The new Natural Theology dismantled

Another quickie post until I get a chance to sit down and really respond.
Dr. Coyne’s observations on an excellent destruction of “natural theology” aka the claim we can see some god (usually the Christian god though Christians often try to hide their god under an avalanche of vagueness) in reality. Please note the comments about solipsism and the baseless claims of Plantinga.

Of course I’m pleased someone has made similar observations to mine. 🙂

Why Evolution Is True

“Natural theology” is the discipline that attempts to find evidence for God in the natural world. The most famous example of this doomed exercise is, of course, the erstwhile use of animal and plant “design” as evidence for God’s beneficence.  But Darwin dispelled that in 1859. Earlier, Newton cited the regular and stable orbits of the planets as evidence for God’s intervention. That, argument, too, was refuted by science, and such is the fate of all natural theology.

But the discipline won’t die. It regularly resurfaces via people like Francis Collins and Alvin Plantinga, who claim, respectively, that intuitive human morality (“The Moral Law”) is evidence for God, and that the “fine tuning” of the physical constants of the universe was done by God to allow human life.  Last year I listed several other examples, including the supposed inevitability of human evolution (an argument for God used by Kenneth…

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What the Boss Likes – a small hiatus and some cool things

Since I’m wrapping up my last two days of work at my current position, I’ll be taking a little longer to answer replies.  I should be back to normal (or a reasonable facsimile) shortly.

A couple cool things.  John Paulk, the posterboy for the lies about “ex-gay” therapy, has admitted that he’s lied about being “ex-gay” and has apologized.  Better late than never, but the harm he has caused can’t be forgotten.

Most awesome geology and science show on Australia the First 4 Billion Years thanks to NOVA.  I thought I was reasonably informed about Australia and its geological and paleontological history.  I wasn’t. 

First episode here. (the green bar on the right) You can watch them online but I’m not sure if that is restricted by country.


Postscript – and this, I had to put this up


Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A bit about the term “respect”

One thing I see a lot of is that a lot of theists demand respect for their religion.  

What I think is happening is that a lot of theists think that respect means the same as politeness, consideration and tolerance.  It doesn’t, at least not all of the time, or we wouldn’t need those other words.  The term respect, in the context of having it for a person or thing, means that one acknowledges that something has worth or value.  The idea that all ideas or all people deserve respect with no prior information about said person or idea is a flawed concept since one cannot assume worth or value without evidence.  There’s a lot of things I have no respect for and I’m sure readers have their own lists.  

Now, one can be polite and tolerant to find out if respect is deserved.  One can be polite to those one disagrees with, by offering careful thought and commentary about the claims offered, and by not relying on abuse.  That means that politeness does not mean that one cannot be direct and ask hard questions that make the claimant uncomfortable. One can be tolerant by allowing things that one does not agree with to be practiced and claimed. However, that does not mean that one cannot criticize such practices if valid criticisms can be offered.  

For instance, in a prior post, I said that the opinions of Plantinga (a Christian apologist) were no more worth respect than those of a three year old who claimed they had an invisible friend.  I can say I respect the *person* as a human being who deserves to have their claims considered. I can respect that a compilation of myths of a culture can reveal much about that culture.  I can respect the *right* of a human being to believe pretty much what they want (to the limit of harming others), but respecting the person, the story,  and the right does not mean I do or that I have to respect the claims being put forward about such things and it certainly doesn’t mean I cannot criticize such claims.  

Many theists think that their religious claims should be automatically respected, and I think that comes from their belief that their claims are special and are the truth. They have been told that their religion is true by people they trust and often have good reason to trust (parents, friends, etc). This leads to misplaced faith, all built on the very real respect they have for those trusted people.  This allows for a lot of compartmentalization, where people wall off what they want to believe from those things that are up for questioning.  Rather than dealing with the cognitive dissonance, they decide that some things cannot be examined with the same rigor as others. 

There have been thousands of years and people who have believed in some version or other of gods, but the invocation of popularity and tradition, and the awkward variant on the appeal to authority (this trusted person was right about something so they are right about everything) to demand respect simply gets mired in the fallacies those are.   

Until those claims are supported by evidence there is no reason to respect them. If an adult said that they believed in the tooth fairy, or Santa, or reptiloids or gray aliens or Bigfoot, and claimed that they had evidence of such things, I would have no reason to respect their claims until the evidence was produced and examined. The baseless belief in Santa is worthless to me.  This applies just as well to anyone who claims that there ghosts, gods and fairies. 

Since respect is based on evidence of worth, this also means that evidence must be more than hopeful claims.  It should often be unique, especially in regards to claims of deity, where religions compete for being the only true one.  It should be able to be objective, personal anecdotes are as limited in value here as they are in criminal trials.  It should not be directly contradicted by other baseless and oh-so hopeful claims about the same event/item, for then we have many sets of  could be wrongs and nothing that can be shown right.  

And that, my readers, is why I have no respect for religion and a lot of other very human ideas and have great respect for others.

What the Boss Likes – Dungeons and Dragons….and Pat Robertson making a fool of himself again


 Good ol’ Pat is beating the drum about Dungeons and Dragons again and how this game has “literally destroyed people’s lives”.   Ah, Pat, we can always count on you for a good lie for Jesus! I’m sure that Pat is feverishly pawing at his Chick tracts (absolutely ludicrous Christian tracts that tell a number of pitiable lies about anyone Jack Chick doesn’t like. He’s a KJV-onlyist TrueChristian who really really hates Catholics). Chick is sure that D&D tells people how to cast “real” spells.  Damn, for playing it for over 20 years, where’s my fireball?!   You can read the histrionics in the tract here. For shame, Jack and Pat. All of that false witnessing, because anyone who has actually played D&D knows that you never have.  Tsk, putting your supposed eternal souls on the line to lie about a game.   By the way, Dungeons and Dragons is now owned by Hasbro through their subsidiary Wizards of the Coast. So, you know, ooooooh scary!  🙂  

For those not of the nerdish persuasion, Dungeons and Dragons is a role-playing game; you create a character and then it’s a game of make-believe. And not like the video game version of RPG.  In pen and paper D&D, you can create just about anything as a character, not limited to whatever the game designer put in.  You are limited by what the “Dungeonmaster” says can fit into his world.  He’s the author of the story line and often the author of the entire gaming world. (D&D isn’t limited to classic medieval fantasy a la Lord of the Rings) .  The DM is any other characters yours might meet, he’s the weather, the monsters, etc.  Essentially the DM is the creator of conflict in the narrative: man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society, and if he’s good, places your character into situations where it’ll be man versus himself.  My husband, an excellent DM if I do say so myself, loves to do those last two.  It’s nice, and a right pain in the ass sometimes, to have an English Lit major creating stories. His games aren’t “Open door, kill monster, take treasure.”  Oh no, we have to deal with moral ramifications, like if orcs have souls, can a half-demon be good, is it better to do the good thing or the lawful thing……  My theist audience should be amused to know that I occasionally play priests.  It’s one thing to believe in a god that actually (in the gaming world) does something.   Continue reading “What the Boss Likes – Dungeons and Dragons….and Pat Robertson making a fool of himself again”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 2 the “evidence”

Bible claims do not equal reality.
Bible claims do not equal reality.

Now onto Part 2 – the “evidence” 

I’ll address the evidence that Ben has claimed for the existence of his God.  

1. Arguments of natural theology – the existence of the universe, the beginning of the universe, the intuitive reality of moral facts, the human phenomenon of consciousness, the existed of human reason, the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for the possible existence of intelligent life, etc… Philospher Alvin Plantinga mentions two dozen such articles in lecture notes to be found here.

Yep, expected this one.  It’s the “look around, *my* god did this” nonsense along with the baseless claim of “intuitive reality of moral facts” aka we somehow know what is moral magically.  The first problem is that this argument can apply to *any* god and well, we know that Christians aren’t talkinb about Huitzilopochtli.  It’s circular and it has the usual problem that it could be any god.  Christians, and any theist,  just claim it’s theirs so they can feel all important.  Poor Christians could be simply wrong and have the wrong god. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 2 the “evidence””

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 1 trying to show that the “supernatural” exists

rapture anyday nowThe author of the blog I’ve been commenting on, Ben,  has chosen not to post my last response.  I offered to post it on my blog if he wished to respond to it and now it’s here!  Ben has said that “I’m trying to set a tone[at his blog] that will be comfortable for family and friends to interact without being intimidated.”  Which seems indicate I’m too intimidating and that he wishes to not expose his friends and family to much that could dare make them question their beliefs.  That is completely understandable and happens on pretty much every blog based on Christian apologetics there is.  The apologist wants his fellow Christians to think that their arguments are unchallengable.  He was nice enough to make sure I had a copy of my post before ignoring it. That was very considerate and I appreciate it very much.  I do always keep copies of my posts to Christian blogs. 

He also asked me to post my “most pressing concern”.  I have given him that and now we’ll see if it’s ever addressed. You’ll see it below in the rest of the post, in bold. The original post has been altered to be more generalized and the explanations clearer.  This post will be in two parts: Ben’s attempts at showing his god exists, and then the evidence he has cited.  

Initially Ben has made the following attempt at a logical argument for the existence of his god as a refutation to the god of the gaps argument, where the theist claims that “if we do not know the cause for “x”, then it’s their god”.  With the advent of the scientific method, we have discovered causes for many many things, and as of yet, this god has caused nothing.  We have gone from God causes rain, disease, war, etc, to the laws of physics cause rain, bacteria etc cause disease, humans cause war, etc.  But let’s take a look at the following (bolds are by me, italizied in parens my comments):

(1)   Natural means cannot explain event E.

(1a) No natural means we know of can explain event E. (depends on ignorance and not knowing “yet”)

(1b) If there were natural means to explain event E, we would probably know that this is the case. (why would we probably know this? There is no mechanism.)

(1c) Therefore probably no natural means can explain event E.

(2)   Therefore there is a supernatural explanation of event E. (here is the old god of the gaps argument.)

2a) There is an explanation of event E.

(2b) Every explanation is either natural or supernatural.

(2c) Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E (again, no mechanism)

It’s not terribly hard to see how this argument fails.  All of these claims depend on the word “probably”. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 1 trying to show that the “supernatural” exists”

From the Kitchen – the World’s Best Lasagna

pan-of-lasagna-webThis weekend’s meal and a movie is the World’s Best Lasagnatm  and the movie is one we’ve watched before and love, John Carter (A Princess of Mars).  If you enjoy pulp, then watch it.  It’s a good movie and the reviewers, as usual, are to be ignored.  I’ve recommended the movie before here, so we’ll focus on the food.  If you need another dose of my arguments against common Christian apologetics, you can visit this blog where I have addressed such things. The author has been kind enough to allow my posts.  The claims are very, very typical, so if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have already seen much the same here. 

Lasagna was a good dish for this weekend since we were also madly gardening.  Much terraforming was done by my husband and things look pretty good. They should, I hurt enough.  One odd thing that folks from other places might not know is that since we live near a cocoa processing plant, we can get the cocoa seed hulls for mulch. The result is a garden that smells like brownies. 

Now you may wonder what makes this lasagna the world’s best, at least in my opinion.  Well, it’s because of something my husband did to the lasagna.  The usual ingredients are all there, but it’s how they are combined that makes the difference.  It’s also more goodies than pasta, which can make some lasagnas seem like bricks.  This recipe is what fits in our 9”x13” glass baking dish, so it’s not hugely thick. 

7 lasagna noodles (whatever dried type of pasta you like)

1 large jar of Prego flavored with meat (this is the only sauce we like, size is around 2 pounds, or around a kilogram)

1 medium onion

1 green/red sweet pepper

2/3 pound of hot Italian sausage Continue reading “From the Kitchen – the World’s Best Lasagna”

What the Boss Likes – Darn, I’m late for Ask An Atheist day!

Apparently yesterday (April 18th) was Ask an Atheist Day.   And apparently no one told a lot of atheists. 🙂  We are indeed a hard group to coordinate.

So, in honor of completely missing this, if you’d like to ask *this* atheist any questions about atheism and, well, just about anything else, please do.   If you have any questions about me, you can likely find some answers in “The Boss’s Office” tab at the top of the page. 



Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – It’s spring and the PA legislator lies are in bloom!

prayer is like gamblingIt’s that time of year again, when trees are blooming and legislators give a sop to their  constituents, trying to make believe that their version of Christianity is the state religion of Pennsylvania and the US.  Last year it was the nonsense about the “Year of the Bible”, which I posted about here, and here, .  Now we have more stealing of money from taxpayers in order to bother people about religion. 

As Judge Christopher Conner said in his rebuke to the “Year of the Bible” nonsense: 

“However, the court’s determination that the defendants engaged in a “legislative act” for purposes of immunity should not be viewed as judicial endorsement of this resolution. It most certainly is not. 

At best, H.R. 535 is a benign attempt to reaffirm the underlying principles of the Reagan proclamation of 1983. At worst, it is premeditated pandering designed to provide a reelection sound bite for use by members of the General Assembly. But regardless of the motivation behind H.R. 535, its express language is proselytizing and exclusionary (e.g., “ Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people”). 

The court is compelled to shine a clear, bright light on this resolution because it pushes the Establishment Clause envelope behind the safety glass of legislative immunity. That it passed unanimously is even more alarming. 

This judicial rebuke of the resolution is not intended to impugn the religious beliefs of any citizen. To the contrary, the court’s disapprobation is directed to the blatant use of legislative resources in contravention of the spirit – if not the letter – of the Establishment Clause. At a time when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania faces massive public policy challenges, these resources would be far better utilized in meaningful legislative efforts for the benefit all of the citizens of the Commonwealth, regardless of their religious beliefs.” – Case No. 1:12-cv-536 decision 

I wonder if the good judge knows that these idiots have basically said “Fuck you.” in the new resolutions.  

Now, House resolutions don’t really mean anything.  They range from recognizing a museum for a good exhibit, claiming that Maggie Thatcher was a “great” American friend and British patriot, to naming a bridge after some fallen serviceperson.  It’s my opinion they are all just a waste of time and money.  Yes, it’s nice to memorialize someone by naming a bridge after them but that can be done on the local level.  They require time and resources that could be better used in other ways.   

The two resolutions that have been adopted are HR 17, authored by a Republican and HR 51, authored by a Democrat.   So, the blame for this nonsense isn’t limited to just one party. 

HR 17 is a resolution to recognize “National Fast Day”.  This is a bit of US Civil War nonsense which is now in the spotlight thanks to it being 150 years since American merrily killed each other by the hundreds of thousands over the right to own another human being as property.  Pennsylvania is home to ostensibly the most famous battle of the war, Gettysburg, so we get to hear lots about it.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – It’s spring and the PA legislator lies are in bloom!”

What the Boss Likes – Donate blood, not just during emergencies

donate bloodThe US experienced a bombing again.  Bombings don’t often happen in the US, but they do happen with some regularity.  Some of our legislators are far too stupid to actually remember the instances but they do happen (there are smart people in Texas, unfortunately the willfully ignorant ones often drown them out).  They also usually happen thanks to our own home-grown lunatics just like in other countries that have to experience such tragedies.  That’s my guess (and it is only a guess) here, that the bomber(s) were domestic, the usual cowards like Timothy McVeigh, etc that are afraid of what American really stands for: freedom and democracy. (Seems that I was wrong per the lastest news.  One can find cowards anywhere).

Of course, people now are running about, needing to feel like they are doing something. The American Red Cross says it has enough money and blood now, thank you very much.  I’m sure that there will be various charities that open up because of this tragedy. Although there are plenty of people who just want to help, we also always have people who glom on to “fame”.  “Looky me, I donated to *the* disaster.” 

I find it vastly annoying that it takes some awful event to get people to do things like this.  My first blood donation was back in high school.  A student, screwing around on a cliff without safety gear, fell very badly.  He survived for a while, was life-flighted to a level 1 trauma center where they used a lot of blood trying to save him. Blood is expensive to get and maintain so the community tried to help the family replace the blood used (incidentally, the student was the son of a preacher, another unfortunate example of how prayer doesn’t work).  

It’s not as if there isn’t *always* a need for blood and money to help in disasters, be they small or large.  You might not have extra money but many people can give blood and it just takes a little of your time. Yes, there is a large needle and some people don’t like needles, including my husband.  He donates too. Just tell the phlebotomist that you are scared of needles and they’ll do all they can to help. O Negative people are needed most since they are the universal donor.  Their blood can be pumped in without having to take time to type someone who is dying.  

I give blood every time I can (usually every 8 weeks but sometimes I’m deferred longer for not having enough iron) and have donated gallons so far.  The last time I gave, they had a sign up that said that our local level one trauma center had used 25 units(usually a pint, a little less than half a liter) for two trauma victims in *one* day.  The human body has about 6 quarts (12 pints) or 5.6 liters of blood. Did a lot of that probably end up on the floor of the ER or in the suction machine?  Most likely, but they were lucky they had it to use.  

Donate blood if you can to whatever entity takes care of that in your country.  It’s up to us humans to give modern medicine, developed by the scientific method, all the help it can get. 

And get your CPR/AED certification too. I know how to do it but my cert is long expired.  I’d best get on that.

Postscript- very good story in the NYT about the voluteers and medical professionals who responded.

Postscript 2: Secular folks who have set up ways to help the victims in Boston: