Not in the Bible

•November 12, 2013 • 5 Comments

The following is a list of “biblical” concepts and images people hold that you will find nowhere within the Bible.

  • Israelites building pyramids
  • Jesus being white
  • Mary Magdalene being a prostitute
  • Jesus and Mary Magdalene having an affair
  • Jesus carrying lambs
  • People waving palm branches
  • Christians being killed in the Colosseum or any other Roman arena
  • The archangel Gabriel blowing a horn
  • St. Peter standing at the pearly gates
  • Anyone selling their soul to the devil
  • Condemnation of abortion
  • People becoming angels in heaven
  • Mormons
  • Any mention of the following:
    • Venal or mortal sins
    • Easter
    • Christmas
    • Guardian angels
    • Halos
    • Nuns
    • Ashes on foreheads
    • Immaculate Conception
    • Holy Communion
    • Original sin

Is there a purpose behind posting this list? Not especially, except for a general loathing I have for people who preach at me (not to me) about “the Good Book” without a thorough concept of it themselves.

Image

Advertisements

I’ll Pass on Heaven, Thanks

•November 4, 2013 • 6 Comments

What with my hobby of blogging against religion, I often get asked if I’m worried about going to hell (or, if they’re trying to be polite, “not getting into heaven”). Right off the bat, I’m approximately as worried about going to hell as I am of being abducted by aliens that look like Snoopy, or finding the Loch Ness Monster in my bathtub, or Glenn Beck winning a Pulitzer.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I believed in heaven. I still don’t want to end up there. I’ve never had anyone describe heaven to me in a way that I think “yeah, I’d really like to go there.” The sole exception is the Pastafarian heaven. If you’re unfamiliar, Pastafarians follow the path of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, may you be blessed by his noodly appendage. Their heaven has a beer volcano and a stripper factory.

Image

Admit it, you’re reconsidering your religion right now.

But the Christian heaven, as it’s been described to me, is completely unappealing. And even if heaven were some magical place full of tacos, Jack Daniels and loose women, I wouldn’t be willing to kowtow to the Christian deity to get in, any more than I’d be willing to be buddies with Hitler in exchange for riches (damn, right off the bat I take this post full-Godwin).

Before I get into my Hitler vs God analogy, we should discuss what I’ve been told Heaven is. For the sake of argument here, I’m only talking about what Christian friends have told me it is. Discussing what my Muslim, pagan, Jewish, Mormon, or miscellaneous friends have told me would only draw this post out, and despite all of those bitching about my fixation on Christianity, most of you couldn’t care less about other religions.

Heaven, as pretty much everyone can agree on, is perfect. You get to be BFFs with Jesus, meet up with all your dead relatives, and life is 100% all the taste, none of the calories. Good for you. But what exactly does that entail? As Sartre famously said, “Hell is other people.” How can you be in the same place as anyone else without there eventually being some bad? Do we get wiped of our sense of self and become some sort of robots (without the cool laser eyes and death pincers)?

Image

I know it’s just a comic strip, but even as a Christian I wondered this very thing.

Any kind of heaven that wipes away my original self isn’t a place I’m terribly gung-ho to get to. I see it being on par with someone fixing my insomnia by beating me with a 2×4 until I’m in a coma. Technically, you delivered on your promise, but it certainly isn’t what I actually wanted.

Many people use heaven to justify the misery we see around us in life here on Earth. Bad things happen to you until you die, but no worries, because afterwords everything’s all peaches and cream. All’s well that ends well. Life is hell, but then you go to heaven. Spare the rod, spoil the species. Frankly, I don’t buy it. A father doesn’t get to redeem himself for beating his children all year with the promise of going to Disneyland for Christmas.

And there’s the ultimate rub for me. I happen to think that the Christian god isn’t one I’d want to cozy up to in any case. Look at what’s happening in the world: the earthquake in Japan, genocide in Africa, child molestation in the Catholic church, Justin Beiber… if the Christian god has time for a personal relationship with every single human being on the planet, you think he’d have enough time on his hands to prevent some of this. And even given all of that, look at everything God does to people in the Old Testament: he turns Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for looking over her shoulder, he send bears to maul children for calling someone bald, he orders people to commit ethnic cleansing… these are the acts of a psychotic, petty dictator, not a loving, benevolent creator.

So even if I had the chance to go to heaven and spend eternity with that god, I’d turn it down. I wouldn’t suck up to Hitler while he was trying to rid Europe of Jews just to make MY life better. And given how God acts in the Bible, I don’t much see how worshiping someone like that for the reward of heaven is different.

“Well (s)he’s obviously not a TRUE Christian”

•October 30, 2013 • 7 Comments

When I bring up how I, as an atheist, am often treated by Christians, I hear “well they aren’t true Christians then.” I also hear this from both sides of the issue of homosexuality. The side opposing it says that the people of the side condoning it “aren’t true Christians”, while the side condoning it tells me that the people who condemn homosexuality “aren’t real Christians” as well.

This is known as the No True Scotsman Fallacy, and is often used to dissociate one’s self from a person or group of people that might otherwise paint one and one’s beliefs in a bad tone. However, this assertion is offered on an arbitrary and baseless guideline.

Image

Chris·tian: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

So obviously these people who “aren’t true Christians” really ARE true Christians, just ones that the person making this claim does not want to be associated with. And most of the time the “untrue” Christian will have Biblical passages supporting their claim, no matter what side of an issue they are on. Jesus says love your neighbor, so it’s wrong to condemn homosexuals. But Deuteronomy makes it very clear that homosexuality is an abomination, so they can’t be tolerated! See? Both sides have scripture on their side.

Someone else could easily assert that no true Christian would ever tell a lie. And *POOF* just like that, this bold proposal eliminates nearly 2 billion Christians.

Image

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day!

•October 20, 2013 • 3 Comments

You must spend the entire day in costume and character. The only rule is that you cannot actually tell anyone that you are a time traveler. Other than that, anything’s game.

Unless you’re already a time traveler. Now I’m reconsidering Scientology.

There are three possible options:

1) Utopian Future – If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress. Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travelers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades.

Here are some good starters:

– Greet people by referring to things that don’t yet exist or haven’t existed for a long time. Example: “Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?” “What spectrum will today’s broadcast be in?” and”Your king must be a kindly soul!”

– Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Payphones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) Dystopian Future – This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armor.Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trench coats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travelers are very startled that they’ve gone back in time. Some starters:

– If you go the “prisoner who’s escaped the future” try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you’ve never seen it before.

– Walk up to random people and say “WHAT YEAR IS THIS?” and when they tell you, get quiet and then say “Then there’s still time!” and run off.

– Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell “NOOOOOOOOO!”

– Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

– Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say “In thirty years dial this number. You’ll know what to do after that.” Then slip away.

3) The Past – This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing(preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything.Since the culture’s set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

– Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

– Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

– Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

And that’s it. Remember, the only real rule is staying in character and try to fit in. Never directly admit you’re a time traveler, and make really, really bad attempts at keeping a low profile. Naturally, the dystopian future has a little more leeway.

Set your calenders for December 8th and let’s make this happen!

State Atheism

•October 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

There are two ways for one to become an atheist (or believer of any religion, faith, or belief system) – he/she can accept it wholeheartedly through his/her own free will (if free will is real, anyway), or the it can be pushed onto him/her by others. And as far as statistics show, the latter almost always brings about bad results. State atheism is one great example.

419px-Bezhnoznik_u_stanka_22-1929
1929 cover of Bezhnoznik, a Soviet magazine, showing the three gods (of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) being crushed by the First Five-Year Plan. An extremely offensive picture for believers. (not to mention that He Who Should Not be Depicted is shown here being crushed)

A Brief History

State atheism is defined by David Kowalewski as the official “promotion of atheism” by a government, typically by active suppressing religious freedom and practice. State atheism first appeared briefly (about 7 months) during the French revolution, and was continued by communist regimes and other nations. The most notable atheist states in the modern era would be the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and Albania.

[NOTE: Do not confuse state atheism with secularism. State atheism promotes atheism and attempts to eliminate religion, while secularism is the acceptance of all faiths and the support of none.]

The Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was an officially atheist state from 1928-1939, in which religion has heavily persecuted, and became a secular state until its dissolution. Since the Soviet Union was built upon Marxism-Leninism, the fact that it was strongly opposed to all religion isn’t surprising at all. Here’s Lenin’s own words:

“Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.” – Lenin, “About the attitude of the working party toward the religion.”

and of course, Marx’s words:

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”

To quote statistics, a total of 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and 1200 priests were killed from 1922 to 1926, most religious seminaries and writings were banned, the number of Russian Orthodox Church parishes were reduced from 54,000 before World War I to 400 by 1940, while only 17% to 22% of Russians are Christian now. Of course, the government isn’t as oppressive now.

Bezbozhink 1929
1929 issue of the same magazine showing Jesus Christ being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker. I wonder how Christian fundamentalists will react to this picture?

The People’s Republic of China

As for the PRC, it has always been and still is an officially atheist state. During the Cultural Revolution, religion was seen as by the communist government as superstitious and backwards. This resulted in the destruction of thousands of Buddhist and Taoist temples (and you thought the Taliban was bad), plus temples, churches and mosques being converted for secular uses.

The attitude relaxed by a great deal since the mid-70s, and greater freedom of religion was given by the 1978 Constitution of the PRC. In fact, there have been programs to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples destroyed since the mid-1980s. Lately, the government has been much more positive towards religion, organizing the World Buddhist Forum in 2006 and the International Forum on the Daodejing in 2007. The new statute of China in October 2007 even cited religion as an important element of citizens’ life. Religions/cults like the Falun Gong and Xiantianism are still banned though.

60f25f52t6eb6c51aeac8&690
Buddha relic in the Ji Le Temple in Haerbin, China – destroyed during the Cultural Revolution

Why State Atheism is Bad

Despite being an atheist, I do not support state atheism in any way. To me, it’s the atheist equivalent of extremist Islamic states, and totalitarian governments will never bring any good. Here’s a few reasons why I absolutely condemn state atheism:

1) Creates Irrational Atheists

Those who become atheists because of politics cannot be expected to act or think sceptically, as they had atheism literally forced onto them. It’s just the same for beliefs – a government may be able to push a religion onto its citizens, but they will not accept it whole-heartedly, nor will they follow its teachings. Thus, although many living in officially atheist nations will declare that they are non-believers, but they won’t truly think or act like one, and we can thus predict that they won’t be rationalists/skeptics.

2) Harms Atheism’s Reputation

State atheism also harms atheism’s reputation as a whole. While it’s certainly true that atheism shouldn’t be confused with communist policies, humans do a great job at correlating unrelated data.

Since a large amount of people only know of atheism through religious communities, they will almost certainly get a biased view about atheism. Most religions consider disbelief in God/god(s) as a sign that the person in question is sinful and immoral, and the persecution of other religions by atheist states are taken by many as evidence that all atheists must be violent, immoral people. This may have also contributed to the distrust and discriminations against atheists in religious nations.

3) Bad Demographics

Plus, anyone who have checked the surveys on international demographics (here’s Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index 2011 and Gallup’s Global Wellbeing Survey) will find out that there are 2 types of nations with high atheist percentages – the 1st one are nations like New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway, which are correlated with high living standards and peace; the 2nd one would be countries like Russia, China (pre-Deng Xiaoping), Vietnam, which have atheism literally forced onto the citizens.

Alright, I admit that this isn’t directly related to state atheism, but more to the nation’s policies. However, state atheism (or any other religion) is commonly associated with totalitarian governments, and that couldn’t be good for the country.

In short, although I would certainly like a world that embraces science and rationalism instead of religious dogma, state atheism isn’t the way to go. In fact, by pushing atheism onto the citizens by force, atheist states are no better than extremist Islamic states, with their dogma just under another name. Instead, I think that secularism is the best solution in any case if peace is to be achieved.

Biblical Science – The Ark

•October 17, 2013 • 4 Comments

Science in the Bible. Oh yes, it’s going to be one of those topics. But to try something a little bit different, I’m going to avoid the creation story and deal with other aspects of science in the Bible. Because it’s quite obvious that nobody is getting anywhere in the creationism arguments. So what about other parts of the Bible that are falsifiable scientific claims? [Note: If you don’t take the Bible to be a scientific text, this isn’t pertinent to your beliefs. This is aimed at the people who believe that the Bible is a scientific text, as well as historical and theological.]

So I present to you scientific inaccuracies in the Bible, starting with the story of Noah’s Ark.

  • All of the animals boarded the ark “in the selfsame day.” Gen 7:13-14
  • The flood covered the highest mountain tops (Mount Everest?) with fifteen cubits to spare. Gen 7:20
  • Noah sends a dove out to see if there was any dry land. But the dove returns without finding any. Then, just seven days later, the dove goes out again and returns with an olive leaf. But how could an olive tree survive the flood? And if any seeds happened to survive, they certainly wouldn’t germinate and grow leaves within a seven day period.  Gen 8:8-11
  • When the animals left the ark, what would they have eaten? There would have been no plants after the ground had been submerged for nearly a year. What would the carnivores have eaten? Whatever prey they ate would have gone extinct. And how did the New World primates or the Australian marsupials find their way back after the flood subsided? Gen 8:19
  • According to this verse, all animals fear humans. Although it is true that many do, it is also true that some do not. Sharks and grizzly bears, for example, are generally much less afraid of us than we are of them. Gen 9:2
  • God is rightly filled with remorse for having killed his creatures. He even puts the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise to the animals not to do it again. But rainbows are caused by the nature of light, the refractive index of water, and the shape of raindrops. There were rainbows billions of years before humans existed. Gen 9:13

Water

According to the book of Genesis – and thus, according to creationists, the great flood was so massive in scale that it covered even the top of Mt. Ararat, which the Bible clearly states was under water at the time. A flood of such degree would require four and a half times as much water as is currently known to exist on the planet at the present time. This begs the obvious questions: Where did this water come from, and where did it go? Let’s go through a few of the theories put forward by creationists:

1)   Henry Morris, one of the founders of “scientific creationism”, proposed what is known as a “vapor canopy” which had been hanging over the earth (perhaps God had an inkling that he’d someday drown all life on earth). Below is a creationist’s visualization of what this may have looked like.Of course, there’s no evidence that any such canopy ever existed, or is even possible – after all, the amount of water in this canopy would be greater than that of all the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and rustic swimming holes combined. However, this doesn’t deter Morris, who even goes on to say that the canopy would have been of great value, as it would block harmful extraterrestrial radiation (although it would make it difficult to get a tan). Of course, any evidence that radiation from space is harmful is contained entirely within Morris’ head, along with any evidence that this canopy would deter them.

Image

Seriously, this is what he believes. And he says that evolution is ridiculous.

2) But vapor canopies aren’t the only game in town. Other creationists “hypothesize” (using the term very loosely) that the water came up from giant underground reservoirs. Of course, these reservoirs have yet to be detected, even by creation scientists, who could presumably ask God real nice-like to point them out. Also ignoring the fact that a mass of water underground would stretch down over a mile, putting it in temperatures above boiling point, which would make the great flood even less fun. As for how this water got out of the reservoirs? A fellow named John Woodmorappe claims that “localized hyper-hurricanes” may have been used to pressure the water upwards. Good luck with that, Johnny Boy.

Rainbows

After the flood had duly killed the estimated 255 million people Henry Morris claims were around at the time, the Bible tells us that YHWH told Noah that “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh,” because in the future he plans on using giant pseudo-locusts shaped like horses with the faces of men and hair of women and breastplates of iron and wings that sound like chariots and scorpion tails and no apparent locust-like characteristics to speak of even though they are called “locusts” (it’s true, read Revelation).

And to show he wasn’t kidding, YHWH created the very first rainbow. How’s that again? No rainbows before the flood? Morris explains this away by telling us that the pre-flood climate would be mild and free of what we would recognize as rain, much less storms. Constant, uniform weather patterns, he says, would have made both impossible, and hence the significance of the “first rainbow.”

Perhaps Morris doesn’t realize how much the absence of rain would complicate his narrative, but he certainly doesn’t seem to realize that one doesn’t need rain to create a rainbow. Rainbows can be created any time water droplets are hit by light at a low angle or altitude, so waterfalls or even jumping into a pool of water would create them.

The Ark

“Many people have gone to Mt. Ararat to try and find Noah’s Ark. I have been there more than ten times.”

– John D. Morris, creationist and apparent boon to the Turkish economy

The search for Noah’s Ark is one of those rare instances in which creation scientists have engaged in some semblance of actual field work. Of course, they’ve turned up nothing, but they’re trying, damn it!

According to Genesis, the ark was quite a piece of craftsmanship: 438 feet long, 73 feet wide, and 34 feet high, thus capable of displacing nearly twenty thousand tons of water, a feat which would not again be achieved until 1884. In fact, it could have been a bit larger than that, since two measurements of “cubit” are known, but creationists tend to use the smaller of the two to make their measurements less ridiculous.

Now, most people think of Noah’s Ark and think this:

Image

Looks pretty fun, actually.

When the ark described in the Bible would be more like this:

 z109891307

There we go, now it’s science.

The “fact” that the ship was constructed with wood presents a few more problems. Wooden ships over 300 feet long tend to warp and twist, while the hulls quickly take on water. For instance, the 329-foot wooden ship U.S.S. Wyoming was so unwieldy that it could only be sailed near the coast, as it leaked like the dickens, was unsafe on rough seas, and was thus essentially useless, much like the state it was named after.

Then again, the US Navy at the time did not have access to “gopher wood,” the mysterious material named in the Bible as the stuff the ark was to be built of. Though nobody really knows what gopher wood was, Ken Ham thinks he has an idea: he has noticed that the word “gopher” sounds mildly similar to the Hebrew word “kaphar,”  which in turn means “atonement.” Thus, gopher wood was magical, blessed-by-YHWH wood, and thus we can presumably ignore all impracticalities involved with building an ark. Unless, of course, you wish to pass this stuff off as a real science. Incidentally, in English, the name “Ham” means “ham,” which is an unclean, unholy food which YHWH forbade the Jews to have anything to do with. Just throwing that out there.

The Bible clearly states that “pitch,” a petroleum substance, was used to waterproof the ark. But Henry Morris, who also believes that all petroleum products such as “pitch” are the result of death brought on by the flood which had not yet occurred at the time of the ark’s construction, also believes that something else must have been used, because, after all, Henry Morris has already decided that pitch didn’t exist yet. And thus Morris believes that some other, yet-to-be-discovered substance must have been used. Hell, why not?

What about the construction of the ark itself? Was this improbably proportioned super-vessel really built by just eight people? If so, one wonders why the Pharaoh really needed thousands of Jews to build his pyramid when just a handful could have presumably done the job. But according to Ken Ham, Noah and his family had a few labor-saving methods at their dispersal. For instance, they “could have easily used high speed circular saws and other labor saving, precision tools in the process of building the Ark.” Let’s not touch that one. Other creationists believe Noah could have hired out contractors. Let’s just hope they spent the money before the flood.

The Animals

Perhaps the largest problem with the Biblical deluge scenario is the one presented by the 30,000 or so vertebrates and millions of insects which supposedly were herded onto the ark in a single day, apparently without any elephant-related bug squashings. Ken Ham, who apparently gives up easily, falls back on miracles, which makes one wonder why he bothered with trying to explain how Noah built the ark in the first place (or why he tries to pretend that what he is spouting is science). Anyways,  Yahweh used his Yahweh powers to get the animals on the ark in an orderly fashion (which, ignoring the insects and focusing on the larger animals, is getting a pair of animals on the ark once every three seconds for twenty four hours),  then caused the creatures to hibernate for the voyage. This solves quite a few problems, like food, excretion, scorpion attacks, the need to exercise, and the fact that Ken Ham is making this all up.

But not everybody is so quick to wuss out. John Woodmorappe wrote a book in the form of a technical report entitled – seriously – “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study,” in which he tries to explain the whole sordid affair without using a single miracle (I read it, so you don’t have to. Seriously, don’t). So if you’re looking for the most outlandish fiction you can lay your eyes upon, pick this one up at your local… well, order it from John Woodmorappe himself. You’ll find out how eight people could take care of 16,000 animals with ten-hour workdays and six-day work weeks, which would certainly be news to the zoo keeper unions.

One sort of animal that John’s overworked Hebrews didn’t have to contend with was the woolly mammoth, which many creationists agree didn’t make it onto the ark for one reason or another. Instead, several of them managed to take a wrong turn and end up frozen in giant blocks of ice, only to be found thousands of years later. This is a problem for creationists, since such deposits of ice are supposed to have not existed before the flood; even worse, we can tell from the preserved remains that woolly mammoths were, well, woolly. If the Earth’s climate was uniformly warm, breezy, and otherwise California-esque in its climate, it would hardly do for Yahweh to cover an elephant-type creature with a thick coat of hair – unless, of course, God is a spiteful prick, which can certainly be borne out by reading the Book of Revelation, the Book of Job, the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, etc. At least, this would be a problem if creationists gave a damn about consistency, which, incidentally, they don’t.

But one of the greatest problems of all concerns what happens after the ark finally landed “on the mountains of Ararat in present-day Turkey. Setting aside a hundred or so natural objections to the assertion that 30,000 animals, millions of insects, and eight humans were then able to establish themselves in a world in which all vegetation had presumably been destroyed by the flood, let’s take a look at a couple of specific assertions of the creationist crowd.

How did all those animals make it to their proper places afterwards (because now, you see, different climates suddenly existed, as they do today)? How did penguins make it to cold polar regions, tree sloths make it to Brazil, and armadillos to the sides of Texas highways? And why are there no armadillos in the Middle East, where they presumably started out, and where the climate would have suited them just fine? Armadillos are adorable, and I think we can all agree the world could use more armadillos. Perhaps if there were some in the Middle East they’d spend less time fighting and more time hugging the adorable little fuckers.

What about marsupials? How did the great majority of them get sequestered in Australia like so many British criminals? Luckily, our good friend John Woodmorappe explained this in his fine book, at least to the extent that a creationist can be expected to explain anything. “It would have been no great difficulty for a post-Babel adventurer to have brought with him seventeen pairs of marsupial kinds from the Middle East to Australia,” he explains, using the creationist word “kinds” instead of the grownup word “species,” and referring to the era after God smote the Tower of Babel and told everyone to spread out a bit and speak different languages. “Having a reminder of one’s homeland is a powerful motivator for the introduction of animals… and, if a some of the descendants of Noah’s family had grown accustomed to marsupials near the respective homes in the Middle East area, they would thus have the motivation to take marsupials with them.”

Apparently, they’d be motivated to take all the marsupials with them, and to be extra-super-careful that none of the little scamps managed to breed on the way to Australia. But one can easily imagine how one could get accustomed to marsupials in such an environment as the Middle East. Just think of how cute koalas would be, rolling over and dying because they didn’t have access to eucalyptus leaves. Aww!

One might also wonder why a “post-Babel adventurer” became “accustomed” to marsupials and not something useful, like, say, horses, which are not native to Australia. Or what sort of sick asshole just up and leaves with every single marsupial, when other “post-Babel adventurers” would have presumably become “accustomed” to those marsupials as well.

“Sorry guys, but I’m taking all the marsupials and heading out of here.”

“You suck, Jerry!”

“No, you suck!”

“Touche, old friend. You sure you don’t want any of these horses?”

“Nah, they’d just get in the way. I’ll ride the koalas.”

At any rate, this wacky sort of process apparently went on all the time in the “post-Babel” world. Someone took all the penguin “kinds” to polar regions, someone else took all the Cape Buffalo “kinds” to Africa, while some poor, presumably masochistic fellow decided to take most of the tree sloth and poisonous dart frog “kinds” to South America.

So there you go. That’s what people used to do.

What If Creationists Held Their Religion To The Same Unreasonable Standards They Set For Evolution?

•October 14, 2013 • 4 Comments

Creationists are the ultimate skeptics, and yet in another sense they are also ultimately gullible.  I’ve always found this unusual.  They will believe in completely ludicrous things like men being raised from the dead and talking ghosts that can impregnate virgins through the ear without even a shred of evidence, but when confronted with the evidence for biological evolution they transform from gullible and naive peons into staunch critics upholding the most unreasonable burdens of proof ever constructed.  This is, incidentally, one of their chief modes of argument, and perhaps one of the pillars of creationist reasoning.

The theory of evolution is actually supported with a wide array of evidence, so much so that the theory is almost as undoubtable as a scientific theory can get.  Evolution is right up there with basic principles of elementary physics in terms of observational support.  In the face of such overwhelming evidence, the only route left for potential criticism is to adopt epistemic standards of such unreasonableness that virtually nothing could be considered true if we applied such standards across all areas of inquiry and knowledge.  The creationist attack, then, is a form of selective epistemic standard raising.  For all intents and purposes, if other proposed ideas were supported by evidence to the degree that biological evolution is, creationists would certainly not doubt these ideas.  However, the theory of evolution is fair game for doubt, because creationists selectively demand ridiculously implausible degrees of evidence for its truth, and won’t accept anything less.

Common creationist arguments that utilize this tactic are numerous.  For instance, they often make the following claims:

  • There aren’t that many transitional fossils.  Scientists should find a lot more.
  • Scientists can’t explain in full detail how life first arose / how sex evolved / etc.
  • Scientific claims are provisional and always subject to disproof.  Why should we believe in evolution if it could be wrong?
  • Macro-evolution that produces grand and complex changes has never been “observed”.

Notice how these facts could only truly be considered criticisms of evolutionary theory if we expected complete and total mathematical proof for biological evolution.  The problem, of course, is that empirical sciences do not deal with formal proofs of absolute certainty, and must instead rely on evidence and probability, like much of our every day knowledge.

In normal scenarios, creationists do not have such high epistemic standards.  If, for instance, they found a half-eaten deer carcass surrounded by wolf paw prints, the reasonable conclusion is that the wolves ate the deer. If they subsequently found wolves with fur covered in deer blood, and analyzed the vomit of one wolf and found that it contained deer meat, that would be further evidence in support of the rather obvious conclusion that wolves ate the deer in question.

Image

I swear, this is tofu blood!

Now, if some wolf-loving skeptic wanted to protect the wolves from this charge of murder, he could adopt the creationist strategy and utilize unreasonably high epistemic standards to shield himself from criticism.  He could argue, for instance, that because no one “observed” the wolves eating the deer, we could doubt the conclusion.  For this skeptic, all the evidence pointing towards the wolves means nothing if we cannot directly observe the event in question.  He could also remark that the wolf theory leaves out certain details.  For instance, it doesn’t tell us exactly how many wolves were involved, or whether the wolves first attacked from the right or left side, or whether the deer happened to be looking down at its feet when the attack occurred.  The skeptic could argue that these “gaps” in the theory rule out the wolf hypothesis.

Of course, any reasonable person can see that the wolf skeptic sets his epistemic standards way too high.  We need not directly observe the event, nor explain every trite and inane detail in order to know that the wolves did indeed eat the deer.  The evidence of the eaten deer carcass, the wolf paw prints, and blood spattered wolves, the deer meat in the vomit, and so on, all show without a doubt that the deer was eaten by the wolves.

Image

The deer just ate itself, we swear!

Clearly, creationists use almost the exact same sorts of arguments against evolution.  When they argue that huge biological changes resulting from evolution have never been observed, for instance, they do not realize that scientists need not directly observe single-celled organisms becoming primates in order to reasonably conclude that such an event occurred, just as those who believe that the wolves ate the deer need not directly observe the event to know that it truly happened, given the abundance of evidence supporting the claim.  When creationists  argue that there are gaps in the fossil record, they fail to realize that geology predicts such gaps, and it is hardly reasonable to expect every species that ever lived to become fossilized.  They also fail to realize that the few transitional forms that have been found are solid evidence of evolution.  If, for instance, one could not find the paw prints of one particular blood-covered wolf, for instance, it wouldn’t necessarily indicate that the other wolves whose paw prints were found did not eat the deer.  Indeed, the missing paw print of the  one wolf is not evidence that he didn’t eat, anyway, because the more plausible explanation, given the evidence of his blood-covered fur, is that he ate the deer but perhaps did not leave any prints, or that his prints were destroyed by the other wolves walking over them.  Finally, the creationist criticism that scientists cannot explain a very specific and complex even like the evolution of sex with absolute accuracy, and then remarking that this is evidence against evolution, is like claiming that because we can’t explain from which angle the wolves first attacked, the wolf scenario must be false.  Clearly, such an argument would only hold any force for someone with unreasonable expectations of evidence, who for some reason believed that we must prove everything with complete logical certainty, even though this sort of accuracy is impossible outside of mathematics.

The only way to truly defeat this sort of skeptical challenge is to apply it to things the creationist holds dear, like his belief in God.  If, for instance, one adopts this stance of irrational doubt and applies it to the Bible, it is quite clear that the Bible falls clear to the ground like the inaccurate, contradictory text that it is. Indeed, one of the most interesting things about creationists is their ability to have such high epistemic standards for something like evolution, while at the same time having virtually no epistemic standards at all in place for claims about religion, often justifying these beliefs with talk of faith.  One would think the creationist would be consistent with his standards of proof, but it turns out that he only sets  evolution to such a high standard because he finds its implications inconsistent with his religious worldview.  If only the theory of evolution had proven that men were created from dirt by an omnipotent bearded dude, perhaps the scientists would have had an easier time convincing the creationists of its truth.  Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t frequently accord with the whims of creationists and the rest of the willfully ignorant, and the only way to truly gain knowledge is through good old evidence gathering, much to the chagrin of those who espouse the value of faith.

Indeed, one need not even endorse extreme skepticism in order to tear down most people’s religious beliefs.  Plain, regular reasoning and skepticism will suffice, because most religious claims are downright ludicrous and unsupported by any form of evidence.  One can only imagine how quickly such religious beliefs would be destroyed if one approached them with the extreme skepticism the likes of which creationists brandish at evolution.

Image