You debunk a theistic website: submissions

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You debunk a theistic website: submissions

This thread is part of The Great Big Submission drive, any debunkings of theistic websites should go here. If you made your doc in HTML code you can send it to us via email, or host it on a page and simply link us.

A debunking of any creationist or theist site. Also debunkings of specific arguments of theists. Example here

Every theist website on the internet deserves a debunking. They need to be outed for their dishonest, absurd, and false claims. Some sites are much worse than others. RationalResponders.com carries a high weighting with the search engines and it's likely that your efforts will show up high in the search engines when someone seeks out the theist site you choose to debunk. Make clear and factual arguments, point out as many flaws as possible in as much detail as possible, debunking as much of the site as possible. If you are an author or simply have a freethought themed website, this would be a great way to help us and draw traffic to your site at the same time. Articles can be as short as two paragraphs and as long as you want. Here is a good example of a page you could debunk from http://www.josh.org/.

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server.


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DOES PICKING UP STICKS DESERVE THE DEATH PENALTY?

BURNING BULLOCKS

A commentary on:
Kyle Butt's, DOES PICKING UP STICKS DESERVE THE DEATH PENALTY?

In Dan Barker’s book, “Losing Faith in Faith,” Mr. Barker highlights many examples of God's whimsical penchant for excessive punishment. In one example from Numbers 15, a man is stoned to death by Moses' henchmen (at the command of God) for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Mr. Kyle Butt has attempted a rebuttal (www.apologeticspress.org/scrspeak/2003/ss-03-72.htm) with the statement, “In truth, there is no way that Barker could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished as it was.” He then tries to justify Moses’/God's condemnation of the man in Numbers 15 with a military metaphor that demonstrates the correct relationship between God and humankind, a relationship that stresses the importance of unwavering obedience. He follows the metaphor with a number of examples of bad things that might happen if one in an inferior position doesn’t obey his superiors, who apparently ALWAYS know better. Mr. Butt spends most of his rebuttal trying to justify the punishment for disobedience rather than give a straightforward answer as to why picking up sticks on the Sabbath is so bad in itself. The pettiness of the Sabbath commandment in itself (let alone the harshest punishment for breaking it) is Mr. Barker’s main point and Mr. Butt has missed that or chooses to ignore it.
Mr. Butt’s main parallel concerns a military trooper/cadet who decides that he wants to wear red boots instead of black ones. This is against the will of the Commander in Chief, but tolerated (to prove his point). The fashion catches on and soon half the troops are wearing red boots, because in his example, there is no real discipline concerning supposedly inconsequential matters like fashion. The next thing they know, the troops are on the battleground... when suddenly they realize that they are wearing the same colored boots as the enemy, and that it is the only distinguishing feature between the two sides. They have invited the potential for friendly fire upon themselves because they didn’t listen to the Commander, who knew this would happen.
Mr. Butt writes, “Often, disobedience to the commands of one who is in a position to know more about a particular situation could result in harm or death for multiplied thousands. For instance, why does the United States military insist on obedience to officers even in the minutest details?” Judging by the long list of killings that God has ordered or committed in the Bible (including drowning the planet!), I think Mr. Butt gives Him a little too much credit as a merciful entity that is trying to potentially “prevent harm or death for multiplied thousands” by ordering the death of a guy who was probably just trying to build a fire.
Nothing is more effective at controlling the people than associating the fear of death with the most trivial tasks, and this was Moses’ immediate need. Still, even in OT times, execution for working on the Sabbath seems pretty harsh when compared to some of the other threats of punishment, such as in Deut. 22:28, 29: “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father 50 shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; for he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” The punishment for raping an unbetrothed virgin and getting caught?! Paying 50 shekels of silver and marriage for life!!! If we can rate the crime by the punishment, then working on the Sabbath is obviously far worse than raping an unbetrothed virgin and getting caught.
Mr. Butt’s military metaphor is inconsistent and incomplete. He hasn’t followed through with the implications and consequences. What Commander (in a civilized nation), especially if he knew that the enemy would wear red boots on the war field, would put a trooper to death for wearing red boots without at least explaining why he shouldn’t wear them beforehand? The fact that the Commander even had a practical explanation for not wearing red boots (which, in THE REAL WORLD would have been made clear before the troops were shipped off to war) makes it a bad parallel to a God who is frequently remiss in practical explanations. Even Mr. Butt might agree that if the trooper in his military metaphor was properly informed of the risks of wearing red boots by his Commander, he would probably have behaved in everyone’s best interest. In the same way, shouldn’t God inform His people of why working on the Sabbath is such a bad idea that it deserves the death penalty?
It’s no surprise that Mr. Butt would use a military metaphor for the psychological profile of the relationship between God and humans. It unintentionally shows the conditions of free will and critical thought for the “troops” who must bring “...into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Mr. Butt’s situation of warfare, where a superior needs the quick obedience of his troops, is an example of a very particular, unusual situation. He puts us all in a foxhole where there’s no time for explanations from the Commander- where he shouldn’t even HAVE TO explain himself, where if he DID have to explain himself, the whole orderly chain of command would crumble and chaos would ensue... But we are not in a foxhole... we are in the people’s court of life, where there is time to rationally conclude which laws are helpful and harmful. Isn’t Mr. Butt’s Commander in Chief more accurately portrayed as a petty dictator? Yes, an insurrection would probably eventually occur in a situation where a dictator mandates impractical orders and punishments that appear to benefit only his ego without any good explanation. Insurrection may not be a bad thing in this case, depending on the severity of the dictator.
Mr. Butt’s position is that the threat of capital punishment (as opposed to the resulting harm from the “crime” in itself) for an unexplained reason is a justifiable deterrent to general ethical entropy (“laxity”). In reality, it advocates moral slavery and inherently betrays the foundation of free will for salvation. A law must have a purpose and it must be made clear or obedience to it has no moral value. The purposes of common military directives in this country have been well explained and adjusted by and for the people involved- we’re still waiting for an explanation from God concerning the severity of the Sabbath commandment (and others). The truth is, all persons in the United States Armed Forces are still expected to exercise their ethical judgment when following any command. And every action of ANY military person, up to and including the Commander and Chief, are subject to the review of the courts when there is an issue of ethical dissonance. In addition, any civilized court would also require an explanation for such a killing that goes beyond simple disobedience. None of this works in favor of Mr. Butt’s example. Accountability? Not for God. Ethical scrutiny? Not for Christians. At the end of the day, the scariest idea in Mr. Butt’s rebuttal is the inference that he would accept the death penalty for something like wearing red boots as a perfectly plausible law, as long as God ordered it.
The point that Dan Barker made in his book is that the Sabbath commandment is flawed from the root, and therefore, such harsh punishment is excessive. How is the Sabbath commandment justified in itself? Again, God is unclear on its practical nature. Sure, we need to rest, but hasn’t God already designed our bodies to indicate when this is necessary? Does He need to threaten to kill us in order to make sure that we rest on that particular day? Paul certainly didn’t like the idea of it ("Let no man therefore judge you in meat and drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon; or of the sabbath days” Col. 2:16, see also Rom. 14:5). It’s almost as absurd as saying that our hearts continue to work to pump the blood that keeps us alive on the Sabbath, so they should be “plucked out” to save ourselves from hell (or stoning!), like the guilty eye or the offending hand that we are supposed to dismember in Matt. 5:29, 30 (although this verse is in a... gasp... sexual context). If we plucked out our offending heart, we could be with God sooner, with less sin on our record, AND deny our evil flesh and the world around it in the ultimate manifestation of faith! Sound reasonable? More reasonable than capital punishment for breaking the Sabbath? We are aware of the obvious risks and reasons for some of the other commandments, why not this one? Because there are no risks. It’s an impractical law designed to flatter God’s ego (the first four commandments are all ego driven) by celebrating His day of rest... wait a second... ummm... God needs to rest (Ex. 31:17)?! Why?
For perspective, it’s important to consider the implications of a small sampling of God’s outrageous laws and punishments: God demanded that whoever works on the Sabbath be executed by stoning (Ex. 35:2, Numb. 15:32-36). God demanded that stubborn and rebellious children be executed by stoning (Deut. 21:18-21, Lev. 20:9). God demanded that a woman who marries who is not a virgin on her wedding night be executed by stoning (Deut. 22:13-21). God has demanded that the handicapped (and people with flat noses!) not be allowed in church, so as not to profane His sanctuary (Lev. 21:16-23). God has declared shellfish, rabbit, and pork "abominations" (Lev. 11:5-11. Locusts, grasshoppers, and beetles are fine, Matt. 3:4). Jesus commanded anyone who loses a lawsuit to automatically pay twice as much (Matt. 5:40-41). Etc... it goes on and on...
Now, if God is forever the same (“For I am the Lord, I change not...” Mal. 3:6) and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:Cool, doesn't it follow that They are still pretty upset about humans (especially Christians) breaking these laws? Why do Christians seem to take the more obscure laws so lightly, when even Jesus said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot and one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, ‘til all be fulfilled. Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, ye shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:18-19)? Even if the whole Draconian mess of the OT were cleaned up with the magic broom of Jesus' (Paul’s?) atonement plan (“we are delivered from the law, that being dead” Rom. 7:6), weren’t these laws originally created because these particular sins are extremely offensive to God? Did God change? And under the same reasoning, aren’t practices, such as animal sacrifice still pleasing to this unchanging God (e.g. burning seven lambs, one bullock, and two rams makes a “sweet savour unto the Lord,” Lev. 23:18? In the next verse, a goat is sacrificed for sin and two lambs of the first year for peace. Two verses later [Lev. 23:21] God declares of this work, “it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations“)? Is the modern-day neglect of these lesser known laws and commandments because Christians are not aware of these verses? Is the modern-day neglect of these lesser known laws and commandments because Christians take advantage of being easily forgiven under Jesus' (Paul's) “grace plan,” OR is it because modern ethics have generally evolved (when allowed) beyond the bible's archaic ideas and Christians have let time and cultural differences trump God’s unchanging tastes? Probably a little of each. In any case, the truth remains: God is still pissed off (Lev. 26:14-39!) that instead of making the pleasing smell of animal sacrifices, Christians everywhere are eating shellfish, letting the handicapped (and people with flat noses!) into church, and doing yard work (picking up sticks?) on Sunday. It’s time to bust out the Weber and pile on the bullocks.

(please send me any helpful critique for revision if necessary, Thanks!)

"If Adolf Hitler flew in today, they'd send a limousine anyway" -The Clash


Everlasting_God...
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A response to religious arguments concerning morality

Evolution and the origin of morality with consideration of Christian theological ideology.
(An argumentative response to religious views on the origin of morality.)

When one considers morality, it is most usually thought of as an integral, innate portion of our personality and thought processes; with the same or similar moral code reflected in the words and actions of others, further investigations into our perceptions of right and wrong may at first seem superfluous. Nevertheless, our everyday decisions are based on our personal moral code so based on this apparent significance, it becomes equally significant to ask ourselves, where did these codes originate? Many believe our morality has a strictly theological origin, our morality being constructed by a divine being, or at the very least, our morality being a direct result of our personal religious beliefs. This is supported by the various tenets of various religions which reflect what we often perceive to be right and wrong. Religious texts are abounding with moral instructions supposedly from a deity. However, many scientists, most notably experts in the fields of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology believe morality to be the product of evolution. To support this, they cite the ideas of kin selection (actions which are contrary to self survival but support the survival of relatives, thus allowing copies of their own genes to survive) and reciprocal altruism (mutually beneficial behavior in which an individual helps another because of expected reciprocal behavior.) These concepts support that idea that humans are biologically predisposed to cooperative behavior that benefits the species.

First, a quick definition: morality is defined as "concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong; right or good conduct." When we do something "good" we are doing something considered beneficial for ourselves and/or society. When we do something considered "bad" it usually refers to the opposite.

Proponents of a theological origin of morality claim morality is a creation of a god. They wonder how we have come to perceive something such as murder as wrong, and conclude that these ideas were provided to us by a morally perfect creator. The Ten Commandments provides the central laws provided by the God worshipped by the majority of the American population. The commandments reflect many of our moral perceptions, and provide what would appear to be guidelines for a moral existence. Biblical verses pertaining to the notions of right and wrong are certainly not miniscule in number, and ideas such as "do unto others as you would have done unto yourself"(The Holy Bible, Matthew 7:12) are central themes in Christianity. Many point to these verses, these thoughts, and the laws contained in religious texts as proof that our morality has its source in these ideas, that our morality was given to us by a god through religious belief and religious law. The obvious conclusion is that people who lack a belief in a god, or do not adhere to religious principles, also lack morals. It can also be asserted that this lack of religious belief and the morals that come with it causes non-religious individuals to engage in excessively immoral and pernicious behavior.

This conclusion presents the first problem for those who argue for the necessity of religious belief in terms of morality. If we assume that non-religious individuals are not moral individuals, we can assume that, since our laws reflect many of our moral standards, these people will break the law more often than religious people. Following on that assumption, we can assume that our prisons will have more non-religious prisoners on average than religious prisoners, and this is not the case. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, non religious individuals comprise about 0.209% of the prison population (the majority of prisoners being Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim.) So if our morality comes from our religious beliefs, why is it that it is religious individuals who commit the most crimes? (Federal Bureau of Prisons, March 5th, 1997)

But if our morality really doesn't have roots in theological sources, how would these ideas come to exist in human thought? To answer this, we should first examine what it means to be human. Humans are a mammalian species of animals, as animals, we are driven to reproduce and spread our genetic material before we die. But humans are also social creatures; we are driven to come together into groups, which have obvious advantages for a species (protection, specialization of tasks). Knowing all this to be true, we can begin to draw conclusions about how morality comes into all of this. Charles Darwin puts it nicely: "In order that primeval man, or the ape-like progenitors of man, should become social, they must have acquired the same instinctive feelings, which impel other animals to live in a body; and they no doubt exhibited the same general disposition."(Darwin, Descent of man, pg. 147) So if morality is a product of evolutionary process developed to allow social animals to exist and cooperate in complex social situations, we should be able to find examples of what we could deem "moral behavior" in other social creatures on earth, and we do.

It is common knowledge that honey bees possess a complex social existence, worker bees protect the hive, attacking and stinging intruders even though the very act of stinging kills the bee. If bees are also a product of evolution, their goal, like ours, is to spread their genetic material, so sacrificing itself and thus eliminating its chances of reproducing doesn't seem to make sense. But if you take into consideration that these worker bees share 75% of their genes with fellow workers, it begins to become clearer. By sacrificing itself, and saving the hive, the bee is still ensuring that copies of its genetic material survive and are passed on. This concept is known as kin selection, and we can see this within humans as well, what human mother or father would not sacrifice their life for their child? Are we not inclined to protect those we love, even if it means putting ourselves at risk? When someone you love requires aid, do we not experience a sense of pride after providing aid? Do we not feel guilty if we are unable to help, or unwilling? (Alexander and Tinkle, Natural selection and social behavior, Eusociality in insects)

We can see social behavior in the vampire bat, which feeds at night on sleeping mammals. Obviously, not every vampire bat is going to be successful, it has been observed that bats create sort of a "buddy system" where bats who are unable to successfully hunt, receive nourishment from the regurgitated blood of the "buddy" bat, and the favor is returned if the other bat is unable to hunt in the future. This is a concept known as reciprocal altruism; it is also the origin of the "golden rule" for humans or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."(Science and nature, BBC)

These two concepts are biologically intertwined within our minds, and define how we act in social situations. So why do we as a society look down on murder? Why do we create laws to forbid it and punish those who commit the act? Murder is harmful for a society because if we are killing each other, we are open to threats from the outside, if murder is allowed; it is a direct threat to our families (and of course, our ability to pass on our genetic material.) Murder is "wrong" to us because it is harmful for our social existence, because we don't like to see others in our species killed, and we ourselves do not want to be killed. Murder does not help us as a social species, and so, it is contrary to our social instincts.

We can also not ignore the fact that if evolution is true, and we can explain through these ideas how humans came to exist physically and mentally as they do now, the need for a divine creating force disintegrates. It can be asserted, then, that if there are no gods, and it was humans who wrote the bible, created religion and the moral rules that go along with it, than all of the morality that supposedly stems from religious thought comes from humanity. Therefore, we can then say that the morality instilled in religion by man comes from our preexisting moral perceptions and instincts. In essence, religion is the creation of our morality, not the reverse.

So we are still left with the opinion of the majority of the American population that God created our morality and those without religious belief are not moral people. I argue that the exact opposite is true. Those without religious belief are taking moral actions because they want to do so; they do things based on what is best for them, as well as the rest of society, they are acting on their social instincts and freely admit it. Religious individuals claim to do things because their god tells them that is what they should do. They assume they will be rewarded for actions considered "good" in their religion, and punished for things considered "bad" what they have is a set of religious laws and guidelines, it is not morality. And that is why wars have been fought, countless people have been slaughtered, and the rights of humans continue to be repressed in the name of a god, even when such actions are contrary to our social instincts. Religious thought, maybe once was a way to enforce our moral codes, but now it threatens to overrule and destroy them. Our social instincts exist to bring us together and help us cooperate, but what has segregated humankind more than the idea of a god? Religious thought is not only not required for the existence of our moral perceptions, it constitutes the largest possible threat to our morality, and to our survival as social creatures.


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Thoughts Without a Thinker...

As a species, those that ask the questions haven't done a good enough job of explaining the human condition and what it means to exist enough...

That seems like a blanket statement, but if you TRULY seperate yourself from whatever "faith" you hold...

How can anyone actually believe in an order of faith - when the tools to disprove yourself and your beliefs (a public library, history books, anthropology, archeaology) are readily accessible?

The very FACT that you can read about previous civilizations of man that already lived and died believing in a certain dogma of religious faith or existence should be enough evidence in and of itself to dispel the notion of any one particular true god.

When confronted with these obvious facts, why are we still engaged in the conversation of whether or not a god exists?

...If "god" did exist, and was the one true god - why have our beliefs changed so much over time - from the beginning of human civilization?
... ... ... ... ...

As we pass-on through the timeline of one insignificant planet, why have we continually created gods that are eventually destroyed once a new group of settlers or "followers" arrive upon a particular moment or event in time...?

After confronting these obvious truths of life - we have numerous books of religious peoples that have lived and died; continuing to the present.

...So why is civilization still creating the idea of any one true god?

CONTROL...CONTROL...CONTROL...CONTROL...

-JL Wallace

JL Wallace
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¤ Broken Symmetry ¤


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The Immortal Soul of The Individual

There is no greater expression of human vanity
Than the Judeo-Christian notion of the immortal soul

It says:
“I am too important to be temporary.”

Might it not be that one cannot conceive of a world without oneself,
Because one must necessarily exist to conceive of any world at all,
And cannot completely entertain the thought of being unable to entertain thoughts?

The one thing that the mind cannot let go of is itself.

Try this experiment:
Think of all the parts/aspects of an individual or their personality that could be attributed to the soul.
All of the things about yourself, as an individual, that you believe would or could possibly exist after the death of your body.

Now consider how many of them can be explained in terms of changes within the body during its life.
Whether it be changes in the brain, hormonal system or any other part of the body.

Adrenalin, Serotonin and other hormones, neurotransmitters and the electrical pathways of our brain and their reactions to what is external to us constitutes our personality
Courage, valour, empathy, love, hate, sorrow, guilt
All accounted for

There is no doubt that we will one day be able to,
Through progressions in neuroscience and physiology,
Explain, and even recreate, the conditions required within the individual
To create any emotion or personal trait.

Our continued self trapped within the confines of our brains

If we are asked to define ourselves
We do so with a combination of our emotions, personal traits and memorised habits and opinions.
All of which would cease to exist with the death of the body and brain.

The purely chemical nature of our emotions is easily proven.
Ask anyone on antidepressant medication.

The elated MDMA user
Is his lifted mood not chemically induced?

If one can be saved from the depths of suicidal despair or propelled to ecstasy
By introducing a chemical into their body by means of a tablet
Does this not suggest that even the most profound feelings are merely due to chemical fluctuations?
Thoughts subservient to our emotional states with diminished powers of objectivity

Believers will object to this idea
Claiming that the changes in the body are merely physical reactions to the movements of the soul

But, please, show me this individual soul and where it is moving to and from
Ochams’ razor will easily dispatch of any notion of this individual soul

If every time I feel emotion X,
Hormone Y and neurotransmitter Z are observed being released,
Then it is by a combination of Y and Z that I shall define emotion X.

The release of Y and Z are involuntary responses
Such as the instant retraction of ones hand from a very hot object
With determination one can hold ones hand to a hot item regardless of instinct
Emotional response can be shaped in a similar way.

If the word soul is to be that described by the Jews, Christians and Muslims
We are soulless

It is exceptionally hard to accept that one, as an individual, will be completely annihilated upon death
But even the most fervent wish will not obtain you a soul
And for that I am truly sorry


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Do you have a soul?

What a question, you'd say... Smiling

Well, man has always been tried to demystify the secrets of life and death. There has been quite a few scientific research, theories and findings on this too. But all that aside, as a reality of life, the soul concept has been accepted in one form or other, in almost all the religions of the world, and because of this, even some scientific researches have been said to be initiated at many places. As a given, science always accepts only the truth and thrives to find the reality out of every theory or belief, thus in turn bringing to light the real truth.

Thus before starting on with any sort of research on the soul concept, it should be mandatory that we examine the truth behind the existence or non-existence of the soul in the first place. To get the real picture of the same, all we have in hands are the scriptures written over the ages and followed more or less blindly by various religions of the world.

Lets start with the chief religion of my country, Hinduism. A holy scripture, Geeta, clearly describes the soul as nirguna (Devoid of any properties/character), and so does most of the holy scriptures of other religions as well. While some other holy scriptures also mention that the soul of every human has a character of its own(saguna). So there's a clear case of contradiction within the different holy scriptures of a single religion. This definitely calls for an immediate attention towards study of the gunas (Properties/characters) and nirgunas(lack of properties/characters) of the atma (soul).

The Hindu scriptures describes the soul as that of two types: jeevatma (soul of the living) and paramatma (soul of the almighty). Even the jeevatma is divided into two types: duratma (the bad soul) and the good soul. Well, this shows a define 'character' of the soul in the first place.

Post demise rituals
Almost every religion of the world makes it mandatory to perform some or the other sort of a ritual to bring peace to the soul of the dead human. This clearly indicates that the soul has a direct connection with these rituals. Now, if the soul is said to have left the physical body (as THE cause of death), then how exactly can it possibly be affected by the 'worldly' rituals, would be a definite question?

Moreover, these post-demise rituals are only performed for the dead human beings, which is biologically just another species out of the millions of species of living beings on this planet. Does any religion specify the necessity of any such rituals for a dead animal or (duh) plants as well? I guess nope. Does that mean only the human beings have a soul? If yes, then how on earth do those other millions of species live, soulless? Oh well, coming back to the Hindu scriptures, many deities and other great priests are said to have had their reincarnated avatars on the earth as animals other than humans. So the animals must also have souls, otherwise this could not have been possible at all. But again, even in those scriptures, there is absolutely no mention of any such post-demise rituals for these so called animal avatars as well. Point to ponder.
Again, in the same rituals, there has been clear distinction between souls who've 'received' these rituals and those who haven't, 'cause only those who do, can attain the heaven and not those who
didn't. That's the primary reason for the necessity of such elaborate, costly and sometimes even painful series of rituals to bring peace to the souls of the dead and to ensure they reach the heaven. This can clearly be stated as one of the 'properties' of the soul.
Digging even further, every religion (and even communities with a religion) have a more or less different series of rituals clearly defined in their own holy scriptures, i.e. the souls 'belonging' to a specific religion will attain peace and heaven, only if they are treated with the ritual defined in that religion. This indicates, that the soul is well aware of the community, language, caste, religion etc. that it comes from and understands these pretty well. Otherwise it wouldn't have been affected by those rituals. Another clear 'property' of the soul.
In some religions, like Hinduism itself, the post-demise rituals also involve sacrifice of some animals and dedication of its meat to soul along with many scented floral decorations and incense
sticks. Oh, do the souls roaming out of the bodies also have their senses of smell, vision, taste, etc. well intact? That'd make another nice 'property'.
Hindu scriptures also mention clearly, that if a person of the lower caste (shudra) touches the corpse of a high caste person (like brahmins), then the brahmin's soul can never attain the moksha (heaven). Ok so the soul, that is obviously caste aware, doesn't actually leave the brahmin's body even after his death and closely monitors the caste of every person touching the body. Or even if it has left the body, it still has a physical existence out of the body to be able to monitor the whole ritual process being performed with the body. This shows a definite 'character' of the soul.

Polymorphism, the soul way
Moving ahead, it is said that the ghosts are nothing but either the unsatisfied souls or those with some unfinished business. And quite obviously, as the souls cannot perform any task on the earth on their own, so they can 'possess' some human bodies. Well, has anybody heard of any animal (other than human) being possessed? Perhaps not, 'cause apparently souls can also recognize the species it wants to possess. And then, this possession theory also leads to a clear inference, that at a given point of time, a human body can 'contain' more than one souls. Isn't that amazing?
You must also have heard of cases when some Siamese twins are born, who have more or less portion of their bodies joined together. Sometimes even the whole two babies have a single body with just two heads with two different brains. So, do they also have a common soul? If so, then it can mean that just like above inference, its also possible that a single soul can be shared by two bodies. In fact, many of these twins don't survive the separation operation by doctors. Is it because the single soul couldn't decide which body to take after separation, and thus left the bodies in confusion?

Reincarnation
This is again said to be one of the 'properties' of the soul only. Its written in many scriptures, that the souls are born again and again on the earth, or in other words, get recycled repeatedly. Even some religions, like Hinduism, takes this concept to the extent that the souls can be reincarnated in any form, even animals or humans (no mention of the plants, though). A human soul being reborn as an animal is indeed mentioned in the shastras (Hindu scriptures), but not elaborated enough to get many meaningful inferences out of them.
Coming to the real life, we do hear about numerous claims of reincarnation around the world. But all of them, amazingly, happen to be reincarnated in the same country, religion, and even caste, as their so called previous life. Is there a single claim of a person being reincarnated in Iraq, while his previous birth was as an American? Or anyone who was a Christian in the UK in the previous life, got reborn in a Buddhist family in Thailand? Nope… This again leads to the obvious inference, that the souls are well aware of the religion, caste, and even region they are born again and again. They never change these and always get recycled within these constraints. Another amazing 'character' of the soul.
Moreover, it is said that whatever deeds we do in life are actually done by the physical body on earth governed by the free will, and the soul, which is governed by god, is devoid of all the deeds done by the body. In that case why does the soul have to suffer in hell or enjoy in heaven depending on the physical body's deeds? Moreover, the scriptures also say, that the person suffers the punishments of the wrong deeds of his/her previous life and will enjoy, in the next life, the fruits of this good deeds done in the present one. That means the soul does carry forward all those deeds from one life to the other. One more 'property' of the soul.
You know, that as a part of the marriage rituals in almost all the religions, the man 'promises' that "I'll be your husband for many lives to come, and you'll be my wife for all the lives". How do you know, you're going to be reincarnated as a man in your forthcoming lives, and she'll be a women? Does soul has a gender 'property' too? Similarly, according to scriptures, kings get reincarnated in royal families only, and the same with priests, etc. A man who cleans your drains today will never get a rebirth in a royal family. Another clear case of carry forward the caste, religion, etc. 'properties'.

Conclusion
These were just a few examples of the properties and characters of the soul, well described in the same holy scriptures that also claim the soul as being nirguna (devoid of property/character) and nirakar (devoid of shape). With all these open contradictions in the same scriptures, how can we even think of going ahead with any scientific research on the concept?
There is surely NO proof of the existence of the soul other than in those contradicting scriptures. The first question should then be, how did those writers of the scriptures come to know of the existence of the soul?
The only answer I can think of is, their imagination. The same imagination of a human being that gave birth to the invisible pink unicorn, and for that matter, the god.


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So what’s it, the kingdom of religion is afraid of?

All the hoopla over Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Da Vinci’s Code’ has proven it yet again, that no matter how much they worship the truth, the religions neither know the truth nor want to know the truth nor do they want anyone to ever try to research the truth that the religions claim and advertise. The churches couldn’t digest the statement in the story, that Jesus was married and had children whose generations still survive. If Jesus was just like a common man, then how can he be the son of god, or how can his mother Mary be ‘Virgin Mary’?

Even a seed of doubt about these can shake the very foundations of the church. And that’s the reason why the keepers of the religion are demanding a ban on the movie made on this novel, especially in countries where Christianity has to compete continuously with other religions of the country. The demand has even been fulfilled at some places, while at other places some scenes have been cut off the movie.

Now, what’s written or claimed in the novel or movie isn’t really as important as the question that why do the religions, being followed by millions over the world, get so paranoid over such petite books or movies? Why do they feel that, due to any such claim or research, their religion might crash, beliefs might get hurt? Why do they want such people to be strangled, their mouth shut forever?

The only reason I can think of is, the religions are scared of the truth. Almost every organized religion is based on a huge lie. The lie is simply that the giver, founder and regulator of that religion is some form of a god, who’s also responsible for the creation of the universe, the heavenly bodies in it and even the humanity. And the fact of the matter is, nothing, except these religions’ own books, claim that the religion is made by that god. Neither today nor ever in history has anyone really witnessed any gods. So the people who fabricate these stories into the absolute truth, know it deep under how the stories like ‘The Da Vinci’s Code’ can expose their lie.

What’s even more funny is the fact that even though Dan Brown believes (or so he claims) that there’s no truth in his novel, the religions still have the morbid fear that people might take that ‘lie’ as the truth. Church is scared thinking, if a few more such Dan Brown’s come up, who start writing more interesting stories than the religious books, then their playing card castles would be devastated.

Speaking realistically, this fear seems so baseless looking at the deep rooted history of the religions. Such allegations could actually never deter the blind beliefs of the superstitious believers. As it is, the strong religious leaders have a habit of blowing such things away like a feather in the air. Even if Dan Brown is trying to expose the church, he’s not going open his own church, is he?

Unless that happens, every priest is safe, their kingdom, their money is safe. Religion is anyway for the feeble minds; the priests don’t have to bother about them leaving the blind beliefs just by reading a book or watching a movie.


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Science is the systematic

Science is the systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. It explains things we can observe in the real world through a process called the scientific method. It is responsible for medicines, genetically enhanced foods, and all of the technology you observe everyday. You might not realize it, but almost everything that you do in your life, whether it's drink a glass of water or fall down a flight of stairs, science can explain everything that is happening down to the minuscule details. Intelligent Design does not fall under the category of science and should not be taught in science classrooms, nor alongside of Evolution.

The theory of Evolution describes the complex descent of all species known today from a common ancestor through the process of natural selection and the genetic drift. Natural selection states that when certain traits of an organism give it the advantage of survival over the rest of it's species, that organism is more likely to reproduce and create more organisms like itself. Then, over time, the organism will have evolved into a new species. The genetic drift is when traits that have no positive or negative impact are eventually expressed or not expressed by all in the absence of other mechanisms affecting trait distribution. These changes can happen in several ways such as mutations, genetic recombination, and gene flow. Of course this is all a very general explanation which leaves out the overwhelming amount of observable evidence.

To some, this theory may be confusing, which is why many people choose a simpler alternative, Creationism, or as it is so conspicuously disguised, Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design states that everything in the Universe was created by an Intelligent Designer, or as he is so conspicuously disguised, God (the Christian God, Yaweh to be exact.) This theory lacks any observable evidence, unless you count the Bible of course, but the Science community does not consider 2000 year old folklore to be reliable evidence. The main argument of Intelligent Design is that this world is far too complex to have happened by chance. At first, an average minded individual might agree, but when given a little extra thought, this argument makes absolutely no sense at all. In order for an individual to create a Universe as vast and complex as our own, would he not be far more complex than we? This "intelligent designer," in his omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience would have to be infinitely complex. And there are only two explanations for where this "intelligent designer" came from. The first is that he was created by another superior being, however I did not know one could achieve more than omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. This explanation would also just lead us in endless circles of creators creating creators. The second explanation is that he always was, he always has been, and he always will be. Hopefully, you already see the flaw in this explanation. Since we have already established that this being is far more complex than we, then why would this being be able to exist without a creator while we, far less complex beings, cannot? This issue brings us to another, where did the first life come from?

In 1953, the Miller-Urey experiment was conducted by Stanley L. Miller. In this experiment, Miller recreated the hypothetical conditions of a young Earth and tested for the occurrence of chemical Evolution (the chemical reactions that synthesize organic compounds from inorganic matter.) At the end of a week, two percent of the carbon had formed amino acids, including 13 of the 22 that are used in modern living cells to make proteins, with glycine as the most abundant. Stanley Miller proved that in the conditions of our young Earth, with the presence of inorganic matter that has the potential to create organic matter, life could easily have arisen. Scientists have also experimented with this under a wide range of different conditions and many of them still produce organic molecules from inorganic materials. Intelligent Design explains this in much simpler terms, simpler than the simplest explanation I could provide. God made everything using magic. Incantations to be exact, He spoke it and it was.

Once Creationists have come to realize they actually don't have any evidence they drastically change their strategy. Instead of attempting to prove their beliefs, they acknowledge their beliefs have holes; then they point out the holes in Evolution. They have come up with many reasons why Evolution is incorrect, however, none of their claims are upheld very long. The amount of claims they have attempted to make are far too many to include. I will cover a few more popular accusations.

Many will say that Evolution cannot be observed, therefore it is no different than Intelligent Design. This is either a straightforward lie, or an extreme expression of ignorance. Evolution is conducted every day in laboratories. Scientists genetically modify food to make it bigger and to make it last longer. Viruses evolve constantly which is why we are in need of new vaccines. The Influenza Virus for example requires new vaccines every year because it is evolving into new strands such as the new deadly Avian Bird Flu. Mutations occur all of the time resulting in deformalities amongst people. These deformalities are not usually beneficial, but sometimes they can be. Science and technology has allowed us to evade the laws of natural selection and keep ourselves alive and reproducing no matter how unfit our bodies may be. The human race is in a way, devolving and getting weaker.

A very common argument is that "Evolution, like Intelligent Design, requires faith." The only problem is, it does not require faith. I do not have to have faith that evolution is possible, it occurs every day in viruses and in laboratories. I do not have to have faith that the transitional fossils that show species evolving into species exist, I can observe them myself. I do not have to have faith that mutations can occur, they happen everyday. I do not have to have faith because I have observable evidence. Faith is merely believing in something regardless of the lack of evidence, and with Evolution that is clearly not the case.

Creationists often ask "where is the missing link?" The simple answer is, he's dead. Scientists have already discovered the fossils of the ape to man transition, Australopithecus. This species emerged in East and South Africa between 4.4 and 1.4 million years ago. This is your missing link. He died out and gave way for the new breed of man, the homo Sapiens. If you find it hard to believe that his entire species is extinct, then consider the fact that 99% of species every to walk this Earth are extinct. This is not the only transitional fossil we have. We have the fossils of the fish to first develop legs, Osteolepis, the first step towards becoming an amphibian. We have the marine to amphibian transitions such as Eusthenopteron, Icthyostegids, and Labyrinthodonts. We have many more such as the amphibian to reptile transitions, reptile to bird, and even reptile to mammal, however I do not wish to bore you by listing off scientific names of the fossils of transitional species.

Another aspect in the belief of Intelligent Design as that the Earth is relatively new having only been created roughly 10,000 years ago. This is the weakest belief in the belief of Intelligent Design. Carbon-14 dating alone can disprove that aspect. So can the existence of dinosaurs, unless of course you don't believe in dinosaurs, in which case you are an idiot. Some say that Carbon-14 dating is inaccurate due to the experiments of creationist pseudoscientist lobbyists. However, the particular experiment often referred to is when Carbon-14 dating was conducted on a muscle inside of a clam and the results said the muscle to be much older than it possibly could have been. This, however, is merely the result of the carbon in the limestone that consists of the muscles habitat. The carbon was absorbed from this limestone into the muscle, which produced irregular results. This is the same for almost all living matter. Take trees for example, if you ran Carbon-14 dating tests on the bark of a living tree it would give irregular results because the tree inhales CO2 from it's surroundings, and the carbon found in the CO2 could be as old as the atmosphere itself. Not to mention Carbon-14 dating is a very delicate procedure which requires precise actions in order to produce accurate, reproducible results. The rather humorous hypocrisy of it all is that while Creationists denounce Carbon-14 dating, they use it to authenticate their own ancient documents to help back their claims.

Do you still believe Intelligent Design to be more likely than Evolution? Despite the overwhelming mountain of evidence to support Evolution, many say it is still just a theory. This is a common argument used to try and lobby Intelligent Design into the science classrooms of our public schools. It has been surprisingly successful in some states, how I do not know, although I have noticed that the states it is being taught in school in are states where I'd assume most of it's citizens are the product of incest. Evolution is most definitely a scientific theory, it can never become a law because we will never have the fossils for every organism to ever have existed. Unfortunately, few understand the definition of a scientific theory. A scientific theory does not imply uncertainty, it is "a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena" (Barnhart 1948). It is a theory which takes the facts: Life appeared on Earth more than two billion years ago; Life forms have changed and diversified over life's history; Species are related via common descent from on or a few common ancestors; Natural selection is a significant factor affecting how species change; and uses a single theory to explain all of them. The theory of Evolution explains many more facts than I have listed. Intelligent design is not a fact. It is not a theory. It is a belief based upon faith. It fails to explain anything. It should never be taught in public school, and most certainly not alongside Evolution in science class. Requiring students to learn Intelligent Design is, in my opinion, and the opinion of many, a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In America we have the right to believe whatever we wish. We can choose to believe in Evolution or we can choose to believe in Intelligent Design. Evolution may conflict with your religious beliefs and you may reject them and not want to learn, or have your children learn, them. However, I will not give any sympathy to those whose faith is in conflict with the facts. I will not apologize for having facts and logical conjectures based upon overwhelming observable evidence conflict with your unreasonable, unsupported, and primitive beliefs. And I will not agree with sacrificing public education to adhere to your religious dogmas.


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Theist Argument 1, The Watchmaker Argument

Theist Argument 1: The Watchmaker Argument
Category: Religion and Philosophy

 

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 127, Theist Argument #1: The Watchmaker Argument

I've done several blogs on theist arguments in the past, but now I'm going to go through them all in another blog series I'll just call "Theist Argument."

You see, theists want to explain reality just like you and me.  However mostly they don't want it to be a reality they don't like, they'd rather it be something they would like to be true.  And as intellectual liars, cowards, and frauds, or just as morons who can't think of a better explanation, they use "God" for the answer to several of the universe's biggest questions.

They did it a lot more often back in the day when science was weak at best.  God explained everything, everything.  Now, as intelligence increases, we are finding other answers, better answers.  Some proven, others still unproven, but still better.

Yet still the desperate, the cowardly, and the stupid fail miserably to grasp it.  God still is, God still must be the answer to "how" anything is in the first place.  They don't prove it.  No.  They just make it up as an explanation.  But just having an idea is not proof.  Especially when there are better ones.

They even cling to their "theories" when they contradict scientific fact.  And what they do is very funny.  They make the logical fallacy known as "ad hoc."  When their theory runs into yet another wall, they have another magical explanation to avoid it.  And yes, they do, in fact, make it up on the spot.

The average, if not every theist has done this and will do this.  They have no choice whatsoever.  They will have to pull a new amazing fact of the universe... Out of their ass.  These people actually think that because they think of it, no matter how amazing, improbable, and ground breaking it may or may not be, it's correct.  Making something up doesn't make it true.  It is ad hoc logical fallacy.  A well documented fallacy.  A well known logical error; a mistake.  You're making it.  Text book example.

God himself is ad hoc.  He was an oh-so-magical explanation for things theists could yet understand.  He was literally made up and pulled out of someone's ass.  There is the famous question, "Where did God come from?"  There's the answer for you.  Out of someone's ass.  He, and his attributes, are continued to be pulled out of the asses of theists even to this day.  Realities of the universe are made up and asserted as true.  Shocking, amazing, magical, extraordinary realities you wouldn't think possible to know.  They aren't yet possible to know.  These average Joes are so God damn stupid they truly believe what they make up is real.  Magic, to them, is reality so long as they think it.

"Oh, but there is evidence of God!  Look around, don't you see how complex life is?  It needs an intelligent creator!"
I've refuted the Watchmaker argument I don't know how many times on my blogs and messages.  I have annihilated it.

But this blog is created just for destroying it again.

This is known as the watchmaker argument because it was a famous theist (I forgot his name) that first put it elegantly in popular book, using a watch as an example.  He said imagine that you are walking down a path and you come across a watch.  You pick it up and look inside at all the complex working parts, all coming together to make a well working device.  You therefore assume it was made by a human, that it had an intelligent creator.
He said humans, and all animals and life, was like this.  It's the most complex stuff in the known universe.  There must be an intelligent creator.

Well, this fool was wrong.  Just because something is complex doesn't mean it had an intelligent creator.
Now the theist will blabber about how random chance can't possibly create something so complex that works.
And they're right.
But the truth isn't random chance.

For you see... There is another explanation aside from your ad hoc made up magics.  And there is another explanation than random chance.  You were just too bullheaded, ignorant, desperate, and plain stupid to even consider other theories.  And that has obviously cost you the remainder of your intellectual dignity.  To be blunt.

As you may know there once was a genius man who had the intelligence and courage to think past all the other pathetic humans around him.  And with one simple, elegant, genius idea he was able to forever put the church in its place of ignorance and denial.  And what was different about this man, aside from his sheer courage and intelligence, was that his idea, unlike the idea of God and creation, was formed by observations and evidence.  It wasn't ad hoc magic.  This man was, of course, Charles Darwin.  And thanks to him I can completely destroy the Watchmaker argument.  Again.

To further illistrate, let me appeal to an argument I once heard from another atheist that went something like this:
Find the watchmaker.
Go to the shop of the watch, ask for the watchmaker.
You'll be sent to a shipping company.
From there to a factory.
You'll find that at that factory they simply import several complex parts from other places and assemble them.
Okay, go to these places.
Look at these parts, seek the designers.
You'll find models based on older models that several humans have worked together advancing.
You'll find that they based their plans off of older plans of older watch designs.
And those plans were improvements from older ones.
And those watch plans were improvements from even older ones.
And hell, you'll go back so far you'll reach the sundial.
Discovered due to the natural phenomena of light and shadow.
By a human mind, which, same as the watch, evolved.

So instead of their being an intelligent designer, we have several intelligences, several designs, all the way back to natural forces.  The watchmaker was not a single mind, but many.  It was not magic, it was evolution.

Stepping away from the metaphor, let's look at animals.  The most complex things we know of.  Start with a rabbit with gray fur.  Let's have it mate.  The genetics that get passed on differ slightly, due to the other mate, and do to little occasional errors in the coding transfer from parents to the young.  The young have different DNA.  Let's now say one half of the rabbits have the code for slightly more white fur, and the other half have the code for slightly darker fur.
The rabbits live in a snowy forest.
Now here come the wolves.

Today, the rabbits that live in snow have white fur.

How intelligent!  Look at those rabbits hide from wolves in the snow with their ever so convenient white fur!
It must be intelligently designed, right?  Only intelligence could know to have an animal with white fur instead of dark brown in a snowy area - so that it may hide, right?  God did it, right?
No.  You obviously know what happened.
It wasn't God.
It wasn't magic.
It wasn't intelligence.
You know, with common sense, that the rabbits who the darker fur were spotted by the wolves easier and killed.  They didn't pass on their genetics of darker fur.  The rabbits with whiter fur hid better and lived longer to pass on the genetics for whiter fur.
All dating methods agree that the world is 4.5 billion years old.
That's a lot of time to gradually get the rabbit's fur to snow white.
No intelligent designer is necessary.
Re read that last line a couple more... Hundreds of times.
Now tell me, is the way working complex creatures, suited for their environments, evidence for your made up magical guesses?
No.  And just in case you are not convinced, we have billion fold fossil record to prove evolution being the case.
Whether you and your God like it or not.

You're going to need a lot more "proof" to justify your position, theists.  Not only was your explanation a bald guess with no evidence, but we have a better one now, and it is proven.  Magic is not an answer.  It does not exist.  You should have learned that when you were 5, at the oldest.

But I guess some people just never grow up and take responsibility of their worldviews.

"Where did the universe originally come from then?  Where did life originally come from?"

Well, gee, I don't know.  But you know what?
Neither do you.
Don't lie to me; don't lie to yourself, shut up, and think.
Magic isn't proving or explaining anything.
Neither are you.
But I'll tell you what... The more false you destroy, the more room there is for the true.  Let's preserve our veracity and dignity a little this time, folks.  Don't claim yer right until you know yer right.

 Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 127, Theist Argument #1: The Watchmaker Argument


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Theist Argument 2, The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Theist Argument 2: The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
Category: Religion and Philosophy

 

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog #140, Theist Argument 2, 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Listen, folks, I feel like Crap right now, I really do.  It's late, I've had a lot of work to do, a lot of emotional bullshit to wade through.  I'm really not in the mood to mess around with theistic stupidity.  Unfortunately what gets me angry is always what gets me happy.  That is to say - What gets me happy is destroying what gets me angry.  But I really just want to get to the happy part right now if you know what I'm saying.

An argument for theism is misunderstanding the 2nd law of Thermodynamics.  Like most arguments for theism, it's a misunderstanding of something.

This one isn't even an argument for theism; it's just an argument against evolution.  And a bad one I hesitate to call an argument.  But, of course, by trying to denounce evolution theists try to uphold their shitty idea.  So I'll attack evolution attacking "arguments" as well in my "Theist Arguments" blog series.

*Rubs his forehead.* Alright...

To put it simply, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is the law that states everything tends toward chaos.  Energy fans out, spreads out.  Heat cannot (by itself), move from a cold object to a warmer object, for example.  Heat fans out.  Comprende?  Comprendamundo?  Things tend toward disorder, entropy increases, yatta yatta yatta...

Here is the basic law:

"The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium."

Get it?

The theist doesn't.

The theist, well, the willingly ignorant theist, will try to tell you (as two have tried to tell me so far on myspace), that this means evolution must be impossible.  Well, evolution happened.  Logically it must have, for over 4.5 billions years it'd be impossible for greats amounts of evolution NOT to occur, and we have the fossils that show it did occur, and we have done it to plants and animals ourselves.  It happened.  So clearly, if the Law of Thermodynamics is true, it must not actually violate evolution.

And it doesn't.  It doesn't at all.  You see, the theist is trying to ask how complexity can arise at such degrees, how things can evolve, increasing in complexity, if energy fans out?  Wouldn't all the "useful" energy be used up?  Wouldn't we reach a maximum value of equilibrium?

No.  You see, the theist here is ignoring something.  The little part about the "isolated" system, aka, the "closed" system.  The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics only holds true in a closed system of energy.  If more energy comes in from outside of the system, constantly, then there won't be that much fanning out of the energy.  The energy will not be "used up" because there is a constant supply.  It won't be drawn out over the planet equally because there are constant deliveries of such heat and energy.  The theist ignores this.  Completely, truly, sincerely ignores it.

When confronted about this, they try to pretend the earth IS a closed system.  Where the energy for the animals comes from is god.

No.  No, the earth is not a closed system.  Sorry.  And God is not necessary here.

We have the little thing in the sky I like to call the SUN, you stupid f**king morons!!

I know!  It's hard to miss!  All big, bright, shiny, and life-givey it is and all.

Jesus Christ - I mean, you're probably the kind of theist who argues that he knows there is a devil because "how else would anyone know what he looks like?"

I can't even give you kudos for a "nice try."  I can't even say "nice try" as a joke.  That's like laughing at a retard when he gets his hand caught in a machine.  I'd feel guilty if I was sarcastic or laughed about it.  You can't even read the very law you're talking about, can you?  You can't even look up into the sky and wonder where the light comes from, can you?  What is wrong with you?  I really, really want to know.  What's wrong with you?

Energy and heat rains down like all hell from our sky.  It has every damn day for the pay 4.5 billion years.  Tell me we're a closed system.  Tell me that.  Look me in the eye, put your hand on the Bible (the one NOT chewed up by the machine you stuck it in), and tell me we are a closed system.

You know what?  I don't have time for this level of dishonesty anymore.  It is truly an art to be that stupid.  An art.  It's like poetry!  You must have planned that fiasco out for months.  I honestly cannot think of any way you could have f**ked your dignity more.  You know, aside from being a theist in the first place.

*Rubs his head.* Okay... Calm Down... It's not their fault their mother's drank when they were pregnant...

JESUS CHRIST!  What is wrong with you?!  You look into a math book and go, "Hah!  See!  One plus one is three!  I know because it says one plus one is two right here!"

I mean--You were--

Please don't mate.  Please.  I'm begging you.  I am on my knees.  What more do you want from me?!  Don't pass on your genetics.  If there is a soul anywhere in that black hole of your hell loving heart... Don't mate...

And don't drink when you're pregnant.

Oh, and one more thing, just in case, even IF the law violated evolution: "The second law is actually a statement about the probable behavior of an isolated system. As larger and larger systems are considered, the probability of the second law being practically true becomes more and more certain."

But it doesn't even violate evolution.  So... You're screwed.  Completely.  I mean there is literally nothing you can do about it.

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog #140, Theist Argument 2, 2nd Law of Thermodynamics


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Boy Scouts of America

This old blog of mine both debunks the argument that a devotion to God is nessessary for good citizenship, while also technically debunking th BSA and their website.  So I thought it might post it here.  You can remove it from this location if you don't feel it belongs here and I won't be offended.

Boy Scouts of America
Category: News and Politics

 

"Duty to God Scouting maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise, the member declares, " On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law. ""

-- www.scouting.com , the BSA official webpage

"The BSA reaffirmed its view that an avowed homosexual can not serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law..."

-- www.scouting.com , the BSA official webpage

"

Atheists and Other Non-theists in Scouting

The Boy Scouts of America requires its members to believe in God and to recite an oath to God at every troop meeting. They do not permit membership to anyone whose convictions do not allow them to recite this oath and they terminate membership of anyone who is discovered to be an atheist or agnostic, even if it is discovered inadvertently. Consequently, over 20 million Americans are excluded from the Boy Scouts due to their religious beliefs. This includes not only people who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, but also includes other non-theists such as secular Jews, non-theistic Buddhists, some Unitarians and animists (animists believe in spirits but do not believe in God). The exclusion applies to both children and adults.

The Girl Scouts of America also have an oath to God that they recite at every troop meeting; however, they do not prohibit membership to those who do not profess belief in God. They allow non-theistic members to substitute the word "God" for a word of their choosing. In this way, the Girl Scouts have maintained their oath and duty to God while accommodating non-theists at the same time. To allow all American citizens the opportunity to be in the Boy Scouts, BSA leadership should make the same kind of accommodation for non-theists.

Why are non-theists excluded from the Boy Scouts?

Non-theists are excluded from the Boy Scouts on moral grounds. On every application form and in the Boy Scout handbook you will find the words "you can't be the best kind of citizen without the obligation to God." This is another way of saying that you can't be moral without belief in God. While this is a commonly held belief, it is in fact a myth. Those who do not profess belief in God do not have any higher a propensity towards acts of immorality than anyone else. While about 10% of the U.S. population does not profess belief in God, less than 1% of the prison population does not profess belief in God. You would think that a group of such immoral people would have an unusually high percentage of its members behind bars!

Although the BSA now tries to mislead the public by identifying itself as a religious organization, it is, for all practical purposes, a secular organization. The BSA 1916 Charter says that the BSA is a nonsectarian organization. It is not to be driven by any particular religion or religious group. Currently the BSA is being run by the dictates of religious fundamentalists, who are dictating current policy. There are no prayers or religious teachings in the Boy Scouts and church attendance is not required, even on outings. There are no duties that a non-theist could not perform. Consequently, there are no good reasons to exclude members on the basis of
religious beliefs. An organization that is secular should determine membership according to criteria that is secular.

The BSA is ignoring the fact that there are many non-theists who are law abiding, contributing members of society who have much to contribute to the Boy Scouts. They want to be in the Boy Scouts just like everyone else. The BSA is a great American institution and it should be available to every American citizen regardless of their religious beliefs.

Most Scouting Associations throughout the world don't exclude atheists or other non-theists from scouting. It isn't even an issue in most countries. Lord Baden Powell , who founded scouting in 1907 in
England never said in his writings on religion that non-theists should be excluded from the world scouting movement. In fact in England where Scouting began atheists, girls, and persons who are gay are all members and participate in scouting."

-- www.scoutingforall.org



That's correct, ladies and gentlemen, the BSA discriminates against more than just women.  Atheists and Homosexuals are not being allowed in, and are getting kicked out.

I grew up in the cub scouts and went a little ways into the boy scouts.  I did the entire little uniform thing, and had these ribbons with pins I earned, and had all these patches... And I always constantly won the pinewood derby.  I just always would.  No one could contend with my green lizard-stickered car.  Maybe it was luck.  Maybe it was the sleek design and the fact that I always had to make sure I widdled and sanded off more wood than everyone else, or maybe it was the fact I'd over do it on the grease laxative stuff I'd spray all over my wheels.  Who knows?

I never thought much about the religious sides about it, or about homosexuality, I was too buys pasting together air craft carrier models and running around in half scout uniform, half Indian garb we made in arts and crafts.

When I finally evolved into the Boy Scouts (cub scouts weren't GOOD enough anymore), the religiousness... Was kinda boring and intoxicating.  So I just left.

Later I became atheist.  God must really hate me.  You know, if he exists.

I'm glad I didn't like the BSA enough to stay until I became atheist.  Being who I am, I probably wouldn't keep it a secret and get angry when asked to say the scout oath, and get kicked out.  Then I'd get even angrier and they'll probably be some suing involved.  If that failed I'd probably contact as many media companies and Liberals as I could to do what I had to in order to bash them publicly as much as possible, as well as the courts that failed to do me justice.

Hum.  Maybe I SHOULD have stayed in the scouts - that sounds like fun...

I always barley miss my chance!  God damnit.

But anyways, let's look at this morally and logically now.
Homosexuals are not allowed.  Why?
Well, because they're "bad role models" for society, of course!
Hey, no other reasons are given, that's it.  So that's all I have to deal with.
Homosexuals are bad role models for society, how?
Because they don't produce children?

In debates concerning homosexuals I am constantly amazed whenever my opponents, which they always do, assume that homosexuality is something that is evil.  Concerning Gay Adoption, for example, they'll say something like, "It makes the children more likely to grow up to be gay."
They're assuming, behind the lines, by themselves, that homosexuality is a horrible, evil, unhealthy thing, and being it, in general, is "bad."
It is not "bad."
How could it be "bad?"
It doesn't produce children?  We have plenty of heterosexuals for that.  PLENTY.  Hell, to be honest, way too many.  We have too many children, too many people.  Right now, if anything, MAKING kids is probably "worse" than not making them!
Why is homosexuality always assumed, behind every debate, as being something that should be avoided?  Something that should be condemned, something that should definitely not be taught as "okay?"

IT.  IS.  OKAY.

It is perfectly, 100%, okay to be gay.  Anyone who so much as implies otherwise is a bigot; a sorry excuse for a human being.  Nothing more, and definitely cannot be anything less.  They are a shame, and a moral/intellectual embarrassing failure.

Those against Gay rights, be it marriage, adoption, or scouting, are against it because they don't want to send the message to the youth that being gay is "okay."  They believe that if you don't say it is wrong, then that says it is right.  Well, guess what, it is.  It is perfectly okay.  It does not harm anyone, it does not attack anyone; it is okay.  And that is what you should be teaching.  But you aren't.  You know why?  Because you are what evil is.  You are what stupid and ignorant are.  That is you.  Next time you insult someone, calling them an immoral moron, look at yourself in a mirror and remember: you are one.  There are horrible people in existence, and you are one of them.  Congratulations.  You will go down in history as one of the bad guys.

Homosexuals are bad role models?  Nay, your hate and intolerance to those with different life styles... That's a bad role model.

But enough about the gays.  They're defended too often, they can get off their asses and defend themselves.  I'm an atheist, and now I'm going to defend myself and my kind.

You need, in order to be a good role model and an effective member of society, an obligation to God, says the BSA.  You cannot be an atheist and become a good citizen.

Sorry, Lance Armstrong.  Sorry, Susan B. Anthony.  Sorry, Thomas Edison.  Sorry, Robert G. Ingersoll.  Sorry, Thomas Paine.  Sorry, founders of DNA.  Sorry, James Randi.  Sorry, Jack Nicholson.  Sorry, Robert Frost.  Sorry, countless other humanists who were evil, wicked enough, slimy enough to put the rights and love of men before the twisted, jealous assertions of the possibly made-up unknown.  You're terrible role models.  You're terrible citizens.

OR...

The BSA is an illegal organization.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a something called the Constitution.
Maybe, just maybe, there are human rights.
Silly little things our founding fathers decided to base our nation off of.
Maybe there is a first amendment, a foremost amendment.
Maybe in such a bill of rights it says something about religion.

No, I understand, the first amendment is easy to miss.  You pass over it accidentally all the time when you decide not to look at the rights of our country's people.

You see, the BSA is paid for by the people.  Using taxes and the like.  It's a federally aided program.  And as such it has to follow the rules of our country.  If it was a private organization then, by all means, discriminate all you want, it's your little club.  But the reality is that this is not such a private organization.  It MUST obey the constitution if it is to continue to suck our money.  The money of homosexuals, and the money of atheists.

It cannot make laws within its group respecting an establishment of religion.  It can't.  That's what I like to call "illegal."

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the BSA is an illegal organization.  It is literally a thief and a criminal.  It will change or it will no longer get funding - if anyone cares enough to uphold silly little laws.  If anyone cares enough to stop a thief from taking their money in broad daylight.

I recognize, that often at the local level, the little BSA groups often do NOT discriminate against the homosexual.  They often DON'T refuse admission of atheists.  A lot of the groups allow them with open arms and flat out hate the other groups that do not.

I'm talking about the main core of the BSA.  The main site, the main guide, the main pledge, the main council, the largest part, the center, the core rules, the HQ of the whole thing.

They ban homosexuals and gays who love scouting, absolutely love it, and send them off in a combination of understandable pain and rage.  And the courts, being completely ridiculous, insane, and irresponsible as they are, uphold those actions of the BSA.  Why is the majority of human kind so disgusting?  For the love of Lance Armstrong.

And as long as the BSA, courts, churches, other groups and individual parents continue using this kind of irresponsibility to teach this hateful intolerance to their children... Then the wrongs will never be righted.  And as long as the good do nothing, the wrongs will never be righted.

"On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

You have no honor.  You do your worst.  You do your duty to a myth.  You attack your country.  You disobey the law to uphold your own twisted bigotry.  You help others only when you believe what you believe, elseif you treat them unfairly and unjustly.  You keep yourself mentally weak.  And you don't have to worry about being morally straight, because you have no morality to even deal with.  Reality check.

 

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 118, Boy Scouts of America


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Logical Fallacy Lesson 7: Appeal to Faith

This was one of my Logical Fallacy Lessons I wrote a while back.  It refutes a theist's appeal to faith pretty well, but it is formed more as a lesson.  You can keep it here or remove this post, I won't be offended if you decide to.  I just felt this would be appropriate here.

Logical Fallacy Lesson 7: Appeal to Faith
Category: Religion and Philosophy

 

LFL7ATF

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 132, Logical Fallacy Lesson 7, Appeal to Faith

LFL1: Argumentum Ad Hominem
LFL2: Red Herring
LFL3: Non Sequitor
LFL4: Bald Assertion
LFL5: Ad Hoc
LFL6: Argumentum Ad Nauseum
And Now LFL7:  Appeal to Faith

Appeal to faith is probably the bottom of the bottom of logical error.  Even worse than bald assertion, I'd say.  Appeal to faith is trying to use belief, alone, to try and prove something.  Here is the common documentation of the fallacy:

appeal to faith: (e.g., if you have no faith, you cannot learn) if the arguer relies on faith as the bases of his argument, then you can gain little from further discussion. Faith, by definition, relies on a belief that does not rest on logic or evidence. Faith depends on irrational thought and produces intransigence.

Of course, there is a second definition of faith, which is just strong belief in something, which may or may not rest on evidence.  However, typically when the word "faith" is used, it means blind faith.  It most definitely means it in religion.  Religion is, of course, like a lot of fallacies, a good example of this logical error.

Faith can technically be treated just as a bald assertion, although they are different.  Consider evidence one and the lack of evidence a zero.  Bald Assertion would be a zero, for it gives no reasons behind the proposition.  Appealing to faith is a negative one.  It isn't nothing, like the bald assertion, they are saying something, but not only does it hold no value or reason, it holds reason in contempt.  It's saying this issue doesn't require evidence or logic to support it, or worse, it's above evidence or logic to support it and REQUIRES this level of stupidity to understand it.

"You can't know God without faith!"

I'll actually give them that one.
In the same since I'll admit to a crazy man I'd see the pink elephants too, if I were insane along with him.

Faith, actually stating you don't need, or even stating you cannot have logic or evidence is a logical fallacy in its own merit.  It, itself, is admitting it is without logic, and is therefore admitting it is illogical.  Which, of course, means the one who actually asserts faith is admitting to being an idiot.  Whether or not they'll admit what they're admitting, I do not know.  They are, after all, clearly insane, and probably have no idea what the hell they're talking about.

The fact is an appeal to faith doesn't just miss on furthering one's side of a debate, but it is literally throwing in the towel.  Debates are competitions of logic and evidence.  If you say you are without it, then you are folding.  You are giving up the debate.  You lose the argument.  Completely.  It is the worst fallacy you can possibly make if you actually want to be the victor in an argument.  Not only that, but you pretty much prove you are the intellectual inferior to the person you are suppose to be debating, because faith (being without logic), is, of course, what it is.  Being without logic.  You are clearly stating your own stupidity, and proving it very well I might add.

It is so easy to prove this a fallacy because it is admitting it is one.  But now I should probably explain how faith holds no value outside of debate included.

Logic is everything.  Without it you do not know what is real or not.  Without it, you could believe something that is wrong.  And if you're wrong, then your faith just wasted and thus ruined your entire life.  You fought for wrong, you thought wrong, you lived in vein, you did nothing good, and all you ever did was lie to yourself to your grave.  Good job.  You probably taught your children, family and friend to do the same.  Not one were you worthless, but you were probably very harmful.  Belief without reason is extremely dangerous, and the more of it you hold, the more danger you will be.  Take 9/11 for example.  More faith and less reason did those terrorists hold.  Religious wars, Hitler's include, the Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, yatta yatta yatta... Insanity is what insanity is.  Sorry if that comes to a shock to some of you, but what else could you possibly expect?  You actually think stupidity, in any way, shape, or form, would be a good thing?  It's not.

I'm not surprised you didn't notice, once you are, in fact, stupid.

But you see, a lot of these idiots are too far gone, their minds given completely up.  They say they separate their worlds of faith and reason, but it still means they waste a lot of time on nothing but regress instead of progress, insanity instead of reason.  And it still means they are dishonest enough to try and answer questions they don't yet actually know the answers to.  Which, of course, will lead to a lot of trouble when someone DOES answer the questions correctly.  Like Galileo, Copernicus, of Darwin.  And so the ever so innocent "I separate my worlds of reason and faith" proves to be not so innocent after all.  Not just in their life time, but how they preach it and spread it so it hurts the future.  It's disgusting.

But do not expect someone insane to understand this.  They'll argue it.
Even though, in the process, they'll admit they already lost the argument.  You can't win the debate if you've already thrown in the towel with an appeal to faith - clearly stating reason has nothing to do with it.  Which clearly states you lose the argument, once an argument is a cross of reasoning.

Faith.  Selling of the soul for comfort.
Faith.  Sacrificing the mind for nothing.
Faith.  Threat of imagined hell.
Faith.  Bride of imagined heaven.
Faith.  Cowardice.
Faith.  Lying to one's self and others.
Faith.  The virtue of a slave.
Faith.  Only praised by tyrants.

And, of course, it's a logical fallacy.  And it'll admit that in its definition.

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 132, Logical Fallacy Lesson 7, Appeal to Faith


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What's the point of believing what you ignore?

In terms of Christian morality, the golden rule takes precedence over Old Testament law.  This recognition of reciprocity in addition to the laws of Moses is what necessarily separates Christian from Jewish concepts of moral right and wrong.  The American instituted Christianity, therefore, violates its most core ideologies in its rejection of homosexuals.  I contend further that in the principle of reciprocity homosexuality can in no way be viewed as morally wrong and that Old Testament arguments against homosexuality are ill-conceived.

            First, the “golden rule” of Christianity is a reciprocal standard, meaning that its application is relative to the parties involved.  If two homosexuals are involved and both are happy with the transaction, that is perfectly acceptable according to the golden rule.  They treated each other as they wished to be treated themselves, while no third parties were harmed.  That is morally right. 

            Second, drawing a line of causation from God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis is not strong enough to stand alone as a testament to homosexuality’s wrongness.  First, Sodom and Gomorra were full of rapists and murderers, and while there is specific mention of homosexual intentions, no distinction is drawn making that the sole reason for punishment.  And here Lot offers his daughters to the men of Sodom saying “do ye unto them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore they came under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19: Cool.  We get the sense that the real transgression here is that because men have more value in this Old Testament society it is worse to “know” them (and also only against their will in this case) than women.  It was more of an affront to violate another citizen (man) than a woman who did not have rights and were viewed as property.  No line of transgression can be drawn from here to consensual homosexual relations as we understand that the men under Lot’s protection in this passage do not want to be “known” and therefore the real infraction here is rape of another citizen (man).   Secondly, if the line of causation is strong enough, it is to say that “God punished this, so it is morally wrong”.  Therefore if God does not punish something then it must be morally right, and God did not punish Lott’s daughters for committing incest with their father shortly after the Sodom and Gomorra incident (Genesis 19:30-38).  Does that mean then that incest is morally okay?  That is of course absurd. 

            So we see that not only do anti-homosexual religious leaders violate and ignore the underlining ideology of Christianity itself (the golden rule), but also any foundations they might assume from the scriptures for this position are entirely unfounded and taken out of context.  What’s the point in believing a doctrine/ideology if you act counter to what that doctrine/ideology professes?  This is just an example of the more broad problem that most theists have no concept of what the basis of their belief/life style actually is.  That is because Christianity like all religions is a social phenomenon and not actually a spiritual one.  Leaders establish doctrines that are quite blatently counter to the scriptures on which the whole system is based and everyone follows without a clue.  There is really nothing "Christian" about Christianity.


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Are you sure what you feel?

The Problem with spiritual feelings and Freddy Kruger

            After all avenues of intellection are exhausted in terms of rationalizing God’s existence, or even before, for that matter, many make the claim that as a faith based religion some emotion is involved or even that emotion drives the need for it.  This is especially true of modern American evangelicalism and the basis of its dispensationalist ideologies.  Freud describes this emotion briefly as “a feeling of something limitless, unbounded” and Henry James illustrates it as our “inarticulate feelings of reality”.  It is a feeling that compels people to believe in a higher being or cause and one that cannot be rationalized.  Doubtless this emotion is as variegated in magnitude and lucidity in the minds of the faithful as the very sects of Western Monotheism.  But can this emotion strengthen claims to the existence of God?  Is faith based on this, “gut feeling”, as it were, necessarily reasonable?  Might there be other factors involved that can cause this feeling? 

            To break any logical connection between emotional affectations and an accurate description of reality I offer the “Freddy Kruger Paradox”.  Many people experience high emotional reactions to movies, horror or no, and often have a lingering emotional connection with that movie watching experience (this can also be applied to books, conversations, and especially dreams, among other things).  Say for example that a person goes to see the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” and witnesses the gory antics of the fictitious character Freddy Kruger with, of course, the help of shrieking music and choppy cinematography.  He is not consciously afraid of the character Freddy Kruger, per se, but the movie leaves him a little spooked.  He might look over his shoulder on the way home a couple of times, or turn all the lights on in his flat uncharacteristically when he arrives home.  This behavior is common, but irrational since we know without a doubt that Freddy Kruger, or any horror character for that matter, is entirely a fabrication of an author.  He is factually not real.  Even with that understanding, the movie still influences him.  It affects his emotions beyond the sense of logic. 

Better yet, let’s say that our friend has a nightmare involving Freddy Kruger.  Does that prove Freddy exists?  He certainly didn’t have nightmares about Freddy Kruger before he saw the movie.  That would be impossible.  Many Christians have “religious experiences” through dreams, in which they saw an angel or Jesus or the Virgin Mary. They do not have dreams with religious deities to which they have not been introduced and that may be worshipped by just as many people on the other side of the world, in the same way that our movie-loving friend could not have had a nightmare about Freddy Kruger before he saw “Nightmare on Elm Street”.  One never hears a Southern Baptist yammer on about how he saw an image of St. Sebastian and that it changed his life, and that’s technically within the same religion.  We all of course know that a nightmare about Freddy Kruger does not prove Freddy Kruger’s existence.

On the opposite side of things, the institution of organized Christianity has many emotion affecting faculties.  Many catholic churches are the apex of opulence and aesthetics.  Beautifully florid murals span the reaches of gold sectioned ceilings.  Impossibly intricate stonework depicts beloved stories.  Even in modern Presbyterian churches with minimal décor, the positive feelings of fellowship and filial piety are in abundance.  Church hymns are all in major chords and are filled to the brim with optimistic and aggrandizing lyrics. People like the safety and good feelings of friends and family members and so church makes them feel good, especially when it is indoctrinated from early childhood and gives them a connection with their past, when things were simple for them.  In that atmosphere things are allowed to remain simple and good; not at all like the stressful modern adult world.  I attribute this good feeling to that of Freud’s “oceanic feeling” which does not conclusively prove the existence of God as we see how it can be influenced by several other factors not the least of which have logical grounds for dismissal. 

If Freddy Kruger, who is an obvious fabrication, can exist in the minds of spooked movie-goes, even for a little while, one can see how the concept of God, who can not be conclusively dismissed (not like Freddy Kruger anyway) and furthermore whose existence is upheld by one’s family members and community in the presence of good feelings, can be given emotional confirmation. In light of this evidence one cannot conclude from the existence of a spiritual feeling or even a “divine presence” the logical existence of God, since emotions have been shown to operate outside the parameters of rational processing, and even in spite of concomitant rational processing contrary to those emotions.  It is by this method that we may argue against the statement “I feel the presence of God in my life” common in modern American evangelicalism.


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My Essay

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NOAH'S CANYON From a press

NOAH'S CANYON

From a press release issued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in Dec. 2006:

"Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done & the book remains on sale at the park according to documents released today. 'In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend it's belief in geology,' stated PEER executive director Jeff Ruch. It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geological age of the Grand Canton is no comment.'"

If you had to do a double take on that "suspend belief in geology" part, I assure you you're not alone.

I'd like to use this example of ignorance to briefly address a small (although outspoken) group of people within the scientific community. These are the individuals whom label themselves with titles such as "Christian scientists" or sometimes "creationist scientists." These folks will claim that there is no line drawn between science & religion. Obviously, the above statement proves this to be false. I must first point out that "Christian scientist" is a quite comical oxymoron, & the reason is simple. Science in itself is a non-biased study (of whatever) which basis its conclusions on evidence resulting from experimentation. The operative words there are non-biased & evidence. Claiming affiliation with any religious ideology is a hard-line statement that you have made up your mind about something that hasn't been proven, as there is no scientific evidence to support any dogmatic claim of any theistic religion. Those whom subscribe to this doctrine of some kind of religious science often simply pervert science altogether or speculate by jumping to conclusions before the facts are in. For example:

They will often believe in evolution, but with an odd twist. A common phrase I've heard goes something like "Evolution does not contradict intelligent design because the designer was intelligent enough to design evolution." OK. Seems like a harmless enough belief for Joe Blow or Jane Doe commoner. However, this is not a scientific claim by any means. We know that evolution is a fact because we have a fossil record as evidence to prove it. But where is the evidence of this "intelligent designer?" If you're scratching your head on that one, it's because there isn't any. There is a distinctive line drawn between facts & beliefs. It would seem that the theistic scientist has blurred this line to the point of invisibility. To put it another way, science is factual - religion is opinionated.

Now that I've got that off my chest; back to the Grand Canyon. I notice an unsettling trend in modern America. For some strange reason, we have come to a point where we must tip toe on egg shells around fanatical ego-maniacs so as not to offend their beliefs (no matter how ridiculous they may be). Let's suppose I were to make the following claim:

"There are unicorns on the moon whom perform magic dances which create lunar eclipses. The unicorns are invisible to the human eye, but we know that they exist because we've witnessed lunar eclipses." (I don't see this example as too far from a stretch in comparison to the Noah story or any other improbable tale of the bible.) If I were to walk the streets shouting out this claim, I'd probably be taken away by the men in white coats. However, let's say that I convince several people to believe in my unicorn religion & I start my own "church of the lunar unicorns." Although my claim is just as silly now as it was before others believed in it, my sanity cannot be questioned because unicornism is my religion & we all must be "tolerant of religions." I'm not saying at all that tolerance is a bad thing. In fact I'm all for tolerance in the true definition of the word, but any belief that has not yet been proven is open for logical discussion. Imagine the response I'd get from NASA if I asked that they stop all studies of the moon because the conclusions they may come to would offend my fellow unicornists. I have a hunch that they would more than likely just blow me off. But what if the white house was chock full of unicornists & the president told NASA to end their lunar program. It may very well in fact put an end to our space program & simultaneously seal the lid on any future knowledge of the cosmos. Should any group of people have the ability to require "suspension of belief" towards seeking factual evidence? This is simply saying "we don't want to learn anymore about this. It's nicer to believe in popular opinions instead of facts."

It is never advantageous for a society to simply stop searching for answers, regardless of who may be offended. Being tolerant means that we don't commit hateful acts against each other over differences in opinion. It does not mean that we discontinue discussion on a topic we do not yet fully understand. And by the way, if the evangelicals are so sure that Noah's flood created the canyon, why not prove it? One would think they'd be chomping at the bit to reveal evidence of their claim. Perhaps I have stumbled into the arena of "theistic geology." I suppose this would be the branch of "science" that proves god doesn't want us learning about his Earth.


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Winner.

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Hypocrisy of the Theist's Improbability Argument

How can one make the case that evolution did not happen merely on the basis of improbability when they don't apply that same logic to their every day lives?

 

If one were to calculate the probability of someone tripping over a tiny crack in the floor on a sidewalk, examine all the other routes the person could have taken, all the other steps they could have taken, the probability that they would actually nick a spot that small, the difference in posture they could have used, the different time they could have left their place of origin, etc. If one is going to attribute God to something based on (wrongly based assertions) of improbability, they would need to attribute that to EVERYTHING that happens in their everyday life, and hence free will and all human ability to act freely goes out the window, or they’d have to concede to the ridiculousness of their argument.


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Wonderful post Wildbill.

Wonderful post Wildbill.

wildbill wrote:
It is never advantageous for a society to simply stop searching for answers, regardless of who may be offended.

And of course you are right, but until our society stops treating religious ramblings with kid gloves this is exactly what will continue happening. 


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My submission

I just finished working on a lenghty essay entitled "A Refutation of William Lane Craig's Apologetics"

I did it in HTML.

Here's the link to it:

http://www.tainoleon.com/Essay4RRS.html

Enjoy.

peace

Ó

 

"Theology is that science which treats of the unknowable with infinitesimal exactitude." - Anatole France


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Fine tuning

This is my view on the so-called "fine-tuning" argument. This one is surprisingly simple - it's all about a person's perspective. If we assume that a creator-god is responsible for the universe, it could indeed seem like everything was set up perfectly for life. But, just to humor me, let's assume for a moment that there's no creator-god. In this case, is it surprising that we find life in a place capable of supporting life? No, not at all. It would be surprising if we found life in places incapable of supporting life. Something like this would make a good candidate for a miracle. Let’s say that 99.9999999999999% of the universe is incapable of supporting life. What do we find in that part of the universe? No life. But on the only little speck of the known universe that seems capable of developing life, what do we find? Life.

Astronomy is an area that's being aided greatly as our technology improves. As of 1988 not a single planet had been discovered outside of our solar system. The first extrasolar planet was detected in 1989. In 1992, three more were discovered. By 1996, the total number of extrasolar planets found was 12. By 1999 we'd found a total of 30. As of June 2007, we've located a total of 242 extrasolar planets. It's unlikely that any of the other planets we've found thus far harbor life since our current technology only enables us to locate the large "gas giant"-type planets like Jupiter, but at the rate we're finding new planets, it seems highly likely that it’s only a matter of time before we find other "rocky" planets. The first few planets we found orbit pulsars, but ever since then nearly every planet found (236 of the 242) orbits a normal star.

The first extrasolar planet orbiting a normal star was found in 1995. Think how far our knowledge of extrasolar planets has come in that short time! We're barely into the infancy of knowledge about extrasolar planets. At the rate our discoveries are expanding, imagine how many other planets will be found in the next 100 years! Imagine how many we'll find over the next 200 years! Is there any reason to say that it's unlikely we'll find other "rocky" planets out there as our technology and searching methods improve? Isn't it possible that there are very earth-like planets among them? There are over a hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe, and a typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. With around 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars out there, isn't it extremely likely that there are other earth-like planets out there? Considering how brand-new and incredibly limited our knowledge is of other worlds, don't we have to seriously consider the possibility that life could exist elsewhere? I'm not saying that it does or doesn't, just that it’s a very real possibility.

Let's say that only one in every thousand planets develops at a safe distance (for life) from its star. Or if you feel that I'm being too generous, we can go with one in every million planets. Let's say that self-replicating molecules only manage to develop on one in every million of these planets. Or if you feel I'm too generous, we'll say that self-replicating molecules only form on one out of every billion planets that are at an appropriate distance from their star. These are some very long odds, but we're still left with some 10,000 planets in the universe that generate self-replicating molecules. Once these molecules are created, it leads to life (these molecules are life by some definitions of the word). Now if there are only 10,000 planets in the universe that will generate life, what kind of planets would they be? They'd be rocky planets that are an appropriate distance from their star, which the Earth just so happens to be. You see, if life arises anywhere at all, it will necessarily be in a life-friendly environment. If and when conscious beings develop on the planet, they will look around and conclude "How convenient that we are in the perfect spot for life!" They wouldn't immediately realize that they couldn't actually be anywhere else.

And this is only considering life that is carbon-based, water-dependent, and dependent on an earth-like atmosphere. Who's to say that life in general requires these things? In fact, it seems quite possible that self-replicating molecules forming on other planets would react with the prominent molecules of that planet and give rise to an entirely different type of life than what we're used to. That is how the process of natural selection works: variations better suited to their environment survive at a higher rate. Natural selection results in life that is specifically suited to its environment. If an observer was unaware of the concept of natural selection, they could easily come to think that the life had been specifically designed for its environment.

Some of the biggest remaining question marks surround the question of how self-replicating molecules form, and how easily this happens. The bottom line is that we just don't know enough about the formation of these molecules yet. The RNA-first model suggests that the complex RNA molecule was the first self-replicating molecule. This seems highly unlikely considering the complexity of RNA, and many researchers are abandoning this view in favor of newer, more promising, and certainly more plausible models. I recently read a fascinating article in the June 2007 issue of Scientific American called "A Simpler Origin of Life". The article lays out one of these new ideas, which abandons the huge demands on chance required in the RNA-first model, in favor of a few reasonable demands on the environment. This new model, which the article refers to as the "metabolism-first" model, deals with a small network of chemical reactions that are driven by an external energy source (such as the nearby star, a geothermal vent, etc.), and a reaction that is driven by that energy source. There's far more to the concept than I’ll get into here, but this new model shows how these "chemical reaction networks" grow in complexity over time since the network is naturally capable of adapting itself to new conditions which threaten to disrupt it. This model is not accepted fact yet by any means, but it is a very new theory that shows great promise. It has enjoyed some early experimental successes, but there is still much more work to do.

The point is that these are areas that science is just beginning to explore, and research is advancing on a daily basis. This is all quite encouraging –science has hardly reached a dead end in genetic and biochemical research, they just got started! Even looking at the RNA-first model, it’s already been mentioned that this type of genetic material has been formed on its own in a strictly controlled laboratory setting. Like you said about it, the odds of this forming outside the laboratory are very slim indeed (though not as unlikely as you may think since 97% of human DNA is "junk DNA", which serves no real purpose at all. Since the 1:101000 odds were calculated using an exponential function, this greatly reduces that number, though it is still quite unlikely). But the important point is that molecules of this type are capable of being formed with no outside intervention, even the highly complex ones. (By the way, which seems more likely to result in such a large amount of useless “junk DNA”: a perfectly flawless creator, or an imperfect and not especially efficient process of nature?)

As I said before, we have to learn more about how these things work before we start talking about how likely it is that life exists elsewhere in the universe. We might find that these types of chemicals only form very rarely and we may be some of the only life in the universe. On the other hand, we might find that these types of reactions occur very naturally and that life has arisen on most of the earth-like planets. We may even find that these types of reactions can occur in the clouds of the gas giants and some extremely foreign type of life exists in the clouds of these planets. (It isn't too much of a stretch to imagine that specially adapted microbes are floating around in the clouds, after all natural selection favors what is best suited for an environment. Any multi-cellular organism of decent size would find itself too heavy to stay aloft and would quickly be weeded out). Also, let's not forget the moons of these planets! Gas giants almost always have many moons, and we even see ones with atmospheres in our own solar system! It will be quite interesting in the decades to come to see what we discover in our search for planets (and moons) compatible with life, as well as how the earliest organic molecules formed.

There’s also the difference in fundamental physical constants and things of that nature to consider. Sure, things would've been much different if we changed the constants, but who's to say things would've been incompatible for life? Things would be incompatible with our kind of life, but rather than having atoms and molecules in the universe, something totally alien to us would likely exist instead. Who's to say that an entirely different kind of life couldn't arise from this foreign substance? For all we know, changing the constants would totally reshape the universe, but this different universe would be more conducive to life than ours! Perhaps with different constants, we'd have life easily capable of floating freely in space. Again, we’re seeing something entirely unknown that is being used as evidence for a god.

The purpose of this was to show how simply changing one's perspective can make things look completely different. When you look around the Earth, it can appear as though everything was designed specifically for this planet. Since we are the most intelligent life on the planet, and use its resources to the fullest, it could appear as though the planet was made specifically for us. But if we instead look at the whole picture, with around 10^22 stars, and likely a similar number of planets and moons, things look much different. From this point of view - which is a more honest perspective, since it contains everything we know of - we'd expect life like our to arise only on planets like ours. And sure enough, that's the only place we've found it thus far. But it's still far, far too early to draw any conclusions either way based on any of this.

I have a quick little story before I end this:

'Tell me,' the great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once asked a friend, 'why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?' His friend replied, 'Well, obviously it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.' To this Wittgenstein responded, 'Well what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?'

As humans, we have a tendency see the world in a way that places us among the most important things in existence. This is not arrogance; it's simply what appears to be the case to us. If my cat were capable of such thoughts, he too would likely conclude that this world was made for his kind. He'd think "What a great life I have! I get to sleep in all day, and I can stare out these large glass windows at birds whenever I want. How convenient it is that the birds just happen to be in front of the window for me to look at. I don't even have to hunt to keep myself fed! The large fleshy animal that lives with me provides all the food I could ever want! The fleshy animal pets me when I want, and throws mouse-toys for me to play with if I bring them to him. The fleshy animal even changes my litter box for me! What a pampered life we cats lead! Surely this world must've been designed just for us!"

Just like with my cat, we can come to grossly inaccurate conclusions if we insist on maintaining an anthropocentric perspective. Just like mankind up until the 17th century, we can come to grossly inaccurate conclusions if we insist on maintaining a geocentric perspective, or insist on believing that Earth is the purpose of the universe. Just as with the previous two, we can end up reaching grossly inaccurate conclusions if we insist on maintaining the belief that there is something incredibly special about the way that our universe is. It can be a very humbling experience to consider the idea that humans are essentially nothing important to the universe. But when we consider the bigger picture, that's exactly what we are. What, after all, would be so different about the universe if there wasn't any life on Earth? Or any life at all?

'The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.'
- Richard Dawkins


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I own a blog called Answers

I own a blog called Answers in Genesis BUSTED! (I can prove ownership by posting something requested if need be). Here is an article from my website:

Humphreys' 14 Evidences of a Young World Gets Ripped

 

In this post, I am going to go through Answers in Genesis' "Evidences for a Young World" and dispel each and every one of them. I rely heavily on Talk Origins, but plenty of the links on more interesting topics are from other websites, so check em out!

1. Galaxies Wind Up too Fast
According to Dr. Ray Carlberg of the University of Toronto:
"There is observational evidence that nearby companion galaxies or an asymmetric, bar-shaped concentration of mass can drive a spiral wave in the disk of the galaxy."



2. Too few supernova remnants
Our universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, and stars formed at an indefinite time after that. Most stars have a lifespan of about 10 billion years, and many are so far away (millions of light years) that we would not see their supernova until long after it happened. Lastly, supernova remnants have been observed (about 167,000 light years away), which contradicts the idea of a young universe.

3. Comets disintegrate too quickly.

It is true that comets have a lifespan of about 10,000 years; it is also true that the Kuiper belt contains them, thus it is not a problem for them to be less than 10,000 years old.


4. Not enough mud on the sea floor.
Apparently Mr. Humphreys is unaware that Erosion and Plate Tectonics can remove mud. Research your claims next time buddy!

5. Not enough sodium in the sea

Apparently Mr. Humphreys figured this up this up without properly estimating the amount of sodium lost in the alteration of basalt. They omit sodium lost in the formation of diatomaceous earth, and they omit numerous others mechanisms which are minor individually but collectively account for a significant fraction of salt. He was contacted about this, yet he has not corrected it.

6. The earth’s magnetic field is decaying too fast.
No, it doesn't decay, the earth's magnetic field has weakened, strengthened, and changed polarity many times in earth's history, and real, testable evidence for this exists.


7. Many strata are too tightly bent.

Actually, if these strata were bent quickly, they probably would have fractured. Take a piece of silly putty, for instance, and try to pull it apart quickly. Try this again, but this time slowly. You will find that the quicker you pull it apart, the less it stretches. The principal behind rocks bending over long periods of time rather than instantaneously is the same.


8. Biological material decays too fast.
Two claims are made here that should be addressed:
a)Mitochondrial Eve is 6,000 years old

She's no younger than 120,000 years old.

b) Soft tissue and blood cells from a dinosaur have astonished experts
New York Times reported:
Earlier hopes of finding cells in the dinosaur bone have been dashed. Dr. Schweitzer said she could see no direct sign of cells, although a chemical stain that recognizes DNA picked up something in the holes where the bone cells would have rested. But she said she had been unable to retrieve DNA that could be identified as originating in a dinosaur. She and her colleagues had better luck in looking for heme, the oxygen carrying part of the hemoglobin molecule of the blood.

9. Fossil radioactivity shortens geologic “ages” to a few years. (Radiohalos)

Amateur scientist John Brawley investigated Gentry's claims directly by studying local rock samples, and concluded that there is no good evidence that these "polonium" haloes are actually produced by polonium at all, as opposed to longer-lived radionuclides such as radon or uranium.


10. Too much helium in minerals.

The helium results could easily be due to an aberrant sample. They could be an artifact of the experimental or collecting method (e.g., defects in the zircons caused by rapid cooling) or from just plain sloppiness.

Helium deposits are common in New Mexico, and excess helium has been found just a few miles from where the sample was taken. Source:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD015.html


11. Too much carbon 14 in deep geologic strata.

New C14 is formed from background radiation, such as radioactivity in the surrounding rocks. In some cases, C14 from the atmosphere can contaminate a sample. Sulfur bacteria may also create C14. Source:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD011_6.html


12. Not enough Stone Age skeletons.
Estimates that there should be 8 billion buried dead from the stone age, yet only a few thousand are found.

I wonder if he ever considered that over thousands of years the bodies might decay so badly that we wouldn’t have anything to find? Or perhaps some people were cremated (who knows?); or perhaps the grave markers wore away and the bodies are buried some place as of yet undiscovered. In any case, the number of bodies found does not prove the stone age was short.


13. Agriculture is too recent.
Um…. No. Anyone who studies civilization will know that we went through a hunter-and-gatherer period in which there was no agriculture. There is evidence of agriculture from 11,000 years ago, which is a little too ancient for Humphreys’ 6,000 year old earth. There is DNA Evidence that dogs were domesticated 100,000 years ago.


14. History is too short.


You don’t suppose maybe writing had not evolved? Apparently he doesn’t. Australian rock art has been discovered dating from 40,000 years old, which ties in to the DNA evidence that shows Australian Aboriginals diverged from an Asian population 40,000-70,000 years ago.


Also, there is an ancient Sanskrit manuscript that tells of a lake that existed in Kashmir. According to modern geological reporting, about 40,000 years ago Kashmir was indeed a lake in the valley of Kashmir in northern India. It was covered by a huge lake and it was blocked on the southern end by a little range of mountains. And at a certain point, something happened and it broke open and the lake drained out. And if it is to be taken literally, then it means that somebody must have seen this lake as it existed 50,000 years ago and wrote about it.


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I Quixie wrote: I just

I Quixie wrote:

I just finished working on a lenghty essay entitled "A Refutation of William Lane Craig's Apologetics"

I did it in HTML.

Here's the link to it:

http://www.tainoleon.com/Essay4RRS.html 

A Refutation of Wm. Lane Craig's Apologetics

William Lane Craig is famous in Christian apologetic circles. Amazingly prolific, he is the darling of evangelical congregations that seek empirical validation for their doctrinal tenets, particularly in the United States. A fixture in all sorts of formal debates organized by such congregations, he is in high demand and is championed as a kind of "ringer" at such events and has thus gained a reputation as one of the great apologists of our time. See his website here for yourself.

In the last decade, in the course of my study of the historical Jesus and of the origins of the movement which claims to be a direct result of his life and influence, I have watched or listened to (or read the transcript of) about a dozen debates between Dr. Craig and various people. These debates usually revolve around three distinct but related topics: the historicity of the New Testament resurrection accounts, the plausibility of the existence of God, or the more simply phrased question, "is Christianity true?". The same basic arguments are consistently repeated in all of his debates. I am invariably struck and surprised by the weight given his arguments by these credulous evangelical groups because, in his rhetoric, I find all sorts of erroneous or spurious assertions which even I, a simple musician and auto-didact following along, am able to easily point out. In this essay, I'll directly challenge the validity of what he offers up as empirical "evidence".

¿Resurrection as history?

Dr. Craig usually begins his defense of the historicity of the Gospel accounts of the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus with an appeal to what he calls "the four irrefutable facts" that are supposedly accepted by a vast consensus of New Testament scholarship today (it used to be three facts, but he has since expanded his list). He claims that any explanation of the emergence of belief in Jesus' resurrection must account for these "facts".
These four "undisputable" facts, according to him, are:

fact 1 - After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in his own personal tomb.
fact 2 - On the Sunday following the crucifixion, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers.
fact 3 - On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
fact 4 - The original disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead despite their having every reason not to.
    **(quoted from "Will the Real Jesus Please Stand" up by Craig, Crossan, Miller, Blomberg, Borg, and Witherington, pp. 26-28)

Before I address each of these individually, I'd like to make a couple of preliminary points regarding his claim to such a "vast" scholarly consensus for the historicity of these articles of faith:
 
first -
 
That it is somewhat misleading to refer to some consensus among New Testament scholars as conclusive regarding the historical authenticity of the events the texts describe if only because the vast majority of New Testament scholars are in fact practicing Christians to begin with and thus "have a horse in the race", so to speak, and,
 
second -
 
That his assertion that the unanimous consensus view in scholarship is that these are irrefutable "facts" is just so much hyperbole.

This became obviously clear to me when I came across a series of lists in Allan Powell's "Jesus as Figure in History", pp.117,153). These lists are of "bare minimum" facts that are sometimes compiled by contemporary scholars as a teaching aid and put forth as being the most certain things we "know" about Jesus' life and ministry. In this particular case the lists are those of N.T. Wright and E. P. Sanders, respectively.

If this overwhelming consensus was in fact the case, one would expect these four "facts" to be included in all (or at least the vast majority) of the lists of these "bare minimum" facts as compiled by the most eminent of scholars.

Yet . . .

  • Neither E. P. Sanders nor N. T. Wright include fact 1 in their lists.
  • Neither includes fact 2.
  • Sanders does not include fact 3, and Wright phrases the "fact" in a less certain light than does Craig:
    "[...]was reported (my emphasis) by his followers to have been raised from the dead".
  • And, finally, fact 4 is just a derivate of fact 3 which neither mentions on his list.

Now, I realize that such lists don't really determine much one way or another. N.T. Wright, for instance, believes that every single line in the New Testament occured exactly as written, so any such listing by him is but the roughest of thumbnail sketches, but these lists DO serve to illustrate the exaggerated nature of Craig's claims of near-universal consensus.

A crucial preliminary question raises itself: If two of the most renowned NT scholars (and of these, N.T. Wright could arguably be classified as one of the more conservative scholars in the field) don't include these four "facts" in their lists, by what justification does Dr. Craig assert that the universal academic view is that these are irrefutable? This deserves more than a glossing over, and I'm amazed that his opponents don't call him on it.

I have sometimes wondered, as I listen to these debates, why someone doesn't just refute these assertions of his outright. I suspect that the reasons vary from opponent to opponent; some may feel that to engage his assertions may be to give audience to an argument that is erroneous from the starting gate (I tend to agree with this notion, but then I have no station to defend), and instead choose to focus on what they think the importance of the resurrection holds for them; some may just be sticking to their own semi-scripted approach to the debate - this possibility reveals much of what is wrong with the "sport" of debate. People tend to develop habits of style and form. Having chosen a prescribed fighting strategy, experienced debaters tend to stick to it, despite what their opponent might bring. At best, this makes for a silly ballet of evasive obstinacy; at worst, the two contenders are not even listening to each other.

Now, I am not an academic in this discipline - I am just a layman fascinated by recent work in this field who has studied the matter at length, independent of any institution, but I feel that Dr. Craig's "four-irrefutable-fact" axiom is very easily refuted.

All that being said, I'll now examine the evidence that he presents in defense of these assertions of irrefutability (in italics), and then I'll present my own objections to this so-called evidence, step by step and as objectively as I can:

On fact #1: Joseph of Arimathea

  • - a - Jesus' burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in 1Cor. 15:4.

While it is true that Paul explicitly mentions a burial, there's no mention at all of where or by whom he was buried. As far as we know, Paul has never heard of JoA. One can, of course, make the claim that Joseph's involvement in the passion story was well known to Paul's audience and that therefore it was unnecessary to mention him. If so, however, how does one explain the very detailed list of appearances to specific people that immediately follows? Would the people that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection not have been common knowledge as well to Paul's readers?

Sorry, but you cannot cite any Pauline letter to lend valifity to the JoA story. Toss exhibit A right out.

  • - b - The burial story is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel.

Whereas I concede that there's some indication that 1Cor. 15 reflects some kind of primitive creed that pre-dates Paul's writing it down, I find no reason to state with any kind of certainty that Mark's account of Joseph is particularly "very old". In fact, Mark's gospel contains the very earliest mention of Joseph of Arimathea that we have, and it can therefore be traced no earlier than that without reliance on conjecture.
I ask myself two questions then:
1- Did the author of Mark invent J of A in order to make sense of the proto-creed espoused by Paul in 1 Cor. 15 (if Mark wrote down his gospel in Rome - as is traditionally held - near the year 70 C.E., then surely he would have been familiar with that city's best-known martyr's ministry and plight)?
or
2 -Was Joseph part of older source material which he incorporated into his narrative?
Though I lean toward the former, I'm open to the possibility of either one, but there is no reason to take it as a given that such "very old source material" existed without textual evidence to back the claim up. Just saying it doesn't make it so, I'm afraid.

  • - c - As a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention.

If the community held the belief that Jesus had been "raised", then it logically follows that he must have first been buried. The problem, though, is that it is really difficult to imagine how Jesus' body could have been buried, considering the manner in which he was executed. A Roman crucifixion served a couple of purposes. Its primary function was obviously to dispose of the convicted felon, but this sentence, by virtue of being especially sadistic and cruel, also served to discourage future would-be insurrectionists by adding insult to injury, so to speak. That was part of the raison d'etre of having seditionists crucified publicly - that is, to humiliate them, to deny them any semblance of dignity. The decaying body was usually left on the cross as a warning to others, a grotesque deterrent. It was as inconceivable to Mark as it is to us that Pilate would have granted any request to take Jesus' body down from his cross for honorable burial to either his disciples or to his family. The former he might have arrested as fellow conspirators, perhaps, and the latter he would have laughed out of his courtyard, if not flogged. Pilate, we know from other sources, was no philanthropist. The historical record paints him as a shrewd and decidedly cruel governor.

The Judean historian Josephus tells a story about his coming upon some crucified men on the road to Jerusalem one day. He was terrified to recognize three of them as acquaintances of his, so he requested that they be brought down from their crosses, and he says that he was granted the request (although only one of the convicts actually survived the trauma of crucifixion, according to him), but then Josephus was part of a wealthy and powerful aristocratic family, so he had some pull, so to speak. Just as it does in today's world, money talked back then. Nevertheless, the norm was to let the victim rot up there, or to throw his corpse in a common grave. In my view, it seems that in order to make sense of the resurrection story, Mark saw the need to invent a powerful wealthy character that would have had some influence on the authorities. A Roman aristocrat was certainly not a likely candidate. Therefore, although it seems rather bizarre and controversial that a member of the Sanhedrin who had been a secret admirer of Jesus could have performed this act of respect and kindness, Mark could see no other choice.
 
I mean . . . Who else was there to do it?

  • - d - The burial story itself lacks any traces of legendary development.

This to me supports the proposition that Mark did indeed invent Joseph of Arimathea out of whole cloth. The oral tradition (i.e. "legend&quotEye-wink before Mark wrote his gospel was simply that Jesus had been buried and was subsequently raised. The evangelist saw the problem inherent in this simple dictum he had inherited (i.e. "he was buried" - by whom?), and skillfully constructed a brilliant solution, one which established in one stroke both that Jesus had really died and that the women knew where he was buried.

  • - e - No competing burial story exists.

Indeed, I don't think that any other burial story was even possible (or at least any tenable one). -- (see point c above)

On fact #2: The Empty Tomb

  • - a - The empty tomb story is part of the very old source material used by Mark.

This is not evidence. This is an assertion. Once again, I ask Dr. Craig to produce textual evidence that would indicate how old the material is (he says it's "very old" - how old? - more importantly, By what criteria is he basing this guess?). The empty tomb, it seems to me, is but the natural postulation that resulted from a misunderstanding of a difficult metaphor (i.e. the resurrection). That is, once the belief in a physical raising started to spread within the growing communities of gentile converts (who were not unfamiliar with rising gods, by the way), then, an empty tomb was necessary to fill in the gaps in the story.
How old is the tradition? It's hard to say, but I think it does not go back very far beyond Mark. Paul (who perhaps either had a hand in developing, or otherwise rightly understood, the metaphor of the resurrection) does not mention any empty tomb.

  • - b - The old tradition cited by Paul in 1 Cor. 15: 3-5 implies the empty tomb.

On the surface, this seems like a logical conclusion upon hearing that a historical figure was "raised up", but only if Paul was referring to an actual physical bodily resuscitation, which I'm not convinced (and neither are many eminent scholars) is what he meant by it. (*see 2a above)

  • - c - The story is simple and lacks any sign of legendary embellishment.

I think it's a little humorous to say that a story about a group of women coming to a tomb, finding the stone rolled away (supernaturally?), stepping inside, seeing an angelic figure in radiant white clothing (Was it a disciple? Why not name him? Why is he specifically seated on the "right"? Why does he specifically wear bright white? - Symbolic language is obviously being used here) who speaks to them and causes them to run away in terror lacks signs of legendary embellishment (and this is only to mention Mark's version). To not see the symbolic language used here is to be in denial of some sort.
Brevity is not synonymous with simplicity.

  • - d - The fact that women's testimony was considered worthless in first-century Palestine counts in favor of the historicity of the women's discovering the empty tomb.

Is this statement a "fact"? Was the testimony of women really worthless in Judea and the Galilee?

Certainly, life in Judea in the first century was patriarchal and androcentric (what contemporaneous culture wasn't?). However, while social roles and responsibilities did differ for women and men, there is no reason to believe that second-temple Judaism, in all its various forms, epitomized misogynism in such an extreme way. While Josephus (Antiquities iv. 8. 15) does expressly say that women should not be allowed to testify in court, the Pentateuch says not a word about the exclusion of women as witnesses. Moreover, a study of rabbinic law concerning divorce shows that there were certain conditions (see Miriam Peskowitz, Stories About Spinners and Weavers: Gendering the Everyday in Roman-period Judaism) under which a man was obligated by the court to grant a woman a divorce and to pay her a divorce settlement. My question here then is: How is this possible if she is not allowed to testify in court?

This is all really beside the point, however, since the women's claim to witnessing the empty tomb is not legal testimony. Was everything that women said not believed simply because they were women? Are we to believe that Jewish men in first-century Judea didn't believe a word that women said? What were the limits to this mass misogynous incredulity?

I think that any attempt at negatively highlighting some imagined radical misogyny as somehow being intrinsic to the Judaism of the time is simply unsupported by historical evidence.

It is simply bad history and bad theology. I would even say that it is a shameful practice, revealing an endemic anti-semitism (whether conscious or sub-conscious I cannot say).

  • - e - The early Jewish allegation that the disciples had stolen Jesus' body presupposes that the body was in fact missing from the tomb.

What early Jewish allegation? Is he referring to Matt. 28?

In my view, citing Matt. 28 as evidence of early Jewish gossip is spurious from the git go because it is circular, self-referential.

Also, when Matthew wrote his gospel (the current scholarly consensus is circa 80-85 C.E.), Jews may very well have countered the resurrection claim by claiming that the body must have been stolen, but by that time Jews neither knew (nor probably cared) where Jesus had been buried. If they heard claims of Jesus' resurrection, it was only natural that they would counter with an accusation of exhumation by his followers.

Tertullian wrote a short passage (De Speculatis, 100.30) in which he describes Jewish mockery of the Christians and of Jesus. Much of what Tertullian accuses the Jews of saying and doing is taken straight out of the NT, though there is some additional material which reflects what would later be found in a sixth century polemical Jewish text called the Toledoh Yeshu (in this work, the body is even found!). Tertullian wrote the passage sometime in the late second century. Thus, this is not an "early" Jewish allegation at all.

(I'd like to add here that the modern term "Jewish" is an anachronism in this context, but I won't belabor the point further.)


On fact #3: Appearances

  • - b - The Gospel traditions provide multiple, independent attestations of these appearances.

(I have reversed the order of these first two pieces of evidence posited by Dr. Craig for the sake of exposition and clarity.)

Are there really multiple independent attestations of the different post-Easter appearances?

As I survey contemporary scholarship, to my eyes it seems pretty clear that the consensus view overwhelmingly favors not only Marcan priority, that is, the fact that Mark's gospel was the first to be composed, but it is also almost unanymously accepted that this gospel was subsequently used by the later evangelists ( i.e. the authors of Matthew and Luke) as a model both for the form and the content of the story they tell. If this is so, then what were once thought to be three independent attestations in the synoptics is now reduced to one evolving tradition. Furthermore, though admittedly not as overwhelmingly a consensus view (currently right about about 50%-50% ), it is probable that the fourth evangelist also knew of and used the synoptic tradition in composing his own gospel (I think he did). If this is so, then what we have are variants of one single evolving tradition.

This leaves us with only two "independent" attestations, then. Namely, that contained in the gospels and the one in 1 Cor. 15.

And these two traditions tell different stories. The synoptics say he appeared to Mary and some women first. Paul says he appeared to Cephas.

No multiple attestation here.

  • - a - The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus' post-resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul (1Cor. 15: 5-7) and vouchsafed by his personal acquaintance with the people involved guarantees that these appearances occurred.

The proto-creed contained in 1Cor. 15 includes what presumes to be a list of the earliest of these appearances. He appeared to Simon Cephas and then to the twelve (the twelve what? - I am not being facetious here; my point is that I think "the twelve" is a post-Easter construct), and then to a bunch of people (presumably on Pentecost?), and then to Upright Jacob ("James the Lesser&quotEye-wink, and then to "all" the apostles (Who were they?), and then, finally, last but not least, to Saul of Tarsus.


This list is problematic because, if the story of the physical bodily resurrection is historical, that is, if Mary of Magdalá came to the tomb and was the first to see the risen Jesus, then why has Paul, who knows of all the other earliest appearances, never heard of the appearance to her? Perhaps a better way to put it is: If it happened as literally described in the canonical gospels, why didn't that crucial piece of information make it to the creed which Paul is so intent of handing down to the Corinthians? Conversely, if Mary played no such crucial role in the passion story, then why did the evangelists, writing a generation after Paul, unanimously insist that she did, despite Paul's blaring omission (more than an omission, this is a downright contradiction). It makes more sense to me to posit that the author of Mark's gospel had to put Mary at the scene of the crucifixion and also at the tomb to solve the problem I mentioned in 1c above. I must say that despite his limitations in the written Greek language, Mark was a very astute and creative writer in this regard.

Moreover, it has always seemed strange to me that Paul would use the exact same language to describe the apparitions to Simon and to Jacob and to the others that he applies to his own vision of Jesus. If Paul's is a "vision" then I see no reason to conclude that the other appearances were of a different nature or category.

  • - c - Researches have noticed signs of historical credibility in specific appearances -- for example, the unexpected activity of the disciples' fishing prior to Jesus' appearance by the Lake of Tiberias, and the otherwise inexplicable conversion of James, Jesus' younger brother.

It is unclear to me what he means by the first example. What's so unexpected about their fishing? They were fishermen; that's what they did most of the time. No?
As far as James' conversion goes, though, it seems pretty clear to me, from my reading of the NT and Josephus, that Jacob was held in very high esteem by the Jerusalem community (not just the proto-Christians) as a leader and as a man of high moral convictions. He was, in other words, a good Jew. To posit a Jacobean conversion is to beg the question: Where is his conversion mentioned in any of the texts (unless, of course, you include late works such as the Gospel of Phillip as one of your sources)? 1Cor. 15 merely describes a vision to Jacob, who we know from Josephus died an esteemed and good Jew circa 62 C.E.

I don't think it is possible to argue for such a conversion from Paul's description of his first trip to Jerusalem (seeking to placate the "three pillars" who by now had heard of his bizarre teachings), and I don't think it is correct to transfer Paul's christological constructs to Jacob just because Paul says they shook hands at the end of their meeting. In fact, I think that Paul was being a bit disingenuous (I am not saying that Paul lied - just stacking the deck in his favor is more like it - e.g. "I sure told them!&quotEye-wink in his recounting of what really happened in Jerusalem during that first visit to see Jacob.

In my reading of the material, the first proto-Christian community was simply a sub-sect of highly pious, Torah-observing, temple-worshiping Judeans who were strongly devoted to preserving the memory of (and to applying the teachings of) their departed beloved master and teacher, Jesus, and who were led by his younger brother after his crucifixion. Jacob became the leader of the nascent community not only by virtue of his familial relation to their master, but also by that of his own well-attested piety and righteousness.


On fact #4: ¿Raised?

  • - a - Their leader was dead. And Jews had no belief in a dying, much less a rising, Messiah.

That first-century Jews had no such belief may or may not be true. However, since we have no real substantial verifiable information regarding the practices and beliefs of pre-rabbinical Pharisaism, the assertion is just a speculation based on his theological convictions. It is historically unsupported and, as such, it is just another case of begging the question.

Also, physical bodily resurrections may or may not be attested to in what we know about Second-Temple Judaism, but this sort of thing DOES have parallels in various Pagan legends and religious practices, a fact that supports my opinion that the belief in physical bodily resurrection stems from a misunderstanding of Paul's metaphorical language that was later interpolated into the mix by the gentile converts of the Diaspora rather than in the Judean community.

  • b - According to Jewish law, Jesus' execution as a criminal showed him to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God.

A heretic? (oy vey!) I find myself wondering why Dr Craig would use the word "heretic" here. Makes one wonder if Dr. Craig knows what the word heretic means. Well, at least the "cursed" part is partly appropriate, but it has no bearing on the argument for the reason that if christology is a gentile-convert construct (as I believe it is - see 4a above), then such a curse would only apply to the Jerusalem community's continuing commemoration of Jesus' teaching and not to the fast-growing movement of hellenic Jesus worshippers.

Also, Jesus was not the only murdered would-be savior of his day; John the Baptizer had been executed as well, yet his memory inspired and nurtured many devoted disciples well into the fourth century (in fact, Josephus says a lot more about John than about Jesus). My point is that their respective memories did not become somehow "taboo" just because they had been executed. All that such an assertion (and the above one about women's testimony) shows is Dr. Craig's misreading of Jewish culture.

  • - c - Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead before the general resurrection at the end of the world.

see 4a above.

Am I to believe that someone who clearly and repeatedly misinterprets first-century Jewish culture can say anything about what it does or does not preclude?

A bit tangentially, I'd like to add a brief note about citing the phenomenon of martyrs in one's apologetics. It's not part of the "four fact" axiom, but he does appeal to the blood of the martyrs inevitably in his debates regarding the ressurection. Simply put, I think that even today there would probably be many (if not millions) of people who would gladly be martyred given a choice between that option and recounting their faith in Jesus. Yet, these contemporary people obviously have not personally witnessed the bodily risen Jesus (whatever the nature of their experience might be - my guess being that it is essentially a psychological phenomenon).
After all, there have been plenty of Muslim, Buddhist and even Mormon martyrdoms recorded in our history. Hell, even heretics were martyred (in fact, it was a Montanist ideal!) Is Dr. Craig prepared to concede the historicity of their traditions as readily as he does the orthodox Christian one? If not, I wonder what distinguishes these Christians martyrs as more credible than the others?

Here, finally, I'd like to say something about what I think is the fatal flaw in Dr. Craig's rhetorical technique, namely, his predilection to rely on rhetorical fallacies to make his case.

Some of these include:

Band wagon appeals - e.g. - "all scholars agree"
Either/Or arguments which ignore other possibilities (where's the grey?) - e.g. - "Jesus was the Messiah like he claimed, or else he was either a liar or a madman" (C.S. Lewis' famous example)
Sentimental appeals - e.g. - Dr. Craig often closes a debate with one of these.
Appeals to authority - e.g. - Norman Perrin said "xyz", therefore it must be true.
Making hasty generalizations or misrepresentations of his opponent's position - e.g. - His insistence on substituting the word "hallucination" for his opponent's "vision", even after he has been corrected.
Begging the question - e.g. - see 1b above for an example.

His favorite one of these techniques seems to be to argue from some authority whom he believes has the last word somehow. He does it so often, in fact, that it was this frequent practice of his, specifically, which ultimately compelled me to write this critique. Every time I hear him do it, I shudder and cringe a little. It's bad enough that his arguments are historically unsupported, but for him to repeatedly engage in such rhetorical fallacies and sophistry to reinforce his case - well ... it simply begs correction.

I think that Dr. Craig's insistence on arguing for a literal reading of the bodily resurrection accounts is based on a theological need for biblical inerrancy and on a theological need to rule out the possibility that the story of the resurrection might be a parable about Jesus (to borrow a phrase from J.D. Crossan). Such a mythological interpretation seems to somehow threaten Dr. Craig's - and many other evangelists'- Christian faith (an irrational and unfounded fear, in my opinion). They won't have it. This insistence on literalism (and, I'm sad to say, a lot of NT scholarship that I've encountered) belongs to the category which I call "theology disguised as history".

Finally, it might be wise for Dr. Craig to keep in mind the point of the parable of the doubting Thomas, which can be interpreted as, essentially, a warning against the folly of looking for empirical evidence for the physical resurrection of the body of Jesus. Or, how about the warning that the angelic figure at the tomb asks the women:

Why do you seek him here?

Not only do I think that to insist on a literal reading is to miss the point of these stories, but I also think that the fact that these stories are empirically indefensible makes an apologist essentially into a fideist who insists he is not one. I find this to be a fascinating kind of state of denial.





I Quixie
10 June 2007 C.E.
Tempe, Arizona


 
 

 

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intelligent designer could be space aliens?

I just want to address the cop out claim that intelligent design proponents love to make when pushed about who they think the intelligent designer is. They claim that they are agnostic about the identity of the designer, and that it could have been space aliens. Now the basic foundational assertion of intelligent design is that the complexity of life we see is unexplainable by natural means (a fallacy already but let me continue) and so there must have been some kind of designer who built or engineered life. So to simplify, complexity like us and the balance of nature are too complicated to happen naturally, someone (or something) else must have done it. One obviously realizes they are referring to God, and yet when questioned about this the intelligent design proponents will say, “the designer could be anybody, even space aliens”. Now all I want to do is just quickly demonstrate that when they say this they are still suggesting they think the creator must have been something supernatural or God like, which is unscientific considering science deals with the natural world not the nonexistent supernatural realm. I say nonexistent because for something to exist it would have to be in the natural world. Supernatural makes no sense because even if there was a God (or anything we would describe as supernatural) he would be a part of the natural world, whatever realm he inhabited would be part of our natural world, if he is interacting with us then he is included in the list of existent things we define as the natural world. That’s all that the natural world is, a list of all the things that exist. But I digress, when the intelligent design advocates claim that we are too complex to have arisen naturally, but space aliens could have been the culprits, they are implying automatically that the aliens are more complex than us. I think we can agree that whatever created us would have to be more complex than us. What this means is that by their own logic, the space aliens couldn’t have existed without a designer, and so on. So the only way to stop the infinite regress is to posit some being that is not natural, because remember our level of complexity or anything above it according to them can’t arise naturally. This would mean something supernatural, or in lay men’s terms, magical. Basically something that gets to break the rules to make the idea make sense. Imagine if you asked someone the riddle, “how do you get a dime out of a corked bottle without damaging or uncorking the bottle”. What would you think if after some thought they turned to you and said “well I would just have a gremlin get it out because they can put their hands through solid objects without hurting them”? Instead of looking at the problem and attempting to find the answer while staying within the bounds of the question, they just imagine a being that doesn’t have to follow the rules which make the problem hard to solve in the first place, and then say he did it. Well isn’t that convenient. Too bad the guy next to him worked so hard to come to the realization that you could push the cork all the way into the bottle and then get the dime out. I suggest he pit his method against the gremlin method and see who gets the dime first. Anyway, when they refer to space aliens all they are doing is sticking a middle man between us and the supernatural being they are implying really must have been the origin of complex life. By their own logic the designer can never be something natural, because according to them something as complex as or more complex than us must have been designed. Not only does this lift the veil of naturalism they have weakly placed over their hypothesis, but it completely removes it from the sphere of science for this very reason. Where do we go from here? I have made a clear concise point refuting a claim of intelligent design. So I suppose tomorrow they will pack up and quit, admitting defeat. Or perhaps they will give me a clear concise answer that addresses all the points I have made. I don’t know, I guess to make an accurate prediction we should look at all their past reactions to clear concise points made against them.


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RE: Debunking Craig

 

Brian, I am curious about this post to refute Craig.

 

It seems to me that there is a simpler and more consice way to do this.

 

Craig's position is that historical accounts of miraculous events are valid sources of evidence.

 

By this standard of evidence there are HUGE numbers of historical accounts of miraculous events that he would not be comfortable agreeing with.

 

for example in the 4th century AD, there was a Buddhist monk who reportedly knew the spiritual secret of flight.  There are multiple historical reports of this guy's abiltiy to fly without the aid of technology.

 

So by Craig's standard of evidence, he would HAVE TO AGREE that this monk could fly.  Otherwise he is engaged in special pleading.

 

Wouldn't this be a simpler debunking of his claims?