Sunday, November 29, 2009

Will The Real Fundamentalist Please Stand Up

This was posted on a forum I participate on. I think it sums up the current militant-atheist vs. religion debate quite well.

Evangelizing Religious Person: "You're damned for rejecting the WORD OF GOD"!!!!

Me: "You mean the Bible? I don't reject it, I just don't read it the same way you do. I read it to try and understand....".

ERP: "DAMNED!!!! DAMNED i SAY"!!!!!!

and then....

Evangelizing Anti-religious Person
: "You're deluded for thinking the Bible is the infallable WORD OF GOD"!!!!

Me: "I don't think it's "the infallable word of God", I just read it to try and understand..."


No really,
I don't see any difference.

Live Intelligence Squared Debate

There is a live debate going on right now that will most likely be very interesting. You can view it at the following link.

"Atheism is the new fundamentalism"
In partnership with, from 6.45pm (GMT) this evening, you will be able to watch online as Richard Dawkins, author of ‘The God Delusion’ and Professor A C Grayling, take on Richard Harries, the former bishop of Oxford, and Charles Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph, at this sold-out Wellington Squared event held at Wellington College, Berkshire. It will be chaired by the Headmaster of Wellington (and political historian) Anthony Seldon.

You can view the live comments from people watching the stream through twitter. The first speaker is from the Catholic Church which spawned the usual trite comments. Ill post my thoughts on the debate as it goes.

*facepalm* Hardly 20 minutes in and one of the atheist speakers, A C Grayling, has already brought up farries and pixies...

So far the two first speakers did not seem to address the topic of the debate.

Current speaker,  Moore, just got applause for a quip at Dawkins. Was not expecting that.

Moore is spending way too much time on Dawkins...
It is not like there is a lack of fundamentalist type thinking in other famous atheists.

Moore leaves the stage with both applause and boos.

Dawkins claims there is no equivalent of the Bible in atheism. While he may be technically correct, he underestimates the number of atheists who treat his book, The God Delusion, as holy scripture.

Dawkins just described religious people as inherently believing in "God of the gaps". Time for another facepalm.
And now he has pulled 911 into the debate as describing religious belief.

Well I tried to reopen the stream to see if it would reduce my CPU load as it was getting kind of high the page wont load again. It seems their server wont allow anyone to reconnect. Overall I thought the debate was fairly pointless. No one really addressed the actual topic. It largely gave me the impression of being a very verbose and erudite name calling contest.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ray Comfort's Origin

As many have heard last week roughly 100,000 copies of Ray Comforts edition of the Origin of Species were handed out to college students across the nation. The difference with his version is a few of the chapters have been removed, apparently due to cost restrictions on length, and a special “introduction” was added by Comfort. The introduction is essentially a diatribe on evolution. Originally the books were planned to be distributed on the 19th but campuses were surprised when they were handed out a day early. A lot of critics cried foul saying that it was a detestable tactic, Comfort disagrees. While I agree with his critics that his attacks on evolution are baseless and, frankly, stupid, I have to side with Comfort on this one. He was met with threats of book burnings, people who were planning on ripping out the introduction, and others who were planning on taking as many copies as possible to prevent them from being handed out to anyone else. There is nothing wrong with counter protests, but physically preventing the books from being handed out goes a little too far. Besides that, it adds a little more drama to the situation, and drama makes for high volumes of blog posts. And it looks like there will be more drama. It seems Comfort is planning on having 1 million more copies handed out, as this article explains. A recent interview with Comfort was done over at Friendly Atheist and can be read here. It is pretty interesting as the questions asked were purposely not about creationism but more about things dealing with Comfort exclusively.

I do not know if the next round of distributions of his book will include Purdue again. This past time they handed out the copies on our campus on the originally planned date. When I heard they were hear I went to see if I could get a copy but by the time I was able to get there they had already ran out of copies and left. Luckily Mike, over at Politics and Pucks, had an extra copy and was willing to give it away. I have not been able to read it yet as I just finished Finding Darwin's God but from what I have seen the introduction, the part written by Comfort, is pretty sad.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finding Darwin’s God (Part 3)

The book discussion I have been attending here at Purdue finished last week. You can view my previous two posts over this here and here. We finished Kenneth Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God and had a final discussion over it. Here is a quick rundown. The beginning of the book Miller dedicates to discrediting various creationist arguments and gives a multitude of evidences and proofs for evolution. In fact, the entire first half of the book is dedicated to this. He then redirects his attention from attacks by religious believers, mainly creationists, to attacks originating from within the scientific community. He explains that scientists themselves are partly to blame for the reactions against science from the religious community. He again provides quite a long list of examples of well known scientists using evolution to try and exterminate religious belief.

I believe much of the problem lies with atheists in the scientific community who routinely enlist the material findings of evolutionary biology in support their own philosophical pronouncements.

He explains that these atheists are attempting to put forth at type of absolute materialism in place of religion. He continues this section by explaining that evolution does not necessitate disbelief in a creator God. He also gives examples of how the two are perfectly capable of living in harmony with each other. I also liked his explanations how how if evolution were truly false, and the creationists were correct, the resulting god would be a "charlatan" and a "magician".

One part that came up during our final discussion over the book is Miller’s use of quantum mechanics as a way to explain the method of which God could allow humans to be truly free of a predetermined existence. He only spends a brief amount of time on this subject but it comes off as a kind of God of the Gaps theory, albeit a much more supportable version. He uses the fact that science has shown that there is an absolute limit to our knowledge to support his point (Look up the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle if you are unfamiliar with this). His theory is in stark contrast to the general God of the Gaps theory which tries to use phenomena which science has yet to explain, but still may, to provide support. I think this is the weakest part of his book but it also happens to be the smallest, and in the end is not critical to his final argument.

Overall I thought it was a good book and worth reading. I would recommend it to both the religious and atheist alike.  Miller provides a good explanation of the current state of the Religion vs. Science controversy. And I think he, again, does a good job at explaining that the two fields are not inherently opposed to each other.

There is no religious reason, none at all, for drawing a line in the sand at the origin of life. The trend of science is to discover and to explain, and it would be foolish to pretend that religious faith must be predicated on the inability of science to cross such a line.

There will be another book discussion next semester. The actual book has yet to be decided upon as they are  taking suggestions. When one is decided I will post which book and what dates we will be meeting.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PZ Myers Comes to Purdue

The local Non-Theist Society had PZ Myers as a guest speaker today at CL 50. If you are not familiar with him he runs a very popular blog called Pharyngula and is a professor of biology. His talk was entitled A Few Things I’ve Learned from Creationists. Due to flight delays the talk started about 20 minutes late but no one seemed to mind. The basic structure of his talk was outlining several attributes he ascribes to Creationists, all of them highly negative, such as disingenuous. He would then go on to explain how creationists fit this description and how many of the ideas they try to push have been flat out proven wrong. While, on the surface this may look like a fairly arrogant way to prove a point, it actually was not that bad and fairly funny at many points. Initially I did not know what to expect as I am not familiar enough with his blog to know exactly what kind positions he holds. To my relief he did not do what I have seen many other atheists do, that is take all theists, mainly Christians, throw them all in a predefined box and proceed to rip it apart. His talk seemed to only focus on those Creationists who are attempting to make a mockery of science. He did not toss the rest of us in with them. I also enjoyed his sense of humor which was very light if a little blunt. Overall I thought it was a very interesting talk, his biology examples were really neat since I understand very little of that material being an engineer, and was well worth attending.