Showing posts with label evolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label evolution. Show all posts

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hyperactive Agency Detection — A Just-So Story?


The hyperactive agency detection (HAAD), or hyperactive agent-detection device (HADD), is the most widely accepted explanation for religious belief in biology, psychology and sociology. It offers us a naturalistic explanation of the origin of beliefs which form the basis of every religion. Because of this, you can expect that many religious believers are skeptical of its claims. Some of them claim that this is a "just-so" story, part of "atheist mythology." The irony of religionists making this claim, when their religious beliefs are often backed up on the mere testimony of religious texts, which are chalk full of just-so stories, is stupendous. A just-so story is "an unverifiable and unfalsifiable narrative explanation for a cultural practice, a biological trait, or behavior of humans or other animals." Is the HADD hypothesis unverifiable and unfalsifiable? It must be both in order to meet the criterion of a just-so story. Here I want to list some of the evidence supporting the HADD hypothesis and support the view that it is a valid scientific explanation.

In their 2008 paper The evolution of superstitious and superstition-like behaviour, Harvard biologist Kevin R. Foster and Helsinki biologist Hanna Kokko test for the origin of superstitious behavors through an incorrect assignment of cause and effect, where they "conclude that behaviours which are, or appear, superstitious are an inevitable feature of adaptive behaviour in all organisms, including ourselves."

This is experimental evidence for what Michael Shermer termed patternicity, or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise. He writes:

Unfortunately, we did not evolve a baloney-detection network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns. We have no error detecting governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine. The reason has to do with the relative costs of making Type I and Type II errors in cognition, which I describe in the following formula:

P = C(TI) < C(TII) Patternicity (P) will occur whenever the cost (C) of making a Type I error (TI) is less than the cost (C) of making a Type II error (TII). 

The problem is that assessing the difference between a Type I and Type II error is highly problematic—especially in the split-second timing that often determines the difference between life and death in our ancestral environments—so the default position is to assume that all patterns are real; that is, assume that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators and not the wind.

This is the basis for the evolution of all forms of patternicity, including superstition and magical thinking. There was a natural selection for the cognitive process of assuming that all patterns are real and that all patternicities represent real and important phenomena. We are the descendants of of the primates who most successfully employed patternicity. The Believing Brain (60)

A Type I error is a false positive, and is "believing something is real when it is not." A Type II error is a false negative, and is "believing something is not real when it is." For a short explanation of how this affected our hominid ancestors, see here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Bank Robbery Analogy To The Problem Of Suffering


Suppose I had a goal to give you a bag of money. And suppose I'm omnipotent and I can literally poof the bag of money into existence without any effort. But instead of doing that, I decide on a more elaborate scheme. Right before your eyes I decide to poof an entire bank that has a safe with a bag of money in it into existence, and I populate it with bank tellers, a bank manager, a few security guards, and a few dozen customers. Then I enter the bank and declare a robbery and pull out a machine gun and start indiscriminately shooting people, starting with the security guards. The bank patrons are horrified at the brutality. I grab a terrified bank teller at gun point and force her open the safe where the bag of money is. She does what she's told and promptly opens up the safe and retrieves the bag of money for me. Then, after killing several people, and seriously wounding a dozen others, I calmly walk out of the bank with the bag of money in hand, and deliver it to you.

I fulfill my goal of giving you a bag of money. Then I quickly disappear, and vanish into thin air. You stand there, wondering why I chose to deliver the money by brutally slaughtering several people who need not have existed, instead of the many easily conceivable less violent ways. You ask one of the surviving bank patrons, who's still a bit shook up from the incident, why he thinks I chose to give you a bag of money the way I did. His best answer is that I must have had a sufficient reason for doing it the way I did, but that no one can know why. Another patron stumbles out, covered with blood from one of the deceased victims all over her shirt, and suggests that maybe I'm a mysterious artist who takes pleasure in the method that I lavishly concocted to give you the bag of money. Yet another, clinching his still bleeding arm from a surface wound, chimes in and hypothesizes that maybe it was to make the money mean more to you after you've seen how much death and suffering went into its delivery. You stare at them, perplexed, looking at the result of all this carnage, unconvinced of any of these hypotheses.

This pretty much describes how I feel about explanations to the problem of suffering, particularly the suffering found in the millions of years of evolution. If god is omnibenevolent, and can do anything logically possible, if he could have simply just poofed human beings into existence, why use a method that required millions of years of suffering? Theists have struggled to explain this and usually resort to saying either a) human original sin was applied retroactively, b) demons created all that suffering, it was not originally in god's plan, c) the suffering is somehow required for "soul-making," d) god isn't an engineer, he's more like an artist who takes pleasure in the extravagance of creation, or e) we just don't know.

I don't think, nor do many philosophers think, that any of these explanations are plausible. Theists, you've got to try harder.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Greatest Stupidity


Someone slipped a Christian pamphlet under my door today as I was debating the nature of god with several theists online. Gotta love irony. The pamphlet is called "The Greatest Tragedy" and says "the greatest tragedy is the death of someone who could have been saved!" It even mentions the worldwide flood story of Noah - as fact - and says that wasn't as tragic as the possibility of them being saved. You have to get a kick out of those who thinks that a worldwide genocide of the entire human race, save one family, and billions of animals, save one pair of each "kind" is not worse than then people's "salvation."

Christians, I know you're really trying hard to make your religion seem plausible, but you've got a huge image problem at your hands. Take it from me, and the millions of people who think your religion is utter nonsense. The most ignorant among you make the most noise. They are the ones we hear about. They are the ones who take your religion seriously. Any educated adult who still thinks the worldwide flood story in the Bible is real needs to have their head examined. When will religious people learn that the Bible is not the evidence, it's the claim. Don't assume that events reported in the Bible are fact. They're not. Almost none of the shit that happened in the Bible, happened in real life. There was no Adam and Eve; there was no flood; there was no Jewish enslavement in Egypt; there was no mass exodus; there was no military conquest of Canaan. The four Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Paul never met Jesus and wrote his Epistles 20 years at the earliest after Jesus supposedly died. At least 7 of the Epistles aren't even considered authentic by most mainstream New Testament scholars. The Bible has hundreds of contradictions. And few, if any, of its analogous stories even make any sense given the true nature of our animalistic evolutionary origins.

Did god really think that creating man in "his image" by way of an evolved primate was going to allow us even the possibility of having a sinless nature? You gotta be fucking kidding me. No Christians, if you want to convince informed, educated people, who aren't vulnerable from hardship and ignorance, that your religion is true and that all other competing worldviews are wrong, you've got to try much, much, much harder. You pretty much have to shed as much of the irrational and non-scientific bullshit from your religion as possible, and that means dropping the Biblical historicity of most of these ridiculous events. It's an impossible task, because the meaning and foundations of Christianity fall apart without them. It simply makes no sense bereft of the fundamentalist presuppositions.

"The Greatest Tragedy," then, is actually believing any of this bullshit to be true. It's The Greatest Stupidity. Allowing yourself to get infected by the social disease that is religion, whether it comes in the form of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or any of the thousands of strains out there, is the greatest tragedy of mankind, who, of all known species has the unique ability to apply reason and rationality to his view of the world. Religion keeps us steeped in superstition and ignorance and prevents us from seeing the world the way it truly is. So, I've been inoculated from this blinding disease. You can't use fear to try and persuade me, you need to use facts. But facts are the one thing religionists don't have on their side! And that's another one of their tragedies. The first is that many of them were helplessly brainwashed into their religion against their will as children, that's tragedy number one. The second is that many of them remained in the bubble of religious ignorance after growing up, often due to force or social pressure and isolation. The third is that uneducated and vulnerable people often fall victim to apologists offering "forgiveness" and "salvation" by playing into their fears and hopes. It's tragic. But it doesn't have to happen. Inoculate yourself now!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A List Of Psychological Biases That Humans Have


I'm always baffled when I hear theists make the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), where they argue that naturalistic evolution would make our beliefs fit for survival, and not for truth, but somehow think that with god's guidance our brains were designed for truth. Below I have a list of some of the biases that affects virtually every human being taken from Michael Shermer's book, The Believing Brain. So the challenge to theists who hold to the EAAN is this: if god guided our evolution so that our brains would hold beliefs that are true, why do we have so many psychological biases that prevent us from the truth that appear to be the product of that very evolutionary process?



Confirmation bias: the tendency to seek and find confirmatory evidence in support of already existing beliefs and ignore or reinterpret disconfirming evidence.

Hindsight bias: the tendency to reconstruct the past to fit with present knowledge.

Self-justification bias: the tendency to rationalize decisions after the fact to convince ourselves that what we did was the best thing we could have done.

Attribution bias: the tendency to attribute different causes for our own beliefs and actions than that of others.
  • Situational attribution bias: we identify the cause of someone's belief or behavior to the environment.
  • Dispositional attribution bias:  we identify the cause of someone's belief or behavior in the person as an enduring personal trait.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Was Your Grandfather A Monkey?



Hmm....

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Rebuttal Of The Fine Tuning Argument From My Debate With A Theist



A few months ago I was challenged by a theist to a formal written debate on the existence of god over on a theological website called theologyweb. I accepted. We agreed that he would make the opening arguments and make a positive case first and that we'd be debating the existence of a theistic god and not merely a deistic one (because theists have this tendency to retreat into deism when the going gets tough and I hate that). After my response back in June he never got back to me, eventually saying that he was busy with work and other things. So the debate is just sitting there, now closed, with only our initial opening arguments. I took the time in my opener to rebut my opponent's arguments. This is how I like to debate since atheists are often accused of not addressing their opponent's arguments, and in the hundreds of god debates I've watched, there is some truth to this.

My opponent, who on the website goes by the name of "LaplacesDemon" (LD for short), used the fine tuning argument as part of his case for god. And I just noticed that I have not written about the fine tuning argument as much as I should have. So below I have my response to LD rebutting the fine tuning argument. You can see the whole debate here, but you might need to log onto the site for access.

The FTA (fine tuning argument) is in my opinion the only halfway decent argument for god. But even if granted, it doesn’t lead one to conclude the existence that theism is true any more than deism, or that the universe is a computer simulation. In fact, if the universe is fine tuned, those two options are overwhelmingly more probable than theism. And I will argue why. 
I’m not going to dispute the parameters LD mentioned even though a few of them are a bit off because almost all scientists agree that the life permitting range for those values is very narrow. What I will instead argue is that the apparent fine tuning is better supportive of atheism, not theism.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Republicans Have The Same Misconceptions Of Reagan As They Do Jesus


What's wrong with republicans?

Today's republican party are politically the biggest and most stubborn babies perhaps in the history of the US; certainly since World War II. They're a bunch of anti-birth control, anti-middle class, anti-secularist, anti-evolution, anti-science, climate change denialists who have been completely bought and sold by their corporate fundraisers. They hate the President with a passion and are willing to disrupt government and jeopardize the welfare of the people just to prevent him from getting any serious bills passed because they don't want him to leave the White House with a positive legacy. Any time you hear a republican sound off on science, sexuality or economics you can almost guarantee that you're going to be hearing something profoundly idiotic.

Republicans have two dead heroes that they love to put up on a pedestal and idolize: Ronald Reagan and Jesus Christ. And what makes these two icons of the republican part so odd, is that if you really look at what each of them did and said, it is antithetical to their primary agenda. While the hypocrisy is astounding, it's what you'd expect from an anti-intellectual party.

Let's look at former President Ronald Reagan, the political icon of the republican party, who all party members must speak about with the utmost admiration. Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times when he was in office, he gave blanket amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, he traded arms with terrorists, he nearly tripled the federal deficit, and he increased the size of government. Reagan wouldn't even be able to win a primary in today's republican party because he'd be too far to the left. And yet, republicans have this image of Reagan as the ideal president - a model for every future republican with presidential aspirations. But his record clearly deviates from the modern script the party has devised today. Reagan was willing to compromise, he was sometimes willing to do the right thing and get government moving by finding a middle ground between his party's ideology and the left's. Compromise has become a dirty word today in the republican party and as a result we've got a congress that is the least productive in history.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Story Of 1543: Why Science Is Better Than Religion


In 1543 two books were written that would later go on to have a significant impact on world history. One was by a Christian motivated by science, the other was by a Christian motivated by religious fanaticism.

Nicolaus Copernicus published his most famous work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) on his death bed, in which he argued that the Sun, and not the Earth, was the center of our solar system, kicking off what many believe to be the birth of the modern scientific revolution. That same year, Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer wrote one of his best known works, On the Jews and Their Lies, in which he argued, among other things, that European Jews were wicked, shouldn't be allowed to own homes, practice their religion, and should be forced into servitude.

Two very different books motivated by very different things. One helped kick off the modern scientific revolution, which enabled Galileo, Newton and eventually Einstein to lay the foundations of our understanding of the universe. The other helped kick off centuries of anti-semitism based on religious obsession and piety, that culminated in the Holocaust. These two works could not have been more different and had the impact they did on society. One is a prime example of the benefits of what can happen when you devote yourself to science and the use of evidence and reason to understand the world around you, and the other is a prime example of how religious fanaticism and superstition poisons the mind.

1543 stands as a stark reminder of what we in the freethinking community should strive for and what we should be motivated to destroy. We need to emphasize a science based education process and understanding of the world around us that promotes thinking with reason and evidence with a healthy dose of skepticism, and we need to work against living by superstition, assumptions, and dogmatic belief in religious claims. Now interestingly, both Copernicus and Luther were Christians, (you pretty much had to be a Christian in 1543 Europe) but one championed using observation and evidence as his way of coming to his understanding of the world, and the other preferring obedience to an ancient book of superstition (Luther was extremely critical of Copernicus' heliocentricism). Many modern day Protestants are unaware that their founder was a raging anti-semitist in is latter years and set the foundation for the persecution of Jews for centuries afterward. They'd much rather blindly blame the Nazis and the holocaust on evolution, which is bullshit.

Let 1543 be a reminder to us all in the freethinking community.


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.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Theists Say The Darndest Things...Again


And the nonsense continues with the theist who just won't understand...the amazing Randy demonstrates once again that he doesn't have a coherent explanation how the omnibenevolent god he believes in can be compatible with the unnecessary suffering of evolution. From his blog:

27 comments:

  1. How is the god of classical theism falsifiable? Or do you argue that it isn't?
    ReplyDelete
Replies
  1. Well, if one were to show an internal incoherence, then that would work.
  2. Can a being be both omnibenevolent and capable of evil?
    Delete
  3. I think it depends. On some interpretations of the question, yes. On others, no.
  4. Depends on what? In what interpretation can a being be both omnibenevolent and evil? How are you defining those two opposing terms?
    Delete
  5. I'm not defining them at all; I didn't ask the question.
  6. I'm asking you to define "omnibenevolence" and "evil" in such a way to make them mutually compatible that does not also render their definitions incoherent with themselves. You seem to say that it is possible. I'd like to know how.
    Delete
  7. That's easy: "omnibenevolence" means "funny" and "evil" means "Steve Carrell."
  8. Look, if you can't seriously answer my question, just say so.
    Delete
  9. I'm not interested in answering questions that are ambiguous. Your original question remains ambiguous. That's it, and that's all.
  10. There's nothing ambiguous about my original question nor my subsequent ones. You said omnibenevolence can be compatible with evil. I'm just asking you how you can achieve this without redefining the terms in an incoherent way. But this is apparently too complicated.

    I say this cannot be done and have given you the opportunity to prove me wrong.
    Delete
  11. I already achieved this, and it was coherent. I still don't know what you mean by the terms, and it really doesn't bother me whether or not you think it can or cannot be done.
  12. You didn't actually make a coherent argument. And to demonstrate that, I've asked you to define "omnibenevolence" and "evil" in a way such where there wouldn't be any incoherence if a being had both of these properties.
    Delete
  13. Where? I've read and critiqued your response to me and I didn't see it anywhere. Could you reprint them here for clarity?
    Delete
  14. It's only a few comments up.
  15. That wasn't an actual answer and you know it.
    Delete
  16. It was an actual answer, and you just didn't like it.
  17. Ok then explain in detail, otherwise it's obvious you don't have an answer.
    Delete
  18. That doesn't make any sense. You explain that in detail, otherwise it's obvious you don't have an answer.
  19. Define omnibenevolence first.
    Delete
  20. That's easy: "omnibenevolence" means "funny" and "evil" means "Steve Carrell."
  21. Cite an online dictionary that uses that same definition.
    Delete
  22. The Randy Online Dictionary, precisely two entries so far.
  23. LOL. You don't have a coherent definition or argument and you know it. Just as I suspected.
    Delete
No, I don't know it. Next.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Randy Replies


Almost every theist I've encountered and almost every theist I've heard defending their faith recognizes the problem of suffering as a real problem for theism. That is to say, they recognize that an omnibenevolent deity is incompatible with the existence of gratuitous suffering. That's why so many theists spend so much time trying to argue that gratuitous suffering doesn't really exist, but only seems apparent. The theist will find themselves is an arduous position if they try and defend this in light of evolution. That is because the evolutionary process requires suffering and death in order to work, and any god who would contingently chose to use evolution as the means to create one particular species when it could have done so by other less tormenting means needs to have a very good reason why - especially since it is argued that god cannot perform immoral or evil acts and can only choose morally good actions.

One theist who doesn't think there is a good reason to think gratuitous suffering and omnibenevolence are incompatible is Randy Everist. Recently we got into a bout on this very issue and he has made his case why he thinks they are compatible. My last post was a critic of our debate over on his blog, and he wrote a post further articulating his views. So here I'm going to critique his defense that there is no good reason to think that an omnibenevolent deity and gratuitous suffering are incompatible.

The first thing I noticed in his response to me as well as in our debate, is that he never defends or even claims the position that gratuitous suffering doesn't exist. Maybe he does, but he hasn't made this known in our dialogue. From the start, he tries to break down the logic of my argument so I will critique his claims line by line.

First he states the two propositions that are part of my argument, but not exactly in the way I would phrase them. Nonetheless, I will use his interpretation of my argument verbatim.

1. There is an omnibenevolent God.
2. There is gratuitous suffering.

He states that it's not clear why they are contradictory, even though it seems that the vast majority of his fellow theists recognize a problem. He further claims that I made no argument defending their incompatibility. I made an argument, and I posted that argument in my last post, but Randy's predicted response is always, "But why think this?" followed by a bad explanation. He tries to restate my argument saying:

3. If (1) and (2) are compatible, then it is indistinguishable from evil.*

Then he makes a fuss claiming that I wasn't clear as to what "it" means, saying it "has never been very clear". But I beg to differ. It's very obvious from what I wrote that I meant omnibenevolence. I wrote, "If omnibenevolence is compatible with the intentional creation of suffering that serves no purpose, well then how can we distinguish it from evil?" It's very obvious what "it" meant, but apparently it confused Randy and so he tries guessing "it" meant gratuitous suffering. Really? Would it really make any sense if I asked, "If omnibenevolence is compatible with the intentional creation of suffering that serves no purpose, well then how can we distinguish gratuitous suffering from evil?" Gratuitous suffering and evil are fully compatible; it needs no explanation. In fact, many people define evil as the infliction of gratuitous suffering.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Theist Who Just Won't Understand


The logical incompatibility of an omnibenevolent god with gratuitous suffering is very easy to understand for most people, yet over on the Possible Worlds blog, smug theist Randy Everist just could not grasp why there is any such conflict between the two. I suspect that he really does indeed recognize that this is an unsolvable problem and that it logically entails that the god of classical theism is impossible. But to avoid this becoming apparent, I think he's feigning ignorance, misunderstanding, and that there is any logical problem here at all. There are no plausible explanations to this problem. I know because I've refuted pretty much all of them. It's possible there are other theodicies that I haven't heard yet, but this is exactly why I like to challenge theists - I want to hear their best explanation.

I thought Randy Everist would be a good candidate as he is well familiar with the arguments for god but he subtly admitted that he doesn't really have an explanation. All he did was try really hard to play defense and falsely claim that I have not properly made the case that there is any logical conflict between gratuitous suffering and omnibenevolence. You can read our debate using the link above to be the judge.

Many atheists know that debating with theists is like talking to a brick wall. Randy is no exception. He exemplifies the core of what I think the problem with theism is. When cornered by a good argument, they special plead, or they'll claim that not having an answer doesn't mean the atheist is right by default, even if the problem is logical. Well, if that is so, then the same thing works for the atheist who may not be able to fully explain the origin of the universe. The atheist not having an answer doesn't mean the theist is right by default. I think we all understand this is correct.

I made my argument as easy to understand as one possibly can. I even made it into several different logical arguments. For example:

1. Omni-benevolence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering,
2. gratuitous suffering exists via evolution, 
3. therefore the god of classical theism cannot exist.

Very few theists disagree with premise 1, but Randy seemed to be saying that this wasn't so. He responded:

Why should we think that's true? Where have you defended the premise that an omnibenevolent God is incompatible? Where have you shown a premise set that is logically incoherent, and defended why?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What Is It With Christian Bloggers?


There's a recurring theme I've noticed on many Christian blogs: they're a bunch of pussies when it comes to debate. They like to assert claims about the existence of god without liking to defend them. They employ strict comment policies with gestapo-like authority and throw up defenses laced with esoteric terminology designed as a smoke screen to avoid having to address your challenges. Case in point, Randy Everest over on his Possible Worlds blog. I got into a debate with him over the Craig/Carroll debate and my evolutionary argument against god came up. He denied that it was even a problem and he denied that a perfect omni-benevolent being as god would be incompatible with the unnecessary suffering of evolution. And after several days of going back and forth and dealing with his smug attitude, he has still not made a reasonable case why. It is obvious to me, and I think anyone who reads our "debate" that he is trying to avoid that obvious conclusion in my argument with a smoke screen. I think he's afraid he will lose this debate badly, and so he's avoiding it at all costs by trying to throw up technicalities.

Christian debaters are wussies when they've got a real atheist to deal with. They want some naive kid who hasn't spent years studying Christian apologetics as I have.

I am actively searching for a theistic blogger who will debate me either here on my blog or anywhere else. I want a smart, knowledgeable theist who knows their religion, philosophy and science and who is as passionate about debate as I am. So this is a call out to any theists out there who want to debate me. Just comment here or tweet me @atheismnthecity and we can set it up.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Second Law Of Thermodymanics and Evolution


Some really stupid creationists will sometimes try to argue that the 2nd law of thermodynamics proves that evolution cannot happen. The 2nd law states that in a closed system, entropy or disorder, always increases. And since evolution means that complexity will increase over time in organisms, this somehow violates the necessary increase in entropy - unless a god can intervene.

The argument is easy to refute and has been done so many times. Unfortunately, many unlearned creationists have never bothered to look up the evidence refuting the argument and they let their confirmation bias get the better of them.

So...

First, the earth is clearly not a closed system. We are part of a solar system and we have a sun. The sun provides us energy, and that energy can allow complexity to increase without a violation of the 2nd law, which only applies to closed systems.

Furthermore, Brian Green in his first book The Elegant Universe notes, “Everything tends towards greater disorder. Even if you clean your cluttered desk, decreasing its entropy, the total entropy, including that of your body and the air in the room, actually increase. You see, to clean your desk you have to expend energy, you have to disrupt some of the orderly molecules of fat in your body to create this energy for your muscles, and as you clean, your body gives off heat, which jostles the surrounding air molecules into a higher state of agitation and disorder. When all of these effects are accounted for, they more than compensate for your desk’s decrease in entropy, and thus the total entropy increases.” (pp. 334-335)


Monday, March 3, 2014

Skeptical Theism: A Few Thoughts


Skeptical theism is view that we are not in a position to know god's reasons for acting or refraining from acting in particular situations. It is often invoked in response to the problem of evil, whereby it is argued that god has morally sufficient reasons for permitting or allowing moral evil or even causing suffering, but we are not in a position to know why.

There are several problems that many atheists have brought up to the skeptical theistic position. For example, if we are in no position to tell why god has allowed evil and suffering, then if someone were to see a person suffering, it's possible for one to reason that it's all part of god's plan that in the end will make sense and that they should not interfere. This, as we can imagine, could lead to indifference toward's human moral evil and suffering. Why should I stop a murderer, or help prevent suffering, if god is using it as a means to an end? The skeptical theist who says that we should never think in these terms, or that the purpose of the other person's plight was to motivate you to help or prevent it, presumes to know what god wants us to do in a particular situation, which is inconsistent with skeptical theism.

So why should we prevent suffering and evil? Wouldn't this thwart god's plan to draw people closer to him? And if we are to prevent suffering, as some theists argue we have a duty to do, it seems to have a long term affect of secularizing the population and increasing the number of atheists and agnostics. A look around the world at the richest and most advanced countries with the highest standards of living shows a correlation with decreased religious belief and worship. This further supports the view that if we grant the skeptical theistic approach, it could be argued that we are not in the position to know we have the duty to prevent suffering in particular instances; it could be part of god's plan.


It looks like this:

Skeptical Theist: God uses/allows suffering and evil to draw people closer to him.

Atheist: Then we shouldn't prevent suffering and evil.

Skeptical Theist: Oh no we should. It is a duty from god.

Atheist: Then it thwarts god's plan. And if we prevent it, it will help turn people away from god.

Skeptical Theist: God uses you to prevent the evil and suffering he allowed.

Atheist: It doesn't make sense. God uses suffering to draw people towards him, and that's his plan, but when I prevent the suffering, his plan is to inspire me to prevent it? It's as if god's plan changes on the fly.


Since suffering is the one of the most common reasons why people turn away from god, I'm not sure it even makes sense for the theist to argue that god uses suffering to drawn people towards him. I personally think skeptical theism is a one-size-fits-all excuse out of any situation or fact inconvenient to theism. The theist doesn't have to justify it with any data. All they have to do is insist that god has morally sufficient reasons for doing or allowing what he does. This is partly why I developed my evolutionary argument against god. It circumvents the usual skeptical theistic approach to human moral evil and suffering.


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