The Holy Trinity and Mary

Hello there,

I had an Ethics and Faith lesson today. We were circling around the theme of Easter, seeing it was our last lesson before Easter holidays, and we were set the task of finding specific bible passages and how they relate to the time after Jesus’ birth, death and Resurrection.
We were then told to write a mock interview of a new testament character and write it up in a newspaper article for ‘Jerusalem Today’. The first question I was asked by my skeptical friend was, “Who’s your daddy?”, and I thought it would be a good idea to try to sum up some of the holy trinity there. Today’s post will be a transcript of my answer to that question.

*deep breath*

You are asking me about me and my father. Well, I was conceived through Mary and god, so he is my father. The Holy Trinity also states that I am God, so I am also my own father. But that means that I am my own father and God is his own father, as well as us being our own sons. We are also each others and our own grandsons and grandfathers. But then the holy spirit comes into play.

*breathe*

He is also God, and he is also me, and we are both him, and together we are one. So the Holy Spirit conceived me, and he conceived god, and he conceived himself, but he also conceived me, and I conceived my father, so both him and me conceived our own fathers, and each other. God conceived the holy spirit and me, which makes us brothers. This means that god, the son of Jesus, and god the son of the holy spirit, are cousins, so god is his own cousin, which means we are all our own cousins. We were conceived through our cousins. which is a bit weird, to have a baby with your cousin, and the baby turns out to be yourself, and your cousin, and your cousin turns out to be you too, which makes the family tree very complicated.

*breathe*

But Mary my mother is also considered holy, and is my mum. That means that she is also my father’s mother, which means that Mary impregnated her son, through his father, who also impregnated another son, the holy spirit, who impregnated his own father. Mary is the husband of her own son, and conceived her son through her son, as well as giving birth to her husband through her sons brother and her son, and his father, and his cousins, grandparents and grandsons.

*breathe*

God is god, and god is Jesus, and god is the holy spirit, except when god is not Jesus, or the holy spirit, then he is just god. Jesus is Jesus, and Jesus is god, and Jesus is the holy spirit, except when he is neither god or the holy spirit. The holy spirit is the holy spirit, the holy spirit is god, the holy spirit is Jesus, except when he is not god or Jesus, then he is just the holy spirit.
*breathe*
Makes sense?

To which my friend replied, “You have to put that on your blog tonight.” So I did, here it is. That’s it. I will leave you with a quote from Voltaire, “As long as we believe in absurdities we shall continue to commit atrocities.” Voltaire, a French writer and Philosopher of some note.

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Is this just me?

Dear skeptical colleagues,

I am going to be blogging about something which has been getting on my nerves for a while now, and I want to know if something like this happens to most skeptics around non-skeptical fellows. I am constantly being talked to by my family as though I am not a skeptic, and am just an annoying contrarian who just disagrees with everything any body says. My most common response is, “That depends on what you say.”, and then I get a simple, “yes Jack.” as if to say that there is no hope and that they are going to just stop discussing it because he will just keep on denying. I find this very annoying, and I really do get the idea that they have no idea what I actually stand for in my life.

It’s not just my parents, and I have heard experiences from other people who are skeptics who just get addressed as closed-minded people who just argue for the sake of arguing. I am going to challenge that point.

It all flows from the point that Christopher Hitchens strived for his whole life, “It’s not what you think, but how you think.” I do not tell you that you are wrong so that you know that you are wrong and you can correct that mistake next time, I tell you how you are wrong.  I like to understand why some people tell me outrageous things, especially in lay people, because if they have arrived with some serious logical flaw, I like to correct their thought process.

For this reason it also follows that it is what you say to me that matters. I will not disagree with whatever anybody says to me. The skeptics I talk to on the internet and at school I will happily agree with almost everything they say, because I agree with their logic, their evidence and their conclusions. This is definitely a very un-contrarian thing to do. But when somebody says to me that if they look hard enough they can see the other side of the moon (true story), then I get angry and ask them “Why the hell are you saying that? What possible logic could lead you to the conclusion that you can see the other side of the moon? Do you understand the concept  of a sphere? What is going on in there?” (I don’t say that, I am a lot more calm (most of the time)).

The problem is that my family (the people I have to spend the most time with in my life) often say very stupid things, and I try to help them, but they just feel uninterested because it’s all sciencey and over their heads. Its annoying. Please contact me if you also have experiences like this, I want to hear how you deal with it.

I will leave you with a quote from Mikhail Bakhunin, “From the naturalistic point of view, all men are equal. There are only two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.” Mikhail Bakhunin, A Russian revolutionary of some note.

The Job of Skeptics in Science

Greetings, skeptical and freethinking fellows,

I was recently addressed with a question from a family member about what makes being a scientific skeptic any different from being a scientist. They were obviously looking for the “Oh, we desire much more proof and are very cynical of everything new that comes up.”, looking for the big follow-up “Bam! You’re just a closed-minded skeptic.” But they didn’t get the response they were hoping for, and I will be extrapolating on my response to them today.

I will start with an opening difference between a skeptic and a scientist, and how it is useful to have a skeptical group in the scientific world.
What it means to be a scientist. A scientist is a person who devotes their entire career to a small topic in science, such as archaeology,  paleontology, nuclear physics, neurology or cardiology. Now that’s great, we need scientists spending as much time on a topic that they specialize in, so that all the details can be figured out, but a scientist can be very ignorant on fields that are not important to him, and this means that they can be very gullible on topics that do not relate to their interests and specialties. An engineer needs no knowledge of biology to get through university, so it is quite possible that this engineer could be a young earth creationist.

Skeptics are often the people set with the task of just stepping back a little, and looking at the whole picture. I will use the analogy of a wall, where the wall is science. Each scientist can be working on his little 2 x 2 inch part of the wall, and not have any idea what is going on in the other thousand 2 x 2 inch segments of wall. The skeptic is the person who just looks at the whole wall from 20 feet away, so that the whole picture can be seen. Obviously, when you stand 20 feet away, you cannot get the details of all of the little cracks and crevices of the wall, that is the scientists job, but the skeptic looks at the whole picture.

It is also the skeptics job to defend the wall from outside scientists who also want a look at the wall but aren’t doing a very good job of it. If somebody who isn’t part of the group inspecting the  wall decides to come over and take a hammer to the wall (creationists, homeopaths, acupuncturists, PSI researchers and ghost hunters), then it is the skeptics job to shoo away the person attacking the wall and tell them that it is wrong for them to be attacking the wall.

Of course, the skeptic can’t know all the details of all of the wall. He just needs to take the important bits from each scientist, and stitch together all the parts to make a wall.
Science is a brick wall, the closer you are to the wall, the more you understand what is in front of your face, but the more ignorant you become of the other parts of the wall.

I will leave you with a quote from Miguel De Unamuno, “The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found” Miguel De Unamuno, a Spanish Playwright, poet, author, essayist, novelist and philosopher.

Fallacy Frenzy: Moving the Goalposts

Hi there, follow skeptics,

I am going to continue my on-going run of logical fallacies. Today I am going to be talking about a very common logical fallacy, not only used in discussions involving skepticism, but in everyday life. It is the argument called ‘moving the goalposts’. It is essentially a dirty, intellectually dishonest tactic to ensure that your opposition never reaches the full set of criteria for approval. It is not technically a logical fallacy, because there is no fault in logic in this argument, but it is usually counted as a fallacy because it is a common tactic, and it is not a very honest one at that.

The basis of this debating tactic is that you can always ask for more and more proof of something, all the time knowing that you will always be able to ask for more proof without ever having to concede defeat. I will explain it using the evolution/creation argument because it is a very common use of this arguing tactic.
A creationist states to an evolution proponent that there is a big gap between whales and land mammals, which must be filled in order to prove evolution.
The evolution proponent then proceeds to go out and do all the work, and manages to find a transitional fossil between mammals and a whale.
The creationist then has two options, he can either ask for a transitional fossil between two different species, or he can ask for fossils between the whale and the whale-mammal hybrid, or between the whale-mammal hybrid and the mammal. (notice this is also a god of the gaps argument in this case, I will deal with that logical fallacy later)
This is a moving the goalposts fallacy. This process can continue on for ever, with the creationist just asking for more and more proof, and the evolutionist providing it, and then the creationist asking for more.
No matter how hard the evolutionist works and how much proof he finds, it will always be just below the creationists criteria.

Another common example of this argument tactic is used by proponents of god in general. However, despite being a moving the goalposts strategy, it works in reverse to the previous example. God is usually described as the gap in our knowledge about the universe. This has been the general theory of god since its beginning.
When it was not understood how lighting and thunder was made, god was accepted as the creator of this thunder. An atheist at the time would have said that lightning is natural, the normal response would be “prove it.” So the atheist goes out and proves that lightning does not need god to explain it away. The god-believer will then say, “god makes the planets go around.” The atheist goes out and proves that there is no need for god to explain the planets motions.

This process continues to the stage where god is just the so-called ‘writer-of-the-rulebook’, and he decided upon the physical laws, and now just sits back and watches the action unfold. According to god proponents, god still exists, so they are happy, despite the fact that god is being pushed into an ever smaller corner. This is also an example of moving the goalposts.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from Bertrand Russell, “Logical errors are, I think, of greater practical importance than many people believe; they enable their perpetrators to hold the comfortable opinion on every subject in turn.” Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, logican, mathematician, historian and social critic of some note.

Investigating Agnosticism

Hello there!

Recently, during my internet browsing, I have been finding a few articles critical of agnosticism. They talk about how agnosticism is self-defeating by definition and is a silly, fence-sitting, worthless position to take on the stance of religion. I am going to contend that view in today’s post. It is worth pointing out that these attacks on agnosticism or in fact, staw-men logical fallacies, which will be covered at a later date. I will start by drawing out a few lines in the sand. I am going to define the four main different types of agnosticism.

The first, and weakest agnosticism is the view that there has never been and will never be any proof for god, for evolution, for creation, or anything historical or theological, also known as forever an historical agnostic, or FHA. When talking about this sort agnosticism, I agree that it is a very weak position, and there is no science to back it up. There is nothing going for this agnosticism, and it is just making a bad name for agnostics as a whole. It is more often a made up position by Christians trying to attack some secular position than one taken by seculars themselves.

The second stage of agnosticism is a weak one, and is on about level pegging with the third stage of agnosticism, but I rank this one lower because it is easier for a creationist to attack that level three. This agnosticism states that there is never any way in which science could prove or disprove a god, because supernatural things are outside the realm of science, also known as forever a theistic agnostic, or FTA. This is also a very weak view on religions, because obviously, there is a way in which a god could be proved. You simply observe a true miracle, which has no possible other mechanisms of action, something truly amazing. This would be some interesting evidence for a supernatural deity, but more than one account would be required.

The third stage of agnosticism is still a very weak position that I do not agree with, and it takes the view that there is currently no evidence for god, or a supernatural deity, and that at some day there may come to bear some proof either way on the subject, or currently agnostic, CA. This is a position that I will agree with, but that I do not take up myself. It is a correct view to a sense, and I take up some of the ideas of this agnosticism. But the bits I do agree with from it are better fit into the final stage of agnosticism.

This fourth stage is probably how I would best describe myself. It is a much stronger view on deities, and I think that most of the world’s atheists will technically fall into this group. This agnosticism is of the view that there is currently no proof for a god or deity, (no proof = current disproof in science) and that a god is almost impossible, because of some fundamental boundaries. However, if it comes to pass that there is some proof of a god, then this view will change to suit that observation, otherwise known as agnostic atheism, or AA. This is my world view.
There is almost certain proof against an all-powerful or all-knowing god in today’s world, but if it is proved that there is a god, then I will happily bow down and worship him, once proper evidence comes to bare.

That’s all for agnosticism today, I will leave you with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, ” Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” Kurt Vonnegut, an American Writer of some note.

How I want my funeral to be

Today I went to the funeral of a neighbor of mine, we have known each other for about 10 years since he moved to our area. After the service, I got to thinking about how I want my funeral to be like. I don’t often stray from the science on this blog, but I will today. Of course, none of this is for my pleasure, I will be dead in a casket, but I want the people paying their respects for me to enjoy the funeral. I hope this helps.

  1. I want to have an organist who knows how to play the organ. The organist today was not that impressive. I have been teaching myself how to play the keyboard for about a month now and I am better with a sustain pedal than he is.
  2. If there are songs sung, I want them to be sung by somebody who has passed at least level 3 in singing. The singer today was also the organist, and he was struggling to juggle the words and the keys. He also had the voice of a man who has had their voice-box replaced with a block of wood. It was not a pleasurable sound.
  3. Obviously, I want a secular funeral. I want not Jesus crosses or mentions of god, Jesus, savior, holy spirit, spirit, soul, master, lord, etc.. This is not because it will be annoying for me, I’m dead, I won’t be able to hear what is being said. It is also not because some people may think I am religious if they here the words spoken during my funeral, again, I’m dead, what do I care about my self-image. The main reason I intend on having a secular funeral is because hopefully, my children and family and friends will be atheist or agnostic, and it would be annoying for them to hear of me being spoken about as ‘being seated with god’ or having ‘his soul going to a better place’. This would be bothering for them.
  4. I don’t want to have sad organ music playing, I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral, so I want them to put on something a bit more upbeat, just to lift the mood a bit. I know this sounds strange, that I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral. I think that people can be sad at home if they want, I want people to remember me at my funeral, not think about my death.
  5. There will not be any bad sandwiches served in the fellowship after my funeral. Every single sandwich will be chosen by me, on rye bread. I want egg & salad; corn meat & strawberry jam; tomato, cheese & ham; peanut butter. The only other thing at the fellowship will be plain sponge cake, orange juice and coffee. (No tea, I hate tea.)

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Steel, “The annoying thing about being an atheist is that you’ll never have the satisfaction of saying to believers, ‘I told you so.'” Mark Steel, A social columnist, comedian and author of some note.

Ad Hominem Logical Fallacy

Yesterday I blogged about the logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc, or post hoc, and how it is used, and why it is an illogical argument. Today I will be continuing the logical fallacy blitz with the fallacy known as an Ad Hominem attack. This is a common argument used by a lot of different groups, even including skeptics sometimes, so it is important to understand this fallacy to make sure you don’t use it someday when arguing with a conspiracy theorist or a UFOligist. It is also used in politics a lot, especially at the moment in Queensland where there is a political election coming up in a few days.

The most recent use of this argument is by the Labor party in the campaign for the up-coming election. Due to the fact that the Labor Party is fighting an extremely up-hill battle (the latest poll shows that they could win as little as 12 of 89 seats in parliament), they are resorting to attacking the politicians themselves rather than just putting forward good policies or proposed plans. The most common one is the ‘Campbell’s web’ advertisement, which attacks Campbell Newman (the leader of the LNP) and his personal finances not the policies he is proposing or the political view-point he argues for.It is a prime example of an ad hominem attack, because they are attacking the arguer, and not the arguments.

I also mentioned that skeptics fall into this trap often. This is one reason why it is important to know about logical fallacies. The first is that you can call your opponent bluff when he uses one, the second is that you can also question your own arguments with them, to make sure your logic is valid, os that you can correct them, and not the person you are arguing with.

Skeptics often use this logical fallacy when they are arguing with people such as UFOligists, conspiracy theorists and homeopaths. They often fall into saying things like “This is just stupid, how could you honestly believe that what you are saying is true, it is ridiculous!”, or something of the like. This is a logical fallacy. You cannot just simply disregard an argument because it is silly, it is a logical fallacy. However, it is not a logical fallacy to say “The notion of homeopathy is just outrageous, and here is why.” That is not a logical fallacy. If you explain your ad hominem attack with logically sound arguments, then it is not a logical fallacy, it is just good use of the arguing technique of ‘making the other person look like an idiot.’

Ad Hominem attacks are usually last gasp attempts to salvage some victories in the dieing moments of a debate when the fallacious arguer realizes that he is losing by a large margin.

That’s all for me today, I will leave you with a quote from Thomas H. Huxley, “Science is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.” Thomas H. Huxley, most often known of as Darwin’s bulldog and refiner of agnosticism.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Hello!

Due to all the political ‘hoopla’ going on in the great state of Queensland at this time, because of the upcoming election in a few days time, I have been hearing a lot of political arguing. I have been pretty happy with the quality and the logic behind the arguments, but the Labor party (who is almost guaranteed to lose to the LNP this year) has been resorting to Post Hoc arguments and Ad hominem  attacks in the up-hill battle to hold on to seats. Today I will not be blogging about these arguments, but I think now would be a good time to introduce you all to these two logical fallacies. Today’s blog will be about Post Hoc Ergo Proper Hoc.

Post Hoc Ergo Proper Hoc is a common logical fallacy which often seems to hold weight at first sight and also seems logical in basis, but is not. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is latin for ‘after this, therefore because of this.’ You will see this argument everywhere, all the time, and for simple things, is logically valid. For example, to say that putting one’s hand on the hot stove will burn one’s hand. That is correct logic, but this argument breaks down when you try to apply it to even slightest of complex problems.

The most common use of this argument is in testimonials for alternative medicines and day-time television commercials for acne removal cream or the ab-circle pro. It is a perfect demonstration of this argument, and its flaws. If one has a sore back, and decides to go to the Chiropractor to fix it. The Chiropractor gives the patient some herbal remedies and a nice massage and manipulates his neck, and a few weeks later, the patients back feels much better. He tells all his friends about how the Chiropractor fixed his back, and all his friends go to the Chiropractor to get their sore back fixed.

This attribution to the Chiropractor is very illogical. There are a whole plethora of reasons why the patients back could have got better, other than the Chiropractor. The patients back may have gotten better any way, because it is a very arbitrary and subjective thing, back pain. He could have been the beneficiary of some pain-killers, or he might have been doing some home treatment like hot-packs and stretches, and that may have fixed up his back. It is unfair for the Chiropractor to get the credit.

It also is a common proof for some people that prayer works. If you pray for your friend Steve to make a speedy recovery from his Influenza, and he does recover, then you may attribute that to the fact that you prayed for it. Never mind the fact that everybody gets over the flu eventually.

I will leave you with a quote from an unknown author, “Correlation does not equal causation.” Anonymous, a Joe Klein, a 13th century English student and a New York Quartet group of some note.

Explaining my beliefs

Hello skeptical fellows,

I will start with an apology. I haven’t blogged for the last few days due to the fact that my mother banned me from doing so for 2 days. I don’t know why, she just banned me. But any way. I recently to explain my belief about deities and other things. I will do so with this post.

I will give a title to my belief now and justify it in the post. If asked to be pinned down on my beliefs, I would have to call myself a Militant Agnostic Atheist. That may sound paradoxical, militant and agnostic, but I will explain.

I am atheist because I do not believe that there is any supernatural deity that watches over us and observes every action we take, or care about us in general. I do not believe in a god that you can pray to in order to ensure yourself of having a good day. I do not believe that there is any god that has the power to change the laws of physics. I also do not believe in any god which wrote the physical laws of the universe, or even set the big bang in motion.

I am a Militant atheist because with the current state of the science, I am pretty sure that there is not a god. I am almost certain that no deity exists. It would take a lot of evidence to convince me that there is a god, because of all of the evidence against god, all the logic against god, and the fact that god is unnecessary in our universe. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

I am also an Agnostic Atheist because if you showed me reasonably well that a god must exist, then I would be happy to change my world view to fit what the science says. I am agnostic because I will change my beliefs if it is obvious that I should. Agnosticism, (the proper kind, not the “oh, evolution requires faith as well as creationism” kind of agnosticism) will change to suit the evidence, because agnosticism does not require any predisposed beliefs about the world, it just listens to the facts. I am agnostic in this way.

This is similar to Douglas Adam’s view, He believed very strongly in the atheist world view, not because he has already has a prejudice towards atheism, but because he spent a lot of time looking at all the evidence, examining all the logic, examining it to a great level, and has decided that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is a deity. He really did believe that there was no god. That is why, despite being truly an agnostic, he called himself a radical atheist, just to show how strongly he felt about his world view.

I will leave you with a quote from Douglas Adams, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Douglas Adams, English writer and atheist of some note.

Why don’t people like evolution?

Hello to my skeptical follows in the world,

Over the years I have seen that those who do not like evolution have decided to not like evolution, and then find some facts to try to back it up (not saying that is their thought process, but it seems that way sometimes). A lot of people just have a generally negative attitude to the whole idea of evolution, and it really does get on my nerves. It also depends on the context of the situation, and this has been shown by many scientific surveys on people’s beliefs about evolution, but I will get to that topic on another blog post.

Some people do not like the whole concept of evolution for the plain fact that it is incomprehensible. Some people are unable to understand the gargantuan amount of time that evolution takes, nor can they understand how things can change so much in that time, because they cannot understand it. They don’t get how much change occurs, they don’t get how much time it takes, they don’t get how long 3.9 billion years actually is, they don’t get any of it.

As I mentioned before, the context is very important. When Somebody is sitting at home in their armchair, watching the fireplace with a glass of red wine, they have their own beliefs and world view that they will vow to stick to, but almost never will when in a challenging social situation. The human brain is very malleable in its thoughts, and because of emotions and mood, somebody’s thoughts can be altered quite a considerable amount when they are posed a question a specific way or by a certain person. When in a discussion about science and advancements in technology, most people will show a belief in evolution if asked about it, but if they are asked what they feel about evolution in a theological discussion where choosing evolution is ‘to go against god’, most will show a disinterest in evolution.

Many people also hear the words evolution and just roll their eyes and don’t bother to look at it any more because it is just complex science and they will never be able to understand it. This is the approach most of my family seems to take when dealing with any science which may go against Christianity, (whether intentionally to get out of a religious discussion or not) and it gets on my nerve sometimes. It usually goes a little like “Oh, well, this is all to complicated for me, I should have a crash  course on evolution or quantum mechanics before you talk to me about that stuff. I get this one more than the others, but I have dealt with the first two, and they seem to be posed by those with stronger attitudes against evolution.

I will leave you with a quote from Will Provine, ” As the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people.  One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” , an atheist and science historian of some note.