An Argument from Size

The comments in the linked blog post are not new. I see them quite regularly in discussions with Christians. Like the referenced blog post the argument typically hinges on getting things wrong, because if those who made the argument actually made the effort to get their thoughts right, they’d not make the point.

A few quick corrections.

  • Looking for evidence of aliens does not in any way equate to belief in a deity. Extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence and someone who claims that there are actually aliens will come under that category. Places where alien life could exist can be measured because we know life requires water and energy so looking for planets with water that orbit a star is a good place to start. Scientists doing this are not worshiping those aliens and nor are they crediting those aliens (if they exist) with creating this world, the conflating of the search for evidence of aliens with religion is bogus and an utter mischaracterisation of the scientific process.

 

  • Not believing in a god is not the same as believing there are no gods. The state of non-belief is the position between two opposing beliefs. I don’t believe there is a god; that is I neither believe there is a god nor believe there are no gods. I sway strongly towards there being no gods and I will argue that position, but I’m not at the point where I believe it. I don’t believe there are aliens. That is I neither believe they exist nor believe there are none. I sway strongly towards there being aliens somewhere out there and I will argue that it’s likely but I do not have enough information to state with any confidence that they actually do exist.

 

  • Agnosticism is a position of knowledge, atheism is a position of belief. It is possible to be both agnostic (not having the knowledge to determine if there is a god) and atheist (not having any belief in any god). I identify as both.

 

  • The universe does not contain any proof for the existence of god. It does however contain proof to answer the question of the existence of aliens. Let’s go searching!

Lyle Duell

An Argument from Size

Once I had an atheist tell me that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence.  Now, this may or may not be true, but it does demonstrate something about a number of atheists that I know.  It demonstrates  the inconsistency in their thinking for they say they cannot believe in a God  that they cannot see, for which they point out that there is no scientific evidence. And yet they believe that it is likely that there are alien life forms in the universe, which they have not seen nor do they have any evidence for their existence. I’ll grant that this may change at any time, however, for now it is the truth based on current knowledge.

They say the reasons for their readiness to accept alien life forms are based on the size of the cosmos and probability[1].  However, does not size and probability…

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<b>Did Adam Swat Mosquitoes in Eden?</b>

Did Adam Swat Mosquitoes in Eden?

So if the mosquito didn’t get slapped about before the fall, does that mean Adam, and other animals, willingly gave up their blood to feed them?

Or maybe the lamb willingly gave up a bit of leg for the lion, did it grow a new one afterwards?

Does no death before the fall include no vegetation death? Oh the poor hungry herbivores. Or maybe the fall was so rapid that no animal or plant had the chance to die, such was Adam’s keenness to sin.

Oh the literalist conundrum …

Bible-Science Guy

(4 Minute Read)

20000117-NewFallenWorld

Did bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, scorpions, flies, ticks, and ants sting and bite Adam in the Garden of Eden?
Did dogs and snakes bite him in Eden?
Did Adam smash wasps and hornets in that Garden?
Did he squash ants in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world through his disobedience?
Did he swat mosquitoes in Eden?

Such questions are often asked rhetorically about Adam with the assumed and expected answer, “Of course he did.”

But you won’t get that answer from me!

These questions are usually posed in order to claim that of course there was death before sin. The aim is to set up the evolutionist argument that the earth’s biosphere developed over long ages of time.

Adam would not have killed insects in the Garden of Eden before sin, because death, including animal death, is a consequence of sin, not…

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The Burden of Proof and Non-Belief

Can anyone else see the logic fail in the following sentence?

“This is why we find very few arguments against the existence of God and numerous arguments against the arguments of the theist, which proves nothing but the strength of the argument.”

Lyle Duell

The Burden of Proof and Non-Belief

 About two years ago I became interested in the new atheist movement and began to spend some time reading and contemplating it.  As I got into it, it struck me how much stress the new atheists puts on the question of who has the burden of truth[1] and on their belief that atheism should be categorized as a non-belief and not a belief.  It seemed that the significance they gave to these beliefs in their blogs diverted the attention away from the question of ‘does God exist’ and on to peripheral subjects[2]. At first this puzzled me and then it dawned on me how crucial these beliefs are to their thought system.

Why are these beliefs so important to new the atheists?  My suspicion is that some of them on the top of their intellectual food chain know that human reason…

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A Skeptics(!) Takes a Look at Science Part II

I read a few blogs whose authors clearly disagree with my worldview. I think it’s good to do that. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a post that’s commenting on the particular blog I’m responding to and I doubt it’ll be the last. It’s a veritable goldmine of potential posts, made all the more easier for the lack of a comments section.
You’ll need to read this to understand all of my comments below.
1) Science is based on observation and experimentation. ‘String theory’ doesn’t have much (any?) supporting evidence and is not widely accepted, or even seriously considered. The sentence “they spend an inordinate amount time and money chasing, trying to convince us  that they are truthful” isn’t true for string theory . Its a bad example. A good example would be the Higgs Boson, theorised, fits the models, generally accepted, expensive experiment built, tested and confirmed. Note ‘confrimed’, shown to be real, cost justified!

Then the author jumps to evolution. Why do theists so often do that? Start with something ‘out there’ and suddenly dive to evolution! Two completely different disciplines. It’s like they’re trying to taint the water or something.

Anyway, the reason why the evolutionary process is still being tested and experimented on is not to look for an elusive proof, but to learn. Each feature, behaviour and mutation has a different selective pressure and some are easier to explain than others. Learning is good. To sit back and think the job is done and we know it all is the utmost arrogance.

2) Scientists accept we all have biases, that’s why peer review exists. Even that isn’t perfect and sometimes fails us. Mistakes happen, but crucially, mistakes also get found out and corrected. It would be better to not have the mistakes and that’s the ideal, but bias means those will happen. No one should claim there is no bias in science. Though the scientific method itself, should be bias free and the process designed to eliminate bias.

To place any god into the science lab would be to introduce deep bias with presupposition. Excluding god isn’t bias, its the null hypothesis at work, it’s not specifically god that is excluded, but ALL presuppositions that should and must be excluded each and every single time, always and forever. When an experiment reliably and predictably indicates a god, then that god can come and play with the Bunsen burner, until then the cosmic waiting room is the best it can hope for.

3) theists regularly confuse lack of religion for another religion and this is an example of the nonsense that follows.

4) still rambling about religion. Oh if only we all lacked bias!

5) I have a dream! I have a dream that there is enough money going round for all the good science to get all that it needs every time it needs it.

Still going on about religion and invoked Bodwin’s Law, tut tut!

and finally

6) Science has discovered and described the easy stuff and is now onto the harder stuff. It’s only to be expected that as technology improves we’ll get to discover stuff that has previously evaded us. That’s why it took 100 years to discover gravitational waves. This is neither a shocking nor a ground-breaking suggestion.

As for physics having got to the end? Poppycock! With each new thing we learn we find more things that we now need to learn about. Any scholar that claims this for physics or biology isn’t well versed in physics or biology!

Censorship by the minority

One of my loves is thespianism, or amateur dramatics, to call it by its more well-known (and less mis-heard) name. The thrill of entertaining, the hard work on many rehearsal nights and the utter terror of fluffing it up in front of a live audience all combine into a hobby that is completely satisfying and jolly good fun. I generally enjoy the rehearsals far more than the performances. Rehearsals are where the cast goof off, laugh, mess up and generally get all the silliness out of the way.

Performance nights are when it all gets deadly serious, the adrenalin levels are high and the focus switches from entertaining ourselves to entertaining a paying audience. I love the rush I get in my chest before my first stage entrance, I stand ready in the wings, my hands sweaty, muttering my lines to myself and listening for my cue. That moment is equivalent to finding yourself alone with the hot girl you’ve fancied for months and you know this is the best (and probably only) chance you’ll get to ask her out for a drink!

My love of the stage goes back to when I was in my twenties and I managed, by accident more than design, to find myself in a couple of high profile local productions as well as various shows done with the church drama group, including a handful of pantomimes. The pantomime is a particularly British thing so any foreign readers may need to look that one up!

Unfortunately, work got in the way and I could no longer guarantee that I would not get called to a client halfway across the country a week before a show started. So I had to give up that hobby.

This changed two years ago and I’ve now found myself with stable work hours and a stable work commute. A very well respected local group, which puts on two shows a year, now gets my time two evenings a week. It’s a lot of hard work, matched by equal amounts of fun. The group performs in a small village hall and has some regular supporters who travel from the nearest city, 40 miles away, to see their shows.

It’s at this point that the issue of censorship comes up. Some of the groups’ supporters come from a church and our latest production, a mere six weeks away, includes profanity that comes under the banner of ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’.

Someone from a church outside the area has read the script and complained to the chairperson of the committee responsible for the hall we use, who in turn passed on the complaint to the director of the play. The director herself is a Christian, and, with her husband, attends a local church. They aren’t offended by the langue used in the play. When she informed the cast of the conversation she’d had, the unsaid implication was that the route of communication used suggested that non-conformance with the complaint would result in some form of reprimand. Why didn’t the complainer go direct to the director to discuss the concerns? The director, a gentle and respected lady, was clearly bothered, and a little upset, by the conversation that she’d had.

Predictably, the cast are all furious. What has happened, is that some lines have been forced to be changed, by someone unconnected to the production, meaning that the rest of the visiting audiences will not get the performance planned by the team or a script as written by the author. Now, I am more than happy to concede that changing a couple of religious expletives to something less offensive to the minority isn’t a major blow to artistic licence. Amusingly (ironically?), a couple of the replacement phrases are actually funnier and add to the scene, though that is not true of all of them. Some are a loss too. The issue here isn’t so much about what has changed, it is that someone acquired a copy of the script to see what they would be offended by and, instead of choosing to avoid this show, they’ve forced it to be changed to suit their sensibilities. In doing that, they have ensured that everyone else gets their censored version of the show, not the show that was planned. Since when does any audience member get to have that power?

As a former believer, I do get the issue with blasphemy. It would have definitely jarred with me to hear “Christ!” uttered loudly in exasperation when other words could do the job effectively. I know Christians, who will come to see the show, who would feel the same if the phrase had remained unaltered. Does that give them the right to force a change? I don’t think so.

There are other parts of the play that the moralistic Christian could also feel aggrieved about. Here is a list:

  •  Casual racism
  •  Implied infidelity
  •  Blatant sexual innuendo
  •  Assumption of guilt before finding out the facts
  •  Admission of infidelity
  •  Constant verbal abuse of a wife by her husband
  •  Favourable discussion of prostitution

Shouldn’t a Christian be just as concerned about all of those too? If one feels it appropriate to demand lines get changed because they offend your god, why not the scenes that contain the above? Do they not offend?

My attitude towards religion has hardened. It isn’t a passive thing that people do, it’s a scourge that empowers the minority to dictate to the majority what they are allowed to enjoy. The sooner that power is weakened and removed, the better.

 

The Scientism Myth

I spend quite a lot of time engaging in, and often just watching, on-line arguments between believers and non-believers. I say arguments, because it’s rare that they can accurately be described as a discussion.

One of the most regular accusations I see comes in the form of “you are just a believer of scientism, so you have a religion too you know”. That’s not a direct quote, that my paraphrasing of the many different ways in which the accusation is worded.

The video in the post below explains well the thinking behind the scientism accusation. It takes ten minutes if you feel the need.

http://lyleduell.me/2016/02/12/the-limits-of-science-a-critique-of-scientism/

I like the very subtle irony that is best summarised as “you call me wrong because I believe stuff without evidence, but see, my logical argument proves you are the same, so you are just as wrong as me.”

The magic is really at the end 30 seconds of the video, it uses an example of Tyco Brahe’s model universe to show how something that is successful isn’t automatically correct. I agree, see religion. The point the video misses though is that the model was shown to be wrong by observation. The very thing that scientism mocks the love of.

Then in the dying moment, the video goes for its final point, the thing its leading up to. Scientism is apparently self-refuting because the idea that everything we know can be measured or observed is something that itself can’t be measured or observed. Sounds reasonable enough on the surface.

So you’d think that this would be the perfect opportunity to roll out something that we know which hasn’t been measured or observed, you’d think someone wanting to kill the monster of scientism would have the magic dagger waiting there wouldn’t you? Well I did anyway.

Spoiler alert, no such thing is offered.

This argument is also used by that glorious bastion of logical nonsense, reasonable faith (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-scientism-self-refuting). This linked article goes further and makes the claim that scientism allows evil acts. Huh? Really?

This absurd accusation comes from the religious mind’s favourite non science claim, that in a world of pure science, all sorts of evil acts are accepted. The foundation of this the belief that morals are supernaturally assigned to us and cannot be explained any other way. Errr, wrong (http://www1.umn.edu/ships/evolutionofmorality/text.htm).

Wikipedia has a more balanced description of scientism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism). Which says that is the position that science is the most authoritative way of knowing. This differs from the religious claim that it’s the only way.

Finally, it may be worth noting that descriptions of scientism are littered throughout religious commentary critiquing the scientific method to the point where the question has to be asked, “What are they afraid of?” Commentary of scientism within the science community is almost absent outside of the context of science vs religion.

It’s as though science and scientists don’t even give two hoots about the accusation, I for one agree, it’s practically a worthless accusation because it assumes belief for the accusation to stick and yet those who throw the accusation require belief above all else.

Confused? You should be.

 

who knew

I’m reblogging this because it saddens me and I want to spread the sadness further rather than just pour sympathy into the comments section.

The author of the blog is also a good writer and an intelligent conversationalist.

Random thoughts

that atheists pose a threat to peace, welfare and good order of a nation? I think we have a long way to go in creating an all inclusive society.

The registrar of societies in Kenya, Maria Nyakiri, thinks so. She says so here

refusal to register atheists as a society

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“I Am a Jealous God.”

Here is a very well considered and thought provoking post. I highly recommend it and you’ll not regret the ten minutes it takes.

For me, this sentence towards the end summed it up nicely:

“This tone-deafness illustrates how Christians’ moral sense has been dulled, not sharpened, by defending the God of the Bible.”

I think it accurately describes my own moral position while I was a Christian and explains why I now find myself being far less judgemental.

Path of the Beagle

You’re no doubt familiar with this portion of the Ten Commandments:

You shall not make for yourself an [idol] … for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

When Moses had to make new tablets a few chapters later, having broken the first set in anger over the people’s worship of the golden calf, God camped even harder on the theme of jealousy:

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)

After the golden-calf incident, who can blame God for being peeved? As Dr. Paul Copan puts it in the book we have been considering…

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The Christian Burden of Proof

Christians all too regularly misunderstand the concept of the burden of proof. This isn’t because it’s a difficult concept. It’s because in order to squeeze religious belief into a science sounding framework, they find themselves having to redefine the standards and expectations of science into something that more closely resembles their religion. The religious mind needs to maintain the perceived truth of its beliefs and in order to do so, anything that challenges that needs to be tamed. It is at this point that the religious mind warps the message of science so that it can be addressed from a religious platform before being dismissed. In fallacy terms we call this a straw man. The real tragedy is that the religious mind doesn’t even realise what it’s doing. It is so immersed in it’s own belief system that it can’t comprehend a different method of doing things.

See this blog post for an example. It’s unfortunate that comments are turned off.

http://lyleduell.me/2016/01/04/burden-of-proof/

The kicker in the post is the following sentence:

For instance, if a person challenges a theory of science in which there is a consensus that a theory is correct the burden of proof would be on the one challenging the consensus, e.g. the big-bang theory.

The sentence mixes up terms and the result is a mish mash which trips up the religious mind. The sentence may make sense, and may sound logical, but it really is a religious fail. In science, a theory is something for which there is convincing evidence, but the mechanism is still unexplained. The best example of a theory is gravity. We know it exists and we can even calculate its effect. We don’t know how it works though. The big bang is similar, there is evidence for the big bang and it fits the mathematical models of the universe. How it came to be is still a mystery.

Contrary to what is implied by the quoted sentence; the idea of the big bang does have a burden of proof. It needs to show that the universe did indeed start from a tiny dot and expand into what we see now. The expansion part is still being observed today so in respect to the burden of proof, well, let’s just say it’s going to be hard to counter argue. But it’s not a slam-dunk. Work is on-going to try to discover and explain more so that we can understand more. When new evidence emerges, it’ll be put into the models and the big bang theory tested. It could still be wrong and scientists want to be certain that theories are as good as they possibly can be. The big bang idea may indeed be a consensus, but it doesn’t mean it gets a free pass regarding the burden of proof. Other ideas around the start of the universe can continue to be investigated.

If someone wants to counter the big bang idea, it is not sufficient to challenge it, that isn’t really science. To satisfy the scientific method one would need to bring in an alternative idea and that idea would have its own burden of proof. This is true whatever the idea and whether the opposing idea is consensus or not. If you want to propose something in science, then you need to bring an alternative explanation which will have a burden of proof to carry. You can’t replace an existing theory with nothing.

The author of the article then switches to talking about religion and philosophy and discusses atheism and belief in that context rather than sticking to science. Logic flow tends to get a little messy when one does that.

The author says that atheists claim they don’t have a burden of proof when they challenge religion and that this atheist claim goes against the previously stated logic that a challenge to a consensus does require a burden of proof. Lost yet?

Before getting to atheism, let’s consider two competing religions. Religion A and religion B each have the same burden of proof because each wants to assert their chosen deity. Easy. When atheism steps into the ring it does get a little complicated because it’s not bringing in a rival to religion, it says no religion is convincing so why bother with any, religion has failed its burden of proof. This is where the big bang analogy falls down, science needs an explanation for the when it all started. Not having a beginning is not an acceptable position to hold. Conversely, philosophy doesn’t need a religion. No religion is a perfectly acceptable position to be, it’s what you might call the default position that every human starts with anyway. Belief in a deity and adherence to a religion is taught to us.

Belief in something is in no way an equivalent to a scientific theory. Why does not holding a belief need a burden of proof? It’s not a claim. It’s not bringing a theory to the table for discussion.

What is there to actually prove?

 

What a Difference a Year Makes

Happy New Year dear readers.

Oh boy has this place been neglected! Hopefully this will be the year that changes. I wonder if I have any followers left🙂 I do still read your blogs, even if comments and posts more rare than unicorn poop.

For those that are still here and have my contact details, feel free to nag me and berate me if I goes more than a month without a new post.

The interface between religion and science still interested me greatly. Rather than blogging about it, I’ve tended to participate in regular discussions in facebook groups about it. For a while I commented a lot on Ken Ham’s facebook page, before I got blocked. Amusingly it was because of comments on a post where ol’ Hambo had suggested that atheists are not interested in dialog. Oh the beautiful irony. I was never rude or insulting to anyone on the page so I guess it was a case of only sycophants welcome. Ho hum!

Argumentative facebook Christians are an interesting bunch. They tend not to the liberal Christians, which means you end up being exposed to a very polarised subsection of the religious population.

That’s not all my life is about though. I still consume podcasts on a daily basis, mostly to do with science or writing.

Yes, writing, I’ve been spending about one day a month with a bunch of like minded people working away on some fiction projects. It’s liberating and invigorating and something I should have put a lot more effort into years ago. I’ve also resurrected my old love of thespianism and am involved in a local amateur dramatics group. Also wonderfully liberating. I have found that both activities force me to put my mind to specific subjects and has helped enormously in recovering from the fuck up that was 2013 (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/good-riddance-2013/).

Recovering from depression is hard. It is surprisingly easy to slip back onto the mental whirlpool of ugly blackness that brings it back. For me, I have to force myself to focus on other stuff, hence the writing and the acting, both are utterly absorbing and is the only way I can fully expunge the otherwise always present sack horror. Writing about it both helps and hinders. The consequences of the depression did give rise to some story ideas. Only one of which I’ve written. The others, are so dark that, while I like the story, I need to be more confident in my own mental health so that I can avoid the associated triggers. It’s a delicate tightrope walk over an abyss that must never be allowed to define me.

And on that pleasant note, here’s to 2016, a year of reading more, acting more, writing more and blogging more.

PS. I do mean it about the nags. Nag me please. I may need it.