Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
I just read an interesting article about a biblical scholar who thinks that the first sentence of the bible has been mistranslated.
She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.
She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".
The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth"
God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness.
I wonder if the Ancient Astronaut folks are going to glom on to this tidbit?
OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:
Here is a (Christian) set of videos about science that takes apart not only Creationism, but also Intelligent Design in support of traditional science.
I'd like to get some feedback evaluations and reactions to his presentations.
Ed Halliwell on the Guardian's blog makes what I can only assume is an attempt at a kind of charming, I'm-okay-you're-okay détente between believers and atheists in an otherwise benign post about the Buddha's unwillingness to delve into the question of the existence of a supreme being.
I suppose that's all well and good, but in his admiration for the Buddha's disinterest, he woefully mischaracterizes the atheist position:
Part of what makes the argument [over God's existence] so comical is how the concept of "God" onto which atheists project is rarely the same as the one defended by believers.
Whatever images of God some atheists might like to invoke in heated antitheistic rhetoric, the God whose existence is denied is not limited to one or another caricature, but all gods, all supernatural beings, all unknowable, mystical, cosmic consciousnesses. So not only is the concept of God that is refuted the same as the one defended by believers, but every concept of God (that is not merely a shorthand metaphor for what actually is).
Our old friend Lane Palmer gets it wrong. Again.
[Lane Palmer] So do you believe in aliens? Are there really races of creatures cruising around the friendly skies kidnapping cattle for “farm” aceutical purposes? ?
Well, I’m not sure - and frankly, I’m not sure I care either. But do you know who does care to know? The answer to this might surprise you - but in my experience, the group of folks who need aliens in their worldview are atheists.
More below the fold...
A-ha! It all makes perfect sense now! (Click to embiggen.)
Back in 2005, Stephen Darksyde published a fantastic article here at UTI called "Ancestral Magnitudes". It used the metaphor of the "generation", and colorfully described human evolution in terms of our ancestors.
[DarkSyde] If the idea of a flat-earth or the Sun-god is a part of that faith then you either ignore the science and live in willful ignorance-at least in regard to that conflict-and trust to faith, or you adjust your theology. Those really are your only two choices as far as I can see.
What your objection more than likely reveals is that you don't like the idea of being the product of 'random' physics and biochemistry, that you feel there is no room for a Creator in such a scenario. I cannot imagine greater natural evidence for the Brilliance of a Creator than complex process unfolding over billions of years through countless steps in exquisite order spanning the entire Cosmos. The technical skill and artistic vision of such is to be admired in awe, and in that context evolution should be worthy of your devotion, not your disdain.
I encourage you to read the whole thing if you haven't already. It'll blow your mind.
A few days ago, Xavier Onassis from the blog "Doubting Faith" published the same sort of mind-blowingly cool article about our universe, and it puts our place in that universe into stark, unflinching perspective.
[Xavier Onassis] Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that a universe this vast, and this spectacular could not be a random occurrence. Personally, I don't have a problem with it being one big coincidence. But, let's just say it's not.
Do you really think that a hypothetical all-powerful, all-knowing God, responsible for the creation of EVERYTHING in this incredibly vast universe would really give a flying fuck how you voted in the last election? Whether or not a couple of gay guys get married? Whether or not you keep Kosher or go on The Hajj?
Get over yourselves. You're not that fucking important. You need to look at the Big Picture and put things in perspective.
Just excellent. Highly recommended. Great job, Xavier.
I wrote this personal item for my blog this morning, but then realized that it was in many ways a perfect summation of how I see the world. Feel free to ignore.
I commented via email to a close friend yesterday about the persistent fever my MIL has been running, 2 to 2.5 degrees above her normal. We'd seen fevers come and go for the last several months, but this one seems to have settled in for a while. I got back this:
Any particular reason for it, or is she just being like a star that's going into its final flameout?
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We need to stop this immediately! Shooting powerful lasers into the center of the galaxy will surely attract the attention of the mighty Zoidlon overlords!
In all seriousness today's Astronomy pic of the day is pretty darned neat, and so is the tech we're using to learn more about the universe.
Roy Abraham Varghese, theistic apologist and god-bothering author from the "Institute of Metascientific Research", was recently interviewed by the Dallas Observer. Varghese is widely credited as "the man who won over Anthony Flew", and is now currently working on a book called "There Is A God" with Flew.
Varghese is an interesting character because his contention is that without a meta-intelligence, all science devolves into incoherence if you drill-down deep enough, or pull back far enough.
It's a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense of course, a philosophically slick update to the theistic evolutionist's mantra.
More below the fold...
First of all, I apologize for my (second) long absence. In addition to finding out I had to move and then actually having to move within the course of 30 days, I had two family members die - one before and one after Christmas, so this has been a pretty hectic and emotional time for me these few months.
One of the first things I noticed (other than the fact that when you reach the age of 35 your friends and family will no longer help you move) was how death brings people from all religions together, but tends to exclude atheists. If death is the end, then what does it matter? Why even bother attending a funeral if you don't believe in God? It can be very upsetting and sometimes depressing to realize that one day it will be me that dies. It is a very hard reality to face.
But I also spent a good bit of time watching astronomy shows with my son (thank you Science Channel), who wants to be an astronomer when he grows up. (It is amazing to hear a 10-year-old boy tell me that he wants to invent a telescope that will allow humans to see ‘dark matter’). One scientist made a particularly astounding comment, and I paraphrase; ‘every molecule of matter on this planet and in our bodies was forged in the center of a star somewhere. So when we study the universe, we are actually studying ourselves.’
Evolution is a fact. It happens. It has happened. It continues to happen.
This is not in question. Those who protest either don't know what the heck evolution actually is, or they are lying to themselves and to you.
What I would like to talk about today is the perception that people have about what evolution is and is not, as well as what I believe we can do about it.
I have been arguing the creation/evolution debate for a long, long time. Back in 1986 I jumped into the infant online world with both feet, learning how to think critically and how to construct arguments. I have been an atheist since I was about 17 years old. I have been interested in science and the scientific method for much longer than that. The idea of a personal invisible imaginary friend seemed ridiculous to me even at the age of ten.
So, when the virtual world of the the new online services presented itself to me, I was floored. Here was a pure realm consisting of exact meaning. A world where people talked to each other almost mind-to-mind - cutting away the traps and the pitfalls that usually accompanied face to face conversation. Nervousness, apprehension, emotion, forgetfulness, shyness - none of this mattered when you were composing your thoughts off line in a text editor. You were able to edit and vet your words, making sure that they flowed well and made sense.
But those things which so attracted me to online text-based communication seemed to make others dumber than they would have been otherwise. Time and again I witnessed ostensibly intelligent people stumble and rush through a message or a rebuttal, making themselves sound like fools due to incoherent rambling, spelling and grammar errors, and faulty, fallacious reasoning.
It's almost as if they didn't care how they were perceived when they were online.
I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. Online communications in this day and age - YouTube notwithstanding - is primarily text based. That is to say that if you cannot form cogent and thoughtful sentences, spelled correctly with the meaning coming through crystal clear, then why the hell are you arguing online - using text to try and get your meaning across to the other guy?
But that is neither here nor there - except as a base for my thoughts about evolution and the way that I have observed that people look at it.
More below the fold...
Some quickies for a Sunday morning...
The NYT has a nice piece about funding faith-based prison programs, part of their Christ's Mission, Caesar's Money series.
There's also a good story on the problems that the National Geographic Society has encountered with trying to establish a model for human settlement around the world through DNA samples of isolated indigenous people. They've run into problems with these societies being concerned that it may challenge their origin myths, among other concerns.
And lastly, if you didn't catch this entry over at PZ's place yesterday, go take a look. It links to this insane site, chock full of creamy nuttiness. Be sure to turn off your speakers before following that second link. Trust me on this.
You gotta love Eric Idle.
Flash. Nice work up of the classic routine, with some good pics.
Commenter "bhl" on Thinking Christian responded to my earlier post about Chris Campbell's take on relativism. I asked for facts. Not wishful thinking, not divine revelation, not anecdotes, but facts.
What did I get from the only person in the entire thread who actually attempted to give me any facts?
What do you think?
More below the flip...
By Dr. Charles A. Coats of the First Avenue Christian Assembly in Chilliwack, B.C. dredges up that hoary old apologist's argument, The Argument From Probability, and does his darndest to make it fly.
[link] The number of electrons in our universe must be fine-tuned to better than one part in 1,038. That's a one with 38 zeros behind it.
How precise is this? Well, imagine covering the entire continent of North America with dimes. Now make the stack go as high as the moon, 239,000 miles away. (As a comparison, the number of dimes it would take to pay the United States federal government debt would only cover one square mile a few feet deep.)
Now take this stack of dimes covering North America all the way to the moon and multiply it times 1,000,000,000 (one billion). Mark one dime in the billion stacks with a secret mark, and blindfold a friend. Send him through the billion stacks and have him randomly pick one dime.
More below the fold...
Let me be clear that I'm not saying the universe was not made, or designed, if you prefer. I'm saying that the arguments I've seen Intelligent Design Creationists (IDCists) present are not compelling because they suffer from logical fallacies and are built on untestable claims; and a lot of them are really terrible, rehashed old creationist dogma long since refuted.
The universe could very well be a made thing, I certainly don't believe that possibility has been ruled out by any means. Note however-it is a big jump from 'the universe was manufactured' to 'the universe was manufactured solely for the benefit of humans'.
Our planet, our sun, our galaxy, are doomed. Our collective fate is sealed by gravity gone mad. A monster approaches. It will engulf us; it is our destiny. Our destructor is relentless, twice the size of our own island of stars, inescapable; there's nothing we can do to stop this cosmic rendevouz. In two-billion years our own Milky Way and the nearby giant Andromeda Galaxy, will merge. The individual stars won't hit each other, space between them is vast. But the clouds of gas in both structures will tear through each other and glow as bright as day. Worse still, lurking deep in the center of both galaxies are truly horrific monsters ripping the fabric of space and time. These two stellar ogres will flirt with each other, distantly at first; then enter into a fatal gravitational embrace. Circling ever closer: waves of heat and deadly x-rays will light up the galaxies from rim to rim for thousands of years. And then, when those two, massive, black galactic hearts finally merge and beat as one, a searing pulse of gamma rays will bathe the galaxy for millennia. It will kill every living thing, within a million light-years.
Gary Nelson, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, is an old-earth creationist. That is to say that he believes that our universe was set in motion, or created, by an intelligence of some sort. (I suspect that he would probably say "God" was the intelligence behind it, if pushed, but maybe he has been Touched by His Noodly Appendage. Who knows?)
However, Gary's reasoning is off-base, to say the least.