Monday, August 31, 2009

Bible as a book of knowledge

Have you seen that video on YouTube with the lady declaring, "The Bible is the most scientifically accurate book ever written", or seen people claim that, "All of the answers are in the bible"?

I think it's really funny to suggest that the Bible was given to us to communicate knowledge. What other books are meant to do that? Science books would be a good example. When I open a science book, I see straight-forward, yet often complex, diagrams and text. They tell me, in very clear terms, exactly how a process works, what evidence there is, and what problems remain unanswered.

The Bible, along with other old holy books, uses this vague, poetic language which requires interpretation in order to make any sense at all, and that interpretation is highly subjective to the reader.

For example, here is the introductory text from the Wikipedia article on jet streams:

"Jet streams, or just jets in context, are fast flowing, narrow air currents found in the atmosphere of planets at the tropopause, the transition between the troposphere (where temperature decreases with height) and the stratosphere (where temperature increases with height). They are thought to be caused by a combination of atmospheric heating (by solar radiation and/or internal heat) and a planet's rotation on its own axis. On Earth, the strongest jet streams are the polar jets (7-12 km or 23,000-39,000 ft above sea level) and the higher and somewhat weaker subtropical jets (10-16 km or 33,000-52,000 ft). The northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere each have both a polar jet and a subtropical jet."

Do you think it's possible to misinterpret that to mean anything other than what it's supposed to mean? It's pretty clear, as long as you know what all of the words mean.

Now here is a passage from the Bible, which creationist idiots claim is meant to reveal to us information about the jet streams:

"The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits."

Even if you ignore the fact that the jet streams go from west to east, not north-south, you can still see that this is total garbage. If the Bible was meant to communicate knowledge to us, why didn't it use a straight-forward style? It's for this reason that the Bible, even if it did contain knowledge, would be almost completely useless to us as a tool in discovering new things. However, the real handicap is the fact that it doesn't actually contain any knowledge at all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thunderf00t - Ray Comfort videos

I just watched the highly-anticipated Thunderf00t vs. Ray Comfort debate/discussion on YouTube (link to first video here), and I have to say that I'm disappointed in Thunderf00t's performance.

Thunderf00t has made his name by attacking and utterly destroying the bullshit spewed from the mouths of the religious, especially the creationists. I think he showed Ray Comfort's ideas way too much respect, and spent most of his time trying to explain his view to Ray. That's a very difficult thing to do, as Ray's mind can't absorb scientific information.

I definitely approved of some things, such as the way Thunderf00t pressed Ray on the pedophilia thing, but he failed to properly criticise Ray for his explicit avoidance of the question, and just ended up dropping it and moving on. Near the end, he called Ray out for his spreading of bad information about science, and how it was detrimental to the progress of mankind, but I think he didn't follow-up and drive the point home enough.

In general, Thunderf00t did not produce enough offence, spending much of his time on defence. Ray lobbed several easy pitches that Thunderf00t should have hit out of the park. Some of the other things I think Thunderf00t failed to do:

1. Challenge Ray to explain HOW (as in the exact process) his god created the Universe, not just to explain over and over again what made it. Ray likely would have had to admit that he doesn't know exactly, which would have been interesting because he mocked Thunderf00t earlier in the discusssion for not knowing exactly how the Universe came into existence.

2. Challenge Ray to distinguish his creation story from the thousands and thousands of creation stories that have come before it. As in, once you decide that a god exists, how can you assert that this is the one? There's no evidence to suggest his is true.

3. Call Ray on making declarative statements (that he KNOWS how the Universe got here), after telling Thunderf00t that he wasn't allowed to do that.

4. Point out that people in the future may laugh at SOME of the things we think we know now, but that people are ALREADY laughing at Ray, as Ray's view is an old one that has been shown to be completely ridiculous, cannot be supported by reality, and is just plain wrong. Human understanding (the kind supported by evidence) has moved on, and Ray still clings to the old beliefs. I'd also like to point out that the old beliefs were never supported by any experiments or processes that we might now call 'scientific'.

5. Ask Ray why his views are so opposed to what we see in reality, such as age of the Universe and the fossil record utterly excluding creationism.

6. Ask why Ray's god doesn't need to have been created, but the Universe must require a creator. This is the question that badly tripped Ray up in his debate on TV a few years ago with the Rational Response Squad. I posted about it here.

7. Thunderf00t asked Ray what the difference is between his god and an imaginary god that somebody makes up in order to feel good. Ray just completely ignored the question and started preaching. Thunderf00t did bring him back on topic and forced him to answer. Ray said he thinks that because the character of his god was described in a book, that makes it real, while the other is not. Ray then said that he knows the book is real because his god wrote it. Classic circular reasoning, and I can't believe Ray would still be dumb enough to say this kind of thing on camera! Thunderf00t should have pounced here, but didn't.

8. Point out that the presence of a conscience is also explained by the evolution of humans as social creatures, and so Ray can't use it as a proof of his god, because it is mutual to the natural origins hypothesis and the god hypothesis. Proofs must exclude competing hypotheses, as the fossil record excludes creationism.

9. Thunderf00t also dropped other points from conversation, such as when Ray demonstrated a complete lack of any understanding about evolution. He even equated the reproductive incompatibility of newly split-off species with infertility in individuals of a single species. He has no idea what he's talking about! Why didn't Thunderf00t call Ray out for his lack of education on the subjects he debates in public?

I'm thinking I'd much rather have seen Ray vs. Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience. Matt doesn't let those softballs go by without getting clobbered, and would press Ray for answers more than Thunderf00t did. Perhaps Thunderf00t just doesn't know enough about baseball.

After writing the above part of this post, I watched Thunderf00t's video about his reflections on his performance. He said that popular opinion is almost exactly what I wrote, but that he was going for mutual respect and exchange of ideas, not for blood.

Comments? Anybody agree or disagree with me? Do you think Thunderf00t was right to keep it so low-key to maintain civility? Or did you want to see Ray squirm and bleed?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Better than the original!

Do a search in Google for atheist's riddle. As of the time I'm writing this, my rebuttal to it has overtaken the original argument's page in the result rankings. That's pretty funny.

My understanding of how Google ranks sites suggests that the top-ranking of my rebuttal is due to the number of people reading it, along with how many are linking to it. So I guess I owe the thanks to you, the readers! Please continue to link to it on your site, if you have one.

Result rankings change often, so not sure if it will still be the case by the time any readers try the search. Just to prove that it was once true, I've attached a screenshot. Click on it to see a hi-res version.

I have followers?

So even though I hadn't added a 'Followers' section to the page (and didn't even know what that meant), some people have already chosen to follow my site. So I'm adding one now. If you'd like to follow this page, check out the link on the left sidebar below the topics.

So far, I have 8 disciples. Let's see if I can get more than the 12 that the Bible says Jesus had.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sidelines science

It has occurred to me that my post, Science is not a democracy, so shut up!, could be misinterpreted. One could argue that I'm attempting to silence the religious, the same way that I accuse them of wanting to silence atheists. This is not true.

I'm perfectly willing to see anybody participate in science, whether they're religious or atheist. The problem is that what many religious people call, 'participating in science', I'd merely call, 'bitching from the sidelines'.

Science is not done by talking, protesting, whining or public speaking tours to bible colleges, any more than sports are played in the stands (forgive me British soccer, err..... football fans). There are no points given in sports for how loud your fans were, how drunk they were, or how many nifty chants they came up with. Similarly, you cannot win in science by nipping at its heels like a little bitch. You must participate in the research and publication!

So when I tell religious people to shut up about science, I mean for them to shut their mouths and start their research!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A modern miracle

This post is about a modern-day 'miracle' which occurred, witnessed by hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of people, in multiple countries. Most of those people are still alive today. Yet I'd bet a lot of money that the vast, vast majority of Christians have never even heard of it. How is this possible?

The answer is in the name. This miracle is commonly known as the Hindu Milk Miracle. The alleged miracle occurred in 1995. It was believed that statues of the Hindu god, Ganesha (my favourite Hindu god, thanks to Apu!), began drinking milk which was offered to them on spoons. People in India, and in Hindu populations in other countries, began buying milk at an insane rate, and trying to see the miracle for themselves. You can read a bit about the events at its Wikipedia page.

I've done a little more reading on this, and found a website which said something like, "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation is possible." Wait a minute! Isn't that the same tactic that the Christians use? I wonder how they would respond.

See, this is the thing that bugs me. When Christians, or people from any other religion (but mostly that's the Christians), try to tell me about their miracles, or their creation stories, they assume that I'm too stupid to know that there are many, many other religions on the planet. There are even many, many religions which used to exist, but are now extinguished. Why do they think that the alleged miracles from their religion are correct and true, but that the ones from other religions are ridiculous? I've covered this before in another post.

And the Christians often argue that their miracles had eye-witnesses, whose testimony, passed orally, and written down hundreds or even thousands of years ago, is accurate. Yet why would they ignore a much more recent miracle like the Hindu Milk Miracle, with all of its witnesses which can be interviewed even today? Oh, that's right, because they're too sheltered under their rocks to even KNOW that there are other religions with the same claims and the same evidence! Even in the face of modern science, these people still believe that the milk miracle was real. Can you imagine how easy it would have been to dupe people before science came along, which is when most of the alleged Christian miracles occurred (interesting coincidence, isn't it)?

None of it makes any fricking sense, and I wish the religious could use their heads for thinking, instead of just as rain protectors for their necks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reader's questions

I had a reader send me the following email:

"hey I found your blog like a week ago and I truly like it.

I would like to see your views about homosexuality and homosexual couples adopting children.
And your views about jesus.
on school there were teachers with arguments like: "could an entire town lie about what jesus did?" I thought "ofcourse they could, probablly only 10 of them ever saw jesus." ofcourse I couldn't tell her or they would of kicked me out of school.

excuse me if you don't understand me but I'm from Chile.

thank you for your time, I hope you talk about the things I said :)"

I don't think I've posted anything on homosexuality in the past, so this is a good chance for me to discuss it a little. First, I don't mind gay people. I can hang around with them, even when they're with their partners. I can shake their hands, laugh with them, or discuss their relationships. However, I'm not going to say, "Oh yeah, I could picture myself being gay." I don't find the lifestyle appealing, and it grosses me out a bit.

I think homosexuality is a natural thing, yet not ideal. Homosexuality has been observed in hundreds of animal species, notably one of our closest relatives, the bonobo. It's difficult to argue from the biblical perspective that homosexuality is a choice, when the animals were not supposed to have been given free will. That would mean that they were created gay. Back to reality, it is not ideal because any animal which is homosexual would not typically be able to pass on its genes, which is not evolutionarily helpful to the species. On that level, I would consider homosexuality to be a 'bug' in the genetic programming. But is it any more of a bug than my own desire to not have children? Most men my age have children or are planning to, but I don't want them. My genes will not be passed on (at least, I hope not).

Now what about homosexual couples adopting children, which was the reader's question? On the surface, I think it's odd and unnatural. Two men or two women are not supposed to be having children, so it violates a basic principle of nature. However, on the issue of adoption, is it really any different than if a mother died and the father's brother stepped in to help the father take care of the child? Certainly, that would happen in many societies in which families are more tightly-knit than in Western countries.

And what is the alternative to homosexual couples adopting children? If we were absolutely overflowing with traditional, financially stable, heterosexual couples who wanted to adopt children, and no child was going without parents, then perhaps we could exclude homosexual couples from adopting. But that is not the case. There seems to be more need for adoption than there are couples like this, and so the alternative is to let a child go unwanted and unloved. That doesn't seem right, does it? I think if you gave a child the option to be part of a family with gay parents, or to live in an orphanage until they're grown-up, they'd take the adoption.

As for my thoughts on Jesus, I think he may or may not have been a real person. I have no real reason to think that he was not real, although I haven't been shown enough evidence to say for sure. Let's say that I accept he was real, but wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if he wasn't. However, there is a big difference between the man being real, and the stories of miracles and divine birth being true. I think that's just bullshit, plain and simple. I KNOW that there's no good evidence of any of that happening. If there were, the Christian apologists wouldn't have to rely on trying to convince us that eye-witness testimony, passed orally, is reliable. It's a weak argument, and if they could do better, they would.

I hope that answers your questions! If you have more questions, you know where to find me!