Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Ah well. It appears that, despite a brave showing by Frikle, the votes are in, and no one can quite write like allexus8 except allexus8. Who, by the way, seems to have been mum since that old pedo Tony or Bernie or whatever his name is had the book thrown at him, and is on his way to live out the rest of his natural life as a tenant of the federal government. Too bad, Frikle, because you know, I had worked out a truly amazing prize for the winner, and...well... Hey, at least all the entrants gave us a hearty laugh at the end of a long day, right, gang?
Now let's enjoy our latest crazy email, just arrived today. Poe or Noe? We report, you decide.
I have been watching your tv show for quite a bit now, and i believe you have the right to express your belief how ever you want, so do i! i wish i could talk to you online but i can't for some reasons. My question is, why you always make negative comments about Jesus Christ and not other Gods. there is only 2 ways, DARKNESS OR LIGhT,and the light is Jesus and the darkness is seton. Sometimes you seem to belief there is God and sometimes you don't, i believe deep down in your heart you know God exists which is Jesus Christ who died for you on the cross for all your sins, and you know the Bible is true, but you can't stand it. the bible says on 2 Timothy, ch4:2 preach the word be instant in season, out of reprove, exhrot with all longsuffering and doctrine. for the time will come when they will not endore sound Doctrine;but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn their ears from the truth, and they shall turned upto fables." there are many verses in the Bible that i can quote for you but i bet you know them very well, maybe more than anybody else. to be honest with you i'm not a preacher or anything like that I'm a born again chrisian, who believes in God(Jesus Christ)that Jesus died for my sins and raised up from the dead on the third day. because with my God there is no complication, Jesus said on john 8:12 "I'm the light of the world:he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" seton is complication who decieves many in false doctrines and lies, and lead many in darkness so they can't see the where they're goin or what they're doin, who want that?!? I don't!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wish I could make this stuff up, people. Anyway, Matt replied glibly that he'd never heard of "seton," which prompted this deft comeback:
when i say seton, i meant the fallen angel, demon, and the one who work in darkness. lets be mature.
Oh yes. Let's. Uh, "lets."
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I'm opening it up to comments because I know you're all dying to discuss their respective performances. I will probably contribute my own impressions later. I do have some, but I don't want this post to be simply "Russell's opinion of the debate."
Friday, July 24, 2009
And...it's convictions on all ten counts for pedophile cult leader Tony Alamo! Naturally, his response is the typical self-aggrandizement of the pathologically narcissistic. "I'm just another one of the prophets who went to jail for the Gospel." Some "prophet"; he couldn't even prophesy his own fate. No, Tony or Bernie, I mean you're just another one of the perverts who went to jail for porking little kids.
So, to complete our celebration of Alamo's downfall, I guess it's time now to pick our winners in the "Can you write like allexus8?" contest. So...below are the links to the entries, and in the sidebar is the poll to vote, which will only be open 5 days. (There is such a thing as flogging a joke to death.) Have fun, and maybe, in five days, I'll have thought of a prize. Unless allexus8 wins. You've already got your prize, haven't you?
The entrants are... (feel free to imagine a drum roll here, if you want to play this out to full cheese effect)
Something distresses me about this photo of Alamo. I'm sure the resemblance to our very own beloved John Iacoletti is totally coincidental.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
PZ Myers has weighed in and this is one of the rare times when I find myself in disagreement with him.
According to AAI (emphasis mine):
The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.
I stopped by the AAI convention page and used their contact form to send the following:
Setting aside his anti-science views on health and vaccination, I fail to see how Maher qualifies for the RDA. He's repeatedly stated that he's not an atheist, implicitly or explicitly asserting that atheism is as dogmatic and irrational as the organized religions he rejects - while stating clearly that he believes in a god, but not religion. His movie, while funny and popular, did not treat the subject fairly and did not promote atheism, rational thought or science, it was an amusing bit of 'let's poke fun at religious people'. While I enjoyed it, recommended it and would like to see more of it (and even see the film awarded), Maher does not deserve the RDA and it is an embarrassment for a major atheist organization to honor him with this award. It cheapens the award, sullies the AAI reputation and is a slight to every outspoken atheist who continually strives to promote reason and nontheism.
If the AAI had a number of different awards, I'd have no objection to Bill Maher receiving one for 'Best Movie' (mostly because there really wasn't any competition), but to give out a prestigious award to an anti-science, anti-atheism, anti-vaccination wack-a-loon simply because he is also anti-religion is an embarrassment. This award puts Bill Maher in the same category as Richard Dawkins, James Randi or Ayaan Hirsi Ali…and AAI doesn't see a problem with this?
What sort of message does Bill Maher send to the world about the "nontheist life stance"? He may well send the message that we're unscholarly, unscientific buffoons who make fun of religious people in order to make fun of religion, with no substantive points. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie and I enjoy ridiculing ideas that are deserving...but neither Maher's movie, Religulous, nor his other media efforts have promoted science or advocated any sort of nontheist philosophy.
PZ is right, there is no atheist pope or dogmatic position and my opinion is my own. I like Bill Maher, despite disagreeing on a number of positions. I enjoy his shows, his stand-up and Religulous...but when it comes time to give out an award that amounts to 'atheist of the year', he wouldn't make the list.
This isn't just about disagreeing with him. I disagree with many of the recipients on many issues. Consider the following:
""I'm not an atheist. There's a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn't believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need. But I'm not an atheist, no." I believe there's some force. If you want to call it God... I don't believe God is a single parent who writes books. I think that the people who think God wrote a book called The Bible are just childish. Religion is so childish. What they're fighting about in the Middle East, it's so childish. These myths, these silly little stories that they believe in fundamentally, that they take over this little space in Jerusalem where one guy flew up to heaven--no, no, this guy performed a sacrifice here a thousand million years ago. It's like, "Who cares? What does that have to do with spirituality, where you're really trying to get, as a human being and as a soul moving in the universe?" But I do believe in a God, yes." - Bill Maher, 2002
(For those who think his position has changed, feel free to watch Bill's September, 2008 interview on the Daily Show. While promoting Religulous, he stated that he is not an atheist because he sees it as the mirror image of theism - a dogmatic certainty.)
I fail to see how this, in any way, "mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins."
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
In celebration of the impending conviction of cult leader Tony Alamo on child-sex charges, I thought we'd host a little contest. I have no idea what the winner will get yet. Maybe I'll think of something eventually, and I'm open to suggestions. "Your own child bride" is not an option, no.
I'm inspired by the remarkable writings of one of Tony Alamo's followers, allexus8, who has turned up in the comments of the previous Alamo post to harangue us all in a manner that can only be compared to avant-garde, stream of consciousness (or semi-consciousness) free verse. Truly, it's got to be read to be believed. Check the following exerpt, and see if you don't agree that a unique and very special poetic voice is in our midst. Behold:
THE SECOND DEATH YOU LYING DOGS PIGS YOU CAN OINK OINK OINK ALL DAY ABOUT SOMETHING YOU DO NOT KNOW ABOUT, OH YES TONY IS GOING UP TO THE BEAUTIFUL PLACE GOD GOT FOR THOSE THAT LOVE HIM. IN THE GOLDEN CITY WHERE GOD IS THE LIGHT.ALL THE LIES YOU TELLING ON TONY ALAMO IS ALL LIES TO SET HIM UP BECAUSE HE EXPOSE YOUR STINK ALL LYING MONSTROUS CULT YOU GONE STAY ATHEIST DEVIL YOU ALL ARE CHILD
Is that great, or is that, as Tony the Tiger might say, grrrrreat? Seriously, it's like oh, I dunno e.e. cummings and Bukowski had a child or something, except they made damn sure it was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. I bet allexus8 simply kills at open-mic slams.
My challenge to you, dear AXP readers, is to see if you can match allexus8's literary gifts! Can you convey such emotion, such pathos, such an electrifying summation of the ennui of existence and the precarious, existential angst inherent in the human condition? Can you even come close to sounding so totally Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? I know you're a gifted bunch out there. Bring it! We'll all work out whose entry we like the best later on.
(Yes, allexus8 can enter, too.)
For the record, if allexus8 is a Poe, he/she/it is the best one I've encountered so far. And if allexus8 is a genuine wackaloon, he/she/it is the best one I've encountered so far.
Monday, July 20, 2009
In the wake of recent, more interesting news, the child-sex trial of cult leader Tony Alamo — whose followers used to circulate his full-color newsletters under windshield wipers all around Austin and elsewhere — has been playing out largely under the radar. What stuns me about all of this is not just the ghastly spectacle of a senior citizen "marrying" little girls as young as eight or ten. It's the way in which Alamo — or, shit, any authority figure at all — can exert such a powerful and hypnotic hold over his followers that the very parents of these little girls themselves became active participants in the violation of their children.
This is the authoritarianism of religion taken to its sickest inevitable extreme, and it illustrates the profound danger of accepting absolute authority as a concept in the first place. And I see this whole trial as a perfect chance to engage mainstream Christians, who, I suspect, would not hesitate to condemn Alamo's actions in the strongest possible terms. Yes, what Alamo did to these girls is unspeakably appalling, no less so than that he justified it by claiming it's what God wanted. But look at scripture, and you'll see episodes of child abuse either directly prompted by divine command (Abe and Isaac) or carried out with tacit divine approval, such as the scene in Genesis 19 in which Lot offers his two virgin daughters to a lust-crazed mob (who, being gay, say no thanks).
Lot's daughters don't seem to have been all that offended at being offered as sexmeat by their father, since, later in the same chapter, they get him drunk and fuck him. Those biblical family values, I tell ya! Anyway, the point is: Is what Alamo did to children in the name of God any more reprehensible than what God either orders or tolerates seeing done to kids in the Bible, and the way their parents are so agreeable to it?
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Recent comments in my previous post about Ray Comfort, the World's Stupidest Christian™, keep explaining that's he's sufficiently funny in his stupidity that, well, taking him down is great sport. And then I'm pointed to his post today, in which he makes what I suspect he considers a brilliant "Gotcha!" point, the burden of which is that if atheists really don't believe in God, then we have no business criticizing all the killing that occupies God's time throughout so much of the Bible. After all, if we don't believe God exists, then we also don't believe he did any of that killing, so why get our panties in a twist about killings that never really occurred, eh?
See, gang, this is why Ray is the World's Stupidest Christian™. He's too limited between the ears to comprehend even the elementary distinction between believing or not believing in the existence of something, yet still condemning ideas on moral grounds, especially when those ideas are held to be true by roughly one-third of the Earth's population. Christians plug their religion, among other ways, on the selling point that God is supposedly this being of transcendent love. John 3:16 and all that. Therefore, it is entirely justified for atheist critics of Christianity to point out instances of divine atrocities in the Bible (let alone the whole "and if you don't love me back yer goin ta hell" thing), and note how these actions are not exactly consistent with statements you often hear from Christians like "God is love." You'd think a 9-year-old could get that distinction, and you'd be right. Ray isn't even that intelligent. Many atheists in Ray's comments have already given the example of fiction: you can watch a movie and read a book, and understand that it's all made up, and still hiss the villain.
So I repeat: we just should ignore this mentally constipated lackwit. I mean, come on, gang, how much more obvious does it need to be that he's descended to sub-troll levels, and his whole shtick at this point is his getting the attention (which equates, in all three of his brain cells, to validation) of atheists. Hell, it's why he renamed his blog "Atheist Central" from "Ray Comfort Food." Have we all forgotten the meaning of the word flamebait?
Seriously, he's useless, people. Find a better hobby.
Parts 1 , 2, 3.
Why do you think your god just existed without anything happening that caused the god?
Because it makes sense to say that god led to the creation of something then to say things JUST HAPPENED by itself. The same way you guys are saying that the burden is on me to prove the existence of god, the burden is also on you guys to prove that whatever is out there actually led to the creation of the universe and you guys still havent found out.Why don't you give me a good reason why I SHOULD go around killing strangers?
The fact that you kill all sorts of animals etc via pollution what makes it different then your own species? They are all bunch of interacting atoms so why does it make it right to kill insects birds fish or even dangerous lethal species but not your own species? Im sure if you ever see a bee hive on top of your doorway the first thing you would do is kill it you wouldnt think about "HEY ITS NOT BENEFITING ME IN THE FIRST PLACE SO WHY NOT JUST LEAVE IT THERE"Many apologies, but I don't believe you. If you make up a story using conversational Arabic, you can even write it in English. All you need is a translator who understands both English and conversational Arabic. It sounds like you're asking me to believe that Muhammad didn't know any people who could translate between conversational and written Arabic. You want me to accept your claim that Muhammad had no believable earthly means for committing his thoughts to paper, but as an alternative you want me to believe that it was accomplished by magic.
I see where it is going. You can't find a valid response so you have to say "I DONT BELIEVE YOU" Well its the truth and thats how arabic works. You can translate conversational to english and write it down sure. YOu can also translate written arabic to english even though its going to sometimes distort the meaning but if you were to translate conversational arabic to written arabic it would also disort meaning and looking at the perfection of the quran in its meaning etc there is no way it was translated it like that.Another thing that doesn't seem to add up about your story: If Muhammad was illiterate, how was he able to know what it was that he wrote?
I think you're a bit confused. Muhammad did not write the story. Allah reveals it to Muhammad, Muhammad memorizes the revelations. Muhammad recites it to a group of people the group of people write it on a book. The fact that the writting of the quran into a book happened shortly after the Prophet's death makes it impossible for any deviation.Oh, I see how it works now. All I have to do is make some kind of claim, and then it becomes "history," and then it is undeniably true. There is no need to verify anything at all.
Well, in that case, I've got a claim for you. I am illiterate. I have no means of writing this email to you right now. But I'll tell you how I do it: I have magical supernatural powers, thanks to the angel that I am channeling right now. And you know what the angel just told me? He says Muhammad -- both of you -- are full of shit.
No but the claim needs to be logical and based on true observation. I obviously know you are literate because I've read your background and you've read on TV so thats a fail on your part. Muhammad was a loner back the and it was confirmed via counts in poems etc. There couldnt have been another person comming up with a story and then reciting it to Muhammad. THink of the logic here. If there was a person who came up with a story and gave it to Muhammad, why would he come up with something that would disprove his religion? It just doesnt make sense. People back then did not believe in god and now all of a sudden youre telling me that there could have been a person who did not believe in god help someone deny his religin?
Have at it. I'll let Muhammad know you're discussing his masterful arguments.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This was part 1 and part 2.
Muhammad's first reply:
What additional information do you get from calling it "God?" Even assuming that "dimensions interacting with each other" made sense as something other than a bunch of words strung together, why wouldn't you just keep calling them dimensions? Do the units of measurement become conscious when you apply this label? I don't get it.
Because if it were JUST dimensions and nothing else, what made it shit out the universe?You cant say it just happened because for all I care it could have just sat there and just existed without anything happening but the fact is something did happen and it was the fact that it shat out the universe. IT cannot do something by itself without another thing acting upon it.What im trying to say is sciences says that energy just existed and has always existed. If that was true all it could have done is just exist without anything happening but some how some way it didnt just exist without anything happening it led to universe what caused it to lead to the universe?You're making a bunch of statements that are not supported by any observation. We don't know whether it's in some way more likely for energy to "sit on its ass" than "shit," because we have nothing outside of this universe to compare it to. Science doesn't currently have any definite position on whether there is some kind of metaverse, containing more energy which either sits or shits. We don't have any statistical data. For all you know, free floating energy has no alternative but to shit universes. Or whatever you're trying to say.There are two uninhabited patches of land. On one of them, it rains. On the other, it does not rain. Does this require somebody to "intelligently" choose to make it rain in one place and not another? Must everything be uniform, all the time, unless there is divine intervention picking between two places? If so, what is your justification for this claim?You can't measure god and say he exists or not using natural physical laws. God is super natural therefore no physical laws or nature or quantum mechanics apply to him. This is where the quran revelation comes in handy and explains the only proof of his existence.
It rains as a result of evaporation and this evaporation happens because there is water and water is there because of the interaction of atoms and the atoms came from energy and energy like I said is from god. Without god you wouldnt be arguing about these two uninhabited patches of land. What Im trying to say is there is something behind everything that is happening. And if that first happening was something by itself without existence then nothing would have happened.So are you saying you're not going to kill random people because of the fact that you would be jailed? So if there was enforcement order you would kill people at will?Why would I want to do that exactly? Austin has an excellent police force which solves murder cases with a fairly high rate of success. It may not be a guarantee that I would be caught, but I think it's pretty likely that I would wind up sent to jail or executed myself. And even if I did wind up getting away with it, many of my friends would probably have awkward questions for me, probably even fear me. As a result, I would certainly lose contact with many people whose love and friendship I value highly.So instead I'd like to ask: what is your god's purpose for existing? Why does the god do the things that it does? What drives it? Why does it do whatever you think it is doing?
He exists because he created everything therefore he must exist. He has a reward of heaven and hell in which the believers will go heaven and the non believers will go to hell. He deserves every respect and worship to him because without him you wouldnt exist so the least we can do is respect him and bare witness his existence.
That makes very little sense to me (are you saying that you can't make up a story and then dictate it?) but okay, we'll move on.
If you make up a story using the arabic language in which you would use when engaging in a conversation then no you cant write it down. But if you make up a story using the language in which can be written then yes you can write it down. For you to be able to that though you must learn how to read arabic first.Imagine yourself in my shoes for a minute. You are merely a poor benighted atheist, without any belief in God or supernatural magical powers whatsoever. I come to you and say "Look here, I know for a certainty that there is a magical being who lives in the sky and listens to every one of the seven billion people on this planet, every minute of every day. And the reason why I know this is that 1,500 years ago, an illiterate man wrote a book about him."
So you're saying that you would much rather believe it if you were actually alive during that moment? Too bad thats when it happened and it is history that doesnt mean you can deny it. Do you think 3000 years from now people are going to deny all the science discovered now just because its too old?1. This being you've described really exists, despite a complete absence of other corroborating evidence.
2. I am somehow mistaken, and the author of this book either wasn't illiterate or somehow found SOMEBODY who was willing to listen to this story and write it down.
Again you cannot come up with a story that is in readable form unless you know how to read arabic. Thats just the way it is. So the prophet could not have made up that story unless he knew how to read which he didnt. There are many arabic poems in the past the confirm Prophet Muhammad's illiteracy.Before you answer, stop and ask yourself if your answer would be the same if the book was not the Koran but say, the book of Mormon, or a book about Scientology or something.
Bible book and others have been proven to be edited through out the year.The old and new testament is from god himself but they have been changed and edited through out the years the Koran was never changed....
And now, my reply to both. Sorry, but editing is becoming a pain so I'm not going to even try snipping for clarity this time.
Because if it were JUST dimensions and nothing else, what made it shit out the universe?You cant say it just happened because for all I care it could have just sat there and just existed without anything happening but the fact is something did happen and it was the fact that it shat out the universe. IT cannot do something by itself without another thing acting upon it.
This rule that you've made up seemingly doesn't get applied to your god. After all, you believe that the god just sat on its ass before shitting out the universe. All you've done is answer a question you don't understand, by making up additional stuff which you still don't understand. Again I'm asking what reason you have for believing this addition god-thing exists.What im trying to say is sciences says that energy just existed and has always existed. If that was true all it could have done is just exist without anything happening but some how some way it didnt just exist without anything happening it led to universe what caused it to lead to the universe?Why do you think your god just existed without anything happening that caused the god?It rains as a result of evaporation and this evaporation happens because there is water and water is there because of the interaction of atoms and the atoms came from energy and energy like I said is from god. Without god you wouldnt be arguing about these two uninhabited patches of land. What Im trying to say is there is something behind everything that is happening. And if that first happening was something by itself without existence then nothing would have happened.
And around we go in a circular argument. You want me to accept your assertion that god exists, and your argument for this is that "Things don't just happen without intelligence." Then when I suggest an example of something that doesn't have an intelligent cause behind it, and you say "God did that." But God is the thing that you are trying to prove to me, so all you are doing is repeating your assertion, not making an argument. When are you going to justify the belief that your god exists?Incarceration is one of many reasons. Maintaining relationships with other people is another. Yet another is that I have no motivation to kill strangers; it wouldn't get me anything useful. And if there were no formal law enforcement, that stranger quite likely would still have friends and relatives who would wish vengeance.So are you saying you're not going to kill random people because of the fact that you would be jailed? So if there was enforcement order you would kill people at will?
You asked me why I don't kill strangers, and I gave you several reasons why I would not do it. You focused on one reason and then asked if that was the only one. I get the feeling that you're not really looking for a serious discussion, but you just like to hear yourself talk. Why don't you give me a good reason why I SHOULD go around killing strangers?
Moving on to your second letter:Many apologies, but I don't believe you. If you make up a story using conversational Arabic, you can even write it in English. All you need is a translator who understands both English and conversational Arabic. It sounds like you're asking me to believe that Muhammad didn't know any people who could translate between conversational and written Arabic. You want me to accept your claim that Muhammad had no believable earthly means for committing his thoughts to paper, but as an alternative you want me to believe that it was accomplished by magic.If you make up a story using the arabic language in which you would use when engaging in a conversation then no you cant write it down. But if you make up a story using the language in which can be written then yes you can write it down. For you to be able to that though you must learn how to read arabic first.
Sorry, but I just don't believe you. I still find all the other alternatives much more plausible.
Another thing that doesn't seem to add up about your story: If Muhammad was illiterate, how was he able to know what it was that he wrote?Oh, I see how it works now. All I have to do is make some kind of claim, and then it becomes "history," and then it is undeniably true. There is no need to verify anything at all.So you're saying that you would much rather believe it if you were actually alive during that moment? Too bad thats when it happened and it is history that doesnt mean you can deny it. Do you think 3000 years from now people are going to deny all the science discovered now just because its too old?
Well, in that case, I've got a claim for you. I am illiterate. I have no means of writing this email to you right now. But I'll tell you how I do it: I have magical supernatural powers, thanks to the angel that I am channeling right now. And you know what the angel just told me? He says Muhammad -- both of you -- are full of shit.
I guess you'll be abandoning Islam now. I wrote it down, after all, so it's history now.
That's all for now! If I get another reply, I'll mention it in comments until there's another full round to post.
Muhammad's second message to me:
Hey thanks for reply I forgot to mention one more proof of why god exists and it has to do with Prophet Muhammad. Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously
Before I start I need to mention one thing. Arabic is not like English. You can come up with a story in english and write it down simply. The language you see in a textbook you can use in normal conversations. In arabic you cant. Meaning there is a way to talk arabic in normal conversations and there is a way to read arabic. You cant write down what you normally talk in arabic because it wouldnt make sense. In other words for something in arabic to be written, it must be in the language of readable material. If you cannot read arabic, you will not be able to make up readable material. You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.
The fact that Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write and was illiterate means he couldn't have possibly come up with the Koran (which is in readable material) It was revealed to him by God and the prophet Muhammad memorized it and which he then recited to many people. Notice how I said it was recited to many people. There couldn't have possibly been a change or edit because any deviation in writting it would be easily detected by the people who memorized it at the time. The quran was written in book form within a few years after the prophet's death. Now back to the original argument, there was no way that the prophet himself could have come up with the quran when he was illiterate. You may say, well someone who knew how to read came up with the story and told Muhammad. Saying that wouldnt make sense in 2 ways. First the people back then did not believe in a god so why would a non believer help someone come up with a story to disprove his religion? Another thing, if there was someone capable of comming up with something so great like the Quran, what would he be doing hanging out with an uneducated illiterate Prophet Muhammad? He would be in much higher rankings.
My reply (again with some repeated text truncated):
Muhammad,...Please look at this and then I will go back and make a comment on all the comments you made previously
Okay, but it feels to me suspiciously like you are trying to change the subject. If you thought that all this quasi-scientific talk about energy and universe shitting was supposed to be persuasive proof of God in the first place, then why would you break off a half-finished conversation in order to bring up a wholly unrelated point about a supposedly illiterate person in the seventh century? It's a bit of a roundabout way to make a point, don't you think? If your entire belief in God is based on the literacy status of one guy, why didn't you just say so in the first place?...You may be able to talk arabic normal in conversation but you wont be able to make up stories that can be written down UNLESS you know how to read arabic. Now that I cleard this up we move to my argument.
That makes very little sense to me (are you saying that you can't make up a story and then dictate it?) but okay, we'll move on.[Argues that Muhammad, being illiterate, could not have written the Koran without a miracle.]
It all strikes me as an incredibly flimsy foundation on which to base believe in an infinitely powerful supernatural being living outside the universe. And I bet if you give it some thought, you can understand why.
Imagine yourself in my shoes for a minute. You are merely a poor benighted atheist, without any belief in God or supernatural magical powers whatsoever. I come to you and say "Look here, I know for a certainty that there is a magical being who lives in the sky and listens to every one of the seven billion people on this planet, every minute of every day. And the reason why I know this is that 1,500 years ago, an illiterate man wrote a book about him."
Thinking outside your religion for a moment, which do you honestly find easier to believe?
1. This being you've described really exists, despite a complete absence of other corroborating evidence.
2. I am somehow mistaken, and the author of this book either wasn't illiterate or somehow found SOMEBODY who was willing to listen to this story and write it down.
Before you answer, stop and ask yourself if your answer would be the same if the book was not the Koran but say, the book of Mormon, or a book about Scientology or something.
I think you know what my answer is.
Just curious, does anyone know what he talking about regarding the supposed impossibility of writing down spoken Arabic? Because Muhammad is really trying to hammer on this point in his latest message, and it doesn't make any sense to me at all. I mean, you could presumably speak conversational Arabic to a translator who spoke English, and then you could write down an English version of what he said. Why wouldn't you be able to write an Arabic version?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Yeah, they were, weren't they? So what's become of that? Well, it would appear that, like all lawsuits, it's becoming the usual drawn-out exercise in paperwork-generating tedium. But the ICR did, amusingly, recently file a motion for summary judgment, before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board even managed to complete discovery for their defense. Basically the ICR's argument is a variant on the tried-and-true "Waah we're Christians and rules don't apply to us!" whine creationists typically rely on. You can read the motion, the burden of which is that, because the ICR doesn't take state money, the THECB has no jurisdiction over them. The THECB responds by saying, well, yes we do. Ah, it's never a dull moment dealing with entitled creationists who feel they can "educate" without any oversight.
Wait, what am I saying? It's nothing but dull moments! Criminy.
From the ICR motion:
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board ("THECB"), to the extent that it claims any jurisdictional or regulatory authority over ICRGS's academic liberties under the Texas Education Code (e.g., under its Chapter 61 or otherwise), does so improperly, because ICRGS is statutorily exempt from the Texas Education Code's application, as the fairly simple text of said §1.001(a) clearly shows.
From the THECB's response:
Plaintiff's contention purposefully and improperly ignores the remainder of the Texas Education Code.... Chapter 61 of the Texas Education Code the Higher Education Coordinating Act of 1965 includes a subchapter which expressly authorizes the Higher Education Coordinating Board to regulate private postsecondary educational institutions.
Wow. Quote-mining the law now? How very creationist of them.
The mundane truth, however, is that we don't often talk about Islam simply because we rarely get feedback from Muslims.
With a few exceptions. Naturally, in the interest of being equal opportunity offenders (sorry -- moral equivalence fallacy anyone?) I must showcase this letter... which, in fairness, makes about the same bad fallacies as any Christian apologist.
Subject: I want a feedback on these possible suggestions that creationism exists.
Hello my name is Muhammad *****-*****
I would like a feedback on these suggestions.
1. Energy exists as a result of different dimensions interacting with each other and among those dimensions is time itself. These dimensions interacting with each other = God. Without these dimensions interacting with each other, energy never would have existed. Now I know in your mind you are asking how do you know that these dimensions = God. Well its the fact that things must come out of things. The only way for something to happen if there is another thing acting on it to make it happen. The fact that energy always existed and never was created or destroyed is confusing because this so called energy that always existed could have just sat its ass up there without cause (being sarcastic) the fact that it didnt just sit its ass out there and that it eventually shat out the universe means there was a particular point in its existence some specific point in its existence that shat out the universe. The fact that it shat out the universe in point A and not in point B means there was some sort of intelligence involved. The only possibility is god therefore by deduction god exists. You cant give me another explanation to explain why point A is where it shat out the universe and not point B without including something intelligent. You cant say well it randomly occured at point A because the fact that it was random means means I would have to go back to my original statement that it could have just sat its ass out there and nothing happened but it didnt, something happened, meaning there has to be something that caused it to happen.
You can say the same and tell me well how did god exist in the first place who created god. No matter how many blocks you build you will still have blocks. No matter how many times you say supernatural created supernatural created supernatural created supernatural, THERE IS A SUPER NATURAL involved
2- My second statement has to do with cause. Its not really an explanation but its something you should look at. Why dont you go ahead and kill a random person on the street. What causes you to say no thats just wrong? I mean if you look at it youre just made up of a bunch of interacting atoms just as a carboard box is made of a bunch of interacting atoms. You can break the cardboard box without even thinking but cant do the same for a human being. What makes you think you can kill cows freely when cows are just as interactive of atoms as you are. Is it because they are below you in the food chain? You can canabalize humans cant you. What is your ultimate cause? Why are you doing what you are doing today?
Here's my reply. For brevity, I will truncate some of the quoted passages that I already posted, which you will see marked with leading ellipses.
Hi Muhammad,1. Energy exists as a result of different dimensions interacting with each other and among those dimensions is time itself.
Speaking as someone who has been through numerous physics classes, this appears to be pure gibberish which superficially sounds like science. Dimensions don't "interact with each other." They are units of measurement.These dimensions interacting with each other = God.
What additional information do you get from calling it "God?" Even assuming that "dimensions interacting with each other" made sense as something other than a bunch of words strung together, why wouldn't you just keep calling them dimensions? Do the units of measurement become conscious when you apply this label? I don't get it....that it eventually shat out the universe means there was a particular point in its existence some specific point in its existence that shat out the universe.
You're making a bunch of statements that are not supported by any observation. We don't know whether it's in some way more likely for energy to "sit on its ass" than "shit," because we have nothing outside of this universe to compare it to. Science doesn't currently have any definite position on whether there is some kind of metaverse, containing more energy which either sits or shits. We don't have any statistical data. For all you know, free floating energy has no alternative but to shit universes. Or whatever you're trying to say.The fact that it shat out the universe in point A and not in point B means there was some sort of intelligence involved.
1. To what are you referring when you say "point B"?
2. Where the heck did intelligence enter the conversation? As far as we've observed, intelligence only comes as the end product of a universe which exists, generates life, evolves brains, and executes consciousness as a behavior of those brains. Until you demonstrate that there is some kind of stuff that behaves like a brain outside of the universe, you're just making stuff up....I would have to go back to my original statement that it could have just sat its ass out there and nothing happened but it didnt, something happened, meaning there has to be something that caused it to happen.
There are two uninhabited patches of land. On one of them, it rains. On the other, it does not rain. Does this require somebody to "intelligently" choose to make it rain in one place and not another? Must everything be uniform, all the time, unless there is divine intervention picking between two places? If so, what is your justification for this claim?...THERE IS A SUPER NATURAL involved
I think you skipped a step that explained what "A SUPER NATURAL" is and how you know it exists.2- My second statement has to do with cause. Its not really an explanation but its something you should look at. Why dont you go ahead and kill a random person on the street.
Why would I want to do that exactly? Austin has an excellent police force which solves murder cases with a fairly high rate of success. It may not be a guarantee that I would be caught, but I think it's pretty likely that I would wind up sent to jail or executed myself. And even if I did wind up getting away with it, many of my friends would probably have awkward questions for me, probably even fear me. As a result, I would certainly lose contact with many people whose love and friendship I value highly.
I don't know what reality you think you're living in, but here in this world, usually actions have consequences. When I look at all the consequences of killing random people on the street, I can't see how the benefits even come close to outweighing the drawbacks....What is your ultimate cause? Why are you doing what you are doing today?
I enjoy living free, I enjoy friendship, and I find it fulfilling to be able to support myself and get things that I want. None of those goals are furthered by killing strangers. So I'm going to have to ask you to explain what kind of stupidity would cause me to entertain such an action.
Let me turn around and ask you the same question. I would ask you what your ultimate cause is, but I'm presuming the answer will be something like "to serve my god."
So instead I'd like to ask: what is your god's purpose for existing? Why does the god do the things that it does? What drives it? Why does it do whatever you think it is doing?
There has been one followup exchange, which I will post later if there's enough interest. Needless to say, though, "Muhammad" did not respond to anything in my reply, but instead went on to talk about how miraculous it was that his namesake was capable of writing a book.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Todd brought up data claimed by Ken Ham, who says that regular participants in Sunday School are more likely to leave the church and disbelieve the Bible.
On the show, Todd tied this in with VeggieTales. He made the case that:
- Sunday school tries to present sanitized Bible stories for kids, so they learn them as cutesy fairy tales rather than stories of an angry and vengeful God, by whom we need to be saved from sin.
- The cartoon offers cute little morality plays, also presenting of tidied up versions of Old Testament stories but never really inserting a Veggie Jesus into the action. Instead of salvation through grace, they emphasize things like responsible behavior and doing the right things for good reasons, rather than because the Bible said so.
Anyway, here's the thesis Todd eventually got around to presenting. Kids are leaving the church in droves because they learn the Bible in a similar context to fairy tales and other childish stories. When they outgrow the fairy tales, they outgrow the Bible as well. To remedy this, kids deserve to learn the unvarnished truth. We need to see less secularization of churches in order to please their congregants, and we need to get back to teaching hard truths about how everybody deserves hell, and are only saved through grace. When we don't deliver that, we drive our kids from Christianity.
As you might expect, I have a slightly different take.
First of all, sanitized presentations of the Bible aimed at kids, along with megachurches loaded with secular entertainment -- rock music and live skit performances and "cool" young pastors -- exist because people have already been drifting away from being seriously devoted to fairy tales for a long time now. They are trying to grab onto and hold people in any way that they can.
I don't think the cuteness of VeggieTales is the problem. I think it's an attempted solution to the underlying problem, which is that the Bible stories are childish and shouldn't make all that much sense to grownups.
It seems to me that in generations past, people went for religious explanations because they were the best game in town. Observe how theists love to tout intellectual luminaries such as Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson as "creationists." Easy for them to say, since both men lived well before Darwin made a naturalistic proposal to explain the origin of human life. In their time, there was simply no alternative to the default position of a designer.
It's a lot harder to maintain this belief now, simply because a lot of scientific progress has been made in general, and most kids learn the basics of science in school. This is one really obvious reason why fundamentalists in general are so down on public schooling and opt for homeschooling at much higher rates than the general public. And it's absolutely true that when kids go to college, they are much more likely to reject religion.
I think that Todd may be right that kids who watch VeggieTales eventually rethink their faith when they realize to what extent the show is a silly cartoon just like SpongeBob, with little basis in reality. It's less clear to me that the problem would be mitigated if there were no VeggieTales. I would say that making the Bible palatable for children is simply a band-aid on an ongoing problem, that as we live in a more rational world, it will become increasingly difficult for fundamentalism to compete successfully for space among people's memes.
As for Sunday School, I think this may be yet another case of confusing correlation with causation. My guess would be that going to Sunday School and rejecting religion probably share a root cause. It may well be the case that parents who encourage kids to read and learn about the Bible more (as opposed to just listening to what they're told about it) are probably interested in educated kids in general, and education leads kids to drop their faith.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Adam Savage spent a little time telling us some rather compelling stories about his early personal failures. We watched a great panel, hosted by DJ Grothe, featuring Penn, Teller, Ray Hyman and Jamy Ian Swiss. They discussed some ethical issues involved in the conjuring arts and the impact of psychic entertainers.
After lunch, there was a talk about the late Jerry Andrus, along with a few segments from a documentary about his life, followed by a panel on skepticism and broadcasting, featuring Penn & Teller, Adam Savage, Jennifer Oullete and Bill Prady.
Phil Plait spoke about the 2012 doomsday predictions.
They discussed the more than $8000 raised to provide vaccinations to children in southern Nevada.
And now...they're doing the live auction.
I'm still feeling a little under the weather so I'm going to grab a nap after the auction, so I can party tonight.
I'm sitting in the ballroom, listening to Michael Shermer make a case for Libertarianism. He's not done and I'm certainly not going to get into it now, but it'll likely be part of the on-air review.
I developed a bit of a sore throat last night, so I took some meds and went back to the hotel room. We had an early morning and I didn't want to be sick. As it turns out, I'm definitely a little bit sick but I'm not going to let it stop me from any of my planned fun.
This morning, during the live 'Skeptics Guide to the Universe' - Rebecca Watson married Sid Rodrigues in a planned, spontaneous wedding that was a secret to all but a handful of people. During the SGU Q&A session, Sid got the microphone and offered a quick proposal, Rebecca said she'd need a wedding party (and a group of appropriately dressed people walked up on stage), her family (who also came up on stage), music (George Hrab came out and sang for the cake cutting and first dance), etc. Adam Savage presented the rings and much fun was had by all.
I have a nice "Wedding Invitation" which reads; "The honor of your presence has been forced against your will at the marriage of Rebecca Watson to Sid Rodrigues... Saturday, the eleventh of July, two thousand and nine at half past eightish in the morning."
More later, but we're trying to plan a group picture of AE/NPR fans Sunday afternoon at 3:30 (after the Million Dollar Challenge).
Friday, July 10, 2009
That said, here's a quick recap of the day...so far:
When I last signed off, Hal Bidlack was giving the opening address. I've got a great deal of respect for Hal, but what I'd really like to do is have a lengthy discussion with him about skepticism and religion. Hal took a moment to strongly make a point (which he evidently made at the last TAM, as well) that every skeptic is welcome here and that while Randi is an atheist, Hal isn't and that we need to be respectful when dealing with the issue of religion.
He didn't go into great detail, which is why I'd like to have a long on air discussion about this subject because, I am sincerely interested in how someone manages to advocate reason, critical thinking and skepticism, yet maintain religious beliefs. Please note: I am completely serious. This is not an attempt to promote an argument or beat up on someone...Hal is a genuinely good guy and he holds a position that, to me, clearly amounts to cognitive dissonance and I'd love to talk about why. I'd love for it to be thoughtful, respectful and informative. I'll see if this can be arranged.
Phil Plait spoke for a bit about the state of the JREF, the wonderful work done by the JREF crew in organizing the event (and they most definitely deserve gratitude and recognition, because things are running smoothly and the event has been wonderful, so far).
James Randi spoke about his recent illness and how he's doing better, very humbled and honored to see that we have more than 1000 people at the event and are expecting more as the meeting continues.
Without addressing every speaker we've seen today, in detail, I'll just say that I've had a great time. Bill Prady gave the keynote address (which gave me ideas to pitch to him for additions to his TV show, "The Big Bang Theory"). Fintan Steele, a former monk, gave a very interesting talk about "Personalized Medicine" or "Personalized Mysticism".
After lunch, Jamy Ian Swiss and James Randi took the stage for a great session of nostalgia from Randi's life. We saw footage from an early appearance on The Tonight Show, footage from a BBC program, the milk can escape and a couple of straight jacket escapes...along with some rare footage of Randi's work with Alice Cooper.
Jennifer Oullete talked about a new initiative to provide Hollywood with easy access to real scientists with the goal of improving the way science is presented to the public - a very important endeavor that I'm optimistic about as so many people get their information from popular programs.
As I write this, we're listening to the anti-anti-vax panel. I'll prompt microbiologychick to write a blog post on this talk, later.
Still to come, today: The Live Auction...Joe Nickell...and the wrap-up by Jeff Wagg.
For those people at the event, some of us are getting together for drinks at the lounge near the Silverado at around 8pm. I've been overwhelmed by the positive response from fans of the show and I'll be trying to spend as much free time as possible with anyone who wants to sit down, have a drink and chat.
If I didn't already absolutely love doing the show, you guys would have made it worth doing simply by saying "Hi, I like the show" and not just because most of you seem to want to fill me with free liquor.
I've been made a card-carrying, T-shirt wearing member of the Society of Edmonton Atheists (though this won't get me free health care)...another fan of the show brought me a book edited by Michael Martin (more on that later, I'd like to read it before I comment) and everyone has been great; posing for pictures, drinking, chatting...if Las Vegas wasn't already my second-favorite city, it would be now.
More details to follow...and I've been informed that we'll be going to the Skepchick party on Saturday night, so there may be a bit of blurry-blogging on Sunday.
Whoever suggested that one avoid meeting their heroes in order to avoid disappointment never had heroes like mine. I've met several of my heroes and I haven't been disappointed in the least.
One of the bigger surprises of the reception was that I was approached by a surprising number of people who were fans of the work we've done. I expected to run into a few people who might recognize me from a YouTube clip, or some who might spot the name and ask "Don't I know you from somewhere?", or "Hey, I really like the shows"...but what happened was substantially more than that. I spent the better part of the evening talking to people who were big fans of one or both shows.
It's very nice to hear that people appreciate and have benefited from the work we've done and I can't wait to meet more people over the next few days. If you're at TAM and haven't stopped by to say hello - do.
After the reception, we went to the 'Magic, Mentalism and Mayhem' show...hosted by Jamy Ian Swiss and featuring Kevin Burke, Banachek and Mac King. A brief summary: Jamy was the perfect host and entertainer (as expected), Kevin Burke was laugh-out-loud funny, Banachek was baffling and Mac King was at his best - and was the perfect highlight and closer.
As I've mentioned, I don't ever leave Vegas without seeing Mac's show. I've seen his act several times and we'll be going to his show on Monday...even after seeing last night's show (perhaps I should say 'especially after').
After the show, we sat around and drank with some of the attendees and then turned in...because the events started at 8:00 this morning.
We just finished listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe Live, and Hal Bidlack is finishing up his opening remarks. My laptop battery is dying, so I'll have comments about his opening remarks a little later.
Time to enjoy my day!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Nickell's workshop focused on investigative strategies with examples from some of his investigations over his 40-year career as an investigator (not debunker) of the paranormal. The general theme was that skeptics need to be respectful, thorough investigators who resist the temptation to quickly reach conclusions. Addressing the burden of proof and the all-too-common argument from ignorance, he urged skeptics to avoid the trap of shifting the burden of proof.
Nickell is a well-respected investigator, an engaging speaker and someone I have a great deal of respect for. I'm not sure that we see eye-to-eye on a few things, but that's probably because we're different people working on different things. If I were busy investigating paranormal claims, I can think of no one better to emulate.
There's a reception tonight at 5 and then we'll be going to the Jamy Ian Swiss/Mac King/Banachek show at 8pm...and, I'm sure there will be plenty of partying later this evening.
We registered this morning (Thursday), a quick and painless process thanks to some hard work on the part of the organizers. We got our information packets, badges, tickets to events, a T-shirt and a JREF Sharpie. Some people might not be very excited about a Sharpie, but I was.
As I write this, Beth and I are sitting outside the Sonoma conference room, waiting for the doors to open so we can attend our first workshop: DJ Grothe and Jamy Ian Swiss discussing skepticism and magic. This was one of two workshops that I was really looking forward to...unfortunately, the other workshop that I was most looking forward to (Joe Nickell) was scheduled for the same timeslot.
I went back and forth on which event I was going to attend and finally decided that, despite the fact that I'd be seeing Jamy several times over the week, I'd go to that workshop. As it turns out, I waited too long, forgot to register us for the workshop ahead of time, the workshop with DJ and Jamy was sold out and so we're just starting the workshop with Joe Nickell.
I'm not disappointed, as I wanted to go to this workshop as well...but there's a lesson to be learned about planning, though I doubt I've actually learned it. :)
And now, I turn my attention to Joe...more later.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
"For frak's sake, what's the point?" That's all the reaction I can muster to the news we've been getting from a jillion folks via email, to the effect that Ray Comfort, The World's Stupidest Christian™, has agreed to debate noted science YouTuber thunderf00t. No disrespect to thunderf00t, whose videos are among the best I've seen. But really, bud, talk about tilting at windmills.
That thunderf00t will clean Ray's clock is irrelevant, because Ray is the most egregiously dishonest person alive. What will happen will be the same thing that happened when Ray and his pal Kirk Cameron debated the Rational Response Squad on ABC some time back. Ray will make inane points, thunderf00t will decisively and unequivocally refute them, and then Ray will simply ignore everything thunderf00t said and repeat the limp arguments that were just blasted to smithereens by his opponent. Of course, Ray and Kirk looked like the dumbasses they are coming out of the RRS debate. The point is, they didn't, and couldn't, notice.
Ray, apart from being The World's Stupidest Christian™, is, more succinctly, a narcissist and a liar. And as he himself, perhaps ironically, has pointed out, the only reason he has any prominence at all is due to atheists. The unplumbed depths to which he allows his fractal wrongness to sink have been red meat to us, and a lot of us have bitten. But the net result of that has been to give Ray the validation he wants. If atheists are so fierce about attacking every moronic utterance Ray spews, then, obviously, that means he's got us scared and circling the wagons! Right? Uh-huh.
So, frankly, any "debate" with this supreme idiot will be a farcical waste of time, because Ray isn't interested in truth (as in the "verifiable, objective facts" definition of the term), just his own brand of fundagelical truthiness. And these little charades simply pump up his ego by reinforcing his ego-gratifying need to believe that the simple fact atheists want to take him on proves he's right. The content of the debate is irrelevant. That it's happening at all is, to him, victory.
So can we just forget this cretin already? He ought to be relegated to the obscurity he richly deserves. Let him end up evangelizing at one of those non-denominational congregations that meet in half-empty strip malls in the dodgy part of town. It's where he deserves to be.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
My flight is scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas next Wednesday evening and while I haven't tried to get myself invited to all the best parties, I've managed to book the key events and make preparations to try to make a few blog posts while I'm there.
Some of my more grandiose plans have been shelved as my Real Job (TM) has managed to suck up all of the time I would have used to arrange them; but I'm thrilled that my first week-long vacation in many years (maybe 15?) will be spent at my first TAM. As if that wasn't already sweet enough, it's also the first 'proper' vacation with my girlfriend.
I found out that the Thursday night event has been changed. Originally, the event was a double-billing of magic and mentalism with Jamy Ian Swiss and The Great Tomsoni & Co. The magic geeks out there already know how good this show would have been. John Thomson is a legend (and not just for his hair) and Jamy Ian Swiss is a true master of his craft.
I was really looking forward to watching two of magic's elite performing together. Unfortunately, Johnny Thomson had to cancel. I would have been perfectly happy to watch Jamy perform alone but, to my great surprise, they've managed to fill the vacancy with not one, but two of my favorites: Mac King and Banachek (of Project Alpha fame...for you non-magic-geek skeptics out there).
I was already planning on taking Beth to see Mac King (and we'll still go...I never miss his show when I'm in Las Vegas) but this triple-threat show is one I'm really looking forward to.
And while we'll also be going to Penn & Teller's show on Sunday night, the entire week won't be spent hopping from one magic show to another - we're going to be at the premiere skeptic's convention. There will be plenty of educational and entertaining talks and workshops, a talent show, a live testing of an applicant for the million dollar challenge, plenty of partying and socializing (check out the event schedule)...and Beth and I have a full day on either side of the conference to relax, explore and enjoy.
Yes, I'm boasting...and I don't feel the slightest bit bad about it. You should come!
If you're at TAM and happen to spot me, don't be shy! Come on over and say hello - even if you hate the work I've done on our shows. :)
Obviously I can't promise to give regular updates (I might
5 Pathetic Groups That People Think Rule the World
It even has lizard people!