Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quote on Theology from Ambrose Bierce

"Theology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumptions and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure"
—Ambrose Bierce (American Writer, 1842-1913)

This quote ties in directly to what I was saying about theology in my post on Sunday. The whole enterprise of theology is built upon presuppositions of divine inspiration of scripture.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unfalsifiable Beliefs

I was having a discussion with a Christian friend of mine the other day about mind-body dualism and something struck me about the idea. He seemed to be defending it (note: he isn't a staunch dualist, he is undecided) primarily because it is unfalsifiable. This violates all my ideals about how to determine what is true and what isn't.

I put forward the idea that all our observations about the mind indicate to us that it an emergent product of a complex brain. As brain complexity and size increase, cognitive ability increases as a general rule. Compare a fish to a rat, a lizard to a dog, compare a cat to an Orangutan, or a Lemur to a Human. Complexity and brain size directly correlate to mental power, and self-awareness is only apparent in those of the animal kingdom with particular large and complex brains.

My friend then said, that the evidence may suggest that, but it doesn't and cannot rule out that the capabilities of a disembodied mind run alongside and parallel to the physical brain. I was almost speechless, I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly consider that to be an argument for the validity of dualism. The evidence at hand does not point towards something, but because it cannot in principle rule out the mystical explanation doesn't mean that it is a credible answer.

The same principle can be applied to supernaturalism, gods, theistic evolution and any superstition imaginable. Any idiot can come up with ad hoc [ir]rationalisations as to why their belief is still true despite having no supporting evidence.

Say for example someone believes that a black cat crossing your path causes misfortune, and hears that you were in a car accident. They say to you "It must have been because a black cat crossed the path of your vehicle". You reply to them explaining that it was actually because your tire blew out, and caused you to lose control of your car, and that you didn't see any black cats. They then say "Well the tire blowout was cause by a black cat crossing your path, but it was hidden from view, so your crash was still caused by the black cat". Baffled by the inanity of what they're saying you reply and say "Well there is no evidence suggesting that your idea is even remotely true, so I'll stick with a plausible natural explanation". They then proudly state "So you admit you can't prove me wrong then? I'm justified in my belief then".

The only place this analogy breaks down, is that black cats do in fact exist. We have not even established the existence of gods, disembodied minds or a supernatural realm. Besides that fault, this analogy seems entirely accurate to me, and reveals the stupidity of holding beliefs simply because they are unfalsifiable.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


What is Theology? By pure definition it would be the study of gods. Theos meaning Gods, and ology meaning the study of. Is that what theologians do though? Apparently not.

To me it seems that theologians, and the practice of theology is concerned with how to derive doctrine and dogma from religious texts. You'd not be likely to find a theology class trying to figure out just what the hell a god actually is. Inquiry at the the deepest level seems to be completely absent in this discipline. Indeed thought of this sort generally seems to relegated to philosophers. With any serious area of study, you actually have to have something to study first. Biologists study biological systems, chemists study chemical reactions and molecules, physicists study the physical world, cosmologists study the cosmos. Theologians simply assume that some ancient text written by men was inspired by a god, and then work from there to determine what the text teaches about the supposed god.

Take this for example:
"Before Christian theology can be seriously studied it is necessary to recognise that the Bible is our ultimate authority and that its statements are factually true and without error."
—Carey Baptist College: Introduction to Christian Theology Course Book (page 4-4)

Never mind that the Bible is quite plainly not without error, and many things contained in it are factually incorrect....... They are free to do whatever they want with their theology, but as long as it is based on unfounded assumptions, and blatant falsehoods like the quote above it cannot be considered to be an academic pursuit. I can not even imagine how one would go about trying to demonstrate that the Bible is actually inspired by a god, but that isn't my problem is it? Furthermore, no one has even demonstrated that God itself even exists.

I am bringing this all up, because of a criticism of Stephen Hawking regarding his statement about heaven being "a fairy story for people afraid of the dark", that he was speaking outside of his field of expertise. That lead me to post this as a comment on a friend's link on facebook:

"Whose field of expertise is the existence of the afterlife? Someone who studies ancient religious texts? Someone who studies the doctrines of ancient/modern religions? How do they study the existence of the afterlife?

Physics at its most basic level is all about studying the nature of the universe, and existence itself. If Hawking is speaking outside of his expertise, then so is every single other person who speaks on the afterlife."

After all, theologians such as N.T. Wright, the one levelling the criticism of Hawking, do not actually study the existence or nature of an afterlife, or the existence or nature of gods. To me, they are no different from an expert on The Lord of the Rings speaking of the nature of Magic, or the existence of Wizards. They are basing all of what they know about the subject on texts which were emphatically written by anonymous, fallible men, about things which have not been shown to actually exist.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Wild Moron Appears!

On the weekend I encountered a wild creature that expressed a trait that could only be described as 'woeful ignorance'. This creature paraded around like a peacock, making sure that everyone saw his feathers, except in this case it was his delusional perception of his own intelligence. Sightings of this species usually involve several notable behaviours. First he will walk boldly into a group of other creatures which he falsely thinks are of the same species, puff his chest out and declare "Evolution is bullshit! The big bang is bullshit!".

When one of his hopeful targets decides to engage him in discourse, he will try his hardest to prevent them from exposing his mental ineptitude. It spouts arguments like "If evolution is true, why aren't there half-man-half-monkeys? See! Evolution is bullshit!" If his opponent tries to explain why he's wrong, beware, as this creature is incapable of understanding even the most elementary explanations of scientific principles.

If his opponent manages to get enough words in to confuse the creature, it will resort to primitive alpha-male-wannabe type ad hominems, such as: "Do you have a job?" and "Have you had sex?". I am writing this primarily as a warning to all who may engage a creature like this. Unfortunately I believe they may be integrated within the human species to such a degree that it may be difficult to identify them. Engaging them in debate is futile, their primitive brains no longer make new neural connections, they are incapable of learning anything outside of their limited paradigm. If you encounter one, try to avoid confrontation, as you will only leave gobsmacked and depressed that they may be the same species as you.

I propose a new species name for this creature. Homo moronis.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yet Another Reason Why Noah's Ark is a Myth

Sorry for simply sharing another video instead of writing an actual post, but I just had to share this, it's brilliant.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favourite Argument

I would attempt to put this argument into words, but instead I will just show it to you in video form, said by Christopher Hitchens.

Skip to the 8:00 mark of this video.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oh the Stupidity, it HURTS!

While browsing random videos on YouTube, I came across what is perhaps the most retarded creationist video I've ever seen. I found myself staring at the video wide-eyed, frequently shouting "WHAT!?!?!?!" at the screen. The sheer insanity of it made me think that it was a Poe video, but upon investigation it seems legitimate. The video comes from a channel named ppsimmons. The content of the video requires no rebuttal, as anyone with a brain can easily see how utterly absurd the video is.

The video takes some clips from a documentary about evolution, and has written commentary over it. They attempt to criticise the documentary for using incorrect grammar, when in fact there was no mistake made. They criticise the visual representation of the same animal gradually evolving as if that's what evolution actually is. Basically, they're absolute fucking morons, here is the video.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I am Arrogant, and Proud of it

I will admit it, I am arrogant. However, I don't think I'm a superior human being to anyone else or think I'm smarter because I'm an atheist. What I'm arrogant about, is the fact that I care if what I believe is true. I'm arrogant and proud that I'm not scared of accepting that I could be wrong about any given thing. I do not try to be dogmatic, and if I notice myself holding a position that I haven't justified with reason or evidence I will attempt to justify it, if that fails I will modify my position accordingly. I am also arrogant and proud that I have no qualms in acknowledging that I am just as susceptible to faulty logic and reasoning as the next guy, but I try to keep an eye out for it, so I can fix it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The "I Used to be an Atheist" Game

This is a line popular among apologists and evangelists. The most well known examples of this would be Kirk Cameron, Lee Strobel and Alister McGrath. What really rubs me raw about these characters, is that they don’t seem to understand what atheism is. If they used to be atheists, they must have been extremely out of touch. Let’s start with Kirk Cameron.

Kirk Cameron claims to be a former atheist, but the thing is, he converted to fundamentalist Christianity as a young teenager. Unless he was some kind of child genius (he wasn't) no matter what his views were, the chances are that he held them for the wrong reasons, or for no reason at all. My guess would be that he just grew up with no religious belief from his parents, and then was convinced by an evangelist that Christianity was true. Regardless, the arguments that he uses to support his belief are beyond ridiculous, and doesn't understand the first thing about any position he attacks. Crocoducks and Fronkeys... Enough said.

Lee Strobel claims to have been an atheist, and he also claims to be an investigative journalist. Two things which he seems extremely uneducated about. What I find perplexing about his situation, is that he apparently went from being an atheist to being a creationist. I simply cannot see how that could happen. Anyone who holds the atheist position for intelligent reasons, would not move from there to one of the most intellectually bankrupt views on the planet; creationism. Whatever his reasons for being an atheist in the first place, I don't care, as they were probably emotional.

Alister McGrath tells people that he was an atheist, but he doesn’t seem to get what atheism is about, and is guilty of throwing the ‘angry atheist’ insults around. He has said on many occasions that when he was at university, it was popular to be an atheist and to be a Marxist, and that he held those views. Something that he says that I cannot comprehend, is that he says that he became a Christian because it made more 'sense' of things, and that it illuminates his world-view. Sure, I get that part, he likes having magical significance to his life, what I don't get is how someone could move from a position that understands our insignificance, and that we don't need intrinsic meaning to have a meaningful life, to another position BECAUSE it has that. I find his argument for this to be incredibly weak and unconvincing. One could easily invent a world-view that provides intrinsic meaning to life, and illuminates the world-view, while simultaneously being completely false.

I never intend to make any arguments for atheism based on the fact that I used to be a Christian, the arguments should stand on their own merits, without any weak kind of personal testimony against one's former position. To all those who pull the 'I used to be an atheist' card: I don't care, show me your arguments!