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

helium

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

dark-dungeons

 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

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 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

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