Showing posts with label Life origins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life origins. Show all posts

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Things That Keep Atheists Up At Night (According to Randal Rauser)


Here's a list of what Randal Rauser thinks keeps atheists up at night from his blog. Let me provide brief answers.

1. Nobody to thank for all my “blessings” and nobody to blame for the converse.
    This is not a problem for the atheist and I've never heard a single one tell me this keeps them up at night. No one is blessed or cursed under atheism. Our fortunes and failings are due to chance, by way of our genetics, our families, our environment, and innumerable other contingent factors. We accept that based on the evidence. We're thankful to the things that have actually mattered in our lives, which in most cases are other human beings.

    2. Implications of nihilism.
      If you view nihilism as there simply being no objective meaning or purpose to life, then the atheist is fine with that. It's only someone who feels that life is required to have objective meaning or purpose that is bothered by the idea of not having it. That's one of the reasons why religions try to make you emotionally dependent on them. They try to make you feel as if you need these things and then they try to offer you them. I explain this in my religion/heroin analogy. Atheism doesn't imply that there cannot be any meaning at all. Meaning and purpose in life are subjective, and many of us atheists find this a lot more comforting.

      3. Failure to rebut moral relativism. 
        Some atheists are fine with the idea of moral relativism, but those who are not have plenty of moral philosophies to choose from that address the issue. But the question is, what kind of moral relativism are we talking about? Is it cultural relativism? Situational relativism? Even most theists acknowledge situational relativism. Also the Euthyphro dilemma addresses the claim that god gives us objective morality quite well.

        4. Classical theism makes the strongest case for (what I would label) objective morality. 

        If you define objective morality (which Randal didn't do on his post) in such a way that it can only be served by theism, then perhaps. The claim that only theism can make a strong case for objective morality is again challenged by the Euthyphro dilemmaIs something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it's good? The first part makes morality arbitrary, and the latter makes god irrelevant to what's good. The standard response is that god is the good – god is the ontological foundation of goodness because he is intrinsically loving, compassionate and fair, etc. But then we can ask, is god good because he has these properties or are these properties good because god has them? In order to avoid compromising god's sovereignty and admitting that these properties are good independently of god, the theist who wants to hold to the moral argument must say that these traits are good because god has them. But how is love, compassion, fairness or any other positive attribute good only because god has them? They would be good irrespective of god's existence, as would be evident by their effects. The theist would bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that they wouldn't be good without god, which I haven't yet seen anyone successfully achieve. Thus it's clear to me at least that objective moral values - if they exist at all - exist independently of god.

        5. Relationship with God is transformative in the life of a believer in ways that the atheist will never experience. One example is the hope believers have in the face of death. 
          Plenty of false gods and false beliefs transform people in ways a Christian will "never experience." The way belief in god effects you is not an indicator that the god you believe in is real. Hope for an afterlife is just false conciliation, and most atheists reject this belief for exactly that reason (and because there's no good evidence for it). Atheists live in the here and now. We live for this life, not some fairy tale existence promised to come. Belief in an afterlife often devalues this life. 

          Sunday, May 11, 2014

          20 Questions Atheists Struggle To Answer (Extremely Short Answers)


          These questions were floated around to atheists over the years and I'd thought I'd take a quick crack at them. These are my (extremely short) answers to them.

          1. What caused the universe to exist?

          The universe may not need a cause, especially if the B-theory of time is true. All causes in the universe are (a) temporal and (b) material, showing that our notion of causality doesn't necessarily apply to the origin of the universe, if it is the beginning of space and time.

          2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

          Chance. The same way that our planet is just the right distance from our sun to allow life to exist, so is our universe.

          3.Why is the universe rational?

          Because logical impossibilities are in fact, impossible.

          4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?

          Well we know amino acids can spontaneously arise naturally as the Miller-Urey experiments showed us, and as the building blocks of DNA, amino acids probably evolved from simpler molecules as in the RNA hypothesis. If "God did it" is your explanation, then you would be saying that scientists should stop doing all their research in molecular biology and close all their institutions, thus proving that faith is opposed to science.

          5. Where did the genetic code come from?

          It most likely evolved through many years and attempts from simple molecules to more complex ones.

          6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
          There are no real irreducibly complex parts of biological systems, there is simply our current ignorance to how some of them formed, and there is a whole lot more ignorance by creationists who use things like the bacterial flagellum as an example of IC when it has been clearly refuted.

          7. How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

          Languages evolved over tens of thousands of years all over the world. There is zero evidence that the biblical story of the Tower of Babel explains the origin of language, and most Christians today it seems even reject such an absurd story.

          8. Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000 BC?

          It was due to the invention or agriculture around 10,000 BC that lead to the first towns and cities being developed. When humans stopped hunting and gathering and began farming and domesticating animals, they had a reason to stay in one place permanently.

          9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

          I'm not sure what independent thought means here, but if it is implying free will, there is no evidence of free will.

          10. How do we account for self-awareness?

          Consciousness.

          11. How is free will possible in a material universe?

          Given the laws of physics that we have which are deterministic, there is no free will.

          12. How do we account for conscience?

          Through extremely complex interactions between neurons and chemicals the exact mechanism by which we don't yet understand. We do know that mind is a product of the brain and there is zero evidence that the mind controls physical brain states.

          13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?

          We usually assess whether our actions will benefit us and others and whether they will increase harm. We certainly don't use the Bible to make moral judgements, or else we'd actually increase harm and likely end up in jail.

          14. Why does suffering matter?

          Suffering matters because we recognize that it is a state we don't want ourselves and others to be in.

          15. Why do human beings matter?

          Because we have the most highly evolved cognitive faculties that allows us to make rational decisions as well as suffer to the highest extent of all other species.

          16. Why care about justice?

          Because we naturally care about fairness, and justice requires fairness.

          17. How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

          Because it was evolutionarily beneficial for our ancestors to believe in false positives (believing in things that weren't there) and this lead to the belief in angels, demons, spirits and gods.

          18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

          For several reasons. (1) because of the reason I gave for number 17 which shows that evolution would have lead to our belief in the supernatural even if it didn't exist; (2) because we have no evidence for it, even though the supernatural is in principle verifiable since it is said to interact with the physical world; (3) assuming that the supernatural exists makes no sense when critically examined. For these reasons we can be reasonably confident the supernatural doesn't exist.

          19. How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

          We can and already do know that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain and so when the brain goes, consciousness goes. There are also too many unexplained questions about consciousness and the soul for which no dualist has any satisfactory answers.

          20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

          It is not an established fact that there was an empty tomb and resurrection appearances. They may have all been made up by the writers of Mark and Matthew, who wrote 40-50 years after the supposed events and were not eyewitnesses. Paul never mentions an empty tomb. See Four facts that aren't really facts.

          As you can see, many of these questions probe the "God of the gaps" territory, and some, like the question about languages, are so bad even most Christians wouldn't recognize them as tough questions for the atheist.


          Friday, November 22, 2013

          Saving Silverman


          Obligatory David Silverman meme
          I'm not a huge fan of American Atheists president David Silverman, but in general I like the guy. I like, for example, his style of firebrand atheism that I think is needed to balance out the accommodationists. I also like that he's really great at pointing out how ridiculous and harmful a lot of religious beliefs are, especial those of the Abrahamic strain. But the man has some major flaws that I think he would be wise to correct.

          First, Silverman knows next to nothing about cosmology or biology, and in the debates I've seen him in (like his horrible debate with Frank Turek recently) he claims total ignorance on how the universe or life got started. Now I don't expect him to be a genius in either field, heck I'm not, but shrugging your shoulders and basically saying, "I don't know" isn't going to cut it if you're going to fashion yourself as a public face for atheism and make your rounds in the debate circuit. I mean, at least learn a few of the theories out there (e.g. quantum fluctuations as described by physicists like Lawrence Krauss, or learn about the B-theory of time, or RNA world models - something.) You cannot jump in the atheism/theism debate arena and be totally ignorant on cosmology and biology - it's unacceptable. Silverman is making a fool out of himself every time he does so and he's making a fool out of atheism in the process.

          Second, Silverman knows next to nothing about ethics and seems to support a kind of total moral nihilism. Then, he accuses the god of the Bible of being evil! As you can imagine he gets called out on this over and over again, and rightly so. He needs to define what he means by "evil" (which is actually quite easy to do - lacking empathy or compassion) and he needs to define what meta-ethical theory he is subscribing to as an alternative to divine command theory. In the debates I've seen of him, Silverman simply just announces that morality is relative and just keeps repeating that over and over again. But relative to what? What ethical theory does he espouse? He offers us nothing! Silverman needs to sit down with a philosopher, someone like Massimo Pigliucci, or maybe A.C. Grayling, and learn a few of the basics about ethics so that he doesn't continue to look like a damn fool and make atheists look bad. Atheism does not entail moral nihilism, but Silverman is doing a great job making it look that way.

          That being said, I think his recent speech at the Oxford Union debate, Religion Harms Society, was pretty decent. See below:





          Friday, July 26, 2013

          Questions For Atheists - Part 3 (Fossil Record, Archaeology, Information, The Immaterial)


          In part 3 of answering Phil Fernandes' challenge to atheists, we cover several new topics like the fossil record, archaeology and information. I didn't notice until now that at the bottom of the web page it says, "Can you answer all these questions and maintain your disbelief with full intellectual integrity? We pray that many of these inquiries might nag at your atheism. If you feel so bold, we invite you to submit a full answer-set to todd(at)iLoveAtheists.com." Well I'm not done yet so we'll have to see if when I'm done these questions will be able to challenge my atheism. And I just might take him up on his offer. Now onto the questions!


          FOSSIL RECORD
          1. How do you account for the Cambrian Explosion? What is your evidence?


          The Cambrian explosion, which occurred about 540 million years ago is the period in which most of the major phyla began appearing in the fossil record. Some creationists who've given up trying to disprove macroevolution as a whole have tried to make the case that the "explosion" of so much variety of new phyla must be evidence of god. First, the "explosion" took place over a period of about 20-30 million years. And second, we have ample evidence of the evolution of some of the phylum found in the Burgess shale in Canada and other deposits in China. There are also vast resources out there available to anyone looking to conduct research like booksblogsWikipedia and for the lazy, YouTube Given the vast amount of resources available online, there's really no excuse to be totally ignorant of evolution. If one wants to find answers, it is almost certainly out there online. 

          I've written more about the Cambrian explosion here.

          2. Can you provide specific evidence for species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record?

          Phil is apparently resting his personal case for theism on evolution being false, so he's not even a sophisticated theist like Dr. Francis Collins, or Dr. Ken Miller. So I guess this means that if evolution is true, Christianity is false, since it seems like Phil is making it a dichotomy. So he wants evidence for one specific fossil record indicating speciation. Well OK. Here's the evolution of the whale from land dwelling animals: 



          There are additional resources here on whale evolution: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_03

          I must say that any theistic position that wants to lay its foundation on creationism, whether old earth or young earth, is automatically committing intellectual suicide.

          Tuesday, May 21, 2013

          Origin Of Life Debate: Michael Ruse Vs. Fuz Rana

          I know most, if not all the big names in science and those who debate on behalf of the naturalistic point of view. I've known of Michael Ruse for several years and enjoy his British sense of humor. Although he is not a scientist, per se, and is a philosopher of science, he specializes in Darwinian evolution. He recently debated Dr. Fuz Rana on the origin of life, a very fascinating topic.




          Saturday, May 15, 2010

          The problem Theists have with our origins and my take on it

          Many Theists have a big problem with the idea of life on Earth starting out in the primordial soup and muck billions of years ago. They say it degrades life especially human life, to think that it came from pools of water and perhaps might have initiated with a spark of lightening. They instead, like to think we were created by God in his image, purposely made separate from all the other creatures.

          Well besides the evidence that we did evolve from early microbial life in the primordial soup billions of years ago I say that our origins make no difference about what we are today. Even if we did evolve from simple life forms, other primates, that makes no difference to the value of a human life, and what we are capable of. We're still human beings, we still have a conscience, we're still capable of making moral and ethical actions, and are still faced with all the same problems we face today as if their were no deity: how do we create and sustain a just society?

          Think about this on the human individual level. We all like to think that we were conceived in a loving marriage between a married man and woman. However many of us weren't. Some of us are the products of one night stands, others complete accidents. But whether we were conceived in a loving marriage or are the products of a rape, it makes no difference to the value of our lives. We're still a human beings, still capable of making moral decisions (unless your mentally handicapped), our lives have no less value as human beings regardless of how we are conceived. It's as if to say that a person born from a marriage is worth more and is better than a child born out of wedlock. That's absurd and would contradict Christian morale. So whether or not we came from the primordial soup or were handcrafted by a deity makes no difference in what we are today: we are human beings.

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