Archive for April, 2007

In their own words

April 27, 2007

Wow. Just wow.

Below the cartoon is an exquisite quote from this article by Cal Thomas.

The meat of the quote is:

All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent.

The ironing is simply delicious.

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Which is more impressive, evolution or creation?

April 26, 2007

In a recent discussion with my born-again coworker, he claimed that evolution denigrates god because creating all species in their current forms is more impressive than their having evolved.

I disagree. Strongly.

Consider the distinction between architect and builder.

I have a number of friends in the construction industry. They’re bricklayers and carpenters (some of them are plumbers and electricians too, but let’s leave them out of this for now). Another friend is an architect. The carpenter came straight out of high school and took up his trade. The architect spent four years at college before he was allowed to begin learning his craft on the job. The architect’s annual salary is almost three times what the carpenter makes.

This is because it’s harder to design than it is to build. No one will say that being a carpenter is easy, it’s not. I certainly can’t build things and I’m impressed by the guy who can. That being said, the carpenter is always following instructions. He’s following the plans laid out by the architect. The architect is trained longer and paid more because it’s harder to design than it is to build. The same is true in any field where there’s a distinction between the people who design things and the people who build them. Software architects are paid more than programmers. Town planners are paid more than road crews.

So, clearly, design is hard. Building, while difficult, is not as difficult as design.

Which brings me back to god. Let’s think for a minute about what would have been required if the creation myth were true and compare that to what would have been required if god kick-started the biosphere using evolution.

The creation myth says, roughly, that god created all life on this planet in the forms we currently observe. Google tells me that our best estimate of the number of species alive today is 10,000,000. The number itself doesn’t matter, but I prefer grounding it than using X everywhere.

So, if the creation myth were actually the creation fact, god would have had to design 10m species. Very impressive. Then he would have to go about the bricklayer’s work of building them with the blueprints he’d already created. Not really impressive at all. He could have outsourced that to a bioengineering company and moved on to designing the rest of the life forms in the universe.

So, in the creation myth, the impressive step is the initial design of 10m species.

What about evolution? What’s required there? Well, god still has to design the 10m species that he wants to populate his little lab experiment. So the initial creative step is equally impressive. Although now, he has to go many steps further and figure out how to create a system that will evolve into the creatures he wants. He has to create an initial life form that contains the building blocks that will, in 3,850,000,000 years, become the creatures we know and love today (except for mosquitoes, what the fuck was he thinking there? )

Anyway, the impressiveness of this task is simply beyond human comprehension.

Designing 10m species is impressive. The trouble is that it’s comprehensible to us. 10m species, 300m Americans. We put 30 people on a committee designing each species for a couple years and bingo, the job’s done. However, the intelligence required to predict 3,850,000,000 years of interactions is completely and utterly incomprehensible.

Not only is it a more impressive solution, it’s a much better solution in a practical sense. If god did create (and fix) everything in its current form, what would happen during climate changes? An ice age would result in mass extinctions for which the biosphere would not be able to compensate. With evolution in play, it doesn’t really matter (within limits) what happens to the climate on Earth, nature will fill every available niche and life goes on.

So, evolution is a more impressive solution from the creative standpoint and a more sensible solution from the practical. It still makes me smile that creationists are, in effect, saying “My god is such a small god, he couldn’t possibly have designed something as impressive as evolution. I’m going to cling to my silly little story, written by man, rather than actually trying to understand the beauty of the way he really did it”. Then again maybe the big man upstairs couldn’t find a top notch design course at godversity. Or maybe he flunked? Either way, it’s pretty insulting to god to deny him his props for the sweet system of evolution. The creation myth gives vastly less respect to the creator than does an understanding of the complexity of an evolving biosphere.

It’s trivially easy to see why creationists cling to their myth the way they do. However, the fact that it’s easily understood doesn’t make it less insulting to god.

My new favorite quote

April 25, 2007

I received the following quote in an email the other day. I lost my composure and couldn’t stop laughing. Probably because I didn’t see it coming.

Just out of curiosity, if the Catholics are right and the communion wine literally becomes the blood of Christ and the bread literally becomes the body of Christ, WHY THE FUCK WOULD THEY EAT HIM?

It’s a great question. Christ will certainly need to be on his toes during his imminent return. If he’s not careful, the second coming could just turn into a barbeque with JC as the main course. Picture him descending from the clouds and being chased around by hungry Catholics with carving knives.

Also, does this mean that there’s no such thing as a Catholic vegetarian?  I would say nibbling on the flesh of your savior qualifies as eating meat.

Thank you LD, I’m still laughing.

Misquoting Jesus – Book Review

April 23, 2007

Recommendation: Read this book. Now.

Bart D. Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” is an enthralling read. Ehrman’s chronicle is a powerful story of his deeply personal search for biblical truth.

Let me say up front that I didn’t expect to be especially impressed by this book. While I do enjoy reading about the history of bibles and the myths they contain (read “The Making of the King James Bible” for an example that I didn’t like), I expected something necessarily filtered through the lens of rabid Christianity. Boy, was I wrong.

Ehrman, starts out describing how he came to find himself on a path searching for truth. He wandered into fundamental, evangelical Christianity at an early age and it was all “downhill” from there.  After studying at the Moody Bible Institute, Ehrman became increasingly enthralled by the problems of biblical inaccuracies. At one point he boils it down to the following quote:

For me, though, this was a compelling problem. It was the words of scripture themselves that God had inspired. Surely we have to know what those words were if we want to know how he had communicated to us, since the very words were his words, and having some other words (those inadvertently or intentionally created by scribes) didn’t help us much if we wanted to know His words.

This stunned me for a minute. I couldn’t get my mind around the question “Why do Christians other than Ehrman not care about the inspired word of god?”

The rest of the book records Ehrman’s investigation into the fallibility of the bible predominantly introduced during the manual copying of documents in the early history of Christianity. It is an absolutely fascinating read and taught me a great deal.

You’ll have to read the book yourself to find the juiciest bits of bible manipulation (there are some impressive one).  I don’t want to spoil it for you.

If Dinesh D’Souza is what religion produces, I’m proud to be an atheist

April 20, 2007

I rarely use the ad hominem attack because it doesn’t achieve anything. The only exception is when I think it will make me feel better. Dinesh D’Souza is a completely fucking disgusting human piece of shit. Well now, that does feel better.

What an utter fucking asshole this clown is.

Just days after the horrifying events at Virginia Tech, D’Souza decides to unleash a rant against … wait for it … atheists! What a vile little turd of a man. He starts with a post that invokes the tired old canard about atheists and morality (note to self: finish and publish “Religion and Morality”).

Let’s wade into the sewer and see what this morally impaired ass clown is ranting about:

Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found.

(emphasis his).

Now, just out of curiosity, what the fuck does that even mean? Atheists are nowhere to be found? Where the fuck would you expect to be find them? Giving interviews? D’Souza is unable to spot atheists in a crowd and so he assumes that there are none around? Is this guy actually just a slightly challenged 5 year old rather than a conservative mouth piece? His logic would be laughable and pathetic if it wasn’t so damn offensive to the suffering that so many are going through (and will continue to go through for a long time). While dipshit D’Souza is trying to cash in (drive traffic to his little brainfucked shithole of a blog) on this tragedy, there are families and a community who have been shattered beyond anything that stupid little fucker could imagine.

To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community.

Again, dude, what the fuck are you talking about? Seriously. D’Souza later claimed that this was a sarcastic comment. Brilliant job fuck-knuckle, just what the victims and their community need: functionally retarded right-wing sarcasm.

Then, D’Souza whips out this little gem:

What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil.

I actually laughed out loud at this crude attempt at the Jedi mind trick. Evil is, and will always be, the Achilles heel of religion. It presents no problem at all for atheists (other than our disappointment that it exists at all). Answer me this, fuckwad: If your god is so powerful, good and pure, why would he let 32 innocent students and teachers be slaughtered in this way? How is that a problem for atheism? If you want to probe the atheists’ understanding of why people do evil deeds, look to the field of evolutionary psychology. If you want the religious explanation, look to a fabricated sky god who is either an ass-clown who can’t stop this shit happening, an asshole who won’t stop this shit happening or completely made up by human asshats and has no impact whatsoever on this shit happening. Any way you cut it, it’s hardly a problem that can’t be explained in an atheistic world view. D’Souza you stupid fucker, you make me laugh.

He begins to wrap up with another tired old religofreak bullshit trick:

The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist.

Fuck I get sick of this ridiculous line of reasoning. It’s just so stupidly, obviously, blatantly, pathetically wrong. The Egnorant one ran with a different version of the same horseshit recently in his rantings:

Materialism is nonsense, because if matter and energy are all that exist, then truth doesn’t exist (it’s neither matter nor energy). If truth doesn’t exist, then materialism can’t be true.

The only real question I have about these two fuckchops is whether they actually believe the shit they write or whether they write it to fool their superficial readers. The fundamental thing that Egnore and D’Souza are lying about is that no matter how we categorize things or label them, whatever is true about the universe will be true regardless of how we describe it. They’re both claiming that “materialism” precludes the existence of truth. The refutation is trivially simple; if matter and energy really are all that exist and we currently have the concept of truth, then obviously materialism doesn’t preclude the existence of truth (yeah, I know, but they started it).

The thing that’s never (or rarely) explicitly stated in the type of rant common to religious nutbaggery is that they’re trying to find a refuge for the soul. They want an explanation of the world that doesn’t preclude the existence of souls. When a mind arises (emerges) from the amazingly complex interactions of purely physical parts of our anatomy, the soul has nowhere to hide. This scares the D’Souza’s and Egnor’s of the world.

I’m stopping now because I feel much better. Maybe I’ll come back to it later, maybe I won’t. Either way, god damn that felt good.

Lies, damned lies and Christians

April 19, 2007

There’s been a feeling building in me over the last few months that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I figured it out recently; a whole bunch of Christians are completely, utterly full of shit. They lie. They lie like it’s their fucking job. Maybe it is.

The first stage of me figuring this out was to realize that I reacted in a very strong negative way to certain writings and speeches by Christians. At first I really thought that maybe I was just reacting negatively because I disagreed with them. At first I thought that maybe they were just honestly mistaken. Then I saw the video by Ken Miller about the ID movement and its collapse. Ken is a devout Roman Catholic which would seem to put him squarely among the class of people that I disagree with most often. Then, however, I realized that I loved listening to him speak and respected his opinions.

How could this be? I thought about it for a while but couldn’t quite nail it down. Possibly I just liked him because he understands evolution and explains it well (he’s a fantastic speaker, I highly recommend checking out his work). That didn’t quite seem to explain it completely, but I moved on. I started reading a book called Misquoting Jesus, given to me by a friend. In it, the author, Bart D. Ehrman starts out as a fundamentalist evangelical “crazy” Christian. I mean, he goes to the Moody Bible Institute at one point. The MBI might be the place where you’ll find more religious nutbaggery than anywhere else on Earth. If it’s not, it’s certainly a contender. His book chronicles his quest to discover the text in the original versions of the Christian gospels.

Anyway, so I’m reading Mr. Ehrman’s words and they’re not grating on me like religious tripe normally does and I couldn’t figure out why. The writing was light, quick and humorous which is rare in such a scholarly work. It was just a good read and I was having no bad reactions. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks; Ehrman cares about what’s true! He knows that the current form of the bible isn’t what was originally written down. He wants to know what was originally written down. I find this quest admirable. Ehrman says at one point that knowing the inspired word of god was written down is wonderful, but given that those words have changed over time, how inspired are they now? Doesn’t it actually matter what god originally said rather than what fallible humans have written in the intervening 2,000 years? Of course it does.

He highlights a couple of very interesting places that scholars know that large tracts were added. They can wait for a more detailed review of his book. I’ll do that at some stage. Regardless, the godless and faithheads alike should read it, it’s a simply wonderful analysis. You’ll learn things.

Anyway, back to me for a second 😉 I have this dawning realization that I seem to not object to Christian claims when the claims are made by people who care about what’s true. This leads me back to the video of Ken Miller and the discussion about the Kitzmiller trial.

Miller recounts how, during the trial, it was exposed that as a result of a ruling in 1989, Creationism “textbooks” were altered to be Intelligent Design “textbooks”. In some cases this was done using search and replace. I’ve come to understand that this bothers me for a number of reasons:

1) It’s dishonest

2) It borders on illegal

3) It involves denying (or at least hiding) god

I did a little more investigation into the people involved with the ID case and found the Discovery Institue. I won’t link to it. Their articles just instantly started making me angry, although now I know why; it’s because they do not care about the truth.

Even the names of their websites and organizations are dishonest: Evolution News and the Discovery Institute. Evolution News is a bunch of people making ridiculous claims about evolution being wrong. The Discovery Institute is basically a religious organization promoting the teaching of creationism. The dishonesty is in how these people portray themselves. It sickens me. For fuck’s sake, be up front about it. They want to teach creationism but they hide behind this disgraceful veneer of ID.

The first article I came across while trawling Evolution News was by Michael Egnor. It is entitled “What if Darwinism were true”. The title sounds promising until you realize the nuanced meaning contained in the term Darwinism. Darwinism is a manifestation of yet another dirty trick used by ID proponents. I call it the “you’re just as silly as us maneuver”. I think that deep down (some deeper than others 😉 ) most religious people know that they’re on shaky logical ground. They know that they can’t coherently explain the things they believe because the things they believe don’t cohere all that well. So, with varying degrees of subtlety they imply that Darwinism is like a religion. “See you believe a bunch of crazy shit, just like us!” It’s transparent and tacky, but it’s used all the time. A great example is the debate between McGrath and Atkins recently where McGrath continually insisted that atheism is a “faith”. Or this recent article by David Klinghoffer. Do these people not understand that they’re denigrating their own faith by doing this? Sheesh.

Believe what you want, just make sure you care what’s true. And to the ID clowns out there; when you talk about an intelligent designer but deny that you mean god, you’re actually denying god his due. Don’t sweat that too much though, it’s been done before.

The collapse of intelligent design

April 1, 2007

I just watched a video entitled “The Collapse of Intelligent Design”. It contains a lecture style presentation by Ken Miller, a Professor from Brown University. The video is well worth the investment of time to watch. Professor Miller eviscerates the ID movement with a lot of brilliant analysis.

It is worth noting that Ken Miller is a devout Roman Catholic. He is confident in his faith and comfortable reconciling his belief with his understanding of evolution. Kudos to him for being a modern, intelligent Christian. The world could use more people like him.  In the course of his remarks, he touched on morality and how the ID movement equates  acceptance of evolution with denial of any moral foundation.  This is so stupid that it will require a future post all of its own.

Miller was involved in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in 2005. The case that the ID people together was simply laughable and, reassuringly, laughter is the response it got in court. The ID crowd were simply destroyed. The memorandum of opinion is an interesting read. In places it’s a mind blowing indictment of the ID concept and many of its proponents. Judge Jones does not hold back. Given his conservative outlook, the condemnation from Jones is quite stunning.

Even beyond the shudder inducing stupidity of the ID movement, it’s their blatant lies that bother me most. I really enjoy the fact that the trial exposed the outright dishonesty of this crowd. For supposedly Christian people, they sure lie a hell of a lot. Then again, based on their holy book, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

To me, two of the most interesting quotes came in the Q&A session after Miller’s presentation.

Miller explains that science and religion are not at odds:

I do think that most people within the scientific community have come to accept the notion that one can be a genuinely religious person in the traditional Abrahamic sense and still be fully accepting of science as a way to learn about the natural world.

and follows up with a jab at James Watson (in response to a question) for his narrow view of the world:

He may see no place for god in his view of the world. I do. That means we differ on matters of philosophy and theology but I don’t think it necessarily means we differ on matters of science.

I love these comments because they demonstrate true rationality. Miller is basically saying that he knows god exists and that he knows science is the best way to understand god’s creation. Obviously, I think Miller is wrong about god. That being said, I admire Miller a great deal and would love to hear him speak in person. I think I’ll also be buying his recent books. I hope they’re as much fun as his speaking.