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Showing posts from January, 2013

My reply to Paul Gould of Reasonablefaith.org

In the previous post, I included my submission to the Q&A for William Lane Craig, and Paul Gould's response. So, here are my thoughts on what he wrote:

My name is Paul Gould and I'll briefly respond to your question on behalf of Dr. Craig. You state your question very clearly--well done.  I just want to point out here that Paul seems like a nice guy. His response is cordial, not defensive
I do not think however, there is any real worry about arguing in a circle, primarily, as you say, because the two quotes you reference are in different contexts. Bill provides a cummulative argument for the A-theory of time (see, e.g., his Time and Eternity). First he gives good reasons to think time is dynamic, second, he gives good reasons to think static time is problematic. It's worth pointing out that I have only read excerpts from Craig's book "Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity" (the full book costs over $200!), so I'm not certain what Craig's en…

A response from Reasonablefaith.org

At the suggestion of a reader, I submitted the topic of my post from the other day to William Lane Craig's Q&A section at Reasonablefaith.org. Today I received a response via email -- not from Craig, but from Paul Gould, who occasionally fields questions for Craig (you can find out more about Gould via his website here). Below is my question, followed by Gould's response. I will offer my comments on it later, but for now I just wanted to put it out there for anyone who'd like to read and offer their own insights.


My question to Dr. Craig:

In the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, you state, "From start to finish, the kalam cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time. On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really …

"I gave God 10%" = excuse for stiffing wait staff

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Hot on Reddit is a pic of a receipt from an unnamed restaurant in which the patron was unhappy with an included 18% gratuity, complaining, "I give God 10% – why do you get 18%?"


What really grinds my gears about this sort of thing (aside from the whole stiffing your wait staff thing) is that nobody gives their money to God. It's impossible, because God does not exist and, even if he did, he's "supernatural" and cannot physically take your money. So what people really mean when they say that they "give 10% to God" is that they give that amount to their church. That generally pays for the salaries of church staff, capital investments for church property and equipment, and – if you're lucky – some charity work.

There's no magic at work. If you want to give to charity, it'd be far more efficient to just give it directly to charity than to give it to a church. And your money isn't supporting "God", but the propagation of reli…

This pretty much says it all about William Lane Craig

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Straight from the horse's mouth:
From start to finish, the kalam cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time. On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived. [The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pp. 183-184.] And....
We have good reasons for believing that a neo-Lorentzian theory is correct, namely that the existence of God in A-Theoretic time implies it. [From Craig's book "Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity"]
If you can't spot the circular reasoning a mile away, you can find something more entertaining to do by clicking here.

p.s. – I found a great review of Time and the Metaphysics of Reality by Mauro…

The "Unpacking Atheism" simulcast

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Why do they keep acting like they want someone to throw them a football?


More baloney from Alister McGrath

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This ad has been popping up on my Facebook page:


It's an ad for a page that promotes Christian apologetics.

I've heard several prominent Christians claim they were atheists – McGrath, Lee Strobel, and Ravi Zacharias to name a few off the top of my head. In every case, they seem to characterize atheism as an ideology unto itself – one which can only lead to hopelessness and despair.

But here's the thing – atheism is a lack of belief in gods. That's it! Atheism is not a philosophical framework; rather, atheism is the outcome of a rational, evidence-based view of the world. It is not the belief that gods cannot exist, or that the existence of gods can be conclusively disproved. It's simply the belief that there is insufficient evidence to warrant belief in gods.

And yeah, we all have heard the canard about "Well hey, isn't that agnosticism?" No, it's agnostic atheism. A/theism relate to belief; a/gnosticism relate to knowledge. Agnosticism is not a m…

I've never been impressed with C.S. Lewis

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..... What?

That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Of course that is not the "only logical explanation". In fact, it's a completely illogical explanation that's riddled with baseless assumptions.

Perhaps you just haven't learned to appreciate what you have. Perhaps your desires themselves are irrational and unrealistic. Perhaps you haven't fully explored all the wonders that this world has to offer.

Remember – this quote is from the most influential Christian apologist of the last century. Heck, the guy practically coined the term. Lewis was, ironically, a catalyst of my deconversion from evangelical Christianity many years ago. Even as a teenage Christian I thought his arguments were full of holes, and this quote is pretty typical on the absurd-o-meter.

Talks from FreeOK... finally!

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The Thinking Atheist has posted the videos of the lectures I saw at FreeOK this past summer. I didn't attend the entire day – I saw Hemant Mehta, Abbie Smith and David Silverman. Abbie's was an interesting lecture on biology, but it didn't really have anything to do with secular issues. So I'm just going to post Hemant and David's talks. There are more on TTA's Youtube page. I especially loved David Silverman's talk, and I think that any reasonable person could agree with him regardless of religion.








And just because, here's Andy James on guitar.



A couple of questions about the Bible (request)

My last post got me thinking about the Bible, and there are a couple of questions I wanted to shoot out toward my readers (both of you!) regarding a few issues. I'm asking these questions because I seriously don't know and I'm looking to find out what is generally accepted as true on these matters. I've done my share of homework but I'm having a hard time coming up with anything solid. Anywho:

1. Evidence for a meticulous oral tradition prior to the writing of the gospels

Christian apologists are always saying that you can trust four decades of hearsay because the gospel stories were passed down according to a very meticulous oral tradition. The thing is, I've never been able to find any direct evidence that this happened. None of the gospels themselves (canonical or otherwise) claim to have been passed on in this way, so I'm not entirely sure where the claim comes from or how it's supposed to be substantiated.

The only such "oral tradition" I …

Is being skeptical of the Bible like being a Sandy Hook conspiracy nut?

Jack Hudson says it is:

The foundation of such conspiracies rests on a pernicious distrust of authorities and the media as well an overblown sense of skepticism that proffers if one wasn’t present for the events themselves one can’t trust the accounts of others.

I have found that in many ways skeptics of Christianity are similar. Their arguments against the New Testament accounts sound very similar to the claims of the Sandy Hook truthers – that the accounts are inconsistent, that those giving the accounts aren’t reliable, that there are unreported facts which undermine the ‘official’ story or show that the story we are getting isn’t complete. The fact that people can question the reality of widely witnessed events days after they occurred show our inherent tendency to doubt; and the tendency of some to doubt no matter what facts are presented. With a very generous nod to this fantastic post from NonStampCollector, I'd like to take the opportunity to run with that anal…

Some reminders of how small you are

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First up, we have these two amazing photographs. They are zoomed-in captures I took from this page – a zoomable snapshot of the galactic center of our Milky Way galaxy. The full picture packs an astonishing 1 billion pixels. From a distance (the full shot), it mostly looks like a haze. But zoom in and you'll find millions and millions of stars. Perhaps even more humbling is the fact that this picture contains less than 1/1000th of all the stars in our galaxy. And if we took a similar snapshot of deep space, we'd see millions of galaxies, which would again be only a tiny fraction of the number of galaxies in the observable universe. Check out the page for yourself, and be filled with awe.


Next up we have this great picture of the phylogenetic tree of life. Notice the "you are here" in the upper left corner. The astonishing thing? This depicts less than 1% of known species.




Atheists are so stupid, unlike smart humble Christians

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What's so great about forgiveness?

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During my spell as an evangelical Christian, there was a great deal of emphasis placed upon the value and importance of forgiveness. It went hand in hand with "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" (y'know... the stuff Christians say they do, but don't) – it was an idea of humbling oneself by letting go of bitterness and anger, and following God's example. Of course, I don't remember threatening anyone with horrible eternal torture if they didn't accept my forgiveness, but that's a topic for another day. But in any case, it's right there in the Lord's Prayer: forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

This phenomenon isn't restricted to the church; there's a great deal of pressure in popular culture to "forgive". Families of murdered children "forgive" the killer. Husbands and wives whose marriages were destroyed by infidelity "forgive" their estrang…

The gun problem

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I'm no fan of guns. Guns don't kill people – people kill people, goes the conservative maxim. By that logic, knives, nuclear bombs, guided missiles, rocks, swords, brass knuckles or even bare fists don't kill people. They're all simply tools. But as far as efficiency goes, guns rank pretty high among tools of death-dealing. They may not have a will of their own, but for those who do have the will to harm others guns sure make the job a hell of a lot easier than rocks, knives or fists.

Like Sam Harris, I find it eminently reasonable in many circumstances to own or carry a firearm for personal protection. While it's unfortunately true that statistically guns are responsible for far more accidental shootings than home protection, reasonable people can take steps to make such risks negligible such that they are far outweighed by the benefits of owning a firearm. In the unlikely event of a home invasion, it's simply unrealistic to expect police to arrive in tim…

A Christian nation?

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Thought of the day

If the only alternative to belief in God is eternal punishment (usually described as being the most horrible torture imaginable) then acquiescing to faith is tantamount to obeying someone holding a gun to your head – it's merely self-preservation under extreme duress. Who would want to be in Heaven with a god who has to threaten people with eternal torment to make followers out of them?

Gotta love Ray Comfort

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Spied on Facebook:

Here's the thing about this sort of gospel preaching style. In order to be swayed by it, you have to already hold a lot of assumptions, all of which are baseless. 
Firstly, you have to assume you have an eternal soul that will survive your death. You have to believe that some sort of god exists. You have to believe that there is an afterlife, neatly parsed into Everything Is Perfect Land and Fuck You Land. You have to believe that this god will, upon your death, judge your eternal soul based primarily – if not solely, depending on your theology – on what you believe, not whether you're a good person. You have to accept the concept of Original Sin, blood atonement, sacrificial covenants, and the bizarre notion of God creating a body for himself then killing it (or allowing it to be killed) as a sacrifice to himself. 
Most insidiously though, it plays off our fear of death and annihilation. Of course we don't want to die. But that doesn't mean the alte…

Yes, Intelligent Design is still based on a God-of-the-Gaps argument

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If you've ever noticed that ID advocates spend vastly more time trying to poke holes in evolutionary biology than they do actually doing research that could substantiate their competing hypothesis, you might have come to the conclusion that the reason they aren't doing that research is because the whole thing is just one big argument from ignorance – if something takes on qualities that are arbitrarily determined to be sufficiently complex, then some "intelligence" must have designed it.

Over at the ironically titled blog Evolution News and Views, they've slapped up a post arguing why ID is totally not a God of the Gaps argument. It fails hard, and I highly recommend you read it just for a good old fashioned chuckle. But if you'd rather not, I've picked a few choice quotes to ream.
My friend Jamie Franklin recently published a post on his website explaining why he has come to reject the claims of ID. His main concern is that ID presents a god-of-the-gap…

Capitalism and altruism

A friend of mine recently recommend the documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, which is about (according to the description) "the state of the global socioeconomic monetary paradigm, concluding that we need to move to a more resourced-based economy". I haven't watched it yet so I can't offer any sort of review, but my buddy showed me a clip with Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist at Stanford, and he had this to say:

We in America are in one of the most individualistic societies, and capitalism being a system that allows you to go higher and higher up a potential pyramid, and the deal is that is comes with fewer and fewer safety nets. By definition the more stratified a society is, the fewer people you have as peers -- the fewer people with whom you have symmetrical reciprocal relationships; and instead all you have are differing spots in endless hierarchies, and a world in which you have few reciprocal partners is a world with a lot less altruism.
He makes some commen…

It's a new year, baby

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Well. So, over the holidays things around here were fairly slow. I had a fantastic holiday (the parents love the girlfriend!), and I'm very refreshed and eager to dig into the blog.

I've made a great deal of progress through Alexander Vilenkin's book Many Worlds in One, so soon I'll be able to finish that multi-part series I started several months ago: How William Lane Craig Misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin. Craig cites Vilenkin's work often, to support the notion that the universe had a beginning (ergo Jesus). Reading the book myself, I find Craig's representation to be so woefully misguided and flagrantly distorted that it borders on outright lying. But then again, this is coming from a guy who literally thinks that Einstein is wrong about General Relativity.

Sigh.

Anyway, yes, more to come on that and much more. Until then, here's something spied on Facebook today:


I think it's kind of hilarious that apocalyptic Christians imagine the returning Chris…