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Showing posts from June, 2013

It's been a week from heck!

Just a quick update:

I was punched in the face last week with the news that one of our recently-hired a.m. trainers was leaving (voluntarily). Actually, I wrote a post about him... he was the God guy. The uber-Christian who said goodbye by saying, "Have a blessed day!" or "Be blessed!" My girlfriend and I refer to him as "every hour on the hour" because that's how often he said he prayed for his ex-wife to "get right with God" before they got divorced. Personally, I'm totally shocked that prayer didn't work.

Anyway, he was making about an hour drive to work every day, and working at a church in a Tulsa suburb at night. That's rough when you have to be at work at 5:00 in the morning. He just spread himself too thin, and something had to give. We hired a new trainer, and although he's got a degree he has zero experience. So that means the other evening trainer and I have both been working mornings while the new guy "shadow…

My theory is scientific, but don't expect me to do science

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Back in the Dover trial when Intelligent Design advocates had to square off against some actual biologists, one of the biggest hurdles the IDer's had to face is that they hadn't actually produced any scientific research. Here they were, claiming that they had a scientific theory that deserved equal time with evolution in public school classrooms, and when they were challenged on what empirical evidence they had for their theory, they produced a whole lotta nothing. Kenneth Miller, the savvy evolutionary biologist from Brown who served as the key witness in the Dover trial (and whom, I ought to mention, is a Christian), has frequently taken IDer's to task over their failure to produce research. He did it at the trial, much like he did here while discrediting one of the key concepts in ID:

The point about research is a big one. Science is a methodology for understanding reality. It's the most successful such methodology we've ever developed, and its tremendous succe…

Randal Rauser is an ID proponent

After some engagements with him last month, I've had a mostly favorable impression of Randal Rauser. I say "mostly" only because I found him frustratingly evasive in some of our exchanges. But his penchant for dubious philosophizing aside (see Sean Carroll's lecture in the previous post), he's clearly a well-read and generally smart guy. I suppose I'd pegged him for more of the Francis Collins type of theologian, rather than the science-denying creationist type. But as much as I want to be charitable here (since he's a theologian by trade rather than a scientist), the entirety of Intelligent Design is just too idiotic for someone as otherwise intelligent as Randal to give it any serious consideration. Color me disappointed.

In a recent post in which he engages the might Chris Hallquist, Randal defines ID as follows:
"ID is the view that appeal to intelligent or agent causal explanations is a legitimate part of natural science." That's not ac…

Sean Carroll: God is not a good theory

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Terrific talk from Caltech physicist/cosmologist Sean Carroll:


Worse than Hitler? Or, McDonald's has oatmeal

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I was reading an article over on Huffpo linked from Facebook with the header, "McDonald's Admits Truth About Salads". I figured this would have something to do with the sourcing of the ingredients or whatever, but the actual article was called "McDonald's Admits Salads Only Make Up 2 to 3 Percent of Sales". That confession sounds like it says more about their customers than the company.

Attached to the article was a little slideshow called "11 Things McDonald's Wishes You'd Forget". It sounds like it'd be damning stuff, but instead it's stuff like, "Its employees work on Christmas" (since apparently no other restaurants are open on Christmas), and "They've been accused of..." without actually saying whether that accusation went anywhere.

One of them was "Its oatmeal isn't good for you", and it linked to an old op ed (from 2011) by some guy named Mark Bittman writing for the New York Times, enti…

Philosophy is dead

A couple of posts back, I touched on Stephen Hawking's No Boundary proposal and why it was influential to my deconversion. Predictably, out come theists trumpeting the sophisticated philosophers of antiquity to argue against a theory which deals with quantum mechanics. This cannot go well. If we atheists love our physicists, then man, those theists sure do love their ancient philosophers.

But I tend to find such philosophy to be little more than sophistry, for reasons that seem to me should be obvious. The philosophers of antiquity did not have access to the sciences of general relativity or quantum mechanics, or even Newtonian physics for that matter. They attempted to make ontological declarations about the world by logical inference, achieved through rational introspection.

Well, the problem is that science has revealed that reality often defies our intuitions. Take, for example, quantum mechanics versus classical (Newtonian) physics. In Newtonian physics, you can determin…

Sometimes, I'm embarassed by other atheists

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I've been seeing lots of memes like this on Facebook:


I feel like this is so obviously stupid that I think it's ridiculous that I have to actually explain it.

"Science" has no values. It's not proscriptive. Science can be used for great kindness, or great cruelty. A religious person could just as well make a similarly inane meme where one picture, captioned "Science with religion", depicts a missionary delivering vaccinations to impoverished children and the other picture, captioned "Science without religion", shows something like Nazi medical experiments or an atomic bomb.

I'm all for criticizing religion – particularly fundamentalism – but I think that in the process, it's important to remember that most religious people are normal, nice people. The good that is done by religious people far outweighs the bad – not necessarily because they're religious, but simply because they're human beings and we human beings (contrary to o…

More on Randal Rauser's reply: Being a good skeptic

Continuing on from the other day (and sort working backwards through Randal's post), Randal offered some other points in his reply to my short essay that I think need to be addressed, starting with my discussion of the multiplicity of religions.

Back when I was a Christian, the question that really troubled me and spurred my intensive study of theology was Why are there so many religions? Randal offered his interpretation of my question, which I think is pretty accurate:
(1) If there is a God then why would he allow there to be many diverging interpretations of the human problem and the means to resolve it? (2) If one religion is true, how can we tell which one it is? He doesn't spend any time on the first, instead just linking to some other material. But the reason I found it a troubling question was to me fairly obvious: if God really desires everyone to be saved, then why not intervene in humanity long before we'd diverged across all the continents? Or why not reveal th…

The dumbest thing I've ever read.

I'm halfway tempted to comment on this, but I thought it'd be more entertaining just to leave it as is.

Evolution's Difficult Questions

Many have zealously embraced Darwinian evolution without question, as if it were the gospel truth. But can evolution stand the test of close examination?

Zoologists have recorded an amazing 20,000 species of fish. Each of these species has a two-chambered heart that pumps cold blood throughout its cold body.

There are 6,000 species of reptiles. They also have cold blood, but theirs is a three-chambered heart (except for the crocodile, which has four). The 1.000 or so different amphibians (frogs, toads, and newts) have cold blood and a three-chambered heart.

There are over 9,000 species of birds. From the massive Andean condor with its wingspan of 12 feet, to the tiny hummingbird whose heart beats 1,400 times a minute, each of those 9,000 species has a four-chambered heart (left and right atrium, left and right ventricle)--- just l…

Randal Rauser on reading Stephen Hawking

Randal Rauser recently invited me to do part of a series he did which he called Why they don't believe, in which he's invited various heathens like myself to offer a brief overview of why we're not believers. You can read my entry at Randal's blog here.

Randal was kind enough to offer a reply, and although I responded briefly in the comments on the post itself, I wanted to explore some of the other topics he touched upon – in this case, his response to the influence that A Brief History of Time had on my deconversion (from agnostic theist to atheist; my deconversion from Christianity was some nine years prior).

A quick recap: there's a chapter in ABHoT called "The Origin and Fate of the Universe". Prior to my budding interest in cosmology, I'd held firmly to various cosmological arguments for the existence of God. There had to be a Creator, I reasoned, to bring such a marvelous, complex, and ordered universe into existence. It couldn't just come f…