Wednesday, December 29, 2010

God's Quality Control 3.22: Epilogue

Here I conclude my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. Today's honorary author will be Mr Terry Rodgers, Principal of Prestonwood's Upper School. I invite you to share this video with Mr Rodgers, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Rodgers' pockets. Please join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.

There are a couple of pages left in this section of the guide, the "Student Questions" geared toward older students, but my response to most of the material is just a repetition of what I've already said, so I'll spare you and just quickly summarize the material. There's some warped justification for Yahweh's bizarre reality, some criticisms of Oprah (as though anyone cares what Oprah says), a bit of "Oh yeah? You're not the boss of us!" some more straw-man arguments about how worship of Charles Darwin has ruined us all, and a conclusion that says, as we've heard so many times before, that asuperstitionists can never understand the holy word of Yahweh because our hearts aren't right.

There are ten pages of book advertisements at the end of the guide. It's a who's who of P.T. Barnum's intellectual offspring: Dinesh D'Souza, William Lane Craig, Ray Comfort, Ravi Zacharias, Michael Behe, Josh McDowell, Focus on The Family, Institute for Creation Research, Discovery Institute, and of course, our boy William Dembski. What a racket. There's only one remaining point made in this document that I haven't already rambled on about.

p.31 "...that some people will be sent to an eternal torment strikes many today as unjust, troubling and offensive." Well, yeah. Back in the days when I lived in constant terror of death because of what was waiting for me on the other side, I discovered a measure of sympathy in my heart for Adolf Hitler. I assumed that he'd be there in hell with me.

Come now, let us reason together. How many lives did Hitler ruin? Let's count not only those he had killed, not only those who lived in misery and then were killed, not only those who were actively tortured. Let's count the families and friends of those people as well, who endured unbearable grief knowing that their loved ones had suffered so much. What do you think? A hundred million lives horribly scarred? Is that a fair estimate?

Now, let's pretend that we're barbarians who subscribe to the hideous concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, punishment and reward. Let's give back to Hitler everything that was ever dished out in his name. Force him to re-live every last one the lives he ruined. Every day of misery in concentration camps, every gasp of asphyxiation in gas chambers, every excruciating second of torture and medical experiment, every devastating blow to a child who has lost his mother, to a mother who has lost her child. And that's just a warmup. Let's say that because we have this barbaric, even sadistic sense of justice, we decree that Hitler needs to get it back with interest. Let's force him to re-live every ruined life a hundred times over. Is that enough? Who will say that he has not received his due? After ten billion years of agony, who will say that he has not been punished enough? Who will say that ten billion years is just a tiny little sliver of what he deserves? Do you really believe your half-baked ideas of morality? Do you really think that an eternity of torture is needed, or even justified?

Now let's go back to Yahweh's actual plan of punishment by fire. There I am next to Hitler. Experiencing exactly the same punishment, for all of eternity. Why? Because I cheated on a history test when I was a kid? No. Because I spend all my spare time thinking about naked women? No. Because I lied to a friend once to save face? No. Why? Why do I have an eternity of fire to look forward to? Because when I took the most honest look I know how to take at the bible, I found that not only does it all sound like bullshit, but if it were true, it would mean that the universe is run by an absolute psychopath. And not even due to any emotional attachment to that conclusion, not even due to any lapse of judgment caused by my desire to think about naked women. I'm out here inviting criticism of my arguments. I want to know what's true. I want to do the right thing. I want to be a good person. But Yahweh doesn't care about character. All it cares about is whether I admit that it's the dictator of the universe, with the right to be a prick. Well, no. It might be in charge, but it's definitely not worthy of my respect. Or yours. In fact, it's beneath my notice; the only reason I make so much noise is that its followers are threatening to destroy us all, and I have higher hopes for us than just to disappear without ever knowing what we are. I'll be there in hell with Hitler, for eternity, because I care about truth more than I care about kissing the ass of a vile tyrant.

To Mr Rodgers, Mr Larry Taylor, and all of the Prestonwood staff who contributed to or endorsed this caricature of a debate and its sickening discussion guide, to all of you who failed to stand up for the truth, to all of you who participated either directly or indirectly in this fleecing of your flock, in this gross miscarriage of education, in this violence against the innocent minds of children, I have this to say: if there is indeed a god out there who cares about truth, it is bitterly disappointed in you.

That's 3.22, and the end of Series III. With any luck, this is by no means the end of the conversation. Let's all keep talking. I am really nervous about our prospects for surviving this century, but also really hopeful: if we can just get past our primitive fantasies, we could become something amazing. Thanks very much for watching and participating.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    God's Quality Control 3.21

    Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we'll cover the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward older students, presumably up to 17 or 18 years old. Today's honorary author will be Mr Bill Wendl, Principal of Prestonwood's Middle School. I invite you to share this video with Mr Wendl, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Wendl's pockets. Please join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
    • p.29 "Are there limits to what science can “prove?”" If you guys are guided by the Supreme Being of all things, then how is it that you keep asking the same meaningless questions over and over? Science has never proved anything to be true. Science isn't about proving the truth of things. Science is about understanding how reality works. Evolutionary theory has never been, and never will be, proven. It could easily be proven false, in a million different ways. It has not been proven false, and every verifiable fact we've ever discovered agrees fully with it, so we provisionally assume that the theory is true and use it in making practical decisions, such as the decisions about where to look next for ways to fight disease. Damn, now I'm looking at the word "proven" and thinking that it doesn't look like a real word.
    • Also, as usual, you guys aren't thinking enough. Why do you even bother arguing with skeptics over whether your god exists, when no two of you can even agree on what your god is or what it wants from us? Why can't you understand that even if some entity presented itself to you personally and said, "I am Yahweh," you still would have no way of knowing whether it's telling the truth? Would you ask it to part the Red Sea? Would that convince you that it's really a god and not just some prankster ET with cool technology? Don't you see how arrogant it is for you to assume, simply because a being can do something you can't, that it's omnipotent? What makes you so great that something greater than you must be the Supreme Being of All Things?
    • p.29 Science can't "prove that God doesn’t exist." If your sky fairy is omniscient, then whey hasn't it explained to you that no one is attempting to use science to prove any such thing, that very few atheists firmly assert that there is no such thing as a god, and that those who do use logic and reason, not science, to support their claim?
    • p.29 The order we observe in the universe "points to the intelligent mind of a designer." You simply do not know this. You do not know whether intelligence is required for an orderly universe to exist.
    • p.30 "How do you think people might live differently if they believed that their actions have no eternal consequence?" Students, be suspicious when someone asks your opinion on a question that obviously has a factual answer. This is like someone asking you how many teeth you think you have, rather than just counting your teeth. Look around you. All around you are people who believe that their actions have no eternal consequence. How do they behave? Generally, quite well. Generally, far better than most of the people who do claim to believe in eternal consequences. The Hitchens-Dembski debate and this companion discussion guide are perfect examples of how believers in eternity tend to behave. Lie after lie after lie, followed by deliberate misrepresentations, faulty reasoning, willful ignorance, cynicism, greed, and hypocrisy. How the hell have you guys convinced yourself that you know something about righteousness?
    • p.30 Asuperstitionists tend to gratify themselves, while superstitionists tend to behave in light of a pending judgment. Wow, what an epiphany I just had. You guys tell us that we have no basis for our morality, but the truth is that you lack a basis. You make your so-called moral choices based on whether you'll get into trouble with Dad, not based on kindness, empathy, or human well being. Now I understand. Gay sex hurts no one, but you guys want to stop it because your god doesn't like it. It has nothing to do with whether gay sex is immoral. You have an utterly arbitrary pseudo-morality based entirely on the whims of a sad, pathetic, bigoted, poorly drawn cartoon character.
    • p.30 If there is no god, then "there is no concept of sin." Amen to that. Let's get rid of this stupid idea of sin and focus on making the world a better place. You guys pretend that we need a sin-based mentality in order to be good, but you can't seem to notice that there are an awful lot of people who are very good but who don't think in your outdated terms.
    • p.30 If evolution is true, then there is no concept of separation from God, no need for redemption, no need for Jesus, no need for humans to have a soul or a spiritual nature. Agreed. What's your point?
    • p.30 By way of implying that his superstition must be true, Mr Wendl asks, "Why would mankind create a religion that [promises harsh] judgment of all their words, thoughts and actions?" Another trick question. Mankind did not create this religion. Men created this religion. Men like Mr Wendl who wish to benefit from the gullibility of their fellow humans.
    That's 3.21. Thanks for watching.

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    God's Quality Control 3.20

    Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we'll finish the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students. Today's honorary author will be Ms Paige DeLeon, Principal of Prestonwood's Lower School. I invite you to share this video with Ms DeLeon, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms DeLeon's pockets. Please join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
    •  p.27 "Think about your best friend being bullied by another student – does that make you upset or angry? Why? Where does your understanding of right and wrong come from – inside yourself?" Think about the last time someone caused you intense physical pain. Did it make you upset or angry? Why? Is it because this person did something immoral? No, it's because it was painful. Why bring right and wrong into the discussion at all? It's not about right and wrong. It's about the desire not to suffer. Given our enormous capability for empathy, it should come as no surprise that we have a primal reaction to seeing another person, especially a friend, mistreated.
    • p.27 If your ethics come from inside you, "how can you “impose” your personal rules on someone else?" Once again, you guys fail to think critically. Let's pretend that Yahweh really does represent some objective and universal standard of morality. Do you know what Yahweh wants? How do you know? How can you be sure, especially given that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who agree with you that Yahweh is the standard but disagree with you on how to interpret Yahweh's desires? Don't you know that the Catholic church and many Protestant strains of your pox officially accept evolutionary theory? Also, don't most Yahwists agree that Yahweh doesn't like lies? How can you criticize me with a claim that I have no basis for being good to other people, while you tell yourself that you have an objective standard to which you don't even try to adhere? You guys need to do more thinking and less preaching.
    • p.27 "The universe itself doesn’t create or enforce ethical decisions. Does this seem to demonstrate that there is an author of what is right and wrong?" Umm, no? Does anything demonstrate that such an author exists? No. If you wanted the kids to think critically, you'd teach them not to be fooled by silly questions like this. You'd teach them to demand that the connection between a premise and a conclusion be made clear.
    • p.27 "Who would be the best author of what is right and wrong – a human being or God?" Who would be best, indeed? A human who works to reduce suffering and to increase peace and justice in the world? Or a god that tortures babies to death and is inordinately fixated on our private sex lives?
    • p.27 "What is a good definition for truth?" Are you serious? You guys are going to talk about truth? After all of your blatant lies? It seems really strange to me that you guys claim to know of some objective morality while you behave worse than any atheist I've ever known. I have to qualify that a bit. I should say, "worse than any out atheist I've ever known." I qualify it because I am convinced that the people collecting piles of cash from superstition-oriented endeavors are in fact atheists. You guys really should focus on getting your own house clean before you even attempt to engage with the rest of us.
    • p.27 "Yahweh actually describes [itself] as the Truth. [It] also claims that [its] ways are true and [its] Word is true. Scripture also says that Yahweh never lies." Superstitionists have some really shaky morality. Their god supposedly doesn't lie, but it has no problem whatsoever sending "deceiving spirits" (II Kings 22:22) and "powerful delusions" (II Thessalonians 2 : 11). Of course Yahweh never "lies." It has no need to tell an actual lie because it can hide behind technicalities. Come on you guys, you claim all the time to know of a superior morality, but you never show it to anyone. Bring it out so we can marvel at it.
    • p.28 "...as man is the highest and greatest of God’s creation, he is given the most responsibility and authority and must exercise that dominion with care, compassion and wisdom." Is this why so many of you drive gas-guzzlers all over the place? Is this why you don't seem to care that humans are causing a major extinction event? Is this why you make such huge contributions to the global population problem?
      That's 3.20. Thanks for watching.

      Sunday, December 26, 2010

      God's Quality Control 3.19

      Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we're still working our way through the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students, which presumably means kids as young as 12 or 13 years old. Today's honorary author will be Ms Cheryl Burns, Prestonwood's Director of Learning Lab. I invite you to share this video with Ms Burns, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Burns' pockets. Please join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
      • p.26 "Evolution puts forth the concept that a fish became a lizard which became a dog which became a monkey which became a man." This is a lie. No sane person has ever claimed that a fish became a lizard, or any of these other preposterous claims. The fossil record clearly shows us that the descendants of some fish were slightly, just slightly more like amphibians than others. These slight characteristics in one way or another gave these descendants a slightly better chance of producing more offspring than those descendants who lacked these characteristics. Some of the descendants (but almost never the immediate children) of these slightly more amphibianesque creatures were yet slightly more amphibianesque themselves. When this happens thousands of times, you end up with offspring that are amphibians. No one is saying that a particular animal, say, Fred the fish, was transfigured into Larry the lizard. Perhaps superstitionists are confused about evolutionary theory because of that silly transfiguration story in the bible. Folks, it doesn't happen that way.
      • p.26 "Science has never been able to demonstrate that one species can change and become another." This is a lie. Watch this two-minute video on YouTube. Brace yourself, it's Richard Dawkins, and I know that a lot of you guys think that Dawkins is the Antichrist. But if he's lying, you'll be able to know, right? You'll have facts that prove him wrong, not to mention guidance from the Holy Spirit, right?
      • p.26 "There are no “transitional” fossils that demonstrate the “in between” of two different species." This is a lie. There are transitional fossils all over the place. Seriously, all over the place, and more are being found all the time. That Dawkins video is a perfect example of transitions of microscopic life forms, but it happens in plants and animals as well. Go get the book "Why Evolution Is True," which, although terribly named, is an excellent book. Also note that it cost me $16, about a third what you paid for the debate discussion guide, if you ordered the hardcopy. What did I get for my $16? A properly researched, well written, 230-page book by a professional evolutionary biologist, edited by professional editors, with 13 pages of citations that refer to the work of other professional scientists, and no advertisements. What can you learn about transitional fossils from just a quick scan of this single book? That there are indeed transitional fossils between wasps and ants, between legged reptiles and snakes, between fish and amphibians, between reptiles and birds, between reptiles and mammals, between land animals and whales, and of course, between non-human apes and human apes. In case anyone is wondering, the book should have been named "How We Know Evolution Is True," not "Why Evolution Is True." But publishers have their reasons, I'm sure.
      • p.26 Oh no, another "Just because 'A'" statement: "Just because an organism is altered in some manner, that wouldn’t necessarily be passed down the lineage unless the DNA of that organism was altered." This is an abuse of the English language, and even when we fix the wording it's still just a stupid statement. I'll put it this way, and you guys let me know if you find this to be an inaccurate paraphrase: an organism's characteristics are passed to its offspring only via the organism's DNA and not by any other mechanism. I think that's fair. And it's a stupid thing to say. Of course, it's perfectly true, but it in no way represents a flaw in evolutionary theory; in fact, it's one of the fundamental principles of the theory: characteristics that are a result of DNA are passed on to offspring via DNA. These guys are shooting down their own argument. Of course, you can't tell that they're doing so unless you can read as well as a 12-year-old kid.
      • p.26 "When an organism is altered by mutation, those differences tend to die out quickly and are not passed on to future generations of that species." Another perfectly true statement that is a fundamental principle of evolutionary theory. As Richard Dawkins clearly states in many of his books, the vast majority of mutations will be deleterious. Or, there are far more ways to be dead than to be alive. But there will be occasional mutations that just happen to be helpful, and over billions of years, there will be countless such mutations.
      • p.26 "The Bible account of creation states" that Yahweh created all the animals. Who wrote the bible? Some people will want to say that Yahweh did, but everyone knows that the actual writing down was done by humans. Superstitious, ignorant, biased humans. Who wrote the four-billion-year record we find in the rocks? If it was Yahweh, then it's a deliberate deception, which says a lot about Yahweh's character. If it was no one, but instead the history we read is just a result of natural processes, why would we ignore it? Why would we give it less credence than the bible?
      That's 3.19. Thanks for watching.

        Saturday, December 25, 2010

        God's Quality Control 3.18

        Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we're still working our way through the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students, which presumably means kids as young as 12 or 13 years old. Today's honorary author will be Ms Jan Miranda, Prestonwood's Director of Guidance & College Placement. I invite you to share this video with Ms Miranda, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Miranda's pockets. Please join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
        • p.26 Fingerprints and snowflakes are all unique. Does this make you think that they're designed, or do they seem random and without purpose? Let's just skip the fact that this is just the pocket watch analogy in different clothing. Let's skip the fact that when Ms Miranda says "millions/billions," it's the same as if she'd made a hundred thousand dollars last year but reported to the government "ten cents / a hundred dollars." Do you really think that Yahweh designs snowflakes and fingerprints? Why would it be so concerned with those things while there are millions of people starving and dying of horrible disease and being oppressed all over the world? There's something wrong with Yahweh's priorities?
        • p.26 "...the heavens declare the glory of Yahweh; the skies proclaim the work of its hands." This makes me really sad: you guys who stop at Yahweh are seriously missing out on the true glory of this place. If the earth is 6000 years old, then all the fossils (not to mention fossil fuels) that we find are fake. There were no dinosaurs. No trilobites. The fossils we find must have been installed by Yahweh as fossils. Just like the Slartibartfast character in The Hitchhiker's Guide. We know this because we understand the mechanisms of fossilization. The minerals we find in the fossils must have been meticulously adjusted to give the appearance, according to numerous, different, well understood dating techniques, of being far older than the earth itself. Further, the stars could be real, but they're just as likely to be fake too, because they're much too far away for their light to have reached us so soon. So Yahweh had to fake that up too.
        • But you really miss out when you think this way; and you really do think this, if you believe the earth to be 6000 years old. Unless you seriously believe that over four centuries of investigation by millions of truth-seekers have been entirely wasted. Either way, you're missing out. The universe is an incredible place, a zillion times more glorious than the one depicted by a bunch of ancient, bloodthirsty savages. Look around you for just a minute. Look at the bag of chips you just devoured. Your cell phone. Your furniture. Your body. All of that, every single molecule you see was once hydrogen. No kidding. It was all hydrogen at one point. How did it become carbon, oxygen, water, spam? In stars.
        • Stars convert hydrogen into all the other elements we see, and except for some craziness right at the beginning of the universe, that's the only way that these elements are made. Stars. Living, dying, creating. Not by magic. Not by divine will. Not by intent. Just by natural processes that we see going on all around us. I could go on about this kind of thing all day, so I'll cut it short with this: you have no idea how glorious the universe is if you think that it's all 6000 years old. You have no idea. Fortunately, there's only one obstacle between you and the truth: your religion. Ditch that, and you'll see that this place is far, far more beautiful and astounding and bizarre and even spooky than you could have ever imagined.
        • p.26 "Think about a fish..." This set of questions seems to be an attempt to say that there is support for the design hypothesis in the fact that there is water for fish to live in, that if there were no water, fish would die, so Yahweh must have provided the water. This is backward, just like superstitionist morality. If there were no water, fish would never have arrived on the scene in the first place. Supertitionists like to talk about how our atmosphere is just right for us, that if it had just a little less oxygen we'd all die, therefore Yahweh set it all up just right for us. Funny thing is, when the earth first formed, there was almost no oxygen in the atmosphere. The first life forms produced oxygen as a waste product. On earth, a lot of the oxygen is bacteria shit. After bacteria had fouled the place for a while, some lucky microbes found themselves able to use the oxygen. If all that oxygen had never been excreted, then oxygen-consuming life forms would never have appeared. We just wouldn't be here. It's not that we'd be here and dead, it's that we would never have occurred. Evolution would simply have never produced us.
        That's 3.18. Thanks for watching.

        Friday, December 24, 2010

        God's Quality Control 3.17

        Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we're still working our way through the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students, which presumably means kids as young as 12 or 13 years old. Today's honorary author will be Mr Ron Meador, Prestonwood's Director of Development Services. I invite you to share this video with Mr Meador, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Meador's pockets. Join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
        • p.25 "...left to our own devices without the constraints or God, mankind has demonstrated a long track record of horrible atrocities." I have two primary objections to this kind of claim.
        • First, while it's true that we've been terrible to each other throughout history, it's also true that there is an ever-growing segment of society who desire universal equality and who work toward that goal, or at least refrain from hindering the work. No, it hasn't resulted in world peace yet, and of course there have been setbacks and recurring stagnation, but it's obvious that huge improvements have occurred as more and more of us have begun to recognize that we're all the same, we all breathe and bleed and laugh and grieve and suffer and finally die.
        • Second, let's not be too eager to accept this claim that atrocities occur only when we're disobeying Yahweh. Read your bible. I know, it's a crazy idea, but I'm serious. Really, read your bible. Yahweh ordered massacre after massacre in the days of Moses and Joshua; not just merciless defeat of opposing armies, but the utter extermination of entire populations: all the mothers, all the little kids, all the babies. Is it not an atrocity for a man to kill a child with a sword? Do you guys not believe your own bible? Try to picture it. Try to imagine yourself killing a little kid. With a sword. Stabbing him (or her) through the heart. Or, because after killing all day, your arm is too tired to force your weapon through the ribcage, you just stab through the soft abdomen and let the kid bleed to death. I have at times felt compelled to mercy-kill birds that my cat has mangled beyond repair. It's a terrible experience, even when I know that I'm putting an end to pointless suffering. Could you kill a little kid? Can you really approve of it? And not just one little kid, but entire towns full of kids, their mothers, their grandmothers, their grandfathers. Is that not an unbelievable, inconceivable atrocity? Sure, you can go on about Hitler and how he had all those people killed, but remember: no one claims that Hitler is the ultimate source of all morality. No one claims that Hitler is infinitely good and righteous and perfect. Who would you forgive first, Hitler or Yahweh? As strange as it may sound, I'd have to forgive Hitler first, because at least he was just a man, not an all-powerful deity that claims to be the essence of goodness.
        • Don't kid yourself. It has not been Yahweh's guidance that has caused the improvements we see. It has been the result of humans recognizing other humans and using their brains and hearts. It seems to escape the notice of most superstitionists that almost all of the most dramatic social improvements have occurred in the last few centuries, during which time more and more people have rejected Yahweh in particular, and the supernatural in general.
        • p.25 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." Let's think about this. What if this is a self-fulfilling prophecy? What if our judgments of each other are distorted by this very belief? How many times have you heard about how little kids are inherently demanding and selfish, and it's your Yahweh-given duty to coerce your kids into suppressing these tendencies? What if it's perfectly normal for a kid of a certain age to be demanding and selfish, and what if parents could respond in a way that meets the kid's emotional needs such that the kid just naturally outgrows these traits? I've watched my daughter become more selfless, empathetic, and kind over the years, with very little help from me. What if people who get their needs met properly when they're kids automatically grow into decent human beings? How can we ever advance as a society when we raise kids to believe that we're all broken and wicked? How can we have hope that the world can be a better place if we believe that people are inherently evil? We need to try a different way of thinking. Yahweh's philosophy obviously leaves much to be desired.
        • p.25 "...how can a loving and holy God allow sinful man into its presence?" I have a better question: why should we allow this god into our presence? We have faults, which some people insist on calling sins, but at least we know that we have faults. This god is hideously wicked, but it claims to be infinitely good. I say we show this god the door.
        That's 3.17. Thanks for watching.

          Thursday, December 23, 2010

          God's Quality Control 3.16

          Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we'll cover the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students, which presumably means kids as young as 12 or 13 years old. Today's honorary author will be Mr Ken Griffin, Prestonwood's Director of Major Gifts. I invite you to share this video with Mr Griffin, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Griffin's pockets. Join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
          • p.25 "An atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist." This is a lie. An atheist is a person who finds no reason to believe that any gods exist. Some atheists do in fact make the positive claim that there are no gods, but they are rare, and most atheists are open to being shown facts that would cause us to reconsider. In other words, most atheists aren't religious; despite what Dan Panetti tells you, most of us don't cling to atheism as a world view. Atheism is simply a state of mind in which you let the facts guide your thinking, nothing more.
          • p.25 "How can a person really know something exists or not?" Let's look at this in two ways. Do you claim that Zeus doesn't exist? If you do make that claim, then how do you support it? If you don't make that claim, then you are an atheist with respect to Zeus, just like most of us are atheists with respect to Yahweh. You know exactly how an atheist's mind works, because your mind works in the same way, at least until Yahweh comes into the picture.
          • p.25 "How do you know that the chair you are sitting on exists?" Mr Griffin asserts that the basis of our claim to know that the chair exists is personal experience. But that's not true at all. Many people see things that aren't really there. A few years ago, Russel Crowe portrayed a famous mathematician named John Nash in a movie called "A Beautiful Mind". Mr Nash was schizophrenic, and he saw non-existent people all the time. A fundamental basis for knowing that the chair exists is confirmation by other observers. We don't think about this, but it's always there. Mr Nash finally learned that he had to ask someone else whether their observations matched his. You don't have to do that, but only because you have a lifetime of experience in which your observations about chairs match the observations made by other people. Think it's extreme to bring schizophrenia into the discussion? How about color-blindness? My color-blind friend knows from long experience that he can't trust his own vision when he sees something that looks brown. He must ask someone else whether it's really brown, or a shade of green. We might think that we're relying only on our own senses, but it's clear that we rely on the senses of others in a very fundamental way.
          • p.25 "Just because science can’t explain or demonstrate that God exists, does that mean He doesn’t exist?" Can I just be a grammar Nazi for a minute? You guys, stop constructing sentences that say, "Just because 'A' doesn't mean 'B'." It's totally nonsense. People know what you mean, but only because they're used to hearing it. The phrase "just because" is not a noun. Stop it! I mean it you guys. Don't make me come over there. Instead, say, "The fact of 'A' doesn't necessarily mean 'B'." The word "fact" is a noun.
          • So let's start over: according to Mr Griffin, does the fact that science can’t explain or demonstrate that God exists necessarily mean that it doesn't exist? That's much better. The answer is obviously "No." But then, if Zeus were real in the same sense as Yahweh, could science explain or demonstrate that Zeus exists? No. Kids, your so-called teachers are failing to teach you how to think. If you take all of these questions that could be asked about Yahweh, and you ask them about Zeus, and you get the same answers, then the existence of Yahweh is no more and no less likely than the existence of Zeus. Part of thinking critically is recognizing and discarding such questions, and attempting to find questions whose answers for Yahweh differ from the answers for Zeus.
          • p.25 "...when you look at the world, do you see order or chaos? If there were no God, would you expect to see any order at all?" There are certain indigenous tribes in the world who, every morning, perform rituals to make the sun rise. They could ask their children, "If we didn't perform the ritual, would you expect to see the sun rise?" The children would of course say no. Why? Because they've grown up being told, directly or indirectly, that their ritual is connected to the rising of the sun. They have absolutely no facts to support their belief; they believe simply because the people they trust to tell the truth have told them so. Your answer to Mr Griffin's question is probably "no" also. Why? Because you've grown up being told, directly or indirectly, that Yahweh is associated with order. You have absolutely no facts to support this belief; you believe simply because the people you trust to tell the truth have told you so.
          That's 3.16. Thanks for watching.

            Wednesday, December 22, 2010

            God's Quality Control 3.15

            Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we'll finish up our examination of the essay entitled, "Three Reasons to Believe God Exists." The purported author of this essay is Mr J. Steve Lee, whom we met in video 13 of this series. As it turns out, although his name is on the essay, it seems that much of it is a cut-and-paste job from a few different sources: an online pamphlet at Ultimate Questions.org, an online article published April 13, 2010, called "Proof of God - Anthropic Constants," by Mr Jay Gheen, and an essay published July 19, 2005, called "God has Spoken in Creation: Look Up," by Mr Joel Joyce. So I guess we can't hold Mr Lee responsible for all the preposterous claims and tortured non-reasoning. Mr Lee, once again I must apologize for attributing work to you that was created by someone else. Special thanks to YouTuber justintempler for catching my second mistake of attribution, and my sincere apologies to everyone viewing these videos for spreading misinformation. I will endeavor to be more careful in the future.

            The honorary author for this final section of the essay will be Ms Celeste Cordon, Prestonwood's Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations. I invite you to share this video with Ms Cordon, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Cordon's pockets. Join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable. This final section of the essay is entitled "Design of the Universe." Two primary points are mentioned: the appearance of design and the improbability of our existence. Closely related points that are refuted by a single, simple fact: we have experience with exactly one universe.
            • Ms Cordon begins by dredging up William Paley's famous "watchmaker analogy." We've heard it all before: you find a pocket watch on a beach. (For you young people, a pocket watch is a device sort of like a cell phone but all it does is tell you the time--weird, huh?) You automatically know that this object is the result of a conscious mind with intention, as opposed to all of the parts coming together as a result of natural processes. Ms Cordon, do you not realize that Paley's analogy is over 200 years old? Do you not realize that even if Paley had a point, which he didn't, we've managed to squeeze a couple of tiny drops of knowledge out of the world since then? Rather than appealing to authority as Ms Cordon wants to do, I'll spell out why the watchmaker analogy is garbage. It's not complicated.
            • Imagine that you've grown up in a broom closet and have never experienced the outside world. You escape one day and find yourself on a beach. You see all sorts of amazing creatures, plants, the sand, the ocean, and a pocket watch. You have no way of knowing that this pocket watch is fundamentally different from anything else here. You might assume that all of this stuff was designed, or you might assume that it all got there by accident, but you don't make any special assumption about the watch. You can't. You have no experience with the world. Paley's analogy assumes that you've lived a normal life: after years of observing countless natural and manufactured things, you have some skill at discerning the difference between the natural and the manufactured.
            • This is why the analogy is garbage: we're in a broom closet. We know of only one universe. We do not have the advantage of having observed countless universes coming into existence. We don't know how universes work in general. There was a time, when we knew less than we do now, that we could be forgiven for trusting our everyday intuitions about causality and the nature of reality. Ever since Galileo discovered that objects fall at the same speed regardless of their weight, we've been finding that our intuitions are rather suspect, and in many cases counter-productive. To paraphrase Richard Feynman, the sole test of the validity of any idea is repeatable observation. Given that we observe exactly one universe, there is no basis at all for making any claims about design.
            • p.23 Ms Cordon goes on to point out all of the apparently improbable attributes of the universe that enable us to be here, all of the so-called fine-tuning. But how do we measure probability? If you want to get some idea of who's going to win the city council elections in your town, what do you do? You go ask a bunch of people, and the more people you ask, the more accurate your estimate is. But what if you ask only one person? Does that give you a good idea of who will be elected? No. We know about only one universe. There aren't enough universes for us to be able to measure the probability. It's true that we don't know what we are. We don't know what existence is. But we can't say anything meaningful about probabilities. Now if you say that existence is spooky, I'll agree with you fully. Not a day goes by when I don't look around at least once and go, "What the hell?" But you can't say that existence is improbable.
            • p.24 Ms Cordon concludes the essay with, "We don’t have to check our brains in at the door of the church in order to believe in God." Ms Cordon, your third argument, your attempt to use the appearance of design or the improbability of our existence even to suggest that your god (or any other god, or even anything supernatural) exists, is garbage, as were the first two arguments, so the entire essay is garbage. It might indeed be true that one needn't check one's brain at the door, but you have utterly failed to demonstrate that claim.
            That's 3.15. Thanks for watching.

            Tuesday, December 21, 2010

            God's Quality Control 3.14

            Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we're still working our way through an essay entitled, "Three Reasons to Believe God Exists," and we'll examine the second of the three reasons, which has to do with the origins of the universe. The author of this essay is Mr J. Steve Lee, whom we met in video 13 of this series. As Mr Lee has heard from us already, I invite you to share this video with Mr Mike Beeson, Prestonwood's Senior Director of Institutional Advancement, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling MrBeeson 's pockets. Join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
            • p.22 "The claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause is simply self-evident." Warning you guys, I'm going to mention quantum physics, but I'll keep it simple, so bear with me. We know, based on repeatable experiments, that virtual particles pop into existence all the time, with no apparent cause. The empty space between the various parts of atoms constantly seethes with activity. Further, many elements experience something we call "radioactive decay." I'll avoid the gory details, and just mention that some types of radioactive decay involve a subatomic particle suddenly, and with no apparent cause, coming into existence. 
            • p.22 "...we demonstrate the truth of premise 1 by turning around and looking for the cause. This principle is the Law of Causality, which is the fundamental principle of science. Without this principle, science is impossible." I have no clue what premise 1 is; I'll just ignore that. I'll stick my neck out here and say that I've never read the phrase "Law of Causality" in any science book I've ever read. That's not to say that it doesn't exist, but it certainly does cause a bit of doubt as to whether it could be considered the fundamental principle of science. Also, I'm pretty sure it was Richard Feynman who said, "The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." Now, even without doing the research yourself, who would you tend to believe: a trained, experienced scientist or a bible teacher? Would you assume that Feynman is part of a conspiracy, or just loves to deceive people? How would Feynman have benefited from making such a statement? Or would you just assume that he's a sadist? Perhaps you'd notice that Mr Lee's livelihood depends on people believing this filth, and you might have some suspicions about who is more motivated to lie, or at least self-delude.
            • p.22 "...the atheist whom you are talking to most certainly believes in the Big Bang. So, use it to your advantage." This is disgusting. Isn't truth to the advantage of everyone? If you have to use someone's knowledge, meaning belief based on facts, to your advantage, then isn't your position rather suspect? If you have the truth, can't you just stick with the truth? And can't you just do it openly, without any kind of trickery?
            • p.22 Mr Lee quotes Arthur Eddington: "The beginning [of the universe] seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural." I know, Eddington was a renowned scientist. But that does not mean that he was right. Truth is not about people, or about their reputations. We might tend to believe what Eddington says, because of his reputation, but that doesn't mean that we should swallow everything he says. Isaac Newton believed in the supernatural too. And Francis Collins. But none of these people ever presented facts that would support their beliefs. That's why we call them beliefs rather than knowledge. Eddington was no more qualified to make claims about the supernatural than would be any Navajo shaman. In either case, all that's happening is a human admitting that he doesn't know.
            • p.22 "...this supernatural cause must be uncaused." How the heck did we end up with "this supernatural cause"? Where in this section did Mr Lee reach a reasoned conclusion that the universe came into being by supernatural means? I read back through his jungle of faulty argument and I find that his conclusion is based solely on Arthur Eddington's unfounded claim. Mr Lee, really? Really?
            • p.22 "This uncaused, immaterial, timeless, and super-powerful creator has the same attributes as God. Therefore, God exists." Let's go on an imaginary journey where we pretend that Mr Lee has actually presented, as he promised, "good arguments and evidence" for some "uncaused, immaterial, timeless, and super-powerful creator." Let's imagine that such a being really does exist. How can you possibly claim that that being is Yahweh? How can you be sure that it's not Zeus? How can you be sure that it's some god that no one knows, a good god who is waiting for us to wake up and realize that a being that wants blood sacrifice and adheres to outdated notions such as punishment is no god at all, but a nightmare at best? Mr. Lee, your second argument, your attempt to use cosmology even to suggest that your god (or any other god, or even anything supernatural) exists, is garbage.
            That's 3.14. Thanks for watching.

            Monday, December 20, 2010

            God's Quality Control 3.13

            Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video I'll cover an essay entitled, "Three Reasons to Believe God Exists." The actual author of this essay is Mr J. Steve Lee, Upper School Bible Teacher, Instructor of Theology and Philosophy, and Director of the Lions Scholar Program. I invite you to share this video with Mr Lee on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Lee's pockets. Join me in making these people aware that their predations on children are not going unnoticed.

            •  p.21 "...fundamentally one knows that God exists by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit." Just below this introductory statement, Mr Lee defines (rather sloppily) a few terms. Unfortunately, he does not define the word "know," so there's really no way for us to understand what he means when he says that "fundamentally one knows that [his god] exists." We'll have to guess. Since he quite openly admits that his knowledge is based on "the self-authenticating witness" of his camel-herder's hallucination, we can safely assume that his knowledge has nothing to do with facts. Given that my dictionary tells me that knowledge is related to facts, I have to assume that Mr Lee forgot to proofread his essay, as if he had, he would have used the word "believes" rather than "knows".
            • p.21 "...we show Christianity and God’s existence to be true through good argument and evidence." Excellent, this is exactly what I was hoping for.
            • p.21 Mr Lee's first good argument has to do with morality. First he asserts that "Deep within each of us, there is a sense of moral obligation." Clearly, this is true for most people, but just as clearly, not true for all people. Some people have faulty brain chemistry that makes them psychopaths, unable to process any kind of moral sense. Some people have good brain chemistry but spend their childhoods in severely dysfunctional circumstances, causing their moral sense to be severely hindered. Some people have a sense of right and wrong, but are quite misguided, such as those who feel that it's immoral for a woman to leave her house without a burqa. Many, many people have a very strong sense of right and wrong, but disagree sharply with many of the values that Mr Lee (or his fellows) most likely hold, such as the immoral nature of homosexual sex. This first good argument is getting rather a bad start.
            • p.21 Mr Lee asserts that even a moral relativist must admit that "torturing innocent babies for pleasure is always wrong and anyone who [thinks it is] permissible is mistaken." This is an interesting claim. First, I have to object to Mr Lee's qualifier, the word "innocent" when referring to babies. There's no such thing as a non-innocent baby. Second, get rid of the qualifier "for pleasure," because surely we all agree that the reason for the torture is irrelevant. Now, would you consider drowning someone a form of torture? I do. I know that Mr Lee won't allow me to paraphrase him in the following assertion, but I'd like to know on what grounds he would object: I assert that drowning babies is always wrong. Would you consider burning someone to death a form of torture? I do. How can Mr Lee argue with my assertion that burning babies to death is always wrong? Would you consider starving someone to death a form of torture? I do. Mr Lee, what do you say to my claim that starving babies to death is always wrong? Given that you're a "bible teacher" I'll assume that you know what I'm talking about, but for the sake of those who don't know the bible all that well, I'll give some brief details. Genesis 7:21 tells us that Yahweh drowned every single baby in the entire world; Genesis 19:25 tells us that Yahweh burned to death every single baby in the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah; Exodus 9:6, 9:25, and 10:15 tell us that Yahweh starved to death countless babies in Egypt. Mr Lee seems to want to use our values as an indicator that his god exists, claiming that his god is the source of our knowledge that torturing babies is always wrong. How can this be if his god is most likely the worst offender ever recorded?
            • p.21 "But surely, society was objectively wrong for allowing slavery or racism." Exodus 21:20-21 tells us that Yahweh allowed slavery. So wasn't Yahweh objectively wrong?
            • p.21 "God is the only source for objective moral values, because society and individuals can provide only subjective moral values." Wait, you're trying to prove that your god exists. You can't argue that your god is anything yet. Further, you can't claim that some weakness in human morality proves the existence of your god. Mr Lee, I was hoping for, as you indicated, "good argument and evidence." Your first argument, your attempt to use morality even to suggest that your god (or any other god, or even anything supernatural) exists, is garbage.
            That's 3.13. Thanks for watching.

            God's Quality Control 3.12

            Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Jenny Brady, Prestonwood's Director of Diversity. I invite you to share this video with Ms Brady on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Brady's pockets. Join me in making these people aware that their predations on children are not going unnoticed.
            • p.20 "If a person believes that mankind is created by and in the image of an eternal God, then the idea of an afterlife is consistent with that origin." If a person believes that Captain Kirk is a real person, then the idea of dilithium crystals is consistent with that delusion. But if a person believes that Ben Kenobi is a real person, then the idea of "The Force" is consistent with that delusion. Where do you guys come up with the rules for your fiction? What facts have you ever observed that would lead you to believe that there is some connection between humans being created and humans having an eternal soul? What intuition leads you in that direction? If I recall my Tolkien properly, Hobbits are created beings too, but there is no afterlife for them. Really, on what do you base these wild claims?
            • p.20 "[I]f a person believes that the Universe is the eternal creative force for humanity..." Ok, I know that Ms Brady means, "If a person believes that there is no supernatural," but how do I know that? By long experience with deciphering superstitionist drivel. Can you guys not translate your thoughts into meaningful language? A naif reading the phrase, "eternal creative force for humanity," could not possibly understand what you mean.
            • p.20 "[W]hat happens when you die is really unsettled territory." Fair enough, but your superstitions contribute absolutely nothing to the question.
            • p.20 "What we do here and now matters." Wow, we agree on something. What we don't agree on is the reasons that this life matters. You say that it's because of some sick, base reward / punishment mechanism. I say that it's because this is all we have.
            • This is the, "You've Got to be Kidding Me!" section of today's video.
              • p.20 C.S. Lewis again: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." You have got to be kidding me. Once again, an uninformed, baseless claim made with no supporting arguments whatsoever, not to mention the unwarranted assumption that the terms "this world" and "another world" have any non-fictional meaning.
              • p.20 "Many people would say that they believe that there is an afterlife – evidence, again, for the existence of a God." You have got to be kidding me. Who wrote this guide, really? I seriously would not be surprised at all to find that it was one of their students, in fact, a student who isn't doing very well in composition class.
              • p.20 "The concept of justice also points to eternity and God." You've got to be kidding me.
            • p.20 "Having an Ultimate Judge is a satisfying concept for many...the cards won’t be stacked in favor of those with more money or power." I wonder what your "ultimate judge" will have to say to the moneyed and powerful leadership of your moneyed and powerful so-called academy / megachurch complex.
            • p.20 Ms Brady quotes Charles Spurgeon: "If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for." For starters, I've never known any superstitionist who even attempts to fake this noble sentiment. Rather, they usually get frustrated and give up as soon as they see that their victim has a working brain. Further, you guys wouldn't have to exert yourselves nearly so much if you'd just stop lying. Tell the truth for a change; it's far less effort, and you'd be surprised at how many asuperstitionists love truth and hate lies.
            • p.20 "God describes [itself] as patient, not wanting anyone to perish." I could describe myself as a water buffalo. What does self-description matter if it's obviously untrue? If Yahweh doesn't want anyone to perish, then why does it make it utterly impossible to understand what it wants from even its most devoted followers? Why is it that there are millions upon millions of dedicated, sincere truth-seekers who all end up in different religions, all of which disagree on issues that really matter, and all of which claim to be the exclusive possessors of truth? Don't kid yourselves, people. Yahweh intends to burn everyone.
            That's 3.12. Thanks for watching.

              Sunday, December 19, 2010

              God's Quality Control 3.11

              Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Tifini Lozano, Prestonwood's Distance Learning & Extended Services Director. I invite you to share this video with Ms Lozano on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Lozano's pockets. Join me in making these people aware that their predations on children are not going unnoticed.
              • p.17 "One of the most compelling arguments for the existence of God is a personal experience with God [itself]!" As I described in one of my earlier videos, the most profound personal experience I ever had was due to a human being, a woman whose love gave meaning, purpose, direction to my life. I really would be interested to hear how my experience with her was fundamentally different from that of any superstitionist. I'd also be interested to hear how your experience with Yahweh is fundamentally different from that of an ecstatic aboriginal communing with a tree spirit.
              • p.17 "No man can disregard a religion and a faith and a power which is able to make bad men good...there must be some explanation for the radical transformation in the lives of millions across the ages." Funny that Ms Lozano would say something like this while utterly ignoring her superstition's power to make good men bad. We always hear these stories about how Joe Blow was a drug-addicted wife-beater who, when he found Jesus, somehow mustered up the courage to stop hitting women. Once again, an inability or unwillingness to think critically leaves you guys somehow blind to the obvious: William Dembski is a liar; the prominent representatives of your superstition are con artists; the author of this discussion guide is a liar, not to mention a terrible writer; the leadership of your so-called Academy is gouging you out of $35 for a copy of this guide, which could have been written by any one of the poor, deluded seventh-graders in the audience. Jesus radically transforms a few of you into charlatans and the rest of you into pawns.
              • p.18 "One of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God is the ungodly behavior and attitude of those who call themselves Christians." I offer a correction here: your behavior is an argument not against the existence of your god, but against the idea that your god is good, or has any power (or even intention) to make you good. And for an example of such ungodly behavior, consider the publication of this document full of lies with the added insult of actually charging money for it.
              • p.18 Christianity "feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, visits and cheers the sick." It also spends $70M in California alone to campaign against gay marriage. How may hungry, naked, and sick could have been fed, clothed, visited, and cheered with that money? How many hungry, naked, and sick died while that money was being spent elsewhere? Even if you could show that gay marriage is the evil that you claim it to be, can you show that preventing it was more important than the lives that could have been saved and greatly improved by that money?
              • p.18 "Atheists will respond that they, too, have humanitarian works that rival those of followers of God." Some might, but a much more important point is that we simply have a better reason for doing good. We do good simply because it's the right thing to do. You guys do good because Yahweh tells you to. You might wish to object to this claim, but you can't, not with a clear conscience, because you spend far too much time shouting that Yahweh is the only source of morality. Our source of morality is an un-coerced, non-fear-based, not-commanded desire to be good.
              • p.19 In the section entitled, "The Pursuit is all that Matters," Ms Lozano attempts to discuss the relative merits of possessing truth and pursuing truth. She makes the preposterous suggestion that the issue of truth is a matter of dispute simply between superstitionists and asuperstitionists. She utterly fails to recognize that there is far more disagreement within the superstitionist community about what constitutes truth, and that this disagreement is far more consequential and even dangerous to all of us than any disagreement between superstitionists and asuperstitionists.
              • p.19 "[T]he failure of Christians to stand for the Truth of God’s Word is the greatest problem facing mankind today." Yeah, the Pope and Mother Teresa have similar ideas about our greatest problems. I'm so glad to be disabused of my idle notions that ignorance, poverty, starvation, oppression, war, corruption, and global warming are just trifles.
              That's 3.11. Thanks for watching, and remember: without Jesus there would be no morality, and without fear there would be no Christians.

              Saturday, December 18, 2010

              God's Quality Control 3.10

              Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Gwen Hobbs, Prestonwood's Senior Director of Curriculum & Instruction. I encourage you to share this video with Ms Hobbs on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Hobbs' pockets. I see a lot of thumbs up on my videos, and I really appreciate that. But I'd gladly trade my puffed-up ego to see these people made aware that their predations on children are not going unnoticed.
              • p.16 In the section entitled "Natural Law – everyone without an excuse…" there is a long quote from the illustrious C.S. Lewis. It's far longer than it need be, as it boils down to something like this:
                • I used to assert that there is no god, based on my observation that the universe is cruel and unjust.
                • I have the moral wherewithal to identify cruelty and injustice.
                • This wherewithal must be of supernatural origin.
                • Therefore, I was wrong, and there is a god.
              • Unfortunately, Mr Lewis started his argument with an absolutely untenable proposition: that the cruelty and injustice we see proves (or implies) that there is no god. Where did he come up with this? It's indefensible. If that is an indicator of the depth of his thinking, then it's no wonder he fell in with bad company and converted to superstitionism. Now if he'd started with something like, "There is no good god," then he might have made some progress. Instead he tripped himself up and ended up wasting his energies on superstition. Not that he would have made much contribution to the world even if he had kept his wits about him. It seems that if he'd remained asuperstitionist he would have convinced people for the wrong reasons, with insupportable arguments.
              • More importantly than Lewis' weak starting position is his claim, echoed by so many superstitionists, that if we have any sense of morality at all it must be of supernatural origin. Based on what factual knowledge? Why would anyone assume this? I'll take a guess: it has to do with sexual repression. Superstitionists see animals having sex with no regard for human decency. Looking inside themselves, they see lust and conclude that they are just like the animals with respect to sex. No problem so far, because that's all true. The problem arises because they are ashamed of their feelings of lust, seeing them as something to be stifled. They think to themselves that only something on the outside could possibly contain all that animal urge going on inside. A shot from the hip, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were close to the truth.
              • What superstitionists don't realize is that our morality started in the same way as it does in all other social animals. Watch the way they behave, and you'll see that all social animals have some form of morality: they generally cooperate, and they obviously tend to obey a set of rules. The rules might differ from species to species, but the rules are there nonetheless. Surely our morality started there too, with a set of rules that differed from those of other species, but served a good purpose for our ancestors. Part of this rudimentary morality in social animals is a rudimentary capacity for empathy. An individual will have some sense of the pleasure or suffering he witnesses in other individuals of his group, and this sense will have an effect on the way he behaves toward his fellows. Add to that a gigantic cerebral cortex that runs elaborate simulations of the mental and emotional states of your group-mates, and empathy for others grows to freakish proportions. Add civilization, and especially writing, and each generation of humans starts on the shoulders of the previous generation. Empathy is extended outside the tribe, outside the village, even outside the species. Human morality is a result of human empathy, not any supernatural force.
              • p.17 "Why would man deny the existence of God if he “knows” that God exists?" You guys often charge us with being arrogant, but then you come up with stuff like this, presuming to know what's going on in our minds. You don't seem to realize that you imply that we are lying, either to you, or to ourselves. It's one thing to show me a flaw in my train of thought, once I've described my thinking to you, or once you've inferred my thoughts by observing my behavior. It's another thing entirely to pretend that you know what my thoughts are with no more basis than your ancient texts that are full of wild, unfounded assertions.
              • p.17 "[T]he requirements of the law are written on our hearts." What they're saying here is that if you ever have a guilty conscience about something you've done, it's a clear sign that the objective morality that emanates from their god is operating in your heart. Again, their failure to think critically has blinded them. How many people feel guilty about not pursuing the career path that their parents wanted them to? Is it wrong not to live your adult life according to your parents' wishes? A friend of mine recently cooked a dish for me that I didn't like at all. I'm forcing myself to eat it because I can't tell her that I don't like it: that would make me feel guilty. Is it wrong to tell your friend that you didn't enjoy her gift? My daughter feels guilty every time I get irritated with her, but almost every time my irritation is due to my own issues and has nothing to do with her. Is it wrong for her to be who she is? I've known kids who seem to feel guilty about everything they do, simply because their parents have trained them to feel that way. A guilty conscience is not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. You guys just aren't thinking enough.
              That's 3.10. Thanks for watching.

                Friday, December 17, 2010

                God's Quality Control 3.9

                Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be John Klingstedt, Prestonwood's Assistant Head of School. I encourage you to complain to Mr Klingstedt on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Klingstedt's pockets.
                • p.15 "[C]an science and miracles coexist?" No. Here's why: part of any proper experiment is something called a control. Genie Scott has an excellent example: if you want to test a new kind of fertilizer, you don't just go put that fertilizer on a field of crops and note the results. If the crops do well, you can't know whether it's due to the fertilizer or some other factor, such as the soil quality or the weather. You must also set up a field of crops under all the same conditions as the first field, but let the crops grow without the fertilizer. This second field is called the control. With this control in place, you can say something meaningful about the fertilizer, based on the differing outcomes based on only one difference in the conditions. Now if miracles are possible, and I perform this experiment, then I cannot say anything meaningful about the fertilizer, because I have no way of knowing whether Jesus performed a miracle (or a curse) on either field. The experiment is ruined by the unknowns. Further, Jesus could be lying. Many of you will reject this possibility because you believe that Jesus cannot lie. So let's use a different example: say there is some being out there, not Jesus, but someone else, that has control over everything, down to the smallest subatomic particle. That being could easily manipulate our minds to perceive all sorts of outcomes for the experiment, and there would be no way for us to know. Therefore, we either allow ourselves to believe our senses, or we allow that there is a supernatural element; you can't allow for both without deluding yourself. And just in case anyone wants to gripe about my idea of believing our senses, I'll note that I don't mean just believing the senses of one person; I mean believing the senses of a community of experts who regularly challenge each other's work, and often enjoy discrediting each other.
                • p.15 "[A]ll science rests on a basis of faith, for it assumes the permanence and uniformity of natural laws." This is a seriously dishonest statement. It's true that we assume these things, but not in the way that is suggested here. Specifically, if these assumptions were shown to be false, we'd cease making them. This is the big difference between the so-called faith in science and the faith of superstitionists. We show you over and over that your claims are false, inconsistent, often even impossible, but you never stop making them. All you have to do is show us once that we're wrong and we'll change our minds. In fact, many of us are very excited whenever some accepted scientific claim turns out to be false. It means that there are still new things to learn about reality.
                • p.15 "[I]s there a limit to the understanding of what science can tell us?" Of course there is. Science definitely can't tell us anything about the supernatural. Now, if only you guys would admit that there's a limit to what your homophobic poltergeist can tell us, we could possibly have a conversation.
                • p.15 William Lane Craig, that great apologist, tells us that "the presupposition of the impossibility of miracles should play no role in determining the historicity of any event." Fine. Let's allow your miracles. Is Yahweh good? No. Is it worthy of worship? No. Why do people consider Yahweh good? Because they're afraid of it. If it were possible to overpower Yahweh, no one would follow it.
                • p.15 Mr Klingstedt gives us some examples of what he considers miracles: "parting the Red Sea, to the virgin birth to the resurrection." The funny thing is, no miracle is required to make any of these things happen. The so-called parting of the Red Sea, if it really happened, was most likely a tsunami. But even if it really did happen like it did in that Chuck Heston movie, is that necessarily a miracle? Can you not imagine a technologically advanced civilization that could make that sort of thing happen? I can. And virgin births and resurrections are possible today. In vitro fertilization has been going on for decades, as well as various resuscitation techniques. We're not experts yet at resurrecting people, but we're getting better at it all the time. I've asked this question before: why is it that if Jesus does something unusual, it's a miracle, but if I do it, it's a result of cool technology?
                • p.16 In the section entitled "Biblical Errors," Mr Klingstedt hits us with that old saw about how we can't understand the bible because our hearts aren't right, because we're "irreverent and censorious." Mr Klingstedt, how do you explain all those billion-plus Muslims who would say that it's your heart that isn't right? Are they irreverent and censorious? Are they blind to truth? How would you answer those Muslims who say these things about you?
                That's 3.9. Thanks for watching.

                Thursday, December 16, 2010

                God's Quality Control 3.8

                Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Mary Finkelstein, Prestonwood's Special Events Coordinator, or Special Assignments Coordinator, depending on whom you ask. I encourage you to complain to Ms Finkelstein on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Finkelstein's pockets.
                • p.14 Ms Finkelstein says of asuperstitionists that our ethical “foundation is based on societal norms and agreed morality which has proven to be a less-than-desirable shifting sand morality over the centuries.” And of course, the morality based on Yahweh has shown itself to be supremely beneficial for society, right? The world became a better place back in Moses’ day, when Yahweh banned slavery, torture, child abuse; when it ruled that a man who rapes a woman has to pay for the woman to see a qualified therapist for the rest of her life; when it told us that compassion for victims is a thousand times more important than justice for perpetrators.
                • What do these people mean when they claim that secular morality leads to “shifting sand”? They want to pretend that they’re talking about people like Hitler, while they forget about all of the misery caused for millennia before him, by people who sincerely believed that they were doing the will of Yahweh. They want to pretend that they’re talking about a short-lived eugenics movement, while they forget about slavery, which is fully endorsed by Yahweh, ignored by Jesus, and merely clucked about by Paul, leaving the door wide open for centuries of misery.
                • What they’re really talking about is sexual freedom and abortion. But these are just more examples of their twisted pseudo-morality. They’d rather take away some of the best fun in life from people, just because they don’t like their sexual choices. They’d rather people to get married first and find out afterward whether they like having sex with each other. They’d rather a child be born and live a miserable childhood and a miserable life instead of being aborted and going straight to Heaven. You’re right: it is extremely difficult for everyone to agree on moral standards. But your determination to insinuate your religion into morality is making it impossible to have the very conversation that could move us closer to agreement.
                • p.14 “Relativism results in a variety of disconcerting conclusions,” such as “the bizarre judgment that Mother Teresa is no more and no less virtuous than Adolf Hitler.” Let’s forget about the fact that Mother Teresa could give Hitler a run for his money. Let’s talk about the concepts of virtue, right, wrong, sin, deserve, punishment, good, evil.  These concepts have been with us for a really long time. Where have they gotten us? Here. Is this where we want to be? No. We need to get rid of these outdated ideas and replace them with something that actually works. Or at least something that fails less. I propose that we focus on human well being. As Sam Harris recently pointed out, we don’t need a fixed, absolute definition of well being, any more than we need a fixed diet in order to get proper nutrition. The difference between food and poison is obvious; the difference between a healthy person and an insane person is usually obvious. We could have a conversation about the subtleties of what it means to be healthy if we could only ditch this archaic way of thinking.
                • p.14 Thomas Jefferson said, "God who gave us life gave us liberty." This is another trick. Jefferson also said, "I...see nothing but [demonism] in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians," and, "The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust." He also said, "...the day will come when the [virgin birth and divine parentage] of Jesus will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter." Some consider Jefferson a deist. I'm not sure, he seems to have been a little more complex than that. But he clearly never meant "Yahweh" when he said "God," although Ms Finkelstein wants you to believe that he did mean "Yahweh".
                • p.15 Ronald Reagan said, "Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience." Folks, that's just bullshit. Yes, there are people who seem to have no conscience, but it's not because they're atheists. If it were, then you might expect that those countries with a large atheist population would be overrun with violence. The inverse of Reagan's quip is rather suspect as well: "With God, there is virtue." Look no further than the leadership at Prestonwood Christian Academy for a counterexample.

                That's 3.8. Thanks for watching.

                Wednesday, December 15, 2010

                God's Quality Control 3.7

                Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Dan Panetti, Prestonwood's Worldview Director. What a title. I thought that having a degree in theology was useless. What could a "Worldview Director" possibly contribute? Unless this is newspeak for "Indoctrinator". Now I get it. I encourage you to complain to Mr Panetti on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Panetti's pockets.
                • p.13 "Most of Hitchens’ book God is Not Great focuses on the historical accounts of the atrocities of abuses done in the name of religion." This is a lie. And don't get me wrong; I'm not defending Hitchens here. I'm defending the truth, and I'm defending the victims of these liars, who are mostly children. The horrors committed in the name of religion are certainly a theme throughout the book, simply because they've been a theme throughout history, but they're not the focus, not even a primary complaint. The book attacks superstition, holy writ, the evil deity behind that writ, the near mental illness suffered by religious people, etc. Read the book for yourself. Don't listen to Dan Panetti. Don't listen to me. Read it.
                • p.13 Concerning the hideous story of Abraham's attempted murder of Isaac Mr Panetti says, "According to Hitchens, God gets all of the blame for making such a ludicrous request and none of the credit for supplying an alternative sacrifice." So you admit that Yahweh's request was ludicrous, do you? No, you don't. The explanation for this Freudian slip is that this discussion guide was written by a hack who knows only how to lie and smear and worship evil, not how to think honestly and critically about a subject, and definitely not how to communicate a clear message. And "credit for supplying an alternative sacrifice"? Are you kidding me? This bloodthirsty phantom commands Abraham to commit murder, and we're supposed to take into account the fact that it didn't really mean it? That's absolutely beside the point. The fact that Abraham intended to kill his son is what matters. Again, this pseudo-morality rears its ugly head. The intent to commit filicide is downplayed while "No, I didn't really mean it!" is presented as explanatory context.
                • p.13 "[T]here are two distinctly different worldviews in conflict – one that is entirely man-centered and one that is God-centered." It's fitting that Mr Panetti, Prestonwood's Worldview Director, is today's honorary author. What you refer to as "man-centered" I refer to as "truth-centered". What you refer to as "God-centered" I refer to as a bunch of greedy, short-sighted, mendacious cynics who don't mind ruining individual lives and hindering civilization in order to make a quick buck.
                • p.13 "[T]he rantings and ravings of Hitchens are little more than the arguments from what Scripture calls a “fool.”" Let's grant your slur: Hitchens rants and raves. Now, let's check out the value of your morality. Is it more important that he rants and raves, or that he tells the truth? Is it ok to lie as long as you're not ranting and raving? Given your behavior, I have to guess that it is. As for scripture calling someone a fool, do you mean that poetry written several thousand years ago by an ignorant, superstitious barbarian king? What were his qualifications for making such metaphysical claims? What facts did he have in support of his arguments? Why should we ignore three thousand years of progress in order to listen to him?
                • p.13 In the section titled "Efficiency Argument for Evolution," Mr Panetti attempts to demonstrate that altruism and the fight against disease somehow show a fundamental flaw in the minds of those who accept evolutionary theory. What he ends up demonstrating is that he has never read any relevant books on the subject of altruism or evolution. Richard Dawkins wrote a whole book on the subject of altruism about 35 years ago. You may have heard of it: The Selfish Gene. As an aside, listen to the way I pronounce it: The Selfish Gene, as opposed to The Selfish Gene. What's my point? The latter pronunciation suggests that the book might be about a gene in humans that causes selfishness. I'm sure that Mr Panetti and his co-conspirators would love to pronounce it this way, so they could claim that Richard Dawkins is attempting to say that selfishness is excusable, since it's encoded in our DNA. The former pronunciation better reflects one of the main messages of the book: that we living organisms are not so important, that we are just useful vehicles for gene propagation, that life really is all about the genes themselves. But that's all an aside. My point in bringing up the book is that altruism is rather well understood these past three decades or so. As for fighting disease being some sign of inconsistency, why bring up disease at all? Why don't you criticize Hitchens for brushing his teeth? For wearing glasses? For eating? It seems that you are caught in your own trap: suppressing critical thinking in others, you've suppressed it in yourself.
                That's 3.7. Thanks for watching.

                Tuesday, December 14, 2010

                God's Quality Control 3.6

                Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Dana Epperson, Prestonwood's Assistant Head of School and Academics. If you are inclined to complain to Ms Epperson about anything, please complain on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Epperson's pockets.
                • p. 11 "In the past we’ve referred to the beginning of the universe as the Big Bang and it was used as evidence that the Universe exploded and the result was time and space and all that is living in it." My sixth-grade English teacher would be rolling over in her grave if I'd killed her like the voices told me to. But never mind the amateurish run-on and focus on the content. "Big Bang" is the name of a theory that attempts to explain the unfolding of the universe. This theory is not used as evidence of anything, especially not as evidence that the universe exploded. A gigantic body of facts, on the other hand, certainly is used as evidence that supports the Big Bang theory.
                • p.11 "Today we are beginning to question if the concept of a beginning really supports the idea of a creative God." Umm, "we"? Superstitionists might be leaning in that direction, but certainly no asuperstitionist is.
                • p.11 "With time and chance on the side of the Universe, anything is possible." This is the same as the tornado argument. No one is claiming that humans popped into existence ex nihilo; we are the result of evolution.  No one is claiming that the first living cell popped into existence ex nihilo; it also was the result of evolution. No one is even claiming that the universe popped into existence ex nihilo; no one with any sense is making any claims about how the universe came to be. Certainly there is some speculation, but no one is making any claims. If you care about the truth, read about it, and make sure you read books written by honest people who have studied and understand the relevant issues, not by charlatans and ignoramuses.
                • p.12 Ms Epperson quotes Francis Schaeffer, who seems to have read a bible different from the one on my bookshelf. He says that Yahweh "is a reasonable God." By whose measure? By its own measure, perhaps, but most evil people don't think of themselves as evil. Why should we allow Yahweh to declare itself good just because it says so? Why shouldn't we hold it to a reasonable standard?
                • p.12 "What do we see when we examine the universe or our earth or even our own bodies – do we see randomness or order?" We do see quite a bit of order in the universe. Funny thing is, that is a clear indication that it was not done by Yahweh, because Yahweh is extremely random. It can't make up its mind about anything. It tells you to go out and kill a bunch of people, then tells you it's a sin to kill. It tells you that divorce is ok, but then its son comes and tells you it's a sin. Why would you think that order in the universe implies the existence of this psycho?
                • p.12 '“If Darwin’s theory of Evolution was correct, cats would be able to operate a can-opener by now.” Funny, yes; but also profound.' It's funny only if you think that it's funny when people are willfully ignorant or irredeemably stupid. It's profound only in the sense that it shows just how deluded are most of the people who object to truth. So C.S. Lewis is responsible for this drivel? What were his qualifications to pontificate on the subject? How much did he read the scientific literature? Did he ever propose this little aphorism to a qualified evolutionary biologist in order to get feedback? Let C.S. Lewis write about talking lions and leave science to the scientists.
                • p.12 "Where is the evidence for the theory of evolution"? Are you serious? Have you not visited a museum or a library in your entire life? The evidence that supports evolutionary theory is all over the place: in our DNA, in the fossil record, in atavisms, in vestigial organs, in bad design.
                • p.12 '[W]here...is the “missing link” from the past'? How many times do we have to hear this question? Ms Epperson, do you even know what your question means? What do you mean by "missing link"? What makes you think that the "missing link," whatever it means, is something we should be able to find? Do you even know what we've found?
                • p.12 "Where is the evolution beyond what we’ve seen in the present?" Students and truth-seekers, again, don't let these people trick you like this. Go to a museum. Look at the facts. Ignore the opinions. Ignore claims by people who don't know anything about the subject. Find the truth.
                • p.12 "[I]f evolution is true, we have no need for God." Agreed, but if the fact of evolution were not true, why then would we have need for your bloodthirsty Casper in the sky?
                • p.12 Speaking of us sinners, Ms Epperson says, "It’s not that the scientific evidence is overwhelming, but the implications on their lifestyle and decisions sure would be catastrophic." There it is again. We reject your goatherd because we just want to go on sinning. I'm pulling my hair out.
                That's 3.6. Thanks for watching.

                  Monday, December 13, 2010

                  God's Quality Control 3.5

                  Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. Note that I made a mistake of attribution concerning the part of the study guide we're currently reviewing: this is not the part written by Steve Lee, or at least this part doesn't have his name on it. His essay comes later. I can't tell who wrote this first part. I'm sure that this author will prefer to remain anonymous.

                  My apologies to Mr Lee. I want make it very clear that I'm apologizing for the misattribution and absolutely nothing else that I've said. This document is full of blatant lies and inexcusable fallacy, and Mr Lee, although he presumably did not write the part that I've reviewed so far, did see fit to contribute to the document. My various insinuations and aspersions concerning Mr Lee's character still stand.

                  Today's honorary author of the guide is Larry Taylor, the Head of School at Prestonwood. I know that some of you have contacted Mr Taylor to complain of his abuse of copyright law to censor me. I appreciate that, but please note that what Mr Taylor has done to an auditorium full of children is far, far worse than anything he ever did to me. If you are inclined to complain, please complain on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Taylor's pockets.
                  • p.10 "Legos are probably our first adventure into understanding that complexity and creativity are two very separate concepts." Really? Maybe for well-fed Westerners in the 20th and 21st centuries. All of you guys not fortunate enough to have been born in a moderately affluent society, you who never played with Legos, you'll never understand the difference between complexity and creativity, so don't trouble yourselves over it. You may want to skip this video entirely, since it will serve only to make you feel inadequate.
                  • p.10 Snapping together endless blocks of Legos "may give the idea of complexity." What? This is nonsense. A random jumble of snapped-together Legos may give the idea of complexity? I give up. Let's move ahead and see if we can interpret in the light of the next sentence. "[O]nly when those blocks are arranged in a manner that gives understanding is the idea of creativity brought forth." What? This is nonsense too. What is "arranged in a manner that gives understanding" supposed to mean? I can see that the author is attempting to stress the difference between complexity and creativity. Let's ignore the garbage and hang onto this distinction; we'll see where it gets us. Let's read on: "So, too, goes the argument for the concept of creativity being at the core of our understanding of a force in creation that is more than just “complex,” but also bears the mark of creativity." What the hell? What a train wreck of a sentence. The concept of creativity is at the core of our understanding of a force that bears the mark of creativity. Dear Author, did they actually pay you to write this? There are two more paragraphs in the section on creativity, but they don't say anything meaningful. This entire section is a waste of time.
                  • p.11 The author objects to Christopher Hitchens' assertion that "religion teaches people that...the cosmos was created with them specifically in mind." Unfortunately, in his objection, he fails to address the actual point. Instead, he says that "the creation story actually places GOD Himself at the center." But the fact remains that humans play a starring role in Prestonwood's reality.
                  • p.11 "This, of course, begs the question--where does the theory of evolution place mankind?" This is entirely false. No question is begged here; the relationship of humankind to the universe has nothing to do with whether there are any gods. But it gets worse: if we're a "cosmic accident," then we have no basis for ethics and morality; we have no justification for holding men accountable for their actions. This is a ridiculous claim. "Do unto others" is an excellent rule no matter how we got here. We don't need a god to tell us how to get along. In fact, there's an awful lot of division among Yahweh's followers, even violent division. The guide finishes off this section of the essay with yet another straw man: "If one views mankind as the highest apex of the evolutionary process..." The only people who have such a view are the ill-informed. Most of us know that humans are just another kind of animal, that evolution doesn't have a predetermined direction or apex. If you could rewind the Earth back to the origin of life and let events play out again, the odds of humans appearing are practically zero. We are here due to a long string of events that could be considered coincidental, events that did not have to occur. as they did.
                  • p.11 The next section of the essay appears to be titled "Big Bang - evidence for?" But then there's a subsection title: "Organic and Inorganic matter – how did we get both?" The two paragraphs that follow these headings don't address either question. Dear Author, is it possible that Prestonwood published your notes, or an early draft, rather than your finished product?
                  • p.11 If there is no supernatural, then "how do I explain the difference between a rock and a rose, between the living and the dead?" Well, you could have simply asked the question without bringing in the supernatural overtones. It's an excellent question that even scientists ask. Unfortunately, it seems that this section of the essay is the author's junk pile, where he wrote down thoughts that he later decided not to discuss. This is just a random question, all by itself.
                  That's 3.5. Thanks for watching.

                  Sunday, December 12, 2010

                  God's Quality Control 3.4

                  Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. We're still working our way through the essay written by Steve Lee, instructor of theology and philosophy at the Academy, purportedly a summary of the primary arguments for the existence of Yahweh.
                  • p.9 If there is no supernatural, "then mankind is some reflection of this impersonal force called the Universe. What does that tell us about ourselves?" The implication here seems to be that if there is no god, we're worthless, our lives are meaningless. You guys come up with these claims, but you usually fail to apply them consistently. Let's say that your god does exist, and you're going to spend eternity worshiping it. How is that meaningful? What is the purpose of eternally worshiping something, even if it is the greatest conceivable being? Who benefits from that? What's the point? And while I'm thinking about it, why would the greatest conceivable being want to be worshiped? Why can't it just be happy with itself as it is? If it wants to share its love, why can't it be genuine love rather than this eternal boot-licking?
                  • p.9 Apparently Charles Darwin is "the dean of evolution himself." Mr Lee seems not to realize that Mr Darwin died about 130 years ago. We've managed to learn a couple of things since then. Darwin had a great idea, but the science didn't stop with him. The average modern evolutionary biologist knows far more about evolution and natural selection than Darwin could have guessed. Further, you guys seem to think that the idea of humans evolving from non-humans is necessarily based on something Darwin formulated. We could throw out the theory of natural selection entirely and we'd still conclude that humans evolved from non-humans, simply based on our understanding of DNA, the fossil record, embryology, biogeography, etc. Forget about Darwin. Evolutionary biology does not depend on him. It depends on facts. Superstitionists get this wrong a lot: they think that we worship Darwin in the same way that they worship Jesus. They don't understand that truth is bigger than people, and way bigger than their desert wraith.
                  • p.9 Darwin "didn’t develop a theory for the origin of the species." My dictionary tells me that the word theory means "A supposition or system of ideas intended to explain observed facts." What did Darwin do, according to Mr Lee? He "developed a concept...that could serve as the explanation... for... adaptation." Mr Lee, do they really allow you to teach at that so-called Academy of yours?
                  • p.10 "Authors have written incredible descriptions of the inadequacy of evolution to explain the incredible complexity we see today." Perhaps, but were those authors qualified to write on the subject? Did they have the proper education and training? Were their incredible descriptions published in peer-reviewed journals and subjected to the criticisms of other experts in the field?
                  • p.10 "A tornado hitting a hanger and constructing a working 747 aircraft is one of my favorite descriptions for the absurdity of believing that random chance and time have combined to create something as complex as human DNA or the brain." How many times do we have to hear this? Who is trying to claim that evolution is analogous to this ridiculous tornado idea? No one. Well, I take that back. Plenty of superstitionists are saying it, but not any asuperstitionists. Students, truth-seekers, please, rather than listening to these lies, just go get a book from the library. Read about evolution. Read about natural selection. Or even easier, watch some of the fantastic videos on the potholer54 channel, especially "Natural Selection Made Easy" and "The Theory of Evolution Made Easy". They're short, simple, and fascinating. I've watched them all a dozen times at least. Potholer54 even provides references for his claims, unlike Mr. Lee. Evolution is nothing like Mr. Lee's preposterous analogy, and no rational person says it is. Don't let these people hide the truth from you.
                  • p.10 "The complexity we witness is evidence for the mind of an intelligent being." You simply do not know this. You do not know whether anything we see requires a creator. You have no basis for making any such claims. You have no experience with universes, how they work in general, how they come into being. You also seem to know very little about science.
                  • p.10 "Now there is a third party that both God-supporters and Universe-supporters are trying to persuade into their camp – ID." A lie. A particularly egregious lie. We "universe-supporters," i.e., asuperstitionists, want nothing at all to do with Intelligent Design or its shyster proponents. They're all liars and con-artists. Intelligent Design is not science. If it were, then its claims could survive being made publicly, truthfully, and clearly. But everyone knows that Intelligent Design cannot be argued with honesty. Well, not everyone. All the asuperstitionists know it, and all the people making money by promoting Intelligent Design know it. Unfortunately the snake-oil salesmen have a lot of decent people fooled. With any luck, their victims will cross paths with people who love truth, and free themselves.
                  That's 3.4. Thanks for watching.