Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Mother Is A Young Earth Creationist

It's Thanksgiving again and my mom is in town visiting me for the holidays. This means we will inevitably argue a little bit over religion and evolution. It happens every time I see her, which is usually about once a year. My mother is a young earth creationist. She literally believes the universe and earth were created less than 10,000 years ago, and that Noah literally put two of every "kind" of animal on a single boat. When I challenge my mother with how absurd these beliefs are in light of the evidence, she usually tries to change the subject. She's actually behind the Pope and the Catholic Church in this respect because even the Catholic Church officially embraced evolution as being compatible with god back in the 90s under Pope John Paul II. But my mother won't have any of it.

A few years ago when I became an antitheist my mother and I would clash constantly over our opposing worldviews. But no amount of evidence will ever convince her that evolution is a fact, because she believes scientists are mostly godless heathens who have an agenda to destroy god. Recently I've learned to simply just avoid the subject with her. It's no use arguing. Creationists don't care about evidence; they have faith. That's all they need. I still however, take the occasional jab at religion at my mother's expense and she just roles her eyes, but we have the kind of relationship where she's knows I'm a hardcore atheist and I'm never in the closet about my disdain for religion around her. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't know what happened to my mom over the past 15 years. I had a very liberal upbringing. She raised me in a secular home and never forced any religion onto me. As a kid my mother let me drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, watch porn and stay out as late as I wanted. I basically did whatever I felt like. I had every teenagers dream. Then when I was around 17-18 she started embracing her Catholicism and became very conservative, but by that time it was too late - I was already an adult. I moved out when I was 20 and I didn't have to deal with her anymore and I've fully retained that liberal ethos from my upbringing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Could God Create The Best Of All Possible Worlds?

Let me run a popular argument against god through you and a common assessment and response that Christians will often give:

The argument:
If God is all-good he would choose to create the best possible world. So we could argue: 
(A) if God is omniscient, omnipotent and all-good, he would have created the best of all possible worlds, but... 
(B) it is unlikely or improbable that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds,  
so from (A) and (B) it follows that is unlikely or improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good God.
The theist assessment:
The first premise of this argument seems to presuppose that there is such a thing is the best of all possible worlds and we've already seen that this supposition is suspect just as there is no greatest prime number, so perhaps there is no best of all possible worlds. Perhaps for any world you mention replete with dancing girls and happy creatures, there's an even better world with even more dancing girls and even happier creatures.
If so, it seems reasonable to think the second possible world is better than the first, but then it follows that for any possible world W, there's an even better world W', in which case there just isn't any such thing as the best of all possible worlds. So this argument is not satisfactory.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conservative Christians And Facts: What David Barton's Historical Revisionism Shows Us About The Religious Right

David Barton is a conservative American evangelical Christian and author who is best know for his failed attempts to rewrite the religious views of the founding fathers to make them appear as if they were trying to establish America as a Christian nation. His 2012 book, The Jefferson Lies, tried to make the case that Thomas Jefferson wasn't as critical of Christianity as commonly portrayed by the left and was actually one if its vocal supporters. Not long after the book's release, it was taken off of the shelves due to numerous factual errors and according to a New York Times article was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website.

Despite this, conservatives from Mike Huckabee, to Michele Bachmann, to Newt Gingrich, to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, to conservative talk-show and radio host Glenn Beck have all praised his work. Beck's online "university," Beck University, even hired him to teach a course called Faith 101 where you can "learn history as it really happened." Oh Right. So where have we seen this before? A group of conservative Christians are praising a book that is demonstrably full of factual errors and lies because it tells them what they want to hear. Hmmm. You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this closely resembles the way conservatives treat the Bible. Yup. The Bible is also book also praised by conservative Christians as being inerrant despite its factual errors.

It is evident from historical revisionists like David Barton that conservative Christians would rather believe something factually incorrect that sounds pleasing to them, than accept the truth. They have the same exact relationship with American history as they have with the world history, science and the Bible. Now of course the conservative sheeple who praise Barton's works most likely don't accept that he made any factual errors. They are most likely either ignorant to Barton's factual errors or they would deny those errors altogether if they are aware of them. The fact that someone like Glenn Beck would take him on board to teach at his pseudo-university despite his work being slammed by the critics and having his latest book removed by its Christian publishers, tells you a whole lot about religious conservatives: Facts mean nothing to them and faith is all that matters. They'll believe what they want despite the facts and not because of any.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Map Showing Where God Creates Hurricanes

For a god who creates hurricanes to punish sinners, he sure is very particular about where he creates them. For one thing, most of god's hurricanes miss landfall entirely and just end up tearing up the ocean.

But you know, the lord works in mysterious ways.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Clip From Documentary On The Stone Age Shows How And Why Organized Religion Developed

As agriculture and trading developed in the Middle East and societies grew larger, there was a need for massive public works projects to develop the infrastructure needed to sustain these larger populations. In the dry climate, irrigation was needed to farm and this could only have been supplied through channels carved into the land. This required massive amounts of labor mobilized by newly developed central authorities emerging as the State. Since there was no evidence of slavery, in order to motivate the people, state religions arose. What better way to motivate the people than to convince them that the state gods wanted them to work for the ruling classes and achieve their goals? It was the beginning of organized religion that is carried with us to this day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Could You Be Wrong About Everything You Know?

A common presuppositionalist question that Sye Ten Bruggencate and his idiot followers like Eric Hovind ask is whether it is possible that you could be wrong about everything you know. This question seeks to undermine your entire basis of knowledge from that point onward and if you answer yes, then in the eyes of Bruggencate and his ilk, you will have forfeited your right to make any truth claim.

But is it possible that you could be wrong about everything you know? The answer to that is - no. It is impossible. Think about this. If it is even possible that I could be wrong about everything I know, then I would know that it is possible that I could be wrong about everything I know, in which case I would be right about knowing that I could be wrong about everything I know, and that would defeat the whole argument. Thus it is impossible to be completely wrong about everything we know and the whole thing is self-defeating.

We could also point to some logical truths that must be true by definition, like for example, 20 is larger than 10, or that all blue cars are blue, or that all bachelors are unmarried, or that you cannot roll a 6 sided die and get a number greater than 6 or less than 1. These are logical truths that are impossible to be false, and we can be certain of that. Anyone who claims otherwise has the burden of proof.

So remember this if you ever get asked, especially if it is in person, if you could be wrong about everything you know. It's circular and self-defeating, and a total waste of time.

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:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oh How I Love Documentaries

If I'm not careful I can spend hours watching documentaries on Here are a few to check out.

Defeating the Hackers - a documentary about how we can use quantum physics to secure computers and digital communication.

First Out of Africa - a documentary about a tribe of people living in the Andaman islands who might have been the first people out of Africa:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Experiment Seems To Confirm The B-Theory Of Time

A Christian I was debating on YouTube who holds to the B-theory of time actually linked me this new scientific paper that appears to show the first experimental evidence that the universe is indeed static and that time "emerges" from quantum entanglement. This might be the first empirical evidence that the B-theory of time is actually true. See below.

Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement


When the new ideas of quantum mechanics spread through science like wildfire in the first half of the 20th century, one of the first things physicists did was to apply them to gravity and general relativity. The result were not pretty.

It immediately became clear that these two foundations of modern physics were entirely incompatible. When physicists attempted to meld the approaches, the resulting equations were bedeviled with infinities making it impossible to make sense of the results.

Then in the mid-1960s, there was a breakthrough. The physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt successfully combined the previously incompatible ideas in a key result that has since become known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. This is important because it avoids the troublesome infinites—a huge advance.

But it didn’t take physicists long to realise that while the Wheeler-DeWitt equation solved one significant problem, it introduced another. The new problem was that time played no role in this equation. In effect, it says that nothing ever happens in the universe, a prediction that is clearly at odds with the observational evidence.

This conundrum, which physicists call ‘the problem of time’, has proved to be thorn in flesh of modern physicists, who have tried to ignore it but with little success.

Then in 1983, the theorists Don Page and William Wootters came up with a novel solution based on the quantum phenomenon of entanglement. This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.

Entanglement is a deep and powerful link and Page and Wootters showed how it can be used to measure time. Their idea was that the way a pair of entangled particles evolve is a kind of clock that can be used to measure change.

But the results depend on how the observation is made. One way to do this is to compare the change in the entangled particles with an external clock that is entirely independent of the universe. This is equivalent to god-like observer outside the universe measuring the evolution of the particles using an external clock.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Is Debating Morality With Theists So Fun? (Hint: Because They're Wrong)

Like Christopher Hitchens, I'm in love with debate, and debating morality with theists is probably one of my favorite debate topics. The reason why I enjoy that debate so much is because I know they're simply wrong on about it. Case in point, theists must simply assert that god is identical to "the good" or moral perfection itself but cannot justify whether god's goodness comes logically prior to any attributes that might constitute god's goodness or not.

Now perhaps I might not be writing here anything that I haven't already done before on numerous other posts, but since the moral debate is one atheists will find themselves confronted with time and time again, it might be worth repeating. When a theists asserts that god is identical to moral perfection he or she isn't doing anything other than playing word games. I can simply define the word "God" as being a synonym of goodness, but I certainly haven't demonstrated that an actual being exists that is ontologically identical with goodness, let alone been able to conflate that being to the deity of a particular religion. All I've done is played words games with you and claimed victory (ha ha!). But it's a premature calculation.

Seriously though, for any theist who does this, the next trick up their sleeve (if they see you're not convinced) is going to be something like, "It is impossible for God to be evil or command something evil, like rape, because God's intrinsic nature is that of moral perfection. God is necessarily morally perfect." The theist here is trying to get all philosophical on your ass: God is necessarily perfect because he can't be any other way. But I still find it hard to palate the idea of how the theist can know or can determine what a perfect moral being is without appealing to some standard that exists independently of such a being. Otherwise, if the being itself is what determines moral perfection, then is it not the case that one can appeal to the logic that what ever that being does or commands is perfectly moral by definition, no matter what that is? How do we determine that god is morally perfect? If god is simply just being defined as such, then following this line of reasoning allows Islamic fundamentalists to stone to death adulterers and jail/execute blasphemers - hardly something we in the West would consider moral.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jack Kerouac : King of the Beats (2012) Full Documentary

Watching this documentary makes me want to be a writer. A real writer, not just some blogger. I'm trying to write a novel right now and let me tell you it is FUCKING hard. I have about 79 pages so far, but I have no idea how many of them are useful. I can sometimes write for hours and hours and feel I'm making great progress, and then for days I write nothing. Nada. Creativity can't exactly be scheduled, it rears its head whenever it wants. I can't set my alarm to go off at 9 AM and declare, "It's time to be creative." It just doesn't work that way.

I've always wanted to actually write a book. Any book. The idea of writing a novel crossed my mind numerous times and I've had a few false starts that never went anywhere. This time it's different. I'm going to complete this novel or die trying. I'm aiming for at least 150 pages, but more closer to 200. Any real novel has at least about that much. The problem is I get creative mostly at night, right before I'm supposed to go to bed, right when I'm drowsy. I can't write anything during the day for some reason. I seem to have a creative aversion to bright light. I thrive in the darkness. I'm naturally nocturnal, did I mention?

There's going to be lots of philosophy in my book, along with sex and drugs. I'm going to touch on many topics dear to me: atheism, nihilism, existentialism, free will, determinism, Buddhism, religion, dating, polyamory, feminism, partying, economics and more, all through the mind of a millennial living in contemporary New York. I'm confident it will be awesome. It will be exactly the kind of book I would want to read. Isn't that the goal of every writer?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Even The Bible Is Inconsistent On Why There Is Suffering

Prof. Bart Ehrman gives a lecture on the Bible's many explanations why suffering exists. In doing so, he shows it isn't exactly consistent. (Surprise!) Some books in the Bible (like Amos) say that suffering comes from god's punishment for disobeying him, others (like the Book of Daniel) say that there are evil forces in the world that tempt you to do evil and disobey god, and these forces cause suffering, and yet others (like Ecclesiastes) say that we should live with the focus on our current life and enjoy it as much as we can since there is nothing after this.

Wow, talk about being all over the map.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Belief-dependent Realism

I'm currently reading Michael Shermer's book, The Believing Brain, which is about "how we construct beliefs and reinforce them as truths." Since debating with a presuppositionalist recently, I've been intrigued about epistemology and how we form our worldviews. I contend that the presuppositionalist view is epistemologically irrational. To presuppose an entire religion as your starting point is the logical equivalent of putting the names of a bunch of religions in a hat and blindly picking one out and deciding that whatever religion you picked will henceforth be your worldview. Reason and evidence must precede one's worldview and must serve as the justification for concluding it. This can be done by assuming only the most fundamental properly basic beliefs that are required to make any sense of the world around us. Otherwise, you might as well indeed just blindly pick a worldview out of a hat.

Within the first chapter however, Shermer's thesis makes an interesting observation that I think could lend itself to the presuppositionalist's epistemology. On page 5 he writes:

We form beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations.

Here's the kicker. He continues:

Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. I call this process belief-dependent realism, where our perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends upon the beliefs we hold at any given time.

If our beliefs do come first, and our explanations for our beliefs follow, then might this also apply to the atheist as well? Is the atheist just presupposing atheism due to his "subjective, personal, emotional and psychological reasons" in the context of his environment? Or is his worldview methodologically superior and more adept at constructing the closest depiction of the reality that exists independent of our minds?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Atheism, It's A Guy Thing

Statistically, if you're an atheist or an agnostic you are much more likely to be male. Just look around at atheist gatherings and conventions. It's practically all guys! A pew survey from 2012 showed that men out number women 2 to 1 for those identifying as atheist/agnostic. Wow. I didn't know it was that bad.

So why aren't women embracing non-religiosity as much as men and what can be done to increase their numbers? The same survey also showed that women, more than men, are more likely to be affiliated with a particular religion. I hate to stereotype here, but I think the numbers might be due to the emotional dependency many women naturally have. Studies have shown that it is harder for women to quite smoking than men for example, because they are more likely to use cigarettes as an emotional comfort. And since religious belief is primarily emotional and not logical, it would make sense that women, being more emotional than men, naturally would find greater security in it.

So, just as it appears women find it harder to kick the habit with smoking, they too find it harder to let go of religion. That means deconverting from theism to atheism is generally a much more difficult emotional experience for women, whereas for guys it is comparatively easier. I didn't have a harrowing deconversion experience that many current atheists have had, so I can't speak from experience. But it seems that women will need more emotional support on their way out of religion. Perhaps that means it is necessary that a welcoming, emotionally supportive atheistic community exist that could provide the same levels of emotional security that religion is currently providing, in order to get larger numbers of women to embrace atheism. That means atheists should squash a lot of this in-fighting. And when it comes to counter-apologetics, maybe emphasizing the more emotionally-tinged arguments like the ones that show how all religions are pretty much sexist and have less than ideal views towards women, would better appeal to women who might embrace atheism.

Many women who reject traditional theism I think will find spirituality more comforting than atheism. Within spirituality you can conceive of god as a goddess, synonymous with mother nature, or a great feminine spirit. That will likely appeal to women more, and the statistics of the "nones" who are not atheist/agnostic appear a bit more even in the gender gap. The "spiritual but not religious" identity I'm sure many atheists would prefer over traditional theism, especially fundamentalism. But the atheist community would really like to see more women embracing full frontal atheism bereft of any spiritual mushyness.  

We've got work to do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Feminism Is Tearing Apart The Atheist Community

For most of the past year or so on my blog I've been balls deep into counter apologetics, taking on every religious argument that crossed my radar. While that currently is and probably will continue to be the primary focus of my blog, that's not all I want it to be about. So let's talk about some social issues for a bit.

The atheist/skeptic/free thinking community has been divided over feminism for the past few years. AronRa spoke about this recently in a new video he put out about how stupid all this in-fighting really is and how bad it's making the community look. This is even more pressing when you consider that atheists are already one of the most despised demographics in the US. Our focus as a community should be in promoting the naturalistic worldview as best we can, and promoting free thinking devoid of religious dogma as the practical and healthy alternative.

I've generally avoided in-fighting other than making a few criticisms of what atheists sometimes do usually in the area of defending atheism. But this whole thing about feminism has gotten me riled up. If feminism is defined as equality between the sexes, then who today would be against that? Yes many republicans wouldn't but they're batshit crazy. I mean what normal person today would be against equality of the sexes? Part of my criticism of religion is that most religions are extremely sexist. And I can't use that as a counter-argument against religion if I myself am a sexist. So integrity forces me not to be a hypocrite on this issue.


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