Friday, December 24, 2010

Proof of the existence of Santa Claus!

In the merry spirit of Christmas, I hereby provide you multiple irrefutable proofs of Santa's existence. Now it just seems so obvious! (Courtesy of Richard Carrier.)

The Santalogical Argument
  1. Santa Claus is by definition the greatest gift giver conceivable.
  2. An actual gift giver is by definition greater than an imaginary gift giver.
  3. If an actual gift giver is greater than an imaginary one, then the greatest gift giver must be an actual one and not imaginary.
  4. But (per premise 1) no gift giver can be conceptually greater than Santa Claus.
  5. Therefore, Santa Claus exists.

The Christmasological Argument
  1. Either the universe had a beginning or has always existed.
  2. Both science and logic entail the universe had a beginning.
  3. Therefore the universe had a beginning.
  4. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  5. Therefore the universe had a cause.
  6. Every cause must be either personal or mechanical.
  7. But every mechanical cause is by definition a part of the universe, and therefore no mechanical cause can have preceded the universe to cause it.
  8. Therefore the universe must have had a personal cause.
  9. Creating the universe is the greatest gift conceivable.
  10. The greatest gift conceivable can only have been given by the greatest gift giver conceivable.
  11. Santa Claus is by definition the greatest gift giver conceivable.
  12. Therefore, Santa Claus caused the universe to exist.
  13. Therefore, Santa Claus exists.

The Fine Gifting Argument
  1. The laws and constants of the universe are finely tuned to require the installation of vents, chimneys, and shafts in all households in which people live (due to the laws of thermodynamics and chemical respiration).
  2. It is extraordinarily improbable that those laws and constants would be arranged in precisely the way that would require exactly what Santa Claus needs to enter our homes and deliver His gifts or coals.
  3. It is very probable that if Santa Claus arranged the laws and constants of the universe that He would arrange them in exactly that way, which (lo and behold) is the way they actually are.
  4. Therefore it is far more probable that Santa Claus arranged the laws and constants of the universe than that random chance did.
  5. Therefore it is far more probable that Santa Claus exists.
  6. Therefore Santa Claus exists.

Argument from Christmas Miracles
  1. Miraculous events have been documented to occur at and around Christmas (by multiple eyewitnesses and even mechanical recording devices that never lie, like TV cameras).
  2. It is extraordinarily improbable that those miracles occur just by chance.
  3. It is very probable that they would occur if Santa Claus caused them.
  4. Therefore it is far more probable that Santa Claus caused them than that random chance did.
  5. Therefore it is very probable that Santa Claus exists.
  6. Therefore Santa Claus exists.

Hopefully, if you are familiar with theistic arguments you will understand the humor in the above proofs. Have a Merry Christmas and, don't forget, Santa Claus loves you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

God on Trial: The Verdict

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Contradictions in the Bible

Biblical contradiction map
I came across this graph of biblical contradictions as I was browsing the internets the other day and though this was interesting enough to share. It's an enormous image plotting a large number of Biblical contradictions (439) with multiple sources for each specific instance. It might not be the best reference in practicality, but it does look pretty cool. Cool enough to make a wall poster, perhaps? It was made by The Reason Project, created by Sam Harris and his wife, of whom I am big fans.

It's pretty astounding that there are still so many people who deny that there are any contradictions in the Bible at all - as if it were some perfectly consistent book that people have continuously tried to poke holes in but somehow never could. To anyone who has actually done research on it, they know the fundamentalist claim is a bunch of crap, but for people who don't know or would just rather believe otherwise, it's a relatively easy claim to make. You don't really have to know anything about what's in the bible or have fully read it, and in the event that a good, sound contradiction is proposed, it can usually be dismissed by a wave of the hand to the tone of, "you're taking it out of context," "you don't understand the full meaning of the passage," or, my favorite, "God works in mysterious ways."

I think the real answer is obvious - it's a collection of writings made by many different men over a long period of time. Most 120-minute long movies don't go without some kind of plot holes; why should we expect any differently from a 788,258 word mega-book? I doubt that the document I have linked above is even an exhaustive list, but it's certainly a good starting point and enough to chew on for those who may think that the bible is the infallible and inerrant word of an all-knowing god.

To be fair, I certainly haven't checked all of these myself (though I did look up a few I wasn't familiar with) and I grant that not all of these may even be contradictions. Some may simply be legitimate misunderstandings or translation issues. However, that begs the question: is a book so poorly written as to be interpreted differently by almost every Christian indicative of the work of an all-powerful god? If so, I think I could do him one better, and if not, why give him the omni-attributes in the first place? Something to think about.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is God Selfish and Vindictive?

There aren't many people I can count on more to dodge questions or commit fallacies than Answers in Genesis. Their most recent newsletter asks this title question and their full article does little to answer it. They first quote Richard Dawkins as saying,
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
I agree with pretty much all of this statement. But instead of trying to refute each (or any) of these statements, they merely shift the subject like so:
Since Dawkins is so adamant in his atheism, perhaps he could explain why any of these things are wrong from an evolutionary point of view. After all, if his philosophical naturalistic beliefs are correct, then there is no such thing as right or wrong. Hence, there would be nothing bad about any of these attributes he assigns to the God of the Bible. Only the Bible provides the basis for morality, so it is hypocritical and illogical for Dawkins or other atheists to appeal to morality while attacking Scripture.
First, why does morality have to have anything to do with evolution? Why is there no such thing as right and wrong if there's no god? Why can only a god can provide a basis for morality? None of these questions are answered - just assumed to be true in the text. I don't want to go into too much detail about morality here because I've already done so somewhat before and probably will again soon. Suffice to say that judging God by common morality (agreed upon by pretty much all civilized societies), Yahweh is one of the most evil people in all of fiction for the reasons Dawkins describes. Even if it were true that somehow, we could never discern right and wrong without appealing to a higher power defined as good, Yahweh does not pass his own moral test. One cannot exclaim killing/murder (depending on what translation you read) to be wrong and command genocide. But more on that later.
First, since God is the Creator of all things, He gets to set the rules.
Be a little more clear. It would be true, in some sense, that he sets the rules in what we are and are not capable of, physically and mentally. But he has no power over morality in that he cannot simply define good as being "like his nature" any more than any other god could. Christians, if you found out one day that your God had been defeated by a more powerful super-God that Yahweh forgot to mention and he declared that, because he is in power, it is morally required to kill every one of your family members and drink their blood, would you consider that "good"? After all, the one with the biggest stick makes the rules! What... you don't agree? The obviously you don't consider the ruler to be the definition of morality - you just attribute it to him because you perhaps cannot think of any other reason we should be good or have any definition of morality without him. And that is unfortunate, but doesn't make it true.
Second, God is perfectly just and must judge sin.
How do you know he is just? Surely you must just be taking his word. Because if I told you that I sent everyone who didn't like me into the torture chamber to be beaten and burned until they die - simply for the fact they didn't accept me for who I was - you'd call me anything but just.
Third, all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and deserve death (Romans 6:23). The fact that God allows us to live at all demonstrates His mercy.
Right, because allowing us to live is so merciful, considering that there are all kinds of other merciful things that he could be doing, like: developing a cure for cancer, eradicating AIDS, solving world hunger, getting rid of Satan once and for all, or making Justin Beiber's voice finally change. The only person who thinks we should all die because we've done at least one wrong thing (or been born with a 'sin nature') is God, and it's already obvious to me and most other clear thinkers that he's not that just to begin with.
With that in mind, is it fair to call God selfish, demanding, and vindictive? Absolutely not! God created a perfect world and gave man dominion over it.
There's no way God created a perfect world. A perfect world, by definition, could never become imperfect. Obviously this world is less than perfect and that's a reflection on the thing who made it, if such a maker exists. You don't blame the plumber for faulty pipe manufacturing. And dominion? Explain T. rexes, grizzlies, and mountains.
If there were no eternal consequences for sin, then people would know they could act however they wanted, and the world would become even worse.
People always can act however they want. That isn't the point. The argument being made here is that if there is no eternal punishment, anyone can and should do whatever they want (terrible, evil, selfish things - I infer that this is what most Christians would do upon learning God doesn't exist). Compelling argument. You should try it sometime and tell me what your friends, family, neighbors, the cops, and the media think about your mental state.
God’s laws are not overbearing, but were given to protect us from others and from ourselves.
That's exactly what I think when I remember that the penalty for a child's disobedience to his parents was stoning. It's a shame that we aren't still practicing this today!
In the book of Joshua, God commands the Israelites to conquer several cities throughout the Promised Land and to kill every person in some of these towns. How can anyone possibly think of God as loving in light of these commands?
Please, do tell.
Approximately 400 years before these battles, God had given the land to Abraham and his descendants (through Isaac and Jacob). However, God also told Abraham that his descendants would serve the Egyptians for 400 years before taking possession of the land. The reason for this delay is that “the iniquity (sin) of the Amorites [was] not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). God graciously gave the people dwelling in the Promised Land 400 years to turn from their sinful ways. When they did not, He used the Israelites as an instrument of judgment.
Oh, ok. God promised the Israelites land that was already occupied because instead of just giving them an easy passageway to a land uninhabited, he thought it would be more fun to have them fight and kill their way through men, women, children and babies. Make no mistake, they had 400 years to change their ways. But they didn't, and the best, most humane, and most enlightened way to deal with it was to slaughter everyone. Sounds very Christian of them.
Second, in many of these battles, the people were commanded to first make an offer of peace (Deuteronomy 20:10–12). It is only in the cases where the people of the land were exceedingly wicked that the Israelites were commanded to utterly destroy them (Deuteronomy 20:16–18).
Does it really make sense that every nation they come up against to conquer would want to make peace with them, especially when the Israelites are instructed to keep those people as slaves if they agree? What would you do if some Muslim extremists came over here and told us to fight them or become slaves? I feel like I shouldn't even have to spell these things out. No, any nation with an army capable of fighting and enough brains to realize what slavery is would immediately reject such an offer. And in most cases, God instructs his people to wipe out everything that lived in the land. This includes all innocent beings like children and babies, not to mention innocent non-children. Some Christians/Jews will object and say, "There is no one innocent!" or "God has the right to give the death penalty to whomever he chooses!"

Response to #1: If you think you're just as guilty as anyone in one of those nations, perhaps you should consider killing yourself so that you receive just as much pure justice doled out by God as they did.
Response to #2: Power does not equal right. If it's wrong for Hitler to kill a million Jews, it's wrong for God to kill a million Canaanites/Amalekites/Hittites/Perizzites/Jebusites/Hivites.
However, in every single case, God provided the means of salvation for those who would trust Him.
"Convert or we'll kill you!" - Always a convincing argument.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Science Update

So I've been really busy lately and have spent most of my free time doing other things than blogging. I do, however, still read my weekly Answers In Genesis emails which always prove to be interesting for all the wrong reasons. Their latest comic in the After Eden series is pretty baffling, even for them.

They are apparently insinuating that, if you believe in science, you can't have any firm grasp on reality because it is always changing its mind about the basic way the world works. By the second, apparently. Now if you go to the web page where this picture originated, there is no context, no explanation, and no author's note. It simply exists as-is, leaving the reader to infer as he or she wishes. I'm willing to bet that's because there isn't much to explain about an outright lie.

What exactly have we been taught about the origin of life? Not evolution mind you, because that deals with how life changes after it already exists. We're talking about abiogenesis (the study of how life began), and there is not one perfect scientifically accepted consensus on how everything went down. Unlike religion, science doesn't claim to know how something works until they actually do. Scientists don't claim to know for a fact how it all began and they certainly haven't been switching back and forth on this issue like the comic implies. They do have some good ideas, to be sure, but they don't have the mountains of evidence supporting their case like we have for evolution theory, atomic theory, cell theory, etc.

Believe it or not, it takes a lot of time and evidence for science to accept something as fact. This is actually one of its great strengths - it doesn't change its mind at every different idea that comes along, it waits and takes time to evaluate arguments put forth by different parties and isn't really ever happy until it has a theory that accounts for all of the data and explains why other alternative models are wrong or incomplete. We have a high degree of certainty that science can accurately discover the way the world works because of its rigor and demand for evidence - something creationism can't even attempt to offer.

I'm frankly disgusted by the ignorance put on display here. You'd have to already be some kind of indoctrinated and uneducated to think this is any sort of legitimate scientific weakness and, to top it off, in case by some slim chance I have any AiG staff readers, your comic isn't funny either. Sorry.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Morality of God

I was going to write a blog entry about what I think of the morality of the God of the bible (inspired by my previous post), but came across this gem, courtesy of The Atheist Experience. Matt Dillahunty, the co-host, sums things up better than I probably could. The first video pretty much sums up my feelings but the second one definitely continues down the line of reasoning very well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Objective Morality, Revisited

Because there was some confusion over one of my previous posts, I'd like to clarify what my views are on morality. I do think that morality is definitely objective if we agree on what the definition is. Religions have tried to squeeze their god(s) into the picture, but at its core, we pretty much all agree that "wrong" is something that increases suffering or needlessly decreases happiness while "right" is something that increases happiness or decreases suffering. If anyone doesn't agree that this definition encompasses at least 90% of their moral system, they have a poor concept of right and wrong.

The part that religions seem to add would be something like "wrong is doing whatever my god doesn't like" or "right is doing what my god commands." However, these are terrible methods by which to determine right and wrong. Like I've pointed out, if we base our standard on some being that "decides" morality, it could say that torture and genocide are good and commendable acts or that feeding your children is a despicable act of evil. Obviously, this would be absurd. However, as is evident in books like the bible, gods are often fond of commanding evil acts when it benefits them (or, more accurately, the ones speaking for them) in some way. Some examples in Christianity/Judaism would be Yahweh commanding the Israelites to wipe out entire towns and people groups because they occupied the "promised land." Before I hear any objections voice, realize there's a difference between wars fought between soldiers and an army killing all men, women, children, and babies in an area. There's just no excuse for that. Obviously, if any nation today told their military to kill every living person in a certain country, we would condemn them without question. And we wouldn't care if they said their god told them to do it. I think it's pretty obvious that "god told me to do X" is not a sufficient reason for any action. We don't give women who drown their children in bathtubs passes because Jesus told them to do it, and I wouldn't give the Israelites passes because Moses said that it was Yahweh's will. (Not that I'm implying that the Israelites actually did these things historically, but rather that the actions themselves would have been immoral.)

I'm not saying that all moral issues are black and white - obviously they're not, or we would have so many disagreements about things like socialized healthcare. Both sides of the issue, I think, want the best for the general public - they just disagree how best to implement it. Is it immoral to take money from citizens to pay for the care of others? Is it immoral to let people suffer because some people are unwilling to give money to support others' needs? I'm not sure, but do know that it is moral to attempt to lessen the suffering no matter the means by which it is achieved.

A relevant example of how "religious morality" is harming our nation is the vehement anti-gay marriage attitude espoused by many Christians, especially in the south. Analyzing this by my "objective morality" definition, I realize it is a good thing to allow homosexual marriage because it increases the happiness of the couples without increasing suffering of the protesters. I really wish everyone could see this issue as clearly as I believe I do, but some people would rather appeal to an archaic book than use their brain to analyze a position. I think it's a much more honorable thing to do to give gay couples what they should have had many years ago than to try to please a homophobic god whose existence hasn't been demonstrated to any legitimate extent.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Christian Dishonesty

Hello, blog. I've missed you. It's not that we don't get along anymore... it's just that... well, I built this new computer recently and she has more fun games to play than you. Don't take it personally - I just need to distribute my time better. So here's a little lovin' for you.

There is a YouTube user who goes by the name "Shockofgod" that I have become aware of recently. I'd like to preface what I'm about to say with this: most of the Christians I know personally are smart, reasonable, and enjoyable people to listen to and be around. Having said this, I want to briefly vent my frustration with a very stupid, arrogant, dumb, and wrong Christian. The man's name is Rich Allen and he goes around on his motorcycle "street preaching" and posts videos of himself on YouTube. My experience (echoed by many others I am aware of) has pissed me off moreso than I would allow many other people for various reasons.

It's one thing to go around and preach a message - I have no problem with people exercising their freedom of speech in any way they choose - but when someone essentially abuses the system by making it a one-way street, they instantly lose all of my respect. In Shockofgod's case, he posted a video in which he claims he called a popular weekly TV show called The Atheist Experience (a show with which I am quite familiar) which is based in Austin, TX. The problem is, he didn't call them. Nobody seems to be able to figure out exactly who he did call but based on the voices on the other end, some have suggested it was a different lesser-known atheist show in Florida. In any case, he claims to have stumped Experience by asking them the question, "Can you give me proof and evidence that atheism is accurate and correct?" Granted, in one sense he did have them in that he just would not stop talking and the hosts were too nice to push the mute button like they should have. The hosts did make an attempt to answer the question in between his interruptions and didn't do a bad job, but then again I don't think they quite understood his ill-formed question.

Rich censors the comments on his YouTube account so that only he is able to choose which ones make it into the comments section and which ones are deleted forever. While it's true that any video uploader has this power, it is their responsibility to handle it with maturity, and this fact is all the more true for discussions of importance. However, Rich continually shows his abysmal skill at making a point by disapproving every comment he disagrees with so that the discussion section is essentially a fundie echo chamber. This is dishonest because if what you are preaching is true, differences of opinion should not need to be censored. Of course, this is exactly what he does - in an attempt to save face. All the while knowing that he did not in fact call Experience in the first place. He has also disabled ratings on his videos since he knows that it would immediately be flooded with downvotes from the general public. I think it is despicable that on the one hand, a person would enjoy and use their freedom of speech while not giving that same right to everyone else.

Perhaps it wouldn't be quite as annoying if he were not so ignorant in the first place. He claims, as some Christians do, that he is an "ex-atheist" but shows a real lack of knowledge pertaining to even the definition of the word. What he says (both in his videos and in on his page) is so asinine you have to wonder how he even has any followers. He has no respect for those of different faiths (or none at all) and continuously accuses them of being evil, amoral people. He isn't a philosopher, apologist, or scientist, yet constantly proclaims his "sound victory" over those he "debates" with even when it is immediately obvious to those who agree with him that he has not done so. Imagine having a disagreement with a friend wherein he declares himself the victor regardless of the absurdity of his statements and then proceeds to shout you down as you protest. It's safe to say that you probably wouldn't be friends with someone like that for very long.

My blog has been and always will be a "safe haven" of free speech. I allow and encourage those who disagree to comment or vote on my posts. I'm interested in the truth and would thank someone for showing me how I was wrong so that I can be less wrong in the future.

Christians: to you I say, distance yourself from this deluded man. Be honest with your dealings with those who disagree. People understand that if you have to protect yourself from criticism you are probably already wrong. Don't be afraid to engage people in areas where you disagree because you might learn something. And, bottom line, don't be a pompous douchebag.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Epic Plan of Salvation

According to Christian theology, God is a perfectly holy, moral, just, forgiving, and loving God. Basically, omni-everything-good. He lives up in the perfect "universe" of heaven where everyone is always happy (except for one Satan person and about 1/3 of the angels). God was just so loving that he decided to make humans so that they could also experience the pleasure and joy that heaven brings. Well, that heaven-on-earth brings. (It's close. Or at least, it was. 'Til it became un-perfect.) Unfortunately, God hates it when people do things that are so not in his nature. Not even things like undisputed moral wrongs, but things that he just decides to be wrong. (Sorry, gay people.) He can't stand them so much that he won't allow anyone to be in his presence if they have but even the faintest hint of sin on them. (Sin being anything that God doesn't like. He's picky with his company that way.)

Unfortunately, because Adam and Eve got fooled by a really ingenious snake/Satan, we're all naturally sinners! (Yes, it's fair. Trust me.) Because of this, we can't be with God when we die because we've either all done wrong or are just inherently unworthy from birth. Due to the fact that God can't coexist with sin, nothing imperfect is allowed into heaven and in his presence. (Satan is the exception.) Naturally, it follows that all humans must go to hell and be tortured forever and ever, no matter how much or little flawed they may be or however good or bad they lived their lives. Yes, that means you.

BUT - God doesn't want you to suffer! It's true. Because he's a logical God, he did the best that he could to provide you a way out of your suffering. (A thoughtful guy, eh?) Dispel any notions you may have conjured up about what you might do if you were an all-knowing god in this situation, because Yahweh is going to blow your mind. Here it is: For the vast majority of humankind, men were bad. (All of them.) In order for them to be forgiven for their sins, they had to slaughter the most perfect of their cattle, sprinkle their freshly-squeezed blood upon the altar, and burn the body as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. (I know, it makes so much sense!) However, God, being the ultimate Planner that he is, knew that this wouldn't work forever. (Well, he originally thought it would but then came up with an even BETTER idea!) Because God is unchanging (...mostly), he couldn't just outright modify his requirements for forgiveness. (That would just be silly.) So he did the next best thing - find a loophole. Because he needed to nip sacrifices in the bud once and for all, he decided to make a physical copy of himself. (Starting to make sense?)

He would send himself down to earth to live a normal human life (minus all of that nasty sinning and inherited sinful nature). He'd show that it is in fact possible to live a perfect life while being mortal - proving that he was actually God and that we don't live up to his standards. (Whether it's easy to be sinless if you're the definition of non-sin is still up for grabs.) But get this: instead of wimping out and just forgiving everybody instantaneously, he decides to show how much he loves us. (And get around those pesky laws.) What's the loophole, you ask? Well, God requires a perfect sacrifice, but one animal can only pay the price for one (or a few) sins (but not all of them) but Jesus (being God) (and human) in his eternal nature could pay the price for ALL of our sins! Hallelujah!

God brutally whipped and beat his own son (who was actually him) beyond human recognition and killed him in a most gruesome manner to appease himself so that he could officially forgive everyone without going against the laws that he himself made so that we could all go to heaven. He took the punishment for our crimes against him! (Well, except the suffering in Hell forever part.) And, to top it all off, on the third day (or second, depending on how closely you listen to calendars), he rose up from the grave, came back to life, and floated away into heaven! (Yes, it is a sacrifice even if the sacrificee doesn't technically stay dead.) (And yes, it's still a sacrifice even when you know you're going to get it back.)

The best part about it all is that it's FREE! Yes, anyone and everyone can now go to heaven and spend the rest of eternity in the exclusive God Won't Torture You Forever Club! You don't have to do anything to be eligible for this wonderful forgiveness. Well, except believe. You have to believe that all of this happened just like it was said and on the basis of that belief (and not your knowledge of the evidence or lack thereof) will your eternity rest. It really makes so much sense when you think about an omnipotent God doing what will save the most amount of souls, considering all other possibilities. (Why would he settle for a second-best plan? Looking at the ratio of saved to damned, I'd say this scheme is first-rate.) How could you imagine doing anything differently? (Remember: your eternal soul depends on how you answer that question.)

You... do believe, don't you?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Were we created in the image of God?

This week's AiG newsletter talks about angels, something I don't care too much about, but I'd like to highlight a few things I find interesting.
Mankind has a unique spiritual aspect, and this spirit is uniquely made in the image of God. We should expect this image to have certain aspects of God’s characteristics since God is spirit (John 4:24).
The word "spirit" or "spiritual" is meaningless. What is a spirit and what makes someone spiritual? It's a vague and vacuous concept used by people of all religions (and even non-religions) and it never means the same thing to two different people. How does it help me to realize that God is spirit? Does that just mean that he isn't physical? I can think of a lot of things that aren't physical but don't fall under most peoples' definitions of spiritual - math, anger, logical absolutes, etc. Does it describe those things that have life? Does that mean that animals and plants are spiritual as well? In most cases I think it's just synonymous with "religious."
Often Christians describe the image of God as superior intellectual ability, such as reason and abstract thought, worship of God, language and communication with God, ability to make decisions, creative expression, immortality, emotions such as love, sadness, anger, and so on. These attributes show how separate man is from beasts and other physical entities...
That's funny, because animals are capable of most things on that list. Many animals can reason (at least rudimentarily), communicate with each other (through what some would call languages), make decisions (part of reasoning), creatively express themselves, and contain various emotions like the ones mentioned. The only attributes I can see non-human animals having is the ability to worship gods (and in that aspect, perhaps they are better off) and abstract thought (though it'd be tough to know if extremely intelligent animals such as dolphins are capable of this). And the jury is still out on immortality.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: contrary to what the creationists would like to believe, we're just not that much different from the rest of the animals. We're just a bit smarter and better suited for general purposes. If I was created specially by a god, I would expect nothing less than the ability to shoot lasers out of my eyes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Complete and Utter Destruction of Modern Atheism

As I was watching some videos on YouTube, I came across one that attempted to show by metaphysics and knowledge justification that atheists are wrong. I didn't think it was very convincing, but it did cite as one of its sources an essay after which I title this blog entry. What surprises me is that the author Lenardos attempts to not only say that atheists have no justification for their beliefs about the universe, but also that they have been "destroyed," which seems more like "complete and utter crap." It baffles me to see articles like this, but in a world where people with no qualifications think themselves educated enough to speak on a topic without researching, this was bound to happen.

The entire essay is about 3700 words so I wouldn't expect anyone to read it, though I got through most of it without barfing. I will cite his major points and provide rebuttals as I think he rambles far too much for me to criticize every minor thing he says.
When one thinks of the modern day atheist, one may think of a rational person, perhaps a scientist, an empiricist; someone who deals with the hard facts found in the world around us, someone who does not accept unjustified beliefs.
Yes, that would be the goal. Unfortunately, imperfect as we all are, we can only strive toward this and we get closer all the time.
This paper will show that there is a disconnect between this image of the atheist compared to the implications of the basic elements that make up the atheists theory of reality. What I mean by this is: we are going to find that if any atheistic theory of reality is true, then there is no justification for any knowledge about a world around us.
So here we go, off on an intellectual journey. We'll see if my world gets blown to bits or if his arguments just fizzle out like that fire cracker you always got on the 4th of July while all the other kids' exploded and caused them great happiness.
Now, I am not saying that we don’t know about the world around us, I am just pointing out that the elements of any atheistic theory of reality do not allow for the justification of that knowledge. We must keep this in mind at all times. The question is not, can we know anything at all about the world; but, given any atheistic theory of reality, can we know anything about the world?
Well that would appear to be a fair question. In fact, it's a fair question if you replace the word "atheistic" with "theistic." Or "deistic." But let's see where he's going with this.
Here is a short list of necessary preconditions the atheist (or anyone for that matter) would need to support the above:
  1. sense perceptions that tell about the world
  2. the uniformity of nature
  3. inductive principle
  4. deductive principle
But we are not done yet, there is one more level, the very basic level: one’s theory of reality. One’s theory of reality is the glasses one uses to see everything else. It is this level that must have the elements to support the entire philosophical structure. If it does not, then the entire structure falls apart.
Up to this point, his logic seems to be sound. Or at least, I don't have any objections to it. Now here's the point where he starts to slip up.
In this paper we will examine the implications of all logically possible atheistic metaphysics, to see where they lead. I think you will be surprised. We will go step by step through all atheistic theories of reality. Not only will we show that the elements of all atheistic theories of reality are insufficient to justify sense perceptions, but all of them actively destroy the possibility for any justification of sense perceptions. The first thing we will find is that there are two main categories that all cosmologies fall into; they are atheism and theism (see chart 1)
The Theistic category says that one element of reality is the existence of God. The Atheistic category says that in the scheme of reality, no God exists. Since this is an antithesis, all cosmologies will have to fall into one of these two categories. In other words, there is no logical third option possible.
My first objection is his classification system. Why classify it according to belief in a God? Why do you think that is relevant at all? Why not according to culture or language or brain chemistry? All of those affect your perceptions of the world as well. Nevertheless, let's follow him down this path.

If everything is what it is by accident or unintentionally, then so is the way that every particle, atom and molecule interacts with every other particle, atom and molecule. There is no intent, reason or justification for them being as they are.
False. This is an equivocation. While it may be true that everything is what it is "unintentionally" (as intentions are typically thought of as coming from minds), that does not mean there is no reason or justification as to why they are as they are. It doesn't even matter if I don't know the reasons why things are as they are. I don't understand how oxygen and hydrogen react, but does that mean there is no reason for them to do so?
From a naturalist point of view, you can say things are what they are, but no justification can be applied to what or why they are. To do so would be to deny the basic concept of unintentionalism. So, there is no reason or possible justification for thinking that our sense perceptions give us information about the world around us. I am not saying that our perceptions don’t give us information about the world around us, I am just saying that the naturalist theory of reality does not allow for a justification that our sense perceptions do tell us about the world around us.
Now how do you make that leap? From "don't know why something is" to "no justification that your sense perceptions are accurate" is a non sequitur. Sorry.
Let me put it this way, given the elements of the naturalist’s theory of reality it is possible that our sense perceptions are telling us about the world around, but it is just as possible that they are not. We can never know.
Yes, it is true that our sense perceptions could be fundamentally completely wrong. I don't know why they would be, but it's possible, sure. Perhaps the question you should ask yourself, Lenardos, is, "do I have any reason to disbelieve my senses?" And not in an "oh, sometimes I can be wrong" kind of way but in a basic, conceptual way. Do you think that, largely, our senses are wrong about pretty much everything? The author seems to think they're OK, but also claims that I can't say that. So far he hasn't offered any real logical reason for me to believe him yet.
The next question is about unintentionalism. There are three possible positions here:
  1. Everything is what it is unintentionally
  2. Everything is what it is intentionally
  3. Some things are what they are intentionally.
The latter two require an intender be involved either in all things or some things. May I suggest that a cosmic intender might be a problem for any atheistic position? So we are left with just unintentionalism, everything is what it is unintentionally. So, here we are at naturism.
It depends on what scale you ask that question. It may well have been unintentional for whatever process brought about the universe as we know it today, but some things are what they are intentionally due to natural beings capable of intent.
Since we have now shown that the only logically possible atheistic cosmologies are negationism and naturism, and since we have shown that neither of these can offer a justification for sense perceptions, we have shown that if ANY atheistic worldview is true, there can be no justification for sense perception.
You are correct in that on some level, we must assume it to be true that our senses do function in a way that accurately represents the reality we live in. What you haven't demonstrated is the idea that I have no reason whatsoever to believe that my sense perceptions are wrong, or what the alternative is in that case. But you don't offer one and in fact don't touch on the theist's position at all.
So, where does this leave the modern atheist? Let’s see: There is no reason for the atheist, given any atheistic theory of reality, to believe that his sense perceptions are telling him anything about the world around him. The basic assertion that his sense perceptions do tell him about the world around him is an unjustified belief.
No reason to believe that my sense perceptions tell me anything about the world around me? How about the world around me? Is that not a good reason to believe one exists? Do you recommend I reject this reality that I experience and instead stare at a wall for hours trying to come up with some way to  prove that I exist in a universe? I admit that it could be all wrong. It could just be an illusion or a trick that my mind is playing on me or a trick a god is playing on me, but I have no reason to think so. I do have every reason to believe that the world I see is the world that I am a part of and to not do so would be both irresponsible and insane.

What irks me is that you trot out this idea that because I can't conclusively prove that my sensory inputs are perfect, I have absolutely no justification in my beliefs about anything. You have not demonstrated this point (nor have you come close) but you speak as though you have "utterly destroyed" atheism. I still fail to see how the concept of a god has anything to do with this discussion. One point I would bring up to him is one that he thinks he has answered in his paper:
Objection 1— “You are in the same boat as I am, you can't justify sense perception from your theory of reality either!
Answer— First, the assertion that I can’t justify sense perception from my theory of reality is unproven, before you can make that assertion you have to provide the argument for it.
Second, it wouldn’t matter if I was in the same boat as you. That does not further or change your position. Regardless of who is in the boat with you, you still remain in the boat. The atheist's failure to justify sense perception from the elements of his theory of reality remains.
This objection is known as “Tu Quoque,” or the “You too! fallacy.” It is a fallacious means of reasoning. It falls under the category of “fallacies of relevance,” for the reason I mention above.
My assertion wouldn't need to be proven because you have provided no justification for your own senses based on a deity. I assume you do think that you have done so because if you hadn't this essay would have been irrelevant. However, you don't attempt to prove your position because you couldn't. Because as I've already said, the concept of gods has nothing to do with the discussion at all. My assumption is that you believe that a god (and not just any god, but the one you came up with in your own mind or believe because of your faulty perceptions) wouldn't deceive you with this reality. While that may sound more convincing, it's actually less convincing. On top of the assumptions that atheists make (that the universe exists, that we can know something about it, etc), theists make another assumption that is that a god exists. Well done. You've now made the problem worse. You have to attempt to show that a god exists for which there is no evidence in this reality (much less in any other reality that could possibly exist that might apparently be real but we couldn't know because our senses are wrong) and as show the other axioms to be true as well.

And that's your problem, Lenardos. Believing a god to exist doesn't make your problems go away. It just makes you look more like an amateur philosopher that hasn't taken the basic introductory course that any good university should offer. It didn't take me half a second to see past this "destruction" of atheism - and that should say something. If I've got it bad, you've got it worse. Stop bickering over "you can't prove that reality exists" and do something constructive, like building houses for poor people.

Unless you think they don't exist.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Interpreting Circumstances

Often times people cite personal experiences as evidence of a god - and not just any god, but their God (Allah, Yahweh, etc.). First, I'd like to say that no personal experience that someone else has had could ever convince me that a god exists. This may sound closed-minded, but I feel the same way about demons and ghosts and monsters. If someone were to tell me that they felt the presence of a ghost or even heard or saw one, I would not be obliged to believe them on testimony alone. While it's true that what they experienced may have been convincing for them, there's no way I can objectively and correctly analyze the scenario. To begin with, I wasn't there. I have no independent access to the events that took place. This is very important, because people tend (even unknowingly) to leave out important details when they don't think they're relevant. This assuming that they already know all of the details which surely never happens. So it isn't possible for me to come up with a possible alternate explanation for what happened because I only have access to what they remember and tell me. In short, their personal experience alone can't be enough to convince me.

But the important point I want to argue is that, in the case of experiences (positive or negative) relating to the existence of a god, it shouldn't be convincing to them either. I have heard many people over the years claim that "X good thing happened to me. This shows that God is there and that he cares for me." While that may seem like a nice thing to say, it's totally without merit and doesn't hold up under the slightest scrutiny. Let's say the example given is that someone receives a check in the mail for $400, exactly what they need to pay rent that month. The person claims that the only way that could have happened is if God orchestrated it. If you think this is true, allow me to ask a few questions.
  1. Was your bill exactly $400, or was it just pretty close?
  2. Did God himself send the check to fill your needs? If not, didn't that check come from a human and not from God? Did God make that person send you the check or was it of their own will?
  3. Have you ever received checks that didn't arbitrarily coincide with something else in your life? Did you credit those to God as well?
  4. If God is in the business of paying bills, why doesn't he do it more often?
  5. If God cares enough about you to pay your bills, why doesn't he also care enough about Africans to abolish AIDS? Or heal amputees? Or pay off the US's enormous debt?
The point I am trying to make is that there are a lot of assumptions in going from "X good thing happened" to "my God caused X to happen." When you start to examine the details, the magic of it all quickly fades away and you're left with very human answers. Sure, it could have been God behind the scenes influencing people somehow and supernaturally causing events to happen, but it's unlikely. I've never seen divine intervention, so I'm under no obligation to think that it happened in that person's case.

But another underlying assumption is at work here as well - that God wants good things to happen to you. Well, that might be true in some cases, but what if it wasn't always. Couldn't God want bad things to happen to you, for whatever reason? Some people do accept this line of thinking and believe that bad things are lessons and that they are better for having learned from them. If this is true, we now have evidence for God coming in the form of both good and bad things. (You can apply my previously-asked questions to bad experiences as well.)

My question is then, "How do you filter the God-caused events from the naturally caused ones?" That is to say, if God is in the business of causing good things to provide blessings and bad things to teach lessons, how can you ever say that one event is evidence of God? After all, any event could have had God behind it. Additionally (and more plausibly), any event could have had God completely out of the picture.

A final question I would ask is, "How is this event evidence of your God?" After all, couldn't it be some random other god? In none of the events did he actually reveal himself to you outside your own interpretational bias, did he/she? What if it's some other God punishing you for not believing in him? Or what if he is just allowing good things to happen to you because he isn't totally evil? There's no particular reason why any good or bad thing X must have been caused by supernatural being Y because there's never a correlation beyond the connections a person makes in his or her own mind. That's why Christians, for example, don't find personal stories from Muslims convincing and vice versa. And that's why I don't find any random event evidence of a particular god or religion.

Because out of all of the trillions of personal experiences that billions of people all over the planet have hundreds and thousands of times per day, some strange (even bizarre) coincidences are bound to happen. Even the best good, bad, and weird things will happen at the most (in)opportune times. And I don't find that evidence of the supernatural, especially considering the fact that people are just intrinsically bad at statistics.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Divine Comedy

An acquaintance of mine was recently reading my posts and was found to have differing opinions. He wrote a rebuttal and I, being a firm believer that the truth has nothing to hide from criticism, will link you to his blog where you can read it in full detail. He and I may go back and forth from time to time and it will be visible to everyone, whether our discussion is made public via blog post or comment. I may not always make full-on entries for every post he makes, but I suppose I'll start here. I'll begin by assuming you've read his entire post but I'll quote the relevant sections I'd like to address.

Gay marriage. What a topic. Let's cut right into the meat of it, shall we? I'll tell you where I stand; the Bible has been a guiding source of morality for western civilizations for a very long time. ... When our animal instincts tell us otherwise, our morals keep us from descending into hedonism. These morals have evolved with a heavy Christian influence. ... Our morals are what divide man and animal, in a meta-physical sense. ... Thus, when it comes gay marriage, I stick with the Bible - I say no.
There have been many different books over the ages that guided various civilizations in morality when people needed some fast and easy cure for the problems of their day. Some have done well - others not so well. While it is true that we can partially associate our western values with biblical teachings, this is a double-edged sword. Where you have commandments that say "you shall not murder," (*) you also have verses that say, "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (*) Where you have commandments that say "Love your neighbor as yourself," (*) you have verses that say, "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (*)

The bible is a mixed bag of good and bad teachings. Most people, like yourself, only focus on the morals we as a developed society agree with and forget about all of the primitive values associated with all things written at the time. And along with our western values came those things which we have abolished and are still trying to abolish today (slavery and sexism, respectively). Perhaps you can agree that because the bible is not totally inerrant that it must therefore contain flaws at some level. Does that not include morality? Can you think of a good excuse for allowing slavery and sexism if you're an all-powerful god that can command otherwise?

Appealing to a morally imperfect book like this does you no good, especially in the political arena. In the case of homosexuality, it lends itself no credibility in the area of determining whether or not gay marriage should be allowed. Of course, you're allowed to think all gay people are immoral and disgusting if you wish, but should you make it your business if two people want to be "immoral" together, legally? Perhaps, as you put it, live and let live?
I disagree with you and I do a better Dr. House impression. This is the way Niccolò Machiavelli determines what's right and wrong. There are some unwritten societal laws that do not follow a logical order. More importantly, there are questions that are impossible to answer using only logic, e.g. do the ends justify the means?
You highlight something I pointed out in my last post, namely that there are tough moral questions. And with tough questions come tough answers, if any at all. However, I won't stray too far on that subject because it's irrelevant. In the question of homosexuality, is allowing gay marriage an impossible question to answer? Or do some people just not like the answer I give, instead preferring to dwell in their moral caves sequestered from everything but the simple answers their holy book gives? Is it possible to give a logical "no" answer to this question that doesn't involve the bible? I eagerly await the response to this question moreso than to any others I have asked.
This is not how our country works. There are very specific institutions in place to protect the views and wishes of minority parties. The Judicial branch of our government is an almost exclusive arbiter of minority party rights.
I refer to, in general, the democracy that allows for majority positions to become law. After all, if the minority controlled the country, how could we ever expect to run it sensibly?
... 'some [people] are objects of His mercy and some are objects of His wrath.' (I paraphrase - this notion is called God's elect.) In a nutshell, not everyone can be saved.
How very unfortunate for these people. Perhaps the all-loving god is subjecting these unsavable people to eternal torture for...
  • the good of other humans?
  • a lesson for the angels?
  • his own amusement?
Or maybe the things stated in the bible don't come from a loving god but from the bigoted men that lived thousands of years ago who thought it was OK to own slaves, beat children, stone men for carrying sticks, oppress women, and commit genocide at every turn of their promised-land-journey? Do you have any doubt that homophobia could be just another point on that list?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Conservatives and Gay Marriage in America

New Answers Book 2The newsletter that Answers in Genesis sent me today didn't have much content in it, but it linked me back to their site for chapter 15 of The New Answers Book 2, entitled How Should a Christian Respond to "Gay Marriage"? (Yes, they did put gay marriage in quotes.) It's somewhat lengthy, so I won't attempt to respond to every claim they make but instead generally to each topic they bring up. This is probably the longest post I've done yet, so don't feel like you have to read all of it. I've underlined the headings they used in their chapter so you can skip around to the more interesting bits if you like. And if you agree or disagree with what I've said, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

An Atheist on a Talk Show

 Ken Ham recalls having a conversation with an atheist on some kind of talk show, which I'm sure he didn't make up.
Caller: “I’m an atheist, and I want to tell you Christians that if you believe Cain married his sister, then that’s immoral.”

AiG: “If you’re an atheist, then that means you don’t believe in any personal God, right?”

Caller: “Correct!”

AiG: “Then if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe there’s such a thing as an absolute authority. Therefore, you believe everyone has a right to their own opinions—to make their own rules about life if they can get away with it, correct?”

Caller: “Yes, you’re right.”

AiG: “Then, sir, you can’t call me immoral; after all, you’re an atheist, who doesn’t believe in any absolute authority.”
I would first point out that there's nothing innately immoral about marrying your sister from an atheist perspective, it's just a culture taboo. Not that it wouldn't be weird or creepy, but it would be difficult for me to argue that it's wrong to do so. However, according to the biblical commandments, incest is a sin and that's exactly what was required for Adam and Eve's children (if they were literal people) to do if they were to populate the earth. Instead of dealing with this issue, Ken turns the tables on the atheist and accuses him of not having any morals. A while back, I covered the issue of the divine command theory (otherwise known as "God commanded it, it's moral") and why it is irrelevant to morals. I would disagree with the atheist's last statement here, however, as while people can have their own opinions, it isn't about what they can get away with. It's about what is and isn't good for society and other people. Morals can, unfortunately, be a complicated issue and no one book (including the bible) has the answers to all tough questions. I know of places where the bible has good advice and I know where it contains bad advice. I think most Christians know how to weed out the good from the bad, highlighting their own sense of non-biblical morality.
AiG: “Do you believe all humans evolved from apelike ancestors?”

Caller: “Yes, I certainly believe evolution is fact.”

AiG: “Then, sir, from your perspective on life, if man is just some sort of animal who evolved, and if there’s no absolute authority, then marriage is whatever you want to define it to be—if you can get away with it in the culture you live in.

“It could be two men, two women or one man and ten women; in fact, it doesn’t even have to be a man with another human—it could be a man with an animal.

“I’m sorry, sir, that you think Christians have a problem. I think it’s you who has the problem. Without an absolute authority, marriage, or any other aspect of how to live in society, is determined on the basis of opinion and ultimately could be anything one decides—if the culture as a whole will allow you to get away with this. You have the problem, not me.”
Um, no. First, our origins have nothing to do with our morals. What isn't important is how we got here. What is important is how we treat each other now that we're here. Incidentally, most animals do operate under some sense of morals despite the fact that they too are, well... animals and don't have brains as developed as ours. They don't have the bible or any other book to tell them what's right and wrong, yet some animals have an especially strong sense of community. And about bestiality, I'm not sure where Ken Ham is pulling this logic from. You can't jump from two consenting adults to an adult and an animal who couldn't consent or even attempt to understand what that means. Now of course Ken doesn't let the atheist respond, or at least doesn't quote him here. I wouldn't let anyone get away with saying something like that without attempting a rebuttal, even if what was said was so stupid it almost refutes itself.

The “Pragmatics” Aspect of Opposing Gay Marriage—Some Cautions
Even though such problems as the spread of HIV might be shown to be a sound argument in this issue, ultimately it’s not a good basis for stating that one man for one woman must be the rule. It may be a sound argument based on the pragmatics of wanting to maintain a healthy physical body, but why should one or more human beings have the right to dictate to others what they can or can’t do in sexual relationships? After all, another person might decide that the relationship between one man and woman in marriage might cause psychological problems and use that as the basis for the argument.
Well, now we're getting somewhere. Yes, it is about giving two consenting adults the right to marry who they want, even if there are consequences (limited to the two in the act) because giving them the right wouldn't infringe on anyone else's rights to choose as well. The answer is staring you right in the face, but I don't think you quite see it. In fact, I'm quite sure, since you continue on for another 3/4 of a chapter.

Allowing the Killing of a Newborn?
Ultimately, it comes down to this: How does a culture determine what is right and what is wrong? If the majority agrees on a set of standards, what happens when that majority is replaced by a different majority?
We attempt to determine what is right and wrong by coming together and reasoning it out. I realize that logic seems to evade those hard-line creationists, so I understand why this concept is so difficult to grasp. But let's look at America today. Take socialized healthcare. Some people believe that it's the "right" thing to do, others believe it's the "wrong" thing. Could it be a moral question? Is is right to withhold care from those who can't afford it? Is it right to charge disinterested third parties to care for another? These are morals questions and there are people on both sides of the issue who think they take the moral high ground. Incidentally, both sides have tried to claim that theirs is the position supported by the bible, though there's no clear command from Jesus pertaining to the government's role in it.

If a different majority comes in and replaces the standards/law, then that's the new law. If you don't like it, then try to change it. You'll have to convince people that you're correct and your reasoning is better than the current reasoning. That's why a democracy is a good thing. Instead of having one man decide the laws (no matter how good a person he may be), we can have the votes of many and attempt to determine where most people stand. I know the objection here is "but what if everyone is wrong?" Tough. If you think we have the wrong standard, don't follow the standard. To date, I've never seen any example of the horrible things that could happen if we all were somehow creating our own standards (which we have been for millenia).
Some might say that there is no way Western culture would allow pedophilia. Fifty years ago, however, most people probably would not have dreamed that America or Britain would ever allow gay marriage. Where does one draw the line? And who determines who draws that line? What’s the answer?
Just as with bestiality, it comes down to consent. Now as I understand, Mary (wife of Joseph) was, according to what I learned in church, a young woman, perhaps even girl, at the age of about 12 when she was betrothed and the angel visited her. Obviously, the church can't consider this to be pedophilia since that would bring charges to Joseph and God that most people wouldn't want to deal with. The question then is, at what age is a person old an mentally ready enough to consent to a relationship? Certainly not at 5. Perhaps at 12. It's kind of fuzzy, really, because peoples' maturity can vary so widely. I think that's partly why we have it at 18 in most place in America. It's a nice safe age where no one can accuse you of being too young.

Does the Church Have the Answer?
One Christian leader was interviewed on MSNBC-TV and was asked about the gay marriage issue. The interview went something like this:

TV host: “Did Jesus deal directly with the gay marriage issue?”

Christian leader: “No, but then Jesus didn’t deal directly with the abortion issue or many other issues. . . .”

This is such a disappointing response. A proper response could have been such a powerful witness—not only to the interviewer but to the potential millions of viewers watching the news program, so people could understand why this Christian leader opposed gay marriage.
Perhaps a disappointing response for you, but an honest answer nonetheless. I think later you'll attempt to twist the meaning of a Jesus-quote to support your views but we'll get there eventually.
The same Christian leader appeared on CNN-TV doing an interview that, in part, went something like the following:

Interviewer: “Why are you against gay marriage?”

Christian leader: “Because down through the ages, culture after culture has taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

We believe this kind of answer actually opens the door to gay marriage! How? Because it basically says that marriage is determined by law or opinion.
Really? Because this seems to be the most oft-cited defense of traditional marriage. By throwing this out, what argument do you have left? ...Oh right, the Bible. *Sigh*
So, why is it that we don’t see many Christian leaders giving the right sorts of answers? I think it’s because the majority of them have compromised with the idea of millions of years of history, as well as evolutionary beliefs in astronomy, geology, and so on. As a result, the Bible’s authority has been undermined, and it’s no longer understood to be the absolute authority.
Wow, I've seen creationists confuse the ideas of evolution, cosmology, and abiogenesis, but this is something new. Apparently the people at AiG confuse evolutionary biology, astronomy, and geology with marriage. And willfully and honestly, at that. Wow. Now certainly, science conflicts with the most literal reading of Genesis, but most Christians aren't as conservative as you and don't take the biblical account to be anything other than metaphorical or allegorical.

Gay Marriage—Is Evolution the Cause?

To respond to this heading, don't be stupid. But I think Ken would like to clarify:
It is accurate to say that the increasing acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage has gone hand in hand with the popularity and acceptance of millions of years and evolutionary ideas. But this does not mean that every person who believes in millions of years/evolution accepts gay marriage or condones homosexual behavior.
Ok, well "hand-in-hand" is open to interpretation, I suppose, but nonetheless, they're two completely separate topics that do not overlap. And that's why your last sentence is correct. Another correct sentence is "Not every person who enjoys Kit Kat bars thinks that we need to spend money on NASA's space exploration program." Their claim is bordering on a non sequitur.
Cultures in the West were once pervaded by a primarily Christian worldview because the majority of people at least respected the Bible as the authority on morality. It needs to be clearly understood that over the past 200 years the Bible’s authority has been increasingly undermined, as much of the Church has compromised with the idea of millions of years (this began before Darwin) and has thus begun reinterpreting Genesis. When those outside the Church saw Church leaders rejecting Genesis as literal history, one can understand why they would have quickly lost respect for all of the Bible. If the Church doesn’t even believe this Book to be true, then why should the world build its morality on a fallible work that modern science supposedly has shown to be inaccurate in its science and history?
Maybe the problem for people rejecting the Bible as an authority on morality was when we abolished slavery in America. Another problem could have been our progress toward giving women equal rights. Both go against what the Bible preaches (and we're better off for it) so I suppose I understand what Ken's saying. As a side note, from what I understand, AiG's position on a literal Adam & Eve is a relatively new movement in Christianity. Many of the old saints did not believe in such a literal reading of scripture. And now for possibly the dumbest image AiG has ever produced:

Church vs Church
Yes, that's right, churches accepting evolution and millions of years result in abortions, euthanasia, porn, racism, and gay sex. Only one picture can describe my reaction to this stunning display of stupidity.

Mocking the Bible
The author then, mockingly, wrote, “Ah, Genesis. Heaven and earth created in six days, a serpent that talks, and a 600-year-old man building an ark. Just the guide we need to set rational policy.”
 Actually, I think that sums it up perfectly. Props to AiG for doing my work for me!

Were Homosexuals Created That Way?
Human sexuality is very complex, and the arguments will long rage as to the causes of homosexual behavior. In this fallen world, most behaviors are a complex mix of one’s personal choices superimposed on a platform of predisposition. This can come both from one’s genetic makeup and one’s environment (for example, one’s upbringing). Few students of human nature would doubt the proposition that some personalities are much more predisposed to alcoholism and/or wife beating, for instance. But would anyone argue that this would make wife beating acceptable?
No, they wouldn't. And shouldn't. But boy, aren't you having a tough time with the concept of "consent" today, Ken? Wife-beating victimizes one party, leaving her with physical and emotional scars. Gay marriage is the agreement between two people that they both actively wish to participate in the act. Totally. Different.
The case for a “homosexual gene” has evaporated, but let’s say that researchers really were able to identify such a gene. After all, mutations in a cursed, fallen world can cause all sorts of abnormalities and malfunctions. For one thing, that would be a result of the Curse, not creation. And would knowledge of such a gene make right what Scripture clearly says is wrong? Absolute right and wrong exist independent of any secondary causative agencies.
And yet in the previous quote you admit that a person's "genetic makeup" helps determine the sexual identity of a person. However, if you don't agree that genetics (or at least biology) affects sexuality, you might do some reading on the subject. If you don't like Wikipedia, feel free to peruse the 86+ references they cite.
In fact, it is quite possible that a contributing factor to at least some cases of homosexuality is a dysfunctional upbringing right at the time when the child is gaining crucial environmental input regarding his or her own sexual identity. (Notice the importance the Bible places on bringing up children, the family unit, and so on.) But if anything, this highlights one of the huge risks of “married” gay people bringing up adopted children, namely the vulnerability of the children to confused messages about their own sexual identity. To put it simply, if one’s environment contributes to homosexuality, gay marriage will tend to increase the likelihood of the next generation being gay.
Oh no, Mommy and Daddy are fighting again! Also, I like boys now...

I want to link that facepalm picture again, but I feel it would lose some of its effect on repeated appearances. Anyway, when you talk about "huge risks" for sending "confused messages" to children when they're determining their own sexuality, you assume beforehand that it's a bad thing to be gay. As we know, growing up in a mostly-heterosexual society doesn't make you straight. Why should we conclude that growing up in a society accepting of gays would lead to more gays? It's more complicated than that, and it's not as though we can just plug a child into a formula and determine their sexuality before they do.

Also, I'm confused by this image:
Are we saying that men with little mutated elbow stubs need to find physically scarred women with giant gaps in their sides? That it's possible for two differently-mutated people to come together but they won't be happy? That the man and woman on the left are incompatible because their parts don't match? That two men shouldn't be together if their legs are egregiously different sizes? I feel this needs more explaining...

Gay Marriage — What Is the Answer?
In the Bible in Judges 17:6, we read this statement: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (NAS95). In other words, when there is no absolute authority to decide right and wrong, everyone has his or her own opinion about what to do.
Ok... so you're saying a King can decide right and wrong? But isn't a king still a person? Why does he have the authority to tell me what is and isn't moral? Why does God have that authority? What if their decision is obviously wrong? What if a king or God told me to murder my firstborn son? Shouldn't I refuse?
So how could the Christian leader whose interviews were quoted earlier in this chapter have responded differently? Well, consider this answer:
First of all, Jesus (who created us and therefore owns us and has the authority to determine right and wrong), as the God-man, did deal directly with the gay marriage issue, in the Bible’s New Testament, in Matthew 19:4–6: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?” So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’
 Wait, why does creating someone give you the right to dictate morality? Does this mean that, because I created my child, I can tell him in no uncertain terms what right and wrong is? Or does it only count if you create the matter from nothing? I don't recall a matter-creation clause in the Morality Dictation Handbook.

But even if Jesus did have that authority, he doesn't talk about homosexuality in Matthew. His point was not that only man and woman should come together, but rather that they should not be separated. Notice the "therefore" in his conclusion. He could have used the example of two men or two woman and his conclusion could have been the same. No doubt AiG disagrees, but the question asked to him (left out of their quotation) was “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Notice the question was already posed concerning a man and a woman to begin with.
Because Genesis is real history (as can be confirmed by observational science, incidentally), Jesus dealt quite directly with the gay marriage issue when he explained the doctrine of marriage.
Um, no. All observational science we know of disagrees with the concept of a 6-year creation 6000 years ago where animals were made fully-formed and the original woman was made from a man's rib. The Answers in Genesis website disagrees, but it is also a haven of ignorance, lies, and pseudoscience. So I don't think they count.
Therefore, in Leviticus 18:22, Jesus deals directly with the homosexual issue, and thus the gay marriage issue.
So does Jesus also deal with clothing and cattle in Leviticus 19:19?
"You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material."
According to Jesus, we can't have homosexual marriage, wear polyester, or allow farmers to grow more than one crop. God sure seems to care a lot about petty details of our lives. Doesn't he have anything better to do, like prevent tsunamis or earthquakes from killing innocent people?
Even in a secular context, the only answer a Christian should offer is this:
The Bible is the Word of our Creator, and Genesis is literal history. Its science and history can be trusted. Therefore, we have an absolute authority that determines marriage.
God made the first man and woman—the first marriage. Thus, marriage can only be a man and a woman because we are accountable to the One who made marriage in the first place.
And don’t forget—according to Scripture, one of the primary reasons for marriage is to produce godly offspring. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, but there’s no way a gay marriage can fulfill this command!
And unfortunately for them, we don't base our laws on any religious texts. And I'm not sure how that logic works up in your first paragraph. If I write an accurate book on science and history, can I be an absolute authority determining marriage as well? And what about artificial insemination? Won't that allow us to fulfill this command while still having gay marriage? And what about adoption? Do conservatives really think these are good objections to gay marriage? It seems like they're grasping at every straw they can find, but it also seems like they realize their only real reason is the Bible. So it all but seems like a lost cause. The only things preventing homosexual marriage are the bigotries and homophobia of the right. I hope we can all grow up a little and accept the fact that we're smart enough to make our own decisions without relying on the advice of mostly ignorant nomads who lived thousands of years ago.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Can creationists be “real” scientists?'ll let your answer to that question be the same as the answer to this one: "Can flat-earthers be "real" scientists?" AiG never attempts to answer that question in their newsletter, so I'll do that for them. On to their words.
A: Although evolutionists interpret the evidence in light of their belief in evolution, science works perfectly well without any connection to evolution. Think about it this way: is a belief in molecules-to-man evolution necessary to understand how planets orbit the sun, how telescopes operate, or how plants and animals function? Has any biological or medical research benefited from a belief in evolution? Not at all.
Only partially correct. Evolutionists (read: scientists) interpret the evidence in light of the current best theories but have to explain how they do or don't fit in with the theory and why or why not. Science, as a process, would work whether or not evolution by natural selection was a fact or not. Your first two items in that list are indeed mostly irrelevant, but the third is an outright lie. Our understanding of "molecules-to-man" evolution directly affects what we know about how plants and animals function and you know it. Almost all of our biological and medical research has benefited from understanding evolution.
In fact, the PhD cell biologist (and creationist) Dr. David Menton has stated, “The fact is that though widely believed, evolution contributes nothing to our understanding of empirical science and thus plays no essential role in biomedical research or education.”
Dr. Menton, you must be either incredibly inadequately educated or an outright liar. Perhaps, in light of your ignorant or deceitful quote, you would be well-advised to do some reading or just a little thinking. If you like to have things narrated to you while looking at pretty pictures in hi-res, you might enjoy C0nc0rdance's 3-part series, The light of evolution: What would be lost. He breaks things up into 8 parts:
  1. Pathogen evolution and the Red Queen
  2. Human genetic disease, SNPs, and forensics
  3. Conservation genetics
  4. Agriculture
  5. Cladistics and reconstructive phylogenies
  6. Discovering genes and regulatory regions
  7. Understanding the past
  8. Beyond biology
If you don't want to spend 30 minutes educating yourself on the topic (thought it would be time well-spent), I'll just say that understanding evolution allows us to understand how things change. How we change. It allows us to make better medicine because we understand how bacteria and viruses can evolve. You may look at these and say "that's only micro-evolution," but that's not a real objection. The only difference between micro- and macro-evolution is scales of time and biologists don't think within these narrow spaces. There is a real value to having knowledge and even if it were somehow true that it didn't benefit us in any way in the present to understand the effects of science, would that mean we should abandon it for something that helps us understand things even less? (I'm looking at you, Special Creation.)
The rise of technology is not due to a belief in evolution, either. Computers, cellular phones, and DVD players all operate based on the laws of physics, which God created. It is because God created a logical, orderly universe and gave us the ability to reason and to be creative that technology is possible.
The rise of understanding of biological processes and technological mechanisms stem from the same thing - the scientific method. Evolution, like all natural processes, operates on the laws of physics and chemistry, just like cellphones and DVD players. But no one ever said that technology was due to a belief in evolution and it doesn't even make sense that you would assert that. Science seeks to tell us about the world we live in and provide us with solutions to life's problems as well as endow us with all kinds of things that many people would deem luxuries. You readily accept the luxuries it gives while criticizing it for things you apparently don't understand. The alternative would be that you, Answers in Genesis, are willfully lying to the scientific illiterate who will buy your propaganda hook, line, and sinker. And that's just despicable.