Posts Tagged 'Evolution'

I’m Elated to Be an Atheist

There were a couple of threads on Reddit a little while back about how atheists should talk more about how great it is to become an atheist after being stuck in religious thought for so long. This is something that I think atheists should really advertise, because too often it seems that people who self-identify as atheists are perceived as always just living and thinking in opposition of something. Although it’s true that atheism is purely the rejection of theism, it also, at least in my experience, opens up a whole new world of discovery and possibilities.

As a theist I always had this sense that my thoughts were constantly being monitored, and that my actions were always being judged by big brother up there in the sky. It’s not fun to worry all the time about pissing god off. If I thought a bad thought about somebody I would immediately have this feeling of guilt and dread, and I would pray for forgiveness. I wasn’t actually sure if my religion taught that your thoughts are being policed, but at one point I scoured the Bible to try to find something that said that your bad thoughts don’t count against you, but just in case I made sure that I asked for forgiveness about anything that could count against me. I was scared of hell, y’all, you understand.

Aside from worrying about my own eternal damnation, I was also concerned about my friends and family going to hell. How could I guarantee that they all did the right things so that they could get into heaven with me? Did my grampa accept Jesus as his personal lord and saviour? Did my gay brother guarantee a ticket to hell just for being himself? In highschool a boy on my swim team died by suicide – I must have prayed every night for a year that he wouldn’t be punished for taking his life.

I also feel like I had less of a sense of wonder about the world as a theist. When I would see something like a photo of a beautiful nebula or a video of a coral reef, I would thing “wow, what an imagination that god has.” And the curiosity for how those things got there just didn’t exist. When I believed that god could just magic anything into existence, there just wasn’t that much mystery about the world.

For these reasons and more, the moment I realized that I no longer believed in my God or any other gods was one of the most freeing feelings I had ever experienced. Seriously! For that first few months I would get choked up reading about evolution or listening to podcasts about astronomy. There was this whole world of science out there that I had never allowed myself to absorb. The universe became a giant mystery and my mind was no longer being monitored so I had the freedom to explore questions like “what is the frickin big bang anyways?” and “how did single-celled organisms turn into that beautiful coral reef?” and “what is gravity anyways?” People, gravity is amazing!

I love being able to think whatever I want now. I don’t have to worry about offending sky-daddy with my thoughts, and I can entertain any ideas without worrying about consequences. I also no longer waste time with prayers. People often say that prayer is a nice way to look back on the day and get a nice fuzzy feeling even if it doesn’t work, and that was true for some of my praying, but truthfully I had a lot of anxieties about praying. At my Bible study they would pray so formally, but I tended to just pray as if I was talking to a friend – was I doing it wrong? Was I offending God? I also worried that I would forget to pray for somebody, so my blessings would go on and on until I would just say “and anyone else I may have forgotten” – what a silly exercise! I would also be really careful about what I prayed for, because I worried that if I prayed for something and it didn’t come true that it meant that I wasn’t faithful, or wasn’t a True Christian (TM). No joke – in order to counter this worry that my prayers wouldn’t come true, I would build an out into my prayers. For example, “dear God, please let so-and-so get better, and if he/she doesn’t please be with his/her family in this difficult time, in Jesus name, amen.” I’m so happy that prayer is no longer a part of my life.

There are so many fun things about being an atheist that I just couldn’t experience as a Christian. It’s not that I lost my moral code and I’m just going to run wild now and start trampling over people who get in the way of my fun. I still know what right and wrong is, that had nothing to do with my god-belief. But now I can break all those ridiculous little rules that religion imposes on you that have no reason behind them other than “because god wouldn’t like that.” For example, swearing! Swearing is a wonderful thing. When you stub your toe, screaming “ffuuucckkkkk” is the best pain relief I can think of. Religion gives so much power to these completely harmless groupings of letters, and it’s not just the four-letter-word kind of swearing that I can enjoy now. I can also say “I swear to god” or “oh my god” now. I used to think that those were the worst things I could say, and I’m pretty sure it’s an unforgiveable sin to take the lord’s name in vain. I used to be so careful about not doing that, so it’s so fun to me now to be able to use those words without those silly worries. To give an example of how silly it got with me, my favourite band (The Tragically Hip) has this awesome song called New Orleans is Sinking, and there’s one part that goes “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said I swear to God she said” but when I sang along I used to go “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said hmm hmm hmm hmmm she said.” Come on, how ridiculous is that? As an atheist I even get to enjoy my favourite songs more!

It’s fantastic being an atheist, and no amount of badgering from a religious person is going to convince me that I’m not a hundred times happier now than I was as a god-believer. That’s why I think all atheist logos should look like this one:

An Incredibly Sexist Misrepresentation of Some Interesting Science

I was in Subway the other day and the local top 40 radio (HOT 103) station was playing. When the DJ came on he said something really awful. He said he had just read an article about how men differ from chimpanzees by 30%, but women are only 2% different than chimps genetically.

This statement is obviously wrong, because if men and women were sodifferent genetically then we wouldn’t be able to reproduce…we would be different species. But the DJ used this article to justify his next statement, which was essentially that the next time your girlfriend is pestering you, remind her that she’s pretty much a chimp.

I don’t mind being compared to chimps (in fact he was wrong, humans – men and women – differ from chimps in only 1% of our DNA), but the implication that women are somehow less evolved than men was incredibly sexist.

I was curious to see what the article he was talking about actually said, though, so I looked it up when I got back home and it’s really quite interesting. The title of the article is “Male Chromosome May Evolve Fastest”, and wasn’t talking about male evolution, but about the evolution of the Y chromosome:

A new look at the human Y chromosome has overturned longstanding ideas about its evolutionary history. Far from being in a state of decay, the Y chromosome is the fastest-changing part of the human genome and is constantly renewing itself.

The Y chromosome’s rapid rate of evolutionary change does not mean that men are evolving faster than women. But its furious innovation is likely to be having reverberations elsewhere in the human genome.

The chimpanzee and human lineages shared a common ancestor just six million years ago, a short slice of evolutionary time. Over all, the genomes of the two species are very similar and differ in less than 1 percent of their DNA. But the Y chromosomes differ in 30 percent of their DNA, meaning that these chromosomes are changing far faster in both species than the rest of the genome.

It’s unfortunate that such an interesting article would be misrepresented like that. I guess I can’t expect much from a pop radio DJ, he’s not a journalist, after all, but I don’t think it’s unfair to expect him to actually read the article that he was using to justify his sexism. I wasn’t in Subway for long after he said that, but I hope someone called in and put him in his place.

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Symphony of Science – Jane Goodall

If you haven’t heard of the Symphony of Science you must must must click here now!

John Boswell, the head musician and producer behind Symphony of Science, has created (so far) 4 songs with accompanying videos that put the words of brilliant scientists like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking to music…with the magic of auto-tune.

I love these creations so much that I even ordered the first song, A Glorious Dawn, on vinyl (you can get them from Third Man Records, they’re only $5, and the vinyl is etched to replicate the gold record on Voyager).

Symphony of Science just unveiled its most recent creation, “The Unbroken Thread”, featuring David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, and Jane Goodall. And it’s beautiful. This one is about biology, evolution, and the complexity and diversity of life on Earth.

I particularly want to point out the part featuring Jane Goodall, and it sums up the main reason why I decided to become a vegetarian (it’s been a week today!):

There isn’t a sharp line dividing humans
from the rest of the animal kingdom
It’s a very wuzzie line

It’s a very wuzzie line,
and it’s getting wuzzier
All the time

We find animals doing things that we,
In our arrogance,
Used to think was “just human”

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do.

Fashion Line Inspired by Origin of Species

It’s cool to see someone so mainstream giving props to a scientist in such a creative way:

Alexander McQueen showed a collection inspired by Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species at Paris Fashion Week:

Models with their hair teased into devil-like horns, strutted the catwalk in minidresses decorated with all manner of colourful, elaborate skins.

Ruffled hemlines were frilled to resemble feathers, and vibrant fabrics were printed to resemble amphibian-like breastplates.

The high-tech show set then morphed into a prehistoric underwater scene, lending something of an otherworldly feel.

Darwin Fashion

Wow…those shoes…

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Richard Dawkins on the Colbert Report

If you’re in Canada, You can watch here, in the US PZ Myers links to it here.

I love it because Colbert captures the creationist mindset perfectly throughout the interview, but especially with his intro statement:

My guest tonight has written a new book supporting evolution. I’ll prove it’s a farce by having the same opinion at the beginning of this interview as I do at the end.

Beautiful!

The interview itself was alright, I get annoyed at Colbert’s style because he doesn’t let the guest speak, but that’s a part his character on the show, so I guess I can’t complain.

Steven Colbert Richard Dawkins

Dawkins was on to promote his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. It should be good, I love his writing style, but unfortunately I won’t be able to read it for awhile…I’m currently in the middle of three books and have a long list of to-reads before this one.

Ray Comfort Compares Himself to Oskar Schindler

Bananaman Ray Comfort has cooked up his most recent scheme as an attempt to brainwash students into thinking that creationism is a legitimate alternative to evolution before they start their education. He is concerned that too many students lose their faith in the course of their university education…is that supposed to be a bad thing?

So Comfort has defecated on inserted his own introduction into Darwin’s On The Origin of Species containing all of his made up crap arguments about why evolution is wrong, and he’s giving away free copies on university campuses on November 24th.

Origin of Species Ray Comfort

He obviously thinks that this is some noble cause and that he’s going to be saving lives (or, I suppose, souls) by doing this as evidenced by his words in the September 22nd Way of the Master newsletter:

Recently, I watched a (clean) version of the movie, “Schindler’s List.” Schindler used his wealth to purchase 1500 Jews from Nazi death camps. At the end of the movie, he broke down in tears because he wasted much of his wealth on vanities, and said, “I could have saved more!”

I can’t help but think of this when it comes to what we are doing.

He then goes on to brag about how he’s giving $10,000 of his own money to the project and to ask people to donate their time and money to this deceitful venture.

Get over yourself Ray Comfort. Oskar Schindler was actually saving lives. What he did was dangerous and helped people, and it’s an insult to Schindler to pretend that Comfort’s mission is in any way comparable to someone who risked their life to help others. All the bananaman is doing is lying to students about science and hoping that some of them are gullible enough to believe him.

PS: I’m disturbed by the idea of a “clean” version of Schindler’s List. In my opinion if you’re going to watch a movie about the Holocaust it should disgust you, anger you, and freak you out.

I wonder if Comfort reads a “clean” version of the Bible…

Can Your Beliefs About Religion make it Across This Intellectual Battleground?

The Philosophers’ Magazine has an interesting little test to see how reasoned your beliefs about religion are.

Give it a try: Battleground God

I suggest you try the test before reading my results below.

I was awarded this:

It’s given to about 46% of people who complete the test, because I didn’t take any “hits”, and only “bit one bullet”.

Here’s what it said about me:

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

The question I bit the bullet on was this one:

You answered “True” to questions 6 and 13.

These answers generated the following response:

You stated earlier that evolutionary theory is essentially true. However, you have now claimed that it is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that she exists. The problem is that there is no certain proof that evolutionary theory is true – even though there is overwhelming evidence that it is true. So it seems that you require certain, irrevocable proof for God’s existence, but accept evolutionary theory without certain proof. So you’ve got a choice: (a) Bite a bullet and claim that a higher standard of proof is required for belief in God than for belief in evolution. (b) Take a hit, conceding that there is a contradiction in your responses.

I chose option a, because I feel that the evidence for god would have to be exceptionally strong to convince me. If I were asked the question again though I would probably have to change my answer. The evidence for evolution is so good that an equivalent standard of evidence for god should be enough to convince me, and I hope would convince me that there’s a god.

As far as I know, no scientific theory has “certain, irrevocable proof.” I’m pretty sure that proofs only exist in mathematics. My logic faltered there, but I know that I should hold the same standards of evidence for anything that I hold to be true.

Atheist (and Science) Expelled from Creation Museum

Ben Stein brought the word “expelled” into the Intelligent Design vs. real science debate in 2008 with his horrendous movie in which he sanctimoniously blamed evolution for the holocaust. The premise behind Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was that ID proponents were being expelled from academics for their beliefs.

The truth was that Stein and the filmmakers had to resort to deception and lies in order to make their case, and their dishonesty was exposed by the NCSE soon after the film came out. The ID movement is a reaction to science explaining more and more of what was previously attributed to god. They want to discredit science and to replace it with religion in the classroom, and Expelled is just one example of how they attempt to do so.

Because Intelligent Design is no more than religion dressed up as science, censorship is a key ingredient so that they can brainwash more people and keep criticism out. And this was demonstrated beautifully when an atheist was expelled from the Creation Museum yesterday.

Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is a shining example of religion dressed up as science. The $27 million monstronsity built in 2007 is 49 acres of Biblical literalism. Exhibits use quotes from the Bible and science-y sounding “facts” to convince visitors that the world is 6,000 years old.

Biologist and outspoken, godless science-blogger PZ Myers was in the area, and decided to make a trek to the museum along with about 300 other atheists in order to see for themselves what kind of information the Creation Museum were promoting.

Continue reading ‘Atheist (and Science) Expelled from Creation Museum’

Creation or Evolution…the Logical Fallacies

Some interesting advertisements have been showing up on scienceblogs lately:

 Pharyngula Creation Evolution

Is evolution true? The mounds of evidence show that yes, it is. But The Good News Magazine (“A Magazine of Understanding”…claiming understanding and actual understanding are not the same thing) is taking advantage of the economic downturn:

 “There are a couple of things to know about this. One is that the economy sucks, and the media, in particular are struggling. Science media especially are suffering, so everyone is scrambling to scrape up whatever revenues they can. The other thing to notice is that in a down economy, faith-based lies and wishful thinking are cheap to produce and continue to sell, so that’s what’s happening.” – PZ Myers, Pharyngula

Rather than pouting about it, PZ Myers has called for bloggers everywhere to order their free creationist literature (they’ll ship to any country), and critically dissect them on their blogs. This way, when someone googles the organization, they’ll get a long list of reasons not to buy into the bullshit they’re peddling.

So like the good little minion that I am, I’ve put in an order for their “Creation or Evolution” booklet. While I’m waiting to get it in the mail, I’ve downloaded the free copy of that they have on their website and written up my own dissection (below the fold). I’m not an evolutionary biologist so I’ll leave it to people more educated than myself to deal with the nitty-gritty of the booklet. Rather, I’ll be picking out the logical fallacies to point out how intellectually dishonest these people have to be to get people to think they actually have a valid position.

Continue reading ‘Creation or Evolution…the Logical Fallacies’

Thunderf00t Converses with Ray Comfort

Pearlist (Physical evidence and reasoned logic supporter) youtuber Thunderf00t, and Creationist Ray Comfort recently sat down for a conversation. It’s really long, but touches on some interesting subjects so if you want to watch you can take a look here.

I always have mixed feelings about these discussions between, because it’s hard to see whether they accomplish anything. Neither is going to change the other’s mind, and Thunderf00t, by sitting down with Comfort, is in a way giving him credibility.

I thought it was an interesting discussion, and I found it easier to watch than most between creationists and non-creationists, mostly because it didn’t turn into a shouting match.

Here are some observations I made during the conversation:

  • Comfort starts off by poisoning the well, saying he thought Thunderf00t goes by that name because he “likes stomping on Christians.”
  • Thunderf00t drives in the fact that he doesn’t know everything, he doesn’t know why we’re here, but Comfort asserts that he does know. Comfort doesn’t seem to understand the difference between knowing something and believing something. Comfort even goes as far as to say that statistics show that more people believe in an afterlife. That may be true but the popularity of an idea doesn’t make it true.
  • Comfort reuses his tired old anecdote that if you see some writing somewhere you know it was put there by a person, therefore looking at the universe, you have to think that it was put there by something intelligent. I like Thunderf00t’s answer to this, and that is that we can deduce that a person created the writing because we have observed people doing this before, so it logically follows. So far we have no evidence that would suggest that an intelligent being created the universe, so it isn’t reasonable to assume so.
  • Comfort is always using special pleading.  He asserts that he knows the answers because god has shown him the answers, for example at 4:30 “He’s made everything clear to me.” Comfort’s use of logical fallacies such as this one throughout the conversation make it extremely difficult to have a reason-based discussion.
  • At the transition between parts 3 and 4, Comfort quotes Penn Jillette, and completely misunderstands the quote. It’s kind of hilarious and really pathetic.
  • In part 4 my desire for Thunderf00t to really go after Comfort is somewhat satisfied when he criticizes Comfort’s street preaching techniques. Watch this video for an example. It’s really dispicable how he makes people feel guilty, and then puts them in a position where they want to prove themselves to him. Comfort’s style of preaching is just plain mean, and he clearly makes people uncomfortable.
  • In part 6 Comfort really falls into his preachy rhetoric. He’s pretty pathetic to watch throughout the conversation, as he is always trying to change the subject while Thunderf00t is making a point, and when all else fails he starts quoting the Bible and talking about sin and the ten commandments. So sad.

I think Thunderf00t did well at driving in the point that what Ray Comfort is doing is retarding the advancement of human knowledge. He is claiming that the Bible has all of the answers, and thus discouraging people from free inquiry. Comfort is unable to see the world outside of the framework of the Bible, and I suppose doesn’t want anyone else to be able to either.

I think the kicker is in Part 7 at about 7:33, Comfort says “All you need is an overactive imagination to believe in evolution.” Replace the word ‘evolution’ with ‘god’ and it sums up Ray Comfort’s beliefs. In fact, believing in evolution does not require a lot of imagination because of the wealth of evidence to validate the theory.

Comfort seems to think that everyone needs some kind of god to have faith in. Throughout the recording he says that Thunderf00t’s god is evolution or science or time. But when one uses physical evidence and reasoned logic to form ones body of knowledge, faith is not necessary.


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