Saturday, April 25, 2009

Did Darwin Kill God, Part 3: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.

Despite the poor handling by Cunningham, the question of whether or not atheism and evolution have any direct or indirect ties is actually a fairly interesting one. On one hand, atheism is simply the non-belief in any gods or gods and the only reason one truly accepts atheism is because theism is not embraced. In this sense atheism certainly doesn't rely on anything other than the failure of theism. Whereas evolution is an astounding and impressive explanation as elegant as it is simple, and as powerful as time allows. It fully explains the location, design, complexity, elegance and beauty of life. It's a complete explanation for one of our greatest questions, but it says nothing about God. -- And in that, it is somewhat atheistic. In the solution to one of the most important questions ever there's no role for gods to play. If we contrast this with Paley's argument which would have been the foremost accepted explanation prior to Darwin we can see a stark contrast between the two. Paley's theory could very well have made deists out of pure rationalists simply by being the most convincing explanation. When we see the amazing designs of nature, Paley was just scratching the surface, and though his claim was, admittedly, an argument from ignorance, what an argument it was. It would seem unfathomable to anybody that you could explain all of life with simple secular terms. That any force, other than an intelligent fathomer, could come up with such amazing and seemingly purposeful designs.

As Richard Dawkins noted in The Blind Watchmaker,
An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

In this same vein, it is my opinion that the way in which it could be said that Darwin Killed God is that he moved the end point of a functional epistemology. If one lived their life based on the evidence and the best reasons they had at hand, prior to Darwin one would have been a rational deist and after Darwin, outright atheism became the natural endpoint to living an evidence driven life.

It has always been the case that there have been scientific ethics and scientific endeavors, since the first of the ancient Greeks questioned the notion of whether or not progress was possible. Whether or not people could understand more of the world than they currently understood. If there exists some way of investigating reality. This is the first scientific conflict with religion.

There has always existed specific scientific virtues of curiosity, empiricism, and progress throughout history. Wherever they are suppressed, science is suppressed. Wherever embraced, science is embraced. When Galen challenged early evolutionists whose theory of transmutation was weak, powerless and wrong, he attacked the ideas with empirical evidence, pushed our understanding of the human body, and yet still concluded that the divine was the most logical conclusions. However, he didn't go beyond his evidence. He didn't propose an infinite God because there were noted limitations within men. He went were the evidence lead him, and the evidence lead him to God.

When ever these virtues are challenged, even by great minds, they end scientific inquiry. Wherever they flourish, science flourishes. Aristotle was a proponent of science in one's own mind. The idea that one could rightly divine by thinking about an issue the correct answer. This idea may seem compelling, but it has always been wrong. It was wrong when Aristotle concluded that objects of different masses fall to Earth at different speeds, it was wrong when Galileo dropped different masses off the Tower of Pisa to see if they did, and it was wrong when the masses struck the ground at the same time. Asking whether or not our beliefs are true, and how we can go about seeing if they are, has always been the scientific way of looking at the world. Wanting the most true beliefs and the fewest false beliefs has always been the core of science and the results of scientific virtues.

Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist to ever live (if this is hyperbole, you'll have to drop a few names). But, he was also a Christian. He wasn't Christian because he was blinded by his faith and wrong about what to believe, he was Christian largely because that is what a rational view of the world would lead on to believe in the 1600s. With no explanation of how life or any part of the universe arises by chance or by simple laws, it would have been absurd for Newton to not conclude theism. That is not to say he wasn't a freethinker. He refused to be ordained as was required by a man of his position because he felt that Trinitarianism was idolatry because the first commandment said that "I am the Lord your God, who delivered you out of Egypt, you shall have no other gods before me" and frankly Jesus didn't deliver the Jewish people out of Egypt so worshiping Jesus is worshiping an idol. And in those places where the scientific ethics failed and religious ethics succeeded they rendered Newton sadly moot. In the end of Principia, Newton concluded that the order of the planets and their interactions between each other must be the result of the hand of God keeping them working. It was another hundred years before Laplace properly explained perturbation theory and did the calculation properly without God ('I have no need for that hypothesis' or so he was rumored to have told Napoleon).

Cunningham cited St. Augustine to make the claim that Christians never really took Genesis as literal. However, what Augustine was really angling at is that they never really took science literally and they shouldn't embarrass themselves in the company of those who do. Augustine wasn't saying that it should be taken as figurative, but that rather it didn't need to reveal scientific facts about the world (which Augustine noted God clearly knew) but that we didn't need to know them. We have no need to be curious about the world because all we need is to be saved and all we need to be saved is the Bible. We don't need to test the world or test God, because we just need to be saved. And even if we could progress in our understanding of the world, it simply isn't necessary to be saved. Augustine wasn't saying that we should throw Genesis out the window and ignore it, he was saying that science is stupid and you don't need it to be saved, so God didn't include it in the Bible. This isn't a hard conclusion to reach, Augustine spelled it out:
In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

This is the division that has always existed between science and religion. Why when we look back through the ages we find many rational and scientifically minded people believing in God in times prior to Darwin and after Darwin we find that these examples cease with a surprising abruptness. Why should Thomas Jefferson, who was perhaps our only scientifically literate president, have said, "He (Calvin) was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be". He derided the newer supernaturalist brands of theology as talks of nothing and to be equivalent to saying that there is no God. Why should Jefferson be a theist when any contemporary individual of such a caliber embrace atheism? I contend that the answer is Darwin.

Cunningham is not only wrong on the obvious points, that Genesis was intended to describe the start of the universe within Christian theology and was clearly believed as mostly literal by a vast majority of Christians throughout the ages. Or that ultradarwinists extremists are trying to use Darwin to argue against God by embracing the Selfish Gene and Memes. Cunningham is also wrong on the core points, there is some respect that we could say that Darwin killed God. We can't accept that literally, as there never was a God to be killed. But, it is safe to say that Darwin made not believing in God the reasonable position to embrace, given a careful and full examination of the evidence. It wasn't until after Darwin and largely because of Darwin that a full embrace of scientific ethics lead to atheism. Darwin moved the endpoint of a functional epistemology from theistic conclusions like those (somewhat non-sequitury) drawn by Paley and others to having no need for God. Darwin made God superfluous. And for a God that does nothing, this is worse than a bullet. A difference, that makes no difference, is no difference. A dead God, or living God, or non-existent God doesn't change a jot or tittle of our existence, and Darwin made all three functionally identical when he explained life itself.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did Darwin Kill God, Part 2: Science

Continuing from Part 1.

When we left off we learned that the battle between Evolution and Christianity has nothing to do with science and religion and rather everything to do with politics and morality. Having previously learned that real Christians have never ever believed Genesis was literal.

William Jennings Bryan was a fundamentalist Christian Socialist who opposed evolution largely because he hated social Darwinism and clearly Social Darwinism is exactly the same as evolution.

So no Christian ever takes Genesis as literal in the all of history and nobody has ever opposed the teaching of evolution. Until now, we are currently caught out in left field by Bizarro-Superman's failure to stop the Scopes Monkey trial. Bryan was a complete freak and that's why he opposed evolution. Darrow on the other side, thought that science and reason could give a better morality than Christianity. We are told that that "Is a morality based on survival of the fittest!" However, nobody on either side bothered to ask if by embracing some absurd apologetics they couldn't be compatible and this is why people thought they were at odds, because everybody was just too stupid to ask whether they actually were at odds. When, as Cunningham has repeatedly told us, Magic Man done it in a garden with a magical tree is clearly compatable with it happened slowly by a self-refining process over billions of years so long as nobody *ACTUALLY* believes "Magic Man done it in a garden with a magical tree."

But Bryan suggested that the days were time periods rather than literal days. That's old Earth Creationism and they aren't at odds. What? Pfft. Worried about morality and social decline Christians embraced Young Earth Creationism by the 1960s because somebody wrote a book about Noah's Ark and how it totally happened. The creation museum freaks him out.

Literal Biblical interpretations undoes several hundred years of science and several thousand years of theology. However, the theology he's talking about is just pragmatism. You shouldn't tell the non-believers the funny parts because they'll laugh... guess what, we're laughing.

"By calling Genesis a science textbook they are calling upon us to worship science" -- WTF. No. Talk to creationists you dumbass they want you to worship God, not science. They oppose science because the Bible and scientific understandings are at odds with each other and they want their Bible to win.

But then there was ID which claimed to be science. "But, in reality it was just Paley's discredited notion of God." Oh, fuck you very much. Paley's notion of a watchmaker God was clearly the majority opinion and though the argument has a few holes in it (you can't actually conclude God did it) the notion is far more impressive and important than Cunningham credits it with. He seems to be very inclined towards suggesting that the Argument from Design is a mere footnote of frindge elements who weren't part of real Christianity that always disregarded Genesis as hokum.

'ID talks about God who intervenes with world affairs, and this means that he should intervene to defeat evil.' There are so many problems with that that I'm at a loss to list them all. First off ID doesn't need an intervening God. God could have just designed everything and scampered off. Cunningham's God still doesn't get to dodge the Argument from Evil because Cunningham's God is "the source of the gift of life". As to why this couldn't be the God of ID escapes me, but apparently for those keeping track:

ID God, Has no solution to the problem of evil. Not the source of life.
Cunningham God, doesn't need to solve the problem of evil. Gives gift of life.

Cunningham's God doesn't stop child molesters either, but these failures are only failures for other people's gods. Cunningham's God is the god of Traditional Christianity. Your Christianity is a freakshow bit of nonsense that actually has the audacity to believe the Bible. Philistines!

"God is existence itself." -- There's a word for that retard! It's called "existence". Creationism is a modern anomaly, that has nothing to do with Christianity. They believe that God created the world like it says he did in the Bible. That means they are nothing more than idolaters who want to worship science. -- I'm running out of absurd things to say about this position so I've taken to just repeating it in different words.

DARWINIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS! He's going to Boston to meet somebody who says that evolution has killed the need for God all together. Who could this fundamentalist be? Who could this closed-minded bigot against religion be? I'm on the edge of my seat! Universal Darwinism? Ultra Darwinism? Targets God? Hm. Who could it be. -- Dan Dennett? Really?

He uses evolution to justify atheism? What? Hey dumbass, you don't seem to know what you're talking about. "There's no role for a creative God. It takes no intelligence and it happens automatically." -- That's absolutely right.

"Ultradarwinists say that evolution says that there cannot be a God. " -- What? What part of "no role for" said "cannot be"? Evolution properly understood doesn't need God. It doesn't need anything but imperfect replication and heredity. That's why it's so jawdropping. It doesn't mean there's no God, it just means that God isn't needed to create life because life is fully able to create itself.

The basis for the newfound confidence in this is "The Selfish Gene". Now this is just poor scholarship. Its much the same as attributing all of Young Earth Creationism to one book on Noah's Ark. The Selfish Gene simply takes the Gene-Eye-View to better explain things like kin altruism.

"Some of those who disagree are some of the best scientists in the world." Hm. Francis Collins? What does he have to do with anything. There are more genes in other things than in other people. And our understandings of genes are quickly becoming more fuzzy. And this means the Selfish Gene fails and Ultradarwinism fails. What? These are certainly insightful but they aren't demolishing to universal-darwinism or evolution as an algorithm. Gene-Eye-View isn't a rock solid view, it's just a better view than organisms-eye-view. People with Huntingston die of Huntingston, but they also have more children on average than those who don't have it. This means that the gene prospers at the expense of the organism. It's hard to understand how a fatal genetic disorder could prosper without understanding that it makes more copies of itself. Also, things like altruism don't make much sense when one is constantly competing with others. Why should you give your life to save your entire family, because the genes that tell you you should are found more in your family.

You can't just reduce it to a gene and say that's the only unit. Nobody does that. In fact, after the Selfish Gene Dawkins made a point in several of his later books to point out the levels at which evolution occurs. However, since genes are the units of heredity it is these emergent properties at higher levels that ultimately reverberate down (they don't actually go anywhere, evolution is a bit like spooky action at a distance in this respect) and promote those genes that gave rise to those properties.

While flocking is useful to birds, and something about genes causes birds to flock (or those genes in those environments in those mixtures), it's those genes that benefit from flocking but the behavior even if we can't really pin down exactly what does what. We can predict however that if a gene somewhat critical to flocking breaks down that organism is going to be less fit in certain circumstances.

Collins: "Atheism, the statement that there is no God. Is not a scientific statement." -- Well the statement, I don't believe in God because I don't feel the proponents of the God theory have successfully made their case, IS a scientific statement.

"Science is limited to making statements about nature." -- In nature, we find no evidence that there is a God.

"Evolution is the answer to how. God is the answer to why." - Why is grass green? How did that come about? They evolved to be green because the red and blue ends of the spectrum are filled with some high quality photons and a vast number of low quality ones. The middle line green photons are fairly common but fairly weak and neither way of exploiting chemical reactions as such can properly utilize them (either get the most or get the best). So we have plants that evolved from blue-green plants into green plants and reflect green light because they never evolved a way to properly utilize it. How the fuck does that not answer the questions of how AND why?

"The God of the Gaps was never part of Christainity." -- Really. I'll just let that line sink in.

Not just believers in God who share his views. Atheists do to, who is this Chamberlin atheist he's going to bring up? Michael Ruse. Hey, I remeber that name. He published a few things that were utterly incoherent and nonsensical.

Neither Dan Dennett nor Richard Dawkins implies that Evolution implies atheism. Ruse is fucktarded if he doesn't understand their position.

"Atheists use the selfish gene to try and suppose that evolution does imply atheism." -- No.

"A theory has emerged that thinks it can explain everything, love, morality, even my belief in a creator. So is it safe to say that Darwinsm has killed god. It's a theory, which was born in Britian, it's call the theory of memes." - While certainly Christianity would be a meme of sorts, it's certainly the case that love and morality are both largely explained largely in the context of good old genetics.

"It goes much further than saying there's no God. It says there's no you or me." -- First off, evolution never said there was no God and neither did your supposed Darwinian Fundamentalists make that implication from evolution. There's no God because there's no God. Evolution is true because evolution is true. Memes don't suggest for a moment that you don't exist, but that you are colonized by memes. That a number of the ideas you have are had by you because those ideas are propagated by society, because those ideas are those ideas which are good at propagating.

It's a really good theory and the deficits are in the vagueness of how they are stored which is more an problem in cognition than with the theory in the context of universal Darwinism. This doesn't mean that everything is an illusion, it means that much of cognition is gleamed from society and society evolves. This doesn't imply for a moment as Cunningham suggests that being colonized by the Christianity meme means he's deluded and God isn't real. I'm infected by the gravity meme and I can verify that a trillion different ways, all of which are quite useful.

There's a fundamental flaw at the heart of theory. He also believes in evolution and therefore he's been colonized by the theory of evolution meme. Yes, it does. "How can I trust this meme to be any more true than any other meme?" -- Science. Ever heard of it? The meme that humans only use 10% of their brains is popular but false. You can quickly verify that it isn't true with a little research or careful reflection. Science is how you sort the true from the false. Science is the epistemological foundation that allows you to accept the true and reject the unproven.

Cunningham, with dramatic music, suggests that his utter idiocy on this point is a "philosophical problem that confronts anyone who believes in the theory of memes." Science requires objective truth, but there's no benchmark and their survival has nothing to do with their truth. The problem is science in such a view of the world is the clear suggestion that we should test these ideas and reject those which aren't true. Science is the methodological process by which we are asked to give true memes a selective advantage over the false ones.

Darwin's theory cannot be the whole story, and being but a chapter can't explain away God. First off, nobody said it was the whole story, he misunderstands universal Darwinism. Evolution by natural selection is an algorithm, algorithms apply everywhere and where ever we have the needed bits, evolution will occur. Memes, however, meet this criteria and thus must by definition evolve as such.

Cunningham then visits Morris who talks about music who notes that birds use music in much the same way humans do. This is generally as Dennett notes a Good Trick™, where two different bits of evolution converge on the same solution, much like bats and birds both fly. This isn't a demolishing blow to evolution, or something bizarre or odd, it's quite common and fairly interesting. The fact that there are solutions to things in design space which can be discovered via evolution, doesn't suggest that evolution is somehow flawed or incomplete. The reverse of the insinuation here is utterly flummoxing, would we expect to find that evolution actually made flight work in the first place? Is it evolution that made insects fly, not because the design for flight evolved within the world of physics, engineering, and design space, but because evolution itself produced flight and deigned that an upward force exceeding the downward force of gravity would propel something upwards?

"The theory of evolution helps my understanding of God from becoming too comfortable. Darwin hated religious controversy. He would have been dismayed. Accepted it and stop using it to attack religion!" -- Fuck you. Your magic man done it ideas are retarded, and just because you can claim with a straight face that nobody actually thinks "magic man done it" doesn't make it remotely true. I don't say there's no God because of evolution, I say there's no God because there's no God.

Part 3, Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, coming soon.

Did Darwin Kill God, Part 1: Religion

So, I managed to watch a copy of Did Darwin Kill God, put out by the BBC. Where Conor Cunningham walks around with a bizarre view of the world making outlandish claims and being utterly and completely wrong about everything from every side. This 'philosopher and theologian' (perhaps only worthy of the second title) tried to force an utterly and completely stupid set of arguments and insinuations down our throats for the length of the program. It was utterly disappointing, not simply because it was completely wrong but because it was a good question which if properly explored would have been absolutely delightful.

The debate has been hijacked by extremists... cue Richard Dawkins, the flagbearer of Ultradarwinists! Cunningham must be uninformed that there actually is something called ultradarwinism and it heavily surrounds the idea that Darwinian evolution would produce no junk DNA. That it would have every nucleotide in our genetic code useful for something, it's fairly and utterly debunked and the only actual flashes you get of it come from creationists who suppose that that is what evolution demands and therefore junk DNA disproves evolution. What scientific support there was for the idea and assumption vanished decades ago. He uses the term to be the same to as the term "Darwinian Fundamentalist" as he also uses later on in the program.

Conor believes that Christ was risen from the dead but Creationists are wrong to read Genesis literally. So apparently Christ died to free everybody from original sin originating from a figurative story. So spends the first half of the program hammering on the idea that Christians never *really* believed Genesis. He does this by lying through his teeth, whitewashing history, and pointing out that science disproves much of Genesis so clearly nobody could have believed it.

His arguments throughout are paperthin and anybody with a cursory understanding of history and the arguments and events involved will easily detect a large array of various problems with his arguments.

He starts off by pointing out that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are contradictory, so clearly it's all figurative. Philo suggested that the Bible always has two meanings and there's some allegorical sub-meaning. Clearly, because there were some apologetics even very early on it must be the case that the 'Tillich-ish everything is figurative' explanation must be right. This is absolutely dishonest. Philo was not widely accepted and the insinuation that early attempts to rectify Genesis with proper science means that nobody took it literally is worse than even an outright lie.

While it is certainly that the first chapter is far more outlined and far more detailed it doesn't mean that they are allegorical or descriptive of the fallibility of man or how ex nihlo was a gift from God. There are some changes in the order between the two versions, but the standard apologetic is probably correct: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are the same story with Genesis 2 going into more detail about Adam and Eve. This doesn't remotely suggest that it is therefore allegory than the fact that the Prologue in Romeo and Juliet quickly tells the entire story you're about to see makes Romeo and Juliet allegory.

If Cunningham wishes to argue that a few odd contradictions between two different versions means it's allegorically perhaps he'd like to read the Gospels side by side! It's telling the same story with varying details... this clearly means that everybody reads it as if it's false, right?

"Reading the Genesis as myth and metaphor is not a modern trend, this has always been the mainstream view." - FUCK YOU, LIAR!

To defend this indefensible claim he suggests that Augustine agrees with him. While Augustine did suggest that the Bible should not be treated like a science book, that doesn't remotely suggest that he thought it was metaphor. He just said they should avoid the parts that are scientifically wrong.

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

Augustine was saying that they should keep the parts that are clearly wrong on the DL. Not that they aren't part of Genesis or that Genesis isn't how the universe was made. Just that some parts are clearly wrong and don't scare off the converts by sounding like an idiot when it comes to these parts. It's not scientifically accurate and you should try to avoid sounding like a dumbass in front of the potential converts. Augustines explanation was that God just didn't share those details with us because they weren't important:

In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

God knew how the skies worked, but simply didn't teach men because they don't need to know how the skies work, they need to know how to get saved. You don't need to be curious about the world or to progress in understanding. All you need is salvation, and the Bible is all you need to be saved. God didn't include a lot of science in the Bible because the Bible is about getting saved not understanding the world.

Cunningham then makes the claim that many of the Church fathers were transmutationalists. I find this utterly unbelievable and frankly considering how loose and fast he plays with the facts, think it is largely false.

There were a great number of scientific arguments from God and quite often the argument from design and perponderence of evidence fell squarely at the feet of religion. The early evolutionists and transmutationalists like Anaxamander and others had completely nonsensical theories about life progressing, whereas religious defenses from scientific points of view such as those of Galen and others were straightforward and showed that life was simply too complex to happen in the ways suggested by the early evolutionists. The early church fathers were often dismissive of science and scientific virtues but others were scientifically minded and they too were largely religious.

Cunningham is suggesting that nobody ever treated the Bible as literal because many of the early church fathers didn't treat the Bible as scientific. They still argued that that was how God made man, but that the science wasn't needed. It was the way to salvation and science doesn't help with salvation.

Early church fathers dismissed the couple little snafus that cropped up in the centuries after the Bible was written by pointing saying it wasn't written to convey science but to convey what God wanted us to know to be saved.

Cunningham draws this out to imply that they would be absolutely fine dismissing every damned word of Genesis as being false. This is completely unacceptable. Dismissing a few silly things like calling the moon a lesser light when really it reflects light from the sun, is forgivable because God just didn't want to share science with man, only salvation. Using this to conclude that, therefore, the Church fathers would be okay with reading it all as absolute fiction is not acceptable.

"Avoid the silly parts when you're trying to convert people" != "It's all bullshit".

Usher believed the Bible. He calculated the start of the universe as 4004BC, this "eccentric speculation" as Cunningham calls it is actually very robust. Usher, to his credit, did the math correctly. The Bible actually does give all the dates needed to make the calculation. Cunningham dismisses this as a bizarre and freakish misappropriation of the Bible because the Bible should be read as something false rather than something true and nobody has ever believed it. Usher is an anomaly. If you don't realize the utter idiocy of this, you need to hit the books.

Victorians had fossils and had uncovered dinosaurs, so clearly they would avoided doing anything as silly as interpreting Genesis literally. This middle of the line claim seems a bit stupid on a number of levels. Cunningham suggests that dinosaurs and fossils didn't contradict Genesis (because nobody really believed Genesis), rather it kept Christians on the straight and narrow of not really believing Genesis.

However, those fossils did contradict Genesis and the theory of extinction took a good while to become accepted. It was widely expected that these large fossil animals had to be alive somewhere (they survived the Ark after all) and it wasn't until we explored a lot of the world that it started dawning on people that they were dead and gone. It took a while to convince very influential and brilliant geologists that there never was a global flood. They believed Genesis literally and it took a large mass of evidence to pry those beliefs away from the scientific establishment. There's a reason why history starts in the Middle East around 4000 BC, because it use to start with the Bible. There's a reason why human fossils and primitive migrations aren't taught in history class (they are classified as prehistoric because they occurred before history that started with the Bible).

Simply because some of the early church fathers were okay with the moon not emitting light itself, doesn't mean that they would be fine with all life on this planet evolving over billions of years.

Cunningham is lying himself into a corner, suggesting that dinosaurs and other things that contradict Genesis are actually evidence in favor of his theory that the mainstream understanding was to 'read-Genesis-as-false'. His argument seems to be that Genesis has always been false, so when a scientific explanations come around and take huge chunks out of Genesis that's fine. Sometimes better than fine because it shows how obvious it must be that it wasn't actually read as literal.

When Origin of Species came out, it explained the intricacy, development, design, and understanding of life and demolished Genesis... or so Cunningham tells us we've been told. But, Cunningham has been arguing for the last 18 minutes that nobody ever read Genesis literally! Not Philo who was unpopular and non-influential, not Augustine who suggested maybe if you're trying to convert people you should read the silly bits, not Victorian England which already had plenty of stuff that contradicted Genesis. So why would anybody make this outlandish claim (other than having read any bit of the debates and arguments going on at the time).

However, England was going through the Industrial Revolution and a new idea of God came around about God who's main proponent was William Paley who compared life to a watch. And argued that it was so complex it could only have been made by God. --- Cunningham is so utterly full of shit. -- First off Paley 18th century, not 19th century, the argument had nothing to do with the industrial revolution and the argument was very old (several thousand years). Hume in the 17th century (writing before Paley) addressed the argument in depth in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Paley was required reading when Darwin went to college and rightly so. Darwin himself was very influenced by Paley and the parts that Paley failed to explain were the parts that troubled Darwin the most and helped him come to the conclusions he did. Why should each island have a different set of nearly identical finches or turtles or lizards?

The argument was and still is quite compelling. Basically Paley outlines all the rather amazing bits and things in life today and says 'show me how this could possibly happen without a designer, how could you possibly do any of this marvelous detail without God?', to which Darwin responded: 'here's how'.

The argument from design was not only widespread but it was the foremost theory as to how life could have possibly originated. When Galen challenged the evolutionists of the 2nd century, he did so by showing the intricacy for which no theory of evolution could account. The argument from design is *still* the best argument for God to ever be made (it falls short on a number of points but still clearly ranks best) and it was the foremost explanation for thousands of years and the fact that it went hand in hand with religion is actually fairly moot. Paley is more an explanation of life than an argument for God.

"Darwin killed God, but only Paley's God, who was at odds with the founding fathers of the Church." Conor Cunningham is a lying stupid piece of shit. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. It's insulting to Darwin, Paley, and the Early Church fathers. I have much respect for each of these three groups and the suggestion the Cunningham makes is wrong on a number of levels. Putting Paley as a silly-misguided footnote is beyond pathetic, beyond dishonest, and missing a very valuable set of points.

Cunningham now cites some apologetics start to develop concerning evolution by natural selection in the church. As these apologists suggest that Darwinism doesn't necessarily lead to atheism, clearly it must be true. We are treated to the idea that if there's an apologetic for something it simply must be true! They are doing exactly what Augustine suggested they should do, when some embarrassing bits of science come up and make your religion look silly, sweep it under the rug as best you can.

Darwin lost his faith because his daughter died not because of evolution. While this is clearly true, that his daughter's death lead to his lost of faith, it isn't true that evolution played no role. His ignoring the what Richard Dawkins so aptly noted: Evolution allows one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. This is the sense in which Darwin killed God. This glanced over point, should have been the core of the program. Evolution doesn't lead a person to atheism, but it lets their theism lapse without any nagging thoughts. I'll come back to it in Part 3.

He glances over a later copy of Origin which included the word "Creator" at the end due to the public outcry that Cunningham suggests never happened. If nobody cared up until then why would do people think they did... because, "the war had not yet begun."

It's really that the battle started in the US as the Scopes trial and had "nothing to do with science or religion and everything to do with politics and morality!" Really? Cunningham at this point seems to try to outdo himself on the stupidometer. When the scopes trial started everybody was shocked, SHOCKED, because they all accepted evolution... THE STUPID IT BURNS!

Part 2... coming soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shroud of Turin, Part Three: Innuendo of Wrongness!

So apparently, my response to the response of somebody's response of my review of some Shroud of Turin documentary on the BBC has elicited a response.

How insightful is this criticism of my position?

The Shroud of Turin was carbon dated in 1988. The conclusion of those tests was that the cloth originated between 1260 and 1390.

Color me shocked. The test they did to check the date of the shroud in 1988 found exactly what I say it found. The Shroud of Turin is a 14th century hoax. But, lets see why this clear and scientific evidence should be overturned.

However, tests recently conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by a team of nine scientists under the direction of Robert Villarreal confirm what chemist Raymond Rogers found and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005): The tested sample was not representative of the shroud’s cloth. Rogers’ findings had also been confirmed by Georgia Tech’s materials forensic chemist John L. Brown.
The idea generally is that some new carbon must have gotten into the samples and caused all the different carbon tests to register an incorrect date of about the same time. How does this happen? Generally speaking, it doesn't. They have claimed that there was bacteria on it or that it soaked in some new carbon during a fire. However, to make the Carbon tests properly register what looks like 1360ish to really be about the year 31, we need some about half the same to be contaminated with carbon from the year 2689. In reality, it's easy to explain how you could screw up a carbon-14 dating to have it far too old. But, to get it far too recent is quite hard to do.

So contamination, in general doesn't work without contamination of some carbon with greater than the rather steady ratio of atmospheric carbon-14. So rather than that they need to say that the entire set of samples taken from the Shroud itself are not taken from the shroud. How do they do this? Cue, invisible thieves of carbon dating!

In the 1500s, the shroud went on a tour of Europe, and security wasn't tight, Benford said. It's possible somebody removed a small piece of the shroud and patched it using "invisible weaving," a common technique at the time that would've left the alteration unnoticeable to the naked eye.
That's right. Carbon dating is discredited by suggestions of invisible shroud thieves who, stole some of the shroud, but more importantly secretly replaced the section they stole with 200 year old cloth. Why they would replace it rather than just grab it and run away, seems a bit odd, but nevertheless that's the claim.

Even the Christopher Ramsey of the Oxford Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, which participated in the original tests, has concluded the needs for new studies. Not Ssnot, he knows better than scientists.

Go ahead and carbon date it again. I'm not going to stop you. We can take a larger amount, from more places, with more labs and get more data. We can carbon date parts with picture on it if that makes you happy.

It isn't that the first study was flawed, rather that if you keep whining about the fact that it's a 14th century hoax, we'll be happy to debunk it again with some more data. I'd be fine to burn the entire thing up checking every thread for it's carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio.

A scientist will acknowledge that we might not have all the answers. A fundamentalist ignores such caution.

This however is a major problem with the posters claims about the Shroud and myself. I am believing the science because that's what the science concludes. I am clearly on the side of science here.

I don't have all the answers, but on this topic I know where the evidence leads. We have a very good dating of the cloth to about the time the cloth was first seen. We have scientific data that allows us to conclude that it's 14th century. Suggesting that the carbon dating is wrong because of Jesus emitted a lot of alpha particles when he resurrected (actually suggested by Shroud folk) or because to spare the Shroud from the Romans time travelers retrieved the shroud and moved it 1400 years into the future (not actually suggested but just as plausible) is stupid, but I'll hear you out. If you want to to actually believe it, you need some actual evidence. You need something more than blanket suggestions of supposed reasons for inaccuracies in order to actually conclude anything.

You don't get to claim discreditation of the science with innuendo of wrongness. You don't get to say, maybe some elves stole some of the cloth and secretly wove some 14th century cloth into the shroud during the 16th century and therefore the carbon dating is wrong. No. You said it's from the 1st century. We carbon dated it: 14th century.

You need to prove that that carbon dating was wrong and that it's really from the 1st century. What we have instead is a claim that the carbon dating might be wrong if somehow the part that was carbon dated was really secretly replaced or repaired. You don't get to suggest with very vague language that it might be wrong and therefore it is wrong. No! No! No! That's not the way science works. You don't get to make your conclusion stick without actual evidence. Suggesting that the carbon dating is wrong is categorically different from showing that the carbon dating is wrong.

All of the supposed theories as to how the carbon-14 dates are all wrong, from alpha particle resurrection to secret thieves are all absolutely absurd. We could carbon date it again, but it was embarrassing enough the first time, however, even without this step the evidence is still firmly on the side of hoax because you don't get to suggest the test was flawed and use that to conclude the test was flawed. Suggestion != Evidence.

“I already knew that and found it utterly silly.” That is unquestionably fundamentalist talk; atheist fundamentalist talk — ignore the science.

No. I find it silly BECAUSE of the evidence. All of the proposed reasons why the tests were faulty take massive leaps to actually accept as true, unless one is clinging to the fundamentalism that the cloth must be accurate. It really wouldn't matter a jot to Christianity if it were a hoax. So the Shroud of Turin is fake, that doesn't change a damned thing. Piltdown man was fake, but human evolution still holds merit. Simply because somebody made a hoax to support something, doesn't mean that it must be wrong. Christianity is wrong because it's untrue, not because the Shroud of Turin is a hoax.

I've heard the "theories" as to why the carbon-14 tests were wrong. I've never seen a jot of evidence for these theories. So the scientific evidence is still heavily weighted on the side of "it's a damned hoax." This isn't fundamentalism, it's reasoned skepticism and following the evidence.

It takes considerably less of a leap of faith to conclude that the Shroud is a hoax than to conclude that the Shroud isn't a hoax.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy National Drug Test Eve!

Yeah, 4/20... Tomorrow are the drug tests! Woooo...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Signs of the Apocalypse...

College Humor actually made something funny...

We didn't start the flame war.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Better Trend...

Ah, Atheist Girls are back... much less disturbing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sonnet 31


Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,

Which I by lacking have supposed dead;

And there reigns love and all love's loving parts,

And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,

As interest of the dead, which now appear

But things remov'd, that hidden in thee lie!

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,

Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,

Who all their parts of me to thee did give;

That due of many now is thine alone:

Their images I lov'd I view in thee,

And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bastards care nothing for Global Warming!

So, some Somali pirates captured an American captain who allowed his crew to get away after offering himself as a hostage. In a daring rescue authorized by President Obama and executed by Navy Seals they rushed in, kicked ass, killing three pirates.

Now, I know that pirates attacking people is bad and pirates pointing guns at people are very very naughty. But, there are other issues to consider. Examine this trend for a bit and note the clear correlation:

Perhaps Obama isn't serious about global warming. That or there arrr some problems with this logic.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A somewhat disturbing trend...

So Atheist Girls blog which got some acclaim for trying to Poe the Atheist Experience and then got a quick post on Pharyngula, abruptly got locked to outsiders. I realized this after checking the blog based on the RSS feed I have put into Google homepage. The last post was apparently:

I've been outed!!!!!

Hm. That's a bad turn of events.

Eward Current: Evolution Shmevolution.

It seems odd to be a fanboi of somebody who has a fricking youtube channel...

Friday, April 10, 2009

DNA in pi. Why math is stupid.

Did you know that if my DNA were coded such that each nucleotide were assigned a number from 0-3 that it would be found, in its entirety, in the digits of pi? What's more, the number 7 appears in pi exactly as many times as my DNA does.

That is why math is stupid.


PS. I have an above average number of functional eyes for a human being.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The logic of religion...

This has to be one of the best videos to point out how silly theistic logic tends to be.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa legalizes gay marriage...

Well that's quant, now my state is hick compared to fricking Iowa. Damn you California.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sudden Tomato Fanboidom.

I ordered up a new Linksys wrt54gl router and installed Tomato on it for my firmware and I have to say, that's a lot of really useful features. I mean any feature I've every really kind of wanted and a still producing community that seems ready and able to produce more stuff. I'm currently maxing out my connection with both connections and throughput and it doesn't seem to be slowing down my web browsing at all. The QoS thusly is probably working, or one of the many other features that tries to do such things. All in all, I'm pretty happy. Sure, I don't really need a router that has a graphical ajax interface to display my current bandwidth utilization... but knowing that there is such a router that does such a thing makes you totally want one right?

I'll see how it works over the longer term but it seems pretty damn nice. Some of it could be that my previous Netgear FVS318v3 was kind of a piece of crap. It needed daily reboots, if you used too many connections it would lockup and need a more frequent reboot, it limited my 15 mbit/s download speed to a solid max of 8mbit/s (without router 12-15, with 6-8) (turns out the packet inspection for the firewall made it go really slow). I could deal with the connections just don't use more than a ~400 connections at the same time, or turn the timeout up. The timeout being turned up caused youtube to fail, and everything else to kind of suck. I thought Netgear was kind of douchey when somebody pointed out the connection problem on their forums and was redirected to a much more expensive router... as if doing a good amount of connections isn't something that home users should every actually do. Pfft.

Also, the house really needed some wireless access.

Community supported linux firmware on a router!!!! SPRING BREAK!!! WOOOOO!!!