“Are you still searching?”

I’m occasionally challenged by religious folks as to whether I still question God’s existence, or if I’m still “seeking”. They ask if I’m at all “skeptical about evolution”, or other similar questions. These sort of questions betray their inability to understand that other people have good reasons for their beliefs (or non-beliefs), and how stuck they are in their own belief that they simply must be right. Then if you don’t get that, there’s something wrong with you. The irony is that it’s basically odds-on that they don’t question like they think you should.

See, here’s the thing; I’m always open to any new ideas or evidence no matter what the idea is or how crazy it may be. But being open-minded and a good skeptic doesn’t mean constantly questioning every idea there is. It means being open to new information.

Let me to toss out a few ideas here to help illustrate:

  1. I don’t believe any gods exist.
  2. I believe evolution is the process by which all life came to be as we know it today.
  3. I believe the Earth revolves around the Sun.

In my mind, from my accumulated knowledge and experiences, these three things are equally correct. I’m not going to sit around like a moron all day and ponder whether the Earth really revolves around the Sun. This is a settled question. What if there were new evidence presented that, in fact, the Sun revolves around the Earth? Well that would be some amazing evidence. I would consider that evidence, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But I feel no need to seek out such evidence. There are things in life that I just don’t feel a need to constantly question.

It’s the same with evolution. Evolution has been proven time and time and time again, and has withstood all attempts to disprove it. It’s done. It’s settled. It’s what happened. We know it happened, just as we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. If some new evidence came out that disproved evolution, then I would consider it, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But all we ever get are the same old tired arguments against evolution that have been answered, disproven, or are just nonsensical.

The same with the existence of gods. Done deal. New evidence or arguments? Okay, bring it. But until/unless that happens, I don’t need to go out of my way to question if the Earth revolves around the Sun… er, I mean… if a god exists.

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Criticizing science

It seems like a lot of Christians love to criticize any science that conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible.  There’s a problem with that though.

Most of us are not equipped to have a proper in-depth understanding of scientific concepts.  When it comes to subjects such as nuclear physics, neuroscience, evolution, or cosmology, we can have an understanding of the basic concepts, but when it comes to a comprehensive understanding, the professional opinions of those who are qualified to hold them are what actually matter.  The rest of us can have discussions on the findings and opinions of qualified professionals, and even bring up questions or objections, but again, we should defer to those who are qualified.

Creationists try to circumvent this by attacking the scientists and their “worldview”, their “bias”, or their “presuppositions”.  They attack rather than simply proving their god assertion and they don’t listen when told why these attacks are wrong.  If they could prove any of their claims then they simply would.  If they had evidence then they could just show it to everyone and we’d all believe, except we wouldn’t call it belief, we’d call it knowledge.

Most are just intellectual vandals, chucking rocks at hard won scientific knowledge.  They don’t contribute anything; they just yell “nuh-uh” and run away with their fingers in their ears so they don’t hear why their criticisms are wrong.  Some try to argue or debate, but when their arguments don’t work, they either keep yelling “nuh-uh” endlessly, or move on to their next canned argument that’s already been disproven, unfazed that their trail of previous arguments didn’t work.  Some try to play at science, but find themselves at odds with the vast majority in their field.

When it comes to evolution or the Big Bang, the “scientific dissenters” are not the rebels who will turn out to be right.  Creationists had their time.  Human beings have believed in gods and the supernatural since we began to be able to form ideas.  I think we could say that almost everyone who has ever lived used to believe in creation in some form or another.  Now we know better.  Science has shown all those myths to be incorrect.

We could just point and laugh but the problem is that they influence other people who are ill equipped to understand why the good Christian scientists telling them what they want to hear are wrong.  Confirmation bias meets persecution complex, so naturally the revolutionary ideas are being suppressed.  More than just ill equipped, most don’t WANT to hear why they might be wrong.  Most think it’s preferable if their god exists so it must be true and they’ll listen to whoever agrees.

So if you have an objection to science, go find some evidence for your objection or come up with an alternate hypothesis and then prove it.  You can participate in the process, but you better know what you are talking about if you want to be taken seriously.  Hell, one of Stephen Hawking’s theories was proven wrong by Leonard Susskind, originally a plumber from New York. But Susskind did actual scientific work.

Albert Mohler on the Bill Nye vs Ken Ham “debate”

I’m unfortunate enough to be related (by marriage, lol) to somebody who is just in love with Albert Mohler.  Well, by “in love” I certainly don’t mean in a gay way, because he’s all kind of against anything LGBTQ, but… well you get me.  Supposedly Mohler is one of the brightest minds in the US and even leading secularists respect and admire him.  Um… I haven’t been able to find anything to support that assertion, and his articles certainly don’t support it.

Mohler felt the need to weigh in on last night’s “debate” between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Well, let’s be honest here: it was really a fund raiser and a desperate attempt to resurrect (ha) the failing Creation “Museum”, which will probably succeed, at least in the short term. Anyway, here’s a link to Mohler’s article, followed by my response:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/02/05/bill-nyes-reasonable-man-the-central-worldview-clash-of-the-ham-nye-debate/

Ken Ham’s creationism is indeed a very narrow and literal interpretation of the Biblical account, and is rejected by all but the most fundamentalist Christians.

Ken Ham basically stood and preached for the entire debate, while Bill brought the fact train. One example was how we measure the distance to different stars. The method is actually very simple and uses basic geometry. Ken’s response was essentially “nuh-uh”. We know that there are stars that we can see that are further away than 6000 light years (including many that are millions and billions). We have no reason to think that the fundamental laws of the universe have changed, so unless we ever find such evidence, the idea that the universe is 6000 years old is done. Game over.

We don’t need to “defend” wild assertions that have no basis in fact. I think, as it appears Bill also thinks, stating facts that can be backed up by evidence is sufficient.

As Bill pointed out, creationists use the term “historical science” in a way that no other scientists do, and they do it to muddy the waters because their claims have been shown to be wrong, so they resort to word games and redefining terms.

But again, when cornered, creationists resort to attacking reality itself. Suddenly we can’t know anything at all, and have no “intellectual authority” without a god.

Bill did indeed answer honestly when there were questions to which we don’t have solid answers. This is what intellectually honest people do. We don’t just assert things as fact that are (to borrow from AronRa) either not evidently true, or evidently NOT true. Even if you believe the Bible, you should probably go find evidence to support it. As I’ve said many times before, and as Bill Nye said, we would be happy to change our thinking given evidence.

But Ken Ham’s answers were indeed telling. He repeatedly rejects reality where it conflicts with his interpretation of the Bible. This is mind-boggling and intellectually dishonest.

Near the end of the article: “Nye seems to believe that he is genuinely open to any and all new information, but it is clear that his ultimate intellectual authority is the prevailing scientific consensus”.

This is just plain wrong. It’s not “the prevailing scientific consensus”. It’s evidence. Now yes, given evidence then scientific consensus will follow, but that is because of the evidence, not because everybody else thinks some particular thing. We do have great confidence in science and reason and evidence because they have been shown to work.

Then Mohler missed the point of Bill’s illustration of billions believing in something other that Ken Ham’s hyper-literal interpretation of the Biblical creation story. The point was that people like Ham want everybody to believe that it is impossible to believe in a god while accepting evolution. That’s not correct. Many, many, many people manage to understand and accept evolution, and still believe in a god. That was the point.

Then we come to more attacks on reality and reason itself. Suddenly we can’t be reasonable without a god. Apparently we can’t count on evidence. I would ask how, then, we would be able to reasonably conclude that the Bible is true if we can’t use reason? Seems self-defeating to me.

The central issue last night was exactly about facts like the age of the Earth and sediment layers and and fossils, but creationists WANT it to be about something else, because then they can act like it’s just a “clash of worldviews” so we’re on equal footing. Well, I suppose when your worldview involves denying reality that can be demonstrated with evidence, then maybe Mohler does have a point.

As a funny side note, Ken Ham is too crazy even for Pat Robertson.  When you’re too crazy for Pat Robertson, you got problems:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01AWJ4BWxME

Wanting to believe more than wanting to know

When talking with religious folk, I’ve come to realize there is one important question to ask at the outset.

“Is there anything that anyone could show you that would make you not believe in god?” I realize we’re not out to DISPROVE god, though there are convincing arguments for that, but that’s not the point. However, if the answer is no, then we’re done. There is no point in continuing. You want to believe more than you want to know. Science has shown, to everyone except those who bury their heads in the sand, how we very likely got from the nothing before the universe began to where we are now with just natural processes, no god required. If you refuse to see that, well too bad for you, but the theories and the data are all there for anyone to look at.

Some people would rather deny any science that conflicts with their beliefs than entertain even the possibility that they could be wrong about what they believe.

This vast conspiracy of science to destroy god is laughable… or it would be if there weren’t people who actually believe it and tell others to believe it. Scientists work through a process called peer review. They submit research to journals for their peers (other scientists in the same field) to review. And by review I mean attack it ferociously, trying to tearing it apart and show where it is wrong. If the peers fail to do this, then the research is considered to be valid and is one step closer to becoming a theory, or is reinforced as a theory, or whatever. This is how we come to knowledge.

Does religion do this? Hardly. Religion does the opposite. Religion tells us there are things we can’t question. Religion tells us to be satisfied with half answers, or non answers, or to take it on faith. Faith? There is literally no worse way to arrive at any kind of reliable understanding of reality than faith.

Hebrews 11:1 in the King James Bible says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (though in the Bible, the word ‘evidence’ clearly has a much looser meaning).

God is not a theory. God is not even a hypothesis. A hypothesis needs to be falsifiable. But there is no test for god, and no evidence either. Most of the time when people talk about god, it is so poorly defined that it is not even a coherent statement.

If some god exists, and if it is the god of the Bible, with all the qualities and attributes ascribed to god (though that makes him not a good god, but we’ll skip that for now and pretend, for the sake of argument, that Bible god is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent), and this god wants people to know he exists so we can all worship him and go to heaven, then he’s done a piss-poor job so far of providing evidence for rational people to be able to believe he exists. At this point in time I think it is unlikely in the extreme that Bible god would suddenly provide absolute objective evidence that he exists after going so long not providing it, given the claim that god loves us all and wants us to go to heaven.

I can’t think of what would convince me that some god exists, but here’s the difference between me and “unshakable faith” Christians. I acknowledge that I could be wrong.  I acknowledge that if Bible god exists, and if he wants me to know that he exists (as Christians claim), he would know what would convince me. So far I’ve seen nothing, which indicates either that that god does not exist, or that he doesn’t want me to know that he exists. And if he does indeed exist, why has he gone all this time in complete silence, letting rational, open-minded, freethinking people live and die without providing evidence which we would accept if presented with? We’re not out to deny things that are supported by evidence, we don’t see any.

And no, subjective evidence is not evidence. Actual evidence is objective. It can be shown to anyone who has a rational mind, and that person would then weigh the evidence and perhaps alter their views. To claim that god has shown you subjective evidence (but apparently not me) is not only the height of narcissism, arrogance, and grandiosity, but it would also mean that your god is not a very good god since it has given you the evidence, but not me, and not countless others who have died without it. If there is actual evidence, then show that evidence.

But again, some people want to believe more than they want to know.  Some people value their fantasy more than knowing things.