Monday, January 27, 2014

God's QC 11.3: Nye - Ham: Flat Earth, Demons

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We're still working our way through Ham's video response to the Bill Nye interview on the BigThink YouTube channel.

I think it's safe to say that Ken Ham considers critical thinking to be important:
"...teach children how to think critically...teach them to think critically...and teach their children how to think critically..." 
Ok children, let's apply some critical thinking to Ham's ideas.
"If evolution were true...it would be so obvious to the kids that it's true. But it's not."
An Answers In Genesis article suggests that Ham accepts as fact that the earth is not flat. But clearly, that fact isn't obvious to kids. If it were, history books wouldn't be full of examples of entire cultures believing that the earth is flat. Another Answers In Genesis article suggests that Ham accepts as fact that many diseases are caused by germs. But clearly, that fact isn't obvious to kids. If it were, history books wouldn't be full of examples of entire cultures believing that disease is a result of supernatural forces. Sadly, truth is often not obvious. If it were, there would be no Christians.
"When it comes to bones...you don't dig them up with photographs..."
So where is your photograph of Yahweh creating the universe? Even if you did have it, where is your photograph of Yahweh endorsing what Moses wrote? I ask about endorsement in particular because in Matthew 19:8-9, Jesus himself makes it clear that Moses sometimes wrote things that were not only incorrect, but absolutely contrary to Yahweh's will. How do you know whether the Genesis account is what Yahweh intended?
"Creationists are teaching children that they're special, that they're made in the image of 'God'."
True, but they also teach their children that Yahweh created dirt first, and then made humans out of dirt. I would rather teach children that they are made of the same stuff as stars, that they are deeply connected not only to animals, but to plants, rocks, the earth, the whole universe. Superstitionists teach their children that they're actually offensive to their creator, descended from people so evil that they broke the very order of the cosmos, so evil that their sin retains all of its original toxic potency, thousands of generations later, in the bodies--and particularly the genitals--of the children themselves. And let's not forget the best part of what superstitionists teach their children: if you don't do and/or say and/or believe the right things, you will spend eternity--eternity--experiencing conscious, unimaginable agony.
"I'll tell you what is real abuse, and I'll tell you what is inappropriate for children."
That's 11.3. Thanks for watching.

Friday, January 24, 2014

God's QC 11.2: Nye - Ham: Morality, Miracles

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Now that we've discussed Ham's misuse of basic terms, let's consider some of the other points he made in his YouTube response to the BigThink interview with Bill Nye.
"I tell you what is real abuse...what is inappropriate for children: when you teach them...there's no god...who determines right and wrong? You do. Who determines what's good and bad? You do."
I hate to break it to all you superstitionists out there, but even if your demon Yahweh exists, even if its hideous holy writ is true, the answers to these questions remain the same. Look around the world at the more than 30k flavors of superstition you have created and ask yourself: who determines which parts of the bible to interpret literally and which figuratively? Clearly, you do. Who decides which unambiguous directives from Yahweh applied only in ancient times and need not be followed today? You do. Who determines right and wrong? You do. Moral relativism is a given among humans. It always has been, and it has never had anything to do with their beliefs, or lack thereof, in sky fairies.
"Creationists are giving [children] a basis for developing technology: ...we can trust the laws of nature; we can trust the uniformity of nature."
Really? We can trust the laws and uniformity of nature? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain a fully grown man being fashioned from dirt and a fully grown woman from one of his ribs? There are no such laws. But that was during Creation Week, you say? Ok, so during Creation Week, Yahweh suspended the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead ran the universe with magic.

How about after Creation Week? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain a talking serpent? Did serpents in those days have vocal cords? Lips? How big were their brains? Big enough to enable the serpents to learn human language? But that was before the Fall, you say? Ok, so before the Fall, Yahweh suspended the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead ran the universe with magic.

How about after the Fall? What laws of nature can we refer to that explain how all those animals rendezvoused with Noah at the ark before the Great Flood? Your article on Answers In Genesis answers my question. What does it say? "God brought the animals to Noah by some form of supernatural means". So according to the bible, Yahweh regularly suspends the uniformity of nature that we can supposedly trust and instead runs the universe with magic. Where do the superstitious parents of these unfortunate children get the idea that they can trust the laws and uniformity of nature? Certainly not from Yahweh. That's 11.2. Thanks for watching.

Monday, January 20, 2014

God's QC 11.1: Nye - Ham: Historical And Observational Science

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

As we saw in the previous video, Ham attempts to attribute equal validity to creationism and evolutionary theory by placing both concepts within the realm of historical science, as opposed to observational science. I must apologize if I gave the impression in the previous video that this distinction is not legitimate. It is legitimate, and is pondered deeply by philosophers of science. Fortunately, as I hope I have convinced you over the years, one need not have a deep understanding of the philosophical underpinnings in order to grasp the basics, which I'll discuss here.

To start, let's forget for the moment about the terms observational and historical, which for our purposes have unnecessarily technical meanings. Let's call the two approaches general and specific instead. In the general approach, we use repeatable experiments and testable observations to infer general principles that we call scientific laws. In the specific approach, we use known scientific laws to infer specific details about the world around us. As you can probably see, these two approaches complement each other, each feeding back into the other, building our body of knowledge.

Consider an example of the general approach. Anyone who has cut down a tree may notice that there are concentric, alternating bands of light and dark wood in the interior of the stump; these are known as tree rings. Scientists and non-scientists alike have observed for quite some time in trees of known age that the number of rings in a given tree corresponds to the number of years that tree has been alive. Based on this phenomenon, we infer that trees in general grow in this fashion, and we call the inference a scientific law, or a law of nature, or simply a general principle.

Now consider an example of the specific approach. If I cut down a tree of unknown age, although no one observed it growing, I can use the known principles concerning tree rings to infer the age of this specific tree. This, the concept I have temporarily called the specific approach, is what philosophers of science mean when they say historical science.

And this is where Ham and his fellow superstitionists get it utterly wrong. Much of the support for evolutionary theory comes from the fossil record, which could be considered a historical account of sorts, but that is not what makes it historical science. It is historical science because it is supported by known principles that are derived from testable, repeatable observations. Creationism is not a historical science; it is historical only in the sense that it is based on a historical account. It is science in no sense whatsoever. That's 11.1. Thanks for watching.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God's QC 11.0: Nye - Ham Debate

In this series I discuss my thoughts on the debate, on Feb 4, 2014, between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, President and CEO of Answers In Genesis and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The topic of the debate is stated on the Answers In Genesis website as, "Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?" I've begun the series in advance of the event, in order to discuss some points that were brought up beforehand on the Creation Museum's YouTube channel.

The debate's origins lie in an interview with Bill Nye, published in August 2012 on the YouTube channel BigThink, in which Nye made the following suggestion to superstitious parents:
"If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it."
About a week after the BigThink video appeared, the Creation Museum posted two response videos on its YouTube channel, one video featuring Ken Ham and the other featuring two of his staff members, Doctors David Menton and Georgia Purdom. Ham wastes the first sixty seconds of his video grumbling about Bill Nye and his agenda, but he does finally get around to one of his central points, a point that I suspect will come up in the debate:
"You can divide science into historical science—that's talking about the past, or observational science—that's the science that builds our technology."
Ham mentions this three more times in the next three minutes, so it seems that it's an important point for him. Dr Purdom elaborates:
"Bill Nye is confusing observational science with historical science. Observational science is what I call "here-and-now" science. It gives us inventions and technology; we can observe, test, and repeat it. Historical science deals with the past, and both evolution and creation fall into that category. We cannot test, observe, or repeat them."
It's possible that Ham and his pals got these notions about observational and historical science from a 2007 biology textbook called Explore Evolution: The Case For And Against Neo-Darwinism. The book says that in the historical sciences, claims about past events can't be verified. I think this must be where Ken Ham gets the idea, spelled out by Dr Purdom, that creationism and evolutionary theory are on an equal scientific footing. In the next video, I'll show just how far this idea is from the truth. That's 11.0. Thanks for watching.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

God's Quality Control 10.1: Yahweh's Priorities

Here I discuss my thoughts on the Great Disconnect—one might call this one the Ultimate Disconnect—between Yahweh's priorities, as indicated by the Ten Commandments, and what really matters in the world.

The Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first spoken announcement to humanity at large, are to be found in Exodus Chapter 20. What is Yahweh's first public utterance, the most vital tenet of morality that all humans must observe? Don't have any other gods besides Yahweh. Really. That's the big kahuna. But to adequately address Yahweh's emotional insecurity, we need three further commandments: don't make idols, don't misuse its name, and honor Yahweh by following its example of taking a day off once a week.

What really matters in the world? What really matters is suffering; the only useful basis for morality is the well-being of creatures that have the capacity to suffer. Certainly it is not Yahweh's neediness that matters. One might say that the command to take a day off has a nice ring to it, but its purpose is to further stroke Yahweh's ego. Human well-being is not even an afterthought; it's a coincidental side-effect.

Once Yahweh gave us the bedrock of morality, it moved on to the most vital tenet of morality concerning human interpersonal relationships: honor your father and mother. Really. That's the big kahuna. What's next? Don't murder. For Yahweh, your relationship with your parents is more important than not killing people. I have to give Yahweh some credit for having a sense of humor, admitting that one's relationship with one's parents can indeed lead to murderous impulse. Four more prohibitions round out the Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first and most important public service announcement of all time: don't commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against your neighbor, or covet.

Only two of these ten commands are unambiguously useful: don't murder and don't give false testimony. The command to honor one's parents doesn't allow for the all-too-frequent incidence of dishonorable parents. The word adultery emphasizes official marriage, leaving out unofficial but equally valid relationships. Stealing can often be justified, especially in a world where the rich have everything and the poor have nothing. Coveting occurs in one's own mind, and like everything else in one's mind, cannot harm others.

Two reasonable commands, four ridiculous, and four grossly inadequate as a basis for a functional society. Worse than the content is what has been left out. Why no prohibition against torture? Rape? Slavery? Sex with children? Plutocracy? Why no insistence on mercy? Compassion? Empathy? Introspection? "Love your neighbor" does finally show up, but much later. It doesn't make the top ten, or even the top thirty.

The Great Disconnect starts with the Supreme Being itself and its top priorities. Its main concern is to protect its fragile ego, which it demonstrates by introducing itself to humanity with four self-serving commandments. It then demonstrates its concern for—one might even say competence at promoting—human social harmony, by belching out a few ill-considered trifles, omitting myriad other ideas that could have made inconceivable positive differences to human history. That's 10.1. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

God's QC 10.0: The Great Disconnect

Outspoken skeptics are often criticized for mocking the beliefs of the religious, belittling that which is held sacred, blaspheming their supernatural being (or beings). What the religious never seem to realize is that their own apologists treat their god (or gods) with far more contempt than any irreligious person ever could. Consider all the religious people who, speaking publicly on behalf of their god, lie, dissemble, ignore the facts, present appallingly faulty and inconsistent reasoning in support of their arguments, and when shown to be incorrect, abandon reason altogether and claim that the irreligious will never understand, because we lack spiritual discernment, or because we have not felt the power of god in our hearts, or the most ridiculous non-argument I've ever heard, because we just want to go on sinning.

In this series, as in all my previous series, I will continue to offer my quality-control services to the superstitionist community, in the hopes that they will one day stop embarrassing themselves and their invisible friends. In this series in particular, I will discuss a phenomenon that I call "The Great Disconnect". There is a strange, enormous gap between what superstitionists claim to believe and how they live their lives. They claim to follow the Supreme Being of the universe, but most of them can't be bothered to read the only book from which they could learn about said being. They claim to know of a moral philosophy, based on their holy book, that is superior to all others, but even those who read the book never stop to think about how utterly immoral much of that philosophy is. Those who revere the man Jesus usually know next to nothing of what the bible actually says about him. And even those who have some knowledge of him--sadly, this includes even asuperstitionists--give him far more credit than he deserves as a reformer, an innovative thinker, and a source of timeless wisdom. These are examples of The Great Disconnect, the theme of this Quality Control series.

I encourage you to think of this series a conversation rather than a monologue. Post comments; tell me your thoughts; especially, challenge me and point out my errors. I care a lot about the truth, and I'm pretty sure I don't know all there is to know. I hope that by having this conversation, we can all get just a little closer to the truth.

Many thanks to all of you who have checked in on me during this and all of my long absences. Sometimes life happens and interferes with that most important of activities, making YouTube videos. Many thanks to the hundreds of you who have posted comments on my other videos, and my apologies for not being able to respond to everyone. With any luck, I'll be able to stay involved in the conversations relating to this series.

As with all my videos, transcripts are available. See the link in the video description. Finally, some people have told me that my episode numbering system is confusing. In order to make it less confusing, I have created a playlist for each series, including this one, and I've included a link in the video description. That's 10.0. Thanks for watching.