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.

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:

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!




Conflated and Misunderstood Terms

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms Volume 1: Evolution

Misunderstood terms

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms

There are a number of conflated and misunderstood terms floating about the internet.

Some of these terms are colloquialisms, others are just a misunderstanding, while the bulk used have been taught erroneously to further an agenda.

Communication is a very important thing. If we cannot interact with each other on the same level then there are misunderstandings. If speaking to a theist about their particular god and you use the wrong name for their god they might take that as; a mark of disrespect, evidence you don’t know what you are talking about, or think you are speaking about a different god.

When you are talking about the Christian god; ‘God/Jehova/Yahweh’ are all acceptable terms (note the capital G). Even then some Christian’s will not accept any name other than God.

Similarly if you are speaking to someone who is science literate about science; using unscientific terminology is not going to further the debate.

When speaking about science we should use the scientific terms, and when speaking on theological matters we should equally use the theological terms.

This series of articles is designed to help resolve some of this conflict.

Conflated and Misunderstood Terms Volume 1: Evolution

Conflated Term: “The Origin of Life” and Evolution

“Evolution means life came from nothing”

Evolution

The transition of life from A to B through small gradual changes till speciation occurs

Origin of Life

How life started on earth

The Difference: Evolution requires life to exist to happen. The origin of life is a how life started.

what-is-abiogenesisWhen it comes to “The Origin of Life” we don’t know. There are a number of hypotheses, from gods to aliens but the one being thought of in this conflation is Abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is the process by which life arises naturally from non-living matter.

Evolution is constantly happening; it is gradual changes over time. The Theory of Evolution merely describes the processes which take place once life has started up.

Misused/Misunderstood Term: Macro & Micro Evolution

I’m sure you have heard, and maybe even used the terms Micro Evolution and Macro Evolution. Whilst created in 1927 by Russian entomologist Yuri Filipchenko the terms have been twisted to cast doubt on the process.

Micro evolution

Creationist version: Micro evolution describes the small changes over time… a creationist might even say “that’s not evolution at all, that is just adaption”.
Truth: All evolution is is those micro changes until speciation occurs.

Macro evolution

Creationist version: Macro evolution is thought of as a “change in kind”. For example: a cat turning into a dog.
Truth: This is not how evolution works. That’s not even what speciation is. Macro evolution is actually used to describe everything from Speciation and beyond.
I personally feel that splitting evolution into micro and macro scales is redundant as despite their differences, evolution at both of these levels relies on the same, established mechanisms of evolutionary change:

Speciation

The formation of new and distinct species

When Speciation occurs a new distinct species arises from a particular group. Often a particular group has changed so much it can no longer breed with its ancestral lineage. This is not always the case, modern wolves and modern dogs are interfertile but neither probably would be with their common ancestor.

Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens.

A Species is a member of a genus which is a member of a family. Under a species is the subspecies. Dogs are a subspecies of Cannis Lupus, and they have evolved many different “breeds” through selective breeding.Taxonomy Terminology of species

Now whilst the taxonomy is not distinctly fixed in all cases, some might refer to sub species or breeds as species for example, the standard tree, pictured right, is probably the best way to view it.

Often the issue is just a “grey area” where scientists debate whether something is a subspecies rather than a distinct species. It can be argued that if the species is inter fertile with another, then it is a sub species rather than a species (eg modern dogs and wolves being subspecies of Cannis Lupus). In some cases even though a species is interfertile it is still considered a distinct species due to enough genetic differences.

When people say the taxonomy is not fixed for species, they are right in a sense due to definition of species and sub species and creatures that don’t exactly tick all the boxes of the definition.

Evolution occurs with every birth, as genes mix and mutations are carried over changes happen to each child both on the outside and in. If they didn’t we would look exactly like one of our parents. A clone if you will.

Here’s a short experiment you can try

Look at a picture of yourself, examine your features.
Now look at a picture of your parents, and note the similarities, the features you share.
Do the same with a picture of your grandparents, note the similarities between your parents and them. Examine at the features you also share.
Now look at a picture of their parents but only compare your grand parents to them. Move back for as many generations as you can just comparing one generation to the last.

In most cases you will note some distinct similarities from generation to generation. If you now compare the oldest picture to yours you probably won’t note any similarities unless there are some seriously dominant genes in that mix.

How many years could you go back though? 100? 202 years at most (first picture clicked in 1814). Imagine the differences over thousands of years. Now put that on the evolutionary calendar, which is thought to be around 3.8 billion years, you’d see a massive difference.

When the characteristics (genes) are different enough, they are classed as a different species, although some species can interbreed.

do not reject evolutionWe look to our ancestors like Homo Neanderthals or Homo Denisovans and we can see similar attributes but there are many clear differences, even in size and posture. That’s only going back hundreds of thousands of years… imagine millions, and then billions of years of changes.

Conflated Terms: Kinds and Species

I spoke quite a bit about what a species is in the last section, so I won’t bore you too much, but as a short recap

Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. A Species is a member of a genus which is a member of a family. For example Homo Sapiens (humans) is the species, a member of the homo genus in the family hominidae.

Kind

A group of people or things having similar characteristics.

When most people use “Kind” to describe an animal it is often used as either Family or Species. Often a fallacy of moving the goal post is introduced. When you can evidence how feline (Felidae) could evolve from a common Felidae ancestor suddenly the kind will be describing the family and you get statements like “You don’t get cat kind changing into dog kind”.

As already discussed, that’s not how evolution works. It is tonnes of small changes over time, and the time line is so big that end to end we can’t recognise our ancestors.

Just make sure if you debate someone who uses “kind” to get them to explain exactly what their definition of “kind” is, and you can compare it to the equivalent definition of yours.

Similarly if you are someone who uses “kind” consider how you might translate that into more scientific terms.

A Misunderstanding: Dawkins thinks Aliens did it!

Musinderstanding: richard-dawkins-aliensThis is a complete misunderstanding of what Dawkins has said. The truth is we don’t know what started life on earth. Whilst we have discovered RNA molecules it is only hypothesised what could have brought them into being. As such Dawkins is able to entertain the possibility that life on earth could have been kick started by aliens. Without enough evidence it will not be an idea he accepts.

Whilst Dawkins is well renowned in his field it would be unwise to just gleefully accept he or anyone else says without researching to see if it is based on any evidence. It is also important to understand the full context of any situation.

You might argue that you cannot perform the scientific experiments yourself. There are plenty of peer reviewed papers out there you can read. Scientists try and prove each other wrong all the time. Not to be vindictive, but in search of the truth.

Conflated and Misunderstood Term: Scientific Theory aka “Just a Theory”

One of the most frustrating things to hear in a debate is “Just a Theory”. It is an issue with Scientific Theory being conflated with the more colloquial “Theory”

Theory

An idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action

The way theory is used is closer to what a scientist would regard a hypothesis, or if there is absolutely no evidence or logic to base your thoughts on a closer definition would be idea or put forward in an argument, a baseless claim.

Essentially a theory is a thought based on little to no evidence. An idea.

Scientific Theory (sometimes referred to simply as a Theory)

A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world. The explanations are acquired through the scientific method. The evidence is repeatedly tested and confirmed. Scientific Laws are written, and a theory is compiled to explain them. A Scientific Theory can also be used to predict results.

In really simplistic terms you could translate “Theory of Evolution” to “The explanation of Evolution”. Perhaps with the caveat that the explanation was based on credible, testable and verifiable evidence.

just-a-theory-scientific-terminologyIf you use “Just a Theory” when referring to a Scientific Theory, then you are showing your ignorance. Unless you are wilfully ignorant I’d suggest making sure you understand the terms people are using in conversation. You are but a google search away if you do not understand anything someone says. Yes, there is misinformation out there but if you base your knowledge from factual sources instead of celebrities and social media you’ll get a better understanding of these terms.

I have a theory you won’t take any of this in. Prove me wrong.

Recap

Tto recap any of the information in this article you can use one of these quick links below:

Remember to follow us on: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!


Davidian (25)
THE ‘FINE TUNING’ ARGUMENT DEBUNKED – Holy Koolaid

 




Sense

Presup: Sense and Reason, Part 1

ANSWERS IN REASONIntroduction

Most who have been involved in discussion and debate of the existence of God will, at some point, have come across the Presuppositionalist. Presuppositionalism proposes that we must presuppose the existence of God in order to make sense of the world, and other ideas such as God being necessary in order to make sense of and explain various parts of existence as well as existence itself. One of the most well-known proponents of Presup is the infamous Sye Ten Bruggate, who many may know from his debate with Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience.

Two prongs of argument that the presupper attempts are to insert doubt into whether or not we can trust our sense experiences, and our ability to reason. This will of course be a familiar thing to those with experience of Descarte’s work Meditations. The arguments used in presup are similar, and have their roots in, ‘Cartesion Doubt’ or ‘hyperbolic doubt’ as Descarte himself referred to it. In his work Descarte’s uses his famous ‘Evil Demon’ thought experiment to insert absolute doubt, and attempts to find a way to justify why his senses can be trusted. Descarte’s conclusion is that God gives us sufficient reason to justify trusting our senses and our ability to reason. But is God necessary to trust our senses and our reason? Must we presuppose God in order to make sense of it, and to have certainty that our senses and our reason can be trusted?

Doubting the SensesANSWERS IN REASONI

n Descarte’s Meditations he sets forth the challenge for himself to remove all those things that cast doubt upon knowledge, and start from a solid foundation. In amongst those things that he perceives to cast doubt upon knowledge are the senses. Arguing that sometimes the senses deceive us, and this gives us cause to doubt sense experiences. That the idea that we know that we are sometimes fooled is evidence that our senses cannot be trusted, and our senses may also be fooled all of the time. Going further to introduce the idea of the ‘Evil Demon’ thought experiment which asks us to imagine that our senses are completely controlled by a demon that fools us into thinking we are experiencing things we simply are not.

There are many rebuttals from many minds that go into detail with the problems of Descarte’s ‘Evil Demon’, just as there are with the similarly made ‘Brain in a Vat’ argument. Rebuttals that give us good reason to doubt the validity of the arguments. However, the presup rarely opens with an ‘Evil Demon’ or ‘Brain in a Vat’ argument. Instead they simply ask us whether or not we can trust our senses, in the hopes of leading to an argument in which we can use God and the Bible in order to ‘synchronise’ our senses; in this way we can know what we are experiencing is real, true and that we are not being deceived. So do we need to do this in order to know that our senses are not deceiving us all the time?

Trusting the Senses

ANSWERS IN REASON

The argument will usually be put forward in a similar manner to Descarte’s argument. We know that the senses sometimes fool us, so could it be possible that they are always fooling us? Must we mistrust our senses continually because there are times we cannot trust our senses?

The first problem with that argument and reason is that it simply does not follow. The conclusion does not follow on from the premise. For the very premise itself presupposes that sometimes our senses do not deceive us. The conclusion in an indirect manner is asking us to imagine if senses that are known to be right some of the time can be incorrect all of the time. It is similar to making an argument that states ‘the senses are sometimes right, so could it be possible that they are always wrong?’. It simply is not possible to get to the question logically from the premise put forward. This alone gives us good reason to reject the proposition made by the argument asking us to think our senses are always being deceived because they are sometimes being deceived.

Thinking of it in a similar manner to that of a forged bank-note (Blackburn, 1999). Does it make sense to say that as some bank notes are forged, so all bank notes may be forged? Of course it does not, for forged bank notes are copies of original bank notes. We cannot have a forgery without their being an original to copy, therefore the conclusion is nonsensical. Just as it is when we are asked to imagine that our senses are always being deceived because some of the time they are not being deceived. It simply is a nonsensical argument.

The Evil Demon

ANSWERS IN REASONThis of course is where the thought experiments of the ‘Evil Demon’ and the ‘Brain in a Vat’ style of argument may come in, and are often brought in. These experiments invite us to imagine a scenario in which it is plausible that our senses are being fooled all of the time. The ‘Evil Demon’ inviting us to imagine a demon powerful enough to control our senses all of the time, and the ‘Brain in a Vat’ inviting us to imagine a scenario where we are simply brains in jars, attached to a giant computer which sends us all of our sense experiences. A scenario is created wherein it becomes possible that all of our senses and perceptions are deceiving us all of the time. There are many rebuttals made against these arguments, and the problems with these arguments, however in this article the focus is not on rebutting these arguments but examining the claims made by the presuppositionalist.

Here the claim is that God can give us certainty that our senses are not being fooled all of the time. It is similar to the claim that Descartes uses in order to overcome his ‘Evil Demon’. That God is a good god, and a personal god, and an honest god, and would therefore not allow us to be fooled by an ‘Evil Demon’ as described. Does this give us certainty that our senses are not being fooled 100% of the time?

One of the problems with this claim is that if a being truly were attempting to ‘fool your senses’ in a completely immersive way, and trick you into staying in that truly immersed ‘tricking of the senses’, it would be logical for it to create a way to convince you that it is not possible that you are being fooled. To insert an idea that you cannot be fooled would be a way to keep you entirely and unquestioningly immersed in the fooling of your senses. An argument such as Descartes, that there exists a god that would ensure that you were never being fooled. The same holds true for the idea of the ‘Brain in a Vat’. Proposing a god does not give us certainty that we are not ‘Brains in a Vat’ for the very same reason.

Another problem with this argument is the ‘free will defence’ that many use. That God does not violate ‘free will’. It is the reason that God will not stop the rape of a child, or the murder of defenceless old woman, or the genocide of a group of people. It is also a similar reason to why God does not simply put an end to Satan. He has been given free rein in the material world, but will be reeled in come ‘Judgement Day’. If, as the argument concludes, God would inform us of any attempt to deceive our senses in the manner of the ‘Evil Demon’ or of the mad scientist with the ‘Brains in a Vat’, then it argues against the idea that God would not violate ‘free will’ and would argue against the idea that Satan cannot be dispatched by God and has free rein in this world.

To argue that God would inform us of our senses being perpetually deceived is to bring in an inconsistency, and a contradiction in the definition of God. There would then need to be ‘caveats’ introduced into the claim that God does not violate ‘free will’. It would also then need to be explained why God would deem it more necessary to stop us from having our senses deceived than it is to stop a young child from being tortured, abused, raped and/or killed. It would also have to be explained why God deems it necessary to calibrate our senses in this instance, but not in instances where the wrong religion is followed, or even not believed.

So the argument that God can give us certainty that what we are experiencing is absolutely real, and that without God we must doubt our senses 100% of the time, or that it is even possible to doubt our senses 100% of the time if the claim that sometimes our senses are wrong, is without substance. Upon closer examination of the arguments, they do not hold as strong of a case as the presupper may argue, or may indeed believe. However, do we really even need 100% certainty that our senses work 100% of the time in order to trust them?

Why Trust Our Senses Sometimes?

ANSWERS IN REASONIf we consider the idea of how evolution works, we consider the idea of natural selections; or the selection of traits that favour the survival of the species. Imagine for a moment that our senses were always unreliable in navigating the world. If our senses were always unreliable for navigating the world then would we, as a species, have survived long enough to order to escape becoming prey? Would we have been able to know that there was a predator near, and would we have been able to escape that predator?

It would seem incredibly unlikely that it would be the case. If our senses could not navigate us successfully through the world we would not have survived long enough in order to evolve into beings capable of building societies. If our senses could never be trusted we would never have created the societies we have created today, or the technology that we have created today. If our senses were useless to us then none would be able to read this argument. We would not have the capability to write things in a coherent fashion in languages that others can understand, and those who understand that language could read back in a way that shows that it is coherent and that our senses calibrate to the same sense experience.

The fact that we can check that our sense experiences are alike with another human, or a group of humans, gives us cause to trust our senses to some degree also. We can also make note of our experiences, and have them tested by others to see if those experiences line up. The more people who test to see if it lines up, and does line up with, the better of course. Which is the nature of the scientific method. It does not simply ‘trust the senses’, it does its best to ensure rigorous testing of the conclusions made from sense experience. It also uses methods beyond our senses, such as measuring equipment, and recording equipment, that work in different, and more finely tuned, ways to our senses. We are able to hear frequencies we otherwise would not, and view things in a spectrum of light we otherwise would not, and see things in detail we otherwise would not. It is the very reason that sometimes our senses deceive us that we create even more rigorous and stringent testing methods due to it. This enables to further and further test and refine our conclusions. Is a little bit of doubt about our findings, or our behaviour, or our beliefs, not a good thing?

References

Blackburn, S. (1999) Think, Oxford Press, Oxford.




Changing A Mind: Respect Matters


Changing a mind

Ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule…”

Introduction

For those atheists that discuss and debate religion, we should ask ourselves what the purpose behind it is. Why do we do the things we do? For the Christian evangelist, or the Muslim performing Da’wah, this is a simple question to answer. They do it because they are attempting to spread their religion. They believe their way is the way, and their religion teaches them that they should be spreading the religion. What of the atheist though? We have no such doctrine, we have no doctrine at all. Yet it is common, especially in this modern era, to find atheists discussing and debating religion. So we should ask ourselves why we attempt to discuss religion with the believer. Is the purpose simply to mock those that do not think like us, or is the purpose something more?  Is the purpose to change minds?

Ridiculing the Believer

It is common to find atheists in debate groups, especially amongst those that act like echo chambers for atheist thought, using the phrase ‘ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule’. There are many who seem to be content to insult and mock the believer, because they hold the idea that the theist has ridiculous beliefs. What of the theist though? There are many who hold the idea that the atheist has ridiculous beliefs. We often see attempts from various theists to mock the non-believer, not just the atheist but those that hold a different religion. So does their belief that others hold ridiculous beliefs entitle them to ridicule those beliefs, as the statement implies? The atheists who hold to this idea justify their actions by claims of atheism being logical, reasonable and rational. Yet the believer holds that their beliefs are these things too. Each group believes that they are the ones with the correct beliefs, the rational beliefs, the logical beliefs. What does ridicule achieve though?

Ridiculing can be used to bully people into conformity of course. Is that all we as atheists want though, for those that do not believe to simply conform to our ideas? How does that make us any different from those believers that simply want us to conform to their ideas? If our goal is to attempt to promote rationality, and reason, and logic, then surely we want more than simple conformity? Surely we should want more than to simply look good, or look clever, amongst our peers and those that are in our in-group?

Unless those are our goals then of course we should want more. In order to achieve more though we must understand what it takes to change a person’s mind. We also must understand why it is people believe in religion, beyond memes such as ‘too stupid to understand science’. We need to understand why people believe their God exists, and their religion, beyond the simple answer of indoctrination. One of my colleages here at Answers In Reason presented an article in to the science of belief which you can read here at your own leisure. We already face an uphill battle when it comes to the believer changing their mind, especially in cases of religions like Islam, in which it is taught that it is perfect and beyond reproach, and that it cannot be wrong. If our goal is to change their minds then we must understand at least the bare minimum of what it takes to change a mind, and the approaches necessary in order to change a mind. In this article we will attempt to discuss some of the various approaches and ideas put forward about ‘changing someone’s mind’. So, what does it take to change a person’s mind?

An Interest in What is Being Said

The first step towards the acquisition of knowledge of course is an interest in the topic at hand. If we are not interested in the topic then we will rarely seek out the knowledge. Sometimes it is curiosity, other times it is necessity, but it is usually some kind of interest that begins our journey. The reason behind our interest is often a factor in what information we seek out, or what information we accept, as well. If we are simply interested in debunking an idea, often we will seek out that particular information. The same is true of the opposite as well, we will seek the information that supports the idea that we are interested in. However, interest is only the beginning of the journey. It is what leads us to begin our acquisition of information and knowledge, and not the deciding factor on where and who we get our information from.

Changing a mind

A Little Bit of Respect

It is often respect that is a major contributing factor in who we listen to. For if we do not respect the person, or at the very least their grasp of the topic they are speaking on, then we will reject the information that they present us. We can often not respect the person giving us the information, but if we respect their authority on the subject then we will still listen to what that person has to say on the subject; even if we dismiss their opinions on other subjects. Showing us that respect has much to do with our ability to change another’s mind. Here is where the atheist faces something of a problem though. The knowledge we have is not something that most believers have a genuine interest in, most are not seeking to acquire knowledge of atheism but instead to convince the atheist that the position they hold is incorrect. They are seeking to convert, rather than be converted. They also do not have a respect for the average atheists authority on certain subjects. The authority that they respect as far as knowledge goes is their God, and their scriptures. Made even more difficult in cases such as Islam, in which it convinces the believer that the scripture cannot be wrong, and that the Muslim cannot be wrong if they are indeed following what is taught in the Qu’ran. It creates an almighty (pun intended!) bias in their thinking, one that is incredibly difficult to challenge.

It is not an impossible challenge though. What it means that what we must rely on is their respect for us as people, and as human beings. We could argue that it will never happen, this is true. After all, it is included in some scriptures that we are not to be respected. That we are only worthy of hell fire, that we are fools, and that the wise are the one’s that follow ‘the true religion’, which usually tends to be the one that the particular believer is a member of. However, this is not always the case. There are many that are willing to engage in dialogue and discussion, and there are many that treat those who believe differently with respect. So long as they are worthy of respect of course. They generally tend not to engage in discussion with those whose behaviour is bullying and insulting. They are indeed looking for reasonable discourse, just as many atheists are simply looking for reasonable discourse.

This is something that we should be using to our advantage. By creating and reinforcing slogans such as ‘ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule’ we immediately alienate those we should be having reasonable discourse with. We earn no respect from those we should be seeking to gain the respect of when we lead with the idea that we will ridicule what they believe. Especially when we factor in some of the stereotypes and ideas that many believers already hold of the atheist.

internet atheistStereotyping of the Atheist

When we enter into a conversation with many believers, the non-believer is already confronted by certain prejudices and stereotypes. Ideas such as the angry atheist, or that atheists are arrogant, or are atheists simply because we do not want to behave, and much more. Many atheists will have come across this in some form at some point in their lives, especially if they are active in discussion and debate. We are also seen as irrational by many believers, as they believe that the rational conclusion is that God exists and to believe otherwise is irrational. The Bible claims that those who do not believe in God are fools, and the Qu’ran promotes the idea that we are less than cattle (cite sources).

This means that even before entering into a conversation with many believers they have a particular image of us. An image designed to impact the amount of respect that the believer has on first contact. In order to overcome this we must show that these stereotypes do not hold weight, and that what they believe, what they have been taught to believe, is a falsehood. That we are not angry, and arrogant, and foolish, and immoral, and less than animals. That we are indeed reasonable and rational people, and we are good people.

“I will never respect religion”

There will be those who will reply that they will never respect religion, or religious beliefs, or believers. However, this is not the point being made here. The point is not that we must respect these things, but instead that one of the key conditions to getting someone to listen to you is that they must respect you enough to actually listen to what is being said. If they do not respect a person enough to listen to them, then there is little chance that person will have the opportunity to get them to question their beliefs, or listen to their criticisms of their belief, or to listen to reasons why they do not hold the same belief. Therefore if the goal is these things, then the approach used must be considered.

Conclusion

This is not to say that all believers are approachable, or will listen, or will ever respect anyone that does not believe the same thing as they do. For these people clearly exist, and the atheist active in discussion and debate will have come across these people on a regular basis. These people may or may not be unreachable, however it should be considered that even the most ardent of believers in particular ideologies have changed their mind when they have come across people who had certain extant qualities that made them consider their beliefs.

However, to approach all believers as if they hold this mindset would be an error in judgement. For there are those that are willing to have polite discussions. There are also those that criticise others for similar reasons the atheist does, such as the exclusion and harassment of the LGBT+ community and the like. Just as the atheist community is diverse, and is made up of many different ideas and beliefs, so to is the theist community. Some are not of the Abrahamic faiths. These things should all be considered in our approach to discussion and debate and criticism. Just as we atheists are unfairly lumped together, or faulty conclusions are made based on faulty premises, we must also not make the same the mistake of theists.

If our goal is to get people to consider their beliefs carefully, or to understand our criticisms of their beliefs, or to listen to our questions, then our approach needs to be considered by each and every one of us. Our goals too need to be considered; and if our goal is the things that are mentioned here then one of the main factors in even getting close to them is that we must have a minimum amount of respect from those we are in discussion with, enough respect to actually get them to listen to us.




Just

Is God’s Punishment Just?

Answers in Reason

Introduction

A common claim heard from followers of both Christianity and Islam is that God, or Allah, is just. God is the ultimate judge of our affairs, punishing the wicked and rewarding the good; depending of course on how one chooses to use their free will. This leads to a contradiction between the concepts, and there are many Christian and Islamic apologetics written in an attempt to overcome this paradox. However, they tend to attempt to reconcile the two from the point of free will while ignoring a much greater flaw.  They overlook the claim that God is also all-powerful and if it did indeed create the universe than God must have “intelligently designed” the universe. So, baring these facts in mind as well, can God truly be just?

In order to determine whether God’s punishment is just, first we must look at a few of the characteristics attributed to God by both Christian and Islamic theology.  The first characteristic we must look at is that of God being “all-knowing”.  Exactly what does God being all-knowing mean?

All-Knowing and All-Powerful

According to Christian and Islamic theology, there is nothing that is unknown to God.  He has known all things at all times, and there has never been a time that God did not know all things.  Which means that there has never been a time that God did not know the future of our universe. Which means that he knew every evil deed committed by every single evil doer from the beginning of time.  In effect, from the moment of creation God knew every single genocide that would happen, he knew every war and killing that would happen in his name, every child that would be raped by a priest.  Every single evil thing you could think of, God knew these things would happen before he created the universe.

The more interesting thing to remember is that upon creating the universe, God knew every single moment that he would intervene and what the outcome of that intervention would be.  In other words, God already knew that he would have to flood the Earth, God knew that he would have to rain fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah, and he knew the reaction from every parent whose child he would have to take away as a test.

Which leads us on to an interesting question.  Could God have created the universe in such a way that these things did not have to happen?  Well according to Christian and Islamic theology, yes he could have.  According to Christian and Islamic theology God is all-powerful.  This means that there is nothing that is beyond God’s power.  So God could have created the universe in a different configuration; not only could he have created the universe in a different configuration but he would have known the future of each configuration.

In effect, God chose every single evil deed that has happened and that will happen.  He chose a particular configuration where particular people commit particular deeds.  To put it a different way, God chose which people he would punish and why he would punish them.

An Oft Overlooked Point

This is the point that Christian and Islamic apologetics tend to overlook.  They tend mostly to focus on correlating free will with an all-knowing god.  So does putting the two attributes together negate free will?

The answer to that is both yes and no.  Free will can still be possible, however, it means that God chose the universe in which the person made that particular choice at that particular time.  He could have created a universe where those events did not happen, or he could have chosen a universe where the person made a different choice.   In other words, God chose the universe where you picked that particular choice.

A Universal Computer Simulationpc-sim

Think of it similar to a simulation on a computer.  Think of running a simulator that calculates every single possible combinations of universes and events in those universes. This would allow us to both know the future, and allow for free will.  However, these universes don’t actually exist.  Now imagine that the user of the simulation then goes on to choose their favourite configuration, the one that they would most like to see happen.  The creator of the universe would still be all-knowing as far as the future goes, the being inside the universe would still have made a choice out of free will, however ultimately the choice was down to the creator of the universe.  This is exactly how it would be if God had created the universe.  This point can be further enforced by the claims by Christian and Islamic theology that God intelligently designed the universe.

god justGod’s Choice…

What both of these points mean is that while a person may have made a choice to commit a particular deed, the choice was ultimately God’s.  The only way that the choice could not have been God’s is if he could not have known the future of the universe.  However, according to Christian and Islamic theology God cannot know something now that he did not know at the beginning of universe.  Further proving the point that any deed committed in this universe, if it was indeed created by God, was ultimately God’s choice.

…Is It Just?

So the question that must be asked is whether or not it is just for God to punish someone for doing something that he had no real choice about doing?  Is it just for God to punish someone for doing something that, ultimately, God chose for them to do?

According to the dictionary the definition of just is “Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair”.  Is it right and fair to punish someone for something that you forced them to do?
To put it another way, if a scientist created an android whose sole purpose was to attempt to kill that scientist, would it be right and fair to punish him for attempting to kill the scientist?

Conclusion

Any reasonable person would of course come to the conclusion that it would not be fair to punish that android for performing that deed, after all it was the scientist who ultimately made the choice.  The same logic then should be applied to God, meaning that the only logical and rational response to the question of “Is God’s punishment just?” is no, God’s punishment is not just.

Which means that either God does not exist, as a being with the attributes assigned to it by Christian and Islamic theology can not be all-knowing, all-powerful and just, or that the Bible nor the Qur’an are the word of god.