Friday, November 26, 2010

Hell = Evil God--Period


It's simple math folks. If *hell is real, then the God who created it is undeniably evil. No ifs ands or buts about it.

There are currently 6.9 billion humans living on this planet. Of this the largest religious majority consists of nearly two billion Christians (1.9 billion to be exact). Now whether or not all 1.9 billion Christians prescribe to Orthodox Christian thought and (coincidentally enough) every single one of them just happen to be genuine believers is a different matter. Most Christians will be the first to tell you other Christians are false, fake, wannabe heretics. But assuming there are actually that many genuine Christians (even as we know this is impossible based on diversity of Christian belief alone), but giving the statistic the benefit of the doubt, this means that 71% of the world's population do not believe in Christianity, Jesus, or the Christian concept of God.

According to Christian doctrine (e.g., the Bible) this means 71% of the world's population (currently) will be going straight to hell (not to forget the countless billions already presumably enjoying their unjust sentence there). That's over five BILLION people on a one way ticket straight to hell! Unbelievable doesn't even begin to describe such a preponderance of absurdity.

Now this raises an titanic ethical dilemma. How could an all "loving" God consign five billion people to hell simply for not believing in him enough? Think it through for a moment. According to Christianity those who don't believe in God will not be saved and will be sentenced to everlasting torture and punishment for the crime of ancestral sin (never mind that such a concept is irrational and incoherent to begin with).

All those innocent lives... simply forfeit. Christians like to affirm that if they knew God then they'd know the truth and so they'd believe and be saved (I should know--I used to preach it myself). Not only is this a ethnocentric point of view but it represents a myopic worldview which stresses the narrowest vision and sponsors a crude xenophobia. Never mind that Christianity has spread all over the world, they're not there because they want to embrace other cultures or understand them, they're there because they want to convert you. Why? I have it on good understanding is that because, in actuality, they are terribly afraid that they'll be alone in heaven (after they die), stuck for an eternity with--to borrow the phrasing of Richard Dawkins--a jealous, petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully--that is to say--the Christian God.

As for all that Jesus talk, you can keep it to yourself, Jesus doesn't do himself any favors by boldly supporting hell, even threatening those who refuse to follow him with it, so let's cut the B.S., shall we? If Jesus was truly loving he'd practice original forgiveness instead of original sin--let's not kid ourselves--the guy is as big of a prick as his father--albeit a bit of a sadist.

The bottom line is this--if there is a hell, then God is an evil bastard--period. No sane person can reason their way out of this conclusion--it's a logically sound argument--only unsympathetic, lacking in compassion and empathy, self-righteous truth deniers would even attempt to say otherwise. God is a bastard coated bastard with bastard filling... I mean the math doesn't lie. And anyone who thinks God is great, all loving, and concerned for our well being either failed math class or is delusional. Meanwhile the Pope is worried about the utilization of condoms while refusing to pursue and prosecute child rapists in his employ. Are you frackin kidding me? It seems the whole damn enterprise is fraudulent. 

I think it's high time we admit the truth--hell is an imaginary place. It's as imaginary as Candy-Land or God. Take your pick.

This important message has been brought to you by your friendly neighborhood atheist.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nazianity: Spare Us Your Moralizing (ProfMTH)

A great video about how Christianity requires submission, obedience, subjection, and honor giving to Government(s). Historically speaking, Christian doctrine, in effect, empowered Nazi Germany by allowing Christian Germany to go along with the Nazi agenda. Yes, Christianity supplied not only the wellspring of centuries of antisemitic propaganda to fuel Nazi antisemitism but also was the backdrop which allowed for such prejudices to go unchecked by deliberately instructing Christian Germans to submit, obey, subject themselves to, and honor Hitler's Nazi Germany!








Thursday, November 18, 2010

Epistemology 101 Part 2: Truth Claims



Epistemology: [mass noun] (Philosophy) the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

As a Matter of Fact: The Nature of Truth Claims
Debate usually consists of two parts. First there is the Dialectic, or the argument in which the debater tries to vindicate (or validate) their claims, and then there is Rhetoric, or the part of the debate in which the debater attempts to compel you to agree with them. The goal is to get others to agree with you that your truth-claim is also a fact-claim. This is true of the religious debate as well. “Language, including religious language, is partly about propositions, fact-claims, or what we might call “truth-talk”,” affirms the anthropologist David Eller (Eller 2007, p.57).

When it comes to truth claims, or “truth-talk” (i.e., claims which are talked about as being true) the burden of proof always falls on the person making the claim. If for example I said I had a unicorn in my house, it would be up to me to prove to you that this statement was true. If I could not prove to you that what I claimed was indeed the case then my argument would be meaningless. In other words, if I could not offer any evidence to prove to you that I had a unicorn in my house then you would not be obligated to believe my claim. The truth claim would be falsified by my failure to provide any empirical basis for sustaining a belief in the unicorn.

Now supposing I brought pictures of the unicorn standing next to my study desk, although this constitutes as evidence in support of my claim it does nothing to make the claim believable let alone truthful. Alone this form of evidence would be pretty weak, after all, I could have used Adobe Photoshop to take a picture of a horse, add in a fake replica of a horn, and paint it up just the way I liked before offering it to you. Even as this evidence would be fraudulent, again, the burden of proof lies on me to prove beyond a reason of a doubt that I have a unicorn. Pictures alone may not convince you, and so you’d have every right to remain skeptical. Therefore, when trying to affirm a truth claim as factual—you need to do more than provide the bare minimum evidence required for believability, you need to establish a context in which the claim is not only believable but verifiable. If the claims I am making cannot be checked and confirmed, then it’s a good bet that they are fallacious claims, and that my unicorn exists only as a figment of my imagination.

Now suppose I made a more audacious claim than that. Suppose that I have dodged the burden of proof by making my unicorn an invisible pink unicorn. Obviously this doesn’t help my case for two reasons. First, instead of offering any tangible evidence I have made the claim even more tenuous by placing it even further out of the realm of empirical support. Any real chance of confirmation just became unlikely, because an invisible pink unicorn is an imaginary entity, and so the claim that such a thing exists becomes a metaphysical claim. Secondly, this makes any discussion about the nature of my invisible pink unicorn an ontological discussion designated to the realm of theology, and as we saw in the previous article, ontological discussions fail the epistemic standard of what it means to be reasonably and rationally true.

Epistemically Viable: Rational vs. Irrational Belief
Epistemology of belief does not end with mere facts and proofs, however. Any truth claim is, in essence, a prediction. If the meteorologist on the evening news claims it will rain tomorrow he is basically making a prediction—usually based off of scientific data about global climate and weather change. In this sense a truth claim is not only something which can be believed, but it is also something that is making a prediction, i.e. that at the appointed time that we discover this truth the prediction will be fulfilled. Therefore, tomorrow if it should rain as predicted by the news weatherman then the claim is epistemically valid. The prediction was accurate.

However, if a claim makes no valid prediction (including predictions which cannot be counted due to the fact that they are metaphysical in nature and cannot be checked) then the belief in such a claim can never be a matter of factual truthfulness, but rather, a matter of the will to believe. The epistemologist Hamid Vahid puts it more clearly, stating, “In the betting context, however, the pertinent sense of “rationality” or “reasonability” is epistemic since the winning side is determined on the basis of the truth of its prediction.” (Vahid 2008, p.137)

Thus when someone says they believe something is true, we will be more likely to find the claim reasonable and rational if the truth of its prediction can be confirmed. If the truth of its prediction cannot be confirmed then it is more likely to be a false or baseless claim.

As human beings our minds have been conditioned by experience and interaction with the natural world. Therefore we either believe a proposition based on good evidence or else we reject it when the evidence is lacking. As the Stanford University philosopher Michael Bratman reminds us, “Reasonable belief is, in an important way, context-independent, at any one time a reasonable agent normally either believes something (to the degree n) or does not believe it (to that degree). She does not at the same time believe p is relative to one context but not relative to another.” (Bratman 1999, p.123)

The claim that “God exists” or that “God is real” is not epistemically viable as such a claim is not context-dependent, rather belief is context-independent (I'll explain more on this shortly). What this means is that it can never be factually true from an epistemological point of view—at least not without empirical support. The claim that God is real is true in the sense that the believer holds the belief of God’s existence as a matter of truth, but these reasons are rarely ever good and so usually fall into the designation of faith. In order for the claim “God exists” to be factually true it would need confirmation, and only after the prediction has been vindicated could the statement gain epistemic credibility as a truth claim.

Just to clarify, context-dependent and context-independent are cognitive science terms related to recognition memory. Recognition memory can be subdivided into two components: recollection and familiarity, sometimes referred to as "remembering" and "knowing." Recollection involves remembering in detail a particular stimulus, including the context in which it was previously experienced. In contrast, familiarity only requires knowledge of the stimulus’s features – the basic realization that one has encountered the stimulus before. Thus, the fundamental distinction between the two processes is that recollection is context dependent whereas familiarity is context-independent. Another distinction is that familiarity is generally an unconscious or automatic process whereas recollection is a conscious effort.

Remembering involves a conscious effort of retrieving information. When you take a history exam you are making a great effort to remember people’s names, places, and dates related to the context of a certain time period or important historical event. When you burn your hand on a stove, for example, when you are older and come across a hot burner you instantly recollect that hot stoves burn and cause pain. This recollection is intuitive—you know that you will get burned again so you avoid contact with the hot burner.

A recent study conducted by Sam Harris and colleagues at UCLA and the University of Southern California found that comparing religious with nonreligious statements reveals that religious thinking is more associated with brain regions that govern emotion, self-representation, and cognitive conflict whereas thinking about ordinary facts, in both believers and nonbelievers, is more reliant upon memory retrieval networks. Activity in the brain's anterior cingulate cortex, an area associated with cognitive conflict and uncertainty, suggested that both believers and nonbelievers experienced greater uncertainty when evaluating religious statements. The study goes on to explain the case for belief being content-independent.[i]

So when believers declare that they know God exists, they aren’t claiming to actually have met God, they are stating that given their experience they believe God is real. This may be described as “experiential knowledge” but it is not “epistemic knowledge” in the sense that it isn’t about the nature of the claim so much as it is about the nature of the experience which compels a religious person to make the claim in the first place. Recollection, on the other hand, has an epistemological basis. It is a matter of the nature of knowing about something, therefore retrieving the information which will qualify the statement as factually true. Therefore when making a literal claim about the existence of God, for example, it is not factually true to say “God exists” because there is no information about God we can retrieve, but it is factually true to say “No gods exist” for the same reason. Atheism, and more generally nonbelief, is therefore epistemically valid positions to take, whereas religious belief is often unfeasible and not epistemically quantifiable and as a result cannot be determined true.

Conditioned to Believe
Belief being content-independent means that we are intuitively detecting elements of truth which relate to our everyday experiences and then finding the best inference, and thereby finding reasonable provocation to believe in any proposition which seams to make sense (given our experiences). Thus a religious person will be more inclined to feel the statement that “God exists” is a true statement because it coincides with their religious or spiritual experiences as a person of faith. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable for a Christian or a Muslim to espouse great affirmations in the existence of God or Allah and the underlying truths of their respective religions. The problem, however, is this: cognitive science reveals that reasonable beliefs are not always rational.

Take for example the following: I find it perfectly reasonable to believe that my wife is the most beautiful (attractive) woman on the planet. My life experience, the context of being married to her and enjoying her reciprocal love and company, all condition me to believe such a claim is truthful just as it is reasonable. But in actuality it is not a perfectly rational claim. Why not? Because of a couple very important factors not to go overlooked. First of all, I have not met all the women who live in the world and so could never be positively certain that I would not find another woman more attractive, and also I nurture a strong bias when it comes to thinking about my wife and other women. This bias is obviously unreasonable in determining whether or not my wife is, in point of fact, the most beautiful and attractive woman alive for these following reasons:

1)                         I love and respect my wife and don’t want to hurt her feelings (even if one day I should come to find another woman more attractive, no matter how doubtful a scenario it is). This means I will inevitably favor her over other (perhaps) equally beautiful women.
2)                         As the adage goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, because of my genetic make up, my past experiences of which have conditioned me to find certain features more attractive than others, and my proclivity toward finding almond shaped eyes, dark hair, and soft facial features more attractive my personal taste is for Asian women—who I find more attractive than Caucasian women. Yet this is strictly a matter of preference and personal taste. Other people find other types of features more or less attractive.
3)                         Based on my understanding of fidelity, a cultural component to monogamous relationships, I am culturally conditioned to desire only my wife (even as my biological desire for other women seeks to interfere with my cultural conditioning). Therefore, it serves me as a means of assuring that my wife will mutually return my emotional commitment to her as the only woman in my life who I will deem the most attractive. Failing to do this would be detrimental, and although it does nothing to prove to you that my wife is the most attractive woman in the world, it does everything to convince me of that fact. I believe it because I find it reasonable, even though it’s not entirely rational.

When religious believers say they believe in God, I don’t doubt them for a second, but much like the previous example with my wife, we must realize they are not making a rational judgment but rather an emotionally biased one. Therefore the claim “God exist, he is real, I know it in my heart,” is not an epistemically valid truth claim. It’s a profession of belief. It is an emotional consideration one is inured to favor over other possible truths since they have been culturally conditioned to find such a claim both meaningful and emotionally satisfying (to them).

Likewise, when it comes to the religious claim that God is the source of morality or the belief that you need religion to be morally good, these are not truth claims about God, ethical behavior, or the influence of religion but rather they are conditioned beliefs one finds reasonable because they relate to their personal (subjective) experience(s). In order for the claim to have an credence whatsoever the first claim, e.g. that God is real and a source of goodness, must be confirmed. But this brings with it the original objection that this is not a factual claim which can be epistemologically verified—it is not rational. Although it may be “reasonable” for the adherent of faith to believe in such, it still remains epistemically unverified, makes no real world predictions, and therefore is an invalid truth claim. In other words, the claim is false even as there is reason to believe (or rather, desire to believe) the claim is true. This is the problem with religious belief as I see it. Thus any claim that revealed religion or faith is true, or that morality comes from God, are not truth claims, but instead, are appeals to authority. Thus nonbelievers are well within their right to reject such claims and consider them false.

Jean-Pierre Changeux has made an interesting comment in relation to the claim to authority and the way our brains process information in his engaging book The Physiology of Truth: Neuroscience and Human Knowledge. Changeux suggests that

By removing the possibility of appeal to supernatural authority, it places the full burden of moral responsibility on our shoulders as human beings. The search for the neurobilogical bases of consciousness and rationality, far from impoverishing our conception of human integrity, offers an unprecedented opportunity to properly value the multiplicity of personal experience, the richness of cultural diversity, and the variety of our ideas about the world. More than this, by making it possible to regard moral norms as distinctive expressions of a general disposition to ethical behavior, it suggests new ways in which the rights of individuals may be harmonized with their obligations to the social community of which they are members. (Changeux 2002, p.28)

Morality, then, does have a naturalistic basis, and so the appeal to religion is unnecessary—except for the fact that the religious have been conditioned to think that way.

In conclusion, the epistemology of truth makes it abundantly clear that religious claims about the existence of God, morality, and the like are not factual truth claims but are emotionally conditioned beliefs. Thus when it comes to being vindicated in ones claim, whether in a religious debate or any other dialectic, we now can better detect what is true and what is (most probably) false. Now that neuroscience provides a working model of morality and explains how our brains function we can better distinguish between genuine truth claims and professions of belief. Consequently, this helps us to do away with erroneous religious and supernatural claims, such as “God exists” and “Morality comes from religion/God,” and gives us incentive to start looking toward science to better explain such phenomenon and hopefully aid us in discovering the real answers.




“Where Religious Belief And Disbelief Meet” Science Daily online: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091005092302.htm

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gallivanting Through the Universe on a Unicorn! An Interview with Mike D. aka "The A-Unicornist"


I recently sat down (at my computer) and had a great online exchange with Mike Doolittle who runs the amazing blog called The A-Unicornist. Mike is one of the most intelligent and clear thinking writers you'll read online, so I was truly honored that he took the time out of his schedule of work, rock, and blogging to have an engaging discussion with me. As we geeked out over things cosmological I couldn't help but feel a little envious of his knack for clarity and easy to understand explanations--whereas I feel I'm always struggling to state things precisely Mike is a natural. Check out his blog if you get a chance and enjoy the discussion!

FYI: Just a couple free-thinking laymen shooting the breeze about things they are passionate about. We're by no means experts or professionals here (just so you know), but we both love science, especially the area known as cosmology--the study of the cosmos and our origins. So without further delay, onto the interview.



1.      Do you have a particular area of interest with regard to cosmology? I personally am fascinated by M-Theory and the fantastic possibility of parallel dimensions.


I'm most fascinated by String Theory, just because it is by far the best candidate we have for a quantum theory of gravity. Crazily enough, while other theories incorporate gravity, String Theory actually predicts gravity. Granted it's a retro-diction, but it's still a pretty impressive piece of mathematics. A unified theory of physics still seems very elusive, but the Large Hadron Collider may be able to test some of the predictions of String Theory, like supersymmetry. It's a pretty exciting time to be into physics, especially because this will probably be the largest particle accelerator we get for a long time. To get to significantly smaller scales we'd need an impossibly huge particle accelerator. To probe the Planck scale directly (where we might be able to observe the one-dimensional strings of String Theory), we'd need one larger than the solar system. But in the next few years I anticipate the LHC making some very big discoveries.

2.      Do you have any favorite physics books which are a must read and if so what are they?

I loved Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe", and of course Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" is a must-read. Some of the other books I've read, like Lisa Randall's "Warped Passages", are a little more technical and esoteric. But if you're just being introduced to cosmology, both Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking have written some very readable books that nicely illustrate where we are and what some of the possibilities are for the future. I would actually recommend to most people that they get started with lectures. TED Talks has some great lectures on physics that introduce general concepts without getting too technical.


3.      Do you have a favorite cosmologist, astrophysicist, or theoretical physicist? Who are they and why do you like them?

Well I love Hawking. He's undeniably brilliant, and he's a great writer. Brian Cox, the "rock & roll physicist," is also very entertaining just because of the clarity and palpable excitement he speaks with. Brain Greene has a knack for explaining complex things in terms mortals like me can understand. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is fantastic too, for his sense of humor and his ability to express the poetry of some really amazing facts – like the fact that the very atoms that comprise us were cooked from lighter elements in ancient stars that exploded their enriched guts across the galaxy. The universe is literally inside us. That's a very profound and humbling thought to me. 


4.      What, in your mind, has been the most noteworthy find or discovery in the past fifty or sixty years of cosmological investigation? What would you like to see discovered?

It's difficult to pick one. We've discovered fundamental elementary particles, called quarks. It was amazing because scientists had predicted their existence back in the 60s, but we didn't actually observe them until the 90s at Fermilab here in the U.S. In the last decade we've confirmed within a 2% margin of error that the universe is geometrically flat, which has big implications for cosmology. We have strong evidence that dark matter and dark energy are real, even though we don't know much of anything about what they are or what they do. And for future possibilities, the unification of the five versions of String Theory into M-Theory was a big mathematical accomplishment, though there's still a lot of work to be done just in terms of developing the theory, much less empirically testing it. I'd love to say that I'd like to see a unified theory of physics, but I think more pragmatically there are some interesting concepts with regard to extra dimensions (that's spatial dimensions – not to be confused with other universes) that may be tested with the LHC, and I'd love to see us confirm the Higgs boson and supersymmetry, as well as develop a working understanding of dark matter and dark energy. Those are real possibilities within the next ten years, whereas a quantum theory of gravity... well, who knows. We've been at it for nearly a century, and it's always seemed just out of reach.


5.      What theory do you think is the most misunderstood in physics/cosmology? Which is the most misrepresented by religious?

Without a doubt, the answer to both questions is the same: the Big Bang. I've often heard it described as an "explosion in space"; it wasn't anything like that – it was the expansion of the very fabric of space-time. Edwin Hubble noticed that distant galaxies were all getting farther away from each other, which means they must have been closer together in the past. When we extrapolate that backward billions and billions of years, we reach a point where the equations of Einstein's General Relativity break down, in what's known as the cosmic singularity. This is what's often called the "beginning" of our universe. The Catholic church, back when the Big Bang was formulated, got pretty excited because it seemed to confirm the Bible. This misconception continues to this day. The singularity is just an artifact of General Relativity, and shows us the limitations of that model of physics. If we use quantum theories, the laws of physics do not break down. The universe gets to a very small size – Planck size, or 1.616 x 10-35 meters, and we just don't know what happened before that. But most modern cosmological theories, including String Theory, do not predict a singularity or a "beginning" to the universe. Instead, they reshape our understanding of time itself.


6.      How would you go about dealing with someone who is obviously ignorant about cosmology (and science in general) and keep confusing abiogenesis, evolution, and cosmology as one and the same? What would you say to them or would you just brush them off as a lost cause?

That depends. Some people are ignorant, but have a natural curiosity. You can work with that. I mean, that's me! There's so much I have yet to learn. Others have a rigid adherence to dogmatic viewpoints, and they usually aren't worth the trouble. Before you can talk to them about cosmology, you have to address the issues causing them to be resistant to new knowledge.


7.      I find it strange that Intelligent Design proponents will deny evolution but be in full support of the big bang theory and fine tuning, etc. Where do you think the fault in reasoning is taking place and what is the best fix for such a glitch?

I don't know that there's an easy fix at all. If someone is in the new-agey Deepak Chopra school of thought, it's usually just a misunderstanding of science and you just have to steer them in the right direction; you know, remind them that Deepak Chopra isn't actually a physicist and introduce them to popular science books by reputable physicists. But if someone is adhering to a specific dogma the way ID'ers tend to be evangelical Christians, you have to address that first by for example talking about the Bible – is it historically reliable, is it logically coherent, etc. Beliefs tend to arise as a sort of network of experiences, knowledge and biases. I remember arguing til I was blue in the face with an evangelical Christian friend of mine about evolution. Then we started talking about the Bible – he started looking at the Old Testament more critically, with all its scriptures where God commands stonings, subjugation of women and genocide, and that created the cognitive dissonance he needed to start examining everything more critically. Now he's an atheist and loves learning about evolution. A direct approach isn't always the most productive.


8.      I personally feel that modern cosmology has helped to make religion obsolete (especially archaic creation myths). Would you agree with this assessment? If so why or why not, and which ideas or theories specifically relate to this concern?

It's funny you say that, because "A Brief History of Time" is actually what pushed me into atheism. Even after I lost my faith in Christianity, I still held on to a very vague concept of a higher power. I was sort of a "deistic agnostic". It wasn't any theory in particular that changed my mind, but Hawking's exposition helped me recognize the fact that the idea of God really fails in every conceivable way as a hypothesis for explaining anything worth explaining – the origin of the universe, our morality, our evolution, even our sense of meaning in life. But I didn't recognize my philosophical folly until I became better acquainted with science. Cosmology is really about the biggest questions of all – why are we here, where did we come from, that sort of thing. Once you can see why "God did it" isn't a good answer to those questions, it inspires a great sense of wonder, curiosity, and most of all humility.

9.      What are your favorite Science Fiction film(s), television series, and/or book(s)? If you have more than one please list them and briefly explain what you like about them.

I don't read much fiction, though a good friend of mine has promised to loan me "Ring World", a favorite of hers. But I am a complete nerd when it comes to sci-fi movies and TV. Right now I'm working through Battlestar Galactica, and it's just fantastic. I enjoyed Caprica for its brief run, and I'm really into Stargate Universe. Movies, I love everything from "Contact" to the new "Star Trek". I'm such a geek though that when I watch stuff like that, I'm always thinking about what is and isn't plausible. For some reason artificial gravity really annoys me. It's funny how, like in SGU, the whole ship can get shot up or be almost totally drained of power, but gravity always works just fine.


10.   Where do you think the future of cosmology and physics know how will take us? In other words, what are your predictions for the future and beyond with regard to the course we now traverse?

I wish I knew. It's easy to take something like GPS systems for granted, but they wouldn't work unless we took General Relativity into account. But Einstein could never have imagined back in the 1920s that his equations would be used to synchronize satellites with our cell phones. Right now, with the Large Hadron Collider, we're on the cusp of some potentially transformative discoveries in physics. It could lead to advances in quantum computing, nanotechnology, medicine, neurology, and who knows... maybe we'll even get that whole interstellar travel thing down. The LHC cost over $10 billion to build, and a lot of people questioned the wisdom of that investment when the world is faced with so many urgent problems. But were it not for quantum mechanics we would not have many things that have transformed our lives, including computers and the internet. It might seem ironic, but I think part of the excitement of physics is really just having no concept of where our discoveries will take us. Sometimes just exploring the mysteries of the universe is one of the most important things we can do. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can Science Shape Human Values? (NPR)


Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Simon Blackburn and Lawrence Krauss discuss what is moral and whether science can tells us. (Load time may vary depending on Internet speed. It takes about 30 secs every time I load the page. It's worth the small inconvenience though.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Atheist Missionary Q & A



The Atheist Missionary (TAM) runs a spiffy blog and we recently interviewed each other as a means to start an atheist dialog among fellow atheists. Sometimes it's nice to have an intelligent conversation now and again instead of merely having to repeat (ad infinitum) to some reality denier that Evolution is a "honest to God" real scientific theory. So we discussed things from the atheist perspective about religion and what we'd like to see more of from the atheist movement.

If you're interested my interview it is already up at his web site in a post titled: Advocatus Atheist Q & A. You may want to check it out first as it is the first part of the conversation. 


My Questions

Following your lead, I guess I will start by asking you a couple of the questions you asked me.

AvA: Are you concerned that religion may provide a net positive for the world? Why or why not?


TAM: Tristan, I am concerned about those who base their foundation of reality on religious beliefs. These are folks who simply cannot conceive of the world you and I take for granted.  More often than not, these are people who are not well educated and who often live in desperate circumstances.  Beggars in Mumbai ... Palestinian refugees .... shantytown dwellers in Johannesburg ... Jamaicans struggling to live on the few dollars they earn selling trinkets to tourists on the beach.  Religion sustains these people. It gives them hope in circumstances where, realistically speaking, there often is no hope. Sometimes I ask myself whether the world's most disadvantaged people would really be better off without religious irrationality and I am unable to answer in the affirmative with conviction. 


AvA: Also, having raised the topic, I am equally curious about what you think atheist parents should be teaching their children about [G]od(s) and religion?


TAM: I should start off by noting that I am fortunate to have a spouse who is as skeptical of religion as I am.  This wasn't a topic we spent much time discussing before we had kids - we now have three, aged 5, 7 and 9. Like me, my wife was raised in a benignly protestant home with little overt religiosity. We now agree that religious indoctrination of children is tantamount to child abuse.  We would apply the same condemnation to those who would indoctrinate their children to be atheists. Kids are agnostic in every sense of the word and that is precisely the way it should be.


We strive to teach our children to think, not what to think. Like their parents, our children our incredibly strong willed and natural freethinkers. For good or bad, I think it is safe to say that they won't follow the crowd (at least for the sake of following the crowd).


My view is that atheist parents should teach their children, and expose their children, to a variety of religious beliefs and rituals.  A couple of summers ago, my wife and I took our daughter (then age 8) to a Roman Catholic wedding. I was delighted when she was invited by the bride to participate in the mass and she still talks about bringing the "Blood of Christ" to the priest. She's a very smart kid and didn't need her folks to tell her that this was just plain weird.


Whenever the topic turns to atheism and children, I am reminded of Richard Dawkins' letter to his then 10 year old daughter Juliet which you can find on my site here: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2009/02/does-teaching-your-child-to-believe-in.html  In my view, this should be required reading for all middle grade students.


All of this being said, I still expect my kids to eventually rebel and run away to Bible school.


AvA: Living in Canada is probably a lot different than living in the U.S. (where I'm from) when it comes to religious matters. What, if any, are the major differences with regard to the religious climate and do you feel American religiosity has a negative influence on Canadian policy?


TAM: Great question. Overall, I see Canada as being much more tolerant than our southern neighbor towards religious diversity and that diversity includes non-belief.


I live in an area of southwestern Ontario where there seems to be almost as many churches as houses. The city where I reside (Owen Sound) was under Prohibition until 1961. Quite frankly, when my wife and I moved here in 1999, outing yourself as an atheist would have been akin to wearing a scarlett letter. However, the times are changing and perhaps that is due to the emergence of the new atheist movement following 9/11. I am currently a partner in our city's largest law firm and proudly carry my atheist torch as an active member of our local humanist association. As you know, I also write a local column entitled Irreligiosity for our local newspaper which I am proud to say is becoming quite popular.


I don't see American religiosity as having a significant effect on Canadian policy. In fact, I believe Canada is much more like Australia in the sense that we do not view being religious as a pre-condition to holding public office. Although our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an evangelical Christian, the leader of our official opposition (former historian, author and public intellectual Michael Ignatieff) is by all accounts an atheist.


AvA: What's  your prediction of the future of Christianity--or as Freud put it --the future of an illusion?


TAM: For me, answering this question is like betting on NFL games, it's almost impossible to do objectively.


What I would like to say is that Christianity won't survive this century and will be relegated to the waste bin of history. That is what I would like to see for a belief system based on god/man whose afternoon on a cross supposedly atoned for all the wrong that has occurred (or will ever occur) in the history of humanity. If I may digress for a moment, is substitutionary atonement not the most intellectually vacuous concept ever conceived? Have you ever visited a children's cancer ward? What parent wouldn't submit to a thousand crucifixions to spare their child that pain?
My more Vegas sports book betting assessment of the future of Christianity is that it will thrive in countries where ignorance/poverty pervade and stagnate in countries which enjoy high qualities of health, wealth and education. Simply put, Christianity has nothing to offer those do not require a myth to give their lives a sense of purpose.


AvA: Is there anything you would like to see more out of the atheist camp? In other words, what do you think should atheists be doing that they're not and where could the atheist movement improve itself?


TAM: Atheists need to start coming out of the closet. We need to start explaining that the truth is important.  We need to show the world that there is nothing that is done in the name of religion that can't be done just as well without religion. We need to live our lives to the fullest and prove that you don't need to believe in a supreme arbiter to lead morally upstanding lives. Simply put, we need to show that religion is irrelevant because it is irrelevant. There are better ways to spend your money. There are certainly better ways to spend your time. Reality is refreshing and, contrary to what Christian apologists will tell you, atheism does not necessarily require the rejection of the supernatural nor does it suggest that science will eventually teach us all there is to know. Atheism is simply healthy skepticism towards those who claim they have the answers to the mysteries ... and they well might. We just ask them to show us the proof.


In closing, I was both jealous and envious to hear of all the good books you have been reading lately. I just finished Dinesh D'Souza's Why Christianity is Great (note he doesn't bother to suggest that it's true) and, in order to clean my synapses, I am now greatly enjoying Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World.


Best, TAM. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sam Harris: Science and Morality TED Talk







Epistemology 101: Part 1 On Ontology and the Failure of Reformed Epistemology


Epistemology: [mass noun] (Philosophy) the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.


Due to numerous Christians now claiming that neuroscience cannot reveal whether morals exist independently of the brain, and that any subject related to morality must be relegated to the religious domain, I am going to do a series of articles in which I lay out the basics of epistemology and show exactly why Christians who espouse this are not only wrong, but they aren't doing themselves any favors, since ultimately--even if a external or independent form of morality should exist--our understanding of it would still be limited by our finite senses and interpreted subjectively by our brains. 

Even so, Christians keep telling me objective morality is primarily an ontological concern, and secondarily an epistemological concern, i.e. what we can know about it. What they are in essence claiming is that morals exist independently of human psychology, thus only ontologically justifiable (yet how this accounts for ontological mistakes I can't presume to guess), and only then can they come to be understood through the practice of epistemology. 

Stripping it down to it's most common form, the theists claim is this: morals exist because God exists, therefore we can pinch these morals out of sacred texts, holy laws, divine dictates and what not, thus coming to a better understanding of what it means to be moral. As an atheist and a naturalist I take umbrage at such a wildly unfounded, unsupported, and seriously flawed claim such as this. Therefore, I will first show how ontology does us no good with respect to moral issues, and secondly, I will show that objective morals can be had even with the limitations of our brain and its subjective reasoning. If successful, these proofs will thereby lend positive support for naturalism and the atheistic worldview.

Ontology: A Few Objections
Still many theologians such as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Alister McGrath, etc., believe that the magical powers of the Holy Spirit can counter act the brain's limitations (although how one would prove that I have no inkling of a clue), and somehow reveal insights into the mysterious workings of God's divine will, but the truth is until such a statement can be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt (verification only then making the claim credible) it is a weak claim which should not be relied upon for the single basis of objective morals and values.

For example, the famous theologian Alvin Plantinga developed something called Reformed epistemology. Basically, according to Reformed epistemology, belief in God can be rational and justified even without arguments or evidence for the existence of God. 

All this amounts to is the wet and sticky smack of sophist nonsense, because anybody who understands the implications of such a claim realizes that this voids the empirical worldview, by basically stating we can gain knowledge and understanding through other means than experience, which subsequently means the empiricist's account of experience, i.e. nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu (nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses) is also void. As a consequence this renders skepticism moot, and therefore asking the question to begin with would prove futile, and as such could never be the correct way of reaching any given truth or gaining any understanding of it. 

In this sense a skeptical worldview founded on radical empiricism  would seem to render Plantinga's Reformed epistemology self refuting. Epistemology, if anything, must be predicated on our experience of gaining knowledge--this is known as foundationalism. If you amputate experience from the process of how we accrue knowledge, apply knowledge, and/or actively seek knowledge then you've simply denied there is such a thing as knowledge to be gained at all. And since our epistemic instinct is that knowledge is real, and that we can come into possession of it through experience, then once again it stems to reason that Reformed epistemology is self refuting.

If you took the metaphysical point of view, however, you also have other problems, such as having to account for ontological errors, or answer for how you can know things which cannot possibly be verified through empirical means. This is why the theologian is so happy to invoke ontological arguments in his favor anytime he runs up against the burden of having to divvy up the proof to back up any of his claims. It's much easier just to say it is simply epistemologically valid to believe, yet that takes us right back into the self refuting digression of Reformed epistemology.


As such Reformed epistemology is clearly a fallacious concept, but at the same time a vacuous one as well. 


The Failure of Reformed Epistemology 
Alvin Plantinga's Reformed epistemology fails, not only for the reasons mentioned, but because he is basically claiming that you can have an objective moral reality (via the ontological premise) without appeal to any basis in reality whatsoever (basically minus foundationalism), and this is clearly unsatisfactory.
 
What Plantinga's hypothesis boils down to is a "warrant to believe" (in God) which he thoroughly develops in his three volume series beginning with Warrant: The Current Debate, Warrant and Proper Function, and Warranted Christian Belief. I guess it's worth reading if you're interested in epistemological matters in how they relate to sustaining theistic belief, but beyond that Plantinga doesn't offer much in the way of the general function of epistemology (epistemology proper). So why then would I single out Reformed epistemology if I put no weight behind it with regard to moral issues? Because many Christians do (whether they know that's what they're doing or not is a different matter), and what's more they often misuse it as a means to rule out any subjective basis for objective morality which naturalists and nonbelievers may appeal to. This often leads them to claim that atheists are godless heathens and without a moral compass, but this is a mistake for reasons which will soon become clear.

The problem here being that most theists, and Christians, frequently have the wrong understanding of how facts relate to ontological and epistemological concerns. As Sam Harris details in his controversial new book The Moral Landscape:


...many people seem to think that because moral facts related to our experience (and are, therefore, ontologically "subjective"), all talk of morality must be "subjective" in the epistemological sense (i.e., biased, merely personal, etc.). This is simply untrue.


Harris clears this up by offering an easy to follow analogy.


After all, there are countless phenomena that are subjectively real, which we can discuss objectively (i.e., honestly and rationally), but which remain impossible to describe with precision. Consider the complete set of "birthday wishes" corresponding to every conscious hope that people have entertained silently while blowing out candles on birthday cakes. Will we ever be able to retrieve these unspoken thoughts? Of course not. Many of us would be hard-pressed to recall even one of our own birthday wishes. Does this mean that these wishes never existed or that we can't make true or false statements about them? ....Clearly, we can make true or false claims about human (and animal) subjectivity, and we can often evaluate these claims without having access to the facts in question. 


Indeed, I myself continually run into Christians who say that I have no authority to speak about moral claims because my opinions are only ontologically subjective, and that with regard to ontological claims, only an independent ontological reality could provide to the proper epistemological basis for discussing moral claims (this is a form of holism). 

This, however, is clearly problematic since you can simply disprove a holism by showing one part which can function independently separate from the rest.  In moral terms, what this means is that *if God was a moral source, and thus morality had an ontological basis, that in order to be moral you would have to rely on this understanding of morality first in order to be moral. 

Contrary to what theists may believe, there are many walks of life hailing from all areas of the globe, with various customs and differing beliefs, including atheists, who exhibit moral behavior without appealing to the Christian understanding. This defeats the holistic premise that morality has an ontological basis with how it relates to God, since even atheists can be kind, loving, moral people, therefore we can refute the idea that morality depends on an ontological holism. 


Therefore there is no independent objective morality to be gained via ontological methods. Morality, then, must exist independently. The question then becomes, what sort of morality exists in a naturalistic and atheistic world? Is it merely subjective? Or can there be an objective morality as well?


Objective Reality is Only Ever Subjective
Thus objective morality can be defined without religious metaphysical claims and without any appeal to an ontological basis for support. But more importantly, if we give the theologians and religious believers the benefit of the doubt, if for example there was an external or independent objective moral reality, then the only way we could possibly come to gleam insights from it are through our experience, skeptical inquiry, empirical reasoning, and finally coming to an understanding via epistemological methods--all of it subjective. Meanwhile modern neuroscience seems to confirm this conclusion, showing the brain to works strictly in this capacity yet yields sufficient reason to believe in morality as a neurological phenomenon and so making any ontological premise untenable (not to mention unnecessary).


Ontology can be explained as a neurological construct created by the limitations of the brain. For more on this please refer to:


1. The neural basis of human moral cognition: Nature Reviews
Neuroscience 6, 799-809 (October 2005) | doi:10.1038/nrn1768 (http://
http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v6/n10/abs/nrn1768.html
)

2. The neural basis of belief encoding and integration in moral
judgment: May 2008 NeuroImage 40; 4 1912-1920 (http://dx.doi.org/
10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.01.057)


3. The amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex in morality and
psychopathy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11;9 September 2007,
387-392 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2007.07.003


4. The neural basis of implicit moral attitude–an IAT study using
event-related fMRI. NeuroImage 30;4, (1 May 2006), Pages 1449-1457 -
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.11.005
5. The neural basis of the interaction between theory of mind and
moral judgment – PNAS 104;20 8235-8240 (May 15, 2007) -
http://www.pnas.org/content/104/20/8235.full.pdf+html


So if we take the metaphysical approach and then objective morality is ever only subjectively understood and hence merely relative. This may explain why so many different religions think about morality differently and what's more have strong dissenting views on how to practice this morality--which is directly reflected in their religious behavior.

Yet if we take the naturalistic approach we can use science and philosophy to help guide us to understanding the benefits of moral considerations by testing and applying those which enhance human happiness and flourishing. Any moral truth, after all, would need to involve these two things, otherwise it would not be applicable to us. 

Needless to say, many religious "moral" concepts conflict with human happiness and flourishing. For example suicide bombing does little to enhance either, while the Catholic practice of confessing of one's sins and saying a few hail Mary prayers may ease a guilty conscience it does nothing to prove the happiness or flourishing of the human race. In both cases each is a selfish act, which is deemed "morally" beneficial to the person of that faith, and therefore only applies to the local moral values as defined by that religious group, but in reality has nothing to do with the objective reality of morals or values.
 
Objective & Subjective Reality Minus the Metaphysical Conjecture
In order for and external or independent objective moral reality to exist as Christian theologians like to claim exists, they first have to prove a whole litany of metaphysical claims, which by their very tenuous nature require more than just an appeal to ontological reasoning, and therefore defeat the purpose of Reformed epistemology. So let's do away with the assumption, shall we? We now know that beliefs, whether about morals, values, or birthday wishes can be subjective and still contain objective truths--even as we may not fully understand the nature of these truths or be clear as how they came to be--the thing we can be clear about, however, is that these truths are not metaphysical in nature and have no ontological basis for support.


Next time:
In the next article I will show how epistemology in the form of modal logic helps us define basic truth claims.





Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does Naturalistic Atheism Equal Nihilism? Part 2



Does Naturalistic Atheism Equal Nihilism? Part 2

Two boys named Pete and RePete were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?
Repeat!
Two boys named Pete and RePete were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?
Repeat!
Two boys… ah, okay, I think you get the picture.

Previously I debated a Christian apologist on whether or not Naturalistic Atheism equates to nihilism. I proved beyond a reason of a doubt that it did NOT. You can read the original article HERE.

Recently the discussion resurrected itself, even as I was hoping that reason had won out, it was evident that our Christian friend was bent on maintaining his position even as I had thoroughly refuted it. However, refusing to let a Christian define atheism, which is sort of weird when you think about it (imagine an atheist trying to define Christianity and explain to Christians what it is they do and don’t believe), I felt obligated to respond, again, to his additional comments.

This was his response to me stating that I had already proved his hypothesis that naturalistic atheism equates to nihilism wrong (my comments in red):

Also, I’ve already shown (disproved) that naturalism or atheism leads to any nihilistic view.

I disagree. All you have given is your subjective opinion on the matter using subjective criteria. You provided no objective basis for meaning outside of your own subjective reasons. Thus, you could create any meaning you desire. But if you can create and change the rules at a whim, then you really aren’t playing a game are you? 

“As I showed, quite methodically actually, there is no logical progression from holding a naturalistic worldview to the dismissal of all worldviews, just as there is no correlation between atheism, the rejection of or lack of belief in any god or gods, and the total rejection of all beliefs.”

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here but I don’t think I ever said that by holding a naturalistic worldview you thus rejected all worldviews. Rather, what I have said is that if you hold to a naturalistic atheistic worldview then no matter what worldview you create for yourself it is ultimately meaningless. You may make believe your own purpose and meaning in your head but outside of yourself it is totally and utterly meaningless and valueless. 

And that’s the end of the debate, because not only have I disproved the claim, but I’ve shown how it is not philosophically tenable.

Again, I disagree that you have disproved the claim. I don’t think you have even come up with a reasonable defense where I just don’t agree (for example, you could probably give some good reasons why Japan is better than Canada and I would just have to disagree even while recognizing that at least you are making a decent/good case which I disagree with) – I really don’t think you have made any defense. You have just giving subjective reasons for giving yourself a subjective purpose that is only purposeful to the clump of mass called the brain that resides in your head. There is nothing objective about what you have offered. 

It doesn’t matter if others prescribe to nihilistic thought on top of their atheism, the fact is that you can’t get from atheism or naturalism to nihilism, period. Frankly it’s impossible.

Well, it definitely isn’t impossible like a circle-square is impossible. And actually, I think the conjunction of naturalism and atheism together (remember, I agree that atheism by itself doesn’t necessitate nihilism because atheism by itself isn’t a worldview) is nihilistic and, as you have seen above, other atheists agree. 

Thank you for your comments Tristan, I really appreciate them and I think help bring some issues out that I would have never otherwise thought about!

Knowing this Christian is actually a smart guy, and friendly enough to put up with me continually telling me how wrong he is (yeah, one of those atheists), I felt like giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not trying to force him to reject his Christianity, but I would appreciate the simple acknowledgment that his hypotheses have been thoroughly refuted and so his position that naturalistic atheism leads to nihilism is invalid. Not knowing whether he honestly doesn’t get it or else simply is relying on his confirmation bias to dictate the terms of the debate, I cannot say. But I felt I had to respond in turn. This is my reply to the above exchange (his comments in blue):

Regarding my affirmation that I disproved that naturalism or atheism (or any combination thereof) equates to any form of nihilism you responded in turn:

I disagree. All you have given is your subjective opinion on the matter using subjective criteria. You provided no objective basis for meaning outside of your own subjective reasons. Thus, you could create any meaning you desire. But if you can create and change the rules at a whim, then you really aren’t playing a game are you?

Actually, no, I haven’t given a subjective opinion. I used a proven method of analytical reasoning, an area of literary science (in the field of theory—one of my specializations) and showed via logic that your conclusions do not necessarily follow given the objections I raised. 

That’s not a subjective opinion mind you, it’s an objective series of critical deconstructions which show beyond a reason of a doubt that your premise is unsound. I know you disagree, but that’s simply your confirmation bias talking. But I refuted your hypothesis beyond a reason of a doubt. The reason we keep going in circles is that you refuse to acknowledge the defeat, but at the same time refuse to update your theory, therefore there is no progress. And just to be clear the debate is already over. 

Meanwhile you claim I have changed the rules and altered the meanings, but I haven’t changed any rules, and I’m extremely (obsessively) specific about my definitions, but even as you accuse me of semantic word games you yourself invoke semantic confusion! By claiming I have simply offered a ‘subjective opinion’ you have changed the rhetorical mode by introducing semantic word play into an otherwise clear and straight forward argument. 

Now, if you want to talk about semantics, another area which coincides with English Theory as a discipline (semantics is one branch of semiotics) and the philosophy of language and how it applies to the validity of my atheism I can certainly defend that position (as I do HERE). But while I maintain a standard which seeks to affirm an inferential role of semantics (see coherence theory of truth), you are trying to establish a semantic holism (a known fallacy). I have not resorted to such weak argumentation.

“Rather, what I have said is that if you hold to a naturalistic atheistic worldview then no matter what worldview you create for yourself it is ultimately meaningless. You may make believe your own purpose and meaning in your head but outside of yourself it is totally and utterly meaningless and valueless.”

I addressed this the first time around. The fact that the universe, as governed by the physical laws, is ultimately going to dissipate and that life is ultimately meaningless doesn’t mean we can’t have meaning or purpose (and morals and values coming from ourselves–from our brains–is what the previously discussed neuroscience articles prove). 

Notice however, you have changed the subject by introducing moral and ethical concerns into the debate, and that’s fine if you wish to talk about them as separate topics, but as far as nihilism is concerned however which way we come to have values is irrelevant. First you must prove how it is values exist independently, then assuming independent values do exist, how naturalistic atheism would force us to reject them offhand (since that is the implication of nihilistic philosophy). If you can defend the position you take with regard to your prior statements, then I challenge you to do so, otherwise you’re debating a different area of concern. Values and purpose don't give the universe anymore meaning then it already has, although we may find meaning and comfort in formulating morals and values for ourselves (this is strictly a human endeavor).

The fact is, taking into consideration that entropy is undeniable, and that this is the natural way of things, it begs the question: how does this lead to the philosophical concept of nihilism exactly? See, I think you have confused nihilism for some type of description of the ultimate failure to find purpose to the physical laws as we know them or of nature herself. But then you are projecting human values onto a valueless system. Don’t you see that’s a huge mistake?

Nihilism isn’t and ends in of itself, it’s a means, it’s a philosophy created out of sociopolitical turmoil, and one that doesn’t stem from the implications of naturalism, and I proved this with the principle of double effect, if you’ll recall. If applied correctly, the principle reveals that an ultimate meaningless is not necessarily a bad thing–and so there is no reason to reject naturalistic atheism simply because you hold that all things which are meaningless must be rejected on the basis that they are seemingly nihilistic. Nihilism, again, is the rejection of all things because they are *believed to be meaningless and therefore *ought to be rejected. I hope you can see the distinction here. Naturalistic atheism may acknowledge the fact that things are ultimately meaningless given the sort of universe we live in, but (and it's a big BUT) it doesn’t tell you that you *ought to reject morals or values. Again, I hope you can see the difference here.

So that brings me back to my prior point: there is no logical progression from holding a naturalistic worldview to the dismissal of all worldviews. And in order to get naturalism to equate (in any way imaginable) to nihilism you would first have to prove this. But you have not been able to, and so your hypothesis is rendered invalid. 

Assuming that you did manage to prove the above, then you still have to show how there is a correlation between atheism—i.e. the rejection of or lack of belief in any god or gods—and the total rejection of all beliefs (e.g. nihilism). Again you have failed to adequately prove this correlation, and therefore, again your hypothesis fails.

This is not a subjective opinion. This is modal logic—an objective analytical technique used to determine the validity of any given claim. Your claims clearly fail the basic test of logic, and therefore are unsound. You either need to revise your theory, or admit that you have lost the battle and learn from it and move on. Simply repeating yourself again and again isn’t going to make your position any more feasible than the first time it was invalidated. I’m sorry to say it so frankly, but it seems to me you’re just flogging a dead horse for no other reason than you have *faith that it’s going to rear up and that you’ll happily ride off into the sunset together. 

Now if you want moral values in a naturalistic universe which can be objectively defined, I suggest you read Sam Harris’s new book The Moral Landscape. He explains objective morality and values with regard to the brain far better than I ever could.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Give Up Hope! He Ain't Coming Back: "1 Corinthians 15:14"



"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (1 Cor. 15:14 KJV)

The thing is, until Christ's (much rumored) return Christianity is doomed to be in vain (regardless of whether or not he rose from the dead).

And it doesn't look like he's coming back anytime soon.

Should Christians give up hope?

Well, yeah.

They should find something more productive to do then practice a vain religion in the futile hope that Christ *might return *someday down the road at some *unknown point in *time.

Or they can hope against hope and add to the vapidness of it all.

Why Atheists Don't Debate Creationists

Theoretical Bullshit of YouTube tells it like it is as he explains to a Creationist why we Atheists do not take them seriously and why we will not debate with them regarding scientific matters. I agree with every point he makes, and furthermore, I concur when he emphatically states, "Go to a f@#*ing library." Well put.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist