Monday, September 5, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.5

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. Today, Ray will teach us about these important critical-thinking concepts:
  1. Remembering what the real point of the discussion is.
  2. Ignoring needlessly complex or technical arguments.
  3. Getting your information from qualified researchers.
  4. Making sure your terms are clearly defined
  5. Using all the available facts rather than a tiny sliver of what is known
  6. It's always entertaining to mock people when they say something really stupid.
In Question #8, Ray quotes Richard Dawkins as having said that feathers are modified reptilian scales. Then Ray quotes his pal Jonathan Safarti in his long diatribe against Dawkins' book Climbing Mount Improbable. Safarti goes on and on about how feathers and scales are completely different. What Ray is showing us here is that he has forgotten the point of his book, which is to shake our so-called faith in evolutionary theory. To demonstrate, let's assume that Dawkins is wrong in his assertion about reptilian scales. Does that mean anything about evolutionary theory? Not at all.

Safarti goes on to quote legitimate paleornithologist Alan Feduccia as saying, "At the morphological level feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis, gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different." Have you already guessed what I'm going to say next? You do not need to know the words "morphological," "homologous," or "morphogenesis" in order to have a solid understanding of evolutionary theory. Ray is just blowing hot air that he borrowed from Safarti, again, hoping to overload our brains so we'll stop thinking, which is the first prerequisite for being a good superstitionist.

Finally, let's take a look at Safarti himself. He has degrees in chemistry and spectroscopy. Neither of these degrees qualifies him in any way to expound on the subject. Further, recall Ray's goal of catching scientists "quietly admitting" uncomfortable truths. Safarti is disqualified from Ray's purposes because he is extremely superstitious and has written at least four books claiming to refute evolutionary theory.

Ray goes on to quote some comments by Ernst Mayr concerning the fact that the fossil record does not support Darwin's idea that we now refer to as gradualism. Once again, Darwin is dead. It does not matter at all whether Darwin was completely wrong. We have learned a lot since Darwin's day, and evolutionary theory is progressing just fine without his help.

In Question #9, Ray asks us whether the fossil record proves macroevolution as scientific fact. Let's not allow Ray to wriggle away with vague terms. The word "prove" is typically to be avoided when considering science. A scientific theory can be shown to be false, but can never be shown to be true. The closest a theory can come to being proven true is to continue to have good explanatory and predictive power as more and more observations are made. Further, perhaps the fossil record isn't enough for some people, but surely all the DNA evidence, the vestigial organs and structures, and the astounding biogeographical evidence are enough to give us confidence that macroevolution has indeed occurred on Earth.

We'll completely ignore Question #10, because its about the First Law of Thermodynamics. This is just another one of those needlessly technical points. Don't get stuck arguing over thermodynamics while discussing evolutionary theory, unless, of course, you're a specialist in the relationships between the two. Something tells me that Ray is neither.

In Question #11, Ray tells the harrowing tale of the dinosaur known as Mononykus. It turns out that Time Magazine, in 1993, published an artist's bird-like rendition of Mononykus, but later evidence suggested, at least to some qualified scientists, that the creature was not a bird. That's just terrible. I can see the entire edifice of evolutionary theory crumbling because there is some dispute as to whether Mononykus was a bird. Ray, you've won. We're slaves to your "god" now.

My first impulse when reading Question #12 was to ignore it, because Ray asks, "Which book in the Bible reveals that the seasons are caused by the changing positions of the earth in relation to the sun?" This obviously has absolutely nothing to do with evolutionary theory, but rather than skip the question, I'll take this opportunity to make fun of Ray. He answers the question by quoting Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 14, "And 'god' said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.'" What? What part of this verse even alludes to the cause of seasons? Perhaps it talks about how "god" created the institution of seasons, but it definitely doesn't say anything about the astronomical causes of seasons. If any superstitionists out there wish to correct me on this one, please do.

Ray wraps up Question #12 with quotes from Isaac Newton and James Dana, to the effect that "there are no truer facts than the facts found within the Holy Scriptures." What Ray forgets is that neither one of these men was ever qualified to make any such pronouncements, given that they had no way of testing any of the preposterous claims made in the bible.

That's 7.5. Thanks for watching.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.4

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. Today, Ray will teach us about these important critical-thinking concepts:
  1. Keeping up with the times and basing one's conclusions on the latest data available.
  2. The self-correcting nature of science as opposed to the self-deluding nature of faith.
  3. Presenting arguments from unbiased commentators.
  4. Determining whether certain facts are actually supportive of one's argument.
  5. Finding reliable sources.
  6. And of course, quote-mining.
In Question #3, Ray quotes paleontologist David Kitts saying that "Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them." Note that Kitts is not saying that there is no support at all for evolutionary theory; he's just saying that the fossil record is spotty. Well, guess what: in 1974, when Kitts made this statement, it was true. But a lot of science happened in the three-and-a-half decades between this statement and Ray's book. Kitt goes on to say that although some claim that the fossil record actually falsifies evolutionary theory, the claim has been debunked. Ray cites a couple of other, rather aged sources: P.G. Williamson in 1982 and D. Futuyma in 1983. He does mention Professor Ernst Mayr in his 2001 book What Evolution Is, but again, here, Ray is simply quote-mining. Mayr says in his book that the fossil record contains many gaps. Ray wants us to believe that Mayr is expressing his doubts about evolutionary theory. This is not true at all; the reason Mayr brings it up at all is so he can address the issue directly. He mentions just a few paragraphs later that there are some fossil lines that are "remarkably complete," including reptiles-to-mammals, mesonychids-to-whales, and Eohippus-to-modern-horses.

In Question #4, we hear about over-eager scientists mis-identifying fossils. What turned out to be a dolphin's rib was first thought to be a hominid clavicle. What turned out to be a pig's tooth was first thought to be a hominid tooth. We've been fooled by body parts from donkeys, too, not to mention the occasional deliberate hoax. What Ray leaves out of all these examples is that it was science that discovered and corrected all of these errors. The scientific method automatically tends toward self-correction. The scientific method is turbo-charged by the fact that many scientists absolutely love being the first person to make a discovery, especially if it demolishes the cherished beliefs of one's rivals. On the other hand, religion tends toward exacerbating errors, because there's just no way to test any faith-based claim. This tendency is turbo-charged by the fact that each and every one of the superstitious entirely fabricates his or her concept of "god" based on his or her way of seeing the world.

In Question #5, we get an earful from Sir Ernst Chain and author I. L. Cohen. These two seem quite opposed to the idea of life originating and evolving with no supernatural help, but let's not waste any time on the details of their assertions. Why? Because Ray's goal is to show us examples of scientists "quietly admitting" some uncomfortable truth, while Chain and Cohen are both clearly biased in favor of some supernatural element. Chain is quoted in a biography as saying, "We, the Jewish people, have been given a lasting code of ethical values in the divinely inspired laws and traditions of Judaism." So in addition to being superstitious, he explicitly worships the evil demon known as Yahweh. Cohen, while not quite the explicit advocate of Yahweh, still openly admits his bias that Nature does not have "the capacity for rearranging" nucleotides. If Ray wants to show us scientists quietly admitting some failure, that's one thing. It's another thing entirely for Ray to show us superstitious people advocating their superstitions while providing absolutely no support. There are plenty of other qualified scientists who practice superstition but accept the truth of evolutionary theory.

In Question #6, Ray reminds us that any statements made by scientists 20 or more years beforehand should be assessed in light of our current knowledge. He quotes several more scientists who expressed their dissatisfaction that at the time, we had far fewer fossils than we have now.

In Question #7, Ray teaches us about finding reliable sources, by giving us citations from Reader's Digest and Time Magazine. These are popular press, not peer-reviewed science journals. Don't believe anything unless you have prior good reasons, such as the publication having a good track record for honesty, and especially scientific accuracy. Perhaps the more important lesson we get from Question #7 is understanding whether a given set of facts has any bearing on the argument. Recall that Ray's goal is to explain to us that evolutionary theory is a fairy tale. In Question #7 the points he brings up are about archaeological discoveries that lend support to the ideas that King David was a real person and that the details of Jesus' alleged crucifixion are historically plausible. That's all. Ray gives us nothing saying that archaeology supports the bible's claims relative to evolutionary theory. In other words, these two points do not suggest anything about whether the bible is generally true, nor do they even hint at which parts of the bible are to be taken literally, even if true.

Finally, let's make sure we get an adequate dose of quote-mining: Dr. Edmund J. Ambrose, of the University of London, tells us that "there is nothing in the geological records that runs contrary to the view of conservative creationists." Naturally, Ray leaves out the very next sentence: "My own view is that this does not strengthen the creationists' arguments."

That's 7.4. Thanks for watching.

Monday, August 29, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.3

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. In this video we'll cover Question #2, in which Ray teaches us about two critical-thinking concepts. The first one is quote-mining, one of Ray's favorite methods. The second concept we'll learn from Ray today is that you need not be a brainiac in order to have a solid understanding of evolutionary theory and its relationship to Judeo-Christian mythology.

So here's Question #2: Who said it? "An honest man could only state that the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle." (A) Richard Dawkins (B) Francis Crick (C) Carl Sagan.

The answer is "B" - Francis Crick. Now, the follow-up comment.

<Read comment>

Now, back to the start for a closer look.

Ray's first lesson for us is about quote-mining. Let's consider Crick's statement: "An honest man could only state that the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle." Ray seems to be attempting to stress the point that one of the luminaries of biology uses the word "miracle" when discussing the origin of life. But Crick didn't mean to suggest anything supernatural, as you can see in his very next sentence: "But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions." Some superstitionists, with their built-in anti-education, anti-intellectual mindset, read Crick's statement and decide that because it has too many big words and requires more thinking than their strait-jacketed minds can handle, Crick must be trying to weasel out of something. But let's look carefully at what he's saying.
[T]his should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions.
Let's take "a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions" and boil it down to "ordinary chemical reactions". Now the final clause of the sentence reads like this: " could not have started on the earth by ordinary chemical reactions." I find that too many negatives in a sentence make it difficult to understand, so let's state that without the negative: "...the origin of life on earth was directed by an intelligent entity." In case you're wondering why I say "intelligent entity" rather than some kind of "god," it's because Crick's statements are from his 1981 book Life Itself, Its Origin And Nature, in which he discusses the possibility that life was seeded on earth by extraterrestrials. It's very clear that he's not suggesting anything supernatural.

Moving ahead, let's change "this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe" to "I'm not saying that there are good reasons to believe".
I'm not saying that there are good reasons to believe that the origin of life on earth was directed by an intelligent entity.
Ray wants us to believe that Crick is "quietly admitting" some uncomfortable truth. This is clearly not the case.

Ray's second lesson for us is that you don't have to be a genius, or even a specialist, in order to understand evolutionary theory. Let's see what Ray is telling us. He quotes a paper by researchers Orgel and Joyce, of which the important bit seems to be this: "the de novo appearance of oligonucleotides on the primitive earth would have been a near miracle." It seems that Ray wants us to believe that Orgel and Joyce are "quietly admitting" that the origin of life is a "near-miracle." First, let's recall that evolutionary theory does not even attempt to say anything about the origins of life. This is just another red herring from the superstitionists. But that's an aside. The main lesson here starts with the word "oligonucleotides". If you don't know what the word means, that's excellent, as you don't need to know. Deep, technical details are for specialists, and you need not be a specialist in order to have a solid understanding of evolutionary theory. If you've read just one book about natural selection from your local bookstore, or even if you just paid attention when you learned about it in high school, you already know enough. And just for fun, ask yourself: does Ray really know what an oligonucleotide is? Did he really read the article? Would he have understood it if he'd actually read it?

Don't let the Ray Comforts of the world shut you down with jargon and esoteric details. Understand that when they do this, they are admitting that they have no support for their arguments, and are simply hoping to intimidate you into giving up.

That's 7.3. Thanks for watching.

Friday, June 10, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.2

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. We've finished the introduction, so now we move on to the body of the book, question #1.

I'll go ahead and read the question, the answer and all of the follow-up comments, then come back for a closer look.

In what year did USA Today report: "Paleontologists have discovered a new skeleton in the closet of human ancestry that is likely to force science to revise, if not scrap, current theories of human origins"? (A) 2001 (B) 1991 (C) 1981

The answer is "A" - 2001. Now, the follow-up comments.

<Read comments>

Wow, that all sounds pretty serious. Let's cross our fingers and go back for a closer look.

You'll see as we go through these questions that most of them seem to follow this formula: multiple-choice question with indistinguishable choices, followed by an answer that makes you wonder what was the point of having a multiple-choice question in the first place. After looking at a few of these, I conclude that the purpose of this strange presentation is to highlight, as Ray describes it, "an evolutionary expert quietly admitting that he has no evidence." Let's see what the admission is, exactly: "Paleontologists have discovered a new skeleton that is likely to force science to revise, if not scrap, current theories of human origins." Well, that is a problem, isn't it? That we might have to scrap evolutionary theory? Well, it would be, that's not what it says. It says that we might have to scrap theories of human origins. Now if you're not steeped in the science, it might be hard to catch the subtlety here, so let's not draw any conclusions yet.

The first comment says that the find might "overturn the prevailing view that a single line of descent stretched through the early stages of human ancestry." Well, even that sounds a little technical. Let's see the conclusion of this comment, which is a little more obvious: "Lucy may not even be a direct human ancestor after all." Interesting, but it has no bearing on our confidence in evolutionary theory in general.

What does the second comment say? "Lucy was a chimpanzee. The 'evidence' for the transformation from ape to man is unconvincing." This point also might go over your head if you're not a science nerd, but the title of the article makes the point obvious: "Lucy: Evolution's Solitary Claim for Ape/Man". This article is talking strictly about the relationship between Lucy and us. It's not saying anything fundamental about evolutionary theory.

Neither of these comments is saying anything about scrapping evolutionary theory, or even revisiting the idea that we are apes descended from apes. They're just talking about scrapping the prevailing views concerning "the early stages of human ancestry." All they're talking about here is the details of the family tree that we share with the other primates. Neither one of these comments says anything incriminating.

This last comment surely will be our undoing: the evidence points away from Darwinism? I just don't know what to think. Let's look at the article.
"Evidence from fossils now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school: that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes. Increasingly, scientists now believe that species change little for millions of years and then evolve quickly."
Context certainly does seem to be important here. The part that Ray quotes seems to say that evolutionary theory itself is in crisis. In proper context, we can see that the author is not saying anything about evolutionary theory. He's saying that the changes in species are often sudden, contrary to the prevailing gradualist view at the time. He even goes on to say that "the new theories are intended to explain how evolution came about—not to supplant it as a principle."

Clearly, no quiet admissions of lack of evidence concerning evolutionary theory are apparent in any of this commentary. The question itself and the first two comments simply say nothing negative at all about any facet of science. The third comment was quote-mined and grossly misrepresented. Finally, let's look at the sources for all these excerpts: USA Today in 2001; The New York Times in 2001; Newsweek in 1980; CRS Quarterly. So even if any of these quotes did say something incriminating about evolutionary theory, we should be very careful not to grant them too much credence, given that the first three are popular press and the last one is the quarterly journal of the Creation Research Society. Not to mention that two of the articles were already seven years old when Ray published his book, and one of them almost thirty. An awful lot of knowledge can be gained since in three decades. Question #1 is empty. Perhaps our blind faith in evolutionary theory was shaken, but the shaking stopped as soon as we looked at the facts.

That's 7.2. Thanks for watching.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.1

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. Just in case you're tired of hearing the setup and you're eager to move on to the questions, I'll save you some time. I'll start digging into the questions in the next video, not this one. Feel free to skip this one if you're bored.

In the introduction to the book, Comfort briefly describes the advent of evolutionary theory, using the language we have come to expect: everything from nothing, Darwin's disillusionment, complexity, random processes, just a theory. We've all heard the corrections to such nonsense a zillion times; I have nothing to add. However, in a previous video I made a point about Darwin that I wish I had emphasized a bit more. In fact, I wish that I had shouted it from the rooftops. Now's my chance to revisit the point.

I've heard a few people mention this lately, but only a few. It should be on the minds of everyone involved in the discussion. The point is this: forget about Darwin. Pretend that he never existed. Or let him exist, but pretend that he was a reprobate, a pedophile, a guy who hired vagrants to sit in his car so he could use the carpool lane illegally. Let's say we hate him so much that we reject his ideas without even checking whether they were good ideas. Death to Darwinism!

Now consider: we've analyzed a lot of DNA in recent years. When we look at all of this analyzed DNA, we see a pattern of relationships that all but screams that all species, including humans, are related to each other; we have common ancestry. That one fact by itself is gigantic, but I'll add just one other: many, many species around the world have vestigial organs, vestigial structures, vestigial genes: just one of countless examples: the traces of eyes in eyeless cave-dwellers. A simple and elegant explanation of this phenomenon is that the life-forms we see today are descended from life-forms that were once very different, that eyeless cave-dwellers are descended from creatures that had eyes.

As I said, just our DNA knowledge by itself is huge, but when we compare the story we get from the DNA to the story we get from countless cases of vestigiality, the stories are the same. One need not have an in-depth understanding of scientific principles to realize how huge this is. We simply don't need Darwin. Our current science is based on these and a mountain of other well-known facts, not on any love of Darwin. The hero-worship you see on all the Darwin documentaries does not represent evolutionary biology in any way. It may represent the attitude toward Darwin held by some individuals, even by some scientists, but it does not influence the substance of their work or the edifice of evolutionary biology. Darwin is dead. His version of evolutionary theory is utterly irrelevant to any modern conversation. So when Ray (or anyone else) talks about Darwin, I'm going to ignore him. You should too; don't get bogged down talking about Darwin.

Near the end of the introduction, Ray says, "[D]espite more than fifty years of school children and television viewers being force-fed evolution," Americans still generally don't believe it. I don't really care about Ray's claims, and I don't really care how many people still believe that the world is flat. What I do care about in this statement is the mention of television. Television is not a reliable source of scientific knowledge. You might get something good from watching television; you might even find a broadcaster that you tend to trust, but the overall relationship between television and facts is extremely tenuous. Don't believe anything you hear on television unless you can find an independent source to substantiate the claims. One should always consider the source, regardless of the medium, but you won't go far wrong if you automatically disbelieve everything you hear on television.

One last point: Ray has some interesting thoughts on quote mining. He says that "every gold nugget is legitimately mined out of its context. No one seriously values the earth that encases the gold." Analogies are fun, but they're not guaranteed to be sound. This one is a bit weak, to say the least. There is a story about Abraham Lincoln; I haven't checked whether it's true, but even if not it works well as an illustration. Lincoln is said to have written a letter saying that he'd rather live under an emperor in Russia. Ray seems to think that a statement like this counts as a nugget, while anything Lincoln might have said before or after it counts as unrelated soil. Ray might want to say that Lincoln didn't want to live in the U.S. As the story goes, in the sentence just before Lincoln's surprising remark, he is complaining that his opponents seem to hold the view that all men are created equal except for blacks, foreigners, and Catholics. You have to decide for yourself whether Ray's nugget comment is valid.

That's 7.1. Thanks for watching.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    God's Quality Control 7.0: Fairy Tale for Grownups

    In this series I'll discuss some of my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups, which is subtitled "101 questions to shake believers' blind faith in the theory."

    Before I start, I invite you to join me in offering some condolences. On May 26, 2011, Ray tweeted that his mother had died. Maybe now is a good time for us to recall that although we hate what Ray is doing in the world, he is, in the end, a human being just like the rest of us, with the capacity to grieve and suffer. Ray, we're genuinely sorry for your loss and your pain, you and everyone else who will miss her.

    Now, let's talk about the two primary goals of this series. The first one is the obvious one: to perform my usual quality control services for the superstitionist community. The second goal, while less obvious, is the more important one, and hopefully will be useful to a wide audience regardless of metaphysical inclinations: I hope to demystify somewhat the concept of critical thinking. I get the impression that many of us don't really know what it means to think critically, and even more of us are frightened away from the idea because it sounds too complicated and seems to require too much specialized knowledge. I hope to show here that you need no specialized background, training, or specific knowledge in order to think critically. Further, I get the impression that many of us consider ourselves unqualified to think critically, because critical thinking seems like the domain of really smart people, and we tend to think of ourselves as not all that smart. I hope to show here that although some effort is required, the level of effort is not nearly so high as it may seem. You are smart enough. No, you'll probably never find yourself handing William Lane Craig's pseudo-philosophical ass to him, but you are definitely at least smart enough to follow a line of reasoning and determine whether it makes any sense or even warrants your attention.

    I plan to cover Comfort's points in detail. You guys let me know if it starts to seem like too much or too little. I have some thoughts for those of you who find the level of detail intimidating. Don't stress about it. There won't be a pop quiz at the end of the series. Just take in what you can and try to recognize the broad brushstrokes. You don't have to understand every last trifle in order to recognize sloppy thinking and faulty conclusions. Hopefully this video series will help to demonstrate that and maybe even add something to your set of critical thinking tools.

    The subtitle of the book is "101 questions to shake believers' blind faith in the theory." Let's talk about "blind faith." Why do I believe, for example, what I read in the June 2011 issue of Discover magazine: that there are about ten non-human microbes in your body for every human cell? Is it because I have some unconscious prejudice for swallowing whole everything I read in Discover magazine? No. Is it because the statement confirms my pre-existing biases? No. Why then? Because I have long experience with this magazine. What has my experience been? Almost every time I've explored any of the stories in this magazine—and over the years I've explored many—I've found them to be written by qualified, educated, knowledgeable scientists and science journalists, and supported by independent sources. I find that the topics discussed and the fact-claims made mesh harmoniously with topics and fact-claims that I've heard from other parts of the scientific community, even those engaged in only distantly related fields of research. I also find that my own hands-on experiences with the world, from throwing a baseball to washing the dishes to rubbing a balloon against my head until it stays there by itself, support (or at least fail to contradict) anything I've read in this magazine.

    But even personal experience isn't quite enough. As I've pointed out in other videos, personal experience can't always be trusted. In the extreme case, some people literally hallucinate. Obviously we can't trust hallucinations. But even in every day life, we as individuals get the facts wrong all the time. Our perceptions fails us, our memories fail us, our biases mislead us. It turns out that we unconsciously deal with these problems all the time, by comparing our individual experiences and perceptions to those of the people around us. Just think how you would react if you were in the middle of a conversation with someone who interrupts you to say hello to a person that you think isn't really there. You would automatically know that something is amiss.

    The scientific method is the formal version of comparing our experiences to those of the people around us. First, I deal with my perceptual weaknesses by performing experiments and observations repeatedly. Second, I deal with my bad memory by documenting my studies. Third, I deal with my biases by publishing my results, allowing other people to repeat my experiments and observations and compare their conclusions to mine.

    I've already said everything I can say to show that this way of thinking is not at all blind faith. If you disagree, you'll probably consider this video series a waste of time, and there probably is no way to have a reasonable conversation about it. Regardless of what superstitionists may think of it, and regardless of whether someone slaps the label of "blind faith" on it, the scientific method—whether employed casually and unconsciously, or formally and carefully—is the best we have ever found for understanding the world in which we find ourselves.

    That's 7.0. As always, I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on this and all the videos in the series. Thanks for watching.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    In The Box #4: May 15, 2011

    Pat Condell has made a few videos about Christianity lately. If you have been turned off by Pat's style over the past year, I recommend that you give his Christianity videos a listen. I find myself agreeing with him. My point in bringing him up is a statement he makes in one of these videos: Pat likes Jesus. He can listen to Jesus all day long. Pat also believes that Jesus would absolutely despise Christianity. In other words, Jesus maybe did have some good ideas, and we just need to focus on those and ignore all of the trappings that were added later. This again jolts me into thinking of Jesus as just a regular man who had some opinions, maybe even a bit like Socrates, even if he wasn't as smart. Given the enormous weight of the stultifying, demoralizing culture of Yahweh that Jesus inherited, perhaps he could be given a break for being less articulate than the Greek philosophers.

    Thoughts along these lines were floating around in my mind the other night, resulting in an interesting experience. I was watching an excellent series of videos by YouTuber Evid3nc3, talking about his own deconversion. In one of the videos he talks about a book by Catholic Bishop John Spong. Spong is an atheist who considers himself a Christian. In other words, he likes what Jesus had to say but throws out all the supernatural stuff. Presumably he also would throw out all of the cultural baggage Jesus carried around. Listening to Spong's ideas, I found myself, for the first time in my life, thinking of Jesus as just a man who looked around him and saw that the powerful were mistreating people. I found myself thinking of Jesus as a reformer, a guy who had no particular love for Yahweh and maybe didn't even believe in it. A guy who thought that traditional Judaism left way too much to be desired. A guy brave enough to buck the system. I've never been impressed with Jesus, but I've always held him to a high standard. I think I'll have to go back and study Jesus in this light. Even if all of his ideas are outdated, I might have to give him credit for introducing ideas that in his day were radical.

    YouTuber Bossman103 posted some interesting questions a couple of weeks ago, in a video called "5 Questions for Atheists and Theists". Seems like we might be able to get some good discussion from these.
    1. What do you think the biggest problem with your side is?
      We have a terrible definition of the word tolerance. We want so badly to live and let live that we end up tolerating much that we should not tolerate. As just one example among many, superstitionists teaching children that they might go to hell, or that other human beings definitely will go to hell. This is obscene, and it's child abuse. There should be laws against this sort of thing, and there would be, I think, if we got rid of this notion that religion and/or tradition are some kind of carte blanche to poison the minds and abuse the bodies of children.
    2. If you could convert/deconvert five people, who would they be and why?
      • I would deconvert myself, because it would be nice never to worry about hell ever again.
      • As for deconverting other people, it's a little tricky. The primary result of deconverting some prominent superstitionist would be to score points for our side, as though this is all a game. There is already way too much "Tastes great! Less filling!" in our discourse. Deconverting someone prominent would just provide another distraction from the real issues we face, rather than advancing the conversation. I would hope to deconvert people who have the charisma to influence others, and the integrity to stick to honest and open discussion.
    3. Would you ever date anyone from the other side? Why (not)?
      It depends on how far on the other side she is. I can handle a deist. I can even handle someone who likes Jesus, provided that it's one of the less virulent incarnations of Jesus. I would never date (or even be friends with) someone who intends to worship Yahweh eternally after watching it throw me into hell. I wouldn't want to hang out with someone who makes unjustified claims and criticizes me for refusing to accept unjustified claims. I wouldn't want to hang out with someone who can't see how ridiculous most religions are.
    4. The "god" / no "god" questions.
      • If you found out there is a "god" how would it change your life or perspective on life?
        Assuming that you mean an omnipotent creator that has planted fake fossils, falsified the age of rocks, and manipulated all the DNA of every living thing to make it appear that evolution is real, just so it can fault us for not believing and then throw us into hell for all eternity, then I would fall into despair.
      • If you found out there is no "god" how would it change your life or perspective on life?
        I'm not sure I can imagine what it would be like to find out that there is no "god". I worry a lot that there really is a monster in charge of the universe, a monster that has chosen to alter my perceptions of reality in order to make it seem like science is real and religion is bullshit. If there were such a monster out there that can alter my perception of reality, there would be no way for me to know.
    5. What is the most positive thing about the other side?
      I think that most of them are probably decent people. Many of them make a habit of telling preposterous lies in order to dupe their fellow superstitionists out of their hard-earned money, but I really think that these charlatans are the exception. The reason that most superstitionists are superstitious has only a little to do with their character and a lot to do with their upbringing.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    In The Box #3: Atheist Outreach & Other Random Stuff

    I'm starting to notice a theme in my experience here on YouTube. I occasionally get caught up in trading insults with people, honing my sarcastic wit in some weird replay of my childhood, in which I spent a lot of time feeling utterly humiliated. I tell myself that it's ok for me to give these people a hard time, because (1) they need a good slap in the face and (2) I don't let the verbal sparring take over the whole conversation, that is, I do stick to the point in addition to being provocative.

    Then, for reasons I don't understand, I find myself taking a step back and asking what really matters. What's really important. There's not any benefit to the world in me becoming such an expert at insulting people in order to defend myself against leftover childhood issues. I took a step back last night, again, for no reason I understand, and changed my tone in a conversation from adversarial, trying to show this guy what an idiot he is and what a rag doll his god is, to persuasive, actually trying to reach him. I suggest that we all occasionally take a step back and think about what's really important.

    It seems to me that we can reach some of these people. Certainly not those who are making money, such as Dembski, Craig, Comfort, and their ilk. However, there must be many superstitionists who could break free if we could just reach them. So I'll finally get to my point: we should put our heads together and try to find the best possible ways to reach those who are trapped against their will. Those like me, who are trapped by fear, and others who are trapped by other factors that I can't imagine To that end, I invite your stories of atheist outreach. Have you ever really reached someone? Have you ever come close? If so, send me a PM and tell me some of the details. If I can find any trends, I'll let you all know. Maybe we can come up with something.

    Do me a favor and don't overload me with stories of failed attempts. Unless they're funny.

    Ok, other issues. I've heard of the occasional person with liberal values who joins conservative organizations in order to be a moderating influence. Religion has always been divisive, and it seems to be getting worse all the time. Megachurches seem to me like entire communities where people get no exposure to anything but the party line of their church. That can't be a good thing, an entire population of people who distrust education and science, always descending further into their superstitions. I'm beginning to wonder whether we should consider becoming churchgoers, in an attempt to broaden the perspectives of religious people, to show them a way of thinking about things that could benefit them (and the rest of us) significantly. I'm not sure I'm ready to start singing hymns, but I'm interested to know what you guys think of the idea. Would it serve any useful purpose in the world?

    A few of you have suggested that I make a video about my deconversion experience. I'm not sure there's enough material here for an entire video. Here's a brief sketch. When I was little, I heard people talk about Heaven and Hell, but I guess I never got any specifics. I had the idea that Hell is like an orphanage, a depressing place where kids don't get to have fun and the adults are always angry about something. A lot like the life I had at the time, only everyone wears a devil costume. I sort of unconsciously assumed that I would go to Hell, that Heaven is a special place for good kids, and given that my parents seemed always pissed off at me, I must not be good enough. That didn't bother me too much; it just seemed like a continuation of the life I was already living.

    When I was 13, I had a very unfortunate conversation with my mother's boyfriend. He described Hell to me. The fire, brimstone, and eternal torture Hell. I believed every word he said, and naturally it scared the shit out of me. I started frantically studying the bible, but found no hope there. In fact, the bible just made it worse. Jesus says that I have to cut off my hands and gouge out my eyes. I spent a couple of years trying to get up the courage to do this. I discovered no such courage. I started planning to get a good education so I could get a good job so I could make enough money to hire a surgeon who would remove my eyes and hands painlessly. I spent the next ten years or so absolutely baffled that people can go around living their lives. Why does anyone bother, with an eternity in Hell hanging over their heads? I was a very angry person, rather unpleasant to be around, always feeling like scum due to my sexual lusts and my enjoyment of chocolate ice cream.

    In my mid-20's I finally gave up. Jesus would never allow me into Heaven because I am just too sinful. I tried accepting Jesus into my heart many times, but it obviously never worked, because I still spent most of my time thinking about naked women. I gave up and tried to put the matter out of my mind. Over the next ten years or so I found that I really love learning about the world around us, and I started to tell myself that there is no god. I hung on to that, but still I would frequently have these nightmare visions of myself in Hell. Being married and having a kid and a career took my mind off of it most of the time.

    In 2006, a few years after my divorce, I met and fell madly in love with a woman. After a couple of years, she left. I kept my shit together for a year or so, and then stopped keeping my shit together. I dropped out of life and started spending most of my time in bed. After a few months of this, I started contemplating suicide. Then I realized that I couldn't kill myself because I was still afraid that I would go to Hell, and I didn't want to go before I had to. I knew intellectually that the whole religion thing had to be bullshit, but childhood fears can be stronger than intellect, apparently. I started working with my therapist on ways to give more credence to my intellect than to my fears. It was difficult, but after a while it started to work. Once my fear of Hell was weak enough, I was ready to go. I took a bunch of pills. I woke up in the hospital and then had to spend three days in one of the most depressing places I've ever known: a psychiatric health facility. At first, my intention was to take more pills as soon as I got home, but during those three days I started to feel a kind of contentment. I realized that now I have an easy exit. I'm not trapped here any more. I can leave any time I want to. Now I feel like I can breathe.

    So here I am. No longer afraid (well, mostly), and no longer trapped. As long as I'm here using up the resources, I'd like to see what kind of positive impact I can make.

    Well, this is going long, and I had hoped to address some of the questions you guys asked after the last episode of In The Box. I think I have time only for one. Apologies to everyone else, especially those of you who asked time-sensitive questions. radicalbacon wanted to know some details of my first masturbatory experience. Girl, you know better than to ask a question like that. Masturbation is a sin. I've never done it.

    That's In The Box #3. Thanks for watching.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.11: Coda

    Here I conclude my series covering the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We've finished the debate, but before we move on to the questions, I'd like to address a point that I missed earlier. Craig misrepresents Harris as saying the following:

    <clip Craig rely on axioms>

    Let's hear what Harris really said:

    <clip Harris every branch of science>

    Harris is saying that in order for science to work, certain assumptions must be made. He's not saying that we are morally bound to make any particular assumption, or even any assumptions at all. He's just saying that no science is entirely self-justifying.

    Craig attacks the argument that he has invented on Harris' behalf:

    <clip Take it by faith>

    If Harris were making claims about facts, and telling us that we must accept his claims as axioms, then what Craig has said here would be true. But Harris is making no such claims. He is offering an idea that, if we were to accept it as axiomatic, could make the world a vastly better place for everyone. To let him speak for himself:

    <clip Harris make one assumption>

    We move on to the questions. A couple of the questions to Harris went over my head a bit, but in His answers Harris made some interesting points that are worth hearing.

    <clip (07) 5:04 Cut books to improve Christianity;>
    <clip (07) 5:37 Improve ten commandments>
    <clip (08) 13:42 Psychopathic core>
    <clip (07) 12:12 No god needed to say that love is good>
    <clip (07) 12:29 Euthyphro>
    <clip (07) 13:01 Not leaving anything out>

    Check out this awesome question, directed to Craig, and his awesome answer.

    <clip (07) 7:00 Awesome question>
    <clip (07) 9:14 You misunderstood>

    Whether she understood the analogy is irrelevant. She's not even asking about the analogy. When he talked about our understanding of light and dark, she was inspired to come up with her own analogy. She's asking a simple, honest question. Craig dodges it and makes more pseudo-intellectual sounds to distract from his failure to answer the question. But she's paying attention.

    <clip (07) 9:51 Clarification>
    <clip (07) 10:04 I can't see it>
    <clip (07) 10:30 That would be repetitive>

    In other words, sit down; I have no intention of answering your question.

    A couple more questions for Harris.
    <clip (07) 14:37 What about miracles?>
    <clip (08) 0:39 Dude in India>
    <clip (08) 1:00 Every miracle>
    <clip (08) 1:10 Discovery Channel>

    <clip (08) 4:14 Destroy it all>
    <clip (08) 5:58 No>

    Note that Harris' medicine analogy works well here too: is anyone asking whether we could improve global health by killing all the sick people? No. Further, we're talking about flourishing here, which most dead people don't do.

    Another awesome question for Craig, and his awesome answer.

    <clip (08) ??? How do you know?>
    <clip (08) 8:55 Because I know>

    I conclude this series with some thoughts to consider: if you were to ask Craig what his ultimate reason for participating in this debate, what would his answer be? Now, ignoring all of his faulty arguments, how badly has Craig misrepresented Harris during this debate? Would Jesus approve? If Yahweh cares about truth, then doesn't it seem that it might be unhappy for its evangelists to deviate from the truth? If Yahweh is so awesome, then why would its ambassadors ever need to resort to anything but the unvarnished truth? Some superstitionists may wish to trot out the cliche that the imperfection of Yahweh's ambassadors underscores Yahweh's awesomeness, by showing that it can use even imperfect humans to save others. That sounds really nice, but I notice that all of its evangelists have to sacrifice the truth in some way or another. I would be far more impressed by a god whose message could be delivered in good faith, at least by a few of its followers.

    That's 6.11, and the end of the series. Thanks very much for watching, and for joining in the conversation.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.10

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We're listening to Craig's closing comments.

    <clip (06) 10:54 FGM comment>

    That's an interesting position for Craig to take. Nowhere in his bible is this practice is forbidden, or even mentioned. In fact, given male circumcision, and given that women are property, and given the superstitionists' bizarre fixation on sexual purity (which is a preposterous notion to start with) it seems that mutilating girls' genitals is inevitable.

    <clip (06) 11:24 Psychopaths could occupy the peaks>

    No, he allowed in principle for the possibility that science might discover that some people really do flourish even when they're doing things that harm others. He made this allowance not as an admission of weakness in his argument, but because he wisely guessed at some of the criticisms he might hear and wanted to address them squarely. What Craig is doing here is very similar to Ben Stein insinuating that Richard Dawkins thinks we were planted here by aliens. Quoting Arthur Leff's article called Unspeakable Ethics, Craig goes on.

    <clip (06) 12:05 Who says>

    Here Craig is simply underscoring the weakness of coercive morality: it's based on directives from an authority rather than on well-being. A playground bully who retorts in this way has grown up in a coercive environment. Further, and more importantly, he is underscoring the fact that far too many of us, even many asuperstitionists, have the mindset of children squabbling over the rules while dad is at work and mom is out grocery shopping. The Abrahamic faiths foster this mindset. It's time for us to grow up. Still quoting Leff, he says this:

    <clip (06) 12:14 We are all we have>

    Exactly. We've spent millennia trying to coerce each other in the name of some higher authority. It hasn't worked. It can't work. We need to start having rational discussions about what we want to be and what kind of future we want to have. And by we I mean all of us, not just Westerners in general or Americans in particular.

    We move on to Harris' closing statements.

    <clip (06) 13:47 How do you know?>
    <clip (07) 0:12 How much sleep lost>
    <clip (07) 0:54 Afghan warlord>
    <clip (07) 1:35 Craig insists>
    <clip (07) 1:52 No Christian physics>
    <clip (07) 2:15 Lives truly worth living>
    <clip (07) 2:54 Not the way to do it>
    <clip (07) 3:10 All we need is honest inquiry>
    <clip (07) 3:17 Right by accident>

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.9

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We're listening to Harris' second rebuttal.

    <clip (06) 0:56 No science is absolutely self-justifying>
    <clip (06) 1:02 All sciences have axioms>
    <clip (06) 1:10 Only one assumption required>
    <clip (06) 1:34 What is scientific>

    Harris uses some five-dollar words here, but don't be put off.

    <clip (06) 2:17 Epistemological>
    <clip (06) 3:06 Ontologically subjective>

    You can still get his point even without having to know what these words mean. I sense that someone might want to shout something about a double-standard, whereby Craig is criticized for using big words while Harris is allowed to use them. My only response is this: listen to carefully to both speakers and ask yourself what each is hoping to accomplish with these words. For that matter, ask yourself what each speaker is hoping to accomplish with his entire presentation. I conclude that Harris, although he probably is making some good money and getting giant ego strokes with his books and appearances, is trying to make the world a better place, inviting us all to try this idea because it seems like it could work really well. I conclude that Craig is driven by no such vision for humanity. He does not care whether anyone in the audience has learned something, whether his efforts have any positive effect anywhere. I go even further with Craig: he knows that superstition could be our undoing, yet he doesn't care. His entire motivation is shortsighted self-interest. If you think I'm taking it too far, as some of you suggested when I made similar claims about Ray Comfort and pals, please do tell me your thoughts.

    <clip (06) 3:50 Argument summary>
    <clip (06) 4:45 Stupid question>
    <clip (06) 5:00 Remarkable experiences (2:00)>
    <clip (06) ???? Atheists can be spiritual>
    <clip (06) 6:06 Jesus' effect on his disciples (2:12)>

    I'm glad that Harris started off with the word if. I am ever confused when I hear people, even asuperstitionists, talk about what a great guy Jesus was. I'm not sure which Jesus they're talking about. The one depicted in the bible is one of the biggest jerks I've ever read about. I've never understood why his trifles are held in such awe. I would have been far more impressed with Jesus if he'd encouraged people to end slavery, or if he'd said a few words about the treatment of women and children, or if he'd broadened his criticisms beyond sniping about the hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers and the thick-headedness of the common people. Jesus is seriously oversold. I'm far more enriched by the six short videos by Alain De Botton called Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness than I ever was by years of bible study. I'll put a link to De Botton's videos in the love bar, in case you're interested. Well worth multiple viewings.

    <clip (06) 7:12 21st-century conversation (2:29)>
    <clip (06) 7:33 Please think (2:31)>

    Exactly. Thinking is exactly what we need more of. Now we get to hear Craig's closing statement. I wonder whether he wants us actually to think about anything he's said in this debate.

    <clip (06) 8:44 Greatest conceivable being (2:34)>

    Remember back at the beginning when I mentioned that Craig's slippery use of the word "god" becomes important later? Here it is. If you ask me who my dad is, I can point to him or describe him in some way. He's a specific person. Similarly, if you ask who Yahweh is, although they can't point to it, its followers can describe it: you know, the monster that ordered the Israelis to murder Amalekite children out of revenge. In their minds, it's a specific person, with whom they are involved in a personal relationship. Say you ask me who my dad is, and rather than pointing to or describing a person, I say that he's the person who best embodies the essence of dad-ness. It's a nonsense answer. It refers to no one in particular. It means nothing to answer a "who" question with an abstract concept like this. You can't have a personal relationship with it. It can't be Craig's lawgiver. It can't be Craig's competent moral authority. Craig not only undermines his current argument with this greatest conceivable being garbage, he undermines everything he's ever said.

    Further, greatest conceivable being according to what objective standard? According to its own objective standard, of course. Guess what: a concept can't have an objective standard. Finally, Yahweh could not possibly be the greatest conceivable being. Why? Because I can conceive of a greater being with one brain tied behind my back. A being that doesn't kill. That doesn't allow hell. That isn't fixated on our sex lives. Yahweh doesn't even occupy the same universe. It should try the universe where people seek the most repugnant conceivable being.

    That's 6.9. Thanks for watching.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.8

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We're listening to Harris' first rebuttal, in which he wisely continues to ignore Craig's bullshit and call attention to some of the glaring immorality of Jesusianism:

    <clip (05) 0:35 Double-standard concerning "god's" goodness>
    <clip (05) 0:59 Morally reprehensible>
    <clip (05) 1:17 This kind of faith is obscene>
    <clip (05) 2:40 Psychotic morality>
    <clip (05) 3:10 How do you know?>
    <clip (05) 3:39 Only lunatics>
    <clip (05) 5:02 Not just the generic god>
    <clip (05) 6:16 These are the people who wrote the bible>
    <clip (05) 6:36 Haven't heard of anything less moral (2:40)>

    I'm trying to figure out why Harris ends his comments simply by walking away from the podium. There's that awkward silence while people decide whether it's time to applaud. If I were the one speaking, there would be an easy explanation: stage fright resulting in impaired presentation skills. But Harris is used to this; he must have some reason for doing it, but I can't imagine what it would be. Sadly, we have to endure more of Craig now.

    <clip (05) 7:34 Harris hasn't responded (30) >

    Just a reminder here: Craig mentions these points as though they warrant a response, but those that aren't straw-man arguments turn out not to be arguments, because Craig has said absolutely nothing worth addressing.

    <clip (05) 8:43 Not fire insurance (30) >
    <clip (05) 9:35 Not about avoiding hell>

    I beg to differ. The only reason I ever gave a thought to the bible was absolute terror of going to hell. I have to assume that I'm not alone in this. I also think it's safe to assume that countless people whose reasons resemble mine continue to call themselves Christians all their lives. I have to wonder what Yahweh thinks of this kind of love. Given that Yahweh seems to prefer much that is contemptible, perhaps it prefers this kind of love over anything more genuine.

    <clip (05) 13:05 General theism is a foundation>

    Earlier in this series I said that no sane person would make such a claim. I guess I have to revise that: no sane and honest person would make such a claim.

    That's 6.8. Thanks for watching.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.7

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We're still slogging our way through Craig's first rebuttal.

    <clip (04) 4:33 Good = flourishing>

    Here he's just pulling out the same straw man that he's been pulling out the whole time, saying that Harris is attempting to claim that morality has to do with the flourishing of creatures that can suffer. I'd ignore it, but Craig spends a while developing what he calls a "knock-down argument" against this, and I want to make sure that no one is fooled by Craig's shenanigans. So we've started with Craig misrepresenting Harris' position; let's see where he goes next:

    <clip (04) 4:46 Identity claim>
    <clip (04) 4:53 Technicalities>

    Some pseudo-intellectual sounds that will hopefully scare the audience into tuning him out while he drones on.

    <clip (04) 5:27 Psychos>

    Let's not forget that this entire section of his speech is an argument against an imaginary claim, something that Harris has neither said nor implied. So for those who hear what he is really saying, he is simply blowing hot air, wasting our time, arguing against something that was not said. For his victims who can't keep up with him, he's working hard: why bring up psychotics in particular? To make it appear that Harris is suggesting that it would be ok if we ended up enabling psychotic fantasies for the purpose of helping psychotics to flourish. Harris again has neither said nor implied anything like this. In fact, the point in Harris' book that Craig has hijacked here is Harris' attempt to address his critics who might suggest this as a flaw in his argument. He says that if rapists, liars, and thieves could be shown to be as psychically healthy as the rest of us, then his landscape would no longer be especially moral, meaning that it wouldn't be good or right in any sense that we can recognize. But then in the following paragraph, which Craig seems to have conveniently missed, Harris responds: we are human beings, and we're far more similar than we are different. No one with any understanding of humans in general would think that a psychotic's well-being is increased by allowing him to harm others.

    <clip (04) 6:04 Identity>

    Back to the pseudo-intellectual stuff, just to shake off anyone who is attempting to keep up with what he's saying. He goes on in this vein for a while and yet again claims that he has reinforced his original claim:

    <clip (04) 6:58 Original claim supported>

    He wastes yet more time by pretending that there is some difference in his so-called arguments concerning moral values and moral obligations.

    <clip (04) 7:44 Competent authority>
    <clip (04) 8:28 Not obligated>

    We've all asked it before, but it seems worth asking again here: isn't he very clearly saying that it's only due to the commands of his god that he behaves well?

    Harris seems to have finished promoting his ideas and moves on to discuss just how immoral Craig's god is and how preposterous the superstitionists' beliefs concerning that god.

    <clip (04) 13:45 Lord of The Rings>

    I just have to point out that Harris stole this idea from me, but I'll forgive him because the rest of his speech is awesome. He points out that Craig's god has deliberately engineered history such that over a billion people in India (and that's just those who are alive today), even those who are very decent people, will spend eternity in torment, while any kind of foul person, even a child molester, can accept Jesus on his deathbed and go to heaven.

    <clip (04) 14:43 Moral accountability>

    Exactly, and yet somehow, superstitionists convince themselves that what they mistakenly perceive in our arguments as a lack of moral accountability is a fatal flaw.

    <clip (05) 0:25 Human understanding of goodness>

    Yeah, he stole that one from me too, but I'll forgive him again because of the point he makes about the superstitionist view that when you get a pay raise at your job, it's because your god is good, but when millions of kids die every year it's because your god is mysterious.

    <clip (05) 1:02 Morally reprehensible>

    Awesome. That's 6.7. Thanks for watching.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.6

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We've heard both Craig's and Harris' introductory remarks. Now we move on to Craig's first rebuttal.

    <clip Flowery words>

    This reminds me of a point that I wish I had made earlier. Let's go back to the conclusion of Craig's first non-argument.

    <clip Earlier flowery words>

    It seems to me that another one of Craig's tricks is to toss around some words that will tug on the hearts of his listeners, distracting them from the content of the discussion, or perhaps I should say, distracting them from the lack of content. I want to go one step further and say that there is something even more devious going on. I have often been absolutely baffled by the assumptions that superstitionists make about asuperstitionists. They seem to think that lacking any superstitions leads one to be a Hitler-style monster with absolutely no human feeling whatsoever. I think that at least part of the reason for this comes from here: a guy like Craig presents a speech that is devoid of any meaning, provoking the ire of people who care about truth. He concludes his speech with some words and opinions that all people, even his opponents, agree with. People who care about truth jump up indignantly and point out that his argument is garbage. Those who have fallen under the spell misunderstand us. They think that we are objecting to the obvious points, like love being good and oppression being bad. It might seem like a stretch, but given the blatant disregard for honesty rampant among prominent superstitionists, I would not be surprised at all to discover that this is a deliberate tactic, designed to cause the audience to have a bad feeling about asuperstitionists. You guys let me know if I'm going off the deep end.

    <clip (03) 14:21 Ontology/semantics>

    Be suspicious of anyone who brings up technical details unnecessarily. What Craig is saying here is interesting for geeks like me, but for non-geeks, it's not going to mean much, except perhaps that Craig must be really smart in order to discuss concepts like these, and because he seems smarter than I am, he must know better. Basing our morality on the well-being of creatures that can suffer is a simple, everyday concept, just like going for a walk with a friend. One need not be a mechanical engineer to appreciate going for a walk, and one need not be a trained philosopher to know how to behave. If you're trying to dig into a subject, by all means let people load you up with as much jargon and complexity as you can take. Yes, it's good to know what words like ontology and semantics mean, just because one's life is enriched by the knowledge. But it is not necessary to know what these words mean in order to understand any part of this conversation. I think this must be yet another tool in the art of persuading people without referring to truth. Perhaps one can give the impression of being an authority simply by virtue of talking over the heads of the audience. Perhaps I'm just recognizing another flaw in the debate format. It seems that open, honest conversation can take us so much further.

    <clip (04) 1:09 Book plug>

    Sounds like good material for another Quality Control series. Anyone have a copy they can lend me for a few weeks? I'm serious. If you have a copy you're willing to lend, send me a PM.

    <clip (04) 1:29 No objections to theistic grounding>

    We haven't heard any arguments in favor of a theistic grounding for ethics. Besides the fact that Harris is here to invite everyone to think about morality in a new way, Craig simply hasn't said anything of any value, nothing worth disagreeing, or even agreeing, with.

    <clip (04) 1:49 Nazi comment>

    Glad he pointed this out. I was afraid that Harris was going to get away with his nefarious plan to introduce Nazism to our great nation.

    <clip (04) 4:18 Pleasure/misery, good/evil>

    Really? Why? Why can't we all just agree that pleasure is good and misery is bad, and see where it takes us? Why must we pretend that without the leprechauns in the back yard, we're completely adrift? And before any superstitionists start claiming that I'm advocating the pleasure of child molesters, let's not forget that we're not talking about hedonistic pleasure; we're talking about flourishing and well-being. It's a misrepresentation for Craig to use the word pleasure here; it leaves too much room for, or perhaps even invites, misunderstanding.

    That's 6.6. Thanks for watching.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011


    Wow, you guys. Five thousand subscribers. I don't know what to say, except thanks. Thanks for subscribing, thanks for participating in the conversation, thanks for all your positive (and often hilarious) feedback. Some of you are such regular contributors here that I sort of feel like I know you. That's cool. It seems that I should say something profound here, but I'm clueless. I guess I could tell you a bit about myself, but I'll skip all the boring stuff.

    I spent about 30 years, starting from age 13, convinced that I'd burn in hell for eternity. Some time in early 2010, I started to talk myself out of that fear. Looking back, I can see very clearly that when you're terrified of eternal torment, it's really impossible to give a damn about anyone else. As my fear wanes, I find myself wanting to make some sort of contribution to the world. So far, it seems that I have a knack for exposing lies and hypocrisy, and YouTube gives me a forum for doing just that. We'll see how it goes.

    Yeah, still nothing profound coming to mind. I guess I could mention some administrative details.
    • I have an FAQ. The link to it is on my channel page.
    • I keep transcripts of all my videos on a blog that I call "In Search of A Defensible God". Link in the love bar.
    • I have a secondary channel called GreatBigSnore, where I keep my growing list of questions for superstitionists. I've also toyed with making a series called "In The Box" on that channel. Two episodes so far. I'm waiting to see whether I get any new inspiration for that one.
    • The Quality Control collection seems to be the reason for most of the attention my channel gets, but note that I have other collections; one covers the New Testament of the bible, one is a sort of first stab at discussing Islam, and one is an attempt to cover the Qur'an. I paused this last collection in order to start the Quality Control videos; I'm not sure what the fate of that collection will be. All of these collections are organized into playlists that you can access from my channel page.
    Coincidentally, it seems that I've hit another milestone tonight: between my two channels, I have 300 videos. This is #301. Cool. Ok, it's clear that nothing profound is going to come out of my mouth. Thanks to everyone, and welcome to the conversation.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.5

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The purported focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?" Craig has claimed that there can be no foundation other than the supernatural, although he has presented not a single argument in favor of this claim. Harris mostly ignores the question, realizing that it is not the question that the human race should be asking right now. Rather, the question we should be asking is whether there is any basis for morality that is better than the coercive morality we currently employ. Harris opens with a comment that really confuses me:

    <clip (02) 9:47 Craig scares atheists>

    Where does this come from? How can anyone intelligent enough to recognize Harris' intelligence think that Craig is anything but a buffoon? Craig has zero skill as a philosopher, zero skill as a thinker. It seems to me that the only skill he has that he can use in this situation is his preacher-style persuasiveness: delivery, rhetoric, that sort of thing. Listen to his words and he's a complete flop. It's basically impossible for any honest, decent person with a couple of neurons in his head to blow a debate with Craig. Harris sums up his entire argument:

    <clip (02) 11:14 Once we understand morality in terms of human well-being...>

    Harris is suggesting that we consider morality in terms of human well-being, and pointing out that because science is becoming better all the time at measuring well-being objectively, we can use science to find a kind of morality far better than what we have now.

    <2 clips (03) 0:09 Morals come from us.>

    This is something we need to be shouting from the rooftops. Not only is it true that the concepts of good and evil come from us, but it's also true that they must come from us. No one is going to tell us what is right and wrong; we have to figure it out for ourselves.

    <clip (03) 10:27 Medicine comparison>

    Just as a person's conscious desires and his physical health are two different things that might not agree, a person's conscious desires and his overall well-being could be in conflict. Often when statements like this are made, someone, sometimes even an asuperstitionist, will think that we're facing a Big-Brother society in which some elite has the right to override people's desires arbitrarily. I'm not sure where this paranoia comes from. How is it that upon hearing a proposal that we put a stop to the mistreatment of women and girls, one's first impulse is to fear that the door is now open for the government to monitor everyone's masturbatory habits? No one wants 1984. This is about compassion, not control.

    <clip (03) 10:54 Science is in the values business>

    And no one makes a sound in protest that we think of these as axiomatic. No one expects anyone to provide some airtight case for the foundation on which we base the value of consistency. We just assume that consistency is more desirable than inconsistency. No one needs to introduce a space ghost in order to compel people to value consistency. Actually, the world could have been a better place if Yahweh had intoned, "Thou shalt always stick with truth, honest debate, and logical reasoning with consistency." Of course Yahweh would have been out of a job long ago if that had been one of its commandments.

    <clip (03) 12:07 If someone doesn't value evidence>

    This makes me despair. Superstitionists often don't place the same value on evidence and reason that the rest of us do. Many of them place very little value on truth and honest debate. Seems like there's just no point in talking to them. Similarly, if someone doesn't value human well-being, which does seem to be the case among superstitionists, then it's impossible to have a conversation about morality. To be fair, some of them do seem to have some sense that human well-being is a good thing, but they give it appallingly low priority relative to their other fixations. Most superstitionists are therefore unreachable; all we can do is put the message out there and hope that some of them have better values.

    <clip (03) 12:28 What does it mean to claim that science can't answer important life questions>

    What he said. That's 6.5. Thanks for watching.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.4

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The purported focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?" However, Craig has re-framed the question somewhat, asking, "Without 'god,' to what authority can we appeal in order to bend others to our own will?" We finished the previous video with Craig asking the dishonest question, "How does Harris propose to solve the value problem?" Here's his dishonest answer:

    <clip 1:04 The trick he proposes...>

    Listen to his voice. Look at the faces he makes. Listen to his implications. The rest of his point is delivered as though he is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. He presents Harris' perfectly reasonable statements as though Harris had lost himself in some kind of philosophical thicket, or is attempting to confuse his reader.

    <clip 1:16 We should define good...>
    <clip 1:35 it makes no sense to ask...>

    Let's go back to the book. I notice that the part Craig is quoting here is on page 12. I wonder if he read as much of the book as I have, which is still about half. Harris says, "If we define good as that which supports well-being, as I will argue we must." Harris isn't playing any trick on the reader. He hasn't even presented an entire claim, as he clearly indicates by saying, "as I will argue." Harris goes on to say that per this definition, the question makes no sense. Why would a devotee of the Supreme Being need to misrepresent Harris in this way? Why would a devotee of the Supreme Being have to do all this play-acting? Why are these tactics needed by a god with so much to offer?

    <clip 2:22 Harris isn't talking about morality...>

    As though that's a bad thing. What could possibly be a worthier goal than promoting the flourishing of creatures that can suffer? How is that not about moral values?

    <clip 2:36 His claim about science...>

    No, Harris hasn't made that claim. No one needs to claim it, as it's obviously true. Harris is saying that because science can tell us about the flourishing of sentient beings, science can help us find a morality that is a gigantic improvement over the one we have now.

    <clip 2:46 Flourishing of corn>

    Yes, invent a preposterous claim and attribute it to Harris, then throw in some preposterous parallels to make it appear that Harris is making some kind of obvious mistake. Craig wraps up by continuing the pretense that the value problem needs to be solved and that Harris has failed to solve it.

    <clip 3:22 Arbitrary and idiosyncratic redefinition>

    Arbitrary and idiosyncratic redefinition, you say? Something like defining love so as to allow for the eternal torture of billions upon billions of humans? So as to allow for creating a largely falsified universe so as to make it impossible for people with brains to do the one thing they must do in order to avoid this eternal torture?

    Craig goes on to pretend a deep analysis by discussing moral duties, as though it's not obvious that exactly the same arguments can be made concerning duties as can be made concerning values.

    <clip 4:06 Is-ought>

    Unfortunately I see that many of my fellow asuperstitionists are getting stuck on this same point. Harris is not saying that science can tell us about ought. He is saying, "Let's consider what might happen if we define ought according to the only genuinely moral foundation we've ever known, and use science to move forward." Perhaps once all of us asuperstitionists understand Harris' message, we can present it better to the superstitionists.

    <clip 4:37 What foundation remains?>

    The flourishing of creatures that can suffer seems like the most worthy foundation I've ever heard. Why not go with that until we find something better?

    <clip 4:53 When a lion kills a zebra>

    Actually, the seeds of a better morality have been with us all along even in statements like this. When a lion kills a human, it hasn't murdered the human. Nor does it deserve punishment. We might have to lock it up, or even kill it, but not because it deserves such treatment. Rather, it's to protect the rest of us. We could apply this to humans: forget about deserve and punishment. The first priority is to protect the rest of us from a murderer. After that, let's look to science to see what to do with the murderer. Let's look to science to see whether executing or imprisoning the murderer for life really does have some kind of therapeutic value for the bereaved, or for society at large. If not, then let's not execute or imprison for life. Let's look to science to find out what's best,  or at least to seek something better than what we do now. Craig neatly sums up the entire problem with our current morality.

    <clip 5:21 Who or what imposes...>

    Craig spends a couple of minutes blathering about his objections to Harris' notions concerning free will, but these are irrelevant points. It seems to me that he brings them up only in order to insinuate that Harris is suggesting that we let killers and rapists roam the streets. Leave it to the superstitionists, with their astounding abilities to believe the most preposterous notions, to believe that we want that kind of world.

    That's 6.4. Thanks for watching.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.3

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The purported focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?" However, Craig has re-framed the question somewhat: "Without 'god,' to what authority can we appeal in order to bend others to our own will?" We're about halfway through Craig's comments on what Harris calls the value problem.

    <clip 14:21 If we were to restart human evolution, people with a different set of moral values might well have evolved.>

    Obviously true. But consider this point, which I've made before but which seems especially relevant here. Think about the rudimentary morality we see in social animals. Part of this morality 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. Alongside the sick rationalizations that have passed for morality since humans first started thinking like humans, something amazing has grown: empathy that extends beyond the family, beyond the village, beyond the race, even beyond the species. Human morality—the bad kinds—is a result of human rationalization haphazardly applied to social instincts; the good kind of human morality is a result of human empathy combined with culture. Neither kind of morality is a result of any supernatural force. With this in mind, let's reconsider Craig's statement:

    <clip 14:21 If we were to restart human evolution, people with a different set of moral values might well have evolved.>

    If we were to restart evolution from the dawn of animal life, we would not be surprised at all to see animals with eyes, given that eyes have evolved independently some 40 times in Earth's history. Similarly, given that empathy is so prevalent among social animals, we might not find it too surprising to see it appear again. Big, complex brains like ours likely would never evolve, and therefore nothing like human morality would ever appear, either the ugly kind we're still stuck with or the good kind that will hopefully replace it. But given brains that appreciate metaphor and symbolism the way ours do, it would not seem surprising at all to see two kinds of morality appearing again. The first one, just like our first attempt, would be really sick, twisted, and arbitrary. Probably homosexuality would be ok but picking your nose would be an abomination. However, the second one, given time, civilization, and writing, would look a lot like the amazing kind that we are slowly discovering.

    <clip 14:31 If people were raised like bees, women would kill men.>

    Yes, just as when people are raised under superstitionism, they often do seem to think it their sacred duty to kill each other. However, let the bee-people discover writing, and they'll eventually jettison their false-start morality, just as we are striving to do now.

    <clip 2, 3 0:45 Dawkins "indifference" quote>

    True, but Dawkins also has mentioned many times and in many ways his hope that we can rise above the brute facts of our existence. In The Selfish Gene, he says, "We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism—something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world." Here, he is advocating the same ideas that Harris is advocating: let's use our higher brain functions to create a morality, one that is beneficial for all sentient beings.

    <clip How does Harris solve the value problem>

    Craig misrepresents Harris by even asking this question. Harris makes it very clear in both his book and in his Huffington Post article that there simply is no value problem. As a reminder, the value problem goes like this: there is no scientific basis to say that we should value well-being. Sure, that's obvious. But there is also no scientific basis to say that we should value truth, or the desire to understand how the world works, or factual evidence and logical coherence over guesswork and incomprehensible arguments. It is just as reasonable to say that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad as it is to say that an argument that contradicts itself is illogical. I like the way Harris concludes his argument that there is no value problem: "We need not apologize for pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps in this way. It is far better than pulling ourselves down by them."

    That's 6.3. Thanks for watching.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Questions for Theists 2011

    Months ago, a couple of Ray Comfort's stooges created a program called "On The Box." As part of their unveiling of the program, they invited agnostics and atheists to ask questions. So far I've posted 75 one-minute videos asking them questions, and they've never responded even to one of them. I never really expected them to; the reason I'm posting them is to reach out to anyone in that audience who is looking for truth. Still, I'd like to hear someone in the superstitionist community at least attempt to answer these questions. I posted them all to my backup channel so as to minimize clutter in my subscribers' mailboxes. Now I've created a playlist that includes all of them, and I'm inviting all theists to try their hand.

    Here are some guidelines that will hopefully minimize any waste of time and energy. I'm looking for answers to my questions, not your opinions of me as a person or my abilities as an interpreter of Yahweh's mysteries. I'm not interested in whether you're offended by me or the content of my videos. If you can't tell which parts of a question are relevant to the overall point, if you can't recognize that pouncing on some trivial inconsistency in my delivery is not the same as finding a flaw in my argument, if you want to argue about how superstitionists are no worse than asuperstitionists, then just go away; I'm seriously not interested in anything you have to say. If you have some logic like (1) I have unassailable biblical proof that Yahweh is purple. (2) Yahweh is purple. (3) Yahweh must exist, because something that doesn't exist can't be purple. Then just go away. I'm also not looking for your claims that these questions have already been answered. Obviously, the reason I'm asking them is that I have never heard an answer. I'm also not interested in your protests that your particular strain of the superstitionist pox doesn't adhere to some belief on which I'm basing a question. If you don't adhere to the doctrinal basis for my question, then shut up and move on to the next question. For example, if I ask a question about eternal torture, then I don't need to hear that you don't believe in eternal torture. Also, I'm not interested in any so-called facts from the bible that correspond to nothing that qualified experts consider fact. And to be specific, qualified experts are people who are educated and trained in appropriately related fields, preferably who have published in at least one respectable, peer-reviewed journal. The garbage spewed out of ID organizations does not count as respectable, nor does anything published by a religious institution.

    After I had made about 45 videos, Ray and pals changed the rules, so I asked a bunch of my YouTube friends to re-record my questions. So the first 45 or so videos in the playlist are from them. After that, you have to put up with this face.

    Theists, surely the Supreme Being of All Things can spare just a little time to help you answer these questions.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.2

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?" We've heard Craig's non-arguments in favor of his claim that "if there is a god, then we do have a sound foundation for morality." Now we move on to his non-arguments in favor of his second point.

    <clip 10:59 If there is no god, then there is no foundation for morality.>
    <clip 11:10 If "god" does not exist, then what basis remains for the existence of objective moral values?>

    Let's recall that for Craig, objective means binding. His question again boils down to the same question he asked before: "To what authority can we appeal when attempting to impose our will on others?" Hold on to that thought.

    <clip 11:43 Within atheism, there is no way to claim that human well-being is objectively good.>
    <clip 11:59 Harris calls this "The Value Problem.">

    I haven't finished Harris' book yet, but so far I haven't found anything there about the value problem. From what I can tell, value problem is the name Harris used in his Huffington Post article in January of 2011 to refer to a certain class of criticisms of his ideas. He sums up the value problem as follows: "There is no scientific basis to say that we should value well-being, our own or anyone else's." His answer, which seems to go over the heads of his critics, is to replace the term well-being with the word health, saying, "There is no scientific basis to say that we should value health, our own or anyone else's." Here we can see why people object to Harris' ideas: they can't imagine a morality based on anything other than coercion. But consider: we don't cast about for a justification to make sick people well--we just accept that making sick people well is a worthy goal. Harris is proposing that we stop bothering about finding a justification to promote the flourishing of sentient beings and just decide and agree that promoting their flourishing is a worthy goal. Then, just as we use science to understand better the continuum from healthy to dead, we can use science to understand better the continuum from suffering to flourishing. And just as we use science to decide how to treat the sick, we can use science to decide how to treat sentient beings in general.

    I like to think of this morality as invitational rather than coercive. Rather than order each other about in the name of our cosmic cookie, let's simply look at the already available science that shows what best causes sentient beings to flourish.

    <clip 12:05 The purpose of Harris' book is to explain the existence of objective moral values.>

    As I say, I haven't finished Harris' book, but even just having read half of it so far, I'm pretty sure that this is absolutely not the purpose of Harris' book. The only sense in which Harris discusses objectivity is in the sense that we are rapidly becoming able to use science to determine, with minimal bias, whether someone is flourishing or suffering. Harris' thoughts on objectivity are really not about morality at all; in fact, he uses the word rather sparingly, at least in the first half of the book.

    <clip 13:09 A sort of herd morality has evolved among humans.>

    Let's talk about the emergence of morality for a minute. Yes, all social animals (for this discussion I'll ignore eusocial species) have a kind of morality that is nothing more than a simple result of natural selection. The basic idea is that in societies, individuals who cooperate tend to have more reproductive success than those who don't. That can be considered a kind of morality, but it's not the morality we're really talking about here.

    The other kind of morality, the one we're currently saddled with, is an unfortunate invention of humans, a clumsy set of rationalizations built on top of our instincts. Consider the fact that many social animals form troops that defend a particular territory. Watching a band of howler monkeys declaring their ownership of their land to their neighbors, I can easily imagine the visceral feelings of love and pride for one's people, hatred and fear of anyone outside the group. The human brain is a very powerful machine for fabricating justifications and explanations. Once our brains got involved, twisted so-called moral concepts started popping up everywhere: we treat each other well because we're good. We can kill those others because they're evil. We deserve reward; they deserve punishment. We couldn't see that all we were doing was slapping justifications on top of our instincts. Now we can see it, and not a moment too soon. If we don't change this, the superstitionist hope for the world to end horribly will become a reality.

    That's 6.2. Thanks for watching.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    God's Quality Control 6.1

    Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?"

    <clip 7:10 "In tonight's debate I'm going to defend two basic contentions: (1) If "god" exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties and (2) If there is no "god" then we do not have such a foundation.">

    Naturally, Craig doesn't tell us what he means when he says "god". This is a deliberate omission. It allows him to jump back and forth between using the word "god" to refer to "Yahweh" and using the word "god" as some kind of abstract concept. He does this often, using whichever definition suits him at any given moment.  I have complained about this trickery before, so I won't beat it to death here. Just keep in mind that Craig is very slippery, and he deliberately keeps his audience in the dark about what he means when he uses the word "god". This trick becomes extremely important in some of Craig's later arguments; I'll point it out when we get there.

    <clip 8:00 If "god" exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.>
    <clip 8:07 Theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral values.>

    So note here that he is clearly not talking about Yahweh. Craig's term theism applies to any god or gods. It's also pretty clear that he intends his less-philosophical audience to think Yahweh here, while using the word theism to keep himself out of trouble with the philosophers, who would howl in outrage if he were openly to discuss Yahweh in his arguments. Having shined a bright light on his intentions, let's have a look at his arguments in support of his claim.

    <clip 8:22 On the theistic view, objective moral values are grounded in "god".>

    So he claims that theism provides a foundation, then attempts to support the claim simply by saying that according to a theistic view, "god" is the foundation. He intends it to sound like a supporting argument, but really all it is is a statement of doctrine: he might as well say that it is his own personal view that morality is grounded in "god". So he's still not saying anything in support of his claim. Further, he continues to be slippery here. He says theistic view, but he doesn't really mean theistic. No sane person would claim that theism in general necessarily makes any connection between morality and any god. So here he really means Yahwism, by which I mean worship of Yahweh, in case that word sounds strange to you.

    He spends a minute quoting some obviously non-factual statements of belief made by St. Anselm about the nature of Yahweh, but fails entirely to provide even a trace of support for his original claim that theism provides a sound foundation. Naturally, he wraps up with this:

    <clip 9:03 Thus, if "god" exists, objective moral values exist.>

    Typical superstitionist tactic: tell your audience that you intend to argue your point, spend a couple of minutes saying absolutely nothing of any value, then tell your audience that you have made your point. Dembski also did this in his recent debate with Hitchens. Craig has utterly failed to make any point so far. In order to make it seem that he's doing a thorough analysis, he provides another point that he intends to support, but in this context, it's no different from the point he has already failed to make:

    <clip 9:10 Theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral duties.>

    To his credit, he's consistent here: he fails to make his second point in exactly the same fashion that he failed to make his first point:

    <clip 9:19 On a theistic view, objective moral duties are constituted by "god's" commands.>

    Then more empty words, followed by:

    <clip 9:46 Our duties then, are constituted by "god's" commandments.>

    <clip 10:16 On this foundation...>

    On what foundation, exactly? He hasn't laid any foundation at all. All he has done so far is waste everyone's time.

    <clip 10:45 I think it's evident...>

    You've got to be kidding me. This is his entire argument in support of his claim. I want my money back.