"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dumb Girls Meme

Cue angry feminist rage: http://skepchick.org/2011/08/too-pretty-to-do-homework/

For the record, one of the most attractive traits a human female can have is her intelligence. If I want to spend more than a single night with her, she better be able to say something to me that challenges me and that I find engaging. Which isn't to say that the only measure of a female's worth is her attractiveness  (whether mental or physical) or how romantically compatible she is with me personally; it's simply to respond to the message on the shirt in the link (i.e. that intelligence is somehow antithetical to attractiveness.)

It's also worth mentioning that, in non-Jerry Springerish families, batting one's eyelashes at one's brother should not inspire them to do homework for you.

Personally, I think this particular meme -- that attractive girls need to be unintelligent, unmotivated skanks -- is one of the most damaging memes in our society. I really hope that this sort of nonsense dies a quick death.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How can we explain the rise of Christianity without positing that Jesus was resurrected?

This is not a question with a simple answer. First, it must be stated that there is no historical evidence whatsoever (and no historical accounts outside of the Bible and the associated non-canonical early Christian literature) to support the notion that Jesus ever performed any miracles, was resurrected, or any of the other events that are claimed by Christianity (at least, not from the first century CE.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Respect Family's Right to Their Own Funerals

I cannot imagine a more egregious offence to the right of private citizens to their own beliefs than to force the inclusion of a particular doctrine at a funeral. Yet, this is precisely what certain lawmakers in Texas are trying to do. Everyone, regardless of religious persuasion or attitude, should have the right to be buried in whatever respect that they wish. Instead, certain Texas politicians are pushing for the mandatory inclusion of Christian iconography and ritual at the funerals of soldiers, regardless of the wishes of families or of the deceased.

As if Rick Perry's stance on science, religion, and their role in governance wasn't already morally despicable, lawmakers in his own state are now pushing for this rubbish. Take a look here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Purpose and Meaning

A few people have asked me recently what I think the purpose or meaning of life is as an atheist. They would be correct to say that atheism itself cannot inform me about the meaning or purpose of life, since atheism is defined as merely being a lack of belief in any gods (it should be pointed out that mere theism -- that is, the mere belief in a god or gods -- cannot inform someone about the meaning or purpose of life either. Only particular theistic doctrines or philosophies can inform on that level.) Nonetheless, I do have an answer that I believe in with regards to this question, and I would happily share it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What does God need with your money?

At the end of Star Trek 5, Captain Kirk and his crew meet an entity who claims to be God. The entity asks Kirk for his starship, to which Kirk replies, "What does God need with a starship?" I just finished watching the 1972 documentary Marjoe, and it has me wondering, "What does God need with your money?"

The answer to both questions? Absolutely nothing.

Click here to take a look.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Doubt & Scientific Certainty

 "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." -- Voltaire (Fran├žois-Marie Arouet)

My friend Jackie asked me today to explain why I said that I was 99.999% certain there was no God, but not 100% certain. I told her that, as a good scientist, I don't think that we can ever be 100% certain about anything, to which she replied that this doesn't make sense. I sympathise with the fact that she didn't quite understand what I was saying. I think this is a counter intuitive concept for many people and I often see students confused by this idea. Therefore, I thought that I would provide an explanation here as to why I don't think we can ever be 100% certain about almost anything.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bafflingly Ignorant Letter in Roanoke Times

On Wednesday, August 10, Ronald Bessette wrote a column (here) for the Roanoke Times claiming that the Doonesbury cartoon from July 10 (available here) erred in its presentation of Creationism as "unscientific and foolish". Bessette claims that, in this process, Gary Trudeau, the Doonesbury cartoonist, "deliberately deceives his audience."

Bessette claims:

"[Trudeau's comic] states that evolution has massive amounts of evidence to support this atheistic idea, yet fails to provide or produce even one statement indicating even a portion of this supposed evidence. This is known as elephant hurling. Where is this massive amount of evidence?"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Arguing for God?

At one of the Freethinkers meetings last year, we spent the meeting discussing the arguments presented for Christianity on an apologetics website. After having carefully refuted much of the website, a Christian, who happened to be present, agreed with the rest of us that the site did not provide very good arguments for believing in his religion. He went on to say that he felt the best arguments for his religion were contained in the Bible.

Almost immediately, I responded that, independent of whether or not the Bible is true or factual, it does not contain any arguments for Christianity (or for any other position for that matter.) As I pointed out, the Hellenistic tradition of codified argumentation was developed after the appearance of much of the Old Testament and, at any rate, did not make any serious contact with the Christian tradition until the Medieval Period (most notably within Catholic scholastic circles.) It stands to reason that this piece of intellectual technology would not have made an appearance in the Bible because the Biblical authors were not yet aware of such things. If the events in the Bible are true as presented, then the book would simply be a recounting of various historical events alongside some flowery poetic language (as in Proverbs or Psalms). Still, not an argument or a set of arguments.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are Religious People Delusional?

I think the answer is a resounding no.

I have told this to both religious people and atheists in the past, and both have actually given me quizzical looks. The religious person because they assume that non-believers think believers must be nuts and atheists because, frankly, many of them think believers are nuts (though clearly not all; many atheists used to be devoutly religious and do not think that their losing religious convictions involved becoming more sane.) Therefore, let me explain myself lest I get in trouble with both groups.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Local Ask an Atheist Event

Well, today we had an Ask an Atheist event, this time with 100% less stabbing action. It was inspired by the yearly national day organised by the Secular Student Alliance. It was mildly boring. One girl walked by, read our sign, laughed, and yelled "I love Tech!" There was a stereotypical Fraternity-type guy who walked by, one of my female friends tried to say hi to him, and he just laughed at her. We had a Jewish girl come up and tell us that despite being a Jew, she liked atheists and that her friend (who wasn't present) was an atheist. She asked for literature and for a sticker. We even had a pre-freshman approach us and take a fair bit of literature, much to the chagrin of his mother (who stayed back quite a distance.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The End of the World?

In the Book of Revelation, passage 16:3-4 reads: "The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood."

Now, in West Texas, a reservoir has turned red as blood. Preacher Paul Begley, whose youtube video is linked below, claims that this is a sign of the End of the World, as foretold in Revelation:

(Video after the fold)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Complexity: The Human Eye and the Ice Cube

The human eye is a rather marvellous object. Somehow, billions of atoms know how to come together, to attach to each other, folding up into proteins, those proteins somehow know how to form cellular structures, and those cellular structures somehow know how to form this complicated optical apparatus that we call an eye. Now, I am certainly not a creationist, though I understand a little bit about where they are coming from. How is it that something which is so mind numbingly complicated can arise from entirely natural processes? How do the atoms know how to form into proteins and other complicated organic molecules which, in turn, know how to form all of the myriad parts of things like eyes or noses or even hair? It seems almost as if there must have been some kind of supernatural power -- a God if you will -- that intelligently designed it.

On Fox Fans' Vitriolic Hate-Speech

One of the things that makes this country great is that we are free to engage in whatever public discourse that we wish, openly holding even the most unpopular of opinions. That we do so without threat of death is one of the founding virtues of this country.