Showing posts from June, 2010

If there's no God, what difference does anything make?

I recently watched a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson at the Westminster Theological Seminary, which I encourage you to view by clicking here . Wilson's opening salvo was one of the most common arguments for a belief in God — essentially the idea that if there is no God, then everything is just random chance, and nothing can mean anything. There can't be any means for saying that anything is true or untrue, right or wrong. We wouldn't have any reason to believe our representation of reality is worth anything. Without God, so we're told, nothing means anything. I thought the Hitch answered the issue quite well, but I wanted to respond with my own thoughts on the subject, as this is a frequent argument among theologians well-versed in apologetics. "Random chance" We know with quite a bit of certainty that a great many amazing things happen by sheer chance. Take for, example a snowflake seen under a microscope. Think about how absolute

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Sometimes, talking about philosophy is not quite enough to get through to some people. For me personally, reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time pushed me over the edge from "theistic agnostic" to "atheist" because it showed me that something I had though required a divine explanation — the origin of the universe — was within the realm of scientific inquiry. Only in retrospect have I understood my philosophical follies. This is a phenomenal talk from the physicist Lawrence Krauss on how the universe really could have (and almost certainly did) come from nothing, answering the believers' question, "How could something come from nothing"? I've discussed this in previous blogs, but it's great to hear a pro do it justice. Most fascinating to me, though, is that it turns out that much of what Hawking thought was the case nearly 25 years ago when he wrote A Brief History of Time now has very strong empirical support. Choice quote f

Faith doesn't work

I've mentioned before that I'm a follower of PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula , as I'm sure many of you are. I like the polemical way he writes – clearly exasperated by theism and quick to mock its absurdities, but also articulate and incisively humorous. In a recent post bashing (again) the comedy show that is the Templeton Foundation , he said something I think bears emphasis: These guys really don't get it: we're not objecting to the conclusions of religion (necessarily), we're saying that how they answer questions is invalid, and a guy using religion to justify liberal views is just as wrong as the guy using religion to argue that gays must be stoned to death. This comment mirrors Stephen Hawking's recent statement in an interview with Diane Sawyer which I recently blogged about , in which he said: "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Scienc

This post has been confirmed by Snopes!

Ah, email. What a necessary evil you are. I got an email from my mom today. It was one of those chain letters with some ridiculous claim – in this case, it was the claim that car air conditioners emitted toxic levels of a carcinogen called Benzene. The way to get around this horrible exposure, the email suggested, was to always roll down your windows and air out the car for a few minutes before you turn on the A/C. If course, this email doesn't actually cite any sources, but it does say "confirmed by!". Funny thing is that when you actually go to, you find that Snopes does not actually confirm the story at all. This reminds me of a similarly stupid one that said you should check gas pump handles for needles that could give you AIDS. Since when are chain emails a reliable source of information? Take the whole cars-and-benzene thing. You'd think that if this were a serious public health hazard, someone from some reputable journalistic outfit w

A world without God

Believers and non-believers certainly disagree on innumerable things, but perhaps one thing we can agree on is that a world without God would look very different than a world with God. I'm an atheist not because I'm certain there is no God, nor because I think religion can be destructive and divisive, nor because I merely disagree with any particular religious creed. I'm an atheist because, when I look out on the world, I see a world just as it would be without a God, and find no plausible reason to entertain the idea of such a being's existence. Throughout this blog I've attempted to address numerous specific issues salient to the clash between faith and reason — the nature of morality, the origins of life and the universe, the problem of suffering, and many others. In this post, I'll lay out what is, for me, the most clear and definitive argument for rejecting belief in a supernatural deity. So it's in that spirit that I ask: what would a worl

Conservatives and Stepford wives

Another quote brought to my attention by Bruce Gerenscer, this time a real doozy from notorious evangelical nincompoop Pat Robertson. On the 700 Club, Pat fields a call from a woman who is distressed because her husband is flirty with other women. She says he's always been that way, but it's getting under her skin. How would a sensible person respond to this? Well, pretty much the opposite of how Pat responded : CO-HOST: Pat, this is from Anne who says, “My husband has always been a flirt and loves to talk with other women he finds attractive. He says he would never cheat on me but his actions are starting to get to me. What should I do?” ROBERTSON: Anne, first thing is you need to make yourself as attractive as possible and don’t hassle him about it. And why is he doing this? Well, he’s doing it because he wants affirmation that he is still a man, that he is attractive — and he gets an affirmation of himself. That means he’s got an inferiority complex that’s coming ou

Science, faith, and deconversion

I'm sure most folks who read my blog (go you!) are familiar with PZ Myers and his blog Pharyngula , but just in case you've missed it he posted one earlier today in which, in his usual polemical style, talks about why science works and faith does not. I thought it was pertinent after the Stephen Hawking post I put up yesterday. These were the gems that caught my attention and made me cheer, though I encourage you to read the whole article : The success of science has shown us what an effective knowledge generator accomplishes: it produces consensus and an increasing body of support for its conclusions, and it has observable effects, specifically improvements in our understanding and ability to manipulate the world. We can share evidence that other people can evaluate and replicate, and an idea can spread because it works and is independently verifiable. Look at religion. It is a failure . There is no convergence of ideas, no means to test ideas, and no reliable outcomes

What the hell do you say to these people?

Last night I watched an equally heartbreaking and appalling documentary from Vanguard about the infamous Ugandan anti-gay legislation. I'd heard about it before, and I knew that it called for harsh penalties – up to and including execution – for anyone caught as a homosexual, and that it was the center of a great deal of international attention on account of its egregious violation of human rights. What I didn't know was the story behind the legislation – the influence of Christianity in the country, and the influence of Western evangelicals. Western Christians, including many evangelicals such as Rick Warren who have publicly denounced the legislation, would like to argue that these aren't representative of most Christians, or perhaps that they are not "true" Christians. The country is roughly 90% Christian, and the overwhelming majority support the radical anti-gay legislation. This is not a small problem. And while it certainly is not representative of most

Stephen Hawking on religion: "Science will win"

Kudos to Bruce Gerencser over at the NW Ohio Skeptics blog for bringing this to my attention. (Btw, if you've never read Bruce's stuff, I highly recommend it.) I'm a big fan of Stephen Hawking. His popular science classic A Brief History of Time is one of my favorite books, and was instrumental in shifting me from a self-professed "theistic agnostic" to full-blown atheist. See, for many years after I rejected Christianity for its litany of absurdities, I still believed in some sort of higher power; partly as an emotional crutch after having been a devout Christian for so long, and partly as a classic god of the gaps explanatory device, not the least of which is the mere existence of the universe. Hawking showed me that the question "how did the universe come to be" is perhaps not a valid question at all; that the origin and fate of the universe is within the realm of scientific inquiry. It was only after being educated on the science of it all that

A major blow for chiropractic

By night, I'm a fierce blogger, taking to the interwebs my swift keyboard of justice. Or something. But by day, I'm a mild-mannered personal trainer. In my field, I meet lots of people will all manner of random health problems. And a lot of them see chiropractors. I'm of the position that chiropractic is a pseudoscience. Its risk is relatively low, but so is its efficacy. It's been around for a long time and enjoys a peculiar level of acceptance in our "alternative medicine" worshiping culture, but don't let its popularity fool you. It's woo. And now, a major chiropractic governing body has admitted that it's woo . The emphasis below is mine. The General Chiropractic Council (GCC), a UK-wide statutory body with regulatory powers, has published a new position related to subluxation and the claims made by Doctors of Chiropractic.  The GCC was established by the British Parliament to “regulate and develop the chiropractic profession”. GUIDANCE

Tim Minchin

I've always admired the ability of comedians like George Carlin and Ricky Gervais to concisely critique the absurdities of religion through satire. Today I was introduced to Tim Minchin. He's clever, funny, and a hell of a musician to boot: