Saturday, 25 December 2010

Russell's Teapot

Bertrand Russell Makes a nice case that a Deity can not be good and uses his "teapot" analogy to demonstrate the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim.

I find it interesting that he uses the "add on" that it is too small to see - which is OK in this example as he is arguing that an inability to disprove something is not evidence that something exists. This however is the type of protective strategy that is often employed by religious apologists when their argument is destroyed. They keep adding things on to protect their conclusion when in fact, they should be arguing for their belief.
An example would be the morality argument - you know the one: there is good in the world, therefore god is good (if you allow for him to exist for the sake of argument). You point out gas chambers, genocide and cancer and claim that god is either evil or does not care about human welfare. They now claim god has a purpose, often involving phrases like "free will", so evil is allowed. This of course has no evidence to back it up. It's just an idea created to protect a pre-conceived conclusion. Instead of deriving something of the nature of god (again assuming he exists for the purpose of argument) it becomes a "justification" to protect their viewpoint. A viewpoint that does not stand up to scrutiny. You may then counter that "free will" (if we have it) has nothing to do with things like children being born deformed. A common response to this is that the whole universe is polluted by "sin". Again, this "protects" the belief that god is good, but provides no supporting evidence that "sin" (something I don't believe exists) has polluted everything. So, the believer just heaps more and more unsupported claims on top of each other to protect that which they already "know" to be true because that is what one interpretation of their "holy book" says must be so. The whole thing becomes a convoluted mess, The best that can be hoped for is a consistent theology - just like you can also have consistent fairy tales too.
(I had only intended to post the video and appear to have gone on a bit of theology bashing :-) )
I am aware there are other variations of these arguments. So, before anyone shouts"strawman", please explain your arguments and state why they are more grounded in reality and and evidentially supported than these common Christian arguments that you will find all over the Internet.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Joseph Ratzinger is an Enemy of Humanity

The Pope's recent comment about secularism and Nazism have really angered me - and many others, including Christians. I think the anger that this has caused is evidence enough that secularists don't identify with Hitler. The catholic church on the other hand:

A list of Hitler's religious quotes can be found here. Let's not forget that he was a member of the catholic church; he never left and more importantly, he was never excommunicated. Not surprising as Ratzinger thinks Holocaust denial is OK and presumably Pius XII thought genocide was OK too as he frequently restrained himself from speaking out over fears for the church's power base.

Over to Dawkins. No doubt the faithful will ignore the deep moral outrage here and not engage with the fact that condoms save lives etc....

Tim Minchin sums up how I feel right now.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Summing Up and Moving On?

I've grown somewhat weary of the whole god thing and come to the conclusion that the only thing that will make me believe in the Christian god is if he actually appears. I've reached the point where I consider the arguments for his existence rather pathetic and not worth wasting too much time on any more. This is after all supposedly a being that wants to be in relationship with us. A being who is supposedly his own father and son, who sent himself on a nonsensical suicide mission to make this relationship possible. This is a god who supposedly weeps for the "lost" and the best "evidence" for his existence is a book that is full of inconsistencies, laughable inaccuracies, failed prophecies, non prophecies and contradictions. Then there is the "fine tuning" argument, based on incomplete knowledge of the universe. Surely, the best we can ask there is "why are the constants what they are?" Anything else is just an opinion and not open to investigation. So, I see it as a lack of evidence for a designer, not evidence for or against.

The "moral argument" is no better. It can at best provide a consistent idea (but often doesn't when talking to theists) it gives no reason to believe in a supernatural law giver. It is always good to challenge believers on the morality of homosexuality here. They will claim (falsely) that I recognise "god's laws" because I may agree that murder and rape are wrong for example (although, where they get such notions from reading the bible is beyond me). The problem comes when I point out that I don't believe homosexuality is evil - if I recognise god's laws, why do I not have a problem with gays? At this point they usually have to resort to assuming that on this particular issue, my heart is hardened - after all, it can't possibly be the case that they have no case for their belief in absolute moral values - can it?

I have written much against creationism. That is just so wrong that any mention of a god who suddenly "poofed" animals into existence and caused a global flood is not even worth considering as a possibility. Life is too short to spend dismantling the lies every time a creotard pops up spouting the festering shite and lies about evolution from some retarded crackpot fundie site of brain damaged madness.

Anyway, I've gone into much more detail elsewhere about everything, there is nothing more to be said other than thank you to everyone who has read my posts and contributed to discussions and general banter here.

I will continue to be fascinated with nature and evolution unhindered with the burden of dealing with fundigelicals. I may even be prompted to write from time to time on important discoveries. I'll probably even start posting more hillwalking and climbing photos. This is my current project:

Words can't begin to convey how bloody hard it is (it's first ascent took 100 days!).

me fannying about on "pressure".

Cool picture of Steve on Chowbok (Sea boulder at Dumbarton Rock)

Comment moderation is on because I keep getting a lot of Chinese spam at the moment.

PS, I'll still be popping by the usual blogs and injecting a healthy dose of reality on a few Christian blogs - sorry to dissapoint :-)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The South Cluanie Ridge

My friend Paul made this totally awesome slide show video of the South Cluanie Ridge. It was a trip I had organised, but injury prevented me from going - enjoy

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Avalanches on Mars

This amazing photo shows a rock and ice avalanche on the surface of Mars. It is part of an image that captures 4 such events. The cliff is about 700 m high and the reflective white material is Carbon Dioxide frost.

More information and other great photos can be found here

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Open Questions

The more I think about it, the less the term supernatural makes any sense. So, can anyone give me a definition of it that does not require natural premises? Also, what makes it outside nature?

Nurse! Todd Bentley Has Escaped Again

Does anyone know this person's carer?

Sometimes the correct response is to just point and laugh (Thanks to SG for the link)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Tired Old Christian Rapist Wife Beater Question Exposed

As you may have noticed, I’ve gotten somewhat bored of the stupidity of Christians. I've been spending much of my spare time climbing and reading about science (paricularly evolutionary and Geology). However, the weird ideas of a guy called Steve C over at Lee’s place have prompted me to write this. His position is a typical one. We feel moral obligations, therefore, these come from god, therefore god exists (his god to be specific – not Hindu or Greek gods, but his god). He dropped the classic when did you stop beating your wife question:

Great. Just for the record, you don’t think there are any moral OUGHTS?
You don’t think we OUGHT not rape or torture people just for fun?
When is rape o.k. Billy? Tell me.
Just want to be sure.” Great. Just for the record, you don’t think there are any moral OUGHTS?
You don’t think we OUGHT not rape or torture people just for fun?
When is rape o.k. Billy? Tell me.
Just want to be sure

A bizarre question because all I said was
That is an un argued for statement - evidence please.
Why do Christians capitalise OUGHT? What is OUGHT

In response to his empty statement that evolution can not generate “OUGHT”. Needless to say, he couldn’t defend his position – only make some more empty claims.

To give some background, like many Christians, he believes that there are unbendable moral laws that are external to us and independent of us. These are dependent on the nature of god (this raises the Euthyphro dilemma though) and that we somehow tune in to this.

Christians often use this question in debates to emotionally influence people. If someone claims that rape is not wrong in the absolute terms above, then the Christian tries to claim the moral high ground – look at the evil atheist, we all know rape is wrong, but he says its not.

If someone agrees that rape is wrong, the Christian then tries to claim victory – after all, there must be a law (of course, even if there was a law, that does not mean god provides it)

Of course, when one says rape is not “wrong”, all that is being stated is that we don’t believe it is wrong in the sense that there is a god who says it is wrong. It can be wrong culturally and biologically. Natural selection could be against rape and our sense of morality is a biological mechanism that prevents us acting in “immoral ways”. This would provide the appearance of a law, where in fact there is none (in the theistic sense). We can then say that rape is wrong in a biological sense that is enforced through a moral compass – the rudiments of which are found in other animals. This can be explained by reciprocal altruism and is reflected in teachings such as treat others like your self (which, incidentally, Confucius came up with over 500 years before “Jesus” did).

Christians don’t seem to like it though when you change things slightly to “is it ever right to kill babies or gays?” – two things god commands in the bible (Joshua, 6:16-17, Leviticus 20:13). This demonstrates that these so called immutable laws that the Christian claims we tap in to are in fact culturally relative and not absolute at all.

One final point, when a Christian appeals to such laws, ask him to show that it is not him imposing these laws on his “god” – that should be good for a laugh.
Oh, and for some strange reason Steve (who doesn't understand the term biological fitness) seems to think we should be able to see someones thoughts if there is no soul - I shit you not!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

What Every Creationist Has to Deny

A while ago, I was composing a list about what you would have to deny to believe in creationism. It became very long and dry, so I never posted it. This video however is much more pleasant to follow:

They also have to deny gravity:

Monday, 4 January 2010

Tasmanian Devils And The Evolution Of a New Species Of Parasitic Tumour

Creationists love to misrepresent evolution and have an inordinate fondness for strawmen. These include:

1. Evolutionary change requires in increase in “genomic information”
2. Evolution only occurs within “kinds”
3. Speciation does not occur (incompatible with 2).

Number 1 would imply that genome size correlates with complexity. It does not. The largest known genome belongs to the single celled Amoeba dubia at about 600 billion base pairs. This is 200 times larger than our own genome. Even the lungfish Protopterus aethiopicus has a genome 50 times larger than ours. See here for phyletic comparisons .

This strawman also ignores the reality that some genes such as Abd-a can inhibit the development of complex structures such as abdominal appendages in invertebrates. Furthermore, subtle changes in regulatory sequences can affect morphological development that is controlled by genes already present. An example would be the expression of Bmp2 in the developing forelimb of bats .

One final problem for creationists is that natural or experimental deletions of parts (or the whole) of Alx-4 (loss of “information”) increases digit number in mammalian limbs – ie, less “information”, greater “complexity”.

Number 2 is just absurd as the spatio-temporal distribution of any number of transitional fossils shows. The creationist concept of “kind” is also confused.

Number 3. It happens! Deal with it creationists!

Now to the point, Jerry Coyne has posted this fascinating summary of work on tumours of Tasmanian Devils. It is significant because the tumours seem to have originated in an individual Tasmanian Devil and are now transferred from individual to individual by bite. Thus, making it a new species of parasite that is derived from the host species. It has obvious implications for all three points above. It is well worth a read.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year

The Cobbler (aka Ben Arthur) from Ben Lomond on Friday

Happy New year

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Evidential Problem of Evil

One of the most frustrating things about reading many theistic arguments is their need to take things in isolation and hold it up as evidence that their god has properties “X”,”Y” or “Z”. Apart from the fact they are ignoring all that evidence that contradicts their claim, they make the mistake of assuming such qualities can only come from a deity.

The loving god that many Christians believe in is one particular example that leaves me wondering why the Christians cant see the problem. They usually quote things like rainbows, flowers, medicine and your favourite food as evidence that god is a loving one. I then feel compelled to point out flood, carnivorous plants, disease and poisonous organisms. Much in the same way that Darwin wrote: “I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

At the end of the day, for something to survive, something else has to suffer – be it a parasite eating the living flesh of its host, or me eating a cheeseburger. The bottom line is that something must die for me to live. It is this fact that Christians overlook in their arguments.

Stephen Law exemplified this brilliantly in a recent post about the fine-tuning argument where he made a comparison with a concentration camp. He wrote:” Alister’s [McGrath] position, it seems to me, is like that of someone who wanders into a concentration camp, notes the stoves designed to provide meals and warmth and the mattresses designed for sleeping on, and concludes that not only was this camp designed by an intelligence with some interest in sustaining human life, it actually “points towards” a wonderfully loving and benevolent designer.”
We would never assume that a place where there is so much evil as there is in a concentration camp was evidence of a designer who had the captives best interest at heart. Why then do Christians feel that a planet where people can and do build concentration camps is evidence that there is a loving god?

At best, all that can be claimed is that the universe points to a god who is indifferent about human suffering. Christians then get in all sorts of knots trying to explain away this “evil”. Arguments then make assumptions about god’s nature and motives. These can not be backed up by observable facts – which was what the Christian was trying to do when he showed you a fluffy basket of puppies – ignoring the fact that there is a sack of kittens at the bottom of a canal somewhere.

Suffering is best explained by competitive survival between individuals and species.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Letter To the Metro: Exposing Creationist Lies

There has been a flurry of creationist nonsense in the metro recently. The depressing thing is that it’s the same thoroughly refuted nonsense that keeps coming up. This time they have claimed that no transitional fossils exist and that speciation does not occur. As a result I got this letter published.

Let me expose some creationist lies. 1. No transitional forms exist. This is rubbish! Transitions have been found for all major vertebrate groups. For example, for the evolution of whales, we have Sionyx, Pakicetus, Indohyus, Kutchicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocentus, Miacetus, Protocetus, Basilosaurus, Dorudon, Squalodon and Ceitotherium to name a few. They have also been found in the right places in rocks of the right age and show a gradual progression to more whale like animals. Furthermore, DNA evidence confirms their relationship to the proposed ancestral group.

2. Speciation does not occur. This is another lie and it has actually been observed. Try the Madeira island house mouse for example.

Creationists have no evidence of their own and rely on promoting the above lies and then denying the facts. Strangely, they think their ignorance of biology is evidence of their position.”

One has to wonder how these people have bypassed all the evidence at school and seem to quote lies and ignorance from fundamentalist sites. Is it a failure of our education system? They are very easy to shoot down though, but that won’t make a difference to them. I expect replies of “it’s still a mouse” (even though it is a new species) and the fossils are not complete (something I dealt with here) or the good old where are the transitional forms for the transitional forms? chestnut.

Concurrently, there is some joker claiming that Darwinism gave Hitler his justification – groan!