Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Can Science Disprove God

How can science disprove a higher power (or god) in general?

Science can, and only cares to, disprove definite, testable claims. So the question is not IS there a higher power, but how does some person claim to KNOW there is a higher power in ways that are observable (measurable) and then how do those observables demonstrate the reality of said higher power.

In simple terms, the one making a claim that something is real (a positive ontological claim) has the burden of proof.

For example, if the answer is "well, there is a higher power because my prayers are answered". That is a claim that can be tested. But the additional question is, is merely asking for something and then receiving actually evidence for a higher power? When you dig into these claims they usually vanish as being either Confirmation Bias (you ask for 100 things, 1 mundane item comes true - god exists!) or Wishful fulfillment (See Also: But I Had A Personal Experience).

Here it is worthwhile to study things like illusions (how our brains can be fooled) and things like Cognitive Biases.

Consider the alternative epistemic (how you approach knowledge or truth) approach, famously posed as Russell's Teapot.

So, how can science disprove a China Teapot in orbit about the sun?

Sure! I'll send a probe there, give me the coordinates.

Oh no, sorry it's invisible and undetectable (here I have Moved The Goal Post - a tactic often used by theists)

If we cannot DISPROVE the China Teapot must we then accept that it is true? Surely not.

We cannot absolutely disprove the teapot but it's an extremely reasonable position to be aTeapotist -- there almost certainly is NOT a Celestial teapot in orbit about the sun, it is no leap of faith to believe so. So saying "I disbelieve your claim of a Celestial teapot" is therefore a reasonable atheistic position - Even though it allows a (vanishingly small) possibility of being incorrect.

If, on the other hand, you believe a claim to be reasonable, but simply cannot find evidence to prove or disprove the claim then an Agnostic position may be more fitting (and many people will disagree with me on this point - and I admit to an oversimplification). Some might say that the multitude of anecdotal evidence, combined with possibly personal experiences is sufficient that we should remain Agnostic on the question. Some people see that as lending undeserved credibility to the claim.

Which label you use is of little practical difference, what really matters is your position, your evidence, and your reasoning.

I would argue that the idea of god is made-up. I base that on a deep study of ancient History and Shamanism (including my own personal 'Shamanic' experiences). And even though I have personally seen burning books, "angels and demons" (I would say entities), touched a lightray, and many other such things I absolutely do not believe in a spirit, or soul, or god, or higher power, or ghosts, or intelligent causative agency, etc. I believe in the power of my brain to create entire worlds and immersive experiences as it does while dreaming.

By most definitions I am therefore an atheist and I happy take up that position in a discussion on the subject.

But strictly philosophically speaking, I identify most strongly with Thomas Huxley's brand of Agnosticism. But not in the same way that most people use the term 'agnostic'. This is my blog entry on it if you have any interest in the philosophy of it: http://iconoclasm2000.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-agnosticism.html

However you identify (atheist or agnostic or antitheist or antheist or all of the above) I highly recommend reading some of the works of Thomas Huxley (who was also known as Darwin's Bulldog), Bertrand Russell, and Robert G. Ingersoll.

Google Books has a lot of these older texts available for Free! [including Darwin's Origin of Species, which is also available as a free 'amateur recording' audio book: ]

Why People Believe: Ignorance

Just read this post from some guy who says his belief in the bible is cemented by the facts that:

A. the bible has never been wrong
B. says things people didn't know until later one
C. like us only being able to live 120 years [reference: Genesis 6:3 ...his days shall be one hundred and twenty years]
D. the oldest man ever was 119
E. in biology he learned human cells live to 120 years old

Ok... really?

#1 Jeanne Calment lived to 122 years 164 days

#2 no credible biologist would claim human cells live only or exactly 120 years.

#3 ergo, the bible is wrong

#4 you haven't shown anything that was actually in the bible before it could have been known

Nevermind the basis for these beliefs are ridiculous from the outset:

#1 People knew how to measure years for thousands of years

#2 People observed how long people lived for thousands of years

#3 it is therefore reasonable to assume that the authors would have had some idea about maximal lifespans - this is not 'things ppl didnt know'. And they guessed WRONG, if this guy can claim it as proof the bible is accurate before, then I can now claim it as irrefutable evidence the bible is a fraud.

And the bible has never been wrong? Oh, please. I think he means the bible is never wrong if you assume that all the incorrect portions are metaphorical and you redefine many words.

Now, I'm not calling this person Ignorant - but rather his beliefs are based on Ignorance. That isn't an insult, it is just a fact. My point is to show the dangers of two main things: #1 he clearly doesn't have reliable evidence supporting the facts he claims to believe and #2 he is also basing several arguments on gaps in knowledge (e.g., has anyone lived be greater than 120 years old) - these are called Arguments from Ignorance (I don't know of anyone who has, therefore it must be true).

I'm really up on numbering things today apparently.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Improve Your Logical Reasoning

Found a nice online list of Logical Fallacies at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

And, of course, they have a virtual encyclopedia of other information on philosophical topics.

Another great resources is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Feel free to post links to other great resources in the comments.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule (also known as reciprocity) is flawed - it is imperfect. That doesn't mean it can't be an ok idea but it means it is not the end-all and be-all of moral/ethical guides.

It really only works if your own moral/ethical code is ALREADY fair and desirable by all parties. At best it says that you should expect to receive whatever you dish out, which is hardly transcendent. It also conflicts with 'Turn the other cheek' (which is a much more transcendent ethical concept, but one I rarely see anyone trying to follow unless they are trying to get into a frat).

The positive formulation is the best known:

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself

No, no, no. I do not want Christians to treat ME the way they treat each other. I do not want Muslims to treat ME the way they treat each other. I do not want Jewish persons to treat ME the way they treat each other.

I do not want to be subjected to THEIR ideas of good behavior. I want to be treated the way *I* want to be treated, according to MY ideals. At that point, it becomes a negotiation obviously.

And in the negative form (sometimes called the Silver rule):

One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated

This is a little better, but what if I would be happy to be treated in a way you DON'T want to be treated? I like to argue, I have a sharp tongue and I'm happy to use it and I'm happy to have other people do the same to me, it makes me laugh. I don't have a problem with it, but some people do.

Again, it works best as a negotiation.

And combining the two doesn't improve the situation -- in BOTH cases the Golden Rule basically leaves it up to the subjective experience of the actor. This is simply a poor approach to a good moral code.

One can even find a better code in the rather inane (but funny) movie "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" which states: Be Excellent To Each Other (thanks to n8wide for reminding me of that one). It doesn't define what 'excellent' might be but at least hints at being better than just what YOU want done or don't want done.

Emanuel Kant took a crack at correcting these issues with his categorical imperative. I would argue that he failed in part because, for the most part, we do not want people to make real sacrifices for us. Would you want your child to sacrifice his/her own life for you? I wouldn't. But they probably would feel differently. It is our desire to sacrifice for others beyond what others might wish that gives us part of our humanity.

So I feel like the Golden Rule really only HINTS at aspects of our moral/ethical systems that we like to think we possess, but it really doesn't embody much truth in itself.

See also: Limits of the Golden Rule

To put it succinctly, while the "Golden Rule" is a brilliant distillation of our ethical impulses-it is for exactly that reason that it is an abject failure as moral guide as our behavior is only as good as the underlying ethical impulses. One must look to hone and justify those underlying ethical impulses and for that one must look to the consequences of actions.

So what's better than the Golden Rule?  Well, I would start with two principles:

Careful observation of the consequences of our actions.

Cooperatively defining the best behaviors we can identify.

Those are important aspects of any ethical system.  Perhaps sometime I'll do a longer post specifically on morality but I think many secular authors have already covered it more in-depth than I can in a blog.

Basically, I would treat it as a science.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Migraine Headaches and BOL-148

If you have Migraine / Cluster Headaches you should google around a bit about BOL-148.

BOL-148 is one of the non-psychoactive metabolites of lysergic acid diethylamide (commonly known as LSD) and it may be the component that helps with Migraine/Cluster Headaches.

I'm just going to dump a few other resources here as I don't have time to do a proper bit of research and write it up. If you find more useful resources for Migraine suffers please feel free to add them in a comment.

BOL-148 Research Page

Beckley Foundation, Oxford

Cluserbusters: 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization (see their Links page)

Entheogen biopharmaceutical (has BOL-148 clinical trials going)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's It Like Not Having 'Jesus' In Your Life?

My life is full, with happiness and sadness (and the rest of the gamut of human emotion), and I am free to think and reason, to love and learn, to make mistakes and take responsibility for them (without scapegoating MY failures through a disgusting human sacrifice that Christians profess to believe in, BTW: do you partake of the proper annual cannibalism and blood drinking ceremony or do you follow one of those knock-offs christian-like cults that don't believe in "that part" of Christianity?).

I LOVE my life, even near death (in an accident) I thought of others without fear and only regrets for that which I would not be able to do for them. And I thank Science and the doctors (who truly do sacrifice for others) for my very non-miraculous recovery (minus a few internal organs). Even during hard or emotional painful times I cherish my time here because I know it will end far too soon. And I relish our ability to learn about out universe, every day I follow scientific advances in every field of study I can.

The world may be full of suffering and atrocities but I believe that we must work towards a better future (and I bother to post here in this blog in the hopes of helping towards that end in some small way). In the realization that we do not have true Free Will (at best we have some watered down compatibilist version of "Free Will"), I have sublimated most of my anger though I reserve that which is justified (See also Why Are Atheists So Angry?).

Christians seem to hope mainly for the death of everyone (rapture, apocalypse, etc) so that you can finally be happy in "heaven". This would explain why some Christians unwittingly seem to do almost the maximal damage they possibly can: let's not teach our kids anything truthful about sex, let's preach against using birth control, let's create an environment of sexual repression which leads to rapes and child abuse, let's lie and tell Africans that condoms CAUSE AIDS (note the sexist language there "innocent boys" and "slutty girls", see also this YouTube video) so they will not use the evil condoms - instead they rape women in the hopes that it will cure their AIDS (woo magical cures born of ignorant, superstitious beliefs), let's suppress womens rights (you just let me know when there is a female Catholic priest and Pope), let's push the bullshit creationism in schools, let's fight against the legalization movement because we like abusing civil rights and prohibition has been "sooooooo" effective, etc. It just goes on and on and then on the VERY UNUSUAL OCCASION, when you FINALLY see the TRUE light, you try to take all the credit for every progressive movement ever made. Oh "WE" fought against slavery -- bullshit, you enforced slavery for 2000 years. Oh "WE" fought against racism -- bullshit, you treated Jewish people horribly and consecrated the MASS MURDER of native peoples, Catholic Jesuits were a HUGE force behind the fascism movements (yes, including Hitler). You are a bunch of disgusting, duplicitous snakes. Behind the Dictators - A Factual Analysis of the Relationship of Nazi-Fascism and Roman Catholicism

And consider Christian theology, exactly how happy in "heaven" will you be with a few of your loved ones suffering eternal torment downstairs? Will God remove your pain and tears while your CHILD burns in hell? Is that a doctrine of a "loving god" that ACTUALLY makes sense to you?

So yeah, I feel pretty good about not believing in that. It is a shame that the iron fist of Christianity made it nearly impossible to speak out against it for so long. Thankfully, religion enforced on pain of death is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and more and more people are speaking out.

And no, I really don't feel that the "good deeds" done by religion count because of the history of conversion by intimidation, torture and murder. It seems little more than blood money paid to ensure the silence of detractors. If you want to do good things, try doing them just because, with no promise of eternal bliss behind them. And try doing them without strings attached (strings like: we will build a school here if we can teach our religion in return - because that is no gift at all, it is a Trojan horse).

Signs of the Design (Or Lack Thereof)

Rant on ID verses SETI

One interesting thing that came out of the debate between Dembski and Hitchens was when Dembski mentioned SETI in the context of ID, which set off a chain of thoughts in my head.

Consider if you wanted to send out a signal that indicated there was 'intelligent' life here on Earth so that a similarly situated life could detect it when the signal reached their world.

How would you do that? What kind of signal could you send? Or conversely, what kind of signal might we expect?

If, as Dembski suggests, the entire universe is Intelligently Designed, and all of creation bears the mark of this intelligence then EVERY signal from space should be immediately recognizable as a signal of intelligence. So, why isn't the chaotic noise we observe from space considered intelligent?

Obviously, if we wanted to try to send such a signal we would have to send a signal that was UNLIKE any signal we detect in nature. It would have be unusual or unique, it would have to stand out against the cacophony of NATURAL processes in the universe (including those that produce giant clouds of organic materials in space).

So, to me, this is yet another gapping hole in the ID Titanic. Add to this the fact that claim, after claim, after claim of ID has been demolished by the advancement of science. Sorry, but in my play book you don't get to move the goal post a distance greater than the entire playing field.

Some highlights of major failed ID claims:

* Irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum (soundly refuted)

* Irreducible complexity of the eye (not only refuted but demonstrated to have occurred dozens of different ways)

* abiogenesis of pyrimidine ribonucleotide claimed to be impossible (refuted "Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions"; Nature 459, 239-242 (14 May 2009))

* abiogenesis of ribose claimed to be impossible (refuted "Selective derivatization and sequestration of ribose from a prebiotic mix"; Greg Springsteen and, Gerald F. Joyce; Journal of the American Chemical Society 2004 126 (31), 9578-9583)

NO other scientific 'theory' would be allowed to make so many failed predictions and be that wrong and still be considered viable (ok, except the poorly named String "Theory" - which is more of a mathematical framework than a proper theory).

Thomas Jefferson's, Notes on the State of Virginia

Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 . Notes on the State of Virginia  [on religion]

Very detailed evolutionary data: timetree.org

Check out some very awesome and detailed evolutionary data:


Life and Death and Twitter

An All Too Typical Twitter Conversation

[I trimmed out the extra RT text but left the content intact]

I started with a blanket statement/conversation starter (not to anyone specific)...

ColdDimSum: Anyone who eats meat OR vegetables is NOT #prolife

littlebytesnews: anyone who aborts human beings is #prodeath!!

ColdDimSum: That we are ALL "pro-death" to some degree was the very point of my tweet - YOU murder living beings every day of your life

littlebytesnews: at least I don't kill my unborn/human fetus like #prochoice does #prolife

(hello brickwall)

ColdDimSum: Do you value a single-celled zygote over an adult chimpanzee?

littlebytesnews: #prolife A human zygote=human being.not a "potential"or "possible"human being.It's an actual human being! http://bit.ly/f2dd1e

(hello brickwall)

ColdDimSum: nice how you dishonestly avoid the question

littlebytesnews: UR question was ignorant&cld not be answered;so I gave U facts #prolife re:zygote [ Yes, that is literal: http://twitter.com/littlebytesnews/status/50268988797763584 ]

(hello brickwall)

But I propose to give my answers here anyway, despite the apparent impossibility of the task.

A living chimpanzee has a brain, has feelings, feels pain, and feels something akin to love. It is only the ugliest sort of ignorance and arrogance that could lead someone to a conclusion that chimpanzees (and other even remotely intelligent animals) do not possess these qualities to various degrees. They are at least on par with human infants.

A single-celled zygote is no more an ACTUAL human being than any other single Living Cell in your body. Every living cell in your body has the Capacity to become a fully formed human being in the right environment (with cloning technology this is not just theoretical). Human being-ness is an Emergent property of a very large collection of cells. Surprisingly (to some) we didn't know these facts 2000 years ago. I base this claim on the fact that we COULD clone a human being from those cells which makes them POTENTIAL humans in exactly the same way that a zygote is a POTENTIAL human being. There is just no way you can reasonably describe a single-cell as having the property of humanness JUST because it has human DNA. And citing some ignorant twit Ph.D. who went to a Catholic university back to me does NOTHING to convince me otherwise.

Without a functioning brain (which a single-cell does not possess, last I checked) you are nothing but a pile of meat and bones (or fatty acids, osseous tissue, and minerals if you prefer). If you want to posit that a soul exists then I must ask that you provide SOME level of demonstration of this claim beyond mere assertion and appeals to antiquity or popularity.

So, to me, the answer is fairly straight-forward and obvious. A living, breathing, thinking Chimpanzee has greater value than a single-celled zygote which has value on par with ANY other single cell in your body and no more. That it is a "unique combination of DNA" bestows upon it no greater inherent value either as one or several mutations in any of your trillions of cells ALSO gives it a "unique combination of DNA" - and some of those combinations could potentially save millions of people from cancer if we knew their secret, but they die, unsung and unrecognized by the trillions upon trillions every day.


Now, on the greater questions of the death penalty and abortions, I feel these are extremely complicated issues with no easy answers; despite claims of simplicity by some, but I will take a crack at it.

Death Penalty FOR YOU

It has been said that the best way towards any doctrine of fairness is by putting yourself in the worst of every position. If you wish to have a death penalty imagine first that YOU are the falsely accused, all the evidence is stacked against you even though you KNOW you are innocent, but you are convicted anyway and put to death. Would you still support the death penalty at that moment? I suspect that the VAST majority of people, if ACTUALLY placed in that situation would withdraw their support. A few would not, to whom I say bravo for being a complete dumbass - but hey, you would still have your pseudo-integrity (however wrongly directed it was) for the few minutes before you died.

Our ability to put ourselves in such imagined situations is the basis of human Empathy and Compassion. BOTH of which work against our sense of Justice and Fairness but (thanks to evolution) works for the human species as a whole.

I am frequently surprised (in the way we are surprised when people behave EXACTLY as they have behaved a million times before) by the number of so called "Pro-Lifers" who are "Pro-Death-Penalty" (putting aside the cognitive dissonance those people must endure).

To ease any further suspense, I'm anti-death penalty. But life is complicated and horrible things happen and we have to deal with them somehow.

Is locking someone up for their entire life MORE compassionate than killing them? I wouldn't want to answer for someone else. So... why don't we ask them? Let them decide, if they cannot take being locked up maybe we shouldn't stop them from ending their own life (hopefully in some non-gruesome and painful way)? Maybe they aren't mentally competent to make such choices? I don't know - hard questions. But we don't even try to answer them, we brush it aside and ignore it.

I have more thoughts here which come to down to how we understand Free Will (or our probable lack thereof) but I'll save those for another time.


Deciding when a human life begins is not a scientific question, nor a philosophical one. The universe could care less, we are one big "happy" quantum field, fluctuating endlessly (or not). There is no I and YOU, there only is. There is no life contrasted with non-life - it's all part of one universe. Categories like "life" are concepts that only apply to the human realm of experience. These are based on ancient abilities of categorization that served us well fighting to survive but have no inherent concrete ontology in the real world.

We cannot even DEFINE life. Maybe it's this or that, except in that case. The definition is so obscurely watered down that it has no meaning. We know it when we see it (but mostly we completely fail to see it).

But because of our limited human experience and demands for Justice, Fairness, laws and standards of behavior (all GOOD things for human societies mind you) it IS an important question ethically speaking. So I will here attempt a summing up of my possibly paradoxical positions (please pardon the preponderance of alliteration).

Alas, I'm bound to offend both pro-life and pro-choice with my thoughts here so expect this to be as messy as the question itself.

#1 I am AGAINST the forced taking of ANY life, however tiny or BACTERIAL! Shocking isn't it?

Why do YOU, dear reader, (or I) have ANY more right to live than the bacterium on my desk? You don't, not really. And yet, you/we take the life of the bacterium without even NOTICING its existence.

You simply cannot justify any other position either scientifically nor philosophically - LIFE is LIFE and it is either worth preservation or it is not. All human life could die off in an accident and some distant descendant of that lone bacterium could be the ONLY hope for repopulating the Earth. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

#2 But! Alas, I MUST take life in order to live, I must eat, my cells die, I step on bugs, I protect myself - this is clearly in conflict with #1 (Jainists probably come the closest to honoring #1 properly -- but if everyone was a Jainists human beings would quickly cease to exist). There is obviously a huge tension between #1 and #2 that we must resolve based on our best knowledge and judgement. Fortunately, this IS where science can inform our decisions because science IS the process WE have created which we have found to be the most reliable road to accurate knowledge - if we found a better way, that way would become part of science! (as it has over the past many thousands of years).

#3 There is an apparent hierarchy to life: As best we know, bacteria and other single-celled entities do not have a full experience of the world as we do; but they DO sense the world around them, and respond to it, and form memories, and seek out food, and "shy" away from danger. I am willing to be shown to be wrong about this -- if single-celled entities do have a first-class conscious experience of the world then it would WRONG to kill them. But you have to demonstrate that this is the case and the FACT is, that the only expression of consciousness that we KNOW is that which emerges from fairly complex brains.

Above the bacteria are the simple multi-cellular animals and plants. They also do not seem to have a conscious experience of the world, I feel very little regret at eating some vegetable matter although I do wonder about it and I take the time to think about it.

Above that are the simpler animals, they seem fully conscious of the world - chickens, cows, pigs. All are extremely alive in the SAME WAY humans are alive - but not to the same extent (I think, again, willing to be wrong). But I do feel these animals should be treated humanely and not tortured. And I hope some day we can find ways to avoid killing these animals.

And finally there are the higher animals, dolphins, chimps, great apes, and humans. These all have highly evolved brains and I think ALL are deserving of the highest levels of protections in our society against being murdered (although I think that "wild" animals should be allowed to live "wild", and I don't think we owe ALL animals the same level of medical care in the way that we owe it to our fellow humans).

Whether this hierarchy is right or wrong all of us implicitly follow the above system to some degree or another (again, save the Jainists who do their best). So, we make excuses (I said it would be paradoxic).

[As an aside, I find the idea of Medical care as a capitalist enterprise to be one of the most foul experiments we have undertaken as a society, but I digress]

#4 I am a realist and pragmatist. It is with great care and thought (and an eye on all too recent History) that I posit that abortion being illegal is ethically WRONG because it creates suffering in a way that it being legal simply does not. While I would personally wish to see the NEED for abortions drop to zero, I am equally sure that this can only be accomplished if all the HUMANS involved are willing to put forth the Empathy and Compassion required to make that happen - and fighting to make abortions ILLEGAL is NOT a step down that road.

As long as 10-15 MILLION children starve to death every year it makes no sense for abortion to be illegal. Click on the link and look at EACH picture and make sure you damn well understand what "pro-life" entails. And now imagine that being 30 million children starving to death each year. How is that "pro-life"? That's just pro-suffering because you are selfish.

Neither is Adoption a solution as much as the anti-choicers might wish it to be so - in fact it is more of a problem than a solution to anything. Many children are simply NOT adopted and even when they are, adopted children are often treated unequally, and, in far too many cases, end up abused. The success stories only highlight the human tragedy of the failures. The system is already strained past the breaking point.

The only logical conclusion is that making abortion illegal INCREASES human suffering.

If you want to REDUCE abortions then reduce the CONDITIONS which cause them - and we're back to Empathy and Compassion.

And finally, returning to our doctrine of fairness above - would I want to be aborted? Or be born unwanted, uncared for, abused, and left to die by a society of people who fight for the rights of the fetus but would deny basic human services of food, shelter, and health care to anyone who cannot "pull their own weight the lazy bums"? Yes, I would.

And if you want me to change my answer, littlebytesnews, then I suggest you FIRST work to make this a world worthy of living in rather than hoping that some magical sky daddy will make it all better in the afterlife.

THAT SAID, I do think there is a point, past which an abortion doesn't make sense unless it is medically necessary (a condition which should be defined by medical professionals WITHOUT ignorant interference from religious nut jobs).

I don't propose to define exactly when that point is, but I do believe that medical science is best positioned to INFORM us on that decision (not make it for us) and NO, your ONE ignorant little catholic Ph.D. nut job writing a non-professional, non-scientific paper PURPORTING to be "science" in a pseudo-science biased, self-proclaimed "journal" does not count. Let's just look at the unbiased reporting the old "International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy" littlebytesnews tried to cite at me. Wow, just wow. Maybe, try one of these journals next time PAIS International Peer Reviewed Journals List.

Biblical Commentary On The Pro-Life Movement

Because so many pro-"life"/non-thinkers seem to be associated with biblically based religions (at least around my neck of the woods) I thought I would share some "Pro-Life" bible passages with you as I did with littlebytesnews:

How many infants did Joshua slaughter with a sword at Jericho? Joshua 6
How many infants were murdered in revenge of Amalek? 1 Samuel 15:2-3
How many infants drowned in the Flood when your god got pissy? Genesis 6:1-9:17
How many children has god had torn into by bears? 2 Kings 2:23-24
How many infants & children has god had slain? Jeremiah 50:21-22
How many first-born infants died in Egypt so god could show off? Exodus 12:29-30
How many women were murdered, accused of being a witch? Exodus 22:17
How many children were stoned to death for breaking OT rules? Leviticus 20:9
How many people have been murdered because the bible commands it? 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

So, dear Christians, please do try to justify the biblical murder of hundreds to thousands of infants, children and women. Justify the action of INFANTS being hacked to pieces with a sword in Jericho and throughout the seven nations. Show me how Christian and moral infanticide is.

Misc References:

Chimpanzees: Our sister species

Evidence of chimps' intelligence grows

chimpanzee (primate), Intelligence, Britannica Online Encyclopedia

The evolution of thought: evolutionary origins of great ape intelligence By Anne E. Russon, David R. Begun

Nim: A Chimpanzee Who Learned Sign Language By Herbert S. Terrace

The brain-life theory: towards a consistent biological definition of humanness

Brain birth and personal identity

Having a life versus being alive

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Are Atheists So Angry? (response)

This is a response to the Huffington Post article "Why Are Atheists So Angry?"

#1 Atheists are not, generally speaking, more or less "angry" than anyone else in my experience.

Are religious people somehow NOT 'angry' about children being raped and abused?

Would religious people be 'angry' if atheists (or members of other religions) pushed to make their religion of choice be against the law to practice or limited? What if I spoke of outlawing Judaism? You might not get 'angry', but many Jewish people surely would (and rightly so).

Christians are 'angry' about Sharia law being forced upon them in some locations? But they are shocked when non-Christians don't want their 'Christian' values (read: sexual repression) shoved down their throats?

Do Jewish people ever get annoyed when they have to explain for the 1000th time that NO, they don't eat Christian children? Some Atheists also get annoyed by the repetition of claims which are completely baseless and might express their frustration.

Why does a search for "angry jew" pull up 32,000 hits? Are Jewish people especially angry? [I'm not saying they are -- I am making a point about using bad data]

And how many 'angry' posts would I get if I posted an article dismissing the Holocaust? I dare say I would get more angry posts than you did -- and rightly so again.

These are the types of things I see people being 'angry', or more often simply frustrated, about.

You have failed to do the scientific work to conclude that atheists are any more or less angry than anyone else.

#2 Galileo got off easy compared to Giordano Bruno (murdered by the church); Copernicus suppressed his research due to the church, Campanella was tortured by the church repeatedly for supporting Galileo, Rene Descartes suppressed his research due to Galileo's treatment, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon, William Buckland, Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, Adam Sedgewick, Robert Chambers, Charles Darwin...

Might I suggest reading Andrew White's The Warfare Of Science With Theology?

The Christian church has been a consistent detractor and danger to scientific progress UNLESS it supported their theology. They were a brutal force of destruction for 1800+ years that is entirely deserving of our derision on all accounts (and the sitting Pope covered up child molestation and rape for the church).

No amount of building hospitals or orphanages (indulgences anyone?) will ever excuse the atrocities they committed. You cannot buy off the murdered.

#3 There are seemingly few "serious thinkers" on the side of theology. If a theist comes out making blatant factual errors, attacking straw men, and committing atrocious logical fallacies then sorry, they are a waste of time.

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

The problem is that there are no simply no valid logical or empirical arguments for god. If you have a test I can perform that will clearly demonstrate GOD let's do it on National TV and be done with it?

If god were ontologically real and knowable then we would not have millions of different versions of belief about him - I cannot even find TWO christians who believe the same things about god.

For amusement I wrote this which barely even begins to scratch the surface: http://iconoclasm2000.blogspot.com/2011/01/christianatheist-pre-discussion.html

#4 There is a post on my blog that addresses your question about wonder:


You argue for Epistemological humility but postulate god in the same paragraph. Epistemological Honesty demands the opposite, that we remain silent about that which we cannot demonstrate - not assume it is true and commence slicing off parts of children's genitals on his command, denying rights to LGBT members of society, oppressing women, or murdering healthcare providers.

I do not say "there is categorically no god", I say that you have no evidence that supports your claims about god and I refuse to believe in something about which we have absolutely no actual knowledge.

I do know a bit about human psychology and history and I know that men seek power and control and I can see that religion gives them a startling mechanism for motivating men into unjust wars by demonizing the other side. I also know that men seek explanations and fear the unknown and the fearful are willing to believe the most horrid things rather than feel that they have a gap in their knowledge, and nothing looms larger than a mans own death.

Just because some men are too fearful to admit that they simply "don't know" (but all evidence says that they will rot and decay and never again exist) they have been inventing ludicrous explanations for many thousands of years (shamanic cave art suggests some 30,000 years) before "Moses" supposedly talked to a burning bush in a story that reads exactly like other shamanic experiences.

I don't fear death, I fear a life wasted in banal servitude to a mere idea invented by a few goat-herding, misogynistic, barbarian simpletons just because of a accident of my birth location (or I might be Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha'i, Jain, or Wicca - e.g.).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

F***ng Magnets, How Do They Work?

First, a little history -- The Insane Clown Posse once infamously pondered how Magnets might function: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/fcking-magnets-how-do-they-work

The genius of Richard Feynman was asked a similar question in 'Fun to Imagine' 4: Magnets, and he struggles to explain it in lay terms. But it's a great look at what each of us must bring to the table to understand an answer.

In summary: Physics is hard -- but, WHY it is hard has an interesting answer.

Our understanding of the electromagnetic force is described in detail in the equation that represents the Standard Model of physics. To really understand Electromagnetism would require that you undertake understanding that equation.

But I think that understanding that it is the result of an alignment of many atomic spins in the material and all those tiny forces add up is a pretty good start.

I also found a nice mathematical explanation on Quora.

If you know of a very insightful resource for this let us know!

Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites?

Striking evidence for extraterrestrial origins of life: http://journalofcosmology.com/Life100.html

This could be very big news for some branches of science, especially those which investigate the origins of life.

I am cautiously optimistic on this one but, as the article says, they are seeking a broad investigation into the results. This is exactly how science should be done.

There will be some knee-jerk nay-saying. There will be some premature fawning. It will probably take several years before we can make stronger claims. And even then it could be 100 years before we unravel things in detail. The danger here is in over simplifying the questions.

They are dealing with EXTREMELY tiny, fossilized features. Many of these features will have possible non-life origins. If we get extremely lucky some day we might catch a meteor that has a well-enough preserved organism that it can be revived and that would be conclusive (actually, it would be charged with contamination first).

What we SHOULD be marvelling at here is the progress we have made in science and how far we have yet to go. That we have such powerful tools of investigation and minds that are curious enough to plow forward.

If anyone should think that science is all but done, then they aren't looking very hard.

Existence From The Bottom Up

Thinking about it "bottom" up. Imagine that you are a sugar molecule floating around in a cell, unaware of your role in the greater drama of life but a necessary part of it.

Imagine you are the brain cell that contains that sugar molecule, about to fire (or not) which will change the course of the universe forever depending on which way it goes. But still only acting on 'simple' chemistry and completely unaware that you are one cell of trillions.

Now imagine you are the cluster of neurons in a brain, a cluster that fires when a concept is recognized, the cluster activates variously 100 times a second, unaware that they are decoding the words you now read.

Without all of those components operating there is NO individual mind but the whole idea of an individual mind is an illusion to begin with. The ultimate laws of Physics do not follow our arbitrary human boundries. You ARE the universe, pinched off into a localized bit of order. Without the stars from 10 billion years ago we could not exist now. An almost immeasurable number of quantum interactions MUST have occurred for you to exist in this brief moment of time so that you will play your role in the evolution and unfolding of the universe.

It is not by mere chance that we exist, it is commanded by what is. The unfolding of the universe, by its very nature, is drawn into the patterns of life.

We give far too much importance to our limited, ego-driven view that we are isolated when in reality we are all bound together in so many ways. Our actions, however small and meaningless they might seem at times, have profound implications for the future.

Our immortality is because we are made of the universe.

This is why I don't find Materialism or our lack of Free Will to be depressing.

Do you REALLY believe everything in the Bible?

Are you guilty of Cherry Picking the bible?
  • Why believe in a biblical god that ordered Abraham to murder his own son?
  • Why believe in a biblical god that orders genocide at Jericho in Joshua 6 and orders the genocide of the nations of Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, AND Jebusites "the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them...nor shew mercy unto them" in Deuteronomy 7?
  • Why believe in a biblical god that murders all the first born of Egypt (which would have included suckling babies who could not have done anything wrong) -- and if they were GOING to do bad things in the future then why would God have created such an existence where he would later have to murder them?
  • Why believe in a biblical god that fails so badly at creation that he must wipe out nearly all of creation, causing untold amounts of suffering of humans and animals, in a massive flood -- which he then regrets and promises never to do it again by having sunlight refract as per the laws of physics that surely already existed?
  • Why believe in a biblical god that allowed his alleged church to rule for 1500 years (until the Protestant Reformation) committing atrocity after atrocity: murdering, raping, enslaving, torturing and selling passage into heaven for obscene profits to the church? A Religion which even turned on itself, resulting in escalating violence over what in reality boils down to money -- who would get the money, the control, and the power.
The Crusades and Inquisitions were not accidental byproducts of the Christian belief system, they were CAUSED by it. If you TRULY, FULLY and HONESTLY believe that someones eternal soul is on the line in this life why would you NOT go to ANY lengths, including torturing to death, that person in order to save them? You would be a committing a sin if you failed to do absolutely everything you could to save them. Wouldn't you?

History speaks extremely clearly on the false claims of religion.

If religious people would stop at 'love one another' that would be fine, but they don't. They pretend to know the mind and will of the universe and use it to abuse and control others and THAT is what makes religious beliefs dangerous and often evil.

Mystery Of Mass

The mystery of mass: What makes one particle light and another heavy?

Brian Cox tries to explain (at a high level) the mystery of mass and how the LHC is searching for the Higgs particle that might explain it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Einstein, Spinoza, and God

There are many Einstein quotes on God (almost a whole book :), he was certainly indoctrinated as a child before beginning to grow out of such beliefs, and he just as certainly used the word "god" metaphorically and in ways unfamiliar to most believers.

As a former believer myself, I know how difficult it is to rid oneself of beliefs that were ingrained into your psyche through a process of indoctrination so it is not unusual for ones beliefs to evolve over time as we continue to learn.

There is also a progression in his beliefs from childhood through later in life.

1929: Einstein tells Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein:

I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
Brian, Dennis (1996), Einstein: A Life, New York: John Wiley & Sons, p. 127, ISBN 0471114596

Commentary: First we have to understand what Spinozism is because Einstein ALSO stated that he didn't feel he was a pantheist. For Spinoza, God had infinitely many properties of which only a finite number of those were represented in our Universe - but I believe the aspect that attracted Einstein's thoughts at this point in his life would have been the aspects of "unity of all that exists" and a "regularity of all that happens". And this is what Einstein was referring to when he famously quipped "God does not play dice with the universe". But it is also fairly clear that, by this, Einstein means that the Universe is ordered and lawful, not random. This is, as yet, a deep and unresolved question in physics. Spinozism also stated that only God possessed free will, with our universe (humans included) being moved solely by fixed laws.

1950 letter to M. Berkowitz, Einstein stated:

My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.

Commentary: At this point in his life, Einstein had moved further away from Spinozism towards a more Agnostic philosophy. The more we have learned the less likely any form of "god" seems but like millions of other propositions the NON-existence of a god isn't something that can be demonstrated. Neither can demonstrate that Zeus doesn't exist, nor Russell's Teapot. This is why Evidence is so critical in the formation of rational beliefs.

Closer to the end of his life Einstein had the following to say:

1954: Einstein in a letter to Eric Gutkind on January 3, 1954 wrote:

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.
letter to Eric Gutkind

1954: Einstein also wrote:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
Letter To An Atheist (1954) from Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1982) ISBN 0-691-02368-9

Commentary: I do NOT believe that Einstein was ever what we would call an Atheist - he consistently felt an adoration for the universe and believed that by understanding HOW it came to be we could understand the mind of "god" -- but absolutely and unquestionably he did not believe in a theistic (personal) god, he is adamant about that. Neither did he believe in a simple Deistic or Pantheistic concept of "god" ("I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist").

But then, Isaac Newton was an alchemist and I don't think we can hold that against his other contributions. The real shame to me that such intelligent men should have to feel social and culture pressures to conform to ignorant beliefs and suffer childhood indoctrination. Such abuses in the past offer no excuse for us to continue them into the future.

"I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it." ~ Albert Einstein