Monday, September 28, 2009

Thank you for your concern

Three months ago, I wrote a blog posting about Jack Black saying that the bible was written by an idiot (I disagreed).

I just had to approve a comment made on September 25, in response to that posting, and I just want to publicly thank the anonymous author who said:
We will see who the idiots are come judgement day. May GOD have mercy on your stupidity. I truly hope you see the error of your ways before it is too late. Just because you don't believe it does not mean that it does not exist.
And, conversely, Mr. Anonymous, simply because you believe it, does not make it true/real. I do completely agree that we will see who the idiots are - fortunately we are able to point out people like you on a daily basis - we don't have to wait for some event that will never happen. Your myths don't scare me.

Thank you, Mr. Anonymous, for reminding me that stupidity still thrives. It makes all this truly worth it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Unicorn Delusion

Despite claims in numerous books and the personal testimony of countless people, the reality is that unicorns almost certainly do not exist*.

Oddly, few people will "flame" me for making that statement - likely because most people also agree with that assertion.

There is evidence for the existence of unicorns - one of the most popular books of all times speak of them. Countless people have had dreams that have involved unicorns and others have reported that they've seen unicorn shaped clouds in the sky.

Despite all of that, logical people will say that unicorns do not exist and that simply dreaming about them, reading about them or seeing an imaginary image of one doesn't constitute proof of some thing's existence. I'm sure you would agree.

*Nobody can, honestly, claim that unicorns don't exist - so "almost certainly" is an accurate statement. There is no evidence to support the existence of unicorns, fairies, dragons, talking snakes, men living in huge fish (or whale) for three days or, for that matter, any personal gods - yours included.

I figured I had to write this blog because of people claiming that we spend a lot of time arguing about the non-existence of something we believe does not exist. Just as we tackle believers in ghosts, alien abductions, psychic powers and other non-existent things, if you argued about the existence of unicorns, I'd, to be consistent, say you were deluded about that too.

Oh.. and the book that talks about unicorns also talks about talking snakes (talking donkeys too!), dragons, men living in huge fish (or whale) for three days - the Bible. Outside of the Bible, there is support for many things that we know, today, to be non-existent but the Bible tops it by adding one more thing that has no other supporting evidence - Jesus. Chances are.. if you follow.. that Jesus may be just as mythical as the unicorn.

(Note: I say "giant fish (or whale)" because the King James Version of the bible says "whale" and the New International Version says "huge fish". It is important to make that distinction because a whale is not a fish. Surely "Mr. All Knowing" knew that?)

If you took offense to what I have said above, you might be interested in the Talking Snake Theory.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

What if evolution is disproved?

Though there is a greater chance that the earth will be proved flat than there is that evolution will be disproved, what would happen if it were to be disproven?

Though Intelligent Design proponents spend an awful lot of time trying (miserably) to poke holes in Evolution, their followers and other "teach the controversy" believers fail to realize one major thing - disproving Evolution does not make Intelligent Design true.

Theories are replaced with theories that explain everything the previous theory explained and explain additional evidence and processes. Ignoring any evidence makes it an invalid theory. One theory being falsified does not make another true by default. Each theory has to stand on its own - explain the evidence, be falsifiable and make predictions.

In that sense, Intelligent Design has failed to present even a single theory (by theory, I mean scientific theory - and YES, it has to be a SCIENTIFIC theory if they want it taught in SCIENCE class).

And, in case you think I doubt the theory and fact of evolution, evolution IS a FACT and it is a theory that has faced greater scrutiny than probably any major scientific theory presented to date - its predictions have been accurate and the evidence supports the theory.

If you believe in Intelligent Design, it is, as your belief in god, against all evidence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bananaman Strikes Again - And you wonder why we're pissed? (Updated)

Okay, so atheists aren't really pissed, we're generally not strident and we don't kill people because of their beliefs (or lack thereof).

There is good reason for non-believers and rational thinkers to get upset with the antics of people like this. Believers, too, should be standing up to the inanity that is the bananaman and his cohort Kirk Cameron.

Bananaman and Kirk Cameron, on November 19, 2009, are going to distribute copies of Origins of Species by Charles Darwin for free to university students - 50,000 copies! The problem is that the copies will be prefaced with a 50 page intro that claims Evolution has never been proven and even suggests that Darwin helped inspire the Holocaust! The second catch is that it is an abridged version - cut to about HALF of its original size by their ministry.

The 50 page intro can be found here:

To understand how valid the arguments are in the 50 page intro, you'll need to first watch this video and then their introduction.

Well, I have read the 50 page "intro" that is going to be included in the copies of "Origin" that they're going to be handing out.

There is absolutely nothing surprising in it - it is exactly the same bullshit that Ray Comfort has spewed before (it is the exact same bullshit that has been completely torn to pieces by thousands of people already). Ray Comfort is great at quote mining, making shit up and lying with a straight face.

I suspect that much of what is said in there will come as a real surprise to most Christians (and definitely all who follow any other religion).

Some major points that have been made and, apparently, need to be made again:
  • Hitler was not an atheist.
  • There are transitional fossils (really, every fossil is transitional).
  • No thinking person claims that there is no god - there is no evidence to support a god but it is not intellectually sound to say "There is no god". However, the literal god of the bible does not exist.
  • Evolution of the eye is explainable and evidence supports the predictions. Humans do not have the "best" eyes - humans of today would design a better eye (what does that say about an all-knowing god?)
  • Atheists do not claim anything - but a non-belief
  • Who claims that everything came from nothing? (Ray claims that "atheists" believe that everything came from nothing - but isn't that what he's suggesting? God had to come from something and we know designers are exponentially more complex than the objects they design so everything plus some had to come from nothing.)
  • Was Darwin a racist?
  • Fossils are not the strongest form of evidence in support of Evolution but that evidence, alone, is enough for us to conclude that Evolution is a fact and natural selection is the most likely mechanism that drives it. Consider Why Evolution is True or Richard Dawkins' about-to-be-released The Greatest Show on Earth.

Homeopathy - The Poster

You may have already seen this but it was just brought to my attention by a visitor to this blog.
Homeopathy is just as the poster says.
As a follow-up to my last post.. here's an article from Bad Science that talks about "regression to the mean". Not to be confused with the above poster (a different usage of the word) but Ben Goldacre is the shit! (Here's another good article.)
Update: Ben even has one on "the end of homeopathy?" - see, I told you he was "the shit"!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo!

If you've read some of my earlier blogs, you'll know how I feel about pushers of woo-woo and this posting is no different.

I find myself in some pretty interesting situations - torn between being "polite" and dealing with something that is potentially dangerous.

We often, falsely, assume that because an event happened after another event, that the first event caused the second one. The phrase "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" is Latin for "after this, therefore because of this" refers to this common fallacy. It is why many people assume Jenny McCarthy's claims about vaccines and autism ("My child didn't have autism until they were vaccinated, therefore the vaccine caused the autism."). The reality is that simply not exhibiting signs of autism does not mean that the child did not have autism prior to the vaccine (but that's a whole different issue).

I was sitting at a dinner table with my wife and a number of other people and one of the other dinner guests described how taking a particular herb cures her kids' colds. She said she gives the herb to her kids when they get sick and a few days later they're all better. Apparently it was "impolite" for me to ask whether the results of taking the herb would be any different than the results from simply letting a "cold" run its course.

I may never get invited back to a dinner party involving this lady but I can assure you that the dangers of letting woo-woo go unquestioned are far greater than being called "impolite".

As my post title says, "if it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo."

Friday, September 11, 2009

If you bring "god" into the arena, it's game on!

It is probably necessary for me to clarify a few other things about atheism, anti-theism and proselytizing.

I am atheist - that means that I don't believe in gods. It does not mean that I believe that gods do not exist, by definition. I am willing to suggest that I do not believe in gods as most people define them and if you want to know if I think your god is imaginary, simply define your god (Hint: I probably do.).

I am an anti-theist in the sense that I do not believe the "good" of religion outweighs the "bad" that comes from it. I am anti-theist because I think oppression in any form is wrong and anything that interferes with the quest to end human suffering (science based medicine, for one) needs to be discouraged.

I firmly believe that it is important to counter woo-woo wherever it presents itself and I feel that there are very few instances where that shouldn't be the case. I'm not suggesting that people go so far as to stand on street corners and push non-belief nor do I think one would be successful if they steered every conversation they had towards a discussion about non-belief.

Religion and god-belief have been given a free ride - an undue level of respect and I think myths and falsehoods will continue to be spread until we are all ready to accept that we should be ready to defend anything that we present as true.

It is necessary to be pretty clear about what I mean - if you bring "god" into the arena, it's game on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Official - Richard Dawkins in Toronto - Sept 29

Our good friend Justin Trottier just sent out an email to CFI members (and potential members) about the upcoming visit by Richard Dawkins in Toronto.

September 29, 2009 - Richard Dawkins at the Isabel Bader Theatre - $10.00

For those that don't know, Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor's Tale, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, etc.) has just released a new book, The Greatest Show on Earth (it is out in Europe but gets released on Sept 22nd in North America).

Just a little information on Justin and CFI - Justin Trottier is the Executive Director of Centre for Inquiry Canada. I am a "friend of the centre" and I encourage others to consider supporting CFI and their activities.

I won't, however, be at this event to see Richard Dawkins - and not for any other reason than I'll be on my way to the Atheist Alliance International convention in Burbank, California. My wife and I, with at least two other couples from Sarnia are going to see Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Daniel Dennett, Brian Dalton and more...

When 'ghost hunting' turns deadly

When the top headline of Canoe ( under news was "Woman falls to death 'ghost-hunting' in Toronto", I couldn't help but read it.

Apparently this woman was, early in the morning, "hunting for ghosts" in this building. Two things that are really sad are 1.) A person died and 2.) She was 29 and still thought that ghosts existed.

Here's an article that will make you think "Wow, god has one crazy sense of humour"

It reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw this morning "Smile, God Loves You" :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is so convincing?

The method that people come to believing in gods is intriguing to me - especially when these people were not brought up in a religious environment. I have great difficulty in understanding how it is possible for someone to believe in a god (especially the god of the Abrahamic religions) but, oddly, people actually do.

If you are a "believer", I'm curious to know what it is that brought you to the beliefs you now hold today. Were you brought up in the religion that you now adhere to? What is so convincing that you hold firmly to such beliefs?

As a "believer", what would you tell to a non-believer to convince them that your god exists and that he/she is the right one to believe in?

What answers would you have for questions that a non-believer might present?
- What do I have to gain by believing in your god?
- What do I stand to lose if I don't believe in your god?
- What evidence exists for your god?
- How do you explain suffering?

What answer would you have for questions that a believer of another faith might have?
- Are we not simply worshipping the same god?
- What is it about other gods that you don't believe in them?
- Why should I believe in your god? How is your god better than my god?
- Is Jesus not a false prophet? (Islam)
- What makes you believe that Jesus even existed? Why do you think he was divine? (Judaism)

I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do What Too Few People Do - Speak Up

Recently I overheard a discussion between a 'believer' and another person and the conversation compelled me to speak up.

The church going individual was explaining how their church struggles with how to accept "gays". Coming from the standpoint that their church is taking the moral high ground, he said that their church also allows alcoholics to attend and that they are looking at treating "gays" the same way that they treat alcoholics who attend their church.

Now they could do as the Catholic Church has been doing and instead of calling them "gay", they could call them "Priest", but this particular person (seemingly an elder of sorts at the church he attends) said they would allow "gays" in but they would not be allowed to promote their lifestyle as alcoholics are not allowed to.

"Great," I thought. They've come up with a great solution - if they want to be called BIGOTS.

I couldn't let it go - I'm sure you can think of many reasons to be upset with such statements and approaches - I had to say something.

I joined the conversation (if you could say that), with a point about tolerance and how ignorant his comments were. "Gay" isn't a choice and I've never heard of "gay" people trying to convert people or to encourage "straight" people to choose their lifestyle.

Sexual oppression and control is at the center of Abrahamic religions and the result of it controls how many people vote in US elections. Abortion, gay rights, the definition of marriage, planned parenthood, birth control, death with dignity and stem cell research are divisive not because they are moral/immoral or ethical/unethical but because people believe the bible (inerrant, yet full of errors, word of god) commands its followers to take a particular side of the issue.

I suggest that if more people spoke up against such acts of hate that we’d be headed in the right direction. With the churches and its members receiving undue respect, especially in situations as these, people are afraid to speak up for what is right. If the bible suggests that homosexuality should not be tolerated, it is the bible that is wrong. If the bible suggests that birth control should be forbidden, the bible, again, is wrong. If the bible suggests that women are servants of men, the bible is wrong.

(I am not "pro-woman", I'm not "pro-gay", I'm "pro-shut-the-fuck-up-about-shit-which-should-not-matter-to-you" with a side of "pro-reduction-of-suffering" and two tablespoons of "stop-oppressing-people".)