Friday, February 27, 2009

Scientist Cock Fight

(I used the word cock in the title in hopes that I would get more traffic from the random Internet searches! LOL!)

Over at Rationally Speaking there is a healthy debate between Massimo Pigliucci and Ken Miller.

Orignial post here titled "Why I disagree with Ken Miller"

Rebuttal from Miller here titled "Ken Miller responds to Massimo."

They're too professional and polite. I want some profanity thrown around! Come on, one of you needs to drop an F bomb! haha, j/k.

I found Miller's explanation of why evolution requires suffering very interesting:
What you suggest is that a gracious God would have design a world in which there was no death, no pain, no suffering, no “waste,” and no extinction. Fair enough. But in that world, there would also be no room for a new species (since nothing would die to make room for it), no reason for evolutionary novelty (none of the competition that leads to natural selection), and no beauty (why produce beautiful flowers, plumage, or natural ornaments if survival is assured for every individual?). Furthermore, in the world you envision as ideal, there is no place for human courage, since there is nothing to fear, no place for virtue, since good is universal, and no reason to invent, discover, and create. Why bother to heal when there is no sickness, why help the poor and sick and disabled when they do not exist, and why face difficulties with courage when there are no such difficulties?

From a purely philosophical point of view, if I were working from the premise that there IS a God then I tend to agree with what he is saying as long as God is not very personal. It would have to be an impersonal God and not gentle Jesus meek and mild.

Looks like I will have to read more on the anthropic principle to better understand Massimo's response.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dr. Michael Shermer at UNF for the "University Skeptics Forum"

My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Michael Shermer speak last night at what was billed as a debate about ID versus evolution. It took place on the University of North Florida campus.

A few people from an organization called "Reasons To Believe" were part of a panel of professionals who were to discuss their testable creation model while Michael Shermer was to provide arguments against what they were proposing. It turns out that the event was sponsored by a few Christian organizations and the "University Skeptics Forum" was a title from the Reasons to Believe organization. They were quick to point out that they were NOT young earth creationists or Intelligent Design proponents but had come up with a real scientific way to prove that the universe was created by God.

All three were given 25 minutes each to make their arguments, so we had 50 minutes from the creationists and only 25 minutes from the rational scientist.

Dr. Hugh Ross started things off with a whirlwind tour of how their biblical cosmology fits perfectly with both scripture and science. There were a lot of big words used and large numbers were presented as proof of the number of discoveries in astronomy that point to a divine creator. Each year more and more discoveries show proof of God. But he didn't exactly go into what these discoveries were, instead we were directed to read his book. He made many references to Genesis and the story of Job for evidence that scientific ideas were presented in the bible long ago but we just weren't reading it correctly. I should have taken notes so I can provide you with specifics but one of the things he kept talking about was how in the story of Job God is described as having "stretched" the heavens. He takes this to mean God created an expanding universe. But it is his ideas that are the stretch. He kept talking about how scientists will never find God by using a naturalistic approach because God is currently resting, we are in the seventh day still. But then he said that as an astronomer when he looks in his telescope he is looking back in time, back into the first 6 days, so if that were true would we not see God doing all that work from the first 6 days? Also, he was later contradicted by his own partner because the next presenter talked about how God was still remaking animals and that explained all of the fossils. So is he resting or is he still working?

The next presenter was Dr. Fazale Rana, who spoke about their theories of biological science that were supposed explained things better than evolution and were still backed up by the bible. Again, the 25 minutes was densely packed with lots of big words that made it difficult to figure out where to start with your rebuttal. One feature of his talk that I found humorous was his frequent use of quotes from Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould to back up his premise that what we see in nature is actually designed by a creator and not by evolution. Dawkins does comment a lot about the apparent design of things in nature but he does a very good job of explaining how evolution by natural selection makes that possible.

The final presenter was Dr. Michael Shermer. His presentation gave a broad smattering of ideas in the skeptical community. Rather than spend his 25 minutes making point by point rebuttals he simply tried to tackle some of the typical misinformation held by society on subjects like cosmology, evolution, and religion. I have a feeling there were a good number of believers in the audience who, like me until recently, had never bothered to learn about the parallels between Christianity and other believe systems from the Mediterranean area in first century like virgin births and resurrection, or the parallels between all of the creation stories from that area, or the flood stories. So, perhaps a few people were enlightened by what he said, or at least will be curious and start reading more.

Next, Shermer was allowed to ask direct questions of the first two presenters. He specifically brought up the expanding universe bible quote and showed how the description in Job of the heavens more closely resembled that of the Babylonian cosmology, probably taken from the time the Jews spent in exile in Babylon. Their response was that some guy, who's name they forgot, wrote a book, and he was a physicist and a theologian, and he proved that the description in Job was not that of a Babylonian cosmology. That was about as direct as any of their answers got.

The audience was then given time to ask questions. I think all of this information was sitting heavily on the moderator, Ken Amaro, because he started cutting off the questioners if they tried to ask followups. But the answers being given were so poor and went in so many different directions that followups were really needed. Only a few people asked Shermer anything; I was expecting people to throw bibles at him but nothing like that happened. By the end you could hear lots of groans from the audience when Dr. Ross would go on a lengthy answer that said pretty much nothing.

After things ended I went up and thanked Dr. Shermer for coming and I went over and asked Dr. Ross if all of his cosmology could be explained through Torah, why does he believe that the Christian religion is true and not the Jewish one. And if God is now resting in the seventh day why did he take time off to come down to earth as Jesus. He started to explain that there were some things in Romans that he uses and then went off on how the Jews don't read all of the torah and if they would just read the forbidden stuff that their rabbis told them not to read then they would see that Christianity was true. And we will have all of our questions answered on the Eighth day. It was at that point that I realized I was surrounded by people who were doing lots of nodding and I was in no position to try and argue my points since I am no biblical scholar. But I did get the feeling that they must have thought I was Jewish because of the wording of my questions and maybe they thought they could convert me!

Without reading their books and just going by what they presented last night my biggest problem with their "testable biblical cosmology" is that they cherry picked their evidence which ignoring other things in the bible that are just plain wrong. Gallileo was arrested for contradicting the biblical view of an Earth centered universe and we all know now he was right and the bible was wrong. Perhaps I will get a copy of a few of their books and use that as an exercise in debunking kooky ideas this year.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm so immoral!

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

I'm no better than heathens like PZ Myers!

Things to write about

I have a variety of ideas of things I'd like to post about but I never seem to find the time to get my thoughts in order. Here's a list of what I'd like to post about in the coming months (this serves more as a reminder to me since when I DO have time to write I draw a blank!)

  • Create a series of posts detailing why I'm NOT in this or that particular religion. Using the "outsider test" that John Loftus has talked about.
  • Talk about how I resolve the differences between me and my parents.
  • How does the religious climate in this country effect an immigrant?
  • Book reviews! I listen to at least one audiobook every week or two. I should be talking about them.
  • When I hear a good podcast episode I need to comment on it.
  • How do you raise a child to be tolerant of all of the belief systems yet not succumb to any of them?
  • 2012 is approaching and it ought to make for some humorous analysis of this temporal woo woo.
  • How do arguing about God and arguing about the best strategies in World of Warcraft relate? LOL...yeah...I think about some silly stuff.
There's more. I'll update this as I think of them and let this serve as a guide for the coming months.

edit - ok I remembered another one - "Woo in my life", examples of things I have believed that turned out to be crap.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Darwin Donations

Last month I posted a suggestion that we turn Darwin day into a charitable event. Well, today I made my Darwin Donations.

I donated 20.74 each to Doctors Without Borders and to this family to help with their medical costs. I added the 74 cents to note that it was a Darwin Donation and he was 74 when he died.

Regardless of the reason or the time of year I hope you all find the time and money to lend a hand somewhere. All of the people, including myself, who made a difference donating small amounts to the Obama campaign can do the same with charities.

*puts on Sally Struthers plea*
For the price of a triple venti non-fat latte you can make a difference!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama Throws Us Another Bone

The unbelievers were mentioned again! OMG! This time it was during a prayer breakfast of all things!

Obama throws secular organizations a bone!

I never liked the idea of the federal government funding church groups. That was Bush's brainchild. Let's suck up to the religious right and get some votes by putting money in their pockets.

But what about secular groups who want to help out communities without indoctrinating them into a religion? NO SOUP FOR YOU!

But now Obama has widened the scope of the faith based support to include any organization that wants to help their communities.

This is his prayer...

I like this part:
The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another – or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state. This work is important, because whether it’s a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what’s happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them.
Some of the talk seems a bit "pie in the sky" but at least he seems to be making an effort at removing the us versus them mentality that penetrates this country so much:
I raise this history because far too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another – as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness.
There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all.
But this part I disagree with:
But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know. the old testament! How many babies are slaughtered? So, yeah, he's kissing ass and ignoring the bullshit to try to form a happy consensus. Pie in the sky? Time will tell.

For those that think this whole thing should be disbanded, imagine if there were no faith base initiative created by Bush and Obama came along and wanted to form something similar but entirely secular. People would be screaming SOCIALIST! OMG! HE WANTS US TO BE COMMIE ZOMBIES! At least this way he can try to do some good at the community level by hijacking Bush's brainchild. And for that, I think he's a smart man.