Do You Recognise This Conversation?

There is a regular form of conversation that I tend to have when conversing with Christians on line. It’s regularly tedious and they really do seem to not see the objections to their arguments. It’s almost as though religion gives the adherents the ability to consider themselves right at all times and in all circumstances. This superpower is especially strong when the other party is atheist. It’s the reverse of Kryptonite in that it makes them bolder the stronger they suspect the atheist convictions are.

The following is a fictional account that is based on true events, names and other identifying elements have been changed. I hope it entertains.

Person 1: I have a twin brother.

Person 2: Really? I’ve never seen him.

P1: You can’t, he’s invisible, and immaterial.

P2: But ….

P1: and you can’t hear him, or touch him, but if you ask nicely he might project a thought into your mind, or in mine so I can give it to you.

P2: How can you be so sure?

P1: Are you doubting me? How dare you doubt me! You can’t prove me wrong.

P2: I didn’t say that. I’m questioning how you can be so sure. Is it possible you’re mistaken?

P1: Of course not, I know my brother, we have conversations together and he helps fix things for me, like when he showed me where to look to find my car keys.

P2: That can be explained other ways. I don’t see how that means you have a brother that fits that description.

P1: That’s the argument from silence, that’s a fallacy. You have failed to prove me wrong and your claim that I have no brother is simply an assertion that is incorrect.

P2: I didn’t claim that. I’m trying to understand your claim to have a twin brother I’ve never seen, to see how realistic it is and why you think you have this brother. It’s possible there are other explanations. Let’s test some options to see which is most likely. I’d like to have something to go on before I commit to anything.

P1: You can’t test my brother, he’s immeasurable. You haven’t proven he doesn’t exist. You need to do that first, but you can’t because you are not able to test him. Your claims are all false and I declare you wrong therefore my brother is real.

P2: How can I know if he’s real or if one of the other options is a better explanation if you won’t let me test your claim?

P1: You can’t prove me wrong, you just said it yourself, see! That means my explanation is automatically correct and you can’t claim my brother doesn’t exist because you’ve not proven he  doesn’t. Your only option is to believe, like me.

P2: I’ll take a rain check on the belief option until I get some evidence. Do you have any?

P1: Didn’t you listen to what I just said? That’s all the evidence  you need! He exists and I just told you he does. There’s your evidence.

P2: That’s not evidence.

P1: Now you’re denying what’s right in front of your face! First you claim I have no brother, and now this. Is there no end to the insults you’ll throw at me? Your argument is all fallacy and you’ve still failed to prove me wrong. That means I’m right about my brother.

P2: That’s not what I said and I would like a better demonstration before I believe you.

P1: I HAVE A TWIN BROTHER!

P2: So you said, but I’ve never seen him.

P1: You can’t, he’s invisible, and immaterial.

Deny! Deny! Deny!

I’m sure somewhere in Creationism’s headquarters there is a large red light with the word Deny! embossed on it. Maybe this light is connected to the internet and goes off every time a science article is published to remind the faithful of their solemn duty.

I’ve said this before (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/creationism-is-just-denialism/) and it’s still true today.

AiG HQ must have blown several bulbs when the recent excitement of the feathered Dinosaur tail in Amber was announced (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/dinosaur-tail-trapped-amber-sheds-light-evolution-feathers).

The predictable AiG item (https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/did-dinosaur-get-feathered-tail-caught-in-amber/) sets the tone of denial from the very first sentence. Scientists have discovered something, they’ve examined it and documented their results and now the hard work has gone public. What do our esteemed creationists do? They scour the releases looking for the tiniest bit absent certainty that they can use to lever in their mantra. Of course, all good science articles will include an element of uncertainty because science is like that. Room for further learning is included as standard. Faith based absolutism isn’t encouraged, and nor should it be.

The key feature of the specimen being discussed is that it has feathers like modern birds “essentially identical” claims AiG, a phrase that I could not find in the science reporting so I’m left wondering what gives them the confidence to state that. Unlike modern birds, there are bones present. This clearly makes it not like modern birds, so what is it?

AiG says it’s just a bird, because feathers, just like Archaeopteryx. They make no attempt to answer the problem of the bony tail, they’ve sown their seeds of doubt with the feathers declaration and have moved on. Fossil birds with bony tails and modern birds without bony tails is apparently not a problem they need to worry themselves with. The challenge of explaining how birds changed so dramatically is not in their remit, their job is to Deny! Deny! Deny!

In case there was any doubt, the AiG item finishes with

I reject the age assigned to these fossils, but it shows that small birds, perhaps juveniles, left evidence of their unquestionably bird-like anatomy in Burmese amber. So where is the evolution?

And exactly how long does it take tree sap to solidify into Amber and get buried? Deny! Deny! Deny!

Not Enough Evidence – A Response

The second of the Saints and Sceptics short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments is Not Enough Evidence (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-2/)

My response to the first post is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-presumption-of-atheism-a-response/ . There is a third post in the series but I’m unlikely to make a response to that one.

This second post makes reference to Bertrand Russell and his apparent refrain of ‘Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!’ The source of this attribution would appear to be in this article, http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1974feb23-00025, where in response to the question of what he’d say if faced with God, Mr Russell replied “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’ ”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Fry’s response, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

That’s not the point of this post though, the question at hand is on the evidence while we’re alive, not the hypothetical.

The Saints and Sceptics item opens by setting the scene that the atheist case is that in the absence of evidence the default position is non-acceptance, in other words, no evidence for god means atheism is the starting point and the case must be made for a god in order for that position to become considered. Okay so far. Saints and Sceptics calls this the presumption of atheism. Reference is made to the first item in the series with the conclusion that:

So, even if the insufficient evidence objection is accepted, it doesn’t provide a good reason to accept atheism

And if you read my response to the first item you’ll see that there is a mismatch in the understanding of atheism. Atheism is the non adherence of theism. That is no belief in god. Like in the first item, Saints and Sceptics has gone for the far end of atheism and used that to define all atheism. I won’t repeat my response to that.

Moving on, we get to:

For example, if the only kind of evidence that can be considered for the existence of an entity is direct detection with the five senses, then there would be no evidence for God.

Good, this is why I have no belief in any god.

However, this is completely inadequate as an account of evidence, even within science.

Uh oh!

If evidence is understood more plausibly in terms of facts that are better explained by one hypothesis than its rivals, then there could well be evidence for God.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Hypotheses need testing before they get accepted.

A reference is made to a previous post called The Evidence For God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god/), oddly, it contains no evidence, only assertions. Ho hum.

Even if it is granted that there might be some evidence for God, it might still be objected that it is insufficient, but how are we to decide? How much evidence is needed and how convincing does it need to be?

Two very good questions.

In answer we get an index link titled Evidence Of God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/articles/existence-of-god/) featuring links to a few arguments that are very familiar, Fine Tuning, Maths, Big Bang; you know, the usual fair. The links are all well known reasons, or arguments, that Christians will use to justify their belief. However, arguments are not evidence so the title is misleading. Arguments should have supporting evidence, which these ones are lacking. There’s a theme emerging here.

We wouldn’t claim that the evidence logically proves God’s existence

Thank goodness for that! Odd use of the word logically though. No one says that gravity is logically proven.

Interestingly, since Russell’s death in 1970, powerful new scientific evidence concerning the fine-tuning of a range of physical constants that are necessary for intelligent life has provided an interesting twist on the design argument. Is this evidence sufficient? If not, why not? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

Suddenly it’s the penultimate paragraph and no actuall evidence has been discussed, what is this post about then?

Is this evidence sufficient? The author asks. What evidence? I wonder.

If not, why not? The Author asks. Because there isn’t any is the best I can muster.

And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

A great question, and pertinent too. I’ll answer it.

Evidence that can be used to create a testable hypothesis. That way a set of repeatable and reliable tests for god can be performed and the case for god properly examined. That is the standard and if the theist wants their god idea to be taken seriously, that is what they must submit to.

Regrettably, for some atheists it has become little more than a slogan, a way of avoiding the need to consider the evidence seriously. And it would be an unfortunate irony if a statement which at face value emphasizes the importance of evidence is actually used as a strategy for avoiding it.

Great pithy ending, such a shame that in their decrying of the atheist’s frustratingly consistent demand for evidence, Saints and Sceptics has forgotten to include any. Now that’s irony!

The Presumption of Atheism – A Response

The Saints and Sceptics blog has in progress a short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments.

The first post is on The Presumption of Atheism (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-1/)

The essay that’s being critiqued appears to be this one: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Flew-The-Presumption-of-Atheism.pdf. A short and informative read that I highly recommend.

In an effort to be dispel ubiquity, the essay includes this sentence near the start.

In this interpretation an atheist becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God; but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels ‘positive atheist’ for the former and ‘negative atheist’ for the latter.

Flew, then continues to explain agnostic as;

In the meantime it should be sufficient to point out that, following the present degenerate usage, an agnostic is one who, having entertained the proposition that God exists, now claims not to know either that it is or that it is not true.

I will state at this point that these are definitions that I agree with and they are what I tend to mean when I use the words atheist and agnostic. As such I would accept that I am both; I hold no belief in any god and I do not know if any described god exists.

Reading the essay by Flew, it is clear that he is saying that the atheism he is arguing for the presumption of is atheism which says ‘I hold no theist belief’. The case for theism and the case for the atheism which says ‘there is no god’ both require supporting proofs.

Unsurprisingly, I agree with Flew’s argument.

How does Saints and Sceptics address the argument? Like this;

His comment here suggests that perhaps it should really be a presumption of agnosticism, but what exactly is the difference between atheism and agnosticism? The obvious answer is that an atheist believes that there is no God, while an agnostic is undecided

and like this;

Another way to put this is to say that according to the presumption of atheism, there is a greater burden of proof on the theist to make a case for God than for the atheist to make a case against God. By contrast, the presumption of agnosticism would place an equal burden on both the theist and the atheist

The author has redefined the words so that they do not mean what Flew described in his document and then flat out lies about Flew’s intent.

Put in these terms, it is clear that Flew did indeed have the presumption of atheism in mind, and this is the view that atheists often appeal to.

No, no, and NO! Read Flew’s essay again, he went to great pains to specifically not assume the atheism that Saints and Sceptics means in that quote.

Flew actually agrees with the point made, in fact he implies it at a couple of points. Like this one;

To this the objection is almost equally obvious. Given just a very little verbal ingenuity, the content of any motion can be rendered alternatively in either a negative or a positive form: either, “That this house denies the existence of God”; or, “That this house takes its stand for positive atheism”. So interpreted, therefore, our axiom provides no determinate guidance.[3] Suppose, however, that we take the hint already offered in the previous paragraph. A less literal but more sympathetic translation would be: “The onus of proof lies on the proposition, not on the opposition.”

Saints and Sceptics continues…

In the case of God, the atheist may well believe that there is evidence against God’s existence, but that needs to be argued for rather than smuggled into the presumption of atheism.

I agree. I also agree that the argument for the existence for any god needs evidence.

In the rush to bash atheist arguments, Saints and Sceptics has misrepresented Flew’s argument and then made the very point that Flew was making in the first place. Presumably wishing to take the credit for being so insightful too.

On the alleged atheist faith

UK Christian powerhouse, Premier Christianity; which also happens to host the Unbeliveable? podcast that I referenced in my last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/who-wants-to-believe-without-evidence/), has popped up a blog post this week which rolls out a rusty old trope on atheism. Given how much the Unbeliveable? podcast shouts about its encouragement of dialogue between believers and non believers, I am dismayed that they’d let a post like this through. One thing this post does not do is encourage dialogue, it appears to seek to paint the atheist as something inferior to the Christian and therefore not worthy.

Have a read here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-I-don-t-have-enough-faith-to-be-an-atheist

Note how the criticism of atheists is that they have a faith based belief system. Forget for one moment how that simple claim is utterly false and savor for a moment the gloriousness of Mr Goswami proclaiming the nonsense of a faith based belief system, while himself adhering to a faith based belief system. He may as well condense his tirade into “Look at those dumb atheists and their beliefs, they are just as illogical and silly as us with our own beliefs.” I suspect the juicy irony is lost on him.

Below I’ll pull apart what I can from his post, feel free to comment with your own take.

The title.

Why I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist

Oh no, how bad it must be to have that much faith! Poor dear Christian, go and read in your bible about how Abraham was held up for how much faith he had. The bible extols as a virtue large dollops of faith. If atheism requires more faith than you are capable of, then atheism surely must be followed by biblically awesome people. Try harder dear Christian, maybe one day you will achieve this exalted height.

Yet, ask the atheist and they’ll tell you that it doesn’t take any faith to be atheist. Faith is the requirement of religious belief, theism being one example. Atheism is by definition not that and so is without faith. By claiming atheism requires faith, the title is already framing atheism as something it’s not and framing it in such a way that the Christian can credit themselves with a faux humility. Yuk! The words used intentionally build it as a system requiring more faith than the authors chosen religion. With man of straw successfully constructed, there’ll be no prizes for predicting that the main article takes the form of a straw bashing stick thing!

Having set the scene, the author jumps straight into ..

Here is what we could say is their basic creed:

This is interesting, not only does this Christian know than I have more faith than him, he knows what my creed is too. This is news to me. It seems that self-appointed atheist expert Christians know my beliefs and creeds better than I do and they’ll stop at nothing to tell their flock about it. “Don’t listen to the atheist dear believers, for I and only I can tell the contents of their minds!” Can you see the humility dripping off your screen?

The universe exists by chance

The universe might exist by chance, or it might have been inevitable, given whatever there was that preceded the universe. The alternative to any one of the many human imagined gods creating the universe is not limited to the single option of chance existence.

This is a good educational link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20141106-why-does-anything-exist-at-all

The more accurate claim would be that the atheist position on the existence of the universe is that it exists.

How or why it came to be is an open question. Scientists way more clever than myself and Mr Goswami are still working on a way to figure it out. Should we be arrogant enough to make a claim on the matter? I’m not and so I don’t. I think (not believe) that its existence was inevitable, based on the properties of the ‘stuff’ that makes up the universe. When evidence comes up on the subject of the universe’s existence, I’ll read that evidence and listen to what the experts say and adopt the suggested conclusion.

Do all atheists hold the same view as me? I doubt it. Some will, some won’t. The claimed position of chance existence is not accurate.

Nothing exists beyond this life – there is no ultimate source of trust in the universe

It’s not absolutely clear what the author means by ‘beyond this life’ but one can be fairly certain that he means the Christian supernatural realm. Why not any other religious realm? Why is the Christian afterlife the only option on the table? Does the author accept that they could exist? On what basis should anyone believe there is more to the physical life we live on this planet?

My position is that we do not have enough information to be certain of any form of existence beyond this life. Everything so far points to this being the only life we get. It’s not a belief I hold, it’s a conclusion based on the evidence and it will change if the evidence changes to suggest something else.

Does the author have that evidence in his possession? Can he demonstrate it?

Why should I believe in something beyond this life for which there is no positive evidence? There are many claims to existences beyond this life and some are mutually exclusive. They can’t all exist. If I am to accept that there is an existence beyond this life, then I want to know which one of the many that is and what the evidence is. Not accepting something because it’s not demonstrated is a perfectly rational position. What it’s not is a creed and it’s certainly not specifically atheistic.

As for ‘there is no ultimate source of trust in the universe’, WTF is that even supposed to mean? Is this some form of special Christianese? I’ve clearly been out of the fold for too long.

Humans are the ultimate judge of all things – there is no final moral reckoning

More Christianese I fear. The phrasing of this item is so slanted towards religiosity, it’s pretty much impossible not to reject it outright as being nonsense. Of course rejecting it means that the author can claim that they are indeed right that they have identified a creed item. Viola, erected straw man successfully bashed down. *le sigh*.

Truth is; final reckoning is so far off my radar I don’t even give it a thought. I know the author is referring to the Christian day of judgement. How about the other religious end of life positions? They don’t hold to the Christian one. What’s the faith relationship between Christians and those religions, or atheists and those religions? Do I need faith to doubt those claims too? Does the Christian need faith to doubt them? I fear a complex web of faith and yet more faith in denial of all these conflicting religious claims.

What the Christian author is assuming here is that the Christian position is the only one that matters and that to deny it is to have a bad belief. In his critique of the atheist position, he is forgetting that there are way more than just the two. There are many religious positions he could be arguing against.

Is there an atheist creed on this? Not that I’ve seen, no one has ever told me that I must take that position that there is no afterlife, of any sort. Do I hold to the view that there is no afterlife? Close. I don’t believe there is one, but I also don’t hold the belief that there isn’t. I doubt very much that one exists but not to the point where I proclaim any belief on the matter. Much like the previous point, should evidence suggest one; then I’ll follow the suggestions of the evidence.

Any value or purpose of life can be worked out from the wisdom of mankind

Ah yes, the old purpose gambit, should have been able to see this one coming. More Christian centric waffle. Sadly for Mr Goswami, atheism doesn’t have a position on purpose, because it’s not a belief system or a faith.

Our purpose in life is what we self assign. This is a philosophy position. The wisdom of mankind tag at the end is typical of the Christian way of phrasing things that I am used to and do not miss in the least. It’s framed to suggest that man’s wisdom is inferior and oh so arrogant. The Christian God’s wisdom is so much betterer. I have never seen any memo that says I need to hold to this. Any purpose I have in life is my own. It’s a purpose that I self assign, to say that I believe or hold to a creed that I should work it out is false. There is no working out; I simply pick what I want. No creed required.

Everything can be discovered by science

Hang on a minute! Isn’t this supposed to be a critique of atheist creeds? Why the sudden switch to science? What does he mean by ‘science’ anyway? For the purposes of my response I shall assume that what’s being referred to is the scientific method.

I partially covered this one in my last post but I’ll do it again here.

All that we know, we know by the process known as the scientific method. There’s nothing faith based about that. If the Christian wants to challenge that, then all they need to do is demonstrate, in a non science way, something that we know that’s not down to the scientific process. There is a theme to the way some of these items have been phrased that is typically Christian in that it’s attempting to paint the perceived atheist position as either closed minded or negative. This is a good example of that blatant dishonesty.

I do not think that anything we currently know and that can be demonstrated can be done so by methods other than the scientific. Does that mean I think that as a result of science we will one day know everything? No. I believe (hah!) that there will always be mysteries and something new to learn. I also believe (ye gads!) that the scientific method is currently the best way of discovering new things. That may change one day or it might not. If ever a better way of discovering things is discovered, I’ll gladly follow that method.

Currently, the scientific method works a little like this: someone comes up with an idea, that idea is tested and predictions are made on the results of those tests to see if the idea has value. If the tests fail, then the idea is discarded or changed. When the tests pass, the idea is adopted until further tests or idea render it inaccurate. This method is a well tested method and has shown itself to be effective in improving our knowledge of the world.

This is the flexibility and open mindedness of atheists like myself. Why would any Christian critique that process as an unworthy belief system except to self-justify their own incoherent and deeply suspicious beliefs?

There is no purpose or meaning to the universe (And it’s a silly question to ask anyway – see below)

What possible purpose can it have? (And yes it is a silly question)

If the universe has a purpose how does it know and how do I find out?

If the Christian wants me to believe, as he presumably does, that the universe has a purpose, then it’s up to him to show me how that can be known and confirmed. Until then, there is no point in even thinking about it, and I don’t. Suggesting that I’m somehow deficient for not accepting his religiously motivated belief is exactly the sort of ugliness I have learnt to expect from the sort of Christians who views atheists as inferior. I don’t care enough about the universe having a purpose to hold a position on the matter. It’s a sentence that holds no meaning or value.

Human ideals are progress, tolerance, and individualism

Huh? I don’t even understand what that’s doing there. It is surely a philosophical position of one form or another. Humanism maybe? It’s certainly not something that forms part of any atheist non creed that I’ve seen.

That said. I think that as ideals, those are not bad ideals. However I do doubt that they are set. Some humans may behave as though those are their ideals, some certainly don’t. Atheism doesn’t say anything about the subject and the Christian who makes that claim doesn’t understand atheism. This item has a feeling of desperation about it.

That looks like a belief system to me. But not only that, secular atheism is pretty exclusive in its beliefs.

Oh its secular atheism now is it? How does that differ from religious atheism? Isn’t this supposed to be how atheism is a bad religious belief system?

It looks like a belief system to the Christian that paints it as a belief system. Unfortunately, the painting is as accurate a representation of atheism as a Picasso portrait is of my reflection on shaving day.

Atheism is a faith that claims there is only one kind of truth

Said no atheist ever!

There’s even a name for it ‘Scientism’ – which roughly means that all questions must be answered by scientific method and all truth must be amenable to science

Is there an echo? Hasn’t this been covered already?

I have seen the ‘Scientism’ accusation many times. It’s not a new religious tactic. It’s basically trying to tie the atheist/skeptic/scientist/whatever into a corner that says they are closed minded because they don’t accept or believe things that can’t be demonstrated through the scientific method. It’s a frustrating claim to counter because there is so much dishonesty behind it that it really can be hard to get the other party to understand the problem with their thinking.

Here is my attempt:

The scientific method is an evolving process where we test what we think we know so that we can get confirmation of its veracity. If someone who believes in a god wants to convince the world that that god exists, then they should describe a process that demonstrates that god. Why should I accept it without examining evidence? Surely the Christian doesn’t want me to believe in something that could be false or made up! Or do they?

I think what this item is complaining about is that in science generally, if someone makes a claim for something being true, then they must demonstrate that. Why is that a bad thing? This should be celebrated and supported by Christians as a good and rational way to be certain. The Christian bible puts too much emphasis on believing something because someone said it and not enough emphasis on validation and honest critique and the result of that is the rotten logic display in this item.

If a Christian makes a claim of someone that’s amazing then they should and they must be prepared to back that up. In that sense, yes, I will own this item, I will stand up and say yes, all questions must be answered by the scientific method (as described briefly here). If the Christian wants to decry that as Scientism, then I embrace that wholeheartedly because I will not believe in something just because someone else says it’s true and the Christian should not either.

Let’s look at another faith – the one that believes in God.

Yes, let’s!

As well as science, this faith takes on board historical evidence for the life of Jesus Christ and the reliability of the Bible (evidence which is a mile high compared with many historical events).

Let’s not forget the events that didn’t happen either! Oh and who measured the mile?

This faith takes seriously the notion that our universe is fine-tuned for life to an almost incomprehensible extent.

The universe is so fine tuned for life that life exists on only a fraction of a part of a small rock that orbits a single insignificant star that’s one of billions in a galaxy that is itself one of billions of galaxies. There are regions of that rock that will kill most forms of life and especially the life that is typing this blog post. Leave that rock and the universe will kill us week humans very quickly in all sorts of imaginative and deeply unpleasant ways.

The universe is trying to kill you (http://www.astronomycast.com/2014/05/ep-343-the-universe-is-trying-to-kill-you/).

If the universe was fine tuned for life, then life would be everywhere. This claim is bogus.

There is spiritual, ethical and moral truth, there is experiential truth, truth as allegory and metaphor. There is literature, history, philosophy. More than just science.

Correct, there is. All created in the human mind! Some of good value and some infuriatingly ridiculous. How does one discern the difference between ideas that are correct and ones that are wrong?

Scientism in any case is self-defeating. Saying “it’s not scientific, so ignore it” is itself not scientific.

Does anyone actually say that?

More to the point, what is the connection between that and atheism anyway?

It’s as though the author thinks ‘scientific’ means some pre-determined set of findings (creeds and beliefs maybe?). No wonder he’s all in a blather, when you misunderstand something by such a wide margin it’s hardly surprising that your critique of it makes no sense whatsoever!

When I read the word scientific, I read it as a methodological process by which we test or measure something to determine how it works or what is correct. It’s a process, not a set of beliefs. It’s as though the author is trying to poison the meaning of scientific to make it seem like its a bad thing. Which is a bad thing.

There is no scientific theory that says “all answers must come from science”, no experiment that can prove “science must be your only worldview”.

See!

Science isn’t a worldview and it can’t be a worldview. Redefining something incorrectly for the purpose of your own delusion is dishonest and not Christian. God will judge you for that!

Surely the way to approach all questions is to say, “I want to find out the truth – even if that that truth lies outside my narrow comfort-zone.”

I do want to find out the truth, even if it takes me outside my comfort zone. I am willing to bet that all atheists want that. I have seen what happens when you show Christians something that takes them so far outside their comfort zone that it suggests there is no god at all. The result is not pretty! The author is trying to eleveate himself to being the open minded one for thinking outside of the innacurately assembled box called science. But the reverse is true, show the atheist reliable, testable and demonstrateable evidnce for god that they’ll stop being atheist. Show the Christian that their god claims can not be known with certainty and prepare for insults.

if your brain is the result of mindless, unguided processes – why would you even trust it?

You shouldn’t. That’s why we have the scientific method. To remove the human from the equation. The human brain will fool us and let us belive all sorts of nonsesnse. We should never trust our brain on it’s own.

To be sure, atheism is a belief system in many ways like any other. Yet when you say that to atheists it touches a raw nerve.

When you keep repeating a lie about people, they will get upset about it. That should not be a surprise.

I don’t have enough faith to believe that the universe is some kind of gigantic car-crash, a colossal accident that just happened to come about. I don’t have enough faith to believe that there was a big bang followed by an ordered world. It’s a step beyond reason, a leap in the dark.

Nor do I.

Yet pretending it was all started by a matterless, all knowing, absolutely everywhere being that can’t be detected by our untrustworthy brains but somehow interferes with us and everything we see is perfectly reasonable? Okay.

Who wants to believe without evidence?

This blog post (https://atheistforum.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/unbelievable-comments-about-philosophy/) echoes a Christian ‘yeah but..’ that I regularly encounter.

It comes in the form of a complaint about the demand for evidence and is typical of those who, having lost the argument about what the evidence indicates, resort to the final frontier, that which can’t be evidenced. It’s their safe space from those nasty horrid atheists that keep demanding evidence, how darest they!

The blog post I referenced above is commenting on an episode of the Unbelievable? podcast (http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable) it’s a weekly Christian radio show, here in limeyland,which features discussion on a range of subjects; usually two guests with differing view points, often one Christian and one not. I listen to it. In fact it’s the only podcast on the subject of religion that I habitually listen to. I like the format and I like the stimulation that I get from the discussions. Sometimes I get frustrated at the utter ridiculousness of Christian defence, which is why the linked blog post has prompted me to write my own.

The part I want to pick out is the final sentence of this section.

I tended to enjoy the debate and it provided much food for thought and further discussion. Yet the debate took a surprising turn right at the end (around the 1 hour 8 minute to 1 hour 10 minute). Jeremy Rodell made a surprising and almost unbelievable comment.

When it came to sharing final thoughts Rodell asserted that a person should base what you believe on evidence and ‘I don’t see any evidence for Tim’s worldview’.

However the problem with Rodell’s statement is that whilst it is intuitively appealing, it is actually philosophically flawed. The claim that you should base what you believe on evidence is self defeating, because this assertion itself is not based on evidence. Where is the evidence for that statement? That claim cannot be demonstrated through ‘evidence’, it must be assumed.

When faced with the challenge of evidence to back up belief in a god, the Christian responds with the retort that there is no evidence that we should search for evidence and then stands back apparently chuffed at having delivered a bamboozling come back. If I wanted to drop to this level of playground hair-pulling I’d retort with a request for the not evidence that demonstrates anything. Would the person who thinks they’re being clever in demanding evidence for the demand for evidence like to stand in a courtroom and watch a defendant come up with that? I bet they’d join the judge in laughing their wig off!

The simple fact is that everything that we know to be right and everything that we know to be wrong is known because of evidence. Evidence drives all knowledge. That is the evidence for the assertion that we should base our beliefs on evidence.

In my many discussions (well, arguments actually) with Christians, I’ve met the claim that the scientific method of evidence gathering, prediction and test is a philosophical position. Yet here there is a Christian saying it’s a philosophical failure to want evidence for a belief. How cute!

This is the rotten part of religion, it places pandering and wishful thinking above what can be shown and demonstrated.

The question ‘where is your evidence for the claim that we should have evidence?’ is not an honest challenge, it’s a diversion from an uncomfortable corner from which the Christian wishes to escape. The question I tend to ask back is ‘Why would you want to believe anything that you can’t demonstrate to be true?’, maybe one day a Christian will answer that one honestly ….

Coming to Ontario – 2017

This is a request to those readers who might have knowledge to assist me.

The family limey will be holidaying in Ontario in the summer of 2017 and so I’m looking for hints, tips and suggestions on what to go and see / visit and maybe even what to avoid. The itinerary is not yet decided so your contribution could make a difference.

I don’t want to give too many specifics this publicly, but we’ve already committed to the dates and to the hire of a small motorhome. Any useful tips on experiencing Ontario in one will be greatly appreciated. Especially relating to useful stuff to carry and what to look for in places to book for an overnight stay.

Given the family includes one immature adult and one pre-teen, there will be a day or two of amusement park so which one please?

Also, which wow sites would you recommend? Somewhere we can hire bikes, go for a trek, hire a jet ski, all these things considered.

Yes, the trickle of water at Niagara is already penned in as a definite, I’ve been once before about 15 years ago and I am looking forward to seeing it again.

I would appreciate suggestions by email if you have my contact details, if not, just ask below and I’ll pass it out.

Finally, if any reader will actually be in the vicinity during our holiday, the sharing of beverages and food will certainly be an option.

Fallible Memories

I recently got in touch with someone who I haven’t seen for over 30 years. In fact the last time we spoke I was a pre-teen! During our early catch up emails I was about to remind this person that after my parents separated she and my mum shared a house for some time, about a year I think. I was halfway through typing out the sentence when I suddenly remember, it wasn’t this person at all, but somebody completely different! How could I make such an error?

As it turns out, quite easily.

It seems that each time we recall a memory, we change it, in fact we could even be  remembering the last time we remembered it and not the actual event itself (https://factualfacts.com/science-facts/when-you-remember-a-past-event-youre- actually-remembering-the-last-time-you-remembered-it-not-the-event-itself/) and (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160517131928.htm).

Thankfully my embarrassment was saved before I hit send.

Unlike that time when a bunch of people I know were discussing past exploits when we were all younger and would regularly take our cars out racetracks or airfields for a day of fuel burning, tyre smoking, adrenalin fuelled, fun. During the on-line discussion a few photos of key events were posted and one such photos featured me on track in my Honda Civic VTEC with a Ford Escort Cosworth ahead of me. Someone sarcastically teased me saying I was inferior to let that happen. I confidently responded that I actually overtook the Ford on the next lap.

Imagine my surprise when a few days later I actually found a written report about that very track day that I’d prepared for the car club I was a member of at the time. I suffered a genuine moment of Cognitive Dissonance when I read that it was in fact the Ford that had overtaken my humble Honda. Oh the shame!

To anyone who knows their cars, the fact that my Honda was passed by that Ford should not be a surprise because the Ford is a much faster car. My own bias and wish fulfilment had led me to genuine believe the opposite of what had actually happened. The period of time elapsed was about ten years.

Yet Christians will continually promote the idea that the oral traditions which underpin many of the biblical narratives are accurate (http://reknew.org/2008/01/how-reliable-was-the-early-churchs-oral-traditions/).

How can they know? If they knew the truth of the original events, they could compare the actual event with the reported narrative. They don’t know the truth of the event, but they believe the narrative so they must create a scenario by which the original event becomes believable. This is essential in order to maintain their beliefs.

Yet the more we learn about how memory works, the more we realise that it is a constantly changing malleable process that will bend to satisfy our own wishful thinking.

If the strongest argument presented for something unexpected happening is that someone remembers it happening that way, then I’d suggest that accepting it without question is pretty much the worst thing you can do.

I Get Discussion Feedback

One of my recent posts (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/is-there-a-specific-event-that-turned-me/) had some feedback that I think is worth consideration and reposting so I can comment with greater detail.

Hi Limey I followed with interest your interchange with both James and ColorStorm. In defense of James I will say he did at least attempt to address your queries, as for ColorStorm, well….

I was interested in the points you raised with James. I thought they were very good and well considered.

I used to call myself a Christian, but no longer do so. One of the factors that led me out of the faith was studying theology at a post graduate level. I was troubled by how different theological views prevailed and how the alternative views both could be supported by the Bible.

In my own spiritual journey I wondered about matters like once saved, always saved. If God chose people for salvation then didn’t that mean God decided to send people to Hell. Whether the method of baptism was critical. If babies that die go to heaven then doesn’t that mean that abortion is loving not cruel. I could go on and on.

It is ironic that James talks about being confident he is ‘saved’ in the comments on the post when he talks about false confidence. The story of the ‘goats’ in Matthew 25 used to trouble me as I knew how unworthy I was. It is a great relief to conclude it is a man made myth.

I concluded that personality types make a huge difference. Christianity can be a terrible burden for an introspective person with low self esteem, as I am by nature.

First, thank you Peter for this compliment:

I was interested in the points you raised with James. I thought they were very good and well considered.

I will admit that a few of my responses to James were typed quickly and reactively and would probably have benefitted from a little more consideration before attacking the keyboard. That said, little of what James said to me was new, I’d heard it all before and so my responses were also not new responses, it’s a dialog I have had before in various guises.

Like Peter, I used to subscribe to the once saved always saved view. I was indoctrinated into this view but did ditch it in adulthood when I found that I could not square it with the Christian doctrine of free will. Something I failed to get James to admit there was a clash of.

On the subject of leaving the faith, Peter says this gem.

It is a great relief to conclude it is a man made myth.

This was my experience too. When the relief of leaving the faith is greater than the relief that salvation through faith provides, then that is an indication that the faith is a burden and does not bring the freedom that it so boldly claims it does.

Finally, this sentence should shine a light on how awful and shoddy the Christian faith is.

I was troubled by how different theological views prevailed and how the alternative views both could be supported by the Bible.

If the greatness and goodness of the Christian god is as self evident and wonderful as Christians would have us believe, then there would be so much more continuity of bible based assertions. When different believers get different interpretations from the bible, then that demonstrates that the bible is vague and the interpretations are being made by the human mind and not the spirit of their god. It shows that human bias is the source of all religious doctrine and the whole foundation is superstation not divine revelation.

It is the truly blind Christian that does not see this.

 

 

Some Flood Thoughts

In recent weeks I’ve engaged in a few Facebook discussions surrounding the Genesis Flood myth. There is a greater variety of opinions that Christians have on the flood than you would initially imagine. The conclusions I’ve come to on this is that many Christians now accept that the literal interpretation of a fully submerged earth following 40 days of rain about four and a half thousand years ago doesn’t hold water. Our levels of science knowledge are such that many aspects of the story can not be true.

I do love the irony in that. Here’s a story of a miraculous god, but it’s too unbelievable due to the naturally impossible elements, so lets change a few bits to make the natural elements more natural and so make the supernatural narrative more acceptable.

On the subject of impossible natural elements, a fully submerged earth simply isn’t possible because the volume of water available is insufficient. There’s some (relatively) basic maths calculations to demonstrate that. What you need to do is calculate the volume of water required to fill the earth from the deepest ocean trench to the height of Everest. From that value you subtract the volume of the earth that intrudes on that space.

The result is estimated at 5.728 x 10^18 m^3 (cubic meters). I’ve not calculated this value myself, I’ve trusted that the searches I’ve done to find it are accurate.

Now that we have the space to fill up, we need the volume of water to put into it, The water currently on the planet is clearly well short of that, otherwise we’d all be aquatic creatures, not land loving mammals. The volume of water currently on earth is apparently 1.386 × 10^18 m^3. This includes the moisture in the atmosphere, which is apparently 3% of that number.

The shortfall is an easy subtraction. An additional 4.4 x 10^18 m^3 is required. Where could that water possibly come from?

The Bible says it rained for 40 days straight. But that’s not additional water, that’s water already accounted for in the number above. However, the Bible does record rainfall, so how much rain would be required? One page I looked at said that 9m rainfall per hour would be required to rain that volume. I would guess that our atmospheric processes can’t handle precipitation of that volume for 40 days. In fact I doubt it could handle it for a single day. Of course a climatologist would need to fact check that for me, so please don’t quote me as an authority.

Apparently the record for the heaviest rain in recorded history is a little over 98 inches over 48 hours. Not even close to 9m an hour, and not even over the whole globe. In fact it’s so far off the mark it’s laughable. So even if this water wasn’t already in the system, our natural processes can’t cope with the delivery rate required of them. It would need a god to rain down that much water.

The Bible does have an obscure reference to the waters of the deep, and in typical Bible fashion, this is a non specific description that permits pretty much any sub surface activity. If the flood believer is going to accept what science has to say about the volume of rain falling, they are forced into using this phrase as their miracle get out clause.

Which brings us nicely onto a relatively recently announced discovery. That of the Ringwoodite Reservoir some 600ish km below the surface. Reservoir is of course not a very good description because this is not liquid water sloshing about in deep underground caverns. This is water molecules that form part of the rock structure. Rocks that are hot and under enormous pressure, a feature of the depth they are at. I understand that this water was discovered through analysis of earthquake vibrations, something that scientists make use of to determine the composition of the rocks below the surface. The technology and the science involved keeps getting better.

What I’m unclear on is the level of certainty there is for this water and it’s volume. One text I read said it could be 1% of the rocks and that means the water volume is three times that of the water in our oceans. If true, this brings the possible volume of water required tantalisingly close to the required amount, but it’s still short.

This isn’t the end of flood doubting though, not by a long shot. As already mentioned, this isn’t water that’s sitting there waiting to be spurted back to the surface, it’s literally in the rock. It’s also not absolutely known how much there is. I’ve not read that all the rock holds the same level of water or if an average across all the rock has been worked out. This needs to be known if there is going to be an accurate calculation of that water volume.

If we suppose for a moment that this an accurate value and that the Bible does indeed mean this water (a big stretch, but I’ll let it slide), then there needs to be a mechanism to get that water out of the rock and gushing to the surface at enough of a rate to flood the earth and drain away again in the time period allowed. Scientists say that to get the water out of the rock, the rock needs to be heated, so an increase in temperatures is required, I don’t know how much by. Something also needs to drive this water 600km to the surface, this will have to be an extra natural event. A geologist would have to tell me what affect that would have on the rocks that used to hold the water I don’t think it’ll have no effect, there will have to be a consequence of that water leaving the rock. The flow of this water would seriously erode the rock it was coming up through and going down through again.

Where is the evidence of all this water movement? There isn’t any!

A volume of water three times that which is in the oceans moved up through 600kms of rock and then back down again, in the space of a year, without leaving any evidence of its fantastic journey! I’m expected to believe that without question?

The beautiful thing about this water is that the scientists that say it’s there also say it’s been there for millions of years. So any creationist that uses the discovery of this water to back up their flood narrative, also has to reject the same sourced evidence that contradicts their myth.

Of course the submerged earth flood isn’t true, which is why many Christians, probably the majority, take a different approach and go for the localised version. It’s scientifically possible, which makes it more believable, but also, in my opinion, less biblical.

A local flood fails the major thrust of the Bible narrative, that is that every creature on earth must die. The local flood makes this untrue and therefore eliminates the need for an ark entirely. Despite this, the local flood idea is vehemently defended. The flood story is in the Bible and so it must be interpreted in light of science to be more acceptable.

Among the arguments I’ve seen for a local flood is that it was a specific lineage that needed to die, not the whole earth. I don’t think that’s an obvious interpretation from the Bible verses at all. It also ignores (denies?) the possibility of some descendants leaving the area while also completely side stepping the fact that it would have been a whole lot easier if Moses and his clan had gone for a long stroll to avoid the impending deluge.

Another suggestion I’ve seen is that it was a cascading flood that travelled round the globe, so not everywhere was simultaneously flooded, but the whole globe did flood. I give this one credit for ingenuity, but it utterly fails to explain the  latter stages of the flood, you know the fig tree and the doves part! Pesky Christians, always forgetting the detail.

Talking of detail, lets not forget that 600 year old Moses only had three sons and his something hundred year old sons where childless, despite being married. Must have been using condoms, dirty perverts!

Such is the state of Christianity, it must adapt its supernatural legends so they seem more naturally possible in order to make its supernatural agents more believable. I can’t be the only one who guffaws at that!