The Logical Flaws of Creationism: A Darwin Day Special

Charles Darwin photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron 1968

Charles Darwin photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron

(article by Austin Young Michaels)

There are only two types of creationists: the dishonest, and the ignorant.

This statement may seem like a vicious attack on over 40% of the American population; however, the argument stands. This is not a cheap atheist stunt in order to inflame believers. It is barely an opinion. It is simply impossible to understand genetic, biological, geological, chemical, and medical sciences while asserting that things like Noah’s flood story are facts. There is simply no rational basis for creation “science”. As a hypothesis, it fails on almost all accounts. It violates physical principles such as the first law of thermodynamics, better known as energy conservation, to denying physical evidence such as the fossil record, strata layers, phylogenic trees, genetic webs, and radiometric dating.

Biblical creation has been disproven on almost every testable level. Dinosaurs never lived with humans. Noah’s flood never happened and is impossible (where did all the water go? And why doesn’t the geological record show any evidence of a world-wide flood?). The universe is well over the estimated 10,000 or so years old (around 13.9 billion is the current estimated age). Outside of these obvious flaws, creationism is simply not science. You cannot make untestable claims in the scientific world and expect them to be accepted, because such claims are not empirical (empiricism being the driving force behind scientific knowledge).

Furthermore, creationists seem to think that attacking the theory of evolution somehow legitimizes their own position. They do not seem to realize that even if they did somehow miraculously disprove one of the most well substantiated theories of biology, that they are still light-years away from legitimizing their own position. This is obviously an attempt in vain as evolution is an observable fact of nature (evolution, like gravity, is both a fact and a theory). Creationists often try to combat this by claiming microevolution is possible but not macroevolution. They do not seem to realize that macroevolution is just microevolution over a longer course of time, and that macroevolution is nothing but the continued subdivisions of species. The idea that no “kind” of species has ever become another “kind” is absurd (first off, what is a kind? Dp you mean from one species to another daughter species that has been observed.).  The evidence for “macroevolution” is apparent in the phylogenic tree of life as well as the genetic tree of life (and is observable in the fossil record, especially given things like the evolution of the reptilian to the mammalian jaw). The real problem stems from the fact that many creationists do not understand the theory of evolution (if you think evolution says that we should get a crocoduck, you do not understand evolution). Evolution is defined as the change of genetic variance over time, and is used to explain biodiversity. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the theory that all current species originated from a common ancestry. Evolution does not have anything to do with the origins of life (abiogenesis), the beginnings of the universe (the big bang), or anything other than an explanation of biodiversity.

Intelligent Design (the lovely rebranding of creationism) falls victim to the same critiques as above. It is simply not science. It cannot fight in the academic arena, and therefore, does not even try. And no, it’s not some conspiracy to silence the minority. No one is being “expelled”. Scientists can be elitists; however, this does not change nature. If the data supported intelligent design, scientists would have absolutely no choice but to accept it due to the nature of science (consistently verifiably data is not simply discarded, and even if it was, the tests could always be repeated).

If you want to believe the garbage that creationism offers, be my guest; however, you have absolutely no right to try to push your crap onto other rational people’s children in the classrooms. There is a reason that both creationism and intelligent design lost in the both courtrooms and the halls of the academics; it is an unverifiable belief system supported by absolutely no factual evidence and pushed by money grabbing liars (or idiots, such as Kirk and Ray “the banana man”) with no regards for truth or science (Kent Hovind being the shining example).

I know the first critique I will get will read close to the following, “You didn’t even PROVE evolution. You knock around creationism but you didn’t show any evidence for evolution”. Agreed, I am not a high school science teacher and have no intentions of becoming one. There is a plethora of evidence available online, in scientific journals, and in museums. I recommend everyone go take a look at the evidence. No one reading this has any reason to trust me; you do not know if my motives are pure (although they are). Good look for yourself. I do not have the time to list the thousands of fossil intermediates.  So to the creationist, I say go ahead, learning never hurt anyone. Go take a college course on evolution, or go talk to a biologist (who did not get their degree from a bible institute), go to the museums and see the fossil intermediates, or, hell, just surf the web and find some PEER REVIEWED scientific journals (talkorigins.com is a great website with fantastic information and links to many different scientific papers). Go and learn

Regards,

Austin Young Michaels

(following link included by Ben Conover)

http://www.darwinday.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IguW9xHd2qo&feature=player_embedded – lovely creationism bit

The Soul of an Atheist

atheism_symbolDaniel Hart L’Ecuyer

In the pursuit of more unitive communication on issues of theology and spirituality, I would like to contest this particular statement made by Libby O’Neil in her recent article entitled -Why yes… I did just use math in my Christian Spirituality class:-

At its core, spirituality is just religion, which stems from the impulse for transcendence and comfort, stripped of the dogmatic principles that accompany most organized religions.

There are two basic definitions for the word spirituality. Libby’s interpretation of spirituality as a sort of optional comfort that only some people need seems to imply a preference for the stricter of the two: –Of or relating to religion or religious belief.

But there is another definition of this word, which is slightly more vague: –Of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.-

You could argue that this second definition’s reference to a nonphysical soul makes it essentially the same as the first definition—in other words, you could argue that to believe in a soul is to believe in God.

But I do not believe this is necessarily true—and, more importantly, I think this way of viewing spirituality is more divisive than it ought to be. The feelings religious believers associate with spirituality and the soul are not unique to religious people—these feelings are common to all humanity. You can call it something different—connection to the world, perhaps—but this serves only to divide, creating a wall where we could create a bridge. I strive to use the words connectedness and spirituality interchangably, because I believe the inherently good feeling of connectedness and unity with the world is at the heart of any and every spiritual belief.

In Libby’s words, we all have an -impulse for transcendence and comfort.- But can an enlightened atheist really abandon this impulse? And is this impulse really an unnecessary human weakness? The search for greater meaning in life is an essential human instinct—whether a person believes in God or not, we are always seeking out the meaning in things. It is impossible for a human being to truly believe that chaos rules the universe. Anyone who actively claims there is no meaning in anything—an idea with primitive echoes of Nietzscheism—proves himself wrong by saying so, because he has found meaning in the meaningless of life. At times, things do appear meaningless and chaotic and disconnected–but this is merely because we fail to understand, as when we first look at a Jackson Pollock painting and judge it meaningless and random. But his paintings are neither meaningless nor random. He was inspired by feelings and ideas any human being could relate to, and painted using consistent methods. But what if I knocked over several cans of paint accidentally and hung the accidental splattered canvas on a wall next to one of Pollock’s? Supposing it ended up looking quite similar, it would not be hard to find some rich fool who would find meaning in it anyway and buy it. In other words, we are always trying to find meaning in everything we see, and when we do fail to find meaning (as can happen in depression, for example), or succeed in not finding it for those so inclined, we doom ourselves to a life of misery. That is why people create gods out of natural forces and inspiring figures–to find meaning in life. As John Lennon said, –God is a concept by which we measure our pain.-

I do not believe in a supernatural power of any kind—in fact I think the very idea of anything supernatural is ridiculous. The supernatural of today is the science of tomorrow. But I still think of myself as a spiritual person. Why? Is it because I believe in a literal non-physical entity associated directly with religions I have no belief in?

No. For me, the soul is simply a metaphor for our subconscious identity, an idea I arbitrarily choose to believe in, a lens I choose to see the world through—and that does not make it any less meaningful. I can sense my own soul just as well as I could when I actually believed there was such a thing. How is that possible? Because at the core of all religious beliefs are basic feelings common to all human beings. So I can respect religion when it is simply used as a tool to perceive the world in a more positive way, and nothing more.

I believe this way of viewing the spirit is one simple way to promote world peace by using the word as a unitive rather than divisive tool. How can there be peaceful discussion between a Christian and an atheist if the Christian insists the atheist is devoid of this spiritual connection with God and thus cannot see the world’s beauty, and the atheist scorns the Christian’s teddy-bear spirituality and asserts he is above such mind games?

We’ve all been there—someone insults your beliefs, and in your insecurity, you resort to scornful and divisive language to defend your beliefs. It’s difficult to resist—to maintain respect for the common values of religious opponents while standing up for your own. But if we want to build a world of spiritual tolerance and understanding, we have to remember that our own personal dignity is far less important than even the smallest battles for peace, understanding, and justice.

Let us abandon the strictures of religious and philosophical authorities and unite in pursuit of the spirit.

-Unscrew the locks from the doors ! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs !-

-Walt Whitman

Why Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Worries Me

Rabbi Shmuley Interview

Rabbi Shmuley Interview

There is an Orthodox Jewish polemicist out there named Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He often writes articles for the Huffington Post’s “Religion” section, including a recent response article to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. In this article, the Rabbi bashes President Obama for the emphasis placed on the reinvigoration of both science and math in our educational system in order to further cultivate the intellects of a new generation and improve our economic stability. Apparently, for Rabbi Shmuley, these are fighting words.

Shmuley attributes our decline (of what particularly, I am not sure) not on a lack of science and math, but a degradation of American values. He claims that “we are becoming a pack of ignoramuses watching inane TV” and shows sadness that G_d was not mentioned at the Golden Globe awards in favor of actual human help. The article, entitled “Obama’s Soulless Obsession with Science and Math”, effectively blames our nation’s president for not actively preaching G_d and the values associated with religion to us.

The claims Shmuley make, especially about our nation’s founding, are particularly flabbergasting. He boldly proclaims that our founding fathers centered their lives on G_d and eludes that they had some hand in the motto “In G_d We Trust” being put on money. Ironically, two of the founding fathers mentioned where deists and Thomas Jefferson took it upon himself to edit out all the parts of the bible he did not like. The use of the aforementioned motto on coinage did not come until 1865, and was not required until 1938. Only in the last half century or so has it appeared on our paper money and become our official model. He also berates the President for his lack of science and math knowledge, which is apparently something Shmuley has in abundance. It is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

Among these obvious errors, Rabbi Shmuley’s message is simple: Science and math are soulless, and we need the good old values of American exceptionalism and religious fervor. The Rabbi seemingly attributes our economic decline to a loss of religious value and our growing world-focused view instead of American-centered view. What really confused me most was why Shmuley wanted this from Obama and failed to place any of this blame on the growing tide of secularism or a lack of strong indoctrination by the parents of the next generation. In truth, maybe he does blame in on secularism, in the sense that it is soulless and utterly boils down to materialism in his view. But I fail to see why he wanted our education system to become the core teacher of religious values and American exceptionalism.

I cannot endorse Rabbi Shmuley’s point because, simply, it makes little to no sense. He fails to draw a connection between the degradation of value and the economic decline, other than the coincidental that they happened, according to him, around the same time. He seems to think we are struggling in teaching religious values and appreciation of G_d. I take it he does not understand that the religiosity of America is far-and-away above most other developed countries. Apparently we are so far corrupted that once we do start making scientific and technological advances, we will not know what to morally do with them, and our economy will suffer from it. He expected from our current President an “American is better than everyone else” attitude when clearly Obama understands the importance of a global perspective. Most of all, what I do not get is why he feels he needs to put down science and math in the name of value. Judging by the Rabbi’s popularity, I am sure he is aware of Sam Harris’ attempts to understand morality through neuroscience. I am sure he understands that it does not matter how much we love Jersey Shore as to whether our economic stability wavers and falls or finds firm ground and grows. And more importantly, why can we not have science, math, and values taught by both our educational system (secular values, I would hope) and by parents and role-models?

So all of that is why Rabbi Shmuley perturbs me (not mentioning his well-known debate with Christopher Hitchens in which he pulls a Bill O’Reilly and gets louder to make his point instead of making it more logically tangible). Now why he WORRIES me:

I happen to agree with the mantra that science and those things related to it (in this case, math) are incredibly corrosive to religious thinking. Atheists know this. It is the reason why we are still battling to keep pseudoscience in the form of Creationism and Intelligent Design out of the science classroom. It is why physicist Steven Weinberg has to convince National Panels to fund projects that explain things without G_d. Obama’s emphasis on science and math worries Shmuley because it is indeed soulless and secular. Despite what my Catholic high school years attempted to teach me, science and religion are not incredible buddies. What worries me is that more people, especially those with religious zeal, refuse to take pseudoscience out of the classroom, refuse to support cosmology and physics projects that attempt to explain the world, and think everything not marked by religion is, in some way, evil.

My worry is that people agree with Rabbi Shmuley. He makes one valid point. We do spend way too much time as a society watching inane TV. In light of religious values, maybe the general core values of most Americans have fallen off the mark. But, please Rabbi Shmuley, do not pretend like your infallible religious values are going to save us from economic decline and other real-world problems. In fact, more often than not, they help create them. You, Rabbi, are fueling the fire against math and science, things that can help us immensely in the here and now. I hope President Obama respectfully chooses to ignore your words and pushes ahead with improving our science and mathematics curricula. Our nation will be better off for it.

Ben Conover is the Chief-of-Staff at the Atheist Youth Movement.

*Note: I thought I should explain why I typed the name of the deity shared amongst the three major monotheistic religions as G_d.  Out of respect to the Jewish faith, I did not explicitly write his/its name. It is akin the the more commonly known YHWH.

Shmuley’s article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/obamas-soulless-obsession_b_815429.html

The Argument from Empiricism

 

This article will briefly examine empiricism not only within the context of epistemology, but also its relevance in the sparring grounds of modern atheism and religion and the intimate connection the debate has to modern scientific reasoning.  In essence, empiricism is one of the few schools of thought in recent history that has been able to accurately produce conclusions relating to the nature of the universe and its workings.  As such, it is the only framework capable of providing objective information about the external environment, or all data arriving to the brain via the senses. In contrast to other philosophical tools used in determining the “truth,” empiricism dictates that all claims must be grounded in consistent observation or capable of emitting testable predictions. Though the formal methods of empiricism are relatively contemporary, the reflection of human nature garnered therein permeates at least the last few thousand years of human culture. Observation has been and always will be the only consistent methodology for examining the universe. Thus, the analytical mechanisms provided by empiricism are the only trustworthy tools for examining any natural external phenomenon or any other information provided through the senses.

First, empiricism asserts that all knowledge derives from sensory experience.  John Locke, an early English empiricist, immediately did away with the idea of innate human knowledge.  This idea, also known as the “blank slate,” suggests that the sum of knowledge within the brain is an aggregate of experience.  He also divides experience into the two divisions of sensation and reflection.  Sensation, according to Locke, informs the mind of external events, whereas reflection contemplates the internal processing of the mind.  However, a human being is born with basic survival instincts and mechanisms dictated by the brain stem and limbic system.  Nevertheless, Locke’s philosophy appears sound when one discounts the lowest subsystems of the neurological components.  Curiously, Locke was a sort of Christian (the nature of which is certainly up for debate), though his particular theological beliefs relate primarily to the second division of experience: reflection.  Still, his overriding philosophy dictated the necessity of experience in the formation of human knowledge or ideas.

Experiments are a critical component of the philosophy of science and they serve as the  primary vehicle of objective proof within empiricism.  Through scientific experiments, one can test a hypothesis.  This analytical methodology lies in stark contrast to the methods of “proof” utilized by Western religious schools of thought.  Though some in modern Christianity claim that the “proof” of the existence of God comes from the necessity of an “intelligent designer,” this process surpasses the scientific methods of empiricism in favor of intuition.  The conflict between Christianity and science seems readily apparent.  One resides in the domain of reflection, whereas the other lives in the externally-facing apparatus of sensation.  As such,   Were Christianity capable of producing hypotheses and reliable experiments, then the conclusions garnered therein (in this instance, the existence of an omniscient deity) would be repeatable by any practitioner.

Obviously, this is not the case.  One only has to look at other cultures to see that science is one of the few unifying forces created by humanity.  A scientific experiment, when rendered properly, can be replicated in any culture or scenario by anyone.  Theological sentiment, on the other hand, resides primarily within a cultural unit.  Christian fundamentalism resides generally within the cultural sphere of Baptist and Presbyterian communities.  Hinduism instantiates itself primarily in South Asia. Buddhism is popular in the Far East.  According to the methodologies of empiricism, none of these faiths or belief systems have any stake in the functions of empirical sensation.

So, where does this leave atheism?  In my mind, atheists are simply those who reject the processes utilized by monotheistic religions to provide proof for their respective beliefs.  I urge those theists who read this post to consider that we are not attempting to dismantle your beliefs.  Rather, we simply wish to explain our disagreement.

Author: Justin

Atheism in Society: Discrimination and Misunderstandings

Governor Bentley portrait

Governor Bentley

At his recent inauguration, Alabama governor Dr. Robert Bentley, M.D., stated that those who were not Christians were not his “brothers and sisters”:


“Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.” (Source: Birmingham News)

Dr. Bentley is also a Sunday school teacher and deacon at the First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa, whose policies include “passionately” evangelizing the gospel and whose mission statement defends the governor’s comments.

 
“First Baptist Church meets to magnify Jesus Christ and multiply His Kingdom, to mature believers into effective Christ-followers, and to minister to other’s in Jesus’ name.” (Source: First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa website with their stress)
 
Dr. Bentley has since offered an apology if his comments were offensive after meeting with Alabama’s Jewish leaders, but maintained his beliefs on the matter had not changed. David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, remarked, “He is a governor, not a mullah. This is a diverse nation with secular government. If he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t be governor.” Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck even chastised the governor for his comments.
 
Across the pond, strong religious convictions also stirred public interest. Civil partners Martyn Hall and Stephen Preddy were awarded £1,800 each by Judge Rutherford of the Bristol County Court for being unfairly discriminated against by Peter and Hazelmary Bull, owners of the Chymorvah Hotel, when they were not allowed to reside in a room with one double bed. Mrs. Bull spoke of the hotel’s policy after the hearing: “Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody.” (Source: BBC UK) The policy applied to all unmarried couples, as it was considered by the Christian couple to be sinful to lie together as an unmarried couple. The court upheld the status of civil partnership as equal to marriage in the United Kingdom and stipulated that public services could not be denied based on religious conviction.
 
There has been mixed response to the ruling of the judge. BBC One’s television show “The Big Questions” addressed the situation by prompting the audience to respond to the question, “Is it always right to uphold your religious convictions?” Christian barrister Mark Mullins told partners John Morgan and Michael Black to “turn away from their sin” whilst defending the Bulls’ choice. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Black had faced a similar situation as Hall and Preddy by being turned away from a bed & breakfast for wanting to share a bed. As another participant in the debate, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet maintained that he can and should uphold his religious conviction, but said that “what (he) cannot do is impose those convictions on other people. That is fundamentalism.” A Catholic priest addressed by the host as “Jonathon” maintained that religious people should uphold their deepest convictions, but that they should also be willing to face the legal consequences of their actions. (Full video below)
 
 ———————————————————————————
 
When talking about the relationship between religion and the government of any free country, especially in the United States, the topic of the separation of church and state as stated in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution inevitably becomes the focal point. Whether it is the idea of a National Day of Prayer, the financial dispensation of religious organizations, or, on some level, the ever-present battles of equal marriage rights for homosexuals and reproductive rights, the language of Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment is invoked by pundits on both sides of the aisle. The debate about what religious freedoms (including the freedom from religion) are or should be guaranteed is immensely fascinating and I am always willing to engage in that debate, but I am not currently addressing the core of that discussion. It is, however, rather related to my topic in this article. Here I would like to approach atheism sociologically, with a concentration on government, and to fuel a discussion of what to do about the problems emerging from society’s current view of it.
 
Unfortunately, Dr. Bentley’s sentiments are not wholly uncommon among leading politicians in America. Our 41st President George H. Walker Bush said, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.” Recent memory cannot forget the religious language used by his son, former President George Walker Bush, in relation to the War on Terror. Former Vice President Al Gore once remarked on 60 Minutes that the “anti-religious” view was arrogant and intimidating.
 
Currently, there are no atheists in the executive branch or in the Supreme Court, and there is only one member of the 535 member of congress that identifies as an atheist, and that is Representative Pete Stark, Jr. of the 13th Congressional District of California. Mr. Stark has stated that he is a Unitarian that has no belief in God, although when surveys of religion are taken of Congress he has marked himself under the Unitarian category. The most recent Congress has 6 people who did not specify their religion. That leaves up to 0.2% of Congress to represent the non-religious sector of America, which ranges between 6% – 18% depending on which survey you choose to believe. Any way you look at it, the non-religious community is vastly under-represented. Equally surprising is that around 50% of people said they would not vote for a qualified atheist in a 2007 Gallup Poll.
 
 

Would you vote for an atheist President?
 
So what to make of this? It seems that a lot of the prejudice against the atheist community stems from either excessive religiosity or some misrepresentation of facts. While one is hard to change, the other involves an increase in education. The first point is that while our Pledge of Allegiance still holds the phrase “under God” and our money bears “In God We Trust”, both directly violate the aforementioned First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State. Both are clear endorsements of belief in a spiritual, religious being that are not universally endorsed by our nation’s constituents, or even by our nation’s forefathers.
 
The second point to note is tied in with the second story summarized above. Two men who were civil partners, an equivalent in the UK to marriage, were denied patronage in the same bed at a hotel owned by a Christian couple. While, rightly, that was ruled illegal by a court in the country, the comments during the discussion on BBC’s The Big Questions is rather interesting. Ignoring the comments from the barrister, I was pleased to see both an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest both arguing that one should stick to their religious convictions, but that, as the rabbi put it, they should not impose them on others or, as the priest put it, they should be ready to face the legal ramifications of acting on those convictions.
 
Now unless you believe that an owner of a business that provides a public service should be able to deny services offered to the rest of the public based on their religious convictions, the importance of the court ruling cannot be understated. Granted, few atheists are ever denied hotels or bed & breakfasts (and it is important to keep it that way), but often they face discrimination similar to that of the LGBT community in that it is often religiously fueled. 
 
In June 2010, 16-year old James Doyle was shot and killed by his 14-year-old Christian “friend” Danny Nadler after having an argument about god is a prime example. The 2004 deaths of atheist Larry Hooper at the hands of his Christian roommate Arthur Shelton and Australian atheist John McDonald (with an axe) from Ashley Appoo are also examples of admittedly-perverse Christian believers murdering based off prejudice.
Another common form of bigotry expressed in America specifically is the idea that we are a Christian nation, as reiterated by both of the Bush presidents. (See above) Atheists are far less prevalent in media, and face discrimination in the workplace, at school, in child custody cases, and even in the Boy Scouts of America. (Several links below)
 
Many people attribute the prejudice against atheists to a belief that atheists lack moral values or have some comprehensive world view that is against their own, both things that are not true. So I ask the readers: What do you think causes all the prejudice against atheists? Is it misinformation? Is it intertwined to the climate of politics and media that leaves out the non-religious minority while increasingly promoting other minorities?
I think it is apparent that there needs to be some concerted effort to shift the public’s mind on atheists. What, if anything, should be done?
 
Ben Conover is a philosophy and classics major at Boston University