3/30/09

Scientific Cenobites, part 8 of 9

This is part eight 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
Alfred Russell Wallace, co-conceiver with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection:
“‘I fully accept Mr. Darwin’s conclusion as to the essential identity of man’s bodily structure with that of the higher mammalian, and his descent from some ancestral form common to man and the anthropoid apes,’[i] he conceded. However, man’s intellectual powers and moral sense, among other things, he said, ‘could not have been developed by variation and natural selection alone, and…, therefore, some other influence, law, or agency is required to account for them.’[ii] Darwin was naturally upset by what Wallace called ‘my little heresy,’ and he wrote to Wallace in 1869 lamenting, ‘I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.’”[iii]

“any theory of human evolution must explain how it was that an apelike ancestor, equipped with powerful jaws and long, daggerlike canine teeth and able to turn at speed on four limbs became transformed into a slow, bipedal animal whose natural means of defense were at best puny. Add to this the powers of intellect, speech, and morality, upon which we ‘stand raised as upon a mountain top,’ as Huxley put it, and one has the complete challenge to evolutionary theory.”[iv]
Atheism and science
Donald Johanson making reference to Richard Leakey:
“‘There has been a controversy that has been going on now for nearly three years between Richard and myself, and it specifically focuses on the family tree,’ says Johanson. ‘We presented our family tree, let’s see, it must have been in January 1979, and very shortly thereafter I know that Richard and others, but specifically Richard, had said that it does not fit the evidence of the fossil record.’”[v]

Richard Leakey and Donald Johanson, “would like to see a lot more fossils discovered.”[vi]

Sir Arthur Keith, “In all these journeys into ancient times and to primitive people there is one adage, an article of Darwinian faith, which we must bear in mind. Nature is jealous of her species building. Progress—or what is the same thing, Evolution—is her religion; the production of new species is her form of worship. She is up to every trick in this game she plays with living things.”[vii]

Anthropologist David Pilbeam, “virtually all our theories about human origins were relatively unconstrained by fossil data…The theories are…fossil-free or in some cases even fossil-proof.”[viii]

“What is the role and status of our own species, Homo sapiens, in nature and the cosmos?’[ix] This, suggests Stephen Jay Gould, of Harvard University, is the ‘cardinal question of intellectual history.’”[x]
Atheism and science
Agnostic Astronomer Robert Jastrow wrote:
“Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases.”[xi]

Regarding the scientific discovery that proves that the universe had a beginning, or moment of creation, Jastrow wrote:
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”[xii]
Atheism and science
In relation to the shocking and upsetting discovery that the universe had a beginning, as postulated in the Big Bang theory, Jastrow points out the following:
“some prominent scientists began to feel the same irritation over the expanding Universe that Einstein had expressed earlier. Eddington [English astronomer Arthur Eddington] wrote in 1931, ‘I have no axe to grind in this discussion,’ but ‘the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me…I simply do not believe that the present order of things started off with a bang…

the expanding Universe is preposterous…incredible…it leaves me cold.’ The German chemist, Walter Nernst, wrote, ‘To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundation of science.’ More recently, Phillip Morrison of MIT said in a BBC film on cosmology, ‘I find it hard to accept the Big Bang theory; I would like to reject it.’ And Allan Sandage of Palomar Observatory, who established the uniformity of the expansion of the Universe out to nearly ten billion light years, said, ‘It is such a strange conclusion…it cannot really be true’…

Einstein wrote, ‘The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation.’ This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.”[xiii]
Atheism and science
Moreover, he states:
“…the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy. Some scientists are unhappy with the idea that the world began in this way. Until recently many of my colleagues preferred the Steady State theory, which holds that the Universe had no beginning and is eternal. But the latest evidence makes is almost certain that the Big Bang really did occur.”[xiv]

Roger Lewin, Reports on the 1980 Conference on Macroevolution held in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History:
“Clashes of personality and academic sniping created palpable tension in an atmosphere that was fraught with genuine intellectual ferment…The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No…according to most paleontologists the principle feature of individual species within the fossil record is stasis, not change.
No one questions that, overall, the record reflects a steady increase in the diversity and complexity of species, with the origin of new species and the extinction of established ones punctuating the passage of time. But the crucial issue is that, for the most part, the fossils do not document a smooth transition from old morphologies to new ones. ‘For millions of years species remain unchanged in the fossil record,’ said Stephen Jay Gould, of Harvard, ‘and they then abruptly disappear, to be replaced by something that is substantially different but clearly related.’ The absence of transitional forms between established species has traditionally been explained as a fault of an imperfect record, an argument first advanced by Charles Darwin…

According to the traditional position, therefore, if sedimentation and fossilization did indeed encapsulate a complete record of prehistory, then it would reveal the postulated transitional organisms. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. This ancient lament was intoned by some at the Chicago meeting: ‘I take a dim view of the fossil record as a source of data,’ observed Everett Olson, the paleontologist from UCLA. But such views were challenged as being defeatest [sic]. ‘I’m tired of hearing about the imperfections of the fossil record,’ said John Sepkoski of the University of Chicago; ‘I’m more interested in hearing about the imperfections of our questions about the record.’ ‘The record is not so woefully incomplete,’ offered Steven Stanley of Johns Hopkins University; ‘you can reconstruct long sections by combining data from several areas.’
Olson confessed himself to be ‘cheered by such optimism about the fossil record,’ and he listened receptively to Gould’s suggestion that the gaps in the record are more real than apparent. ‘Certainly the record is poor,’ admitted Gould, ‘but the jerkiness you see is not the result of gaps, it is the consequence of the jerky mode of evolutionary change.’ To the evident frustration of many people at the meeting, a large proportion of the contributions were characterized more by description and assertion than by the presentation of data.”[xv]
Atheism and science
Lastly, note that the sort of subjectivism that we have demonstrated here is not solely limited to the realm of anthropology, paleoanthropology, biology, morphology, cosmology, macro-evolution, Darwinism and atheism. The field of medicine is likewise subject to subjectivity, as reported by Newsweek magazines book review of Dr. Jerome Groopman’s book How Doctors Think (4-23-07, p. 50):
“The number of ways in which a doctor can screw up make for uncomfortable reading: ‘satisfaction of search,’ the tendency to stop considering alternative explanations once you arrive at a plausible hypothesis; ‘diagnosis momentum,’ the unconscious suppression of evidence that conflicts with an existing theory; ‘commission bias,’ the preference for action for its own sake. Groopman has particular disdain for snap judgments and intuitive leaps not supported by rigorous logic.”

[i] Darwinism, published by Macmillan, London, 1889, p. 461
[ii] Ibid., p. 463
[iii] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 310
[iv] Ibid., pp. 312-313
[v] Ibid., p. 14
[vi] Ibid., p. 18
[vii] Ibid., p. 40
[viii] “Current Argument on Early Man,” in Major Trends in Evolution, edited by Lars-Konig Konigson, published by Pergamon Press, 1980, pp. 262, 267
[ix] “Vision with a Vengeance,” Natural History, Sep. 1980, p. 16
[x] Lewin, p. 301
[xi] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1978), p. 16
[xii] Ibid., p. 116
[xiii] Ibid., pp. 112-114
[xiv] Ibid., p. 14
[xv] Roger Lewin, “Evolutionary Theory Under Fire,” Science, Vol. 210, 21 November 1980, pp. 883-887

Continue reading Scientific Cenobites, part 8 of 9...

3/29/09

Barker’s Butt

One of life’s greatest mysteries is why Dan Barker is considered an apt representative of atheism and an able debater. During his debate with Kyle Butt that was entitled “Does the God of the Bible Exist?” (hear it here) and which took place on Charles Darwin’s birthday he, yet again, premised his credentials upon being not only an ex-Christian, mind you, but an ex-pastor.

I must say that the more Dan Barker boasts of being an ex-pastor the more there occurs within the inner recesses of my brain an exponential increase in my shock as his stunning lack of knowledge of even the most basic concepts and contents of the Bible.

As for Kyle Butt, one thing that comes through very clearly in the debate is that he is a careful researcher and has given Dan Barker enough credit to carefully consider his positions and statements; he knows where Dan Barker made certain statements and cities Dan Barker’s books and even the page number, he has also double checked references that Dan Barker has provided in his books and is able to elucidate these by giving a greater scope than that which Dan Baker chose to provide by self-serving selective allusions.

Dan Barker employs two favorite cheap debater’s tricks:

1) In appealing to the “problem of evil” he pulls on the heartstrings of the audience by referencing, you guessed it, the children. It is not that the subject is taboo or, in and of itself, fallacious but that he makes it a habit of attempting to bypass his audience’s intellect and getting them to focus on their emotional responses.
The advantage of this tactic is that it establishes an emotional, empathetic, sympathetic connection with the speaker. Once the audience is busy experiencing emotions what has intellect to say? How do you argue against an emotion? Any rational counter argument will likely come across as being heartless and utterly ineffective because emotions are tangible while arguments are ethereal abstract concepts.

2) The other tactic is also a favorite of Christopher Hitchens (as I pointed out here) and it is akin to the fallacy of elephant hurling. In his opening remarks Dan Barker claims that we can know that the God of the Bible does not exist because there are contradictions in the Bible with regards to His nature.
First of all, it should be noted that he is appealing to the Judeo-Christian worldview as a premise for his argument. No, not by referencing the Bible but by appealing to the laws of logic (find an argument for God’s existence from the laws of logic here). If atheistic evolution is a fact then, just like everything else, the laws of logic evolved or are still evolving. Thus, in order to argue against God’s existence by appealing to the laws of logic Dan Barker would have present evidence that when the Bible was written the law of non-contradiction was in affect and/or evidence the evolution of the law.
What Dan Barker does is to, in rapid fire succession, shoot off 14 alleged contradictions (plus 6 other alleged reasons why we can know that God does not exist). Kyle Butt mentions this as he pointed out that when a debater shoots off 20 assertions they are doing two things:

1) They are not allowing the audience to digest but are attempting to overwhelm them.
2) They know very well that their opponent simply will not have enough time to respond to each one or perhaps not even half nor a third, etc. Kyle Butt does respond to a few during the course of the debate.


During his first rebuttal period Dan Barker actually manages to sink below merely demonstrating his stunning lack of knowledge of even the most basic concepts and contents of the Bible and poses an argument from Atheist Sunday School: who made God?
In posing an argument from contingency the theist stops at God—a finite regress. Yet, Dan Barker asks, “Why stop there?”—an infinite regress. This argument’s terminology has been updated as “Who designed the designer?” by, as far as I know, Richard Dawkins who made this the very central argument of his book “The God Delusion.”[1]
Succinctly stated the response is that since God is eternal God required no cause therefore, nothing/no one made God/ nothing/no one designed the designer.
But why, it has been asked, as far as I know, since David Hume, could not matter be eternal? Primarily because the very best scientific knowledge at our disposal shows evidence that matter is not eternal (see my correction of a misconception on this matter, pun intended, by the Rational Response Squad’s Brian Sapient here).

Indeed, it is my contention that God is eternal and required no cause. But why?
Premised upon the cosmological argument which makes clear that everything that begins to exist has a cause it follows logically that since time began to exist time had a cause. Since time began to exist whatever caused time is timeless (infinite or eternal). It is the linear time that makes cause and effect relationships possible: a cause is followed in time by an effect.
Yet, since God exists outside of, or without, time; cause and effect relationships are impossible and thus, God is the uncausable first cause: it was God’s first action of creation that brought the space time continuum into being and set cause and effect relationships into motion.
Therefore, in God’s timeless realm there is no such question as “Who made God?” since this is a time space domain based question which simply does not apply.



Yet, there is a lot to be learned from the Atheist Sunday School argument; it asserts that:

It is ignorant and superstitious to believe that God made everything out of nothing.
It is rational and scientific to believe that nothing made everything out of nothing.

It is ignorant and superstitious to believe that God is eternal.
It is rational and scientific to believe that matter is eternal.

God is an effect and must have had a cause.
Matter is the uncaused first cause.

If God made everything, then who made God?
Matter made everything and nothing made matter.

Next we come to a discussion of ethics and morals as Dan Barker states:
There are no objective moral values in the universe, there are not. We make values in our brain, a value is a function of a brain…We make values based upon what we need to survive, what we need to enhance our lives, what we need to avoid pain in our lives and we can make, we make comparisons of those values…a value is relative to an organism…
values can be objectively justified. They’re not objective values because to be a, a value is a function of a brain of a mind right? But to be objective means to exist independently of a mind. So how can you have something in the mind that exists independently of the mind that’s an oxymoron. You cannot have an objective value, you can have values that you can objectively justify…we’re all basically situational ethicists in our daily lives and so is the Bible.


Upon this I can agree, “a value is a function of a brain of a mind right”—indeed, the mind of God.

As to the oxymoron: objectivity is more than just existing independently of a mind, it is free of bias, based on facts, observable, etc. For example, it is objective that the Earth is spherical. This is indeed a reality existing outside of our minds and yet, we can commandeer this objective fact into our minds where the fact resides as it accurately reflects objective reality. Thus, we can have something in the mind that exists independently of the mind because having it in the mind that not automatically transform the objective into the subjective—not if it continues to reflect reality once it takes residence in our minds.

Next, Dan Barker then falls back on his absolutist assertion that morals are to be premised upon “how much harm does this cause” which is, of course, a mere authoritarian argument form personalized dogma—thou shall base morals upon this and this alone; thus saith the Barkerian ethic.

Are we all basically situational ethicists, even the Bible? Not exactly. He is making a category mistake: granting that “we’re all basically situational ethicists” we must understand that these are two vast different sorts of “situational ethics” if they both may indeed be referred to as such.

These two sorts of “situational ethics” are the atheistic or Barkerian and the biblical:
According to the Barkerian; the premise is “how much harm does this cause” or as Dan Barker alternately categorizes it does it cause the least amount of harm to the least amount of people. Now, of course, he presupposes that we ought not to cause harm.

Let us apply this concept, perhaps to the extreme but as a logical outcome: Hitler was acting in a morally Barkerian manner since he asked himself “how much harm does this cause and does it cause the least amount of harm to the least amount of people” and his answer was basically that murdering 12,000,000 people caused the least amount of harm considering the great number of people in the various countries which he had under his power. He sought to benefit the majority Germans by eliminating the minority Jews and others—this would provide much needed resources and territory for the majority Germans.

“Going too far,” you say? This is what Hitler wrote in his Last Will and Testament, “In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life. They gave me the strength to make the most difficult decisions which have ever confronted mortal man.”
Moreover, referencing his alien rape voyeur argument, during the debate Dan Barker proclaims that if it would save humanity he would rape 2,000 women (he would not like it and would consider suicide afterwards but he would do it).


As for biblical “situational ethics” Dan Barker fails to note something which places it and the Barkerian in separate categories: the biblical may be situational but it is premised upon an absolute and ontological foundation while the Barkerian is strictly situational being premised upon Dan Barker’s baseless assertions which amount to nothing but an ethereal concept.

A little later in the debate he attempts to disregard the Ten Commandments as irrelevant because,
only three of which are relevant to modern American law, the other seven are totally irrelevant. The first four have nothing to do with ethics…the atheistic way is actually a superior intellectual and moral way of thinking.


Stating that only three are relevant to modern American law is making modern American law the standard by which to judge the Ten Commandments. Yet, when when he states that the first four Ten Commandments have nothing to do with ethics he fails to note, or notice, that it is the first commandment upon which all true ethics, in fact the ethos itself, are premised, “You shall have no other gods before me.”



Furthermore, in relation to Hitler; Dan Barker asks Kyle Butt if he had heard him correctly, had he stated that Hitler was an atheistic Communist? Kyle Butt responds in the affirmative to which Dan Barker correctly responds that Hitler was not a Communist but a National Socialist and states that Hitler was a Chrisitan. Kyle Butt states that referring to Hitler as a Communist was a simple misstatement and goes on to demonstrate that Hitler, whatever he was, was certainly no Christian by quoting Hitler.
Dan Barker further stated,

Hitler believed in a God, was not atheistic, he talked about the creator all the time, he was a creationist, he credited Jesus as an inspiration for exterminating the Jews, they wore Gott mit uns – God with us on their belt buckles. Those Nazis where Lutherans and Catholics…he was a lousy Christian, I have to admit he was really a weird Christian but he was not an atheist.


These assertions are fallacious in many levels:
Primarily that it presupposes that Hitler was honest—he said it so it must be true.
Since Hitler was a Christian he defines what is and what is not Christianity.
What Hitler claimed or whom he credited does not necessarily reflect reality.
Stating that they wore Gott mit uns fails to ask who this Gott was and it fails to note that Gott mit uns dates to Otto von Bismarck’s 1870 imperial standard and that the SS’s motto was “Meine Ehre heißt Treue” (my honor is loyalty).



To state that Nazis where Lutherans and Catholics, again, leaves it to them to subjectively define what is and what is not Christianity. Moreover, it proves, by application of the same “logic,” that Communist regime leaders where atheists (because they said so) proves that Communism is atheistic (because the claimed atheism to be its premise) and proves the crimes of Communist citizens, soldiers and Gulag torturers may be blamed on atheism since they were atheists.



As to the statements “he was a creationist…he was not an atheist” let us ask Hitler to describe his view of creation, not when he is merely seeking politically expedient brownie points but when he is actually elucidating his views:

The first step which visibly brought mankind away from the animal world was that which led to the first invention…the struggle with other creatures for his existence and often to provide him with the only means he could adopt to achieve success in the struggle…His first skilled tactics in the struggle with the rest of the animals undoubtedly originated in his management of creatures which possessed special capabilities…all these inventions help man to raise himself higher and higher above the animal world and to separate himself from that world in an absolutely definite way. Hence they serve to elevate the human species and continually to promote its progress….

Without human beings there is no human idea in this world, therefore the idea as such is always conditioned by the presence of human beings and hence of all the laws which created the precondition for their existence…ideas, which have nothing to do with cold logic as such, but represent only pure expressions of feeling, ethical conceptions, etc., are chained to the existence of men, to whose intellectual imagination and creative power they owe their existence…

This planet once moved through the ether for millions of years without human beings and it can do so again some day if men forget that they owe their higher existence, not to the ideas of a few crazy ideologists, but to the knowledge and ruthless application of Nature’s stern and rigid laws.[2]

These are not “creationist” views but “atheistic” views. So, he held “atheistic” views but was he an atheist? I will conditionally say “No” but could also argue for his being a pantheistic-atheist. There is a lot more that I could say on this whole issue of Hitler, Christianity and atheism (and on what a “pantheistic-atheist” is) but will withhold until around mid April when I will provide some very detailed essays on this topic.

In referencing the point, agreed upon by both debaters, that truth is not established by majority opinion, Dan Barker references the USA’s founding fathers and states,
women should not vote, women should stay home, women should not go to college, women should not own their own property, this all comes out of the Bible, by the way.


Unfortunately, he does not provide citations so you either have to ignore this statement, take his word for it on authority (the authority of an ex-pastor mind you, he must know what he is talking about), or practice the skepticism which the Bible enjoins upon us (Acts 17:11; 1st Thessalonians 5:21, etc.) and take the time, energy, and trouble to double check his statements.
This was more elephant hurling-like tactics as Dan Barker builds a virtual tel of elephantine fossils. While Kyle Butt could also not respond to each in turn, I can and will. As I have previously elucidated in a post on Biblical Women; in the Bible we find that there women had the right to own land, they were prophetesses (in both testaments), judges, disciples, deaconesses, teachers, worked/owned their own businesses, two OT books are named after women and women were the first at the empty tomb while the male apostles were hiding in fear (see Exodus 15:20; Numbers ch. 27; 2nd Kings 22:14; 2nd Chronicles 34:22; Proverbs 31:16; Isaiah 8:3; Judges 4:4; Luke 2:36; Romans 16:1-2; Acts 16:14, 21:7-9, 9:36, 18:26; Titus 2:3-4).

Moreover, while Pliny the Younger (Plinius Secundus) was Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor in 112 AD he wrote to Emperor Tarjan in Epistles 10.96—referring to Christians he writes of “two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses.” This again demonstrates a continued Christian practice of having women in leadership and teaching roles.

As it often occurs with various atheists, and Dan Barker in particular, there comes a point when the veneer, the façade, of intellect, rationale and erudition are worn away and expose what is truly fueling the fires of their unbelief: pure rejection of God, open and proud rebellion against God, emotional reactions to various things such as their unwillingness to accept that there is something, someone, up above and beyond them and adherence to the atheist motto, “I shall have no other gods before me”—before the one in their mirror.

Thus, Dan Barker can contain himself no longer and gives vent to a litany of emotive, childlike, capricious rants to the likes of,

if he [God] wants to prove what a big macho man he is by sending someone like me to hell then let him do it. Fine, I’ll go to hell gladly, proudly, knowing that I resisted somebody like, a dictator like that who would create a hell in the first place….I would say to that God, “You created hell, you go to hell, if you wanna torture me forever fine, prove what a big macho man you are, you do not have my respect!”

Yes, I can feel the adrenaline the emotionally charged excitement but I am also considering whether he is correct. Kyle Butt rights points out that Dan Barker is engaging in an argument from outrage.
And yes, Dan Barker does manage to mention children in promulgating his misunderstanding of what hell is, how children are terrified by the concept, etc. something I have discussed here. He then appeals to the very, very popular but utterly fallacious argument about reward/punishment morality which I have posted about here and here.
I might as well also mention that earlier in the debate he had also demonstrated further lack of knowledge with regards to Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac which I have written about here. And also that he does not seem to understand that the human eye is meant to see through the atmosphere while the eyes of ocean dwelling creatures are meant to see though water.

Three points are to be made about Dan Barker’s rage against the God who created hell:
1) God did not created hell for humans.
2) In this case, Dan Barker actually elucidates theology accurately.
3) Unbeknownst to him, Dan Barker has solved the “problem of evil.”

1) Matthew 25:41 refers to, “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This means that hell was specifically created for beings for whom God’s existence was not an issue, it was not a question. In counter distinction, note that the Qur'an states that hell was created for sinners (Surah 3:131). Thus, God created a place where those who rebelled against Him could get what they wanted—eternal separation from Him.

2) Since hell was created for fallen angelic beings, humans can go there is they want to—if they choose to go there. In his rage against God we see the whole purpose for hell. As it has been said; there are two sort of people, those who say to God “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” Dan Barker is so very angry at God that he basically challenges Him to send him to hell.
Let us imagine that, may God forbid one thousand times, Dan Barker ends up in hell we may imagine that he will be quite happy having done away with God forever yet, note that Dan Barker is in a rage and this is his attitude towards God. Eternity is about experiencing, living, the lives we have ultimately chosen: those who choose acceptance of God accept God eternally and enjoy an eternal relationship with Him while those who choose rejection of God reject God eternally and rage against Him eternally.
Thus, it would seem that being in hell would not endear God to Dan Barker and so he will be eternally enraged with God—eternally rejecting God. Hell is eternal because the sin of those in hell is eternal—they have chosen eternal sin, “I’ll go to hell gladly, proudly.”

Let us also take a moment to carefully note that another emotive tactic was employed by Dan Barker repeatedly during the debate as he referred to hell as a place of “torture.” While it is true that some translations employ the term “torture” this is a misnomer as the implications of the word torture denote something unknown to the Bible.
Torture denotes the infliction of physical pain, while torment denotes mental anguish. Thus, let us be absolutely clear in understanding that nowhere in the whole Bible is it even hinted at that hell is to be pictured as a Gulag-like torture chamber. Neither is it even hinted at that there will be people or demons whose job is to inflict physical pain. Neither is the devil ever pictured as the king of hell but rather, he is pictured as one who suffers like the rest, and indeed more so. With regards to torment; Alfred Edersheim comments thusly with regards to “weeping and the gnashing of teeth”; “In Rabbinic thought the former was connected with sorrow,[3] the latter almost always anger[4] - not, as generally supposed, with anguish.” [5]

3) Dan Barker claims that evil disproves God via the “problem of evil.” Of course, this conclusion is reached by his relying on theology of his own making. It is the God he imagines that is disproved by the existence of evil.
Now, note very carefully that in arguing that, for example, rape is not absolutely immoral Dan Barker stated, “You cannot name an action that is always, absolutely right or wrong, I can think of an exception in any case.” There you have it Dan Barker has solved the problem of evil. This is because, as philosophers commonly affirm, if God has even one reason for “allowing” evil or momentarily allowing it to exist—even one single reason, even a reason of which we are not aware—then the problem of evil is solved. If God be charged with negligence by allowing any evil whatsoever but can says, “I can think of an exception in any case”—problem solved.

Dan Barker mentions that many of what are claimed to be Old Testament messianic prophecies are,
Christian reinterpretations of Old Testament verses they thought where prophecies; especially Matthew. Matthew was fond of digging through the Old Testament and saying, “Oh, there’s a child mentioned here, let’s connect that with the child Jesus,” he was a very sloppy scholar.


Here I must admit that I get very frustrated with Goyim who are, as Dan Barker proves himself to be, very sloppy scholars who do not consider the traditional Midrashic method of Rabbinic interpretation. They do not consider, if they are even aware of them, the various concepts of Jewish interpretation such as remez, peshat and derash.
He also does not understand the traditional Jewish view of dual fulfillment of prophecy whereby a prophecy points to a contemporaneous event and also to a future event. Later this year I will be posting the results of my studies of Rabbinic literature in relation to Jesus, Christianity and prophecy at my apologetics blog and so will merely assert, at the moment, that Dan Barker is simply not considering historical/cultural context with relation to the manner in which Jews, like Matthew and the other Jews who wrote 25 of the 27 New Testament books/epistles, elucidated layers of interpretation.



Lastly, let us consider one shining example of both Dan Barker’s logical capabilities as well as biblical knowledge as he states,

Paul wrote in the Bible, ‘God is not the author of confusion’ but can you think of a single that’s caused more confusion than the Bible?

Excellent point actually, let us consider it slowly and carefully: since God is not the author of confusion it follows logically that whatever confusion is caused by the Bible, or by people’s misunderstandings of it, was not authored by, was not caused by, God. This is not even to mention that the context of the half a verse is that of how to maintain order when the church gathers to worship (1st Corinthians 14:33 and surrounding).

Overall, this was a very informative debate in that Dan Barker presented a litany of atheist bumper sticker slogans while Kyle Butt was not only able to respond aptly but presented clear and concise arguments and refutations.

[1] “This chapter has contained the central argument of my book…who designed the designer”: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), pp. 157-158
[2] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 2, Ch. 4, “Nation and Race” and Vol. 1, Ch. 11
[3] Edersheim’s footnote #35 “In Succ. 52 a it is said that in the age to come (Athid labho) God would bring out the Yetser haRa (evil impulse), and slaughter it before the just before the wicked. To the one he would appear like a great mountain, to the other like a small thread. Both would weep - the righteous for joy, that they had been able to subdue so great so great a mountain; the wicked for sorrow, that they had not been able even to break so small a thread.”
[4] Edersheim’s footnote #36 “This is also the meaning of the expression in Ps. 112:10. The verb is used with this idea in Acts 7:54, and in the LXX, Job. 16:9; Ps. 35:16; 37:12; and in Rabbinical writings, for example, Jer. Keth. 35 b; Shem. R. 5, &c.”
[5] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883), Book III: The Ascent: From the River Jordan to the Mount of Transfiguration, Chapter 19: The Return to Capernaum – Healing of the Centurion’s Servant (St. Matthew 8:1,5-15; St. Mark 3:20,21; St. Luke 7:1-10)


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3/28/09

Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part IV of V

This is the forth part of a five part essay responding to Quentin Smith’s assertion “that the existence of gratuitous evil proves atheism.”[1]

Part I: On Obviously Gratuitous Evil
Part II: Emotions in Motion
Part III: Theism By Proxy
Part IV: The Illusion of Gratuity
Part V: Atheism Makes Evil Worse

The Illusion of Gratuity:
My five year old son formulated the “problem of evil.” We were walking in the front yard, he in his socks, when he stepped on a goat-head and said, “Goat-heads hurt. Why did God make goat-heads?”
“Goat-head” does not here refer to a goat’s head but to a little thorny seed. There it was, one of the two greatest ways to prove atheism as conceived by a 5 year old. Well, I explained that we think that goat-heads are bad because they hurt us when we step on them. But the reason that they are thorny is so that they will get stuck to an animal or human who is passing by and thereby be transported to a location away from the mother plant so that a new plant can grow.
Thus, it is apparent evil because we take it personally when the thorn pierces our skin but we are really dealing with a plant that found a way to cut down on competition for resources (National Public Radio was kind enough to publish an essay of mine on this issue, The Godhead’s Goathead).

The week after that another event occurred to my 5 year old: he was in the kitchen and for reasons that I will soon disclose he fell with his lower back against the corner of the dishwasher and twisted his leg. I went to him, hugged him, kissed him, looked him over for injuries, asked him if he was alright and the whole daddy thing.
After giving him time to stop crying and enjoy the comfort that I offered him I stated that while I was sorry that he got hurt it was a good thing that he was there in that time and place. This is because what had happened was that my 21 month old, whom I will mention in the next anecdote, was standing on a chair, leaned against the backrest and toppled over.
By the angling it seemed to me that he would have smashed his little head against the corner of the dishwasher (which is actually a wooden frame inside of which is the dishwasher), probably smashed his little face against the floor and perhaps had his fingers smashed by the force of his weight and the fall between the floor and the back of the chair which he was holding.
It just so happened that as he and the chair fell my 5 year old was walking by and the chair knocked him over, twisted his leg and made him fall back. In the end, both were fine. They certainly cried a little bit—the 5 year old for the fall and the 21 month old for being scared (of course, they were off running, playing and laughing within minutes).



While there is much to be learnt from these apparent evils one thing is for certain: we do have the ability in the here and now to know the reason / purpose for some evils.

Please indulge me in another true story with particular regards to Quentin Smith’s statement, “the pain of a vaccination is in itself bad, but is a means to a greater good.”

Call me strange but when one of my children was born and he was mere minutes old I was thinking about this very issue, the problem of evil. As the nurse came towards him with needle in hand I stared straight into his face as she plunged the sharp metal object into his tender newborn foot. His face instantly turned red and he yelled and cried. This was one of the very first experiences that he had outside of the womb.

There is a lot to learn from this event. I, for all intents and purposes his omnipotent father, did not prevent this evil from occurring to him even though I could have easily prevented the nurse form puncturing his little foot. Am I not good, not potent, not able, not willing, do I not exist?

I allowed the evil to occur because I, not he, knew that it was not gratuitous but that the evil was for his benefit—his blood sugar had to be tested. Now, ask him if he understood what was happening to him and why it was happening. He had no idea, he merely experienced the evil and surely hated it.

As an experiment I told him about this even now that he is 21 months old and he responded by fidgeting a little bit and then turning around and walking away to find something with which to play. Perhaps I will attempt the explanation again in a few years at which time I could tell him that the nurse needed a little bit of blood to make sure that he was healthy. Surely, it will require quite a few more years for him to understand the technicalities of blood sugar levels and the medical minutia that goes with. Thus, it will require the passing of years, perhaps more than a decade for him to have a full understanding of the situation.

What is the relevance? Imagine that at this stage of his development he manages to conceive the following thought, “Why did such an evil occur to me and why did my father do nothing to stop it when he certainly could have.” Yet, he could not understand my explanation. As far as he knows it was gratuitous evil.
However, at some point in the future when he has developed his cognitive abilities further I will explain it to him and he will come to realize that there is apparently gratuitous evil that was, nonetheless, purposeful. I knew that, he did not, I understood it, he did not, I will be able to explain it eventually, he will be able to understand it eventually.

All metaphors break down eventually because they are just that, metaphors. While I do believe that the above true stories are very relevant it may still be argued that not only do we know in the here and now what the purpose was but furthermore, he will find out in the here and now. I do still think it very relevant and elucidating since it occurred to him when he was merely minutes old and it will require quite a few years for him to fully grasp the situation.
Why should we deny the possibility that some day, maybe even on the other side of the grave, God would reveal to us why evil was only apparent and not gratuitous?

[1] Quentin Smith, Two Ways to Prove Atheism

Continue reading Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part IV of V...

3/26/09

Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part III of V

This is the third part of a five part essay responding to Quentin Smith’s assertion “that the existence of gratuitous evil proves atheism.”[1]

Part I: On Obviously Gratuitous Evil
Part II: Emotions in Motion
Part III: Theism By Proxy
Part IV: The Illusion of Gratuity
Part V: Atheism Makes Evil Worse

Theism By Proxy:
Now to Quentin Smith’s by proxy theistic answer:
“So how do theists respond to arguments like this? They say there is a reason for evil, but it is a mystery. 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 [sic] 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.”


Let us pause here for a moment. The fact is that the “problem of evil” fails due to the very fact that if God has a reason, let us even say any reason, for allowing evil then evil is not gratuitous and has a greater purpose. This would not even logically require us to produce the reason and so it may be termed a “mystery” and one that may someday be revealed. As for atheism: it guarantees that evil has no purpose—more on this in part IV. As to his height: height is something that can be measured since it is a physical property.

Quentin Smith continues:
“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 [sic], we admit that it's merely possible that it exists, even though it probably does not exist. If God exists, a being who is all-powerful and perfectly good, then this being must somehow ensure our world is perfectly good.”

Let us pause here in order to mention that the Bible states that God did create a perfectly good world and it was one in which the free will to do evil was allowed and yet this is not the end of the story but beginning of the story of redemption back to a perfectly good world.
Let us consider the fact that there is evil in the world and note that:
If there is free will: evil is inevitable.
If there is no free will: evil is inevitable.
Therefore, evil is inevitable.

Quentin Smith continues:
“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. Thus, if God exists, we must have evidence that all of the evils we see are means to a greater good. But even theists admit there is no evidence. That is why they must resort to talking about the mysterious ways in which God works. There's no evidence at all, for example, that twenty million people dying from Spanish influenza is for a greater good. The conclusion follows that God probably does not exist.”

Before Quentin Smith again offers the theistic answer by proxy let us note that he answered his own riddle. He has uncovered the mystery. If God exists we must have evidence that all of the evils we see are means to a greater good.
I would contend with the claim that we must know “all.” If someone claims that there is no gold in China I do not have to search all of China since if I go to China and find one little piece of gold on one square inch of ground then I have disproved the claim that there is no gold in China. Quentin Smith himself provides proof that there is purpose to what I term “apparent evil” by pointing out that “the pain of a vaccination is in itself bad, but is a means to a greater good.” This will be elaborated in the next part.

[1] Quentin Smith, Two Ways to Prove Atheism

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3/25/09

Atheism and Science : The Wedgie Document, the Second Papyri

Another manuscript fragment of “The Wedgie” document has been unearthed when a small boy turned on a fan in a junk yard and noticed a papyri leaf flying aloft.

I suspected that Prof. PZ Myers would eventually turn up in “The Wedgie” document. I suspected this due to his own statements and also due to the fact what when a “Scienceblog” has a category for “Godlessness” something juicy will surely follow.

“The Wedgie” Document Archives

Apparently, it required both Matthew Cobb (Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester) and Jerry Coyne (Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago) to author a handful of words, a letter to the editors of the journal Nature.[1]

Interestingly, they offer a neo-definition of “science,”

“Surely science is about finding material explanations of the world — explanations that can inspire those spooky feelings of awe, wonder and reverence in the hyper-evolved human brain.”

They have certainly taken it up a notch: now science is meant to be emotive. Science is now, and has been since atheism pseudo-co-oped it, about filling the God shaped void in every human heart. It is now about placing the psychological band-aid which is one of atheism’s consoling delusions: the delusion of subjective meaning in an objectively meaningless existence. Although, they are certainly not the first, and will surely not be the last, to seek meaning and emotions in the observation of the creation.


Awe in nature, aka nature worship or neo-pagan atheistic spirituality or in Sam Harris’ case Buddhism’s atheistic mysticism is a trend that is very popular amongst, in particular, the New Atheist sect of atheism who find meaning and spirituality by basically observing the world and saying, “How cool is that, maaaaaan!?!?”
This atheistic pseudo-spirituality was also foretold in the New Testament:
“…unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:18-25).

Matthew Cobb and Jerry Coyne further wrote,
“The scientific study of religion is indeed full of big questions that need to be addressed, such as why belief in religion is negatively correlated with an acceptance of evolution.”

At the end of their letter they answer their own question. Religion (whatever that is) has no problem with evolution (whatever that is). That is to say that, religion has no problem with the observation of bio-organisms and the noting of their various changes. What religion has a problem with are the promulgations of atheist activists who, in the guise of science, make utterly unwarranted and unscientific assertions about science leading to atheism.

Thus, to the last statement,
“the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism.

This is the line with regards to which Prof. PZ Myers wrote, “I especially like the last line.” And why not? They are, apparently of the same school of atheist activism: the sort that smuggles atheism through the back door and right into our classrooms within the façade of science. After all, it was Prof. PZ Myers who stated that atheism and science are “inseparable.”

As long as atheist activists continue claiming that evolution leads to atheism they are only exacerbating their own frustrations and are warding off those whom they are attempting to reach via their propaganda. This is not due to the religious being afraid of the scientific “facts” presented to them by atheist activists but due to just how thin the veneer is upon which the atheist activists write their assertions.

In this light it is also noteworthy to note that the recently unearthed papyri notes that Philip S. Skell (member of the National Academy of Sciences and Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University) is warning students that if they have doubts about the ruling biological orthodox—Darwinism—they should keep their concerns to themselves for, the very real, fear of being blacklisted and risking their grades and or careers.
A parsed audio interview with Philip S. Skell in which he makes this point may be heard here as part 1, part 2, part 3.

[1]Correspondence,” Nature 454, 1049 (28 August 2008)


Continue reading Atheism and Science : The Wedgie Document, the Second Papyri...

3/24/09

Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part II of V

This is the second part of a five part essay responding to Quentin Smith’s assertion “that the existence of gratuitous evil proves atheism.”[1]

Part I: On Obviously Gratuitous Evil
Part II: Emotions in Motion
Part III: Theism By Proxy
Part IV: The Illusion of Gratuity
Part V: Atheism Makes Evil Worse

Emotions in Motion:
Allow me to begin this segment by pointing out that I could not help but notice that no one has taken Quentin Smith to task for his claim to “prove atheism.” How does one prove a mere lack of belief in god(s) besides by stating, “I lack therefore, I lack”?

Let us consider Quentin Smith’s emotional investment:
“Consider, for example, the Spanish influenza. In World War I (1914-1918), ten million people died. But in three months, from September to November of 1919, twenty million people died -- just as many as in the plague in the fourteenth century -- from Spanish influenza. Then suddenly, this virus that caused this deadly flu disappeared, and no one has seen it again.”

Now that we are wrapped up in thinking and feeling about what a terrible occurrence that was, Quentin Smith comes in for the rhetorical kill:

“So how could this possibly have occurred if God exists? Is God not powerful enough to kill this virus or prevent it from growing? If so, then He's not all-powerful and is not really the god of the Judeo-Christian tradition. He's just a sort of extraterrestrial intelligence. He's just more powerful than us by degrees, just as we are more powerful than ants by degrees. But that is no god; that is a finite being. You would no more worship this being than you would worship ET. 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 [sic]. So that's just one example of many gratuitous evils in the universe.”



Let us review the charges one by one before Quentin Smith informs us as to how theists, apparently Christians since he did not besmirch the gods of Islam, Hinduism or any other religion, respond to these arguments.

So how could this possibly have occurred if God exists?
We must understand that atheists are very theologically minded people. Just as G. K. Chesterton pointed out that “all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind”[2] we may likewise state that all denunciation of a particular theology implies a different theology of some kind. Anytime that an atheist states, “Why would God allow…” or “Why doesn’t God…” or “God should…” et al they are speaking from their personal theology. In other words, they have a theological concept and then judge all others according to theirs (see my essay Atheism’s Theistic Concepts).

Is God not powerful enough to kill this virus or prevent it from growing?
The answer could be “Yes,” God is powerful enough but did not do so for reasons that Quentin Smith will refer to as “mysterious.”

If so, then He's not all-powerful and is not really the god of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Actually, God can be all powerful and yet not be required to perform as Quentin Smith demands.
He's just a sort of extraterrestrial intelligence. He's just more powerful than us by degrees, just as we are more powerful than ants by degrees. But that is no god; that is a finite being. You would no more worship this being than you would worship ET.
In some New Age circles aliens are virtually, if not literally, worshipped.

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?
This is the “mystery” to which we shall come in part III.

Is it because He's not perfectly good?
Perhaps, but one can be good, or perfectly good, and allow evil, or apparent evil.

Because He does not care enough about human beings?
Perhaps, but again this does not necessarily follow.

That is no god. Sounds like more an evil being governs our universe [sic].
Indeed, the Bible states that an evil being is “the god of this world” (2nd Corinthians 4:4).

So that's just one example of many gratuitous evils in the universe.
It was gratuitous if it was gratuitous but it was not gratuitous if it was not gratuitous. Quentin Smith claims to know that it was.

[1] Quentin Smith, Two Ways to Prove Atheism
[2] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908), chapter “The Suicide of Thought”

Continue reading Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part II of V...

3/22/09

Scientific Cenobites, part 7 of 8

This is part seven 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
B. C. Johnson wrote a book that is meant to teach atheists how to debate with, and win against, theists:
“Theists are impressed, for example, by the fact that the eye is composed of many atoms which work together closely interacting to make possible a particular result – in this case sight. Theists claim that close, complex interaction of countless parts proves that the result produced is actually intended. This assertion is unfounded and an example should suffice as evidence to support my claim.
Consider a random whirl of dust particles. All the particles composing it must interact to produce the exact distribution of particles which occur. If only a single particle has moved contrary to its course, the exact arrangement of particles would have been different. We would never have recognized the change because all dust particles look alike to us, but the result would nevertheless have been different.
Now, according to the theist’s reasoning, the existence of this complex interaction of countless particles producing a specific result must indicate the presence of some intention. However, the result of a completely random, totally unplanned whirl of dust particles in exactly what we mean by an unintentional result. Clearly, reasoning which makes a demonstrably unintended result appear to be intended is fundamentally unsound.”[1]
Atheism and science
Michael Ruse is a philosophy professor (University of Guelph) an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian who has argued for the ACLU against the balanced treatment bill.
“‘Dr Ruse,’ Mr. [Duane T.] Gish said, ‘the trouble with you evolutionists is that you just don’t play fair. You want to stop us religious people from teaching our views in schools. But you evolutionists are just as religious in your way. Christianity tells us where we came from, where we’re going, and what we should do on the way. I defy you to show any difference with evolution. It tells you where you came from, where you are going, and what you should do on the way. You evolutionists have your God, and his name is Charles Darwin’…

Heretical though it may be to say this — and many of my scientist friends would be only too happy to chain me to the stake and to light the faggots piled around — I now think the Creationists like Mr. Gish are absolutely right in their complaint. Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint — and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it — the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today…As a social reformer therefore, Huxley, known in the papers as ‘Pope Huxley’, was determined to find a substitute for Christianity. Evolution, with its stress on unbroken law — which could be used to reflect messages of social progress — was the perfect candidate. Life is on an upwardly moving escalator…

Indeed, recognizing that a good religion needs a moral message as well as a history and promise of future reward, Huxley increasingly turned from Darwin (who was not very good at providing these things) toward another English evolutionist. Herbert Spencer — prolific writer and immensely popular philosopher to the masses — shared Huxley’s vision of evolution as a kind of metaphysics rather than a straight science. He was happy to insist that even moral directives come from the evolutionary process itself…Evolution now has its mystical visionary, its Saint John of the Cross. Harvard entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson tells us that we now have an ‘alternative mythology’ to defeat traditional religion. ‘Its narrative form is the epic: the evolution of the universe from the big bang of fifteen [billion] years ago through the origin of the elements and celestial bodies to the beginnings of life on earth’…

The language of Stephen Jay Gould is hardly more tempered. We learn that evolution ‘liberates the human spirit,’ that for sheer excitement evolution ‘beats any myth of human origins by light years,’ and that we should ‘praise this evolutionary nexus — a far more stately mansion for the human soul than any pretty or parochial comfort ever conjured by our swollen neurology to obscure the source of physical being.’ Mr. Gould ultimately rejects traditional readings of evolution for a more inspiring, liberating version: ‘We must assume that consciousness would not have evolved on our planet if a cosmic catastrophe had not claimed the dinosaurs as victims. In an entirely literal sense, we owe our existence, as large and reasoning mammals, to our lucky stars’…If people want to make a religion of evolution, that is their business…

The important point is that we should recognize when people are going beyond the strict science, moving into moral and social claims, thinking of their theory as an all-embracing world picture. All too often, there is a slide from science to something more, and this slide goes unmentioned — unrealized even. For pointing this out we should be grateful for the opponents of evolution. The Creationists are wrong in their Creationism, but they are right in at least one of their criticisms.”[2]
Atheism and science
George F. R. Ellis attended the University of Cape Town and graduate school at the University of Cambridge, he is a cosmologist, Quaker philanthropist, antiapartheid activist, and policy guru:
“…has been exploring alternatives to the so-called standard model. According to many in the field, this theory posits that the big bang was followed by a period of rapid inflation, yielding a universe near ‘critical density’—that is, with just about enough matter to recollapse eventually in a big crunch. Ellis says his aim is to counter a recent trend ‘of researchers being very dogmatic, almost to the point of discounting the astronomical evidence…

People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations,’ Ellis argues. ‘For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observation.’ Ellis has published a paper on this. ‘You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds. In my view there is absolutely nothing wrong in that. What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.”[3]

“‘When [Robert] Broom came into the room he walked straight past me, straight past some of my staff who were with me and immediately dropped to his knees in front of the Taung fossil,’[4] recalls [Raymond] Dart. ‘Broom said it was ‘in adoration of our ancestors.’ It was a remarkable occasion. I was very surprised.’”[5]

“Clifford Jolly, a British researcher at New York University, proposed the new hypothesis in a new classic paper in 1970, titled simply, ‘The Seed Eaters.’ The term ‘classic’ is used here, as in most fields of science, to mean that the paper is almost certainly wrong in every detail, except one: its underlying philosophy.”[6]
Atheism and science
Biochemists and molecular biologists had come up with a date beyond which they did not believe hominids could have existed. Vincent Sarich wrote:
“‘One no longer has the option of considering a fossil specimen older than about eight million years a hominid no matter what it looks like.’[7] In other words, he did not care whether Ramapithecus looked like Australopithecus or even Homo sapiens. It was simply too old to be a hominid….Even Louis Leakey joined in the fray, admitting first that ‘I am not qualified to discuss the biochemical evidence,’[8] and then going on to assert that it must be wrong because it was at variance with the fossil record…This initial line of criticism by the paleoanthropologists is unequivocal: the biochemistry is wrong because it doesn’t agree with the fossils. Period.”[9]

“Contamination with older rocks in therefore an ever-present danger in using material from these so-called reworked tuffs.”[10]

“Fitch and Miller’s radiometric date [of 2.61 million years] was out of sync with the story the animal fossils seemed to be telling.”[11]
Atheism and science
Basil Cooke; paleontologist at Dalhousie University, Canada:
“For Cooke, the obvious comparisons with the Koobi Fora pigs implied that the date of 2.61 million years for the KBS Tuff must be wrong, because he judged the pigs found below it to be more like 2 million years old.”[12]

“In the end it got quite heated, and proper argument eventually gave way to ‘You are completely wrong,’ to which the reply was ‘No, you are completely wrong.’ Sounds like faith, not science, doesn’t it?’”[13]

John Harris, “we were very unhappy at having to fit what seemed like a logical evolutionary sequence into a scheme that made nonsense of it.”[14]

“With hindsight it is clear that we were really very naive about the difficulties of dating geologically young zircons,’[15] Gleadow observes. ‘However, the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the KBS controversy meant that any result we produced took on an exaggerated significance and produced a certain feeling of implicit pressure (imagine maybe) to publish without delay. I wish we had waited but I guess that is the lesson of the whole KBS story.’”[16]

“Fitch and Miller now contend, the reason they got such a confusing spread of dates was that the material they were given to analyze had been mistakenly collected from a series of tuffs other than the KBS…Leakey finds this explanation less than convincing. ‘It is a most extraordinary explanation,’[17] he says. ‘I am as sure of where that first sample site is as I am about where my house is.’”[18]

“As Smithsonian Museum scientist Gerrit Miller observed in 1928: ‘Among recent subjects of animated scientific and popular controversy both in and out of print there is perhaps none that has aroused more widespread interest than the discussion of human ‘missing links.’’[19] And to judge by subsequent history, some of which has been recounted in that pages of this book, nothing much has changed since Miller’s time.”[20]

[1] B. C. Johnson, The Atheist Debater’s Handbook (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1983), pp. 39-40
[2] Michael Ruse, How Evolution Became A Religion—Creationists correct?: Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics [National Post 5-13-00]
[3] W. Wayt Gibbs, “Profile: George F. R. Ellis – Thinking Globally, Acting Universally,” Scientific American, Oct. 1995, pp. 54-55
[4] Interview with the author, Philadelphia, 23 May 1985
[5] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York, NY: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987), p. 78
[6] Ibid., p. 98
[7] “A Molecular Approach to the Question of Human Origins,” in Background for Man, edited by V. M. Sarich and P. J. Dolhinow, published by Little, Brown, 1971, p. 76
[8] “The Relationship of African Apes, Man, and Old World Monkeys,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 67, p. 746 (1970)
[9] Lewin, pp. 105, 111
[10] Ibid., p. 192
[11] Ibid., p. 195
[12] Ibid., p. 197
[13] Ibid., p. 226 citing an interview with the author, 21 Nov. 1985
[14] Ibid., p. 237 citing an interview with the author, Los Angeles, 18 Nov. 1985
[15] Ibid., p. 247 citing a letter, Gleadow to author, 21 Mar. 1985
[16] Ibid., p. 247
[17] Ibid., p. 249 citing an interview with the author, Nairobi, 22 Jan. 1985
[18] Ibid., p. 249
[19] “The Controversy over Human Missing Links,” Smithsonian Report for 1928, p. 413
[20] Lewin, p. 301

Continue reading Scientific Cenobites, part 7 of 8...

3/20/09

Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part I of V

This is the first part of a five part essay responding to Quentin Smith’s assertion “that the existence of gratuitous evil proves atheism.”[1]

Part I: On Obviously Gratuitous Evil
Part II: Emotions in Motion
Part III: Theism By Proxy
Part IV: The Illusion of Gratuity
Part V: Atheism Makes Evil Worse

On Obviously Gratuitous Evil:
We must begin with the very concept itself: that of “gratuity” and that of “evil.”
How does Quentin Smith know what is evil, how has he arrived at his definition?
How does he know that evil can be, or is, gratuitous?

Moreover, note that he is seeking to prove “atheism” so he must be seeking to prove a mere lack of god(s) belief—right? If that was the case he would mere have to say, “In order to prove atheism I will declare that I lack of god(s) belief—done!”
Apparently, he has something else in mind and I would deeply appreciate it if some of our atheist readers would email him in order to correct him on this point and to explain to him that he is misrepresenting atheism—please send me your email exchange and I will be more than pleased to post it.

It is perhaps to be stated that arguing about evil, which is to say logically dissecting the concept, is a difficult uphill exercise. This is because evil, often in the form of violence, pain, sickness and suffering, is so very real to us all that it comes across as cold blooded to deal with it as a logical question. In other words, evil is such a, rightly, emotionally charged topic that putting logic up against it seems heartless, useless or a mere intellectual exercise.
How do you argue against an emotion? We are pitting tangible sensations against ethereal concepts. In such discussions atheists often tells touching tales of evil such as a little innocent child who suffers terribly for years from a disease that very slowly killed her while leaving the theist to make logical points.
Do you see the disparity? Can you feel it? Certainly, upon being moved by such a story who is even listening long enough to give reason a hearing? Who could possibly argue against such harsh realities?
These are just preliminary thoughts on how difficult it is to argue against emotionally charged statements, as valid as they may be. It seemed to me vital to keep this in mind.


Quentin Smith wrote:
“The famous British philosopher John Mackie said that if there's any miracle in the world, it's that so many people actually believe God exists. One of the reasons Mackie thought that this is the case 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 simple statement is packaged with various presuppositions and fallacies. I may be reading too much into the term but I found it very telling that Quentin Smith employed the term “obvious.”
Firstly, it was obvious that there is evil. This is a presumption since it is declared to simply be obvious. Atheism tends to argue to brute fact whereby things such as morality, life and the entire universe just are. It is also an esoteric appeal to the argument from outrage. Atheists often argue about morality, against evil, to the likes of “I don’t like…” or “I don’t agree with…” or “That’s just wrong” or “I have a visceral dislike of…” Of course, these are mere expressions of personal opinions which carry neither weight nor consequences when they are violated.

Secondly, it was obvious that since there is evil in the world, no all-powerful and perfectly good being could have created the world.
This is presumptuous on various levels:
They are claiming to know the reason or lack of reason for any and every evil event and claim to know that it was gratuitous.
They are claiming that there is no possible reason for a good being could have created a world which contains evil.
They are defining “good” in an unrealistically utopian manner.
Et al.

[1] Quentin Smith, Two Ways to Prove Atheism

Continue reading Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy, part I of V...