Monday, March 31, 2008

Answers to my Quiz

Okay, I just read Ray Comfort's review of "Expelled", and apparently, he believes that this celluloid travesty was moving. Well, what do you want -- half the people who are "moved" by such films are equally likely to be "moved" by Tim Lahaye's "Left Behind" films, which are pathetic excuses for films, much less pathetic excuses for drama or science fiction.

People who are moved by "Expelled", and who do not think it's propaganda, are just dumb, Period. I mean that with all sincerity. If you saw Expelled, and you thought that it made a "powerful" case for Intelligent Design, or that it revealed any kind secret conspiracy against poor, persecuted minority groups, then you have to either be incredibly stupid, or your standards of proof are so weak that you probably believe that Pro Wrestling on TV is real, too. I'm not going to be goaded into guilt from people who complain that I'm being impolite or rude. I'm stating a fact that I can prove with objectivity. Quite simply, the film is terrible -- badly made, obviously contrived in places, and just goes way too far with it's Nazi analogies.

So I put the following quiz on Ray Comfort's blog, to see if people would bite. The answers to the questions follow the quiz.

I have a quiz to emphasize just how little actual fact is in the film. If you saw the film, and actually have graduated High school, you should be able to easily answer (or google) the answers to these questions.

(1) How many times did Hitler (or Nazis in general) speak or write favorably of Darwin? Never, or frequently? If you say anything other than never, please provide at leastone quote from WW2 era Nazis to back up your answer.

(2) What did Hitler and the Nazis do with Darwin's book, "On the Origin Of Species"?
(b) Make every school child memorize it
(c) Re-printed it and distributed it in churches.
(d) make sure it was included with every Bible

(3) Hitler's speeches made frequent use of Christ, God, and Christianity, such as stating that it was every German's duty to Christ and God to rid the nation of Jewish Influences, or that Jews were enemies of Christ, because they crucified him. (TRUE or FALSE)

(4) How many specific facts were presented in the movie "Expelled", which were specific proofs of intelligent design? If your answer is "at least one fact", please summarize the "fact".

(5) Hitler and the Nazis did what with martin Luther's book, "On the Jews and their Lies"?
(b) Made every school child memorize it.
(c) Re-printed it and distributed it in churches.
(d) make sure it was included with every Bible

Now I think you all know what the answers are. If anyone has any doubts, or suspects that I have no proof, I'll gladly provide it to those who ask. It is made up of links, but I'll post the answers, complete with copious links, on my own Blog.

And now... THE ANSWERS with documentation.

(1) Hitler and the Nazis never invoked the name of Darwin or spoke favorably of the theory of evolution in any of their public speeches or writings. In fact, the only connection between Darwin and the Nazis is the Eugenics link -- but Darwin never wrote about EUgenics. Eugenics came following the realization that traits are inherited, as well as genetic disorders. Humanity was well aware that traits were inherited, and that genetic disorders were, long before Darwin wrote about it. In fact, it was the work of Gregor Mendel, a Catholic Priest and botanist, who gave us the ground work for genetics. People have been cross-breeding animals to get specific traits for centuries. We certainly didn't need Darwin to give us the notion that maybe we could do that with people, too.

Hitler and Darwin


(2) The Nazis BURNED Darwin's book, or course, and an exhibit of banned books at the University of Arizona has a section dedicated to the official campaign of Nazi Book burning and banning. Here si a link which lists all the banned books of Nazi Germany, and which has the complete text of the official library instructions on which books to burn.

In particular, you will note that among the rules, it specifically says "6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel)."

If Hitler and Nazism was based in any part on Darwin's books, then burning and banning Darwin's books was a counter-intuitive way of demonstrating it.

(3) It is very true that Hitler and the Nazis frequently framed their beliefs as Christian. Here are some quotes:

"As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice." (Mein Kampf)

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator - by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." (Mein Kampf)

"“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago — a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people." (From a 1922 speech in Munich)

Now the links:

The religious Views of Adolph Hitler

Wiki Quotes

(4) ZERO. Not a single fact to back up the claims of ID was presented. If they just had one scientific fact, and explained it a little, it would have at been something.

(5) Hitler had "On the Jews and their Lies" reprinted and redistributed.

"Four hundred years after it was written, the National Socialists displayed On the Jews and Their Lies during Nuremberg rallies, and the city of Nuremberg presented a first edition to Julius Streicher, editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, the newspaper describing it as the most radically antisemitic tract ever published.[9] Against this view, theologian Johannes Wallmann writes that the treatise had no continuity of influence in Germany, and was in fact largely ignored during the 18th and 19th centuries.[10] Hans Hillerbrand argues that to focus on Luther's role in the development of German antisemitism is to underestimate the "larger peculiarities of German history."[Hillerbrand, Hans J. "Martin Luther," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ray Comfort admits too much!

Ray Comfort wrote (in his Blog):

"The reason atheists and skeptics get so upset when I say it’s good to cut down trees is that this world is all they have. If it gets completely wrecked, it’s all over for them. That’s what they believe"

I must emphatically say that is most certainly not what we believe. One of the problems I have with evangelicals is their insistance that they know what we unbelievers believe, and their inability to represent what we believe accurately. More often they don't just the bullseye of the target, they miss the target completely.

Let me correct Ray by telling what I belive. It's good to cut down trees. See how wrong he is, already? Trees are excellent resources. The problem is that too often, trees are cut down without being replaced, and this makes wood more scarce, and thus, more expensive. The other problem is when tree-cutting is mismanaged, and we end up with not enough trees to help clean the air. You need forests and green parks near cities to counter the air pollution caused by all the cars and industry. Also, help beautify our living areas. You wouldn't want to live in a wasteland of concrete and steel, with no plants or animals anywhere nearby, would you?

Ray goes on to get everything wrong by stating:

"... that life then ends. That’s unless Mother Nature or Father Evolution (whoever they believe made everything) makes some more trees, etc. Of course if it has to start all over again, they have to wait for around 4.5 billion years. That’s what they believe, and I guess that’s a little too long for them to wait."

This part of Ray's paragraph borders on incoherent. Not only did he fail to represent what atheists beleive, he completely misrepresented several science topics, and though he tried to make a joke, I'm afraid that the only thing funny is the irony that we atheists find in just inanely he wrote it.

The Ray goes on to blunder:

"So they get antsy when Christians are a little flippant about creation. But we can’t help it. We don’t value creation as though our life depends on it. That’s because we know and trust Him who made all things, and if humanity wrecks this earth, we have His immutable promise that He is going to make all things new."

That is really quite an unflattering thing for Ray to admit. He apparently doesn't realize how disrespectful he is to his god, whom he allegedly worships and trusts? He is literally saying that it's perfectly okay to trash his God's creation, and just be disrespectful towards it, because God can just fix it with his omnipotent powers if we screw it up too much.

Suppose instead of God, we were talking about your neighbor. Suppose your neighbor asked you to house-sit for him while he was away. During your stay, you wreck his house, and break a bunch of his belongings. When he gets back, you just flippantly say "sorry bout' the mess, mate, but you can just get some new stuff to replace the lot that I broke..."

I am totally amazed at what a childish, almost selfish attitude Ray just admitted to having. It doesn't speak well for him or the people who will defend it. In fact, it's downright thoughtless.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Arrogance and the psychology of Evangelicals

Many people, after encountering Evangelicals, consider them to be a bit arrogant, and perhaps a little bit obsessive. The Evangelicals, if accused of being arrogant, usually try to explain that they had a life-transforming experience, and that God talked to them, and they cannot forget it. It is difficult to argue against the idea that the transformed evangelical actually communicated with God. After all, you cannot peer into their heads and read their minds and verify if they actually experienced what they claim. Unfortunately, with subjective experiences such as spiritual epiphanies, there is no way to confirm or verify that they are genuine. We, as the outsiders, have to step aside and argue around the topic.

Consider this possible explanation for the perceived arrogance of Evangelicals (and indeed any religious people who try to sell their religion to you).

At the time of their epiphany, the Evangleical feels that they are finally right about something. All of their lives, they "sinned" and behaved wrongly, but now, after their spiritual enlightenment, they are finally on the right track, and living their life correctly. God, and the Bible, is their guidebook to everything that is right and good, and they feel that as long as they have faith, trust God, and read the Bible, they will always be right. Many of them even say things like "I answer to nobody but God."

Imagine if a person had a direct link from their brain to a supercomputer full of information. They could call up facts on the fly, and always have the correct answers. This is how many of the evangelicals feel about their new way of life. They feel that they are right about everything, and that if they have questions, faith and reading the Bible is the way to find the answers. They've found God, and they're now right. What they think in their heads is now guided by God, and many Evangelicals claim to talk directly to God, and so they just know that they're right now.

From the point of view of an unbeliever, it seems that many true believers don't distinguish between what they're thinking, and what God tells them when they talk to God. Perhaps after a while, the believers become so accustomed to the feeling of communication with God, and it becomes second nature to them that even they can't tell their own ideas from God's. UNfortunately, the unbeleivers cannot tell if the believers are delusional or genuinely receiving divine inspiration.

Whatever the case is, Evangelicals do tend to believe that they are always right, and it stems from the idea that God is telling them what's right. UNbelievers are often accused of being arrogant because we criticize believers, but as far as I'm concerned, objectivity always trumps subjectivity -- in other words, an objective fact, which is documented and can be demonstrated, always trumps what a person feels or believes in their heart that the facts are. When a person talks as though they are always right, and they try to throw the authority of their experience with God in your face, which you are not allowed to question, how is that NOT arrogant?

There is a difference between being right objectively, and simply proclaiming that you're right. Evangelicals need to learn a little objectivity if they don't want to look arrogant.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Same Old Questions...

There are certain issues that pop up over and over again, in the
philosophical battlefield between Christianity and atheism. This
article attempts to deal with these issues so that Christians will
better understand where we, as atheists, start from, and might
possibly prevent repetetive and oftentimes annoying re-debates.

(1) "Millions of people all over the world believe in God. Are you saying that they're all wrong."

Essentially, YES, but there is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with preferring the color blue to the color red, or preferring vanilla to chocolate. Like any other descision in life, Belief in God has different opinions available. Some people prefer to believe in one, others don't. Atheists choose to not believe in God for many reasons, usually because they cannot find any proof that one exists. You cannot convince a person who prefers vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream that chocolate is better or right, and vanilla wrong. The same is true in this case.

(2) "Where did the universe come from if there wasn't a God to create it?"

Christians assume that God created the universe. Atheists admit that no man knows what created the universe. In fact, there are many origin theories to choose from. One theory suggests that the universe simply always existed (much the same way Christians maintain that their God always existed and had no beginning nor end), while another suggests that the universe was created as the result of a process that we do not fully understand yet.

(3) "How can you be moral without belief in God?"

Are all Christians moral? Are any non-christians moral? Morality has absolutely nothing to do with belief in God. Morality is a way of conduct that is beneficial to society, or considerate to others. Manners, politeness, and ethics are all practiced by many non-christian cultures, as well as atheists. you do not have to be a believer in God to be moral -- you just have to be considerate of others.

(4) "What about your soul? Do you want to suffer for eternity?"

Most atheists do not believe that the soul exists. We maintain that personality, consciousness, intelligence, and talent are all contained in the organ known as the brain, and there is considerable scientific and medical research that proves this to be true. When confronted by the facts about the Brian-mind connection, many Christians opt to describe the soul as having nothing to do with intelligence, perception, or personality. If that is the case, then what does the soul do? what evidence is there that such a thing exists?

(5) "What happens to you when you die? I know I am going to heaven!"

Sadly, we atheists cannot offer any pleasant stories to comfort a person's fear of death. We do not believe in an afterlife. We believe that when you die, that is it. We believe that death is final, and that nobody has an afterlife. We discount all stories of "near death experiences" as fantasies that people under very traumatic
circumstances have, very similar to the hallucinations that child molestation victims create to blank out the memories of abuse. We simply accept that death is the end, and get on with our lives.

(6) "Why live, then? Why not just kill yourself?"

This follows from question #5. If we have no prospect of an afterlife, that doesn't make living any worse. Instead of striving for some imaginary goal that will only come after death, the accepting of death as our ultimate end gives us less time to worry about the afterlife, and lets us concentrate on enjoying this life -- the only
one we have. We are no more or less depressed about death than a christian would be. We simply accept it's finality, where the Christian has to cling to a myth about an afterlife.

(7) "Why be moral? If there is no ultimate justice for people who commit crimes, why not lead a life of crime?"

This also follows from question #5. Essentially, it is much more beneficial for survival to behave in a moral way, and avoid crime, because criminals tend to be hunted by their victims, and a life of crime is typically short and brutal. Few criminals have ever been able to live pleasant lives. They usually end up dead or in a prison cell somewhere. It is better to live in an ethical way, because people will be less likely to kill you if you are nice to them.

The very notion that "if there is no God, and there is no judgement, why not be as bad as you want?" speak a lot more about the Christian using this argument than it does about atheism. It speaks of a person who feels that if it were not for God and the Christian belief structure, they would just go hog-wild, kill, steal, and rape their way through life. If that is how these people trully feel, and if it really were possible for them to do that, it doesn't give a very positive message about that individual. It is actually quite pathetic.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Solution to ID in Public School science classes.

The Solution to getting Creationism Taught in Public School

Okay, I know a lot of people will say that this idea is crazy, because it dignifies the Creationists by treating them seriously, but after reading my article, maybe you'll understand where I am coming from, and that I'm really being quite devious.

No self-respecting science teacher wants to have to teach creationism or "Intelligent Design" (ID) in their science class, and every year, there seems to be yet another attempt by a Fundamentalist-dominated school board to include ID or challenge evolution (and all of science in general, as a result). Well, they will keep trying, and they'll probably keep losing.

So here's a way I thought of to try and get both Evolutionary biology teachers and ID proponents satisfaction.

First, we pass a bill to include ID in public school science class as a topic. The Bill will be deceptively titled and promoted as a bill that would introduce ID in the classroom. The actual text of the bill would contain the following:

(1) ID would be introduced as a topic in biology class.
(2) When discussing ID, teachers must use only what is considered current, modern, science, as approved by the world's academies of science.
(3) All materials used to teach about ID cannot be given to teachers by organizations with religious ties, or which are not considered part of the body of scientists from the world's working scientists. The only materials allowed must be comprised of current, accepted science.
(4) All science classes will teach the scientific method, and the characteristics of science as part fo their curriculum.
(5) Everthing taught in science class must be factual in nature, and scientifically justified.

Secondly, we get America's academies of science to develop a short, but effective seminar that wouldn't take more than a class or two, where students will be taught about ID. Of course, the material will not be from the Discovery Institute or a church. It will be only what the plain simple facts about ID are. It will teach that most of the literature from ID proponents is rife with inaccuracies and outright lies (which can easily be demonstrated objectively very easily) and that Michael Behe, the originator of the term "Intelligent Design" defines science in a way that allows Astrology to be considered a science. The material will contain just facts about ID, and make it clear to the student (hopefully with dramatic and practical demonstrations and diagrams) that ID should not be taken seriously as a science. We have this material be in the early introductory biology classes.

Thirdly, we incorporate more logic and reason into the Public School curriculum -- not just classes in formal logic, but logic and reasoning that is simply part of the way things get taught, so that students pick it up, and get used to using it in all aspects of their studies. The idea is to offer an education that actually improves thinking by promoting good logic.

ID will get talked about in public school, and science teachers will not have to fight it, because they would be teaching only what current standard modern science says. Of course, the ID people will eventually see the trick, and complain about it, but who can be taken seriously when they try to argue that science classes shoudl not be teaching what is currently accepted standard science by the world's science academies? It wouldn't sound very good.

This sort of stealth tactic is how ID proponents thought they'd get ID in the class, and this is a sort of a reversal of it.

People have already said that my idea just legitimizes ID by giving it a mention in the first place. I agree only partially. ID is a legitimate topic that is a very hot issue, but it certainly is not science, and does not deserve to be given equal time. My tactic would make ID proponents think that they're getting inclusion, but on Science's terms. It could actually be fun to watch them protest after they've realized they've been had!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Response to Ray Comfort's "Lincoln Was Right"

Ray Comfort wrote:
"Even more disheartening for evolutionists is the fact that for over 50 years evolution has been espoused from all quarters in this nation, and yet the amount of people believing it since that time has only increased by a measly one percent."

Firsty of all, I'd liek to know precisely which poll you are looking at. I looked up several polls, including the ever reliable Gallup, and the most of them have very variable results. Some of them have questions that are loaded (especially ones conducted by Religious groups).

According to Gallup, (www . gallup . com), it depends on the questions asked! Type in "Evolution" into their search engine on their website, and you will see several polls with different questions. The first one I found was "what do Americans know about Creationism and Evolution. According to the poll's questions, most Americans aren't very familiar with either subject enough to comprehend. 20% believed that evolution was "definitely true", while 35% believed it was "probably true". The numbers for Creationism were 29% and 29%, so the two are almost even.

They compiled questions week to week, and the results were different every week with different people.

This is quite different from your informal poll, where you and Kirk Cameron concluded that evolution must be false, because a bunch of random people that you filmed at an airport said "I don't know". Yours was hardly a scientific poll. IN fact, if you asked people about Gravity, or what chemicals make up DNA, they'd say "I don't know" -- because most average people do not get into biology enough to give an education opinion or summation of those things.

I'd never trust the opinions of accountants, auto mechanics, bus drivers, finance experts, or salespersons on matters of science, simply because their professions do not give them exposure. You really need to speak to actual experts who work in the field.

Ray Comfort wrote:
"Why has this happened? The answer is simple. It takes no faith to believe in God’s existence. This is because evidence is everywhere. Even a child knows that if there’s a creation, there must be a Creator."

It takes no faith to believe in God? Wait a second, I thought that Christianity was all about having faith in God? You're engaging in a kind of double-talk here, Ray. I think you need to explain how you can talk about how we all need to have faith In God and the Bible one minute, then proclaim that it takes no faith at all to believe in God. It's pretty much a contradiction.

Ray Comfort wrote:
"But because there is no empirical species-to-species evidence for evolution, it takes a huge leap of faith to believe in the theory."

It only takes a huge leap of faith for all of those people who are "Bored to tears" when reading the technical details of actual science, or hearing biologists explain how they inferred facts from experiments. If you're NOT bored to tears with actual science, then you will need no faith to examine specimens or read a report in a peer-reviewed science journal (something I am willing to bet you have never done in your life) -- you will understand the technical details, and you will be fascinated, and interested to keep on reading. See -- When I hear you say how bored to tears you are with science, I keep saying to myself "Then why does he bother trying to make his readers think that he knows anything about science?" I'm not about to try telling people why one automobile is a better one than another, because I'm not an expert on Cars, their engines, or what makes one better from another. I'm honest to admit that I'm no expert, and that my opinion on cars means nothing.

Why is it so hard for you do just admit that you're not an expert on science, and just leave it at that? What is this problem that you have proclaiming to know something abour science, then saying how much science bores you (actually, I dont' think it bores you as much as it goes above your understanding level). Why do you keep trying to behave as though you actually know somthing about science, when you obviously don't? It's one of the reasons that so many people consider you perhaps a bit dishonest.

Ray Comfort continues:
"For a time it seemed that the masses were being persuaded by evolution, but recent media attention to the issue has made them give the issue some serious thought. The "folks" are not that easily deceived. "

Ray, I think it's more accurate to say that most people are simply not knowledgable enough in science to know any better. The Gallup polls that I read clearly show that most Americans simply don't know a lot about science. To people who believe in the "great conspiracy theory", that proclaims that "atheists since Darwin have been undermining science and pushing evolution to the exclusion of all other views" is to be totally ignorant of the scientific method, the process of discovery and experimentation, and how all data is peer-reviewed and re-tested by independant people.

All it would take is a single "Creationist" scientist to conduct an experiment and publish his results in a peer-reviewed science journal to prove that creationists are actual scientists. They have never really done this. All tehy have done is complain to churches and media outlets about allegations that never pan out.

The Discovery institute just made a documentary with Ben Stein where it is claimed that "scientists have been fired from their posts for believeing in creationism". I have personally studied every single case that has been in the news about so-called scientists who got "fired for believing in Evolution", and every single case was exaggerated by the Discovery Institute beyond credibility.

They claimed that a researcher was "fired" from the Smithsonian Institute. The reality was that the guy was never actually an employee there to begin with -- he was a post-grad student who was doing his post-doctoral research there, and he's still there -- he lost nothing.

They claimed that Dr. Gonzales at U.C. Berkeley was "fired from jis job as a science professor" for being a creationist. Well guess what? He's still working there, and was never fired -- he got denied tenure, among hundreds of potential candidates, many of whom were even more qualified than him (he simply had not been there long enough, or done enough work to be given tenure, but he still is employed there).

Why do you think that Creationists like the Discovery Institute need to lie and exaggerate so much to prove their point? What's more, it only takes a tiny amount of fact-checking to discover their lies. You obviously never spend the 5 minutes it takes to check your facts on these matters. Why is that? Could it be that you're so confident that you're always right, that you don't think you need to check facts on these things -- because facts bore you to tears?

I'm curious to know.