] Ibid., p. 160 citing an interview with the author, Nairobi, 21 Jan. 1985
[3] Ibid., pp. 164-165
[4] Smithsonian Report for 1927, pp. 417-32
[5] Lewin, Bones of Contention, pp. 20-21
[6] “The Exposure of the Piltdown Fraud,” lecture at the Royal Institution, London, 20 May 1955
[7] Lewin, Bones of Contention, pp. 74-75
[8] Ibid., p. 88 citing a letter, Lewis to author, 31 Oct. 1985
[9] Ibid., p. 88
[10] Ibid., p. 88 citing an interview with the author, Duke University, 25 Sep. 1985
[11] “The Phyletic Position of Ramapithecus,” Postilla, Yale Peabody Museum, p. 374 (1961)
[12] “A Source for Dental Comparison of Ramapithecus with Australopithecus and Homo,” in South African Journal of Science, Feb. 1968, p. 97
[13] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 88 citing an interview with the author, Duke University, 25 Sep. 1985
[14] Ibid., p. 88 citing a letter, Lewis to author, 31 Oct. 1985
[15] Ibid., p. 88 citing an interview with the author, New York, 13 Dec. 1985
[16] Ibid., p. 89
[17] Ibid., p. 91 citing an interview with the author, Duke University, 25 Sep. 1985
[18] Ibid., p. 95 citing an interview with the author, Harvard University, 23 Oct. 1984
[19] Ibid., p. 98
[20] Ibid., p. 103
[21] Ibid., p. 98
[22] Epilogue in Adam and Ape, edited by L. S. B. Leakey and Kack and Stephanie Prost, published by Schenkman Publishing Co., 1971
[23] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 195
[24] Ibid., p. 250 citing a letter, Findlater to author, 1 Feb. 1985
[25] “Four Million Years of Humanity,” lecture at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 9 April 1984
[26] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 23
[27] Ibid., p. 25 citing an interview with the author, London, 11 June 1985
[28] Ibid., pp. 25-26 citing Apes, Men and Morons, published by Putman, 1937, p. 112
[29] Ibid., p. 26
[30] Ibid., p. 26
[31] Ibid., pp. 26-27
[32] Man-Apes or Ape-Men, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967, p. 9
[33] Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 27 citing “Choose Your Ancestors,” lecture at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Sep. 1974

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