rational rejection of supernatural mythologies

Essential Whining

 Not content to con reputable scientists into their ridiculous movie about science’s rejection of the IDiocy of so-called ‘intelligent design’ creationism, the producers are now trying to lure logic-challenged students to whine about poor reception of pseudoscience in science classes.

 Those who are not sufficiently well versed in science or logic might continue to be fooled by the ID propaganda, which relies on a very old, and refuted argument to make the illogical proposition that ‘scientific accounts of evolution fail’ and that religiously motivated con artists have something to offer by way of explanation. They don’t. The design argument is based on the irrelevant analogy that human-designed creations are the product of intelligence, so, by their ridiculous reasoning, ‘life could not have arisen by chance and biological complexity could not have evolved by natural processes’. It could and it did, but these fools care nothing for the truth. This argument is unfounded and the claims of ID creationists that they have anything useful to add to scientific knowledge is an unabashed falsehood that rakes in contributions from the terminally deluded.

 Religious fundamentalists are so desperate about the refutation of religious dogma by scientists and philosophers that they must resort to ridiculous ploys such as IDiocy in an attempt to maintain credulity in the ignorant and the credulous. There is no grounds for debate about evolution versus creation because evolution has been overwhelmingly documented as a fact and creationism has been soundly disproven. The scientific theories that explain the mechanisms by which the fact of biological evolution has operated are incomplete but not inaccurate. This is the beauty of science–it is a work in progress, continuously being checked, refined, and verified.

 I do think that there is a place for discussion of IDiocy in university classrooms–disproving ID claims could enliven discussion of the likely mechanisms of abiogenesis, of probability calculations, and of the actual mechanisms of biological evolution; and, the rampant illogic of IDiocy would provide plentiful examples of fallacious logic for discussion of critical thinking. Beyond these applications, IDiocy has absolutely no truth value and no merit for education.

Blogs ~ The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students ~ Expelled: No Intelligence Evident ~

Earlier Blog reactions ~ Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

October 28, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

Essential Deceits

 Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin appears in today’s New York Times.

 Scientists, including Richard Dawkins and Eugenie C. Scott have revealed that their appearance in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was induced under false pretenses. 

 Reputable scientists have eschewed so-called intelligent design since its resurrection by American creationists a decade ago. Yes, resurrection. The argument for design dates back to the Greeks and was last rehashed by Christian apologist William Paley in 1802. This argument from analogy might fool creationists, who are, after all, already fooled, but it fools nobody with two neurons to rub.

 Part of the movies purpose was to whine about rejection of creationist pseudoscience by the scientific community. The rejection continues, and is seconded by NYT’s Cornelia Dean:

“There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.””

The British government has released guidelines concerning the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science classes. “The verdict: they are not science, and they have no place in the curriculum.” Better late than never. It reflects badly on American educators and politicians that they have too long displayed either ignorance of science or cowardly refusal to distinguish scientific reality from religious delusion.

 Of course the makers of Expelled needed to resort to Rampant deception! Eternally outspoken PZ Myers would have enlived the movie, but not in the way that the producers hoped. The arch-deceptionists could not reasonably have expected some legitimate experts on science to otherwise appear in a movie intended to promote unscientific creationist stupidity.

“If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Others might have appeared, but would have been more prepared for deceptiveness-in-interviewing.

Dr. Scott, whose organization advocates for the teaching of evolution and against what it calls the intrusion of creationism and other religious doctrines in science classes, said the filmmakers were exploiting Americans’ sense of fairness as a way to sell their religious views. She said she feared the film would depict “the scientific community as intolerant, as close-minded, and as persecuting those who disagree with them. And this is simply wrong.””

Americans’ sense of fairness? This appears to be confined mostly to atheists who have too long tolerated religious nonsense. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness toward genuinely free speech that they would sooner vote for a Muslim presidential candidate than for an atheist. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness that they presume to tell other how to live their lives on the basis of 2,000 year-old moralistic pronouncements in a book that they attribute to a nonexistent supernatural deity so lacking in omniscience as to have concocted mythology fraught with inconsistency. 

Read more on other sites: Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

September 27, 2007 Posted by | atheism, creationism, education, evolution, fundamentalism, science | 3 Comments

God, the Failed Myth

 I wrote this in response to a typical theist post reviewing God: The Failed Hypothesis, by Victor Stenger by dangoldfinch at Life Under the Blue Sky: The View From Below

 His disapproval would make me inclined to buy his book, but I already knew what dangoldfinchs say Stenger has written. 

 Dangoldfinch needs to check his logic and his atheist sourcesmost acknowledge that you cannot logically disprove a negative. So it is illogical to demand disproof of God, particularly when it actually behooves theistic claimants to provide ‘proof’ for their claims.

 However, it is possible to disprove falsifiable claims about the physical world. I think Stenger’s point is that the Bible does make unsubstantiable claims about natural events. Since the huge body of scientific knowledge provides an empirical (falsifiable, testable, verifiable) body of knowledge that better explains those naturalistic claims, then the God of the Bible is effectively reduced to an infinitesimally small probability and is, in essence, disproved by the fact that science provides much better explanations. The religious typically know virtually no science or logic, so it is hardly surprising that their arguments are risible.

““The [scientific] model need not be proven to be correct, just not proven to be incorrect.”

In other words, Stenger doesn’t actually put forth an argument at all.”

 What part of falsifiable does dangoldfinch not understand? If a falsifiable hypothesis is not disprovennote the double negativethen that hypothesis stands until, if ever, it is disproven. If it is not disproven by successive discoveries, then it graduates to full theory, and ultimately to acceptance as scientific knowledge. In logic, it is recognized that inductions cannot be disproven. Dangoldfinch simply failed to understand what Stenger had written, so he misinterpreted Stenger in favor of his own misguided prejudices for unbelievable mythologies.

 The burden of proof, or disproof, does not logically fall on the atheist. The burden of proof falls on the claimantthose theists who have failed in over 2,000 years to prove Yahweh, in almost 2,000 years to prove God, and in 1,400 years to prove Allah (same mythical entity, different dogmas). So, atheists do not believe in God because of the lack of evidence, the immeasurably better explanatory power of science, and all the religious mythology that strains credulity.  The effective disproof of the God of the Bible is to be found in 200 years of amassed scientific knowledge.  

“I think it is just one more piece of evidence that suggests atheists are terribly afraid of the Abrahamic God. After all, doesn’t it make sense to suggest that you can only really attack something that is real? I mean, logically speaking, if the Abrahamic God didn’t exist, would Stenger, Dawkins, Harris, et al have anyone or anything to attack? Their books would be quite meaningless (they are anyhow).”

 Dangoldfinch claims that atheists must be arguing against something that must existsure, we disbelieve evidence-less improbable mythologies, but we argue against illogic, ignorance, misinformation, pseudoscience, bigotry, and religious violence. Those all exist and, though not all theists exhibit all of these, the correlation is too high to dismiss as a problem confined to fundamentalism. 

 They never actually provide conclusive evidence that God doesn’t exist.”

 Duh! Again, one cannot disprove a negative. Atheists do not believe that gods exist because religious claims for the existence of supernatural beings are not based on any empirical evidence for which science cannot provide a much better explanationthat is, supernatural mythologies are not believable, which is why faith is demanded of believers.

“Maybe someday atheists will come clean, be honest, and just admit that even though they know in their hearts that there is a God, specifically the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, they simply do not want to believe in Him because then they would be forced to submit to Him.”

 Dream on! As to atheists fearing God, dangoldfinch is utterly mistaken and is projecting his own fears onto people who genuinely have none of the fears that theists love to imagine. There is nothing to submit to except stupid human-invented dogma and I have never been impressed by foolishness. The repeatedly observable fact that theist provide falsehoods and resort repeatedly to fallacies of logic do not themselves prove God’s nonexistence, but they do demonstrate that to believe in the unbelievable typically requires ignorance that spreads beyond holding deluded beliefs.

 Theists love to make the empty threat that all atheists will go to hell for their disbelief. Theists merely want to believe all the myths about atheists because theists cannot imagine being free of their own indoctrinated fear, which is why they cling so tenaciously to ignorance.

September 26, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, fundamentalism, logic, philosophy, religion, science | 1 Comment

Lies the Biased told us

The Church authorities feared that scientific knowledge would turn people away from religion en masse.

“My knowledge is weak on the immediate response after Darwin published.”

My goodness! Really? It’s so famous that I thought that every educated person in the Western world was aware of at least some of the response.

Darwin predicted the furor – and both his prediction and the furor are quite famous. In England, it was the C.of E., and initially the Royal Academy of Science as well as the universities. British scientists were mostly convinced within a decade of publication of the Origin of Species (1859). The Descent of Man was not published until 1871. I am confident that you are aware of the American “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 and of the fact that American creationists continue to attack Darwinism.

Pictures are sometimes worth a thousand words: Darwin as an ape, cartoon, 1871. A caricature of Charles Darwin from the London Sketchbook, 1874. Caricature of Darwin’s theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. Darwin as a monkey on the cover of La Petite Lune, a Parisian satirical magazine published in the 1880s. There are more cartoons out there and I’m sure that most Westerners have seen them.

“I’m not sure to which Church authorities you refer and I don’t have any evidence as to what they said. You’re statement sound a bit interpretive.”

I read of the reaction of Church authorities somewhere in a book by a Christian religious historian. Accuse him of being interpretive, but I took him to be reporting on the basis of his academic scholarship.  I have three such books and I wish that they were electronically searchable in the way that the Internet is! If they were, then I would give you the exact quote. I’m sure that the topic (not the book) is searchable on Google or another search engine. In the absence of such a facility for finding the original, I shall merely have to ask that you accept me on the word of an unbiased authority. I would not have said it otherwise.

“While you may think they excessively complimentary, it seems you are particularly derogatory concerning the human rationality before Darwin.”

Actually, I was being derogatory about human rationality since Darwin. You teach highschool. I think that the 11 plus examination has been abandoned, so I don’t know what measures are currently employed, but I presume that you are acquainted with average rational capacities. 

Sometimes the current received wisdom is faulty and an entire conceptual framework must be revised to adapt to a better, more accurate explanation.

“So the whole evolution thing could be completely wrong because we could have the entire conceptual framework wrong?”

I expected you to say this. Yes, that remains within the realms of theoretical possibility – remote possibility. The examples that I gave were specific examples of single special-case conceptualizations within large subject areas (cosmology and geology). Biology is one of the older sciences and biological evolution is acknowledged as an overwhelmingly supported empirical fact by unbiased biologists. The theory of evolution has itself been evolving along the same logical line ever since Darwin. That is the theory has been better refined by new observations, but its is vanishingly unlikely that the modern synthesis will ever be fully overturned, as creationists clearly hope.

Even if the current theory were overturned, rather than merely refined, this does not mean that the unutterably simplistic God-did-it-through-a-miracle explanation will ever be a viable alternative explanation.

Natural selection remains accepted as one of the mechanisms by which biological evolution occurs. Did you know that Darwin reached the insight because of Malthus‘ work on populations? Quite aside from whether or not you accept the principle of natural selection, I always find it interesting how one theory inspires another.

“Who’s to say that a better, more accurate explanation may be more compatible with special creation?”

Who? The unbiased experts in the field. Since there is no supernatural entity that could have brought about special creation, please don’t hold your breath on this every happening. I would not want you to commit suicide-by-anticipation.

“Or are there special interest factions that would immediately assume that such a conceptual framework cannot be true, or that would suppress it because it might turn people toward religion en masse.”

Theists fail to recognize that if there were a God scientists and not theologians would have been the first to know. Nobody would need faith because science would have provided empirical demonstration. If you want to promote deistic ideas and envisage God as setting up the Big Bang and the natural laws that enabled biological evolution then you would be removing the concept of God safely out of the reach of scientific testing. I think that such a deity would devolve the divine into nature.

Scientists originally believed that they were cataloguing the Works of God. The empirical facts eventually convinced most of them otherwise. I think that assuming that scientists simply refuse to see that God is behind it all is probably the commonest theist fantasy. “If only we could prove that for whatever nefarious reason of their own, scientists are simply refusing to see the Truth, then we can prove that God Did It.”

This is a false dichotomy because even if cosmology and the modern synthesis were demonstrated to be incorrect, this would not mean that God did it since there could, indeed certainly would, be a better explanation within the physical and not the religiously-motivated ineffable supernatural realm.

Behe . . . His university has posted a disclaimer about his nonsense on its website.

‘That was fun reading. Not only did his department post a disclaimer but several of his colleagues went out of their way to align themselves with Darwinism with statements on their own pages.”

Hardly surprising. It seems likely that Behe has only been retained on staff because of the protection of his having attained tenure before publishing puerile scientific heresy. Academics are fired pre-tenure for far lesser offences than biased stupidity. Behe’s probably a nice enough guy (he has a nice face), but its hardly surprising that his fellow scientists at Lehigh wish to distance themselves from his nonsense. It’s interesting that you choose to imply that their affirmations are laughable and yet probably applaud the scientists who signed the Declaration of Ignorance.

Scientific knowledge is not up for debate by religious special interest factions.

“I thought scientific knowledge was always up for debate.”

I should have said up for revision. Scientific topics are always open to debate (that is not science.)

Revision is not up to debate by religious special interest factions, which merely make unfounded criticisms based on a desire to prove The God Who Never Was.

I called it the so-called debate because the science is solid and the creationist side comprises only fallacious arguments: arguments from analogy, false dichotomies, arguments from ignorance, arguments from incredulity, red herrings, straw man fallacies, simple denial and outright lies, etcetera, etecetera, etcetera.

I believe that legitimate debate pertains only to topics that do not yet have a clear correct and incorrect.

“Isn’t that why it’s constantly being tested?”

Scientific knowledge is tested and refined by scientists – some of the most illustrious and influential of whom have included amateurs and monks. The special interest religious factions perform no experiments that can be counted as refining scientific knowledge (even Behe’s protein biochemistry efforts fall within the realm of regular science and cannot test for God’s miracles).

Those clearly religious factions, which lie about being religiously motivated, have generated no scientifically valid falsifiable hypotheses.  They do generate false and falsifiable philosophy, but lack the honesty to admit that they have been refuted. I suspect that many also lack the rationality to recognize this.

In the final analysis, it probably does not matter in so far as they are preaching to the already convinced who will gleefully believe whatever they are told no matter how unsupported or illogical. After all, isn’t that exactly how religions prosper?

(I wonder, if faith in the absence of empirical evidence is the point, then why should it really matter to deny scientific truths (cosmology and the fact of biological evolution). Doesn’t this fear of science reflect a fear that faith might indeed be unfounded? I think that the real problem is the fear that belief in Special Creation is unfounded. This is probably attributing too much logical awareness to some creationists, but others who can follow the logic will tell them what to think.)

It does matter in so far as damage to education and rationality matter. This is why American parents are suing school boards and winning.

Follow-through on The so-called creation versus evolution debate and Comment.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | creationism, education, evolution, logic, religion, science | 2 Comments

Ineffable Excuses

That is, when all religious arguments fail because of internal inconsistency, retreat into the inexplicable (ineffable).

“But they only fail because of the frailty of the human condition.”

The argument has obviously convinced you, but I submit that this is only because you wish to believe for the reasons that you have already explained – rewards are offered for  faith. (I also do think that the emotional process of faith offers emotional comfort in the only life the believer will have, though fear of eternal torment tortures some people uneccessarily.)

Let me explain it this way: if God Sent his Son, via Immaculate Conception, to Die For Our Sins, and if Christianity is a Revealed Religion, why did God not bother to leave better Evidence of His Existence or provide us with better arguments when He was dictating the Word of God? If God wished man, his Special Creation, to Worship Him, why would He maintain Himself as Unknowable where it matters? 

Oh, yes, I remember – faith.

The answer, of course, is that the ineffable is a clever theological retreat. When all arguments fail, claim that the basis for the arguments remains true but blame human intellectual frailty for inability to generate a convincing argument.

(Don’t trouble yourself to elaborate all the “excuses” that apologists make, we’re probably all familiar with them.) I do understand the objection that you raised. I understand the concept of ineffability – I think that it is a clever artifice.

However, the problem with the objection is that theological arguments were invented by humans and are only intended to convince humans. This means that it should be within human capacity to convince fellow humans if the argument had solid grounds.

So, even if there were a God and that God had elements incomprehensible to a mere mortal, if it were beyond our capacities to understand or explain them, we should not even have discovered those elements that are inexplicable. Think of a fly buzzing around a room – it has absolutely no understanding of the nature of a room, and it has no notion that it does not understand. (I feel safe that most would concur that flies have limited cognitive capacity.)

“There are some religious arguments that fail because they are wrong (since all religions and the arguments that support them are not correct). There are other religious arguments that make seem internally inconsistent, but only because as aspects of them are not known.”

I’d agree on the first statements only.

I was attracted to science for many reasons. Amongst those reasons were the fact that science offers our best opportunity for consistently understanding the natural world and that science is a self-modifying discipline in that it refines and improves itself. Facts are facts, but scientific theories tie observations together into a coherent, logical whole that provides for an Aha! reaction. In a sense, the logic of science is tautological just as any explanation with logical foundation is tautological. If a scientific theory fails to fit the known facts, then it is scrapped and a better explanation is sought. Good explanations can be difficult to induce from empirical facts, but this is part of the intellectual appeal of science. I suppose that this is a little akin to saying that science seeks to conquer the inexplicable. As to the infinite, cosmology indicates that space curves back on itself and that time is event-limited, so infinity and eternity are mere concepts rather than possibilities.

Religions do not provide tautologies. Oh sure, some who believe for emotional reasons will accept the argument for ineffability, but they are in fact merely accepting the arguments because they like the conclusions and the implications of those conclusions, usually because they have been familiar with the concepts since childhood. I’m not knocking the emotional motivations, I’m merely saying that it is not possible to build a completely logical explanation for something that does not actually exists as The determining force for what we observe.

“To use a concept to prove a concept, particularly in a fallacious argumentum ad ignorantium, is simply a form of circular fallacy.”

“You are correct. I took too many shortcuts. Let me further explain what I was saying. If one accepts the existence of a transcendent being, one thereby accepts that empirical evidence is of limited value. It is possible to use the various empirical evidence that can be interpreted as supporting the evidence of such a transcendent being, but the existence of such a being is ultimately based upon faith.”

That’s a good explanation of your position. I think that the existence in question is confined to the act of faith. To some degree, the difficulties lie around how we are to understand “existence”. Faith ‘incorporates’ that same nature of existence in which emotions and ideas exist. 

The burden of proof rests with the claimant.”

“Unless the claimant feels no burning need to prove anything, especially if the claimant is convinced that belief is only possible with faith, not merely the intellectual assent to a set of postulations.”

No, the burden of proof still rests with the claimant. It is obviously the claimant’s prerogative whether or not to bother to take up the burden.

Faith is emotional assent to that set of postulations in the absence of empirical evidence. (I’d also say absence of logical validity, where I’d define that as logic without resort to artificial premises.)

If it left absolutely no trace within human experience, then nobody would ever be discussing that whatever.

“So you are saying that since people are the discussing the whatever, it must have left a trace within the human experience, thus validating its existence?”

No, I’m saying that the truly ineffable would no more have occurred to us than a room does to a fly. 

I maintain that there is another, better explanation than the existence of supernatural entities for the human invention of religion:

Start with a brain that has evolved to recognize patterns in the world along with a psychological need to understand our own existence and a desire to control the phenomena that govern survival. Next, toss in the fact that the earliest humans had few interventions and fewer reasonable explanations that were obvious within the phenomena (essentially what Hume said – we infer the cause-effect relationship from the relationship but we don’t directly perceive the cause). Add a little human need to have others behave as we wish, or as leaders order. Add a little human creativity and love of ritual.

What do we now have? The plethora of creation myths and religious beliefs that are observed across almost all societies.

Refine and promote these package through the operation of human intellectual creativity and organizational skill and we have survival of the fittest religious organization.

What do we now have? If there were truly an obviously correct single creed, then only one religious doctrine would have prevailed. If only one creed had predominated, we’d have a lot less strife.

Either supernatural entities are believed to exist, with the associated pantheon of divisive religious dogmas, or supernatural entities are believed not to exist with the concomitant possibility that people could cease to divide one another on the basis of arbitrary enemy beliefs. I am not saying that I think that universal acceptance of atheism would unite the world, but the possibility of questioning arbitrary rules and divisions could reduce conflict. At least the conflict would be ideologically confined to politicoeconomic issues and it is easier to find compromises to reduce those causes of conflict.

Follow-through from Transcendant rhetorical devices and Comments.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment