Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Funny Irony About Life

Isn't it funny how atheists tend to be more interested in religion than most religious people are? I mean, almost every atheist's blog (mine included) is plastered with rants and raves about this god and that god and this religion and that religion. The very people who disbelieve all these things tend to be the most obsessed with them.

Oh what would life be with out irony?

But the reason why atheists tend to be obsessed with religion is the same reason why black people tend to focus on race relations, and women tend to focus on gender relations, and gay people tend to focus on sexuality: You tend to focus on what you're passionate for and what you're against. So black people are focused on racism and racial equality; women are focused on sexism and gender equality; gay people are focused on oppression of homosexuals and equal rights for the GLBT community.

Atheists tend to be passionate about secularism and defending their worldview from hostile and ill-conceived attacks from those who are religious. One way to fight for secularism, besides being active in the political arena (and voting!), is to promote a healthy naturalistic worldview as the rational alternative that makes the best sense of the evidence against stereotypes and misunderstandings.

Less religious people will mean more secularism. Period.

The Most Plausible Explanation Is...

Talk to just about any sophisticated theist about whether there is indisputable proof god exists and they will likely say, "no." God doesn't want to give us proof, they'll say, because if he gave us proof we wouldn't have the freedom to deny him, and that would defeat his whole purpose. It seems from statements like these, that god really does want us all to take that leap of faith without the parachute of certainty. But why would having proof that god exists somehow ruin his plan? Well, it depends on which theist you ask.

It seems to me that if knowledge of god's existence was certain, we could still reject him or choose not to worship him. But the theist will sometimes say that god's presence is so powerful, that if he revealed himself to us, no one would be able to reject him. And why exactly is this a problem? Wouldn't god want us all to worship him properly? After all, wasn't he very concerned over whether his people worshiped other gods and engraven images? And isn't his character naturally jealous as the Bible says? Why then would god chose to be so silent while billions of people worship different gods, or no gods at all? You'd think that this would cause a massive jealous tantrum and enrage god's wrath. It just doesn't seem to be in keeping with his character. I mean, after all, if god is all powerful, he could set the record straight and reveal himself and his will to all of us without any effort.

Now theists are aware of this problem and they've been able to come up with a smorgasbord of explanations of why god is so silent. But we have to keep in mind that all of those explanations are competing with the explanation that the god of the Bible simply doesn't exist, which I think is always going to be the more plausible explanation.

A god that didn't exist would also be silent.

Or, to put it another way.....

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Taking Atheism 'Out Of The Closet' So To Speak: A Call To Arms

They say the internet is where religion comes to die.

I hope they're right.

It does seem like the internet is dominated by atheist media. When I first started becoming more vocal about my atheism around 2009, I'd spend hours on YouTube watching videos that poked fun at religious belief. The amount of entertainment seemed endless. And it inspired me to start blogging about my disbelief.

I came to know Richard Dawkins who I had previously knew little about. He has his out campaign encouraging atheists to be open and public about their atheism. I think it's a great idea. Atheists, freethinkers, and all nontheists, should be as open as possible in much the same way that gay people have come out of the closet. It's worked wonders for the gay rights movement and gay acceptance.

If enough atheists came 'out of the closet' to their families, friends and coworkers so the world could see we're by and large decent moral people, we might in 10 or 20 years time not be the most distrusted demographic in America anymore.

That brings me to the fuzzy topic of accommodationism. An atheist who is an accomodationist is someone who thinks that science and faith can be reconciled and that religion may have merits to it, and should not be vehemently opposed. I for one am not an accomodationist, but as I've written before, hardcore militant atheism can hurt the cause for atheism being accepted.

But just like I outlined in my guide to militant atheism, "When it comes to the internet, the blogosphere, social networking sites and forums be as anti-theistic and confrontational as you'd like - that's what the internet's for." I think the internet is the single biggest reason why atheism is spreading, and so for atheists who care about the cause for secularism and desire to see religion on the decline like I do, we need to be relentless on our critiques of religious belief. Every time a theist asserts a fallacious argument about their religion online, they should be pounced on by ten atheists who pick apart its faulty logic. A basic code of decency should be maintained, but there should be no mercy spared on destroying the theist's argument itself.

The goal here is to saturate the internet with atheist media, blogs, videos, podcasts - you name it - to make it so that religious views are drowned out by criticism and the atheistic perspective continues to dominate the web. It's the least you can do as an atheist in a free society where you wont be jailed for expressing your disbelief like they do in some other countries.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Secularism & The City: Dispatches From The Wall Of Separation

I've been wanting to write a bit more about secularism recently because debates with theists always seem to come down to the roles between religion and government. At any given time I may be engaged in 1 or more simultaneous debates with different theists on various websites, forums and blogs. I was on a Christian website recently and found myself in a debate with a fairly conservative Christian Baptist over the separation of church and state. Our disagreements fell along familiar lines where we felt religion's place in public society should be. And I have to say that once again I had all of my stereotypes confirmed: people who are devoutly religious, almost always think that it is perfectly alright to impose their religiously based morals onto other people.

So let me address some of our disagreements and outline some of my views on secularism because in practical terms, the debate over church and state has serious real world impacts, and is not to be taken jokingly.

Freedom of religion

I think I speak for most atheists when I say that a secular society should protect the rights of those of religious faith to believe what they want without undue persecution and for them to have the right to be open about it. But those of religious faith must realize that freedom of religion cannot exist unless there also exists the freedom from religion. I don't have the right to prevent you from worshiping your chosen deity in your private life, and you don't have the right to impose your religious morals on me in my private life.

Now where this gets complicated is in government. Your right to freely practice your religion must encounter some reasonable restrictions if you're employed by the government. This means that as a public school teacher you cannot lead prayer services while on the job, and as an elected official who crafts public policy, you cannot pass legislation that is favorable to any one religion, or religion in general. This is where I notice that many devoutly religious Christians favor a bias for their religion. For example, some Christians will say that it is OK for a Christian teacher to lead a Christian prayer service in a public school, but they're adamantly opposed to the idea of a Muslim school teacher praising Islam in the classroom and leading Muslim prayers. They'll also support the 10 Commandments perched on government property, but would also adamantly oppose the 5 Pillars of Islam on government property. Clear religious bias and religious discrimination against others. If your religious views force you to adopt a stance where you're for openly discriminating against other religions, while favoring yours, then my main thesis as an atheist that religion is divisive and harmful to society is vindicated.

The Law Of Causality

YouTuber Steve Shives made a good point that I had not actually thought of before about the cosmological argument while critiquing Norman Geisler's and Frank Turek's awful book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist: If the law of causality states that everything that beings to exist requires a cause, then before all of space and time and all the laws of physics existed – if you can believe that there was such a thing as "before" time when absolutely nothing existed  then how could the law of causality apply to the universe if it did not yet exist? In other words, before anything existed, the law of causality itself must not have existed, and so how could it have applied to the universe's origin? And if the law of causality somehow already existed, then we cannot say that "nothing" existed before the universe, because the law of causality surely isn't nothing.

Now one possible answer to this dilemma is that the law of causality is a law of logic, and logic is eternal in the platonic sense that abstract objects like numbers are also timeless and eternal. That would, I suppose allow logic to somehow predate the origin of space and time, and perhaps allow causality to apply to the universe. But if logic and numbers exist in the platonic sense, then it may be true that fundamentally all the physical laws are numbers, an idea some physicists entertain called the mathematical universe. That means that the laws of physics can be eternal in the same sense that the laws of logic can be. And the thing is, we are pretty certain that the laws of physics allow something from "nothing" – or the ultimate free lunch as it's called.

So if the law of causality can be invoked to say the universe requires a cause, maybe the cause of the universe was made possible by eternal timeless laws of physics. Otherwise, you'd have to ask yourself, what caused the law of causality? If god did it, then it is a contingent law that cannot be said to be on par with the laws of logic, because logic cannot be violated and cannot therefore be created. Maybe there is some intrinsic logic behind the fundamental laws of physics in the mathematical sense that is as yet discovered. Right now we just don't know.

Some say that the laws of physics can't actually cause anything and that they're merely just descriptions of what happens between forces acting upon matter. There is no agreement on this. Quantum mechanics and general relativity allows universes to be created without the need for a material cause and perhaps even an efficient cause. Quantum tunneling models allow for quantum fluctuations to tunnel through towards inflationary periods where infinitely dense singularities with a radius of zero can rapidly expand to extreme macro scales.

But philosophically speaking, a point that I want to make and that I think nobody can deny, is that the universe cannot be said to have emerged from a state of absolute nothing. Something preexisted at the moment the universe began, whether it be the laws of logic, or the laws of logic perhaps along with the laws of physics. Even a dark empty vacuum isn't nothing – it's a dark, empty vacuum – which is something. And the fundamental laws of logic would apply to it. And I'm still not convinced that there ever was a "before" the origin of our universe if the big bang is the absolute beginning of time and space – a claim no one can currently make with certainty.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Craig Meme (Plus Bonus)

OK I cannot resist anymore. Memes are addictive. Here's my first official meme above. Please tell me what you think. It's making fun of my most hated apologist. Use it as you like, spread it, memify it. 

P.S. Here's a bonus below:

William Lane Craig: Evolution Is Evidence For The Existence Of God!

If you ever find yourself in a debate with William Lane Craig and try to use evolution as evidence for naturalism, you can expect him to make the following counter argument below. He's made it in several debates now and it's become one of his all-too-often repeated talking points. This one is transcribed from his debate with Peter Atkins from way back in the 90s:

In their book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Barrow and Tipler lay out 10 steps necessary to the course of human evolution, each of which, each of which is so improbable, that before it would occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth. Now it seems to me that if evolution did occur, then it would have had to been a miracle. In other words evolution is literally evidence for the existence of god!

That's right creationists, evolution now is evidence for the existence of god, so stop denying it and embrace full on macroevolution. (Sigh) Craig wants to be able to deny Darwinian evolution and instead support a sort of hybrid old earth creationism/theistic evolution, but just in case that becomes too much of an untenable position, he's carefully made naturalistic macroevolution safe for Christians because it's a "miracle."

So I wonder, is Craig blissfully unaware that everything that happens in our universe is improbable? Every single person born is improbable if we were to try to calculate the mathematical odds of any of us being born. For example, the average man will make about 4.3 trillion sperm cells in his life (200 million per day on average for ~60 years). The only way you could have been born is by a single sperm cell from your father, and a single egg from your mother. Right there the odds of you being born are at least 4.3 trillion to one, or 1 in 4.3 x 1012.

But according to Robin Baker, who wrote the 1996 book, Sperm Wars, only about 1 percent of the sperm cells a man produces actually are involved in fertilizing eggs. These are what he calls, "egg-getters." Most of the other 99 percent of sperm cells are designed to kill off sperm from other men. So if we recalculate, 1 percent of 4.3 trillion is 43 billion. That leaves the odds of you being born from your father at 1 in 43 billion. Not exactly odds you'd want to bet your money on.

For most men the rate of sperm production decreases with age, so let's round that down to about 36 billion egg-getter sperm cells over the average man's lifetime. The average man will have about 2-3 surviving offspring during his lifetime, if we round up to 3, the average chances of you being born are 3 x 1 / 3.6 x 1010  or 1 / 1.2 x 1010.  That's 1 in 12 billion, slightly better than before but remember we're only going back one generation.

If you include two generations, your dad and his dad, the odds of you being born will be 1 /12,000,000,000  x  1 / 12,000,000,000 = 1 / 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or 1 in 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or  1 / 1.44 x 1020. That's 1 in 144 quintillion in just two generations.

To calculate the odds for 10 generations that would get you (1 / 1.2 x 1010)10 = 1 / 6 x 10100. That's a 6 with one hundred zeros after it. And we've only gone back 10 generations! To give you a sense of how large that number is, the total number of atoms in the universe is estimated at just 1080 which is far lower that the odds of just you being born going back only 10 generations.


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