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.
Philosophy Of Science
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.
This is my review of Vox Day's new book called "The Irrational Atheist". I'd like to make some things perfectly clear before I proceed with this review. I am still, and barring some pretty convincing evidence that I find personally credible, will most likely always be an atheist. What I mean by "atheist", as I have written volumes about in the past, is someone in whom god-belief of any kind is absent.
I have lately (within the last few years) come to the conclusion that the entire social and political "atheist movement" is a big, fat exercise in futility. Atheists are not, in any way, shape, or form, a "group" in the same sense that Methodists, Shriners, or Republicans are a group. The atheists who blog and organize activist marches and identify themselves as part of this "atheist movement" group are lying to themselves. There is no "atheist group". Rather, a movement has emerged and become politically active lately that has co-opted the perfectly reasonable descriptive word "atheist" and has twisted its meaning into something that I do not agree with, endorse, or really even recognize any longer. Ellen Johnson telling all of us atheists to "Vote your atheism first..." was the last straw for me. I mean, what in the heck does that even mean? I am not a member of your little club, Ellen.
I have my own opinions, political views, and values. I have my own, personal rationale for being a person in whom god-belief is absent (an atheist). I recognize no "atheist leaders" or spokesmen, and I endorse no one who claims to speak for me, or insinuates that they speak for me in any way.
I speak for myself, and myself alone.
I find it troubling that one of the recent trends in the "atheist blogger" community is to label someone who does not seem to toe the party line as an "appeaser" or as a "concern troll". It's complete crap. I didn't sign a fucking "atheist loyalty oath", and my lack of belief in a god isn't dependent on kowtowing to the self-anointed leaders of this misguided abortion of a political movement, whether or not they exist. If after this review someone uses the "no true Scotsman" fallacy on me in this fashion, they can go fuck themselves. With a jagged stick. Sideways. The political and social issues that concern me - personal liberty, civil liberties, honesty, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, freedom, justice, the American Way, all of that, don't require my allegiance to some new political movement. I was concerned with those things before I started calling myself an atheist, and I still am today. Atheism has nothing at all to do with any of that stuff. (See my first paragraph above.) Nether does "theism" for that matter.
I evaluate the books I read, the beliefs I come across, and the philosophies I examine fully, and with an eye towards the facts. I have a highly-sensitive bullshit meter, honed through 20-plus years of discussion, research, study, debate, and arguments with theists (that is, folks in which god-belief of any kind is present.) So, when you read the review below, keep in mind that I was really, really trying hard to find something that I could latch onto and argue intelligently and forcefully against. I was positive that it had to be there. I had my BS meter cranked up to 11 as I read through the book twice in an attempt to sniff out something that I could use - and the damned thing only went off a couple of times, and only when Day was explicitly talking about God and/or Jesus and his personal belief in the Christian mythology.
Shit. Double shit.
Ah, well. I am ethically and morally bound to review TIA honestly, and that is what I will do - regardless of how much it hurts me to do so. Heh. ;)
So, hang on to your hats and join me below the fold.
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.
Florida State Board Of Education member Donna Callaway gets it so wrong that it's painful to read.
[link] Donna Callaway, a former middle school principal from Tallahassee, told the Florida Baptist Witness that evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origins of life."
She also said she hoped Christians would pray over the issue. "As a SBOE member, I want those prayers," Callaway said. "I want God to be part of this."
Evolution is not a "theory of origins of life", number one, and number two, the Christian God cannot, by law, "be a part of" the Florida State Board Of Education - unless you rescind the United States Constitution, or secede from the union.
But you've all heard this before, time and time again. It's been said, over and over, a thousand times or more. The facts are always the same; ignorant Christian creationist who does not understand what evolution is, or what science is gets elected to the school board. Then they convince other ignorant Christian creationists on the school board to "teach the (nonexistent) controversy" by reading the religious tracts put out by the Discovery Institute, WoTM, or Dr. Dino. Overworked civil-rights defenders like the ACLU and FFRF take the school board to court and win. Many indignant news stories and op-ed columns are written about the evil atheist plot to persecute innocent Christians by teaching science instead of Christian mythology in - ahem - science classes. Overwrought email chain letters get forwarded to everyone and their grandmother shouting about the nasty atheists and their evil plan to barbecue all the Christian children in the public school system for the crime of being Christian.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Things like this make me tired. It feels like we're bailing out a leaky boat with plastic beer cups. I mean, were doing something, going through the motions, making a lot of noise and fuss, but the reality of the situation is that the boat is filling up too fast. I fear that we are sinking, and that there is not a lot we can do to prevent it.
Still, we'll keep on bailing because what else can we do?
A few days ago, in another post, Jim mentioned that he misses the Colonel. I don't think he meant that literally, instead I think he meant he misses the argument provoking fantastic claims the Colonel would make. In a sense, I agree. It's fun to have someone around who challenges logic and reason. I think we all enjoy a good challenge.
Good news! The Colonel has been immortalized. No, he didn't die and go to heaven. What I mean is that you can listen to the Colonel on YouTube. Well it's not actually the Colonel but if you listen you will understand what I mean. This is a 1 hour debate between a Christian apologist/philosopher named Greg Bahnsen and relatively obscure atheist writer named George Smith.
Bahnsen eerily makes many of the same absurd arguments that the Colonel did right here on UTI going back a few months. He has trouble with the definition of atheism and constantly refers to the atheist's "worldview." He has trouble believing in morality without god. He twists logic so badly it comes out looking like a pretzel. Now do you remember our friend the Colonel?
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...
Let's see if we can start a meme (which I didn't realize was a term coined by Dawkins - all the better)...
I tried something on a limited basis last year at Christmas: giving small, high-quality flashlights (such as these). Why? Because I liked the subtle symbolism of the gift. A good, small flashlight can stay on your key ring and always be there to help you out when you need it. It isn't the only tool you need, but can help you find your way in the dark, relieve fear, locate lost items, figure out what you need to. Not unlike the ability to actually think rationally, reason your way through the darkness.
I've been reading a lot on evolution recently, as well as watching several really good television programs on it as well. One of the key theories regarding evolution is survival of the fittest. This is where species with traits that help them survive are able to live long enough to procreate and pass on those traits to the next generation. Over time, this strengthens a genetic line and creates a species that can exist and flourish in a given environment.
In addition, animals born with malformed DNA are typically sick or weak and killed off either naturally or by predators before they get a chance to procreate. This is yet another way that nature ensures that the strongest genetic codes carry on and that species can and will survive.
Humans and our ancestors have also played a part in this game. For hundreds of thousands of years we have evolved, taking our best genetics with us. This evolution has brought us to the level of society that we now know and enjoy today.
I want to bring up an unpleasant, if not taboo topic; has technology and advanced society negatively affected human evolution? Our species is no longer participating in survival of the fittest with regard to animal predators. Society insulates us from the harsh realities of nature. While it appears that our intelligence and natural abilities stem from evolutionary growth, we have come to a time where there is no longer any pressure on our species to maintain many of the skills we developed prior to the birth of civilization. Technology also allows people who would have died in years past to survive illnesses and genetic disorders, often at great personal and financial cost to those directly involved.
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...
I will hazard a guess that it’s likely that many of the readers of UTI are fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Ever since I can remember, I loved the character, and suspect that his logical methods and view of the world were largely responsible for inculcating in me a desire to see things rationally, not magically. Now, I’m not a Doyle scholar, nor a member of any of the Holmes Societies, though I do own a collection of the entire series of stories and novels which I have read through several times and consider myself at least to have a passing knowledge of the character. Recently, (thanks to the miracle of Netflix) we’ve been working through the wonderful Granada Television adaptations featuring Jeremy Brett as Holmes from the 1980's. I consider his portrayal of Holmes as the best which has ever been done, and would heartily encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with the series to check it out at first opportunity.
Anyway, the character of Sherlock Holmes is one of the most familiar of all literature, known to billions around the world. And I believe that he has been a powerful ally for the forces of enlightenment, since he is widely respected as being representative of what education, observation, and logic can accomplish. As with me, he inspires people to learn more about their world and how to understand it.
Sometimes theistic apologists go to great lengths to rationalize their belief in an imaginary magical man in the sky who poofed us all into existence with magic.
One of the silliest arguments that I read and hear all the time is the argument that while science is all well and good for, you know, those unimportant material things like kitchen appliances, automobiles, spaceships, and life saving medical pharmacology, the really important immaterial things, like "God" and "why are we here", can only be answered by religion - specifically, the apologist's own personal religion.
The Rev. Dan Marler, pastor at the First Church of God in Oak Lawn, IL, writes an opinion column today in the Daily Southtown and asks the question, "Are faith and science enemies?"
More below the fold...
Les over at Stupid Evil Bastard seems to attract the creationist morons like a flame attracts moths. He has had a hilarious, but frustrating email exchange with an ignorant youngster named "Paolo" who seems to suffer from uncontrollable creationist cut-n-paste syndrome.
It'd be funny if it weren't so depressing.
In any case, one of Les' commenters, a person using the handle "Mayo", came up with a fantastic idea for a gritty new creationist crime drama. You think Fox's new faith-based TV network will pick it up?
[Mayo] Here’s a typical T.V. detective movie in Paolo's world.
Detective- We found your fingerprints all over the murder weapon.
Criminal- Did you actually see me use it?
Detective- No....but the prints are undeniable.
Criminal- You have NO PROOF. You saw nothing.
Detective- Look fella...your semen is all over the place. We’ve matched your DNA.
Criminal- If you didn’t actually observe the semen leaving my body....what you’re spewing is just a theory. YOU HAVE NO PROOF!
Detective- What about these footprints which perfectly match your highly rare shoe type?
Criminal- Did you see me step there?
Detective- Not exactly.
Criminal- You’ve got no proof then. You’re just guessing.....badly.
Detective- You have blood which matches the victim all over you. How do you explain that?
Criminal- Did you see this blood get on me?
Detective- No. The spray pattern and condition of the blood all point to the fact that you must have been in the path of the bleeding artery at the time and place where the victim was killed though.
Criminal- More guessing. Is there anything else you’re any good at? You may want to consider a new line of work.
Detective- I guess you can go now. Sorry to have bothered you. Roll credits.
So, you know the whole "embryonic stem cell" thing? You remember how the Catholic church held to the insane belief that an embryo equalled a fully-grown human person, therefore using embryonic stem cells for research and other applications was wrong? It is the same objection that they raise to abortion, basically.
Using the stem cells from dead embryos that are going to be destroyed anyway didn't seem to appease them any.
Along comes Robert Lanza and his team of scientists at Advanced Cell and they create "embryo-safe" embryonic stem cell lines. What they do is grab the embryo when it consisits of only 8 to 10 cells, remove ONE of the cells, then culture it to create a new line of stem cells. The embryo, minus one single cell, has the abiulity to be implanted into a woman and grow normally into a human being.
Wow! Embryonic stem cells wothiout harming an embryo! You'd think that the Catholic church would be ecstatic!
You'd think wrong.
[link] Advanced Cell then made things worse by extracting what could be a "totipotent" cell, Sgreccia said.
"This is not just any cell, but a cell capable of reproducing a human embryo," Sgreccia said. He added that, in effect: "a second embryo is being destroyed".
Across the Atlantic, Richard Doerflinger, a bioethics expert with the US Conference of Bishops, has accused the scientists of "killing" 16 embryos during their research.
What the fuck is a "totipotent" cell? Is the Catholic church making words up again? A "second embryo"? One cell is now an embryo? Removing one cell from 16 different embryos is "killing" an additional 16 embryos? If that's the case, then we're all guilty of murder most foul every time we scratch.
I say again, WTF? What complete and utter lunacy.
I really hope that the scientific community working on stem cells finally just ignores the prehistoric crap coming out of the Vatican and continue to do good science. Stem cell research is the most exciting thing happening right now in the biological sciences, with the greatest potential for benefit to everyone on the planet. A superstitious bunch of old men in Italy should NOT have veto power over science.
Update: Alert reader cserpent sets me straight on the word "totipotent". Dangit. I knew I should have looked that up! :)
[cserpent] Nah, the catholic church makes up a lot of batshit insane things, like the assumption of Mary, but it didn't make up the word totipotent. It means a cell capable of differentiating into any other type of cell. The cells in the earliest stages of an embryo, like a morula are considered totipotent because each is capable, under the influence of chemical signals from its neighbors, of becoming pretty much any part of the body. They usually differentiate into pluripotent and multipotent stem cells, capable of giving rise to many different tissues and many different cell types of a particular tissue, respectively.
The second part about the fate of that one cell, however, is flat-out wrong. That one cell can't become a whole embryo, absent the various chemical signals diffusing from its neighbors. Nor would anyone be able to manufacture multiple embryos from breaking apart that earlier embryo, at least not in humans. So they are off their nut on that account (and so many others). But, what do you expect from the every sperm is sacred crowd?
Lon emailed me the other day and asked a simple, but provocative question. It's a question that many religious folks like to ask us hellbound atheist types.
I was surfing the net. & came across your web sight.
I have a question for you,
Since everyone will die one day, what do you believe
will happen to us after we die ?
Let me know if you care to respond, if not, then have
a nice day.
Here's what I sent back:
We will be in exactly the same state as we were before we were born. That is to say, non existent.
Thank you for your question.
You see the problem with the question? It pre-supposes the existence of a "soul" - something out there that precedes our earthly existence, something that contains our essence as human beings, something that continues after our corporeal bodies die and rot and contribute their physical atoms to our planet in the form of food and mass.
And it's complete and utter horseshit.
Not literal horseshit, mind you, but horseshit of the mind.
If a soul exists, it exists in the processes that inhabit our brains and our bodies. If humanity is special, and not just another animal, it is special because we have this unique brain that allows us to be self-aware and to ask ourselves why we are here, why we exist.
Don't get me wrong - I appreciate my self-awareness as much as the next homo-sapien, but I don't fool myself into thinking that it's more special than it really is.
Our large, self-aware brains are nothing more than a successful survival strategy developed through evolution. They allow our species to do things that assist our survival. However, we have only been self-aware as a species for less than an eye blink when compared to the lifespan of our planet. We are so very recently up from the same level of the dumb beasts that it remains to be seen if our achingly huge brain case is really a successful survival strategy - or if it is merely a dead-end.
We like to imagine ourselves as the kings and queens of this planet, but that is something that is not yet set in stone. It's possible that the cockroach's survival strategy will make their species end up as the dominant life form on earth. Or the ants. Or any number of other species who took an evolutionary route in a different direction from self-awareness and giant, intelligent mammalian brains.
Do I think that we'll survive? Well, that's the real question, isn't it? The only real measure of any species' abilities is that they survive. That's the whole ball of wax, right there. I believe that our unique intelligence and self-awareness will allow us to overcome any deficiencies that mother nature programmed into us. I believe that the next 100 years will demonstrate our willingness through technological and other means to ensure our species' survival, regardless of what it takes.
We can survive - but it won't be through sheer, basic evolution that we will. Through a quirk that we did not have any control over, I believe that we will be able to rise above our base destiny, and conquer our universe in time.
Life after death? Pshaw. We'll cure death eventually. If we can keep from offing each other and ourselves for a few more years - that eye blink again - it's inevitable.
I just hope I'm around to participate in our future. If not, then my genes and my memories should survive just fine.
Am I OK with the booby prize? So close, and yet so far from an eternity of living and loving, human helping human, until the universe contracts and we start all over again someday so far in the future as to be incomprehensible?
Maybe not. But it'll happen to my kids, or my grand kids, or my great-grand kids - and maybe that's enough.
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...
Chris Campbell of Thinking Christian takes a step in the right direction with his post today. He ponders relativism as it relates to, and maps to, reality. But he assumes that this god-thing of his exists without any evidence at all. It's an interesting blind spot that he has.
[link] It seems to me that when discussing the question of whether there is a God or not it usually comes down to relativism. Those that discuss God or religions even will eventually begin to say "everyone has their own view of God, and that's ok." There is a real interesting quote at the beginning of each episode of the Discovery Channel show The Mythbusters: "I reject your reality and substitute my own," exclaims one of the shows hosts. He may or may not know it but this is the mantra of the Post-Modern world that we live in today. If I don't like the world as you describe it I can just ignore it and live in my own little world. If that world doesn't work out for me then I will just reshape it to a different view and try again.
I agree that Campbell's commentary about substituting our own "realities" for others "realities" has a valid point. Left to our own prejudices, emotions, perceptions, etc., each and every human being on this planet would not agree on the facts or the truth of anything at all.
Fortunately we have the scientific method that that we can use - any one of us! - to ferret out the facts, the truth of things, in an objective fashion that all can agree upon if they simply follow the method.
More below the fold...
The Commissar asks an interesting question about the recent revelation that Jerome Armstrong, of MyDD and Daily Kos, is a believer in astrology.
[link] I don’t recall reading PZ Myers, DarkSyde, Ed Brayton, or Brent Rasmussen denouncing astrologists. Let me be clear. I seriously doubt that Markos sent out a “dummy up on the astrology-bashing” to his apparatchiks. Almost certainly the Left’s “Defenders of Science” simply haven’t perceived astrology as a threat. Okay, let me put it on your radar screen. An advisor to a serious Democratic presidential candidate is an astrologer, as well as an admitted stock swindler. 29% of Americans believe in astrology. I think a little distancing would be in order, from the Left’s “Defenders of Science.” (If they have in the past, I’d be delighted to correct this post.)
You know what? I don't think I've ever wrote a post "denouncing astrologers". Astrology is quite possibly one of the lowest-priority subjects on my plate, right behind phlogiston.
I have two things to say here. Commissar, please listen up.
I do not affiliate myself with the Daily Kos is any political fashion at all. I do not consider myself a political "apparatchik", or "agent of the apparatus", of the Daily Kos. I have never taken orders from the Daily Kos. I do not even read the Daily Kos except to read science posts by Darksyde that he does not post here also at UTI.
I am pretty non-political, actually. I suppose my atheism causes quite a few folks to place me into the "lefty" category. As does my co-blogger association with Darksyde who writes front-page articles (mostly on science!) for the Daily Kos.
However, the reality is much more bland than that. I was a conservative Republican for the lion's share of my voting years, and have just recently changed my party affiliation to independent. Heck, I still consider myself an old-school fiscal conservative - you know, the folks who looked a hell of a lot like little-"l" libertarians. I do not agree with the "new right's" slip into what looks suspiciously to me like the "old left's" concern with my fucking private life. But I realized that there are exactly two types of people in politics; Those who want to control other people, and those who do not want to control other people. (in corrolary, the citizens of the US fall into those who want to be controlled, and those who do not want to be controlled, obviously.)
Everything else - every label, classification, etc., blah blah blah, is just window dressing.
The second thing is this:
I denounce astrology as a smelly, steaming pile of made-up, woo-woo, wishful thinking and sympathetic magical nonsense. If Jerome Armstrong truly believes in that crap, then my estimation of him just fell through the floor - regadless of his politics, political acumen, or his good intentions with respect to the Democratic Party.
The political system must remain secular, or we all get the shaft at one point or another. That includes astrology. However, I do not believe that mixing astrology into politics is as dangerous to our society at this time as mixing religion into our politics is.
Commissar, I see what you're trying to do - and I happen to agree with you. Nut cases seem to be spread evenly throughout the population - right, left, center, or out in left field. It is right and proper that we take the time to focus on these screwballs and not align ourselves with them.
But I do not agree with the Commissar's assessment of the relative weights of these two pseudo-sciences, astrology and creation science. It's comparing grapes to watermelons.
...and knock it out of the park! The Atheist Seeker writes a very good post on what the word "supernatural" means. Surprise! It doesn't mean anything!
[link] I did a research. And I was surprised with what I found. Supernatural has no definition. If it has no definition, then it is meaningless. If it is meaningless then it is ontologically bankrupt. Let me explain.
When a person is asked what is "supernatural", the person can only answer something along the lines: "Anything that isn't natural", "Something that is opposite natural", "something contra natural", "beyond natural", "an immaterial thing" - these are all negative terms. In other words they can only say what it is not NOT what it is. To define is to say what something is. Let's say someone asked me: "Could you define dog to me?" and to that I replied "something that is not an elephantt", you can see here that I haven't provided the asking person any information on what a dog is. I only told him what is it not, which is ontologically useless. An ontology is a specification of a conceptualization. But if I provide no specifications, how can anyone understand what a dog is?
Excellent. The Philippines have an awesome and underappreciated community of atheist and secular bloggers writing from a country that is constitutionally a "Christian Nation". They come from a context that us American atheists probably do not understand very well. Check them out if you get a chance (I'm sure there's more - add them in the comments please):
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...
Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute and the team leader on the Human Genome Project is a smart guy, obviously. And yet he still falls prey to the Argument From Personal Incredulity, sometimes stated as "I don't know how it happened, so it must have been God".
[link] "When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it," he said. "But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.
"When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can't survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can't help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God's mind."
This provides to me an underline in what I have come to accept as part of the human condition; that is to say the human tendency to become overwhelmed by something - information, data, whatever - and have your brain retreat into an unreal fantasyland, almost like a defense mechanism. It puts me in mind of a bunny rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, stuck, quivering, won't go forward, won't go back. At that point a human being uses it's wonderful brain to rationalize themselves into a position that they can accept without going insane.
In Collins' case he seems to have latched onto "theistic evolution" as his escape hatch.
More below the fold...