Proof of God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part four)

This is part four of a four-part series.

So God isn’t omnipotent. He’s still the Creator.

When believers say, “God is beyond understanding, beyond definition,” they don’t really mean it. At the very least, I would say, there is one characteristic that provides a very clear definition of God: “God is the entity that can determine the nature of matter and its interactions in a definable region. God makes universes, at least this one.”

That’s why Jews, Christians, and Muslims couldn’t possibly accept Zeus, Odin, or Brahma as “God”; none of those can claim they created the universe. This “creation claim” is unique to the Abrahamic religions and central to their beliefs.

Proof of GodI find this to be a beautifully scientific claim. There are all sorts of things that we may not yet understand, but that are potentially comprehensible to us: the nature of matter, the nature of physical laws, the nature of space and time (a definable region). We consider all these to be scientific; we can work with this.

Other claims of the miracles that God can perform are vague, silly, and somehow lesser than this one. We have biblical stories that God can change water into wine, raise the dead, stop the planet’s rotation for a while. These do seem rather “miraculous” (if given any credibility at all). I will claim however that these are nothing more than fancy applications of advanced technology.

Proof of GodModern medicine raises many people from the dead (myself included) when it brings back someone whose heart has stopped. You might say, “Oh, they’re not really dead, they need to be dead longer.” That just sounds like an application of more advanced technology. Has all metabolism stopped? Has all DNA degraded? At what point would believers want to claim God can raise someone from the dead? What if they have degraded down to their molecular components and been dispersed around the planet? What if they fell into a burning sun or a black hole?

Stopping the revolution of the planet is pretty impressive. One could conceive of the application of massive and powerful energies being applied and some kind of a stasis field to stop the oceans from sloshing around and people from flying off the surface due to the sudden deceleration. Highly advanced technology, to be sure, and we certainly have no idea how to do such a thing at our present stage.

But to say, it is not even achievable technologically in principle is to make a prediction about the limitations of the capabilities of future humans or any advanced civilization. Whenever one has made those in the past, they have almost always turned out to be wrong, providing they have any scientific basis whatsoever.

I claim there is only ONE capability that would give someone the “right” to call themselves “God.” That is the ability to impose a set of natural laws on real matter (equivalent to “creating a universe”). If you have the ability to create a universe, where the stuff of that universe behaves in a way that you determine, you are “God” (at least to that universe). Anything that constrains the kind of matter you can make or the way that matter interacts, limits your claim to be called “God.”

Any other entity, no matter how advanced its technology, that is constrained to operating within the natural properties of the matter in its universe, should not be considered “God.” A being that could determine the natural properties of matter would trump any other kind of technology. Only that being could be said to be Supreme.

The main theological claim of the Abrahamic religions is that, despite whatever logical or natural limitations there may be to God’s abilities, He is nonetheless the Creator of the universe (some may say, specifically, of the world and of life, but I think creating the universe encompasses these smaller claims).

Is “being God” the same as having advanced technology?

Proof of GodLet’s ask ourselves about “God, the Creator.” Does God understand how He does what He does? Does He understand the process of Creation in a scientific sense, the way we understand how computer chips work? If so, can God teach these scientific principles to another person, teach someone else how to be God?

There are only two possible answers: Yes or No.

No: If God has no idea how to create a universe, we really have to ask how He could lay claim to having done it. How does He know it came into existence by His action? Could He do it again? If we answer, “No,” we have to ask whether the “God claim” is substantiated.

Yes: If God understands completely the principles of universe creation, then it would seem to be a science. That is, it’s something that is comprehensible by some being (with sufficient intelligence, one would presume). One would expect, like most things that can be understood, that God can subsequently teach “godhood” (i.e. how to create a universe), i.e. that “godhood” is essentially a science.

If it’s a science, why can’t we discover it on our own? If it’s a science, then the “supernatural” (outside of nature) claims for God simply fail. God becomes a subset of “natural.” We may honor that, respect that, but why would we worship it?

Now some might argue that God understands how to make universes but no one else can (presumably because we are either not smart enough or lack some ability). But this fails logically.

Everything that is understandable can be taught to someone of sufficient intelligence and ability. Some point to perceptual or physical limitations, saying things like: “You can’t teach the colorblind to see color, though they may understand the principle”; or “You can’t teach a person without arms to play the guitar.” These are silly objections because they are based on essentially technological limitations.

Even we humans are not that far away from using stem cells to restore cone receptors in the eyes of the color blind. Limb regeneration is not an impossibility, as we already know there are creatures on Earth who can regrow severed limbs; we just need to develop the understanding.

Surely, the Creator (who understands how He does what He does) could hypothetically also create a being capable of perceiving and understanding the process of creation. Surely, He would have enough scientific knowledge to be able to pass it down to a sufficiently advanced being. If we can extend our knowledge and abilities, why can’t He?

The conclusion is almost inevitable: Any being sufficiently advanced to create a universe should be able to teach the ability to another sufficiently advanced being. Further, the Creator should understand enough biology (or computational theory) to find a way to make capable beings that are currently incapable of understanding creation. We may not know how to do this yet, but it would be the height of hubris to suggest God can’t do it. Being God, “godhood” –if that has any meaning—must be a science that we could potentially understand.

Conclusion

So, we’ve explored the limitations to any putative “God’s” abilities. We’ve concluded that the God of the Abrahamic faiths is not all-loving, all-knowing, nor all-powerful. Those conclusions are an inevitable result of Scripture, experience, and logic. We’ve also narrowed our definition of God to His primary defining characteristic or claim: God is the Creator of the universe. But then we’ve gone on to show how creating a universe is really something that is scientifically achievable, at least in principle. If it’s something that has a scientific basis, we humans should eventually be able to figure it out on our own.

Why should we use the possibility that there is some other being who understands more about how the universe works as a justification for our reckless, insane behaviors, for going to war with someone whose views are only moderately different? Especially when we can’t really distinguish between this imperfect being we call “God” from some scientifically, technologically very advanced alien being. This seems much more akin to “picking a favorite team” than any rational basis for how we approach the universe.

Proof of GodIs “God” just a “favorite team?” How do people in Boston decide they like the Celtics, the Bruins, or the Red Sox more than they like Toronto’s Raptors, Maple Leafs, or Blue Jays? Well, favorite sports teams are chosen by where we were born, where we grew up, where we live, who our friends are, and so on. All social factors. It turns out that being born and growing up in a country that primarily practices the Muslim faith is a great predictor that you are more likely to become Muslim than Christian or Jewish. It turns out most of us pick religions much the same way we pick sports teams or political parties.

If God is like a favorite sports team, why would rational people choose that method to determine how they live, who they associate with, who they listen to as authorities? They wouldn’t. Religion is a lot like that; it’s not rational. More dangerously, it’s not a rational way to develop public policy. As I said at the beginning, I don’t really care what you believe in the privacy of your own mind, but when your beliefs affect the public policy that you propose or support, then I care greatly.

I want public policy to be rational, based on the best available evidence and logical analysis. I want public policy to be flexible, to adjust in the face of new data rather than defend its dogmatic and indefensible ideology. That’s the only reason I care about your beliefs, the only reason I challenge those beliefs. When anyone uses their unsubstantiated beliefs to formulate policy in the public domain, I think it’s incumbent on evidence-based, rational people to challenge the basis of those beliefs.




Proof of God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part three)

This is part three of a four-part series.

Is God all-knowing?

Proof of GodWell, this is absurd on so many levels. If God was all-knowing then why were Adam and Eve punished (kicked out of the Garden of Eden) for eating of the forbidden fruit? Didn’t God see that one coming? Is it fair to punish someone for doing something that was practically built-in to their design by their supposedly perfect, inerrant designer?

And what of free-will? How can we freely choose between options AND have God know what our choice will be before we make it?

From an information-theory point of view, there is a LOT of information in the universe. Does God know where each single subatomic particle in the universe is and where it’s going? How does He know this? More importantly, how does He bypass the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (which states “it’s not possible to know both the position of a particle and the velocity of that particle with perfect precision, not even in theory)?”

 

 

Proof of GodInformation can be represented as bits, 1s and  0s. Think of it as “information removes uncertainty.” Before you flip a coin, you don’t know if it’ll land on heads or tails. Your uncertainty is equal to the probability that either choice could come up, one-in-two or one-half (we use a mathematical formula to convert this to bits of information:). Once you flip it, the coin lands on one side or the other. At that point, your uncertainty drops to zero from one-half. We say the information from that test is one bit.

So, how many bits of information are there in the universe? This is impossible to know, but the number is enormous. A single atom of iron may require 1080 bits to fully describe it. Derek Abbott of the University of Adelaide says,

“We know the entropy of a black hole is related to its surface area divided by the Planck length. So what we can do is pretend the whole [known, ed.] universe is a black hole and use the radius of the known universe to get its surface area. And as entropy is related to information, we can calculate the maximum number of bits. Then depending on the details, you’ll get a number between 10122 and 10124 bits for the whole universe.”

Your modern desktop computer, has something like 1011 bits in its hardware. You’d need 10113 such computers to store all the information in the known universe, alone. The whole universe only contains around 1082 atoms, so it’s hard to see how you could ever have enough computers for the task. Especially given that each computer contains around a mole (1023) atoms of material.

“So, what?” a believer might ask. Well, here’s the thing. God (if such a being exists) would need to be much bigger than the universe just to contain all the information that is in that universe. “No problem,” the believer says. “God is infinite.” (another scientific claim, by the way) Now, let’s add to God’s burden. God is all-knowing so, in addition to knowing everything about our universe, He must know everything about himself.

In addition to encoding all the bits about our universe, an all-knowing God needs to encode all the bits that represent Himself. That includes His representation of our universe. You can see this is going to become a problem very quickly. The omniscient God must contain enough bits to encode all the information PLUS all the information about the bits that encode that information PLUS all the information about those bits that encode that information PLUS…it never ends.

The only reasonable conclusion is that God can’t logically be omniscient.

Is God all-powerful?

The Stone Paradox is most commonly used to represents logical limitations to an omnipotent being. Simply, it asks: Could an omnipotent being create a stone too heavy for it to lift? Other variations of this include: Could an omnipotent being make a square triangle?

Proof of GodThe basis for the Stone Paradox is simple. If the answer is “Yes” (God can make a stone too heavy for Him to lift) then there is something He can’t do, namely lift a stone He created. If the answer is “No” then, again, there is something He can’t do, namely make such a stone.

More recently Pastor Peter LaRuffa has (in)famously stated,

“If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”

This is the same stance taken by French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descarte. The view that an omnipotent being could do absolutely anything, even the logically absurd, is known as ”voluntarism.”

Most theologians and philosophers don’t accept voluntarism but instead resort to “act theory“ interpretations. These take on the form: A being S is omnipotent if-and-only-if S can perform any action A such that A is possible. So, because a square circle, for example, is not possible, it is absurd to believe an omnipotent God can make one.

Act theory doesn’t claim the absolute omnipotence of God, but rather that God is the maximally powerful being. That God can do anything that can be done. A logically contradictory state of affairs is not a thing at all, but NOTHING. An all-powerful God can do or make anything, but it’s meaningless to say that He can do or make a ”nothing.”

The point is, ‘a rock too heavy for God to lift’ really means ‘a rock too heavy for a being who can lift anything’, so it is a self-contradiction. A ‘square circle’ and ‘2+2=5’ are likewise contradictory states of affairs. Therefore these are all nothings.

This immediately leads to the objection, “What sets the constraint about what can be done? Is God forced to obey laws of nature or laws of logic that He has not created? If so, God is not the maximally powerful being imaginable. Why do logical paradoxes lead to NOTHINGS for an all-powerful God?”

Some philosophers have tried to overcome these problems by resorting to the “result theories“ of Leibniz and Ross, where a being is omnipotent if-and-only-if any possible state of affairs, or any possible world. A possible state of affairs is defined as “a way the world could be.” For instance, the sky’s being blue is a possible state of affairs, and John’s being a married bachelor is an impossible state of affairs.

Result theory would say, there being a stone an omnipotent being cannot lift is clearly not a possible state of affairs. An omnipotent being could therefore not bring it about. On the other hand, there being a stone its creator cannot lift is a possible state of affairs, and could be brought about by an omnipotent being, under the Leibniz-Ross theory, for an omnipotent being could bring it about that some other being created a stone which that being could not lift. Therefore, the Stone Paradox is claimed to not be a problem for the Leibniz-Ross theory.

I have a hard time distinguishing this from act theory; it may be too subtle for me. I would claim that this hasn’t got around the Stone Paradox at all. The result theory argument is that there’s a possible world where omnipotent being A creates some other being (or version of itself) B that makes the stone that A cannot subsequently lift, at the same time that a different being or version of itself is lifting it. That would seem to imply that A can make a possible world where being B  can do something A can’t. Why would we call A omnipotent in that case?

Here’s a video that demonstrates an interesting attempt to get around the Stone Paradox by making God able to split into two different versions of himself. Version A can’t life the rock, but at the same time version B can lift both A and the rock. That’s pretty neat. But, the original claim implied a single being we could call God. In this video, God splits into two beings with different capabilities. Is it fair to call either of them omnipotent? Are either of them still God?

This is a cute trick but it seems more like saying, “God’s right hand can make a stone too heavy for God’s left hand to lift.” It’s not at all clear this is the same test as the Stone Paradox proposes. Instead of proposing two different versions of God, we could simply say, “God at time x can create a stone that only God at time y can lift.” That is, we can split God temporally instead of spatially. I would claim these are not logically equivalent to our initial proposal.

The Leibniz-Ross result theory, leads to other odd or absurd metaphysical consequences, including the implication that an omnipotent being exists necessarily. According to Leibniz’s formulation, an omnipotent being would be able to actualize any possible world, but it is absurd to suppose that an omnipotent being should actualize a world in which it never existed. It follows that no such world is possible. Of course, this assumes that an omnipotent being existed in any possible world.

If there is no world (not any) in which an omnipotent being could possibly exist, then it wouldn’t exist in all possible worlds. Either God exists in all possible worlds or in none.

There are easily enough paradoxes in the idea of an omnipotent being that can’t be logically dismissed that we should be very wary of the whole concept.

In the next post, I’ll examine the “Creator claim” made of the Abrahamic God and draw my final conclusions.




God's superpowers

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part two)

This is part two of a four-part series.

What is the nature of the Abrahamic God? Besides creating the universe and life, what does He do? What are His superpowers? There have been many secondary claims made about the Abrahamic God: He is variously claimed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving). These claims are easily disputed through scripture, experience, and reason. Let’s examine them.

God's superpowers

Is God all-loving?

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341-270 BC) famously asked:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

In Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In other words, is any act of God morally good because God did it (or commanded it), or is God constrained to only perform or command morally good acts? If we are able to independently judge God’s acts as “good” or “bad” then is there a basis for that judgment that is independent of God?

What can we learn of God’s morality from the Bible?

Let’s look at how the Bible views slavery, for example, something that very few believe is morally good in this day and age. Here are a few excerpts from a lengthy article on the subject:

God's superpowersExodus Chapter 21, verse 1:

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl [presumably to make way for an earing, ed.]; and he shall serve him for life.

In his book, “Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God”, Lee Strobel argues against our common interpretation of slavery in ancient Jewish culture:

Servitude in Israel was radically different than slavery in the antebellum South. Although people on both sides argued that the Bible does—or does not—endorse slavery, I argue that we have good reason to think that the “biblical case” for Southern slavery doesn’t hold up.

For one thing, the term “slave” or “slavery” in the Old Testament is often a mistranslation. The Mosaic Law typically refers to “servitude” as indentured service—much like arrangements in colonial America: those who couldn’t pay for their voyage to the New World would work for seven years to pay off their debt, and then they were free to operate in society as ordinary citizens.

What’s interesting about contracted servitude in Israel was that it was, first of all, voluntary: a person would “sell himself” or parcel out family members to work, and they would in return receive clothing, a roof over their heads, and food on the table. Servitude was also limited to seven years unless the servant voluntarily chose lifelong servitude, which brought both stability and security in difficult economic times.

But read the following passages and ask yourself if that sounds like “indentured service” or “contracted servitude.” I don’t think so.

Leviticus Chapter 25, verse 44:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Exodus Chapter 21, verse 20:

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

So the Bible recognizes it is okay to trade in people (but not fellow Israelites), though perhaps this is just the buying and selling of indentured servitude. It recognizes slavery as being ruthless and that is the primary justification for not taking other Israelites as slaves. But it also recognizes that beating slaves is acceptable as long as that slave does not die (one can only presume maiming is acceptable).

The question is, then, does the God of the Old Testament act in a way that the cultures of the time saw as being morally correct, but which we no longer approve? Or is God’s “morality” constant and outside of the morality of the cultures of the time, the way most Abrahamic religions portray it? If so, how do we reject slavery in modern times?

Are we wrong, or is God?

Some Christian apologists say, “Those verses are from the Old Testament and no longer apply because of Jesus.” But, this ignores the fact that Jesus specifically states that the laws of the Old Testament still stand in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says:

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What can we learn of God’s morality from experience?

English comedian and activist, Richard Fry, when asked what he would say to God if he were confronted by Him at the Pearly Gates, answered:

“I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? That’s what I would say.”

British naturalist David Attenborough, when asked why he didn’t credit God for the wonders of nature in his documentaries, replied:

“They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. Why would an all-loving God, Creator of Life on this planet, have planned such a hideous punishment for an innocent child?”

God's superpowers

One of the most famous quotes about God’s morality is attributed to a carving on the wall of a Nazi concentration camp by an anonymous Jewish prisoner. It reads, “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.“ Clearly, the world is, and always has been, full of suffering. It is difficult (impossible, really) to reconcile an all-loving God with current, historical, and even biblical human experiences.

“But God works in mysterious ways,” many apologists answer. Yet, it doesn’t seem so much mysterious as contradictory. We have to ask ourselves, if we can look at things (like slavery, prison camps, bone cancer, and parasitic worms) that appear acceptable to God, and see that they are obviously wrong, why should we trust that He really was working for the eventual betterment of the human condition?

In the next post, I’ll discuss “God’s superpowers.” Is God all-knowing and all-powerful?




God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part one)

What “Proof of God” justifies your position?

I begin a four-part series today.

Philosophers, theologians, and scientists have been grappling with the issue of God’s existence for millennia. Much of the discussion in past centuries may have been motivated simply by curiosity or by a protest against theological dogma. For many of us in the modern world, the notion of God is a very private one. God may show up in our prayers but frequently doesn’t have much effect in our daily decisions. Why might it still be important to ask whether or not God exists, today?

Why does God still matter?

Related imageLet me state up front that I don’t really care what you truly, deeply believe in the privacy of your own mind. You could believe you are the King of Narnia. You could believe Harry Potter or Peter Pan are real, for all I care. I know many people who believe things at least as improbable as this.

You may not believe it, but I don’t like debating people’s faith, no matter what arguments they use to justify or rationalize why they believe. I don’t think rejecting religious beliefs is the best road to atheism. In many ways, atheism is not really a belief system at all and is certainly not a replacement for religion. That’s why I’m an “empirical physicalist“; it seems more like a philosophical position than simply not believing the “God claims” of others.

But people’s beliefs, particularly the heartfelt ones, have a habit of making their way into public policy. If you say, “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,” you are now using your beliefs (without much, if any, objective evidence) to justify, recommend, or set public policy. And that public policy could lead to a proliferation of global nuclear war, ending the time of “God’s children” on this planet.

Is Trump’s authority from God?

proof of godThat’s where I have trouble.

Religious beliefs are among the most blatant and pernicious belief systems when it comes to influencing public policy. Religious beliefs gave us prohibition and help governments and other public groups justify their ongoing wars against drugs, abortion, homosexuality, the sexual revolution, feminism, evolution theory, Big Bang theory, science, and – most notably – against other religions.

In the United States, despite being in the vast religious majority, Christians feel they increasingly suffer from religious persecution. And they have begun to take steps to reverse what they see as their exclusion from public policy formation. Many atheists rush to point out that there is no persecution of Christianity, only a desired leveling of the moral playing field, a removal of the privileges commonly granted religious organizations such as freedom from taxation and the “right” to deny public service on the basis of Faith.

For this reason, it is important for those who hold religious beliefs to examine the reasons they use to justify their public policy positions.

For many people, a belief in God comes along with the religious beliefs they grew up with. There is no doubt that the emotional and social support many receive through the beliefs they share with their family and community provides great comfort. When asked why they believe, people will point to nature or the universe and ask how one could otherwise explain the existence of such beauty. They may claim they “feel” God or have a “God-shaped-hole” in their hearts that yearns for a connection to something greater than themselves.

These are emotional justifications; they simply assume that God must exist because that is the only way the believer can imagine their feelings having a source. I usually try to be more rational about something as potentially important as a belief in how the universe works. I certainly hope none of our politicians make their important decisions on the basis of their “feelings.” Psychological studies into paranoia and schizophrenia suggest that feelings or subjective experiences are not always the best basis for making good decisions.

Many people have fuzzy notions of God. God could be a “force,” a “presence,” or a “Guardian/Protector,” for example. For many, their idea of God has some basis in their holy texts.

Perhaps unique to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is a belief in a single God. Other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism either have a proliferation of gods or no god in particular. The central claim of the Abrahamic religions is that God is the Creator of all: the universe, the Earth, all life, and the human soul.

In the next post, I’ll discuss the nature or character of the God of the Bible and we can start examining the claims made of His existence in greater detail.




Critical thinking

Wireless Philosophy – An Introduction to Critical Thinking

Critical thinking

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a topic oft raised by members of the atheist community.  We often like to promote ourselves as ‘the rational ones’, and we often see atheists telling members of the theist community that they need to apply critical thinking to their beliefs.  How many atheists have actually studied critical thinking though?  While I do try my best to introduce my own original work in each Answers in Reason article that I post, I thought a nice change of pace, and an informative and useful change of pace, would be to share various YouTube, Blog, and Podcast series or shows that may help people learn a little more about various topics such as critical thinking, ethics, epistemology, and various other subjects included in philosophy.  As my first such share I introduce a YouTube channel called Wireless Philosophy, and their series on Critical Thinking.  The videos themselves are reasonably short, but packed full of information.  They are worth a watch, whether you are new to the topic of critical thinking or are already well-informed.

 

 

 




Fine Tuned Universe Holy Kool Aid

THE ‘FINE TUNING’ ARGUMENT DEBUNKED – Holy Koolaid

Fine Tuned Universe Holy Kool Aid

THE FINE TUNING ARGUMENT DEBUNKED BY SCIENCE (And Holy Koolaid)

The fine tuning argument is the most overused argument in the creationists’ toolkit. If you’re not familiar with the fine-tuning argument, it goes something like this:

The parameters for life are so finely tuned that if they were tweaked ever so slightly, all life would cease to exist, and the universe would be too hostile for life, if it existed at all. Therefore, there must be a god who fine-tuned everything. But is the universe fine-tuned for life?


In 2014, a major coalition of creationists got together and released a video called the Privileged Planet. I remember watching it as a Christian kid and not seeing anything wrong with it, but after spending the last few years thoroughly immersed in science, I can take an objective look back on the video.

One scene from the Privileged planet indicates that the earth’s orbit is so finely tuned, and if it were just 5% closer to the sun, or 20% further away, life could not exist on our planet. But while 5% and 20% don’t sound like much, that window is 37,399,000 km wide, and the earth’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle. It varies wildly in its distance to the sun. Its closest point, or perihelion, and farthest point, aphelion are 5 million kilometers different from each other in terms of solar proximity!

With over 100 billion galaxies containing 100 billion stars, many of which have multiple planets – ours has at least 8 (sorry, Pluto) – it’s not surprising that in just the few years that we’ve had telescopes and methods to detect them, we’ve discovered thousands of exo-planets with estimates of as many as 40 billion just in our galaxy that are orbiting around a star in the life-sustaining, habitable zone.

Now most of the universe is a dangerous vacuum that’s either scorching hot or ice cold; with no air to breathe, we would die in seconds. In fact, 99.999999-ad nauseam percent of the universe is not suitable for human life. It took us billions of years to evolve and adapt to this narrow corner of it. To say that the universe is fine-tuned for human life is like saying the Sydney Opera House was fine-tuned for the spec of mold growing on the crumb of cheese that fell from a lady’s pocket 5 minutes ago.

Allow me to paint a picture for you of what a universe fine-tuned for life might look like:

Every star would be surrounded with multiple, habitable planets – each in perfect equilibrium. They wouldn’t have to have shifting tectonic plates causing earthquakes or volcanoes. No dangerously sporadic weather conditions would exist, and we would be impervious to UV radiation, if it existed at all. There would be a higher ratio of land to water, and a greater percentage of the water would be drinkable. The requirements for human life wouldn’t be so minuscule and tiny. We would possibly even be able to survive in outer space and explore it with ease. And while this type of universe may not be able to operate on its own according to our current laws of physics, it wouldn’t have to, because it would be held in place by god. The very fact that our universe always adheres to physical constants and operates so well on its own is proof in itself that god is superfluous.

We live on a tiny rock, hurdling around a massive fireball at death-defying speeds, in the vacuum of space. Our planet is bombarded by meteors and asteroids, encompassed with natural disasters, and has undergone at least five known mass extinction events. Our primary source of light and energy gives us cancer. Only a fool would say that this planet is intelligently designed. Only a blind lunatic would call it fine-tuned for human life when everything around us is trying to wipe us out.

But even though it’s not fine-tuned for life, the parameters for life aren’t nearly as narrow as we once thought. In the 19th century, it was speculated that man could not survive speeds greater than 50 miles per hour. To show just how laughable that assumption is, astronauts on the Apollo 10 reached speeds of 24790 mph. Creationists think the window for life is so tiny, but let’s take a look at the tardigrade.

Tardigrade

JUST TRY AND KILL ME!

This little guy can survive temperatures as low as -328 degrees Fahrenheit (-200 Celsius) and as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148.889 Celsius). Radiation? No problemo! They can take doses a thousand times the lethal dose for humans, and can live on in pressures 6000 times greater than that of our atmosphere. We’ve even found bacteria that can survive in outer space.

The fact is, we just don’t know what the limits of life are. We’ve adapted to this planet, but the requirements for life in other circumstances may be broader than we ever thought possible. If we had been born on a hotter planet, we would have likely evolved from thermophiles and would have evolved better cooling mechanisms or internal systems that thrive in heat. Would you then say that that planet is so fine-tuned for life?

But what about the constants of the universe?

Creationists often point to the gravitational constant stating that if it varied by just 1 in 10^60 parts, none of us would exist. But here’s what an actual physicist, Dr. Sean Carroll, has to say about it:

“There’s a famous example that theists like to give – or even cosmologists who haven’t thought about it enough – that the expansion rate of the early universe is tuned to within one part in ten to the 60th. That’s the naïve estimate, back of the envelope, pencil and paper you would do. But in this case, you can do better. You can go into the equations of general relativity, and there is a correct, rigorous derivation of the probability. And when you ask the same question using the correct equations, you find that the probability is one. All but a set of measure zero of early universe cosmologies have the right expansion rate to live for a long time and allow life to exist.”Sean Carroll PhD

Another example creationists like to give is the expansion rate of the universe (driven by the cosmological constant). They claim that if its value was altered by just one part in ten to power of 120, the universe would have expanded too rapidly or too slowly. But Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a different perspective:

“One of the worst fine-tuning problems in nature, which is one of the ones I first proposed – the cosmological constant problem… That looks like it’s incredibly fine-tuned – 120 orders of magnitude – the worst fine tuning problem in nature, and Dr. [William Lane] Craig will jump up and say, ‘Look, if it was a lot bigger we wouldn’t have humans.’ Well it turns out, if it was precisely zero, which is a much more natural number, more life would form.”Lawrence Krauss PhD

What about the electroweak force? Well it turns out, it appears fine-tuned, if that’s the only value you’re permitted to alter. But work by Dr. Harnek and colleagues has demonstrated a perfectly viable universe when allowed to tweak other parameters simultaneously, even in the complete absence of the weak force altogether. And if you’re concerned with probability, there’s no reason to assume that the universe hasn’t been expanding and contracting for eternity or that our universe isn’t one of many – each with its own starting conditions.

Multiverse visualization - Universe Formation

WHAT YOU SEE ISN’T ALL THERE IS.

The Cosmological Natural Selection (fecund universes) theory by physicist Lee Smolin posits that black holes may be the way that universes reproduce – each new universe having slightly different physical constants. If that’s the case, and there’s an infinite number of universes, then even if the creationists’ assertions about the improbability of life were true, probability would be irrelevant. Because even if the chance of life was really one in a trillion-trillion then with more than a trillion-trillion universes – each with different physical constants – our existence would be a statistical necessity. But rather than our universe being fine-tuned for life, it would be fine-tuned for the formation of black holes, which given the prevalence of black holes, it certainly appears to be. The universes that don’t produce black holes would die out, and the ones that produce the most would become more common. The fact that some of the mass formed would evolve into human life would be but an inconsequential by-product.

Think of it this way. Over millions of years, humans have evolved to survive in the conditions we’re in and we reproduce to propagate human genes. Simultaneously demodex mites have evolved to survive on human skin. But that doesn’t mean that we reproduce in order to provide homes for these guys or that our bodies are fine-tuned for them. No. The reverse is true. They have evolved and adapted to survive on a tiny section of our bodies.

The Earth is Not Finely-tuned

UNIVERSE: “OH REALLY?”

We inhabit an incomprehensibly tiny spec, floating through vast emptiness and chaos. Are we really so arrogantly egocentric as to look up at the night sky and assume that it’s all made for us? Is that really a crutch we need to make it through the day? If a God did make this earth for us, then she created an almost impossibly small and dangerous place for us to live.

Starting in extreme conditions, humans and our ancient, non-human ancestors adapted to this planet as it cooled. Those of us who couldn’t live long enough to reproduce, were lost along the way. We have evolved to survive here, fine-tuning ourselves to this planet, not the other way around. We have fought tooth and nail to get to where we are. That’s all the more reason to cherish this life and not squander it or destroy the only home we have.

If you like this post and the video accompanying it, please consider becoming one of my patrons by pledging a dollar or two per video on Patreon.

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’” – Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

With Thanks to Holy Koolaid

This article has been reposted on behalf of and with permission from Holy Koolaid.

The original article can be found here: http://www.holykoolaid.com/angry-atheists-or-concerned-citizens/

You can also find Holy Koolaid on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzvoUDoDu-cKIb11rg4ODDQ
Don’t forget to show the guy some love on twitter too: https://twitter.com/holykoolaid



Pro Choice does not mean Pro Abortion

Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion

Abortion is a very sensitive topic with a lot of high charged emotions flying about. If you remove the emotional element it is easy to see either sides point, but there are a few things that should be cleared up from either perspective.

Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion

There seems to be an attitude that those who are pro-choice are pro-abortion. Almost to the point where it is thought those that are pro-choice actively seek pregnancy just to have an abortion. I find this attitude abhorrent.

Abortion has to be one of the most difficult choices anyone can make, and we really shouldn’t judge anyone for having made it. Being male it is something I am never going to have to go through, and I honestly cannot imagine what the experience is like.

I have been with someone who did have an abortion. She hated herself for doing it but knew it was the best decision. She had a bad break up, was at university, and had a stupid night that could have ruined her entire life. She made the decision to abort because she knew she would not have been able to provide for the child. Rather than sit at home claiming benefits and scraping by for the rest of her life she made the toughest decision of her life.

Should we really judge her for this decision?

Saying pro-choice is pro-abortion is like saying someone who is pro-gun is pro-massacre.

pro gun and pro life but abortion is murder

If the purpose of the gun is to protect life by potentially killing one life, is that not the same with abortion?

Abortion is Murder

I’ve often heard people say abortion is murder. I can understand why one could feel that way.
The definition of murder is: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
As abortion is legal, it does not fit in to that category. However it is illegal in some places – so is it murder in those instances?

The definition of human being is: a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.

The definition of foetus is: an unborn or unhatched offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human more than eight weeks after conception.

Prior to 8 weeks it is referred to as a zygote of fertilised egg.

By the definition of human, it could be said that a foetus or zygote do not classify as a human child, much in the way a seed is not classified as a tree or a flower.

When we look at the development of a foetus we can see key stages and pain is not experienced till the third trimester.

“What we can say about the fetal nervous system is that based on the best science we have” on the neurons that carry pain signals is that the “system isn’t developed until the third trimester of pregnancy,” Davis told Live Science.

Dr Derbyshire, who is linked to pro-choice groups, said there were various stages of a foetus’ gestation at which certain parts of the body’s pain “alarm system” developed.
He concludes that pathways in the brain needed to process pain responses and hormonal stress responses are in place by 26 weeks.

“Pain becomes possible because of a psychological development that begins at birth when the baby is separated from the protected atmosphere of the womb and is stimulated into wakeful activity.”

Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester. Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly, limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are not directly applicable to abortion procedures.

Pain is an emotional and psychological experience that requires conscious recognition of a noxious stimulus. Consequently, the capacity for conscious perception of pain can arise only after thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, based on the limited data available. Small-scale histological studies of human foetuses have found that thalamocortical fibers begin to form between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestational age, but these studies did not specifically examine thalamocortical pathways active in pain perception.

What we can tell from various studies is at the stages of development abortion is performed the foetus cannot feel pain, is does not operate with a consciousness like you and I do.

In fact it would safe to say that a non-human animal’s consciousness is more developed than a human foetus.

If you are “Pro-Life” surely this goes for animals too?

The final part of the problem is the definition around “life” or the state of being ALIVE. Does life start when you are born? When you start to feel pain? When you start to be conscious? Or is it the second the cells are there? By that notion, are sperm consider a life? The sperm cell fit the definition of being alive, but are they “a life”?

Quality of life

Many of the Pro-Lifers I have talked to and read articles from seem to also be those who are any or all of the following:

  1. Anti-benefits
  2. Anti-free healthcare
  3. Anti-Veteran benefits

If you are so insistent on the foetus being born, why do you suddenly stop caring about it’s life the second it actually starts?

If you complain about single mothers claiming benefit, why do you insist on these single mothers having children?

“They shouldn’t have got pregnant in the first place!”

Really? Maybe not. How much do you know of this situation? What if they were raped? What if having the baby will kill them? What if it was an unfortunate accident? What if the educational system is so poor in the area that proper sex-ed is not taught so they were not fully aware of how the process works?

How can you make such a sweeping statement about someone’s pregnancy when you know nothing of it?

If you are truly pro-life, this should extend to post-birth, and to all humans. Perhaps even all animals on the planet.

Unfortunately so many of these questions are “refuted” easily with comments about God’s will and God’s plan. Therefore absolving the believer of all responsibility yet enforcing their views/beliefs on someone else’s body.

pregnancy from rape

So what does Pro-Choice mean?

It means that you believe that women are entitled to what goes on in their bodies. It means you empathise with the hard choice they might have to make. It means you recognise that there are circumstances where it is “the lesser of two evils”.

In the UK and US it is perfectly legal to eat pork. The Jewish religion forbids them from eating pork. Jews cannot and do not demand that everyone else not eat pork.

In the UK and US it is legal for women to have an abortion. The Christian religion forbids abortion (although not in a very direct way).  Christian’s cannot but do demand everyone be against abortion even though it is their own religious belief.

Christian’s can choose to follow their beliefs or not, but expect others to be held to the same standard even though they don’t share the same belief? The additional irony with the previous statement is that even though most dietary requirements were retconned in the Bible, there are still a few that exist. For example it is suggested that the meat consumed should not contain ANY blood and Paul of Tasus notes that some devout Christians may wish to abstain from meat. There are also the various verses in regards to alcohol and when you are supposed to have what strength and how much but Christians decide to overlook them. There are more verses about the items they can cosnume than there are about homosexuality.. but they think homosexuality is “icky”, alcohol is fun and rare steak* is “yummy” so they cherry pick.
*the red in steak actually contains very little blood and is instead myoglobin, but the point still stands.

Moral judgments are not legal judgments. Your personal beliefs are yours alone.

Pro-Choice literally means you are OK with people making choices for themselves.

Against this from a religious perspective?

If you’re against from a Christian/Muslim background, consider this:

  1. The foetus is in heaven now
  2. If your omnipotent God wanted to save the baby, he would/could have.
  3. The people involved will be “punished” in the afterlife. (Or maybe forgiven by your loving god)
  4. Don’t judge others, that is for your deity to do.  Mat 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-42 and many others.
    Stop trying to control people with your religion.

Whilst this is not what I believe as an atheist, it is what can be taken from your mythology.

Summary

Abortion is a very tough choice and an even tougher experience for those involved.

Instead of slamming those involved we should have some compassion for their situation, even if it is not something we agree with ourselves.

A few thoughts:

  • Foetuses do not experience or are not aware of pain at the ages they are aborted.
  • Foetuses consciousness is not developed.
  • If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.
  • Stop judging others, I am sure you are less than perfect in some ways too.
  • If you are still against abortion, adopt all the children that would not have come to be without your anti-abortion tirade.

References:

  1. http://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4905892.stm
  3. http://www.livescience.com/44899-stages-of-pregnancy.html
  4. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429?hc_location=ufi



Angry Atheist

Angry Atheists or Concerned Citizens? – Holy Koolaid

I get asked all the time why atheists are so angry. The short answer is we’re not, but if we do get angry it’s because we give a damn.


Angry AtheistOne hundred years – It’s not that long. There are people alive today older than that. My grandmother’s pushing that milestone. But a lot can change in that short amount of time. A hundred years ago, schools were segregated, women couldn’t vote, and homosexuals were institutionalized for the crime of loving each other. Ninety-eight years ago, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people and had a death toll over three times higher than World War I.

Since that time, a myriad of other disease have plagued our world, but smallpox was wiped from the planet through global vaccination efforts. Polio and measles have almost been entirely eliminated through vaccination and herd immunity. The Gates foundation is on the cusp of eradicating malaria within a generation, and Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla have pledged over three billion dollars towards the elimination of all diseases within the next hundred years.

In a hundred years, we went from Amelia Earhart’s momental, transatlantic flight to a world-wide interconnected network of thousands of commercial aircraft, from horses and model Ts to fast-charging electric cars, bullet trains, and highly intelligent ride-sharing networks. Agricultural breakthroughs brought us out of the dust bowl, and provided an abundance of food for billions. Wealth, health care, civil rights, life expectancy and the overall standard of living have all risen across the globe, while infant mortality, violence, and crime continue to fall.

And if that’s not enough, in our knack for exploration and discovery, we landed rovers on Mars and a probe on a comet. We have an affordable supercomputer in our pockets that’s millions of times more powerful than the one that landed man on the moon. Oh, and did I mention that we put man on the moon (more than once, by the way)? We can even bounce a laser off the retro-reflectors we left on there and measure the distance of the moon from the earth. With Moore’s law, computer power is doubling every couple years. Contrary to popular, Malthusian beliefs about scarcity, breakthroughs in water desalination, aquaculture, and agriculture are turning our planet into a world of abundance! This is without doubt the greatest time in history to be alive!

But every time there’s progress, there’s inevitably change, and when a powerful, conservative vanguard bases its identity around a doctrine that claims humanity is sinful, fallen, and things are only getting worse – an ideology that glorifies human suffering as a ticket for greater heavenly rewards – then why on earth would they bother contributing to progress when they could sit around for another 2,000 years playing spot the return of the Jew-God in an apocalyptic wet-dream. This way of thinking is anti-progressive quicksand – a science-stifling quagmire of the mind. And it’s justifiably maddening. So why do I get angry?

I get angry when a child dies from their parents’ self-perpetuated and societally-accepted ignorance – where they refuse life-saving medicine in favor of clasped hands and wishful thinking despite the fact that prayer studies have repeatedly debunked the efficacy of prayer!

Faith healing homicide!

faith healing won't need doctorI get angry when the head of the Catholic church condemns the use of condoms in countries so aids-ridden that their unilateral adoption could have saved millions, and when scientifically-illiterate nitwits, deny evolution and climate change, get elected into public office, and then propose some of the most backwards and damaging laws, that affect all of us then fight to teach anti-scientific non-sense in schools (perpetuating the cycle of ignorance)!

I get angry when the same religion that initially opposed in vitro fertilization now blocks stem cell research on the clusters of cells in a petri dish left over from IVF that are just going to get thrown away anyway. Why? Because that’s a human soul, and every sperm is sacred!

Or when people like Mother Teresa get canonized as a saint, even though she created unhygienic houses of suffering, with abysmal conditions, that re-used needles and focused more on saving souls than saving lives, because as she so beautifully put it:

“I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.” – Mother Teresa

She created disgusting places for the sick to go to get converted before they die in misery. Oh, but somehow elderly people suffering excruciating pain from stage 4 bone cancer are prohibited the right to euthanasia, because it’s somehow taking God’s will into their own hands. You’ve got to be kidding me!

I get angry when people are conned out of their money by faith healing charlatans who have been debunked time and time again, when they could be investing in their own future by donating to scientific research and advancement of the entire human race. I get angry when pseudo-scientific, New Age whackjobs sell untested placebos to the gullible, exploiting the needy, and when cold-reading fortune-tellers lie and take advantage of grieving and emotional parents in order to get a buck, saying they can talk to their dead children. That’s absolutely disgusting and unforgivably sick! I get angry when pseudo scientific practitioners of woo mislead millions to line their own pockets.

And I get angry when gays are killed, discriminated against, lobotomized, or shame-driven to suicide by religious bigots; when women, gays, and minorities are treated like second class citizens; and when a widely-revered, self-established institution claims the moral high ground while covering up the systematic raping of children. And they claim that atheists are immoral – the same atheists who call them on their crimes? Yeah, that’s why I get angry.

But it’s not anger that drives me, it’s a love of humanity, science, and progress. It’s hope of a verifiably brighter future, and excitement at the prospects of human potential. But If I do get angry, it’s because I give a damn, and so should you!

“The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”  – Dr. Peter Diamandis

What do you think? Are all Atheists Angry?

So what do you think? Are all atheists angry? Or is it more they get wound up by the wilful ignorance, diversionary tactics, projection, and other such annoyances from theists and science deniers alike?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

With Thanks to Holy Koolaid

This article has been reposted on behalf of and with permission from Holy Koolaid.

The original article can be found here: http://www.holykoolaid.com/angry-atheists-or-concerned-citizens/

You can also find Holy Koolaid on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzvoUDoDu-cKIb11rg4ODDQ
Don’t forget to show the guy some love on twitter too: https://twitter.com/holykoolaid



Apologetics

Religious Apologetics – The Science of Excuses

Defining Apologetics

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken to defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.

From Apologia to Apologetics

The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation. The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek, hē apologia).

Heresey and Punishment

There is much to be learned from the way in which a societyseeks to limit the choices of its members, particularly in the contentiousfield of religion. Medieval Europe is a good case in point, because atfirst sight the ideological blanket of ‘Christendom’ thrown over thecontinent disguises both the diversity of belief and the responses to thatdiversity. Theoretically the medieval Christian Church was a monopoly based on exclusive interpretation of the Bible through the works of theChurch fathers and the legislation of Councils. The heretic was a dissenter and must be silenced by any means necessary. It was not OK to question the religious movement local to you. Why was this? Well because the apologetics knew that their preconceived scripts would not stand up to questioning. 

I am not going to go into gory detail in this article, perhaps I just had an idea for a future piece but I will link here to a couple of pieces regarding various methods employed by various religious cults and their sects for daring to question or deny their god(s)     Christianity  Islam  Video here if you are not much of a reader

Times They Are A Changing

Well for the most part, I would not stand up in the streets in Lahore or Riyadh and start questioning the existence of Allah or start asking for evidence that Muhammed travelled to heaven on a Buraq for fear of an horific public and on the spot execution, but in many countries now atheists can finally stand up and engage in civil(ish) discourse with apologists and call them out on their quite feeble arguments which used to placate the general masses. We can expose their shill “scientists” such as Jason Lisle who will present half truths, or just outright lies in order to mislead theists that may not be so well versed in the sciences. They see his PhD status and take his comments as “gospel” even though it flies in the face of scientific consensus, but this is just a way to confirm their bias and bolster their irrational belief. You can watch ICR’s Prof Jason Lisle being debunked here. The late Duane Gish was another hookey professor that had no problem bending the truth in order to uphold apologetic arguments attempting to give credence to religious claims using “science”. I debunked one of Gish’s articles from ICR here.

And what we are seeing is all of the apologists being debunked one by one. Their once sacred arguments like William Lane Craigs re-hash of Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Arguments For God being stripped apart and shown to be the illogical presuppositional nonsense that it is.  We see people like Hamza Tzortzis, who was Europe’s leading proponent of the miracle like nature of Quran write a public letter debunking his previous arguments after spending time working in labs with actual scientists to see how the claims of islamic scholars gone by do not hold up to questioning. He also applies logic to his original claims and shows how his older arguments are self refuting. For more on Hamza’s U-turn click here.

In the age of information the religious apologist has to lie and hope the listeners dont fact check. They rely on a less educated audience lapping up their lies and passing it down the generations. Hopefully the Modern Heresey Movement combined with the Information Age, YouTube,  can be more than just a thorn in their sides and maybe one day tumble this abhorrent abomination of liars, cheats and charlatans. Hopefully here at www.answers-in-reason.com we are making headway alongside people like AronRa, Cosmicskeptic, Holy Koolaid, misterdeity and Hemant Mehta aka Friendly Atheist to name but a few of the prominent rational thinkers exposing apologetics for what they are. Excuses!!

Making The Immoral Moral

At the risk of falling foul of Godwin’s Law I am going to invoke Hitler….

What Hitler had his propaganda machine do was demonise certain groups in society. This meant that when his troops massacred said groups the German people felt nothing or very little for these people. The doctrine of religion would attempt to do the same and makes their followers desensitised towards the horrific acts of earlier followers or for that matter generations of followers to come.

The Old Testament would have the Levites butcher their families if they did not follow their one true god. This should be shocking yet religious apologetics would attempt to square this away as “not a biggy”, Jehova did warn us he was a jealous deity. it was their fault for not believing in him.

Likewise with a global flood killing all but 8 members of the same family. The entire population of the Earth were sinners, apparently including all unborn babies and children under the age of reason, not to mention all but “of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” Gen 7:2

This is extreme yet the science of excuses causes people to not even bat an eyelid. Same goes for killing disobedient children, stoning a bride that was not a virgin and chopping the opposing hands and feet from an apostate.

Making The Impossible Possible

You need just look at the Statement of Faith of groups like ICR or www.answersingenesis.org

Instead of testing bible claims they take it as a starting point for scientific research, that is exactly the opposite of scientific research. It takes a conclusion and works backwards to try to manufacture situations that would fit what they need it to be. An example is humans and dinosaurs living at the same time in history. Evidence shows otherwise but lets not let facts get in the way of their mission. They clearly state that no matter what evidence appears to the contrary that they will uphold their belief. How they have the audacity to call this science is beyond me.

We have pastors like Peter LaRuffa who is immortalised on video stating that if the bible said 2+2=5 he would accept this as truth and try to find a way in his mind to “work it out and understand it”. Bill Nye’s response to this is fantastic and you can see it here.

Defending Logic and Reason

I named a few prominent atheist activists above but left off many. As a movement against the sham that is apologetics we have been blessed with many wonderfully erudite and eloquently spoken front men. Walking amongst us still we have the likes of Dawkins and Dennet, Harris and Krauss and we fondly remember the most brilliant Christopher Hitchins, may his energy transform and never be destroyed.

I would call upon any and all rational and reasoned thinkers to take to the internet and use the tools we have available to us, chat rooms, comments sections, twitter and YouTube, any platform these apologists use to spread lies and misinformation and call them out. Correct them on every video, tweet or post they make. Quote peer review, use top down logic but expose their lies. They no longer have the upper hand of outspoken “heretics” being afraid to have their say and expose them for what they are.

Join the New Age Heretic Movement, be heard and silence the charlatans. Make a difference!!

https://www.facebook.com/newageheretics/

Twitter: @newageheretics

Alan The Atheist

 




cofirmation bias conspiracy theorists fundamentalists and david wolfe

Confirmation Bias: Fanboys, Fundamentalists, Conspiracy Theorists and our Tribal Nature

Fanboys, Fundamentalists, and Conspiracy theorists are the prime users of Confirmation Bias.

In fact, everyone at some point has operated using confirmation bias based on their cognitive biases, but in most circumstances, you could drop them in to one of the above categories.

So let’s start with some definitions of the terminology shall we? We don’t want any Conflated or Misunderstood terms, do we?

Definitions

Fanboy/Fangirl

Someone who is obsessive, enthusiastic, and passionate over a topic/brand/toy etc. Generally, the thing the fan is obsessed with can do no wrong and are the best in their eyes, be they a fan of the PlayStation, DC comics, Star Trek, or Apple.

Fundamentalist

Usually applied to religious folk,  a “fanboy” of their faith. Essentially being a fundamentalist means they have a strict belief in a literal interpretation of their religious texts.

Conspiracy Theorist

A Conspiracy Theorist is a person who holds an idea that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups.

Confirmation Bias

The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Essentially only listening to evidence/papers/ideas that back up ones preconceived notions.

Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive process, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information.

Cognitive Bias is perfectly natural and it would be almost impossible for humans to function if they had none in place. We would have to re-evaluate an analyse everything constantly. You know how you like your cup of tea, if you like it dark you will instantly assume a milky tea is disgusting. This is a cognitive bias. They are sometimes correct but can lead us down the wrong path.

For example assuming that because one person from one ethnicity did something bad to you in the past, that every person of that ethnicity would do it again. From here things like racism are born.

Conspiracy Theorists

The conspiracy theorist, as already described, holds an idea that explains an event as the result of a secret plan by powerful people.

Some current conspiracy theories (that won’t just go away)

  • Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone (or possibly at all). …
  • Princess Diana was killed on purpose. …
  • AIDS is a man-made disease. …
  • The government was involved in 9/11. …
  • Elvis never really left the building. …
  • The 1969 Apollo moon landing didn’t happen. …
  • A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. …
  • Global warming is a hoax.
  • Shakespeare didn’t write all those plays.
  • Reptilian humanoids control all of us.

Consider how many of those seem ridiculous to you, now consider that the others might be just as ridiculous.

The issue with a conspiracy theorist is that their confirmation bias is so intertwined with mental loops and circular reason that you can NEVER get through to them. Any evidence, anecdotes, or hearsay that backs up their claim is evidence they are right. Any evidence to the contrary is clearly falsely placed by “the man” or “them”. It is an endless loop of confirming ones own bias and rejecting everything else.

The most dangerous current conspiracy theorist (at least in my opinion) is the Antivaxxer. Someone who is against vaccines saying they are dangerous and no one should use them.

This has lead to preventable diseases spreading, and in fact those that had all but been eliminated returning with a vengeance.

David Wolfe

Alternative Scientist David Wolfe Confirmation Bias
I recently had a conversation with David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe. I imagine the Avocado is linked to it being a “superfood” and how he goes on about the Nutribullet (which does happen to be quite a good juicer if that’s what you’re into, but I digress).

I knew David to be a bit of a new age hippy spreading peace and love. I thought him harmless till a last year I noticed him on the Antivax band wagon.

Then on Twitter I see him going on about the earth being flat. Outside of fundamentalist Christian and Muslims I had not heard of anyone thinking the earth is genuinely flat. At least not in modern culture.

I contested both his ‘Anti Vaccination’ and ‘Flat Earth’ stance. He quickly became irate throwing out insults, unable to answer most of my questions like “how thick is this flat earth” and made up terms like “Scientism” calling it a religion.

Essentially a conversation transpired that the earth is flat, we are being lied to about it because they are hiding land in/over Antarctica, and the earth is also hollow filled with giants and Germans. How the earth could both be hollow AND flat, how deep it was, what happens when one reaches the edge, how no one had seen this during expeditions… all unanswered.

Here are a few examples of the conversations I had with David Wolfe.

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

Eventually he stopped responding because he couldn’t answer my questions. I tried for a while to reengage him but didn’t have any luck.  He didn’t support his claims, and when questioned either insulted or ignored.

Although a few days ago I did get this response from him:

A photo posted by Answers In Reason (@answersinreason) on

And again no further response. Perhaps my misspelling of believe annoyed him. Or perhaps the fact I actually provided ways to prove the flat earth myth is false scared him off.

Here are some links to them on twitter:
Flat Hollow Earth: https://twitter.com/answersinreason/status/798825019396587521
Fake Science: https://twitter.com/DavidWolfe/status/824414274374291456
ISS is fake: https://twitter.com/answersinreason/status/798880354237083648
Or in fact here are my tweets to him: https://twitter.com/search?q=from%3Aanswersinreason%20to%3Adavidwolfe%20&src=typd
Or his to me: https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=from%3ADavidwolfe%20to%3Aanswersinreason&src=typd

The interesting thing with the conspiracy theorist is, other than the fact they are more likely to believe in a multitude of conspiracies, is that occasionally they will have one they find ridiculous. “That’s not possible and there is no supporting evidence” – when that happens my jaw drops. You can say “you understand that you think the same way about this conspiracy as others do yours. You don’t have any evidence either, just claims that “they” are out to get you” – but they don’t budge.

This happens with the religious too. How many religions believe their god is the true god and the other god claims are ridiculous? Yeah, most of them. Some are more accepting and just think your god is another aspect of theirs, but most have a “true god” “true religion” “everyone else is stupid” mentality.

Tactical Maneuvers

Mr Wolfe is either; a fantastic conman, or even scarier, truly believes what he is saying. Either way he generates money from selling his products and advertising on his site. Like him or not he is pretty successful, but how exactly does he do it?

I hypothesize he has a very particular formula that works really well for him.

  1. Normalisation – He posts some fantastic “positive vibe” memes.
  2. Sharing – Like a virus, his normalisation is shared on the web from those who like the positive messages.
  3. Trust – People start to trust him. There is a large number of people following and sharing his stuff. Friends you trust. Perhaps friends you think of as skeptical and science literate. You trust your friends, and your trust is passed on to Wolfe.
  4. Escalation – He then posts something slightly out there, perhaps about solar panels absorbing the sun’s energy.
    By this point, your brain has already built a cognitive bias. You find yourself agreeing without taking the time to think about it.
  5. Acceptance – Once you’re “in” to some of the minor pseudoscientific nonsense, it is easier to to buy in to the rest. Before you know it you’ll be engaging in the common vaccination arguments, flat earth nonsense, and all manner of fallacies.

Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists generally operate on confirmation bias and circular reasoning.

Religious fundamentalists tend to be literalists and inerrantists.

Literalist

Someone who believes their holy book is the literal word of their god

Inerrantist

Someone who believes their holy book is without error

Circular reasoning confirmation bias bibleThe above are quite circular. For example the Bible is the literal word of God. God is perfect, so the Bible is without error. We know the Bible is the word of God because it says so in the Bible and God is perfect so the Bible is without error.

That sort of logic is very frustrating, but is expected of many theists. They use the same sort of confirmation bias as conspiracy theorists. Anything that agrees with the Bible (or particular holy book) validates their claim and anything that disagrees can be rejected.

Claims, Evidence, and Primary Sources

There is a lack of understanding about claims and evidence.  The Bible is not the evidence. The Bible is the claim. The Bible, or at least some of its chapters, is/are the “Primary Source” of its information. When examining primary sources it is worth doing proper analysis.

For example Luke:

  1. Fails the time test – it is written after the fact.
  2. Fails the bias test – emotional involvement/desire to set up a faith.
  3. Passes the audience test – at least in the sense it probably wouldn’t be written differently for another audience.
  4. Fails the metaphor/symbolism test – it also contains reference to a Jewish prophesy.
  5. Fails evaluation – apart from failing 3/4 above it also fails to match up with any other historical documentation at the time. Check this expose on Jesus.

At best the Bible is a poor primary source. The Bible is mostly a secondary source.  If examined critically, without confirmation bias, you can see errors in the Bible. This doesn’t necessarily negate God’s existence but does cast doubt on the validity of the Bible. This is often why you find many theists reject any evidence that contradicts a biblical claim.

What would change your mind fudamentalist confirmation bias vs science

Fundamental atheism

Whilst atheism is not a religion; it is just the lack of belief in gods, there are many who take a very rigid or gnostic approach to every theistic claim. The atheist will take the approach that the theist is an idiot and wrong with whatever they are talking about. This is not the case at all. There are plenty of bright theists, and plenty of stupid atheists. Yes, I understand that in general theistic belief correlates with less intelligence, but to assume that every theist is stupid or wrong about everything just shows your own ignorance and stupidity.

Fanboys

It is so easy to become a “Fanboy/Fangirl”. All it takes is passion and bias. The first will be a cognitive bias (often wrapped in circular reasoning), eg “Apple phones are the best because they are made by Apple and Apple is the best”.

Any news that comes out that sheds positive light on your passion is a win. Every article where the “opponent” gets slammed is a win. Any article that poses any negativity about your passion is either false, a rare occasion, or not worthy of note.

I was an Android fanboy at one point. My fanboyism was actually born out of a hate for Apple fanboys. I was so sick of the attitude that “Apple is the best cos it’s Apple” – whilst the devices were well built I didn’t like how they operated. The way you were locked into their environment, the bloatware that is iTunes, the inability to just drag and drop music and have it playable… all things I didn’t like in the device and I saw most of the people who had them at the time had them more as fashion statements rather than actually having the savvy for a smart phone.

I found myself on a side, was very passionate, flamed those on the Apple side as “idiots” and other unnecessary insults. I was much younger at the time, less travelled, and far more arrogant.

Perhaps it is arrogance that is at the core of fanboyism and confirmation bias. I know best, therefore what I think is right, therefore anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot.

I grew up, I grew out of it. I am able to examine the positives and negatives of any device without the emotional angst. It taught me a lot. Not just about myself but about how people can be so blindsided by emotion. I’ve since tried to help people see when they are being biased but unfortunately it is a tangled web that one needs to want to untangle. I am still not a fan of Apple but I do see their merits, and they tend to have a fantastic build quality. They are right for some people, but not for me.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about fitness trackers.

We were in his car on the way to work with another friend and he mentioned wanting to get an Apple watch. I asked if it was primarily the fitness features or smart features he was after and he stated the fitness tracking.

I enquired as to if he had considered dedicated fitness trackers rather than an Apple watch. This simple statement started an argument. The driver is an Apple fan boy.

“Why would he want a different watch? The Apple watch is the best fitness tracker”

I enquired as to what he was basing that on, informed him the Apple Watch was more of a smart watch with fitness features and there were plenty of fitness trackers that would fit the bill.

I went on to explain all the research I did for my fitness tracker, how that there were some fitness trackers dedicated to specific activity, eg the Triathlon trackers focus on triathlon activity (running, swimming, and cycling) would be much better than an all round tracker. The reason I chose my Garmin Vivoactive HR is because I do a wide range of activity and one of the activities is swimming. There were not many all round trackers that did swimming, and less that did it well.

I explained the extensive research I did on it, noted its negatives like the poor sleep tracking and simple smart features, but based on all the reviews and features I found important it was right for me.

Unfortunately it descended in to him pretty much repetitively saying the Apple Watch is the best because it was Apple and they spend a lot of money making their devices the best. I stated that it was a fantastic smart watch but noted a few flaws with the smart features, e.g. inaccurate text to speech, all day heart rate, lack of GPS on gen 1, not transferring data to MyFitnessPal (but receiving it). We moved on to Gen 2 which is largely just a refinement with GPS, waterproofing and improved performance. If you think about how Apple release their phones the Apple watch 2 is the S version.

This fell on deaf ears. All he could hear me saying was “Apple is shit” – which was far from the truth. I had stated it was a good smart watch but was found wanting as a fitness tracker, just as dedicated fitness trackers with smart features are better at the fitness stuff. I said that people should examine their needs and look in to what suites their situation. A basic fitness tracker without swimming would be much much cheaper than an Apple watch, the fitness tracking would be better, and the battery would last much longer.

Eventually he said “Ugh lets end this, this is getting boring.” – I found that ironic as he was the one saying the same thing endlessly. Either “The Apple watch is the best” or “Everything I have read says the Apple watch is the best” – well yes, when you only look at Apple sites about Apple stuff it is going to say that…

But as you can see, when a cognitive bias is in place, reaffirmed with confirmation bias there is little you can do to sway the person. No matter how rationally you act, no matter how you admit the flaws of your point of view and acknowledge the benefits of their they wont shift in the slightest. They even take it as a personal attack, as my friend did. You could see how irate he was getting that I wasn’t saying it was the best.

You’ll also have to understand that this is my version of the story. Whilst I try to be as even and honest as I can there is every chance I am applying my own bias to this.

In a way, it is all fanboyism. Be it a fundamentalist fanboying over his inerrant faith, or a conspiracy theorist fanboying over his conspiracies. It is passion. Passion is great, but misguided passion can be dangerous, and at the very least leaves you ignorant.

I am prone to this kind of passion, so I have learned to be a bit more sceptical and fact check. I also lean on my critical friends to give me the appropriate kick when I need it. Unfortunately if you cannot let go of your ego, and be open to being wrong, you can’t grow as a person.

In fact when I say it is all fanboyism, a better way to describe it would be Tribalism.

Tribalism

Humans are prone to a tribalistic nature. It is how we survived the ages. We gathered together with those who were like us. Those that were different were often dangerous. This created an intrinsic xenophobia within us. “Those that are different to us are bad”.

You can see this anywhere you look too. Consider at school; how many were picked on for their music taste, hair cut, dress sense or sporting ability?
Look at the tribalistic nature of sports fans. Every team has a very “Us vs Them” attitude.
Look at religions, they are often opposed to each other, and most religions seem opposed to those without religion. There are still countries where atheism is illegal and punishable by death!
Gangs, politics, companies, brands and all the aforementioned are guilty of encouraging our inherent tribalistic behaviours.

There is no middle of the road!

Unfortunately those in a tribe, and of extreme point of view, don’t allow for people to have a middle of the road view.

I’m an analyst (and developer) by trade. I look at every situation and really struggle making decisions when I don’t have enough info, or can tell that there is lots of misinformation on both sides.

When it comes to politics I quite often protest vote (spoil my ballot) because I feel none of the candidates are up to the challenge. I want to be heard, but I want the system to change.

I also get pushed away by extreme points of view. You often see the various political tribes mocking the others. They don’t listen to each other, they don’t acknowledge the positives from each others parties. All that happens is insults and confirmation bias.

Unfortunately reasoning with an extremist is very difficult. The mentality is “If you are not with us, you are against us”. Whilst I understand this might have had an evolutionary benefit, it no longer fits in with our society.

I’ve spoken to some Republicans and questioned gun safety. I’ve said, “I think there should be more checks on people before they get their guns.” and in return have been called “A gun fearing libtard”. I actually quite like guns, I think they are cool, but I also think there are people that shouldn’t have them. They make killing too easy, too impersonal, and many are too unstable or vacant to handle the responsibility.

Similarly I have discussed employment with friends here in the UK. I’ve said the system should be changed to one that encourages people that can work, to work. That people should be helped find jobs rather than just filling in a piece of paper stating they have at the job centre. That even short term if the only thing available is a couple of days in Macdonalds the person should do it, the government makes up the deficit but they are contributing to society. That they and the job centre will still help them find appropriate work but it is a stop gap in the meantime.

Suddenly I am called a “Tory scumbag”. I have a family. If I lost my job, as much as I wouldn’t want to, I have no qualms taking a job that is “beneath” my technical expertise so that they, and I, can survive.

I don’t feel the system works. I know people that work the minimum they can because they earn more in benefit than they would if they had a full time job (at least until they had been in the job for a few years and earned the appropriate pay rises) and feel like “Why should I be miserable all week when I can work for two days and earn the same”.

I agree. Why should they? I am not saying to take away people’s benefit. There are many that need more benefit than they are getting, and there have been a few occasions where I have been out of work and was very grateful for the assistance. The point I was trying to get across is that there is a better way to go about unemployment. A way to encourage people to work. A way that people don’t feel like they are losing out by working. Perhaps this topic is moving too far from the point and I should expand on it in another article, or in our facebook debate group.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just think we should look at doing things differently  because the current approaches don’t seem to work. Neither does the all or nothing attitude. In fact when I raise these points in might inspire a better idea from someone else. Some of my views might be considered conservative, others liberal, and for the most part they are somewhere in between because I think we should strive for balance.

From the couple of examples I provided above, you can see what I mean about tribal nature. The “With us or against us” mentality.

So what can we do to ascend the tribe?

Unfortunately very little. It seems that even when we try and break off and do something original, there will be some that follow and others that ostracise. Until we learn to accept people for their personality and actions instead of our cognitive bias and fear we can’t really move forward as a people.

The entire time one tribe is mocking another, no progress will be made. We need to do our best to be understanding, patient, and empathetic. Acknowledge positives in your “oppositions” point of view, and maybe they will soften. Perhaps they will see points from your side too. Instead of opponents maybe you will become friends that hold some different points of view instead of being the enemies you perceive each other to be now.

ALWAYS FACT CHECK

The last piece of advice can give anyone is to fact check. Be it a meme, an article, and definitely anything that comes out of a politicians mouth.David Wolfe Confirmation Bias Solar Power

Always use multiple and reputable sources. .EDU links are generally quite reliable. Scientific articles with links to the peer reviewed studies are also a great resources. Don’t just accept any article claiming to be scientific. Fact check everything, even what we share.

Question too. I often see articles claiming X cures cancer. Ask them how. Ask them by what mechanism. Ask people what evidence they have to support their claim. If someone cannot provide any evidence then there is a good chance there isn’t any. Their claim is unsupported or baseless. Just like pretty much everything shared by David Wolfe.

sci-gasm podcast is not confirmation bias

^The Wolfe image above is a genuine quote from the longevity intensive. If you haven’t checked out the Sci-Gasm Podcast you should. It is brilliant.

Bonus Content

Whilst writing this article I shared a few of the images  of David Wolfe’s to our Facebook Page. The one that caught the most attention was the one about the ISS.

One of our fans took a picture of the ISS with his telescope. A Newtonian 200/1000 with DSLR mounted in prime focus.  He sent it to us and I got his permission to put it in the article because I wanted you all to see how easy it was to detect the ISS from earth.

He did say that there were many better amateur pictures out there that I should use but I wanted to use some content from our readers.

If you are interested in seeing the ISS for yourself check this article on how to spot the ISS. Let me know if you see any strings, balloons, or evidence it is a hologram!

The below Photo of the International Space Station taken from the space shuttle Endeavour on May 30, 2011. Image via NASA.
Also, notice the curvature of the earth!

Photo of the International Space Station taken from the space shuttle Endeavour on May 30, 2011. Image via NASA.

Read again?

If you wanted to read any of the sections again, or would like to link directly to them, then please use one of the links below:

Thank you for reading!