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Showing posts from October, 2011

'Religious values' are human values

I was perusing WEIT, and Jerry Coyne has an email up from Dan Barker, the preacher-turned-atheist who is now president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. This section stuck out to me in particular:
During my debates on morality I point out that all of the good teachings in the world religions (which show up in all of them) are really HUMAN values: peace, love, cooperation, and so on. Those values transcend religion, and are in fact the values we use when we are judging from the outside whether we think a particular religion is good or not. (So they must not originate from within religion.) When you factor out the common teachings shared by all religions (the good stuff, the humanistic stuff), what you are left with are NOT good teachings. The so-called “religious values” that Christians, Jew, Muslims and other groups hold are divisive, idiosyncratic, and unproductive to moral discourse: what day of the week you should worship, how women should dress, what foods are pe…

"The Playboy Club" and porn

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I recently watched the three episodes of The Playboy Club on Hulu, and I enjoyed the show. Yeah yeah, it's like the old joke about reading Playboy for the articles, but I actually did enjoy the plot and the characters.

Aaand it's canceled.

Its cancellation was due in no small part to the absolute onslaught of conservative media watchdogs slamming the show for being "pornographic", well before the show had even aired. That's right. The show was roundly condemned for, among other things:
Objectifying and degrading womenAdvancing an anti-family agendaDistributing pornographyBreaking the law ... all before anyone had actually seen the show. It was enough simply to be associated with the Playboy brand. The conservative media group Parents Television Council raised the biggest huff, sending threatening letters to NBC affiliates and petitioning advertisers to cut ties with the show. The controversy was enough to slap NBC into barely even promoting the show and, as the r…

The future according to Microsoft

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Surprisingly devoid of robot overlords.

I would be blogging more, but...

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Battlefield 3. So there.

Love, marriage, and other quandaries

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It's been heavy on the heady stuff here at The A-Unicornist. So here's something a little more introspective and personal.

I'm 32, and single. That old saying "Youth is wasted on the young" has become more and more apparent as I've gotten older. I think, in a lot of respects, I've been sort of a late boomer. It wasn't until I got out my last long-term relationship, which had lasted two years, that I really began to grow as an individual. My career was finally stabilizing (making a living as a personal trainer is not easy!), and I had control of my finances. And after finally finding the guts to end an unhealthy relationship, I was free to really develop my own identity.

I've had relationships since then, of varying degrees – one-nighters, friends with benefits, intense love... but nothing's worked out. Through the course of it all, I've grown incalculably. I've always considered myself introverted, but for most of my life I was terribl…

Thoughts on the Universe

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If there's anything that grinds my gears, it's this snarky question often posed by believers to atheists (actual phrasing may vary):
"If there's no God, Mr. Smartypants Atheist, where did the universe come from? Huh? Riddle me that! Do you think everything just came from nothing?"  In the last post, I linked to a Reasonablefaith.org Q&A in which W.L. Craig said the following:
In fact, here you should turn the tables and ask [atheists] how time could come into existence with no causal conditions whatsoever. That is truly bizarre. Why did time and the universe begin to exist at all? How could they begin to exist in the absence of any causal conditions? The typical response from non-believers is "I don't know" – which is perfectly valid. After all, if we knew why and how everything got here, physicists wouldn't have jobs.

But the better response is to point out that simply assuming that the universe 'came from' anything at all is t…

Goalpost shifting

Whenever you present an argument against theism, and a believer responds by telling you that your argument has failed to disprove anything or that you didn't prove 'materialism' or 'atheism', call them out on their goalpost shifting. It's the non-believer's job simply to show that a theistic argument doesn't prove what the theist claims it proves. That's it. That's all it takes to show that the theist's beliefs are ill-founded.

For example, I've heard from more than one Christian that they would doubt their faith if the resurrection could somehow be disproved. But all the skeptic has to do is point out that there's no particular reason to believe that the resurrection happened in the first place. Or consider that counter-arguments to First-Cause arguments are often met with an incredulous, "You haven't proved the universe came into existence materially!" It's goalpost shifting, and it's dishonest. The skeptic…

That "I am the 53%" guy

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Daily Kos has reposted a great open letter to this guy:



This stood out to me the most:
Do you really want the bar set this high?  Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week?  Is that your idea of the American Dream?
Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week?  Do you think you can?  Because, let me tell you, kid, that’s not going to be as easy when you’re 50 as it was when you were 20.
And what happens if you get sick?  You say you don’t have health insurance, but since you’re a veteran I assume you have some government-provided health care through the VA system.  I know my father, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, still gets most of his medical needs met through the VA, but I don’t know what your situation is.  But even if you have access to health care, it doesn’t mean disease or injury might not interfere with your ability to put in those…

What the hell happened to Thunderf00t?

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Thunderf00t. Remember when that guy was relevant? It seems like not too long ago his videos on science and creationism had attracted so much attention that he sat down across from Richard Dawkins, Ray Comfort, and some nutbars from Westboro Baptist. Today, this is what his 'latest videos' look like from my Youtube subscriptions:


"Faith, the new stupid!" Really? "Cruci-FICTION", a very un-funny video with Mike Lee, the 'Religious Antagonist'? Really?

The guy's gotta be burned out, because this is just lame. Now, you can poke fun at religion in ways that are both humorous and thought-provoking, as fellow fans of NonStampCollector know. It's called satire. NonStampCollector is masterful at it, and I think satire can be very effective (think George Carlin, Penn Jillette or Ricky Gervais). Calling faith "the new stupid"? Going to a hardware store dressed as Jesus to shop for boards and nails? Not incisive, not thought-provoking, not fun…

Quick thoughts on Occupy Wall Street

In a lot of respects, the Occupy Wall Street protests mirror the Tea Party rallies -- disorganized, partisan (but nobody admits it), and not particularly unified on any particular goal. The overarching themes are good ones: the greed and irresponsibility of big banks, and the weakening of the middle class.

But I'm bothered by something. Back when Clinton was President and America was in the midst of a historic economic boom, one of those Dateline-type news shows had a special about debt in America. While the economy was booming, Americans were taking on record debt such that what used to be our 'savings rate' had become our 'negative savings rate'. I was barely old enough to vote and didn't have any credit cards, but I remembered thinking, This is gonna come back to bite us.
It's easy to pin the problems of the economy on wealthy corporations and big banks, many of whom raked in record profits even as the economy tumbled and unemployment soared. And certain…

The Kalam Cosmological Argument: the complete rebuttal

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I'm bad at this. I keep thinking that I don't want to retread various arguments I've addressed many times before. But every now and then, they just pop into my head and my brain can't turn off. Then I think of some new angle or something, and have this insatiable urge to blog about it. If you're tired of hearing about the Kalam Cosmological Argument, by all means just skip this post. Go watch some horrible videos on Youtube and come back when I've posted about something new and interesting.

Why am I retreading this? Because earlier today, I was thinking about the Kalam and thought of another objection that I hadn't used in any of my prior posts. But instead of just writing yet another objection to one specific part, I decided that this post will take sort of an outline format and summarize all the major objections to the Kalam. If you can read this post and still think the Kalam is a good argument, you've won. I'll be out of ammo. This is it. I'…

Thoughts on the Craig/Law debate

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I think that any non-believer who has followed the trajectory of William Lane Craig's debating career has probably imagined debating him. We've gone through the arguments and imagined how we might respond, and we've often criticized some of Craig's atheist opponents for not arguing the way we would.

Craig's doing his 'tour' of the UK, trying to get atheists to debate with him, and the other day he went toe to toe with Stephen Law, a philosopher at the University of London. Craig's debates are usually structured the same: he goes first (arguing the affirmative), and outlines the following five arguments:
The Kalam Cosmological ArgumentThe Argument from DesignThe Moral ArgumentThe Resurrection ArgumentArgument from personal experience For this debate, though, he ditched 2 and 5. Good. Hopefully he's ditching the fifth because he's realized that arguing for revelatory theology doesn't fly too well in debates that invoke evidential arguments and …

Dawkins finally explains why he won't debate WLC

And it's a beautiful slap-down:
Don't feel embarrassed if you've never heard of William Lane Craig. He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either. Perhaps he is a "theologian". For some years now, Craig has been increasingly importunate in his efforts to cajole, harass or defame me into a debate with him. I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: "That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine".

John Loftus controversy

UPDATE: We've worked it all out. See comments. I'm leaving the post up because, well, the fact that we got it all sorted out gives me good vibes.



An alert reader called to my attention a lengthy tirade the downward spiral that is John Loftus posted on his blog, which is notable because it calls me out:
If my accusers really cared about the things I do, then they would not try to "save face" by attacking a person such as myself who uses his real name. They play footloose and fancy free with my name, but realize that they are doing so from behind otherwise anonymous monikers, and are therefore chickens. Even a name like Mike D means nothing until he uses his full name. *Ahem*

For the record, I am not blogging anonymously. My contact info is easy to find via the tab up top. You can email me or go straight to my Facebook page. I just think "Mike D" is a little catchier. Lots of my friends have used it as a nickname over the years and I like the ring to it…

Can something begin to exist outside of time?

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You know how I said I'd never, ever, ever blog about William Lane Craig again? Me neither. But I'm pretty sure I said something similar, like that I'm not going to retread the same old arguments a million different times. Y'know, like Craig's pet argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I've already made it my bitch on several occasions (exhibits a, b, c, d). But there's one aspect of the second premise – "The universe began to exist" – that I was pondering today.

In the semi-recent Discovery special Did God Create the Universe?, Hawking addressed the old cosmological argument not by talking about his No Boundary proposal (see A Brief History of Time), but simply by suggesting that it's nonsensical to suggest that God created the universe because you can only talk about something beginning in reference to time. If the universe was non-existent, so was time, so the universe can't 'begin' to exist. Sounds reasonable to me. But wai…

3 ways I'd be better at being God than the Christian god

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I've blogged in the past about the evils of the Old Testament god [1, 2, 3], and I've talked about how modern Christians ignore what Jesus said. But my comrade Harry's comment on my recent post about the Imperialism of the Christian West got me thinking: there are plenty of things that God did that seem irrelevant, and many of his commandments that modern Christians ignore either because they're inconvenient or because they justify them as 'meant for the culture at the time' (i.e., they're inconvenient). But what about the things that the god of Christianity could have said – things he probably should have said – that he didn't bother mentioning?


1. People aren't property

Harry mentions in his blog that Jesus never condemned slavery. The god of the Bible never does. Kind of a big one, yes? Isn't it weird that Yahweh remembered to tell people to stone women who aren't virgins on their wedding night, and how Jesus reminded us that it's a si…

Lying for Jesus: Brian Auten reviews Alister McGrath's new book

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Alister McGrath, who I last recall from his squirmy evasiveness while being interviewed by Richard Dawkins for Root of All Evil, loves talking about the so-called 'new atheism'. He's the author of one of the most famous fleas, The Dawkins Delusion, and has now authored another assault on atheism with his new book, Why God Won't Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?. Over at the Apologetics 315 blog, Reasonable Faith (Belfast) director Brian Auten has reviewed the book. Not surprisingly, he thinks it really shows us how it is.


I haven't read McGrath's book, and don't plan to – especially after reading this review. What I read was such a flagrantly distorted caricature of new atheist writings and beliefs that I was at a loss as to where to even begin to clean up such a mess of dishonest tripe. But dammit, I'm going to try. Bear with me as I trudge through this review, addressing what I feel are some of the most overtly bogus and misguided statemen…

Imperialism and the Christian West

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On Columbus Day last Monday, some friends of mine were discussing (via Facebook) some of the lesser-known qualities of Christopher Columbus. In elementary school, we all heard that he 'discovered America', and was generally revered as hero and inspirational figure in Western culture. Of course, it's not exactly true that he discovered anything. The Nords had already been to the Americas long ago, and – most obviously – lots of natives already lived there in mostly peaceful (if primitive) cultures.

One of Columbus' most significant motives for his voyages was that he wanted to convert other cultures to Christianity. Maybe it's because of the Great Commission, but the spread of Christianity has always been deeply entrenched in Western imperialism. And as had often been the case throughout its history, Christianity was spread by the sword: as the Spaniards began colonizing the Americas and converting them to Catholicism, natives were systematically enslaved and subject…

Old Testament legal loopholes, exhibit a

Deuteronomy 22:28-9 says that if a man is caught raping a woman, he has to marry her. At the same time, 22:20-1 says that if a woman's not a virgin on her wedding night, she's to be stoned to death. I bet those old-time rapists were all, "Whew! I thought I was gonna be stuck with her!"


h/t Michael @FTSOS

Me vs. John Loftus, and a few more words on debates

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Well, John's blocked me from commenting over at Debunking Christianity following my harsh words on yet another post about W.L. Craig's refusal to debate him.

I may have been a bit too harsh on John. I don't think he lacks the competency to debate Craig, though I do think it's futile for him to harp on the topic when Craig's already stated his position. It is what it is, and I'm not sure what John has to gain from dwelling on it or why he believes it so important that this debate occurs.

To use the obvious boxing analogy, Craig is like the guy going for the prize fight. He's stepped in the ring with plenty of lesser-known atheists. Within the last year he's finally gone toe-to-toe with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. There's only one atheist more famous and influential than those two, and that's Richard Dawkins. But Dawkins doesn't give two shits about debating Craig. I don't recall Dawkins being into the whole debate scene anyway. …

Christians ignore what Jesus said

Betty Bowers' new video sounds a lot like some stuff I talked about a while back....

In case you forgot what 'traditional marriage' really is

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What's the big deal about debates?

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Recently, John Loftus of Debunking Christianity has been complaining about my favorite apologist punching bag William Lane Craig refusing to debate him. It sounds conspicuously like Craig whining about Richard Dawkins refusing to debate him. Meanwhile, Craig is going on a 'tour' of the UK where he's challenging atheists to debates. So far, the only one I'm aware of is a debate with the philosopher Stephen Law. I haven't read much of Law's stuff, but what I have read I like, so it could be interesting.

But, probably not. I really don't get the big fuss over these academic-style debates. Firstly, they frame the dialogue between believers and non-believers as though it is a contest of intellectual and rhetorical virtuosity, which in my view loses sight of the importance of dispassionate, self-critical inquiry. Presumably, each side's 'goal' is to present an argument so devastating that the opponent is unable to respond coherently or relevantly, if a…

Pseudoscience of the day: Energy Armor

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I caught this via the gaming site Shacknews, which reported that video game giant Electronic Arts is suing California sports-performance company Energy Armor over use of their logo, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Electronic Arts' iconic "EA" logo.

Energy Armor specializes in what they call "negative ion" wrist bands which they claim improve balance, performance and energy levels. Here's their promotional video:




There all kinds of products like this on the market, including the ever-popular magnetic wrist bands advertised for many of the same reasons. They are, without exception, placebos.

The supposedly amazing balance test that is displayed here is one that magnetic bracelet manufacturers also used, and it's not difficult to explain. The body adapts very rapidly to tasks in which some measure of resistance is required. For example, try holding out your hands and having a friend drop a heavy book into them. You'll find your hands dropping qui…

Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins (again)

Watch the latest video at <a href="http://video.foxnews.com">video.foxnews.com</a>
This is a great example of why Bill O'Reilly is a complete idiot. He purports to be interviewing Dawkins about his new children's book, The Magic of Reality. But of course he really just wants to get into an argument about religion and, as usual, is more interested in gaining a rhetorical edge than thinking critically.

First, O'Reilly poisons the well. Richard Dawkins was Professor for Public Understand of Science at Oxford for 13 years, and was a fellow there for nearly four decades. He's one of the most esteemed and influential biologists in the world, and if anyone is qualified to write a children's book on science, he is. But O'Reilly simply introduces him as an "atheist", complete with unflattering picture and the cap…

An atheistic thought for the day

I don't bother differentiating myself as a 'weak atheist', 'strong atheist', 'agnostic atheist', or whatever. "Atheist" does just fine. That's because there is no singular, ubiquitous definition of god – so whether I subscribe to weak or strong atheism depends on the definition of god being questioned.

If we define god in some nebulous sense like Deepak Chopra would – some sort of inexplicable 'universal consciousness', I am a weak atheist. Such a being's existence, by definition, can never be either confirmed or disproved. But on a theistic god such as the god of the Christian Bible, I am a strong atheist. Such a god purportedly intervenes in the natural world, answers prayers, authors books, gives people powers of miracles and prophecy, etc. The evidence is overwhelmingly indicative that such a god does not, and logically cannot, exist.

The Christian crusade against porn

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Who knew? According to an article over at CNN's Belief Blog, one of the biggest problems in the Christian church today is porn addiction. The blog describes several therapy centers, usually run by pastors or ministers, which purport to "cure" people of their addiction to porn:
This is Michael’s second week at “Faithful and True – Atlanta” a 16-week counseling program that, like dozens of others like it around the country, combines traditional psychotherapy with the Bible in an attempt to treat addictive behavior. Blankenship, a devout Christian who once struggled with sexual abuse, says his own ordeal has helped him to treat and “graduate” nearly 500 Christian men and women with similar addictions in the last five years. He says he has helped people achieve what he calls “sobriety,” which means resisting porn and lustful thoughts. Christian therapies "curing" people of sexual ills? That sounds like something we've heard before, amiright Ted Haggard? …