Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday message

If an eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent being exists - and wanted all of the humans who have ever lived to know about it - then he should have left permanent, unalterable, unambiguous evidence so that everyone would see and accept his existence as fact.

That it didn't implies that 1) it doesn't want us to know about it, or 2) it doesn't exist. If it has done something that falls short of the permanent, unalterable, unambiguous evidence that we reasonablly expect, then this hypothetical being is certainly less capable than any garden-variety deity that I can cook up.

Happy Festivus everyone!

Roots of Hell

Hell - Roots is a brief review of the "The History of Hell" by Alice K. Turner - combined with commentary by the blogger Renoliz.

If you weren't paying real close attention to what the Bible says - like I didn't for the first 25 years of my life - you would have missed the fact that "Hell" - as in a place for eternal torturs of the damned - didn't become Christian doctrine until about the 5th Century. Why weren't we told that in Sunday School?

Recommended holiday reading!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What if god messed up?

What if god messed up?

What if the eternal, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe messed up when he created this universe?

After all, there are atheists in this universe - clearly there wouldn't be atheists if God were omnipotent.

There have been thousands of conceptions of God - Odin, Zeus, Allah, Yahweh, Shiva, Flying Spaghetti Monster ... That's needless unless there's no God, or unless God screwed up.

Would an omniscient God have allowed the Edsel to go into production? Or put nipples on men? Or allowed the release of the movie Ishtar? Or given Pat Robertson a microphone? These things are inconceivable with an omniscient, omnipotent God at the helm. Would God allow the existence of the leisure suit? No way.

Or maybe he screwed up?

What other answer could there be?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Admiring "The Perimeter of Ignorance"

Required reading for everyone who cares about their own intellectual growth is Neil DeGrasse Tyson's The Perimeter of Ignorance, published in 2005 by the Hayden Planetarium. The theme is simply
authors invoke divinity only when they reach the boundaries of their understanding
Citing many examples of what was once mainstream scientific thought, DegGrasse Tyson lays out how discovery and experimentation slowly answer the questions that were once thought to be solely the province of God.

Most poignant is the story of Sir Isaac Newton, who couldn't conceive of how the "six primary planets" could revolve around the sun and have their orbits remain stable over time. He had to posit a divine being to explain this. The next century, French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace
pioneered a new kind of mathematics called perturbation theory, which enabled him to examine the cumulative effects of many small forces
This explained what Newton didn't know, and eliminated the need to invoke divine forces.

The article is a clear (and entertaining) argument that the need for a "God of the Gaps" continues to shrink over the centuries - with the implication that the concept will become insignificant, and (my words) held on to only by the truly unimaginative, superstitious, or gullible.

I'd suggest following up with a quick browse through Superseded Scientific Theories on Wikipedia, to round out your Saturday morning reading.

Knowledge rules!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Outside, or inside the box

I had thought briefly about dissecting the statement in my previous post "Explaining my faith to an atheist, is like trying to describe how I got out of the box, to someone still stuck inside it." Then I thought that I don't REALLY know what the tweeter would say when pressed, so I deferred for a few minutes, because I'd be constructing a straw man argument.

That's what I get by thinking!

Let's just assume that, by "faith", that the tweeter is referring to faith in a deity. This is a common theme, so I think I'm on safe ground there. Now, I'll assert that believing that there is a deity defies all the empirical evidence that is presented to us throughout our lives. The world wasn't created in six days; man wasn't created spontaneously by this deity (who incidently refers to itself in the plural); the sons of that first man didn't wander off and encounter and marry women elsewhere unless they were created by some other unexplained process; the sons of the first man didn't live for seven, eight and even nine hundred years. The list goes on and on.

This deity wasn't concerned only with the well-being of the Israelites. This deity apparently wasn't even concerned mainly with this planet, or the star that it orbits. If this deity truly created the universe, then it apparently had some equal concern for 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 other stars.

A thousand or so years after this deity's chosen people began to worship him, he didn't send a messiah that would die, be resurrected and absolve man of his sins.

How does believing in these things constitute being "outside the box"? Isn't the belief of these preposterous things one of the more limiting things that a person can do? How is confining your world view to that which was constructed by bronze age nomads being "outside the box"? How is abandoning your critical reasoning skills - the thing that differentiates us more from our fellow creatures than anything else - how does abandoning those skills constitute being "outside the box"?

People of average intelligence, possessed of average reasoning skills, and in possession of average, modern information, can see that adhering to a world view that was held at the dawn of history is staying pretty far "inside the box".

The Argument from WTF?

Seen on Twitter this morning:

Explaining my faith to an atheist, is like trying to describe how I got out of the box, to someone still stuck inside it.

This is so weird in so many ways.

Who's in the box?

Why don't you try to explain anyway?

What do I assume you have "faith" in?

Why does your faith need explaining?

Seriously, all those who are of average intelligence, with average reasoning skills, and with average information would find it fascinating and fun to hear your explanations.

Maybe I should get back on twitter and engage him!

The possibility of life

It was an interesting week for our notions of the universe. First, we get a new number for the total number of stars in the observable universe - How many stars are there? More than you thought ... and second, NASA scientists announce the existence of arsenic feeding life in Arsenic-feeding bacteria find expands traditional notions of life.

The quick summary is that 1) there may be as many as 300 sextillion stars in the observable universe; and 2) our previous definition of environments that will support life needs to be expanded to include what was previously considered toxic.

In the "stars" article, the lead scientist says

"There are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars"

... which is not to say that we should expect visits from little green men any time soon, but it's food for thought.

I don't imagine that the discovery of arsenic-incorporating bacteria indicates that we'll find arsenic-incorporating intelligent life, but it tells us that self-replicating organisms can be found more places than we originally thought - with the news that there **ARE** more places than we originally thought, the possibility that we could some day find simple extra-terrestrial life just got some real encouragement.